1/2 page recommended.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.


Chapter Fifteen

The moonlight settled in quietly over the tiled rooftops and lingering villager voices that quickly softened into silence. Akira watched the night with a soundlessness, a vigilance, his hand limply held over the comfort of his tonto slung behind his shoulder, the stars twinkled their impossible distance; he sighed an undetectable admission. Darkened honey eyes unconsciously ran in rewind, thoughts overtaking the forefronts of his mind before he sank hopelessly deeper into that odd empty abyss between the past and present; that place where only longing, regret, and guilt lingered. Hopelessly, hopelessly, he sank.

Crack, his memory resounded, reverberating, a foreboding bell in his basilica.



It chimed its hour, every hour.

Her presence burned in his peripherals and quickly warmed his side, pulling him from his reverie. Slightly, he tilted his head toward her soundless presence and noted his awareness. She took her position next to him at this, flinging her legs over the side of the building to dangle in the evening wind. Kimiko had always been the wanderer; it was only natural that she discovered his midnight musings. And, ever the nosy companion, it was expected of her to drop in as she pleased. In his thirteen years, Akira had long become accustomed to the notion that his presence was, to say the least, a despondent one. People tended to gravitate away from his dark and murky waters. But Kimiko- she was not "people." She had never been, would never be, just "people."

Kimiko cast a contemplative glance over his features, before turning her gaze once more toward the line of his sights. A breeze swept her fine mousy hairs to brush swift, tender licks against the tension of his arm. For a split second, Akira found himself pondering how someone as rough, as abrasive, as his teammate could still manage such an impossible approachability. And in that moment, that presumably unintentional consolation, Akira felt his lids slide shut- a silent mind behind them.

"He's going to be fine," Kimiko's words approached his ear, borderline inaudible. "We know you didn't mean for any of this..." Her voice trailed off, in search of his.

He turned his face tersely.

Akira grew cold, and colder still, the early year winds bit at the flesh of his lips that threatened to crack; the once soft exterior hardened over with callous and disdain. A nearly futile game he played, biding his time, leashing a quick, sharpened tongue, and all for what? For this girl that not a year ago he would've gladly tossed onto her back if only to hear the resounding 'thump' of her mortification against the ground, her shocked silence? He tried to convince himself he was doing this girl a favor, sparing her harsh words, beating it into her frazzled brain that he didn't need nor did he want her needless reassurance; the reassurance that she needed for herself more than he ever would. He tried to convince himself of this lie, but alas. He dragged his burning words to a halt, smoke settling in his mind. Between harsh breaths and distant bitterness, Akira would not allow deep-seated anger that took so many before him, and for the shallowest of causes, to overcome him. Eyes softened, the Senju turned to his friend.

"It's late, Kimi."

The girl's gaze did not falter. Stony expression as dark as the Nara forest, she held his eyes in her own, a wordless recognition- 'I know.' Akira stiffened in the face of this sweet, stoic creature, who in the day since the deadly woods seemed to grow quiet and quieter still, whose lips hardly stretched out into that cheek-bursting grin he had known all their lives, and whose eyes hardly lit up the way they used to if only out of some incredible, ceaseless life force that confounded Akira from the moment he met her. He ached for the simplicity of her former life, her uncomplicated happiness. He missed the often-infuriating lash of her quick wit. Though more than anything, somewhere within himself, he wept his gratitude for anyone that stayed so close, so within reach. Always.

Eyes braced ceaselessly into the night, he curled his fingers gently into the curve of her wrist, holding tightly.

Sakura scribbled her orders into the chart that rested nearly in her lap. The halls of the hospital had long grown quiet in the unholy hours of the night. Her feet pulsed with red, angry aches, throbbing up the length of her legs, as she extended them from her seat. The door clicked open beside her as one of the newer editions to Konoha's medical team stepped out, owl eyed and scruffy haired. To his credit, Sakura mused, as she had barked out her life or death determining directions, he didn't cry, as so many before him had. With an audible huff, Sakura rose from her seat and placed the chart in the medic's hands. "I want the patient on close observation for the next 48 hours. I suspect he'll be breathing on his own around then," she began her heavy stepped trek down the hall, "as for you," she cast a subtle smile back, "get some sleep."

She felt the medic's grateful smile, "Hai, Haruno-san," just before he hastily made his way for the medic's quarters.

Eyes closed, Sakura awaited the elevator, and sleepy song escaped her slightly parted lips. Sparsely, nurses, medics, and doctors passed, paid her soft 'good evenings,' and earned amicable replies from the woman. "Have a good night, Haruno-san," their voices entered her head with a hushed politeness, almost as if not to wake her. "Goodnight," she would breath back, an amused smile. It truly was a comforting feeling, to see that colleagues haven't forgotten you even after you've dropped off the face of the earth for the most obscure reason. As familiar exhaustion buzzed in her head, ached in her bones, Sakura couldn't help her rush of joy, I've still got it.

The elevator chimed open, and wordlessly, she entered.

It was only as she stepped into the solitude of the elevator, eyes grazing over the mirrored walls, that she finally exhaled, a breath she hadn't realized she had even been holding. Without a second of futile thought, Sakura's thumb sank unapologetically over the bright, red STOP. Clockwork, hands smoothed imaginary stray hairs atop her head, sliding slowly down the length, over and over. Her heart beat a steady rhythm, pacing itself with prudence, hoofs against time, in the closing walls of her chest. You're okay You're okay You're okay, it reminded her with each gentle bump. "I'm okay, I'm okay, I'm okay," she breathed absently, her lids smooth with a composure threatening to ripple. She wanted to scream, if only for a fucking iota more of breathing space. Just one iota, not even the whole grocery store full of iotas that she would gladly pummel through a wall of bloody hungry zetsu to buy out. Just one.

Somewhere within, between internal screaming and unforgiving thumps of the heart, she wondered what exactly it was that overcame her as she had worked tirelessly to correct the fractures to the boy's spine.

Amid moments of restlessness, of waiting, and of patient biding at the Yamanaka flower shop, the messenger chuunin had arrived with rushed purpose in his step and a scroll in hand. Meeting the young man's serious gaze, Sakura had received the scroll with silent understanding.

"By esteemed request of the honorable Fifth Kazekage, Haruno Sakura of Konohagakure is needed in emergency surgery at this the hour of 20:21 in the evening, to report to Konohagakure Hospital."

The sigil was unmistakable. Looking between an incredulous Ino and her quietly stirring belly, Sakura found no way to contest. Gaara, despite their friendship, was still a world leader, id est not one to be contested. His ignorance of her delicate state did not prove reason enough for her not to fulfill this favor, and moreover, was not exactly be worth the troublesome shitstorm of talk that would surround such a refusal. She had turned to face the chuunin and given a silent nod of understanding.

The next six hours proved harsh, filled with several misplaced vertebrae that posed potential threats to the use of the patient's legs. Isamu was his name. He couldn't have been a day older than her students- a victim of the chuunin preliminary exams. And looking at the precision of the injuries, of the abrasive decision in each blow to the spine, and to the sensory involved in finding the concentration of chakra points- Sakura hardly had to ask whom of the competitors had nearly ruined this boy, though a detailed report did inform her. Akira's chakra might as well have left its signature on the Suna boy's vertebrae, it was already far too apparent to miss the lethal precision of chakra points that rivaled even the Hyuuga clan.

Inhale. Exhale. She placed a steadying hand on her belly, her tiny comfort, and released the stop on the elevator.

Ambling out of the hospitals harsh fluorescents and into the hushed nightly winds of the village, Sakura lifted her eyes from the ground and brought her steps to a startled stop. Tsunade's eye caught the woman before Kakashi could manage his next word; the baritone of his voice was sapped from the air. A pregnant pause, so to speak, filled the space as Tsunade addressed her former pupil, "How is the patient?"

"He'll live to fight another day," Sakura breathed her response, audibly worn, "and soon, I suspect."

"I trust you're right about that," Tsunade nodded her assurance, "Gaara shan't be worried about his genin for too long."

Sakura gave a sad smile and kicked at nonexistent pebbles, her eyes trailing the cracks in the pavement, "I hope not," her voice fell into a whisper.

"It's about that time of day for the little lady, Hokage-sama," Kakashi piped in, an unfleeting humor in his tone. Sakura's eyes lifted to meet his profile as he and Tsunade exchanged their goodbyes. Small hints of a friendly smile creased in his eyes as he spoke. Sakura didn't miss Tsunade's mention of continuing their conversation "at a later date."

An odd beat danced across her chest, and though she wondered what important subject simply had to wait until next time, she lassoed her thoughts into shape- a fervid reminder that she had no claim to his business.

Turning to face her pupil, Tsunade took her by the arms, giving a gentle squeeze. "You did good work today," hints of a smile traced her red lips, "and I assure your pregnancy will go unperturbed from here on out."

Sakura offered the woman a warm smile in return, "Thank you, Shishou."

As Tsunade trailed further into the hospital, Sakura cast a weary glance at the man. A single dark eye returned her worn gaze before turning down the path, patting a hand to her shoulder, as if to say 'let's go home.'

The two walked a silent path home that night. No mention of the hours she spent in surgery. No talk of the conversation between he and the Hokage. Of all the monumental occurrences in the past day, hell, the past week- the sound occupying the lingering space between the pair was that of curious wind, looping its way through their legs, carrying them home.

Lazily, they made their way through Kakashi's door, dragging tired feet against the wood.

Like second nature, Kakashi flicked on the answering machine before turning to the kitchen; Sakura settled herself wordlessly onto the sofa, curling herself within the security of a quilt. The machine chimed its contents as Kakashi set the kettle to boil. A chipper female voice, a nurse from Dr. Yamamoto's office, delivered a polite reminder of Sakura's next check-up. January 20th, Kakashi thought, just as the nurse spoke the reminder, we know. Collecting teabags from the cabinet, an herbal, caffeine free brew, he listened as a second considerably less chipper message from Ino sounded throughout the quiet house, checking in on her "pregnant pride and joy," falling on distracted ears; the steadily increasing scream of the teapot offered no relief. Kakashi prepared the tea as the last message from a deeply concerned Naruto rasped through the speakers, stopping Kakashi in his tracks. "Just let me know when you guys get home," the gravel of his voice laid on thick, "we want to know how everything's going. Call me back." A short-lived relief overcame him as the machine finally sounded- "End of messages."

With steady hands and certain steps, he walked the tea into where she sat in her tired, noiseless daze. "Here," he placed the teacup in her loose grasp, hands folding securely over her own, "you'll sleep better." And as her eyes finally bore into his, he could clearly trace the deep shadows beneath emerald, burning an unusually dim flame. Eyes barely open, Sakura sipped lightly at the tea in her grasp, staring pure enervation straight out the window just ahead of her. Kakashi slumped quietly into place, beside her on the sofa, an exhaustion pulling at his own lids. Steadily, sleep pulled at his senses, dragging him deeper into warm unawareness. His fingers twitched with drowsiness, and slowly, his head drooped back onto the cushion.

"I've never felt quite so guilty."

The defeat in her voice drug low tones in her throat, lulling itself into his ears, a sad song made only for the samurais of yesteryear to sing. He turned to see her, coated in shadow, one eye exposed to the moonlight, a sleeping, sad song of a woman.

"Don't do that," he rasped, his gaze dropping from the frowning lines of an otherwise beautiful face; the sort of beauty that made him ache, ache, ache. "You can't do that to yourself, Sakura."

"I don't know what I could have done," she shook her head, clearly confounded, frustrated, devastated, "he was protecting himself. I know that but," her hands grasped themselves into fists, as if wishing to grab hold of her words, "it went too far. It went so far, so fast. What did I not teach him?"

"He's young," Kakashi spoke evenly, a dim feeling of the past brewing in his gut, "he was scared." Scenes of a boy suspended in midair, knocking his opponent further and further into the ground with lethal precision flashed through Kakashi's mind. Because he had seen it, the fear, as the boy from Suna had woven successful signs for a jounin level jutsu that struck panic into Kakashi as he bore witness to sudden streaks of air tearing at Akira's skin, testing his resolve, spilling it onto the ground in bloody chutes. And he watched the boy endure it, hold his own, arms crossed in front of him, collecting the needed chakra over his vital points to avoid mortal wounds. It had been a threat on his life, and the Senju withheld until finally the Sand nin had nearly depleted himself of a useful chakra pool. And Akira struck, with no hesitation,

"Three places. His spine was fractured in three places," she spoke directly, her eyes busy with an incessant calculation," I would've understood the first blow- defense- or even the second- security- but the third-…" emerald clouded over in a far too familiar way; Kakashi could almost glimpse freshly severed pink hair scattering from her shoulders and into the nothingness. "Something is terribly wrong."

Her voice threatened to break then, but he heard the way she wouldn't allow it, a skill he wondered how long she had spent honing; feeling the floods as they threatened to break the levees, and still managing to hold strong. Silently, she shook her head, setting down her tea and promptly turning to him. Those eyes, Kakashi tensed under her scrutiny, and even more so as she moved closer and closer still.

"Something's wrong," she said once more, a whisper into the air, not meant for any ears in particular, just whoever was listening. "And I can't breathe."

Slowly, slowly, her eyes fell to her knees as they sat facing each other at arm's length. The clock ticked steadily in the kitchen, though everything seemed to still in the face of her grief. Brows knit together instinctively; Kakashi allowed her the indulgence of wordlessness, the time to sort out every bit of every strand crossing impossible paths in her crowded map of a mind. Maps always led one somewhere, after all. Emerald caught his eye as they flicked curiously up to meet him. Low lights, they flickered intently, like small candles threatening to burn out in the wake of wind; still they burn, for the dead, for the living, for the hopeless. He wondered how something so beautiful could fill him with such sadness. Please don't look so sad, he moved closer to her. Please.

His body seemed to move on its own as he moved further and further into the space that once built its way between them. Not so slowly, he crossed into her space, indulging in the small inhale of stupefaction that she tried so hard to swallow. Decisively, he placed a hand beside her, as she lay lowly back into the arm of the sofa as the other rested keenly on the smooth bare surface of her bent knee. Struggling for a smooth breath, she pressed her lips into a tight line, chest rising and falling in an anxious vicissitude. Wordlessly, she closed her eyes, and allowed herself a breath.

Parted knees brushing against his sides; Kakashi did not suppress the warmth working its way up his torso, into his throat to settle into his mouth. "Let me distract you," the deep shades of his voice cast a heavy redness into her cheeks, and he grew stiff, patient, biding, "just this once."

Hands bundled into tense balls at her sides; Sakura exhaled softly, eyes drifting open to meet his face. Dazed, weary green brushed their gentle strokes over his features, batting their patient decision, or indecision. Flitting up, to gaze into him, she only sunk a little further beneath him, eyes closing once more.

With a steady exhale, Kakashi ran a placating hand up the curve of her hip, lingering over the almost indiscriminate bumps of her panties. Rustling over the fabric of her dress, he came to rest a hand in the deep slope of her side, and his thumb ran its appreciation up the arch of her ribs. He dipped his nose into the exposed turn of her neck, taking her in, breathing her out. Absently, Kakashi wondered how many a night he had spent sleeping walls apart from her, just wishing he could turn over and sink into her scent, into the warm love of her skin; Perhaps too many, and perhaps not enough. A subtle puff escaped her parted lips at the feeling of his nose against her collarbone, a tide of excited bumps tided down the tilt of her chest. Kakashi buried a heavy hand into her hair before bringing his lips to stop just before meeting her, the tip of his nose brushed keenly against her own.

"Would you like me to take you to bed?" His offer stirred her gaze awake, meeting his with such careful consideration.

An even breath escaped her nostrils, exhaling out into the slim valley between her lips and his. Still, the shadows beneath her eyes were stark, clear, doing nothing to degrade the overall painful beauty of her face. "Draw me a bath, please."

Clearing the hair from her face with a concerned stroke of his hand, Kakashi nodded his understanding and ambled off for the bathroom.

Kakashi sat languidly, allowing the steam from the rising water to push overly mulled over thoughts into the periphery of his mind- because nothing about any of this was according to plan. Nothing about straddling an emotionally exhausted woman said orthodox, and nothing about contributing to a painfully present erection with the scent of her hair, or the curve of her hips, or the sound of her breath against his own said 'okay'; especially now, when he had every intention of allowing said exhausted woman her own unclouded decision as to how she felt or what she would do about any of this. Any sane man would allow himself the benefit of exploring his own feelings— the feelings that Kakashi had long decided were unpacked, settled, and not going anywhere anytime soon— but then again any sane man would hardly have given as much as a second thought to sleeping with his student. Former student, he noted, immediately wondering what stable individual tried to gain moral points in arguing with themselves. Cussing to himself, he ran exasperated hands over his face, his eyes straying in her direction. Testing the waters, he told himself, if only just to gain some footing in whatever grounds he was treading upon, just testing the waters.

Kakashi made to help her from her seat but was met only with a wagging gesture, so as not to fuss over her. Without a second thought, she placed two affectionate pats to his cheek; shadows cast themselves considerately over the brief, tired smile that pulled at her lips as she departed for her bath. Feet padded gently against the wood, away and away, before coming to a halt as she made to round the corner. Propping herself in the hall entranceway, she turned to see him. "Thank you," she spoke tenderly, before sliding out of sight.

Promptly, Kakashi released the breath that had lodged itself in his throat the minute her hand had met his cheek, that small smile in place. His heart raced a hopeless gallop in his chest and he wondered mirthlessly how many trips were left in the poor old mare before it was time for the shotgun. He plopped wearily onto the sofa, eyes swirling with distant, silent thought. Unsuccessfully, he attempted to convince himself that living together often implied her naked body being just a few walls away, which should have made this particular instance considerably un-monumental. But this felt potentially problematic and undeniably exciting. Albeit, essentially not ideal. In the terms of his life thus far, Kakashi had vaguely drawn up a rough blueprint of what this sort of situation was meant to look like, feel like, be like. In the simplest of terms, one invites another into intimacy through positive shared experiences— friendship, dating, or even sharing a workspace. But in every aspect of anything that they shared of whatever this was or would ever be, Kakashi failed to pinpoint the exactness of what grounds they stood on. The first time the two had ever been intimate, done the horizontal mambo, the woman, apparently, had drunk enough to convince both he and herself that it was a good idea to proceed, neither accounting for the off chance that she would fail to remember integral details of their evening. Kakashi breathed a humorous snort, so much for an off chance—


Snapping instinctively out of his crowded mind, Kakashi turned toward the sound of her voice, far off and from the bathroom. "Yes?" he called back, a confounded hand combed through his unruly silver strands. No response came immediately, even as he unconsciously tapped out the seconds. Twenty. Thirty. At forty, he gave a patient sigh and hunched off of the couch. Prudent feet stalked quietly down the hall as he leant his intent ear to the other room. Approaching the slightly ajar bathroom door within her bedroom, he said a silent prayer— to whoever was listening— and gave a gentle knock knock.

"Sakura," he spoke softly through the door.

"Please come in." Her voice was gentle, decisive, as it echoed slightly against the walls of the bathroom, across the bath waters.

"Did," Kakashi bit his tongue as warmth and panic overwhelmed his face. A relieving breath escaped his nostrils as he began once more, "Did you need someth-"

"Kakashi," she replied, he froze, "just please come in and keep me company."

Now or never, he thought, his hand frozen on the doors edge. Now or never.

Clouds of steam swirled their embrace as he stepped considerately into the bathroom, his eyes falling directly ahead of him. And Sakura laid, eyes closed, nestled perfectly within the warm security of unmoving water, running his mouth dry. Even as he approached, she moved not a muscle, and he wondered if in all his years he had seen anything quite as perfect as she looked now. Steam lifted precariously from the surface of her pinkened skin, lifting into her face as it lay tilted toward him in such complete solace; cheeks the perfect shade of subdued scarlet. His eye traced its admiration down the lines of her throat and over the doused surface of her chest. The smooth mounds of her breasts curved gracefully above the water, glistening their beauty, along with the larger dome of her growing abdomen. Kakashi sank, a wordless spectator in the presence of an indubitable goddess, beside the bathtub. Eyes lingering for one last, guiltless glance over her ethereal form, he spoke, "Am I allowed to make an obvious comment about how you look right now?"

He didn't miss the sudden intensified flush of her face, and certainly did not abstain from the brief internal party that took place as a result; a small smirk took his lips.

"I'd say yes," she replied in a silken, hushed tone, "but that's how we got here in the first place. So I think I'll save you the wasted breath."

"Mah," he shook his head, eyes drifting over the sleeping beauty of her face, "I wouldn't say that."

She hummed a melodic note of humor, her lips pulling into a delighted smile, Kakashi threatened himself not to reach forward and grasp her face in his hands, to take those lips for his own. "Mah," she mocked him playfully, "feeling ballsy tonight, are we, Hatake?"

Emerald suddenly flashed open to meet his face, and too quickly at that. Kakashi felt a wave of panic, of excitement, wash over him as he met her eyes then, a gaze that spoke such impossible combinations, of daring, of challenge, of— acceptance?

"Ah, but what is a good shinobi without his balls, Sakura-chan?" he intoned with a crook of his brow. He offered her extremities a long glance, "Or in your case, other things."

"I see," her eyes widened with sardonic surprise, "so you have a death wish?"

"Yet another thing any good shinobi cannot live without," he smirked beneath his mask.

At this she only offered him a sad smile, the sort that fought tears, and looked away out of some fear that he just may see. Don't hide, he could not say, though he sought her eyes with his own, unfleeting, unafraid. Something akin to a laugh escaped her throat, and she spoke once more, face stubbornly turned away, "Get me a towel, baka."

Getting onto his feet, he retrieved a towel from the rack and turned modestly away for her to rise. Water falling, splashing, off of her body, she wrapped herself beneath its coverage. Lifting their gazes to one another, they exchanged small, understanding smiles. "Thank you," she nodded curtly. He returned the nod and turned patiently on his heel to leave.

"Wait," the word glued him into place, sending an electric shock up his spine.

Kakashi turned to face her, wiping the look of shock from his eye. Standing in the bath, her eyes grazed their way up his form, considerately, ponderingly, before finally gazing directly into him with wide-open honesty.

"Wait for me," she said in a not-too-delicate voice, gesturing directly past him- into her bedroom, "in there."

Without another word, Kakashi slowly took a hand to the doorknob, not breaking from her eyes, searching for any modicum of uncertainty or indecision or misgiving. It was only once he closed the door and replayed a constant reel of the past five seconds that he found none.

Sakura emerged, clad casually in her favorite night shorts and a spaghetti-strap that now lifted precariously upwards at the bottom of her extending belly in a way that was as amusing as it was charming to him. Catching the line of his sight on the line of her shirt, Sakura snorted, gesturing alluringly to her exposed stomach, "Sexy, right? I hear this look is all the rage in Kiri right now."

He chuckled, impressed but not surprised by her boldness, "You give yourself no credit."

She straightened out her half of the bed, laying careful hands against the surface, smoothing out the wrinkles. She glanced up to meet his face, a reflexive smile peeking on the corners of her lips. Kakashi shifted his weight against the windowpane, allowing her every humanly second possible to retract whatever it was she sought here in these hours after a considerable crisis. It was only as she sighed a laugh at him, climbing atop the bed, teasingly, "Is that fear I detect, Hatake?" She tucked herself, rather catlike, into the pillows, "A little late for that, no?"

The man shrugged, ambling over to the bed, plopping himself atop with a soft groan, "About 16 weeks too late, last time I checked."

Kakashi allowed his eyes to fall shut for a moment, as he finally felt the weight, the sheer hours, of the day in his bones. The dark edges of sleep threatened him for a moment before he snapped himself back to reality, remembering just where he was, just what was happening— whatever the hell it was.

"I saw that," she spoke, her voice closer than he anticipated from the depths of his grog.

"I'm awake," he insisted, kicking himself at the idea that it would be, in fact, he that would ruin this moment, wherever it was going.

"Uh huh," she sounded purposely unconvinced. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen you get sleepy, or fall asleep. Sure, I've seen you sleeping, but," her eyes trailed along the lines of his face, a tired smile in place, "there's something very vulnerable about those moments before sleep." She shifted onto her back, to stare at the ceiling, "I don't think I've ever seen that side of you."

If only you knew, he said to himself, allowing his eyes to trace over her profile, from her forehead down to the expanse of her belly.

"Vulnerability isn't exactly in my job description," he said, feeling a touch of truth he hadn't intended to slip send a pang of regret into his gut.

A mirthless chuckle bubbled from her chest at this, she shifted again, this time to look him straight in the face. "I have no idea what I'm doing," she said. A ghost of a smile weighed on her cheeks, in her eyes, as though she wanted to, but simply couldn't.

Kakashi cleared a tuft of hair that dared to fall across her face, securing it behind her ear with a smooth, slow motion. "Sure you do," he responded, softly, considerately.

"What's that," she said, with what he assumed was no expectation of a response.

He sighed, slowly, sleepily, as he cupped her face in his hand, watching as she eased beneath his touch; closing her eyes and breathing restfully into his palm. "Your best," he spoke the truth as though it were natural fact, as true as the tides rising to meet the moon, or the sun setting in the evening.

He said nothing as a single tear freed itself from her eye after a moment of lying there with her lids loosely shut, for she looked peaceful.

Kakashi allowed himself to drift off, into sleep, beside her.

Author's Note

Guess who's back...

Back again...