Chapter 23 : Light in the Dark
Days and weeks passed slowly into months, as Sakura watched her girth increase over time. The impending birth was exciting, in a small way, but did not seem to diminish the fact that her child would grow up fatherless.
The yellow sunlight fought against the back of the heavy blinds that shrouded her world from the outside. The softness of the pillow and his presence around the room, in every corner, every item, comforted her…almost.
The dust floated in the streams of sunlight, making its way under those dark coverings on the windows, but she didn't care.
Tears silently slipped from her eyes to drop onto the pillow and she squeezed on the blanket wrapped tightly around her, his blanket, his home; the home they might have shared if fate had been more kind.
She could smell him in the clothes, feel his warmth in the old shirts that she wore, which had been left in his closet, soft from years of wear, and comfortable with familiarity. If only his arms could hold her again.
Rolling over onto her back, the discomfort of her growing stomach had made her need to get up and move for a moment. Trudging slowly, she stopped at the shelf over the small fireplace and stared at the pictures: team seven, Kakashi and his father, his old team, and that picture from that perfect day….
A knock at the door made her jump slightly.
"Come back later."
But the words were half-hearted and sounded so soft from her lips. She lay back down, devoid of all energy and tugged the blankets, which smelled of him, over her soft hair. The click of the lock, and creak of the door hinges told her that her visitor had ignored her request.
He approached the bed slowly and sat down beside her body curled under the dark blankets. "Sakura," he whispered, "wake up."
She didn't move.
Tugging gently, he pulled the blanket from over her head revealing a tangled mess of pink hair and deep circles under closed eyes.
"Come on, get up." She could hear the smile in his voice as he got up off the bed. A second later she could hear the shower running before he returned beside her.
"Naruto, please leave," she whispered, "let me have this, I need to be like this."
"Sorry, Sakura, it's time to get going. I was told to get you out in the sun and no offense but you smell."
He reached over and brushed the hair away from her face, "Come on, just for a little while. Come take a walk with me."
Her eyes finally opened to see him let up the blinds, allowing the invading light to cast its warmth on the items she had coveted and hidden to herself. Now they were exposed and she'd have to look at it all for what it was.
Naruto moved in front of her and she looked up to see a strange grin on his face. He was looking at her stomach. She looked down also and put her hands on it; how strange that she hadn't realized how big she was getting.
"You look amazing," he smiled. "Come on, get cleaned up." He pulled her to stand and led her to the bathroom, pushing a plush dark towel into her hands and shutting the door behind her.
It took half an hour for Sakura to shower; the heat of the water and the encompassing memories overwhelmed her. She stood and cried amid the temperate droplets, ignoring her well-meaning guest outside.
If Naruto was impatient, he never mentioned it. His soft smile was there when she emerged, draped in Kakashi's long maroon colored bathrobe.
"Hinata sent over this dress." He held up a light yellow garment. "It should fit."
Strolling along the streets, they met up with a number of people Sakura knew, all curious about the baby. Hinata's maternity dress did fit, although Sakura felt it was a little too big in the chest area. No one seemed to ask about marriage, or a father for the child, so she assumed that everyone had been informed in some way or another.
She laughed at how little being a scandal or taboo subject bothered her. Naruto laughed too. He was so pleased to see her finding a little normalcy outside of her apartment cave.
"Where are we going?" she asked as she admired the cherry trees in bloom.
"I thought we'd go to the memorial together, if you want." Naruto watched her timidly. He knew she hadn't been there since they honored Kakashi, and he supposed it was reasonable to assume why.
The sky had been overcast and dark, but all of Konoha had turned up for it. Sakura stood quietly, respectfully, through the whole thing and he was in awe of her personal strength that day. But when they returned to her apartment, she fell apart. Genma and Ino had come to help, but there was no consoling her.
Now, on this sunny afternoon, Sakura's feet stopped at the mention of it. "I'm sorry, Naruto. I don't want to."
"I think it might be…therapeutic. You should come and tell Kakashi about his child."
Sakura took a deep breath, and sighed. "You have to let me do this in my own time. Pick any other destination and we'll go."
Naruto regarded her calm look, thankful for the moment that he had not set her to tears. Nodding slowly, he looked at the blue, cloudless sky above. "How about my place? Sasuke has been wanting to show his Auntie Sakura his kaiten spin."
"That sounds perfect." Sakura managed a relieved smile.
The day was enjoyable, more than she expected it to be when she woke up this morning. Despite her hollow emptiness, she was coming out of her shell slowly. At the end of everything, Kakashi had given her something precious. Those last moments, when he said he wished he had given her something to live for in return, it hurt her to know he had, without his knowledge.
Sakura slowly ran her hands down the front of the yellow cotton dress and tilted her head, admiring the soft pattern of the pretty frock. It wasn't bad. When she had left the Hyuuga main house earlier in the day, Hinata had forced a large bag full of maternity clothes on her. The bag still sat by the door where Naruto had dropped it after heaving it through most of Konoha. By that time, the sun was waning.
Now even the open blinds yielded no light. Night had fallen upon the Fire Country, and a soft patter of misty rain blanketed the streets with a delicate calming effect.
Sakura closed her eyes, and let the images come.
Kakashi stood there, ANBU gear crisp against the dark night. His mask was up, giving him that mystery that she had known for so long before he finally revealed himself to her in the most unlikely of moments. Never would she forget the day he had walked into the medical tent and changed her life forever.
But nights like these were not entirely just for Kakashi, although her body, her mind, and her soul missed him more than she could ever articulate. Even though it had been over four years since he held her, she could never entirely banish her husband from her mind. She never wanted to.
On these rainy nights, Sasuke would climb into her reverie, walking softly and saying those whispered words of young love to her. That would never change, but now he would accompany Kakashi along rain-drenched paths in her memories.
My life is a tragedy, she sighed inwardly.
But that was wrong. She knew it as soon as she thought it. Sasuke's life had been a tragedy, as had Kakashi's, but the way they had touched hers had made hers better. How many women would ever have such passionate, encompassing love twice in their lives?
After a cup of green tea and a quick change into a long white nightgown Hinata had graciously given her, Sakura lay down on the soft bed.
She left the blinds open so that she could watch the rain streaming on the windows, illuminated in long, winding patterns by the streetlamp outside. The sound was so soothing, and she had to admit, enticing.
How long she had lay there, she couldn't say. An hour? Maybe two?
The rain continued to call her out. The desire became so strong that she moved to her doorway, and felt the first drops on her face. It was refreshing, and for the first time in a long time, made her happy.
Taking care not to be seen, she rushed slowly through the streets like a pale ghost with delicate roseate locks hanging against the stark garment. Mud splashed a little on the bottom of her nightgown, but it wouldn't be until the morning that she noticed. Avoiding overhangs, and street awnings, Sakura let her body enjoy the cool drops that made the fabric stick to her skin.
Finally, as she stepped into the grassy clearing surrounded by trees, nestled near a small stream, she sighed. She stared at the memorial, which was illuminated by the dim floodlights above. To her surprise, another person sat there, letting the rain drench him as well.
Genma bowed his head, looking lost and tired. He didn't lift it until he sensed the presence of someone standing beside him.
At first glance, he thought she was a ghost, but as his gaze traveled up to her hair, he understood.
"Sakura," he whispered to her figure beside him, her eyes locked on the carved marble stone reflecting among the watery beads. "You shouldn't be out here."
"Why are you here, Genma?" she asked in a very emotionless voice.
Genma turned his face back to the memorial, the words hesitating for a second.
"I come here every day," he replied softly.
"I haven't come since the service," she said with a tinge of guilt. "I've avoided it, actually."
"It's alright, Sakura. It's understandable."
"He gave his life for me, and I can't even come here to mourn for him," she said in that same emotionless tone.
"You're here now," Genma added quietly.
Sakura looked down at him for a moment, and then moving slowly, stepped in between his bent legs and sat, leaning against him. "I'm glad you're here. I thought I wanted to be alone right now, but I don't."
Genma's arms hung over his knees, creating a small cocoon around her body as she let her head fall back on his shoulder. The sake on his breath didn't seem to bother her, so he made no pretences about his state of sobriety, or non-sobriety, as it were.
They sat for a long time in silence, keeping vigil over the stone that held so many names. The sound of the rain hitting the stream and tree leaves made her feel sleepy, so she sat up a little. Her eyes scanned the carved name of Uchiha Sasuke, and then rested on Hatake Kakashi.
For so long, he had led such a hard life, she thought. So many had died around him, people he loved and cared for. Now he was there, among them, and although it made her sad, she understood that it was what was meant to be. He always thought he cheated death, and the guilt would tear at him. But in the end, he was there to save her. In the end, he loved her like she needed, and she loved him like he deserved.
She thought back to the talk she and Genma had before they came home. I don't believe in fate, Genma had said.
I believe, Sakura thought now with certainty, and it made her smile.
Seven years had passed in a blink of an eye, and Sakura found herself sitting in front of the memorial again. This time, she was smiling as she spoke to Sasuke and Kakashi tenderly, knowing that somewhere they could hear her.
She found herself there often, discovering the fond memories became clearer when she sat in that soft grassy area, reading the names that were precious to her.
It was strange how things had worked out for her after that night at the memorial. In a few months, she gave birth to a healthy son, and because he deserved nothing less, she named him Hatake Kakashi. His dark eyes were so familiar and for the first day, she could do nothing but hold him and kiss his silver eyebrow tenderly.
Genma had become a surrogate father, although Sakura wondered at times what he was actually teaching her son. The day Kakashi came home with a senbon between his lips, Sakura couldn't stop the eye roll, or the laugh that followed.
Her next trip to the memorial, she told Kakashi all about it. Now, her young six-year old son wanted to take the chuunin exam. The thought tore at her chest knowing that he could full well follow in his father's footsteps. At least Genma could be serious about that sort of thing when they discussed it.
Genma was still a free spirit, but at some quiet serious times when he would stay for a drink after they put Kakashi to bed, he would give her that look. He'd hint at how much being a family together with her and Kakashi would make him happy, but Sakura couldn't tell if he was sincere. There was no hurry for things like that. So far, her renewed life in Konoha was fulfilling. Maybe some lonely night, she would think to herself, I might give in to his warm advances.
Naruto had become Hokage, as was expected. Konoha was led into peace and had enjoyed it for many years after the war. The death of Hatake Kakashi and so many other Konoha ninja that day sparked the biggest assault Konoha had led on another country. Tsunade had found she was at the end of her patience, and would have no more enemies thinking they could walk all over the Fire Country. Sakura would be surprised if anyone ever dared lift a finger in their direction after that.
Hyuuga Neji was still running around on ANBU missions, and finding his life of excitement perfect for the good of Konoha. Anko also remained in ANBU, but they rarely heard about her anymore. Neji returned from time to time to see his young niece and nephew, and to visit with his favorite medic, but he would be gone as quickly as he came.
Shan married Kiba, and they had a child of their own. Genma seemed happy for them, but Sakura knew that somewhere underneath he would always wonder if he made the right choices throughout his days at the border.
For now, he was content to be a father to Kakashi and a good friend to Sakura, even though more was on his mind sometimes.
"Mom?" Kakashi called out from near the stream where he had been sparring with Genma. He jogged over, wearing the same black and white shirt and mask that his father had worn as a young jounin. They had found it in a trunk and she couldn't deny the young boy a chance to have something of his father's.
"Genma said if I beat him, he'll treat us to lunch," he said happily.
Sakura smiled widely at him, "He always treats, Kakashi."
"It's just an excuse to spar," Kakashi laughed.
"Come sit with me for a minute," she asked patiently.
Rolling his eyes in mock embarrassment, he took a place next to her on the grass, facing the memorial but leaning on her shoulder a little.
"Don't you get tired of coming here?" he asked calmly. It was a question he'd asked many times, and she had her regular answer prepared.
"Never. Don't you get tired of wearing that mask?" She tried not to laugh.
"Hm, sometimes," he considered.
"Take it off today, and let me fix this for you." She reached over and rubbed her fingers through his hair, making it messier than the fairly neat way he liked to keep it. "That's better."
Young Kakashi groaned and tried to flatten it down again. He sat quietly for a moment, then looked sideways at her. "Can I ask you something?"
"Of course," Sakura answered.
"Why didn't you name me Uchiha Kakashi? Why are you Uchiha, and I'm Hatake?" he scanned the names on the memorial.
Sakura sighed. "Well, you are your father's son, and like him, you should bear his name. You look so much like him, Kakashi. And also, it's because I love you so much that I'd never burden you with such a heavy name. Uchiha will die with me."
Kakashi's eyes went to his sandals as he picked at a stray thread on his pants. "Heavy name?"
"For as long as I knew Uchiha Sasuke, nothing but hardship befell that family. I wouldn't want to use the word cursed, but everyone that the name Uchiha touched had tragedy woven into their lives. I would never give that to you."
Kakashi seemed to think on it for a moment, but pursued it no further. Instead he looked over at Genma who was grinning with a senbon bouncing between his teeth.
"Come on, Hatake. I haven't got all day!" Genma yelled.
Kakashi got up and trotted over happily, after quickly kissing his mother's cheek.
Sakura couldn't help but smile. Genma got his best friend back, the name Hatake would continue to grace Konoha, and she had something to live for.
Standing up and moving to the shiny marble stone, Sakura placed her hands on the two names carved smoothly into the stone. Her fingers ran over them as usual, while she smiled in contentment.
"When I see you again, my hair will be gray, and my face will have lines from a lifetime of laughter."
A/N: Another one finally finished. First I have to thank my three beta readers who contributed greatly to this story in all different ways. Thank you wicked innuendo, dragonflyelj and roark28. This story is so much better because of you.
This story was born from a long 4-hour drive home from work on a rainy night listening to Matt Good. If you have heard the song Fated, you'll see where I get Kakashi's state of mind from. It was hard for me to kill him. I'd been dreading it. He's my favorite character and so it was more difficult than writing anything else. I'm glad that, even though it was not the happy ending I usually like to write, you all gave me such great feedback and made me feel better for doing it. My next story will just be fun, I think. Mindless, ninja fun!
I will be rereading Tempest in the next few days, so for anyone reading it, I promise, no more Kakasaku until Tempest is complete.
My livejournal link is on my profile, so if you had any questions you wanted to ask me, click there and ask away, or you can email me as well. I'll answer you within a few hours.
For the people who did such beautiful artwork for this story, I thank you as well. It inspired me so much and your talent amazes me.
Lastly, for everyone who reviewed over the course of this story, my deepest appreciation for your support. It was dark, and not very lighthearted at all, so thank you for sticking with it.
Love Leafy. XO