Unofficial sequel to 'Like a Light'. Sarutobi has a lesson to teach - but the man who will be his successor sees another set of facts entirely. Sandaime POV.
(Originally published 2/28/2005)
So, the more I sat down and thought about Chevira's fic 'Like a Light', the more I wanted to see Yondaime's reaction to what had happened, and the more I wanted to know why Sandaime would allow such a thing. So I figured I'd just let them speak for themselves. No particular spoilers here, but this takes place immediately after Chevira's fic, and won't make much sense if you haven't read it -- so you definitely should!
It's well worth your time. Especially if, like me, you are enamored of exploring what truly /shitty /parental figures ninjas are.
Sarutobi wasn't surprised when his office doors slammed open, the night Kakashi came home.
No, in fact, he had been rather expecting it. Instead of closing up for the night and retiring to his quarters to take his dinner, maybe meditate or read a bit, he had chosen to work late, the lamps still illuminating the great study even at this hour.
At the moment he was standing, arms folded behind him as he looked out through the large window on one side of the office, and he could feel electric-blue eyes boring intensely into his back.
Jiraiya's young protege had always had a rather nasty temper, once aroused.
"What the hell do you have to say for yourself?" the younger man growled, stalking silently closer.
No 'Hokage-sama', no 'please', no beating around the bush. It was a kind of reckless sincerity that Sarutobi could respect. He remembered being young and angry like that, once upon a time.
Sarutobi heaved a long, quiet sigh. Tonight, it was an anger that bore some weight.
"I did what had to be done," he intoned softly, not turning to face the other man yet. He knew what he would see - wild blond hair doubly unkempt with the speed he'd traveled at, blue eyes sparking, fists clenching at his sides. "As did Kakashi-kun... As did you."
He could practically hear the young man seething behind him. It was a long moment before he managed even to speak.
"Is that /all?/" he hissed at last, voice trembling with the effort of keeping himself restrained. "What you've done tonight, do you und-" and he stopped himself, because even worked into such a state he knew asking a Hokage about their /understanding /was a terribly presumptuous idea-- "He -- he didn't /have /to do this! Someone else -- /anyone /else -- /I /could've--"
"You had an important mission of your own to take care of," Sarutobi reminded him gently, still turned toward the window. "And at any rate, we have been concerned about Mizugakure's security measures. This was the most surefire plan for sending in an operative who would come back alive--"
"An /operative!/" the man shrieked, and in an instant he'd snagged Sarutobi's robes and yanked him by the collar until they were face to face, utterly without thought. But Sarutobi had been expecting that.
"For god's sake, he's six years old! You have /children, /Sandaime-/sama/," and he spat the suffix out with distaste, "would you have willingly sent any of /them /on a mission like this?"
They just stood there like that for a second, the young Jounin glaring seethingly down at his Hokage, and his Hokage looking calmly back.
"It's true that when my children were Kakashi's age, they never volunteered for a mission like this," Sarutobi replied, voice quiet and level, as he reached up to place a hand against the fist clenched in his robe. "But they could have."
The other man stared at him for a moment, eyes narrowing in guarded confusion.
"And if they were right for the job, I would have sent them out," he continued heavily. The young man's grip slackened a little in his shock, and Sarutobi nudged his fist away. "With no less regret than I felt in sending Kakashi-kun."
"...You..." The man took a step back in his sheer surprise, staring wide-eyed down at Sarutobi for a moment, before his gaze narrowed again and one fist clenched trembling at his side. "I cannot believe... that you'd even /say /such a thing, let alone... Is /this /how you care for your beloved village, Sandaime-/sama/?" he growled, standing there shaking and obviously making every effort not to do something incredibly stupid.
Sarutobi smiled at him, sadly, both for the answer he had to give, and for the understanding that would come after.
The young man just stared. Slowly his arms grew limp at his sides.
Offering his young Jounin another faintly mournful smile, Sarutobi gestured to a pair of chairs sitting beside his desk. "Come. Sit with me."
When they had settled themselves, he paused for a moment, looking over at the young man again.
"A ninja's lot in life, my boy, is to fight and to die," he began quietly. "You know it well, I'm sure. We all learn it early. And what else could we possibly do? If we stopped fighting, this place would cease to be. I could declare Konoha a village of pacifists tomorrow, and it would bring us no more than the end of our livelihood and other Hidden Villages rushing to gobble up our talent. In the end, that's why we all fight - to protect Konoha. To defend this home of ours."
The young man sucked in a breath, looking as though he would speak, but Sarutobi held up his hand.
"I know it seems a feeble reason now. But even what happened tonight, what Kakashi-kun agreed to do, was for the love of Konoha and its people. He asked for the job, because he knew he could do it, and he knew that if he let someone else go in his place, that person was much more likely to die. It was a terrible decision to have to make. But he took the mission, out of love."
The young man was silent.
"Yes, Kakashi-kun is a child," Sarutobi continued quietly. "But he is also shinobi. He knew he would be hurt, but he chose to go anyway. He made a great sacrifice tonight, and for that, I honor him."
He left his challenge unspoken, as he looked into his Jounin's eyes. He knew the man got the message from the way he bristled.
"I don't deny his noble purpose," the young man said, voice shaking with quiet anger as he glared at Sarutobi again. "I deny the responsibleness of telling a /six-year-old /that either he can go to be raped, or another man can go to be /killed./"
Sarutobi just looked at him, calm and silent. There was no answer to that other than that the job had to be done, and he knew that was not an answer this young man wanted to hear.
"It's never going to change, is it?" the man muttered, sounding sickened, as he abruptly stood. "A thousand years from now we'll still be sending out our children to hurt and bleed and die..."
He stalked toward the still-open doors of the office, and stopped just before the wide doorway, turning to glare cold fire down on Sarutobi again. His eyes gleamed strangely in the light of the lamps and the moon shining through the open window.
"That's not good enough for me."
Sarutobi just kept watching him. The young man's voice was cool and hard as a steel blade, and every bit as sharp.
"I will sit in this office someday, old man," he promised quietly. "And when /I /am Hokage, children will /not /be assassins... they will not be good little soldiers... they will not be your /whores/," he spat quietly. His hands were clenched at his sides.
"They will be /children./"
And then he turned, and stalked out. The room was empty and quiet save for the clock ticking in the corner.
Sarutobi sat back in his chair, sighed quietly, and supposed he had deserved that.