raegan_1: (my prince will come)
[personal profile] raegan_1
Title: Talk of Life After
Author: [livejournal.com profile] raegan_1
Pairing: Guy/Kakashi
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Spoilers for the manga, circa chapters 420-current.
Notes: Betaed by the incomparable [livejournal.com profile] bronzetigress

Summary Normally, it is Guy who speaks and Kakashi who pretends not to listen. Dying has a way of changing the status quo.


There are no solid walls in the makeshift hospital, and noise travels too well between the cloth partitions. A proper hospital is in the works and will be the first building erected in the new Konoha, but it is still a while away from being finished.

In the meantime, medical staff and visitors wander between billowing tan cloth, ducking in and out of flaps. It reminds Guy of childhood games of hide-and-seek played between rows of freshly laundered sheets. Except here, there is a lack of laughter and mirth.

There is nothing distinct about Kakashi's little cloth-bound room, except that it is thirty-seven paces from the opening of the hospital tent, at an angle just off from due South. Guy slips between the openings of the partition and finds Kakashi awake.

Guy calls a greeting, then watches for Kakashi's reaction. For the past three days, Kakashi has been awake but incoherent, and it is easier on Guy's own mental health to evaluate him as soon as possible. There is an inherent danger of being immersed in the fantasy of those out of touch with reality.

"I talked to my father," Kakashi shares. His smile is loopy and Guy looks at the IV running into his rival's arm sadly instead of at his too bright expression. It will be another day of wild talk, then. "It was strange. All my stories were about the kids or you."

"My tales would be much the same," Guy says soothingly. He knows it isn't the drugs in Kakashi's system which bring out the insanity. It's the continuing chakra-fatigue, the experience of death. Tsunade has already warned that there may be long-term detrimental effects.

The first time Kakashi had spoken, Guy was heartened, but the words quickly turned into rambling nonsense. At least now, the words are pieced together in ways that, while still exemplifying a break with reality, indicate a return to lucid thought.

His rival knows him well, even now, and he responds to the look on Guy's face before the Jounin can properly guard his reaction. "I'm not crazy, Guy. I'm not delusional." He's laughing, though his face doesn't smile. "When I was dead, I visited with my father."

Guy doesn't bother asking what Kakashi remembers about his death. He simply covers Kakashi's hand with his own. "I hope you spoke well of me, my rival."

"That has to stop," Kakashi says seriously. The quick change in tone is unsettling, but Guy does little more than blink. Kakashi raises his free hand to point at Guy emphatically, and the erratic gesture is another indication that the gray-haired Jounin is not yet recovered.

Guy snags the second hand and brings it to rest against Kakashi's hip, one of the few spots not covered by bruises or bandages. Guy has already seen all the damage his rival suffered and has taken a mental tally of it. "Careful, Kakashi."

Kakashi stares at Guy, his eye darker than normal against the pallor of his skin. "No more rivalry." Despite knowing Kakashi is not in his complete right mind, the words hurt. Kakashi smiles again, an expression that is all in the crinkle of his eye and unrelated to the rest of his face. "My father would like you."

There is no point in arguing the relative merits of the opinion of a dead man. Guy instead offers a distraction in the form of news about Naruto, his hands never leaving Kakashi's. The gray-haired man's skin is warm, and his fingers curve around Guy's, so that the hold is almost mutual. For a while, they share the same reality.

* * *

Things are closer to normal by the time Kakashi's strength returns and he can get out of bed. Guy spends more time in the soft-walled haven of the hospital than out of it. Tsunade assigns him as Kakashi's keeper after the Copy-nin's fifth failed attempt at leaving the hospital. Though there is no scroll to signify it as a proper mission, he takes her words to heart.

They walk through the fabric hallways, calling on other patients until Kakashi has used up his store of reserve energy. He never gets tired near his room, and so the walk back is always the same: Kakashi leaning heavily against Guy, his arm around Guy's shoulder for support.

They play cards, the games broken up by Kakashi's short, frequent naps. Sometimes, Guy will stay to watch his rival -- friend? Comrade? Is there a better word for what they are? -- sleep. There is something like peace in the sound of Kakashi's even breaths, the rise and fall of his chest. As long as Kakashi is alive, Guy knows everything else will be okay.

* * *

By the time a permanent hospital is ready, Kakashi no longer has need of one of its beds. Houses and apartments are being built; some are already finished and inhabited. At the edge of the village, Guy stakes a tent up next to his own.

It's early in the morning when Guy wakes up. There's someone moving around in the darkness of his tent, invisible to his eyes but not to the rest of his senses. He tenses, waiting, before he picks up on the familiar sound of Kakashi's breathing. This is the third night this has happened. When Kakashi reaches his side, Guy moves over. The first two times, Kakashi shoved him off the mat and stole Guy's blankets.

Kakashi pauses at Guy's movement. They sit in the dark for a moment, Guy waiting for Kakashi's next move, and the Copy-nin waiting for... something. Guy cannot fathom Kakashi's motivation of late, no matter how much he tries.

Finally, Kakashi settles on the unoccupied half of the mat and accepts the weight of the blanket as Guy spreads it over top of the both of them. The tent isn't overly large, but there's enough room for two. In the morning, he takes down the second tent. Kakashi's mat goes next to Guy's, with a hand-span of space between.

* * *

They coexist peacefully for nearly a week before Kakashi's restless energy gets to the point where Guy needs something more than cards and visits and Naruto to calm and distract him.

Fingers flick at Guy's hair and he twitches away reflexively. Next to him, Kakashi is sitting with his legs crossed, his knee bracing his left elbow, which in turn holds up the hand that braces his head. His face is completely bared, except for the fall of hair that partly obscures the Sharingan.

"You can't fool me," Kakashi says. His voice is low, but there's something friendly in the words, something beyond his nonchalant tones and cool indifference. He's sounded this way since he's come back to his right mind, or as close as Kakashi or any Jounin ever get to being of sound mind, and Guy finds it both disarming and discomforting.

With reluctance, Guy looks up from his cards and answers in as flat a voice as he can manage, "As if I would ever try to deceive you."

Kakashi's lips twitch in what is almost a smile, but he continues to push Guy's buttons. "You first opened five gates for me."

"Six," Guy corrects automatically. He realizes the error was on purpose, as Kakashi's mouth twitches again. He looks back at his cards, selects one, and places it on the discard pile. Kakashi ignores his own hand, apparently done with the card game, even if he's not yet done with Guy.

"What would you tell your father, if you could talk to him?" The question isn't much of a surprise, as Kakashi has brought the subject up in a variety of ways. The wistfulness of Kakashi's tone sets up an answering ache in Guy's chest.

Guy takes a card from the draw pile, slides it randomly amongst the others Kakashi is holding. His verbal response is slow and quiet in coming, and he starts speaking while his eyes focus on the design visible on the back of the cards. "When I speak to my father, on the occasions I am able to visit him, I speak of my team." Here he glances up, though he's not quite sure himself if he's trying to emphasize the following point or ensure that it is clear to Kakashi. "And I speak of you."

"Our rivalry?" Kakashi asks, though the lilt he gives the second word almost makes it a statement.

"Of course," answers Guy. He reaches out to pluck a card from Kakashi's hand, but his companion pulls his cards out of Guy's reach. After a moment, Kakashi discards. He looks disappointed, an expression easy to read on his uncovered face. Guy feels compelled to explain. "I tell him of our joint missions, or missions which started out separately and ended with us fighting together. He was rather impressed with your students and teaching ability at the Chuunin exams."

With Kakashi as he is currently, Guy never knows how his companion will react, and so he is only mildly surprised by the frown that flits across Kakashi's pale face. "We've never competed with the brats."

"No," Guy agrees. "There are a great many things you and I have not used as competition." Some things are sacred, or near enough to. He finally draws his own card, but he does little more than glance at it. "Since our rivalry is ended, we shall remain unchallenged in those areas."

"Some things you can't make into a competition." Guy finds it almost ironic how much challenge is in Kakashi's voice, as if the man is asking Guy to prove him wrong. Guy discards instead. Kakashi leans away, until his back presses against the floor. His legs are still crossed in imitation of his sitting pose. "Friendship."

"Agreed," Guy says, discarding at random. He's rather lost the point of his earlier strategy. Undoubtedly, Kakashi will win this hand. Guy feels a momentary fleeting sadness that the victory will go unremarked. Still, the consolation remains, that even if there is no tally of their victories or defeat, they are still playing. They are still something more to each other than acquaintances.

"Sex," Kakashi says. His eyes are fixed on Guy's face, though if he hoped to shock Guy into a reaction, he'll be disappointed.

Guy nods seriously. "Agreed." Tension knots in the air between them, warning him. He lifts his head and forces himself to make eye contact with Kakashi.

He is not surprised when Kakashi says, "Love." He does not allow himself to react, other than to reach out, pick up the top card of the draw pile and hold it for Kakashi to see. The gray-haired man shakes his head after a moment, and Guy discards on his behalf before drawing for himself. He feels almost like a coward when he lets his gaze drop back to his cards.

They are silent, Kakashi apparently having satisfied his urge to converse about uncomfortable topics. Kakashi wins the hand, then rolls himself onto Guy's bed and settles down for a nap. Guy positions himself for meditation, sitting next to Kakashi's knees. His eyes are closed, his breathing even, when he feels the pressure of Kakashi's leg against his hip.

Kakashi's voice is barely above a whisper. "My father and I spoke of regrets. I had a lot of them. More than he did."

The question seems expected, so Guy asks. "What did you regret?"

There is danger in the way Kakashi moves suddenly, invading Guy's space, but he is neither enemy nor rival, and so Guy makes no move to defend himself. The ground is hard as it impacts with his back. It is a little cooler than the air around them, but Kakashi is warm. Trapped between earth and Jounin, Guy feels a growing sense of anticipation.

"I regretted how things went with Sasuke. How I treated Naruto and Sakura, how I failed my team. Both of my teams." Despite the pain wrapped around the words, he smiles. "I regret the New Year's party where I let Anko and Kurenai ply me with alcohol until even you started to look pretty."

Kakashi levers himself up, so that he's no longer holding Guy down by the shoulders. His eyes focus sharply on Guy's face and Guy's instincts are telling him to guard himself against what is coming, but there is no way to protect himself from the words.

"I regret you." The words are simple, but there are too many years of history and turbulent emotions weaved into them for meaning to come easily or quickly. While Guy knows Kakashi well enough to dig beneath the obvious, he doesn't have enough pieces to decipher the entire picture.

The question "How so?" is on his tongue. Guy pushes himself up onto his elbows, but Kakashi is leaning down again. Their noses bump before Kakashi settles his forehead against Guy's, and the question answers itself in his mind, remaining unspoken.

They linger in silence, Guy waiting for Kakashi to make a move that never comes, Kakashi waiting for... something. It's frustrating, how even after all their years of rivalry, of friendship, of alliance and comradeship, that Kakashi remains so much a mystery. Guy feels too open, exposed in a way he should be used to with Kakashi. He has never kept secrets from his rival.

Finally, his rival huffs a breath and tilts his head, pressing his cheek against Guy's and breathing in his ear. "If we were competing over this, you would have won."

Guy swallows hard. 'What is ~this~?' he wants to ask. The word is too vague. Not friendship, obviously. Friendship has little to do with the slow uncoiling of heat in the pit of his stomach. Unbalanced, physically and emotionally, Guy presses one hand into the ground behind him. The other, he wraps around the back of Kakashi's neck, fingers threading through gray hair. The gesture steadies him. Under the tips of his fingers, Guy can feel the quickening beat of Kakashi's pulse.

"It was never about winning. It was never about being the best." Kakashi speaks the words in a hard tone as he brushes his knuckles against Guy's shoulders in the softest of touches, barely felt through the material of his uniform. "I know why you offered rivalry when I refused friendship. I regret that rivalry was the best option left."

The alternative had been to be nothing; colleagues and allies, but nothing more.

"The next time I die, I want to tell my father I loved proudly and I didn't hide from my heart like a coward." He pulls away, enough so they can look into each other's faces. Slowly, Kakashi leans forward. The gentle press of Kakashi's lips belies the tension Guy can feel in his body. He looks uncertain when he pulls back, though Guy returned the kiss. It makes Guy aware of his own silence.

It's not a competition, but Guy feels a bit proud when he is able to knock Kakashi backwards, onto the already rumpled bedspread. "Next time I visit my father, it would bring me great joy and honor if you would accompany me."

He can see Kakashi's smile in the curve of his eye, but it translates much better when he can feel it against his mouth as he leans down.

* * *

Tsunade-sama looks at him across the surface of her still empty desk. The smell of paint is strong despite the open window, and Guy is very conscious of the doorless doorway. There's a crew in the next room, putting the finishing touches on the electrical wiring. For the most part, there is no privacy to be had in Konoha.

"I'm going to assign you and your team to patrol, starting tomorrow," she says briskly. Guy draws himself up to thank her for the opportunity to be useful, but she holds out a scroll to him before he can formulate the words. "You're also still on Hatake duty. The brat's chomping at the bit, but he's not ready for the kind of work he wants to volunteer himself to do. You'll work with him, train with him, and keep him out of trouble in your spare time."

Guy takes the scroll and unrolls it. Kakashi's name has been added to the list of Guy's teammates.

"Assuming you don't distract yourselves with silly challenges," she states warningly. Guy wants to protest that their challenges were always serious in nature, but she waves a hand, derailing him again. "-and that you don't scar your team by making out too often, you can keep Kakashi until he's fully healed."

Well. Given that he and Kakashi are still living in a tent next to several of their colleagues, he doesn't bother to ask how she knows. "Of course, Hokage-sama!" He tells himself there is no reason to be embarrassed, and gives her a thumbs up and a bright smile. Before he can compose words of gratitude and encouragement, she leans back in her chair.

"That's assuming Kakashi hasn't already gone through on his threat of leaving the village and seeking revenge on his own." Guy pauses, and her smile is a little too devious, but Kakashi has been known to take matters into his own hands. Guy has to choose between Kakashi and form of habit. She raises an eyebrow at him, very obviously amused by his indecision, and Guy gives up.

"Thank you, Hokage-sama," he says instead. He gives his intelligent and cunning leader a low bow before taking off through the doorless threshold. Kakashi is waiting for him down the hall, right where Guy left him not ten minutes before.

He gives Kakashi the scroll, and they walk out of the new Tower as Kakashi scans the mission parameters. He's had a lot of practice walking and reading, though Guy realizes suddenly he hasn't seen any sign of Icha Icha paradise since the battle. It's likely all Kakashi's books were also a victim of the destruction.

"Patrol with you and your brats?" Kakashi asks. Guy nods. The gray-haired man smirks. "From the old bat, that's almost like a honeymoon."

"It is!" Guy agrees. He'd like to turn his feeling of enthusiasm into action, but he can see his team walking up the road toward them, and he remembers Tsunade's warning. "She did mention keeping displays of affection to a minimum," Guy warns. He explains at Kakashi's blank look, "'Don't scar your team by making out too often,' were her exact words."

Kakashi makes a choking sound, though he seems to recover himself pretty easily. "I'll keep that in mind, though after all this time, I doubt we could surprise them."

Guy looks at him, want and circumspection still warring within him. "You don't think so?" He didn't mean the words as a challenge, though he hears them come out that way despite his intentions. Guy feels a little off as Kakashi stares at him for a moment. "Not as a competition, Kakashi," he says firmly. Not as something to compete over, but... Guy shakes his head, uncertain of his own motives in having issued what looks very much like a dare, on looking back.

The kids are closer now, enough so that Guy can read their good moods in their body language. The reconstruction has been going well for them and their morale.

"You think they'd like me?" Kakashi asks. He rocks back on his heels, hands suddenly in his pockets and the scroll no longer in evidence. Guy considers the question, one of many of the seemingly strange things to come out of Kakashi's mouth of late. Guy looks at his team again in a new light, seeing not only colleagues and students, but the children that belong to him as much as any he could have sired.

"There's only one way to find out," Guy answers. He turns to Kakashi and braces his fists against his hip. "My Hip and Modern Lover, I challenge you." Kakashi's expression is more intent and curious than any other time Guy has said similar words.

Kakashi slouches a little more, amusement dancing in his eye. "I guess it's not a competition if we're on the same side." The children come into hearing range just as Kakashi says, "I accept." Guy hears the sounds of their surprise as Kakashi sidles into his space and kisses him.


For my blah-blah on the writing of this story: OnWriting: Talk of Life After>
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