So, here I am posting a story. Its been a very long time since I have done anything fandom related. I spent a good 10 years reading this manga and I will sincerely miss it. I understand fandom is varied in how they feel about the series now but I did love it to the end and was glad I got into it on the ground floor - so to speak. I have been feeling nostalgic lately and felt that this story should be shared because I think it is some of my best writing to date, and I did like the plot. It began when lovely girl generously donated to help japan after the tsunami and asked me to write a kakasaku for her. I have 14 full chapters on my hard drive that I am cleaning up and will post slowly over the next couple of weeks. There will have to be 4 or so chapters written to finish it and will likely take some time. I wanted to do something to commemorate the end of the series and say a proper goodbye in my own way as fanfiction and the fandom have brought immense joy to my life over the years. This was posted at my LJ for a while so likely most if not all have read it anyway.
If you are one of my old LJ/fandom friends and popped in here to see why the hell you got a random alert, please know that I miss you and thank you for all the fun we had together. This story is also in your honour as well.
That being said, the ending of the manga has pretty much crapped out any possible canon this story could have so please keep that in mind when you read that some alive characters are dead and vice versa here.
Possibly for the last time... I do not own Naruto nor do I profit by writing this story. If you don't like Kakasaku, please don't read.
The Last Hirameki
Chapter 1 – The Death of Communication
"I'm leaving," Kakashi said evenly.
He stood in front of the gray stone façade of the Headquarters and with two simple words, effectively silenced his entire team. Sakura searched his face for more than just a bleak emotionless announcement of his abandonment of them, but he maintained the colourless mask he was so good at wearing, even amid her scrutiny. Why he'd picked the second they got back from a gruelling five day mission to rip their guts out was beyond comprehension, because her fatigue made her that much more emotional. He damn well knew that about her.
"'Kay" Naruto shrugged, obviously not getting the implication. Sakura felt sorry for him. He'd feel even worse once Kakashi's intention became apparent.
"To where?" Sai asked the next question lining up in Sakura's mind.
"Another place. Not around here." Kakashi's eyes drifted off to the great stone wall beyond them and Sakura's brow creased. She hated his vagueness sometimes. He knew that about her too and yet he was being so aloof she wanted to hammer some emotion into him with her fist.
"Hm," Sai acknowledged, then tipped his head. "Be careful on your journey then."
Another stock phrase. Sai was becoming quite the excellent self-aware robot. All his protocols and "if-then" commands were working seamlessly. Sakura wished he meant half the things he retorted but it wasn't worth the anguish to explain it all for the hundredth time. Her mind was jumping through the ether at the moment anyway. It was taking everything not to cry or laugh hysterically. She supposed this was what a building felt like as the supports under the floor gave way achingly slowly.
"Oh…wait," Naruto breathed out, his fingers absently tugging on the hair on the back of his head. His blue eyes narrowed. The lightbulb was finally brightening.
"When?" Sakura asked more quietly than she'd meant to. She hated her voice when it sounded weak. Kakashi couldn't look at her properly. He might have glanced at her just then but camouflaged it with a quick blink.
"Tomorrow morning," he responded dully, speaking to the tree down the pathway nearby. "Our team is officially disbanded. The Hokage will find you new placements. I've recommended that you stay together."
"How long?" Naruto asked sheepishly.
"I don't know," Kakashi answered, and this time he did look at Sakura. "A long time."
She felt his gaze go right through her. It felt like a message for her - an ending of sorts. What was a long time to Kakashi? Sakura sometimes thought it was a long time between morning exercise and a shower. She desperately needed more explication than the sliver of information he was giving.
"All right. Dismissed."
Sai immediately turned and dexterously darting off to wherever he would normally go. Dismissed meant dismissed to him; there was no reason to linger when there was no emotion attached. For Naruto, it was the unknown that kept his body in the loose circle they made. He thrived on routine so to suddenly throw him into the abyss and tell him to land without a parachute was too hard. He backed up a couple of steps to leave, but hovered awkwardly.
But Sakura couldn't move. Her feet were frozen, grounded as if by roots. "Why do you have to leave?" she asked. Her eyes were hot with the coming tears, her throat dry. "Is it a mission? Did something happen? What is a long time?"
"I'm sorry, Sakura. I'll come by later to properly say goodbye," Kakashi replied quietly. And then just like that, in a lazy curl of diaphanous smoke, he was gone.
Sakura turned, the tears finally allowed and rushing out; she looked at Naruto who was rubbing his head and frowning.
"That bastard," he mumbled. His voice was as pitiful as hers.
Did he promise he'd come and say a proper goodbye?
Sakura sprawled out on her bed and stared at the strips of light through her blinds as the sun retracted from the sky inch by inch. Two hours she'd lain like that. Before that, she cleaned her apartment, made pasta, listened to music and sewed the latest rip in her favourite tunic. Between all those busy things, she'd bite her nails and periodically glance out the window.
He never said he promised, and he was usually late; her hope petered out like the dusky light over the ceiling.
Obviously he wasn't going to bother.
Sakura skulked to the bathroom and stared at herself in the large oval mirror above the light green sink. A woman stared back at her – just eleven days had passed since she'd finally turned twenty. She'd let her hair grow long, and she only ever wore the odd bit of mascara anymore. Yet today she felt like that twelve year old again, standing at the red bridge and waiting for any sign of him.
Time was like a curse and her analytical brain always tracked everything by it. Three years since Sasuke died. Two years since Naruto finally snapped out of his depressed stupor and started loving life again (which was just after the longest year of her life). Eighteen months had also gone by since Kakashi received a main role in her days. They'd been consistently together in a team since she was placed on team 7 – even when Naruto was off training and before Sai. After Sasuke's death, sometimes Kakashi would come by just to see how she was doing once Naruto had found his footing after his year of mourning. Because Sakura was alleviated from her babysitting/cheerleading/confidant position with her blond teammate, she was suddenly alone.
And then Kakashi was there. He would take her for coffee, sit quietly at the memorial with her or slowly write his report so that she was never stuck there at headquarters writing hers alone. When he had to lead a mission, she was always his medic. And when he needed something sewn, something healed, or just a friendly chat he would seek her out as much as she would seek him.
Maybe he saw the same solitary loneliness in her that he experienced in his own life. Whatever caused him to direct attention more her way than any other way, she was extremely grateful.
How could he not come and say goodbye? How could he be okay with leaving her alone again?
"I'm sorry to see you go, Kakashi. We still have so many young minds and talented gennin for you to ignore," Tsunade drawled, sitting behind her desk comfortably. Kakashi could still smell the smoke and whiskey on her from whatever floor she'd rolled up from that morning – obviously forgoing a shower for expedience. Not a wise choice in his extra-sensory opinion.
He stood opposite the cluttered desk, the crushed letter tightly wedged in his gloved hand, the other hand stuffed lazily in his pocket.
"I'm sure someone can ignore them in my place," Kakashi responded.
"I suppose," the Hokage said absently. "I want to order you to stay, but we made an agreement with the Hirameki back when your father couldn't keep himself in control. If we didn't harbour he and your mother, then we wouldn't have an issue now."
With a shift, Kakashi eased his clenched fist from around the letter and held it out in his palm. "You're welcome to read the letter. He's made it my choice."
She waved a dismissive hand through the air and shook her head. "So why go then if you have a choice?"
"You know I have to. He's all that's left. I'm all that's left. Believe me, if there was any other option, I would take it."
Tsunade's face fell a little and Kakashi saw the young woman she wore slip to show her age a tiny bit around her tight mouth and softened eyes. She carried herself like an old woman sometimes – like now when she couldn't hide her unhappiness, even with a sharp, indifferent tongue. Hatake had been a mainstay in Konoha and he was the last, not to mention she was losing a old friend somewhat.
"I'll have a depressed medic to deal with, Kakashi. You're going to leave a mess in my hands." Tsunade's hand swept gingerly through her thinning blond hair, moving it from her red-rimmed eyes.
"I'm more sorry than you are about that. But I trust in time she'll be fine. Thank you for your exceptional guidance over the years, Hokage-sama," Kakashi said evenly, and then bowed just a little.
"Cheeky brat," she said softly. "Get out of my office…and take care of yourself."
Another bow, and then Kakashi turned and left before he had to pretend not to see her cry. Damn, he hated rough goodbyes.
When he stepped out from Hokage tower, Genma was already waiting for him. He wasn't smiling, but Kakashi supposed that suited the day.
"Where is your boyfriend, Shizune?" Sakura asked, trying to maintain a patient tone, though her skin was tingling with nervous energy.
Shizune pointed one finger toward the ceiling and finished what she was reading before lifting her head and gazing at her fellow medic. Her eyebrows jutted up in question.
"Genma. Do you know where he went?" Sakura stood on the other side of the table, arms akimbo, as her heart pounded out a swift beat. She'd looked everywhere for Kakashi – the pub, the headquarters, his apartment, Hokage tower and even the memorial…twice. Fear rode her like a second skin with the idea he might have packed up and left without really telling anyone – just strode out of their lives. That would be so Kakashi.
"He's having a drink with Kakashi. I'm pretty sure they're at the pub," Shizune answered easily, then tilted her gaze to the clock. "Wow, its midnight? I need to get home."
"I checked the pub," Sakura hissed desperately. "I checked everywhere. Did Kakashi leave already?"
"Hm," Shizune mumbled, looking sheepish. "I think they'll be at the other pub. You know… the bad one."
Sakura's nose wrinkled. "Really? Ugh. Why? That place is…"
Shizune shuddered. "Scungy."
Sakura closed her eyes and sighed. Of course he would go to a run-down hole where the lowest of lives spent their last change on crappy beer in dirty glasses. How better to entertain himself while simultaneously hiding on his last night in Konoha before he goes off to his mystery place for a mysterious amount of time for mysterious reasons. The whole ordeal made her want to cry.
"Hey? Are you okay?"
Sakura's eyes snapped back to Shizune. "Yeah, I'm okay. I'm just tired of looking for him."
"No- no, of course not. Kakashi. He didn't come and…" Sakura took a deep breath.
Shizune's brow scrunched in empathy. "I'm sure they're still there. It's really not far. Don't miss him or you'll hate yourself tomorrow. I'm sure he'll hate himself too."
"I doubt that. If he had any semblance of responsibility when it came to me, he would have had the decency to at least leave a letter or something." Sakura's shoulders slumped. "Damn," she breathed out. "I should just go home."
"Well, take the long way then. Get some air."
The soft smile Shizune gave her was all too knowing. All the threats in the world didn't hold any water when it came to Kakashi. They both knew she would undoubtedly be going to the pub – the nasty one.
The bar smelled like stale perfume and musty smoke-drenched wood. If Kakashi breathed in too deeply, the swirling sick disgusted feeling crept into his stomach from the cloying scent. He supposed the five cups of warm sake and the three Sapporo beers as chasers didn't help matters.
But his whole intention was to "drink it all away" so it was understood that nausea would accompany that level of intoxication. If the room wasn't spinning, it just wasn't enough.
"Ready for another?" Genma asked Kakashi after skilfully extracting his own head from the headlock Raido had previously claimed was inescapable. "I think its Kotetsu's round."
"Maybe in a little while," Kakashi said quietly, leaning heavily over the bar on his forearms.
"You gonna be okay?"
He lifted his head and sighed as he roughly rubbed his hands over his face. He didn't have an answer. Would anything be okay now? He had to give up his life and companions and travel for days to a place where he wasn't really wanted but was required to be by blood obligation. What could possibly be okay about that?
And with the knowledge of him leaving, he was stuck dwelling on the things he didn't want to have to miss – or certain people. During the days prior, after he received the letter, he'd had all sorts of revelations.
Genma spun around and watched the rabble they called their friends tussling more eagerly minute by minute in the nearly empty bar. He leaned back on the brass rail around the edge of the bartop as a second table toppled from the melee. The bartender's chin was dipping lower and lower with his darkening scowl, and his eyes darted expectantly to the burly bouncer (who wouldn't have a prayer against ninja anyway).
"Did you make all the rounds today? Say goodbye?"
"Mostly," Kakashi mumbled to the empty shot glass seemingly glued to his hand.
"How about that little medic? The pink haired kid that always follows you around."
Clumsily, Kakashi rubbed at his forehead with the back of his thumb, the glass still stuck in his fingers. "She just turned twenty. Not really a kid."
"Hm." Genma leaned closer. "Twenty's a nice number. I did notice that she's grown up quite a bit."
A long breath escaped the intoxicated copy-nin. "She has."
With monumental inner resolve, Kakashi managed to spin himself around on the barstool and carefully get to his feet. The room was uncooperatively jerking around, but he could deal with that. Slow steps, he told himself, and for the first six slides of his feet, it worked. However, the seventh step guaranteed a nice bruise on his left thigh from a table edge, and he didn't really need his little toe that much thanks to a chair leg.
"Hey, where are you going?" Izumo's muffled voice called out from underneath Raido's arm.
Kakashi could only wave in response. Any sort of quick spin back would have assured regurgitation and that was no way to say goodbye. This was more like him anyway.
It was a fool's mistake – going drinking in his current state. He wanted a place to hide away for a few hours, however, that dump was never a good idea. But what was the alternative? Simper and placate people drifting over to his place with a plethora of invasive questions? Kakashi never liked farewells. He'd made a point not to tell too many people that he was leaving and he had told no one aside from the Hokage that he was leaving for good. In time they would all forget him.
His own team's faces – Sakura's face – were so painful to look at. She gazed at him like he was her biggest betrayer. Maybe he was. If he couldn't be honest with himself, how could he be honest with her?
Leaving really was his choice, but truthfully there weren't any other options. If Kakashi was one thing, it was a rule follower.
When he finally reached the outer door of the bar, he swung it awkwardly, giving himself only enough room to slip out and expertly catch his foot. He staggered once and righted himself with a definitive lack of grace. In any other circumstance, he'd be ashamed to say he was a shinobi, but right now, his muddled mind felt he had a plausible excuse to be a mess.
It took a few seconds to figure out which direction his apartment was when he caught sight of a thin figure of a person with long pink hair sitting across the road on the curb. Her arms were wrapped around her long legs, which were pulled up to her chest. She was in her stock medic skirt and boots.
And she'd let her hair down. He liked it when she did that.
Sakura's behind ached and the cold of the evening had chilled her legs nearly to the bone; thankfully she'd worn a long sleeve jounin shirt which became her saving grace. Two hours she waited for him to come out. Two hours of watching drunks careening out of the barroom doors and whistling at her or puking in the alley. Two hours of rubbing her legs and arms to keep them from seizing up. And finally he popped out, stumbling and talking to himself about grown up hair and clumsiness.
It was enough to infuriate – that is, until he looked at her. It appeared as if he reached instant sobriety when their eyes met. Like a rod he straightened up, and then easily stuck his hands in his pockets just as if he was waiting for her to catch up on any given day.
Lacking surety suddenly, Sakura hoisted her cold bones from the curb and walked gingerly toward Kakashi.
When she reached his side, he slowly started walking. And Sakura, not knowing how to start the conversation he obviously didn't want to have with her, just fell into step beside him. Their pace was glacial though as Kakashi seemed like every little pebble and pot hole could take him down with such an unsure drag of his feet. Sakura could smell the beer and whiskey on him like pathetic cologne he'd overused.
For two blocks their uncomfortable silence carried on until they started crossing the park where they could already see the lights from his apartment through the sparse trees along the pathway.
"Wait," Sakura finally said, her hand reaching out to pinch his sleeve between her fingers. Kakashi obediently stopped when he felt the weak tug on his arm, but it was a full five seconds before he actually turned around to look at her.
"What is going on?" Sakura looked up at him, her brow scrunched in confusion, indicating she was more than a little bit hurt.
Kakashi's shoulders dropped. Words seem to escape him as he lifted a hand to his face and rubbed at his cheek hard. She'd seen him do that many times when he was thinking, but this time, he didn't speak at all.
"You said you were leaving but it sounded so final. Why do you have to give me a proper goodbye? You said that this morning. Why? Why?" Sakura still hadn't let go of his sleeve, in fact she gripped tighter, pulling him toward her.
Kakashi stumbled minutely and closed his eyes. "I'm not coming back for a long time. It might be years."
"Years?" The shock reeled her and she felt the heat ring her eyes. "Where are you going?"
"I don't understand."
"You don't have to."
But she did need to understand. Wasn't she the person who needed to understand the most? It wasn't like he was darting away on a mission. He'd said goodbye plenty of times when he was just going for a couple of weeks. But this time, he'd avoided it - this time being the most important goodbye, he'd skipped her as if she didn't matter.
Absently, Kakashi was shifting his balance from foot to foot to keep steady. His head would sway slightly when he tried to focus on things around them. It was breaking her heart. Because he was drunk, this moment was never going to be what she had wanted. He owed her a decent – sober – goodbye.
"Why are you drunk?" she whispered.
"You're so cruel, Kakashi." Sakura breathed out. She looked down at her feet and blinked the tears from her eyes. She could hear him shuffling a little.
Suddenly the stuffy odour of the bar intensified - the scent of a cigarette filled room and the cheap booze and the alcohol sweat assaulted her. His words were slurred and lazy. She didn't like it. This wasn't fitting for their last conversation.
More tightly than she ever expected, Kakashi's hands clamped onto her biceps and her eyes snapped up to look at him.
His mask was down.
"Ka—" She tried to say his name but the words got lost. The last thing she ever expected was to see his face. How many times had they speculated on what he looked like? How many times had she stared at him, desperately curious of his mysterious physiognomy. It was better than she imagined. Even in the dim light of the park lamps, she could easily confirm that he was handsome and young looking.
But before she could comment on her shock, his arms swung about her sides and he pulled her into a tight hug. Sure Kakashi had hugged her before – a quick, awkward, stiff-armed hug he would give any of them in dire cases, but this was different. The line of his warm body was crushed all the way down hers. His hot cheek lay against her cheek and in that provocative position, Sakura suddenly understood how close to his height she had grown. She laid her chin up on his shoulder and her fingers crawled around his back, lacing together.
Small sniffs escaped her and then a slight whimper.
He was truly scaring the hell out of her.
"Don't cry," Kakashi whispered, his lips moving slowly across her cheek, ghosting up to her temple and then back down. She felt his right hand slide up into her hair to run his fingers through the length of it, tugging softly. And then he breathed against her ear, "I will miss you, Sakura. …I'll miss you most." The feel of his hot breath there gave her tingles.
Now she was properly crying. Now the world was blurred and the last thing she would see of him was a watery outline of the person she cared about more than almost anyone else.
Again he whispered, "Don't cry." His hand moved from her hair to between her shoulder blades as he spoke against a spot just along her jawline. Gently, his other hand pressed against the small of her back. Sakura could acutely feel every spot that his body touched hers. Her own feelings became jumbled between the fear of him running out of her life and the sudden anomalous desire he was eliciting with each finger stroke, each brush of his lips.
"Ka-kashi… What're—you—" she breathed out, her eyes fluttering closed as his lips swept delicately across her cheek to the corner of her mouth.
"Taking care of some regrets," he whispered against her lips, and then pressed his closed mouth tightly to hers.
Sakura made a small noise of shock. Kakashi's hand rose back to her hair, fisting in the long strands as he kissed her again – this time parting his lips just a little. With each touch, his desire seemed to grow – as did Sakura's.
She could smell the smoky pub on the mask pooled around his chin and his clothes; the rough taste of beer was on his tongue but it was easily overlooked as her body curiously responded to everything else happening.
Her knees were weak, her head swimming with questions that got muddled and twisted around each other. Her heart was pounding in her chest like a trapped thing. It felt so good that she let it continue for as long as he wanted, let him lead her, but just as they were finding a perfect rhythm, Kakashi slowed things down and broke the kiss.
Sakura was left stunned and breathing heavy, electric energy coursing through her fast running veins.
Kakashi's hands began to slide away from her body, leaving cold spots in their wake. "You were always my favourite, you know." He ran a clumsy hand through the ends of her hair before turning on his heel a little wobbly, and then walking away.
"W-wait…" Sakura sputtered with confusion. And then it hit her as he continued to gawkily walk away without turning back. After such a moment, after such a shift in the person that she thought she knew, it occurred to her that this was a drastic ending for them both. And that's when the abject understanding occurred.
He was leaving…forever.
As she watched him disappear into the night, the dark trees along the winding path eventually blocking him from view, she pressed a shaking hand to her tender lips, and let the tears come.
Thank you for reading. More very very soon.