In the end, the war hasn’t changed Kakashi’s life that much. He still gets up before dawn and visiting the memorial is still the first thing he does.
The stone hasn’t changed much either. Kakashi stares at its polished surface, at the names he can see carved into his dull reflection. There are more names now than before, but how is that different, really? New names have always appeared overnight. There will always be more.
Gai’s name is somewhere near the top because he liked high places – that’s Lee’s reasoning, of course –while Tenzou’s is almost at the bottom because he wouldn’t have minded – Team 7 has planted a tree for him anyway, and now that Konoha’s Green Beast is no more, the trees around the training grounds have stopped being an endangered species.
They never did like each other much when they were alive; it makes Kakashi wonder if they’re still bickering even now, in the afterlife. The thought makes him smile despite himself; he always enjoyed their little fights. The way Gai’s face would go red suddenly when he realized that Tenzou’s most recent words to him had in fact contained a hidden insult, usually hours after the fact. The way Tenzou would twitch whenever Gai put his arm around his shoulder or grabbed him in a “friendly” manner, which only made Gai do it more.
Kakashi breathes in deeply only to regret it; the smell of the forest and grass almost makes him choke these days. It never used to be like that.
He sighs, battling his emotions for a second.
Kakashi keeps himself in check; he’s good at it.
He knows Gai would have wanted him to move on with his life and be happy, and Tenzou probably secretly wanted him to mourn and be sad, to show that he did care, so he smiles for Tenzou and suffers for Gai, just to be contrary, just to fuck with them the only way he can now.
And they deserve it.
For their obliviousness, for not being able to look underneath the underneath.
For being themselves to the end, unable to break their own rules.
Tenzou died following Kakashi’s orders to a t. Protecting Naruto at all cost. He died alone, far away from anyone, fighting to survive the whole time.
Gai, on the other hand, died defying Kakashi, knocking him out of the way to do his own thing. He died with a grin on his face, giving up his life as if it was nothing.
Like every morning, Kakashi stands in front of the cenotaph and pays his respects to his sensei, Rin and Obito.
Just like before the war, he tries not to think too much about Tenzou and Gai.
Because, really, not much has changed.
The only difference is that now he can’t decide which one of the two he hates more.