|A Marriage Inconvenienced
Author: lulu42 PM
The math was simple: Him plus Her equaled genius. It's really a pity he forgot to mention it. KakaSakuRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Kakashi H. & Sakura H. - Chapters: 20 - Words: 94,212 - Reviews: 625 - Favs: 625 - Follows: 604 - Updated: 12-10-10 - Published: 02-17-09 - id: 4870889
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Dusk had begun to fall and Sakura was still in the cave. Naruto would make noises of frustration every few minutes as he struggled against Kakashi's jutsu. For all of his effort, the only thing Naruto managed to accomplish was to flop over on his back.
"Let me out, Kakashi."
"If I let you out, will you stay here?"
There was a pause. "Yes."
Kakashi smiled down at him. "Nice try. Try to sound more sincere next time."
Naruto gave a strangled yell. "Aww… come on! All I want-"
"Quiet." Kakashi knew that Naruto's heart was in the right place, but he didn't feel like arguing at the moment. If there was any sound indicating that something had gone wrong; he wanted to hear it. Things were taking longer than he anticipated and the situation already had him on edge. Perhaps he was wrong to send her there alone?
Kakashi glanced at Kasumi, who was dozing on a rock. "Do you think we should go in?"
She opened up her eyes. "What?" She leaned forward and gave her back a pop.
"Has it been too long?" Kakashi wished he could only be so relaxed.
"Give Pinky a few more minutes and if she doesn't come out I'll check up on her." Kasumi frowned as she looked at the cave. "How hard could it be to neuter Uchiha? It's not like he's in the greatest of health."
"Don't call her that." Kakashi regretted the irritation in his voice when Kasumi gave him a glare.
"What is with you today? It's not like I did anything wrong. All I did was bring that girl over here for you, despite my better judgment. And I'm not one of your ninja, so don't act like I'm obligated to follow you."
She was right, of course. It was only his emotions that were causing him to be out of character. Anything he could say in his defense would only make her angrier. So Kakashi kept his mouth shut and continued to wait.
A minute later, he heard footsteps. They were too heavy to be Sakura's, but also too even to be Sasuke's. He was uncertain of who would emerge into the dim light. He released the jutsu holding Naruto, the energy crackling in the air like a firework.
Kasumi swore as Sakura stepped through, carrying Sasuke's unconscious form on her back. "What the hell is she doing? Doesn't she know that Uchiha is wanted by every nation? If anyone sees us assisting him, we'll be in for war."
"I don't think that there's anyone else nearby," said Naruto as he stood up. "The nearest village doesn't have a road that goes this direction. I tried to rebuild the town closer to the river, but the villagers refused. They said this place is only used for war and is full of restless spirits." Naruto waved frantically at Sakura. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Sakura jumped off the final rock and landed in the field. "We need to take Sasuke back to Konoha." Kakashi glanced at Kasumi in time to see her angry face.
"What happened?" Naruto wrung his hands. "And why are Sasuke's eyes bandaged?"
"Naruto…" Sakura's voice was weary as she placed Sasuke down. "I really, really, don't want to talk about this right now."
Naruto's face fell in disappointment, but Kasumi was not so forgiving. "I'm afraid you don't have a choice. He attacked our Academy and I want answers. Someone like him doesn't deserve treatment."
It was difficult to make out Sakura's face in the falling light. "I'm a medic, this is what I do."
"You must be a pretty pathetic one."
Naruto gave a snort of laughter, but had the presence of mind to stay out of the fight between the two women.
Sakura responded in a calm voice. "Sasuke did some horrible things, but he's really, really sick. He can't hurt anyone now. I work in Konoha's medical research facility and I know that with a few tests there is a possibility that he can help thousands more than he ever hurt."
Kasumi scoffed. "It's not a risk I'm willing to take."
Kakashi thought it had gone on long enough. "Sakura, is this absolutely necessary?" He wasn't keen on the idea of Sasuke back in the village, harmless or not.
Kakashi could say little of her intentions and the situation made him uneasy. But Sakura had displayed a level of trust in him when she went to face Sasuke. He had to support her now or it would be a betrayal of whatever relationship they had. "Kasumi, you need to take all of us back."
"What?" Kasumi had gone from irritated to furious. "I expect that sort of behavior from her, but not from you. If you want to take him back, you'll have to do it on your own. I have no reason to assist you."
"Kasumi…" Kakashi was dangerously close to begging. But he didn't want to spend the entirety of the evening travelling back to Konoha. "Please, as a favor."
She looked at him with an inscrutable expression. "Fine, but you owe me answers. I'm not going back to Mist empty-handed, and I get to raise all the hell I want until I have them." She grabbed Naruto by a sleeve. "Get over here."
Sakura placed Sasuke over her shoulder and held out her arm so Kasumi could grab hold and Kakashi placed a hand on Kasumi's shoulder. Kakashi immediately regretted his request as Kasumi activated the jutsu. It was one thing to have a jutsu that made you uncomfortable, quite another to not have any control of it. Most jutsus that altered the physical body lasted for seconds, but this one depended on how far one needed to go. Travelling from the border to Konoha was an agonizing and lengthy experience when the body was bent and twisted into little more than air molecules.
The troop regained physical form outside of the village walls. Kakashi gave a sigh of relief as they landed, staying on his knees to regain his equilibrium. Naruto landed with a swear on his lips, freeing himself quickly from Kasumi's grasp. He continued to glare at her even as he helped Sakura up.
"Hokage-sama." Five ANBU appeared out of the woods to stand before them. "What are your orders?"
Kakashi was relieved that they had been the first to arrive. He didn't need rumors spreading in the village until he had control of the situation. "I need you to take Uchiha to the basement medical facility, you know the one. Sakura, you are to do your tests as quickly as possible. I need you to report the situation back to me in forty-eight hours, sooner if possible. One of you needs to stay in the room with Uchiha at all times until I say otherwise. Naruto, you are to be stationed outside of the room." Kakashi pinched at the bridge of his nose. The method of travel had given him a headache. It was a good thing he wasn't susceptible to vertigo.
"Yes, Hokage-sama." The ANBU vanished, taking Sasuke with them.
Sakura turned to Kakashi. "I don't want them in my room when I do the tests, Kakashi. They might get in the way."
Oh yes, the headache was definitely growing. "Then you will have to deal with it. I'm not changing my mind on this." She frowned at him.
"Come on, Sakura." Naruto tugged at Sakura's arm. "We should get going."
Kakashi watched his old team go, leaving him with Kasumi. He wanted to know what happened in that cave, but Sakura seemed reluctant to speak of it. Hopefully she would be able to answer his questions soon.
"Are you coming with me?" he asked Kasumi. She nodded and the made their way to Hokage Tower. Upon arrival, he saw the light of his office peeking out from beneath the door. He opened the door to see a small a crowd of people inside.
"There you are!" One of the village elder's fussed in his chair. "We demand an explanation for your behavior. It's not proper for a Hokage to go gallivanting about without informing the Council or your ANBU guards." Kakashi could almost hear Kasumi smirk behind him.
"I'll have a full report in seventy-two hours," he said. "For now, I want you out of my office."
Tenzou was one of the first to follow his order. Kakashi knew that he was probably full of questions, and was grateful that his old friend was silent. Kakashi didn't have the full story right now anyway. The ANBU followed Tenzou's lead and finally, the village leaders. They were not so obedient, clearly displeased by being left in the dark.
"The office has certainly gone to his head," someone muttered.
Kakashi closed the door with a firm snap, leaving him alone with Kasumi. The headache that had been threatening him eased, but he turned off the light anyway. It was good to be back. The earlier rush of adrenalin had faded, leaving behind a wave of relief at his familiar surroundings. He gave a wry smile at the turn of events. He never would have thought that he would enjoy an office. The only light in the room came from the sconces that shined tiny spotlights on the glass figurines that lined his back wall. The large tree was the brightest, reflecting borrowed light from the prominent location Sakura had placed it.
"What a nightmare," he muttered as sat down in a chair and looked out the glass window. He could see that Konoha's street vendors had lit the lanterns. Kasumi withdrew her omnipresent blue bottle and presented it before him, her fingers shaking the bottle in invitation. He took it with hesitance, raising the small bottle to his lips and took a sip. His tongue went numb as soon as the liquid touched his mouth, the alcohol searing up his neck. He gave a small cough.
Kasumi took a seat across from him, her left foot tapping against the floorboards. "I don't understand why it was so important to bring Uchiha back. He won't make it."
"You don't know that. Sakura may be able to heal him." Kakashi looked at the bottle in his hand. It was a small little thing, but it packed a hell of a punch. "I've seen her do some amazing feats through sheer stubbornness…" He drifted off, aware that the alcohol was already loosening his tongue.
"Please, don't act so dense. There was no way you could miss that smell rolling off of Uchiha. I have no idea how he was even standing up. I've smelled week-old corpses that were better. The only way she would be able to save him is if she practiced kinjutsu. And I know you won't allow that." She removed the bottle from his hand and placed the stopper on it. "So…"
Kakashi looked up at Kasumi. Her lips were pursed, a look of consternation on her face. Maybe if he had his full mental capabilities, he would take a stab in the dark at her thoughts. But right now, he felt tired and old. He just wanted her to get to the point. "So?"
"What's so special about Pinky?" It was clear that this question had been brewing for some time.
Kakashi shrugged, not wanting to get into specifics. But his traitorous mind remembered that sparkle in Sakura's eyes when she teased him. He remembered how steady her hands were as she preformed the delicate surgery on his eye, the only reassurance as the pressure grew in his chakra pathways. How she was unable to contain her fierce joy when she succeeded. That glance she gave him as she vanished in the cave with Sasuke, one that reflected her unwavering trust in him. And then there was the thin scar hidden behind her ear that represented a world of heartache.
"Nothing. Maybe everything." He blinked, giving himself a moment to clear his head. "I'm not even certain anymore."
"Oh." The room grew quiet. Kakashi heard her shift in her chair. "It's like that."
"Yes." He continued to look out the window, giving Kasumi a moment to gain her composure.
"We've known each other for years. I always thought that we… Did I do something wrong?"
"No." Kakashi looked at her in surprise. She wasn't crying, but he could see that she was upset. Kasumi looked softer somehow, as if the hard edges of her well-maintained exterior had been worn away. It was an astonishing change. He had justified his pursuit of Sakura several times before, to Tsunade, Tomio, and Ms. Tokushima. Somewhere in time, the logical reasons had drifted away into more personal ones. And now that he was faced with a person that had something to lose from his actions, Kakashi didn't know how to explain it. He tried to think of something to say other than the repetitive, "It's not you, it's me." Kasumi deserved more than that. But how could he explain that Sakura had wriggled into his life in an unexpected way, so that even a glass tree held meaning?
"We can't change our natures," he began. "You hated me the moment you met me, but somehow we managed to twist our way into each other's lives and trick ourselves into thinking we could work. And every time it falls apart because one of us makes a comment that digs a little too deep. It's a game; one that I loved to play, but we can't do it forever. I didn't know you cared that much."
"I see." She twiddled with the blue bottle in her hand. "Maybe a part of it is my fault. The first time with you was such a thrill for me. Water and Fire together! But you didn't treat it like that, and I thought that maybe you were using me. Later I thought you were bored with me; you always seemed to have your mind on other things. I hated that, so I would push to get a response from you. It didn't matter what kind it was. And I always felt so good when you left, but later I would regret my words, our words. Maybe if I had been honest…" Kasumi sighed. "The line between happiness and sadness was so hard to see with you."
She stood up from her seat, the legs scraping against the floor; such a loud noise after so much silence. "I need to get back home and tell the Mizukage to await your letter. Take care, Kakashi." Kasumi gave a tepid smile, taking the blue bottle and the possibility of a different future with her.
Kakashi thought, as she shut the door, if she had said things like that more often, he might have paid more attention to her.
The steady hum of machinery was the only noise in the room. An ANBU guard stood in the corner a silent observer, a few feet away from where Sasuke lay in bed. Sakura opened up the file she had brought in with her, hoping that the results had changed as she had travelled down the hallway. The page was filled with the same bleak results. Sakura placed the file on the table next to his bed. He didn't move as the air hit his face, but she knew he was awake.
Sakura glanced at the guard in the corner once more. She wished he wasn't there to witness this private moment, but there was nothing she could do about it. Kakashi had ordered the guard into the room and he had used that voice. She suspected that she was lucky to get Sasuke in the testing facility at all.
Sakura pulled up a chair that was pushed against the wall. The seat cushion wasn't very comfortable. Most of the people in this building were criminals, or ninja that came back from a horrific mission that called for a little seclusion before being returned to village life. The chair was a cast-off piece from the hospital, well-worn from years of use. Sakura rubbed her thumb along a tear at the seat where the stitching had frayed away and watched Sasuke.
The ANBU behind her shuffled a foot and Sakura was mindful of her audience. "I know you're awake."
He made no movement in response, but Sakura wasn't surprised. He had to be disoriented. Taking a breath to steady her nerves, she placed her hand in his. He gave her fingers a gentle squeeze, an action so familiar and foreign Sakura thought she would faint.
"Where am I?" Sasuke's voice was unsure and raspy.
Sakura reached for the glass of water by the nightstand and raised the straw to his lips. He took a greedy suck from the straw, emptying the glass until the suction echoed. It was a childish action.
Sakura filled it again and took her own sip from the glass. "You were brought to a secure location under Konoha."
Sasuke had raised a hand to his face, picking at the bandages that were wrapped around his eyes. "What happened?"
Sakura swallowed against the lump that formed in her throat. She could do this. "You attacked me with Amaterasu. You were ill and the jutsu was weak. I was able to break it by adapting some of my medical training. The pressure I had to exert in order to break the jutsu caused damaged to your optical nerves and most of your eye." She was relived to notice that her voice was cool, crisp, professional, but with a hint of warmth.
"You took away my eyes?" He spoke with a weary tone that left no room for indignation.
"You're taking the news very well," she responded as she glanced at the IV. Perhaps it was the drugs.
"It's strange. I don't feel…. I feel strange."
She stared at his bandaged face. Sasuke's lips were barely moving as he spoke. There were so many things she needed to tell him and so very little time. She turned her head to the ANBU guard standing in the corner of the room. She didn't want him here, a silent witness to something that was such a personal matter to Team Seven. She was barely holding on as it was.
Team Seven. She felt a bittersweet feeling rise in her. If she had been told of all the things that would happen to her at the age of twelve, she would never have become a kunoichi. The Academy had drilled rules and protocols in her head, and she thought she understood what it meant to be a ninja. But all those silly lessons had failed to teach her about the grey matters of morality, loyalty, and justice. Here she was sitting next to one of the most wanted criminals in the world. He was her former teammate, her imaginary lover, her injured patient.
Her dying friend.
Sakura took a sip from the glass of water before proceeding. "Have you heard of the Agape virus?'
Sasuke frowned. "I don't….No."
"It's something that only came to existence a few years ago. There was that member of Atkatsuki who died… you know, the plant one."
"Yes, him. After he was killed, his body released toxins into Iron Country. The nearest town where his body had been dumped ended up with the beginning stages of the plague. The village was located along a major cargo road and the virus spread quickly. At first there wasn't too much cause for alarm, but as time passed medics and doctors realized what a threat it was. In its five years of existence, it has gone from non-existence to the most dangerous threat in the ninja world. The virus is derived from a plant mutation, so it goes in a dormant state that other illnesses do not. This fortunate dormancy period is the only reason we have not lost a quarter of the population."
Sasuke mulled the information over. "Are you saying I have it?"
She could do this. "Sasuke, you've had the virus for two years. The symptoms upon infection are mild and are often misconstrued for something less dangerous. Some people mistake it for a normal cold and assume they have gotten better. Slowly, the virus begins to make its way through the body's complicated systems. It begins to aim for motor functions, entering the brain. Secondary warning signs include hallucinations and drastic changes in personality. I take it you suffered from light sensitivity. It looks like you had been living in that cave for months."
She felt her eyes sting as she held Sasuke's hand. She had cried enough for him already and knew that tears wouldn't fall for him anymore. It was a pity, because this time he deserved it.
"I wondered what I had done to cause you to attack me. I obsessed over it, pitied myself for it. I hated you so much, Sasuke." Sakura lowered her head to stare at her lap. "It turns out that it was just a symptom for an illness that I've specialized in treating, and didn't catch it."
"It makes so much sense now. The medical community worked together to spread the news. We made villages tack up fliers and made announcements about how dangerous it was. We made tests for it and sent our medics to the smallest of towns to the keep the virus at bay. But you were a wanted criminal and I guess you didn't hear the news."
Sasuke smiled. "It's fortunate that you figured it out. I'm in good hands now with you. I'll be fine in no time." He gave her fingers another soft squeeze. Sakura clenched her teeth. He had a way of making her feel so out of control.
"It's not that simple. The Agape virus is different because of its origin source. The reason every village in every country is so watchful is because it's a ninja killer. It specifically aims for the system with the most complexity. It targets the nervous system in civilians, but for ninja it goes for the chakra."
"Most people are infected in Autumn and begin to show serious signs during the Spring. Those who don't get immediate treatment develop swollen knuckles and tremors. In every case that I have studied, the infected who do not receive treatment are dead within six months. It never occurred to me that you were sick from the same virus since you lived longer than that. But as far as I can tell, you were infected two years ago."
"When I figured out what was wrong, I had to find out what was different that let you survive.
"You tested me like a lab rat?" Sasuke said in a faint, but indignant voice.
"Yes," Sakura replied, glancing at the file on the bed stand. "It turns out that the Sharingan is a natural defense against the virus. That's why you were able to last so long despite any medical treatment."
"I learned enough medicine from Orochimaru to take care of myself. I didn't need a medic."
"You're fine against colds and small injuries. But this virus didn't even exist when he was alive. It wreaked havoc and invaded every major organ of your body. The only reason you are still alive is because the virus stayed dormant. The Sharingan left the virus starved for a decent chakra source." Sakura took another sip of water. "I'm afraid that's not a problem anymore."
"I gave you a full blood transfusion when you arrived. That flushed out your system a little bit. It's probably why you don't feel so bad. But it won't take long for the virus to take hold again." Sakura was grateful for the humming machinery. Without it, the silence in the room would have been unbearable.
Sasuke's thumb brushed along the back of her hand. His touch was cool from poor circulation. "How long do I have?"
"Days, maybe a week. There's nothing to stop the virus from feeding on your chakra."
"I'm sorry I hurt you. I just want to… I thought you could have made me happy."
Sakura clenched her teeth to stop the sob that was threatening to rise. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the ANBU squirm.
"Can I be buried in the cemetery with my family?" There was a strange neediness in Sasuke's voice.
Sakura gave a sad smile. "You have to be cremated. There is a risk of contamination if you're buried."
"There is a tree on the east side. Ikuye's kite would get tangled in the branches and I had to climb up to get it. It's one of my favorite places. Maybe there?"
She gave his hand a squeeze. "Of course," she lied. Sakura hadn't the heart to tell Sasuke that the tree didn't exist; it was just another lie like her children. The virus had spread so deep in his brain that Sasuke could not longer tell the difference between what was real and his own imagination. He'd probably be unconscious in two days.
She had little more to say to him, so she held his hand.
It was a few minutes before Sasuke spoke. "I never thought he would do it."
Sakura had no idea what he was talking about. "What?"
"Kakashi." Sasuke made a weak effort to sit up, but abandoned the attempt when Sakura's grip tightened. "I saw him in some crappy little village a couple of years ago and he asked me about turning off the Sharingan. I explained the method to him, but I never thought he would go through with it." He gave a soft laugh that morphed into a raspy cough. "That's the reason he had a new jutsu prepared, isn't it? It didn't even cross my mind to expect something new from him."
"You told him how to turn off the Sharingan?" Her voice cracked, the professionalism finally crumbling.
"Yes. I never thought he would do it. Who throws away that sort of power?"
"I don't know." Sakura didn't even know what to think anymore. Had Kakashi mentioned seeing Sasuke during his travels? Why didn't he mention it during all that time she was working on his eye? Sakura glanced at the file sitting on the table. She was supposed to give Kakashi a report soon anyway.
"I'll be back in a few hours, Sasuke." She tucked the file under her arm and went to the door. Naruto was leaning against the wall; his face hopeful as she stepped out into the hallway. She shook her head and his face fell.
Naruto had the same eyes as an adult that he had as a child; ones filled with disappointment and stubborn determination. "How… what can I do?"
Sakura felt like she was a preteen again, despite the lab coat. "Sasuke has a few days. He's awake right now."
"Oh." Naruto fidgeted with the sleeve of his jacket. "I guess I'll go in."
"I have to go deliver my report to Kakashi." Sakura pointed at the report under her arm. "Can you tell the ANBU guard that I'm going to run a couple of tests on him tomorrow? I'm certain he wasn't infected from, but it doesn't hurt to take precautions."
Naruto nodded. "Sakura?"
"You know I love you, right?"
Sakura closed her eyes in order to regain her composure. The past few hours had drained her and she felt like she was on the verge of another breakdown. She thought she had done an admirable job in keeping it together, but apparently Naruto had seen the exhaustion on her face. Why else would he give her such a random confession? She was lucky to have him as a friend.
"I know, Naruto." She opened her eyes and gave him a timid smile. He returned it before vanishing into Sasuke's room.
Sakura sighed and continued down the hallway. She emerged from the underground bunker to see it was dark outside. Glancing at her watch, Sakura realized she had spent over a day down there. She wasn't even certain if Kakashi was awake. Glancing at the file in her hand, she decided to go anyway.
One of ANBU guards at the door gave a nod as she approached and opened the door. At least she didn't have to argue in order to get in. Pausing for a minute, she summoned her courage and gave a polite knock.
Kakashi opened the door in his pajamas, the black cloth still wrapped around his eye. In the soft light, it was impossible to tell how old he was. The small wrinkles along the corners of his eyes that betrayed his age were hidden. He towered over her even though he was slouching. It made her feel small and young; Sakura was reminded that he was among the best ninja even before she was born.
What was she doing here?
It was ridiculous that she was standing before him. He had asked for a report, but there was no reason for her to deliver it in the middle of the night. He had perched in a tree and watched over her as she practiced the most basic of ninja skills. Now he was her Hokage and one of the most respected people in the world. She barged in Kakashi's home in the middle of the night, and he let her.
Kakashi moved closer to her and she could see the woven threads of his printed pajamas. He plucked the file in her hands and said, "Was he infected by the Agape virus?" .
"You knew?" His pajamas were decorated with tiny shiriken that could be mistaken for flower petals from a distance. Sakura had not known he owned such a pair of frivolous clothing. Sakura shouldn't know. It was indecent.
Kakashi cleared his throat, moving away from her towards the dining table. Sakura entered the room and closed the door. "I suspected it when I was looking over past route maps for the vaccinations. I realized that I encountered Sasuke in a village that had a strong outbreak. Three members of my team were infected, but we had travelled so many different locations, there was no way we could tell where it was caught. I'm not an expert on it."
Sakura paced the room in order to burn the nervous energy inside of her. "But I am. Why didn't I see it?"
"The last time I saw him, I advised him he should go the Lightning Country to do a little bit of soul searching. I hoped that he would find a bit of peace. If he had followed my advice, he would have been fine. That area didn't suffer from an outbreak. But Sasuke was too determined to be alone and that cost him his life."
Sakura kept her eyes glued to a coffee table a few feet away, his words washing over her. The injustice of it all felt like a slap in the face. The anger and questions had finally been answered, but she could do little about it. Sakura didn't feel happy and there wasn't any peace in the answers. There was only pity and an abundance of self-loathing.
She moved to the door. "I should get going. I'm sure you want some rest."
Kakashi grabbed her wrist as she turned. "There's something else on your mind." His thumb brushed along the pulse of her wrist and it made her head spin.
"I…. no," she stuttered.
Kakashi didn't buy it. "You're shaking."
He was too close to her and she caught a whiff of soap and aftershave. Sakura found herself stepping across that personal boundary again. "Sasuke… he said you asked him how to turn off the Sharingan." Kakashi had to know that her heart was pounding in her chest; his thumb had not moved from her wrist. "You already knew how to turn it off on your own. So why did you ask for my help?"
"Lady Tsuande told me that you accepted the marriage proposal because you needed an escape. I wanted you to find yourself. I planned on shutting off the Sharingan when I didn't need it anymore, but this seemed like a better idea."
"But why?" Sakura raised her hand to slide under the strip of black cloth around his eye, tired of lies and evasion. "You kept it a secret so it doesn't cause a panic. Sasuke was being a lunatic. You could have waited." She tugged at his collar and made eye contact with him. She waited for his response, certain that he could feel the electricity in the air.
"I had nine months before you were going to go off and get married," he ground out. "Nine months to show you that I wasn't lying. I know you. I knew you would never be happy in his world when you belong in mine."
"You don't know that," she whispered as she leaned in closer. "I could have moved on to a new life."
"You didn't want a new life. You wanted to be happy. My eye was a small price to pay to show you." He spoke softly, but he was close enough that Sakura could feel the vibrations in his chest. "You enjoy healing people and you smile when the earth smashes under your fist. I may not know every tick and quirk, but I know that much. And I knew nobility would make you restless. The Sharingan was a challenge to show you were a kunoichi and you loved being one."
Sakura could feel something crumbling inside of her; she just wasn't sure what. "I didn't ask you to do that. Why did you think you had to do that?"
Kakashi gave a soft laugh. "What makes you think it was about you?" He raised a hand to cup her chin. "How could you see how much I love you when you didn't even love yourself?"
"I..." Sakura was at her wit's end. "I… you… You love me?"
"I think so." Kakashi's hand brushed along the scar behind her ear and she shied away from his touch. "At first, I thought you were perfect. You and I, that was a logical choice. But then you had to go and be…."
"What?" At hot tear slid down her cheek. "What am I, Kakashi?" She was emotionally exhausted; the day left her feeling raw and exposed. She should be at her apartment, not standing by his kitchen hearing confessions and noticing the patterns of his pajamas. Yet, try as she might, she couldn't resist hearing more from him. Not when he was being so honest.
"You had to be… you are flawed. It makes you interesting and that is why I love you." His lips brushed across her chin. "Perfection is overrated."
His words unraveled Sakura's emotions like a spool of thread, causing more tears to fall. The guilt and fear that had followed her was gone; it was relief that was making her cry. As lucky as she was to have Naruto as a friend, she was even luckier to have Kakashi show her how to forgive herself.
"I don't think I can do this right now," Sakura whispered as she wrapped her arms around him. She could feel the bones of his vertebrae under her hands. "You'll have to give me a few months. There are vaccinations to work on for Spring too." She missed the comfort of his touch even as she let him go. Maybe she was in deeper than she thought?
Kakashi lifted her wrist to his lips and gave it a small kiss. Sakura's heart gave a flutter. "That's just a minor inconvenience. I'm not going anywhere."
"Oh. Okay." She gave a shaky smile as she went to the door. Her body was still shaking, but now she felt so much lighter. "I'll leave the file here then."
He stood in the doorway once more as he let her out. "Goodnight, Sakura." Kakashi seemed imposing when he had answered the door, but this time Sakura only noticed the warmth in his voice.
Sakura heard the door shut behind her and she paused to brush a strand of hair behind her ear. Her fingers ran across the scar hidden there, and once again she was reminded of Ikuye, a small girl who liked to cut the strings off of kites. Before the memory filled her with melancholy, but with her heart on the mend, Sakura was able to find meaning behind it.