Title: Eight Gates
Rating: R for violence and character death
Genre: Action/Tragedy but ultimately triumph, which is often sadder then both.
Summery: It's the last war and Kakashi is about to do something very stupid. Hint of KakaIru if you squint
Notes: Huge special thanks go to jbmcdragon over on livejournal who was wonderful and fantastic and found time to beta this for me in the midst of everything she's got going on.
First Gate. Your head feels tingly.
You watch Gai fall and get back up and fall and get back up until you want to tell him to just stay down but you can't because your throat has closed up.
You know this is his jutsu and you know he let you steal it with the red mirror in your face. You don't regret it.
You watch Sakura scream with hurt and fury even as she breaks skulls and backs with fists full of chakra.
You watch Naruto fight until the Kyuubi's energy fills the bloody air around him and sets all your senses on edge.
You watch Sasuke tear through your village and kill everyone you told yourself you didn't care about. You know it's not really Sasuke. You almost wish it was.
You are such a liar.
Second gate. Your wounds heal, it itches.
You watch the monument crumble and Obito's name crack in half.
You watch the civilians panic.
You watch Lee spin though the enemy nin and rain down Justice on their heads. You know he's snapping open his gates one by one.
You watch Neji keep pace with him step by step and see his hands and eyes glow blue with chakra.
You watch Konoha burn.
Third gate. Power surges through your body and snaps your spine straight. You stand tall.
You watch Genma spit needles and cause twenty quiet deaths. You watch Raidou shadow Genma's every step even as Kabuto slices his fire-scarred face open.
You watch Kabuto die with senbon through his eyes.
You watch Tsunade command the ANBU troops for Naruto even as she pushes her hands wrist-deep into a dying ninja and struggles to restart his failing heart.
You watch Jiraiya hold her rock-steady shoulders with his big bear fists and lend her strength she won't ask for and pretends not to need. He doesn't even try to cop a feel; so now you know everyone's fucked.
Fourth gate. You watch Konoha's red leaves dance around you as power cyclones from your chest. Your nose bleeds and your mask is wet.
You watch Orochimaru laugh as he wears your student's skin and cuts his way through Konoha's last defenders.
You watch Temari scream when he breaks her fans and then her neck.
You watch Kankuro's painted face streak red and black with dirt and blood and tears. His mouth is a razor-thin line on his face and his puppets tear through everything they touch.
You watch Gaara blaze with Shukaku's power and his own fury. You watch him fight side by side with Naruto and know that Konoha and Sunagakure chose the right leaders.
You watch Sakura stand between them tall and proud and crack the ground with her fists, and you wonder if there isn't a kind of make-shift symmetry between the two demons and the little girl who dances with chakra in her hands and levels mountains.
You watch Choji, Ino and Shikamaru blur together as they kill and move on and kill and move on. You wonder why you never noticed that Shikamaru's hair looks something like a spiky kind of fruit, and think your mind is starting to crumble under the strain of the jutsu.
Fifth gate. This is farthest you've ever gone before. Your chest hurts.
You watch Kiba and Akamaru tear a bloody swathe through as many ninja as their teeth can find. You send your last summons with them and know they'll be looked after. Pakkun won't go, he sits at your feet and calls you a stupid brat and you both pretend his eyes aren't wet.
You hear a familiar scream and think it's Anko and wonder when you could first recognise someone by the sound of their screams alone.
Your sensitive nose picks up the scent of smoke as you watch Asuma flicker by out of the corner of your eye trailing ash and bloody entrails.
Sixth gate. Power fills you from head to toe and you feel your muscles and bones thrum with the red raw energy of it. You wonder if this is enough and know it's not. No turning back now.
You watch Orochimaru tear through Gaara's Ultimate Defence and peel off his sand armour strip by strip even as the Kazekage rains down blows that should have killed the Sannin and somehow don't.
You watch the sharingan that Sasuke fought so hard to activate spin bloody wheels in a face that no longer belongs to the Uchiha. You realize there are no Uchiha left to wield the mirror-wheel eyes; just a copy-nin who got a lucky and not so lucky break and a monster who steals the skin of children.
Then you remember that Sasuke forgot how to be a child a long time ago, but that's okay because his body doesn't look much like a child's anymore, anyway.
You know Itachi's bones have been dust for years.
Seventh gate. Your every sense explodes into full awareness and you wonder how long you've been blind and deaf.
You can hear Pakkun's heart thundering next to you, and the growls that rumble deep in his loyal chest. His teeth are red.
You can hear the Inuzuka clan baying in the distance as the people howl with the dogs, and the low buzzing of the Aburames' Kikaichu feasting on the enemy's chakra.
The ground around you is cracking and you can hear every snap.
Your mouth is bloody, it coats your tongue and fills your throat and you tear down your mask to spit it out.
Through the red chakra that burns around you, you watch Hinata – who you always thought would crumble on a battlefield – stand over the shaking bodies of Neji and Lee and defend them with a skill to rival your own. Her eyes are white and her hands are red and Neji is staring at her back with surprise written all over his too-pale face. Lee is bleeding into the dirt and the Hyuuga prodigy's hands are holding him so tightly you can hear the bones creaking.
You watch as Naruto performs another of his miracles and snatches Gaara from Orochimaru's grasping hands.
You watch the split second that it takes for the Kazekage's bleeding, broken body to distract the Rokudaime, and you know it's long enough for Orochimaru to surge forward and strike-
You watch Iruka smash Naruto aside and take the blow. You watch him shatter to the ground in a tangle of limbs and breaking bones.
You watch him scream.
Eighth gate. Death gate.
With a speed to match Yondaime's body flicker you blur across the field and snatch Iruka before Orochimaru can finish the attack.
Another blur and you focus on Naruto's agonised face as you hand him the chuunin's body. You know he understands that when you whisper "Look after him." you really mean goodbye. You watch the scratch marks on his cheeks stretch as he grins that familiar shit-eating grin of his, even while tears run down his face.
You take one second to touch Sakura's hair - the pink is red with blood - and smile gently at her strong pale face – your mask is still down – even as the cyclone around you pours into your sinews and tendons and veins and makes them vibrate to the beat of your heart. She kisses you on your bloody mouth and you think she may be the closest thing you ever had to a daughter.
Between them they gather the bodies of Gaara and Iruka and run them as far out of blast range as fast as they can. By the time they get back you know it will be too late. Blood slides down your chin and splatters on the tattered remains of your Jounin vest. You know you have no time left.
You hear Orochimaru laugh behind you – it's Sasuke's laugh – because the man's always been a bit dramatic.
So you turn and face him with a bloody grin and wide-open eyes while the power of the eight Celestial Gates courses around you with chakra so red it's black.
You have a chidori in each hand and Pakkun's broken howl in your ears and you know it's time to finish the one jutsu you prayed you would never have to use. Sorry Gai.
Now you know how the Fourth felt when he faced the Kyuubi.
-I missed you-
And, in the light of your burning bridges, you smile.