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09/29/2021 09:54 PM 


Summary: “Running away from something, Red?” Frank asks, thumbing back the label of his beer bottle before taking a swig, leaning back on his sh*tty bar stool. Red smiled ruefully, turning to him. Of course he was. They both were. Frank and Matt have a one-night stand a month before the collapse of Midland Circle. Frank digs the devil out, but it soon becomes clear pieces of him stayed under the rubble. Notes: So, I got myself into writing another series because I'm stupidly gone for this ship, anyone relates?This story involves some serious mental health issues, including Insomnia, Suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, medicine abuse, depression and others. Be advised! I wanted to explore some more of Matt's suicidal tendencies during s03 and defenders, so here it is.  TW's:Panic attacks, insomnia, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempt, overdose, depression, hospitalization, some violence.     We thought we knew these sidewalk cracks by heart but even they have altered in our absence, branching out on their own. - Coming Home, Vern Rutsala   When Frank hears about Midland Circle, he’s walking home from a vet meeting at Curt’s, still sore with injuries from the fight with Billy and Agent Orange’s torture. It’s not even a choice. Before he knows it, his feet are carrying him to the closest library. Looking for information on water ducts, abandoned railroads, undergrounds maps of the city old enough for the ink to start fading and the paper to yellow. It’s not until twelve hours later that he finds the Devil’s bloodied, corpse-like body slumped by the river, smooth rocks digging into his bruised face. Frank doesn’t allow himself to acknowledge the heavy, suffocating burn churning in his chest at the sight of him - more bruises and blood than skin, chest barely moving -, and instead takes his vitals, runs his palms over his battered frame to make sure he could move him without risking further injury, mind settled in mission mode. It’s when Red suddenly wakes up, gasping and whispering for him to bring him to Clinton Church, that Frank sees her. A silhouette, a cut-out paper shadow mocking the impression of a woman Frank had seen through his scope once, a year or so before. A woman he saw bleed out in Red’s arms. She disappears before Frank can make sense of what he saw. He has more pressing matters at hand. Matt Murdock is not dying on his arms. So he takes the kid to Clinton Church, running calculations and tactical moves through his head - the medical apparel he needed to find, where he could find a doctor that would keep their mouths shut. Who could he threaten into getting him something or the other, who he could steal from - always bad guys. Father Lantom is not as old as Frank first imagined and he’s strong enough to help him put Matthew’s skinny, bleeding body into the orphanage’s infirmary. One of the nuns tries to call 911, but it only takes a word from the Father ( it’s Jack Murdock’s son, he said) for her to drop the phone. Frank brings in supplies. The nuns do what they can. He grew up here, the small nun, Maggie, tells him. In the orphanage. Frank nods. He doesn’t take his eyes away from the kid the whole time. She wants him and Red gone, but she takes care of him. They swear all the others to secrecy and it’s as good as it’ll get. I know who you are, the Father says, a week later, and Frank is yet again staring at Matt Murdock’s undisturbed, lifeless frame. Skinnier than when he first got there. I can not say I agree with your actions or even understand them, but I can only thank you for bringing him here safe. Frank offers little back. He isn’t sure why he did it. He just never considered the thought of not doing it.     It’s two weeks of daily visits from Frank before Red wakes up. At one moment he’s entering the room of a half-dead man, at the other, he’s watching him stumble and fall from the bed, gasping I can’t see, I can’t see, weakly in the Sister’s arms until he goes limp. After he helps Sister Maggie put him to bed, observing the other nuns hovering around and helping clean his wounds and change his bandages, Frank remembers the day at the bar, months ago. Before David Lieberman came after him. Before Madani’s involvement and Billy’s betrayal. Before William Rawlins. Before Midland Circle. He had been coming home from the construction site he had been working at under Pete Castiglione’s name when he stopped at a bar. It wasn’t something he usually did. But that day, the song from the carousel grated louder in his ears than the others and Maria’s voice was an echo of Hey, sleepyhead. There’s plenty of time now that you’re home. At a bar in Queens, he met Red. “Lost, Frank?” he had asked, swirling a glass of scotch in his hand, a small smile in his face. Frank had considered him only for a moment before he found himself a seat by his side. “I should ask you the same, you’re not in the Kitchen,” Red - Murdock - had chuckled tiredly, eyebrows raising in agreement. He downs the rest of his drink before knocking on the table for another. Frank gestures for the barman. “People haven’t heard much of the Devil for a while.” “And they won’t be,” “Huh,” Frank hadn’t asked. Maybe he should have. He had seen, even then, that something was eating away at him. Instead, he ordered a beer and another double for the auburn-haired man. “Running away from something, Red?” Frank asks, thumbing back the label of his beer bottle before taking a swig, leaning back on his sh*tty bar stool. Red smiled ruefully, turning to him. Of course he was. They both were. They had ended on Matt’s apartment, hours later. And Frank f***ed Red long and good into his sh*tty, blood-stained couch and didn’t think of the hollow hiding behind his ribs for a while. And when he thought Murdock couldn’t possibly take any more, panting and oversensitive as he was, the man straddled him and rode him like he was made for it, with a fluttering chest and shuddering gasps. For a while, Frank had hugged him in his bed. Spooned him from behind and held him tight. Murdock had tensed in his arms, but soon went pliant, allowing Frank - and himself - that moment to bask in human warmth and intimacy against their touch-starved skins. “Thought you were too Catholic for this kinda thing,” Frank had joked, and it wasn’t a lie. And Matt, he laughed, Frank had liked the sound enough that it scared him. “I’m not too good at being a Catholic,” he had answered, before his chuckle tempered down into a sigh. “It’s almost dawn.” “You got somewhere to be?” Someone, he didn’t say, remembering how Nelson and Murdock had dissolved, how Karen now worked somewhere else. Do you have anyone? Matt had gone quiet. Stiff under his fingers. “No,” he had whispered back, “nowhere.”       The next time Murdock wakes up, Frank is there, sitting by his bedside. Red is a bit more aware of his surroundings when one of the nun’s help him drink some water. He’s scarily thin and pale, his head doesn’t twitch side to side as Frank was used to seeing. “How are you, Red?” He doesn’t talk, staring straight at the ceiling, seeing nothing. Unlike the last time he woke up, he wasn’t trying to touch his ears. Just looking at nothing. Sucking all the noise around him like a black hole. Matt looked blank. Like he wasn’t even there. “Was she there?” He asks, finally, in a hoarse whisper, in what seems like an hour later but could have been only minutes. “I don’t know,” but he does know who Red’s talking about. He didn’t think it was possible, despite the reports of Daredevil and an unidentified woman being trapped under Midland Circle. “I thought she-” “She did,” Matt swallows thickly, somberly. “They brought her back,” he whispers, something like dread tainting all the blankness from before. “They brought her back and she was all wrong.” Frank’s heart stutters in his chest. Because as much as he’d like to unpack all that’s built inside that statement, it’s not what matters now. “What were you doing there, Red?” “She didn’t let me leave.” “ Bullsh*t,” Frank growls, pushing his feet into the ground but not making a move to stand up. Red doesn’t make an effort to acknowledge him, staring straight ahead, avoiding. He probably wasn’t even sure of where Frank was, and wasn’t that a sobering yet terrifying thought? “Bullsh*t, Red.” Silence stretches thin until it snaps and Red opens his mouth. And Red speaks. When he’s done, Frank stands up suddenly, the small pile of books falling from the nightstand to the floor. The feeling of unreality lasts for a mere second before he stomps away from the orphanage’s infirmary. His chest heaving in strained pants, furious, raging. He stomps away. Away from Red. If the Sister is surprised by his sudden hurry to leave, she doesn’t let it show. If anything, she looks resigned. She had said it before, everybody leaves Matthew. “He needs a friend,” is all she says, folding some donation clothes by the church pews. “He’s not in a good place,” yeah, no sh*t. Her eyes stray to the hallway Frank just strode away from. “And you’re the only one here.” “I can’t be that friend, Ma’am,” his voice is way more strained than he expected, it leaves his throat in a hoarse murmur. She gives him knowing eyes, hidden behind indifference. “Something more, maybe?” Frank just shakes his head. He can’t. If he closes his eyes, he can remember how pink and purple neon shined against Matthew’s skin. “Just... if you need supplies,” She nods, Frank ignores the disappointment that radiates stronger than it should in a frame so small. Her eyes... her eyes were familiar. “We have your number.” Frank walks away. Red’s words against his hurt lips, spilling into his bruised, mottled skin, they echo. Get stuck in his head. Repeating again and again until he can’t hear them anymore, just the movement of his lips. He dreams of him, asleep in his bed. Frank caresses a hand through his auburn hair and Red smiles. And when Frank’s about to leave, Matt’s mouthing those words, the same words he said that night, in between silk sheets, with Frank’s love bites blossoming on his neck and chest. The same Goddamned words.     It’s a month later when Daredevil - the fake one, because Frank knows the altar boy would never... he just couldn’t. He didn’t have it in him. And then, Wilson Fisk is exposed and arrested once more. A week later, Frank sees Red on patrol. He’s wearing all black and fighting off five, six people at the same time. When three more show up, Frank jumps in. He doesn’t even doubt himself for a second - clean slate, and all that. He covers fire for him, keeps to his rules, shoots kneecaps and elbows and steers clear from heads. The moment they get a reprieve, Red is on him, snarling like a feral animal and pushing him away. “Red-” “Get away,” his voice is down to a growl, and an unbidden shiver works through Frank’s guts at the sheer force of his glare. “Or you’re getting hurt.” And Red does it himself, brutal and efficient. Red doesn’t make a sound, he’s a blotch of ink moving in the flickering lights. He fights like Frank’s never seen him fight before. Except, he thinks, that day on the roof. And Frank... Frank can’t keep up with him. For the first time since he met the Devil, he can’t keep up with him. Not while carrying the armory he has on him. “Red, just wait-” But he disappears. Like a shadow, and Frank can’t follow him. The only trace he leaves behind a hand-print in blood on a wall.     That week, Frank runs some reconnaissance. He settles, belly down, three buildings away from Nelson, Murdock and Page’s new office. Watches through his scope as Nelson puts up their new plaque. Right then, Red seems fine. He laughs at someone Nelson says and Karen pats his shoulder with a fond glance their way. Red turns to her, smiles sweetly and pulls both of them for a little group hug. Red shakes his head with a little smirk to something Karen says, he seems fine. Red flinches away from their touch before leaning closer. His suit hangs loosely off his frame, he looks... tired. Skin-deep though, he puts on a show for his friends. He seems fine. Frank sighs wearily and the Devil tilts his head subtly, dangerously, towards the direction of the rooftop Frank lying on. Red seems to consider something before smiling again towards Nelson and walking inside. Frank leaves, hissing out a curse under his breath.     Red is being careless. Reckless. More than he usually is, which Frank never thought was possible. It’s almost like he’s tempting his God to come down himself and end him. Frank knows a little bit about that - the edge you can’t shake off, walking straight towards the barrel of a gun or maybe staying behind in a boat about to blow up. But even in the peak of his self-destructive bullsh*t, Frank wore body armor. Red’s wearing pajamas and staying out almost all night, at all hours of the night. Kid was a danger to himself. It’s proof to how he’s exhausting himself that, one night, Frank manages to catch up to him. “What are you doing out this late, Red?” “Go home, Frank,” he’s getting tired of this cat and mouse thing. “Come on, stop that,” he chides, carefully, voice low. “That ain’t me and you know it.” But Murdock just tilts his head, “I really don’t,” Frank grits his teeth. Maybe he deserves that. “Look, you wanna talk about it, we can talk.” “I don’t wanna talk, Frank,” he rebukes coldly. Walls so high up around him Frank can barely see what’s behind. But his fingers are trembling, his whole body shaking tiredly. His nose is bleeding, he moves with a limp. “I don’t know what you want, but it certainly isn’t me, so go.” “Cut the sh*t, Red,” he breaks in, last drop of his patience long gone. He steps forward into Matt’s space, who tries stepping back only to find a wall. He’s out of his game. “You think I haven’t seen it? You’ve been at it at all hours of the night, every night, you’re past burning that candle on both ends-” “I don’t need your patronizing bullsh*t-” “And that candle’s gotta burn on, Red. Long after tonight.” Red’s whole frame goes still for one moment, just long enough that Frank’s hackles go down and he thinks he’s finally gotten through to him. But then, suddenly the kid is pulling him close, both hands fisted in his shirt, with such ferocity that he stumbles slightly before finding his footing. “It’s none of your business.” “Yeah?” It hurts more than he’s willing to admit, so instead he grabs onto him too, fingers digging into his (skinny, bruised) upper arms, reaching up to tear the mask away from his face. “What about Karen then, Red? Nelson? Is it their business?” Red’s stutters, his hands loosen before his grip tightens. “You catch your death out here, you piss off the wrong guys, they’re gonna pay for it too, Red, you know that, don’t you?” Murdock shoves him away, taking the mask with him, eyes wide, breathing shallow. Frank almost takes it back, seeing the full-body tremor that wrecks his frame and remembering that Wilson Fisk and the fake Devil wasn’t too long ago. That Red probably spent day after day wondering if he’d wake up to news of his loved one’s deaths. “Red...” “Get the hell away from me, Frank,” he whispers, the decibels rising just above a breath, croaking exhausted. Frank thinks he’s never seen him this defeated, this tired. Red steps off the side of the building and disappears. Frank doesn’t try to follow.     He does follow him a few nights later and it’s too easy. Red’s out of his depth if he hasn’t noticed Frank. He finds a spot behind the huge neon sign, hoping it’s buzzing masks his heartbeat or smell or whatever it is Red uses to recognize him. It’s four in the morning and Murdock should be done in, but despite the scarily deep circles under his eyes he’s restless, head twitching left and right, pacing in circles, rubbing his palm through his face occasionally. Frank settles down and observes him through his scope as he goes inside his bathroom and comes back a few minutes later - showered and snug under thick autumn clothes. Red paces some more before tilting his head towards the table and just... standing there. As if he was mulling something over in that busy head of his. Frank watches him reach out a hand for a bottle of prescription pills on his coffee table, taking three and swallowing them dry. He clenches and loosens his fists in cycles, eyes closed and up to the ceiling. Murdock looks unsettled, fidgeting, twitching. His face set in a troubled, weary expression, eyes suspiciously bright in the neon lights. He had followed Red since eleven in the evening. He had been going at it for at least five hours, and still, he paced. It’s half an hour later when Matt finally sits down, staring straight ahead. Head tilting and twitching towards sounds far away, hands shaking. He doesn’t sleep. Frank leaves when dawn comes.     Thinking back, maybe it was the last straw, that night. He’d been observing Red for a while now, sometimes from behind the neon sign, sometimes through the scope of his sniper rifle. Red had lost weight, his milk-toned skin faded into a sickly ashen by the time night came and he was slacking off. The last few days, the Devil hadn’t noticed Frank following him from work to his nightly outings and that sh*t right there, that was worrying. It was only inevitable that Red, eventually, bit more than he could chew. But Frank’s ready when it happens and soon jumps into action. He keeps to Red’s rules for as long as he can, for as long as the a**holes they’re fighting let him. Once one pulls a gun to the back of Murdock’s head, Frank shoots his arm off with a shotgun. The blast clearly throws Red’s senses off the rails because he falters on where he stands, hands fisting a lowlife’s collar. The guy is quick to take advantage of Daredevil’s sudden distraction. Frank shoots his brains out the moment his knife nicks a piece of Red’s shirt off, right under his ribs. He thinks he hears Red’s shout of no!, but Frank’s busy taking care of the others surrounding them. He looses himself easily in it, in the blood he spills, in the blood that latches onto his skin as if finding home. And Frank never feels more at home than when he’s dipped in red. The last man standing. Red is on him the moment the last gang member falls to the ground, a hole through her tattooed neck. He’s torn off his mask and has his (tired, sleep-deprived) eyes burning wildfires into Frank’s skin. The moment Matthew’s hands dig into Frank, Frank’s dig into him too, bringing him closer, keeping him away. Wanting to appease his anger the same way he wants to watch it consume them both. “You piece of sh*t, you piece of sh*t, I can’t believe you!” Red snarls against him, faces too close together, baring teeth and curling lips. He burns into his reserves until the last drop is the only thing keeping him anchored to Frank, and Frank is the only thing keeping him from falling to the ground. He holds him tighter - feels like, should he let him go right then, Red would fall right through the floor and be swallowed by it. “You burst into something that has nothing NOTHING to do with you and you turn it into a blood bath!” “Yeah, you’d rather I had let that piece of sh*t stab you?” Frank snarls back, pulling him closer by his arms. Enough that he’s not sure what any of them would do should they get closer yet. He’s earth meeting fire, and Red’s embers were burning brighter than ever. “You’d rather let them go free than get the job done, Murdock?” “These people, they have families, they have kids-” “ For crying out loud, shut your goddamn mouth-” “That man you shot in MY arms, I followed him for weeks, he had a kid, Frank, he had a wife,” Red heaves out a weak breath and his eyes are too bright. “They’re better off without him!” Frank doesn’t know how he realizes it’s the wrong thing to say, only that he does. Matt looks about to cry or maybe fall apart, and Frank doesn’t think he’s ever seen him like this. It’s the lack of sleep, he thinks to himself. What else would it be? He grew up here, the Sister had said, in the orphanage. Murdock tries to attack again, but he’s weak. The former marine easily stops him, holding his elbows back, keeping his fists and legs away while letting his head thump against his chest. Matt snarls like a wounded animal, tries to kick him, but his muscles are quickly turning liquid and his bones rattle and quiver weakly in his attempts. “The hell happened to you, Red.” Stupid question. Midland, Elektra, Fisk, Poindexter, - whatever those pills were, the ones he took almost every night. Naively (obtusely, foolishly) Frank had thought he’d be better once he got back to his friends, started their firm again. He thought he’d be better once Frank’s brief presence in his life came to an end. But then again, Frank leaving had been anything but selfless. He’d always been quick to get lost in his head. Maybe that’s something he shares with Red. His fingers find a warm, wet spot on Murdock’s ribs when he tries to twist away from Frank. Bullet graze. “Com’on, let me patch you up.” “Let go.” There’s something in his face, Frank can’t call it by any name he knows. Layers and layers of too much, at the same time. He’s fighting the ocean, trying to set fire to it on his own. And Red... he looks like he wants to let the tide take him away. “Come on,” he says it softer, this time. Matthew doesn’t consent as much as he just stops fighting altogether, going deceivingly pliant against his hold. By the time they’re entering his apartment through the rooftop access, Red’s fiery attitude has been replaced by an unnerving, blank sort of avoidance. The bone-deep exhaustion is still there and it seems to weight more then as they get past the stairs. Matt looks done in. The bright orange of two different pill bottles catches his eyes as he makes his way to the coffee table, glancing at the name. Prozac, the almost empty one reads. Ambien, reads the half-full one. There’s another empty one, forgotten on the floor. “Having trouble sleeping?” He asks, as casually as he can get. The marine half expects it to be the thing that finally gets Red’s fury out once again, but no such luck. A shake of his head, more of fatigue than of disagreement, is the only response Castle gets. Red takes a first aid kit out of the bathroom and sits gingerly on the couch before taking off his compression shirt. Frank can’t help but hiss softly at the sight - Red’s a Pollock of bruises overlayed with cuts and scabs. There’s a splatter of drying blood along his neck and face - likely from the guy Frank shot. It’s not often Frank feels guilty for a kill. Not exactly for doing it, but how he did it. He shouldn’t have done it with Red holding the guy, close as he was, hands still on him. Not with the way the kid tied himself over knots over every little thing. He sighs, gets his mind to focus on the work. He sits facing Red, unsettled by not being able to read his face. Murdock is not exactly good at hiding his emotions and Frank’s good at picking people apart. But somehow, just then... It’s like the orphanage infirmary all over again. And Frank hates remembering that. “Look, Red,” “It’s been repeating since morning,” Matt interrupts, his voice oddly soft. Distant. Frank stops what he’s doing, the first stitch already done. “It won’t stop.” “What won’t stop?” Red looks... sh*t, he looks a bit feverish. Pale and clammy. It’s certainly not from blood loss, he hardly bled enough for that. There was something wrong. Just... off. Frank’s eyes involuntarily track back to the half-empty bottle of sleeping pills on the table. The empty one on the floor. He knew a bit about how messed up your head can get when you just can’t sleep. Frank had had nightmares for a long time after his Maria and his babies. Matthew’s eyebrows twitch and there’s a crack in him - a chasm splitting him in half from the inside out. Just deep enough under the skin that, should Frank be a little less familiar with him, he wouldn’t have seen it. “The radio,” he croaks out, tiredly. “Can’t you hear it? Two apartments down? No, three,” he chuckles a little, eyes bright. Frank sees the tears and freezes, stopping mid-stitch. “There’s a...” he laughs this time. “A stray adoption day at the park, like, like- like the saying?” Frank cuts off the thread, his heart thundering in his chest. “Red..?” His mind races a mile a minute. Is he drugged? Concussed? Something’s seriously off, something... “Like the saying, at the orphanage,” he huffs out another humorless, weak laugh. “The saying, they’d say... They said it was a safe place, until you found your forever home,” Murdock barks out a laugh, as if he finds it exceptionally amusing. Frank’s nauseated, but he holds him. Holds him because Red looks like he’s breaking and Frank’s afraid he’ll spill all over his stained floor and won’t be able to find the pieces of himself when it’s over. “Like puppies, you see? Like we were lost, stray puppies. You shouldn’t be jealous of the others, pup, one day you’ll find your forever home too,” his chuckling is nothing but a breath, now, a shaky hand coming up to brush the tears out of his face. “But we never did,” the laughter is all gone now. A small smile the only suggestion of it ever being there, cracking at the edges. “We never went home.” Frank has nothing to say. Wouldn’t know what to say. What could he, really? When there was nothing but Frank’s hands holding Red together there, in his blood-stained couch. The one Frank had f***ed him into months before and then left. Just... left. He thinks he had seen this coming a long time ago. It’s none of your business, he had told himself. Convinced himself. Too deep into the ocean to be able to make sense of it. “I’m tired, Frank,” his whisper is barely there when he finishes. “I’m really tired.” Frank nods. Tired he understands, tired he can fix. “You need sleep, Red, yeah?” He sticks the adhesive dressing over the stitched-up graze. He glances at the sleeping pills. “You want to take one before-” But Red’s back to his unnerving blank stare. “They don’t work,” he says, holding his stitched-up side. Frank’s hands hover over his shoulders, his lower back. Wouldn’t know how to touch him without breaking him more. “They never work.” The marine nods. “Yeah, I’ll go,” Red twists his head towards him subtly, softly. He’s not surprised, once again. Just like... yeah. “I’ll see you around, Red.” He averts his eyes the moment Matt opens his mouth. Frank thinks he sees him mouth something but the sound dies in his tongue before it reaches the surface. But he saw it, he thinks. He can’t be sure, he tells himself. Maybe it’s just an echo, his scarred head playing tricks on him. Maybe it’s an echo from that day, after the bar. Maybe...     “Bullsh*t, Red.” “I knew I wasn’t getting out of Midland Circle. And Elektra... she knew it too.” “You shut- shut your mouth,” “Told her we were gonna die and she said... She said, this is what living feels like,” Red closed his eyes. “I knew I wasn’t getting out,” he whispered, then: “I didn’t want to get out.”     Frank stops in front of a laundromat, two blocks away from Red’s building. If he looks back, he can still see it. He could still peek over his shoulder, and if he lets his mind drift, Frank almost feels like a schoolboy again. Wondering if that one boy he shared lunch with the day before is going to come to school, so they can share it again. He wonders if he should go back, now that Red’s voice faded among the noise in his head. He knows it will come back soon (it always does, Matt’s voice, for some reason, always comes back). Frank keeps walking. None of your business, his own voice whispers back to him. None of your business. And yet, he couldn’t shake off the cold in his bones. Something had happened in Red’s apartment, and Frank probably would never know or begin to understand what. It was like opening a box and hoping to find what you were looking for, and be greeted instead with a mangled imitation. Faulty clockwork. He walks for maybe an hour, mulling it all around in his mind, as if tasting bitter wine. Red, sitting alone in a bar in Queens. Red, admitting he had no one. Red staying behind under a collapsing building with that woman. Red’s sleeping problems. His reckless behavior, his confession in that small orphanage infirmary. Matt, chuckling like life is one big, bad joke, tears in his eyes. We never went home. The nun’s voice, coming back to him in a whisper, everybody leaves Matthew. Matt lying in a orphanage bed, looking so utterly at peace with his own words, conflicted with the reality in which he woke up to. I didn’t want to get out. He freezes before crossing the street. Frank doesn’t know what finally propels him to go back, he doesn’t know at which point did his walk turn into a run. Metal creaks and complains under his stomping feet as he takes two steps at a time, making his way up the fire escape. His pulse is booming like thunder inside his ribs, throbbing in his temples, threatening to give him a headache as he opens the door to the roof. He’s panting from his run, a palpitation in his chest when he finds the apartment silent. Murdock’s not in his room, he notices first. The two bottles he saw earlier on the coffee table are not there either. He must make a sound, something, because it echoes like a mewl from a wounded animal. Frank isn’t sure if the sound comes from him, but he moves towards the echo anyway, only for his feet to kick something in the way. The first thing he sees as he clicks the light switch on are two bright orange bottles. Both empty. But, they had been almost full before, hadn’t they? At least one of them had, he was sure- “Red?” A crash answers him, a small, cut-off cry he’s sure doesn’t belong to him. But he knows that voice, hears it in his dreams. Hears it whispering to him during the day - he follows it to the bathroom, clicking another light on. His stomach drops, blood running cold. Frank’s knees go weak and, in a second, he’s kneeling, holding Matt’s body in his arms as he convulsed, choking on his own spit and bile. Twitching and seizing non-stop, it didn’t matter how hard Frank held him close, positioning him sideways so he wouldn’t suffocate. It didn’t matter what he did- “Jesus Christ, what did you do?” his voice breaks, hands shaking where they grip Red’s frame, his skin ashen. Frank glances at the empty bottles, Prozac, it displays, Ambien. “What did you do?” He asks again, uselessly, eyes stinging as he holds him, waiting for the seizure to stop. Red’s drying, colorless vomit reeks of medicine. He calls emergency services, past caring if any of them saw through his beard and recognized his face. The words flow from his mouth in a syncopated rhythm and Frank barely hears himself over the buzzing. Nothing. Took pills, Red’s pallid, sallow skin. Prozac, his wide eyes fighting to stay open. Ambien, his hands, shaking violently, fingers spasming. Don’t know how long ago, Red’s auburn, bright hair against white tiles, colorless vomit, foam-covered lips. Male, about 30, the way he said his name, not long ago. Seizure, no blood in the vomit, Red’s little smile when Frank held him that day, twisted in silk sheets, soft against their scarred skins. “What did you do?” Frank asks again, voice sepulchral, begging, whispering. He does what the attendant tells him - checks the pupils (huge), his pulse (fluttery, too quick), his temperature (cold, getting colder), his breathing (shallow, fast). Frank holds the world in his hands as it falls apart silently, quiet as a grave. And what a terrifying thought it is. What a terrifying thought. He doesn’t know when he starts softly rocking, trembling fingertips caressing a cold cheek, his breathing ragged, shaky. His voice rather toneless as he mumble nothings into the empty air, ( you’re okay Red, I got you, I got you Matt, here with you, M’here with you) one finger digging into Red’s neck, pressing into a tripwire pulse. Too quick. Spasming like his muscles. Frank doesn’t hear the paramedics breaking down the door, doesn’t hear them until they’re right there, taking him away from him, asking Frank to step back, putting a blanket around his shoulders. He doesn’t know how much time passes before he stops fighting the paramedics holding him back and one of them is waving the bottles in front of him. Prozac. It says. Ambien. “Sir, I need you to answer me,” Frank nods, lethargic, clearing his throat before his eyes go back to Red. “Sir, do you know how many did he take?” “About... there was about half a bottle of Ambien. Not much of Prozac, maybe 10 pills, just- is he... is he...” is he breathing? Is he alive? “He’s stabilized for now, but we need to move him. We’re taking him to Metro-General,” The world is too quick around him. They have Red on a stretcher ( they’re taking him away), he fights the one guy still holding him back, but he’s weak. “His pupils are non-responsive,” a voice floats from his right, the man with a flashlight to Red’s eyes. “He’s blind,” he croaks out, licks his dry, parched lips. “He’s blind.” “Okay, sir,” the medic nods to another. “Tell them we’re bringing in a suicide attempt victim,” the words, they hit him, puncture his skin. A bullet in the dark where he can’t make sense of where it’s coming from. That they call him, Matt Murdock, brilliant lawyer, fierce protector, sweet, vicious Matthew, like that. Suicide attempt victim, they say. Frank can still feel his cold skin in his palms, as if he was still holding him there. Him and Matt, trapped between white, cold tiles, hanging off the edge, unaware that they’re in free fall. “Sir, are you his proxy?” “I’ll call him,” voice like gravel, bleeding like tar. “I’ll call his proxy.” “Does he have any family we can call?” But we never did. “No,” We never went home. “No, he doesn’t.”     Frank doesn’t think he ever got to go home, either. He planned to, craved it even. But home had never been his house, it had been Maria and the kids. And they died before he could remember how to feel it again. And after that... After that, Frank wasn’t looking for home anymore. He wonders if Matt had been, all this time. Nelson is on him from the moment he gets there, Karen hot in his heels. His hands shake when they grab his jacket only to push him. Frank barely stumbles. “What did you do to him?” He demands, eyes furious even while they threaten to spill like waterfalls. “Foggy-” Karen is shaken off the moment she tries to hold him back. “What did you do to my friend?! What did you do?” Frank doesn’t answer - what could he say? There was nothing to be said. Nothing that wouldn’t make it hurt more. He’s still numb. Still feeling the imprint of Red’s clammy skin and spasming muscles like a phantom limb. Karen must pull Nelson away, because suddenly she’s in front of him, big, cerulean eyes worried. Teary. “Frank, what happened?” He finds that he can talk. At least with her. “Found him,” She frowns, confused. “What?” “I found him,” Frank swallows. Can’t blink away the image seared into his eyelids, how his whole body went taut while he seized, how his own voice sounded frantic and broken as it boomed and echoed around the small bathroom. He makes eye contact with her. “I found him,” Karen looks lost for about a second before horror downs in her eyes and she gasps, taking a step back, hands covering her mouth. “He, he took pills.” “What is he-” Nelson’s voice fades when Karen sobs, still staring with wild, disbelieving eyes into Frank’s. “What’s he talking about?” “I thought, Jesus Christ,” her face looks pink when she cries, Frank remembers, for all the times she spilled tears for him. As if he deserved any of them. That same odd feeling of unreality claims him back, his skin is not his own, wet tiles touching his knees, seizing, shaking. “He said he was okay, he said- I gave him a therapist’s number, he said it was just insomnia, oh my god.” “Matt,” Nelson’s face contorts in a ugly, painful try at confusion and Frank’s dissociating mind focuses at it, for some reason. “Matt tried to-?” Frank averts his eyes when Karen jumps to hug Nelson by the neck, sobbing into his shoulder. His heartbeat a deafening roar in his ears, a painful stab against his rib cage. He sits down in the waiting room, with the two of them. The mismatched family Red had patched for himself but was never taught how to keep, how to hold it together. Frank feels cold tiles on his knees, sweaty, cold skin on his fingertips. And he knows that he’s still there, on that bathroom floor, holding Red’s life in his hands. He wonders if that’s how Matt felt, when he woke up at the church. Like he was still under the rubble, getting slowly crushed but never dying. Feeling bone after bone break, but never finding any peace.     Karen sits with him, later. While Nelson goes to Red’s place to pack up clothes for him. He’s out of the woods and stabilizing, we’re doing our best to clear out his system. A young, wide-eyed nurse had explained. He’s alive. Frank knows the shock will wear out eventually. He knows the next stop is anger. Some twisted Kubler-Ross bullsh*t. He’ll rage and he’ll want answers, but does he have any right to them? Does having a night with him entitles Frank to those answers? Does stitching up his wounds, finding him seizing in the floor? “Do you think... do you think it was on purpose?” Karen asks, her dulcet tone masking the dread Frank knows is wreaking havoc, deep down. Frank shakes his head. Does he think downing almost half a bottle of sleeping pills with some heavy antidepressants classified as a suicide attempt? Yes. Did Frank think it was on purpose, that Red wanted to die? He doesn’t. He doesn’t know. How could he? They know Red longer than he does. Now, if they know him well... That’s another problem. He knows Red’s lips look sweet but are infinitely sweeter once you kiss them. He knows his skin is warm like a fireplace. He knows his hair shines auburn-red in the sun and feel soft. He knows Red likes when you pull them, when you show him where you want him, how much you want him. He knows Matt’s waist is smaller than his ill-fitting clothes would lead you to think it was, and that it felt so breakable under his roughened hands. He knows Matt punches hard and is perhaps too quick to forgive and the last to give up hope. He knows the first and last person Matt Murdock will always hate and punish the most will be himself. He knows how he sounds when he whimpers in bliss, how his legs feel around Frank’s waist, how he’s shy about his eyes, how he fights like a dancer and hits like a boxer and always, always gets back up. And Frank knows that, should he ask his past self if he saw himself in this situation, his other would snort at his face. Should he ask his past self from days ago if he ever thought Red would pull something like this, he’d say no and yet he had seen it happening right under his nose. Because Midland Circle was it’s own proof and yet. “I don’t know, Karen, right before he... he cracked,” Frank shakes his head. “He’s been off, the last few weeks, I don’t know.” Isn’t that where it all comes back to? He didn’t know. He saw it but he didn’t observe it, not really. He averted his eyes, pretended it didn’t matter. He took for granted how much Red could take, took for granted the pain he saw, the struggling. He really doesn’t know. Maybe Red was half out of his mind and really just trying to sleep, maybe he has lost hold of himself, or maybe... Maybe he wanted to end it. I’m tired, Frank. Didn’t he tell him the same thing, roughly a year before? You ever been tired, Red? Frank feels the anger as it finally comes. Overcomes the shock with a snap, a rubber band pulled too hard, past it’s breaking point. Wasn’t it enough that he lost them? Didn’t he suffer enough, losing his wife, his babies? But then again, Frank had walked away from him. Not once, not twice. He walked away after the bar. He walked away from the church orphanage and the night before. When he saw it, when he knew Matt Murdock was way past his breaking point. Red hadn’t been looking good even then, sitting alone in the sh*tty bar stool. His knuckles were healed and his palms soft and Frank’s had never been rougher, full of healing sores and open ones after spending day after day hammering down walls. They had talked, and Frank had driven them to Red’s apartment and Matt had given him this small, almost innocent smile before inviting him in. He had looked pure and Frank had wanted to ruin him and so he did. And Matt, Matt had wanted to be ruined. And then he didn’t, in the end. He wanted to let Frank hold him. Hold his brittle, cracked parts together. But Frank had freaked out. And Red, he saw it. He noticed it even before Frank’s breath caught in his throat with guilt, panic, anger, grief. When he was leaving, Matthew didn’t look surprised or angry. It was almost like he had been expecting it. Like he never thought it could end any other way. And then, he had mouthed - said, begged - in a faint whisper, soft like it didn’t matter, like he didn’t think it’d be heard. He had almost begged- It didn’t matter. Frank had left. “I don’t know,” he repeats. Karen puts one hand on his shoulder. And he hears what she doesn’t ask. Why were you there? Why are you here? “I don’t know.” But he does.     Sometimes, Frank dreams he was there when Midland Circle collapsed. In some dreams, he’s outside, watching it explode and the blast is loud enough that he can’t hear himself over it. In others, he’s under it with Red, and he’s holding his hand as he pulls him, tells him to go, get the f*** out. Asks him why, why, why. But Red always answers the same way, always says the same thing. Frank has repeated it so many times, whispered over and over in his head, that he barely hears it anymore - just sees the movement of his lips when he says it. This is what living feels like. But sometimes, he says what he did when Frank was hastily putting his clothes on, leaving soft silk sheets and a naked, quiet Matthew behind. The same thing he had said the night before, when Frank left him in his apartment after his breakdown. But still, Matt’s just mouthing it. Red would never say that out loud, his own voice whispers back. But he did, that day. He did say it. Frank just chose not to listen. Everybody leaves Matthew. In the waiting room, Frank thinks Matt had been asking for help in the only way he knew how. And if that’s the truth, Frank had seen it but ignored it, and let him fall. In some dreams, Frank is the bomb. He’s the one thing that traps Red under the rubble. He’s the overwhelming deafness of the explosion before concrete comes crumbling down.       When Red wakes up, like months ago, Frank is there. It’s almost like they’re trapped in their own, f***ed up loop. He’s there to witness the surprise in his wide eyes, the opening and closing of his mouth in stuttered gasps as tears track down his face. It takes away all his doubts. That surprise. The tears. Red didn’t expect to wake up. Frank’s stomach twists in anger (nausea, grief) as he stands up and goes to the door, calling a nurse before going after Nelson and Karen. He didn’t - couldn’t - stay. When he leaves, he doesn’t look back. Afraid that Red will be saying the same thing again, the same words. The same goddamned words that would have made all the difference, should Frank have listened to them.     The next night, Karen calls him and Frank finds himself sitting in his van, staring at Metro-General’s front. The anger from before has faded slightly through the course of twenty-something hours. “Can you stay with him?” She had said, like she was asking him to watch her dog. Like we were lost, stray puppies. Frank curses, hidden behind a sigh. Shakes his head and pinches the bridge of his nose before staring at the flaking white paint under the big, red neon sign of the hospital. He takes the small, overnight duffel bag he brought with him, prepared for any occasion. It takes some effort to get his heart rate down. Combat boots hit the front door’s threshold before he’s even realized he’s moved. Karen and Nelson look like sh*t. Frank wonders if this will be the last straw for them too. If this is where Karen finally gets away, where Nelson finally gives up on his friend. Can’t be easy, Frank knows that. God knows what kept Curtis coming back to him, what kept Karen coming back or even the Liebermans. He wasn’t one to question much, at least not on a good day. Now Red - there wasn’t a single thing in his goddamn world Matt Murdock didn’t question, challenge or defy. Death, apparently, being the most prominent one of those. “Just... be careful, F- Pete,” Karen corrects herself, sighing and passing her long, manicured nails through her hair. “He’s not...” She looks at Nelson, helplessly. The blonde shakes his head too, that same pained, torn expression from the day before. “Make sure he doesn’t try to choke himself with his own IV,” he croaks out, coldly and Frank knows it’s none of his business, but he dares hope Nelson works through the hurt, the pain. Because if Karen leaves, Matt may close off, get sadder, quieter or angrier. But if Foggy Nelson left? Frank thinks that would be the last straw. Murdock turns his head away as soon as Frank enters his room, chest rising a bit raggedly. He’s still drowsy but the nurses warned that could happen. That had he taken a bit more than what he did of Prozac (they estimated between five to seven pills), he may have survived, but he’d most definitely have lasting sequels - motor coordination impairment, hearing loss, something named RASP, not any of it good things. That had the paramedics taken a bit longer to get there or Frank to find him, Red would have likely suffocated in his own spit and vomit. That the cardio-respiratory arrest he went in when he got to the emergency room could have killed him, should it have lasted mere seconds more than it did. Frank lets his bag drop to the ground by his feet and watches him. His slow-blinking, his shaky hands, his still pale skin, blue veins like spider-webs along his arms. Stark against an old, silvery scar by his elbow. Knife wound. The former marine sits down with a heaving sigh. Karen had told him earlier Murdock was put under periodic suicide watch, which meant a nurse would be checking in frequently to make sure he was alright. All the angry words he had left him in a blink of an eye. They would come back soon enough. “Brought a book,” he offers, quietly. If Karen’s research was to be believed, the cocktail of sleep deprivation, Prozac and Ambien would be enough to get Murdock’s senses a bit haywire. And as much as a wicked part of him wanted to punish him for his actions, for the sh*t he just pulled, Frank refrains from it. “Not going to give me a talk down?” Matt asks in a hoarse, phantom-like whisper. With all those tubes, pale like the sheets he was under, like the tiles Frank had found him. “Figured your friends got that covered,” and it’s not a lie. Curt would say another talking down is the last thing the kid needs right now. If the goal is feeling like sh*t, Red had that part handled. If it’s making him feel guilty, realize the extent of his actions, Red was most certainly thinking about it already. “Ever read Proust, Red?” “Yeah,” Matt looks at him a bit amused, although he doesn’t smile. He seems too tired for that. “Is In search of lost time supposed to make me feel better?” He asks and this time he sounds teasing. “Well, he did say happiness was beneficial for the body,” Frank shrugs, a small smile in his face. It doesn’t erase where they are but it’s almost like he could just... pretend. Just for a while. The heart monitor beeps steadily. “He’s the father of existential crisis, Frank,” he huffs out a snort at that, watching the artificial light as it touched Red’s damaged, cloudy eyes in a haze. “Brought poetry too,” Matt doesn’t say it but Frank can see it in the little tilt of his head, the curiosity. It fades as he sighs, tiredly. “What did you bring?” He didn’t actually know, Leo had been the one to tell him it was good. He checks out the cover. “Mary Oliver,” Frank’s hands scrape against his jeans as he settles back, Murdock twitches towards the sound, laying back on his sheets. “Do you want-” “Please,” he says softly. Frank nods, and presses his feet harder against the ground. Just so he doesn’t forget where he is. He blinks a few times, eyes on the heart monitor before going back to Matt’s steadily rising and falling chest. “I go down to the edge of the sea,” he starts, voice made of thin, breakable china. “how everything shines in the morning light, the cusp of the whelk, the broken cupboard of the clam...” He maybe reads to him for an hour or two. Frank barely feels time as he measures it with the sterile smell of the sheets, the soft rustling of pages, the feel of a soft paperback cover, Matthew’s tender breathing. It’s rawness dims with every word, every verse. “What dark part of my soul shivers,” Frank isn’t sure when Matt’s breath turns tremulous, or when his own voice strains in a husky grind. It’s just the words, Frank’s voice, Matthew’s breathing, the white sheets, the heart monitor. He can almost ignore where they are. Almost. A nurse comes in, not long after he finishes Every Morning. Red seems to come slowly out of his daze as a tray of mashed potatoes and other unidentifiable food gets dropped on his lap. The fragile truce snaps in a deaf sound, and Frank watches him turn his head down to his tasteless dinner, eyes turning away for all the good they do. Red’s rather well-trained in avoiding glances when he can’t (shouldn’t be able to) feel them. Frank can’t say he hadn’t seen coming what happens next. “I didn’t try to kill myself,” he murmurs into his (plastic) fork, curled around himself as if saying the words are a sharp knife of their own. Maybe he didn’t set out to, but he didn’t mind if he did. Maybe he wished for it, the same way Frank had wished most mornings before he started pulling his life together. “What were you trying to do then, Red?” He carefully swallows any resentment or anger back, any grief. Not the time. Red keeps playing with his food. The childish gesture would be amusing - endearing even, if not for the IV, the monitor, Red’s shaky hands, the nurse that came to check from time to time. “I wanted to... I just wanted to sleep.” I’m tired, Frank. Yeah, Frank knew tired. He knew not wanting to wake up, too. “Look, Red, you gotta heal,” he says, voice a deep rumble, low enough not to set his senses off. “these kinda things, they leave wounds. They make us... make us bleed, right? And thing is, sometimes, sometimes you don’t even realize it, ‘cos you’re so neck deep in the blood, yeah? You’re fighting the ocean one bucket at a time, and that sh*t is tiring as hell. You gotta take those wounds, and you gotta let them scar, you kno’? Better than to leave it open, bleed out, yeah?” Don’t make me find you like that again, an unbidden, choked-out voice crawls from the depths of his mind. Don’t do that to me again. Matt is quiet, in the wake of a revelation Frank never made. Maybe he heard it, anyway. “I don’t know how,” he finally admits. And it’s okay, because Frank hadn’t known it either. Sh*t, he was still figuring it out. Having Curt, though. That right there made all the difference. Matt suddenly sags deeper into his pillow. “I didn’t... want to die.” But he didn’t mind not waking up either. Some part of him, probably, had wished for it so hard, so loud - took over the remaining drops of sense from his sleep-deprived head. Frank breathes through the sudden rush of anger, unable to trace it back to Red or to himself. Angry at the idiot for doing this sh*t, angry at himself for not seeing it. Angry at Nelson and Karen who saw him every day and never noticed sh*t. But then again, Matt Murdock had been hiding for so long, he didn’t even know how to come out of the shadows on his own. Repressed, shackled-down anger comes like a punch to bruised ribs. Clawing at his throat like Ahab stabbing Moby D*ck, only to get tangled in ropes and dragged by his neck into the sea. “You don’t do that, Red,” he growls out, earning a mildly surprised glance from the younger man. “You don’t do that your friends, sh*t, you don’t do that to them,” his voice is suddenly thick, hoarse. Frank almost stops talking, if only to hide the weakness bleeding out in his tone. “Now you listen to me, ‘cause I’ll say it once, you listening? Your life is not yours and you take your goddamn hands out of it,” hisses out, sharp like a blade, and he sees it slide right through him, makes him bleed all over white sheets. Yet Matt’s face barely flinches. “You take your life, Red, you put that on Karen, you put that on Nelson, you tell me you love ‘em but you take that from them, you wound them!” You wound me, you tear me apart, says his heartbeat, the loud ringing in his ears. Haven’t I lost enough? Why do you want to go, too? Frank’s selfish, terribly, horribly selfish. He’d come and go as he saw fit, and somehow believed Red would always be there, open arms and all. Some f***ed up, self-entitled bullsh*t part of him thought that Matt and him would inevitably, one day, find each other again - be it in the middle of a fight, as allies or enemies or lovers in a bed. Matthew, he turns away with his stoic expression crumbling to shreds. That blade stabbed him right through where Frank had aimed and it was too late to claim it back now. Red looks pained, muscles jumping like he’d rather run far, far away than stand a second more listening to what Frank’s got to say. And that’s just another thing he can’t fix, just another thing he caused that he can’t fix. Frank had been there. Spent months sleeping with a gun under his pillow. He’d wake up sometimes looking for Maria, for his baby girl, his baby boy, and he’d think maybe... maybe he could, you know? Thought he didn’t owe nothing to no one here. And Red, he knows all that. There’s nothing Frank has to say about it that he doesn’t know. He’s just... punishing him. Tearing the wound a little wider. And that’s not what he wants. That’s the last thing he wants. “Just... ask for help, Red,” is that so hard? He almost says. As if he doesn’t know who he’s talking to. As if Frank had any right saying it. “Ask for what you need.” Matthew’s chest shudders and Frank wonders at how hypocritical he is, saying this sh*t. Sister Maggie had said it herself, people always leave him, she said. He could use a friend. And Frank, the first time Matt had asked of him what he needed... He left. He just left. Maybe that’s why Red doesn’t. He doesn’t expect it to be granted, so what’s the point? Looking at him, his hands twisting into the sheets surrounding his frame, his eyes blinking rapidly and owlishly, teary and unable to hide it, Frank thinks the dam is finally about to break. For one moment he waits with bated breath, thinks Matt’s going to ask. Talk. Anything. Just ask, Red, he thinks, just ask. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t say a word.  


09/29/2021 09:47 PM 

I Wish

SUMMARY: wish (v): feel or express a strong desire or hope for something that is not easily attainable; want something that cannot or probably will not happen. :: She can't place that moment in time where their relationship shifted from exchanging inappropriate comments in the lounge of their dorm building to this deep sense of companionship. Because Kakashi Hatake? Well, she felt something for him – something completely and undeniably real — a kind of kinship; a connection; a sense of belonging, like they were two people who, at their bare bones, understood each other. But she didn’t know if she has earned the right to feel that way, especially about him. :: [AU][Canon Divergence][Same Age AU][Kakashi x Sakura]           I W I S H   September 30th, 2018 "Don't you even think about it, Forehead." Ino's threat is thinly veiled, but there is no real hostility behind her words. Sakura blinks, suddenly being pulled from her reverie. The bar is dimly lit and smoky with the pungent scent of stale beer and…something else she can't quite put her finger on. The heavy rock music pulsing through the speakers is more background noise than anything else, and unfortunately for the patrons who paid money on the jukebox, the tunes are drowned out by the brash group of bikers who take up the far corner of the bar. She's not sure why Ino brought them all here for a girl's night out. It's not their typical scene for a Friday night, but then again, the blonde always had a soft spot for the local hole in the wall. Cheap, watered down liquor and all. Sakura turns her head towards Ino, with an eyebrow raised, and asks, "What are you talking about, Pig?" "I see you staring at the door. Don't even think about leaving." Sakura grimaces and Ino scoffs, eyes nearly rolling into the back of her skull. She throws an arm over the back of Sakura’s chair and leans in close to deliver her next words. "I know what you're thinking. Stop. It took me two weeks to plan tonight around everyone's schedules. You're going to keep your pretty little butt planted in that seat, have another drink, and enjoy our girl’s night out. That is final." Sakura's nose wrinkles with her displeasure at being scolded like a child, but she says nothing in retaliation. She swats Ino’s arm off the back of her seat and turns her attention to the cocktail in front of her. It’s some obnoxiously blue citrus drink that TenTen ordered for her. She has no idea what’s in it, nor is she too keen to try and find out, so she fiddles with the straw instead. Sakura could play dumb, deny that she wasn't thinking about coming up with an excuse that would lead to her inevitable escape. She knows Ino wouldn’t fall for it though, so she doesn’t offer any type of apology and keeps her head held high. Unfortunately, now that the topic has been openly addressed, it doesn’t merely end with Ino’s brusque and portentous command. It’s now time for everyone at the table to give their two cents. TenTen is the first to voice her opinion on the matter. "Oh, leave her alone, will you Ino? She just misses her man, and I can't say that I blame her." A hot flush of embarrassment crawls its way up Sakura’s neck, staining her chest and cheeks crimson. She buries her face in both of her hands and groans softly, trying to keep the sullen note out of her cry, but it’s to no avail. It sounds pathetic even to her own ears. "TenTen!" This time it’s Hinata who cuts in. "What!?" Tenten exclaims, and it sounds almost remorseful – almost. Sakura raises her head just enough to level TenTen with a baleful glare between her splayed fingers. The brunette takes this as a challenge, however, and meets Sakura’s soured look with a matching one of her own. TenTen tosses her arms open, looks around the table, and challenges the entire group with, “Someone tell me I'm wrong! Go on!” She's not wrong. Sakura knows it, TenTen knows it, Ino and Hinata and everyone else within their friend group, even those who weren’t present, know it. However, Sakura would rather not be faced with the uncomfortably awkward topic that is her current relationship status. Nor does she want to hear Ino harp on what she firmly believes is the right course of action for Sakura to take. They’ve gone through this same scenario a handful of times now and it has only ever lead to one thing: an argument. When no one raises to her taunt, Ino – shockingly – included, TenTen drops her hands into her lap, sitting further back in her chair with an air of triumph. Her eyes drift over to Sakura, who has now fully come out of her hiding spot and offers her a small, delicate smile. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about, Sakura. A few years back, when I had that internship in Suna, I was forced to leave Neji behind. It was hard. Really hard. I went from living with my boyfriend and seeing him every day, to a phone call or maybe a FaceTime, three times a week. I missed him so much, and I didn’t give two sh*ts about who knew it or not. You’re allowed to miss him, Sakura." Sakura considers her words, feels somewhat pacified by them, enough so to let her shoulders droop. She runs a hand through her hair, twirling the ends between her pointer and middle fingers.   "Oh please," Ino mutters narrowly. It’s dry and mocking and oh so condescending and immediately Sakura is put on the edge. And this is precisely why Sakura was worried to begin with: the judgment. Best friends are there to keep you grounded, to slap you with the harsh reality of any situation. Ino and Sakura are no exception to those rules. They worry about one another, take care of each other, and Sakura wouldn’t have it any other way. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean Sakura wants to hear about what Ino believes she is at fault for. Especially right now. She would rather not get read the third degree about her current relationship in a shady ass bar on the outskirts of town, who's main populace is bikers. But, like clockwork, Ino doesn’t disappoint. Her judgment is harsh and swift. "You guys are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. They aren't even really dating. It’s not a real relationship. There's nothing for her to miss.” And that is…well, that is the real brunt of the issue, isn’t it? Again, Sakura rather not deal with this under the influence of alcohol, but Ino’s words are like a hard slap to the face. Sakura isn’t about to sit back and let her pick apart what little happiness she’s managed to cling onto. Anger flashes hot in her blood and Sakura grits out her retort before she even has a chance to think about it. “And you’re the expert how? Like your relationship with Genma is so picture perfect. How’s Kurenai? I’ve heard she and Genma have been spending a lot of time together recently." Her words are snappish and harsh, and the entire thing comes off a lot more confrontational and abrasive then Sakura intends. But she’s pissed off and upset with what Ino has been saying over the last couple of weeks. Sakura knows it’s a lie. A downright dirty lie that isn’t even based on some semblance of the truth, but then again, Sakura doesn’t need it to be true; she needs it to wound. That small, dark, vindictive side of her wants Ino to hurt just a fraction as much as she hurts right now. The funny thing about revenge though, that spitefulness and greed, is that it’s like a plume of smoke. It’s there, it’s tangible and real, but when you reach out for it, you’re grasping at nothing but air. It’s fleeting, just like the smug pride that puffs out Sakura’s chest just a handful of seconds before Ino’s face falls. That’s when Sakura knows she’s f***ed up. Sakura immediately scrambles to try and correct her mistake. She leans across the table, reaching for Ino, but the blonde evades her gasp by pushing back in her chair and standing up from the table. “I need another drink,” Ino announces bleakly. Without waiting for anyone to comment, she spins on her heels and walks over to the bar. There’s a beat of silence, then the sound of another chair scraping against the wooden floor is heard. “Well, that escalated quickly,” TenTen jokes as she stands, but it falls flat. Her eyes soften as she takes in the stricken expression that has crossed Sakura’s face. She pats Sakura’s shoulder once, then twice, lips curling into a lopsided smile. “Don’t worry about her. She just needs some time to cool off. You’re both so hot-headed and stubborn sometimes. I’m surprised you two don’t come to blows more often.” The lighthearted remark causes the corner of Sakura’s mouth to twitch, but the smile doesn’t hold. TenTen takes it as a victory anyway. There’s a loud holler from across the room, and all three pairs of eyes search for the source of the interruption. None of them are all that surprised to find Ino sitting on a bar stool, surrounded by the group of bikers, shot glasses raised in the air in salute. “I’m going to go make sure she doesn’t drink herself silly,” TenTen states, amusement apparent. Hinata buries her fit of giggles behind her hand and Sakura’s smirk is a tad rueful. “Be back in a bit.” Sakura watches as TenTen treks across the room, skillfully maneuvering past one of the men that tries to put an arm around her. She smoothly sidles up next to Ino, occupying the bar stool beside her. Sakura observes them talking for a bit, sees them both laugh at a joke that TenTen tells, and releases a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. She turns her attention back to their table and is surprised to find Hinata’s pale eyes surveying her. “TenTen is right you know,” the quiet woman declares. “Just give her some time. She’ll get over it.” Sakura hums her agreement, head nodding slowly, almost absentmindedly. “I know she means well. It doesn’t excuse what I said, though.” Hinata offers a nod of her own. “No, it doesn’t. Then again, that’s what friends are for. We’re used to the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. We forgive one another, even for hurtful words.” The table falls silent after that and Sakura takes the time to mull over the entire situation, teeth digging into the flesh of her bottom lip. She becomes lost in thought for a while, not that Hinata seems to mind. It’s her cell phone ringing that breaks her from her trance. Sakura looks down at the device just as Kakashi’s face lights up her screen. Instinctively, Sakura hits the mute button, cutting off the cheery chime of her ringtone.  She glances at Hinata, who’s is pleasantly occupied with watching Sakura’s phone light up again with another incoming call. Brow arched, Hinata probes, “Are you going to answer that?” “No.” “No?” “No,” Sakura affirms and toggles her gaze from the tabletop to the other side of the bar to where TenTen and Ino are still occupied. The unspoken reason why Sakura won’t answer Kakashi’s call hangs in the air between them. Sakura can feel Hinata’s stare drilling a hole into the side of her head, and she mentally prepares herself for another verbal lashing. However, the question that comes out of Hinata’s mouth is the complete opposite of what Sakura expects. “You look pale. Do you feel dizzy or sick at all?” “What?” “I said,” Hinata reiterates with some emphasis. “Do you feel dizzy at all? Like you need some air? It’s probably because of all the smoke in the room. Maybe you should go out back and take a few minutes to collect yourself.” Sakura stares, and stares, and stares; brows drawn down and lips parted in her confusion. It takes longer than Sakura would like to admit – and Hinata clearing her throat, looking pointedly at Sakura’s cellphone and awkwardly jerking her chin in the direction of the hallway that leads to the alley out back – but, revelation finally dawns. Hinata is giving her an out. They both know that Ino wouldn’t let Sakura hear the end of it if she were to leave unannounced, especially after everything that has occurred, but under the guise of needing some air…well, that just might work. Without another word, Sakura stands from the table, phone in hand, and beelines for the back exit. The door hasn’t even closed fully behind her before Sakura has her phone tucked between her shoulder and the side of her face, the dial tone blaring in her ear. The night air is humid and somewhat sticky but not so unbearable with the soft breeze blowing through the alleyway. She finds herself nervously pacing, waiting for him to answer. He picks up on the fifth ring. “Hey,” He greets in that calm, cool tenor, albeit somewhat breathless. At the sound of his voice, the entire world around her ceases to exist. It halts and melts away until there is nothing left but her and him. “Hey, yourself,” She returns, fighting back an elated smile. Sakura stops walking around in circles and presses herself against the brick wall next to the bar’s back door. She untucks the phone from her chin, holding it to her ear with her right hand. “Sorry I missed your calls before, I’m actually –” Her explanation is cut short by the sound of a dog barking in the background on Kakashi’s line. “Is that Pakkun?” She asks, bemused. Kakashi chuckles. The sound causes warmth to bloom in Sakura’s chest. She loves that sound. “Yeah, it is. It’s like he knows when I’m talking to you. Hey Pakkun, you wanna say ‘hi’ to Sakura?” There’s more barking on the other end of the line and Sakura makes a few cooing noises into the receiver. They both laugh when Pakkun howls his own greeting. “So,” he hums. “How was your day?” She doesn’t tell him about the argument with Ino, nor does she tell him that she has snuck away from her friends and found solace in the alley behind Konoha’s local watering hole. Instead, they talk about everything and nothing. He tells her about a new podcast that he’s been listening to recently, and she fills him in on some of the cases that she has taken over at the hospital.  Sakura is overly pleased to be speaking with him, so much so, that she loses track of time. When Ino barrels through the back door on unsteady feet, Sakura squeaks in surprise. Ino whips her head around at the noise, taking in the scene with bleary, unfocused eyes. “Sakura?” Kakashi calls. He sounds worried and Sakura does her best to try and not be too delighted by that. She shouldn’t be ecstatic that he’s panicking over her. “Is everything alright?” “Uh…yeah. Everything is fine, Kakashi,” Sakura assures, knowing that it won’t placate him in the slightest. “I’ve got to go, though. I’ll talk to you tomorrow?” He clears his throat, and there’s a rustle on the other side of the line like he’s moving around. Sakura can tell that Kakashi is a bit put off by her abrupt end to their conversation by the way he begrudgingly replies with, “Yeah, that’s fine. I’ll call you after work tomorrow.” Sakura offers her goodbyes and goodnights, then hangs up the phone and pushes off the wall before sliding the device into the back pocket of her jeans. A hushed stillness descends on the alley, thick and stifling, but Sakura wisely chooses to let Ino take the lead on whatever is about to play out. Ino breaks the ice with a slurred, “You know I didn’t mean what I said before, right?” Sakura dips her chin towards her chest and offers a wan, but apologetic smile. “I know you didn’t. I’m sorry for what I said also.” She peeks out at Ino from underneath her lashes. “Forgive me?” “Forgiven,” Ino confirms with a solemn nod. She wanders over to where Sakura is standing and leans against the wall on one shoulder.  “I’m just concerned about you, Forehead. I’ve never seen you like this with a guy before. Well…not since Sasuke.” At Sakura’s hate-filled glower, Ino throws her hands up in a placating gesture, but her grin is impish. “Okay, okay, bad joke. I’m sorry. Seriously though, boyfriend or not, you care about Kakashi. Why don’t you tell him how you feel or, at least, talk things out? Why are you both okay with this weird ‘we should be dating, but we don’t like to be adults and address our feelings’ thing that you two have going on?” And that is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? Why is she so afraid to tell Kakashi how she feels? Everything about Kakashi fascinates her; from his explosive wit, to the flirtatious way he touches her, to the way he let her read over his shoulder when he is nose deep in those smutty books of his. His smiles always reach his eyes, and he never minces his words. He isn’t afraid to break out a sarcastic quip or a tactless comment, even if the situation doesn’t call for it. Sakura understands he is quiet when he has nothing to say, and that it is often mistaken for aloofness. The more time she spends with him, the more she can read his moods, and it seems…he lives his life freely. There is no careful containment of his emotions, no order to his chaos. He doesn’t care if he is offensive or nice. Kakashi is Kakashi, not someone else’s idea of what he should be. Sakura had been envious of him when she first met him. It must be nice, she remembers thinking. No restrictions. No expectations. No fear. It’s what drew her to him in the first place. Their romance wasn’t some whirlwind. There was no love at first sight, no candlelit dinners, or carving a heart with their initials into the bark of some tree. No, Kakashi and Sakura started their relationship ass-backward. Cue one very sloppy, drunken one-night stand that left them both embarrassed, unsatisfied, and hoping that they would never cross paths again. Unfortunately for both of them, their liberal arts college had a requirement that all freshman needed to take a welcoming seminar. The point of the class was to assist them with the transition from a high school environment to that of a university. It was a bullsh*t class, an easy A to put on her transcript, something that should have gone off without a hitch. However, when she came to class on that first day and found out that her partner was the guy who she slept with on a whim, two nights prior, things had gotten a little uncomfortable. It hadn’t been easy. Kakashi was just as thrown off by the circumstances as she was, and they tiptoed around one another consistently, walking on eggshells. Neither wanting to address what happened, but the issue weighing heavy on both of their shoulders. She brought him coffee one morning, about three weeks in, and that seemed to help ease the tension. They worked together to the best of their combined abilities from there on out. And when the semester came to a close, they just kind of…stuck together. She couldn’t tell when it happened. When had late night cram sessions and take-out and passing encouraging messages written on review notes turned into this? When had their usual brand of camaraderie turned into something that could mean so much more?  She can't place that moment in time where their relationship shifted from exchanging inappropriate comments in the lounge of their dorm building to this deep sense of companionship. Because Kakashi Hatake? Well, she felt something for him – something completely and undeniably real — a kind of kinship; a connection; a sense of belonging, like they were two people who, at their bare bones, understood each other. But she didn’t know if she has earned the right to feel that way, especially about him. What she is sure about though, is that Kakashi has always been there. Since that first night at the party, throughout all four years; the ups and the downs, the good and the really, really bad – like that one incident where a professor accused her of plagiarizing her midterm paper – Kakashi has always been by her side, and that was more than Sakura could ever hope to ask for. Kakashi wasn’t her first choice in a man, nor was he her second or even her third, but no one else in her life was as concerned about the little things like he was. He texted her to remind her to eat on her busier days, dropped off notes when she was sick and couldn't make it to lectures, and was even open to being the designated driver on the nights that they went out. He was a pain in the ass most of the time, like a nagging mother, but he was her pain in the ass, and one of her best friends. When graduation came along, and Kakashi was offered a position in an up and coming law firm in Iwa, she encouraged him to go with a smile. And after he left, Sakura tried to put her pieces back together because that’s what you do when someone you love leaves. You pick up the pieces and make them work again, somehow. And yet. And yet…she really f***ing misses him, and there is nothing that she can do to fill that void. His presence in her life is unmistakably irreplaceable, and she knows that he feels it too. All this unspoken sh*t that continues to grow between them needs to be addressed, but a phone call or a video chat isn’t the proper way to handle it. He deserves better. They deserve better. “I don’t know, Ino,” Sakura murmurs dejectedly, breaking herself from her train of thought. “I really don’t know.” Ino pushes off the wall, flicks her ponytail over her shoulder, then gives Sakura a long perusal from head to toe. She huffs, throws an arm around Sakura’s shoulders, and with all the overzealous flare and dramatics of an inebriated person – which includes a lot of strange hand motions and head bobbing – proceeds to tell Sakura all the reasons why she needs to ‘man up' and 'tell that bastard how you really feel'. By the end of Ino's rant, Sakura doesn't know whether she wants to laugh or to cry, maybe a combination of the two, but she does feel better about the entire Kakashi situation and where she and Ino stand on it. "Seriously, Forehead," Ino states. "What am I going to do with you? Your love life is a mess. I thought I raised you better than this." Sakura responds with an unladylike snort and nudges Ino's side with her shoulder. "I don't know about my love life, but I do know that I could use a drink. Let's head back inside. I want to be on your level by the end of the night." "F*** yes! This calls for shots!" October 15th, 2018 “Sakura, will you please put your phone away and help us? I’m struggling over here!” Naruto’s whine goes unheard and unnoticed by Sakura. She instead focuses on holding her camera steady, lining up the perfect shot to capture a photo of an absurdly robust pumpkin in the middle of the patch. It takes a minute or two, but she finally snaps a picture that she likes. Sakura swipes right on the touch screen a few times, finds a filter that makes the entire photo pop with color and adds a silly, little gif-sticker of a person dancing in a pumpkin costume to the bottom right corner. Sakura posts the photo to her Snapchat story, sends Kakashi an individual copy, then shoves her phone into her sweatshirt pocket. When she turns back towards Naruto and Sasuke, they are both leveling her with varying looks of contempt – though, to Sasuke’s credit, that’s his typical facial expression. He looks more bored than pissed off. “What?” She asks innocently. Sasuke grunts and shakes his head, but doesn't say anything. He rearranges his arms more securely around the two pots of mums he has in his hands and then pushes past Naruto, cutting his way across the field and into the parking lot. Sakura rolls her eyes and closes the distance between herself and Naruto, taking one of the pumpkins awkwardly balanced within his grasp. He releases a sigh of relief at her assistance, adjusts the two remaining gourds in his grip and starts to take off after Sasuke, Sakura falling into step beside him. Most of their walk is in companionable silence; Naruto occupied with making sure he doesn't drop the pumpkins they paid a pretty penny for, and Sakura content with watching hordes of children running around the grounds with their parents hot on their heels. They are halfway to the car when Naruto ventures to ask, "Where has your mind been all day? You've done nothing but check your phone every five minutes." Sakura nearly trips at his question, boots scuffing along the gravel. Thankfully she doesn't harm or destroy her precious cargo. "I have not!" She tries to deny, but Naruto is giving her that look. It's the same look that Ino gives her whenever they've broached the same topic over the last couple of days. It's the 'you're-not-f***ing-fooling-me-now-spill-it' look. Sometimes, Sakura swears that her friends are all conspiring against her. She tries to think of the best way to explain it. It's not like she's kept Kakashi as a dirty little secret from Naruto and Sasuke. It's just...well, given the history that she shares with her two childhood friends, it is a bit uncomfortable. How do you address your dating life to the two overprotective lugs who have chased away most of your romantic prospects over the years? Especially when one of those lugs used to be a romantic prospect? "It's that guy from undergrad, isn't it? What was his name again? Hatake, right?" Both Naruto and Sakura look up at the sound of Sasuke's voice. He's leaning against the bumper of Naruto's beat up pickup truck, arms crossed, looking all the bit off-put as he usually does. "Is that true?" Naruto quires, turning from Sasuke to Sakura, head comically cocked to one side like a confused puppy. She bristles, but it's not out of embarrassment at being caught red-handed. It's out of general annoyance that Sasuke always seems to know what's going on in her life even before she does. "How the hell do you know that?" Sakura snaps, the inquiry clipped and measured. Sasuke smirks. It's that trademark, 'I'm-an-insufferable-bastard- and-I-know-everything' simper that, once upon a time, Sakura turned into a pile of mush over. To this day, she looks back on her high school self and wonders what caused her to think Sasuke Uchiha was the bee's knees. "It's not like you're hiding it very well," Sasuke explains, his dull tone matching his flat affect. "You two were close in university. Freakishly, attached-at-the-hip close. You constantly talk about him or bring him up in conversation, and you don’t even realize it. It’s like it’s natural for you to talk about him. Plus...," If possible Sasuke's smile grows all the more condescending. "He's your top best friend on Snapchat." “Ohhh,” Naturo screeches, excitement mounting. “You know what that means!” Embarrassment tickles along the expanse of the back of her neck, hot and apparent. Sakura scowls, gritting her teeth and tries to ignore the sudden rise in her body temperature. "What are you, my stalker now?" Her jibe doesn't garner her the reaction that she would have preferred. Sasuke outright disregards her and Naruto bursts into a fit of giddy snickers. Sakura somehow finds herself once again overcome with the shocking realization that these two idiots are like brothers to her. Two brothers that are pushing her into dangerous territory. The ‘were-gonna-talk-about-the-birds-and-the-bees’ territory and Sakura is not sure she wants to have this conversation once again in so few weeks. Turning her nose up, Sakura strides over to the back of the truck and tosses the pumpkin she was carrying over the lip of the bed. Sasuke and Naruto’s combined bemusement follows her as she makes her way to the passenger side door, but Sakura keeps her chin held high and with as much dignity as one who is exceptionally flustered can muster, climbs into the truck, slamming the door behind her. It's a few more minutes before the boys join her in the car, Naruto sliding into the middle seat between Sasuke and Sakura from the driver's side. The first half of their trip home is spent in an increasingly painful bout of silence, nothing but Sasuke's classical playlist filling the stillness of the vehicle. It's Sasuke, astonishingly, breaks their self-imposed quietude. "Ino brought it to our attention a few days ago. The whole thing with you and Hatake." His eyes slide from the road to Sakura. It's not a stern or sardonic look; it's a look that tells her to keep her mouth shut while he explains further. Sakura does right by him and actually listens for once. "And before you go off the handle about her spilling your little secret to us, she wholeheartedly wanted our opinions on the matter." Naruto cuts in eagerly, gesturing with his hands while he speaks. "She's worried about you, you know? The whole 'I don't want her to end up alone' thing that all you girls all panic over. She wanted us to see if we could figure out what's holding you back from finally putting yourself out there with this guy." He leans in close for his next words, resting his head in the nook between her next and shoulder. "And imagine our surprise, Sakura-chan, that we had to find out you were seeing a man, behind our backs, from Ino of all people!" Naruto's childish antics bleed through his mock upset. He pouts his his lips and bats his eyes, but he's smiling, and Sakura doesn't fall for his games. "He wasn't a secret per se," she whispers sheepishly, shrugging Naruto off. She doesn't let him get far though. Before he can fully recover from her shove, Sakura tucks herself against his side, resting her head on his chest. One of his arms comes across her back, pulling her closer. Sasuke huffs one of those weird sorts of breaths that you can’t tell if he’s amused or aggravated. She thinks it the former, though. It's the closest thing to a laugh that she's heard from him in years. "Then why didn't you tell us about him?" "I…don't know," Sakura reluctantly admits, waving a hand helplessly before letting it fall into her lap. "The whole thing is confusing. We're confusing. I’m not entirely sure where we’re going or even what I’m looking for. I know how I feel, but I don’t even know how he feels. Besides…talking about my sex life, or lack thereof, with the two of you is the last thing that I want to do.” The mention of Sakura and sexual intercourse in the same sentence throws Naruto and Sasuke for a loop, much like she figured it would. Naruto releases an indignant squeak and squirms uncomfortably in his seat. His dismay is rolling off of him in waves, and Sakura feels the rise and fall of his chest as he tries to gather his bearings. Sasuke…well, Sasuke looks like he’s about as uncomfortable as someone would be if they swallowed broken glass. “Did you…did you sleep with him Sakura?” Naruto bravely asks. Sakura harrumphs. It’s weird, trying to have a conversation with her ear pressed to Naruto’s chest. She shifts, readjusts herself and places her head against his shoulder instead. "Out of everything that I just said, that's the only thing that stuck out? Seriously? Do you guys think I am some twenty-three-year-old virgin?" “Change of topic. Right now,” Sasuke begs. “Please.” Naruto snorts dryly. “We’re in the presence of an asexual being, Sakura. No inappropriate talk allowed.” There’s a beat, and the atmosphere in the car changes. The humor is gone. Then, Naruto continues in that sinfully serious, considerate tone of his, “You know, if he makes you happy, we would never be opposed to the two of you being together.” “Hn.” And that admission warms Sakura, right down to her very core. “I know,” she says quietly. “Thank you.” The remainder of the car ride passes with Naruto making snippy remarks about Sasuke’s driving. As they arrive just outside the city limits, their bickering escalating into something that could potentially put all three of them into a dangerous situation, Sakura’s phone begins to ring in rapid succession. She wiggles slightly in Naruto’s arms, pulling her cell from her sweatshirt pocket. The screen is filled with notifications of missed messages, one from Ino and multiple from Kakashi. "Your boyfriend?" Sasuke inquires. He doesn't try to hide the entirely smug tilt in his voice. "He's not my boyfriend," Sakura corrects. Naruto interjects with, "Well, technically, he kinda is. Or rather, he's not your boyfriend, yet. That's the keyword: yet." "You two are insufferable." "Don't not answer on our account," Naruto says. He's wearing a grin so wide it causes his eyes to crinkle in the corners. "Please, carry on. Pretend like we're not here. Hell, call him if you would like. We won’t say a word. Right, Sasuke?" Sakura quickly jerks her elbow, catching Naruto in the ribs. "Not gonna happen. Do you think I’m dumb enough to get him on the phone in the presence of you two?" “Ohhh, she’s embarrassed, Sasuke. She doesn’t want to show us what she’s like with Kakashi. Look at our little Sakura, all grown up with a boyfriend.” “Hn.” “Will you two shut up!” -⇞- Later on, long after the boys have dropped her off at her apartment, raided her pantry and left behind a mess for her to clean, Sakura Facetimes Kakashi to tell him about her day. She informs him of Sasuke and Naruto’s teasing and about how, inadvertently, he has gained their seal of approval as her ‘not real boyfriend.’ She says it as a joke, something lighthearted and playful that they can both laugh at, but Kakashi doesn’t see the humor in the situation like she thought he would. He’s quiet and contemplative and looks far too serious as he mulls over her words. “…Is everything alright?” She eventually asks. This isn’t like him. He’s never this quiet, not with her. Kakashi starts at her question, like he has forgotten Sakura is on the other side of the video call. “No, no. It’s nothing. I uh…I gotta go. I promised Genma I’d give him a call after work. Something about Ino and some fight they had. You know, guy stuff. I’ll message you sometime tomorrow.” Before Sakura can sarcastically quip that relationship advice isn’t exactly his forte, Kakashi has already hung up on her without so much as a proper goodbye. Judging by the lack of missed calls or text messages from Ino, Sakura knows Kakashi is lying about the Genma scenario. And She’s not entirely sure how she feels about that. October 31st, 2018 "Well?" Sakura asks. "What do you think?" Kakashi is uncharacteristically silent, and Sakura turns from where she is admiring her costume in the mirror to stare at her phone screen propped up on her dresser. He has an odd look on his face, a cross between exasperation and unease and…longing? She’s not quite sure what to make of it. Things have been off between the two of them for the last couple of weeks. Kakashi’s been avoiding her. Their video calls are now few and far between, and if she does happen to rope him into a regular phone call, they don’t chat for long. Sakura’s trying her best not to let it get to her, but it's not as easy as she would have initially thought. She thought she missed him when he left, but she finds herself yearning for his attention and validation even now. “What is it?” His reply is instantaneous. “You’re going out…wearing that?” Sakura looks down at her witch’s costume. Sure, the black dress was a little too short for her liking, and the neckline was a lot less modest then she would have preferred, but it was cute and it fit her nicely, plus the bell sleeves really pulled the whole thing together. It also had a hood, and in the absence of buying a pointed hat, that was the next best thing. She frowns. “What’s wrong with it?” On the other side of their FaceTime call, Kakashi snorts. “I can see your thighs.” “I’m wearing stockings. You can’t see anything.” “You have a lot of makeup on.” “I’m supposed to be a witch, Kakashi. You know, ‘double, double toil and trouble,’ and all that dramatic flair? Makeup pulls the whole look together.” “You don’t have a hat. You can’t be a witch without a hat.” Sakura reaches behind her and pulls the hood over her head. It rests haphazardly over her curled hair, but she doesn’t make any move to straighten it. “Boom. Who needs a hat when you have a hood? Next.” She crosses her arms and watches as Kakashi’s eyes narrow to slits before slowly trailing down the column of her neck. In a last-ditch effort, he proudly exclaims, “You’re showing a lot of skin.” Sakura jaw drops open, but her stupefaction is short lived as irritation fights its way to the forefront. “If you’re talking about my cleavage, you know from firsthand experience that there’s not that much to show. My chest is basically nonexistent.” Kakashi grumbles and turns away from her. He’s sulking, brooding in his silence. Sakura can’t figure out for the life of her why he’s acting like this. And then, finally, it dawns on her and Sakura has to fight down the unexpected bout of laughter that begins to bubble in her chest. "Are…are you jealous?" Her query is met with the response she expects. Kakashi burrows further into the pillows at his back, bottom lip jutted out like a pouting child, still refusing to look at her through the phone screen. “That’s what this is, isn’t it? You’re jealous and upset that I look good.” “You look great,” He corrects, and if it weren’t for his deadpan manner, Sakura would have taken it as a real compliment. “Don’t change the subject. Is that what’s been going on with you, lately? Some kind of…of warped jealousy that’s been making you act all weird.” She watches the line of his shoulders tense at her accusation, watches as the muscle in his jaw ticks in indignation, and Sakura knows she’s hit the nail right on the head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” “Oh, bullsh*t. Ever since I went pumpkin picking with Naruto and Sasuke, you’ve been acting strangely. You don’t call or reach out as much, and even if we do talk, it’s always a one-sided conversation.” Her frustration is mounting and Sakura knows better than to put him on the spot like this. Kakashi never reacts well under pressure, but she can’t help it. Whatever his reason is for acting the way that he has needs to be addressed now or it will eat away at her for the rest of the evening. It may be selfish of her, but she is not ruining her Halloween night because he’s in a bad mood. “Hell,” She accuses, palm smacking the top of her dresser as an outlet to her aggravation. “You can barely stand to look at me right now!” “Oh, for f***’s sake, Sakura. You’re right. I’m pissed off! How would you feel if the person you were interested in makes your feelings the butt of a joke with her two dimwitted childhood friends?” Sakura stills, shoulders slumping as the ferocity drains out of her. "What...what did you just say?" Kakashi's face is an otherworldly shade of purplish-red, and if Sakura weren't so shocked by what she just heard, she would have told him to call a doctor. From the bottom of his chin to the tips of his ears, his mortification and horror stain his face in blotchy patches of crimson. He tries to fix his little slip by hastily backpedaling. " was just...I uh, didn't mean it that way." She's not going to give him an inch. "What way did you mean it then, Kakashi?" He doesn't answer and Sakura is left with nothing else to do but stare at his image on her phone screen, wringing her hands in uncertainty. How have they gotten to this point? They talk every day, but they really don't communicate well with one another, do they? Sakura understands and accepts that half of the blame is her own, but despite her efforts, everything over the last five years has come to a head. This was the issue with the dance of courtship. Especially a courtship as misconstrued and messed up as their own. "I wanted to tell you," Kakashi finally says. He runs a hand through his hair, pulling at the ends as he derails. "I wanted to sit down and talk to you about this when I was home for Christmas this year. I wanted to lay everything out on the table and finally address this thing going on between us, and see if we could move forward from here...together. But then you started talking about Naruto and Sasuke, and they made a joke of our relationship, and you laughed along with them, and I know –" "Kakashi, stop talking." "You know, that's really kind of rude to say to someone who's confessing their feelings for you." "Kakashi, stop talking." And he does. He listens, he always listens to her, but he's not happy about it. He's frowning, lips pressed together in a taut, thin line. Sakura takes a deep breath, then another, and then another. When she finally feels the flush of her impatience leave her cheeks, she says, "I have been crazy about you since sophomore year." He doesn't respond to her admittance. He looks shocked and angry and a bit relieved, and Sakura has a hard time keeping up with all of the emotions that are crossing his face. His eyes never leave her, though. They bore into her, grounding her. They are dark and stormy and smoldering, and for a long moment, Sakura forgets how to breathe. Eventually, she proceeds with, "I can't tell you when my feelings changed, but they have, and I'm not sorry about that. I want you to know that my intentions of telling you about Sasuke and Naruto wasn't to hurt you or make a joke of your feelings. I didn’t know how you felt. They both, including Ino, have been pressuring me for the last month to talk to you about everything. About how I feel...and if you're serious about this...about us, then so am I. I'm all in. So, I’m going to ask: are you?" Her profession brings back that alarming violet color to his cheeks. Sakura, with all the patience of a saint, gives him time to collect himself and Kakashi readily takes it. The way he processes her confession brings about a new myriad of emotions. His face contorts from apparent shock to pleasure, then he grimaces sheepishly, then stares at her blankly for a long while. After a few minutes pass, the corner of his mouth curls up, slowly, then the other. And before long, he’s smiling. It's a big, goofy, megawatt grin that lights up his entire being and radiates his absolute elation at the turn of events. Sakura doesn't think she's ever seen him look so happy. Kakashi swallows thickly, then releases one, long, drawn-out exhale. His voice is heavy and heady with emotion when he murmurs, "You don't know how long I've been waiting for you to say that." “F***ing finally!” A voice shouts from the doorway. Sakura yelps in surprise and turns to find Ino leaning against her bedroom door frame. She’s dressed to the nines in her rendition of a modern Jessica Rabbit costume and Sakura finds that it’s a bit difficult to keep her eyes solely on Ino’s face. Showing a lot of skin, indeed. “I tried knocking,” Ino enlightens, observing Sakura’s befuddled look. “But you didn’t answer and the front door was open, so I let myself in. Now, though, I can see why you were too busy to answer the door.” Ino looks at the cell phone propped up on Sakura's dresser and her grin broadens. Though Kakashi can’t see her from that angle, Ino gives a tiny, coy wave of her fingers in the direction of the device. "Hello Kakashi," she sings. "Hi, Ino," he politely returns. Sakura smacks her forehead with her palm and grumbles. November 9th 2018 It has been a sh*tty week. A really f***ing sh*tty week and all Sakura wants to do is go home, crawl into her bed, wrap herself into a bundle of blankets and pillows, and sleep for the next three days. One of her long-term patients at the hospital took a critical turn, and despite her best efforts, he passed away in the middle of her shift the night before. Dealing with the family and the paperwork was one matter, but the emotional turmoil sitting heavy in the pit of her stomach is another. Tsunade tried her best to turn the loss into a lesson; this might have been the first time Sakura lost a patient, but it would not be the last. Though the bonds she forms with those in her care are important, she needed to learn how to cope with the grief adequately. It didn’t help that last night’s shift had also been her third in a row, and the second day at the hospital that turned into a fifteen hour, around the clock stint in the emergency room. Sakura is run ragged, emotionally and physically weary down to her bones. Everything f***ing hurt, and if it weren't for the fact that she was currently holding on to the stair railing, she is pretty sure she would collapse into a boneless heap right in the middle of the stairwell. There were other things on her mind as well. Sasuke and Naruto were fighting over something that she can’t, for the life of her, even remember anymore. She was caught in the middle of two bothersome, stubborn men who refused to apologize to one another and admit that they were at fault. She had been receiving passive aggressive messages from both of them throughout the last two days. Ino was having problems with Genma – again – and despite Sakura’s best efforts to try and be there for her friend, Ino’s sour mood was festering to uncontrollable proportions. No amount of consoling and cajoling could calm her down.   Sakura was sure that Kakashi was getting the same treatment from Genma, but she could neither confirm nor deny that, solely based on the fact that she and Kakashi hadn’t been speaking all that frequently. Now, that wasn't to say that things between them weren't going well. They were going better than well. Things were amazing. After they had laid everything out and expressed how they felt, they were finally on the same page and progressing forward, together. Things were still new, but she is giddy with the possibilities of a new romance. It was uncharted territory, and though she was acting like a lovestruck high schooler, Sakura is excited for the things they could experience with one another. The distance was still a disconcerting factor, but relationships take work and effort, and Sakura would be damned if she wasn’t willing to buckle down and power on through. But, with the holidays approaching, things were getting especially hectic. Being in medical school, and as low on the totem pole that she was, Sakura had been forced to cover up a majority of the slack at the hospital. The patient census was low, more nurses and senior staff were taking off to spend time with their families, and it left the interns scrambling. Kakashi wasn’t faring much better then she is. His firm is just as busy and he’s stuck covering most of the grunt work. Phone calls were few and far between with their conflicting schedules, but they managed to text each other here and there. Or, more accurately, Kakashi sent Sakura very colorful, very threatening messages about remembering to eat properly and take care of herself. Sakura manages – just barely – to pull herself up the two flights of stairs to the floor that her loft was on. Her mind is focused on nothing but reaching her bedroom and the sweet oblivion to be achieved once she makes it there, but as she approaches her apartment door, two things become apparent. One, there is a teenage boy who looks barely old enough to drive, dressed in a polo and khakis, blocking the entrance to her apartment. Two, he’s holding one of the most massive bouquets of roses that she has ever seen. “Hello?” She calls out tentatively. “Can I help you?” The kid turns at the sound of her voice. He looks relieved to see her. “Are you Miss Sakura Haruno?” Sakura nods, letting her gaze shift from his face, to the bundle of flowers in his hands. She then gives him a quick once-over, recognizing the logo of the local flower shop stitched into his left sleeve. “I am. How can I help you?” He seems overly delighted by her confirmation and thrusts the bouquet into her unsuspecting arms. Sakura struggles to receive them without crushing a bud or two. "Awesome! I'm glad you're here." His enthusiastic manner reminds her of Naruto. "I didn't want to leave these outside your door where anyone could step on them. You don't need to sign for them or anything. Have a nice day, ma’am! " The delivery boy is there one second and gone the next, and Sakura is too flabbergasted to fully contemplate if she's insulted by him addressing her as 'ma'am.’ She looks down at the bound blossoms, a neat array of reds, pinks, and whites, and she spies a little card mounted on a plastic display nestled in the center. It's a simple note, written in elegant, feminine script. Just a friendly reminder -- Thinking of you always. Yours,  K. Suddenly, Sakura doesn’t feel so tired anymore. -⇞- Later that day, when Ino stops by and notices the bouquet sitting as the centerpiece on Sakura’s kitchen table, she proceeds to call Sakura a sappy, love-sick fool. Sakura couldn’t and wouldn’t bring herself to care, because it was undeniably true, and no amount of teasing was going to wipe the goofy smile from her face. November 16th, 2018 "If you're not going to help, I'm going to hang up on you." "Now, Sakura, that hardly seems fair." "Listen here you brat. This case is the make or break of my residency at the hospital. Either you help me go over the case files, or you quit distracting me. If you keep bothering me with useless nonsense, I’m going to fly to Iwa and beat you with a stick." “Sounds like a good time to me.” “Kakashi.” "Alright, alright. Geez. Remind me to never get on your bad side, babe." “You already are!” November 22nd, 2018 It's the middle of the afternoon on Thanksgiving Day, and Sakura is panicking. "Sakura, sweetheart, you need to calm down." She glares at the phone sitting on her counter, hoping that he could feel the weight of her scowl all the way in Iwa. "That's easy for you to say," She grounds out through gritted teeth. "You didn't just ruin Thanksgiving dinner! Seriously, how the hell did I manage to burn a f***ing turkey!" There's a noise on the other end of the line, it sounds like a snort, she perceives it as a snort, and Kakashi is lucky that he is calling her from his office because if he were home, she would rip into him for finding anything about this situation hilarious. Sakura settles on raising her middle finger in the direction of the phone, and that mollifies her – if only slightly – despite him not being able to see it. She continues to frantically turn the pages of the recipe book her mother gifted her when she moved out. "If you're not going to help, Hatake, get off the phone." "It's just Naruto and Sasuke," is Kakashi's flippant dismissal. "You could put instant noodles in front of the both of them and they would still praise you for it." Sakura releases a distressed whine and turns another page, eyes skimming for something that she can whip together in a matter of an hour and a half. She hears Kakashi click his tongue and there's an echo of movement on the other end of the line like he's switching the ear that he’s pressing his phone against. "Take a deep breath," he coos into the receiver. "You said you managed to save all of the side dishes, right? You can still serve those. I’m sure the boys wouldn’t mind.” There's a murmur of another voice on Kakashi's end followed by Kakashi's muffled response. There's a pause before his says, clearer this time, “Sakura, I need to go. Make a noodle dish for the main course. I'm sure you have all the ingredients at home. I'll call you later, alright? Have a good time. I love you." The call disconnects right as the cookbook slips from her lifeless fingers and clatters against the countertop. The noise that emanates from the back of her throat is a mix between a squeak and a whimper and is entirely distressed in nature. Did he…did he just…? The ringing of her cell phone interrupts her thoughts and Sakura looks at the brightened screen to see that she has messages from Kakashi waiting for her. Kakashi Hatake (3:36:15 pm): So... I totally just said that...Kakashi Hatake (3:36:32 pm): Sorry for throwing it on you like that.Kakashi Hatake (3:36:47 pm): But it's true, and I'm not taking it back.Kakashi Hatake (3:36:59 pm): Remember, deep breathes, cook some noodles, and enjoy your time with your friends. I'll call you tonight. For the next two hours, Sakura is too distracted with staring at those messages to try and salvage dinner. They eat Pad Thai takeout for the main course and Sakura’s not even the slightest bit ashamed when she serves it. Naruto and Sasuke – mostly out of fear for what would happen if they were to complain – tell Sakura it's the best Thanksgiving dinner they've ever had. December 16th, 2018 Ino shows up on her doorstep that morning, and in all of her assertive glory, demands that Sakura help her bake something for her office holiday party. Though Sakura would love to tell Ino that she is on her own, she has always been susceptible to Ino’s puppy dog eyes and her futile resistance crumbles before it even has the chance to form fully. The two of them make their way into the kitchen, and Sakura’ falls into the rhythm of a familiar and comforting routine: shooting the sh*t with her best friend, laughing about inanities, and dancing around her home as they prepare food in concert, singing along to one-hit wonders from the early nineties. After the last couple of months, nothing could have been more uncomplicated or more healing than returning to this normalcy. Cookies in the oven and coffee brewing, Sakura uses the lull in their baking to check her phone, and Ino notices the preoccupation instantly. Being an excellent friend, she misses exactly zero opportunities to rub Sakura’s face in it. “Who you talking to, Forehead? Your boyfriend?” Her voice was sickly singsong, light, and teasing. Sakura shoves her shoulder in repentance and laughs. It’s just as much jubilant as it is incredulous, and she shakes her head instead of getting defensive. Sakura is in a good mood. It’s Sunday, and that means she and Kakashi have a movie date later on – which meant they would watch television while on the phone together and comment on the absurdity of whatever sh*tty horror film that they put on. Ino walks over to the counter where the coffee pot resides, pours two mugs full, then returns to Sakura’s side, placing her cup on the table in front of her. They sit in companionable silence for a few moments, relishing in those first few sips of a fresh cup of coffee. “Are you happy, Forehead?” The spontaneity of the question catches Sakura off guard. Slowly, she places her mug on the table, keeping both hands wrapped around it and stares at Ino. The juvenile cheerfulness that her friend had exhibited that afternoon is long gone, leaving behind nothing but mindfulness and concern. Sakura is aware that Ino’s question has nothing to do with her job, or her impression in that exact moment. It’s about her relationship and how it makes her feel and Kakashi. It’s always about Kakashi. “Yeah, Pig,” Sakura reassures. “I’m happy.” The gravity of the situation dissipates as Ino nods once. “Alright then.” Sakura snickers. “I should be the one asking that question. How are things with Genma?” Ino snorts, rolls her eyes skyward, and they fall back into the comfortable, compatible joviality that they had shared throughout the afternoon.   Later on, about a half hour after Ino leaves, Kakashi calls and apologizes, but he has to cancel their movie date. He cites work for his excuse, and though Sakura is disappointed, she doesn’t hold it against him. She spends the rest of her evening flipping through Netflix and noshing on the cookies that didn’t make the cut for Ino’s dessert platter. She readies herself for bed shortly after her movie ends. She plugs in her phone and cozies herself between the numerous blankets, sheets, and quilts on her bed. With the lights out and the only sounds in the room being the hum of her breathing and the buzz of the heater, Sakura begins to drowse. The chime of an incoming text message startles her out of her light snooze. Glancing at her clock, Sakura grunts and rolls onto her elbow, reaching for her phone on the nightstand. Kakashi Hatake (11:01:30 pm): I have to speak to you tomorrow. Can you call me in the morning? Just as she begins to thumb a response, another text message arrives. Kakashi Hatake: (11:01:45 pm): You should be sleeping. Then another. Kakashi Hatake (11:01:51 pm): Seriously. Put the phone down. You have a shift tomorrow afternoon. Just call me in the morning. Sakura does as she was told, a sly, little smile on her face. Read receipts. She should really turn those off.


09/29/2021 09:37 PM 


) I am very new to rping as Hisoka, please know that lots of years RP experience in the So give me a chance. I may not portray him perfectly since this is the first time I've ever Rped as him . Remember, real Life comes first. Role-pay is meant to be stress reliever from real life drama. Not for Rp Drama Bullsh*t! My version of Hisoka will act like a Big Brother to Gon, sure still wants to fight Gon. But Not where wants to kill him, but for the thrill of fighting him. His Bloodlust will still be there, but nothing Pedoish towars Gon, Killua, an any Kid like fighters he might run into. )Semi para to multi para, I’m not fan of one-liners. It doesn’t give me much to work with. So" Boop" Is not greeting either, I will either delete you or ignore your message.  ) My Hisoka is Straight, I don’t care how he might appear to be in the series. He like Women, very strong women who also can Fight! Not Non-Figher types. )Yes My character Is Mature rated, and will do NSFW 21+.  BUT! Only story driven will that happen, or If in rp relationship. )No GOD MODE BULLSH*T !!! ) He loves to Fight, as you might aware of. So he will be looking for strong fighters. ) I will not be adding or accepting MCRP Accounts, I hated dealing with the Hassel of looking through people Photos picking a character only to find out I can't rp with them just because  someone is already rping with them!     


09/29/2021 09:27 PM 


Summary: Greed (noun) \ ˈgrēd \: A selfish and excessive desire for more of something than is needed or deserved.     Kakashi knows he doesn’t deserve Tenzo. But god, does he want.       Kakashi had been alone for a very long time. At first, it had hurt. It hurt so much, Kakashi couldn’t even describe it. He didn’t understand, how could he? He was just a kid. All he knew was one day, his father was here with him and the next, he was gone. And suddenly, Kakashi realized that the brave face Sakumo put on at home couldn’t hold, no matter how much Kakashi tried to help. In the end, Kakashi wasn’t enough to keep his father alive. He just wasn’t enough to live for. Kakashi wished he could say he didn’t hold a grudge. But after the death of Sakumo, he grew up into a sharp, sarcastic, and often bitter little boy. Despite his attitude, despite his clinging to sometimes inhumane rules and closing off his emotions, he managed to find himself a semblance of a new family. That family was ripped away from him, piece by piece. Most of it was Kakashi’s own doing. He has nightmares, horrible flashes of boulders crashing around him, or blinding, screaming bolts of lightning. He would wake up dirty and stained, and spend hours at his sink until the water over his hands ran cold. He knew, somewhere in his mind, that the blood wasn’t there. But he could see it, he could feel it, it was as real as the eye in his left socket, real as the guilt churning through his stomach and making him sick. Both ruthless, endless reminders that he destroyed any good thing, any good person in his life. When Kushina and Minato-sensei died, Kakashi knew. It solidified in his mind an idea he had long ago, standing over his father’s lifeless body. The idea that maybe Kakashi just wasn’t deserving of love. Maybe loving Kakashi was a death sentence. Maybe the only way to keep people safe was to keep them at a distance. Being alone wasn’t so bad anymore, not if the alternative was more loss. It wasn’t as difficult as it was when he was young, but then again, he supposed all things got easier with time and experience. A good Shinobi was an island, after all, and Kakashi had become a very good Shinobi. He wasn’t devoid of emotions, not completely. No matter how much he tried to convince himself and everyone around him that he was. His ruse seemed to work well on both his fellow ANBU shinobi, as well as on the other Jonin from his class, and even the Hokage. Some looked at him with contempt, others with pity, and others still with fear. Kakashi ignored every look. There were moments, still, when Kakashi would feel his resolve slipping. Moments late at night, when he was alone with nothing but flashbacks and tears from Obito’s eye to keep him company. He missed the comforting love from his father, and the camaraderie from his team. He missed missions that didn’t end with him puking his guts out in a corner of the ANBU locker room as the faces of his targets—his victims—swam in front of his vision even when he closed his eyes. He missed things he never even had; was burning with the jealousy of missed opportunities to have close friends, his insides squirming with deep sadness and longing and guilt whenever he brushed off an invitation for dango with the other Jonin his age. Gai, as always, never gave up on him…and that always made Kakashi feel worse. He was kind, and well-meaning, and Kakashi really, really didn’t want him to die. He was aware, on some level, that he was being irrational. But the people he let love him kept dying, and he refused to have another friend’s death on his hands. But he desperately wanted all these things he’d been denied—wanted so badly it made him feel sick. He threw himself deeper into work, sinking further and further into the depths of life in ANBU. This was his purpose now, everything for the better of the village. He’d become the perfect soldier, and then he wouldn’t need anybody else. It was the perfect plan. Everyone would be safe that way. It was only miserable late at night, when Kakashi was alone, unable to clean the red from his hands. When he met a little boy called Kinoe, he was immediately intrigued. He was small, and young, and used a technique Kakashi had only heard legends about. If Danzo’s offer had not interested Kakashi before, it may be worth it only to know more about this boy. The assassination attempt orchestrated by Danzo ends Kakashi’s interest in joining Root, but not in Kinoe. Against his better judgement, Kakashi allowed the boy to flee the scene, merely reporting his existence to the Hokage. When Kakashi and Kinoe meet for a third time, it is when Kakashi is near death from the technique of a clan he had never even heard of before. Kinoe spares his life, but immediately restrains Kakashi under the pretense of interrogation. The mission passes in a confusing blur for Kakashi, having spent most of it chasing a little girl who insisted on calling Kinoe “Tenzo”, and the second part of it fighting Orochimaru. He wasn’t sure whether or not he considered the mission a success, considering the fact that Orochimaru escaped. But the little girl was free, and Kinoe smiled, and that was enough success for Kakashi. This was the second time Kakashi lied on a mission report, and he did it with zero regrets. The third and fourth time Kakashi encountered Kinoe were separated by years, and Kakashi takes a second to recognize him. He’s taller, his hair is longer, but his eyes are the same. Kakashi knows they are on different missions, serving different masters, but he suggests they work together all the same. He believes when he tells Kinoe that they are both allies under the village of Konoha, and trusts him as he would a member of his own organization. When Kinoe draws a blade against him, Kakashi defends himself on instinct. But this is too much, this can’t be happening again. He can’t be fighting a comrade again. He tells Kinoe to abandon his mission, that missions that call upon someone to kill a comrade were never worth it. And I would know. He didn’t expect Kinoe to bring up Rin. No one brought up Rin, not to Kakashi’s face. Sure, people loved to talk about it to everyone else. But people never even said her name when Kakashi was around, they were afraid of what Kakashi would do. As it turned out, guilt would churn in Kakashi’s stomach like it always did…and then, Kakashi would get angry. So angry, he’d forget even where he was. When he came back to his senses, Kinoe was at the mercy of Kakashi and his chidori. And Kakashi gave mercy, electing instead to restrain Kinoe and take him back to the Hokage. Kinoe was two assassination attempts in, and Kakashi was pretty sure Danzo wasn’t gonna let him stop trying anytime soon. Kakashi was just wondering how Danzo managed to keep his position of power when he kept ordering Konoha soldiers and officials dead, when he was distracted by a very large snake swallowing his prisoner. Kakashi kills the snake and rescues Kinoe, but the resulting poisonous vapors render him incapacitated and weak. Some level of consciousness registers the fact that Kinoe half-drags half-carries him to a safe area and administers some kind of antidote, but then Kakashi is unconscious. He wakes to find a note from Kinoe, hastily scrawled on fabric and pinned to the wall with a kunai. He reads the note quickly, his heartbeat pounding loudly in his ears. Kinoe abandoned his mission for Kakashi. He was going to report back to Danzo empty handed, and who knows what would happen to him then. Kakashi shouldn’t care. This boy was an obstacle every time Kakashi saw him. But he was also a friend, an ally of Konoha, and possibly the last person on Earth who could ever use wood style. The Hokage wouldn’t give a damn about the first two, but he might care enough about wood style to do something. Kakashi was right, the Hokage cared enough about Hashirama’s lost techniques to send an ANBU operative with a message to Danzo. But the time for messages was over. Kakashi wasn’t ever going to try to understand why someone like Danzo was allowed so much influence, he didn’t have the time nor the patience. What he did have was the skill and the balls to go into Root and get Kinoe his damn self. Later, after he stole inside one of the most dangerous organizations in Konoha on an illegal, unsanctioned rescue mission for some boy he barely knew and almost killed three times, Kakashi would question what exactly it was that drew him to Kinoe. Sometime, after he introduced Tenzo to his ANBU comrades under his new code name, after he welcomed Tenzo to his ANBU team, after Tenzo called him “senpai” for the first of many times, Kakashi would question why Tenzo wasn’t turning tail and running the other way from him. It wasn’t until after a late night together, after Tenzo witnessed him crying, and shaking, and scrubbing invisible blood off his hands, after Tenzo’s quiet voice and gentle hands brought Kakashi back to reality, Kakashi started to wonder if this was the love he had been desperately missing for almost his entire life. The next nightmare, alongside the falling boulders and screaming flashes of lightning, featured bloodsoaked long brown hair and a cracked Konoha faceplate. Kakashi would not allow Tenzo to end up that way. He knew what happened to people he let get close, to people he loved. It didn’t matter how strong he was, or how capable they were. They would get hurt, and then they would be gone, and Kakashi would have to get used to being alone all over again. He needed to stop this while Tenzo was still okay. The thought of pushing Tenzo back out hurt Kakashi more than he’d thought it would. He’d gotten a taste of the love and connections he’d missed so much, and he wasn’t ready to see it go. He’d never wanted anything more than Tenzo, the burning want for things he could not have that he’d felt since childhood was reaching new temperatures in his gut. He closed his eyes, letting the image of Tenzo’s pale and lifeless body motivate him. This was to save his life. The shift back was gradual, Kakashi was too weak for it not to be. He started with talking a little less, making his words a little more curt. He cut back his out of mission time with Tenzo down until it was nothing at all. He pretended he didn’t notice the hurt and worry on Tenzo’s face every time he was brushed off or ignored. Pretended that none of this was bothering him. After all, Kakashi pretending to be okay was the longest and most successful con in the history of Konoha. But, with how well Kakashi knew Tenzo, he should have expected him to not play along. “Senpai?” Kakashi tensed where he stood, slowly setting down the kunai he had reflexively drawn in his surprise. He’d never expected Tenzo to make a surprise window entrance into his apartment, but Tenzo was always exceeding his expectations. “What?” Kakashi’s voice was flat and emotionless. His voice usually was, nowadays, when talking with Tenzo. It was a far cry from when Tenzo had first joined his team, when Kakashi let himself be vulnerable around another person for the first time in years. It was safe to say that Tenzo had made note of the change. “Senpai, are you…are you okay?” Tenzo began, concern creeping into his voice. “Is something wrong?” “No,” Kakashi answered. Simple responses, nowhere for Tenzo to go with them. Cut the conversation short. “You’re lying to me,” Tenzo was clearly distressed. “Why? Kakashi, what’s the matter?” Kakashi’s throat tightened at the switch to his name. This might not be as easy as he thought. “What makes you think I’m lying?” “You…these past few weeks…it’s like you hate me now, or something,” Tenzo seemed nervous. Kakashi glanced back at him and immediately regretted it; the earnest look in Tenzo’s eyes might be enough to break him if he kept looking. “I don’t know what you mean.” “This is just it,” Tenzo sighed. “We…we were close, and you…you would talk to me, about stuff, and now it seems that you just…only talk about missions…” “I’m your superior,” Kakashi answered. “That’s what is appropriate for us to talk about.” “What happened?” Tenzo asked again, stepping closer. “Did you—get in trouble, or something, for being friends with me?” “No.” “Then, why?” Tenzo’s voice grew softer. “I’m worried, Kakashi. I just—I care about you, you know? And I thought—I thought you cared about me,” “I don’t,” Kakashi answered quickly, almost choking on the words. If he didn’t get them out fast, they never would come. “You’re my comrade, and I value you as such. You’re an asset to my team.” Silence stretched for a few very long seconds, in which Tenzo was stunned and Kakashi was bracing for fallout. “Bullsh*t,” Tenzo finally managed. “That—I refuse to believe that, Senpai.” “Well, that’s your problem,” Kakashi muttered. “Keep deluding yourself if you wish. Don’t let it affect missions.” “Kakashi!” Tenzo protested, stepping closer still and reaching for Kakashi’s arm. “What are you talking about? What happened to you?” Kakashi jerked his arm away like Tenzo’s touch would burn him, taking several steps to distance the two of them. “Don’t touch me,” Kakashi warned, turning his back. “If this is all you wanted, feel free to go.” The two stood in tense silence, in which Kakashi knew that Tenzo had no intention of leaving. Tenzo had grown stubborn and assertive in his time spent with Kakashi, and had a long standing history of not letting Kakashi get the last word, rank be damned. “If you really don’t care,” Tenzo spoke through gritted teeth, his shaking hands clenched into fists at his side. “If you really don’t care about me, why did you even come after me? Why not leave me with Danzo? You could have left me to rot in Root forever but you didn’t, Kakashi, because you care.” “I went back to Root for you because you are an asset to the village—” “You’re really gonna tell me that was the only reason?” Tenzo challenged. “You came back for me. You care about me, Kakashi. It’s okay to say so. Not everything you do has to be for duty, or for the village, you can act selfish for once—” “My reasons for getting you weren’t selfish just because you want them to be,” Kakashi snarled. “Drop this. Now.” Tenzo’s face fell, he squeezed his eyes shut and ducked his head, letting a curtain of brown hair hide his face. “Kaka—” “Drop. This.” Kakashi repeated, staring forward, determined not to look over at Tenzo. “That’s an order.” Tenzo froze, his eyes snapping open wide, his shoulders shaking gently with the effort to control his breath. “Yes, sir,” He whispered, slowly raising his head to glare at Kakashi’s back. “My mistake. It won’t happen again.” Kakashi frowned, the slight quiver in Tenzo’s voice the only thing that betrayed his otherwise hardened professional façade. He was silent for several seconds, his chest constricting uncomfortably. He squeezed his eye shut, letting out a long sigh. “Make sure it doesn’t.” Kakashi stood still where he was until he heard Tenzo leave the way he came in, letting out a heavy sigh as he sank down onto the floor. Every part of his brain was screaming at him to stop Tenzo, bring him back and tell him the truth, but Kakashi forced himself to remain still. He didn’t even look at Tenzo, and he knew that he hurt him. Badly. Dammit, he was just trying to keep him safe. There was no way that he could explain without sounding crazy, but he knew this was for the best. Someone like him didn’t deserve someone like Tenzo, anyway. Kakashi ruined everything good in his life. It was better for Tenzo that he stay away. Kakashi got his discharge from ANBU not long after that. The guilt he felt churning in his stomach at the betrayal written all over Tenzo’s face as he cleared out his locker was familiar, but it didn’t make it any easier to endure. He turned to say something, anything, to Tenzo, but he was gone when Kakashi turned around. Kakashi cleared out his possessions and left without ceremony, his mind completely occupied with Tenzo. Cutting people out had never hurt this bad before. Now that they didn’t work together anymore, Kakashi supposed he’d probably never see Tenzo again. He reminded himself, firmly, that this was all for the best. It was keeping Tenzo safe. When the nightmares played through his head yet again that night, Tenzo, mercifully, was left out of them. ___   Kakashi was older now. Less alone, but maybe more broken than when he was younger. Leaving ANBU wasn’t enough to cure him of his darkness, even if it took on a different form now. People whispered about him still; about his ruthlessness, about his genius, about his willingness to kill his allies. But now, they also whispered about “disturbed”, about “obsessed”, about how he failed three Genin teams for “unimportant reasons”. And, as usual, Kakashi ignored them. People could scoff all they wanted about how there were things more important than teamwork. Kakashi wasn’t about to let anyone else live like him. Just because he couldn’t let anyone love him didn’t mean that had to be every Shinobi’s life. These kids deserved better. He’d promised Obito and Rin that these kids would have better. Slowly, eventually, the nightmares started to get better. Less frequent, at least. They were still brutal, and still had Kakashi waking in sweat, but the blood was never there anymore. If Kakashi was honest, the blood hadn’t been there since Tenzo talked him down that night when they were young. Tenzo. Kakashi didn’t think about him very much, not anymore. When he first left ANBU, he wondered about Tenzo almost every day. He worried for him, he sometimes even went by his house to make sure he was still okay. He stopped doing it once Tenzo started using blackout curtains. So, the little bastard was still perceptive, then. It brought a small smile to Kakashi’s face, even though it was a new kind of hurt not to even be able to see Tenzo from afar anymore. A lot had changed for Kakashi since he’d left ANBU. For one, he’d finally managed to pass a Genin team. A team with Minato-sensei’s son, no less. And somehow, when he least expected it, these three obnoxious little a**holes managed to worm their way into his heart. The first time they were in real danger, Kakashi felt years taken off his life. The fight with Zabuza and Haku was a new kind of stressful since Kakashi had the lives of three tiny, blundering people to watch out for at the same time he tried to neutralize the threat. He cared for these kids, he cared for them and that goddamn terrified him. There wasn’t much he could do to keep these kids distant from him, but he would try. He was a genius, so people liked to say. He could be a good teacher while remaining unattached. So he showed up late for their training, he kept his nose in his book when he spoke to them, he never spoke about himself even if they asked. But, no matter how much he wanted to pretend he didn’t care about them, he cared about them a lot. They were all showing tremendous growth and potential. And, for once, Kakashi had three people who didn’t look at him with pity, or contempt, or fear. Well, sometimes they looked at him with contempt, when he was really late for training. But they didn’t see him as a weapon, or an asset to the village, or even a threat. He was just their lazy Jonin sensei, and it was freeing. Another thing that changed once Kakashi left ANBU was his relationship with Gai. Kakashi’s three small brats had taken emotional sledgehammers to Kakashi’s mental walls, and he slowly managed to open himself up to Gai. Not as much as he’d opened himself to Tenzo when they were young, but more than he’d opened up in a very long time. He was still reserved, he didn’t think he’d ever match Gai’s outward enthusiasm for their friendship (and he honestly didn’t want to), but he was okay with admitting to himself that he cared about Gai. He cared about and appreciated Gai deeply, and he always had. He kind of regretted being an a**hole when he was younger, even though Gai always seemed to take it in stride. But even though Kakashi had relaxed, the anxiety still lingered. The guilt telling Kakashi that someone like him didn’t deserve relationships like this still reared its ugly head every so often, and Kakashi tried his best to quash it. It was right, but Kakashi didn’t want to think about it. When one by one, his Genin team left him, Kakashi felt the heavy weight of guilt in his stomach like a familiar friend. They may not be dead, (and Kakashi felt sick to his stomach at the thought), but they were still gone. Sasuke deserted, Naruto and Sakura both left him for better teachers…and Kakashi couldn’t blame them. He wasn’t cut out for teaching, he wasn’t cut out for anything that wasn’t killing, if he was honest. And he definitely, truly, did not deserve the love and camaraderie from his team. He couldn’t protect the people he cared for, he never could. It was better that they found other people to mentor them. Adjusting to life without his students surprisingly well. He threw himself back into S-rank missions, using the sense of purpose they gave him as a distraction from the inevitable loneliness. Even when Naruto came back and he was sent on missions with his team again, Kakashi still didn’t feel as though his team was back together. There was a distance between the three of them, and Kakashi couldn’t say he didn’t expect it. But still, Kakashi’s heart ached with how proud he was of hist former students, and he hoped he would be able to share in their successes for as long as he could. ___ Kakashi honestly never thought he would see Tenzo ever again. So, when Kakashi was in the hospital to recover from chakra depletion and exhaustion, the last thing he expected was Tsunade to walk in with Tenzo. He looked different; taller and broader, more filled-out. His hair was shorter, in a practical style, and he’d swapped the ANBU armor for standard Jonin blacks and vest. He looked different, to be sure, but his eyes were the same. His eyes were always the same. If Kakashi wasn’t expecting to see Tenzo again, he definitely wasn’t expecting how much it would hurt. He immediately could only remember the last conversation they had before Kakashi left ANBU, how badly Kakashi had tried to convince Tenzo that he never cared. But he did. He cared so much, and seeing Tenzo again only reminded him of that fact. Tsunade was talking, saying something about Kakashi’s team needing a leader in his absence, but Kakashi wasn’t listening. “Tenzo?” he breathed, struggling to lift his head off the pillow to get a better look. “You can’t call me that when I’m undercover, Senpai,” Tenzo chided him gently. “I’m Yamato now.” Kakashi wrinkled his nose, not liking the change of name at all. Here he was, going by yet another name that wasn’t his, all in the name of what the village wanted to tell him was his duty. It reminded Kakashi of Root, and he wanted to object. Tenzo was awkward in Kakashi’s hospital room, not meeting Kakashi’s gaze very often, shifting and fidgeting as though he were uncomfortable. Kakashi, conversely, couldn’t take his eyes off Tenzo in that moment. He didn’t realize how much he had missed having Tenzo in his life, he didn’t let himself realize. And, in the time they were apart, Kakashi would admit that he’d grown up. He knew that people didn’t die just because he cared about them…but he still deeply believed that he wasn’t deserving of the love and affection that people seemed to want to give him. Tenzo left Kakashi’s room with Tsunade before Kakashi could think of a reason to try and get him to stay. Kakashi wished he could get up and follow them, make Tenzo listen so he could tell him…what? Just saying he was sorry wasn’t enough. Saying that he was happy to see him again was an understatement. Kakashi was never good with words, and he never regretted it until this moment. But he hadn’t wanted a person’s presence so much since he was younger, since he and Tenzo first shared a team. The want was intoxicating. When the remnants of Team Seven came back without Sasuke yet again, it was more of a blow to Kakashi than he expected. He didn’t have high hopes for Sasuke, and he was still crushingly disappointed. He mostly was upset for his students, they had both gone through so much only to be defeated yet again. Kakashi had no idea how Naruto managed to keep his morale up, when Kakashi was his age he would undoubtedly have left Sasuke as a lost cause. It was several days after their unsuccessful return, and Kakashi hadn’t had a chance to talk to Tenzo again. It was driving Kakashi crazy that Tenzo was here, he was closer than he’d been in years, and Kakashi couldn’t find him. He wasn’t good at talking, and he knew it, but he just wanted another chance. He didn’t deserve it, he didn’t even deserve the first chance. Kakashi sat atop a particularly tall roof, staring out at the dark night sky, watching as clouds slowly traveled to cover the moon. He tensed when he felt a presence land behind him, positioned neatly in his blind spot. Before Kakashi could turn, his visitor spoke. “It’s been a while, Senpai.” “Tenzo,” Kakashi breathed out a heavy sigh, mostly in relief. “I…it really has.” Tenzo moved forward, not joining Kakashi at his seat, but standing next to him at least. Kakashi looked up, unable to meet Tenzo’s eyes. He was certain Tenzo was doing it on purpose. “I thought about you a lot,” Tenzo spoke up. “After you left.” “So did I,” Kakashi answered. “I thought about you.” “I know,” he sighed. “That’s why I got the new curtains.” “Touché.” They fell into a slightly awkward silence yet again, neither of them moving away or looking at each other. “I…asked to be sent back to Root.” Kakashi looked up then, his eye widening. “What? Tenzo, you didn’t—” “Right after you left? Yeah, I did,” Tenzo laughed softly, clearly a little embarrassed. “I damn near begged. Lord Third wasn’t having any of it, of course he wasn’t. He put me on leave instead, something about emotional distress.” Kakashi just sighed, the guilt clawing at his insides. Tenzo had been so affected by their argument that he wanted to go back to Root to get away from Kakashi. “Tenzo, I—” “I didn’t understand, for a really long time. I still don’t, really,” Tenzo cut him off. “I just…what did I do, Kakashi?” his voice was so quiet. “What changed?” “Nothing,” Kakashi said quickly, his voice coming out strangled and rough. “You didn’t do anything, Tenzo. I…it was me.” “You’re really giving me the ‘it’s not you, it’s me’?” Tenzo scoffed. “Really, Senpai?” “It’s the truth,” Kakashi sighed. “Do you…do you remember that night, when we were younger? I woke up with nightmares…and you helped me?” “Of course.” “That—when I was younger, I thought that people died when they were close to me,” it was the first time Kakashi ever admitted it out loud. It sounded even dumber this way. “After that night I was thinking about you, and—how much you meant to me, how much I cared about you…and you died in my dreams that night.” Tenzo bit his lower lip gently, but let Kakashi continue. “I was young, and dumb, and scared sh*tless to lose you, Tenzo,” Kakashi whispered. “I didn’t know what else to do. I thought that if you didn’t know that I cared about you…you would be safe.” There was another long pause, in which Tenzo finally moved to sit next to Kakashi. Tenzo looked over at him, finally, and spoke again. “Kakashi…no offence, but that’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done.” Kakashi winced, looking down at his lap. “I know.” “Now I just don’t understand why you’d ever think that would work.” “I don’t know,” Kakashi muttered. “I…it’s been happening ever since I was young. People who love me keep dying. My dad killed himself, my team died because of me…Minato and Kushina died, when I was supposed to be protecting her…and I just convinced myself that the people who loved me died because I don’t deserve the love. It keeps happening, Tenzo.” “Kakashi—” “My team all left to find better teachers, and I can’t even blame them. They deserve better than me.” Tenzo sighed heavily, unsure of what to say. He laid a gentle hand on Kakashi’s shoulder, the comforting warmth doing nothing to sooth the guilt in Kakashi’s gut. “And I know it’s my fault,” Kakashi murmured. “I know that…people don’t just die because I love them. I know that. But still…you and the kids…it’s my fault you’re gone.” “Kakashi?” “People are always calling me things. A genius, a hero, a murderer, a friend-killer…one extreme or the other, you know? But I’m not any of those things I—I’m just a guy, Tenzo. I’m just a pathetic guy who wants so much but destroys it before I can ever hope to have it.” “You’re so stupid, Senpai,” Tenzo muttered, tugging at Kakashi’s arm. Kakashi’s eye widened as he was pulled against Tenzo’s chest, strong arms wrapping around his shoulders. “You’re a goddamn idiot.” “I know,” Kakashi let his eye slip shut. “And I know that I don’t deserve it, Tenzo, but I want it, you,  I—" “Stop saying that,” Tenzo scolded Kakashi firmly. “You deserve love, Kakashi, you more than anyone deserve love.” “Tenzo…” Kakashi sat up, reaching a hesitant hand out to touch the side of Tenzo’s face. “Do you think you’d forgive me?” Tenzo smiled shyly, leaning into Kakashi’s touch just a little. “I forgive you, Senpai,” he murmured. “You moron.” “That, I do deserve,” Kakashi felt himself smiling. “Not the forgiveness, the insults.” “Shut up,” Tenzo laughed lightly. “I’m gonna break you out of this.” “What did I do to deserve you?” “You went back for me when no one else would have.” “I’m sure someone else would—” “You lied to the Hokage to keep me safe, multiple times. You showed me mercy when I tried to kill you for your eyes. You took me in as one of your own and let me find out who I was, as me, Kakashi. Not as an agent of the state.” Kakashi was struck speechless, only able to look up at Tenzo with wonder. He didn’t think he had done so much—he didn’t think he had done enough to deserve having someone like Tenzo at his side. Surely, all the horrible things he’d done in his life were so great that someone like Tenzo wouldn’t want to associate with him. But here he was, telling Kakashi that all these good things in his life were his doing. Kakashi felt such an overwhelming rush of emotion in that moment, he didn’t know what to do. He did the only thing he could think of; He took Tenzo’s face in his hands, gently, and pressed his mouth against Tenzo’s in what ended up being a very awkward masked kiss. When he pulled back Tenzo looked stunned; his eyes were wide, his cheeks were pink, and his lips were still parted in shock. “I’m sorry,” Kakashi said quickly, releasing Tenzo’s face and pulling his hands away. “I didn’t—” Tenzo was moving before Kakashi could really comprehend what he was doing, tugging Kakashi’s mask aside and pressing their lips together in a clumsy, chaste, but passionate kiss. It was Kakashi’s turn to look stunned when Tenzo pulled back, caught with his mask down like a deer in headlights. “Uh—wow,” was all he could really muster, feeling his cheeks and ears heat up under Tenzo’s gaze. “You’re such an idiot, Kakashi,” Tenzo muttered with a grin. “You should have just done that years ago.” “I really should have,” Kakashi readily agreed, still somewhat in a daze. He reached back up to gently cradle Tenzo’s face in his hands, as if he let go Tenzo would disappear. “Can I make it up to you now?” Tenzo smiled wide, dropping his gaze shyly before looking back up at Kakashi through his lashes. “You goddamn better.” Kakashi let out a breath, almost laughing he felt so lighthearted. “Tenzo…stay with me tonight.” Tenzo’s eyes widened a little at Kakashi’s request, and Kakashi hurriedly explained. “Not—not anything like that,” he clarified. “Just…to talk. And sleep. I missed having you around.” “Yeah, okay,” Tenzo agreed. Kakashi stood, pulling Tenzo up after him and leading him to his apartment. It had been years since the two of them had been there together, the last time being when Kakashi had tried to convince both of them that he didn’t care for Tenzo. Now, he was here to convince him of the opposite. True to his word, they spent the majority of the night just talking. Kakashi told Tenzo about Team Seven, about the kids that finally managed to break holes through his walls. Tenzo told Kakashi about a ruthless barrage of missions, harder to handle without a support system, but ultimately how Tenzo was able to buck up and move on. Kakashi bit back apologies he knew Tenzo would just shrug off, opting instead to lean into Tenzo, holding him the way he wished he could have when they were younger, when Tenzo was timidly confessing to fears and insecurities that Kakashi wanted nothing more than to make better. He wasn’t there for Tenzo then, not in all the ways he could have been. He never wanted to let Tenzo down every again, and he told him as much. When they did fall asleep, it was half-slumped against each other on Kakashi’s futon, with the light of day just beginning to creep over the horizon. For the first time Kakashi could remember, he dreams of his friends; smiling and happy, surrounding him with love.

𝕃𝕠𝕤𝕥 𝕤𝕠𝕦𝕝

09/29/2021 02:43 PM 

Memory-The Doll Maker

"A doll is a timeless thing... In the shape of a human yet created perfect. Immortal, unmoving. Yet hollow and devoid of soul. Free of obscenity, vice, and vulgarity.  A perfect way to capture eternal beauty where there is none... Tell me... Would you like to be beautiful...?"__________________________________________________________Year- 1784 ADLocation- Great BritainCity-London during its "age of industry"Memory type- Horror, Psychological, thriller, suspense, openMemory Shard description- This fragmented shard appears to show the tragic descent into homicidal madness of one young man, with a harsh upbringing in the rat infested slums of London and the loss of his parents, this young man was raised by dogmatic, overly religious and abusive caretakers in an orphanage of ill repute. The only solice this young man found was in the doll he had saved from the fire. The only memento of his family left. Despite its singed hair and clothes, it's soot covered face and body, and it's burned, flaking porcelain, the doll was still far more beautiful then those around him.. And so, he began to craft dolls. As the years went by and the man left his childhood behind, this young man grew so skilled that the dolls he created appeared to be almost life like. Human like expressions and beautiful physics as well as life like skin and eyes... He was praised for this, as he could create dolls for those who'd lost their loved ones, or perhaps they wished to see themsleves in a more perfect way...? Whatever the case... The young man began to make a living selling his creations... But... No matter how much he worked. No matter how much his skills improved or how expensive the material... Something was never... Right. They were perfect to others... But to him? No... But why? Why couldn't he capture the essence of "humanity" in his dolls. How do you replicate humanity perfectly? He couldn't replicate the disgusting flaws. No... That would ruin the point... But.... No amount of porcelain or cloth or anything else would make it more human... That's when the young man looked at himself in the reflection of a cracked, stained and dusty mirror... he could faintly see his oldest, most precious doll. The survivor of the fire... And he could see himself... He wasn't perfect. No one in this twisted, selfish, disgusting world was.... How do you perfect humanity...? That's when an idea came to mind. Of course... It was so obvious!! To make the perfect doll, you need to capture the perfect moment in time. And what better material to make a human... Then a human itself! Humans have all the pieces... You just need to find a way to preserve them... Discard all the flaws, clean the skin, dress them properly... And you're left with something beautiful!!!  With this thought in mind... The young man walked towards the window of his doll shop... Looking upon the very same disgusting people that walked along those rat infested streets... Only now he didn't feel bile, or sickness or disgust... No... Now he saw potential in each and every face that passed by.... The porcelain could go to waste. He had a new material to hunt....


09/29/2021 11:40 AM 

First Impressions.

  Here and now is graced with the thunderous entry. Realize a cosmic kerfuffle and feathery flaunt and ferocity. The nigh-black flesh-tearing cyclonic mass aches to blast and it does! 'Boom!' goes the dame o' might! Krakatoa lends a nigh-almighty voice for this ear-splitting explosive spectacle! The acrid air crackles, daring to break from this barbaric growling choir song of the illest to last more than ten seconds! Painted thoroughly into this pitiful present—unworthy of the Unkind this pathetic place, she comes to be, if she is even a she.Thick feathers of raven and soot embracing neck to elbows to shins. Ribbed layers of straw, leather and dried bone for gauntlets concealing competent agents that have committed countless cruelties. Worn black boots that may have been long pillaged to from some dismal grave in a time before wireless contact through copper and brass instruments are made veiling the pair are used to trek long winding and even uncharted roads of earth, water, air, flesh, bones, and the vast darkness.Beneath a pointy black hat, a large long-beaked mask of aged ivory lovingly tainted by dried blood—spots and smears—is a proper fit. It is cuddling well the malignant mug of a roaming disaster so beyond warped in mortal comprehension, the cosmos itself actually provides the ominous one a fancy facade to censor the foul one. A pair of slim oval pits where the eyes would be are lifeless. Truly, there is no need for actual gaze when reality can be perceived in more ways than several. It is as everything that she is to be made sense of even if just the slightest a worthless physical shell. Throw all with petty perception a little bone, for their silly sake.Hum merrily a guttural serenade of a steel-throated crocodile if one is the size of a mountain. Nations of good folks would tremble at the faintest whisper of this enduring sigh of unholy terror. Damn all that is good and just for being so incompetent of what blockade they could have forged to stop her re-entry. The Mistake has been fashioned a form in creation once more, formerly swimming through the gnawing gurgling gargantuan gallery of the verily-vicious Void where petty life is nil a will at even the most fleeting of feathery feel. Delight the return to tantalizing tangibility. Live life again, Monster of the Old Domains. One of many, to the chagrin of this new metacosmic metropolis.Then comes curiosity. Sweet, sweet curiosity. It sings to her sinister senses. The itch to tell her that solitude is broken so soon. Company is quite near, whether she will then give a smile or a sneer. Slowly turn that beaked ivory she does. Raise a hand to start a gesture. Tickle the air with a claw-like fingered glove now bearing much less of that shadowy showmanship from more than ten seconds prior. Little limbs strum that the air itself play the melody of this malice of a mistress in a mask. For the mortal ears, the callous creak simply chirps, “H e l l o ~.” 🖤   


09/29/2021 09:33 PM 

Character info

*tosses a basic sheet here*Name: Raelyn YelvarisAge: Does this matter? Elves doesn't age much anyways. She looks about 19ish human years.Height: 5'4"Weight: ...No worries I'm a healthy weight!Hair color: Light BlondeEye color: Baby blue.Kinks?: It's a secret ;) 


09/29/2021 01:52 PM 

Diary Of Zivilia (The Beginning)

Long slender legs cross as Zivilia sits back on her throne of skulls. Bright red hues nearly glowing in the dim cave she resides in, a small fire flickering only a few feet away as she grabs up an old tattered black leather book, a thin leather strap hangs loosely as she opens up to the first page.  ZiviliaDon't Forget Where You Came From.  Dear Diary,     Its been at least 24 hrs, if not more, that I have escaped the Wizards tower. Thankfully I befriended my body guard Vakru, he was so helpful in my escape. I am nervous as to what the Wizard will do to him once he finds out, but right now I can't focus on that. He has helped me escape, and I will not let his kindness go to waste. I have been trying to keep my chin up on my run, I have come across my first village, they did not accept me. Right away they shooed me out like some kind of monster, just because I don't look human. But I won't let my head hang low. I must keep going, Speaking of keeping going, I had to kill a poor bunny today, But fluffers sacrifice was in the good of my survival. I am so sorry fluffer bunny. Well, other than walking around and trying to distance myself as far as I can from that place, there is not much more I can tell you, other than knowing I am happening upon another small village. I will let you know how it goes later. Wish Me Luck Diary,In Hopes,ZiviliaFragile digits slowly shut the book as they run across the cover of it. Her bright red hues almost seemed transfixed upon the cover as if reminiscing upon the beginning, before she became what she is now, knowing there are more entries to think back on, and many more to write.  

zivilia, diary, story


09/28/2021 05:48 PM 

O v e r t u r e .

  Forward goes a left foot in ugly black leather. At its descent, pressure per angstrom of ridiculous proportions is imminent to make a mess. C r a c k ! The ground beneath is torn asunder! Apart from the surprise crater wide and deep enough to fit a town in, large chunks of earth are displaced; some take flight! The grand hall of breath on this wasteland under a lovely blue summer sky is rattled something vile and fierce! What madness of a burden accompanied a mere step?!There in the heart of the crater she stands in a hunch, humming a long ear-clawing guttural melody of a predator so delighted and ready for the onslaught. It is proud enough to challenge the tenor of the tremors she instigated with her whispered stomp. Garbed in dust, soot and raven feathers, neck to heel, this lone biped is summoning a legion into this fine foul hour. No, not summoning, she is inscribing an astral edict of attendance for this formless horde that could melt body and fray minds should such an indescribable stampede traipse without care through so petty a being as a mere mortal flesh and consideration.From beneath the long-beaked ivory bone mask that tilts to face the beautiful blue canvas, she issues a horribly mighty roar! An eldritch aria perverts tens of miles of air so powerful that it could lacerate poor ears and skin itself should the corrosive notes lick the flesh! Hell, the ground itself is bubbling by sudden unseen swift carvings being done to it spanning a few miles, an influence of this unholy song. Dirt is rising as a great crowd of smoke. In this earthly blanket, arms raise in concave gestures to her side; long sleeves of the same odd thread are also embracing them. Hands in straw, leather and dried bone gradually curl but enough to stay the form of fist, still revealing a bit of both curved palms. The stiffness of each bent finger is intense, nearly trembling both agents of dark deeds beyond count!Through this perilous mega-drama of earth, air, voice and flesh, she is blissfully violating the laws of nature. Pillage countless priceless riches: cosmic powers from stars and nebulas near and far! Be within this vicinity too tiny for such an astronomical army of intense pressurized energy to just sit in. The stampede cometh. But what is the purpose of all this hysteria both so heavenly and hellish to pull power worth of a million competent gods, goddesses and hellspawns? What is this monster so eager to accomplish with these devastating theatrics?  A  r  t  . And this is merely... a prologue. The overture.   


09/28/2021 02:01 PM 

~Emote Rating Legend.~

How I rate the writing of others as a minimalist: -- I adore how good your writing is. -- Your writing is at a caliber that my brain cells demand I humbly bow before its grandeur.💔 -- Heartstrings in this writer have been genuinely plucked by the contents of your writing.-- If each emote is doubled or more, it means the feeling and rating are compounded. 


09/28/2021 01:59 PM 

~Musing: What I Would Like To Do.~

Hmmm. An inquiry, though not presented as a question in its grammatical presentation, was posed upon me. Frankly, it is simple but highly reasonable to pose upon me; get a better understanding of what I would like out of my time writing as this character.I reckoned that I would share with you the bulk of the answer I provided, excluding the nuanced bit specifically for that potential co-author.I have been asked what it is I like in doing. Well, in the context of this hobby, as this character, I would say it comes down to this, accounting to the notion that I could have made it briefer, surely.   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ I desire to write tales that will upset an upstanding citizen. Tales in which tragedies by happenstance or by something deviously designed within the supervision and influence of a certain calculated entity or even several are played out. Tales that could or should remind a reader that life is not all sunshine and rainbows, that it can be apathetic, cruel and downright unfair.Tales in which my despicable damsel can also do her potent part to thoroughly spread the love... of a superbly wicked being. Bring to scribbled ink mature stories that are lusciously vile enough to fit the devilish dame I write as. Paint the mural of life and experience with decisions and actions stellarly suitable to reprise and nurture her role as one of God's mistakes roaming the cosmos.   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~ May this prattling prove useful to what plot idea or two may you approach me with, should the time come that the silence is finally broken and we nurture well the goal of why you and I are acquainted in the first place.Much love,The author behind the Mistress Monster  

Gym Leader Ocean

09/27/2021 08:24 PM 

Cayman Islands Gym Leader

The name is Ocean and I am currently the former owner of the Cayman Islands Gym. I specialize in water pokemon and tend to spend my quality time on the beach. I welcome crossovers and mains as long as your willing to write with a multipara writer. So feel free to stop by 

White Mage

09/27/2021 02:37 PM 


Also known as Ruse, Blink is a basic yet potent defensive magic that creates an illusionary image of the caster nearby or overlain with their form, making it difficult to tell where exactly the caster's actual body is.While it provides no physical protection to the caster, it makes them significantly more difficult to successfully hit, and many mages prize it above the alternatives of armor or traditional Protection spells - however, the spell's utility is hampered by only being applicable to the caster.


09/27/2021 08:37 PM 


my other characters which don't have character sheets yet but i still very much use !~Pinkie (male/gay)~Baby (female/bisexual)~Satoshi Zhou (male/gay)~Nikuu Kitsune (female/lesbian)


09/27/2021 01:23 PM 

Character Sheet - Kyo Shinozaki

Full Name: Kyo ShinozakiSex: FemaleSexual Orintation: BisexualPHYSICAL APPEARANCEAge: 21How old does s/he appear? 21Eye Colour: light blueGlasses or contacts? noneHair color: crimsonType of hair (coarse, fine, thick, etc?) thick and wavy but cut short, stopping at just below her chin.Typical hairstyle: short bob type hair, will often tie the front of her hair back when stressed or concentratingHeight: 5ft 5Type of body/build: athletic, slim yet curvy, feminine body type but also muscularNationality: JapaneseSkin tone: pale white skin, slightly more tanned than her half sister Shape of face: still quite small and petite, slightly roundedDistinguishing Marks? Scars? her body is heavily scarred, especially around her torso, back, upper arms and thighs, from fighting. she also has a large scar on her right eyebrow Most predominant feature: her facial scarAccent? sight japanese accent Is s/he healthy? If not, why not: she is extremely fit however she engaged in unhealthy habitsHABITSSmokes: What? How often? heavy smoker of cigerettes Drinks: What? How often? heavy drinker, drinks anything she can get her hands onWorst bad habit? chain smoking Quirks: will run her hands through her hair when stressedBACKGROUNDHometown: lived in an isolated home away from any major cities. Type of childhood: harsh, cruel and strict. Her father trained her to be a warrior, showing little paternal love. First memory: intense training schemes with her father in the back yardMost important childhood event that still affects him/her: the discovery of her mother's identityBooksmart or streetsmart? a little of both, while intelligent like her mother, her father's vigerous training left her streetsmartReligion and/or religious views and/or tendencies? agnostic but believes in the supernatural, has an intense hatred for themFIRSTS:Job? does odd freelancing jobs/petty crimes. can be hired as an mercenary.Kiss? yesSexual experience? yes, nothing ever more than one night stands howeverFAMILYMother (name): Shiko ShinozakiRelationship with her: intense hatred for herFather (name): Raden Kuroda Relationship with him: love/hate relationship. loves him because he taught her everything she knows but wishes he showed her some love more oftenSiblings: Yuka Shinozaki (half sibling), Dai Shinozaki (half sibling)Extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.): Kaida Shinozaki (cousin), Yui Shinozaki (aunt)Close to family? No, is only in contact with Dai ATTITUDEGreatest fear: Shiko succeeding with her plans. Shiko finding Yuka. Worst thing that could happen to him/her? Yuka being harmed by ShikoCharacter is most at ease with: researching Shiko and her organisation. Kyo has to be constantly on the move and making progress. Occasionally she enjoys sitting by a fire.How s/he feels about self: Believes she is capable enough to look after herself but also hates any little weakness she has. Past failure s/he would be embarrassed to have people know about: failed fights in her pastDaredevil or cautious? a little of both. she is smart enough to be cautious yet confident enough in her abilities to take risksSame when alone? she is often alone, never really making friendsBiggest regret? not discovering Shiko's plans soonerBiggest accomplishment: Sneaking into Shiko's huge million dollar organisation and escaping with tons of evidence Minor accomplishments: every fight she's ever won with Shiko's supernatural goonsPERSONALITYGreatest source of strength in character's personality (whether s/he sees it as such or not): determination to defeat ShikoGreatest source of weakness in character's personality (whether s/he sees it as such or not): her over-confidence in her abilities. also her lack of trust in strangers, often not accepting their help even when in dire situations, she has too much prideCharacter's soft spot: YukaIs this soft spot obvious to others? Obvious if you get in her way or are close to YukaIf not, how does character hide it? Tries to keep her existence a secret from Yuka so she wont be at risk. watches over her from a distance. TRAITSOptimist or pessimist? pessimist Introvert or extrovert? introvert Drives and motivations? Defeat Shiko, keep Yuka safeTalents (hidden or not)? Fighting, survival, first aid, very agile Extremely skilled at: hand to hand combatExtremely unskilled at: conversing with people, empathyGood characteristics: dedicated and extremely loyal. extremely hardworking alsoCharacter flaws: often selfish, putting her own goals before others for "the greater good". Mannerisms: crude, cruel and cold. will often sigh and act dismissively of people she deems a bother - which is 99% of people.

character sheet, OC

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