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ARRANGE

1[intransitive/transitive] to make plans for something to happen, for example by agreeing a time and place

2[transitive] to plan and manage the details of a project or event that involves many people

3[transitive] to put things in a neat, attractive, or useful order

4[transitive] music to change a piece of music so that it is suitable for a particular type of voice or instrument

It wasn't arranged. That was the only thing that Kakashi could still hold up after years of thinking and trying to find the reasons that would support his side of the argument.

It wasn't something planned in advance. Not arranged. Not orchestrated. Not even thought of. On the contrary. It was something that… well, the moment his analytical mind came up with the thought 'something that shouldn't have happened' he winced mentally. Partly because now he was selfish enough to feel that he did not want to give up these memories, however painful they might be. And partly because he was responsible. There was no denying that, he conceded, while he was still running fast toward Konoha with his long shinobi strides, perfected in many years. Because the majority of the things that should never, ever have happened in this life or the one after that or in any parallel universe were his fault. He just wished that he could change some of those things by magic, but it's not possible to change the past, is it?

It was only his fault that after he had yet another near-death experience he felt life owed him something more than just blood and wounds and nightmares. It was only his fault that when his teammate-student-friend-companion knocked on the door of his apartment after a particularly troublesome mission, shivering and soaked to the bone, he invited her in and gave her some dry clothes to wear. The clothes were a really serious mistake because not only did she look incredibly hot in his oversized dark shirt with her long, naked legs, she also looked somehow… cute. Hot he could handle, Kakashi thought guiltily for about the thousandth time, cute…well, that was a different matter entirely.

When he first met her she didn't even register as a woman on his radar, for God's sake! She was young, yes, but after spending years with chasing women in several countries (and catching the majority) he would have thought he would be able to tell potentially chaseable female material from the rest. Not that he would ever want to do anything with his own student, of course not – but seeing the possibility in her should have been a given.

Well, it wasn't, and although he missed quite a lot of opportunities in his life (saving teammates, saving his father, being a good teacher, not refusing the first challenge that Gai presented just because he was bored at the time), missing this opportunity of seeing her as a possible heartbreaker came back and bit him in the ass in the most embarrassing way possible.

Giving her something to drink was only civil, he argued with himself. After all, she was seventeen, she could buy herself a drink if she wanted to – and sometimes she did. He never saw her get so drunk as to pass out but a bit tipsy at parties and on birthdays was ok in their line of work. He only offered sake after he realized that tea and a warm room wouldn't stop her shivering. How on earth was he to know that she hadn't had anything to eat that day because she couldn't stomach the food? He himself wasn't very steady to begin with, having just barely escaped from the Grim Reaper again, so it wasn't a wonder that neither of them thought of the possible consequences.

One of them was that Sakura suddenly blurted out some details of her mission, about two children that they found murdered in a small village and their mother going crazy and committing suicide. Another was that she tried not to cry but couldn't quite manage and the way she wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her shirt that was his shirt was not cute, nor anything he had or would ever have words for, so he didn't even try to utter any. He just opened his arms for her and the next moment she was there, crying into his shoulder and he was holding her with all his might and his heart was breaking for her instead of explaining logically that such things happened, she was lucky not to be the one who was sent to murder the children.

Logic flew out the window that evening, Kakashi mused while he was walking through a swamp that stood between him and the next village, probably along with common sense. And discipline. And shame. And a lot of other things.

Because the next thing he remembered was that he was sitting on the sofa and she was sitting on his lap, her small hands clutching the shirt on his chest and he was saying things to her that he would be embarrassed to repeat in any other company. Things like how everything would be all right, how it wasn't her fault, how very sorry he was for her.

And the most embarrassing thing was not that he dared say such soppy words. Not even that he believed those words he said in that moment. The most embarrassing thing, he clearly remembered (for a second he stopped remembering and cursed aloud – damn swamp, he was all muddy now, never mind) so the most embarrassing thing was that there was a moment when he realized that he was saying things to himself, too, and the second monologue did not tally with these words whatsoever.

Now that wasn't completely new as such. Ever since he had been about fourteen and had his first sexual encounter he said things to women he knew they wanted to hear, dirty talk or terms of endearment alike, while his real voice inside said things like 'at last – I thought we'd never get here' or 'off with those panties now – there we go'.

But now he heard that voice inside whisper things like 'my Sakura, my darling'. And instead of being scared shitless, he felt it was right.

That was a serious mistake, he thought now (he was now at the border of Fire Country – so far so good). Although it still did not feel like a mistake. How could it? A mistake was something that you regretted, and he never, not for one moment could regret what happened after that. The consequences… well, that was another matter entirely. But holding a sweet, sweet girl in his weary arms, looking into her beautiful emerald eyes shining with tears, then raising one of his hands to her pearl-white face and stroking her cheek with his thumb to make those tears stop… how could anyone label that a mistake? A sin, maybe, against her, yes, a wicked, evil deed on his behalf, but a mistake?

He shook his head as he tried to clean the mud off himself. Of course the mud was not going to co-operate, he would have to wait until it dried. It was one of nature's laws. Just like that other thing – a beautiful seventeen-year-old girl and a thirty-year-old guy who could pass for handsome under the mask as she discovered that night, together in his apartment, tired, weary, sad, a bit drunk and in desperate need of warmth, of life… of love.

It was inevitable, in a way.

It didn't take her long to cajole him into taking off that mask and to touch his face, his lips with her slender little fingers in awe. It didn't take him long to close the distance between them and brush her lips with his. And after that it didn't take any time at all for either of them to lean closer and kiss each other properly and to forget about anything else, like the difference in age, like the fact that he was a jaded, depraved guy and she was an innocent young girl, like… like about a thousand reasons why it should never have happened, Kakashi thought.

But that night… he could still remember that after all this time. How her mouth opened to his, how his lips caressed hers. How long they kissed, driving each other crazy with desire. How she wanted to take his chuunin vest off and how he complied faster than he ever thought possible. How they lost their clothing – some of them fast, some of them, like the borrowed shirt, so slow because he showered her with kisses. How he took her to his bedroom and how she smiled up at him. How… oh, there were lots of hows that night, Kakashi thought. Hows and wheres and whens and whats. Where he kissed her when she moaned aloud. How she never tired of trying things she only heard about. What he did to her to make her scream with pleasure. And so on. Lots of things you could ask about a long night. The only things missing were the whys.

The next day she was still in his bed when there was an ANBU messenger knocking at his window. He went back to the bedroom to tell her he had to go and she nodded. She was a kunoichi, after all. He gave her an awkward kiss and left and wasn't back until more than two months later.

When they met again something was off. He asked her what it was. She had black circles under her eyes, her beautiful cherry-blossom hair in disarray. Something was wrong. She just shook her head.

Again, he'd just got back from a long mission to be sent on another, Kakashi thought now. He thought he would have more time but things were repeated almost exactly the same way as before. After being back in the village for two days, he was summoned by the Hokage. The new mission couldn't wait. It was bad timing but inevitable. He didn't feel any particular desire to go but after a careful explanation from the Hokage it was obvious that his skills were needed badly. He was used to this – one crisis following other, the village always teetering on the brink of catastrophe.

Before he left - again -, he met Sakura another time. She seemed scared. When he said he had to go away again, she seemed even more scared. He was really pressed for time but he asked the reason for her distress again.

That was when he got the news in his face – she was pregnant, he a father-to-be.

He was so surprised that he automatically used his mask behind the mask, Kakashi thought now. He only said, "I see," and after a few minutes, "What do you plan to do?"

She watched his face for a few minutes then she said very quietly that she was considering several possibilities. He just sat there and said nothing. Then she left. It was too late when he realized that he may have been surprised but it was not surprise she felt. Her eyes always reflected everything she thought or felt. Eyes as windows of the soul – on his eyes the blinds had been down for so long that they couldn't be raised again. But her eyes were still transparent. She was afraid and confused and hurt and lonely while he was surprised. A bit scared, too, yes, but mostly surprised. Hardly equal, Kakashi thought.

Also there were other things to consider. Like money. She'd need money.

That was the least he could do. He ran home and wrote a cheque. First he thought that it would be enough then he tore the cheque up and doubled the amount on the next one. He put it in an envelope and wrote a few lines to go with it.

Something like if she decided to have an abortion she would need money and he would see her when he got home. He took it to her apartment and slid it under her door.

There was no time for anything more and frankly, he didn't know what else to do. So he decided to forget it for a while. The mission was difficult enough – that was nothing new, simple missions were for chuunins and genins, not for Sharingan Kakashi.

He was in the forest now, going steadily. He wanted to be back in Konoha. The sooner the better.

When he'd returned after that mission – God, it was disastrous. No, not the mission itself, that went well enough although took a lot longer than expected, but staying away from the village for several months was nothing new either. It was the weight in his stomach that made it hard. What would Sakura say? Would they be able to get back to what they had before, their friendship, their trust in each other? Would she still work with him? Women took this baby thing much more seriously than men, he knew. Whether she chose abortion or adoption she would not be happy and he would have to take the blame.

He steeled himself. He went to the Hokage first and gave a short summary of the mission, then went to the hospital to get patched up.

He met Ino on the corridor. She said, "Oh, you came to see Sakura, didn't you? How nice of you. She's much better now."

He stopped in his tracks. "Much better?"

"Oh. Of course. You just got back, you wouldn't know. Something went wrong, she was brought in too late and she almost died. She's still not well, but…"

Ino was called away and he went on with his stomach churning and his blood turning into ice. Almost died.

As he thought of the hospital, Kakashi felt the shafts of ice in his stomach again and the thoughts hit him again with their full force. Little Sakura. Who was her team leader, now? He should have been more careful. She always ran into danger to save others.

Then he saw Shikamaru and Chouji standing on the corridor. When he went by, he heard "I have no idea how she could cope with that alone", that was Chouji, and "Well, what else could she do? Her parents wouldn't help her", that was Shikamaru.

Kakashi was running now through the forest like he was running in his mind, remembering the stunning fear he felt. Sakura! How grave was this wound?

Hinata was just coming out of her room when he arrived – it happened years ago and still he remembered that surprise on her face, the sudden blush, the frown.

"K-kakashi sensei," she stuttered.

It took a lot of effort for him to seem normal. "I'm just back from a mission and I heard that Sakura…"

Hinata looked at him. Those pale lavender eyes seemed to bore into his soul. When she spoke again, she spoke without stuttering.

"I shouldn't let anyone visit her," she said. "And you are wounded."

He didn't care. Just cuts. Nothing serious. But Hinata was still standing between him and the door.

"She's in a bad state," she said. "She nearly died, did you know that? Just a few more minutes, and she would have been…"

"Please, let me see her. Please."

Funny how these feelings never left one even after all this time, Kakashi thought. It must be the reason why nowadays he hated long missions. But Konoha was near now. He wondered why these memories always had to crop up.

It was probably because that was the first moment when he saw his own feelings with disturbing clarity. How Sakura was his heart, his soul. How he was not in love, in love being something when you feel elated when you see the other person and you want to sing and stuff. He never felt like that. Sakura was simply a part of him. When she was there, things clicked into place and it didn't matter whether she looked good or whether she was crying or laughing or angry because she was just there. But being alive counted. If she died, he would… Just thinking of it made him want to howl.

Hinata must have seen it in his face because she opened the door for him and then closed it behind him. He heard her steps going further and further on the corridor, clack, clack.

That was when he stepped into a new world, when he realized at last very clearly how unforgivable everything he said and did and everything he missed saying and doing was, and how it was all his fault.

Sakura was awake but pale, oh so pale, and next to her there was a baby.

It was so unlike him, Kakashi thought, that at first he just didn't know what to think. It was like a puzzle where the pieces were from different sets.

Sakura in the hospital bed, white as a ghost, ethereal, beautiful. He felt light, almost floating. She was not dead. 'Not yet,' his inner voice whispered and he got scared again. Then her face turned toward him, and he would have counted on a lot of things but not this.

"Leave me alone!" she hissed. "I'm not going to let anyone adopt her! I'm going to fucking keep her and if you say anything I'll just kill you!"

He kept going toward her. It was like wading through water, Kakashi thought. She was holding the baby close, protecting her, defending her, and her eyes were like lightning. He felt she could put that lightning through his heart any time.

The next thing he remembered was that he was kneeling next to her bed, holding on to her hand and repeating in a fever 'it was my fault, only mine and I'm so sorry…'

He didn't really know what he meant exactly. He just felt that it was his fault that things have somehow gone astray and it was up to him to make this right although he had no idea how.

He was sure she would have sent him away, sent him back to the darkness, his darkness, if his angel didn't come to his help.

Suddenly there was a funny thin little voice coming out of the blanket and she sat up and turned the baby toward him. "Just look at him! Isn't he ridiculous to think we would forgive him?" and the baby, their baby yawned, then gave a tiny sound as if she were amused and opened her eyes. He was looking into dark, dark eyes like his own.

Kakashi stopped now for a moment and checked direction again. There it should be…aah. The walls and the gate. Everything seemed to be all right. He was almost there now.

He saw them both in his mind's eye so clearly. Saki, his daughter, with her pink curls and dark eyes, the most beautiful little girl in the world, his princess, his everything… and his Sakura, her eyes growing enormous when she saw him reaching for the baby, charmed, enchanted… and then Saki was in his arms for the first time and she opened her eyes again and he pulled down his mask and kissed the top of her head… and that was when he knew he was in love.

He didn't realize he was crying only that his cheeks were wet, but he saw that Sakura was crying, seeing how he fell in love with his daughter at first sight and then he just said 'marry me, I'll do anything' and she threw a pillow toward him and shrieked that she would castrate him first…

It took quite a lot of time and effort to make her change her mind and agree to his proposal. It was worth it.

It was in an impatient haze that Kakashi checked in at the gate now and in the Tower next and promised everything just to get out two minutes sooner and then raced toward his house, trying to push back dark, nagging little fears. Surely they must be all right, someone would have said something if there was anything wrong…

He just as good as broke down his own door when he tore in and was greeted by a shriek. "Daddy! Mom, daddy's home!"

Saki was tall for her age although she was only three and in her enthusiastic greeting she collided with his leg full force, using her head like a little ram, but Kakashi just didn't care. Even pain was welcome from her. "Where's mom, my angel?" he asked, taking her in his arms and kissing her lovely little face, carrying her inside.

"In the kitchen," Saki sing-songed. „Making something awful for dinner. Why do you have to like eggplant, daddy?"

He saw Sakura appear in the kitchen door, her eyes full of light like two pools reflecting sunshine. "You're home!"

She was laughing but her eyes were filling up with tears so he had to hug her, too.

"Come on… it was only four days."

"Four days and three nights, dad," Saki chirped in. „That's loooong."

Long can be quite a flexible term, Kakashi thought. Four days definitely counted as long nowadays.

He looked at his wife. "How are you feeling?" he asked and softly stroked her round belly.

"Just don't ask or I'll hit you," she said grumpily. "I forgot all these awful things like stomach burns and cold feet and using the bathroom all the time and now they are all back, and I'm only in the fifth month."

He opened his mouth to say something but she smiled suddenly. "I know, I know. Your fault. I couldn't agree more. Go and take a shower, then you can go to bed until dinner's ready. You must be tired."

He meekly did as he was told, except that he lied down on the sofa in the living room instead of going to bed. The bedroom was too far from the kitchen, too silent. He must be getting old, he thought, whoever on earth ever heard of a shinobi taking an afternoon nap, but it felt so good to lie there and listen to the noises he'd missed so much – Sakura chopping vegetables and scolding Saki for running around, Saki singing some mindless, repetitious little song, the wind blowing in the street… it was Konoha wind… he was home…

In his half-dreamy state he heard Saki running in then shouting "Dad's asleep on the sofa!", then Sakura telling her softly, "Stop shouting then, darling, he must be tired…" They are my heart and soul, he thought, but since they are also the heart of the house, then he must be the home for their souls… and in this dreamy state this seemed perfectly logical.

The last thing he remembered was that he had visitors. They didn't come so often nowadays but this seemed a special occasion. He was home to greet them so they came. Obito said he was happy. Rin smiled. Sensei ruffled his hair. In his dream Kakashi was a bit confused because he remembered that he used to do this to his team and he couldn't be in two teams at once… but sensei laughed. Then the visit ended and they began to float away. "We'll always be there," Rin said, "but you're home now…"

Home, he thought to himself. Wind. Konoha wind. Sakura. Saki.

He drifted to sleep.


Kakashi and Sakura are happily married - or at least that's what Kakashi thinks, but men can be so blind sometimes. Who's wrong now? And who's leaving whom? And what's wrong with eating grapefruits, anyway? Kakasaku.Read more... )
He looked around, silencing the feeling growing in his gut for a second to let the sights and sounds and smells of his home flood his senses, trying to pick up the false note, the missing object.

The strong golden-yellow light of May poured in through the kitchen windows and was reflected on the shiny surface of the floor, the dark, reddish wood of the table, the cups and saucers. Sakura was sitting at the table, her unbraided, long tresses fluttering around her face and her sweet round shoulders, almost covering the back of her favourite green-and-silver yukata. That yukata was a good present, Kakashi thought, and congratulated himself again for picking it out for her birthday.

Not that she liked any less what she got for their marriage anniversary. He could feel his lips pulling into a satisfied smirk. Being Hokage did come with some perks – like being able to secure the very best if he wanted something special, a diamond necklace for his beloved wife of six years, for example.

No, that couldn't be wrong. Sakura was still wearing the necklace this morning at the breakfast table although she usually did not like jewellery. And yesterday he was practically ravished with kisses after they'd come home from the restaurant. The roses he sent to the restaurant on purpose – it really was a bit theatrical but women just love that. He could hear the whispers around the tables when the enormous bouquet arrived and Sakura's eyes lit up like twin stars when she saw the head waiter coming straight to their table… The whole thing was rather well arranged, in fact. It was a good thing that Ino was willing to babysit the children, even agreeing to have them in her house for the night. It was really ridiculous how they usually had to hold themselves back in the bedroom because of the kids and the ANBU guards – and if Kakashi had to risk a bet as to whether kids or ANBU had the most sensitive ears… well, it wouldn't really be a contest.

Speaking of ANBU, it was a good idea to tell them to make themselves scarce around the house. He looked at Sakura again, her full breasts under the yukata, her glowing white skin and he considered pulling her on his lap and kissing her neck. There was no way he would let any of those rookies gape at his wife. He was fully capable of protecting her, not to mention protecting himself.

No, it must be something else that made him feel uneasy.

He looked down on his plate. He felt like having eggs and bacon this morning instead of rice and soup as usual and he felt quite content. Sakura was still attacking her half grapefruit viciously as if it were an enemy nin that…

Wait a minute, Kakashi thought. Sakura did not like grapefruit at all.

He looked at her again and saw the unhappy lines around her eyes and mouth as she determinedly ate the last of the fruit.

"Would you mind telling me what's going on?" he asked after a moment's silence.

A darting look, then again Sakura was fully concentrating on her breakfast.

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Kakashi."

Ah. The defiant voice. She used the same tone when she was thirteen and in his genin team – telling him that it was none of his business and blushing at the same time, strengthening his suspicion that it was his business and he had better find a way to see what the fuss was about or there would be hell to pay.

Kakashi slipped back into sensei mode easily, the tone of his voice delivering the message loud and clear.

"I'm quite sure you know what I'm talking about, Sakura. What's this sudden change in your diet?"

"Sudden? Sudden change, you say? I've been doing this for weeks and you never even noticed?"

Shit. He walked into this like an idiot.

"I've been a bit busy lately, I admit. I didn't really notice what you'd been having for breakfast."

"A bit busy. Understatement of the year," Sakura said and Kakashi was surprised how bitter and unhappy she sounded. This was not going well.

"I'm the Hokage," he reminded her gently. "I have to make sure that things go as they should."

No response.

Kakashi felt the growing uneasiness in his stomach replaced by a numb coldness. Yesterday everything was all right, wasn't it? He wanted to make up for all the dinners he was late for and all the times when he had to leave Sakura alone while he signed treaties and sent out teams and argued with the council while Sakura juggled her hospital work and the household chores. She did mention a few months ago that it was a bit too much, doing all that while taking care of the children…

The pieces started to fall in place but he did not like the picture that was beginning to take shape. Not a bit.

Sakura, complaining that he was never home, that she never had a break. Sakura, staying late at the hospital. Sakura, standing in front of the mirror, putting on a pretty dress instead of her usual slacks and top before going to work. Ino, her best-friend-and-rival, engaging Sakura in a whispered conversation, both looking anxious and ill-at-ease. Sakura, taking the kids on an outing on her own, without even telling him, then saying that he would not have been able to come anyway. Sakura, looking at Hiro, their son, clutching a puppy and cooing… and Sakura explaining in a matter-of-fact voice that Akamaru's mate had a litter and Kiba gave one of the offspring to Hiro…

No one gives a ninken as a present to a five-year-old, especially not the head of the Inuzuka clan. Especially not one of Akamaru's puppies.

Kakashi always had this uneasy feeling about Kiba. He was Sakura's first boyfriend who evolved into a best friend, then a family friend when Kakashi and Sakura got married. He was still single. He and Sakura regularly met and had lunch together, they had their little stories to share, their private jokes…

No. It was impossible. Sakura would never do that. Sakura would never cheat on him, Kakashi thought. Sakura would not lie, she would tell him…

"I'm sorry," he heard Sakura saying in the same disillusioned voice as before. "I really thought I could make it right somehow, but it's hopeless…"

Kakashi watched his wife, the determined mouth, the sea-green eyes, the smooth, beautiful line of her neck. Her strength. Her warmth.

He watched his world starting to crumble and fade at the edges, like an old photograph thrown into the fire, soon to disappear in the flames.

"Who is he?"

It took a few seconds for Kakashi to realize that it was his mouth doing the asking. It sounded like someone with a serious chain-smoking habit and smoking was something he never engaged in.

"Who is who?" Sakura threw the question back at him without a moment's hesitation.

It took all Kakashi's strength to remain sitting and keep at least a semblance of calm. He deeply regretted his decision of not wearing his mask in the house.

"Let me rephrase this. For whose sake did you go on this diet?" Kakashi asked with exaggerated calm.

"Yours," Sakura whispered, without looking at him.

This just doesn't fit, Kakashi thought.

"Sakura. Please. I'm starting to go crazy. Please tell me what's happening. Do you want to leave me?"

Sakura's eyes changed colour. It wasn't the first time Kakashi saw her eyes turn into fierce green slits, like shards of jade, but she had never looked at him like that before. This was a fighter's stance, a fighter's eyes.

"So you want me to leave you? That would be convenient, wouldn't it? Well, I may do you the favour…"

Kakashi had always had a firm notion about how a man should behave in situations like this. When the hero had to say farewell to a woman in Icha Icha, he always did it like a gentleman, stepping aside gallantly, elegantly, never letting the pain show. Kakashi had always tried to do the same before if the occasion wished for a parting of ways and women loved that, they held no grudges like they did with Genma, and usually it resulted in them coming back just to say goodbye a few times more, with a few more tears and preferably between the sheets.

But this was Sakura, his Sakura, his wife, for God's sake, and anyone meddling with her would suffer his wrath.

He preserved his strength and his speed even though he spent his days mostly with paperwork now and he stood up and grasped Sakura before she realized what was happening.

"You're not going out that door, Sakura. Ever. Who is he? This is the last time I'm asking nicely. If I don't get an answer I'll start doing things the hard way and I'm telling you right now that I'll start with Kiba."

He was holding Sakura close to his chest, his heart beating like mad. He just couldn't let go. He wouldn't let go. There had to be a way, there simply must be something that he could do to make things right.

He felt Sakura move and his muscles hardened and then relaxed and then hardened again as he just couldn't decide what to do. Sakura's fists could do really nasty things to even a nin but he didn't care.

Sakura was strangely silent in his arms. He found himself wishing he had dressed up properly instead of putting on just a pair of old jounin pants. He was probably looking like a fool, barefoot, shirtless, maskless, almost naked in his jealous anger. He wished he had his chuunin vest on at least. Shit, he wouldn't have minded the whole Hokage outfit, complete with that terrible stuffy gown and the ridiculous hat.

If anything else failed, maybe he could order Sakura to stay with him. The Hokage's orders must be obeyed.

He realized too late that Sakura was crying, that her tears were dropping on his chest. He felt his heart overflow with love and pain.

He would do anything. If she wanted to leave him, he would let her. He'd move out. He'd leave her the house. He'd even stay friends with Kiba if she wanted him to.

He opened his mouth to say so when Sakura sent his mind spinning again with a name.

"Keiko Tanaka."

He said the first thing aloud that came to his mind.

"You're leaving me for a woman?"

Sakura's head whipped up like a snake. "Who said I was leaving you for her? Idiot!"

Her eyes were searching his face for something and he would have given her whatever she wanted, gladly, if he had had the slightest idea what it was.

She must have made a decision because she put her arms around his neck.

"Did you really think I wanted to leave you?"

His face must have been enough answer in itself because she started to shake her head then pulled him into a kiss.

Kakashi felt his strength saying goodbye and he sat back on his chair, pulling Sakura clumsily on his lap. She was busy kissing and caressing his face, his hair, his neck, much like she did with their baby daughter when she fell and hit herself. Kakashi buried his face into her neck and put aside the luxury of thinking for a while.

After his heartbeat slowed back to more or less normal speed, he found himself contemplating the events around the breakfast table and found the pieces scattered again.

"Sakura," he whispered softly into her neck.

"What."

He gave a desperate sigh. "I can't make head or tails of this whole story. I only know that I want you to stay with me. Forever, if possible."

A happy little snort from the woman in his arms.

"But otherwise… would you tell me what it is about the grapefruit and Kazuko whatshername…"

"Keiko."

"Keiko whatshername that you can't put right? And please, do this in such a way that I would understand because I almost had a heart attack a moment ago, and right now I feel I could get along without another one if possible."

He looked down and only saw the top of her head, her pink hair shining and soft and jasmine-scented under his nose.

"I'm fat," she mumbled.

He had been a married man for six years and this was something he was familiar with.

"No, you're not. You look great."

"I'm fat," Sakura repeated and Kakashi was thinking furiously.

He raised her chin and smiled down into her eyes. He could still see that thirteen-year-old child peeking out, desperately seeking approval, all legs and arms, fragile and clumsy like a young filly.

"Do you remember last night, Sakura?" he asked and saw his wife blush a little. "Yes, you're right. I don't mean the restaurant. I mean what we did after. I hope you remember, it wasn't such a long time ago."

Now it was a full-fledged blush, the soft pink slowly turning into tomato red.

"I mean it's nice you haven't forgotten how to moan, and also that I love to taste you, I definitely prefer you to chocolate, also…"

He found himself silenced by a small hand on his mouth so he kissed her palm then continued.

"What I basically wanted to say is – did I, at any point, look bored? Did I seem like I was suffering an ordeal?"

He was sure he was winning the argument but when she looked up at him he saw tears in her eyes again.

"I'm fat and I'm getting old and I don't deserve you and I've been dieting for weeks and you haven't even noticed…"

She pushed her face into his shoulder and began to cry in earnest.

Kakashi was holding her and stroking her back and wondered helplessly what the hell he could do. How could he tell her what he felt? He was never that good with words. He could explain anything if it was logical but putting his feelings into words… They always came out as something sarcastic or evasive at best. That was why he was so enchanted by Jiraiya's works – Jiraiya always found the right words for the hero who never said less or more than he needed and the dialogues left Kakashi wishing for the skill to say subtle and poetic sentences instead of plain utterances dictated by everyday needs.

The best he could come up with was 'I got lost on the road of life.' God, it was lame.

He was cradling his wife in his arms and his mind was putting together images seemingly at random, making a crazy movie of memories.

Kakashi didn't have any memories about his mother. When he thought of her, the best he could come up with was a fragment of a memory or rather a wish for a fragment of a memory that combined the feeling of hopeless longing, a touch of faded silk and a song he couldn't remember well. He wasn't even sure these belonged together.

When Sakura moved into his apartment, he had a nightmare on their first night together. He only remembered the terror and the pain when he woke up with a start, then Sakura rolled over and pulled him into an embrace, saying something like 'it's all right, baby…I'm here…' He instantly fell asleep again in her arms. The next day he discovered that Sakura didn't remember anything, she was probably consoling him in her sleep. It was a strangely comforting thought.

When he looked at her now he could see that she did put on some weight in the last few years and, although she was still in top form, she was now almost thirty. He knew she had silver marks on her belly and her thighs because of the pregnancies. She didn't wear shorts anymore, she thought that she did not look good in them.

But how could he ever explain to her what he saw when he looked at her, underneath the underneath? Those soft, full breasts, a mother's breasts - he saw her feeding first his son, then his daughter. Wide hips, yes – child-bearing, child-carrying hips. He had never thought he would have children, that he'd want to have children, that he would be allowed to actually have a family.

He loved to bring her small gifts. It was weird how, after years and years of practice of avoiding to pay for anything, he didn't mind spending money on her. Whether it was a dress or just some chocolate, he never ceased to enjoy that surprised, grateful smile that she gave him.

Once he heard Chouji explain to Naruto why he loved Ino. He said she was such a 'girly girl' and Kakashi found this ridiculous. He always found Sakura much more feminine. The way she used her enormous strength to protect and heal the people she loved, the way she wore her feelings on her sleeve, unashamed, the way the storms of her rage were always followed by the warm sunshine of her smile.

How could he put this into words without seeming a stuttering, stumbling idiot?

Sakura raised her head and he could only say, "Sakura. You're my home. Like Konoha."

He hoped she would understand and she did. She must have because she smiled at him through her tears and her smile was so proud.

She always understood. She knew he offered her all he had. Most of his life he didn't have a family, he only had the village, and the demands were enormous. He'd given Konoha a lot of his blood and got a lot of pain in exchange when all the people he loved also gave their lives for his home, one by one.

You are my mother and my sister and my daughter and my friend, Kakashi said to Sakura in the silent depths of his mind. I won't ever say this aloud, it wouldn't come out right and you know it anyway.

So what he did say was, "Out with this nonsense. Now. Who said you were fat?"

He used his thumb to wipe some of the tears off her face, then took a napkin from the table and made her blow her nose.

She didn't say thanks, she said "You ruffled her hair," and hiccuped, like it was a statement so tragic that it didn't need explaining.

Kakashi was sure there had to be some kind of rule in the shinobi book on never making your Hokage look like a fool but he couldn't come up with the number. What on earth was happening?

"You don't even remember, do you?" Sakura asked, sniffing.

Kakashi shook his head, trying to remember something, anything about the person or the event.

"Help me," he said after a minute. "I'm sure I've heard this name before, it's just…"

Sakura sighed. This was familiar ground for both of them. Kakashi had lived in Konoha all of his life, and as Hokage, he had to be aware of a lot of details and remember lots of faces and names, but it was Sakura who had a personal relationship with the majority of those people. Partly it was because she was the head of the Konoha hospital and the Hokage's wife so everybody knew her, and partly it was because she was simply interested in people. Of course, being Ino's best friend helped too. That woman had an underground chain of spies and informators surpassing Ibiki's.

"She's a clerk. In the Tower," Sakura said, her voice colourless, devoid of any emotion. "You were at her birthday party about a month ago. With me."

Ah. Ahahah. He remembered now. That was why the name never registered.

"She's a civilian, isn't she? One of the lower-rank clerks?" he asked. "That's why I didn't know at first."

It was an unspoken basic truth that civilians were important but not as important as the shinobi. Kakashi knew everyone in the shinobi community because it was vital that he should. Civilians only appeared on his radar if there was some kind of problem, even if they worked in the Hokage tower. There hadn't been a problem with the Keiko girl. Up until now, that is.

About the hair-ruffling business…

Sakura was staring at him with a frown.

"It was her birthday," he said as explanation. "I didn't think it would seem harrassment or anything. I just wished her a happy birthday and it seemed appropriate…"

"Oh, it's not the harrassment part," Sakura said dryly. "I'm sure she'd just love to be harrassed by you."

So that was it.

"Sakura," he began to explain patiently. "She's only seventeen. She's a kid."

"That doesn't mean anything," she said heatedly, indifference forgotten in a second. "I was seventeen when I first fell in love with y…"

She bit the end of the sentence and looked aside.

Well, that was new.

"We only began dating when you were about twenty, twenty-one?"

No answer. Sakura's face mysteriously disappeared in his shoulder again, he only saw her hair.

"Mmm-hmm."

"And you were dating Kiba when you were seventeen."

"Eighteen," a muffled voice said near his shoulder. "That was after I realized that this thing with you was hopeless."

"Oh shit. You mean if I were less dense, I could have been your first… boyfriend?"

Shit. Shit. He could have prevented the whole Kiba situation if he had been a bit more attentive at the time. It wouldn't have been difficult to take things slowly and keep Sakura busy, and then when she became of age…

"Shit. I'm jealous."

"What? Of Kiba? That was more than ten years ago, Kakashi!" Sakura said in a tone strictly reserved for dummies at work and for Kakashi whenever they had an argument.

"I don't care," Kakashi said, trying to preserve the last fragments of his pride. "I'm jealous and I don't like him near you and I hate that he was your first boyfriend and you're mine."

He kissed his wife forcefully and she happily let him and Kakashi seriously hoped that that was it and now they could get back to the bedroom to spend their precious free time without the children with something much, much more pleasant, but Sakura wasn't finished yet.

"I don't trust her. You ruffled her hair," she said darkly.

"I used to ruffle your hair, too, when you were a kid," Kakashi pointed out.

"Yes, and look where that led to."

"No, that was the kissing."

"I'm pretty sure that she would be willing to…"

"Sakura," Kakashi said. He had enough of this. "That may sound like a completely random tidbit of information to you, but I don't care what she wants. I don't want to. Understand? I love you and you're my wife. I'm not going near her. Ever."

He remembered the girl now – she was fairly attractive, tall, long dark hair, dark eyes. And seventeen years old. He couldn't recall her face.

Sakura was silent.

"Darling," Kakashi said, pleading. "I'm forty-three, for God's sake. I'm getting a paunch because you aren't half bad at cooking and I spend my days behind a desk and I walk with a limp."

It was all true, unfortunately. The limp was hardly noticeable when he wasn't tired but when he was, it was obvious. Even Sakura couldn't put it right. It wasn't just that last mission, it was all the wounds and the running and fighting that his body had to endure from his childhood and now there was the bill to pay, thankyousir, now that will be more than thirty-five years of service and a war and about a hundred wounds, was it, sir, give or take a few, now that will be…

"Kakashi, you don't have a paunch," Sakura said. She pushed her index finger into his belly gently – that is, she didn't break anything with a flick of her fingers. "This is all rock-hard, solid muscle. And it doesn't help any that you still wear your mask outside the house when all the women can gape at your face on the mountain."

"I told you…"

"Yes, I know, you wanted to have your portrait done with the mask on. But that would never do."

"Never do what?"

They both stayed silent for a bit and that was rather unusual, Kakashi thought. Sakura would usually say at times like this that he was a smartass and remind him of the countless other faults that he had and in the end she would conclude with throwing in a half-sentence like 'but I love you anyway' and then he would kiss her…

"She said I was fat," Sakura said in a very low voice. Kakashi waited. "She was talking to her friend in their office and they didn't realize I could hear them…"

That might be true, Kakashi thought. People sometimes did forget that Sakura was a kunoichi and her hearing was much, much better than a civilian's. On the other hand, it might not. Women could be rather callous and heartless when it was about putting down another woman…

Sakura was stuttering because she started crying again and words came out in sad little bursts between the falling tears. "…and she was saying that she could never understand how y-you could marry someone like me because I was fat and ugly and had freak h-hair and everybody at the hospital hated m-me because I was shouting all the time…"

Now that was untrue. Sakura was never lenient when someone committed a mistake and her voice could be shrill at times, but people loved her anyway. Because they trusted her.

He remembered the last time Naruto was brought back from a mission, unconscious and covered in blood, and Hinata was holding his hand and her face was past white, it was a colour that shouldn't exist, and Sakura said "he won't die because I fucking won't let him die, the idiot, where's that IV?" and Hinata's face was filled with hope because they all knew that Sakura never promised anything that she wouldn't be able to deliver.

"…and it's unfair because you're just as handsome as you always were and you're the Hokage and in ten years' time you'll still be handsome and I will be an old w-woman… And you could do so much better…"

Like fucking a silly seventeen-year-old kid with an attitude. Now really… And what was that thing about the freak hair? His daughter had pink hair. Who the fuck did this Keiko girl think she was, saying something like that?

"So you went on a rampage diet and frightened me to death with your mysterious remarks because a braindead clerk who happens to be younger than you said you were fat? Is that it? Sakura!"

"No, that was Ino," Sakura said, slightly ashamed. "I went to her and asked for her opinion… and she said that I did put on some weight and there is a definite… interest… in you… I mean…"

"Yeah," Kakashi sighed. Where were all these women before Sakura decided to take a chance on him? What the hell were they doing now? Why? And he was the one who was thought to be notoriously late. "I know. But about Ino… Did it ever occur to you that her advice might not work? I mean, if I did not have a problem with your weight to start with, then how could dieting make this better?"

"She said she would make you notice her and see for herself if you were really that good in bed as some say…" Sakura said in a shaky voice.

"What, Ino? That's gross!" Kakashi said, revolted. It was really a disturbing thought. He and Ino never liked each other that much and it was a sure sign of their love for Sakura that they were willing to put up with each other's company.

"Idiot. It was Keiko who said that but Ino heard about it through the grapevine and told me to take care. Men will be men and sluts will be sluts, she said," Sakura answered, glaring at Kakashi.

Kakashi felt a steadily growing anger toward meddling girlfriends, silly underage slutty clerks, previous boyfriends (who are also warm-hearted and caring - and he has to be a jounin and the head of a clan, for God' sake! Why can't he be a simple chuunin?) and grapefruit-based diets, just to mention a few.

He was sure that it wouldn't take a lot of time to come up with a longer list.

He looked around, Sakura's eyes following his movement. The almost-finished grapefruit was still on her plate, basking in the sunshine. It was the hated symbol of Ino's half-baked advice favoured over his opinion, the reminder of a completely lovely morning spent with arguing instead of going back to bed, not to mention the terror he felt when he thought that it was over, his marriage was over, and this time it didn't take an enemy to wreck his life, it could be done with a smiling face, a few words…

He put all his strength into the throw but hell, he didn't think it would feel that good. The grapefruit went completely flat on the wall with a resounding thud, the plate following with a sharp crack a second later.

Sakura opened her mouth to say something but he shushed her with a movement and looked at the window.

"Tiger," he said softly to no one in particular.

An ANBU materialized on the windowsill.

"Yes, Hokage-sama."

"What did I tell you about staying away from my house today?"

"Yes, Hokage-sama. I just heard a noise and I thought…"

Kakashi opened his sharingan eye. He wasn't in the mood to open a discussion about his orders when he had other things to do.

"I'm sorry, Hokage-sama," Tiger said hurriedly. "It won't happen again, Hokage-sama."

"I rather hope so," Kakashi murmured, again to no one in particular. The windowsill was already empty.

"Now, where were we?" he mused aloud, without looking at Sakura. All the same, from the corner of his eye he saw her – green eyes open round, her expression awed and a bit fearful.

Good. Good. He felt a deep satisfaction. Physical confrontation was much, much better than an argument. It sped up his thought processes.

"I feel hurt," he said in the curt tone that Sakura must have remembered from her genin days.

He felt Sakura cuddle closer to him, instinctively trying to appease him. Good.

"Deeply hurt and angry, in fact," he added, still without looking at Sakura. "Silence, please. I haven't finished talking yet."

Sakura closed her mouth and laid her face on his chest.

Even better.

"You listen to everyone except me and that won't do. I'm your husband and your Hokage and I used to be your sensei. You should listen to me and not to some girls who know next to nothing about men. I'm still talking, Sakura."

Now he looked down at his wife, sitting on his lap with her hands on his chest. She was biting her lower lip, obviously wanting to say something.

"Also you have given me the fright of my life and I'll make sure that that doesn't happen again. Yes, what is it?"

"I love you," Sakura said.

"I dare hope you do, baby girl. I dare hope. Now, about this problem that has clearly given you a few sleepless nights."

Kakashi looked at Sakura, his heart filling up with love. She was smiling, a sweet, tentative, trusting smile. People are so fragile, so vulnerable, so easy to hurt. He would protect her. He would always protect her.

"You are going to get fat. Really fat. That's what I want."

"But…" Sakura protested.

"No buts. I'm your Hokage and it's an order."

Kakashi sighed and finally said what was on my mind.

"I want another baby."

Now he couldn't look at Sakura. What if she says no? What if she…

"Kakashi. You've been thinking about this for a while, haven't you?"

He nodded.

"You never said anything," Sakura said softly.

"Because I'm hardly ever home and you have such a lot of work with Hiro and Hana. She's still only two. But I'd really love…"

"What is it that you want, my love?"

Kakashi watched her, thrilled. Now this was the real Sakura, his Sakura: the healer, the mother, the homemaker.

Those green eyes filled with love and understanding, those swift, strong fingers brushing his hair away from his face.

"They both have dark eyes," Kakashi said defiantly. "I want another chance. I wanted to ask you yesterday but then I was, well, carried away and today we had this ridiculous discussion about diets and sluts instead."

Sakura was tugging at her lower lip, thinking.

"I don't mind," she said slowly. "Naruto is supposed to replace you as Hokage by the end of the year, isn't he? I think I'll be able to manage. But I'll need a household help."

Her eyes darted up to Kakashi's face and she added, "I'm going to choose her."

Kakashi chuckled. "She can be ugly as a doorpost for all I care, darling. If she's too large to fit in the house, we can get her to stay put in the garden and send out the children. They'll get lots of fresh air that way."

"You're wicked."

"You ain't seen nothing yet, baby girl. I suggest we get this debate to another scene."

He scooped Sakura up in his arms. She couldn't have put on such a lot of weight, he thought. He wasn't getting any younger either and he found her light as a feather.

"Why is it so important that at least one of your children should have green eyes?" Sakura asked, giggling.

Because I want to see you in them, Kakashi thought. Hiro looks exactly like me with the silver hair and the dark eyes, and Hana looks exactly like me except for the pink hair.

Except that Hiro is a whirlwind around the house and his laughter is infectious, and he's a worse prankster than Naruto. Except that Hana beams at everyone and she's like a kitten, always sitting on someone's lap and purring.

When I was Hana's age, mother was dead already. When I was Hiro's age I was already cold and distant and indifferent. I was a shinobi. I was alone. I had no family and I didn't need friends because I knew they would die and there would be pain, excruciating pain to follow.

My children are just kids, not shinobi, not yet, Kakashi thought. They are happy, careless and noisy and that is the way it is supposed to be.

"Dunno. I guess that gives me an excuse to try again," he said aloud.

"You don't need an excuse."

"Am I glad to hear that, honey. But I still want that baby. You'd better stop taking that birthcontrol stuff."

"Yes, Hokage-sama," Sakura said meekly.

Kakashi wondered if he should push his luck a bit and tell her to see less of Ino. Or something like that. Maybe even suggest that she didn't need to have lunch with Kiba too often.

Well, this needed some careful thinking. After all, Ino was willing to babysit for them occasionally. It wouldn't do any good to make her angry.

He heard Sakura mutter something when he put her down on their bed.

"What is it, baby?"

"I just said that Ino was right, after all. The diet thing did work, even if not exactly the way we planned."

Kakashi was really, really glad that his life as a shinobi taught him to appreciate s-l-o-w and c-a-r-e-f-u-l approaches.

He mumbled something about how nice it was to have a best friend and wondered if there was a rule in the shinobi book of rules that allowed the Hokage to do something about nosy, gossipy best friends with a shrill laugh.

No, he decided. He always had a very high IQ and his imagination was exercised by frequent input from Icha Icha but he couldn't imagine an alternate universe where he would be allowed to chastise Ino for anything. Or where Sakura would let him.

Kakashi looked down at his wife, her yukata in disarray, her hair spread out on the pillow like a glorious winter sunrise, different shades of pink on the snow.

Never mind. This was a perfect moment and he was not going to spoil it. He would make up for the time lost in arguing and if that would make them late for picking up the kids from Ino, well, so be it.

Sakura's mouth tasted of grapefruit. Well, it was Sakura who hated grapefruit. He liked the taste. In itself, that is, without a diet to go with it.

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July 2012

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