"You can't possibly expect me to go along with this--to let you do this--" Kakashi spat furiously, and refused to budge from the Yondaime Hokage's doorway.
For the moment, it seemed as though his former sensei would indulge him with the idea that he could actually stop the Hokage from leaving. That Kakashi, even at Jounin level, could keep him from his chosen field.
"No, I don't," the Yondaime said with a shrug, "but it doesn't matter, because this isn't your decision."
He finished arming himself and turned to Kakashi expectantly, as though he were surprised to see the boy still blocking the door.
Kakashi balled his hands into fists and glared at the older man vehemently. Despite the fact that the majority of his face was obscured, the effect was still striking.
"It shouldn't be your decision either. You've obviously lost your mind," Kakashi hissed. The Yondaime blinked at him calmly, as though waiting for his former student to get to the point. It was infuriating. The man he still considered Sensei before he was Hokage always had the ability to make him feel young and petty no matter what they were arguing about.
It didn't used to be that way. In fact, for the first few years they fought together, Kakashi was more like a jaded, bitter soldier trapped in a child's body than an actual child. He frequently made even seasoned ninja feel young and optimistic, and that had always been unsettling.
A lot had changed in just a few years. Too many people had died--too many important people died in too short a time. The Yondaime Hokage could feel the weight of shared ghosts between them, and the room was getting far too crowded.
He knew what this was about. Even though he had guessed, it didn't stop Kakashi from telling him.
"You're going to die out there. You already know it. You've already accepted it, and hell, maybe that's what you chose," Kakashi accused him resentfully, his one exposed eye burning darkly. "You know all the attempts to kill that… i thing /i have failed, so you're going to be noble and heroic and die for your village, just like--"
The Yondaime Hokage could be cruel, in his fashion. He spared Kakashi the pain of having to say their names, but at the same time, he pained the young man by forcing him to hear them.
"Obito and Rin," he offered softly. He watched as Kakashi recoiled. When had he become so expressive? Every death had changed him.
The Yondaime couldn't help but wonder what Hatake Kakashi would be like after tonight. After his death. Maybe he'd never know, but he was still somewhat hopeful for the chance of an afterlife. One in which he could watch over the village he loved in life and continue to protect it even in death.
"That's what this is about, isn't it?" The Yondaime cocked his head to the side and watched Kakashi carefully. He was running out of time. He had precious little to begin with, and just outside the door Kakashi was blocking, his men were dying.
He could have pushed Kakashi to the side. He'd made his choice, and if he owed nothing else, he owed this to Kakashi. Just this last thing.
"Shut up," Kakashi snapped, "What do you know? You weren't there--when they died, you weren't--"
The Yondaime continued to watch him silently before his expression gentled.
"I'm sorry. But this is the life we lead. You should know it better than anyone else your age, Kakashi."
Kakashi planted his feet more firmly in the doorway. He looked like death, pale and cold and unforgiving. There was blood all over the front of his vest, undoubtedly not his own. His heavy breathing was anger, not pain.
"Don't lecture me, Sensei," he snarled, "I'm not a child."
The Yondaime smiled wearily and took a step forward.
"You never were, Kakashi."
Kakashi stiffened. His eye glinted black in the poorly lit room. The night sky was nothing in comparison to the darkness that the Yondaime saw there.
"Don't go. Don't die. I'll never forgive you," Kakashi threatened him in a whisper, sounding more desperate than angry.
His argument was exhausted. At this point, he was stalling. The Yondaime knew it and let him anyway. Maybe he couldn't give Kakashi a lifetime of shared battlefields, of trust and support, of arguments and memories--but he could give him these last few minutes alone together as though Kakashi were the only one worth his undivided attention.
The Yondaime took a step forward. Kakashi braced his hand on the doorframe.
There was a sudden roar ripping through the night, followed by a deafening crash and distant, echoing screams. The demon had broken the line, the main defense around the village.
The Yondaime could not stop to think about what that meant. About the number of shinobi who had died to allow that to happen.
He was out of time. Kakashi knew it.
"Sensei…" Kakashi murmured, looking sick and pale with defeat. The Hokage smiled weakly, walking towards his former student.
"You'll take care of him, right?" he asked, and regarded Kakashi intently. The young man flinched.
"How can you ask me that? What about--"
The Yondaime's expression turned cold and dark like deep ocean depths. Kakashi knew--before Sensei even spoke a word--that the world really was coming to an end. Let the damn fox kill them all, he had nothing else left.
"She's dead, Kakashi. The birthing was difficult. The medics were too far away. She wouldn't have let me call them anyway--they're where they need to be," he replied, his voice unsettlingly detached.
"So that's why you're doing this?" Kakashi demanded coldly. "Your wife dies, so you go off to commit suicide--"
"I'm not doing it for her," the Yondaime interrupted him, his voice sharp. "I'm doing it for him. For you. For them."
With a short, controlled wave of his hand, he indicated the ninja who were fighting and dying in his name, for the village they loved, and he loved, more than anything.
He fixated his gaze on Kakashi one last time.
"And every second you keep me here, you're letting them down. You're letting me down. Don't do this. Let me do what I need to do for my village."
He was the Hokage. He could have pushed his former student to the side, brushed past him without a word. He could have even knocked the boy unconscious and left him there.
Kakashi moved to the side.
"Thank you," the Yondaime whispered, and walked forward. When he had just passed Kakashi, and they were back to back, the boy stopped him.
The Yondaime turned, but Kakashi did not.
"What is it?"
"Why would you ask me…to do that? To take care of him?"
The Yondaime smiled sadly.
"Obito and Rin are dead, and now…" he trailed off, his expression growing pained and distant, "she's dead, too. You two are all I have left, Kakashi."
"You're going to die." Kakashi said, his voice almost shaking with fury.
"All the more reason to look out for the little guy," the Hokage smiled. Kakashi didn't turn to face him, but he shook his head.
"Don't ask me to do that."
There wasn't enough time for this. He was late. His men were dying. He had to leave, but he gave Kakashi his time because that's all he had left to give him.
Kakashi turned to him, then. His mask covered his face, and he'd started wearing his forehead protector to cover his left eye. Obito's eye. Their Sharingan. The Yondaime felt the irrational urge to push his forehead protector away and see the last remaining tangible evidence of Uchiha Obito's life, but he didn't dare.
"He--Obito." Kakashi said awkwardly, and the Yondaime realized it was the first time in several months he'd heard Kakashi say his name. "Obito asked me to take care of Rin."
Kakashi stared at him meaningfully, practically begging for him to understand. And it was because the Hokage understood perfectly that he turned then and left, without ever saying another word.