AN: So, here we are. This takes place as Kakashi comes home after Wide grey skies, and although this might technically be able to stand alone, I'd recommend starting there. It's a crossover where Kakashi gets to know Hermione Granger, but I don't think much knowledge of the Harry Potter universe is needed to enjoy it. Also, while that is a crossover, I don't plan on telling any of this from Kakashi's perspective (although my plans have been known to fail in the past); therefore, I didn't mark this as a crossover. It will strictly remain in the Naruto universe for the time being.

In my mind, this is sort of an in-between piece. I can't say how long it'll turn out, but I have some scenes I'd like to write like this, so I expect it to be at least a couple of chapters. As hard as it is to write new characters, it's also a great deal of fun. Especially watching Kakashi through new eyes, belonging to people who knows him, yet doesn't know him at all.

Don't worry though, I won't be able to stay away from doing Kakashi and/or Hermione for long, and their POVs will be back. Maybe in separate stories to this one, but in that case I'll make sure to mention it in an AN, for those of you who don't follow me as an author.

Lots of love!


Sakura sits bent over the corner desk in the Hokage's office, searching through books and scrolls. The fact that she's a great medical-nin and Tsunade's student doesn't mean she can't get better. If she's ever going to live up to her master, she needs to push boundaries. Which means research. She's really very lucky that Tsunade lets her stay underfoot, where she can occasionally bounce ideas off of her. Although, the gleam in the Hokage's eyes as they throw arguments back and forth in rapid concession insinuates her allowing Sakura in the room is not entirely altruistic.

Later, she's going to wonder if Tsunade knows who will drop by, unannounced but for a short knock on the closed door. If she had an inkling that it'd be today, and kept Sakura here for that reason alone. Kakashi's been gone for the better part of a year, close to an eternity with everything that's been going on, and even Naruto's given up on pestering Tsunade about it. 'Long-term mission,' was all they ever found out: S-ranked, details on a strict need-to-know basis. It was unfair, Naruto had raged, Kakashi had done enough, had earnt some time off, and Sakura had quietly agreed with him. Not that there was a lot of time off to be had in the village either.

The knock, when it comes, is answered vocally, Tsunade's raised voice as she calls out for whomever it is to enter bounces off the walls of the room. She has a way of producing a lot of volume, without shouting, that Sakura wishes she could reproduce. It's a thought forgotten as she sees who steps into the room.

"Kakashi-sensei," Sakura can't help but call out. She gets a raised eyebrow in return, an unimpressed look, and a poorly hidden smile.

"Hokage-sama," Kakashi greets their superior, "Sakura," he turns to her.

There are no obvious injuries, Sakura catalogues, he moves and holds himself as he usually does. A slight weariness, perhaps, but then again; his feet and lower legs are covered in dust and a backpack is still hanging off his shoulder. "You just got back?" Sakura poses it as a question, for forms sake.

"Yep," Kakashi answers, his hands pushed into pockets and posture relaxed. "Figured I should get this whole reporting in business done so I can call it a day." Sakura glances at the clock.

"It's only just past five," she says, as if he'd need telling. Maybe he's spent more chakra than he lets on. It would be like him.

"For you maybe," Kakashi shrugs, "but not for me." It's cryptic, and clearly all she's getting because Kakashi turns to Tsunade.

For a few seconds, they do nothing but stare at each other. Tsunade sits with her chin rested on her hand, Kakashi stands stock still, and Sakura's sure none of them so much as blink. The intensity of it ends with a sigh from Kakashi, his shoulder sinking a centimetre they don't regain. "So," Tsunade says when Kakashi stays silent, "how did it go?" For someone who can be both blunt and fierce, her tone is on the mindful side, and Sakura finds herself wondering about the nature of this conversation. They're not of the same stature, there is only one Hokage at any given time, but everyone knows the hat will pass to Kakashi. Soon. And Tsunade isn't normally one to tread carefully. It raises a lot of red flags regarding the nature of Kakashi's mission.

"Depends on your definition of successful," Kakashi answers, "but it's completed." There's something in his tone Sakura can't read, something passing between Tsunade and Kakashi she's not meant to get.

Silence falls again, although this time it's searching rather than tense. "I didn't," Tsunade starts, but Kakashi cuts her off.

"I know," he says. Then, as serious as Sakura's ever heard him outside of battle: "Thank you."

Sakura catches the widening of her master's eyes; Tsunade wasn't expecting that. It makes the whole conversation even harder for Sakura to grasp. Kakashi shouldn't be thanking Tsunade for being sent on a rough mission, should he? But it sure wasn't an easy one either, given his earlier answer.

Sakura's missing something here. She doesn't like it.

"Don't mention it, brat," Tsunade tells him, and Sakura bets Kakashi knows she only talks like that to people she likes.

"There was a complication," Kakashi says, "a set of individuals I hadn't expected." He's back to his normal, carefree, vague, self; whatever they were talking about before laid aside. "But I think this is a thing best discussed in private." He glances at Sakura, and at a corner of the room that Sakura realizes holds an Anbu guard.

"Leave us," Tsunade orders, waving a hand, and Sakura stands. She can't understand why they had that whole circumventing conversation in the first place if they were going to throw people out afterwards. Although, given the participants maybe that's why they did it that way; they didn't actually have to say much to each other, did they? At least not about the parts that was clearly delicate for whatever reason. They could simply hint, stare in silence, and be as nondescript as they wanted while blaming it on the presence of others. Sakura knows out of experience that Kakashi's an expert at that, and Tsunade's not far behind to be honest.

"Oh, and Sakura," Kakashi adds as she's about to step out, "please let Naruto know that if decides not to wait until tomorrow, but rather come and wake me up, there will be pain." There's a politeness to his voice that Sakura's learnt to watch out for. Combined with a promise of pain rather than death (which they all know he wouldn't dole out), it's a threat to be taken seriously. Not that that's ever been guaranteed to stop Naruto.

"Will do," she tacks on a, "Kakashi-sensei," to be on the safe side. "See you," she finishes off, before exiting and closing the door. Work will have to wait. If she doesn't track down Naruto straight away, he's going to be pissed.

.oOo.

Naruto can't withstand the temptation. It's been long since, but he spent a lot of time as a kid trying to get the jump on his sensei, and he has missed the man, alright? Of course, it's doomed to fail. Even with his nose buried in a book Kakashi-sensei senses the two clones coming in from behind while one runs diversion up front. He's fast too, in a way Naruto still hasn't managed to take after, stabbing all three of them with a kunai in the blink of an eye. Which; ouch.

Dropping down from his perch in a tree, Naruto's grinning despite the memory of the blade. "Oi," he calls out, "what if that hadn't been clones?"

Kakashi throws a glance at him over the top of his book. "Well," he says, "you're not stupid, are you?" Pausing, he cocks his head, hums under his breath. "Sorry," Kakashi's voice is dry, "my mistake."

"Hey," Naruto shoves at an unrelenting shoulder, "that's rude. And here I was coming to welcome you back and everything." Falling into step next to his old sensei, Naruto keeps the conversation going without waiting for an answer. "You've missed a lot," he tells Kakashi, "I mean, as you can see the village was rebuilt all the way, and Ichiraku's opened properly again, with Teuchi-san giving away free ramen to celebrate. It was the best day ever." Taking a breath, Naruto looks around. "Where are we headed?"

They're in a part of town he doesn't know very well, and he'd found his way here guided by Kakashi's chakra alone. Before he left, Naruto knows Kakashi said they didn't have to hold his apartment for him, not when it was soon to be finished and people were still in temporary shelters. Maybe he lives in these parts for now, before he moves into the Hokage residence in a few weeks.

"I don't know about you," Kakashi says, "but I'm going for lunch."

"It's ten o'clock," Naruto feels the need to point out, but then again, "I could eat."

The chuckle it earns him is not unexpected, neither is the way Kakashi flips his book closed and shoves his hands into his pockets. "I'm sure you could," he says. "And I'm sure you'll fill me in on all the gossip along the way, whether I want it or not." It's an invitation, despite the way it's phrased and how Kakashi's tone pretends to be suffering.

"I so am," Naruto tells him, "believe me!" He takes a second to mentally sort through what Kakashi-sensei might find more important, and starts there. "Gai's finally out of the hospital," he says, his good mood momentarily dimmed. The man survived, he was able to do that much, but, "he's in a wheelchair. They can't fix his legs."

A sigh escapes Kakashi, and he glances at Naruto for a second before focusing back on the road. "They were pulverized," he points out, "everyone knew there was nothing to do."

"I know," Naruto acknowledges. "Bushy brows tells me he's taking it well though, he's back to training some kind of taijutsu that can be done supported by crutches."

Kakashi looks heavenward. "Why am I not surprised?" he says.

"I know, right!" It's amazing, Naruto thinks, how that man never gives up. That's some real strength right there. "Apart from that," he continues, "I'm taking the chūnin exam in November, since there wasn't one this spring. I told baachan she could just promote me, you know, but she refused. She was real stingy about it too."

An eyebrow is lifted, and Naruto can see he succeeded in stopping Kakashi from brooding about Gai. "And she made sure it's when I'm Hokage too," Kakashi points out. "If you tear down the arena or any such nonsense, you'll never get your promotion, are we clear?"

Naruto pushes his hands into his pockets and smiles as innocently as he can. "I'll be on my best behaviour," he says, "I promise."

"We'll see about that," Kakashi answers. He doesn't look convinced.

"Sakura will be entering the jōnin track soon," Naruto continues, having saved the best bit. "She's really awesome, you know."

"You did good," Kakashi peers at Naruto with uncommon sincerity, "both of you."

There's not been many stable points in Naruto's life. Iruka of course, always. Jiraya, when he was around. Tsunade, to some point. And Kakashi. Because friends are friends, but these people have something more, and it's not only sheer age difference. It makes Kakashi's words now far more important than if they were uttered by just about anyone else. They make Naruto feel light inside.

"I heard about Sasuke," Kakashi says not many steps down the street later. Naruto stops to take a breath, the lightness suddenly overtaken by something less pleasant.

"It's only temporary," Naruto says in defence. "he'll be back once he's cleared his mind." He has to, because even now there's a piece of Naruto's soul connected to the bastard. A band as absolute as history itself tying them together, and they both know it now. Sasuke will get his time, although Naruto has decided it's absolutely not allowed to go on for more than 18 months. After that he'll follow the string pulling at him, and go drag the idiot home. He's already beaten him once, he thinks, forming a fist with the hand Tsunade crafted him, he can do so again.

"I'm sure he will," Kakashi agrees easily. Naruto nods sharply and forces any lingering doubt out of his mind. He's got better things to focus on, like his sensei being back.

"Did you know," Naruto brings them back to easier grounds, "Tsunade had me go see Gaara, all official like? It was the best. I stayed in Suna for weeks, and hung out with Gaara, and got paid for it. Diplomatic missions are amazing. Put that in my file will you; send on diplomatic mission to Suna at least once a year, preferably in wintertime."

Lunch turns out to not be ramen, but Naruto can't find it in himself to complain too much. Not after Kakashi shakes the discussion off with the fact that he hasn't gone this long without proper rice to not get it now. It is a small something about Kakashi's mysterious mission. That and the way he adds he was so far away the sun didn't set. Naruto isn't that easy to fool though, he's older than that now; there are no places where the sun doesn't set.

They wolf down gyūdon, and the book Kakashi hides behind is new. It's written in some weird language Naruto thinks his sensei is only pretending to understand. All of these oddities make him crazy curious about what the mission contained. What kind of long-term S-ranked placement requires all these evasive hints of having been somewhere completely beyond the normal world? And who does Kakashi think he's fooling either way?

The next odd thing Kakashi says about his mission is that he's been lazy – technically possible if it was a scouting or surveillance missions, but Naruto doesn't see why then; why Kakashi? – and that he needs to whip himself back into shape. Naruto is not ashamed that he jumps and punches the air when he realizes that means training. Since Sasuke left there aren't many in the village who stand a chance against Naruto in a one on one fight. At least if he uses his sage mode. With Kakashi back and wanting to hone his skills Naruto's chance at fun spars just grew exponentially.

And it is fun. It's so much fun. The better he himself gets; the more Naruto can appreciate the sure genius of his sensei. Kakashi can rival Lee on speed, can stand his ground against Shikamaru when it comes to strategy, and if there'd be rules to their spar, he'd probably cheat more than Naruto. Not to mention the sheer amount of various ninjutsu he keeps using. The Copy ninja indeed.

"You're lucky I'm jetlagged." Kakashi's winded as they finally come to a standstill, Naruto's kunai pressed against the skin over his jugular, "you need to sharpen your attacks, keep better track of your surroundings."

"You're lucky Kurama is grumpy and unhelpful when he's sleeping," Naruto answers, feeling giddy all the way down to his toes, despite Kurama's brush-off. "This would have been finished a long time ago otherwise." Kakashi's only answer is a raised eyebrow. "Do you yield?" Naruto asks, for the third time. This question has been answered by Kakashi turning into a log twice already. The man's slippery.

Turns out third time really is the charm. Kakashi cocks his head and pushes his hands into his pockets. "Yes," he says.

Naruto's victory dance is interrupted by a lightning fast hand whipping out to slap the back of his head. "What?" he questions, "I'm allowed to celebrate. I'm practically Hokage now, you know." Naruto points at his chest with his thumb. "If I can beat you, then they can't keep me back much longer." Kakashi-sensei won't take offence at Naruto's aspiration to get his hat, Naruto knows. He's already said he's only holding it until Naruto's grown into it. Which is ridiculous; Naruto is strong, and only half a year younger than Gaara.

"Pass your chūnin exam first," Kakashi tells him with an eyebrow raised, his voice dry, "and get some experience as an actual leader, and then we can talk."

"I will," Naruto tells him, "believe it!" He stretches his arm out, holding his thumb up, and smiles widely.

Kakashi bring a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose as his eyes close. "Not you too," he says.

Laughing, Naruto gives the other man a push in the direction of the village. "Come on," he orders, "I'm hungry. Time for second lunch, which is ramen. And since I won you're paying." The way Kakashi grumbles is in no way a refusal.

It's good to have his sensei and friend back, Naruto thinks. Kakashi is uncomplicated and steady. He knows how to let things be and focus on the here and now. Naruto likes people like that.