Characters: Kakashi, Rin
: Kakashi has made many mistakes. She was undoubtedly the worst.
: KakaRin
Author's Note
: Dark themes. Just putting it out there.
: I don't own Naruto.

As the years go down, he starts to remember her differently, subtle differences like a slightly altering shade of red in the leaves from autumn to autumn, and he starts to realize that maybe, maybe he was wrong, and maybe he should have gotten over himself a little sooner and tried to love her the way she once invited him to.

At any rate, Kakashi knows it's too late now, too late for anything. There's no apologizing to dust in the ground, no holding the hand of a corpse.

Rin's name will not be found on the memorial stone. It will not be found in the records of those who died in battle or in war, nor even in the history books. Not so much as a passing reference to her participation in the Third War, nor how she performed a feat of medical ninjutsu previously thought impossible: the transplanting of an eye in the middle of battle.

She deserves better, Kakashi decides, remembering that sweet smile and how even when he felt as though he was locked in a never-ending pattern of winter that smile could make him feel just a little warmer, a little safer, a little closer to happiness.

It's his fault.

The way Rin died, no one was ever going to put her name on any memorial or in any records; the way she died, the powers that be might even go so far as to attempt—a failed attempt, but still—to write her out of history altogether. Rin exists only in memories; on paper, there is no evidence of her ever existing.

Kakashi sighs, soft and defeated, as he stares down at an unmarked grave in a potter's field. The pitifully tiny headstones, more like ridges in the earth than anything else, all look the same but Kakashi could find this one with his eyes closed.

He remembers, vividly. Rin had no money. When her apartment was opened up it was entirely bare except for a bed in the corner and clothes and weapons and her medical kit all stored neatly in a container underneath her bed.

There was no money for even a decent burial. That alone, out of all of this, is not Kakashi's fault. At the time, he had no money either; both he and Rin grew up as wards of the state.

As clouds, darker and darker with each passing second, gather overhead and brew in the stew pot of the sky, Kakashi's mind is suddenly brought to the memory of metallic chirping, of the noxious smell of antiseptics and the incoming musty odor of Death, so strong and permeating that it dripped down the walls and pooled on the floors when Kakashi tried to walk.

The night the Kyuubi attacked, it was stopped from inflicting as much damage on the village as it could have. What it did do was enough though, filling the air with its poisonous chakra, felling all those who breathed it in.

Rin survived the initial attack of toxic chakra filling her veins. The day after the Kyuubi attacked, she opened her eyes again and, walking gingerly on wobbly, unsure feet, made the rounds, doing what she could with her healing hands for those who needed her. Kakashi stared at her, her skin mottled with burns, and marveled at her strength. He himself cradled a screaming baby in his arms and refused to let him go, only relinquishing Naruto when Jiraiya finally arrived to survey the situation. Jiraiya, Kakashi could trust.

For a few months, all seemed as though it would be well for her. Rin laughed, smiled, poked Kakashi in the ribs gently to get his attention, and seemed more alive than she had since Obito had last drawn breath.

Kakashi started to think that maybe, if he could love anyone, he could love her.

Then, Kakashi watched as mottled, glittering burns started to unearth themselves beneath her flesh, and started to wreck the frame of Rin's delicate body.

He remembers, so vividly that it makes his heart hurt to recall.

"Please… Please don't go."

It is early on, and Rin's words begin to become labored. She perhaps senses that she won't be able to speak for long, for her words come forth from her mouth as if they run a race against Death.

There is shame written on her face between the patterns of mottled discoloration, but it doesn't stop Rin from speaking.

She's afraid. She doesn't want to be alone. She's afraid that if Kakashi leaves, he won't come back again before the time comes that she can no longer see him.

Kakashi hears all of this.

And he leaves anyway.

When he returns, Rin can't speak anymore, but her eyes tell him everything her mouth can not.

He doesn't leave again.

Even when Rin can't speak, can't so much as utter a sound the agony radiating and buzzing off of her slight frame, flesh melted away, is palpable. Her face creases and contorts, her eyes roll back in her head and that small hand, grown desperately pale from long time spent away from the sun, reaches for his as though she is drowning and he her only hope of survival.

More than anything, Rin, Kakashi suspected at the time, wanted the pain to stop. And he wanted it to stop too.

So he looked at a needle, full of morphine and glittering benignly. It promised solace for them both, the end of all pain and misery.

Kakashi thought about it, for weeks. He never said anything to Rin because he didn't think that anything needed to be said. He had thought that their thoughts were the same. Once he slipped the hollow point beneath her flesh, there would be no returning at all, and the course of action taken would have to be fulfilled.

Finally, the agony of her started to show itself on Kakashi's flesh as well.

And he knew the time had come.

So many years later, Kakashi thinks that maybe, maybe he made a mistake.

He had thought Rin wanted the pain to stop. Anyone would want the pain to stop in her situation; why should Rin have been any different? Even the strongest of shinobi could not deny the violent lightning storm of pain awakening across the battlefield of her skin.

But he can remember her eyes, as he slid the needle beneath her flesh.

The expression was desperate, pleading. At the time, Kakashi had been so sure that she was begging him silently, using words she could not speak, to get it all over with.

Now, he thinks that maybe she was begging him not to, and just couldn't find the strength with which to scream it.

Kakashi has made many mistakes. He will not deny that. Some might think that others were more egregious, more heinous, but Kakashi thinks that this was the worst, thinks that there is little difference between assisted suicide and murder. Rin still haunts him to this day, standing behind him and walking behind him, just one of so many ghosts.

She alone of the lot won't speak to him.

Hands weary and heavy, Kakashi leans down, and touches the headstone that he knows is hers. He thinks of his mistakes.

He shouldn't have picked up the needle.

He should have said that he loved her.