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in the ashes of

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“Hn, maybe it is disturbing,” Sasuke says, looking into the mirror. He touches the skin under his left eye, rinnegan spinning lazily. There is a smile on his face, but there is no joy in it, just cold amusement.

“Who told you it was disturbing?” Kakashi asks. Whoever said it was right, but he's not about to admit it out loud. When Sasuke shrugs and doesn't turn to look at him, Kakashi hears himself say, “Well, I think you're beautiful” He aims for it to be light-hearted, a joke, something to lighten the mood, but it comes out pathetically earnest, and he winces.

“A lot of people think I am,” Sasuke says, and by all rights it should sound like he’s boasting, but Sasuke just sounds tired. “Orochimaru thought so, too.”

And, oh. Kakashi opens his mouth to reply-- say something, anything, but, what could he possibly say to that? That this is different? Because it really isn't. Kakashi has had his suspicions, but to have them basically proven right in such an off-hand, matter-of-fact way is truly jarring. For a moment he wants to press, to ask-- Did he touch you? Did he hurt you? But they're all bullshit questions and the answers Sasuke has to them will add nothing to the conversation.

Because even as the words still ring in the silence stretching between them, Kakashi knows, as clearly as he knows his own name that Orochimaru did hurt Sasuke. Deeply. And, on some level, everyone knows that, and no one seems to care, dead-set on ignoring all the ways they've failed to protect Sasuke. They all failed him and hurt him and showing sympathy now, when Sasuke is an adult, might just be the equivalent to spitting in his face.

Kakashi wants to be outraged. Wants, very deeply, to feel more than this quiet resignation, wants to be the better person, but isn't sure that he has what it takes. So he stays silent, and when he puts his hand on Sasuke's shoulder, the younger shrugs him off. Kakashi watches him look into the mirror and press on the bruise Kakashi sucked into his neck this morning, the tips of his fingers turning white. The smile never leaves Sasuke's lips.

Kakashi gets out of bed to take a shower and as he watches the soap suds disappearing into the drain, he wonders idly on just how much Naruto knows of Sasuke's time with Orochimaru. He must not know of the things Kakashi suspects, because if he did, there would be nothing left of the Snake Sannin.