Title: I Never Liked the Rain (Until I Walked Through it with You)
Summary: If it hadn't been for Anko, Kakashi probably would never have talked to Sakura again. KakaSaku.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize sadly. Naruto belongs to Kishimoto.
Notes: This fic fills goldfishlover73's request for the 2012 KakaSaku Winter Exchange. It also fills the "isolation" square on my Hurt/Comfort Bingo card and the "umbrella-sharing" square on my Cotton Candy Bingo Card.
It's a cold, rainy day the very first time that Kakashi meets Sakura. He's soaked to the bone as he stands, as still as a statue, in front of the memorial stone. The miserable weather is like a punishment for his failures. (They're dead, he's not.) Kakashi welcomes it.
Then… a tiny hand tugs at his pants.
Kakashi shakes himself out of his stupor, his brooding, to look down. All he can see is the top of a tiny umbrella. It's obnoxiously pink, with little yellow duckies and green frogs patterned all over it. He squints, appalled at the fact that there's even a sparkly beaded fringe around the edges.
"Can I help you?" he asks dryly. He temporarily indulges in the idea that there's nothing underneath the umbrella but, of course, umbrellas don't have small, childish hands, one that's still clinging to his pant leg.
... Not unless the world has gotten far odder than it was just this morning.
"Are you lost?" A little girl's voice shatters his contemplations of just what sort of world would involve umbrellas with hands. (He blames the rain and the cold and the wet for his bizarre line of thought.)
Kakashi blinks again at the eye-searing umbrella and, giving in to necessity, kneels down so he can see the girl who is talking to him.
Her eyes are big and green, her hair a paler pink than her umbrella and, he inwardly shudders, her raincoat and boots match her umbrella. He's going to have nightmares about little duckies and little frogs and more pink than any one person should have to deal with.
"I'm not lost," he says, a bit gruffly. She can't be older than four-too young, even, to be an Academy student. "Are you?"
"Yes," the little girl says. "Mommy was supposed to pick me up at the park but I waited forever and she didn't come." Her lips tremble alarmingly as her eyes fill, and then spill over, with tears.
"Don't cry," he says, trying not to recoil from her. He's no good with crying people, let alone those who are a third his size, if that. "I'll... I'll... help you find her."
She still sniffles.
Kakashi casts around for something that'll make her feel better. "I'll even buy you a cookie while we look for her." Kids like cookies, right?
She gives him a tiny smile. It lights up her whole face. "A cookie?"
"A cookie," he says, trying to remember what else little girls might like. "With... milk? Or juice?"
The little girl deliberates over this. "Okay." Then she holds her arms out in a gesture that even he can recognize.
He picks her up, hoping no one sees him do so and gently teases the umbrella from her hands so he can hold it. He makes sure it covers both their heads thought it's really too small to be shared. "See," he says, "this is better, right?"
He hopes so.
She rests her head against his shoulder trustingly. He finds it hard to care that he's going to be mocked relentlessly later.
Kakashi gives the memorial stone a long look, promising to come back later, and turns to go. He glances down at the pink head resting against his shoulder. She's very light. Her boots are making a mess of his uniform. "What's your name?"
He finds himself utterly unsurprised that her name is also pink.
After getting her a cookie, and another one to have later, they spend the afternoon looking for her mother. By the time they find her, Sakura has told Kakashi everything there is to know about her.
Kakashi has said very little about himself.
He's peculiarly off-put when he has to give her back to her frantic parents. He doesn't see why he should be, but as he waves goodbye and she shouts the same after him, he feels good, for having made her happy, but oddly lonely too.
He doesn't see her at all again until Sarutobi Hiruzen, the Hokage, in his infinite wisdom, decides once again to give him a team to fail.
Kakashi knows what the Hokage is trying to do. He's trying to ground him in the village, to give him more precious people to look after in the hopes that having them will help Kakashi in some intangible way.
Kakashi has learned to deal with his loneliness. He has friends, though not many of them.
There's Gai, who Kakashi is friends with partly because Gai has never given him the choice but also because Kakashi privately believes that he'll die before Gai does and there are very few people Kakashi can really, truly think that of.
There's Asuma, who Kakashi equally loathes and likes. Loathes because when Asuma didn't like being under his old man's thumb, Asuma could leave and when he felt ready, he could come back. Kakashi has never been able to do the same. He would hate Asuma for that alone except that Asuma is one of a handful of shinobi who have never, ever mistaken Kakashi for the White Fang and is part of an even smaller group who have never blamed Kakashi for anything his father did.
So Kakashi likes him for that.
There's a few others that he spends time with-gorgeous Kurenai, sharp-edged Anko, Genma and Raidou, who he always counts as one person despite them being two-but they're not as close because Kakashi knows they're weaker than he is, more likely to die.
He's tired of losing people he's close to. It's easier by far to be alone.
And this team… he wants them to fail more than any other team. He sees his sensei's son, the last survivor of a broken and brutally murdered clan, and the green eyes and pink hair of a little girl.
He wonders if she's past the duckie stage by now. She must be.
Kakashi keeps his eyes on her, because she's the easiest to look at, even in pictures. "If they fail," he says with finality, "then they fail. Like every other team."
The Hokage lets him go.
By his own rules he can't fail them. It's tempting, though, to do it anyway when he looks into his sensei's son's face, the face of the last survivor, hell-bent on revenge, and a little girl who try as he might, he associates most strongly with that one meeting, years ago.
She's switched to wearing red, which looks more grownup than pink does on her, but it doesn't help.
For all his qualms, for better or worse, this team is the one fate handed him.
(Months later, he knows it was for worse and that fate was laughing at him.)
Sasuke is skilled but it's a generic sort of skilled. Amongst his own clan, had any survived, Sasuke would only be ranked barely above-average. Naruto's taijutsu and ninjutsu and just everything are a mess but Kakashi can tell, already, that Naruto has more raw talent than Sasuke does.
He keeps his own counsel and tells neither boy.
Sasuke might still, he thinks, wind up being the better shinobi due to hard work and dedication.
It's too early to tell how they'll turn out.
Sakura is bright and clever and physically weak. He thinks of a pink umbrella and muddy boots and cannot bring himself to destroy that innocence despite the fact that she does not seem to remember him.
(Her green eyes haunt him.)
Sasuke gets stronger. Naruto becomes more powerful.
Sakura gets weaker.
It's his fault.
When Sasuke leaves and then Naruto disappears, first to try and save him (Kakashi never, ever wants to carry one of his students home with a hole through their chest again) and then to train, all of a sudden it's just him and Sakura.
Only she's learned, now, how failed he is and avoids him and finds her own teacher.
He watches as she finds her talents, blossoms under praise and demands equally, and wonders where it all went wrong.
Reasonably, logically, he's aware she's growing up. That she's getting to be less a girl and more a woman with every day.
Kakashi stops hanging around her, watching her train when he thinks no one else is paying attention to her, and starts spending more and more time alone all over again.
He has to relearn to be lonely and he'd curse the Hokage except that the Sandaime is dead and the Godaime had nothing to do with assigning him a team that's only made things worse.
(How is he supposed to cope with having lost two teams? One of which is entirely his fault? Kakashi can't and withdraws.)
The best that can be said about the Godaime is that, while she does not care for him-he suspects it's because of Sakura and says nothing about it because she's right to feel the way she does-she does not try to pressure him into taking another team.
Instead, she shunts him back into ANBU and he dons the black and white mask and the scarlet spiral with a peculiar relief.
Every mission in ANBU has the possibility of killing him.
Every mission in ANBU involves new and different teammates. Some of whom he knows in passing off the job, others which he'll work with and then never see again.
There's responsibility in being an ANBU Captain.
But it's one that doesn't stifle, doesn't strangle him the way a team had.
(And none of his feelings change the fact that he ruined three lives that weren't his and he'll never get past that even as they do. Sakura grows taller and stronger by the day, Naruto becomes fearsomely more powerful with every note that they receive from Jiraiya. Sasuke is gone. Kakashi has no idea how he is doing.)
He loathes the idea that Sasuke might be happier under Orochimaru's training than under his. Loathes and fears it and thinks it likely.
In six months of being back in ANBU, Kakashi has drawn in enough that people are worried about him again.
He remembers this from the first time around and, like then, wishes they would mind their own business.
They can't follow him into ANBU headquarters, so he begins spending more and more of his time there. The first time around, Gai had been in ANBU with him, had been able to stalk him and force him to eat properly (by never-ending, constant challenges).
This time around, Gai can't do that. He's got a team and while he might not be the best teacher he is far and away better than Kakashi.
After all, his team is still around.
Asuma just rubs his hands through his hair, smokes, and at least once a week makes a point of finding Kakashi and either eating with him or drinking with him.
Of all his friends, he finds Asuma the least intolerable. Asuma never says anything about the way he fucked up. Just drags him out to eat and talks of inconsequential things.
It's easiest to deal with.
Kurenai gets sharp and biting in her interactions with him-she's the consummate teacher and his failure and inability to deal with it on any level upset her greatly.
Anko watches with a dark laugh in her eyes and he's not particularly surprised to get back from one mission, blood-soaked and bone-tired and bruised (it was a good mission; none of the blood is his) to find her lounging on his bed, reading his porn.
He gives her a blandly unimpressed look and begins stripping out of his uniform. If he ignores her, she'll say something or she'll go away. That's how Anko works.
The usually white armour will need to be cleaned. Kakashi considers it for a moment before grabbing his towels and a change of clothing, ignoring Anko all the while, and disappears into the showers with it.
When he comes out, clean and damp and beginning to feel hungry under the weariness, she's still there.
He doesn't kick her out because, as he sets his now clean armour down, he realizes that there's food on the table and that she must have gotten it for him.
He doesn't say thanks. He wouldn't mean it and Anko doesn't expect him to say it anyway.
"You're skin and bones."
He swallows some rice. "And blood," he reminds her. "The vital third, so to speak."
Her grin is sharp, vicious. If he were another man he'd love her for it.
"You killing yourself?" Anko asks, drawing a kunai and using it to pick at her nails. "People are talking."
"They always talk." Kakashi is quiet for a moment. "I'm not dying. Just busy."
Busy burying himself until he doesn't have to think about all the ways he failed.
Anko shrugs. "That's what I about figured," she says. "I remember from the last time. I don't know if the others have gotten soft or what but…"
"I'll be fine," Kakashi says. He hesitates a moment. It is being soft that has his friends concerned about him?
He doesn't think so.
But she's right that he's done this before and come out the other side too. It's hard to say what's based on memory and what's based on speculation when it comes to honest concern.
(And whatever else his friends have for him, they have that right now. He appreciates it about as much as he hates it.)
"I don't think they've gotten soft," he adds. "I think our problem is that we've never learned to adapt to peace the way they have."
That's a lie.
If he hadn't gotten used to peace would he have treated his team so poorly? If he'd done that during the war-they'd all have died.
That's a product of peace and laziness.
"Maybe!" Anko doesn't call him on his lie. "There's nothing wrong with being rough and wild around the edges though." The way she says it makes it easy to tell that she's not talking about being a party animal. "Civilization is overrated."
Kakashi cracks a smile. "That's why you've never made it to full Jounin, right?" he drawls. "Too many late nights full of booze, men and women, and then all the hungover mornings!"
"Aw, shut up!" she laughs, her voice needle-sharp and wickedly amused. "I wish that was the reason but we both know the truth."
The truth is ugly and uncomfortable and neither of them wants to deal with it.
(She's not trusted by the village enough to make full Jounin.)
"The truth," Kakashi says slowly, mockingly. "Oh, of course, it must be your ridiculous wardrobe. Silly me."
She throws his pillow at him. He throws it back, finishes his dinner, and then they wander down to the training halls.
Anko's not technically ANBU any longer. No one kicks her out though.
(They all know she really belongs there.)
Hours later, after they've pounded the crap out of each other (he's stronger; Anko's faster) they wind up back in his room.
"I'm going to have bruises," Anko says cheerfully, sprawling out on his bed again.
Kakashi is weary enough now that he considers telling her to budge over but, feeling that it would be a lost cause, he takes a seat at his desk instead. And puts his feet up on his bed. Just to let her know it's still his.
"You like bruises," he says, inspecting a spot on his arm that's tender and sore and going to bruise as well.
"How else can you know if you trained hard enough?" she asks reasonably, giving his feet a half-hearted shove away from her face.
"You like bruises," he repeats.
She just laughs and rolls over to stare at his ceiling. "What're you going to do about your team?"
"What team?" he asks flatly. "In case you hadn't noticed, it's a team of one."
Anko is silent for a while. Then, still staring up at the ceiling, she says, "I'm pretty sure there's still two kicking around. You and her."
"I'm the sensei," he says dismissively. A failed one.
"Preeetty sure sensei count as part of a team," she says. "I mean, I could be wrong, my sensei was a murderous, immoral bastard but after everyone else died and it was just me and him—it was still me and him."
Kakashi feels suddenly tired. He rubs at his face, fingers trailing over the leaf on his hitae-ite, remembering far too many things.
Is that exactly what the problem is?
Is it really that simple?
"Go away, Anko."
She does, wordlessly, with a careless saunter to her hips that's slow and sensual.
Kakashi barely registers it, lost in his own thoughts. Has he been forgetting to count himself as part of the team? Is thatwhere it all fell apart?
By the time the sun rises, pale beams of light creeping into his room, he's come to no conclusions.
He hasn't gotten any sleep either. The day ahead of him looms long and exhausting and Kakashi's thoughts chase around in a circle.
Over and over.
The next few days pass in a parody of normalcy and Anko leaves him alone and, more peculiarly, so does Gai.
Kakashi eventually stirs himself, after nearly a week, to find out if Gai is even in the village. Because while the man annoys him greatly, Kakashi cannot deny that Gai is the most constant presence in his life, even while there's times when that presence is unwanted and unappreciated.
Nosing around the missions' desk, he finds out that Gai has been sent out on a mission. Relieved and unwilling to examine why, Kakashi leaves to go and train.
Only, there's someone at his usual training area.
He lurks in the shadows of the trees, feeling out the chakra signature, his heart sinking. He doesn't, absolutely doesn't, want to talk to Sakura right now.
Despite that, he finds himself watching her train on her own. Her form is better than he's ever seen it, so Tsunade-sama isn't neglecting her physical abilities, but more striking is the pure determination in her green eyes.
It's that determination that goads him, half out of guilt, half out of something he doesn't care to name but which leaves him unsettled, into stepping out of the shadows. "Yo," he says and wonders how she'll answer.
She takes her time about it, finishing off a kick and then turning, her back to him as she reaches for a water bottle. He wonders if she's wearing gloves because Tsunade-sama suggested it or because she wanted to.
Nothing else about her has changed.
Just her eyes, just her form, just her gloves.
Kakashi feels like he's missed a lot more. Impatience gnaws on him but he waits. She hasn't told him to go away.
It makes him sad that hope has been reduced to that. How pathetic.
"Hey," she says, finally, turning to face him. Her face is composed though her eyes are wary.
It's not much but it's something to go on. He can hear Anko's voice reminding him that even when it had just been her and Orochimaru it had been the both of them.
Kakashi thinks that, if Sakura lets him, he can try being that much.
Can Team Seven still exist?
Or is it nothing but a dream these days?
"You've gotten better," he says and, when her lips tighten, adds, "no thanks to me."
"No thanks to you," she echoes, sounding a bit stiff but less hostile. "What do you want?"
Kakashi weighs his responses. There's a lot of things he could say. There's fewer of them that would make anything better.
Most of them might make this worse.
In the end, he opts for the truth. "I was coming to practice," he says honestly. "I usually come here."
That's not what he wants though so Kakashi takes a moment to be glad of the weird, random chance-or perhaps it's not chance and Tsunade-sama ordered Sakura to train here knowing that he prefers this area himself.
He'd call that paranoia except that Kakashi's lived too long as a ninja to not consider anything as a possibility.
"Sorry," Sakura says, resting one hand on her hip. It's a sassy gesture. It's one that Tsunade-sama uses. "This field's occupied."
"I see that," he says.
He should apologize.
The words stick in his throat, nearly choking him, and instead after a struggle with himself Kakashi finds himself saying, "Want a sparring partner?"
Sakura gives him another long, evaluating look. "You want to practice with me." It's not even a question, being too incredulous and too flat for that.
Kakashi rolls his shoulders to loosen them (solely, he assures himself, in preparation for the spar; not at all because he's nervous she'll say no) and nods. "Yes."
The word hangs between them, like a curtain, and then, abruptly, Sakura lunges at him with a kick that's not one he taught her. He's never even seen her use it before.
(She does it well.)
He manages to get his arm up to block, catches her smiling faintly, and counterattacks by sweeping her off her feet to tumble away from him. She manages to control her fall before he thought she would and retaliates with an earth jutsu. He's better than she is.
She knows that too.
Kakashi hopes that she also knows how much she's improved, because she has, and he wishes that he could take the credit for it, even as he plans to win in this spar. It starts raining as he kicks her into a tree only for her to send a brace of kunai, sharp-edged and deadly, back towards him.
(He'll tell her that she's improved when he's sure she won't bite him for such a compliment when it's his fault she's not better.)
By the time he calls a halt to the spar, she's breathing heavily and is out of chakra. He could keep going but he's feeling weary himself. His clothes are singed and muddy in equal measure. He's pretty sure he's got mud in his hair and he's soaked to the bone. Sakura doesn't look any better.
They gather up kunai and shuriken that have been strewn about the field in silence and Kakashi wonders how Sakura feels now. He feels better. They might not have talked but they did interact and it had felt... good.
Perhaps it's that which keeps him hanging around once everything has been picked up and Kakashi watches with some amusement as Sakura grabs a bottle of water from her pack and also pulls out an umbrella. She opens it, shaking it out, and then rests it on her shoulder.
She sips her water, studying him.
Kakashi tries to look inoffensive.
Sakura rolls her eyes. "Come on," she says, like she's the sensei and he's the student. "I'll walk you home."
The umbrella is a neon shade of pink. There are purple dots on it. It's hideous. She doesn't even have the excuse of being little more than a toddler this time around.
The offer is worth the indignity. "I'm taller than you," he says, reaching for the umbrella. "I'll carry this."
She lets him take it and remains close enough that he can cover both of them with it.
"Though," he adds, "I'm not sure why we're using it when we're already soaked through."
"That's training," she says. "This is different."
Kakashi really doesn't see how. He doesn't argue with her. (He's worried about what will happen if he does.)
They walk the rest of the way in an almost companionable silence. At his door she takes her umbrella back.
"You did good today," he says, shoving his hands in his pockets.
Sakura squints at him, just a little, like she's gauging his sincerity. "Tomorrow?" she says. "Same time, same place?"
He nods, feeling pleased. "If I get a mission, I'll make sure to send you word."
That's just a fact of life for shinobi.
She hesitates a moment and then turns away. "I'll see you," Sakura says, over her shoulder.
He watches her go, leaning off his balcony to follow the godawful umbrella until it disappears from his view.
(Next time he sees Anko, he takes her out drinking and foots the bill as thanks.)
After that, they never really speak much, but at least once a week when they're both in the village, they meet up and spar.
Kakashi considers it progress.
He has no clue what Sakura considers it.
But time passes comfortably.
… Until the war hits and all normal routines are suspended.
(He feels selfishly glad, later, that Sakura and he get to spend so much time working together. It's awful to be glad about anything when people are dying—but he does and he clings to that small bright spark of not-sorrow in the middle of despair.)
The war hits them all hard and, despite Naruto's optimism, many things go wrong—things that aren't fixable.
It's years and weeks before Kakashi finds himself with both the free time and the inclination for training that he wanders out, in the middle of a rainy day, to his old training ground. It feels different, these days, after another war.
Kakashi remembers this from the last war.
Training is always strange after. His kicks and punches feel different and his jutsu tumble off nimble fingers too sharply for just practice. His body and mind look for an enemy and there's not one to be found.
It's a good thing.
It's just an adjustment that needs to be made.
"You're too wound up to train," Sakura's voice calls from the edge of the training ground—out of reach of an attack, should her voice startle him.
Kakashi stiffens and then, recognizing her, relaxes and turns to look at her. She's got yet another umbrella out, this one a soft and filmy pink with green sequins dangling from the sides.
It's just as awful as the others.
She's smiling, though, which makes it seem not that bad.
(Kakashi briefly wonders if he's lost all sense of taste.)
"Maybe," he admits. "But I was…" Bored? Restless? Neither quite fit so he just trails off with a bit of a shrug.
"Let's go out instead," she says. "There's a movie I want to see and a new restaurant opened up in south end."
Before he can answer her, Sakura turns on her heel and begins to walk off, clearly expecting him to follow.
"Sakura," he says, catching up quickly, "I'm soaked."
She slants a side-ways glance his way. "You are," she says agreeably. "Guess we'll have to stop by your place so you can change."
Kakashi closes his mouth over his first protest, ducking under her umbrella and taking it from her (she doesn't resist). "… Is this a date??" he checks, finally.
It could be. He thinks it might be. His heart skips a beat at the thought.
She ducks her head but not quickly enough to for him to keep from noticing a blush staining her cheeks. "You're not my sensei," she points out, which is answer enough really.
Turning that over in his head, Kakashi finds it… not disagreeable. He's not her sensei. He never was, really, despite having been given the title.
He likes to think he's been a much better friend, since then.
"All right," Kakashi says. "But you're paying this time."
"Next time," he continues, "I'll pay."
"Oh," she says softly, smiling up at him. "I'd like that."
Three years later, none of the guests understand why, but at their wedding Kakashi insists that all the drinks, whether they're ones that traditionally have umbrellas in them or not, have tiny pink umbrellas in them.
Sakura just laughs.
(It's now him and her, like it should have been all along.)