Disclaimer: K. Masashi won't let me own his characters, because he knows if I did, they would either commit suicide due to the angstyness or their lives... or be killed by me...


I Can See The Village.

Kotetsu panted as he struggled to make himself move forward. His arms were killing him, his right knee was screaming in agony, but he continued forth nonetheless. Just a little further, barely even twenty minutes—well, maybe forty, at this pace.

"Kotetsu..."

He ignored the person who'd said his name, shifting his weight slightly as he continued to trudge forward. He brought one hand up to his brow to wipe away the sweat that was falling into his left eye.

"Kotetsu..."

"Shut up, Izumo." He grit his teeth, not wanting to listen to the other argue with him.Again.

"Kotetsu, just leave me." Izumo insisted. "Just put me down and go, they're catching up, and I'm slowing you down."

"What's new?" He attempted a joke, but it came out sounding rather bitter. He hadn't meant it to, he was just in so much pain, mentally exhausted, and sick and tired of hearing Izumo tell him to just leave him behind.

Kotetsu was not leaving Izumo behind!

The bandaged shinobi rearranged his friend on his back, so that he wasn't sliding down so much. His vest was drenched almost all the way through with Izumo's blood from a wound in his chest. Their medic nin had been killed, and the other had disappeared during the fight, which left Kotetsu with an impossible decision. He wasn't going to leave Izumo to the mercy of those fuckers who'd attacked them, so even though he knew that carrying an injured friend while already injured yourself was a bad idea, he didn't care.

He would rather die with Izumo when their enemies showed up, then leave him behind. You never left a man behind. Only the heartless did that. Like that fucker teammate of ours who just bolted when shit hit the fan, Kotetsu thought with a growl.

Izumo coughed roughly behind him, gripping the front of Kotetsu's vest tightly as he did so. The bandaged shinobi felt liquid hit his cheek, and he had the sick feeling that it was blood. He sped up the pace, ignoring the way his wounded legs protested. He had to get Izumo back to the village, now!

"Hang on, Izumo." Kotetsu grunted. "We're not far, now. At least we're in Fire Country."

"Right," was the choked reply from behind him.

Izumo buried his face in Kotetsu's neck as he tightened his grip on the front of his friend's vest. He was scared. He felt really light-headed, and whenever he looked around, things seemed blurry. Even Kotetsu's voice sounded weird, like he was talking to him from underwater or something.

"M'sorry."

"For what?" Kotetsu asked with a pant as he moved through the trees, stopping for a second to lean against one, taking a few breaths, and then pushing off it to continue on his way.

"For depending on you."

"You didn't ask me to carry you home." Kotetsu grunted. "In case you've forgotten, you keep telling me to put you down and leave you."

He stopped and shifted slightly before forcing Izumo up further on his back, since he was slipping again. The jerking motion caused the smaller man to cry out and tense before coughing some more against Kotetsu's neck and face.

"I'm sorry!" Kotetsu exclaimed, alarmed. He turned his head to the side to look at Izumo as best he could. "Are you okay?!"

"I'm fine." Izumo swallowed hard before looking up slightly. Kotetsu saw blood on the other's lips. "Don't worry."

"Fuck you! I am worried!" the older man snapped before facing forward again and continuing on his way as quickly as possible.

The two were silent for a long while as they continued forth, Kotetsu starting to limp due to the blow he'd gotten to his right knee. It hurt like nothing else, and the extra weight of another body wasn't helping it, but he would crawl home with Izumo on his back, if he had to.

He felt a strong exhale against the back of his neck and turned his head slightly as he realized Izumo had laughed a little.

"What?"

"Nothing." the other replied. "Just—thinking."

"About what?" Kotetsu inquired. He wanted the other to keep talking. It was a good distraction from the pain, and it made him feel better, because this way, he knew Izumo was still conscious.

"Remember last year when we went on that mission to Rain?" Izumo laughed a little more, then coughed. Kotetsu winced at the sound. "The one where Tsunade thought they were forming an army against us when they were actually just hiring a whole bunch of male prostitutes?"

Kotetsu laughed, shaking his head. "Yeah, that mission was so bogus. At least we got a vacation out of it, though." He grinned, remembering how they'd spent it. "Remember that other one to Sand before we were their allies?"

"I didn't know you could get sand in some of the places I found it." Izumo admitted with a slight slur. Kotetsu was concerned, but at least he recognized the area they were in. It wouldn't be long, now. They were almost there.

"Yeah, that was horrendous."

"Mm..."

"What about the Chuunin exam? The one Naruto-kun was in. They were actually pretty smart kids." Kotetsu smiled slightly. "I love being a proctor in the first exam, the kids always get so scared because they know we're watching them." He laughed. "Tonbo scared the crap out of that one kid during Naruto's year. Man, I can't wait until the next one. How about you?"

"Mm..." Izumo replied again. At least he was still semi-conscious. It was enough for Kotetsu. "'Tetsu, I love you." he slurred.

"Of course you do, who wouldn't?" Kotetsu joked, trying to keep the atmosphere light. "I think I might actually take the Jounin exam this year." Kotetsu grunted as he struggled to hide his stumble. His knee had almost given out on him. Almost there, almost fucking there, come on! "We've been Chuunin for a long time, we might actually pass it this year, you know? And it'd be nice to be able to tell Genma to shut the fuck up with his damn rank-wars. Every time I argue with him about something, he spouts out that he wins by default 'cause he's a Jounin." Kotetsu inhaled sharply, his knee screaming at him to stop, or to drop the extra weight. He went towards the closest tree and leaned against it, taking weight off his injured leg for a few seconds before continuing. They were almost there, and he could sense chakra behind them.

Their enemies were catching up, and he was determined to get within sight of Konoha before that happened.

"Genma will turn green if I become a Jounin." Kotetsu continued as if he'd never stopped talking. "Tokubetsu Jounin are lower than actual Jounin, and I don't want to be a Tokubetsu. And I definitely don't want to live behind a desk for the rest of my life. Sure, we get our missions, but Tsunade always has us doing stupid tasks for her in the village, you know? I want to be able to feel like I've accomplished something with my life when I die." He forced a laugh. "Not that I'm planning on dying any time soon, I just—need to know I'm not just a desk jockey."

He pushed through another set of trees and smiled as he walked out onto the dirt path that led up to the village, the gates towering high above them. He let out a small laugh as he quickened his pace.

"Hey, Izumo, I can see the village. We made it, we're almost there." He turned his head to look at the other man. He said nothing. Shit, had he passed out? "Izumo." Kotetsu jerked his shoulder to get the other's head to bounce slightly. No reaction. "Izumo, wake up."

His steps slowed as he looked back at his friend, people at the gates shouting. They'd obviously seen them coming, and it was pretty easy to tell that both of them were injured. But Kotetsu didn't hear them. He stopped completely, wincing as he got to his knees and let Izumo go gently. The other fell off his shoulders like dead-weight, hitting the ground behind Kotetsu, the bandaged shinobi turning around. He knelt over his friend, looking at him with a confused expression.

"Izumo!" he exclaimed, shaking his friend's shoulder. "Izumo, we're back, wake up!"

"Kotetsu!"

"Izumo!" He ignored the people calling him as they ran towards them. "Izumo, come on! We have to get you treated, wake up!"

He unzipped his friend's vest and pulled it open before pulling a kunai from his holster and slicing open his shirt. His blood froze. Why wasn't Izumo's wound bleeding anymore? The shinobi felt someone grab his arm and he yanked it free, practically falling on top of Izumo as he hastily reached for the smaller man's face. He put his hand over his mouth and nose—and felt nothing. His hands shook and he brought one to the other's neck, checking for a pulse.

The world fell out from under Kotetsu's feet.

"No! Izumo!"

"Kotetsu!" Someone was pulling him away. Away from Izumo. Away from his friend.

"No! Let me go! He'll be fine! Izumo will be fine! Izumo, wake up!" He struggled hard, pulling free and launching himself back at Izumo, grabbing the front of his opened vest and shaking him wildly. "Izumo, we have to be Jounin together! You have to fucking wake up! Wake the fuck up!"

Hands were pulling him away again, but he didn't relinquish his grip on his friend's vest, so Izumo was being lifted off the ground.

"Kotetsu, let him go!"

"No!"

"Let him go!"

As he was being pulled away by Iwashi, Genma was bent down beside him, prying his hands off Izumo's vest.

"Stop it! Stop it! He's okay, he's gonna be fine! Let me go!"

Tears had started streaming down his face without him even realizing it. Izumo couldn't be dead, it was impossible. They'd fucking made it! They'd gotten home, all this fucking way, with Kotetsu in agony and Izumo severely wounded, they'd madeit! Izumo had been talking a minute ago! He was still fucking talking!

"Izumo!"

"Kotetsu, he's dead!" Iwashi screamed at him as he hugged him from behind, gripping the bandaged shinobi's wrists while holding him tightly, pinning the man's arms to himself.

Kotetsu started hyperventilating as he watched Genma and Raidou bent down over Izumo with grim expressions. Iruka was running towards them with some medic nins, but the bandaged man started struggling again when he noticed them heading in his direction.

"No! Help Izumo first! Help him first! He's not dead! He's gonna be fine! We're gonna become Jounin together and kick Genma's ass and pull the rank-game on him! He has to be okay, I can't—I can't do this without him!" he screamed.

"Kotetsu." Iwashi's voice broke as he said his friend's name. "Kotetsu, please stop it. He's gone, okay, he's gone. Please just stop."

Why was Iwashi crying?! Izumo was going to be fine! He was going to be fucking fine! How dare Iwashi cry?! And why the fuck was Raidou taking off Izumo's hitai-ate?! You only did that to a fallen shinobi, Izumo was going to be fine!

"Genma!" Kotetsu screamed, ignoring Iwashi as he begged him again to stop. "Genma, he's gonna be fine, right? Right?!"

The usually jovial long-haired shinobi didn't say anything as he stood up, taking one of the stretchers from the Medic nins, then bending down next to Izumo again and helping Raidou put the other man onto it. They then covered him up with a sheet and got up, disappearing back towards the village with the stretcher. Iruka went with them, hugging himself tightly.

That was when the reality of the situation crashed over Kotetsu. Izumo was dead. He was actually dead, and there was nothing anyone could do about it. He wasn't going to come and bother Kotetsu during work for a beer, he wasn't going to crawl sexily into bed with him after a long day, he wasn't going to tease him about the way he ate... It was all over. It was gone.

Just like that. One mission. One stupid mistake. And Izumo was gone. Izumo was gone!

"How... how am I..." Kotetsu breathed hard as he stared at the spot Izumo had just been. There was some blood on the ground where he'd been lying. "How can I... I can't..."

"Kotetsu." Iwashi tightened his grip, hugging him against himself as he grit his teeth to force his voice not to break. "We need to tend to your wounds."

"Why?" Kotetsu whispered. "What the fuck does it matter?!" he suddenly screamed before breathing hard again and going limp in Iwashi's arms. "Izumo's gone... he's gone... he's not coming back... I couldn't save him... I can't... I can't do this without him, I can't live without him." He tensed up again before screaming once more. "Why the fuck would I want to keep living only for myself?!" He sobbed loudly.

"Then don't." Iwashi hugged him tighter. "Don't live for yourself. Live for him."

END.