Sake and Ice Cream

A/N: I'm back. Now that it's summer break I intend to try to write with a vengeance and make up for lost time.

I was watching "Full House" (the K Drama, not the American TV series with the Trollsens) and got the idea from one of the scenes.

Disclaimer: Canon is not love. KakuTen.

Shinobi bars weren't the friendliest of places to frequent. All serviced a type of people that had been bred to maim, fight, kill, and survive. All who survived still were in dangerous need of release. Those in need of release usually frequented the bars in hopes of finding sex, drunken oblivion, and the occasional fistfight. Hatake Kakashi could never really excuse himself from joining the ranks of those in need, and tonight was no exception.

Some were quiet, silently nursing their liquor or softly conversing with teammates and friends. Still others gathered round in boisterous, but tightly knit groups in the back booths, laughing and carousing, rejoicing in another night. And then there were the prowlers, who were more focused on a more individual sort of camaraderie.

It didn't really matter who Kakashi was with, or what he was after, so long as there was liquor involved. Some nights he sat at the bar by himself and reminisced with his sake. Other nights he sat with his jounin colleagues, laughing at their students over beer and secretly worrying about them. Yet others, he'd be leaning against a wall, twirling a pretty kunoichi's hair around his fingers. It all depended on his mood.

But tonight was different. Tonight was the first time he'd seen any of the Rookie 9 in his local watering hole. To be specific, Maito Gai's student, Tenten, much to his surprise. Young shinobi were a rare sight at bars – if they weren't underage, it was because they were still too young and fresh to be battle weary and cynical enough to seek solace in the dark. Still excited. Although from what he'd seen of her, she wasn't the type to be overly hyper, Kakashi didn't take her to be the kind of girl who prowled bars, burdened her sorrows and bitterness.

He almost hadn't recognized her, sitting alone at the bar with a pint before her, hair unbound and forehead protector nowhere in sight. But the kunai-laden thigh holster and her fingerless gloves lying next to her beer let him know that it was indeed the Weapons Mistress he was looking at. She had her back turned to the rest of the pub, shoulders hunched as she idly traced patterns in the water on the countertop. Kakashi was familiar with her posture – it was the dejected, careworn gesture of someone who had taken a severe beating from life. He himself had carried the same burden before.

"You're a little too young to be here, don't you think?" he asked as he sat on the stool next to her, waving to the bartender for a beer. "Why are you here?"

"No need to be overly concerned sempai, I'm definitely of age," she quipped. Her grin was tightlipped, but she grinned just the same. It was a start. "I'm here for the same reason everyone else is here. Why are you here?"

Kakashi watched as she took a swallow of her still cold beer. He hadn't realized what fine features the girl had. Strong and angular, but still fine, well suited for her small face. Now that he thought about it, she was rather petite when not flanked by her teammates, who positively towered over her. Rather small because she wasn't standing with her usual confidence, tall and sure of her abilities. He didn't like seeing her so downtrodden.

"It's not your age that's too young," he replied, making sure to look her in the eye so she couldn't misinterpret his words. "And I'm not the only one who thinks so," he added, nodding towards the back of the bar where several pairs of eyes had spotted her and were watching with keen interest. "Are you alone?"

"My, my, sempai, we're full of lectures and questions tonight," she drawled as she took another swig. "What's with the show of concern?" Kakashi stilled her hand as she reached for her glass. "You. I don't like seeing you like this. What's wrong?"

Tenten was surprised that the mysterious jounin actually gave a shit about what she was going through. They had never interacted with each other on a personal basis, and even their professional contact was limited. She had always been Gai's female student, and he was always Gai's rival. She decided to take his concern at face value.

"Sometimes young'ns get sad too, sempai," she said, nonplussed. "We all have bad days, or shit weeks, or just get in a rut, even if it's for no particular reason, is all." To soften her tone, she smiled and said, "thanks for asking though."

Kakashi didn't know what possessed him, but he found himself pulling back a few strands of hair off her face, tucking them behind her ear. He was no stranger to females and their emotional woes – he had cared for the legendary Haruno while she was a young adolescent girl, after all. He was used to their dangerously profound mood swings that swung from one extreme to the next without warning, had learned how to comfort, soothe, and run away to save his ass if need be.

Tenten's quiet somberness threw him off. Kakashi had expected to see the girl burst into violent, passionate tears, or to radiate danger and killer intent in rage, like Sakura or the Yamanaka girl. But she was calm and still, isolated from him, uncaring if he paid attention to or not. He then realized that he didn't know how to comfort her, and that bothered him a great deal. Bothered him because she was going to mend herself just fine – with or without him. And he wanted to be in involved in the healing process very much, even if it meant coaxing a giggle out of her with a lame joke.

Kakashi knew that he had to try his most effective method.

"Tenten," he said, weighing her name with his gravest tone to catch her attention. She looked him full in the eye, unwavering.

"Do you want me to buy you ice cream??"

Her laughter startled the entire bar with its rich peal. He gaped at her, wondering why this strange girl was outright guffawing in his face. He was slightly miffed and wounded that she reject him outright in such a manner, really.

Tenten's laugh trickled off into giggles and she actually brought a hand up to her mouth to try to stop them. "That was priceless Kakashi, is that what you did whenever Haruno cried?" she teased. Kakashi glowered at her, still too shocked to actually physically reply. Tenten laughed again and slapped him across the back.

"You're clueless Hatake Kakashi, but you're really something," she said, eyes shining brightly at him as she reached for the sake the bartender had placed in front of her. "Who eats ice cream when they're sad?"

Kakashi actually puffed and preened as he haughtily replied, "lots of women. Normal women, may I add." Tenten raised an eyebrow at him and he continued. "That's all they do when they're upset or angry – eat. Ice cream and chocolate seem to be the top snacks to consume when women are emotional," he finished, proud of his brilliant observation.

Tenten grinned as she slid him the saucer. "It was a good try," she ventured, soothing his slightly ruffled ego, "but I'm not 'most women'."

"Silly, I'm not a child, I don't eat ice cream when I'm sad anymore," she laughed, raising the cold saucer to her lips, "I drink alcohol instead."

The sake burned a clear, bright path down her throat, burning away her sorrow. Tenten surveyed the Copy Nin, who had been watching her the entire time. She had never seen him take such an interest in anyone or anything before, other than his Icha Icha books and she found the attention a bit startling. To break the silence between them, she cleared her throat and hesitantly ventured,

"You can buy me ice cream some other time, though."

Kakashi's one visible eye curved into a smile. Tenten wondered what she had gotten herself into.