Summary: Who could imagine what one can find in a zoo?
This is for you, Serenitytouched! Happy Holidays! I am afraid maybe I wasn't the best choice to write a fic for you because 1) I have never done anything fluffy and 2) I didn't know even the existence of manatees until I saw your request... but I did my best so I hope you'll enjoy this. XD I have done some research about manatees but I can't say for sure that this is the behavior of a manatee but the information I give are from National Geographic articles so they must be true. XD
Edit 26-12-2011: Many thanks to my beta reader Pycola Analogue III for editing this XD
Kakashi was not very fond of zoos. It wasn't that anything had happened and he wasn't fond of them; simply, they held no interest for him. So when Genma had told him to go there with him, his immediate response was to refuse.
However, Genma is not the best person at accepting other people's refusal. He asked again and again and again, until one morning that Kakashi hadn't had coffee and was half asleep he accepted to go with him just to have some quiet.
And that was why he was now staring at a donkey who was also staring back at him as it was chewing a yellow like plant - or something like that. The silver haired man turned his head to look at his co-worker who had a nearly childish grin on his face as he was looking at the prospectus they got from the entrance of the zoo, after buying their tickets.
The people here were thieves! The price here for seeing a bunch of animals was insanely too much. This trip here was certainly both a waste of time and money.
Kakashi sighed and went closer to Genma who was eyeing the house of snakes page of the prospectus. "Now…. Genma, how many years do we know each other?" asked he in a nearly playful tone.
Genma looked up at the silver-haired man and gave him a small crooked smile. "Eight years."
Kakashi nodded in agreement. Eight years ago he started working at the company and met Genma there, who had also been very recently employed at the company. And they had met in quite a funny way…. And engaged in a conversation about how to use the coffee machine.
Since then they started talking and after so many years of nearly daily talking and working together they became friends.
Kakashi smiled at his friend with that sweet-but-also-oh-so-threatening smile as he patted him heavily on the shoulder. "Exactly eight years. I believe it is enough time for me to know why you asked me to come at the zoo, right? The real reason…. Because I know you long enough to be sure that you'd never tell me to come to a zoo with you. You'd tell me to go to a bar or to a brothel."
Genma looked at him with raised eyebrows. "Really?"
Kakashi glared at the man. Was he trying to play clever with him? "Really." Kakashi insisted and crossed his arms on his chest waiting for an answer. "What's the deal?"
"I wanted to see…. Something I haven't seen for quite some time." the other man said and looked away from him and stared at the donkey that was eyeing the two of them while still chewing.
Something he hadn't seen for quite some time….
"Like the donkey?" Kakashi inquired.
If all this was because of a woman, then this could be understood. And given Genma's intense stare at the donkey it seemed quite possible that all this was for a woman….
But all the years he knew Genma, he'd never had a steady relationship…. Just a very long series of one night stands. He was actually worse than Kakashi… He at least had one or two real girlfriends in his life while Genma seemed to have always been a free spirit that travelled from one bed to another.
Which meant… that either Genma had hidden something from him, was in love suddenly and didn't want to admit it but also couldn't ignore the feeling or there was a woman here at the zoo that he really wanted to sleep with.
Genma slowly turned at him and smiled innocently, or at least what was considered an innocent smile for someone like Genma. "Yes, exactly."
"A donkey." he replied and then brought the brochure at Kakashi's face showing him the snake's house. "And the snakes, and the elephants, and the lions and the leopards and the birds" he added as he flipped the pages.
Kakashi watched the man and was ready to actually laugh from how quickly, nearly anxiously, he was trying to show that he was excited with the prospect of seeing all these.
This had to do with a woman…. One that was somewhere within the crowd and the animals.
"Oh, I also want to go to the pools. There are penguins there. And whales and dolphins." Genma said and looked at the page with the mammals of the sea as he was trying to find something more there.
Kakashi nearly smirked… so that was where he wanted to go… the woman was at the pools.
"And manatees! It also had manatees." he added and closed the brochure.
"What's that?" he asked.
Genma didn't say anything and seemed like he was thinking (or remembering?) something. Kakashi waited for an answer but after three minutes of complete silence, the silver-haired man patted the other male on the shoulder to grab his attention.
Genma jumped slightly in surprise and looked at Kakashi slightly annoyed. "What?!"
"What's a manatee?"
"They are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows." Genma replied casually like he had heard and said that answer multiple times.
And that was weird. Was Genma really so interested in animals? Kakashi had never heard his friend say anything about animals… never shown any interest. He was friendly with his dogs but not so much either…
Something was going on… and Kakashi's instinct told him that it had to do with a woman.
One that he was going to meet really soon. At the pools. It seemed that this trip wouldn't be such a waste of time in the end… Kakashi grinned lightly (and brought his scarf higher to hide his face).
"Sakura!" Sakura stopped on her tracks and looked behind to see Shizune, her "boss", walking fast towards her. The pink-haired young girl smiled at the older woman. She had just started her internship at the zoo, just a week now, and the woman had been so helpful that Sakura thanked God she had chosen to come to this place. Shizune was always there, actually teaching her and letting her take care of the animals. She had feared that she'd have a supervisor that would only let her carry the food to the animals or something but she was lucky.
She was going to enjoy these six months here. She was sure of that.
"Shizune." she greeted the older woman and smiled.
The dark-haired woman handed Sakura some papers and smiled. "These are the reports for the dolphins and the manatees. Please take them to the head administrator. I would do it but I have to make sure the program will start on time and that the animals are prepared."
Sakura nodded in understanding. "Of course, Shizune-sama. It is my job, after all." Sakura looked at her watch and grinned at Shizune. "I am sure Tsunade-sama won't be there now."
Shizune laughed lightly. "True… she's probably drinking at the restroom again. Why doesn't she stay at her office when we all know that she is there and drinking… I'll never understand. I am tempted sometimes to tell her that…"
Shizune and Tsunade were very old acquaintances. Tsunade was Shizune's mentor when Shizune was in college and they were also relatives by marriage since Shizune's uncle became Tsunade's husband, although their marriage didn't last for long. Unfortunately, Dan, Shizune's uncle, had an accident and died a couple of years after their marriage.
Tsunade, despite her seemingly exterior happy behavior, was still in pain of his loss…
Sakura nodded again at Shizune and marched towards Tsunade's office. As she had suspected, Tsunade was not there. Even though she was at this job for just a few days, she had adapted quite easily and well. Everything and everyone were very nice to her and she had already relaxed with them. The young girl left the papers on the desk for Tsunade to look over once she returned and exited the room.
She went to the pools to make sure that Shizune didn't need any help when she noticed two very handsome men coming towards the restricted part of the pools.
"Excuse me!" she shouted as she walked quickly towards them. The two men stopped and turned to look at her. "I am sorry but you can't come in here. It is only meant for staff members."
One of the two men smiled at her and looked around one more time. "We're sorry. We just wanted to know when the show will start."
"The show will start in two hours, sir, so you can look around the zoo and come later here for the show." Sakura told them.
Now that she was closer to them she could see that indeed they were both very handsome. They both seemed to be around their early thirties. The one she spoke with had dark brown hair and brown eyes. He also had a senbon in his mouth that he played with. A very good looking man indeed.
But to Sakura's eyes the other man was the one who stole her attention. He had extraordinary silver hair and dark eyes. Half of his face was hidden because of his scarf but that to her eyes made him appear more of a mystery, a challenge. And everyone knew that Sakura was intrigued and fascinated with challenges. She surely liked that man more than the other one.
The three of them stayed there and stared each other in awkward silence until a voice from behind Sakura interrupted it. "Sakura! Can you please….?" Shizune's voice faded as she looked at the two men standing next to the young girl.
"Shizune." Genma said and smiled at the woman.
Shizune smiled at him and walked towards him. "Genma." she greeted him and gave him a hug. "How come you came here? I thought you didn't like zoos."
Genma laughed slightly and then looked at the silver-haired man. "Well my friend here really wanted to come." he laughed lightly again and looked at Kakashi who was staring at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Really?" Shizune asked and extended her hand at the man. "Hello! My name is Shizune. If there is anything about animals and zoos you want to know, feel free to ask me."
"Nice to meet you Shizune. My name is Kakashi." the man replied as he extended his hand and shook hands with the woman.
The woman looked at her clock and then at Sakura. "Unfortunately I can't help you because I have to prepare for the show but Sakura here, an intern, could show you around." Shizune looked at Sakura smiling. "She's a zoology student and she knows a lot of things that you may find amusing about animals."
Sakura smiled slightly and blushed. "I don't know that much yet." she murmured. "But if you want to have a small tour around the zoo, I'd be more than happy to show you around."
Shizune smiled at the girl and then her eyes found Genma's who half smiled at her and took the senbon out of his mouth. "I hope that since you came you will stay for two more hours to see the show. I mean, you did come…"
"We'd love to see it." Genma interrupted her and hugged Kakashi from the shoulders. "We'll just walk around here and come in an hour to see the show. It's about the whales?"
Shizune shook her head and smiled. "No, I am afraid that despite how much I love whales and manatees, the show's protagonists are penguins. I wish I could be given the chance to work on a program with them but unfortunately I can't. For now, I can just take care of them."
Genma smiled at her. "I am sure you will be given a chance." he told her and lightly rubbed her hand. Shizune smiled at him and blushed slightly. "It is… clear how much you love these animals and your job."
Shizune didn't immediately reply, just looked at Genma and smiled lightly at him. She took a big breath and then looked at Sakura. "Well then… I'll let you enjoy your tour with Sakura."
Sakura nodded in agreement. "Just wait for a moment for me to take my bag from the office. Wait here. In five minutes tops I'll be here." she told them and ran inside.
"Well then… I should get going." Shizune said and slowly started walking. "Will you come to the pub this weekend?" she asked as she walked backwards.
Genma nodded. "Saturday. I have some business appointments on Sunday." he told her. "Unfortunately."
Shizune raised her shoulders. "You'll come! That's what matters." Genma smiled at her and the woman waved goodbye after he responded.
When Shizune walked away so that she wouldn't be able to hear them, Kakashi opened his mouth. "I really wanted to come here Shiranui?"
Genma laughed slightly. "Well…"
The tour was not bad. Actually it was quite enjoyable. Even though he wasn't particularly interested in the subject of the tour (some animals were better than others but still not his thing.), he was interested in the one who spoke.
Kakashi had never seen a woman with such an extraordinary outward appearance as that of the girl he saw at the zoo, while witnessing that awkward conversation between Genma and that woman, Shizune. Her pink hair, her green eyes….. her wonderful neck with its fresh flesh.
Yes, he truly liked that woman. A lot.
But she was young. That was what stopped him every time he thought of her… and he thought of her often. He was too old, thirty-four years old while she was around twenty; she wouldn't be interested in an old man like him.
And yet he wanted to go see her again. Not to do anything just go and see her again at the zoo.
And he succumbed to that desire and found himself at the zoo again, paying that insanely high ticket and walking around, avoiding the pools where he actually wanted to go.
As he was looking around, he heard the voice of the one he wanted to avoid.
"Kakashi?" Sakura called and walked quickly towards the silver-haired man ahead in the crowd. The man turned and the girl immediately recognized him as the man she had met a few days ago. She ran at him and smiled widely. His face was again half covered because of a scarf but she could see that he was smiling under that scarf. "How are you? How come you came here again?" she blurted out before managing to restrain herself. Whenever she was anxious about something, she talked too much.
She was such a child sometimes.
But she didn't want to be a child with Kakashi. He was older than her and more mature. He wouldn't like her acting childish for sure.
Sakura didn't want him to see her as a child, but a woman, as an equal to him.
Kakashi didn't say anything for a moment and just eyed her closely. "I felt like coming." he told the pink-haired female.
"Is there something specific you'd like to see again?"
Kakashi shook his head. "No, not really."
Sakura opened her mouth but no sound came out of it and closed it. "Well… then…" she started with a hesitating tone."Maybe you'd like to come to the pools with me? There are not many people today and I could… perhaps take you with me while I feed the manatees?" She suggested and bit the inside of her mouth to prevent her blushing and speaking more.
"The sea cows?"
"Yes… they are called like that sometimes." she confirmed and giggled.
Kakashi looked unsure for a moment thinking of her proposal but finally he nodded. "Lead the way then."
They talked as they were walking towards the pools. Mostly Sakura was talking and Kakashi was listening. She was explaining to him about how she decided to work for animals and how she ended up doing her internship at this zoo and not another one.
She was so happy. A small, petite creature full of excitement and happiness. Like a source of optimism that others could draw from.
Kakashi found that charming…. And something he could very easily get addicted to.
"That's where the manatees stay." she told him and showed him the pool. He saw inside some quite big black forms swimming around the pool. Kakashi was very proud of his eyes. He always had the excellent vision of a hawk. He could see from afar a lot of details when others sometimes couldn't even identify the object he was looking at.
When they reached the pools, Kakashi saw that there weren't many of them living inside the pool; just four of them. Sakura knelt down and soon a manatee came close to her. She smiled at the animal and caressed it. "Hey Kohana!" she greeted the animal who greeted her in return with the sound manatees have. She looked at Kakashi and then at the sea cow again. "That's my friend Kakashi." she introduced him. "Say hello to him."
The animal turned its eyes at Kakashi and after eyeing him silently for a moment made a sound similar to the one it did when it greeted Sakura. "Hi."Kakashi muttered and raised his hand, feeling a bit awkward for acting like that with an animal. He did talk and act very friendly with his dogs….but they were his dogs and they were special… this animal… could it even understand what was going on here? "Does it understand? Can it communicate in a way with us?"
Sakura looked at him and then at the animal. "Manatees are clever." she told him. "Manatees are capable of understanding discrimination tasks, and show signs of complex associated learning and advanced long term memory. They demonstrate complex discrimination and task-learning similar to dolphins and pinnipeds in acoustic and visual studies." she added in a professional-like tone.
Kakashi watched her face as she spoke. Sakura had a very strict expression as she spoke about the animals. She suddenly grew up but still remained young. It…. was cute. "How old is she?"
"Nearly three." she answered. "She is soon going to be a mama."
"Manatees are mammals right?" he asked. "They give birth of the actual animal, not eggs like fish right?"
Sakura nodded and got up, smiling at the manatee whose eyes were following her. She went and took a bucket that was placed close to the pool. She returned and took a green plant out of the bucket and raised it in front of the manatee. The animal eyed it and before she let it fall down, the animal jumped and ate. She giggled and turned to Kakashi smiling.
"Wanna try?" she suggested and handed him the bucket. Kakashi hesitated. "She won't eat you." she told him. "Manatees are herbivores. They eat over sixty plant series and very rarely some fish." she explained him but he still didn't take anything out of the buck.
"I am not afraido it eating me." he admitted and slowly took the buck but kept it away from his body.
"You think it's disgusting?"
Kakashi looked at her and nodded.
Sakura giggled and went a step closer at him. "You men are all like that." she giggled. Kakashi looked at her immediately after she said that.
Men are all like that…
Had she brought more men here like she did with him? Suddenly he looked at Sakura and didn't just see her as a young beautiful female but as a woman. She was much younger than him but she was not a child. She probably already had boyfriends and if she was anything like him at twenty, she'd probably had more than one.
Maybe it wasn't so bad to think of her in a not just friendly way…. He was older than her… but not so young. It wouldn't sound so bad if she was thirty and he was forty four… it was the same age difference… just a decade later.
But Kakashi didn't feel like waiting a decade.
He quickly took one of those green things and threw it at the animal. The plant fell into the water and the animal immediately dived to catch it. Very soon the other manatees in the pool took notice that food was given and swam close to he that was holding the bucket.
Kakashi watched their eyes and suddenly felt that to their eyes he might now be like a God… a gracious God that was offering food. He took another plant thing and threw it at them. He handed the bucket at Sakura again and watcher her as she finished feeding all the animals a couple of more buckets.
After she finished all the manatees apart from Kohana left and went to sleep. According to Sakura manatees spent around half of their day sleeping, after all.
At the end…. being at the zoo proved to be far more interesting than he could ever imagine.
All thanks to one special pink-haired woman.
Kakashi hesitated as he eyed the woman who was caressing the young manatee. Did he really want to do that? He didn't come here for that. He just wanted to see Sakura once more, to see if he would find her again as extraordinary and unique as he did the previous time he saw her.
But even if they did see each other at a café – anywhere outside the zoo - , it wouldn't necessarily mean anything… right? People went for a coffee together all the time… it was just a meeting to get to know each other. And Kakashi did want to get to know Sakura more because he liked her as a person too not only on the outside. She was a very interesting person and, because she was very young, she was also full of life and excitement finding so many small things in this world intriguing while he, because of being older for more than a decade, had gotten used to so many things he saw and experienced daily.
It was refreshing to be around her.
Sakura got up and looked at Kakashi and then at Kohana. "Kakashi?"
Kakashi turned his head at her to show that he was listening to her. "Hm?"
"I have to go and do some paperwork now unfortunately." she started saying. "But after that I finish and return home…"
Kakashi's eyebrow went up in surprise. Could she really imply…?
It was possible, so he decided to take the risk. "Have you eaten anything today?"
Sakura shook her head. "Not really. Just a sandwich in the morning before I left home." she told him.
"That's bad, Sakura." he told her and went a step closer to her, bringing their bodies closer to each other. The female didn't move away but neither went closer. However Kakashi accepted that as a sign of acceptance with a mixture of shyness…. And he liked it. He had gotten quite bored with all these businesswomen that had no boundaries. He liked Sakura's shyness… "That's very bad."
Sakura smiled at him and then looked down. "I know, Kakashi."
"Then you understand that I have to do something about it, right?"
Sakura raised her head and looked at him slightly confused. "Like?" she inquired.
Kakashi went another step closer and waited to see if Sakura would move away. To his delight, she didn't. "Like wait for you," Sakura bit her lower lip and her eyes betrayed her excitement, "and take you to a restaurant."
Next to them inside the pool Kohana made a happy sound and looked at Sakura. The female laughed at the manatee's actions and then turned her head at Kakashi again. "Ok." she agreed and looked once more at the manatee. "I am being pressured, after all." she joked and smiled.
Kakashi nodded and smirked slightly under his scarf. "I'll wait at the gates."
Sakura smiled at him. "It won't take more than thirty minutes." she promised him as she watched him walk away. The man raised his hand without turning his back at her and went on walking.
Sakura turned her head at Kohana who made another sound as she was looking at the pink-haired girl. "That's awesome, isn't it?"
The manatee smiled at her and dived into the water. Sakura watched her favorite animal swim gracefully. Manatees truly were the most adorable creatures in the world. She made her way to the offices to finish the business she had as quickly as she could.
She couldn't wait to finish.