Genius Under Fire
Introspection from Hatake Kakashi and Hatake Sakumo as to what it means to be a child genius under Fire.
One shot, both POVs.
When Sakumo was a kid being a genius meant catching the point of all the classes before everyone else and getting to read books under the desk or doodle on scrap paper or stare sideways out the window and still drive the teacher insane because he could get away with all this stuff as he could perfectly answer every question put to him. It meant having girls swoon over his coolness and friends punch him in the arm because they were mad at him for being so effortlessly popular and good at everything he did. It meant knowing he could get away with anything but never having to bother because everyone else knew it too. It meant being the veritable king of the world at eight years old. It meant becoming a great ninja and knowing that's what he wanted to be.
When Kakashi was a kid being a genius meant keeping his eyes forward and his attention centered on the psychological and/or physiological wreck of a ninja who'd been demoted to 'classroom duties' because they weren't fit for the field. It meant listening hard and taking in every detail and every message that was said and unsaid and not letting his vast concentration wander to how exactly someone could survive having their face set on fire and their eyeballs exploded as the woman in front of you apparently has. It meant kicking everyone's ass in hand-to-hand combat class because he could and therefore should because his instructors said not doing all you were capable of was tantamount to assisting the enemy as they tried to rip Konoha apart. It meant finding it hard to fit in or be anything more than an object of fear and awe because by the time he was eight he'd been a Chuunin two years and killed more people than months he'd lived. It meant becoming a great ninja and knowing that's all he could possibly be.
When Sakumo was assigned to his Gennin team he couldn't believe his luck. A gorgeous girl who didn't dote on his every move, and a guy he knew from class to be a bit of a clown but a fierce fighter in his own right - you couldn't wish for anything better. The girl was a tracker, the boy a scrapper, and Sakumo was instantly their leader. Their sensei was tough but fair and insisted on treating them like adults. She taught them all her own tricks, trusting them to use the new skills to protect and serve the Leaf as she had done all her life. Missions were simple at first, building teammwork and synchronicity and applied puzzle-solving that Sakumo was instantly all over. It's amazing how much thought has to go into finding a lost cat, or devising an effective plan for protecting a party from bandits with just three people, or even watering a lawn fast enough to go catch a movie after... it takes none at all if you're Hatake Sakumo and everyone loves you for it.
Being a ten year old genius ninja definitely had its advantages.
When Kakashi was assigned to his Gennin team he couldn't believe his luck. A gentle girl with a soft voice and huge eyes that watched everything he did, and a guy he knew from class to be completely clueless despite his promising heritage - you couldn't wish for anything worse to take into a warzone. The girl was going to become a healer, the boy was going to become a hero, and Kakashi was forced to be their leader because he wasn't 'going to become' anything - he was already a ninja genius. Their sensei was kind and clever and insisted on treating them like kids. He taught them everything he could, as fast as possible, praying they'd be able to grow fast enough to stay alive when he took them outside the supposed safety of the village. Missions didn't happen at first, because the only thing anybody needed them for was killing and destroying and they had to at least be able to hold a katana before that happened. So they trained instead. It's amazing how much thought has to go into getting the bells away from your sensei in training, or devising a strategy for ambushing a group of Rock ninja coming across the border at the Valley at the End... it takes none at all if you're Hatake Kakashi and the council steps up your teams' deployment for it.
Being a five year old genius ninja definitely had its disadvantages.
Sakumo is more than a little suprised because at thirteen years old he just failed the Chuunin exam, along with his teammates.
He's special, but he's not that special.
He knows they jumped the bar of the exam, to only let the very best onto the battle lines that rumour says is being drawn along their border. Minor fracas, they're saying, but it makes no sense to send anyone too young into the field when it isn't life or death yet.
He knows just how to feel about that.
So he grins cockily at his teammates and tells his Sensei they'll ace it no problems next time and goes home to a house where his family are waiting with dinner.
They might give him a sympathetic look and tell him better luck next time around.
Kakashi is more than a little surprised because at six years old he just passed the Chuunin exam, along with his teammates.
He's special, but he can't be that special.
He knows they lowered the standard of the exam, to get more soldiers to the battlefield. All hell is breaking loose and they've proven they don't care how young you are so long as you can take at least two of the enemy with you when you fight for life or death.
He doesn't know how to feel about that.
So he snaps at his teammates and glares at his Sensei and goes home to a house where his father is waiting in the throes of inevitable, inconsolable insanity.
He might give him a sympathetic look and tell him better luck next time around.
It's the night before Sakumo's first mission in the 'fracas' and his stomach is fluttering slightly. His thoughts are with his team and he's begining to realise he's proud.
Because knowing you were ready to go out there, and that your team was going to be by your side kept you up at night, mind buzzing.
His teammates aren't as skilled as him, but then - he's a genius, so he'll just have to take care of the mission and them no matter what happens. For a minute the thought of losing one of them flits across his mind and he stamps it down -hard. He's Hatake Sakumo, genius of Konoha, and he's good enough to take care of the mission and his comrades.
He closes his eyes and tries to count sheep but loses track around eighty because - and he distantly realizes this - he's suddenly very sleepy...
He gets up in the morning and his eyes are bright and clear, he grabs some breakfast and races to meet his team. On the way he rubs the crusty sleep out his eyes.
It's the night before Kakashi's first mission in the war and his stomach is dead as a stone. His thoughts are with his team and he's begining to realize he's afraid.
Because knowing you were ready to go out there, and that they weren't but would be coming anyway kept you up at night, heart breaking.
His teammates aren't as skilled as him, but then - he's a genius, so he'll just have to fight down the frustration at their inability. For a minute the thought of losing one of them rises again in his mercilessly active mind and he pulls it up to examine the cold facts he's lived with every day of his life. He's Hatake Kakashi, genius of Konoha, and he'd better hope he's strong enough to hold the rules above sentiment and make sure the mission suceeds.
He closes his eyes and tries to count sheep but loses track around eighty because - and he accutely realizes this - he hasn't been taught how to count any higher.
He spends all night trying to work it out, but nobody ever gave him the information so it's a fruitless exercise. He gets up in the morning and his eyes are sharp and frayed, he checks on his father and walks slowly to meet his team. On the way he fingers the black lines forming under his eyes.
Sakumo just kissed his first girl, a cute thing his age with bright black eyes and a wry smile. They were sitting on the bridge over the river, talking about something he can't remember and suddenly he just turned and he meant to kiss her on the cheek but she turned her head and he would up kissing her lips. She raised a pale eyebrow at him before they both flushed bright red and he got shoved into the river. His genius ninja reflexes didn't help him there and he's glad Jiraya isn't around to see the ever-so-smooth Hatake Sakumo get rejected in such spectacular fashion.
She helped him out of course, and gingerly kissed him again.
He knew, and they wound up getting married when they hit eighteen.
Kakashi just got kissed by his first girl, a cute thing his age with kind brown eyes and a sad, healing smile. She's managed to drag him to cover under the roots of a massive tree and he's lapsing in and out of consciousness because there's blood everywhere and its all his. She's concentrating all her chakra despite the uncharacteristic, frantic panic in her heart as she yanks the third kunai out his side and forces him to breathe with her own breath as she heals the wounds bleeding out all over his alabaster skin. For a second she thinks she's going to lose him and decides to kiss him on his pale gasping mouth because he can't die without getting kissed by the girl who loves him.
She saved his life, despite everything, and collapsed beside him.
He never knew, and she wound up dying in his arms when they hit thirteen.
It's midnight and Sakumo has just found his parents dead on the floor of the house he's lived in ever since they came to Konoha. There's a kunai lodged in his mother's forehead and a handful of shuriken embedded in his father's chest. The blood sprayed across the walls is like paint flung from a brush, natural and random. He knows what he's going to do and to say but first he walks in and stands beside them, looking down at a simple farm couple who gave up their livelihoods to bring their talented child into a Hidden Village.
He wishes he could feel grief, but all he feels is rage and the crushing weight of unfairness.
He's been trained by war (because it isn't a 'fracas' anymore), under his sensei's tutelage, he knows they died instantly and near painlessly. The man he is keeps him from doing any more than touching their silver haired heads, because he needs to let them know that he's grateful to them like they'll never know. He promises that he'll avenge them, and swears never to lose another precious person under his care.
Sakumo walks out the front door, his short blade - his fang - in his bloodless grip. He walks out the village, follows the tracks of the ones who attacked and catches up to them three miles from the border. He kills all twenty-eight of them and the blood soaks through his Jounin vest, all over his pants and drips fast onto his feet. He trails bloody footprints all the way back towards Konoha and suprises the ANBU squad who were tracking the same Rock shinobi he just killed. His old teammate, the tracker, is there and he tells her what happened as she sits him down to tend his wounds. He stares at her white falcon mask and wonders why he's so still and calm.
When his parents asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up he said he wanted to be a ninja.
Being a ninja is the greatest gift they gave to their son, so Sakumo is going to be the perfect one.
He's going to suceed like no-one has ever seen.
He says as much to his friend and she nods. There's nothing more they need to say.
It's midday and Kakashi has just found his father dead on the floor of the dojo he's spent his life training in. There's a katana lodged in his gut and dark blood staining the reed mats in strangely geometric patterns as it soaks along the weave. He doesn't know what to do or to say so he walks in to stand beside him and look down at Konoha's White Fang, not touching anything, feeling wet blood on the soles of his bare feet.
He wishes he could feel surprised, but all he feels is empty and the crushing weight of unfairness.
He's been trained at Konoha's Ninja Academy, he knows a gut wound is probably the most excruciating way to die you can inflict on someone. The boy he is makes him reach down and touch his father's hair, because its the last thing he can do, let him know he's always forgiven him. He understands the choice that hurt him so badly, and promises he'll never be caught that way.
Kakashi walks out the front door, trailing bloody footprints all the way to the training grounds where he starts executing the katas his father taught him and he doesn't stop until his Sensei finds him, practically screaming his name in alarm, around six a.m. He makes him sit down and look at him and stare at those shellshocked cobalt blue eyes and wonder why his reflection in them has started to shake uncontrollably.
His father never asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. Sakumo couldn't bear to be that cruel to either of them when the fact was Kakashi didn't have a choice.
Being a ninja is all he left to his son, so Kakashi is going to be the perfect one.
He's not going to fail like his father did.
He says as much to his Sensei who doesn't know what to say. The fact is, he rarely does.
Sakumo is in hospital, because he sustained some nasty injuries in Lightning Country and the worst are in his mind. His best friends, his comrades, are still alive and they hate him for it. He shamed himself breaking the mission to go back for them, but worst of all he shamed them too. But he's confused too, for the first time in his life, and his brilliant mind is slowly cracking under the weight of that confusion. He manages to get to his feet and silently pads over to the bathroom. The white tile and silver faucets hurt his eyes and he looks away, catching his reflection in the mirror.
He sees himself and snarls as he shatters it with a strike from his fist: he doesn't want this to be how things change.
He's a traitor.
All that genius in his brain, in his blood, in his body and he couldn't find a way to save the mission and abandon the team. And he wound up killing close to a hundred people because of his incapacity to see past what he was most attached to and follow the rules.
He screams and snatches up a shard of mirror glass, nothing but disgust and fear and guilt in the face looking back at him.
Looks like his genius didn't let him succeed.
Kakashi is in hospital, because none of the hospital staff trust Rin's handiwork and he's too frayed and broken to argue. His best friend, his comrade is dead and he hates himself for it. He's never been so ashamed and hateful of anything as he is of himself, and he thinks he understands his father now. But worst of all he's confused, because he promised this wouldn't happen and somehow it has and his brilliant mind is young enough to just warp and not crack under the weight of that confusion. He manages to get to his feet and silently pads over to the bathroom. The white tile and silver faucets hurt his eyes - especially the one that isn't his - and he looks away, catching his reflection in the mirror.
He glances up at the mirror and screams at the top of his lungs: he hadn't truly realized how much everything had changed.
He's a traitor.
All that genius in his brain, in his blood, in his body and he couldn't find a way to abandon the mission and save his team. And he wound up killing the best friend he'll ever have because of his incapacity to see past rules to what he was most attached to.
He snarls and strikes out, shattering the mirror showing him Obito's bloody red eye in his face.
Looks like his genius didn't keep him from failing.
Now Sakumo kneels silent in the dojo on his last morning and reflects that the best thing being a genius has ever done for him is give him a life.
He wishes it could have been enough to solve the conflict consuming his mind, heart and soul as he drives the blade into his gut.
Now Kakashi stands silent at the memorial every morning and reflects that the only thing being a genius has ever done for him is keep him alive.
He wishes it could be enough to help salve the damage that life has inflicted on his mind, heart and soul but knows it's not.
I thought I was giving myself chills writing some of this... but I'd left the window open. Please R & R to help me improve. And thank you to Chevira Lowe, Soritia, tournesol and kimi no vanilla who's stuff helped inspire this one.
Don't forget that people go through this stuff every day, do your best to understand them.