Minato Kakashi ANYTHING has always given me much trouble. Takes a billion and one revisions to make it say what I want to and I end up writing dozens of scenes that I never use. ...For some reason, this one was different. So... I hope you all enjoy :)
When Minato was assigned to be Kakashi's mentor, it was all just one mess of an experiment gone wrong.
Kakashi was too skilled to be wasted, too young to be put on a genin team; just too damn precocious for his own good. Minato was fifteen at the time, ten years the tiny ninja's senior, and making him a jounin sensei had been unthinkable. Just a few years older than his students? Skills and experience regardless, that didn't spell success.
It seemed like a match made in heaven- take the kid too young for a genin team and put him with the teen too young to teach a genin team. Take the kid with the potential to become the next White Fang and stick him under the budding Sannin's tutelage.
Then everything went to hell in a hand basket.
Sakumo's failed mission was only the beginning, though Kakashi and Minato both had seen it at its time as an end. The once famed hero deteriorated into a man who could hardly will himself out of bed in the morning; the ninja with such possibilities ahead of him cut his own potential in half by blocking any solution that broke the rules.
(Minato grew to hate those words over the coming years- the rules. Hated them like no other.)
The little things started then. Just small, small things, like showing a six year old soldier how to kill in the morning, then teaching a six year old child how to cook that night. Why the sky was blue, where rain came from, that the moon was just the sun hiding at night. No one ever told him that being a jounin sensei meant he had to be able to teach more than just ninjutsu, but he figured Kakashi was a special case, and more than worth it, so he could flounder and struggle along the way as long as everything turned out okay.
Little things turned into bigger things. From teaching him how to write when he discovered Kakashi could barely do more than sign his own name to carrying him home piggyback after training, Minato found himself straying definitively further and further away from boundaries of mentor and teacher into something more.
Sakumo's death was what tipped the scale.
Minato got frustrated. Fast. He bypassed red tape and Uchiha police in anger, focusing only on how to get the seven year old out of the horrible mess and just to stay with him for a while. He thought it would be easy- well, not easy, but simple; it made perfect sense to try and get Kakashi out of the Hatake estate now and it wasn't as if he expected the small chuunin to be grateful, but nor had he been anticipating such ironclad resistance.
For, indeed, the moment Kakashi had found out Minato just expected him to take the offer and stay with him for a while, the kid threw a fit. Or as close to a fit as the genius ninja had ever come. He stomped and slammed doors and even punched a wall, displaying such remarkable restraint considering just how young he was and what had just happened, but also the undeniable proof that he was just a child, no matter how firmly Kakashi believed otherwise.
Sandaime was the one who talked to him, after that incident, helping Minato to connect the two drastically disjointed images he held in his mind of the small soldier and the young child. Both true but incomplete, both shockingly accurate and, yet, harshly inaccurate.
He has the mind of an adult, but the needs of a child, he'd reminded, making Minato rethink just what he'd done and how he'd done it wrong. That's not an easy combination.
And the old man was right, as he always was. Kakashi could run mental circles around most everyone in the village already, performing calculations in seconds that took his teachers minutes and strategizing solutions in mere hours that were more viable than those comprised by whole teams of jounin. He'd experienced more than most chuunin twice his age and the innocence and naivety that made up a child were simply not present in him. If he tried to treat any adult like he did Kakashi, making assumptions that he couldn't stay on his own and needed to be brought home to be taken care of somewhere else- well, he was lucky that that fit was all he'd gotten.
Except, no matter how intelligent, how jaded, how world-weary the kid was, he was still just a kid. He still craved the attention and the affection, the reassurances and the praise, the love.
Minato had never been very good with children. And even with all the advice in the world from Jiraiya and Kushina, he still barely managed, with Kakashi.
He was seventeen at the time, and before he understood what was happening, he'd been thrust into fatherhood. What had begun as a simple apprenticeship had abruptly transformed into parenthood overnight.
And it wasn't easy.
Minato did not know what he was doing. Questions he thought any father could answer left him mute and dumb, things he thought all parents just naturally knew how to deal with rendered him standing as still as a rock without the slightest idea of what to do.
He asks me how to hold a kunai and I can answer him, but why the sky is blue, and I'm struck dumb.
Minato wasn't a dad, he wasn't a single parent, he wasn't anything that Kakashi needed. But everyone expected him to be; the kid had no family, and was just seven- and there was Minato, his sensei for two years now; it was just natural that he be the one to take him in. And it wasn't that Minato resented being the one to do this for Kakashi, but he just couldn't handle how everyone now looked to him to be the one to fix it. The weight of the responsibility was just too much to bear, the burden made all the heavier by the fact that it was expected of him. Not his ninja duty, not his responsibility to Kakashi as his sensei- everyone just expected him to become a capable, infallible father, when he was still trying to learn just how to be a teacher.
He loved Kakashi, and he wanted nothing more than to help him. But he expected failure, because he knew from the beginning that all he knew how do was to try, and Kakashi needed more than someone who could just try.
Minato was fighting to learn how to be a father to a normal kid while Kakashi was learning how to be a child soldier. That was not a good combination; in fact, it was a recipe for disaster.
And Minato made mistakes. Too many to count.
He'd try to help when it wasn't needed, miss when it really was, and even when he did figure out the timing he never knew what to do or how to go about doing it. What to say, how to act; he always did the wrong thing- getting it right was rarer than a blue moon.
And Kakashi wasn't exactly making it easy; by God, he made everything Minato tried to do just so dammed difficult. Kakashi fought Minato every step of the way, on everything; he was too old for this, not in need of that, too stubborn for this, too thickheaded for that, yada yada yada- it drove Minato crazy. He was only trying to help, but all his attempts were thrown back in his face by the kid smart enough to recognize comfort when it was offered, no matter how cloaked and disguised, and stubborn enough to refuse it on the grounds that he was a ninja, and what ninja needed comfort?
Who cares if you don't need it?! Minato wanted to scream at him. Who cares?! You're allowed to want something, you know! And even if you don't want it, at least let me try!
One day, when Kakashi tested Minato's patience too far, he did snap and scream that at him.
Stubborn brat that he was, Kakashi had just stood there, stunned, before he simply ran and left the apartment altogether.
Things fell apart as often as they worked, and they fought as often as they got along. Kakashi was terrible at holding grudges, so, at least, whenever things went wrong, they could be patched up again just as quickly, and, slowly, they adjusted to each other's existence. They both acclimated to something they had never expected or believed possible, learning and changing and growing together until they had found something that worked.
Sometimes, though, in that something that worked, in the moments when they were at their best, Kakashi would just get this look in his eyes. It was half uncertain, half curious, and all so damn hopeful it near took Minato's breath away. And then he'd turn to him, sometimes he'd smile, sometimes just stare at him with that unbridled hope, and he'd ask, Sensei, why is the sky blue?
Because he'd never gotten an answer- and it didn't take long for Minato to realize that he wasn't asking about the sky at all.
Teachers answered that question with lessons about optics and light, reflection and absorption. They'd say, well, Kakashi, the particles in the sky absorb all wavelengths of visible light except for blue; that, they reflect, so that's what we see. Fathers, though- fathers answered it with stories about a blue blanket draped over the world, regaled children with tales about the sun painting it blue before they all woke up in the morning, silly little stories detailing nothing more than fanciful bedtime stories. They'd say well, Son, during the day the blue fairies come out from their homes in the trees and cover the sky so that they can enjoy the sunlight, too.
Kakashi wasn't asking about the sky. He was asking which one Minato was- a teacher, or a father.
And Minato still didn't know the answer.
I try, I help, I give him everything I can- but is that what I am to him? Is that what we are to each other? Am I even good enough to be called that? Have I done enough for him to even think of calling myself that?
He never knew.
Sensei... why is the sky blue?
But as trying as the hard times were, and how swiftly his inability to answer brought them, the good times made it more than worth it.
The day he finally got through to Kakashi that Sakumo's legacy was not his own, and he got to watch as the kid talked back to one of those civilians who cursed him as the traitor's son, he'd never been prouder.
The day he found Kakashi helping the young little Hyuuga prodigy in the Academy, instead of scorning everyone who was a lower rank than he, he beamed.
Whenever they came back from missions together, and Kushina would make them dinner and Kakashi would fall asleep at the table...
Breaks for lunch, after hours of training, sitting together by the riverside, relaxation broken by the idle, comfortable conversation between the closest of friends...
Seeing him smile, and mean it...
Raising a child was hard. But Minato thought he'd figured it out, and every one of Kakashi's smiles made it more and more worth it.
Then came Obito and Rin.
No one had ever told Minato just how hard being a jounin-sensei was, but if he thought Kakashi was difficult, the addition of Obito and Rin was just a nightmare. There was the two newcomers muttering favoritism every time something could even be construed as putting Kakashi first, and the young prodigy himself often sulked quietly, feeling neglected that the sensei he'd once had all to himself suddenly had his time split with two others. It was impossible to please everyone, especially with Obito and Rin often being so vocal about their complaints and Kakashi so stubbornly silent about his; Minato often found himself nursing a migraine at night and gallons of coffee throughout the day.
Kushina was his saving grace, in the hard beginnings of Team Seven; her instincts were far better than his, and her advice was always sound (if not always conventional). She was the one who talked to Kakashi, despite Minato's pleas not to, got him to see how hard he was unwittingly making it on Minato, and the marked change in his behavior and understanding afterwards only proved just how right she had been in trusting Kakashi. The chuunin was growing up faster than Minato would believe, and was more than able to help Minato as much as Minato had helped him.
It wasn't easy, it wasn't perfect, but slowly, Team Seven became his family, not just Kakashi.
None of them would've had it any other way.
But no good thing lasts forever, and before Minato knew it, the peace was shattered- for Obito was dead.
Rin was in desperate need of someone to talk to, someone to tell her that her capture wasn't at fault for what had happened, that she couldn't be blamed for not understanding Obito's feelings, that she shouldn't feel guilty for not being strong enough to save him. Kakashi was in desperate need of just something to hold on to- an anchor that wouldn't leave no matter what, even now, now that everyone else was gone.
And Minato couldn't be there for either of them.
He'd just lost his student.
They'd just lost their best friend, and he'd just lost his student.
He needed something to hold on to, too. How could he be that something for them?
How could he tell them that blaming themselves would do no good when he felt even more guilty than they did? How could he sit in Kakashi's hospital room and tell him it was all going to be okay when he knew perfectly well the Uchiha wanted him tried for treason? How was he supposed to hold Rin's hand at the memorial and promise things would get better when he couldn't imagine it ever hurting less than this?
He couldn't do it.
And he was still supposed to.
Once again, it was Sandaime who made him understand. Sandaime who made him do what he had to do, despite not being strong enough to do it.
Kakashi and Rin both think you hate them. They both think you blame them for what happened. I know that's not the case, we all do, but they don't realize that you're just not strong enough to be what they need right now.
Minato, part of being a parent is putting the child first. No matter how hard it is, no matter how much it hurts, part of it is putting the child first.
(But Minato had never wanted to be a parent.)
He tried to be there for his lost children, then. Oh, God, he tried.
It just wasn't enough.
He couldn't bring himself to even speak to Kakashi. He couldn't stop staring at Obito's eye, an action that surely made the new jounin feel even worse but he just couldn't stop. Because it was Obito's, and Obito was dead. He couldn't bring himself to say a single word and when he finally tried he choked on the first breath, a strangled sob that Kakashi didn't need tearing out his throat, and that made it hurt even worse, because he wasn't here for himself. He was here to help Kakashi, and all he was managing to do was make things worse.
Kakashi was the one to be able to break the silence with words, not tears or harsh breaths or sobs. His eye was distant, staring out the window in an unseeing stare, unhealthy pallor almost grey in the low light as his voice made itself heard- trembling and hoarse and broken, but with a tenor of desperation underneath disguised by nothing but a harsh undercurrent of steel that was so close to breaking, it frightened him.
"Sensei, why is the sky blue?"
Minato looked away.
"I don't know, Kakashi."
A sullen disappointment clouded Kakashi's presence whenever Minato saw him now, his last failed attempt at answering weighing so much more heavily than all the others. Kakashi did not ask again, and after that, there always seemed to a barrier between them that there hadn't been before- a tense, unnatural stiffness to Kakashi, as if he knew the answer now- that it was the answer that he didn't want.
Minato was never able to tell him that he never meant that. He hadn't meant to say I'm not what you're looking for; he honestly didn't know. He still didn't know if he could be what Kakashi needed, if he was even worthy of calling himself as such when he was the reason Kakashi's best friend died in his arms, and now the jounin was a thirteen year old legendary killing machine- because of his teachings. What father wanted to see their child grow up into what Kakashi was now?
He only wanted the best for Kakashi, but, somehow, that wasn't how things had ended up at all.
Sometimes, Minato would catch Kakashi looking at him out of the corner of his eye, still, looking at him unguarded and almost questioningly. It was in those moments that Minato almost seemed to hear Kakashi speak to him again like he had before Obito had died, could hear the child that asked him if he would be the dad he'd always wanted- but Minato never answered him.
Sensei, why is the sky blue?
Those moments ended when Kakashi applied for ANBU.
Kakashi only ever looked at him now from behind the mask of Hound. Gone were the dinners with Kushina, the days on the training field, the occasional lighthearted meetings with Rin when it almost felt as if Obito would come bursting through the door at any moment.
When Minato was given the title of Hokage, Kakashi was there- as an ANBU bodyguard. He never once approached Minato, never once acted as if he knew Minato as anything more than the new fourth Hokage. And once the ceremony was over and the guards were dismissed, Kakashi did not linger.
He simply inclined his head in a stiff gesture of respect, muttered, "It will be an honor to serve you, Hokage-sama," then disappeared in a whirl of leaves.
Minato had never imagined how much it would hurt to hear Kakashi call him Hokage-sama instead of Sensei.
Minato did not forget about Kakashi, but he did leave him be. The boy clearly had had enough of Minato being unable to decide what he wanted to be, and he doubted Kakashi needed him there, anyways. The reports all said he was increasing without bounds, soaring past all expectations to rival the veterans of the force; the powerful teen had taken to the Sharingan like no other non-Uchiha could, and the day Minato first heard the name Copy Ninja was when he knew he had been right to leave Kakashi alone. Kakashi did not need him. All he would be to the deadly ninja now was a burden, an unanswered question in a life that had no room for such things.
So, yes. It would be best to do as Kakashi wanted, and pretend he was nothing more than just another one of his shinobi.
And when word came back that Kakashi's team had been annihilated, he ran out of Konoha faster than he'd ever moved before.
Appearances didn't matter. What Kakashi wanted didn't matter. All that mattered was his two students were out there, and he wasn't going to leave them alone. Annihilated the reports may say, but he knew Kakashi, and he knew he wouldn't go down without a fight.
As long as there's a chance... the slightest of chances...
Rin was dead.
The Chidori wound over her heart told him everything.
His heart throbbed, and he wondered how much more of this he could take.
The squad had been decimated. Shinobi, Konoha and Mist alike, lay dead on the ground, without a living soul to be found. Minato stood alone amongst the destruction, and felt as if the world had ended.
Amongst such devastation... surely, not even Kakashi... this massacre...
Minato blinked numbly at the sight of a silver-haired teen drowning in his own blood. He looked no different than the rest of the bodies scattered here, and his heart throbbed again.
He walked forward without a hint of urgency (because he knew the truth, he did), crouching down by Kakashi's side to feel for his pulse. He already knew what he would find, his heart shattering into pieces told him, but he had to check. He owed it to Kakashi, and as he took Kakashi's pale, pale wrist into his own tanned hand, he was struck by the thought that this must be how it felt to have a son die in his arms.
No pulse... no- anything.
There is nothing left...
And then, Minato gasped.
He squeezed Kakashi's wrist tighter, pressing his thumb against the skin in desperation. Had he felt it? He couldn't have just imagined it, it had to have been true, please, God, let it be true-
There it was! Again!
Minato might've cried out in joy if he could breathe. He frantically turned Kakashi over, feeling the boy settle limply back in his arms, as cold and small as death personified, holding him tighter as if to never let him go again. "Kakashi!" he gasped, and his heart soared when he saw the thin chest rise in response. "Kakashi!"
One eye opened to stare up at him, so blank Minato doubted that Kakashi could see him at all. It was hazy and bleary and roved without purpose, but it was moving and his Kakashi was alive, alive! and nothing mattered; he didn't care now about his own hesitancy or insecurity or Kakashi's resistance and stubbornness, because Kakashi was his, his son, dammit, and nothing was taking him away again.
Kakashi's eye wavered jerkily before it focused on his own, colored now by awareness, and Minato couldn't help but smile and sob together all at once. He nodded at Kakashi's amazed stare, the shining awe, the smile, saying yes, I'm here, the lump in his throat too thick to speak, his breaths coming too short to allow it anyway.
Kakashi didn't have the strength to move, let alone say a single word. But his still expressive eye asked the question for him, and Minato heard it clear as day.
Sensei, why is the sky blue?
Can you answer me this time... because now, I need it...
"I know now," he gasped, and he grasped Kakashi's hand too tight to ever let him get away again. "I know now, Kakashi.
I love you."
Sensei, why is the sky blue?
I know now, Kakashi.