For Naruto and Sakura, guessing when and where Kakashi will appear at the start of each lesson is a game. They squabble over it, make cheerful bets and then back away from paying them off. (With some exceptions: "Hey, hey, Sakura-chaaan! If I'm right this time, will you go on a date with me?" "No!")
For Sasuke it is different (as everything is different; he cannot play with normal children, or even with those pretending to be normal children like Naruto or who think that they're normal children like Sakura, because the intertwined gifts of normalcy and sanity have been stripped away from him, leaving him bare and brittle like a tree in winter).
He keeps his guesses to himself, like hoarded treasures, like a coin held warm and secret against his skin. Every time he is nearer to right, he comes closer to tugging that mask off in some fashion--
--and sometimes he thinks of doing that literally, and he wonders what he would do afterwards. Perhaps he would kiss Kakashi, and maybe then, the next time (the next time what?), he would know for sure. He would understand.
When Sasuke finally enters the ANBU, he spars only with Kakashi. Mo one else will risk going up against him, sword to sword--he has worked for six strange and turbulent years now in Leaf's service, but stigma still trails from him like ribbons. He accepts it, because there is no one with whom he would rather spar.
When his sword flashes through the air, with only Kakashi's weapon there to counter it, it is as if the two of them are slicing the lies from him. His world narrows, and in that perfect silver blur he knows many things that he barely dares to admit any other time--
--Kakashi is better than him, unconquerable. Sasuke has become stronger than him, true, but there are ways in which his teacher will always be better, always be the one in charge. He strains against this truth like he might bite down on a sore tooth. In time the pain becomes an intoxicating comfort.
--he needs someone else's sword to block his, to send it spinning with a sharp clash. Naruto and Sakura will tear at him with their claws and their love, and he needs that too, but they will not, cannot, stay his sword and say, "This is where you stop."
--in some places he is still broken, nigh unfixable, but that is all right, because Kakashi is broken too.
Every so often, whatever lies beyond gives her the choice to move on--in the form of a too-bright light or a door she could simply walk through, perhaps. But Fllay is not trapped in this world. She isn't cursed to be a ghost. She chooses it, because watching over Kira, protecting him when she can, is infinitely better than anything the next life could offer her. She knows they understand; isn't God supposed to be all about love?
But she understands now too--she knows that this life, the one she wasted until the last, is meant to be about love too. Kira taught her half of that, enough to open her eyes before she died.
It's only afterwards, as she watches him and Lacus together, that she understands the rest.
She sees it in the way Lacus sheds her shy reserve and runs at him, her arms outstretched. She sees it in the way he lets the walls he built from the bones of his memories crumble away around her as he lays his head in her lap and looks up at her, wide-eyed. She sees it in the curve of their hands fitting together, the happiness that binds them in that moment.
Fllay has begun to hope that the next life might hold something like that for her. Someday she'll move on and find out. But for now, watching them, knowing that her devotion is part of what makes them safe--it is enough. It will do.
"I'm a man of the sky and the stars," Mwu told her once, with a practiced wink. Like so many other things he said, it sounded like he'd practiced it once, perhaps in front of a mirror, intending to use it someday to charm a woman or impress a handful of recruits. Like so many of those things he said, it sounded like it had new meaning, real meaning, now that he'd become a part of the Archangel--now that he'd met her.
"I don't need the earth to be this great," he added, with a cocky smile, but as happened so often, his bravado fell flat around her. This time, he hesitated as he finished speaking, his sky-blue eyes catching on her earth-brown ones, and he looked suddenly regretful. "But maybe--" He trailed off there.
She gave him an indulgent smile. "Maybe," she said, "when this is all over, I'll have some things to show you."
But there is no when this is all over for him, and sometimes she suspects he always knew, deep down, that there wouldn't be, that the peaceful earth would never have a place for men like him.
There is no true grave, but, when her chest finally stops hurting enough for her to breathe, Murrue thinks this is just as well. It would have been cruel to imprison him in a block of stone and earth.
Instead she wanders and she travels, sometimes holding his hat in her hand, sometimes only holding his smile in her head and her heart.
Eventually, it becomes more than mourning.