"I noticed you've been spending a lot more time with Maito Gai lately," Minato says.
Kakashi looks up at him, tilts his head and the sunshine catches on his hitai-ate. It's only a dull shine, nothing like the fresh, almost polished looks of Rin and Obito's, but it still spikes a pang of regret through Minato.
He's glad Kakashi is so determined to serve the village, so dutiful and hardworking, but the root cause... and the lack of childhood...
But Sakumo had put Kakashi into the academy and Sakumo had allowed him to graduate early. Minato can only do the best with the situation he's been given.
Kakashi's lips have moved under his thin black mask frowning or twisting with displeasure, like he's unhappy Minato has noticed. It almost makes Minato feel bad for mentioning it, for poking and prodding into Kakashi's life, but someone has to and there's no one left to do it for Kakashi.
"We've been training," Kakashi says. And then he blinks, slowly, like a cat that's decided it's safe and comfortable, and adds: "Gai is going to be stronger than me."
"Is that so?" Minato keeps his tone contemplative, his shock suppressed. Only last month Kakashi had been snubbing Maito Gai at every turn, sometimes so harshly Minato had expected it might come to tears or blood or both. Whenever Minato had tried to take him to task for it, Kakashi's response had always been a very blunt, I'm not saying anything that's not objectively true.
Kakashi nods. Simple. Direct. No more elaboration.
This new information is enough to mull over for now, so Minato doesn't continue to pry, content to let Kakashi have his much-valued privacy.
They move through their usual routines, stretching and then sparring until first Rin and then Obito arrive at the training field for team training, followed by a D-rank or two.
At the end of the day, it strikes Minato that Kakashi also hasn't been telling Obito off for his frequent tardiness lately, and soon after he watches a very peculiar exchange between the team
It starts out normally enough:
"I'm sorry, I have clan training," Rin says when Obito says they should treck back out to Team 7's training field to continue to practice the skills they'd been working on together that morning.
"Oh," Obito says, shoulders slumping. "Okay, maybe tomorrow?"
"Yeah!" Rin agrees. "I'll pack us a picnic dinner."
"If you want to train," Kakashi says, "Maito Gai is waiting at for me at his team's training grounds."
A complex look crosses Obito's face as he tries to decide how to take that, and when his face clears he scowls and says, "You're just making him wait for you? And you think you can just send me—"
"I'm also going," Kakashi interrupts. "Gai's training ends earlier. Do you want to train or not?"
"Fine, I do!" Obito bites out, like the question was a challenge. "Let's go!"
He marches off, confidently, in the wrong direction to reach Team Chōza's training field. Kakashi shoots Minato a long-suffering look, as if this isn't possibly the first post-training conversation Obito and Kakashi have ever had, and then wanders off after him, hands in his pockets, looking for all the world like he's content to tail Obito a few meters back until Obito realizes he has no idea where he's going.
It's bizarre. It's almost unsettling. But it's also undeniably exactly what Minato wanted Kakashi to get out of having a team.
Maybe he's growing up.