Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Hatake Anko, nee Mitarishi, was greatly troubled. She hadn't seen her husband in over twenty-four hours, which was highly unusual given that he wasn't out on a mission. This, however, was the least of her concerns. She had just discovered a bit of news at the hospital that she couldn't help but have mixed feelings about. More than that, she was worried what her husband would have to say about it. Their relationship was passionate, to say the least, but she was very worried about their recent lack of communication. Good communication was the foundation of any lasting relationship, and it seemed they were struggling to maintain anything beyond the bare necessities. All things considered, she was sure Kakashi would not take the news well. The additional strain it would put on their relationship could possibly be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
Still, she had to tell him. There was nothing for it.
Sitting on the couch in front of the T.V., she wondered not for the first time if she should just take care of the matter herself. She didn't even have to involve him in the decision if she didn't want to, but somehow it just didn't seem like the right thing to do. Anko knew she was by no means a moral individual, but there were some lines that even she was loath to cross. This was most certainly one of them.
Besides, for all she knew, Kakashi might be overjoyed at the sentiment.
This was unlikely, but given the chance at a better and more fulfilling life, Anko was willing to take the chance. Kakashi was now her partner in all things, for better or for worse, and excluding him from such a life-changing decision would certainly end in disaster. She had to tell him, and it had to be something they faced together. She wasn't really afraid of confronting him, rather, she was afraid of what he might say. Anko, for her part, had already made her decision. She just hoped Kakashi would see things the way she did. More than that, it was her deepest wish that this would lead to something more. She had worked long and hard to woo the man she had so unexpectedly fallen in love with, and it was a hard-won victory. Yet, it was well worth the sum of all her efforts. In her opinion, she had already been paid back with the love he had so begrudgingly admitted to having for her.
That, in and of itself, seemed nothing short of a miracle of the most wondrous sort: that a man of his disposition and history had come to find that part inside himself that longed to love and be loved. Somehow, against seemingly insurmountable odds, she too had found the part of herself that yearned for a better life.
When Orochimaru had abandoned her, she thought it impossible that the world would ever be right again. She had thought she was in love with him, that she was destined to be by his side. It was never to be, and she couldn't be more thankful that things had turned out the way they had. If she had had her wish, she no doubt would have ended up dead, with nobody to remember her other than a heartless Sanin who considered her no more than a tool: something only defined by its usefulness to him.
After she had been accepted back into the village things had gotten better for her. She was immensely talented in the shinobi arts, and had a great deal to offer the community of Konohagakure. It was ironic that her greatest sin had turned out to be the thing that defined her role as a Special Jonin of Konoha.
She had earned the rank not by graduating the academy and working her way up through the ranks, like most others were required to do. Instead, the dark arts she had learned from Orochimaru, and the vital intel she had been able to provide about the S rank missing-nin, had sling-shot her into a position of respect and rank.
Being a Special Jonin was a bit like being a jack of all trades, or a jill in her case. She was responsible for keeping tabs on the fallen prodigy, coordinating with the ANBU for special reconnaissance missions, putting newly minted Genin through their paces, and working secretly with the Hokage to protect the village against hidden threats. Things had gone smoothly for the longest time, and she had earned a great deal of respect from her fellow shinobi through her services to the village. She was also feared, which was, in her opinion, something even more valued than respect in some ways. Orochimaru had been the master of wielding fear to its utmost potential. She had learned from the best in that regard, and was able to use it to her greatest advantage.
This, in turn, had its drawbacks.
As she became more eccentric, more prone to sudden blood lust and… well just plain-old lust, she discovered that she was slowly isolating herself from the bonds she had made with her comrades. She had never been a terribly sociable person, though, despite what many thought of her, she was able to be civil and tact when she wanted. She just didn't see the benefit of such a disposition, unless she was in some sort of diplomatic-leadership role. Needless to say, she was not, and never would be that kind of person, and so she continued down the road of hedonistic pleasures, late nights, and more sake and dango than was healthy for any one woman to consume. As she spiraled deeper into the murk of her own making, she slowly began to realize that she had never put to rest the demons that still haunted her.
She would never be rid of the influence of Orochimaru, and as time passed it looked as if the dark Sanin was still poisoning her with his venomous fangs, even despite her best efforts to drown out her past in liquor.
She knew she needed to do something to counter this self-destructive vortex, but for the life of her she just didn't have the strength of will to do it on her own. She had considered getting help of some sort for a while, but she always ended up chickening out. She was a Jonin of Konoha, and if the experts said she was fit for duty, who was she to question? Still, the darkness in her heart was eating her alive, and she knew that if something wasn't done soon, it would consume her completely.
It was one particularly bad day, a day she had woken up screaming from the nightmares, that her life had taken a sudden and unexpected turn. She was nearing the end of her rope, guilt-tripping herself into oblivion over the fact that she had failed to anticipate Orochimaru's attack on the village. It had felt as if her failure was complete. First she had been unable to kill her old mentor in the Forest of Death, and then she had failed the village in her duty to be the specialist she had once been so proud to be deemed.
She was down at an exceptionally seedy bar that night, drowning her miseries in a bottle of sake that would give paint-thinner a run for its money in toxicity, when she was paid an unexpected visit by a certain living-legend of the highest repute.
Kakashi had sat down next to her, saying nothing. He gave her that look of his, that "I know exactly how you feel" look, that made most everyone feel indescribably small. Without a word he had unceremoniously knocked the bottle off the bar, and handed the tender a small sum of ryo. Somehow his order went unspoken, and the unsavory fellow returned with an expensive looking bottle of the good stuff. Kakashi then proceed to pour them each a glass, taking his time to savor the feel of the rice liquor burning down his throat.
"One of those days." He had uttered so quietly, she almost hadn't heard him. "Am I right?"
Anko had been so taken aback that Kakashi was even speaking to her, she nearly didn't find her voice.
"Yes." She had heard herself saying. "It really is, isn't it?"
Kakashi seemed satisfied with her answer, leaning back on his stool. It was several more minutes before he again spoke.
"It wasn't your fault you know. " He said abruptly. "No one could have known what the snake was planning."
Anko again fought to find her words. "But… it was my responsibility to be the village's counter to Orochimaru. How could anyone possibly think that I haven't failed Konoha? Hundreds of lives were lost yesterday. If I had been a little more vigilant, none of this would have happened. It was my fault Orochimaru got the jump on us like that. I was his student. I was supposed to know the ins-and-outs of his scheming. How can you possibly say it wasn't my fault?"
Kakashi grunted, dismissing her self-pity.
"Look, we all make mistakes. By your line of thinking, it was my fault more than anyone else. I had the chance to take Orochimaru out once and for all, back during the first round of bouts in the Chunin exam. I was working to seal the curse seal the snake had just put on my student, Uchiha Sasuke. In my position, I was unable to both protect Sasuke and engage Orochimaru. If I had decided to go for the kill, it would have meant sacrificing my student. Obito always told me that those who abandon their teammates are the worst kind of trash, and so I stayed my hand. Yet, in sparing the life of my student, it resulted in the death of hundreds. By your reasoning, how could I possibly overlook such an incalculable blunder?"
Anko was speechless. There he was, the legendary sharingan-wielder, lecturing her about the perils of taking a mistake too seriously. Who was she to argue with him, Copy-Cat Kakashi, that somehow her mistake had been more deserving of blame? Who was she to question the renowned logic of the village's greatest ANBU agent, a man with a stunning 100% success rate? That he hadn't failed a mission since becoming a Jonin only added to his remarkable reputation. This was the man who had single-handedly taken down Momochi Zabuza, Demon of this Mist, whilst protecting a drunken old bridge builder and his newly minted team of rookie Genin. Who was she to question?
"I…" She managed with some difficulty. "I guess you're right." She grudgingly admitted.
"Glad we could clear that up." Kakashi said in a monotone, as if he was advising her on the color of a dress.
"Hatake-san…" Anko hesitated. "Do you… do you ever, you know, well hate yourself? I mean not just for no reason, but because you did something you just can't forgive yourself?"
Kakashi surprised her, smiling beneath his mask.
"All the time, but that doesn't mean I can't keep going. The village needs me. My team needs me. How can I turn my back on those who rely on me just because of a little self-loathing? At times, it seems as if I can't go on. Then I remember the smiling faces of all the people who live here in the village. If for nothing else, I can go on for their sake. I may not be able to forgive myself on my own account, but I can for their sake. More than that, I'm sure they would forgive me in a heartbeat. What's important is accepting that there are some things you just can't change; especially the past. If I dwelled on every little thing I've done wrong over the years, I'd spend my days sitting in a stupor. Then where would I be? I find the best cure for self-hate is a little retribution on those who were the true cause of the tragedy. Who planned the attack on the village in the first place, Mitarishi-san? It wasn't you, I'm pretty sure. If it was," he said, sounding serious, "then I guarantee you won't walk out of here alive, but somehow I doubt you had anything to do with it."
"No," Anko said quickly, not wanting to risk his wrath, no matter how unlikely, "If I had the chance, I would kill that snake bastard without a moment's hesitation, even if it cost me my own life."
"There, you see?" Kakashi offered kindly. "That's the spirit. The Will of Fire burns brighter inside you than you think, Mitarishi-san. Keep on the way you have and you're sure to find something good. I guarantee it. Put your best foot forward and you'll always find yourself in a better place…"
Anko had followed his advice, and now that was exactly where she was. She intended to keep it that way.
She couldn't believe things had come so far since that day, that it was the beginning of something truly grand. Now fate had come back to bite her in the ass though, so it seemed. The very thing that had heralded their march down the aisle was now laughing at her. Oh, how cruel and cunning the kami could be. But such was life, her life anyway, as it were, and as Kakashi had said to her those many years ago, she could only move forward as best she could. She was determined to do just that.
At that moment a loud bang marked the entry of what she could smell was a very inebriated Kakashi.
"Anko!" He cried happily, quite drunk. "How are you?"
Anko was immediately put on guard. Kakashi never arrived home drunk when he could manage it, and when he did, he was always very sullen. She was constantly brow beating him on the subject. She insisted he was only allowed to get drunk with her. That now seemed like a thing of the past, at least for a while anyway. The booze would have to wait until her condition changed. Meanwhile, there were plenty of other things they could enjoy together.
At the moment, simple pleasures were the furthest thing from her mind. Something was very wrong about this whole situation, and it only heightened her already considerable anxiety about broaching the topic. Something was off, and it wasn't just Kakashi's stumbling gait. Something was eating away at the sharingan-wielder, something so dire that he hadn't even bothered to cover-up his obvious intoxication. In fact, it was possible he was looking for her counsel on the subject, something that in and of itself was altogether alarming. Kakashi tended to solve his problems on his own, and that he had come home so visibly disturbed spoke volumes. He must have had something he urgently needed to tell her too, and that made Anko's resolution just that much harder to follow through with.
Still, she wasn't going let anything as trivial as a drunken husband put her off. This was important.
"Kakashi," she began gravely, "there's something I need to tell you."
"Oh?" He meandered his way to plop down beside her on the couch. "What ish it?"
"Kakashi?" she steeled herself, determined to get it over with as quickly as possible.
She took a deep breath.
Then she took the plunge.
The silence was deafening.
"Not funny." Kakashi said after a moment.
"No, Kakashi. I am pregnant. For real this time."
The silver-haired Jonin turned white as a ghost. Anko was sure, for a second, that he would faint.
"My gods," he spoke in a reverent whisper, "is it true?"
Anko nodded. "It is."
In a burst of seemingly impossible speed Kakashi ripped off his mask and kissed her full on the mouth.
"That's the best news I've had all…" He was so giddy he looked about ready to either dance for joy, or rip her clothes off. Anko would have been happy with either. "I think I've ever had!" He exclaimed, his voice filled with a sort of awe-inspired joy.
If Anko was worried about him before, she was definitely worried about him now.
"Did you hit your head or something?" She asked, covertly looking for any sign of damage. This was just so unlike him.
He waved the question off. "No, no… well yes, but no. Anyway, this is just great, a child, our child! I don't think…." He struggled for words he seldom had occasion to use. "I don't think I've ever felt happier or more excited in my life than I do right now. Oh, Anko," He sighed, leaning in close and whispering in her ear. "You are a wonder, simply a wonder. I hope it's a girl. I hope she looks just like you."
Anko snorted. "Let's hope not… anyway I'm assuming from your reaction that you want me to keep it?"
"Of course!" He cried, almost too loudly. "How could I possibly want anything else?"
Anko wrinkled her nose. "Well I don't know, I just thought… well, that maybe you might have an aversion to this kind of thing." It was a statement, not a question.
Truthfully Kakashi had his reservations about being a father. Yet now was not the time to discuss them with his wife. His reaction baffled him even as he felt the joy rising in his heart. In spite of the darkness descending like a storm on Konoha there was hope for him in the form of his unborn child. Given everything else he took that hope and latched onto it like a dying man. He was so high on alchohal and the news that his next words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them.
"No. In fact, I couldn't think of anything that could ruin this moment…" He trailed off, as if he had just thought of something that had; indeed that something had occupied his mind for the last several hours. He breathed heavily for a moment, kissing her throat, then moved up for another deep and lasting kiss. When they broke apart, Anko could see the worry etched into his brow. "Anko, we need to talk."
"What?" She asked. "About the baby?"
"No… about the future of the village: about Naruto."
She nearly sighed in relief. She had been expecting this ever since she got wind that Naruto had been detained by Danzo and his ROOT. She knew that sooner or later Kakashi would come home to talk to her about it. What had her puzzled was that he needed to come home stumbling drunk in order to discuss it.
From what she had heard, there was little-to-no evidence pointing to the young Kyuubi-container's involvement in the whole business. She had thought Kakashi would come back and have a good laugh with her about the ridiculous turn of events that had led to the Uzumaki's detention. Though nothing was ever so cut-and-dry when someone as devious as Danzo was involved, she was certain the whole thing would blow over in a couple of days. That her husband had needed to get plastered, and moreover, that he now had on his serious-face, was very disturbing.
"What about it?" She asked, doing her best to sound unconcerned.
"Well…" Kakashi was obviously working to form complete sentences. "It's just that I have this feeling."
Anko felt like smacking him. "A feeling? You got wasted over a feeling?"
He waved his arms frantically, trying to avert her rage. "Yes, but not just any feeling. It's like the times I got a gut instinct so strong that I just acted without thinking. I've told you the stories. I can't tell you how many times that instinct has saved me. You know the truth of this… you even saw it in action that one time at the border. This is more than that. It's the most intense I've ever felt it. Something is about to go seriously wrong Anko, and I don't know if I'll be able to stop it this time."
She weighed his words carefully. It was true Kakashi had an unbelievable sixth sense. What he said wasn't to be taken lightly.
"So you had the feeling." She acknowledged. "What is it you think is going to happen?"
"Well… I've had a sort of… premonition."
This was also something she was familiar with. Kakashi had an uncanny ability to predict events well before they happened.
"What was it?" She realized she was afraid to hear the answer.
"Anko," he uttered gravely, taking her hand in his tender grasp, "I've had a feeling… that somehow, beyond a doubt, Naruto isn't going to survive this."
"What do you mean survive? It's not like Danzo could have him executed. It would be as good as signing his own death warrant."
"I know… but I just know it… I feel it with every fiber of my being. Naruto is going to die. Soon."
Anko was more unsettled by his words than she thought she should have been. Something about the way he said it made it seem a certainty.
"So what are we going to do about it?"
Kakashi groaned, clutching his head. "That's the problem. I think it's my fault."
Anko sniffed. "What about all the times you told me not to dwell on mistakes?"
"You don't understand!" He shouted, startling her. "I was the one who turned him in!"
Anko was torn between strangling him to death on the spot, or castrating him first, then strangling him to death.
"It's more complicated than that. I was given instructions… at least I think I was. It was something Shikamaru did before he died."
He continued to explain the mystery of the chess game at the crime scene, as well as his various contacts with Kurenai. He continued to tell her of the plan Kurenai had come forward with, and the token she had given him: the wooden rook, given to her by a mysterious stranger that was somehow connected to the whole scheme. It was a sign that the stranger had somehow been working for Shikamaru. If the Nara had indeed hatched a plan before his untimely demise, it was possible there was a greater purpose to Kakashi turning in Naruto and Hinata. As it stood, he was still unsure about the many factors outside his scope. He finished by describing the debrief he and Kurnai had been given personally by Danzo. The old war-hawk had taken great pride in the action one of his top ANBU had taken, and made a big to-do about congratulating them both on the contribution they had just made to the village by capturing a suspect in the assignation of the Rokudaime. Kakashi had left feeling sick to his stomach, thus the bender he had just returned from. He needed to drown Danzo's sincere thanks out with as much sake as possible.
"And that about sums it up." He finished.
"So… you think that this… plan could work?" Anko questioned seriously.
"Yes… but the one thing that wasn't factored in was Hinata. I'm sure she's not going to let this kind of thing pass without her own personal intervention. Naruto saved her life, several times, and there's no way she's going to stand aside while he is killed."
"And you're sure about this feeling of yours?"
"Yes… and that was just part of my premonition…" He trailed off, unwilling to finish the statement.
"Well, what was the rest of it?"
Kakashi looked at her, an expression of horrified resignation on his face.
"I saw Hinata… walking alone in the darkness, a darkness so complete, you couldn't see your own nose."
"You mean you had a vision?"
Anko finally understood why he had been so reluctant to come forward with this.
"You've never had a vision before. How did it happen?"
Kakashi gestured to the left-front pocket of his flak jacket.
"I was polishing up the gold watch Sarutobi gave me. You know, the one my father had wanted me to have, and I suddenly heard this… voice. I couldn't make out the words, but a moment later the vision hit me harder than anything I've ever felt or experienced before with my gut instinct. I somehow knew that what I was seeing was a vision of something that will happen."
"What could it possibly mean?"
"I don't know, An-chan, but it can't be anything good."
She reached forward to comfort him, but he pulled away from the embrace, a stern expression marking his features.
"I need to go. The council is about to start. I have to be there."
Anko knew the meeting he referred to would cover a number of very important things, including, but not limited to, the fate of one Uzumaki Naruto.
"I understand…" He was already heading out the door. "Kakashi… I love you."
He gave her one last glance: a glance that said everything.