Between one life and another, Sakura goes looking for a man she doesn't know.
An 'angel' literally means a messenger. Take the word as you will.
The songs 'Something More than This' by October Project and Johnny Cash's cover of 'Hurt' were a huge inspiration for the mood of this fic (in tone if not quite always -- but sometimes -- in lyrics). I highly recommend both.
There is a hush over all Konoha, or so it seems to Sakura.
Spring rain plip-plops down softly from a stark white sky, and she watches it from underneath the safety of her black umbrella as she trudges along, sandals kicking up little splashes in the water gathered along each side of the wide street. From one hand, swinging carelessly at her side, dangles the topknot of a large scarf (no more than slightly worse for wear with all the rain) which is tied around a box full of strawberries. One doesn't go house-visiting without bringing along some token of esteem, after all, and Kakashi-sensei is not the type for man-made cakes and confections. One of the few things he's ever been forthcoming about with his three Genin charges is his eating habits, though she suspects they only got that much out of him as part of his ongoing mission to convince Naruto that eating vegetables would not actually kill him.
It's been not quite two weeks since he left, off to train with Jiraiya-sama, and Sakura is praying for the moment when Konoha will start to feel like home again.
It's funny that her life should feel so overturned, considering that things are quieter now than they have been anytime in the last tumultuous year. She rises at 6 every day, dresses, eats, and helps her mother with chores, then goes for lessons with Tsunade-sama in the afternoon. (She never bothers showing up early; at least a fourth of the time her teacher has a bit too much of a hangover to be fit for duty before noon. Yet no one ever complains of the Hokage not getting her work done. Occasionally Sakura feels sorry for Shizune-san and the pair of harried-looking Chuunin always rushing around the administrative offices, but only occasionally.) She's usually finished by four or five o'clock, and perhaps that's the real problem -- she has plenty of time to herself, these days. Time to sit around and think about things.
The quiet rain is a welcome distraction from those thoughts, right now. She looks up into the blank sky as she walks, letting the quiet hiss and patter of the raindrops fill her mind, gently ease her worries, her fears, her nervousness into a corner, where she can ignore it all for the moment. She can think briefly of how happy she'll be to see Kakashi-sensei again, rather than how strange it is to actually be going to his home.
She's never been into Kakashi-sensei's apartment before, only stood outside the door once, when she and Naruto came to inquire after him only to discover he wasn't there. (He showed up a couple days later looking smilingly tired and bruised, and coincidentally, the assassination of a wealthy Grass Country merchant lord was the top story on every news show that evening. But there's no point asking Kakashi-sensei about his missions.) He's never been open about anything to do with himself, not even something as small as what his home looks like, and she's half-afraid that when she gets to his apartment he'll close the door in her face out of automatic instinct; but intrusion or not, she wants to see him too badly to hold back. She has a feeling that if she waits for him to come to her, she'll still be waiting by the time Naruto gets home. Kakashi always liked his boys better, anyway.
But she still aches for the lack of him.
She stands there in the wet and stares up at his apartment building for a few moments after she reaches it; and she can hear that wonderful, beautiful, utterly futile promise whispering to her in the hiss and snap of the raindrops.
Don't worry. It can still be the way it was.
There is the faintest smile on her lips, bitter and grateful at once, as she ducks into the stairwell.
Inside, white light streams through the bank of windows that stretch up along one wall to the top of the stairs, and the patter of falling water becomes a soft whump as the rain meets brick and mortar and glass. Otherwise, all is silent. Sakura's steps seem far too loud as she clunks up the bare metal staircase to the third floor; she half-expects someone to come storming out of their apartment just to reprimand her. But she reaches Kakashi-sensei's landing without seeing another human being.
/Knock, knock/. She waits right in front of the peephole, though she knows her teacher will have other ways of determining who's on the opposite side of his door. But it's only polite.
Knock, knock/. She stands there another five minutes before trying again. She /knows he's here today -- in Konoha, at least. She has it on good authority that he's not busy with a mission right now. She listens for him inside, but all she can hear is the quiet patter of the rain against the stairwell windows.
Ten minutes. Fifteen.
Well, if this is a test, he should know already that a measly few hours of lateness isn't going to make her go away.
She sits down with her strawberries on the cold metal floor, pulls her knees up to her chest, and waits.
The windows at her side, still streaming bright daylight into the stairwell, are made of some kind of textured glass; dimpled and wavy, it makes her think vaguely of ice. She can see clearly the raindrops collecting on its surface, but the outside world beyond that is blurred, distorted; only the light comes through, so bright it almost seems artificial. Perhaps it's just the dark recesses of the roof above her head that make the light feel brighter than it did outside. Glancing up at the ceiling, she reaches over after a moment to stretch out her umbrella, nudging it into a corner where it can dry. There's no telling how long she might be here.
The metal landing she's sitting on is covered in neutral blue paint, chipped and faded, its color leavened by decades of collected grime. The handrailing in front of her face was pristine white once, but its paint is chipped now as well, showing through to worn metal underneath; here and there patches of rust mar its color. The plain brick walls, too (once white, perhaps, but not anymore) are showing their age. She wonders idly as she sits how someone like Kakashi-sensei might have come to live in a place like this. Surely he can afford better; she may not have known it when they first met, but she is well aware these days that he's one of Konoha's most successful -- and well-paid -- Jounin. Yet here he is, and here he apparently has been. She cannot imagine the appeal, unless he's just a miser. Or perhaps this place holds some special memory for him. Were it her, though, she would certainly never live in a place like this, nostalgia or no nostalgia--
...But still, there is a certain peacefulness to it -- sitting here in the quiet, in the rain, watching crystal droplets spatter and slide down the bright windows, all by her lonesome.
More than an hour, surely, has passed by the time she hears the footsteps further down the stairwell. Her face is resting against her close-pulled knees, but she knows without looking that it's a high-ranked ninja coming up the stairs; no Genin could make their footfalls so inexplicably soft against cold hard metal, nor would they bother to in friendly territory. Sakura sits up as the steps come closer, prepared to accept whatever strange look she may receive with a smile and a nod.
And the look Kakashi is giving her right at this moment is a slightly strange one.
"...Sakura?" he murmurs after a second, brows drawing together in slight confusion -- or so she imagines from the single one that she can actually see. His shoulders look damp and his hair is drooping a little; he carries no umbrella. "Are you all right?"
Because, of course, the only reason she would come to him is if something was /wrong/.
She's tempted to ask, 'Are you?', but it's so damn good to see him that she can't help the smile that blooms on her face as she rises, dusting off her rear. "I'm great, Kakashi-sensei--" and for this one moment it isn't a lie-- "and how're you? Where've you been? I've been waiting here for at least an hour, you know," she mentions, pointing at him with a hint of her usual accusatory expression. The smile doesn't leave her face for a moment.
"Eh, got a little scratched up. Mission stuff. But I'm doing just fine," he assures her with his usual cheeky smile, sliding his hands into his pockets. One of them is swathed in new white bandages, peeking out of his shirt sleeve and wrapped around his palm. She has it on good authority that he has not been on a mission since Naruto left; otherwise Tsunade-sama would not have been grumbling so loudly to Shizune about putting their best jounin on temporary leave last week, the only day that Sakura showed up early. It was three weeks of leave, she heard; the same amount shinobi receive when a family member dies.
He looks tired. There are bags under that one dark eye. But of course, she can't remember him looking much different ever since the day Itachi came back to Konoha. The day that everything, everything started changing--
"So... something I can do for you?" he wonders.
She's not sure if he wants to get rid of her, or if he really just /doesn't understand/. In lieu of an answer, she stoops to pick up the box of strawberries, wrapped in their damp, now slightly-dusty kerchief. For a bare moment they stand there in silence.
"...I missed you, that's all," she murmurs quietly, and smiles a faint rueful smile down at the topknot hanging between her hands. "I hope just because we... aren't a team, doesn't mean we never get to see each other from now on."
For a moment, once again, the only sound in the stairwell is the soft whump of the rain.
"Well... of course..." Kakashi sounds honestly taken aback. "I... just didn't--"
And Sakura thrusts the package into his arms before he can keep going.
"Yeah, I know," she assures him quickly, with a wide not-pained smile. "Here, it's not much, but I brought a visiting present -- there's strawberries in there--"
"Oh, that's... that's nice," he murmurs. They stand there for a little while, both looking at the package, and at last he thinks to add, "Thanks."
She meant to stay here all day. To reminisce, cheer him up, cheer herself up. Maybe even go out for some ramen. But looking at the shadows of the white light playing over his face there in the stairwell, with the sound of rain filling the air, she realizes she really only came here for one reason.
He cocks his head at her questioningly, and for a moment the lighting smoothes the skin under his dark eye and he looks so very young; and she finds herself wondering what he was like when he was her age.
"Kakashi." She smiles a little as she answers him.
"It doesn't have to be the way it was."
Then she picks up her umbrella and leaves him there, standing at the door to his apartment, with the raindrops pattering against the windows outside.
Next time, she knows, he'll come to her.