Home… home… they were going to go back home.
Kakashi leapt from one roof to another, the still form of Uchiha Sasuke close to his chest in his arms. The coal eyes had closed after he whispered words of comfort to the teen. Kakashi thought it would be for the best, for Sasuke to forget and seek temporary solace in his unconsciousness but –
"Sasuke? Wake up, Sasuke."
He jumped; the wind harsh against both their bangs. Sasuke's own dark bristles tapped gently against his cheeks. But he did not wake.
"Sasuke, don't scare me. Open your eyes."
The darkened chamber of his bedroom was already in his vicinity.
"We're home. Can you hear me? We're home."
And then he landed gracefully just outside of his abode. Holding Sasuke tightly by the shoulder, Kakashi balanced himself on the wooden ledge and pushed the window open swiftly. The curtains billowed as they caught wind, welcoming the Jounin into the quiet space. He marched towards the bed, settling Sasuke on the mattress.
The silence bugged Kakashi. Sasuke seldom tolerated Kakashi on the same bed unless it was for that one reason. Tell Sasuke that he would be reading bedtime stories, or he wanted to watch his student's sleeping face; the teen would kick him out of the bedroom in no time. Yet now Kakashi sat on the edge of the mattress, torn, watching Sasuke closely, exactly what Sasuke hated him doing. Kakashi half expected the teen to rise, veins bulging in his temples and muscles flexing in annoyance. But Sasuke stayed still.
So Kakashi placed his gloved palm over the cold cheek, his thumb rubbing circles below the lidded eye. There was barely a hint of tears there. That was the pride of an Uchiha; crying was unnecessary – true shinobi holds no emotions. Kakashi wanted to let Sasuke know that in times of utter despair and pain, it would be all right to let them fall. It might not help solve anything, but at least, it gave a person some peace of mind. Was Sasuke not human?
If Sasuke would not cry, Kakashi would hold him in his arms. Even if by then, the tears fall one by one, Kakashi would wipe them away. Nobody was going to see him crying; Sasuke did not need to hide.
"So wake up, Sasuke."
Anxiety laced Kakashi's voice as he urged his student to come to. Sasuke should be, given the time he had been out he should had gained consciousness or he had to be taken to the hospital. Kakashi, at all cost was determined to keep his student away from more probing and medical check-ups. There was no point in complicating matters; he would just wait for the dust to settle before he allowed Sasuke to mend the botches and clean up the mess. Except, Sasuke's body rejected the plan. Once again, Kakashi jarred the unmoving body gently as he hardened his resolve to surrender the wrecked physique to the Hokage. This would be the last attempt –
And a pair of eyelids lifted, revealing dull, black irises. A deeper breath was stolen between chipped lips and a weak hand came up to grasp Kakashi's meekly.
"Are we back home?" the shaky voice asked.
They were home.
"Isn't it time for dinner? I suppose I'm the one who has to cook again tonight?"
Kakashi was busying himself in front of the stove when he heard the calling. He poked his head into the adjoining bedroom and saw Sasuke ruffling his already messy hair, sitting upright on the crumpled blanket. Trails of gauntness still haunted his features but aside from that, the teen looked fairly unmarred.
"You've woken from your nap?" Kakashi asked carefully, scrutinizing his student.
Sasuke threw a brief annoyed look towards the door as if daring Kakashi to ask the obvious again.
At least, that was what the normal Sasuke would do on a normal day. Slowly, Kakashi lowered the frying pan in his grip and asked again, "How are you feeling?"
With an irritated grunt, Sasuke merely waved a hand, indicating he was feeling nothing out of ordinary. He pulled the sheets away and scooted towards the edge of the bed. Even if he was not looking directly at his teacher, the daunting awkwardness hovering in the room was enough to tell him Kakashi had him under his piercing gaze. Unknowingly he gathered the blankets onto his thighs and placed both feet flat on the floor.
"Are you going back to cooking or should I?" he muttered as he stared into his toes.
Kakashi neither moved nor replied – his lone eye fixated on his student. If his Sharingan could stab into minds, Kakashi would probably do just that to see for himself what was currently rolling in Sasuke's. On the outside, he was calm but Kakashi could almost see the turmoil beneath the indifferent façade. He could ask; he could also force the answers out. Kakashi would be the antidote to the poison coursing Sasuke's body.
It was Sasuke who refused to take it. So he pushed his teacher away. To the teen, nothing had happened after all, had it not?
"I assume you want me to cook then, Kakashi," Sasuke replied his unanswered question. He got up; even Kakashi could see the hesitancy as the teen put more weight onto his feet and straightened up. He pulled the blanket around his waist and knotted the hem, walking as fast and as normal as he could manage towards the dresser. He would still be having his everyday wear in it if Kakashi did not chuck them out of his house.
Then, for no reasons at all he had the urge to look back at the bed. He did and to his disgust he discerned bright red stains on the white sheets. From the tail of his eyes, he saw Kakashi suddenly studying the ceiling fan. He strode over to the bed too quickly for Kakashi's liking.
The mattress weighed down as he knelt on it, reaching for an abandoned pillow. As he tossed it over the humiliating blemish, he turned to Kakashi, demanding his teacher to continue his sentence.
A cold pause added onto the tension, broken by Kakashi's deep whisper. "That's enough. Really, Sasuke. You –"
A loud tapping on the hall's windows took their attention away from each other. Sasuke was looking at the dresser again. With a soft sigh, Kakashi stepped out of the bedroom and went to the living room where a home pigeon was perched on his sofa. When it saw the white haired Jounin, it flapped its wings, a loose feather or two fluttering onto the floor.
"Shh… don't make me clean up more mess, bird…"
He held the pigeons carefully in both palms before he eased a roll of paper fixed onto the foot. Apparently pleased at the sudden loss of weight tying its leg down, it flapped again, two more feathers joining the others on the floor. Kakashi watched it took off. The scroll was unrolled in a flash – it was then united with the pigeon's leftovers on his floor.
Crashes of cotton and wood shook the space. Kakashi tore down the hallway into where he left Sasuke, arriving in the nick of time to steady his student who was leaning too much against the wall. Fresh blood was trickling down his inner thigh.
"Hold still, it's going to be all right. Sasuke?"
The dark haired ninja flicked a tired eye at the Jounin. For answer, he fisted the front of Kakashi's shirt and shifted his weight onto the man instead. Within the next moment he was back again in Kakashi's arms. The elder man yanked at the dirtied bed covers and threw another fresh piece of blanket on the bed, lowering Sasuke on it.
The fist was still rigid on Kakashi's shirt.
Without pulling away from Sasuke's personal space, Kakashi grabbed a tissue roll on the nightstand.
"Sasuke, listen carefully; I'm only wiping the blood away. There's nothing to be afraid of. Is that clear?"
Kakashi clapped a hand on the teen's knee and directed his eye to Sasuke's. The latter nodded silently. So carefully, his hand, rolled up in layers of tissue worked its way upwards on Sasuke's thigh. They did not linger; the touches were clinical. But he would not pretend he did not feel the slight shiver when he approached Sasuke's nether region. The shaking was more apparent when it wiped across the abused anus. Out of pain, Kakashi assumed, Sasuke involuntarily flinched at the sensation and seemed to edge away from his teacher.
Kakashi immediately distanced himself and wrapped the other with a smaller sheet of cloth he found jutting out of the cabinet. Not even questioning whether his teacher had just given him a table cloth to snuggle in, Sasuke watched Kakashi toss the soiled tissue into the wastepaper bin and stand several feet away from the bed.
"I've been summoned by the Hokage," Kakashi started. He sounded worn out, weathered by troubles. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
Sasuke said nothing. That would mean he would be alone in the house. He quickly forced his mind to come active. He was not going to sleep. He would not allow his system to just shut down. He would not be vulnerable. He could fend for himself.
At the door frame, Kakashi looked over his shoulder and whispered, "Please stay in bed, Sasuke. Don't give me anymore reasons to stay worried."
He would not be vulnerable. He would fend for himself.
"You wish to see me, Hokage-sama?"
Kakashi closed the door behind him and took position in the middle of the circular office. Tsunade passed Ton Ton to Shizune who was attending to files on the adjacent table. Locking her long fingers together, Tsunade faced Kakashi and spoke in a very official manner Kakashi was not accustomed to.
"We're both mature people. So there are no reasons to beat around the bush, are there?"
Kakashi raised a brow slightly at the queer question. "No," he replied, somewhat amused.
"Good. Kakashi," she paused again. Then a glow of determination seemed to lighten her eyes and she continued, "Do you have any mature rated videos we can borrow?"
Borrow… mature rated videos…
He blinked… he did not hear it wrongly, did he?
"You heard me," Tsunade said tersely. "You after all, read that idiot's Icha Icha Paradise series. Surely you keep some naughty videos at home."
At this, Kakashi chortled emptily. He ran his hand through his hair, obviously uncomfortable at the blatant request.
"Hokage-sama, just because I read the novels does not mean I am deeply fascinated with such things."
"You don't?" she shot almost abruptly.
"Tsunade-sama," Shizune interrupted and Kakashi thanked her secretly, "I don't think that's the best way to ask for a favour…"
"It isn't?" she sounded confused, but recovered very quickly and whirled around in her executive chair to face her subordinate again.
"Fine, we can talk about the videos later. I am instructing all male Genin, Chuunin, Jounin and Tokubetsu Jounin to undergo a certain… health test." She looked up deliberately at him, gauging some reaction from the Jounin. "Well, I don't have to explain further, do I?"
Kakashi tilted his head a fraction. His visible eye narrowed as he smiled faintly, "I'm sorry, Hokage-sama. I don't watch and keep such videos in my house."
Both Tsunade and Shizune huffed despondently. Kakashi was an easy source to tap from; supposedly he did have such a hobby. The fact that the Jounin was cleaner than they expected came as a shock. This was after all, coming from a man who read porn novels under broad daylight without reservation even if his Genin students were huddling around him.
"Uh, Hokage-sama," Kakashi addressed the middle-aged woman, one hand on the buffed up knob. "Naruto would be happy to cooperate. His Oiroke no Jutsu is undefeatable. Even the late Sandaime Hokage-sama had once fallen prey."
"Impossible, Kakashi. What's the point of encouraging that brat to use such idiotic jutsu? Besides, he's supposed to be a test subject along with the others."
"If you say so," Kakashi nodded courteously before exiting the office.
As soon as the door clicked in place, Kakashi's somber expression dominated his partially concealed visage. Slowly he made his way to the main entrance but a jovial voice greeted him from afar.
A grinning Genma was walking towards him. He suspected Tsunade had summoned the Tokubetsu Jounin for the same reason he was summoned just now. Kakashi returned the amicable gesture, holding a hand up like he always does.
"I heard you just returned from an S-rank one," Genma chirped, the senbon gleaming between two rows of straight teeth.
"Yes. And you better see her now. I think you have what she's looking for."
Genma's lips tweaked to a playful smile as he clapped on the older man's shoulder. They both parted ways with Kakashi appearing under sunlight again and the other ninja finding out a very shocking request from the Hokage herself. Now that nothing would bother the silver haired until the moon ascends, he hurried home – his walk quickly quickened into huge strides and eventually, he pumped chakra into his soles, teleporting himself to Sasuke's side.
The moment his feet met solid ground, he scanned the familiarized room and saw dim light pouring out of the kitchen. He called out to Sasuke and sighed, relieved, when the latter replied with a casual, "Here."
"Sasuke, what are you doing here? I told you to rest in bed."
Sasuke turned the running tap water off and replaced a newly rinsed glass onto a rack. He turned ever so slowly to Kakashi but never quite meet the older man's eyes. "I was thirsty."
"Ah, yes…" Kakashi mumbled, rubbing the nape of his neck. "I should have left a jug of water in the room after all." He then offered a half smile to his student. Deep down he knew it did not reach his eyes. Sasuke was still adamantly studying the fridge.
"Come," the Jounin invited, extending a large hand to the dark haired teen. "Let's get some rest."
But Sasuke did not take it.
"What is this?" he hissed instead, Kakashi lowering his hand at the cold comeback. "Pity?" he glared behind curtains of black fringes.
"Pity? Not at all. I see you can manage yourself pretty well even if I'm not around to –"
"No, stop there, Kakashi," Sasuke cut in. He turned again towards the sink, two hands pale and rigid clenching the edge of the mosaic top. "I am not a woman. Don't treat me like a dainty porcelain doll."
"You are not fragile," the deep, quiet voice replied as Kakashi approached the younger one's back, eventually stopping when he could almost rest his chin on Sasuke's head. "You are not. But you are human. You can at least, admit that part."
"I am not weak."
To be human is not weak. Kakashi wrapped his arms around Sasuke's neck, pulling the smaller frame into his chest. He spoke softly but clearly into the spiky raven hair, "I am not holding you; you are holding me. I am not giving you comfort; you're giving it to me. Can you think of it this way?"
Sasuke's hands stopped midair; he was about to tear his teacher's away.
"I told you before; everyone close to me is already dead. This is the first time someone return to me after an ordeal. Let me hold you for a while." And Kakashi dug his head deeper into the crook of Sasuke's neck, relishing the bodily present stature. The tapping of coal hair on his nose and the warmth emanating from the teen were enough to remind him that Sasuke was indeed here.
Slowly, the younger man relaxes, leaning into the larger frame. His legs had been shaking when he heard the main door open and he thought of settling into a chair before the Jounin reach the kitchen but he knew that was wishful thinking. Knowing full well he would be better off not moving or risk tearing the wound at that sensitive spot again, Sasuke leaned against the counter, pretending that he was busying himself with the glasses. Did Kakashi see through him? Was Kakashi really seeking comfort himself or was he providing a free excuse for Sasuke to seek his?
Kakashi supported most of Sasuke's weight by the time the teen was fully in his teacher's embrace.
"Sasuke," Kakashi called, one arm snaking behind his student's waist. The professional feel of the touch somewhat boosted Sasuke's confidence that perhaps, this was the right place to be at times like this. "I'm sending you to the hospital now," and he lifted Sasuke in one swift heave.
"No. Not in this condition." Kakashi stilled, waiting for explanation; what could possibly justify the logic of letting Sasuke rot in his home instead of letting him seek proper medical treatment? "I don't want them to trace these injuries back to my doings."
Kakashi furtively glanced at a corner of his bookcase; he had stashed Sasuke's bag of gold there.
"I can't let you be."
He strode over to the bedroom's window, one leg up the sill, ready to jump into the night. But Sasuke held his teacher's shoulder, strong enough to gain attention and spoke, hushed and steadfast, "Please."
"Even though it's been a day, there's still trace amount of drugs inside his blood system. The trauma caused by… rape… is also still raw and unhealed."
"Do you have any medications to heal the physical injuries? How about some painkillers?"
"Sempai, painkillers only work temporarily. When it wears off, the sensation will hit him in full blow. And I have to remind you, it cannot be taken continuously for days. No drugs can help him recover to his initial state, sempai."
"You know Sasuke. He will not lie in bed obediently once he's awake."
A healer speaking? A healer and Kakashi, that was certain; he would never forget that deep growl Kakashi used whenever he was agitated. But why a healer? Sasuke's eyes peeled open and immediately he let his eyes get used to the ambient and the walls. It could not be the hospital; had he not told Kakashi specifically that he refused to be warded? Then he saw the unmistakable orange poster of Icha Icha Paradise on the wall by the switch.
"I'm not going to let him take more drugs, but I'll prescribe natural herbs for him to bathe in. That should be fine for both of us, right?"
"That should be."
"Really, sempai, I thought it would be best to leave the final decisions to the healer herself. Ah, Sasuke?"
Two heads turned to him. Kakashi was looking at him, concerned – his eye told the story – both hands in the pockets. Sasuke blinked at the female healer and recognized her to be Tsunade's most trusted assistant.
"Aren't you… Shizune?" Sasuke asked as he sat up. She nodded affirmatively, handing several sachets of something to the hoary haired Jounin.
"I'll be going now. Kakashi-sempai, these are for the bath, only once a day. Call me whenever you need me."
There was a gentle thud on the window sill as Shizune kicked off towards an adjacent roof. Soon, only Sasuke's rhythmic breathing could be heard. Kakashi dragged a chair to the side of the bed and sat on it, eyeing the other's face.
"Ask anything, I'll answer."
For a while, Sasuke said nothing. What would he ask especially if he had nothing that needed answers for?
"I thought you called Sakura."
"Sakura is not the only expert medic nin I know."
"You always limit your number of acquaintances. It isn't surprising to know that the only medic nin you deem trustworthy are Sakura and Shizune," Sasuke retorted, turning to face his teacher.
Kakashi chuckled, standing again. "Considering the length of period I spend in the medical center, I can honestly say I can recite every single healer's name by heart." He pushed the chair back to its original place and added, "Though it's correct, that I trust only Sakura and Shizune when it comes to such matters."
Sasuke trusted Kakashi and if Kakashi trusted Sakura and Shizune, he would too.
"Come, Shizune told me to soak you up in herbs after you wake up."
Sasuke did not have to know everything Shizune told him… He remembered her words vividly, that when it comes to certain parts, the healing would rely on Sasuke's willpower alone. Neither Shizune nor Kakashi could help. Though it pained him greatly that he could only watch his student battle with his fears, he believed that the kid had very strong willpower to be armed with.
Sasuke would grow into a fine lad, Kakashi believed in that, too.
"You can head for the bathroom. I've already prepared the water."
He allowed Sasuke to walk himself to the tub. He might have cared for the teen but there was limit to feeling protective over a proud sixteen-year-old. He then heard rustling of fabrics and articles falling onto the tiles. He would let Sasuke have his privacy until he got into the tub. So he waited for several more minutes until there was no sound of activities anymore.
"I'm coming in," Kakashi knocked on the door.
When he pushed himself in, he saw Sasuke standing in the middle of the space, his hands which were trying to undo his pants were trembling. Kakashi put the sachet on the shelf where it would not get wet and stood behind his student, his larger hands resting atop Sasuke's shivering ones. When the top button came off –
Toiletries toppled off the shelves and the mirror rattled as a heavy body – Kakashi's – was thrown into the wall, a sharp kunai held to his neck. Sasuke's Sharingan were activated, his face saturated with murderous intents was only inches apart from his teacher's emotionless visage.
"Don't touch me," he threatened, the kunai shifted a bit in his grasp. Kakashi however gripped Sasuke's wrist which was positioned below his chin.
"You don't want to kill me, Sasuke. You don't mean this."
Sasuke's crimson eyes bored into Kakashi's visible one, discerning worry and… confidence. Did he teacher not know it was not worth it to have faith in this last descendant of the Uchiha? The Sharingan faded into darkness again and the kunai clattered onto the dry tiles. He sagged, sitting down on his teacher's lap.
"I can't do this, Kakashi."
"You can. Where has your self-assurance gone to?"
"The water's getting cold. You better get in there."
Sasuke was vaguely aware when he took the sachet from Kakashi or when he dipped into the warm water. The scent of specially selected herbs was oddly soothing, both mentally and physically. The throb between his legs dulled and subsided and he was slowly drifting asleep before Kakashi came in again with a clean towel.
Kakashi had actually spent some time pondering over it. For Sasuke's well being, he would even consider knocking Sasuke out to simplify the issues – if ever Sasuke's state of mentality decided to fall apart again during bath time. His student would come back to having a neutral relationship with him, just like back when he was a Genin brat, or maybe even worse. Shizune was not going to be impressed with his decision as well, neither was he, but for Sasuke's sake…
The door opened again and Sasuke appeared in the bedroom, his hair slightly damp. Kakashi got out of the bed, leaving it free for the younger man to use.
"Again?" Sasuke found himself asking such a childish question. But true, he had either been sleeping or passed out on the bed three times today.
"The drugs will be purged out of your system by tomorrow according to Shizune. You need this rest even if you don't feel like it."
Kakashi held a couple of capsules and a glass of clear water as Sasuke clambered onto the mattress.
"To neutralize the drugs. It's only for today, Sasuke."
The black haired teen took them. Before he popped them into his mouth, Kakashi heard an almost silent sigh, "It will take time."
The Jounin took the empty glass away, ruffling the coal spikes like the olden days. Sasuke could take all the time he needed; Kakashi would provide for them. At around midnight when gentle snores filled the bedroom, Kakashi stooped over his sleeping student and planted a light kiss on the fair forehead.
It was full moon tonight. A new day began.