Itachi, true to his word, never left Kakashi for longer than five minutes. The only time he left was to go to the bathroom, and he only ever did that when Kakashi was asleep, and he was sure he wouldn't wake up. Oftentimes, Kakashi would fall asleep in Itachi's arms, both of them stretched out on the hospital bed quite comfortably, seemingly used to sharing the space with each other. Itachi could, if one listened very carefully, be heard whispering something to Kakashi. It was never the same, but it always made Kakashi smile. The two could talk for days, and never tire of each others' voices. One day, Tsunade had asked to sit in on a conversation. She had learned next to nothing; the two spoke using an old ANBU code they were both seemingly still fluent in. The verbal code had long been changed, but it seemed Kakashi and Itachi remembered it flawlessly. Tsunade picked up a few words here and there from what little she remembered of said code, but it was introduced a few weeks before she left the village, and thus, she had barely started to learn the code before she had no further use for it. Itachi's tale that day was one of when he and Sasuke were younger, and how Sasuke always used to greet him when he came home. Kakashi eagerly responded with an update on Sasuke's progress, and then there was little more Tsunade could glean from the conversation. She had simply given up and left.
One day, Tsunade asked.
She waited until Itachi had finally given up on his bladder and left for the bathroom, and hurriedly asked Kakashi what they talked about. Kakashi had shrugged and given her a vague, ambiguous answer: "The past." Tsunade had wanted to ask more, but then Itachi came back, and she decided to keep her mouth shut for the time being. Later, after Kakashi had fallen asleep, Tsunade had come back and asked Itachi. Still gently stroking Kakashi's hair, but the smallest of smiles teasing at his lips, Itachi replied: "The past."
Tsunade could kill them for their answers. She wanted to know so badly what entranced them both so, and their one-word, flippant answers weren't getting her anywhere. Tsunade suspected they were doing this on purpose to her: speaking in a foreign tongue, withholding subject matter, and the like. Still, she came to the conclusion that it was better to let them have their moments. Kakashi's only hope seemed to be Itachi: he didn't respond to anything else-or anyone else-nearly as well as he did with Itachi.
"Do you love him?"
Itachi paused in his gentle, rhythmic movements over Kakashi's silken hair. A small hum of questioning indicated that he had missed entirely what she had said; an almost innocent gleam in his eyes told her that, in fact, her words had flown right by him. "Do you love him?" she repeated. "Do you really and truly love him?"
Itachi felt a small snicker of laughter pass from his throat into the open. "Of course," he said flatly. "Why else would I be risking my life staying here for days on end? The only thing that could have even made me bring him back to begin with was pure love. You couldn't pay me to risk my own neck like this on a regular basis."
"Except for Sasuke," Kakashi murmured. His eyes were closed; his head rested on Itachi's shoulder while the Uchiha gently combed through his hair with his fine-boned fingers. Itachi nodded slightly, his bangs brushing forward and dragging slightly along Kakashi's unmasked cheek. His Sharingan eye was bandaged to keep it closed, but the rest of his face bore no covering. Itachi sighed softly, the smooth exhale beating across Kakashi's cheek with a warm rush of air.
"Let's not get into that right now," Itachi said, placing a soft kiss on the side of Kakashi's face. "But anyway, yes, Tsunade, I do love him. I love him with all my heart and all my soul, and he is the only being on this earth I would ever die for. Hence why I am still here. His purity, his innocence, his beauty; they are all coveted by others who mistreat him. I swore I never would, and I also swore I would make sure no harm ever came to him again. I would stay here for years more, if only to make sure he was safe and happy."
"He's happy whenever he's in your arms," Tsunade commented. "You two could be kneeling in the middle of a slaughtering fest on a battlefield, and as long as he had you, he wouldn't even care."
Itachi gently kissed Kakashi again, offering little more than this as an answer. Tsunade, undeterred, continued. "Whatever made you love him, Itachi?" she asked. Itachi's gaze suddenly swung around to face her.
"Whatever made you love Dan?"
Tsunade felt a stab of pain lance through her heart, but she tried her best to move past it and see Itachi's point. She got the feeling what he was trying to say was that humans had no control over their feelings when it came to love. They could control their actions based on their emotions, but their emotions themselves would never change. No matter how much you tried to talk yourself out of it, she supposed you could never really suppress completely long-lost love, or love at all.
"Kakashi loves me because I saved him, yes, but I think there's more," Itachi said. "That's just what brought us together. I think that, no matter the circumstances, wherever we were, however we met up again, I really do think that we were meant to be together from the beginning, and it would have happened any way."
Tsunade nodded slowly. So, Itachi was a believer in predestination, huh? She had to wonder if he had a religion. "Do you believe in God?"
Itachi smiled softly. "What difference does it make?" he asked sadly. "I'm going to hell, anyway."
"You believe in God," Kakashi said quietly. "I've seen the crucifix you keep under your pillow. You keep hoping, one day, you'll forgive yourself enough so that he can forgive you."
Tsunade smiled. "Itachi, that's so sweet," she said. "But you have to realize that you can't dwell on it forever. I think what you've done for Kakashi has really changed you. You're no longer the man you once were."
"The boy I once was," Itachi corrected. "Before Kakashi, I was nothing but an emotionless killing machine, willing to do anything for my village. The Uchiha scandal, which I will need to inform you of later, was not what it seemed. Sasuke's situation is not what it seems, either. Again, I will need to inform you of this. But not now. Now, I know my time has come."
Kakashi sat up suddenly. "What?" he gasped, reaching out to Itachi. "Itachi, no!"
Itachi shook his head wordlessly, gently moving Kakashi to the other side of the bed and standing up. "You may see me again," he whispered. "You may not. God might send me to heaven or hell. Whichever, I don't know. But I do know this: you, Kakashi, are going to heaven. Such sweet innocence, such a beautiful spirit: there's no way you could go anywhere else. And I hope to God that we can see each other again…but not if it means dragging you down into the flames with me. I'm sorry, my love…but I have to say good bye."
Itachi leaned forward, gently kissing Kakashi's forehead. "You won't be able to find me, he promised. "I have to hide from Pein." As he spoke, he stripped off his Akatsuki cloak and scratched headband, dumping them on the end of the bed. "Sasuke I will lead to me. Pein I will lead away from me. I don't know how much time I have left, but I hope it's enough that I can see you one last time. This might be the last time. I might die today. I might die tomorrow. I might die next year. I don't know. But, any way I go, I want to die knowing that you love me, and knowing that I did the right thing."
"You did," Tsunade said, standing up. "Would you like me to see you out of the village, or can you sneak out?"
"I'll sneak out," Itachi said. "If I could have a minute…to say good bye…?"
Tsunade wordlessly nodded, and stepped out of the room. Itachi sighed, watching her back, and then sat down next to Kakashi again. The door closed, and Kakashi buried himself in Itachi's embrace.
"Don't cry," Itachi whispered, feeling the silent sobs wrack Kakashi's slender shoulders. "Don't weep for the lost. I'll be fine, I promise. God will take me when it's time. And, even if I had an army on my side, no one could stop him. He's God, and my life is in his hands." Itachi leaned forward, taking Kakashi's face in his hands and bringing him closer for sweet, chaste, parting kiss. "And so is yours. It's not your time to go yet. And not for many more years. But, I swear to you, darling, I will see you again, in this life, or the next. Good night."
Kakashi's brow furrowed in confusion. "Good night?" he repeated. "Why good night?"
"Good bye sounds like I'll never see you again. Good night insinuates that there is a coming dawn when we will see each other again. And I will see you again. Good night, Kakashi."
And he was gone.
He hadn't made a sound.
He hadn't left a mark.
He hadn't even given a sign he was ever there to begin with.
Somehow, Tsunade just knew Itachi was gone. When she opened the door to Kakashi's room, though, she found him sitting there, with a smile on his face, and dried tear tracks on his cheeks. How long had it been since Itachi had left the room?
Kakashi glanced over at her, and his smile slowly faded. "He's gone," he said simply. "But I'll see him again." Tsunade was slightly disturbed at the calm, composed demeanor Kakashi was projecting. It almost seemed like he hadn't fully registered what had happened. Was he hallucinating, or something? Had Tsunade given him a little too much painkiller?
"I'm fine," Kakashi aid abruptly. "I promise. I know you don't believe me, but…you didn't hear what he said. Trust me, you'd have hope in the world's cruelties and global warming if you heard him, too."
Tsunade shook herself. Had Kakashi just made a joke? It might just fool her into thinking he was on the road to recovery! Well, she could dream, right? Hope might still be available to those who pleaded and begged with fate itself…
A knock on the door saved Tsunade from further stress and confusion. "Who is it?" she called.
"Naruto and Sakura!" a high-pitched, female voice answered. Tsunade sighed, and turned to Kakashi.
"Think you can handle those two idiots?"
"Oh, and Sasuke just got here!"
"Well, if Sasuke's there to rein them in, I think I'll be okay," Kakashi said, giving Tsunade the best smile he could muster. Tsunade returned the gesture, and then walked over to the door and opened it.
"Listen, brats," she said, straightening up over the three genin and sneering down at them, looking as threatening as she could. "He's gone through hell and worse, so don't you dare do anything stupid. Naruto, it might just be best if you just don't talk. I doubt Sasuke will say anything anyway, and Sakura…well, you're kinda smart, I'll let you go. Now all of you keep it to a dull roar, and don't mention Sasuke's brother!"
Sasuke's eyes instantly flashed, but he said nothing. Sakura and Naruto sheepishly edged past Tsunade's towering frame, as if afraid she would bite them if they ventured too close. The second they were out of her kicking range, though, they came alive again. Sasuke did not look impressed. He walked right past Tsunade, and then sat down next to Kakashi.
Kakashi turned his unmasked face to his students, ignoring their gasps and stares. "You guys been okay here without me?"
"Uh…uh, yeah," Sakura said awkwardly. "Wow, sensei…I didn't know you were comfortable enough around us to let us see your face…I…wow…"
Sasuke snickered. "He just got the crap beaten out of him, and worse. I doubt he'll ever be comfortable around humans in general again."
Kakashi smiled softly, and Sakura thought she had just seen the sweetest thing since puppies. "Not quite," he said. "But this will take a while to get over."
"You're skinny," Naruto remarked tactlessly.
Kakashi, however, simply rolled his eyes. "Leave it to Naruto," he muttered. "Look, maybe when you're older and I'm over this, somewhat, I'll tell you what I went through. Sasuke, your birthday was while I was away, and you are fourteen now? I think I can share with you. Sorry Sakura, you're still kind of an innocent, oblivious little girl."
How was that for lack of tact?
Naruto looked completely lost. Sakura looked disappointed. Sasuke looked annoyed.
Before Naruto could put his foot in his mouth (again,) Sasuke saved him by saying, "He'll share with me, since I sort of know what he went through, but you guys are clueless to everything except base human pain, so you're being left out."
Naruto still looked lost, so Sasuke gave up.
Kakashi gave Sasuke a withering glare, and then re-directed his attention to his students. "Look, I won't be back in action for at least another few weeks," he said, "and I probably won't even be up and walking until next week. So, just keep working with whoever your substitute sensei was, and we'll pick up from there."
Sakura nodded, deciding it was best not to let anyone else speak. Kakashi sighed, running a hand through his unruly bangs. He didn't know what to say next. Everything had changed…and, at the same time, nothing had changed at all. All the little things were different, but at a first glance, it was all still in exactly the same place. No one needed to know what had gone on in Akatsuki. Not even Sasuke needed to know the entire story. Kakashi decided that he could give Sasuke the gist without telling him about the romanticism between him and Itachi. After all, Sasuke would probably take it the wrong way, or think that something was wrong with one of them, and so, the downward spiral began…
No, one new dawn was enough. Maybe, after Itachi was dead, a few years from now, Sasuke could know about Itachi. He at least needed to know about the Uchiha scandal, and everything Itachi had done for him involving that. But what if Itachi died by Sasuke's hands…?
No. He would leave this earth only by God's will, or not at all.
"Sasuke…do you believe in God…?"
A/N: Crappiest…ending…EVER…reviews would be nice, though…