Chapter 40: Family

"Good, good. Shall we go meet them, Kakashi-kun? Come along," Minato dimly heard Danzou coax the silver-haired boy.

The world stilled in the next stretch of a breath as indiscernible words rammed stubbornly and relentlessly in the blond's skull, filling his head with a dizzying buzzing noises. Minato didn't know what he was hoping or begging for in his mind, but he was, and desperately so, the blond realised suddenly. Then, "No," a voice said sternly, cutting through the air. For a second Minato thought he'd said it himself, only then realising how much he'd wanted to say that exact word. But it wasn't him who'd said it; it was Kakashi, and the boy's tone was sharp and icy cold.

Minato's insides trembled at the voice. Unconsciously, a corner of Minato's mind started hoping – just hoping with uneasy, delusional hope - that perhaps the 'no' was because Kakashi actually did want him. But what now, after he'd just agreed to send the boy away?

... Or maybe Kakashi just didn't want to be with Danzou either?

"No," the masked boy repeated, voice still as hard as ever.

Minato swallowed his fears. "'No' what?" he asked as strongly as his wavering heart could.

Beside him, Danzou's eyes narrowed, sliding into a calculating gaze. "Why don't you come with me, Kakashi-kun? We'll discuss the problem in private. I think Minato here looks like he could do with some rest," the older man said, voice in a sickly gentle tone.

The sweetness of it was churning Minato's stomach, enhanced by an unreasonable resentment of the Elder that had arose in Minato the moment Kakashi transferred his undivided attention from the Namikaze to Danzou. Minato wanted to scoff bitterly and correct the other man – tell him he didn't need to talk to Kakashi like that because the boy was so much stronger than that. He wanted Danzou to know how little Danzou knew of the boy in front of him, and how much he himself did know, so ... so ... don't take him away ...?

"No, I'm not going with you," Kakashi finally said, eyes suddenly gazing right into Minato's own cerulean blue irises.

The blond's heart skipped a beat as emotions oozed out at him. Begging. Pleading. Hoping. Deep within those grey-blue eyes swirled a heart-aching scene of betrayal and rejection.

But no, Kakashi, Minato wanted to deny back to the boy, it wasn't like that! He wasn't abandoning him to Danzou! He really wasn't! Between what he or Danzou could provide Kakashi, he just wanted what was best for the Hatake's future. Couldn't Kakashi see that?

Then, in a blink, as if catching himself, Kakashi's eyes glazed over, leaving no traces but an artificial blank stare in its place. Words clogged in Minato's throat as he suddenly realised just how vulnerable Kakashi really was, despite his mature attitude. The boy was like a fallen soldier, having seen too much death to bear living in a world without someone he knew to cling on to, and yet, too proud to admit it.

Dark grey-blue eyes looked away, casting his gaze downwards on the ground. "If I have no place in the Namikaze apartment, I will live by myself as I have wished to all along," Kakashi spoke, voice holding no visible emotion but utter idleness. It was so believable and yet, so damn fake to hear coming from the boy Minato knew was fueled by turmoil of emotions neatly capped inside that plastic face of his.

"I can give you a home. A family. A place to live and learn with other orphans. People who understand what you are going through," Dazou said temptingly. Everything Minato couldn't offer Kakashi. Not when the blond had no experience with raising children, no idea what Kakashi really needed, no idea how he was supposed to treat this orphaned boy, and no way to actually be a proper father figure when he was always gone training or on missions so often.

"I appreciate the offer, but I have no need," the silver-haired boy replied.

Minato's heart ached at hearing Kakashi speaking so formally, so stiffly, like this. Where was the happy little six-year old? The little boy who'd gave him such warm eyes when Minato brought him over to live at his apartment. The amused little grin Kakashi had given when Minato presented him with that dog cushion?

This wasn't Kakashi.

"You shouldn't be hasty with your decision. Think it over," Danzou had continued saying, taking no regards to Kakashi's words.

Minato wanted to do the same, but what could he say? He had no offer as useful, as tempting, as generous as Danzou's. All he had was "Kakashi don't leave. I don't want you to go", but what good would come from forcing the six-year-old onto someone he didn't even like?

"No thank you," Kakashi answered just as dryly as he had before. "If that is all, Danzou-sama, Minato-san."

"You cannot live alone. You are still a minor-" Danzou was hastily saying in the background, but the words couldn't penetrate through the humming that filled Minato's mind once more. Minato's could feel every vein in his body as his heart pumped what felt like cold blood through his system at Kakashi's words. Minato-san. The Namikaze couldn't remember when, but the boy had dropped the formal honorific when they'd gotten to know each other better. The blond's insides had warmed from heart out at hearing that subtle but precious change.

But now it was back.

It was like the six-year-old had dropped a glass barrier between the two of them once more, and Minato felt cold at the loss of what he hadn't known was so fragile.

Kakashi hopped down from his chair and turned around from the both of them, legs taking large steps away.

"Don't!" Minato cried before he could help himself, standing up, letting his own wooden chair fall discarded with an echoing thud on the ground. He couldn't let Kakashi leave like that. Even if his hands were to start bleeding with countless shards of the crystal wreck, Minato would do all he could to punch through that glass barrier once more.

However, his cry was was useless; Kakashi was already gone, slipping through the household doors without a second glance back. Minato wasn't even sure if the boy heard him, and if he had … Kakashi probably didn't expect anything more – who would stop for just an aching chance that Minato wanted to pull him back into his arms to love and hold?

The Namikaze swallowed hard, trying to push down the lodge in his throat, trying not to feel like he was the one who'd just been rejected – because he wasn't permitted to feel that; not when he was the one to push Kakashi away first. He turned towards the Elder who looked just as ready as Minato to follow after Kakashi, and Minato couldn't have that. Kakashi was his. "I am sorry, Danzou-sama. I take back what I said," Minato said explicitly, because he had to make this clear, "Kakashi will not leave with you. I would appreciate it if you left. There is nothing more to consider."

The blond contemplated ushering the Elder out and closing the door on him, consequences be damned, just to enunciate the point that the topic was closed for discussion, so get out of my house and don't bother my precious little family anymore. But that would've been impractical, because Kakashi left. Kakashi was running around outside, hurt and thinking Minato gave him up, and Minato didn't want Danzou outside and in a distance so much closer to Kakashi than Minato himself was – not until he cleared up this horrendous misunderstanding with the boy.

Minato spared the Elder only long enough to give a nod (it was supposed to seem apologetic at leaving so abruptly, but Minato couldn't bring up the emotion to care so much at the moment), before rushing past the man and letting himself out, leaving the older man in his kitchen table with their scattered teacups in front of him. Minato knew he had to attend to Kakashi before it was too late, before he couldn't take back what he'd so foolishly lost.

It'd taken awhile, but Minato eventually tracked down Kakashi. They boy was standing listlessly on a high branch of a tree, staring off into the distance. The branch seemed well-worn, moulded to the shape of his little sandals like he'd stood there many times before.

Minato approached silently. He was still loud enough to announce his presence, but Kakashi didn't bother to acknowledge him either way. Minato tried not feel too disheartened at that. He could remember the boy frozen by the table, shoulders drawn up, and his back growing smaller and smaller as he rushed off from the Namikaze Complex. The fact that Kakashi wasn't running away from him again was a good sign, wasn't it?

Minato stood in silence a branch over, waiting to see if Kakashi would make the first move. The silver-haired boy acted as though Minato wasn't even present, never tearing his gaze from the stare he was casting so far away. "Do you come here often?" Minato finally asked a few minutes later, unable to bear the distanced hush between them.

Kakashi didn't turn to look at him, but he gave a small shrug in response. "Occasionally," the boy answered.

"This is a … unique place to come to," Minato replied, hoping a conversation would keep the boy in place. "It's unusually calm and quiet here; is this why you like it?"

Kakashi let out a huff of breath that sounded like a half-hearted chuckle, before he leapt down onto the muddy soil from the branch he was on. Minato spared a glance at the direction the silver-haired boy was looking at, noting the clear view the position gave of the main entrance of the Uchiha Compound, before following after Kakashi's actions.

The boy had yet to look at him, carefully keeping his back to Minato as a barrier between the two of them.

"What are you doing all the way out here?" Kakashi asked lightly, like it wasn't any of his problem. Somehow, Minato could feel the 'Why did you come after me? What more do you want? Why won't you leave me alone in peace? Why must you show your face and make me hurt so much more? Haven't you done enough?' pleading unheard underneath. "Does Danzou want me to come back?"

Minato had his arms around the six-year-old before he knew it. Kakashi's backbone felt every bit stiff as a rod at the blond's touch. Minato wrapped his arms around the little boy in a gentle hug, face buried in Kakashi's back, because the coward Minato was, he couldn't bear to turn Kakashi around and see what breaking emotion the boy was hiding deep within his troubled grey-blue eyes.

"I'm sorry," Minato murmured out, muffled by the boy's clothes, all previous conversation forgotten. "I'm sorry, but please don't leave. I don't want to see you go." His words were flowing now, bursting out freely like a thousand birds (one for each of Minato's silent, aching pleads) escaping the small, cramped cage they'd been trapped in. "I know I'm not the best choice to help you; I know I have nothing to offer you like Danzou; I know I tend to be busy a lot with training and mission, but I want you here. I love you Kakashi. You've grown on me, and god, I really really consider you my son. I'm sorry I'm so selfish, but I don't want you to go. … I know you don't like me, Kakashi, but – even if you hate me-"

The silver-haired boy wriggled under Minato's hold like he was trying to break away. For a second Minato considered holding the boy even tighter as illogical fear fleeted through his mind at the idea that the moment he let him go, Kakashi would leave him forever. But in the end, Minato loosened his hands. Kakashi immediately turned in them, twisting until blue-grey eyes were holding even with cerulean ones. "I don't hate you."

If the blond hadn't been so close, hadn't seen the moving of the boy's mouth under his navy blue mask, he would've assumed he was hallucinating words from the Kakashi's breathing. "I don't hate you," Kakashi repeated, slower, as if seeing the dazed state Minato was in. "I'm anything but. I … I don't want anyone but you as my guardian. Honestly."

Uncertain and off-balanced, Minato stared into Kakashi's eyes, as if trying to discern the truth in Kakashi's words. "I thought you ..." the man began, before abruptly shaking off the unpleasant idea, not wanting to even word the hateful thoughts that had been plaguing him for the past months.

"I love you," Kakashi replied strongly to Minato halted question, without a speck of hesitation.

Minato swallowed hard to get past the lodge in his throat. "You're not just saying that out of pity, are you?" The Namikaze asked half-jokingly, trying to twitch the corners of his lips into a smile and out of the pathetic face of anxiety it was currently sporting. He was failing his job to be the valiant and reliable adult in the situation (See? This was why Minato was doubtful of being able to be a proper guardian to the boy), but Kakashi didn't seem to mind.

"Never," Kakashi said confidently, blowing away all barriers with his resolute tone.

Minato exhaled in what sounded like strangled laugh, before pulling Kakashi closer and tighter into his hold. "Oh," he said. It was a lame and useless sound, but he was too happy to care. Kakashi, in his arms, didn't seem to mind as the boy relaxed and wrapped his own short little arms around Minato to complete the hug. Kakashi also didn't seem to mind standing in that pose in the middle of the forest for god-knows how long, waiting for Minato to collect himself once more.


It didn't take long for the blond to compose himself. Honestly, Minato just didn't want to move. Kakashi didn't care – in fact, if he had to admit it, he rather liked the blatant show of love Minato showed. Kakashi supposed it shouldn't have shocked him that Minato thought he was hated. Kakashi was never good at showing his emotions, unlike Minato, too used to keeping to himself throughout his life. Kakashi knew he'd become more open after receiving his Team Seven, but sometimes habit was hard to change. In fact, even for his team, Kakashi had a feeling that up until that faithful C-turned-S-rank involving Zabuza, when Kakashi declared absolutely that he was going to protect his students with his life, his team never even realised he truly care for them; Kakashi's love and care had always been subtle like that, easy to miss by those who didn't know him well enough, fooled by his lackadaisical and aloof mannerisms. Kakashi wondered if he'd been instinctively treating Minato like the man the blond would become instead of the man he was at the moment, for Minato to have misinterpreted Kakashi so incorrectly. The Minato Kakashi was used to, always knew what Kakashi was thinking about, no matter how hard the silver-haired boy tried to hide it from him.

There was a guilty clench in Kakashi's chest, and Kakashi leaned deeper into the blond's hold in order to try to make up for his previous actions. Minato didn't even pause as he only tightened his embrace. With his face in the crook of Kakashi's neck, Kakashi barely heard Minato's voice when the man murmured out. "I want to adopt you."

The boy froze for a second, wondering if Minato knew he'd spoken that out loud.

"Adopt?" he questioned softly.

The future Hokage stiffened a bit, and the Hatake knew right away he hadn't meant to voice those words aloud. Nevertheless, the silver-haired boy couldn't keep the smile off his face, not that Minato could see it. It warmed Kakashi's heart that the man he'd considered family in the future, and even more so in these many months, considered him to be one as well.

The blond was starting to pull away now, face hot and uncomfortable in the awkward silence that his unconscious statement had brought. Kakashi was certain the man was going to open his mouth any minute now and laugh hollowly, retracting his statement like it was a joke. That yet to be spoken sentence, Kakashi was certain, would likely be the biggest and most painful lie Minato would ever say to him.

And he really, really, didn't want to hear it either.

"Well, I wouldn't be opposed to it," Kakashi murmured out lowly, tone just barely loud enough for Minato to hear if the man had been actively listening for it.

When Minato hugged Kakashi even tighter after that, Kakashi knew the blond had indeed heard him as well.

A/n: Sooo, the thought of Danzou even getting close to Kakashi to put that wretched seal on him made me unhappy.

I know some of you were looking forwards to reading about Kakashi pretty much dismantling Root from within. For those who were, let me recommend to you one of the best Root infiltrating and converting fic I've read so far. It involves Naruto instead of Kakashi, but it's really good, imo. It's called "Uprooted" by Orrunan. :)