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Monday, May 5, 2008



By Insomniac Owl


Kakashi didn’t like the look of him. It wasn’t so much his appearance (he was dressed nicely, after all, looked as close to normal as one could get, so it couldn’t be that) or his mannerisms, so much as it was a gut feeling. And the longer he watched him, the stronger it grew. He’d been sitting in the café for over an hour, and his coffee had grown cold a while ago, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave. He couldn’t convince himself the feeling was just that - a feeling - and so he stayed, watching the man watch the boy watch the pedestrians and the pages of his book.

The boy had come just a few minutes after the man, taking up residence near the door with a drink of his own. Black hair, dark eyes, black jacket and jeans. Pretty nondescript. But Kakashi had watched, and the man hadn’t taken his gaze off the boy for more than a few seconds the entire hour. He was surprised, actually, that the boy hadn’t taken notice. He had a book, though, so perhaps that was it.

The entire time, there was one word Kakashi could not get out of his head.


A few years ago he had graduated from a police academy, majoring in criminal behavior, so it was only natural he felt this way. The signs were there, and though Kakashi would have to watch him a while longer to be sure, he’d be willing to bet the dog and lot on it now. The man had waited (suggesting routine on the part of the boy, he probably came here every day, or every other day, or something), and though he wasn’t so circumspect about watching the boy as they normally were (they were more casual, normally, they tried to hide what they were doing, they at least blinked for Christ’s sake), he watched. And Kakashi was willing to bet that when the boy got up to leave, the man would too, full coffee cup or not.

And he would follow him, perhaps to a house, perhaps to an apartment, and he would linger… And later on, he would come in, through a window, a door - maybe he even knew him, or had talked to him and so could be trusted. Maybe he was a complete stranger, and when the boy saw him standing in his bathroom doorway, he would let out a muffled scream, but the man’s hands would already be clapped over his mouth, and he would be whispering…

(The house is dark, as it usually is, but there is a car parked outside that he doesn’t recognize. It looks expensive, though not in a pretentious way, as if the owner were trying to show off - it looks nice and that’s all. But he doesn’t recognize it, and it makes him cautious as he’s opening the door, as he’s stepping inside. The first thing he does is flick on the light, but he doesn’t see anything suspicious. Television, couch, books. Same as always.)

Kakashi blinked, tearing his eyes away from the man. Such thoughts only made him sick sick sick, and he’d do better thinking of how to stop what he knows without a shadow of a doubt will happen. Does he really, though? Perhaps he’s gotten paranoid, too involved. There was that incident last week - the reason he was here in the first place instead of at work. They didn’t fire him, but they’d given him a week of leave. To recuperate, they said. You don’t kill a man a walk away unchanged.

But even on leave he couldn’t get away from his job. Or, no, right now it wasn’t actually his job. It was concern, and because of his work he was better equipped to handle the situation. There was even a gun under the passenger seat in his car, if he needed it….

He probably wouldn’t, though, because he knew how these people worked. Chances were, if he saw Kakashi go up to the boy, maybe even start talking to him, he would leave. Can’t have witnesses. But if the boy didn’t trust him? Kakashi was a complete stranger to him, after all, and if he came up and asked to sit down that would make the boy uneasy.

Stalker, he would think.

On the other hand, even if he did let him sit down, what about the next day? And after that? People like that man didn’t give up because one day had been ruined. No, they kept coming back, and back, until they had corned their victims (because that’s just what they are, really) and done what they pleased with them.

In any case, that was later. He would deal with all that later. Right now the most pressing concern was the fact that the man rose from his seat. He might be getting another cup of coffee, of course, but he was heading in the wrong direction. And those eyes (gold, Kakashi hadn’t noticed them before), outlined in black makeup, were still locked on the boy, unwavering. Kakashi felt his mouth drop open when he sat down, bold as brass, at the boy’s table. That action went against everything he’d learned, and he could hardly help it. They did not approach their victims until the appropriate time, they did not talk to them; they followed, day after day with mounting obsession. The only explanation for it was acquaintance - he knew the boy. Had to be.

But the boy looked up, and Kakashi knew it didn’t. One could not fake the surprise and suspicion that came into his eyes then, or time the expectant, awkward pause.

“Do you want something?”

Kakashi had to strain to hear even those words, and when a group of girl came through the door, chattering in high-pitched voices, he could no longer hear much of anything. He settled instead for watching, uncomfortably aware of the similarities just then. Both he and the golden-eyed man had watched from across the room, both entertaining the idea of approaching the object of their fascination.

The man’s lips were moving, and as Kakashi watched, suspicion faded from the boy’s eyes. What could he be saying? What words could be voiced to make him trust the man?

When the boy answered back, Kakashi stood up. Casually, nothing forced or too controlled, he walked toward them, the boy’s words fading from cover as he went.

“That’s nice of you,” he was saying, “but it’s fine.” Though there was no suspicion in his words, there was something else. Caution maybe. He didn’t quite trust the man just yet, which was good. Whatever he was planning wouldn’t happen today if he wanted to gain the boy’s trust. That took time, Kakashi knew. It was not a spontaneous thing - it had to be built, and no matter how smooth a talker the man was, doing so would take more than a single conversation.

Like the dogs. For his minor at the academy, Kakashi had taking canine training courses. Drug detection, tracking, that sort of thing. The dogs were smart, amazingly so, and they wouldn’t greet him even after a week. Instead they watched him, warily, always ready should he prove to be not such a nice guy after all. After nearly three years working with his dogs, he was now the only one they did not growl at on sight. They didn’t trust easily, those dogs, and by the look of that boy he was the same way. Wary. Careful.

He gave it a week, at the least. By then, something would have to be done, and it would be easy - he was a policeman, after all. (A gun sat under the passenger seat of his car, bullets in the glove box. He’d loaded it a thousand times.) In any case, the boy was getting up to leave now. When the man didn’t follow, Kakashi allowed himself to relax, and, tossing his coffee away, left just behind the boy. He could feel the man’s eyes on his back, and a new feeling rose to replace the anxiety. Was it worry? Fear? Or something else entirely….

He knew. (In the kitchen, something is different. It is, after all, impossible to miss the keys on the kitchen table; impossible, since the only set of keys he owns is in his pocket. He isn’t stupid.

Sweeping them into his palm, he glances around the room again, sees nothing, and heads first to his bedroom, then to the shower. The water is so hot it is nearly scalding. Though he knows it’s a mistake, he leaves the bathroom door open and begins to undress.)

Kakashi quickened his step, anxious for the weight of his gun. The boy turned right, but Kakashi stopped at his car before following. He would approach the boy at his house, he decided. He would tell him he was a police officer, along with his suspicions (which were really so much more than that because they were true). The only uncertain factor was whether or not the boy would believe him, and when you got down to it, even that did not matter. The man would be taken care of just the same - telling the boy was simply a precaution. If he saw him again, it was a warning to be careful. To get away.

The boy’s house was down the street a ways, three, four blocks at least, but he didn’t notice Kakashi following him. The sidewalks were busy with people, and while this was an advantage at the moment, it also meant that if the man from the café followed him, the boy would be oblivious to him as well, right up to the moment he stepped into his house.

The building was small, beige, and looked just like the ones on either side of it but a little different. There were nasty thorn bushes in front of the windows Kakashi could see, and he smirked a little. The boy was smart, he would give him that. A good thorn bush had discouraged many a burglar, though he doubted it would do the same for a determined stalker. That man would find another way in, preferably before the boy had arrived home, so that he could be in place and waiting when he walked in the door.

(His skin is hot, and he shivers as he pads, naked but for his towel, to the dresser in his bedroom. There are knives hidden in the second drawer, and as he pulls on a pair of jeans, he slips one into his left palm. Though he doesn’t know it, this is the same feeling Kakashi gets when there is a gun in his hand. He feels safe. He feels powerful

Even so, he is careful moving down the hallway to the kitchen. The floor is wooden here, and it creaks sometimes under his weight. The last thing he wants is for the noise to alert whoever is in his house, to let them know he’s coming. Even with the knife he doesn’t feel as safe as he did, before his shower. It’s not so much a feeling as a gut instinct, a natural fear, but he feels that whoever in the house with him is everywhere -behind, in front, to each side. He knows this isn’t possible, of course, that he’s probably not in any danger at all and he’s simply being paranoid, but he can’t help it.

It’s instinct.)

Shaking off such thoughts, Kakashi dissociated himself from the people alongside him, each headed their own way, and came on to the boy’s lawn. The boy didn’t turn, didn’t give any sign he had noticed, and despite his admiration of the thorn bushes, Kakashi found himself a little disappointed. To not notice him at all…. (He could be excused for noticing while walking - the sidewalks were busy and ever-changing - but on his own property, with no one else around?)

“Who are you and why the fuck did you follow me home?”

Kakashi paused, a grin sliding onto his face. Maybe he’d underestimated the boy. No, he had.

“My name is Kakashi, canine police force. Do you have a minute?”

“Why’d you follow me home?” the boy repeated, pushing open the door and slipping his key into his pocket. When he turned, an expectant glare in his eyes, Kakashi was able to look him over. He was quite a bit shorter than Kakashi (though probably tall for his age - whatever that was) and his hair and eyes were stark black. He was pretty as well, in a peculiar, cold sort of way.

“I didn’t know where you lived,” Kakashi told him simply. “And I don’t think that what I have to tell you can wait.”

“Why not?”

“Well… it’s sort of important.” He grinned, than allowed the expression to fade, his voice growing serious as well. This boy wouldn’t listen to him otherwise, he knew. He would brush him off, slam the door in his face, and that would be that, he would think. “That man you talked with at the café, you should be careful of him.”

“Why?” Like every other word the boy spoke, this one came out harsh and clipped.

“I spent four years studying how the criminal mind works. Behavior patterns, attitudes and mannerisms. That guy might as well have pasted ‘stalker’ on his forehead. And you’ve seen him before, haven’t you?” A pause. “Probably a lot.”

“I’ve never seen him before in my life,” the boy snapped, eyes just transparent enough to see the lie.

“Right. Kid, I spent four years studying how the mind works - I just told you that.” his voice gentled. “It’s no good lying to me.” The boy glared, and Kakashi didn’t miss the way his knuckles bleached, muscles exerting effort and going nowhere. “Anyway,” he continued, “I came by to tell you that. Just… be careful, kid, alright? You haven’t seen what people like him do to their victims, have you?” The look in the boy’s eyes was answer enough, and Kakashi finished grimly: “You don’t want to. Believe me.”

He thought about describing it to the kid, to scare him (this was serious, couldn’t he see that? He didn’t think Kakashi was telling him the truth and it showed like a black stone in a cream pie), but decided against it. The kid had already turned, already gone into his house. The door was closing too, but Kakashi spoke quickly, his words doing the trick as easily as any physical gesture.

“What’s your name.”

A brief pause, then: “Sasuke.” And the door kept closing.

“And his?”

“Orochimaru. At least,” here his voice was a little sarcastic, a little would-you-like-me-to-take-a-polygraph-to-make-sure-I’m-not-lying, “that’s what he told me.”

The door shut in Kakashi’s face, and he said the name again under his breath, turning to go. “Sasuke….” It was a name he would remember for a long time, always heard in that clipped voice and followed by the name of the boy’s stalker. Orochimaru - another name he would not forget.

Back on the sidewalk, Kakashi glanced toward the house. He allowed himself the luxury of thinking - for a moment but no more - that he might be overreacting. That this Orochimaru wasn’t really stalking the boy at all. He had acted differently that most stalkers, after all, watching him brazenly, actually approaching him, talking to him, but Kakashi’s better judgment disagreed. Instinct told him that no matter how many times Orochimaru deviated from the set formula, he was still a stalker, still dangerous. No man who followed someone home, as Kakashi saw that Orochimaru had done (meanwhile ignoring the fact that he had done it himself), could be otherwise.

The man’s reflection, across the street with his hands in his pockets, was staring straight back at him, and, even at this distance, Kakashi could see how Sasuke had been so easily taken in. It was the man’s eyes. He couldn’t find the right word to describe them (captivating, entrancing, hypnotic), but they were somehow more alluring, more provocative than any woman’s. Kakashi hardly realized the man was moving until he heard footsteps just behind him, close enough to touch should he choose to. Unconsciously, he reached for his gun.

(A cool hand over his mouth, his body pulled against the owner. There is time enough for one half-breathed gasp and no more, and a man’s voice fills in the silence.

“Calm down, Sasuke-kun. That wasn’t very nice of you, you know, stealing my keys like that.”)

“Orochimaru,” Sasuke says, relaxing immediately. The hand slides from his mouth, coming to rest instead at the base of his neck. Though it strikes him as peculiar that Orochimaru should need to cover his mouth at all, he says nothing. He hands Orochimaru the keys he’d moved to his pants pocket with a smile that is half sheepish, half apologetic. “Here,” he says.

“And that knife in your other hand. Really, Sasuke-kun.”

Sasuke starts, recalling that, yes, there is a knife in his hand. To be completely honest, he had forgotten all about it. He gives it up, however, watching curiously as it disappears into Orochimaru’s palm. When next he sees that hand, it is empty.

(Slowly, he is giving up pieces of himself. That knife, which his brother had given him more years ago than he can remember, space in his house, his trust and the closest thing to friendship he’s ever known. Later on, he will give up to other, far more important things as well.)

Their eyes meet, and Sasuke finds himself in the same trap Kakashi was over three weeks ago, not knowing it. He is inexplicably falling, captivated to the point of temporary mindlessness. He’s never seen a gold so alluring before, or so hypnotic.

"And now your belt, Sasuke-kun.")

“Should I ask what you’re doing, or would you like me to go first?” The voice too was low, soft and almost teasing. Exactly what Kakashi had expected.

“I know what you’re doing here,” he answered, turning. Orochimaru smirked, but there was something undeniably sexual about his next words.

“Of course… but I haven’t done anything to him, have I?”

Say ‘yet’, Kakashi urged him. Say ‘yet’ so I can have a solid reason for arresting you on charges of planned assault, possibly rape. But he did not, as Kakashi knew he would not. Instead he smirked again, his voice becoming, strangely enough, almost cheery.

“Besides, he doesn’t trust you. You realize that, don’t you?”

Silent, Kakashi watched him chuckle, and then turn and walk away. He’s right, he thought. Sasuke doesn’t trust me. But he trusts him, and he’s dangerous as hell.

(So caught up in those golden eyes, Sasuke is actually undoing his belt before his mind intervenes, pleading reason. A stuttering “W-what?” is what comes out of his mouth, and Orochimaru smiles, as if the butchered word is exactly what he expected to hear.

“I asked for your belt, Sasuke-kun.”

“Why would you want my belt?” There is suspicion in his words, but if it not yet serious. At the moment it is the tone one friend might take with another, not a boy with a stranger, not a boy with his stalker.

Orochimaru chuckles. “Do I need to help you?” And to Sasuke’s surprise (shock, and horror), he begins to unbuckle it, his fingers brushing Sasuke skin ever now and then, as if by accident (some deep, instinctive part of him knows that it isn’t, not at all) but these accidents make Sasuke’s skin crawl. Orochimaru turns to lay the belt on the couch they are standing near, but seems to think better of it. It disappears, now, just like the knife, to become another piece of equipment he will summon when there is need. Sasuke, his back to the wall, watches this bit of magic. He does not realize that the best chance he will have to run has passed him by, or that he did not take it. He is too caught up. His mind, normally quick, is drawing only blanks. Though he doesn’t recognize it, the inability to thin rationally, or to think at all, is fear - not yet blind, but getting there.

His hands are shaking. They are empty.)


There were four Sasukes in the city, Tsunade said, they couldn’t cover all of them, and even if Kakashi did identify the right one, there was no evidence Orochimaru planned on doing anything anyway. After that she added that Kakashi was on leave, and that he shouldn’t have come in that day at all. And that was that. Nothing he could do.

(That wasn’t exactly true, actually. There were plenty of things he could do, though only one was legal and all would create more trouble than they solved.)

He was on patrol three weeks later when the call came. A concerned neighbor, nothing too suspicious, but Kakashi thought he recognized the street name, as if from some foggy memory. When he arrived at the house, his heart nearly stopped. Beige, small, just like the one on either side but a little different. Sasuke’s house. The boy himself was on the kitchen floor, made dead dead dead by a knife to the throat. He was oddly untouched; little evidence of mutilation but for that ugly gash across his neck.

(He shrinks from Orochimaru’s hands, mind blank until the older man leans down, mouth warm against his neck. It is then that he reacts, suddenly and violently, with strength born of adrenaline. He is certain he bruised Orochimaru’s ribs at the very least, perhaps he even cracked one with the fist he placed there, but the older man is stronger, and though Sasuke stops him for a bit, he gives way.)

And oh… there was blood, there was tile, it was dark and Kakashi wasn’t crying not at all.

(Sasuke briefly wishes he’d left the light on in the kitchen, but it’s much too late for anything now. Besides, he’s not so sure he wants to see Orochimaru, now that he thinks of it. His hands are doing things he doesn’t want to think about, doesn’t want to feel, and certainly doesn’t want to see at all, not in the least.)

“You’ve been a real idiot,” he said. “I asked you to believe me, that it.” His hands, steeped in blood, left crimson paths on Sasuke’s cheeks that resemble war paint, but to Kakashi’s eyes it is only terribly depressing. He could hardly believe how attached he had become to this self-doomed boy living all alone, black eyes pale skin and lovely, high cheekbones. He couldn’t believe that he felt so much for this boy, now dead, that he pulled him into his lap and wept.

(Sasuke isn’t weeping, though he wants terribly to do so, to simply break down and let the muted horror of all this crash from him. He doesn’t. When Orochimaru reaches for one of his performed magic tricks, the first one, the knife, Sasuke can only laugh.

He must be crazy, he thinks, to be laughing at a time like this, but strange situations have a way of bringing out the same in people. We’re just like that, he supposes (though he doesn’t know what ‘that’ is, really), and tilts his head back.

He doesn’t fight it. He’s made so many mistakes in his lifetime; this is simply one more, the final.)

“I asked you to trust me. Why didn’t you?”

(And darkness.)


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