(Rule One: No Dying)
Sakumo represses a grunt of pain as he drops to the ground, poorly bandaged slashes on his back throbbing to the rhythm of his own heartbeat. This sucks. This mission sucks. They might actually die this time
“Well if you think that then we’re definitely fucked,” Hozue murmurs in her own voice. Which only goes to show how well and truly fucked they are–the Kedouin clan’s identity copying techniques are flawless… within a certain duration of time.
Hozue is the clan’s pride and joy: she can maintain an identity for almost two weeks.
This mission was supposed to be five days.
“You’re both terrible,” Atsumi complains. This is not unusual. Atsumi is always complaining. She enjoys it. Especially when she hasn’t slept for nearly seventy two hours. But that’s what she gets for being one of the best–the only and true best, sorry–genjutsu user in the village, “You’re both terrible,” she repeats, “and I can’t believe I’m going to die with you.”
“You’re not going to die with us,” Sakumo says, never mind his own earlier prediction.
Hozue snorts, “Yeah, Atsumi, you’re not going to die with us,” She looks at Sakumo with the wrong eyes in the wrong face, but her voice is as clear and certain as ever, “You’re going to die with me. One of us can still complete this mission if the other two act as decoys… and only one of us has a kid back home.”
Sakumo bares his teeth–lupine habit, as if he could bite into the thought and squeeze the life out of it. Yes, he has a son at home–a son with no mother, no real pack to watch over him–but ever since their genin years he has been the protector of the team.
He cannot just abandon that. Them.
In another universe–in many other universes–he doesn’t. He will think he has found a way to win this impossible situation, to protect his teammates and return to his son. He will fail the mission, bringing all three of them home, only to find that he has started a war. His teammates will distance themselves from him, his son will be ashamed of him, and he will think there is only one way to redeem his honor.
In these universes, he will never know that their mission was always going to fail. That his team was sent on a mission designed to fail from the start because someone in the village wanted a war.
In a few universes he makes a different choice. In these few universes he still will not abandon his teammates, but he will agree that one of them could complete the impossible mission through the sacrifice of the others:
Hozue might return and take Kakashi under her wing for a brief, blessed, bizarre few months, before being sent out on yet another mission. She will not trust these people on her team, and she is right not to–Hozue dies from a sword through the back. The mission fails, the war starts.
Atsumi might return to the village terribly suspicious of all the issues that cropped up during the mission that killed her friends. For her teammate’s son’s safety, she does not get close to him but she makes sure he is cared for. She gets very close to the truth before dying of natural causes.
In even fewer universes, he makes yet a different choice to complete the mission at the cost of his convictions… only to be ambushed on the way home by shinobi in blank masks who will take advantage of his lone and weakened state. They will return to Konoha and report to their master who will send them on yet another mission to start his war.
For the most part, no versions of this story end happily. But this particular universe is not one of those versions.
“Huh,” says a completely unfamiliar voice from beyond Atsumi’s genjutsu. All three of them turn to look, startled.
It is a girl, barely a teenager, in a practical shinobi outfit and shadows across her face despite the angle of the light. She is, impossibly, staring at all three of them.
“I think this is the earliest I’ve ever been,” she says, which doesn’t explain anything but isn’t exactly threatening. Sakumo lurches into an awkward crouch between the stranger and his team anyway.
The girl tilts her head to the side, considering, before nodding to herself. “I could use a few tour guides,” it’s such a ludicrous non sequitur that for a moment the three of them have no idea how to respond.
“Well come on, let’s go stop a war.”
A/N: Inspired by wafflelate’s The Many Gardens of Shikabane-hime in which Shikako travels through a bunch of dimensions in a (futile?) attempt to get back home and wreaks havoc and acts of anti-Danzo destruction on par with natural disasters. She has an undeniable fond spot for Kakashi in both of wafflelate’s threads, so I figure it might extend a little bit to Hatake version 1.0.
I’m pretty sure future installments will be other teams’ near misses because of my commitment issues. Though I am weirdly fond of this team for all that I made up two of them just now: Hozue Kedouin–the Kedouin Clan is an anime-only clan of face copiers/shape shifters who I’ve tweaked to be much cooler than canon, and Atsumi Kurama of the same minor genjutsu clan that Yakumo is part of, yes.
I had considered a Nohara, but then I’d have to deal with the sudden feels that crop up of the idea that in a better world Kakashi and Rin would have been raised like cousins or something if Sakumo had a Nohara teammate.
And I mostly like the idea that Sakumo is by default the most truthful of his team because he’s the only one whose clan abilities have nothing to do with deception. And, also, him being the Kiba to Hozue’s Hinata and Atsumi’s Shino, kind of. I DUNNO?!