01. Kakashi has been broken.

He knows it.

He had his childhood taken when he entered the academy - years before it should have been. He grew up fast, not having the chance to indulge himself in playing around like other children. He didn't have time to go and make friends with other people his own age. Even if he did, who of them would - could - understand him as he learnt everyday how to kill or be killed? How could he partake in innocent joys?

He had his childhood ripped from him the moment his father left the world of the living.

Then death further tightened its hold on his mind when it took his team away, agonisingly slowly, making him learn the most important lessons of his life in the most painful way possible.

ANBU broke whatever was left. Humanity did not exist in an organisation that did the dirty work for a village of ninjas. Considering how much dirty work the average ninja does, it's not surprising that everyone in ANBU either dies or breaks.

However, Kakashi knows he is one of the lucky ones: he has been put together again. Even if imperfectly so, at least he is whole.

02. Kakashi hates his father almost as much as he loves him. He hates that his father fell so low as to take his own life, hates that he left him without anyone else, hates that he caused him to take up the philosophy of mission before teammates, because look where that left him.

But at the same time his father was there for him when he was still small, was there after his mother died.

He loves his father for simply existing, no matter what deeds he may have done.

He also loves his father for being the catalyst for learning that teammates are your family. He loves that his father had set a precedent for his behaviour when he followed Obito to get Rin. He did it knowing his father had done so before him.

So he can't help loving the man he hates.

After all, through the years Kakashi has learnt what it means to be a ninja and understands his father that little bit more.

03. Kakashi wears his mask because of his allergies. He has severe asthma, triggered by pollen and dust. (Thank the heavens it's not triggered by physical activity, he usually thinks. He'd be long dead if it were.)

By the time he'd graduated from the academy, he'd jabbed himself with a needle too many times for it to be healthy. Regular puffer medication didn't work well enough on him, it took too long to 'activate'.

Every spring was a nightmare. Sure the flowers were pretty, but it was better for his health to stay home, mask on and read.

His mask ripped off when he was on a mission once. He remembers fumbling for the emergency needle he kept in his kunai pouch.

It's not something he'd like to repeat.

04. Letting Obito die has always been Kakashi's biggest regret.

He's gone over the scene thousands of times in his mind, trying to find a way to save him, but there's no realistic way that the both of them could have made it out of that cave-in.

The only conclusion is that he was a deluded fool, while Obito was the true genius.

05. That said, he also regrets the loss of his other teammate, Rin.

Rin was lost in the last few days of the Third War. Out on the battlefield, with hundreds of casualties, she worked tirelessly, healing everyone as best she could.

No-one noticed when she ran out of chakra.

She passed out from chakra exhaustion and died not long afterwards.

Kakashi regrets that he'd been on the other side of the battle at that point in time and had been unable to warn her about her chakra levels in time.

He cried for the first time since he found his father; Rin had become a light in his dark life.

06. When sensei died, it also ranked pretty high on his list of horrible days.

His sensei had pulled him through so much. Not just the death of his father and teammates, but also out of the phase of his life when he had no clue what on Earth he was doing with his life.

Minato was light. He has the brightest hair and eyes he had ever seen and would ever see (save Naruto's, which would never surpass his father's in brightness; it could be only equal).

The Kyuubi attack and the subsequent sealing of the fox in Naruto left Kakashi confused and angry. There was no-one for him to lean on, so how could he be expected to let someone else lean on him?

He ran from the pain in the only way he knew how – into more pain: into ANBU.

07. Kakashi doesn't actually read Icha Icha. Okay, he has read through each one once, and he does enjoy them, but he's not obsessed nor is he constantly reading it.

He found out early on that people tended only to question your tastes when you read porn, but people tended to question your sanity if you looked constantly at pictures you have collected or drawn of your long dead team.

He laughed at the stories that came with each picture and each person in the scrapbook with the orange cover.

He covered his ears and eyes when Naruto spoiled the ending for a genuine reason: he knew the book had a plot twist and, damn, he was seriously enjoying it.

08. Kakashi knows his Sharingan is as much a blessing as a curse.

It's a powerful kekkai genkai, but it is a drain on his chakra reserves.

Worse, every time he uses it, he remembers Obito. He remembers the boy who saved his life. The sharingan, spinning wildly in battle, is just a reminder that Obito still continues to save him every time he lands himself in trouble.

And it hurts.

He's glad it's there to make sure he never makes that mistake again.

09. His favourite subordinate was ANBU Crow. The man behind the bird mask was disciplined and strong. He upheld the rules, respected Kakashi's orders and was completely loyal to the village.

Sometimes, though, Kakashi hopes that he could have done more for the young operative. He wishes he had seen the madness that was to follow.

Crow was someone who had the weight of many expectations on his shoulders and a giant reputation to uphold. Kakashi knew how that felt, having been through the same thing himself a few years before the other operative. He tried to help the man – no, still boy – understand that he wasn't alone, but he found himself trying to talk to a veritable brick wall into having emotions, into letting it go.

Kakashi feels partly responsible for letting Crow commit the crimes that he did, so tries to be there for his brother.

He feels even guiltier that he lost the younger Uchiha too.

10. Kakashi often regrets joining ANBU. It might be an organisation for the elite like him, but it also made him sell his soul for the sake of the village. The atrocities he has to live with were extreme, and to think he committed them? Well, such is the life of an ANBU.

He had joined up just after the death of the Yondaime, before he was fully over it. At that point it felt like he had nothing to live for. His sensei and his only other teammate gone in the space of a few days, he decided to join the organisation that he knew would break him.

And break him it did.

He's just glad that his comrades were there.

The dynamic was different in an ANBU squad. Instead of the comfort of a genin or chuunin team, an ANBU squad bonded over their empathy. In the broken, shattered world of an ANBU operative, it was beautiful.

Sometimes, his time in ANBU still haunts him.

11. Kakashi loves his summons.

His ninken are non-judgemental, they don't care that he feels like a monster, they're glad to come and help, no matter how much grumbling and banter is exchanged between them.

Kakashi finds this great.

He loves the easy banter and the company, which is so different from the formality of mission reports and mission briefings. At the same time, it's not the morbid humour thrown around by the other jounin or the naïve comments of the genin and civilians.

He can always count on his ninken to provide good company.

His favourite has to be Pakkun. The feisty little pug was his first summon and will always have a special place in both his heart and his pack.

12. Kakashi thought that that the responsibility of taking on a genin team was huge.

It was one of the biggest underestimations of his life.

He had to make sure they didn't die and at the same time he had to pass on his knowledge and skills in order to bring them up as the next generation of shinobi. It was really no surprise that he had to cut back on his memorial time.

He remembers the Wave mission well, as it was their first mission out of Konoha.

But he remembers equally as well – and more fondly – the insane amount of D ranked missions the group completed.

There's one that stands out. Helping the children at the academy, tutoring them, was something each graduating class did. Each Genin team was assigned nine members of the class about to graduate.

The mission was the first time that Kakashi had seen Naruto speechless (courtesy of a very loud and unexpected remark by a student), Sasuke fighting a smile (the graduating class was a riot, and seeing Naruto pranked was hilarious) and Sakura punch someone into a wall (he was pretty impressed by that).

13. Kakashi knew that he failed as an instructor. Sasuke left the village, nearly killing his friend in the process, Naruto left to train with Jiraiya, Sakura became a medic under the guidance of Tsunade. They all achieved greatness, though none through his efforts.

Sometimes he thinks that if he'd cared less about Sasuke, his students might still have been his, but looking at the heights the other two have reached, he realises things haven't turned out too badly, even if he is the worst instructor ever.

14. Naruto is his favourite student.

Naruto reminds Kakashi of Minato. He has the cheerful disposition and a smile that lights up the world. He chases his dream with unrivalled determination and willpower.

But that's not the only associations Kakashi makes.

Naruto is unexpected. He thinks of the strangest strategies on the field and they usually work. He develops jutsu and ustilises his past knowledge with a nimble mind.

Naruto isn't stupid; he's clever in a different way, Kakashi realises, and this leads to his delight at having Naruto as a student.

Naruto isn't a student you teach advanced jutsu to. You teach him the basics and watch as he pieces it together to find the principles behind the jutsus himself.

Seeing your student achieve greatness is the most beautiful thing a teacher experiences.

15. Kakashi's handwriting isn't bad.

In fact, its neatness and elegance has been wasted on many a forgotten mission report.

Kakashi does calligraphy in his spare time. The repetitiveness of the same character written over and over again until perfection was something few enjoyed. The peace of the smooth motions soothed the mind.

His favourite words to write are the names of the ones he loved and loves.

Surprisingly, Sasuke's name still makes that list, even after all the atrocities he's committed. It's a part of that bond a teacher forms with a student.

Sometimes Kakashi wishes he'd become an artist instead of a shinobi. And then he looks around at all of his friends and comrades and realises that protecting them is something he'd never be able to live without.

16. Kakashi learnt sealing off his teacher. It started as a small thing. He'd watched as Minato became more and more competent at the art and had himself began to pick up some of the broader aspects of it.

After his teacher's passing, he decided to put some time into studying it.

His calligraphy skills came in handy here.

There was something that the combination of letter and symbol, working together to transfer something somewhere else and having it stay there that appealed to the jounin.

Although he was never as good as his teacher or his teacher's teacher had been, he knew enough to be better than most and enough to earn some time or space to win a small battle.

Eventually, Kakashi begins to teach what he knows to Naruto. He figures it's a legacy from his teacher he should pass on to his student.

17. Gai is Kakashi's current best friend, even if he's too afraid of Youth to admit it to the other jounin's face. He's steady and constant, unlike both his students and the other jounin. Kakashi knows Gai thinks that Kakashi doesn't care for him, but he's never seen Kakashi after every one of their challenges.

Gai doesn't know that Kakashi smiles every time.

18. Kakashi wants to know underneath the underneath.

What is it that drives a ninja?

When he was younger, he thought it was loyalty. He thought it was a need to serve his Hokage to the best of his abilities, to serve the village and its people.

Now he is not so sure.

He thinks it might be to protect his people - his precious people - from death and destruction. But it's not just that either.

It might just be his bizarre, selfish desire to not lose anyone else again.

19. Kakashi has only tried to take his life once.

He contemplated it after his umpteenth mission as an ANBU. He wondered whether there was a point protecting the village now that his most precious people were gone.

He lowered the kunai.

He's forever grateful that at that moment Gemna broke his door in his enthusiasm to tell his fellow ninja some wonderful news.

Gemna, however, has not yet not forgotten the image of a Kakashi falling apart before his eyes.

The image of the dark eyes, dark thoughts and the appearance of the live weapon so close to not-enemy skin is burned into Gemna's memory as though he possessed the Sharingan.

Gemna talked him into putting the weapon away, promising to talk in the morning.

Kakashi realised the next morning that this was exactly what his father had done. This was exactly why he had hated him for so long: he was going to take the easy way out.

Kakashi knew he needed to get a new job.

20. He might be broken, but Kakashi is glad he is alive. He's grateful he's alive to see the sunrise with Obito's eye, alive to help his sensei's legacy achieve greatness.

So if death came calling, he'd fight it with everything.

After all, he's done what many ninja before him have failed to do: he's pieced his life together to become the whole person that he is today.

He's put a life back together, instead of taking it away.

A/N: ANBU Crow is Itachi Uchiha. Explanation is in the extended author's notes on my tumblr: oakleaffic-tumblr-com/post/35827639451 (replace the dashes with dots).

Originally published on 20 December 2011; edited and reposted 17 November 2012. Also available on my Ao3.

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