Insomnia

BY : MisatosPenPen
Category: Naruto > Yaoi - Male/Male > Kakashi/Sasuke
Dragon prints: 5331
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or its characters. I make no profit from this story.

This chapter is mostly just running through canon, but there is original stuff towards the end.

---------------

A single leaf heralded a storm in the suddenly silent arena.

Kakashi and Sasuke arrived back to back in a cyclone of leaves.

“Sorry, we’re late,” Kakashi said. “You wouldn’t believe the traffic.”

“And you are?” Genma asked looking at Sasuke.

Sasuke turned his head to look at the proctor. “Uchiha Sasuke.”

The crowd cheered.

“So, you decided to show up after all,” Naruto said. “I was betting you wouldn’t come because sooner or later you’d have to face me.”

“So, what about you? Did you win?”

“You know it.”

“Hn, well don’t get too full of yourself; you’re still a loser.”

Kakashi rubbed the back of his head. “Sorry if we kept you waiting but, um, how late are we? I mean, it’s not like Sasuke’s, well, disqualified or anything, right?”

Genma sighed. “Like master, like pupil, even down to your lousy sense of time.”

“Well, what about it?”

“You know, you were so late, we extended the deadline for you. Twice in fact. And it’s lucky for you we did because you just made it. No, he’s not disqualified.”

“Oh, that’s a relief. You had me worried there for a minute. So, we’re okay.” He looked over, but Sasuke wasn’t looking at him or Genma. “Hm.” Sasuke was staring up at Gaara. At least Sasuke was focused.

“Just make sure you don’t lose to this guy,” Naruto said.

“Got it,” Sasuke said simply.

“I want to fight you too.”

Sasuke looked at Naruto. “Got it.”

Kakashi was happy to see the respect his two male students were showing to each other. He turned toward the stands. He already noted where Sakura was siting and headed for her. He came down the stairs behind her where she was sitting with Ino and Choji. Gai was standing on the steps with Lee.

“Hello, Gai. How are you feeling, Lee? Are you feeling alright?”

“Kakashi,” Gai greeted.

“Kakashi-sensei,” Sakura said worriedly.

“Oh, right.” He held up a hand to her in as much apology and greeting. “Sorry about that. You must have been worried. Sorry for not keeping in touch.”

“I don’t mind. That’s okay.” She looked down at Sasuke in the arena.

“Listen sensei, you know there was a mark on Sasuke’s neck, right? Well, is it . . ?”

“It’s nothing to worry about.” He gave her his rainbow eyed smile.

She nodded to him.

Kakashi looked around and saw many ANBU in the stands.

“Eight members of ANBU in an arena this size,” Kakashi said to Gai. “That’s no where near enough. What could lord Hokage be thinking?”

“Well, not knowing how the enemy’s going to act, the ANBU have probably been dispersed and stationed around the key parts of the village.” The crowd started to get anxious. “It’s starting. We can’t afford to let out guard down. But for now, at least, we need to watch this match. Kakashi, I’m going to be carefully watching your pupil to see if your training was any good. After all, I’m still your rival.”

“Huh, sorry, did you say something?” He loved how that pissed Gai off. But he was right, they had to watch this match.

Sasuke and Gaara stepped up. Genma brought his hand down between them, “Begin!” Genma jumped away.

Gaara’s sand came out of the gourd and Sasuke jumped back. Gaara hesitated, muttering.

Sasuke threw two shuriken to get things started and test the sand. The sand became a sand clone that caught the shuriken between his fingers. Sasuke ran at him as a gout of sand erupted from the clone, all the while, Gaara stood unmoving. Sasuke jumped to avoid the sand. The clone threw Sasuke’s shuriken at him while he was in the air. Sasuke countered them with two more shuriken. He came down in a kick to the clone’s arms, turning them to dust. He used the ground to rotate and deliver a clothesline to the clone’s throat. But the sand melted around his wrist, immobilizing it. Sasuke used his left hand to punch the clone’s head away which destroyed the whole clone, freeing himself.

Sasuke ran at the real Gaara, but a wall of sand rose between them. Sasuke turned and added inhuman speed to his momentum, disappearing to Gaara’s left and reappearing behind him. He was able to punch Gaara in the face before his defenses could catch up, cracking his sand armor and sending him flying.

“So, that’s your sand armor, huh? Come on.”

Kakashi smiled with pride.

“If you won’t do it, then I will.”

Sasuke attacked with such speed, he was flying around and under Gaara’s sand. He landed a kick that sent him flying again, putting more cracks in the armor.

“What’s the matter, Gaara? Is that all you got? I’m going to tear off all your armor.”

Sasuke literally ran circles around Gaara, slipping in and attacking his body.

They were both panting. Sasuke didn’t have Lee’s stamina.

“His training,” Gai said. “What did you two do to get to such a level in a mere month?”

“Sasuke’s copied Lee’s taijutsu with his Sharingan so during the taijutsu training I did with Sasuke, I simply had him imagine Lee’s movement and copy it. Sasuke mastered that taijutsu only because he knew Lee. Of course, Sasuke had to work very hard to master it even with his Sharingan.”

As they talked, Sasuke and Gaara were standing off, resting and assessing the other. Gaara moved first, putting his hands together and pulling the sand around him to make a shell. Sasuke ran in and punched the shell. Spikes came out and Kakashi felt his stomach tighten. There was a cut on Sasuke’s cheek when he leapt back. His knuckles were bloody and a drop of blood dribbled down the exposed part of his right leg.

Kakashi warned Sasuke about attacking like that. He could not avoid those spikes; he wasn’t expecting them. I told him to always expect a counter. That’s why the Chidori needs a Sharingan, to see the counter and avoid it. Of course, Sasuke hadn’t even activated his Sharingan yet. His eyes were still jet black. Until now. His eyes grew red as if the drawing of his blood had activated it.

“Kakashi-sensei!” Naruto yelled from behind him. He and Shikamaru were panting.

Kakashi turned. “What is it, Naruto?”

“Sensei, please you just have to stop this match right away!”

“What?”

“The guy Sasuke is fighting is complexly different from the rest of us! He’s about as far from normal as you can get!”

“Naruto, slow down,” Ino said. “What are you trying to say?”

“He thinks his point in life is to kill people! Don’t you see, if this continues, Sasuke will die! You gotta believe me!”

Kakashi turned back to see that an eye made of sand had appeared above the shell.

“Relax. No need to panic. You know, Sasuke and I weren’t just goofing around. There’s a reason we were so late getting here.”

Sasuke smiled and wiped the blood from his face as if he could hear Kakashi’s words. Sasuke could hear Gaara chanting. He ran at the shell and threw three shuriken to test the sand, he attacked physically to test the spikes. He could beat them in speed, but the shell was far too strong.

“Sensei?” Sakura asked. “You said there was a good reason you were late. What were you doing?”

“Well, it’s kind of a long story.” Actually, it was just securely wrapping Sasuke’s arm since the Chidori still singed his skin when activated. Well, that and visiting the memorial stone and getting lost in memories of the Chunin Exam he took with Rin and Obito, annoying Sasuke when he was so late.

“Oh, come on!” Naruto yelled. “Will you please do something?! This is no time for talking!”

“You’re right, so shut up and watch.” Everyone was shocked at Kakashi’s words and tone. “Keep your eye on Sasuke. He’s about to surprise you.”

Sasuke jumped up to a high position on the arena wall and performed the hand signs. Lightning grew around his left hand.

“But it can’t be,” Gai whispered. He looked at Kakashi.

“If you wondered why I always insisted on training Sasuke myself, now you know. It’s because he’s like me.” In many ways in fact.

The lightning grew until it started chirping, destroying the façade of the wall. Sasuke started to run down the wall at high speed.

“I see,” Gai said, “that’s what you were doing all this time. You were building his speed up to the level required.”

“Exactly.”

“It’s amazing his chakra is actually visible,” Sakura whispered. “How is that even possible?”

Kakashi barely paid attention as Gai explained the technique. He was watching Sasuke. He executed it perfectly.

Sasuke dodged all the spikes with his Sharingan and speed. His hand penetrated the sand. Of course, earth—including sand—was weak to lightning nature. Of course, it penetrated. Kakashi was more than pleased. More than proud. He granted Sasuke power to defeat Gaara. Maybe he wouldn’t be seduced by Orochimaru’s promises of power.

“A dangerous technique, not to be taught lightly,” Gai concluded, almost scolding.

“Yeah, you’re one to talk.” Kakashi knelt to Lee’s level. “Right, Lee?”

The world seemed to have paused. Sasuke just stood there with his arm in the shell.

Suddenly there was a scream, barely muffled by the sand. “Blood! It’s my blood!”

Sasuke tried to pull his arm out. He activated the Chidori in a short burst to weaken the sand, crying out in a bout of panic and pain at the strength of the hold, but he was able to pull free, barely. Then they all saw why. His arm was in the grip of a monstrous claw. The claw retreated back into the shell. There was an inhuman growl.

Kakashi could feel something. It reminded him of something, but he couldn’t grasp it. The arm of a beast. Was it just a manifestation of the sand or was it something else?

The shell dissolved. The beast was gone. Gaara was holding his bleeding shoulder and panting. Sasuke might have hit his lung. The boy had likely never experienced pain before, never been touched before.

Then Kakashi felt something else. A sleepiness. He resisted the genjutsu as all the people around him including Ino and Choji fell asleep.

“Kakashi, do you feel it?” Gai asked.

“Yeah, a genjutsu.”

They both used the release jutsu. And so did Sakura. Kakashi was proud. Most of the shinobi in the arena were using the release jutsu but all the civilians were asleep.

An explosion on the Kage viewing balcony attracted their attention and Sasuke’s. Kakashi and Gai were about to go back up the Hokage, but ANBU ran ahead. “Leave this to us.”

Kakashi was torn, but he stood down. All he could do was watch as the Kazakage took the Hokage hostage and put up a barrier around them. Kakashi sometimes he felt like he’d been demoted by being transferred out of ANBU.

“That’s a barrier ninjutsu,” Gai observed.

“They outwitted the ANBU and they’re supposed to be the best.” Kakashi was disappointed in his fellows. Or ex-fellows. At least he knew he was still more qualified than some.

Kakashi and Gai made to move in, but an ANBU landed in front of them backed up by sound-nin.

“What a nuisance,” Kakashi growled.

Below, in the arena, Tamari and Kankuro went to Gaara. Their sensei came down to prevent Gaara from attacking Sasuke. Genma leapt in front of Sasuke to also prevent any more fighting.

Kakashi saw the three Sand genin leap away. Their sensei and Genma fought while Sasuke went after the fleeing genin. “Sasuke.” Fuck. He wanted to run after Sasuke, but he couldn’t leave this battlefield. More Sound-nin arrived.

“Quite a lot of them, huh?” Kakashi said.

“We’ve been careless. Now even lord Hokage—” Gai looked over at the barrier. “Kakashi, look, there, inside the barrier.”

Kakashi complied. “Orochimaru.”

The sound-nin attacked. Kakashi jumped up to defend Sakura.

“Sakura, just stay there while I trim the enemy’s numbers down to size.”

He and Gai were fighting together like old times. Kurenai and Asuma who were there to see their own students’ matches, joined them, as did Aoba. They paused back-to-back for a moment.

“Nicely done,” Gai said. “But I’m worried about lord Hokage.”

“Leave that to ANBU, we have enough to handle here. Besides, Lord Hokage isn’t just some push over, you know.”

“Yeah, but . . .”

“Just remember, Gai, he is the Hokage; he can handle it.”

They returned to fighting. Kakashi was worried about Sasuke, but he was able to put that aside as he fought. He was also uneasy because of the weird chakra he felt come from Gaara while he was in his shell. He decided to send the rest of his team to back up Sasuke.

He landed in front of Sakura. “Sakura! It was worth teaching you genjutsu during survival training for the genin exam. You truly do have a talent for it.”

“Huh?”

“Release the genjutsu and wake Naruto and Shikamaru. Naruto will be delighted. You’ll be getting a mission after such a long time.”

“What kind of mission?”

“You’ll have to be careful on this one. It’s the first A rank assignment since the Land of Waves.”

“But sensei what are you doing? With this battle going on, why send us off on some mission?”

“Sasuke is chasing Gaara and the other Sand ninja.”

“What?”

“Sakura release the genjutsu wake Naruto and Shikamaru and follow Sasuke.” Kakashi pricked his thumb with a kunai.

“But then shouldn’t we wake Ino and Choji and go in a group?”

“No time. I suspect that many Sound and Sand shinobi may have already infiltrated the village. Besides, if you have more than the four ninja essential to a squad, it takes longer to get anything done and becomes more difficult to hide form he enemy. You did learn that in academy patrol training didn’t you.”

“Of course. With four squad members, that means you’ll be coming with us, right?”

“No, I must not leave this place.” He summoned Pakkun on the back of an unconscious civilian. “Pakkun here will track down Sasuke by scent.”

“Wait, seriously our fourth member is a puppy?”

Pakkun ran over to her and stared her right in the eye. “All right, listen, little girl. Don’t you dare go around saying I’m just some cute puppy.”

“Okay, its time. Sakura, go release the genjutsu.” He’d have to trust in his team and Pakkun. He held off attacks while Sakura woke Naruto and Shikamaru.

A sound-nin nearly attacked Naruto but Gai jumped in to kill the man, using the man’s body to make a hole in the wall. Kakashi jumped in.

“Now I’ll explain the mission,” Kakashi said. “As soon as I do, go through that opening. First, track down Sasuke and stop him, then find a safe location and await further orders.”

“Did something happen to Sasuke?” Naruto asked.

“I’ll tell you what happened on the way,” Sakura said.

They departed.

“Are they going to be okay by themselves?” Gai asked.

“Yes, they’ll be fine; Pakkun will protect them. As long as they don’t go too far.”

The Hokage began battling Orochimaru, but Kakashi could not focus on that. Nor could he focus on Sasuke and his team.

He could hear Orochimaru scream. That gave him confidence. The Hokage was fighting.

Gai was counting defeated enemies as they continued to fight a seemingly unending flood of enemy shinobi.

“Kakashi, how many did you take down.”

Kakashi had to think. “Twenty-two.”

“Looks like I win another round. That last one I knocked off was my twenty-third.”

“Yeah, yeah, alright.”

“I love that too cool for school attitude of yours. That’s why you’re my number one rival.”

“Let’s go.”

There was a final group of enemy shinobi jumping over the walls of the arena. They were from the Sand.

“Not just the Sound-nin, but even jounin from the Sand were a part of this,” Gai said.

“Yeah, this really is like . . . war.”

-----

The attack, of course, caught Sasuke off guard. He chased after Gaara and his siblings. Shino coming to back him up was a welcome surprise. He never interreacted with the boy but was glad for him now.

He was anxious to confront Gaara. Gaara was right about him, but that wasn’t the only reason he wanted to fight him. He saw something in that sand shell.

Sasuke landed on a branch behind Gaara and Tamari.

Gaara pushed his sister away and turned to face him.

“I have no idea what scheme you Sand village clowns got going but I’ll stop it no matter what it is. Besides . . .”

Gaara’s sand armor started to crack.

“I want to see your true face,” Sasuke said.

“We’re so alike, Uchiha. I don’t have friends as you have, but they aren’t what makes you strong. It’s your purpose that does it. In that way we are alike. But mine is the stronger purpose, for only by destroying you and all you represent can I even prove I exist. Only then can I survive. Only then can I feel alive!”

Gaara cried out and collapsed. “You are my prey!” The sand gourd seemed to melt, turning into that hideous claw that had emerged from the shell in the arena. It also twisted his face into a demonic form and the eye was the same as Sasuke saw inside the shell. It struck him with fear.

Gaara charged at him, one of his talons cutting Sasuke’s shoulder shallowly as he dodged. Sasuke used the dust to hide behind a tree. This might take longer than I thought.

“Why do you always run away? Why do you hide? What’s wrong? You’re not afraid of me, are you? Afraid of my existence?! Has you fear overtaken the hatred, the killing urge?! Are you afraid of me, Uchiha Sasuke?! That’s it, you fear me, don’t you, Uchiha? You live in fear every day I’m alive. Has all your hatred and sense of purpose dwindled down to this? Abject fear? Is this the existence you live now, that of a coward? Come out and fight me, show me I’m wrong. Prove that your existence is stronger than mine. You’ll never know unless you fight me, you’ll never feel it. If you crave for an answer, come and get me! Attack!”

Some of those words were too close to what Itachi had said to him. Sasuke stood and readied his Chidori. It was intentional. Only I was left alive. But for what reason? I know why. He let me live so that he doesn’t have to feel guilty about killing the entire clan. My brother, Itachi, chose me to be the avenger. The sole reason for my existence is the hunt him. To destroy him!

He and Gaara flew at each other, Sasuke’s left arm sparking, Gaara’s right hand a sandy claw. The Chidori cleft through it like butter.

Gaara laughed manically. “I see! So that’s what it was! The reason I’m so excited; I just got the answer! It’s this pain. Defeating a man strong enough to hurt me and utterly destroying him, that’s what gives me an even greater sense of existence!”

Sasuke grinned. This was a challenge.

“I want more! I want more!”

A tail grew from the gourd.

What the hell is he? Sasuke wondered. He keeps changing shape.

“Here I come!” Gaara bounded from the tree limb.

He’s faster than before. Sasuke wasn’t able to fully dodge. He knew he was only alive because of the Sharingan. Having used Chidori once in the arena and once against just Gaara’s monstrous arm, he knew Chidori was no longer an option. He used his Blazing Fireball Jutsu and, like he thought, it was useless. Chidori was his only option. Nothing else in his arsenal had the power.

He blocked Gaara’s blow, but it sent him flying to a tree.

“Is this all your existence means to you? Let me make it clear to you then: you are weak! You’re too soft because your hatred isn’t strong enough. The power of hate is the power to kill. The power to kill is the power of vengeance. Your hatred is weaker than mine!”

“Shut up,” Sasuke bit out. All he could see was his brother on that night.

“Do you understand that means?”

Sasuke activated a third Chidori.

“It means you’re weaker than me!” Gaara screeched and they flew at each other again.

The Chidori flickered out. But as they approached each other in midair, the curse seal flowed out and the Chidori returned. He destroyed the sand arm. But the curse seal made Sasuke collapse after he landed. He couldn’t move.

Gaara charged. Sasuke could do nothing.

An orange blur went across Sasuke’s field of vision. It was Naruto. He kicked Gaara off course. Sakura and Pakkun landed next to Sasuke.

Sasuke ignored Naruto’s obliviousness and Sakura’s concerns. He needed to get control of the curse mark. Kakashi had said that if he couldn’t control it then he would never be able to beat Itachi. Sasuke cried out in pain as he failed to control the mark.

Gaara was coming for him again. Sakura stood to defend him. Gaara pinned her to a tree and Naruto grabbed Sasuke out from under Gaara. Sasuke was distracted by the pain and immobilized as Naruto confronted Gaara. Gaara transformed even more becoming more like a tanuki.

Sakura was being crushed by Gaara’s sand. Naruto was fighting against something even Sasuke didn’t fully understand. Sasuke himself was nearly paraylized. They were going to die here. He was on the verge of losing two of the people he’d come to care about. He couldn’t allow that.

When Naruto attacked using Kakashi’s One Thousand Years of Death, he noticed the kunai and explosive tag. He jumped in to cushion Naruto’s fall when he was slapped away by Gaara. It took all his strength and was agonizing, but he knelt behind Naruto. The tag exploded and did extensive damage.

“Even after all that, you only managed one blow? Shape up will you. I can’t save you this time like I did in the Wave Country, you dim wit.”

“Shut up, will you,” Naruto responded.

“Naruto, you have to save Sakura, no matter what. I know you can save her. Once you’ve got her, run as far and as fast as you can. It’s all up to you.”

“Sasuke,” Naruto interrupted.

“I can hold him here a little longer. If it ends here, it just means this was as far as I was meant to go. You.” Sasuke struggled to stand. “Never again. I already lost everything once before. I don’t ever want to watch those dear to me die before my eyes again.”

“I get it. Yeah. That’s right. Because he was like me, because he lived feeling the same kind of loneliness and sadness I did, I thought he was strong because he survived that solitude, fighting only for himself.”

“Naruto.” Sasuke began to realize that Naruto, despite his sunny disposition, was as lonely as he was. And Gaara might be too.

“But I was wrong. His strength isn’t real. Strength doesn’t come from fighting alone. Real strength is not what you have when fighting only for yourself.”

Naruto seemed to change in front of his eyes. He became determined and focused like Sasuke had never seen before. His chakra was a wave in the air that knocked Sasuke back a step in his weakened state. He couldn’t believe this was Naruto.

“I will protect them, no matter what!” Naruto proclaimed. He made an incredible amount of shadow clones. “Sasuke, take it easy and rest. Leave this to me, Uzumaki Naruto!”

Sasuke could only watch as the clones battered Gaara down. When did Naruto get so strong? What happened to him? Unbelievable.

The tanuki finally bellowed, “I won’t lose!” and grew to a monstrous size.

“What is that?” Sasuke gasped.

Sand started to wrap around Naruto. It was the Sand Burial Jutsu. Sasuke cried out in warning. He tried to move his body, but the pain and stress was too great. Naruto was consumed. Then a giant frog appeared, breaking the sand apart.

A summon? Sasuke didn’t know Naruto had a summoning contract.

The frog and the tanuki fought. Sasuke knew things were going to get worse when Tamari ran off. Fuck. There was no way Sasuke could help.

The voice and personality of the tanuki changed. He was even more disagreeable. They fought with air and water bullet Justus.

Then the frog transformed. “A fox?!” No, the Kyuubi.

The Kyuubi bit and grabbed onto the tanuki. Naruto headbutted Gaara and the tanuki collapsed into sand. The frog vanished.

Sasuke struggled back to his feet. He needed to find Naruto. But the sand pinning Sakura to the tree disintegrated. Sasuke leapt in to grab her. He set her down next to Pakkun.

“I’ll leave her with you.”

Sasuke left to find Naruto. He found Naruto belly crawling toward Gaara who was prone on his back.

“That’s enough, Naruto. Sakura is fine now. This guy is most likely out of chakra. The sand holding Sakura has completely collapsed.”

“I see.” Naruto collapsed with a smile on his face.

Tamari and Kankuro arrived and took Gaara away. Sasuke sat down and the curse mark finally receded.

He felt emotionally numb and oh so tired. He was injured but right now he was the only one who could even stay conscious.

-----

Finally, they defeated all the enemies in the arena. The jounin gathered here stood against the railing to look at the barrier, but they couldn’t see what was happening.

Looking at all the bodies around them, Kakashi was indeed reminded of war. He loved his job, he was proud of his abilities to kill, but he didn’t miss war. War was another animal all together.

The barrier fell. They saw Orochimaru and his men flee. The ANBU who tried to follow were caught in a web.

“Kakashi, they’re starting to move out!” Gai said. “Are we going to follow?”

“No, wait!”

“That’s right,” the traitor ANBU said. “If you move out now with little information of the surroundings up there, you’ll be caught in the enemies’ trap.”

“I’m a hundred percent aware of that,” Gai said. “Whether there is a trap or not, I cannot let the enemy just get away. That is a Konoha shinobi.”

“And are you just here to observe the end result, Kabuto?” Kakashi asked.

Kabuto removed his ANBU mask. “I guess you found out.”

“Hey,” Baki said, “what are we going to do?”

“We should get going soon,” Kabuto said.

“Are you going to run away from me again?” Kakashi asked.

“For now,” Kabuto said. “If I use my skill carelessly, the worst thing that can happen is for it to get copied,” he mocked. “Because, after all, beside the Uchiha clan, there is no one who has been able to use that eye perfectly.”

Kakashi just glared at him.

“Well then,” Kabuto said and disappeared in a puff of smoke.

“The enemy is retreating!” a jounin called out from above.

Kakashi didn’t fully relax. He looked around, making sure there weren’t any more enemies alive or not seriously injured.

All the Konoha shinobi in the arena jumped to where the Hokage had been fighting. There, they found his body. He was smiling even in death.

Finally, Kakashi let himself think about Sasuke and his other students. He put a respectful distance between himself and the body of the Hokage and summoned Bisuke. “Take me to Pakkun’s location.”

Bisuke set off without a word, Kakashi following close behind him. He was appalled at how far they’d gone; it took some time to get to them. They found them though. All three of his students were weakened and beaten. But they were all alive. Pakkun was trotting beside Sasuke. Sasuke was barely able to stand, but he was supporting Naruto and carrying Sakura on his back. He was trying to get them back to the village.

Kakashi landed in front of him. “Sit down, you fool.”

Sasuke let Naruto fall to the ground, and he eased Sakura to the ground. He let himself collapse to his knees, then sat.

“I guess I should have brought more people to carry you three.” He shifted his tone from light and teasing to serious. “Did you get him?”

“Yes,” Sasuke said. “We defeated him. They retreated.”

“Good.”

Gai and Kurenai arrived behind him. “We wanted to make sure everything was alright with your team.”

“Where’s Shikamaru?” Kakashi asked.

“Huh?” Sasuke didn’t know about Shikamaru. “I don’t know. But Shino, he took on Kankuro.”

“Shikamaru stayed behind to act as a distraction,” Pakkun said. “There was another group of shinobi chasing us. He did stop them, but he never caught up.”

“Gai,” Kakashi said, “go find Shino and Shikamaru. Kurenai, please pick up Sakura. I’ll carry the boys.”

“Gai,” Kurenai said, “Shino is one of mine. Make sure he’s okay.”

“Of course!”

“I’ll help you find them,” Bisuke said. “Pakkun, you should head home.”

“Sure thing.”

Pakkun puffed away, Bisuke lead Gai away, and Kurenai picked up Sakura. Kakashi picked up Naruto who was worse off than Sasuke. “Climb on my back, Sasuke.” Sasuke pouted but complied. Feeling Sasuke’s weight against his back was comforting.

He brought them to the hospital. All three of his students were admitted. Sakura was released a few hours later; she was far less injured than others in the village. Naruto and Sasuke would be staying at least the night.

Gai arrived to tell Kakashi that Asuma had saved Shikamaru, and Shino’s father had recovered him. Shikamaru was fine, just a little chakra exhaustion, but he hadn’t tapped into his deeper reserves and therefore fine. Shino was still suffering from some poisoning after his father used his insects to neutralize the poison he was exposed to so he was here in the hospital.

The doctors knew he hadn’t left the waiting room, so they came to let him know Naruto and Sasuke had been treated and were now sharing a room. He wasn’t allowed to visit them because they needed rest. Kakashi left as if he would obey, but he just went up the wall and entered the room he smelled Sasuke in.

Naruto was hard to wake, so Kakashi wasn’t worried about visiting Sasuke. He drew the curtain between Sasuke and Naruto’s beds as a formality. Sasuke had ice packs around him to deal with the inflation in his muscles. Sasuke opened his eyes sleepily.

“The Hokage is dead,” Kakashi told him. “Parts of the village are destroyed. However, our causalities were minimal. You stopped their trump card. I’m very proud.”

“I . . . I wasn’t the one who defeated Gaara. I wounded him with the Chidori, but it was Naruto who defeated him.”

Kakashi hummed. He knew Naruto and Sakura must have entered the battle considering their injuries, but that was shocking.

“I tried a third Chidori,” Sasuke confessed. “It failed. At first. I used the curse mark. I was able to damage Gaara’s changed form, but I collapsed afterward. Naruto . . . he used clones and then he summoned a frog. The frog transformed into a giant fox that fought Gaara’s huge form. He defeated it. You shouldn’t be proud of me.”

“But I am. You say Gaara transformed. What was his shape?”

“A tanuki. An ugly one.”

“With one tail?”

“Yes.”

A jinchuuriki. That made sense. “How many tails did Naruto’s fox have?”

“Nine. It was the Kyuubi.”

“Interesting.”

Sasuke scoffed.

“Now you know you better than to force a jutsu. That’s all the scolding I’ll give you. You’re on pain killers, right? You should be able to sleep. Rest tomorrow. You were coughing up blood, so you aren’t leaving here for a day or so. Goodnight.”

“Hn.”

Kakashi mused his hair in a parental way. “I really am proud of you.”

-----

Kakashi left him alone. Naruto snored, but the drugs in Sasuke’s system were tempting him to sleep. But he remembered Gaara’s words as he fought him in the forest.

“That’s it, you fear me, don’t you, Uchiha? You live in fear every day I’m alive. Has all your hatred and sense of purpose dwindled down to this? Abject fear? Is this the existence you live now, that of a coward? . . . Is this all your existence means to you? Let me make it clear to you then: you are weak! You’re too soft because your hatred isn’t strong enough. The power of hate is the power to kill. The power to kill is the power of vengeance. Your hatred is weaker than mine!”

Itachi. He kept seeing Itachi’s eyes from that night. The contempt. He heard his words. “It would be worthless to kill someone like you, my foolish little brother. If you want to kill me, curse me! Hate me! And live a long and unsightly life. Run away. Run away and cling to your pitiful life. And some day when you have the same eyes as me, come before me.”

He needed to kill Itachi. He needed to nurture his hate and his pain to get stronger. He needed power. Would he be free then? Would he be free of his hate and anger? Would he be free to . . .

He wished Kakashi had stayed.

He slept, but he was trapped in nightmares most of the night.

-----

On the morning of the Hokage’s funeral, Kakashi went to the memorial stone at dawn dressed in his black mourning clothes. He’d worn these far more often than he would have liked. He stood there in front of the stone even as it began to rain. Water was falling when Rin died too. It wasn’t rain though. But the rain made him remember.

“Ka . . . ka . . . shi.”

“Kakashi, take care of Rin.”

The last thing he remembered Minato saying to him was thanking him for protecting Kushina while she was pregnant and urging him to take a break from his duties. Minato died that very night.

If only he’d reached Rin sooner. If only he’d listened to Obito sooner. If only he disobeyed and went to Minato’s side. If only he—

Kakashi sensed a presence behind him, recognized it. He could smell the flowers even in the rain. “Are those for Hayate?” he asked, his voice even rougher than normal. His throat was tight with grief.

Yuugao came forward.

“Better make it quick,” Kakashi said as he turned and relinquished his place in front of the stone. He kept his back to her to give her some privacy as she paid her respects to her lover. “The Hokage’s funeral has already begun,” he said.

Yuugao knelt in front of the stone and put the flowers down. She closed her eyes and put her hands together to pray. “And you, Kakashi? Paying respects to Obito? Instead of constantly inventing new excuses for being late, why don’t you simply come here earlier?” She was one of the few who knew the true reason he was always late. As a former teammate, she often sought him here when he was being summoned or he was simply late.

“I did,” Kakashi said. “I’ve been here since dawn.”

Yuugao stood up and turned toward him.

“This place makes me think of the mistakes I’ve made in the past and I’ve made so many of them.”

They both slipped into the ranks of mourners in time for the conclusion of the funeral. The rain stopped.

Kakashi listened to Iruka’s words.

“Still, I’m sad he’s gone,” Naruto said at the end of Iruka’s speech.

“Think how sad it would be if he died for nothing,” Kakashi said. “But he left us something priceless. Don’t worry, you’ll understand one of these days.”

“Hey, give me some credit; that much I get.”

Once relieved of their burden, the clouds cleared, and the sun shone through.

After the ceremony concluded, Kakashi led his students away. Naruto had been released the morning after the battle, Sasuke ran away later that day. Sasuke wasn’t completely healed of course, but he was walking.

“I’ll treat you guys to lunch,” Kakashi said.

“Ichiraku?!” Naruto yelled.

“No, something more appropriate.”

He took them to a real restaurant. The three of them sat across from him with Sakura in the middle. It was a mostly silent meal.

Naruto seemed the most distressed by the Hokage’s death. Understandable since Hiruzen was Naruto’s guardian and therefore was likely like a grandfather to him. As much as the Sandaime tried to be the grandfather to everyone in the village, he couldn’t. Naruto shouldn’t have grown up the way he did.

Hiruzen had come to Sakumo’s funeral. No one else showed up. He’d said something about reputation and compassion, but Kakashi had hardly listened. Platitudes. Hiruzen had concluded by telling him that aside from his inheritance, he would receive an orphan stipend, the full amount even though his father hadn’t died in battle. It was all cold comfort to a six-year-old orphan.

Sakura was grieved, but she never had a personal connection to him.

Sasuke didn’t look like he cared.

“Due to the damage to the village, we won’t be going out on missions for a while,” Kakashi said as the meal wound down. “If you want to volunteer to help with reconstruction, you will get C rank credit for it. Otherwise, you can train or take some time off. You all have been injured, so feel free to take the time to recover.”

“What about you, Kakashi-sensei?” Naruto asked.

“I’ll be taking some solo missions. Small ones to ensure security, maybe a little rebuilding.”

They went back to their introspective silence.

Sakura was the first to leave. “I want to change out of these wet clothes,” she said.

“Yeah,” Naruto agreed.

Naruto hesitated to see if Sasuke would leave with them, but Sasuke just took another sip of tea. The pair left.

Sasuke went still to feel if anyone could hear them. “Can I come over?”

“Of course.”

Sasuke henged so people wouldn’t notice that he was going home with Kakashi.

As soon as they were safely behind a locked door, Sasuke started to strip his damp clothes. Kakashi did the same.

“Take a warm shower,” Kakashi told him. “Warm up.”

Sasuke obeyed silently. Once finished, Kakashi handed him a robe to put on since none of his clothes would fit him. Kakashi took a shower and dressed in his nightclothes.

Sasuke was laying on the bed wrapped in the robe. Kakashi sat next to his legs. Sasuke was awake.

“You don’t seem as sad about the Hokage as the others,” Kakashi commented.

Sasuke shrugged. “Somehow, I don’t think you’re grieving for him either. You were late. As always.”

“I was visiting other dead friends.”

“Sandaime came to see me a few days after my clan was killed. There was nothing he could say or do.”

Kakashi smiled. “The same for me. He came to my father’s funeral. What can anyone say or do when you lose everyone?”

“So, how does his death make you feel?”

“Vulnerable. I trusted him. I don’t know what will come after him.” He rubbed Sasuke’s thigh in an innocent fashion. “Sleep. You were coughing up blood two days ago.”

Kakashi was going to stand up and tend his weapons and do a few chores while Sasuke slept, but Sasuke grabbed his wrist.

“I’m not going to leave,” Kakashi assured him.

“Lay down with me until I fall asleep.”

Kakashi smiled warmly at him. “Okay.” He crawled around to lay on his side next to Sasuke. He put his hand over Sasuke’s diaphragm. It seemed to calm Sasuke as he quickly fell asleep.

Kakashi stared at the boy’s face. Like fine porcelain. He frowned even in sleep. The cut from his fight with Gaara had healed so that it wasn’t visible unless you stared and caught it in the right light. The medical-nin did good work. They hadn’t focused on the cut, but when they healed him, they healed everything.

Now that Sasuke could not hear him, Kakashi whispered, “You are so precious to me.”

He considered what it would be like to live with this man. Older and perhaps done with his revenge, they could be together, even if not openly. They could live together and go on missions together. Two shinobi with the Sharingan and Chidori. They would be an unstoppable duo.

As he stared at him, Kakashi wondered what Sasuke would look like in three years. Would he look like his father? Kakashi hoped not, but he wouldn’t love him any less. But his face didn’t have Fugaku’s shape; he looked more like his mother. She was a beautiful woman.

His thoughts strayed to Itachi. Itachi was about Sasuke’s age when he killed everyone and left. He didn’t know what the young man looked like now.

Itachi . . .

Kakashi had liked him, took him under his wing. He didn’t want him to die. He accepted the truth that Itachi had slaughtered his clan, but he still felt a sense of disbelief. And now he was close to his brother who sought to kill a member of his family as well. If asked to choose, Kakashi would choose Sasuke’s side.

Kakashi had known people who had achieved revenge; it made them hollow and directionless. When someone was so focused on one objective, achieving it left them without any goal. But Kakashi would be there for Sasuke when he took his revenge. He would give him something beyond revenge.

Kakashi wished there was a way to prevent Sasuke from killing Itachi. He knew he couldn’t kill Itachi for him, but he wished he could save Sasuke from fratricide.

But Itachi made Sasuke strive. He was a reason for Sasuke to get stronger. He had to accept the situation. He carefully crawled out of the bed and started his little chores, wary not to wake Sasuke. But he wouldn’t leave him.



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