Apologies and Forgiveness
Kakashi was aware of the chakra coming towards him, but he didn't think anything of it. There was no doubt a good reason for Jiraiya, one of the legendary Sannin, to come to the training field where he habitually sat in his tree and read his books. Jiraiya might be searching for Naruto.
Instead, Jiraiya's chakra stopped at the base of his tree.
Kakashi wondered what to do.
"So, I hear you're the one that trained Naruto before I came along."
Kakashi lowered his book, took in Jiraiya with a mixture of shock and wariness, and realized that he was facing the man who'd written the book that was in his hand. "Not really."
Jiraiya looked at him with a puzzled smile. "What do you mean? You're his teacher, aren't you?"
"No." Kakashi glanced down at his book's cover. Then he looked back up at Jiraiya. "No one teaches Naruto anything."
Jiraiya laughed. "You are his teacher. No one else would know a thing like that."
Kakashi smiled weakly. He hadn't meant it to be a quip, but he guessed Jiraiya was in a good mood. He slipped his book into his pocket. "Now, is there anything I can do for you?"
Jiraiya shrugged. "No, not particularly." He gestured. "I'm just trying to meet Naruto's people. You know. Get to know them a little bit."
"Ah…" Kakashi stared at Jiraiya blankly.
"Well, you have to admit I've been a little out of touch," Jiraiya said.
Jiraiya scratched his ear, glancing away with a wry smile. "You know, his 'precious people', or whatever he calls them. The people in his life that don't think he's crap a hundred percent of the time."
Kakashi snorted. "Just mostly. Until he'd interested in something. Who knows when that is. I've never been able to predict when he'll set aside his childish demeanor and get interested in something useful. He's a mystery. The worst student I've ever had." He glanced away, across the training grounds. "And the best." He felt reluctant to admit it for some reason he didn't readily understand.
"He cares about you," Jiraiya pointed out.
"No, he doesn't." Kakashi scoffed. "What has he been saying about me to give you that impression?"
Jiraiya shrugged. "I don't know. Just stories about how you're the greatest teacher ever that has taught him all he needs to know and I'll never measure up or anything." He shrugged. "You know, the usual stuff a kid says about the people they don't really care about." He gave Kakashi a piercing look.
Kakashi's gaze slid to the sannin slowly, embarrassed. "Nani?"
Jiraiya grinned. "So why don't you come down from that tree?"
Kakashi was taken aback. "Ah. Hai." He slid out of the tree effortlessly and landed on his feet. He bowed. "My apologies."
"Don't apologize to me." Jiraiya looked exasperated. "What do you wanna do that for?"
Kakashi straightened. "I don't…know."
"Exactly." Jiraiya threw his arm around Kakashi's shoulders. "Now c'mon. We got a lot to talk about."
Kakashi found himself being led away across the training field by one of the most famous people in his village. Or had once been in his village, anyway. He had no idea what Jiraiya would want with him.
"Want a drink?" Jiraiya asked. "We can have a drink together, if you don't mind."
"No…I don't mind."
Jiraiya led him to the base of a tree. They sat down together, and Kakashi noticed a bottle of sake and two cups waiting. He was stunned at the implication that Jiraiya had planned on tracking him down and sitting down with him for drinks.
Jiraiya poured him a shot of sake. They drank together. The sake burned Kakashi's mouth about as he expected. It also burned all the way down and instantly made him feel too warm.
"What is this about?" Kakashi asked again, dazed.
Jiraiya grinned. "I just want to get to know you. Is that so bad, Kakashi-san?"
Jiraiya served them both another shot of sake.
Kakashi's head buzzed, but he didn't let on. He'd never been particularly good at holding his sake. His veins felt as though they were on fire. "If you want to talk, you'd better do it soon."
"Why? Why is that?" Jiraiya drank a third shot of sake as if it were water.
"Because I'm going to pass out," Kakashi muttered.
Kakashi again had the sensation he had said nothing funny. "Jiraiya-sama…"
"Jiraiya-kun." Jiraiya gave him a wide grin.
"Jiraiya-san," Kakashi compromised.
"Aw." Jiraiya held out the sake bottle. "How about another one? That oughtta make you feel friendly. Nice and '-kun' like."
"You're twenty years my senior." Kakashi was fuzzy on how old Jiraiya actually was. "At least."
"As if age has anything to do with it." Jiraiya scoffed.
"It does," Kakashi protested.
"Nah." Jiraiya hugged him. "Nothing at all, Kashi-kun."
Kakashi wished he knew for certain that it was the sake that made it so pleasant to be hugged by the sannin. "Ah…Jiraiya-sama…"
"-San," Jiraiya corrected. "Remember? You were just saying it."
Kakashi sighed. "I feel very warm."
Jiraiya snuggled him. "Mm. That's the huggin'."
"I think it's the sake."
Jiraiya grinned at him. "You're one of my precious people too, you know."
Kakashi froze in shock. "Er."
"Minato was my student. You were Minato's student. What does that make you and me?"
"I don't know." That seemed the safest answer in Kakashi's mind.
"Aw, come on, it makes us something," Jiraiya said. He gave Kakashi a wide-eyed look. "Especially since we share a student. It's like the loop is closed, you know? With you and me on the same side! We both trained Naruto after having Minato – well, do something, anyway." He beamed. "He was my student and your teacher. Doesn't that connect us?"
The sake was a bad idea. Kakashi knew he was far too buzzed – possibly tipsy at this point – to find his way out of Jiraiya's logic. "Why do you want to be close to me?" he muttered.
"Hey, I have loves too," Jiraiya said.
Kakashi's head spun. "What?"
"I have people I gotta love and protect." Jiraiya gave him that same wide-eyed look. "Don't you think you're one of them?"
"We hardly met," Kakashi pointed out. "You left the village when Minato died."
Jiraiya looked instantly depressed. "Yeah."
Kakashi felt bad. "Look…What is it you want? Do you want to be friends now? Is that it?"
Jiraiya looked at him hopefully.
Kakashi looked away and sighed. "I…read your books."
Jiraiya grinned and pointed at him. "I saw you reading one when I walked up. Which one is it?"
Kakashi blushed. He told himself it was the sake. "Icha Icha."
Jiraiya burst out laughing. "What? Wow, you've got a lot of guts admitting that to me and to my face and everything. I like you."
Kakashi bowed his head and scratched his cheek, embarrassed.
"Do you like it?" Jiraiya asked.
Kakashi felt himself turn bright red.
"It's just a question," Jiraiya said. "Every author wants to know their stuff is liked. Or not. It's your choice. You're the reader. Of course you couldn't say you read my books and mean you dislike them. 'Books' is plural. You must read 'em a lot. Right?"
Kakashi admitted, "Usually when I'm supposed to be doing other things."
Jiraiya laughed. "That's a true fan! I drive you to distraction with 'em, eh?"
Kakashi made a low noise of agreement.
"So what's your favorite part?"
Just when Kakashi thought his blush was beginning to fade, his face throbbed with heat. "Ah…"
"Come on, Kakashi-kun, you can tell me." Jiraiya leaned forward.
Kakashi glanced away. He wished for someone to save him. Where's Gai? If only Gai had good timing with his challenges.
"It's market research," Jiraiya protested. "Not pervy. Anyway, my stories aren't that perverted anyway. It's all in the eye of beholder. I think they're sweet love stories in which lots of happy sex happens. If that's pervy, strike me down. I think sex is good n' healthy when it happens between two people who love each other. Call me wrong!"
Kakashi did not rise to the challenge. "Ah…No…That's okay." He hoped the sake wore off soon. "Jiraiya-san…"
"-Kun." Jiraiya smiled.
"Jiraiya-kun, please take it from me when I say…" Kakashi took a deep breath, and that did help dispel the worst of the heat from his face. "…all the parts are good. That's what I think."
Jiraiya hugged him again. "You're sweet."
Kakashi thought no one had ever called him something less apt than 'sweet'. "Ah…"
"Do you miss Minato?" Jiraiya asked.
Kakashi's breath hitched. The abrupt question knocked hot, wet tears to the surface of his eyes. "I…I always miss Minato-sensei. I miss him the most." He squeezed his eyes shut, but that only forced the tears out and down his cheeks.
"Aww!" Jiraiya snuggled him. "I didn't mean to make you cry. I just wondered since I miss him too. Mini. Poor Mini."
Kakashi found his head being cradled against Jiraiya's chest not at all unpleasant. He sniffled. Mini…He had never heard anyone call Minato that. "Jiji…" He flinched. He hadn't meant to butcher Jiraiya's name.
"What?" Jiraiya asked. His voice was thick.
"Do you ever wish…" Kakashi realized he was going to sound childish. But the words wouldn't stop. "Do you ever wish you'd stayed? For me? So I wouldn't be alone?"
Jiraiya squeezed him tightly. For all the emotion in the hug, Jiraiya's voice came out level. "I thought about it, yeah."
Kakashi felt more tears leaking down his cheeks. "I thought about it. I thought you might come back when I was alone…but…"
"I'm sorry, Kakashi." The honorific was gone.
Kakashi didn't care. He cried. "I was scared. And alone. And I had Gai…but…"
"You wish there could have been someone older," Jiraiya said.
Jiraiya hugged him and kissed the top of his head.
"You came back to meet me, didn't you?" Kakashi tried to put together why they were sitting here under a tree, crying.
"Yeah." Jiraiya's voice was heavy.
Jiraiya paused. Then he said, "To see if you'd forgive me."
Kakashi took Jiraiya's vest in both hands. He was exhausted. "I forgive you."
Jiraiya cradled him gently.
After a while, Jiraiya asked, "Do you really like Icha Icha?"
Kakashi snorted. "Yes." He was amused by the wonder in Jiraiya's voice.
Jiraiya shook his head in admiration. "Now that's nerves. No one will admit they like it."