What You Need
A Naruto fanfiction by Beth Einspanier
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any related characters. I make not money from this story.
Author's note: This fic contains spoilers for Naruto: Shippuden and recent character death. Light Kakashi/Kurenai, stronger Asuma/Kurenai. If it sucks, please let me know.
Rain poured relentlessly over Konoha. It had started the evening of Asuma Sarutobi's funeral, and had continued in sheets through the night, as though echoing the village's grief. Most of the village had shown up; Asuma had been a skilled shinobi, a wise teacher, and a respected warrior.
It was now a bit past midnight. A lone figure moved through the flooding streets, her sandals splashing into puddles she didn't even try to avoid, and her long dark hair and clothing soaked through and clinging to her like the cold embrace of a dead lover. She reached the sheltering eaves of one of the apartment buildings, leaning against the doorway with a weariness that was only partially physical, and knocked at the door.
She didn't know if he would be awake. If he was awake, she couldn't guarantee that he would open the door at this late hour. And if he opened the door…
She heard footsteps approaching, breaking her reverie. They were light, with the catlike grace of any self-respecting ninja. The latch turned, and the door opened.
"Kurenai," he greeted her.
"Kakashi," she greeted him in turn. She looked up, her crimson eyes regarding the man who had been her lover's truest friend, and whom alone she could trust with the weight of her grief.
For his part, he did not look particularly surprised to see her. Whether he had used his Copy Wheel eye to peek through the door, or else he had, like her, been suffering insomnia, she couldn't tell. He was bare-chested, clad only in a pair of sweatpants slung low on his hips, and his ubiquitous mask. His ANBU tattoo was visible on his left shoulder. His Sharingan glowed slightly in the dim light from under the lazy hood of his scarred eyelid. Yes… he'd known pain. He could understand.
"Sorry," she said, "I know it's late."
"You should come in before you freeze to death," he said simply, in that casual way he had, and stepped aside. Her footsteps squelched as she walked, and she was aware that she was tracking water on the floor. Some kunoichi she was. "I didn't see Shikamaru at the funeral," he continued, pulling out a chair for her in the kitchen table, "Is he all right?"
"He took his sensei's death pretty hard," Kurenai said, sitting down, "I'll check on him in the morning."
He looked at her in silence for a few moments. "And you? Are you all right?"
Part of ninja training, for both men and women, was learning to read subtle body language, both to accurately observe targets and to fit a necessary role. Kurenai knew it would be worthless at best, and insulting at worst, to lie to him.
"It hasn't been easy," she said, and watched him fill a tea kettle and place it on the stove to heat.
"I'll get you a towel so you can dry off," he said, and vanished into the hall.
Kurenai watched the heating kettle, one hand absently rubbing her stomach. The worst part of the whole thing was what she'd found out after Asuma had left for that fateful mission, which she had hoped was only wishful thinking until Tsunade had confirmed it. Her heart twisted with the knowledge.
She numbly took the towel Kakashi offered her, rubbing it through her wet hair. She didn't even notice her own tears until her breath hitched. Through the haze of her grief she saw Kakashi crouch in front of her, looking up at her, saying nothing, waiting for her to speak when she was ready. His hand rested comfortingly on her damp knee.
"Kakashi," she whispered finally, when her throat had opened again, "I'm pregnant."
He squeezed her knee thoughtfully. "His?" he asked simply.
She nodded. Her tears flowed freely, and her body shook with sobs. She felt his warm hand cup her cheek, the pad of his thumb brushing away a tear. She put her hand over his, savoring his touch, then reached out to him, sliding off the chair to kneel between his knees, leaning against him. She felt his strong arms fold around her, holding her close.
"I'm happy for you," he said quietly into her ear. There was a note of sadness in his voice. He reached past her for the towel, wrapping it around her, blotting the remaining water from her clothing.
As he worked, she reached up, touching his masked face, desperately searching for… something. She couldn't say what. Impulsively, she pulled his mask away from his face, questing, yearning, leaning forward…
Instead of his lips, her mouth encountered his fingertips. She opened her eyes to see him looking at her, his expression pained but resolved. She'd only seen him unmasked once. She'd nearly forgotten how beautiful he was.
"No," he said gently.
"Kakashi," she whimpered, "I need…"
"No. You don't need. You want… what I can't give you. I know you're hurting. I know you want Asuma back. I can't give you that. All I would be… is a poor substitute for him." He closed his eyes, turning away. "I have loved you… for a long time. Since before you and he were together." He turned back, looking at her with his mismatched eyes – one gray, one red with the peculiar pattern that marked it as the Mangekyo Sharingan. He stroked her cheek. "I can't offer you him back. All I can offer right now is a shoulder to cry on, a hand to support you…" He glanced over as the kettle started whistling. "… and a halfway decent cup of tea."
He stood, lifting her by the shoulders and setting her gently in the chair again, wrapped warmly in the towel. She clutched the soft terrycloth close as he went to pour the water for the tea. She watched him, noticed the set of his shoulders, the pensive expression on his face. He hadn't pulled his mask back up.
"Do you take lemon or honey?" he asked. He didn't even seem awkward after her… what was it? A slip? An impulse? Yet another symptom of her grief? Desperation? Stupidity?
"Look, I'm sorry," she said, "I don't know what I was thinking, coming here." She stood. "I should go."
She stopped, and waited.
"I may not be able to give you what you want, but I can give you what you need," she said.
She closed her eyes. "And what, in your estimation, do I need?"
"A friend. A sympathetic ear. Someone to share your grief."
"And what makes you think I need all that?"
"Because it's what I need, too."
She turned back. She noticed, for the first time, the grief in his eyes. She cursed herself for her selfishness. She'd seen him at the funeral, solemn and silent and unmoving, his mask made of more than fabric – his sadness was held privately, shared with a trusted friend.
After a few moments, she sat down.
"I'll take honey, please," she said.
He was wrong about the tea. It was excellent.