With a deep breath, Hatake Kakashi stepped into the Uchiha district of Konoha. It was strange how moving only a few feet forward installed a sudden fear in the pit of his stomach. Self consciously, he pulled his forehead protector even further down the left side of his face. He had looked a thousand times in the mirror before he had left the house that the protector was covering his newly acquired sharingan. Rin had scolded him, knowing the scar was still sore and tender to touch and pulling a metal protector over it would only aggravate it. But Kakashi couldn't bear having the eye out for anyone to see, and didn't think he ever would. Yondaime had justified it on different merits.
"It's a dangerous but powerful weapon he needs to know how to control. No enemy can find out about this yet."
He had spoken diplomatically as a Hokage, not as Obito's master. Deep down Yondaime was hurting immensely, but he remained ever the professional.
The least Kakashi could do was the same.
So why did he find himself here?
He continued to walk cautiously through the district. Although trying not to look around and draw attention to himself, his hand kept coming to his forehead protector, as instinctive as a sneeze or an itch. Walking through here with a sharingan concealed, Kakashi felt as on edge as any undercover ninja on a mission, like a traitor.
It was a horrible thought, going to visit the mother of Obito. But the pain of grief was far worse.
"Take a week or so off. You're not ready to go back on the missions yet."
"No, Kakashi," For the first time Yondaime's voice cracked into a low, tired voice. He didn't sound like himself. He sounded…sad, "no you're not."
Obito's house was in sight. It looked like most others, not a grand house, it only had one floor, but it was neat and cosy. Kakashi had only been once before when Obito had been so late, the team marched over to his house and dragged him straight out of bed. He remembered prising Obito's stubborn fingers from the bed covers. The memory haunting him as he trudged up to the house, his buzzing feelings of annoyance at that time stale now in his heart.
Outside the door, Kakashi tried to compose his thoughts. He was going to tell Obito's mother, Natsuki, how sorry he was. How brave Obito had been, and how Kakashi tried so hard to save him. The Uchihas knew Kakashi had the sharingan, and in short they were horrified.
"There's nothing that can be done now, of course," Yondaime had said, "so they'll live with it. I've given them my word that as my student, you will remain loyal to the village and take the secrets of this power to the grave."
Kakashi had to let Natsuki know that it wasn't his loyalty to the village that was the reason, but his loyalty to Obito. Maybe then he could be trusted and accepted by them. Maybe then he would feel less alone. Just a little.
He could hear children from the other side of the door. One calling out encouragingly, the other singing in a baby voice. It was bizarre how carefree the noises were, so close to a terrible loss. Before it unnerved him to the point he'd turn on his heel and leave. Kakashi knocked abruptly on the door. The calling stopped.
A few seconds went by, but it dragged out like the weeks that had gone by since Obito's death.
With a faint click, the door slid open. A beautiful woman stood on the other side, her big, dark eyes prepared in a pleasantly polite stare. It was clear she realised immediately by his lopsided forehead protector who he was, because suddenly she was frowning, confused and guarded.
"No," she replied, a flash of annoyance in her eyes, "I'm her sister, Mikoto."
"Miss Mikoto, I am Hatake Kakashi."
"I thought as much." She replied warily, eyeing his forehead protector. She didn't move from the door.
"I was wondering, is Miss Natsuki here? Is she… able to talk?"
"She's here," she said delicately, "I don't know if she's 'able to talk' however. Not to you."
"Please," Kakashi began,
"Her son died three weeks ago, Kakashi," She spoke softly but her words were cutting. "My nephew. My sons' cousin. Do you really think we want to see you here, parading his dead eye that's been inserted into your head?"
He flinched like he'd been slapped, but stood he stood his ground. "I don't want any trouble."
"Then leave." She said simply, and began to slide the door closed again.
"Please," He held the door open with a strong, desperate hand. He stared into her eyes intensely, "Please," he repeated, "I owe so much to him, to your family. I don't know what else to do."
Mikoto considered him cautiously for a few seconds, but her look had softened. She inclined her head. Then, slowly, she slid the door open the full way, and stepped aside for him.
"You can come in and wait while I speak to her. If she doesn't want to talk to you, you must leave immediately."
Kakashi sighed with relief, walking through the door. "I am in your debt, Miss Mikoto."
They walked through the hallway. Kakashi looked up at the photos on the wall. Happy family portraits, one of a very young Obito with combed over hair, showing off a gap toothed grin. He had to look down at the wooden floor at that, feeling his knees wobble. What was he thinking, coming here? He'd lost a comrade, a friend. His grief felt pathetic in comparison to the loss of Obito's family. Even now in his death, Kakashi felt selfish and self-absorbed regarding Obito.
Unable to stand it, he tried to make small talk, his voice shaking. "So do you live here?"
Mikoto looked ahead, leading him to the living area. A large rug in the centre, with pillows and sofas centred around it. Opposite where Mikoto and Kakashi stood was a patio door, leading to a large garden, with a fountain and veranda that led stairs down to the grass. "No, we're around the corner. I've been spending a lot of time here since… well. Natsuki likes having the kids around, playing and all. You'd think it would make her sad but…" Mikoto folded her arms awkwardly, unable to look at the stranger, "I think she's very lonely."
"Her husband is on missions a lot?"
"He's an Uchiha. Of course he is."
"Oh." Said Kakashi, unsure of what else to say.
"I'll go tell her she has a visitor, please wait here." She disappeared down another hallway to the left.
Kakashi stood rigidly, unable to conjure the energy to lift his head and scan Obito's home. It wasn't his lack of sleep, but the sadness of it all. Or maybe it was the sleep. If he got into trouble with Rin or Yondaime for bothering the family he could very well blame this visit on sleepwalking. A few minutes passed by.
Kakashi shivered, and realised the patio door was open, bringing in the spring breeze. Outside ahead on the grass he noticed the two young boys that had been playing. The taller one crouched at the knees, holding a ball and facing the little toddler, who was inspecting the grass beneath his feet with an astounding amount of curiosity.
"Sasuke! Sasuke!" The boy called cheerfully, and the little one looked up.
He paused, as if contemplating how to respond. "Ah!" He shouted back happily, flapping his arms.
"Ready?" The elder boy carefully tossed the ball to the child, who tried to catch the thing with his eyes shut. Unfazed, he went to fetch it from where it had rolled, oblivious to Kakashi watching. His brother was far more aware, and although he was laughing, he cut an eye at Kakashi to let him know he noticed him staring. Embarrassed, Kakashi looked away. What was worse, he had recognized the boy. Uchiha Itachi. He was an up and coming prodigy, and his achievements amazed even Kakashi. It was crazy. Obito's cousin was Itachi? Why had he never spoken of him? A part of Kakashi understood; for Obito family was family, never mind ninja skills. Just like a comrade was a comrade, equal on every level, each worth a life. A more cynical part argued Obito was probably too jealous of Itachi to talk of him. That part Kakashi could understand a lot more.
Mikoto was suddenly back by his side.
"She wants to speak to you, though I don't think it's a good idea. First door on the left. I must warn you, she is still very emotional, and today is not one of her good days…" She bit her lip, her round dark eyes moving around the room as she thought carefully. It looked like she had regretted bringing Kakashi in the house.
"Thank you, Mam." He said, bowing slightly to her with the hope she wouldn't throw him out.
"Don't thank me, I told you I didn't think it was good!" She snapped. "I'm just respecting her in her house."
"All the same… I am thankful."
Mikoto narrowed her eyes at him, but it wasn't a mean stare. "It's annoying really. You're far too respectable. I wanted to hate you." She reminded him, "First door on the left.
Not waiting for Kakashi to find the words to reply, she stepped past him and out through the patio door. He watched her go in amazement.
Alone with his thoughts again, the reason why he was here brought hit Kakashi in the back of his mind again. With nothing to wait for, Kakashi walked through to the bedroom door.
The room had no light in it. Only the light from the door allowed Kakashi to see into the room with his one eye. A miserable hue for a miserable conversation. Natsuki sat slumped against some large pillows against a wall in the centre of the room, leaning on a tatami mat. A bottle of sake was empty and on its side. She sipped from a sake cup, glaring up at him. Her greasy hair was tied back in a bun, but strands had been missed out and straggled limply around her pale face. She was pretty, like her sister, but she looked ill and too thin under a kimono that wasn't tied up properly.
She lifted the cup from her lips, but continued to glare.
Kakashi forced himself to speak. "Miss Natsuki? I am Hatake Kakashi."
"Ha…" She sang out, her voice brittle, nasal and broken as she looked up at him bitterly. "I know exactly who you are. What do you want?"
Kakashi wondered how much she had been drinking.
"I am sorry to bother you." He stammered, all carefully constructed speeches and manners thought out beforehand fleeing his mind.
"Oh it's fine, it's fine! Not like I'm busy, is it? Not like I've got a house to clean for a husband coming home any time soon, not like I've got a meal to cook for a growing boy, is it? No, no, you're not bothering me at all!" She spluttered, picking up the sake bottle and shaking it.
"I… I'm sorry."
She dropped her arm but kept a firm clutch of the bottle, and looked at him through glowering eyes. "That what you come here for? To say sorry? Well now I'm confused. Yondaime said the team did all they could for Obito, there was nothing, not one thing that could be done to save him. And now you, you're standing before me saying sorry?" She pointed the bottle at him and hissed, "you tell me what you're asking forgiveness for so I can curse you to hell for letting my son down."
Kakashi was already losing his composure. "It's not like that," He said desperately, "I'm just sorry, I'm sad, for the whole situation."
She stuck out her bottom lip with mock-sympathy. "You're sad. Oh." Natsuki's eyes narrowed again coldly, so much her whole face was pulled tight and she looked inhuman. "My baby's dead. I don't know what you want from me."
Kakashi didn't have a leg to stand on, and he knew it. All he had was the truth. He owed this much. "I… I thought I was coming to be diplomatic. To say you can trust me. The truth is… I just wanted somewhere to go to confront this grief."
The sounds of Itachi calling to Sasuke, who was yelling excitedly faintly wafted into the room. Mikoto could be heard laughing.
"Oh." Natsuki's face crumpled and she put a hand over her mouth, "Listen to that. Isn't that happy?" She wiped her face, "God I love those kids. I pray every day that Konoha doesn't let them down like they've let down my son."
Kakashi frowned slightly, surprised by her bitterness towards the village as a whole, instead of the enemies of war. He tried as politely as possible, "Miss Natsuki, you should know, Obito was proud to fight for his village-"
"There's a memorial stone with name's written on, near the left-wing training fields of this village. Obito's name has been carved on there. Go there to grieve. 'Cos you sure as hell aren't welcome in this house."
All the grief he had bottled was ripped out by her words like a dagger stabbing through his chest. "Okay…Okay." He practically mouthed his words under his mask, unable to make a sound loud enough for fear he would burst out crying right in front of the sorry woman. A tear slid down Kakashi's cheek, and he was thankful that his mask shielded his wobbling chin. This had been a mistake. But at least now he knew for sure; he was alone.
He began to back out the room.
"Wait." She said sharply.
"You got his eye… under there?" She gestured to his forehead protector.
"Can you use it completely?"
"I haven't… I haven't tried it out enough yet to find its limits."
She paused. "What you gonna do with it?"
"Protect every villager, every comrade and above all every Uchiha I possibly can with it." The words sounded contrived out loud, but it was Kakashi speaking from the heart.
"Well that's…" she laughed at what she found herself saying, "Ha! That's good, I guess."
"Yes. I think it is, Mam."
He stumbled back into the living area silently, his one eye blurred with tears. He heard Mikoto address him softly.
"Is she upset?"
He couldn't bring himself to answer. He found himself walking out the patio door, collapsing onto the steps of the veranda and leaning over his knees with his head in his hands. He emitted a harsh sob, but that was all he allowed himself before inhaling deeply, and sitting up with composure again.
That was when he noticed Sasuke.
He was standing on the grass in front of him sucking on one of those baby sippy cups, watching Kakashi curiously through eyes identical to Mikoto's. Kakashi blinked at him, and Sasuke blinked back, neither knowing what to make of one another.
Itachi stood behind him warily, and Mikoto was keeping her distance behind Kakashi, but they didn't say anything.
Sasuke then took a few steps forward, moving his cup away, never taking his eyes off Kakashi. They were face to face; Kakashi crouched over on the steps, the toddler on the edge of the grass. Not saying a word, Sasuke stretched out the hand holding his cup for him.
It was an innocent gesture. Humorous, in any other situation. But for Kakashi it was a sign of hope. Maybe the future generation would be more considerate than he was. Maybe this war would one day end.
With something as small as being offered a drink by a toddler, Kakashi didn't feel so alone anymore.
Sasuke still held the cup out, looking earnest and oblivious at the same like so many children his age could. But his face began to pinch, looking upset as Kakashi remained motionless.
"Well take it then." Itachi said suddenly. Kakashi's neck snapped up at him, surprised he had spoken. His voice sounded so much more youthful and lighter than he had expected; his eyes were far ahead of his years.
"Heh," Kakashi gently took the cup out of the small hands, "…thank you?" He said uncertainly.
Looking satisfied, Sasuke stuffed his fingers in his mouth and complacently stared at him in silence once again.
Mikoto laughed softly, "He's pretty fascinated in you. I've never seen him so quiet!"
"Yeah?" Kakashi smiled gently, looking straight back at the child.
"Come on," Mikoto said, "I'll see you to the door."
She was apologetic. "I'm sorry about my sister. Now you know why I'm here watching her."
Kakashi shook his head. "You don't have to be ashamed, or make excuses. I should apologize for troubling you in this time, and what I've seen of her I won't reveal to another soul as long as I live."
Mikoto nodded gratefully. "If anyone is going to be intruding on our bloodline like this, I have to say I'm glad it's a man like you."
Kakashi looked at her kind eyes, wishing other Uchihas were more like this woman and her children. "You're youngest is the spitting image of you."
She smiled happily for the first time since they'd met, showing her teeth. "He's got my eyes." She said.
"He's got your eyes." He echoed in agreement, her smiling face a refreshing image within the past few weeks.
"Look after yourself, young Kakashi."
"Thank you, Miss Mikoto. Good afternoon."
This is part one, there is a part two to follow and conclude the story, if anyone is interested?
I would love to hear what you thought, I haven't written fanfiction for a long, long time and this story sory of popped into my head randomly (Usually I'm too busy dancing to write much or even read manga anymore) What did you think of Obito being the cousin of Sasuke of Itachi? Did you find the story sad or did you not like it?