Underneath the Underneath

A story about Kakashi and Sakura's relationship, and the different ways she sees her former sensei. Takes place after the end of the manga.

Author's Note: I have not fully read or watched all of Naruto, so my apologies if I am inaccurate in certain respects. I will do my best to become more accurate as time goes on.

Kakashi had taught them all some very important lessons, and one of the most lessons was to always look underneath the underneath. While the boys of Team Seven used this rule primarily in battles and in tense political situations, Sakura Haruno learned to use it in everyday life, and so she used it the most. She used it when she worked in the hospital, for one. Patients lied about their symptoms and the causes of their symptoms, how they or their children had been injured, and their ages... the list seemed to go on and on. Her fellow hospital staff lied too: they lied about their own tardiness, mistakes they made, policies they ignored... that list went on and on, too. In her short life, Sakura had learned that no one was truly honest, which was why being observant and looking underneath the underneath was imperative in life. She had also learned that looking underneath the underneath sometimes led to uncomfortable truths, like how much Sasuke loved Karin, and how much he did not love Sakura. The couple were not obvious about their relationship, but Sakura knew they had both been through many abuses under Orochimaru, and she knew how devoted Karin was to her former teammate. Sakura could also see how Sasuke cared for her and how much he valued Karin's loyalty, and while it hurt to see that Sasuke was happy with someone else, Sakura was happy to see him happy. But where did it leave her?

For a time, Sakura devoted herself to her work. She worked the maximum hours she was allowed to at the hospital, volunteered at clinics, and took many difficult and dangerous solo missions. The extra activity helped her distance herself from the problem, and work out her feelings. Sakura came to realize that she did not love Sasuke as she once had, and had not loved him in that way for a long time. She now felt love for him, but it was a familial love, not romantic. Sakura realized she did not romantically love any of the men her age; the civilians her age were either too afraid to talk to her or thought she was sexually repressed and needed to be dominated. The former were afraid of her strength and of the Hokage: she couldn't really blame them for that. The latter believed she secretly wanted to be dominated and thought she should be put in her place as a woman. She shut them down quickly when they approached her; she was not going to date some asshole. Sakura was not particularly panicked about the idea of finding the man who would eventually fill the role of her husband, but she was lonely at times and wanted companionship.

"Ino, I'm not sure about this. Do you really think it'll fit?" Sakura was finally succumbing to her best friend's insistence that they go out and have a little fun, but she was unsure of her friend's choice in dress for her. The dress was a dark, moss green with lighter green flecks, and seemed entirely too short for Sakura's tastes.

"Sakura, your shorts are shorter than that. Relax, this is our night for fun. Is this all the makeup you have? Jeez," Ino shook her head as she rummaged through Sakura's makeup drawer. Sakura rolled her eyes and sat on the seat of the toilet, wondering if she could get away with wearing her shorts under the dress without looking silly.

"Ino, my shorts cover my underwear. The dress is open at the bottom, remember?"

"Look, just put it on and see how it looks. If we have to, we'll put you in some spanks or something to protect your modesty, okay?" Ino changed out of her own clothes and started putting on her own dress for the evening.

Sakura rolled her eyes and quickly slipped out of her clothes and put the dress on. After a moment of adjustment, she realized the dress fit her quite well, and as long as she didn't bend at the hip to pick things up, no one would see between her legs.

"See? You look great! I think a touch of eye and lip makeup and you'll have guys lined up and drooling," Ino told her as she adjusted her midnight blue dress.

"Is going out for fun always about finding guys to drive crazy?"

Ino laughed. "Hell yeah, that's half the fun itself. You've gotten so boring!"

"I have not! I just don't see why going out and having fun should always have to cycle around attracting guys and messing with their heads. It's not fair to them, Ino."

"Firstly, most of the guys at these clubs are out for one night stands. Secondly, it's just for fun, Sakura. Lighten up, okay?"

"Okay. I'll try."

Ino turned to her friend, armed with lipstick, eyeliner, and mascara.

"You know I'm only doing this 'cause I care, right, Forehead?" Ino smirked at her friend-turned rival-turned back to friend.

"Yeah, and I am only putting up with it because I care, Pig."

Ino laughed. "Good. Now, put those heels on, and let's go!"

The club Ino had picked for the night was packed. Sakura saw a couple of people she knew, but most of the crowd seemed to be made up of strangers. She scooted closer to Ino, who rolled her eyes and grabbed Sakura's purse.

"Okay, Sakura. I didn't want to do this to you, but I guess I have to be mean for a bit. I'm putting condoms in your purse, just in case. Don't get too drunk, make sure to check every drink you have for drugs or anything else unwanted, and go have fun."

Ino pushed her away, into the writhing, wiggling throngs of people, and quickly joined Sai at the bar.

"Did you have to do it that way?" Sai asked her, not looking up from his sketch pad.

"Well, I didn't want to, but I also didn't want her to cling to me all night. She's slipping back into her shell again, and even I don't want that. We'll keep an eye on her for a couple of minutes, then go. I'm sure she'll be fine on her own."

Back in the crowd of people, Sakura was nervous, shaking a little. She wasn't used to this kind of situation, and she hated crowds: who knew what enemies could hide themselves so well in this mess of people? She made her way to the bar, and glared at Ino, who ignored her.

"Long Island, please."

The bartender looked at her I.D. long enough to see that it was an I.D. and made her the drink. "Careful, little lady," he said as he passed the drink to her. "Too many of these and some boy might try to take you somewhere you don't want to go. Plus, it could give you a nasty little hangover."

"Thanks, sir. I'll keep that in mind." Sakura picked up the drink and turned to say something to Ino about her attitude problem, but found strangers now occupied the space where she and Sai had sat. Nervousness welled up in her belly again, and she stayed where she was, drinking the Long Island and just watching the crowd. They seemed totally unafraid and uncaring that the next day may be a day of regrets from tonight's actions. As much as Sakura liked to drink and dance, she preferred to do both at house parties, with smaller groups of friends and music played at a much lower volume. As she drank, however, the music didn't seem as loud, the people more friendly, and the crowd less packed. After a moment, she stood… stumbling forward into the crowd and landing on her face. Trying to regain her composure and to ignore the laughter from some of the people around her, she quickly backed into a corner, and into a mildly surprised Kakashi Hatake.

"Sakura, what on earth are you doing here? Here, let me help you up." Kakashi pulled her up into the chair next to him, setting her neatly down. His one eye traveled over her briefly, slightly widening at the curve of her bottom and the roundness of her breasts momentarily, then settling on her face.

"Kakashi-sensei! I was… well, Ino left me here. She said it was gonna be a girl's night out, and then she put condoms in my bag and left me! She didn't even pay for my freaking' drink, can you believe that? And what are you doing here?"

"I was people-watching. There's been a series of issues where young girls get drugged and hurt by young men, and a few cases where young men find themselves without a wallet after being drugged themselves. I was asked to look into it. It seems, however, that this club doesn't have a problem with those kinds of criminals: the waitresses dump out the drinks that are drugged and the bartender replaces them with new ones. I was going to hang out a little longer, then head home for the night. What are you drinking, by the way? You seem tipsy."

"Oh. Just a Long Island Iced Tea. They're yummy. And I'm not that tipsy, I can hold liquor real well."

"…Right. Isn't a Long Island made with seven shots worth of alcohol?"

"I don't know, I just know they're good! What are you drinking?"

"Seltzer water." Kakashi looked at Sakura, who was teetering on the edge of her chair. "Sakura, be honest: do you like it here?"

"Not really. Too many crowds, too much noise. Too much-whoa!"

Kakashi slid forward and caught Sakura before she hit the floor again.

"Too much gravity in this room! Someone should fix that."

Kakashi sighed as he set her upright on her feet, trying to ignore the way her hips felt in his hands, warm and firm. He pulled his hands away from her body, and instead put one finger under her chin, making her look up at him.

"Let me take you home and help you out with your hangover in the morning."

"Well… I don't think I'll have a hangover, but I'll let you take me home."

Kakashi helped her through the crowd of people and out into the cold night air. Sakura shivered, thankful that Kakashi was moving with her, as he was always a quick traveler. Within five minutes, they were at his apartment door. She leaned against him as he unlocked the door and disabled his traps, smiling at him lightly. Once the door was open, he directed her to the couch and got a glass of water. While she drank the water, he closed the door and sat down in a chair opposite her.

"Kakashi-sensei, I have a question… Why didn't you ever settle down with anyone?"

"Well… it was never a consideration for me. I always assumed I was going to die in battle, or during a torture session by an overeager enemy. I've never even kept a consistent girlfriend, because I didn't want to leave someone to grieve me. Why?"

"I was just curious. See, I've been thinking about it, since Sasuke and Karin got engaged and all. And… I don't know. Maybe there's more alcohol in a Long Island than I thought."

"What do you mean by that, Sakura? Are you feeling sick?" He stood, reaching for her empty glass.

"No. Honestly, I've been a little lonely lately, and... I don't know. Do shinobi have to be confined to celibacy? Do they at least get to have sex?"

"…It depends on the shinobi, Sakura. I never intended to get married, but if I should gain the attention of the lady I like, perhaps she and I could work something out. Now, I'm going to get you a blanket and pillow, and you're going to sleep here tonight. In the morning, I can make you breakfast and send you on your way, okay?"

"Okay." Sakura was a little confused by the sudden change in conversation, but she was also tired. "Can I also borrow a t-shirt or something? This dress will end up bunched around my middle or something, if I sleep in it."

"Sure. I'll be right back."

While he was gone, Sakura stretched out on the couch, thinking about their conversation, and some observations she had made about Kakashi while he walked to her, both in the club and here in his apartment. He seemed nervous… no, cautious around her, as if he wasn't sure he could treat her the way he always did. Had something happened with him? Was he sick and trying to hide it? No, that wasn't right. He wasn't hiding symptoms. He seemed careful about where he put his hands, and about how he looked at her. Wait, he did look at her, and not in a fatherly or brotherly way… almost in the same way teenage boys saw their female peers the first time they noticed new body parts. And he pulled his hands away very quickly after he steadied her in the club.

"Here's the t-shirt. Why don't you go to the bathroom and change, and I will lay out the blanket for you."

"Thank you, sensei."

When Sakura returned, she did so carefully, watching him. While they made small talk, she noted that he looked a couple of times, very quickly, at her bare legs. He also pulled the blanket up so it covered her, saying he wanted to make sure she was warm. He was still moving carefully around her. She decided she had to make one final observation before she could be sure of what she was seeing.

"Thank you for being so kind, sensei. You know, I wish I could find a man like you, even if he just wants to have sex once in a while. At least I know he would be considerate. Hey, wouldn't it be funny if we ended up together or something? What a hoot that would be, ha!"

Kakashi didn't say anything at first, just looked down at her with a carefully blank eye.

"Well, I'm going to bed, Sakura. It's been a long day for me. Sleep well."

"You too, sensei." Sakura chirped, turning over as she did so. Lying there in silence for a while, she pondered the observations she had made about her sensei. Even under the influence, she felt her shinobi senses tingling, she could feel that she was onto something. Underneath the underneath, Kakashi Hatake was attracted to her. But what would she do about it? Yes, he was a handsome man, and loyal, and caring. He was also known for reading pornographic novels in public, was chronically late to almost everything, and tended to be evasive when the topic of conversation became uncomfortable for him. Still, he was attracted to her. What could she make of that?