Kakashi remembers it had barely felt like they had set foot back into Konoha before Tsunande had ushered him into her office and told him he was going to be the next Hokage.
Kakashi doesn’t think he has ever protested anything so hard in his life.
“But Naruto -,” Kakashi had tried to argue only to be shot down. The diamond on Tsunande’s forehead had been flickering and Kakashi could tell her jutsu was close to dispelling.
“Is too young,” Tsunande had cut him off firmly.
Kakashi hadn’t been too surprised because in a way he had known this was coming since Pein’s attack on Konoha.
Stubbornly, he had assumed that after seeing Naruto in the war, seeing how he pulled together five shinobi nations, the question of youth would be a moot point. He had assumed Tsunande would take him under her wing and in a few years Naruto would succeed as the Sixth, never mind what Obito said.
He had clearly underestimated the toll Tsunande’s jutsu took on her.
“Look brat, if I stay indoors and teach you while Shinzune looks over me, I can maybe spare three months here. But no more. I can barely keep this jutsu up, there is no way I can continue on as Hokage. Three months isn’t enough to teach Naruto let alone clean up the aftermath of this fucking war.”
Kakashi had bitten his tongue so hard he could taste blood.
Fuck you, Obito , he thought before his shoulders slumped in defeat.
Kakashi is 39, exactly 23 years older than he ever imagined he would live to be when he first took up the shinobi headband at the age of six.
But then again he is also a retired Hokage, something he expected even less than a long life.
Kakashi pauses his casual stroll, thumb ready to flick to the next page of his well worn Icha Icha Paradise Volume 10, and turns around.
He is completely unsurprised to see an ANBU shinobi kneeling behind him. He’s been aware he is being followed and that is the only reason he was courteous enough to take his stroll to the roof tops. (Which was something he hated to do now with all these newly remodeled buildings and their uneven architecture.)
“Hawk-san, what can I do for you?” Kakashi greets politely, already having an inkling of why the ANBU is there.
For a brief second, he feels a mischievous pull drawn from his boredom and contemplates running away. 39 is past the prime of a normal shinobi but it didn’t mean Kakashi couldn’t get away if he really wanted to. Gai would never let him hear the end of it if he couldn’t, and he has had enough training to last a lifetime.
But in the end he figures that wasting an entire day like that will only worsen whatever Naruto will do to him when he does show up.
Which is why he is already walking in a different direction than his previous route before Hawk can answer. Making sure to keep his actions fluid and natural, Kakashi nicks his finger on the paper of his book and makes the sign for a distance summon.
Contingency plans, Kakashi thinks to himself. The time may have come.
He hears the slight skid of a foot against concrete, before the shinobi hastily makes his way behind Kakashi, nervously trying to catch up and get ahead without being impertinent towards the former Hokage.
“I-er, Hatake-sama, Lord Hokage has requested your presence and asked me to escort you to his office,” the poor young man answers in a rush, hovering anxious when he realizes that the next step Kakashi takes is clearly veering off into the start of his so called “detour on the road of life.”
Which means he is heading away from the Tower.
“Maa, don’t fret, Hawk-san,” Kakashi placates with his fixed smile, hidden under his mask. “We will get there.”
The ‘eventually’ goes unsaid.
Kakashi knows he has made a lot of mistakes in his life.
But he has dealt with that angst – the war had helped immensely with that. Confronting his greatest regrets on the battlefield had allowed him to achieve a quasi-peace that couldn’t quite settle into forgiveness but had been enough for him to pick up his pieces (again) and trudge on (again).
He accepted the role of the Hokage for one reason, and one reason only.
To ease the burden on Naruto.
Kakashi wasn’t the Hokage the Leaf was looking for but he was the Hokage they needed. The aftermath of the war was another war – but this one of bureaucracy. In the depths of the latest nights with an endless mountain of paperwork blocking his view of the windows, he would look down at his desk and see the picture of Team 7.
With the help of Tsunade he had trudged through immediate war repairs, delved deep in the bowels of the Konoha system and uprooted it so that the Leaf could start anew, the image of a broken boy shadowing his decision. Sometimes Kakashi would blink and wonder if at any time in those ten years he had ever left his Hokage seat.
It turned out better than even Kakashi, with his minimal optimism, could ever hope for. While Kakashi can never say he is a proud man, he thinks he can face Obito, Rin and Minato-sensei and honestly say he tried his best.
When Naruto turned 25, Kakashi gave him the hat to a brand new Konoha. And while deep in his stomach there was still a gray weight of ‘I’m sorry’ waiting, one giant smile from Naruto, tears in his eyes as the citizen of Konoha and envoys of delegates from other shinobi lands roared loudly in the background, was enough to settle it down.
He put on a hand on Naruto’s blonde hair and ruffled it. The mirror image of Minato physically and Kushina in personality. The hopes of Obito and Itachi, of a lineage much older than that. Stronger than any shinobi Kakashi had ever met, even if you stripped his power away. The reason Kakashi learned to forgive himself.
“Congratulations, kid,” Kakashi had muttered. Naruto gave a dramatic sniff (but no tears thankfully) before breaking out into a giant grin, moving faster than Kakashi could ever hope, and sweeping him into a bear crushing hug.
Blinking, Kakashi settled into one of his close eyed smiles. Happy moments were far in between in his life but he will remember that moment as one of the happiest.
“Please put me down, Hokage-sama,” Kakashi had said, but it was really only Sasuke and Sakura that were close enough to see the way Kakashi allowed himself to tilt his weight into the unconventional embrace.
Kakashi is never one to be at a loss for words, because even if he is, he never lets anyone know .
Contrarily, it works in his favour when he needs to act.
Naruto looks positively maniacal with how far his grin is stretching, blue eyes almost dipping black and menacing under the low light of the Hokage office.
Behind him, Sasuke has an indifferent aura, looking to the side, but Kakashi knows, can feel the penetrating stare of his shifting mismatched eyes and the smirk climbing on his lips. On Naruto’s other side, Sakura isn’t even pretending to hold her glee, her pale green eyes glued unflinchingly on Kakashi’s face.
“You heard me sensei,” Naruto crows. He stands up but remains behind the desk, a valley of paperwork on each side but miraculously empty in the middle.
Or was until Naruto slips a single paper across the smooth mahogany.
“But I don’t mind repeating it again,” Naruto practically sings, and Kakashi nervously reconsiders his earlier plan of escape.
Maybe if it was just one of his students he could have made it, but he can see the twitch in Sasuke’s fingers, ready to form the seals needed to keep Kakashi rooted down and how Sakura makes sure to stand in front of the open window, gloves on and ready.
He feels like he is staring down the Legendary Sanin instead of his former students. Though he isn’t wrong.
Kakashi reminds himself to keep calm, but it’s not easy when you face down monsters like his previously cute genin.
Escape tactics roil through his mind but each one risks actually hurting the office and his students. And Kakashi did not just spend the last ten years of his life in this hellhole just to blow it up and have Naruto make him take care of the paperwork.
“You!” Naruto flashily points right to Kakashi, pointer finger aiming dead center in between Kakashi’s eyes nearly making them go criss cross. Fortunately he has better control than that. “Must as of now, remove that mask,” Naruto practically yells, body thrumming with excitement, “in accordance to the Seventh Hokage’s Act of Unknown Terrors, which states that all personnel not affiliated with the Hokage’s personal ANBU guard must remove their mask or all facial coverings in the presence of the Hokage.”
Naruto sounds so smug, Kakashi wonders if he can get away with Chidoring his former student. Escape doesn’t seem likely but retribution….
Trying not to twitch, Kakashi puts on a fake smile. “I am sorry Hokage-sama, but that bill belies my rights to freedom of expression under the Human Rights Decree founded over 50 years ago,”
He doesn’t like how Naruto’s smile grows wider, Sakura’s a little bit smugger.
“Maybe it would have, had you been a civilian, but as a previous Kage you have surrendered your rights as a member of public in the face of civic duty. You are exempted from that decree,” Naruto says excitedly barely stumbling over his words and Kakashi wonders how long he must have practiced with Shikamaru to say that entire sentence perfectly.
But, that’s neither here nor there.
“Saa, sensei, you heard Hokage-sama,” Sakura chirps with an overly false enthusiasm. She sways forward, ready to take a step forward until she remembers who she is dealing with and covers the route of escape one more time. She, however, doesn’t forget to crack her knuckles threateningly.
Kakashi senses Sasuke moving in closer, minute in his movements but tactically closing in all the same.
His fingers twitch nervously from where they are clench behind his back in standard shinobi position.
“Do you require assistance, sensei?” Sasuke asks with belligerent innocence, a tone that sends shudders down Kakashi’s spine.
He can feel a hand coming up and a nervous bead of sweat rolls down his face.
Maybe this is the end…?
It happens so fast, Kakashi doesn’t even have the time to feel grateful. In a blur of movements Rock Lee bursts through the door, his apprentice by his side, passionate fire flaming his aura and adding to the smoking debris as the door bursts into shards. Pakkun’s pup, Pattsun, sits on top of Rock Lee’s head, yipping excitedly for having answered Kakashi’s summons.
Sasuke moves back to cover his unprotected side and Kakashi moves . With a time old substitution jutsu, Kakashi relishes the dawning bafflement on his cute students faces before he flickers out.
Contingency plans, indeed.
He makes several shadow clones, dispersing them throughout Konoha with orders to keep out of sight. He treats this as the infiltration and reconnaissance mission that it is.
The closest shadow clone to the Hokage office gleefully dispels when Sakura shows up behind it to throw a chakra infused punch at it’s gut.
But not before it got to record the way his cute students huddle together to formulate their plan, an unconscious Rock Lee and an apprentice slumped against the wall with twin bumps steaming from their head.
Kakashi’s clone dispels right after Sakura gets a few chilling words in before she throws her punch, “Oh, we’re going to find you, sensei. Cha!”
The rule is Kakashi must only be unmasked when in the presence of his Hokage.
Which means, Kakashi just has to avoid the Hokage.
Fortunately, Naruto isn’t so childish as to send every shinobi in his massive arsenal to find Kakashi and summon him again, but that could be equal parts brain and equal parts stubbornness to be the one to find his teacher.
His second clone, disguised as a civilian grocery shopping, does manage to catch the words of the InoShikaCho trio, who are also out and about. The three of them together isn’t an unusual occurrence, but Kakashi knows from listening to Sakura’s grumblings about no free time that they haven’t had much opportunity to gather together. It’s a bit too much of a coincidence for them to come together now of all times.
“What a drag,” Shikamaru sighs, and despite the capable Jounin commander he has grown to be, Kakashi still thinks fondly of Asuma’s old lazy student. He’s sharp, and Kakashi knows his clone has been caught out. Probably because Ino is using a low level empathy technique to screen through the area surrounding her.
He moves to walk away, unsurprised when Choiji appears before him, taller than Kakashi now and easily more imposing with his bulk blocking his way.
“Young man, can I help you?” Kakashi asks with an altered voice, playing up the old man persona he has donned.
“Yes, you can, sensei! Naruto-kun err Hokage-sama wants to see you!”
“Maa maa, I think you’ve mistaken me, young fellow. More nutrition for your brain, not your belly!” Kakashi crows, patting the young jonin’s belly with his cane for emphasis and then immediately moving out of the way instinctively when the tell tale tick forms on Choiji’s head.
“Who are you calling fat!?”
“Choiji,” Ino yells at him, but it’s a bit too late. Deftly springing away from the shadow weaving its way towards him, Kakashi dispels his clone when Ino attempts to invade his mind to find his true location.
“Try, a bit harder time, youngins,” Kakashi cheerfully says before dispelling.
Not before he catches a silent Sasuke perched atop the rooftop, eyes fixated on his disappearing clone. Kakashi waves, and disappears.
It’s been about two hours now, and Kakashi rightfully has his guard up. He is known as the best tracker of his generation and knows exactly what to do to make espionage work for him.
His cute team hasn’t found him yet but that maybe just because they aren’t trying yet. A waiting game perhaps? Unlikely, Naruto and Sakura have never quite grown out of their impatience and Sasuke always goes for what he wants without hesitation.
So they’re planning something.
“They haven’t lost even a bit of their bratiness, sensei,” Kakashi says to the memorial stone, tone of voice just shy of an outright whine. He can imagine Obito snickering right beside Mintao-sensei, words like ‘serves you right’ spewing from his mouth as Rin tries to calm him down.
Sighing as he feels the presence of another familiar team draw closer, Kakashi looks forlornly at the Memorial Stone in front of him. He’s already placed his incense in the larger memorial stone behind it, one dedicated to the war heroes of the Fourth War. He’s surprised he even got as much time as he has, making his peace, but while his team are still brats, they aren’t immature.
“He’s a clone, Kiba,” Hinata’s soft voice warns just a few feet away and Kakashi rolls his eyes at Kiba’s impatient growl.
“Doesn’t matter, we’ll just use his clone to track where the real him is. I’m gonna beat that stupid Naruto errr Hokage-sama,” Kiba yells loudly.
Talking to the stone, Kakashi calmly places his hands together to end his session of prayer, “Don’t worry, sensei. The future is in good hands.”
He doesn’t even get a chance to sweatdrop in irony because a second later an overambitious Akamaru pounces on him, sharp teeth digging into his clone’s shoulders only to yip in surprise when Kakashi dispels.
“Kiba!” Hinata yells, right when Kiba yells, “Akamaru! Bad boy!”
Shino stands silently off to the side, staring mournfully at the bright yellow chakra bug that was only a few centimetres from where clone-Kakashi had been sitting.
Kakashi is a bit disappointed he doesn’t get to leave without a parting shot, but he can imagine the way that Obito, Rin and sensei are groaning in disappointment.
TenTen finds his other clone at Gai’s place, and Kakashi is actually glad to dispel. He can only take so much of his best friend slash rival going on about the passionate youth and how hip and cool Kakashi is while subtly trying to snatch Kakashi’s mask down himself.
He doesn’t feel bad about using an Earth jutsu to trap Gai in the ground. Knowing Gai, he’d take it as a training exercise.
Sai and Tenzou, now that gives Kakashi a bit of pause from where his clone rests on the top of Hokage mountain.
The years have made their teamwork exceptionally scary, and Kakashi never had to be on the other side of it before.
Kakashi senses them approaching – well more accurately he senses the hundreds of chakra created snakes slithering on the ground approaching.
Sai has gotten good at finding ways around sensory types, and the chakra level of his scroll beasts are at the same level as the man himself.
If not for the minute shuffling of the ground beneath him, he may not have been able to dodge Tenzou as he uses Kakashi’s Earth ground hog jutsu to spring from the ground under his feet.
Kakashi jumps out of the way, kicking off the ink snakes as he leaps. He lands on a tree and instantly realizes his mistake when the Tenzou on the ground disappears.
“Caught you, senpai,” Tenzou murmurs from behind him, in a deadly scary voice. Kakashi shudders at the tone and his fight-or-flight instinct turns on immediately. He tries to jump down but wood is already curling around his ankles and wrists, and Tenzou grabs his waist in a grappling hold for good measure.
Kakashi reaches in for a bit of chakra to cut through the wood only to wince when a chakra snake bites into the exposed skin of his forearm, hitting a chakra point to keep the budding chidori at bay.
“Kakashi-sensei, I’ve read that it is socially unacceptable to leave your friends waiting,” Sai says with his firmly placed smile, coming up on the tree in front of Kakashi. “It’s also considered a capital offence to disobey the Hokage.”
“Maa,” Kakashi says with a returning smile, “Surely Hokage-sama can forgive his old favourite teacher?”
Tenzou grumbles behind him, “Favourite teacher, my ass.”
“ You do have a hot ass, Tenzou,” Kakashi says innocently and revels in the way his little kouhai splutters in embarrassment.
“Kakashi-sensei, there is no use trying to dispel. I am blocking those chakra access points, so you cannot will yourself away.”
This gets Kakashi to smile predatorily, “You’re right, Sai-kun. Make sure to put out the fire on Tenzou’s ass, okay?”
He takes a moment to enjoy the look of confusion on his former student’s face before he shuffles his foot a few centimeters to the right, showing off the paper bomb he placed on the tree.
“Holy fuc-” Is the last thing Kakashi hears before the clone dispels in the resulting explosion.
He gives his students credit, they are already waiting for him on Training Ground 3 when he enters the field. Naruto may not want to call forward all the shinobi at his disposal, but the man is a literal army himself. Kakashi had been herded by multiple clones running through the city to the familiar training grounds.
Naruto leans against the post he had been tied too nearly thirteen years ago. Sasuke ever present on his left, and Sakura a menacing force on his right. He feels a flush of pride at the way his students stand tall and proud, nothing like the children they had been when he first met them.
“Yo,” Kakashi says with a wave.
“You’re late!” Sakura and Naruto yell immediately, pointing a finger at him. Sasuke ‘hns’ at the side, but even his eyes are glaring slightly at Kakashi.
“That would imply I had somewhere to be, and last I checked I am avoiding my little menaces.” Kakashi slouches, trying hard not to pout. All around the field, Kakashi can sense Naruto’s clones, glinting eyes and all.
He shudders. There is no escaping this time.
Sakura cracks her knuckles in a way that has Kakashi sweating, and Naruto instinctively flinches and curls closer to Sasuke.
“S-Sakura-chan - ” Naruto starts to say hesitantly but Sakura isn’t having any of that.
“ You’re in the presence of the Hokage, Kakashi-sensei,” Sakura smirks, pulling out her gloves even and rotating her wrists to stretch them out.
Sasuke pushes Naruto off him, standing tall but shuffling his feet into a battle ready stance. His one arm hovers close to the hilt of his sword.
Naruto’s blue eyes flit between his two teammates, the casting sundown making them appear purple and vibrant even as a full blown grin stretches over his face. “Well, I guess a good Hokage will lead by example, right, Kaka-sensei? Gotta make sure my shinobi know they have to listen to my rules!”
Kakashi’s heart warms at the sight before him, even as his adrenaline starts to spike. Withdrawing his hand from his pocket, he lets the clinking sound of the bells give away what he has in hand before he dangles them in front of him, letting the amber light reflect off the polished silver.
“Until sunset,” Kakashi tells them warmly. “If I win, you burn the decree?”
But Kakashi already knows he has a better chance of facing down a revived Kaguya than besting these three and the determination in their eyes proves it.
He’s still got it, even after all these years. He manages to keep pace with his little terrors until just before the sun sets, eventually pinned under an exasperated Susanoo arm and two of the nine chakra tails, all inside the crater Sakura created.
“Isn’t this a little overboard?” Kakashi wheezes underneath the combined weight.
“Can’t underestimate a former Kage,” Naruto chirps far too cheerily. The brat isn’t even out of breath.
Kakashi inhales trying to get out another parting shot, only for Sasuke to interrupt.
“He’s trying to distract you, dobe.”
Naruto glares at Sasuke. “I know that, teme! Kaka-sensei taught me everything I know, so I’m perfectly aware he’s going to try and get us to fight each other.”
Sakura gives a low whistle and hi-fives Naruto.
Kakashi groans, head slumping back in defeat.
“ No respect for your old teacher? Don’t want to keep the mystery going?” Kakashi asks in a last ditch effort.
“Naruto,” Sasuke and Sakura call together, both nodding their heads at their teammate.
Naruto gives Kakashi a shit-eating grin. “No more mysteries, Kaka-sensei.”
And with that, Naruto reaches out a hand and tugs down his mask.
Kakashi isn’t prepared for when both chakra constructs pinning him up against the rock wall suddenly disappear. He slumps down to the ground, grunting and pouting up at his kids. “Be more gentle with the old man.”
Except none of them are looking at him.
Kakashi looks in confusion towards Sasuke’s turned back. The broody adult is tense, fists by his side. Kakashi could swear the tips of his ears are red. Naruto is as still as a statue, technically looking at him but with a stare so vacant, Kakashi hasn’t to wonder where his brain went. Sakura’s is fighting hard not to look him in the eye, a hand cupped over her nose and mouth and Kakashi can scent the blood.
“You guys okay?” Kakashi hesitantly asks after too long a silence.
Naruto breaks out of his stupor just in time to wail, loudly, “That’s not fair! Why are you hot!? You can’t be hot! You’re like my older brother! Oh my god, you’re my sensei! Why are you attractive!? Why do I want to push you down? Sasuke fucking punch me!”
Kakashi watches in confusion as Sasuke tries to turn his head only to whip it back to stare at the horizon.
“Sakura-chan?” Naruto cries out helplessly, only for Sakura to miss her punch and end up hitting the ground next to Naruto. Naruto yells, falling forward and it’s pure instinct that has Kakashi reaching forward to catch his student.
Naruto looks up at him with wide, watery eyes that look like they’re twitching. Just as Kakashi’s about to ask if he’s okay, the eyes suddenly transform, much to a wailing Naruto’s regret. Heart shaped eyes stare back at him.
What the fuck.
“Pull up your mask, sensei!” Sasuke yells, and more than the panic in his voice, it’s Sasuke addressing him as ‘sensei’ that gets Kakashi to comply.
He tugs up his mask just in time to avoid Naruto leaning too close to him, suspiciously like he’s about to kiss him. Eyebrow raised, Kakashi tips Naruto backwards, wondering briefly if that counts as assault against the Hokage.
Naruto snaps out of it just as Sakura grabs him by the collar, shaking him violently. Sasuke turns around just in time to grab them both. Before Kakashi can blink, all three of his students are gone.
He stares at the silver bells in his hand in confusion. Well, that wasn’t what he was expecting.
He’s called into the Hokage’s office the next day.
As before, Sakura and Sasuke are in attendance but unlike before, no one is meeting his eyes.
“You called, Hokage-sama?” Kakashi drawls behind his book.
“Yeah, four hours ago,” Naruto mutters under his breath but Sakura’s nudge to his head makes him snap out of it.
Naruto coughs. “There have been a few amendments to the new act. We’ve arranged provisions to make sure any and all former Kage’s have the full right to remain masked when in the Hokage’s presence. In fact, it will be enforced beyond just the Hokage presence. Kakashi-sensei, you are hereby not allowed to remove your mask. Ever. If anyone tries to touch you, tell us and we will slaughter – I mean, take care of the issue diplomatically.”
“Maa, okay,” Kakashi agrees, shrugging. He hardly ever takes off his mask anyway. If he does want to, it’s not like his cute little students will be able to keep track of him all the time.
Naruto brightens visibly. “Great. Now next order of business. I want ramen!”
And so it goes. Just another typical day under Naruto’s flourishing rule. Kakashi couldn’t be more proud.