Title: Thaw
Author: Killaurey
Rating: T
Word Count: 2,195
Summary: He'd gotten lost and every morning, life went on without him. KakaSaku.
Disclaimer: Naruto doesn't belong to me. It's Kishimoto's and I just play with it.

The only light came from what little managed to filter through the curtains. The moon was long gone and the stars were dim. In an hour the sun would begin to rise.

Sakura watched the rise and fall of Kakashi's chest quietly. She wasn't sure what had woken her but she couldn't find the energy to object. Not when she was so content. Leaning forward, Sakura rested her head against Kakashi's bare chest. Their limbs were entangled in the blankets, twined together and she sighed, beginning the long slide back to sleep.

He snaked an arm around her waist just before she dropped off.

She laughed softly, drowsily. "I thought you were asleep."

His laugh was a low rumble. Felt more than heard. A delighted shiver worked down her spine.

"I'm going to sleep," she told him, her voice brimming with false indignation at his amusement. She tried to roll over.

His strong arms stopped her and pulled her closer. His voice was a low, dark whisper in her ear. His caress an enticement.

Sakura shivered again and tilted her head for a kiss.

He obliged.

Light, harsh and bright filled her eyes. Sakura woke up, her alarm bleeping and the sun streaming through her window.

Heaviness filled her.

She was the only one in bed.

Sakura blinked hard and forced herself up out of their bed, one hand dashing away the usual sprinkle of tears. Every morning was the same.

Every morning, life went on without him.

And every night… she dreamed.

Her lunch breaks before-before-had always been used to catch up on paperwork at the hospital or to hang out with her friends and catch up on their gossip and lives. Now Sakura found that, without really ever making a conscious decision to do so, she spent them at the stone where his name, like so many others, was now engraved.

It was a poor comfort.

Some days, when it was particularly hard to be there, she wondered, marvelled, at the fact that he'd spent hours upon hours here, every chance he could, mourning for those who'd gone. Sakura found she could barely tolerate forty-five minutes at a time.

The stone had his name. It didn't have anything else. Everything that had made him was kept in her memories rather than on a rock.

And yet, unwillingly, her feet dragged her back every lunch hour, without fail.

Sakura sat, her legs dangling, on their kitchen table. She remembered the first time they'd had sex on it. The first time she'd pinned him up against that wall, over there. The first time he'd done the same to her.

She remembered breakfasts and lunches and suppers at the table she sat on. Burnt meals and ones that turned out unexpectedly well-they'd struggled to master the art of cooking together. She'd sung along to the radio, which sat silently now, and he'd laughed at her singing voice until she'd smacked him.

(And they'd done the same thing the next day and the next.)

She stood in what Kakashi had scoffingly called their junk room and studied what was there. He was right, she thought, because there were things that should have been thrown out, and things that had never been used, and stuff they'd nowhere else to put yet.

It was all in boxes, neatly labelled. Like they'd planned to do something with it all and just... hadn't gotten around to it.

Sakura opened one of the boxes at random and stared down at a tiny set of booties for a long moment before what she saw really registered. She closed the box quickly, with a gasp, and shoved it away, spinning to put her back to it. Her shoulders quaked with ruthlessly suppressed tears.

No, they hadn't gotten around to all of it.

Her mother had bought her the booties as a hint that she wanted grandchildren. Sakura had laughed and rolled her eyes with Kakashi and then, over time, they'd found themselves talking about it a little more seriously. Between her jobs and his it would have been hard.

Sakura felt cheated that they'd never got to try.

She left the room as it was. Maybe the dreams in it were no longer theirs-couldn't be, when he was gone-but she couldn't bear to throw them out.

Those dreams had meant everything to them.

She'd let them stay in the room a little longer.

It had just been a regular mission gone wrong and Sakura knew that. That didn't change the fact that once or twice a month, she'd leave her desk and go to access Tsunade-shishou's files just to make sure what the mission had been about.

It was horrible and peculiarly soothing all at the same time to read (and then reread) the scrolls that coldly detailed what his job had been. The black ink and then the red stamp saying the mission had failed, please see mission-the number was blurred-for more details.

She didn't need to know the number. She knows it off by heart.

Her clearance meant that if she got caught looking through the files, she wouldn't be in trouble. Nonetheless, Sakura utilized every skill she'd ever been taught to avoid getting caught anyway. As a matter of principal, she wasa kunoichi after all, and because-because she couldn't bear to see their expressions of pity.

Sometimes, though, Tsunade-shishou looked at her like she knew. The understanding in her mentor's gaze cut her like a knife.

Being a ninja, she thought, meant pain.

They'd never managed to teach that in the Academy.

Spring melted into summer and then summer faded into autumn. Then the winter winds came and for the first time in ten years, Konoha found itself buried under snow.

Genin missions were almost exclusively to dig out the village while Chuunin and Jounin alike took turns making sure that everyone was surviving.

Sakura found herself spending more and more time at work-everyone had to-and, now that it wasn't because their apartment was too quiet; she hadn't turned on the radio since he'd… gone, she didn't begrudge the village her time.

It felt good to work tirelessly see the smiles on other peoples' faces as she brought relief to them. To rescue people whose houses had collapsed under the weight of the snow. To shore up immune systems so that those who were most at risk had a fighting chance.

The wind bit and stung at her skin. Left her achy and wind burned and chapped and Sakura welcomed it.

It was cold and it got colder.

Sakura thought it peculiarly fitting that it was as cold outside, now, as she'd felt inside for most of a year.

"Oh come on," Ino said one snowy, frigid day. "Sakura, seriously, you should get out at least a little."

Behind the brisk, careless words Sakura could hear the concern in Ino's voice. Sakura refused to look up from her paperwork. "I have things to do," she said vaguely.

She couldn't find the words to explain how she'd been spending her time lately. Time passed and she passed with it, surrounded in a bubble that kept things from hurting too much. Life went on. She was doing her best.

"That's crap," Ino said, then fell silent.

Sakura frowned as she waited for Ino to go on. Ino never gave up that easily. "Why is it crap?" Sakura asked, finally. She couldn't say if she felt curious or not but Ino... Ino wasn't talking.

"Never mind," Ino said airily. "Look, I've got to go. Take care, we'll have that movie night some other night, and you-try to smile a little, okay?"

Then Ino was gone, the door echoing with the slam Ino had shut it with.

Sakura tried to decide if she ought to follow her. Ino was excitable. What had gotten her attention so thoroughly?

The question stirred inside of her and then fell asleep again.

Not asleep, she thought, because dreams were pleasant. This was just another day to get through.

The long winter, as everyone called it, carried on through April and then, horrifically, into May.

But, like everything else, eventually it had to go and spring arrived quietly, almost overnight.

Sakura found herself, amidst the mud and the melting snow and the first green shoots of the new year, sitting out on their balcony and watching the village. The village had survived.

The ache in her heart was still there.

She thought bitterly that while winter had left everyone else, it still had her held tight.

For a moment she indulged in pretending Kakashi was there, with his arms wrapped around her waist, his chin resting on her head, as they both watched the village.

They'd done that often, once upon a time.

A month went by and Sakura found herself at the stone more and more often. She never spoke to it. Some days she just crossed her chest and seethed over how it wasn't fair-hadn't she given up enough of her team?

More often, though, she just watched the stone and tried to figure out how he'd been comforted by doing the same.

It only made her feel worse.

But she kept going. It was like she was tracing a line he'd drawn and she couldn't, wouldn't, stop herself from doing that.

Her clock showed the time to be just after two in the morning. Sakura blinked at it and tried not to feel cheated that something had woken her up and away from him.

She moaned and buried her head in the pillow. It no longer smelled like him. Now it was just the scent their detergent that lingered in her nose.

Noise rattled in her ears and Sakura sat up. Someone was knocking on her door and that-that was never a good thing. The last time it had happened had been when they'd given her the news about him.

Hoping it wasn't someone else… gone, Sakura scrambled out of their bed and into clothing with speeds only a Jounin could attain. Her hair was a mess and she ignored that as she tied it back with a hitae-ate. An emergency couldn't wait for her to brush her hair.

She stumbled out of their room, down the hall, through the kitchen and pulled open the door.

Ino and Naruto stood there, looking pleased with themselves. "Forehead," Ino said, beaming inexplicably as the same time that Naruto said, "Sakura-chan!"

Sakura slumped against the door frame and rubbed at her eyes. "Pig, Naruto," she said conversationally, "do you know how late it is?"

The two of them exchanged a long glance.

Naruto rubbed his hair, tousling it badly. "Well, Sakura-chan," he said, "we thought it better to disturb you now than wait until later."

Sakura arched one eyebrow and let that speak for her.

"We've got a special delivery," Ino told her earnestly. "And you would not believe the crap we went through to get it."

Naruto muttered something that sounded a lot like 'no kidding'.

Sakura fought the urge to yawn. She was so tired. She hadn't slept well in what felt like forever.

"Oh whatever," Ino said. "I guess our work doesn't really matter."

"Hey," Naruto said, glancing over his shoulder. "You going to stand there all night?"

As he, Kakashi, stepped forward, Sakura knew she was dreaming still. It had to be another cruel spin on something she'd hoped for.

She stared up at him.

He stared back at her.

"...Do you think they're going to kiss, Ino-chan?"

Not even the sound of a smack and Naruto's accompanying yelp dragged Sakura's attention away from Kakashi.

"We'll just, uh- go," Ino said. "You can thank us later."

"Whaaat? I don't want to go!"

"You're going!"

There was the sound of another smack and then... and then it was only them. He looked tired, she noted. His hair was longer. His smile, through the mask, was the same. His chakra, solid and unfakeable against her senses rippled. "Yo," he said, placing a world's worth of meaning in the word.

"Welcome home," she said, stepping back from the door.

He stepped in.

She shut the door.

"I... got lost," he said apologetically.

Sakura laughed shortly, her eyes welling up. "On the road of life?" she asked, choking the words out.

"No," he said, his hands warm on her shoulders. His voice was soft against her ears. "It's not life without you."

She kissed him, let herself feel the strength in his body as he supported her. He was too thin. They'd fix that.

If he was real, she thought, and not just a dream.

Gentle sunlight filled her eyes as birds chirped outside the window and her alarm bleeped merrily.

An arm rested around her waist.

He was there. Exactly where he was supposed to be.

Sakura blinked hard and forced herself up out of their bed, and dashed away tears with one hand. It had been a week since he'd returned.

Every morning, life went on with him.

And winter let her go.

Thanks for reading this quick little piece! I hope you enjoyed it!