Via Inertia

So like, this doesn't really jive with canon. I don't really care. I think I like my version better. As usual, vague Kakashi Gaiden spoilers.

You may be interested to know that 'via' is a Latin word meaning 'road' or 'path'.
He likes to wander, and to watch. Learn things. Because, well, he's got nothing better to do.

When he was alive, he was always too tired when he woke up to notice, but now that he is dead he can tell you that Konoha mornings in February are misty and ethereal and thoroughly enchanting, especially in that little slice of time when the sun is just about to rise but not quite over the horizon yet.

When he was alive, he didn't know how delicious fermented soybeans could smell when cooked by an expert hand, as everyone he had ever met hated them. Now that he is dead he passes by a shop that makes them nearly every day, and he wishes he were alive again, just so he could try the things.

Well, okay, perhaps there are also a few other reasons he wishes he were alive.

He spends most of his days just traipsing back and forth around the town, trying not to walk through too many people (it makes him uncomfortable, and they always shiver with a sudden chill), and watching the village at work. It's slowly healing itself from that disastrous attack. Shops are rebuilt, injured shinobi are recovered enough to return to work at last. Every day the main road through the bazaar seems busier. He watches not just the village itself, but the people in it. Observes them go about their daily lives. Some are happy, some are sad. Some lead more eventful existences than others.

When he was alive, he never visited Hatake Kakashi at his home. Now that he is dead, he finds himself there all the time.

He usually visits either early in the morning, or late at night. When Kakashi is home - which is less and less frequently lately, as the fighting around Konoha escalates and every able-bodied ninja is needed in the field, or so he's heard - it's normally one of those times. He only remembers catching Kakashi in his house at midday once or twice, and always when the young shinobi was sick or injured. He never seems to take a day off just to rest.

So he visits very early. He comes before Kakashi wakes sometimes, and watches him sleep. Watches him breathe, curled up in a mess of rumpled sheets, slack-jawed and open and innocent, as he has never looked when awake. Kakashi is barely fourteen years old, but he has never been a child, as his visitor well knows.

When he was alive, he didn't realize Kakashi had nightmares. Now that he is dead, he knows that Kakashi just hides the signs very well.

This morning he can see that Kakashi is having one, because of the way his breath is coming short and his hands are clenched into fists against the bed. His chakra almost starts to fluctuate until he clamps down on it all unconscious, every inch the shinobi even this far into safe territory, the habit too ingrained to stop. His visitor is alarmed as he starts to tremble a little, thoroughly unusual behavior, and just before the sun comes up Kakashi springs awake and automatically reaches for the kunai holster on his leg which is not there.

He looks down at his hands for a long moment, and he drops his head wearily against crossed arms and whispers to himself, and his visitor watches.

When he was alive, he didn't know Kakashi dreamed about him.

He notices a bulge developing underneath the sheets, between Kakashi's outstretched arms, and he turns away politely as Kakashi goes to his bathroom to take care of it. He doesn't like this part, but he always stays anyway. It feels something like penance to listen to his student in the other room, stroking himself and sobbing his sensei's name.

Even though he is dead, he doesn't know why the dreams that make Kakashi think of him are the same dreams that make him go for his kunai, and he is not sure he wants to know.

When Kakashi leaves for the day, he usually does not follow. Often, of late, Kakashi leaves to take on a mission, and then he can't follow. The power that holds him on this earth also leashes him tightly to the one he is bound to, and he has found he cannot travel far away from the boy - a few miles into the forest outside Konoha is as far as he has ever gotten.

He supposes he should stay around the boy more, but truthfully, it's the one thing in Konoha he cannot really bear to watch, when he is powerless to do anything.

So he watches Kakashi instead. Kakashi, who at least has the power to make choices for himself. Kakashi who is growing strong, famous, even feared. Kakashi whose mismatched eyes become colder every day.

When Kakashi does not leave for a mission, he leaves for the memorial. His visitor does not like to follow him there.

He passes years in this manner, watches the village prosper, watches people grow up and grow old. When he was alive, he knew some of them, but now that he is dead he is fairly sure he's met everyone at one time or another. He even manages to place names to faces most of the time. When he was alive, he was particularly inept at that feat of memory.

If he could be alive again, he would certainly be quite the social butterfly. He thinks he would probably also be the village's grandest gossip. Now that he is dead, he has discovered that people do the most strange and interesting things when they think no one is looking.

Now that he is dead, he has discovered that Kakashi prefers to do everything when he thinks no one is looking.

In the years since his death, he has watched the way people have begun to whisper excitedly when his student passes by. Kakashi has made a name for himself - the famous Copy Ninja of Konoha. Kakashi is one of the most feared shinobi of the Fire Country, or so he hears women telling each other when his student walks by, their eyes catching on slim toned muscles and unruly silver hair and ANBU tattoo as they undoubtedly imagine for themselves what lies underneath the skintight uniform. Kakashi was invited into ANBU quite recently, and his visitor hears among the halls of Konoha's elite that Kakashi is already one of their best. Sometimes, in hushed tones, he even hears the name White Fang sprouting from the tongues of wary admirers.

But Kakashi is most himself when he comes home, and so his visitor most likes to drop in on him there. When Kakashi is at home, his visitor does not have to watch him quietly refuse offers of company, train himself into exhaustion, stand in the middle of a crowded room and still be alone. When Kakashi is home, he is just Kakashi.

He comes before Kakashi does, sometimes - often - and waits for him to stumble in, always exhausted, usually blood-spattered. He has heard that Chidori is a splendid, if gruesome, assassination technique. Tonight seems no different from any other night, except perhaps bloodier, judging from the gore soaking Kakashi's uniform as he slams the door behind him and collapses against it. His visitor watches red and black blood smear across the painted wood. Even that messy silver hair is covered in it, weighed down by it, and he finds himself wondering if perhaps there is something different this time after all, and just how many hearts Kakashi ripped out tonight.

Kakashi reaches up to remove his white mask, striped with red paint and red blood, and he stares at it with dead eyes, and his visitor watches.

He sees that Kakashi's gloved hand is shaking as it strokes the length of the mask with limp fingers, leaving trails in the half-dried blood coating the surface, and he watches in horrified fascination as his student tremblingly raises his hand to his mouth and tastes. Save for the Sharingan, as bright screaming red as the mess slowly drying in his hair, Kakashi's face is so pale and blank that he could be a corpse.

"Sensei," he whispers, and his visitor is reminded of the early morning, and of dreams.

And he does not mean to watch, but he is taken by surprise when Kakashi thrusts his hand down his pants, throws his head back against the door, and licks the blood off of his glove and cries and thrusts and jerks and curls into a little ball there on the floor with the blood and cum and mud still drying on him.

"Sensei," Kakashi whispers, "please don't stay tonight."

When he was alive, he didn't realize just how much the Sharingan eye could see. Now that he is dead, he is suddenly all too aware.

He leaves Kakashi there, huddled dirty and trembling; passes through the wall and goes to find someone else to watch. He will give Kakashi his privacy. It is, after all, the only thing he can give any more.

He doesn't visit much, after that. Once in a while he still stops by early in the morning, just for his conscience's sake, but Kakashi is rarely there when he arrives. He hears among the halls of the elite, spoken in whispers, that the famous Copy Ninja is becoming ANBU's most feared assassin. He sometimes sees Kakashi in the ANBU compound long before the sun rises, practicing katas with all the precision of a machine, but he never stays to watch.

People still whisper as Kakashi passes. They whisper of the terrifying hunter-wolf, head of ANBU's pack, and they never meet his gaze. They whisper to each other how glad they are that he is on their side, for if he were not...

And Kakashi's visitor watches from afar, waiting in dread for the day when he will no longer be able to bear the sight.

He muses that he is probably the person closest to Hatake Kakashi in the world, and he wishes he were alive again, just so he could scream.