Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Naruto universe.


Kakashi Hatake was perched on her windowsill.

He'd been perched on her windowsill for the past week and a half . . . or perhaps it'd been two weeks already? She was losing count. Either way, this was a violation of privacy and an insult to a perfectly usable door, as she'd so eloquently pointed out the first few times he'd done it.

"Get up, Sakura-chan!" he sing-songed in an annoyingly chipper voice. "We're going out for breakfast."

Sakura burrowed further under her covers. They smelled musty and old. She needed to wash them soon. Very soon.

Her hair was matted to her cheeks and forehead. Kakashi had opened and broken all her seals placed around her window, and early—very, very early—morning sunlight was streaming out from behind his silhouette. Sakura was peeking one eye out from beneath her pastel pink comforter and could see the way the sunlight licked its way through the crease of his bent knee, the angle of his elbow as Kakashi balanced one arm so he could lazily scan through one of his little orange books.

"Go home, Kakashi," she muttered.

"No."

No response.

And so Kakashi waited—settled in, let the morning sunlight warm his back and watched as it danced in patterns across the lumpy pile that was a post-war torn Sakura Haruno as she fell in and out of slumber for the rest of the morning.

And Sakura waited him out.

And waited.

And waited

And waited some more.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The day Sakura returned home from war, she wanted nothing more than to curl up in her own bed and sleep for a couple days. Maybe a few weeks. A month, if she could manage it.

Instead, she discovered her parents were dead.

It shouldn't have come as a surprise. In fact, it hadn't. It just hadn't come as . . . anything.

It would be a lie to say she didn't remember the last time she'd spoken to her parents. She couldn't forget that experience if she wanted to, and she really, really wanted to. Being told by your parents you were a shame to the family name and would be cut out from anything to do with them if you continued to become a shinobi was enough to make Sakura dig her heels in and say enough.

Well. She may have said a choice more than that, but that was moot. But coming back home filthy and exhausted in ways she hadn't known were possible to new homebound battles was just . . .

Too much. Too much to deal with.

Even Sakura could admit her limits. She listened to some old man from some outer branch of the Haruno clan (even though she may not be a Uchiha or Senju, her family had connections, though nowhere near as many) she'd never heard of or seen in her life prissily sneer at her about how even though she was biologically the daughter of her parents (duh), she was cut out from the clan the moment she decided to pursue her career and not become some mindless breeding mere (the only reason she'd even been allowed to begin the path of becoming a shinobi was in the hopes of catching the eye of a powerful clan member's son, preferably a certain Uchiha), she had lost all rights to both her parents' burial plans and/or belongings and/or property.

The thing was, Sakura didn't care one iota about the money or the property or wherever the fuck they decided to bury them.

What she cared about was getting a message at four in the morning on a Sunday when she should be in surgery helping to revive this village, one human being at a time. What she cared about was that she hadn't slept more than two consecutive hours at a time. What she cared about was this village—

This village. Konoha. Sound familiar, old man? The village you've lived in your whole life and never once lifted a finger to help. The village you did nothing for while Pein tore it apart. The village that helped saved the world from Madara—oh, does that name make you flinch? I'm sorry, how inconsiderate of me—wasn't like I didn't fight the man himself, wasn't like I didn't tear apart an immortal Akatsuki member, wasn't like I didn't tear myself to fucking pieces

A hand on her shoulder. A warm weight. Familiar.

Kakashi.

A fake eye-crinkle. Sakura hadn't noticed until then that the man in front of her—she still didn't know his name; he hadn't bothered to introduce himself or stand up when she'd first met him, the bastard—was trembling. His eyes were wide and he stared at them both.

Sakura hadn't realized she'd been speaking out loud this whole time. She was also on her feet and leaning halfway over the table separating her and the rude old man.

"I think you'll have to excuse us both now," Kakashi said cheerfully. It wasn't a question.

He didn't give the trembling man time to respond—if he'd even been able to—before Kakashi whisked Sakura away. She blinked up at him.

Kakashi looked down at her as they hopped over rusted and decaying buildings and winked one eye—blinked? winked?—and said, "Smelled like stuffy old people and bad values in there."

Sakura didn't bother asking how he'd known where to find her.

The next week gave her something new to do. Kakashi helped. Naruto—as the new Hokage—was more than happy to give her time away from the hospital.

It didn't take much to destroy what was left of the Haruno clan. Sakura considered—for however a brief moment—destroying the infrastructure of all the clans. Taking away the foundations of the old beliefs and letting the pieces fall where they may. If the Uchiha clan had taught them anything, it was that clans could easily breed hate.

Actually, most clans that Sakura could think of weren't all that great, but she also wasn't sure what would rise from the ashes of that kind of destruction, and wasn't sure she wanted to deal with any consequences of it. She'd already dealt with one war in her lifetime; she wasn't ready for another.

But unraveling a clan as small and unfavorable as the Haruno clan was easy enough. Their outspoken hate of anything to do with the shinobi had never been looked fondly upon, and after they'd disowned the Hokage's apprentice and now war heroine . . . well . . . it was easy enough.

The old man from a side branch of the Haruno clan—Sakura never bothered to learn his name; what was the point?—was ruined. Sakura let Kakashi deal with him. She wasn't sure she'd be able to restrain herself from killing him—and yes, she did mean it quite literally. She'd found ever since the war ended she had less patience for scum like him.

So Kakashi took care of the old man and the faceless Haruno clan members while Sakura went through her parents' death records.

There wasn't much. They'd died during Pein's attack. She'd only found out now. And, once again, Sakura discovered she didn't all that much mind. They were just the people who raised her.

She hadn't hated them, but she hadn't particularly liked them either.

They were nothing but ashes now and had written Sakura out of their will. Not surprising. They weren't clear about what to do with their remains, either having thought they'd have time to finalize their choice later in life or leaving it up to other members of the Haruno clan to decide for them.

For a moment, Sakura considered going out to one of the killing fields that so many shinobi had died on and spreading her parents' ashes there. Perhaps it would be a final middle finger to them after all this time, to make them be with the people they'd spat on so openly during life now during death when they would have no choice. If some of those haunting stories were true, maybe the spirits of those slain shinobi would haunt her dead parents that way.

But when Kakashi finally caught up to her after he'd taken care of the sneering old man and the rest of the Haruno clan—in ways that did not follow in Itachi Uchiha's footsteps, he assured her—Sakura simply dumped the substance that made up what was left of her hateful parents in one of the many nameless streams outside the Leaf Village. She made sure it wouldn't flow back into the village.

She didn't want anything about them coming anywhere near her village ever again.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

One morning, Sakura didn't wake up until noon.

She was still on leave from the hospital, and her bones felt heavy. She needed to get things done that day, needed to go through paperwork and clean her bedsheets. She needed to do at least two loads of laundry. She needed to clean her kitchen.

Instead she pulled the covers back over her head and went back to sleep.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The room was dark.

Sakura's body was twisted at an uncomfortable angle, and she was pretty sure her whole left leg was asleep. When she wiggled her toes, pins and needles danced across her skin.

She scrambled for a clock. She couldn't remember what time she'd gone to bed, and had that horrible disoriented feeling when she couldn't tell what time of night—or day—it was. Her bedroom window was closed, and her seals were still in place to keep out any unwanted light.

After knocking her clock onto her floor and picking it up, Sakura could see that it was around two in the morning. She swallowed thickly—her mouth was cotton dry and she had a pounding headache.

Her sheets were in disarray, and when Sakura stumbled out into her kitchen—limping, using the wall as a crutch for her still asleep left leg—she drank three glasses of water from the sink before setting the dirty glass on the counter.

She paused there, standing in the darkness of her kitchen. Listening to the cicadas chirping outside. A bead of seat trickled down the small of her back. She listened so hard to the quiet of her home that she started to hear her ears ring.

Closing her eyes, Sakura clenched her teeth and forced herself to focus on her breathing instead.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

On a different morning, Sakura awoke in a panic to the smell of eggs cooking.

She had a kunai in her hand before she was fully awake and was in her kitchen in the next heartbeat. A hand was wrapped around the wrist of the hand she had clenched around the handle of the kunai, which was pressed into the jugular of the man standing in her kitchen.

"Sakura," Kakashi muttered softly. "It's me. Just me."

She blinked. Breathed deeply. Kakashi breathed with her.

If she'd been aware of and conscious of mind enough to think of it, none of her alert seals had flared to life to wake her up. The thing that had awoken her was the smell of food, not a chakra burst in her apartment. And someone like Kakashi—someone she trusted with her life—had long ago been set as an exception to those alert seals. He wouldn't have set any of them off even if he'd shimmied the front door open. She didn't all that much care about when someone like Kakashi came into her apartment—well, except for when he refused to use the completely reasonable front door and instead went for one of her windows.

But she wasn't all that aware of her surroundings or conscious of mind enough to think of any of that quite yet.

"Oh," she said, after a few long minutes. She slowly lowered the kunai from Kakashi's throat. She hadn't left a mark. This time.

"Oh," Kakashi mimicked. "Maa, Sakura-chan. If I'd known this was the kind of greeting I was going to get for making you breakfast, I'd have saved myself the trouble."

Sakura had to make herself blink a few more times before she noticed the spatula in Kakashi's hand—the hand that hadn't been wrapped around Sakura's wrist a moment ago—and the apron that was most certainly not Sakura's that had printed across it in big, bold letters: KISS THE COOK.

She looked behind Kakashi to see the frying pan on her stove and what appeared to be the makings of scrambled eggs. If the color said anything. At least, it smelled like eggs.

She hoped it was eggs.

But she was also pretty sure she hadn't had any eggs in her fridge to begin with, and seriously doubted Kakashi had gone to the trouble of going grocery shopping on her behalf. Kami, the man probably hadn't gone grocery shopping for himself . . . ever.

Sakura eyed the thin layer of skin over Kakashi's throat, right over where she knew the superior vena cava and aorta were, right where she knew where to slice to make someone bleed out in mere seconds. And there was something about knowing how to do something like that, how having done just that—and so, so much more—and not being sorry for any part of it. Sakura wasn't sorry about anything.

But she would be sorry if she cut Kakashi's throat in her kitchen. Just think of the stains.

"Where's your pepper?" Kakashi asked, riffling through her cabinets. A bag of flower tumbled out and Kakashi only barely caught it before it hit the floor. A splotch of white powder dusted his bare feet.

"At your elbow," Sakura mumbled.

Kakashi cranked his head over his left shoulder.

"Other elbow," she said.

His head flew in the other direction. "Ah."

It took another three tries and two broken glasses, a cracked teapot (that had been a gift from her mother, which made Sakura think the accidental elbow shot towards it was not so accidental once Kakashi found out), and her kitchen floor dusted with flower, pepper, salt, and something green and flaky that of which made Sakura a tad suspicious of its origins.

In the end, Sakura and Kakashi sat down at her small kitchen table that was made for two with a slice of bread each and a pile of half-cooked scrambled eggs. She hadn't had the energy to try to help Kakashi cook, and she figured if he felt the need to break into her apartment at six in the morning to cook her breakfast, then he could figure it out. She'd been sitting at the table and nursing a pot of chamomile tea, also via her old sensei.

And it . . . was decent. The eggs were, of course, undercooked. There was too much pepper in them. The bread was sliced lopsidedly (which was surprising, considering all the experience Kakashi had with sharp weapons and matters that included slicing), with an uneven amount of butter and jam spread amongst it.

And Sakura still found herself eating all of it.

Kakashi ate everything on his plate in half the time it took for her to finish. She supposed that was due to his mask issue, but Sakura hadn't been even slightly interested in seeing her old sensei's unmasked face since her pre-teen years. War did tend to sway a woman's interests elsewhere.

It was the first meal she had since she came home. Well, not the first meal she'd had at all, but the first meal where she'd been able to stomach all of it. And wasn't that something?

Kakashi left soon after. He fluffed her bedhead—the bedhead she hadn't brushed through in who knew how long—and told her he'd see her later, flashing her an eye-crinkle. And then he disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Sakura went back to bed.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The next time she woke up, her kitchen was spotless.

There was a plate of half-cooked eggs on her kitchen counter, silverware next to them, napkin neatly folded—

The first mouthful was still warm.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Naruto met her at the hospital and told her Kakashi was outside the village on a mission.

"Sorry, Sakura-chan," he said, ruffling the back of his head. "If I'd known . . ." He trailed off, and Sakura didn't understand why.

"I thought he'd told you," Naruto finished lamely.

She shook her head. "No," she said, fingernails digging into her clipboard. "He didn't tell me anything."

Which wasn't surprising. Kakashi Hatake didn't tell anyone much of anything, least of all her. A few plates of undercooked eggs didn't change that.

"I've got to go," she said. "I have a surgery to get to."

"Right. Of course!" Naruto said. He wasn't wearing his Hokage robe. He'd discovered almost immediately after taking up the position he found it gaudy and uncomfortable. Which Sakura was still having trouble wrapping her head around, since this was still the same boy—man? boy? he was still the same dirty, yellow haired child in her mind—who'd worn an orange jumpsuit for most of his life.

Right before Naruto turned on his heel, right there in the middle of the hospital hallway, where nurses and patients and the whole fucking universe to hear, Sakura bit her lip, hard, before asking, "When is he coming back?"

It was a stupid, idiotic question. The kind little, naïve girls ask. Naruto might not be able to tell her. It could be an S-ranked mission for all she knew, and Kakashi might not come back—

But she was so sick of waiting. Waiting for news of if her teammates were dead or alive, if they were coming back to the village or not, what the next move in the war was going to be, where they were going next, what the next orders were going to be—

Kami, she was so sick of it all.

Better to be told that it was confidential. Better to be told he might not come back. Better to be told he might not come back for ten fucking years from an undercover mission than this kind of endless waiting.

But Naruto just smiled at her—a Naruto kind of smiled, the kind that took up his whole face—and said, "Tomorrow, Sakura-chan." And then, lower: "I knew better than to try to keep him away any longer than that."

If this had been pre-war time, Sakura would have stopped Naruto from leaving after that and demanded to know what the fuck he meant by that shady little comment. She would have bashed his head through the wall for even thinking of trying to pull one over her.

If it had been during the war she would have figured it would have pieced in to whatever new plan they had going on, one that would very likely be changed and reimaged and debated over and over again until the day they all faced down Madara and there were no takebacks, but she still would have needled any information out of Naruto or anyone else she could. She would have listened in on meetings and helped Shikamaru put together strategies and cornered any lesser shinobi and flirted or intimidated any information she could get out of them. She would have tried.

But this was post-war time and Sakura was tired. So she turned on her heel, chin held high—she was head of Konoha's hospital, the shinobi world's greatest medic, having surpassed Lady Tsunade in both healing and strength, war heroine—and she was just so fucking tired.

And there were still shinobi to cut open and put back together.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Two days later Kakashi Hatake was taking up residence on her windowsill.

She was considering revoking his breaking-and-entering privileges. Maybe she should just set some traps specially designed for a certain copy ninja.

"Let's go out for breakfast, Sakura-chan," he drawled, orange book in hand. It bothered her how at ease he could look balancing in her window.

She didn't work that day. Naruto had taken one look at her the day before, and to must have been bad—worse than usual, at least—because he immediately said, "No work tomorrow, Sakura-chan."

And it had been a testament to how tired she really was when she didn't even argue. That, more than anything else, was what she thought might have concerned Naruto the most.

Kakashi hadn't looked for her the day he got back—if he truly had gotten back yesterday. She didn't know if his mission had run late, but Naruto hadn't said anything, though she also hadn't asked. Either way, it didn't concern her. He was probably tired, too.

It was ungodly early. The sun wasn't even fully risen yet. There were a few places that were open at all times of the day and night for shinobi getting back from missions at all times of the day and night and for those with insomnia (for also the same reasons).

Sakura maneuvered the covers just enough for her hand to escape her comforter so she could give him the finger.

"Maa. How impolite."

Said the man who woke her up before the sun was up.

He continued to wheedle her awake with constant musings about what they should have for breakfast, where they should go, what shops served the best eggs . . .

And then, when she stayed put, not a ripple of a sheet to show interest, he started to read out loud from his little orange book.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

When he got to the third chapter, he had to admit the pink haired kunoichi was more stubborn than he thought.

When he got to the fifth chapter, he realized that she was either asleep—

—or she was enjoying it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

They didn't go out for breakfast.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Kakashi read through the first three books of the Icha Icha series. Sakura listened to every chapter. There was a small part of her that was disgusted with the amount of smut, the insta-love . . . really, it was nothing that Sakura would've ever picked out on her own. She would never have even ventured into the aisle those kinds of books were found in. That it was written by Jiraiya just made it worse.

It was made worse by how nonplussed Kakashi was when he got to the smut parts. He read it just like it was like any other chapter. He didn't make it uncomfortable like she thought he might. She was grateful for that, but it was also a tad concerning how at ease he was doing this. Maybe he made it a habit to read his smut out loud.

But most of her didn't care. She was tired and was going to let herself have this, dammit. She enjoyed the books for all their faults, and if Kakashi could read the little orange books out in public and not be ashamed, she could have him read them to her in the ungodly early hours of the morning without letting herself feel like trash.

She got to indulge in this . . . whatever this was. Whatever the hell anyone could call something like this.

Kakashi always tried to wheedle her into letting him take her out to breakfast. She always said no. Or ignored him.

She wasn't working.

Naruto wouldn't let her. He was checking in on her regularly now, sometimes bringing Hinata along with him.

"Your bags have bags under your eyes, Sakura-chan," he'd said the other day.

Pre-war, that would have earned him a punch to the gut or arm. Playfully. Now, she just shrugged.

"I'm sleeping," she said.

And it was true. She was sleeping. Until a certain white-haired copy ninja woke her up. But even then, after he gave up on breakfast and stopped reading her his smutty books, she stayed in bed. (She really needed to wash those sheets.)

The problem, she didn't tell Naruto, was that it just never felt like she was rested.

Cooking sloppy eggs in her kitchen was one thing—going outside at five in the morning to a shop was something else entirely.

Because, no, she didn't want to watch people wake up in the morning to start their day when she wasn't at the hospital with something—someone—to focus on. No, she didn't want to watch the sun rise and see the ramen shop owner across the road kiss his wife and thank Kami they both lived through another war. No, she didn't want to go outside when she didn't have to or wasn't in a rush or when she couldn't just jump across rooftops and tree branches and had to deal with the thankful glances and the wandering hands who wanted to touch the strongest woman in the shinobi world. No, she didn't want to listen to the shop owner tell her and Kakashi the meal was on the house, because they were war veterans, war heroes, and how could anyone let them pay for anything ever again?

How could she explain it to sunshine Naruto—to anyone—that opening her mouth sometimes felt like pulling a piece of herself out and shredding it apart? How it grated on her, how every syllable, how every word, felt like something she had to force. It was like losing something of herself when she opened her mouth.

Sometimes she caught herself unable to finish sentences. Literally unable. She'd start it, get two words out, then have to shrug or pretend to have never said anything at all. It was like the breath was knocked out of her sometimes.

Now, Kakashi closed the fourth installment of the first volume of the Icha Icha series, and sighed wistfully through his facemask. "One of the best of the series," he said.

Sakura, despite herself, thought she might agree.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

The extra traps and seals around her bedroom window were useless.

Kakashi unarmed them like they were nothing. Which was downright insulting. But, to be fair, Sakura hadn't actually been trying to cause Kakashi bodily harm. Firstly, she didn't want to have to heal him. Secondly, she didn't want to get blood in her apartment. And attempting to make traps that didn't inflict bodily harm if used correctly was a tad . . . difficult. And weakly made.

She'd also been tired. (But what else was new?)

He sat on her windowsill and attempted to cajole her out to breakfast. He spoke of eggs over easy and tender ham and crispy bacon and buttered toast with freshly plucked raspberry jam—all of which Sakura ignored. He told her about a new little shop that had opened up on the outskirts of the center of the village, right where Pein's attack had shown the most damage. He spoke of how he met the owner, a young woman—not a shinobi—who'd lost her family and work after the war, and so she'd gathered what remained of her tiny savings and opened up a breakfast shop.

Kakashi told Sakura that the food had been good—not great, just decent enough—but the young woman hadn't bothered to ask him what his role in the war had been or what lay under his facemask, and so he'd gone there at least three times now. And Sakura should come too.

Sakura declined.

But still he talked. In her windowsill. Just sitting there, sometimes leaning against the wooden frame and using the rising sun to light the pages of his books as he read out loud, sometimes pausing in the story to once again prompt Sakura to come outside, the weather was lovely, and didn't she know sleeping in too late was bad for your health?

And still she declined.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

They got through the first two volumes of the Icha Icha series.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Naruto thought the reason she looked tired all the time was because she was having nightmares, but that wasn't true. The reason she looked tired was because she felt like her bones were being held up by strings, just like Sasori of the Red Sand had wanted all those months ago. She felt like her chest was too small to get in a lungful of air, felt like she didn't have the strength to hold it.

When Sakura slept, she slept like the dead. But she never woke up feeling like she'd just gotten ten hours of sleep. She never woke up feeling rested.

Naruto's kind of pain showed itself differently. His was right out in the open for the whole world to see. His was the kind that would smack you in the face to make sure you—and everyone else—noticed it.

Sakura was different. She didn't wake up in the middle of the night screaming from night terrors—at least, not too often—but she did wake up from a nine hour power nap and want nothing more than to go back to sleep. It was a subtle kind of exhaustion that snuck up on her at all times of the day and night, even when it shouldn't have been possible to be so tired.

"What's wrong, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked.

"I don't know," she'd sometimes say.

Other times she might say, "I'm just tired. That's all."

But most of the time, all the energy she had left for conversation amounted to a half-hearted shrug and a smile.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

She hadn't gotten out of bed in two days.

This was ridiculous. Sakura knew this was ridiculous. Why couldn't she just . . . just stop being so fucking tired all the damn time? Why couldn't she just get out of bed already?

She had things to do. She had work. Naruto still wanted those bags to go away under her eyes and wanted her skin to go back to being a human-ish color, but she was still head of the hospital, for Kami's sake. This couldn't keep happening.

She'd woken up right before sunrise, but Kakashi wasn't sitting in her window. She wasn't sure what to make of that. Maybe he finally got tired of her rejections and went home, slept in a little. Would be about damn time he took a hint.

The wooden floors under her bare feet were cold, and Sakura sucked in a deep breath through her teeth.

Okay. She could do this. She could manage today.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

There were warm eggs on the kitchen counter, waiting for her.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

She managed that whole day. And the next.

She didn't see Kakashi for either, but there were always warm eggs waiting in the kitchen for her. It was the only thing she could stomach anymore.

On the third, she didn't get out of bed once again, and that time, she wouldn't get out of bed for another week.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Maa. You're losing weight, Sakura-chan," Kakashi said. "You're getting too skinny. It's unhealthy."

The bedcovers didn't move an inch.

He sighed softly through his mask and readjusted his position on her windowsill, getting comfortable. They were getting to a rather juicy part of the Icha Icha series—one of Kakashi's favorites—yet he'd lost the familiar feeling of excitement for what was about to come. It was rather concerning. Icha Icha had never let him down before.

If this continued—Sakura not getting out of bed and not eating anything besides eggs, not Icha Icha letting him down—people were going to start asking questions. He and Naruto could stave off inquiries about the pink haired medic for only so long. Tsunade was bound to come knocking down doors soon enough, and Naruto had already had to shoo her away with the use of free sake more than once so far. Someone like Sakura Haruno couldn't just fall off the map without cause for concern.

Kakashi had seriously debated on the merits of letting Tsunade find Sakura like this: all curled up in her bed, her apartment still neat, but dusty; her favorite apprentice, all tired and fragile from war. What would she think? What would she say?

Tsunade had lived through her fair share of hardships and war. And Kakashi also knew about her blunt manner in approaching them. He knew she could care for Sakura, even in this state—especially in this state—and yet—

And yet he didn't want to tell her. Not yet. For one, Sakura hadn't given him the okay to let him tell anyone anything about . . . well . . . this. It would be crossing a boundary he wasn't quite sure he wanted to cross.

For another, what would that seem like, for Kakashi to just pass Sakura off to Tsunade like that? Again? Sakura had already gone to Tsunade after he'd all but abandoned her after Naruto and Sasuke left. It would be one more nail in the coffin of the sins of his past.

So he wouldn't tell Tsunade. Not yet, at least.

He looked down at Sakura again. He couldn't actually see her under all those covers, though. He'd discovered she was a burrower. He hadn't known that before.

Though why would he have? The sleeping habits of his past students didn't—shouldn't—concern him.

But most past students didn't fight side-by-side with their previous sensei through the worst shinobi war the world had ever seen. Most past students hadn't saved their previous sensei's life when he sure as hell hadn't deserved it—not an old, scarred man like him. Most past students didn't have the kinds of scars Sakura Haruno did, not the kind gathered when she was still only in her early twenties but had the eyes of an ancient.

Old soul, Kakashi had once heard his father call his mother. She'd been an old soul living in a young body.

Plus, it wasn't like Kakashi hadn't been through his own fair share of hardships and wars, too.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Time to get up, Sakura-chan!" Kakashi sang. "Let's go get breakfast."

No response.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Come on, Sakura-chan. Are you going to let your old sensei starve to death on your windowsill like this? After everything?"

No response.

"Maa."

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

They finished the third volume of the Icha Icha series.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Kakashi told Sakura stories.

At first, they were supposed to be about his childhood, but once he started to include great, gnashing sea monsters and a pixie-like woman coming out of the woods near the Land of Tea when he was thirteen-years-old and offering him a golden acorn if he would kill and gather all the nasty chipmunks in the surrounding area that had eaten through her favorite garden, well, Sakura started to have her doubts.

But she noticed the consistencies. About a little girl named Rin and a goggle-wearing boy named Obito. About a rockfall and chirping birds in the rain. About a storm that would never pass.

She didn't know why he was telling her anything, least of all about his childhood. Sure, she didn't know how much of it was true—what parts were truths buried in lies or half-lies—but what did it matter anyways? Kakashi Hatake wasn't her problem. He wasn't her responsibility.

The thing about Kakashi was that he was a secretive man. He didn't give up his history easily.

There was a reason he wore a facemask, and it wasn't for a sense of fashion.

She didn't know why he was telling her anything—she didn't know why he was sitting on her windowsill almost every morning and trying to get her to come to breakfast and reading her his books or talking to her all. She didn't get it at all.

"Why are you doing this?"

Kakashi paused in the middle of his courageous story involving a harrowing journey across the Land of Rain and an annoying old woman and her stunningly attractive granddaughter and the band of thieves hellbent on killing them all.

Sakura was still burrowed under her covers when she asked the question, and she'd had to clear her throat a few times to make sure he'd heard her. But just in case, she tried again. "Why're you doing this, Kakashi?"

"I'm just telling you a harrowing story, Sakura-chan."

She heaved a sigh. It almost hurt. "Kakashi."

A pause.

"Are you going to come to breakfast with me this morning, Sakura-chan?" he asked softly. He sounded tired, too.

If she had more energy, she might have felt guilty that he was coming to sit on her windowsill very morning to do this with her, or angry that he was perhaps losing sleep to do something like this—something she had never even asked for. Something she'd never expected. Not from Kakashi.

But this wasn't pre-war time and she didn't have the energy to spare for anyone but herself, and so she didn't answer, and that was an answer in itself.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

She asked the same question the next morning.

"Why're you here, Kakashi?"

And maybe it was because he'd had time to think about his answer and was expecting the question once again, this time he said, "Because you're in pain." And there wasn't even an ounce of pity in his voice, which she was grateful for.

She wasn't sure if pain was what this was anymore. She didn't feel like much of anything anymore.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

On a different morning, she asked, "Why are you telling me these stories?"

Because it was one thing for Kakashi Hatake to recognize the pain in her. Maybe he saw kinship with her because of it. But there was enough pain in this village to go around in spades, so she still didn't get it. Why wouldn't he leave her alone?

But to not only see pain in her, but to tell her bits and pieces of his own past, his own pain and guilt . . . well, that was something else entirely. That was like cutting out bits and pieces of your own soul and offering up the scraps like tokens of gold to someone else. It was unthinkable. It was more than painful.

She still wouldn't look at him. It wouldn't matter even if she did pull down her covers and look at him anyways; the sun was almost directly behind him. All she would see would be the dark outline of his figure.

He'd brought a cup of tea with him that morning, and had been slowly sipping on it as the sun rose. She could hear him trace the rim of the ceramic edge of it with his thumbnail.

"It might give you something else to focus on," he said.

Well, she thought, if your childhood stories don't do the job, those smutty books sure will.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

They got through four volumes of the Icha Icha series.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Kakashi was now making her undercooked eggs and burnt toast almost every morning. And after weeks of this cycle of him sitting on her windowsill and her ignoring him, only ever eating the eggs he left her on her kitchen counter, she started to find a plate of eggs left out for her at dinner time, too.

And after a few days, when she found she could stomach all the half-cooked eggs on the plate and the toast, he started to leave a side of fresh strawberries out alongside it.

And then some cinnamon oatmeal.

And then either crispy bacon or tender ham or spicy sausage.

And then, only sometimes, Kakashi would try to get fancy and make her an omelet with cheese and bacon or ham. It was mushy and runny in the middle, but Sakura found herself able to eat all of it.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

They got through five volumes of the Icha Icha series.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Come to breakfast with me, Sakura-chan."

Always wheedling. Always pleading.

Always no response.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

One morning, when Kakashi was dozing off on her windowsill and the sun was almost fully risen over the Leaf Village, Sakura got out of bed.


Author's Note: Hi. Long time no see. If you guys haven't already seen, I've updated my bio page to say I'm on an indefinite hiatus and have been for some time now. Despite this very random story, that had not changed. I don't know when I'll post another story here and, to be quite honest, I might be done with writing fanfiction (at least for a while. Honestly, idk).

I don't know what this story really is, but it was both hard to write and easy to write at the same time. It's not quite as SakuraxKakashi as I'd had in mind, but all I'd known when I first sat down was that a post-war Sakura was depressed and could only stomach the eggs Kakashi was randomly cooking her. I didn't want to have Kakashi do something miraculous or have them fall in sudden love that also very suddenly "cured" Sakura of her depression, because for anything who's suffered from depression in their life, you'll know that there isn't any one miracle cure. There are good days and bad days, and you just have to hope the good days outweigh the bad. Take this story how you may.

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