Hey guys. I took this down a while back on a different account, but now it's back! I really hope you enjoy it!

As always, please enjoy, and please - I really can't beg enough - review. I'm thinking of adding a sequel to Flow, since the last time it was posted it met with such positive responses. So keep an eye out for it!

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.

WARNINGS: Sexual content, violence, swearing, general darkness.


That was it - nimbler. He was walking much nimbler than anyone had any right to when coated in blood and pulpy-pink gum tissue and bone fragments and rapidly drying bile. To his perceived credit, his mind was swimming slightly, out of step with his agile body. Moving so gracefully - every step landing with perfect balance, every stride made in perfect time - it seemed incongruous, possibly laughably so, with his mental state. The humor was classic: two entirely opposing things being thrust together.

Perhaps not classic - perhaps absent.

Regardless, the canopies of the trees were losing their battle against the persistent, drizzling rain. Their branches became slick and smooth and shiny, offering an extra hazard. Kakashi attempted to focus on his travel to avoid whatever thoughts had muddled his mind previously.

In a sense, he felt he had to be grateful for ANBU. Nights of contemplation had brought him to a point no less sharp and clear than a matter of science. No species could evolve purely as killers; they'd destroy one another. And yet the anomalies occurred. Kakashi was an anomaly -

He frowned as he failed to slip on a particularly weak, half-sapling branch.

- an anomaly with an outlet. His propensity for dealing out death could be made proper use of by a legitimate, government-sanctioned group.

The ground flashed by beneath him. Patches of soil near tree roots remained dry, but the majority of the forest floor had already sunken into the deep color of wet earth. Grass blades were weighted down with the gathering water, and among the uneven terrain, little streams began to form.

Mist began to drift down among the trees, and the taste of rain passed his lips in breaths and breezes. Humid, and fresh, and in all of it a promise of some kind of new beginning; it would, after all, soon be spring time.

It was winter yet.

There was almost a rhythm to his movements, a pattern so practiced and flawless that, despite the irregularity and unpredictable placement and strength of the branches, still carried him swiftly and without incident from the site of the end-game of his mission to the walls of Konoha.

As he passed through the gates he found the past few hours dissipating, like fog upon approach, little beads of time receding into shadow. The pallor of it all still hung over him, though, along with the scents and the feelings and the sounds of it all. Luckily the humidity kept the fluids on his canvas-like clothes from solidifying enough to make them unwearable. He slung his mask over his shoulder.

The kunai he hadn't realized he'd been gripping tightly in his right hand was replaced in its holster as he moved into the city. Oddly he felt as if he was - or at least should've been - stumbling, though still his steps were as sure as always. Being on the ground, and in the city - somehow it seemed appropriate, as if returning from a mission was a departure from another reality, and a settling back into the true one.

It just wasn't that easy.

Corded muscles slackened slightly as Kakashi loosened his shoulders, releasing his alert stance and resigning himself to his characteristic slouch. To the outsider the process would seem like a relaxing dismissal of duty-produced tension, and yet it was difficult - forceful, almost. Shoulders stooped and hands in his pockets, Kakashi waded through the gathering mist and into the city proper.

He raised an open palm to passers-by who knew him, and offered his shut-eye smile. Smiling beneath a mask, he pondered idly, was probably a little useless, a little superficial...

Sometimes he just closed his eye.

A number of the shops had closed for the evening, while the eating establishments were just opening up. Little candles in plastic containers fitted with wind-resistant lids lined the open bars of booths and stalls, which, due to their warmth and protection from the rain, had begun to draw small, eager crowds. Their murmurs and laughs were barely audible to Kakashi, muffled perhaps by the mist, or something more.

Still the smell got to him. It suddenly occurred to him that he hadn't eaten in quite some time, and that the last taste in his mouth had been that of metal, and the coppery, sticky taint of blood. He pressed the tip of his tongue against the roof of his mouth and still found it there, lingering. Periodically he would attempt to slow to a stall in his gait, considering approaching one of the crowded, open-air booths. It was tempting, nearly convincing - but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

Approaching a shop would mean speaking to people, no matter how he hunkered down or stared straight ahead. He didn't have the words for it. It was too hard - impossible, nearly - to step out of a mindset that allowed (if not demanded) killing anyone who would be easier killed than let go, if only by a fraction. Anyone that stood between he and the target. Anyone who stood at all. How could he go from hours of that to, 'Thank you - haha, yes - and you! See you later!' - the thought consumed him. Small talk: he hated it, and was practiced in it. It felt like old vomit on his tongue, burning lightly, drying his mouth and leaving a bitter taste behind.

His eye focused directly ahead. On the edges of his vision, the gathering groups of people went about like swarms of flies.

Meat. Moving slabs of meat. They all were - and yet, they weren't. A line had been drawn, and the mission instructions made it as glaring and real as possible. The target, and every body between the outer gates of Kohona and the target - they were just meat. But the city was a little haven of smiling faces and little hands and happy laughter, where nothing cruel could be allowed to happen. Konohakagure was Earth's last innocence, or so it would've been easier to believe. The ANBU allowed Kakashi every possible opportunity to draw a distinction between the target and those floating around him with cheerful smiles like lost fireflies - but the discrimination was as flimsy and pale as soaked cardboard.

He had wandered far from home.

The scent of fresh food still clung lightly to his psyche. It was time to eat, but he couldn't go back there. That night was no night for retracing steps of any kind. As if with no direction in mind, he moved toward one of the small, corner grocery stores. It would do to make something on his own, or eat something raw, or to do anything but to lie down in bed hungry.

A mess of mud and water had already accumulated at the store's entrance as blood joined the mix, washing from Kakashi's sandals and the few open wounds sparsely lining his legs. The teenager at the counter, who had previously been slouched over, cheek in her palm as she thumbed through a fashion magazine, perked up at the sound of a new customer, and yet immediately glanced away. ANBU uniform, bloody, the wolf mask at the shoulder - Kakashi knew he must've been a sight to behold, but he refused to look at her, even to offer a nod or a friendly wave. He grimaced.

What, did she think he was going to kill her? She had turned to busy herself with organizing the cigarettes and black-covered magazines behind the counter, shaken by the intersection of their existences. Kakashi moved down an aisle that hid him from her, and at once she stopped her shuffling about. Did she think, he wondered, that he was going to mince her like he had his target? His target's cronies? That he was going to slice her into ribbons of flesh or slit her throat and leave her? That he was going to press his thumbs into her tender neck until her lips turned blue and blood trickled from them? And why shouldn't he?

At the moment, not being a target didn't seem like a very strong excuse. Still, Kakashi surveyed the cans and bags and packages calmly, unaffected by the bright colors or shiny wrapping. A very sudden noise drew his attention from the innermost layers of his consciousness to the present. Stumbling, and muttered curses heaved in a sigh.

Genma. Slouched with drunken languidness, he moved disjointedly forward, yanking a few products off of their shelves as he attempted to steady himself. Kakashi stood and watched, his words joining the faint taste of blood in his mouth as they failed to sound. He knew, anyhow, the feelings that brought a man to Genma's position. The two of them were, after all, only about two feet apart.

"Oi, Kakashi." Genma slurred, leaning heavily on the shelves.

"Oi, Genma."

The florescent lights made the yellowish shine on Genma's eyes all the more sickly, and the sheen of sweat and grime of dirt all the more filthy. After a couple of gulps for air, his fingers wrapped around the bottle he'd settled on the shelf, curling it close to a gloved palm. Somehow through the fog in his mind, his eyes remained focused on Kakashi, searching for something - recognition, perhaps; he found a mirror. Meanwhile Kakashi fought the urge to straighten up, to reach out for him, to help him - to help him.

"You good to get home?" He asked flatly.

"I'll make it..." Genma muttered, slipping in a feeble attempt to straighten up. Kakashi assisted him back to his feet and smelt the harsh, eye-watering sting of cheap alcohol on him, shaded with sweat, fury, blood. Genma's fingerless gloves left brown-red smears on the silvery ANBU arm-guards. Kakashi understood.

He left as quickly as he possibly could, barely heeding the half-trembling teenager at the register. She rang up his purchase and then watched him go with wide eyes, nibbling her gloss-smeared lip as he disappeared into the rapidly falling rain.

Arriving home drenched was welcome, despite the acidity of the cool droplets which bathed the numerous cuts lining his body. Between the cold evening and the chilled precipitation, Kakashi could hardly find his way; it was only habit, old and worn as familiar fear, which brought him to his doorstep. He faltered. He fumbled with his keys. He dropped the can of umeboshi he'd purchased. He tripped the trap he'd set just two days previous, and narrowly dodged a flying shuriken, which then ricocheted distantly in the adjacent alley. By the time he managed to push the door open, he was trembling lightly, from the chill of the rain, and from that nearly imperceptible tension that had built within him, pulling his psyche tight and rigid and brittle like a harpstring.

The door shut lightly behind him, leaving the apartment unnaturally silent, still, and settled. It seemed as though not a single particle of dust had moved since he had left his home. The same half-open books were splayed hap-hazardly about his wall-mounted shelves; the couch was in its normal state of stained disrepair; the carpet was as worn and matted from mud, blood and feet as it had always been; and despite being cluttered with souvenirs, knick-knacks of various sources and a number of cherished photographs, the place still felt entirely empty.

'Unlived in.' Kakashi thought as he strode from his small entry hall to the kitchenette that overlooked his living room. Perhaps, he supposed, it was unlived in. florescent lights flickered on with their familiar hum. Droplets of water and faded blood collected on the linoleum tiles. Kakashi ran the umeboshi under the can-opener.

Rain always pleased him. Outside, the world sounded alive, no matter how chaotic: the wind stirred the trees, the drops pounded the window panes and shingles, and the thunder churned the sky. Proof of something beyond the confines of thin, pock-marked and paper-peeling walls was enough to relieve the loneliness. Sometimes, Kakashi turned on the television for the same reason, happy even at the company of the most mind-numbing trash polluting the air waves. As a puppy, Pakkun had been treated to the same luxury, often sleeping next to a clock wrapped in a warm blanket to simulate a living companion...

Thunder crashed. Kakashi's glance snapped up, and, half-embarrassed, he shut off the can opener.

Unthinking, he moved to his couch, propping his feet up on the small, worn table that stood before the television. Without any particular focus, his eye remained fully open; he stared into blank space. After sliding his mask down over his chin, he considered turning on the television, but his hand stopped short of the remote. Nothing on it...held any interest. The simulated companionship would be nothing but a magnifier of his loneliness, and there was certainly no content worth bothering with. Slowly, he brought the salty, sour umeboshi to his lips, chewing and swallowing mechanically, thoughtlessly.

The mission had gone well in the only sense that missions could: everyone scheduled to die was killed, and every objective completed. Some stupid chuunin he had encountered had obviously bought into the 'throw weapons indiscriminately' school of fighting, which, while easy to defeat, was irritating in the amount of small wounds it inflicted. He dispatched her quickly, and the civilian who had been toting her equipment. He wasn't even certain that she was involved - but she was there, and a potential threat. Blood had painted the walls when Kakashi had beheaded the target. Killing the target's personal body guard was easy and smooth; killing his wife was a sight uglier: he had split her open, spilling intestines like compressed confetti. The shinobi he'd encountered once finished were easily finished, swatted like flies, and the final fatality report would read nine.

His fingers brushed the bottom of the can. He crushed the empty tin in his palm and let it topple to the ground.

Nine. Nine people, some shinobi like himself, his students, his friends, alive and dead. Six hitai-ate blood stained and tarnished, laid on burial sites, or tucked in coffins. One backpack found on the forest floor. Two wedding rings, eternally sealing a bond deeper than corruption or murder. There was something so unsettling about the business of it, a shared confusion among all shinobi: if those people had been part of their own village, killing them would be a crime. Instead, they were just collateral damage. It wasn't fair - the thought stood stark and alone in Kakashi's otherwise empty, dulled mind - it wasn't fair to give that sort of admission to someone, and then expect them to always draw the perfect, painless distinction that allowed for shameless killing based on paperwork and technicalities.

Thinking of it made no difference. Kakashi sighed. Hands empty and stomach partially filled, he began to tug off his clothing, suddenly hyper-aware of the wet fibers soaking his couch and itching the matted masses of coagulated blood at his wounds. The breast plate went first, and then the shirt, yanking the hitai-ate off as he forced it over his head. Gooseflesh formed on his naked chest and abdomen. A shiver ran through him as he stood to unzip his pants, supposing that a night on the couch would be better than facing the terrible loneliness of the tiny bedroom he normally slept in. Thumbs hooked in the waistline, he pushed his pants down, sliding them over sharp hip bones and the toned, muscular plane of his stomach. After catching the cloth of one fingerless glove in his teeth, he tugged it off, followed by the other, and released his arm guards.

He sank back onto the couch, and, resuming his previous posture, cupped his sex. It had been a long time. Sex was difficult to come by on short missions, and even then, it was poor, rough, groping encounters in squalid tents on the forest floor, masks always on. Animal, bloody, satisfying only the most biological of drives. Jerking off wasn't exactly his preference, but in an effort to clear his mind and relax himself, anything seemed fair game.

There was hardly any fantasy to it. It wasn't about that. Kakashi allowed his eyes to shut and his shoulders to relax as he ran his fingertips over the head of his sex, sending little jolts of pleasure throughout his body. His head lolled back slightly as he wrapped his fingers around his shaft, encouraging the hardness that was beginning to form. Finding it difficult to come up with anything particularly arousing, Kakashi instead set his mind to imagining nothing at all, to simply focusing on the present pleasure, no matter how nominal or transparent.

Almost imperceptibly, his ministrations took on a different tenor.

Images flashed against the blackness of his closed eyes. The lean figure rarely revealed - only brief glimpses of surprisingly delicate hands, and elegant collar bones - rich, tanned skin matched with sensitive, thoughtful dark eyes - the seldom loose mass of glossy brown hair - and those lips, God, those lips -

Kakashi's movements became rapid and jerky as the images persisted. His mouth opened slightly, and he gave low, broken groans of pleasure as his orgasm built unusually fast within him. Every vision brought a new level of sensitivity to his flesh, causing waves of fierce pleasure to ripple through him at the slightest brush of fabric against his thighs or nipples. Eyes still squeezed shut, he brought his shoulders up from their position against the couch, and lifted his head as well, hunching slightly over. His hips bucked. The visions of cinnamon colored skin and soft, plush lips wrapped around his sex persisted, hastening his pace.

Sweat-sheened, tan flesh, the slender waist, chest heaving, hands tangled in thick, dark hair, moaning - Iruka.

Kakashi's orgasm was marked only by a distinct, harsh shudder, and the white liquid which quickly coated his hand. Moments after he remained still, eyes still closed as he slumped against the sofa. For some time, the only motion of his body was his panting, and eventually it slowed to a still with his other senses. Sleep had nearly drawn him to its shores when a flash of lightning split the sky, followed by a rush of thunder that rattled the window panes. In its wake, only rain fell.

His mind numbed from the events of his day and the recent orgasm, Kakashi moved into the bathroom with his gear, and stripped off his remaining clothes. He left his armor in the floor of the shower to be cleansed as he was: swiftly, with searing water. The fog that seemed to have settled over his senses was welcome, if not needed. There were too many questions, and too many thoughts. As if in a daze, he finished showering. He dried quickly, if not incompletely. He turned the lights off.

In the following days, Kakashi would not remember stumbling into his room, falling into bed, or sifting through the hours that passed before sleep finally came.