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Two Steps Back

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Kakashi has been retired for less than six months when he decides to go on vacation. At least, ‘vacation’ is the word he uses to describe it when he tells Gai about his trip. It certainly had nothing to do with Kakashi needing to run from the pervasive feeling of failure that pressed against his back. From watching his former students splinter and break as they fell deep into the self-destructive ruts so common to shinobi who grew too strong too young. Kakashi knew he was a coward, that he was trying to escape from his problems, that he should stay and help his students find their true Nindo again, but…

Six months. Kakashi had been Team Seven’s Jounin sensei for only six months. Foreign Shinobi had more of an impact on their lives than Kakashi had. They were more the Sannin’s students than Kakashi’s, at this point. What had Kakashi managed to teach them, after all? Tree walking, a single assassination jutsu, and how to run away while the people around you died.

What could Kakashi possibly say to fix what life as a shinobi had broken? Especially when he had never managed to fix himself.

So Kakashi goes on a long overdue vacation, hoping to escape the depressive miasma of dying hope that lay heavy over Konoha’s ninja forces.

To continue with his reoccurring theme of self-destruction, Kakashi headed towards Wave with vague ideas of visiting the bridge. Somehow Kakashi finds himself standing on the shores of Uzushio, whirlpools at his back and crumbling ruins at his front. A haunting image of what Konoha would have become after Pein’s attack if Naruto had failed to pull off the miracle that had begun his rise to fame.

Picking his way through the rubble, Kakashi strives to ignore his own thoughts. (Naruto as he was now… he would never be able to reach Nagato’s heart…)

The center of Uzushio is a giant Uzumaki spiral, and Kakashi ambles along the lines, amusing himself by following the inwards curve like a child until he reaches the end. At the very center of the spiral, where all the lines of the crest converge, Kakashi stops walking. Looking around at the destruction, already mostly reclaimed by nature, Kakashi sighs and has to close his eyes.

Good things never last.

Friends betray you. Lovers die. Precious bonds wither away.

The sunlight against his upturned face grew stronger, and Kakashi carefully opened his eyes just enough peer through the screen of his lashes. The lines of the Uzumaki spiral were glowing, fizzing and sparking as the vines and roots covering the rest of the seal snapped in half like elastic stretched too far.

“Ah.” Kakashi felt his eyebrow twitch as he realized that he could not move his feet. He was stuck in place as the light grew brighter and the lines of the seal started to shift in a way that was somewhat concerning. “How typical.”

Chakra rose, whipping up in a waterspout, a hurricane, a maelstrom of light and fury. The rubble was flattened by the pressure, and Kakashi felt his body flung away.

/…/

Kakashi was very lost.

Kakashi was also approximately thirteen to fifteen years old again, which was somewhat more troubling. Especially since Kakashi had woken up alone in a rough camp far from any landmarks, without any of his gear, wearing clothes that fit but did not actually belong to him. A quick check of his scars confirmed what Kakashi was afraid of. The souvenirs left by a lifetime of combat were completely unfamiliar, proving that Kakashi was in a different body entirely and not just de-aged. (Like there was ‘just’ anything about losing thirty years and change of muscle memory and training.)

Mind churning furiously, Kakashi packed everything in the camp up and then hesitated. There was no guarantee that this would work, but… he needed to know for certain. With a grimace, Kakashi steeled himself and bit his thumb. “Kuchiyose no jutsu!

The relief Kakashi felt when Pakkun and the rest of the pack appeared could not be conveyed in words. Pakkun looked Kakashi up and down with one of the most judgemental looks Kakashi had ever seen on the pug’s wrinkled face. “What the hell did you get into this time, Boss?

“Maa, well…” Kakashi winced and picked up the pack of what was presumably his things. “My vacation plans got waylaid, a little bit.”

/…/

Kakashi really should have known better than to make a habit of getting drunk while wearing a Oiroke form, but he had earned a lifetime of breaks. It was easier to seduce men when he had breasts, and so breasts he wore. The less effort he had to spend on getting laid the better. A few rounds of the paint-thinner that passed for good sake in the back alley establishment Kakashi had chosen served to settle his nerves. Then once the slight fuzziness had cushioned his mind Kakashi could start looking around for someone to entertain himself with tonight.

(That he was planning to be male again by morning was a given. Drunken hook-ups always made the best faces when they realized that they had slept with another man. It was almost enough to warm Kakashi cold dead heart.)

The Uchiha that had walked into the dockside bar looked an unsettling amount like Sasuke, but there were enough differences to easily set them apart. The man’s chakra though… Kakashi could not help but be drawn the echo of how Obito had felt at the end of it all, just before he faded away for good to join Rin in the Pure Lands. Grinning cheerfully under his mask, Kakashi slid into the seat beside the pretty Uchiha with Obito’s chakra and shamelessly started to flirt.

His ears were turning red! It was adorable.

/…/

Kakashi was starting to think that he should have paid more attention after the Fourth War when Naruto was still willing to babble about meeting the Sage and what he had been told about the Cycle of Transmigration. Or at the very least, Kakashi should have questioned Orochimaru more closely on what the man had learned about human souls during his experiments with the Cursed Seal and the Edo Tensei.

“Your kenjutsu is amazing.” Seeing Obito’s starry-eyed admiration on not-Sasuke’s face was disconcerting.

“You again?” Kakashi blinked and shook the blood off his sword, casting his senses out to make sure that all his enemies were dead. There were more Uchiha lurking in the trees nearby, but Kakashi ignored them for now in favour of his admirer. “Are you following me?”

“Yes, sorry!” Apparently the leader of his group, the Uchiha leaned in. “My name’s Izuna! What’s yours, gorgeous?”

“Maa…” Kakashi blinked, recognizing the name, and forlornly realized that he was quite a bit further back in the timeline than he had initially thought. No wonder he had never been questioned about being a missing nin. The Villages were still just a fanciful dream at this point.

If Izuna was still alive, then Uchiha Madara was still as sane as an Uchiha with the Makengyou could be. If Izuna was alive, then Senju Hashirama was still petitioning his childhood friend to build Konoha together. If Izuna was still alive, then the Uchiha and the Senju were still at war. If Izuna was alive, then Kakashi was damned lucky not to have gotten caught up in any of the frequent dramas born in the Warring Clans Era.

Lucky, lucky him.

Kakashi had no idea which ancestor of his he had replaced when his soul was shunted back an incarnation, so there was no possible way for him to even try to keep the timeline intact at this point. Just existing here with his memories of a possible future meant Kakashi was going to change history as he knew it. There was opportunity to be seized here, and since Kakashi had apparently attracted the admiration of Uchiha Madara’s beloved younger brother…

The next few years were going to be interesting.

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