A/N: Hey everybody, welcome to the 9th in the "Friends" series! If you're new to this series, please go back, and read in order, "Friends," "Benefits," "Tag," "Hurt," "Deal," "Discreet," "Public," and "Trust," before reading this one because references to all of them are in this story.

It's great to be back and storytelling again. This story takes place about two months after "Trust" left off. I've written this as an educational story to delve into the things in our minds and pasts that affect who we are and what we will become. Be prepared for lots of action, lots of drama, a missions scene, fights, love, the works. And lots of language in spots.

In the beginning of this first chapter, I'm going to drop you in the middle of Hell. Hold your breath before you start to read. Imagine yourself in the middle of everything. Hear the things happening around you. Feel the anxiety. Picture it all in your head. Then let out your breath when you reach the end of the opening sequence. Of course if you can't hold your breath that long, please don't pass out, take another breath and hold it until you get to the dividing line.

Ok, as I must state, I don't own Naruto, but love it, therefore I will continue to write these stories. So let's get started shall we? Enjoy!

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It was too dark. Smoke blocked out most of the late afternoon light. Weapons littered the ground. Still the battle raged all around. Groans, accented by occasional screams split the air, accompanied by the occasional explosion. Everyone felt the fear, the determination, and the anger that hung in the air.

They kept track of each other, because they'd never expected it to get this bad. They hadn't expected there to be such a huge resistance. They never expected so many enemies with such accurate skills. So they stuck together and stayed within each other's peripheral vision at the very least. They pressed forward slowly, relying on each other's skills and protection simultaneously.

Weapons intercepted weapons with distinct metallic clanks.

He heard himself shouting, "KEEP TO THE LEFT! THERE'S LESS RESISTANCE THERE! WE NEED TO BREAK THROUGH AND CIRCLE BEHIND!" His comrades were mere feet from him, yet he needed to shout to be heard. Already, so many had already fallen. He couldn't lose them too. No, he wouldn't allow it.

Again, he heard himself, "MOVE OUT!" He motioned with his arm in a sweeping arc and started to move, low to the ground. There was no shelter from the enemy, but they were too late to do anything about that. They all tried to defend themselves as they advanced by mere inches at a time.

A small clearing broke and he again heard himself shout, "INSIDE! GO!" He saw his friend crouch as low as he could and pass into the clearing, standing slowly after surveying the area for enemies. He watched his friend stand up and before he could shout, "GET BACK DOWN!" his friend took a kunai to his chest and was put down. He screamed NO!!! in his head, and forced himself not to run headlong into the fray to drag out his friend, or even see if he was still alive.

Panic threatened as he saw his numbers had dwindled further. He turned to check on the one he cared about the most, to find that she was gone. His heart lurched in his chest as he caught a glimpse of her clothes among some rubble. He forgot everything in that instant and went to her. She was partially covered in dirt and blood as she lay flat on her back, while her breath came in hitching half-breaths. She looked up at him with wild eyes. She held the kunai that had sliced through the front of her throat and come out the other side of her neck, blood flowing steadily from the bottom of the blade.

NO NO NO NO NO he repeated in his head as he attempted to protect her and assess her injury. One look told him that she was moments away from leaving him for good. She could barely breathe, and he could tell her heart was over-compensating, trying to pump the blood it didn't have, to save her starving brain. She was shutting down before his eyes.

He touched her hair and got closer to her face so she could see him. Her eyes cleared for a moment and her own panic retreated as she recognized him. She managed a whisper and said, "Kiss me."

He looked down at her and wanted to cut his own heart out to stop the pain he felt in it. Suddenly, her surprisingly strong hand gripped his shoulder and she whispered again, "Kiss me."

But he didn't want to kiss her. He wanted to pick her up and carry her to safety. He wanted to get her some help, but he knew that there wasn't any medical help now within a quarter of a mile of their position. The one he'd brought with him who normally managed so well to avoid being hit, faltered once, mis-stepped, and died.

He felt the strong hand begin to go slack on his shoulder and he returned his attention to the bloodied face below him that once more whispered, "Kiss me." He could do nothing more than her request. He carefully leaned down and pressed his lips to hers gently, pulling in her scent and the obvious smells of blood, adrenalin and impending death that surrounded her. His mind raced for a second, then stopped when he realized that this was going to be the end.

She coughed. He picked his head up and looked at her, desperate to save her for himself. It wasn't supposed to end like this. It was supposed to be something they'd have no trouble handling together. But it ended up being much more than either had expected or prepared for.

He stared at her eyes as they began to shake slightly as she fought against losing consciousness. She coughed again suddenly and blood and foam flew from her mouth spattering his face. He barely noticed. Then she did something surprising. She smiled at him slightly. At her smile, he felt his heart break, and all the pain associated with it. Then she attempted to say something again. He couldn't make out what she tried to say. He leaned down and put his ear close to her lips. They brushed his ear slightly as they moved, and then he heard her. She simply said, "Thank you."

He picked his head up quickly to see her face again. Instead, he saw her eyes cloud over as her breathing stopped and she died.

All the pain he'd ever suffered in his life was amplified a thousand times in that instant. He couldn't bear it, not again, not her. It was too much. It was overwhelming and he couldn't control himself anymore. Then he felt something hit him in the back of the head and everything went white. He felt himself falling forward. He knew he'd fall over her. It would be his last ditch effort to protect her, even though she was already dead, and it seemed, he was about to be. He felt no more physical pain, and began to feel relief as he realized he wouldn't have to suffer anymore. He thought to himself as he began to slip, wait for me. I'm right behind you.

As he quieted and laid across her, almost dead himself, he heard a gruff voice say, "I got the copy ninja." Then there was nothing.

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Kakashi opened his eyes and inhaled. He relaxed slightly even though his heart pounded in his chest, because he could smell Anko. He knew she was next to him, where she slept quietly. He turned almost silently on his left side to face her. She was on her right side, facing him, both her arms lying on the bed almost on top of each other. He carefully reached over and took her left hand and slowly put it against his bare chest. The rapid thudding in his chest began to slow as if her hand contained some sort of magic that could tranquilize on contact. He watched her sleep, and thought I can't lose you.

Then he felt something unfamiliar to him. His throat hurt and his eyes stung as he remembered the horrible dream – the same type of dream he'd had a few times before – that had begun to haunt him more frequently as of late. He felt an overwhelming fear that he would lose the only woman he'd ever loved, and that he'd have no control over anything, including himself, after that.

Lately, his dreams always involved him losing her, just like he'd lost everyone else in his life before – violently – where no matter what he tried, but had no control over the situation. He wouldn't ever let anyone take the woman he loved, but how could he prevent something that could happen so suddenly and without warning?

They'd made a deal months before. Both had promised not to get killed so they could remain together. But was that really a promise they could keep? A shinobi's life was often brief, and rarely did they ever marry or have families. Those that did either retired early, or had "desk jobs," became full time teachers, or advisors. Kakashi knew he was much too valuable to Konoha's current Hokage, as well as to the village itself to think that he'd ever be permitted to retire early. But could Anko? She was a special jonin who taught at the academy, and she did go on fewer missions than he did, but the ones she usually went on were extremely dangerous – missions where her own specially cultivated "talents" could shine and be used to ensure success on the missions she was given. That is what terrified Kakashi. He'd brought her back from the brink of death at least once already, but what if next time, he didn't get there in time to save her? He knew he couldn't lock her in a box, sit on a chair and watch her all day every day, even though he loved to look at her any time, day or night, if she knew he was looking, or not. So he continued to look at her and hold her hand to his chest, even though he knew she'd stirred a bit and was now almost awake.

Anko had felt him pick up her hand and put it against his bare chest. Immediately she felt his heart thundering in his chest. She thought it happened again. The problem was, she didn't know exactly WHAT had happened this time. In fact, she was not sure what was happening at all with Kakashi. In the past two months, almost immediately after his return from his mission of extracting information from the sister scientists Harumi and Hanami, Kakashi started acting a bit differently. Occasionally, he'd awaken and simply place her hand on his chest. She always felt his heart about to beat out of his chest when he did that. Usually he'd hold her hand there, until his heart slowed and he slipped back to sleep. His dreams must be haunting him. Or maybe they're hunting him. Either way, I don't know how to help him. She wished she could just lay her hands on him and take away all his pain, fears, anxieties, and everything that hurt him from his past. She would heal him if she could, but she feared that what was bothering him was beyond what any medical ninja had the power to heal. Something deep inside Hatake Kakashi was putting him through hell, and he had little if any control over it.

He didn't want to talk about it either. Not yet anyway. Even though she'd brought it up once or twice at breakfast a time or two, he always told her he just had a bad dream, and it was nothing for her to worry about. She'd had her share of nightmares in the past, but she'd always been willing to talk about them. To her, talking about them made them less scary, much less real than they seemed when her eyes were closed. Kakashi didn't want to talk about his, or he wasn't ready to. She'd give him some time and some space and wait for him to come to her.

In the meantime, as they lie there quietly, Kakashi's heart almost normal now, Anko did the one thing she did know would help him. She moved her body against the length of his. She tucked her head under his chin and put her ear to his collar bone, her cheek against his chest. She gripped his hand with hers and pressed the rest of their skin together until they were closer than two pages in a book. Their skin touched from head to toe. If she couldn't fix what was bothering him, she could at least let him feel the comfort of her warm body against his.

Kakashi breathed into her hair and thought Alive. So alive. But how do I keep her that way?

Minutes turned into more minutes. Anko stayed where she was, pressed tightly against Kakashi. Each was awake now, but not engaging the other in conversation. Each quietly let the sensation of their bare skin touching, warm them from the outside in.

Anko thought this feels soooo good. I never want to leave this bed. I never want to be separated from him. This is almost more intimate than being "intimate." She knew that they shared a deep trust in each other that had solidified their relationship. Neither had anything to fear from the other.

Still, she stayed pressed against him, taking comfort as well as giving it. She relished how she felt. He's calmed down now, but he still seems uneasy. Then he let go of her hand and put his arm over her arm and around her back, squeezing her even tighter to him. She felt him put a slight kiss in her hair. She snuggled into him smiling to herself, grateful that they'd become so much more than just "friends with benefits."

Kakashi had finally calmed down enough to enjoy his girlfriend's body pressed against his. He gave her another squeeze and felt her snuggle into him again. I could stay like this forever, or die happy right here, right now. He tried to savor every second knowing that nothing this good ever lasted. Something always interrupted or ruined something this good. He knew that so far, their relationship that had become so good, had never been ruined or interrupted. It had been tested, and in the end, solidified. Still, his recent rash of bad dreams, reminded him that their relationship could end at any time and he had absolutely no control over it. And it scared him to death.

It seemed that now that he'd actually allowed himself to care about another person, allowed himself to be open enough to accept love, he realized that he also left himself open for all the pain that came with loss. He was becoming increasingly aware that "they" could be "over" anytime, just because of the jobs they were assigned to do on occasion. He knew in his heart he couldn't do it again. He knew that if Anko died in battle, he'd walk into the first kunai thrown at him and go right along with her. To him, dying with her was following where love went, rather than running from pain or life without love again.

He took a pretty big risk when he decided to try loving Anko. His heart pushed him into it much faster than he though was wise. But he ignored the protests from his head that told him, "Don't get involved. Don't get too close. Don't get hurt again." This time, his heart overruled his head where Anko was concerned and he decided quickly that she was "it." It was her, or no one. She was too amazing – though he'd always known that – to not be a part of his life. He was drawn to her like a magnet that pulled harder the more he got to know her personally, until he was entirely sure that they were exactly where they were supposed to be – with each other. There was definitely a force that kept them tightly together, and he found out that force was the love they shared. He knew in his heart that she was far too amazing to live without.

The scary part to Kakashi was that she was just like him. She knew what suffering was just as much as he did. Her former sensei had become the Hidden Leaf Village's enemy #1, and she was forced to live on with the shame of once being associated with him. She'd overcome his evil shadow that once used to lord over her, stepped out from under it and shone like a beacon for the village. For him too. He cared so much for her, yet it seemed the more he cared, the more he feared losing her. And the worst thing was that he had no idea what to do.

Anko thought I want to wait for him to come to me, but he may never open his mouth. I'm going to ask him what's wrong. I've asked before, and gotten nowhere. I'm going to ask again, but I've got to get his attention first.

Even though she hated doing it, she slowly separated herself from his embrace. She felt the cooler air seep between their warmed bodies as they separated. She felt him try and pull her close to him again, but she gently resisted. She wiggled out from under his possessing arm and managed to sit up on the edge of the bed. She looked over her left shoulder at him. His eyes looked quite pleading as he looked back at her and said, "Where are you going?"

She felt his eyes stray from hers, and drift down her back, then back up again. She smiled gently at him, and his always perverted ways, and said, "Why? Got some plans for me?"

He laughed once, and said, "I could. But right now I just wanted to know where you were going."

She stood up and walked naked to her doorway where she stood for a moment, her back to him. She let him look all he wanted, because at least that way, when she answered his question, she knew she'd have his full attention.

She said, "Where am I going?" She still didn't look back to him.

"Ahuh."

She turned sideways so he could see her from top to bottom, and said, "I'm going somewhere so I can think up a way to help you." Then she left the doorway before he even had a chance to answer. She wanted her words to sink in deeply so he knew she was sticking with him no matter what. She'd be there to support him no matter what happened. If he came home from a mission brain-dead tomorrow, she'd tend to him until the day he died, even if he lived to be 80. That's what people do for the ones they love, and he was the ONLY person she'd ever loved. She'd move mountains, and pull the stars out of the sky for him. She would find a way to help him even if it killed her in the process.

Kakashi lay there dumfounded. He thought she wants to help me. But I don't know how to help myself! He looked at her doorway and then he heard her in the bathroom. Moments later, he heard her in the kitchen moving dishes around. Even though he was still a bit stressed about his latest dream and the thoughts that plagued him, his perverted mind still managed to push its way to the forefront. She's naked in the kitchen. I wonder if she wouldn't mind acting out a scene from Icha Icha Kitchen Quickie? Then he thought better of it, and decided he'd better get dressed and get up. He knew she was going to try and talk to him, so he decided he might as well go face her now.

Anko was a little cold in her kitchen, because the only thing she had to wear in her bathroom was a shortie robe with big lotus flowers on it. It really wasn't much of anything to wear, but it kept her from leaning against her cold appliances and countertops that would have given her uncontrollable goose bumps. She got them anyway, when Kakashi snuck up behind her and draped himself over her from behind, pressing his front against her back. He nibbled her ear and said, "Sure I can't convince you to come back to bed for a while?"

"I'm sure you could, but we should get up. We need to get to work in a while."

He kissed her ear and walked around to sit at her table. As she turned to face him she saw that he'd put on a pair of loose fitting sleep pants and a tank top. Damn he looks sexy just sitting there at my kitchen table. And he looks sexy just for ME! That's MINE, sitting right there. But in order to keep him mine, I've got to see if I can get to the root of what's bugging him. As she looked at him, and started to walk toward him, he beat her to the punch and said, "Go ahead and ask."

"Ask what? What do you mean? Oh, what do you want for breakfast?"

"Not that. And I'll eat whatever you've got, as long as it's not deep friend, or drenched in chocolate."

"That rules out a lot."

"Anything else is fine. But you're getting off the subject. You know what you want to ask me. Go ahead."

Anko took a deep breath then went and sat in a chair next to Kakashi. She got close to him and tried to fix his hair that was messily pointing in the opposite direction that it usually pointed in. She said, "I'm just worried about you. Something's going on and like I said earlier, I'm trying to think of how to help you, but I don't know where to start."

Kakashi got quiet. He looked in her face as she continued to re-arrange his bed messed hair. How do I do this? He said, "Hey. You remember back a while ago when I promised to come back to your place, but you found me on your doorstep ripped up pretty badly?" Anko stopped re-arranging his hair and looked him in the face and nodded. He continued, "Remember that you and Sakura took care of me here, and when I was well enough, remember what happened?"

Anko felt crushed. She was instantly terrified of what was coming next. She said, "I sent you away. That was the biggest mistake of my life, and I've made quite a few. That definitely was the biggest."

I'm so glad you feel that way. He said, "Do you remember WHY you sent me away?"

Anko said quietly, "Of course I do. Does that have anything to do with what's been happening with you lately?"

Kakashi nodded and said, "I'm pretty sure. I'm not positive, but something's going on in my head and I'm thinking too much and I'm worrying all the time. When you sent me away you said it was because it was easier to be alone than to feel the pain of losing me."

Anko felt sick to her stomach. Was he breaking it off with her? Was he quitting their friends with benefits relationship that had turned to mutual love? What was he doing?

He continued, "You had those feelings then, and my dreams are showing me what it would feel like to lose you over and over again. It's killing me."

Anko started to panic. She took his hand and said, "What can I do to help? Is there anything I can do? Remember, we made a deal, right? We promised not to do something stupid like get killed, so we wouldn't leave each other alone. We promised! Remember?" She squeezed his hand tighter as if it would help drive her point home.

Kakashi looked down. He looked away.

Cracks like spider webs began to appear on Anko's heart and she felt each and every one of them. Then suddenly, a slow angry fire began to burn in her belly. She decided that rather than let him wallow in feelings he didn't know how to deal with, she'd help him fight instead. She dropped his hand, took his face, and turned his head so he had to look at her. She said, "You listen to me, now. I know how you feel. I saw you practically dead on my door, and it KILLED me to have you almost dead in my bed, in so much pain, and I had NO control over the situation. I couldn't fix you, but instead I suffered through everything WITH you. I thought it was more than I could bear, but I stuck in there and did it because I loved you even back then! You brought me back after that remember? You carried me home on your back when Kabuto scrambled my brains, and you were with me through it all. What makes now so different? Why is it suddenly bothering you so much?"

Kakashi shook his head back and forth as much as her hands would allow and he said, "I, I wish I knew. It's just so intense, and what I've seen . . . I don't want to . . . I can't . . ."

She yelled at him, "You can do ANYTHING! You're Konoha's fucking genius remember? Nothing is bigger than you can handle. You're brilliant and perfect and awesome, and I love you, and," she burst into tears. She couldn't stop herself anymore, "I love you and I want to help you. Let me try. Please let me try." She tried to stifle her tears but the feelings were so raw, that she decided to just let them come. She wanted him to know that she was being sincere, so she let all her doubts and fears flow out with her tears.

Kakashi quickly pulled her to him and held her tightly against him. He had to comfort her; she was shaking with raw emotion, all because of him. She was crying her eyes out because she cared that much for him. Never in his life had anyone cared as much about him as Anko did, and she was showing him yet again. She clung to him as he absently started rocking her, like a parent would a child, shushing her, trying to calm her down.

She sat up suddenly and said, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" She swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. "I'm so sorry. I'm supposed to be helping you, and I'm the one who's getting helped. I'm sorry. But there's something I have to know. And I might as well just get it out there now, because I'm scared enough already, so I'm just going to throw it out there."

Kakashi looked at her and said, "What? What is it?"

Anko shook with emotion, looked him in the face and said, "Are you trying to tell me that we're over?"

Kakashi looked at her. His mouth hung open. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. Life without Anko. . . He continued to try and make words come out of his mouth, but nothing came.

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A/N: I know what you're saying! WHAT THE HELL IS HE GOING TO SAY??? You'll find out soon. Hope you like it so far. Review please!

Next up: What Kakashi says, a torrid lemon, and a plan is formulated. See you soon!