Actions

Work Header

Scar Tissue

Work Text:

She comes to him on the type of day that he has way too often—the type of day that almost breaks a man.

Kakashi collapses on the couch in the living area of the official Hokage apartment suite, not caring if he wrinkles his white ceremonial robes. He is tired—bone tired, tired in a way that eats at his soul. Konoha will forever be the center of his heart, the thing that he devotes his life to, but the day-in-day-out endless work of being the leader of such a huge village wears away at him, especially on the days when he’s gotten no sleep.

All shinobi have nightmares sometimes, and he is no exception.

He knows he is more tired than he realizes because he doesn’t even hear her come in. She is just there, suddenly, her voice gentle but firm. “Kakashi-sensei. You have to let me examine you.”

He puts one arm over his eyes, his own voice rough with exhaustion. “No.”

“You’re months behind your scheduled exam, and you’ve scared off all my medics,” she says with fond exasperation.

That makes his lips twitch slightly under his mask. He had told everyone she sent that the last medic who’d tried to examine him had never worked again. Of course, he knew that was because the woman had been ready to retire, but if the other medics wanted to assume that it was because something untoward had happened to her… that wasn’t his fault. “They need to toughen up.”

She sits beside him on the edge of the couch, a hesitant hand reaching to touch the arm that isn’t over his face. He’s noticed her doing that—touching him, generally when their respective jobs bring them into the same room. Little touches, here and there, touches that slide under his skin and rattle his bones. Always on days like this, when he’s too tired to be aloof.

“You’re important, Kakashi-sensei,” she says, and for a moment he actually hates the gentleness in her voice. It isn’t fair for her to sound like that. “You’re important to Konoha, and to all of your friends. Let me take care of you.”

And that’s it. She comes to him on the type of day that he has way too often—the type of day that almost breaks a man—and she asks him to let her take care of him. And just like that, he starts to let her in, without ever even meaning to.

“All right.”

0O0

For Sakura, it happens slowly over time, the way a drip left alone for long enough can cut through a mountain. The first realization is that he makes her feel safer than anyone ever has. That is when she starts to consider what safety might mean to him, and she starts to squeeze through the cracks in his armor, makes him let her inside.

It isn’t easy.

He only lets things slip when she isn’t looking, so she gets to know him from the corners of her eyes. The way he takes his tea—no sugar, and so, so strong—and the way his fingernails are bitten even though it seems like he’s always wearing the mask. The thought of him chewing his fingers raw when no one is around to see him breaks her heart.

He always breaks her heart.

“Take off your shirt,” she tells him after she’s finished her tea, not one week after the first examination that she gave him in the Hokage’s quarters.

“You just examined me five days ago,” he says by way of denial, pretending to be absorbed in his book.

“Yes, and you showed me scars that were never healed properly. I told you I was going to work on them,” she retorts, impatient. If she didn’t know better, she would take his refusal to let her touch him personally.

“And I told you that wasn’t going to happen.”

“No, you didn’t.”

“Oh.” He thinks about that for a moment before continuing. “Well, I thought it really loudly.”

Kakashi-sensei…” She makes his name into a warning. “Take off your shirt.”

When he looks briefly up from the book, his grey gaze is rebellious. “You first.”

Sakura knows he thinks that will be enough to scare her off. But she is tempted—that’s the thing that she’s sure would surprise him, if he knew. If all it took to get him to reveal himself to her was for her to open up first, she would have done it long ago. But Kakashi is more complex than that. He must be teased out into the open, like a feral animal. Not the kind that attacks the hand that feeds it, but rather the kind that vanishes the moment it senses the presence of another.

“If you don’t let me heal them now, I’ll keep coming back until you do.” Another warning.

He makes a small disgruntled sound.

He also doesn’t say no. Sakura considers this a victory.

0O0

One of the days that she comes is an especially dark day for Kakashi.

It follows one of the nights where he dreams about Rin. It doesn’t happen as much as it used to, but every time it brings him right back to that moment, like the years between have never happened. He is forced to remember his fist going through her chest—the brutal reality of the feeling of her pulsing around him, of the life leaving her body. A moment that lasted seconds.

A moment that will last his whole life.

When Sakura finds him he’s in the dark, stretched out on his bed and staring up at the ceiling with unseeing eyes. His ANBU contingent never questions her presence; they just let her in. That makes him uneasy.

Still, he doesn’t tell her to leave.

She walks with kunoichi grace despite the darkness, and she says nothing as she sits on the bed beside him. The feel of her fingers in his hair, gentle and soothing, makes him close his eyes.

“Stop it,” he says quietly, and what he means is, Stop being nice to me. Stop giving me things I don’t deserve.

“Let me stay,” she says, just as quiet. But he thinks what she means is, Let me stay until the ghosts are gone. Let me stay until you find your feet again.

She reaches out her other hand, and he can feel it hover over him in the dark before it rests lightly on his. He wants to pull away from her, the way you’d jerk your hand back from a red-hot stove, but he doesn’t.

He lets her stay.

0O0

The first real inroad that she makes happens months after the first examination. That evening, after a long day of diplomatic meetings, she finds him too tired to argue with her. When she asks him to take off his shirt so that she can work on his scars, he gives her a long look with eyes that are sleepier than usual, and then complies.

Averting her eyes as she always does, she hands him a medical mask from her pouch. He clears his throat to let her know when his face is covered again, and then sighs and sits on the couch. Unable to stop herself, Sakura lets her eyes run over the muscles of his torso as she ponders how best to position herself in order to heal him, and there is a brief and absurd impulse to crawl into his lap.

She ducks to hide her blush as she sits beside him instead. Keeping her eyes lowered from his face, she instead focuses on the angry red scar that cuts across his left collarbone. The tissue is thick and knotted, and although she has already fixed the badly healed fracture beneath it, he hasn’t allowed her to work on the scar before now.

She has lectured him, many times, on how stupid he is to have so many wounds that he’s hidden from the village’s excellent healers. She does not lecture him today.

When she places glowing hands on his skin, she dares a glance at his face, and finds that his eyes are closed. Only a slight twitch of one brow betrays that he feels anything as she lets her chakra pass into his body. She drops her gaze back to the task at hand, willfully ignoring how warm he is, the way he smells like books and some unnamable, ephemeral spice.

“Why are you doing this?” he murmurs, and his voice holds all the emotion of a question about the weather.

“Why do you keep them?” she replies, matching his soft tone.

The silence hangs between them, and she thinks he isn’t going to answer. She catches her thumb stroking along the fading scar and stops herself. He finally speaks. “Our scars are maps of where we’ve been.”

“And that’s the only way to remember?”

“Isn’t it?” he answers, and her chakra falters as his eyes open and focus on her. They are the deep grey of a day with no sun.

“No,” she answers firmly, straightening slightly as she refuses to break eye contact. Her hands press a little more firmly against him. “That’s what your precious people are for. They help you remember where you’ve been. And they don’t let you forget where you’re going.”

He lifts a hand, hesitant, and when the backs of his fingers brush her cheek she falls still. His eyes widen almost imperceptibly, and he freezes, as if surprised to find himself touching her. She thinks she sees a hint of color on his cheeks above his mask as he drops his hand, but he doesn’t drop his gaze. His voice is still hushed when he speaks. “Where am I going?”

Part of Sakura wants to be disappointed in his retreat, but she isn’t. Her heart sings at his touch, at the way he keeps his eyes trained on her, like he’s trying to figure out something that just doesn’t make sense to his genius brain.

She smiles. She doesn’t answer him. She’ll tell him when he’s ready.

0O0

Kakashi lies to everyone he meets, with every moment he speaks to someone and doesn’t admit that he can’t stop thinking about her.

It feels like his thoughts are no longer his own.

The week since he has seen her feels like a year. When he walks into his quarters after managing to dig himself out from beneath a veritable mountain of paperwork and finds her sitting calmly with a cup of tea, muscles that he didn’t know were tight relax in his neck and shoulders. He tells himself it is not out of relief.

“Long day?” she asks, pouring a second cup of tea for him, and that moment of domesticity causes a feeling not unlike vertigo within him. Hatake Kakashi is not a man who gets to have someone to come home to.

He doesn’t respond, but he does join her in sitting at the table, and he accepts the cup of tea—strong, no sugar—that she hands him.

“I had a long day, too,” she continues, though he hasn’t answered, and then casually begins to tell him about her shift at the hospital. She keeps her eyes averted so he can pull down his mask, although habit makes him drink his tea and replace it quickly. The sound of her voice is a balm to his frayed nerves. He smiles slightly, the fabric of his mask moving against his lips. It must reach his eyes, because she pauses and gives him a small smile of her own.

“What?”

“…Nothing,” he answers casually, uncharacteristically fiddling with the tea cup. It matches hers.

“What’s that?” Her sharp eyes have focused on his hand, in particular the small bandage peeking out from beneath his glove on his index finger. Before he can answer she’s already taking his hand in hers and removing the glove.

Her fingers are tiny bolts of electricity on his skin. It’s terrifying—even for a man who can catch lightning in his fist.

“It’s nothing,” he insists. “A cut from a letter opener. I wasn’t paying attention.” She’s already undoing the bandage. The cut is small and will heal easily on its own. The other scar on his hand, the dappled pattern of burned flesh, will not.

She heals the cut first, and he thinks that she takes longer than she needs to. When she’s done, she doesn’t release her grip, her fingers tracing the scars that his chidori has left behind—the same chidori that killed Rin. He stiffens.

Not that one.

“Kakashi-sensei…” A frown crosses her face when he pulls his hand away, reaching for his glove.

“Stop calling me that.” His voice is harsher than he intends it to be.

Mint green eyes widen in surprise at the command, and then her brow furrows into another frown. “Stop changing the subject. Give me your hand.”

“I don’t want you to heal that one,” he says, and it’s almost a growl. He knows he’s being unfair to her, and a voice inside him cries out for him to stop, but he can’t stop. She’s getting too close.

“You haven’t wanted me to heal any of them, but you let me anyway. Why is this one so special?” Her hand darts out with sudden speed and seizes his, and this time her grip is tighter, determined.

“Leave it alone, Sakura.”

“I’m not going to just leave it—”

“Leave it alone!” he barks, his voice louder than it’s ever been when directed at her, and this time she’s the one who yanks her hand away. Eyes furious and brimming with unshed tears, she shoves her chair back from the table and wordlessly leaves, her steps firm and final.

The door closes. The teacup shatters into a million pieces of regret against the wall.

0O0

She’s afraid the next night, standing just inside the threshold of his quarters as she closes the door behind her. She’s not afraid of him – how could she ever be afraid of him? She’s afraid of the silence.

She’s afraid of him retreating until he’s so far from her that she can’t reach him anymore.

For most of the previous night she had lain awake in her bed, alternating between frustration and tears. Her shift at the hospital began with her already exhausted, and now, after a full day plus overtime spent healing a grievously wounded shinobi, she is ready to drop. And yet, she knows if she goes home without talking to him, another sleepless night is in store. She doesn’t know what she’ll do if he refuses to talk to her.

She doesn’t know how long she can go without sleeping.

When she takes tentative steps into his quarters, she hears the tranquil sound of sweeping coming from the kitchen. Turning the corner, she takes in the sight of him in his Hokage robe, crouched on the floor and sweeping broken pieces of china into a dustpan.

“I liked that cup,” she says. A small, rueful smile tugs at the corners of her lips.

“…I just got home. I’ll be finished in a minute.” He pauses in his actions, staring at the broken pieces for a long moment before raising his eyes to her. “I’m sorry.”

The laugh that comes out of her is weak and, she thinks, not very convincing. “It’s okay. It’s just a teacup.”

He stands with the full dustpan and empties it into the garbage before he turns and faces her fully, his eyes troubled and sincere. “I’m not apologizing for the teacup.”

She doesn’t say anything, because her lip begins to tremble and her eyes begin to burn, and so she just presses her mouth into a thin line. He closes the space between them and reaches a hand out to her. It hovers in the air for a second, uncertain, and then rests on her shoulder. It feels warm.

“I’m sorry,” he says again, and his voice is so gentle it hurts, and she feels the first tears spill down her cheeks. His other hand, even more hesitant than the first, reaches for her face, and a single calloused thumb traces through the wet tracks. “Don’t cry, Sakura.”

Her exhaustion already has her close to tears, but it’s the affection in his voice that breaks her down. She buries her face in his chest at the same time as she starts crying in earnest, hiding from him even as she clings to him. His arms come around her, loosely at first and then tighter, and as she cries into his chest she tells him how she couldn’t sleep last night. How upset she had been at the possibility of him still being mad at her.

How she’ll put him through a wall the next time he yells at her like that.

She feels the rumble of a laugh in his chest, and she makes a silent, private wish—a plea—that he’ll let her stay like this, close to him.

0O0

He releases her eventually, and they move to sit on the couch, tentatively comfortable in the new silence. When her hand finds his, he lets her weave their fingers together. When her head droops to rest on his shoulder, and her breathing slows and deepens, he turns his face into her hair and closes his eyes.

And eventually, when she shifts in her sleep to lie down, her head resting on his thigh, he resolves not to move for as long as she’s there.

While she sleeps, while no one can see him, he rests his hand on her hair, and it runs through his fingers like silk.

0O0

When Sakura wakes, it is to the feeling of warmth beneath her cheek and a weight on her head. She stirs, and the weight on her head is lifted, and when she realizes too late that it was his hand, she experiences a moment of piercing longing.

Sitting up on the couch, she curls her legs beneath her, knowing her face is burning in embarrassment. He stretches with a wince, and she doesn’t miss the way he tries to discreetly massage the leg she’d used as a pillow.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to fall asleep,” she says, smoothing her hands over her clothes, although nothing is really out of place. Her hands get restless around him—grasping for substitutes for what she really wants to touch.

“It’s fine,” he replies in a sleep-roughened voice, and she watches his mask stretch and his jaw drop, and she idly wonders what his yawn would look like without anything to hide behind. She smiles only slightly as she glances at the dim light coming in through the window.

“It’s still early. Do you need to go in yet?”

“I have some time,” he mutters blearily, blinking heavy eyelids and squinting as he yawns again. This time she’s sure that beneath the mask, that yawn would really be something to see. She wonders if anyone else has ever thought of Hatake Kakashi as adorable, or if she’d be the first.

Sakura can’t help but look down at his gloved left hand, not looking away even when he follows her gaze. As if watching something outside of his control, his eyes trace the path his hand follows on the way to hers. She knows that he’s not giving her his hand because he wants her to heal it, but because he trusts her not to. Turning her hand over and pressing her palm to his, she squeezes, and after a moment he squeezes back.

And then he tells her everything.

His voice is a dirge as he talks about his former teammate. How gentle she was, how many times she had healed him. He talks about how proud he used to be of his chidori, how he has never hated himself more, before or since, than when he felt it go through her chest.

Most days, he says, he feels like he is at peace with Rin’s memory, but some nights she still haunts him. He talks about how he dreams of her, of the light leaving her eyes.

As she listens, Sakura holds his hand like she’s keeping him from drowning. His cloudy eyes are distant and lost in the past, his words trailing off to hang in the air like stale smoke. The spell breaks when she pulls his hand toward her, drawing his attention back to the present. As she pulls the glove off, his brow creases.

The tremor that goes through his hand when her lips touch the scar betrays the emotions he always tries to hide, as does his sharp intake of breath. Sakura closes her eyes, letting her lips trace over the raised skin by feel alone.

When she finally looks at him, he’s watching her with eyes that are wide with some emotion that she can’t recognize. Afraid that she has pushed him too far, she places his hand back on his leg with a small smile and stands.

“I should go.” Her voice, though muted, rudely breaks the silence that hangs between them. She smiles shakily at him again as his stunned eyes follow her. “I need to go home and get changed for work.”

Nerves jangling like keys on a ring, she walks to the door.

“Will you come back tonight?” His voice is slightly rough, and just loud enough for her to hear.

A burning flower blooms in her chest. Over her shoulder, she calls, “Of course.”

0O0

It is late evening when Kakashi returns to his quarters. It has been a long day, typically long, and he spent most of it distracted. She eats away at his resolve—for all his guilt, for all his insecurity, the thing that he feels the most right now is anticipation.

He doesn’t lie to himself anymore—seeing her is, and has been, the best part of his day.

When he closes the door behind him, it is to the sounds of clinking cups and off-key humming coming from the kitchen. He smiles slightly to himself as he takes off his shoes and robe, following the sounds until he rounds the corner and takes in the sight of Sakura in his kitchen. She has her back to him and is standing on one bare foot, the other leg bent at the knee to scratch idly at her calf with a pink-nailed toe.

In that moment, he wants her in a way that he’s never wanted anyone. He’s wanted other women before, of course, but was always willing to settle for a night or two of passion. Things are different with Sakura.

She turns and startles slightly, and then gives him a beatific smile. His stomach clenches.

No, he doesn’t just want her for a night.

“You scared me,” she says in a chastising tone.

“Sorry,” he says, looking down briefly to hide his smiling eyes. He doesn’t mention that a ninja should be a lot harder to sneak up on. The sound of her footsteps crossing the kitchen makes him look up again, and he watches her walk toward him with a cup of tea in each hand.

He takes one of the cups from her, and by an unspoken, unanimous decision, they move into the living room and sit beside each other on the couch. He sets the steaming cup on the low table in front of them, letting it cool so he doesn’t burn himself when he downs it with his usual shinobi speed. She still hasn’t seen under his mask.

Not yet.

Sakura holds her cup under her nose, enjoying the fragrance before taking a slow sip. Lowering it slightly, she keeps her eyes on the gently moving surface of the tea as she speaks. “I’m sorry if this morning made you uncomfortable.”

“I wasn’t uncomfortable… I was just surprised.” He frowns slightly—he doesn’t like that he made her feel like she did something wrong. Reaching out a hand, he lightly touches her arm to emphasize his words. It’s getting easier to touch her.

It’s getting harder not to.

“I just…” he continues haltingly. “Well, my scars aren’t the kind of things that anyone usually wants to kiss.” He feels a crooked smile tilt his mouth, and heat rise in his cheeks. He’s not really sure how she has this effect on him—how she makes him feel off-balance, like an unsure teenager.

Sea glass eyes just lift to stare into his, and he falls silent, the smile falling from his face. She looks determined, the way she looks before a fight, and she carefully places her cup on the table before facing him fully.

“I would kiss them all,” she says, and he thinks she meant it to be a firm voice, but it comes out a whisper.

All he can do is stare at her. He doesn’t fully register her moving closer to him, drawing her legs up beneath her, her knees pressing lightly against his hip. As her hands come up to either side of his face, he swallows, and then murmurs, “Sakura…”

“I would, Kakashi. Every single one.” She rises a little on her knees and leans over him, too close for his eyes to focus anymore, and he closes them. The scent of spring, of new things blossoming, surrounds her. He holds his breath, though whether it’s to cling to the smell or try to ward it off, he doesn’t know.

Her lips are warm as they press against the skin above his eyebrow, over the scar that’s been with him since long before he knew her. Her breath curls softly against his eyelid as she shifts to press another kiss to the rest of the scar, below his eye. Finally letting himself carefully breathe, he registers her moving and thinks—with relief, with disappointment—that she is done.

But then she presses her lips to his through the mask, and the bottom drops out of the world.

Floored, he doesn’t react immediately, not until he feels her pull away and opens his eyes to see the slightly disappointed look on her face. A frisson of panic lances through him, and he knows—this is the moment where he’ll lose her. He can’t let that happen.

He can’t let her leave now.

Snaking out a hand, he holds her hip to keep her from moving any further. He only dimly registers her surprise as he pulls his mask off with the other hand, and he doesn’t wait for it to fade before he slants his mouth over hers.

She tastes like something he’s been looking for… something that he had given up on trying to find.

Tilting his head to deepen the kiss, he hears the small whimper she makes in her throat, and the sound of it races through his body, a shock to his nerves. Their lips move against each other slowly, like they’re both afraid of losing control. Her tongue touches his, hesitant, and then bolder.

When she melts into him he gathers her in his arms, pulling her until she’s in his lap, her knees bracketing his hips. Too close, the guilty part of his mind says. Not close enough, says every other part of him—every cell, every atom that hasn’t been corrupted by the disappointments of life. She slides forward and rolls her hips into his, and he breaks the kiss with a gasp, his forehead resting against hers.

Pulling back, she looks at him, and her eyes are lidded and dark with need, her lips swollen. Slowly, she raises a hand to touch his unmasked face with wonder, thumb brushing over the beauty mark beneath his lip.

“You’re so pretty,” she blurts with surprise, and he laughs softly.

He kisses her again, and again. He wants more; he wants to peel off every item of clothing and taste the sweet salt of her skin. He wants to make her his.

Instead, he holds her, and kisses her with everything he has, because he knows, bone-deep, that he doesn’t deserve her, that she won’t be there for long. But when she stands to leave for the night, she is blushing deeply, and she stutters and giggles a little when she says she’ll be back tomorrow.

And no amount of warrior’s guilt can stop the smile that spreads on his face, the way his whole world feels lighter.

0O0

They circle each other gingerly, but Sakura knows that something has changed. Kakashi stands closer to her, touches her more. When he looks at her, there is a naked want in his eyes that wasn’t there before.

He goes without the mask when he’s alone with her now. The unspoken show of trust is not missed.

Making tea in the kitchen, she’ll feel him behind her, a hand resting on her hip or brushing against her hair, making her shiver. Sometimes she’s bold enough to lean back against him, and they stay pressed against each other until the tea is ready.

During the sessions where she makes him sit beneath her healing hands, she stands in front of him while he sits, and she finds smaller remaining scars to heal, any reason to touch him. But her hands are not the only ones that have grown restless. The light caress of his knuckles against her knee, the dance of his fingertips on the back of her thigh, leaves her weak with longing.

She wants him—in a disabling, overwhelming way that she’s never experienced.

As close as they’ve grown, he is still elusive. Every night she’s there he kisses her, desperately, hungrily, until she feels like every inch of her is singing. And every night he pulls back, planting smaller, apologetic kisses on her lips until he stands and sees her to the door. His brief, tender touches never go past that.

Her burgeoning frustration is mirrored in his eyes. She knows he wants her too. But he never tells her why he’s holding back, and thus far, she has been afraid to ask.

That doesn’t mean that she’s willing to give up. One night they sit across from each other at the table, drinking their customary tea and talking idly about the hospital, and she stretches her leg out under the table. Slowly, nonchalantly, she traces her toe up over the inside curve of his calf, his knee, the inside of his thigh.

He coughs, surprised. She hides a grin.

One fine silver brow lifts at her, and there is an amused, and intrigued, quirk to his lips. Still, he does not reciprocate, and when he calmly changes the subject to politics only a few moments later, she is disappointed. Her foot drops back to the floor.

Sakura is not a temptress. She’s not the kind of shinobi who gets sent on seduction missions. She is at a loss.

Still, she doesn’t give up.

Weeks after that first kiss, she has him sitting cross-legged and sideways on the couch with her kneeling behind him, her fingers gently prodding at a thin, red scar marring the pale skin over his shoulder blade. She hears him sigh as her cool green chakra bleeds into him.

When she finishes healing it into a mere ghost of what it had been, she lowers her hands. Sliding them down and over his sides, she curls her arms around him, pressing her chest against his back. Here and there she presses slow, shy kisses, feeling his abdominal muscles shift beneath her hands as he stiffens. She gathers her courage.

“Kakashi… what are you waiting for?”

“What do you mean?” he asks, and she wonders if his voice sounds as unconvincingly casual to him as it does to her.

“Why haven’t you done anything but kiss me?” Her words are whispered into the skin of his shoulder, as if she was telling it a secret.

She feels his small, humorless laugh through her chest just as much as she hears it.

“I’m waiting for you to come to your senses,” he murmurs. Maybe it’s easier for him to be vulnerable when they’re not facing each other, just like it’s easier for her to be brave. “If you come to your senses before we’ve slept together, then our friendship can still be saved.”

Sakura closes her eyes and, not for the first time, grieves for what has been done to him. She’s sure that Kakashi didn’t come out of the womb thinking he wasn’t enough—life did that. For a moment, she feels a deep frustration, that she’ll never be able to erase the past that hangs around him like a miasma.

But then she’s resolved and she’s moving, sliding around and into his lap and winding herself around him like he belongs to her.

And then she kisses him and shows him that he does.

There is passion and sincerity and pure, righteous fury in her kiss, and when he recovers he matches it, groaning against her mouth when her hand reaches his hair and tangles in it, carelessly pulling. His hands grasp tightly at the fabric covering the small of her back, fisting in the material.

When they break apart, they are both breathing fast. Her legs tighten around him, daring him to try and push her away.

“Do you really want to save our friendship at the cost of feeling this?” she challenges, forgetting all meekness as she stares into his cloudy-day eyes.

His lips are parted, his breathing still quick as he answers. "No," he admits, voice rough with emotion.

She puts a hand on either side of his face, her forehead tipping into his. "Then stop holding back," she whispers. "I've already come to my senses. I know what I want."

He stares at her, like he's going to uncover a secret, like she's going to shout "Surprise!" and whip off her mask of acceptance to reveal a mien of indifference.

And when he kisses her, it's with the urgency of a man who doesn't know for how long he'll have the treasure in his grasp.

0O0

He promised himself he wouldn't. Every time she touched him, every time he touched her, he told himself it wouldn't go further—that he wouldn't do that to her, wouldn't saddle her with a broken man like him. But trying to ignore the way that he wants her is like trying to ignore someone screaming in his ear—maddening. Impossible.

When she tells him not to hold back, it is his undoing.

Suddenly his hands are fisting in her shirt again and he's kissing her, and the small noise of pleasure she makes against his mouth makes the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He drags his mouth to her neck and lets his teeth graze over her pulse to hear her make it again. It hangs like a bell in his ears, ringing, urging him on.

He doesn't know when he lays her back on the couch, fitting himself between her legs, resting himself in the cradle of her hips. He wants her so badly—enough to throw away every thought that tells him that she deserves better, every fear that she won't stay.

Moving on its own, one hand tugs at the zipper of her top, his mouth devouring her skin as quickly as it can be exposed. Sakura is impatient as she pulls at the fabric that covers his shoulders, and he relents long enough to let her pull off his shirt.

He tries to take his time as he removes her clothes. His fingers graze over her breasts, her sides, the curves of her hips, as her top and bindings are discarded. He learns the shape of her nipple beneath his tongue, the sound she makes when his hand slips between her legs, stroking, before moving to the waistband of her shorts.

Every move, every new step, he seeks out those startlingly green eyes, waits for her permission. She lifts her hips, urging him on, and he peels the shorts off her, and then she is bare and glorious before him, only her panties left to cover her.

Leaning over and trailing his lips up her thigh, he hears her whisper his name, and when his teeth graze the edge of her panties, she shivers. Hungry fingers tangle in his hair, pulling up, and it is with a low growl that he moves back up her body, his mouth crashing into hers.

Her naked skin against his is a revelation.

Drunk on the feeling of how soft she is, he misses her hands on his pants until the waistband loosens around his hips, and then she's pushing them down with the same urgency that roars beneath his skin. Pulling back, he stands long enough to pull them off along with his underwear, and before he can even move back to where she is, she's touching him, stroking his length with her hot fingertips and making a groan slip from his mouth.

In a low voice he asks, "Sakura, are you sure you want this?" but what he really means is Are you sure you want me?

And then she answers, “Yes,” and that is all she means, and it is beautiful.

He slides back between her legs, one hand braced by her head as he stares down at her. When his other hand slides along her inner thigh until one finger hooks inside her panties, knuckles lightly brushing wet curls, she bites her lip and gives him a look that is so filled with desire that he has to fight the urge to take her immediately.

Instead he lingers, strokes, and teases, flirting with her flesh as he lowers himself to nip her neck. Her hands are back in his hair again, holding on desperately as he slides a finger into her waiting warmth. She whimpers and grinds herself into his palm.

He adds another finger, and then a slowly circling thumb, and soon she starts to come apart beneath him, her breath heavy and replete with sounds of passion. The hunger he feels, the driving need to watch her dissolve into ecstasy makes him urgent, his erection straining against the inside of her thigh as his hand moves and he whispers encouragement into her ear.

She comes for him, and the picture she makes with her back arched and her mouth forming wordless cries is the most glorious thing that he's ever seen. Sliding his fingers out of her, he pulls her panties down her shaking legs, pressing slow kisses to the slightly salty skin of her neck.

"Kakashi," she whispers, and her hands are on his sides, pulling him against her. His throat rumbles as she raises her hips up into him, grinding the soft wetness of her folds against his length. "Kakashi, please don't stop..."

He lets her pull him down to her, capturing her lips with his own. As he pushes himself into her, slowly and inexorably, he wonders if she feels like he feels—like everything is on fire. Like he is home.

She is slick and tight and exquisite around him. Once he fills her he stops, breathing hard with the effort to control himself, but she raises her legs and pulls him deeper, moaning his name, and he can't stop himself anymore. He answers her by gasping her name in return as he pulls his hips back and then snaps them forward, and then he is moving, he is pushing, he is driving her beneath him, closer, closer.

He only distantly feels the burning lines that her nails leave on his back, but he hears every cry that falls from her lips, and they urge him on. The second time she comes apart she makes a sound not unlike a sob, and he clenches his teeth against his own cry as she tightens around him.

"Sakura," he growls, "I can't— I'm going to—"

“Yes,” she breathes—a command, a prayer—and he feels her feet hook together behind his waist as she rocks her hips up into his, and he is gone, lost in her, emptying himself into her depths as a groan is ripped from his throat.

She curls her arms around his neck and holds him as he drops his head beside hers, both of them trembling with the aftershocks of their lovemaking. Soft lips press against his temple, his cheekbone, and he recovers enough to lift his head to kiss her. The kiss is sweet and chaste, and more tender than he thinks he can bear—but he does, and then he kisses her again, and again, and she smiles against his mouth as she unhooks her legs from around him.

He finally pulls back, sliding out from between her thighs. Standing—on legs that are a little shaky—he grabs a towel from the kitchen and brings it to her as she sits up on the couch. There’s a slight flush of embarrassment to her cheeks as she takes it to clean herself, a fact that makes a smile play on his lips; she has an innocence about her that no amount of years or hardship has been able to dim.

“Will you stay?” he asks quietly.

Her eyes are verdant and full of heartbreaking surprise as she looks at him. “I don’t have to… I don’t want to be a bother.”

He would laugh at the idea that she could bother him by staying, but he knows she only feels that way because he’s been so hard to get close to. And part of him thinks she should go—that he should release her, give her the space to realize how much better she can do. But what she’s given him has made him greedy, made him hungry for more. Much more.

So, he just holds out his hand and simply says, “I want you to stay.”

She takes his hand, letting him pull her up to a standing position, her own legs seeming a little shaky as well—something that makes a surge of stupid, masculine pride well up within him. The smile she gives him is gradual, like the sun rising, as he walks backward, leading her to his bedroom.

“I want to stay, too,” she whispers.

And like he knows the sting of a kunai, he knows that he loves her: intimately, and unquestionably.

0O0

The morning brings for Sakura the feeling of his chest rising and falling against her back, his arms draped around her and heavy with that books-and-spices smell. She feels his breath, deep and even, stirring the hairs on her neck and she just closes her eyes… breathes with him.

When she arches her back and rolls her hips back into him, he wakes and stretches against her, warm hands tensing against her stomach, and then caressing, and then moving lower. She gives him a soft moan of permission and he touches her like he’d devour her with his hands if he could, and when he rolls her onto her stomach and presses himself into her, she lets him in, and again, again, he makes her body sing.

Eventually, reluctantly, they untangle themselves, and their smiles are shy, their glances warm as they rise and go about their morning together. She stops him long enough to heal the score marks she left on his back the evening before, blushing deeply at the smirk on his face.

It’s new, sharing this time together, and they bump into each other occasionally—while she’s putting the kettle on, while he’s rummaging for food—and it makes her giggle, makes him grin that crooked grin. The happiness that permeates his quarters would border on giddy if it wasn’t so quiet, so full of content.

It’s the feeling of things falling into place.

They sit across from each other with tea and a meager breakfast, but the company is more filling than anything they could have been served. She drinks in the sight of him like this—smoky eyes gentle in a smile—and knows that this moment is reserved only for her. It feels like a gift.

He asks her to come back the next night, and when the next night comes, he asks her to come back the night after that. A new toothbrush appears in the cup in his bathroom, next to his own. When she accidentally leaves an item of clothing behind, he casually mentions the newly-cleaned out drawer that it is in, freshly laundered and folded. Her favorite medical texts began to appear on his shelves, next to his copies of Icha Icha.

“Kakashi…” she begins hesitantly one morning. When he raises an eyebrow at her, she summons her courage and asks, “Are you trying to get me to move in with you?”

“No.” He answers quickly, and she can feel her heart plummet to her feet. But then a small, slightly smug smirk plays across his lips, and he continues, “I’m succeeding at getting you to move in with me.”

And just like that, her heart is full to bursting again. She bites her lip, trying not to grin. “People are going to find out. Does that mean we’re going to take… this… outside of these walls?”

A light snort escapes him. “Do you really think that my ANBU haven’t been talking since the night you fell asleep on my couch?” He mutters something under his breath about black ops agents who gossip like hens.

She holds her tongue for a moment, reluctant to continue. But if she’d held her tongue before this, they would never have gotten this far.

“You know… I told myself I wouldn’t live with someone unless I loved them.” She tries for a coy tone but is unable to stop the tremor that enters her voice.

All expression falls from his face, and Sakura feels winded, feels afraid that she’s finally pushed too far—that this time, he really will send her away. But he slowly walks toward her, reaching a hand up to curl around the back of her neck, pulling her close to him. Lowering his head, he rests his forehead against hers.

“Then love me,” he murmurs.

0O0

When he tells her to love him—saying it like a command, saying it like it’s not the most terrifying thing he’s ever done—Kakashi feels like the world freezes. He knows, then, that everything in his life will be separated into the before and after—before he tells her to love him. After, when she accepts or declines.

The warmth in her eyes makes his chest ache when she smiles up at him, her hands smoothing up his chest to curl around his neck in a move that has become familiar. She leans up on the balls of her feet, silken pink strands brushing against his cheek, and she whispers in his ear.

“What do you think I’ve been doing all this time?”

He almost doesn’t hear her for the sound of his own pulse thundering in his ears, but then her words hit him, leaving him stunned. She is his. She is his. And then he can’t stop himself from crushing her to him, holding her tightly enough to produce a breathy squeak. Because he’s finally learned that good things can happen for him in this life. Because he’s finally learned that sometimes, scar tissue is the thing that holds you together, that makes you whole again.

Because the pain is finally gone.

All that is left is the love, and the hope—and suddenly, the future is beautiful to behold.