Grave sitters

Hatake Kakashi knew why his student, Uchiha Sasuke, was silent this day. He was more silent and morose than usual. He didn't heed Uzumaki Naruto's taunts or Haruno Sakura's attempts of affections. Sasuke's teammates knew that something was wrong with the number one rookie, but they didn't know what to say. Kakashi knew what to say to Sasuke, but he was certain that the boy wouldn't listen. Sasuke would say that he didn't understand, just as he told his teammates that they never would understand revenge. Kakashi sometimes wondered if she would approve of her son's drive to avenge her and the Uchiha Clan. He would never know. Kakashi would not talk to Uchiha Mikoto again. Despite himself, Kakashi sighed deep from his chest. Although he would never admit it, Mikoto's death had shaken him greatly. Sometimes the tug of grief was sharp enough that it felt as if five years since that day hadn't past. Mikoto… Kakashi thought, thinking of the woman's exquisite beauty. Today was her birthday. That was why Sasuke was so morose and silent today.

He watched silently as Sasuke began to walk away from his team at the end of the day. The sunset was setting, blood-red mixed in with beautiful orange and yellow. Kakashi wondered if Sasuke loved sunsets as Mikoto, his mother, did. At the corner of his eye, he saw Sakura and Naruto going their separate ways. They called out a goodbye to Sasuke, but the genin didn't respond. Sakura walked sadly away as Naruto tried to scold Sasuke on his behavior in vain. Then he walked away to with a scowl on his face. Kakashi remained focused on Sasuke. The genin was walking slowly, and he noticed with a sharp eye that his movements were tense. His fists were clenched, and his fingernails were digging into his palms. Sasuke had his head down, trying to obscure the grief that he held inside. Kakashi silently followed him.

Kakashi met Mikoto thirteen years ago, at the end of the Third Shinobi World War, and before Sasuke was born. Kakashi didn't expect to see the young wife of Uchiha Fugaku standing in the cold rain in front of the memorial stone. The stone was somewhat beautiful today, with rain dripping down from it, causing the stone with a bloody past have a serene look and calm blue sheen. Kakashi silently walked beside the woman. He noticed that she was carrying flowers.

"Obito used to talk about you all the time," she had whispered. She didn't look towards him, and continued to stare at the names recently carved into the stone. "Kakashi-san, I appreciate what you sacrificed to save my cousin even though you failed."

Kakashi didn't know what to say. He didn't know that Obito had a cousin as beautiful as she was. She also was not like Obito at all. She was quiet, considerate, and patient. Kakashi wondered if she would have sacrificed herself as Obito sacrificed himself for Konohagakure. But he didn't say that.

He could only say, "You shouldn't call me by –san. You're older than me, Mikoto." He only recently remembered her name.

She smiled. "And yet you are stronger than me. I even sometimes believe you will outshine my husband. My son wants to be like you when he grows up."

Kakashi was silent again. He remembered the rumors about her son, a boy of four years named Uchiha Itachi. At a tender age, he had witnessed many people die before his eyes because of the Third Shinobi World War. The boy, Kakashi thought, would be forever changed. He watched as Mikoto bent down to memorial stone to place the flowers. For a moment, she was still, tracing Obito's name with her fingers. Then she spoke again.

"I would have fought the war if Sandamie-sama allowed me to. He told me no, Kakashi-san. He told me that my duty was in the home now that I was a young wife and a mother to a small child. Perhaps if I did go to the war, Obito wouldn't have died. I had hoped to resume my shinobi duties with the war over, but I am pregnant again. I will not be allowed to."

"When are you due?" Kakashi asked.

A faint smile pulled on Mikoto's lips. "My child will come into the world on July 23." Then her smile faded. She stood and faced Kakashi. Obito's voice suddenly entered Kakashi's mind. "Before she was married, my cousin was the strongest kunoichi. She became a jōnin at age sixteen, and even then, she was a beauty. She was the person who taught me ninjustu and taijustu. Even though the others wouldn't believe in me, she did. I owe her everything, and I wish that the Hokage would allow her to fight. She would be an indisposible ace." Kakashi hadn't recalled Obito complementing anyone until then. He had truly admired his cousin, and until now, he hadn't met the kunoichi who had trained Obito to become a shinobi. "You must protect him, Kakashi-san. My unborn son will not know war like his older brother, but he will be neglected by everyone surrounding him. My Clan will place their hopes and strength onto Itachi, and will forget that his younger brother will exist. My husband has eyes only for Itachi even now. It will be you who will have to teach him ninjustu, taijustu, and genjustu, Kakashi-san. Obito praised you highly, and I can't think of anyone else who would be a better teacher. You must protect him as his sensei."

"I will," Kakashi had said to her. "I promise."

Then she smiled.

Kakashi had done his best to keep his promise to Mikoto. He had watched over Sasuke for twelve years since his birth, and had requested to train Sasuke as his student once he graduated from the Academy. He saw that Mikoto's youngest son looked hauntingly like her. The same pale skin with the same smile. Obito had told him about his cousin's justu style, and Kakashi saw that Sasuke had inherited her strategies in battle. "She is calm as a snake," Obito said. He saw Sasuke not far off, crouching down beside his mother's grave. Mikoto's son's body was curled into a ball, and with his sharp ears, Kakashi could hear the boy's quiet sobs. He started to move forward to comfort Sasuke, but stopped. He saw flowers crushed in the boy's hand, and remembered that he himself had stared sadly at her grave early in the morning before he left to the memorial stone. Mikoto's name was carved there as well.

I'm sorry, Sasuke. Kakashi thought as he continued to watch him. Your mother wanted me to protect you. I don't know if I'm doing enough or not. I cared for her, just as you had, and still do. We are both recovering from her death, as we both are grave sitters. You are like I was at your age. I had experienced that kind of pain as well. I know what revenge feels like. You are the son I never had, Sasuke. I will continue to protect you and teach you, as your mother wanted me to. I promise.