Kakashi raced down the earthen corridor with the rest of the retrieval team hot on his heels, breathing as deeply as he could past the pounding of his heart and the worry lodged in his throat. There was a seed of terror in his chest that had been planted several days ago when he'd learned that Tenzou had been captured, that had sprouted further when he'd heard the intel about the enemies they fought being powered by the Shodaime's DNA; now, as they stormed what remained of Kabuto's base of operations, that seed was trying to bloom into a full-on panic. What if Tenzou died before they could find him? What if Tenzou was already dead?
Yamato, the calm and logical portion of his brain in control reminded him, he prefers Yamato now.
Kakashi knew this, but it was still hard not to think of him as Tenzou, his Tenzou, especially with the spectre of his kouhai's death looming large before him.
They'd talked about 'someday' once upon a time, but somehow 'someday' never quite came around. 'Someday' didn't really mesh with ANBU too well, and then when Kakashi had gotten out and Tenzou had stayed in, they just...drifted. They saw each other off and on for a little while, but Kakashi couldn't help feeling that Tenzou deserved something, someone better than him. He was jaded, damaged, so messed up in the head that he had no business trying to maintain that kind of relationship, especially with someone as sound and solid as Tenzou. He'd been young and selfish years ago, snatching up Tenzou for himself before anyone more suitable could catch Tenzou's eye, pretending that Tenzou's stability made him a better more stable person by association.
It was foolish of him, and he'd grown to realize it. He'd let Tenzou go.
Which was fine, until Tenzou had been slotted to fill in for him as squad leader some years later and had then stuck around after Kakashi was back on duty. 'Yamato' was a fine addition to the team, Kakashi had to admit, but he also forced Kakashi to realize exactly what he'd given up. Yamato was everything Tenzou had been, just seasoned a bit by time and experience. He still looked up to Kakashi, which had always gone to Kakashi's head; he still got flustered when Kakashi purred his name in that certain tone of voice. Only now, he rallied with a firm 'Please call me Yamato' instead of floundering until Kakashi kissed him, and it gave Kakashi a little pang to realize that his adorable kouhai had definitely grown up in the intervening years.
All the same, instinct and observation told him that Yamato still harbored the same feelings Tenzou had, and that he could probably be persuaded to rekindle their old ANBU romance if Kakashi put his mind to it.
But Kakashi had passively chosen to let things stand at the new status quo, still holding to the certainty that Tenzou--Yamato, dammit--deserved better than an old dog with a thousand-and-some-odd copied tricks who'd completely failed in so many ways with the only genin team he'd deemed worth teaching.
None of which changed the fact that Kakashi still held a lot of deep feeling for his comrade.
And now it was probably too late.
He burst into a massive open pocket in the earth and rock and peeled to the side, on the defensive, scanning for anyone dead or alive who might be present.
"There!" shouted the Hyuuga who'd come in behind him--Kakashi didn't remember her name--and pointed to the middle of the cavernous space.
There was a single dark-haired figure slumped over on the floor.
Kakashi sprinted to get there.
An odd mix of disappointment and relief surged inside him when it wasn't Yamato he found, but a completely different brand of fear spiked when he realized it was Anko. He pushed it all down, dropped to a crouch next to Anko and carefully felt for her pulse. It was thready and weak, but it was there, and he spared a second's thanks and relief for that.
"It's Anko! Get a medic over here!" he shouted, beckoning to the rest of the retrieval team as they poured through the opening on the far wall. He left Anko in the hands of the med-nin who could help her more than he could and stepped over close beside the Hyuuga scout, who was turning short sweeping circles as she scanned their surroundings.
"Anyone else in here?"
She shook her head, veins bulging from the corner of either eye to her temples. "No. But..." She frowned, then pointed. "Staircase, over there. There's something below us--"
The staircase took him down, down into murky dimness lit by some means he couldn't be bothered to locate. He heard the Hyuuga calling after him, urging caution as she followed him into the chamber below, but he was running on adrenaline and instinct and there was something looming in the shadows of this cavern that drew him like a magnet.
It was a massive pile of rock, broken and scattered and strewn with some sort of shapeless soft tissue as well, and several of its many pieces were intact enough for Kakashi to recognize the form of the Ten Tails beast that he and Gai and Naruto and Bee had fought against. It put cold residual fear in his stomach, but he couldn't let that slow him now when he had to find--
Yamato lay crumpled in the fringes of the mess of dust and splintered stone and splattered organic material.
Time slowed, stopped; Kakashi saw every detail in the dim light with a clarity that he knew would haunt him for the rest of his life--Yamato's limp form, ashen skin, that stupid faceguard battered and askew, the distinct lack of rise-and-fall in Yamato's chest--
Time snapped back into place and Kakashi was on his knees in the rubble at Yamato's side, panic rising as he checked for the breath he knew he wouldn't find, the pulse that wasn't there.
Breathe, Kakashi, focus--you're no good to him otherwise--
He forced himself to obey that calm voice in his head that ironically sounded far too much like Yamato just now. He was no med-nin, but he knew the same basics as any competent shinobi. He rolled Yamato flat, praying that he wasn't making anything worse by moving him; the battered face guard slid free of Yamato's head and settled in the rubble with a dull clatter. Kakashi left it where it fell and started chest compressions. He had no idea how long his kouhai had been lying here without breath, without a pulse; it could well be far too late but he refused to consider that.
"Is he--?" The Hyuuga woman glanced briefly his way, intent on her own task of making sure no unexpected company was lurking in the shadows.
"Needs a medic," Kakashi said, short and clipped between that first set of chest compressions and the two breaths that followed. He had to bare his face and she'd probably see but it didn't matter, not now--
He yanked his mask down and pinched Yamato's nose shut, gently tilted his kouhai's head back, sealed his mouth over Yamato's and blew. Inside part of him was laughing bitterly, that this was how he kissed Yamato again after all these years, but most of him was quietly frantic as he finished the second breath and started the next set of chest compressions.
Tenzou, please, come on Tenzou you're stronger than this, don't be dead, please don't be dead, Tenzou, Yamato, PLEASE--
The words ran together in his head, over and over; he bit his tongue to keep from mumbling them aloud as he forced himself to be measured and methodical in his resuscitation efforts despite his mounting despair at the lack of response.
"Keep going," someone said, from across Yamato's body, and Kakashi looked up into the serious face of a determined young med-nin in a Kumo uniform. The boy sliced open Yamato's shirt (his vest was nowhere to be seen) with a kunai and began gathering chakra into lightning at his fingertips--not unlike Kakashi's own raikiri but much smaller, weaker, and in both hands. "When I tell you, stop and take your hands off him," the med-nin instructed, and Kakashi jerked a terse nod.
"Okay--now. Don't touch him at all."
Kakashi stopped his compressions, inching back, and the med-nin placed his hands on Yamato's body, above and below his heart on either side. Lightning jumped between his hands, through Yamato's bared chest, and Yamato jerked.
"Check for a pulse," the kid said then, gathering more lightning at his fingertips.
Kakashi checked, found nothing, swallowed down the panic choking its way up his throat and shook his head.
"Alright--gonna shock him again. Stay clear."
They repeated this sequence four times, a fifth, and on the sixth time, when Kakashi's world was narrowed to the three of them and fuzzy around the edges, finally, finally there was a weak response beneath his fingers when he felt for Yamato's pulse. Relief and disbelief flooded through him, making him light-headed, making it okay for him to breathe again.
"Pulse. He's got a pulse," he managed to croak, and the med-nin dispelled the lightning flickering at his fingertips before reaching to check for himself.
"We have a pulse," the kid confirmed, and there was a note of relief in his voice as he flicked a glance up at Kakashi. "He's still not breathing, his chakra's almost non-existent, and he's injured but I can't tell how bad yet. Can you keep doing artificial respiration while I try to repair enough to get him breathing on his own again?"
Kakashi was already bent down, exhaling into Yamato's mouth, counting the seconds and blowing again, every ounce of his focus riveted on breathing life back into his kouhai. You can beat this, Tenzou, pull through, come on, Yamato, hang on, fight, don't die, I'll never forgive you if you die now-- Memories of everyone he'd lost rose up behind his eyes and he pushed them away again, concentrating on the cadence of his breath and the peripheral greenish glow of the Kumo kid's chakra doing its thing. He barely heard the Hyuuga woman ask if they needed her help, barely heard the med-nin ask her to please just keep watching out for the unexpected, barely heard his own thundering heart over the steady breathe-blow-breathe rhythm in his head.
And then, at long last, Yamato drew a tiny breath of his own just as Kakashi was coming in for another artificial one. He hovered, open mouth barely touching Yamato's, not sure he'd actually heard that soft intake, but then he felt the weak exhale against his lips and the relief that flooded through him was so sharp that it hurt.
Another independent breath, and another, and Kakashi flicked a sideways glance at the med-nin, who was intently channeling chakra into Yamato's abdomen. "He's breathing."
The kid barely jerked a nod, completely focused on whatever he was trying to do inside of Yamato, and Kakashi stayed still exactly where he was in case there was anything further he could do to help.
Then Yamato stirred.
His head moved, a slight rolling to one side, then the other; his slack face twitched, his eyelids fluttered, opened, and then he was squinting blearily up at Kakashi.
He blinked, and smiled, a loopy barely-alive kind of smile that was just about the most beautiful thing Kakashi had ever seen. "Kakashi," he mumbled, his voice hardly audible, and then he reached up.
He was weak, barely more than comatose, but he still found the strength somewhere to lift his arm, to fumble clumsily with the folds of Kakashi's mask beneath his chin, trying to pull it back up into place.
Kakashi caught his hand, held it tight, and leaned down to kiss Yamato's mouth, relief and adrenaline surging madly in his veins. He didn't give a damn who was watching, who saw.
There was no response, of course, and Yamato's hand in his grasp was limp, but Yamato's eyes were still open when he drew back, and that same loopy little smile was still there. Yamato blinked once, twice, and then his eyes slid closed and stayed.
Kakashi felt another surge of panic, but Yamato's chest was rising and falling with shallow, even breaths, and Yamato's fingers twitched slightly in his grasp.
"He's stable," the med-nin said, and Kakashi met his eyes, saw how much the kid had drained himself; he was grateful, but he could only nod, and keep holding Yamato's hand as the boy continued. "We need to get him back to camp, get a full team on him. I can't do any more for him here like this."
"Safe to move him?" Kakashi queried, voice clipped and determined, and when the kid nodded he pulled his mask back into place and rose, cycling chakra through his body in a quick rush to counter his sudden light-headedness, then hoisted Yamato onto his back and made for the stairs.
He was vaguely aware of the Hyuuga scout moving to the med-nin's side, vaguely aware that she'd reported this hideout clear for investigation by the cleanup and intel teams, vaguely aware that the stairs were there in front of him.
He was very aware of the faint rhythm of Yamato's heart against his back, very aware of the weight and warmth of his kouhai, very aware of the voice in his head chanting a litany of gratitude to the rhythm of his steps climbing back up out of what had almost been Yamato's tomb.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you--
He wasn't sure who he was thanking, particularly, but he'd never been more sincerely grateful in his life.