Yugao, being in the closest physical proximity to both of them, is the first to ask. She waits until their other teammates have emptied the training ground, and she and her captain, overworked from sparring immediately after a mission, sit cross-legged on the grass.
“Kakashi-senpai,” says Yugao, hesitantly, “are you and Tenzō… you know?”
He blinks one eye at her. “Are we what?”
“You know,” she emphasizes, gesturing vaguely with her hands.
“I don’t,” he says, shrugging. He folds his hands behind his head to lean against a tree behind them, unperturbed.
Yugao frowns. “Are you… sharpening kunai together?”
Kakashi looks at her, concerned. “ANBU provides regulation kunai, Yugao. You know that.”
Gai is second, because he has a habit of showing up wherever Kakashi is, even if that place is just outside ANBU headquarters after they have returned from border patrol.
“Rival,” booms Gai with his usual enthusiasm, “Who is your youthful friend?”
Kakashi looks at Tenzō, and the brown-haired boy shrugs, removing his mask. “Kakashi-senpai calls me Tenzō.”
“A splendid name!” Gai says, shaking Tenzō’s hand enthusiastically. “I am Maito Gai.”
Tenzō tilts his head with a hint of a smile. “I assumed.”
“I’ve come to challenge Kakashi to another match! He is currently in the lead in our rivalry, but this match will even our scores or I will do one hundred pull-ups on the edge of the Hokage monument!”
Before Kakashi can stop him, Tenzō asks, “Why the Hokage monument?”
“It is the highest point in the village, Tenzō-kun!” says Gai, as if this answers the question. Turning to Kakashi, he says, “Ready, rival?”
Kakashi takes a step back. “As tempting as that sounds, Gai, Tenzō and I were going to do something.” He claps a hand on Tenzō’s shoulder, tugging him in the direction of ANBU headquarters.
“Yosh! It is no trouble for me to wait!”
Kakashi’s already shaking his head. “We’ll be busy all evening. We’ll probably be busy all night, too, so it’s best we just settle the score some other time.” He waves a hand, stepping further back as he speaks.
“All night?” repeats Gai with a glint in his eye. “The ANBU regime is truly rigorous! I must ask Hokage-sama to reconsider my application!”
“No, no,” says Kakashi, shifting backward, “it’s more of a social call really. Right, Tenzō?”
Beside him, Tenzō nods. “Sure. I had something I wanted to run by Kakashi, and it’ll take a while.”
Gai looks between them suspiciously as Kakashi continues to squeeze Tenzō’s shoulder with a too-bright look on his face. Then, Gai’s expression clears, and he grins widely. “Kakashi…” he says, beaming, “Could it be that you and your youthful friend will be dancing among the leaves tonight?”
“I don’t know how to dance,” says Tenzō, before Kakashi yanks him indoors.
Itachi is less subtle about it. They are on a three-man mission in Taki, and Kakashi’s mask is split down the side by the light graze of a sword that he is only slightly too late to avoid. When they eliminate their targets, it is Tenzō who administers first-aid and offers Kakashi a spare mask from a scroll.
“Why are Kakashi-senpai’s belongings with you?” asks Itachi, when Kakashi has gone to sleep and Tenzō is on watch. “Are you seeing each other?”
“We see each other all the time,” says Tenzō, shrugging.
Itachi shakes his head. “That is not what I’m asking. I was inquiring about whether you two sleep together.”
Tenzō’s eyebrows furrow and he gives Itachi a bewildered look. “ANBU captains are given their own quarters, Itachi. You’ve seen them.”
Itachi sighs and goes back to sleep.
Kō asks Tenzō, inadvertently, on the day Team Ro is informed that Kakashi will be leaving ANBU to become a jōnin sensei. “You must be upset that Kakashi-taichō is leaving,” Kō says, with a hint of a scoff. Their clashes over the Uchiha took place a number of years ago, but Kō cannot help but remain slighted.
“Kakashi-senpai is an excellent captain, and will be sorely missed in ANBU,” sighs Tenzō as he removes his wrist guards.
“By you more than most, I’d wager,” says Kō, raising his eyebrows.
Tenzō looks at him askance. “Because of my transfer from ROOT?” he asks. “You might be right. It could feel strange to be here without him.”
“Well, that,” concedes Kō, “and because of you two.”
“Us two?” repeats Tenzō, bemused.
Kō nods at him. “You know. Uh, using wood style together.”
Tenzō, who has just taken off his happuri, turns quickly enough that his hair, growing out again, manages to whip Kō in the face. “The Sharingan is unable to reproduce mokuton, Kō. Kakashi-senpai can’t use it.”
For some reason, Kō seems amused by this. “So no wood for Kakashi, huh?”
Tenzō nods solemnly. “No wood for Kakashi.”
On their new team, Sakura is the one who first wonders about it. Easily the most observant of the three, she pieces together the little information Tenzō has offered about himself and turns to her teacher after a team debriefing. “Kakashi-sensei, if you’ve known Yamato-taichō since ANBU, he must’ve been part of your life for years. Why didn’t you mention him before?”
Kakashi shrugs. “We don’t speak much about my past, Sakura-chan.” He pauses. “Or present, for that matter. My personal life is rarely up for discussion.”
“But you two seem close,” Sakura presses, frowning. “I’ve seen you in the village talking to Gai-sensei, Asuma-sensei and Kurenai-sensei. But until now, I’ve never seen you with Yamato-taichō. Why is that?”
“Well,” says Kakashi thoughtfully, a hand on his chin, “I suppose my relationship with Yamato is a bit different.”
Tenzō is the one who responds, striding up between them. “We never really had a ‘sit down for onigiri in the afternoon’ kind of relationship before now. More of a ‘passing food pills by dim firelight’ sort.”
Sakura looks surprised. “So you never talked to each other outside of missions?”
“Who says I was talking about a mission?” says Tenzō, lips twitching.
What little is visible of Kakashi’s face is lifted in a smile. “You never did really learn how to cook.”
Sakura stares at them as if she is trying to figure out a particularly difficult logic puzzle. After a moment, she seems to decide something, and nods to herself. “Sensei, you and Yamato-taichō… there’s something going on there, right?”
“What do you mean, Sakura?” asks Kakashi, turning toward her.
“You were partners in ANBU, right?” she hedges.
Kakashi shrugs again. “In a manner of speaking.”
She nods, as if this is the answer she expected. “So…” says Sakura, slowly, “are you partners now?”
Tenzō shifts awkwardly, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Though I am here to provide support, Kakashi-senpai is still your jōnin-leader, Sakura. Team Kakashi is ultimately under his command.”
“Don’t belittle yourself, Tenzō. You’re an important part of the team,” Kakashi says, patting Tenzō on the back.
“That’s not what I-” says Sakura, but the two are already walking away, bickering about code names and protocol.
Sai is next. Though it has always been difficult for him to read people, his interactions with the team and - in spite of Naruto and Sakura’s protests - his books, provide him insight into the nuances of interpersonal relationships. In the aftermath of the Five Kage Summit, when all of their team has finally arrived back in the village, Sai poses a leading question. “Yamato-taichō. May I ask you something?”
Tenzō looks up from his current task, which is accounting for battle-ready personnel while Kakashi speaks to the daimyō. “Is something troubling you, Sai?”
Sai shakes his head. “No, not really. But I am having difficulty understanding something. You had a curse mark on your tongue that recently disappeared. So you were a member of ROOT, correct?”
Tenzō nods. “Yes, I was.”
“How was it that you were able to be discharged? Your curse mark didn’t disappear until mine did, so I cannot believe that Danzō-sama did it willingly.”
The older man smiles a little. “He didn’t. It was mostly Kakashi-senpai’s doing.”
Sai’s expression barely shifts, but it is still clear he is surprised. “I don’t understand.”
“We ran into each other a few times in spite of our separate ANBU divisions. We came to consider each other comrades, and at one point, I allowed that to take precedence over a mission Danzō gave me. So, Kakashi came to take me out of ROOT.”
Sai tilts his head, the only mark of his confusion. “The Sandaime Hokage permitted this?”
“I’m not certain if he asked beforehand,” says Tenzō, with no small amount of fondness. “But eventually, yes.”
“Yamato-taichō,” says Sai slowly. “What kind of bond do you and Kakashi-senpai have?”
“Our bond?” Tenzō repeats, raising an eyebrow.
Sai nods. “He defied the Hokage’s wishes on your behalf, and you defied Danzō-sama and ROOT. Both of you rebelled against your superiors. I read in a book that this kind of bond may occur when two people are having intercour-”
“Tsunade-sama is awake!” Sakura shouts abruptly as she peeks her head inside the tent.
In their joy and surprise, Sai’s question is forgotten.
Naruto doesn’t exactly ask. Though it often takes Naruto a long time to grasp facts and figures, and his trusting nature leads him to take things at face value, as he grows, he learns to read people better. So, when Tenzō says goodbye to Kakashi with the knowledge the other man will be on the front lines of a war, Naruto frowns at him afterward.
“That was a long goodbye, Yamato-taichō,” says Naruto as they approach the docks.
“It’ll be a long mission,” Tenzō replies.
Naruto nods, almost absently. The worried line between his brow doesn’t dissipate. “You both seemed pretty serious,” Naruto adds.
Tenzō looks at Naruto out of the corner of his eye pensively. “I was reminding Kakashi-senpai that he owes me ramen.”
Instantly, Naruto’s expression clears and he grins. “Did he try to talk his way out of it?”
Staring behind him, where Kakashi has already vanished, Tenzō says, “I think I managed to convince him.”
“Nice going,” says Naruto, nudging him with an elbow. He tightens his headband as they get closer to their meeting place. “You and Kakashi-sensei know each other pretty well, don’t you?”
“I’d like to think so.”
“I’m glad, you know,” says Naruto, and Tenzō’s gaze is immediately pulled back to his. They pause on the edge of the waterfront. “Kakashi-sensei is always trying to protect us. He doesn’t want us to see his burdens. So I’m glad you’re… sharing his ramen.”
Tenzō doesn’t say anything, but he smiles.
Even Sasuke, to whom Tenzō is a near stranger, spares him some curiosity in the aftermath of the last battle. Sasuke and Naruto have both come back with one arm less than they had when he last saw them, but they’re smiling, and so are Sakura and Kakashi. Kakashi props up Sasuke while Sakura is holding Naruto up. And no matter how exhausted they all look, they’re alive. Tenzō’s feet carry him forward before he even realizes it.
“Kakashi,” says Tenzō, drawing their attention. It is quickly followed by, “Naruto. Sakura.”
Naruto is the first to recover. “Yamato-taichō,” he says, elated. “You’re okay! I’m sorry I couldn’t go help you.”
Tenzō laughs, quickly and breathlessly. “I should be saying that to you. I’m so glad to see all of you.”
“So are we,” says Sakura. “When we realized that White Zetsu was using mokuton, we all worried about you.”
“Yo, Tenzō,” Kakashi says warmly. His smile, given away by the lift of his cheeks above his mask, has not dimmed even for a second.
Naruto dons a bemused pout on his bruised face. “Who’s Tenzō?”
“I am,” Tenzō replies honestly. “That was the name I took in ANBU. Or, I should say, the name your sensei called me.” He looks at Kakashi briefly before focusing back on Naruto and Sakura.
“It’s not uncommon for some ANBU to be referred to only by code names,” interjects Sai, walking towards them. “It was very kind of Kakashi-senpai to give Yamato-taichō his own name.”
Cheerfully, Kakashi says, “Looks like the whole team is together then. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
Tenzō looks into Kakashi’s two black eyes and says, “No kidding.” Turning to the boy at Kakashi’s side, who has thus far been silent, he says, “It’s good to properly meet you, Sasuke-kun.”
Sasuke blinks at him. “We’ve met.”
“I don’t think stabbing me with a sword counts,” says Tenzō with a barely suppressed smile, and Sasuke has the decency to look a little abashed.
“You’re being unfair, Tenzō,” says Kakashi with a lazy drawl. “You stabbed me, when we were first getting to know each other.”
“That was barely a graze.”
Naruto and Sakura look scandalized, and Sai simply continues to smile serenely.
Sasuke looks up at Kakashi. It is clear he’s not fond of being held, but he’s barely standing as it is. With genuine uncertainty, he asks, “Is stabbing some kind of euphemism?”
While his other teammates break out into giggles, Sasuke continues to wait for an answer. Kakashi ruffles his hair by way of a response.
Tsunade comes to her own conclusions, when the war is over. It doesn’t take long for her to decide she’s ready to pass on her hat. While she attempts to drag it onto Kakashi’s unruly head of hair, she must still evaluate her available personnel in the wake of so many losses. So, she calls Tenzō into her office. “Hokage-sama,” Tenzō says, kneeling.
“Yamato,” she replies, her gaze discerning, “Do you still wish to continue your service in ANBU?”
Tenzō straightens up, holding himself a little stiffly. “Am I… being dismissed, Hokage-sama?”
“No, nothing like that,” she assures him. She has an open file with his picture in it in front of her and her eyes drift to it. “I just can’t help but notice all of your missions leading up to the war were jōnin missions taken with members of Team Kakashi, not ANBU. That sense of normality can be difficult to give up.”
Tenzō removes his mask. The office is empty, and by now his face is known to everyone in the village regardless. “I am very grateful for my time on Team Kakashi. However, my duty has always been foremost to the Hokage.”
Tsunade raises an eyebrow at him. “Is that so? I don’t intend on keeping the seat for much longer as it is.”
The ANBU bows. “Then my vow will be to the next Hokage.”
Slowly, a smirk appears on her lips. “It seems I misread the situation.” She closes the file. “You’re aware of who the next Hokage will be?”
Tenzō nods. “Hatake Kakashi,” he replies promptly.
“That wouldn’t have anything to do with your decision to stay in ANBU, would it?” Tsunade asks, by all appearances, casually.
“I’ve been around a long time, you know,” says Tsunade. Her eyes flicker to the wall of Hokage portraits. “No one likes to fess up to anything in front of the Hokage, but after a while you get a sense of where people sheath their tanto.”
One of Tenzō’s hands drifts to his back, where his sword is strapped. “My tanto is always kept on my person while I’m in uniform, Hokage-sama,” he says earnestly. “It would be dangerous to leave it lying around.”
Tsunade looks heavenward, and then waves a hand. “Evaluation complete. You’re free to go.”
Iruka doesn’t pry, but he makes his own assumptions all the same. On the day of Naruto’s wedding ceremony, he ends up speaking to Kakashi, after the Sixth Hokage has finished rushing around the venue, greeting guests and making last minute checks on every detail. Their conversation revolves mostly around Naruto and how much he’s grown, but after a while, Iruka stutters out something which is half-grateful, half-apologetic.
“I feel as though I should be doing more,” he confesses, ducking his head. “I’m attending the ceremony as Naruto’s father, and yet it’s you who seems to be taking on all the burdens.”
“Truth be told, I feel a little parental towards Naruto as well,” says Kakashi, with an affectionate glance in the young boy’s direction. “I don’t mind the preparations. And besides, I haven’t been doing it alone. Yamato’s done at least half of all this.”
As he says this, they both spot Tenzō, sneakily attempting to fix a wilting flower arrangement nearby while Killer Bee raps enthusiastically at him. If possible, Kakashi’s expression grows a little warmer.
“I see,” Iruka says genially. “Please pass on my thanks.”
Kakashi nods, hands in his pockets. The formal attire doesn’t allow for his usual slouch, but he attempts it all the same. “I will. He certainly deserves it, with all the favours I’ve asked of him lately,” he adds with a chuckle.
“You rely on him a lot, don’t you?” asks Iruka.
“More than almost anyone in the village.”
Iruka inclines his head towards his companion. “Naruto will be happy.”
At this, Kakashi looks at Iruka, confused. “About what?”
“That you’ve found someone who can arrange your flowers,” says Iruka with a knowing smile.
Kakashi begins to explain that Tenzō also made the seating arrangements, but Iruka shrugs him off, grinning, and tells him he’s going to greet Sakura.
Kurenai nearly asks, insofar as she gets the chance. As Kakashi works on various reforms to the village, most of his time is devoted to administrative matters. Tenzō’s life is not much different, given his increased responsibilities in ANBU. It is only by chance that he and Tenzō run into Anko and Kurenai on the one day in several weeks that they have enough time to be passing by a dango shop. When the men are invited to join the pair, they quickly agree. They lose themselves in conversation for some time before they realize how long it’s been since they talked.
“Has it really been two months?” says Kakashi, blinking.
Anko nods. “Just about.”
“Three, if you don’t count formal events,” offers Tenzō.
“I’m glad we got a chance to see you today,” says Kurenai brightly. “The village is getting busier every day, and you with it. And I know we wouldn’t be able to meet next week.”
“Why not?” asks Anko curiously.
“Kakashi-senpai will be going on a trip to the capital,” says Tenzō, with a stern point of his dango in Kakashi’s direction.
Kakashi nods. “The Fire daimyō’s daughter is getting married,” he says. “I’m not eager to attend the wedding of someone I’ve never met, but I’ve been told repeatedly that I can’t opt out of it.” On his emphasis, he gives Tenzō a look. The other man pays him no mind.
“You never did care much for politics, did you?” says Kurenai fondly. She ignores his sigh and muses with a smile, “You’ll probably be expected to bring an escort, you know. It’s a very formal kind of event.”
“I already have an escort,” says Kakashi, clapping Tenzō on the shoulder.
Kurenai laughs. “No, I mean someone you can dance with.”
Kakashi turns to Tenzō with raised eyebrows. Shaking his head with a sheepish look, Tenzō raises his hands up. “Sorry, I still don’t know how to dance.”
Anko twirls her empty dango skewer in her hands. “I could teach him. It’s not all that different from practicing kata. Give me a few hours and I’ll have Yamato dancing circles around you.”
Tenzō looks unconvinced, but Kakashi shoves the remaining dango pieces in his mouth before he can protest. “There,” says Kakashi, gesturing at Kurenai. “Problem solved.”
“Well, I suppose you two are old hands at weddings now, with all of our former subordinates pairing up,” Kurenai concedes. With a mischievous look, she adds, “Though it might cause a stir for a Hokage to dance with their ANBU guard.”
“Then he won’t attend as my ANBU guard,” says Kakashi, unconcerned. “He can come as my dance partner.”
Swallowing the mouthful of dango, Tenzō purses his lips. “Are you asking me, or telling me, Hokage-sama?”
“Either,” says Kakashi pleasantly. Anko laughs.
“You’re certain to start a rumour or two,” Kurenai replies with a grin.
“Show them what’s under that mask of yours,” suggests Tenzō teasingly. “That ought to keep them talking for a while.”
Kakashi moves to elbow Tenzō, but the other man dodges it with ease. The motion doesn’t go unmissed by either Anko or Kurenai, who share a glance. “When did you see Kakashi without his mask?” asks Kurenai, her red eyes narrowing. “Most of us have been trying since the academy. Are you two…?”
“Leaving,” says Kakashi dryly. He stands. “I’m already an hour late for a council meeting, so I suppose it’s time to go. It’s been good to see you both. Say hello to Mirai for me. Tenzō will pay.”
Tenzō begins to complain, but Kakashi is already walking outside the shop. He throws down a few bills and gives the other man a firm poke in the side once he catches up. With a nod back at Anko and Kurenai, Tenzō says, “My apologies for leaving so abruptly. I hope we can do this again soon.”
“Unbelievable,” mutters Kurenai, unable to keep a smile off her face.
Anko is the last one to ask, about a minute after Kurenai tries to, because she’s nothing if not brash. So, from inside the dango shop, as Tenzō and Kakashi move out into the street, she calls, “Hey, Hokage-sama!”
Sighing, he turns. “What is it, Anko?”
“Kurenai wants to know if you and Yamato are fucking.”
“Oh,” says Kakashi, exchanging a look with Tenzō. He looks back at her. “Yes.”