Likening

Disclaimer: I own Naruto. Not.


The girl had been sent to take care of him, as most youngsters do their aging seniors some time or other in life.

She'd laugh if she'd have heard his thoughts. Tell him it was silly to think that way. He supposed her amusement would be justifiable. He really wasn't all that old. Not by most standards.

He wasn't even thirty.

But thinking didn't necessarily always constitute to feeling, and watching her from his immobilized place atop his narrow bed reminded Kakashi of that. It was always strange, when someone whom you hadn't seen in a long time re-entered your life. The first thing you tended to notice was all the subtle changes that he or she had undergone. Changes you never would have taken to heart if you'd been in constant contact with the person.

Whenever he'd thought of her, it'd always been a child that he'd pictured. It was only now, after seeing her with his own eyes, that full realization had hit him hard. He'd become conscious of the fact that his mental picture had been... quite inaccurate. Nearly three years out of date.

And suddenly, he'd felt old.

Having woken upon sensing another presence in his room, he had recognised the girl's pink locks and soft smile almost immediately. Her hair colour had been blatantly inconsistent with his distinctly male living quarters; but they had added a feminine vibrancy to his otherwise bland surroundings that might have been refreshing, had he not been in too much pain to care.

She'd flounced about her business in his apartment, sorting and cleaning anything that would warrant her attention. Of course, that meant every surface top, floor board and ornamental object that he owned. Perfectionism was something he didn't think she'd ever grow out of.

The entire self-appointed task had taken her all of fifteen minutes. He didn't have much.

She'd even polished his forehead protector. An action to which Kakashi had raised his right brow. It was just about the only physical movement that didn't hurt to perform. She'd stuck her tongue out in retaliation.

He now appraised the gleaming head piece in silence. Holding the miniscule object up above his face was a chore. His muscles screamed their protest beneath multiple layers of white gauze.

The bandages hid a great many injuries, and if he looked hard enough, he could see the dark blood stains that soiled the inner-most layers of fabric.

No matter, she would rewrap them later.

The pain served as a looming reminder of the beating he'd received. Kakashi sighed. He didn't feel old. He felt old and drained.

It wasn't so much the physical strain of his latest mission, but more so the fact that it had shaken him into a certain mind-numbing awareness. One that he now knew he'd been unconsciously pushing aside for the last three years. Perhaps he'd been sporting his laid back outward appearance for so long that laziness had started to act on the more realistic side of his personality.

How long had he been pretending that the boy hadn't changed into something he despised?

Kakashi dropped his arm. The blue and silver of his head band fell along with it. The accessory wasn't so much a forehead protector as it was a means of identification. It proclaimed to the world that what its wearer was. A shinobi. A soldier of Konoha. But unlike most shinobi, his had a secondary function. It hid something deadly; something valuable.

The sharingan was his most prized weapon. It was an unnatural addition to his person that he both loved and despised. It had kept him alive, kept his memories of his friends alive, kept his promises to them alive. It had made him stronger.

Yet, behind all good things would always lurk the bad. The Yang essentially countered the Yin. It was the way the world worked, and his left eye served as a constant reminder to that. It made him remember what he was; what he had been.

And he'd been… just like him.

That windy afternoon, amidst a shower of debris, Kakashi had lifted the navy strip from his eye and tucked it behind his ear.

When sharingan had met sharingan all the world seemed to grow stagnant; insignificant.

Then time had cruelly resumed its rhythm, leaving Kakashi overwhelmed by a sudden rush of deepest self-loathing. Disgust had been the primary cause of his defeat; intensified ten-fold because it was directed towards none but himself.

What right had he to condemn the boy?

He'd grown up just like him, pushed away his friends just like him. Sought only power. Just like him. Was a living, breathing replica of him.

Kakashi frowned and shut his eyes. His right hand fingered the village crest on his forehead protector, as if the familiar act of tracing the rounded curves and pointed tip would provide him some measure of comfort. Behind its newly added shine, the metal plate sported all assortments of scratches and abrasions, each yielding its own small tale about how it came to be. The dark fabric it was attached to was worn and held the fleeting odour of blood.

The accessory had seen better days. It resembled him in that sense.

Kakashi forced himself to stop thinking. He hated being bed-ridden like this. It made him deeply contemplative. If it hadn't hurt so much to do so, Kakashi would've shaken his head to clear it. He had to settle for a calming intake of breath instead.

She cast a curious glance in his direction at that but didn't bother to ask what was wrong. She knew him well enough. He wouldn't have given her a straight answer anyway. That was just the way he was. He didn't like putting thought to words. It was annoying having to work his brain like that.

Kakashi opened his eyes.

There was nothing to do. He would have given both his legs to have been able to read an Icha Icha novel to pass the time. He knew it was impossible, though. Arms that couldn't lift a forehead protector higher than two inches from his head would scarcely be able to hold up a thick wad of paper. And somehow, he didn't think she would consent to reading out loud to him.

A soft huff brought his attention to the other end of the room. He was grateful for the distraction.

It appeared she'd taken to organizing his collection of books, the most worn and well-used of all the items in his apartment. He'd kept them sorted well enough. Orange on one side, all other colours on the other. His collection was ninety percent orange. However, it seemed she preferred them in alphabetical order. A's first and Z's last.

Maybe he wasn't the only one feeling bored.

Of course, the task required her reading of the titles on each cover. Emerald eyes narrowed every so often at some of the questionable wording. Touching what both she and Naruto had deemed immoral and disgusting during their genin days seemed to nauseate the girl, but she'd set herself a goal and was determined to complete the task. She held the paperbacks at a reasonable distance from her person as she shuffled the volumes around. Then, out of sheer curiosity, she chanced a peek into one of his infamous novels but not before first giving him a questioning frown. Her thoughts had been obvious then.

'What's so great about these anyway?'

He merely crinkled his eyes in response and her frown deepened at the show of innocence. She skimmed a random page for the next five minutes…

Kakashi heard more than saw the book being slammed shut after her loud gasp and felt her angry glare burning into him. He knew she was blushing. She muttered a single word before stomping away from the cause of her disgust.

"Pervert."

The orange novel fell to the floor.

Kakashi closed his eyes and smiled slightly beneath his mask. Despite all the time that had passed since that incident had taken place, despite all the chaos of the world outside, despite all the anxiety of the impending war, it was good to know that there were still some consistencies in life. She hadn't changed. Well, not much. She was older, yes. A little taller. A lot more composed.

He hadn't seen her in a while. He hadn't seen any of his former students in a while.

And now, he'd been forced to face two of them within the span of three days. Life was weird like that. Both reunions had been purely circumstantial. Though the first had been… a lot less pleasant than the second.

Kakashi held back a cringe as the gashes on his torso started to burn again. His face remained impassive even as the pain grew in intensity. He called her name softly.

She hadn't needed any more prompting. Perhaps she had changed more than he thought.

Sitting up was difficult and it hurt more than his pride would allow him to admit. Her supporting hand on his back helped. As she knelt at his side, Kakashi could tell that the girl was well-practiced. That much was obvious. Even with her right arm and half her upper body occupied with keeping his heavier frame up, she managed to undo his older bandages, dress his wounds and secure two whole fresh rolls around his chest and back.

She was silent and concentrated the whole time. Another quality that he regretted missing her grow into. She shifted to kneel behind him on the bed and started unwinding the third and final roll of gauze, keeping one supportive hand on his mid-back the entire time.

Her voice hovered somewhere near his nape when she spoke.

"Sensei."

The breath that touched his neck was cool, not at all unwelcome by his feverish skin. The voice that accompanied it was soft, hesitant. Kakashi knew what was coming; he couldn't decide if he'd been dreading this moment or not. He stayed silent; because she would say what she needed to in her own time. Her hand had stopped moving, it hovered at his side, gripping a handful of gauze so tightly that the fabric crinkled and her fist shook. Kakashi knew now why she had moved behind him. The cheerfulness, the smiles, the way she had kept her self busy from the moment she'd arrived; they had been her way of dealing with… it. He could feel the short intakes and expulsions of breath as her mouth opened and closed a few times, trying and failing to voice her thoughts. When she spoke again, Kakashi had to strain his ears to hear her.

"Sensei. Was-was he…"

Alright? Different? Stronger? More heartless?

"I mean… Did he…" Still remember us? Did he remember her?

She couldn't bring herself to finish the question. Her head lowered to allow for her bangs to shield her eyes. Perhaps she couldn't decide if she wanted to know the answer. Perhaps she was ashamed of looking at him, even if he couldn't see her in his position. How could you face an injured man while you showed such obvious concern for his aggressor?

It had been a whispered question. But his years as a high-level shinobi had taught him how to interpret human beings to perfection. Even though he couldn't see her, even though she hadn't had the courage to voice her thoughts, even though he knew she felt guilty for asking, he was certain she was desperate for his answer. For any answer.

She'd needed this since the day the boy had left her young self distraught and tearful to pursue his own dark path; and ever since one of her best friends had been beaten down by that same individual, who had crushed her young hopes. She'd needed this for the three long years she'd kept her fears bottled up deep within as she struggled to become stronger. Kakashi shut his eyes and exhaled.

"He was different. Stronger."

The hand on his back stiffened. She was unaware of her nails digging into his skin, and Kakashi didn't protest the searing throb of his wounds. He felt the need to bring her some semblance of relief.

"But somehow, he was still… Sasuke."

Power-hungry, ruthless, cold, calculating Sasuke. A genius. And a murderer. Just like the man he sought to defeat.

Fighting his former student had hurt more than he was willing to admit. The guilt had caused hesitation. He'd been vulnerable; he had lowered his guard and suffered defeat, and Sasuke had let him live; a petty token to the man who had guided him on his first steps to power.

Irony had struck during the final minutes of the fight.

Hatake Kakashi, downed by his own technique. The one he'd passed on to the boy with the purpose of protecting his comrades. He hadn't been able to help the small, cynical smirk that graced his face as he'd plummeted to the ground in his last moment of consciousness.

His lips threatened to break into a sardonic smile once again as she continued wrapping the white strips of fabric around his torso.

There had been no finality in his answer. No closure. And yet he couldn't bring himself to offer her more. He supposed it had sufficed. The girl finished with her task, and sat back on her heels. She kept both hands planted firmly, side by side on his upper back. Her gaze dropped lower to the area that her right hand had previously been. Her nervous grip on it earlier had opened up some of his wounds.

The dark crimson stain she had caused to appear painted a morbid and unsightly picture. It must have hurt. She frowned because he hadn't said anything.

A gentle hand dropped to smooth itself over the area, wanting to undo the damage it had caused. The action was comforting and her eyes, though fixated on the movement of her hand, became distant, reminiscent.

For a while, they stayed like that. Him sitting, unmoving; unable to support himself without the borrowed strength from her presence behind him. And her, lost in quiet thoughts and distant memories, running her fingers lightly, distractedly, over the same spot on his back.

He felt her drop her forehead onto his shoulder. The weight of it there was not uncomfortable. He noticed that her hand had stopped its repetitive motion to rest lightly over his skin. Her next words were softly whispered, pained and sincere.

"I'm sorry, sensei."

The statement could have meant a good many things; things that she needn't have voiced for him to understand. She was apologizing for what she'd done to him. She was showing her sympathy for what he'd been through. She was voicing her guilt for still caring about the one who had made him like this.

"Aa."

And he, too, needn't have said more. The silence that followed was comfortable.


He woke to the sound of creaking hinges. When had he fallen asleep?

It took some time for his mind to clear itself of the haze of slumber. Even then, his mismatched eyes found it a struggle to adjust themselves; more so the sharingan because it had always been used to the veil of darkness. Like his throat, they were parched, and it was difficult to open them fully. The low evening sun glaring through the window at just the right angle to be blinding did not help matters.

As if she'd felt his silent plight, she shut the door behind her and walked over. The situation of his bed in front of the room's lone window saw her leaning over him to reach its curtains. Her slight, hovering form provided a partial blockade from brilliant orange rays. The shadow she cast over his face was momentary. It disappeared when navy blue drapes slid into place between them and the glass pane.

He would have thanked her, had his voice not been lacking. He couldn't remember the last time he'd had something to drink.

Once again, the girl hadn't needed to be told. She was sharp, that one. He guessed he had never given her enough credit for that.

Sitting up was easier this time. She had used her healing jutsu on him while he slept. He was grateful when she made no move to support him this time. Merely lifted him into a sitting position and held the cup out for his hand to grasp. She knew how he hated being babied.

He nearly frowned when he found his grip still weak. Her exit into the bathroom left him free to pull down his mask and take his first sip. He managed to down the whole cup without spilling too much of its contents onto himself.

She teased him a little while mopping the liquid off the floor later, to which he responded with mock offence. The minute he started feeling drowsy again, she pushed him back onto the mattress and he playfully accused her of drugging his water. She rolled her eyes and told him that it was for his own good.

It was odd. Having her mother him, her senior and former mentor. Irony seemed to come in bulk where his ex-students were concerned. The last thing he saw before he lost the battle with sleep was the girl leaning over his body to perform the hand signals that initiated her healing jutsu.

"Good night, sensei."


His eyes creaked open when he felt an unfamiliar warmth radiating from somewhere to his left. He grew alarmed.

It took a second longer than usual for his hazy mind to realise that he was in familiar territory. His room was dark and there was something pressed to his side.

The girl's hair had been painted a deep blue by the lack of light in the apartment. She lay curled up beside him, a few inches shy of the edge of the bed. Kakashi tried to think back to what might have caused this unusual occurrence. It wasn't every day that he found a former student in his bed.

He frowned. That hadn't sounded right.

The ache in his muscles had lessened to a dull throb. That was it. She'd drained her chakra reserves performing her healing jutsu and had collapsed from exhaustion. The girl had absolutely no sense of self preservation. For someone so mentally gifted, she could be rather silly. His female ex-student was one big bundle of inconsistencies. Loud one moment, nervous the next; selfish to a certain degree yet unconditionally sacrificing when she deemed necessary. She hadn't changed, and still she had. It didn't really make sense to him.

She was gripping the sleeve of his shirt tightly with both hands. The fabric had become scrunched and crumpled. He tugged at his arm and her hold tightened. He tugged some more and she frowned, curling her body up tighter. Kakashi gave up and sighed.

The effects of the drug, though lessened, had still to completely wear off. He doubted he'd be able to make it to his couch without collapsing halfway and possibly reopening his wounds. She'd be angry if that happened.

The mattress wasn't used to having anyone but himself occupy its surface and making more room for her was hard.

He pulled her small frame closer instead.

She didn't wake until noon the next day and got over her initial embarrassment about being in his bed in order to throw a fit when she found him not lying beside her, but perched on his living room couch. His eyes were focused on his Icha Icha novel as she jumped up and raved at him about how he had risked re-opening his wounds from moving too much.

Seeing her attempt at reading his prized books the day before had made him crave a peek too. He had initially pulled himself out of bed for just that; a peek, but had found himself engrossed after five minutes of skimming. Forcing his tired legs to support himself had been a huge challenge. He was glad that she hadn't been awake to see his ungraceful stumble across the short distance to his book shelf.

"Sensei!"

He glanced over the top of the page at her in mock innocence. She stood over his sitting form, arms crossed in a gesture of annoyance. She thought he hadn't been listening to her. He sighed in defeat when she snatched the orange paperback from his hands and he forced his body into a standing position. It must have made an amusing sight. Even with his frame hunched from his injuries, the top of the girl's head didn't even reach his nose, but she had planted her hands on her hips and was glaring at him from her lower disposition with such ferociousness that he had to crinkle his eyes in amusement. They stayed like that for a moment, neither wanting to lose the silent battle of wills.

When she dropped her gaze after a while and sighed, he was mildly disappointed. He would have expected her to stand her ground for longer than that. She must have still been tired.

Small hands reached for the hem of his dark shirt and lifted the material slowly to reveal the wrappings on his abdomen. She gave a soft sigh of relief when she found the bandages unblemished and in position, not noticing how her bold action had caused her teacher's eyebrow to raise slightly.

He was reminded again of how much she'd matured.

It was then, standing before her huffy form, that he had the strangest of thoughts. He chanced that maybe, just maybe, his role as sensei, as a shinobi even, had not entirely been a failure; that there were still things in this world that he could have prided him self in. Good things.

For three years, he'd been so focused on his flaws, so intent on correcting his mistakes, that he had neglected to notice that not everything that had come out of his past had been entirely bad.

That it had taken a severe beating from a fifteen year old prodigy and the care of his former team mate after that to show him this, made Kakashi suddenly guilty. For all the time he'd been away, for not staying to watch her grow. He acknowledged also that he'd been selfish. For so long, he'd deemed her misguided teammate his responsibility and had obsessed himself with retrieving him. Yet he'd failed to see that she had once been his responsibility too.

The girl, satisfied that her ex-teacher had not caused himself any damage, raised her eyes to his face. She tilted her head in question. He hadn't realized he'd been staring.

"Sensei?"

It was just a word.

Still, he'd taken for granted the fact that she still thought of him as her teacher after all this time. He'd simply over-looked the childish admiration she still had for him, despite the fact that he hadn't tried to be as much of a role model to her as he had her team mates. He smiled slightly behind his mask. He took a lot of things for granted.

"It's nothing."

She narrowed her eyes in suspicion. He crinkled his in innocence. They left it at that.

When he next took her medicine and started falling into the realms of sleep, he felt the mattress beside him sink down once more. The girl curled up into the exact same position she had the night before.

He was right, she had still been tired.


She became cross at him again in the evening of two days later.

It had been storming and he'd thought she would be out late, catching up on her training with Tsunade-sama. So, as it was, he had gone against her "doctor's orders" thinking that she wouldn't find out. However, on his two hundredth and eighty-second one-armed push up, she'd burst through the door of his apartment frazzled and distraught. Her clothes were soaked and her hair matted. Her puffy eyes and red nose told him that she'd been crying and he paused in mid-push up to narrow his eyes at the state she was in.

She paused in the doorway, staring, as he got slowly to his feet. For a second, her wide eyes and shivering frame had made her seem small and vulnerable.

But the initial shock morphed quickly into anger.

"Sensei!"

Her raised voice echoed through the small room as she stomped up to his sheepish form, whatever had been bothering her before, momentarily forgotten. He felt the uncharacteristic inclination to back off as her slight form drew closer to his. The state of her clothes and hair made her look all the more formidable. But Kakashi, being Kakashi, stood his ground. Even as she stormed right up to his face and started yelling.

"What the hell did you think you were doing, sensei!"

He gave a sheepish smile and scratched a guilty hand to the back of his head, hoping to lighten the mood. Dealing with females had never been a forte of his. He'd never liked it, and had never made an effort to try. Perhaps that was why his next words seemed to only make her more upset.

"Now, now Sakura-chan, I'm a big boy. I can take care of myself."

His light-heartedness was lost on her.

"Sensei no baka!"

At that moment a bolt of lightning flashed somewhere in the distance and for a fraction of a second, the darkness of his room was banished. But in that short time, Kakashi had noticed something inexplicably wrong about the girl. She had been breathing too hard, reacting entirely too violently to him. When he'd disregarded her advice on previous occasions, she'd merely huffed in exasperation and reprimanded him lightly. Now, she seemed intent on screaming his apartment down. What concerned him most had been her eyes, wild with pain and anger; too much of it to have simply been caused by any action of his.

His smile disappeared and his eyes narrowed. What on earth had happened?

She didn't give him a chance to ask.

"What is with you people!"

He raised a brow in question. Which people?

"Sakura. What happened?"

She seemed not to hear him. So focused on her own aggravations she was.

"Always pushing your selves so hard! Always doing stupid things to become stronger! I'm sick of it! You could have hurt yourself, you idiot!"

Her voice had risen to a very high pitch and Kakashi held back a cringe as it assaulted his ears. It didn't look like the girl would be getting to the point any time soon. She seemed content to rave about nothing. Kakashi sighed and placed a firm hand on her shoulder.

"Sakura-chan-"

She slapped it away with such force that his eyes widened a fraction. The girl had never been violent. Not to him. She jabbed an accusing finger into his chest, not caring that the wounds in that area had yet to completely heal.

"No! Don't you do that!"

Do what?

"Don't you talk to me like I'm some stupid little girl that doesn't understand anything!"

Kakashi raised an eyebrow at that. He decided then, that if he was to get a straight answer out of her, he had to make her lower her guard. And do so by making her angrier. By making her direct all of her rage at him. By making her do it until she grew tired from yelling and would be forced to calm down. Maybe then he could talk some rational sense into her. This was the reason Kakashi kept silent as the girl continued to rave.

"You are the stupid ones! You're all the same! You, Naruto, Sasuke-kun. Always out to prove something! Always out to be the best!"

Her fists were clenched so hard that they shook. Her eyes looked like they'd never be open again from how tightly she had shut them. Her voice lowered a little.

"You don't care that people around you get hurt because of it, as long as you can become stronger than everyone else!"

He might have been getting somewhere, and then again he might not have. It was hard to tell. Had Naruto done something to irritate her again? Unlikely. She didn't seem so much irritated as opposed to irate. He was scarily close to becoming nervous, but just as he thought that it was safe for him to speak, she started up again.

"I don't understand you! What's so great about becoming strong anyway! This whole war was started because some fucked up bastard wanted to be more powerful than everyone else!"

Kakashi frowned at her uncharacteristic swearing. Her next words were harsh. Accusing.

"If this world wasn't so full of power-hungry assholes like you, we'd all be living so much better!"

She was being childish and hypocritical. Who did she think she was talking to? Hadn't she herself, once so long ago, declared that she wanted to be strong as well? She had sought power too. It was the reason she had trained so hard all this time. Perfecting her chakra control, enhancing her medical abilities. She had no right to accuse him or the boys of being power-crazed.

If she was going to be cruel like this, he decided that he'd return the favour.

"We gain strength to survive, Sakura. We gain strength to make ourselves useful to others. You of all people should know that."

His words were harsh. It implied that there'd been a time he had acknowledged her weakness, her lack of usefulness to the team. The calmness of his voice only served to rile her up more. She lunged forward to grip his shirt then, enunciating each word with a tug, as if trying to shake what she deemed as sense into him.

"Tell that to Orochimaru! Tell that to Sasuke-kun! Tell that to Naruto!"

Kakashi was glad his shirt was a loose one. With how tightly she'd grasped it, she would have come close to strangling him if it'd been anything but.

"Tell that to all the bastards that made themselves so much stronger than everybody else! At the expense of everybody else! Tell that to YOURSELF! You stupid hypocritical-"

"Sakura!"

It was then that he decided he'd had enough, that she was getting out of control. He reached his hands up to pry her fists from his shirt. She was shocked by his sudden burst of authority and her hold gave way easily enough. He held her fists tightly within his grasp.

"Let go, Kakashi-sensei!"

His grip had strengthened reasonably due to her regular jutsu sessions with him. She didn't stop struggling even as his deep voice permeated the silence.

"Sakura, listen to yourself. You're hysterical."

She had yet to work off her anger. The girl tried without success to pull her smaller hands from his.

"I have every right to be, Kakashi-sensei!"

Even in her distraught state, she never failed to acknowledge him as her teacher.

"You're reckless and stupid!"

Somehow Kakashi had the feeling that this was no longer about him straining his body unnecessarily before it healed. Perhaps it had never been about him at all. Kakashi raised an eyebrow when she tried to kick him. Her voice hadn't lowered.

"You have no sense of self-preservation!"

Kakashi smiled at that.

"Stop laughing at me you idiot!"

She pulled and tugged, but Kakashi wouldn't let her win. His goal had been to tire her out and he planned to stick to it. When she tried to bite his hands off her, his quicker reflexes saw him easily yanking his knuckles clear. The girl had spunk, he'd give her that. His injured arms, having already been given a work out, started to tire sooner than he was comfortable with.

The chair beside his bed, the one she usually occupied, was a welcome solution to his plight. The girl found herself being dragged over and forced into it. Kakashi kept both hands locked onto her upper arms. His standing position gave his weakened limbs the leverage they needed to hold the girl down without exhausting themselves.

"Sensei no baka!"

She was breathing faster now. It was only a matter of time. He lowered his head, shut his eyes, and waited. He kept her there until her struggles died down; until they eventually disappeared altogether. He looked up when he sensed her calm.

Her tears flowed freely now. And her words held no more bite to them.

"Kakashi-sensei no baka…"

She choked on that last syllable, and Kakashi was reminded again how much he abhorred dealing with women, emotional as they were. This girl was no exception, and he still had yet to discover the cause of her hysteria. It would have been ethical to comfort her, but he didn't. He didn't know how. After all, he seemed to be the unknowing cause of her breakdown, clueless as he was as to how he'd done it.

He opted for silence.

Releasing her arms, he straightened himself and turned around. Not wanting to let her see how drained she'd made him. He was sure at least one of his wounds had re-opened. At least she wouldn't be able to pin that one on him. The silence that followed felt awkward to Kakashi, though it was eventually her that chose to break it. She'd composed herself by then, and her voice was nothing more than a whisper.

"I went there today."

He didn't turn around.

"I saw…"

He heard a slight hitch in breath.

"I saw all the people he hurt." All the people he killed.

He closed his eyes to hold down a cringe. He understood now. Her anger. The reason she had run through the rain crying to his apartment.

"They said…"

He looked over his shoulder. Her knuckles had turned white from how tightly she was gripping the arms of the chair.

"They said he did it to test his strength."

Just like his brother; exactly like his brother.

Kakashi sat down on the bed, his head lowered and hands clasped between his knees. Silvery bangs hid his eyes from her.

"You got in his way."

Her voice was less muffled then. It probably meant she'd turned to face him.

"And you wouldn't back down." Even though you knew you wouldn't be able to fight him whole-heartedly.

She sounded angry.

"He nearly killed you." Nearly killed his sensei.

Perhaps she too had come to the conclusion that the boy was scarcely redeemable.

"And now…"

Her breath hitched again and she breathed deep to compose herself.

"And now Naruto's gone off to face him."

Kakashi chose that moment to raise his eyes to hers. The girl looked lifeless now. Her eyes had lost their brilliance. She looked away quickly.

"Baka."

He didn't know if she'd been talking about him or Naruto.

The pitter-patter of rain outside slowed, and he suddenly remembered that she was still soaked. The shirt he tossed at her looked exactly like the one he was sporting. His wardrobe was bland, much like the rest of his home, and he doubted she'd fit his trousers.

She didn't sleep with him that night.


His shinobi work resumed sooner than expected.

She'd stopped coming to his place, her duties had ended after all. Still he found himself thinking about her words of that night. He supposed he now acknowledged why she'd been so angry at him for risking himself. In her own peculiar way, he knew she'd been showing her concern. He was reluctant to admit that she probably cared more than anyone else in the entire village. She and Naruto.

For the longest time, Kakashi had categorised the girl as uncomplicated; happy and carefree. He'd thought Naruto and Sasuke to be the problem-children. He might have been wrong. The girl had had her own share of demons to deal with. Watching the people close to her drift further and further away had to have hurt more than anyone could have imagined. Even still, she had stuck to her fervent hopes and beliefs for all this time. Something like that took strength.

Yet it was undeniable. Visiting the village that Sasuke had massacred, it might have broken some integral part of her. It troubled him deeply, and he hated being helpless to stop it.

He recalled when she'd exited his apartment that night, the blandness of her face then. It had been the most alarming factor. It stuck in the forefront of his memory even after weeks had passed.

Not angry, not sad. Just... impassive.

Perhaps it was his negative mentality that had him most surprised when she appeared in his apartment that wet Friday night.

He woke upon sensing another presence at his side and knew it was her instantly. Somewhere in the back of his head, he realised that he should have been alarmed that he hadn't sensed her come in. But he supposed his instincts simply had gotten used to her. They didn't deem her a threat.

"Sensei."

She whispered and propped herself up onto her elbows. He hadn't bothered to open his eyes.

"I need to try something."

That had had him curious.

"Am I to be your guinea pig?"

He could almost see her slight smile.

"I guess. Is that alright?"

How could he refuse?

"I guess."

He felt her shift then, felt her lean over him. Her left arm came to rest on his other side.

Should he have been surprised when he felt the girl's lips come in contact with his? Perhaps. He didn't know. Should he have been troubled?

He hadn't been.

Maybe it was the thin fabric that separated them. It prevented things from getting too personal, from becoming too unethical.

She let her lips linger where they were for the longest time. He felt the warmth of her breath through the cloth of his mask and when she lifted herself off him a few minutes later, he let the hand on her lower back drop down to his side again. He couldn't remember when it had moved into that position.

She returned to her curled up place at his side. Kakashi didn't know why the girl liked to sleep in that position so much, but he hadn't missed the enlightened smile that spread across her face before she buried it into his sleeve. Maybe some day, he'd pull himself out of his lazy little world to ask what she'd meant by that. But for now…

The last thing he heard before he drifted into his first peaceful sleep in weeks, was the girl's soft voice, sleepy in its own right, to him.

"Good night, sensei."

And of course, Kakashi being Kakashi, would not read very much at all into the events that took place on that wet Friday night.


He made another realization after that.

Perhaps… he hadn't been the only one to have likened Uchiha Sasuke to himself.

End