Naruto let Kakashi lead him on a half-hearted chase for nearly half an hour before he caught up to the silver haired chuunin. He needed the time to think of what to say and to possibly let the boy cool down if he was angry. Kakashi stopped at one of the benches that lined one of the few parks Kusa had and sat down, joined a minute later by Naruto.
Neither of them said anything at first, but it was Naruto who finally broke the silence. "I'm sorry man. I should have kept my mouth shut back there. It wasn't my place." Kakashi didn't look at him, but he could see the bags under his eyes start to turn red with the effort of holding back tears.
"Sensei thought it would be good for me to leave Konoha so soon after this. You know, as a way to try and heal without being reminded of him everywhere." The boy said, almost surprising Naruto. He actually hadn't said anything in his ear shot this entire trip. The voice, while sounding younger, much younger, still had the tones that his Kakashi used. It brought a sharp pain lancing through his chest. He really missed Kakashi. He missed everyone.
"Is it helping at all?" Naruto asked after the pains had subsided. Kakashi shrugged. "I haven't slept more than a few hours since… it happened. Every time I close my eyes I just see his face." Naruto nodded. He knew what that was like all too well. "I know the feeling." Kakashi didn't look at Naruto but his eyes tightened in anger so Naruto continued.
"No, I really do. Not the exact same feeling, but here, I'll tell you something I've only shared with a few people. Before I came to Konoha, I lived in a little village that treated me like dirt for being poor and an orphan," he was stretching the truth a little bit but his story needed to be stuck to, "I only had a few friends growing up. They were mostly the kids who were rebellious enough to defy their parent's warnings about me. One of my friends was this girl; she was from one of the richest families in town. I always thought that when we grew up, I'd save her from her horrible family and we would get married and it was rather ridiculous thinking back on it actually." Kakashi glanced over and saw that Naruto's face was taking on a dusting of rose.
"Anyway, where we lived it almost never snowed. It was a bit too warm for that. But one year, it did, and the building she was in couldn't take it. It collapsed and crushed her to death. I saw her body when they took her out of the wreckage." Naruto let his voice die. He remembered when they finally dug down deep enough to move the beam that had pinned Hinata's torso down. He had been standing in the snow, still covered in the blood that had been on his newly born daughter. Sakura had long since taken the girl away to see if she could find someone willing to nurse her or locate some formula.
Neji was there with him, his eyes were rimmed with red. He watched the progress with his Byakugan and Naruto was sure that without his warning that she was about to come up he probably would have done more than empty the contents of his stomach in a nearby bush. That image still crops up in nightmares occasionally, but it had been getting a hell of a lot better now that he had the chance to make sure it never happened.
Kakashi was waiting for him to say something but he saw the look in the blonde's eyes. It was almost the same look he saw in his own eyes. Naruto glanced down at Kakashi finally and sighed. "Sorry, I'm probably not the person to be talking to about this. I still see her sometimes. I can tell you this though, you need to mourn. When we get home, take a week or two off of doing anything and use it to wander around, or see a movie you wanted to see, or eat some food you've never tried, or maybe even find a hobby to keep your hands busy. But after that, throw yourself into your inevitable D ranks you will have to do with your new team. They may seem like boring physical labour, but if you try and do them without chakra, or minimal chakra, it will exhaust you so much you'll be too tired to dream. Time is the best medicine for this kind of pain. It will never go away completely, but time will dull the sharpness of it."
The silver haired boy stared dully out at the park. The expression of his father's face as Kakashi slid the door open to the room he was in was what haunted him. The expression of surprise and regret as the last few breaths gurgled out of his mouth danced around in his dreams, silently blaming him for not being a good enough son to prevent his father from doing this to himself. Kakashi shook his head. "I wasn't upset at you. I just didn't want to be around when he was being talked about." The boy finally said after a few minutes.
Naruto nodded. "I don't know what you've heard about your dad, and I've never met him, but the actions of those around him disgust me. Someone I looked up to once told me that 'those who abandon their missions are trash,'" Kakashi looked down at his feet, "'but those who abandon their teammates are even lower than trash.' I think your dad should have been hailed as a hero, or congratulated in the very least." Naruto stood up. The sun was setting and his stomach was rumbling.
"I don't really feel like joining everyone else for dinner, do you want to grab something to eat and come hang out in my room for a while? We don't have to talk or anything, I'm perfectly fine with reading a book or something." Kakashi hesitated, but finally nodded his head. He was still devastated, but for some reason, knowing that there was at least one person in his village who didn't think his dad deserved to die lifted a weight from off of his shoulders. A small weight, but a weight nonetheless. Kakashi stood up and followed the blonde, shoving his hands inside of his pants pocket.
Himawari was in an uneasy sleep plagued with the very things she was running from. Her face scrunched up in a grimace when she suddenly started to feel a wetness pressing against her cheek. Her dream self at first ignored it, but when it persisted she finally put her hand up to her cheek and realized she was dreaming. She had an instant to take in her surroundings before she suddenly jerked awake. Groaning she rolled onto her back. She hated turning lucid in a dream, it was always an uncomfortable feeling. Putting her hand to her cheek she turned a bit red. A quick feel of her pillow confirmed her fears; her cheek and pillow were covered in drool. Her tongue felt like sandpaper from sleeping with her mouth open. Her main thought as she wiped her cheek was how glad she was that no one was around to see this.
Her next thought was her spectacular timing at getting rid of the evidence as the door to her small room burst open, admitting Naruto and a tired but almost curious looking Kakashi (not that Himawari could see this). Before Naruto could even give her a greeting, the wafting smells of whatever he had brought into the room caressed her smelling receptors and her dry mouth was instantly saturated.
"Oh, Hima-hime, I thought you were out with Ni-san?" Naruto said, holding the door open for the ten year old to saunter through under his arm. Himawari instantly blushed. She felt like she should apologize for raising her voice at Kushina, but her anger was still lingering on the edges of her emotions. Instead she smoothed her hair as best she could and said, "U-uh, no. I kind of had an… altercation with Uzumaki-san. I decided not to join."
Naruto still found it weird when people called out Kushina's surname and didn't expect him to respond. He had gotten more than a few odd looks for it when he had been out and about with the redhead.
The blonde laughed lightly and said, "That's funny, we didn't attend either due to the blatant stupidity of my brother and his sensei." Himawari shifted her attention from the blonde and said, "Oh, I can sense you now. Is it Kakashi-san? Obito would be screaming and Rin-san didn't seem like she'd be the quiet type either." Kakashi nodded, but after she didn't respond to his motion he seemed to fluster for a second before quietly saying, "Uh, yes. Just Kakashi is ok, Hyuuga-sempai."
Himawari laughed softly, startling Kakashi. "Oh I hardly think you should say sempai, you are after all of a higher rank. I should be calling you sempai! I can tell that would make you uncomfortable though, so if you can stick to Himawari I can stick to Kakashi." She gave the boy a winning smile and his cheeks reddened. He nodded again, forgetting she couldn't see before stammering out an acknowledgement. Naruto cut in and handed Himawari one of the boxes of take-out he had brought.
"You are super lucky that I am such a thoughtful guy! I bought extras for us later tonight, but we can just eat it now!" Himawari folded her legs and patted the other end of her futon for Kakashi to sit and eat. She unwrapped her chopsticks and started to eat when she felt the boy sit. Giving a short moan of pleasure she said through a full mouth, "Chow mein with bokchoy! My favourite! Thank you Naruto-kun!" Naruto grinned so wide Himawari could hear it. Kakashi watched their interactions with interest, but what really captured his interest more was that for the first time since his father had died, he was really hungry.
Slipping his mask down to his neck he unwrapped his own chopsticks and started to eat his dinner, piece by piece when he was interrupted by Naruto coughing loudly. Looking up he saw the genin looking at him with a face that was rapidly going from red to purple. Kakashi was about to get up to smack him on the back or something when whatever had lodged itself in his throat dislodged itself and resumed its intended course. Sending the blonde several odd looks, Kakashi sat back down and finished his meal. Naruto managed to say not a single word during the entire meal. A feat in itself especially concerning what his current train of thought was.
When the blonde escorted the mini version of his teacher back to where he was staying with Obito and Rin he finally couldn't keep it in anymore. "Soooo… Why do you wear a mask?" He had nearly died when the one thing he had never been able to do in his previous life just presented itself in front of him with no fuss whatsoever. Kakashi had a remarkably normal looking face. A little baby fat still hung on his jaw, which looked like it would grow up to be fairly handsome, but nothing awe inspiring. He had no scars, no buck teeth, nor were his lips hilariously huge. It was almost disappointing actually. He wished Sakura and Sasuke could have seen this.
Kakashi just shrugged. "My father told me it was actually a tradition of my mother's clan. I've always worn it. I don't remember my mom but my dad told me she was an exceptional ninja." Naruto smiled and pointed at his face. "See these scars? They are the only thing I have left of my mom too. Jiraiya thinks that she might have died when the Kyuubi got out that one time almost 15 years ago when I was born." Kakashi just looked at the faded scars that crossed the blonde's cheeks. He actually had thought the blonde had been playing with a kunai when he was a kid, but this story was much cooler, sadder, but definitely more appealing to a ten year old.
Minato sat on the edge of the bed and twiddled his thumbs. Every few seconds he looked up at the door, hoping someone would knock. Kushina was in the shower presently lathering up her long mane. The older Namikaze bit his lip. He had never seen his brother so angry at him, and he feared that whatever progress he had made with Kakashi had been undone with a few simple words.
Just as he heard Kushina shut the water off with a dull clunk a soft knock sounded on the door. Minato nearly jumped to the ceiling, but he instead opened it swiftly and wasn't disappointed to see his brother. Naruto took a quick look around to make the sure the coast was clear before stepping inside.
"Where's Ne-chan?" Naruto asked, still semi-expecting her to jump out from somewhere to scare him. Minato flicked his eyes towards the bathroom door and said, "She's just finishing a shower, just a second here." He moved to the door and said, "Kushina, Naruto's out here, just warning you." Naruto heard her respond, but couldn't make out the words. Satisfied he wasn't going to be exposed to anything terribly awkward he crossed his arms.
"How is Kakashi?" Minato asked timidly. Naruto's face look unimpressed but he said, "He's fine. I fed him dinner and took him back to his room with Rin and Obito. He's not angry, if that's what you were most worried about." Minato sagged a bit with relief. He ran his hands through his hair, a trait that Naruto had inherited from the man.
Sitting back down on the edge of the bed Minato sighed. "How did you get him to eat? I've been trying to get him to eat something other than a ration bar a day since it happened." Naruto let his hands fall to his sides before he replied. "I talked to him. I know what it's like to lose someone you love, so I told him my story. I also told him to take a week or two off of doing anything when he gets back, are you OK with that?" Minato nodded. "Yea that's fine. I was going to suggest something similar to that."
"I also told him to throw himself into the D-ranks you guys have to suffer through when we get back, so don't be worried if he seems a little obsessed with them." Minato nodded again. He was starting to wonder when his little brother got so wise, but he was strange like this sometimes and Minato didn't question it.
Naruto clicked his tongue. "How could you even think like that? Like, honestly! How could you think that a mission where everyone dies but the objective was completed would be a successful one?" Minato looked down and shrugged. "I don't know, Naruto-kun. Sacrifices have to be made sometimes, and from what Jiraiya told me about it when you left was that it was a very vital mission…"
"No! It doesn't matter! Even if it gets set back a month, a year, even five years, a mission is always redo-able! Lives are not! It's true, sometimes a sacrifice is needed, I will admit that, but let's be honest. From what you know of the nature of the mission, would sacrificing an entire squad of elite Jounin really have been worth it?" Minato looked down again and said, "No I suppose not. Heh, when did you get so wise, you're starting to sound like an old man." The older blonde looked up in time to see a strange look flutter across his brother's face but Naruto only said, "You need to become even wiser if you're going to be Hokage."
Minato's eyes widened. "What, what are you talking about?" Naruto rolled his eyes. "Oh get real; everyone knows that the old man has been talking of retiring in the next few years and of all the potential candidates you are very near the top." A voice intruded in the conversation. "It's true you know. Like any competent ninja in the village knows. Bets have been placed in some places I hear." Kushina would never let the blonde know that she herself had placed almost her entire last pay check on him making it before 30. The redhead turned towards Naruto and bowed her head slightly, which was returned by the blonde.
"Damn, that wasn't really supposed to get out. I don't think I will be anyway, Orochimaru-sensei has way more of an interest in it anyway." Naruto grit his teeth but didn't say anything. He knew next to nothing of what the snake sannin had done before he had met him in his last life other than be the creepy teammate of Jiraiya and Tsunade. He was still a widely respected figure in Konoha and that didn't look like it was about to change anytime soon.
"Why do you always look like that when he is mentioned?" Minato said and Naruto cursed internally. He thought he had been more subtle about it this time. He shrugged and said, "I don't like him. He creeps the shit out of me and I don't think he has anyone's interest but his own at heart." "You've met him once." Minato refuted. "Yea and he was that creepy. Don't even try to argue this with me you know where it leads to." Screaming fights and slammed doors, that's where it leads to.
"Anyway, I'm going to bed. Tomorrow is the second to last day before the fights and I'm going to run Himawari through her katas so we are both ready for it." Kushina inclined her head again and Naruto left before Minato had the chance to protest. Sitting down beside him, Kushina slipped her arm around his waist.
Minato put his arm around her shoulder and she said lightly, "Your brother is wise beyond his years when he wants to be. You really should be proud, he reminds me of you a lot." Minato raised his brows and said, "You know, he actually reminds me a bit of you. You and Jiraiya. You sure you're not cheating on me and Naruto is like some weird offspring that looks like me?" Kushina responded with a sharp pinch and Minato half yelped half laughed.
End Chapter 22
The beginnings of the fights are happening next chapter! Look forward to it!