IDIL's Note: Ok guys, hold your breaths, 'cause this is it. The end has come. But as you'll see, it's not really an end, nothing is. It's simply the beginning. The beginning of your imagination creating whatever it wants as a continuation. The beginning of a series of other oneshot projects I have lined up for myself, and the beginning of my return to fanfiction. The updates may be sporadic, the waits may be long, and the fics may not be all good. But I promise you that I have poured a little piece of my soul into each and every single one of my works, especially Living Arrangements, which holds a special place in my heart. If any of you know me personally, you'll be able to recognize little things in the story and go, "Oh, that's such an IDIL thing to do/say!" If you do not, then this note will give you sufficient insight to find the key clues to my personality. Either way my friends, this story has been a great experience and journey for me, and I am proud to say that I have successfully completed my first multi-chapter fic, and the response has been phenomenal. I really enjoy reading each and every one of your reviews, and rest assured that I have reviewed them many times, as they never fail to bring a smile to my face. I sincerely hope this chapter brings a smile to yours, and makes you (re)evalute your beliefs in life, your relationships with others, and of course, your new year's resolutions. Hope you all made good ones. :) Well, that's it for my characterisitically long speech. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Rascal Flatts.
Epilogue Part Two: The Picnic
Kakashi stared incredulously at the microwave before him, the device glinting in all its sleek and contemporary glory. "How did you manage to find this?"
"Eh, it was nothing," Benjiro waved it off, "I just happened to notice it when walking by here with Ayumi, and I thought it would be a nice gift for Rin. You know, to make her happy."
For a fleeting moment, Kakashi shot Benjiro a questioning look. Make Rin happy? What was with this guy today, and why did he feel he knew what would make Rin happy? Kakashi shrugged it off, perturbed by his own suspicions, turning back over to where the microwave was located. The small stand was quickly filling up with customers, all of whom were gazing just as much in awe at the microwave as the two young boys were.
Benjiro took this as a sign to take action, and he seized the first microwave box he could. The other customers noticed his movements, and began an uproar. Mothers who were usually polite and civilized were elbowing their way past others in order to snatch up the inexpensive microwave, and a couple of them had even engaged in a tug-of-war with Benjiro for his box.
Needless to say, as soon as Kakashi came over and stood by him, the women reluctantly left the box alone, but the stand had become so crowded now that Kakashi had to throw his money over the heads of three citizens to the cashier.
Once out of the ridiculously crowded stand and free from any civil danger, the two began their trek back to Kakashi's apartment, eager to install the new microwave into the kitchen and have it waiting for Rin as a nice surprise.
The set-up of the microwave was extremely simple, requiring only to be plugged into the wall, and even Kakashi had to admit that it went well with the rest of the kitchen décor. Pleased with himself, he stepped back and admired his work.
"Hey," Benjiro called, interrupting his thoughts, "you know what would be really great?"
"If we made dinner so that it was ready by the time Rin came home; then she wouldn't have to do any work, and could relax!"
"Uh sure," Kakashi agreed, not at all opposed to the idea of giving his friend a much-needed break from house chores, "what do you suggest we make?"
"I don't know. We could always heat up some instant ramen in our brand new microwave!"
"Nuh-uh, no way."
"Aww come on, why not? Don't you want to help Rin out?"
"Yes, I would like to help her out by actually NOT burning down the apartment. If you have forgotten, it was my escapades with the ramen that caused our first microwave to become total trash."
"Right…well, we can always make some sushi!"
"I hate raw fish."
"Ok then…vegetarian sushi! Yeah, how about that Kakashi? Wanna make some vegetarian sushi?"
Kakashi shot an unenthusiastic glare at Benjiro. "Not with you."
"GREAT!" Benjiro exclaimed, as if ignoring Kakashi. "I'll get the ingredients!"
While cooking, the two unexperienced males wound up making many mistakes, and many more messes. By the end of their cooking adventures, Kakashi had had rice spilt on him on three separate occasions, Benjiro's eyes were surrounded by pieces of avocado, and there was a smiley face on the floor made out of cucumbers and some other unidentifiable substance.
Just as they were beginning to clean up, the door opened and Rin walked in, humming to herself. Her eyebrows rose in suspicion as she noticed her two very messy friends scrubbing away at the kitchen; intrigued by the sight, she went over to them.
"Hey guys, whatcha doing?" She inquired, looking over their shoulder.
"Nothing!" Benjiro replied nervously, not wanting to ruin the surprise, but much to his dismay, she noticed the strange cucumber-and-something smiley face on the tiled floor.
"Ok, what's that?" she pointed a finger at the mess.
"It's dinner," Kakashi replied tonelessly.
"And it's happy to see you!" Benjiro chipped in cheerfully.
Rin simply laughed at the two. "Oh you guys, you were trying to make me dinner?"
"Yup! We wanted to spare you the trouble, since we knew how tired you'd be!" Benjiro informed her.
"Aww, you two," she hugged them both warmly, "that's so sweet of you! Thank you."
"Anything for you Rin," Benjiro beamed back at her, while Kakashi stared suspiciously at him in the background. Now this was definitely freaking him out; he had noticed, at least on three separate occasions – though only one clear one – that Benjiro had taken a special interest in Rin as of late, and the notion that his ANBU partner might have a crush on the girl rather disturbed him.
"Hey," he interrupted, hoping to stop his suspicious thoughts and the sweetness his partner was exhibiting toward his friend, "are we going to eat or what? I'm starving to death here."
"Oh yes, of course, sorry Kakashi," Rin apologized and set the table.
Dinner was fairly quiet, mainly because both Benjiro and Rin sensed that Kakashi had tensed up, and both were rather confused as to why. Kakashi however, barely noticed the silence for in his mind he was having his own internal argument, completely forgetting about the rest of the outside world. He barely noticed that Benjiro was asking him a question until the boy's hand came up and smacked him across the face, stunning Kakashi out of his seat.
"What the hell was that for?!" he questioned his ANBU partner, absolutely furious.
"Whoa dude, calm down," Benjiro said, "I was asking you like the same question for five minutes and you weren't answering – I figured you were either purposely ignoring me or just totally zoned out. Either way, I knew I could get a reaction out of you this way."
"Yeah, well you got me to react. Happy now?"
"Dude, like I said, just chill, ok?"
"Don't tell me to just chill! Who the hell are you to tell me anything? This is my house! I can do whatever the hell I want!"
"Why are you in such a pissy mood now? You were perfectly fine this afternoon!" By this time, Benjiro was starting to get aggravated as well; he rose out of his seat and continued arguing with Kakashi.
"Why am I in such a pissy mood? Do you really not know? Like what the hell is wrong with you?! First, you force me into doing something I don't really want to do, then you start hovering around 24/7, and finally, you're acting like you can take over my life!"
"Take over your life? What the hell do you mean man? I'm not trying to take over anything! What's wrong with me? What's wrong with you? Why are you so paranoid?"
"BECAUSE YOU'RE- !" Kakashi started.
"JUST SHUT UP! BOTH OF YOU!" Came another shrill and broken voice, causing both of the boys to snap their heads to the side in bewilderment at their long-forgotten friend. Rin had been so happy to come home and find them doing something nice, together for her and she had been so at peace; this whole fight was just something stupid, and she was sure as hell not going to listen to them ruin her day. Once it got too intense, she screamed louder than both of them in order to get their attention. Now, she was sitting in her chair, frustrated tears running down her face, her hands clasped over her ears.
"Rin, we're – " Benjiro started to apologize, but was cut off again.
"What's wrong with you two? Why can't you just get along?" She asked them again, still sobbing quietly.
Part of Kakashi was so angry and felt so frustrated at himself for having hurt her that he almost yelled out, 'Because Benjiro likes you!', but the other part of him wouldn't allow it, and so he just sighed, walking over to her.
"Hey, I'm sorry, I don't know what got into me, I just – "
But Rin refused to hear any of it. "Go away," she demanded, "both of you. And don't come back until you've sorted this out."
"Ok," Benjiro agreed, trying to placate the crying girl. "Come on Kakashi."
"I'm not going anywhere with you," Kakashi seethed.
"Man, I said, come on," Benjiro forcefully pulled Kakashi by the arm out of the apartment.
Once they were outside the door and out of hearing distance from the apartment, Benjiro turned on Kakashi. "What the hell was all that about?"
"I…don't really know, I just snapped, ok?"
"Dude, if something's bugging you about me, or about anything, you can tell me, you know? I'm not gonna get pissed at you. We're partners, and we can't keep this kind of stuff from each other; it's bad for our friendship and it's bad for our work. If I know you're keeping something from me, something to do with me or our partnership; if you're flipping out on me like that, how am I supposed to know whether you hate me or not? How am I supposed to trust you as a partner?"
Kakashi felt his blood start to boil again. He didn't need to be reminded of the kind of trust his line of work required, or the basic rules of being a friend. He knew them better than anyone on this planet. And what about Benjiro keeping secrets from him? Even so, he decided to quit arguing. The sooner he got this over with, the sooner he could go home – without Benjiro. "Yeah, I got it. I know, and no there's nothing about you I really dislike, so don't worry." And really, there wasn't. Kakashi rather liked the boy he was partnered up with – he was smart but optimistic, and his purposeful stupidity/naïveté was often hilarious to encounter – it was just his attitude towards certain females that irked him.
"Alright, so we're cool?"
"Yeah," Kakashi agreed, "we're cool. So long as you're not keeping anything from me."
"Nope. Wouldn't dream of it. Hey, you'd better get back home and let Rin know we've got the whole thing sorted out."
"You're not coming back with me?" Kakashi asked incredulously.
"Nope. She just needs her best friend right now, not some other person."
And with that surprising affirmation, Kakashi bounded back off to his apartment, all suspicions cleared…at least for now.
Upon reaching his apartment, he cautiously opened the door, and peaked inside. "Rin?"
"What do you want?" Came the stubbornly angry reply.
"Benjiro and I sorted things out. Everything's ok now."
"What was the problem to begin with? You guys seemed so ok together."
"Don't worry about it," he finally stepped inside the apartment, only to see her still at the kitchen table, tearing up periodically. "Sorry we upset you."
"No, it's not ok, and it won't happen again."
"Promise." Kakashi assured. "Hey, what was that song you were humming when you came in today?"
"Some song I heard in the staff room at the hospital…it really fit our friendships…not just yours and mine but also ours and sensei's and Obito's…" Rin trailed off.
"So, that's why you got so upset at us? You were thinking about Obito?"
"It wasn't just that…you and Benjiro fighting…it reminded me of you and Obito…and how quickly we went from fighting to missing him…and how quickly he was taken away from us…and it made me think that it could happen to either one of you – even to me, actually – at any time, and I just didn't want you guys arguing to be the last thing any of us said to each other…"
Kakashi fidgeted uncomfortably at the flow of memories. He rapidly made a move to change the subject. "So, how did that song go again?"
Rin giggled slightly, "Oh come on Kakashi, I'm not going to sing it in front of you."
"Why not? I'm not going to laugh at you. Plus, you always sing when you brush your teeth."
She rolled her eyes at him. "Well yeah, but then my mouth is full of toothpaste, and I actually have an excuse to sing badly."
"True, but by your off key singing in the bathroom, I already can guess that this is going to be pretty bad regardless," Kakashi joked, smirking.
"Hey, shut up!" She punched him in the shoulder. "Just for that, you're going to have to listen to it on the radio; there's no way I'm singing it!"
"Fine, fine," he agreed, defeated, "I'll wait to hear it on the radio."
"Great! Ok hold on, I have to find my radio first…"
"Oh, you mean we're going to listen to it right now?"
"Yeah! Why, you got something better to do?" She asked, walking around the apartment searching for her radio. "Now where did I put it…? In the kitchen maybe?"
Rin wandered over to the kitchen, stopping dead in her tracks as she noticed something inexplicably new present in their kitchen. "Kakashi?" She called back, confusion evident in her voice.
"Can you come here a second please?"
Grumbling to himself about what a nuisance it was to be removed from a comfortable spot, Kakashi reluctantly pushed himself out of the comfortable chair he had been seated in, and trudged towards the kitchen. "What is it Rin?"
"What is this?" She demanded, pointing to the brand new microwave seated atop the kitchen counter.
"Oh," Kakashi smiled as he realized what she was motioning to, "It's your new microwave."
"I see that, but Kakashi this must have cost you a fortune! I – why- uh – you didn't have to!" She sputtered, trying to find a way to both thank him and make appropriate arrangements to pay him back.
"I know," he simply said. "But I wanted to. Looks pretty cool, huh?"
"Yes!" Rin agreed wholeheartedly. "It looks very cool!" And then as an afterthought, "I'm sure Gai would burst in tears over the 'contemporary coolness' of you and your joint microwave."
Kakashi turned his head towards her, his visible coal eye mortified. "No, he won't burst because you won't tell him…right?"
Rin erupted in laughter at the horrified look on his face. "Of course not Kakashi!"
At once, Kakashi's demeanour became calm again and he let out a sigh. "So, find that radio yet?"
"Oh," Rin continued looking around for a few moments, until she finally spotted her radio on top of the refrigerator. With care, she got up on her tiptoes and pulled the sparkly purple device back down, setting it down on the floor of the bedroom.
After a gruelling hour during which the radio had been playing at full blast, the station it was on only blaring incoherent pop songs - songs that spontaneously spouted sentences seemingly supporting sexual promiscuity - Kakashi decided to turn the music down and either sleep or engage in idle conversation; to tell the truth, all the annoying songs playing were only serving to re-boil his blood, and Kami knew he didn't need a reason to get angry again.
When Rin realized that he was turning the music down – music she had been previously bobbing her head to – she made a face clearly asking, 'What gives?'
He shrugged in response, "It was bothering me."
With silence quickly overtaking them and both of them lying down on comfy mattresses, Rin began to feel the intensifying pull of sleepiness. Just as she was about to doze off, Kakashi asked, "So, anything new at the hospital?"
"No," she murmured sleepily, and then added as she remembered the news she'd been trying to deliver, "And there might not be, because I'm seriously considering leaving the hospital and coming back to do some field work."
At this, Kakashi bolted right up at an alarming rate, all of his senses fully alert and trying to process with rationality the news she had just sprung on him. Go back to the field? What the hell was she thinking? Her job at the hospital was, as far as he was concerned, more than adequate for her. The hours may have been a bit long and difficult to endure at times, but it was well paid, in a fairly gore-free environment (minus the OR), and most importantly, it was safe. Yes, she had been an active medic in the field at the beginning of the war, but things had still changed rather drastically from that time, and the ninjutsu/taijutsu skills required to stay alive were ones of a level she simply did not possess. All in all, Kakashi felt that her inclination towards leaving the hospital was a delusional one. "No," he deadpanned.
She frowned at his response, sitting up. "No what?"
"No, you can't leave the hospital for field work, no."
"I wasn't aware you had any say in my decision," Rin shot back coolly. "Considering that I didn't have a say in yours."
"That's not true," he argued. "You had a say in mine. I told you that if you didn't want me to go, I wouldn't."
"If I remember correctly, that was after you already accepted the proposal, which I hadn't even known about, and when I later suggested after your hospitalization that you consider resignation because of the detrimental effects it has on your body, you told me that you couldn't and wouldn't resign," she reminded him, "But I'm not telling you this to start an argument and point fingers. It's not even set in stone yet; I'm just considering it as an option."
"We need to talk about this," he persisted, "this is a fairly big decision."
She groaned, flopping back down onto her mattress. "Don't start this now, Kakashi. I'm too tired."
"I'm not starting anything. We can talk about it later," he told her calmly, and then turned his tone of voice to match the one he used when giving commands, "but we will talk about it. Of that you can be certain."
Rin groaned again, this time out of frustration. "Please don't order me around like that," she asked politely but with a tone that suggesting she was giving him a warning.
"I wasn't," he fibbed, flipping the tone back to the casual one he always used around her.
"Hey, what time is it?"
"Around midnight," he replied, "why?"
"No reason. Let's just lie down quietly and listen to the music. It's obvious that if we talk too much tonight, we'll just start arguing," she supplied unabashedly.
To her statement Kakashi posed no argument, probably because of its veracity and the fact that even if he would want to contradict it, Rin's point would only be proven. Besides, if they got into an argument tonight, he knew that it would definitely diminish his chances of successfully dissuading her from resuming a position in the field. So despite the fact that the music they were listening to irked him to no end, despite the fact that he'd rather have a conversation and drown it all out, and despite the fact that his head was swimming with questions and constructing rational arguments against her decision, he kept silent.
The song Rin had so desperately wanted him to listen to, much to his dismay, finally came on the radio at around 3AM, just as he had begun to fall asleep. His left eye had started to droop shut, making the room around him blur, his breathing followed his even heart rate, lulling him further in, and he had at long last found a comfortable position for his body on the mattress. All of the symptoms above were abruptly ended as Rin jumped out of her blanket, exclaiming, "Kakashi! Kakashi, wake up! This is the song!"
His heart rate immediately sped up in reaction to the urgency in her voice, his eye shot open, and he let out a tired moan, much like the one she had released hours before. Getting up sluggishly, Kakashi propped himself up on his elbows, listening somewhat intently as Rin turned the volume up on the radio's speakers. The song seemed to be about halfway finished, but that appeared to have no effect on Rin's excitement. In fact, if it hadn't been Kakashi's first time hearing this song, and therefore needing to understand all the words coherently sung, Rin would have been casually humming or singing along to the tune that reminded her so much of the old Team Seven.
The radio seemed to understand the importance of the song as well, for it magically adjusted itself to the proper radio station frequency, and delivered the music in its highest display of clarity yet:
I come around all broken down and
in you're comfort
Sometimes the place I go
Is so deep and dark and desperate
I don't know, I don't know
How every day
Every day, every day
You save my life
Sometimes I swear, I don't know if
I'm comin' or goin'
But you always say something
without even knowin'
That I'm hangin' on to your words
With all of my might and it's alright
Yeah, I'm alright for one more night-
Every day, every day, every day
Every day, every day
You save me, you save me, oh, oh, oh
Every, every, every day-
Every day you save my life
As it finished with a prolonged, melancholic note, Kakashi turned to Rin with a look on his face that unmistakably showed how unimpressed he was. "Out of all the songs, this is the one you felt best represented our team?"
"Well, maybe not the best, but one of the best, yeah. I mean, I think we've all saved each other's lives at some point, literally and figuratively. Sensei's been saving our lives literally since day one, and he's always made himself available when we needed to just talk. We feel safe around him and trust him, and he knows that, so he's done everything possible to help us. Then Obito…well, we all know how much he did for all of us. And you…you've changed Kakashi, and I don't know…I think it's really helped both sensei and I really get through all this crap. So yeah, in a way, I think we've all saved each other, all made each other better people…and the hanging on to every word part…that's true too…at least, for me it is. I can still hear him sometimes," she smiled to herself, "telling me the same things he used to, giving me the same advice when I'm down…"
Kakashi remained thoughtfully silent, slowly taking in the possibilities of how the song did in fact fit their team, and after a while, he determined that conceivably Rin was right. And even if she was right, did she have to choose the most goddamn melancholy bringing song ever? Why couldn't it be a happy song, one that would make them remember the good things and only the good things, not just how broken up their team now was. "Yeah…I still don't like the song though…"
"…I think I know what you mean. It can be terribly depressing, this music."
Six hours after they had fallen in the barrel filled with melancholy, and had also finally succumbed to sleep, Kakashi was the first to arise and take a glance at the alarm clock, which flashed an annoyingly red and digital 9:30AM in his face. He looked over at Rin, noticed that she was still asleep, and decided to catch a few more 'z's himself, until he remembered that they actually had plans today. Plans that included them being present in one hour and a half at a certain forest clearing in Konoha, some food packed.
Hastily, he got out of bed, making a small racket as he tripped over his sheets and fell unceremoniously onto the hardwood flooring. If he moved fast enough, then he could get dressed and ready and also prepare the snacks they were supposed to be bringing to Ayumi's picnic before Rin even had a chance to wake up. Unbeknownst to him, his plans had been thwarted the second he had tripped and fell; the racket of the noise had awoken a groggy Rin and she was now watching him with curious sleepy eyes as he futilely attempted to pull his pants on top of his boxers.
"Kakashi?" Came Rin's soft voice, filled with morning sleepiness.
"What are you doing?" She rubbed her eyes open with her hands, and continued to stare at him strangely.
"Kakashi?" She yawned, covering her mouth with one hand.
Rin smacked her lips together a few times, and opened her eyes, pointing her index finger at him. "Those are my pants."
Kakashi looked down to where she was pointing, an alarmed expression on his face. Indeed, now that the disorientation from being tired had passed, he could see clearly that the pants he had just been trying to pull on – and had been wondering if he'd gained weight since they were so hard to pull up – were actually Rin's. His cheeks tinged pink with embarrassment and a little bit of frustration at himself, as he threw the pair of pants that were clearly not his at their proper owner – letting them land against her stomach with an 'oomph' – and attempted to find his own pair of respective pants amidst the tangled mess-pile of clothes.
Following his lead, Rin also began rummaging through the pile of clothes, just as disoriented as Kakashi had originally been. Eventually, she settled upon the pair of black capris that Kakashi had attempted – inadvertently and without success – to put on this morning, a plain purple t-shirt, and a thin black full-zip sweater, as the mornings in May were still a little cool. Satisfied with her choices, she headed over to the washroom to freshen herself up, and then settled at a spot in the kitchen and commenced production of her famous picnic-style vegetarian sushi (mainly because she knew how much Kakashi & Benjiro disliked raw fish).
Minutes after she finished up the sushi snacks and had made some breakfast, Kakashi walked in the kitchen and sat himself down at the table. As she set the table with their respective teas and plain breakfasts and took a seat at the table herself, Rin was met with a murmured 'Thanks' from Kakashi, and then a strange look – one where he raised both his eyebrows at her – which she instantaneously noticed and responded to. "Yes, can I help you?"
"You stole my sweater," he accused, pointing his index finger at her garment.
Rin looked down blankly and then raised her head back to his eye level. "Oh," she grinned sheepishly, "so I did. Consider it payback for trying to steal my pants this morning."
Kakashi flushed at the memory. "It wasn't on purpose," he protested vehemently.
Rin's grin widened. "Suuurrreee," she joked sarcastically, "whatever you say Kakashi."
He glared at her. "Shut up and let's go."
Ayumi's picnic, according to Benjiro at least, was supposed to be a small affair. It was to take place in a forest clearing owned by Ayumi's family, and Rin, Kakashi, and Benjiro were to be amongst the few who were in attendance.
However, by the time the invitees began flooding in, it became at once apparent that this picnic was going to be anything but a small affair. There were many people who, despite being close in age and friends of Ayumi, kept to themselves entirely and refuted any attempts made at conversation. Kakashi took in their presence with a snort, remarking unpleasantly – outside of Ayumi's presence, of course – that their personalities seemed to match perfectly with that displayed by Ayumi the first time they had met her. Of course, Rin had promptly scolded him for making such unnecessary and rude comments about their new friend – to which Kakashi had remarked that he still did not consider the girl his friend – and continued her futile attempts to socialize with the clearly anti-social invitees.
Luckily, around noon, there came the familiar navy shock of hair characterized by the mature ex-pupil of Kakashi, Nikko. He waved and smiled in Kakashi and Rin's direction, a greeting to which they responded cheerfully, and moved in to sit near them. "Hey," he greeted casually.
"Hey yourself," Kakashi greeted back, "what are you doing here?"
"Kakashi! Stop being so rude!" Rin chided him, then smiled at Nikko, "Hello Nikko. It's nice to see you again. Been keeping up with your medical training?"
The young boy grinned back at her. "You know it! Thanks for all the tips Rin-sensei. And to answer your question Kakashi-sensei, I'm here because I am Ayumi's cousin."
As if on cue, at that very moment Ayumi entered the scene again and hugged Nikko tightly. "Hey 'cous, what's up?"
Returning the hug, Nikko replied, without the slightest trace of embarrassment, "Nothing new."
Just as the two cousins were pulling away from each other, two tall figures emerged into the clearing, followed by a much shorter yet undoubtedly more boisterous figure who called out, "Hey everyone!"
A chorus of 'Hey's were shouted back at the shorter, and now clearly female figure who was now identifiable as another of Kakashi's ex-pupil's, Haruhi. The two tall figures, which were now clearly male, Rin easily identified as the two brothers who had delivered her new mattress to Kakashi's apartment. What had been their names?
"Akio! Ryuu! Nice to see you guys!" Ayumi called out to the newly arrived group. "And hey," she added, ruffling Haruhi's hair, "I see you guys brought the little munchkin along with you!"
Haruhi frowned up at the older girl ruffling her hair. "Hey, who you calling munchkin?" Then, moving her head to the right to see around Ayumi, she noticed the presence of Nikko, Rin, and Kakashi. "And hey look," Haruhi cried excitedly, "it's sensei!" After a couple of seconds, she noticed Rin's presence as well. "And his girlfriend!"
Rin blushed vividly at the comment as Haruhi moved to take a seat beside her, shoving Nikko out of the way. During the entirety of the picnic, Haruhi continuously harassed Rin with questions about Kakashi and the nature of their relationship, chatting her up incessantly.
Finally, one statement Haruhi uttered seemed to affect Rin more than all the rest. "You're really lucky you know?" the young girl mused thoughtfully, "Sensei's really hot and he seems like a good person too."
Rin appeared shocked at first by the girl's musings, but then smiled gently at the last part. "He is," she agreed considerately.
This response seemed to pique Haruhi's interest. "Is what? He is what? Really hot or a good person?"
"Uh," Rin blushed again, looking around to see if Kakashi was within hearing distance, then decided that it didn't really matter since they were now good friends and he was probably all too aware – though if he was, he chose not to show it – of her little, not-so-former crush. "Both," she finally murmured surreptitiously.
Nikko, who had been sitting nearby, had heard all of Haruhi's interrogation and eccentric statements and decided that maybe it was time to intervene and save Rin – a medic he deeply admired for both her compassion towards humans and her skill in her field – from further embarrassment at the hands of Haruhi's shameless and effervescent personality and thoughtless statements. And not a moment too soon, for just then he heard Haruhi question Rin eagerly, "So, have you and sensei kissed yet?"
It seemed as though Kakashi – be it because he was eavesdropping or by coincidence – had heard the question as well, for at the very second Haruhi had finished asking said intrusive question, he had promptly begun to choke on the water he had been drinking.
Practically flying over to the scene of an eager Haruhi and a clearly uncomfortable Rin, Nikko pulled Haruhi back by the arm and wrapped a hand quickly around her mouth, retracting it however mere moments later as Haruhi bit him. "Ow!" He yelped, glaring down at the young, not to mention vicious, girl he had detained. Adjusting his expression to be one of sympathy, he looked back up admiringly at Rin, informing her, "You don't have to answer that question, obviously."
After acknowledging the small smile he received from his medical mentor, he frowned once more down at Haruhi. "Hey, that's rude!" Nikko chided, beating a fist gently against Haruhi's head, causing her to stick her tongue out at him in shame, a playful look on her face. Checking out her expression to make sure that she was rightfully sorry, Nikko sighed. "What are we ever going to do with you?"
Then, looking once more back up at Rin, he grinned sheepishly. "Sorry," he apologized like a parent would for their small child's wrongful actions, "She's…young. Doesn't know any better."
"Hey!" Haruhi called from her position cross-legged on the ground in front of Nikko, "you don't have to talk about me like I'm not here! Sheesh! Now that's what I call rude!"
Rin laughed merrily at their playful banter, feeling a bit of morose nostalgia at how much it reminded her of the way her old team used to argue playfully, carefree, long before the war had gotten intense, long before they had broken up.
"Hey Rin!" Ayumi's voice chimed through the air, snapping Rin out of her thoughts, "Come with me for a second?"
Rin stood up and dusted herself off, before bounding towards Ayumi calling, "Coming!"
"So, what did you want to show me? Or talk to me about?" Rin asked as the pair got farther away from the clearing.
Ayumi just held a finger to her lips, signalling Rin to be silent and continued walking quietly to an area heavily covered by bushes sprouting large, oblong leaves. As they approached the area, Ayumi started to gently push aside the large leaves, crawling into the leafy forest, ushering Rin in alongside her as she let the leaves fall behind them, covering the two of them in complete and utter forestry.
"What did you bring me here for?" Rin attempted asking again.
Ayumi let out a long but quiet sigh. "I need to ask you something. And I need you to answer me truthfully."
"Ok," Rin agreed, waiting patiently and with mild curiosity for Ayumi to ask her question. What could the girl possibly have to consult with her? It wasn't like they were good friends or anything; she had only seen the girl one other time, and yet here she was, dragging her into a secret place, whispering giddily.
"Do you think Benjiro likes me?" Ayumi asked, her expression instantly blank.
"Uh…" Rin stalled, trying to think of the right way to answer. Judging by how secretive the location chosen by Ayumi was, it seemed like the girl was going to confess something, something good. But by the way her expression had just gone blank, Rin had no way of telling whether her reaction to the truth would be a pleasant one or an unpleasant one. If it were the former, then Benjiro would probably thank her for centuries to come for telling the truth, but if it were the latter and Ayumi was just bringing her here to this secretive location to get away from Benjiro, then it wasn't such a good idea to let the truth be known. So, should she take the chance or not? Should she let the truth about Benjiro's feelings towards his former teammate be known, or not? "Do you like him?"
Ayumi paused thoughtfully, as if trying to make up her mind about the question. "Well," she paused dramatically and then engaged in a silly string of giggling fits, "yeah."
Surprised by the older girl's very girlish and giggly attitude, Rin appeared almost frightened for a moment, and then grinned knowingly at her. "Does my answer to your question determine whether I get out of these bushes alive or not?" She joked.
Ayumi erupted in another fit of giggles. Well, you are in my neck of the woods now. Literally. But nah, come on," she said, motioning in a forward direction with her head, "let's get out of here." Instead of going back the way they came, they pressed forward, fighting their way through the throng of leaves and branches until at last, they heard the sound of running water. Upon having emerged from the clearing, both were stunned into silence by the beauty of it all. Grass and small pebbles lined the edges of a large pond, a creek to the right of it and a waterfall directly behind it. Steam rose from where the waterfall connected with the pond, and all sorts of fish and fauna adorned the pond surface. The waterfall itself seemed to dazzle with the intensity of a thousand diamonds as the shining of the sun brightly illuminated its many streams of water pouring down.
Rin gasped in awe, while Ayumi let a tranquil smile adorn her features, sitting down on the grassy earth and gliding one hand lazily along the water's surface. "It's beautiful, huh?" She whispered to Rin, keeping quiet so as not to break the tranquil peace. "My family's owned this part of the forest for a few years now, but I just discovered this a couple of weeks ago. After Benjiro told me that I had to find my peaceful place, my sanctuary. He said that everyone needs one, that otherwise they go crazy. So I thought, what better place than in the forest?" She then lay down on her back, staring up at Rin, who was still looking around completely mesmerized. "What's your sanctuary, Rin? Where do you go to get away from all the stresses of life?"
Rin paused to think. That was a good question. Where was her sanctuary? Back when everything had been great with her family, it had been home. Then, when things took a turn for the worst, it had been the library, where she could spend countless hours doing whatever she wanted and basking in the peaceful quietness. After Obito died and her mother had started drinking, her sanctuary had been Kakashi's apartment. But now, despite the fact that everything was ok with her mother, despite the fact that Obito's death no longer gripped her heart as tightly with its cold, dead fingers, despite the fact that she had befriended Kakashi, it seemed as though she had no sanctuary. No place to go to when everything seemed to be too much to deal with, no place to head to get away from all the memories and forget, no place to be alone with her thoughts. "I guess…nowhere. I mean, I don't really have one," she admitted sadly.
"Eh, I didn't either, and for the longest time I thought I didn't need one, you know? Actually, before Benjiro suggested it, the thought of a sanctuary, of a place of my own, a place to get away, it hadn't even crossed my mind. But then, he asked me, and I found this place, and all of a sudden it became pretty clear that this was exactly what I had been missing." Her eyes met with Rin's and Ayumi couldn't help but notice how hopeless the girl looked, lost deeply in her thoughts. "Tell you what," she grinned, "You and me, we'll share. You can consider this your sanctuary as well, and you can come here any time you want. I guarantee it's just as beautiful during the winter here – although not as warm – and well Rin, you can get away from everything here. Just lose yourself completely. And it's outdoors," she tacked on half-jokingly, "so if you need to scream, you won't be disturbing anyone."
"Thanks," Rin smiled sincerely, "this is amazing."
"Yeah," Ayumi agreed offhandedly, "so what about my question? You still haven't answered whether Benjiro likes me or not!"
Rin sat down on the grass beside Ayumi giggling, all talk of sanctuaries placed in the back of her mind. "Well, what makes you think I know?" she playfully avoided the question.
"Oh come on! Kakashi and Benjiro are partners for god's sake! Benjiro even told me he sleeps over at your guys' apartment sometimes! If anyone knows about Benjiro's romantic interests, it'd be you guys."
"Well, I may know a thing or two," Rin admitted, grinning all the while.
At this Ayumi became excited enough to sit up, and look at the other girl expectantly. "So? Don't just sit there smiling at me! Let me know!"
Rin laughed at Ayumi's antics, and couldn't remember for the life of her the last time she had had a real girl talk. It felt nice, and deep down, she sincerely hoped that she could get used to this. Still laughing and grinning broadly, Rin managed to squeak out a, "Yes!" nodding her head fervently in assertion.
"I knew it! I knew it!" Ayumi exclaimed as they both fell into a fit of girlish giggles.
Later, when the girls had returned back to the main picnic area and were once again surrounded by their respective friends, Ayumi pushed through the crowd until she found Benjiro. "We need to talk," she told him, dragging him far away from where everyone was picnicking.
Rin surveyed the scene with a serene smile, giving Ayumi a behind the back thumbs-up sign as she made off with her soon to be boyfriend. Without a sound, Kakashi materialized beside her, regarding her carefully. "What's the deal with them?" he inquired, startling Rin, as she hadn't noticed his presence.
"Oh, I think Ayumi's going to tell Benjiro she likes him!" She chirped happily.
"I'm really happy for them," she grinned for them umpteenth time that day, flashing him her pearly whites. "I think they're really cute together, and they both deserve to be happy. Besides, it's like a gift for both of them, you know? They could fall in love and everything, have a great life, be happy together. It's amazing that they'll get together."
"If you say so."
Rin then decided that, sanctuary or not, she really wanted to show Kakashi the place that had been shown to her by Ayumi. The moment she saw Ayumi and Benjiro come back from their trek, smiles on their faces and fingers intertwined, she knew that all had gone as planned and it was now safe to say that they would not be intruding on anyone if they were to go to the clearing with the waterfall. She instructed Kakashi to follow her, but the new happy couple on their way to the clearing promptly stopped both of them.
"I assume this picnic will finish up in a couple of hours," Ayumi notified them, "and then I'd like to invite you all down to my clearing just to, you know, chill and hang out."
"Well, we'll go there now and wait for you guys to come," Rin replied.
"Okay! See you two there!" Benjiro piped in. "Don't do anything we wouldn't do!" He added with a wink.
It was twilight by the time Benjiro and Ayumi thought to join Kakashi and Rin by the waterfall. They had apologized for their lateness, though they knew nobody really cared, and proceeded to settle themselves comfortably in the grass. Kakashi and Rin, who had already chosen their spot on the left side – Kakashi sitting cross-leggedly beside Rin who was lying on her stomach, head propped up on her hands – scooted even further left to allow for more room to accommodate the newly arrived couple. Benjiro lay down on the grass first, hands behind his head while Ayumi took a position perpendicular to his and laid her head on his chest.
No one dared speak; the silence was too peaceful and precious and fragile to break. When finally they seemed to be in danger of losing themselves amongst the million twinkling stars that adorned the night sky, Rin whispered, "It's beautiful, isn't is?" This ignited a chorus of affirmative murmurs, but after that no more was said.
Benjiro and Ayumi were barely noticed as they slipped out of the clearing later that night, attributing their leave to the cool May night air, and Rin only paid heed to them when asking, "Is it ok if I stay a little longer?" to which Ayumi answered, "Of course."
Rin really seemed to have found her ideal place, the one place where nothing could break her peacefulness, where nothing could attack her conscience, and right now, she felt as though she never wanted to leave. Of course she knew that was impossible, due to her hospital shifts and the increasingly cool air outside, and her need to it, but every time Kakashi suggested that perhaps they go home, she would plead, "Just a little longer," to which he would sigh wearily and remain rooted in his spot.
"Come on Rin," he said finally, "it really is time to go."
"Oh Kakashi, please can't we stay a little longer? Or, if you really don't want to, just let me stay a little longer."
He sighed again at her pleading tone of voice. He could tell that she desperately wanted to stay, but it was getting cold out, and who knew how dangerous these forests were at night? "Let's go Rin."
"Please," she continued to plead, "it's so peaceful here. Please let's just stay a little longer."
Well, what choice did he have when she looked up at him so vulnerably? Even he had to admit that it was very peaceful where they were, and if such peacefulness wasn't so unsettling to him, he might have never wanted to leave as well. Be it as it were the peace was unsettling, and he did want to leave as soon as possible. He was getting tired, and it would only be a few days before he went out to the border again.
But then she looked tugged on the sleeve of his shirt, gazing up at him with the most sorry looking puppy dog eyes and pleaded, "Please?" Stone cold killer or not, even he couldn't deny the working powers of the puppy dog eyes and finally conceded to them. "Fine," he agreed, and at this she gave a little whoop and he was glad to see the puppy dog eyes had disappeared, "but only five more minutes."
She smiled brightly at him and hugged his arm. "Thank you Kakashi."
"Don't mention it," he replied gruffly.
Rin switched her position so that she was now lying on her back; hair sprawled around her face like a halo, arms behind her head, eyes staring up at the stars. "Hey Kakashi, come here and look at the stars," she pulled him unceremoniously down beside her. "What do you notice about them?"
"They're bright…?" he suggested lamely.
"Yup, exactly! They're bright, but don't you think Kakashi, that the stars look a little brighter tonight? Like, they didn't look this bright before…not yesterday, not the day before, not last week. The stars haven't looked this bright in a while."
"Well, we're in the woods. They're not outshone by the village lights here."
"No, that's not it. They look…I don't know…happier. They look like…"
"Obito," they finished in unison, on the same tragically peaceful train of thought.
"Yeah," she smiled for the first time in a long time when hearing his name, repeating the answer in a whisper, "like Obito."
Rin then turned to face him. "Kakashi?"
"Hmm?" He responded absentmindedly, still looking up at the stars.
"You know what I realized about Obito today?"
"He'll never be gone from us. Not really. I mean, in a way he's still alive. Life's a journey, right? Well, maybe his journey's just begun. It's like, this journey, it never ends, you know? Even though we feel someone's gone, they never really are. It's just that they become physically invisible. But their thoughts, their mannerisms, their beliefs, they still live on, they're still everywhere because they're in us. They're like the stars…sometimes we explode and aren't seen anymore, but our matter, our very being is still very much floating through the atmosphere. Maybe the plans that Obito had for himself were smaller than the plans life had for him. I can feel him in the air all the time, especially now. He's watching over us, like a guardian angel, helping us, bringing things to our attention that we'd otherwise miss. And you know what else? We're so lucky to have him."
Kakashi did not respond to any of what Rin had said, choosing to remain silent and instead think about her words as he looked up at the stars. He supposed that if he had tilted his head a little to the right, and he had squinted his eyes, and if he had had an incredible imagination and belief in the afterlife, he would have been able to discern the face of his old teammate plastered amongst the stars. Be it as it were, he could only look up at them and think of how brightly they shone, just like Obito had. With the strength of a thousand suns.
At the same time Kakashi was literally staring off into space, Rin came up with another thought that she was curious to discuss with the Hatake. She turned her head towards him again. "Kakashi?"
"Hmm?" He replied same as before.
"Do you have a sanctuary?"
He turned his head, confused, to face her. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, a sanctuary. Like, a place where you can just be yourself, you know? Where you don't have to hide all of the frustrations at the world, where you find peace. You know, a sanctuary. Do you have one?"
"I…don't know. Never thought about it," he admitted truthfully.
"Yeah, me either," she granted, "I used to think that it was the cemetery, you know, 'cause that's when I felt closest to Obito…but then I realized that it wasn't, 'cause I didn't feel at peace there. Just hopeful. Just closer to him," she told him, head still facing his way.
"Well, that's the thing," Kakashi flipped back onto his stomach and began picking at some clovers in the grass, "I mean…does the sanctuary have to be a place?"
Now it was her turn to be confused and question, "What do you mean?"
"I mean, if a sanctuary is just where you're yourself, and you're at peace, then can't a sanctuary be a person, or a memory?"
"I guess," she replied, surprised by his interpretation, "'cause you can feel at peace around a person and you can be yourself around them. And remembering certain things, certain points in time can make you feel more at ease…so, I guess…but for the memory, doesn't it help if you're where the memory happened? Doesn't it make it more real."
She flipped over on to her stomach as well, and then turned to face him again, also picking at a few clovers in the grass. "So then," they simultaneously looked up at each other, "what's your sanctuary?"
Maybe it was the cold that had numbed his mind, maybe it was the false protective shield that the peacefulness around them laid, maybe it was the way the stars seemed to dance in her eyes, maybe it was the fact that he was tired beyond belief and would say just about anything to get her to leave the forest, or maybe it was just him having a rare moment of honesty with himself, but he looked her dead in the eyes – Sharingan masked, so she knew it was likely just him speaking – and he uttered one single word, and after that he didn't believe he had ever spoken any truer word: "You."
IDIL's Note: Well guys, as hard as it is to believe, that was it. Living Arrangements is officially over, and I'm really torn between being really happy and really sad. It is true that lately I've had my head swimming with all sorts of goodie oneshot projects and I've had to finish this before starting them, but this fic has been a fantastic journey for me as well, and I'll really miss doing updates. I know, I know, it was quite a sappy ending, but it did end the way I intended - and that was peacefully. I really hope that you have enjoyed reading it as much (or more, though I doubt that's possible) as I have writing it. :) Thanks to all of chapter 20's reviewers: And now, for the last time, here is the chapterly challenge!
Chapterly Challenge: Alright guys, here is the final one, and for some of you, last time's was technically the final one. This chapterly challenge is more of a tie-break round than anything else, but as always, I encourage you to participate! Chapter 19's challenge answers are, for the English, "Look before you leap," and for the Latin, "We learn by teaching". Congratulations to many as they have gotten it!
Chibirain - 11
Catgirl9696 - 20
Sakra-chan - 15
Snappa - 24
Hikari Minamoto - 35
End Dragon - 15
Piccylo - 30
Joiz. D - 25
Rileyonline - 35
Konoha's White Fang - 20
Frog Lady - 5
Now, as I had previously mentioned this is a tie-break round for our two tiers: Hikari Minamoto and Rileyonline! PLEASE READ THIS, YOU TWO! In this round, the rules remain the same (i.e., you CANNOT consult the internet) but if you answer both correctly, you get double the points. If you answer one correctly and one partially correctly, you get the 5 points for the correct one plus however many points I award you for your partially correct answer. If you answer one correctly and one incorrectly, you get 6 points, no matter what. The prizes are really up to the winner to decide, though I don't really see much possible outside the realm of me writing something for you or me reviewing something of yours. However, my mind may not be as creative as yours, and that is why you are allowed to choose the prize. I can also advertise your fics somewhere, if that's what you would prefer. Now, without further ado, here is your final chapterly challenge(s):
1) Missiles of ligneous or petrous consistency have the potential of fracturing my osseous structure, but appellations will eternally remain innocuous.
2) Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.
Good luck, and this is In Darkness Is Light officially signing off from Living Arrangements! Happy New Year!