Written for katzenherrin's second place art entry in the Tarot Card Art Challenge on the KakaSaku Livejournal community. The card she chose was The Wheel, hence the title of this piece. Congratulations on your win, n00b! I hope you enjoy your prize fic!
The wheel was in motion again.
It always started with the sun creeping across ridiculously frilly, pink sheets. Sometimes it would warm an errant foot poking out from beneath the fluffy mass, waking him instantly. Other times it wouldn't disturb him until it reached his closed eyes.
This morning, Kakashi felt the warmth of dawn creeping up his exposed leg. He could pretend that the sunlight wasn't there, edging its way through a crack in her curtains. He could just pull her closer to his chest, bury his face in the sweet curve of her neck, and ignore that a new day was starting.
He could … but she already knew he was awake. Her breathing was quicker and he could feel tension returning to her supine body. She was staring at him, watching his features. He purposely kept his eyes closed, feigning sleep, but she wasn't fooled. She would have noticed the same subtle changes in him that he did in her. Any second now….
She nudged him. "Kakashi. It's morning," she mumbled, her voice raspy with lingering sleep.
He hated the wheel – this awful cycle they were in. It wasn't often he could say with complete and total certainty that he hated something, but he hated this.
And, addict that he was, he couldn't break himself from it. He hated it as much as he desperately needed it.
Kakashi needed her. He needed her smiles and her temper. He needed her vitality, her vulnerability. He needed to kiss her so deeply that their breaths melded, synchronizing just as easily as their bodies did beneath the sheets. But more than anything, he needed her to acknowledge this – that what they were doing was more than just fucking. That it was real and nothing to be ashamed of.
She never said she was ashamed to be seen with an old man, of course. It was always something else: their work, their teammates, the village. He appreciated her concern, he really did, but at the same time he was tired of having to ignore her during the day. He was tired of not being able to touch her until after the sun went down, when shadows could be blamed for tricking eyes.
Sakura sat up, dislodging his arm from around her waist, and shook him again, "Kakashi, it's morning," she repeated, this time with a bit more urgency.
Sighing under his breath, he gave up feigning sleep and opened his eye. She was beautiful, even without the halo of early sunlight. But the look in her eyes was nervous, uneasy – not warm like when he showed up on her fire escape every night. It reminded him that the wheel was in motion, and she was spinning along with it. Spinning away from him.
It was too much. After months of daily denial and nightly indulgences, he couldn't take it anymore. The only way things would change was if he made it. For better or worse, he was going to break the cycle.
Kakashi pushed himself up on one elbow as she disentangled herself from the sheets, crawling to the foot of the bed in order to grab her robe. "Take the day off," he said, unable to keep his eye from admiring the soft curve of her rear before it disappeared beneath dark red cotton.
Sakura snorted, the corners of her lips quirking in amusement. "Yeah, right."
"I'm serious. Just call out from whatever you need to do today."
"And what, spend the day in bed? I'm not lazy like you," she laughed, flashing him the smile he normally loved to see. Today though, it was like a kunai to the gut. She crawled her way back up the bed to where he was still stretched out. He was reaching for her long before he could think to stop, and the tender brush of her lips across his made his breath catch.
Wait… he was supposed to be stopping the wheel, not encouraging it.
It took real effort to tear his mouth away, and even more to maintain a clear thought as she, undaunted, began to place careful little kisses along his jaw and throat. "Or we could do something," he suggested, his breath expelling on the edge of a pant as her teeth nipped at him.
He felt more than heard her laugh as she smoothed a slim hand down his chest, inching toward the blankets bunched around his waist. "Yes, I'm sure we could do something," she teased.
The playful innuendo was like a douse of ice water to his veins. She wasn't taking him seriously. Kakashi seized her wrist before her hand could move an inch lower and shifted away from her. "I meant we could do something like catch a movie," he corrected.
A sharper edge had crept into his voice, one Sakura picked up immediately. Her brow furrowed slightly, the humor fading from her eyes. "A movie?"
"Or lunch. Or even a walk around the village."
She pulled her hand free and sat back, putting distance between them. "What's going on, Kakashi? You're acting weird."
Kakashi gave a short, bitter laugh and scrubbed a hand down his face. "I'm acting weird."
He could see the anger building in her eyes and didn't care. Right then, he preferred her temper over her kisses. "Yes, you are," she snapped back, scrambling off the bed completely. "You're behaving very strangely and it's creeping me out!"
"What's so strange about wanting to spend time with you outside of the bedroom?"
She started picking up his clothes and tossing them on the bed in blatant demand for him to get dressed. To get out before anyone saw him leaving. "Fine, if that's what you want then come over around seven and we'll—,"
"That's not what I meant, and you know it." He kicked the blankets off and grabbed his pants.
"No, I don't know it," she replied, her voice rising. "How about you stop being so obtuse and just tell me, in plain words, what the hell you're trying to get at!"
Kakashi stood up and met her glare unflinchingly. "I'm saying that I'm sick of this."
She hadn't been expecting the words; the shock went unchecked across her features. Seconds passed where they simply stared at each other. Finally, Sakura broke the tension by blinking. Her eyes were brighter than usual, and it tore at his resolve to realize it was because she was close to tears.
"You're sick of me?" she whispered.
His eye closed as he ran a hand back through his hair. "Not you," he replied quietly. "Just this … arrangement we have. I don't want to pretend that nothing's going on between us anymore, Sakura."
She wiped a hand across her eyes before shaking her head. "We can't. Kakashi, I already told you… There are very good reasons why we have to…."
Kakashi sighed and reached for his shirt. He didn't bother putting on his shoes, vest, or belt. He just needed to be decent enough to get out of there. The fire escape was cold under his bare feet and his breath fogged in the early air. Lights were on in the coffee shop across the street, letting him know it was way passed the usual time for him to leave.
He turned his back to her and she didn't do a thing to stop him.
By midday, he hadn't caught even a fleeting glance of her. Konoha was big … but it wasn't that big. Their paths should have crossed at some point during the day. It was especially unusual since he was looking for her. Not to apologize or ask again for more. It was because he hated not seeing her.
It was foolish though. Stupid and foolish and definitely more than a little masochistic considering he wasn't going to her that evening. He'd decided, while wandering around looking-but-not-looking for her, to throw the wheel completely off course. What they were doing – being together – might be considered wrong. Morally, ethically, and socially wrong. But it wasn't right or fair that they should hide it like it's something to be ashamed of.
That was the crux of it, the axis upon which the wheel turned: Sakura was ashamed of being seen with him. No, not ashamed. Afraid. She was afraid of what her peers would say, if they would mock her for taking up with an older man. She was afraid to tell her parents that she was now sleeping with her former teacher. And she was terrified to tell Tsunade that every night she shared a bed with her team leader.
He didn't blame her for being scared. She was young. Her whole career was in front of her. She'd worked incredibly hard for what she had and he could more than appreciate that she didn't want to risk losing that. He, on the other hand, had already achieved everything he needed to. He'd long since established his place in the village, his reputation. Unlike her, he had absolutely nothing to lose.
Kakashi stared at his untouched salty miso ramen and briefly considered drowning himself in the enormous bowl. He was losing her. Had probably already lost her. A part of him wispered that it could be fixed. All he'd have to do is go to her tonight, apologize between kisses, and let the wheel return to its usual course.
He was more than halfway to accepting this idea when someone slid onto the stool next to him, on his sharingan side. Kakashi didn't need to see who it was; he recognized her shampoo.
Ayame came out from the back, a warm smile on her face. "Sakura-san, nice to see you! The usual?"
"Actually, I'll have the salty miso ramen today," she replied.
Kakashi turned toward her then. Sakura hated salty miso ramen. She didn't meet his gaze, merely continued staring at her folded hands on the countertop. He let out a low breath and returned to staring at his ramen.
Seconds passed, marked off by the ticking of the clock behind them. In back, the sounds and smells of ramen being prepared wafted out. He could also make out Ayame and Teuchi murmuring to each other. Outside, it was noisy with shuffling feet, a plethora of voices ranging from loud to dull.
He'd purposely gone to Ichiraku Ramen because it was small and quiet. Now it was feeling too claustrophobic for his liking. Without a word or sip of broth, Kakashi stood up, tossed some money on the counter, and left.
Strong fingers closed over his arm, bringing him to a halt. They were in the middle of the street, standing in full view of passersby. The sun was arching toward the afternoon position, slipping into its setting cycle. He stared down into her bright green eyes and waited.
People were glancing their way, obviously having guessed that something was up. He caught a glimpse of Inuzuka Kiba sitting on a bench across the way, saw Shiranui Genma slow to a stop not far beyond them. Kakashi arched a brow, asking silently what her next move would be.
Sakura's next move, it turned out, was to rise up and kiss his masked lips.
The faint sound of a senbon clattering to the ground reached his ears, as did a howl of amusement from the bench area. There might have been shocked or even disapproving stares as well … but he didn't notice them. How could he when he was busy kissing her back?
They parted, but he still continued to comb his fingers through her hair gently. Kakashi closed his eye, leaned his forehead against hers so that their noses touched. "Thank you," he whispered.
"I realized, after you left, that I don't care anymore," she replied. She didn't need to explain anything to him, but it was obvious by how quickly the words came out that she wanted to. "I don't care if Ino makes fun of me or if people look down on us. I don't even care if Tsunade gets angry because we broke some unwritten rule."
"Really? That's good, because I'm terrified of what she'll do to me when she finds out," he joked.
Sakura's smile was quick, but it left her eyes warm and soft – a look she gave only to him. "What I mean is," she continued, "I don't want to lose you."
"You haven't. And you won't." Their mouths aligned again, very quickly, before he straightened with a sigh and rubbed a hand down her arm. Her fingers curled around his and, though they were trembling, her grip was firm.
He tilted his head back toward Ichiraku Ramen and their abandoned lunch. "Care to join me?"
Sakura grinned at him and replied, "Sure, but you're paying."
The wheel was moving again, only now it was on a different path. It wouldn't always be smooth, but he was certain they could handle any ruts that came their way.