A/N: Hello everybody! Welcome to the 11th (OMG has it really been that many?) in the "Friends" series. If you're new to this series, please go to my profile page and start with the original story, "Friends," then follow the stories up to this one. For those of you who want me to shut up and get on with it because you've already read every word of the "Friends" series, just hold on a sec! Let me set things up first! This story takes please about an hour or two after the last story "Secret" left off. If you forget what happened there, go back and re-read that last chapter, then get back here and jump in with both feet!
Ok, enough already - I don't own Naruto, but I love the story, therefore I continue to write this series. With that said, enjoy!
Anko was crushed. She spent most of the time shortly after Kakashi had left for his old apartment on the living room floor sobbing. Her heart was thoroughly and truly broken. He'd told her he needed some time to try and process why she wanted to marry him "someday," but still wouldn't give him any indication of when that "someday" might be. He'd begun to think she'd never be ready. Even though she was the only woman he'd ever loved, he had to get some space from her so he could think things over, and let her do the same. He knew she trusted him with her life. She'd almost sacrificed hers in an attempt to save him recently. So he was totally confused at her reluctance to marry him.
Kakashi felt as if he was being subtly rejected by her inability to face their future. In an attempt to find some clarity inside himself, as well as give her some time to think, he left for his old apartment.
He felt a pain when he'd left what was "their" apartment that he believed he'd feel if she'd died and been lost to him forever. But this kind of pain he'd never felt before. Loss was one thing – walking away from someone you truly love was another thing entirely. He tried to understand Anko's fear and reluctance, but for the life of him, he couldn't grasp it. He was willing to give her time, but he'd learned from their latest brush with death that life was too short to wait forever for anything. He knew she loved him. He saw it all over her face when he left her in what was "their" apartment. It almost killed him to go like that, but he had to get away for a bit and clear his head.
Their friends had found out about their secret engagement, and had taken it upon themselves to become their adopted "family" and throw them a yui-no to celebrate it. Everything was so thoughtful, and Kakashi was secretly thrilled by the whole thing. Anko had agreed to a yui-no someday. Someday is all she ever said when it came to marrying me. Did she really ever intend to? Kakashi started to wonder, but quickly pushed that thought out of his head. He was positive that Anko wanted to marry him; he just wished he knew why she was so scared about it to actually DO it.
Kakashi walked to his old apartment with a troubled brow. He said to himself, "I guess Tsunade was right. I'm glad I held on to this place." He tried to unlock the door, but it wouldn't open. He quickly understood why. He was trying to open his old apartment door with "their" apartment key. He stared at the shinier of the two keys, amazed that he'd become so used to using it so quickly. He sighed and opened the door with his old key.
He walked inside, kicked the door shut with his foot and walked immediately to the bedroom where his old bed still was. He flopped on it backward and stared at his old crack-less ceiling wishing he was anywhere else but there right then. He wished he was with Anko.
Anko cried her eyes almost shut. She rolled onto her back in the living room and said to herself in the quiet of the room, "He's gone. He's really gone. What'll I do? This can't be happening. I love him and he's not here. He left! He left because of me." She felt a deep emptiness in the pit of her stomach, a not all-unfamiliar pain. She'd been "left" before, and she'd chosen not to follow. But this time – she wanted to follow. She decided long ago that she would follow Kakashi to the ends of the earth if he'd let her. But she wasn't sure he would let her now.
Her mind was clouded and she had to think. She wiped her swollen eyes and runny nose and sat up. She looked around at the lovely decorations and gifts from the surprise yui-no that Kurenai had organized for them. She had a hard time believing that just a couple hours earlier, the apartment had been full of happy people wishing her and Kakashi all the best in the world. She'd been happy, until she got a bit nervous at the enormity of the whole thing. Even after everyone left, she was happy. But then it all started to crumble, and the yui-no gifts and decorations screamed at her reminding her that she was not currently happy. Miserable was closer to the way she currently felt.
As she looked at the beautiful pillows on the floor that she and Kakashi had sat on she remembered Kurenai. "Kurenai! I've got to talk to her." She got up and moved as fast as her still recovering body could and went to her bathroom. She tried in vain to conceal her puffy eyes and nose until she thought, it's no use. I'll just start bawling all over again as soon as I start telling her what happened. So she went to what was again "her" room and opened a drawer to change her clothes. Lying on top of a pile of clothes in the drawer she saw a black shirt that said, "Love Machine," and she burst into tears again.
Kakashi said to himself, "Can't stay here. I'll think myself to death. I want to go back home, but I need to give Anko some space – for both of us. I'll go see Asuma. No. He's probably with Kurenai somewhere 'congratulating' her on the successful yui-no she organized for us. And I bet that Anko's probably looking for Kurenai now anyway. Now that I think of it, I never properly thanked Genma for saving Anko's life. Maybe I'll buy him a beer, I know I could sure use one." Kakashi sat on the side of his old bed and decided to wait a few more minutes so he didn't run into Anko on his or her way out.
Anko grabbed the "Love Machine" shirt out of the drawer. She wiped her eyes with it and was tempted to blow her nose in it. As she inhaled, she opened her eyes wide. She stopped crying and held the shirt to her nose and inhaled again deeply. She said to no one, "That bastard lied to me! He wears this shirt because it smells like him! He doesn't clean with it. That fucker!" Anko threw the shirt aside, not even bothering to close the drawer it came from. As she started to slowly come to a boil, she wondered what else Kakashi had lied to her about.
She decided that changing her clothes would take too much time, so she left the bedroom and stormed out the door. After slamming it shut behind her, she made a bee-line for Kurenai's apartment. Since she was still recovering, she carefully hurried, having to stop every couple of buildings or so to catch her breath.
When she finally made it to Kurenai's apartment, she was breathing a bit heavily. She'd just gotten over surviving an explosion a little over a week before. She knocked on the door and waited – still breathing deeply. She put her hands on her knees and bent forward. Her previously broken ribs still gave her some pain when she breathed hard, and she rubbed her side trying to settle them down. She was still a bit angry at Kakashi, but at the same time, she felt the pain of Kakashi leaving their apartment just as sharply as she felt her ribs, if not more so.
Anko looked at Kurenai's door, and thought where is she when I need her? She was just at my place a couple hours ago – WHY ISN'T SHE HERE! She banged on the door again, and then put her ear to the door. "There's no one in there. Son of a bitch! I've got to find her. I need to talk to someone and she's the only someone I've got – anymore." Anko realized at that moment that it seemed that she'd lost the only other person besides Kurenai that she could reallytalk to. Her anger level dropped as her broken heart pushed to the forefront of her attention. Got to find Kurenai, she thought as she turned and made her way back out of the apartment building to find the friend she desperately needed to talk to.
Kakashi stood up after sitting on his bed for over ten minutes. "It's probably safe to venture out and find Genma or anyone else right now. I just hope I don't run into Anko while I'm out." It wasn't that he didn't love her anymore – he loved her deep in his heart, but he needed to think things through. That thinking was going to involve some manly time and some alcohol for starters.
He felt lousy and he knew that some alcohol, even though it would lessen the pain in his heart for a while, wouldn't make it go away completely. Just like alcohol would help keep his nightmares at bay before he went on his sabbatical, it didn't solve his problem. HE solved his problem. He'd solve THIS problem too, but right now, it was too new, it was too much, and he just wanted to sit and think. He slowly made his way to the one place he knew he could get a drink and maybe find some quiet time to think, with or without company.
Anko trudged through the street. She asked a few people along the way if they'd seen Kurenai. Everyone she asked said they hadn't seen her – or Asuma anywhere. She thought, everyone mentions Asuma in the same breath as Kurenai. Everyone really does know about them. She continued to walk the village looking for her friend, occasionally stopping to hold her previously broken ribs and catch her breath.
Eventually Anko approached the little sake bar where she and Kakashi had begun their "friends with benefits," relationship. She felt a pang in her heart when she realized just how long ago that happened and how far they'd come since then. As she looked over at the bar, she noticed someone there with their head down – almost the exact same way she'd seen Kakashi that first night. As she got closer, she found that it wasn't Kakashi at all.
She walked closer to the person at the bar and said, "Hey . . . OW!"
Anko bent over and held her ribs. The person at the bar turned slowly at the voice that called him and saw her bent over. He said, "Oh my God, ANKO!" He ran over to her and said "Are you alright? You're not supposed to be out; you're supposed to be resting. What's going on?"
Then Anko looked up at the face of her companion. He instantly saw something was wrong, because her swollen eyes and tear streaked face gave her away.
He helped her to her feet and said, "Come on. Sit down for a minute." He helped her on to one of the stools at the sake bar.
Anko said, "Thanks, but I can't stop. Tell me, have you seen Kurenai anywhere?"
"Kurenai? No, haven't seen her or Asuma anywhere."
Anko started to stand and said, "I've gotta go. I've got to find her."
"Anko sit down. What's wrong?"
She said, "I need to talk to Kurenai. Let me go – I need to find her."
"You're not going anywhere until you rest a minute. You can talk to me you know."
Anko looked at the man keeping her there. She desperately wanted to leave and find Kurenai. She needed to talk about Kakashi – she needed to get it all out there and get some relief. But there was no way she was going to let the man who sat next to her know that anything was wrong – especially when it came to Kakashi.
Kakashi walked the streets of Konoha slowly and with a heavy heart. His hands were stuffed deeply in his pockets and he was quiet distracted. He decided to not go find Genma, preferring instead to have a drink or four alone, that way he'd try and sort out what to do about Anko by himself.
Anko stood up and said, "I've really got to go. Thanks for the offer, but I need to, OW!" she bent at the waist and held her ribs again.
In a flash, her companion grabbed her by the shoulders, steadied her, and then helped her sit back down on a stool. He said, "Just cool it a minute! Catch your breath and I'll help you find Kurenai."
"Ok, thanks. But I really need to find her ASAP. I appreciate your help. You can let me go now, I'm ok."
But before her companion removed his hands from her arms and let her go, Kakashi turned the corner. What he saw at the sake bar made him see red.
A/N: And the cliffies start right away! Woo-hoo! Be prepared - there are more!
Next up: Who's at the sake bar? And what will Kakashi do to him? See you soon!