Disclaimer: Obviously, nothing except the plot belongs to me.

Title: Heartbeat: A Bird in the Hand

Category/Rating: PG (for yaoi suggestiveness)

Pairing: Minato x Kakashi

Summary: Jiraiya paused to pin his student with a penetrating stare. "Can you give him the unconditional, nurturing love of a father, and the equal, passionate love of a man?"

Heartbeat: A Bird in the Hand

By: Falling Right Side-Up

Jiraiya walked down the well-trodden path towards the training fields where he'd agreed beforehand to meet his former student. As he approached, he caught sight of Minato standing on a small rock cliff overlooking the rest of the training grounds, broad shouldered and clad in his jounin uniform, untamable blond hair glinting in the sun.

He thought briefly of calling out a greeting but froze upon seeing Minato's intense expression, blue eyes focused on a clearing several training grounds below him. Jiraiya followed his student's riveted gaze and grimaced.

"I told you not to go borrowing trouble."

For a few tense moments there was no response, until, finally, the blond jounin turned his head slowly to face his former-teacher. Yet Jiraiya could see even that was a struggle for Minato, whose eyes seemed to waver just a bit, sliding off his teacher and towards the clearing again.

"That kid is troublesome," the toad-sannin continued. This time, the blond jounin snorted and turned his gaze fully upon Jiraiya, his hands tucked carelessly into his pockets.

"You said the same about me," Minato easily retorted, a rueful expression on his face.

Sighing, the older man raked a hand through his long hair, eyes briefly closed in consternation. When his eyes opened, Minato was once again facing the other way.

With a quite "Che," the sannin stepped up to his student's side to observe the object of the blond's fascination. The grimace on Jiraiya's face became more severe.

The clearing flashed of silver and black; a quicksilver little figure in perpetual, deadly motion. Deceptively small, fragile limbs struck out in lethal execution and the piercing, whistling sound of shuriken cutting wind and violently splitting open wood made an incongruous scene. So very other-worldly, to know the eerily suffocating aura of killing intent belonged to a small boy who had yet to kill, who had yet to step upon a true battlefield.

To Hatake Kakashi, the strangely captivating, prodigious son of the disgraced White Fang.

A heavy stone of dread and fatalism settled in the sannin's chest. He'd hoped that his obnoxious apprentice wouldn't be like the others, falling prey to this bizarre fascination towards the brat. Jiraiya, by no means, held any ill will towards the child, but whoever chose to act on their curiosity was bound to suffer.

Jiraiya clapped a heavy hand upon Minato's shoulder, roughly turning the young man to face him. "It's a different kind of troublesome."

A fine golden brow rose as if to ask, "How so?"

"Don't think I don't know what you're thinking, what you're starting to feel about the kid," the older man accused, poking a finger painfully into Minato's chest. The blond stumbled back, a hand jerking up to massage his chest, appearing as a strange parody of a man clutching his broken-heart. He grimaced, eyes wary with confusion as he looked at his teacher.

"Do you think you can love him?" Jiraiya asked without any inflection, leaving Minato to wonder whether his teacher was jesting. The question left the blond jounin gaping, unsure as to where the conversation was heading, and unclear as to his answer.

"You can't," his teacher answered bluntly in Minato's place. Even though Minato himself hadn't known the answer, the absolute finality and trace of pity in the sannin's voice flustered him, making him grasp for some contrary retort.

Jiraiya raised a hand, stopping any comment in its tracks. "You don't understand. That kid, you can't treat him like a child, and you can't treat him like an adult. It's always going to have to be a mix, a balance of the two until he's fixed. And fixing him is another battle altogether." The sannin let out a gusty sigh, one large hand pinching the bridge of his nose, the other settled on his hip.

"The point is this. You can't just approach him with some vague fascination. That won't help you or him," Jiraiya paused to pin his student with a penetrating stare. "Can you give him the unconditional, nurturing love of a father, and the equal, passionate love of a man?"

Minato jerked back with wide blue eyes, once again flustered and agitated. He turned away without answering and leaped into the trees, away from the questions and his teacher's accusations.

The sannin grimaced, glancing in the direction of his student's retreat and then in the direction where the small boy was still training, ignorant of the conflict he was causing between a student and his master and inside a young man's heart. Jiraiya gave one last regretful sigh and turned away to walk back towards the town, washing his hands of the long struggle that was sure to begin.

He'd hoped that his only student wouldn't fall prey to this strange fascination. But he already knew what Minato's answer would be, even if Minato didn't.

Jiraiya could only hope it wouldn't destroy them both.

AN: Just a drabble I had floating around. I thought I might post something in the interrim while everyone is awaiting the next update of "As the Last Candle Burns." It's coming soon, it really is! I'm just having trouble making the reunion scene between Naruto and Kakashi perfect. But have no fears, it's coming soon for your reading pleasure.

On another note, how's my hand at Minato x Kakashi? I've been thinking of starting another fic with this pairing, so drop a review/flame if you want telling me what you think.

In the mean time, Happy Soon-to-be New Years!