Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or related characters in any way. Chakra information is paraphrased from wikipedia.

How the Other Half Lives

---

She says things that he doesn't really listen to in her calm yet earnest doctor voice, but he catches things like "guinea pig" and "blocked chakra flow" and "just a hunch but" and "chakra vessels" and "possible side effects" but the only thing he really needs to hear is the part where she says "the worst that would happen is you just wouldn't get any better."

He tells her to just do whatever the hell she wants to his body, and while he leaves off the "everyone else does," it hangs in the air above their heads and he's certain she can hear it. Certain she can see it in the way he leans back and assumes the position, arms at his sides, all anatomically correct. She looks at him with very green eyes and very pink hair and she doesn't tell him to "just relax" for which he's unreasonably grateful.

She slides one hand underneath his shirt to rest at the bowl of his chest and the other over his navel, and his lean to the point of looking slightly emaciated stomach muscles give a little jerk because her hands are actually kind of cold. She murmurs a "sorry," but it's mumbled and her eyes are closed and she's already a world away.

---

One particular tryst who had a way with words that Hayate always liked had once said he reminded them of the wind rustling through dead rushes. He never asked if he was the wind or the rushes to them, just accepted what was given - metaphors, arms, body heat, and a moment's peace. Palms against his shoulders. Feet against his calves.

He wonders what it must be like to be the giver and not the receiver, the healer and not the resigned patient. It's been years since he's had to wonder if he has cold hands.

---

Another person's chakra seeping through his body is always an unfortunately intimate experience. While it almost always falls into comfortably midland categories – cool or warm depending on personality and purpose, gentle or firm, personable or stoic – it's never felt like anything but a violation. Trifling, yes, necessary, yes, but it feels like being open-mouth kissed by someone he's never met, and not in the fun, sake-soaked kind of way. But hers seeps through his cracks and his permafrost and his topsoil like thick water and it feels…"seduce" is probably the wrong word, but that's what it feels like she's doing, cajoling and teasing his body into doing what she wants.

For the first time in…for the first time he feels explored rather than invaded. Like he's a cavern and not a cliff face.

---

She goes on about chakras for a while. About lotuses with first sixteen and then twelve petals, that are azure and then green.

She says she thinks the problem is somewhere between his throat and his heart. He could've told her that.

---

The third chakra is blue and lies in the throat. It deals with speech and self expression, life and air, if you believe in that kind of thing.

That's only the first place to start looking because of the obvious, but he knows the coughs really come from deep in a hollow-feeling part of his chest that shakes him to the ground some nights, not caring whether there's anyone there to catch him on this particular occasion.

---

The heart chakra is green.

Mysticism holds that it deals with love and healing and devotion, and he wonders why they don't just call it the Hopeful Young Doctor Chakra. He's seen enough to know the obnoxious look that one only gets from a blind love of humanity.

But his serious-eyed, pink-haired physician says things about the immune system control center and fighting off disease. Something about foreign invaders and all he can think about are Sand Nin.

---

She pauses after a moment, then pulls her one hand out from his shirt and places it over his throat gently, but he still feels a bit like she's about to throttle him with her tiny, manicured fingers.

She leans forward, eyes still closed in concentration, pale blue chakra still massaging his veins, and some of her hair touches his chest and he can feel it as clearly as her cold hands through his shirt.

---

He doesn't know what it is exactly she's trying to do, but he sure as hell knows when she succeeds at it.

It feels like something has just been cut loose, a dam breaking, blood flowing back to a numb limb. He gasps in air to his lungs like he's been underwater for years and years and years and his entire body is arching off the bed. Distantly he can feel a bump and then someone saying "Fuck, my nose" but then he's trying to breathe through the ragged coughs wracking his entire body like there's an animal in his torso in its death throes and he's half falling off the bed and then there are hands and muffled voices and then nothing but quiet.

---

Ever since he first started coughing, since he first felt "unwell" (there's a euphemism for you), there's always been an underlying expectation from those around him – teachers, comrades, lovers, friends, employers – that he will be and should be grateful for anything given. He never says no because he has to take what he can get, or so it seems, anyway.

He has to take any job because there aren't that many that he can do anymore. He's actually still perfectly capable, can still kill a man in three strides, but he's still the sick one and he still gets paperwork and he still cleans his katana every night that he's alone. He still practices the death dances by heart in the moonlight that spills onto his floor, and sometimes someone will watch from the bed and look at him with sad eyes.

---

He feels like he's died the first time he sleeps through the night. He wakes up to bright light and he doesn't feel rested so much as acutely aware of how deep in sleep debt he is, and there's a seriously surreal moment when a disembodied voice makes him sure that someone's gonna be pissed with him for being agnostic all these years.

---

He's never been wanting for lovers, but there's always that hesitation before they kiss him on the mouth, like they're afraid he's catching. No matter how often or how recently he explains the definition of "disorder" versus "disease" there's always that second of doubt, or the averted kiss that ends up on his neck or collarbone, and he still feels the sting, the misdirected resentment and frustration.

But their mouths always find his eventually because he's very good with his and because they stare death in the face every day and because he's supposed to be desperate and he could be dying for all anyone knows. The only certainty of trysts with shinobi is the knowledge that the warm living body next to you is not guaranteed, that by this time tomorrow it could be cold and lifeless or you could be or both.

So even though he should be hard up, he's not. Hayate just doesn't feel like he's in any position to be judging one person more worthy than another, given the circumstances.

---

It takes a minute for him to realize why his throat hurts. His soft coughs and their soft grating at his throat have been so omnipresent to his senses that they've become a kind of physical white noise that he's long since been tuning out. But he hasn't coughed in two days (and four hours, twenty-six minutes, and probably thirty some odd seconds) and his body is faced with the very real possibility of having time to heal before the next onslaught of hacking it doesn't know isn't coming. His brain is just now tuning back in to how everything hurts like bitch.

---

He spends the better part of a week sleeping, and more often than not the pink medic is there when he opens his sore eyes. He's able to think pretty honestly after so much rest, and he sees a certain desperation, a need in her gaze that speaks to him.

There are dark circles gathered under her jade green eyes that make him feel a certain kinship with Haruno-san. She always asks him how he feels in that warm voice that doesn't match her eyes, and she always appears just a little lighter when he says "Better."

It's not until he sees her with another patient for the first time, one of the long term-ers, with that same quiet hunger in her eyes, that he realizes why she hangs around. They're damaged, these members of the Hospital Regulars Club, and she needs something to fix.

Hayate wonders what it must be like, to need to save as desperately as they need saving.

---

It's another two days before he realizes that Haruno-san sleeps at the hospital. He wakes up some time after midnight, mostly out of habit, and goes wandering down the halls and looking at other patients sleeping, to hear them breath and watch their chests rise and fall. That's when he glances in a small corner room to see her still in her boots and sleeping the wrong way on a hospital bed, feet resting on the pillow.

He figures maybe it was just a late shift or something, but she's there again the next night when he goes roaming and he wonders what's waiting for her at home that she's hiding from.

But he already knows the answer, knows from the way she looks each time she asks him how he feels: nothing. Absolutely nothing.

---

"Massage therapy is a widely recognized form of supplementary medicine," Haruno-san informs him in that tone of voice that says this is not only For His Information, but also For His Own Good. That he'll thank her for this later, so he should stop looking at her like that.

Hayate has no qualms about getting back rubs from pretty girls or from doctors or from a combination of the two. He has no qualms about back rubs in general, but it's rare that her Promising Young Medic-Nin mask slips, and the face it reveals for a moment is barely twenty and flushed with mild, if poorly concealed, frustration and embarrassment. It's tired, with short patience and pursed lips and he casts his hooks into it for as long as he can.

Preferring to let his skeptical arched eyebrow speak for him, Hayate pulls off his shirt with unhurried, jerky movements that make his shoulders ache in protest and pretends not to notice her frustrated sigh and averted gaze.

Her fingers are ice cold and callused, but they warm with the faintest hints of chakra as they slowly move in wider and wider circles between his shoulder blades, along his spine, over his shoulders, down the long muscles on his sides and to the small of his back that aches and aches and never eases and a low animal sound makes its way out of his mouth. Her fingers don't pause or hesitate, but press harder, the heels of her palms putting a low, creaking pressure on his vertebrae, her knuckles digging in to knotted and strained muscles that are heavy with resentment and undue burdens.

She keeps her hands on either side of his spine, exerting a steady, constant pressure, using all of her weight but none of her actual strength (because she would break him into tiny, tiny pieces, probably). Hayate just makes the connection between the pink hair and the rough hands and that crumbled little body at the Chuunin exams however many years ago when something pop!s in his back and he can't think of anything at all.

---

When her fingers finally fade away he can't move, won't ever move ever ever again, and he can still feel callused fingertips ghost along his skin like phantom limbs.

When he's asleep minutes later, he dreams of blue lotuses and muddy water and wakes up feeling ill at ease, with something akin to anger or frustration, but it's muted and smothered and half-formed. He lies awake the rest of the night, staring at a blue-white wall and knowing she is ten rooms and a right turn away on sterile sheets and ugly blankets, just the same as him.

---

He catches her (cold) fingers in his own when she goes to check his vital signs.

"Cold," he mumbles and the mask slips again, just for a second, and she fidgets and moves her free hand around, unable to find a discreet way to warm it, and tries to blow on it self-consciously.

He holds her captured hand for a long moment, willing his warmth – or what he thinks is warmth, hopes is warmth – into it, before setting it back against his pulse point to let her continue.

They don't speak again for the rest of the day, but it's a heavy kind of silence that is warm in its own way, and it settles on Hayate like a blanket, long after she has pretended to go home.

---

She comes in wearing gloves, and doesn't look at him when she peels them off. Two of her fingers are caught momentarily and she mutters a word he is vaguely surprised she knows under her breath, tugging them loose.

She turns to face him, her distantly pleasant expression as impenetrable as an ANBU mask and he responds to her questions about his health monosyllabically, disinterested (and fine, so he's childish, he doesn't care). He feels a nagging sense of regret and annoyance and frustration tugging and prodding at the back of his mind and he crosses his arms over his lean chest, swirled tattoo stark against his still slightly sallow skin. Her warm hand hovers over the twisting design for a moment, but he shrugs his shoulder fractionally, and she draws away like she's almost been burned, like he's the one who's too hot, and they retreat to silence again.

---

The heart chakra is central for the feeling of existential fulfillment.

Thus, imbalance of energies between chakras can lead to an almost constant, chronic feeling of dissatisfaction. When the heart chakra is agitated, one loses touch with feelings and sensations, which nurtures the sense of dissatisfaction and frustration.

Those with blocked heart chakras often look outside themselves for satisfaction and fulfillment, pleasure and meaning.

---

Her hands grab his wrist impatiently before he even realizes she's in the room and they're positively frigid against the delicate skin with the blue veins showing through. His smile is almost invisible as he leans forward slightly in a silent sort of undefined but understood acquiescence, and her fingers raise goose bumps along his arm.

She reaches out her other hand, and rubs it up and down his forearm, trying to undo the damage, to force out warmth with the cold. He takes both her scarred hands in his and holds them there, his hands working against them, counterclockwise to each other. For such rough hands, they're small enough so as to be easily engulfed by his own, and for some reason he feels a bit like he's protecting them from something.

He tells her that he hasn't coughed once in two weeks (and five hours and forty-three minutes…) when she asks, at least not like before. She nods and says that that's good, pink hair sticking out a bit on one side. Then she puts her warm(er) hands on either side of his face and he feels her chakra slipping into his bloodstream. He wonders what she sees when she goes inside of him.

---

When people live in their heads and not in the world around them, feelings become redundant. They are simply accepted responses to outside stimuli. When mental and physical awareness is focused more on memories of past experiences and mental, internal interpretations of scenes from life, the flow of essence and energy to the head chakra increases while the energy flow to the heart chakra wanes. The throat chakra is unable to regulate the erratic chakra flow, which can result in blockage between the different chakra centers. Without seeking out and embracing feelings of the heart and the heart chakra, a subtle form of anxiety, of distress, of unwellness arises, resulting in a primal, driven search for experience.

---

She doesn't speak much the day he's released from the hospital. Well, she speaks a lot, too much actually, about the weather and the other patients and his larynx and this year's genin and something about photosynthesis – but she doesn't say anything. She smiles brightly every other word, like she's driving home a point, but he can only figure that either the message isn't for him, or he's completely missing the point of what her eyes are trying to say.

She stands outside the curtain, and he can hear her pen scratching at his release forms while he pulls back on his vest, wraps up his legs and holster, checks his shiruken. He's still retying his forehead protector, hands working behind his head, when he steps out from behind the thin fabric. She could probably see his silhouette through the curtain, backlit by the early morning sun.

She hands him the papers to turn in at front desk, and then the papers that qualify him for active duty again. She puts them in his hand and closes his fingers over them, her smile sweet and beaming and completely painful – for both parties involved, he'd wager.

He turns away from her, walks to the door. Pale tangerine sunlight bathes the room and he sees a svelte shadow along the wall and cabinets, its arm extended, elongated by the angles of the corners. Like it's reaching out. Like it wants to touch something in the real world.

But then it draws away, slides back around corners, over folds of fabric and the curves of bottles.

And then he's gone.

---

He waits one day. When he slides back in and through the halls with ANBU quiet, the world is all in shades of blue and charcoal and purple. Night gives the hospital soft edges that don't exist in daylight. It allows truths that can't be hinted at when the sun can reveal the damning evidence for anyone to see.

She's in the same room as before, sitting on the edge of the bed and staring at a place on the floor about a yard from the toes of her bare feet. She looks up when he comes in, and either she was expecting him or she's just too bone weary to be shocked by anything for tonight.

He sinks down on to one knee in front of her, and her eyes take a long moment to slide from the ground up his legs and torso and neck to his face, his tired eyes, mussed hair. He takes one of her hands in his.

It's cold.

---

He rubs his fingers over hers, carefully massaging each one in order. He gently pulls on each of them and some of her knuckles pop. He kneads the web of flesh between her thumb and forefinger, then the fleshy muscle at the base of her thumb. He switches hands and her eyes drift closed, mouth slightly parted.

He works warmth into her hands. His warmth. What he has to give, he's giving to her.

He takes each of her hands in each of his own and then works his hands up her forearms, the points of her elbows rolling against his palms. They seem almost fragile. Breakable. When he gets up to her shoulders her eyes are open again, looking wet and glassy in the dark. He meets her gaze and he sees that same smothered need her saw on her face reflected back at him.

His hands slide up her neck, to shelter either side of her face. They're so close right now. He feels the heavy heat of their proximity, simultaneously like wet wool and static electricity.

---

He presses his lips against the side of her face, almost touching the corner of her mouth, but not quite. He nudges her head into a tilt and his lips move to the edge of her jaw, the soft skin covering the corotted artery. He can feel her pulse there, the reassuring pressure of her heart pushing blood to every corner of her body every day and every night.

---

His lips are close enough that he would feel any words she spoke, even if she made no noise, but he holds them there because one of them always has to be just out of reach. But then she closes the distance – she does – and her mouth is warm and sad and half frantic with desperation against his own and he buries his fingers in her pink, pink hair.

---

The blankets of the hospital bed make soft rasping noises against the fabric of his pants and leg bindings. He can hear her feet thump against the plastic headboard. His strong – still strong, still able – arms support his weight above the bed, but she clings to him so tightly that her body is flush against his, using his strong shoulders to hold herself well off the mattress.

But he eases her down until her back makes contact with ugly cotton cable-knit, and he gently pries her arms from where they're snaked around his neck and torso. He holds her hands down at each wrist, but the frenzy of her kisses only seems to increase proportionally with the lack of contact. But his mouth is slow and heavy and deliberate on hers and slowly, slowly, she calms, breathes like those of a frantic animal.

His mouth moves down her jaw, along her neck, tasting the hollows and jumping pulse, smelling her hair and skin. She make a noise of protest, and arches and writhes her body in frustration, groping for contact and reciprocation, but he seals his mouth over hers again and restrains her hands in one of his, held above her head because this is his to give. This is for her. This is all he's ever had, what was taken from him and what she restored to him and now he needs to give it to someone else.

---

His hand ghosts across her body, confident and assured and unhurried. He traces her jaw and lets the pads of his fingertips graze along the skin of her neck, down her collar bone, the hollow between her breasts. His fingers find the angled zipper of her shirt and one of them softly drags along the skin that is revealed inch by inch, the only noise soft metallic sound and their breath (her so much more than his – he can hear subtle variations in each inhalation, cross references them with the movement of his hand and the expanse of white, white skin under his attention). His palm is goes flat against the plain of her stomach, fingers spread wide like a starfish. His hand dips down and then back up, up along her torso, her vest falling to one side slightly.

Her breath hitches and he takes note of this, works to recreate the effect, is successful. His face is so close to hers that his hair brushes the bridge of her nose. She blows it away and for just a second she smiles and a harsh, empty sound that might be a laugh if given oxygen and half a chance forces its way past her lips. But then it's gone, replaced with a low hiss between clenched teeth as his dry palm pushes slowly across her.

---

When the throat chakra settles and energy is distributed evenly between the head and the heart chakras, one is able to truly contact one's senses and touch real feelings.

---

Her mouth is open, poised for a scream, but the only sound that escapes is a harsh exhalation of air that rolls over Hayate's face like mist or a breaking wave. The tip of his nose brushes against the bridge of hers when she moves with the rhythm of his hand, and without opening her eyes she tilts her face and finds his warm, safe mouth.

Hayate thinks that Sakura will never stop saving him.

---

There is moonlight the next time, as well, but it's different – a bright, glowing silver rather than the secretive blue and indigo. It spills across Hayate's bed and floorboards, it makes their slick bodies glow like marble in the dark.

---

The crown chakra is white or violet and controls the consciousness. It is the thousand-petaled lotus of union, empathy, and bliss.

---

There is nothing controlled or contained now, it's a blur of sensory reception – grating breathes and soft sounds, the smell of sweat and skin and hair, the salty-sweet taste of skin. There is no room for philosophy or thought, just the sweat-sting in his eyes and the feel of blood and bones and muscle all wrapped up in skin and smothering his mind. He knows nothing of the world except the delicious warmth and weight and feel of another living body flush against his own living body, blood pumping through veins and ventricles faster than he can count.

---

When the room in quiet, he slides from the sheets and moves his aching muscles into the flowing, controlled movements he's been taught. He slowly bends his legs, pivots his feet, raises his arms. As he straightens back to his full height, her arms come around behind him, snake along his own forearms, met his hands. Her body is pressed against him again, and she pushes him lightly, guiding his movements, mirroring them.

He feels the energy in his body flowing into hers, hers flowing into his, blending and swirling and exchanging, like two uninterrupted streams, crashing together to form a sea.

---

Fin.