Title: Missive
Chapter(s): One Shot
Rating: T, Language, Content
Summary: "They were just letters, really. Nothing special."
Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me!

Missive

They were just letters, really. Nothing special. A few lines jotted down, sometimes purposefully, other times as a hasty afterthought. They accompanied his lunches, were tacked onto everyday grocery lists. A paragraph or so, here and there when she was feeling extra wordy as he left on higher ranked missions, tucked into the well worn pouch on his flak vest that contained his dog-nin scroll. He kept them in the bulky second pocket on his right leg, folded between the pages of his customary entertainment.

During missions he read and re-read them under the guise of his usual literary pursuits, randomly assigned partners none the wiser. At times it made him paranoid, counting the seconds before he'd force himself to turn the page, keeping up the illusion of utter fascination with Jiraiya's works and the act of reading. It was true, in a round about way. And when he couldn't have the book open, his hand rested in the same pocket as he slouched, allowing him to easily finger the weight of her ink-splattered paper tokens. By the end of every mission, they would be inevitably tattered to shreds.

They weren't meant to be kept, but he did anyway. A carefully concealed cloth pouch tucked under a heavily booby trapped floorboard contained the faded remains of every one of her loving missives. Stained with blood, folded and re-folded until the paper quartered itself; every scrap that survived with him was preserved. He'd treated S-rank jutsu scrolls worse.

Truthfully, in the beginning, it had left him bewildered. Somehow he understood that the feeling of being needed, of being looked after, was something he still craved. But the fact that her notes drove him to such painstaking attention made him grit his teeth in agony at times. He was her teacher. Entrusted with her care, indefinitely, if now only as her superior and her captain. His feelings had no place between them.

Every time she nearly knocked down his door when he lay bleeding while he refused to go to the hospital, every carefully set aside dinner, he thrived on the ability to disrupt her life. The ability to make her worry for his safety. The knowledge that she gave a damn after his continuous distancing of himself was such a novelty that he was stricken by it. Needed it. Lapped up every scrap of attention, every sentence of care.

Just like his book wasn't ink and binding, her notes weren't paper and words. They were something much more. Something that had him setting traps in the windows of over exuberant young men, stalking down vegetable merchants that overcharged, and spending many, many sleepless nights on watch under the stars as he gazed into her sleeping face. Suddenly he was ten years old and acting as he should have at the age, rebuking her endeavors to her face and defending her honor when her back was turned.

The end of their slow dance had come when he'd been ambushed on a solo mission, making it just outside the forest barrier that surrounded their village before his inevitable collapse. Curling in on himself beneath the tree from which he'd plummeted, unable to push his body any further, he was found broken and bleeding by Shiranui Genma and his border patrol. Clots of blood had begun to fill his lungs, and he'd deliriously hacked out a horrific mixture of purple sputum and curses at the senbon toting blond as he had tried to pry his hands apart in order to carry the taller man with greater ease.

Genma watched, mystified, as the man suddenly uprighted himself and violently tore a page from his infamous book, tossing the orange bound object away from himself in an energetic fit before he promptly lost consciousness. Racing back to Konoha, the blood of his injured friend dripping thickly down his back, the man could only wonder and fear. Slender hands attached to lanky arms swung limply into his vision as he leapt from tree to tree at full speed, revealing a slip of paper tightly clutched beyond all reason.

A day later, nurses who had already resented the silver haired escape artist had a brand new complaint: the inability to remove one of the man's rank, sweat and blood encrusted gloves. Despite prodding, cursing, and even the occasional jab with a hypodermic needle; his right hand refused to relax. There was no way to extract the soiled glove without causing injury, and the smell originating from that one hand was starting to overwhelm even the genin orderlies as they moved him from ward to ward. Though slowly regaining consciousness two days later, he'd been forcibly restrained as a precaution after he'd groggily downed a nurse who'd begun to pry apart his intriguing and malodorous digits. Although he was recovering, and it had been far less than the worst condition the man had ever been in, the discontented hospital workers decided to call in the big guns.

-----

Sakura slowly shut the door behind her so as not to wake the patient, who quietly dozed on the single bed that occupied the room. Without his hitai-ate to augment his unruly mop of a hairstyle, his bangs fell in a thick mess of silver against the pale skin of his tranquil visage. It would have made a strikingly serene picture, if it hadn't been for the rather ridiculous looking position in which the rest of his body was situated. Both arms and legs were bound to ominous looking chakra enhanced posts, and chakra enhanced restraints glinted silver in the sunlight that filtered through the drab curtains of the hospital window.

She snickered, soundlessly, as she carried the chair set aside for visitors closer to his bedside before taking a better look at the problematic, self proclaimed nosocomephobic. Poking slightly at the uninjured portions of his placid face, she watched bemusedly as the man attempted to itch at his nose with his free hand, completely ignoring her.

"Hello, Kakashi."

He grumbled incoherently, refusing to open his eyes as he clenched his shackled fists further. Hospital issue white pajamas contrasted starkly with his darkly masked lower face and light hair, creating a look of artificial decapitation. The nurses had learned long ago that if they wished to keep their fingers, one did not try to de-mask the often times volatile and heavily medicated one-man-army. Changing his clothes was most often left up to his jounin friends or even the Hokage herself at times, if all other close companions were unavailable. Though he was often injured, and seriously so, the times when the stubborn man had been rendered completely incapable of protest and unable to deny unwanted treatment were few and far between.

"Good morning to you too, Sunshine," she couldn't help but be amused at his expense, despite the gratuitous injuries, "And how are we feeling today?"

"I'd feel a hell of a lot better if I could scratch my own anything, Sakura." Placing emphasis on the lack of honorific, he valiantly attempted to derail any further thought of cliché nicknames. That was the last thing he needed, at the particular moment. Opening his eyes, the glaringly white walls once again assaulted his retinas and he shivered, slamming them shut. "A change of scenery would be beneficial to the healing process, as well."

"So says the man who threw himself out of a third story window with both legs in casts. Wearing boxers." Her eyebrow rose, and Kakashi chuckled in remembrance.

"They were silk. The civilians appreciated it." A lazy grin had taken residence on his frustrated features, eyes slit as he rolled his head to face her.

She snorted, "I'm sure they did." As he stared at her, both drooping eyes pleading with hers in a manner worse than that of a kicked puppy, a long moment dragged before she finally caved in to his unspoken request. "If I get rid of the restraints, you promise, promise me that you won't make a run for it?" He nodded, frantically, in acquiescence.

As she worked, gently removing the thick metal lashings that bound him in place, Sakura got a better picture of the battered state of his body. Dark, multicolored bruises littered his arms and visible skin. Combined with bandaged lacerations and bulky taping beneath his sleep rumpled shirt, he bore the tell tale signs of having sustained heavy chest injuries. Though she'd read his chart in the usual preparation before visiting a patient, many of his injuries had been internal, and seeing the damage up close always had more of an impact than medical diagnosis on paper. As the last restraint was loosened from his ankle, and she felt more than heard the sigh that emanated from his chest.

"You do realize why I've been assigned to you, right?" Sitting back down in the chair, she quietly surveyed his slow, pained stretching of obviously cramped musculature. One hand, however, remained static. Though she'd been ignoring the persistent odor, after getting so close to the offending appendage, it wasn't hard to understand the nurses' reactions to what she had previously labeled as an outlandished rumor. She had no idea how one scrap of material could smell so profusely horrid.

"Because you asked to be assigned to me?" Half mooned eyelids beamed back at her, a deliriously facetious grin plastered on twitching lips. His hand, object still concealed, subtly clenched.

"Don't you try to guilt trip your way out of this." She began to tug on his glove, persistent against the soft batting away of his other appendage. "You take this glove off right now. Before I fumigate the room with you in it."

"Leave it be, Sakura." Kakashi's voice was slightly lowered, in warning.

"Kakashi! What's the matter with you? I don't give a damn if it's smut from that stupid book of yours, that glove absolutely reeks, let it go!" she tugged harder, before giving up and leaning back to glare, furiously, at him.

He froze, "Why would you assume it's from Icha Icha?"

"Because I talked to Genma when you were admitted, and he told me what you did when he found you. That's why. Now why the hell is whatever you tore out of that book so important?" Her arms had shifted to cross her chest, defensively, as she stared down at his suddenly closed off body language. The transition was so typical she had preempted it in thought, dismayed eyes carefully observing as he withdrew further into himself.

Shifting slightly on the bed, to a more comfortable position, he ever so gently relaxed his hand. "I guess you could say it put me here. I got... careless while reading."

"You were careless...?" Then made visible by a fidgeting palm down hand as it anchored the item in question flatly to the bed, she stared, blankly, at the barely recognizable stationary print on the edges of a worn scrap of paper. It all rapidly clicked into place.

He flinched at the small, wrenching sound that managed to escape the hand tightly clasped over her mouth. As her trembling free hand lifted his own filthy mitt away, he made no move but to press the note into her palm with the numb appendage, eyes screwed tightly shut. Though the words were mostly obscured by large blood splatters, dirt, and soot, she remembered the phrases with ease.

"I thought you might get hungry on your way, so I made some extra for you. Your favorite! Please remember to take care, and lay off the dirty novels. Perverts seem to attract kunai. Be safe. Love, Sakura."

She read it out loud, voice wavering as she swallowed back tears remembering the new additions to his chart. She realized with all too brilliant clarity exactly what had distracted him.

"You perverted idiot." Her arms tightened around herself, body heaving as she suppressed the urge to pound on the injured mans chest. "Moron." She had gotten tired of signing herself 'your student', or worse yet, 'Sakura-chan'. Sniffling, she wound her fingers tighter into the fabric of her medic uniform. "Almost getting yourself killed over a note about tempura," she choked on a sob, "Of all things..."

"It was very good tempura." Apprehensive, he kept his touch light as his closest arm gently brushed against her shaking form. Expression taut with resignation, hope, and anxiety, he began to move. Drawing her to him, one hand deftly smoothed tears off her cheek as the other clumsily worked at unwinding her arms as he pulled her down towards the bed.

"You're a liar, Hatake Kakashi." She carefully shifted herself to recline with him, body turned to face his as he pulled her closer to share his pillow. "And you smell." Sniffling, she wiped her nose on the sheet, drying her damp eyes against the pillow.

"That was disgusting, Sakura." He was smiling slightly, fingers sifting through her hair as they worked to lose their stiffness. It left him somewhat disappointed that he had no grasp of the sensation whatsoever. Flexing as his nerves burned in anguish at retaining the same position for such an extended period of time, he gently rolled himself on an aching side to fold her into his arms.

"You're the one who made me cry, you bastard." The response was muffled as she burrowed herself into his chest, careful of bandages and sore spots that had to wait for natures healing hand. Besides gore and death, he smelt of antiseptic, fresh linen and cedar. It was everything Kakashi, and she resisted the urge to breathe in deeply the proof of her wakefulness.

"My parents were married, I'll have you know." His hold tightened momentarily, before his limbs groaned at him protest. Lifting her face to a solemn, dark eye, sharingan closed, he surveyed her flushed cheeks and reddened eyes. "That could be of some importance in your future." The smile that had taken residence in his expression grew, soft in its intensity. It had been in his tamer daydreams, the very one in particular that had gotten him into the happy mess. Filled with soft embraces, a shared bed, a sickening overabundance of domesticity and one address to fortress instead of two.

Mouth agape, she sputtered for a few moments before forcing out his full name like an epithet, followed by a half retracted "Screw you!" as she realized the implication of her words.

Kakashi's clearly visible smirk beneath his mask broadened into a blatant leer, and he chuckled dangerously. "Really?"

"Not when you smell like that, no... Kakashi! Get back in the bed, RIGHT NOW."

"Alright." The bed sheets rustled around them as he climbed back in, drawing her forcefully against his body as her curves pressed deliciously against his battered angles. Pulling his mask down, he grinned and leaned in further.

"Kakashi!"

His delightedly bright, full throated laughter colored the drab white of the room. The note lay crumpled yet within reach under the abandoned chair. As it caught his eye, he realized that it didn't matter so much as he thought. There would be more.

-----
Author's Note: Nosocomephobia, or, the abnormal, persisting fear of hospitals. Hospital phobia, or phobic. -Cues "The More We Know" sound effect-

Crying isn't pretty. I don't care how many authors write it like that (or even myself, since I'm guilty of it too). It's messy, with noses dripping mucous, mixed with swollen, bloodshot eyes. But I guess Kakashi thinks that beauty is in the eye (literally, eye) of the beholder. Not to mention years of sexual frustration.

I wanted this story to have a feel of inevitability, that falling into each others arms was bound to happen and completely natural. It bugs me intensely when people think that it's viable to have a character declare their affections completely out of the blue, like they just woke up one day and went "OMG love." (well, okay, sometimes I read it as a guilty pleasure, hush you). Being struck with the thought after a trigger is completely plausible, but there has to be at least some lead up. Hopefully this flowed like I wanted it to.

I was originally going to end it on Sakura yelling at Kakashi to get back into bed, but it felt like it was missing something. So Kakashi got the chance to make his move, the poor man. He got beaten up, he deserved some lovin. This was the little story that could, anyhow. It was originally something like five paragraphs, then grew to this monster. Ach. Definitely not the drabble I intended it to be, but I'm really happy with how it turned out.

For those waiting on an update for Quintessence, it'll be up in a few days pending my frantic brainstorming to rid my head of Kakashi, then beta-ing. I've been working long hours, so focusing on anything other than drabbles has been difficult. I have nearly three days off soon, so, keep an eye out in the upcoming week!