Father suggested they eat out, which surprised Kakashi. It had been well over a year since they had done so. When his father asked him what he wanted to eat, he realized it was a reward for his graduation, and didn't feel guilty about listing all his favorite foods. They were heading towards a restaurant that his father knew, when they were stopped by a chuunin messenger in the street.
"Hatake-sama, the Hokage needs you."
Father didn't even hesitate. "Of course. I'll be right there." The chuunin sped off. His father looked down at him, and dug into one of the pouches around his waist. "Here," he said, handing him some money. "Try something new, then return home." There were plenty of restaurants all around them, so Kakashi would have his pick. "We'll eat out again some other time."
Kakashi nodded his understanding, glad that the mask hid his pout. He was disappointed, but there was little he could do about it. His father was an important ninja, and he had a duty to Konoha. Complaining wouldn't change that.
His father disappeared, leaving Kakashi standing in the growing dusk. He turned to look at the restaurants around him, wondering which he should choose. At five, there were a lot of foods Kakashi hadn't tried so he wasn't all that limited by his father's order to try something new.
After a moment's thought, he pulled down the mask from over his nose and closed his eyes. He sniffed cautiously. There were many good scents, but one in particular drew him. He opened his eyes and followed his nose. A few seconds later, he found himself standing in front of a small ramen stand. He had never had ramen before, so it was as good a place as any. He climbed onto a stool that was farthest away from the stand's only other customer – a blond-haired jounin who was devouring his ramen at a frantic pace.
Kakashi studied the menu with more seriousness than he had studied his registration ID earlier that day. He finally settled for a plain kitsune ramen, knowing that he would enjoy the fried tofu if, by chance, he didn't like the ramen itself. His order duly placed, he waited patiently, ignoring the jounin at the end of the bar who was now loudly asking for thirds. When the bowl arrived, it was steaming hot and smelled deliciously salty. Kakashi took an appreciative breathe and pulled down his mask in preparation to eat.
Kakashi gave the blond a look of annoyance, then blinked in surprise when he saw the man was now only a barstool away. "What?"
The blond smiled. "You're celebrating your graduation from the Academy, right?"
"Well, you can't do that with such a small bowl. And so plain!" The man turned to the chef behind the bar. "He'll take my usual special."
"No, I won't," said Kakashi petulantly, then gaped openly when he realized the jounin had not only stolen his small bowl of ramen, but eaten all of it in the time it had taken Kakashi to complain. He wanted to point out how rude the blond was being, but he had been trained not to insult superior officers.
The jounin picked up on his annoyance. "Don't worry. The special's on me."
"You don't think your becoming the youngest genin in Konoha's history is worth celebrating?"
"I've never had ramen before, so I am celebrating," he pointed out. The jounin's eyes widened comically, and Kakashi tried not to smile. This man was so weird.
"Never had ramen? Just how have you survived?"
The special was placed in front of Kakashi. The bowl was twice the width of his head, and his eyes were level with its rim. He sent an accusing glance at the blond, who had the decency to look embarrassed. "Ah, maybe it is a bit big, but I promise you it's delicious."
It would have to be, since Kakashi was going to have to perform a delicate balancing act just to eat it. With a faint sigh, he placed his hands on the bar in front of him, and then boosted himself up for a moment, swinging his knees up onto the stool. This left him kneeling on the small stool with a clear view into his giant bowl of ramen. The 'special' seemed to consist of everything they had in the kitchen. There was even an entire crab!
Leaning forward so that he got a blast of heat and smell, Kakashi picked up his chopsticks and picked out a plain noodle. He had to slurp a bit to get it all into his mouth.
"What do you think?"
Kakashi swallowed the noodle. "Salty, but good." The jounin looked proud. You would think that Kakashi had just told him the blond was the greatest ninja in Konoha. "Who are you?" Kakashi asked, digging through the ramen for a piece of fried tofu.
"Ah, well, I guess you can call me Sensei." He scratched the back of his neck, sheepishly.
"Do you know what happens after a genin graduates?"
"You're put on a team with two others and a jounin instructor," said Kakashi.
"True, but even if you get put on a team, the chances are high you'll be sent back to the Academy. Each jounin devises his or her own test to pass their team. Two out of three teams usually fail."
Kakashi wasn't stupid. "You're my jounin instructor."
"Yeah. The thing is - no one expected you to pass. There were 22 students who graduated from your class." He paused a second to let Kakashi do the math. "They didn't even have an instructor lined up for you, so I volunteered. Only then I remembered that the test I know is for testing a genin team, not an individual."
Kakashi's hand was trembling where he held his chopsticks. He knew with certainty that he didn't want to go back to the Academy. His father would be so disappointed. "What are you going to do?" he whispered.
The blond was studying him seriously. "I hadn't planned on anything until I met you tomorrow, but since you're here… Talk to me, Kakashi-kun."
Kakashi chewed his mouthful of fishcake as slowly as possible, panicking. What did he mean when he said talk? How would his talking tell the man anything about Kakashi's abilities as a ninja? "What do you want me to talk about?" That should be a safe question to ask.
"I want to know the Kakashi beneath the genius."
It was a completely unhelpful statement, and Kakashi once again took refuge in his ramen to buy himself a few moments to think. There was no Kakashi beneath the genius because Kakashi had always been a genius. That wasn't what the jounin wanted to hear though.
"Do you want to go back to the Academy?"
Kakashi tried to watch the other man out of the corner of his eye as he took another bite of ramen. Despite his patient expression, he had the feeling his new sensei knew that Kakashi was using the ramen to stall. Kakashi needed to say something.
"I'm alone there," he said quickly, keeping his eyes on his ramen. This was embarrassing. "They don't see me, and I don't understand them. I had to beat Kuma-sensei for the right to wear this." He tapped the hitaeate.
"He didn't want me to graduate," Kakashi explained, when he saw the puzzled look on the blond's face. He struggled to find the words for the rest of his answer. "Father was proud of me today, and I don't want to disappoint him."
"That's a lot of different reasons. I notice you didn't mention protecting Konoha."
Kakashi put all the scorn a five-year old could muster onto his face. "I thought that was obvious." His new sensei laughed, propping his head up against his hand as he leant against the counter.
"It was, actually." His smile was infectious, and Kakashi found himself grinning back at the man.
"Did you have any friends at the Academy?"
"I made one today!" He was still proud at having accomplished his father's mission. "Hamato Kai."
"I'll find out what team he's on, so we can go on some mission's together."
Kakashi choked on a shrimp. "I passed? But you didn't test me."
Sensei waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. "Let me ask you then, Kakashi-kun. What is the most important thing to a ninja?"
Kakashi knew the answer from the ninja code, but he also knew instinctively that wasn't the answer his new sensei wanted. So he ate more, and thought about it, grateful that he was being given time to think.
There was a ninja's village. His mission. His teammates. His life. But which was more important? He didn't know.
"That's fine," said the blond suddenly.
Kakashi froze. He hadn't spoken out loud, had he?
"You don't need an answer right away. I'm sure you'll find it someday. Until then," he reached out and ruffled Kakashi's hair, "I'll watch over you. Okay?"
"Good. Now, are you going to finish your ramen?"
Kakashi pushed the huge bowl, still over half way full, towards his new sensei. There was no way he could have finished it anyway. He pulled his mask up, feeling full and a bit overwhelmed. It had been a long day, but it seemed the tests were over. He had passed.
Owari (The End)
A/N: Well, I hope you all enjoyed. I certainly had fun writing this:) I am actually working on a sequel (the first part of which is half way written) set when Kakashi is six, which will either be a one-shot, or a long multi-chaptered fic about the chuunin exams (depends on if I can work out the plot difficulties). Look forward to it! Thanks to everyone for your reviews too!
Kilerkki - I'm not really happy with my portrayal of Sakumo either. The two canon facts we know about his characterization (he was willing to go back to save his comrades, but he also abandoned his son at the age of seven by suicide) just don't gel well in my mind and I have a lot of trouble characterizing him. It's even worse writing him in this fic because I'm angry at him for what he's going to do to Kakashi when he's seven. I really do think Kakashi adored him though. As for my writing, I haven't written anything longer than a few pages in ages (stupid dissertation...) so it's not surprising that it's a bit choppy without a beta. It's good to know these things, so thanks:)
Review! You know you want to;)