it's a lazy way to say that you've been burned.
The sun crept it's way into the sky, just like it did every morning. A gradual blast of color exploding over a darkened canvas, enlightening the shinobi world as she did every single day—— and Kakashi was never once late to his daily routine.
Every single day, when dusk melded into dawn, the dew of the grass twinkling and causing anyone that trekked through it to feel it's moisture, Kakashi's fingers were always threaded in the earth to watch the sunrise. It was habit, now, to wander his way through the early morning to visit a few old friends along the way, with the intention of giving each individual a special amount of time. Not that he'd ever admit it to someone, but his first stop was always that of Sakumo Hatake.
He never spoke much to this one, but he thoroughly enjoyed watching the night turn into day with his father every morning, tracing calloused fingertips over the engraved markings that spelled out the name of the traitor of the village. The White Fang, Kakashi would muse to himself, and his mind flickered to when Obito told him he truly believed his father was a hero.
Even though Kakashi had become a strait-laced, unrecognizable human being after he found the lifeless corpse in a pool of blood, he could never blame his dad. Sometimes, he could feel the blood on the pads of his fingertips, when it got particularly bad at night. Today, was special, though.
"Father," he swallowed thickly, his voice no higher than a hushed whisper, as if he were praying. "My students have their first assignment today. When I first met them. . . it felt as if I were staring into a mirror." That was all he could manage, for today. Sakumo was the most difficult for him to converse with, but it was important for him to know about the new step Kakashi had taken in his life, because he knew there three would be passing the unbearably notorious bell-test—— there was no way they wouldn't. So he sat in silence for some time longer, haphazardly pulling out thin blades of grass as his gaze was directed to the sky.
Speaking a silent prayer, he moved onto the next conquest, Minato Namikaze's headstone. There were flowers on it, but he wasn't sure from who, if not him. But nonetheless, he sat himself down in front of this one, too, and felt an aura of anxiety wash over him when he realized the logistics of the situation. He was to be teaching the Fourth Hokage's son, and every memory flooding his thoughts of how Minato had been so excessively happy when Kushina broke the news. It brought a few tears to fall, welling in his tired eyes and unable to be contained. There had never be two people more in love, he was certain.
"Sensei," he didn't touch this stone, however. It was different from the way he treated his father's, even if they held similar figural properties in his life. "Naruto is on your team, now. Team seven." The sun was now hanging in the sky, the world slowly becoming alive around him. "He's. . . like Obito, so far. A lonely kid, a troublemaker who cares too much. Strange how it is, when your child looks exactly like you, but has the personality of Kushina, to an extent." Through his mask, he couldn't contain the gentle smile forming, creasing the fabric. "Someday, he'll be told of you. And someday, he'll know that his father was one of the most influential people alive—— that might be subjective, but. The girl, she's like Rin, a bit."
The subject of the child that reminded him of himself fell upon deaf ears.
"Please, allow me to be as excellent of a teacher as you were for us." He would never admit it, but he was desperate for the Yellow Flash to be. . . proud of who he had become. It was a fleeting wish that he could have been proud of Obito and Rin, aswell, but that dream would remain dead for as long as time could tell. But, at the very least, he could help Naruto Uzumaki through, in their places.
It was getting close to around the time he needed to be meeting his students, now, but Kakashi had two more important stops to make. It didn't matter what he was going to be late for, he would never once cut his time short with those he valued so highly, so onwards he went.
Rin, was next.
It was obvious to him that his hands trembled when he visited her. There were a lot of things that happened in his life that could cause the same feeling, but nothing was as vivid as the moment he punctured her heart. While Sakumo's blood tainted his fingers, Rin's covered his entire arm. Her grave was left untouched, as usual, and he brushed off some of the dirt that had gotten kicked up onto it.
He was meant to protect her, and he couldn't even fulfill that promise. Inhaling sharply, he let the breath leave his lungs gradually, warming his mask. A grounding technique, posed to keep him from having a meltdown.
"She's like you." Sakura Haruno, he referenced, his new student that was eager to please, her spring-green eyes always fixated on the Uchiha of the group.
He worried, for this reason, and was determined to not allow her to meet the same fate as his close friend did so long ago. "Sensei's son, he's in my potential team, now, too. We even have the same number. Funny, isn't it." Kakashi wouldn't tell her he was riddled with the anxiety that history would repeat itself, he didn't have the strength to voice that. Not even to her. "I think you would have made a great teacher, you know."
Rin's motherly, vibrant energy would've meshed well with any child. She would've made the perfect mother, too, but he can't say that, either, because he knew how she felt about him. He had never wed, and he wondered if he should have told her the truth when she confessed her feelings to him.
If there was one thing he regretted in his life, it was how he could never be truly honest with the people he lost. He couldn't of responded to her with the reality of him not being interested in women, because he wasn't equipped to handle the possible anger that she might have had against it.
Knowing Rin, she would've loved him like her family all the same, but even now, nobody knew—— the risk factor was too high, and he was content being alone.
Talking to her was hard, even when she wasn't there to listen, because Kakashi wanted to scream at her. He wanted to erupt into tears and blame her for the nights he'd spent awakened by the memory of her innocent face losing it's light. The reason she'd done it made sense to him as an adult, but he couldn't help the guilt that would bubble in his chest when he thought of her.
It was time to go, now, and luckily, the final visit was close to the training grounds, where he would be meeting the kids.
Kakashi walked slower than usual.
Upon arrival, he knew exactly where the name was in the sea of fallen soldiers. He knew exactly what the indentation felt like when he brushed his fingers against it, pressing against it gently. The monument contained so many stories, a plethora of shinobi that had fought valiantly in the Third War, but there wasn't a single one he cared about as vividly as he cared about his.
Obito Uchiha had been dead for so long, now, but Kakashi's heart had always beaten solely for him. The image of his dopey, wide smile was a permanent, unwavering picture in his mind. The way he'd show up late, every day, without fail, because he was helping someone that he'd come across before a mission. Their rivalry was obvious, but one-sided, because Kakashi loved him, even now.
There was nobody that would ever be able to compete with the ringing of Obito's voice in his ears, and he was content with that.
"You know," Kakashi began, holding his index finger over the name. "Naruto's basically the spitting image of you. Annoying orange clothing, stupid antics, the true essence of a knuckle-head ninja." When he visited Obito, the headband that commonly covered his sharingan was raised, allowing him to meet face-to-face with him. "I think he'll be a problem for me, just like you've always been."
He often talked the most with him, about everything and anything. It was one of the only things that took off the edge and permitted him to feel so utterly. . . human. If anyone knew, they likely would've looked at him strangely, but it was his personal solace, that required no external involvement. It was the friendship he wished he could have had with his teammate when he was alive, but was always too cowardly to allow it to blossom.
"I told Rin that I think she would've been a good teacher, but I think you would've been one of the worst. You might've been Hokage by now, you know." It was somewhat of a joke.
Obito Uchiha would have been one of the most influential, revered ninjas across all the nations, that much he was sure of. The idea always made the taste of bile rise in his throat, one that couldn't be cured.
He left it at that, today. After training, he'd likely return to tell him about his day, but he was running late as it was, so he began his trek to the assigned meeting spot.
As the kids came into his vision, it appeared that they had been waiting long for him, two of them seated next to each other in the blazing sunlight. The Uchiha one was still on his feet.
He didn't feel bad, though.
"Hey, folks. Good morning!" His tone couldn't be described as cheery, but was definitively different than the one he held with his fallen comrades—— he was friendlier, because after all, these three were just children.
They couldn't see the smile that exploded over his face when both Naruto and Sakura stood instantly at the sound of his voice, accusatory stances taken. "You're late, again!" They were in unison, and Sasuke remained silent.
"I got lost on the path of life, you see."
None of them much cared for the excuse.
He'd allowed both Sakura and Naruto the day to rest upon the return of the jinchuuriki, from the training he had endured. He'd been gone for three years, and Kakashi could only assume how intensive his training had been with Jiraiya.
He was happy to see them again, even with Sasuke absent, still—— the subject of the rogue nin was sour, and whenever mentioned, left everyone with a hallow expression. But, today wasn't about the Uchiha, it was about the return of his student, and a readministering of the infamous bell-test, to see what they had gained from training underneath their respective Sannins.
They were accomplishing things that he briefly wondered if Obito and Rin had wanted to do, as well.
So, as tradition, he made his way to the cemeteries in his downtime after speaking with Jiraiya over lunch, being made aware of the new actions taken by an organization known as the Akatsuki. He could never turn down a conversation with the revered author, but the knowledge of this new enemy left him with an uncomfortable feeling washed over his entire body. He couldn't shake it.
The Akatsuki, who were after the nine-tailed fox, the beast sealed inside of his student. The one that lead to the Fourth Hokage's demise once it had been released upon the village. He'd brainstorm their motives later on, as not much was known to the Hidden Leaf at the moment regarding it.
He knelt in front of Sakumo Hatake's headstone, the heat of the blazing summer sun making it almost uncomfortable to be in the direct light. "Father." There were so many things to tell him, as usual, but Kakashi always fell short, when it came to him. Perhaps he felt guilty for condemning his actions for so long, or maybe it was the churning anxiety in his chest that if he had just listened to his father, his friends may still be here, today.
Was there a purpose in dwelling? He might never know.
"Both of my students trained underneath the legendary sannin, for quite some time. And. . . they both follow your word, you know. They put each other and their comrades ahead of all else."
He wouldn't cry.
"I only wish I had been strong enough to do the same."
Goddammit, he wouldn't cry, if it was the last thing he did. That was reserved for Obito, right?
Tracing his last name, he knew he needed to make this brief, today, even if he'd be late, regardless. Starting so late in the evening was bound to make this last all night.
Someday he'd have the courage to tell his father everything he always desired to say, but today was not that day.
Minato Namikaze's son was becoming an excellent shinobi, and speaking with him was sure to make the dread filling his lungs dissipate, so he moved along. As usual, a floral display was left for the Fourth Hokage.
He wondered if he'd ever find out who left them, every week. Not seating himself this time, he allowed himself to brush his hand against the top of the stone, standing tall.
"He's certainly something, Sensei. I don't think I've ever seen someone with as much energy. I'm almost envious—— everyday, he reminds me more of Kushina." Kakashi's excitement to see the improvements of his children were no mystery. "I know he's going to change the world as we know it."
Sasuke Uchiha, however, was another story.
The child that felt like was the containment of all of his failures, wrapped into one. It haunted him to know that there was nothing he could say to the teenager that was the spitting image of himself to make him change his mind.
Maybe, in another universe, Kakashi would've been the same way, after he found his only family member dead. He knew what it did to someone.
He knew what it did to him.
But he never lost hope.
His palm placed flat, now, he wondered what his teacher would have done if he had taken the same path Sasuke did, all those years ago. Kakashi knew he could have become bitter. He should have ended up endlessly angry with the world after the first lost loved one, the fact that he had made it through four without his heart changing was unbeknownst to him.
Although, after Obito's death, he knew his behavior had altered for the better.
As usual, Rin's stone wasn't far from their sensei's, and he knew he didn't have enough time to sit and spend enough with her today, already making mental plans to update her later on in the week once he had seen Sakura's progress.
"She's become a medical nin, just as you were for us. Just as brash and caring." The wind brushed through his silver hair, and he took it as a sign of her satisfaction. "I wish she could have trained underneath you, at your full potential." Rather than at her worst, with blood pouring from her lips as Kakashi stole her life from her.
Just as his broken promise vanished from this earth.
"Rest well, Rin. I'll return to tell you of her skills soon."
For some reason, he didn't visit Obito—— there was something deep in his chest, bothering him.
It made him feel ill to pass over his closest friend, but there definitely was a discontent brewing in him after his conversation with Jiraiya this morning. So when Kakashi appeared from thin air in front of his students, he spoke a silent prayer that they wouldn't pick up on his altered behavior.
"You're late!" The pair bellowed upon their teacher finally arriving, and he gave a sheepish smile. He would have been later, on any other given day, so they had to cut him some slack, this once.
His signature response felt. . . different, to say the least, and nothing felt as coherent as usual. "My apologies, I got lost on the path as life."
Kakashi didn't notice how his students picked up on his faulty mood almost immediately, and throughout the entirety of the evening, it permeated how thoughts.
Something had been bothering him for months, and upon it being revealed, Kakashi's stomach did a summersault, and he wanted to throw up. It took nothing but the meeting of their gaze for him to understand why he felt so abhorrent for the past however-long, he couldn't remember now.
As soon as the masked figure referred to his power as borrowed, he knew. It only exemplified upon their eyes meeting, the coldness of his once love's stare piercing him more than any ordinary attack ever could. Naruto shattered the façade "Madara Uchiha" was living under, and in turn, Kakashi's heart went with it. He had never once wanted to die more than now.
He had never once wished that he had taken a blade to himself just as Sakumo Hatake did all those years ago, but in this stolen moment, Kakashi wanted nothing more than to be a name frozen on a headstone, never to be seen again.
Kakashi Hatake was powerless.
He could not move. He could not speak. He could barely even breathe as his once comrade spoke the truth of his motives—— why he had never returned to the Hidden Leaf. And the worst of it all, was that Kakashi could not blame him for even a moment.
"It's because you let Rin. . . die."
The bearing eyes of his student, Naruto Uzumaki, and his ally, Might Guy, after the truth was revealed made him want to dig a knife directly into his chest. Perhaps this was the punishment he deserved.
Nothing felt real.
Nothing felt right.
Obito Uchiha was here, and nothing felt okay.
The war had ended, and to Kakashi's dismay, he had been instated as Hokage by Lady Tsunade. Sunlight poured in through the window covered by blinds, seeping through the cracks to indicate that he needed to finally rise for the day. As he stirred awake, he was reminded sharply of the reality he was currently existing in by a pair of muscular, discolored arms pulling him back into the undeniable warmth of the comforter.
Obito Uchiha was here, and his nose was being pressed into the nape of Kakashi's bare neck, demanding that the man stay in bed for just moments longer. Every morning since the return to the village, he was awoken to this reminder. This promise that they made, to never let the other go, ever again. So he allowed himself to be enveloped into the love he had been deprived of for so long. "Obito, you know I can't stay here all day. Neither can you, I'm sending you off today."
That received a low grumble, from the world's laziest shinobi on earth, even rivalling Shikamaru. "Since when do I, the war criminal, get to partake in the affairs of the village I tried to get rid of? No way." Obito's voice was thick with the remnants of his slumber, and it made the hair on the back of Kakashi's neck stand up. "I'll stay here, you go do your Hokage-ly duties."
He hadn't left Kakashi's apartment since his return, and they both knew that he wasn't planning to. While not shrouded with the physicality of a mask any longer, an emotional one grew in its place, from the churning guilt in his stomach. It wasn't hard to read him.
Everyone in the village was enraged that their newest leader had merely pardoned the two men that did the most damage to Konohagakure. Anyone in the right state of mind would, and Kakashi knew even his former students were wary of him. Hence why he had asked them to come without explaining why, even against their protests.
He turned to face his sleeping lover, carding calloused fingers through the now white head of hair Obito possessed. "I pardoned you so you could atone in your own way, not sulk in my apartment until the end of time." Their eyes didn't meet. "I love you, and want everyone else I love to come to care for you, too."
"As if." His slick response was riddled with the endless anxiety that radiated through his skin. "They'll try to put my head on a stick."
Kakashi didn't allow him to continue, pecking his lips with authority—— if he didn't silence Obito now, he'd never leave this room. "Shut up and get dressed."
Everyone was in the office, awaiting the Sixth Hokage's arrival, so him sheepishly entering was not left ignored. Sakura and Naruto, with their arms crossed over their chests, always in unison. Sai didn't look particularly miffed that their former teacher had arrived late, and perhaps he had been the only one grown to expect it. Generally, Yamato would be present, had he not been assigned to keeping an eye on Orochimaru and his antics.
Kakashi missed his presence, but knew he was the only person alive suited to such a. . . constant, grueling task, of listening to Orochimaru's strange monologues. Sasuke wasn't here, either, to their dismays, but he had his own method of atonement to contribute towards, ghosting through the Leaf Village once prior to leaving once more, with a promise to return, this time.
He could see Sakura's mouth open, likely to scold him for daring to arrive late, especially since he was now the leader of the village and had a certain image to maintain in a position of power, but he noticed how her demeanor fell flat once her aggravated gaze caught sight of Obito Uchiha filing in behind Kakashi. It was known that Naruto had squashed any issues with their enemy, but they were all uncertain of how she would directly react to him. The silence was deafening in the office, as he moved to take his seat at the grand Hokage's desk, Obito standing at the edge of it.
"What can I say, guys. I got lost on the path of life, as usual."
Attempting to break the aura in the room apparently wasn't going to work, and he nervously glanced to meet his partner's pointed gaze, curious if he could do something to amend the situation on their hands.
"So, these are your kids, huh, 'Kashi. I only recognize fox-boy and the one I tried to get to stab my eyeball out, that one time." Sakura certainly looked taken aback by how. . . nonchalant, this man was. "Who's the crop-top?" Naruto's smile was growing ever-so slowly, Kakashi noticed out of the corner of his eye. The yellow haired kid went into action instantaneously, jumping to wrap his arms around Obito.
It was clear that he squeezed the man, as an exasperated noise left his throat. The last thing either of them expected was for former Squad Seven to take such a direct approach in welcoming Obito into the village, hence the secrecy of hiding him in Kakashi's apartment, but even Sakura's thin lips were pulling forth a vibrant smile. "You! I didn't think you'd ever come out of that damn apartment, I was gonna ask today, but I didn't wanna like, butt-in on your guy's alone time, 'cause we figured there was like, a lot to talk about after all that. Did sensei finally confess to you? Are you guys all in love and stuff now?" Red eyes met grey ones as Obito frantically turned his head to look at Kakashi, begging for a way out of this.
Sakura's shrill voice did the job, however, as her fist came down on the back of his head. "Naruto! It's rude to ask such big questions the first time you properly meet someone!" He disconnected immediately from Obito, his cerulean optics clearly turning into a pout. He'd never change. "Anyways—— um, it's nice to meet you properly. . . Obito? You know Naruto, and this is Sai." The question rang, uncertain of it was okay for them to use such casual language with this newfound friend.
Sai's presence one again made known, he gave a smile that was. . . different, than usual, Kakashi noted. It wasn't one that made your spine chill, and he felt an air of pride wash over him. His expression was thoughtful and engaged, rather than the ones they had all grown so used to, and Obito brushed past the pair of squabbling jonin to address him properly.
Placing the palm that wasn't infected by the remains of white Zetsu on the top of Sai's black head of hair, Kakashi couldn't help but feel his chest swell as he watched natural interactions happen between the four people he valued the most in his life, now. It was entirely different than what he expected. "Nice to meet you, Sai," A toothy grin was flashed. "How did you end up in this little misfit family, huh?"
And for the first time in Kakashi Hatake's life, he felt as though he could visit his father's place of rest as a completed shinobi—— well, a completed human being, to tell him everything.