Fanfiction: Getting Lost on the Roads of Life - Chapter 7 (A KakaSaku Story)

Chapter 7 - A Husband Returns

"Kakashi," Sasuke said slowly, his eyes narrowed to slits. "What are you doing here?"

"I gather you haven't been to see the Hokage yet, Sasuke," Kakashi replied smoothly. "That's fine. Wait here until someone comes to fetch you. Don't bother with unpacking."

It was lightly spoken, in that usual laid-back tone of his, but to Sakura, it seemed like the temperature had suddenly dropped below zero. Two tigers circling each other with bared fangs would have made her less nervous.

Sasuke scowl deepened as he looked in her direction.

Of course, she blushed. They hadn't even done anything, just hugged like friends, but it was clear to Sakura that Sasuke knew instinctively that silly women like her were unable to keep their hands off Konoha's famous copy-ninja if they were given the chance. Sakura furtively glanced at Kakashi's black-clad back and the spiky silver hair and felt like finding a deep hole to hide. I'm sorry, Sakura, Kakashi had said. Sorry about what? About having to reject her? About having to push her away? About how all his good teaching had gone to waste?

Yes, she was sorry too. About being stupid, about not hearing, not wanting to hear the footsteps on the stairs like he had, about thinking even for a moment that hugging Hatake Kakashi was something she was entitled to do.

"Hi, Sakura," Sasuke said and briefly shook the hair away from the left side of his face to look at her with both eyes. "I'm back."

He was, wasn't he. Just like that, out of the blue, after nine months and some weeks and some days, she had stopped counting. She had imagined their reunion for so long. And now that it was here... everything was different.

"Hi, Sasuke," she replied, her mouth suddenly dry. He was wearing a black travel cloak with purple lining, and a grey, long-sleeved, collared shirt. With a pang, she noticed the Konoha forehead protector that hung from his left hip. When had he gotten that back? It was good that he felt it was okay to show his affiliation again like this. Very good. Maybe he would stay this time.

Sasuke looked paler than she remembered, thinner and... older, somehow. Well, she hadn't seen him in over nine months, so he was older - but he looked at least four years beyond his age. Still scowling, he removed the dark grey fingerless glove on his remaining right hand with his teeth and shrugged out of the cloak.

"What happened here?" Sasuke asked Kakashi, turning his eyes towards the bedroom. Trust his keen Uchiha senses to pick up the blood that had been spilled.

"Konoha was attacked last night," Kakashi said, "two enemies came here looking for you."

"What?"

Sasuke walked to the bedroom swiftly and opened the door. Sakura braced herself, but she did not panic or anything like it. She even managed to walk up behind him and look in. The first thing she noticed was her once pink slippers on the floor, now rusty red. Maybe she wasn't quite ready yet after all, she thought as she closed her eyes quickly.

"You used Shiden inside my apartment?" Sasuke exclaimed, taking everything in, including the broken wall. "Are you crazy?"

Sasuke had never had any respect to spare for anyone, Sakura knew this. She also knew that Kakashi had never cared about it, even when he still was their teacher. And yet, Sasuke's rudeness stirred anger in her.

"It wasn't like there was a lot of time for more subtle methods," she said sharply.

Shiden. That was the purple techniques name. It was something new, she had not seen it before. Another lightning technique, just like Chidori, but even more deadly and precise. He is Konoha's most proficient killer, she remembered Sasuke telling her once, which had resulted in a heated argument between them. She had protested the use of the word killer for somebody as righteous as Kakashi, whereas Sasuke had called her a stupid cow and had insisted that people who killed other people in cold blood, however just the cause, where killers, nothing better, nothing worse.

Kakashi, who had sauntered over to stand behind her, cleared his throat.

"Hmmm, well, yes. Sakura will explain the details to you. But my knee-jerk reaction had an auspicious outcome: We were able to retrieve their bodies intact, they were taken back to..."

Plop-plop-plopplop-plop-plop on the roof and the yet darkest look on Sasuke's face as he lifted his head.

"Let me speak to them," Kakashi said with a small sigh, turning to the window.

It was another Anbu detail, Sakura counted ten individuals, one of them seemed to be a woman. Ten black ops members gathering in front of their window, their sinister masked faces turned towards them. She felt extremely tired all of a sudden.

"Can I..." Kakashi started.

"Just get it over with," she snapped at him, feeling sorry for her testy tone right away, but even if it wasn't his fault, this was so tedious. She really wanted to get on with her life already. She'd even go back to the hospital for a twenty hour shift right now, if it meant returning to the normalcy of her overworked, but unworried state.

Kakashi opened the window and frog-mask jumped in. Of course, it had to be him again. She scowled at the man and he let his eyes sweep over her with what seemed like much disdain, then turning his attention to Sasuke with even bigger displeasure.

"The Uchiha is to be taken in for questioning immediately. He has been judged a very high flight risk and..."

"Really?" Kakashi smiled. "He just came back from a long mission and hasn't seen his wife in forever. I'd consider that a low flight risk."

Frog-mask wanted to say something, but Kakashi lifted his hand authoritatively. "Give him some time. He will come in on his own volition once he's ready, won't you, Sasuke?"

"Yes," Sasuke ground out between clenched teeth.

"Sensei," the Anbu operative said, "with all due respect, my orders..."

"I take full responsibility," Kakashi said sharply. "Besides, have you not come to fetch me too? Let me tell you a secret. Of the two of us, I'm the much higher flight risk."

"Y... Yes, sir," frog mask stammered, "Lady Tsunade said, allow me to quote: Get his ass here IMMEDIATELY or I'll rip him to pieces - and I will rip you to pieces too if you fail."

Kakashi nodded. "See? So, here's what we are going to do. I will not put up a fight and follow you without any further delay if you let Sasuke breathe for a bit. Deal?"

Frog-mask seemed to ponder the various risks he was facing, then nodded. "I will leave four people here to..."

"Give them some privacy," Kakashi said in a conspiratorial whisper, bending forward a little. "Or I might consider taking a detour to get some food at the other end of town. The type that is slow cooked. I know just the place..."

That convinced frog-mask to agree to this "deal" - which was rather proficient arm-twisting, Sakura thought with an inward smile - and before she could decide what to say to Kakashi - thanks for everything? Sorry that I hugged you? See you? - he had collected his boots, his backpack, his flak jacket and had disappeared in a cloud of smoke, closely followed by the Anbu operatives.

"Hatake Kakashi," Sasuke mused, staring at the spot the jonin had last been seen. "How long ago have you two reconnected?"

"Two days ago," Sakura replied, sounding more snippy than planned. "At the Hokage's order."

Two days ago. That was amazingly short. Would she have to go back to the hospital today now that her special "patient" had been called away? She was sure they needed her there desperately.

"Really?" Sasuke asked, frowning at her. "I wonder what that is about. But now I'm back."

Seriously? No: How are you? Have you missed me? No: Wow, you look pretty? But why was she even expecting it.

The Uchihas. Greatly devoted to love and friendship when they weren't on one of their hate-crusades, yet unable to show affection. Knowing this didn't change the fact that she had never stopped craving for it. Once, when she had been very drunk and crying her eyes out in lonely misery, she had suggested to Ino that the only reason she was sticking with Sasuke was her undying hope that if she just waited long enough, he would turn into a loving person eventually. Ino had consoled her, saying that not everybody was the same and every marriage had its benefits and downsides. The benefit: Sasuke. The downside: only the occasional forehead poke to express a human connection.

"How are you?" she tried to make conversation. He looked very tired, she noticed. Would he ever choose to tell her where he had been and what had happened to him?

Sasuke shrugged. "I'm alright."

Was he really not going to ask what had happened? No, he just looked more closely at the traces of Kakashi's jutsu. He was probably comparing Kakashi's technique to his own. It had always been like this, he was competitive to the extreme, even if there was no point in it at all. He would never stop striving to be better than everybody.

"He said they'll put us somewhere else," Sakura said. "Maybe we should start packing."

"What?" Sasuke said and turned to her, looking displeased. "Are you serious? But did he say they would send the cleaners?"

"Yes," Sakura said. "He did."

"They could fix this within a day," Sasuke said moodily. "But I guess it's more convenient to put us somewhere they can watch me better. So what happened?"

"A perimeter breach."

Why did he think Konoha wanted to watch him? She had believed that seven years after the war and so many secret missions, his name would finally be cleared.

"Why are these people after you?" she asked, "the Mangekyō Sharingan? The Rinnegan? Will this never stop?"

Sasuke stopped dead in his tracks. "Did Hatake tell you something?"

"What if he did?" she asked back. Kakashi had... and then again had not said anything she could not have guessed herself.

"He wouldn't be that stupid," Sasuke said more to himself, but she saw that the thought troubled him. As much as anything ever troubled an Uchiha. Oh great, her husband and her former Sensei had some kind of secret going on.

"Is there something the matter with his Sharingan?" Sakura asked, thinking about that trick of the eye last night, eyes that were red when they should not be. It was a crazy thought, but things were kinda were crazy right now.

Sasuke snorted. "You bet. He has lost it, as you are well aware. I guess he's proven his worth without it, but he's really only half the shi..."

"How dare you," she said sharply.

Sasuke shut his mouth and pressed his lips together.

"If not for him, I would have been...," her time to press her lips together. Her voice shook and she wanted to cry. She sounded whiny and immature, not like a woman who could take care of herself. Not like someone who deserved the words of praise Kakashi had given her. But what could she do? She was so vulnerable in front of Sasuke. Always wanting something he wasn't ready to give. Always wanting more when he did give her something.

It seemed to dawn on him at least that maybe, his little jealousy tantrum was rather misplaced. Sasuke looked down at his feet.

"He... did this to protect you?" he asked with effort.

"Yes, Sasuke," Sakura said, "I was about to be raped by two masked men, who had come to check whether I was pregnant so that they could their hands on Uchiha blood. They would likely have killed me afterwards."

Sasuke's handsome face took on an expression of dismay upon being presented with the truth in such a blunt manner.

"Are you...," he made a helpless gesture in her direction.

"I'm perfectly fine," she said with a short, bitter sounding laugh. "Don't worry, they did not get what they wanted."

"I...," Sasuke made a step in her direction.

"It's fine, Sasuke," Sakura sighed, suddenly too tired to be angry or hurt. "I am glad you are back. It's been... very lonely without you."

"I am sorry," he said, "I am very sorry."

He closed the gap between them in several short steps and put his remaining arm around her tightly.

It was what it was, this marriage. She had come to live with it, even if she still had issues accepting it. In moments like these, when Sasuke was with her, hugging her stiffly and clumsily, like it was the one thing, the only thing he was bad at and just did not take the time to practice more, she wanted to cry.

"It's alright," she sighed again, swallowing down her tears and hugged him in turn, rubbing her hands down his stiff back, "really, don't worry about it. You're here now, everything will be fine."

He didn't respond to that but buried his face in her hair and sighed deeply. Whatever that meant. Stupid men with their stupid secrets, one worse than the other.

"I don't like it," Sasuke murmured.

"What?" she asked against his chest.

"Hatake Kakashi near you."

"Sasuke," she said and lifted her head, "you really do not need to..."

"Stay away from him," he said with vehemence and pressed her head back against his chest with his hand.

"Okay," she said, feeling confused, "yes... if I can."

She was lying, without even a sliver of remorse. No, she would not stay away from Kakashi. He had given her word to help him and she would, even if it meant putting herself in danger. Had he not done the same for her, again and again?

"Sakura...," Sasuke said.

"Yes, Sasuke?"

"Let's make a baby."

What?! She pushed against him to free herself and looked up at his earnest face with major confusion.

"No!" she exclaimed, "Sasuke, I don't want a baby yet. I am much too busy at the hospital and me and Ino..."

"Forget about those stupid plans," he said, sounding angry. "A child will make you very happy. We've been married for four years already, don't you think people are wondering?"

"You're not serious!" Sakura replied, "everybody knows you're never around, no, they're not wondering."

"I plan to be around more often," he said stubbornly.

A child? Sakura tried to imagine herself as a mother, but that just did not add up in her head. One day, maybe. But in the current situation... She looked at him and swallowed. Even when his Sharingan was not activated, there was something in Sasuke's eyes that was so hypnotizing she could not look away. And now, she saw something in them that frightened her as much as it made her heart race: lust.

Her body reacted instantly. She became wet and her breathing picked up pace. After all, she was defenseless when it came to this Uchiha's looks and what she longed for the most: his affection. To be touched by him... she had yearned for it for so long and when they had finally slept together... well, it was like first times were according to the books, short and painful. But he seemed pleased afterwards and that was all that mattered to her.

"Can we...," he asked in a low voice.

"In... here?" she asked back, her voice betraying her nervousness. Maybe if she shut her eyes very, very tightly and imagined she was... somewhere else? But the smell... no... she suddenly felt nauseous again.

"Sofa," he said.

"But the Anbu..."

"There are blinds," he said, sounding more urgent. "And Kakashi told them to leave us be. Believe me, they obey his orders very well."

"O... okay," she said and walked into the living room on shaking legs, turning to the window to lower the roller blinds. They hadn't used them in forever and the screeching sound they omitted made her shudder. Sasuke stood behind her and as soon as she was done, he grabbed her hand and pulled her to the sofa.

"Help me," he said, clumsily pulling at her clothes. Maybe he regretted the refusal to get a prosthetic arm like Naruto in moments such as these? He took a step back to watch her take her clothes off. She was only wearing a bathrobe and her pajamas, but she had also put on underwear, for whatever strange reason, she usually never wore underwear at night. She shed everything fairly quickly and then stood in front of him naked. Sakura suppressed a shiver, even though it wasn't cold at all, wondering whether she was ready for this after what had happened the night before, but... she had to be, no? Her husband was back.

His look turned very dark as he fixated at a spot on her belly. She looked down and saw a bruise.

"It doesn't hurt," she quickly assured him, though that wasn't entirely true. Her body felt sore this morning, she realized it now, likely from the effects of that jutsu that had been used to immobilize her.

Sasuke began to fumble around with the waistband of his trousers and she quickly stepped up to him to help untie them. Should she... touch him? She remembered he had liked that before, at least that's what she had thought. Sakura shut her eyes and bravely closed her hand around what was causing a rapidly growing bulge in there.

He stiffened at the touch and she almost let go, but she felt how his thing twitched in her hand and became even harder. Slowly, she moved her fist up and down. She had always wondered whether he would like her to take it in her mouth and suck it, but she had not dared to ask. She had certainly read about it a lot and had learnt that men like that kind of thing in general, but she wasn't sure how much Sasuke was like other men.

"Hmmhmhm," Sasuke pressed out, "don't do that or it will be over in no time."

"S... sorry," she said and let go, taking a step back.

"Turn around," he said. "Kneel on the sofa."

She complied, glad he seemed to know what he wanted, she guessed it had to be about the bruise and him not wanting to hurt her, or not wanting to see it. Sasuke stepped behind her and she braced herself, but tried not to tense up too much because it would only hurt more. She felt his hand between her legs, checking her wetness, withdrawing quickly.

I hope he enjoys it, Sakura thought, just as she felt the hot tip of his erection at her entrance.

"Ungh!" he groaned as he pushed forward.

As mentally ready as she thought she was, the sudden invasion pained her and she tensed up, which only increased the pain. His hand fondled her right breast as he pressed into her more deeply. His rhythmic grunting should have spurred her on, but it did not. It hurt and with every thrust of his, the pain increased, until she forced herself to think of something else entirely.

Of all possible things, it was him she thought of. Was Tsunade shouting at him right now? He would look bored, his hands in his pockets, waiting for the storm to be over. Would he spare a thought for her? It was almost as if he heard him say: You are one of the bravest, most capable women I know. Do not doubt yourself. Be proud of who you are, always. Okay? Kakashi had always made her feel... special. He had always given her courage when she had despaired.

To her relief, it did not take long before her husband came with a suppressed moan, she felt him twitch inside of her and soon after, warm liquid trickled down her leg.

"S... sorry, I couldn't hold back any longer," he rasped, pulling out and collapsing on the sofa next to her. "Give me a few minutes, we can have another go and I can make sure you also finish."

"It's alright, Sasuke," she lied, hoping no other go would happen for a while, "you know you have to see Tsunade now, don't you."

"Yes," he agreed sullenly, "but Tsunade will be busy yelling at Kakashi for a while. She won't miss me just yet."

Sakura hoped Kakashi did not have a hard time with Tsunade. She could be so vicious, their Hokage and really, Kakashi staying with her tonight instead of rushing to report was nothing that deserved being yelled at. Should she go to the Hokage Tower to explain what had happened? She probably should.

"I'll come with you," Sakura said, "let me go take a shower."

It was only when she felt the warm water had relaxed her enough that a strange question came into her head. Kakashi's heartbeat. Why had it increased when she had hugged him? It was almost as if... but no. What kind of a silly cow was she?

***

"How dare you be angry! I am angry! I'm ballistic! WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED LAST NIGHT??!"

Tsunade's anger was almost worse than a physical assault, it took a lot of willpower to stand your ground in the face of it. But it wasn't the first time Kakashi had to experience her in this state and like any case-hardened general, he knew when to look a storm in the eye and calmly wait it out - always at the ready to dodge objects suddenly hurled in his direction.

Only... he wasn't as calm as he usually was. He was indeed rather angry and he wasn't quite sure how to deal with it. Shout back at her? She could throw him in prison or worse if she wanted to. And maybe, if he was honest, he wasn't only angry at her, but even more angry at himself.

"It's you who owes me some answers," Kakashi said coolly, "I am insulted by how easily you think you can manipulate me."

"You don't speak to me like that!" she raged, her face a reddish hue. "I am your Hokage! Become Hokage yourself if you think you can do better!"

"No, thank you," Kakashi shuddered, "you can keep that job, but I won't back down today, Tsunade. Why did you call Sakura to 'care' for me? Why let her take me to her place?"

There was a word stuck in his head. Bait. Him being with her at that particular point in time... him racing back to the apartment at a hunch... it felt too much like somebody had used him as bait. But... what kind of bait? For what kind of fish? The pieces of the puzzle did not fit, however long he looked at them.

"Why?" Tsunade breathed heavily, helping herself to some sake and downing a cup without missing a beat, "because that woman is the only person I know that can keep you in check."

"What?" Kakashi asked, sure he had not heard right. Keep him in check?

"She is the only person I have ever heard you speak of with a load of respect," Tsunade continued. "Or call it admiration, I don't care. You're out of control and she is my last trump, that's what it is."

Huh? This made no sense. Tsunade was not answering his question, was she.

"Don't look at me all innocent and naive like that," Tsunade said grimly, "somebody tipped those people off and I bet it was you, successfully drawing them out, am I right? There is no insider. Or rather - you are the insider. Ha, I changed the access codes and you won't be told!"

Kakashi thought it wise to remain silent. And indeed, she just continued on, not even wanting to hear him defend himself. "You are so damn reckless and arrogant, you think you can battle an army by yourself and come away unscathed?"

"Well, I did battle them all by myself and came away almost unscathed," Kakashi shrugged. "It's not arrogant if it's true. Only about ten were able to flee. The rest is dead. I'd call that a success."

"You went behind my back!" Tsunade shouted. "You never consulted with me, you just went ahead and let yourself be captured by these people! What if we had not found you in time? What if... what if you had not been successful last night? What would have happened to Konoha then?"

Kakashi pulled a face. "No need to talk about 'what ifs'", he said.

Though he had to agree, it was goddamn risky. And what had almost happened to Sakura... if he was in any way to blame for it, he would never be able to forgive himself.

"Then let's talk about coincidences instead! Isn't it a little strange the Uchiha comes back today of all days?"

Very strange, yes. But damn, he wouldn't admit to that even under torture. He had sent Pakkun to find him five days ago, but had no clue why. But the worst was... why had he done all that and not consulted with her? The Hokage was the Supreme Commander, in charge of everything going on in the different military branches. It wasn't good if he had gone behind her back. It was damn suspicious. It reminded him of... he suppressed a shudder. That organization he'd rather not think of. But Danzō Shimura was dead and with him 'the roots that grow in the dark'.

"He's been due to return for a while," Kakashi shrugged, pushing away the unpleasant thoughts of things that had almost gone horribly wrong in his youth.

"I know for a fact you had no clue where the Uchiha was," Tsunade shot back, "and you were worried about it. You can't fool me with your kind Sensei-act, Kakashi. You of all people know that kid is trouble. I do not understand why you keep vouching for him, risking your good name - and where that belief comes from that he can... or wants to become a normal citizen of Konoha again."

"Because I know him. And after all he did for the village after his bad deeds..."

"I thought you don't remember?" Tsunade's hand with the sake cup stopped in mid air.

"I remember almost everything," Kakashi lied.

"You have to try much harder if you want to fool me," Tsunade grumbled. "You're an awful liar."

"Fine, I still don't remember a lot of things," Kakashi sighed, "but I have come to think it has something to do with me losing the Sharingan. It all gets particularly muddled before... or after that."

"Aha," Tsunade sneered, "you think? Of course it has something to do with that blasted Sharingan, everything about you is always about that thing."

Kakashi stared at her.

"You look surprised," Tsunade observed, "you don't remember? Okay, let me tell you. You lost that special eye of yours and your entire personality changed. First, you mourned that loss for at least a year, then you began training like a madman, basically living on the training ground. Once you had developed new techniques you don't need the Sharingan for, you started volunteering for the most dangerous S-Rank missions, likely to prove to yourself you still had it in you. By that time, you by far outclassed all other active shinobi already, but you kept going and training and being... obsessed. Useful for me, but rather crazy."

Pakkun had said the same, had he not. It didn't sound like him at all though. Training like a madman? He had never needed to train much for anything. Well... he heaved a sigh. He had had the Sharingan before, maybe that was why.

"So... the pills?" Kakashi asked, deciding to skip this part of his forgotten past for the time being. "Did you make them? They affect my eight gates, don't they? That was quite the effect last night."

Tsunade stared at him in turn. "Don't tell me you swallowed them without remembering what they do? Don't you know how dangerous that is?! Shit, Kakashi. Get a grip!"

She helped herself to more sake. Should he tell her that drinking in the morning was a sure sign of alcoholism and that it wasn't good that Konoha's Hokage was an alcoholic? She may think he was a risk to Konoha, but she was the much bigger risk, all things considered. An alcoholic with horrible mood swings and a temper that resembled an armed bomb.

"Kabuto makes them," she informed him. "He no longer works at the orphanage. He joined the medical-team and is in charge of soldier health. These pills are part of our soldier enhancement program. But you won't get them anymore for the time being, you are far too unstable."

"Excuse me? Did you just say Kabuto?" Okay, maybe he was in worse shape than he had thought. His ears were not working properly.

"Kakashi," the Hokage sighed, "I am thoroughly fed up with you. Yes, Kabuto. What's the big deal? You are ready to trust Sasuke, despite all he has done - so why are you surprised Kabuto is getting a second chance too?"

Because... at the mention of Kabuto's name, he had felt an instant and massive dislike in his gut, and Kakashi knew from experience that his gut had to be trusted.

"He has been instrumental in helping us get the most out of the small shinobi force I still have at my disposal," Tsunade explained, frowning at him, "you worked quite closely with him for a while."

"Are you sure?" Kakashi asked flabbergasted. "Don't tell me you let out Orochimaru too?"

"Dammit!" Tsunade shouted, and Kakashi felt shock to realize that indeed, Orochimaru was no longer in a high-security prison either, "I am grounding you completely, do you understand! You are removed from active duty until further notice. You will not put a foot outside of Konoha before we have fixed what is wrong with you. Did you come up with a good plan at least, you and Sakura?"

Kakashi pondered that question. Removing the seals had seemed like a good plan to him, but was it really? The more information he received, the less sure he was he even wanted to remember. Besides, Tsunade's "last trump" was probably ineffective now that Sasuke was back. Kakashi was certain Sasuke was the jealous type, all the Uchihas he had known were. To the point of being obsessed with the object of their admiration, which led to all kinds of erratic behavior.

Speaking of which... what had he been thinking hugging her back?! Would he have kissed her next if Sasuke had not returned? It disturbed him a great deal that he could not answer this question with a definite no.

"Are you falling asleep?" Tsunade asked sharply. "Why the dreamy look on your face?"

"I haven't slept much," Kakashi explained. But enough to have silly dreams that resonated long after waking. Get a grip, Kakashi, he told himself.

"Who tells me you're not in cahoots with the Uchiha kid?"

"To do what?" Kakashi frowned.

"Take over Konoha! What do I know!"

"If I wanted to take over Konoha," Kakashi snapped, "I would have accepted your repeated offer to become Hokage a while ago, don't you think? What bullshit are you sprouting!"

"Don't talk to me like that!" Tsunade yelled. "Have a little respect, you insufferable man!"

And crash, a sake cup shattered behind him on the wall. Her aim was horrible this morning. Granted, she had had to get up in the middle of the night to avert a crisis he was responsible for and he knew how much she valued her beauty sleep. Kakashi sighed. This was going nowhere.

"Lady Tsunade," he said more calmly, "we need to get Sasuke and Sakura a place to live until we can be sure there's no more threat. I was thinking..."

"They can live here, I want eyes on the Uchiha kid every second of the day," she ordered still fuming, "tell Yamato to work out the details. On the third floor, I don't care."

"Yes," he nodded. One of the guest apartments at the Hokage tower was a good solution.

"I want you in the Anbu quarters. Closely watched by Yamato."

"Okay," Kakashi agreed, somewhat relieved. That was better than a holding cell, Yamato was a reasonable guy. And the Anbu quarters were close enough so that he could also have an eye on Sasuke... and Sakura. Though given what thoughts kept creeping into his head, he should probably just stay away. Far away.

"Lady Tsunade, please convince Sakura to go for a medical check-up," he added because even if he stayed away, he wanted her safe and sound.

"You think that is necessary?" Tsunade frowned.

"Yes," Kakashi said, "she was very badly shaken, but I don't think she wants to admit it to herself."

"I'll do it," Tsunade said, sounding a little gentler than before. "Thank you. Thank you, Kakashi, for being there when it mattered. Even though... I still think you're an idiot!"

As he dodged a stapler, Kakashi noticed movement from the corner of his eye and turned his head, but it was only Shizune, looking rather timid. She must have gathered her courage to enter for a while already, not daring to intervene in their heated discussion until it had seemingly calmed down.

"Ah, Shizune," the Hokage said, "what is it?"

"Sasuke Uchiha and Sakura are here to see you, Lady Tsunade," Shizune said and waved at Kakashi with a shy smile.

"Already?" Tsunade murmured. "What are young kids doing these days? No wonder our population is dwindling. Fine, lead them in!"

"And the Anbu ask whether to proceed with dissecting the bodies? No secrets could be discovered from just examining the outer shell."

"Get Kabuto!" Tsunade ordered. "Tell him to use all his tricks. There has to be something!"

"Can I go see?" Kakashi asked eagerly.

"No, you can't!" Tsunade snapped. "You are going back to the Anbu headquarters and sit still until I have different orders for you."

"I can't sit still!" Kakashi exclaimed in shock.

"Then learn how to do it, dammit."

"Can I... can I at least visit somebody?"

"Whom?" Tsunade demanded to know, narrowing her eyes.

"Anko. Anko Mitarashi. She is a Chūnin exams proctor and teacher at the academy. We're... old friends."

"Ohhhhhhhh," Tsunade said and Kakashi saw with a sinking feeling how a broad grin spread on her previously angry face. "By all means, by all means! Make yourself at home here, Kakashi. Find your roots in Konoha. It'll only do you good."

"I thought you needed me out in the field again in no time?" he murmured. Had he just walked into a trap without noticing? Seriously, sometimes... he just did not understand women.

"Well," Tsunade chirped, "that was before you eradicated the prime threat we have been facing for the last few years. Now, you can take a holiday. Do something different for Konoha!"

"Okay," Kakashi said, thinking their Hokage was just... too weird. "Can I go?"

"By all means, by all means!"

All things considered, Kakashi thought as he left, this had gone fairly well. He'd find things to do while being removed from active duty, it couldn't be that hard. To start, he wanted to put flowers on Rin's and Obito's graves, he hadn't been to see them in much too long. And then, he'd go see Anko and Bull and go for a walk around town. Later, he'd visit Might Guy. And maybe drop by the Academy to see the little genins? Was Iruka still there? Him he had always liked.

Yes, there was plenty to do here in Konoha.

And eventually, he mused, he'd have to talk to Sasuke. Kakashi suspected the Uchiha might be able to help him with the puzzle now that Tsunade had failed to enlighten him much. After all, Pakkun had only found him when he had been quasi at the gates. So why had he come back at this particular point in time if not because he knew exactly what was going on?