Kakashi isn't surprised to find Sakura on his doorstep, bedraggled and sodden like a tiny, pink kitten. As always, he asks no questions, mutely opening the door wider so she can walk in, clothes dripping puddles of rain and old tears onto the cold floor. It's routine now because Sakura doesn't want to sleep alone anymore.
Sakura doesn't want to sleep alone anymore, but at least Kakashi knows why. Given any hint of an offer, that empty space in her bed would be filled. Twice. But Sakura slept alone, too scared to make a choice, too loving not to. So one night, a few scant weeks ago, when resolve broke and will crumbled, the tired young woman turned up at her door and he didn't have the heart to turn her away.
It's routine by now. She knows her way around the small apartment and she heads straight for the battered couch in the main room, feet slippery on the floor once she's taken off her shoes halfway between the door and her destination. Kakashi knows his place in this little ritual dance, so after he's closed the door, he makes his way to the little kitchen.
She doesn't cry anymore, not in front of him. Bone-dry eyes in a rain soaked face. She just sits there, knees tight, throat closed, face hidden behind straggly roseate while he calmly makes the tea he knows she needs. It's the whistle of the kettle that breaks the silence of the night, not why's and who's and what's. Kakashi knows not to ask and Sakura rarely offers. Things get complicated when names are put to problems and emotions are blamed on two people.
It's better to be silent.
A steaming mug in each hand, the copy-nin sits down beside her, pressing the tea into clenched hands. Mechanically, following his casual example, she sips at the scalding liquid, ignoring the burn and bite as it slides down. She wishes it were something stronger, but her teacher has always steadfastly refused to give her any. Unlike her, he's the same by night as he is by day. Even if the cracks show when the sun goes down, she at least makes an effort to shine by day.
She's too forthright, too emotionally blunt to be a good actor, but most people take her smile at face value. She smiles and she laughs, training as hard as ever, harder in fact. But people watch and people whisper. They've noticed that her happiness falters when Sasuke's around. It's been pointed out that no one's seen her greet Naruto with violent affection recently. Everyone seems to realise that it's Ino she seeks out in her free time, or Hinata, or Tenten. The trio Konaha gained, then lost, then gained again is curiously missing and people want to know why – why even Naruto is more subdued, his raucous bragging having sunk down into wistful silence and why Sasuke is that much darker, that much more reclusive.
People guess, but no one's had the courage to actually ask them yet. Not that Sakura would answer. If she won't even talk about it to Naruto or Sasuke, the nosier members of the Leaf aren't going to get anything out of her.
Kakashi sips at his own tea, his mask skewed and pushed down. There would have been a time when Sakura would have been excited to see the clean curves of his chin, the shape of his mouth, but such emotion had been fleeting, drowned in familiarity and silent grief. Her eyes are focused blankly on a point in front of her while he examines her covertly with his single eye on view. Sakura seems softer tonight, more forlorn – normally, she's a wooden statue, the jagged shards of her heart poking out through her skin. Tonight, she seems more vulnerable, like the child she is.
Sakura rolls the hot liquid in her mouth before swallowing it. The mug feels too heavy in her hands, as if her wrists were brittle twigs that border on snapping. She feels like she'll snap. She's been stretched out too far, too long and she wonders if she'll ever break or if she'll just fade away into nothing.
In reality, the girl's torn between two people and it hurts. Kakashi sees this more than ever tonight and maybe that's why, in a fit of something that may be called compassion, he reaches out to her. He'd been there earlier that day when the three had come back from a B-ranked mission tired, but unscathed. He'd been there to see Naruto (seemingly casually, but probably very deliberately) sling an arm around Sakura's waist. For a moment, time seemed to freeze, the air growing chill. It was obvious from the set of her chin and the sudden waterfall of pink hair hiding her face that she'd tensed up, but she wasn't the only one.
Sasuke looks murderous. Not just irritated with the blonde idiot, but actually murderous and Kakashi's sure he even caught a flash of angry Sharingan before the Uchia turned away abruptly and Sakura made some vague excuse so that she could move away from Naruto's touch. Tension had made the air crackle and even the stoic Kakashi had felt worry niggle at him.
But it was seeing his proud little kunoichi reduced to this limp doll that broke him. Seeing the sadness tracing creases around her eyes and mouth, the way that, right now, her lips quiver as a sob hovers behind the blank mask…doubts are cast to the realms of neverland as he, very calmly, pulls her into his arms.
She's thin, he realises with a start, her hips and shoulders harsh angles against his own lean form, made all the more ill-fitting by the surprise he feels radiating from her. Still, it ebbs away finally, etching at her defences. Kakashi holds her, fingers tracing the nubs of her spine until they quiver, then shake with the sobs she muffles into the curve of his neck. Unkempt hair tickles his nose, but he ignores it, concentrating all his attention on the patterns he paints of her back, trying to soothe her.
With a few last hiccoughs, she pulls herself fiercely under control, fingers curling into the soft skin at the back of his neck. Her body turns pliant with emotional exhaustion, moulding to his in a gesture that seems too much like defeat.
"Naruto?" he asks, voice husky in the silence.
"Wants a memory," Sakura says, her own tone thick and muffled. Kakashi understands – Naruto's image of Sakura is solid and vibrant, an image a few years too old and painted in a child's poster paints.
Kakashi pauses, breath wafting past her ear. "Sasuke?"
Her laugh is hollow, brittle. "He'd just be happy with love from anyone." Sasuke is as broken as she is, focusing his affections on her as a way to forget, to escape. "Except maybe Ino."
That surprises a chuckle from the copy-nin – it's true what people say about crying, that it cleanses. This is the most animated he's seen her after sundown for a long time, but he sobers up quickly. A wandering hand pauses on the hard line between her shoulder blades, tracing the wings they form. Angel wings.
He receives a potent pause. "I want them to be happy," she says. If she'd been looking at him straight, he had a feeling that she'd have avoided his gaze.
"You're being evasive."
"And you're being pushy."
"Sorry." He smiles and she smiles since they both know he doesn't mean it. Outside, the pitter patter of the rain dies down, leaving a faint echo of whistling wind to serenade them both. "So?"
Sakura sighs, trying gently to distangle herself from the man who used to be her teacher and is now…a mentor? A friend? A colleague? "I want to sleep," she tells him and instinct tells him that's all he'll get out of her, so it's with a theatrical sigh that he takes her to his room and tucks her in with a brief press of a palm to her forehead before crawling in beside her. She's still damp, but the smell is fresh instead of depressing and sheets are made so they can be washed. Even in sleep, she gravitates towards him and they always wake up, limbs entangled and hair mingling. They don't mention it, but Sakura doesn't seem to mind and seems that much more cheerful for it.
Kakashi's too much of a gentleman to comment.
Sakura doesn't sleep alone anymore and neither does Kakashi. They're not very talkative about what goes on behind closed doors, but it's also common knowledge that Sasuke and Naruto have good reason for growling every time they see the jounin smirk at them from behind his mask.