AUTHOR'S NOTE: THIS IS NOT A HALLUCINATION. This is the infamous missing epilogue and the story is now complete!
Six months later…
Kakashi, Sixth Hokage of Konoha, worked in silence in his office. The windows were open, allowing the noise of the village to whisper in his keen ears. However, Kakashi's mind was very far away, his mind distracted. He worked in silence and tackled the stack of papers in a mechanical fashion.
"It's just a minor inconvenience. I'm not going anywhere."
How long had it been since he last uttered those words to Sakura? Six months? It felt like six years.
For as much confidence that Kakashi had in his own rationality, he should have seen this coming. Sasuke's death, village rumors, and the cancelled wedding had caused Sakura to withdraw in her shell. Kakashi, who had been ahead of everyone since he made genin at age five, had made a terrible miscalculation.
He thought the math was simple.
He thought that his gentle coaxing would sway her.
He thought she could see, rationally, how good they could be for each other.
But Sakura was a person, not a math problem. She was too clever to be manipulated without fallout. And most importantly, while she had a level head on her shoulders, she would always lead with her heart. The very thing that endeared her to him was the reason his whole plan was on the brink of falling apart.
Kakashi had heard the phrase uttered before, but years later, he hadn't changed all that much.
For a genius, he could sure be an idiot at times.
Now that Kakashi's eye was no longer an issue, Sakura's weekly visits vanished from his life. Tsunade had returned to the village a few months prior in order to help with the spring virus. The Godaime had queried on his personal mission of wooing Sakura when she arrived, and Kakashi mentioned that he was giving Sakura a few months' time. Sakura came to him for advice, requests, and reports, but never for company. He hadn't seen her in over a month; Sakura had deployed to Grass to personally oversee the vaccination process. Kakashi found it increasingly difficult to ignore the dark, gnawing feeling inside of him.
There was also a shift in village sentiment which contributed to Kakashi's sinking mood. His initial months of being Hokage were full of well-wishes, shocked faces when he showed up on time, and smirks as they added another report to his mountain of paperwork. Kakashi, in return, had followed up with gentle teasing in which he started referring to his former teammates as 'minions' and gave threats of assigning his cheeky staff to a certain D-rank mission… in Lightning Country.
(The Raikage liked his Tapestry Collection to be cleaned bi-monthly, and the mission was viewed with as much hatred in Cloud as Konoha's infamous runaway cat).
That had all changed when news broke about Sasuke, and Kakashi no longer wore his headband tilted. The Sharingan was dead after being on the verge of extinction for over a decade, and Kakashi had more than his fair part in it. There was a lot of talk, some raised eyebrows, and a heathy amount of critics. Then again, there always was when any Kage took a bold step based on their vision of their village's future. In a way, all the criticism was a sign that he was doing well. But it was also the death of Kakashi's name as he shed the moniker that he had his entire jounin career, and fully embraced being the Sixth.
To the village he became 'Hokage-sama' or 'Rokudaime-sama.'
Kakashi had no idea how important his name was to his identity until no one was using it. And really, it was to be expected for someone of his rank. But Kakashi had never wanted to be Hokage. He had personally led most shinobi in the village on a mission of some kind. The personal connections Kakashi held with his fellow shinobi were being cut off with every dutiful nod. He much preferred it when they had cursed his name as he skipped out on his lunch bill.
The death knell to Kakashi's mood was Gai no longer called him 'Eternal Rival!'
Those had been two words that had caused cold chills to shiver down his spine, two words which signaled ridiculous contests and a multitude of nightmares, two words that symbolized a persistent and undying friendship. Kakashi would have never thought that they would become so important, and while Kakashi knew that Gai didn't view him in a different way, it still stung.
Kakashi had been here before, disconnecting with his body as if he was a mere observer. It begun during that blurry period of time in his ANBU years; Kakashi had been so mired in his own grief that the only thing keeping him alive was his duty to the village. As a teenager, he had focused on using the Sharingan to the maximum, and the purpose of copying one more jutsu for Obito kept him afloat. His mental state had improved when Yamato was assigned to his team; they shared a similar temperament and Kakashi found someone he could truly trust.
But Kakashi never was able to completely shake the feeling; it didn't help that being a shinobi his entire life gave him limited social skills beyond ninja matters. 'Swiftest ways to kill an enemy' wasn't the best way to make a new friendship. That's where Icha Icha's brilliance came from; Kakashi was able to join conversations with shinobi his age without being expected to contribute any comments. Team Seven had been very effective in chasing that feeling away. But he was here again, with that pressure that gave him tunnel vision more terrifying than chidori.
This is why he never wanted to be Hokage.
The clock next to Kakashi gave a beep and he focused once again. The medics had arrived back to the village a couple of days ago. He had instructed them to report to Tsuande at the hospital upon their return, as the news would make the most sense to her. His own meeting was supposed to occur this afternoon, more of a report on village relations rather than medical progress.
Kakashi needed some good news. The past months had been… difficult. It was with some anxiety that he put away his current work and made his way to the meeting room to meet the medics. It settled when he saw Sakura, a smile on her lips as she spoke to the man next to her. She had grown her hair out and Kakashi was reminded of that party in Snow Country last summer, where she had looked so feminine he had a hard time reconciling she was the same person he knew.
He sat at the head of the table and the chatter died. The head scientist began to speak at Kakashi's nod.
"Hokage-sama, you will be very pleased by the news we have this year. We've made some very real progress on the virus. We took samples of blood throughout all the shinobi nations. Preliminary findings indicate that this season did not have as many variants as in previous years."
The team continued to speak, highlighting areas with heavy trade routes, and the widespread vaccinations given to Hidden Villages. Kakashi skimmed through the report in his hands, his mind processing graphs and charts with a glance.
The head scientist finalized the meeting with his most promising news. "The additional tissue samples acquired from Sasuke Uchiha has led to some interesting findings. We should be able to make a vaccine to eliminate outbreaks as soon as a couple of years."
Sasuke had been reduced to a tissue sample, all of his likes, dislikes and dreams of the future washed away except for what remained in a petri dish. Kakashi clenched his fists under the table, curling his eyes into that fake smile only one person in the room could see through.
"You are right, I am happy to hear that. Well, I think we should call it an early night. I'm certain that you all still have some catching up to do, after being gone for a couple of months. You are all dismissed."
The medic team smiled at him as they gathered their things. Sakura was the exception; her eyes narrowed as she observed Kakashi. "Thanks, Hokage-sama," the team said as they left.
The bottom dropped out of Kakashi's stomach. Hokage-sama.
"Is something wrong?" Sakura had remained seated.
"No." The response was automatic as he looked at the report in front of him in order to avoid eye contact.
"Well, okay." There was an unconvinced tone in her voice. "I'll see you next week, maybe."
Maybe. The vague response caused Kakashi to grow hot. He couldn't afford this to go on, and Sakura was the only person he could possibly talk to. His tongue felt awkward in his throat as he struggled to get the words out.
"Close the door," he said in a tight voice.
Kakashi stood, causing his chair to skid behind him, and he stumbled to the washroom adjacent. He twisted the cold water tap to the max and began to wash his hands. The bright florescent lights made his hands seem ghostly, but he found it reassuring to see them pale and not drenched in blood. He flicked the water off of his fingertips and went for round two of the soap.
He felt Sakura's presence behind him, but he ignored her. This was a coping mechanism he forced himself to develop to function, to survive. This ritual was familiar; he just needed to wash his hands ten times; a countdown in which he focused on the cool water at his pulse. He squirted a seventh pump of soap in his hand; the soap was lemon-scented and stringent. His breathing eased as he finished with round nine. At round ten, Kakashi remembered that he had some lemonade in his refrigerator. That was going down the drain the moment he walked in the door.
He finished his tenth and shut the water off with a decisive snap, then pulled at the towel to dry his hands. He turned to see Sakura's blurry form in the doorway. He looked away from her, blotting his watery eyes with the towel still clutched in his hand.
"Did you know," Kakashi asked, "that I suffer from chronic depression?" His voice came out raspy, despite his attempt to make it light-hearted. He kept his eyes glued to the adjacent wall, too afraid to see her expression.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Sakura's voice was neutral, and Kakashi thanked his lucky stars that she knew him well enough to give him what he needed.
"No." He rubbed at his face, the scent of lemon stinging at his nose. "But I don't have a choice. Can we just have this discussion somewhere less –uh—florescent?"
"Of course. Lead the way."
Kakashi swept out of the bathroom, not giving Sakura a second glance, leaving the papers from the meeting on the conference table. He made a bee line for his living quarters. Normally he would tell Shizune when he was done for the day, but the panic attack had left him shaken and uneven. They usually occurred in the middle of the night after a nightmare, not in broad daylight after a meeting.
"Lemonade?" Kakashi asked as they entered his apartment. He had yet to look Sakura in the eyes.
"Water is fine."
"Good." He opened the refrigerator door and tossed the lemonade in the sink with a little more force than needed, caused some of it to spill on the kitchen counter. He grabbed a cup from the cabinet, filled it with water, and slid it to Sakura. He saw her hand reach for the cup; her fingernails were painted the same color as the seal on her forehead.
At his name, his eyes snapped to hers without his permission. Her green eyes reflected patience and concern, and Kakashi felt some of his tension ease. This was Sakura, the woman he had chosen for her fists of fury and determination. The one he admired for being able to show emotions so readily, no matter the pain it caused. He hoped that everything he thought of her was true.
"They you should start at the beginning and for me that was twenty-seven years ago." Kakashi slid onto the kitchen stool next to her. He took a drink of water from his cup to force away the lump in his throat.
"My father's failed mission left him grief-stricken and he committed seppuku. I didn't understand his motivations when it happened at the age of eight, but by the time I was fifteen, I had begun to wonder if this feeling…if it was hereditary." He took a deep breath before continuing, his eyes drifting once more to her hands.
"I would sneak in the library during off hours to read the medical scrolls. I was too scared to actually check them out and have other people find out. Missions cause a wide variation of effects on brain chemicals; shinobi taking medications for chronic medical conditions are benched. I self-diagnosed myself because the village couldn't afford to take me off the roster, not with our shinobi ranks so low. Besides, everyone had PTSD; it was hard to see if there was something wrong, because everything was wrong.
"I came up with coping strategies; the hand washing is one I use for a panic attack in the middle of the night. I copied all of those jutsu with the Sharingan because I needed to give myself something to work on. Along the way I became famous for it, and mastered all five elemental natures. Reading Icha Icha was Jiraya's idea; he thought I needed to be less serious. I realized that if I read the books in public I could be in a crowd, but not actually expected to talk to anyone.
"Things became manageable when Tsunade became Hokage. She had seen enough war, and cared a lot more about the village's health than Sandaime. She actually had a fairly discreet program going on after the attack on the village, where antidepressants were handed out with mission scrolls."
"How about now?"
Kakashi felt a lump gather in his throat and his lips tighten. It was easier to speak of things in the past rather than talk about the present. Sakura still felt so damn far away.
"I…I'm not good at this," Kakashi mumbled.
"Look at me," she said. His head tiled, but his gaze only went as high as her shoulder. She had twisted the ends of her hair in soft curls.
"Kakashi…" It was the way she said his name that did him in, so familiar and needed, that it tore away his delicate control. He reached for her, pressing his forehead against her shoulder, his hands scrambling for hers. She smelled of hospital disinfectant and it served to ground him to the moment, of her warmth that was real in his arms.
"That's why I wanted to help you," he confessed. He brushed his fingers along the scar behind her ear. "Feeling like this—all the time—it's too hard." He felt her body hitch and her hands freed from his to give him a proper hug.
There was more he could say, like his most embarrassing memory was when he was nearly declared a missing-nin at the edge of twenty-two by self-medicating. He had been unaware that anti-depressants and soldier pills didn't mix, and it had messed up his chakra system so bad it took him two months extra to get back to Konoha. He could bring up how his father loved his village so much it killed him at the age of thirty-eight, and as Kakashi crept closer to that age, he could feel his anxiety growing.
He should have pointed out the missive he received this morning, in which a team he sent out a week ago was found dead. He had spent most of his life protecting his village, but as Hokage, he now felt as if it was his job to send them out to die.
A desperate neediness hit, and he clutched her tighter, hoping to keep Sakura with him a moment longer.
"Please…" He wet his lips. "Please don't stop saying my name. That's all I ask. Don't…" That tight and heavy feeling was back, paralyzing him in a way a jutsu never had.
"Kakashi," Sakura repeated in a clear voice. Even as her heart broke inside, she marveled that anyone who struggled to be happy could turn out so good. If all it took to keep him together was to hear his name, then Sakura would utter it every day for the rest of his life.
The next day dawned with the sun rising in Sakura's eyes, waking her from her light sleep. She had stayed in Kakashi's living quarters, too shaken by the experience to have him far away from her sight. Kakashi had regained his composure after an hour, his cheeks pink in embarrassment as he pulled away from her. She had announced her intentions of staying the night by stealing one of his jounin shirts as a nightgown and making herself comfortable on the sofa. Kakashi had woken her up several times through the night, giving her a guilty look every time she peered up at him from where slept.
There was a knocking on the door, polite, but firm. Sakura made her way to answer, knowing that Kakashi needed a bit of a lie in. There was nothing that couldn't wait a few more hours, unless someone had the dumb idea of blowing up the moon or something.
"Yes?" she asked with an arched eyebrow, staring up at the porcelain mask of an ANBU. The only one she knew by sight was Sai, every other ANBU remained elusive. The ANBU removed his mask, and Sakura saw Yamato's face.
"Sakura?" There was a puzzled expression on his face. "What—where's the Hokage?"
"Resting," Sakura gave a tired smile. "He had a rough night."
Yamato gave her a knowing look. "I see. I'll stay out here just in case someone else tries to interrupt his sleep. Let me know if you need anything."
Sakura thanked him and shut the door. As she turned she saw Kakashi standing in the doorway of his bedroom, his hair falling forward in a way that added to his exhausted look.
"You don't have to send everyone away," he said.
"I just want to get rid of nosy people. If they see me here, they might think we slept together." Sakura scowled.
"Does it bother you that much?" Kakashi's eyebrows furrowed together.
"Yes!" Sakura replied hotly. She realized her mistake when she saw Kakashi's stricken face. "No! I just… I don't want people poking their noses where they don't belong. I had enough of that with Norio."
"Well, we have that in common." He took a seat on the sofa and Sakura followed him, tucking her feet underneath her to rest her hands on her knees. Kakashi's head was tilted back, eyes closed. He still wore his customary sleeveless shirt with attached mask. She was delighted, however, to see one unfamiliar piece of clothing.
"Nice pajamas," remarked Sakura, referring to his loose pants. They were covered in dog bones and paw prints.
"Mmm… birthday gift from Kurenai and Mirai." He opened an eye and peered at her. "I want to apologize about yesterday. It was a difficult day, and I don't have the right to impose all of my… issues… on you."
Sakura stared at him.
She wanted to punch him for saying something so idiotic. It was her go-to instinct, and she knew that she would fall back into the familiar relationship she always had with Kakashi if she did that. Last night had had changed things between them. Sakura didn't want to go back.
Kakashi had been a ninja his entire life, and had become a very good one, very young. He was never going to be a well-rounded individual and he knew it. Sai was the same way, lugging around books on friendship to broaden his social skills, and working on his emotions. Kakashi simply cut to the chase and forced his way of thinking on people as a sign of affection. If they stuck around, he prized their friendship beyond words, even if he was incapable of saying it. If they didn't, well, that was that.
Of course, he wasn't the only one like that. Many of her fellow ninja created forceful personalities as a way of coping with hard childhoods. Naruto had shoved his positivity into strangers and future- Kazekages. Gai taijutsu'd his way into spandex and infamy.
Sakura's betrothal to Norio had been acceptable because they both were powerful as individuals. Norio was heir to the country, but he was the delicate one in the relationship. Sakura had been more hesitant to a marriage with Kakashi because she still felt... lesser... than him. First he was her sensei, then he was team leader, and finally, as her Hokage. Even when their relationship had become more personal, he had the upper hand. Kakashi had admitted to requesting missions to Rice Country with her years ago to spend time with her. He had grown up with her betrothed. Kakashi had befriended Ms. Tokushima to sneak in her apartment. Sakura had known he was manipulative and a bit of a smooth-talker, so it had not angered her. However, she did not want to enter a marriage in which she had to struggle to be his equal.
It never occurred to her that Kakashi's mind and heart worked in unison because he was incapable of separating it. To Kakashi, 'please be my mission partner,' was akin to asking for a date. And he had taken her to all of those hot springs too. No wonder Kakashi had gone straight to asking for her hand in marriage upon his return.
No, Sakura couldn't go back to before. She didn't want to. After last night, she finally felt like she understood him.
If he was a different sort of man, Sakura would have thrown herself in his arms and gone in for a kiss. Kakashi's ever-present mask made it difficult. Instead, she leaned forward and pressed her forehand against his, their noses brushing against each other. He stilled, but didn't push her away. Gaining a bit of confidence, Sakura straddled his lap, and he tilted his head in response.
"Sakura, I didn't tell you this to make you feel sorry for me."
"Then why are you doing this?"
Kakashi's hands were resting against her waist, his touch light. It was a familiar action which had puzzled her for so long, but now she now understood. Even with all the teasing, he had always respected her. Her eyes fluttered open to match his dark gaze. For the first time, Sakura saw who they could be. It was no longer difficult to imagine waking up next to him, sharing quiet breakfasts over morning coffee, and the comfortable silence that came with familiarity. She could see him rising with their children, teaching them values of honor and hard-work.
"I want to elope," Sakura said as leaned back so she could see him properly. A myriad of emotions crossed his face and Sakura hurried to explain herself. "It's Friday. If we leave right now, we can reach Tea Country before Monday and be done with it."
Tea Country was famous for its informal marriage ceremonies; the tradition began when ninja had wanted to get married somewhere peaceful before heading out to the frontlines. War was no longer an omnipresent threat, but Tea's reputation had remained.
Kakashi frowned. "We don't have to rush this."
"You've been thinking about this for years, and I've been thinking about it for months. How is this rushing?" Sakura gave a small laugh in disbelief. "We live in a village full of ninjas, Kakashi; there is no way we can keep this quiet. Tomio showed me some reports on the economic benefits to a large wedding ceremony when I was engaged last year. If word leaks out about us, we will be put under pressure to have a large ceremony. I know you would hate it, and I know it's not for me either, so why put ourselves through the misery? Plus, Shishou is planning on leaving the village again by the end of the month, and if we leave now, you'll have someone to cover your position. "
"You really want to leave today?" Some of the doubt in Kakashi's eyes remained. Sakura pulled away from his lap to stand in front of him and grasped one of his hands at her waist to press it against her heart. She was a kunoichi whose hands could crush a mountain or save a life. Her heart was the most delicate part of her. Kakashi was a man whose entire world was built on protecting those he loved.
"It's still a little broken," she confessed. "You'll look after it, won't you?"
"Yes." And there it was, that familiar voice which contained a decade's worth of memories together. It took her breath away, how her early years of respect for Kakashi were morphing into this new and wonderful thing. It wouldn't be simple, but they would be fine.
"Yamato is outside," Sakura said. She could feel a silly smile cross her face as she stepped away from him to gather her things. "Tell him to message Sai and we'll grab Naruto at the border. Meet me at the gate in an hour."
"Already telling me what to do," Kakashi mused with a shake of his head.
Sakura responded by opening the door to the hallway and shoving Yamato at him. She laughed when she a muffled, "Senpai!" squawked from behind the closed door. She headed toward her apartment to pack a bag, wondering if she had anything in her wardrobe for the occasion. Halfway there, she veered course to the west.
Sakura had moved from her old apartment in December, into another unit closer to the hospital. The "omlette incident" had been a little much for the other tenants, and Sakura had found little hospitality after Kakashi had been made Hokage. She hadn't been there since, although she had waved to Mrs. Tokushima when spying her at the market. The woman had always been so supportive of their relationship; she deserved to be amongst those who heard the news first. Sakura could smell breakfast cooking in the hallway when she arrived at the apartment.
"Goodness, what brings you here, Sakura?" uttered Mrs. Tokushima upon opening the door. She beckoned Sakura to enter and make her way further in. Sakura shook her head as she lingered in entryway.
"I'm sorry, I don't have much time." She wrung her hands together. "I have to meet Kakashi at the gates in less than an hour and I still have to see my parents." Mrs. Tokushima gave Sakura a shrewd look.
"You're eloping to Tea?" Mrs. Tokushima chuckled at Sakura's shocked face. "Oh, don't be so surprised. You're wearing his shirt, silly girl! Not what I expected, but it's a good thing I am prepared for just the occasion. It comes with having a family full of shinobi. I'll be right back."
Sakura waited as Mrs. Tokushima vanished further into the apartment. She emerged holding a bag and handed it to Sakura with a fond pat on Sakura's wrists.
"I hope it is suitable for the occasion at some point of your trip. There is one for each of you."
Sakura reached into the bag to pull out a red yukata and a peek in the bag revealed another in blue. Sakura knew that she would be able to find something more formal for her ceremony in Tea Country. But it would be nice to have something new for Kakashi and her, especially since Mrs. Tokushima was so fond of the both of them. Sakura blinked quickly, keeping the tears that threatened to fall at bay.
"Thank you." Sakura gave a quick bow.
Mrs. Tokushima beamed as she took sight of her former neighbor. The dejected girl that she had met a few years prior was nowhere to be found. Mrs. Tokushima waved her off and sent Sakura off to continue her errands. She finished her breakfast with gusto, pleased that she had part in arranging the marriage of the Hokage. She thought of her grandchildren and read the paper.
Mrs Tokushima went to the market a little later in the day, shopping for produce and selecting a fish for the soup she was planning for dinner. She waved to the teachers as she passed the Academy, eyeing the chunin with a scar across the bridge of his nose. That man was so polite every time she spoke to him, and Mrs. Tokushima thought of the butcher's daughter, a timid woman who had no interest in leaving the village gates.
'Perhaps,' she thought.
That afternoon, Mrs. Tokushima met Mrs. Yamamoto at a tea shop. Their children had attended the Academy together, and Mrs. Tokushima found a strange friendship in the other woman. Mrs. Tokushima's sons had gone on to have respectable ninja careers, excelling in surveillance and information gathering. Mrs. Yamamoto's children never made it past the genin exam, going on to open small businesses that did rather well. Mrs. Tokushima was well-liked and respected, while Mrs. Yamamoto was avoided because she was a nosy gossip.
'The Yamanaka girl could probably learn a few things from her,' thought Mrs. Tokushima as she was told the details of an A-rank mission that occurred along the border of Fire and Water. She smiled into her cup of tea as she let Mrs. Yamamoto finish.
"I have a bit of news to share with you," she said. "I have it on very good authority that our Hokage eloped this morning." It was rare for Mrs. Tokushima to have gossip, and she was going to enjoy it for all it was worth.
It was only Mrs. Yamamoto's experience in gathering classified information that stopped her from spilling tea everywhere.
"Which one? The Godaime or Rokudaime? They are both the village right now after all." Mrs. Yamamoto thought it over. Tsunade was old, but she looked youthful. Was there a man that didn't mind that sort of thing? The Godaime had loved once before, so maybe enough time had passed that she had found someone new.
As for the Rokudaime, well, Mrs. Yamamoto had never found him terribly impressive. One of his favorite trees to read his porn in was near Mrs. Yamamoto's house. She always had to close her apartment windows when he read, since his giggling would carry into her house. Mrs. Yamamoto found both options difficult to believe.
"The Rokudaime, of course."
"And with whom?" Whoever married the Rokudaime must have the patience of a saint. Mrs. Yamamoto gave her friend her most impressive glare in effort to break her. It didn't work, as Mrs. Tokushima finished her tea without melting into a puddle of fear.
"To the love of his life," Mrs. Tokushima replied.
"He was in lo—"
"—I can't betray his confidence. He's a very private man." Mrs. Tokushima gathered her things as they made their way out of the tea shop.
Mrs. Yamamoto's mind buzzed as she cataloged the names she could contact for more information. She didn't know any that were in the Hokage's inner circle of confidants, but surely if word spread to the entire village she would get a name or two.
Mrs. Yamamoto waved goodbye to her friend and departed to her home.
Kakashi and Sakura were married on Tuesday, only having Naruto, Sai, and Yamato in their company. Sai had promised to document the occasion to the best of his abilities, and had his ink brush ready the entire trip. Naruto's eyes had been so full of tears during the ceremony that he missed it when Kakashi lowered his mask. Kakashi had derived a great deal of amusement from Naruto's annoyed face when he found out.
After the ceremony, they made their way to Rice Country to enjoy the hot springs. That ended up being a costly mistake; Naruto had been so upset he missed Kakashi's face that he tackled every man in the hot springs to see if Kakashi was hiding under a henge. Sai had chosen to draw the whole fiasco, rather than deter his friend. When their fellow guests had demanded their removal, Sakura agreed to compensate everyone's stay for a night in apology. By the next morning, everyone had found out Kakashi was the Hokage. Naruto was able to play off the incident as a "bodyguard situation."
The five of them were on their way back to Konoha a week later. Tsuande had promised to keep the village running for two weeks. There was a yearly camel race at the end of the month in Suna, and Tsunade's bags were already packed to make the trip. It had been a good two weeks, and Kakashi had thought he was trapped in a genjutsu more than once. They were just out of the village gates; for the first time in a quarter of century there was more than one person named Hatake.
Tsunade was waiting for them at the village gates. Kakashi felt a shiver crawl down his spine when he saw the dangerous smile on her lips.
"Is something wrong, Shishou?" Sakura was aware of the danger in the air too. Kakashi reached over to give her hand a comforting squeeze.
"No, no, nothing at all," Tsunade replied as she beckoned them to a training field just west of the village entrance. "Word has spread of your nuptials, Kakashi. You have quite a few people waiting to congratulate you. Most thought you would remain a bachelor for life." There was innocence to her tone that set off a million warning bells.
"Thank them for their continued support, but I'm a bit tired from the journey and would like to rest." Kakashi's arm was nearly ripped from its socket as Tsunade prevented his hasty exit.
"Nonsense. I promised to personally escort you there. I want to see your face when you see how... supported...you are."
Kakashi heard Naruto grumble something to Sakura about wanting to see his face too. The rest of his company followed with the sort of resigned walk found when attending the funeral of a passing acquaintance.
Tsunade and Kakashi exited the tree clearing, her firm grip still on his left arm. The first person he noticed was Gai, tears streaming down his face and a bouquet of flowers in his arms. He saw Genma, Raidou, and Anko and a crowd of individuals he recognized from his time in ANBU. His eyes slid across to the colorful cake; he wasn't much of a sweets person anyway. The clans were to his right, the Inuzuka at the forefront.
"The Rokudaime is touched by your continued support," Tsunade announced as Kakashi caught sight of the banner hanging from two trees behind the crowd of people he cared for so dearly.
CONGRATULATIONS KAKASHI AND YAMATO!
Sakura and Naruto's boisterous laughter didn't drown out Yamato's strangled noise of embarrassment. True to his word, Sai captured the moment perfectly.
Later, after the blush died down from Kakashi's cheeks, he would explain that he married Sakura. Fingers were pointed everywhere as the crowd wondered who the source of the mix-up was. Sakura would laugh in delight as she cut the cake, a rainbow-colored monstrosity that tasted of walnuts and spice.
Later, Sakura would move in with Kakashi, bringing with her hundreds of different soaps and lotions that made him sneeze when he had his mask off.
Later, Kakashi would give Kiba Inuzuka a week's worth of D-ranked missions in Lightning Country. Kiba's penchant for gossip was never the same.
Later, Sakura's perfume would make Kakashi sneeze right into face, breaking her nose. Sakura would stop lowering his mask for a goodbye kiss. Instead, she would stand on her toes and he would tilt his head down to touch foreheads as they had done for the first time at the training ground by the lake a year ago.
Later, she would love him. It would show in the way she leaned against his shoulder in parties and when her stomach began to show with child.
Later, they would visit the Ehime estate, son in tow. Norio and his wife had born a daughter named Masako, and the Daimyo would try to arrange a marriage between the two children. Sakura would not be amused.
Later, Kakashi would miss his rematch bet against Gai with the llama when Sakura went into labor with their second: a girl with wild, pink hair.
Later, couples would start a trend of taking an engagement photo by standing in front of one another with foreheads pressed together. It was said to be bad luck to announce your wedding without a "Hatake Kiss."
Later, the virus that Sakura worked so hard on was no longer an issue, and she focused her extra time on mental health. Sakura would place Kakashi on daily antidepressants when he hit middle age, despite his protests.
Visitors to Konoha were welcomed to the village with the sight of the Hokage Mountain. Locals would tell the foreigners there were a few constants no matter what season it was. There would always be a ninja in green spandex racing around the village declaring the value of youth. The Akimichi only ate at the best restaurants. And finally, the meaning of devotion could be found at the Hatake compound, for they were loyal in mind and heart and nothing less.
Author's note: I know a lot of you thought it it was dead, but I promise I didn't forget. I want to thank every single one of you that reviewed over the past eight years. Feel free to give me one more. ;)
If you are curious about what the heck happened, I put a thing on my tumblr, username: itslulu42 I put a link on the front page, or you can search by the 'Epilogue' tag. I didn't want to deceive the length of the chapter by putting it here.