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[personal profile] oroburos69
Title: Three Returns
Rating: T/FRT
Summary: Three times Kakashi came home.
A/N: Short, and for the KakaSaku Fable Contest. Definitely gen, and includes the death of an OC. Um...I haven't slept in a while. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

One
 
"Boar is dead," he said, and the strength drained from his legs. Kakashi caught himself on the edge of Tsunade's desk, hands closed tight on the polished wood.

She caught him, moving faster than Kakashi could see. His vision was blurred for some reason. "Sit," Tsunade said, pressing him down onto a horizontal surface, cushioned and likely a couch.

Her movement caused warm air to slide away from her body and dance along his skin. It smelled of salt and strength, much like Boar had. "I liked her," Kakashi said, surprising himself with his confession. "I liked her."

"I know," she replied, sitting beside him, the length of her body tucked against his side.

Boar had asked him out. They were going out for dinner tonight, only not, because Boar was ashes tucked into his bag.

Tsunade's arm wrapped around his waist, and Kakashi shuddered, confused by the way his eye watered. The air must be dry. "She--I--" he didn't know what he was saying. "I'm sorry," he apologized.

"Rest," Tsunade ordered him. "Let me take care of things."

He choked down a sound and clung to Tsunade, his face pressed against her collarbone. "I'm sorry," he repeated. "I'm sorry." In his memory, Boar laughed, and dreams that might-have-been ached in his chest.

***

Kakashi woke up in a strange room, in a strange bed, with a former student bringing him tea. His eyes felt gritty, and a tight coil of misery lived in his throat. "Good morning," he murmured. He was tempted to curl under the covers and never come out, but he was very hungry. Perhaps he'd do so after he ate.

"Good morning," she answered, tucking loose strands of pink hair behind her ear. "Tsunade said you weren't feeling well."

He smiled, though his face felt stiff and frozen.

Sakura paused only a second. "I brought you lunch. Are you hungry?" She offered him a silver platter, a delicate teapot and small plates of food placed on its surface.

Grief always made him feel starved. "Yes," he said.

Sakura placed the tray on the table in the corner. "Can you get up?" she asked.

The blankets tangled around him when he tried, and it seemed almost too much effort to bother with. Kakashi would have given up, had Sakura not helped.

"Come on, let's sit down over here," she said, guiding him toward the table. Kakashi sank down on the closest chair and felt himself sagging at the seams.

"Are you hurt?" Sakura asked, pouring tea into a cup. She slid it toward him.

"I'm fine," he said, wishing that he wasn't. It would be better if something real was wrong with him. He was only sad, which wasn't enough. Boar had been worth more than just sadness.

Sakura nodded and sipped her tea.

His hand twitched toward his cup. He missed and knocked it on its side. Hot tea poured over the polished wood, steam dancing up and away. He sighed, quietly, and suddenly was crying, tears soaking into the fabric of his mask.

Sakura mopped up the spilled tea and dropped the rag on the platter. "Can I help?" she asked.

Kakashi shook his head. "Just stay," he requested.

And she did.

Two

In winter, he came home. The village was strange under snow, the leaves fallen and dead. The crust on the snowdrifts cracked and crunched under his sandals, ice sneaking under his socks and melting to chill his toes.

The streets were silent, snow beginning to drift down in thick, heavy clumps. The many-coloured lanterns swaying on the eaves reminded him that it was Mid-Winters Day, very early in the morning.

The quiet was almost meditative, the frantic pace of his mission ended and the rush of relaxation that came over him. His breath spread through the snowflakes, swirling shades of white cast golden in the streetlights.

Kakashi laughed softly, feeling strangely awake. The streets were blanketed under layers of fresh snow, the only footprints his own. The Hokage's tower looked like something from a fairytale, the red door welcomingly bright, icicles dripping from its frame.

A flicker of movement drew his eye to the upper window. Sakura grinned and waved again, flicking her fingers in an obvious summons.

***

"You're home!" she greeted him. Her face was bright and cheerful in the dimmed lights.

"I am," he answered, brushing snow off his sleeves. "Happy Mid-Winter."

"Happy Mid-Winter," Sakura laughed. "Tsunade's still working, and so is Shizune. Why don't you come up? We have food."

"Okay." He was smiling. "I'd like that."

"Great!" Sakura grabbed his wrist and started dragging him up the stairs. "We got extra for you, because you were supposed to be back earlier today, but it's still good! We have a microwave."

He was strangely touched.

Three

In January, he almost died. Not from poison, or from a blade, but because the weather was much too cold, and the ice much too thin.

"You can walk on water," Tsunade pointed out as she ran a towel over his back. Kakashi could almost feel the rough terry-cloth. "I don't understand how you fell under the ice if you can walk on water. I usually only get genin who are this stupid."

Kakashi sneezed, then grimaced, because sneezing into a mask is a truly awful thing. "Gai--" His teeth chattered too much for him to continue.

"And if Gai walked off a bridge, would you?" she asked, scrubbing his hair dry with fierce enthusiasm. "Sakura, get this idiot some tea!" Tsuande barked, tossing the towel into the corner. She tucked another blanket around his shoulders and shoved a hot water bottle down into the mass of quilts.

"You really are an idiot," she muttered, almost absentmindedly.

Kakashi found he didn't mind.
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