Author: Tintinnabula PM
A world weary Sakura has awoken Kakashi from a Sharingan induced coma, and to feelings that he's repressed for years. The copy ninja decides it's finally time for her to learn how he feels. Reviews are welcome!Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Adventure - Kakashi H. & Sakura H. - Chapters: 45 - Words: 222,433 - Reviews: 1,380 - Favs: 999 - Follows: 434 - Updated: 01-06-08 - Published: 12-04-06 - Status: Complete - id: 3273388
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Disclaimer: Naruto and associated characters are property of Masashi Kishimoto. They are not my property!
Chapter 1– Prologue
"Only about twenty more minutes," Sakura thought to herself as she leapt gracefully from tree to tree. It was a beautiful, chilly Saturday morning in late spring, the type of clear morning that sometimes leads to an unseasonably warm afternoon. Sakura was on her way to see her dear friend and Kyuubi container Uzamaki Naruto, who was currently training with a certain hentai sannin at a hot spring resort deep within Fire country. Sakura and Naruto had not seen each other in months, and Sakura was eager to spend the weekend with the eager, terminally optimistic blond. About Jiraiya, she wasn't so sure. She'd never spent more than five minutes around the old codger, and hoped to avoid him as much as possible over the course of her short stay at the resort. That meant she probably wouldn't be using the facilities, of course. She had no doubt he'd carved out a multitude of peepholes through which to observe the female bathers. Sakura sighed. A hot, hot bath in the resort's mineral-enriched waters would feel so good right about now. She'd been running and leaping through the canopy for hours, and could feel the blisters beginning to form where her sandals rubbed against her Achilles tendon. Her back ached from the crouch her body had found itself in as she continually dodged low-hanging branches. She could almost feel the swirling waters of the baths soothing her sore muscles.
Sakura wondered what Naruto had managed to learn from Jiraiya in these past few months. He'd written to her frequently, but not much about his studies. Rather, his letters entertained (and embarrassed her) with frequent, detailed descriptions of Jiraiya's attempts to spy on the women visiting the hot springs. Sakura knew that at some point in the debauchery that defined his training with Jiraiya, Naruto had learned to summon frogs, but that had been long ago, at the very start of his studies with the sannin. Naruto was twenty four now, as she was, and he had come back to the sannin for more. More what? Perhaps Naruto was as big a hentai as the sannin. Sakura's face reddened. Hopefully, Naruto wouldn't ask her to stay with them. She'd be much happier (and safer) with a room in the inn, proper. Jiraiya was a huge customer for the resort, so much so that they'd allowed him to purchase a cottage on the property. Apparently, he wasn't as bad for business as might be expected, given his choice of avocation. And he had deep pockets, due to the brilliant success of his Icha, Icha series. Sakura guessed the cottage was not rented cheaply.
Sakura smiled as she jumped down from the trees and walked briskly into the resort. She'd thought of the perfect excuse. Not only that, her eyes had immediately detected her blond-haired friend, who as usual was wearing the rather loud orange jumpsuit that was ridiculously out of place given his career choice of shinobi. "Stealthy," "user of camouflage," "spy-like" were words that described shinobi. But not Naruto, of course. He was none of those things, and still one of the best the village had ever produced. He would become Hokage, there was no doubt of that. And he would do it in his own inimitable fashion.
Naruto appeared to notice new eyes on him and looked up, then burst into a run as he realized who was watching him.
"Sakura! You made it!" He tackled her in his enthusiasm, and the two hit the ground with some force, surprising the women and some couples who were on their way to the baths.
"Naruto!" Sakura yelled, and without thinking her fist flew to pound him on the top of his head. She immediately regretted it, although Naruto didn't care. He expected it of her, not realizing how hard she'd worked over the past few years to rein in her emotions. Flying off the handle did little to gain and keep the trust of patients, and Sakura found her chakra was even easier to control when she was calm. But old habits die hard and Naruto could push her buttons as easily now as he'd been able to do twelve years earlier. Of course, the button-pushing was unintentional. Naruto was still as dense concerning interpersonal relationships as he had been as a preteen, and still as open, and tactless, in expressing his own feelings.
Naruto quickly found his footing and danced around the kunoichi, delight telegraphed by his hyperactive movements. He isn't much different from that twelve-year-old gennin I once knew, Sakura thought to herself. Taller, more handsome, certainly, but underneath the physical changes he was still the same boy. Sakura stood up, brushed herself off and tuned into her friend's aimless prattle.
"You're staying with us, right, Sakura? Not at the inn. Jiraiya had the cleaning staff make up a special room for you. Did you want to take a bath, Sakura? You look a little beat, you know. You work too hard, everyone says that, you know. Even Sasuke, and he hardly notices anything! Are you hungry, Sakura? They don't have decent ramen at the restaurant here, and there's no other place within a day's hike, so guess what! I learned how to make ramen myself. You know, after a while, cup ramen does get a bit boring. Ha! I bet you never thought you'd hear me say that, huh? But Jiraiya-sannin has a huge kitchen and it turns out I can cook! I even make the noodles myself, Sakura. Can you believe that? It's almost as good as the stuff at Ichiraku! I made pork ramen and miso ramen for today, but I can make any type you'd like– just let me know! Sakura? Sakura?" He paused to look at the woman who had been trying, unsuccessfully, to get a word in edgewise for quite some time. A look of frustration was evident on her face, and her fists were balled up. Her voice was calm as she spoke, however.
"Naruto-kun, lunch sounds great. I can't wait to try your ramen." A broad smile lit up Naruto's face at these words. "But I can't stay with you. I'm sorry. Tsunade-kama has me doing a strict routine of meditation before bed, and she was adamant that I be undisturbed. Her orders were that I take a room at the inn." Naruto looked a bit crestfallen at these words, which weren't exactly true– Tsunade had assigned her a routine of meditation several years ago, which had worked wonders in producing a calmer, more serene Sakura, but the Hokage had never placed stipulations on where Sakura was to do the meditation. This small lie, however, accomplished Sakura's objective, to stay as far away from the sannin as possible, whenever she was in a state of undress. Naruto accepted her excuse at face-value, as the kunoichi expected he would. Sometimes it pays to have a friend as dense as Naruto, Sakura thought with an internal snicker.
Sakura decided she didn't mind paying for her room, which was sure to be fairly expensive, given the look of this place and its idyllic location. She owed herself a vacation and some luxury, after all. Tsunade had reached a level of frustration with Sakura that the pink-haired kunoichi had rarely felt from the Hokage (although she'd witnessed it focused on others). Sakura hadn't taken a vacation in three years, and the master medic-nin had begun to worry about Sakura's continued health, should her workaholism continue. She therefore forced this weekend vacation on Sakura, claiming that the scroll she was to deliver to Jiraiya couldn't wait until lower-ranked chunnin became available. It was clear to both the Hokage and her apprentice that the excuse for this "mission" was one of the lamest both had ever heard, but as it was a "mission," and Tsunade made it clear that Sakura could not refuse, Sakura had complied, and to her surprise found she was not that angry about being manipulated into a short vacation.
Sakura followed Naruto down a narrow, gravel path that led through a grove of fir trees, laden with unlit ceramic lanterns. This would certainly be pretty at night, Sakura, thought, or if it snowed. The path ended at a small cottage of traditional build. It might be centuries old– it had been made by master craftsmen, surely. This was evidenced by the tightness of the joins in the jutting beams that supported the roof and overhung the porch, and the fact that ropes, not nails were used to bind the beams together.
Naruto slid the door open and called out. "Jiraiya-sannin? She's here!"
As Sakura's eyes adjusted to the dim room she entered, she saw the pervert S-class shinobi. His mane of snow-white hair reflected the small amount of light in the room, and his face looked rugged, not wrinkled in this atmosphere. He was quite handsome for a man of his age and Sakura wondered idly if he did more than observe when he did research for his books. Tsunade had a love-hate relationship (or more accurately put, a hate-love relationship) with the man, and was sure to pump Sakura for details of the man's activities when she returned to Konoha. Sakura was suddenly pulled from these thoughts by the belated realization that the sannin was looking at her intently, and she shivered with disgust as the man looked her up and down, then up again, his gaze finally settling just below her neck. Sakura suddenly felt as if she were completely naked, and was thankful she had convinced Naruto of her obligation to stay at the inn, not in this house. She was also thankful that her jounin uniform was not in the least revealing and left an awful lot to the imagination. Of course, with an imagination like that of Jiraiya, that was not necessarily a good thing.
"Lunch, Naruto? I'm dying to try your ramen." Sakura moved closer to her friend and pushed him gently toward the doorway that led out of the room.
"Don't leave so soon! Naruto, I didn't realize who Sakura was when you mentioned she was coming for a visit. I had completely forgotten about this vision of loveliness. Tell me," Jiraiya said with a leer, "have you ever modeled, Sakura?"
Sakura blushed a pink much deeper than the color of her hair, and stuttered, "N-n-no! I'm a shinobi, after all." She remembered the supposed purpose of this "mission" and fumbled in her pack for the scroll she was to deliver to the sannin. While doing so, she forced herself to breathe and gain control of her emotions. She located the scroll and handed it to the man, who quickly placed it among the folds of his yukata. Apparently he was headed for the baths, given his attire. Sakura noticed a large sketchbook and charcoal pencils on the table before him, and guessed what his afternoon's activities would be.
"That never stopped my models before. Most of them are kunoichi, also." He winked at the nonplused woman who had already returned to the doorway, the very farthest spot in the room from the hentai. "I've already eaten, Naruto, and I have some things to attend to. See you in a bit." He smiled again at Sakura as the two jounin left the room and headed for the kitchen.
"I forgot. I have something for you, also." Sakura pulled out a thick, vanilla-scented letter and passed it across the kitchen table to her friend.
"Another letter from Hinata! She is such a great correspondent." Naruto smiled as he tore open the envelope.
Baka, Sakura thought to herself. It was clear from things Hinata had mentioned to Sakura over the years that the pale-eyed head of the Hyuugi clan still carried a torch for the knuckle-headed ninja. It was also clear from the expression on Naruto's face as he said those words that he had yet to realize it. They'd make a darling pair, Sakura thought, trying to read Naruto's face as he began to read through the letter, lunch forgotten for a moment. He's not eating, or even thinking of eating. Does that mean...? But no, he was merely distracted, as he often was. After another minute of reading he remembered his purpose in the room (and one of the major purposes in his life) and set to work ladling out ramen into two very large bowls.
"Gohan da yo!"
A great deal of slurping ensued, as Naruto polished off bowl after bowl of the noodle-thick soup. Sakura agreed this was very good ramen, and in her opinion, easily as good as that served by Ichiraku. She told Naruto this, and thought his smile might cause his face to split in two.
After Naruto's fourth bowl, when he did not appear to be quite as focused on the act of eating as he had been previously, Sakura decided to broach the subject of love interests.
"Have you been seeing anyone, Naruto?"
"Seeing anyone? Well, ero-sennin makes me take a peep every now and then. It's either that or do the sexy no jutsu for him, week after week..." He blushed in embarrassment, obviously misunderstanding Sakura's question.
"No, baka, I meant are you dating anyone?"
"No, Sakura. Are you? Hey, are you asking me for a date?" His eyes lit up and sparkled at the thought.
Sakura sighed. She had thought Naruto was over his unrequited love for her. After all, she had finally gotten over Sasuke, and that only took three years.
"No, Naruto," she said gently. Her meditation practice really was working. She would have pounded him if he'd asked that same question two years ago. "I'm not seeing anyone, and I really have no desire to do so. My work keeps me busy, and I'm good with things the way they are." Sakura had never really dated, apart from a failed relationship with Sasuke. When Sasuke had returned from his time with Orochimaru and Itachi, with one of his life's major goals accomplished, he had turned his sights on the girl who had been his Penelope. He'd told her in no uncertain terms that he was not in love with her, would most likely never fall in love with her, but that he had the rebuilding of his clan to think of, and she was a suitable candidate to assist in accomplishing this, given her feelings for, and loyalty to him. Sakura, at that point mistaking her obsession with the Uchiha for mature love, had misinterpreted the stabbing feeling in her heart that these words provoked for the feeling of willingness to sacrifice she'd heard love often produces. She gladly dated Sasuke for a while, until she realized it wasn't love she felt. Though she'd never had feelings for another, she saw this clearly. She'd salvaged her pride by immediately dumping Sasuke and he'd repaid her by going after her sometimes-best friend, Ino. The two had married as soon as they were able, and Ino was now carrying his fourth child. Sakura harbored no hard feelings toward either of them, and after a time, their friendship had resumed, in a slightly altered, and certainly more comfortable form.
"I'm not dating anyone, either." Naruto's response to her earlier question roused Sakura from her thoughts. "No one stays around this place long enough to date."
But that sounds like he is at least thinking of women. This was something new. Sakura smiled as she realized her friend had finally matured to the point where he might find love. "Naruto. What do you think of Hinata?"
"Hinata? She's a great friend." He looked at the letter that lay next to his almost-consumed bowl of ramen, and suddenly his face was illuminated. "Sakura? Do you think Hinata..."
"Likes you? Well, duh, Naruto. For twelve years, now. Sheesh. You really are dense if you haven't figured that out by now." She very nearly slugged him.
"Maybe I should write back to her."
"Hasn't she been writing you pretty regularly? You mean to say, you've never replied? Baka!" She did slug him. He really deserved it. That poor girl. She must have the patience of a saint. Or maybe she was slightly obsessed, as Sakura herself had been. It was a lot easier to set your sights on something unattainable than be rejected in ordinary circumstances. And love did carry with it a very high risk of rejection.
"Naruto, does your sensei have a regular schedule for his hentai activities?" Sakura had noticed there were several baths on the premises, as well as a naturally heated spring. Maybe she'd be able to bathe unnoticed if she timed things just right. Sakura realized how sore she was from this morning's traveling. She didn't go on enough missions, that was for sure. Her life revolved around the hospital and she realized she just might be getting out of shape. That was something she'd need to address. She'd worked long and hard to become a jounin. She should be putting all of her skills to use, not just the medical ones.
"Well today is Saturday, so ero-sennin's probably at the main bath. It tends to be the most crowded on weekends. You should be safe if you go to the spring. I can distract him if you like."
"Would you? You're the best, Naruto!" Sakura tripped off to the main inn, to find a room and relax for a few hours. Coming here really had been a great idea.
Jiraiya knew his student well enough to know that he'd attempt to protect his former teammate's virtue. He also knew Naruto well enough to know exactly which bath he'd suggest as safest. Naruto was not very observant and therefore wouldn't recognize that the Jiraiya peering through the bamboo fence at the large bath was a clone. Jiraiya took the form of an elderly woman (who, confusingly, had a very lush, and age-inappropriate coiffure of long white hair) and made his way to the hot spring where he was sure to find Sakura.
He was not disappointed. Sakura emerged from the changing room, her chin-length hair slightly damp from the washing she had done within. She tested the water with her toe, smiled at its luxuriant warmth and with a single, graceful motion, let her white yukata drop on the rocks that lined the edge of the stream. She certainly was lovely, Jiraiya thought to himself as he observed her naked form. One of the prettiest he'd ever had the pleasure to sketch. Certainly as lovely as an old friend had described. He hadn't used names but it couldn't have been anyone else who had so smitten his biggest fan. He'd described her startlingly green eyes, wide and innocent, the pale perfection of her unusual pink hair and the glowing ivory of her skin. Yes, he'd been drunk when he'd made this confession several years before, and had seemed disgusted with himself at lusting after a girl who was only seventeen and moreover who trusted him so unreservedly. But he couldn't help himself from describing to the master storyteller (and more than adequate artist) how perfectly gazelle-like she seemed on her long legs, how her smile lit up her face and made her even more beautiful than before it graced her countenance. How, unbelievably, she was even more stunningly enchanting when angry. And how she was completely unaware of all of this– of his feelings, by purposeful design on her teacher's part, and of her own beauty. It was very clear that she labored under the misconception that she was plain, if not downright ugly.
Jiraiya hoped the lovely kunoichi before him would linger. He could devote an entire sketch pad to this beauty. And perhaps his next novel, too.