If I could fly, I'd be coming right back home to you
I think I might give up everything, just ask me to
If I could fly - One Direction
It basically went without saying that the guys fanned out as they ran with the girls in the middle of their formation. Over the years, Sakura had given up protesting. Tsunade had long since drilled the importance of protecting the medic into her.
Instead, she focused on gracefully leaping from branch to branch through the large, leafy trees that filled the forest around Konoha as she and her team mates made their way towards the border of Fire. Well, that and on the glimpses of Kakashi she caught through the foliage. Now that her attention had been piqued, she could see more and more of the appeal of a relationship with her mentor.
For a man in his mid-thirties, Kakashi was incredibly fit. Though his body was covered in scars, a hazard of the job, it was trim and athletic. She was quite enjoying the rear view as well. He was fully clothed, of course, but Sakura had a vivid imagination.
Her mission would be more of a challenge with all of these people hindering her progress, but Sakura relished the challenge. She could not remember the last time her skills had been so sorely tested. It also gave her a chance to gather more data, particularly in his interactions with those closest to him. His friendship with Gai would likely prove most interesting. Sure, Gai was goofy but he was intelligent and had been a good friend to Kakashi for many years. Few people would know the white-haired ninja as well as him.
She wondered idly if Kakashi had confided his interest in her to his closest friend. She had always thought him reserved, but if this last few days had taught her nothing else, she did not know him as well as she had thought. Perhaps he was more open with those he was closest to.
'This is going to be the most boring mission ever if you're stuck in your own head the whole time,' Ino drawled from a few metres away.
'I have a lot on my mind,' Sakura defended, her eyes flicking from Ino back to Kakashi.
'Talking about it might help,' Ino countered.
'Not when we're surrounded by guys with super sensitive ninja hearing it won't,' Sakura pointed out, turning slightly to raise an eyebrow at her blonde friend.
Ino took the hint, and caught her gaze. Sakura felt a light flutter in her mind as Ino's mind connected with hers. Over the years, Ino had perfected her family technique of mind control. Her precise chakra control coupled with a sharp, disciplined mind had allowed her to completely master the technique.
Currently she was skimming the surface of Sakura's mind as well as lightly broadcasting her own thoughts to her friend. The only reason that Sakura even noticed the probe was familiarity with the feel of Ino's chakra over many missions. It was beyond useful to communicate silently with each other in tricky situations, or at times like this when they wanted to discretely discuss their love lives while their nosy friends listened in.
~I'm not sure what to do, Ino,~ Sakura said. ~It's Kakashi of all people. Seducing him is one thing but Tsunade was talking long term, married with three kids kind of business.~
~At first I was taken aback,~ Ino mused, ~but it makes sense in a way. Sasuke is a no hoper, Naruto is too hyper, and well, Sai is just clueless. Kakashi is the most sensible out of the four.~
~You make it sound like I have no choice,~ Sakura grumbled.
~Don't get me wrong, Sakura, Kakashi is a catch. I think you'd be crazy not to go for it,~ Ino replied.
~Maybe,~ Sakura replied, ~I just want to be sure. He's opened up a lot to me the past couple of days and I've seen this whole other side of Kakashi. I don't want to hurt him. He's so much more fragile than any of us ever realised.~
~That's not surprising, really. His loved ones have a habit of disappearing on him,~ Ino said gently.
~I know,~ Sakura sighed, ~There's so many layers to this- Kakashi, the village, the elders- I don't want to feel pressured into anything. There's chemistry there between us, but I want to make sure we're compatible before I commit to anything.~
~I don't think there's anything wrong with treading carefully, Forehead, just don't take too long to make up your mind. There's no telling what will happen if you delay too long. Like you said, there's a lot of people that have a vested interest in your potential relationship with Kakashi. Plus life's just too short,~ Ino said frankly.
~Maybe you should take your own advice, Pig,~ Sakura muttered, flashing a look to the left where Sai flanked them. He felt her eyes on him and met her gaze, giving her one of his blank smiles.
~Like I said, completely clueless,~ Ino growled, flipping her hair over her shoulder.
Sakura rolled her eyes as Ino cut the connection.
Elite super ninjas did not need breaks, according to Kakashi Hatake. Sakura was beginning to think that the only reason that he had ever stopped regularly when they were genin was so that Naruto would stop whining. Though she agreed that they did not need breaks anywhere near as often these days, running for twelve hours straight was a bit of a stretch for a slightly out of shape medic nin such as herself.
Thankfully, they had started to encounter patrols from the border and she had been given a few reprieves to catch her breath as Kakashi showed the relevant identity documents to the patrolling ninjas.
Still, Kakashi missed nothing with those piercing eyes of his and raised an eyebrow at her appraisingly. Sakura had a feeling that there would be a lot more exercise in her future training sessions.
After another half an hour of running, Kakashi dropped down to the ground. The rest of them leapt down to his side, their eyes carefully scanning the surrounding forest. A low whistle interrupted the silence, and Kakashi's tense shoulders relaxed as he whistled back.
Suddenly two kunoichi appeared through the trees and approached them. Sakura was surprised to see two kunoichi at a border patrol. It was rare to see so many kunoichi out in one area - outside of the academy or the hospital anyway.
The first was quite tall for a woman with brown hair in two pigtails. Sakura noticed her assessing glance and met the other woman's eyes with determination. Everything about this stranger, from her stance to her odd orange flecked glare screamed confidence and arrogance.
The other ninja was not as tall or as intimidating. She had mousy brown hair and light blue eyes. She made herself seem small, but Sakura could see the intelligence in her eyes. A glance over the two of them made it obvious that the taller one was the flash and bang to draw all of the attention while the smaller one went unnoticed. Sakura could appreciate the strategy that went into pairing these two together.
They talked to Kakashi in low voices and then turned to lead them back into the forest. After travelling for a few minutes they came to a small clearing surrounded by incredibly thick, tall trees. High above them was a base camp for the ninjas that patrolled along the border. Far enough in that the trees were still quite high but not too far from the coast that they could not keep a wary eye on the traffic coming off the ships from Mist into Fire country.
'Come on,' Ino said, nudging Sakura. As she had been staring up into the trees, Kakashi and the others had been organising their brief stay with the two kunoichi and were moving up into the incredibly tall trees.
Sakura focused chakra into her feet and easily followed them up.
It did not take long to reach the tree houses where they were staying for the night. Sakura dumped her bag in the small room she was sharing with Ino and walked over to the viewing platform where Kakashi was standing.
'It's a lovely view,' Sakura said, staring out over the trees to the ocean beyond. It had been just before sundown when they left Konoha and now the sun was just starting to come up over the water, lighting the sky in soft pinks and purples.
'It is,' Kakashi agreed. 'One of the few things that make living out here worthwhile.'
'You've stayed out here before?' Sakura asked, glancing at him from the corner of her eyes.
'After I left ANBU,' he admitted.
Sakura nodded, acknowledging him as she stared around her with a more discerning eye. This would have been a good place to recuperate from so much death and blood while still feeling useful. Much better than being in the village with so many judgmental eyes on you.
'We'll stop here for a while and have something to eat and a few hours of rest,' Kakashi said.
'How long will it take us to reach the port?' Sakura asked.
'Another few hours,' Kakashi said. 'Get some rest.'
She smiled at him, brushing his arm with hers lightly as she turned to walk away.
'Sleep well,' she said softly, and then left. His eyes burned on her back as she slipped back into her room.
Ino waggled her eyebrows at her from where she lay on her sleeping bag. Sakura rolled her eyes and flopped down onto her own sleeping mat. At least Ino had set up the sleeping area while she touched base with Kakashi.
'What are you going to do?' Ino asked after a few minutes of contemplative silence.
Sakura had spent most of their running time thinking about Kakashi. The more she thought about it, the more she realised that nothing was really holding her back from giving it a shot with him. She did not really have anything to lose and a lot to potentially win.
With two of her closest female friends pursuing her two male team mates, Kakashi really was her best prospect for the happily ever after that she had dreamed of as a little girl. He was not perfect, but what man really was? So far she liked what she was seeing but it distressed her to see how broken he was after so many years of being alone as those he held dear died around him. Sasuke's loss had almost been the last straw.
She held his heart in her hands. It was up to her whether it continued to beat or crumbled away to dust. This might be their last chance to reach him.
'I think I'm going to give it a real shot,' she admitted.
'And the mission?' Ino probed.
Within a few hours of running, Ino had managed to get the whole story out of her. It had reassured Sakura that nothing had been said out loud, so both of them could claim ignorance if her mission and sensitive information had been shared.
'He won't know what hit him,' Sakura smirked.
After a few hours of rest, Sakura and Ino whispered and giggled together as they altered Sakura's uniform.
The push up bra enhanced her assets, making them much more prominent. Her top was slightly more form fitting and the slits along the side went up a little higher, showing a small expanse of her stomach. The shorts were short enough to basically be considered underwear. She also went without the knee guards to highlight the length of her legs.
The changes were subtle but made a noticeable difference. Kakashi would not be able to keep his eyes off her for the rest of the day. The other guys would notice as well, guaranteed to make his jealousy spike. It was an obvious ploy but why mess with what worked?
The girls exited their sleeping quarters and joined the guys waiting at the viewing platform.
Kakashi's eyes raked over her body and Sakura smiled at him, enjoying the appreciation in his gaze. Naruto, on the other hand, was making her skin crawl as he salivated over her chest.
'Shall we go?' He asked, sounding bemused.
'Sure,' Sakura said, continuing to smile at him as she punched Naruto over the ledge of the viewing platform. 'Oh look, Naruto's taking the lead.'
Ino snickered and winked at Sakura as they all followed him down to the ground.
Naruto grumbled most of the way to Narai, the port village to the east of the Fire country. Sakura ignored him, too busy flashing skin at Kakashi who was now bringing up the rear as she ran through the thinning forest.
It was not long before Sakura could smell the salt of the ocean and she lifted her nose to sniff the breeze appreciatively.
The group paused before the last of the trees fell away.
'This is where we split up for a bit,' Kakashi instructed. 'Gai and Lee in one group. You play the father and son role, hit the family friendly places. Shikamaru with Naruto, bachelors hitting the clubs and gamble houses and Ino with Sai sight-seeing, particularly along the wharf. Sakura is with me. We'll each take a different route into the village, staying inconspicuous and listening for any information about these rogue ninjas. Slowly make your way towards the main port. we'll be catching the Michishio at 1:20 tomorrow so try not to be late.'
Everyone nodded and took off through the forest so that they could discreetly enter Narai from different directions, leaving Sakura and Kakashi alone.
As soon as everyone was out of sight and hearing, Kakashi pounced, trapping Sakura between the nearest tree and his own body.
'See something you like?' She purred coquettishly.
'Indeed I do. A rather obvious tactic, but admittedly effective,' he growled, pulling his mask down and running his hands possessively down her sides.
Sakura chuckled, sliding her hands into his hair and pulling him even closer. He kissed her softly and she sighed into his mouth, returning the kiss as her eyes drifted closed.
'I should get you hot and bothered more often,' she said smirking into his mouth and tugging lightly on his hair.
'Have mercy on an old man, Sakura,' he groaned, burrowing his face in her neck. He nibbled on the point where her neck met her shoulder, making her clutch his shoulders and moan.
'You're not that old,' she panted.
'Stop it. I'm blushing,' he said, pulling back, his eyes twinkling with mirth and lust.
Sakura rolled her eyes but smiled softly at him. 'Come on Captain, we've got a lot of ground to cover and not much time to do it in.'
They faded back into the trees to change into civilian clothes, carefully disguising themselves as innocent travelers. Sakura was sad to put away her sexy little outfit but she planned on bringing it out to torment Kakashi fairly regularly.
The two of them entered Narai arm in arm as newlyweds, quickly checking into a motel.
'Where is your luggage?' The small man behind the counter asked, his eyes flickering between them with sharp suspicion.
'We eloped,' Sachi giggled, heart in her eyes as she stroked her husband's chest possessively. 'Isn't that right, Kai?'
'Yes sweetheart,' he said, grabbing her hand, his eyes burning into hers as he kissed her palm.
She stared back, entranced, the world dropping away.
'Here's your room key,' the man said, throwing them onto the counter, averting his eyes politely.
'Thank you,' Kai said, giving him a charming smile. Sachi clung to his side as he led them to their room for the night.
Kakashi shut the door behind them and leant against it, shaking off the role and settling back into his own skin.
'You are good at this,' he admitted, looking at Sakura with sharp eyes. 'There's little a man wouldn't do with those eyes staring up at him like that.'
'Indeed,' Sakura said, her green eyes flashing with amusement. Perhaps Kakashi was finally realising how much trouble he was in.
Sakura claimed the bathroom, locking herself in with her bag of tricks. Their role was to hit all of the bars and restaurants, drinking and making merry and sifting through the low-lifes that occupied Narai for a scrap of information about these seven little troublemakers. Anything they could find out before they reached Mist would be a blessing. It was also important to find out how much trouble these rogue ninjas had been stirring up at their border and whether Fire was at risk also.
She went all out, a strappy little black dress that clung to her like a second skin, showing off every curve to devastating effect. Her hair she pinned up, covering it with a wig of luscious black hair. Light makeup enhanced her lips and the piercing green of her eyes. A light dusting of bronzer on her skin made her glow and disguised her fairness.
Pulling on a pair of sexy black pumps that added at least an inch to her height, Sakura surveyed herself in the mirror. She smirked at her reflection. Unrecognisable.
Opening the door, Sakura whistled in appreciation as she took in Kakashi's appearance.
'You look good in a suit,' she said, her eyes raking up and down his body. She wondered how he had fit a suit in his backpack, let alone kept it from getting creased but quickly realised that he must have sealed it in a scroll.
Kakashi was wearing a dark blue suit, perfectly tailored to his broad shoulders and trim waist. He wore no tie, the white shirt underneath opened by a few buttons, drawing the eye to his chest. He had gotten rid of the mask and had tamed his hair so that it fluttered around his face, hiding his left eye mostly from sight.
Overall, it was very charming and slightly took her breath away.
'You look fantastic,' he breathed, trying but failing to keep his eyes off the aforementioned curves. Sakura winked at him, doing a twirl to show off just how tight the dress was. Hopefully he caught the lack of marring lines and realised what that meant.
He swallowed, trying to find his voice. Yeah, he noticed. Sakura smirked.
'Shall we?' She asked, lifting one eyebrow at him.
'Sure,' he said, rubbing the back of his neck with one hand, red tinting his cheeks.
Quickly they each made several clones. The only way to canvas the whole city was to divide the work with their clones and hit up as many bars and restaurants as they could in a single night.
Rather than go back out the door, they slipped out of the window and dropped down into the alley beside the motel. Behind them, the clones they had made did the same, disappearing into the night.
Once again arm in arm, they casually strolled out of the alley and into the street, laughing and chatting, by all appearances caught up in their own private little world.
The first restaurant they hit up was in the high end of town, Sakura observed as they were seated by a waiter. Kakashi perused the wine list and discussed their choice with their waiter while Sakura scanned the room through lowered lashes.
There were quite a few slimeballs with pretty young things on their arms, especially in the VIP area but no one who screamed dangerous to her. Still, you never knew what you might overhear. As the waiter went to fetch their bottle of champagne, Sakura excused herself and went to the bathroom, placing a number of listening devices in hidden alcoves and in the ladies' room. Slimy men always underestimated their women and how much they overheard, and of course, ladies liked to gossip.
Sakura returned to their table and gave Kakashi a sultry smile.
Before she could start a conversation, the waiter returned with their menus.
'Thank you,' she said, giving the waiter a smile. Kakashi echoed his thanks and the waiter left them to their perusal.
'Kai, darling,' she simpered, 'what looks good, do you think?' She fluttered her eyelashes at him and he stared at her like she was insane. 'Too much?' She asked, giggling at the look on his face,
'A bit,' he said, looking bemused now. 'As to what looks good, I was contemplating the ushiojiru. Surely a little port town like this would have wonderful seafood.'
'Too true,' she agreed, looking over the picture of the clam soup on her menu. 'It does look divine.'
The waiter materialised beside them again and took their order with quick, polite efficiency.
In the end, the clam soup was as good as it looked and they discovered very little from the clientele. They did, however, have a good time reminiscing about Naruto and Sasuke squabbling when they were still refusing to acknowledge each other back in their genin days.
Kakashi helped Sakura out of her chair after he had paid the bill and they left the restaurant arm in arm.
'Naruto is worried, you know,' she said, her green eyes drifting up towards the sky to look at the stars, her shoulders drooped. 'I know Sasuke didn't want to return to the village but no one has heard anything from him in six years, not so much as a whisper.'
'I know,' Kakashi said. 'ANBU have been the ones trying to track him. There's no sign of him. It's like he's vanished off the face of the Earth.'
'It took a long time for me to stop being angry with him and move on, but I'm worried too, Kakashi. I might not be in love with him anymore but I still care about him. What if he really is the leader of this group? It would destroy Naruto,' Sakura said, trying to shake off the sinking feeling in her chest.
Kakashi stopped, turning towards her and pulling her close. Sakura blinked away the moisture and allowed herself to relax into his embrace.
'I don't think he's part of this group. He doesn't match any of the descriptions we've been given by Tsunade,' Kakashi said, 'but I have this feeling that this is our best lead to finding him since the war ended.'
Sakura pulled away from him and looked into his eyes, as sad and serious as her own. 'We'll find him,' she vowed.
'We will,' Kakashi said. He leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers softly.
'We'd better keep moving,' she said, smiling at him as she took his arm again.
'Dessert?' Kakashi asked, gesturing towards a bustling restaurant a little further down the road.
'Perfect,' Sakura said, tugging him down the street.
She could not help but tease him at every opportunity. At each bar they got more and more drunk and Sakura got more and more handsy.
At first it was innocent. Well, as innocent as it could be when they were pretending to be newlyweds. Rubbing her thumb over his hand, leaning in closer as he was speaking, licking her lips after another sweet cocktail. That quickly descended into trailing her hands across his chest as she stood directly in front of him at the bar while he ordered another round of drinks.
He grabbed her hands just as she was about to slip them under his shirt.
'If you keep that up, I'll be abandoning this bar and dragging you up to our room,' he said, raising an eyebrow at her.
'Maybe that's what I want,' Sakura said, her eyes twinkling.
'You're drunk. I'm drunk,' Kakashi replied.
'That can easily be rectified. Medic, remember?' Sakura teased.
'Tease,' he said, smiling down at her. He handed her another drink, this one a bright green cocktail with a cherry floating in it. It tasted like watermelon.
'Mmm delicious,' she said, licking her lips after a small sip. Kakashi groaned, his eyes dark, watching her mouth. 'Want to taste?' She asked, taking another sip.
'Yes,' he said, pulling her close to kiss her possessively. She put the drink down on the bar and returned his kiss with enthusiasm. His tongue pressed into her mouth, tangling with hers as he lapped up the sweet taste of the melon. She whimpered, her knees weak with lust. This time he did not stop her as her hands slipped underneath his shirt and glided over his toned abs.
Eventually he pulled away from her and they both panted for breath. Her heart swooped in her chest as his eyes met hers. It was amazing how much emotion he could convey with a single look. They promised passion and lust and pleasure with that unnamed emotion dancing in between that excited and terrified Sakura in equal measure. His eyes promised tonight and then the next night and the next and all of his tomorrows.
'We should continue,' he said regretfully. Sakura nodded and they emerged from the noisy bar into the street. The eerie stillness of the night was punctuated only by the occasional burst of light and sound as the doors of several bars opened and people either spilled in or out of them. The two ninjas weaved their way through the staggering drunks and giggly escorts that pervaded port towns such as these as they searched for their next club.
At the end of the street was a huge warehouse that vibrated in time with the music that could be faintly heard through the closed, guarded doors. Several security guards stood in front of the only entrance, checking ID's and keeping an eye on those waiting in line to enter the establishment. Every few minutes when someone left the club, another few people slipped inside.
'Looks popular,' Sakura noted, indicating the thrum of people waiting in the line.
'And shady,' Kakashi agreed. Sakura looked closely and could spot a few rough look people waiting in the line. If she could not feel their chakra, Sakura would have known just from the way they stood that these were ninja.
'Darling, let's go dancing!' Sachi cried, dragging her husband towards the club and trying not to stumble too obviously.
'Whatever you want, sweetheart,' Kai crooned, pulling her back to his side, helping to steady her. Sachi cheered and they joined the line, draped over each other and snatching kisses until even the nearest security guard was looking away in disgust.
Half of Sakura's attention was on the interesting things that Kakashi was doing with his tongue, while the other half was listening to the conversations around her and cataloguing any interesting information. She paid special attention to the three definite ninjas, who were speaking in low voices a few metres in front of her.
Sakura shut out all other noises and focused intently on hearing their conversation. Snatches of it came to her and she struggled to make sense of it.
'…telling you man, I've never seen…'
'…the whole village…'
'…when I find out who those…'
'…rip them to pieces, same as what they…'
Before Sakura could find out more or puzzle out what she had heard, the three ninja were ushered into the club.
Kakashi was as tense as she was, and she smoothed her arms over his shoulders to reassure him. He relaxed against her, nibbling on her neck. Sakura could almost hear his brain whirring as he analysed the snatches of conversation they had been able to hear.
'At least one of them is nearby,' he murmured into her ear, nibbling on it in a way that made Sakura's heart race.
'I agree,' she whispered. 'We have to be careful. It sounds like one ninja managed to slaughter an entire village. He must be strong.'
Kakashi hummed in agreement and pulled away as the security guards patted them down and examined their ID. Civilian security guards were easily fooled by the genjutsu Kakashi had placed on two blank pieces of paper. The wave of noise and sweat and liquor washed over them as they stepped into the club, the door slamming shut behind them.
There was a huge stage at the rear end of the warehouse where a DJ was blasting music from several massive speakers. The club was pitch black apart from the kaleidoscope of bright lights flitting around the crowd and occasionally lighting up the faces of the dancers.
Sakura idly wondered if they were electric lights or a jutsu but dismissed it from her mind as she scanned the dancers, trying in vain to find the three from earlier.
'Up there,' Kakashi said into her ear. Sakura glanced up and saw several viewing platforms running across the top of the warehouse. Sure enough, their suspects were there, joined now by several more men. Clearly this was a meeting point for them. It was almost impossible for them to be snuck up on or overheard.
'How are we going to get close enough?' Sakura said. There was no way to do so without being discovered and it was frustrating to have possible intel dangling just out of reach.
'We can't,' Kakashi said, his voice echoing her frustration. Kakashi was good, but even he could not sneak up on a large group of wary ninja.
'We'll just have to leave clones and follow them later,' Sakura said with a sigh. Whatever the men were talking about as they towered metres above the crowd, it would have to wait.
Still, the two ninja decided to dance, keeping an eye on the men. Well, Kakashi watched, while Sakura tried to distract him, kissing his neck and rubbing her body against his in time to the music.
She could not waste such a prime opportunity to win those bells, after all.