Sakura leaves first. Kakashi leaves second. And all that's left to do is nothing.
(Originally published 2/19/2005)
I promise someday I'll stop being so mean to Kakashi. Sadly, that day isn't today.
As usual, some vague Kakashi Gaiden spoilers. I don't know when in continuity this is set, and I don't really care. Thank you to Chevira for inspiring part of the plotline.
Gai found Kakashi in his apartment, the morning of Sakura's funeral.
He knocked on Kakashi's door, at first. When he got no answer he switched to pounding, and yelling something he wouldn't be able to remember later about rising early in the springtime of life. And then he finally just dug his keys out of his pocket -- Kakashi had given him a spare set some years ago, though he was reluctant to intrude on his friend's privacy -- and barged in.
"You're going to be late for the funeral," he said bluntly as he stepped into the foyer, not bothering to remove his shoes yet. He took a few steps forward into the room proper, of half a mind to berate his eternal rival for his constant brooding.
It was then that he noticed Kakashi wasn't too likely to care about being late anymore.
It had looked like an easy enough mission, to start with. Pursue three fugitives who had stolen important documents from the client, retrieve the documents, and take down the offending targets. The ninja they would be facing weren't known to be particularly powerful, so Kakashi wasn't particularly worried about the outcome. He took Sakura with him and they went alone. The other two members of Team 7 were still in the hospital recuperating from their last mission; he had no doubt that at least Naruto would be fully healed by the end of the day and running around energetically demanding to know why he hadn't been allowed to come on the latest job, but Kakashi thought it was likely to go fairly smoothly even without them. Hunting and tracking was his specialty, after all. Back in ANBU he'd taken on harder missions than this all by himself.
Of course, nothing ever went quite the way you planned it.
He and Sakura caught up with the targets and they traded blows for a while, testing each other. They weren't particularly powerful, no, or at least not until one of them blinked and was suddenly wearing a pair of eyes unlike anything Kakashi had ever seen. He had not been aware before that moment that Bloodline Limit eyes besides the Sharingan and the Byakugan even existed. He wondered absently whether that was an intelligence failure or a personal failure as the other ninja used this unfamiliar power to direct his muscles.
They left after they made him stab Sakura in the stomach. The effects of those eyes hadn't worn off yet, so he just stood there, and watched her bleed onto the leaves. Even after he could move again, he didn't bother to follow.
He thought he remembered her saying not to blame himself.
The morning after Sakura's funeral, Kakashi's friends came to clean out his apartment.
It was pretty much the same as Kurenai remembered it -- tidy, a little threadbare, and a little dusty in places. The potted plant was still sitting on the windowsill, the laundry basket on the closet floor was still overflowing. Kakashi hated doing laundry; once in a while he good-naturedly tried to weasel her into doing it for him, usually saying something about the privileges of being sempai, but she always managed to get out of it.
Had hated, she corrected herself. Had tried.
Except for the missing bedroll (they threw it away since it was bloody and belonged to no one anymore and she missed it sitting there in the corner all green and tacky), it looked like he had just stepped out on a mission, and he'd walk back in anytime, give them a wave and a tired smile and wonder with his usual mild-mannered curiosity what they were all doing congregated in his room.
They all just stood and looked at it for awhile; herself, Gai, Asuma, Genma. As if each was daring the other to be the first to touch Kakashi's things. He had never owned much that they knew, or cared much for the few things he did have, but the sparse contents of the apartment felt nonetheless almost sacrosanct.
Reluctantly, Gai padded over to the small cardboard box that had been left sitting on the desk, unfolded the letter lying on top of it. All four of them looked away at once, and Gai carefully placed it on the desk without reading a word. He started to go through the neatly-packed items placed inside the box.
Asuma, brave man, went to the weapons chest in the corner, and started about undoing the seals. Genma began to clean the old shirts and magazines and the odd kunai out of the drawers under the windowsill. None of them spoke.
Kurenai walked over to the closet. Just this once, she thought, she'd do Kakashi's laundry. For old times' sake.
When Kakashi got home, he thought about taking a shower and getting all the blood washed off, but decided he didn't really deserve it. He'd have Sakura's blood on him for the rest of his life whether he was dirty or not. Might as well take some time to get used to the idea.
He collapsed against the inside of his door the second he'd closed it, and laughed a little, bitterly, and thought about Obito and Rin and the Fourth and everyone else and wondered whether someday he'd've let so many important people die that he wouldn't remember the exact number anymore, and whether by then he would even care.
He rested his face in his hands, and asked whoever out there that might have been listening, why they couldn't have had Sakura stab him instead. Perhaps she would have hated herself. But she would be alive.
He heard a few people come by. Gai shouted at him. Kurenai begged him. Genma was quiet, and said he understood. But Kakashi didn't pay attention.
The night before Sakura's funeral, he wrote a little letter, packed a little box, watered his plant, and sat down on his bed. He was still in uniform, though he'd pulled off his hitai-ate and his mask and his gloves, rolled up his sleeves. He reached back to flip a kunai out of its holster. It was as easy as it ever was.
One long red stripe down the inside of this arm. One down the other to match. One red smile across his throat.
There were various ways for ninja to kill themselves, many of them less messy and less painful.
But this was how his father had done it.
He collapsed back against the bed. Ignored the throbbing and the pain. Stared at the ceiling as it slowly started to blur.
His face felt wet, and he sluggishly blinked the tears out of his left eye. Obito was crying, as usual. Obito did enough crying for the both of them.
For once, he joined in.
Two days after Sakura's funeral, Uzumaki Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke walked into an empty room.
They had each only been here once or twice, so perhaps it didn't feel as strange to them as it did to the gathered Jounin for the place to be so bare. The only things left in the room were the small cardboard box sitting in the middle of the floor, and the potted plant on the windowsill. It would probably not be too long before another ninja was moved into Kakashi's apartment.
"Good afternoon," Gai greeted them, solemn. Lee stood next to him with an equally sober expression. He had barely known Kakashi. Sasuke looked up at Gai's grave countenance and supposed his student was here for moral support.
"Hey," Naruto returned the greeting wanly, raising a hand. Sasuke kept his hands shoved in his pockets, and didn't bother to say anything.
Kurenai was standing in front of the closet, and Hinata beside her, glancing between her teacher and Naruto with a look of shy sympathy. Asuma was squatted off to one side of her, and Genma lounged against a wall. A couple other Jounin Sasuke didn't recognize were standing quietly in the corner. They all turned their eyes on the two boys silently. The scrutiny felt uncomfortable.
"...Well." Gai cleared his throat a little uncomfortably. "We are all here today to... to honor the wishes of the late... Hatake Kakashi. I will save the eulogizing for someone else... since I'm sure that no one in the world knows better than us, what a truly... truly great man he..."
By this point he had broken down in sobs, loud and theatrical, that would have been a comical sight at any other time. Lee patted his shoulder in a show of manly sympathy, biting his lip, his own eyes watering a little.
After he had calmed down a bit, Gai continued. "But he... yes. No eulogizing. This is... what he left." He reached down to pick up the letter resting atop the box, and took a very deep breath, squeezing his eyes shut for a second, before he began to read.
"Goodbye... everyone." Gai's voice shook, but somehow he managed to keep reading. "I should probably... apologize... since I know I am failing you all." Another sob. Lee gripped his shoulder hard. "But you're probably... You're probably used to that..."
Sasuke heard a small noise coming from Naruto's direction, and turned to look. Naruto's fists were clenched, trembling, at his sides, and his face was turned toward the floor. Sasuke could see him biting his lip.
Sasuke didn't know why his own throat felt so painfully tight all of a sudden. It wasn't like they... they'd mattered to him, or anything.
Sakura was just an annoying girl he'd been stuck with. Kakashi was just... just his incompetent teacher.
That was all.
"If I had had sons..." Gai continued, his hands trembling a little against the paper, "Sasuke and Naruto... I would have wanted them to...be like you."
For a moment, Sasuke couldn't breathe.
"I know... you will grow up to be great. Please take... better care of your team than--" Gai stopped to pull Lee against him, almost protectively, tears still running down his face. "Than I did."
He stood there staring down at the note for a few long, long moments. The room was silent save for quiet sniffling. Sasuke watched Gai's tears drip onto the paper.
After a while, Asuma walked over to crouch down next to the box, and he looked up expectantly at Gai. The other man nodded slowly, took a deep breath, and began again.
"The bag inside the box... is for Kurenai."
Asuma dug it out, and wordlessly went to hand it to her.
"The book... Genma."
Gai read off two or three more items as Asuma silently passed them to their new owners.
"The... the hitai-ate... For me," Gai murmured, a stunned look on his face. Asuma just thrust it at him, still grimly silent. Gai could only stare at it for a moment, and finally Lee reached out to hold it in his place, his dark eyes pensive.
Finally, he reached the end of the list. "For Naruto... the dagger hilt."
The eyes of all the assembled Jounin turned on the box for a moment. Asuma did not so much as reach inside.
"For Sasuke... the blade."
Gai stared at the paper, and Sasuke thought he looked like he wished very much that he could ask Kakashi a question.
Asuma, for his part, swallowed once and looked down at the broken dagger resting alone in the box. He picked up the pieces with a sigh, one in each hand, and slowly rose to go hand them to the two boys. Sasuke looked down detachedly at the long blade in his hand. He thought it must have been of fine craftsmanship once, before it was broken. The edge looked a little dull.
"What... is this?" Naruto murmured off to his side, turning the carved hilt over in his hands speculatively.
The Jounin began to file out silently, walking past the two boys without a word. Hinata gave Naruto a shy, reassuring smile as she passed which he did not notice. Gai stooped to pick up the cardboard box when the room had emptied, Lee standing silently behind him, and he walked over to look down at the items held in the boys' hands.
"That belonged to his father," Gai said quietly. "Take care of it."
Three days after Sakura's funeral, they had Kakashi's funeral.
Naruto and Sasuke left the dagger, reforged, in offering before the altar, and hoped Kakashi would understand what they meant.