Exams suck. Enjoy! And to GlimmerFairy, sorry for not replying for so long. Remote internet access kind of slows down my replying powers.
It took Kakashi, Himewara Yoshin and I two days to reach Konoha. This may seem like a long time but I assure you, traversing 396 miles using well-placed, chakra-consuming shunshins without any rests or stops in between (with the exception of the guiltily hastily consumed banana around 32 hours into the journey) made it seem like it was never going to end.
Kakashi nearly collapsed from sheer fatigue and Himewara-san had to be left behind four times to catch up because he was on the verge of chakra exhaustion. I on the other hand, did not let on about how much my muscles are being uncooperative and are forming a trade union just so they can riot against my will. My will is strong, but this is ridiculous. Alternatively, I think of the people dying on the Suna border and I think that my sore muscles at least can feel sore because I'm not dead and no one deserves to die and therefore, I'll suck it up and move it at breakneck pace because people are counting on me.
Out of breath and nearly out of chakra, our trio bowed to our Hokage and awaited our orders. He told us to rise and we did, to our calf muscles' great chagrin. Jiraiya-sensei was present and I've never seen him so young before and Orochimaru-sama was off to the side with an unreadable expression on his face—but I thought I saw sadness in the slight downward tilt of the corner of his mouth. Just the slightest bit of humanity in those dark eyes. Just the slightest bit of compassion and it made me trust him just the slightest bit—and Kato Dan with his stern but solemnly kind stance near Hokage-sama's desk, along with Morino Ibiki, who looked pale and drawn but looked utterly determined, the sort of madness that us shinobi try but fail to ward off seemingly embracing him like an old friend.
Jiraiya-sensei greeted me with his usual 'hey brat' and I responded with a weary smile and a long-suffering sigh, after which everyone began bobbing their heads in Kakashi and Himewara-san's direction and I dismissed them with a nod.
Hokage-sama got off his seat and proceeded to tell us that the war effort, while 'as efficient as to be expected' wasn't quite up to his expectations about our capabilities. We listened in growing horror of the casualty numbers and Shimura-sama came halfway through the debriefing (read: reducing our morale to dried husks) to give us the latest from the Suna border. Or maybe he was there the whole time and I just didn't notice him.
Of the 900 soldiers that were deployed, only 400 were in any condition to fight. They needed support and they needed it now. Jiraiya-sensei volunteered to go (I think he wanted any excuse not to be berated for his incompetence. So would I actually but I wasn't raised to be a coward. Merely stupid beyond belief) and Kato-san volunteered some of his shinobi to aid the injured at Suna. Hokage-sama refused Kato-san's proposal point blank and said that they were not expendable for a seemingly lost cause.
I don't know what happened next but Morino-san held me back and I was screaming loudly about how if 'the freaking Hokage gave up on us then there really wasn't any point fighting is there? We should all just flee and let the Iwa-nin burn our homes to ashes and raze Konoha to the ground because our Hokage believes we're a lost cause' and I was punched in the face by Hokage-sama and Shimura-san looked at me with utter distaste in his detached fashion and they told me to 'calm down sub-commander, before we put you six feet under'.
I glared and pushed their hands off me and politely (chillingly politely) asked the Hokage what my orders were.
Jiraiya-sensei, my escorts and I are supposed to get to Suna, aide the men there, and order a retreat at the first sign of a stalemate. 'Fortify the valley. They cannot claim Doujin pass.' The interrogation division supplied twenty shinobi, nine of which were Yamanaka, and we set off. Kato-san was deployed to my front to make sure my shinobi didn't get lax (as if; Kushina would never allow it and Mikoto-chan has the eyes of a hawk). Orochimaru-sama is going to lend a hand to the Kiri forces and Tsunade-sama is 'taking a much needed breather'.
So my blowing my top was completely ineffectual and intellectually, I knew that. Except that my outburst re-lit the fire in Hokage-sama's eyes and, before I left, he called me back.
The others left and he nodded at me.
"Bring them home Namikaze. Every last flame in Suna needs to come home."
*Outside the Hokage's office*
"He didn't say goodbye."
"He loves her though."
"Why is he being stubborn?"
"Everyone knows he loves her. Why won't they just make up?"
"Is he impotent?"
"Or maybe he's asexual. Or terminally ill. Maybe they're siblings or something. Or-"
Kakashi resumed leaning back against the wall with both eyes closed and all his senses on high alert. Patience was a virtue he would master, but he really wished Minato-sensei would come back so that he could reassure himself that he wasn't bleeding to death, impaled by sharp gigantic claws.
His father used to say that his dreams were too vivid and he shouldn't ignore them.
Father had said a lot of things that were supremely important that Kakashi had done everything in his power to abide by.
Too bad he was dead.