Warning: The following fanfiction contains very extreme darkness such as pedophilia, prostitution, and complete psychological mindfuckery. It is rather explicit. Do not read if unwilling to endure the content. Please click the back button.

These Are All Things You Don't Understand

Chapter Thirteen

They receive three days of respite before the next ambush. The break isn't very restful at all, everyone on edge with even Rin's guard heightened. It is quiet in stark contrast to the first day of travel, a silence not so much newly born as it is infinite - a line that has stretched on since (Kakashi's) life began, reaching into the past and present and future, waiting patiently beneath every word and laugh and gasp of pain. (Look underneath the underneath and find - a kind of peace that is not peace except when it is. But wait, wait - this will come later.)

Kakashi thinks that he has not spent this much time around his team without inane noise in the entirety of their acquaintance with each other. He doesn't appreciate it as much as he would in any other circumstances. Here are the reasons: A non-medicated Obito sleeps fitfully in one of the wagons and neither Kakashi nor the Yellow Flash have spoken to each other since the sun rose on Kakashi's bandaged hip, illuminating their tension all over again (and cats have their tongues, lying limp and caught and thick in their mouths). Rin simply does her part silently, scouting ahead more frequently than necessary and attending to Obito's torn side with almost startling efficiency. She can't give the boy anything to take away the pain without also taking away his lucidity, and Obito in pain but capable of defending himself to some extent is better than a doped-up instant corpse - just add kunai. It is very obvious that she really dislikes his pinched brow and slightly feverish mutterings. Kakashi becomes used to this new tight line of her mouth.

So. Three days of Kakashi staunchly attempting to recenter himself, doggedly trying to rediscover his mission mentality because it can't have crumbled so easily. His means of living as a shinobi cannot have fallen to ash merely at the bidding of adrenalin and Minato's rough-gentle hands - it can't have, and he would pray because it cannot have failed him so easily, but he knows no gods and has no faith (you liar - Hatake Kakashi, you are a liar, justifying it with necessity and ignorance and denial) and he still wakes with spilled sperm in his shorts and yellow hair blinding his inner vision, a crescent of indentions bitten into the pad of his thumb.

The small wounds are baseless and irregular to any eye but his own - a curiosity. By the third time Kakashi heals it in as many days, faint scars are beginning to appear.

It is yet another useless stretch of trees and forest road, yet another vulnerable expanse of enemy territory, and of course by the time Kakashi senses them, the Yellow Flash has just broken some missing-nin's neck. The cracking sound has barely disappeared when Kakashi is ducking a giant shuriken - and that was what they wanted him to do but too late, too late, and - there are two of them, one shirtless and the other with a smirk scarred into his mouth. He only has an instant to register this before they are doubleteaming him. His body moves quick quick quick punch parry duck jump - into a spinning kick, fling kunai, and Kakashi feels his lips bubble as he spews out fire. He dodges the scarred one's palmed kunai - but there are senbon where his body is going to be, and he curls, trying to pull himself short but momentum gets the better of him, and his right shoulder and side are pain pain pain but that doesn't matter. There is a - he jumps into a tree just as the grass turns to slop and solidifies, nature made into a weapon, and that was Shirtless so where is Smirk -

Behind him, and there is icy pain spreading through Kakashi's lower back but there is also his tanto in his left hand so he twists as his legs give out on him, feeling his blade sink in and out of foreign flesh (and this is your comfort, isn't it, Kakashi? This is the contact you know best, better than the touch of your parents) but really more preoccupied with the ground rushing at him. He swings out a hand blindly and feels his fingers catch on bark, nails ripping off - shoves his chakra out almost desperately but of course he has done this a million times before, the jolt of his arm nearly being dislocated as familiar as birdsong. He uses the momentum to try to get a good foothold on the bark, but his legs aren't really obeying him right now and he is too vulnerable.

So he lets go - falling that isn't flying and a moment of impact, a twenty-three foot fall which ends in a snap that he doesn't have the time to acknowledge. The quick and the dead, yes, and Kakashi will not be the latter. (He has a village to live for, and he will only die when the village needs him to - when he can do no more, when there are no more enemies for him to kill or missions that he is perfect for. He - this is his solace: He will always have a village to live for, to die for, a village that will never ask for more than he is willing to give because he is willing to give everything.) Quick: his legs have failed him so his fingers save his life instead, tripping into seals that only excaberate the millions of screaming nerves glistening rawly where his fingernails used to be.

Here is his miracle on this mission: Shirtless is not in his sights but Kakashi feels a flicker of the man's chakra even as his abused hands form the final seal, so he locks on and hurls it there, hearing only a thump as the genjutsu takes hold and the nin smacks to the ground a scant ten feet away, twitching. Kakashi's legs still aren't obeying him, which he is finding himself strangely amused by, but his kunai pouch is only half-empty so he pulls himself up and props himself against the trunk of the tree and aims for the exposed back of the neck. The metal lodges itself between the second and third vertebrae instead of the first two, but at this point he can't afford to nitpick his mistakes.

Except for this fleeting thought that is purely Katsu: Way to get stabbed, moron. But - here is a familiar high-pitched whistling sound, and he ducks beneath the wind jutsu, hearing the tree shatter behind him even as his body swivels on autopilot. There is a figure landing in a crouch behind him, and instantly he replaces himself with a broken branch but he doesn't have the control to pull that off again, so he forces his body to do this do this do this: fire chakra to soles, momentum of forearm against the solar plexus wreck-quick, pivot to jack-kick the side of the knee, catch the limp skull and jerk -

Kakashi crumples to the ground with the corpse. His vision can't focus on the nin's slack facial features. The colors and lines are sliding and buzzing, particles turning void-dark. The wound in his lower back is pouring blood, he recognizes - the material of his flak jacket is already saturated. He cannot afford to pass out right now, though, not in the middle of a skirmish, so instead he levers his feet beneath him with his hands and pulls himself up, swaying. His vision - he can't focus on the scene around him, can't pick out Minato or Rin or enemies, but he stumbles forward a few steps and falls against -

A wagon wheel. Whole and still attached to a wagon, he assumes, and when he slumps to his knees, body shutting down, he has enough presence of mind to crawl under the caravan before everything goes dark.

This is Rin. She swings down from the Obito's wagon in a quick moment of movement, her feet absently recapturing the tempo of travel as they meet the path. She feels Kakashi fall farther back, taking rear-guard again now that she isn't preoccupied by temperatures and low chakra levels and weak flesh. It has been three days, and Obito still has not woken up. She thinks he is almost out of the woods infection-wise but not completely, and the faint flush of his otherwise pale face is worrying. She - she wants so very much to just be able to shove her own vitality into the envelope of his body.

Obito's is not the worst injury Rin has ever treated, volunteering at the hospital as she does. She has seen gut wounds turned septic, glass particles in lungs, amputated arms - but this endless, useless pressure in her hands, this rigidity of her facial muscles, only came with the restless, awful stillness of Obito's unconcscious body.

A shake of the head and she is aware again, berating herself for falling into thought. She should be on her guard - on Obito's guard. This is a duty: even if she can't breathe health into Obito's body, she can be the line that no enemy will cross. She empties her mind and breathes one two three four to the rhythm of a heartbeat at rest.

Crack from the head of the caravan - from Sensei, and adrenalin surges in her bloodstream half of a second before she consciously identifies the sound to be that of a broken neck. She instantly casts a genjutsu and fades against the halted wagon, pulling her blowpipe out of her apron with trembling hands even as she does so.

(The blowpipe was a childish toy. She once used it in spitball wars with some of the boys in her class - won a contest against Tudoh Jin and got to make him declare his favorite color to be pink. With her hitai-ite came a fancy to buy darts for it. They have remained untouched in her pouch until two days ago, when she went scouting ahead and knew in her bones the extent of her team's vulnerability. With the polished wood rolling between her index finger and thumb, she realized that no part of her childhood is less than a resource, that no part of her childhood is sacrosanct in the face of potential death.)

Taijutsu may not be her strong suit, but there are so many different aspects of her livelihood. She is a healer-in-training, a killer-in-training, and the first will never stop her from the latter. She closes her eyes - just a blink, really - and she is stolid, she is calm, she is breathing, she is exhaling a deadly piece of metal at a flicker of red twenty feet away.

It tumbles to the ground, caught in the temple. The red is a hair-ribbon, Rin notices, and then she notices the woman's head move slightly. Three more darts are blown before Rin even registers what her hands and lungs are doing, and the movement is extinct now. Blood trickles from the woman's ruptured carotid artery, as red as her hair ribbon.

Rin breathes.

And this is the Yellow Flash. This is a man who is only a man, a man who is running blood-slick fingers absently through his bangs as his gaze flits from dead Sand-nin to dead Sand-nin to dead Sand-nin. None of the lifeless faces belong to his students, and he exhales a short burst of air, turning to the caravan to check on Obito and just catching sight of Rin climbing into the wagon. He hasn't seen Kakashi since the start of the skirmish, but that isn't saying much - Kakashi has stayed in the rear-guard since the last ambush, and Minato has stayed on point, and these two positions are somewhat mutually exclusive in terms of meaningful interaction.

He needs to stop this uselessness. He knows it - this lack between them is causeless, is inexplicable, is driving him to the depths of speechless frustration. Tonight, he decides, impulse finally reaching the next neuron - a decision finally made. He doesn't know why Kakashi is still avoiding him, but after their brief armistice the situation is even more intolerable than usual. Minato lets out a huff, willing personal matters to disperse with the used air, and taps his knuckles on the rough grain of the wagon before sticking his head in. Rin glances up at him sharply, not his student in this second but the woman she will be - the jarring prescience fades as she looks back down at her patient and mutters an absent, "Sensei."

He knows - he knows what these kids will be, who they will be, and for a split moment he is so overcome by possibility that his lungs feel tight. But: exhale like always and - "Rin, how's he doing?"

She presses her lips together. It is her most common tell, he has noticed, and he knows the answer before she says, "Same as an hour ago, and an hour before that. No worse, no better."

Minato doesn't need to tell her encouraging, useless words. Rin, though a girl, rarely requires emotional coddling. While Obito is an insecure attention-whore of the best sort and Kakashi an introverted black hole of supposed apathy, Rin's mental balance is unusally healthy for a kunoichi, something he has been given cause to be grateful for on several occasions. So he doesn't tell her At least he's no worse, and she doesn't glare at him or burst into tears or try to stab him.

Instead he says, "Good work guarding him," and watches a slight, proud smile relax her mouth for a few seconds. He smiles in return and finds himself asking absently, "Did you see where Kakashi ran off to?"

"I haven't seen him since before, and I didn't catch sight of him during. There are a few bodies on the other side of the wagon, though," she says, jerking her head dismissively, her crush on the Hatake deprioritized for the time being.

Minato takes the dismissal for what it is. Walking around the wagon, he is almost immediately halted by a blood-covered corpse whose neck is at an impossible angle. He shakes his head, mouth curling fondly, and steps around. Another corpse, a nin foolish enough to go without a shirt while evidently lacking the strength for such a statement, lies roughly twenty feet away with a kunai lodged in the base of his neck.

It takes Minato a minute to find the third body, on the edge of the treeline as it is. Dark red blood has soaked the loam around the Sand-nin - but Minato hears a faint gurgling and instantly has hand in the nin's hair, a kunai to the nin's bared throat. There is a moan of agony, a choked "please", and Minato realizes that his knee in the small of the Sand-nin's back is grinding what is apparently a gut-wound into the dirt. He considers interrogation for an infinite second, but there is really no point. He lets the kunai move in his hand, gives death more easily than he could cut a piece of pie, and stands straight again before changing his mind and bending to roll the fresh corpse onto its back. The gaping belly wound is a messy swipe, angled - nothing like Kakashi's usual deliberate precision.

Minato feels his bones lock and pushes down the instinctive panic, suddenly wishing he hadn't killed Gut-Wound so quickly after all. Standing, he looks at the scene around him with different eyes. He strides towards the caravan, mouth calling numbly for Rin even as he searches for some misplaced detail, some clue of where his student has disappeared to -

Rin is at his side, mouth moving and eyes earnest, and he thinks he may be replying - he mentally slaps himself, hears himself saying, " - Check the woods, no more than fifty feet in - " but Rin is staring at the first corpse, her brows bending. Broken neck, multiple contusions - but why so much blood, and just like that Minato is on his knees, is crawling under the wagon, is dragging out the limp body of Hatake Kakashi.

There is a roaring in his ears as his fingers scrabble at Kakashi's uniform, at the sodden mass of his student's shirt, at the stab wound in Kakashi's lower back. Rin slaps his hands away, green glow immediate even as she shoves a blood replenishing pill into the lax mouth - "Make him swallow!" - and this is his life, this is his life, this is his life.

This is his twenty-first birthday.

A/N: So things are about to start moving along. Huzzah!