Author: Tintinnabula PM
New Year's Eve is a time for celebration and remembrance, a night for family and friends. But not for Hatake Kakashi. Not yet. Implied kakasaku, friendship. For the LiveJournal kakasaku new year's challenge.Rated: Fiction T - English - Kakashi H. & Sakura H. - Words: 2,251 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 26 - Follows: 3 - Published: 12-31-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5629584
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A Naruto Fan Fiction
Naruto, associated characters and locales are property of Masashi Kishimoto. No profit will be made, or is intended to be made from this work of fan fiction.
December was the shittiest month.
April might be the cruelest, but for out and out misery the year's last month had it beat. So thought Hatake Kakashi. December was all about death, the last thing he wanted to be reminded of, given his occupation. All around him things were withered. Deteriorated. The few leaves still clinging valorously to their branches were blackened by frost, and the grass below them had long ago succumbed to the dark, creeping slime of decay.
But at this time of year, Nature wasn't the only one preoccupied with death. Every ninja's annual report-- a reckoning of missions won and lost, distilled into charts and graphs—was filled with loss. Loss processed and homogenized into dry figures and averages, to be analyzed and massaged by some ninja statistician into a nebulous statement about the general health and fitness of the village and its workforce. Although it was meant to bring closure to the year, in Kakashi's eyes this report—foisted upon them by several overreaching elders-- was one more reason he'd been glad to step down as interim Hokage.
He had no stomach for such abstractions. To him, death was personal. Intimate. And the taking of life was not something to be trivialized with statistical manipulation. Kakashi remembered every kill he'd made in the course of his thirty year career. Each one took away life. Period. The act was almost sacred, though few saw it that way. Even one's worst enemy deserved respect at the moment of his passing.
December made Kakashi miserable. It brought forth the melancholy he struggled to keep at bay, and the despondence he allowed himself to feel only in front of the cenotaph, and for scarce minutes at at time. The holiday parties and gift giving of the season only served to strengthen the feeling of bleakness that threatened to engulf him.
It would be better in January, he knew. The days would lengthen, slowly but surely, and subtle hints of life's renewal would announce themselves. An early swelling of a camellia bud, or a star magnolia fooled into thinking spring had arrived: these would serve to remind Kakashi that life went on.
But before then, he had December to get through.
Of course, it was almost over. But the worst was before him.
New Year's eve for most was a night for singing drunken tunes and crying beer-laced tears. A night of remembrance of friends and family, of those missing and lost.
To Kakashi it was the year's nadir. Of all the days in December, he hated this one most.
He wanted no part in the evening's maudlin revelry. He didn't need to be with others to recognize that his circle of acquaintances, friends and colleagues grew smaller each year. That next year it would be smaller still. He didn't need to share his grief with others. It would do no good. He would only feel worse.
New Year's Eve was a celebration of death, when one stopped to think about it. It was an evening of drinking until the sting of loss was temporarily lessened. Then, in a half-blind stupor, ushering in another year that promised more of the same.
He had no use for such a remembrance. Better to ignore the day, and carry on the next.
Kakashi leaned against a window set into the circular staircase that clung to the outer wall of the central admin building. It was cold outside, this evidenced by the fern-like crystals of ice that clung to the windows, obscuring his view. He huffed onto a pane, rubbing vigorously to produce a small spy hole. The copy ninja peered into the street, and at the crowd gathering below.
Predictably, a pub stood across from the admin building, catching every shinobi that needed to unwind at the conclusion of a grueling mission. Of course, it caught them at other times as well. At the moment, the Mikazuki Inn was filled beyond capacity, and latecomers milled around in the grubby, snow-covered street, mugs of lager and pilsner in their hands.
Kakashi could hear them clearly. Their shouts of inebriated, melancholic joy were hard to miss, and as the night wore on they were sure to get louder. The sun had barely set, but the revelers sounded as though they'd been at it for hours.
The copy ninja stopped abruptly at the front entrance of the building, then turned away. He passed through empty corridors instead, until he reached an emergency exit. It was a simple matter to disarm the security features-- they were intended not for shinobi, but for the unlikely possibility of an outside attack-- and in a moment he was in the dark alley that led away from the downtown area to more quiet streets.
It had started to snow again, applying a much needed whitewash to the soot- and mud-stained layer already upon the streets. The city would look quite scenic for a couple of hours, until the early morning deliveries of fruits, vegetables and the like began. Then Konoha would be back to its dreary winter self, colored with the grey remnants of slushy ice and frozen muck.
It was quiet, at least. This part of the city was blanketed by the soothing calm a snowfall brings, and Kakashi took some solace in the fact that his walk home would be uninterrupted. Fine, crystalline snow crunched under his boot-clad feet, and his breath wreathed around him in a smoke-like vapor. It wasn't as cold as he'd thought. There was no winter wind howling a goodbye to the year, or lingering damp to numb one's digits into submission. It was still early, however. Things could easily change.
Kakashi loped along deserted streets, forgoing his usual route to take a path less frequented. There was smaller likelihood of bumping into revelers that way, and therefore less chance of being roped into a celebration he intended to avoid. A hot bath awaited him at home, as did a glass of warm sake and a seat by the fire. The same things that waited for him every night. Kakashi quickened his pace to get back to these familiar comforts sooner. Lamps flickered on as he passed under them, their electric eyes attuned to the slightest disturbance. They caught the snow in their glare, seemingly slowing its movement to a faint-hearted crawl. Funny how it moved so much more quickly outside the light.
Kakashi heard shouting-- happy shouting-- as he turned a corner, and was greeted by the most stereotypical of holiday sights. A child was being pulled along the rough-textured snow, and was shouting giddily with joy. She and her companion slid under a just-lit street lamp, and Kakashi quickly recognized them. The child, clad in a pink snowsuit with bunny ears, was the Uzumaki girl. Her blank lilac eyes and midnight hair were unmistakable. She was being pulled by Sakura, whom Kakashi took a bit longer to place. Under the yellow street light his student's hair looked ginger-gold, not pink, and the color on her cheeks was an unusual addition to her face.
But Kakashi knew Sakura well. Her every expression was familiar to him, and even at a distance he recognized her gait. The copy ninja moved a bit closer, noting the lace-like veil of snowflakes that covered her hair, and he couldn't help but smile at they melted into dancing, sparkling beads of light under the harsh cone of halogen light.
It was very much like Sakura to spend the evening in this way, away from the many friends she'd earned over the years. Instead she shared a lot of her time with Naruto's daughter, filling in for a father overworked by the mundane administrative tasks of running a village. Naruto was almost overwhelmed by his sudden single-fatherhood, as well. Like the ever-loyal friend she was, Sakura had stepped in to fill the breach.
She buffered Naruto's daughter from his tremendous grief. His wife was another statistic in a several months filled with losses. The village was ending the year in the red, shinobi-wise. Kakashi had heard his successor rationalize in this way, valiantly struggling to put aside his sadness for the good of the village.
But why should he? Why was it wrong to feel loss? Did it really make one less of a warrior?
Kakashi moved closer to Sakura and her charge, slipping into the shadows cast by the looming walls of the Hyuuga compound to watch the pair at play in the snow. Hae was a typical three-year-old, finding joy in the smallest details of her immediate surroundings. She laughed as ice crystals landed on her outstretched tongue, and waved her mittens to show her companion the umpteenth unique flake.
She jumped, bunny-like, from the sled and ran in energetic circles around her woman friend who pointed at the spiral tracks, doubtless mentioning their whirlpool shape. Sakura escorted the girl back to the small sled, wrapping a thick wool blanket around her legs before striking out towards some destination known only to them.
Kakashi followed, although his reasons for doing so were unclear to him. He was careful to hang back just enough so that he wouldn't be noticed. He didn't want to interrupt them, but there was something about their enjoyment that was almost infectious. He couldn't help but track them.
Their path wasn't straight, as Hae insisted on a serpentine route. Sakura was happy to oblige, weaving back and forth across the road, taking every opportunity to pull the sled through the miniature hills and valleys of the rutted street. She was rewarded liberally with giggles and guffaws of mirth.
They stopped outside Konoha's main park, but its gates were locked: not surprising at this time of evening. Hae's disappointment was palpable: she pointed to the knoll known throughout the village as the best place to sled, and although she didn't whimper the sadness in her face was unbearable, even to Kakashi.
He held back, however, eager to see how Sakura would handle it.
He should have known it would be with grace. She pointed down the street, to the crest in the road that was the village's other sledding hill, and Hae bounced in her sled, spirits restored.
It was a quick jaunt to this location, but Sakura held back as they came near. It was evident she'd forgotten the area's other attraction. Perhaps she'd belatedly realized a visit was not the best idea, given recent circumstances.
She was right.
Kakashi clearly heard the younger girl's voice, despite the distance between them.
"This is where Mommy is, isn't it?" The girl pointed through open gates (these ones were never closed) to a granite monument surrounded by the smaller headstones of the fallen.
"Mommy's gone. She won't be back."
Sakura bit her lip and knelt down next to the sled, to bundle the small child in her arms.
"Why? Why can't she come back? Obaasan says she's sleeping."
"Yes...sometimes people say that."
"But people wake up. Why won't Mommy?"
"She's not asleep, Hae. And she's not here, either. Not really." She pointed to the young girl's chest. "But she is here. Can you feel her?"
The Uzumaki nodded solemnly.
"She'll always be there." Sakura smiled at the girl. "Would you like to see her marker?"
The girl nodded again, her affect happier than before, and the two walked through the wrought iron gates of Konoha Cemetery.
Kakashi followed carefully, picking his way through the larger monuments until he was once again within earshot.
The pair knelt by the cenotaph, just as Kakashi did daily.
"Do you see your mommy's name?" Sakura held Hae's hand in her own as she traced the kanji for "whirlpool" and "sunny place."
The girl looked closely at the cold grey stone, then retrieved a yellow rose laid at its base.
"Someone gave a gift. But it's cold." Hae brushed the snow from its petals and carefully replaced it.
"Would you like to make your mommy a present?" Hae's head bobbed up and down, and she bounced along the path as Sakura looked for a flat place where they both might lie down.
"Like this." Sakura lay in the snow, and Hae followed suit. Both spread their arms and legs back and forth until the snow was swept away and sleeping grass lay exposed to the night sky.
"It's an angel," Hae cried as Sakura plucked her from the ground. "Mommy will love it."
"As much as she loves you." The pair walked slowly down the cemetery path, once Sakura brushed them free of clinging snow. "How about some cocoa? Your dad will be home soon. We can make some for him, too."
The couple walked down the road, sled trailing behind them. Kakashi followed suit.
He'd tell her, he decided. That he knew what she knew.
He'd finally figured it out.
December was the loveliest month.