|Dirty Old Man
Author: Tintinnabula PM
One shots, because not everyone wants to read 200,000 word dramas, or so I've heard. Chapter 3: Red. A Valentine's one shot. No lemon. kakasakuRated: Fiction T - English - Romance - Kakashi H. & Sakura H. - Chapters: 3 - Words: 7,961 - Reviews: 68 - Favs: 70 - Follows: 61 - Updated: 02-14-08 - Published: 01-08-08 - id: 4000337
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Naruto and associated characters are property of Masashi Kishimoto, not me. No profit will be made, or is intended to be made from this work of fiction.
"Where's my candy?" Naruto's plaintive, dumbfounded query would have been amusing if it hadn't been so annoying.
"Have you ever gotten Sakura candy in return?" a characteristically sober, and still cynical Sasuke asked the blond-haired jounin in reply.
"Well, no, but…" Naruto scratched his head. "Getting a Valentine's gift from Sakura is something you can count on, like rain in April, or the ramen at Ichiraku. You've always gotten us something. Last year it was homemade fudge, the year before, Pocky, and raspberry truffles the year before that. And—"
"I didn't have time, okay? Besides, it's a stupid holiday." A red tinge crept into Sakura's cheeks as she spoke, though her two longtime teammates did not appear to notice.
"But I didn't even pack a lunch today!"
"Moron. Were you actually planning on subsisting on chocolate?" Sasuke regarded his teammate with derision. "It's a wonder you don't have scurvy, or something."
"What did I do to make you angry, Sakura? I don't believe this! Who else is going to give me chocolate?"
"I think you should drop it, both of you." Kakashi looked up from his ever-present book to glance at his teammates, allowing his gaze to linger on the group's sole female member." It's about time we got started, anyway. Ten laps around the perimeter should be about right. Then we'll spar in practice area three."
His order was met with two groans, and one blank stare. Sakura was unresponsive, lost in her own thoughts.
The foursome dropped their packs (Sakura, after some prodding by Sasuke) at the ancient oak that served as their unofficial base camp for cross country training, and headed down the trail.
"No jogging. I want a full-out sprint."
"For ten laps? You've got to be kidding!"
"Have you ever heard me kid?"
"Sasuke, how about a race? If I win, I get your lunch."
"And if I win?"
"I get to order you around for a week. Anything goes." Sakura heard the smug smile in the voice of her former obsession. She wondered for the umpteenth time if something was going on between him and Naruto. The homoerotic undertones were unmistakable, at times.
The two took off, the blond whooping, the brunette intent, and Sakura fell back a bit. Kakashi wouldn't expect her to keep up with the boys, or himself, and today that suited her just fine. Her mood had been beyond irritable the past few days, and as today's holiday was the source of that irritation, she thought it prudent to be alone. She was likely to rip the head off of anyone who got too close.
Kakashi, she noticed, ran on ahead, disappearing beyond one of the many hillocks that added to the trail's difficulty. She smiled wryly.
He didn't even care that I didn't bring him chocolate.
But that wasn't surprising. After last year's gift, he hadn't even mussed her hair the way he always did to show affection. He'd become distant, since then, although given his taciturn, stoic nature, the signs of this had been very subtle.
Still, she was sure of it. They'd once trained together frequently. This was no longer true—today was a rarity, and at Naruto's insistence. And on the occasions when they did train as a group, he kept his distance, always assigning either Sasuke or Naruto as her partner.
It was obvious she hadn't lived up to her former teacher's expectations. She really couldn't blame him, she guessed, for avoiding her. Sure, she was a first-rate medic, her genjutsu skills were developing rapidly, and she was skilled at the forms of taijutsu requiring the precise delivery of brute strength. But as for ninjutsu? Her aim was off at times, and she still had a tendency to let her emotions get the best of her. She'd failed, in short, at the few things Kakashi had struggled to teach her. No wonder he kept his distance. What teacher wanted to be reminded of his less than stellar students?
But his failures as a teacher hadn't kept her from idolizing him. She'd long considered him the most influential man in her life, and the one she most respected. Apart from his perverted reading habits, the man was as fine a shinobi as she'd ever met. He exemplified everything she'd ever learned about the ideals of her profession, and for years she'd felt a warmth, a heart-filling pride flow through her whenever he was close. She'd felt honored to have been his student, despite the brevity of that relationship, and she'd been over the moon with happiness when Team Seven was partially reconstituted as Team Kakashi.
Sakura focused on the rutted path that lay before her as she passed the three quarters mark on the trail. Only nine and a quarter laps left to go, she muttered to herself. At least she wasn't feeling winded yet, although that didn't really matter. Kakashi wouldn't be around to see her taking a breather, should she need one. But that wouldn't be for a least another lap or two, she guessed.
And it wasn't bad to be out running, and away from the confines of the hospital. She liked being alone with her thoughts. It was a luxury she did not experience at work—the constant calls over the loudspeakers, the chiming and buzzing of alarms, the frequent requests from coworkers and patients—all of these added into a cacophony that precluded any attempts at reflection. But here in the woods, completely alone except for the small thrushes singing diligently above her and the stray chipmunk that crossed her path, she found a beauty and a peace that was soothing and welcome.
She had a good reason, she told herself, for avoiding Valentine's Day this year. It was stupid, as she'd told the boys earlier—a pointless holiday invented by merchants and quite possibly, dentists. Why should she give candy to coworkers, and only male ones, at that? What was it supposed to signify?
That wasn't the real, reason, however, for her lack of action. Her decision had centered around Kakashi. The boys' lack of reciprocation was expected. Naruto was typically too clueless to observe social formalities of that type, and Sasuke, she knew was still a bit gun shy around her. He'd made it clear on several occasions that he thought her obsession with him was still extant, and that he would do everything in his power to avoid any advances she might make. He was wrong, of course, but a part of her understood his feelings. She'd been on the receiving end herself, and still shuddered when she contemplated the many, creative and cringe-inducing ways Rock Lee had made clear his feelings towards her.
But Kakashi was different. He was a man whom she knew to be quite kind and generous. Yes, he did his best to hide it, as these weren't characteristics a ninja wanted to advertise, but those qualities were clearly present if one knew when and where to look. She'd first seen them when they'd battled Zabuza. Kakashi's treatment of the dying Haku had been admirable, and the respect he'd shown toward his enemy had brought her to tears. He was a better ninja because of these traits, she knew. He might be a killing machine, but there was humanity lying just below the surface, tempering his every action.
She'd seen the look of anger and concern when he'd separated her teammates during their ridiculously stupid and short-sighted rooftop battle, and she'd witnessed the intense, searing pain in Kakashi's eyes as he'd returned with a wounded Naruto from the Valley of the End.
So why did the man show absolutely no reaction to her? She'd decided she didn't want to experience his lack of regard this year.
Yes, Kakashi was a man who felt things, though he did his best to hide it. But lately, towards her, he seemed to feel… nothing. He'd always had a least a smile for her (or what she thought was a smile) on the countless occasions when she'd healed him, or brought him dinner. But last year—last Valentine's to be precise—things had changed. The gift hadn't been any different than those she'd made for Naruto and Sasuke—just homemade fudge wrapped in pink cellophane and tied with a white, curly ribbon. She'd been careful to make his gift exactly the same as the others. Weeks before, she'd realized with a bit of shock and a fair amount of trepidation that she had a bit of a crush on the copy ninja. But it wouldn't do to let on.
It wasn't right, she knew. It was completely inappropriate to have feelings for ones teacher, even though they were both adults now. Despite the fact that they now had equal standing as jounin and were no longer in a necessarily unequal relationship, such feelings were not to be tolerated. Her job, she knew, was to put them aside. As a medic, she knew these types of crushes occurred all the time. It was simple transference. Sakura's patients, particularly those who'd been through a lot, often developed feelings for her. It was her duty to let them down easy, as the feelings weren't real. They were a result of stress, of surviving death, and of thankfulness to the person who'd saved them. They were feelings that rightfully should be directed at another, towards some important figure in the patient's past or present. It would be completely wrong for her to take advantage of them. So of course, she never did.
Her feelings for Kakashi had to be the same. Who wouldn't worship a man who'd saved ones life as many times as he had? Who exemplified everything she wanted to be?
It was obvious, now, why he did his best to ignore her.
He must be painfully aware of her feelings. This was the reason he avoided her, and did his best to avoid any physical contact, however innocent. As a professional, he was doing his best to nip things in the bud, to make sure she had no reason to build a one-sided and misplaced affection into something worse.
Knowing this didn't help, however. It was one thing to be on the receiving end of misplaced affection, and quite another to be the giver. It angered her, she realized, that he saw her in this way, even though this view was most probably on target. It angered her even more that her feelings seemed so real.
She'd never felt this way about Sasuke. She'd built him up from a brooding, death-obsessed pre-teen into a near god, and had thought about him constantly. But her thoughts had always been about a fairytale future with him, and how things might be once he'd completed his life's work. In her fantasies, he always transformed into the person she was sure he could be, into a person who was capable of love. Her dreams had never been tinged with the present, nor with images of the person he really was.
Sakura had no illusions about Kakashi. Yes, he exemplified shinobi virtues, but she was quite aware of his clay feet. Her feelings for him were based in reality, on real interactions and observations. And they were tempered with overwhelming evidence that he wasn't perfect. Why couldn't these feelings be real?
She was more than angry, she realized. She was furious. Furious at her misplaced feelings, and at Kakashi for having to let her down. Not buying chocolate for the boys had been spiteful—but in truth, her spite had been directed at Kakashi. Sasuke and Naruto were just victims of friendly fire. Besides, what would they have said if Kakashi had been the only one not to receive a gift? The ensuing discussion would have been unbearable.
He must be relieved, she thought. She'd seen him glance at her, seen the look in his eye that signaled what could only be relief that her attentions towards him had ceased. It hurt, though, that he had to be so cold.
Four laps, she sighed as she passed the main gates of Konoha. She was exhausted already, and her pace had slowed. Thankfully, the boys were nowhere in sight. She pushed herself a bit harder for the next kilometer, then stumbled as she hit a polished, twisted tree root that cut across the path.
She fell heavily, not in the graceful way one would expect from a practiced kunoichi, but in the manner of someone who is about to break a bone. But she heard no tell-tale pop, thankfully, and after controlling her breathing in an attempt to quell the pain shooting through her ankle, Sakura tried to rise slowly to her feet. Her ankle was sprained, she immediately realized, and pretty badly. Thankfully, her pack was nearby, and the boys would be by in minutes. She half-hopped, half-hobbled to the rough-barked, elderly tree and settled herself among its roots.
Three laps had been enough to diminish her chakra significantly, and after the fourth, Sakura was sure there would be little left to work with. She bent her leg to cross the opposite knee, and carefully felt her flesh and bone before applying the bulk of her reserve. It did little to help, not even dulling the pain.
Shit, she muttered, before reaching for her backpack. Her medic kit should have plenty of bandages, and perhaps a chemical compress. She dug through the cluttered contents of her bag, and frowned as she lifted a kit that seemed a bit lighter than usual.
Who was stupid enough to pilfer the supplies of a medic? She didn't need to think hard to come up with an answer—she'd noticed the new, white wraps around Naruto's lower legs just hours before. Sakura leaned back against the tree and sighed. Maybe Sasuke or Kakashi had something in their bags. She reached for the closest, dull green backpack and pulled the cord securing its flap. This one was nearly empty inside, but from the monogrammed lunch set inside, it was clearly Sasuke's. She set the bag aside and grabbed the other, dumping out its neatly packed contents. She quickly concluded there was nothing she might use to wrap her ankle tightly. Sakura sighed as she replaced the items. There was nothing to do but wait. She glanced at the last thing to be replaced in Kakashi's pack—a blue-green book that had been a gift from Naruto, years before.
Funny that he doesn't have it with him. Ah.
She realized the book in his hand earlier that day had an orange cover. This was evidently a back-up.
Sakura opened the book and noted the inscription on its flyleaf. "To a hentai among hentai," it read. Sakura shook her head. Only the village's two biggest perverts would consider that term a compliment.
The book was as bad as she'd thought it would be. She'd long wondered about the contents of the Icha, Icha series, but as she had no desire to cross the threshold of the one store in town that sold it, she'd satisfied her curiosity by listening to Naruto's colorful, if somewhat crass synopses. The real thing was worse, however, than anything her friend had related. Its main character was in a threesome or foursome on almost every page, and as she flipped through the book, she saw that most of the woman weren't even assigned names. She'd read better literature, she realized, on bathroom walls. Sakura couldn't imagine why a book of this sort would make Kakashi giggle. How could this possibly be the pinnacle of adult literature?
Sakura paged through the rest of the book, as there was nothing else to do, rolling her eyes occasionally at the inane pick-up lines the main character made at every meeting. Really, it was almost painful to read. She was about to set the book aside when she came across a small, white paper tucked among the book's last pages. It was a note, in Kakashi's unmistakable, yet barely legible cursive. He barely lifted pen from paper as he made each stroke, his writing resembling more the stylized calligraphy on a Zen painting than anything intending communication.
However, as a medic Sakura was used to the poor writing skills of her harried colleagues, and she found that with some effort, she was able to decode Kakashi's writing. It wasn't a note, she realized belatedly. She felt a slight, belated pang of guilt. Who knew the man wrote poetry? That didn't seem possible—he must have copied it.
You are a field,
A pink-kissed meadow,
And I want
To roll in your abundance.
A blush rose to Sakura's cheeks. She really shouldn't be reading this. It was obviously personal, far more personal than any Icha, Icha book. But she found she couldn't replace the poem.
You are a blossom,
A fragile, pale flower,
And I want
To inhale your sweet fragrance
And anoint myself with
Your precious oils.
You are a gem,
A priceless emerald,
And oh, how I want
To mount you,
In a setting approaching
An oaken wood, perhaps,
Or the dappled shadow
Of a willow tree.
With moss as our bed
And the sky as blanket,
There, I will make you mine.
Sakura held the paper tightly as she read, and reread its contents, the blush on her face growing deeper and deeper each time she did so. She lost herself in its words once more, envying its intended recipient. She didn't hear him approach, didn't feel his chakra as he crouched beside her, or notice the very strange look in his eye as he glanced from the book in her lap, to the paper in her hands, and finally to her face.
She jumped, then winced as she jarred her ankle. Her eyes widened as she realized just how much trouble she was in. "I--- I can explain."
"No need." He gently pulled the paper from her clutched hand, smoothed it, and replaced it in the book. He was oddly quiet, she thought, and strangely calm. This did not bode well. She shrinked away as he settled himself beside her, leaning back against the oversized trunk of their only witness. What was he doing? Probably finding the best position to throttle her.
"Yes?" She couldn't hide the tremor in her voice.
"You shouldn't have read that."
"I know." She nearly jumped up again in her eagerness to apologize. "I sprained my ankle, and Naruto stole my bandages, and I thought you might have some and I never should have invaded—"
"That's not what I meant. It's just that…"
She suddenly noticed the color in his face, a slight redness on the small portion of his face that was visible to her.
"It's just that… I wasn't quite finished with it, yet."