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The Dream Breather

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Chiisai sat on the opposite side of the couch with her legs drawn up and a blanket around her shoulders. The cushions were stiff, and she longed for her old couch back at the apartment, along with its fluffy pastel pillows. It had been so much warmer back at her place. Kakashi kept the thermostat 5 degrees lower, and she felt perpetually cold. At least there were windows, and sunlight, and decorations. It was still better than the underground bunker.

Her eyes glinted with anger at Kakashi, who lounged beside her with a casualness she didn’t understand. He only wore pants and a tank, along with the mask. It was far too much skin to show, and his shirt fitted him like a second skin, outlining the definition of his toned chest. She couldn’t deny that she enjoyed the view, but that was exactly the problem.

It was not normal- living here in his home, with his things. Her clothes were finally put away, and luckily Kakashi’s minimalist view on life left room for her favorite dishes, mugs, and snacks. But her books still sat in piles along the hallway, and she refused to part with them. It was the only clutter in the apartment. Not only had she been forced to share the only bedroom, but there was only one bathroom, and both had lived the single life for a very long time.

Kakashi took his attention off of the book in his hand and glanced at her. He raised an eyebrow when her eyes darted away. Sighing, he closed the book and said, "Are you ready for tomorrow?"

Pulling the blanket closer, she replied, "As ready as I’ll ever be."

Kakashi's eye flickered over the outline of her body. She was still so thin. "There's no need to rush things." The ninja leaned back and stretched. "It wouldn't bother skipping work tomorrow." It was her first official day in the apartment, and everything had been rushed. It was too much change for Chiisai, and she had immediately shut him out after Shizune dropped her off this morning. He couldn’t blame her, of course. After all, it was a drastic change for him as well. He hadn’t even had time to draw up some house rules.

"Unlike you, I enjoy arriving promptly." Her head rested on her knees and she added, "And I would like some consistency back in my life." Her eyes wandered around the room that didn't belong to her. She felt like a cat thrown carelessly into water. Was anything about her life normal?

His tone softened. "Chiisai."

"Hmm?" She didn't meet his gaze.

There was a moment before he spoke. "How bad are your seizures?"

Her eyes found the window. Of course Kakashi would've found out. It had been stupid to think that she could hide it from him. She didn’t need to create more problems for him.

She raked a hand through the brown strands of hair and calculated, "Very seizury."

The jonin leaned forward while resting his elbows on his knees. “I do play certain roles that concern your well-being. The plan only works if we both communicate."

The woman rolled her eyes at his serious tone. There was a lot more than communication needed for the mission to work, and she wasn’t ready for it. "They're not that bad." His expression caused her to groan in frustration. Rubbing her face, she complained, "You're such a worrier! I'm fine."

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She wasn't fine.

It was one in the morning when she got out of bed. His bed. Though there was room for two, Kakashi had agreed to sleep on the couch before she could open her mouth. It had been a relief, to say the least. But the bed still smelled like him, and she couldn’t sleep.

Chiisai cursed her feeble body, knowing that she wouldn't be in this situation if only she possessed some ninja skills. It was her mind that held all the power when she was asleep.

She needed a cold glass of milk to calm her down. How could she go to sleep in Kakashi's bed, in Kakashi's apartment?

Kakashi didn't move from the living room, much to her content as she tiptoed into the dark kitchen. He probably feigned sleep for her sake. Chiisai rummaged through the cabinets, trying to remember which one held the glasses. Sighing, she rose on the balls of her feet and pulled out her favorite mug- it was made of glass and had cats decorating it.

She missed Tori. It would be so much easier if he were still here.

Her hand gripped the handle as she opened the refrigerator. Its light made her cringe, and her eyebrows furrowed. For a moment, she watched her hand linger on the milk carton. It was shaking.

The nausea set in, making her stomach churn. She staggered back, away from anything she could knock over. Chiisai cursed under her breath as her body gave way. Another step forward. The glass left her hand, but the woman never heard it meet the floor. She fell backward on the tile, causing slivers of pain to split across her back. Spasms racked her entire body.

Someone screamed inside her head, splitting her eardrums while she desperately tried to claw her way out of this frightful place. Why was there so much fog? Anyone could get lost here.

Was she lost?

She couldn't remember.

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His body went rigid as he heard her pause. When the sound of shattering glass entered his ears, he was already in the kitchen. His eye widened when he saw her convulsing body lying on broken bits of glass, the light from the refrigerator illuminating her trembling form. His hands wrapped around Chiisai, tilting her on her side. Saliva and blood fell from the corner of her lips as her eyes rolled back. He positioned her head on his thigh as gently as he could, remaining calm on the outside though his heart thundered in his chest. He was left watching helplessly while the seizure took over Chiisai.

Her body eventually grew still. His worry rose at seeing blood spread on her back. The seizures were far worse than what he had anticipated. What good could he do when it came to guarding her from herself?

Her eyes slowly opened, though they didn't focus. She stared blankly at his waist for several moments. Kakashi's hand supported the back of her head as he waited for her to recover.

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

Kakashi shifted her body, keeping careful to avoid her back. "You fell on glass."

"That was my favorite, too." She frowned while moving her jaw back and forth.

He lightly shook her hair around her shirt, letting the loose pieces of glass fall. She winced as she rose into a sitting position, feeling the warmth of the blood on her back. Kakashi stood and held out his hand. She glared up at it, sighed, and took it. Her hand was small against his, and his calloused fingers gripped hers as he pulled her up. She averted his gaze as he said, “I have a first aid kit in the bathroom.” Chiisai followed him down the hall as he asked, “Still want to go to work?”

“Yes.”

Kakashi shook his head. "You're in no condition to go. Now turn around.” She huffed but obeyed. He lifted the back of her shirt, assessing the bits of cuts and gashes that adorned her skin. "You're going to have to take your shirt off. It's everywhere."

"What?!" She grabbed onto her shirt and fumbled to shove it back down. Wincing at the movement, she added, "I'm not taking it all the way off."

He flattened his brow. "I've already seen you-"

Kakashi caught himself as her body stiffened. “Your scars. I’ve seen your scars,” he finished with a cough. She didn’t remember the shower incident, and he planned on keeping it that way. “Look,” he sighed, “I can just rip open the back of your shirt. Just lay on the sink.”

He reached under the sink, taking out the supplies he always kept handy. The ninja looked back to see her glaring at him. Chiisai always seemed to be glaring at him, he realized.

“Fine,” she sighed. “But turn around.”

“Why?”

“I don’t want you to see how clumsy I am.”

“That’s nothing to be embarrassed for. Why would I have that expectation of you?”

She gestured with her hand and replied, “Just turn around!”

Kakashi rolled his eye, shrugged, and did as he was told.

He turned away from her, but that didn’t stop him from hearing every sound she made. Her breath, her palms on the sink, her knee hitting the edge, a curse, a mumble, and the creak of the wood underneath as she lay on her stomach. “That was painful,” Chiisai said.

He resisted the urge to to roll his eye again and stepped towards her. And paused.

Her body pressed down against the elongated sink, her knees bent back as her toes reached the light switch on the wall. Her silhouette shown in the bright lights, the curve of her back sinking and arching back up. Kakashi took a deep breath. He’d bandaged up plenty of comrades before- both male and female. This wasn’t any different, he told himself. “Ready?”

Chiisai pulled her hair to the side. “Rip away,” she mumbled.

Kakashi gripped the top of her shirt in both hands and yanked. The fabric pulled apart easily, and he briefly wished he were ripping her shirt open for a different, more enticing reason. The sound echoed in the cramped space. The shirt now draped her sides, and Kakashi set to work with the tweezers. He could see the outline of scars along her exposed sides, like stripes on a tiger.

Chiisai broke his concentration. "They usually aren't that severe."

"You're a bad liar." He picked out the tiny pieces of glass and set them aside. He needed to keep her safe, after all, that was his mission. But their lack of communication had already made it difficult.

She pretended not to notice the warmth of his touch though it sent shivers down her spine. "I'm a great liar when I have the energy." She arched her back as more pain shot through her. Turning her head back, she scowled, "What are you doing?"

He placed the curved shard with the other bits and pieces. "You hammered the glass into you. And stop moving."

Chiisai let out a frustrated groan and pressed her head into the counter. The sound of duct tape ripping startled her and she said, "What the heck are you doing now, kidnapping me?"

He pressed the tape lightly onto her and glared back, "Oi, you want me to help you or not?”

"Fine," she muttered. His fingers pushed down cautiously, causing her to cringe. "I'm really starting to question your methods, Farm Boy."

“This is going to sting.” He peeled the tape off, taking with it the bits of glass and blood. It was crude, but effective. Kakashi then frowned and added, “I'm one of the most elite ninjas in Konoha and you question my methods?"

She shot back, "I question a lot about you and your weirdness."

He shook his head. "Care to enlighten me."

"Sure. I don’t understand how your hair manages to defy gravity. And do you even eat with that mask, or is it some kind of camouflage jutsu? Your sense of smell worries me too. And I don’t understand why you enjoy Icha Icha. The plot is decent at best, and- HEY!"

Kakashi ripped the duct tape off her back in one swift motion, causing the sound to echo throughout the bathroom. The ninja smiled and replied, "Oh, sorry about that."

With a growl, she shifted her weight forward and tried to kick him with her foot. His fingers wrapped all the way around her ankle. "It's a plot that dives deep into the passions between a man and a woman. And you say it's decent?"

"The protagonist keeps making the same mistakes and doesn’t learn from them." Her voice rose. “That’s not a character-driven story.”

"His heart overshadows his mind throughout the narrative, causing him to make the same brash decisions. It’s his constant struggle that drives the story forward," the ninja reputed. "Now stay still, there's some glass left."

Kakashi let go of her leg and grabbed the tweezers again. Her breath caught in her throat when he pulled out the long shard. It glinted red under the light, and she let out a hiss once it left her skin.

"That's going to need stitches."

It took ten minutes to clean, suture, and bandage the wounds. Chiisai ground her head into the cool sink the entire time, painfully aware of how close Kakashi was to her half-naked body. His fingers kept grazing over her as the needle went in and out, pulling her skin back together with each sharp prick.

"Done."

"Great," she wheezed out. "Now I need a new shirt and a new mug.”

Kakashi pulled off his shirt and dropped it on top of her head. “This should fit nicely,” he said with a false smile.

"Hey, that's not what I- ughh," she groaned. He had already closed the door behind him. Slowly, Chiisai peeled herself from the sink, barely catching herself as her feet touched the ground. The torn shirt slid off of her. Her heart sank at the sight of herself in the mirror. Her toned body had long dwindled away, leaving a small shell that only now seemed to be healing. The old jagged scars crossed over her stomach, catching the light as she turned to see the damage on the other side. It was covered in bandages and blood stained the back of her pants. With another heavy groan, she pulled them off and pulled Kakashi’s shirt over her, though the movement stung. It fell almost to her knees like a nightgown and was full of static, causing it to cling to skin. Was it because lightning was Kakashi’s natural affinity? Were all his clothes full of static?

She turned the faucet on and opened her mouth to check her wounds. After cleaning the blood from her lips, Chiisai placed the dirty clothes in the sink and watched the water turn a murky orange. With a deep breath of uncertainty, she switched the light off and opened the door.

She trudged passed him and said, "Are you following me in case I have another seizure or something?"

His footsteps were silent behind her. "I'm just enjoying the view in front of me."

The pain finally set in and she filled her cheeks with air to distract herself. She tried her best not to limp to the bed, but her body was already shutting down. Kakashi reached out to help, but she managed to get out of his grasp. "I'm fine," the woman said firmly as she staggered to the bed. He was being ridiculously kind to her, and she didn’t know what to make of it. "I'm still going to work, you know."

He turned off the light before he left. "We'll see. Goodnight Chiisai."

Chiisai faceplanted into the pillow, trying to get comfortable on her stomach. She needed to get to sleep to start her mission. But the pain flowed as naturally as the blood in her veins, contrasting the heaviness that clung to her bones. One miscalculation on her part could ruin Konoha's newest and most dangerous secret.

She turned her head to the side and said into the darkness, "Farm Boy."

He was at the door seconds later. "Hai."

"Stay," she mumbled pathetically, hating how he was the only thing that made her feel safe anymore.

She inched toward the wall, leaving a space for him. Hesitating, he slowly climbed in. Chiisai shifted so that she curled into him, her fingers grazing his chest. She couldn't deny how welcoming his warmth was, and that knowledge scared her more than the seizures.

"I'm tired of being alone," she confessed through the pain.

Kakashi watched her onyx eyes close. His fingers ran through her hair as he whispered, "I know." He took a deep breath, noticing the blood couldn't hide her scent. She always smelled like books, whether here or in the dream world. His lips brushed against her forehead and he finally murmured back, "Me too."