Summary: Kakashi saw himself in Itachi. He understood him better than anyone else, and yet their paths diverged so far apart. Character study.
It's a crappy summary, isn't it?
Disclaimer: I don't own.
I wrote this…months ago. And over a long period of time, which is why it's rough in some places. The suicide note translation was taken from Inane's scanlations. Sorry if any Japanese is wrong. That's about it, I think. Enjoy!
The first day Kakashi ever heard of Uchiha Itachi was eleven years ago. The gossip spread like wildfire, exaggeration upon exaggeration of how the fully-developed Sharingan had emerged when the boy was just six. Six, damn it. That was the age Kakashi became a chuunin; and it had taken him years to develop and utilise Obito's Sharingan to the fullest extent.
Kakashi didn't believe that rumour, not even when Itachi was the genius heir to the famed Uchiha clan. But the gossip still left a nagging feeling in the corner of his mind.
The day Kakashi heard about Itachi was also the day when he first saw the boy, completely on accident while he wandered aimlessly about the training fields. He had found him sitting, alone in the boughs of a tree beside the field littered with targets and kunai. After greeting the boy politely, he got straight to the point.
"Are the rumours true?"
"I'm eight years old," Itachi replied stiffly, in contrast to what had been a neutral acknowledgement.
Kakashi blinked but managed not to look any more surprised. "The Sharingan?" he asked then, dimly aware he was stepping over the line. Too bad his curiosity had gotten the better of him.
Itachi's eyes flared red for a split second but it was enough for Kakashi to glimpse two comma marks, not three. He hummed softly to himself, digesting this new information. He was about to leave when Itachi spoke up, "I thought you would understand."
Kakashi stopped dead in his tracks at the accusation while behind him the boy continued, "They call you a genius. Doesn't it bother you?"
At the time, Kakashi had relied too frequently on his mask to avoid conversation and therefore lacked the proper skills to diffuse a situation such as this. So when he realised how tactless he was it hit him like a ton of bricks. He had never considered how Itachi felt about the constant attention. As a child he had resented the way people praised him so extravagantly and forced him into the mould of the perfect, genius shinobi when he knew he was so much more than a simple tool. To think that he was doing exactly same thing now…
He then studied Itachi more carefully and suddenly noticed the lines of stiffness in the boy's posture that spoke of senses being on high alert, almost to the point of paranoia, and his eyes looked far too old for someone his age. How could he have missed those signs when he had felt like that so often when he was younger?
Kakashi pulled out of his thoughts and answered the question. "It does," he admitted. "I'm sorry." In that moment he felt a strange sort of connection with the boy, just understanding what he was going through. For a brief second he considered explaining to him that the classification of genius was everyone's way of telling him that they were proud of him and that was their only way of expressing it, but the moment passed.
And Kakashi was on his way again.
The next time Kakashi saw Itachi was two years later.
Kakashi had just returned from an assassination job that had taken a week of careful, impromptu planning in enemy territory which on one occasion almost led to his capture. However, with his genius – as the Hokage praised him after he had delivered his verbal report – he had gotten away without a scratch.
Afterwards Kakashi went straight home, fully intending to catch up on lost sleep. But every time he began to nod off, those bloody images haunted him behind closed eyelids. In the end he gave up on sleeping and dragged himself down to his favourite pub.
He stepped inside, the stifling air swirling around him like a heavy spell as he trudged towards the bench at the front. The bartender recognised him immediately and handed him his usual order – a large bottle of sake – before retreating out of sight again.
Hunched over in his seat and taking huge gulps periodically, he was so bloody dead tired that he didn't notice the only other customer sitting three seats away until after he had scanned the room twice. Kakashi frowned in concentration, taking far longer than usual to put a name to the figure with a similar sized sake bottle clutched in his small hands.
"Itachi-kun," he said thickly, finally recognising him.
Said person looked blearily at him. "Kakashi-san," he replied after a moment.
"What are you doing here?" Kakashi asked slowly, genuinely puzzled.
"Had a mission today."
Kakashi nodded, digesting that sentence and coming to a conclusion – the similarities between them were almost frightening.
They sat in silence for long minutes before Kakashi felt the need to say something again. He didn't know why, really, but perhaps he was trying to distract them both from plunging deeper into their thoughts. If sake couldn't do the job – and Kakashi was quite sure it wasn't at the moment – then he would.
It slipped out of his mouth before he even realised what he was going to say. "You made chuunin last week, didn't you?" Damn, why did it have to be something like that? He silently blamed the offending drink.
Foolishly, Kakashi continued to talk. "Your parents must be proud. I mean…" His voice died in his throat as Itachi gave him a sharp look before focusing on the bottle, small hands around the neck in a chokehold. Slowly, he explained, "They are proud, but not for me. For the genius." His dark eyes glittered dangerously and he spat out, "For the clan."
Kakashi had frozen in the act of reaching for his sake. The amount of raw fury and hate poured into Itachi's last sentence shocked him – he didn't know anyone at that young age capable of such anger. Itachi however was oblivious to his thunderstruck expression and let loose his feelings. "Barely a week later they mention the Jounin exam and how I could enter the next one, and perhaps try out for ANBU in the meantime." His voice dropped to a dangerous, caustic hiss. "But all they care about is the clan. They want to rise in status and respect by using me. They force me into A-rank missions to get stronger for their sake, but why?" His fist slammed into the table. "Why must I get stronger for the clan?"
Suddenly he stopped, remembering who he was speaking to. Within a second the anger disappeared beneath the surface and Itachi had retreated behind his calm façade, once again the perfect embodiment of Shinobi Rule 25. "I am sorry for my outburst, Kakashi-san."
"It's…" Kakashi broke off uncertainly. What was there to say? Words of comfort? Understanding? He barely knew the boy, but at the same time he knew him all too well.
He watched as Itachi placed a few coins on the table next to his sake before sliding off his stool. To Kakashi's practiced eye, the only thing that kept him from keeling over after being intoxicated was his iron will to stay upright.
"Goodnight, Kakashi-san," he said softly. Then he was gone, silent as a cat before Kakashi could formulate a coherent reply.
He let out a groan, but at the moment it had very little to do with the pounding in his head. He was – most probably – the one person in Konoha who understood Itachi the best, and he had done nothing to assure him that he wasn't the only one who had to face such two-sided praise every day.
Kakashi had resolved to tell the boy tomorrow exactly how he felt (deliberately ignoring the fact that his communication skills were below average) but he was sent on another mission that day. When he next glimpsed the boy about a month later, he was certain that Itachi had forgotten the incident at the bar. So Kakashi forgot too.
The next time Kakashi thought of Itachi was when the ANBU leader had passed around the small slip of paper for the others in the room to examine. When it reached Kakashi, he had to read it twice before the seeing underneath the underneath.
I'm tired of duties…there is no future for Uchiha…and for me…I cannot walk out the 'path' any further…
Kakashi frowned and wordlessly passed the note along. The words still rang in his head though.
Uchiha Shisui was the one who committed suicide, apparently. Shisui was one of his slightly-more-than-casual acquaintances, namely being in his squad under his command. On their last mission together, he looked normal. He acted normal, and he was normal. Kakashi was perfectly certain of that.
He watched as other members of the ANBU tossed ideas back and forth, toying with why it happened, rather than how and maybe even who. When there was a lull in conversation, Kakashi spoke up from the sidelines.
"Uchiha Shisui didn't commit suicide."
All heads swivelled to scrutinise him. "How do you know, Kakashi-senpai?" somebody had asked in a tone that somehow managed to sound polite and scornful at the same time.
He leaned forwards slightly and said, "Shisui wasn't that kind of person."
"That is an opinion," the same person dismissed. Kakashi sighed and leant back again. Such arrogance.
"Kakashi-taichou has a point though," another added softly. "However, the handwriting is definitely Shisui's."
Kakashi turned to regard the person. "But the Sharingan can copy anyone's handwriting."
"What are you suggesting then?" someone asked sharply.
He hesitated slightly. "Nothing. Just stating the facts."
An uneasy silence had filled the room for the moment until the others lost interest with Kakashi again. He rested his head against the wall and tuned out the discussion.
If his gut feeling was right, it was Itachi who had written the message. Which meant that Itachi killed Shisui. But why? He had heard of their friendship, so what the hell was Itachi thinking?
Was it selfish of him to not mention to the other ANBU that Itachi was probably behind all this? Three years ago, he had already hated his clan and Kakashi knew now, with growing certainty, that Itachi was planning something. But he wanted to speak with the boy first; find out what was wrong and what his motives were. He didn't want the ANBU to get their hands on Itachi before he talked to him. The boy was talented and a child prodigy in Konoha – he didn't deserve to be interrogated by the ANBU when he was one. But not mentioning his suspicions about Itachi during the meeting was forgoing his duty. Then again, he wasn't a stickler for the rules anymore.
On the outside, Kakashi was his usual taciturn self as the meeting progressed and before he knew it, everyone was filing out the room. He quickly jerked out of his internal debate and back to reality while trying not to look too dazed. He joined the crowd and from the snippets of conversation he heard around him, the matter had been dropped and the conclusion was a simple suicide, though he noticed a small group of Uchihas discussing something in voices too low for even Kakashi. Perhaps they had the same suspicions as him. But before he could make it out the door and on his way to find Itachi to talk some sense into him, the head of the ANBU called him back and handed him a scroll. "Urgent mission," was all he had said, and Kakashi had no choice but to go.
The day he had returned from his mission was one day too late to save anyone. The Uchiha sector was a bloodbath. Kakashi didn't even have time for unwinding after his mission before being called to inspect Itachi's handiwork – and damn it a thousand times and more, he regretted his earlier decision. He honestly felt like hitting himself – hadn't he learnt anything? Friends, team mates, people he cared about – they all came before the mission! His hands shook as he turned over another corpse and mentally added this oversight to his increasingly long list of failures.
The next corpse he had found was one he recognised immediately – Obito's father. His breath hitched in his throat as he stared back at Obito's likeness and hot, angry tears sprung into his left eye. He rolled the corpse back face down and stalked away.
At the time Kakashi didn't know if he was furious at himself or Itachi, but looking back now he could say that his anger was definitely directed at himself. But six years ago, he had channelled all his anger at that boy. How could Itachi have turned out like this? Perhaps they had started out on the same path, but Itachi's had twisted drastically and he hadn't seen that until too late. How typical, he thought. Always too late to save anyone. Obito, Rin, his sensei…but could Itachi be saved, even when he had fallen this far? The thought lingered in his mind as he returned to work. Even after he had locked off his memories and made his mind blissfully blank the thought still lingered, and Kakashi wondered if it was possible he could save someone, just once.
That day when he was trapped in Itachi's Tsukiyomi, Kakashi learnt that he had to stop fooling himself that he could actually save someone, because he really couldn't. Itachi was too far gone; he was a danger to his friends and comrades that he loved in Konoha and this time, Kakashi was the one that was going to do something about it – not Sasuke, since nothing good ever came out of killing for revenge.
That day, Kakashi realised that the only way to save Itachi was to kill him, and that was what he was best at, wasn't he?
He trained hard since then, ignoring everyone and anyone as well as the fact that Sasuke was travelling down the same dark path as Itachi and he may very well have to deal with the two of them because he would never ever let Naruto carry the guilt of killing his best friend. So when the Mangekyou Sharingan finally emerged Kakashi felt like he was one step closer to breaking the spiralling pattern of his life.