Disclaimer: Team Yondaime doesn't belong to me. If they did, I'd know what happens to Rin.

Author's Notes: Inspired by my recent trip to the coast. No sunny Californian beaches for me; the northern Oregon coast is much more ninja friendly in my opinion.

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Oceana

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The Yellow Flash smiles a little as he watches his students' expressions. He knows without asking that this is the first time any of them have seen the ocean.

"Ne, Sensei," Obito calls over his shoulder, "why'd you bring us here?" The little Uchiha had been the most openly fascinated, gasping after the team had crested the last gigantic sand dune. He is (for the first time, the sensei reflects with not a little pity) the most prepared for the strong gusts of wind that sprays sand into their faces. Behind his goggles, his eyes are still wide in wonder, following every wave that breaks on the shoreline.

"Tradition," he answers, and with the ease repetition grants, steps on his right heel with the tip of his left sandal and slips the footwear off. Right toes on the heel of his left foot, and then one of the most powerful man in Konohagakure is barefoot on the sand. An odd sight, undoubtedly, considering the four man team is on its way to the Stone Country's borders and a battle that will undoubtedly be as bloody as all the previous ones have been for the last six years.

"Tradition?" Rin echoes with a slight frown on her face. She is holding a hand up in front of her face in an attempt keep the sand out of her eyes. It is the seagulls that have caught her attention, wheeling above the churning waves, dancing between the clouds that race away from the ocean and over the land out of sight.

"Jiraiya-sama brought my team here back when I was your age. He told us that there were only a handful of things we ever needed to see in life." He purposefully strides forward, bare feet picking their way amongst the rocks and the dead jellyfish that were beached on the shore by the high tide. "One of them was the ocean." When he is a few meters away, he calls out, "Take off your sandals and follow me."

Obito and Rin exchange looks, but they are ninja and know how to obey the orders of a superior. Kakashi slips off his sandals with the same grace of his sensei and is the first to follow him. Even though Kakashi is behind him, the Yellow Flash knows that the boy is still squinting at the horizon, watching the black clouds that are the heralds of a storm, trying to estimate when the maelstrom will reach the shore. Hopefully, they will be on the other side of Stone's coastal mountain range then and will be able to find shelter.

The sand goes from dry to damp the closer the four get to the waves. They approach the water in a crooked line, and come to a halt only when the Yellow Flash signals that they should stop moving. Two seconds later, the first wave of frigid sea water sweeps over their feet. Rin jumps a little and Obito twitches—who knew water could be that cold?—but the other half of the team doesn't visibly react.

The sound of the waves mingles with the biting wind and replaces any need to talk for several minutes. With every wave that washes over their feet, their feet sink a little deeper into the sand. After a little while, the briny water is no longer as cold as it was in the beginning. Both Obito and Rin are watching the waves now, but Kakashi's eyes are still on the approaching storm.

The Yellow Flash watches the waves as well. He sees the illusion the waves create as they rush back into the sea only to be swept back onto the sand by the next set of water, how it seems as if he is the one flying back and away, forever retreating from the ocean.

What his team is thinking, he doesn't know. But it pains him to know that his students are not distracted by the majesty of the ocean in the least. At least one is wondering how many people she'll have to kill. At least one is worried if he will be coming home this time. And one is unreadable as ever.

"Sensei," Obito finally says, breaking the silence. He is watching the waves intently. "Do you think that some of the water never makes it back to the ocean?" The Uchiha points to a retreating wave. As the team watches, the wave meets another, stronger wave that overwhelms the first and sweeps the cold water back over their feet.

Obito's face is expectant, filled with an assurance that his sensei will know the answer. Rin looks puzzled, no doubt wondering why the question would occur to her teammate. And Kakashi's eyes follow the lightning that flashes between the distant clouds.

The Yellow Flash has always known that there is a difference between what he thinks is true and what he feels should be said. So he reassures Obito that of course all of the water returns to the sea, someday. Obito grins and seems content with the answer.

But as they turn around to head back to where their sandals are, the Yellow Flash notices the second illusion of the waves. As the water rushes back towards the ocean, it seems that, no matter how long his strides are, he is unable to make it back to the dry sand, forever retreating from the shore.

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End

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