13th Chapter: "Something New to Learn"
For the taste of Sakura, Naruto and Sasuke, Yamato and you move way too slow. So, Naruto sets off to play matchmaker, even if his plan works in mysterious ways only.
~ X ~
Hey there! Sorry for the long wait! T^T
As you all know, I hit a rough patch in my work life. Lots of stuff to do and lots of things to work on, unfortunately no time to work on fanfiction. Then lots of moving around and such, and you have the perfect ground to not be able to work on fanfics T^T9 So, I hope you guys like this chapter! It's pretty much a set-up for the ones coming afterwards, and I'm still thoroughly enjoying building up a few more connections for the MC ^^ Thank you all for your patience!
~ X ~
“They’re still not moving forward.”
Sakura leaned against the counter, her eyes firmly set on the table with the painfully oblivious lovebirds. The captain and (Y/N) were just… sitting at their table, taking little bites from their respective food, and just throwing little-yet-telling glances at each other when the other person was busy with eating. Honestly, it was ridiculous. Why couldn’t they just move a little bit faster?
Sakura knew her boss deserved to be happy. She was pretty sure (Y/N) also deserved to be happy. Why couldn’t they just be happy together? Really, sometimes she thought that becoming a fully fledged adult wouldn’t be good at all if she would also suck at communication like them.
“Naruto…” Sakura whispered to her co-worker, “I think it’s time for one of your ideas.”
In an instant, the boy perked up like an overly eager puppy. “Really? Hell yeah! I know what we can do, believe it!”
“Well…” She gestured towards the table with the two oblivious lovebirds. “Work your magic. I’m at my wits end.”
“Wait. Is today Thursday?”
But he only pumped his fist, before walking over to the table, armed with nothing but a bright smile and his sunny personality. Sakura only hoped that would be enough for them to finally talk and maybe finally drift together.
~ X ~
You had no idea what you had to expect when Naruto walked up to the table in the middle of your break with Yamato. Somehow, you were glad for the distraction, as you were busy trying to not stare at him so obviously. But it wasn’t your fault! The way Yamato looked with the August sun falling onto his lush, chestnut-brown hair while eating his sandwich with potato wedges bite for bite, his free hand splayed out on the table—Fuck, you wanted to take that hand again: wanted to feel the calluses; wanted to feel the small scars; wanted to feel the roughness of his skin against your own palm.
Needless to say, you caught a bad case of damned feelings. It wasn’t the first time you noticed, but slowly, the realization creeped in that your feelings were more profound than you initially believed. Hell, at the lake you could at least pretend that it wouldn’t possibly last! That you could act like you weren’t affected by him, like you wouldn’t fall deeper in love with him, at least not so quickly after Ryota abandoned you with broken confidence. And you absolutely didn’t plan to fall in love with someone who helped you out of the kindness of his heart.
And yet, here you were, helplessly sneaking glances at Yamato while trying to follow his words and their meaning, right when Naruto knocked onto the wood of the table.
“Hey there! Good to see you two, especially you.” His blue eyes darted between the two of you, then got stuck on Yamato. “Hey, captain… I have a question.”
“Go ahead.” The older man looked up to the boy, smiling in mild confusion as he did so.
“Sure. Uhm, you know,” one of Naruto’s arms rose and his hand buried in his blond hair, “I really need some stress relief and I wonder if you could bring me to your dojo again…? With my exams around the corner and Sasuke going on my nerves constantly with his music at home, I can’t really turn my brain off, believe it!”
To your surprise, Yamato’s eyebrows rose almost to his hairline. “You know what happened last time?”
“I know, I know. Not my proudest moments. Still, that work-out was the best I had in years! That Sakumo-grandpa really knows what he’s doing. Please, I’m begging you.”
Yamato hummed, while one of his hands pushed the half-empty plate out of the way. “Really? Last time you swore you wouldn’t go back, no matter what.”
“I totally changed my mind! Please…” Naruto’s cheery expression turned into a pout, his trademark signature whenever he desperately wanted something. “I really have to get away from the duckbutt-haircut for an afternoon.”
Obviously a not-very-common occurrence. So uncommon that you instinctively understood Yamato’s worried face when he spoke up again. “Hey, alright. If it’s that urgent, we can go. Do you have a time in mind?”
Naruto’s head tipped from side to side, thinking hard about his answer. “I mean… the faster, the better. Would today be alright? I really need that time away from him.” Then, his expression lightened up, like he just had the best idea of all times. “Hey, don’t they have this women-defense course there, too? That would be so cool if you come with us, believe it!”
The change of topic came way too fast. Blinking in surprise, you could only try to not look at Yamato, who seemed just as bewildered as you at Naruto’s idea. “Uhm… I don’t… I don’t think I would do well there…”
“Oh, I’m sure it’s a beginner’s course. Besides, Yamato would be there to help you out, just in case!”
Would he though? One look at him, and you saw the same confusion you felt on his face. Where did this proposition come from? So strange that Naruto seemed to really want you in that course for self defense.
Still glancing at Yamato for help, you shrugged. “Uhm, sure? Fine, yeah. I have some time this evening and nothing else to do. Where is that gym?”
“Nice!” Naruto pumped his fist. “But yeah, don’t call it a gym. It’s a dojo, and they only do martial arts there.”
Yamato still seemed a bit worried about your choice. “You don’t have to come,” he said, “the training with Sakumo can be really harsh. I can’t speak for that self-defense course as I never participated, but his higher level classes are really harsh.”
“Eeeh,” even though you already felt some nervousness creeping down your spine at the possibility of failing… in Yamato’s proximity, “I guess I can try it out at least. Just once.” Highly irrational, yes, but also deeply unnerving. When Yamato seemed a bit nervous at the prospect of you going to that dojo too, you would definitely be facing a situation which might be too much for you.
Nevertheless, you tried to hide your nervousness behind a confident grin. “It won’t be that bad. Just a valuable experience, right?”
~ X ~
It already dawned on you when you parked before the dojo that this wouldn’t be an easy, valuable experience as you hoped. Sure, you imagined the dojo in a little bit old-fashioned way, maybe a bit run-down too, but this… like the tranquil house jumped straight out of an asian martial-arts flick. Internally, you already debated if you could ask the owner to use the dojo potentially for some promotion-photos as you climbed the few stairs up to the entrance. Anko was working together with an author who could be interested in the scenery. Clutching to the strap of your bag holding some sportswear, you fidgeted around before breathing in and knocking at the front door.
It didn’t take too long. Just a few seconds and the door swung open. And to say your breath was taken away would be an understatement.
“Ah,” the older man said. The long greyish-silver hair was bound into a tight ponytail, crow’s feet crinkling in his gentle smile. “You must be Yamato’s friend. Come in.”
“Uhm… yeah. Yeah! I’m…” First, you shook your head, then you nodded. The soothing, gentle aura the older man emitted confused you to the very core. “I’m Yamato’s friend. There is a self-defense course for women going on…?”
“That is correct.” Opening the door wider, he gestured you in. “Don’t worry, you still have a few minutes. Get changed and get ready.”
With that, the man left you alone to enter the dojo and after a small pause, you followed him. He was kind of intimidating in his calmness, and even though you watched him in front of you, no sound could be heard from his naked feet as he walked around the entrance area.
Following his example, you heeled your shoes off and pushed them into a corner, where a few other pairs of shoes waited for their owners. The entrance area was small and cramped, but somehow cozy and exuding safety. There was a small counter with an old PC sitting behind it, some good old IKEA bookshelves with old, worn-out books filling the fake-brown compartments and different Martial-Arts-posters at the walls. Some of them showed off shadowy silhouettes in the process of kicking and hitting stuff while others showed off successful and strong winners of competitions.
Not only posters hung around the walls. Photos as well, some old and yellow with age, some newer. While the older man entered another room, not without checking on you one last time, you waved at him, only to step closer to another set of pictures.
A strangely familiar, small boy held a way too big trophy in his tiny, grubby hands. His father, the same man who opened the door for you, stood behind him, hands on the boy’s shoulders and beaming with joy and pride. You couldn’t make out if the boy was smiling as well, in the photo he wore a black mask covering his lower face.
Leaning closer, you studied the picture further. Really, you knew that boy. And if you really thought about it, you realized that some of the features of the father certainly translated into someone you already knew, unfortunately.
“I swear…” Groaning, you buried your face in your hands. “I thought I could escape work for a few hours here…”
“Not a chance.”
Even though you realized it was Kakashi’s voice so close to your ears, you couldn’t help but yelp and jerk away from the mocking words. Swirling around, you glared at the child-like man, who obviously showed no remorse over scaring you nearly to death. “If you weren’t one of my clients, I would yell at you for that.”
But the author didn’t answer. Instead, he brushed past you to sit down on the neglected seat in front of the PC, instantly picking up an abandoned cup of coffee and grimacing when he sipped at the beverage. “Fuck, talked too much with Tenzo.”
“You’re the small boy here?” Hiding a grin, you nodded towards the pictures. “And the other man is your father?”
“Elementary, my dear Watson.” He shrugged. “Probably spent most of my formative years here, won some tournaments, but my heart was never in it. My old man was thankfully of the understanding kind and let me drop martial arts in favor of other extracurricular activities.”
“You mean sneaking out at night to visit open bookshop nights and readings.” The rough voice of the older man echoed suddenly way too close. Barely suppressing a yelp, you swiveled around, arms tucked close and eyes wide, and saw the man from before right in front of you. Damn, he must be part cat! You didn’t hear him one bit!
A playful smile tugged at his mouth as he stretched his hand out. “My name is Sakumo Hatake, by the way. A pleasure to meet you.”
“I can only return that.” Shaking his hand, you tried to gather your frazzled wits. “A pleasure to get to know the father of my client.”
“Client…?” For a moment, Sakumo’s expression turned confused, only to brighten up after a few seconds. “Oh, you’re the editor my son talks so much about! A true miracle worker, at least that's what I hear from him!”
In your back, Kakashi groaned like a horrified teen. “Dad, no—!”
“Oh, really?” You liked Sakumo more and more with every passing second. So much more open, approachable and genuine than Kakashi from the get-go, even though those qualities were hidden beneath a lot of sarcasm and snark for the younger man. “Well, I have to take your word for it, as I get a little more complaints about my work from him…”
“Really?” Sakumo instantly shot a glance over your shoulder at his son. “I have to apologize for him, then.”
“Daaaad…” The pained groan from Kakashi was simply music to your ears. How many times did he torture you with sheer stubbornness, discussions and arguments about simple things which needed to be changed in his novel, the marketing strategies and the reading tours? Time to get him back for all your troubles. Kakashi could take it. After all, he was a big boy.
Though, before you could tease him further, Sakumo looked up to an old clock hanging over another door. “Oh, the course is about to start. If you want to join us, you have to hurry.” And with that, he vanished once more, leaving behind nothing but a still groaning Kakashi and your own smug self.
“What are you doing here?” he asked through the hands still hiding his face. You had the suspicion he went red, as the peaks of his ears were the colour of strawberries. It was a nice contrast to his usually pale skin and grey hair. “How did you find this dojo?”
You shrugged. “Naruto wanted to come here, desperately so. Something about him and Sasuke killing each other if they spent another afternoon caged in the same room.”
“Understandable, but what are you doing here?”
“He and Yamato invited me to come with them.”
“Mhm…” Serious-curious eyes peeked through the long fingers, just before Kakashi came up again. “Strange, though. But alright, you probably really should hurry. My father didn’t joke when he said that the course was starting.”
You heeded his warning. Even though Sakumo seemed to be a lot more open than Kakashi, you absolutely didn’t want to get on his back side. After all, why ruin a good reputation?
Only a few minutes later, you entered the main room of the dojo, cladded into a loose t-shirt and a pair of tight pants reaching down to your knees. A group of women was already loosely grouped around Sakumo and—to your mild surprise—Yamato. Both were dressed in white vests with long sleeves, white pants and with their bare feet firmly planted onto the ground.
“Aah.” Sakumo’s dark eyes sparked in badly hidden amusement. “There’s our last participant of the day. Hello! Please give us your name and why you joined this course.”
“Uhm…” All those people looking at you, with their interest in your person clearly written all over their features. Out of instinct, you waved into the round, while a nervous smile flashed over your face. “Hey there, my name is (Y/N)... and I just joined this course today to just… I guess, make some new experiences? I never participated in any self-defense classes before, so please go easy on me.”
A wave of chuckles wandered around the group, but you did not feel as though they were amused at your attempt for pleasantries. Perhaps, a secret joke that you weren’t let in on? Not yet, hopefully. One look at Yamato, who nodded at you with a small smile, and you stepped forward into some empty space in the group. Friendly faces all around. Your quickly beating heart calmed down a bit and you dared to smile at the two closest women, who seemed friendly enough and smiled back.
“Alright, good introduction.” In an instant, the light and joking tone vanished from Sakumo’s tone. The entire group straightened up with an unspoken command, and you felt your own spine and posture straightening up too. “And that was the last pleasantry we will indulge in until the end of this lesson. Form pairs and afterwards we will start with the first round of cardio shortly. (Y/N)!”
Startled, you looked at Sakumo. “Yes?”
“We’re an uneven group this time. And as you came in late,” a little wink, betraying the older man and his soft side, “your punishment will be that you have to train with my helper Yamato here. Is that alright?”
Oh, that was more than alright. Relieved, your face broke into a full grin. “Sure.”
“Aaah, you are way too happy about that.” Still, the amusement at the situation was oh-so-clear in Sakumo’s eyes. The older man elbowed Yamato, then pointed at you. “Bring her up to speed and show her how to fall correctly. I don’t want (Y/N) to be hurt on her very first day.”
“What are you doing here?” Smiling, you walked closer to Yamato when Sakumo turned around to teach the pairs which had formed over the minutes. “I thought you were supposed to help Naruto?”
At that, the man sighed a deep heavy sigh which spoke from your very soul. “Yeah. And he was also supposed to come alone, but even though he wanted to get away from Sasuke, guess who Naruto brought with him…”
“Yes way.” Yamato shook his head. “I seriously don’t understand those teenagers. Am I too old?”
“Maybe, we both are.” Then, looking around, you shrugged and shook your head. “Alright, then show me the ropes, so then I at least get something out of this day.”
Seeing Yamato’s relieved smile made your heart jump in your chest. Little did you know that this was far from the last time you would feel the telltale jumping of the organ in the next hour. Because, as it turned out, as this was your first self-defense course, you needed lots and lots of help. Namely, physical help.
It started so innocently. At first, Yamato seemed just as shy to initiate direct physical contact, but after an extensive ten minutes of cardio exercises and him handing you a white vest like his own, he wanted to show you how to fall and roll over the ground correctly. At first, unsuccessfully.
“Okay, no. This won’t work.” Shaking his head, Yamato looked at you on the ground. For the fourth time, he tried to demonstrate by doing the exercise himself, and for the fourth time, your form wasn’t correct. Like he had done the previous three times, he reached out and you took his hand. You always felt like a feather when he pulled you up, so light and easily handled that it was exhilarating. A sensation you couldn’t get enough of, to be completely honest.
As you brushed yourself off, you watched how he shook his head, more to himself than anyone else. “What do you propose then?”
To your surprise, a soft blush started to rise on his face. His eyes wouldn’t meet yours, but when he stepped closer with an unvoiced question in his eyes, you understood. In an instant, you felt how the warmth spread across your face. But—and that was probably somehow important—you didn’t avoid his gaze and Yamato didn’t break the connection either.
The world around you sunk away as he stepped closer. Close enough that the rough hard fabric of his white vest brushed over your back. His warmth made you swallow a thick ball of nervousness (and yes) anticipation down. Being so close to Yamato, being enveloped by his gentleness and being guided by his strong hands was… a lot. Almost too much.
“Alright…” His voice was too close and yet not close enough. Warm breath tussled some wisps of your hair as he stepped even closer. “Let me… Alright.”
His hands carefully placed themselves on the crook of your waist. Not an indecent touch, far from it. But a delicious shudder nevertheless wandered down your back at the feeling of his heat and touch permeating the thick vest.
“Okay,” his voice was still close, ruffling more hair around your ears, “the basic stance. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.”
“Okay.” Quickly, you adjusted your stance. “What else?”
“Uhm… For-For falling, you have to roll over your shoulder.” One hand rose and tentatively touched your left, then right shoulder. “It’s not a classical roll, but you mostly just use one arm to shore yourself, the other kind of… leads the way.”
“Okay,” you breathed, “alright.”
“So…” Again, his hand touched your right shoulder. “I guess we can start with a roll over your right side. When you go in for a barrel roll, you lean more towards the right side. Now, we can try it, slowly though.”
“Okay.” Again, you nodded. Maybe, it really would be easier. For a wild second, you fantasized of Yamato doing the barrel roll with you, his hard body flushed against yours and safely catching you if anything would go wrong. But then you shook your head and didn’t give a single sign that you were missing the innocent contact when Yamato stepped away from you. One look over your shoulder and you smiled, trying to not look too shaken up. Gods, really? The contact hadn’t been that sensual and yet your heart was thumping and you could feel your hands shaking a bit.
A simple barrel roll. Couldn’t be that hard. It was already stupid you spent so much time on failing to perform some controlled falling. A deep breath in and a deep breath out, then you tried to roll over your shoulder. Your back hurt a little bit, but you told yourself that it was more because of the time you spent at a desk working away than the unusual movements and activity.
One last breath in, and you lowered your head, shoulders and body, in that exact order, towards the softened ground. The world rolled by, and when you came back up on your feet and knees, you instantly looked towards Yamato.
“And?” you asked.
He still didn’t look satisfied, even though there was also a hint of relief painted all over his features. “Still not right, but better than the last times.”
“Ayy, progress.” With a grin flashing over your face, you pumped your fist into the air. “By the way, can I ask why learning to fall correctly is so important?”
Apparently, a question Yamato waited for. “To avoid injuries, get to know the current limitations of your body, your flexibility and to see where your skills are at. It’s a pillar of self-defense to make sure that the user is unharmed throughout the training.”
“Sounds really important.” With a low grunt, you took Yamato’s hand once more to be pulled up onto your own two feet. This time, you instantly realized that Yamato miscalculated his strength. You nearly flew up, up and right into his chest. With a soft huff, he caught you. And the world seemed to pause.
There you were. One hand still captured in his gentle fingers, the other arm hanging by your side. Yamato’s face was so close to yours, the tip of your nose nearly touching yours. The other arm was slung around your waist to stabilize you, but in the process, you were also slanted against his chest. Just a few sheets of paper would be able to cut the space between your face and his, and for some moments, your eyes automatically dropped down to his mouth. And what a mouth. Lovely lips, looking like they were soft and rough at the same time, with the tip of his tongue peeking out for just a second, only to disappear just as fast. The small motion didn’t make things better.
But when you managed to rip your eyes away from the promise right in front of you, and met his eyes once more, you nearly sucked in a breath. There was a fire burning in his dark iris and only because you were finally so close and wrapped in his arms, you were allowed to see it.
Then, one of the other women shouted and someone landed with a heavy ‘thud’ on the ground. Enough to break the bubble around Yamato and you. Like thunder cracked in the sky, you two broke away from each other, already mumbling apologies and—in your case, at least—throwing nervous glances at the man. No, he seemed more bothered trying to rearrange his white vest and shuffling his feet.
But then. Oh, then. As you were busy pulling down your own shirt while your brain was as empty as before whenever you got too close to him, Yamato stole a quick glance himself. And the same fire was still burning in them; the same fire of which you knew burned also in your own eyes.
“We should…” A helpless laugh fell from your mouth. “We should go back to… To whatever we were doing before.”
“Yeah.” Like you hoped, he started to smile at your words. “Definitely. But… can you quickly remind me?”
“Of what we were doing?”
At that, another chuckle rang through the air. “Oh man, I wish I could help you with that. But it seems that I also have sudden memory problems.”
Maybe, you two would have continued to banter if not for Sakumo, who sneaked up on you like a white wolf in the middle of a snow storm.
“Finished with all the preparations?” His own grin awoke a primal part of you, something resembling a small, fluffy animal, always on the watch for a bigger predator with sharp teeth. But then, the impression was already gone, and Sakumo with his long grey hair and the small wrinkles around his eyes which told about many smiles and laughter. The older man could be scary, you were now aware of that, but the hint of the supposed danger was just as quickly gone as it came. He nodded at you, only to instantly follow up with a clap on Yamato’s shoulder. Measured at the small wince running over his features, it hurt. A lot.
“Alright, if you two are finished, then we can start introducing you to a few throws and punches! And what I always like to point out, nothing is more trusted than a good old poke in the eyes. Remember that, okay?”
Before you had any time to answer, Sakumo already turned around and instructed the group of women to search for new partners. This time, a friendly looking brunette walked up to you. Her striking red eyes —those had to be contact lenses— smiled alongside her mouth as she reached out her hand for you to shake it.
“My name is Kurenai,” she said and when you took her hand, the lingering softness of her skin together with some strange calluses and the strength of her grip immediately made you grateful for doing so, “and you look like you could use some help?”
~ X ~
The lesson passed by fast after that. After some more coaching and training, you managed to fall and roll in ways which apparently was satisfactory enough for Sakumo and Yamato. Training together with Kurenai was also a blast as the woman was obviously well-versed in martial arts and gave you one or two very helpful tips to avoid being hit or kicked by her. You were especially proud of the moment you managed to avoid her hits for an entire sparring round… even though the two of you were supposed to work on your throwing techniques. Still, when you looked over, with your chest heaving and heart beat so loud it thundered in your ears and you locked eyes with Yamato… Seeing his thumbs-up and the smile of soft, brown eyes made you smile even harder.
When you managed to turn your head away from him, you met Kurenai’s curious eyes. One look and she whistled through her teeth, with her curiosity and needed to know what was going on between Yamato and you that was already kindling.
It was no surprise to you that she inquired about it. What surprised you though, was her asking for your phone number, so you could stay in contact. Gladly, you gave it to her, together with the promise to show up next week too.