AN: Just a drabble about two people and loss. Though I have come to enjoy KakashixSakura, the pairing has never sat well with me. And since dear Kishimoto hasn't provided that many eligible women, I took a fancy to Yugao and her 15 min. of fame. And also a bit of therapy

I do not own anything except my hangovers! Damn you, Belgian beers, for tasting so heavenly!


Pre-dawn light

He was not surprised to find that he was not alone at the cenotaph that morning. Very little, except for a certain bewhiskered and loud-mouthed ninja, ever managed to pull the rug from under his feet. When death was a companion as faithful as a nin-ken, always nipping at ones heels, always on the verge of catching up, it did not take much power of observing to know how sorrow and loss would shape people.

And so the slender figure kneeling in front of the cenotaph, running trembling fingers over the carved names, was to be expected, though he was not overjoyed at the prospect of having to share these early hours. Not many found their way to this remote area, and those who did usually preferred a less ungodly time. The mornings were to him a needed place, a sanctuary of silver mists and dewy coldness in which he did not have any obligation but his own failures.

In the diffuse pre-dawn light she was grey-in-grey, her long hair a dark mass of shadow against her clothes. She had brought no flowers this time, and he thought he understood. Sometimes, the heart was burden enough. And sometimes, flowers and words of comfort could seem absolutely irrelevant compared to the emptiness of sorrow, silly little attempts to smooth death over.

He approached quietly, hands in pockets. She was without a doubt aware of his presence, but did not acknowledge it in any way. Her attention was rapt upon the stone, and as her fingers stopped at the last name carved there, she lowered her head and her dark hair fell forward over her shoulders like a shroud.

He stopped some five paces away, regarding her with understanding. This was the hard part of loss, the time after the first sharp denial wore away, and the desperate grief lifted, to reveal a stark landscape of specifics. There would be no return, no knock at the door, no shared laughter, no annoyance and no forgiveness. Death had come, and time could not be turned back. He had lived with this for 14 years, mixed in with the wrenching feel of regret and guilt. The loss of a loved one was like hunger, a desperate need that could not be satisfied, only dulled by the passing of time and piling of new memories and experiences.

He knew what she was going through, and he felt for her, but he did not consider reaching out to comfort. Two sorrows did not make for a common cause. When her shoulders began to shake with silent tears, he decided to leave the morning to her and her fresher need. It looked to be a sunny day, and he knew just the right spot for a few hours of dedicated reading.

"Senpai, don't go." The words were shaky, but composed. Slowly, she rose and turned towards him, running a hand over a face as pale as bone.

He allowed him self a brief, maybe wistful, smile, wondering how it was to mourn a lover. He had lost a father, a friend, a mentor, team-mates and clients. Never a lover. Did the bright memories weigh up the sorrow in the end? Making it worth opening up to another angle of grief? He had had his fill without it, pragmatically veering off on those rare occasions it could have been.

"It was not my intent to intrude. I just… couldn't sleep."

She had been on his last ANBU-team and they had completed no more than a few missions. Enough to get a good assessment of her skills and overall personality, and to work up a certain trust beyond team-work. She had been good, a bit rough around the edges, and fierce in her own way.

"You have as much right to be here as me," he said calmly.

She shook her head. "I know you prefer to be here alone." New tears welled up in her eyes, and she turned her head. "Now I understand why…" Her voice trailed off, and her jaw-muscles clenched hard, fighting against the hysteric weeping he could see lurking just underneath the surface. He felt like a voyeur, watching her struggle to maintain control, and after a moments hesitation, he took a step forward and put a hand on her shoulder.

"Yugao, I will not tell you that it gets easier with time, but Hayate really loved you. It is a strength that you will always carry with you. It is a precious thing to have loved, and been loved back."

She blinked, obviously surprised by his action. Then she nodded.

"Yes, he really did love me." She smiled, her expression going soft.

Placing his hands back in his pockets, he resumed his usual passive façade, though inwardly he was wincing. If she started gushing about her and Hayate, he was out of there, impolite or not.

Perhaps sensing his unease, she abandoned the subject, though the softness did not leave her face. Instead, she said, with a hint of mischief:

"Perhaps we should set up a schedule?"