Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or the characters used in this work of fan fiction.

Warnings: Eventual Kakairu (which means male/male romance), possible future smut that will be posted elsewhere and crosslinked - R rated versions of chapters will be provided here.


Kakashi sighed and ran a hand through his silver hair, wincing as the blood-slicked palm of his glove caught on the wiry strands. He closed his uncovered eye and leaned back against the wall, trying his best to ignore his Hokage.

"-coming in three days late covered in blood without so much as a notice-"

What had she expected? Hatake Kakashi was late. It was the normal order of the universe. If he'd arrived on time -- or Kami forbid, early -- she would've been just as furious. And it wasn't his fault that the supposedly simple mission had turned into a full-out six on one battle. Even he had problems when it came to fighting that many Jounin at once.

"Then you have the gall to just stand there-"

Did she expect him to sit? Kakashi snuck a glance at the chair in front of the blonde woman's desk and seriously considered collapsing in it. He hadn't slept in two days and the green leather looked inviting. He could sink down into the overstuffed cushions and finally fall asleep… maybe then his ribs would stop hurting so much. If he was lucky, maybe she'd even be done yelling by the time he woke up. Or maybe she'd decide to kill him for getting blood on the furniture. Kakashi sighed. It was probably safer to stay propped up against the wall.

"Hatake! At least have the courtesy to pretend to listen to me when I'm yelling at you!"

Kakashi pressed his palm against his ribs and applied just enough pressure to keep himself from fainting from blood loss.

"Hai, Hokage-sama." The blonde's eyes narrowed and Kakashi did his best to leer back at her in response. Barely contained fury flashed over her face, and Kakashi leaned away from her, but succeeded only in pressing his back more firmly against the wall. Her hands clenched tightly into fists, and Kakashi maintained the leer – complete with a look down at her overly-ample bosom – while thinking rapidly. If he was going to die anyway, it might as well be for a good reason, and he'd always wanted to see his Hokage's reaction to a certain piece of literature…

Concentrating, Kakashi brought page 167 of Icha Icha Paradise up in his mind and prepared to quote it to the woman. He estimated it'd take three seconds before she realized that the busty blonde mentioned had a startling resemblance to herself (the mark on her forehead was a dead giveaway, though to be honest, not much time was spent describing her forehead – instead the focus lingered on other, more important traits), and another three seconds before she realized that the white-haired hero who had his face buried in said bust was her former team-mate. Kakashi'd always wondered how she'd react to finding out that Jiraiya had immortalized that drunken night in his beloved porn. Satisfied that he could read the page off from memory, he took in a deep breath and looked at the Sannin-

Who no longer looked quite as angry. Instead, her face showed a touch of sadness, with sympathy shown in the drawn-down corners of her mouth and the gentleness in her eyes. Kakashi sighed and tried to disappear into the wall, and when that didn't work he pressed harder against the gash in his side, hoping that the blinding flash of white pain would knock him out. Unfortunately, it only managed to make his ribs hurt more. Damn Jounin training, making him unable to pass out from something as simple as pain. Maybe if he skipped the description and just started with the sex scene, she'd be too angry to pity him.

"Kakashi…"

The silver-haired shinobi closed his eyes in defeat and the Hokage sighed. He heard the slight rustle of fabric as she moved forward, and then felt her hand take his wrist. It was surprisingly gentle, but with a hint of underlying force, and as she guided it away from his side he knew that if he'd chosen to struggle she would've forced his hand away. He kept his eyes closed but muscles tense, warily ready to stop her if she tried to touch anything other than his wound. People had tried to reveal his face too many times for him to relax when someone was this close – though honestly, he wouldn't have relaxed even if he didn't have the mask to worry about. Kakashi was generally touched for two reasons. The first, and by far most frequent, was when someone was trying to kill him. The second, and more sporadic, was when a medic was trying to repair the damage someone else had done while trying to kill him. It didn't inspire trust.

He felt the familiar tingle of chakra against the wound in his side and bit back a sigh of relief as the worst of the pain receded. The gash itself wasn't that bad, but it was exacerbated by the poison, and he was fairly sure that a few of his ribs had been chipped if not broken. He chided himself silently for it. Sharingan Kakashi taking a hit from a measly missing-nin – he couldn't even comfort himself with the knowledge that his opponent was skilled. The blow had been pure luck. The tingle increased to a slow burn, and Kakashi felt the pull at his flesh as the sides of the wound knitted together. A few more minutes and he was almost able to breathe without it feeling like knives were being stabbed into his lungs.

"Stop blaming yourself, Hatake," the woman murmured. Kakashi opened his eye and regarded her carefully with his dark gray gaze, then shrugged casually and gave her the fake crinkly-eyed smile that always made people stop trying to sympathize with him.

"Maa, it was just a wound," he told her, slouching against the wall and making sure to lazily drawl the words. Her golden eyes flashed with anger, but it quickly receded. Her voice was quiet when she spoke again.

"You know that's not what I'm talking about."

He snorted and looked away.

"It's not your fault," she told him.

Kakashi stayed silent, staring out the window that looked over the village he'd failed.

"It's not."

When he didn't respond she stayed silent for a long moment, and Kakashi wondered idly if he could take a nap against the wall while she decided how to coddle him. The blonde woman sighed and stepped away from him.

"I've taken care of the worst of the damage, but some of the poison is still in your system. You'll need to stop by the hospital before you go home."

Home. Kakashi smiled wryly at that, though the mask kept his Hokage from being able to see the way his mouth twisted. Home was supposed to be a warm place, a safe place, a place that comforted you and protected you. Even someone as cold as him knew that. Somehow he didn't think that the term was meant to apply to something like his small, dust-filled apartment. He glanced away from the window to find the older woman staring at him, and he asked the question that he'd come there for in the first place.

"What's my next mission?"

One of her eyebrows arched and she looked at him as though he were insane.

"You're so exhausted you can barely stand, covered in blood, and poisoned, and you're asking me about your next mission."

Kakashi nodded carefully, figuring that it would hurt less than trying to talk. She'd taken the worst of the pain away, but his side still ached enough for him to avoid moving if at all possible. He was right – it was less painful – but only slightly.

"You must be crazy."

He sighed, and winced as that caused a twinge to go through his ribs. He knew that everyone couldn't be a genius, but did she really have to state the obvious like that? He was a Jounin. Jounin were crazy. It was part of the job description. He waited for her to say something else, and when she didn't, spoke up plaintively.

"Mission?" He gave her his best puppy-dog eye – the look that Pakkun generally reserved for a large steak. She snorted.

"Absolutely not. Not until you're able to stand without a wall to prop you up."

"Maa, obaa-san. I'll be a good boy."

Tsunade rolled her eyes at the lazy-looking Jounin.

"No means no, Hatake."

Kakashi felt the sudden surge of panic in his chest and tried to fight it back while looking at the blonde woman. From the twitch at the corners of her eyes she'd caught the slight tensing of his shoulders, and he inwardly cursed her for being so observant. The fake smile didn't work this time, either, and after a long moment he let it slip.

"Please. I need it."

Tsunade shook her head.

"As much as you might want it, Hatake, I'm not going to let you kill yourself," she told him.

Kakashi looked away.

"I'm not trying to kill myself. I just want another mission."

Tsunade looked at him closely, taking in the blood-streaked silver hair, lines of tension around his visible eye, and the slight tremor in his thin frame.

"I need you too much to let you destroy yourself on this."

Kakashi closed his eyes and took a deep, shuddering breath, wincing as the expansion of his lungs made pain ricochet throughout his body. He could feel the room closing in around him, the tightness in his chest, and the ever-present tickling of the woman's eyes on him.

"When was the last time you took a break?" Her voice was gentle and soft, the question friendly. Kakashi was wary, but knew that refusing to answer would just make it worse. There was that time after Wave country, and more recently than that after the confrontation with Itachi – but somehow he didn't think that being hospitalized was what the Sannin meant by a break.

"Five years ago?" he guessed. She'd been out of town at the time, so he might get away with the lie, and five years sounded like an acceptable number – but judging by the way she was glaring at him, probably not.

"When?" Now her voice was hard and cold, and somehow it made him relax. He could deal with an angry Tsunade more easily than he could deal with a sympathetic one. He scratched his ear absentmindedly and flashed his trade-mark one eyed smile, brow arcing up in a happy curve.

"Maa, I don't really take breaks…"

The Hokage went dangerously still. Kakashi sighed, lowered his hand, and then looked at her hopefully.

"Mission?"

"ABSOLUTELY NOT!" Tsunade slammed her hands down on her desk and glared at him. The impact sent dust flying through the room and Kakashi was momentarily grateful for the mask that kept him from breathing it in – sneezing would be uncomfortable right now. He laughed self-consciously.

"How about tomorrow?"

She glared at him and he suppressed another sigh. He started to open his mouth again.

"No."

Damn it. She was serious.

"Three months," she said. Kakashi looked up at her, confused.

"Eh?"

"Three months until you can take another mission."

Kakashi felt the hand clench in his chest again, and he looked around the room, mentally cataloging every possible escape route – not that he didn't already know them, but because it made him feel safer to know that there were twenty seven different ways to disappear before she could stop him.

"You can't be serious." His voice was a soft whisper.

"Then make it four months." The blonde woman glared at him.

"Hokage!"

"One more word and I'll make it five."

Kakashi blinked at her disbelievingly. She couldn't do this to him. She couldn't. But from the extremely self-satisfied look on her face…

"I don't know why I never thought of this before."

He was tempted to say that it was because she wasn't Ibiki, or that it was because the Hokage wasn't supposed to torture her own people, but the thought of having another month added to his sentence was enough to keep him silent. He looked longingly at the door. Tsunade sighed.

"You need the break. I'm not going to guarantee you a certain amount of time, because we both know I can't do that. I need you too much. But if there's anyone else I can send, I'm going to keep you off the field until I decide that you're ready to handle it, and regardless of how much I need you you're not leaving this village for a month."

Kakashi nodded, keeping his eyes fixed on the door. Tsunade let out another small sigh and waved her hand.

"Fine. Go. And don't forget to stop by the hospital."

Kakashi bit back the sarcastic retort and instead contented himself with a sharp, short nod.

* * *

Kakashi took two pills from the pouch and swallowed them dry before pressing his hand against the door and letting out a thin stream of chakra, deactivating the traps he'd set before leaving. He was grateful that he still had enough chakra to manage this small task – he couldn't remember how many times he'd been forced to stay in the hospital because of the simple fact that he couldn't open his own wards. It was the danger of the Sharingan. His chakra reserves weren't enough to feed it and allow for Chidori, too – but he often had no choice, and chakra depletion was a better fate than death.

They hadn't wanted to let him leave this time, either, but he'd stayed only long enough to get the antidote for the poison and some pain killers before escaping through the window. He would've made things easier on all of them and have simply stolen the antidote, but there was the small problem of not being certain exactly which poison he'd been affected with. Choosing the wrong antidote could be as deadly as taking another type of poison, even if the original substance was non-lethal. Besides, after the first few times, Tsunade had made it clear that she didn't look kindly on his habit of pilfering medical supplies, and she'd also made it excruciatingly obvious that she didn't think refusing medical treatment was a good compromise between stealing and letting the medics baby him.

He leaned against the door for a moment before pushing it open, grateful that the alcove made it private enough for others to not notice his arrival. In a ninja village where people were arriving at all times of day and night, it was important to have some semblance of privacy, and Kakashi valued his more than most. As he'd expected the apartment was dark and dusty, with a thin layer of grime covering everything. He started stripping his clothing off before he closed the door, shedding bandages and flak jacket, sandals and sweats, until he was wearing only his boxers and the tight ANBU singlet with mask that he always wore beneath the standard-issue Jounin shirts. He kicked the door closed after pulling his pants off, and felt more than saw the familiar pulse of chakra as his wards reactivated.

He stumbled to the bathroom and leaned over the sink for a long moment before turning the faucet on. It sputtered for a moment before kicking on with a sharp blast of water, and he leaned back and flicked on the light. The water was brown and muddy from disuse, and he waited until it ran clear before hunkering down to grab a washcloth from the cabinet. It, too, was dusty, and he held it underneath the cold water until he could be relatively certain that it was cleaner than his skin, if not truly clean. He cleaned his hands first, automatically checking the bruised and swollen knuckles for breaks, cleaning away the cuts left from summons and the small nicks from shuriken. His wrists came next, then his arms, sliding over the bruises. He had to stop many times to wash the cloth out, letting the water run over it until it was no longer red with blood.

It felt like it took hours to get clean and Kakashi carefully checked his torso, probing at the long red welt left by Tsunade's healing. It was better than it could have been, but it ached, as did the rest of his body, and he thought longingly of the pain killers sitting in the living room along with the rest of his gear. At least they'd given him that at the hospital, after injecting him with the antidote and ranting about stupid Jounin who couldn't take care of themselves. Eventually almost all of the blood was gone and Kakashi turned the light off before stripping off his mask and running the cloth over his face. He could smell the sharp metallic tang mixed with the cold scent of water and the muskiness of his own body, so much clearer without the thin layer of fabric holding the world away from his nose. Carefully and solely by feel, he cleaned his face, then dropped the cloth in the sink and turned the knobs off without looking up at the mirror.

He stumbled into the bedroom and collapsed on top of the shuriken-patterned comforter, too tired to pull it back and sink into the sheets. The dust stuck against his damp skin and he barely had time to register the wonderful feeling of soft mattress beneath him instead of hard ground before his eyes closed and he fell asleep.


A/N: If you've read to here, please take the time to review, even if it's just to say "I read it". Thank you!