Let You Down

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"Sensei?"

The tall man in the pale cloak was flanked by two Anbu, and the guards might have glared at Kakashi's form of address. Being Anbu, it was rather hard to tell.

Not that he cared much, either. He may have been Yondaime, but he was Sensei first, and the Hokage of Honoha had never much cared how Kakashi addressed him.

"Yes, Kakashi?" Sensei's voice was soft, and distracted, and incredibly tired. His blond hair looked like dead grass, and his skin was whiter than Kakashi had ever seen it, pale and bloodless.

He looked dead.

"You requested me, Sensei?" Sensei blinked several times, blue eyes bloodshot, before focusing on him. It was strange and unnerving, this form of Sensei, not smiling, not laughing - just standing there. It was the first time he'd ever seen the man show the burdens he carried.

"Yes, I did. You two are dismissed. Help hold the front line...I'll be out shortly. Kakashi, follow me." The two Anbu disappeared with a murmured "Yes, Hokage-sama" as Sensei spun around in a swirl of white, moving quickly down the stairs and to the door of a room.

"I've giving you this task because I trust you, Kakashi. Because I need you to not let me down."

Confused, Kakashi nodded all the same. He couldn't help it, he knew those words, what they meant. Don't let me down, don't fail me, don't fail the mission, don't let your teammates die.

At the last thought, his borrowed (stolen?) Sharingan eye burned with the remembrance of failure.

The room was full of candles, and the wavy lines of jutsu carving out paths like sleek serpents. Sensei stepped over them carefully, his tiredness not keeping the man from moving with all of his usual grace, heading toward the center, where a squalling bundle of baby was currently screaming his head off.

"Sensei?"

Hands that had killed hundreds cradled the baby carefully, as if he was the most important thing in the world. In his arms, the baby had stopped crying, blue eyes open and questioning.

"This is Naruto, Kakashi. My son. He is four days old, and his mother died on the front lines an hour ago, and he will never know his father. I'm going to put him back down, and I'm going to go fight and seal the Kyuubi into him."

He bent down as he spoke, placing the baby boy carefully back down. As his hands left the baby, the swaddled form began to shift irritably, once again starting to cry.

"He is my love, and my joy, and he will save the village. Four days old, and he's already a hero. When he is older and a ninja, look after him, Kakashi. Promise me that."

"I will, Sensei. I promise."

He promised because he had to, because he owed Sensei to. And sometimes - when Naruto isn't smiling or fighting with Sasuke or Sakura - when the blond boy thinks no one is looking and lets down his guard of endlessly brilliant smiles; then, he Uzumaki Naruto reminds Kakashi very much of another man, a man he made a promise to a long time ago.

He's bad at keeping promises. The three Sharingan wheels in his eye remind him of that every day.

And Kakashi sits and stares at a tumble of blond hair and blue eyes and so much potential, and wonders if he's keeping this one.