disclaimer I don't own Naruto

warnings during three year gap. Only slight, very slight spoilers for Kakashi Gaiden. Swearing.

notes First attempt at Kakashi-centric. God he's hard to write. This didn't turn out so good anyways. Needs to be re-written. I might just take it down for sheer crappiness. Sorry in advance.


He killed his first man when he was five. It was almost like a graduation present, the Village's way of saying congratulations on becoming a ninja, now go kill someone, because he had barely had time to get used to remembering to wear his hitai-ate before leaving the dojo before he got his first real mission.

Everyone knew that he was a genius, it was no surprise, after all he was Hatake Sokumo's son.

He hadn't liked his sensei at first. He had greeted them all with a lazy grin and a wave, and Kakashi had got the feeling that he was a slacker right away. It didn't help that another fourth of the team was officially useless (there's half down the drain, right there) which left him and Rin, the healer, who only helped when someone got themselves hurt. And Kakashi had no intention of getting himself hurt.

It wasn't until after their first training exercise, during which his new sensei caught him off guard ten times, and could have killed him twenty, that Kakashi began to have respect for him.

Only ten? His father had remarked that night, when Kakashi had told him, I'm impressed son. Your sensei was taught by one of the Sannin, you know.

One fourth useless, he had quietly amended.

It wasn't that difficult, really. In the scope of things, it was meaningless. But Kakashi had expected their first mission to be something along the lines of weeding someone's garden or looking for a pet. Bandits were easy. He knew the ins and outs of most ninja attacks, and bandits weren't even ninjas. Just sweaty men with knives.

It was a miscalculation though, to judge them that way. They were desperate sweaty men, and they had more than knives up their sleeve. They led his sensei away, leaving the three of them crouched in the trees, with Obito complaining loudly that he wanted to get some action too.

Kakashi had heard a noise, and thrown a kunai, and with his perfect aim, he had hit someone in the throat, someone who dropped down onto the ground in front of them, and Obito, despite his earlier bravado, screamed like a little girl.

Kakashi couldn't quite blame him. But he ignored the blood, and stepped out into the 'ready' position, and then his sensei had arrived to clean up the other stragglers.

It was as if the Village had gotten hold of a new toy they couldn't help testing.

His father had told him not to get arrogant. There is always someone better. He had said, and if there isn't, there is always dumb luck. His father was right. He hated to admit this, even to himself, but his father was always right.

He went home that night and told his father. He was clapped on the back in the true ninja style and was congratulated on being a man. In the same week he was congratulated on being a ninja.

That night his father went out and got himself shit-ass drunk. (Kakashi figured this out for himself from the smell that reeked from the man when he came home.)

He had once cut a lightning bolt. It had been some stupid dare of Gai's (it always was) but he supposed that the fault had partly lain with him for agreeing in the first place.

It was his eighteenth birthday, and as a sort of birthday present the Village had inducted him into ANBU. It was technically illegal to induct anyone less than eighteen years of age, though exceptions could be made. The only thing that had kept the exception from being made was his late sensei, and in the meantime they had used him for the really dirty Jounin work.

Gai had showed up with a shit-load of booze, and Genma and Hayate in tow (the two of them looking sheepish, but Kakashi couldn't blame them because he knew how Gai could get) and announced that he and his eternal rival were to set their differences aside for the day and celebrate the momentous occasion.

Kakashi wasn't sure which occasion he meant, the birthday or the promotion, but didn't bring it up. His new tattoo itched slightly under the bandages, and he thought idly that he couldn't wait until it was healed up and he wouldn't have to think about it. Then he shut that thought down.

Somehow beer ended up in his hand and he drank like he never drank before because he had known that he second he signed his name on the documents was the second that he had signed his own death certificate, and if he was gonna kill himself, he preferred to die drunk. (A little bit of irony)

He had told Gai, as he had walked the other man home, (Gai couldn't hold his liquor to save his life, and Kakashi was used to walking him home, or else the next morning he would have to deal with women claiming to be assaulted by the 'springtime of youth' and all sorts of other chaos. And in the mornings after a drinking binge, Kakashi had other things to deal with.) that he was going to be the best damn member ANBU had ever seen. (Gai was too drunk to feel sorry for him.)

And before he knew it he was rushing into the storm, chasing the lightning, and when he next opened his eyes he opened them in a hospital, with the nurse telling him that he was extremely lucky to be alive, and that the lightning had fried a number on his brain.

All in all, it was the best birthday of his life. (The best part came when Gai had walked up and told Kakashi soberly that he had won that round.)

The most important thing, he had told them, was teamwork.

Some days, he felt like his sensei.

It wasn't a bad feeling.

His retirement from ANBU came the way of everything else. He didn't expect it, but he didn't not expect it either. He had a feeling it was coming though, because he was getting more and more tired and the Hokage was getting a little bit afraid. He was too good. What if one day on a stupid assassination mission he got himself killed? Who would kill when they really needed it? Jounins didn't get sent on really stupid assassination missions.

So he got called in and officially demoted with as little pomp as when he was getting promoted, and he received the demotion with just as little pomp.

It didn't really matter, he thought, because he was just going to be doing the same old thing.

There were always important people in the world, and they always all really hated each other.

He hadn't known shit from shinola when it came to teaching but in the end it didn't matter. (He had known he would be bad with kids. He wants them to be like he was when he was their age—but he also doesn't because that is a hard road to walk down.) They were hyper, they were melodramatic, they were kids. They had ups and downs and strengths and weaknesses (and God, were there weaknesses) and dreams and ambitions and hopes and—

He had meant it when he told them he was starting to like them.

Teamwork was the most important thing. But it wasn't the only thing. He doesn't want to watch them grow up because it's a bit like watching himself, only they're living what he never had.

He doesn't want them to make mistakes because he always wants them to be smiling and happy, and he feels like a father. He feels like his father. (He knows he should feel like a failure, but he doesn't because no one's dead yet and because he just doesn't feel anything anymore. At least when they were around their loudness chased away and filled some of the emptiness. If Gai heard that he would probably compose a poem.)

(If the Fifth dies now, the Hokage job will be offered to him. he knows this. But he doesn't know what to do because he isn't quite at the point where he thinks of the Village as his children, and he never wants to be at that point because he doesn't want to feel old. Feeling old was what got you killed.)

After he brought them back and watched them leave Gai offered to hold him in his manly embrace and teach him about the Ways of Forgiveness. The only Way to Forgiveness, Kakashi knows, if they come back. If they all come back, one after the other; bright hair, dark hair, green eyes, red eyes streaked with tears and black, a kind smile.

There will be war. There will be war and not everyone will come back alive and perhaps he won't even come back alive. But he can't seem to find it in himself to care. It's too stupid and naïve and pointless to hope that there will be a happy ending, so instead he hopes for an ending. One where at least one person isn't crying (or dead).

He's been having nightmares again. He wakes up in the middle of the night with screams stillborn on his lips and his lip chewed through. he sees battlefields and death and pain and destruction, and he sees them. He wants to tell them that strength is its own burden, that being a genius isn't everything.

Instead, he'll congratulate them when they come back, and forgive them anyways if they don't.

It's autumn now, and it will be autumn again. (Small miracles).