Chapter 57: Resemblances
The moment Kakashi stepped into the Namikaze Complex, after a long day at the Academy, he was swept up again in a whirlwind of motion. Minato hurried the boy out before he even had the chance to settle down, because a meeting with the Hokage should never be tarried.
Kakashi followed dutifully along and silently wondered if Minato realised he had a rather solemn expression frozen upon his face.
The meeting was a quiet and private affair, with on the three of them present. Despite this, the atmosphere was dense, because like Minato, the Hokage's gaze was too sombre for Kakashi's liking.
For a skip of a heartbeat, Kakashi feared for his hidden identity, but wouldn't he be in a cell for that interrogation instead?
"Kakashi-kun, how are you doing?" Hiruzen said, in an utterly vague opening that did nothing to sooth Kakashi's internal apprehension.
Kakashi gave a respectful bow to the man. "I am fine," he answered carefully. Then, "May I ask the reason for this summon?" perhaps a bit too formally, but Kakashi was working with caution at the moment.
Minato rubbed Kakashi's back. It was gentle and accepting, without prickling hints of suspicion or distrust, so Kakashi allowed the tension in his shoulders to melt away.
Perhaps realising such terse conditions were not ideal for children, the Hokage quickly continued. "I assure you, Kakashi-kun, you are not in trouble. I only have a several questions you may be able to help me answer," he said.
As if apologetic for bringing up the memories for the boy, the man carried on as gently as he could. "I know you've mentioned you don't remember what happened months ago when your attempted kidnapping took place…"
Minato had fussed over him all that morning after, up until afternoon, when he finally, reluctantly, left the house to have an audience with the Hokage to report the incident. He'd returned later that day with the Hokage and several Anbu members in tow. They'd inspected the crime scene - not that there was much to inspect other than upturned furniture and diminishing chakra energies - and had gotten Kakashi's side of the confrontation.
Kakashi hadn't said much. He pleaded ignorance, claiming he'd tried to fight back, only to have been knocked out almost immediately. It wasn't unbelievable, considering he was a civilian pitted against a trained shinobi. And he sort of had been knocked back, when he miscalculated the length of his limbs.
He did, of course, remember what his assailant looked like - it wouldn't do for the Anbu to think his Copycat-self initiated the kidnapping after all - and described the Root operative with his Konoha hitai-ate, ceramic mask, and indifferent words.
"He talked to you," Hiruzen continued, "told you he was bringing you to meet someone important."
"Can you recall any more of your conversation? Did he describe that important person?"
Kakashi wondered what it meant for the Hokage to try to acquire more information. Danzou was a slippery sort, but had he blundered somewhere? He wasn't one to leave behind evidence and his Root would never be able to incriminate him, accidentally or not. Not with that seal on their tongue. It seemed any conviction against Danzou depended on Kakashi's answer, but anything damning enough was incredulous to believe without proof.
"I was told I was invited to meet with him, and the ...false-Anbu was to escort me."
Hiruzen nodded thoughtfully, though it wasn't anything new. "And did you receive an invitation of any sort prior to this encounter?"
There was a silence as Kakashi hummed in thought. Then he said, slowly and cautiously, "There was that invitation from Danzou which I refused…"
If Kakashi wasn't hesitant to seem too deliberate in trying to turn his accusation onto the man, he would've continued on about how Danzou's expression didn't sit right with him, and how he'd seemed so eager to take him from Minato, and how Danzou had gone on and on about his talented child orphans, and hadn't that 'Anbu' been young and talented as well?
On the other hand, it wasn't as though the Hokage couldn't piece those clues together himself - if he wasn't blinded by their long-time friendship (which Kakashi couldn't blame the man for, because if someone had told him Gai or Obito had been secretly plotting in Konoha, he would certainly be hard pressed to believe it). Surely Kakashi could give him enough hints of treason to look deeper into Danzou's character, at the very least.
As it was, Hiruzen only nodded distractedly once more. "Is that all?"
Kakashi confirmed it cautiously.
The Hokage regarded the young boy grimly, eyes fixed on the younger one's as he removed his pipe from his lips. With an unmoving gaze, he placed it onto the table with a resounding clack that would've startled Kakashi to a jolt were he anyone less. "I believe you've forgotten one other thing," he began. Kakashi stood straighter, and Minato's hand tightened upsettingly on his back. "The one who goes by the moniker of 'The Copycat'."
Minato stiffened at the name.
Kakashi took a breath.
"I don't understand," he said, and that was a partial truth because Kakashi didn't know what the Hokage had pieced together between his kid-self and the Copycat. The Copycat had 'saved' him from the Root operative, but Kakashi had been supposedly unconscious at the time, and for all anyone knew, wasn't aware of the man's appearance that day.
"I believe you do," Hiruzen chided.
When Kakashi held silent, Minato whirled him around, kneeled before him with his two hands firmly grasped against his shoulders. "When was this? Kakashi, did he do anything to you?"
Eyebrows furrowed in a spike of frustration. "No," he defended, irked how his alter ego had been drafted as the antagonistic role so easily once more. Why couldn't Minato (Sakumo) accept he was only trying to help?
"Then you admit you know of whom I'm talking about?" Hiruzen countered.
Kakashi reluctantly conceded, though it seemed as though Hiruzen was well aware already. He watched their expressions carefully. While Minato exuded worry and protectiveness, the Hokage on the other hand, seemed more cautious and calculative.
Out loud, Hiruzen gave a noncommittal, "I see."
Minato turned a firm gaze on them both. "Hokage-sama, I apologise," he interjected, polite but harsh as steel, "but last I enquired, you had informed me Kakashi had no contact with this man."
The Hokage nodded slowly. "Indeed," he murmured apologetically, "I did not want you to needlessly worry."
Minato's brows pinched together at his admittance. "Then, when was this?" he asked, warily, turning to face his son.
Hiruzen held quiet. "A while ago," Kakashi said vaguely, forced to reply.
"Prior to Sakumo's first meeting with the Copycat," Hiruzen elaborated, and then observed Kakashi's silent form and lack of denial.
It was not knowledge the Hokage would know without having been told by Sakumo. Kakashi tried to remember all the things he'd said to Sakumo, either as the Copycat or as himself. He knew he'd argued rather adamantly for his henged-form's case, before Sakumo had forcefully closed the topic.
How much of that had been disclosed to the Hokage?
Outwardly, Kakashi nodded needlessly. Seeing that, the Hokage continued on heavily, "But I am certain that was not your only meeting."
Kakashi had nothing to say. The problem was, Kakashi wasn't entirely confident what the Hokage was insinuating – what had he concluded from these years of information? Certainly the Hokage couldn't imagined Kakashi was this Copycat, but how deeply did he think their relationship crossed with each other?
Were Kakashi older, and more involved in the shinobi career, he might have worried that he was being accused of treason, exposing Konoha secrets to possible threats. But as it was, he was only an academy student - a very unenthused one at that.
Kakashi gave a muted shrug that was neither a lie nor outright admittance.
"Kakashi…?" Minato said hesitantly, before falling quiet.
The boy didn't turn from their village Leader, waiting to see what the Hokage would say.
But he was quiet as well, staring at Kakashi with sharp eyes that made the ninja part of him - the part that had put his entire life into serving the village and their Hokage as diligently as he could - want to comply with orders as was expected.
It was just as strong as the child in him, the one who constantly tried to overtake his adult mentality. That one was loud and demanding as well, and Kakashi was sure it was him who made his heart ache at the sight of a disappointed Minato, and wanted him to hang his head sheepishly and confess everything in repentance.
Kakashi drew out his words, trying to sound exasperated and annoyed instead of the internal battle between the states of his mentality. For once the two sides weren't clashing and were in agreement of more-or-less the same outcome, but the current Kakashi did not agree with either side. "Aaa, I might have seen him around."
"You never told me about this," Minato said, sounding equally hurt and apprehensive.
"It wasn't important."
There was a look of disbelief. "Wasn't important? He approached you, certainly with a hidden agenda in mind. What if he'd tried to do something to you?"
It was same problem over and over again: Kakashi could take care of himself, but Minato was an unmoving mother dragon, who hovered and worried and smothered him about things he didn't need to. On the other hand, Minato was always over-protective, regardless, Kakashi supposed. Even when Kakashi had been promoted to jounin, Minato had given him that hiraishin kunai of his on his first mission as Commander, just in case – not that he'd told Kakashi what it meant, at the time.
"I believe I can tell when someone is trying to manipulate me. I'm always careful," Kakashi replied, perhaps with a bit more bite than necessary with that former statement. It was a cold thing to do, because Kakashi was partially at fault for Minato's consideration to Danzou's words, and besides, why would anyone suspect a respected Konoha Elder?
The Hokage made an enquiring noise at his answer, eyes dark with curiosity. "Is that so, Kakashi? Tell me, what do you suppose is his purpose, then, this Copycat. Why would you say he approach you?"
"He's…" It was difficult to explain the Copycat's desire to save lives without it sounding like empty words. "It's-"
Kakashi wondered if now was a good time to give in and confess everything. The Hokage was aware of the Copycat, aware he was assisting Konoha-nin, and aware of a connection between him and Kakashi.
"You shouldn't need to concoct excuses for him," Minato interjected, when the paused stretched on too long and unnatural.
And yet Minato seemed gung ho on seeing his alter ego in suspicion.
Kakashi could understand - this was a man with unknown intentions trying to cozy up with a seven-year-old, a prodigy at that. Even though he'd saved the lives of Konoha-nin, who was to say he hadn't orchestrated the whole thing behind the scenes just to make himself seem altruistic? Never mind that Minato still sometimes viewed Kakashi as a traumatised child, so easily swayed by the next seemingly kind soul he saw, because hadn't that been how he'd gotten Kakashi to accept him and live with him in the first place?
Kakashi was old enough to understand all the sides of arguments, and understand the interpretations that a child normally wouldn't. He also knew that Minato was still young and insecure – not even twenty and definitely not the confident Fourth Hokage that Kakashi had as his last memories of the blond – and much like Kakashi's lack of teaching experience, he was only muddling along his way with his lack of child-bearing skills. He only wanted what he thought was best for a young seven-year-old orphan.
But even though he logically knew the reason for Minato's words, they still stung, to have someone as close and looked up to imply the worst about his alter-self. It was the same as insulting Kakashi himself.
"I am not," Kakashi insisted softly. "Why are you so determined to distrust him?"
"Why are you so determined to protect him?" Minato countered.
"Because he has done nothing wrong."
"Nothing that you've seen," Minato reasoned, and though it was logical, Kakashi had hoped that Minato's heart could've been swayed at least just a little from his insistence, instead of this continual flat denial.
This was why Kakashi didn't want to admit anything.
"Then the same can be said about anyone. Including myself. Who's to say I don't resemble him?" Kakashi replied carefully, eyeing Minato, in neither confirmation nor denial. But the hint was too vague, if anyone could even call it a hint. No one would do a double take at his statement unless they already suspected Kakashi of something, and Minato most certainly did not.
The blond shook his head. "He hides his identity and purpose, and expects to be trusted when he won't do the same. If he means well, he would stop hiding and let us bring him in."
"Why let Konoha if this is the reception?"
"Kakashi, you do understand Minato is only keeping the village's safety in mind? I must agree with his words," Hiruzen interjected, a calm in the center of two storms. Though the parent and child had been speaking in civil tones, there was an unmistakable burn between them.
Voice pinched, Kakashi replied, "I do." Because he honestly did. He'd been a loyal shinobi dedicated to the village's safety just as long as these two.
"Then will you enlighten us why you fight so hard for his man? Who is he to you?"
Minato looked curious as well.
"He is …" Kakashi said slowly, edging into the words hesitantly, because he was afraid Minato would interrupt again and deny the truth of the quest Kakashi had been so desperately trying to carry out as the Copycat, "someone trying to watch over the precious people in his life."
Minato opened his mouth to retort, only to close it wordlessly. He seemed to withdraw, visibly so, as he turned away, frown marring his face. Kakashi blinked after him, but Minato didn't notice, too busy mulling over Kakashi's words.
The building atmosphere in the room seemed to dissipate at this point. The Hokage sent a glance at his jounin before returning to the boy. "Kakashi-kun," he said, "Why don't you head along home first? There are still things I need to discuss with Minato."
The silver-haired boy nodded. There was no reason to stay since he'd already said his piece. Whether or not he'd changed Minato or the Hokage's opinion about the Copycat still remained to be seen, but at the very least Minato seemed to find something to ruminate over.
He shot a glance at Minato, but the man astutely avoided his gaze. Kakashi sighed. "I understand. Please excuse me," he said and bowed, heading for the door.
It was only after he left that Hiruzen spoke out. "Jealousy is unbecoming of you, Minato."
The blond gave him an unamused deadpan.
"What is on your mind?" the Hokage continued, undaunted.
Minato looked down on his hands, but his eyes were cast through them, looking at things not constraint to the physical world. "Kakashi has a plant named Mr. Ukki Junior," he said suddenly, out-of-the-blue.
"Oh?" Hiruzen urged wordlessly, because as much of a tangent as that appeared to be at first glance, he knew his shinobi better than that. Minato wasn't the type to become distracted so easily, especially when the topic revolved around his son.
"Do you know what he said when I asked him where Mr. Ukki Senior was?"
Hiruzen made a noncommittal hum from the back of this throat.
Minato remembered only asking Kakashi out of a whim. What should've been light-hearted bantering became so much more when Kakashi replied to him with such sincerity and fondness.
"Kakashi told me Mr. Ukki was watching over the precious people in Kakashi life," Minato said, and didn't those words sound so damningly familiar? Not to mention, hadn't one of the first people the Copycat appeared before been Sakumo, and who else was more precious to Kakashi than his one and only father?
The Hokage was silent for a moment, letting the implication settled. "You believe our mysterious Copycat is this man named Ukki," the Hokage deliberated, speaking what Minato could not. It sounded incredulous, though conceivable, as long as could believe in the truth of those words. Yet, "But yet it appeared Sakumo was not aware of this."
"I don't know," Minato replied. Perhaps Kakashi was the only one Ukki disclosed his identity to, or perhaps Sakumo did know a Ukki, but hadn't recognised him through the man's disguise. Sometimes kids were able to see things adults so easily missed.
"That is certainly something to look into," Hiruzen finally acknowledged.
Minato was dismissed from the office a little later after that.
On his long journey home, Minato replayed the day's meeting in his mind, and the entire time, couldn't dislodge the uncomfortable weight in his stomach. Minato had never forgotten about the matter with Kakashi's plant. Even though it had occurred what seemed like ages ago by now, he'd never been able to unsee that warm, loving expression that had graced little Kakashi's seven-year-old face when he'd talked about his Mr. Ukki.
A/n: Ever since I introduced Junior(ch43), I'd planned for Minato to mistaken Ukki for the Copycat. Originally it was supposed to happen much later in the fic, but a lot of planned scenes have been swapped around for one reason or another - the fic's going on six years, of course I'm not satisfied following the original penned plotline without changing things (but I try to keep most changes minor). If it wasn't too much work, I would alter some of the already posted chapters as well. But I'm lazy haha
EDIT: Woww~! kherohi drew an amazing fancomic bit on the scene with Minato and the Hokage discussing Mr. Ukki. Look at their amazing work on their tumblr account, kherohi. (Too bad I can't post links on this site :c)