Infinite Blue and Evergreen - Chapter 18 - KALA (2024)

Chapter Text

xXx

The fact that Kakashi jerked back into consciousness, drenched in a cold sweat and heart hammering in his chest, was not an uncommon phenomenon. Sometimes he didn’t remember what it was like to wake up normally with the sun streaming in pleasantly through the window on his bedsheets. So often lately he awoke with the image of Gai burning like the sun still fading from his mind, and never at a reasonable hour.

He threw his covers off and immediately knew that trying to sleep would be futile. He walked into the shower instead, the scalding water washing away the last remnants of fear and leaving a dull ache behind his eyes instead. He changed into a new yukata haphazardly and slipped on an unattached mask.

On nights like this, as he sat in the cold sterile kitchenette, he wondered what it would be like to live with Gai. So often when they were younger, Gai would take his traps as a personal challenge, and he’d find him in his apartment on random evenings or sometimes after a particularly bad mission. No matter the time, he’d be making food or a simple pot of tea, and he’d badger away until he was satisfied that Kakashi was clean and fed. On some particularly bad nights, he’d insist Kakashi summon his ninken before he left.

Somehow he always seemed to know when Kakashi would return, and he wondered who he irritated to get such information, or if he had some sort of intrinsic Kakashi radar. Either way, Kakashi hated it at first, but then it became a routine that he found strangely soothing. When he returned home and Gai wasn’t there, his apartment felt too empty and dark, and he’d often spiral into negative thoughts until Gai came to find him again or he was sent on another mission.

Gai would probably make him tea, and maybe he’d ask to talk about it, or maybe he’d just sit quietly and let the silence drain the tension from Kakashi’s shoulders. It was a tactic Gai had learned from his own father- everything could be fixed with a pot of tea and good company.

He put his head in his hands and wished he could do something to expel this restless agitation. For the first time since all this began, he wondered if he should just tell Gai to break him out and live on the run, Konoha be damned. It’s been too long, and the council still hadn’t made a decision about him- but he at least learned that Gai was free.

Would there be a Kage Summit? Sasuke wouldn’t have a reason to attack the Hachibi, but that didn’t mean the other leaders had no reason to discuss the happenings in the shinobi world. Perhaps Tsunade would suggest one. Or would she be leery based on all he’d told her?

As if answering his thoughts, a gentle chakra flare made his head snap up and he stared through the living room to the window directly across from him. It led into a small courtyard, but thanks to the heavily warded seals, he wouldn’t be able to break through them without expending some serious chakra.

They could, however, be easily dissolved by the castor, which was exactly what happened.

Senju Tsunade lifted the window up and hopped over the ledge, landing gracefully in his pretty prison cell with a travel bag.

He gaped at her.

“You’ve got five minutes.” She threw the bag at him. “Get dressed.”

Kakashi caught the bag and blinked at her. “Is this a test?”

Tsunade crossed her arms and tapped her foot. “Hurry up. The last ANBU changes shift in ten minutes and I don’t trust him to not run off and tell someone I let you out.”

Kakashi gave her a wary look as he opened the duffel bag and found nondescript clothing inside. “Are you going to watch?”

She huffed and turned around. “I just got confirmation that someone saw two people fitting the description of Itachi and Sasuke on the border of the Land of Lightning. I’ve already sent a team ahead, but you’ll be working as an informant.” She waited until the rustling died down before she turned back to him. “It goes without explaining, that if you return willingly, you will have regained my trust completely.”

“And you can prove to the rest of this so called ‘Kakashi Council’ that you tested me and I passed.” Kakashi finished for her. “Who is this team?”

She jerked her head over her shoulder, ignoring his last question. “You’ll want to stick to the western wall and go over right past the training ground. I’ve cleared the way. If you do encounter anyone, nonlethal and quiet as possible. Your team is waiting on the triple border of falling water and rice.”

“If you put Naruto in this team, I swear to the sages…” Kakashi grumbled. He was not in the mood to deal with Naruto running off at the barest whisper of Sasuke- he’d probably insist they leave as soon as Kakashi touched down in front of him.

“I’m sentimental, not stupid.” Tsunade snapped. “Get going.”

xXx

“You have got to be kidding me.” Neji growled, arms falling by his side as he deactivated his byakugan and felt the migraine start at the top of his spine.

“Do you see our informant?” Gai stood up from the fire they’d made. They were settled in the small forest in the crux of the three countries, and were told to wait an extra two nights in this location for a fourth member to join them. Tsunade hadn’t told them much about this informant, just that they’d be able to help deal with Itachi and Sasuke if they did make contact.

Neji, Gai, and Yamato were all dreading the thought that Uzumaki Naruto or Haruno Sakura was their fourth, but Neji saw them both in the village the day before they left, so that seemed unlikely. They debated the topic a bit on the way there; a Byakugan user, a powerful taijutsu user used to dealing with sharingan, and a powerful ANBU ops member seemed to be a solid team. They debated whether or not it would be a medic nin, or someone specially trained in Genjutsu- but Kurenai was currently taken off active duty.

Neji sincerely considered treason in that moment, because he was not about to deal with two solid weeks of this. Had he done something to personally offend Tsunade-sama? Did she hate him? His eyes slid over to the ANBU member of their unit, wondering if he was being punished as well. How badly does one have to perform to get stuck babysitting Uzumaki Naruto and watching two grown men pine after each other?

“I am not sharing a room with him.” Neji glared at Yamato, as if daring him to contradict the young jounin.

Yamato sensed the chakra at the same time Gai did, and gave Neji a long-suffering stare. “No, I imagine that’s why I’m here.”

Kakashi landed gracefully in the clearing a few minutes later, eyes immediately landing on Gai. “No wonder she told me this was a test.” He said in lieu of a greeting, tone betraying an underlying edge.

Gai gave him a small smile, the two of them fully aware of how awkward this was for everyone involved- them included. They still hadn’t reconciled from their last argument. “Hello, Rival.”

Kakashi nodded at him, the magnitude of emotions there clearing before he turned a cool gaze to Neji and Yamato. “Pup. Tenzo.”

Neji’s eye twitched. “Hatake.”

“It’s Yamato while we’re on this mission.” Tenzo corrected him. “Hey, Kakashi-senpai. I hear you’ve caused quite a bit of trouble.”

The four of them entered into the land of Hot Water and found an inn at the next town within their borders. Tenzo made a comment about ‘hosting their informant’ and handed Neji the key before Kakashi finally broke.

“I need to talk to Gai.” He announced.

Ugh.” Neji made a despairing noise under his breath.

Talk, pup, it’s not an euphemism.” Kakashi assured him. Neji slapped his hand away before he was able to pat his head degradingly.

“You guys get ten minutes before I separate you.” Tenzo warned them.

“Do not make me keep an eye on them.” Neji pleaded with him under his breath as he passed by, leaving Kakashi and Gai alone for the first time since before Pein’s attack.

Gai looked tired, which wasn’t exactly surprising, but it still made Kakashi’s chest ache. He had no idea how many meetings he’d been pulled into, how they’d probably raked Kakashi’s reputation across the coals right in front of him, or accused him of being blind to his real nature. Perhaps Gai had bore it all with grace, but Kakashi knew his best friend- there was only so much he could take without an outburst. Each one would be scrutinised and weighed against Kakashi’s ultimate ruling, and that was exhausting for a man of action like Gai.

“I’m still mad at you,” Kakashi told him honestly, “but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m glad you’re here.”

“I meant every word.” Gai warned him, tone soft but honest.

“I know.” Kakashi ran a hand through his hair and let out a weary sigh. It was a strange juxtaposition in their relationship. Usually Gai was the one to yield to Kakashi’s unshakable aloofness; knowing just how far to push him before he let things fade into a comfortable silence. Now on the other end of the stubborn man’s conviction, Kakashi felt off kilter. He was not used to making concessions for anyone, but in this case, he knew that meeting obstinance with obstinance would get them nowhere.

“I know you’re allowed to change your mind.” He felt like he was quoting some sort of relationship book, so it was awkward and stilted. “Just… Gai, I-... you should be free…”

“Kakashi.” He closed some of the distance between them, but he didn’t touch him like how Kakashi both yearned and expected. “You keep talking about my happiness and my home. You assume there is a place where I’ll still be happy even if you’re not there. Like you’re just a coincidence if we live in the same place, and if not I’ll be fine without you. You keep disregarding the depth of my affections like they mean less and you have to sacrifice more to prove that. That is not a relationship. I don’t want that.”

Kakashi felt his heart clench a little tighter, and he let out a weary sigh. They stood in a tense silence before Kakashi finally was able to choke out something that he could say was honest but not inflammatory.

“I don't want to lose you.” He said the words so quietly, eyes downcast and spine tense, that he was worried that Gai wouldn't hear them and he'd have to repeat himself.

Gai's whole body sagged, and saddened tears started to gather at the corner of his eyes. “I don't want that either…”

Kakashi was the one to close the distance between them and pull Gai into a hug that the other man desperately reciprocated. Kakashi turned his mouth so it was hidden in Gai’s neck. “When we get back to the village after this, I'll follow your lead.”

Gai's arms tightened around him. It was not a decision to take lightly, and the fact that Kakashi was deferring to him, even though he didn't want Gai to lose his home, was the ultimate concession on his side. It meant that he would accept whatever Gai chose even if he didn't agree with it. Gai had to be careful with this power, but he knew deep down that anything less than Kakashi's freedom would force him to leave.

“They didn't take my Twilight.” Kakashi carefully hinted. “I can get a message to you if we're separated.”

“I know.” Gai cut him off before he could say anything further. He stepped back and put his hands on Kakashi's shoulders. “We will pass that bridge when we get to it, for now, let us prepare to speak to the Uchiha.”

xXx

“If you come any closer, I will kill you.”

Kakashi put a hand on his hip and sighed. “Always so dramatic, Sasuke-kun.”

“I’m not going back there, and neither is Itachi-niisan.” The younger Uchiha put a hand on the end of his blade warningly.

“Didn’t say you had to.” Kakashi quirked a brow at him. “I just had a few questions, and some information to give you, if you’ll calm down for five minutes.”

“Sasuke.” Itachi didn’t sound well, to be honest. His voice was raspy and he looked like he needed the door jam to support himself. His eyes were covered with bandages, but even still, Kakashi knew he would be an idiot to underestimate him.

The cabin looked like it had been uninhabited for a while before the brothers took it over, and Kakashi didn’t sense other chakra signatures for quite a distance. Neji had thoroughly scoped the place out before they announced their presence. It wasn’t the epitome of luxury, but there was a a small waterfall to the left of the cabin, creating a pond and then a stream nearby for fresh water. No one would have a reason to come this far into the mountainside unless they were hiking or looking for something. It was a good place to settle, at least in the meantime, for two wanted shinobi.

“I assume the sickness is getting worse.” Kakashi ventured. “In that case, I’ll make things brief. Did the two of you go near Konoha recently?”

Sasuke scoffed, tomoe in his eyes rotating lazily as if begging Kakashi to antagonise him into a fight. “We don’t have to tell you anything.”

“We have not. It would be counterproductive.” Itachi answered instead. At least he trusted Kakashi a little bit more than his sibling, or perhaps he saw no reason to lie?

“Lying will not alleviate your sentence.” Neji’s voice was inflammatory.

Kakashi didn’t need to turn around to know that Gai put his hand on his pupil’s shoulder. Neji tried to shrug it off, but his teacher held firm. They didn’t need these two starting anything when that would be the opposite of helpful.

“As much as I appreciate your youthful vigour, we are not here to spar.” Gai sounded cheerful, but he was probably giving both teens a warning look that meant he would stop the argument if they started it. Honestly, he was probably the most suited to stop the Uchiha and Hyuuga from killing one another.

“I thought you were no longer with Konoha.” Itachi turned his head towards Kakashi, straightening out ever so slightly in his posture.

“I told you, I’m not that noble.” Kakashi was referring to their private conversation, in which he’d made the decision to show Itachi the truth. Itachi wouldn’t let him use his sharingan on him until he gave him a strong enough reason to explain his defection from the hidden leaf. It should have been pretty obvious why he was there; then again, he hadn’t mentioned Gai by name. Perhaps he was more discreet than he thought to outsiders?

“My uncle was murdered by an Uchiha.” Neji’s eyes were locked onto Sasuke. “The two of you are the only ones who would wish revenge on Konoha.”

“That’s not true.” Itachi cut in before Sasuke could fan the flames. “There is more than one Uchiha who would look for revenge.”

Kakashi’s heart sank, and he crossed his arms across his chest and glared at the ground. “You mean Tobi.”

Kakashi had done his best to 'defeat' Madara- it wasn’t hard given that he was already dead. He wanted to make sure that Obito couldn’t revive him, and he spent nearly eight months tracking down where the patriarch was buried. It was part of the reason why he’d left over a year before he knew the Akatsuki would strike Gaara. He needed to make sure he scoped out the place and they wouldn’t suspect him until it was too late. He took Madara’s body with him, and he burned it into ash and scattered it into the ocean. Not even Zetsu could collect all those pieces.

Then he burned the rinnegan with Nagato’s body, sent all the remaining jinchuuriki he could find on the run, and planned out how to best intercept anyone who could help The Akatsuki in their thirst for blood. That meant killing Kabuto and any other allies they could have called on to attack the tailed hosts. One by one they fell like dominoes, but the two most important pieces on the board always remained until the end.

He’d foolishly hoped that would cut the Akatsuki’s momentum, but he’d been naive. Seeing how they still managed to extract the Ichibi, he knew that Obito was still moving forward with his Infinite Tsukuyomi plan. The biggest obstacles were already taken care of, and that left the most painful one.

There was a small piece of him that wanted Itachi to take care of Obito, so that he didn’t have to do it himself. That was selfish and cowardly of him.

“Why do you still refer to him with that name?” Itachi called him out, and it probably wasn’t meant to be hurtful, just curious. “We know who he is.”

Kakashi wasn’t too ashamed to admit it; “It’s easier to think of him as another entity altogether.”

“Rival,” Gai’s voice was sympathetic.

“It’s fine. I know. It has to happen.” Kakashi turned to his lover with a joyless smile. “It would make the most sense, wouldn’t it? That he’d want to sow discord in Konoha.”

“You knew it could be someone else?” Neji demanded, and Kakashi knew he’d be furious. He, himself, would be furious, too, but it wasn’t like they had any other leads. Kakashi was also stunned that the remaining Uchiha would even want to go back to Konoha, or risk getting that close while not going after Naruto.

“If you happen to know where Uchiha Obito is, please, let me know.” Kakashi turned to look at Neji, and perhaps it wasn’t fair, but he was rightfully a bit tetchy.

Neji’s eyes widened, and the fight drained out of him warily. “Uchiha Obito is dead.”

“No,” Kakashi’s hands turned to fists at his side. “He’s not. We never retrieved his body, but someone else did. Someone who festered the hate in him so he would carry out their plans for them.” He looked up to the rustling of the treetops, feeling a vice squeezing on his insides when he thought about his past mistakes. If only he’d not been such a coward to his own emotions.

“It would help if the dead stayed dead.” Sasuke finally let his sharingan recede. “Now, you have your answer, so leave us in peace.”

“You must be joking.” Neji hissed. “You abandoned Konoha and you’re harbouring a member of the Akatsuki-”

“-Neji.” Gai turned to face his student and put his hands on his shoulders. “Uchiha Itachi was acting under orders from Danzo.”

“Oh, did you tell Sasuke-kun he’s dead?” Kakashi asked Itachi suddenly, and then turned to his ex-pupil with a sarcastic lilt to his voice. “Sorry, no revenge era for you.”

Sasuke glared at him, jaw tense. He’d never know the havoc he’d wreaked in Kakashi’s previous life or the anguish he’d felt after he realised he killed his brother just for Itachi’s secrets to be used to manipulate him.

“You cannot expect me to believe that.” Neji knocked Gai’s hands off his shoulders. “You just want to believe what he’s told you.” He stepped back and gestured to Kakashi.

“That’s enough, Neji-kun.” Tenzo finally spoke up for the first time since the start of their interaction. “I’m team lead, and I’m telling you to stand down. You cannot defeat the Uchiha family, and Hatake and Maito.”

“Ouch, Kohai, I got the last name treatment?” Kakashi rubbed at the back of his neck sheepishly. “That smarts.”

“You’re all acting like children.” Tenzo shot back. “Now, we’ve established that the murders were not by either of the Uchiha brothers, and that Uchiha Itachi is living on borrowed time. Our next order of business is discussing what to do with Sasuke-san.”

“I am not leaving.” Sasuke seethed.

“No, Otouto. You know I have only so much longer to live. I would like to make sure you are taken care of when that inevitability happens.” He gestured to Tenzo and Kakashi. “What do you suggest?”

“You two return with us. If Sasuke brings you in, he will be pardoned. At the very least he will have a home to go to.” Tenzo suggested- and it wasn’t the most terrible option. Itachi would be taken care of until the end, and Sasuke would be safe.

“Vetoed.” Kakashi cut in before Sasuke could fly into a rage. “Not gonna happen.”

They all stood taken aback at Kakashi’s blatant refusal, Tenzo perhaps the most stunned. “But Kakashi-sempai, it will be the easiest-”

“-I know my student. Either we bring him in bleeding and broken and he escapes the moment he can, or we tell Konoha the truth and have Itachi absolved of his crimes.”

“You all believe this garbage?” Neji was quickly losing his cool, shoulders tense and eyes narrowed. He was still standing down on Tenzo’s orders, but Kakashi was surprised he hadn’t snapped yet. This Neji wasn’t rational; his entire family was in an uproar. All complicated feelings towards his uncle aside, Neji was loyal to his family, and he would view it as his duty to seek retribution.

“I do not need to prove anything to you, Hyuuga.” Sasuke squared his shoulders challengingly. “You have no idea what my brother or I have suffered through. You have never had to choose between your entire family or your village.”

“I don’t care about your woes. You both are traitors. You have no honour or loyalty left.” Neji’s tone was vicious, and the tension spiked between the two teens by a few more degrees.

Kakashi was actually starting to lose his patience. How many times had he heard this argument over and over again? Family or Duty. Friends or the Mission. It was a cycle that seemed doomed to repeat itself eternally.

“It doesn’t matter if you believe us or not, Neji.” Kakashi switched tactics with the other jounin. “Itachi has intel we need, and right now all you are doing is hindering the mission.” Neji looked ready to argue with him, but he continued. “Uchiha Obito is under the influence of someone stronger than all of us combined, and we have to be careful we don’t play into their plans. Arguing with each other is an opening he will exploit.” His eyes turned back to Itachi imploringly. “You told him, didn’t you? What his plan was?” He jerked his head towards Sasuke.

“Yes.” Itachi saw no reason to lie. “He knows.”

“Then, Sasuke, you know what’s at stake. Zetsu or Obito will try to use your hatred towards the village as a catalyst. They may not be able to get the tailed beasts yet, but they likely want me to tell them where the others are…”

Sasuke looked away, glaring at the ground near the tiny pond nearby to not make eye contact with any of them.

“And this plan, it’s to use the tailed beasts to gain power?” Neji prompted, crossing his arms across his chest in a show of patience. Kakashi still had no idea if he was close to snapping or not, he had to trust Gai would intervene if he did.

“In a manner of speaking. The combination of all tailed beasts will create the ten-tail, and that will make its owner nigh unstoppable, with an endless amount of chakra.” Kakashi didn’t feel the need to dive into the full details, but it was enough for Neji to understand the severity of the situation. “In order to finish their plans, they need an Uchiha.”

The copy-nin sighed and scratched the back of his head in frustration. “Coincidentally, the entirety of the Uchiha plan was wiped out by Itachi… Which reduces their choices.” Kakashi started to close the distance between himself and Itachi. Sasuke unsheathed his sword in warning, but Kakashi ignored the thinly veiled threat. He knew Sasuke wouldn’t attack unless Itachi told him to. That, at least, was a given.

“How much longer do you have?” Kakashi asked. “If I bring a healer here, are you going to listen to what she has to say?”

“I have been on medication long enough to know that there is little chance to prolong my life much further.”

“Weeks, then?” Kakashi lifted his hand and placed it on the tired Uchiha’s forehead. He was not a medic by any means, but even he could sense that the other’s body was run down to embers. “You want to give Sasuke your eye, I gather?”

“Yes. Better him than anyone else.”

“Okay.” Kakashi stepped back and pulled out his silver fang, letting a pulse of chakra flare into it so he could start to communicate with the others.

“What are you doing?” Sasuke asked, but he seemed to be taking Itachi’s cue to remain calm.

“I’m getting a healer here so we can do this in a controlled fashion.” Kakashi told him, and then he met his old pupil’s gaze unflinchingly. “And then you’re going to have to decide, Sasuke. If I can find a way to absolve Itachi, will you come back with me? Naruto misses you, you know. You have friends. And I promise…” He took a moment to look back at Gai. “You may not think it’s worth it right now, but one day you’ll wake up and find out that anger won’t sustain you. You need more than that.”

He finished his message to the Twilight Healers, and then all they had to do was wait. Someone was a few hours away, and they’d be there by sunset. “If all you have is anger, then we may as well kill you now. I won’t have you be another pawn for Madara’s f*cked up legacy.” He jerked his head to Itachi. “They would have used him, too, if he wasn’t already dying. You need to find something else to live for or else they’re going to find that darkness in you and ruin everything that Itachi destroyed his life for.”

He shoved his hands in his pockets. “You have four hours to decide, and just so you know, I’m hoping you’ll choose not to sully your brother’s hopes for a peaceful resolution. That means you get your head out of your ass and choose love and life instead of hate and vengeance.”

“You have no idea-” Sasuke started.

“-I don’t need to.” Kakashi cut him off coldly, raising his voice to drain out Sasuke’s. “We are all here for a reason, and I chose the former, so if you choose something that f*cks that up, I’ll fight for my convictions. It’s one or the other. Your choice.”

He walked over and sat down on the old wood pile, getting comfortable. “Like I said. You’ve got four hours.”

“Otouto, come inside.” Itachi stepped back from the entrance. “We need to talk.”

The two disappeared inside, and Kakashi let out a drawn out groan, stretching his arms above his head and yawning loudly.

“You’d really kill him, senpai?” Tenzo sounded doubtful.

“I don’t think he’ll choose that route, but I said what I said. I can’t have Obito using him to invoke the Infinite Tsukuyomi.”

“Just… how much do you know?” Neji seemed to have calmed down since his earlier outburst.

“Too much.” Kakashi sighed. “You really want to know what happened to the Uchiha’s? I can show you.” He lifted his headband invitingly.

“Why are you so forthcoming with this?” The Branch Hyuuga crossed the yard to stand in front of him curiously. “Each time you tell someone else, you could be committing treason.”

Kakashi chuckled. “Oh, I absolutely am committing treason, pup. You want to know my secret?” He leaned forward conspiratorially. “I don’t care. I have more important things to worry about than Konoha’s secrets. You better watch out though, maybe I’ll brainwash you, too.” His tone was obviously joking but it didn’t stop Gai from letting out a noise of disapproval.

“You are… Very different, Senpai.” Tenzo did a series of seals and created everyone a place to sit and rest, as comfortably as stone and wood could be. “Has life truly changed you this much?”

“I guess you can call it ‘life’.” Kakashi replied lazily, his gaze drifting over to Gai. “I had some things put into perspective for me.”

“Then show me.” Neji sat down in front of Kakashi and lifted his gaze. “And I’ll decide for myself.”

“I’m going to show you things that you’re not going to like, Neji.” Kakashi warned him, all sense of mirth completely gone. “And you can’t unsee them.”

“I’ve gathered.”

“Just know, I told you so, and I’m not going to hold your hand through the mental breakdown.”

Infinite Blue and Evergreen - Chapter 18 - KALA (2024)
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