A/N: Edited for mistakes. Thanks guys! Happy 2008! See profile for longer A/N.
It is upon the tiled roof that Sakura finds him one day.
His left arm is slung over his drawn-up knee, his hitai-ai is pulled up and his lone eye is cast unblinkingly at the distant horizon. He has no mask on. It is such a private moment that Sakura wants to slink off along the pipe with which she pulled herself up on, but before she can do so he is already turned her way.
"H-Hello," she stammers. All thoughts of seeing his face leave her mind. The ground suddenly feels a tiny bit shakier beneath her feet, the sky maybe a little larger. She does not shift her toes, merely looks at him from her position, crouched a little, hand grazing thin air. A flicker passes through his eye. It is almost as if some distant answer in the skyline has scattered his memory. Then he blinks, once, nods, almost to himself, and says, "Hey." Soft. Imperceptible.
"Well—aha—" she tries to laugh it off. "I was going my way anyway—" She locks eyes with him, and as he stares at her, for a moment she is caught up in the mere proximity of being, of standing under the cacophony of sky with clay tiles scratching the base of her ninja boots, of balancing herself on two feet all too aware of the drop in height, staring at a face unrecognisable, but at once familiar. Then something fizzles out in Kakashi's eye, not like that of a light or a candle, but perhaps the emitting answer that has stranded him in the first place. He nods again, scoots over a fraction, and says, "It's okay if you sit here."
"Uh—thanks," she replies. She doesn't want to, but her feet move forward anyway.
"So," he begins, "what are you doing here?" She shifts next to him, uncomfortable. It is strange that he should ask, as if he is trying to reconcile some previous moment interrupted by the flow of time. It is probably too intrusive to answer, but his face, now on closer inspection, silhouetted against the orange fall of the sky, looks as if it is part of the landscape. As does his body next to her, some safe distance apart, but warm nonetheless. He smells a little of spice, and sweat, and summer leaves. She wonders if he has been sparring before. She feels the answer pulled out of her. "Well—uh," she replies, a little breathless, "Naruto tells me the sunset here is beautiful, and I wanted to see if it was true—" She catches herself, thinks she's probably said too much.
She is surprised when he smiles. "Naruto, huh? Didn't think he had it in him."
"He is an idiot," she agrees. She can't help blushing. It is true that the tone of his words has broken the ice a little, but his face, his smile, and this scenario – it is all too weird. Too strange. She wants to say something, like "Sensei, what are you doing here anyway?" but her voice catches onto another, and the only words that got out are, "but Hinata-chan has tamed him quite a bit." He does not answer, merely nods and gazes out into the distance. Perhaps he senses it too, or perhaps he is simply too caught up in his world to formulate a conversation. She echoes his action, stares out into the horizon. A lone bird cuts across the sky. The sun stands low in the skyline, a ball of orange against a purpling sky, wisps of clouds in a panoply of colours. Pink and purple and blue and orange. Ahead of them lies the forest of Konoha, bordering the sidelines of the village, in front it the row of Hokage statues remain uninterrupted by the heart of activities it circles. She has always noticed how sunlight seems to cast the brightest rays at dusk, where at dusk everything is filtered through a wash of persimmon, like a hard day's of work has rendered it incapable to function, but, at its finale, a burst of energy through the clouds.
They sit like this for a while, she tracing a faraway world with moonstruck eyes, he not saying anything, perhaps doing the same (she dares not look), perhaps reveling in the stillness of the moment. The air smells of twilight, of twilight washed in activities, of twilight soaked in the conclusive sidle of time. At times like these, when not impeded by the falling dusk, she likes to revisit this moment, and sees that perhaps he comes here often, when day fade to dusk, gazing out at Konoha in its bare periphery, part there and part not. She wonders what his secrets are, wonders what thoughts go through his mind, for it is times like these that he looks as if he is a part of a grand scheme of current, but, even sometimes, along the evening shore cast out by the last flame of a flickering light, also allowed a moment of respite.
"Konoha is beautiful, is it not?" she murmurs, part to herself, part to him.
"Hm," he seems to agree.
She would have liked to move to the edge of the roof, both feet dangling over it, and gaze down at the scene below her. It is too precarious though; she never knows when her body will give up its indecisive balance. Instead she stares into the far off distance. The village scatters out like tiny ants from below, a palatial organism of pulsating lights, but as she watches she can see the veil lifting over the world on its personal hand, in minute blinks, too tiny to note its individual action, but soon, maybe in an hour's time, the whole scene will wink itself out like a lantern into darkness. She can picture the villagers down below, people she talk to everyday, people she know, people whose lives intertwine with hers. Naruto, Sasuke-kun, Ino, Tsunade-shishou, Shizune-san, each and every Konoha villager baked in the proximity of their lives, dawned by the blinking of twilight.
"So, this is what they call twilight, huh?" she says.
He thinks for a moment. "Ah, maybe."
"I've always wondered why they call it twilight though, like the only thing we ever see is light," she says. "Time fades not into the dying shore. Tsunade-shishou says twilight is half-darkness and half-light, and the reason why we call it twilight is because there is something about darkness that people are too afraid to acknowledge, although twidarkness would sound a little weird don't you think—" she gives an embarrassed laugh. She is blabbering; she can't help it.
"Hm," he says.
"What do you think then? Any romantic connotations or divine revelations?"
"Twilight, huh?" he considers her reply, then taps his chin. "Like a fat man oversleeping his due."
Her mouth drops open in indignation. "Kakashi-sensei…"
"Sorry, sorry," he replies. Up close it is easy to see the hard edge of his jaw, the sideburn beside his ear, the scar over his half-lidded eye, the lines of expression in his mouth, those that are often hidden by his mask, those that change with the shift of his mood. He looks young for his age, maybe even a little surreal. Right now, though, he looks amused. "Twilight," he says, "makes me sleepy, I guess."
"Sleepy? How?" She cannot picture twilight making anyone sleepy.
"Hm, like a fat old man that doesn't— ah, sorry," he answers. "Makes me want to hit the sheets and never wake up again. It is… an inbred nature, perhaps."
She giggles. "Or you're just being lazy."
"You are lazy," she affirms.
"It's medically unhealthy, you know."
She thinks then that maybe this isn't so weird after all, that maybe she could like it this way, sitting next to a warm body, stilled in the juxtaposition of waiting. For isn't that what they are doing now, waiting for answers, waiting for home, waiting for a sunset wrought by the gravitation of the world. She doesn't see him as a sunset person, has never done so, and even after today, would probably never do. But sunset has a way of changing your perspective, of tilting the world in a way you would never expect it to, and so it is right now, sitting next to him, that she feels the distance between them close a fraction, even though their bodies do not.
"Naruto is right though," she decides, "about one thing."
"Konoha up here is oodles beautiful."
He laughs, very softly, very quietly.
"Yeah," she nods. "Very much so. Like… this whole scene of Konoha is closing up."
"To sleep, I guess," she continues. "The village is sleepy at twilight."
"No. Like the closing to a... story. The ending to a book. I don't think," she blushes, "I don't think I say it very well. It's just really nice, I think."
"A book, huh?" he considers.
"Yes," she replies. "Each day a new story, I think."
"There's tomorrow, though."
"Another day, another story—" she looks up at him. "Sensei, you do understand."
Soft laughter. She wonders why his unmasked face does not unnerve her, wonders why she feels no great surprise looking at it. "Not really."
She blows out a strand of hair from her eyes and leans backwards. The tiles are cool under her fingertips and thighs. The edge of the roof bumps into her back a little, but not offensively. The sky and sun concave. The clouds are orange-gray. Poised like that, atop the roof, with the wind rubbing in her face and only the weightless air supporting her back, it seems almost frivolous to want to fly.
"That's it, huh?" she says.
"You, sensei, are just like one of the boys."
He makes a small noise in the back of his throat, but does not answer. Maybe he does not know how to. His body is half-tilted to her direction. He is not wearing his gloves, she notices, and wonders why she has not before. It could be that in seeing his naked face all other oddities pale in comparison. It could be that things like these, often strange in their situations, maskless, gloveless and even, bookless, she realises with a start, are taken for granted in the face of twilight. His hands are broad, and they look firm and strong. They look like they belong this way: slung casually over his left knee, fingers unmoving and at ease against the orange backdrop.
Instead, she asks, "Were you training before, sensei?"
"Hm?" he answers. "Yeah. I guess."
"Oh," she replies. "Well." Then, a little unnecessarily: "You aren't wearing your mask."
Next to her, he touches a hand to his face, and she cannot tell if it's a self-conscious movement on his part or simply subconscious instinct at her words, but he nods, again, and agrees, "I'm not."
She wants to ask why, why not, wants to say something more like sensei are you allergic to dust or something and I promise I won't tell the rest and then maybe he would launch into another one of his lies because a deity came to me in sleep and took away my mouth but it is at this moment that a gust of wind blows and she realises with a faint start that the sun has neared the trees, and the clouds are shifting, ever so slightly.
"Kakashi-sensei," she starts. "What are you doing up here anyway?"
She thinks he's going to stare at her, ignore her, maybe, perhaps even change the topic entirely. Instead, he doesn't say anything for a while, and then he replies, "Things."
"Things, huh?" she wonders. That's good enough for her though; she doesn't ask more.
And then the sun is setting, inch by a inch and fraction by a fraction, and it seems like the entire world is focused breathless on it for a fleeting second, the horizon illuminated by a dark band of light. Then, as if withdrawing into itself, it diminishes, tiny at first, the sky an iridescent hue of purple ebbing into shades of dark blues and greys, and it fades off, still inch by inch, fraction by fraction, all but growing smaller and smaller in the distance. The world dims, the sky darkens and the clouds pauses brief for a singular moment in time. Konoha itself lies below the horizon, shrouded against the silhouette of the forests and statutes, blinking its activities, ephemeral and expectant. Then the sun winks and folds, and the scene seems, right now, to her then, to really close up like a hand.
"It's beautiful," she breathes. Kakashi doesn't answer, doesn't have to. His body feels warm next to her. He smells of sweat, spice and summer leaves. All too sudden Sakura is gripped by the impulse to lean in to him, like she would with Ino and Naruto and, sometimes, Sasuke-kun, to recognise his presence with the warmth of her own body, to affirm the beauty of the sunset with the fading glow of twilight.
Her fingers cave into their palms. Her breath catches in the wind.
So it is like this that they sit, side by side, silently and steadily, watching the fading sun recede into the last of distant trees.