Thanks go out to my betas questofdreams, karit and cinnamongrrl. They helped a lot in making this chapter fit for public consumption.


x Serendipity x

Chapter 3: Magnet

Kakashi was not in a good mood.

He had left Kagome to sulk over his lack of morals and gone for a stroll through the city, as much to clear his head of any residual memories of that disgusting shopping trip as to get the lay of the place and possibly do something to further his mission.

So, after a jaunty wave good-bye to Kagome, he had jumped out of the window only to discover, mid-flight, that something was seriously wrong with his body. It wouldn't turn in the air the way he wanted it to, certainly not with the effortless ease he was accustomed to, and he had nearly broken his leg on landing.

In retrospect he was terribly grateful that Kagome, used to youkai, had not rushed to the window to see him clutch at his ankle before he hobbled away, cursing under his breath.

He'd been more careful from there on, taking to the streets at a controlled pace that allowed him to test the limits of his suddenly alien body. He had noticed quickly that he was fit enough, with none of the aches and pains he was used to feeling from his various scars. But his hearing was dulled, reduced to a fraction of what his memory insisted it should be, and his sense of smell felt equally stunted; formerly sharp scents seemed to run together, becoming muddled and indistinct.

Kakashi had not been able to pick up the specific trail of his quarry but his intuition, which still seemed to work in erratic bursts, had led him down to Ginza, where he had bought porn magazines and got assaulted by a group of bosozoku.

He beat them up.

Well, sort of. Back home, he would have been ashamed to even talk about it. Here, he felt strangely grateful to have made it out with no more than a few bruises. After all, there had been sixteen of them and it had taken him nearly ten minutes to leave them all unconscious and bleeding instead of the customary few seconds.

Now, three hours later, Kakashi sat in the shrine garden with his aching back propped against a tree, leafing disinterestedly through one of the magazines he'd acquired. He did not raise his head as he heard Kagome approach.

Undaunted, Kagome crouched down in front of him and peeked at his face.

"What happened to you? Your lip is bleeding!"

"Fight," he replied, turning the page on which two nubile young women by the names of Kyoko and Machiko were doing interesting and acrobatic things to each other.

Beneath the shadow of her bangs, Kagome paled. "You were mugged?"

"I am wearing pink. With netting," he said, secretly pleased when Kagome flushed guiltily. "And I do not know the city. It's not that much of a stretch."

Kagome fought a quick battle with her conscience, which she lost. "M'sorry," she finally muttered, feeling like a five year old. "But you shouldn't have gone out by yourself then," she added, and since she could not look him in the eyes she looked down instead, where Kyoko and Machiko lay sprawled across a two-page spread, beautifully captured in the midst of limber debauchery.

The ensuing blush that spread across her already rosy face was not from shame.

"What are you reading?" she demanded, wishing she could feel righteously wrathful instead of strangely hot.

In the meantime Inner Kagome, the one who'd been fond of ogling Inuyasha's muscles back when she used to be a repressed but hormonal fourteen, cheered. Omgomg he likes women!

Inner Kagome had never had the best vocabulary. It was Kagome who did the talking, and she was much more erudite when it came to inserting her foot in her mouth by way of the kidneys.

"This is a holy place, you know," she said, and immediately wished she hadn't.

Kakashi shrugged, turning another page. He registered with approval that Kyoko and Machiko had obviously been provided a room with sufficient heating, then glanced at Kagome to see if she approved as well. After all, 'this is a holy place' could just as easily be translated as 'I'm having dirty thoughts when I really shouldn't, seeing as this is a holy place and all, and I'm sure Mama can smell porn at ninety paces even when she's not actually at home, and what are you doing, oh my god I'm really hot'.

And indeed, Kagome was still staring at the magazine and blushing prettily while she tried to look accusing instead of faintly turned on. She really was very cute, he thought, surprised—doubly so when embarrassed.

She'd caught him watching her too, but instead of fleeing she bent down even lower, looking up with a helpless expression. "It's porn," she insisted faintly, but it was plain that her heart was not in it.

Well.

It seemed he had found a fellow pervert, and she was flushed and pretty and smelled good, and she was also leaning toward him so far she was about to fall, trying to see better. Kakashi approved of that, too.

He smiled at her. "Erotic literature," he corrected, turning the page.

Kagome pouted and bent forward even further, the better to condemn the lewdness. "That would require text," she said. She sounded slightly breathless.

Kakashi's finger moved over the page until it reached a minuscule caption. "Indeed," he concurred equably. "It's right here, although I do agree that the script is rather small. 'Oh, it's still so warm in here, Machiko-san, exclaims Kyoko, running a slender finger down her throat. Do you feel it too?' And there's some more on the next page—"

"I'm sorry," said Kagome, forcibly trying to jolt her frontal lobe into functioning again. "I don't know how I missed that. It's positively poetic. I must have been distracted by the overabundance of mammaries." Which, at least in Kyoko's case, were annoyingly plentiful.

Kakashi's lips curved, catlike. "That's too many complicated words for my poor brain to process, Kagome-san. Regardless, I had no idea your tastes ran that way. I find it . . . intriguing, to say the least." He patted the grass next to him. "Please, have a seat. You are likely to fall over if you lean forward any further."

She scowled at him. "They don't," she grunted but she sat, staring fixedly ahead at the main house and wishing he would catch on fire for being such a lecherous reprobate.

Kakashi did not accomodate her. He leaned back instead, propping the magazine against one upraised knee exactly at the right angle for her to see out of the corner of her eye that Machiko was fond of garters with rosebuds on them but not all that fond of underwear.

Kagome closed her eyes, counted to ten (which never helped, but rather wound her up further), and decided it was past time to start behaving like an adult again. That way, at least one of them would.

On the other hand, if one was a man the interest in nude women—and garters—was as adult as it got. And he had been in a fight, which meant he was probably in pain but too manly to admit it. Even Kagome knew that the promise of sex was as good as two aspirin for taking a man's mind off unpleasant things. It had definitely worked with Miroku and it might have worked with Inuyasha if he hadn't been so unnaturally repressed and always so tightly wound he seemed one step away from explosion.

It startled her to realize that she missed Miroku more than she did Inuyasha.

Idly, she wondered what the houshi would think of her now. The answer was not pretty. He would probably take one look at her sad, crazy, petty adult self and stick her full of ofudas in the attempt to exorcise whatever demon had taken over her body during his absence.

Kagome had read somewhere that the human body renewed itself every seven years – well, except for nerves, which would explain why hers were so overworked and quite frankly unstable. And of course, adulthood had done a number on her brain too. It had aged it, for one. For all she knew her brain could have shrivelled to a pea and was now being taken over by an extraterrestrial intelligence bent on conquering the planet.

"Invasion of the body snatchers," she muttered miserably. Which was as good an explanation as any for sudden insanity.

"Pardon?" said Kakashi, eyes still on his copulational pamphlet, and Kagome shook her head, staring at the grass.

No man, not even a strange ninja from another dimension, would want a girl whose body was inhabited by depressed aliens. Which was a pity, because looking at him made her spine tingle and her toes curl.

Kagome gave a little dejected sniff. "It's nothing," she said.

Kakashi shrugged and read on. Kagome hugged her knees to her chin, feeling fourteen again – all ups and downs, only without the ups because her body was older now and her hormones only knew how to go down and further down. She'd liked the numbness better, the endless grey days of poring over textbooks and cutting into the dead bodies of people she didn't know.

But that was before he'd barged in through her window, smelling of forest and youkai and making her sick with longing—and, obviously, mad cow disease as well.

Had that really just happened yesterday?

Their first awkward encounter seemed so far away already.

Not that there hadn't been plenty of awkward later, especially once she had stuck him in flashy spandex, but it had grown so quickly into a familiar kind of awkward. And now he was reading porn on her family's shrine grounds, under the Goshinboku which she both loved and hated because of all the memories it brought, and it made her want to strip him naked and roll with him across the grass.

It was so sudden. It was a monumental step forward after she had been standing still for so long. It seemed like she had waited forever for something to happen, for the well to open and set her in motion. But now that it had, moving forward felt like balancing blindfolded on the edge of a cliff.

And, just a little, she wondered what falling would feel like.

"I'm behaving like a lunatic," she said, realizing it was the truth. She was surprised to feel a measure of glee at the thought, foreign and sharp.

She leaned into Kakashi and grinned up at him. All of a sudden she was feeling liberated and had no idea why.

"You must think I'm insane," she told him happily.

Kakashi loped an insouciant arm around her shoulders. The opportunity to touch a live female was just too good to pass up, even if she was still dressed. "I can't say it hasn't occured to me once or twice," he said easily.

"You know," she whispered, looking up at him, "I think you broke me. I was quite functional before you got here. Well," she amended, "Mostly functional. And then you came through the window and brought the crazy right along with you. I think It's because of how you smell," she added, stretching a little to catch a whiff of deep forest on the skin of his throat. "It's like a drug."

A breeze ruffled her hair, whipping the strands across his pink-clad chest and Kakashi let go of his magazine to brush them behind her ear. The wind caught the glossy pages, slapping them against each other.

"You've lost your place," Kagome remarked.

Kakashi ignored her. "A good drug or a bad drug?" he asked.

Kagome thought that the wind smelled like spring, and the grass was a fresh, young green. And then she thought about the past three years and couldn't remember a single thing, apart from a vague suspicion that they had included lab coats and books and dead people, one of which was her. Only now she was strangely alive again, because he'd woken her up when she hadn't even known she slept.

"Good," she said. And then, more firmly, "Good."

Kakashi did not say anything. But he thought that the crazy girl was starting to make a curious kind of sense, and the thought made him feel uneasy.

He squeezed her shoulder anyway. He was quite sure he was apologizing for something although he didn't really know what; quite possibly life in general.

Kagome had never thought that existential doubt could mix so well with plain, old-fashioned lust, but there it was.

And the worst of it was that all of a sudden, inexplicably, she wanted him to like her. "I'm usually not like this," she said. "My friends—" The word tasted strange and hollow, so she licked her lips and tried again, "My friends actually think I'm too well-adjusted. But I—" here she frowned a little and cocked her head like she was trying to make sense of a particularly complicated puzzle, "I actually think I was dead and nobody noticed."

They sat for a while in companionable silence.

Kagome had relaxed into him and Kakashi was becoming more and more aware of the warm weight of her nestled against his side.

"Well," he said slowly, realizing that he knew quite well what being dead felt like. "It happens."

Suddenly, a large part of his own life made a horrible sort of sense. It was like he'd watched his life through a lens all along and someone had come and skewed it, and the crooked view was actually the correct one. It told him that nearly every decision he had taken so far was the wrong one, starting with the conclusions he'd drawn from his father's disgrace up to the first moments he'd spent over a grave of his own doing.

He'd thought that the grave was Obito's, when in fact it had been his own all along.

It really was stupidly, horribly simple now that he thought about it, really thought about the whole of it instead of that tiny time loop of missed opportunities and death. He had never really liked Obito, but he had not hated him enough either, so when Obito had died he'd fallen prey to an amorphous, insidious guilt. It had made him realize he liked Hatake Kakashi even less than he'd liked the loudmouthed Uchiha, so he'd buried him along with Obito's body and started being late and reading porn where everyone could see — Obito's habits in Kakashi's body while Kakashi with his rules and arrogant brilliance had since lain under six feet of earth in a cold sleep.

Only now, horrifyingly, Obito was gone and Kakashi was back with no idea how to be himself, apart perhaps from reading porn he did not like all that much because it wasn't real, and killing people, which he currently wasn't very good at either.

Next to him Kagome gave a sigh and squirmed, pressing her breast into his side.

"It's not easy to be alive," she said, breathing deeply of the clean air. "But right now, it's all right."

Kakashi nodded, trying to ignore everywhere they touched and thinking that perhaps he remembered something about being himself after all. Himself at sixteen, at any rate.

Shifting, he picked up the discarded magazine and rolled it up neatly, shoving it into the back pocket of his fashionable pants.

"Mhm," he said.

With a little smile, Kagome leaned her head against his shoulder and fell asleep with the instant ease of interns everywhere.

Looking at her face in the gold-speckled shadow of the great tree, Kakashi realized that he liked crazy girls and wondered what, if anything, he should do about it.

Eventually he decided to be unprofessional and let the quivering flecks of sunlight lull him to sleep, nose down in Kagome's strawberry-scented hair.