Summary: History doesn't repeat itself as a punishment. KakashixSakura

AN: Don't really like this fic, for some reason, but it's been sitting on my hard drive for a while so I figured I'd finish the damned thing. Eh.


Kakashi plays games with his ghosts and once in a while he lets them win.

Playing hide and seek with Obito is almost cruel, because Kakashi has two eyes and Obito has none. He's trapped n a crippled, forever-thirteen year old body, and he stumbles around blindly, arms extended as if seeking warmth or love or light, all gifts he should have been granted but was denied.

Playing tag with Sensei is unfair, because Sensei just grins that stupid, courageous grin and uses the body flicker and no matter where Kakashi runs or how fast, he's always caught up in strong arms, teased as if he were some sort of child and taken out for ice cream afterwards.

Playing house with Rin is tedious because she's the furthest thing from a stay-at-home wife that Kakashi can imagine. There's no holding her back from disaster, there's no keeping her safe and forever. She smiles at him and she kisses his forehead when he's not wearing his hitai-ate, and his cloth-covered cheek when he is, and she walks away from him into the blood-haze of a battlefield and he's never, ever sure if he's going to see her again.

Obito plays broken melodies in his head, and the wind in the trees sounds like his laughter or maybe his terrified screams. There is no such thing as distinction, not when the sun blazes to a cinder and the sky catches fire and the world burns itself free of sin. In a redeemed world, there is no Obito. There is a Sensei and a Rin, but they live independently of him and he watches them and their happiness is his happiness and their triumphs are his triumphs.

Kakashi thinks he is a cloud, and that his Sensei is the sun and Rin is the moon and he's terrified of blocking out the light, because a fear of darkness lurks beneath his rules and regulations, a fear of oneness that crouches behind doors and under tatami mats.

He plays Go Fish with Obito and the dead Uchiha smiles crookedly around a broken face, gaping eye sockets and busted goggles and asks for a one-eyed jack.

"Do you want it back? Is that fucking it?" His hands are shaking as he jerks his mask down, his hitai-ate up and presses one palm against the sharingan. "There's…there's no Rin around to do the transplant this time, but if you want it, I swear to god I'll rip the fucking thing right out of my head and give it back! I never fucking wanted it, but you, you were dying and you fucking… just…"

Obito smiles.

Kakashi remembers hearing once that sometimes; all it takes to make you a better person is someone to smile for you. But if anyone else ever smiles at him like that (a section of the boy's cheek is shorn away and he can see the deteriorating gums and shiny, broken teeth beyond) again, he is going to take a kunai and cut out both of his eyes.

Obito reminds him that he'd be better off cutting out his heart.

Silently, he agrees.

He dreams Sensei is alive and it's the worst dream he's ever had because he knows it can't last forever. He'd rather have nightmares because at least when he wakes up drenched in sweat, throat raw from screaming, the revelation of actually haven woken up is always there to comfort him. But he doesn't want to dream like this. Not with his Sensei leaning against a fence looking over a valley, the Hokage's robe fluttering in the wind. The crimson lettering seems to take on a life of its own, and it trails over the white fabric like a murder of vermillion-splashed crows, flapping and cawing waiting for their pray to be dead so they can devour it whole.

Sensei tilts his head to one side and waves him forward, and he goes willingly enough. He's playing by someone else's script now, and though he wants to turn, wants to run, wants to scream and wake up and go bathe his hands in someone's blood (and it's always someone else's blood) he doesn't.

"I tried… so hard," the Hokage murmurs, and he smiles a tight, fake smile and Kakashi's heart breaks and then breaks all over again. He doesn't collapse, he doesn't cry, but he does suck air in through his mask so hard that it gets drawn between his teeth.

"All I wanted was for you to remember you were human, and not just a weapon." The blond man runs a hand down his jaw and adjusts it like he might have after taking a particularly hard punch. "But you haven't learned, have you? Is it your destiny to fail everyone who loved you?"

Kakashi takes a step back and his shoulders touch a hard, unyielding surface and when he looks up, it's into the snarling, sneering eyes of the Kyuubi. And suddenly Sensei is shoving him out of the way and dying all over again and Kakashi clings to the nightmare that was borne of his reality and he wakes up. His mask (when had he taken to sleeping in it? He doesn't even remember any more) is soaked through with tears and sweat and blood from where he'd bitten his lip right through.

Angrily, guiltily, and with no small amount of relief, he dashes the tears from his vision and stares, dry-eyed at the ceiling until dawn.

The Tsukiyomi shattered his mind, and no one knows. Kakashi likes it that way, because it means that he's done his job, lived his life; let no one close enough to him to care. He feels that maybe Asuma should have noticed something, or maybe Genma should have offered to take him out for drinks, or maybe Kurenai should have asked him point-blank what was bothering him.

But none of them do.

And he can't even be angry with them for it, because it was what he'd wanted all along.

When Sasuke goes to Orochimaru, Kakashi puts a knife to his wrist and wonders if he could bleed inadequacy out of his system and into the air. Maybe there's a fountain of failure somewhere buried deep beneath his multitude of masks, and if he could only find it and cut it out, he would never have to lose someone ever again.

Sasuke doesn't come back. Kakashi wants to believe he will, but he never does. And there isn't a damned thing the genius, the prodigy, the copy ninja Kakashi can do about it. His time is over, his twilight is come, his requiem is a haunting melody played on a wind chime of broken bone.

His last vestige of humanity is nowhere to be found. Kakashi wonders if it's hiding like Obito hides in his mind and Rin in his soul and Sensei in his heart.

He can't find them and it scares him.

He's too much of a coward to just go and die somewhere like a faithful old dog. He's not loyal to Konoha; he's loyal to his past, his memories, that secret, special place that no one really knows about. He's loyal to the oath he swore to the Fourth Hokage. He's loyal to the whispers he shared with Rin in the dark. He's loyal to Obito's last breath and final gift.

Konohagakure no Sato means one thing to Kakashi.


His team is broken and he can't fix it. Sakura comes to him sometimes, too proud to cry or too scared. Or too strong. They don't really talk, they just watch the sunset or the sunrise or whatever they happen to bear witness to. Sakura keeps her hair short and Kakashi keeps his hitai-ate pulled down, and they realize they never really knew one another.

Sakura takes a deep breath and asks him if he'd like to start over again, from the very beginning, just without the bumps and lumps of life and living. She holds out her hand, black-gloved and foreign, and he is reminded of another time and place and another medic girl.

He wonders why so much in his life has to bear repeating. And then he wonders if it's a chance, not a punishment.

He takes Sakura's hand and his eye winks into a half-moon in his version of a smile.

Rin doesn't like Sakura because she thinks she's a replacement. Kakashi argues with her when he gets up in the mornings, (quietly and carefully so as not to wake the sleeping girlwomanchildstudent at his side) and when he looks in the mirror. Obito says nothing at all, but Kakashi feels that he might just approve. Not because of Sakura herself, but because it means that he can finally have Rin all to himself.

Sakura is sixteen and Kakashi is almost thirty. But they're ninja, and age has never mattered to eternity.

Sakura is living in the past and she doesn't even know it. She is not Rin's replacement, she is her successor. She inherited a legacy and a legend and a mystery, and a man.

Their love is neither tender nor all-encompassing. It is not perfect. Sakura has still never seen what lies behind the mask, but she has the feeling that Kakashi would tell her if she asked.

She doesn't. Shinobi must have their secrets if they are to survive. Her secret is that sometimes she sees Sasuke in Kakashi's eyes.

Kakashi is too much of a human to go die somewhere like a discarded tool. He's not loyal to Konoha; he's loyal to the future and what he can make of it. He's loyal to the promises he's made to his team. He's loyal to the laughter and the drinks that he shares with the boys after a mission.

He's loyal to the oath he will swear to the Sixth Hokage.

Konohagakure no Sato means one thing to Kakashi.


And he thinks maybe that's something worth fighting for.