Chapter 4 - Rest
Kakashi couldn't remember a woman ever being on the back of his motorcycle, nails digging into his chest as he weaved through the streets. Normally, he'd use the BMW when taking women anywhere. On the satisfying Wednesday nights he found himself straying into the Coffee Shop amid the scent of cinnamon and warm coffee, he'd never even remotely imagined the young waitress - and Tsunade's granddaughter - would ever be on it either.
"I don't understand," Sakura managed, her tired green eyes scanning the dark brick and the stunning half-moon windows that encircled the top floor of the building. "I thought we just left your place?"
The birds were making riotous noise above, and the air was crisp and clean. Cars revved and moved around the streets, beginning the day's business endeavors. No people yelled, no buses screeched their brakes, and no L train broke the dawn.
Tightening his smile so Kakashi didn't earn himself another punch in the mouth, he replied calmly, "That's the place I watch you. This apartment is mine."
Sakura's brow twitched tighter momentarily, and then her gaze rose again to traverse Kakashi's building before taking in all the other buildings nearby. Her pretty mouth opened just a little in awe.
Kakashi imagined a struggling medical student wouldn't frequent the uptown business district. The buildings were perfectly neat and all proud without anything falling off or rusting. The streets were embarrassingly clean, and money flowed like a river of opportunity tinted oftentimes with corruption – though it was packaged much nicer there. Men in business suits and women in their heels with black portfolios would fly along the streets at a whirlwind pace. Kakashi never found himself envying that crowd as his disposition was much too much on the calm and lazy side of the spectrum. An office job might very well kill him had he needed to be chained to the desk day in and day out.
Of course, his current occupation had a better chance of killing him so it was a slow death or a quick one at that. Realistically, if he had to choose, a quick death was more appealing to the humdrum world of papercuts and laptops.
Inhaling the clean air, Kakashi rubbed at his sore shoulder, his weak fingers straining at the throbbing, nagging pain. The ride had been hard, especially with the effort to squeeze the clutch. Shoots of pain from the hot area below the bloodied hole in his jacket sleeve worried him that she was right to be wary of infection. But there was no time to be concerned about trivial matters like that. It could wait. It could always wait.
"Let's get inside. It's cold this morning," he said absently, glancing around the street and then letting his dark eyes trace the intricate wrought iron fence that guarded the building. His late father, Sakumo, had commissioned a local artist to design that fence. Each time Kakashi drove up to it now on his motorcycle, he would recall the days when an eccentric young iron worker would come and painstakingly slave on it until it was perfect. As a child, unaware of its value, Kakashi would tap his cricket bat along it to enjoy the hollow clacks it made.
Sakura breathed out, working at swinging her shaking leg over the seat to feel the hard cement beneath her unsure toes. Her hands strained down the ruined blue dress, all blood spattered and torn in two places. And just to add insult to injury, somewhere along the way she'd had a button pop off just below her bra-line. Had she not been beside herself with fatigue and with pain and with fear, she might have cursed once or twice. As it stood now, she could barely see straight so indignation would have to wait.
Kakashi grabbed up the helmet from where she had set it on the smooth black seat and tipped his chin to indicate that she should follow.
Sakura hobbled on her sore feet as she tagged along behind him toward an intricate stained-glass entryway. To the right, fat silver letters on the wall read four hundred and sixteen. The dark brick ran up the building in perfectly straight, unmarred lines, nestling around the large art-deco style windows that gleamed with the coming morning light. No fire escapes clawed at the edge of the building and she was curious to see where such an elegant front entrance could lead to. Perhaps he owned two or three of those beautiful windows overlooking the city or even the river.
Yet another keypad greeted them and Kakashi punched in a series of numbers so quickly, Sakura hardly saw his fingers move. A hum and a snap seemed to shake the thick etched glass door and Kakashi quickly pulled it open and held it for her.
Once inside though, Sakura was way out of her element with the posh surroundings that lead the eye to the oak-panelled elevator doors at the other end. Cream-coloured walls ran the expanse of the hallway, and art hung every few feet with lacquered wood frames and small silver plates with artist name, painting name and the year printed in elegant script below.
Kakashi's shoes tapped softly on the marble floor and it was the only sound she could hear apart from the soft breath of the air conditioning. He'd jammed a hand back in his pocket while dangling the helmet with the other, and Sakura noted he looked at ease with everything as he sauntered along, even after almost taking another bullet or two in the last few hours.
How could he be so desensitized to it all? Maybe it was the same way that blood and guts didn't bother a med student like her? Maybe he was so used to the violence and danger that he could put it away as if it were a thing he could stuff in a pocket and pull out when needed. What had his life been like? In a world of guns and killing and fast cars and danger, how could someone look so nonchalant, be so unfazed by the violence?
Her mouth hung open as she marvelled at him.
Kakashi pressed the glowing button beside the elevator and turned around to watch her make the last three steps to join him in front of the doors. When they opened, he ushered her in with a gentle hand on her arm and pressed the top button on the panel.
Mirrors surrounded them and Sakura closed her eyes and leaned against one, balancing an elbow on the wooden hand rail that framed the entire inside. The idea that she'd stepped into another dimension played with her sense of normalcy, and she lacked the heart to look fully at herself. From the corner of her eye, she could see the tattered blue uniform draped on her slack body. Like a ragdoll she stood there with her bleeding bare feet and her messy hair. But Kakashi looked like the picture of casual indifference. His hair always looked slightly mussed and stylish, so the excitement had done nothing to it he couldn't have done with a hand. His tie was loose, and his shirt was unbuttoned by two, but he looked mostly normal – that is, except for the dried blood down his jacket.
So far, everything from the sidewalk and wrought iron, to the perfect marble floor inside the elevator had been surreal, but when the elevator doors opened with a metallic breath onto the room at the top of the three-story building, she couldn't stop herself from whispering, "Wow."
Standing in a large space between a short wall and a large closet, Sakura leaned forward to have a proper look. A large suite that had to be as big as the cafeteria at the university spread far out like an elegant warehouse filled with perfect furniture. High ceilings scoped the entirety of the giant room, and soft glowing pot-lights began to turn on in sections by nothing that she or Kakashi had done except to just walk into the room.
Kakashi urged her in gently, and she broke out of her staggering awe to enjoy the tingle that his warm, strong hand left on the small of her back. She glanced up at him, and he smiled – but not happily.
A soft wood floor stretched out under her feet and she sighed a little because even pained, her toes could appreciate the buttery smoothness beneath them. And while she stood there taking in the one red-brown brick wall filled with those half-circle windows and the large, soft, brown leather furniture and accents, Kakashi was playing with a high-tech touch screen next to the elevator doors on the wall. It made small noises as his long fingers tapped on it.
The kitchen was at one end of the apartment, all dark wood cupboards, silver handles and shiny black granite countertops. A long island separated the living area from the kitchen area with backless stools. Two sets of double doors stood at the opposite end, same wood as the elevator, shut for now, and provoking a small bit of curiosity.
The luxurious brown leather couch was calling to her to come and lie down, and she took a few steps toward it while anticipating how good it would feel to sink into the plush cushions. The furniture was set up so that if she sat there, she could look out onto the skyline of the city with the glimmering river beyond it.
"Are you hungry or just tired?" Kakashi queried as he slid the wood panel back over his security system to see the dishevelled waitress stumbling toward his living area.
She looked drained and broken, he thought. It was his job to keep her safe, and now she looked like she'd been through a war zone and back in bare feet.
"I'm everything," Sakura mumbled, her weary eyes conveying how hard she was trying to keep it together. Her hands were visibly shaking still.
Kakashi took off his shoes and trailed over, placing his hands lightly on her shoulders. "Why don't you get cleaned up and I'll get some food."
Sakura closed her eyes and shivered in his strong hands. His voice was so gentle and relaxing. The deep tone of it reminded her of when she'd lain awake in bed for hours imagining him speaking to her that same night they'd slid into that small dark closet. His touch was still so easy to remember, making her recall her desire. God, how she needed some comfort.
Almost half that night, she'd imagined him doing things to her, saying soft words in her ear and making love to her better than anyone ever had. She'd had r-rated dreams of him for two nights after. How everything shifted to what it was now seemed almost ridiculous. In all her imagination about what it would be like to be with him, she never even fathomed that he would be a man who would save her life – twice.
That erotic moment in the broom closet seemed a lifetime ago.
With no resistance, Kakashi steered Sakura toward the large oak double doors at the back, opening one to lead her through into a dark room. The lights flicked on and Sakura gazed upon a large bedroom, complete with a king-sized bed which was covered in the most enticingly soft chocolate duvet she'd ever had the imagination to conjure. It appeared as though if she were to lie down on it, she might sink right in.
A sleek mahogany cabinet, floor to ceiling, was built into the cream-coloured wall beyond the foot of the bed. A plush looking brown chair big enough for two sat at the other end of the room near a large bookshelf. There were no windows in the bedroom at all.
Taking her by the wrist, Kakashi continued on to another set of doors at the far end which opened up on a ridiculously huge bathroom with a glass walk-in shower, a long black marble vanity and a giant soaker tub. The tub itself was purposely perched under one of those huge round windows.
"Am I dead?" she mumbled, turning her wide green eyes up to his.
"It's a bit grotesque," he scoffed, "but it'll do."
"It's unbelievable," she whispered as she watched him sweep around her to open a cupboard and pull out a large white towel.
"Take your time and I'll get us some food," he added, shoving the fluffy cotton into her hands. "There's a medical kit in the bottom of the cupboard if you need it." He pointed to the door from where he'd just pulled the towel. "Everything else is in the top cupboard or the shower tray. New toothbrushes are in the drawer."
Sakura's unfocused eyes tried to find his, but he was already turning to leave. He walked out silently, but left the bathroom door open behind him.
With an almost desperate desire to get clean, Sakura inched closer the large shower, but changed her mind and opted for the enormous tub at the end. She turned on the water and it flooded out like a river from a tap that looked like a small waterfall. With some effort, she sat on the edge and swung her legs into the enormous bath, and then put her hands under the tap to let it splash her aching feet while warming her fingers.
But after minutes of quiet contemplation, Sakura absently fixated on the idea of drowning herself in the hot water. She stared at the reflection of herself in the fat silver tap. An unrecognizable woman stared back with pale skin, dishevelled pink hair, and the stain of smeared make-up rimming her tired green eyes. Spatters and trails of blood marked her powder-blue uniform, and she rubbed a hand roughly over it and then worked at her hair with shaking fingers. Dirt caked her legs here and there, and her skin felt tight and rough.
She was an utter mess.
Be it the fatigue or the sight of herself lost and frightened, she couldn't stop the tears as they burned her eyes and dropped on her knees.
Riding on the back of Kakashi's motorcycle, she had promised herself she'd be strong and get through this, but the inevitable moment of falling apart grabbed her without warning.
"…eggs, butter, cheese, bread and a baguette as well," Kakashi muttered into his cordless phone as he unlatched the liquor cabinet and pulled out two glasses and a full bottle of Crown Royal. The voice on the other end uttered some random amount and Kakashi responded coolly with, "Put it on my account."
"Of course. Very good, Mr. Hatake," the man said congenially, and then hung up.
For a good twenty minutes after the call, Kakashi lazed, exhausted, on one of his chairs, his head lying heavily on the back of the soft leather. His destroyed jacket lay on the countertop and he hadn't even had the strength to take off his poorly tied tie. It took everything he had to stay awake as he sipped at the smooth rye and rubbed at his shoulder.
The security bell sounded once pulling Kakashi from his hazy thoughts so he begrudgingly rose and then rode the elevator down to retrieve the food he'd ordered from the early market. On the ride back up, he had to put his hand on the mirror to steady his tired body so he wouldn't fall over. Fatigue was setting in so heavily that it was like a tight spring around his chest and legs, threatening to drop him where he stood.
When he finally put the bag down on his counter-top, he realized that his young companion had not yet emerged from the shower. It had been at least a half an hour since he'd handed her the towel - even with the most diligent of women, she had to be nearly finished by now.
Grabbing up his glass of whiskey from the counter, Kakashi walked calmly through the bedroom to where he'd left the door open to the bathroom. Although he expected to see her struggling with everything that was turning her life upside down, he didn't expect to find her the way he did.
The water in the tub ran hot and a little bit of steam filled the room. A thin film of condensation coated the mirror and the glass walls of the shower.
Sakura was sitting in the tub, though not herself. The small bit of strength and perseverance she'd shown at the last apartment with that smooth right hook to his chin seemed to have drained out of her. As he neared the back of the bathroom, he stepped around her rumpled garments on the floor and stopped just at the short step up into the tub. He placed his drink on the vanity.
Shivering, even though the water was hot, Sakura was slumped over her knees with her legs curled up against her front, her hands clenched together around her legs so tightly, her knuckles were turning pale.
The skin on her chest and arms where the hot water met the air was an angry red from the burning heat. She was half submerged - her long pink hair was wet, hanging down her back and shoulders like thick twisted branches. Her green eyes peered up at him over her knees and he could see the black marks from her mascara as it trickled down her face among the droplets and her tears.
He could see how much he failed her. Maybe the moment they mentioned they knew about her, he should have extracted her, taken her somewhere to hide. He supposed that no matter what he did, somehow her life would get thrown apart like it was now. Up to this moment, she had been fairly resilient. But it was inevitable that it would catch up to her.
Lifting both hands with a little effort on the part of his left, Kakashi began to pull the end out of his tie with smooth tugs until it came apart. As he moved to take it off, her green eyes followed what he was doing. Slowly, Kakashi slid the tie away, the shift of it through his collar tickling the back of his neck. He snapped it away from his shirt and dropped it on the floor next to her stained uniform and the telltale cotton of white panties just underneath that. Next, his strong fingers went to the small buttons of his shirt, feeling the effort in his pained arm as he undid one at a time, moving further and further down until he had the shirt completely open.
A second to hesitate came upon Kakashi, worrying she might misread his actions, but there was no time for that now. Pulling the shirt from his sinewy shoulders, Kakashi dropped it to the floor also and sat down on the edge of the tub.
Sakura's eyes were still trained on him, wide and unnaturally timid. He didn't like that look: frightened, rimmed in red and bloodshot.
"What can I do?" he asked, feeling helpless. There was nothing comforting or consoling in a man like him. He couldn't relate. Fear for him was a sensation that increased his focus, pumped adrenaline to his limbs and brain to make them sharper and stronger. In all his years of training and missions, seeing his friends die, nothing had ever unravelled him to the point he was incapacitated in a stranger's bathtub. He'd mastered that part of himself years ago. It was nothing now.
"They're going to kill me, aren't they," Sakura breathed against her legs, the sound of her voice hollow and quiet against the blast of the water. She reached for the washcloth on the edge of the tub and pressed it to her eyes, wiping away some of the mascara and the tears that were slipping out again.
"They don't want to kill you. They want to use you. You're no good to anyone if you're dead," Kakashi tried to commiserate, but lacked enough compassion. "They want to get to Tsunade through you."
"When they do, they won't need me anymore," she whispered.
"Sakura…" Kakashi said quietly, running his fingertips over her knees to spread the droplets that had found resting places on her perfect skin. "I won't let anything happen to you."
"What can you do?" she said with a jagged sigh, letting her head fall back to the headrest of the bath as her eyes followed some droplets streaming down the condensation filled window.
"I think you need a drink," he said quietly.
Sakura's head lifted again and she stared at him over her knees, her words shaky as her jaw trembled. "You need a better crutch," she hitched out.
Kakashi laughed softly. "Perhaps."
A moment stretched out between them as the water soaked through his pants and dampened his skin.
Sakura's eyes wandered his strong shoulders, hard and lean. His torso was slender and firm, like a model. Feeling emboldened by impending death, she stretched out her hand to touch a thick scar on his left side. Slowly, the tip of her finger traced bumpy skin that looked like a small hole.
This time when she met his eyes, there was something else in them. Those lovely slate eyes watched her with the same intensity she'd seen on his face a few times before. It held a promise of something she might have wanted from him long ago before the chaos.
Kakashi sensed the shift in the dynamic from placation and consolation to desire. It wasn't hard to put himself in that mode as her lithe body was wet and naked, and she was looking up at him with such vulnerability; it would be only too easy to take her to bed and comfort her the only way he knew how. Instead of making things more difficult, he put his hand on the bath handle and turned it off. Silence seemed to fill the room so completely with just the drip drip drip of the last droplets from the elegant faucet.
Almost immediately, Sakura began to shiver more and Kakashi found he was getting cold as well. So doing the obvious thing, he grabbed the towel from the rack next to the bath and returned to hold it out for her.
Sakura allowed him to help her up, his hand tightening on her as it slid around her naked waist while his other hand brought the towel around her. She imagined he believed she was ready to fall over. Maybe she was. Maybe she could curl back up somewhere and never move again. Her limbs ached, body weak, head was slow and muddled.
As they passed the cupboard, he grabbed another towel and dabbed it over his face and body. He pulled off his socks and tossed them into the pile of clothes before sliding an arm around her shoulders and walking her out into the bedroom.
"Dry off and I'll be right back," Kakashi instructed. Taking his own towel, he wandered over to the dresser and pulled out something black and went back into the bathroom.
Sakura took a long slow breath as she awkwardly dried herself, finding the air intensely cold. When she was satisfied that her body was dry, she rubbed the towel through her hair, squeezed out the water and then wrapped it up. She probably should have asked first, but the large bed was so soft and warm looking that she couldn't stop herself from hobbling on her sore feet to the edge and sliding into the crisp cotton sheets. The weight of the duvet felt glorious on her limbs and she sunk in, feeling the immediate desire to close her eyes and lose the real world for a while.
After quickly showering, rewrapping his arm, drying off and dressing in the bathroom, Kakashi ambled out to find Sakura had crawled into his bed. He couldn't blame her at all. They were more than exhausted. Her eyes were closed, her breathing steady and her body wasn't shaking anymore. It was a good sign. He himself had felt the wash of warmth from the three glasses of whiskey he'd downed in addition to the couple at the other apartment so it would be a while before he felt desperate need to get back on track in protecting them both.
Unsure if it was the right thing to do, Kakashi pulled the covers back, crawled over the edge of the bed and lay down next to Sakura; her glassy green eyes opened up to look at him.
"I'm sorry. I should have asked," she whispered.
"It's fine," he said gently. "I assumed you'd end up here. Try to get some sleep and we'll talk about the next part later."
She nodded a little and rolled over to face him.
He stared at her pink lips. He always liked her lips. They were smooth and perfect in the amber light of the room. Her half lidded eyes traced his face, waiting for an indication of emotion from him. She seemed to be on tenterhooks and he began to wonder if she knew what that sort of gaze did to him.
Unable to stop himself, Kakashi brought up a hand and put his thumb on her bottom lip, pressing just a little.
"Will you kiss me, Kakashi?" she said quietly as his thumb traced over her lip to then brush her jaw line.
For a moment he hesitated, watching her shift a little so that the towel unravelled and fell away from her long damp hair. The loose strands fell around her face like a pink frame, wavy and thick. Her green eyes looked stark between the pink curtain as she peered up at him.
"Probably not a good idea," he whispered, but leaned forward anyway.
Sakura leaned into him, the heat of one of his rough hands slid up her bare arm over the covers before his mouth brushed over hers. Kakashi worked the blanket over himself so they were both underneath. The warmth of his body seemed to radiate to her skin and she slid as close as she could while he pressed his mouth to hers. At first it was light and calm, no rush like in the coffee shop.
Sakura could smell cologne, feel the butterflies jump in her stomach and tingles of desire crawl over her naked skin. His arm slid around her, fingers splayed out over the tight muscles and the curve of her lower spine. It was like she imagined a hundred times over during the nights since the closet.
She hummed softly, enjoying the sensation of him against her, the wonderful rich feelings and the need erasing the fear from her memory for just a little while.
When his mouth parted and he matured the kiss, she was completely taken. Each sweep of his tongue, each slide of his fingers and movement of his lips kept her mind on him and him only.
For a long time, he just kissed her. Sakura's eyes were tired and remained closed but she fought it all the way. Kakashi slid down a little to press gentle kisses along her throat and collarbone and she ran her fingers though his hair and sighed softly.
But each kiss was slower, each movement filled with less effort. The adrenaline laden hours before had taken its toll on both of them and as Sakura's breathing grew heavy, Kakashi laid his head down on the pillow next to her and closed his eyes as well.
Revised November 2015