The doctor takes one look at his eye and pronounces it unsalvageable. Are they returning to the field immediately? No? Well, Rin has done enough triage that they’re comfortable allowing it to heal on its own. A nurse will show him how to care for the wound. He's supposed to return in two weeks for a checkup. The man, maybe inexperienced with shinobi, maybe just tired, reaches out to pat his shoulder comfortingly. After all – he still has one perfectly good eye! Kakashi, pulse hammering in his ears, breaks his wrist before he realizes it’s not an attack.
Rule #32: a shinobi must prepare before it is too late to.
Sensei still draws the line at letting him do all of his katas blindfolded.
The Kannabi Bridge Mission lasts five days, and he spends almost twenty hours of it passed out. Despite Obito’s assertions, it does not make them friends. At the same time, they are not what they were. He retreats, ceaselessly polite because he owes them something even if he doesn’t know what it is yet, and waits.
Obito, of course, breaks first, snarling up into his space like a frightened dog. Kakashi blinks and dumps him back onto the ground; it feels like admitting to something.
“Your footwork is terrible,” his mouth says without his permission, and Obito grins up at him with all his teeth. It’s so easy is the thing, pulling his teammate out of the dirt; so simple he almost doesn’t remembers why it will hurt in the end.
“What,” he says, pulling the door open. Rin is obnoxiously awake on the other side and she crouches down to let the pack mob her. He rolls his eye; they could sign a contract with her if they were so eager.
“I’m here to make sure you don’t get sepsis,” she says, pushing Shiba’s nose away from her ear and looking up at him. She squints. “Is that dog slobber all over my bandages?”
“No,” Kakashi lies. “They’re my bandages.” Somehow, her smile is more intimidating than it was two weeks ago.
“Your appointment at the hospital is in forty minutes.”
“Not going,” he says, gritting his teeth. Rin turns to scratch under Akino’s chin.
“Kakashi’s such a dummy isn’t he?” Shiba whuffs a laugh. “He’s not going to go to the doctor and then he’ll get an infection and not tell anyone. And then,” she says, shaking her head sadly at Guruko, “he’ll get sepsis and his blood will smell awful and he’ll die.” Right on cue, all three dogs whine. Bull, not to be left out of the obvious emotional manipulation, whimpers and pushes at the back of Kakashi’s legs until he has to step forward or fall on his face.
“No bones for a month,” he says, and retreats with what is left of his dignity to get dressed.
All academy graduates swear the same oath: the Leaf has born me and to it I return my body; my hands and mind shall see the Will of Fire done. Upon my life, I do swear. Perched on top of the 1st Hokage’s head, Kakashi can see the entirety of the village – the neighbors who had raised him and shunned him and loved him in turn. Were ninjas of their village, or a part of it? Was there really any difference at all? To them I return my body, he thinks, and closes his eye. When he reaches out into the dark the village feels like a growing thing, smells like the crackle of a flame.
“Such a youthful display of vigor!” Kakashi looks up from his push-ups, because what, and immediately wishes he hadn’t. Might Gai had been in Rin and Obito’s age group at the academy, and it’s been blissful years since Kakashi’s had the misfortune of running into him. Judging by the green spandex, identical haircut, and his habit of interrupting other people’s training, time has made him no less annoying.
“Gai,” he grunts, because he’s already made eye contact.
“I will join you!” Before Kakashi can make up an excuse to be anywhere else, Gai kneels to begin his own set. He does it, shockingly, without further speeches. Two hours and only four utterances of youth later, Kakashi feels like all of his muscles have been replaced with… paste… noodles… something lacking structural integrity; Gai, fresh faced and sweaty, is barely breathing hard. Groaning, he looks up at the clouds. Maybe if he lies very still the ground will see fit to bury him and his shame.
“A most invigorating workout! Your determination does our village credit.” Kakashi picks his head up enough to glare at him, but Gai appears entirely genuine. His smile is literally catching the light. Ugh, what did he do to be surrounded by so many optimists? Idiots, all of them. (He doesn’t want to think about what that makes him.)
Rin hides behind her hair when she’s laughing at them. There’s a tilt to her mouth that gives her away if you’re looking for it; he hadn’t been, before.
“It’s just leaf juice,” he says, cutting into Obito’s thousandth attempt to preach the gospel of green tea to Sensei.
“Kakashi,” Sensei says, sighing, as Obito’s mouth works soundlessly. Rin reaches for another piece of barbecue, hair falling in front of her eyes, but her lips are twitching.
“You – you… You Heathen!” Kakashi raises his eyebrow when she looks back up, and she tilts her head, a smile crawling across her face. “Kakashi!”
“Did I say something untrue?” He drawls, turning to look at Obito. There’s something there too – something beyond his flush and the way his sense of propriety is clearly warring with his anger – that Kakashi wants to figure out. He leans forward, propping his elbow on the table. “Tea is just hot water and leaves.”
“Kami help us,” Sensei mutters, but he’s smiling.
They get a heat wave halfway through summer: a miserable, sticky thing. Sensei’s sent them another endless quest to discover tags he’s hidden around Konoha in the name of team building, but they’d given up the ghost hours ago. Under his bandages, Kakashi’s eye is throbbing and itching at the same time.
“I was wrong,” he says, and ignores Obito’s weak attempts to feign a heart attack. “About wanting to leave Rin.” He watches her face as he says it, the confusion there, and notes Obito jerking upright in surprise. Ah, so he hadn’t told her then. “I thought we should continue the mission, Obito…disagreed.”
“You changed your mind,” she says. It’s hard to meet her gaze, the sharpness there. To think, he used to believe she was the soft one.
“Not by myself.” It’s the hardest part to swallow, how badly he would have failed alone. “I’m sorry.”
“We’re a team,” Obito says, stubborn, like that’s the point. Rin laughs, bright and clear, so maybe it is.
(Later, when they pry their sticky limbs off the grass, Rin puts her hand on his shoulder. You’ve changed, she says, I trust you not to do it again. It’s more than he deserves, but he holds onto it anyway.)
The memorial stone was erected at the end of the 2nd Shinobi War as a witness to the great and terrible things ninja did to defend the Leaf; Hatake Sakumo’s name is not on it. Kakashi no longer knows if this is because of what is right or what is convenient. Father had turned away an uncertain future in favor of the five lives in front of him – had it been hubris or humility? Was it the symptom of a man who had gotten used to winning, to everyone coming home? Or was it a sign that he thought the war with Iwagakure inevitable? He kneels and presses a hand to the two names his father’s would have fallen between. I do not forgive you, he thinks, but I am trying.
Every life matters, Father had always said, even when you cannot yet see how.