Widdershins

By Neech


Widdershins

adv.

Widdershins (sometimes withershins, widershins or widderschynnes) means to take a course opposite the apparent motion of the sun (in the Northern hemisphere), going counterclock-wise, lefthandwise, or to circle an object, by always keeping it on the left.


Written for the Kakasaku Christmas gift exchange project for sakura haru.

I.

The first time she sleeps with him, it's an accident. Veritably so.

It's late and she's drunk- far more drunk than he thinks her to be. She's talking without the tell-tale slur, debating the pros and cons of genjutsu over taijutsu with Genma at the jounin table with a relaxed ease that he attributes incorrectly to friendship, rather than the alcohol that mingles with her blood. Sakura's nineteen now, slender and beautiful and very, very dangerous, and Kakashi is busy not staring at her. Decidedly so, with him nursing his drink in the far corner and her more than fifteen table-spans away (and he knows this because he counted).

The one thing clear to his slightly-bleary mind is that Sakura is different now (and that's the most appropriate word Kakashi can think of at this point in time), and Kakashi wonders when he missed her transition from awkward girl-woman to fully-fledged female, because hips and breasts and legs like that don't just spontaneously occur over the course of one winter. This is Sakura- his Konoha kunoichi, his littlest of three- whose runaway-train image he's being hit by. Haruno Sakura, who looks as if she's stepped out of Jiraiya's newest masterpiece, and God if it isn't the most fucking amazing thing he's ever seen. His little girl is now the sexual fantasy of two-thirds of the male population of Konoha- and if he stares at her for longer than twenty-three seconds he's pretty sure she'll become his too.

Fucking hell.

And Kakashi may have been the worst jounin teacher to ever grace the streets of Konoha (and that is a lie, for the dubious honour belongs to Jiraiya), but he still has some sense of propriety or code of ethics that prevents him from letting himself do so.

Not that the other boys have anything to hold them back- three-quarters of the chunin occupying the pub are salivating at the image the kunoichi presents: shod leather and thinly-netted shirt, billowing red sleeves and a sneak peek at a tanned and toned waist, but it's the air of confidence and professionalism that does them in; that makes the little boys want to curl up on the ground and lick her boots at her say-so.

Damn, she's sexy.

Sakura reminds him of Kurenai at the pinnacle of her career as a kunoichi- all gentle curves and liquid grace, with a hint of feminine calculation in those depths of large doe-like eyes. Kakashi chuckles slightly to himself as he takes another swig of sake; his little green-eyed girl, armed with those hips and breasts and legs and that goddamned figure which put hourglasses to shame, is now perfect for the S-class missions which require the seduction of men. Weak-minded, hormonally-driven men. Ah, the irony of being considered the stronger sex, when all it took was a woman's gentle touch to get them wrapped around her little finger.

The soft whistle of something thrown in the direction of his head makes him pause; it's a copper ryo, dark and burnished under the dim lighting of the bar. "Penny for your thoughts?" she asks, and he wonders whether she knows she's coated her voice with honey and velvet, whether she knows the effect of that tone of her voice on most men. He tries desperately not be in that particular classification.

"Hm." Noncommittal. It's a good step from the dangerous line his libido asks (not begs, he denies) him to cross. He doesn't particularly want to be part of this conversation, and he wonders if she'll get the hint if he whips Icha Icha out if his leg-pouch and ignores her. Knowing Sakura, she'd probably prattle on and call him a pervert before giving him his privacy. God. No wonder Sasuke ran in the opposite direction.

"What are you thinking about, Sensei?" Sakura isn't deterred, not even for a second, and he curses inwardly when she leaves a hand on his arm, teases the pool of heat that gathers there and shoots towards his groin. Fuck. He's half-way to inebriated, his eighteen year old student's flirting with him- and it's working.

Things are not going well at all.

It takes her a minute before she removes the hand. "Kakashi-sensei, you didn't answer my question," she says. She's lost the sensual timbre from her voice, but she's sitting a chair-length from him and dressed in the shortest mini-skirt he's ever seen. He has to forcibly pull his eye away from creamy thigh. Legs like that should be illegal.

"Sex." Honest answer. Maybe she'd choke on her daiquiri.

"Really," she says, and the fact that she isn't even fazed leaves Kakashi with a feeling of foreboding- far, far worse than the day he found out he would (yet again) be saddled with three genin brats. Now would probably be a good time to get drunk or stop talking. Whichever came first.

Instead, this is what happens: Hatake Kakashi gets bleedin' intoxicated, so drunk he sways and nearly tumbles from his barstool when the bartender finally cuts him off. Sakura volunteers to carry him home, and she does, with him slung over her back like a sack of potatoes and a steadying hand tight with its grip on his hip. (the fact that she has enough chakra-reinforced strength to carry him with four fingers makes it sound a great deal less suspicious, and in truth, nobody suspects a whit). Nothing happens. That is, until she deposits him on the couch and stares at him with those eyes of hers, large and round with innocence. In his alcohol-induced stupor, they look a little like jewels, green and shiny in the moonlight.

He moves. She doesn't stop him.

He doesn't notice he's taken her virginity until he's done and finished, and she's lying quietly by his side- their skin doesn't touch. Hatake Kakashi tries to sleep; if he sees the tears that drip down her cheeks silently, he pretends not to notice.

The next day, she's gone from his bed, like she was never there in the first place. The next day, she's back to normal and she waves to him genially when he walks past her in the market. They both pretend it never happens.

II.

The second time they have sex, he fucks her with the same methodical precision he usually reserves for S-class missions.

Kurenai is dead. Anko is dead. Their S-class mission is a success but two of Konoha's elite jounin are gone, falling to the deadly poison of Amegakure ninja- he's there when he watches Sakura struggle desperately to save them, he's there when he watches her fail.

He's so tired of death right now. But the truth is he's just as tired of life, but he can't quite will himself to die- not when he's far away and walking along a forgotten, dusty path, alone but for the silent kunoichi that walks behind him, trailing like a little, lost puppy that a small part of him wants to kick (and he's furious with himself for even thinking that).

It's not Sakura's fault that they're dead- it's his. For not protecting them well enough. For not killing the kunoichi that blocked his path two minutes prior. For not screaming loud enough for Anko to hear. They're dead, and there's blood on his hands, staining his wrist guards and dyeing his gloves a rich, vibrant crimson- he can hear them scream, still.

Shut up. Just- shut up. The voices in his head don't stop talking. So much for being master of your own domain.

They stop walking at an abandoned cultivation site for camp at close to midnight, and he volunteers for first watch because he doesn't want to see Sakura cry; he can imagine her sobbing: loud, noisy, messy tears that make her look younger than her twenty years, and he half-wants to shake her and tell her to have her embarrassingly-private emotional fits when they're safe in Konoha and he's gone. He doesn't want to be privy to any of it.

Instead, he doesn't say a word.

It's closer to dawn when Sakura touches him, places her palm on the small of his back. Her hands are dainty, small- kunoichi hands, with rough calluses that bisect thin white marks of faint scars. He remembers some of them- those she acquired when he still picked up her bleeding hands and examined them for lasting injuries- those are old friends, but of late, obscured by darker, garish acquaintances that remain cordial, but border on the tone of unfriendliness. He doesn't quite know these hands any more.

Her hands are slender and long-fingered; the nails well-maintained. In another life, she could have been a painter, a pianist, and he would be none the wiser.

"Kakashi-sensei, I'll take over. Get some sleep," she says. There is a perceptible frown on his face when he looks at her. Kakashi still hates it when she calls him that. He hasn't been her teacher in five years. It makes him sick to think she still holds him in high esteem, with a honorific tagged to his name and respect in her eyes when she greets him. The point is she should be spitting at the sound of his name and treating him as if he were dead. He's a bastard. He's treated her like a bumbling idiot for years, left her to struggle on her own, managed to kill most of the jounin he's worked with and still survived them all. That alone would have made better ninja shun him as if he were the biggest, blackest sheep that ever lived.

He's even fucked her with his mask on, for goodness sakes.

He's just a bastard. Through and through.

And right now, the bastard wants her to get as far away from him as possible. Funny how that works, getting people close- intimately so, in order to push them far, far away.

He grabs her arm, grips it tight enough to bruise; and true enough, there are purple-green ovals that dot her wrists hours later, five little shadows which fit his fingers perfectly. Kisses her hard and long without a tad of tenderness to soothe her bruised torn lip. Forces his tongue past her lips to explore the cavern of her mouth. It's with some surprise that he finds out she doesn't taste like peach (the boys of Konoha were thus very, very wrong), but of green tea and a hint of mint, until the taste of blood finally mixes in, and he has to struggle not to gag.

She doesn't struggle the whole time.

He pulls back, breathing hard. Sakura's eyes are very wide- and suddenly she's fifteen again, innocent and young and guileless, and God, he feels like such a dirty old pervert he'd have considered letting her punch him to kingdom-come, just to make her stop looking at him that way. The revulsion and guilt threatens to surge past his lips- he keeps it down, just barely.

"Get away from me." She's not the little girl he used to teach, he reminds himself. He wants to believe that it's true, that it was acceptable to have fucked her one autumn day without a care in the world; they were both drunk beyond comprehension anyway, and that, like today, didn't even matter. Didn't ever matter. That this was just his warped methods of being antisocial put into play.

Kakashi tries to lie to himself, but it very rarely ever works.

It is not acceptable. She's his- what? Student. Comrade. Friend. Things shouldn't work that way. Teachers aren't supposed to sleep with their students- but it happens, and there's nothing Kakashi can do to change it. The fact that Tsunade hasn't bludgeoned him in his sleep makes him a very lucky man. And Kakashi may have been a terrible teacher, but there were lines even he were afraid to cross. Today, there is no alcohol to blame, no naïve attempts at seduction- just him, her and the quiet, lonely road.

The moment is lost when she grabs his hand and places it on her chest- on her breast, and he can feel its contours against the thin layer of her vest. "No. Please," she whispers, her breath tickling his face as she pulls him closer, stares at him with pleading eyes, and her gaze shakes slightly from inexperience and desire. "Please," she repeats, and she removes his hand as she begins to undress herself. In five, she's naked and willing and wanting- he knows this as she presses herself against his form, pulls his hand to her core to palm the heated wetness at its base. "Do you want me?"

And God forbid- he does. Wants her so damn much.

"Let me in," she murmurs, and he gives in.

Ultimately, the sex is passionate, yet controlled, and he finds it easier to imagine Anko's or Kurenai's face superimposed onto hers. Ironically it's easier to imagine fucking them and using them than to think of them as dead. He imagines that it is Kurenai's body he's running his hands over from nape to ankles (he supposes Asuma would kill him, if he were alive, but he won't think about that now) and it's Anko who pants as he thrusts heavily into her. Imagines it's one of them when she climaxes, screaming his name.

When he comes moments later, he's not sure whose name he moans against her shoulder, but he's well-aware it's the wrong one, because she's silent after that, and they both lie still under the faint glimmer of moonlight without talking.

The next day, she doesn't say a word to him as they slowly make their way back to Konoha.

Kakashi is fine with that.

III.

The third time he shares her bed, Sakura is covered from top to toe in blood, and it's the first time he kisses her like he means it.

Three years is not a long time to persistently ignore someone whom you've had big-mistake-sex with, twice. It is, however, an anomaly when the aforementioned person has five times the strength of an rampaging elephant, and has taken to nearly-demolishing your apartment block eight times because you've refused to even look at her.

If Kakashi disliked the caterwauling cries of shrieking females, he decides that his compliments far exceed the caterwauling cry of a particular furious kunoichi. The most flattering word he can use to describe the particular sound she made as she banged on his door is 'discordant'. For the whole fiasco's worth, Pakkun and the pack refused to speak to Kakashi since the last three 'incidents'. If only it were because of the massive acoustic trauma. It was more likely the Ninken decided to gang up on him because one of them heard something along the summon gossip grapevine. And as Pakkun liked to put it, "Mating with Floral Green made her pack. Pack made her family. And family look after their own."

Damnable dogs and their mind-boggling loyalty.

Doesn't stop Kakashi from doing a thing, though. Kakashi is a bastard- through and through, and definitely not a moron. And a genius bastard's tactics are 'step one, ignore like the plague. don't get yourself deeper into further shit. step two. don't give the Hokage a reason to restrict you to D-rank missions and further genin brats. get the hell away from Konoha. step three, do not think of her in a sexual way ever again. rinse and repeat for best results.'

And he supposes, 'cold and unfeeling bastard' still came naturally to him, even after twenty-odd years of disuse. Not that it was a good thing. Obito particularly, detested every moment of it. The Sharingan eye wept twice as often and succumbed to several infections after a string of A- rank missions, forcing Kakashi to make several trips to the Godaime personally for healing so as to avoid the hospital. If this was the Uchiha's way of getting him to budge on his stand of ignoring Sakura, there would be hell to pay when Kakashi finally kicked it and reunited with his thirteen-year old prankster friend. Some of it involving telling Rin and Sensei all of the boy's dirty little secrets at maximum volume. Bastard.

Not that Rin's being much more helpful (and she is, marginally). On the rainy days, Kakashi takes to sitting outside near the Hokage rock outcroppings, listening to the whistling of the wind. On those nights, Rin visits him in dreams, sitting on his lap and tracing his scars with chakra-infused fingers lit by pale green light (and he tries not to think of Sakura and healing hands because rule number three is there for a reason, and Rin just laughs).

Rin is still tiny, doll-like, a woman trapped in a fourteen-year old's body and sometimes Kakashi wants to laugh the sight of a child dispensing advice like a woman with several decades under her belt, but he doesn't- Rin still has fourteen-year old elbows, and teenage elbows are surprisingly pointy and painful when pressed hard against your ribs.

"I'm not talking to her, you know. No matter how much you ask me to," he whispers against her hair, and today, they're outside on a summer night, mating fireflies providing the only source of illumination in the pitch darkness. He hasn't seen her for two months, and Kakashi presses his nose gently into the skin of Rin's neck; twenty-three years, and his mind still gets her smell right.

"Why?" Rin says, shifting, and he can see her brown eyes as she turns to stare at him. Damn all women and that stare. Where the hell did they learn to infuse that kind of potency into just one look?

"Why not?" he mumbles, and the look that Rin gives him is less than complimentary. Kakashi never realised fourteen-year old girls could do supercilious quite so well.

"Ba-ka. Tell me the truth." She pinches him then, and it hurts, stings around the edges. "Why can't you admit you like her? I know you do. Obito tells me that you look at her all the time, when she's not looking."

And fuck, how do you explain to a fourteen-year old child how the world isn't peachy-clean and innocent and all about love?

"It never had anything to do about liking, Rin."

Rin isn't one to let go of a topic lightly, though. "Kakashi," she grits out, and her frown curves her cheeks, furrows the rigid linearity of purple tattoos. He's never seen her looking quite so forbidding before, and he's surprised to see that he doesn't like it- Hatake Kakashi doesn't feel much for anything these days.

"Rin, please. I don't want to talk about it," he mutters, slightly louder than his usual disinterested tone, and it's a bad sign when Rin's small body rounds on him, anger stiffening her shoulders in a strange facsimile of her normally-relaxed posture- and he's slightly afraid because this isn't Rin, not with the anger and the pushiness and demands, and he wonders if this creature in front of him is Rin at all.

"Ka-ka-shi. Stop lying."

"Please Rin. I'm begging you. " He actually lets a bit of pleading slip into his tone.

Kakashi hasn't begged anyone for anything in ten years.

"No."

"Rin-" Kakashi doesn't like the way her eyes are blazing, vivid and wide and so utterly naive, childishly stubborn in demanding the answer she wants.

"Kakashi, so help me, tell me now why it has nothing to do with love or like or whatever warped reason your mind came up with or I swear I will-"

Kakashi snaps; a too taut rubber-band finally letting go.

-x-x-x-

If Rin isn't certain about her former teammate's infamous nickname of 'The Sharingan Wolf', she is by the time she finishes her sentence. Before her eyes can adjust to his movement, Kakashi has her pinned against the tree, and suddenly, Rin is unable to breathe. There is a hand pressed against the tree bark inches from her head, the other on her waist, rough as it holds her firmly against wood, and Rin doesn't try to fight him at all.

Rin can imagine the other hand on her throat. It wouldn't take much to break her, and she knows that Kakashi can do it with two fingers. A single lingering press on her throat, watch the damage unfold. Tear the cartilage, crush the muscle, splinter the Hyeloid bone, collapse the trachea.

It would almost be easy (and they both know this.)

"Do you want to know what I did to her, Rin?" His voice is silky, and it feels like he's stabbed her in a million places, because this isn't Kakashi- this isn't the boy she died loving, the man she fought to save from the madness. "I fucked her, my little, delicate Rin-chan. Fucked her hard on the floor and took her in the dirt like a whore, the same way I'm holding you. Took what I could from her, just because I could. She's as innocent as you were, Rin-" and the use of the word 'were' cut hers deep, digs in hard. She doesn't stifle the choked sound it elicits from her. The bramble against her cheek leaves a thin cut on her cheekbone, weeping in her stead. "-and she just let me. Let me take her body and use it to fulfill my needs. Use her like she was the cheapest prostitute I could find- and she was, she was free." Kakashi laughs at this. It isn't a happy sound. It is sharp, sharp like a knife, sharp like the eye she can see, dark eye narrowed to a sliver of a slit- it cuts.

"Rin-chan, the first time, I fucked my student because I was drunk. I fucked her the second time because she was the closest warm body I could find. I just wanted her. Wanted her body, like she were a piece of meat. Breasts, waist, mouth, legs, cunt. Just a simple slab of meat." Kakashi relaxes his hold on her and his voice borders the tone of conversational as he murmurs quietly beside her head. "So, my Rin, tell me I'm in love with her. Tell me I like her. Tell me I deserve to talk to her, or even stand in her presence. Tell me I deserve to love her."

He lets her go, but she doesn't move away. There is complete silence, and Rin thinks she can hear the wheels of the Sharingan spinning.

"Tell me something, anything- a lie I can believe," Kakashi says, and it's so quiet and hesitant and broken that she thinks she wasn't meant to hear it.

Rin just pulls away and walks into the darkness.

-x-x-x-

Rin doesn't visit him in the following nights and the Sharingan eye weeps more than ever- it twinges and burns and the pain is so bad it's almost unusable. Kakashi figures he deserves it and lets Obito take his revenge. However, the Sharingan plagues him on and off the battlefield without distinction; it takes an almost-deadly mistake during a mission that finally forces him to stop and think- and for a second Kakashi actually considers taking a kunai to his eye and removing the damn thing before it killed him; he never wanted the Uchiha legacy anyway. He attributes it to the lurking madness moments later, and for the day, lurks at the cenotaph for twice the usual time-period as penance.

Instead, Kakashi allows Tsunade to 'force' him into taking a rest-break of indeterminate length from his missions, in order for him to lay off the eye and let healing and nature take its course. That said, Kakashi doesn't allow Tsunade to get her way with everything. He stilll remains utterly stubborn on his stand in refusing extensive treatment for the Sharingan. This, in effect, proceeds to drive the Hokage up the wall and resort to threats of knock-out jutsu and sedatives so she can do something besides the medical equivalent of poking at the eye with a stick.

Ultimately, he does take her up on her offer (said with sugary tone and honeyed words and Tsunade's teeth look ten times too sharp in that grin), but he still doesn't step within two hundred metres of the hospital, and she lets him.

She does, however, let it slip that Sakura is leaving for a long-term mission in Sunagakure no Sato during one of the visits when Kakashi drops by, and although Kakashi shows just as much outward interest in the subject as one would with a piece of dung, Tsunade manages to catch the slight movement of his shoulders further into his slouch.

Beyond Kakashi's viewing sphere, Tsunade makes a tiny, imperceptible hand signal in the direction of Shizune.

Game, set, match.

-x-x-x-

Sakura's mission turns out to be espionage, an S-class mission under-classified as a high B when she fails to come back by the stipulated time, much less at all. For the first time in eight years, Kakashi's feelings coincide with the two other infamous members of Genin Team Seven, and Tsunade senses a massive headache coming on when all three storm her office in varying shades of livid.

Naruto is by far, the most extreme, practically purple in his rage as he threatens to emasculate the person responsible for the mess, though he uses choice words that are far more descriptive in putting his point across. When Tsunade shoulders the blame, the Uzumaki boy goggles for a second and actually considers how to de-feminate her, without physically having to touch her uterus.

Tsunade blames Jiraiya for being a terrible influence. That doesn't stop her from slapping the boy and punching him through a wall.

Sasuke is waxy-pale, off-whiteish grey and has eyebags the size of saucers. Girls nowadays find that attractive, Tsunade guesses, what with that book series about vampire-nin sweeping off the shelves. She supposes the girls would consider him a specimen worthy of entering the ranks of Konoha's Greatest Ninja Hunky Beefcakes. Until that boy of hers opened his mouth of his, of course. Whereupon any intelligent member of the female species would shriek, turn tail and run screaming in the opposite direction.

Now, that boy is deceptively calm, slouching in the corner like the arrogant bastard he is. He doesn't say a word, just stares at her and at her damn desk like he deserves an explanation for why she's sitting there. Make that arrogant, authority-challenging bastard.

Tsunade glares. He could be the Hokage with that kind of firepower and level of jutsu, but he doesn't have the damn experience to even make it through the week. The Hokage could have him killed for less than that. She doesn't.

And Kakashi... she is surprised at this one, because Kakashi is beyond angry. His fury is white-hot and radiating in waves, and Tsunade is surprised- genuinely surprised because Hatake Kakashi doesn't do furious, at least not off the field and in front of her, ever.

Tsunade ultimately doesn't see him move.

His nose is inches from hers, his breath hot on her cheek when he whispers, "I'm going to get her home."

Tsunade doesn't dispute it. That much is fact when this is the copy-nin they're talking about. "Don't screw it up. Konohagakure can't be implicated in this-" she says tersely, but he and the rest are gone before she can even complete her sentence.

Tsunade sighs and swirls her sake bottle in tune with the silence.

-x-x-x-

These statements are false: It is an easy battle. The boys find her hidden in the enclave guarded by nine non-shinobi; fools in all respect but one, where they exhibited enough intelligence in remembering to drug her. It is over before it even starts.

This is the truth: No battle is ever easy. They come back in most respects intact, all limbs attached and all in functioning order. One thing that doesn't make the return trip back is her naiveté.

It takes Kakashi less than three seconds to count the physical wounds on her body- this is as she crouches in the corner, feral and cat-eyed with kunai between each finger, completely naked, terrifying and dangerous in a way only hurt kunoichi can be. It takes him less than that to slit the throat of the man who has her blood trapped under his fingernails. He stabs two others with precise shuriken to the heart- a quick merciful death for those who kept her but didn't touch her. The boys kill four easily and Kakashi remembers thinking that this isn't a rescue mission- it is a massacre and vengeance all wrapped into one.

It is easy, it is satisfying, it is painful, it is hard. And Kakashi 'chidori'ies his last kill because his thumbprints match the little purple semicircles imprinted on Sakura's flank.

It is Sakura who corners the last man standing, and Kakashi holds off, tells the boys to stop mouthing off and shut up. This is the one he wants to hurt- torture painfully to the edge of death and let him scream for his end- this is the man who reeks of her scent, his hands pungent and fetid and God his hands smell of her blood and of her, of insanity and death and he would kill the bastard for touching her.

But he doesn't. Sakura is deathly quiet when she channels all her chakra into her right fist and slams it into the worm's chest. There is a good amount of screaming, and Kakashi refuses to flinch when the blood bubbles into the man's lungs, floods into the alveoli like a raging flood, minute channels swelling and bursting audibly to his ears, and Kakashi tries to treat it as if it were a symphony. And it is- for a second his mind is happy.

It isn't hard for Sakura to reach into the chest cavity and wrench out his heart. She does this as she meets Kakashi's eyes, and there is no child-like quality to her expression, no innocence to quirk her eyes and soften its shape when she begins to squeeze. Just a hard green gaze devoid of emotion and Kakashi doesn't look away when the organ explodes and paints the room in red.

It isn't easy, Sensei, to be merciless and cruel, her eyes say. But you taught me it doesn't have to be hard.

Kakashi can't dispute that.

-x-x-x-

Sakura doesn't swoon, doesn't even tear when she holds the man's torn atrium to her breast, almost as if she's trying to merge his heart with her own- shape and reform it whole. "I'm sorry," she tells the dead man, his face contorted with his death-scream, only it resembles a twisted half-moon smile, if one cared to tweak down the edges. She does.

Kakashi hasn't shuddered in fifteen years, and he doesn't now as the blood drips from her hands to form the sign of Tiger on her hip.

Sakura's belongings are gone, taken and sold by the men for a bit of petty cash. Her clothes, possibly sold to peddlers to finance a bastard's pornography habit. Sold to humiliate their prisoner and violate her privacy. Sold for less than a ryo, for less than anything worth something. It makes him furious.

The boys fight for five minutes before an awkward Naruto steps forward to offer his clothing to cover her. Ultimately, it's Naruto's shirt that she wears to cover herself and Sasuke's scarf that winds around her neck, but it's Kakashi she asks to help her home. "My feet are bleeding," she gestures to her soles, and Kakashi lowers half-lidded eyes to peruse the bottoms of her feet.

There isn't a mark marring her soles.

"Get on," he says, and she does.

-x-x-x-

"I can't sleep."

Kakashi doesn't pretend to be surprised when she materializes in his apartment that night, one foot on the balcony, the other on his bedroom floor and her with a look like he's caught her in a misstep and completely embarrassed about it. It's a familiar look, an endearing look with her blush painting the curve of her cheeks, and Kakashi nearly smiles in relief for it. Almost.

It's a look that tells him things. It shows Sakura isn't much different from what she used to be, under the layers of hurt and pain and dirt and memory. She's still the little girl he taught, the kunoichi he admired, his girl, his team-mate- Nakama. Their bonds are thicker than blood, thicker than water; Kakashi knows this as he watches unfamiliar expressions flit across her face at his silence.

They should be stronger than this.

"Sit with me," he says after a moment, patting the spot next to him as he slouches in his bed, leaning against the backboard. Her warmth next to him as she settles onto the bed heats his skin and Kakashi wonders whether a small part of him actually missed her. She's still beautiful at twenty-four, long roseate hair twisted into unruly curls at the ends, those eyes looking at him- and God, it's been four years and her eyes are still as beguiling as ever.

She's beautiful and so young, and he shouldn't even want her like this. 'Shouldn't' being the keyword his body refuses to obey, as his blood-flow diverts to the lower extremities and he is filled with an emotion he cannot name, something so akin to lust but different- it leaves him wanting.

"I missed you," she murmurs.

"Sakura-" There are a dozen things, maybe more that Kakashi needs to say to her. To let her know that she shouldn't be here, shouldn't even know him this way- intimately. Know that it was a mistake- all of it. That she should forget him. That he made the right decision pushing her away.

"Shut up. Just- shut up. For once in your life, just let me speak without you stopping to say something snarky or interrupting me just because it fuckin' gets you off making me furious." Sakura speaks so softly Kakashi has to strain to hear the words.

"I did. In the beginning, I didn't, at first- I hated you for so long because of what you did. Maybe not for the first time, though. I understand enough of what it means- the one-night stand you have when you're drunk and an adult and sometimes people make mistakes. I guess. Never figured you'd be the kind of guy that would pick up drunk girls at bars and bring a new one home every night. Never pegged you as the type." There is a wry sort of expression on her face as she speaks and Kakashi feels ashamed, as if guilty for not being the man she expected him to be.

The emotion shocks him.

"But the second- God. Kakashi, you're a bastard. You know that, don't you? You used me like- like some kind of human condom for your own sexual pleasure. Like a two-bit whore on Peddler's Lane. I was cheap." She laughs at this, and Kakashi is speechless.

"And like some fool, I let you. But that wasn't what really hurt me- it was you refusing to talk to me, look at me, even answer the damn doorbell when I came to see you! What was so repulsive about me, Kakashi? The way I smelled? The way I look naked?" She traces his cheekbones under the mask. "I disgust you, don't I." He flinches away, and she grins, a shark smile that is nearly visible in the darkness.

"No- no. I wanted-" He says, but his thoughts are on the natural fragrance of her hair and the way she looked that night, and he doesn't stop her when her eyes draw downwards to focus below the flak jacket of his jounin vest and on cotton jounin pants.

"I think that speaks truth more than the words that come out of your mouth." Her grin is victorious- but it is an empty victory, a success devoid of any joy whatsoever. "I figured it out on the second day of confinement. That day, that man-" she shivers here but Kakashi doesn't feel the chill. "Ah, what I was saying- there was a reason, Kakashi-sempai. Tell me the reason."

And there is no reason but the truth when Sakura is beside him, her hand curled around his wrist and him breathing her air and Kakashi thinks all his excuses can go fuck themselves in hell now.

"You needed to let me go." Kakashi says this easily- too easily, and Sakura removes her hand, curling it to cup his clothed cheek. "I shouldn't have made that mistake that night- both mistakes. You- Sakura. Sakura-chan, you're young. You deserve better, better than an old shinobi with failing eyesight and personality issues. I'm a bastard. I'm not some knight in shining armour, some role model- you knew that. That's why you needed- to be as far away from me as possible. You had- have some kind of twisted hero-worship or infatuation. You needed to let it go. Before I did something- something worse. Use you. Maybe break you. I needed you to leave me alone. Me, because I-"

"You wanted me too much," she says, and he can't deny it.

"The thing is, Kakashi, you were wrong," she counters. "Kakashi- what you did, no- the consequences of what I did in response, hurt me far more than you'd imagine. More than how I felt, the slight bittersweet, painful feeling of you loving me, and leaving. More than the knowledge that you and I would never just be team-mates ever again. Have those bonds break- lose the ability to love you like a brother, a team-mate. We were family. Or the closest you would consider to it. You pushed me away and after a while, I couldn't take it any more. I had to leave."

"I lived in Suna for a while, just working in one of the clinics in the poorer housing districts. Gaara requested me to watch over the man running the local yakuza- whirlpool descent, with the blue-est eyes I'd ever seen. He was suspected of running a slavery ring, taking children from their parents when they were unable to pay the 'protection fees'. And so many- so many of them just... couldn't." Sakura's face is pained, and Kakashi wants her to stop- just stop with the emotions and the look and painful memory. Shut up, he says in his head, shut up. Enough.

It's never enough.

"They caught me above his roof, listening. I made- made an amateur's mistake. Forgot to check the roof for sensory jutsu. You would have been so angry if you had been there, Sensei. I killed the nin they'd hired, a fresh jounin from Amegakure. He was so young- silly fool... looked into the sun as I threw the senbon."

"But the man, the man I was watching. He had a thirty man-strong guard. One managed to slip through as I did some healing jutsu on my wounds. I passed out. Woke up disoriented, and they injected some kind of chakra flow blocker." She grimaces then, wipes the tears on her face. "It was unnatural. Painful. They used it twice a day, for three weeks before switching to doping me up. I was hallucinating half the time, in pain whenever I was conscious. There was a man, you see. He- he liked to hurt things, make women scream for the joy of it. He took a look at me, my sex and told me I was a slut. A Konoha whore that spread my legs for anyone, anywhere, anytime. So he hurt me."

"Because it was just too fucking easy." And Kakashi slumps, pulls away from those green eyes. He's finally managed to fail her, and the truth is screaming so loud Kakashi has never hated anything as much as he has hated himself. It's as if he'd done it with his own hands. He might as well have.

"Sakura-" She's tormenting him. What did she want him to say? He's sorry? He's failed her? He's caused this- damaged another person he's cared about- he can't undo this, erase the damage, or even soothe the pain. He can't do anything- not even fucking apologise.

"Ssh. I'm not done yet," she interrupts. "Let me finish."

So he does.

"I thought about you that night, I think. Lost what rein I had on my self-control when he left. I just thought of you, and I hadn't thought about you in ages- and I cried. I just wanted you. It was an epiphany of sorts I suppose." And she laughs at this, smiles a true smile through the tears as she leans forward to hold his face between her hands. "I realised how much you meant to me. Everything that's happened has a meaning- me attempting to seduce you while drunk, me being with you that night of the mission, me being furious when you avoided me. I didn't just want you because of some foolish infatuation or because of the sex. In my cell, I realised I wanted everything."

"I wanted the way you smiled. The way you have that look on your face with your nose buried in a book. You in completion, even with the porn, eccentric behaviour and the social difficulties. Everything." She leans in and presses a kiss to his forehead. "It's why I didn't let myself die."

"Dying was easy. I pulled myself back each time I suffocated, each time he beat me till near death. The next day I'd be defiant and alive and he would be so angry." Kakashi can't look away. Sakura's eyes are filled with love- love for him- and Kakashi feels as if there is an invisible hand on his heart, squeezing. Squeezing tight in a vice, compressing with pin-prick agony. "You saved me, in the end. You kept me alive."

He doesn't let her continue. "Sakura, stop. This is exactly why- if you're smart, you'd run." He shudders at this; it almost pains him to say the words. Gulps. The air feels like acid. Burns his throat the same way swallowing would. "You don't know me, Sakura. Stop pretending to fucking know me." He's taken hold of her shoulders, giving her a rough shake to punctuate the sentence, qualify his statement. He's not a gentlemen, not a person who can give a part of himself to a relationship. All he has are his broken mirrors and his ten-foot walls, where people have a heart- open and willing to give.

"You'll break and no one will be able to pick up the pieces, not even you." This is a promise as he says the words. "Isn't this enough? You've already been beaten to death. Do you want to die?"

She slaps him.

"So break me." And this Sakura- this Sakura he doesn't quite know, but he does- snarls into his face, has her hand fisted in his shirt, that same hand pressing against the clothed skin of his abdomen. And- and. It fucking burns. "Break me into those little pieces. Use me like you did once. Kill me. Go ahead."

"You don't get it, Kakashi- I can see you. You're not the brooding, emotionally-crippled enigma you fucking think you are, you bastard," she hisses into his ear. "You can't see beyond the chinks in your armour to the holes you've left wide open."

"Can you see what you've done to yourself?" The anger in her slips away as easily as it comes; the breath from her throat leaves as a soft half-whistle, half-gasp. She's crying again, and he wants to tell her she's weak, giving in to her tears like that- just that it's a lie because she was always stronger and braver than the whole lot of them. "You're the new master of self-destruction, Hatake Kakashi. You overwork your body, forgetting you're close to forty- every organ in your body is breaking down, stuck in a cycle of continuous strained usage and damage that you'll be lucky if you stay alive till god-damn sixty. Your drinking has trebled in the past three years. Your liver is in a state that even Tsunade-shishou is appalled. You don't let yourself be healed- you drag your badly-healed body and conscience everywhere looking for more work or drink to drown it in, make the pain go away. You're nothing more than a mindless weapon- well-honed and worn for the village, nothing more than a killing machine. " Sakura whispers the last few words with a calm air he doesn't expect, especially from her.

"You're breaking, Kakashi. And you will die soon, if you keep functioning like this. Perhaps you don't need me, don't care for me the way lovers do. But I will exploit your want, your desire for my body, if it means you'll stop hurting, stop killing yourself just because you can. I can heal you- I've always been able to." Her smile is a beatific one as she pulls away. "You can't break me- I'm strong enough not to let you."

"Think about it," she says. Kakashi's arms twinge because they feel empty without her, and there isn't a feeling to describe how much he wishes it weren't true.

-x-x-x-

It takes hours before she smells the scent of heavy sulphur in the air. He's here. She'd have thought he'd take longer.

"You came," she says simply, and he's there, his hands rough on her forearms and his flyaway hair tickling the nerve endings in her neck. He traces the length of arms, the contours of her sides, the gentle planes of her face with a finger that shakes, and Sakura is enthralled at the sight of him.

"Yes." He's there, and Sakura fixes over-bright eyes on his, stares into them and she sees the clarity, the fullness in his own grey eye. He's real and ready and he's there, with a hand brushing her hair and the other caressing her neck- almost like a butterfly kiss to her throat. It's the most blessed thing in her entire life and Sakura holds her heart tight and tries not to let it go.

"You're wrong." His voice is ragged when he speaks. "You're wrong when you said I didn't need you." His fingertips linger at her face, so tender it almost hurts. The heat at her face sears as she grabs his hand, cups his hand around the curve of her cheek.

"I knew," she says, "I knew." His masked lips ghost over her collarbone and Sakura gasps because it finally sends the wave of her desire crashing down. "I knew, but you had to know it too."

His only response is to kiss her.

The third time they have sex, it is and it isn't, because they make love like fresh new lovers, exploring and tasting and tracing the intricacies of each other's bodies. The third time, it's slightly awkward but tender, beautiful in the way he holds her tight as he reaches his end, beautiful in the way she holds herself close to him after. The third time, he murmurs her name over and over again like he loves her, and she can almost believe it.

The third time, he wakes up in her bed, and he doesn't leave the morning after.

IV.

The fourth time they make love, Kakashi falls asleep entangled with Sakura and wakes up to dirt floor and Rin staring inquisitively at his face.

"Hello, Kaka-chan," she says and giggles, offers a petite hand to pull him up from the floor. Tonight, they're somewhere far away, a place he faintly remembers from a mission in Takigakure during his Chunin days. Rin pulls him along to sit closer to the waterfall, and they watch as the flow hits the river below, the not-quite roar whistling in tune with the gentle burble of the river on its way to its mouth. Rin faces him and pulls away the hitai-ite to expose the gentle whirring of the blood-red mirror wheel eye. She is silent for a while, as if trapped in contemplation.

"Do you think you deserve to love her?" Rin asks, and he lets her trace the vertical scar that runs downward from lid to cheek, the mark she's left on him in remembrance of her. The scar bends as he smiles, his eye-crinkle grin curving the tips of his eyes as well as the gentle lines of his mouth. The Sharingan eye no longer weeps, and Rin can feel herself smiling.

"No," he murmurs, and she laughs, and she sits there with him in the slowly dimming sunlight until that is gone and he is gone too.


Author's Note: So i kind of wrote this a year ago. Opinion?