title: road's end
summary: the path of life eventually fades away.
pairing: kakarin
disclaimer: naruto, not mine since 1999.
note: even though i ship them, ive never written this pairing before. another one i cried while writing.

This is not the way he'd thought he'd die.

Hatake Kakashi is a man of many triumphs and many sins. And to his mind, the weight of his sins is far greater than any of the good he's done.

When his village named him Rokudaime, he looked at it not as an honor, but as another weight to bear, another step in his neverending atonement. He is Sisyphus, endlessly pushing the boulder of his failure up a hill that never plateaus.

That he lies here dying of old age is an affront to justice in the universe. He deserves to be cut down in the heat of battle, just as he cut her down. He deserves an ignominious death at the hands of a coward with one-tenth of his skill.

But perhaps this is his punishment. The crushing guilt of a quiet death, surrounded by those he loves.

He turns his head slightly to meet the enigmatic onyx eyes of his former student. Another one of his sins. A list of should haves when it comes to Sasuke runs through his mind, and he burns with shame that his other two students had to pull him back, where Kakashi himself had failed to stop him to begin with.

No matter how relieved he is that they are once again whole, that failure is another that will always weigh on his heart.

His "grandbabies," the children of his students, stand around his bed, solemn and silent. They are a blessing that he never looked for, and he can only hope that they take to heart the lessons that he imparted and avoid the mistakes their parents made.

The room swims in and out of view, his vision hazy and unfocused. If he concentrates, he swears he can see Rin sitting on the edge of his bed.

She's smiling at him, she's always smiling at him. She says nothing as she reaches out to fluff his grey hair, her hand sliding down to cup his weathered cheek. She scoots closer until her lips are pressed against his forehead, then his cheek.

She takes his hand between hers, squeezing his fingers. It's the hand that he ran through her heart, and even though the blood has long since washed away, he can still see it. He watches in agony as she places his hand over her heart, though her chest is whole now.

Her smile beams brighter. "Time to come home, Kakashi."

Kakashi is unsurprised to find tears leaking from his eyes. Rin pulls on his arm, tugging him after her. He follows, he would never deny her again.

Glancing back, he sees his body slack on the bed. Whatever he is now bears the resemblance of his younger self. The same age as Rin when she…

Tentatively, he threads his fingers through hers as she leads him onward. He doesn't know where they're going, but it will never matter as long as she's there.

She's long-since forgiven him when he could never forgive himself, and now he has the rest of eternity to make it up to her.