Title: Above the Underneath
Summary: "Careful Kakashi-sensei. Look too closely at underneath the underneath and you may fail to see what is right in front of you." Kakashi regarded the blond pensively for a moment, before he eye-smiled. "You have grown a lot from the hyperactive five-year-old that I babysat." No Yaoi.
Beta: Withered Pages (Thanks!)
Hi everyone! Is it me or are people disappearing? Sure I'm not a frequent updater or anything but it feels like a lot of people vanish. Not only writers but readers as well. Ah well, hopefully they will be back from their holiday soon right?
Actually, a holiday sounds rather good...
Anyway please enjoy!
~A few weeks later~
Kakashi was worried for his team… especially the two that remained behind now that their teammate had turned traitor. He had been somewhat relieved that the Toad Sannin had practically demanded to let Naruto travel with him for a few years. Had Jiraiya not demanded to take Naruto with him, Kakashi would have gone as far as begging anyway.
Reluctantly, Kakashi realised that he just had to accept that he just wasn't made out to be a teacher. He had failed his team. The least he could do was make sure that his students would be able to find better ones. Actually, he was trying to get them the best out there. It was the least he could do after he had failed them like that.
So when Jiraiya had offered it on his own, he had easily – eagerly - agreed, seeing as Naruto would learn a lot from the older man. Not to mention that it would put an end to these desperate attempts to get Sasuke back for a while. It would be a good distraction.
Distraction was something that all of them needed right now.
That had left Sakura. Even though she still wanted to train with him, Kakashi didn't think it was enough. Just like Naruto, she deserved to be taught by the best as well.
The young girl also needed, so to speak, a Kunoichi's touch – or maybe a punch or two.
Which led him to...
"You want me to consider me what?!"
Kakashi shifted his stance slightly as he regarded the new Hokage in front of him. He knew of her ideas regarding medic-ninja. He also knew that Sakura would have a lot of potential to be one if she were to push herself.
"Sakura is currently lacking any true skills that she can use to protect those around her. Her teammates have always been ahead of her in that department. Still, I made sure that her basics were perfect, which they are. In time, I had expected that she would not allow herself to be…"
He deliberately took some time to search for the right word. "Undriven like that… any longer and decide on the direction that she wanted to pursue. She is very intelligent and she's very passionate Tsunade-sama. She is also stronger when she needs to protect someone rather than to face someone head on. I am sure that she would strive as a medic-ninja."
There was a long pause and the woman crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back.
Kakashi winced at the movements of her body language.
"I wouldn't even consider it if she wasn't intelligent, Kakashi. I know that you wouldn't even consider it either." Tsunade argued, regarding him with a pensive expression. "You seem to be very confident in her skills, even though you say that they are lacking."
"The basics are excellent. Her finest skill, her perfect chakra control, would be wasted if she were not to use it." The ex-ANBU stated confidently.
Tsunade stared at him for a long while and Kakashi patiently waited for her to come to a decision, knowing that the woman in front of him was stubborn and shouldn't be provoked.
"Basics, huh?" She muttered and looked at him somewhat suspiciously. "I think you saw her potential a while ago then..."
Kakashi said nothing, but he didn't deny it either.
The corner of the woman's lip twitched upward for a second.
"I see. I will consider it." The Sannin spoke up after a while. There was a moment of relief, however the Jounin felt that there was a 'but' following.
He was right.
"At least, once she dares to come and ask me on her own." She finished, giving him a pointed look.
Kakashi didn't answer. He had just been indirectly ordered not to nudge his student. It was a test on its own, he knew. If Sakura had the guts to ask the Hokage of all people to train her, she would show just how determined she was.
"Are you still confident that she will do so?" She asked him gauging his reaction.
Kakashi simply smiled boldly.
The twitch in her lips was more pronounced this time.
"Then I hope that you don't overestimate your student, Kakashi. Now make sure to finish the report for the mission this morning. I want the report on my desk tomorrow. Dismissed."
The Jounin nodded and hopped out of the window.
"And use that damn door next time!"
A week later, Kakashi and Jirayia returned from their mission and Kakashi was told that Sakura had paid the Hokage a visit.
At the next meeting with the Hokage, he had met Tsunade's suspicious glare with an innocent smile. He hadn't done anything wrong as far as he knew.
After all, the coincidence of forgetting to put back a small scroll on healing jutsu near Sakura's usual studying spot at that one particular table in the library five minutes before Sakura would study at said table didn't really count right?
~A few weeks later~
"So Naruto, are you ready to go?"
"Hai!" Kakashi smiled as he saw his student return to his usual hyper attitude.
"Well, I expect you to be a lot stronger when you come back… and taller."
"Sensei." The boy huffed, playfully swatting away the hand that was teasingly patting his head.
"Ne, Sensei." The tone suddenly sounded so serious that Kakashi was slightly caught of guard.
"Will you keep an eye on Sakura-chan for me?"
The Jounin frowned slightly at the look that Naruto was sending him. "Of course, Even though she is now Tsunade's apprentice, I will still be her Sensei, you know." He pointed out, wondering if he should feel offended that Naruto actually felt like telling him to look after her.
And I will still be your Sensei as well…
Those words made the boy turn slightly sheepish.
"I didn't mean it like that! It's just… we aren't really Team 7 anymore, you know?" The boy explained, his eyes turning sad as they glanced towards the window.
He was probably wondering where Sasuke was and Kakashi couldn't blame him. He often wondered the same, just because he wanted to drag that arrogant Uchiha-brat back and tell him exactly why you didn't betray your teammates like he had done. It was frustrating to see that the first thing you tried to teach your student was the first lesson that proved to be for nothing. So instead of arguing with the boy, he let out a thoughtful hum.
"I will look out for her," the Jounin reassured him, meaning every word of it.
"Good, or I would have to hunt you down and make you regret it," Naruto stated so seriously that Kakashi wondered whether he was joking.
"Of course," he answered anyway.
Even though the Genin grinned at him a second later, he was still sure that Naruto had meant every single word of it.
The fact that he easily changed topic made it even more suspicious for the ANBU.
"It's so cool that she got Tsunade-baa-chan to teach her all on her own!"
Kakashi couldn't help but grin mentally when he heard that… and to allow himself a mental pat on the back or two.
"Ma… you might want to call her Hokage-sama, Naruto," he drawled distractedly.
Naruto glanced up at the man and narrowed his eyes when he saw the look in the man's eye.
"Did you have anything to do with it?" He accused, ignoring the man's advice completely – not that he would have listened to it anyway.
Kakashi's shrugged nonchalantly. "She asked it on her own."
"So you didn't?" Naruto gauged, prodding, nudged suspiciously.
"I didn't what?"
The Jounin let out an amused chuckle. "She got the spot because she is strong enough to get it. She will learn a lot from Tsunade-sama."
Naruto huffed at his refusal to answer but allowed the man to change the topic anyway.
"What is she going to learn?"
"Just something that I had been planning on introducing her. She has the perfect chakra control for it," the Jounin allowed to slip. "Though I would have never been a good teacher for it."
Naruto frowned. "I don't get it."
"You will see when you come back."
Naruto glared at him, obviously not happy with the arrangement. "Why can't you tell me now?" he whined.
"What would be the fun of that?"
"You are no fun Kakashi-sensei," the blond grumbled, earning a playful whack on the back of his head.
"No respect for your superiors these days," he complained and faked a suffering sigh.
Naruto just laughed at him.
"I'm gonna miss you, Sensei." He quite abruptly proclaimed and rubbed the back of his neck as he did.
Kakashi's eye actually widened for a moment before they softened slightly.
"Ma, it will sure get quiet and boring without the Number One Suprising Ninja around."
Naruto grinned proudly at him, as he not that dumb to miss the intention behind his words.
I'm gonna miss you too brat.
"I know right? Maybe I should leave them a goodbye gift?"
"Let's not go quite that far..."
"I will take good care of him. You don't have to worry."
Walking towards his apartment, Kakashi glanced towards the tall Sannin next to him, somewhat annoyed by the fact that the man seemed to be able to read him so well.
"I didn't expect anything else. He will be able to learn a lot from you," the masked Jounin agreed, though a rueful tone slipped through at the end before he could stop himself.
He mentally hit himself as he saw Jiraiya give him a thoughtful look.
The two remained silent for a while. Both were more than aware that either could leave the moment that they wanted to, seeing as the important information about Akatsuki and Naruto's emotional state and training tactics had already been discussed.
"You know, he respects you very much." Jiraiya spoke up again, referring to their blond student.
"He shouldn't. I haven't been able to teach him as well as I wished." Kakashi answered, knowing that the Sannin was already aware of his inner regrets.
"You have done better than you realised."
The toad Sannin chuckled at Kakashi's reluctance – refusal - to accept the indirect compliment.
"Whatever brat. At least let me compliment you from fixing those mistakes that the Academy had left."
He smirked as the Jounin shot him a questioning look and shrugged. "Tsunade doesn't mind talking about him. He reminds her a lot of her little brother."
Kakashi nodded thoughtfully. "He worked hard."
"That still needs a lot of patience."
Kakashi didn't answer and Jiraiya sighed.
"Look Kakashi. You made sure that your team's basic development was perfected. They are each perfect to be shaped to their full potential. That is honestly the best thing that teachers like Tsunade-hime and I can ask for. So thank you."
'Yes… and Orochimaru now has his hands on Sasuke…'A pessimistic part of Kakashi's brain immediately supplied.
"There is no need to th-" He started.
"I said thank you, brat." Jiraiya broke him off and Kakashi finally looked at him again.
The Sannin was glad when he saw his eye look a little brighter than before.
"You're welcome," the Jounin slowly stated.
The words sounded more like a thanks of its own.
"You're welcome. Now just make sure to take care of yourself in the meantime. Otherwise I will sic Tsunade-hime on you. I'm sure that after all your years as a dog." - Inu – " without a single unnecessary break has left you one hell of a holiday if you wanted… or were forced to."
Kakashi shuddered at the subtle threat. " Hai."
The next day, Kakashi made sure to see the boy off on his journey.
The fact that he actually came on time to do so meant more to Naruto than he would ever realise.
~ About two years later ~
Kakashi strolled down the street, his nose in the book, as he easily moved around obstacles on his path.
If one took a careful look at his eye, they wouldn't notice it gliding over the page. However, the eye seemed unfocused, as if the man was in thought. His hand automatically flipped the page of the book that he knew by heart as he continued to think, disguising it as being busy reading.
At the moment, his thoughts went back to his team.
It still hurt to know that he had failed them, but there was nothing that he could do about it.
He had forced himself to push that behind him and live with the mistakes. He had more than enough experience with dealing with stuff like that. He didn't care if it was unhealthy.
Luckily, time passed quickly and being busy made dealing with it easier.
Naruto's absence had been very noticeable. There had been moments that he had desperately missed the boy, the bright escape of dark missions that the blond unknowingly provided. Sakura had missed the blond as well, Kakashi knew, though it had allowed the two of them to grow closer as well.
"Kakashi-sensei! You are back!"
"Yo!" He greeted her happily in his usual bored drawl. "You look well, Sakura."
She smiled at him. "Training is hell, but I'm improving. Tsunade can be such a harsh task-master."
Kakashi didn't doubt that.
"You on the other hand look like hell! Have you even eaten yet?" She asked with a suspicious stare.
"I was just on my way, but you see there was this black cat and-". He started feebly.
In truth, he hadn't even thought about eating yet.
The two of them had grown somewhat closer over the years, being the two that were 'left behind' so to speak. There was no romance between them, against the belief of the few people who were speculating it. Kakashi couldn't help but find the thought ridiculous. Some might consider him a pervert, but he was not a paedophile.
Still, they had grown closer. Mostly because Sakura started to speak her mind around him once she realised that he didn't mind her doing so.
So about one and half year ago, Sakura admitted that she had felt left out a lot in team 7 and Kakashi had accepted this and apologised – somewhat awkwardly and indirectly. Sakura had been quick to tell the Jounin that she understood his reasoning back then. She had become a lot more driven and self-aware.
Not to mention confident and somewhat bossy…
"Okay, that's it! I'm dragging you along with me! You're paying!" Sakura insisted, breaking him out of his musings.
"Ah, but that's not really necess-" He sighed when she took his arm and dragged him along anyway.
A few minutes later they sat in one of Sakura's favorite restaurants, enjoying their meals. Kakashi had to admit that the food did him good. He hadn't realised he had been feeling so off after the mission. Though it was to be expected. ANBU missions were difficult and taxing, physically and psychologically. Sakura's rambling helped him relax and put his actions behind him.
"I was such a fool back then," she had sighed sadly, referring to two years ago. "Lovestruck and whiny."
Kakashi had smiled at her, not denying anything seeing as she would know that he was lying.
"Well you have grown up a lot." He had told her instead with a smile. "Your skills are improving rapidly.
"Thanks, Kakashi-sensei." She smiled.
"I will be leaving tomorrow," he said after a while, after having vanished another part of his meal. He couldn't help but grin mentally as he saw Sakura's frustration at having missed seeing him mask-less once again.
"Again?" she exclaimed with surprise. "Is that even allowed?"
"I didn't get hurt during last mission." Kakashi defended himself.
"You look exhausted!"
"Nothing a good night's sleep won't fix," he shot back, amused by her inner medic popping up.
"One night's sleep is not enough."
Kakashi chuckled at her stubbornness. Like teacher like student...
"I will be fine. It's just a check-up."
Sakura frowned but sighed in defeat nonetheless.
'Check-ups' often referred to a simple scout-like mission to see if everything was in order. It rarely involved any fighting whatsoever, just a lot of running. Kakashi was known to be fast, so it wasn't that odd for the Jounin to be picked for such easy missions if timing was important. Sometimes they were used to give Jounin a break but to keep them from getting too restless as most didn't function well with having nothing to do - Jounin like Kakashi.
"Well… have fun then," she conceded.
"Thanks," he said, deciding against telling his student about the 'special destination' that the check-up would bring him to.
Not to mention the 'certain knucklehead' that he might see.
Had she known, Sakura probably would have insisted on tagging along.
After all, she might not really state it out loud like that, but she clearly missed Naruto a lot.
~ End Chapter ~
Next time, certain 'ANBU' meets older Naruto. Though not much can go wrong with that situation right?...