He's here and safe, end mission.
"Hokage-sama," Kakashi murmured with a slight nod, standing somewhat to attention before her desk. "Am I in trouble?"
Tsunade looked up at him sharply. "No. Why do you say that?"
"I'm sure I don't know." Kakashi gave the three ANBU in the room an idle look. Tsunade normally had only one bodyguard with her, if that.
"Don't worry about them," the Hokage said, pushing a full tray across her desk towards him. "Here, have some coffee."
"...That much trouble?" Kakashi gave the small cup the sort of look normally reserved for hemlock.
"Sit," Tsunade ordered, obviously giving up the attempt to put him at his ease, to Kakashi's relief. He sat down. And since it had been offered, he took the coffee.
Five minutes later it was still cooling in the cup, untouched.
"I see." Kakashi put the coffee back on the desk and stood up slowly, avoiding any accidental movement towards his weapons; he could feel the ANBU's eyes drilling into him, and he didn't want their gazes to be replaced by anything more material. In the far back of his mind, he was irritated that Tsunade would think he'd snap for so little. Then again, Kakashi didn't want to have to bury another leader in his lifetime, and a prudent Hokage was a live one.
He glanced over his shoulder to see what she could possibly add.
"Will you do it?" It wasn't so much a question, as a demand for him to say it; his bloody signature on the pact.
"I'll do it." His mind was already on the mission. He was supposed to be meeting Iruka right about now, on the old observatory tower. Which meant he knew where the target was, and there would be no witnesses. Tsunade had chosen her night particularly well. She'd also asked him to strike within the hour, but hadn't given him Iruka's location, even though that would be standard for this kind of mission and time constraints. This was possibly Tsunade's concise way of giving him some extra information about what she knew or suspected.
It didn't matter.
He closed the door softly behind him, eclipsing the mellow light of the lanterns in the Hokage's office. The night became monochrome, the corridor flooded by shadow and moonlight. Kakashi walked towards one of the windows and opened it, staring up at the moon for a few seconds. Good light quality, he thought. It would be to his advantage.
Then he was over the windowsill and heading towards the library.
Something deep inside Kakashi had frozen, becoming inflexible and numb. It was in his centre, along his spine, solid in his chest; it felt like it was wearing the rest of his body around it like a suit. It was hard, cold and sharp. It was probably a weapon.
"He's here and safe. End mission."
Kakashi stepped back from the doorway to the emergency desk, removing the headset from his ear and slipping it into his satchel.
He gave himself a quick post-battle evaluation, a habit ingrained since childhood. No major wounds, fully operational. A mental flick banished the summoned dog; his fingers patted his scrolls and weapons, checking that everything was in place, tallying what needed to be sharpened or replaced.
Another checklist was adding up in his head, a precursor of the report he'd be handing in to- handing in at the missions desk, or probably to Tsunade directly. He'd been ordered to wound the target; check. Tsunade had insisted Kakashi pin Iruka right from the start, which was probably wise. With the advantage of surprise on Kakashi's side, there were less chances of a dodge that could have accidentally put the kunai in Iruka's stomach. Or liver.
He'd done a good job of convincing Iruka that the situation was serious. Shake him up; check. Let him slip away - actually, Iruka had taken the initiative there. But check. Hound him, literally; check.
Kakashi rubbed his fist, automatically checking the reinforcements over his knuckles for damage.
Break something (optional); check. He'd heard and felt the bone in Iruka's wrist crack.
Frighten him; check.
Drive that nice, warm light out of his eyes; check.
Put the interests of Konoha before his safety and wellbeing. Check.
Show him - show them both - just how stupid it was for Shinobi to get involved. Check.
Hurt him. Check.
Kakashi fingered the cut in his shirt near his neck. Hell no, he concluded with a wintry smile. It'd take more than that to break his- to break Iruka. The Chuunin had reacted well from the start; he'd not dragged out a fight he was likely to lose. Despite his injury, he'd fended Kakashi off long enough to give him the slip very professionally. He'd also shown good judgment in heading towards the ANBU for further information and help, and he-
I promise you I'll survive.
Kakashi breathed out slowly, controlling the flow of his chi, concentrating on hiding his presence and blending with the shadows.
Just empty, meaningless words. Heat of the moment. Byproducts of stress.
He absently flicked back a lock of hair that had spilled over his headband, then grimaced as he remembered he still had some of Iruka's blood on his gloves and beneath his nails. He rubbed his fingers and glared at the sticky, drying smear that had probably left a reddish streak in his hair.
He remembered the sound Obito had made, choking on his own blood; like the gurgle from a punctured pipe. It was a disconnected memory that flashed through his mind and left again just as suddenly.
He glanced up as movement beyond the open door caught his eye; he couldn't see anyone except one of the ANBU, but the light had flickered. Iruka would be leaving soon.
The Jounin was waiting for him. There was something that Kakashi had to do. The weapon had one last cut to make.
Kakashi's survival instincts kicked in. He turned away and quietly melted into the shadows. He had a few things to take care of before Konoha woke up tomorrow morning. He'd finish this at a time when Iruka wouldn't try to beat the shit out of him on sight.
The night was getting colder now. He vaulted out of the window and landed lightly in the street, then set off at a gentle run to retrace Iruka's route, noting in passing a splash of blood on the wall where the Chuunin had leaned. He'd get something to clean that up and come back for it later.
He felt no regret. He felt nothing. The weapon had served its purpose and had been put away for now, leaving an empty space. There was nothing else.
He's here and safe...
He held Iruka close. The Shinobi's instincts kept his eyes wide open; even the Sharingan. At this moment, he didn't care how shitty he'd feel the next day; he'd slipped his headband up, scanning the shadows in Iruka's small loft, keeping door and windows under surveillance. His senses were prickling, alarmed at the limp way Iruka was resting against him now that he'd finally gone to sleep; there was a slight catch in his breathing when the muscles over bruised ribs stretched. Kakashi was a soldier; his reactions were primed for combat, and they were screaming at him. Man down. Fall back, defend. Set up a safe perimeter. Kill anybody who comes near him.
This wasn't the way he'd intended the conversation to go. He'd intended to make sure Iruka was sufficiently uninjured to make it through the night on his own. Maybe give the Chuunin a chance to vent some of his anger and tension, if Iruka could do so safely without aggravating his injuries. Show this man, this friend, that Kakashi had chosen Konoha over him, and that he'd make the same choice every day for the rest of his life, if asked to. Be the cold, unemotional weapon that his village needed him to be.
All Iruka had to do was whisper a few words. A broken plea, when he'd asked for no mercy tonight, with the blood trickling through his fingers and down his side.
Things had been so much easier when Kakashi was thinking like a weapon. But the problem - the goddamn fucking stupid tragedy of his fucking life - was that he couldn't be a weapon all the time, however much he tried to be. Nobody could.
Shouldn't have done this. Shouldn't have fallen for him like this. Shouldn't care this much, damn it this fucking hurts!
Iruka made a sound deep in his throat, a small mumble of discomfort. He was frowning in his sleep. Kakashi forced himself to relax and the frown eased.
Too late, really. Too late for a lot of things. Iruka was willing to take a chance and stick with him, despite the extremely bad night they'd just had. As for Kakashi, he'd been alone for too much of his life. He'd been going a little funny in the head two years ago, before the old Hokage had taken him aside and asked him to look after a very peculiar Genin team...
Kakashi held his weakness and his will to live carefully in his arms and listened to the slow, painful breathing. Something in him started to gradually unwind. That just made it more painful, like a frostbitten wound unthawing. But pain was an old acquaintance of his, and Kakashi was slowly coming to the conclusion that he preferred it to the numbness.
With some effort, Kakashi closed his eyes.
He's here and safe.