“I-Itachi!” He called as loudly-… into the lake- … Itachi was gone-… Father couldn’t-…
No. We don’t need to remember this. Forget about it. It doesn’t matter.
He had drowned-… Because of Sasuke he was-…
“No! No, no, no, Itachi, please wake up! Ita-…”
Forget. Forget. Forget.
The murkiness of the water was further darkened by the-… further under. Itachi turned him-… together, exhaling what little air-… into Sasuke’s lungs.
Stop. Don’t remember this. Forget about it. Forget about it.
Itachi used the last of his strength to-… the surface, to free him from the-… and when he resurfaced, mom snatched-… Dad’s-… Itachi… gone. Dad can’t find him-… he can’t-… he snarls at mom for-… why he’s-… dives in-… steam that bursts out of the water-…
Itachi wasn’t breathing-…
“Wake up, Sasuke. It’s just a nightmare. Wake up.”
The first thing he noticed was how incredibly cold he was.
Sasuke slowly opened his eyes, mildly delirious and unsure of where he was. It was bright in the room he was in, and he was laying in a bed. There was a woman he didn’t know standing by the head of the bed, staring down at him with an unreadable expression. He could see a semi-familiar girl (Sakura) standing over him, her green eyes wide and filling rapidly with tears. The blond (Naruto) standing beside her looked nervous, fearful almost. Another girl, this one with black hair and green eyes (Kaisuki… no, Izumi) was at the foot of his bed, her expression somber.
The last thing he remembered was…
“N-nii-san! Who did this? What happened?”
He shuddered, closing his eyes again and shakily placing his palm over his eyes. Everything seemed off-center, disjointed, and unfamiliar. Was he in a hospital? The setting looked sort of hospital-like. He slowly pushed himself upright, slumping forward and staring at his lap. Everyone was incredibly quiet. It seemed like they were waiting for something.
“Maybe there’s more to it than we know, Sasuke.” She was wrong. She wasn’t there. She didn’t know. She couldn’t possibly understand.
“I just want to give you… an incentive.” He was going to be killed. He was going to die before he achieved his goal. Why didn’t he just-… back then?
“You’re pathetic. What was the point of coming here if you’re still as weak as you were then?” Was there even any point anymore? Was he ever going to be strong enough? Why did it matter so much?
You’re so weak.
It came back suddenly. The recollection that he wasn’t eight anymore, he was twelve. He was turning thirteen in a couple of months. He had made it through the Chuunin Exams, though apparently no one who competed was passing because of how the main matches were cut short. He had survived the massacre.
I wish I had-…
“S-Sasuke-kun?” It was Sakura who broke the silence. Sasuke didn’t really want to look up at any of them, but he felt a little bit obligated to let them know he wasn’t completely broken. So, he slowly straightened his back a little and looked up at her. He didn’t have the energy to smile, or offer any words to let her know he was fine, because he wasn’t fine.
He wanted to-…
No. We want to kill Itachi, remember?
I don’t care. I don’t want to-…
Yes, you do. Don’t argue with me.
So he didn’t. He got terrible headaches when he argued.
“Hey, Sasuke, are you… are you okay?” Naruto spoke next, hesitant and tense. Sasuke turned his attention to him, stared at him for a long time, before he slowly shrugged. He barely had the energy to manage that much. He was so tired. He wanted to go back to sleep. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. He didn’t want to see these people who supposedly cared. He didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them. He just wanted to sleep.
For the rest of eternity, if possible.
No. We need to kill Itachi.
Please shut up about him. Just for a bit.
The little nagging voice in the back of his head silenced immediately, evidently understanding his fatigue. It was much appreciated. He was tempted to go ahead and lay back down and go back to sleep and just ignore all these people who were standing around him.
“I have more patients to attend to. Let me know if anything terrible happens,” the strange woman – possible an irou-nin – told the members of his team. Naruto and Sakura nodded. Izumi didn’t respond in any way, evidently too busy scrutinizing Sasuke. The strange, blonde irou-nin sighed, before she quietly left the room, the click-clacking of her heels fading into silence as she walked down the halls.
“Sasuke,” Izumi’s spoke with Kaisuki’s voice, her presence adding a gentler, warmer tone to it. He didn’t look up at her, and for a moment she didn’t say anything further. He could feel her eyes on him as he stared at his lap, but he didn’t look up. It looked as though perhaps she was choosing her words carefully. Finally, she asked him, “Are you going to be alright? Do you need anything? Anything at all?”
She asked her questions quietly, not sounding pushy at all, but genuinely concerned. She sounded like a mother who was trying to help her child to feel better. He didn’t need another mom, but he really liked Izumi. She wasn’t trying to fill a gap for him. She was just being an irou-nin and (probably) a mom. She would’ve done the same for Naruto, or Sakura. He knew she did it to Kakashi-sensei when he was injured, which (the one time Sasuke had observed) seemed to make the jounin a little embarrassed.
Despite this knowledge, he felt a creeping agitation crawl through him. He didn’t need anyone’s help or pity or anything. He didn’t want any of that. There was nothing anyone could do for him. Why would they even bother asking? What could they do? At the moment, what he wanted the most was to disappear and never return again. He was tired of people asking him if he was alright. He was fed up with being treated like a ticking time bomb. He was done with people treating his average daily life like it was some huge crisis.
He’d been living like this since he was eight. He hadn’t been asked if he was alright this frequently ever. Even right after the massacre, no one had been this overly concern with his welfare. They hadn’t concerned themselves with it back then, so why were they doing it now? What changed?
“I’m fine. I don’t need anything.” He replied simply, unable to keep the frostiness out of his voice. He still didn’t look up. He was sure that Naruto, Sakura, and Izumi were staring at him with confusion in their eyes. He didn’t need to see their faces to know how they had likely reacted to his cold tone.
He didn’t care.
“What the hell is your problem?” Naruto snapped, taking up the duty of being furious for everyone else. Sasuke looked up, though only to glare murderously at the blond. He could see Sakura out of the corner of his eye. Her eyes were still rimmed red and bloodshot from a likely entirely absurd amount of crying.
He clenched his fists on the bed briefly, before he abruptly threw the covers back and swung his legs off the side of the bed. Sakura stepped back to let him get up, and he pointedly ignored her. He also pointedly ignored the fact that his legs didn’t feel as steady as he would’ve liked them to be.
“Where are you going?” Izumi asked, the warmth and concern gone from her voice. She sounded like she was about ready to start scolding him. If she did, he was going to hit her.
“Does it matter?” He snapped just like that, his fists clenched, anger burning in his gut as he turned to face her. “Why do you even care? It’s none of your damn business, so leave me alone.”
Izumi’s eyes widened momentarily in surprise, a hint of hurt showing in her expression, before the green orbs narrowed, and her expression darkened. Her eyes flickered to blue, but Sasuke didn’t care. He turned away from her without another word and started towards the door. Before he made it out of the room, however, a hand tightly wrapped around his elbow and forcibly turned him around.
Naruto, of course.
“What the fuck is-…!” He began, but before he could complete his finish his question, Sasuke’s anger shifted into a momentary burst of rage, and he reared back and drove his fist into Naruto’s face as hard as he could. There was a sickening yet satisfying crunch as the cartilage gave out under the impact of Sasuke’s fist.
“S-Sasuke-kun!” Sakura cried out in shock, and he felt her fingers ghost over his arm, but she didn’t touch him. In fact, it felt as though her presence abruptly moved away from him.
Naruto stumbled backwards from the force of the blow, blood spilling out of his nose as he hit the floor. One of his hands quickly came up to pinch the bridge of his nose in an effort to stop the bleeding, spluttering all the way and cursing loudly.
Oh, just kill him already.
Khrai’s blue eyes were wide, and fury crossed her expression instantly. She took a step forward, her hands balling into fists. Sasuke stared at her for a moment, his heart hammering (oh my god, I hit him, I broke his nose, oh my god) and his head buzzing angrily (that piece of shit deserved it). He took in a shaky breath, taking a couple of steps backwards, towards the door.
“I don’t need any of you,” he spat venomously, despite the stinging in his eyes and the wavering of his voice. Without another word, he stormed out of the room. He walked perhaps ten feet before his legs started moving faster, until he was jogging, and then running. He could hear nurses, perhaps doctors, someone shouting after him, but he bowed his head and ignored them. He raced out of the hospital, pausing in the middle of the street for only a second before he decided where he wanted to go, and took off.
The lake was as placid as always. The dark, murky water lapped at its banks with the gentlest sound. He walked down the dock that hung out nearly halfway across the waters and sat down on the edge of the dock. He hadn’t been out here in several months. Since he’d graduated and become a genin, actually. He just hadn’t felt the urge to visit, like he used to all the time.
His stomach twisted. He felt weird.
Sasuke looked around briefly, scanning the area carefully, before he lowered his gaze to his hands. He’d just broken Naruto’s nose. He hadn’t meant to. He hadn’t meant to hit him at all. He hadn’t wanted to. He’d just reacted violently to the idiot trying to keep him from leaving. If Naruto had left him alone, he wouldn’t have a broken nose. The blond just never knew when to stop.
He turned his hands so he could see his knuckles. There was a little bit of redness on the knuckles of his left hand, from where his fist had collided with Naruto’s face. It wouldn’t bruise, he was sure, but it was probably going to be a little sore until tomorrow or the day after.
How was he going to face them again?
All at once, a tsunami of misery hit him with surprising force. He really didn’t belong in Konohagakure. He probably didn’t belong anywhere. He probably belonged in a prison, or a locked psychiatric ward, or something along those lines. He ought to be locked up. He had absolutely no self-control. He couldn’t contain his anger, and he couldn’t prevent himself from lashing out with violence. He was bordering on psychopathy, he was relatively certain. The feeling of blood on his hands both excited and sickened him. The rush of killing made him feel more alive than anything else he had ever done.
How could he know for sure whether or not he was going to actually kill Naruto someday? Or Sakura? Or Kaisuki? How could he know for sure that he wouldn’t ever try? He didn’t have the self-control to keep himself from punching Naruto as hard as he possibly could, who could say for sure that he wouldn’t pull out a kunai next time and slash at his throat?
What is wrong with me?
His eyes were watering, and he reached up with a hand and impatiently rubbed the tears away. He didn’t want to be like this. Why was he like this? Was it because of the massacre? Was it because of Itachi? Was he just so irreparably broken that he was turning into the spitting image of his brother? Was there anything he could do to combat it? Was there any way for him to regain his self-control?
He didn’t even know if he’d ever had self-control. He couldn’t remember a time in his academy years where a sparring match hadn’t resulted in sprains and gashes and broken ankles and wrists. He couldn’t remember a time where he didn’t skirmish with someone and find himself actually trying to really hurt them. Had he always been like this? Even before the massacre? Was this just who he was?
Sasuke wrapped his arms around his middle, hunching forward. His lower lip was trembling as he tried extremely hard not to start crying, but it was an uphill battle. He didn’t know why it mattered. No one ever came to this lake anyway. It was technically a forbidden area. He didn’t know why. The Sandaime Hokage had put up tall gates and fencing around the area with “keep out” warnings everywhere. Sasuke had been ignoring them since he was seven.
He sniffled, reaching up and wiping at his eyes again. He tried to hold in a sob, but it choked its way out of his throat, and that was it. The next thing he knew, he was hunched over himself, sobbing and shaking and trying to get a hold of himself and failing miserably.
He didn’t want to be like this. He didn’t want to be unable to control himself. He didn’t want to constantly live in fear of the day when he snapped and at least tried to kill one of his friends. He didn’t want to have to be afraid of himself. Why couldn’t he have been a normal kid? Why couldn’t he have been like Sakura, or Ino, or Shikamaru, or Kiba? Why couldn’t he have just had a normal family, without the massacre? Why did it have to be him who had to fight this battle?
He buried his face in his hands and cried and cried and cried, until he was practically hyperventilating. He took in great, shuddering breaths that wracked his body with tremors and made him cough. He straightened up momentarily, looking around again. There was no one there, and for some reason, it hurt more than he would’ve expected. No one was looking for him.
He’d been right all along. They didn’t really care.
You just broke Naruto’s nose. What the hell did you think was gonna happen?
He wished he could explain to his team why he did the things that he did, why he was the way that he was. He wished he could at least explain to them that he didn’t mean it, that it wasn’t like he hated them or anything. He wished he could figure out a way to articulate what was wrong with him, so that someone could help him. He couldn’t fix it on his own. He couldn’t fix whatever it was that was fractured deep inside of him.
He needed help, but he was too scared to ask for it.
What if they thought he was insane? What if they just locked him up, no questions asked? He didn’t want to spend the rest of his life locked up as a mental patient. He just wanted to be normal. He wanted to be a little freaked out when he killed someone.
He wanted to sleep, without having to worry about closing his eyes and reliving that night over and over and over. Itachi didn’t need to use that genjutsu on him. He saw the massacre every night. Never in such vivid detail, but he saw it. It was always there. It haunted him. Everywhere he went, everything he saw and did, he would always find some way to compare it to his family, to his home, to his clan, to his brother…
Why did it have to be me?
There had to be someone who had been in the same position he was in. There had to be someone with uncontrollable violent urges, with the irresistible desire to spill blood, with the inability to control themselves. There had to be someone out there who could help him. There had to be.
He couldn’t possibly be the only one. He couldn’t be that alone. He just couldn’t. If he was, he wasn’t going to make it. He wasn’t going to be able to kill Itachi. If he was truly that alone in the world, he didn’t want to live anymore. He didn’t want to live with the constant reminder that he had nothing and no one.
I dunno, we’ve been living like that pretty well for the past… almost five years, now.
He didn’t want to do it anymore.
Sasuke stared at the murky waters for a long time, his eyes still leaking tears though the wrenching sobs had stopped. He placed his hands on the edge of the dock, sliding forward. Maybe he could just end it right now. Maybe he could just disappear into the water, where no one would be able to find him, and just never come back. Maybe he could just make it all stop right now.
Maybe he didn’t have to be alone. Maybe he didn’t have to kill Itachi. Maybe he didn’t have to do any of it.
Impulsively, Sasuke abruptly planted his hands and pushed off, sending himself falling into the dark water. He didn’t take a breath before he went under. He didn’t try to swim. He wrapped his arms around himself and allowed the water to pull him down, down, down. His head was aching, and his lungs where burning.
He deliberately let out all the air he had in his lungs and took in a deep breath of straight water. It hurt. He grabbed at his chest, eyes wide and watering, nose on fire, whole body jerking and flinching from the pain. His mind was already beginning to fog up, to fade away from him. He wrapped his finger around his throat, forcing himself to take in more water. It hurt so bad. His eyes were stinging, likely still producing tears.
He felt himself hit the bottom of the lake and looked up towards where he knew the sky was. He couldn’t see it. All around him, there was nothing but darkness. He couldn’t see anything at all, though there wasn’t really all that much to see in this particular lake.
He could feel his body shivering from the chill caused by the cool water. He could feel his brain steadily shutting down as his body screamed and cried for air. He was in excruciating pain. He could feel nothing but pins and needles from his chest, to his fingers tips, to his toes, and around the buzzing in his head.
I don’t want to die!
Yes, I do.
No, I don’t want to die! Please, please, please, don’t die! Live! I want to live! I want to live my life and be who I want to be and do what I want to do! I have things to do! There are people who will miss me!
It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters. Why bother, anymore?
It was a lie.
Sasuke’s whole body jerked into motion before he realized what he was doing, his arms flailing and his legs kicking weakly in an effort to get him back to the surface. But his strength had been completely and utterly sapped from him by the lack of oxygen, and the amount of water in his lungs was weighing him down.
Even if he wanted to live, there was no way he was going to.
His vision had blacked out, and his mind had come to a screeching halt. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t see. He couldn’t feel anything. He couldn’t hear anything. He couldn’t breathe. There was nothing left for him to take in, and even if there had been, he couldn’t have processed it anyway. It didn’t matter anymore. He was dead.
The lake devoured-… sucked him down-… bottom and-… When dad tried-… the tendrils of blackness-… held him down…. screaming-… someone, anyone-… save him…
Dad dove-… after Itachi-… resurface for-… When he-… Itachi, but Sasuke-… moving rapidly through-… He almost-… Dad-… deep, deep breath and-… the water… murky blackness light up-… The water-… and dad reappeared-… with Itachi-… close-… his arms…
This was Sasuke’s fault. If he hadn’t… this wouldn’t have happened.
I don’t want to die.
I don’t want-… either…
Why couldn’t he-…?
Kakashi had been walking home, exhausted, after forcing the doctors to release him from the hospital. Tsunade of the Sannin had awakened him. He was eternally in her debt. He’d thought he was dead. He had really thought he was dead.
He looked up at the sound of Naruto’s voice, seeing three of his four teammates running towards him, looking stricken. Naruto had a bruise on the bridge of his nose, and there was blood on the front of his jumpsuit. He slowly came to a stop, waiting for them to run up and catch their breath.
“Can I help you?” He asked halfheartedly. He was so tired.
It was Sakura who spoke, “Kakashi-sensei, something’s really wrong with Sasuke-kun. He broke Naruto’s nose and then ran off, and we’ve been looking for him because Khrai-san is really worried, but we can’t find him anywhere.”
“We’ve probably searched the whole fucking village,” Khrai added irritably. He was surprised to see her. Kakashi stared at them for a long moment. Sasuke had probably been meaning to break Naruto’s nose for some time now, considering the relationship he had with the blond. However, the Uchiha had never actually followed through with it because, despite his battlefield instincts, he had enough self-control to keep from actually hitting his teammates.
And then he’d run off, and now he was missing entirely. If Saeka was around, they could’ve just asked her to feel out his energy and tell them where he was hiding. But the unstable girl was still missing in action, so that wasn’t an option.
“Why are you worried?” He directed the question to Khrai, as she was the one Naruto had identified as the primarily concerned party. There was a lengthy pause as she stared at him, her gaze hardened and her jaw working. Khrai had a nasty temper. She also didn’t like men, for whatever reason. He had heard that much from Kaisuki, during that month before the main matches of the Chuunin Exam.
“I’m worried that he’s going to hurt himself.” She finally conceded, diverting her gaze away. Kakashi stiffened. Izumi wasn’t supposed to have told anyone about his self-harming.
“Why?” Kakashi further questioned. Khrai looked up at him again, and the hardness of her gaze faded somewhat. He could see the worry in her eyes, he could tell how distressed she was. It was surprisingly easy to read Khrai’s emotions, though figuring out what exactly she was thinking was nearly impossible.
After a beat, she replied, her tone bitter. “He was suicidal for a while after the massacre,” she stated, and Kakashi’s heart skipped a beat. Suicidal? Why had no one heard about it? How much of Sasuke’s inner turmoil had been hidden away from the people whose job was to keep him safe? “I’m worried he might do something stupid since… since he just saw Itachi again for the first time since then.”
Sakura and Naruto had blanched as they stared at her. Slowly, Naruto spoke, “H-how do you… know that he was…?”
“He told Kaisuki.” Khrai replied softly, “He had told her that he didn’t want to live the way Itachi had told him to. He didn’t want to be a lone survivor, and he told her he was going to…” She trailed off into silence, her eyes widened hugely.
“What?” Sakura asked nervously.
Khrai slowly answered her, “He told her he was going to drown himself in the forbidden lake.”
Kakashi’s eyes widened. Drown himself? Drowning was one of the worst ways to die, second only to burning alive. How had Sasuke been so depressed that he’d considered offing himself in as painful a way as he could stand, and no one noticed?
Was he still that depressed?
“Did you check that lake?” Kakashi asked them stiffly, and the three of them shook their heads. He clenched his fists in his pockets, praying they were wrong. “Then let’s go check.”
His three teammates nodded, and they started walking towards the lake. It only took a few moments before their pace reached a light jog, moving faster and faster, until they were running. Until the only reason Kakashi hadn’t left them behind was because he was purposefully holding back on his speed. He didn’t want to think that Sasuke was really in that lake, trying to drown himself. That lake was forbidden for a reason. Kakashi himself didn’t know that reason – it was classified information – but the entire village knew that the lake wasn’t safe, and they weren’t supposed to go anywhere near it.
They reached the huge, iron gate and tall fencing. There were warning signs everywhere. The gate was still locked, but there was no way that would’ve stopped a ninja of any level. They vaulted the fence together, slowing back down to a jog when they reached the long dock and started down it.
Sasuke was nowhere to be seen.
Kakashi’s mouth was dry. He was asking his friends in the afterlife to watch over Sasuke, to keep him alive if he was in those waters. They reached the end of the dock, and Khrai and Kakashi peered over the edge, while Naruto and Sakura looked around the sides, all of them searching through the darkness, searching for any signs of movement. There were none.
Maybe he hadn’t come here. Maybe he was somewhere else. Maybe he had decided to hide out in one of the higher-level training grounds, like the Forest of Death, or something. Maybe he had gone home and locked the door and simply fallen utterly silent when he’d heard his teammates banging on his door.
“Look with your Sharingan,” Khrai suddenly demanded. “You can see chakra with it, right? If he’s in there…”
“Yea,” he agreed, sliding his hitai-ate up to reveal the red eye that wasn’t his. He blinked a few times, adjusting to the sunlight, spinning the tomoe in his eyes three times counter-clockwise so he’d be able to visualize chakra signatures.
Kakashi swallowed hard, and leaned over the edge of the dock again, peering into the water. At first, he didn’t see anything at all. The water remained dark and unmoving. He almost let out a sigh of relief and leaned back again, but something in his gut told him he shouldn’t look away yet. Kakashi trusted his gut more than anyone he was friends with. He blinked, straining his eyes to see.
Then, he saw it. A flicker of chakra. It was faint. It was weak. Even the small flicker he’d seen was barely visible. He knew who it was without having to think of it. That shade of dark blue only belonged to one person, and that person was Sasuke.
And he wasn’t moving.
“Did you hear about Kakashi-kun’s father?”
He swore and, without thinking of the potential consequences, he dove into the water. It was freezing, despite the fact that it was late April in Hi no Kuni, which was known for warming up quickly in the earliest parts of spring.
He started swimming towards those tiny flickers of barely visible chakra, his other eye straining to see through the murky water. He twisted himself and his feet found the bottom of the lake. It was way too dark to see anything at all, so he groped around, seeking out the Uchiha.
Finally, he found something that felt like wet fabric, and he grabbed it tightly, yanking it towards him. He could feel the water shifting around them as he pulled Sasuke to his chest. The kid didn’t move. Didn’t respond. Kakashi wanted to check for a pulse, but he knew he didn’t have the time for that. He wrapped his arms around Sasuke’s waist, holding onto him tightly, and used his chakra to propel them both up to the surface of the water.
Every split second that passed was too much time lost. They broke through the surface, Kakashi gasping for a breath even as he pressed a hand to the surface of the waters, using his chakra to stick to it so he could push himself out of the water and stand on it.
He adjusted his hold on Sasuke quickly, scooping up his legs and holding him bridal style. He then strode hastily over to the docks, which he had somehow wound up several feet away from, and set the Uchiha down carefully. Before he could check for a pulse, for his breathing, for anything, a now green-eyed Yurei fell to her knees beside the boy.
Sasuke’s face was whiter than white. His lips were tinted blue. He looked positively dead. Izumi checked his pulse, and then his airways, before turning him onto his side. Her hands glowed a soft green as she placed one over Sasuke’s diaphragm, and the other on his back, in more or less the same spot.
She paused for a moment, watching Sasuke carefully, before she slowly started to move her hands up, pressing in hard. Kakashi had no idea what she was doing until he saw water come spilling out of Sasuke’s nose and mouth. A lot of water.
“The boy found him, you know.”
Kakashi swallowed. How was he going to explain this to the various people he was going to have to explain it to? Their new Hokage, Tsunade, was an irou-nin, so she’d probably have better insight than he did, but he didn’t want Sasuke locked up in a psychiatric ward somewhere. It wouldn’t help him get better at all. It wouldn’t fix anything.
If anything, it would make things worse.
You’re assuming he’s going to live. You do realize that, right?
“Kakashi-kun,” Izumi suddenly said, and his gaze darted up to met her’s. “Khrai wants you off this lake. Right now.”
He blinked, confused, but he nodded jerkily and walked around to the side of the docks, planting his hands and pulling himself up onto the wooden structure. He stood up, ignoring the lump building in his throat as he watched water spill out of Sasuke’s mouth. He was so still. So completely unresponsive.
“He hung himself, I heard.”
Izumi’s hands continued to push up until she had moved one of her hands up to the back of his neck, the other pressing along his throat. Her hands swiftly moved back down, stopping over the approximate location of his lungs, and she nodded to herself before rolling Sasuke onto his back again. The kid hadn’t coughed at all, even while Izumi had been pushing the water out of his lungs.
The dead irou-nin started up chest compressions. Three compressions at a time, before leaning over, pinching his nose and pressing their mouths together so she could exhale a full breath into his lungs. Then, she resumed her compressions. Again and again and again and again and again and again and again, and Kakashi could see her shoulders shaking as she moved with determination, but Sasuke was dead. At this point, he had to be. How long had it been since he’d drowned?
I should’ve been there for you.
He would’ve given anything for a second chance to help the kid.
So suddenly that it made him flinch, Sasuke’s back arched and he took in probably the deepest breath of his life, which immediately turned into a horrible coughing fit. He wheezed and choked as Izumi dug a hand under his back and quickly helped him to sit up. She leaned him against her, rubbing his back soothingly, her hands beginning to glow again as she eased Sasuke’s fit.
The kid wheezed loudly a few times before he started to calm down. Kakashi, Naruto, and Sakura were utterly still, neither wanting to make a sound. After a few minutes of quiet coughs and shaky breaths, Sasuke pulled away from Izumi. He was shaking all over, and Kakashi could hear his teeth chattering. His breathing was near hyperventilating, and Izumi continued to rub his back with her glowing hands, likely encouraging his body to let him breathe normally.
“Did he really kill himself? Over the gossip?”
“Sasuke?” Izumi called softly. The Uchiha looked up at her, but Kakashi couldn’t see his face. He wanted to say something to the kid, but he didn’t know what to say. He wanted to hit him, and hug him, and comfort him, and yell at him. He also sort of wanted to cry. He was far too tired for this.
“I-Izu-… mi…” Sasuke managed to say around his shaking jaw. Izumi reached down and quickly untied the purple scarf wrapped around her waist. She shook it out of its folds, revealing it to be more like a shawl than anything else, and wrapped it tightly around his shoulders.
Sasuke was staring at her. Kakashi wished he could see his face, wished he could read the kid’s expression. “W-wha-what a-are y-y-y-you… d-doing here?” was what the Uchiha wanted to know, and the urge to punch the kid in the head was stronger than ever. Kakashi was soaked and, in fact, very, very cold and tired. And it was Sasuke’s fault.
“Pathetic, and so, so selfish.”
“Sasuke, honey,” Izumi crooned, distressed, as she continued to rub his back. The glowing had gone from her hands. Now she was just trying to give him some heat. “We came looking for you. Khrai was really worried.”
Slowly, Sasuke turned to finally see the rest of his team standing a couple of feet back. His black eyes were wide. He looked shocked, to say the least. Kakashi had known that Sasuke had a terrible opinion of himself – it was relatively recently acquired information, but he knew about it. He hadn’t realized, however, just how poorly the kid’s opinion of himself was.
Had he really thought that they wouldn’t care if he died?
There was a pause as Sasuke’s face fell. His shivering worsened for a moment before he quietly spoke, “Why?”
Sakura was the one who spoke, and she sounded mildly hysterical, which surprised Kakashi. He would’ve thought she’d be completely hysterical. “Why?! Sasuke-kun, we’re your team! We’re your friends! Why wouldn’t we come looking for you?” She paused, hesitating momentarily as a fresh onslaught of tears spilled out of her eyes. “Did you… did you think we wouldn’t care?”
Sasuke stiffened, lowering his head further, sinking into his shoulders. Sakura made a choked sound, a sob escaping throat. Kakashi still didn’t know what to say. His mind was still racing. Really, though, how much more of this was Sasuke hiding? How had he been hiding it for so long? Why was it coming forth in bursts like this? First the scratching, now attempted suicide. What was he going to do next? Was there anything worse than this?
What’s wrong, Sasuke?
It was a stupid question to ask. He knew what was wrong. His older brother had fundamentally betrayed him in the worst possible way, and he’d been force to watch his entire family get slaughtered in the form of a powerful genjutsu that he wouldn’t have been able to break through. He had been left alone and broken, believing he had nowhere to go and no one to turn to.
It was a stupid, stupid question, but Kakashi wanted to ask it. Not now, for obvious reasons, but he wanted to ask. He didn’t know how much help he could offer. He wasn’t the best person for anyone to turn to, let alone a kid like Sasuke. He was still better off talking to Izumi, but Kakashi wanted to be there for him. He wanted the kid to be able to turn to him.
But Sasuke didn’t really trust him. Not since he’d found out about the scratching.
“He must not have cared about his poor son at all, to just leave him behind like that.”
“Sasuke, do you want me to take you home or to the hospital?” Kakashi perked up at Izumi’s question, startled. She wasn’t going to automatically send him to the hospital, after what’d just happened? He would’ve thought…
She probably doesn’t want to tell the doctors there that he tried to drown himself. Kind of like you, actually.
Sasuke didn’t reply at first, but when he did, his voice was so small and quiet, it made Kakashi’s heart split in half. “I… w-w-wanna go h-h-home.” His voice was weak and tired and his teeth were still chattering, and the jounin could completely understand how he felt. Well, somewhat. He was relatively certain that the level of exhaustion Sasuke was dealing with was a hundredfold worse than what Kakashi was dealing with. After all, the kid had just been revived from death. Or near-death. He didn’t know if the Uchiha had had a pulse when he pulled him out of the water.
Izumi nodded, “Okay. I’m going to switch with Khrai then, and she’s going to use the zenshin kirikae to turn into her regular self,” the irou-nin explained gently, “And she’ll carry you home on her back. Are you okay with that? I don’t think you should try walking home like this. You nearly have hypothermia. If Khrai carries you, you’ll be able to share her body heat. Alright?”
Sasuke was still for a long time, and Kakashi could tell that he was debating his answer. But, after a long time of thinking, he softly replied. “Okay.”
In an instant, Izumi’s eyes switched to that bright, bright blue that signified that Khrai had taken over. The woman carefully pulled back from Sasuke, one hand still hovering behind his back as if to be sure that he wouldn’t fall. “Just try to hold yourself up for a second. You can’t be too close to me when I do this.” She told him. Sasuke nodded, sitting up straighter, though he still hunched forward and sunk into his shoulders. Khrai took a couple of steps back from him and moved her hands through the necessary hand seals quickly.
“Zenshin kirikae no jutsu,” she said, and the familiar swirl of white surrounded her briefly, before fading away and revealing the rather incredibly beautiful woman. He hoped Jiraiya never met her when she looked like this. He’d try to flirt with her, and she’d probably rip out his tongue.
She crouched down besides Sasuke, rubbing his back briefly, “You still with me?” A weak nod was the only reply she got, and she looked up at Kakashi, “Give me a hand, will ya’?”
Kakashi blinked, surprised at being addressed. But he swallowed hard and nodded mutely, walking over to them and helping Sasuke onto Khrai’s back.
“Your father was a cruel, selfish man, Kakashi. Don’t blame yourself for his weakness.”
Once Sasuke had been properly situated on Khrai’s back, the woman stood up quickly, glancing at Sakura, and then Kakashi, and finally, Naruto. The blond had been just as quiet as his jounin instructor. He looked like he was in shock. Kakashi wanted to do something about it, but his words were trapped within the bile threatening to either choke him or make him projectile vomit everywhere.
“Naruto,” Khrai said, her voice soft. The blond slowly turned his attention away from the top of Sasuke’s head (he had buried his face into Khrai’s shoulder), his eyes almost glazed over. Sakura blinked at the blonde woman’s address, but then looked over at Naruto. Her eyes were bloodshot and rimmed with red from her crying, but she stared at her blond teammate, green eyes widening. She looked to Kakashi, her expression stricken, but the jounin couldn’t say anything. He simply met her gaze, and he was sure his eyes were as hollowed out as he felt. He slowly reached up and pulled his hitai-ate back down to cover his Sharingan. It was starting to ache a bit.
“I want you to go with Sakura, okay? She’s gonna walk you home, and you’re gonna go to bed, alright?” Khrai stated, and Sakura looked over at the blonde, surprised at her inclusion. Naruto didn’t respond for a long time, and Khrai reiterated, her voice firmer, “Alright?”
That time, Naruto managed to jerk his head slightly in what might’ve been a poor attempt at a nod, but it was enough for the blonde. She looked over at Sakura, her expression serious, “He’s in shock, Sakura. Make sure he gets home safely and put him to bed. That’s you’re only job for the rest of the afternoon.”
Then, Khrai turned to Kakashi, “You’re going to go home as well. Take a hot shower, get in bed, get some rest. You look almost as bad as this one,” she stated bluntly, tilting her head a little towards Sasuke.
“Hey, Kakashi, I heard about your dad from my mom. Will you tell us about how you found him?”
Kakashi didn’t respond right away. He wanted to tell her that he would prefer to follow her to Sasuke’s house so he could make sure the Uchiha was safe and alright, so he would be able to sleep more soundly. He knew that Khrai was more than enough to get Sasuke home, though. He’d had the pleasure of witnessing just how strong she was when she’d broken Neji’s arm with one swing, while she’d been holding back.
He swallowed down the lump in his throat, but he couldn’t speak. It was starting to get frustrating, but Khrai seemed to understand what he was thinking just by looking at him, as she reassured after a beat, “Izumi will check on him in the morning, and then we’ll all meet a couple hours after that, and we’ll give you a status update regarding his condition then.” She explained to them. Her expression was warmer than usual. She was much prettier when she wasn’t scowling at everyone. “Whether he comes to the meeting or not will depend entirely on Izumi’s judgment. So, you might not see him for a couple of days, but you might see him tomorrow.” She continued, uninterrupted by the mostly mute Team 7. “You don’t have to worry, we’ll take care of him.”
It sounded reasonable, and he knew he could trust Izumi and Khrai to take care of Sasuke. And if he was going to get a status update in the morning, he’d feel better about going straight home and getting in bed. So, he nodded jerkily, glancing at Sakura for the final agreement. She seemed to be the only one who hadn’t gone into shock or fallen mute.
After a pause, Sakura nodded, licking her lips nervously. “You’ll definitely give us an update tomorrow?” Khrai nodded. “And when and where do you want us to be?”
Khrai thought for a moment before she replied, “The same spot where you guys were trying to get those bells off Kakashi.”
Sakura nodded understandingly, “Training ground thirteen.” She supplied.
Khrai smiled at the girl appreciatively, “Be there by eight in the morning. Kakashi, if you’re late, you’re gonna miss the update. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit around for three fucking hours waiting for your slow ass.”
The jounin’s eyes fell on Sasuke, who looked rather like he had fallen asleep. After a beat, he nodded silently.
“Jeez, Kakashi, don’t kill yourself over it. Hahaha!”
“Alrighty, then, team.” Khrai announced, “Let’s move the fuck out.”
Without waiting for anyone’s reply, she started walking off the docks. Kakashi glanced at Sakura as she gingerly linked her elbow with Naruto, placing her free hand on his arm and guiding him around so they could head down the docks. He stumbled at first, but he managed to start walking. He still looked like he was in shock. Kakashi was beginning to wonder if maybe she ought to take him to the hospital. But, he reminded himself, Izumi was an irou-nin. If she had thought that Naruto was in bad enough shape to be hospitalized, she would’ve said so.
Yea, but she apparently didn’t think Sasuke needed to be hospitalized, either.
She had to have seen something that the rest of them had missed. Perhaps Sasuke had attempted suicide, but had decided he didn’t actually want to die a few seconds too late. That happened sometimes, he was sure. The kid was just incredibly lucky that Khrai had thought of that stupid lake, and that Kakashi had the Sharingan that he could use to see chakra, even through murky, dark waters. If he hadn’t looked with his Sharingan, they probably would’ve assumed he wasn’t there, and then the kid would really have died.
He walked along, trailing the furthest back, his eyes on the ground a few feet in front of him. When they reached his turnoff, he didn’t call out to say goodbye. Sakura and Naruto were continuing slowly down the streets, while he had already watched Khrai walk up the steps to Sasuke’s apartment. The Uchiha had made it home safely, as he’d expected.
When he finally walked into his apartment, his fatigue was immense, but he didn’t want to go to bed in his clothes. They were still soaked, so he stripped out of them in the middle of the room, leaving them in a pile on the floor and heading into the bathroom. He considered skipping the shower, but in the end, he turned the water up as hot as he could stand it, and stepped under the spray.
“Why don’t you just off yourself like your loser dad? No one’s gonna miss a jerk like you!”
He felt filthy. Even though he wasn’t really covered in muck or anything, he just felt dirty. As though he’d been bathed in something unnatural and evil in nature. As if the murky darkness of the lake had stuck to him.
Kakashi showered thoroughly. He scrubbed and scrubbed until his skin was raw and the hot water had run out. When he felt the spray of water becoming cold, he gave himself a final rinse and shut it off. He still didn’t feel right, but he didn’t have enough hot water to continue stripping his skin away with a wash cloth.
He threw on a t-shirt and underwear and clambered into bed, closing his eyes immediately. He still felt dirty. Filthy. It was as though he hadn’t showered at all. There was just a constant feeling, almost like the sensation of something crawling about beneath his skin. He didn’t like it. He wanted nothing more than to peel himself out of his skin. Maybe then the feeling would go away.
He wondered if Sasuke felt the same.
He probably feels worse.
He burrowed further under his covers, trying to ignore the feeling of dirtiness so he could sleep. He was still worried about Sasuke. What were they going to tell the Hokage? Were they going to tell her anything at all? He kind of had to, but he really didn’t want to have the poor kid locked up. Maybe he could tell her and then convince her to leave Sasuke to him and Izumi. Sasuke trusted Izumi a lot more than he trusted Kakashi. In fact, he seemed to really like the motherly irou-nin.
Kakashi didn’t blame him for that. Izumi was extremely likeable, what with her mothering tendencies and generalized gentleness. The silver-haired jounin happened to like her, too. She called him Kakashi-kun. It was a little embarrassing. No one had called him that since he was about ten.
Sasuke trusting Izumi essentially meant that they had a way in. There was someone who could talk to him. There was someone he might be willing to share his secrets with. Someone who could help. Kakashi would try to be there for him as much as he could, but he knew he wasn’t going to be Sasuke’s first go-to in a time of need.
He buried his face into his pillow and sighed noisily, depressed. He was completely useless when it came to things like that. Completely, utterly useless. If Kurenai or Gai had been Sasuke’s jounin instructor, they would’ve been able to help. They would’ve been there for him, and he would’ve let them be there. He would’ve trusted them.
Kakashi really wasn’t suited to be anyone’s instructor, or mentor, or anything of the sort. He just didn’t have the personality for it. He didn’t know why anyone ever thought it had been a good idea to direct genin to him. He couldn’t take care of them. He couldn’t look out for them. Evidently, he couldn’t even persuade them to trust him.
He wasn’t even moping. Those were facts.
Well, he told himself, you’re just going to have to try and fix it while you have a chance. Talk to Kurenai. She always has good advice for things like this.
He’d talk to her tomorrow, after his meeting with his team. Kakashi rolled over and grabbed his alarm clock, setting it to go off at five in the morning, in case he was tired enough to sleep through the morning. Usually he was up by about four, but considering how tired he was (despite the fact that it was three in the afternoon) it was possible that he’d become comatose for twenty-four hours. He sure felt like he wanted to be.
He put the alarm clock back down on his night stand and burrowed back under the blankets. He’d go to the meeting with his team, and then he’d go talk to Tsunade about Sasuke, and then he’d go talk to Kurenai about trust issues. Busy day tomorrow.
Kakashi rolled back over onto his left side, curling up partway and hugging his pillow to his chest. He needed to stop thinking and go to sleep.
Once he made himself comfortable and got himself to stop thinking, falling asleep wasn’t a problem. His eyelids became heavy even though they were closed, and the sweet, sweet bliss of slumber came along and whacked him over the head as hard as it could.
He was asleep in minutes.
“Shut up! Shut up! All of you, just shut up and leave me alone!!“