Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: I burned my hands in a kitchen fire once, and that sort of inspired this ficlet thingy.

Theme #88 and #89: Pain and Through the Fire.
Rating: T.
Genre: Angst/Drama.
Summary: After a gas tank explodes, Kakashi is left with the worst injury of his life.

He had no idea that pain like this existed.

His arms were on fire; they were burning like the deepest, centermost part of an inferno, burning like the very pits and bowels of hell, burning and burning and burning until it felt like his flesh and tissue were trying to crawl away from the bone just to escape the fucking burning.

He had been injured before; he had been cut and stabbed and slashed open, he had broken bones and torn muscles and lost an eye for God's sake, but this...this was entirely different, entirely new, and entirely unbearable.

He cried for medication, any kind of medication, he cried for it like a starving infant would cry for milk but he wanted it more than any starving creature could ever want sustenance. He wanted it like he wanted to breathe; but did he even want to breathe anymore, when breathing meant he was still alive to feel?

They knocked him out, of course; he would have died from the pain if they didn't. They knocked him out for hours upon hours on end, but he always woke to the little demons that nibbled away his nerves with tiny flamethrower teeth and he always woke screaming to be knocked out again.

Then one day he woke, and the pain was less. It was still there, still digging into the fiber of his being...but it was digging less deeply. He found he could form a coherent sentence, asking in a polite (if rather strained) tone of voice for the medicine he had formerly screeched for.

When he woke the next time, he found he could focus on other things; he could focus on the voices of the people in the room around him, when before the pain had overwhelmed nearly all his senses. He could hear Tsunade's voice mumbling about chakra transfers and skin grafts, and how visitors still were not allowed, Iruka would just have to wait.

Kakashi was not blind, but both his eyes had been bandaged over. He wasn't sure why, but he was certain he could still see--he was just only being permitted to see the inside of gauze wrap right now.

Then the pain hitched up a notch, and he asked for more medicine. He was given a pill that didn't knock him out, but it soothed the flames that were threatening to take over his arms into brightly glowing embers instead.

"Tsunade?" he asked tentatively, once he was able to push his aching, throbbing arms to the back of his mind once more. "I know you're there, Hokage-sama, I can hear you."

"I'm here, Hatake," she replied quickly. "Tell me, how bad is it now?"

"It's better," he said. "Nothing I can't deal with, as long as you keep the pills coming. Why are my eyes bandaged?"

"Flash blindness," she replied. "When the gas tank blew, you must have been looking straight at it—even though you were so far away it temporarily blinded you. How you managed to get out of there is a fucking mystery, Hatake. Do you remember?"

For a moment, Kakashi actually had no idea what she was talking about. He had been so obsessed with the pain for so long that he hadn't stopped to remember what had caused it. Now that it wasn't the only thing on his mind, however, he was able to recall most all of what had happened.

He had been trapped on the wrong side of the building when the gas tank blew. He was a good three hundred feet away, but he was staring right at it when it went up in flames. It caught his half of the building on fire and he had been completely trapped. Perhaps he had been near enough to an exit to risk running through the flames, which he assumed he must have done…he found he didn't remember anything specific after the bright flash of the gas tank blowing.

"I remember the explosion, but nothing else," he replied. "Any idea what happened after that?"

"We saw you walk out of the flames," she answered, "You must have been close to the exit, then. It was damn stupid of you to wear that sleeveless shirt, Hatake, I hope you know. That's why you're in the shape you're in right now."

"It was hot that day," he answered, a little defensively.

"It got hotter," she mumbled. "Anyway, you were walking out with one arm forward and the other over the exposed part of your face. That mask of yours saved your meal ticket, Hatake."

"Meal ticket? Oh, my face you mean," he said. "Was anyone else injured?"

"Two dead, one injured. Obviously, you're the injured one. Now go back to sleep, will you? Your chakra levels are still pretty low."

"I heard you say I can't have visitors yet…why?"

Tsunade sighed heavily, then Kakashi felt her skilled hands peeling away the dressing over his eyes.

"It's really only Iruka," she whispered, as she saw Kakashi's eyes widen in horror. "Do you really want him to see this?"

Kakashi's arms no longer resembled arms so much as long rolls of dirty hamburger; his hands were in decent shape, having been protected by his armored gloves, but his arms…his arms. God, just...his arms.

He felt his gorge rising and he leaned over the side of the bed, vomiting into the nearby trashcan.

Habitually, he raised his arm to wipe his mouth, but moving the mutilated limb sent a shockwave of agony through him. Tsunade wiped his mouth as if he were a messy child, and Kakashi hung his head in humiliation.

"You've received skin grafts, Hatake. They won't look like this forever. There will be some significant scarring, but nothing like this. Nothing at all."

"Let Iruka in," Kakashi said quietly, as if he hadn't heard this statement at all. "Please."

Tsunade looked a little startled, but she went out into the hall nonetheless. A moment later, Iruka burst through the door, a joyful cry of, "Kashi!" coming from his lips.

Then:

"Oh…Kashi. Oh, God…"

Iruka sat down in the visitor's chair near Kakashi's bed, staring at the raw meat that had once consituted two perfectly good and useful appendages. "Kashi…I…"

Kakashi smiled, perhaps a little too widely, perhaps a little too cheerfully. "It really doesn't hurt much anymore, Ruka. Don't worry. They took my eye bandages off today and I wanted to see you, and I know you've been wanting to see me so stop…stop looking at them. Please."

With an effort, Iruka tore his eyes away from Kakashi's arms and brought them to rest on the jounin's mismatched eyes instead. He smiled weakly and said, "I want to hug you, Kashi, but I might hurt you…"

"I'd hug you too, but I'd pass out from the pain," Kakashi joked. "I love you, Ruka."

"I love you too."