Beginning Notes: Happy belated birthday to you, Chevira! Sorry I take forever...in any case, one day I'll give you a present that is both good and on time.
As for the story, KakashixRin if you look underneath the underneath. Also Kakashi gaiden spoilers and very liberal fillings of the plot/time gaps in the canon. I hope the read isn't as painful as the write.
That He Should Weep
What's Hecuba to him,
or he to Hecuba,
That he should weep for her?
--William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Obito's crying again. The sun hasn't even risen yet and Obito's crying again, the cold and beaded tears sliding down the edge of Kakashi's face and dripping onto his flung bed sheets. The whole thing catches him off guard and he wants to laugh, a dry, bewildered laugh, for today is no more significant than yesterday, no better, no worse, nor any more meaningful than the days before, and yet the Obito in his eye still insists that there be a reason to mourn.
Kakashi wipes his cheek with the back of his hand and moves to the edge of his bed, weight forward and with bare feet on the wood. Dawn begins to peek in through the tattered curtains, the rays of light cutting through, barely missing his neck and chin. He watches as a flurry of illuminated dust floats before him, swirling in suspended motion, like little stars dangling in a celestial current, and for a moment, one singularly wondrous and spellbinding moment, he forgets who the hell Hatake Kakashi is before finally rising off the mattress and straightening his back.
There's a photograph on his desk, with a forehead protector and a white mask beside it. He picks up the mask and runs his thumb along the polished lower contours. A pair of holes, encircled with black and red paint, stare up at him, like sockets without eyes, and several stripes made of the same colors lead down towards the mouth, where the curved smirk arches like the grimace of a clown.
Or the grin of a martyr.
From outside, young sparrows are chirping, the world is yawning, and it takes Kakashi only a few more steps before Obito resumes crying. He's got his fingers wrapped around the knob of his door as another two drops fall from his eyes to the floor. He waits a little before twisting clockwise and pushing, and he waits awhile before stepping out and allowing the crisp air to come and sting his face. The sky is cloudless, the sun is low and bright, but nothing stops Obito, nothing stops him as he continues to cry.
Then Kakashi laughs, a short, unbelieving laugh, because Rin is gone now and Obito's no longer alone, and oh, wouldn't their Sensei be so proud that he was the only one to make it this far? But their Sensei's in a restless abyss, and Rin is never coming back, Rin is never, ever coming back, but at least Obito has her beside him, at least he isn't alone. He finally has Rin, so isn't that enough?
With the full length of his arm, he wipes the watering eye again before putting on the mask and leaping off the ground. But it seems no matter how far he goes, Obito's tears chase him down, and no matter how fast he runs, the wind is nearby in whistles and in drones, spinning close to his ears, so close he can still hear, "It's not enough, Kakashi, it will never be enough..."
There's a lull right before you die—a pause and a breath—followed by a subitaneous twist of space, matter, and time, where memories jumble and reality drifts by in a sweeping, phantasmagoric carousel. A distinct warmth cradles you, radiating as orange and red do around an inferno, dancing and dazzling in all its separate pieces, just as a budding light rises in the distance and begins to approach. All specks and traces of your existence begin looping together, building faster and blossoming into a volute and endless circle. And meanwhile, the warmth keeps growing, the light keeps coming closer, and the parts of your body colliding with the warmth dissolve, but not disappear, into the light, mixing and intermingling until they all become one.
So bit by bit, you metamorphose, feeling your spiritual ideas and your physical aches stretch farther than an ocean for its horizon, stretching, stretching, stretching...and before you know it, before you can even know it, scenes from your past and scenes from your dreams begin twirling in unison, coming together and swapping details until the line of discrimination crumbles and you can't remember if the last thing you saw was a White face with Red and Black eyes or a White face with Red and Black holes. Was the last thing you heard her voice screaming your name or your shattered, stifled voice screaming your own? But it doesn't matter, it doesn't matter anymore...because weren't they all part of the same thing once? Isn't everything connected with everything else now? What is a fragment but part of a whole and what is a whole but many, many fragments? You were once whole but soon you'll be a fragment. Accept it, accept it…but just as you revel in these tiny, passing thoughts, the universe reels and the warmth and the light release you, receding evermore until the impending oblivion, drained of every color and every form, arrives to snatch you away.
He landed on his side with an unforgiving thud and skidded across the dirt for several meters, the world rushing past in a muddy and messy rainbow, before his body finally slowed to a complete stop. He remained as he was even after the dust had settled, crumpled in crescent form, with eyes at half-mast and the most fatal of lethargy looming all around him. Gaping holes ruptured his sides and the entire front of his torso, which had throbbed excruciatingly just moments ago, was overlaid in thick layers of blood and were now threatening to numb. He had a vague idea as to how serious his injuries were, but he also had a vague idea of what the sight of his own free-falling intestines might evoke, so he let the numbness take him, his shallow breath pressing against the ground.
A voice, far away and desperate, broke his internal ice, alighting in his ears and tumbling in his mind.
"Are you here?" Kakashi!"
Upon recognizing it, he groaned. "Rin, don't..."
But within seconds she was beside him, kneeling down and examining, gently rolling him into supine position as her fingers gingerly tried to separate the ripped fabrics from his ripped flesh.
The beat of his own erratic pulse drummed louder while he rested his eyes. He tried to focus on the surrounding sounds, her comforting smells, and he felt the darkness grow warmer as she slipped a hand behind him and brought him up, wrapping part of his chest with what felt like a type of gauze.
"Shhh...don't talk now..."
When she finished, he felt himself being carefully laid him back on the ground as a slight pressure pinched his lower abdomen. Opening his eyes, he looked up to see her with her two hands, both palms faced downwards, hovering over his slashed-open stomach. He had seen her perform this technique many times, but this would be the first where he was to experience it himself. He swallowed hard.
"Where…is the Hokage…?" The words came out shaky and slurred.
She brought her hands over his wound and pushed in more deeply as his body convulsed in response to the sheer amount of chakra surging in. "At the frontlines alone," she finally replied. His left leg jerked in a wild spasm, but in spite of the bursting throes of pain, he was still able to catch her words.
"There's...there's nothing more we can do," she continued, voice fumbling as she spoke, but hands staying steady. "He's summoned Gamabunta and he...then he ordered us all to stay back. The technique...Kakashi, he's going to use--"
And then there was a choke, a failed inhalation cousin to both gasp and cry, and she stopped and finally dropped her arms to her sides in hopeless surrender, the heat from her chakra ceasing to flow inside of him, leaving the air around them still and his body even colder than before.
She was rocking slightly now, and he watched as her lips moved in cyclic rhythm, coming close then parting, opening wider then stopping, watched as her chest heaved up and down in agony, as her shoulders trembled, as her cries came out louder and and as her pleas echoed even longer; he watched her without speaking, without answering, without moving.
Finally, as she collapsed on top of him, still sobbing, he whispered a name, all breath lost in the effort. And slowly, ever so slowly, he lifted a hand to the side of her face, touched beneath her tangled bits of hair, and searched for where her sweat raced in vain against her tears.
They back up a little as Kakashi brushes past them, some fiddling their shuriken with hands so tense, their knuckles bear whiter than their stone-hard masks. Of course he notices this but pretends he doesn't, rippling by in sharp and quickened strides and steering his eyes straight ahead.
"Look at that, I can't believe it."
"So it's true...that left eye..."
Minimal chakra exertion from the Sharingan allows him to see the words form and fly off their lips before he even hears them. Not that he cares what they think, but Kakashi has always been one to gather as much as he can about a new environment.
"What do you know, he's just a damn kid."
Part habit, part necessity.
"But take a look at that fucking eye."
Amusingly enough, he soon finds that being more powerful doesn't mean being less pungent. A hodgepodge of scents infiltrate his nostrils and Kakashi, being both ambitious and pragmatic, tries to memorize each one, massaging the nuances in his mind for more efficient storage. Some are more foreign than others and some, more pleasant, but he can still make out the whispers of dried blood and sweat that cling to them all.
"A White Fang with a Red Eye..."
"He's not partially descended from the Uchiha, is he?"
"What the hell do you think? Have you ever seen an Uchiha with hair and skin that grey?"
"But have you ever seen anyone without Uchiha blood have that eye?"
Perhaps it is his imagination, but their voices appear to be growing in volume, lifting in a choral glissando akin to some ushering of the divine, reaching so far and so high but without an end in sight.
"I can tell you right now, there is no way that sonuvabitch is in any way related to the Uchiha."
"It's a fucking disgrace that he holds that eye."
But even so, Kakashi walks on.
"Did you hear how he got it--?"
And it isn't long before he reaches the front of the room, where a row of lined-up captains with hard-lined faces greet his slowing steps.
"I didn't even think that could be done. I mean, isn't it a bloodline limit technique?"
"Well it must work. They say he has copied two hundred moves already."
Then he turns himself around and faces them all, a bobbing sea of porcelain shells and black shadows, with not a single spot of flesh to be seen.
Ice shoots through his veins and he stiffens as a captain steps forward, hand clapping onto his shoulder and voice fanning over the crowd:
"Let us welcome Hatake Kakashi as he proudly joins the ranks of Konohagakure's elite ANBU force."
Tomorrow, in the welcoming cool of autumn evening and by the stale light of a thinly sliced moon, the police force captain's firstborn, the very pride of the Leaf and ANBU, will launch unexpectedly into a killing spree against his own flesh and family. He will unleash the hungry wrath of the Mangekyou, he will obliterate the very mark the Uchiha have left in history, and he will replace it all with indelible smears of his clan's heartlessly spilt blood.
And in the morning following his delivered genocide, by the orders of the village's head council and by the prayers of the Third Hokage, the skeletal remains of ANBU will assign some forces with you to pursue and recover the ninja renegade. You will see immediately the low odds of success for a mission like this, of the remarkable skill and killing instinct he possesses, and most importantly, you will realize that he is in masterful control of the Sharingan, that coveted bloodline limit technique which everyone else extols and fears.
Ah, but you have a Sharingan too, they will say. And they will count on you as Konoha's last bearer of the Uchiha birthright, as the only one who could ever possibly face another Sharingan in battle; so for the sake of protecting the village, for the honor of preserving its generations' worth of battle styles and secrets, you will dutifully comply and gamble with what Obito had lovingly gave.
So, within hours after you accept your charge, a captain will decree to have seven tactical squad members and a medic accompany you; nine human lives in total running alongside your talented pack of summoned dogs. You will already know that Rin will volunteer to be that medic, and when she does so, you will curse yourself in every way possible for having never bothered in the past to keep her from enlisting into ANBU. But you will not argue to have her removed from the team; you will relent when she looks and smiles upon you sadly, because time is whittling away and you will understand, more than anyone else, that the mission will call for the physical impossibility of having nine people, in a group, move faster than one.
An impossibility that you will try to rise up against anyway.
It will then be four days after your team has set off, four days in the rocky, rugged terrain coursing the undefined pathway to the Sound Country, before your tiny, trusty Pakkun hones in on the Uchiha's scent. After that, half a day is all you'll need before you find yourself face to face with the missing-nin in the flesh. He will appear before you darker than night, cloaked in a weighty, deadened aura, and still emanating in smell from the blood of hundreds that will have, by then, drenched his skin. His pearl toned face will sing pale even in the twilight's brightest shades and the very vision of his burning eyes will tear right through your soul, splitting down between your muscles and bones. He will move like water in quick, uneven flows, and you will see, not nearly fast enough, through your pathetic, pairless Sharingan, his flaming chakra beat in rhythmic waves against his body as he flashes by, a concentrated blur decapitating the man on your right with only two hands.
With the high-pitched hum of your own Sharingan buzzing in your head, you will struggle to yell out a formation but you will yell for it too late; the frantic barking of your dogs will rebound painfully inside your ears, and in a convoluted, mounting haze, the two other men on your left will topple over and scream. You will feel them gutted; you will hear them bleed. Then in your futility and despair, you will try to follow the Uchiha's movements as he pounces up from prey to prey; you will have his form finally locked down within your sight, but in his approaching face, you will see pinwheels of black rotate clockwise against a lava sea of red.
Darkness will start ebbing forward and you will try to reach out for Rin. In your hollow and powerless hands, you will come up empty.
And when you finally awake, you will be in a room so pristine and white, you won't be able to tell where the walls begin and where reality ends. You will be covered in bandages and pricked with tubes of IV; you won't know at all where you are and why you feel outside yourself. Beside you will be a nurse, and she will tell you how it had taken weeks to get you into this stabilized state. From her, you will receive a puzzle-pieced rehash of your nebulous memories; you will discover that all the others had died in the failed mission, that a follow-up team headed by Uzuki had rescued you and found the remains of the bodies, that the corpses had been properly dealt with, that the funeral ceremonies had happened ten days ago, and that by now, all their precious names should have already made their way onto the village's grand cenotaph.
You will pause after letting her words swim through your ears, then you will quietly thank her and kindly ask if she could please leave. She will bow politely and do just that; she will hesitate before closing the door.
Then the room will be swallowed entirely by silence and your right eye will roll up to stare at the ceiling above. With a void in your chest, you will wonder when was the last time you had ever seen anything so white.
In a single flourish, Sakumo unraveled a long yellow scroll, placing the tail end on the grass and towards Kakashi. "You'll need blood on your hands for this," he grunted, nodding his head in the scroll's direction.
Kakashi bit down hard on his thumb while his eyes flittered over the printed words.
"Write your name right there." Sakumo pointed. "And then press your thumb there." Pointed again. "Make sure you have enough blood."
Stooped down, Kakashi scrawled out his name in red, then flattened his thumb against the paper. He stood up again when finished, absently watching the liquid letters dribble off and dry.
"A ninja isn't truly a ninja until he understands the meaning and value of life," Sakumo began, before clearing his throat and turning to face the boy, eye-to-eye. "You have the people of this village, those who pay to have you protect them, and the people from your three-man team. But I don't think we've really had a good talk about who it is we're summoning. This contract you've signed assigns you something much more than a simple agreement between you and some dogs. These animals aren't just weapons, they aren't mere objects to use at your disposal. In battle, you're in charge of their lives, you take care of them, you respect them...and in return, they'll protect you. With every relationship, there comes a responsibility. Do you understand this?"
"So there will be times when you'll have to think about their capabilities, their thoughts, their strengths, their weaknesses, their feelings, and their needs with as much consideration as you would a mission. When you train, don't just train with them, train for them. That must be your approach. And do you know why?"
Kakashi waited without responding.
"Because that is what they're doing for you. Dogs are loyal but they are also extremely sensitive creatures. They can smell out your passions as though it were printed across your head, they know where your heart lies, and they can sense your soul. So keep them close to your side. If you keep them high on your list of priorities, then they will do the same for you," Sakumo said, raising his head. "And finally, the most important thing to remember about a relationship—any relationship—is balance."
But Sakumo went on.
"Therefore, from leader to subordinate, teacher to student, Kage to shinobi, there must always be a balance. Each person involved must know the other's role in order to understand his own and each must strive for the will and good of the other, before even looking to better himself. So even though it appears that we are separate and alone in everything from our abilities, to our titles, to our bodies, down to our very thoughts, underneath the underneath we are all the same. We breathe the same air, we see the same sky, we bleed the same colors. Humans and dogs...we are the same. Guard them and they will guard you. Honor them and they will honor you. Is this all clear?"
"Good, very good." Sakumo huffed a little and bent down to take the scroll. He rolled it up neatly and tucked it in a vest pocket. "Now, let's get as much training done as we can today. I'll teach you all the seals and we'll see what you can do from there. Starting tomorrow, however, I'll be off on a highly classified mission and it'll probably be a while before I return..." Sakumo paused and scratched his chin. "Maybe you can ask your teacher to help you with summons while I'm away. Summoning dogs require a bit more finesse than those toads, but the overall method is similar enough. He'll teach you some good ways on how to control your chakra levels." At that, Sakumo chuckled somewhat to himself.
Kakashi merely tilted his head in agreement.
"Let's start then." Sakumo then turned and jumped high, landing on the rooftop and bounding onto another, evidently heading for the southeast training grounds.
Kakashi was about to follow when he suddenly noticed the blood still spilling over his hand. He gazed at his fingers briefly, as though wondering why the bleeding would not stop on its own, then stuck his thumb in his mouth, sucking on it like a child would as he sprang into the air, sniffing for Sakumo's scent and trying to catch up.
"Yo, Hatake. You're not going to believe what's happened...whoa now, wait a second! Don't go in just yet. We were asked to wait here until they get everything all settled...but fuck, the whole thing is unbelievable. Let's just hope they don't send our teams to go and deal with this shit."
"What are you talking about?"
"What? You didn't hear? That fucking Uchiha kid—"
"Goddammit, there's only one I could be talking about anyways now..."
"What...do you mean?"
"Fucking Uchiha Itachi...the crazy fucker just slaughtered his entire clan a couple of hours ago and left the village. His own fucking clan! We're talking a real massacre here, with everyone dead: civilians, captains, children, you name it. Now an S-class—oh, they're ready, we better head in...
"Well, whaddaya doing just standing there, Hatake? Hurry the fuck up."
The moon isn't out and he's standing in front of the memorial, unable to read all the names that are etched there but staring at the cast shadows all the same. By now, he can recite them all by heart—names that he's never matched faces with, names that haven't been spoken for generations, names that were freshly forged yesterday, and names that will be forgotten, have been forgotten, can't be forgotten—and he can name them all because they've been written alongside his name.
He supposes it's a extraordinary testament to the village and to all the brave and courageous souls that were willing to die fighting; visiting to pay respects is probably the least the living can do. Even if it means seeing what was once life and laughter reduced to six characters and sixteen chiseled strokes, it's still the least he can do.
After all, if being in the afterlife alone, crushed, and blind isn't hell, then he doesn't know what is.
So he comes here every day, regardless of the weather – before training, after training, whenever he's not training or away on a mission. The only times he puts it off are when others are already there. He can smell them before seeing them and he'll leap away before they can do the same, cursing himself for not coming earlier and knowing exactly what he'll be dreaming of that night. But when he does come, he doesn't reminiscence or talk or cry. He merely stands, stone facing stone, kneeling only when his legs feel like giving way, for he always finds himself staying longer than he anticipates.
Overhead, thunder rumbles against a lit up sky, but he does not move. He does not move.
Only a few have bothered asking why. After a funeral for someone from their former three-man team, Uzuki and Gekkou had talked about going to see said teammate's name get engraved the next day. There was a solemn pause and both of them had looked at him expectantly. He avoided their faces and said he had a mission, turning to walk away.
Several months later, Shiranui had accosted him, senbon flickering every which way in his mouth as he talked. The young man's hand had ventured towards his left eye, bold with curiosity, harmless in intent, but he had ducked swiftly, with his body taut, ready. Sticking his hands in his pockets, Shiranui had just shrugged, grinning as though nothing had happened, then spat out his senbon as he watched him take his leave.
His legs feel heavier than the rain coming down, but he does not move.
He does not move.
Now recently, there was Maito Gai, the most ridiculous of them all. There were many occassions when the bowl-haired fool would try to follow him in poor secrecy as he would make his way to the monument. But around the seventh attempt or so, he had spun around and grabbed Maito by the collar, ripping off his forehead protector with his free hand and staring down at him with his red eye. There had been an exchange of breath and Maito had looked back with a hardened face, nostrils and aura alike flaring. Yes, he had actually matched his eye without flinching, but had ceased to follow him since.
It had been a while since he had felt something that he now recognizes as fury, and he thinks it's because he had seen him in Maito, so he had permitted it. Still, Rin had once told him that when a body loses a limb, the brain is unable to compensate and the mind is unable to forget, resulting in the ability to feel even when there is nothing left. He knows that in such a phenomenon lies the basis of all rudimentary genjutsu but he also knows that when it comes to him, it's an illusion crafted only by desperation and human instinct. And if there's anything he's learned these past years, it's that it's meaningless for anyone to try and combat instinct. Even though doing so just might be the closest man will ever be in touching his own fate.
The rain pours down.
Rin certainly did like to remind him of that.
He smiles bitterly.Rin never asks for explanations and she never follows him here and sometimes, when the seconds fall slower, he'll offhandedly wonder if this is why. Of course, he doesn't want her here, not like this. He doesn't want to answer whatever questions she may have—he has no answers—or to take up whatever offers she may have—for she has no offers—but she has followed him everywhere except to this place, anywhere and everywhere but to this place, and if he tries to think about it, he finds that he can understand why...but he doesn't try.
He brings his left hand up, touching the part of the scar trailing right below his eye. It always feels smoother than he expects.
He's stopped trying a long time ago.
Come in through the entrance, one wary foot at a time, and walk with naked toes across the wooden floor. Let the shivers run as each step yields pitched creaks and moans, but do not grow fearful and do not turn back. Keep gliding forward and stalk quietly, just like in training, just like in a mission, and come closer, closer, closer still—until he is but a few inches away, slumped onto his side and unmoving.
Take a deep breath to capture the scent of firewood and musk, the growing stench of festering flesh as it rots, and the faint smell of family incense heralding from the very back of the room. Conclude that the musk belongs to him, that the stench too belongs to him, but that the incense now belongs to no one.
Then with widening eyes, follow the trickling moonlight and gaze at how the beams target his form, delegating the shadows to everything else in the room but him, so that he and he alone can glow lambent, serene and soft just like anything else that sleeps in silver. See how loosely his skin hangs, how the wrinkles gather in billows and folds beneath those lidded, vapid eyes, how the cheeks droop against bone like flags in need of wind, and how this skin, this skin that was once so alive and golden, now bows to gravity in an all-out surrender, congealing all the more into gnarled grey.
Now bend down and catch a glimpse of something, something mid-size and glinting—the tanto's bottom stuck and protruding from between his grip and his gut. Lean a bit closer and note how some of the blood drips slowly at the hilt, how so much of it has already flowered upon his clothes, and how what must have been rosy red stains now look hauntingly black in the dim and angled light.
Reach out and tug at his sleeves in an effort to free his grasp, then twist, instead, his fingers away from the handle and cast them aside. Hear the hollow thump as his arms make contact with the floor but grab around the tanto's hilt anyway, feel its snaky ridges and grooves, then summon with the strength to pull.
Pull against the built-up pressure within his abdomen and flesh, against his past words and against his stolen breath, and pull with ferocity against all the broken legacies he's left, against the crowning stigma he has bequeathed and bled. Pull until the entire blade of the tanto slides out from inside his body, gleaming wet and slick and shiny, and tremble in silence as the remainder of his blood sprays out in a fountain arc of crimson, as it patters down in a brilliant shower-rain, as it soaks into all it touches, as it cruelly seeps within. And with tanto in hand, stand and look at him, look at all that he was and all that he's become and memorize his many shapes and lumps, but do not cry. Remain standing and do not shudder at the smell, do not shrink at the sight.
And no matter what, do not cry.
For this is the magnificent Hatake Sakumo, the great White Fang of Konoha, laying here timeless and still, laying here regal in his red, laying in all of his glory here and dead.
Ending Notes: Yep…Rin was killed by Itachi. Dun dun dun! I forgot what prompted the idea but as the manga continues, the theory seems less and less probable. Oh well, let's just pretend for art's sake…