A/N: MULTICHAPTER WOOP. Please get on my ass if I don't finish this. Please.
It was raining.
The city was a smoky grey, damp and filthy. The yellow pools of light from the streetlamps looked like piss. He opened the window, millimeter by painstaking millimeter—partly to avoid waking anyone else in the apartment, mostly because his broken body screamed in protest with every breath he took.
His skull ached and his vision was spotty, but that had something to do with the lack of oxygen and he couldn't be too careful. Couldn't afford a fuck-up. The breathing in the room was shallow, unconscious.
One last push, and the sliver was wide enough for him to squirm out of. Legs first. He put his feet down as lightly as he could manage, and there was no noise as rubber soles touched the metal of the fire escape.
He breathed in, exhaled, flattened his ribs as much as he could, and slipped out the window with his hands against the sill. His body felt like it was on fire.
He didn't make a sound.
Crouching with his head below the sill, he allowed himself a moment to grimace at the agony coursing through him. His throat was raw, his hip pulsing white-hot; these new injuries in combination with the old, dull ache in his ribs and ankle were almost unbearable.
But only almost.
He didn't have time to indulge in pain any longer.
Silently, he slipped down the fire escape into the alley. His boot splashed in a puddle and he froze, terror clawing at his throat. Any second, the sound would awaken at least one of them and he'd barely have time to breathe before the unconscious body in the master bedroom was discovered and chase was given.
Nothing. No movement, no voices. They were all still asleep, or at least hadn't looked out the window yet, but he couldn't afford to linger. It was only a matter of time.
He took a deep breath, and forced himself to run.
His sense of direction and impeccable memory kicked in, and his feet carried him halfway across the city and up a familiar, imposing driveway before his brain registered where he was. The lawn was immaculately groomed, as it had always been, and the BMW was parked in its usual spot. Nothing out of place, nothing to betray that this was the home of a missing child.
His chest spasmed and his eyes watered, from the physical agony and the sudden vision of his mother's pale, weak face.
The lights were off. It was nearly three in the morning and his father would have work the next day. As always. He sank to the front step and curled up, resting his head on his forearm. He couldn't stay-the throbbing of his rib and ankle reminded him why-but there was a growing part of him that wanted desperately to crawl inside, bury his face in his own pillow, and breathe in the familiar smell of his mother's preferred laundry detergent.
He stayed there, damp from the rain and his own tears, until the noise of someone moving around inside startled him up. He couldn't be seen here. He got up, muddy and hurting, and started to walk again.
There wasn't anywhere left for him to go. No family. No friends. A homeless shelter, maybe, or the police-
He stopped short as a memory popped into his head-an affectionate smile, a stirring in his own gut, sitting quietly in the music room of his private high school long after he was supposed to be home.
He'd memorized the address and directions, just in case, back when he was still a freshman.
"Please be too lazy to deal with selling a house," he whispered to nobody in particular, and broke into a run again.
Well. This was unexpected.
Kakashi stared down into fiery black eyes, taking note of the brilliantly green bruising around one socket and along a haughty cheekbone. Along his arm and up to the hand resting casually on Kakashi's doorframe—Sasuke's knuckles were split. He was favoring one leg, and his breathing was shallow. Cracked rib?
"I'm not going to ask you where you've been," Kakashi said, his voice shockingly even in contrast to the thousand and one thoughts whirling through his head-what had he been doing, who had hurt him; for fuck's sake, why hadn't he called, Kakashi would have come to get him in a heartbeat-
"Good; saves me the trouble of refusing to tell you. Now let me in." Sasuke's voice was a raw, hoarse rasp.
It was three in the goddamned morning, and if it were anyone else he'd be pissed, but Sasuke had gone missing a month and a half ago and Kakashi reminded himself to just be glad to see him breathing. Answers would come later.
But he stayed where he was, lowering his arm so that Sasuke couldn't duck under it. "I thought you were dead, you little-" He pinched the bridge of his nose and forced an exhale. "Shouldn't I be calling your father?"
He wasn't stupid—he knew what the answer was going to be, but that didn't stop his stomach from panging uncomfortably when Sasuke's face went dark and the corner of his torn lip twitched into a humorless smile.
"I'm clearly still alive, but I won't be much longer if you don't move your fossilized ass before I freeze solid."
It wasn't that cold, but it was dark and damp from a recent rainfall and Sasuke wasn't wearing very much—a loose white sweater his collarbones peeked through, blue leggings, and ankle boots. Kakashi was willing to bet he was hungry and exhausted, and probably traumatized from whatever he'd been through, but 'I'm cold' would be as close to admitting any of that as Sasuke could get.
Stoic little shit.
Kakashi stepped aside, closing and locking the door after Sasuke. The back of his neck was nearly blue from cold, or maybe it was the bruising-he couldn't tell and it made his stomach twist. "How did you know where I live?"
Sasuke had rested one hand against the wall in what was clearly meant to be a casual gesture, but his breathing was labored. His expression, though, was as prideful and snotty as ever. "You're in the phone book. Duh."
Now that he was in the light, Kakashi could see that Sasuke's wrists were rubbed raw and his neck was mottled with red. Fresh injuries. The thought that Sasuke had spent the past six weeks being beaten regularly and possibly restrained on top of it made his blood boil, but he kept his face neutral, body language relaxed. He didn't want to startle Sasuke and send him running. At least here, Kakashi could keep an eye on him and make sure he didn't get into any more trouble.
"Epsom salts," he said, inclining his head towards the staircase. "Lower cupboard on the right-hand side. The master bath is through my bedroom—first door on the left at the top of the stairs—and there are clean towels on the heating rack. I'll make some dinner for you once you've warmed up a bit."
Sasuke looked at him for a minute, almost as if he wanted to ask permission. Kakashi kept a neutral smile on his face until Sasuke wrinkled his nose and started climbing the stairs, wet boots squeaking against the wood.
Once he was out of earshot, Kakashi pushed the heel of his hand against his forehead and indulged in a few deep, shaky breaths.
This was going to be a long night.
Peeling off the drenched sweater was like tearing away a layer of his own skin.
Sasuke allowed himself to hiss in pain-he was no longer neck-deep in survival mode, and now that the adrenaline was leaving his system, he was starting to feel how extensive his injuries were. He sat on the closed lid of the toilet to take off his boots, pain shooting up his calf when he pulled on his injured ankle. He bit his tongue around a whimper.
By the time he was finished stripping, the tub was full and steaming. Kakashi had said something about epsom salts under the sink.
The ache that permeated his limbs was almost enough for him to decide that the physical exertion involved in bending down and opening the cupboard wasn't worth it.
"Come on," he grunted to himself. "You've run or walked at least ten miles tonight. Don't be a fucking baby now."
Fingers closed around the box and he forced himself to stand up, eyes watering. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a flash of his own mottled skin in the mirror on the back of the door. He'd made a point of not looking at his reflection until now, but curiosity tugged at the back of his head, just a little stronger than the unease.
He was pale and gaunt, darkly bruised in more places than not. His bones pulled razor-sharp under tightly-stretched, damp skin. The skin under his eyes was smudged deep purple, and his gaze smoldered with unfelt emotion.
He looked tiny, fragile, and terrified.
Eyes lit on the fingerprints around his neck, recalled bony fingers squeezing there until his vision went brown at the edges. His lip was red with dried blood and his cheek was a rainbow of green and blue where he'd smacked face-first against the banister. His hip was swollen-he turned, just slightly, and the angry, scorched flesh came into view.
His stomach clenched violently.
Shaking, he wrenched his eyes away from his reflection, dumped salt into the tub and stepped in on his good leg. The water stung his skin and he sank to his knees, then lay on his back. His hip throbbed fiercely.
The steam muffled his slow, hitching sobs.
Chicken soup simmered on the stove—from a can, Kakashi didn't have the motor skills to make anything from scratch just now when the clock was steadily creeping closer to four—and the lights glowed warmly in the kitchen. Two mugs of chamomile tea sat steeping on the counter, next to an empty bowl and spoon. He'd heard Sasuke drain the water and move around upstairs, and was leaning against the counter with a spoon in hand, keeping the soup hot and making sure it didn't burn against the bottom of the pot.
This was a problem. If Sasuke had run away from home, Kakashi could be considered an accomplice if anyone found out where he was. It was bad enough that he had a boy thirteen years his junior under his roof, worse that he was a student-ex-student.
They'd spent enough time alone in the music room during the past few years to raise eyebrows, to the point where Kakashi had been spoken to about his "attachment". If anyone learned Sasuke was here, it wouldn't be too much of a reach to assume he'd been here the whole time, and that would be-bad. Jail-cell and sex-offender-registry bad. Not to mention what it would do to Sasuke, in his clearly tenuous state.
Then again, Sasuke had never actually been reported missing. There had been a vague letter sent to the school saying something about a family emergency, signed by Fugaku, who Sasuke had admitted was the cause of the bruises on his face—but for six weeks? He'd missed graduation, although he'd technically filled all his requirements sometime in junior year.
Kakashi had to swallow bile at the thought that Fugaku Uchiha could have locked his child away, and tried not to wonder what had happened to make him snap.
But Sasuke could just as easily have been living on the street. Perhaps the split knuckles and handprints around his throat were the result of a scuffle with another bum—he certainly looked like an easy target, so willowy already and walking with a limp on top of it.
There were the marks on his wrists to consider, too. Kakashi had a myriad of toys in a rich walnut dresser that could produce those kinds of marks, but he had the sneaking suspicion that Sasuke's weren't from a bout of kinky sex. If his injuries had been the enjoyable kind, why would he desperate enough to get away from whatever caused them to seek Kakashi out in the middle of the night, the summer he should have graduated if he hadn't been missing-?
"I borrowed your robe."
The voice pulled Kakashi from his musings, and he glanced up to look at the doorway where Sasuke was leaning, wrapped in navy blue terrycloth. Damp, but clean hair stuck to the sides of his face, and he held his clothes in his good hand. He tossed them on the floor, and they landed with a soft flump. "Burn those."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow and turned off the stove, dishing soup into the bowl. He didn't speak—just set the soup and tea down on the island, picked up his own mug, and didn't take his eyes off Sasuke.
It paid off. Sasuke tried to keep his gaze at first, but it wasn't long before he looked at the wall over Kakashi's shoulder. His eyes flicked from the ceiling to the island to the bowl, never landing in one place for too long. With the barest hint of a flush tinting his cheeks pink, he pulled up a stool and sat, staring at his food.
Kakashi took a sip of tea and waited. It was warm and soothing. Sasuke's fingers twitched around the handle of his mug.
"Someone gave them to me," he muttered, finally. "I don't want to think of him anymore."
There were only so many places Kakashi could go with that statement, and all of them made him queasy. He took another sip of tea and averted his gaze from Sasuke, observing out of the corner of his eye that he eased up on the twitching once he was no longer under scrutiny.
The kitchen was quiet but for the sounds of Sasuke spooning soup into his mouth, the soft clink of metal on ceramic and a hint of a slurp. When he was done, he rested the spoon in the bowl and looked expectantly up at Kakashi, chewing on the corner of his lip.
He looked incredibly young and small, tilting his head back to make eye contact and wrapped so loosely in Kakashi's robe it was in danger of slipping off. Kakashi was suddenly and painfully aware of the fact that he hadn't turned eighteen yet.
"I have a guest room upstairs." Kakashi picked up the empty bowl and mug and carried them to the dishwasher, and the sound of the stool scraping backwards told him Sasuke had gotten up. "Let's find you some pajamas to borrow for now, and I'll take you to the mall next week for a new wardrobe."
"Waiting until you can't get in trouble if people think you're my sugar daddy?"
Kakashi froze, then looked over at Sasuke. He didn't look quite so young now, lips smirking and arms crossed over his chest.
"I'm too old for your attitude, you insufferable brat."
Sasuke just snorted, which was the closest he ever really came to laughing. It was good to see he was capable of humor—hadn't been through enough suffering to overwhelm his capacity to cope via distraction, and as coping mechanisms went, it was one of Kakashi's personal favorites.
He stretched, feeling his spine pop into place with an audible crack that made Sasuke flinch. Scratching at his hip, he bent over to pick up the clothes from the floor. "You know what, pilfer the closet in the guest room on your own. I have work in the morning."
Footsteps told Kakashi that Sasuke was following him towards the staircase. He didn't turn around, even though he could feel the gaze burning into his upper back. "Liar. School let out last month."
"Who says I don't have another gig? The mortgage isn't cheap." Kakashi ascended the last few stairs and paused outside his door, arms folded loosely over his chest.
Sasuke stared up at him like a defiant child, though his exhaustion betrayed little hints of stress in the taut line of his mouth and deep circles under his eyes. Kakashi made sure none of the pity and anxiety gnawing at his mind showed in his body language, looked over at the door to the guest room and back at Sasuke without, he hoped, a hint of anything other than mild sternness.
It seemed to work, because Sasuke's lip curled and he made for the door.
Kakashi turned and was about to disappear into his own bedroom when the soft hiss of cloth moving over skin made him glance over his shoulder.
He barely noticed the fact that he was staring at Sasuke's bare ass, mind too busy churning at the angry red finger-marks marring the exposed skin, and the barely-healed burn to the right of his spine. Someone had held him down, hard, and branded him.
The door clicked shut and Kakashi stood in the hall, staring at it for long moments. His bathrobe lay in a dark, forgotten pool on the floor.
He ached everywhere, but kept it to himself. He'd shown more than enough shameful weakness for the night. Once he'd heard Kakashi's door creak, he slid the bathrobe over his shoulders and off—it felt like it was made of iron where it lay against his bruised body—and let it slither to the floor.
It took effort, more effort than he wanted to admit, to make it the few steps into the guest room. His ankle screamed in pain with every step, and it took two tries for him to lift his wrenched arm enough to push the door open. He didn't bother turning around to shut it-just leaned against it and backed up.
The click of it closing was deafening in the darkness of the room, against the pounding of Sasuke's head. He stayed against the door for a minute, breath coming in labored pants. He wanted to curl up and sleep, have five fucking seconds of respite from the physical ache and the racing of his mind, but he knew that as soon as he tried to rest, the thoughts and memories would take over.
Fire and hot metal and icy gold eyes, limp black hair like an oil slick spreading over his chest. The pattern of the ceiling, and the crack of a skull against a headboard. Warm spittle from a mouth no longer cruelly grinning.
"Fuck you," Sasuke muttered, pushing off from the door and limping over to the bed. He was too tired to look for pajamas. "With an iron brand."
His hip twinged.
A few more steps and he made it to the bed, which was its own obstacle—trying to maneuver himself onto the mattress while putting the least pressure possible on the worst of his injuries. His rib was probably broken, and his ankle too, from the feel of it. The thought crossed his mind that he should probably see a doctor; get an air cast at the very least, and make sure nothing was healing incorrectly.
He pillowed his head on his good arm and his cheek flared with pain. He recalled toppling down the front staircase in his father's house, cracking his head on the banister and thinking he was going break his neck and die there for a few terrifying seconds.
Calling a doctor wasn't an option. Doctors asked questions and he was sure his father had removed him from his health insurance. The payment would be impossible.
"Fuck you too, old man."
After forty minutes of staring at the alarm clock and watching the numbers move, mind racing, it took everything he had not call out.
He didn't even have to get up-he knew Kakashi would come running. Wouldn't touch him-never touched him-but like so many other times, would sit with him, make sure he at least wasn't alone.
He took in breath to shout, but the movement stung his raw vocal chords and he remembered he was soiled, now. Used up and worthless.
Sasuke didn't sleep until the room had turned pale, watery blue with impending sunrise. His eyes burned, dry.