Kakashi: promoted to rank of jounin at age 13, assigned to ANBU under the Fourth Hokage’s command at age 14. First met Tenzou when he was 16 years of age
They worked as a team for three years, making him 19 years of age. Twelve years passed since they were a team, making him 31 years of age for the purposes of this story.
Kinoe/Tenzou/Yamato: Age 13 when assigned to Kakashi’s ANBU team, they worked together for three years (age 16). Twelve years have passed since their time in ANBU, making him 28 years of age for the purposes of this story.
Tsunade is Hokage, and Team 7 is off on puppy walking, weed pulling and river cleaning duty until Kakashi returns from this mission.
Charred flesh . . . that’s a smell Yamato never got used to, yet the cloying scent of death kept muscling its way inside his porcelain mask like it belonged there, forcing him to accept its presence as it coated his nostrils and deposited an acrid film on his tongue. Squeezing his eyes shut, he drew in a shallow breath and tried not to retch; it just wouldn’t do to puke his guts out in front of the Hokage’s desk.
Speaking of guts, his once spotless, steel grey breastplate, and other armaments, were mottled with blood and other grotesque biologic matter that defied description; that sort of thing was a badge of honor for the ANBU, something which signified a successful mission, but now it was just a vivid and smelly reminder of a colossal cockup. Stranger still, the torrential downpour they’d run through wasn’t enough to wash away the mess.
Yeah, he thought, that’s gonna be loads of fun to scrape off later.
A calf length, black woolen cloak concealed most of the gore splattered across his uniform and the gods only knew what else was clinging to that thing; it was heavier and itchier because of the rain, but the overabundance of guilt and shame that weighed down his soul almost made his knees buckle. He shivered slightly despite the warmth of the room, and as he did so, tiny water droplets slid down the curves of his stylized cat mask to join the growing puddle at his feet. For the briefest of moments, he wanted to sink down inside the wet patch on the floor and disappear without a trace. But running away and hiding from his mistakes had never really been his style; so here he stood, his arms at his sides, his bruised and bloodied fists clenched beneath the sodden cloak.
This whole thing was my fault.
Theirs had been a routine intelligence gathering mission. All they needed do was keep track of the enemy’s movements near Konoha’s heavily forested western border and relay that information to the Hokage. A mission monotonous in its simplicity; a supreme misuse of his skills and abilities, yet at its core this was a test. Reuniting him with his former commander – could they work as well together as they had done in the past? The Hokage needed to see that for herself …
and nothing was ever routine
when he teamed up with the man standing to his right.
In a moment of unparalleled stupidity, he’d shamed himself and almost lost his life. Away from the watchful eye of his team leader, he plopped down behind a screen of tall wild grasses to rest; rest led to daydreaming and daydreaming turned into a nightmare. A momentary lapse of focus and the enemy was upon him; caught in a compromising situation - unable to defend himself, his captain engaged the enemy.
Once more, he closed his eyes and breathed in the sickening scents of failure and death. If his mistake were made known, his days in ANBU would surely come to an end; even if it weren’t mentioned in an official report, he’d never forget this.
His conscience and his team leader would surely see to that.
And as it had done when they were in the forest, the voice of his captain intruded on his thoughts - once more he wanted to flee; there was nowhere to run from that man’s pervasive presence, no hiding place from that libidinous baritone which resonated in the stillness of the cave-like room, and in the depths of his being.
Damn that man and his voice; it’s what drove me to distraction in the first place.
He didn’t need to open his eyes as his commander continued speaking, for he could picture him standing there, gloating over the first kill of the mission with his white cloak splayed open and his chest puffed out fully displaying his own gore covered uniform like a garish trophy.
What a bastard;
always did have a miles wide sadistic streak in him.
The man to his right, rather the legend behind the porcelain dog mask, was none other than ANBU’s Hound, one of Konoha’s elite assassins. Judging from the tone of his voice, he could tell how proud Hound was of the bloody finger prints smeared across his armor, as well as the gouge of the enemy’s katana above his hip and the seared bits of flesh that stuck to his breastplate. The slightly muffled voice behind the mask was chilling, its inflection never varying as he graphically described how they stalked and brought down the missing ninja.
Wait . . . that wasn’t at all how it happened!
Why is he lying to the Hokage?
He opened his eyes in time to see the spider’s web of clotted blood hanging from the enemy’s hitai-ate which Hound held in his claw-fingered glove; though the mask concealed it, he knew there was a self-satisfied sneer on Hound’s thin lips as he described the terror in the enemy’s eyes right before he decapitated him. He felt the unabated killing instinct reawakening in the man beside him as he recounted the grisly tale, which in turn reignited Yamato’s urge to flee from Hound’s murderously charismatic aura, the same aura that enthralled and likewise disgusted him.
Scratch that –it was his lack of restraint when it came to this particular man that frightened and disgusted him.
You see, within the ANBU, espionage, kidnapping, torture and assassinations are part and parcel of their everyday existence; in order to retain a semblance of humanity, certain coping mechanisms had to be developed. Some ANBU members became functional alcoholics; others practiced self-mutilation either to punish themselves for the horrific things the job required, or to feel something … anything other than the ever present numbness. Others found their sense of balance engaging in risky sadomasochistic behavior, you know … the whole whips, chains, razor sharp kunai and hot candle wax scene.
None of these things ever appealed to him.
Being of a more pragmatic nature, his way of coping came through time spent salvaging items from the junkyard which others deemed beyond repair; restoring them to full functionality or repurposing them to a new life of usefulness, that’s what kept him sane. Over time, this ‘hobby’ of his began coloring his interactions with society at large; he found himself hopelessly attracted to ‘damaged goods,’ of the human variety. In his commanding officer, he found everything he wanted and needed in a dysfunctional relationship, all bundled together in a tidy five foot eleven psychotic package.
You see, Hound was the alter ego of Hatake Kakashi and as such, a distinctly separate personality; he was the coping mechanism that kept Kakashi sane. The homicidal rampages, the slaughter of innocent women and children, these were the things that delighted Hound and repulsed Kakashi.
He’d secretly witnessed his captain’s transition from one persona to another once before; it was an amazing spectacle. With each piece of the ANBU armor his captain donned, the man everyone thought they knew was swallowed up by Hound until he became the cold-hearted killing machine feared by allies and enemies. Hound, was the repository for every nightmarish act Kakashi committed for the security and continued peace of the Hidden Leaf village. Hound was the epitome of unrestrained savagery, such as exhibited hours before when he disemboweled, beheaded and incinerated the remains of their enemy before Yamato’s shocked eyes.
That’s not to say Kakashi wasn’t a unique amalgam of compassion and brutality on his own; he was honest to the point of cruelty and one of the smoothest liars the gods ever permitted to walk the earth. A man who projected a lazy, uncaring mien, all the while completely alert and in control of whatever situation he found himself in.
And here’s where things got twisted.
Though attracted to Kakashi’s charm, his physical presence and dry sense of humor, it was Hound who captured his imagination. Hound was intriguing and dangerously compelling; an entity that dwelt in a place of utter darkness, abject brokenness and death.
Never before or after had he been physically or sexually attracted to another man, there were times when his fascination with Hound felt as if he were being unfaithful to Kakashi. A ridiculous notion of course, as he and Kakashi shared nothing more than a love for their village, and a desire to protect its people by any means necessary.
This ‘thing’ with Hound was an obsession he’d learned to live with - something he thought he’d outgrown, that is . . . until this latest mission.
A squeal of protest came from the humidity swollen casement and warm, gentle breezes carrying the fragrance of more rain, jerked him from these reflections when the Hokage cracked open a window behind her desk.
Suddenly, a brilliant white light ripped through a cobalt sky, illuminating the slumbering village as if it were midday; seconds later came an ear shattering explosion and the floor beneath their feet trembled. The massive wall of windows behind the Hokage’s desk rattled in their frames and dishes all over town probably shook behind closed cupboard doors.
As quickly as it came,
the curtain of darkness was drawn tightly over the night sky.
Near the eastern edge of the village, an angry red orange fireball pierced the darkness as it blossomed over an electrical substation sending greyish black plumes of smoke, like gnarled fingers reaching for the bright yellow moon. Six smaller explosions erupted in rapid succession and once more, instant darkness thick enough to be felt smothered the land.
One second …
passed before the metallic cadence of an alarm sounded in the distance, summoning shinobi to their emergency stations.
His heart rose in his throat, sable brown eyes widened behind the narrow slits of his mask; at last, a legitimate reason to depart had literally come down from the heavens. With one word from the Hokage he could be far away from this confined space and even further away from that man.
It was not to be,
for this wasn’t an act of sabotage, rather a random occurrence of nature, an action against which, there was no defense. This mind-numbing debriefing took precedence over all else, he knew that and though his overtaxed muscles coiled in readiness, he dared not move from his place.
Still, it was difficult to concentrate on the matter at hand.
In the relative quiet beyond the plate glass windows, every sound was magnified tenfold in his ears.
A distinctive click of gears
engaging the hospital’s emergency generators, a mile away …
Frantic voices issuing commands, a quarter mile away…
Lastly, the sound of sandaled feet,
sloshing through puddles in the streets beneath the Hokage Tower,
keyed into his anxiety.
Despite the commotion, the man to his right droned on with his report. The nonchalant tone of his rich voice floating through the stagnant air in the room, its timbre soothing, and somehow, aggravating at the same time.
Later, he’d blame it on boredom or just plain old fatigue, but he was daydreaming again; transfixed by the slow moving, wispy clouds above the rising smoke as they drifted past the moon, their shadows painting a kaleidoscope of brown across the barren office walls. The crackle and hum of fluorescent lights tore him away from his thoughts, as they grew stronger, banishing the shadows, he was left with a creepy-crawly sense of foreboding. He’d spaced out long enough that Hound’s report had come to an end and now the Hokage was leaning back in her chair, staring directly at him; a slender, manicured index finger tapping at her bottom lip as she mulled over the information provided.
“I could have done without the gory details, Hound,” she said. “And I would have preferred him brought back alive … you screwed up a chance of gaining valuable information.”
“My apologies, Hokage-sama, “he said with a curt bow.
Folding creamy toned arms beneath her ample bosom, she shook her head.
“What’s done is done. I expect a full report, including justification for your actions on my desk within twenty-four hours.”
“As you wish, Lady Tsunade,” said Hound.
The full weight of her amber eyes rested on him now; he stood a bit straighter while avoiding direct eye contact with her.
She’s gonna to scold me because I wasn’t paying attention, he thought.
“Hound … Yamato … I had serious reservations about you two working together again. Thought sure there be some lingering unresolved issues. Obviously, I was wrong.”
Of course she had reservations, he thought. No doubt she’d studied our personnel files beforehand and she knows I requested transfer from Hound’s command on several occasions. Thank the gods … she will never know why I had to get away from Kakashi and Hound.
“So … Yamato, what was it like?”
“It was fine … everything was fine ma’am,” he hastily said.
The foreboding he felt earlier made sense now.
She’d been watching him intently all along; waiting for a hitch in his breathing, any small movement signaling dissent while Hound was speaking. Her eyes searching for the tiniest inconsistencies in his body language indicating signs of discontent or emotional duress.
Looks like my habit of daydreaming kept me out of trouble for once. Since my mind was preoccupied, my body didn't have a chance to betray me. Excellent!
“… unless you have something else to add, Yamato,” he heard her say.
Damn it … I zoned out again!
“No ma’am,” he stuttered. “Hound’s report covered everything.”
Leaning back in her seat once more, she locked eyes with him; even when she bent down, retrieving a flask of sake and a lavender colored cup from the open desk drawer beside her knee, the scrutiny didn’t let up.
“Sure you’re okay, Yamato?”
“Yes ma’am … a little wet and sticky, that’s all.”
“Very well then,” she said, measuring out a shot. “Now, get the hell outta here; you’re dripping god knows what all over my floor.”
With her dismissal came a rush of blessed relief; he’d soon be free to return to the shadows. None however could set him at liberty from his perfidious thoughts … those he’d deal with later, in the privacy of his own apartment. But before he could weave the signs for a transportation jutsu, a black gloved hand grabbed his wrist.
“Not so fast, boy,” snapped Hound. “Need to hash out a few details before I turn in our final report.”
Bastard! He only calls me that to keep me in my place … a
reminder of my feckless youth.
But that word also ignited yearnings which lay dormant for years; now they were brought to the forefront when a cold, steel grey eye raked over him, looking right through him, choosing to see that which he could not hide.
He was still Hound’s ‘boy.’
Though small their point of physical contact, it sent a spike of adrenaline rushing through his body; familiar, yet alien . . . fight or flight. Better judgment prevailed and he silently cursed the years spent following orders without question.
With their mission complete, the persona of Hound vanished as soon as the door to the Hokage’s office slid closed. Now, the full force of Kakashi’s disapproving glare radiated through the mask; the power of that solitary grey orb provoked another shudder.
“Let’s head over to central supply first,” Kakashi suggested. “We’ll pick up some regular uniforms and hit one of the bathhouses in the civilian district.”
There was a teasing lilt in his captain’s voice, one he hadn’t heard in years; it set off an alarm in his head, even as it sent a jolt of electricity to his groin.
“We can have a hot meal, my treat of course,” he continued, “and we’ll have the privacy needed to discuss one ‘critical’ element of that mission.”
Yamato knew all too well …
there was no such thing as a free meal with this man.
With a silver tongue and a crooked smile, he’ll surely devour what’s left of my honor and dignity as a ninja.
Pretty sure I deserve far worse, but I can deal with this.
If I’m lucky … another twelve years will pass before I see him again.