Her jade eyes were simmering with unshed tears but she continued staring up at the dull ceiling as the uncomfortable sofa pressed against her back in protest. Her bare legs were propped up onto a certain copy-nin’s lap and his jet black eye scanned the pages of his familiar orange book.
“I didn’t know you smoked,” she commented quietly.
A wry grin stretched across Kakashi’s face underneath his navy mask. He answered her grimly, “Well, now you do.”
“When did you start?” she asked, wondering if she would even get an answer from the antisocial copy-nin. He didn’t tend to open up about his tragic past and the little Sakura knew about the evasive man was learned through other people.
“Started with Asuma some twenty years back,” He replied nonchalantly. The name tainted the air with awkwardness and Sakura was briefly reminded of a possibly dying boy in a hospital.
She let her eyes close. The silence was contemplative and the sounds of a page being turned were the only startling icebreakers.
“It must’ve been after the Yondaime died. Asuma’s mother died in the confusion. It was only really after the Kyuubi was gone that we all had time to mourn,” he mused aloud, flipping another page with a gloved finger.
It surprised her Kakashi was being so open today, but he subconsciously knew it was because he would have tried to give her, Naruto and Sai anything they wanted in a heartbeat at the moment. Sasuke’s death had affected him much more than it should’ve and he was becoming gradually more paranoid that his students would be ripped away from him, one by one.
“The Yondaime seemed like an amazing person. He must’ve struggled a lot when it came to sacrificing himself to save the village,” she observed quietly.
Kakashi shut his book. He slipped it into one of the many pockets on his jounin flak jackets and let his eyes rove over the bare back wall of his home. He agreed with a smile that felt utterly fake and hollow, “He was. I couldn’t have asked for a better sensei.”
“He was your sensei?” Sakura exclaimed in surprise and Kakashi nodded stiffly.
The tense silence that followed contrasted sharply with the brief one just a few moments before. The medic-nin felt she must have brought something painful to the surface and cleared her throat awkwardly.
“You never smoked around us though,” she commented and dark humour flitted in the depths of his onyx eye.
He explained, “Yondaime-sama would probably have killed me if he found out I was smoking, let alone smoking in front of children.”
“Your lungs are going to go black,” she pointed out in disapproval and Kakashi shrugged.
“They probably already are,” he reasoned.
His apartment was surprisingly clean for somebody with an infamous reputation for being exceptionally tardy. One thing, she noted in particular, was the rosewood bookshelf tucked into a corner filled with brightly coloured books with a large red warning sign on them. It smelled of smoke (a scent she had begun to associate with Kakashi) and of sweat but she didn’t really mind.
“Are you and Naruto okay?” asked Kakashi in an uncharacteristic moment of concern.
Sakura covered her jade eyes with a lithe arm and shifted slightly on the threadbare sofa. She shrugged imperceptibly before answering, “I don’t know. Naruto didn’t remember anything about the fight and he kept asking for Sasuke so I had to tell him…he didn’t take the news well. I thought I was over Sasuke’s death but seeing Naruto break down made me realize how wrong I really was.”
Kakashi’s silence was understanding and he removed his battered forehead protector, placing it on the floor beside the sofa quietly. The cogs of regret in his mind had already been working overdrive and were now pushed to the breaking point.
Sakura cleared her throat and said with a bitter smile, “I just thought that after working so hard, we’d finally get him you know. Maybe it would have been different if I had gone on the mission and not listened to Naruto…”
“Sasuke had already been possessed to the point he no longer had any control over his own body. I had to kill him,” he explained in a melancholy undertone.
Tears Sakura thought she had forced down sprung to her jade eyes at the new piece of information. She said in a whisper, “I heard rumours but…I didn’t really know if it was you. I always kind of expected Naruto to do it.”
“Naruto would never have been able to kill Sasuke,” Kakashi murmured.
His hold on his book tightened until his hands were turning white and he left marks in the cover from his blunt fingernails. It didn't escape her notice and she stared at his suffering in amazement and understanding. He suddenly realized what he was doing to it and relaxed his hands, averting his mismatched eyes guiltily. His throat felt thick and heavy and he couldn’t bring himself to say anything, settling for a stoic and stony silence.
“Did he suffer?” she asked quietly, her eyes burning.
Kakashi answered her emotionlessly, “No. It was quick.”
And then Sakura didn’t know what to say. Was she meant to be glad that he had died painlessly? She settled for a quiet, “Ah” that she didn’t really mean and Kakashi closed his eyes.
It was all a matter of time before she broke down. He was counting down the seconds in his mind and became marginally glad that he hadn’t told her everything. A minute passed and he was silently congratulating her for having held up for so long. At a minute and twenty seconds, she had begun to tremble.
He supposed he should have comforted her but somehow, he couldn't bring himself to do it. Maybe he was being selfish, to want to see someone suffering as he was. His onyx eyes glazed over as a memory took a hold of him.
“Kakashi-sensei, I can’t hold him back for much longer,” the raven haired Uchiha had managed painfully, his eyes struggling with a sickening contrast between murky amber eyes and crimson Sharingan.
The rain fell like icy needles upon his back, piercing his heart with every traitorous raindrop. His jaw clenched and his hand tightened around his kunai. He supposed that once upon a time it would have made him happy that Sasuke still considered him his sensei, but the honorific only made his heart clench and the pain twenty times greater.
Sasuke’s back had arched as he fell to the ground, trying to hold back the corrupted sannin. His fingers clawed at the dirt and he raised his head with so much more effort than it should have taken, his gaze blood red and struggling. He had gasped as yellow began to bleed through the red again and Kakashi had met his eyes.
The rain had fallen like icy needles upon his back and his hand had crackled like burning thunder. With every step he took, he could hear his mind screaming at him to stop and that there was another way. As his hand plunged through the body of the boy who had always been – and would always be - his favourite, the wheels of a once proud clan turned for the last time and came to a reluctant halt.