Step by Step

Even if you know where you are, its hard to tell yourself where you stand. Kakashi / Rin.

rating: pg-13, if that. Rated for... well... just because stuff I write tends to require some kinda warning, ne?

Author's Notes: A continutation of an earlier story of mine... "Right Enough", because these two need more love, damnit!

For Asuka. Who deserves it - and y'alls know it!

(and apologies to my friends who have read this on my lj, but it has been edited and updated if you want to take another look!)

A gorgous autumn day has just fallen on Konoha, and as the swirling gold and bronze leaves flit past the memorial stone Kakashi scratches the back of his head and tries to work out what to say to Obito. This is probably news to Sensei too, but... well... Obito is the one he needs to tell, needs to try and talk to about this. He hasn't managed to say anything and he's been standing here fifteen minutes, the words just keep dissolving on his tongue. He closes his eyes and concentrates, fidgeting his hands, and puts his heart into it.

Taking his umpteenth deep breath Kakashi just blurts it out, like a kid admitting a crush -

Rin's moved in with him and he loves her and she loves him and she's alive, by the way, but then Obito probably already knew that, and they've been sleeping in the same bed for three weeks now but last night they slept in the same bed if you see the difference and Kakashi loves her and is that okay?

He didn't realize he'd squeezed his eyes shut until he had to open them to find Genma raising an eyebrow at him. The older Jounin is putting a few flowers down by the stone, or he was, because now he's just grinning at Kakashi and very clearly trying not to laugh. Kakashi supposes he's just become such a regular fixture here everybody comes and conducts their business without any heed to him. Trust Genma to just come by when he blurted that out... but tells himself to be thankful for small mercies - at least it wasn't Gai.

Genma says the betting pool back at the Jounin lounge had the two of them "sleeping in the same bed if you see the difference" after just two weeks on the outside bet. Kakashi tells him to shut up, he's trying to have a conversation here, and Genma just grins and salutes the small black memorial before vanishing in a snickering blur. Kakashi doesn't think about what Genma's going to do with the information, he needs to know if this is okay with Obito because Obito had loved her too and... well... he just needs to know.

He's always spoken to Obito here, and it hasn't mattered that he doesn't always speak back but he gets the feeling his best friend might have a thing or two to say about this. Kakashi for one isn't sure if he knows how to tell Rin he loves her, doesn't know if he'll have the courage without Obito telling him its alright.

He waits a long time for an answer to come but one doesn't.

Rin's walking through Konoha like she does alot these days when she's not on duty; looking at the village that raised her, that sent her to fight, that inspired her to love and to heal, and that hasn't changed as much as she'd imagined it would have. Her eyes are bright and take in every detail: the fit of the tiles above the Korean BBQ, the tinge of the grass in the parks, the texture of the stone of Sensei's face on the Hokage monument. She tips her head and looks up at him, feeling her heart swell sadly and proudly, and doesn't see the stern face carved there; but the grinning young man who'd loved her like his own and protected his team with everything he could until the day he died.

She closes her eyes, and silently tells him about last night, and asks if she and Kakashi are going to be okay. She doesn't expect an answer but he's right there. Not so much in the face on the mountain, but in the village and people around her. And she thinks she must be getting some kind of answer, because Konoha is alright, and Sensei always loved telling them to look underneath the underneath.

As she walks down to the bridge and finds Team 7 yelling and fussing and sulking and generally behaving like a trio of irritated fifteen year olds, she thinks those three are one certain 'underneath' to examine. Naruto spots her and grins and waves and she smiles back in a way she only can for him, saying a soft "good morning" to Sakura and Sasuke as they grumble together about Kakashi's lateness. Promising them she'll go find him, she heads for the memorial, and it clicks into place why he'd be there this morning more than any other on the way.

Naturally, she finds him there, and steps quietly over to his side as he stares down at the stone with Obito's name carved too high on it. Kakashi's changed alot since they were separated, and so has she, but alot is the same too and it's hard to know exactly what to do with the scarred and infamous man who she sees where she last saw a wiry, hellbound teenage boy. But she's willing to try, and last night when she kissed him and whispered that she loved him he'd felt so much like the Kakashi she remembered that none of that had mattered. She loops her hands behind her back and closes her eyes and says 'hello' and 'I miss you' and 'I love you' and 'thank you' to her teammate, her best friend, her saviour. Obito doesn't answer back, but that's okay.

It takes a little while but Kakashi blinks back into the real world. Rin feels his fingers tentatively tug at hers so she lets her hands drop to her sides and holds his hand.

"Your students are bouncing off the walls," she tells him quietly, a smile in her voice.

Kakashi's eye brightens just a little, as it always does at the mention of Team 7 - his Team 7 again.

"Oh yeah? Even Sasuke?"

"Especially Sasuke, he's practically stropping. If Naruto and Sakura weren't keeping him in line I'm sure he'd be off kicking puppies or something," she tells him with a smile.

Kakashi laughs, just a little because his heart's too heavy to lift for long even if it is getting lighter, and Rin's smile becomes a grin. He's got the best laugh, because its rarer than stardust and always a little sheepish and always for the best reason. She squeezes his hand and asks if he's okay. He says he's probably never been better and she knows to believe him, and that there's guilt under the honesty in his voice.

When she tells him that she loves him he looks at her sadly and hopefully, and she says she'll see him later because she's got duties at the hospital right now. She leaves before there's time for him to not say anything in response.

It's the start of winter and Rin has just gotten out of hospital, her damaged ankle bound in a soft cast and another S-rank mission under her belt. Kakashi is walking with her down the chilly street and she can see how tense he is, can't imagine the panic he was put in when they told him she was in the hospital and doesn't see it fading anytime soon. She's leaning on a crutch but its tiring because she's been gone almost two weeks and most of them were spent running away from or chasing after missing-nins. Kakashi notices and a second later she's being set down on the rooftop outside their apartment as he pops the catch on the window and gingerly lifts her in.

He doesn't say anything and hugs her tight and buries his face in her hair; and she sleeps warm and safe that night while he stays up trying to convince himself that everything is alright.

Spring is rising out of the earth and the branches of Konoha's trees, and Kakashi thinks maybe today's the day he'll ask Rin if she maybe, if she cares, if its not too bold or stupid to ask, maybe wants to get married or something.

Sakura's been bugging him about it for weeks, like she can read his mind or something equally alarming, and says if he doesn't ask he'll never know and that Rin ought to get a claim on him because god only knows nobody else is about to try. Naruto's only contribution to Sakura's nagging is that they should have the reception at Ichiraku and Kakashi is more tempted than he realizes by the idea. Sasuke didn't say anything until today's training session -when he asked if they were going to be needing a bigger house when the kids started coming. Because he had about a hundred and fifty going spare. He actually just said that and Kakashi pauses and blinks at him in complete shock - giving the smirking teen the chance to dart behind him and pound him rather conclusively in the back of the head.

Just for that Kakashi snagged him with the groundhog decapitation technique and grinned cheerfully as Sasuke snarled in exasperation and tried unsuccessfully to free himself. Naruto and Sakura were sparring at the other side of the field, so it wasn't until they took a break they noticed that Sasuke's apparently severed head was being happily lectured. Specifically on how much the Uchiha had to go if he could still get caught in the same trap as when he'd caught with when he'd barely been a Gennin.

Sasuke just glared at him and muttered that his kids had better not be this annoying or he for one was sure as hell not training them. Kakashi informed him that the annoying kids were always the ones worth the effort, about two seconds before Naruto and Sakura tried to tackle him and rescue Sasuke. All they managed to tackle was Sasuke - who'd inexplicably found himself above ground and sitting where Kakashi had been a moment earlier - and all three were told to keep practicing and that he'd be back in a while.

He was walking now to the hospital, and when he got there he found that Rin was just finishing major surgery, and waited outside the surgery bay for her. When she was done, eyes dull with exhaustion under her hair hanging in sweat-soaked strands, he grinned and waved and watched her light up and smile that humble, beautiful smile.

Sufficed to say he never made it back to Team 7's training, but they only had themselves to blame for that.

Summer bursts to life but Kakashi barely notices because he's been in a coma in the hospital for two months.

Eventually he comes out of it, against everybody's expectations, except Rin's. It takes a while, but he gets back onto his feet even though his mind feels raw and ragged and his thoughts and memories have been raked up like hot coals. He spent the coma reliving just about every godawful memory he had, having reality twist and warp into a hideous rosary of inevitabilitiy and death and loss. Whatever that jutsu was he's kind of glad he never had the chance to copy it, and even more glad he killed the S-rank criminal who used it on him before succumbing to its effects. But that doesn't change the fact that he can barely see straight some days and Team 7 are being sent on A and B rank missions without him every other week.

He doesn't like that one bit. But they tell him he needs to concentrate on getting better and not worry like a wuss and trust he's trained them well enough to do their jobs. Despite that, Kakashi feels direly inadequate like this, and even if he knows he's going to get better the wait is driving him insane. It take a while, but he understands that this is exactly how Obito must have felt, towards the end, and finds himself talking to him alot more than usual in his head.

One afternoon Rin gets home early from her duties and tackles him while he's still semi-conscious in the bed, kissing him and touching him and just needing to be with him. He wakes up pretty fast and looking at her bright, tired brown eyes he falls a little more in love and feels a little more strength flow back into him. He kisses her back and neither of them say anything for a while until he has to ask if she cares that he isn't sure if he's losing his mind or not.

She pauses for just a moment and tells him she can tell when he's thinking about Obito. He asks her if it's okay that he can hear him in his head sometimes. She kisses him and murmurs that it doesn't matter if it's okay or not - it's who he is and she loves him. He looks at her, silver eyebrows knitting together, and kisses her so full of thankfulness and need and love that she can't believe it's real. When they have to stop to breathe she slips her hands behind his head to gently play with his hair, looks him in the eye, and asks if Obito's ever said something about how great it would be to have a kid named after him running around.

Kakashi's a genius and he can take a hint. About five seconds later he flicks a kunai into the front door's lock (Gai's taken to bursting in at awkward moments these days and trying to forcefeed Kakashi herbal remedies) and she throws a shuriken at the cord for the blinds over the window. As the room falls into warm darkness Kakashi figures he's not as inadequate as he'd been feeling and that he'll have to get better faster if he's going to be a father and Rin's going to be a mother.

Rin kisses him as he tugs off her hitae-ite and he can't help grinning at the thought of Team 7 on babysitting duty. He can easy pin this on them after all.

He feels her run her healing fingers over his scars and kisses the side of her neck as he all but drowns in the scent of her, feeling the world brighten at the edges and the painful swells in his heart die under her touch.

In the back of his mind Obito tells him that this is a future he wants to see - both of them happy and home and whole - and Kakashi finally tells Rin he loves her.

Love to hear what you think!