Author's Note: Enjoy! Technically, spoiler warnings up until the jump.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, and frankly, I wouldn't want to. Manga, I'm sure,is very hard work.

Hatake Kakashi, the Copy Nin, famous throughout the world, found his life at a bit of a crossroads. His students were gone, each off to their respective sannin, and he was back to S-rank missions of the utmost importance and secrecy (far more fun than weeding, or finding lost cats). Although Kakashi was certain that Gai would never again doubt his skills as a gardener, he was still relieved to go back to more fitting duties.

And Kakashi did like those duties, perilous though they could be. He preferred to work alone, and the Godaime certainly didn't mind; He was an excellent team leader, but there were certain difficulties involved (for example, the mask could never come off around others. Absolutely not). And it wasn't that he couldn't take orders, because all shinobi had to, but, well, as he'd had long experience in command, he rather preferred to give them. All in all, he tended to have a debilitating effect on a team's balance. That was what he'd told the Godaime, at least, when he'd asked to be assigned mainly solitary missions.

So Kakashi had gone alone. There were quite a few missions available for a single nin, especially if that nin was the infamous Copy Nin. Assassinations, information-gathering (also known as spying), many with big journeys that included comfortable campsites where he could catch up on his reading. He had found lost (well, kidnapped was a better word) villagers, protected one man, killed a number of others, and even done a little diplomacy in Sand (although that had been as part of a group, and he'd been expressly forbidden to bring his reading or mention the word Icha-Icha). But there were only so many missions he could go on, only so many that could be completed without backup in the form of a team, or at least another nin.

Without at least one partner with whom he particularly agreed (Gai was absolutely out of the question!), Kakashi didn't really have enough to do. He found himself missing his team, particularly as the Godaime paired him with all sorts of other nin who tended to work alone, mostly for good reasons.

The first time he'd been paired with Mitarashi Anko, Kakashi wondered, privately, if this was Sakura's idea of a prank. She was certainly capable of convincing the Godaime that it would be funny. Anko, loud, bold, showy and a former pupil of Orochimaru, hardly seemed like the idea partner for the mysterious (mostly) silent killer Kakashi. But their mission went smoothly. They protected their client without a hitch, and perhaps more importantly, Anko didn't care when Kakashi pulled out his reading.

So Kakashi just nodded the next time he was paired up with Anko, and his lips might have quirked into a smirk underneath his mask. And maybe, just maybe, he began to look forward to the missions with Anko. After all, she could be… well, not exactly subtle, but less outrageous when she put her mind to it. If she saw under his mask, well, it was only once, when he hadn't pulled it up quickly enough after eating (luckily, that had never happened around his genin team).

Somehow they started meeting outside of missions, going for tea and dango or ramen and talking. Kakashi had never been one to mind odd looks or teasing comments from Gai (which came no matter whom he hung out with). After all, he reasoned, he and Anko were nothing more than friends. If she flirted, in her own strange way, she was just teasing. And if he returned her words, with a mysterious twinkle in his eye and an invisible smile on his lips, then it was all for the sake of friendship.

Kakashi never thought it odd that he was the first person Anko told when her curse seal flared up, or that he spent quite a lot of time in the hospital with her. When it was decided that Anko needed constant… not quite supervision, but she needed someone there just in case, Kakashi made sure that the Godaime chose him (after all, he was quite skilled with seals). Anko was less than happy at the idea itself, but minded less than she protested. After a few minor difficulties (Anko had been furious when he'd eaten her dango, and Kakashi had been equally angry when his masks ended up with a pinkish sheen after Anko did the laundry), they got along fairly well.

Their first kiss happened entirely by accident, and Kakashi never thought about it, except when he thought about how he absolutely wasn't thinking about it, which was fairly often. The second was accidental as well, although there had been a most suspicious gleam in Anko's eyes before she'd slipped on the dango peel, and she had grabbed Kakashi in a most unusual way. But he resolved to think nothing of it, and failed most spectacularly.

Eventually, after nearly losing a hand during a mission because he was thinking about Anko rather than the enemy nin, Kakashi decided they needed to talk about it. Well, yes, he had told Anko that he'd never let her die, but she was his friend, his comrade! He told that to everyone. Well… no, he'd never had a girlfriend before, but he didn't see why that mattered. And no, he certainly wasn't gay! And yes, they did hold hands, but wasn't that just friendly? Well, yes… Kakashi did like the way Anko's lips felt, and he did like spending time with her, and almost couldn't wait (not that he'd told anyone else!) to start missions with her again. And, after quite a few misunderstandings, he finally made that clear.

Real life, Kakashi decided, was even better than the Icha-Icha novels!