Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. This story was written for fun, not profit.

Kakashi has named his conscience "Obito" - and yes, he knows that this probably isn't normal. On the other hand, he's not the only person who has projected hopes and lessons onto a dead companion, be they teammate or sensei or genin student. Sometimes he thinks that it comes with the life and the territory, and that it's part of the price they all pay.

Or at least he'd think that if he was more melodramatic. Since he thinks he's nothing if not a realist, he figures he might as well call his conscience by his proper name and get on with life.


"I think we'll be all right," Rin said once in her quiet, out-of-the-blue sort of way. There was a distinct quality about her voice, which could be gentle and soothing and still carry over the distant roar of a demon fox.

He never saw her angry. Hurt, yes; discouraged, guilty, desperate - not angry. She was patient and soft-spoken, and she had an iron will.

If he ever finds his sense of compassion, he'll know what to name it.


The first time Sakura shatters earth and stone in his presence, he is too bemused to catch the implication of it. But it echoes anyway, lurking in the back of his mind.

Later he sits on a rooftop and thinks on it. Stupidly, he spends a sharp moment being angry with Sakura for becoming something he doesn't understand. Then he spends another moment being angry with Rin, because if she had been able to do that, if she had been boisterous and loud and so terribly strong, maybe he wouldn't have had to lose anyone at all.

But he's nothing if not intelligent, nothing if not a realist - and he thinks of the demon fox and of a murderer with pinwheel eyes, and of the fact that the entire village is walking in a circle.


"Don't die," the Fourth said, right before he turned around and disobeyed his own order.

He doesn't want to be a reckless hero. But if he ever decided to be one, he'd have a name for that, too.


Some days he thinks the universe wanted to laugh at him, but it couldn't be bothered to do anything clever or profound. So it gave him Naruto instead.

It would save manpower, really, if the boy did get around to becoming Hokage. There wouldn't be any need to carve a new face. Just take the Fourth and add whisker-marks.

There are times when Kakashi sees his old sensei there, lurking just beneath the surface - in the moments of quiet, in the way Naruto's features soften, maybe even in that ludicrous, hot-headed courage. That last bit requires some thought, of course, because there's also Obito's smile and determination and pig-headed definitions of friendship.

Really, there's no difference between saving a teammate from an avalanche or from themselves, other than a matter of degree.

Once he found himself wondering what the hell Naruto could possibly make into a gift, since it's not as though he has any fancy eyes. Then Itachi showed up and threw everything all to hell, and that train of thought died before he had time to feel guilty about it.


In his mind's eye Obito-the-conscience sits still - or as still as he can, because he's thinking and that comes with incessant fidgeting. He is unusually solemn, so that for once his missing eye doesn't seem so terribly out of place.

"Bet Jiraiya's got his own ideas about them," he says, or whatever it is a conscience does. "So maybe there's another way out. If that's what you're looking for."

He's not sure he is. But he takes it anyway.


Kakashi thinks of Obito and of abandoning teammates, and of a boy outrunning the past and a girl who can dance with chakra in her hands and shatter an avalanche. Then he thinks of Sasuke, and wonders if he would sacrifice the Uchiha prodigy's sanity to keep the others jaded and alive.

He knows what Naruto would say and what Obito would say, because sometimes they're one and the same. Maybe it's a peculiar kind of courage to ignore them, and maybe if he keeps telling himself that, he'll start to believe it.

Because he thinks he's a realist, he asks himself what he would do if he were forced to choose between past-futures, between the two teammates he has and the one he could still save.

And because he isn't Obito, he's not even surprised at how quickly the answer comes.