It would really only be an ANBU that would dare to simply appear in the bedroom of Hatake Kakashi. So, therefore, naturally the ANBU’s presence would be to summon the aforementioned Hatake Kakashi to appear before the Hokage. Hatake Kakashi, however, continued to stubbornly sleep.
Kakashi really had to wonder why the sadistic bitc-he meant the Hokage always had to send him out at night. Didn’t she have to sleep at some point too?
“Kakashi,” the sleepy man beside him murmured, “go with Anko so she’ll stop poking me in the ear.”
Kakashi groaned. If the Hokage had really sent ANBU member Jackal to fetch him than she must actually be serious. He sat up and rustled beside the bed for some clothes. Then he stopped, something was off. He dressed in an instant.
“You’re quiet, Jackal,” Kakashi said. He peered out at the woman, suspicious, from over the bed where his lover was stretching, waking up more and more by the moment.
“I’m here on orders, mutt,” she bit back. “It’s a mission, deal with it. We can chit chat later.”
That declaration even made Iruka blink. Normally the rambunctious woman would have taken the opportunity to talk/annoy up a storm with Iruka. Or she would’ve at least tried to pry some of her surprise birthday party information out of Iruka, at least until Kakashi ordered her out.
Kakashi ignored the ANBU, even ignored the wave of maliciousness he was feeling from her, and looked over at Iruka.
Iruka smiled at him, standing up, “I would’ve had to get up in another hour anyway,” he said “Goodbye, ANBU taichou, have a safe mission.”
He liked being at the place he had come to affectionately call home. Now though, his mask was fully in place.
The Hokage glanced up at Kakashi for a moment before going back to the paper in front of her. She stamped the bottom of it aggressively and let out a frustrated growl as she did.
“Do you know what this is, Dog?” asked the Hokage, angrily brandishing the scroll she had just stamped. It wavered back in forth in the air, vibrating with the Hokage’s emotions.
“No,” said Kakashi. He smartly added “Hokage-sama.”
“This is an assassination order for one of my own ninja, ordered by me, and signed by me,” she dropped the scroll on the desk, disgusted with it.
Kakashi wisely remained silent.
“Go get the other one!” Tsunade-sama ordered shortly to Anko, who vanished again the next second. Kakashi waited. He figured pulling a book to read out in front of the Hokage might be a bit too much for her in her current state.
“Do you know why I have to be up at this ungodly hour? Demanding the execution of one of my own men?” asked the Hokage through clenched teeth.
Kakashi opened his mouth and the Hokage shouted “Rhetorical!” before continuing.
“I have to do so because of something that is fully out of my control,” Tsunade swung her smartly painted nail around to point at Kakashi. “And I have to kill just a bit more of humanity because I have to have you do it.”
“A suicide mission then?” asked Kakashi resolutely, swallowing tightly. He was just starting to be so happy…
“No,” said the Hokage. “But it might as well be.”
The office was dark, made darker by the malevolent out flux of the Hokage’s anger, and there wasn’t even the smallest flame of a candle to reveal the stiff posture of both occupants. Having a light would make them both vulnerable to those who wished to peer in. They were ninjas after all.
“The target?” asked Kakashi. He had never really dreaded learning the name of a target before but he did in that moment. It would be unlikely that is was anyone he knew real well, probably one of his lower level village comrades, however the fact that the Hokage was visibly upset was reason for pause.
“It’s on the mission scroll,” said the Hokage. She gestured towards it, studying Kakashi.
Kakashi nodded and was back in place before the Hokage could blink, scroll in hand. He broke the seal of the Kage easily and his eyes took in the information on the page. It was set up the same as any other assassination order.
It said that the reason for execution was evidence of future treason, not uncommon. Kakashi had been sent after a fair amount of people who were suspected of such a destructive future crime that they needed to be taken care of. Of course the person rarely understood.
Tsunade sat there with a hard look on her face, and she wasn’t going to speak until he’d finished reading. She watched as he mutely took in the information on the scroll, knowing that in just a few moments he would know what she knew.
Kakashi’s eyes drifted lower towards the name…
“No,” he said, suddenly hoarse.
“Iruka has never done anything to hurt this village,” Kakashi said in a raised voice. “He protects it and its inhabitants as fiercely as you!”
“You forget your place,” said Tsunade wearily. Her eyes didn’t meet Kakashi’s. “Given the circumstances I’ll forgive it.”
Anko, Jackal, reappeared with a sleepy Genma, who was half heartedly attempting to tie a mask in place over his face.
“Out!” the Hokage roared. Genma nearly dropped his mask in surprise but before he could Anko had jutsu’d them from the room and into the hallway, her eyes watching Kakashi the whole time.
“Dog,” said Tsunade, rising. “It’s not what he’s done it’s what he will do.”
Kakashi was beginning to shake, almost imperceptibly.
“Umino Iruka has served his village for many years in many different capacities,” the Hokage said, placating herself, “However something has happened that is out of both our hands”
Kakashi didn’t even pretend to nod, or give any other signal he was listening to his leader. This mission was the first piece of information that he just couldn’t grasp. How could he have let something like this infiltrate the careful bubble that he had surrounded all that he loves with? Why was it that he was forced upon the feeling of having his heart ripped out yet again in this lifetime?
“The incidents with Mizuki,” began the Hokage, she stood in front of the window. Her form was eclipsing part of the memory ridden sky beyond. “That traitor has forced our hand once more.”
“Mizuki?” Kakashi half snarled to himself. He stared past Tsunade as if the night sky held answers.
“Hatake,” said the Hokage, motioning for him to respond.
“Hokage-sama?” he choked out.
“You understand that I have no obligation other than to inform you of your mission?”
“Mizuki was able to genetically alter a dormant gene inside of Iruka,” said Tsunade, “I know what will happen when that gene surfaces. I’ve seen it in Mist.”
Kakashi felt a shiver crawl down hi back. He had demons after him.
“How can you be sure?” asked Kakashi. It was a final act of defiance, of desperation.
“Do not question me tonight, Hatake,” she said, she turned swiftly.
“Jackal! Panther!” she exclaimed in only a slightly louder tone.
The both of them reappeared in the room, on either side of Kakashi. This time Genma was fully in uniform and wide awake. Kakashi now knew what Anko had been livid about. He himself could barely keep his rage in check. He wanted to let it roar loose.
The Hokage raised her hand “Good luck to all of you, safe mission.”
Kakashi remained only a moment after the other two, departing as she dropped her hand; he stared at Tsunade in such a way that she knew his feelings even through the impervious porcelain mask.
The Hokage was not a stupid woman, nor was she a naïve Kunoichi. One couldn’t be naïve in a role of power such as her own. She knew exactly what she was doing.
She knew what message she would be sending to her loyal troops.
She knew what pain that the village would suffer.
She knew what trauma she was causing to the grown fox boy who relied on the man she condemned.
She was grateful she didn’t have to do it herself.
It may have been the coldest hearted thing ever, sending Kakashi out to kill the one he cared for so deeply; however she had her reasons.
If she had another do it she’d almost certainly have Kakashi seeking revenge on the person that ended his gentle lover’s life. If Kakashi was left on the outside of the assignment he would do more damage than the Hokage though she and this village could prepare for.
By having Kakashi be the one to do it himself she was confident that the elite Jonin’s anger wouldn’t be forced outward on his comrades. Anko and Genma were there to make sure that Kakashi finished the job. However the Hokage was certain that Kakashi, being the warrior that he was, would be perfectly capable of doing it himself.
Genma and Anko had strict orders to not take the mission upon themselves.
It’d set a bad example for Naruto; it’d crush him.
In the end Tsunade had decided what she’d have to do. She’s also had to remind herself that she was the leader of this village. Tsunade had paid attention to Iruka’s every move for the last fortnight since she had first noticed something wrong in the mission room.
She just couldn’t believe Mizuki’s last Earthly act. Beyond the grave he was still managing to ruin Iruka’s life, Kakashi’s as well.
Tsunade had decided that Kakashi would do it. Anko and Genma would prevent some of the nastier possibilities.
If this ended up destroying Hatake Kakashi, at least, she comforted herself that this was her duty as a leader; it would save the destruction that would otherwise occur.
It was the life of a ninja.
Kakashi could feel Genma’s wide eyes on him as they sped swiftly across the roofs of Konoha towards the apartment that Iruka and he share. He couldn’t look at the man; his ninja’s resolve relied on it. He was just ahead of the other two, but the unstifled cool night air was doing nothing for him.
His fists tightened at his side. As they passed overtop a wide ally Kakashi wanted to fall within it, to be swallowed by the dark shadows, and to not have to face the reality that was looming ever closer. All his mind could process was anger, desperation, sorrow, and the mind numbing question of ‘Why?’ Why did it have to happen to him, to them?’
Iruka milled about the kitchen, absentmindedly cradling his cup of coffee in his hands. He hated when Kakashi got summoned to take an ANBU mission. It always made him worry, even though he knew that Kakashi was an excellent ninja capable of completing his mission no matter what.
It still saddened Iruka, though, when Kakashi would finally return with purple bruises and half healed cuts littering his body. He would normally refuse medical care at first, and then finally relent some odd minutes later and let Iruka patch him up as best as he could.
He cleaned the coffee maker with the same absentminded worry, though reduced with the chore at hand. He’d had the coffee maker forever, and it was looking like he should get a new one soon. Actually, as he musingly looked out of the kitchen as the rest of the apartment, he could pick up a few new things.
He scribbled a few things down on a note next to the sink thoughtfully.
The apartment was originally Kakashi’s, and when Kakashi had convinced Iruka to move in with him Iruka had moved out of his smaller apartment. Though most of the decorations and odds-and-ends in the apartment were Iruka’s, along with some of the furniture. Kakashi’s apartment had been less than sparse before Iruka moved in.
Iruka smiled to himself, content. They had some excellent memories, ones better than he’d had in a long time. Iruka was determined that he wouldn’t let anything endanger this happiness.
He touched his temple briefly, and winced. The bandages were wrapped securely around his forehead. He’d told Kakashi that one of the student’s shuriken had gotten away from him in class. Then he’d had to tell him that he’d keep the bandages on extra long to teach the young boy a lesson on fault for disobeying him.
Iruka closed his eyes and leaned against the kitchen counter, only to reopen them a moment later. Wind had ruffled his lose hair, a tell tale sign of chakra transport. Kakashi had reappeared back into their apartment.
Iruka looked at him questioningly, he’d been gone less than half the hour, he couldn’t have completed his mission yet, Iruka hadn’t even started getting ready to go to the academy yet.
“Kakashi, what-?” Iruka started to ask him, leaning off the counter and becoming alert, his ninja instincts were trying to tell him something.
“Stop,” Kakashi said, his voice came in a strangled half gasp.
Iruka did, and he became very still. He no longer considered the possibility that Kakashi had forgotten something. It appeared, Kakashi clearly being on edge, that he came back due to something much more important…
Kakashi’s tension rolled of him in waves.
“On orders by the highest power,” said Kakashi, sounding as if he were in physical pain. Iruka’s heart skipped a beat. “That of the Hokage, you, Umino Iruka, have been ordered executed due to future crimes considered too dangerous and heinous to this village; your village.”
Kakashi’s voice didn’t falter, and it didn’t rise above the low level he had started with. “Oh, Kakashi,” said Iruka, a feeling of great sadness and resignation coming over him.
Kakashi stumbled a step forward and then stopped himself. “Do you even know why, Iruka? Why this has to happen?”
Iruka smiled softly. “Do you?”
“Mizuki!” Kakashi snarled that one word; it was venom on his tongue. He grasped his head between his hands, pushing his hands in on his temple before flinging them away from him in anger.
“Yes,” Iruka responded. “It’s my fault Kakashi. I made him angry and he made sure to get his final revenge before dying.”
“Don’t ever say it’s your fault,” Kakashi said, crossing the room swiftly to stand before his lover. “Please.”
“My ancestors,” said Iruka. “Some of them were from Mist. He manipulated a curse already in my blood, and it took years to come to the surface, a cut on my head.”
“It’s sadism she makes me do this,” Kakashi said.
“You’d fight any others,” responded Iruka softly. He reached over and brushed a hand against Kakashi’s arm just long enough for the touch to register.
Kakashi was quiet. “We could leave. We coul-.”
“No,” Iruka said louder. He reached up and stroked a hand through Kakashi’s hair. “I’ll accept this like a ninja. But, I want to die like a ninja as well.”
Kakashi stepped back.
Iruka turned toward the cupboards behind him, and took a slip of paper from between two cookbooks there. “Anko’s here right? That’s her on the roof…and Genma-san as well?”
Kakashi didn’t respond. Had his dear Iruka really accepted this so easily?
“This is Anko’s birthday cake recipe,” said Iruka steadily, laying the slip of paper next to his shopping list by the sink. “And please, please, knock it into Genma’s head that Raidou’s problem is that Genma looks at other people when they’re out and that he avoids commitment like a Rock-nin?”
Again Kakashi did not respond. Anyway he thought to get out of this predicament went against the code of ninja, and Iruka seemed perfectly capable of accepting that.
“I love you, Kakashi,” Iruka said, and then disappeared.
Kakashi followed his chakra signature to the apartment building roof where Iruka had reappeared with his holster tied around his leg and a kunai held in his limp arm. “You intend to make me fight you, Iruka?”
“I want to die like a ninja, Kakashi,” said Iruka. “I told you I would.”
Genma and Anko appeared on either side of Kakashi, they held kunai aloft, albeit hesitantly.
“You want me to-to,” Kakashi swallowed, “to murder you?”
Genma and Anko exchanged a look behind Kakashi’s back, discernable even through the masks. This was going to break the man.
“Kakashi,” Iruka said. He used a tender voice, one that his students hold dear. “You are following the orders of your commander.”
“Don’t try to make me feel better about this, Iruka!” Kakashi yelled. “I would be a monster for doing this.”
“You are a loving man and a dutiful ninja,” Iruka replied, his voice steady and sure.
“As are you!” Kakashi’s words fought back. “You’ve always followed the laws of this village. You’ve taught them to the youth! How can you accept this?”
“It’s my life,” replied Iruka. “I don’t blame Tsunade-sama, Kakashi, she can’t get rid of this; I would do the same.”
“Who can I blame then?” asked Kakashi. Genma and Anko were no more than still shadows behind him. “Who’s left for me to seek revenge on?”
“Mizuki’s dead,” said Iruka. “And soon I will be too.”
Kakashi reeled back as if physically hit. The truth was a heavy tool. Kakashi had thought he’d have a solution by now, or that Iruka would have some answer to the problem. They didn’t. He was going to have to kill, to murder, the man he loved.
“Don’t make me do this,” murmured Kakashi. There was a soft trail beginning to form underneath Obito’s sharingan. Obito was crying his pain.
“You’re not weak, Kakashi-koi,” Iruka intoned sternly, albeit softly. “Would you rather pass the task to Genma-kun or Anko-chan?”
“I won’t let them touch you,” Kakashi snarled.
Anko and Genma exchanged another look, raising their weapons. A desperate ninja, especially a desperate Hatake Kakashi, was not a very pleasant thing. They’d reduce the threat if they had to, even against the orders of the Hokage.
“Then won’t you let me die with my ninja pride?” asked Iruka, purposefully speaking with pleading eyes. “It’s my life.”
Kakashi lowered his head. What choice did he have now? The earlier truth was revisiting him. He wouldn’t let another person hurt Iruka. They wouldn’t flee their village, and they wouldn’t disobey their Hokage. They were ninja, trapped by choices they had no choice but to make. Kakashi raised his head, and a shuriken.
Nights later, on nights just like the ones they were living now, nights where ignorance of ninja rippled the surface, Genma and Anko would describe the battle that happened next. After a long draw from a nearly empty sake bottle the word that would tumble from their lips would be: epic. They’d tell the ninja surrounding them that everything about the battle was by the book.
Except for the emotion.
Anko’d be unerringly calm as she described the almost transcendent way Iruka fought. Knowing it was going to be his last battle, his finest, he fought with all the power of a ninja. He sweated with pride, leapt with integrity, and struck with all the honor of a ninja.
Genma would refuse to look any where but Raidou’s eyes, the eyes of the man who had just moved in with him, and would describe in perfect detail the elite moves of Kakashi with un-slurred clarity. His pain, balanced with his unhesitating attacks. The trail of bloody tears that fell from his sharingan, only able to be seen after Iruka managed to land the blow that broke the previously impervious ANBU mask.
Both Anko and Genma can recall with equal horror the end of the fight, the end of that pivotal mission. They had long backed off and surrendered the majority of the roof space to the two lovers. There was barely a crack on the pristine roof. When the fight was over no one would ever be able to tell that it had occurred.
There are reasons after that that Shikamaru Nara never took on the full time academy position.
There are reasons why Naruto Uzumaki decided to become the next Jonin-sensei of cell seven.
There are reasons why the shinobi ranks continue to suffer loses every day.
It was all another secret of the great hidden leaf village.
“Iruka,” said Kakashi, the word tumbling over his shaking lips. “I love you more than life, I promise that.”
Iruka smiled back at him. They both had known since the beginning that Iruka was going to fall in that battle. It was not only due to the mission but do to fact. Iruka didn’t have the same abilities or experience that Kakashi did. Iruka was a chunin level school teacher loved by all, nothing more.
The official report the next day, told to the children and their parents, would probably be a report about how another loyal ninja fell in the line of duty protecting his village. The shinobi that surrounded them would know the truth. Anko and Genma would tell them the truth.
The blood was fully soaked through Iruka’s shirt by that point. The shuriken was fully imbedded in Iruka’s abdomen, there was only two sharp points glinting in the fast falling moonlight.
“You know I’d only ever hurt you if I intended to do the same to myself,” Kakashi said hoarsely.
Iruka was still smiling; however he seemed to be having trouble staying awake. “Kakashi it’s just life…I don’t blame you, or Hokage-sama.”
Kakashi laid Iruka’s fast failing body against the roof top. “I’ll be right there, koi. Just wait for me.”
Iruka choked up blood and then looked forward determinedly. Kakashi released him, blood dripping off his hands. Iruka seemed confused and tried to speak. “’Kashi, you have porcelain shards in your hair…”
Iruka tried to raise an arm up to Kakashi’s head but couldn’t muster the strength. Kakashi took Iruka’s hands in his and laid them back down. Kakashi refused to look away from Iruka’s eyes, and because of that he knew the exact moment Iruka’s eyes glazed over. He knew the exact moment that Iruka left him.
“You’re right, Iruka,” he murmured. “This right here, it’s our life.”
The two on the other side of the roof didn’t hear what was said but they knew enough from the emotion radiating from Kakashi. They expected the anger and the intense pain, but the feeling of final relief was unexpected. The tear stained Anko was able to recognize it. She knew of painful releases.
“Genma,” said Anko, she didn’t look at him forcefully or with her usual manners. She was a serious as she’d ever been in her life. “What-?”
“Hush, Anko,” Genma said. He rocked back on his heels, his senbon straight with tension.
Anko turned to look in the same direction that Genma was staring in and found that Kakashi had risen from his crouched position next to Iruka’s corpse and he had the most unfathomable look on his face. Anko hadn’t known what to do but it looked like they might have to prepare for a fight.
Kakashi approached them swiftly however he didn’t appear to be releasing his anger on them. His anger remained mostly inside of him, eating him up. It swirled around him like chakra.
Kakashi presented a crumpled up ball of paper to Genma. It was small and appeared to have very neat and precise hiragana writing on it. Genma took it with cautious grace.
“You,” Kakashi punctuated the word by jerking Genma’s senbon from his lips. “Will have this cake baked, decorated, and damn well enjoyed on Anko’s birthday.”
Genma nodded his head. Anko had already taken her mask off, same as Genma, and she let it fall to the ground that instant. She covered her mouth with a hand, swallowing a sob. Why was it she was forced to let go of all the people that cared about her?
“And,” Kakashi continued. “Stop looking at others to tease Raidou, and get on with finally moving him in with you.”
Genma nodded again. He heard Iruka’s words in Kakashi’s own.
“I am going to rest,” said Kakashi heavily. “You are going to report back to the Hokage, tell her the mission was a success, and that I am resting from battle.”
“Hai, Kakashi,” said Genma. He knelt to the ground, nodded, and took of towards the center of Konoha.
Anko growled back at Kakashi and turned to make off as Genma did. She stopped and turned around though. “You are a damn good ninja, Hatake. You’re a damn good man. Don’t forget it.”
Kakashi turned from her dismissively.
It felt odd, kneeling next to Iruka. The sun was rising in a fantastical display. It was the same type of display that surely would’ve caused Iruka to smile subconsciously without even realizing it. That latent warmth that his lover had always had. It was his last sunrise with Iruka.
“Iruka, koishii,” said Kakashi, quietly. “The best years of my life have been these last years. From the day Naruto came into my life and dragged you with him I have felt more than I’ve ever been able to fathom.”
He sat for a few more moments in quiet contemplation. He was able to hear the merchants bringing their stalls to life in the streets around him. Konoha was blossoming for another day of living, the last day in Konoha for Kakashi. He rummaged around beside him for a moment before picking up a long, pristine porcelain shard.
“ANBU,” he murmured, rolling the shard in his hands. “Iruka, this is not goodbye. If kami graces me with my afterlife being in your presence then I will see you very soon.”
Kakashi raised the white shard, and the lowered it once more, just for a moment. He removed his face mask and took in a breath of clear Konoha air. He then smiled into the sky, both of his eyes forming happy crescents.
He plunged the last remains of his ANBU career into his chest in one swift, deadly movement.
“It’s our life.”