Lyric Wheel 1 #5

Title: Without Pain

Author: Katty

Song: "Letter from Lost Days" from the game Silent Hill Three

Rated: PG-13

Pairing: Kakashi+Yondaime

Author's Note: This story got to be way too long, because I am one wordy bitch.

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Without Pain

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The key to being a successful ninja is not what skills you posses, well...it is, but...not really. The key to being a successful ninja is maintaining a certain level of professionalism. Not be ruled by your emotions, not let yourself be take your work home with you, not dwelling on the past, letting things go.

For example, two ideal ninja can try with all their might to torture and kill each other and then go out for drinks once the mission's over. No offence none taken sort of buddy-buddy crap that looks perfectly plausible in theory, but fails to take into account that ninja are still human and not robots. A successful ninja can continue to work day in and day out, because a successful ninja will never be hurt in a place that doesn't heal.

But a successful ninja will never be a great ninja.

A great ninja feels anger, gets discouraged, cries, because a great ninja is emotionally invested in what goes on around him. But a great ninja can take that pain, take that anger and righteous furry and hone it to a fine blade to swath a path through any opposition. A blade to protect that which is precious. A ninja can become great when he has a human heart.

But a successful ninja never breaks down.

Great ones sometimes do.

Kakashi had always been considered by himself and others to be a pretty laid back, que sera sera, forgive and forget, emphasis on the forget, kind of guy. He didn't let his heart make his decisions, wasn't ruled by his past.

But Kakashi also considered himself a great ninja.

Because sometime he hurt in places that didn't heal.

And sometimes he hated, not so much specific people or things, on anything that could be given name or form or reason, but sometimes, when he wasn't really paying attention this amorphous hatred would sweep over him and his teeth would grind and his vision go red and he would plead 'why?' Why does it have will be like this?

Had Kakashi been a more spiritual man he maybe would have realized that what he hated was God or Fate or the Universe or Chaos Theory or whatever it is that has the answers to all those why questions but never shares. But instead his hatred simply seethed without direction or focus.

Except for this; this paper.

He could hate this paper.

Because once he saw this piece of paper, without having even read a work, he could not hold back the flood of memories and images and long buried pain.

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"Congratulations on graduating from the academy. You three have taken the first step to becoming shinobi this village can be proud of."

Their new instructor's eyes squinted shut and his nose wrinkled a bit as he grinned at his students like an overgrown blond child. Kakashi gave the Jounin a speculative look and frowned under his little black mask. Is he some sort of idiot?

"Um, I ah..." their new teacher stuttered, "I'm, ah, not so good at motivational speeches." He looked away, hand behind his head, and actually appeared to be embarrassed. Kakashi's frown deepened. Definitely an idiot.

"But, ah, that's not really the point here," he seemed to gather himself, "I'm sure you'll all do just fine..."

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Kakashi wanted to burn it, like he had wanted few things in his life. Wanted to watch the bright orange tongues lap at the paper, watch in abject fascination as it curled and blackened. I would be too easy, just the tiniest bit of chakara molded into a spark. Simpler then even the most uncomplicated justu. But that simple scrawl across that page written so long ago by that hand...

"Just once," he promised himself. Read it once and then it's gone.

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"Now I'm supposed to ask you about your goals and dreams for the future, but I don't really want you to feel like you need to tell me anything personal or talk in front of your teammates. So..." he produced paper and three pencils grinning like a kid again, obviously pleased with himself, "I want you to write letters."

"But Sensei," the lone girl of their group interjected, "what difference is it if we tell you now or just write you a letter." Kakashi smirked at the pale-haired girl, and nodded in agreement, pragmatic as usual.

The Jounin just chuckled, "Now wait just a second and let me explain. I don't want you to write letters to me." Their instructor produced a pen from a vest pocket with a little flourish, "Here, I write one with you." He gave his students another big smile, obviously trying for cool and friendly, but Kakashi could only see dorky.

"I want each of you to write letters to yourselves."

"Eh?"

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Kakashi read.

"I'm not really sure what to write here, but I'd better look like I'm writing. Nothing really different ever happens, but nothing is ever really stays the same either. I don't even know what to write. It's so funny how I can give these kids this order to explore their hearts, but I can't even write for a few lines."

Kakashi rolled his eyes.

"I'd better get started on this letter, so if the kids look over my shoulder they don't yell at me."

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"Not to yourselves today, but to your future selves. I want you to write to yourself in, oh...let's say ten years. Ask your future self about what they've been up to, have they accomplished this, how 'bout this. You need to think about what your dreams and aspirations are." And with that they started writing.

They hadn't been writing long before the dark-haired boy interrupted. "This is the dumbest thing I've ever had to do," bellowed a voice just a bit too loud to be considered easy on the ears. Apparently Kakashi wasn't the only one who felt this letter was a big waste of time, but as he saw the Jounin instructor's face fall, though almost imperceptibly, Kakashi was suddenly very glad he hadn't said anything.

"Jeez Obito-kun," the higher pitched voice of the light-haired girl admonished, "you don't have to be so brutal."

"Why don't you quit harping on me," Obito retaliated.

"Now, guys," their teacher interrupted with a nervous smile, before the two could come to blows, "there is a reason for doing this and it's important that you take it seriously." His face suddenly grew somber and he looked away from them, studying the clouds in the distance. "I'll never ask you to do things without reason..."

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"Dear me,

"This is me. How have you been doing? I've been doing alright, guess I can't complain. I hope you've been doing alright... I really hope you've alright."

Kakashi snickered then frowned.

"I've got my first Genin team, team three I think they're called, right here in front of me, but, well..."

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"An important step to becoming a Genin is to evaluate yourself and your goals as a shinobi, to consider what it is that you hope to accomplish in your career, your lifetime. It's important to consider these things, but I also want to respect your privacy. I'd hoped writing these letters would make you think about your dreams and maybe help you answer them a bit more honestly, because everyone has different goals, but many people aren't comfortable sharing them. One person may work hard everyday and dream of becoming a Jounin or an ANBU squad leader or even Hokage; but someone else could also work hard everyday and hope to become as successful Genin or Chunin, and that's okay too. At this point it's important that you consider what it is that you think would make you happy, and that is a very personal question."

He turned his sad blue eyes back towards his students, and gave them another big grin, and it looked anything but dorky. "But if you want to confide in me your dream..." His face was once again over taken with seriousness, "I'll do everything in my power to make it happen."

"Now," the blond instructor smiled at them, obviously lightening the mood, "why don't we get back to those letters."

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"...I'm not really sure what to make of these kids yet. I've never had a Genin team before, but I'm already certain that I'm going to pass these kids. They're really something special. I can tell. I keep calling them kids, but I really shouldn't. They're young ninja already, but they're so young. They seem younger each time I look at them, and really, in ten years Obito will have barely scrapped together two decades of life, and Kakashi...dear gods, Kakashi will only be sixteen."

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There was a long moment when the only sound was pencils clicking on the paper. Then, "I'm sorry," Obito grudgingly apologized.

Their new instructor looked up from his letter and just smiled gently at the boy. "That's okay, Obito-kun. It's very good to speak your mind when something is bothering you."

"Yeah...well," he tugged on the edge of his shirt, obviously uncomfortable, "I just didn't want Kakashi-baby to feel left out, because he can't write."

Kakashi leapt to his feet, "Don't call me a baby, you lug-head."

"Don't you..."

"Boys," their instructor interrupted in a voice so stern and so unlike his usual tone it stopped them instantly, "there are a few things I will not tolerate, and one of them is name calling." He looked down at his letter, then sighed, "Let's stop here on our letters, but please continue them at home." He gave the students a smirk that made Kakashi a bit uncomfortable.

"I need to give a few instructions regarding your test to become Genin."

"Our what!?"

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"I didn't even know anything at sixteen, and at six... I can't believe he's six. He doesn't really act it. He certainly doesn't look it, probably why he wears that mask."

Here the ink changed color.

"I'm not so sure I like this fast-track program for graduating students from the academy. I guess I do believe in rewarding students with a high level of skill, but to graduate so young...

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Kakashi leapt through the branches of the trees with little thought to where he was going other then away. Away from Sensei, away from team three, away from the dumb D rank mission...away from stupid Obito.

Kakashi was deep into the woods surrounding Konoha, much further then he really should go, before he forced himself to stop. He sat down against a giant tree, his breath a bit short; and there, far from anyone else, he felt tears running down his cheeks and he started to wail.

He had no real idea of how long he cried, but he wailed so loud and long that he hadn't even noticed his teacher's approach until he felt himself gathered up into strong arms. He stopped for only a moment, surprised, before he clung to the blond Jounin, burying his little silver head into that strong chest, and continued to ball.

"Shhh, shhh... It's okay, now." His teacher cooed, holding the little ninja close, rubbing in comforting little circles on his back. "It'll be alright, you can stop crying now," he lifted that small mask covered chin up and wiped at the tears with the sleeve of his shirt as Kakashi's cries became just little hiccups, "there isn't that better," Kakashi nodded slowly. "Good, now, why don't you tell me what the problem is."

"It's...I know I..." Kakashi began through his little hiccupping cries. "Obito said that...he said, he...he doesn't like me." Kakashi said between great sobs, that racked his tiny frame. He clung to his teacher even harder. "Nobody...nobody likes me," and he began to wail again.

"No, no, shush now, Kakashi," the Jounin began to rock the tiny Genin gently, "I like you, I like you very much Kakashi. Now don't cry...shhh, don't cry..."

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"Is it still the same for you, are children still fighting for our village before they could possibly be ready? Before they are emotionally ready to take on all the responsibilities and emotional drain that comes with being a ninja? Or have you done something about it?"

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"Did you see, Sensei?" Kakashi came running up to his instructor with an energy one would never expect from someone who'd just fought a match in the Chunin final tournament. "Did you see how I beat him so bad there's no doubt who the superior ninja is?" Kakashi looked smug.

The blond Jounin chuckled at his student, "You don't need to be getting a big head like that before your next match." He gave his student a sly smile, "It might be Obito-kun."

That brought a competitive gleam to the young Genin's eye, before he seemed to shake it away. "But Sensei, I made the top four, so I'm guaranteed a Chunin spot, right?"

His teacher's face seemed to fall a bit, "Right, but..." he trailed off and looked into the distance, studying the clouds, thinking. He turned back to look Kakashi, eyes blazing with a pale-blue fire, "Just because you passed the Chunin exam doesn't mean you have to accept the ranking." His gaze softened, "If you don't feel like you're ready you can always..."

"You don't think I can do it either," Kakashi yelled his eyes filling with hurt and betrayal. "You think I'm just a baby, too! Don't you?"

"No, Kakashi. I just think..."

"I'm going to prove you wrong. I'm going to win this tournament and prove to him and to you and to everyone here that just because I'm seven doesn't mean I'm a baby." With that he turned and ran away, only this time his teacher didn't follow him.

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"Do you still know team three? Are they still around to know?

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Kakashi's hands were folded together and his ass was numb from too much time sitting in the same position on an uncomfortable waiting room chair. But he didn't even notice, as every minute that ticked by frayed his tattered nerves a bit more.

He had only dropped his head for a moment, just began to give his tired eyes a moments respite, when his head shot back up at the sound of echoing footsteps across the tile of the empty hospital waiting room.

The absolute sorrow and pain in those beautiful blue eyes told him all he needed to know.

"I'm so sorry Kakashi. She didn't make it."

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"Have you taught them what they need to know to survive as shinobi? You better have."

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"Take this and go," Obito thrust the scroll into Kakashi outstretched hand.

"But what about..."

"Look, I'm not fast enough to make it back to Konoha. You are." Obito ran his fingers though his hair, a nervous habit, smearing the blood at his temple into the short, black spikes. "I can't believe we even made it this far. When you get back, they'll definitely make you Jounin."

They both leapt simultaneously away from the spot where they were and up into a tree, as kunai hit the spot they had been standing with three sickening thumps.

Kakashi grabbed Obito's vest and pulled his close, whispering in his ear, "But I don't want to," he protested, fighting the tightness in his chest and the lump in his throat. "I don't want to without you."

"Damnit, listen to what you're saying, Kakashi! Mission first, or have you forgotten? The mission comes before you, before me, before anybody; and one of us needs to stay behind and hold them off and one of us needs to get that back to Konoha, and we both know who needs to do what." His face and voiced softened, "You're gonna be a great ninja Kakashi."

"What about you?"

"I'm already a great ninja."

"But what about..."

"I'll be fine," he interrupted, but they both knew he was lying.

They dropped down out of the tree just before two shuriken stuck into the trunk. They were running out of time and hiding spots.

"You get going," Obito yelled to his teammate, but Kakashi was already off and running.

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"I'm not to sure what I want with my life right now. Hopefully you have some clue, because I sure don't know. Do you have someone special or are you going on lots of dates or are you still lonely?"

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"Ah damn!" Kakashi stumbled a bit before his former teacher stopped his fall and managed to pull the new appointed ANBU squad leader's arm further up onto his shoulder to give the unsteady shinobi greater support.

The silver haired Jounin started giggling for some unknown reason then declared loudly to the empty street, "I am sooooo drunk!"

His human crutch joined in on his giggles a little before trying to quiet the young man. "Shhh, do you want to get written up for disorderly conduct your first day as an ANBU squad leader?"

"It's after midnight so tech'nlly it'd be my second day."

"Smartass."

"That's right. Besides," he stopped and shifted until he was looking right in the blond man's face, "you'd let me off the hook. Right, Yondaime?"

The newly appointed Hokage jumped a little at the unfamiliar name, then laughed. "I suppose I'd have to. I mean, it is my fault you're drunk. I forget how young you are."

"M'almost fifteen," the Jounin grumbled.

"P'ff, just a baby."

What used to set Kakashi into a frenzy, only caused him to giggle some more. "I suppose I would be to you, old man."

"Old man?!"

Kakashi had just started a fresh round of giggles and Yondaime was trying to look indignant, when the clouds opened up and the rain that had been threatening to fall all day drenched them both.

They ran, with significantly less coordination then usual, to a little canopy over a closed storefront.

They laughed as the fell against the store wall, foreheads pressed together as they clung to each other for support, wet clothes dripping.

Kakashi looked up at the blond man, eyes glittering with suppressed mirth, "Not so dignified for the new Hokage to get caught in the rain, is it, Yondaime." They were close.

"Don't call me that." So close their breaths mingled.

"What should I call you then?" So close they could feel each other's heat.

"Call me what you've always called me." So close they could both feel the flash point.

"Mmn, Sensei..." Kakashi moaned and his mask was off before he knew it and they were kissing and it was good like nothing in his life had ever been.

The older man broke away, "No, Kakashi." He shook is head, but his breath was coming short and his eyes looked so very hungry as he stared at Kakashi's pink lips, so temptingly moist, revealed to him and only him.

Kakashi could feel the older man's heartbeat, pounding out a race with his own. "Just a little more," he pleaded and pressed his eager lips to resisting ones. For a long moment Kakashi worked those lips with his own until he felt that warm body pressed so close to him go ridged, then...

"No, we need to stop this." The blond man looked down at silver-haired Jounin, who's eyes were heavy-lidded in drunken pleasure. He smiled fondly at Kakashi. "You're drunk. Here, I think the rain's stopped. Let's get you home."

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"Have you learned to be a better leader? I feel I can barely lead these three kids around. Have you learned how to speak in front of people without giving yourself a heart attack?

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"Never have we all been brought together to combat such a terrible foe, such an eminent treat to our village, our livelihood, our families. It is only through the concentrated efforts of many that we will find the strength within ourselves to combat this foe of supernatural proportions.

"Because of the brave sacrifice of the scout team sent to simply discover the source of the commotion, but instead managed to lead the beast further from the village; we now have a precious few moments to organize a defense, before the beast will find its way back to Konoha. I will not allow their sacrifice to be in vain, we will not allow their sacrifice to be in vain. We will fight to protect our precious village and those we love even at the cost of our own lives.

"I love you all, each and every one of you, and I will not allow this monster to take everything that we have worked our whole lives for away. To protect this village along side the fine shinobi of Konoha is my choice, my destiny, and my privilege. And together we will overcome this obstacle."

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"Are you happy? I don't even know if I'm happy right now, I don't know what happy is. Have you figured it out, I hope for our sake you have. I'm not really a deep thinker, but I don't think we were put here on this earth to feel pain. We were made to be happy, so be happy for..."

The letter shook so badly with Kakashi's trembling that he could no longer make out the words. The more he tried to steady his hands the more they shook and then his vision grew blurry.

But not so blurry he failed to notice the liquid on the paper take a blue tinge as it threatened to run the words together. Kakashi cried out in panic and gently dabbed the moisture away with the cuff of his long sleeve, saving the precious text.

He set the letter down carefully to protect if from being ripped by his careless shaking hands or being smeared beyond recognition.

His hands shook even as he rested his head in them, and the tightness in his chest was so bad it made breathing difficult.

That idiot, that complete and total fool. He was so focused on protecting this precious village and its precious people, he never even stopped to consider weather or not he was precious to someone. That he was someone's last truly precious person.

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