"Tsunade-shishou." Sakura called as she knocked on the door of Tsunade's office.
"Come in." Tsunade replied, voice even and free of any indication that she was drunk again, much to Sakura's relief. This conversation required seriousness.
"Tsunade-shishou." Sakura greeted with a nod of her head as she made her way to the Hokage's desk.
"What is it?" Tsunade replied, apparently in a foul mood already so early in the morning.
"I wanted to speak to you about Kakashi-senpai," Sakura demanded, standing as straight as she could while images of Kakashi's bloody return danced in her mind, still fresh.
"Of course you would," Tsunade mumbled as she placed the reports back on the desk, looking up at Sakura for the first time. Even if Tsunade's tone was rough, Sakura could still see worry flashing in her honey eyes. "What did you want to ask me?"
"Why did he go back to ANBU?" Sakura asked, hiding none of her worry and fear.
"I don't know," came Tsunade's simple answer as she looked out the window, leaning her cheek in her palm.
"Didn't you ask him before accepting his request?" Sakura inquired as she stepped closer to the desk, gripping the end of it with her small hands.
"No, it was none of my business," Tsunade replied with a sigh, raking her hand through her bangs. "He's a great asset to ANBU and that is all I considered before accepting."
Sakura knew that duty came before anything else for them, for shinobi, but she couldn't accept it when it came to Kakashi. He was all she had left.
"I know it's not easy for you, Sakura." Tsunade let out, snapping Sakura out of her thoughts. "But I won't interfere with his choice."
"Then I'll join ANBU," Sakura demanded as she looked up at Tsunade, eyes glimmering with a newfound determination. If Kakashi was throwing his life away to ANBU, then she was left with a single option. "Let me be his medic on any ANBU mission he is assigned to."
"What?" Tsunade burst out, blinking rapidly. "Are you crazy, girl?!"
"I don't care," Sakura said, her eyes challenging Tsunade. "You said you wouldn't interfere with Kakashi-senpai's choice, so let me make my own."
Tsunade scowled as she plopped down in her chair, closing her eyes when she returned her cheek to her palm. "Fine."
When Sakura stayed rooted to the spot, Tsunade spoke again, "You can go now, I'll do the necessary paperwork and call you when we have to tattoo you."
"Thank you, Tsunade-shishou." Sakura whispered.
"Don't thank me for that."
Chapter Fourteen: And Submit to You
Sakura woke to the sound of a door clicking shut. Out of all the doors to click shut, she recognized this one in a heartbeat. The hospital's doors had always had a particular way of clicking shut. It was a slow, drawn out click. Not one of those quick clicks from any other building where they actually bothered to oil the hinges to keep the doors closing smoothly. That wasn't in the hospital's budget, they'd said.
Someone sat in the chair besides her.
Sakura only wanted to go back to sleep; if she fell asleep right now, maybe she had a chance at finishing her dream and find out how her wedding ended.
"Sakura," he called. "Are you awake?"
Well, that was one question answered. Kakashi was at the one place where she would never think to find him. In the hospital. She didn't bother answering. He knew she was awake. The mattress depressed towards him when he leaned some of his weight on it.
"Say what," Sakura grumbled.
She didn't open her eyes. She was still too exhausted to do that, and it would put a definite end to any of her chances at falling back asleep soon enough. Kakashi sighed his relief at her side, the mattress dipping further under more of his weight. Sakura frowned, finding she was starting to slip.
Sakura sighed. The hospital's fluorescent lighting was bleeding through her eyelids, anyway. She'd asked a thousand times to have those replaced by incandescent light bulbs that didn't burn retinas, but that, too, hadn't been in the hospital's budget. How did they expect patients to rest and recover quickly with such lighting? And just what was in the hospital's budget?
Sakura cracked one eye open, wincing against the bright light. She was right about it burning retinas. It was a health hazard. Kakashi was at her side, elbows on her bed. He looked like he hadn't slept in a week, even with his mask and forehead protector covering three quarters of his face. Then again, he might not have. None of them had slept well on the way to or from Suna.
"What do you want," Sakura muttered, raising one hand to shield her eyes from the light.
"Do you know where you are?"
"I'm drugged," Sakura scoffed. "Not retarded."
"Where are you?"
Sakura rolled her eyes, angry to find that even such a little move was painful. "The hospital."
Sakura turned her head towards Kakashi, the burning in her eyes beginning to ebb away as they grew used to the light. "Are we really going to do this?" Sakura asked, irritation quickening the pace of her mouth. "I don't need to explain myself. Not to you."
"I don't deserve any kind of an explanation?"
Kakashi's eye lowered to the bed, half-closed in what Sakura recognized as shame, not pain. Sakura scoffed again, her throat raw from not having drunk anything in too long. "You don't need one. You know exactly why. Every little secret, dirty detail of why."
After all, he'd joined ANBU because of those exact same details.
"You're angry at me," Kakashi said.
In all their years together - the grand fifteen of them - Sakura had never quite heard Kakashi sound so small. "You were angry at me, too, when I followed you in ANBU."
"I know," Kakashi breathed out.
Carefully, he slid his palm over her bedding to brush his fingers against her arm, afraid she would pull away. Sakura didn't. Even if she'd wanted to, she wasn't sure she could move. "Then why are we here?"
Kakashi's fingers ghosted over her skin down to her hand. He took it in his, weaving their fingers together. "You were crying," he said, swallowing too hard. "I couldn't stand to see you go that way."
Sakura closed her fingers around his hand, her grip painful. "Sorry I'm not a hardass like you. I'll cry on the inside, next time."
Kakashi remained silent at her side. Sakura pushed herself in a sitting position, relieved to find her body moved with ease. Slowed by tiredness, yes, but fully functional. She leaned her back against the wall, lips quirking in annoyance when needles prodded at her behind. Turning patients around every few hours, too, wasn't in the budget.
When Kakashi fished in his pockets, Sakura watched him. He placed a small bottle on the bed beside her hip and heart leapt into her throat.
"Where did you get this?" Sakura hissed, instantly swiping it. "Only a few of us are supposed to have access to it."
It was the drug they injected patients in terminal care with - patients that had no chance of making it and deserved to die in peace and quiet, before they were in too much pain to think straight anymore. The drug she'd injected herself with.
Kakashi dropped a syringe on the bed next to where he'd placed the bottle. "Your nurses could use a few crash courses on spotting thieves."
Sakura scoffed. Of course her nurses didn't catch him; they weren't all jonin. Not even all were ninja. They stood no chance against Kakashi's stealth.
"What does this mean?" Sakura frowned, toying with the small glass bottle. "Why are you giving me this?"
Kakashi hesitated. He didn't want to do this, but he still would. "I took the choice from you," he said, his voice artificially even. "I was wrong. It was selfish."
Selfish. Because Kakashi knew selfishness. Knew how clinging to another's life only for his benefit was nothing but egotistical and cruel. Sakura couldn't hold this against him, though; they were all guilty of this crime. Letting go was an impossible task. Yet, Kakashi was doing the impossible.
Sakura took the syringe, laying it in her lap together with the bottle. "What will you do after I've done it?"
Kakashi didn't answer. Instead, he tipped his chin down, letting his shaggy silver hair block her view of his face. No matter how angry she was, her stomach still sank. She could never get used to the idea of him dying - whether or not she was alive.
"I took the choice from you, too," Sakura whispered, reaching for his hand. Kakashi slipped his fingers between hers again. "When I joined ANBU."
"We're both selfish monsters," Kakashi chuckled, squeezing her hand. "Aren't we?"
Sakura huffed. "Terrible."
With her free hand, Sakura popped the cap off the syringe. Minutely, she watched its needle, the way the light reflected off its metal surface. Kakashi's hand tightened around hers again and she could feel the way his heart constricted painfully in his chest, because hers, too, did. They couldn't wait to die, yet they were still terrified at the sight of the needle that could bring it.
"Kakashi," Sakura called.
"What is it, Sakura?"
"What do you want to do?" she asked, looking at him from the corner of her eye. "If I don't take the choice from you now, what would you choose?"
Kakashi squeezed her hand again. Under his mask, she could see him lick his lips and then his adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed. "I'm too tired to choose, Sakura."
Sakura pursed her lips. That was a great way to dump all the responsibility on her. Frowning, she stabbed the needle in the cap of the bottle and filled the syringe with the transparent liquid. She removed it and pressed on the handle, satisfied when a small amount of liquid spurted from the needle.
"We can leave it up to natural selection, then," Sakura said. She, too, was too tired to choose anymore. "See if we're really made to survive."
Kakashi's hand tightened around hers again, but this time, didn't relent after a few seconds. Sakura clutched his palm, too, all too aware of the trembling of her fingers.
"What do you have in mind?"
Sakura tugged on Kakashi's hand and pulled his arm into her lap, feeling it for a good vein. "This dose is the LD50 for a man your size," Sakura said mechanically. "You have a fifty percent chance of waking up. There's no tipping the scales in either direction."
Sakura looked up at his face and pinched the syringe between her thumb and palm in order to pull Kakashi's mask down. He didn't move, nor did he when she removed his forehead protector. If he truly wanted to accept, he couldn't do it behind a mask.
"Patients who survive the dose wake up within fifteen minutes," Sakura explained. "If you don't wake up, then I'll take the full dose again."
With Kakashi in the room, nobody would bother them. Not for a long while, long enough for it to be too late, this time.
"And if I wake up?"
Sakura watched the way his eyes searched her face, looking for the answer she wouldn't tell him. For once, he looked his age, not a day older or younger. "Then we have to survive, both of us."
Sakura huffed, a smirk tugging at the corner of her lips. "We've thrown ourselves in every possibly deadly situation and came out alive. They don't want us on the other side, if you wake up."
Kakashi's lips quirked the same way hers did and he chuckled. Then, he sobered, his lips a thin line on his face. "Do you promise?"
"Do I promise?" Sakura hissed, eyes narrowed in a hissy fit of anger. "Do I need to remind you who never keeps his promises - "
"Sakura," Kakashi interrupted her. "I promise."
Sakura pulled on his hand again, until he was forced to lean his other hand on the bed for support. She stared in his eyes, in the sharingan, daring him to lie to her. "Do you really promise?"
Satisfied, Sakura nodded. She scooted to the side and patted the free space on the bed. Kakashi climbed in it without protest, lying by her side. Sakura lied down with him, her head uncomfortably close to his on the small hospital pillow. Kakashi offered his arm and Sakura pressed the needle to skin, not breaking it. Kakashi's eyes didn't follow the needle. Instead, they stared into hers, moving left and right quickly. Sakura swallowed and pushed the needle into his skin and his blood vessel, emptying its content slowly.
Sakura's heart hammered in her chest as reality sank in. Frantically, her fingers pressed against Kakashi's naked cheeks until her palms cupped them. Kakashi's breath quickened, each breath he exhaled ruffling the small hairs on top of her forehead. Sakura sucked on her bottom lip, desperately watching Kakashi's face for any effects of the drug. Kakashi took one of her hands in his, squeezing it as hard he could.
"It's okay," Sakura whispered breathlessly. "You'll feel tired, like you haven't sleep for days," she explained, trying to comfort who, she didn't know. "Your fingers and toes might tingle a bit," she continued, "but it won't hurt. It's just like - " Kakashi's eyes were already starting to close, though he tried to fight it. "It's just like falling asleep. You won't know the difference."
Finally, Kakashi's eyes closed and didn't reopen. Sakura exhaled sharply, unable to keep a small, scared sound from escaping her. Around her hand, Kakashi's grip loosened. Sporadically, it tightened and loosened again, then again, and a few more times, until his hand became limp.
Sakura shut her eyes and brought her hands to her head, her fingers trembling and bending too forcefully. Inhaling a slow breath, Sakura forced her eyes open to look at the clock that hung above the door. Three minutes past twelve. Day or night, she didn't know. She didn't know how she could possibly wait fifteen minutes without going insane.
Biting her lip, she brought her fingers to Kakashi's throat, feeling for his pulse. Patients didn't usually die before the sixth or seventh minute, and it'd only been one, if that, but she couldn't stop herself. His pulse was still there, though weak - or was it? Sakura couldn't tell what signs she was imagining and which she weren't.
When she looked up at the clock again, the long hand was ticking over the ten. Sakura gasped and checked Kakashi's pulse for the hundredth time - she hadn't removed her fingers all along, in fact - and panicked to find his heart rate was slowing still.
"Kakashi," Sakura whispered. "Kakashi."
Right then, she realized his breath wasn't tickling her forehead anymore.
"Kakashi, Kakashi," Sakura repeated frantically. "What did I do? Kakashi!"
It was only a whisper, barely audible, but Kakashi had spoken to her. Unsure if she had simply lost it or truly heard it, Sakura checked his pulse again and hovered her palm over his lips to feel his breath. Kakashi's hand reached to grab her wrist. His grip was weak, but it was real.
"Kakashi," Sakura whispered, pressing her forehead to his as tears welled up in her eyes. "You made it - you made it."
"Did I?" he breathed out, staring up at her through half-lidded eyes, distant. "Am I awake?"
"You are," Sakura cried, wishing she could be a more relaxing sight to wake up to. "You're alive."
Kakashi exhaled one long breath against her forehead, tickling the skin there again. He squeezed her hand, pressing it to his cheek. "They really don't want us on that side, Sakura."
Sakura let out a nervous and smiled. "I guess we don't have a choice, huh?"
Kakashi shook his head slowly, almost lazily. They lied there for a moment - Sakura didn't think to check the clock again - simply staring into each other's eyes, Sakura's chest rising and falling too quickly while Kakashi's rise and fall was too slow.
"Sakura," he called. Sakura blinked away the tears and searched his eyes, finding that they were less distant. His mind mustn't be as foggy, already. "I made a promise."
"Yes, you did - "
"No, another promise," Kakashi interrupted. He let go of her hand to cup her cheek, inching closer until their lips almost brushed. "I promised I'd tell you what you wanted to hear."
"Kakashi," Sakura said quickly, frowning. "There's no need for that - I don't care, not now."
"I do," he whispered. "I promised I'd tell you I love you."
"People say that before dying usually," Sakura chuckled, trembling under his fingers. "So they don't take their feelings to the grave, you know."
"I didn't want to tell you then," Kakashi said, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "In case you didn't follow through. I didn't want you to regret."
"Why now?" Sakura breathed out. She laid her palm above his, tangling her fingers with his. "What changed?"
"I promised I'd stay on this side." Kakashi brushed his lips against hers, just barely. "If I have to stay here, then I had to tell you. I can't stop hating myself over it until I tell you."
"You never had to hate yourself over - "
"I did," Kakashi said quickly. "I hated myself for loving you when you were too young to be loved by me - "
"Stop giving a shit about what others say about it," Sakura growled, running his fingers in his hair only to pull at it. He winced, but smiled, a hint of playfulness in his eyes. "About everything. It wasn't wrong - not for us. Never."
"I was afraid I'd ruin you, too," Kakashi whispered. "I did anyway."
"Of course you did," Sakura muttered against his lips. "You ruin everything you touch. Even Mr. Ukki could only survive you a few years. It's a miracle it didn't wilt the moment we gave it to you."
Kakashi chuckled. Sakura was ready to keep ranting, but he silenced her with a kiss before she could. Sakura sighed into his mouth, throwing one arm over his neck as she pressed her body to his.
"That's it?" Sakura whispered. "We're the happy ever after couple now?"
Kakashi knew how she loathed those stories; his smile only proved it. "I don't know," he said. "We'll see what comes tomorrow."
"Just kiss me, will you," Sakura growled, and Kakashi obeyed promptly.
"You didn't even say it," Kakashi chastised, smiling against her lips.
"It doesn't matter."
"I love you, Sakura," Kakashi repeated when she tried to steal another kiss. "It does matter."
"I love you too, Kakashi." Sakura frowned and tugged on his hair. Kakashi winced and leaned towards her hand. "You asshole."
"You've become such a potty mouth, Sakura," Kakashi said, his cheerful voice rearing its ugly head. "Where did you pick that - ow, Sakura!"
Sakura smirked, smug. "Don't make me angry now."
"Fine," Kakashi huffed, pulling her tighter in his arms. "How long do you think we have before someone comes barging in?"
"I don't know." Sakura shrugged, pressing her cheek against his breast. "Why?"
"I should probably go tell them you're awake."
"No way." She fisted her hands in the back of his shirt, ready for a fight if he tried to get out of bed. "I'll postpone the interrogation as long as I can."
Kakashi hummed into her hair, staying right where she wanted him.
"By the way, Kakashi," Sakura whispered. "There's something else I didn't tell you."
"I'm going to be Hokage in a few days."
Sakura pulled away to watch his reaction, all too satisfied when his eyes went round. Then, his eyebrows bunched together. "They skipped me over, this time?"
"At Shishou's request." Sakura nodded. "I wonder how everyone will react."
"Weren't you telling just a minute ago to stop giving a shit about what they all thought?" Kakashi teased, stealing a quick kiss.
"Shut up," Sakura growled into his mouth. "Think we can still take a quick nap?"
"Probably." Kakashi shrugged. "I think they think they'd find us in a, ah, embarrassing position if they checked on us."
"Good," Sakura whispered. "I could sleep for a week straight."
Sakura rolled onto her other side and Kakashi pulled her up against him, cuddling just the way he knew soothed her best. Her hair would always bother him, tickling his chin and cheek, but he never said a word. Instead, he'd brush it away every few minutes until he finally fell asleep, too.
"Let's do that just that, then."
"They'll wake us before, you know - "
"Shh," Kakashi wrapped one arm around her torso, finding her hand next to her cheek. "Just sleep."
Sakura sighed, her body relaxing against Kakashi's. "Okay."
And this is the end! I'm sorry I haven't been very responsive to reviews, but thank you so much to everyone who's left one! I appreciate every single one of them and I'm really glad all of you have taken the time to express your thoughts about my story. Thank you for sticking with me through this. I am thoroughly happy to be done with it, even if it wasn't everything I wanted it to be... I feel like it's good enough. I hope you've enjoyed the end! I don't know if I will be posting any other stories here, but I am continuing the one I am writing with Amrun, Under the Moon's Eye, which is posted on her profile. Thank you again!