This story takes place after the fight with Deidara and Sasori and directly before the Sora filler story arc according to the anime. Kakashi, after taking Deidara's arms off with his new sharingan technique, is still in the hospital while Naruto suffers from violent nightmares.
This is an AU and diverges from canon.
Who decides to allow a man to care for three children that do not belong to him. Who then decides, after he has lost one of those precious little ones, that he may continue to care for the surviving two? Are we ninja destined to loses every thing we hold dear? I loved that child more than all the children in the world. As a ninja I am not allowed to cry for him. Shall I cry for the two who have yet to die?
They will not cry for them selves.
Minato- Third Great Shinobi World War
Night had enveloped the village hidden in the leaves and a chilly breeze was rolling through the streets. Dried and dead brown leaves tapped along the walls and roofs of the buildings. One leaf broke away from the others and tumbled unceremoniously into a dimly lit window. It tangled in the thin curtains before falling to the white polished floor.
Everything was white. The walls were white and the ceiling was white. The bed was white and the sheets were white and they tangled and writhed with the form underneath them. Gray hair fell in damp clumps over dim eyes.
Kakashi shifted painfully in his alabaster prison. His body was only now coming out of the shock it was subjected to from the use of the Sharingan, and every cell in his body was alive with heat and pain and chills and aches. Desperately he tried to distract himself from his situation with one of his books.
From between the faded, yellowed covers was a world bright and vibrant, full of action and romance. When he felt well, Kakashi could easily slip into the role of the dashing lead character who was a spy and a gentleman. 'Kashiwa', the handsome and dashing hero, never failed a mission and all the women he met fell madly in love with him.
The book, propped on his lap, was open to a particularly vivid kaleidoscope of events. However, Kakashi's eyes could only see the white of the walls in front of him.
Pain was racing down his spine like chidori from his fingertips. He took a sharp breath in and rolled his shoulders before lowering his head and exhaling; the pain changed direction and spread to his ribs, hips and legs. Gritting his teeth against the cramps, Kakashi stretched. The movement flattened his lap and his book, with its picturesque white beach and scantily clad women, fell to the floor with a dull thud.
He grunted with irritation and leaned over to see where it had landed. It was not too far away; if he stretched and was careful he wouldn't fall out of bed. As it was, he wasn't sure he'd be able to get back into bed, and he knew Tsunade would have a fit if she found him on the floor with one of Jaraiya's books. Sakura would probably also have a fit, but as her teacher Kakashi outranked her and would have some leverage to cut her off if she began to rant. As he looked at his book he wondered if the risk was worth it.
Risk. His whole life revolved around risk. Like the main character in the book, his life was filled with tough decisions and even tougher enemies. Unlike the book, Kakashi made mistakes in choosing which course of action he would take. The consequences always ranged from a disaster to outright deadly situations.
Maybe that's why he read the books. Jaraiya painted such a wonderfully glamorous world that it was easy to lose oneself in the story. It was even easier to place yourself in the cast of the hero, who always got the bad guy, the girl, and the fame without getting hurt or heartbroken.
Taking a short breath, Kakashi rolled and reached for the sprawled hardback. It was only an inch from his fingertips when pain rushed back through his spine and shoulders. He bit back a moan and hung, half on the bed and half off, waiting for this round of agony to subside. Hazy as his vision was, he could still see his book. Fingers danced over the hard cover and for a moment he wondered if they were his; but his fingers were gripping the sheets and keeping him from falling all the way to the floor. The book was lifted and a steady, warm hand pulled him back up to the bed.
"Kakashi-sensei." Naruto's voice was quiet and tinted with gentle reproof.
He heard the book set on the night stand and took a breath. Nothing but disappointment waited on the warm white sands of the last chapter any way. The problem with his books, the only problem with Come Come Paradise, was that the one woman Kashiwa wanted the most was always out of reach. She was as elusive as a ghost in the dark.
He felt the same warm fingers wrap around his own trembling shoulders and guide him back to bed.
"Naruto." He forced a smile despite the lingering pain. "This is a surprise. It's very late, you should be asleep."
Naruto slowly let go of the throbbing shoulder and stepped back. "So should you."
Kakashi frowned under his mask but did not let it show in his eyes. Just as elusive as the girl in the book was Kakashi's indefinable relationship with Naruto. He'd been training the young blond for a number of years now, discounting the three when he was traveling with Jaraiya, and he still wasn't sure how to treat him when they weren't on a mission or training.
Long ago Kakashi had realized Naruto was focused almost single-mindedly on his dream of becoming Hokage. While Naruto was kind and genuinely interested in the wellbeing of others, his one track mind limited his conversational skills and social habits. He made up for his faults by his inexhaustible energy and dedication to training.
Very little ever seemed to break his joyful steadfastness over his life's mission. Even when confronted with the memory of his missing teammate, Sauske, the blond was an explosive mix of energy and determination. Now as Kakashi studied his student, however, the energy was gone. No joy could be found in Naruto's face and he looked drained and withdrawn. The sight did not sit well with Kakashi and he forced himself to sit up straight in spite of the cramps rolling through his back and sides.
"Why are you here?" He asked bluntly hopping to draw the matter out quickly.
Naruto glanced away and hesitated. His eyes were shadowed from the soft lamp light, but Kakashi could still see that they were unfocused and bloodshot. "I need to know about the seal." He whispered hoarsely.
The words, soft as they were, scraped at Kakashi's mind like metal against bone. "The seal?"
"I. . ." Naruto sighed. "I nearly killed the Pervy-sage." The confession was uttered in a cold flat tone, and the blue eyes turned back to the light, dark and intense.
"No." Kakashi found himself feeling a small roll of anger, though he wasn't sure where it was coming from. "It wasn't you, Naruto."
The blond frowned. "I get angry." He sagged a bit. "When I do, the fox. . ." He shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut.
Kakashi studied his student silently for a long moment. Naruto was not one to overly reflect on his actions. Normally if something happened he simply resolved to train to become stronger and left the worry and the analysis to others. Now there was a darkness lingering over him that seemed to be far deeper than Kakashi thought Naruto was capable of. It was unnerving and palpable. What was worse was that it was in the middle of the night, meaning Naruto had to have been mulling his thoughts over for several hours.
"You simply must become stronger." Kakashi offered. In the past this usually calmed his student, allowing whatever was bothering him to fade. When Naruto glanced away Kakashi added, hopefully, "And learn to keep your cool."
"But if the seal is becoming weak, then no matter how cool I am he'll attack everyone all over again." The words were so thick and dark that it chilled the pain from Kakashi's bones.
"Why are you upset about this now?" He asked slowly, still at a loss as to where this new reflective Naruto was coming from.
"I dream." The boy said simply.
"You dream?" Kakashi asked. "Of what?"
Naruto stepped back and a flicker of fear crossed his face. "I never used to have such terrible nightmares. I'd dream about people hating me or trying to beat me up, but that was when I was little. Then Iruka was kind to me and only Sasuke..." He trailed off and looked away.
"You dream of Sasuke?"
"No." Again his voice was a whisper; as if he was afraid someone other than Kakashi would hear him. "Not since the fox came out last time." He glanced down and Kakashi could see the dark rings under his eyes. Rings like Gaara had, tortured and sleepless. Kakashi turned his eyes away to the book sitting on the night stand.
"What do you dream about?" He knew he didn't want to hear the answer, but he could not ignore Naruto. He could not ignore the pain in those blue eyes. He could not ignore that this could only be another symptom of the weakening seal. There was silence for a very long time before Naruto managed to speak.
"He shows me his memories." The words hung thick in the air for several moments before Kakashi could look back up at his student.
"Naruto I don't..."
"I can't sleep." He said flatly, cutting Kakashi's sentence off.
"No sooner do I close my eyes then I see people getting killed. I see MY HANDS killing them!" He shuddered and held still and quiet for a moment with his eyes closed. Memories were clearly flashing through his mind even now. "I just. . . I'm so tired. But I see Jiraiya-sensei; I see what kyuubi did to him. I see what he did to the village. I beg him to stop but..." He bit the sentence off there with another shudder.
"But what?" Kakashi prompted.
"He laughs at me when he shows me those things." Naruto rubbed his face and took a deep, trembling breath. "I'm going to go crazy." As if to illustrate the statement Kakashi felt a small shift in the younger Ninja's chakra. "Crazy."
Kakashi's pain seemed to numb and become distant, and he had to force himself to breathe for a moment. The energy rolling off of Naruto was a slow, sluggish darkness that he could feel with every fiber of his being. It was growing more and more every moment, like the slow spreading of mold. He'd felt this rolling dark energy before and it caused him extreme discomfort whenever he encountered it. When in ANBU he'd felt it in mild forms here and there among the members, but the only time he'd felt it this strong was when...
Kakashi gave his head a small shake to clear himself of the feeling of numbness. He had to think, to analyze the situation. He had to focus on the person in front of him right now. The fox clearly was making its way into Naruto's mind, if not the waking one then certainly the unconscious one. With the seal growing weaker and weaker every time Naruto lost control, it was hard to say how long it would last. With every high risk mission Naruto took, he had a chance of losing his cool, yet if they denied him a mission he may well set out on his own anyway.
Kakashi realized a lot of the training they did was to distract Naruto from missions he could never be part of. A lot of the missions they went on they went on because Naruto insisted he go. This cycle was solely to keep the fox from enemy hands, but if the fox got loose then all of their careful handling of Naruto would be for naught. Besides wanting to be Hokage, Naruto was obsessed with bringing back his missing teammate, Sasuke. He was blaming himself, something Kakashi understood all too well, for the other student's departure. They had fallen into the pitfalls of rivalry and in the end a fight had erupted that nearly killed Naruto.
While Kakashi could understand that to lose a team mate was more painful than any physical torture that could be forced upon a person, he also knew that if they did not tread carefully, Naruto would be destroyed by his own ambitions. Kakashi had tried to reach the youth, but failed. He now doubted that Sasuke would ever return to the village he hated. But unlike Kakashi, Naruto hoped to bring Sasuke back. It was that hope mixed with suffocating guilt that fed the obsession.
It was that obsession that drove Naruto to go hell bent on every mission he could find that had any trace of Sasuke in it. It was that obsession that Kakashi now found himself facing every time they were together. It had blinded Naruto to the realities around him, and to his own limitations and to the dangers that followed him. It was all-consuming and now the only thing that could break the singular focus of the cheerful and headstrong youth was the cursed monster locked away inside of him.
If at all possible Kakashi knew the fox would drive Naruto mad to force him to release the seal. It was a terrifying thought.
"Can you sleep at all?" He asked, forcing his voice to remain calm and free of the desperation and fear that was growing inside.
"Some, but I can't stand it." Naruto wilted, a visible testament to the horrors he was seeing every night. The dark chakra was almost suffocating. "I sleep, maybe for an hour or so, and then the dreams come." He looked smaller, shrunken in on himself, vulnerable. It pained Kakashi more than the cramps racing through him, and he felt a mix of guilt and anger over the obsessions that had so driven Naruto.
After all, Naruto wasn't the only one obsessed with bringing Sasuke back. Kakashi had lost people, dear people, and losing Sasuke was like watching his past all over again. Only Sasuke wasn't dead and in a small way, Kakashi realized, if they could bring Sasuke back he had hoped that he could find some peace from his own mistakes. But now, only all too late, did the reality of his endeavor hit him.
It was partly his fault the seal was dissolving and the fox was eating way at Naruto's mind. It was his fault Naruto had nearly been killed. He had been too uncaring, too trusting that things would work themselves out; too distant. "Stay with me tonight." He said quickly, silently resolving to protect Naruto this time.
Naruto looked up, confused and somewhat abashed. "What, here?"
"I'll wake you up if you look like you are having a nightmare and you can get some sleep." He explained quickly. Naruto's ninja way was to keep his promises. He'd promised to bring Sasuke back. He'd promised to become Hokage. He couldn't keep those promises if he was destroyed by the fox.
Naruto glanced back at the bed behind him. "But what will Granny Tsunade say? If she finds out what's happening I'll never be let out of the village again." Sorrow flickered over his face.
"She will have to know." Kakashi said slowly, fearful of frightening away his student. "This is a very dangerous situation."
"I know." He whispered. "But if I can't go on missions. . ." He shook his head and took a deep, trembling breath.
The images had to be horrifying to sap all the joy from his student.
"Lay down on the other bed." Kakashi urged. "Sleep tonight and tomorrow we'll try to plan out a course of action."
"You'll wake me up?" He was pleading, even if his voice was flat and in that cold half-whisper.
"I will. I will wake you at the first sign of a nightmare." And he meant it. Kakashi would protect Naruto from the Fox if he could; if only for one night.
Naruto nodded and stepped over to sit on the adjacent bed. "Promise?"
The dreams had to be hell.
Naruto pulled off his shirt. Next he peeled off his shoes with a tired grunt.
"Kakashi-sensei?" His eyes were already sliding closed.
"Yes?" Kakashi watched him keenly; his whole body seemed to be thin and pale.
"Please... Please don't let me dream... because I know what I'll find..."
"You won't dream tonight. I promise." He'd keep it. He had to.
Naruto nodded and a small flicker of a half smile showed. He rolled on to his side and pulled his feet up. "Thank you." He mumbled and his eyes slid completely closed. His breathing slowly leveled out and soon Kakashi knew he was asleep.
Kakashi watched him for several minutes, observing the gaunt and thin look to the usually unstoppable and unpredictable ninja. Slowly it dawned on the Copy ninja that Naruto was entrusting his sanity to him. All of the sudden Kakashi wished he'd picked someone else. Someone who didn't have the habit of losing people. He was no storybook hero.
Reaching over, he picked up the book from the night stand and opened it up to the sandy white beaches. This hero was always winning his fights and finishing his missions. But the one thing he wanted most was never within his reach. Closing the book Kakashi realized he wanted something too. He wanted to know he could protect someone and never lose them. He wanted to have just one person who would always be there, no matter what.
He'd lost Sasuke, just as he'd lost so many others.
"Sleep well." He whispered as he turned out the lights.
Hope for Sasuke would never die completely, but he had no faith in the runaway ninja any more. Revenge had robbed the Uchiha of compassion and loyalty. Even if the dark haired student returned, Kakashi could never hope to reach him as he was.
He could believe in the dreams and hopes of Naruto, however, and one day that elusive goal of saving just one person may be within his reach.
I want to thank Orodruin for beta reading this chapter (Though that's all of the beta reading I've had so forgive the rest of this story's mistakes) and then sending to to me! Because of that, Orodruin, this chapter is dedicated to you!
Kashiwa means Oak, and I thought it would work well for the 'Come Come Paradise' main character's name. It only occurred to me once I wrote it out that it looked and sounded like Kakashi. So maybe it's doublly fitting?