Quintessential

Definition: representing the most perfect or typical example of a quality or class

Takes place after Naruto The Last, prior to the credits.
Beta: ShiroKuro OokamiRyu

.

Summary: Sakura feels like life is passing her by. Kakashi is the Hokage, Naruto and Hinata are getting married, Ino and Sai are moving in together. Meanwhile, Kakashi's confidence is shot with the loss of his Sharingan. Kakashi and Sakura find themselves in each others company more and more often. Will their friendship develop into something more?


.

.

.

Chapter One:

.

.

It had been a long, difficult day. A week had passed since the moon was almost destroyed, but now life was back to a semblance of normal. Sakura sat alone in the back of the new quaint coffee shop near the hospital. She was reading a medical journal with an article discussing the latest remedies to heal chakra exhaustion. She reached for her coffee and took a sip of the hot rich blast of caffeine. She cringed at the strong, bitter flavor.

"Creamer?" Kakashi, wearing simple dark gray fatigues, sat in the unoccupied chair at the table and slid a small metal pitcher towards her. He had a ceramic cup of coffee in his hands for himself.

Sakura gratefully poured half the creamer into her drink. "Thanks," she said, flashing him a tired smile. She concentrated on her ability to manipulate the element of water and stirred the creamer into the coffee. She took a sip and hummed in satisfaction at the sweetness. "Much better."

Kakashi took the remainder of the creamer and dumped it into his coffee. "At least I taught you something," he murmured, as he too used his ability to manipulate water to stir his drink.

"How can I help you, Hokage?" Sakura asked. She wondered why he wasn't wearing his white robes.

The tips of Kakashi's ears burned red. For some reason, he was embarrassed whenever she or Naruto called him by his title. "I'm trying to be incognito."

Sakura arched her eyebrow. It was hard to be incognito with his wild, stark white hair.

"I'm using a genjutsu to mask my appearance," Kakashi explained patiently.

"Oh," Sakura said. She sipped her coffee again to hide her frown. Her ability to see past genjutsu had grown. It wasn't even a conscious act anymore, not since she'd activated the Mitotic Regeneration Technique. She wondered who he'd made himself look like. "How have you managed to pull that off?"

"Shikamaru is off lazing about and I left a clone back at the office," Kakashi explained. "Plus, you're not around to keep me on track."

"Shizune has had me working double-shifts at the hospital all week. I haven't had a chance to tell you this since we returned, but thank you," Sakura said. "If you hadn't convinced the Raikage to wait…," she trailed off.

"It wasn't hard to convince him. Gaara believed in you guys too," Kakashi said. His dark, matching eyes stared at her. Not for the first time, she wondered what he looked like under his mask.

"Believed in Naruto, you mean," Sakura said. She looked away from his soul-searing gaze and stared back at the article. So far, it hadn't mentioned anything particularly breakthrough. Most of the statements in the article were things she already knew. Master Tsunade truly was above and beyond her medical contemporaries in her discoveries.

"The other kages were firm in their belief of the success of your team," Kakashi corrected. He reached across the table and placed his hand over the article, blocking it from her view.

Sakura scowled at his hand and grasped it, trying to pluck it off the journal. She could have used her monstrous strength, but it seemed unfair. His hand was firmly in place. She looked up from his hand and stared back at his intensely focused onyx eyes.

"While Naruto is the hero of the Great War, you were the one that kept his heart pumping so that he might have a chance to recover and finish the fight in that war. It was their faith in the entire team that stayed a premature strike," Kakashi assured her. "And you know as well as I, that Naruto's greatest strength is his teamwork."

Sakura said nothing. She didn't understand why Kakashi had sought her out in this coffee shop. He could have summoned her to his office. "Why are you here, Kak—," she grimaced, barely catching herself from saying his name. "Why are you here?"

Kakashi retracted his hand and sighed, his strong shoulders abruptly sagged. "Sasuke was the one that brought Hiashi back here," he explained. "And he saved the village from a terrible meteorite that almost crashed into the Hokage Tower. I stared back at it, without a means of defense, and he used the chidori I taught him to destroy it."

Sakura pictured in her mind Sasuke appearing out of nowhere, saving the village from an imminent attack, and then vanishing again, without a word of explanation. "Why didn't you use the chidori?"

Kakashi brushed his fingers under his left eye at the old bisecting scar. "I haven't tried without the Sharingan. Minato warned me long ago, that without the ability to see the chakra I wouldn't be able to control the attack."

"That was when you were an adolescent boy. You've performed that attack thousands of times." She took his hand, drawing it away from his scar, and held it in between both her hands in reassurance, much like she would for a scared patient. "Don't be afraid, because you no longer have the Sharingan. It was a terrible drain on your chakra. It helped you, over the years, by allowing you to memorize countless jutsus. It served its purpose. You were a genius before it ever came into your possession, a Jounin at such a young age without it!"

Kakashi stared down at their hands. "I'm the Hokage. I can't afford to be weak and yet, I just stood there."

"Six thirty, tomorrow morning, you and I will meet at Training Field Three. Don't be late," she added with bruising strength that made Kakashi grimace slightly. She activated her mystical palm technique and healed the slight injury immediately. "And any damage that might happen, I'll be there to fix."

"Six thirty is rather early," Kakashi hedged. He sent a slight surge of lightning through his hand, enough to create a static shock, and Sakura released his hand immediately. "I am the Hokage after all. No doubt, I'll have several old ladies I must help cross the street. Or some national emergency that requires my attention."

"If you're late, I'll break into your apartment and drag you there," Sakura warned.

Kakashi grimaced again. One time, when he was late for a meeting with the noble clans of the village, Sakura and Naruto had done just that.

"I'll let you get back to your reading," he said. "And I'll talk to Shizune. You need to relax. You can't keep working so many hours."

"The hospital needs me," Sakura argued.

"The hospital got along just fine during your absence. It will continue to get along fine while you take a couple of days off," Kakashi said. He smiled under his mask, the corners of his eyes crinkled. "Consider it an order."

"Fine," Sakura huffed. "But you'll still meet me at Training Field Three."

"Very well, but since you don't have to be at work tomorrow, how about eight?"

"Six-thirty," Sakura repeated.

Kakashi shrugged. "Why don't you just knock on my door in the morning? We can walk to the training field together."

Sakura bit the inside of her cheek. She'd have preferred to meet him at the training field, but it would probably save her time if she met him at his apartment. It was on the way to the fields.

"See you in the morning," Kakashi said, not waiting for her response before he stood and sauntered out of the coffee shop with his hands shoved casually into his front pockets. Sakura had to turn her gaze fixedly away from the sight of his well-muscled backside. It was awkward to realize just how handsome Kakashi was and becoming harder to ignore the fact.

Not five minutes passed before a breathless Naruto and Hinata rushed inside the coffee shop holding hands. The grin on Naruto's face stretched from ear to ear and Hinata's cheeks were flushed with excitement. They hurried towards Sakura's table, taking Kakashi's chair as well as another chair from a neighboring table.

"What does a girl have to do for some peace and quiet?" Sakura muttered under her breath. She closed her journal and smiled at her two friends, her affection for them both trumping her annoyance.

"Are we interrupting you? I'm so sorry!" Hinata rushed, her opaque eyes shifted nervously between Sakura and Naruto.

"IaskedHinatatomarryme and she said yes," Naruto blurted out.

Sakura stared at him blankly, trying to process his words. Her eyes widened. "You're getting married?"

Hinata nodded and Naruto grinned like a Cheshire cat and draped his arm over his fiancée's shoulder. He tugged her against his side, the legs of her chair scrapped loudly across the floor.

A slow smile spread across Sakura's lips. "That's wonderful! Congratulations!" She leaned over the table to wrap them in a group hug and knocked aside her empty coffee cup in the process.

Naruto reached out and caught it, before it could shatter. "Thanks! Hinata wants you to be her Maid of Honor!"

Sakura eased back away from them. "Me?"

Hinata nodded. "Hanabi is too young, and as you're a good friend to both Naruto and me, you seemed most appropriate." A hopeful smile danced across her lips. "Would you consider it?"

"Of course," Sakura said. A laugh bubbled past her chest. "I would be honored. When do you think you might want to get married?"

Naruto and Hinata looked at each other, true unadulterated love shining in their eyes. "We were thinking a month from today," Naruto said.

Sakura gaped at them speechlessly. There was so much that needed to be planned for and a month was hardly enough time at all! "Isn't that a little soon?" she croaked.

Naruto shook his head. "Not soon enough. We almost lost each other. I want Hinata to be my wife and don't want to waste any more time."

"Hinata, have you told your father?" Sakura asked. Surely, Hinata was the more reasonable and rational of the two. She would realize the foolishness of such an endeavor.

"Not yet." Hinata smiled softly at Sakura. "We've just told you. Then Naruto wants to talk to Iruka about being the Best Man."

Sakura ran her fingers through her shoulder-length hair. She was the first person they told. She was honored beyond words. There was so much to plan! Just for a moment, she wondered if one day she would be rushing off to her friends with a fiancé of her own, dropping exciting, and life-altering news upon them.

"We've got to track down Iruka. Shall we meet for breakfast?" Naruto asked. "We can talk about more details then."

"Where do you want to meet?" Sakura asked warily.

Naruto grinned, his whiskered cheeks mischievously curved upward. "Your place of course! You make a mean breakfast spread, Sakura-chan!"

"How about brunch?" Sakura asked. She intended to train with Kakashi in the morning.

"Brunch would be perfect," Hinata agreed.

"I'll invite Ino too," Sakura said. Since they shared an apartment together, it would be hard to keep something like this from her nosy best friend. "Her family's business has a great deal of experience with weddings."

"That works!" Naruto nodded eagerly. "Let Sai know too. We were going to ask them to also be part of the wedding party." He leaned towards Hinata and cupped her cheek gently in his hand. He brushed his lips against hers.

Sakura cleared her throat and looked pointedly at her journal again. There was no way she'd be able to concentrate enough to finish the article now. She needed to go by the convenience store and pick out some magazines about weddings.

.

.


OoO

.

.

Kakashi leaned back in his chair, his feet propped up on his desk. He stared at the mountain of paperwork, yet untouched. He'd spent at least ten hours that day reading over various documents and reports. It hardly even made a dent in the never-ending stack.

The only highlight of the day was when he managed to sneak out past his guards, using a carefully crafted genjutsu, and tracked down Sakura. Even without his enhanced senses, thanks to his contract with the ninja dogs, he'd have been able to find her. If she wasn't in the operating room, her office, or his office, then she was most likely by herself at a table in the new coffee shop. Sakura was hardly ever home these last few months. Ever since Ino and Sai became a more serious couple, he spent more time at Sakura's apartment than she did — not that Kakashi kept tabs on Sakura or anything.

As part of the rebuilding of Konoha, several more shops had popped up in the village during this new era of peace. He found out about the shop one morning when Sakura brought him a strong cup of coffee from there. Caffeine had become a necessary addiction to deal with the tedious routine of so much paperwork. It was certainly better than indulging in sake all day long like the previous Hokage. Though, he had to admit, it wasn't nearly as fun.

His gaze drifted to the clock on the wall across from him. It was half-past ten at night and there was no purpose in pretending he was still working at this point.

His conversation with Sakura earlier kept replaying in his mind, making it hard to concentrate. He could have destroyed the meteorite. He was the Sixth Hokage! She was right about his increased chakra, since he was no longer the recipient of Obito's transplanted eye. He'd created the chidori thousands of times. He was familiar with the flow of energy. He shouldn't have hesitated. Doubt would be the death of him. He didn't have the luxury of doubt. Too many people relied on him now.

He groaned, thinking about how early he was going to have to wake up in the morning. No way was Sakura going to let him get out of it either.