"Go back to sleep."
He was met with the silent back of a young man.
"Sasuke…" There was a slight warning in his voice.
It was Day eight of training for the final round of the Chunnin exams. Kakashi and Sasuke had been camping out where the latter had found him. It was a deserted, rocky terrain and not the most comfortable at nights. Cold then, and scorching during the day. But a great advanced training ground for the ninjas.
Survival of the fittest indeed.
Sasuke had found him, like Kakashi knew he would. The curse seal was wound up in place and under control. Despite the hours they'd spent together, neither of them had discussed the recent events. The main focus was surviving Gaara, and improving vastly at a manic pace. They were already exhausted, and still had much further to go.
"I'm not tired."
"Now we both know that's a lie."
Kakashi had summoned food, water, clothes and various other things through their survival scrolls. But Sasuke was never fussy. He had no choice; after the long days of practising speed and sparring in preparation for the chidori, he would collapse on the ground in a sleeping bag and extra layers, falling asleep in minutes.
But not tonight. Kakashi awoke to find him a few metres away from the fire, sitting up fiercely straight and facing away.
Kakashi tried again, "Is it your curse seal? Are you hurt?" He had gone especially hard on his student today, and even Kakashi was spent after using his sharingan relentlessly.
"No." Came the stern reply.
Kakashi wasn't the sort to reach out to people, but Sasuke at times could be terribly stubborn. So the teacher got out of his sleeping bag and stood up, ready for the fight.
"Come sit by the fire. Come on, I can see you're freezing." It was patronizing and sure to get on Sasuke's nerves, but the boy turned around at the order. Silently, he plodded over. Kakashi sat beside him. He looked deep into the fire and spoke lightly.
"You're very awake at this hour of the night. Perhaps you didn't work hard enough in your training today…"
Sasuke spoke up suddenly, "Why do you have the sharingan?" It was said quickly and loudly, as if he'd been waiting to say it for a while.
Kakashi continued to look into the dying flames.
"It's taken you a long time to ask that, Sasuke. I was beginning to think you never would."
"You have to tell me." It was more of a plea than a demand.
It was a delicate subject. And one that sent chills by Kakashi's spine. The memory of Obito was a painful one. But he had to be strong. For the boy.
"Do you think I'm an Uchiha?"
"I know you're not," Sasuke said quietly, "I thought for a moment, maybe at first. But it became clear very quickly. So I have two theories"
He hesitated. "It's taken me a long time because I don't like the thought of either. But I think after so long, it will put my mind at rest."
"Well let me help you." Kakashi said softly.
"Either someone gave it to you. Or you took it by force."
Kakashi turned to look at the boy, his face frowning and stressed.
"Which do you think it is?"
"Why can't you just tell me?" He suddenly snapped, glaring into his eyes. "Stop playing games and tell me the truth."
Kakashi sighed, and looked back into the fire. This only angered Sasuke.
"Just tell me. I have a right to know."
Perhaps truth was the best option at this point. "I want you to understand, it's not a pleasant memory."
His student's temper simmered at this.
I can't tell him it's his own cousin. Not at this stage. Not now.
Right now, Kakashi had to concentrate on getting Sasuke through the Chuunin exams alive and well, despite the obstacles of Gaara and the curse seal. He needed Sasuke's trust.
Instead he continued cautiously, but frankly, "It was given to me, but then I think you know that. Perhaps you can't accept it. The clan, including your father and mother, couldn't at the time. But it was the wish of a former teammate, as he lay dying. He wanted to preserve the sharingan in any way he could. And I wanted to honour that."
The window blew hard suddenly, and the fire died out. The cold bit Kakashi's skin hard. Sasuke was again silent, but his eyes were filled with questions, his mind moving a mile a minute.
"Come on," Kakashi said urgently, "Put on another layer and get into your sleeping bag."
Sasuke complied, and that was it for the rest of the night.
Kakashi awoke the next morning, sweating already as the sun rose in the air. He dreamt of Obito's mother last night. And Sasuke's mother. He suddenly remembered that time, clear as day. A friendly toddler, a curiously intelligent child, and the kind eyes of their mother.
He began pottering around, starting another fire to boil some water. He pulled out a flask and drank from it. Sasuke stirred and awoke. Kakashi knew how grouchy he could be in the mornings, and after their conversation last night, he didn't even bother looking at the boy.
I'll leave him be for now.
But Sasuke blinked his eyes awake and lay in his sleeping bag, watching Kakashi moving up and around, untying scrolls. He didn't look angry; he was calm.
"Did you know my parents?" He sounded almost child like.
Kakashi sat cross legged, keeping himself busy with the scrolls. "I didn't. But I met your mother once. She was very memorable."
Half-smiling, Sasuke narrowed his eyes sceptically. He propped himself up on his elbow. "How?"
"Well she was very beautiful. I'd never seen anyone like her in my life."
Sasuke's eyes met the ground.
Kakashi continued, trusting the Uchiha was waiting for more. "It's a shame I met her in such sad circumstances."
"What did she say about the sharingan you had?"
"Not a lot. Mikoto was a strong woman, but very kind in our brief encounter. She was somewhat understanding, and at that stage it was very reassuring for me."
Sasuke mumbled, "She was like that."
Kakashi had never heard him talk about his family before. Any feelings towards his past always veered back to his revenge and anger. It was a rare sight and he almost wanted to preserve this. Looking at Sasuke right now, he could see Mikoto staring back at him.
He smiled warmly, beneath his mask. "You have your mother's eyes. Do you know that?"
"Heh." Sasuke shook his head, and ran a hand through his hair looking embarrassed. But then he said, "…I've heard that a lot."