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Hatake.

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Kakashi can’t remember ever telling his father that he loved him.

It’s not something he often thinks about. But sometimes, when he’s having trouble sleeping, and the world is still, the thought comes around to haunt him.

It’s a quiet thought. A subtle one. It gnaws like rats at the corners of his mind, and is persistent and unending when it comes.

I never told Dad I love him.

He must’ve heard it from his father at least a thousand times. Sakumo never missed a chance to speak those three words.

At night, before sending him off to bed: “Goodnight son- I love you.”

In the morning, while sending him off to school: “I love you- have a good day!”

After he’d awoken from a nightmare, and couldn’t go back to sleep- “I love you.”

Always, he’d heard those words. And never once did he return them.

Because he was ashamed of his father. Ashamed of who he was, and what he’d done.

He heard the stories- whispered behind his back by angry teachers, scrawled on his belongings by vindictive peers.

Konoha’s beloved White Fang, turning into the village disgrace. The man he’d idolized so much as a small child, turned into a pariah overnight.

Sakumo never really talked about it; now that he’s older, Kakashi understands why. But back then, in the mind of a child, he felt his father was just a coward.

He’d said just as much, right to his face. Probably a hundred times.

(Sakumo always pretended to brush it off, but Kakashi knows those words hurt. He probably always knew.)

So, he’d never told his father ‘I love you.’ and now it’s too late to take that back.

He can never wipe the memory away- his father, laying on the living room, ghostly white and perfectly still. Fingers still curled around the knife embedded in his side, his guts spilled out across the floor.

(For the longest time after that, Kakashi wondered if, maybe, he’d still have a father if he hadn’t been such an awful child.)

Perhaps as one final kick to the proverbial gut, Sakumo’s final note was one last I love you, Kakashi.

He keeps the note tucked away in a drawer, where he can pull it out and look at it whenever he wants. Minato-sensei kept it safe for him for years, knowing Kakashi would need it someday.

(Minato was a far wiser man than Kakashi can ever hope to be.)

Whenever he pulls out that ragged scrap of paper, Kakashi always mumbles the words he should’ve said back then.

“...I love you too, Dad.”

Chapter Text

Kakashi is pretty sure he doesn’t love her.

At least, he’s pretty sure he doesn’t love her in the same way she loves him.

(That probably makes him a horrible person. Then again, Kakashi is a horrible person.)

Nohara Rin...

She’s the closest friend Kakashi has in this world. Probably the only friend he has in this world.

But he doesn’t love her; not the way she loves him.

Oh, but how she loves him.

He’s not stupid; Rin has always worn her emotions on her sleeve,after all. The way she’d light up when he talked to her, the way she’d blush if they touched on accident- the way she’d glance at him, when she thought he wasn’t looking. She’d bring him food when she worried he wasn’t eating enough, offer to talk if she was worried he was lonely.

(Always. Kakashi is always lonely.)

She was the dearest person to him. But he didn’t love her. Not like that.

Oh, but he’s lonely. So painfully lonely.

He is lonely, and she is kind and beautiful, and she loves him so much.

Kakashi is lonely, and his will is weak. His will is weak, and he is cruel.

It happened one night, at his tiny little apartment. Rin brought over some takeout for dinner, and they had eaten together. She glances at him, as she always does- but this time, a bit more than usual.  He turns his head while he eats, as he always does, so she can’t see under his mask.

She pretend-accidentally brushes against his hand, her cheeks turning such a lovely pink color. She smiles bashfully at him, and there’s sadness in those pretty, brown eyes.

Kakashi isn’t quite sure how it happened. Or why he let it happen.

But when Rin reaches out, and cups his face in her hands, he doesn’t shove them away. When her fingers slip under his mask, he doesn’t stop her.

The air in the cramped apartment is cool on his skin. But Rin’s hands are warm.

“You’re so handsome, Kakashi-kun...”

Her lips are on his before he knows what’s really happening. He thinks briefly about stopping her, but his body won’t obey his mind. His hands tangle themselves in her soft brown hair, and he kisses her back.

It’s a clumsy, awkward kiss- neither of them have much experience kissing. But they only break it when they need to catch their breath.

There’s more clumsy kisses, while their hands wander over each other.

Then things really get out of hand.

He’s tugging at her clothes, and she’s tugging at his, while tiny gasps and shallow moans escape the both of them.

It’s impulsive, and stupid, and way too soon for both of them. But common sense has abandoned them at this moment, and neither want to stop this now.

So she’s pinned on the floor, and he’s on top of her, and they’re pulling off each other’s clothes.

“I love you, Kakashi-kun,” Rin breathes, cradling his head against her chest. Kakashi groans against her neck, groping at her breasts, and the wetness between her legs.

He doesn’t say I love you back. Because that would be a lie.

(Kakashi is a lot of awful things, but a liar isn’t one of them.)

They go too quickly, too impatient to wait any longer.

Rin cries out in pain, her thighs tight against his sides, and she can’t keep herself from crying. But when he tries to pull away, she grabs him and holds him there.

“...I-it’s alright,” she insists, though her voice is shaky. “I-I’m fine, Kakashi-kun...”

He shouldn’t have listened to her. But Kakashi is lonely, and he is cruel. So he does.

He tries his best to be gentle, but every movement he makes elicits little sounds of pain from her; when he reaches down between them, he realizes there’s blood where they connect.

“Rin-”

“I-I’m okay, Kakashi-kun. I promise.”

It’s over quickly- which is good, because Kakashi isn’t sure his conscience could handle if it went on for very long.

He finishes inside her, without meaning to, cursing under his breath. Rin wraps her arms around him, whimpering softly.

Kakashi mumbles an apology as he pulls out of her.

“It’s okay,” Rin murmurs, kissing his cheek.

“...Are you alright?” Kakashi asks, guilt staining his voice.

“I’m fine,” Rin insists. She works her fingers through his snow-white hair, and presses her forehead against his.

“I love you, Kakashi-kun.”

(He wishes she’d stop saying that. Because no matter how many times she says it, he can never say it back.)

I really am awful...

Chapter Text

His first dog had been one of Gai's bright ideas.

It started out the way Gai's ideas usually start out- he'd shown up at Kakashi's door (uninvited, because when is Gai ever invited?) and he'd immediately seen that Kakashi was in one of those moods. One of those "leave-me-alone-I-want-to-die-right-now" moods.

That simply wouldn't do, Gai unilaterally decided, and Kakashi had been dragged (more or less kicking and screaming) from his apartment.

Honestly, it was probably a good idea. Kakashi feels the warmth of the sun, and has a proper meal for the first time in days. The problem is, even if it's a good idea, Kakashi doesn't want to be out here eating yakitori and feeling people's eyes boring into the back of his fucking head, but because fucking Gai decided he had to, he has no real choice.

(Gai picks up the tab, of course. He always does. No matter how many damn times Kakashi has tried to argue about it. So he doesn't argue anymore.)

Kakashi also doesn't get a say as Gai drags him through the shops, talking his ear off about everything and nothing in particular.

He's not sure how long he's been zoned out for, when Gai suddenly grabs his arm.

"Aww, look at them!"

Yanked back to reality, Kakashi is finally aware of the small yipping sounds coming from a little box on the corner. Pained on the front are the words Ninja Hounds: 80,000 ryo

A tired, middle-aged woman is sitting beside the box, keeping watch over the squirming puppies inside.

"They're adorable!" Gai squeals (how undignified), picking one up and admiring it. "These are really ninja dogs?"

"Their parents were A-grade ninken, if that's what you're asking," the woman replies.

"You should get one, Kakashi!"

"I don't need a dog" Kakashi shoots back, curtly.

"Bullshit! You're always at that apartment alone- and one of these could even help you at work!"

Kakashi grumbles something in protest.

"C'mon, at least take a look at them!"

With a defeated huff, Kakashi finally crouches down to take a look at the bundle of squirming puppies, while Gai gets his face washed by the wriggling bundle of drool in his arms.

Tails wagging in unison, they clamor to get his attention with tiny barks and needy paws.

Annoying, he says to himself.

But, as he's thinking this, one in particular catches his attention.

Curled up in the corner of the box, one of the puppies is fast asleep. Smaller than the rest, it neither seems to notice or care that people are looking at it, content to just snooze the day away.

So, Kakashi reaches out, and taps the little creature on the nose.

The dog opens one eye, giving what Kakashi can only interpret as a glare. It plops one of its paws over its face, and goes back to sleep.

(Even he has to admit, that's pretty cute.)

Kakashi picks up the sleeping pup, earning a sharp whine of protest. He runs his fingers over the silky fur, and looks the miniscule creature over from head to tail.

He's so small- even compared to his brothers and sisters.

Tiny little ears. Tiny little legs. Tiny little feet with tiny little pink paw pads.

Kakashi gently squeezes one of the soft paws, finding himself strangely enamored with it.

The puppy whines, jutting out his little tongue to lick his little, black nose. Beady black eyes watch Kakashi impatiently, wordlessly demanding to be let back down.

"Tell you what," the woman says, in a gruff sort of way. "I'll let you take the runt for twenty-two hundred. No way anyone's gonna wanna buy it, anyway."

The puppy seems to understand this. Its tail and ears droop, and it looks away forlornly.

Is it...trying to guilt-trip me?!

Kakashi sighs, and shakes his head.

"Well, I guess I have no choice."

The pup perks back up, its tail going full speed.

Kakashi shoves the puppy at Gai.

"Hold him so I can get my wallet."

He'd been planning to buy some much-needed new clothes with that money, but he doesn't really have much of a choice. Even he's utterly helpless against something this cute.

(Besides...as much as he hates to admit it, Gai is right. He could use some company in his apartment.)

Kakashi winds up spending the rest of his money at the pet store, with Gai gushing over the new puppy the whole time. He picks up a puppy bed and a few toys, along with food and a million other things Gai tells him he needs to take care of a dog.

"What're you gonna name him?" Gai asks, as he helps Kakashi haul his pets supplies back home.

"Pakkun."

"Eh? What sort of name is that?"

"He's my dog. I'll name him what I want."

Pakkun lets out a little bark, as if he agrees with this name he's been given.


Kakashi sits down to eat his dinner, with Pakkun napping in his new bed a few feet away.

When the smell of food hits the puppy's nose, his head perks up, and he sniffs the air in curiosity. He trots over to the table, tail wagging hopefully.

"I already fed you," Kakashi scolds, then goes back to eating.

Pakkun whines, and puts his paws on Kakashi's leg. He turns those big, dark eyes on Kakashi, and Kakashi's will crumbles.

"For god's sake- fine!"

Kakashi tosses a slice of meat on the floor, which Pakkun eagerly devours.

Pakkun flops onto his back, little pink paws up in the air. Kakashi just can't be mad at him.

Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea.

Chapter Text

If Kakashi had any doubts that he was the worst kind of human garbage, they left the day Rin died.

Minato-sensei had seen them off that day, smiling in that reassuring way that only Minato-sensei could. But, Kakashi noticed that, this time, Rin didn’t return that smile. When they turn away from him to head off, her brow furrows deeply, her body language stiff and closed-off.

“Is something wrong?” Kakashi asks, when they’re out of earshot.

“Eh?”

“You look upset.”

“I’m...I’m not upset.”

She takes a deep breath, the slightest hint of pink dusting her cheeks, beneath the purple stickers.

“...Kakashi-kun, we need to talk.”

“Huh? Did I do something wrong?”

“N-no! Nothing like that!”

Rin rubs the back of her neck, her cheeks going from pink to red.

“Well then, it can wait ‘til after the mission,” Kakashi mutters, picking up his pace, so she has to half-jog to keep up with him.

“Kakashi-kun, it’s really important!” Rin squeaks.

“Then you should definitely tell me later,” Kakashi replies, dismissively. “It’ll just be distract me if you bug me about it now.”

“It’s not something that can wait!”

Rin wraps her hands around her middle, and squeezes lightly.

“Kakashi-kun, I’m-”

Kakashi holds out a hand, not bothering to even turn his head to look at her.

(Because if he looks at her, he’s going to see the hurt in her eyes, and he simply can’t bear that.)

“...It can wait,” he says, firmly.

He knows Rin is frowning, but he doesn’t look at her.

“Come on. I wanna get this over with.”


 

There was no other way...

“They sealed the Sanbi in me! If I make it back to Konoha, it’ll-”

The thing Kakashi always admired so much about Rin was her big heart. However, he can’t help but think her heart feels so very small in his hand.

“...Kakashi-kun...”

Her pretty face is gray from pain and loss of blood; a fog is quickly clouding her eyes.

(Those eyes that’d been so full of life, so kind and open, and it’s his damn fault and he’ll never forgive himself.)

She grabs the hand not buried in her chest, in an effort that surely took all her fading strength. She presses it against her abdomen, a few tears falling down her face.

“...I’m sorry-” she mumbles, as her last breath leaves her. “-I love you...”

Her body goes limp, only held up by Kakashi’s arm like she’s the most fucked-up kind of puppet.

Kakashi just stares.

At her bloodless face, at her glassy eyes. At the gaping wound in her chest. At her middle.

Why did she...

“Kakashi-kun, I’m-”

“...Goddamnit...”

Before he has too much time to linger on the revelation, white hot fire shoots from his (Obito’s) left eye, through his entire head.

He falls to the ground, on top of Rin’s lifeless body.

His vision goes dark, all thought and reason mercifully leaving him.

Before his consciousness finally fails him, he swears he can hear Obito screaming at him.

I’m sorry. I know I promised I’d protect her...

I’m awful...I know that.


 

Kakashi wonders how fucked in the head he has to be, to be disappointed when he wakes back up.

He smells bleach and something medicinal. His limbs feel like they’ve been filled with concrete. His head is throbbing like it’s a living creature of its own. Thick layers of bandaging cover his (Obito’s) eye.

A rough, calloused hand covers his.

“Hey. Welcome back.”

Sensei...

Slowly, painfully, Kakashi manages to sit upright in the narrow, uncomfortable hospital bed. A unexpected wave of nausea crashes over him.

“...I’m gonna throw up-”

Minato puts his inhuman speed to use, to fetch the garbage can so Kakashi has something to wretch into. He must’ve been unconscious for a long time, because nothing comes up but blood and bile.

“Are you alright?”

The look Kakashi gives him is all the answer Minato needs.

His blond brow knits together- it’s clear he has a very uncomfortable question to ask.

“Hey...they just got done with Rin’s...post-mortem.”

He falters, grief making his voice unsteady.

“Kakashi, did you know she was-”

Minato trails off when he notices Kakashi is crying.

“I’m sorry-” he chokes, trying desperately to muffle his sobs with his hands. “-I didn’t mean to-”

(He hates crying. He hates being weak. But he can't stop himself.)

Minato’s blue eyes go wide, understanding the meaning behind Kakashi’s apology.

“Kakashi...”

He gathers the boy into his arms, trying vainly to comfort Kakashi while he cries helplessly.

Kakashi cries at the unfairness of it all. Because Rin had to die, but he’s alive. His heart is still beating. Still bleeding.

Because he’s so fucking sick that a tiny part of him is relieved.

If Rin had made it through, they would’ve had to sit down and talk (and Kakashi hates talking). Kakashi would have to look at her, at those pretty brown eyes that adored him, and tell her that she couldn’t have the baby.

He’d have reasons, of course. They’re both too young- too immature. Neither of them make enough money to raise a child. They have their jobs to think about. The middle of a war is a rotten time to have a child. That it would be best for the both of them if she simply got rid of the baby.

All logical, of course. But cruel at the same time.

(But Kakashi is cruel, so that’s to be expected.)

And, though Rin would be sad- though it would rip her apart inside to do it- she would’ve done what Kakashi asked.

(Because she loved him so much, she’d give him the world if it’d make him smile, but Kakashi never so much as said he loved her back.)

“...If I’d known, I never would’ve let her go,” Minato mutters.

“She tried to tell me,” Kakashi mumbles back. “I didn’t listen...”

Minato-sensei just holds him close, letting him vent every rotten feeling inside him.

(It isn’t enough. It’ll never be enough.)

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Kakashi wonders just how pathetic it is that his dogs care more about whether he lives or dies than Kakashi himself.

But, if the fact that Pakkun has a habit of conveniently hiding anything Kakashi might use to hurt himself with when he’s in a particularly bad state, it’s an undeniable reality.

Like he seems to have done overnight, while Kakashi was struggling to catch even a few minutes’ sleep before work.

“Goddamn it, I’ve got a mission to get to!”

Pakkun sits on the wooden floor, a stern expression on his wrinkled face, watching on as Kakashi trashes his apartment looking for his weapons.

(Kakashi usually thinks squishy face is absolutely adorable. Not right now. Not in the least.)

“I contacted the mission office last night,” the dog tells him. “You’re gonna be taking a few days off.”

“I don’t wanna take time off!” Kakashi protests, feeling his face grow hot with rage. He sends Bisuke scurrying for cover when he hurls a book violently against the wall. Pakkun doesn't falter.

“You need to rest,” Pakkun insists.

“I told you I’m fucking fine!”

“You’re exhausted.”

“The fuck do you know, you obnoxious fucking mutt?!”

Pakkun doesn't flinch at his harsh words.

“...You can’t just pretend it didn’t happen.”

-Kakashi, however, does flinch at the blunt tone of Pakkun’s voice.

“Well, what good is sitting on my sorry ass crying gonna do?!”  he shoots back, defensively.

“What good is wearing yourself out running from it gonna do?”

“I’m not running from anything, Pakkun!”

“Kakashi.”

Pakkun stands up, trotting across the floor and hopping up on Buru’s massive head to be closer to his master’s face.

“I know it’s been hard for you. But We’re seriously worried about what it’s gonna do to you if you keep carrying on like this.”

Kakashi clenches his fists tightly, but it’s not enough, they’re still shaking. Pakkun looks him in the eye, sighing deeply.

“You need time to rest. And you need time to grieve. Minato would have wanted you to- Kushina, too.”

Kakashi doesn't answer. Uhei tries in vain to tug his sandals off, while Urushi and Shiba tug at his pant legs.

“You haven’t eaten in three days, and you haven’t slept in four. You won’t be any good out there in that sort of condition.”

Kakashi releases a burst of pent-up breath.  Runs a hand through disheveled white hair.

“So what am I supposed to do? Just lay around, bawling my fucking eyes out and snotting all over you guys just because they’re dead?!” he spits, still furious.

“Would that help?”

“What are you-”

“Would that help you feel better?”

Kakashi slumps to the ground, all the strength gone from his limbs. He buries his face in his hands.

“...Stupid dogs,” he mutters.

“Hey, if calling us that helps, go right ahead.”

Buru flops his massive frame down beside Kakashi, nuzzling his side gently.  Pakkun taps a paw comfortingly on his shoulder.

“I’ll give you your mission stuff back in a few days, alright? When you’re feeling better and you’re not so tired.”

Kakashi lets out a dismissive grunt of defeat.

His dogs (his dogs which are so much more loyal than he deserves) manage to urge him back upward, toward his bed. He flops back down on top of the futon instead, all the energy fleeing his body. He buries his face in a pillow, half wishing he could suffocate himself there.

Bisuke nudges his way under his right arm, Akino and Guruko making themselves at home at his sides. Pakkun hops onto his back, and curls up into a little ball.

“You’re gonna be alright,” the little dog assures him, through a yawn.

(Kakashi wishes he could believe it.)

Chapter Text

Kakashi watches Minato’s child grow up from a distance.

It isn’t because he wants to, or because he holds some sort of grudge against the boy for the circumstances of his birth. No- if he’d been given the chance, he would have taken him in in a heartbeat. Even if he’s clueless about children, even if he doesn't have the first idea about raising one, even though most months he struggles to make the rent for his shitty one-room apartment- if he’d been given the chance, he would have saved his Sensei’s son.

(But when does Kakashi ever get what he wants?)

“This isn’t up for discussion, Kakashi,” Sandaime had told him, rather sternly. “You know as well as I do that you’re in no position to care for a child. For heaven’s sake, you’re practically a child yourself!”

He knows Sandaime is right. The logical part of him knows that he’s probably the least suitable guardian in the entire village. Even so-

The emotional part of him screams that it isn’t fair. That even a shitty person like him is better than the big, steaming pile of nothing Naruto is stuck with instead.

He becomes even more sure of this when he’s told by Danzo that it’s better if he doesn't try to make contact with the boy for the time being. He says it in that heavy, threatening tone that lets Kakashi know it’s not just a suggestion.

He heeds that threat, and, though he hates it, he does as he’s been told.

(Like a good little shinobi. Like a good little pawn.)

The boy is about five years old now, and quite the handful from what Kakashi observes. He sometimes sees Naruto running helter-skelter through the streets, bouncing around with pent-up energy, shouting at passersby. Always, he’s met with the same looks- at best, cold indifference. At worse, anger.

Sometimes, Kakashi sees Naruto getting shooed away by angry shopkeepers, when he’s caught looking wistfully in the windows of toy stores or sweet shops. Sometimes, he’ll catch the boy sitting quietly on park benches, watching children go by with their parents, a look of such hopeless sadness on his face that Kakashi can feel his heart breaking.

(He’d know that look anywhere- he’s felt it on his own face more times than he can count.)

Naruto looks so much like his father it’s almost uncanny. He’s got that same messy blond hair, those same brilliantly blue eyes. But his smile- that bright, broad smile of his could only have come from Uzumaki Kushina.

(Too bad Kakashi’s pretty sure it’s always faked.)

He toys with the idea of running away, and taking Naruto with him. But he never entertains that thought for too long. He’s got far too many other things to do to waste it entertaining fantasy.



Chapter Text

Sometimes, when he’s in that strange spot between sleep and waking, Kakashi swears the images that dance behind his eyelids are real.

They’re strange images. Disconnected, like memories- but if they are memories, they certainly aren’t his.

The one he gets most frequently is the one that bothers him the most.

He sees himself, laying beside Rin’s lifeless body, barely clinging on to life himself. The weird form he’s seeing the world through staggers, nearly falls over. This body that doesn't belong to him opens its mouth and howls with rage.

There’s mist nin all around him, all aiming for his own unconscious body. But this meat puppet he’s inhabiting lunges forward, snarling. Anger, white-hot and blinding, surges through this body like electricity as he mows down every last one of them.

Again, whatever it is he’s seeing through opens its mouth- this time maybe to speak- but Kakashi always comes back to himself before he gets any further.

Sometimes when he sees Rin, she is alive. But even then, those feelings are different. Kakashi had always felt such a complicated set of emotions toward his deceased teammate. But in these dreams that aren’t quite dreams, he never feels those things. All he feels when Rin appears in these not-dreams is a warm, overwhelming adoration. She seems more beautiful somehow, as well, practically glowing with that loving kindness that radiated from her like sunlight. Some strange feeling that’s probably nostalgia wells up in his heart, leaving him gutted when he has to come back to reality.

(He's not sure which he hates the most- the ones where Rin is dead, cold, bloodless- or the ones where she's so blessedly alive.)

He tells himself they’re merely dreams- even though it’s just a lie. Because he’d probably go crazy if he admitted the truth to himself.

(Hell- maybe he is going crazy.)

It’s far from the strangest thing that’s been happening with him, either.

In some of his perfectly lucid moments, he’ll see shadows at the edges of his vision. Or a flicker of some vague figure that’s gone the next time he blinks. He swears it’s coming from Obito’s eye- but that’s absolutely ludicrous, since that eye is almost always covered up.

He tells nobody, because he’s pretty sure nobody would understand, and he doesn't much feel like sitting in a nice, padded cell for the next bit of forever. Although, sometimes Gai does ask him what he’s looking at when his gaze wanders after one of the shadow figures. And he’s pretty sure Pakkun knows he’s been losing his goddamned mind.

He doesn't like any of it. Doesn't like not knowing what’s wrong with him. But where exactly can he turn? Even if he spoke up, he's sure nobody would listen.

So, he keeps his mouth shut. Like a good little shinobi. Like a good little pawn. And each night, he prays that the not-memories are, at the very least, the good ones.

Chapter Text

When Minato-sensei had recommended Kakashi to ANBU, what felt like an eternity ago, he knows he’d had the best intentions.

It was supposed to keep him busy. Keep his mind off everything he’d lost and all the heavy thoughts that weigh constantly on his mind. And to a certain extent, it works- Kakashi can’t really afford to waste time dwelling on his myriad regrets when there’s work to be done. When he’s at work, at least he has an outlet for those rotten feelings inside him.

But at the same time- the work eats at him.

He spends his days surrounded by death and shady backdoor deals that leave a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. He’s killed so many people that their faces start to blur together in his head. When he sleeps, he dreams that their blood leaves ugly black stains on his hands that can’t come out, even though he scrubs them raw. He knows it’s stupid, but he feels like he’s killing off little pieces of himself every time he puts on that uniform.

It must show- he gets plenty of worried looks from Gai, along with Asuma and Kurenai and Genma and a handful of strangers he passes when he has to go out in public. But none of them dare to voice their worry to his face- probably because he’s pretty sure he always looks like he’s ready to jab a senbon into somebody’s eye.

But, he figures, so long as Sandaime is willing to send him out on missions, he must be needed where he is. And as long as he’s working, he knows, at the very least, that his life has some sort of value.

When he’s not on missions, he spends lots of time in the graveyard. He talks to Rin and to Obito as if they’re still there. As if they could save him.

(Not that he thinks he’s worth saving, anyway.)

It’s probably just because he’s going crazy, but if he closes his eyes, and blocks out the world, it’s almost like they’re really there.

If he tries- really tries- he can practically feel Rin’s fingers running through his hair. He can almost hear Obito making some awful excuse for why he’s late again. Hell, he can almost feel Sensei’s hand on his shoulder, hear his soft, reassuring voice, can almost even see Kushina’s bright smile.

(Maybe he just has an overactive imagination.)

Deep down, he knows he doesn't really have to feel this lonely. He could talk to Gai or Asuma or whoever else if he really needed a listening ear. But whenever that thought crosses his mind, the thought that he doesn't deserve that is right behind.

(He has another dream sometimes- one where he’s covered in some noxious, toxic sludge, and everyone he dares to touch gets tainted with it, too. So he keeps the sludge to himself, where he can’t smear it all over decent, normal people.)

When he’s off on missions, he imagines Obito’s voice in his ear. Criticizing his technique, scolding him when his footing falters. Sitting beside him while he waits for his target, chattering about everything and nothing at all.

In his head, Obito is still fourteen. Still the same crybaby jackass he’d known and despised for way too long.

(He tries not to think of him the way he’d died- crushed, choking out words through mouthfuls of blood. That’s the hard part.)

When he passes by restaurants or sweet shops, Obito tells him he should stop by- that he’s so scrawny for a twenty-year-old, he needs to eat more- Kakashi tells him to shut up a lot.

Today though, when he passes by a cozy little corner cafe, his stomach growls, harsh and painful. The smell of broiling fish is strong enough to make him dizzy.

“C’mon, you’re starving,” he imagines Obito scolding. “I bet they’ve got your favorite.”

(Why is it that his hallucinations care more about him than he does?)

He feels a hand on his back, nudging him toward the shop, and it feels so damn real that he whips around to yell at whoever touched him.

But there’s nobody there.

(Definitely going crazy.)

With a resigned sigh, he steps inside the little shop.

“Well, look who crawled out of his cave!”

Genma waves him down; the shop is so small Kakashi can’t pretend he doesn't notice, or high-tail it back home without gossip starting later.

“C’mon, I don’t bite,” Genma whines at him. “Sit down- I’ll buy, ‘kay?”

Kakashi decides arguing is pointless, so he obeys.

“Hey, let’s get some saira over here!” he calls to the pretty waitress on the other side of the shop.

(How is it that Genma seems to know his favorite food when he’s never even mentioned it?)

“The guys are all going out drinking tonight,” Genma says, trying to be casual. “Might be fun if you went- I’d say you deserve to cut loose every once in awhile, yeah?”

Kakashi opens his mouth to refuse, but he swears he can see Obito scowling at him out of the corner of his eye.

“...Eh. What the hell.”

Genma raises an eyebrow, like he can’t believe his ears.

“Come again?”

“I’ll come along. I guess it won’t kill me.”

Genma blinks a couple times, brow knitted together.

“Oh. Oh uh- huh.”

He laughs, mostly out of confusion.

“I uh- wasn’t expecting that. You sure you’re Kakashi?”

“Oh shut up.”

Even as he says that, Kakashi can’t help but smile, just a little bit.

(for some reason, he imagines Obito smiling, too.)

Chapter Text

Whenever Kakashi tries to remember his father, the one thing that stands out in his mind is how utterly tired he’d always looked.

He’d never really paid it much mind as a child, and Sakumo had always done his best to hide it. No matter how dark the circles beneath his eyes grew, or how heavily the weight of the world weighed on his shoulders, he’d always managed to stand up tall, and put on a bright smile in front of his son.

Kakashi understands now- that tiredness that bites straight down to his bones. That sadness that seeps into his blood. That loneliness that eats away at his heart.

 

He remembers approaching his father one day, when the man was sitting at the table of their cramped apartment, drinking what must’ve been his fourth coffee already. Kakashi was maybe four at the time, when he’d spoken up.

“You look sad.”

Sakumo blinked in surprise, turning his head to look at his son. He smiled, but it had been the kind of smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Mornin’, kiddo,” he said, pointedly ignoring Kakashi’s statement.

“You look sad,” Kakashi repeated, not happy with being brushed off.

Sakumo sighed, glancing out the window at the steadily rising sun.

“...It’s your mom’s birthday,” he finally answered, his voice a bit hoarse from emotion.

Kakashi frowned, scooting in to sit next to his father.

(Sakumo so very rarely talked about his mother.)

“Did mom like her birthday?”

Sakumo’s smile turned into something more genuine.

“Ha- not really. She’d always complain that she was getting old.”

Kakashi frowned.

“...Why’d she leave?”

Sakumo’s smile immediately fell.

“Huh?”

“Why did mom leave? Didn’t she like us?”

“Of course she did!” He insisted, though his voice had wavered. “Your mom loved you and me very much!”

“Then why’d she leave?”

Another heavy sigh escaped from Sakumo.

“She just-”

He hesitated for a moment.

“-Sometimes people get sick, and then they don’t get better. It’s not that they want to leave us. They just...can’t stay anymore.”

The pair of them fall silent for a small eon.

“-She loved you,” Sakumo repeated, at last. “Your mother loved you so much. She didn’t want to leave.”

Kakashi nodded in response.

(He wasn’t sure he believed it.)

“Come on, bud. Let’s get you some breakfast.”

 

Hatake Sakumo always did his best to keep his only child happy. Kakashi understands that, now.

He also understands how hard it must’ve been, to do that all on his own.

His dad had to raise him alone- and a part of Kakashi knows it’s his fault.

Out of curiosity, he’d once looked into the records of his family. Of the woman he would’ve called Mom- had she not died a month after he’d been born.

The best he can find is that, after she’d given birth to him, she simply never recovered. And an illness which should have been a trivial thing claimed her life because she’d become so weak. That’s why his father had to cope without his wife.

How lonely must Sakumo have been?

He wonders if, in another world where he’d never been born, his father and mother would still be happy together.

(Just another reason to regret his existence, he supposes.)

It’s when he gets to thinking thoughts like this that he curls up under the covers with Pakkun in his arms and tries to forget the world.

Because Pakkun understands, even if he doesn't really. He doesn't bother with hollow, meaningless condolences or pointless words that can’t comfort him. He just lets Kakashi hold him, and allows him to feel his emotions without having to stifle them.

And when Kakashi is done, he’s able to get up, straighten his clothes, and face the world all over again. He’s able to remember his father’s assurances that he is (well, was) loved, and it reminds him that, somehow, his existence means (meant?) something to someone.

He tries to hold those feelings close to his heart. Because he’s scared of what might happen if he lets them go.