Final Author's Note: Thank you to anyone who's read this far. Hopefully you did so after reading the WIP rewrite. If not, do make sure to check it out since the writing is much improved, I'm adding many new scenes and characters, and it's a lot grittier than this version.

I also want to ask if you would indulge my curiosity and tell me what kept you reading all the way to the end (or what made you want to read the original version in the first place). You can leave a review here, or preferably under the new Nakama. Feel free to also PM me, or if you don't have an account, leave a guest review and check back in a few days - I'll update the latest chapter with a response to you.

Thank you again! Hope you enjoy the last chapter.

Chapter Fifty-Two:

Kakashi stood at the entrance gate that led into the Uchiha clan district. The Uchiha symbol was drawn on two lines of cloth that hung at the top of the gateway. He stared up at the two identical symbols with one distant eye. The other was still covered with bandages. It had been almost two weeks since he had woken up, and although the nurse had informed him that he could leave the hospital a day ago if he really insisted on it, he had stayed another night and had left in the morning.

A lot had happened in the days he had spent in the hospital. Yuki had come a lot and spent a good few hours each visit. He had returned to doing his job, but when he received a mission, they were always accomplished in a day. They hadn't talked a lot and Yuki didn't mock him like he used to, but he would simply sit casually by the window. Kakashi hadn't minded. The silence had always been somewhat comforting. During one of these visits, Yuki had told him that Obito's body had been cremated and his bones lay in the Uchiha graveyard.

Kakashi explained the events of the mission three times. The first had been to Yuki. The second was when the Hokage had visited him. He told Sarutobi about Mitarashi Anko being innocent and also about Yamato Shinrei's loyalty. When he was finished, Sarutobi had been silent for a while, and then went on to explain that he had failed to capture Orochimaru, though he was now officially marked as a Missing-nin of Konoha.

"Thank you, Kakashi," he had said when he was about to take his leave, "for many things. And I am sorry."

Obito's family also came, and Kakashi told them about Obito's death. They had the right to know the whole story. He felt that it had been the most difficult to talk to them. Fortunately, Yuki had been there as well. The family had listened in silence while he spoke.

"I'm sorry," he had said after a pause when he had finished. He was looking at his hands and didn't notice their looks of surprise. "I couldn't protect Obito. I couldn't do anything to prevent it. It was my fault – "

The words were stopped by Natsumi, Obito's mother, as she stooped down and embraced him tightly.

"There's no reason for you to apologise," she had said. "It wasn't your fault. I'm glad you came back alive. Obito would be as well. And thank you for bringing him back here."

Kakashi had glanced questioningly at Nayu, Obito's sister who was still in her ANBU uniform, and then at their father, who were both smiling softly. Natsumi didn't release Kakashi for a long time, and he had felt drops of silent tears on his back.

After that first visit, Natsumi had come on a regular basis, always bringing a different flower each time and reorganising them in the vase that stood on a table in the room. Nayu was often busy with missions, as was her father, but they dropped by quickly once in a while to say a quick hello. Ryo also came between his work, most often with Yuki, but sometimes alone. Kakashi had been quite surprised at the amount of visits he had, but slowly, Obito's dying words about Yuki, Ryo and his family came back to him.

Kakashi himself had spent most of the day awake, despite the nurse's warnings that he should get plenty of rest. He had sat up against the head rest and stared silently out of the window. On the day that the nurse had told him he could leave if he wanted to, Yuki had come with a message from his clan that they wished to meet with him.

"I heard from the nurse that you said you'd stay another night," Yuki had said. "I can persuade them to postpone the meeting to next week if you want to rest at home for a little while."

"No, I'll see them tomorrow," Kakashi had replied. Yuki seemed to have wanted to say something else, but he briefed Kakashi on the members of the Elders and the clan head instead.

The days had grown increasingly colder during the time Kakashi had spent in the hospital. The wind blew sharply against his casual clothes and loose hair. He had yet to see Yugao, who he assumed still had his hitai-ate, but he didn't think too much about it. He didn't wear his Jounin vest, nor did he have any of his weapons or tools. His left arm was held in a sling to keep the weight off his cracked shoulder blade. The cuts and bruises that he had received while trying to climb up the cliff had all healed cleanly But the other wounds had pierced completely through his body, and though the medics had sewed together most of the internal tissues, they were still fragile and the muscles had to be rebuilt together with gradual rehabilitation. They had quite often stressed the warnings for him not to do anything rash and to do the rehabilitation gradually. They had even gone as far as to send the Hokage a request to excuse him from missions for another month.

Kakashi tipped his head back to stare up at the sky. Clear, sunny days had become rare, and now the clouds were gathered, thick and heavy, looming close to the earth. He sighed, and his warm breath created a fully visible sheet of white vapour just beyond his mask. There was a likely chance that it would snow if the clouds broke free. A little early, being the last week of November, but not unthinkable. Kakashi turned his attention back to the gate and walked on.

Most of the Uchiha dwellings were old, traditional houses, most often with the clan symbol drawn on the entrance or on the brick walls that encompassed the building. The main street was mostly empty, as all able shinobi were working and the children were at the Academy. He passed three or four people on his way to the appointed meeting hall, and they all paused to cast him interested glances while trying not to be too obvious about it. He guessed that the rumours had spread quite quickly, despite all efforts to try and keep it quiet. He didn't really care and he walked on without showing any reactions to their stares.

He walked, unhurriedly down the main street, then turned a corner to the right and was faced with the Uchiha Meeting Hall. It was slightly different from living houses. The pavement street abruptly ended, and to both sides were spread small stones and pebbles. It seemed to mark the territory that the Hall claimed. over the pebbled ground, square marble tiles were lined, creating a narrow path that led to the entrance of the building. On the roof above the entrance was an enlarged Uchiha symbol. Kakashi walked on, and mounted the three wide stone steps. The fourth, he stopped and slipped off his shoes, lining them along with the many others that were already there. Then he stepped up onto the polished wooden floor and stared at the mahogany door that stood before him. To its left and right stood two Uchiha shinobi, silent and looking at Kakashi.

Kakashi did not spare them a glance, and continued to look at the door. He said nothing, and waited for them to make a move. The two guards stirred and exchanged uneasy glances. Then they reached out to the door and slowly slid it open to either side. They turned toward the people gathered in the spacious room beyond and dropped to their knees, bowing their heads down.

"Enter, Hatake Kakashi," said a man who sat at the far end of the room. His voice was deep and heavy, and although he did not show any signs of hostility, he did not pretend to be friendly. Kakashi walked into the Hall and heard the doors being closed again. Without turning his head, or even moving his eye, he saw that to his left sat two rows of shinobi in ANBU uniforms with their masks placed on the floor beside them. He could guess their numbers as around twenty, and he knew that they were probably only the high ranking Uchiha ANBU. To the right were three rows of ordinary Uchiha shinobi, all with vests, which indicated that they were Chuunin or Jounin. The latter, most likely.

At the top end of the Hall sat seven elderly looking shinobi dressed in long robes and sitting on thin mats. They were parted with three to the left and four to the right. In the middle, sitting slightly in front of the row of Elders was an early middle aged man with black hair hanging loosely around his face. He wore the normal shinobi attire along with the vest, and on the sleeve of his left upper arm was the Uchiha symbol within a four cornered star. Kakashi recognised him from the descriptions Yuki had given him as Uchiha Fugaku. He was the younger brother of the clan head, and worked at the Headquarters of Konoha's Police Force. As additional information, which was rather unnecessary, Yuki had told him that his first son, Itachi was starting at the Ninja Academy in the spring, and his second son, Sasuke had been born in the summer. In front of Fugaku and slightly to the left sat another man cross-legged with his arms folded over his chest. He looked a few years older than Fugaku, and Kakashi automatically assumed him to be Izumi, the leader of the Uchiha Clan. It had been Izumi who had told him to come inside.

Kakashi stopped before the single square mat placed in the center of the room and he sat down on his heels. His single eye never broke the contact with Izumi's gaze. It would have been seen as a sign of defiance, but Kakashi's eye held no such emotion or intention. Silence fell and no one moved. Kakashi recognised Yuki's presence in the front row to his left, quite close to where he sat. He felt Nayu closer to the door, and her father in the front row to his right.

"First and foremost," Izumi began suddenly, "I would like to thank you for bringing Obito's body back to Konoha. He was an excellent shinobi and the Uchiha clan was proud of his accomplishments. Graduating the Academy at the age of six, becoming a Chuunin at eight, mastering the Sharingan at ten and reaching even the Jounin level at eleven. He was a shinobi that we could shamelessly call an Uchiha elite. His death was honourable, and his name is etched onto the Memorial Stone. Yet he left you something that has caused great unrest in us clan members, has he not?"

Kakashi made no response and gave no reaction either. Izumi closed his eyes for a moment, then they snapped open to reveal full, three tailed Sharingan eyes. Kakashi didn't flinch against the stare of those red pupils and sat still, maintaining his silence. A few of the shinobi in the back row to his right stirred uneasy, but the others remained motionless. Finally Izumi allowed the Sharingan to fade from his eyes and he sighed almost inaudibly.

"The chakra gathering and movement within your left eye indeed belongs to a Sharingan," he said. "Tell us exactly how you received it."

"This is Obito's eye," Kakashi replied after only a small pause. "He gave it to me before he died and Orochimaru transplanted it."

Izumi's eyes narrowed slightly. "And you allowed Orochimaru to do this?"

"It was neither against my will nor Obito's."

"Orochimaru killed Obito. Nevertheless, you allowed the person who killed your close comrade to do the transplantation?"

"It did not matter to me who did it or how it was done," Kakashi said.

"Have you used the eye?" Izumi asked.


"What do you intend to do with it?"

It was one of the questions that he had often thought about during his time at the hospital. "I intend to master it," he replied. There were some movements as the gathered shinobi exchanged quick glances and a few of the Elders conversed quietly amongst themselves.

"A foolish way of thinking," Izumi said, instantly silencing all murmurs and halting all movements. His eyes had hardened. "The Sharingan is a special trait even amongst the Uchiha. It takes our blood to control and master the eye. It is for that reason that the Sharingan was passed onto our Clan, and not any other. It is impossible for you to use that eye."

"It hasn't been tried yet," Kakashi said quietly, with the first hint of defiance in his voice. It did not go unnoticed.

"Do not be a fool," snapped a kunoichi in the Jounin ranks. "Izumi-sama has said that it is impossible. Are you implying that he is telling a lie?" Fugaku glanced sharply at the woman to silence her, but the murmur was already rising.

"There is no reason that this boy should keep the eye," another spoke up.

"It is for his own sake!"

"Then what do you suggest we do?" Nayu suddenly growled, the first ANBU to even stir since the beginning of the meeting. "Take the eye back out and stick in a fake eye ball?"

"What else can be done?" the first kunoichi responded. "That Sharingan does not belong to him!"

"If it does not belong to him, then who does it belong to?" Nayu challenged.

"Nayu," the ANBU sitting beside her said sharply, and she closed her mouth, but the Jounin and Chuunin rows continued to debate.

"It belongs to the Clan," several people replied at once. Nayu narrowed her eyes but kept quite.

"Silence!" Izumi barked and everyone abruptly shut their mouths. Kakashi hadn't moved since the outbreak, and though Izumi had directed his word to those gathered, he hadn't broken his end of the connection either. "What they say is true," he continued. "The Sharingan requires a great amount of chakra to be used. We Uchiha have that in our blood. You do not. That left eye will only drain you of your chakra while releasing only a mere fraction of its potential. It will not make you any stronger."

"I do not intend to rely upon this eye to make me stronger," Kakashi replied. "It was simply Obito's wish that I take his eye."

"So you will use it, even if it leads to your death?"

Kakashi nodded. "Yes."

"Young one," said a male Elder with a sigh. "The problem lays in you simply having that eye. Izumi is trying to persuade you kindly to leave behind the Sharingan, but if you protest so much, we will have to say it bluntly. The Clan cannot have a shinobi of non Uchiha blood running around with a Sharingan."

The old woman sitting next to him nodded her head grimly several times. "It is unthinkable for you to have it," she said. "It will hurt the pride and honour of our Clan."

"It is a moral problem," added yet another Elder, who looked to be the oldest of the seven. "It goes against all rules of the Uchiha. Never before in all my long years has such a case appeared. I am sorry, but you may not keep the Sharingan eye."

Kakashi said nothing to this and simply continued to stare at the Clan Head.

"The choice has already been made," Izumi said after a few moments of relative quiet. "This questioning has not changed our decision."

There were consenting nods and approving mutterings, but Nayu made a move to rise to her feet. She would have, had it not been for the ANBU beside her who quickly grabbed her wrist. She paid him no attention, however.

"But Izumi-sama!" she protested. "It was Obito's will for Kakashi to have his eye!"

"We do not have any such proof," said Fugaku.

"You are moved by your emotions, Nayu," said the head Elder gently. "It is understandable. You have just lost your brother, but you must not allow those emotions to control you."

"My words are not affected by my brother's death, Outa-sama," Nayu said. "I – "

"Remember your place, Nayu," Izumi said. She looked like she was on the verge of protesting further, and she glanced searchingly at Kakashi, but found the boy still staring silently at the clan head. She reluctantly bit down on her words and sat back down on the floor.

"Hai," she whispered, her eyes on the polished wood and her clenched hands. Silence reigned once again and it filled the room for long moments. Nayu glanced up the row from the corner of her eyes at Yuki. She was half tempted to get up again and shout at him. Why wasn't he doing anything? She knew that he was close to Kakashi. Was he planning to just sit there and do nothing while the Elders took the eye away from Kakashi against his will? Yuki had hardly even moved a finger since the meeting had begun.

"It is unfortunate to break such a talented shinobi like you, Hatake, but it is inevitable," Izumi said. "You have stuck your neck too far into places you should not even have neared. I call this meeting to an end with the conclusion that the Sharingan be removed from Hatake Kakashi's body. I will arrange for the medics to – "

"No," Kakashi said.

Izumi frowned. "What?"

"It doesn't matter to me what decisions you have made," Kakashi clarified. "I will simply not obey them."

"You have no say in our decisions," said Outa slowly in a cold voice that rang with warning.

"You have no means by which to make me listen to what you say," Kakashi responded quietly, and clearly.

"The Sharingan belongs to our clan!" said another female Elder fiercely. "It is our right to choose what is to be done with it."

"It is a chosen rule, Hatake," Izumi said. "Are you going to defy it and follow in the footsteps of your unfortunate father?"

Kakashi paused for a moment, though not out of hesitation. He was slightly surprised to hear the mentioning of his father in such a line of topic as the Sharingan. "I will break the rules without thinking twice," he replied, "if it is for the sake of my comrade. Obito gave me this eye, and I will protect it."

"This is outrageous!" shouted an Elder man who had already looked a little red in his face since the meeting had begun. He rose to his feet and glared down at Kakashi with furious, narrow eyes. "It is already unthinkable that you have spent almost two weeks with the Sharingan, and what more, you refuse to follow the decisions that we, the rightful owners of that bloodline trait, have chosen!"

"I am in agreement," several shinobi called out, also rising to their feet. Two or three ANBU shot them disapproving glances, and Fugaku began to shout for them to remain quiet when a few shinobi, including Obito's father snapped back at those already standing. In an instant the room was filled with noise and subtle movement. Through this, Kakashi and Izumi never broke their eye contact. Although Kakashi's eye did not hold anything that might be seen as a challenge to the clan head, it was no longer the passive look that it had been when he had first entered the meeting. Izumi did not show any obvious anger, but his eyes were cold and hard.

"Do you openly defy our decisions?" he asked, his voice only loud enough to reach Kakashi and a few others, but not enough to silence the arguments.

"Yes," Kakashi replied.

"This is ridiculous!" a man cried out from his right, others chorusing it. "Izumi-sama! You cannot allow this to pass!"

Kakashi shifted his eye for the first time and glanced at the middle aged man who was on his feet and in the middle row. "I am serious about this," he said. As he looked from one angry face to another, his eye seemed to quieten them a little. Then he turned back to Izumi, and addressed everyone present. "If you wish to take this Sharingan from me, then you will have to do it by force. I will protect it with my life."

There was a second of stunned silence, then the chaotic atmosphere returned. A few shinobi lunged forward with snarled curses at Kakashi. Izumi sharply turned his eyes to them, his mouth already partway open to stop their stupid action, but a sudden movement and noise from the other side of the room stopped him.

"Wait," Yuki snapped, instantly rising to his full height with a sharp stamp of his foot on the wooden floor. Kakashi hadn't moved from his position, and the three who had leapt at him froze a few paces away. Yuki threw them a look that held cold anger and a somewhat threatening menace. They faltered under his gaze and returned grudgingly to their rows.

"The rest of you sit down as well," Fugaku ordered, and they obeyed without question or further sound. Izumi inclined his head toward Yuki, then turned his attention back to Kakashi. But when the ANBU did not return to his seat, he glanced at him with a slight frown.

"I understand that many of you are angered because Hatake is not listening to your chosen decisions," Yuki said, addressing the Elders, Fugaku and Izumi. "Yet I believe that this matter is beyond your authority." He paused only for a slight second and went on before anyone could speak up. "That Sharingan belongs to Hatake without question. Obito performed the Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou before he died." Yuki paused longer now, and allowed this new piece of information to sink in. "He froze his left eye."

All seven Elders were visibly dumbstruck and Izumi and Fugaku seemed also as shocked, but they managed to constrict the amount that leaked into their expressions. Most of the ANBU stirred and a few of the Jounin exchanged uneasy glances. A murmur rose slowly, but the Clan Head did nothing to stop it. Kakashi turned his head a little to cast a quick look at Yuki with a small frown pulling his brows together.

"When Hatake told me about Obito's death, this one detail caught my attention," Yuki continued. "I quickly researched all the files and ancient scrolls of the Uchiha history and secrets. What I found was this technique. By using chakra, one gathers a great amount of body liquid to the Sharingan eye and stops all the movement of the liquid molecules. Even in ice, there is a slight vibration, but by completely stopping the molecules, you can freeze that area of your body including the nerves, blood flow and also the chakra flow. This technique has only worked successfully when the shinobi using it is nearing death, for it requires an enormously strong will.

"Obito's will was most probably something along the lines of, this Sharingan belongs to Kakashi and Kakashi only."

Yuki paused again, to allow the increasing mutterings to die down. Then he went on. "As soon as I knew about this technique I went back to Obito's body. When I checked for the after effects and lingering signs of the Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou, they were certainly there."

By now, Izumi had regained his composure, though the Elders were still struggling. The Clan Head fixed Yuki with a firm gaze. "Why have you waited so long in telling me about this?" he demanded. "The body has been cremated. We can no longer confirm what you are saying."

"There isn't any need to worry, Izumi-sama," Yuki responded calmly. "I asked two people to check for the signs besides myself." He glanced down to the opposite side of the room and his eyes skimming over the Jounin and Chuunin rows until they came to rest on a slightly late middle aged man who sat closest to the door and in the furthest row, leaning against the wall with his arms and legs crossed. He was staring with barely focused eyes at the ceiling, clearly not really paying attention at what was being said or done.

"Katsuya-san," Yuki called quietly.

The man jerked and immediately sat bolt upright. "Hai!" he said loudly, his eyes searching the room for whoever had called him. When he noticed that it was Yuki however, he sighed and slumped forward a little. "Oh, it's you."

"Katsuya, did you confirm the after effects of the Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou on Obito's body?" Izumi asked.

"Yeah, I sure did," Katsuya replied. "They were there, clear as anything."

Izumi fell into a thoughtful silence. Katsuya was a close friend of his, and an experienced ninja. He had been a skilled ANBU in his earlier years, and was now a highly honoured Jounin.

"The second person who confirmed the signs was the Hokage-sama himself," Yuki said. This time, instead of the murmur, a deep silence fell on the gathered shinobi. With the exception of Yuki sitting back down, no one moved, all eyes either on Izumi or Kakashi. It was Outa, the Elder who stirred first.

"But how could it be?" he breathed. "The Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou is a technique that was born almost with the Uchiha clan itself. It has not been used since the very first generation and its mere existence has been hidden for as long as I have lived. It is a secret technique amongst even the Secret. How could Obito have known, much less used it?"

"Well, that kid was always good at sneaking into forbidden texts and books," Yuki said fondly. "As for how he could perform it, there's only one possible answer. Obito's feelings towards Hatake must have been that strong."

The oppressing and tingling air that had filled the room for a while suddenly began to draw back. The shinobi started to look at Kakashi with calmer eyes, as if seeing him for the first time in a new light. Izumi's eyes were distant as he too, continued to gaze steadily at Kakashi.

"The desire to protect those most dear, is always the strongest will," he recited quietly. The focus returned to his eyes and he looked at Kakashi again. Slowly, a small smile spread on his face and his eyes grew slightly softer. "Indeed," he muttered.

"Izumi Nii-san?" Fugaku inquired.

Izumi did not speak or move for a few long moments, his face brooding and his eyes seeing something that no one else could see. They were fixed on Kakashi's covered left eye.

"As the Head of the Uchiha Clan," Izumi said at last in a clear and stern voice again, "I conclude this meeting with the following outcome: we have neither the right to object Hatake Kakashi's possession of the Sharingan, nor the authority to remove it." A few of the Elders started. Before they could form the words from their thoughts, however, Izumi turned around to face them. "We must not forget, as I have nearly done, what importance love and the volition to protect have had upon our past, our current life and all the future generations. We must not forget the teachings of this village that states that one can only become stronger when one finds something he wants to protect.

"The Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou is certainly no standard technique that any shinobi can master with a decent amount of training. I have done a lot of research on this technique in particular when I became the Clan Head. As you have already mentioned, it is one of the ultimate secrets of this clan. Our ancestors were wise to hide its existence. It can become a serious threat when left in the open. For in the first generation of the Uchiha clan, fifty four attempted the technique. Only two managed to succeed. They feared that their children would experiment with it, purposefully bringing themselves to the verge of death. As you probably already know, these facts are all written in the hidden scrolls.

"The Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou was performed for the first time since the first generation and it was done successfully. Even as the Clan Head and Elders, we hold no authority over this ancient technique of our ancestors. The will of the shinobi performing it is far too great for us to be even compared to. That is my first reason for my conclusion of this discussion. The second reason is, ironically, a slightly moral reasoning."

Izumi looked over his shoulder at Kakashi and stared at him for a little while. Then as he began to turn back to the Elders, he continued. "The friendship between Obito and Hatake was clearly a bond stronger than anyone had thought. I can tell, by simply hearing stories, recalling their pasts and sorting through the rumours about them. It is an embarrassment on my part that I have only realised their bond just now. If we fought Hatake now, it is clear that he would be stronger than any of us. Although with his body's current condition, it may not be true in reality, I am sure you understand what I mean. One can say that it is a psychological issue."

Outa raised his chin a little as if to contradict Izumi, but the Clan Head held up a hand to request silence. The Elder pressed his lips together for a moment, but gave a small nod of consent.

"What is it that we are fighting for? What is it that we want to protect? It is the Sharingan; the honour and pride of our Uchiha Clan. In comparison, Hatake is not fighting for the sake of something of his own. He is prepared to protect the eye – Obito's eye – with his life. To him, it most likely does not even matter that it is a Sharingan. It is simply something Obito gave him. It is Obito's lingering existence that he wants to protect. It may be difficult to understand, but this is how deep their bond of friendship was carved. The burdens of what we are fighting for are on two completely different planes."

Izumi remained facing the Elders for almost two full minutes after he fell silent, his sharp eyes shifting slowly across all seven of them. Most of them stared silently back, showing neither agreement nor disagreement to what he had said, but one or two of them averted their eyes away from his silently demanding gaze. When none of them voiced their thoughts, Izumi turned to his brother. Fugaku had been watching Kakashi and he didn't immediately look at his brother. After a moment, he met Izumi's eyes and gave a short nod. It was enough for Izumi. The Clan Head then turned his seat toward the Chuunin, Jounin and ANBU.

"Are there any objections that you wish you express?" he inquired in a clear voice. The ANBU did not move and the Jounin also remained silent with only a few exceptions. That handful of shinobi shifted their seats slightly and looked at each other hesitantly.

"Please forgive my rudeness, but I cannot agree, Izumi-sama," said a shinobi sitting in the front row, close to Nayu's father.

"Why so?" Izumi asked calmly.

"I – "

"Drop it, Haru," cut in the kunoichi sitting beside him. "Look at the boy. Do you not notice the aura of unwavering will he radiates? His eye hasn't shown even a trace of anxiety or hesitation since the beginning of his questioning. Izumi-sama is right about him."

The shinobi glanced at Kakashi with a frown, but he reluctantly lowered his eyes and nodded. Izumi waited a while longer. Everyone was silent and motionless.

"I then call this meeting to an official end," Izumi said. "Hatake Kakashi will keep the Sharingan, and we have no right or authority to order its removal. No objections." He paused and all the Uchihas nodded their consent. "Thank you all for your attendance. We are finished."

The tense, formal air eased away as the Elders began to rise from their seats and all the other shinobi stood up and walked toward the entrance doors. They talked quietly amongst themselves as they left, and the ANBU followed them out. Fugaku and Izumi were on their feet and they exchanged a few words before the former nodded and also took his leave. Izumi turned to face the Elders who walked slowly past him.

"Izumi," Outa said, "if this goes the wrong way, it is you who will have to inevitably take responsibility."

"I understand," Izumi replied facing the wall. It would indeed be catastrophic if the Sharingan would fall into the wrong hands. He trusted that the boy would be able to keep it safe, but if he were to be killed and the Sharingan taken by another Hidden Village…It was something he certainly did not want to experience. He heard the last Elder's footsteps stepping down from the floor and he sighed quietly. He turned again to follow them out of the Hall, but stopped abruptly when he saw Kakashi standing just behind the mat in the center of the room. They locked gazes once again, but there was no sign of aggression in either their of them. Kakashi closed his one eye and bowed his head low. He remained in that position for a moment, then he straightened, turned and walked away, opening his eye only when he was a few paces away from the door. Izumi was left staring after the boy's back with a look of bemused wonder.

Kakashi walked alone back up the main street of the Uchiha district. Yuki watched him from the rooftop of a tall building. He didn't wait long before another two ANBU joined him. Ryo pulled off his animal mask and stepped forward to stand beside Yuki, while Nayu stayed a pace behind them, gathering her hair into a ponytail to keep it from being swept to and fro by the wind.

"He's allowed to keep it," Yuki said.

"That's good," Ryo responded, trailing the small figure of Kakashi in the distance. "Judging by the time you spent in that Hall, I'm guessing it didn't go all too smoothly?"

"It would have gone more smoothly if you had told them about the Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou earlier in the meeting," Nayu said with a slightly accusatory tone.

Yuki nodded absently. "It probably would have, yes," he said, watching Kakashi disappear beyond the clan district gateway.

"Then why – "

"I wanted to know his feelings and thoughts," Yuki replied, not bothering to wait for her to finish the whole question. "I wanted to know what he thought about the Sharingan; how he felt about it and how he would answer to the Elders and Izumi-sama. I needed to know exactly how far he would go to defend it."

"And if he didn't go as far as you wanted or expected, you wouldn't have mentioned the frozen eye?" Ryo guessed. Yuki nodded and Nayu gaped at him.

"How could you? He could have lost – "

"Yuki-san was worried about him, Nayu," Ryo cut in. "Hatake can't protect and master the Sharingan with a half decided mind. To rush to someone's side is certainly a way of protecting, but keep in mind that it isn't the only way."

"Well," Yuki sighed. "He met my expectations and went even beyond them." He grinned. "Just like always, that little brat."


Kakashi reached his apartment building, but he stopped by the main entrance. After a moment of thought, he changed his mind and continued down the street. He took to small alleys and narrow streets to avoid the large crowds. The meeting hadn't been too bad, and Yuki-s help had been appreciative. He wouldn't have hesitated fighting with the shinobi who had come at him, but things were always better off without much violence. And although the Uchiha hadn't really intimidated him, he had felt comforted by the presence of Nayu and her father.

He soon left the last buildings and he walked up the paths that led to the training grounds. The wind was picking up and the air was turning colder despite it being just past noon. He passed a team of young Genin and their teacher by the wide river and though the Jounin glanced at him with curiosity, he paid them no attention. He neared the line of trees and his pace slowed considerably. When his feet finally came to a halt, he stood before the Memorial Stone. He stared down at the face of the black stone, his eye fixed on the last name on the long list: Uchiha Obito.

Kakashi stood gazing at the name for a long time. He suddenly didn't feel the biting cold or the rushing wind. It was just him, the Stone, the name and his memories. Nothing penetrated this new dimension he was suddenly plunged into. Even the arrival of a presence almost half an hour later seemed trivial in the strong swirl of his mind. But when the presence didn't leave or come forward, Kakashi slowly surfaced from his memories.

"What is it?" he asked without turning around. He knew already who it was without having to confirm it with his eye.

"I went to the hospital a number of times but you were never alone," Yugao said quietly, still not moving from her position a few ten odd metres behind him. "They told me you had already left when I went today. An ANBU told me just now that you would be here." She hesitated a little when he didn't respond, then she moved forward. From her pocket, she withdrew a hitai-ate, and she offered it to him when she came up beside him. Kakashi glanced at it, then slowly reached out to it with his right hand. The metal felt smooth and cool against his hand as he took it.

"Thank you," he said, raising his eyes from the hitai-ate and meeting her gaze. "You kept the promise. And sorry for using such a threat back then. It must have scared you."

Yugao shook her head and her long hair whipped from side to side. Kakashi lowered his hand and returned his eye to the name of his best friend. Yugao's eyes flickered to his distant eye, to the stone and back again.

"Are you…all right?" she asked, the hesitance returning to her voice and she fidgeted with her sleeves a little. Kakashi nodded once, but clearly. She suddenly got the impression that he wanted to be alone and she bit her lower lip, bringing her hands nervously together.

"Well, I guess I'll get going," she stammered, stepping back a stride. Then she turned completely and walked purposefully away. She didn't look back until she had gone at least a hundred metres or so. When she quickly glanced over her shoulder, she saw him still standing as he had been before, just with the two tails of the forehead protector blowing in the wind.

A couple of minutes later, when Yugao's presence disappeared from his range of perception, Kakashi lifted the hitai-ate in his open palm and stared down at it. It looked slightly tattered from the years he had worn it during training, missions and wars, but the metal rectangle was unharmed.

"Was is you who told her?" Kakashi inquired out loud. Yuki dropped down beside him, his ANBU mask twirling in his left hand.

"She looked cute," he commented. "I saw her a few times in the hospital around the corridors near your room, and she asked me whether I knew where you were when she saw me in the streets."

"She came to give me back my hitai-ate," Kakashi explained. Yuki cast him a side long glance.

"Hatake," he said with the unusual tone of seriousness, "forget about trying to get revenge." Kakashi looked up at him but said nothing. "You'll experience it yourself when you grow older, but I've already seen dozens of idiots who base their lives solely on revenge. It may spur you to get stronger and you may get to kill whoever you wanted to kill, but then what? There's nothing beyond the act of revenge. No joy or grief, no desire, no likes or dislikes. The end result of an avenger is an empty shell of what used to be a soul."

Yuki paused, then sighed and shifted his position so that he still stood beside Kakashi, but he faced the opposite direction. "Well, I don't intend to dictate your life. It's your choice," he said in a slightly lighter voice. He placed a hand on his right shoulder and gave it a soft squeeze. "That's all I came to say, but remember that you can always trust me." With that said, he began to walk away, treading silently over the grass.

"Thank you, Yuki-san," Kakashi said, though he did not move. Yuki glanced quickly over his shoulder and grinned. As the next wind blew the grass to the side, he was gone, and Kakashi was alone once again.

He held the hitai-ate loosely in his hand and Yuki's words lingered in his mind. Revenge. The word echoed hollowly in his head. He had wanted revenge when Obito had died in his arms. It was 'revenge' that had spurred him into attacking Orochimaru again and again even when his body had screamed for mercy. It had probably been 'revenge' that had allowed him to stumble back to the village. But ever since he had woken up in the hospital after the dream he could not remember, that burning desire had ceased to exist. He didn't know where it had gone, but even when he had purposefully reminded himself about avenging Obito, the thought was not insisting. Not only that, a part of him argued against such a stupid and meaningless idea.

All of a sudden the wind stopped blowing, but it didn't make it any warmer. If anything, the cold pressed in closer like icy hands reaching for anything and everything warm. Then the first snow flake floated soundlessly down from the grey clouds, followed by many others. They were large and wet, clinging immediately onto the blades of grass, making it easier for the next layer to pile onto the first.

Kakashi swapped the hitai-ate into his left hand in the sling. With his right hand, he raised it to his bandages around his eye and head, and he undid the clips that held them in place. They instantly fell loose and it took only a few deft pulls for it to slither off completely. They fell gracefully onto the slightly white ground creating a small bundle of bandages.

Kakashi kept both his eyes closed while he took the hitai-ate back into his free hand. Though it was slightly more difficult with one hand, he managed to tie the forehead protector in its rightful place. His hand fell to his side. Then slowly, Hatake Kakashi opened both his eyes, revealing the Sharingan that was a reminder of his past, and his right eye that vowed to never let his Nakama be killed again.



Mugen Reihou no Hyoushou: the ice sheet of an eternal salute.
Nakama: friends, comrades, companions.

Well, that's it. This story is finished…I feel so sad and empty now…Spain was alright. I spent most of the time thinking and writing this fanfic anyways. (sigh).
Anyways, I hope everyone enjoyed my story, and for those constant reviewers, thank you so very much! (big hug) They were a really big motivator. And for those who were simply reading along, please remember my one request of you that's stated at the beginning of the chapter. It's been around a year since I began writing Nakama, and I've enjoyed every second of it!

In regard to the sequel, I'll update everyone as soon I as I can in my profile. Please keep looking!

THANK YOU ALL for your support!