Author's Note: This is my entry for the Summer of Love contest on the KakaSaku LJ community. The task was to adapt a movie from between 1920 and 1969. I have chosen the 1965 film Doctor Zhivago, based on the book by Boris Pasternak. The film was directed by David Lean and starred Omar Sharif (Zhivago) and Julie Christie (Lara). Given the time restraint of the contest (one month) and the word limit (35,000, which I DO make, despite FFN's calculations), it is a rather loose adaptation and could have been better tweaked, but I chose to end it in time for the contest rather than spend more time working on it.
If you haven't seen the movie, you can still understand the story. However, if you plan on seeing it and don't want the movie spoiled, I respect that!
I would like to thank several people for helping this story happen: AnimeFreak688, Law, Alifestylechoice, Caitiy, and above all nimblnymph, for their time and attention. It could not have happened without you guys! Also, thanks to anyone else who just listened to me talk about it a lot!
The Private Life is Dead
"The private life is dead— for a man of any manhood."
- Strelnikov (Tom Courtenay)
Sai stood stone still.
The dim glow of the moonlight intruded on his solitude. It sifted in through the window like smoke, worming its way through the cracks in the shutters. His office was covered in an ethereal dusting of light, broken only by his solid figure, which blocked a broad shaft of the invasive illumination.
A thick silence hung in the air like humidity. It dragged beads of sweat down Sai's moonwashed skin, soaking him in anticipation. A clock ticked invisibly on the wall, measuring each wasted second.
Tardiness always irked him, but today it was unbearable. On the surface, of course, he appeared as smooth as ever, but his heart was racing. He had come to understand that this was a reaction to anticipation. He was accustomed to experiencing it in battle, but there was no enemy here today— only an appointment.
He had a right to be annoyed. They had arranged this meeting, after all. But maybe she wouldn't come?
Nothing was on time these days, though. The village was in a time of chaos. It was a positive kind of chaos, but the dissolution of a decades-old system, while inevitable for years, was still hard to deal with.
Although the delay was understandable, Sai found that knowing there was a logical reason for it was actually not improving his anxiety. As firmly as he clung to the logic, he couldn't stop his mind from galloping off in less pleasant directions.
Sai was actually happy that things in Konoha were changing. (Over time he had learned to recognize happiness, although he was still far from understanding it.) Root had never meant to be on top; in its very name it was meant to be a foundation for Konoha, giving it support from underground. Its ways were not suited to the upfront running of a city. Naturally Sai had never voiced such an opinion during Root's time in power, but he had sensed it for a long time now.
Should I have spoken up, though? he questioned himself. Uncertainty tickled his guilty heart. He imagined he could hear its fiendish laughter at his misfortune, torturing him with all of these questions. Should he have done more? Maybe. Especially when…
He gulped. Today was quiet. His days were not normally so quiet.
Sai had never directly participated in one of the most abominable of the Root practices: the recruitment of children. Now, however, it was his job to sort through these children. Some of them had been orphans, but others had been seized from their homes to serve Danzou. Their original identities had been erased from the official records, but it was the hope that Sai, with his own experience as a "reformed" Root youth, could help rediscover these children.
But should he have done more?
He had been asked to do more. Years ago now.
Was it too late? Should he even be bothering?
But these were not the questions he needed to be asking himself. Should he even be bothering… He could have kicked himself. Of course he should be. It was his duty to extract backgrounds from these children, for one thing. And this particular child was someone he owed a special…
The right question struck Sai like lightning.
Will saying sorry be enough?
A sharp rap on the door shattered the silence, gripping Sai's thoughts and jarring them back into the reality of the room. The continued knocks on the door matched perfectly the thudding of his own racing heart as he flicked the light switch beside him. He could see the silhouette of his visitor now. The fuzzy outline in the window of his door was so calm and still, contradicting the way his heart screamed. He wondered briefly, as he lifted his clipboard from the table, if all people felt regret so sharply, or if his pain was so great because he was such a newcomer to feeling.
The pounding ceased and a ringing silence was left. Sai was compelled to fill it. "Come in," he ordered.
Tentatively, the door was pushed open. Sai watched unflinchingly as a girl entered the room.
She stood perfectly still as he scrutinized her appearance. The first thing he noticed was a black strap that cut diagonally across her torso; the handle of a sword peeked over her shoulder.
Interesting, he noted. He peered down at his clipboard.
Agent C00444. Affinity: Lightning. Genjutsu: Lv. 4. Ninjutsu: Lv. 4. Taijutsu: Lv. 3. Approx. 16 yrs old. Ah, now there was one that was actually useful in identifying her. He glanced up to confirm. She was a skinny teenager, self-consciously favoring one side by putting her weight on her left foot.
So far, so good. Sai checked off a point on his mental list.
Her eyes were dark enough gray to be black. Carnation pink hair touched her shoulders; the color was so soft in contrast to the stiff gray clothes she wore. The hair was tied back by the garment that had led Sai to notice her in the first place: a bottle-green bandana. Members of Root were not allowed to wear something so unique. It must have been kept hidden for years.
She met his gaze evenly. He was surprised; most Root children would not dare to look a superior in the eye like that. Perhaps she was already snapping out of her years of indoctrination. Sai fought back a smile. If this girl were who he thought she was, her resilience wouldn't be that surprising.
Finished with his observations, Sai addressed her. "I am Sai." He slipped his hands into the pockets of his black coat. "Sit down."
The girl obediently sat at the metal card table in the middle of the office. Sai took a seat on her left, his eyes never leaving her face.
"What is your name?" he asked her.
The girl blinked. "I do not have a name, sir," she answered mechanically. Sai recognized the cadence perfectly; it was the answer that all Root members had to memorize. But this girl must have been five years old when she was taken; surely she could remember what her name had been.
Sai leaned forward. "Root is done. You can tell me your real name now."
The girl's eyes darted fearfully to the side. Sai waited patiently. Finally, she swallowed and answered, "Uchiha Yousei, sir."
That name was very familiar to Sai. He remembered a woman screaming it down the halls of Root, and then seeing the same woman's face on an arrest warrant nailed to a post.
"Yousei," he repeated. The girl looked uncomfortable with him using the name; it had been years since anyone had called her by it. He was impressed that she had clung to it for so long in silence. "I am here to help you get back to your family. You had a family, didn't you?"
No response. Restraining a sigh, Sai asked, "Do you remember your father?"
Yousei stared at the table, her eyes wide and fearful. "No, sir."
"But your mother?"
Sai nodded. "Good. What did she look like?"
The girl remained mute.
"Did she look like you?" Sai pressed.
Offering a shrug, Yousei bit her lip. Sai was not convinced. "Did she have pink hair, like yours?"
Dark eyes darted up to meet his. "Yes, sir."
Sai leaned back in his chair. "Good. You're doing very good. Now, tell me… Uchiha is your family name?"
"Do you know anything about that name, Yousei?"
Her soft pink lips parted as if she were about to answer, but she seemed to second-guess herself, clamping her mouth shut again. "Go on," Sai encouraged. "You won't get into trouble."
This girl was so beautiful in such a familiar way. It was no wonder she had caught Sai's attention. Her eyes fluttered to the side, reluctance coupled with resignation reflected in them as she told him, "The Uchiha family was a disgrace to Konoha. They were a family of traitors."
"Where did you learn that?" he asked, trying to soften his interrogative tone.
Sai smiled. This seemed to frighten the girl, and he mentally berated himself: Nobody had ever liked his smiles. "That they do," he agreed. "Have you heard anything about your father?"
She shook her head. Sai nodded. "That's just as well, then," he said pleasantly. "Because Uchiha Sasuke is not your father."
Her eyes widened into frightened, cloudy orbs. Silence rang in the room.
"You know who my father is?" she asked. Her voice was surprisingly calm.
Sai narrowed his eyes into coal-black slits that cut across his pale face. "For someone so scared, your words are very measured." She looked alarmed, her face suddenly ashen. "You display good control over your emotions. Of course, I would expect nothing less of you. You were raised in Root, after all." He leaned forward, eyeing her closely. "But you weren't born there."
Yousei scowled. "Don't play games with me!" she snapped.
This startling display of defiance threw Sai off. He cocked his head slightly to the side, looking at Yousei as if for the first time. "You are very much like your mother," he remarked. "Tell me, do you remember how you came to be lost?"
The girl was tense. "I've forgotten."
Abruptly standing, Sai scraped the chair across the floor and moved to the window. The shades were drawn, but his eyes bored into them. "Okay then," he said. "Let me tell you."
Kakashi released a soft sigh of satisfaction. Running his tongue over his lips to savor the last drops of sake, he placed the cup down on the wooden table.
What a relief. He doubted he could have handled much more of that reception, what with all of those simpering dignitaries— the formality of it all was stifling. Not to mention that he had needed to endure the tense jokes from his friends who were all pretending that this wasn't so forced and fake as they all knew it to be. Being a shinobi trained in the arts of deception, Kakashi had been able to put on as good a mask as the rest of them — the best, as the circumstances demanded — but it had still been exhausting. After all, who would have known that he would have to employ his best act yet at his own wedding?
He slid his gaze over to the woman standing nervously across the room from him. There was no question that his wife was pretty. Right now, her hair was done up in a complicated composition of ringlets and triangles that Kakashi couldn't even begin to understand, but he had caught a glimpse of it down and knew that it fell down her back in a dark brown sheet. Wide black eyes nervously avoided his gaze, standing out against her powdered face. She was not, he had gathered, a timid person, but anyone would be nervous in such an uncomfortable situation as this. Her elaborate wedding costume was perfectly arranged by the line of women who had followed her everywhere before the wedding. Now they were all gone, already on their way back home to Rain Country.
Her name was Ojou Yousei. As the daughter of the recently instated Rain Country daimyou, she had probably had a few months to grow accustomed to the parade of ladies in waiting that came with the position. Her new life in Konoha would include no such perks. Of course her status would still be respected, but there was really only one thing anyone here expected of her: To be little more than a glorified breeding horse.
Kakashi tipped the bottle of sake in her direction. "Would you like a drink?"
Hesitant only for a moment, she nodded enthusiastically. He poured the clear liquid into a small porcelain cup, decorated with the most intricate pale pink designs and absent of a single imperfection. The entire wedding had been funded by her father, who had no doubt wanted to impress his new Konoha allies.
"Thank you," Yousei murmured when Kakashi handed her the cup.
Kakashi offered a tight smile as she took a sip. "You'd best enjoy alcohol while you still can."
Her blush showed through her faded make-up, but he could see a wry smile curling her mouth as she set her cup down. "I'm afraid my figure might not be ideal for child-bearing," she admitted, gesturing down at herself. Kakashi followed her movement, but honestly he had no idea what she might look like underneath those layers of folded silk.
But then, he'd be finding out eventually, wouldn't he? The whole idea was that they were supposed to have children together, after all. There was really only one way to go about completing that objective.
"Let's sit," Kakashi said, pointing at the chairs next to the table. She seemed surprised that he was waiting for her to sit first. He was used to letting the lady seat herself first, but perhaps where she came from the woman was supposed to defer to the man by waiting for him to sit? It seemed that they had different ideas about politeness and the formalities of interaction.
The whole thing suddenly seemed so silly to Kakashi. He had just gotten married to a woman he did not know from a country he had never liked under the orders of a man he could not stand. With a sigh, he slumped into the chair across from Yousei and poured himself another cup of sake. Raising it to his lips, he observed her again over the rim. The way he had unceremoniously deposited himself into the chair must have been the justification she needed to stop pretending she wanted to keep paying attention to him; she was now staring rather forlornly at the wooden wall. Kakashi didn't blame her; he, too, had so many thoughts distracting him from the fact that he was supposed to consider this woman his wife now.
Rain Country had gone through yet another radical political shift after the war. The people had been shocked and horrified to find out that their supposed god and his angel were international criminals bent on world domination. Never mind that Konan had hoped to make amends with Konoha via Naruto; she was tracked down and hunted by her own people towards the end of the war, and the political pendulum had swung violently. The leaders of the old rebel cause were disgraced. Overwhelming popular support had pushed to power supporters of Hanzou's old regime. Now it was as if things had never changed.
This new leadership in Amegakure suited Konoha's new interests well: For while Konoha had emerged as a victor of the Fourth Shinobi War, the village had fallen apart. Tsunade was dead, as were so many of her old supporters, so Danzou stepped in take the reins. Danzou's Konoha was a completely different place than the warm home that Kakashi remembered. It was militaristic and strict, with the only areas that got adequate funding being reconstruction, R&D and ANBU. The organization had been swelling under Danzou, who pumped as much money into it as he could spare. At the top were the members of the original Root, higher in rank than all but the Hokage.
But Danzou had also taken it upon himself to interfere in the personal lives of his shinobi. "For the sake of the village", he had decided to arrange unions for any unmarried ninja with considerable talent. As one of the most powerful (and most unattached) jounin of the village, Kakashi had been chosen right away for this matchmaking scheme.
And now here he was. He closed his eye, massaging the bridge of his nose. "Should we go look at our new house?"
Yousei gave a small sigh. "Yes." Her clothes rustled noisily as she stood, trying not to derail the intricately designed hair towering above her. She must have noticed the amusement that played across his face, because she turned up her nose and sniffed, "I'd like to see you try to balance this on your head."
She stalked past him, leading the way out of the room.
Red and white banners flapped furiously in the strong summer wind. Standing high up on the platform, Danzou had to clamp a hand over his wide-brimmed hat to keep it from flying away.
Sakura secretly wished it would. Wouldn't that make the whole situation better? That old lunatic hobbling around, chasing after a hat he had never deserved? A smirk worked its way through today's permanent frown. She squinted up at Danzou from the ground, cupping a hand around her eyes to block out the sun. She could just make him out, his stooping posture in stark contrast to the young man standing tall beside him. Sasuke's dark hair pierced the bright blue sky like a jagged black scar.
Suddenly mirthless, Sakura scowled. Of all the people who should be standing at the Hokage's right side on top of the tower, Sasuke was the last. Dead, dead last. He had been nothing more than a traitor. Sakura had always been holding out hope that he would come back to the village, but now when he did return, it was only to snub his teammates and offer his allegiances to Danzou? It made Sakura sick.
It was supposed to be Naruto up there. He had performed so spectacularly in the war— that is, until an unfortunate incident. Killer Bee's attempts to teach Naruto how to control his tailed beast had been rushed because of the immediate need for the jichuurikis' participation in the war. Consequently, while Naruto had contributed magnificently to the allies' eventual win, towards the end of the war he had nearly lost control against Madara. The enigmatic Uchiha was so adept at seducing the Kyuubi that it had nearly broken out of Naruto. Naruto eventually won out with the help of Danzou himself (who, they found out, possessed some of the First Hokage's genes thanks to Orochimaru and could help subdue the demon), but the damage was done. People still admired what Naruto had done to help them so many times, but their old fear was back. Naruto was too volatile, too loose of a cannon to truly trust and keep around the village. Not to mention he was only sixteen— the older he got, the more powerful he would grow, and the more unpredictable his demonic outbursts might become.
Knowing that Naruto had been a strong contender for the Hokage position and would no doubt perpetuate the same wishy-washy approach to governing modeled by his predecessors, Danzou took advantage of this renewed fear held by the people of Konoha. At a time when they were rebuilding their city from rubble, he said, the last thing they needed was an unstable jinchuuriki. Naruto's dangers were exaggerated, his contributions downplayed, and while he was never outright labeled as an enemy, popular opinion turned against him. An angry mob, shinobi and civilian alike, had gathered one day to run him out of the city. Naruto hadn't had the heart to try to fight them back, so he had escaped.
It had been one of the worst days of Sakura's life. Naruto had been her anchor to hope, but now their team was more broken than ever. Who was left? Sai? Kakashi? Since Naruto left, she had not spoken to either of them. Sai was too busy transforming the country with Root, and Kakashi had gotten married of all things. Arranged, of course, as Danzou had added "matchmaker" to his long list of titles, but it was no doubt still keeping Kakashi occupied. While she could surely find a confidant in them, what use was there anyway in raging against the injustice of Naruto's exile? There was nothing any of them could do, nor anything they could say to comfort her.
And then there was Sasuke. Sometime during the final battle with Madara, Sasuke had disappeared. Several months later, once things had settled down again, he had collapsed at the village gates and handed himself over willingly to the authorities. Root had kept him in custody for a few weeks, presumably for a round of interrogation; everyone was convinced that finally, at least some justice would be served. Sakura had been more conflicted than ever; without Naruto, her conviction to "rescue Sasuke" had been dampened, especially when everyone around her was grumbling that it was about damn time.
To everyone's shock, Sasuke had been released. Details had been posted on the village bulletin next to the announcement for today's ceremony: Sasuke had actually helped to weaken Madara for Konoha and would return peacefully to the village ranks on the condition that his brother's name was cleared. In the time since that announcement had been made, Sasuke had made no attempt to contact Sakura. Presumably he didn't consider it important enough. After all, hadn't he once admitted that he only kept her team alive on a whim?
"Citizens of Konoha!" Danzou's voice warbled across the gathered crowd, fighting for dominance with the wind. Sakura was jarred out of her consuming thoughts. "Today is a momentous day in our village's history. Today, the office of Hokage is issuing a formal apology to Uchiha Sasuke!"
Some half-hearted clapping broke out. No one dared to stubbornly refuse to applaud, but that didn't mean they had to seem happy about it. Danzou couldn't arrest them for looking sour.
Sasuke remained stoic as Danzou turned towards him. "Uchiha Sasuke, you have been misjudged by the previous regime. While desertion is never truly the best path, you did what you felt you had to in the face of an administration that you found weak. You were right to observe that the reign of my predecessor was damaged by her inability to see past emotional clouds and rule with an iron fist."
Sakura didn't know whether to swear, laugh or cry. This was all wrong. Sasuke was supposed to hate Danzou. Hadn't he vowed to kill the elders to avenge Itachi? Wasn't Danzou his sworn enemy? And Sasuke leaving the village because he found Tsunade a weak leader was ludicrous. Tsunade hadn't had anything to do with it— it had been because Sasuke was a revenge-crazed maniac. Surely there was no one who was swallowing Danzou's pompous bullshit.
Yet in spite of her anger, she hung onto Danzou's every word. She wanted every single detail of Sasuke's double betrayal so that she could let it sink into her bones and saturate them with hate.
"But there is a much greater apology owed here today," Danzou continued. He faced the crowd again so that all could clearly hear him proclaim, "The office of Hokage is officially absolving the name of Uchiha Itachi!"
Obligatory applause. By now the word had spread that Itachi had been a double agent the entire time. Sakura was still processing the information, as were most who had been conditioned to hate that traitor of traitors— just as Sasuke had, but Sakura couldn't even consider feeling any sympathy for his struggle with the revelation. Not when he was standing above them all so smugly.
Danzou rambled on about how Itachi had been wrongly used by the village, had his name slandered, been wrongly hunted by that evil bitch of a fifth Hokage, etcetera, etcetera. Sakura knew she wasn't the only one who saw the gaping holes in his story, but nobody was going to speak up. Not even her.
It was obvious to her what was happening here. Sasuke and Danzou had decided to put aside their differences so that they could use each other. She was witnessing the beginning of a power struggle. Each had a Sharingan that he undoubtedly resented the other for possessing. Sasuke likely considered it the ultimate slight to his clan that the man who had ordered its destruction had stolen its greatest treasure, and surely Danzou was eager to add Sasuke's eyes his repertoire. How formidable would his Konoha be with the power of the Eternal Mangekyou Sharingan!
It could only end one of two ways. One of them would have to kill the other. They would both bide their time, locked in a tense battle, vying for power until one went too far and the other snapped.
Which would she rather see dead? Sakura snorted. Maybe she'd be lucky and they'd blow each other to pieces.
Danzou's voice faltered, and the congregation fell eerily quiet. Only the banners bearing the Uchiha colors twisting in the fierce gale made any noise. Sasuke observed the group stonily. Sakura wondered if he noticed her, one pink-haired girl in a sea of people. Did any affection for his former teammates linger in his rocky heart? They had risked so much to bring him back. But now he had waltzed in of his own accord and Team 7 was left in the dust to be scrutinized and silently persecuted by Danzou and his cronies.
Finally, when he had apparently had enough of looking down on them all, he stepped forward. The crowd waited, managing to feel curious. Sakura couldn't see his eyes but she knew they were hard.
"A minute of silence for my brother," Sasuke said coldly.
Sakura bowed her head with the rest and counted the seconds.
Kakashi finished strapping on his tall black sandals and stood up straight. The day had barely scratched at dawn and the sky was a pale, pearly gray. Chilly autumn breezes whistled crisply through the air.
He stood with his back to the front of his house. Right now, he probably should have been trying to lovingly memorize its appearance so that in the long months ahead he could easily think of home, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He was not that attached to the place, having barely spent any time there. Most of his time was occupied with the countless missions Danzou assigned him.
This was not just a normal mission, though. Kakashi was going to war. No one had really expected the alliance among the Five Great Shinobi Countries to last, but it had been a nice idea to entertain for a little while. Kakashi was headed for the north of Waterfall Country to aid the fight against Earth. As usual, Earth was antagonizing Fire. The fight had been escalating for the past few months. Kakashi had been able to avoid it only for so long before he too was called to fight for his country.
He sighed. After the Nine Tails attacked when Kakashi was fourteen, an era of peace for Konoha had begun. Now… Well, it had been a nice dream.
Weapons clinked and jostled in his pouches as Kakashi turned around to face his wife. She was standing in the doorway wearing a pale nightgown that brushed her anklebones. Cradled in her arms was an infant boy.
Kakashi walked up the path back to his house, stopping in front of Yousei. There were bags of skin bruised purple by sleep sagging beneath her pretty black eyes. She was always so tired. It was hard, raising the son of a man who was rarely there to help… and while it was shameful to admit, Kakashi did not think of her that often while away on missions. More frequently he thought of the friends he never got to see in between performing missions and seeing his son. But Yousei had sacrificed her entire life to come to Konoha and raise his children. In an uncharacteristic display of affection, he gently pushed a loose strand of silky brown hair behind her ear.
A smile broke through her exhaustion. "He's finally sleeping," she whispered.
Looking down at his son, Kakashi smiled too. The small bundle of blankets was capped with a tiny head, dusted at the top with hair the same color of the sky above. They had named him Takehiko.
Speaking of the sky, it was much lighter now. Tendrils of orange and pink slowly washed over the remnants of night. Soon, Kakashi would be late.
Oh well. He was honestly in little rush to go to Waterfall, condemning himself to months of dreadful winter. It actually snowed there. Kakashi shivered.
Yousei frowned. "Are you sure you can't tell me how long you'll be gone?"
Still looking at his son, Kakashi felt something twist in his heart. "Yes," he said simply. They had discussed it enough; every time, the answer was the same. Some men were only gone to war for months, others for years.
Somehow he got the feeling that Danzou wouldn't be feeling too merciful towards him. "Probably over a year," he confessed.
She swallowed. "He'll be bigger then…"
Kakashi dragged his mask down to his neck and bent forward to give his son's brow a light kiss. "Yes…" He straightened up and kissed Yousei, too. As with all of their kisses, it was brief. "But you can write. Tell me how much he's growing."
Nodding vaguely, she looked back down at the child in her arms. Her sadness was evident, but he was never sure how to console her. He supposed her loved her, in a way, but he still barely knew her.
"You write too," she told him. "Tell me what sorts of things are going on."
He cocked an eyebrow. It was hard to believe that a dignified civilian such as Yousei would be interested in the bloody battles he would be fighting. What did she want him to tell her? That he had killed three men today and was pretty convinced that his toes were falling off from the cold?
There was no helping it. They were just two very different people thrown together for the sake of good genes and politics. She meant well, though, and Kakashi patted her gingerly on the shoulder. "Sure," he said. Her lips pursed at his rather noncommittal answer, but he hoped she understood that he meant well, too.
Letting his hand slide into his pocket, Kakashi shifted his weight to the other foot. "Well, I should get going," he breathed. "Take care of Takechan for me, 'kay?"
Without looking at him, she nodded. He grimaced and gave her his signature two-fingered wave before turning and walking away.
He did not look back.
Dirty leaves crunched beneath his feet as he walked through the village. It was nice at this time of day, when it was only starting to wake up.
Of course, seeing a black-vested Root spy up every other tree didn't do much to improve his mood, but all in all the village was peaceful.
However, these early morning hours held a certain association for Kakashi. He rubbed his shoulder. He was going to be gone, probably for a very long time. It would just be unacceptable to refrain from paying his respects before embarking on this next trip.
The Memorial Stone sat just as serenely as it always did. The Fourth Great Shinobi War had added many names to its surface; they now trailed along the edges, obscured by the grass when it grew tall enough. Some of the oldest names at the top were becoming hard to read. Perhaps when he came back, Kakashi would suggest a restoration effort at the next jounin meeting.
He crouched in front of the simple rectangular monument. Wrists resting against his thighs, his hands dangled idly between his legs. Sometimes he still felt so helpless. There was nothing that he controlled anymore: Danzou ran everything. The Hokage designated not only his professional life but his personal as well. It seemed as if nothing had changed since he was the useless thirteen-year-old boy who got pushed to safety by a boy he had always mocked for his pointlessness.
Kakashi brushed his calloused fingertips against the familiar name on the monument. Uchiha Obito. Kakashi had vainly hoped that sacrifices like Obito's had put an end to these terrible shinobi wars, but here he was, headed to fight in the next one.
He wondered vaguely if he should say good-bye to any of his other friends— the living ones. Gai and Kurenai he still saw every now and then: Gai had professed to having an internal radar that tingled whenever Kakashi was back in town and compelled him to drop everything and dash to Kakashi's house… even if the Green Beast had been taking a bath. (It had taken at least a week to convince Yousei that he wasn't gay, and she still had her doubts.) Kurenai had stopped by when Takehiko was born, not that Kakashi had been in town for the birth. She had managed to get a hold of him when he was actually around. Other than those two, there were few people he had seen since the end of the war. Yousei had conceived within the first two months of their marriage, and all of his precious few moments in Konoha were then devoted to little Takehiko.
Then there was his team— or what was left of it. Kakashi swallowed hard around a lump in his throat. He didn't like to think about Team 7. Jaded could not even begin to describe how he felt now that the village had turned against Naruto. The few voices of his old friends and teammates had not been enough to convince everyone that Naruto was not harmful to them. Couldn't they understand that Madara, the only one with a chance of drawing out the Kyuubi, was dead now? It frustrated Kakashi to no end that they did not see this, but populist logic didn't work that way. Danzou had employed sensationalism and bred fear among the citizens, not to mention that he had twisted the truth pretty significantly. His changes of history led to the repetition of history: After all of Naruto's hard work to become accepted by the community, Danzou had rendered it all for naught by casting the jinchuuriki in the harsh light of shame.
Kakashi's fingers curled into a fist against Obito's name on the stone. This was why he didn't think about Naruto: It only made him angry. There was no place for this type of anger in Konoha. If Kakashi and the others who wanted to get rid of Danzou ever wanted to succeed, they'd have to hold their tongues until the time was right.
Not that Kakashi considered himself a revolutionary. If there was an underground resistance movement, he was not involved. He preferred to keep his head down and bide his time. Danzou would not live forever and things would eventually change.
Of course, right now Konoha faced the very real possibility that Sasuke could be next in line for the Hokage position. Danzou would be the last person to want this, but it was quite likely that it wouldn't be up to Danzou. Kakashi suspected that Sasuke was also biding his time, waiting until the old codger got too feeble and then overthrowing him in a coup d'etat. While it would be good to throw out the Root regime, Kakashi was not too optimistic for this version of the future. Sasuke did not seem to have much respect for Konoha. He undoubtedly viewed it as no more than a tool, a plaything. Granted, there was no guarantee that this was what was in store for Konoha either. Even if Sasuke did try to take control, it could lead to a civil war contesting his ascension.
What a mess. Kakashi felt ashamed that the Uchiha had ever been his student, that he had actually seen himself in the young boy. Now he wanted nothing to do with him.
Kakashi stood up, stretching his arms with a yawn. He had zero contact with Sasuke and Naruto. That left one more member of his original team…
But he didn't talk to Sakura, either. Part of it was just that he was so busy all the time, and she was as well, going on missions or working at the hospital. Even if they had overlapping free time, though, Kakashi would not approach her. He wouldn't know what to say.
His eyes skimmed the tops of the trees. In the distance he could see Konoha. Sakura was there now, probably not doing anything (aside from sleeping). Perhaps it would be nice to drop by and say good-bye…?
No. He would be at a loss for words, they would exchange some awkward conversation before he would leave, and they would both wish that he had never bothered.
Besides, the sun was definitely up now. Kakashi was running very late. He gave the Memorial Stone one final smile of farewell. Maybe this would be the mission he didn't come home from, and he'd soon be one of the names running along the edges of the stone into the grass. Either way, it was important that he gave the stone a proper good-bye in case he didn't see it again until his name was carved into it.
Not that he was planning on that happening. He did have a son now, after all. Being a father held certain responsibilities. His mind jumped to the broken halves of a tantou, stowed safely in his trunk at home. One day, he would pass it on to Takehiko. Perhaps he might even have it fixed. That way, it could be a memento of him, to remind him who his father was even after he had gone.
Gathering chakra in his legs, he sprung up from the ground and took to the trees.
The two men hiding in the shadows followed him to the gate. They watched him meet his team and endure their complaints. Content that he was not going to disobey orders, they made to leave, but something stopped them. Just before passing through the gate, Kakashi had turned. He seemed to be looking directly at them. Recognition flickered in his eye, and he smiled.