To Broken Men

"So how old are you?" Sakura asked, a tiny cup of sake perfectly poised on the point of her finger.

"Old enough." Kakashi said, and took the cup off her.

"Hey!" She protested half-heartedly. But she knew that it was to no avail: Kakashi was incredibly stingy with his booze.

The heat of the day slowly curled away, leaving the three shinobi slightly sticky and content to sit and drink. It was Kakashi's birthday, and somehow Sakura had found out, and demanded they celebrate. At his apartment, of course. Catered by him. And, no doubt, with him left to clean up the mess once they went home.

"You know Kakashi-sensei's probably about a hundred years old." Naruto snorted from the corner opposite them. "That's the only way he'd think his hairstyle is cool."

Sakura grinned at Naruto, an evil chuckle escaping her. Kakashi's gaze flickered from one to the other, and reflected that they could almost have been twins. Sakura had obviously been spending too much time with the mischief-loving loud-mouth - he was infectious.

"But then what kind of music would old men listen to?" Sakura asked, with just enough ingenuousness to make it sound almost entirely unplanned.

"We'd better check, hadn't we?" Naruto said, stealthily producing a CD from one of his many pockets.

And that was how, ten minutes later, Kakashi was being pulled to his feet by a far too enthused Sakura and Naruto.

"This is a terrible song." He dead-panned, but stood anyway.

"Come on Kakashi-sensei, live a little!" Naruto groaned, and snatched some sake off the table. With him under Jiraya and Sakura under Tsunade, they had learnt that a little sake made life a lot easier to live.

Kakashi had a philosophy on life. Life, he believed, was something to be lightly supped upon, and cautiously drained. Drink too deep from the cup of experience, and you'll end up drowned. Become too full on its bread, and you'll choke.

It was a good philosophy. It had led him through the heartbreak of aging, the isolation of living longer than his friends, and comforted him when he remembered he had spent his entire life fighting in pointless wars.

But it appeared his two remaining students weren't buying it. Sasuke had understood it – but there Kakashi stopped himself. Sasuke was a thought to be put away until next year, when they would seek him out and either save him, or destroy him.

Tonight, however, was about him. And it appeared that these two were more than happy to make it a celebration. Naruto threw the bottle of sake to Sakura, and although Kakashi could have plucked it out of the air he let them have their way. He would just make them buy him some more tomorrow.

"Come on Kakashi-sensei, it's a song! You have to dance." Sakura insisted, tipping the bottle of sake into her mouth, tiny drops of poison glistening on her pretty red lips. Her tongue darted out and caught them, dragging them back to her tastebuds, before smiling graciously at her teacher/leader. "Otherwise it's not a party, is it?"

The music thudded into his head, pumping his heart and squeezing his mind. The lingering heat made the world seem slightly hazy, as Naruto twirled Sakura into his reluctant arms.

"Just a short dance." The two evil ones promised, eyes a-glinting.

He felt Sakura undulate underneath his deliberately loose hold, and reflected that she shouldn't know how to move like that. She tilted her head back in a slow, lazy movement that would have suited him to perform, her hands lightly cupping his hips. She twisted, pressing her back against him, buttocks grinding lightly into his too-responsive groin.

"Sakura," Kakashi nearly groaned, catching her shoulders and turning her once more, so that they danced face to face.

"Kaka-sensei?" She twinkled, all innocence, her face too close to his, her chest pressed too hard against his own.

"Hey, no fair Sakura-chan, you promised you'd –"

"Naruto, shut up." Sakura smiled, another low sway disturbing Kakashi. "This is a birthday party, and you promised me we'd dance. Now come on... dance."

And Naruto slid up behind Sakura, pressing against her back, his own arms overlaying hers and pressing against Kakashi. His blue eyes flashed red for a split second, before meeting Kakashi's, a distinct challenge lighting them.

Kakashi wondered when exactly Sakura and Naruto were comfortable in such an intimate position. Each movement matched the other, as complicated and controlled as any technique. Naruto's chin hooked Sakura's shoulder, cheek against cheek, blue and green meeting his grey, asking him, daring him to give in to their youth, their utter infatuation with living. To accept, surrender, submit.

Maybe his luck had changed. Maybe this time they wouldn't die. Maybe for once he could take, and hold.

Naruto's claws dug past the fabric of his shirt, bringing to surface tiny droplets of blood, whilst a wonderful warm wet sensation told him Sakura's lips were working their way down his collarbone.

Yes, perhaps this time... perhaps Naruto and Sakura would be different. Perhaps one broken man could find solace amongst the bruised futures, and finally drink deep.

So when Sakura gently peeled down his mask he didn't flinch, and when Naruto lightly licked the scar across his eye he let him. And when Naruto swore and got his fingers trapped in the back of Sakura's bra and Sakura started telling Naruto that he was the biggest moron to ever walk the earth he felt something deep and powerful well up in his chest, before bursting out laughing.

"Naruto, I'm going to have to lend you some of my novels," he said as he deftly extracted Naruto's fingers and salvaged what was left of Sakura's bra.

"We've already read them." Sakura smirked, turning and planting a provocative kiss on Kakashi's shoulder.

"You two obviously didn't study them properly then."

"Perhaps you would like to demonstrate for us then, sensei?"

And they tackled him, and tickled him, and each other, and giggled out of their clothing and he knew that this time, this time it would have a happy ending.

For as long as he lived, there would be three things Kakashi would never forget. The touch of Sakura's breath. The scent of Naruto's screams. And finally, after so many years, the taste of life.