here are your answers

(rewind and why)

. ... .

This is what is left of Kakashi: a corpse. A corpse in a clearing. There is no movement - except for a few spasmodic twitches as the chemicals in the body change post-mortem.

And then -

There is. There is - there is a boy.

He is blond and young and an explosion of color and charisma and sheer obliviousness, and his loud call of "Kakashi-sen - "

Well, it ends there, cut off and echoing in the stillness of the clearing.

STOP. REWIND.

WHY. HOW.

. ... .

There is a mission. It is not a difficult one, simply another C-rank because Naruto is annoying and Sakura needs a wake-up call and Sasuke needs a different kind of wake-up call, one that deflates his ("...big, fat head, you teme!" The orange-clad boy is practically snarling, and for a second Kakashi sees - ) ego. Actually, all his kids need a wake-up call. Life is not a game or a fairytale or something to be disregarded, and Kakashi decides to do something about it. A vague thought passes through his mind: maybe they will actually learn something from this. And then: i hope they do, because senseiobitorin knows that they haven't seen what i'm dangling naked in front of them. So he talks quietly with the Sandaime and searches the files for a mission that fits. He finds one and hands the scroll to Sarutobi with an evil little eye-smile (one that would make his kids run far, far away - if they could see it) before hopping out the window to play some basic mind games with his adorable team. The Sandaime puffs his pipe happily in Kakashi's wake and pulls out his crystal ball.

(It ends in hysterical tears and a few more mental scars and a new twitch in Sasuke's temple whenever he sees a granny. Naruto spends the next two days trying to make the memories go away with Holy and Sanity-Saving Ramen, thus single-handedly keeping old man Ichiraku in business, and Sakura gains a new manic, frozen grin that comes out whenever she sees/smells/hears cabbage. Kakashi is very amused.)

After, he drops by the bar the jounin have claimed for their own. When he wakes up the next morning, he is glad to be leaving Konoha for a while. It is - there is no special reason, really, except that he needs to stretch his legs and breathe a little. It has nothing to do with Genma or the smell of sake that surrounded them both as they stumbled out of the bar the night before, drunk and - nothing to do with the way Genma tugged him into an alley, pinned him against the wall, yanked down his mask, and kissed the questions out of him. Especially nothing to do with the strangely serious, bottomless eyes boring into his visible one as those three words were whispered by his friend against his shocked lips. It's nothing to do with any of that - Kakashi isn't running. He just needs to stretch his legs and breathe a little.

It is three days after his chat with the Sandaime when the Hokage issues them the mission, much to Kakashi's relief. The briefing goes exactly as he expected it to, which is like this:

"Hell yeah! No more D-ranks for us! Old man, it's about time you realized that the Great Uzumaki Naru - ow!"

Sakura glares at the blond, fist still clenched. "Shut up, you idiot!" she hisses. And then, in one of those abrupt turnabouts that makes Kakashi doubt her mental health, she blushes and smiles sweetly at the Hokage.

Sasuke makes a verbose and eloquent contribution, as always: "Hn."

Kakashi sighs inside and wishes for his Icha Icha. "Accepted, Hokage-sama."

"Excellent," the old man replies, smoking away on his pipe. "You leave tomorrow."

"What?! Why the hell - OW! Sakura-chan!"

She ignores her teammate and says, "Sir, what I think Naruto meant to ask is why we aren't leaving right away."

Kakashi speaks up. "Travel in the vicinity of Mist is dangerous. I expect the client had to make a few detours."

"Exactly. He arrived later than planned and needed an extra day to finish up some business." The Hokage nods wisely. Naruto gives the room his patented squinty-glare.

"Are you just fu - " And then he shuts his mouth with a click and looks sideways at Sakura, proving once and for all that he can be taught.

Sakura beams at the victory. Kakashi wants very badly to remind her that she will simply have to reteach her teammate in another ten minutes because Naruto has the attention span of a spoon, which is to say none at all.

He isn't a sadist. Really.

And then Naruto catches sight of Sasuke aiming a 'you are so stupid, dobe' stare at his orange person and bristles. Kakashi grabs both of them lazily by the scruff of the neck and eye-smiles at the Hokage. "We will be going now, Hokage-sama."

And they do.

After instructing his students to pack and saying "cabbage" a few times just to watch Naruto whimper and Sasuke look studiously away from the fixed grin on Sakura's face, he ambles off to the memorial stone.

Memories are becoming faded and Kakashi doesn't want them to. He is going to make SenseiObitoRin remain clearly in his mind by sheer force of will until the day he dies.

Yes, he allows himself some delusions and self-deceit. Obviously.

He doesn't allow himself to examine his feelings about Genma. He just - he just needs to breathe. He doesn't feel the same way. Obviously. He isn't capable of feeling the same way.

He doesn't manage to get much sleep that night.

. ... .

The client is a twitchy, nervous merchant named Ichiro. Kakashi is neither surprised nor suspicious - a merchant who deals with Mist-nin on a regular basis would have to be either insane or in possession of fantastic survival instincts. They are to gaurd Ichiro-san from bandits and such on his journey home to Water Country.

He doesn't really focus enough, though. This mission is just a C-rank, and Kakashi is rather preoccupied by pretending to read his little orange book while simultaneously keeping a watchful eye on his students and Ichiro-san and trying not to think about Genma.

So he doesn't worry, but he should have. He knows this when they are half a day away from the border between Fire and Wave and a hum of foreign chakra signatures suddenly buzzes faintly in the distance.

He also knows that he has purposefully been made aware of them - any passable shinobi can cloak their presence - and he stiffens, cursing himself. He quickly calculates that the shinobi are fifteen minutes away, and then he calculates that they are rather strong if they can be felt so clearly from such a distance. They are confident if they are ruining their potential element of surprise, and he has no idea how many of them there are.

His kids are squabbling with each other as they stroll. Ichiro is staring at them bemusedly, looking almost relaxed.

Kakashi's chest aches.

" - you asshole, you don't even deserve to be called a guy with that girly face of yours! I mean, how long does it take you to gel your hair like that?"

Sasuke's voice drips with scorn. "I'm more of a man than you'll ever be, dobe."

"Oh yeah? Well, why don't you prove it, girly?"

Sakura's fist chooses this moment to twitch, and Naruto flinches reflexively. Sasuke smirks.

"Hn. I'm not the one afraid of a girl."

Naruto squawks in indignation. "Whaaaat?! I - "

Kakashi decides that this is a good time to cut in, considering that Naruto is screwed no matter what he ends up saying. "Kids, incoming shinobi."

Sasuke tenses, Sakura leaps in front of Ichiro, and Naruto crouches defensively. Kakashi is faintly proud of them, but worry overshadows it. This - something is wrong.

He turns his head to look Ichiro in the eye. "You - "

But Ichiro is gone and Kakashi can faintly smell blood in the air. Sakura looks around, frantically searching for their client because she doesn't understand -

There is a sick feeling in his stomach. "Sakura."

"I'm so sorry, Kakashi-sensei! I haven't sensed anyone else - "

"Sakura."

" - did you sense anyone, Sasuke-kun?" She looks at her crush desperately and doesn't understand. She doesn't understand what Sasuke's Sharingan eyes have seen, why he is frozen and still.

"Sakura, you're bleeding." Kakashi's words finally break through. They hold no trace of the horror and shock he feels, and -

She twists to look at him. "What? What are you talking about?" Blue tracery is working its way down her arm, following the veins. "Wha - "

She collapses.

Naruto is staring, horrified. Sasuke is looking at the trees surrounding them, Sharingan still active - looking at anything except for Sakura.

"Poisoned. By Ichiro, if that's even his name." Kakashi kneels swiftly and performs a diagnosis jutsu. They don't have time don't have time -

Naruto finally regains his voice. "What? But - why?"

Sasuke remains silent, so Kakashi fills the blond in as he waits for the results of his jutsu. "False mission. It's a trap. We - or any random genin team of Leaf - are being targeted." Shit, he doesn't have the antidote for this, and he doesn't know a medical jutsu that can deal with it. He thinks quickly - no time no time no time. He looks up from Sakura's limp - like she's dead shut up - body to see Naruto opening and closing his mouth, still in shock.

Kakashi prepares to make a wrong decision. There are no right decisions, here in this forest with one student dying and enemy shinobi waiting ahead. This is simply the one least likely to get his students killed - and that is all that matters to him because he refuses to outlive his team yet again.

He says, "Sasuke. Naruto." Trusting eyes - yes, even Sasuke's are trusting - latch onto him hopefully. He hates it - hates the hope and the trust and the fucking lesson he decided to teach them. "I can't heal her. There is a Konoha outpost roughly ten miles west of here. I need both of you to take Sakura there and tell the medic-nin stationed there that Gloria has been used. Do you understand me?" He is speaking slowly and clearly, trying to break through the shock. He repeats, "Make sure to tell the medic-nin that it is Gloria that has been used."

Sasuke's red and black eyes sharpen. "You're not coming?" Why goes unasked.

Kakashi takes a moment to be grateful that none of his kids have developed chakra sensitivity yet before side-stepping the silent question expertly. "I have to hunt down Ichiro. Listen to me, okay?" He keeps his voice even and calm and makes sure to project an aura of infallibility. "You need to run as fast as you can. She has half an hour left, at most."

Naruto closes his mouth, protests forgotten, and nods at Sasuke. The two boys stare at each other for a moment before Sasuke nods back and starts off, scouting ahead. Naruto scoops up his unconscious teammate gently and follows two seconds later.

Kakashi's chest aches again as he watches his kids run. They're so clueless.

He hopes they will stay that way for a while longer. He hopes he can pull this off -

No, he knows he can.

He takes a second to hate himself for actually choosing this mission before he silently takes to the trees. He can't keep them waiting, after all. If they get bored - well, neither mental health nor an attention span is a requirement for ninja, and he is sure they would go after his children.

He has to pull this off. He has things to say to Genma. He has people only he can still remember and his kids to teach and Gai to piss off, and he has to pull this off.

He is almost there, now. He is -

There are eight of them. They are - they are Mist-nin, of course. Of course. Two are kunoichi, one with blue hair and the other wearing nothing but a mesh bodysuit. One of the men is scarred grotesquely, and another is a scant five feet tall and has dead eyes. These are the ones Kakashi recognizes as dangerous. He disregards the other four as he leaps into the clearing with kunai flying.

Two of the cannon fodder slump to the ground, kunai protruding from their foreheads and hands never reaching a weapon. The rest of the Mist nin dodge easily. Kakashi stands in the center of the clearing, his entire stance screaming boredom. "And who," he asks lazily, "are you?"

Mesh steps forward hotly before Blue waves her back and answers, "That is not your concern." And then -

He is bleeding. There is a gash in his side that is pouring blood, and his arm is jarred from partially blocking Shorty's sai. Where. The Hell. Did that. Come from.

He takes a moment to reflect that he is in deep shit before Scar and Mesh join Shorty in attacking him. He slips off his hitae-ite, but it is all he can do to dodge their hits even with Sharingan. They are at least A-rank ninja - so fucking fast, at least as fast as Gai - and he barely catches enough time to flip away and perform a jutsu before they're on him again - except that the crystallized blood Kakashi's jutsu forms catches Mesh in the throat, slitting her jugular with a gurgle and a spray of blood. He takes advantage of Scar's resulting flinch by ducking under a sweep of Shorty's sai and disemboweling the scarred man while he is momentarily frozen.

But Shorty - well, Kakashi is starting to tire of the whisper-quick pace and Shorty seems to actually be getting faster. Kakashi is keeping up but only barely, and then he catches movement out of the corner of his eye.

He twists and flips on instinct, landing on his feet five yards away. He sees Blue standing where he had been only a moment ago with -

. ... .

This is what is left of Kakashi: a corpse. A corpse in a clearing. There is no movement - except for a few spasmodic twitches as the chemicals in the body change post-mortem.

And then -

There is. There is - there is a boy.

He is blond and young and an explosion of color and charisma and sheer obliviousness, and his loud call of "Kakashi-sen - "

Well, it ends there, cut off and echoing in the stillness of the clearing.


A/N: A birthday gift to my gorgeous fiancee, Zhang Sizheng. She asked for Kakashi's death and Team 7...hope it's what you wanted, sweetie!

-coughs- Um, I reeeeally have to work on the third chapter of TAATYDU. I feel super guilty, especially since Bimbomushi is being so damn nice about it. Well, everyone's being nice about it, and that's just wrong. So requests are going to be put on hold for a bit until I finish it. (Must...stop...procrastinating...)