On the first day of newly, officially established world peace Kakashi goes to the hospital. Hands in his pockets, he walks along tiled corridors past people who are either glowing with happiness or crying with relief. Some of them manage to do both at the same time.
The whole village is brimming with emotion, yet Kakashi remains curiously blank, almost hollow even. They have won the war; he has buried a student. He should be feeling something. But weeks filled with endless negotiation meetings, not to mention the sheer effort of picking up the pieces, seem to have deadened most of his emotions. Then again, he never was very emotional to begin with. He used to have someone who did his weeping for him. Of the joyful and the mournful variety both.
Shizune nods to him as he passes by. Her expression flashes from happiness to sympathy when she meets his eye almost ashamedly. Kakashi would never begrudge anyone their relief, especially not after a war, but he is glad that she makes no attempt to talk to him. He has spent the better part of the past weeks exchanging empty pleasantries with other ninja, as well as giving and accepting congratulations and condolences.
After the removal of their common enemy, the great nations and their respective hidden villages found themselves in a hastily made alliance, but with no immediate threat to occupy their minds, people begun to remember why exactly it had taken them so long to reluctantly join forces in the first place.
The morning after brought the memories flooding right back, and many were eager to treat the alliance like a drunken one-night-stand. A small lapse of judgment.
It had taken a lot of inspirational speeches during the peace talks to keep the whole thing from slipping.
Kakashi had stood by. Inspirational speeches were not part of his repertoire. Occasionally he'd wondered where Naruto still found the energy. After everything. But then, maybe it just came with being Naruto.
Kakashi opens the sliding door to a slit, just big enough for him to peer through. As usual, he checks if the coast is clear. Running into other visitors makes him feel awkward, makes him feel like being caught with his pants down, worse, with his heart on his sleeve.
His visits to this room are far from secret – everybody who sees him enter the hospital knows exactly where he is going – but that doesn't mean he wants anyone to actually be present to witness them.
(Once he ran into Neji of all people. Their fingers brushed on the doorframe after they’d both pulled the sliding door open from different sides at the same time. Maybe, Kakashi thinks, it would have been somewhat less embarrassing for both of them if the rest of Neji's team had been there, but, inexplicably, the Hyuuga was alone, and as such the awkwardness was practically suffocating. Startled, not to mention caught off guard, they both took a step back at exactly the same moment as if choreographed and schooled their faces into mirroring expressions of utter blankness to cover their mutual embarrassment.)
Today, Kakashi can't see or sense any visitor, so he enters. The room is bright and cluttered – more so than any other room in Konoha's hospital, Kakashi assumes. As always, the blinds are drawn up, letting the sun bathe the bed and the colourful flowers on the nightstand in its light.
Kakashi sits down on the middle one in the row of three hideous orange plastic chairs lined up next to the bed and listens to the steady beep of the machines. Since he is on watch, waiting for the telltale signs, he doesn't read. He knows all the Icha Icha volumes by heart anyway.
Instead his gaze traverses the small room until it settles on a potted sunflower hanging its head mournfully in the corner. Kakashi sighs. Before, he'd thought that the children – and he still thinks of them that way, even now, now that they're technically war veterans – were so preoccupied with concern for more important things that they simply forgot to water it regularly, but when he went to investigate, he discovered that the opposite is true. In their enthusiasm they're slowly drowning the poor plant.
This is a mistake he cannot rectify without pointing it out to them, which would give away the frequency of his visits. So he has chosen to leave the thing at their mercy and hopes for the best. Now every time Kakashi enters the room, he expects the sunflower to be gone, to have died in his absence and to have already been removed by the time he returns.
He would never admit it, but the thought bothers him quite a bit for some reason.
To ward off these kinds of thoughts, Kakashi finally looks at the bed in front of him, where Guy lies, looking for all the world like he is sleeping and could wake up any moment. It's an unnaturally comforting sight. Unnatural because, much like Kakashi himself, he should be dead. Comforting because he isn't. Guy is breathing, his heart is beating.
That makes it official.
Guy has opened the eighth gate and lives. Well, granted, he didn't exactly live immediately after the fight went out of him, but with immediate medical attention, he has recovered.
More or less, that is.
He hasn't woken up yet. Hasn't opened his eyes once since he went down.
But, like Lee, Kakashi knows that that's only a matter of time now. Guy will wake up and when he does, any day now, things will change. They already have, in some respects, but even if this peace crumbles to bloody dust under their fingers, which it might because people don't forget, they hold grudges and even if they run out of conflicts, they'll create new ones, that's just a matter of time, too, Kakashi knows this and so does Guy – and that's what makes them the grown-ups – anyway, even if it all goes to hell again, Kakashi will change, has changed, because he has seen his best friend die trying to protect him. Again.
And it killed him. Again.
All this time, his life has been going around in circles. Every time, he ignored what was right in front of his eyes until it was too late.
Kakashi's nails dig into his thighs. Sitting in the hospital chairs always makes his muscles cramp up despite his lazy slouch.
Impatience is gnawing on him. The thing is that he has a feeling about today. Whether it comes down to intuition or instinct or just knowing Guy, Kakashi couldn't say. But this is the day, either way it will go down in history, no matter how long the peace lasts this time, this date will be remembered. And Guy, Guy loves nothing more than a dramatic entrance. Or, in this case, comeback.
There had been signs, too.
Four days ago, Kakashi'd thought he'd seen Guy's left eyelid twitch.
Two days ago, he'd – in a rare moment of weakness – given in and briefly squeezed Guy's hand and had, for the briefest of moments, felt Guy's fingers curl around his in response.
He hasn't told Guy's students anything. He saw no need to. Either Guy really is about to wake up, which they would notice soon enough, or Kakashi was imagining things and would only be raising their hopes for no reason.
Deep down, however, he just knows it's today. He's always been good at predicting Guy's moves, and he's only gotten better over the years. Kakashi likes the fact that Guy cannot surprise him anymore.
So, he isn't terribly startled when Guy makes a sound – a small confused one that, at first, doesn't sound anything like Guy – and the machine beeps a little louder. Startled or not, it's still enough to have Kakashi out of the chair and on his feet, leaning over Guy, in a heartbeat.
"Guy!" Kakashi half-whispers, half-shouts . He reaches out to cup Guy's cheek, his thumb brushes Guy's lips, Kakashi gives him the most gentle of shakes.
And Guy wakes up. Slowly. He frowns, his eyelids tremble. He swallows and groans.
It's a complicated process that seems to take forever.
Then Guy's eyes open and for the first time in weeks Kakashi can breathe freely again. Tension leaves his body in a rush, making his knees go weak. He's close to simply falling down on top of Guy and part of him wants to do just that.
He looks into Guy's dark, confused eyes and feels his own sting in response.
"You idiot," Kakashi blurts. "You're really such an idiot."
"Where…?" The single word barely makes it past Guy's lips and it's only thanks to Kakashi's acute hearing and their proximity that Kakashi understands.
"Well, where do you think you are?" he asks, laughing and somewhat high on relief. "The hospital," he clarifies when Guy doesn't react, apart from feeble attempts to struggle into a sitting position that Kakashi stops by putting his hands on Guy's shoulders gently but firmly. Guy doesn't stop struggling, though, in fact he tries even harder to get away. The sight of him, clearly terrified, makes Kakashi feel cold and anxious.
"Hey," Kakashi says in what he hopes is a calming voice, hoping against all reason that this is just confusion and disorientation, that Guy will snap out of it in a moment.
But Guy flinches. He flinches away from Kakashi, his eyes darting from Kakashi to the door and back. Looking for an escape route.
"What happened to me?" he whispers brokenly, pressing himself against the bed's headboard, as far away from Kakashi as he can get. "Who are you?"
In the corner, the first yellow petal tumbles to the ground.