Chapter Fourteen
Now

"Oh, shhh," Raidou whispered loudly, giggling against Genma's chest.

Kakashi clung desperately to his tree and thought, 'Act like a branch.'

"He's looking this way!" Iruka hissed.

Raidou buried his face against Genma. Kakashi could see the man's body still shaking with laughter.

The light from Asuma's lantern glittered through the trees.

"Crap! He's coming this way!" Iruka whispered, breath hot where he was crowding Kakashi in an effort to see.

Kakashi whipped around, dodging to the other side of the trunk, taking Iruka with him. He staggered and nearly fell, all his normal grace completely gone with the alcohol he was certain he'd peed out by now. Apparently, there was some left. A lot left. He grabbed for the tree, planting a hand on either side of Iruka's head and bracing himself.

Iruka was laughing silently, holding onto Kakahsi's waist. Kakashi suspected that if either of them let go, they'd both fall over.

Asuma's light swept over the trees; they barely remained in the shadows. Raidou yelped as Genma kicked him into the light and scrambled up, almost silently.

Luckily for him, Asuma was drunk, too, and didn't hear.

"Hi," Raidou said, squinting. He giggled.

Asuma snorted and handed him an extra lantern.

Raidou took it and sat down, waiting the few seconds the rest of them had to escape.

Kakashi grabbed Iruka and hauled him away through the forest. They were almost free when Gai appeared out of nowhere and beamed his lantern at them.

"Ha ha!" Gai bellowed. "Found you!"

Kakashi lifted a hand to shade his eyes, and realized he was still holding Iruka's arm.

The younger man was laughing quietly, leaning against his shoulder.

"Ah, the springtime of youth," Gai started on an oddly soft sigh.

Iruka laughed, and nearly pulled Kakashi over as he tipped. The Jounin staggered and grabbed hold of a tree branch. The world had never swirled so much--or so oddly pleasantly--before.

"Bedtime!" Genma announced, trouncing past them wearing only his boots and Asuma's big coat.

And just that suddenly, the game was over and everyone was heading back to the nearly dead fire and black tent-like shapes.

"Hmmm," Asuma said, weaving on his feet. "I didn't bring enough tents. Someone needs to share."

Kakashi saw Genma open his mouth to offer, and Asuma tromped on the Special Jounin's foot.

"Since you two already shared an apartment," Asuma said, turning toward Kakashi and Iruka and nearly continuing to swirl around, "do you mind sharing a tent?"

"Not at all!" Kakashi said brightly.

Iruka looked slightly befuddled, and muttered something polite.

**

They lay, each bundled in their own sleeping bags. Kakashi stared at the peak of the tent, where he could see the shadow of something crawling outside. Something small and bug-like.

"Do you miss her that much?" he asked the darkness.

Iruka turned to face him. "Miss who?"

Kakashi smiled behind his mask and watched the bug leap off their tent. It vanished. "Your mother."

"Of course."

They were quiet for a long time. Kakashi rolled over onto his side, keeping a few inches between his body and the younger man's. He could see the outline of Iruka's profile in the dark, but couldn't make out the scar. "What do you miss?"

Iruka smiled. His teeth were white, and his eyes were unfocused. Still half-drunk. "I miss her cookies."

"Cookies?" Kakashi laughed.

Iruka giggled in return, nodding dramatically. "They were so yummy." His grin faded to a soft smile. "And I miss the way she smelled."

Kakashi snorted softly. "How was that?"

Iruka rolled over and looked up at the other man sleepily. "Good."

The Chuunin was so close that Kakashi's eyes nearly crossed, trying to look at him. He felt warm all over. "Good?" he whispered.

Iruka nodded contentedly, eyelids drooping, hair tickling the other man's forehead. He was barely a blink away. When he spoke, his breath ghosted over Kakashi's throat. "You smell good. But not like her."

"I smell like campfire," Kakashi pointed out on a laugh.

Iruka grinned sloppily and shifted, coming the few inches closer.

Kakashi went perfectly still, feeling more than seeing Iruka squirm through his sleeping bag, until he had an arm free. He was laughing softly still, little drunken giggles that sent puffs of air to dance across Kakashi's neck. Then those careful fingers tugged the edge of his mask up--he stiffened, but they stopped far short of his chin.

He felt Iruka burrow closer. Heat curled over his neck, the little hairs prickling with the closeness of the other man. Still giggling, Iruka inhaled. Then the younger man flopped back, rolling away, and grinned up. "See? Good."

Kakashi swallowed and tried to gather thoughts that had left him entirely, apparently taking the rest of the alcohol in his bloodstream along for a good party.

"Oh," was all he could think of to say.

Iruka faced him once more, practically nose-to-nose. "She had brown eyes, like mine," he whispered solemnly.

Kakashi nodded, not sure what else he should do. Iruka's gaze was darting back and forth, and Kakashi realized he was focusing on each of his eyes in turn. First blue, then red, and back again. Iruka started squirming, and eventually got an arm up, a hand hovering slightly above them. There wasn't any room between them.

Kakashi waited, then quickly closed his eyes when he saw Iruka's hand lower. But the man, even drunk, was very careful.

Blind, Kakashi could feel the heat from Iruka's body. He swallowed, heard it through his bones, and felt skin gently touch his eyebrow. Fingers trailed up, following the long scar halfway up his forehead. Then, just as carefully, they ghosted down over his face, brushing along his eyelashes and hovering at the edge of his mask, tracing what had once been a gouge in Kakashi's face.

"Did that hurt?" Iruka asked.

Kakashi resisted the urge to open his eyes or pull away. His body was tingling, shivers trilling up and down his spine. He almost said no. Instead, he remembered the pain of the attack, and started to nod. But--he didn't want Iruka to move his hand. The man was still touching him, tracing the line of his cheekbone up and back, feathering over his skin. Kakashi wondered if he even realized he was doing it.

"Yes," he said. His voice was rough. He swallowed several times.

"It looks like it would hurt." Iruka's breath tickled his skin, across the mask. Fingers stuttered up the scar once more, brushed his eyelashes smooth, then up the arch of his eyebrow, pausing where the scar bisected it. "Your eyes aren't like my mother's at all," Iruka said solemnly.

Kakashi bit back a laugh. "No, probably not."

"Open your eyes?"

Kakashi did, carefully, half expecting a drunken index finger to poke him. But Iruka was very cautious.

And very close.

His brown eyes looked black in the dark. Pools of ink in his face.

"You have nice eyes," Iruka said, still so very somber.

Kakashi said nothing.

A thumb traced the scar again, just to his eyebrow, then Iruka's hand wrapped around the back of Kakashi's head and tugged.

Kakashi moved closer and down, not sure what to expect.

Iruka shuffled, moved in and up, and very, very carefully, breathed a kiss across the scar. "I'm sorry it hurt," he said. Then he flopped over onto his back, arm thrown away. "Night."

Kakashi waited a beat. Iruka's breathing evened out, and just like that the man was asleep.

Slowly, Kakashi rolled onto his back. He stared up at the peak of the tent, heart hammering.

He stayed awake for a very long time.

**
Long ago . . .

That stupid, arrogant, conceited, boorish, ill-mannered--

Rin got to Kakashi's doorway and didn't bother knocking. How dare he say something like that to her, in front of her parents? She was going to kill him. She kicked in his door.

It was probably only that that kept him from driving the blade in. She could see the bathroom mirror from her angle, could see the kunai he'd placed carefully at the Sharingan, could see blood--

Rin acted before she thought. She pulled out two kunai and threw them.

The glass in the mirror shattered. The blades ricocheted, the blunt ends spinning around and smashing into Kakashi.

She heard him drop, but nothing else. "Kakashi!" Rin shouted, bolting into the tiny apartment. She tore around the corner, one hand on the doorjamb to whip her body around faster.

Kakashi was slumped on the bathroom floor, his head bleeding, his eye bleeding.

"Kakashi," Rin said again, dropping to her knees and holding her hands above his torso, feeling his chakra. Drugged. She could sense it, making his energy move sluggishly. It was that, she suspected, that had slowed his reactions enough to let the kunai hit.

Rin grabbed under his arms and pulled hard, laying him out on the floor of the main room, then she knelt again, taking deep breaths and focusing.

The damage to the eye could have been severe if left for very long. She fixed that first, reattaching nerve endings and veins and tissue. Then she checked his head, where she'd gotten him. Nothing major there. She considered cleaning out the drug but--well, maybe that was what affected his actions. Maybe he was under a jutsus and would fight her when he woke.

As quickly as she could, she found some rope--old sheets that she tore, but good enough--and bound him to his futon. She laced it between his fingers so he couldn?t move them, and stretched him tight so there wasn't any play in his limbs.

He was better at this than she was. He was a Jounin and she was only a Chuunin. She was taking no chances.

Before she woke him she walked back to the bathroom.

A pot of water, still steaming, sat on the counter. Several kunai rested on the edge. Their handles had been wrapped in cloth, and the blades themselves were hot. There was a paper seal--a fire one. She remembered seeing Kakashi use it once to cauterize a wound. And there was a half-empty bottle of pills. Rin frowned, picking them up and examining the label.

Pain killers. Incredibly high potency. She even recognized the name of the medical ninja who'd prescribed them.

Still holding the bottle, she walked back into the main room. She hadn't known he was taking these. She dropped to her knees beside the futon and felt for his chakra.

This was the disturbance. She was certain of it. She pulled the eyelid of his normal eye up, checking his pupils. They were dilated far past normal. His eyes were bloodshot, and the skin around them puffy. He looked like--

No. But he looked like--like he'd been crying. Kakashi didn't cry.

Rin took a deep breath, settling herself, and began to clear the drugs out of his system.

Twenty minutes later, he woke. He was too good a ninja to struggle immediately, so he lay very still for several seconds. So still Rin wasn't entirely certain he was conscious.

"Kakashi?" she asked.

His eyes snapped open, then closed again with a shudder. He tried to bring his hands down and discovered he'd been tied. His eyes opened again, and this time Rin saw fear, though only for a moment, before he got his face under control. He looked at her, and she could see muscles flexing subtly across his shoulders; testing the bonds.

Rin put a hand on his chest, and pretended like she didn't see him flinch. "Kakashi, I came in and you were--you had a kunai to your eye. I tied you down to make sure you weren't going to attack me when you woke. I had to be certain you weren't under a jutsus."

"I'm not," he croaked.

Rin didn't untie him. "What were you doing?"

"Let me up."

"In a minute," Rin said calmly. He was pulling harder now. He was going to have bruises. "What were you doing?"

"You don't understand," he said in a near-whisper.

"I know," Rin agreed. "So tell me. What were you doing?"

Kakashi closed his eyes, clenched them until his eyebrows drew down. "Obito hates me."

"Obito--" panic flooded her. She pushed it down. Dear lord, don't let him be gone. Don't let Kakashi have lost his mind. "Kakashi," she said calmly. "Obito's dead."

"I know that!" Kakashi yelled, then started to shake, his breath hitching in his chest. "Rin . . . it hurts."

Her chakra flickered out again, along his. "What hurts?"

"Obito's eye. It hurts. I can't--I can't sleep and the pills they don't . . . they're not . . . Get it out!" His eyes opened reflexively, and he bit back a shout and closed them again. His body was as taut as a wire, so tight he looked like his muscles could shatter his bones.

Rin tried to ignore that. She moved to his head, hands hovering around his eyes. "I don't feel anything . . ."

"I know that!" Kakashi yelled again. His breath really was hitching now, coming in gasps and starts. "I've been to the medics and they say--they say--there's nothing wrong. They can't fix it. It's in my head," the last he said on a near-hysterical laugh, and then closed his mouth on the rest with a snap. His next words were quiet again. "But it hurts. And it's only getting worse. Obito hates me."

"Obito gave this to you," Rin said, still searching. There--a flux in his chakra. Something working harder than it should. Not near the eye; near the back of his brain. And his paths were worn; raw and angry and incredibly painful. She'd seen it from people who constantly channeled too much chakra. The pills suddenly made sense.

"How long has it been hurting?" she asked.

He was still trembling. "Always. It gets worse when I use the Sharingan. It's getting constantly worse the last weeks. The medical ninja said not to use it."

Chakra depletion. Sharingan eyes used chakra to see patterns, copy moves, and so on.

"Kakashi," Rin asked softly. "Do you trust me?"

He swallowed, then nodded.

"Keep your eyes closed." She reached over, untying his hands, then took one of the sheet pieces and tied it around his eyes. "Keep this on, all right?"

Kakashi nodded. He was still shaking.

Rin untied his feet, then threw a blanket over him. "And sleep. How long has it been since you slept?"

"Three days," he whispered.

Rin cringed. "Because it hurts?"

He nodded, curled on his side, blindfolded.

"All right." Rin sat down on the edge of the futon, mostly so he would know where she was. "Obito doesn't hate you. But you don't have Uchiha blood. I think--well, you can't turn it off, can you?"

He shook his head.

"I think it's burning out your chakra pathways. I think your body's straining to understand the information the Sharingan is giving you. I have to double check some things, but . . . well, I think if you just keep your eyes closed . . ." It seemed so simple, and it seemed so obvious that this would happen. They should have caught it earlier.

"Okay," Kakashi whispered. Just like that. Agreeing to be blind for the foreseeable future.

He had to be in pain.

"You were going to cut it out?" Rin asked softly. Her stomach turned.

"I didn't know what else to do."

"Get help, idiot!" she shouted.

Kakashi flinched. "The medic said it couldn't be helped . . ."

Rin was going to find that ninja and kill him. Slowly. She kicked herself for not seeing the signs, but . . . well, with Sensei dead she'd been spending more time at the hospital and less time with Kakashi.

Rin brushed Kakashi's hair away from his forehead, ignoring when he pulled back slightly. "I'm going to talk to some people. But I think just keeping it closed will help. Just to let your body rest. At least for now."

Kakashi only nodded.

**
Now

Kakashi sat over the tiny morning fire, cradling a mug of tea and wishing the birds would just shut up. His head was pounding. He'd drawn his forehead protector back down over his eye, but even that wasn't enough. And to make matters worse, he'd dreamt about Obito all night long.

Iruka staggered out of their shared tent, made it as far as a bush, and vomited. Kakashi wished he would please vomit just a little bit quieter.

Raidou whimpered and clutched his stomach. Genma just patted the head that was in his lap, smoothing a finger over the shiny, pulled scars across the other man's nose.

Even Asuma was quiet, a rag soaked in the stream laid over his head.

Iruka staggered closer, settling himself gingerly on the log next to Kakashi. "Who thought that was a good idea?" he practically whispered, taking deep breaths through his mouth.

"GOOD MORNING, FELLOW SHINOBI!" Gai bellowed.

Iruka went pale and lurched up, making for the bush again.

"Gai!" Raidou shouted, then clutched his head and whined, "make it stop . . ."

Genma threw a kunai at Gai.

"Why the long faces this morning?" Gai asked, ducking. "It's a beautiful day! The birds are singing, the land is fresh, the sun is up!"

"How can you have had all those drinks," Asuma groaned, "and not feel it?"

"A strong constitution!" Gai announced, chest out and fists on hips. The light, which hadn't quite made it through the trees all morning, suddenly shot through several branches and glinted off his teeth.

"I'm going to bash your strong constitution right up your backside," Genma growled.

"Gai, why don't you find us something to eat?" Kakashi suggested mildly, carefully balancing his head on the end of his neck. He'd never realized how long and wobbly necks were before.

"I shall do just that!" Gai announced, heading back out. He was still talking, but no one paid attention.

"Somehow," Iruka whined, "I always forget this part of camping."

Asuma only grunted.

**************************


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