Title: Inevitable

Pairing: Kaka/Naru

Rating M: language, adult themes

Summary: Three wise men and three morons have made Kakashi into the man he is today and he wouldn't have it any other way. Kakashi's life, cannon-verse as much as possible with the simple substitution of a female Naruto.

/inˈevitəbəl/: certain to happen; unavoidable

When Sensei tells him that he and that crazy, loud woman with the blood colored hair are having a baby, Kakashi can't help but internally wince.

He feels guilty about it, but he can't be happy. This upsets everything. Sensei expects him to be happy, or, at the very least, interested. But Kakashi really, truly, wants nothing to do with the matter. Kakashi has worked so very hard to achieve the balance he has currently struck in his life. Kakashi keeps all the people he knows at just the right distance, and occasionally, lets the few important ones stay only so close to him.

A baby means Sensei won't have time to be so close, he'll need to turn his attention elsewhere, to another needy creature. Kakashi has already had to share Sensei with Obito and Rin…and now that hot-tempered woman with the bright red hair. Now he has to figure out how to balance everyone all over again. He's quite irritated with the whole process.

He's especially irritated when that…insane…woman tells him to think of her like an older sister and keeps dragging him shopping for the yet-to-be-born Nuisance. Really, as if Kakashi would let anyone dictate their role in his life. Kakashi will figure out what to think of her in his own damn time, thank you very much.

He can't hide all of his feelings from Sensei, though. The man is too smart. He just laughs and catches Kakashi with one broad arm, mussing Kakashi's hair as if Kakashi was still a five year old academy graduate.

"You'll like having teammates eventually, Kakashi. You'll like Kushina eventually, Kakashi. You'll like the baby eventually, Kakashi. They'll get to be your family Kakashi, it's just the way life works. Just wait for that moment when you realize this kid thinks that you hang the moon. You'll understand then."

Understand what? Kakashi wants to ask. Understand that you need to work even harder because one more life depends on you? Understand that you've let one more person get so close that it will feel like your heart is being shredded with a cheese grater every time you even think that something could happen to them? Understand that you've acquired yet another weakness you're going to have to overcome? Kakashi, just venturing forth into his teen years, is skeptical of his sensei's words…and feels a little guilty that he can't just believe in Sensei's wise teachings the way his teammates do.

But, Sensei is a smart man. So Kakashi isn't too surprised that the man turns out to be right about almost everything. Kakashi comes to like his teammates, both the stupid one with the bad habits and taste in eyewear and the little giggling thing who has no hope of ever shaping up to be a decent sparring partner. Kakashi learns to like Kushina, especially her cooking and that annoying habit of ferreting out his hiding spots when he doesn't truly want to hide. Kakashi even learned to like the baby, somewhere in between painting the nursery yellow (not orange) and watching the new shade Sensei's face takes on when Sensei's Sensei ribs him about how he hopes the baby takes after Kushina because he'll be needing new inspiration in about fifteen years.

But, while Sensei is a smart man, he's not a perfect man, and inevitably he's wrong about one thing. And when Kakashi can't breathe because his father is gone, Obito's gone, Rin's gone, and Kyuubi is here which means that Kushina is gone because he's not stupid and he knows what all the hushed talk has been about—and then Sensei is gone and there is no one left because of that…that, that—thing that will never be family. Ever.

So, he joins ANBU because when Death takes everyone you care about the only way you'll get them back is if you dance a little closer. Inevitably, he'll dance too close one day. He should feel guilty that the idea appeals to him, but he doesn't.

Kakashi is engaged in a battle of wills with the Sandaime. Naturally, the man with more than 40 years on him and thus four more decades of battle experience is winning. Sandaime-sama doesn't want Kakashi in ANBU any longer. Publicly, he's given Kakashi wishy-washy reasons along the lines of Kakashi should be passing on his knowledge to future generations and needs to make more connections among the living.

Sandaime is a smart man, so he doesn't say aloud what Kakashi knows to be the truth behind his decision. The truth is that Sandaime-sama needs an active, invested jounin in the village who is smart enough to be eyes, ears, and a brain against Danzo. The truth is that Sandaime-sama is getting older and with one son recently buried and the other permanently enamored with teenage rebellion, new candidates for the throne are needed. The truth is that Sandaime-sama could use an unbiased jounin of Kakashi's caliber to keep an eye on a little blonde terror who attracts assassination attempts which increase in intensity and quantity for each year she survives.

Kakashi knows Saindaime-sama needs him elsewhere. He should feel guilty about not doing what his village needs him to do, but he doesn't. Kakashi hasn't felt guilty about anything since Sensei died. Kakashi has been a tool for his village since his birth. Joining ANBU is the one selfish decision that he's ever made, and he still hasn't gotten what he wants from it.

So it's a shocked and indignant Kakashi who seeks an audience with the Sandaime after requesting an A-rank assassination squad assignment from the mission desk and instead receiving an assignment to report to genin instructor orientation. Sandaime-sama just chuckles and implies that so far his plan is working miracles considering it's the first time that the Hokage has detected emotion in Kakashi since the Kyuubi's attack.

Kakashi leaves the meeting insulted and in retaliation shows up three hours late to the genin orientation. The Acadamy instructor looks at Kakashi oddly for his tardiness, but just mutters about the eccentricities of jounin, rolls his eyes, and ushers three wide-eyed children into Kakashi's care. Kakashi fails them before they can ask his name and the Hokage, with a sigh and a puff of his pipe, refuses to reassign Kakashi to ANBU, but allows him to pick up regular jounin assignments until the next academy graduation. The Sandaime waits patiently for Kakashi to accept a genin team, eventually Kakashi will get bored enough to take one of the teams, one day he'll grow to see it as a challenge.

Sandaime-sama is a smart man, and Kakashi recognizes the wisdom of most of his wishes. With Kakashi in the village, Danzo's ability to act on his plots is curtailed. When Kakashi's peers ask, he tells them that he's been reassigned because of a questionable psych evaluation, so naturally the gossip spreads like wildfire that Kakashi's being kept on a tight leash as a possible successor to the Hokage. Kakashi does grow increasingly bored with his assignments, although he blames the lack of stimulation (rightly so) on the Hokage's efforts to convince him to babysit. He even caves in and comes up with a somewhat objective goal to the test he gives his genin hopefuls. He refuses to tell the Hokage what it is.

But while the Hokage is a smart man, he is not a perfect man, and inevitably, he is wrong about one thing. And whenever Kakashi sees that eerily familiar blonde head with pigtails, arguing with stall owners, painting graffiti on building walls, putting toads in shopping bags or running from red-eyed military policemen, Kakashi turns and walks the other way. Kakashi ducks into alleys, jumps onto roofs, and sneaks through civilian homes. Sometimes he winds up at the memorial stone, sometimes he talks to graves. He learns more about the layout of his village than he's ever known as he intentionally loses himself to avoid acknowledging, in any form or fashion, a certain little girl. Inevitably he finds his way back to where he's supposed to be and apologizes for getting lost on the road of life. He should feel guilty for becoming so unreliable, but he doesn't. Although, he does have a sneaking suspicion that people think he's lying to them about the reason underlying his tardiness.

On his next visit to town, Jiraiya gives Kakashi an autographed copy of his newest book. Kakashi raises an eyebrow at the gift, but Jiraiya is a bit drunk and is insisting that Kakashi take it as some type of ten year's worth of belated birthday presents. They both should feel guilty that neither of them have seen each other in five years or so, but neither does.

Jiraiya shares bawdy jokes, slaps him disturbingly hard on his back, and waxes nostalgic about Sensei far too much for Kakashi to be remotely comfortable. Kakashi alternates between idolizing Jiraiya and wanting nothing to do with the man, tonight Kakashi's not sure which side of the fence he falls on.

Jiraiya's a smart man, and in between sips of sake, he comprehends the thoughts lurking behind Kakashi's grey eyes and barks a laugh. "I know that look, heck, I wore that look. You think too much boy, just live a little. You'll find that life's a lot more pleasant with some good friends, some good sake, and a good woman in your bed. Or two." And with a lecherous grin the old man is off, no doubt stirring up a sexual harassment suit twenty yards down the road.

Kakashi ponders Jiraiya's advice, and with nothing better to do (he failed the most recent academy trio four days ago) he pulls out his newest gift and starts reading. He's still reading the thing at lunch the next day, which causes him to ignore a challenge from Gai and puts Kurenai in such a bad mood she breaks up with Asuma for the third time that month. It's the most entertainment Kakashi's had all year so he promptly goes out to buy the rest of the series.

Jiaraiya is a smart man, Kakashi decides, deriving joy from breaking social norms with his new books. The books themselves are excellent conversation starters. They have the added benefit of convincing all of Kakashi's age mates that he is mentally unstable. While this isn't originally a goal in Kakashi's life, the alleged instability apparently makes him more approachable. Suddenly, he is everyone's favorite drinking buddy. While Kakashi himself rarely overindulges in his drink, it is certainly entertaining to see everyone else do so. With all the information he is gathering from lose tongues (because who registers the man at the bar reading porn as a threat?) he is certainly entertained enough to keep from taking a genin team for another year or two.

But like all smart men, Jiraiya is not perfect, and inevitably, he is wrong about something. Kakashi ruefully discovers this after he attempts a romance with a civilian girl named Ayame and a not-so romantic something with Anko. Jiraiya might appreciate a good woman in his bed, but obviously there is a disconnect somewhere between Jiraiya and Kakashi's approach to life. Kakashi has difficulty trusting a woman in his bed in the first place…it lets some questionable people awfully close to some vital organs. Additionally, the good women want to stay in the bed and the women who don't want to stay in his bed do not quite meet the traditional definition of good. Kakashi decides to set the last piece of Jiraiya's advice aside for a while until he has a better grasp on understanding the members of the female gender.

When Kakashi meets the three genin who inevitably become his genin, he is less than impressed. They scrape through his test by the skin of their teeth and Kakashi would have failed them had the Hokage not had some strong words with Kakashi concerning why this particular team must have Kakashi as a sensei. Sandaime-sama tries to guilt-trip Kakashi into taking the team, as it contains the last living relative of Obito and the only child of Kakashi's own long dead Sensei, but Sandaime-sama quickly finds this approach is ineffective. It has been a long time since Kakashi has let guilt goad him into action.

What does motivate Kakashi into taking the team is the fact that all the other available trustworthy jounin sensei are assigned to currently active teams and the only option for these three children aside from Kakashi would be someone likely affiliated with ROOT. While Kakashi isn't above failing the kids, all three would be eligible for a jounin sensei the next graduation cycle and it would once again be a choice between Kakashi or Danzo. Coupled with the intel Jiraiya is collecting about an organization called Akatsuki and the rumors about a new hidden village gathering under the name "Sound," the Hokage needs any capable genin teams trained quickly and competently. So, out of a deeply instilled sense of duty to his village, Kakashi finds himself facing the past he's run so vehemently from and hating almost every minute of it.

Over the next five years, however, Kakashi changes his mind regarding every single one of his students.

At the beginning, he is convinced the lot of them are, in the infamous words of Sasuke, "morons." He has a little girl with long pink hair who can't stand the sight of one teammate due to irate jealousy and can't stand in the presence of the other because she'd be overcome by a school age crush. He has a young boy who is so blinded by hate and anger that he can't see the bigger picture and find a goal worthy of his life and talents. And the third member is a little girl so desperate for attention and recognition that she lives so loudly and vibrantly it is only a matter of time before she makes herself such visible a target that it is impossible for the assassins to miss.

But like all morons, they have their moments of genius, and inevitably, they prove their sensei wrong.

Sakura finds the strength to stand on her own two feet and become a pillar of stability for her own two teammates when their own seemingly endless strength inevitably fails them.

Sasuke eventually opens his eyes and masters them, to the point where he can not only see and recognize what is truly important, but protect it at the cost of his own life.

Naruto, the little girl that Kakashi had tried so hard for years to ignore, surprises him the most of all. She demands recognition from everyone and doesn't stop until every hidden nation acknowledges her power and presence. She survives the assassins, and she does it with style—never taking off that obnoxious orange jacket that Kakashi longs so badly to burn.

And together, they show Kakashi that he still has room in his heart for three more people to grab a hold. He fights it, but he can't deny that they each, in their own way, have taken root in his life. He's not quite sure how to tear them out, but he is more frightened when he realizes that he is not quite sure he wants to tear them out.

Kakashi should feel guilty for having underestimated them all so badly from the start. But he doesn't, and for once in his life, he is so very, very glad to have been completely wrong, and so very glad that Sensei and Sandaime-sama have turned out to be completely right about everything.

And when the world turns on its head and the dead are alive and the nightmares speak reasonably and madness burns in the skies, Kakashi is still alive at the end of it all, walking the streets of the village he calls home. His wandering leads him past the children's academy, whose caved-in roof and cracked walls stand in silent testimony to the brutal battles the village recently survived. Against all odds, a lone swing survives on the edge of the playground, cradling a familiar blonde student. He approaches slowly, hands in pockets 'till he waits in front of the girl, towering over her as she sits calmly in the swing.

After a few moments, she looks up at him with big blue eyes.

"Ah, Naru-chan, you are a bit big for that swing now, aren't you?"

Her unusually quiet demeanor unnerves him, and once again, he finds himself out of his depths, not quite sure how to handle the girl who has reordered his universe, time and time again, from the moment of her conception.

"Sensei…" Her voice is hesitant as she intently observes the ground. "That man…that Obito, was he…?" She trails off as she tilts her head up to look at him. He wonders what she sees in his face that makes her change her line of questioning. He thinks that he's wearing the same poker face he donned at the start of this mess, but something must shine through because her jaw sets stubbornly and she looks away, toward the almost completely destroyed roof of the academy.

"This is where it all began for me," she says. Kakashi doesn't exactly follow but nods his head indulgently and she continues. "This is where it all began for me, but I don't have any idea where it began for you."

And it is then that he has to remind himself how to breathe because it is the first time in a very long time that anyone has dared to try and talk to Kakashi about his own past and he's not sure he's ready to face it with the wounds so fresh and raw. But Naruto throws him off balance once again when she pushes her hand out in front of her, searching for a handshake, and smiles.

"Hi. I'm Naruto Uzumaki. I like ramen and my precious people. I don't like waiting for ramen to cook and I'm not very patient when it comes to anything in general. My hobbies are getting stronger to protect my precious people, making my precious people happy, and refusing to give up on things that everybody else gives up on. I'm going to be the Hokage one day, because I'm the strongest person in the village and I want more than anything else to protect everyone here and make sure our future's peaceful."

Kakashi grasps her hand and thinks about refusing to answer, but he can't bring himself to face the heartbreak which will inevitably appear on her face if he stays silent. So for the first time in a very long time, he takes a deep breath and gives an honest introduction. "I'm Kakashi Hatake. I like my teammates and I don't like people who hurt my teammates. My hobbies include thwarting people's expectations of me to get entertaining reactions. My goal is to do my best to keep my teammates safe, because without them I tend to get a bit lost on the road of life."

Later, Kakashi would blame his following actions on that smile. He's not sure that he has ever seen one so brilliant as Naruto's at that moment in time, but instead of letting her hand go, something about that smile causes Kakashi to pull her forward. Kakashi tugs on Naruto's hand and pulls her up, out of her swing, and when's she's standing there, still smiling and starting to say something along the lines of its nice to meet you he leans down and cuts her off with a kiss. He should feel guilty, but he doesn't. She obviously doesn't either because she's kissing him back and he's deciding that since Sensei and Sandaime-sama were right about everything else, he might as well give Jiraiya's advice one more try, too.

Kakashi wakes slowly, awareness returning to him as softly as the dawn light creeping through his blinds. He doesn't move, dozing pleasantly in the silent safety of his apartment, and enjoying the way the soft warm body next to his presses close to his chest. The bedspread has been lost sometime the night before, the bed's occupants bared to the world—not that either party would complain during the warm Konoha summer.

He lets the fingers of one hand trail lazily down his companion's bare back, tracing the line of her spine. A faint shiver at his touch is her only response, but unlike Kakashi, she seems happy to continue sleeping. He moves his hand up slightly, cupping the smooth curve of her hip where she has thrown one of her own legs over his, threaded it between his in an intimate manner.

He should feel guilty. She is fourteen years younger than he is and surely this is what Kurenai would characterize as "dirty, old man" behavior. He stays that way for a while more, just basking in the feeling of waking up with company.

However, certain parts of him are more eager to start the day than others. It has been a while since he has had to start a morning this way and he reluctantly acknowledges that it is a bit more uncomfortable than he remembers—especially with the solution so easy to obtain.

With a sigh, he shifts positions, moving his body a bit lower, gently nipping at his partner's neck and trailing kisses down her collarbone, using experienced hands to coax her back to consciousness. Soon he is moving between firm thighs and she is arching against him, an old ache in his chest tightening just as a newer tension releases elsewhere and his hand catches in the long, fine golden strands woven tightly between his fingers.

When they are done, he is on his back once more and she is stretching languidly at his side, in a content cat-like fashion. She murmurs a good morning and slides from the sheets as smooth as silk, the bands of light coming through the blinds playing over her tan skin, making it shimmer in stripes as she combs through her hair with nimble fingers and heads toward his bathroom.

He catches himself admiring the sway to her hips in a new light and doesn't feel guilty about it one bit. After all, he tells himself, this was inevitable. Sensei will kick his ass in the afterlife, but he isn't planning on going there anytime soon.