It was, he mused, an entirely beautiful day.
Warm golden sun spilled onto the clearing, illuminating each summertime strand of grass, bent by a gentle breeze. He'd always hated days like these. It reminded him of the times when he'd been a genin himself, sparring and training and lazing with Obito and Rin under the watchful eye of the Fourth. Those days were long past now, buried six feet deep with the bodies of his team; with all the joy in his life.
He came everyday to this place, every morning before he met his team, every morning after they'd separated, each destined for a different sannin tutor, each for different reasons; one being more malicious than the others. Silently he paid his respects, wordlessly. His comfort and his pain lay here, carved in a stone tablet weathered and aged. He felt like that stone sometimes, stoic and strong, yet a testament to the loss of life that came with being a shinobi.
Soft footfalls on the grass behind him did not stir him from his reverie. It would not be a first time someone had seen him here, although few knew of the frequency of his visits, although those that did were much more forgiving about his usual tardiness. He came everyday to this place, his comfort and pain, to visit the ghosts of his own memory.
"We've lost so much haven't we?"
Kakashi didn't bother to answer; he knew he wasn't really meant to. He didn't even look up in acknowledgement, because he knew the sun off of Naruto's golden hair would be blinding, and he couldn't stand another reminder of the Fourth today, not on the anniversary of his death.
"I'm sixteen today." Kakashi only 'hmmed' in response, still keeping his eyes down.
"Sakura's having me a party at her house, you're invited of course. All the rookies and Gai's team will be there, and their sensei's. It will be…" Naruto paused here, recollected himself and continued softer "my first birthday party."
Kakashi could only find it in himself to 'hmmm' again.
The Naruto he once knew would blustered and yelled, called him a baka-sensei and a pervert who reads dirty books, then stomped off to console himself with ramen. This Naruto stayed silent, gazing too at the memorial. It was unnerving, Kakashi felt, to have the cause of the Fourth's demise, and his greatest triumph as one standing here in this place. The greatest creature of destruction bound to the very pinnacle of a loving sacrifice; like Naruto himself, a constant contradiction. Kakashi was sure he'd have almost preferred the old Naruto to this one; he was wiser, more collected and infinitely insightful, when it struck him to be so. That and this Naruto was speaking again, in the same soft tone as a moment ago.
"I wonder sometimes, who we think we are, we shinobi. We go around on orders given by our leader and requested by some random citizen, dealing death to others indiscriminately all in return for a paycheck, for the 'honour of the village' or something. We damn well think we're god, that we have the right to choose who lives and who dies. But every person we kill leaves someone behind. For every murder, a survivor mourns. For every life taken, someone else's life is changed. Action and consequence, choice and repercussion, death and life, it's all in our hands, but we have no concept of how to use it."
Kakashi swallowed hard and looked up, needing to see Naruto, to understand what he was saying, and why he had chosen to say this. Their eyes met, bitter silver on liquid blue, and held, unyielding. Naruto continued.
"You blame yourself, sensei, for the deaths of your teammates and the Fourth." He inclined his head toward the memorial, never breaking eye contact. "I know their names are their, and that you believe that if you had been stronger then, you could have saved them. You could maybe have traded your life for theirs, or for the life of some faceless enemy shinobi who had his own team and family to mourn him. I know because… because I felt the same way when Sasuke left. If I had been stronger, I could've brought him back, and kept my promise to Sakura. I felt that way when Haku died, if I'd been stronger, I could've stopped him from throwing himself into the chidori. But if I had, sensei, if I had stopped Haku, you would've killed Zabuza, and he would have to live mourning the loss of his precious person. He might've become like Sasuke, consumed by revenge. Or maybe not, I mean, who am I to judge his nature? All I know is that your teammates didn't die because you weren't strong enough to protect them, they died because THEY were strong enough to protect YOU." Kakashi half-choked and turned away, burning with confusion. Naruto only continued. "We are after all, nothing more than human, shinobi or not."
Naruto's sudden brightness after his speech hurt Kakashi, the same way the bright sunshine in his eyes did. "Ne, sensei, the party will be starting soon! I'd better go. I'll see you tomorrow for training?" Naruto's endless blue eyes, questing his face.
It was an awkward moment before Kakashi finally spoke. "No Naruto, I'll see you tonight. At Sakura's you said?" Naruto glowed.
"Yup! Seeya then!" And the blonde ninja bounced off, radiating excitement. Kakashi felt his lips involuntarily quirk. "Seeya kid." And he would that night, because he gave his word, and because friends don't let friends down.
Within a heartbeat, the memorial was alone, and silent once more.
reviews are good for the soul!