for you to lose
There is a man sitting backwards on a wobbly chair when Kakashi's eyes open. The room is bright and grimy and empty, except for him and the man on the chair watching him, and
and Gen's corpse, splayed out throat stretched bare silver fur matted dark with dirt and blood and his guts trailing on the
Kakashi closes his eyes and keens. It trails off into harsh breaths but he can't get the image of Gen on the floor out of his mind.
"Pet of yours?" the man says quietly. Kakashi's eyelids slit open and there is nothing left in his eyes. He's a shinobi. He blames his lapse on the pain in his head and the tightness in his lungs and the fact that, as he starts to think about it, he realizes his nose is broken and so are some of his ribs. When he tries to clench his hands he finds they've snapped all the fingers on his right hand. The whiteness threatens to come back.
The man is leaning his chin on his crossed arms propped on top of the chair back. He has sharply green eyes and a scarred mouth that doesn't smile. He's not much older than Kakashi, fifteen, sixteen perhaps. His vest is open and a battered forehead protector is tied under a fall of lank, dark hair. "You blew up the bridge," the man with green eyes says.
Kakashi's wrists are tied to rings in the wall, his arms spread and wrenched upwards. The rings are part of the very wall; in fact the whole building has an organic sense to it, as if it was grown from bedrock. He stops glaring at the man with the green eyes long enough to sweep the room and realize there are no doors and there are no windows. He carefully doesn't look at Gen again.
Kakashi has gone through the training; they covered what to do when your comrade is dead, or captured with you. Kakashi had just never quite equated 'comrade' with 'friend.' With Gen's vibrant blue eyes glazed and frozen. Still, he tells himself he isn't afraid. He finds it's even true.
But this interrogator isn't asking questions. He's just looking at Kakashi with sad, tired eyes, slumped on a chair with one leg too short so every time he shifts it clanks against the stone. "We picked up both your friends two days ago."
Kakashi's eyes are swollen, and from the aching throbbing mess that is the rest of his face they are surely bruised black. It makes it easy not to react when the green-eyed man mentions his teammates. They've stripped him of his mask and his sandals and his shirt; he's never been this vulnerable and wide-open before, yet still he stares at the green-eyed man with no emotion. They've killed his family. Does the man think he will be more concerned about the humans who abandoned him?
The man buries his face in his arms and Kakashi very carefully pulls against the restraints. They don't give but his hands flare with pain.
The man chuckles a little without looking up. He doesn't sound like he thinks it's very funny. "It won't let you go. I'd prefer it if you didn't struggle, you know." After a long moment, he straightens. A hand slips into his kunai holster, and Kakashi tenses.
The blade clatters on the floor between them. It's so damn close, but there's nothing Kakashi can do to get at it. Then he realizes it isn't Iwa standard; it's Minato's special kunai, sealed for his Hiraishin.
"We found this. It's one of the Yellow Demon's." The green-eyed man is listing facts, not waiting for any response from Kakashi. "Neither of your teammates had one.
"They think you don't care about them," he adds, slouching a little. "We told the boy we'd taken you. You know what he said?"
It's a rhetorical question, but Kakashi wouldn't answer anyway. He stares, memorizing the face, the scarred lips, the quirked eyebrows, the dirt ground into pores, the deep bags under painfully green eyes. He thinks what that face will look like after he slams a fistful of lightning into it.
"Good," the man says. "He said good. Rin cried," he adds.
He knows Rin's name.
He's still speaking. "I don't think that's true, though. You always hear about how damn attached the Leaf are to their comrades. I think you have to give at least half a shit about what happens to them."
The man nudges the kunai closer to Kakashi with an outstretched foot. "I think," he murmurs, "that you don't want to watch them die."
He lets the silence stretch for a little while. Lets Kakashi's eyes wander from his face to the dead dog on the floor and snap back. "I want to know how the seal works."
When half an hour stretches into an hour, and Kakashi doesn't speak or move or even breathe more than necessary, the green-eyed man stands up. He's not tall, though in the low-ceilinged room, almost a cave, really, he looms over Kakashi. He scoops up the knife and leaves, walking into the stone of the wall as if it were nothing but air. Kakashi knocks his head back against the rock; it's as solid as it was before.
The thirst is what lets him keep track of time. He fades in and out of consciousness; vision coming and going in blurred frames. He craves water; licks the sweat from his face until he stops sweating and his tongue swells. The light never changes; he never sleeps, just floats from lucidity into darkness and back, as helpless as he was in the river.
Gen begins to rot. In one of his clearer moments, Kakashi knows it isn't natural, that it shouldn't be happening this fast. But the stench and the thirst clog his throat and thoughts, and he loses grasp on that fact.
He's not hungry. Not with the air so stale and filled with the smell of death. He would rather not die hungry, he thinks.
The hallucinations start not long after. Gen's eyelids blink open, and glowing green eyes watch him from peeling sockets, tears of liquefying brain matter tracking down furred cheeks that sludge and reform into the sharp bones of the Iwa-nin. He tries to stand, but his four legs are shaky and his guts are spilling out all over the floor. He's calling Kakashi's name. Kashi-chan, come here. I'm sorry, Kashi-chan.
Then there's cold metal between his lips, and icy water is filling up his mouth and spilling down his cheeks. He chokes, and then he drinks, desperately, blindly. He arches after it when it's pulled away; a chilled hand splays across his face and holds him back.
He dangles from the restraints, whimpering, licking the last droplets from his chin, shivering at the water rolling down his bare chest. It's the green-eyed nin again. He is sitting on the chair like he never left, calm as days before, as if he can't smell the rot and the urine and the shit on the floor, as if Gen's half-melted body is just a faded rug that he has seen every day for his whole life.
A matte-black canteen dangles loosely from his fingers, condensation beading slowly on the outside. "I want to know how the seal works."
Kakashi's head lolls forward. He stretches his tongue out, trying to reach the last trails of water dampening his collarbones.
The green-eyed man stands up and brings the canteen back, cupping Kakashi's face gently with his hand as he tips the mouth up between Kakashi's lips. "Drink, kid," he says, and lets Kakashi swallow mouthful after mouthful of sweet water.
Then he stands back as Kakashi starts to vomit, water and bile spilling out onto skin and floor until Kakashi is gasping and pretty sure he would be crying if there were any liquid left inside his skin.
"We tried chakra stimulus," the green-eyed man says, crouching beside him in the puddle. "We tried blood, ours and yours. We tried fire and we tried water; we experimented with reversal seals and activation tags. Any suggestions?"
He twirls the canteen as he talks, the source-less, dull light glinting from the water beading on the lusterless exterior. Kakashi may have no dignity left, he may even have no soul, as he has been accused of more than once. But he has one thing, and it is a certainty that nothing that happens to him is worth Minato's life. This is the knowledge that exists in his mind, underneath and around the pain and the terrible thirst, the exhaustion and the utter certainty that he is going to die.
Minato is the premier jounin of the Leaf: the Yellow Flash, who is a demon to the enemy and the strength in the arms of the Leaf, the hope in its hearts. To betray him now is to betray Konoha itself.
The green-eyed nin waits, and sometime in the waiting Kakashi drifts away again. He wakes with flashes of yellow hair in his memory, a sunshine laugh tingling in his ears.
In the real world, someone is crying. He lifts his head just enough to peer muzzily through a screen of grey hair. It's Rin. She's curled up on top of another body, sobbing into the bare chest of – Obito. He recognizes the shape, though he can't see the face.
Desperately, painfully, he craves water. "Water," he croaks, and Rin starts and sits up with panic in her eyes.
"Kakashi," she gasps, and all his hours (days?) of resistance are made worthless.
"Water," he tries again, because the damage is done, and he can't think around the need.
"There isn't any. Kakashi, what happened? What do we do?"
He squeezes his eyes shut, hoping the world will start to make any sense. He can't feel much anymore, just the dry fuzziness in his mouth and the thick pounding in his head. "Don't talk," he manages. "Don't."
She stops talking but keeps crying, her hands brushing over Obito's face and shoulders, trying to find some way to help. Kakashi fades out.
Someone is slapping his face, gently. He blinks, stares into green eyes that fill the world. Screams. It's hoarse, barely more than a whisper, and tears at his throat.
"I'm taking a gamble here, Kakashi-kun," the green-eyed man says, leaning back. "That you really do care, at least a tiny bit, what happens to Obito-kun."
When he orders Rin to move, she cowers away, backing against the far wall and curling up tight around her knees. Kakashi feels a bland sort of disgust at her, quickly forgotten when the ninja kneels down at Obito's side. He tries to struggle again, and finds his muscles won't respond.
Obito wakes up, and the green-eyed man begins to hurt him.
When he stops, some time later, and orders Rin to Obito's side, the green-eyed torturer approaches Kakashi. "Drink." Kakashi hates himself as he swallows, unable to refuse water as it trickles into his mouth. He pulls away the canteen before Kakashi can make himself sick again.
He doesn't need to force Kakashi to watch; Rin hides her face and sobs, but attention is the least that Kakashi owes to Obito right now. So he catalogues every broken bone, every strip of skin, every bit of pain that shatters through Obito's face and ragged voice. There is a strip of dirty bandage tied tight over his dark eyes, and the boy has not said a single human word.
When Rin crawls back to Obito the second time, Kakashi speaks again. "Don't," he tells Rin, even as the torturer brushes sweaty grey hair from Kakashi's face. He avoids the green eyes and speaks only to Rin. "Let him go." Even all three of them would not add up to Minato's worth. The best thing now is for it just to end.
The ninja rocks back on his heels, casting a curious look at the girl to see what she will do. Tears splash on Obito's face, but the hands full of green chakra are still closing his wounds as Obito draws in shuddering breaths.
"I misjudged you, Kakashi-kun," he says softly. "I'm sorry."
He rises fluidly to his feet and adjusts his grip on the kunai he has been using. Minato's kunai. "I believe we will transfer you to someone with more training than I have," he says. "The delay that will cause is rather unfortunate, but unless you have a change of heart, I see no other choice."
He doesn't mean to, but the scream comes on its own when the green-eyed nin pulls his arm back and lets the kunai fly. Not for Obito's inevitable death, a mercy finally, but because this is it.
A yellow flash.
The kunai is caught, reversed, sings its way back to embed itself in a bright green eye—that melts into sludge around the knife and collapses into mud with the rest of the body. Minato spins, taking in the sights even as the walls around them shudder and begin to contract.
Minato's hands form seals and slam into the walls, faster than sight. The stone groans and tightens more quickly. Kakashi's wrists crack as the shackles contract with the deforming stone they were grown from. He registers it only faintly, body too far gone to respond.
A pillar of stone grows beneath Minato's hands, straining to hold back the ceiling. It groans, then shatters, stone shrapnel flying through the rapidly shrinking space. It was a trap; it had always been a trap, despite being sprung on accident.
Minato is still struggling, as Kakashi embraces the death he has been resigned to for years. "Summoning jutsu!"
The ground shivers. A strong hand fastens around his ankle as Kakashi is flung backwards with the exploding shell. The toad shakes himself, dislodging rubble from his thick hide. Kakashi feels fresh air - a blast of scentless wind – as he falls onto Gamabunta's huge head.
Darkness pulls at the edges of his vision; Kakashi fights his body for control. Gamabunta moves under him. Minato catches the first assault on a three-pronged kunai. Kakashi tries to stand, as Minato flickers in and out of sight and men die. An arm wraps around his throat.
"Yellow Demon!" a voice shouts from behind Kakashi's head. Minato spins, a spray of blood outlining him for a brief moment as a long-haired woman tumbles from Gamabunta's back. His handsome face is emotionless, hair blowing in the winds he has created, eyes narrow and dangerous. Flecks of red settle on his skin. He moves like water.
A pair of kunai appears in Minato's hands. One speeds towards Rin and Obito; the girl reaches up and catches it from the air. The second flies at the man behind Kakashi.
Minato flickers and for a brief second, is next to Rin and Obito. Then all three disappear.
The Iwa-nin curses and rolls. He knows enough not to dodge and assume he is safe. He takes Kakashi with him, tumbling head over heels in the curve of the man's body.
Then Minato is back, alone, and his eyes are hard as stone, fixed on the man who has a knife to his last student's throat.
A hand fists in Kakashi's hair and yanks his head back; the knife draws thin lines of blood. All Kakashi can see is blue sky and the glare of sunlight. His ears are full of a high whine and a muffled drumming.
And then he is falling. The Iwa-nin tumbles next to him, uncontrolled, terrified. It is a long fall from Gamabunta's head.
He hits the water on his back and the impact is hard as stone.
The darkness wins.