karikari1313: Thank you. I'm afraid I can't keep using canon; makes it impossible to continue at all.
Devilbaby1, Jan, CLePear328: Thank you!
xxSazzyBabexx: I feel a failure that I didn't make you cry. Nearly is not good enough.
Maximum: I love tragedy.
KageofYaoi: Indeed. Thank you!
Laforet: You called it.
Crimsix: I'm sad I have to end it here and how. The manga/anime isn't given me a choice.
Moodysavage: He'll never forget him; you can't forget your first love.

Loosy-goosy time with the canon. It's part of the reason I've been delinquent on this story, but I'm just going to wing it. I hope this chapter/ending doesn't disappoint. This is the end. Sorry for the wait. Thank you all who have suffered the delays and enjoyed this story.

Btw, jumping the shark? I think Naruto's finally done it. I will continue to read it, but it took a hard left turn with ****** stabbing ****** and turning out to be ******.


Kakashi was sort of glad Itachi's body was not there. If it had been there would be no way he could have stopped his breakdown. His tears mixed with the rain, but if Itachi's body had been laying there, he would have taken it into his arms and wept; fuck the others. Itachi was dead. The only person he ever truly loved was dead.

xxxxx

On the roof of the inn in the Country of Iron, Kakashi stood frozen listening to the man in the orange mask shatter his world. Tobi's words squeezed his heart. Itachi hadn't done it out of maliciousness or caprice. That little fool. He wanted to kill Tobi right there out of grief and anger, but he needed him to find Sasuke. Of course Tobi wouldn't be held and he vanished.

After that Kakashi loathed any time alone, any time to think. His heart was in turmoil. He knew Itachi wouldn't have killed his clan on a whim. Everything made sense, but it didn't make it hurt less.

And he failed to find Sasuke in time to save him from the bad influence Itachi had warned him about. Sasuke slipped through his fingers. Sasuke had been twisted. He looked crazed. Driven insane by grief and rage. Kakashi couldn't blame him.

It was all enough to shake Kakashi's faith in his village. Tobi had said that Sasuke's life weighed more to Itachi than the entire village; Kakashi felt the same way about Itachi, especially now.

Becoming a general in the Shinobi Alliance made him feel better since he was constantly busy, but his last thoughts before he slept was of Itachi. He was immensely glad he never saw Itachi's corpse.

And then, he realized when he saw Zabuza and Haku that it was possible that his lover was among these undead. He was more furious than hopeful. He had to know if Itachi was out there. But he had his duty. An undead Itachi would only break his heart again. Itachi would be forced to attack and Kakashi would have to fight him. Best to leave the dead buried, metaphorically speaking. It was best to end this war and send the dead back.

Then, the dead vanished. Kakashi's heart sank a little, but it didn't break. Itachi was well and truly dead and he would never see him again.

xxxxx

The battle against the undead Madara and Obito was hard fought, but the two of them were finally defeated. Kakashi thought he might have to deal with a ghost, but Obito was not the one he expected.

Now what of Sasuke?

Naruto, as tired as he was, was as concerned as Kakashi about Sasuke. If he was indeed seeking revenge on Konoha, then they had to find him and stop him. Naruto used his sage ability to recharge his chakra and search for Sasuke. As they ran through the forest, Naruto told Kakashi about meeting Itachi. Kakashi was proud of his lover even though escaping Kabuto's control was more out of luck than anything. But he definitely succeeded in defeating Kabuto.

"Found him," Naruto said. "Itachi's with him."

"What?"

His heart was thumping so hard he could hear it clearly and he thought it would break his sternum. Both of them together? Could everything end so well? Could he have his student and his lover back?

Kakashi would have been running even faster if he didn't have to follow Naruto, but Naruto was racing to see Sasuke. By the time they arrived, Kakashi's legs hurt worse than they ever had in his life, his lungs were on fire and his sides hurt, but that was nothing to excitement that exploded in his chest.

Itachi was knelling next to his brother who was unconscious on the ground. Naruto ran to Sasuke's other side. Kakashi approached more slowly as if walking to him too quickly would make the mirage of his lover dissolve. Itachi only had eyes for his brother at the moment.

Naruto was calling Sasuke's name trying to wake him.

"He's alive, Naruto-kun, just worn out," Itachi said. "We fought Kabuto together and Sasuke used up far too much chakra." He finally realized Kakashi was there. He whirled and had a stricken look on his face. His eyes were wrong. They both had black sclera, the right had the Sharingan, but the left iris was pure white. Itachi turned back to Naruto. "Stay with him. Call me the moment he wakes up. I need to speak with Kakashi-san."

"Okay."

Even with losing the sight in one eye, Itachi gracefully led Kakashi out of normal earshot in the trees out of Naruto's sight. The moment he felt they were hidden, Itachi flung himself into Kakashi's chest and cried. Kakashi held him. Then he realized, Itachi wasn't breathing. He was sort of making a sobbing sound, but his chest wasn't moving and his shirt wasn't getting wet.

"I can't even cry," Itachi wailed. He was shaking with frustration. If he could he'd being crying hysterically.

Kakashi got a firm grip on Itachi's upper arms and shook him to focus his attention on him. "Listen to me." Itachi finally stopped struggling and looked Kakashi in the eye. "You can feel me, right?"

"Yes."

"You love Sasuke and I, right?"

"Yes."

"Then everything is fine."

"I . . ." He tried to sob.

"Shhh. The war is over. Come home."

"I shouldn't be here. I'm dead."

"How are you still here? The rest of the Edo Tensei shinobi are gone."

"Sasuke begged me to stay, said he would attack Konoha, make them pay for what happened to me, then kill himself. I couldn't let that happen. Kabuto is still alive; I forced him to release everyone but me."

Kakashi caressed his cheek. "I know the truth. Tobi," it was the only name he could bring himself to use, "told Naruto, Tenzou, and I. I know Sasuke knows too. Come home with us. Sasuke's an emotional teenager; at least stay long enough to help him understand and coupe with what you and the village did. And let me love you until then."

"I've only been dead for a month or two, but the world has already changed so much. I feel left behind. I don't belong in this world."

"You've been given the chance a billion people wish they could have. You may feel left behind or damned or fortunate, but you should take it and take full advantage of it. For your brother's sake if for no other reason. Allow the two of us to let you go slowly."

Kakashi saw he wasn't getting anywhere.

"Do remember anything of death?"

"No. I was with Sasuke after our fight and then I woke up in front of Kabuto."

"I died too. When Pain attacked Konoha, I died. I met my father. He was in limbo, waiting for me. I told him I forgave him and understood his decision. He said he could finally move on to see my mother. There is a limbo, a purgatory. Perhaps suffering through a little more life is what will allow you to go straight to wherever my father went."

"If I remain, everyone will want their loved ones back. They will hate me and the two of you because I'm the only one who came back and stayed."

"We'll hide you then."

Itachi scoffed. "What if this is the test? I should be selfless and return to the land of the dead."

"No, being selfless right now sounds like remaining. Just until Sasuke calms down. I did already give you up for dead. I accepted it as hard as it was. I can do it again. But Sasuke freaked when he learned the truth. Stay and guide him."

Itachi sighed, a purely muscular action since he didn't breathe. "What if Sasuke will only remain tamed while I'm here? I can't stay forever and please don't ask me to stay to watch my brother grow old and die."

"Give us a year at least. Please, stay, just for a little while."

"Kabuto may wake up. When he does, he may decide to release me. I won't stop him."

"Agreed. Let's get back to your brother before he wakes up and freaks out because you're not there."

They returned to Sasuke's side. Sakura had followed, but hadn't been able to keep up with her teammates. She was startled by the situation, but set about healing everyone except Itachi who didn't need it. They were all too worn out to leave the area, so they went back into the cave where Kabuto stood. They all slept while Itachi kept watch.

Kabuto woke up, much to Itachi's surprise.

"Have you remembered who you are?" Itachi asked.

"I have. How is Sasuke?"

"Exhausted."

"And the war?"

"I ended the Edo Tensei on everyone but myself. Naruto and the others defeated Madara. I've remained for Sasuke's sake. And Kakashi wouldn't let me leave. I promised to stay and guide Sasuke until you woke up and decide to release me. I could leave now with a clear conscience if you decided to release me, but I think they will need my help to convince Sasuke not seek any further revenge. So please, allow me to stay among the living a little longer."

"I know for the first time in my life who I really am. I'm in your debt. I want to go home to the orphanage I was in before I was turned into a spy. When you're ready to be released, let me know."

"Flee. I don't think anyone here will attack you, but others will."

"Thank you, Itachi." Kabuto kept his sage mode to sense any approaching chakra and fled in the direction of his former home.

"As evil as you tried to make us all think you were, you really are incredibly kind," Kakashi whispered.

"I really wish no one harm. I recognized much of myself in Kabuto. I'm glad I could help him."

Kakashi sat up and looked to make sure his three students were still asleep. He moved to sit next to Itachi. "I'm pleased you're staying."

Kakashi kissed him. His mouth was dry; no saliva. He realized Itachi had no scent, no body heat.

Itachi shook off his lips. "At my core is a corpse."

Kakashi gave him a weak smile. "I don't smell anything."

Itachi stifled a laugh.

"We don't have to have sex, I just want to be around you. I really love you."

"I love you too, Kakashi."

xxxxx

Because Sasuke deserted the village, Tsunade agreed he should be kept under Kakashi's supervision. They snuck Itachi in and the three of them lived in Kakashi's newly built house.

It took a lot of convincing, but Sasuke finally calmed down and accepted his brother's way of thinking. Just being around his beloved brother again changed him. Sasuke had been angry to find out about Kakashi's relationship with his brother, but Itachi placated him and Kakashi had to explain the many reasons why he never told Sasuke about knowing Itachi at all.

Nearly three years later, Itachi announced he was going to leave, find Kabuto, and return to the land of dead. Sasuke was ready to think about starting a family and moving out of Kakashi's home. Itachi wanted to see his nieces and nephews, but if he did, he'd get too attached to leave, so he decided now was the time.

"Take care of Sasuke," Itachi asked Kakashi as the three of them stood outside the village gates, out of sight in the woods.

"I will."

"And move on."

"Can't promise that."

"I do still regret our relationship because of the pain it put us both through, but I'm still glad we had it. Take care, sempai."

"Goodbye, Itachi." Kakashi gave him one last hug.

Kakashi stepped back and let Sasuke have a few last minutes with his brother. Somehow, it just felt like Itachi was leaving on a journey and not dying again. Being able to say goodbye like this helped. Kakashi didn't even cry.

Sasuke was though. Kakashi smiled softly at the brotherly display of affection. Itachi ended their conversation with a gentle poke to Sasuke's forehead.

"This really is the last time, Sasuke. Know that no matter what, I will always love you. Make us all proud and restore the Uchiha name."

"I will."

Itachi pulled him into a hug and then kissed the spot he poked. He dropped his voice into a whisper that Kakashi couldn't hear. "And never let Kakashi buy you dangos."

Itachi then leapt into the trees and out of sight.