Title: Seeking Rin
Chapter: 1 - Tremolo
Word Count: 4741
Summary: When Sakura, newly in a relationship with Kakashi, finds out about the other woman in his life, she fears she's nothing more than a replacement, which is the last thing she wants to be. But will Kakashi let her go? Kakashi x Rin, KakaSaku. Note: Despite the title, the end pairing of this is KakaSaku.
Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me. It's Kishimoto's and I just play with it. Part 1 of ? Unbeta'd.
There are freckles on Kakashi's back.
She hadn't expected that. There's not many and the scars outnumber them by far, but Sakura likes the freckles that dot his skin in unexpected places. They make him human and she thinks that she can stand sleeping-dating-lovinghim, when he's human. She watches his back and doesn't touch. He'll wake if she does and he's tired.
And she worries.
This- them, it's new. She's never spent the night in his apartment before and it's a lonely place, for all that she's lying beside all the company she ought to need.
Sakura studies his back like she used to study for her exams. It's a very human back, she thinks approvingly. The shoulders are too broad for his frame and he's too thin for all that he's well-muscled. Scars mar his skin and her fingers itch to touch them. The freckles are a light rain in the midst of a war zone and she thinks, knows, that his freckles are her favourite part of his back.
When he's asleep, at least.
He shifts and she watches as he turns his head. He's still asleep, but he's dreaming a nightmare, she thinks from the tension in his body. He tosses and turns, rolling over onto her with a murmur she barely hears.
Then his arms tighten around her and Sakura is left staring up at the ceiling entirely unsure what to think.
When he wakes her up four hours later, because she's got the earliest shift possible at the hospital and can't stay for breakfast, she almost thinks it was a dream and files it away under unimportant and goes about her new life, of being with Kakashi.
And ignores the small, traitorous part of her that wonders who Rin is and why Kakashi is dreaming of her.
Jealousy is an ugly trait, she tells herself, and slams the door on those thoughts.
A week later and Sakura is at the grocery store, buying eggs and rice and a tub of ice cream that is triple chocolate and the death of any diet, when she realizes that she's being stared at and not solely because she's in front of the hair products and unable to make up her mind.
When she turns to tell them off for staring, she's surprised that it's Yuuhi Kurenai, Hinata-chan's old sensei. "Yuuhi-san," she greets politely, reigning in her temper around the older, more beautiful, more deadlywoman. "This is a surprise."
The twin questions what are you doing here? and why are you staring at me?are left unspoken, but present. Yuuhi's eyes are cool, evaluating and completely incongruous in the grocery store. The other woman holds a basket, much like she does. Sakura can guess she's shopping, which is the answer to one question, but not the other.
"Well," Yuuhi-san says, after a moment stretches long enough that Sakura is gritting her teeth. "At least you don't look like her." There's an air of censure about her words nonetheless.
Sakura gapes, not sure what to say to that. Who is 'her'? Why is it a good thing that she does not look like 'her'?
She remembers, suddenly, what she's done a good job at forgetting about- does 'her' mean Rin?
Yuuhi-san doesn't give her a chance to ask and turns, disappearing into the next aisle and by the time Sakura manages to collect herself and look, the other woman is long gone.
She's left with melting ice cream and a question she didn't think, didn't know, needed to be asked.
Asking Kakashi straight out, when it's another girl and he was murmuring her name while asleep seems like a poor tactical manoeuvre. Sakura's not the best at dealing with men, but she wants to know more before she goes off on a rant at him. Especially when the sex they're having is really, really good and she doesn't want to mess this up.
So she enlists Ino and bribes her with all the very dirtiest details about her relationship with Kakashi. Ino, old friend, old rival, old shoulder to lean on rises to the challenge. Who is this 'Rin' connected to Kakashi?
"I'll see what I can find," Ino says, with a grin and an impish tap to her temple. It's Ino at her most dangerous: sparkling eyes, brilliant smile, and good humour in every line of her body. As a child, Ino had given away all her thoughts with every movement, now all that can be seen is that she appears to be in a good mood. Ino has always over compensated. She's angry and she glowswith good cheer. "Whether it's written down or not."
Sakura hopes that this Rin isn't Kakashi's other, current lover. For one, she'd have to kill him.
For another, Ino would kill him first. No apologies, no explanations. At twenty-two, Ino has only gotten more vicious in the defense of her friends.
Sakura hopes she hasn't made a mistake in asking Ino to figure this out.
"-a medical kink?"
"-unhealthy," a man is saying as Sakura walks by him. She notes that he's shinobi and that he's talking to a friend, another shinobi, and that both of them look vaguely familiar. That's not surprising. Most shinobi look vaguely familiar to her thanks to her work at the hospital. More suspicious are the words and their appraising glances.
Sakura vows to beat the crap out of them if they start anything with her involving the words 'medical' and 'kink' in the same sentence. Then she walks on and forgets about them. There's a patient in another room waiting for her.
But she can feel their eyes follow her and she wonders why before realizing that she probably, really, doesn't want to know.
She sees them again, a few days later, while waiting for Ino at their favourite bar. Hinata might show, Tenten won't- she's out on a mission. Her eyes sweep the room and she orders a drink.
A man she doesn't know tries to pay for it. She lets him, then lets him down. 'I've got a boyfriend' isn't effective. 'I'm a Jounin' doesn't work either and she's getting mad and this closeto starting a fight when the two who'd talked about medics and their kinks crack their knuckles threateningly from behind the persistent jackass.
They're a lot more effective than she at getting rid of them. It's for the best, she thinks, because she would have gotten herself kicked from the bar over it and what would Ino say?
"Thank you," she says politely, when her unlikely heroes walk back in. One of them has shoulder length hair and has a senbon in his mouth, the other has a scar across his face that she judges as a wound that healed out in the field. They're cute enough, but she's taken.
They don't ask for her number or anything, so she buys them a drink. It's only right.
"You waiting for anyone?" the one with the senbon asks, with a glance at her slinky dress.
She crosses her legs primly. "I'm meeting a friend."
They don't like that answer and she's not quite sure why. Before they can say anything, Ino comes in, tugging Hinata through the door and both of them are laughing. Sakura grins as she waves them over and the two shinobi by her side relax.
Sakura endures Ino flinging her arms around her as soon as she gets close enough and greets Hinata. The next time she pays attention to where the shinobi went, she spots them in the far corner and puts them out of her mind.
The girls come first tonight.
Only later, as she's stretched out on Ino's couch, Ino asleep on the floor and Hinata having gone for a glass of water, Sakura remembers that the two shinobi are friends of Kakashi's. She hiccoughs with laughter that wakes Ino up and brings Hinata back into the room. She shakes, tears of mirth running down her face, and everything made funnier by more than a few drinks.
It's just strange, she thinks, to be treated like she's going to break Kakashi's heart. It's sweet, that his friends care enough to worry.
But she's pretty sure that, of the two of them, he's more likely to break her heart.
Kakashi doesn't cook.
He doesn't do dinner and he doesn't do lunch. Sakura hasn't been surprised by that, but the first time she stays over-night anddoesn't have shift at the hospital at the crack of dawn, she's surprised to find that, apparently, Kakashi does breakfast.
He has her sit at the small table and she does, too bemused to do anything else, as he sets out three kinds of jam on the table. There's honey and milk and sugar already there and she knows they weren't set out the night before. He's done this. He's got his back turned to her and if Sakura wanted she could spend the time admiring his backside for he's only wearing the loose pants of his Jounin uniform. She does a bit. It's a very nice view.
She spends her time watching him, but it's more to figure out the mystery than anything else. He's making pancakes and sausage and eggs and toast and she isn't sure how to tell him that her idea of breakfast is a piece of toast, barely buttered, and then a glass of juice if, and only if, the toast hasn't made her nauseous.
There's fruit on the table too. Apples and grapes and oranges. She feels like she's stepped into an alternate dimension.
When he sets her plate down on the table, there's far too much food for her- a pancake, three sausages, a slice of toast, and two eggs. He's got more on his. Sakura swallows as her stomach threatens to turn itself inside out at the idea of eating everything on hers.
He's smiling though, his shoulders relaxed and he's entirely at ease. It's rare for him to be so happy and she's loathe to do anything to ruin that.
"Thanks," she finds herself saying and, more peculiarly, meaning it as she drizzles a tiny bit of syrup on her pancake. "This looks delicious."
And Sakura thinks her upset stomach is a small price to pay for the smile and kiss he bestows on her before taking her dishes at the end of it as he shoos her off to work and out the door before she can offer to wash the dishes for him.
She blinks at the door to his apartment for a long moment before beginning the walk to the hospital. Sakura isn't sure what to make of his venture into domesticity, but she figures that since he did breakfast that she's got to think of something to do for supper.
He only ever does breakfast.
"I found her!" Ino carols, bursting through the doors of the staff room at the hospital.
Sakura looks up from where she'd been rubbing her temples. She's just come from a six hour surgery and she's tired, her chakra depleted, and it takes her a long few minutes to figure out who Ino could have found.
In the meantime, Ino places her hands to either side of Sakura's head and, with a glow that's as familiar to Sakura as her name, Ino gets rid of the headache that had been pounding.
"Ino," Sakura says, as her friend feeds energy into her. "You shouldn't be doing that. What if you get called out on a mission?"
Ino shrugs, looking entirely unconcerned. "I'm on sick leave. There's time enough for me to rest."
Sick leave? Sakura looks her over, dredging up the energy to get out of her chair. Ino simply moves with her, still feeding energy. She's better at this aspect than Sakura is, for all that they both know Sakura is the better medic-nin. Sakura privately thinks that the reason Ino is good at sharing her energy is because she shares all the time when it comes to her love and her opinions.
"What's wrong with you?" Sakura asks, as her own tests pull up a few irregularities in Ino's blood.
Ino makes a face as she drops her hands. "It's not very interesting compared to what I came to see you for-,"
"Oh fine, whatever. I keep bleeding, when I'm cut," Ino says, like it's no big deal. "My blood isn't able to coagulate. Hokage-sama is with Shizune-sensei doing tests now to figure out why my fibrin isn't generating properly."
"You've never had problems before," Sakura says, frowning. As far as reasons to be on sick leave go, it's one that doesn't leave her freaking out, but it's not good either. There's so many ways a ninja can get hurt- but there's a number of ways to bleed in the village as well. "Did you get hit with anything?"
"I don't think so?" Ino shrugs. "I could be wrong, of course, but as long as Hokage-sama can figure out how to fix it, it'll work out." The light words belie the uneasy look Ino gives the door.
Sakura can feel her headache starting again. She sits down and this time Ino sits next to her. "You were saying you found her?" Sakura prompts. She's worried about Ino but if her friend is being looked after by two of Sakura's teachers (and one of her own) then she can't think of anything else to do, except be a friend.
Ino is all smiles at the change of subject; she's never liked talking about herself for all that she'll talk about any other subject under the sun. "Rin," she says, "it took me a while but I found her. Do you still want to know? I can guarantee that she's not sleeping with him if that's all you needed to have confirmed."
Sakura bites her lip. Truly, that was the most important thing to know. It's a comfort to have Ino confirm that he wasn't cheating on her- if Ino said it was true, then it was. "He wouldn't like me prying."
Kakashi is a very private person, she knows that.
"How would he find out?" Ino says, leaning back. "And if he does, he's going to go after me first."
"I don't want him to do that either!" Sakura snaps, bristling. "And he shouldn't. I was the one that asked you to."
"I probably would have anyway," Ino said, with a grin that's a bit wicked, a bit dangerous, and Sakura thinks she's seeing shades of what wearing the scarlet spiral has changed in her friend. "If you think I wouldn't have checked out any guy you liked for more than a quick tumble…"
Ino doesn't need to finish her sentence. "Stupid, right." Sakura sighs and figures that if she's in for a senbon, she might as well be in for a kunai. "What did you find out about her then?"
"She's dead." Ino stretches and Sakura sees the bandages on her arm from blood having been drawn. "Rin, I mean. She died a few weeks after the Kyuubi attacked, due to chakra poisoning. Slow death, painful. She was a medic-nin, a prodigy, like you that way. She was way nicer though- everyone who remembers her, loves her."
Sakura arches an eyebrow. "Are you saying I'm not loveable?"
"You're loveable," Ino says, with a laugh. "Like a porcupine. Anyway-probably the most important thing, she was Kakashi's last living teammate. Uchiha Obito died back in the war against Iwa-it's his eye that Kakashi has implanted actually-and the Yondaime died in halting the Kyuubi's attack." Ino twirls a bit of hair around one finger. "Kakashi joined ANBU two days after she died. Everyone expected he did it to die faster while serving his village."
"But he didn't." The words are ashen in her voice. "And he- loved her, I guess?"
Ino just shrugs. "I think so," she says, which means that Ino is sure, but that she doesn't have enough proof to conclusively declare so. "Some say just as a teammate, but they were close." Ino studies her and Sakura can feel herself flushing under the scrutiny. "Does it matter? She died the year we were born. Are you going to compete with a dead woman?"
The question unnerves her.
Hours and hours later, as she's walking home in the twilight, she thinks about Ino's question again. Was she? Was he?
Her answer is the same one she gave Ino back in the staffroom. "I don't know," Sakura murmurs, leaning against the railing of the bridge. "I don't know."
How could anyone compete against that?
Three days later and a lot of chocolate and a whole lot of being both glad and guilty that Kakashi is away on a mission, Sakura decides that she can't compete against Rin. Not for Kakashi's affections, not for anyone's approval, not for anything. It's not like Ino and her, that's a different sort of competition entirely, especially these days.
She sits in her tiny apartment, a blanket around her shoulders, and ostensibly, she's watching one of her favourite soaps. She's paying just enough attention to it to be able to discuss it with Ino and Hinata the next time she sees them, but it's not holding her attention the way it normally does.
It's depressing to think that if there is a competition, then she's already lost.
And, she admits, that if there is one, this is one that she doesn't want a part in. Why should she? Sakura is pretty sure that she loves Kakashi if the horrible twisting feeling in her stomach at the thought of leaving him is any indication and the way that she finds it harder to sleep when he's out of the village.
Sakura toys with her hair, which has been growing longer and she doesn't know, hasn't decided if she wants to cut it yet, and wonders what it is about her that always has her fall in love with the wrong person.
First Sasuke, who she still thinks of now and then with a pang. It wasn't her fault, she knows, and she had said everything she could to keep him with her. But- part of her still wonders why she wasn't good enough.
And now, once again, she's not going to be good enough to compete against the dead.
Kakashi's loved ones died different deaths than Sasuke's, and they've grown past it and around it and through it differently, but it doesn't change the fact that dead is dead.
Or the fact that once more, she's in the middle of it.
Sakura's lips firm. She's not going to cry this time, that much she's grown past. Her mind made up, she gets off the couch and stumbles a little on her way to the kitchen table that she hasn't been using lately.
This isn't fair to Kakashi, she knows, but it's the only thing she can do. If she talks to him, she'll let herself be swayed. Even his friends were concerned about this exact matter because she's like Rin, in a way.
Her eyes fill despite her best efforts and she swallows hard because, yes, she's going to be using this table a whole lot more now. It's the right decision though. Even if it feels a hundred times worse than Sasuke leaving had been.
Maybe that's what it means to be grown up, she thinks, reaching for a pen and a bit of stationary that Hinata had given her a few months ago. Everything hurts more because you understand it more.
And this time, instead of the boy leaving her, she's leaving the man. It takes her five hours to pen a three line note and then, when she's finally got a copy that isn't tear-stained past the reading of it, Sakura calls Ino and asks her to come over in an hour.
Ino doesn't mention the way Sakura is crying as she talks on the phone. For that, Sakura thinks, as she hangs up and gets to her feet, she loves Ino all over again.
It's the worst journey of her life to get from her apartment to Kakashi's. She's got a key to his door, to his chakra seals, and she uses that to let herself in. The apartment is quiet and empty without him and she feels the same sense of loneliness that she always does when in his place.
But there's little dabs of colour here and there. That's new and is her spoon rest that she slipped into his kitchen lies on the stove, a bright splash of yellow flowers in the cold room. The oven mitts she bought him hang on the wall. Red and green with tomato vines on them. So far she's only bought him things for the kitchen. When he cooks breakfast, it makes her feel warm to think of him using the things she's placed in here.
Sakura knows she could stand here for hours and not get anything accomplished. But Ino will be waiting for her and Sakura knows, with the confidence of someone who has known her friend for forever, that Ino will come looking for her if she doesn't show up, after that phone call.
With trembling fingers she sets down the note explaining why she can't be here, why they can't do this any more. And, with another moment of agonizing hesitation, Sakura also sets down the spatula she'd seen last week and bough for him. It's a pale green that looks nice with the yellow of the spoon rest. Her eyes blur as she turns away.
It's another fifteen minutes before she can compose herself enough to reset Kakashi's seals and locks to secure his apartment.
When she gets home, back to her place, and feeling desperately lonely at the thought of being there, Ino is waiting with ice cream. But more important than the ice cream is the hug.
Sakura collapses against Ino, trusting that her oldest, truest friend will take care of her, and cries her heart out.
She can't compete, so she can't stay. It was the right decision.
But it hurts so bad.
It's two weeks before Kakashi gets back from his mission and Sakura is certain that they have been the longest weeks in existence. She's been quiet and pale and has cried eight times over him and sniffled at least thirty more and Ino has all but moved in for the duration of this.
She's grateful for that and part of her loathes the fact that even still, at her age, she needs someone to support her as much as she does. Ino never says a word about how it's a pain though and Sakura can't bring herself to ask Ino to leave.
The only reason she finds out that Kakashi is back is because the Chuunin who take the mission reports tell her. She smiles weakly, because clearly they think it's a good thing to tell her, and excuses herself as quickly as is polite.
She wants to be sick.
The Chuunin told her because they know that Sakura likes to keep an eye on the people she loves. But the Chuunin don't know that Kakashi will be going home to an empty apartment with a note breaking it off.
She imagines him getting in, tired and dirty, (though in her imagination she hopes he isn't injured at all- he has a tendency to hide his injuries and she won't be there to heal them this time), and yet in good humour as he looks around and tries to spot what she's left for him. It won't be hard to find, just sitting out on the table, which will seem a little odd that she hasn't put it in it's place.
And she can imagine him spotting her note, picking it up to read, and going still in that dangerous, empty way that only a shinobi can.
Sakura gets through the rest of her shift with difficulty and, rather than head home, she disappears into one of the parks. If he comes looking for her, she doesn't want to be found. Not yet.
Not until she's sure her resolve won't crumble when he asks her why.
When she heads home, it's past three in the morning, and Ino is wide, wideawake and writing furiously in what has to be a diary. Sakura pauses in the doorway, smiling a little in spite of the way her eyes burn, and has to ask, "I thought you grew out of those years ago?"
Ino looks up, all smug superiority. "This," she declares, "isn't a diary. I know you're thinking it."
Sakura doesn't bother to ask if Ino is talking literally or not- either option is possible with her - and shuts the door behind her. "What is it then? Because that looks a lot like a diary to me."
"It's a journal," Ino says loftily, then adds, "It's for us."
"Us?" Sakura sits down next to Ino on the couch and pulls her legs up under her. "How can a diary be for us?"
"I write in it," Ino replies brightly, with only a wrinkle of her nose to indicate she's noticed that Sakura hasn't changed her terminology for the small book, "and then you get the journal until you've replied or written whatever, and then you give it back to me." Ino pauses for a moment. "But use ink that's not purple. That colour is mine."
Sakura gives Ino a long look. "That is so Academy of you."
"Yeah," Ino admits, and offers Sakura the journal and a pen. Pink, she notes. Academy colours to go with an Academy idea. "But are you going to write in it?"
"You're not telling anyone about this," she says, and takes the journal. And the pen. Why not? She likes pink.
She likes writing in the journal too, as three turns to four, and Ino makes popcorn and turns on an old horror movie to make pithy comments at. It's a comforting, soothing, thing to do. And it gives her a reason to not ask Ino why she's absolutely livid underneath the cheer.
Sakura suspects that it has something to do with Kakashi and doesn't want to know what Ino said, or what hesaid, when he showed up on her doorstep.
She wonders if that makes her a coward.
"You're not writing," Ino sings, leaning over to set the popcorn beside Sakura. "You can do better than that."
There's a hundred million things that Ino means in those words and Sakura finds herself smiling slightly. She doesn't believe it, not deep in her heart, not right now, because she's too busy bleeding to death emotionally to really trust that, but it's nice to hear.
And nicer to realize that Ino means it.
"I know," Sakura says, answering both the overt and the covert meanings in Ino's words all at once, just the way she was taught to in the Academy, and puts a few more words down in the diary. I love you.It's true. "I know."
In her head, she knows she does. That she deserves more than to be a replacement for someone who died years and years ago. Yet a small part of her, her heart, wistfully thinks that it wasn't so bad a relationship, being Rin's replacement for a little while. Not healthy, no, but it had been nice while it lasted. Maybe she'll put that down. It's a secret, but their journal is theirsecret. Maybe it's safe to share that much.
"Good," Ino says, and lobs a bit of popcorn her way.
Sakura eats it, because it's better than letting it go to waste, despite the way it tastes like ashes to her, and keeps writing. Ino seems content with that, and Sakura wishes that everyone she knows were made so easily content. She writes that down too and wonders what Ino will make of it. Of any of it.
And she hopes Ino doesn't mind if Sakura cries over it, just a bit, the pages getting smudged long after Ino has fallen asleep and even the credits on the movie have ended.
She's tired of crying. She just wants to-move on.
Sakura writes that down too.