Imitation – It was the only way he knew how to mourn. KakaNaru.
"Hey, Kakashi-sensei?" Naruto asked as they walked down the darkening streets, "why do you read Icha Icha? I mean…" He stuck his tongue out and gave his sensei a knowing look.
"For the plot," Kakashi replied blankly, "it's a good plot. Walk faster, will you? We'll freeze before we get back at this rate." They were freezing already. Konoha's nights were cold during the fall. But the bed at his apartment was warm and the chill in their clothes would disappear when they were off.
"Hah, there's no plot in those books! I finished reading them all when I was traveling with Ero-Sennin. It's just ecchi separated by sleep and meals," Naruto said airily. "I mean, the ecchi scenes are interesting, but it's not like you'd be into them."
"Maa, I take offense to that. I happen to think those 'sleep and meals' scenes are written in masterful prose."
"What's the real reason?"
Kakashi paused in his step, contemplating the book's weight in his pocket and a name carved into grey stone. "He liked them. I think reading it in the clan compound was his way of asking for attention. They all ignored him anyway, but he eventually grew fond of the books. He'd lose track of time while reading them and then he'd be late for everything."
"Sounds like someone I know."
"Maa, I suppose."
Naruto tilted his head to one side, "you're weird, Kakashi-sensei," he grinned. "I like that you're weird."
He looked at the orange shirt in the shop window.
The shade was slightly different. And it was plain, not as bright. But the liveliness had partly come from the boy who had worn it, and he wouldn't be able to Copy that anyway.
Kakashi arrived at the gates of the village early the next day. When they saw that he wore the orange shirt under his flak jacket instead of his usual blue, Sakura rubbed furiously at her eyes and Sasuke turned away. Sai smiled his bland smile and said it suited him.
Team Seven's A-rank that day was silent.
Fourteen. That was the number of cups Sakura saw littered over the counter, arranged carefully as if to mimic the presence of disorder.
She came over often because he didn't make visits to the hospital. The iryounin weren't worried, because Hatake Kakashi took care of himself.
She found him sitting on the couch sharpening his kunai set. He smiled when he saw her.
"Maa, back already?"
"Yeah," she pulled out a chair. "Tsunade-sama says she'll keep the hat until I or Sasuke give in. She doesn't want to give it to anyone who won't do Naruto credit."
"Good luck holding her off," Kakashi said dryly. "She'll get what she wants eventually. You'd be better off fighting Sasuke for it, maybe over a game of shogi. Loser has to take the hat. It'll fit well either way."
She sighed. "You know, there's one person who can actually do him credit-"
"No, Sakura," he said firmly. The smile was still present under his mask, "but I'm sure that if you try hard enough you can persuade Sasuke." He was perfectly aware of his student's nighttime activities, just as they had – rather awkwardly – been aware of his and Naruto's.
Sakura reddened slightly and muttered under her breath. She stayed for a few more minutes, casually discussing the latest bingo book entries and the newest S-ranks while her keen eye sought out any disruption in his movement that could indicate injury.
It grew dark. Before she walked out the door, she shot one last glance at the ramen cups scattered across his table.
"Take it, sensei. You might like it."
Kakashi looked at the book he was being offered. Then he looked back up at Sasuke, who was looking away pointedly. He took it, flipping to the back cover and scanning the summary. One eyebrow rose.
"You like that stuff, don't you? You'd better like it. I think there are some rumors going around about me because someone saw me buying it. I'd better go inform Sakura otherwise before she hears them."
"I don't doubt it. This is an … uncommon one." He put it delicately.
Sasuke nodded stiffly. He muttered a 'Happy Birthday' under his breath before turning away.
Kakashi flipped to the first page and let his eyes run over the words. He'd stopped reading Icha Icha years ago, because Naruto hadn't exactly liked Icha Icha. Naruto hadn't liked books at all.
There was a lingering feeling of loss that refused to fade. Kakashi didn't want it to fade. He wanted it to thrive in the ramen cups in his apartment and the not-bright-enough orange shirt he wore.
It was the only way he knew how to mourn.
Riya takes 'Copy-nin' to a whole new level.