Sasuke murdered Tobi and then turned on the joint shinobi forces. He killed hundreds before Naruto confronted him. Kakashi and Sakura knew they could not do anything to help; they stayed back. Naruto could not persuade Sasuke; his rage was too great. They fought. It was breaking their teammates' hearts, but there was nothing they could do.

Then something happened. Even Naruto wasn't sure what. But after kicked up dust fell back to earth they saw Sasuke was down, unconscious. And he didn't wake up. Many wanted to take advantage of the situation and murder the Uchiha while he couldn't defend himself, but Naruto would not allow it. They took Sasuke home to Konoha.

Sasuke lay under constant ANBU guard , in the rebuilt hospital while the village regrew around him. His team—or rather, former team—came to see him often, but Sasuke would not wake up. Even Inochi could not break through whatever type of coma he was in nor could Tsunade heal the damage—there wasn't any.

Kakashi and Sakura arrived together two weeks after the war ended. Kakashi couldn't bear to see Sakura like this nor could he bear to feel like this anymore.

"Maybe we should stop coming here," Kakashi said. "He may never wake up. Even if he does, he's going to be executed. Even repentance can't save him now. Not even Naruto's optimism can save him."

"I want to speak with him one last time." Sakura was holding back tears. "I need to hear his voice once more."

"We can save all of us, including Sasuke, so much pain if we just ended it now."

"No." She shook her head vehemently. "If there's a chance . . ."

"There's nothing that can save him."

But he kept coming back. It took another week for Sakura to give up, but Kakashi arrived after every mission. He visited one Uchiha in the morning—Obito—and another in the evening.

There was never any change.

Kakashi stood there promising himself—again—that this would be the last time he'd visit. Sasuke's dead. He's been dead much longer than a month. But he still leaned against the windowsill with his back to the outside. He prayed for what he told himself would be the last time, Just wake up and end this limbo. He was lost in his own misery.

Then he heard a moan. He looked up from the floor. It took a second for him to process what he'd heard and turn his face to the bed. The ANBU guard was even slower to respond. Kakashi was already standing at Sasuke's bedside when the ANBU appeared near the door.

"Sasuke?" Kakashi prompted.

Sasuke moved, but didn't appear to be awake. He shifted, the first time he'd moved on his own, but his muscles were too atrophied to move much. Finally, his eyes cracked open. He tried to speak, but his throat was not accustom to moving anymore.

Kakashi moved forward and held out the water, then realized Sasuke didn't have the strength to grasp the glass. Kakashi moved in to support Sasuke's head with one hand and carefully poured the water into Sasuke's mouth.

Sasuke groaned and tried to speak a few times. His eyes had difficulty focusing, but he looked at Kakashi more than anything without fear or concern.

At last, he could croak, "Where am I?"

"You're in the hospital in Konoha."

"Where?"

"Konoha."

There was honest confusion in Sasuke's eyes. Kakashi might as well said they were on the moon.

"Who are you?"

"What?" Sasuke was annoyed at having to ask every question twice. Kakashi began to grow concerned. "I'm Kakashi." A chill ran up his spine.

Sasuke just blinked at him. "Do I know you?"

Kakashi pulled away. "Hatake Kakashi. You don't remember me?" There was no recognition in Sasuke's eyes. "Haruno Sakura? Uzumaki Naruto? Uchiha Itachi? Uchiha . . . Sasuke." Nothing. Kakashi could have been speaking Greek, it would make no difference to Sasuke. There wasn't anything even at the sound of his own name.

"Sasuke?" Kakashi was beginning to panic. "You're name?"

"My name?" Now panic awoke in Sasuke's eyes. "I don't know."

"Your name is Sasuke."

"Sas—ke?"

"You're a member of the Uchiha clan. You're brother's name was Itachi. I was your sensei. Sakura was in love with you, but you couldn't care less about her. Naruto was your best friend and rival. You were born and raised in Konoha. Don't you remember anything?"

His own panic was feeding Sasuke's.

"You really don't remember who you are, do you?" If it had been anyone else, Kakashi would have continued to be frightened for him or grieved; that would be like the death of the person he knew. But with Sasuke, he had another chance. He was excited. He even felt elated. He had another chance. He had another chance. He could save Sasuke.

"What happened to me? Why can't I remember anything?"

"Do you remember anything at all?" the ANBU finally chimed in.

Sasuke searched his memory. He looked at his hands. He touched the calluses, wondered what they could be from. Sasuke made a simple handsign; the ANBU tensed. But there was no chakra.

"What does this mean?" Sasuke asked.

"It's to summon and concentrate your chakra," Kakashi answered.

"Chakra. That's . . . right . . . somehow." He looked at the two masked men and touched his own face. "I'm not wearing a mask."

"You've never worn one."

Sasuke looked into Kakashi's single eye. "I trust you." He looked at the other man. "I don't trust you. Why?"

"I was your sensei; you know me. You never knew this man."

"I . . . I . . . don't remember anything. Just waking up. What happened to me?"

"I think you hit your head. I don't really know what happened to you. You've been asleep for a month." Sasuke started to panic. Kakashi moved in. "Calm down; don't worry. There's nothing in your past worth remembering. You've had a painful life. It's better if you forget." He caressed Sasuke's hair in a parental fashion. He couldn't hold back his relief and . . . joy. Kakashi took the confused boy in his arms. He wanted to weep with joy; he had an innocent Sasuke back. He had Sasuke back.

He turned to the ANBU. "Report this to the Hokage. I'll stay with him."

The ANBU hesitated, but left.

"It'll be alright, Sasuke. I promise you, everything will be alright now. I'll protect you this time. I swear it. I won't fail you again."

TBC

By the way, I'll be attending Yaoi-Con in Long Beach, CA this October and my name badge will be Misatospenpen, so if you'll be there, say hi. I accept gifts. ^_^