Taisetsuna : Precious

A Naruto Fanfiction by Aoikami Sarah

 

Chapter 9

 

            Another quiet dinner faded into bedtime in Konoha for the Hatake girls. Yume was about to go brush her teeth, but stopped in the doorway of the room she shared with her identical sisters and looked to the one sitting in the windowsill.

            “Hikari, please cheer up. I’m sure Kaasan will let you go out soon.” Yume smiled, hoping to raise her sister’s spirits. When Hikari turned to face her, Yume’s smile drooped. “Oh no, what are you plotting, Hikari?”

            “Hehehehe… You know, Imoto-chan, if you cut your hair…”

            “No way! You have to be on your best behavior! Besides Kaasan will never fall for it, and you know it!”

            Hikari sighed and went back to looking out the window. “Yeah, you’re right.”

            Yume sighed as well, except out of relief, and rubbed her hands together. “You miss Sasuke, don’t you?”

            “I guess,” she mumbled.

            “You know, you could write him a note and I could get it to him…”

            Before the sentence was out of her mouth Hikari tackled her sister. “Would you? Really!?”

            Yume laughed. “Sure! I’m sure he’d like to hear from you before your release.”

            “Mou, Yu-chan, you don’t have to make it sound like prison!” Hikari threw a pillow at her and laughed as well.

 

.x.

            Three days after Gaara had been sealed Yami had slept a total of four hours. That night after dinner, she helped her father back to their room then went to check on Gaara. Yami sat at his bedside and whispered an apology.

            “I’m so sorry this has happened to you. I didn’t think you’d be hurt. I really thought this was for the best, so did your sister and brother. Please wake up.” She stared at his peaceful face and reached out carefully. Her fingers traced the ‘ai’ character on his forehead. Lack of sleep combined with desperation addled her brain. She got up and leaned over his sleeping form. ‘It works in fairy-tales.’ Yami bowed and closed her eyes.

            The next thing she knew she was sprawled upside down on the other side of the room.

            “What do you think you’re doing!?” Temari shouted.

            Yami scrambled to sit upright and clutched the side of her head which was oozing blood. “I thought that… I could…” Temari shook out her fist and stood defensively in front of the bed.

            “You’ve done enough. I want you and your father out of here tomorrow. Understood?!”

            Yami nodded and staggered out of the room, tears, like an afterthought, coming to her eyes.

 

.x.

            Naruto didn’t even try to act sneaky as he stole a glance at Hikari’s note.

            “Do you mind?” Sasuke snapped and folded the letter.

            Naruto laughed as his friend’s cheeks turned pink. “To bad Sakura-chan is a girl or we could have had all of team seven dating Kaka’i-sensei’s daughters!” His cackling laughter echoed down the street as he followed Sasuke to the training grounds.

            “Dating?! What makes you think…” he began to argue with Naruto, but it only made the boy laugh harder. “Shut the hell up.”

            “So, you do like her?!”

            “That is none of your business.”

            Naruto twirled a kunai around his pinky. “Ohoho! You do! Sasuke and Hi-chan sitting in a tree! K-i-s-s…” Before he could finish his song, Sasuke held up a hand.

            “Ohayo, Sakura.”

            Naruto swallowed hard. “Morning, Sakura-chan…” ‘I forgot,’ he thought, too late.

            “I guess we’re on our own today, huh?” she asked. “How are you feeling, Sasuke-kun?”

            He rubbed a hand across his chest and smiled reassuringly at her. “Fine, thanks to Tsunade-sama.”

            “That’s good. It’s so good to see you smile.”

            Naruto watched the two of them. For years there had been an odd imbalance between the three teammates. Sakura loved Sasuke. Sasuke loved nothing and Naruto loved Sakura. Now all Naruto could think about was Yume, and Sasuke spent more time with Hikari than with the team. Even though he wouldn’t admit it, Naruto was sure the Hatake Girl Magic was working on him, too.

            “I saw Lee as I was leaving the hospital the other day,” Sasuke commented as he stretched his arms over his head, preparing for their exercises. “He’s come a long way.”

            Naruto brightened. ‘Oh yeah! Rock Lee and Sakura-chan!’

            “Mm!” Sakura nodded. “Tsunade-sama told me today that she might have found a surgical procedure that can cure Lee-san!”

            “Really?” Naruto asked, astounded.

            “That’s great,” Sasuke said with a smile.

            “Ok! Let’s get to work!” There was balance between them at last.

           

.x.

            Early the next morning Yami helped her father down the stairs and out of the door. Kankuro thanked them over and over, but Temari was noticeably silent.

            “Please let us know…” Kakashi asked an open-ended question.

Kankuro nodded. “Sure thing. Have a safe journey.”

            Yami tried to make eye contact with Temari to say she was sorry one last time, but the woman would not meet her eyes.

 

.x.

            Evening fell and Naruto’s stomach cried out for ramen. After only a little whining, he finally convinced the other members of team seven to go to Ichiraku with him.

            “Kyaaa! I can’t believe we’re so close to being Jounin!” Naruto bounced slightly in his seat.

            “I can’t believe you’re eighteen years old and still wriggle like a small child!” Sasuke cracked his chopsticks in half. Sakura watched them and couldn’t erase the smile from her face.

            ‘Sasuke-kun is all right now,’ she thought. ‘He’s really all right now.’ “Guys,” she said and broke apart her own chopsticks. “I have something to tell you.”

            Naruto looked up from his ramen and sucked a stray noodle up. “What is it, Sakura-chan?”

            She faced them and took a deep breath. “I won’t be taking the Jounin exam this year.”     

            “Whaaaat?!” Naruto shouted.

            “Why not?” Sasuke asked. “You’re ready for it.”

            “It’s not that. How do I put this? I’m not planning on being a Jounin.”

            Naruto’s shoulders slumped. “Then… What?”

             “I’ve talked to Kakashi-sensei about it already and he thinks it’s a good idea too. I’m going to be a Medic Nin.”

            There was a pause before both young men sighed.

            “Good.” Sasuke dug in. “I’m glad you’re not just giving up.”

            “Me?” She grinned, a bit of Inner-Sakura leaking out. “Never!”

            Naruto laughed and asked a million questions. Team seven would be dissolving after the Jounin exam that spring anyway, but this just added to the excitement they felt about their futures.

 

.x.

            “Tadaima,” Kakashi called as Yami opened the door. Oururi lolled her head over the back of the couch and looked at them upside down.

            “Welcome home,” she replied. Yami hefted both of their bags through the door and dumped them on the ground. Kakashi sighed and leaned in the door frame. “Are you ok?” Oururi practically leapt off of the couch and helped him in. Yami snuck into her room and closed the door.

            “Aa, Just exhausted,” Kakashi replied and pulled his mask down. He kissed his wife, slowly. “Missed you.”

            “Same here.” She looked him up and down and couldn’t see any bloodstains or signs of damage. ‘Damn it,’ she thought. ‘I wish he could tell me what happened…’

            “I wish I could tell you…” he began.

            She smiled and put a finger to his lips. “You’re ok. That’s all that matters.”

 

            Yume looked up from her scroll and smiled. “Ah, Mi-chan! Welcome home!”

            Yami mumbled something and went straight for her bed where she curled up in the covers and was still.

            Yume put her pen down slowly and stared at the bed. “Mi-chan…”

            The door opened again and Hikari came in, towel-drying her short, white hair. “Oh, it’s you.” She groaned and sat on her own bed. “I was getting to like this room for a while.”

            Yami threw off the covers and Yume stood up, ready to try to prevent a fight. To both of their surprise, Yami stormed out of the room with her eyes on the floor. When they heard the apartment door slam Yume balled her fists. Hikari flopped back onto her bed.

            “Che. Such a sensitive thing…”

            “Hi-chan!” Yume cried. “Please, she just got back…”

            “Whatever. Doesn’t make her any less annoying. You saw, she’s still doing that mopey thing she does. It makes me crazy! Why can’t she be normal like us?”

            Yume bit her lip. “Maybe she had a rough time on her mission?”

            “Yu-chan,” Hikari stretched and made a face. “I don’t care.”

            “Hikari…”

 

            A loud metal clang sounded in the dark as the roof-access door was forced open. Yami walked out to the edge of the roof and looked out on the lights of Konoha. She hugged herself and sat down. “I want to go home,” she whispered. “Home to the Sand.”

 

            Summer faded into fall and still, there was no word from Suna Gakure. Even though the temperatures reached 40 or so at night, Yami still found refuge on the roof. Her father would join her occasionally, but not once did she tell him how much she wished to return to the Sand.

            ‘If I told him, what good would it do?’ she asked herself. ‘Even if he thought it was a good idea, Temari hates me. She’s going to be the next Kazekage. She’ll never let me over the Wind Country border.’ Yami faked a smile for her father and he went back inside.

            “Gaara, please wake up,” she whispered and hugged her knees.

 

.x.

            It was just before lunch time when Temari got back from a short mission. She dumped her bag and the Iron Dragon on the stairs and made her way to the kitchen. The staff would clean her clothes and put her fan back in the arsenal, but there were times when Temari could do without being fawned over. The staff knew this and during those times stayed out of her way. Today, she was allowed to make herself food without help.

            Temari sat at the small table in the kitchen and dunked thick pieces of pita bread into copious amounts of hummus. When her hunger had been satisfied, she leaned back in her chair and gave thanks that she was home again after another successful mission.

            ‘Time to check on Gaara,’ she thought and pushed back from the table.

           

            As she trudged up the stairs, her heart was heavy. Four months had passed and Gaara remained in what the doctors called a ‘deep coma’. She did the research. She learned that people who fell into such things usually never came out. Already, Gaara’s muscles were beginning to atrophy from disuse. His skin was paler than it had ever been. ‘Perhaps he’s better off if he dies,’ she thought, miserably. ‘What kind of a life is this for him?’ She shook her head. ‘No. I won’t give up on him, I won’t!’

            As she came to the top of the stairs her heart sank. A thin, high-pitched sound made her blood run cold: the sound of an EKG flat-lining.

            “No,” she whispered and sprinted down the long hall. At the end, the door to Gaara’s room stood open. “Gaara…?”

            The EKG whined in the stillness, unable to read a pulse. There was blood on the mussed bedclothes and an IV apparatus lay leaking onto the floor but Gaara was nowhere in sight. Temari’s brain whirred trying to put together what happened. Had he been kidnapped? Her eyes darted around for clues. Blood droplets led out of the door. She darted into the hallway and followed the trail.

            “Gaara?!”

            “I just got here, what’s happened, Temari?” a voice from behind shouted.

            “Doctor! Gaara’s not in bed!!”

            “What!?” The doctor assigned to Gaara joined her, following the trail of blood. It stopped at the last door on the left: the bathroom closest to Kankuro’s room. Temari looked to the doctor. Both of them had kunai in their hands. He nodded to her and she ducked around the corner.

            Temari choked as her breath was taken away. “Gaara!”

            He flinched at the sound of her voice. He was curled in a tight ball under the sink basin. He clung to the pipes, blood dripping from the hand he had ripped free from the IV. Temari motioned for the doctor to stay out of sight and crouched down. “Are you ok, Gaara?” she asked quietly.

            “I… I don’t know,” came his husky reply, his vocal chords unused to speaking. “Everything is… My body is…”

            “Please, don’t worry. You’ve been out for a while.” She debated telling him that he’d been asleep for four months, but decided against it at the moment. “Everything will be all right. It’ll take some time to get used to, but I promise you, you will be all right.”

            Gaara’s eyes finally focused on her. He touched his forehead. “It’s so… quiet.”

            “Temari-sama,” the doctor whispered from the hall. “May I help?”

            Temari made a face. “I don’t think that’s such a hot idea.” He poked his head around the corner. Temari blinked a few times at his black bowl-cut and coke-bottle glasses. She stifled a laugh but nodded. “Gaara, this is your doctor. He’s been helping you while you were… out of commission. Please, let us help you get cleaned up.” She smiled sweetly and stretched her arms out to him.

            Gaara narrowed his eyes at the man in the door, but when his gaze fell back on his sister, he relaxed a little. She nodded and waited for him. Slowly, Gaara let go of the pipes and tried to get up, but his muscles were still weak. He was forced to reach out.

            Temari helped him to his feet and couldn’t help herself. She wrapped her arms around him and gave him a quick squeeze. “I’m so glad you’re ok,” she whispered, relieved. Gaara was dazed and didn’t resist her affection. He allowed her to help him back to his room, but kept a wary eye on the suspicious doctor.

           

.x.

            Another successful mission for the Leaf Anbu squad was completed and Hatake Oururi headed home. It was nine o’clock. Her family had most likely already eaten if they were home. She stopped at a sushi bar and got some take out. While she was waiting for her order, a group of shinobi eyed her and made some whispered remarks she couldn’t make out over the din. Annoyed and curious, she decided to find out just what they thought of her in the best way she knew. Before her order was ready, the young men finished up their drinks and headed to the next bar, oblivious of the Anbu woman on their tail.

            “Hahaha,” the red haired one laughed. “Yeah dude, I’d do her.”

            “She’s so hot. It’s like… OW!” the black haired one shook his hand.

            Oururi grinned from ear to ear in the shadows.

            “I can’t believe she’s married to that Kakashi pervert!”

            “Yeah dude! I saw him buying this huge stack of porn the other day!”

            She held her mouth, tears of laughter coming to her eyes.

            “Dude. He’s gay.”

            Oururi’s blood ran hot. She held her breath and listened carefully.

            “What?”

            “Yeah dude,” the red-head admitted. “A few years ago, I saw him kissing another dude. Full. On. The. Mouth.”

            “No way… With a wife that hot!?”

            “No lie.”

            “No lie?” Oururi growled, appearing from the shadows. The men screamed. She grabbed Red and slammed him against a wall.

            “Please, don’t kill me!”

            “Are you telling the truth?”

            “Don’t kill me, man, don’t kill me,” he repeated. She slammed him again.

            “Is it the truth!?”

            “Yes, yes! I saw his whole face and everything!” Red whimpered.

            Mortified, Oururi let him drop and went home, her takeout container left sitting for the alley cats on top of a trashcan.

.x.

            All three of the Hatake Girls were (for once) peacefully watching TV on the couch when Oururi got home. Kakashi looked up from his copy of ‘Come Come Violence’ #23 and smiled at her.

            “Ah! Kaasan, Welcome home,” Yume called, but saw the dark look on her mother’s face.

            “Kakashi, may I speak to you?” Oururi asked as she made her way to their bedroom.

            “Uh… sure.” He put the book down and followed her. Yume’s worry infected her sisters and they watched their parents disappear behind the bedroom door. They looked to each other. Yume bit her lip, Yami squinted and Hikari shrugged.

 

            “What’s up?” he asked. She had her back to him. When she didn’t answer him, he began to worry. “I take it this isn’t about your mission…”

            “Have you ever been with anyone else?”

            He laughed lightly at the absurdity of the question. “No…”

            “Not even another man?” she asked and turned quickly. Her eyes were dry, but red-rimmed and tired.

            Kakashi’s jaw went slack. He tried to speak but nothing came out. His mouth went dry. “I…”

            “Yes or no,” she breathed.

            “I… I can explain…”

            “YES OR NO!”

            “Please.” Kakashi reached out for his wife. “I need to explain…” He was a ninja: a Jounin ninja of incredible skill, but he never anticipated that she would hit him.

            A loud smack echoed off the bedroom walls, but that didn’t scare him half as much as the pain in her eyes. “Get out,” she whispered, turning away from him.

            “Oururi…”

            “GET OUT!”

            Kakashi hung his head and opened the door.

 

            Yami was seated just so that she was the first to see him emerge. He put his hand to his face and pulled it back to examine it. There was a little blood on his fingers. Quickly, Kakashi pulled his facemask up and crossed the living room on the way to the front door.

            Yume made to lunge off the couch, but Hikari held her back. They watched him leave in silence. When the door closed, Yami got up. In seconds, Hikari was in her face.

            “Don’t follow him.”

            “Do you think I’m stupid?”

            “Yes.”

            Yume leapt up. “Please! Don’t!”

            “Screw you, Hikari. Yume, I’m going to the roof.”

            Yume started to shake. When the door closed behind Yami, Hikari turned to her sister. “Yume…” She sat down next to her and pulled her close. “It’s ok. It’ll be ok.”

            From the other room, the girls could clearly hear their mother sobbing.

            ‘What did he do to her?’ Hikari thought, angrily. Rain beat against the window and Hikari was secretly glad Kakashi was out walking around in it.

 

.x.

            Sometime around noon the next day the rain had finally abated. Kakashi sat on a stone bench in a secluded section of Hokage Park and sighed for the hundredth time that day. He wished he smoked, just so he could have something to do. It would also help prevent people from wondering what he was doing, sitting there by himself on a cloudy day. One such person rounded the corner. Unfortunately for Kakashi, he knew the guy.

            “Oi, Kakashi, what are you up to?” Iruka asked, taking his nose out of the newspaper he was reading as he walked. Kakashi ran through ten different things he could say to send Iruka on his way, but they didn’t come quick enough. “Funny place to find you just sitting around. Did you get some time off?”

            “Something like that,” Kakashi mumbled, hoping the sour tone would be enough to say ‘go away’. No such luck.

            Iruka slapped the newspaper down on the wet bench and sat beside him. “You ok?” he asked his friend. “You look like hell.”

            ‘Oh well,’ the Jounin thought. ‘He’s not going to give up.’ “Oururi and I had a fight.”

            “Aw.” Iruka smiled. “Knowing you two I’m sure she won’t stay mad long!”

            His optimism was a little irksome. Kakashi hunched over and put his masked face in his hands. “I’m afraid she will. You see, it’s about something that happened a long time ago.”

            Iruka froze. The smile faded from his lips. He knew what was coming. “You never told her and she found out?” he asked plainly. “I told Yugao about a year ago.”

            Kakashi’s eye bulged. “You what?!”

            Iruka rubbed his hands together. “You know, Yugao used to be this guy, you remember, Hayate?”

            “Yeah.” Kakashi stared at him.

            “So, when we were really getting serious, right before she moved in with me, she wanted everything to be in the open about her past. She told me how much she had loved him and that she still held on to that love after his death. It was rough, but afterwards everything was so much easier!” The teacher smiled. “So, I thought, since she was being so open with me I told her about that time.”

            “And?” Kakashi asked, gripping the edge of the bench. “Did she boot you out of the house? Did she hit you, scream at you?”

            “She was quiet for a while. When I asked her what she thought, she asked me if she was the only one for me. I said yes and she said that’s all she needed to know.” He shrugged and looked to his friend. “I take it Oururi didn’t react the same way?”

            “No.”

            Iruka finally noticed that Kakashi’s clothes were soaking wet. “Oh, man. She didn’t take it well at all did she?”

            “You could say that.”

            “Do you want me to talk to her?”

            “NO! No nonono… She just needs time.” He gave him an only slightly reassuring masked grin. “She knows she’s the only one,” he said, more to convince himself than Iruka, who twisted his mouth up as if he wanted to say something, but got up and patted his friend on the shoulder instead.

            “You let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

            Kakashi nodded and was left in peace.

 

.x.X.[Flashback].x.X.

 

            The streets of Konoha were unusually boisterous. It was late summer and the town was enjoying a Matsuri before the season ended. Most of the children had been taken to bed and only the young villagers were out, drinking and carrying on.

            Lovers embraced in the parks, buddies told mission stories and everyone was having a great time; everyone but Hatake Kakashi.

            He wandered away from the noise and leaned over a railing, looking down over a lower section of town and the dancing lights of myriad lanterns. He was 19 years old, still on the Anbu squad and still alone.

            “Oi! Kakashi!” a familiar voice called out and footsteps echoed toward him. Kakashi would have shrunk into the shadows to avoid him if he wasn’t already well on the way to the land of the drunk.

            “Yo, Iruka.”

            The teenager panted as he caught his breath. “What are you doing way out here, come on! There’s this awesome party going on down on the other end of town…!”

            Kakashi smiled, but didn’t let him continue. With a frightening swiftness and grace he reached out and grabbed the back of Iruka’s neck.

            “Na…?” Iruka began, but was unable to finish. His brows came together and his body froze as Kakashi’s lips covered his. For a second, he was too shocked to move, but it passed quickly. Iruka wriggled, trying, as was in his nature, to be understanding. But Kakashi refused the signal. ‘I don’t want this!’ his eyes screamed, but Kakashi’s eyes were closed. Finally, Iruka was forced to push him off. He leapt back and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “What the hell was that all about?!” he demanded.

            Kakashi laughed lightly with a sly grin on his exposed face. “What do you think it meant?”

            “Kakashi,” Iruka growled, but calmed himself. “You’re drunk.”

            “What does that matter?” Kakashi asked and staggered towards him.

            “It means this isn’t like you!”

            “Are you saying you didn’t like it?” Kakashi licked his lips. Iruka grit his teeth and stood still. “Ah, that’s better,” Kakashi purred and moved to embrace him again.

            He never expected to be uppercut by Umino Iruka. Kakashi skidded back a few feet and held his jaw, a look of shock painted across his face.

            “Baka!” Iruka shouted. “Just what are you trying to do? I know you. You’re not like that. Besides, you love Oururi!”

            Kakashi’s face darkened. “She’s gone.”

            “But she’ll be back…”

            “She’s gone Iruka!” Kakashi shouted. His friend stepped back a pace, shocked to hear the calmest person he knew raise his voice. Kakashi hung his head. “She’s gone… She… she doesn’t love me.” His knees failed him and he sank to the ground. Iruka stood and waited. Quiet sobs told him the coast was clear.

            “Baka,” Iruka whispered and sat down cross-legged in front of him. ‘For a long time all we had was just the three of us.’ He remembered the hell of loneliness he felt that Oururi had helped to fill. ‘My parents were dead, Oururi’s mom died on that day too, and Kakashi lost everyone. Now that she’s gone…’ “You’re trying to push me away so you don’t have anything left to hurt you,” Iruka stated quietly.

            “Just like she did to me.” Kakashi’s sobs mixed with laughter. “Why are you so fucking smart?”

            Iruka laughed with him.

            “And why do you put up with an asshole like me?”

            “You know, I have no idea!” Iruka shook his head. “Nah, I take that back. Someone’s gotta watch out for you until she comes home.”

            Kakashi looked up as Iruka got to his feet. “Iruka…”

            “She’ll be back.” Iruka smiled. “She knows how much you love her. She’ll be back.”

            He swallowed hard and nodded.

 

.x.X.[End Flashback].x.X.

            Kakashi watched the clouds part and got up off of the bench. His soggy clothes felt more humid than damp. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed for the hundred and first time that day. “She knows…”

 


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