There's a man in Konohagakure.
He works in a tea shop that sells standard and unique teas, as well as serving them hot with freshly made snacks. His servings are delicious and his clientele devoted.
He's a strange man, however, quite unlike both the civilian man and those who are ninja.
Hatake Kakashi has known this man most of his life, in fact. Since he was 5, not long after his father's death and his graduation from the academy. He remembers the day they met vividly.
Kakashi had just left the meeting with his new Jonin instructor and his new teammates. Now he stands by the river atop a bridge, having been drawn away from his usual path home.
He looks through the bars at the water, contemplative and completely lost in his thoughts.
So he startles badly when someone taps his shoulder. It's only by some miracle that he doesn't immediately stab them. He turns his head so fast his neck cracks, then looks up.
A man stands next to him and he starts to document this stranger. Around 160 cm in height, more so the average height of a woman than a man, but while softer, his features are distinctly male. Neat, traditional kimono that looks simple but is obviously finely made if one knows what to look for. Rather pale skin and an odd facial structure. Fluffy black hair and bright green eyes looking at him with patient amusement.
Kakashi blinks at this. He knows his analyzation only took a moment, so he wonders why the stranger looks so amused. A moment passes before he realizes he must have been standing there for a while.
The boy clears his throat and manages a soft hello.
The man obviously wants to coo and Kakashi's scowl turns back to a neutral expression when the man doesn't act on it.
"You have me at a disadvantage. May I know your name, ketō-san?"
He hums, "Call me Hari." Kakashi blinks rather disbelievingly and Hari chuckles. "Now then, Hatake-kun, I was wondering if you would do me a favor."
He frowns, suspicious, and glowers when Hari just laughs. "Don't worry, nothing untoward, I promise. I've submitted a D-rank request to the Hokage and I was hoping you would be interested in your team taking it on."
Such an odd request, as well as being suspicious. "What is the request?"
"That's the funny thing, actually." Suddenly Hari looks, of all things, bashful . "You see, I'm quite new here and only recently was declared a citizen. Basically I need help settling in."
"I can see why you might need help, but why a genin team?"
"Oh!" Hari brightens, "I'm setting up a shop!"
"Ah," Kakashi nods. "Okay, but why us?" Why me?
Hari smiles a little mysterious smile, "Because I saw you here on this bridge and for a moment, I saw someone familiar."
That's not all that's strange about Hari, and there are many things.
Kakashi remembers every moment of his teammates' deaths. He remembers every move and feeling and more. But it didn't matter. He kept it all locked inside. He is a ninja.
But the first time he walks into Hari's shop, he lays eyes on the man and his uncovered dark eye meets bright green and the next thing he knows he's crying. He doesn't remember much else, just being alone with Hari and crying and crying with Hari humming softly and holding him gently, rubbing his back. His mask and hitai-ate are off and his face is buried in a soft towel. Later he will learn that most of the day had passed but it didn't matter when he was wrapped up in Hari's arms.
To this day he isn't sure what set him off but when he remembers how Hari looked at him, how he didn't look at Kakashi with anger or pity or shame or any such thing...
He looked like… like he knew.
And that worries him.
Another strange thing is that Hari's busy shop is always empty when he needs it to be. No customers in the shop or waiting outside the door. No one but them.
Kakashi lingers outside the tea shop, shuffling his feet in the subtle way ninja do when they're nervous. He's nearly 17 now and he…
Then startles slightly when the door opens.
"Kakashi? What are you doing, lingering out here? Come in, come in!"
He does, because there is no resisting Hari.
He enters, speaking the traditional greeting and hesitates at one of the tables. He watches Hari move around as gracefully as a ninja, though perhaps in a different way. More like a professional dancer.
It's something he's always admired about Hari.
He eventually takes a seat and Hari comes right over with his usual jasmine tea and three sticks of dango. Also as usual when there are no other guests, Hari sits down across from him.
"How are you doing, Kakashi-kun?"
He takes a small sip of the tea and stares at the bottom of his cup, trying to make something of the granules floating there. "I'm fine."
Hari hums, clearly knowing otherwise but not saying anything. He leans forward, resting his chin in his hands. Silence lingers between them and while comfortable, it feels almost anticipatory.
He's been jonin for 4 years now and 3 since he killed Rin and Obito died. He's moving up the ranks of ANBU quickly but he knows that while he's improving in most every way, he isn't handling his emotions well.
He looks up to Hari, seeing that the man has his eyes closed and is humming softly. Kakashi let's it soothe him, embracing the moment.
Unknowing it would be a long while before they could do this again.
Hari did things sometimes. He would do amazing, life changing things and…
No one would remember them or know of them.
No one but him.
The battle was brutal, bodies everywhere and the towering form of the beast sending others running. The town is in chaos and when the Kyuubi starts retreating, of all things, Kakashi catches a glimpse of something.
Hari. Hidden in an intact alcove, staring at the beast, one hand raised to waist height and glowing blue. Suddenly he realizes and turns to the Kyuubi. There are thin, almost invisible glowing, blue threads encircling the beast's neck and ankles.
Was he inhibiting it in some way? What was he doing?
Then Hari looks over to him and they make eye contact. Hari smiles and raises his free hand to place a finger over his lips in a shushing gesture.
He is distracted after that, pursuing the beast. But what frustrates him most is that he never remembers to ask Hari about it when they're together.
What's perhaps strangest to Kakashi is that the man hasn't appeared to age.
Kakashi stands in front of the tea shop.
It's been years.
After Orochimaru's defection, after Tenzō, after the massacre, after all the shit that has happened to them, Kakashi still comes here. He comes and Hari is there to greet him.
He still feels shame for the 3 year period that he didn't come and he finds himself still trying to make up for it, though Hari just rolls his eyes at him. But the things he did, when he was in ROOT and perhaps even before when he was ordered to watch Kushina, he had started distancing himself.
Trying to put his feelings for Hari aside.
He's been assigned a new genin team and they meet tomorrow. As is tradition, he comes to Harry to have his input. He's not sure why, but the things Hari says have weight, have a sense of premonition to them. At least the important things.
Kakashi opens the door and finds it unusually empty, as usual. He hears noises in the back so he takes his seat, sure that he will be out momentarily.
Sure enough, Hari pops out from the back bearing a tray of jasmine tea and dango a minute later. It's on the table a moment later with the man himself sitting across from him.
He pours them each a cup and smiles. "So, names?"
"Haruno Sakura, Uchiha Sasuke, Uzumaki Naruto."
"Hm," Hari hums and sips his tea, closing his eyes. They both enjoy their tea, Kakashi having learned long ago to not rush the man.
"I think you'll be surprised."
He comes back almost immediately after he approved them for a team.
"I think I would have been more surprised if you hadn't told me to expect it."
Hari laughs and Kakashi revels in it. The man, while cheerful, doesn't laugh often enough for his tastes.
"Alright, alright. Give me a moment." He rushes off to get the tea and snacks.
Once they're sitting down, Kakashi tells the story and gets Hari to laugh twice more. After the story is finished, he realises that Hari is looking at him morosely. Immediately he is filled with worry and dread.
Hari lets out a less pleasing laugh, a self-depreciating one and Kakashi almost reaches out.
"I wish I…" He sighs and closes his eyes for just a moment. "Kashi," he says firmly and looks at him straight on. Kakashi gives him all his attention.
Hari's expression softens into wistfulness. "Don't leave me this time, alright?" A wry smile.
Sasuke has gone rogue and Kakashi finds himself back in Hari's shop. He hasn't sat down because he's here for a purpose. Hari comes from the back and greets in with a smile and Kakashi smiles back.
He thanks whatever power that keeps it empty when he needs it to be and sees Hari blink at him. Presumably because he hasn't sat down.
"Hari." He takes a couple steps forward and reaches the shorter man. "Stop me if you need to."
"What-" Hari blinks again and looks confused when Kakashi pulls down his mask. Then he's leaning down and only gets a glimpse of Hari's surprise before he kisses him.
It's short and chaste, but hopefully gets the point across.
Hari's wide eyes blink owlishly at him.
"Go out with me."
"Wh-" Hari chokes and clears his throat, still wide-eyed. "What?"
It's almost a squeak and its adorable.
"Go out with me."
"Oh…" Hari manages.
Kakashi eventually leads him to sit down, kneeling before him.
"Is this really such a surprise?" He asks.
Hari clears his throat again and his eyes adopt less of a "deer-in-the-lights" look. He takes it a la a good sign.
"I- I guess it is? I never really…" He trails off a moment. "I didn't think you'd ever want to do something about your little crush."
Kakashi raises an eyebrow, "That crush was years ago, Hari."
"Obviously not if we're here now," he pouts.
"What I feel for you now is not a crush. I feel too strongly for that." Kakashi is almost surprised by his honesty.
They stay that was a minute before Kakakshi speaks up again. "Will you at least consider it? Please don't think of me as the child you knew so long ago. Think of me now and who I am now. And just… consider it."
Hari stares at him, searching his eyes for something. He tries to keep himself open and honest, thinking about how much he wants this.
Oh, he had considered this for years. He's known Hari almost all his life and he has had plenty of time to draw conclusions. Some unfortunate conclusions in some respects, but Kakashi hopes that he'll give him a chance regardless.
Hari's look become less intense but still he stares. "Are you sure?"
Kakashi nods, not breaking eye contact.
Hari sighs and grins a lopsided smile.