"...We're back in Konoha?" The bridge-builder asked, looking around confused. "How long have I been out?"
"Two days." Kakashi replied from where he sat beside his remaining students. "By all rights, I should have left you behind. I would have if it would've done Team 7 any good."
"What do you mean?" Tazuna asked, dreading the answer."
Instead of answering, Kakashi turned his attention back to his unconscious students. Tazuna followed his gaze and-
Where was the blond brat? Where was Naruto?
"... Where's sensei?" Sakura asked Sasuke quietly, and he shrugged.
"Said he wanted to talk to Hokage-sama, since someone you knew would be here when you got up." There was a pause. "... What happened in Wave? He wouldn't say a word."
"I- The fake hunter-nin beat you and - and Naruto." Sakura said, her voice breaking, and Sasuke glanced over to her, a mix of concern and worry in his eyes when he saw the tears forming in hers. "I was guarding Tazuna, but the hunter-nin didn't seem to care, and teamed up against sensei. Sensei retreated to me, and told me to check on the both of you. Naruto was..." She took a breath to try to steady herself, but the tears started to come.
"We could find no signs of life." Kakashi said. "And the places the senbon were sticking out-" He shook his head. "No chakra either."
There was a long moment as Sasuke processed the information. Sakura curled up on herself, and started to weakly sob.
"You're not really here." He said.
"No, I'm angry, so I'm actually trying to work that off so I don't accidentally kill someone."
"Requesting permission to return to Wave for Naruto's body." Kakashi said, wearing the same emotionless mask that he'd worn during his years in ANBU.
"Permission denied." The Hokage said flatly. "You couldn't face Zabuza and his accompliance on your own before, and I cannot afford to send another jounin with you."
A pause, so quiet you could have heard a senbon drop.
"... What." Kakashi said flatly, and lightning arced along his skin - not as a threat. His emotions were starting to get out of hand.
"They will have destroyed his body, Kakashi." The Hokage tried to reason with him. "He was like a grandson to me-"
"Then let me go!"
Sarutobi could see the parallels between this and an encounter with Kakashi just days after Minato's death, where Kakashi had demanded to be allowed to raise Naruto.
Back then, the only negative reprecussion was Kakashi going into ANBU. Who knew what would happen after this conversation?
"Kakashi, I can't." A short pause. He didn't want to do this, but Kakashi wasn't backing down. "Go, and you will not return to Wave for Naruto's body, that is an order from your Hokage."
"... You're expecting me to believe Hakate did this to the Forest of Death because he lost his temper?" Kurenai asked Anko, staring at the destruction.
"He was angry." Anko replied. "I tried to do the same after..." She shook her head, as though that chase the memories away. "He was still angry when he left, just not quite as angry. I think he said something about finding Gai."
"You're sure he's not going back?" Kurenai asked.
"Hokage's orders." Anko said, as though that explained it. "If he does then he could be branded as a traitor."
Slipping past them was easier than it should've been. After all, Zabuza was an S-class nin, and his accompliance was A-ranked.
Still, considering that he had been ANBU at one point he shouldn't be too surprised. He had slipped around larger groups of guards.
Now all he had to do was listen for word of his student.
"Can't believe the brat decided to throw himself off the bridge just so we couldn't -"
"Kakashi, I thought I told you that you weren't allowed to go back to Wave."
"I didn't. I rather thought your ANBU that you have watching me would've told you that."
"Then explain how Gato and all of his men are dead."
"I dunno. Does this mean I can go after Naruto's body then?" Please, please, please....
Buried under his dogs the words kept repeating on loop-
Threw himself off the bridge-
Threw himself off the bridge-
"He survived." His voice was weak. "He was alive and we left him."
He had survived, and had been captured, only to escape and find that his team had abandoned him.
So he had taken the only choice left to him.
The fox was waiting on the shore of the island when the boy washed ashore.
The blond man who was with her bent down, and tenatively checked to see if he was still alive.
Then gently picked him up and carried him into the village.