A/N: I just have to say that though I was skeptical about this pairing at first, this story was so much fun to write. Kakashi and Haku are not two characters I would have thought to put together but this worked out surprisingly well, if I do say so myself XP.
Gift fic at the request of Blue Gloves, thank you so much for your wonderful praise. I hope this makes you smile :) (I am sorry for the other request that you made. I have not read that manga and after looking it up, not sure I will. I hope this is enough *hugs*)
Warnings: sex between two men....or one man and a ghost? haha. This did make me cry at the end but I promise nothing sad. Not beta'd.
I know you've suffered, but I don't want you to hide/
It's cold and loveless but I won't let you be denied.
Soothing, I'll make you feel pure/
Trust me, you can be sure.
I want to reconcile the violence in your heart/
I want to recognize your beauty's not just a mask/
I want to exorcise the demons from your past/
I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart.
You trick your loves that your wicked and divine/
You may be a sinner but your innocence is mine.
Please show me, show me how its done/
Tease me, you are the one.
I want to reconcile the violence in your heart/
I want to recognize your beauty's not just a mask/
I want to exorcise the demons from your past/
I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart.
-Muse "Undisclosed Desires"
Ghosts had plagued him his entire life.
The first had been his father, the man whom he had loved and admired since the first moment of his life he could remember. So strong he had been, like an infallible angel that blazed like a beacon in the early years of his life. He had thought his father would live forever because surely such a person could never be taken by death, in any of its forms. Which was why the man's suicide came as such a shock, though Kakashi should have known nothing other than his father's own hand could end his life. A ghost such as this was one that he knew he could never escape or live down, even when the man's ethereal image finally moved on. It was one of the reasons why he started wearing the mask; he didn't want people to look at him and see his father. He was determined to make his legacy his own rather than let someone else's define him.
The second ghost, the one that haunted him the most, was that of his first teammate. Obito, he had not realized until it was too late, was the first person he had truly loved. Not in the way of family but something else. He couldn't say why; when the other boy was alive the silver haired Jounin seemed to have to make his life a living hell. It wasn't until later he figured that he was just doing what every boy does when they have their first crush and had just done everything he could to pretend that he didn't like the dark haired Uchiha. It didn't matter in the end. He couldn't keep Obito alive anyway. In a way, the other boy's death hurt more than his own father's had because at least he could have done something to have prevented it. For a long time after he would see the Uchiha through the eye that was not his own, the boy looking back at him, always with tears in his eyes. Sometimes the tears weren't sad but most of the time they left him feeling like a huge hole had been ripped through his chest.
Rin joined Obito's ghost shortly after that, her death a little less painful but still gnawing at him so that even now, if he turned too sharply, he would see their faces, standing side by side, watching him. It wasn't until much later, with students of his own, did he realize that their presence wasn't to torment him with guilt and loneliness but to offer guidance, if his solitude became too much. Though they were still there, they had faded into the background, only to come forward when he was standing vigil beside the stone that bore their names. Most of the time, he could see that they were smiling. Perhaps they had found peace after all.
Minato did not linger like the others as his death had been less of a shock. It almost came as a relief to him for his blond sensei was the second man he loved. This love was harder on Kakashi than the first time around because rather than trying to deny it, he couldn't escape it and the truth of his feelings had haunted him, especially when the older man had gotten married and was about to have a child. It was the only time he had cried over someone's passing and his teacher's ghost had held him while he rocked and screamed, whispering warm words of affection and pride into young Jounin's ear. It was the only time he had actually seen Minato after his death but he was haunted by the man in other ways, his ghost taking the form of his blond, hyperactive son. Sometimes Kakashi was sure he had taken on Naruto as a student just to punish himself, the constant reminder of the greatness that had been lost flogging him as he watched his student struggle through his own hardships. Even so, he would honor his sensei's memory by doing right by the boy and after a few months, he realized that he had come to care for the young blond for himself and not because of who his father was.
For his whole life, ghosts plagued him, in both memory and reality, taking forms of people he had loved, had tried to protect, had only just met. They flickered through both his waking and sleeping hours so that he was never truly alone. Some held judgment in their eyes, some peace, some pity but eventually, even the most important, faded and moved on.
It didn't even make sense at first, why this one particular spirit would plague him. All of the others, he could understand but this? Yet when he blinked, trying to see if the vision would clear away, the anomaly was still there. It just made no sense!
The first time he caught a glimpse of him, he was walking through the village late at night after returning from the first A-mission he had with his three young students. It wasn't supposed to be such a high ranked mission. If he had known, he would have turned it down immediately. Despite their rapidly growing proficiency, his three teammates were simply too young and inexperienced to handle taking on such a dangerous responsibility, even with him at the helm. He had to admit, though, with a somewhat wry grin, that they had handled themselves admirably and he was positive he could entrust his life to any one of them. Within reason, of course. They were already strong and the feeling that swelled in his chest as he walked through the dark, quiet streets was that of pride. They would make excellent shinobi someday.
Kakashi was just snickering to himself, thinking of the way both Sasuke and Naruto were willing to throw themselves in front of danger for the other, recognizing the beginnings of a budding attraction when a subtle movement caught his attention. Immediately he was on guard. One could never be too careful, even within the walls of his own village.
What he saw made him pause, wondering if he was seeing things. Surely he must be because he had watched this boy die.
Before him, at the gate that opened up to the path to his apartment, stood Haku.
When blinking didn't dispel the image, he frowned behind his mask and studied the vision for a moment, well aware what he was seeing was another ghost. That much wasn't that hard to figure out because even if he hadn't watched the young boy die, the image was insubstantial, allowing him to see right through the spirit and to the garden behind it. Zabuza he would have understood but Haku had died for the one he loved the most, making his peace with the fact that in the end, he had saved the man's life. Not that it had really done much good, anyway, as Zabuza had died shortly thereafter. That was one death that did not sit well with him and he could feel again the warm blood running over his wrist from where he had punched his chidori through the boy's chest. How could it? Unlike the person the younger man sought to protect, he did not relish in the shedding of blood. Yet here he stood, a shimmering apparition that was undeniably very real.
Kakashi watched him out of the corner of his eye as he walked to the building, knowing by now that talking to the ghosts wouldn't do any good. They always just followed him from a distance and watched. It was rare when one would interact with him, as they manifested because of, he assumed, the guilty figments of his imagination. If they spoke, they only told him that which his consciousness already knew. The pain they brought upon his heart was his own doing because the mantel he wore around his shoulders was death. There was no escaping it and there was no changing it. The only thing he could do was accept it and move on. He was a shinobi. It was his job to deal in death.
The image of the boy with the long, dark hair flickered along with him, sometimes, watching him with big, dark eyes, sometimes looking away, just content to be there. Perturbed, he quickly let himself into his dark apartment and locked the door behind him, feeling the ice running down his spine like cold fingers. Never before had he been so perturbed by something such as this before. For a few moments, as he began to settle in, he believed that he had discouraged the apparition from following him but when he glanced up while standing before the mirror in his small bathroom, Haku stood behind him, the sweetest of smiles on his delicate features.
Startled but trying not to show it, he stared for a couple minutes, trying to justify what he was seeing with the last memory he had of the boy when he was still alive. Now he didn't have blood pouring from his lips nor a ragged hole in his chest. He was as he had been before the battle; beautiful and delicate. It was almost worse than seeing him with the injures he himself had inflicted. The silver haired Jounin clenched his fists where they rested on the countertop and held the dark eyes in the reflection of the mirror.
"Why are you here?" he barely recognized his own voice, deep and raspy as if he had swallowed fire. The dark head tilted and the smile widened, making his heart ache.
"I have…made a choice…" the words sounded if they were difficult to form and were broadcasting in as if from far away, echoing in the small space. He controlled a shudder as he had not witnessed the full lips moving to form the sound and he found himself caught in that wide, compelling gaze. None of the others had affected him like this, as if their very existence relied on him alone. It pulled at him, making him feel oddly dawn to the image of the boy.
"What is that?" he asked, "Why is it you have come to me? Is it because I killed you?" but that wasn't right either and he knew it as soon as the words had left his mouth. Again that smile tried to rip apart his soul.
"No…I came…You were my choice. I came to…thank…to say thank you," as he spoke, the voice seemed to center in on their location, no longer filtering in from a faraway place and that was perhaps more disturbing than the fact that Haku was still not moving his lips as he spoke, "If I could not be with him, in the end, then I wished…I wanted to thank the one that saved him…" Kakashi turned then, facing the apparition who seemed to solidify slowly, so that he could barely make out the dark bedroom behind the younger man's slim form.
"I did not save him," he whispered, voice once again raw but the boy tipped his head to the side and smiled prettily, hair sliding over his shoulder. Fear trickled down the back of his neck; none of the other ghosts had ever looked so real before. Had his guilt finally caught up with him? Was in manifesting now to torment him even more, because he wished he had been able to keep both Haku and that man who had loved the boy alive? As if sensing his thoughts, the wraith took a step towards him, making him press his back into the counter edge.
"You did and I thank you for it. You have my deepest and most sincere gratitude. If it had not been for you and your young teammates then Zabuza's soul would have been lost forever," that dark veil of hair slid over the pale, pretty face when the boy bowed to him and Kakashi fought for his hold on reality.
"I did what I thought I must. I would have done the same for anyone," he finally managed to reply and when Haku straightened again, the smile was still in place. It really was quite a beautiful smile.
"Yes. But it is because you did so for us that I am here," and he thanked Kakashi again, his soft voice easily breaking through the silence of the small apartment like it was made from the finest tempered steel. This time, he saw the boy's lips move.
"Very well," he conceded with a sigh, knowing that unless he gave the ghost what it wanted which was the acceptance of his gratitude, it would not leave him alone, "Now that you have done what you came here to do, should you not be moving on?" when the smile slide away, he found there was sadness behind those eyes.
"I cannot. Because this was what I chose, this is where I must stay," The wide eyes looked at him steadily and he thought he would get swept away by the emotion in them, "I cannot leave this place,"
It seems, as time continued on, as it was wont to do, that when Haku said that he couldn't leave, it was not the place he meant but to whom his soul was attached to.
As stated before, Kakashi was used to being plagued by the ghosts of his past, of his sins and the people he had killed or had failed to protect. It should have been the same in this case but somehow it was not. The apparition of the young man, no more than a boy, really, if he stopped to think about it, always stayed within the general vicinity so that he remained at the corners of the Jounin's vision. This in itself was not unusual and after the first conversation he had with the apparition, he put it out of his mind because he had never let this kind of thing bother him before and he wasn't about to now. And that seemed to work just fine.
For about a week.
"Kakashi-san," the voice caught him off-guard and he ended up catching his hip on the edge of the kitchen table and dropping a mug of steaming tea he had been carrying. The fragrant liquid sloshed over his hand and the white porcelain shattered against the hard floor with a tinkling sound. But he barely even felt the scalding liquid against his skin because he was staring at the source of the voice standing demurely in the doorway, the dark eyes watching him shining with worry, "Oh, I am sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," It was the first time the ghost had spoken to him since that first night and though the boy's vestige had been following him around non-stop for the last few days, he had not thought to be directly addressed again. As a matter of fact, Haku tended to fade into the background more often than not, watching but not intruding.
"Why are you…" he fought for control even as the prickling of the ice-fear made a fearsome comeback, crawling along his skin, "What is it?" he managed at last, hoping that if he kept alarm out of his voice, the ghost would stay where it was.
"I do not mean to disturb you but…I wonder if it might be alright if I…if I could talk to you…sometimes," his image wavered and Kakashi realized with a no small amount of surprise that the boy was nervous. Were ghosts supposed to feel other emotions besides those with which they died? He had never heard of such a thing before. Yet it was clear that Haku was projecting emotions to fit the situation. Absently rubbing his wrist, he eyed the long haired boy speculatively, wondering if he shouldn't talk to him because it might only just encourage the boy. He answered anyway.
"What is this all of a sudden?" he demanded, voice hard and the apparition flickered so that he was a few feet farther away, disappearing then reappearing a moment later as if he was moving away from perceived danger, though it wasn't like the older man could actually harm him. He was a ghost, after all. Still, he didn't miss the way the slender hands clutched at the striped hakama and how the big, soft eyes widened just a bit.
"Nothing. It's just…" and the way the boy tipped his head to the side really wasn't fair, "I'm a little lonely, that's all. I would not bother you with something such as this but…You're the only person who can see me and communicate with me. If it's too much to ask, of course, I won't…" but Kakashi held up his hand, stopping the flow of words. He would regret it, he knew he would, allowing himself to give in, just a bit while getting to know someone who was already dead. His silver head bowed and he studied the pattern the spilled tea and shards of the mug made spattered on the floor.
"I will talk with you, of that is what you wish," because, he had to admit, when he was not with his team or on a mission, he was dreadfully lonely too. The dead might not seem like the best company, but it was better than none at all. The boy seemed to shimmer with his excitement, as if Kakashi had granted him the greatest gift, flickering through the kitchen as his body became completely solid, something he had not seen it do before. The boy's smile was so bright, he thought he would perish by its light.
"Oh, thank you, Kakashi-san! I promise not to get in your way!" For some reason, he found himself smiling as well.
"You team is very fascinating," the voice at his shoulder barely made him glance up from the pages of his book, the increasingly familiar tones almost soothing by now. The ghost boy sat at his left, sharing the branch with him as they looked down upon the training ground where team seven was currently training. Sasuke and Naruto were, as usual, trying to beat the crap out of one another, fists and rage flying, the sound of half uttered grunts and growls reaching him even on his perch at the edge of the clearing. Sakura was deep in meditation, the ground around her littered with scrolls. He knew she was working harder on her chakra manipulation to make it even stronger than it already was. Where she lacked in some areas, she made up for it in others. The boys, on the other hand, just threw themselves into the fight with a wild abandon, though he could tell the aggression they had for one another stemmed from something other than rivalry.
"You could say that, I suppose," he answered, turning back to the book open in his hands, letting the words flow past his eyes as he kept a subconscious eye on his surroundings. He had started talking with Haku two weeks ago, finding it was actually not so terrible communicating with a spirit that was supposed to have already passed on. It was difficult to get used to at first; it was one thing to be followed by ghosts. It was entirely something else to talk to them as if they were another living, breathing person. Unfortunately, it was hard to remember that the boy was dead when they would interact. There was so much emotion, so much (and here he was going to use a horrible pun but there was no other way to describe how it looked peering into those dark eyes) life in his gaze, his words, even his gestures.
They spoke of simple things at first, always within the confines of his apartment, things like different places they had been to, what Haku thought of everyday life in Konoha and even theory on many different subjects. The boy proved to be quiet intelligent and knowledgeable, claiming that he always had a lot of time on his hands to read when he and Zabuza were in between jobs. They never actually talked about the S-class criminal, not by name anyway and he found he preferred it that way. Especially since Haku tended to lose his smile when they did and every time he thought back, he would remember that smile, so sweet and beautiful, gracing the full lips when the boy died. But the more comfortable he grew with the ghost's presence (and wasn't that a disturbing thought) the more the younger man would approach him outside the private confines of his home. It was always when he was alone, of course because the boy would not wish to embarrass him by making him accidentally respond when there was someone else to hear him. He didn't want to admit even to himself that he was almost grateful for the lingering presence because it was almost like being a little less alone.
Suddenly Haku's laugh rang out through the air like a clear bell, bringing his gaze back out of the romance he had just been immersed in to see what he sounded so happy about. His single eye blinked, taking in the bright grin and the direction the dark eyes were looking. Then he had to blink again. His blond charge was sitting on top of the young Uchiha's chest in the middle of the training grounds, arms crossed over his chest, looking like he had won some victory. But instead of screaming at each other, the two boys were completely silent, glaring at each other. That wasn't the only thing amiss, though. Sasuke had one hand on the blonde's thigh, the other pressed flat against his chest, looking like he could be pushing Naruto away. That is, if it wasn't for the furious blush washing across his pale features, mirroring the blonde's. Kakashi leaned forward on his branch, wondering what he had missed. It was a good thing Sakura was still in her meditative trance; she would be going ballistic if she saw this.
"What the heck are they doing?" he asked quietly, knowing that it was the Uchiha that usually came out on top. Not because the blond was weaker than him but because he tended to get outsmarted more often than not by his dark haired rival. Haku gave another tinkering laugh and he refused to dwell on the beautiful sound and the way it seemed to brighten up the entire clearing.
"I think Naruto has gotten tired of the insults. Not that I can blame him. I guess they were more taken by that fight than they realized," the boy giggled again behind the barrier of one slender hand and the older man couldn't help but glance at him, "I hope they don't take too long to figure it out, though. As fun as it is to watch them dance around each other, it's not good to keep such strong feelings hidden away," Naruto must have opened his big mouth, discomfort getting the better of him just like it always did because a second later he was eating dirt. Kakashi snorted and snapped the book closed. He had a feeling those two were going to be blind idiots for a lot longer before they would be willing to admit they needed one another. For a moment he allowed himself to look at his ghostly attachment.
"You speak from experience?" he wished he hadn't asked it. He wished anything but that question had come out of his mouth but by the time he had set the words free, it was already too late. The dark eyes flattened and glanced away from him, a longing burning so brightly in their depths he wished he could cut out his own tongue.
"Yes," and that was all he said. As Kakashi leapt from the tree branches in order to stop the renewed brawl between his two confused and hormone ridden students, he glanced back to see the wind had caught Hauk's long, dark hair and sitting among the leaves as he was, he looked like exactly what he was; a sad, lonely boy that had passed away but had not passed on.
Kakashi wondered why the boy had given up eternal peace just so that he could say his thanks. He wondered why Haku had chosen to stay with him.
Even though he had known it was coming, despite his best efforts to stall it, it still hurt. Maybe it hurt because he had tried so hard or maybe because he hadn't tried hard enough. Whatever it was, he had lost one more person dear to him and there had been nothing he could have done to stop it. In the end, it wasn't up to him. The only person that could have stopped him from leaving had also failed. If he was honest with himself, he ached more for Naruto and the expression of loss he had found on the boy's face than he did for the defection of one of his students. He would miss Sasuke; the Uchiha was the consummate student and when he chose, had a good heart under all his anger and pain.
The ceiling above his bed whirled, refusing to stay still so that he felt he was caught in a vortex, pulling and tearing him apart. He thought he had done everything that he could, even steeling his heart so that when this day came, as he knew it would, he had hoped it wouldn't affect him so bad. But Sasuke had turned his back on them; he had walked away, welcoming the darkness with open arms and Kakashi had never felt so helpless in his entire life. When it came to such a thirst for revenge, nothing he or anyone else could have said or done would have changed the young Uchiha's mind. He thought of Sasuke growing up without a family and of Itachi, who had been behind the massacre and it was just so achingly sad.
Kakashi turned on his side, facing the wall as if to hide his anguish, closing his eyes in hopes to stop the spinning, wishing he could just switch off his brain. The cloth he kept around the lower half of his face was stifling him so he pulled it down, yet even then, the air felt almost too thick to draw into his lungs.
And then a strange thing happened.
There was a soft whisper of sound behind him, as if the presence in the room was announcing itself and while he had gotten used to Haku's existence as it had been many long months since the boy first materialized, he had not heard the apparition make a sound before. While at times he might look completely solid, he couldn't influence anything around him. Yet before he could even piece his mind together enough to react, the bed dipped behind him as if someone had climbed on top of the covers, the presence real and pressing against him. Both eyes wide and staring at the blank wall, he could almost fool himself into believing he could feel warmth radiating against his back.
"Kakashi-san," Haku's voice was low in the dark room, reminding the silver haired Jounin that he was not, in fact, as alone as he sometimes felt like he was, "Please, Kakashi-san, I can't…can I do something? I'll do anything…" the older man swallowed, pushing the anomaly of the ghost boy beginning to affect the physical things around him to the back of his mind so he could blink resolutely at the wall. If it was anyone else, he would not have shown such weakness, disembodied spirits or not, but they had come to know and grow comfortable in each other's presence, the boy respecting his moods and he giving the younger man space when he needed it. But now, when he thought he needed to be alone, here Haku was, asking him in a desperate tone he had never heard the boy use before if he could help.
"There's nothing to be done now. We were too late," he didn't recognize the sound of his own voice when he spoke and he hugged his pillow to his chest, keeping his face turned away from the spirit boy that sat behind him. He had spent the entire day putting back together the pieces of the two teammates he had left and now he just wanted to allow himself a moment to shift through his own ragged shards. There was another sound, like material against cloth, rubbing together and that presence pressed harder into him as if trying to wrap around him.
"There was nothing you could have done," the soft, gentle voice seemed closer, just behind his ear and he wished, wished, wished just for a moment he could feel real breath on his neck, like he would have if the boy was still alive, "You saw his eyes. Those were eyes of someone who had cast away all hope so that they might achieve what they want the most. I too knew someone like that," he gritted his teeth.
"I really thought Naruto would reach him. I thought that…that their bond would be strong enough to overcome e-even this," it was shameful how his voice broke and he caught a shimmer as if Haku was trying to touch him.
"He'll come back, Kakashi-san, I'm sure of it. Please, don't cry," if only I could but his eyes were dry.
The first touch shocked him into stillness, sweeping through his hair like an errant breeze and for a moment he was sure he was imagining things. Never before had the younger man been able to touch anything, let alone people. Usually he just floated right on through. But as the second touch moved over him, surer, stronger, there was no denying the objects pressing apart the strands of his hair were fingers. Gasping, heart in his throat, he twisted so that he was staring up at the boy, forgetting he was not wearing his mask which he had been careful before now to keep on unless the ghost was not in the same room, practically laying right where Haku's lap was. The dark eyes were just as shocked but the hand never stopped moving, cool and sending odd chills down his spine.
"How…?" he breathed, both of their eyes tracking the slim fingers as they ghosted over the older man's shoulder and touching upon the ridges of his collarbones. The full lips parted in wonder and he didn't think he had ever seen such joy on the delicate features before.
"I just…I just wanted to…to touch you…to comfort you," the hand moved back into his hair and he looked back at the boy who was reclining on the pillows at the top of the bed, looking as solid as if he truly was alive. Yet before he could decide whether he liked it or not, the boy pulled back, looking slightly alarmed, "I'm sorry! That was very forward of me. I-I didn't mean…" the dark eyes tracked to his mouth when the silver haired Jounin smiled.
"It's quite alright, Haku," he said with gentle reassurance, shifting so he was more comfortable, facing the boy so he could at least assure himself that there was someone there with him, "Thank you for wishing to do something such as that for me," it looked like Haku was going to say something but at the last minute, the younger man got shy and watched his hand instead which was once more back to stroking through Kakashi's hair. The gentle, soothing motions eased the tension that had been coiling through his body and finally the exhaustion of the day caught up with him, making him forget, in that warm, encompassing place between waking and sleep that Haku was indeed no longer of this world. He had wanted to snag the boy's wrist, to see if the touch could go both ways but he didn't want to face what the disappointment could mean when his hand passed right through the ghost boy. Instead, he let the touches, peaceful and soothing, draw him towards sleep, not sure if he actually said the quiet "Thank you," or not.
"Kakashi-san…" the gentle voice nearly pulled him to the surface and he listened through half dreams, "I do not understand why you wear that mask…you are beautiful," Strangely, he was sure the longing in his own heart matched that of the emotion in Haku's voice. It followed him into his dreams and in them, he was dead too.
The strange anomaly of Haku being able to affect the things around him continued until the boy could do it nearly all the time.
He still couldn't touch other people, continuing to move through them if he could not avoid them, though Kakashi noticed that when he did, the people whom he passed through would always shiver, sometimes rubbing their arms, sometimes looking around uneasily for the source of the chill. The boy did try to avoid it because, he admitted to the older man one day, he tended to pick up on other feelings and thoughts when he did that, making him feel as if he was prying. Yet because he could touch inanimate objects with little difficulty, the boy was more careful when they were in the presence of other people.
Unfortunately, now that he had figured out how to touch the older man, he did not seem to be able to stop. They were small touches, insignificant, a simple brush of fingers on his shoulder, his arm but after becoming so used to not touching anyone, the flitting contact was about to drive him crazy. He wouldn't say anything, not when something so simple had a way of making the ghost boy so happy, his vestige was solid all the time now but still, it made him more than a little uneasy.
But one thing Kakashi found he could not begrudge the boy was something to keep himself occupied so he started taking out library books.
The first time he did had been on whim, thinking that Haku would probably rather turn his attention to other things rather than keep it tuned on Kakashi forever, which was basically all he really did. So the older man checked out a couple books he thought the kid might be interested in and handed them to the ghost boy when they made it back to his apartment. He registered confusion on the pretty features before turned away, intent on making himself dinner. It had been a long couple of days as he had now been put back into the ANBU corps and had been going through some rigorous retraining. The missing pieces in his chest were more acutely felt because it only served to remind him he was the last member of team seven. His three young charges had out-grown him and were starting to move on.
"What are these?" the clear voice was raised slightly over the noise he was making while rummaging through his cabinets and he glanced over his shoulder to see the boy standing in the middle of his kitchen, staring down at the books he clutched in his arms.
"I thought that you might get bored and I remembered what you said about when you were…that you liked to read…" he was almost going to say when you were alive but had stopped at the last second. Now he wondered if it had been more for his own benefit that he did rather than Haku's. He missed the look that accompanied the sudden excited swirl of energy that swept through the room yet before he could turn and see the exact hue of the grin the boy was sure to be wearing, two slender arms locked around his torso, holding him close to a cool, solid presence that made his skin tingle.
"Oh, thank you so much, Kakashi-san!" the boy gasped into the hollow of his shoulder blades and he mourned because with the sound came a whisper of breath, almost warm, almost real. How tragic, that the one constant in his life was a boy who had died nearly a year ago; even more so because the more time he spent with the ghost trailing behind him, the more he found his heart wishing that the young man was alive so that he could touch him too. He might have found a smile and a gentle "you're welcome" but he didn't hear himself say those words. He was still concentrating on how it felt to have Haku pressed against him, slim body feeling almost as if Kakashi had never punched a hole through his chest.
Even so, he continued to hurt himself by giving what he could to the ghost boy, heart breaking over and over when that beautiful smile would turn to him, radiating simple, contented joy. He held onto that pain because it grounded him in reality and it reminded him that if he ever fell in love, it would only be that much worse.
"Haven't you ever thought about finding someone to spend your life with?" the question caught him off guard and he glanced up from where he was perched on the wall of a wild garden that had been abandoned a long time ago. He had found, weather permitting of course, it was the perfect place to read on a day off. The image of Haku's ghost shimmered slightly in the sunlight as if the warmth was regenerating the energy he used to keep himself by Kakashi's side. The boy's hair was down where it was usually pulled back, the lack of adornments more appealing than when he had it bound back in silk and pearls and strings of jewels. Instead it was just decorated with the honeyed color of heated light, making him forget, just for a moment, the younger man was indeed dead. It was such a strange question, the likes of which he did not expect from the boy but he tipped his head to the side as if he was considering it, watching how those wide, dark eyes refused to meet his own.
"Thought about it, yes. But everyone I have ever cared for I have always failed to protect. It would be foolish to lose my heart in such a manner again," because I don't think I could bear it but he didn't say that. Those thoughts were ones he could barely admit to himself, let alone say them aloud. The apparition made a sharp movement as if frustrated by his response but the boy still would not look at him. He was sitting among a patch of while roses looking as if he belonged there, his beauty shining among the blood red petals.
"Loving someone isn't foolish, even if it doesn't last forever. At least we have our memories left, if that is all we are allowed. Shouldn't that be enough?" how could this boy, who had lost everything, even denied in death, talk so eloquently? He had to look away from the way the serene features surrounded by the soft faces of the flowers, hating how they reminded him of blood.
"And what if you are left with nothing but pain?" he couldn't help but ask aloud, thinking of Obito, of Minato, and how he didn't have any memories of them besides longing and loss. If that was what love was, he didn't want it.
"Love can be painful but there is so much more to it than that," he sounded so sure of himself and Kakashi could see that even if Zabuza had not valued the boy like he should have until he was drawing in his very last breaths, it was clear he had given the younger man something to put such an expression on his face now. Kakashi swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat, furious that it was jealously that had put it there. Not because he wished for what Haku had once had but because he had it with someone else.
"And what if it remains unrequited? What then? Must one live with that pain for their entire life and die knowing the one they loved would never feel the same?" his voice was more bitter than was wise but this was a subject that hurt every time he thought upon it. He could no sooner open his heart to someone than he could stop his own heart from beating. Haku's eyes were the most lovely shade of compassion.
"Kakashi-san, surely you could find someone who would…" and just like that, he couldn't listen any more. He couldn't bear the way such pure, honest words tore apart his heart and left him with such longing he was sure it would swallow him whole.
"No!" he flung his book away into an overgrown bush, not caring where it went in the heat of his anger, "No! I don't want it! I don't want that! Stop saying such things and making me look at something I can never have!" he could not remember the last time he had lost his temper in such a manner. It had not been for a very long time, since he was very young. The image of the boy, who had been completely solid for many long months now flickered as if he had flinched, looking at the older man with hurt burning in his gaze. Immediately guilt choked him and he wanted to apologize because how could Haku have known that such a subject was one that the Jounin avoided even thinking on? He didn't subjugate himself to solitude because he liked being alone. Most of the time, he didn't think of himself as alone anyway because he had the boy with him just about all the time. He would have apologized but Haku disappeared, like a mist caught in a strong breeze and he did not come back.
Before he could even attempt to try and call the ghost boy back, a man wearing an ANBU mask in the form of a wolf appeared at his side and called him away with orders for a mission. He bowed his head and followed, glad that he had been given an excuse not to find words that would bring Haku back. He could say he was sorry later; after all, it wasn't like the boy had anywhere else he could go.
Pain laced through his side when he finally managed to pry his eyelids open, unconsciousness giving way under the familiar and sterile settings of a hospital room. For a moment his mind was completely blank, taking in the way the moonlight spilling in through the window made the white of the ceiling look gilded in silver. Then he remembered how he had gotten here and grimaced under his mask which was still respectfully in place.
It was such a stupid mistake really, one that even untried ninja didn't make. He had been engaged in a fight with a rouge ninja from Earth Country, an unexpected complication to an otherwise simple mission and had momentarily lost his grip on his katana. It wouldn't have made much of a difference except he had been in the middle of a pry so instead of having cold, hard steel between him and the blade of a kunai, there was only air. Such a mistake could have been fatal except he had somehow managed to twist his body at just the right moment so the steel sunk into his side rather than his chest. He frowned a bit, thinking back. That was something that he had never done before and if his grip ever did become dislodged, he always managed to snatch it back at the last minute.
How very strange to think that it was almost as if, for that single, nearly fatal moment, his fingers had become insubstantial, like a ghost's and the hilt of his sword just…went right through.
"Kakashi-san?" the rough voice made him turn his head and he found Haku sitting in the chair beside the bed he was laid out in, his image shimmering as if the older man was looking at him under water. The distress was clear on the delicate features and he realized he had not seen the boy since the time a couple days ago when he had yelled at the ghost. He was glad that the young man had not abandoned him after all, even though he had realized long months ago it would have been better for his heart if he had. But Haku couldn't leave and that forced company was a surprising comfort. It was nice not to wake up in a hospital bed and find himself alone again.
"Haku," his voice sounded terrible and he tried to clear his throat to no avail only to find a cup of water shoved in his face. The dark eyes looked completely black in the dim lighting and he let the boy help him pull his mask down and sit up enough so he could gulp down the cold, clear liquid. Haku remained completely silent the entire time, watching the older man's face intently, still shifting and shimmering. His arm around Kakashi's shoulders was strong and he wondered as he finished off the water, if the younger man had been that strong in life as well. Most likely, considering what he had been, so skilled a ninja even at such a young age.
Mismatched eyes watched as the spirit of the long haired boy carefully placed the now empty cup down before returning to the seat. The dark head remained bowed, long hair veiling the pale features from his eyes but he could see the way the balled fists trembled where the boy had them clasped in his lap and how he sat so stiffly, as if he would break should he let himself relax. It took Kakashi a moment to realize the boy was crying and it gave him more than a pang of distress.
"Please, don't. I'm alright, really," as soon as he spoke those words it was as if a floodgate had opened, Haku's shoulders shaking as he sobbed softly in the darkened room. Such a sound was like tiny nails driving into the Jounin's skin and he would have done anything for it to stop. This beautiful creature should never have to feel such anguish over someone like himself.
"I thought you were dead!" the boy finally gasped out, tears falling to spatter on his hands and Kakashi ached to be able to reach out and wipe them away. Ah, the unfairness of it all, that Haku could comfort him but when the boy needed it, the older man could not touch him, "I was watching and…I couldn't…I couldn't do anything! And all I could think was, the last thing we had done was argue," Kakashi's lips twitched involuntarily, forgetting he was not wearing his face covering because the irony of the whole concept was rather twisted. Would it matter so much if he had died? Haku himself was not of this world; did he think that they would be separated should Kakashi share his fate?
"I am not dead, Haku," he said softly, "I have lived through worse," the boy seemed to freeze, his entire body becoming completely see through and then suddenly he had two armfuls of very real-seeming ghost sprawled across his chest, the boy's face pressed into the curve of the older man's neck.
"I'm…I'm so sorry…I can't…If you had died...I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he did not understand to what the litany of apologies referred to but he didn't really care anyway because the hair that swirled all around him was like the soft caress of the finest silk and the tears that fell against his skin were warm and wet. Slim arms held him tight, carefully avoiding his injury as the boy lay across him, his weight more real to the older man than a living, breathing human being could have been.
"Don't be silly," he whispered over the soft sobs, "It is I that should be apologizing. I should not have yelled at you. And besides, would it not be the same if I did die? I promise not to leave you alone, even then," the grip around him tightened yet when he went to wrap his arms around the slender waist, it was as if the boy was not there. His arm slipped right through and fell to the bed. In that moment, he wished he had not dodged that knife after all because then maybe he would have been able to hold the boy, even if it was just once. Haku turned his head and breath ghosted over the shell of his ear.
"I love you, Kakashi," the boy whispered and he knew he had not been meant to hear it. The words branded themselves onto his heart anyway. He lifted his arms and held it braced in the air so that it looked as if he was actually holding the slender form to him. In that moment, he could do nothing more but pretend.
This time it was he that avoided Haku.
Not that he could truly avoid the boy, as the ghost's existence seemed to rely upon him but just his nearness brought stabs of pain like he had never felt before. It was undeniable the moment he opened his eyes and found himself curled in the cool presence of the boy's embrace that first day in the hospital. It was so near to waking up beside a lover that he had almost cried. And that smile, that beautiful, heartrending smile the image of the young ghost had turned on him when he realized the older man was awake, his hair spread all about him on the pillow had nearly broken him. It was in that moment, he realized that the ache he felt for Haku was love. Nothing could have hurt more than that realization.
Every time the younger man came close, he would hear the echoes of those words that had been whispered into his ear while he was in the hospital. And he would be blind if he couldn't see how things had changed. It was in the way the ghost of the young man looked at him, the way the touches had become shyer yet lingered longer. The love had moved beyond simple affection and attachment into something else, something deeper that he had been longing for all of his life. It was hardly fair that when those rich, encompassing feelings were finally returned, it was by a boy who was dead for more than two years.
Obviously he couldn't avoid the ghost boy like a normal person but when a slender hand fell on his arm or shoulder he refused to acknowledge it and when they talked to one another, he found he couldn't meet that incredible, dark gaze for fear of being swallowed by it. The warm, clear voice sank into his skin like buttery light, filling him until all he could think about was the beautiful boy whom he had killed and who continued to haunt him. Haku surely knew he was pulling away and the few times he allowed himself to look into the pretty features, he could see hurt and confusion and he would have to violently squash the urge to reassure the boy it wasn't because Kakashi didn't like him but because he liked him too much.
After a few months, he was sure he would go insane.
Which was why when Naruto showed up in the village again, looking so much like his dead father that for a second Kakashi thought he had teleported back in time, he was grateful of the distraction. In the bustling action and never ceasing energy that his former student brought back with him, Kakashi was able to push the troubling knowledge that he had fallen in love with a ghost to the back of his mind while throwing himself into the task of training the blond, concentrating on making him stronger. He tried to pretend he didn't see Haku watching in forlorn acceptance from behind the line of trees, his dark eyes shadowed as he could do nothing but watch.
Even so, the guilt rushed through him like a crashing wave and he looked away to see Naruto slowly reviving himself for another round of training. It was going to be a very long day.
"You've been ignoring me, Kakashi-san," He stiffened at the voice that came behind him, not moving from his cozy perch on the window seat in his living room, chin resting on his knees he had pressed against his chest. His reflection looked oddly insubstantial in the glass, as if he wasn't really there at all and he could see Haku standing behind him, looking more real than himself. The dark hair fell about the slim shoulders, completely unraveled and the boy wore a white yukata, making his skin look darker than it really was. The older man sighed against the material of his pants and closed his eyes to shut away flutter that the sight ignited in the pit of his stomach.
"Have I?" his voice was barely above a whisper and he wondered if the boy could hear the pain in it, "I am sorry if that is so. It is important that Naruto is strong enough to endure the trials that await him," there was no inflection in his voice, as if he did not really believe in his own words but that wasn't it. He was trying to duck away from the draw that seemed to keep Haku and himself so deeply anchored to one another.
"He will. As long as he never loses that shining light he always seems to carry within himself, he will," the words seemed to ease some knot in the pit of his stomach he hadn't even been aware of until then only to be replaced by another type of anxiety when he felt the boy walk closer. Oh, yes, he walked now, no more of the gliding or flickering from here or there unless the ghost boy was overly agitated or excited, "But that doesn't give much reason for why you won't look at me anymore or talk to me. Have I become that much of a plague on you?" Kakashi buried his face in his knees and tried to ease the ache that had expanded so much, he could feel it down to his toes.
"Please. Please, I can't…You are very far from a plague," he finally managed. Why did love for him always have to be so hard? The first time he couldn't understand it, the second was never to be and the third was with a boy who was already dead. Energy pulsated through the room, shattering the glass set in the top of the coffee table and the bulbs of lamps in the room, plunging it into golden shadows from the sunset still pouring weakly through the window he sat in front of.
"Then why won't you acknowledge me? Have I done something to offend you? If I have, I'm sorry for whatever it was that I have done. But, please…please, you won't even look at me! I'm sorry if my presence is a hindrance for you; I know that you did not ask for me to be here and if I had known…" he paused and Kakashi could almost hear the frustrated sigh, "I did not think what the impact my choice would have had on you," he lifted his head at that to protest but the boy had already gone, leaving behind a shimmering aura that faded slowly. Even trying to call him back, though he knew the boy could hear him as he couldn't stray very far, was to no avail. Haku was either too distressed to manifest himself or he was giving Kakashi a taste of his own medicine. Whatever the reason, he was left feeling lonely and bereft.
"Haku," he called just before climbing into bed that night, hoping that wherever the boy had disappeared to, he was still willing to listen, "You are not a hindrance and I would not wish you gone from my life..." he paused then ducked his head, the words that had been sitting on the back of his tongue for months finally shaking themselves free, "I have never felt so whole as I do with you,"
Dawn had just reared silver and beautiful over the horizon when he was awoken by hands trailing over his body.
It took him a moment to pull himself fully from hazy dreams that kept his awareness muddled as if under a blanket but when he did, his heart nearly stopped beating in his chest. The pleasure that had been slowly pulsing through his sleep was very, very real as were the touches burning delightfully over his skin. For a moment he couldn't move, mesmerized by the way Haku was leaning over him, eyes lowered as they watched his slim hands draw hazy, unidentifiable patterns over the older man's pale skin. The boy looked as he had the night before, dressed in nothing but that white yukata with his hair falling around his shoulders in a dark curtain. There was something different about him now, though, something in the expression in his eyes as he paid such close attention to Kakashi's body. Then the moment was broken when he realized he had definitely put a shirt on when he went to bed but now his torso was completely bare, each well-toned muscle and jagged scar bared to dark, hungry eyes.
"Haku!" he made to clasp his hands around the boy's wrists but his fingers met nothing but air. Still, his startled exclamation made the younger man pause, lifting his gaze to find the older man staring at him with wide, mismatched eyes. For some reason, he expected embarrassment or a shy apology but instead he received a slow, heated smile that seemed to be designed to melt his insides. The cool hands rested on his abdomen as the boy leaned closer.
"Good morning, Kakashi-san," it was a mere breath, crawling over his skin and igniting a lust he had been trying to suppress for so many months now that he couldn't remember it not being there. Still, he forcefully pushed it down and sat up against the head board, pulling himself out of Haku's reach.
"What are you doing?" his voice sounded a bit wild to his ears but it didn't really matter because that chocolate gaze was so dark it was going to devour him, was going to draw his very soul from his body and he was helpless against it. Could ghosts really feel the same kind of desire and lust as a living man could? For some unfathomable reason, he hoped, hoped they could. Even if he could not touch the boy back, his body craved those touches as if his very life depended upon them. That smile was still there, drawing him in against his better judgment so that he knew he would no longer be able to stop himself, would no longer be able to deny that this was what he really wanted.
"What does it look like? I heard you calling me last night. I heard what you said and I can't stay away from you anymore," the smile melted away and he was awash in blatant longing, "I know what you would say and I thought about it but it doesn't matter if I'm ghost and that only you can see me. It's enough that I'm real to you. That is all I'll ever need. If…if you do not feel the same, I will never approach you in such a manner again but I need to tell you, I have wanted you for a very long time. Maybe in that very moment that I came to thank you for in the first place. I need to be with you not because I have no choice but because I cannot imagine being any place else," At the end, the older man had to close his eyes against the flood of emotion that broke inside of him, tired of holding it all back. There were so many things he could protest against, so many reasons this was wrong and he idly wondered if perhaps he was going insane. But no, his mind couldn't make up that smile or those eyes or the way the grey light from the outside world made the boy's pale skin look like ivory.
"I can't touch you," he whispered, voice so broken he wondered if it really belonged to him and something sharp prickled at the edges of his vision. He wanted to touch him, wanted to return everything the ghost boy had given him. Then a cool hand cupped his jaw, making him look up and he found such love in that single glance.
"That's okay, Kakashi-san. It'll be enough," slim fingers gently pulled his mask over his head and he did not protest. There should be nothing left between them anymore. When Haku kissed him, it was as if the sun had broken free from night's shackles, illuminating the entire room with its warmth even though the lighting had not changed behind his closed eyelids. He could feel the boy's lips, moving against his own, soft and warm enough to be human but still cool. There was a taste there, faint but identifiable, cinnamon and cloves filling his senses until he was nearly dizzy with it. How he wanted to be able to kiss the boy back but all he could do was open his mouth and allow Haku to do as he would. And he did, touching upon every last place that made the older man gasp and utter small noises he barely even heard over the roaring filling his ears.
The hands were back as they fell into the next kiss, the younger man leading the entire way, brushing over each curve and dip, making sure to pay special attention to the places Kakashi responded to with more whispering sighs. Haku urged him to lie back, the sheets cool against his back and worshipped the Jounin's body with his mouth, his tongue surprisingly hot and wet against the older man's skin. How it was possible he could not know but he gave into it anyway, sinking into each touch while desire coiled and shifted in his gut, stirring in places lower down. All the while, that glorious hair brushed over him, sliding against him like another pair of hands, so soft and enveloping him completely. All he wanted was to wrap his hands in it, to twine it around his fingers and feel the way it resisted when he pulled. Instead he sunk his fingers into his sheets and watched the boy pressing kisses into his skin.
"I love you, Kakashi-san," those words again, piercing his chest just as surely as they had the first time but now he was able to smile gently, meeting the dark gaze that was looking back at him, trusting and full. He raised his hand so he could run it down one smooth cheek but at the last minute checked himself, letting it drop back to the bed.
"Just call me Kakashi," ah, that smile. It was so beautiful, so pure that he felt as if he was not worthy enough to be touched. The boy kissed him again, this time pressing his whole body against the older man, slim frame seeming to fit so perfectly against him it was like the gods had known they were meant for each other. He mourned that he could not have stopped his hand in time before he plunged it into the living boy's chest. It was strange that even while he could not kiss the ghost boy properly, he still was gasping for air by the time Haku pulled back. Even stranger that the younger man's breathing also seemed to have elevated too.
"Kakashi…" the name was breathed against his lips and he couldn't silence a groan feeling the heat pooling in his groin, cock hardening against the thigh that was nestled there. He was more than shocked when the boy shifted on top of him, pressing an answering hardness into his hip, "I need you, Kakashi," and in that moment, between the two of them under the silvery sky of a clear dawn, it did not matter that one of them was alive and the other wasn't. In the most unlikely of places he had found what his heart had been aching for.
This time when they kissed, he found the lips yielding under his own. Haku gave a small cry of astonishment, pulling back to stare at him and before he knew it, he was being invaded. It was as if he had wished hard enough for it and it was slowly beginning to come true. Kakashi threw everything into that kiss, tongue and teeth, lips crushed against the a fuller, softer pair, marveling in the way it was so wet and hot, burning through him until he was nothing but a writhing mass of need. It was true he could not touch the boy with his hands but he could kiss him and that alone was almost enough.
Yet it seemed that for Haku, it wasn't enough because he soon found himself being stripped of the last of his clothes, lying naked against the sheets and looking up at the beautiful boy who was only a ghost and at the same time, so much more. The dark eyes drank him in, the lust in them as shocking as the feel of the younger man's erection had been. It made him feel wanted and answered the thrill that sang through his blood, making his cock throb and drip with liquid need against his stomach. Every inch of him was taken in and then the boy leaned in to follow the path his eyes had made with his tongue, finally stopping at the inside of one of the older man's thighs, nose nearly brushing the silver hair that surrounded his needy erection so that he could suck on the pale skin. The dark gaze never dropped his own, even when Kakashi tipped his head back at the feeling with a groan.
"Please, please," but he couldn't think what it was he was begging for. Not until Haku pulled back, his odd warmth leaving the older man only long enough to undo the knot that was holding his yukata closed. Oh, such beauty, the likes he had never seen before, like the manifestation of a spirit from the moon. Every inch of the pale skin was flawless as it was bared to the older man's mismatched eyes, the lines of the slim frame neat and proportional. Even his slender cock that jutted up from a patch of dark curls was pretty, flushed a dark pink and just as hard and as needy as Kakashi's. A hand followed the line of his ankle to his knee, over his thighs and he let them be parted, let Haku see everything. He just looked at the splendor before him and drowned in it. Tears slowly leaked from the corners of his eyes, sliding into his silver hair but he did not brush them away, "You are beautiful…" he gasped, "I wish I could touch you," I wish, I wish but he found it hard to think when Haku's lips were pressing into his own again and his energy seemed so thick and full, surrounding the older man in such overwhelming warmth.
"This time, just let me make you mine," and he could only nod, not caring when the boy lapped up his tears. Insistent hands pressed his legs open more and he forced his eyes open against the pressure that was building behind them to watch as the boy settled between his thighs, arousal deepening the color of his cheekbones and making his fingers tremble against the older man's skin. Their gazes locked as Haku slid into him, penetrating him in a way he had only dreamed about so that he felt so full that he was sure he would over flow with it. Pleasure rocketed through his body, pain so minimal it could not have existed at all and he gasped at the ceiling as he let his eyes fall closed. It was enough to feel, feel the way the boy was seated within him, oddly hot and throbbing against his inner walls. It was so real, so perfect and he wondered why he had denied himself such a joining.
There was a long, low moan when the younger man pulled out only to push in, the sound so delightful, went straight to his erection which throbbed between them. Haku was draped over him, pressing the older man's knees nearly to his chest but he didn't mind. As long as he kept moving like that…that…again…
"Again! Haku!" something inside of him was being pressed into, the head of the boy's cock sliding against it so that with every smooth thrust a bolt of white hot pleasure surged through his body, drawing him closer and closer to that single, breathtaking end. He never wanted to stop, though, not when he could see that hazy, flushed look on the boy's face and listen to the way he moaned when Kakashi started to lift his hips and push back. His hands twisted the sheets as he tried to stave off his release, even just for a few more moments because he wanted to come together, wanted to feel the boy finish inside of him as he reached his own climax.
Then a hand wound around his weeping erection and he just couldn't hold it in any longer. Lips crashed against his own as he fell, flew, pleasure so great he was sure he would break underneath it, soaking his chest as he arched hard against the slender body above him, drawing the boy deep into him. He got his wish as his vision washed over in gold and silver and white and all the colors of the dying sunset, feeling such warmth flooding him as Haku cried his name to the quiet house.
There was a place he saw, then, filled with sunlight and roses of all colors, of soft, green grass and a glistening lake. It was waiting for them, crafted from the passion that burned in their hearts, remaining empty until the day they would both come to occupy it, forever. It was just a glimpse as he tried to pull himself from the pleasure induced haze his orgasm had left him in and never had he felt such peace. This thing, this flame that had kindled between them was never going to die, not when it had crossed such boundaries already.
Haku's eyes looked like great pools of the warmest, sweetest chocolate when he met them with his own mismatched ones, finding in them such contentment that it settled whatever unease had been left in his own heart. The boy was still pressed against him, though he had moved so that Kakashi was able to stretch out his legs comfortably once more. In this moment, he was allowed to forget the boy was indeed a ghost because he looked so alive with sweat dampening his hair and shimmering on his pale skin, with his fingers still dancing over Kakashi's chest as if he couldn't bear to stop touching the older man and with love burning so brightly on his delicate features he thought for a moment it would blind him. Automatically, without thinking, he wrapped his arms around the slim shoulders and slipped his own long fingers into the long, dark hair. Then blinked.
Because he was touching him.
There was a boy in his arms, as solid as the bed they lay on, skin warm under his own and hair feeling like cornsilk as he sunk his fingers into its marvelous thickness. They stared at each other in awe for a moment and then he laughed, such joy bubbling up in his chest, it crashed against the ceiling as it flung free. He was crying again and he knew it but as he crushed the boy to him, reveling in the firm body under his hands, against his skin, the tears were of such little consequence he barely felt them. This was his wish, what he had wanted for what felt like was his entire life.
"You can touch me," Haku's voice still sounded awed and there were tears shimmering in his wide gaze too. Grinning, he leaned down and licked them away, delighting in the way the boy giggled at the gesture. Then he nuzzled his nose against the thick hair, tucking Haku against him, feeling the strong, slender arms wrapping around his waist and holding him just as tightly.
"I can touch you," he breathed, inhaling the rich scent of the boy in his arms. So this was what it meant to feel complete. The world seemed to have slipped away until it was just them and everything looked clearer, sharper, as if all this time he had been watching his life through a fog and Haku was the sun that had burned it away. They were connected completely, souls tied and bound. And it was perfect.
When he rolled them over some time later, the sun was just beginning its burning ascent into the sky, drawing the younger man into a kiss as slender legs wrapped around his waist, he took his time just touching and tasting and finding every last beautiful place on the boy's body to worship. Their kisses were real, from both sides and when he pressed his fingers to jutting hip bones or wrapped his lips around a pert nipple, there was something there, something substantial for him to touch. And because he could, he slipped into the younger man's searing heat and the last piece clicked into place…
"Who was that you were with this morning?" Kakashi looked up in surprise at Yamato's sudden question, the man standing over the bench he was sitting on, orange book held open between his fingers. He cocked one silver eyebrow in confusion.
"With?" he mimicked and got an annoyed huff in reply.
"Yes, with, Kakashi-sama. The boy in your bed this morning, with the long hair," this time when he blinked it wasn't in lack of comprehension but blind, mouth drying shock. He could see out of the corner of his eye where Haku was basking in the sunlight on the grass a sudden sharp movement, though he was careful to keep his eyes on the man standing in front of him.
"You saw him?" he asked, tongue feeling thick and sluggish as the book fell closed on his lap from his suddenly numb fingers. Yamato had the grace to look somewhat abashed, glancing away from the silver haired Jounin to study the trees.
"I'm sorry, I was going to get you because Naruto was getting impatient waiting for you to begin training again but I happened to glance in your window and I noticed you were not alone. I did not want to disturb you," now he blushed slightly, something he had never seen the man do before but he was too amazed by the fact that someone besides himself had actually seen Haku, even just for that one space in time. That had never happened before.
"Oh. Yeah," was all he said and it was lame and uninformative but he could think of nothing to say. Then the Captain's eyes were on him again, as if they could pierce through his lack of response and find the truth.
"I have not seen him before. Do you mind if I ask who he is?" Kakashi tried not to react when he caught Haku sliding gracefully to his feet and coming to stand so that the older man could see him beside Yamato without giving himself away. The boy grinned at him and winked, pressing one finger to his lips. Kakashi looked down and smiled, warmth spreading through his chest.
"He's mine," and didn't care if his words dissatisfied the Captain because Haku was beaming at him as bright as the morning sun.
"I have never seen anything like it before," worried green eyes looked down at him from his perch at the edge of the hospital bed, the look unusual in his former student's gaze.
This injury was the thirty-sixth serious wound he had received while on a mission in the past year. A year that had changed the entire village, had brought destruction and then peace and with it, the last thing that had been missing from all of their lives; Sasuke. Everything seemed to fit into place now, Naruto taking his place at the helm as the sixth Hokage (recognized Hokage that is; Danzo never counted) and by his side was the one man he had been chasing his entire life. Just the other day Kakashi had looked at them and had seen the bond that wound them together, so tightly that their souls could very well have been two halves of a single whole. And he was happy because their happy ending had just started.
It would seem, though, his own was drawing to a close.
"What is it, Sakura-chan?" The blue eyes that belonged to his one time student flickered worriedly to him where he was tugging on the bandages wrapped tightly around his arm and shoulder, "Is he alright?" Kakashi already knew, of course. He would have to be pretty stupid not to realize what was happening to himself. Those injuries were not inflicted because he had been negligent during a fight or because his opponent had been stronger but because he kept losing his weapons. Solid, everyday things kept sliding right through his hands, as if he wasn't there. As if he was a ghost. Sakura threw him a concerned look and he smiled patently at her, making sure it showed over the top of his mask.
"You can tell them. They should know," both Naruto and Sasuke looked at him but with two different expressions in their gazes. The blond portrayed confusion and worry but the Uchiha knew. He could see Haku, though to what extent Kakashi wasn't sure. It was clear he hadn't mentioned anything to his blue-eyed lover but his dark gaze moved to where the ghost boy reclined against the older man's shoulder, his whole demeanor subdued. When the black eyes met his own, there was an understanding in them that made him feel guilty for not telling them the truth.
"Well," Sakura was saying, looking resplendent in the coat she had inherited from her mentor. Tsunade was gone but the girl who had been her student had become an excellent healer in her own right, "It's like he's wasting away. It's not a physical ailment, not as I can tell. He's still healthy and retains his normal weight and vital signs but it's like…like…" the bright gaze turned to him, scrunched in the effort of coming up with a way to describe what was happening to him, "It's almost as if his body is becoming insubstantial, as if his spirit had become too weak and his body is trying to make up for it," He knew why too, but he wouldn't say what the reason was aloud. In order for him and Haku to be together in the way they needed to be the most, his own spirit was feeding itself to their connection, wearing thin as he tried to keep Haku at his side and still be able to touch and be touched by the boy.
"Isn't there anything we can do to stop it?" Naruto's voice was strained and when he looked at him, his blue eyes burned with that determination that had almost single handedly brought peace to a violent and restless world. If he had thought of anyone as like a son, it would have been the Hokage. Kakashi smiled at his student, feeling Haku curl deeper against his side. The movement drew Sasuke's gaze again and the dark eyebrows furrowed, as if he wanted to say something but didn't dare. The older man was glad he didn't.
"There isn't. Not that I know of," the pink haired girl's voice was quiet and when all three gazes of his former students fell upon him, he sighed heartily and shrugged his shoulders.
"Don't worry about me," he said with confidence, discreetly shifting so that he could draw more strength from the ghost boy leaning against him, "I assure you it's quite alright. Even with this, I have not once failed a mission," it was the truth, too, though that may have been because half the time Haku stepped in just in time. It seems that he could now affect other people, not just Kakashi and often leant a helping in a fight. Naruto's eyes were still scrunched with worry, though, despite the Jounin's reassurances.
"Perhaps I should take you off the more dangerous missions. You can work here in the village, perhaps, or as a liaison between—" the older man raised one hand to cut off the flow of words.
"Until I become a hindrance, Hokage-sama, I request that I be kept on the field," it was rare when he used Naruto's title but it caught the boy's attention with its seriousness and the blue eyes studied him for a long moment. How he could ever have thought the blond stupid was beyond him.
"Very well. But promise me you'll come back safely," Haku shifted again and murmured an agreement in his ear. But when he smiled and bluffed his way through more reassurances, he did not make a promise of any sort. After all, how could he promise something such as that when he knew that one day soon, he would not be returning home alive?
All that mattered to him was that he had seen his life crumble to dust and now it was rebuilt again, with Haku at its center. All that mattered to him was that he was finally happy.
He saw the blade angling towards his chest but when he lifted his own to block it, his hand was empty and there was nothing he could do to avoid it.
Cold steel pierced his heart and he could feel it, feel it parting skin and bone and muscle to end the fight and his life. There was pain at first but it was fleeting and blood flooded his mouth but it was of little importance. He was going to die here, on the ground in some forest far away from home and he could feel nothing but anticipation. Everything was cold, all the warmth that had remained in his limbs leeched away and his lungs refused to fill with air like he needed them to, burning as the light behind his eyelids dimmed.
When he opened his eyes one last time, Haku was kneeling beside him, face calm and smiling through the silvery tears that clung to his lashes. Kakashi tried to say his name but there wasn't enough breath with which to form it and he just choked on his own blood instead.
"It's time to come home to me, Kakashi," and he could smile as he closed his eyes for the last time, knowing he would never be parted from his love's side again. "Come home to me," and he did.
When he opened his eyes again, everything was so bright and Haku was there with his arms open and a smile on his face. Full of wonder, Kakashi lifted himself to his feet and stepped into them, wondering how he could feel so free. And then Haku kissed him, their spirits melded together in a way they could not while he was still alive.
"Welcome home, Kakashi," the wide eyes were filled with bright tears but he knew they were from happiness, not grief and he laughed, pulling the boy as close as he could. Nothing stood between them, death at last a distant memory.
"Yes, I am home,"
Naruto stared at the name shimmering on the black stone he stood in front of, his formal robes caught in an errant breeze. They had brought Kakashi's body back only just a week ago, a single wound straight through his heart and a smile on his face. He wondered, now, why the man had covered up his face as in the end his mask had been cast off, not hiding his beauty from the world. He missed him, missed him like he hadn't expected he would, though he had known it was coming. They had seen the way the older man had been drifting away from the living world for almost two years now, becoming insubstantial and distant. He missed the infuriatingly late appearances, the clever comebacks and even that stupid, orange book. He missed the strong, quiet strength the man had always carried around him like a mantle, how he had been as much a father to the blond as Iruka had been a big brother and how he wouldn't get to sit and eat ramen with him, talking of life-changing subjects or nothing at all. But most of all he would just miss him because he had been Kakashi.
"Are you alright?" Sasuke's smooth voice wrapped around him like an embrace and he let himself lean against the other man when the Uchiha pressed the length of his body along the Hokage's back. Their story had been a long and difficult one, strewn with betrayal and strife but in the end they had persevered and when he was with this man, the man he loved, everything in the world was okay.
"I'm okay. I'm going to miss him terribly but I know he's happier where he is now," he remembered the smile that had been etched on the older man's cold face when they had brought his body in and knew his words to be the truth. Sasuke sighed into his hair, pressing a kiss to the nape of his neck before looping him in an embrace. Usually they didn't touch each other much where other people could see; he was the Hokage and with that came certain rules even he would not break. But no one would begrudge them what they had worked so hard for and sometimes he just needed to let his lover hold him like he was now.
"Yes," was all Sasuke said and they were quiet for a long time, letting the soft sounds of the forest around them hold them in place. Then suddenly the Uchiha behind him stiffened as if he had caught wind of something, "Naruto," one pale, slender hand pointed from over his shoulder and he looked up at the line of trees on the other side of the memorial, momentarily confused.
Then he gasped.
Kakashi waved to him, face uncovered and smiling, silver hair caught in the same breeze his own was, looking real but for the faint shimmer around the edges of his form. And then someone else stood beside the older man, familiar and looking so happy, Naruto felt his heart break.
"Tha-that's Haku," he breathed, the name coming to him immediately. He never forgot the name or face of a person he had a hand in killing and Haku had been the first. The two apparitions, one tall and strong, the other slender and petite, both beautiful with each other stood together smiling at them.
Naruto, don't mourn for me. I have found my home. Thank you for everything and I am proud of what you have become It's time for me to say goodbye now. Warm tears slid down his face as he nodded and lifted his own hand, understanding everything now.
"Goodbye, Kakashi-sensei," he called and heard Sasuke do the same from behind him. They watched as the spirits turned and disappeared but the strong, tinkling laughter of two voices lingered behind so that every ounce of grief and pain he felt at his teacher's passing was blown away as if it had never been, leaving a warm joy coiled in its place. Then Sasuke took his hand, the action drawing his gaze to warm, dark eyes. Tears that mirrored his own shone on his lover's face and in that moment, he loved him so fiercely, it hurt.
"Come on, dobe. Let's go home,"
Naruto didn't look back as he let the warm hand wrapped around his pull him away because just like Kakashi, he had his own place to be happy. He too had found his home.
Hope you enjoyed, darling. Thank's again for your wonderful support :3