Life Lessons

Lesson Ten: Unmasked

It was unseasonably hot. Sakura wiped sweat off her brow with the back of her hand. She stood next to Ino and Sai in the front row of the crowd. They would be leaving shortly afterwards to escort the Daimyo and his family back home. On a platform created by Yamato, those promoted in the Chunin Exam lined up to receive their new forehead protectors. Sakura had sat in on the meeting with Master Tsunade, Kakashi, the Daimyo, Shikamaru, Shizune, and a few other jounin ranked shinobi of the leaf. They had been of like mind when it came to the selection of those worthy of promotion.

Four participants from Konoha received the honor: Naruto Uzumaki, Sasuke Uchiha, Konohamaru Sarutobi, and Hanabi Hyuga. The four shinobi stood stiffly as the Godaime, in her white ceremonial robes with her conical hat, handed them their new forehead protectors. On the stage right, Kakashi, Shizune, the Daimyo, and the elders on the council stood together.

"I have one more announcement to make," Tsunade declared. She removed her conical hat and looked out across the crowd. Her eyes landed on Sakura's for a moment. "I will be stepping down as Hokage for health reasons. I am happy to announce my replacement." She angled herself to face stage right. "Kakashi Hatake!" She held out the Hokage's hat.

The crowd was dead silent, until Naruto began whistling and cheering. Sakura, Ino, and Sai were quick to join in on the celebration. Then those gathered began to shout out their enthusiasm.

Kakashi stepped out from his place on the stage and accepted the hat. He stared down at it for a few moments.

"I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm looking forward to seeing the Sixth Hokage's face engraved upon the Monument," Tsunade said with a chuckle.

Her comment resulted in the excited screams of half the female population.

Sakura wasn't surprised by the announcement, but she was surprised by Tsunade's admission of failing health. She'd have to evaluate her master.

"I am honored to be your sixth Hokage," Kakashi stated. "One of my goals as Hokage will be to help train the future Hokages." He glanced over at Naruto. Then his dark eyes scanned over the crowd and settled upon Sakura. She gave him a pair of thumbs up and smiled at him encouragingly. She was extremely proud of him. "I would like to announce my assistant for while I'm Hokage. Many of you may recognize her as Lady Tsunade's apprentice and my mission partner. I plan to entrust her with another very important mission. Come on up here, Sakura."

Sakura sucked in a deep breath through her teeth. She didn't plan to be on stage.

"Go on," Ino said nudging her elbow into Sakura's side. "Don't leave him waiting."

Sakura walked up the stairs and stood next to Kakashi. Tsunade had stepped back and stood alongside Naruto. "I would like to introduce you all to Sakura Haruno, who will be my assistant in this role," Kakashi announced. He laid one hand on Sakura's shoulder. "Many of you may recognize her as Lady Tsunade's apprentice and my mission partner. I'm going to entrust her with another very important mission." He fell silent and she could see the little line between his eyes that indicated he was deep in contemplation.

"Yes?" Sakura prompted.

"Sakura, if you will, remove my mask," Kakashi reqested.

"Did he just ask her to remove his mask?" Naruto asked loudly to Sasuke. He tugged at his earlobe.

"Are you sure?" Sakura whispered. He was asking her to unmask him in front of the whole village! Well, at least the villagers that were in attendance for the ceremony.

Kakashi nodded. "I have nothing to hide now."

Sakura pulled down one mask, revealing a second mask. The curious murmur of the audience and the nervous chuckles at the sight of the second mask rang in Sakura's ears. Kakashi winked at her. She bit the inside of her lip to steel herself and pulled down his second and final mask. His handsome face was bared to the public, though only a few were close enough to see the details.

A few females in the front row fainted, including Hinata. Kakashi set the conical hat on his head, obscuring most of his face. He grabbed Sakura with one arm around her waist, the other gently cupping the side of her face, and kissed her in front of everyone."

Sasuke's new forehead protector slipped from his loose fingers and clattered to the stage.

Kakashi turned towards the crowd, but kept one hand comfortably positioned at the small of Sakura's back. "This ceremony is now officially over. You may go about your regular duties." He jerked his mask back into place. He escorted Sakura off the stage and away from the crowd.

"Don't you think you should have asked if I was ready for people to know?" Sakura hissed.

Kakashi smiled at her sheepishly. His features obscured behind his mask once more, but she recognized them well enough. "Isn't it easier the way?"

"Now people will think I'm your assistant because we're lovers," Sakura whispered angrily.

Kakashi shook his head. "No. It's because you're one of the few that I trust."

"Don't you think for a second that I'm not mad at you," Sakura warned. "Right now, my ire is focused on someone else. If you'll excuse me, Hokage, I need to force a medical evaluation on the Godaime." She brushed past him roughly and found Tsunade talking to Naruto.

"Sakura-chan! Did you have any idea Kakashi planned to do that?" Naruto asked. He grinned broadly, the fox whiskers prominently displayed on his cheeks. "Is he going to be unmasked on the Hokage Monument?"

"I doubt it," Sakura said. "And I had no idea he planned to publicly announce our relationship." What would her parents think? They didn't attend the ceremony, but they would surely hear about it.

Naruto chuckled. "Yeah, that was pretty entertaining." He hugged Sakura quickly. "I think I better check on Hinata. Hanabi already went to check on her. It looked like she passed out when Kakashi did the face reveal." He hurried past her for his girlfriend.

"So, you and Kakashi?" Tsunade said with a waggle of her eyebrows. She reached into the inner folds of her robe and pulled out a flask. She took a generous swallow from the contents inside.

Sakura snatched the flask and sniffed the sake inside. Tsunade reached for it, but Sakura kept it out of her reach. "Master, would you mind explaining what you mean by health reasons?"

Tsunade tried for the flask once more unsuccessfully. "I'd rather hear about you and my successor."

"Master," Sakura warned.

Tsunade smiled grimly. "Walk with me," she said. They left the ceremonial area and started for the nearby park. "Cancer."

"Well let me look at you," Sakura requested. "I might be able to slow the progression."

Tsunade shook her head. "Dan is gone, Jiraiya is gone, and my dear brother Nawaki is gone. I have lingered here long enough."

Sakura hugged her master. "But I'm still here. What about Shizune?"

Tsunade soothed her hand over Sakura's hair affectionately. "And you have Kakashi and your friends. I'm so proud of you, but you have to let me go. Shizune and I plan to travel the gambling route once more." She folded her arms over her chest, prominently displaying her bosom in the process. "She'll return to help you run the hospital afterwards, but for now, I'm counting on you, Sakura."

Sakura smiled sweetly at Tsunade. "Do you mind if we just sit for a while?" Sakura asked. They approached a park bench. Tsunade nodded and eased onto the wooden bench, cringing slightly in discomfort. Sakura looped her arms around Tsunade's neck and hugged her. She then used that distraction to use a chakra enhanced hand to place her teacher into a medical coma. "And after I examine you, I'll let you go about your adventures."


OoO

Sakura carried the unconscious Tsunade in her arms using her monstrous strength and marched into the hospital. The staff stared at her in wide-eyed shock. "Too much sake," Sakura explained. The hospital personnel were familiar with Tsunade's less than savory habits and didn't question Sakura as she settled Godaime into one of the examination rooms. She stared with a cursory examination of her master's chakra flow, blood circulation, and neuron communication.

Shizune rushed into the room, securing the door behind her. "What are you doing?"

"Did she let you examine her?" Sakura asked. She paused at Tsunade's lungs. That seemed to be the source of her master's health distress.

"No," Shizune admitted.

Sakura laughed. "Well, if she had, you would have known that she's not dying of cancer." She focused her healing chakra on Tsunade's pulmonary system. "It is a fungal infection of the lungs."

"You realize, she's going to be pissed," Shizune said with a sigh.

Sakura shrugged as she finished cleaning up her teacher's lungs. "She couldn't possibly think that I wouldn't want to examine her health myself," Sakura protested. She took a deep breath and smiled bravely at Shizune. "I'm going to wake her up. You sure you want to be here?"

Shizune laughed. "I'm afraid she'd kill you if I wasn't. We're in this together, for better or worse, Sakura."

"Here goes," Sakura said. She gently pressed her fingers along the base of Tsunade's occipital portion of her skull and stimulated the brain, wakening the Godaime from her medically induced coma.

"You!" Tsunade hissed. She swung a deadly punch at Sakura's face, but the pinkette dodged the angry fist easily.

"It's not your time yet, Master," Sakura chided.

"Not your decision," Tsunade protested. She took a deep breath and some of the anger left her. "Though, it is hard to be mad when it's so nice to breathe again."

"I can understand wanting to retire. You've served this village well. And now you and Shizune deserve a nice vacation." Sakura took Tsunade's hand and ran her palm over her master's smooth knuckles. "Doctor-patient confidentiality. No one else needs to know about your health condition."

Tsunade narrowed her eyes. "Fine. I'll keep on living, but I want to hear the whole story about you and Kakashi."

Shizune pulled a chair from the corner of the room and sat down. "I'm curious too." She sighed with a dreamy look in her dark eyes. "His face, I only saw it for a moment, but it was so handsome."

Tsunade sighed as well and then grabbed hold of Sakura's shoulders. "Now, don't leave out any details," she said with a lecherous smile.

Sakura smiled at her teacher nervously. Perhaps Tsunade and Jiriaya really were soul mates.


OoO

Kakashi made his escape from the ceremony as quick as possible. He arrived at the memorial stone a short while later and crouched in front of it. He traced his fingertip over several names — Minato Namikaze, Rin Nohara, and Obito Uchiha. Not for the first time, he lamented the fact that his father's name wasn't engraved onto the memorial for shinobi that fell during assignments.

"Looks like your last wish for me came true," Kakashi said, tapping Obito's name. "Your gift came in handy again. I almost lost her in that storm." He rocked back on his heels and folded his arms over his knees. He could sense someone approach him from behind.

"I knew you'd come here eventually," Sasuke said.

Kakashi stood and turned to face the last Uchiha. His new, unblemished forehead protector was displayed proudly above his brow. "That forehead protector looks good on you."

"So, when did you take her?" Sasuke asked with a scowl. His hands were in angry fists at his sides. "When did you take Sakura away from me?"

"Don't you have a pregnant wife to go home to?" Kakashi countered. His senses were on high alert. This was a dangerous, unstable Sasuke. "Sasuke, you lost her the moment you chose to leave Konoha, seek out Orochimaru, and place revenge before your friendships." Kakashi paused and watched the anger in Sasuke's eyes fade into sadness. Kakashi sympathized with that sadness. He too grew up as an orphan after he lost his parents at a young age. "Though I have to thank you. With that act of selfishness, you forced both Naruto and Sakura to go beyond their peers so that one day they could bring you back home."

Sasuke stared down at his hands in shame. "I came home on my own. After some encouragement from Itachi," he admitted. "Do you think if I had asked her to be my only wife — do you think we could have worked?"

Kakashi sighed. Sasuke was seriously disturbed. He laid his hand on Sasuke's shoulder in a friendly manner. "You both have different goals, Sasuke. She wants you to be happy, but she didn't feel that she could be happy and give you what you wanted."

"I see," Sasuke said. He shrugged out of Kakashi's grip and reached into his front pants pocket. He held out his hand closed in a fist. "I want to give you something."

Kakashi held his hand out and Sasuke dropped a ring into his open palm. "What's this?"

"It's my mother's wedding ring. I always imagined Sakura wearing it, even when she was that annoying girl at the academy. She was the least annoying of the girls. When you're ready, you should give it to her," Sasuke said.

"I thank you for your sincere gesture, Sasuke," Kakashi said. He gave the ring back to Sasuke. "Please, give this to your matriarch when you see past your current heartache. That is what Sakura would want for you."

Sasuke nodded stiffly and shoved the ring back into his pocket.

"And Sasuke, you might want to consider what will make you a good father, not just on the number of offspring you might create." Kakashi wrapped his arms around Sasuke and drew him in for a hug. Sasuke was stiff in his arms and then slowly returned the hug. "I promise you, as Hokage I will do my best to make this village just until I can pass the reins to Naruto."

Kakashi released Sasuke, but looked him directly in the eyes. They were of the same height now. His little student had grown tall. "The council has been ruled by that elderly duel for too long. Their way of ruling Konoha, alongside Danzo, in the shadows is the reason you lost your clan. You realize that you could call a meeting with the Heads of the noble clans, considering that you are one yourself. You can outvote them and return to active missions that way."

"I will consider your advice," Sasuke answered solemnly. "And Kakashi?"

"Hm?"

"I will kill you, if you break her heart," Sasuke warned.

"First off, that won't happen. And second, you'll have to get in line behind Naruto," Kakashi answered with a smirk.


OoO

Kakashi has been in his role of Hokage for three months. Sakura helped him frequently, but spent an equal amount of time at the hospital. Shikamaru fell into his role as advisor in preparation for a more long term career with Naruto later. Naruto, Sai, and Sasuke had been promoted to his ANBU guards after he'd promoted Naruto and Sasuke to jounin after a long two weeks as chunin.

Genma was still in charge of security, but he made certain to give Sasuke the stink eye whenever they crossed paths — which was frequent. He and Kurenai had broken up, as she said she wasn't ready to date after all. She loved Asumi too much still and there wasn't room in her heart for anyone other than their son. So Genma had started to date Shizune. They were doing the long distance thing until she returned from her soujorn with Tsunade - who was apparently no longer suffering from a terminal illness. Gai kept coming by to challenge Kakashi in their little rivalry games. Kakashi didn't really have time for such nonsense, but as it made his friend happy, he kept up the charade.

Six weeks prior, Kakashi moved into Sakura's apartment. She didn't realize that his apartment had been vacated completely yet. Though, he and Sakura seemed to spend most of their time at work.

Kakashi sat in his office with his feet propped up, crossed at the ankles on top of his desk. His hand still had a slight cramp in it due to all the paper work. The last document he signed was the ratification of the dissolution of the council. The Noble Clans had banded together and outmaneuvered the council. An elected representation would replace the council as advisors to the Hokage.

He opened his finished copy of Icha Icha Partner. Sai had finished it earlier that day. He glanced up and watched as Sakura strolled into his office. He purposely flipped to another page.

"I think you need to address the mounting pile of documents on your desk," Sakura pointed out. She set a bag of home cooked food in front of him and he brought his feet back down to the floor. It smelled delightful. "Courtesy of my mother. She says we both eat out too often."

Kakashi smiled as he opened the bag with his free hand and took a deep breath of the fresh food. He sealed the bag up and set it aside. He'd eat it later. Kakashi snapped shut his book and waved it in front of Sakura.

With a heavy sigh, Sakura took it. "What is this?" She opened the front cover and started to slowly turn the pages. "This is about us," she whispered awed. "How we met and how we worked with each other over the last few years." She paused a little over halfway into the book.

Kakashi held his breath. She reached the blank chapter with the custom-made platinum band with jade stones imbedded within diamond ring taped to the page.

"What's this?" Sakura asked. She looked from the book to Kakashi.

"It's a ring," Kakashi stated. "And an unfinished story. I want you to help me write the last few chapters."

"Are you asking me to marry you?" Sakura asked. She braced her hip onto the edge of his desk.

"I'm asking you to be my partner for life," Kakashi corrected. He stood and moved in front of her. He yanked down his mask and smiled at her. He plucked the ring off the page. "What do you say?"

Sakura nodded and held out her left hand. "Yes." He slid the ring onto her finger. She stared at it for a moment before looping her arms around his neck and kissing him. Kakashi picked her up and spun her in a circle that sent her giggling.

"Also, there's a place I'd like to show you," Kakashi said when he set her back on her feet.

"When?" Sakura asked.

Kakashi looked at the pile of paper work on his desk. He grabbed the bag of dinner. "How about now?"

"Sure," Sakura agreed with a smile. "I have tomorrow off." She poked Kakashi gently on the chest. "Unless my boss, the Hokage, makes me come in."

"I'm pretty sure that ass planned to take tomorrow off too," Kakashi assured her.


OoO

Sakura had never been to the rural area that Kakashi took her. It was on the outskirts of the village. She spent most of the walk staring at the ring on her left hand. It matched Kakashi's hair and her eyes. She loved it! She snuck a peak at her fiancé. And she loved him.

"So, this is my ancestral home," Kakashi said when they reached the gates.

Pakkun sat just outside of the gates. "Good, I'm glad to see she agreed." He grinned at Sakura. "And you haven't even seen the best part!" The pug slipped through the gate and hurried to the back yard.

Sakura and Kakashi followed after him. "I actually sold off my apartment a few weeks ago." He nudged her playfully with his elbow.

Sakura looked over the huge, elegant house. It was gorgeous. The back yard had a huge cherry blossom tree, a koi pond, rose bushes, and several other tall trees — one of which had a swing. Pakkun sat happily at the koi pond.

"Maybe we should eat before this gets any colder?" Kakashi suggested, shaking the bag of food. Sakura followed him inside and they ate together with casual conversation.

"Karin's pregnancy is going well," Sakura said as she scooped out the last of her rice. "I'm glad Sasuke decided to not marry Kasumi. He really matured when he became chunin. The way he rallied the other noble clans and helped oust those crooked elders, did you say something to him?" She touched her fingers gently to the back of his hand.

"I am his teacher," Kakashi said with a smirk. "He just needed to realize that he was in charge of his future, not those old geezers." He set aside his empty bowl. "Come, I'd like to show you the library." He offered his hand and Sakura eagerly took it. He guided her around the home. The most impressive room was a huge library full of books, not porn. "My mother was an avid reader," Kakashi explained. "After she passed, Dad made it a point to read to me until I could read on my own."

"It's gorgeous, Kakashi," Sakura assured him.


OoO

Three years passed. Kakashi eagerly awaited the imminent promotion of Naruto as the next Hokage, but he still needed to wait a few more years. His priority this evening, was his lovely wife. He peeked in on her in the nursery. The room was a colorful design created by Ino and Sai with flowers, butterflies, and dragonflies decorating the walls.

Sakura noticed Kakashi and stepped out of the room, securing the door softly behind her. Shiba and Pakkun were curled up in balls on the floor underneath the cribs. "How are they? The guests should be here any moment," Kakashi said. He pressed a kiss to Sakura's forehead.

"They're sleeping," she whispered. "They should wake up soon."

"Did you want to tell him?" Kakashi asked.

Sakura nodded. "He might take it better from me." She pecked Kakashi on the lips.

The front door slammed open. "Sakura-chan! Kakashi!" Naruto's voice sang out loudly.

Kakashi cringed, but was relieved that the twins remained soundly sleeping. He took Sakura's hand and they ventured into the front entrance of the house. Their guests had arrived. Naruto, Hinata, Ino, Sai, Sasuke, Karin, and their two toddlers, Yamato, Gai, Anko, Kurenai and her son. Tsunade and Shizune were covering the hospital while Sakura was on maternity leave and unable to join the festivities.

"Can you turn down the volume, idiot?" Sasuke grumbled.

Naruto grinned. "Why would I turn down the volume?" Naruto asked. He ruffled Sasuke's eldest son Itachi's hair. "You like it when uncle Naruto is loud, don't you?"

Itachi giggled. He saw Sakura and his dark eyes grew huge. "Godmother!" He ran towards her and hugged her knee. He looked up at Kakashi briefly then turned his attention back to Sakura. "Where the babies?"

"You'll meet them later, I promise," Sakura said. She leaned down and hugged her godson close.

"My Rival! You may have beaten me by having children first, but I shall make it my goal to have more!" Gai challenged. He grinned at Anko. "How do you feel about that, dear? Are you up for the challenge?"

"And ruin my abs of steel?" Anko scoffed. "I don't think so." She winked at Kakashi. "Glad you decided to not wear the mask today. What's the special occasion?"

Kakashi resisted the urge to fidget. It was strange to not wear his mask around others. But, he and Sakura had come to the decision when the twins were born that around the house he wouldn't wear the mask. He didn't want his kids to think his face was terribly disfigured. He'd save the mask for when he was on active duty. "I have nothing to hide around my closest friends," he answered.

"Should we go to the patio out back like usual?" Naruto asked. As a wedding present, Yamato had created an elegant patio to attach to the back of the house. It had been the site of many celebrations over the past few years.

"I'll take care of everything, Forehead," Ino said brushing by Sakura and kissing her casually on the cheek in passing. Sai smiled as he followed after Ino.

"How are little Obito Sakumo and Ume Rin?" Hinata asked.

"Doing well," Sakura assured her. She turned to Itachi. "Why don't you show your mommy and sister the swing out back, Itachi?"

"Okay!" Itachi grabbed his mother's hand and pulled her towards the back door. "Come on, Mommy! We need to swing Mikoto!"

"I wanted to talk to you about the gazebo we discussed the other day," Yamato said to Kakashi.

"Will you be out there soon?" Kakashi whispered, bending his lips near Sakura's ear. She shivered at his proximity. It didn't matter that they'd been together for a number of years now, his mere presence still warmed her heart.

Everyone had gone to the back, except for Sakura and Sasuke. "You look good," Sasuke said quietly. "How's motherhood?"

Sakura smiled. "I can't quite explain it."

"I know, it's crazy, right?" He returned her smile. "So, Kakashi said there was something you wanted to show me?"

"Come with me," Sakura said. She led Sasuke to the nursery. The newborns were just starting to stir and the boy started to cry out softly.

"Can you do something about these two? It's making it hard for a dog to sleep," Pakkun complained.

Sakura picked up Obito and he quieted in her arms. Ume still slept soundly. "First of all, I never told you this, but I was extremely proud of you for deciding against multiple wives." Sasuke shifted his feet uncomfortably. "I know you worry about sustaining the Sharingan bloodline."

"It can't be helped," Sasuke said. He brushed his fingers gently over Obito's silvery-white hair. The baby opened his dark gray eyes. "Looks like his father." He stepped towards Ume's crib as she opened her jade green eyes and blinked at him curiously. Sasuke scooped her up in his arms. Ume didn't have much hair, but it was definitely pale. "And she has your eyes. Can't tell about the hair yet."

"Actually, that's what I wanted you to know, Sasuke," Sakura said. She touched Ume's forehead and activated the chakra that flowed to her daughter's eyes. A pair of Sharingan showed themselves.

"That's not possible," Sasuke whispered as Ume's eyes returned to their normal jade color.

"Obito's gift to Kakashi passed down to our children," Sakura explained. She activated the chakra of baby Obito's eyes and showed that he too had the Kekkei Genkai. "Of course, from what I understand, it won't truly develop until they are older. But, we were hoping you wouldn't mind training them, should they choose to become shinobi."

Sasuke drew Sakura into a fierce hug, the twins settled between them. "Thank you," he whispered.

"While this is a touching moment," Kakashi said from the doorway. "Our other guests are anxious to meet the newest members of the Hatake clan."

With Ume still in his arms, Sasuke hugged Kakashi. "It feels really good to have a family again," he confessed.

"Yeah," Kakashi agreed. He gently extracted Ume from Sasuke's arms and cuddled her close to his chest. He met Sakura's gaze and smiled. "I couldn't agree more."

OoO

FIN


A/N: Phew! Okay, hopefully, this chapter isn't riddled with errors…I'm too tired to read it through one last time to make sure. (Thanks to Poppy Grave Dreams for catching a couple of them already!) Let me know if you see anything blatant. This idea started off as a four-part lemony-smut story and then evolved into an actual plot and romance that I'm proud of! Thank you all for taking the time to read and especially review. I want to express my profound gratitude for you all! (but especially Giada Luna and chibihorsewoman) I am going to miss all the PMs about this story! Hopefully, you'll like my future Kakashi x Sakura story. It will be out in a few months.

I'd like to recommend one of my favorite authors to you all: Giada Luna. I especially love her You Must Believe in Spring story.