Summary: They called them the generation W kids, the utterly messed up ones. They were the ones who lived. A look at war, and what it does to you.
Disclaimer: All characters and original plot are owned by Masashi Kishimoto, and no income or revenue is generated from publishing this work. All quotes used remain in the public domain.
If life had been a soap opera, they would all be living in their silly little shells with their head under the sand. Too bad life isn't black and white, friends are friends and enemies are enemies, and war isn't simply good over evil.
It's all just too bad.
It's a common saying that the first casualty of war is innocence. Hatake Kakashi was never innocent, and he was never a child. He is, in every way, a war orphan, and he shows it everyday. It is so deeply ingrained into his psyche, that much to his Sensei's chagrin, doubts it will ever come out. After all, would it come out of anyone? Kakashi's mother died in a mission, and genius father performed ritual seppuku and left his only child to face a war torn world?
But arguments could be placed for Sakumo. Who would want their rather spectacular failure to hang over them and their kid for the rest of their natural life? Even in war, people were people, and still found time to engage in idle conversation and petty talk.
Of course, Kakashi is the silent, surly prodigy obsessed with rules that everyone's awaiting a slip-up from. Runs in the family, they say. Even though Sakumo's the only one to date. That kid is so weird that it's a disaster waiting to happen.
Kakashi is a pretty fucked up little kid, even though his Sensei doesn't like to admit it. He likes to just think that he's 'adjusting' to war.
No one likes to admit it.
fucked over, Genma's fucked over, Asuma's fucked over and even
Rin and Obito are a little fucked over in their own way. All the
Hell, even Yondaime Hokage and the Sannin are pretty fucked over.
It's war, after all, and war blurs all lines and boundaries till everyone and everything are fucked over.
It's a harsh reality, really. It is just like an extended mission with no conceivable end in sight. It also so happened that a good proportion of people who went out, simply didn't come home.
To register who was missing or dead became a strangely unemotional and callous job. In the end, it was simply names on a spreadsheet, eventually to go on a stone. But it was a principle. Perhaps the same as a strategist. After all, once human life has been reduced to numbers and co-ordinates on a piece of paper, it was only a small matter to press delete.
You had to learn not to care. War had no patience.
Genma remembers he was about eleven, having proudly received his forehead protector the week before. He sees her on one of his first trips out. Things are getting desperate, and they send genin to the front lines now, as they are rapidly losing personnel.
A Konoha ninja is lying in a ditch like a broken bird. Her neck is snapped. It really is a lovely day that day. He would've liked to close her eyes, but there was nothing left to close. But his sensei pulls him along, keeps him moving.
The first time he kills someone, it's a bad and messy job. Afterwards, he throws up and is so violently sick he thinks he might die, too.
About a year later, and one of his teammates dies. It's a horrible kind of wakeup call, like having a snake put down his back. Cold and slithery. He knows how Raido felt after that prank involving him and the snake. He would have smirked if it had still been funny.
But as everyone knows, it's only funny when it's not you.
He doesn't cry or anything, but it's just because he can't. It's an odd mixture of utterly nothing, and everything. Ken-ichi was gone. Separated from Sensei, Raido and him, by the rest of his life, and six feet of dirt. He comes to the same conclusion many others have before. It's painful, but it's reality. If war didn't take you in one fell swoop, it would take you in pieces. He actually thinks pieces would hurt more, but at the moment he's comfortably numb, and that's the way he'd like to stay for awhile.
When the blood of another ninja splatters over him, he doesn't bother looking at the guy's face anymore. In the end, it's just advanced target practice, isn't it?
Genma's fucked over too.
Contrary to popular belief, Asuma did not take up smoking because of stress. Then again, much to the shock of others, he wasn't always the manly, rugged guy he is now. But that was beside the point. He smoked because his old man did, and he became an obsessive chain smoker when he was thirteen. Before, he didn't even like smoking.
He was a rookie chuunin, and quite battle hardened at that point. It just so happened that he was put on the same mission team as his father. They really made quite a pair. Admittedly, Asuma was skinnier, and didn't smoke, but he was truly his father's son. Asuma's mum didn't really like them smoking, but lately, the nagging had stopped. She had grown thinner, her eyes brighter, but like the people of Konoha, their resolve never faltered. It was hard on the home front, with every supply and resource thrown into the war effort.
So, it came as kind of a grotesque joke when his father gets it. But he's automatically in shinobi mode, and he systematically drags his father, bleeding rapidly to death, off the immediate battle zone.
The battle subsides as the enemy ninja are driven off. Asuma is slowing coming off the adrenaline rush of the battle, and man, does it suck. It's a kind of euphoria, but now he has to face reality. He props his father against a tree and yells for a medic.
His father seems to be falling asleep, just like on the couch at home. It all seems so far away now, with his dad dying in his arms. Now that Asuma looked at it, it wasn't really like falling asleep on the couch. Unless you dozed off with blood spilling out of your mouth, only about half your blood still in your body and the rest of it on everyone else and the ground round you. Hardy ha ha. Funny world that would be.
'Come on Dad. Stay awake. We still need to go on that trip to the hot springs in the Tea Country,' he says desperately. Anything to keep him conscious for a little longer. When the medic arrives, he kneels down next to the injured shinobi and touches his wrist. He shakes his head and moves on to attend to someone else.
Asuma continues speaking.
'When we get back, you'll stop smoking for Mum, all right? It's probably not very good for your health.' For a fleeting moment, desperation takes hold of him, and Asuma looks unbearably young. After all, he is only thirteen years old. The moment passes, and he looks even more like his father. The man nods with seemingly a great deal of effort.
'All you have to do is stay awake, dammit, old man! Weren't you the one telling me you're still young at heart? You can't die yet,' he says gruffly, almost reprimandingly. 'You're all right. Just hold on. Can you do this for me?'
His father nods. 'S'nothing. S'nothing,' he sighs, closing his eyes, his head drooping. 'S'nothing.'
He dies a few minutes later.
That night, it is clear. Even though he doesn't like it, he lights up a cigarette, which for some reason unknown even to him, he scrounged round his father's pack for. He coughs a little as he inhales some smoke, but he keeps on at it. Finally, he can do it without choking. He tips his head back and blows the smoke out into the clear, chilly air as he surveys the stars. It's been a long time since it has been clear enough to see them. Somewhere behind him, someone's nin-bird, a raven, croaks uneasily and resettles.
So the next day, and the day after, he doesn't stop smoking. Even though he tells himself he'll stop, he doesn't, because he just won't. Perhaps he's not addicted, but Asuma can't find the right words to justify it, so he keeps his mouth shut and lights up another one. That's why he tended to hang around the quieter, less intrusive ones, like Kurenai or Kakashi.
Don't ask, don't tell.
But even the likes of Gai or Genma could be all right. After all, like the rest of them, their generation was the war generation. They were just kids. War did not discriminate, but it probably liked children the best of all. That's probably why they were so screwed in the head.
There was no room for error, none for failure. It usually meant death, and they that were left, were the fucked up ones.
But they know. Alive isn't necessarily better.
But that was the way it was. They were the children of fortune.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
'For the Fallen,' by Laurence Binyon.
Author's notes: I've used a few concepts which are not my own in this piece of writing, they are listed out here should someone accuse me of plagiarism:
- 'That's what war does to you. Either it kills you in one go or it destroys you bit by bit.'
Please refer to John Marsden's wonderful book, 'Darkness, be my friend.'
- 'For the Fallen,' by Laurence Binyon. World War One poetry.
This is the first fic I'm actually happy with – I know it's been done before, but I wanted to have a go at it, and I think I've done the characters and the premise justice.
Thank you for reading.