The tears turned to laughter, and he'd never known anything more beautiful than that metamorphosis. He was certain he never would. "I'm fine," she said. She kissed him again, and her mouth was warm against his, and her tears were hot.
When she held him in bed at night, both of them tangled together in embarrassingly, endearingly awkward fashion, she murmured something sleepy about things getting better from now on, but he was too calm and content to rouse himself to catch it. He could not remember the last time he felt so warm.
Nothing could prepare him for how hot her blood was.
Kakashi knelt there on the outskirts of Konoha with Rin in his arms, and he tried to understand how one being, no matter how powerful it was, no matter how many damn tails it had, could kill so many people. He couldn't grasp the number; it kept sliding away and leaving Rin's face in its place. Instead, he wondered how one person, in such a small body (and he hadn't even gotten the chance to learn every contour of it, as he had promised her), could have so much blood.
He realized some of his tears were coming from his own eye, and distantly, he was a little startled.
She tilted her head back to blink at him with hazy eyes. "Sorry," she whispered. "I wanted more time for us both..."
This is where I'm supposed to say something about how she's not going to die, it's going to be all right, he thought as he looked down at her, but he was mute. He wondered if the demon had stolen his breath and left only tears in its place.
He couldn't move. He wondered if her blood would burn him, leave permanent scars. She was crying now too, and without thinking, he shut his eyes to block out that sight. Hands sticky with blood reached for his face, but they only touched his mask. After a moment, they went limp along with the rest of her body.
It took him a few minutes to realize that people were shouting at him, and another few minutes after that to stop ignoring them. He opened his eyes and got to his feet.
"Where did it go?" he asked calmly.
The other jounin who'd been trying to get his attention stared at him blankly. One of them said, "You mean the Kyuubi?"
Kakashi regarded them without expression. "Tell me."
"We can't do that," another said. "You'll just get killed--"
I can make you do that, he thought, and he found no pleasure in knowing that he did in fact have that skill. He simply focused his gaze and activated the Sharingan's hypnosis. "Tell me where the Kyuubi went."
His target lifted her arm and pointed. He was gone before any of them could snap out of their daze and stop him. The trees blurred around him, and he left handprints of blood where he pushed off them. He felt like he was leaving himself there, too. The thought was distantly comforting.
More comforting was the thought of reaching the demon in time to give himself up to kill it. He didn't know how he'd do it, only that he had no other choice. Until someone even faster than he was came up from behind and caught him in both arms.
He struggled, but his movements were desperate and undisciplined, and his captor's were gentle but firm. Eventually he gave up fighting and instead sobbed helplessly into that white robe.
He found himself babbling almost hysterically as the Fourth led him back to the village. "I couldn't do anything, sensei--I didn't even try--let me go, let me go--" He willed himself to be stoic and silent as he always was, as he always should be. He willed the tears to stop, because they were not appropriate for a shinobi. But then, neither was he, if he couldn't even save Rin.
His sensei took them both back to his home, and it was only there that he spoke more than a few murmured words of meaningless comfort.
"Kakashi," he said, his hands on his student's shoulders, "what were you going to do?"
Kakashi found himself mute yet again. Finally, he managed to say, "I would have found a way to destroy the demon. I still will." He struggled not to sound too defensive. "I know I'm going to die doing it, sensei. I understand that." He did not add that he thought it was more than fair a price for the lives he'd failed to save. He did not add that he had the vague feeling that if he died now, he would reach Rin and Obito in time to apologize for all his broken vows.
The Fourth looked at him. Then, without warning, he hugged him. "I'm sorry, Kakashi. I should have been there."
It's my fault, not yours, Kakashi wanted to say, but he found that all he could do was cry, and he hated himself for it. His sensei's arms were already around him when Kakashi heard the whispered, "Sleep." And then the genjutsu hit, and he fell into unconsciousness.
He fought it all the way down, snaring bloodied hands on fragments of waking. The next he remembered, he was in bed (sensei had not bothered to wash off the blood, so his own clean sheets were being stained), staring sleepily at the Fourth as he studied something out of a scroll. Kakashi tried to summon the energy to get up and get out of there, run to sacrifice himself and so mend things, but he was just too groggy. He couldn't do it.
Then he remembered the Fourth's hand on his head, fondly ruffling his hair. "Good night, Kakashi. I'm sorry." And Kakashi thought, dully, that maybe when he woke up sensei would let him do what he needed to.
Then he opened his eyes, and early sunlight was streaming in through a window.
He stood up, willing his unsteady legs to hold him. "Sensei?"
There was no response. He called again, then walked to the door and pulled it open. The sunlight's warmth poured down on him, but he could not help but feel very cold.
Outside, beyond the strange cool stillness that had taken over his heart, the village was mourning.