AN: I am regrettably still obsessed with this fandom. Here's another introspective one-shot. My sister approved of this one. I think the structure is a little messed up, but I couldn't figure out how to fix it. Future tense is a beast.

WARNINGS: present and future tense, SPOILERS, just a touch of possible AU, and a hint of shonen-ai and NaruSakuSasu if you squint. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Disclaimer: It all belongs to Masashi Kishimoto. I am but a humble college student playing with his creations. I promise to put them back in the same condition in which I found them.



Sometimes, Kakashi actually arrives early to meet his team. He doesn't actually go out to meet them on time, of course. Instead, he observes them from a tree branch, or a rooftop, or some place they won't think to look. (Silly ninja are supposed to notice their surroundings, but rebuking them would require admitting he was on time, and he can't have that.) So he sits and he just watches his team, and he smiles.

He smiles as Sakura greets Sasuke cheerfully and is ignored. Smiles as Naruto greets Sakura buoyantly and is shot down in turn. Naruto greets Sasuke with an insult and Sakura strikes him for his temerity, and Sasuke almost smiles while they aren't looking. Then Naruto babbles at Sakura, but she's too busy trying to catch Sasuke's attention to care. Sasuke steals glances at the blond out of the corner of his eye while not looking at Sakura. Kakashi would laugh, if it wouldn't give away his hiding spot, and if it didn't hurt too much. His team is a source of endless amusement for him, and their humanity makes him smile under his mask. Because instead of acting like shinobi, they act like humans, children, if only for a few hours.

A civilian might say they are too young to worry about relationships. They are only twelve, just discovering who they are, not ready to give their lives to another person. But children grow up fast in this village, and ninja children grow up faster than most. Kakashi himself is only a perfect example of this. Having never really been a child, he is loathe to end what precious moments his students find to be children. So he watches and smiles at their antics.

By the time Sakura realizes Sasuke will never look at her the way she wants, the avenger will be long gone. It will have taken a long series of painful events to change her mind. By the time she begins to understand how wonderful Naruto is, the boy will have moved away from his childish crush and will be focused on his promises and his dreams. By the time Sasuke realizes how much they both mean to him, he will be committed to his choice and refuse to return.

At the age that her peers will be just starting to date, Sakura will have given up on trying to impress the boys. She will be deep in her medical studies, and too busy learning to save lives to care about boyfriends. She will have learned to protect herself and those she cares for, as her teachers taught her.

At that same age, Naruto will have completed several years in the field. What he will have done there will remain unknown to all but his teacher. Naruto will also stop trying to impress the girls. He will eventually give up his trademark grin for a porcelain mask, and his orange jumpsuit for black and gray armor.

Sasuke will be lost to them both, in the darkness he chose for himself.

All three will have forgotten how to be children. It will be all they can do to remember to be human.

Kakashi does not know this right now, but he has been a ninja for too long not to appreciate how brief such idyllic moments are. So he sits and he watches, and smiles. Because they will have enough time to be ninjas, but childhood ends all too soon.