The rain was pouring down. His eyes hurt and so he shut them. He felt weak, like he was made of straw. His eyes, they were burning. He felt his head band come loose and an ache in his stomach. He vomited and dropped to his knees. He opened his eyes. He looked down into the face of his best friend, the boy who had tried to save him and bring him home. His vision was sharper than it had been before. He could clearly see every line on Naruto's face. The boy's eyes were closed and he looked like he was asleep. But he wasn't asleep. Sasuke looked at the hole in the middle of his chest, the one he had put there. The Mangekyo Sharingan let him see the damage to the body clearly. He didn't want to see it, didn't want to be reminded of what he had just done. He shut his eyes and deactivated his sharingan.
He opened his eyes again and began staring. He knew it had to be this way. He knew the only way he could defeat his brother was with his own Mangekyo Sharingan. He was an avenger and he had to do whatever was necessary to destroy Itachi and avenge his family. He should have been happy; he was now a long step closer to achieving his goal. He had gained power and with the help of Orochimaru he would gain more. And all it had cost was the life of one loud mouthed dobe.
So why did he feel like crying? Why did he want to scream out and beg Naruto for his forgiveness? Why was he remembering Wave country and the time he had nearly died trying to protect him? Why was he remembering the bell test and giving a tied up Naruto food? Why was he remembering carrying an unconscious Naruto back to Konoha after he had defeated Gaara? Why was he remembering that annoying grin and that loud voice proclaiming that he would be Hokage one day? Why did he feel the urge to carry his friend back to Konoha and answer for what he had just done?
He shut his eyes and took a deep breath. No! He couldn't stop now. If he went back he would be executed. Then Itachi would win and his family would never be avenged. If that happened, then what was it all for? No, he couldn't go back. He had told Sakura that hew paths would open now and he had meant what he'd said. He had chosen vengeance; he had chosen to give up his happiness and his home in order to acquire power. He'd made his choice; he knew he couldn't go back.
"Naruto… I'm sorry."
He got back up and stumbled off into the rain.
Pakkun spoke quietly. "The rain has washed away the trail, I can't track Sasuke anymore."
Kakashi said nothing. He simply knelt there over the body of his student. He felt his tears even in the rain. This was his fault. He should have paid more attention; he should have given Naruto more of his time instead of playing favorites. He should have been a better sensei and a better friend. And he should never, ever, have taught Sasuke how to use Chidori.
"How did we come to this?" He said in a whisper. "Forgive me Naruto. Forgive me Arashi-sensei."
"Kakashi," Pakkun said quietly. "What do you want to do?"
Kakashi pulled out a mottled green poncho from one of his belt pouches. He gently wrapped Naruto's body in it and took him into his arms. "There is nothing to do except bring Naruto home and inform the Hokage."
"What about Sasuke?"
"Sasuke can wait." There was just the tiniest bit of heat in his voice. "I'll take care of him sooner or later."
Pakkun understood exactly what those words meant. "He is your student, aren't you going to try and save him?"
"No, he was my student. What he is now is a traitor, a missing nin, and a murderer." Kakashi leapt away with Naruto held firmly in his arms. Pakkun followed and said nothing more.
Tsunade stepped out of the emergency room. Shikamaru, Shikaku and Temari were standing in the hall on edge. She smiled. "Chouji is going to be all right." Shikaku and Temari looked relieved; Shikamaru was facing away from her. She was about to thank Shikaku for bringing her his clan's medial tome when she saw Shizune approaching from the other end of the hall. One look at her student's face told her something wrong.
"Shizune what's wrong? Is Neji all right?"
To her surprise Shizune nodded, but her expression remained heart broken. "I am pleased to say the operation was a success and Neji is now in stable condition."
Those words gave Tsunade no relief. "Then what's wrong?" Shikamaru and the others had picked up on her fears and all were staring at a solemn Shizune.
Shizune cast her eyes down. "Lady Tsunade, Kakashi has just returned and asks to speak with you in private. He is… in sub level two."
Tsunade gasped and felt the cold and familiar dread. The others didn't understand of course. Sub level two was the location of the hospital's morgue. "Who?" Her voice shook. She already knew, in the recesses of her heart she knew.
"Lady Tsunade we should speak in private."
But Tsunade shook her head. "Damn it Shizune just tell me, who has died?" Gasps came from both Shikamaru and Temari. Shikaku merely waited silently.
Shizune looked up from the floor. Her eyes filled with tears. "Naruto."