This is being written for the incredibly cool and very generous demonz_dream on LiveJournal. I offered up my talents as a writer for the Help Japan auction that was going on to aid those effected by the earthquake and tsunami. Demonz here won the bid with a mind blowing offer. That is just ... I'm still in awe of your generosity and support for such a noble cause. Thank you for such amazing kindness. And I truly hope this fic not only lives up to your expectations but also demonstrates how touched I am by your donation.
This going to be a multichapter fic - my first one since completing Double Edged. It's going to be completely different from pretty much anything I've ever written for this pairing, and it'll certainly earn its M rating.
So, without further ado... the ficcage. Please enjoy!
He used to think hell was losing the ones you loved, but now as he sat across from her at their small kitchen table he realized that wasn't true. Staring at your wife across inches that felt like miles, not speaking, her pushing food around her plate while avoiding his gaze. Having her there but not really there, going through the motions of life. That was hell. And no matter what or how hard he tried, he couldn't seem to get them both out of it.
Kakashi cleared his throat lightly and made yet another attempt at conversation by remarking, "The chicken's really good tonight."
Sakura made no response, merely continued rearranging the placement of food on her place.
A sigh escaped him, the sound a combination of weariness and mounting frustration. Talking about the quality of chicken wasn't the best conversation starter, true, but damn it … all he wanted was some kind of reaction. A simple nod of agreement, a shrug, using her chopsticks like a kunai to stab the chicken … anything. At this point, even her rage was preferable to the silent apathy.
He dropped his own utensils and scrubbed a hand down his face. The stubble that'd been collecting underneath his mask for the last two days scratched roughly across his palm. "Sakura…" he began, but was cut short by her chair scraping harshly across the floor.
"I'm tired," she mumbled – the first words she'd spoken all day. It was about the only thing she ever did say to him anymore.
He nodded and managed a weak smile for her benefit. "Okay," he whispered back, unable to keep the rough edge from his voice.
She didn't bother taking her plate from the table like she used to. Sakura, the queen of OCD cleanliness and order in their tiny apartment, no longer cared about dirty dishes or piles of laundry. She didn't care that their bedroom, which they hadn't shared in almost two months, looked like a horder's den. He was positive if he wasn't there constantly prodding at her that she wouldn't even bother washing herself. Or eating. Or even moving for that matter. If left to her own devises, he knew she would probably just stay in that damned bed until she died.
Kakashi heard the bedroom door shut and steeled himself for what inevitably followed: the muffled, broken sobs of a woman who had just had her entire life shattered into a million, irreparable pieces.
It killed him when she cried alone in that room. Every night for the last two months was a fresh death. For the first week, he'd followed her into the bedroom and tried to hold her while she cried, tried to show her through action that she wasn't the only one hurting. After that, she'd taken to locking the door behind her, letting him know without words that she didn't want his comfort. She didn't want his understanding and empathy.
He stared at his plate of barely touched food and pushed it away. It wouldn't do either of them any good if they both became sick and malnourished, but his appetite was completely gone.
Sighing again, Kakashi stood and began cleaning up from dinner – yet another meal ordered from the little food market across the street. It'd become a routine now: wake up, check on Sakura, visit the cenotaph, check on Sakura again, do follow ups on the new genin teams, stop across the street for dinner, come home and vainly hope that tonight she would finally opened up to him.
There'd been a time when she'd shared everything with him, from what was going on at the hospital to what she was going to attempt to make for dinner. He liked hearing her talk. No matter how mundane the topic might be, he liked hearing the enthusiasm in her voice, how truly excited she was about the conversation. If anyone but Sakura had tried to talk to him about cellular repair through chakra infusion techniques, he would have blanked out. But the way her eyes would shine and that sweet, eager smile would curve her lips… It'd been so long since he'd seen it that he was beginning to wonder if it'd just been his imagination.
Kakashi finished packing up the remaining takeout and doing the dishes, running the water loud enough to drown out the sobs coming from the next room over. He trudged his way into the living room to the couch where a lumpy pillow and a lightweight throw blanket waited to receive him.
He didn't sleep. Instead, he spent the night staring up at the ceiling, listening to Sakura cry, and feeling more lost and helpless than he had in years. He wasn't sure he was strong enough to do this much longer. As much as he loved her, it was all starting to weigh heavily on him. But… he couldn't leave her. He loved her too much to ever let her go. No matter how exhausting it was, he couldn't leave Sakura to go through this alone.
Tomorrow was a new day, he told himself. Tomorrow, he would try again. And he would keep trying until she either let him in or he broke completely. At that point, it was a toss up which would happen first.
Kakashi woke up to sunlight slanting across his face through a gap in the thick curtains. His eyes scrunched at the intrusion, but his body was already beginning to shift itself into a more conscious state. He yawned, ran a hand back through his tangled hair, and slowly pushed himself upright. First thing first: get the coffee going and see what was available for breakfast. He was pretty sure there were eggs and some leftover rice. It probably wasn't an ideal breakfast, but it would do.
He turned on the stove, counting the clicks of the gas pilot as it lit up, before setting the teapot in place. There were mugs still in the strainer from yesterday, so he grabbed them rather than reaching overhead for fresh ones. The instant coffee was out on the counter, right next to the machine for brewing real coffee. It'd been a wedding present from Genma; three years later and he still had no idea how to work the damn thing.
Two scoops went into the bottom of his mug, one and a half in hers plus two teaspoons of sugar. Kakashi went over to the fridge and sighed when he noticed they were out of milk. Sakura liked her coffee with milk – or, at least she used to. It was hard to say whether she liked much of anything anymore. Still… it was routine to fix her coffee the way she liked it, and routine was about the only thing keeping him going nowadays. He'd have to try and remember to pick some milk up on his way home.
There were just enough eggs and rice to make two servings. A quick search of the cupboard uncovered some of that premixed rice seasoning he liked, which was also where he found the last of the oranges he'd bought last week. He pulled out a frying pan, dumped in the eggs and rice, added a little seasoning, and began cooking up their breakfast. Since there was only one orange and two of them, he pulled out a knife from the wooden block (another wedding gift, although this one saw quite a bit more use than the coffee maker) and cut it into neat wedges, even going so far as to try and arrange them pleasingly on a small plate. Sakura had a bit of a sweet tooth, so maybe the combination of appealing presentation and sugar would convince her to have a few pieces.
The kettle went off just as he finished portioning out the rice into bowls. Kakashi shut the stove down and poured the steaming water into the waiting mugs, stirring his coffee first and then hers so as to avoid any sugar contamination. He set the table, even going so far as to pull open the blinds and let in a little sunlight to their kitchen. The day was already shaping up to be pleasantly warm with just the right amount of cloud coverage to keep it from being too much so. It was the perfect day for being outside. Maybe he could convince Sakura to do that very thing.
Feeling hopeful despite the fact that he really had no reason to, Kakashi knocked softly on the bedroom door. He knew it'd be unlocked; she always unlocked it sometime during the night. But it was her sanctuary now and he didn't want to intrude, even if it was technically his bedroom too.
When there was no answering movement on the other side, he knocked again and called, "Sakura, breakfast's ready."
Finally, after several seconds where he hardly dared to breathe, he heard the telltale rustling of someone waking up inside. He let out a sigh of relief before putting on a smile and opening the door.
Sakura was curled up in the middle of the bed. She'd stripped it of the sheets sometime last night so that she was lying on the bare mattress. The sheets were heaped on the floor which, he noted, needed to be swept. There were dusty bunnies starting to collect around the furniture edges.
It occurred to him, as his gaze swept over the room as a whole, that everything it was hers. The bed frame, the two standing dressers, the little side lamps … she'd brought all of it with her when they'd moved into this apartment nearly five years ago. She'd insisted on using her furniture, and he hadn't argued; how could he when his coffee table was being held together by duct tape and his mattress was barely large enough to accommodate him?
One would therefore think that upon entering the bedroom it would scream Haruno Sakura, but it didn't. Maybe it had at first and he just hadn't noticed, but now it most definitely belonged to them. There were pieces of himself that had matriculated into the space: the curtains, the bookshelf, the narrow rug that ran the length of the bed. Things that had once been his or hers had become theirs … but now it felt like it was beginning to turn back into hers again.
He didn't like that, the feeling that they were separating themselves again. He didn't like the idea that she was pulling away from him and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
His eye landed on the long, wide dresser against the far wall, the one that housed all their folded clothing. All sorts of things were on top of it: her hitae-ate, a very girlish jewelry box with half its contents spread out around it, a couple of his non Icha Icha books. There was the small wooden box that his parent's wedding rings were in – a gift from Sakura for his birthday. He'd shown the rings to her a few months prior and she'd then approached Tenzou about making something special to keep them safe in. It was easily one of the best presents anyone had ever given him.
But what caught and held his attention were the photographs, all of them framed and very carefully arranged in the corner that was closest to the window so as to catch the best light.
There was the original Team Seven photograph that had been taken at the Academy, now faded and a little discolored with age. The edges were seared a bit and the surface was lined with creases from when the village had been destroyed, but it still remained in tact. Next to it was a picture of Team Kakashi. He remembered that day, how Tenzou had offered to take the photo but soon found himself dragged into frame by an exuberant Naruto.
That'd also been the day he'd started to notice Sakura a little differently, in a way that had more to do with being a woman and not a student. She'd stood in front of him and he'd caught a hint of her shampoo, a citrus scent that was more clean smelling than sweet. She'd turned back toward him right before the picture was taken to smile and he'd noted that there was something new in her eyes, something that was warm and personal and very much directed at him.
And then there was their official wedding photos – yes, plural. A small smile crept across his lips at the sight of the two pictures sharing one frame. On the left was a very formal wedding photograph, with Sakura beaming as she tucked her hands into the sleeves of her traditional kimono and him standing just slightly behind her, his dark attire offsetting the pale pink of hers perfectly.
The one next to it was a blooper shot the photographer had taken accidentally, which somehow had gotten mixed in with the official photographs. Kakashi may or may not have had a hand in arranging that mistake. It was of an angry Sakura realizing that he was wearing his mask and reaching up to jerk it down. He still recalled the way she'd yelled at him, saying she wanted at least one picture of their wedding where people could see just how handsome her husband was.
The ironic thing was that in the end she hadn't gotten her wish. All that could be seen were his eyes creasing in amusement and the barest peek of his naked jaw. The rest of his face, including his nose, was completely shrouded by her hand.
Next to that one was perhaps his favorite picture of all: a candid shot Naruto took of her at a festival about seven months ago. Sakura hadn't known the camera was on her, so there was no posing or camera ready smile. It was just her with her hair pulled back, turned slightly away from the lens, and a soft smile gracing her lips as her finger brushed across a paper pinwheel.
His eye lingered a little longer on that picture before turning to the woman lying on the stripped down bed. She was paler than she normally was, an unhealthy shade that made the circles under her eyes more pronounced. Sakura had always been a slightly built woman, but now she was bordering on frailty. Her cheeks were thin, her skin tight against her collarbone, and he knew from getting her in and out of the shower that her ribs were starting to show. It was difficult to reconcile the woman staring blankly at the ceiling to the woman in those photographs.
Kakashi went over to the bed and sat on the edge, being careful to keep a little distance between them. She was on her back so she had to know he was there, but her eyes didn't so much as flicker his way. There'd been a time where she'd hardly seemed able to keep her gaze off of him. Her eyes had been warmer then, softly affectionate and absolutely mesmerizing. Now they were dull, utterly emotionless. If it weren't for the steady rise and fall of her chest, he'd almost swear she was dead.
"Sakura, breakfast's ready," he repeated in a soft, coaxing voice, trying to keep the other emotions from coming through. "There's fried rice and coffee."
She didn't say anything, merely stared at the ceiling with her empty eyes.
"Or I can run across the street and get some of those little cakes you like," he offered. "The ones with the pink frosting. Would you like that?"
Sakura's response was to roll away from him onto her side.
A quiet breath left him, one that bordered close to a sigh. Maybe today wasn't the day after all. Kakashi smiled, even though his throat felt tight and there was a definite sting to his eyes. He nodded, smoothing her hair back gently with his hand, and whispered, "Okay," before placing a kiss on her cheek and leaving.
He went back to the kitchen, stared at the meal he'd prepared for the both of them, and had to clench his hands hard to keep from throwing it all against a wall. Maybe he should break a few dishes. Maybe that would finally gain a response from her.
He didn't though. It would only create a bigger mess anyway, not to mention they'd be down a couple plates. Instead, he scraped her meal into a Tupperware container, dumped her coffee down the sink, and ate his in the silent kitchen.
There would be other tomorrows.