MERRY CHRISTMAS ARASHI-CHAN!!!!! Here is your prezzie, this fic has killed me, I hope you will mourn for me. And I included Sasuke, he wormed his way into the story. I hope you like it!
Italics are flashbacks.
Sasuke hadn't moved in days. By the looks of it, he hadn't slept either. There were dark circles beneath his eyes and stubble on his chin, and even Sakura had to admit that he looked terrible.
But she preferred looking at him, than at the man lying in the hospital bed.
"Sasuke-kun," she said softly as she padded quietly into the room, "I brought you some lunch." She held out the bento box hopefully, willing her lips to curve into a smile.
"I'm not hungry," he replied. It was the most he had said to her in days. He didn't turn to look at her when he spoke; he kept his eyes firmly on the figure in the bed.
Sakura sighed and gripped the bento box tighter. She couldn't look towards the bed.
"What do you want with us?" Naruto yelled angrily, struggling against the vines that had crept up from the ground to snake around them.
Sasuke had stopped struggling. The more they fought their bindings, the tighter they became. He was far more concerned with the menacing thorns that adorned the plants; they were pressing into him, not yet breaking the skin but trying to.
"What makes you think we want anything with you?" one of their captors smirked through the gloom towards them.
Sasuke glanced towards the man, glaring through the strands of his hair that obscured his eyes. Naruto was still wriggling beside him, growling like an angry wild animal, and further away Sakura was scowling dangerously at the men who had trapped them.
"We're bait," Sasuke observed.
Naruto frowned over at him, finally falling still. Sasuke felt a tiny thread of concern race through him when he saw the streaks of blood that the thorns had made where they had cut into Naruto's flesh.
"Bait for who?" the blond asked.
Naruto took the stairs three at a time. Heads turned to watch him sadly as he raced past, but he ignored them all. He didn't need their pity; they were all being so depressing. He simply grinned at those who tried to comfort him and told them not to count their chickens until they'd hatched.
He found Sakura sitting in the hospital canteen. He halted in the entrance and the grin on his face faltered for a moment. She was silently crying over an untouched bento box, her face was wet with tears and crumbling in grief, and just the sight of her was almost too painful to look at.
Naruto plastered the grin back onto his face and called out to her, "Sakura-chan!"
Sakura hastily wiped her face and smiled back at Naruto as he sauntered towards her.
"Hi Naruto," she said softly, "are you okay?"
Naruto dumped himself in the chair opposite her and raised an eyebrow as he peered at the bento box between them.
"You going to eat that?"
Sakura chuckled weakly and pushed the bento box towards him, "you can have it."
Naruto whooped and punched the air, scooping the box towards him.
"Is the bastard still here?" Naruto asked as he filled his face.
Sakura nodded, and her smile slipped, "he... won't leave, he... I keep telling him..."
"Don't worry Sakura-chan," Naruto patted the back of her hand reassuringly, "I'm going to drag him out to train. I want to surprise Kaka-sensei with how strong I've gotten over the past couple of weeks, but I need to spar with Sasuke so I'll make him come outside."
"I'm working on a new jutsu too," Naruto continued, "Kaka-sensei will have kittens when he sees it."
"I just have to finish it in time to show him," Naruto sighed, "how much time would you say I have to complete it?"
Sakura's eyes were glistening with unshed tears. She was watching him in horror, eyes wide and mouth moving as though she was trying to speak, but no words would come out.
Naruto slid the half finished bento box back towards her and smiled, "you eat the rest Sakura-chan," he said, "you've been losing weight, you should eat more."
Sakura blinked down towards the bento box, shock still written all over her face.
"Right!" Naruto jumped to his feet, "I'm going to go find the bastard and make him fight me! But don't worry Sakura-chan, I won't kill him in the hospital, I'll drag him outside by his girly hair before I beat the crap out of him!"
Naruto moulded the grin back onto his face before he spun around and headed out of the canteen.
Sakura squinted through the darkness. There was wire cutting into her wrists and binding her ankles. She could hear the gush of the wind through the leaves and feel the earth beneath her cheek, cold and hard.
"Hey! How come she's awake already?" a voice sliced through the air from somewhere in the shadows.
She remembered then; she had sped up her metabolism to force the sedative through her system faster, but it hadn't been enough to prevent the drug that the vines produced from knocking her unconscious. She twisted her head, and could just about make out the figures of Sasuke and Naruto lying on the ground, tied up just like her and heavily sedated.
The man who had spoken stomped closer to her, and grabbed her by the ankle to drag her closer to him.
"What are you planning to do with us?" she gritted out.
"Nothing," came the reply, "we have what we want; you're free to leave."
"Then untie me," she hissed angrily.
"Yeah right," he laughed, "your shinobi patrol this part of the forest, they'll find you soon, and by then we'll be long gone."
"Why are you just letting us go?" she glared at him once her eyes had become used to the darkness.
"I told you," he said as he wandered away from her, his voice became more distant with each step, "we have what we want. And letting you go was our part of the deal."
"What deal?" she called out, but she was answered only by the wind in the leaves.
Sasuke had used up all of his energy on being angry. He had silently seethed in the corner of the hospital room for days, but now he was too empty to feel angry. He had nothing left inside himself but a strange hollowness. It was oddly peaceful, but every so often there would be a terrible ache in his chest that stole his ability to breath. He wanted to be angry again, even the impossible rage that had filled him days ago was preferable to the stillness that was consuming him.
He felt like he barely even existed any more.
Sasuke's whole body jerked. He could see Naruto, in all of his offensive orangeness, standing in the doorway out of the corner of his eye. He didn't turn to look, for some reason he couldn't look away from the bed.
"Come on bastard!" Naruto almost skipped into the room, "I want to fight!"
Sasuke began to grind his teeth. His hands had curled into fists; his nails were cutting crescents into his palms.
"Kaka-sensei will be really disappointed when he finds out you've been sitting in here moping rather than training," Naruto informed him.
Sasuke's heart clenched inside his chest. He had to squeeze his eyes shut; for a moment he just hurt. His breathing had sped up and he couldn't seem to calm himself down.
"Hey," Naruto whispered conspiratorially, "no one would know if we... you know... took a quick peek!"
Sasuke forced his eyes open and frowned across the room to where Naruto was hovering beside the bed, biting his lips in an attempt to hide his gleeful smile as he leant over and...
Sasuke was on him in a flash. He gripped Naruto's wrist so hard he was likely to break either Naruto's wrist or his own fingers. He wanted to break something, he wanted to crush Naruto's arm in his hand and hear him screaming.
Naruto blinked at him in confusion, "I was kidding Sasuke," he said.
Sasuke's breath caught in his chest. Naruto wasn't even trying to free himself from Sasuke's grasp, he was just watching him patiently. Sasuke's anger receded. It was still there, simmering under his skin, but he slowly loosened his hold on Naruto's wrist.
He was glowering at Naruto. It was the first time in a long while that he had torn his eyes away from Kakashi.
"Besides," Naruto grinned, and Sasuke almost wanted to cry. How could he smile like that? "Kaka-sensei would probably wake up if we tried to take his mask off! That should be a good enough reason to..."
Sasuke's fingers tightened around Naruto again. He was aware, somewhere in the back of his mind, that he was snarling at the blond, but he couldn't stop. No one, no one, was going to touch Kakashi. Anyone who tried to take advantage of the fact that he was unconscious, even Naruto, would bleed.
"I was kidding," Naruto rolled his eyes and grinned again, "come on Sasuke, let's go spar. We can impress Kaka-sensei when he wakes up..."
"Idiot," Sasuke growled.
"Who are you calling an..."
"He isn't going to wake up," Sasuke bared his teeth angrily, "he's going to die."
The blue of Naruto's eyes became colder than Sasuke dreamed they could, "get off me."
Sasuke tightened his grip, hard enough to bruise his own hand, never mind Naruto's wrist.
"I'll tell him about how little faith you had in him when he wakes up..."
"He's not going to wake up!" Sasuke screamed, "you're an idiot! Everyone knows that he's already dead! It's just you, you're too fucking stupid too..."
"Get off!" Naruto wrenched his arm away from Sasuke and glared at him, "he's not dead. I believe in him, why don't you?"
Sasuke felt like he had been slapped in the face. Naruto's glare scorched hotter than it had before, but he wiped it away with a grin as he strolled towards the door.
"When he wakes up," Naruto said slowly, "I'm going to repay him by being the best shinobi I can be. So I'm going to go train. You sit in here and brood, it's what your good at."
Sasuke winced when Naruto slammed the door behind him. He hated himself then, more than he hated Naruto for being an optimistic fool; more than he hated the people who had used them to capture Kakashi, and more than Kakashi himself, for being too weak to survive. He hated himself because he couldn't be like Naruto. He didn't believe in Kakashi enough to wait for him to wake up. All he would do was wait for him to die.
But he wasn't going to let him die alone.
Naruto slammed his hands down onto the desk and refused to look away from Tsunade's cool gaze.
"You can't stop us," he told her.
"I can," she replied, "and I will. I understand how you feel Naruto, but I won't let you endanger yourselves. I've already sent a squad of ANBU out; there is no need for the three of you to..."
Naruto whipped his head around when he heard the door open. Sasuke had moved towards the door and was stepping out of the Hokage's office without a word.
"And where are you going?" Tsunade demanded.
"To find Kakashi," Sasuke replied calmly as he disappeared into the corridor.
"If you think that..." Tsunade fell silent as Naruto turned around and walked towards the door, "don't even think about it Naruto."
Naruto halted in the doorway and turned back towards Sakura, "are you coming Sakura?"
Sakura looked from Naruto to Tsunade, frozen in the middle of the room.
"Sakura has more sense that the two of you," Tsunade scowled at him, "if you try to leave, you'll be apprehended before you reach the gate."
Naruto's expression hardened, but Sakura spoke before he could reply.
"Tsunade-Shishou," she said, "you should prepare some hospital beds."
Tsunade blinked in confusion towards her, "hospital beds? Why..?"
"Because anyone who tries to stop us from finding Kakashi-sensei is going to need them," Sakura finished, cracking her knuckles menacingly before she turned and swept past Naruto and through the door, "let's go Naruto."
Naruto grinned at Tsunade, "we'll bring Kaka-sensei back baa-chan."
Tsunade didn't have the time to reply before Naruto was through the door and out of the building.
Sakura found him out in the training grounds. Her stomach tied itself up in knots when she realised just where she was.
Naruto was standing in front of one of the wooden posts, the very same one that Kakashi had tied him to years ago. He had told them on that day that those who don't care about their companions are worse than trash, and back then those words had been just that to Sakura: words. But they were more than that now, they had become engraved in her heart, and she heard them whenever she looked at any of her fellow Leaf ninja.
But now when she thought of those words she thought of Kakashi, broken and bleeding. Kakashi cared about them, he cared too much. He was dying and there was nothing Sakura could do about it, and it was all because he cared about the three of them. The small part of Sakura that was pleased to know just what Kakashi had been willing to sacrifice for them made her feel physically ill.
Naruto was punching the wooden pillar. The sound of his knuckles crunching into the wood emanated a steady rhythm throughout the training grounds, like a heartbeat. She didn't know how long he had been battering the wood, but she could see the smudges of blood across the post when she moved closer.
"Naruto," she called, reaching out to stop him, "Naruto stop it!"
Naruto wasn't listening to her. It was like he couldn't hear her; he just kept hitting the wood, gritting his teeth. His knuckles were ripped to shreds, his hands were covered in his own blood, and Sakura couldn't watch him hurt himself anymore. She wrapped her arms around his chest from behind him, pinning his arms to his sides.
He was breathing heavily, but even the movement of his chest was a steadying movement. Sakura leant into him, hiding her face between his shoulder blades. He was solid and stable, and Sakura just had to cling to him for a moment.
"Is he awake yet?" Naruto asked.
"Naruto don't," she whispered into his back.
"Sasuke thinks he's already dead," Naruto rasped, "I should beat the shit out of the bastard."
Sakura released him and moved around to stand in front of him. His fists were a mess, his knuckles were torn and bloody, so she did the only thing she could do. She took hold of one of his hands and poured chakra into him, knitting the skin back together.
"He is going to wake up," Naruto told her confidently. There was a challenge in his voice, and Sakura couldn't meet his eyes. She let his hand fall back to his side and moved onto the other one. But even the act of healing him was killing her. She hadn't been able to heal Kakashi; no matter what she did she hadn't been able to save him. She had failed him and it was killing her.
"He is going to wake up," Naruto repeated. Sakura felt a sob building up in her chest. It wasn't fair. It was so unbelievably unfair that Sakura was surprised that the world hadn't stopped turning in protest. Kakashi didn't deserve to die. And they didn't deserve to live because of his death. She knew that she should be grateful for what Kakashi had done, but all she wanted was for him to wake up so that she could beat him to a pulp. What right did he have to decide that their lives were worth more than his own? Who did he think he was? They didn't ask him to die for them, they didn't want him to; he had no right trading his life for theirs'.
Sakura's hands wouldn't stop shaking. The sob that had been growing inside her escaped. She hadn't realised just how important Kakashi was to her, and now she would never be able to tell him. That was most unfair of all. He would never know that she would have been willing to trade her life for his too. He would never know that they cared for him just as much as he had cared for them.
She pressed her face into Naruto's chest to hide her tears. Naruto simply stood there, stone still, and let her cry.
Sasuke was more than familiar with loss. There had been a time when he had had nothing, or at least that was how he felt. He had lost everything, all he had had was his revenge. But he didn't even have that now. There was no one to hunt down and make suffer for harming Kakashi, they had all been killed by the squad of ANBU Tsunade had sent out. Sasuke couldn't have revenge for this loss.
He had stood at the foot of the bed for a few minutes when he first realised. He couldn't move; he had turned to stone. His mind couldn't comprehend what had happened so it had simply stopped working for a little while. But eventually he had crept around to the side of the bed.
He had lost so much already. But the world was determined to take more from him.
He placed his hand over Kakashi's heart. If Sasuke could make his heart beat for both of them, he would.
Tsunade slammed the door open and exploded into the room. There were voices all around him. People were moving. But he hardly noticed.
"Sasuke," Tsunade placed her hand onto his shoulder.
He shrugged her hand off him, not bothering to look at her. His eyes found their way to Kakashi's face.
"Don't take his mask off," he warned the Hokage.
His finger's clenched into Kakashi's chest. For a heart rendering moment he just wished for the heart beneath his hand to beat again.
He wanted Kakashi to hear him call him 'sensei'. Just once, with all of the respect that the title implied.
"Someone find Naruto and Sakura," Tsunade spoke to the others who had entered the room.
"I'll tell them," Sasuke said quietly, before he took his hand from Kakashi's chest.
Naruto couldn't look into Sakura's grief ridden face. They were all wrong, all of them. Seeing Sakura cry just made him angry at her. Why did no one have any faith in Kakashi? Naruto was the only one who believed that he wouldn't just give up and die. But he owed that much to Kakashi; Kakashi had always believed in him.
He felt Sasuke's presence on the edge of the training grounds, but he didn't want to look at him either. Everyone had already written Kakashi off, and Naruto was furious at them.
"Sasuke?" Sakura gasped, "you... you came outside, are you... wait... he..."
"He's gone," Sasuke said.
Naruto turned to look at him. Naruto had never seen Sasuke look like that before. He looked like the world had ended and only he remained to remember it.
"What?" Naruto said when Sasuke's words had sunk in. He saw Sakura fall to the grass out of the corner of his eye, she was sitting on the ground and staring blankly ahead, utterly silent, her tears still drying upon her cheeks.
"He's dead," Sasuke replied, staring determinedly into Naruto's eyes.
Naruto felt the world fall away from him. It wasn't true, because Kakashi wasn't going to die. He was going to wake up and be a lazy, perverted, porn reading bastard like usual, and Naruto would yell at him for always being late and then work out a new way to get a look under that stupid mask. He wasn't dead because there was still stuff that Naruto needed to say to him. There were things that Naruto hadn't done yet that Kakashi had to be around to see.
Sasuke was lying.
Sakura cried out when Naruto whipped across the field and threw his fist into Sasuke's face. Sasuke hadn't tried to block it; he had taken the hit without flinching. Naruto didn't stop to see what damage he had caused, he raced back into the village and towards the hospital.
"Aren't you coming with us Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura asked as they walked out of the mission room.
"You're more than capable of accomplishing this mission without me," Kakashi's eye arched cheerfully as he flipped through his book.
"Of course we are!" Naruto beamed, "we don't need Kaka-sensei slowing us down!"
"Hn," Sasuke smirked as he trailed behind them.
"Besides," Kakashi added as he focused upon the pages of his book, "I have another mission."
"What kind of mission?" Naruto frowned.
"The classified kind," Kakashi replied with a brief glance over the top of IchaIcha
"What?" Naruto squawked, "how come you get to go on a cool mission while were stuck on babysitting duty?"
"It's body-guarding," Sakura huffed
"Yeah, well," Naruto grinned mischievously, "just don't do anything stupid without us there Kaka-sensei. We won't be there to save your ass!"
"Idiot," Sakura muttered, "same goes for you. When you start acting like a moron Kakashi-sensei won't be there to save your ass. And I sure as hell won't be saving you either."
Kakashi lowered his book, "I'm sure none of you will need me there to save your asses."
"Damn right!" Naruto cried.
"But if you did," Kakashi's eyes arched happily once again, "you'd be screwed, seeing as I won't be there."
The three of them halted in their tracks and glared at Kakashi's back.
"We don't need you anyway!" Naruto yelled.
"Yeah!" Sakura agreed.
Sasuke rolled his eyes and strolled past them, "let's get going."
Naruto had never really paid much attention to the memorial stone. He had always known it was there, what it was for, but he had never taken the time to study it properly. All of those names; all of the dead who had come before them, they were nothing more than names on a stone. Naruto couldn't place a face to any of them, only a spare few. They could have been someone's son or daughter; someone's mother or father, brother or sister; someone's friend. If there was no one to remember them then they were nothing more than names.
One day there would be no one around to read Kakashi's name and remember who he was. They wouldn't look at the stone and see a masked face and an orange book; two tiny bells and a lazy slouch. They wouldn't see a man who was perpetually late and who smiled with his eyes. They wouldn't see a man who had sacrificed his life for the people he cared about, who had bled and suffered for his village and died for his team. They would just see 'Hatake Kakashi' and it would just be a name, not a man.
That was the hardest part, knowing that he would eventually be forgotten.
Sakura had stopped crying not so long ago. Sasuke hadn't cried at all, but one look at his face and anyone would see that he wanted to. Naruto couldn't remember if he had cried. He hoped he had. Kakashi deserved a few tears.
"Do you remember when we tried to see under his mask?" Sakura asked suddenly from Naruto's left, "we bought him ramen, remember."
Naruto swallowed hard past the lump in his throat.
Sakura chuckled weakly, "he had another mask on underneath, I wanted to strangle him."
Naruto turned to look at her. He had been so concerned with the people that wouldn't remember Kakashi that he had forgotten about those who still did.
"One thousand years of pain," Sasuke smirked.
Sakura's smile brightened, "that was pure genius."
Naruto looked back down at the memorial stone, "remember when we got the bells off him? I threatened to spoil the ending of his book..."
"And he covered his ears and closed his eyes," Sakura laughed.
The corners of Naruto's lips curved upwards slightly.
"I said that I would repay him by becoming the best shinobi that I can be," Naruto said; both Sakura and Sasuke turned to look at him, "and I never go back on my word."
Sasuke turned back to the stone and smiled, "we'd better get training then."
Sakura sighed, "good idea."
Naruto ran his fingers over Kakashi's name and grinned. Kakashi was dead, but he wasn't gone. He had left pieces of himself inside the people he had left behind. It had taken them far too long to realise how much they meant to Kakashi, and how much he meant to them, but now they realised and they wouldn't let his sacrifice be for nothing.
"We'll be back tomorrow morning Kaka-sensei," Naruto promised, "we're going to be the most powerful shinobi that ever existed, so you'd better be impressed!"
So... did you like it??? I hope you're happy, I killed Kakashi!!!! This is proof of my undying love, I killed Kakashi for you!!!! I'm surely going to hell!