Note: Good to be back, guys! Hope you enjoy!
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I felt his lips move only a little before they left mine, but I couldn't be sure if that little bit wasn't just because of shock.
"Sakura." He called my name with something like surprise, a tone I wasn't at all used to hearing from him. I guessed he hadn't expected that. I suddenly computed the last words he had said before I did this… I was very glad I'd interrupted him.
"Just…." I muttered almost drunkenly, trailing off as I leaned in again without thinking, this time my fingers reached up to the top of his mask, ready to pull it down and finally kiss him the way I'd wanted.
"No, I can't." And just like that I felt his hands gingerly push my shoulders away from him. "This is too much." His voice reminded me of Iruka-sensei for a strange moment with the way he sounded almost like he thought this was 'too inappropriate', as Iruka-sensei would probably put it.
I looked up at him, taking in his strangely conflicted expression before I realized a moment later with dread exactly what I'd done. I knew I kissed him, but I hadn't thought about what it would mean to him. In a way he was kind of like Iruka-sensei right now. Kakashi was still Kakashi-sensei... and so...
For him, that was our first kiss.
For him this was all those months ago, during the assassin-mission. Despite how much I'd gotten used to it, kissing me was actually something new for him right now. My stomach flipped with a gargantuan embarrassment at the thought that I had actually just forced a 'first' kiss on the man who had given me my own.
Though, he didn't react how I did, of course. He's a grown man. A kiss doesn't mean as much as it did to me, especially with Kakashi's past experience with women (I tried not to think about Asaka right then). So he really only seemed a little unsettled when he cleared his throat shortly, as if to try and snap me back into attention.
"I-I'm sorry." I stuttered, snatching my hands away from the sides of his face and neck where they had settled out of habit. "I wasn't thinking…." I took a step back, finally feeling that abashed anxiety I knew was waiting for me when I first decided to kiss him. I just didn't think it'd feel this horribly, deeply, embarrassing. "I'd forgotten that you wouldn't-"
"You don't have to apologize." He sighed tiredly as he interrupted my rushed apology. I knew that sigh. He really only ever sounded like that when he was trying to think objectively when he was almost too tired to try. I really didn't need him thinking objectively right now. "Look. I understand that- well, I have an impression that… our relationship was more than I'd be comfortable with…." He looked away from me, his expression twisted in a few familiar ways of shame and discomfort.
I wanted to smile and grimace the moment he said that. He never had been quite comfortable with our relationship, when it was too slow or too fast. But it was nice to hear him talking about 'our relationship', again. I'd gotten so used to thinking that I'd be the only one who would remember it. Hearing him talk about it seemed to cement my life into place again, even if his tone wasn't all that accepting of the topic. And that's where I wanted to grimace.
Even though my brain and heart had both been saturated with the hope and joyful disbelief that the wait before I could finally be with him again might have been over, now that we both knew the truth, it was clear now that there was still something very important I didn't think about:
I felt like a child for not considering the fact that even though he could recognize our previous relationship and still have feelings for me, he could be a man more responsible than he was all those months ago and stop himself from making the same dangerous decision a second time.
I was so busied with my thoughts about what exactly must have been going through his head that I almost didn't catch what he was saying next.
"But I'm not sure about the depth, or how seriously we took things-"
I stopped him there. Firstly because I couldn't just listen to him try and map things out blindly, and secondly because I really couldn't let him think we took ourselves at all too seriously… not with his games, at least. In my heart, though, I couldn't think of how much more seriously we could have taken ourselves.
That truth made my decision to interrupt him more painful than I thought it would be.
"Kakashi." I interrupted him, feeling a little light-hearted with how easily I could say his name without a suffix and still see his attention turn to me without any surprise–I hoped that meant he could remember, in some way, that he had always made a point to have me call him by his name alone-. I took a deep breath, trying to build the strength I didn't know I had to say exactly what I didn't want to say, "You don't have to think of a way to let me down gently. We were more serious than that." I summarized, trying to ignore how every syllable I said was adding to a weight crushing down on my heart.
"Sakura." He said my name, returning the favor of leaving off any suffix, and I almost forgot what I was going to say, but it was too important to finish my thoughts so I continued.
"What we had before really only started because… I don't know… a mistake?" I tripped over my words, trying not to look at him."I wouldn't expect you to make it twice." I surprised myself with how calmly I said that since I wanted to take it all back the moment I said it. I knew better, though.
I almost would have went on staring at the ground, waiting for him to say something and take the chance I was giving him to cut things off here, but I looked up sooner than I thought I would when I heard him exhale with a quiet chuckle.
"What?" I couldn't think of any reason why any of this would be funny, especially not to someone who could change my life with only a few words right now.
"You sounded like me just now." He explained. I felt my heart thud happily with how proud he sounded, but I had no idea why, I was actually still a little annoyed he thought anything about this was funny. I only stared at him as he took a moment to think before speaking again.
And then I saw it.
That moment when he closed his eyes and smiled at himself like he knew he was doing something he shouldn't but wanted to do it anyways. My insides coiled into electric wires waiting to hear him speak again.
"The only mistake I could make now is to make a decision too quickly."
"It would be unfair to you… to both of us." I could barely read he voice. He sounded objective, but I knew that he had to be feeling something as he said this. I was. I was a light-show of emotions in this moment. I just hoped he couldn't tell. "If I didn't know everything I could before I…."He trailed off at the worst moment.
"What do you mean?" I asked forwardly, staring at his masked face, looking for any hint of what he was thinking. I couldn't decipher him.
I cursed myself for not studying him harder when I had the chance to weeks ago.
And then the entire tone of the moment changed.
"It's almost dawn." He looked over my shoulder at the brightening horizon, I hadn't even noticed, the sky could've be on fire and I wouldn't know. I really couldn't care about anything else other than him right now. "I have to go and report with the others." His tone changed again and I nearly stumbled at his suddenly professional attitude. "Go rest for the day, they'll be setting up the day shift patrol now. I'll tell them you need to rest." He started walking away.
"Meet me here again, tonight." He said that one insanely nostalgic phrase with a maddeningly nostalgic tone and then he was out of sight.
And I was alone on that bridge another damn time.
. . .
I didn't know what to do with myself.
He always did that!
Why did he always have to do that?
Why couldn't he just talk to me like a normal person and say exactly what's on his mind?
I was left there with half a mind to chase after him and beat an explanation out of him, though I knew much better not to. Instead I contemplated punching a tree or something just to get rid of this anxiety.
How am I supposed to 'rest' today when he left things like that?
I ranted inwardly, letting out some loud groans of frustration as I started pacing the spot, though anyone who could see me would have probably thought I was crazy because of how widely I was smiling.
I couldn't explain how happy it actually made me that he could still do this to me. I hated it, but I knew him well enough to know this was probably one of the best ways he could have handled this.
I still hated it though, not knowing what he was thinking.
It almost sounded like he was going to give this a second chance, but it almost sounded like he was also thinking about leaving it. But he wanted to meet again tonight?
I would have been completely happy, ecstatic, if I wasn't so deeply confused and frustrated by his mixed messages.
What kind of decision-making skills does he have?
It's all fine for him to postpone decisions and dangle his answer, but I'm the one who has to sit and wait for him.
I was a raging mixture of frustration and hope and dread. But, deep down, I really didn't mind. He had always had a way of doing this to me before. The fact I was feeling anything other than the depression which had overtaken me this past week was enough of a blessing.
But I was still kind of pissed… kind of really pissed… though I was overcome by that, again, nostalgic impatience for nightfall even though the sun was only just rising behind me.
… … … … … … … … …
The sun was already spilling light over the treetops by the time he could see the central balcony buzzing with the other Jounin team captains and their teams. Kakashi could feel a hesitation in him as he approached the site. He'd spent only these last few minutes trying to get his head straight again and he knew well enough now that a matter of minutes wasn't enough for him to completely square away his thoughts of that girl.
It had been difficult before, but now, after what had happened, it was nearly impossible.
Especially after that kiss.
Even though it was masked and unreciprocated, he had still been able to feel in the way she moved and touched him that whatever they had had between them was much more intense than he could have guessed. Though, his mind was still reeling from the fact that she had actually had the kind of nerve to kiss him like that. He hadn't expected it at all.
What spun his head even more -something he definitely couldn't let himself think about too much- was the fact that Sakura, being a girl who had probably had very little experience before their relationship, most likely learned how to move like that from him.
He nearly lost his footing when his heart seemed to stutter with that thought and memory again in a nauseating mixture of shame and pride.
The melting pot of feelings he was trying to deal with right then grew even more volatile when he thought about the fact he was going to see her again tonight…
But even if his head was a mess, he needed to try and keep his straight face and steady leadership skills, especially now that the village was on alert after the break-in last night.
"Ah! Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto yelled out at him just as his feet touched the ground. "Can we get a break now?" He asked without pausing, indicating Sai as the other part of the 'we' of his sentence.
Kakashi gave one look over to the others discussing reports, judging the scene and seeing that things were probably calming down throughout the village he decided that his other team members could afford a rest.
"Yes." Kakashi answered squarely, "You two should catch a few hours sleep. You might be needed again tonight, though."
Naruto gave a little huff at that comment before stretching contentedly and marching off with a yawn. It didn't surprise him that Naruto hadn't asked about the status of the library or anything similar, Naruto was more of the type of concern himself if there was imminent danger, not just suspicion. Kakashi was about to turn his attention to the other team captains for the ritual exchanging of reports, his own would be rather valuable given his involvement in the action last night, but he was caught a little off-guard when he saw Sai hadn't taken the opportunity to leave yet. Instead, the boy walked up to Kakashi silently, making for a very awkward few moments of silence, before he spoke up.
"How is Sakura-chan?" Sai asked almost robotically, the tone clashing with that friendly suffix he used.
Kakashi took a moment to register the strangeness in that question as well as the slight paranoia that he was growing more and more used to whenever anyone brought up Sakura around him.
"She should be fine. She's already been given the day off as well." He answered with an equally mechanical tone. He was about ready to walk away before Sai spoke up again.
"I presume because of all the excitement surrounding Umino-san's injuries."
… Kakashi's paranoia grew a little stronger. He was suddenly over-aware of the groups of people talking around them and whether or not any of them were close enough or distracted enough to hear what Sai was talking about. He didn't need anyone overhearing Sakura's name connected to Iruka's right now.
"She was his attending physician, yes. But I'm sure Iruka will be fine." He tried to end it there, but almost as if Sai was trying to make things deliberately uncomfortable he took a step closer, butting into Kakashi's personal space.
Sai took a long moment before continuing.
"Despite rumors, I can vouch for Sakura-chan that she and Umino-san are not coupling partners." The raven-haired kid informed quietly. "I just thought, as our captain, it would be prudent for you to know."
Kakashi stood there, unflinchingly still, for a long moment.
He computed the words, the strange choice of them, how he felt a flash of jealousy when 'Sakura', 'Umino' and 'coupling' were placed in the same sentence, and then the severe discomfort and paranoia which arose from the entire situation.
If anyone else had thought it would be 'prudent' knowledge for him to know Sakura and Iruka weren't…. 'coupling'… then he would have immediately suspected them for knowing something they shouldn't.
But this was Sai.
He gave the kid one look over, making eye contact with his dark eyes.
Years of interrogation skills, and simply knowing how strange this boy could be, let him see that Sai didn't know exactly what he was doing right then. He sighed, taking a step back, a little relieved.
"Ok. Thank you , Sai." He sounded as passive as he could.
Sai nodded, trying to use a 'have a good day look', but failing. Kakashi watched as the boy walked away, wondering what exactly must have been going on with him and whether or not he had to be worried about it before something caught his attention.
"Yeah, I heard our twin library in Kibuya got hit too." A surly voice shared with another halfway across the balcony. He listened intently, not making a move to join in on the conversation, just interested in eavesdropping.
"What'd they take?" The other voice belonged to a Jounin who hadn't earned much of a title in the village, but Kakashi recognized his boyish voice from the few times they'd worked together.
"The Hokage won't say, but Kibuya's already on full alert. They're definitely gonna need some help over there."
"Really? We've already got mountains of mission requests and these new patrolling shifts, how many people can we spare?" The other complained loudly.
Kakashi stood there, more than a little conflicted. He knew that he should have been interested in assisting Kibuya and that he should be planning a visit with Tsunade to find out just what was taken, but his first concern, before anything else, was whether or not they'd send Sakura over.
Again, she was centered in his mind.
He couldn't tell for sure whether she really took up this much of his life now or whether it only seemed that way because she took up most of his thoughts, but around every corner there was something he worried about because of her.
Either way he couldn't help but wonder just how close they'd been if worrying about her this much already seemed like a second nature.
… … … … … … … … … … … … …
"I know you said I needed to get some rest but I had to come tell yo-" I realized half a sentence too late that I wasn't talking to anyone.
I slid the door open the whole way, as I leaned into the hospital room to look around as if he could still be in the room even though the bed was already empty and remade and there wasn't a trace of him. Not a bloody vest on the chair or a chart hanging off the edge of the bed.
I guess I should have checked with the receptionist first before barging into the patient corridors but I hadn't wanted to deal with her.
But I was pleasantly surprised when I made my way to reception that the shifts must have switched at dawn for them as well because the receptionist that had treated me so snootily last night had been replaced with the young mousy girl who'd always been very nice to me even though she never talked much. I still remember that one time she had me bring Jiraiya-sama's presents –Icha Icha novels- to Kakashi's room a few months ago.
I walked up to her trying not to dwell on happy memories.
She looked up at me with that standard, and yet somehow personable when it was coming from her, phrase, "What could I do for you?"
"I was here to visit Iruka- Umino Iruka." I added his family name quickly, trying to sound more professional than simply calling him by his first name. I blinked a little too quickly when I remembered the last time I tried to call him by his first name alone.
"Oh." She started hesitantly, her whole expression lighting up for some reason, "He already checked himself out a few hours ago."
My heart dropped a fraction even though the receptionist's smile widened genuinely when she spoke up before I could ask about his condition with a preemptive answer, "He seemed a little tired, but I think you must have done a really good job. It's rare for someone to spend only one night here after a puncture wound like his."
My brows knitted together for a fraction of a second at her strange comment and how it was true, I wondered why he had checked out so early, but I smiled appreciatively for her compliment.
"Thank you, then." I thanked her verbally for her time before I was ready to leave, but she spoke up again.
"I-um…. If you want I could sign your name for his check-up instead of the usual guy. Just in case you were worried or something like that." She offered with nervous enthusiasm, her smile even brighter if that were possible.
I knew she was trying to be helpful but I was picking up something from the way she was acting that made it seem like she wanted me to go check up on him. I blinked a little too rapidly again at that moment when I remembered that people were keeping an eye on my proximity with Iruka-sensei right now. Even though she didn't seem to be one of the people who seemed disturbed by the idea of Iruka-sensei and I together –she actually seemed a little eager to have me see him again-, that sealed my decision.
"No, thanks. I'll leave it to the usual person." I declined her offer gently. I could see some disappointment in her eyes, but I knew this was the better choice. Not only because it would be best to make some space between me and him until the rumors faded a bit, but just to give him space.
He's injured and probably really tired after a night in the hospital. He doesn't need me showing up with all my drama.
Dealing with my own slight disappointment with my decision –I had actually been looking forward to seeing him today- I turned to leave, but was interrupted again.
"Oh, I can't believe I almost forgot!" The receptionist called out as she stood up to get my attention. "The Lady Hokage sent out a message that when you showed up we should tell you to 'come and see her'." The mousy woman recited as if it were verbatim but with a sweet perkiness that could never be seen from Tsunade. "She must have known you'd come check on Umino-san." The receptionist beamed at that last sentence as if she was happy, personally, that I'd came to check on 'Umino-san'.
"Oh, ok. Thanks for telling me." I thanked her yet again before finally leaving.
A little nervous I made my way towards the center of the village.
… … … … … … … … … … … …
Iruka poured another cup of tea before setting down the kettle and making his way to his couch slowly, careful not to move too much and undo the fragile new skin keeping his wound sealed.
He knew he should have stayed at the hospital. He should be resting and monitored just in case his body rejects the unnaturally new scar tissue.
Instead he was in his apartment, trying to grade the mess of papers filed into different piles on the couch cushions and table in front of him. He was trying to enjoy some peace and quiet even though he knew that the whole village was on full alert and that half the people in the village were probably not thinking all that well of him right now. Especially after the news of what happened last night.
He sighed, rubbing his forehead.
His eyes were sore from lack of sleep, but he couldn't think about lying down and doing nothing for another minute after spending the whole night like that.
He needed to do something.
Grading papers that didn't need to be graded for another week was good enough a distraction to take the edge off.
But that distraction was short-lived. He was snapped out of his 'peace and quiet' with a few steady knocks on his door.
After only the few strained seconds it took for Iruka to reach the door and open it, he saw one of the only people he'd be happy not ever seeing again and heard a greeting equally unwelcome.
"Kuroke." Iruka didn't expend any more breath or effort for his greeting than he had to, regretfully not breaking free enough from his usual overly-polite demeanor to simply close the door again and go back to his tea and papers the way he really wanted to.
After the following conversation he knew he'd wish he had slammed the door at that moment.
… … … … … … … … … … … …
Standing in Lady Tsunade's office again shouldn't have made me so nervous. I'd spent a lot of time here over the past couple years, but somehow, with what's been happening in my personal life, I couldn't help but feel a slow creeping anxiety crawl over me. I stood there waiting for Lady Tsunade to finish signing some paperwork.
A few scratches of her pen later and she finally broke the silence, "Sakura."
"Yes, Lady Hokage." I responded a little too formally. I just felt like I should so extra respect or something since she seemed to be in a strict mood right now due to the village being on alert. Or, at least that's what I hoped she was in a bad mood about.
"I called you in today because I wanted to check with you whether or not you feel confident about your knowledge of our library."
"Oh." Relief soothed me a little, "Yes, I spent a lot of time filing and organizing our branch last summer." I explained even though she had been the one who had had me do that organizing.
Tsunade nodded to herself a little as if she knew that would be my answer.
"As you've probably heard from your captain…" my heart jumped at the indirect mention of Kakashi "… our twin library in Kibuya was also hit last night." I hadn't heard that, but I nodded anyways. "It seems that they might have coordinated the break-ins to inspire havoc. Right now we need everyone who knows our libraries to check, and re-check, what exactly was taken."
"I'd be glad to help, Lady Tsunade." I replied almost immediately.
"Really?" Tsunade's tone changed dramatically; as if she was making a show of how she hadn't expected that answer. A moment later I figured out why, "I got the impression from Kakashi that you were indispensible to him right now."
I swallowed hard as my insides suddenly jolted.
What did he say?
How could he be so obvious!
Either way I had to straighten this out now, "I do still have some more debriefing appointments with Kakashi-sensei for the next few days." I thought of an excuse for him on the spot.
He'd be proud.
"Oh, yes, I'd forgotten." Lady Tsunade reacted, smiling at the joke hidden in her word choice. I couldn't really focus on that little word-play since I was busy dealing with my relief and confusion, also it was slightly tasteless to me given how difficult my life had become by his 'forgetting'.
But I really had to remember to talk to him about not being so obvious –that thought was strange since he had always been the good liar before. That relief, though, was short-lived.
"And I suppose Iruka would need you around for the next few days, too, after last night." She added out of nowhere.
I nearly jumped out of my skin with the way she said that, her eyes finding mine as she said those last three words. I swore she was definitely trying to say something. I wanted to speak up and make it sound like nothing, to say I wouldn't be his physician anymore, but she only continued.
"It's charming that two of the more competent men of our village need the assistance of a young girl like you." My stomach was now exploding with acid as she continued, "When you're older I could see you becoming a fine Jounin." She actually sounded genuine, though I didn't like the way she inflected 'when you're older', as if she was trying to make a point about my age. I would have probably thought that was strange if she didn't sound like she was closing up the conversation now, "Well… I guess I'll have to talk with Kakashi again about sending you to Kibuya for a few days."
I battled my anxiety when she mentioned Kakashi again by trying to take solace in her previous compliment.
"Thank you, Lady Tsunade." I said with as much professional gratitude as I could muster in my voice before bowing a little, ready to turn around and leave everything at that.
But, as if it was a running fashion today, I was interrupted from leaving just before I could turn around.
"Oh, and speaking of Iruka…." She continued.
I turned my focus back to her, very relieved she hadn't decided to talk about Kakashi anymore. That was the last thing I needed.
At least that was what I thought.
"I understand there have been a few things said about Iruka lately. Some unsavory gossip."
My whole body froze. My chest felt paralyzed. I couldn't breathe, but I didn't want to. I felt like if I simply breathed too deeply I would reveal all my secrets now that they were being indirectly discussed by the Hokage herself.
"I don't invest much in what bored housewives say, though." She added, I didn't feel at all comforted. The fact she was bringing this up was enough to scare me senseless, "Iruka's a good man, a good teacher." I nodded, trying to keep my movements loose and casual even though I felt like my joints were rusting over with fear. "He even reminds me, sometimes, of a man I knew a long time ago." I remembered seeing a few pictures of a man named Dan. The look Lady Tsunade was making now was identical to the look she had whenever she had mentioned that man before. I would have been proud of Iruka-sensei for him being compared to someone the Hokage cared for so deeply, but I couldn't think that straight, especially after her next sentence, "But I didn't think he'd be the type who'd let impatience get out of hand."
I couldn't really believe this was happening.
This had to be one of my worst fears.
The Hokage finding out about anything about my personal life.
And the way she sounded just now, like she could actually believe Iruka would let 'impatience get out of hand'.
I couldn't let her think that.
I couldn't let him take the fall for something he would have never had to deal with if it weren't for me.
I needed to say something!
"Men can be weak." She interrupted me sternly. "But, let's hope that the girl in these rumors, if they're true, would know better than to jeopardize herself and that man even though he should know better." Her voice was thick with heavy disapproval.
I'd forgotten until that moment that I was the girl connected to him in those rumors. I'd been so scared for Iruka-sensei I couldn't see that Lady Tsunade was actually talking to me about me this whole time. The Hokage, the woman I've been training under for these past few years, has actually heard rumors about my personal life and is warning me to stop.
She still didn't seem to know the truth about what was really happening, but the rumors were something like the truth anyways… and she had heard them. She thought that it was important enough to schedule time with me even though the village is on alert to personally tell me that I should 'know better'.
I couldn't explain how suddenly rotten I felt.
"Right?" Her voice added after my long moment of frozen, sickly fear. Her harsh tone did not help my nerves but I managed to breathe out one word.
She nodded again, this time tiredly. "Go and get some rest. You'll be on duty tonight." Her tone was still very unforgiving.
I knew I should have taken that chance to say something to Iruka-sensei's defense, but I had been mentally incapable of trying to figure out how to speak let along how to form an argument for him that wouldn't unravel all my secrets.
I still didn't know how I managed to walk out of that office or out of that building. By the time I was on the street, walking home, my muscles were still having trouble relaxing as well as my stomach was having difficulty unknotting itself.
The rest of the day was a blur.
I slept and ate and talked with my parents and explained what happened –leaving out the details I knew better than to share- and slept some more, but the whole day, everything after that conversation in the Hokage's office was covered in a haze of worry and shame.
I couldn't even think straight about what I should do with the fact the Hokage now knew about the rumors about Iruka-sensei and me. She didn't go crazy. She didn't order an investigation. But that's probably because she trusted me enough not to actually live up to those rumors.
I didn't. Not with Iruka.
And… Kakashi and I aren't doing anything right now either.
I wanted to be with Kakashi again.
But it was up to him.
I had to meet him after nightfall.
As the hours passed and I slept, spending the day like a slug after all the drama that had happened the night before and in the morning, I couldn't get my thoughts into gear. I found myself staring off into space a lot and losing track of time.
I hadn't felt this worried or nervous since my relationship with Kakashi had first started.
Even then it wasn't this distracting.
Maybe I needed to tell him that, with the Hokage's suspicions, we really should wait for his decision in a few weeks or months… or years.
That thought stung me as I got dressed, less excited than I thought I'd be for sunset. This past week has been torture. I couldn't imagine spending months or years like that. Months and years not knowing whether or not we could still be together some day, because, after all, maybe his feelings could fade. Maybe he would meet a woman closer to his age, a woman who was actually his type –I remembered that awful conversation a few days ago when he explained his type was actually the exact opposite of me-, or maybe he would just somehow fall back into thinking of me as simply a subordinate.
Anything could happen over the next few years.
He could die. I could. Our life-expectancies weren't exactly long, and even though he's probably the most skilled man in the village he's almost 30 and there are rarely any shinobi who grow any older.
If we put things on hold for even a few years, I could lose his affection or I could lose him completely.
Trying to conceive of that pain was impossible.
I remembered the Hokage's words as I was walking rather slowly down the street, on my way to the bridge,'But I didn't think he'd be the type who'd let impatience get out of hand.'
When I really thought about it, I was the one who was letting my impatience get out of hand.
Kakashi was obviously the hesitant one out of the two of us. If I could have what I wanted we would've been back together starting last night with that kiss. He's the one who needs my patience now. And with our kind of relationship, a relationship taboo because of the amount of time between our ages and the lack of time I've lived, patience was probably what we really needed in order for this to work.
I knew it was the responsible decision: to wait.
There was nothing that said Kakashi and I couldn't be together in a few years. All it would take would be a transfer out of his team -though that would be emotionally taxing in its own way- in order to get the whole 'no intra-team relationships' rule taken care of. And then even though people would probably talk, there'd be nothing 'wrong' with us once I'm older.
That was the responsible way of approaching this relationship.
All it would take to make everything truthful and honest would be to wait.
But… much to my shame… I didn't think I could survive waiting.
Not if it meant taking a chance of losing everything that I'm so close to having back right now.
At that moment I understood exactly what Kakashi-sensei must have felt when we first started our relationship.
From his point of view all he had to do was to wait. To wait until I was older. It seems so simple.
But nothing is ever that simple.
I wished he could have told me more about how he made his decision to overlook responsibility the first time.
I barely noticed it when I was suddenly approaching the bridge, the bright tori gates visible a few hundred feet in front of me. My brain today, after that talk with Lady Tsunade, had been working extra slow, making everything around me seem to be moving too quickly, including time.
I almost didn't want to go to that bridge and have to feel what I know I was bound to feel around him. A part of me just wanted a way out of feeling this trapped between my emotions and morals.
And that's when a new kind of thought entered my mind:
What if I make my own decision now?
What if I tell him right now that we shouldn't even think about starting again?
What if I tell him that it's best to forget each other?
It would solve everything if we could just stop feeling whatever it is we feel for each now, before it gets any worse.
But… the moment those thoughts came to me I knew I wouldn't be able to say them.
I wasn't strong enough for that.
But maybe… maybe he would be. Maybe after whatever he called me here tonight for, he'll make the decision I won't be able to make on my own.
The responsible decision.
I sighed heavily, stopping in my tracks.
I was almost tempted to actually turn around. I didn't. Even if I was haunted by mind-numbing worry and confusion I could still feel the sharp pressure on my heart that I got whenever I knew I was going to see him alone again. I loved that feeling too much to give it up for anything.
But I wished I could have been given a little more time to prepare myself to see him again before I heard his voice coming from the forest to my left.
The lethargy which had infected me all day was cut in half by the sudden shock of adrenaline I got when I heard him say my name like that.
"Kakashi." I called back to him, enjoying the simplicity of not using a suffix again. I had heard where he was before; it wasn't difficult to find where he was calling from.
It was surreal, walking through the trees at night like this. I used to train in this forest at night, but it had been a while. It had seemed even longer since I'd spent time with him alone at night like this even though it had been less than a day.
He'd been leaning against a tree, looking up at what little he could see of the sky through the treetops, his hands resting in his pockets the way they always did whenever he waited for something.
But something seemed different about him tonight, lighter… more carefree.
I wondered what his day must have been like to change him like this.
The moment I saw him turn to me, visibly pleased to see me like I remembered him looking at me before, I knew I couldn't tell him about what the Hokage had said to me today. At least not right now. Not before he explained to me why we were here.
"They've stationed some patrollers at the bridge tonight." He explained shortly as he pushed himself off the tree and towards me.
This moment was so strange for me.
Here I was half-catatonic with anxiety and shame for not being able to let go of how much I loved being alone with him like this, while at the same time being alone with him didn't mean what it used to anymore.
I was stuck in between two states of being.
I felt guilty for hiding a relationship with Kakashi from everyone and even guiltier for not regretting it enough to not make the same decision twice, while I also had to confront the fact that Kakashi and I weren't actuallyin a relationship together right now –though there was a chance we could be-.
With all this on my shoulders it would have been difficult for anyone to know how I'd react when he continued his explanation:
"I wanted to us to meet again tonight because we're going to need some privacy."
"What?" My heart thudded a few extra times that second, washing away some more lethargy but adding to my burden of anxiety as well as anticipation.
I could have sworn I saw a smirk, though the scattered moonlight wasn't enough to see his masked face all that clearly, which I wished had been stronger especially when he answered:
"I going to need you to help me remember exactly what happened between us…. Starting from the beginning."
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Thank you for reading!