Twenty Two

R. Winters

Disclaimer: I lost all ownership of characters and settings of Naruto a year ago in a state of hallucination. Unfortunately, I am no longer in ownership of such. Please, don't make such a mistake of thinking so again.

I don't have much to say here. Kibatsu is just a random name I made up for one of Kakashi's dogs. The Yellow Flash is a little cheesy, Kakashi's a bit of a jerk, Obito's a cry-baby, and Rin just wants to help. Things go wrong and everyone copes in their own way. For example, I ramble. Read, enjoy.

When things took a turn for the worse on a B-Rank mission turned C-Rank due to unreasonable demands of war on high-ranking shinobi, all of Team Yellow Flash put forth their best effort.

In the heat of the fighting was the Yellow Flash, moving about with his signature jutsu and seeming to be everywhere and nowhere all at the same time, the corpses hitting the forest floor testament only to where he'd been. His normally friendly face was set in a grim mask and behind steel-cold eyes he reminded himself why he did this. His dream was bought at the price of their lives.

It was the first time the newly promoted Chuunin, Uchiha Obito, had seen combat at this level. Adrenaline pumped through his veins, fed by fear for his life. His arms shook as he desperately blocked again and again, fighting for his life against a shinobi much larger and stronger than him. Terror raced through his mind and he could barely remember why he was here, holding onto his reason for fighting desperately. His dream seemed insignificant against this cold face of reality.

Rin was a medical ninja, not well suited for combat, but she did her best to contribute in the middle of it all. She was frightened but determined not to let the men down, defending herself from the worst of it as well as she could, relying heavily on Genjutsu and long-range attacks. Her dream demanded that she fight as best she could, even if it wouldn't do much good.

Kakashi sometimes felt he was most at home on the battlefield. The clash of metal against metal and the sound of steel piercing flesh and bone was welcoming in his ears; the rich scent of blood and death was almost comforting in its familiarity. He moved with swift, practiced movements, cleaving muscles and ending lives without a second thought. He didn't dream—dreams were pointless, anyway.

The Yellow Flash pursued the last, fleeing shinobi through the trees as the battle finally wound down. A human part of him wanted to let them go, but the weapon inside warned that doing so would only allow them to regroup and strike again somewhere else, causing more death and destruction to the people he'd sworn to protect.

Obito stood over the body of his opponent as his adrenaline drained and his heart rate slowed back down to normal levels. The shaking in his arms hadn't stopped and he stared down at the pale face of his enemy with wide eyes, not quite believing what he was seeing. He should have felt thrilled. He'd defeated someone stronger than him and was that much closer to reaching the true strength he constantly grasped at. Instead he felt more frightened than ever and a little sick.

Rin knelt over the trembling form of one of the enemy. He had a nasty gash in his side and was suffering from a lot of internal bleeding and major blood loss. The healer inside her wanted to help, and she did in the only way that she could. She closed her eyes, overflowing with tears, and slit the man's throat because as a shinobi she couldn't allow him to live and as a healer she didn't have the strength to save him. She drooped over the body as it went still, despairing how far she had left to go.

Kakashi scrutinized the battlefield one last time, just to be sure they hadn't missed any threats, before pulling out a rag to give his blade a quick polish while waiting for his teacher to return. After he returned the blade to his back he looked over the battlefield again, tallying the bodies and comparing it to the original number in the camp. His lips drew tight—four had gotten away.

When the Yellow Flash returned he wasn't surprised to find that Kakashi was the single calm form among his teammates. Obito was running a grimy sleeve over his eyes, goggles haphazardly pushed up to his forehead and Rin had sorrowful eyes turned towards the ground, not looking at the dead bodies spread around her. Kakashi was the first to notice his return.

"There are eighteen here, sensei," he reported, voice clipped and emotionless and his sensei thought he might be the most lost of them all.

"And three more that ran," the Jounin added somberly, allowing the terrified screams of the young shinobi to echo in his memory once more before shunting them from his mind.

"Twenty one," Kakashi said, eyebrows lowering slightly in a frown, "That leaves one at large. Should we pursue?"

Konoha's Yellow Flash sighed, looking back over his team. Obito and Rin needed to get back to the village—it was important, at a time like this, to give them that reminder of why this had happened. To remind them what they were protecting. Still... even one rogue shinobi could be a problem.

"Can you summon the pack?" He questioned.

Kakashi's nod was short and clipped with no unnecessary movement, and he immediately did as directed. In less than a minute five full grown dogs had appeared and disappeared once again, scattering into the trees to search out the last survivor. In the meantime, Kakashi turned to his teammates and a frown pulled at his lips under his mask.

The Yellow Flash sighed, running a hand through his hair as he surveyed the clearing, firmly reminding himself of his purpose as he took in the carnage that brought sorrow to his heart.

"Obito, Rin," he spoke after a moment—Obito continued to stare at the man he'd killed, but Rin looked up at his voice. The Yellow Flash didn't smile, he wouldn't until they were out of this graveyard, "Get your gear together and prepare to move out."

"Kibatsu's found him," Kakashi announced abruptly, "Approximately 32 meters North-by-Northwest."

The Jounin didn't ask how he knew. "Can you take care of it?"

The silver-haired Chuunin nodded once and disappeared into the forest with a leap. The Yellow Flash suppressed a shiver and turned his attention to dealing with the bodies littered in the small clearing around him. They had to be searched and disposed of before they could leave, and he wanted to leave as soon as possible.

With several swift hand signs, the Yellow Flash had multiplied into ten times himself and he quickly accompanied the clones in dealing with the dead.

When Kakashi returned, five minutes later, everything was taken care of and his teacher was attempting to cajole Obito to his feet. Said Uchiha was shaking even worse than before, hands over his face.

"Done," Kakashi announced needlessly.

His teacher nodded to him before turning back to Obito, who still appeared a little green after emptying his stomach to the scent of charred flesh a little less than a minute ago. Rin was looking a little green herself, and was trying hard not to look at anything or anyone. Kakashi rolled his eyes at the antics of his melodramatic teammates and huffed an irritated sigh.

"Sensei," he said in cold, clipped tones, "We need to move before the next patrol comes by."

The Jounin ignored him, "Can you stand?" He asked Obito softly.

The boy shook his head without removing his hands.

"I'm going to carry you, then," the man announced, crouching down beside the boy, "Can you at least hold onto my back?"

Kakashi rolled his eyes, "Quit being a baby, Uchiha," he said scathingly, "What did you expect? A shinobi is a tool of death."

His teacher shot him a glare that clearly told him to keep his mouth shut. Kakashi shifted impatiently from leg to leg but obeyed the unspoken command, arms crossed over his chest and eyes glancing about the dark shadows under the trees.

"Come on, Obito," the Yellow Flash cajoled again, rubbing the boy's back, "Things will look better once we're back in the village."

The twelve-year-old reached a shaking arm across towards his teacher's back, red-rimmed eyes firmly closed as he felt for the man with his hand. Once he'd found him, he wound his arms tightly around the man's neck—the Yellow Flash didn't complain, shifting slightly to hoist him up before standing. He looked back at Rin, still an unhealthy shade of pale green.

"Ready?" He asked her.

The girl nodded, running her arm over her eyes again before stumbling towards him on shaky legs.

Kakashi took up the rear as they headed from the clearing, the Yellow Flash with Obito on his back first, and Rin close behind him.

"Is... is it really true...?" Obito's voice was quiet and shaky by the Jounin's ear, but all four of the small squad heard his question, "Are we really t-tools of d-d-death?"

The Yellow Flash allowed a grim smile to cross his lips as they left the clearing behind, "Did you ever see a kunai throw up at the smell of blood?" He questioned wryly.

"Ch-Churino-sensei said it too," Obito said countered quietly, thinking back to his Academy days, "That shinobi are tools."

"Churino-sensei spends too much time around scrolls and books," the Jounin excused, "If the Hokage wanted tools he wouldn't waste time with us humans."

"Then... what are we?" Rin spoke up in a small voice.

Obito leaned his face on the man's shoulder, awaiting the answer with bated breath. Even Kakashi perked his ears towards his sensei, listening for the man's voice while trying not to appear too interested.

"Hmm..." The man's smile softened a little as he thought of his answer, "The shinobi of Konoha are special, you might say. Instead of tools, I'd say we're... just people, who fight for our dreams."

Kakashi resisted the urge to roll his eyes and immediately disengaged his attention from the conversation—his teacher was obviously spouting nonsense again in an attempt to mollify his pathetic teammates.

Dreams, Kakashi knew, were useless things that the weak clung to, they had nothing to do with strong shinobi like himself and his sensei.

Dreams, the Yellow Flash knew, meant everything, and he hoped one day his three students would come to understand as much.