Before anyone else could say something, the door opened and Sakura entered. She was clad in a long, pink nightgown and blinked owlishly at the bright light. It was clear that she had just woken up.
"Mom, Dad?" She took a second glance and almost did a double-take. "Kakashi-sensei? What are you doing here?"
Sakura self-consciously ran her fingers through her hair, clearly embarrassed about her state of undress. Kakashi waved at her nonchalantly. "Yo. I was talking to your parents, introducing myself and such. Thought it would be a good idea, now that you are one of my students."
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Late as always, sensei. We've been your team for four months already!"
"Even more of a reason to do it then, isn't it?" Kakashi smiled one of his patented eye-smiles and sniffed the air inconspicuously.
Despite Sakura's seemingly nonchalant attitude, he could smell the cold sweat on her and the stench of old fear. Her breathing was elevated, her hands were trembling slightly, and her eyes were a bit too wild for her to just have woken from regular sleep. Not to mention that her hair was quite mussed, as if she had been tossing and turning quite vigorously. And her chakra was calming only gradually.
All signs pertaining to a nightmare.
"You're still up?" he asked as harmlessly as possible. "It's almost ten-thirty. In Wave country, you always dropped off at nine, nine-thirty at the latest."
Shuffling her bare feet, Sakura averted her eyes. "Couldn't sleep."
Apparently the Harunos caught the lie as easily as Kakashi did because they exchanged a brief glance. Her mother got up and guided her to the couch. "Then sit down with us for a while. I'll bring you a sweater, and then I'm going to make us some hot tea. That will help you calm down."
"Thanks, Mom," Sakura smiled tremulously. Sitting next to her father, she shrunk into him for warmth which her thin nightgown certainly wasn't made for.
"Mmh, I'd suggest some hot sake. Works better." Kakashi kept his face so uber-bored that even the Harunos, who weren't very well-versed in reading his expressions, caught on.
"Sensei!" Sakura's half-hearted glare was less outraged than amused. A tiny smile was playing around her mouth.
Raising his eyebrow in a parody of insulted surprise, Kakashi shrugged. "Then again, if you don't like sake, tea will have to do."
"Yes, tea will do just fine." Haruno Akito gave him a hard stare that was only partly played. "It's never a good idea to start drinking."
Thankfully, that was the exact moment that Kimiko chose to interrupt them with the sweater for Sakura. It was a large, gray one that looked a bit bulky, but which was very warm without doubt.
Sakura put it on without protest, which surprised Kakashi a bit, to be honest. The Sakura he had gotten to know was very conscious of her appearance, and would have never been caught dead in such clothes on their Wave mission.
Then again, this time there was no Sasuke anywhere in the vicinity, so that might be the reason.
"Hm?" He hadn't realized that he had spaced out while listening to Sakura's mother make tea in the kitchen, and that an uncomfortable silence had settled over the living room.
Sakura nearly growled under her breath. "Why are you here?"
Then again, the growl was only skin-deep, and he could see the anxiety simmering beneath. Especially when her father was looking at her as if trying to see the bottom of her soul. Kakashi nearly rolled his eyes. Civilians just had no common sense. It was understandable that Haruno senior was trying to figure out if everything was alright with his daughter, but didn't he realize that he was scaring her?
"Mmh, you do know that it is my job to make sure that you're not only alright physically, but mentally as well?" Kakashi mused.
To be honest, he should rather be working on Naruto and Sasuke if he followed that maxim, but well... he already knew what was wrong with them. And that they had reached something of an equilibrium with their past trauma. If he thought that Sasuke would go through with it, Kakashi would recommend a mind-healer to him. But despite being Sasuke's jounin sensei, he couldn't force Sasuke to comply, and neither could a mind-healer. Well, not unless ordered by the Hokage. However, Sarutobi-sama was very well-known in certain circles for his policy of non-interference, and Kakashi doubted he'd issue such an order now when he hadn't after the massacre.
Anyway, he'd probably have a lot more success with Sakura than the other two hard-headed morons on his team. A big hurray for growing up with a family. Or being a girl. Or coming from a civilian background. Whatever it was that made Sakura much more susceptible for guidance, because age definitely wasn't it. Kakashi didn't delude himself – at his little minions' age, he had been just as idiotic and stubborn concerning his way of dealing with his past.
Sakura frowned. She probably felt insulted by Kakashi insinuating she wasn't alright mentally. "I'm fine, sensei."
Kakashi merely smiled. "Then of course you didn't just have a nightmare because of the things we talked about this morning."
"I didn't-" She stopped at the look he gave her. Her father wrapped an arm around her shoulder and squeezed briefly. "Well, alright, I did," she admitted reluctantly. She couldn't meet Kakashi's eye. "But what exactly did you think was going to happen, sensei? That I'd sleep like a baby after that?"
Well, now she glared at him. Kind of bipolar, her behavior. At least, more bipolar than usually. "No, I didn't expect that. Not the way you reacted. Your reaction was just a bit... extreme this morning."
She frowned. "Extreme? How?"
"Mmh. It looked almost like you were having a flash-back there. Unresponsive, very scared. More scared than I thought you would be if you had no experience with sex and rape."
If the glare he received from the adult Harunos hadn't clued him in, the way Sakura stiffened would have. Obviously, he had been too blunt. Again. Civilians, he had to remember. Civilians. They weren't used to talking about sex and violence and psychological trauma as just another part of daily life. And, oh joy, it was his job to guide Sakura away from that kind of mind-set.
"I don't – I didn't – " Sakura stuttered, and Kakashi cut her off.
"Maa, maa, I never said you did. I just said that it looked like that. If nothing's happened, that's absolutely fine. More than fine, actually." He took his time to eye-smile at her. "But if there is something wrong, you should know that we aren't going to leave you alone with that, and that there's help for dealing with such stuff."
Sakura obviously was embarrassed to be caught in the focus of both her parents and Kakashi. Just why couldn't civilians stare less... obviously?
"Did something happen, darling?" her mother asked, with the kind of fear that would fit a full-out invasion of Konoha. And of course, Sakura picked up on it and interpreted it the way her mother never meant it: that it would be very, very bad to say 'Yes'.
She shook her head and laughed weakly."No, mom, there's nothing. Just – I just got scared. Read too many books. And Kakashi-sensei was quite... blunt." By that time, she had composed herself enough to shoot him a remarkably honest glower.
Kakashi could have predicted that answer word for word, especially the way it didn't tell him anything. Damn it, the Harunos had blown it. He wasn't going to get anything out of Sakura in the presence of her parents. If he pushed for more, he'd either alienate her family completely, or she'd dig in on that negative answer to the point that she wouldn't tell him the truth even if they were alone, just to keep up the pretense that the 'no' was true.
He made sure his visible eye smiled, clapped his hands and nodded. "Alright, that's all I wanted to know. I am sorry for scaring you like that, Sakura; it just shows that you are more mature than those other two knuckle-heads. Things like rape and sexual violence should never be taken lightly." He got up. "Thank you for having me over so late, Haruno-san, and have a good night. I can see myself out. Don't forget our team training tomorrow at seven, yes, Sakura?"
She scowled at him, most of her old fire back. "Shouldn't you try and remember that yourself, sensei?"
He just laughed and waved a sloppy salute over his shoulder as he left the room. "Night, Sakura."
Of course, he wasn't allowed to see himself out. Sakura's mother accompanied him to the door, which he had counted upon. He didn't say anything though until she made the first move out of Sakura's ear-shot.
"Is she really alright, Hatake-san?" she asked anxiously, like Kakashi thought parents were supposed to be. Not that he knew; his mother had died shortly after his birth, his father had always been on missions, and then he had killed himself. The closest Kakashi had come to the experience had been with Minato-sensei, and Minato-sensei had first and foremost been his teacher. And Kakashi had been so hardened at that time that he hadn't allowed Minato to be what he might have been.
"Aa." He made his eye-smile even more obvious than he normally did, deliberately relaxing all his muscles into a position of trustworthy openness. "Again, I'm very sorry for scaring you like that, Haruno-san. It was only a very, very small chance that anything was wrong at all, and I guess I accidentally made a mountain out of a molehill." More sheepishness that seemed to do its job in calming down the woman. "I think the shinobi mentality of planning for the worst got the better of me. I asked around, and both her chuunin teachers assured me that it wasn't unreasonable for mature girls like Sakura to have nightmares after a stressful day like this. Give her a day or two, and she'll be right as rain."
He wasn't half as convinced of his words as he made out, but first priority was getting her parents off Sakura's back. Kakashi cursed himself a bit for being so blunt at the beginning; he hadn't quite anticipated such a strong current of unconscious actions and reactions between Sakura and her parents. He should have, really, because it was only natural for parents to be concerned about their child. But he had been taken off-guard by the way Sakura's entire attitude fed off her parents' emotions, and how she had been the nice, uncomplicated civilians' daughter she had finally started to develop away from during their Wave country mission. She was still too dependent, unconsciously trying to mold herself into the perfectly civilian daughter they apparently still thought her to be.
Her mother still wasn't quite convinced. "Do you really think so?"
Kakashi nodded. "Yes. Give her time. Again, I'm sorry for my initial blunder."
"Alright. Have a good evening, Hatake-san."
Without doubt, her parents were going to push her more on the topic. Kakashi just hoped that his words had taken enough heat out of the situation that they wouldn't push Sakura into a complete denial. If anything had happened. The next step was Sakura's to make; until then, Kakashi was going to pretend that he had completely believed her denial.
And if she didn't take his apparent mis-diagnosis of her reaction as a reason to research post-traumatic stress syndrome all on her own, Kakashi was sure he could point her that way without making her suspicious.
Sighing, he took to the roof-tops. Teens and their antics. He just knew that this was fate's revenge for Kakashi giving Minato such a hard time during his own teen years.
When Sakura cornered him alone two weeks later, Kakashi didn't sigh. She had been a bit skittish the entire time, not enough to alert her oblivious team-mates (Kakashi wondered which one of the boys was the more oblivious one), but definitely enough to make him keep a covert eye on her. The fact that she had started to show first signs of sleep deprivation was quite damning as well.
"Is it really possible for the mind to suppress traumatic events so well that the person doesn't even remember they ever happened? Without genjutsu or mind techniques, I mean."
And there it was. He still didn't sigh; instead, he kept his body language relaxed and sent her a mildly curious glance. "Yeah. Mind control techniques that make people forget mostly take advantage of that natural defense mechanism. The only difference is that with jutsus it's much more unlikely for the hidden stuff to unearth itself again, be it in the form of flash-backs or dreams or other symptoms."
She nodded slowly, as if connecting it to knowledge she had already assimilated. Kakashi had kept tabs on her book readings, and she had certainly borrowed enough books on the topic that it shouldn't be anything new for her.
She asked more questions in that vein, of how it was possible for the brain to do something like that, why such a mechanism had evolved, and so on and so forth. She was so intent on not talking about the real issue that she didn't even realize when he started steering them to his apartment. If this ended up where he thought it would end, he certainly didn't want to have that conversation out in the streets.
Sakura was able to keep up her babble even through being invited into his home, but the nervousness in her body language increased. Kakashi made tea for them, offered her the only chair his one-room-apartment had, and settled himself on the counter of his kitchenette.
"So, what's the occasion for all those questions?" he finally asked before her increasing nervousness could convince her to run out on him.
She froze, hands wrapped around the tea cup. Her eyes were wide and looked bruised due to the dark rings beneath them. She had tried to cover them with make-up, but the paint hadn't survived a strenuous day of training. "What – what do you mean, sensei?"
Kakashi allowed himself the sigh he had suppressed until then. "I can see that you've been getting little sleep lately, and all those questions about memory repression weren't very subtle. You've had more nightmares?"
Her fingers twitched, fluttering towards the hot porcelain of her cup and away again just as quickly. Her eyes flitted anywhere but him in a desperate attempt to find something to cling to. "Yeah," she admitted quietly, but didn't go on.
"You think it's something more?" he prompted her.
She shrugged listlessly, not meeting his eyes. "I – I don't know. It's always the same. I need to be quiet. Can't make a sound, because then he'd find out I'm here, and... Sometimes there's coughing and screaming, a woman, and I still mustn't move or make any sound... He says to be quiet..."
She shook her head. "Don't know. Some guy. I never see his face. I never see much at all."
Well, that didn't sound very promising. "Have you had similar nightmares before?"
She nervously tapped her lips with her index finger. "Can't remember any. Not that one, in any case. I don't – As soon as I close my eyes, I can almost hear him tell me to be quiet, but... Nothing ever really happens to me, you know, sensei? I'm just so afraid, and Nothing. Ever. Happens!"
Kakashi blinked. She was working herself into quite a frenzy, starting to fall apart on him. "And why is that so bad?" he asked calmly.
"Because – Because I don't know!" She threw her hands in the air but shrank back into herself immediately afterwards. "I don't know why I'm dreaming this, if I'm just going insane or if there's more behind it, if it's going to get worse, if it's – I hate not knowing what is wrong with me."
She was pale. Very pale. Her eyes were flickering around nervously, not looking quite daring to meet Kakashi's.
Finally, his student inhaled and asked with tremors in her voice, "Kakashi-sensei, I just don't know, I can't… can't… I don't want to… see these things, when I don't even know what they are…"
Kakashi nodded slowly, projecting a lot more calm and confidence than he felt. He knew little of how to heal people, less of how to do that psychologically. What he knew was how to break, rend, tear, kill people. Then again, that already gave him a hint or two of what not to do. And that was letting anyone see he didn't know how to deal with the situation when he was in charge.
He shrugged. "Well, there are plenty of mind healers at the hospital. They specialize in dealing with psychological trauma; they'll know how to approach your problem best. I think there might be one or two civilians, too, who treat such problems, but medic nin are better."
He grimaced briefly, so briefly that Sakura didn't catch it. Medic-nin were better because they had more experience. There hardly was a ninja without any traumatic memories, so they got plenty of practice. Then again, they only got the hardest cases, those inches from breaking. Maybe their rough and jaded bedside manner wasn't the right one for a scared little genin.
He continued. "Then there are the Yamanaka. You are friends with Inoichi's daughter, aren't you? I'm sure that he'd agree to do a mind-walk if I or you asked him."
He went on before Sakura could voice the protest he could see building on her face. Apparently the Yamanakas were a sensitive topic to her. Were she and - Ino the girl was called - still cross with each other? Because of their ridiculous rivalry over Sasuke, who wasn't interested in them anyway? "The only way to uncover potentially buried memories I know of is using genjutsu, but I wouldn't recommend that. The family of genjutsu that delves into memory like that is mainly used for… less wholesome purposes. Additionally, they won't help with the underlying problem of how to deal with it."
He saw Sakura shudder, but she didn't quite catch the implication. She wasn't used enough to shinobi life to make the connection to torture and interrogation techniques. However, they kept quiet and let Sakura deal with the situation.
She fiddled with her hands in her lap, biting her bloodless lip. "Sensei, I… I need to know what these things are. I don't want to involve Ino or her parents if it's just a silly nightmare, and I can always go to a mind-healer if it turns out to be something really bad, but… Sensei, do those genjutsu hurt?"
Kakashi nearly flinched at the hopeful look on Sakura's face, that there was a simple solution. There was more though. He nodded slowly. "Yes. The genjutsu itself doesn't hurt; it is the memories that will hurt. Once it drags up those memories, they are there in the forefront of your mind, no matter how bad they are. And for you to get such nightmares, they probably will be bad. Also, whoever casts the jutsu will see the exact same thing you do. They will know everything you relive while under the technique."
"They will?" The hopeful look on her face wasn't quite what Kakashi had intended with his speech. Did she really…
"Kakashi-sensei, can you..?"
Yes, she did. He exhaled and slumped his shoulders. She actually wanted him to witness things that might be no more than a vivid childhood nightmare, but that might also go as far as her getting raped.
He rubbed his hands over his face, supporting the suddenly very heavy weight of his head with elbows planted on his knees.
"Sakura…" he began but trailed off again. He tried a different approach. "Yes, I do know the technique, but I don't think you realize what exactly you are asking for. If it is the worst case, I might be witnessing your rape. Do you really want to share something like that?"
Sakura couldn't meet his eyes; she only flinched at the word 'rape'. "I don't know... it's like... like, every time I close my eyes, I get so incredibly scared, and I know I must be quiet or he'll find me, and... Sensei, it feels so real. I can almost smell the moss and the dirty leaves, and... I think I hear someone crying and coughing. There's always that cough. It... it scares me, sensei."
Kakashi nodded slowly. "You think you're getting hurt in that... dream?"
Sakura shrugged, pale and holding on to her composure by a thread. "I don't know," she could only repeat.
She wrung her hands, looking anywhere but Kakashi. Pale, tense, but collected and sitting straight, head raised. She gathered herself, eyes wide and frightened. "Sensei, I need to know. Please."
Stubborn, determined. Kakashi raked his hand through his hair. Too stubborn maybe. He didn't think it was a good idea to rip everything to the forefront like the jutsu would do, especially when he had no idea how to deal with the fall-out. But now that he had already made the offer, he could hardly draw back. "Alright," he sighed.
Also, he could understand the need to know without involving anything resembling a healer or doctor. He would want to know, too, if it was him. Then again, there were some memories he had deliberately asked for to be blocked. Like the two weeks he had spent in the hands of Cloud during his third year as Inu. Or that one time he'd had to watch Tatsu get taken apart piece by piece, literally, on a botched-up scroll retrieval.
Tatsu would have been a good acquisition for Moritake's, if Kakashi had been able to take her with him when he had escaped. But she had broken somewhere between her fifth finger and her right foot. They had used a saw on her. And Kakashi hadn't been able to do anything but watch because he had been tied right next to her. For some reason they hadn't touched him at all, only asked every time before they cut into her, if he didn't want to spare her by talking. She had looked so hopeful every time and so pleading, and she had screamed- begged- broken -
With practiced ease, Kakashi shoved the memory away. The mind healers had used a special technique to blunt the remembered feelings, to the point that he could look back on it like a horribly realistic movie. It laid limply in his memory, present if he thought of it, but not churning and festering and popping up in flash-backs every time he caught sight a saw-toothed object. Or heard a particular pitch of female scream.
Months and years of intensive trauma therapy abbreviated into one, nifty jutsu, because Konoha couldn't afford to let someone of Kakashi's caliber sit out until a more natural healing took place. It was a brutal jutsu, too, because it replayed the memory again and again, chakra gradually erasing the emotional high-points until everything fell within acceptable parameters. Until today, Kakashi couldn't look at Yamanaka Sentarou without remembering his merciless 'again', when Kakashi had come out of yet another repetition with the memory not blunted far enough.
He swore to himself that this wouldn't happen to Sakura. That nobody would muck around in her mind to stitch her back together like they had done with him. She had the time to do things the natural way. It took a lot longer, but… he didn't want to risk her breaking under the stress of the jutsu, like he almost had. Sometimes, the healing could be more painful than the injury. He just hoped that unearthing the memory in the first place wouldn't already break her.
But he was getting ahead of himself. Maybe it was just a dream. Maybe Sakura's memory wasn't that bad. Or maybe she had matured enough to be able to deal with it. Hopefully.
He sighed, trying to judge her determination. She looked afraid, but too stubborn to back down. Finally he relented. "Alright. We will need somewhere stable to sit down where we can keep skin contact. I need that to keep sending chakra into your system. The nape of your neck or your forehead would be best, but I can also work with a wrist, shoulder, wherever. You also need to be comfortable; outwardly it will seem like you're falling asleep, so it wouldn't be good if you fell off a chair or something like that."
Well, Ibiki did use that jutsu on people sitting on chairs, but he usually tied them up beforehand. Kakashi doubted Sakura would appreciate that.
Sakura smiled, huffed a tense laugh, then went back to gnawing on her lip. She looked around a bit haunted, and Kakashi quietly cursed himself. He didn't have a couch to lie down on, and neither did he have a reclining chair or something similar. His apartment was too small for that. They'd either have to sit on the tatami, or he could unroll his futon.
But – no. The futon would make Sakura feel too vulnerable, would have too many implications. Especially if the worst case had happened.
With a sigh, he slid off the counter, unearthed two zabuton from the same chest he stored his futon in during daytime, and dropped them into the corner. Leaning against the walls would have to be enough. He settled himself on one and motioned for her to join him.
Sakura sat down reluctantly on the other zabuton, their proximity allowing Kakashi to comfortably reach the back of her neck. He went through a long string of hand seals, nearly a hundred of them. Most interrogation jutsu were quite complicated because with them it wasn't so much the speed that counted but the precision and control.
His hands took on a slight bluish glow while he was still holding the last seal, and Sakura looked at him in a mixture of fear and awe. She was biting her lip and clenched her fists compulsively.
"Last chance to back out. If it's a traumatic memory, you will relive it entirely, because that's the way the jutsu works. And I'll see everything," he warned her, focusing his will on keeping the chakra in its final stage before the technique was completed.
She exhaled slowly and steeled herself visibly. "I know."
He doubted that she really knew what she was agreeing to, but he could accept her sincerity. He nodded, committing himself to the technique. "Alright. Now think of your dream, and try to relax as much as possible. I'll be right with you."
"Mmh," she mumbled and closed her eyes. She flinched a bit as he put his glowing hand to the back of her neck, but otherwise she didn't move. The nearly complete jutsu was already influencing her mind, searching for any and all memory snippets to give as comprehensive a picture as possible.
Kakashi let it work for another minute, not getting distracted by the increasingly fearful tinge of her chakra. Then he slowly released the last seal and found himself in a concentrated emptiness.
On the edge of his perception he was aware of his body and how hers slumped against the wall, but most of his consciousness was focused on the image of Sakura – a Sakura who seemed a lot more resolute and self-confident than she was in real life. Also older. She was sixteen, seven-teen at least. Was this how she saw herself?
"Sakura?" he asked to get her attention.
She looked up, found him, and frowned. "Sensei? I thought you were doing your mind-reading technique?"
Kakashi nodded. "Yes. Can you think of the event for me, please?"
He didn't tell her that, the few times he had used the technique, he had never landed in any kind of mind-scape, black emptiness or otherwise. Neither had he met a mental representation of the person. But, whatever. Things like people's minds were as different as night and day, and he wasn't one to criticize others' mental representations.
Slowly, color began to flood the place, a dark green and brown of moss, leaves, and tree trunks. Kakashi watched as gradually, a forest took shape around them, bigger than real life.
Probably what a forest looked like from the perspective of a small child.
He looked around to get some clues as to where he was, but the dream - or was it a memory? - was too indistinct and blurred to make out any details. But, even for a small child, he was a bit too low towards the ground. Was he/she crouching?
"Hide and seek," the strangely adult Sakura said. She was right there with him, and he raised an eyebrow at her. She wasn't supposed to be with him as a physical representation in the dream. The jutsu wasn't designed to facilitate mind-to-mind communication, but rather to help recall and allow the caster to be immersed in a reflection of the memory. The jutsu also contained a calming factor, to establish a dreamlike state in the castee, both to ease the ability of recall, and to prevent the castee from interfering – be it through deliberate sabotage or through the mind trying to protect itself from emotional trauma.
But there was no component that would induce mind-to-mind communication.
Then again, he supposed that all minds were different, and this was only a small anomaly.
"You know where we are?" he asked Sakura. No reason not to take advantage of the anomaly.
She shrugged. "Somewhere, I'm sure. Not too far from the playground, probably."
He nodded and kept looking around. She, too, did the same.
"How old were you when this happened?" It seemed that there was still time to talk before the action started. Neither the mental representation nor the memory itself showed any signs of being scared yet. Was she already an academy student?
The older Sakura shook her head slowly. "Not sure. About eight or nine, I'd say. After I met Ino though. Didn't play hide-and-seek before."
Then he heard it. A soft wailing that sounded like 'no', and a male voice – not articulated enough to understand words – that growled something. The Sakura of then obviously had switched her entire focus to audio then, because the forest blurred into near nonexistence in favor of sounds. Only the mental representation of Sakura remained completely unchanged.
The wail grew louder, the male voice, too. A sharp snap that might have been a dry tree limb being broken off, but just as well an open-handed slap to a face.
"You will be quiet, you hear me?" the male growled. Some coughs at the end.
The female voice – Kakashi was quite certain it was a woman and not a girl – sniffed and stuttered a 'Y-yes'.
Rustling. This time definitely the sound of twigs and leaves being crushed, together with a half-suppressed, hysterical sob. Some more coughs, dry and hacking.
Suddenly, the thick foliage came into focus at the same time as people could be seen through the gaps, stumbling and dragging heavy feet through the dead leaves on the ground. There was no clear line of sight though. Kakashi thought he saw a flash of olive green – a chuunin or jounin vest? - and purple, but he was still relying mainly on sound.
A crash of a body being slammed against a tree trunk, together with a yelp of air being forced out of lungs. The Sakura next to him flinched and bit her lips. However, she was a lot more composed than she had seemed in his apartment. Instead of being wide-eyed and scared, this Sakura seemed almost... angry?
The gruff male voice again, hoarse from intermittent coughs, a leer in his tone. "You liked that, didn't you? Then you'll like this even more."
"N-no, please, don't -"
A slap and a harsh cough. "Quiet, I said!"
Kakashi's frown grew deeper. He nearly recognized the voices, but time and the second-hand experience distorted them just enough to make identification impossible. The coughs though...
A slight wind moved the leaves just enough to grant a glimpse of the back of a man – clearly with chuunin vest – forcing someone smaller, slighter against a tree. The sound of struggles. A low grunt of someone, the man probably. Then fabric ripping, and a budding scream that was muffled hastily. Something that might be a litany of 'No's being repeated behind a hand holding a mouth shut.
The Sakura next to him was still eerily composed, if he overlooked the dark cloud of anger gathering above her. Her fists clenched and unclenched, and she looked ready to storm out of hiding and into plain sight to bash someone over the head. Like she always did with Naruto.
A very interesting reaction, especially compared to the timid and scared girl she had been just before he had cast that jutsu.
"You just had to go this far, didn't you?" the man snarled. "I was thinking of making things easy for you 'cause you've been a good girl. But now?"
Again a cough. Then another, a whole series that sounded like the guy was hacking up half a lung. Luckily, the wind gave Kakashi another glance of the couple. To Kakashi, it looked like the man was nearly incapacitated by the force of his coughs. Surely that was enough of a chance for the woman to get free?
Instead, she almost seemed to be supporting him, mumbling something that was too soft to understand. One of her thighs was bare, her miniskirt ripped up to her waist, a flash of long, purple hair. Then the visuals were gone again, and more clothes rustled once the man's coughing stopped. It was nearly drowned out by the sounds of nature around them.
By now, Kakashi was completely convinced that it was indeed a memory. There were just too many details that a simple dream didn't have.
Finally a wail, high and keening, barely muffled behind the man's hand. To an eight-year-old, it might have sounded like she was being tortured, but to Kakashi... Even through the biased recall of Sakura, he thought it was more pleased than pained. Older Sakura though definitely didn't seem to think so, as she looked about ready to throttle someone in helpless anger.
The following noises were equally bivalent, and a chance glimpse showed quite unmistakable movement of the man's hips. The woman had one leg wrapped around his waist, a hand in his hair. She wasn't so much struggling as... participating enthusiastically?
Kakashi groaned inwardly. The cough, the purple hair, the voices – he'd had his suspicions that it was Hayate and his lover Yuugao, but to have it proven like that? And to have a child next to him flinching at every sound the woman made, torn between impotent fear and helpless anger?
He couldn't close his eyes since it was a memory directly being fed into his brain, but at least the Sakura of then had looked away and focused intently on a single leaf in front of her eyes. That way, Kakashi got treated to the detailed study of maple leaf biology while he kept hearing snatches of grunts, moans, and wild enjoyment. And Kakashi knew it was enjoyment, because he had stumbled across Hayate and Yuugao like that a couple of times himself. He had even been invited by Hayate once upon discovering them, but Yuugao's glare had reminded him that he hadn't found the destination of the Road of Life yet, and that he might want to go and discover where it led. Like, right now.
When things grew quiet again and remained quiet for a long time, Kakashi slowly released the chakra he had been filtering into Sakura's system, and been getting back with the memory impressions. As soon as the chakra flow was stopped, Kakashi removed his hand from Sakura's neck to rub his own, hopefully staving off the headache that was threatening to take up permanent residence in his brain. Sakura had dissolved into tears when the memory ended, and he could hear how she was trying to stay quiet.
He was going to kill them! How in the world did one explain to a twelve-year-old that she had accidentally witnessed two of Konoha's most notorious closet fetishists acting out a rape fantasy, or whatever they thought they were doing? Just from looking at them, nobody would ever think that serious, stick-up-her-behind Yuugao and nice but sick Hayate preferred that much kink in their private life, but... calm rivers running deep, and all that.
But what was he supposed to tell Sakura, who was curled into a ball and trembling now? More importantly, what to tell her so that she understood that in any other case, with any other two people, she would have indeed witnessed a rape? What to tell her that when she saw such a scene again, she didn't automatically dismiss it as another two people playing pretend?
Kakashi valiantly resisted the urge to put his head in his hands and groan. Insensitive as he might be, even he knew that this would be the wrong reaction when confronted with a distraught girl.
"That was... interesting," he finally started. She only cried harder. "Well, first off, you did the right thing, Sakura," he tried again. "You knew you couldn't do anything, and that you couldn't draw any attention to yourself. And you did the absolute right thing by staying where you were and not move a muscle. I know that this can be the hardest sometimes, and you did really good. I think you even managed to suppress your chakra to undetectable levels."
Because if she hadn't and Hayate and Yuugao had continued despite sensing someone nearby, he was going to kill them for real. "No matter whether that was instinct or not, that is an excellent skill-level for an academy student. If you were already that good at nine, then it's no wonder you managed the tree-climbing exercise on the first try. The only thing you could have done better was tell someone. Not only to report a possible crime, but also to help yourself. Believe me, talking helps."
And wasn't he being a hypocrite suggesting something like that? "It will be very hard at first to find the words, but things you can find words for have a way of being... more manageable. "
Sakura was still crying silently, but at least she seemed a bit more composed. Now, how to tackle the main problem.
"That aside; now that you have the complete memory, did you notice anything strange with the situation?" He silently handed her a tissue and waited until she had taken it. She took her time patting her eyes and blowing her nose, concentrating on that one task as if it was the most important thing in the world.
"He – he was coughing. The entire time," she finally mumbled.
"Good. What else?"
Sakura's brow creased slightly as her eyes took on a far-off look. Her tears had stopped almost entirely as she thought. "He was really sick, wasn't he? And he still managed to – to -"
Kakashi barely suppressed a wince and tried to steer her into safer waters. "Would you say he was a shinobi or a civilian?"
"Shinobi." Quick, without any hesitation and a hundred percent sure.
"That's right. Now, for the woman. Do you remember what she did with her arms?"
He sighed and formed a shadow clone. Perhaps he was expecting too much from her. The clone henged into a random chuunin half an inch taller than Sakura, about the same height difference as there was between Yuugao and Hayate. "When he had her against the tree, where were her arms?"
Wide-eyed, she stared at the clone. Her eyes moved nervously from the chakra construct to Kakashi and back. "His – his back?"
"Very good. Now put your hands around the clone like that."
Sakura started trembling, and Kakashi could already see the fear overwhelming her bout of rationality. Shit, he'd have to work quickly before everything went to the dogs.
"I am trying to show you something," he assured her. "The clone isn't going to hurt you; it's not even going to touch you." Thankfully his clone caught on and stared blankly ahead, completely lifeless except for the minimal raising of its chest. "Would you please try it?"
Slowly, she got up with tear streaks drying on her face. Kakashi could see how much it cost her to approach the clone and follow his instructions. As she put her arms around it, one above its shoulder and one around its side, a blush of embarrassment worked itself onto her skin. Well, at least she wasn't trembling from fear anymore, and his clone didn't react at all to her proximity.
"Good," he nodded in satisfaction. "Can you still form seals like that?"
Frowning, she tried and succeeded in bringing her hands together in a ram seal. Surprised, she tired a few more, and all of them worked. "Kakashi-sensei?"
"What do you think that would mean if she were a shinobi?"
"Th- that she could have done j-jutsu -"
"Exactly. What other vulnerable locations can you reach like this?"
The chuunin vest covered easy access to kidneys and most spinal attack points including the neck, but Sakura managed to yank the clone's ear and even go for its eyes. Her execution of the non-lethal submission technique was a bit too forceful though – or his clone had decided it had enough of staring blankly into space – and the chakra construct dispersed. She coughed in the thick smoke, startled by the sudden absence of her demonstration partner.
"Sorr – Sorry, sensei, didn't mean to..."
Kakashi waved her off, accepting the phantom pain of someone poking their fingers into his eyes. There were much worse ways for a clone to be dispelled. "Maa, that's alright. I think you already got what I mean. He was a shinobi, yes?"
"Would a shinobi leave himself so vulnerable to crippling attacks, even if she was only a civilian?"
Slowly she seated herself again, slumping against the wall next to him. There was a far-away look in her eyes. Kakashi let her think, let her ponder over the revelations. Her emotions were clearly visible on her face; first fear, then doubt, then disbelief, then doubt again, and beneath all that a great load of confusion that was becoming more and more prominent.
Finally, she shook her head. "I don't understand, Kakashi-sensei. I don't think a shinobi should, or even would, but he did and she didn't take advantage of it. She – she didn't even run away when he was coughing so hard, so I don't – I don't know!"
The anguish in her big green eyes, combined with the drying tear tracks, would have moved anyone who wasn't already desensitized to such displays of puppy eyes.
Kakashi sighed heavily. "Well, coincidentally I recognized the two of them. They're both shinobi; Hayate ought to have been a chuunin back then, and I think Yuugao was already a special jounin. If Yuugao had wanted to, she could have easily freed herself. What you saw was nothing but a pretense. They were trying to make it sound as real as possible. And that's why they were so deep into the woods that nobody would see them and think that something else was going on. They didn't know you were there, or they'd never have continued with their pretense."
"But – but," Sakura stuttered wide-eyed, "why would they do that? Why did she want to – she was so scared! He was hitting her, and, and... she was crying the whole time..."
He was so not going to go into how half of Yuugao's sounds had been from enjoyment instead of pain. "I know. Yuugao is a good actress. She and Hayate like to play pretend games like that. Don't ask me why, I have no idea. If it was anyone but those two, I'd immediately bring this to the Hokage's attention. Because then, you would have been right. But with the two of them... they're quite famous amongst jounin and chuunin circles for their... strange pretense games. See it like that: just like I have my books, they have their game. Do you think it would help you if you could talk to Yuugao? The least she could do is apologize for scaring you this much."
And if it ended with Yuugao having to explain kinky sex to a naïve pre-teen, that was only poetic justice. Honestly, Kakashi had enough of this melodrama. He was glad that the underlying occasion was nothing serious, but he was far from happy that it had scarred his student like this. He was no mind-healer, but he had his suspicions that the older, brash Sakura he had encountered in her mind-scape was a by-product of that scare – a personality fragment that could express herself when Sakura's deepest wish was to be quiet and unseen.
There was no way though that he was going to touch onto that topic by himself.
Sakura's eyes were still wider than normal, but her chakra was calming. She nodded slowly. "I – I think I'd like that. Talk to – Yuugao-san."
"Alright." He easily formed a shadow clone, sending it out to check whether Yuugao was in the village at the moment. The quicker he got them talking to each other, the less likely it was for Sakura to have time to clam up again. And the quicker he could refer her to a mind-healer, the earlier the entire situation would be Someone Else's problem.
He wanted to strangle someone. He didn't though, because he realized that Sakura was starting to fall asleep on his shoulder, only an occasional stray tear dampening the fabric of his flak jacket. With his other arm he grabbed for his trusty old Icha Icha paradise and settled himself in for a long wait.
– THE END –
A/N: Well... After such a long time, it's finally done. I don't know how many times I wrote and rewrote that final chapter (going from things being full-out rape to Sakura having gotten a hold on some... disturbing adult literature or movie, to nearly everything in between). I hope I found a medium, and that the quick and dirty solution of Kakashi having a jutsu to uncover buried memories wasn't too dirty. In real life, when things like that happen, it takes months and years for such trauma to begin healing (or even being uncovered), and it might not manifest in any of the obvious PTSD symptoms. Also, healing can only start when the affected person really wants to. I tried to touch on all of that, and not make things too cliché. I hope I succeeded at least somewhat.
Oh, and in case you're wondering: what Kakashi does (discussing the memory with Sakura, helping her discover things she overlooked) IS part of regular trauma therapy, but in the real world I'd expect that one conversation to be the end result of about a month's therapy. And that is only the beginning – if you note, Sakura hasn't said a single word about how she feels about things after the revelation, and that's the most crucial part of it. She's still in the shock phase and nowhere near to dealing with everything. But that would be another several chapters, and The Talk is over and done with.
Many, many thanks to everyone who kept reviewing and PM'ing me to remind me that there's still an unfilled story, and that there are still people waiting to see how things turn out. Thank you everyone.