Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any characters from said story.

Nature of the GameChapter 1- Play the Game

By Leafygirl

A lazy afternoon was never something Sakura enjoyed, so she travelled through the trees looking for the person who would end her boredom. The lack of missions in Konoha at present gave way for more time to play her favourite game. Hunting. Finally, she crouched stealthily in a high branch and found her prey sitting comfortably in the grass, completely unaware that his life was in danger. She chuckled darkly in amusement.

"Give me what I want!" she finally yelled down.

She waited.


Playing the antagonist, she huffed a little when she didn't get the immediate reaction she'd hoped for from her victim. His one sleepy eye glided over the pages of the orange book he was seldom without, brushing off her ultimatum.

"Sakura, I'm busy," he said casually, eliciting a small noise of impatience from her.

Pulling out a kunai from the leather holster around her thigh, Sakura spun it in her fingers as a warning of things to come. "Kakashi, give me what I want or I'll kill you."

Without waiting for an answer, she flung the weapon at his chest.

In the easy manner of an elite, Kakashi snatched the kunai from its flight between two of his fingers. Spinning it as Sakura had, he then stabbed it into the grass next to him and continued to peruse the pages of his dirty novel. If he didn't have the mask, he was sure she'd see his amusement. It was all he could do to keep the laughter at bay.

Sakura sighed and hopped down from the branch to land beside him.

"Don't you want to play today?" she said sweetly, crouching next to his bent leg.

He looked up and his gaze ran quickly from her feet to her head. Her shapely legs were blatantly evident in the form fitting jounin pants she wore. The tight black shirt with the red emblems on the shoulders hugged her upper body. She had developed into a woman and he tried not to make it obvious that he noticed, but he did. Hatake Kakashi was not one to miss something like that.

"Sakura, I just got back, I'd really like to read in peace if you don't mind. How long have we been playing this game? You'll never win. Why don't you give up?" he mumbled looking back down to his book, and trying to seem nonchalant and disinterested.

In defeat, Sakura sat down on the grass and folded her arms over her knees. Obviously, there wasn't much that would coax him into a good fight today so she decided to give up. How long had it been since they started their game? She wondered.

With nothing to do, her mind began to drift back to what started it. Had it been an entire year since she found herself sitting alone with him at the local pub? It started out just like any other night out. Naruto had left to chat with Jiraiya, who was drinking heavily at the bar. As they sat quietly watching the other Jounin filing in for drinks, she remembered looking at the casual copy-nin for a long while until he finally noticed her staring.

"What are you looking at?" he asked her in an calm but interested way. He leaned forward on the table and gave her an accusatory look. He could tell something was going through her mind.

"You have young eyes," she said with a shrug. "Show me the rest of your face."

A laugh that was a little less than polite came from behind his mask. "Why would I do that?" The shake of his shoulders as he chuckled annoyed her. Of course, with Kakashi, it was most likely supposed to annoy her.

"I want to see it. We've known each other for about six years and I think that you should show me what you look like." She looked serious; her eyebrows rose to accentuate her point, but the smile tugged at the corners of her mouth. He made is so hard to keep a straight face.

"I'm not going to do that." He shook his head, still laughing.

"Kakashi, give me what I want!" Then she laughed at how much she sounded like a spoiled child.

This time he raised his eyebrow.

"Well then, I guess you'll have to find a way to take it from me." He sat back and she could see the amused crinkle at the corner of his eye. Obviously, he didn't think she had a snowball's chance in hell of getting it from him. But just that alone made her determined. She was intelligent, strong and good at planning. How hard could it be? They knew each other well; she'd do it with what she knew of him. Already she felt at an advantage.

The wheels began to turn. Kakashi could almost see it begin behind her eyes, and it made him smile.

She swivelled a little to watch Naruto talking with Jiraiya at the bar, and then thought of Sasuke who had left Konoha the year before. They'd all known each other for six years now. Kakashi left on missions from time to time, and would be gone for what could be up to months, but he always returned in one piece. She and Naruto would steal some of his time between his novels and his other Jounin friends.

Sasuke was ANBU now and had left on a lengthy mission, which up to now had lasted many months. She sighed when she thought of him; she still had those old feelings but muted in his absence and dulled from the constant coldness that would always resurface when he was there. Naruto was a Jounin like herself, and they both went on missions…but never like Sasuke's.

Over time she'd grown and matured. Now she found herself on equal footing with her former team. She worked harder to achieve the same goals, but was satisfied with her abilities. There was no more disappointment with herself. She could happily say that she was one of them, and that they were all hers.

It was normal for a woman to become possessive of the men in her life. Those strong feelings for Sasuke were ever present. He was handsome and mysterious, but still cold and distant at times. Naruto had begun to notice Hinata and had made a point to talk to her when he would see her. Kakashi was still Kakashi, and now he would be her new subject of interest after that night. She was determined to remove the mask.

As the year passed, she continued to accost him when she would see him. Her favourite line being, "Give me what I want!" When he heard this he knew what she was after. And in the typical style of Jounin, they would battle until some way or how Kakashi would manage to subdue her, easily at times, more difficult at others. It usually ended with hard breathing and laughter.

Slipping out of reverie, she looked at him quietly sitting with one leg up and the other leg out in front of him, and his back to the tree. The pages of the orange book flapped a little in the breeze while his ink black eye looked back up at her. It was impossible not to smile at him.

Comically sighing loudly, Sakura slung her legs over Kakashi's outstretched leg and let them fall on his lower thigh. Never in a million years did she imagine out of the three of them, she would spend more time with Kakashi over the others, but here she was, and it was now a habit.

Reaching over to his holster, she began to snap and unsnap the button to annoy him. Yes, it was a tease, but it fit in nicely with her game. She'd tease all three of them when they were around, but it was mostly just Kakashi now.

"Where's your other half?" Kakashi asked as he laid the book on her knees.

"Oh, Naruto is with Hinata again." She grabbed the kunai from beside him and began to spin it in her fingers.

"You're bored then?" he chuckled. "Naruto spends a lot of time with Hinata. She must have passed your scrutiny."

"What does that mean?" Sakura creased her brow.

"Nothing," he laughed.

Kakashi was no stranger to how women behaved, and Sakura was fairly typical in his estimation. Hyuuga Hinata was a sweet girl, perfect for their boisterous Naruto. But Sakura was threatened somewhat by other women when it came to their foursome. He'd seen her act like a jealous girlfriend with Naruto and Sasuke, and even with himself on occasion. It was flattering to have someone so attached to them, but the boys seemed to need some breathing room. She'd given him her attention in the form of their game, and as of late, she'd seemed to allow Naruto to go forward with Hinata. Unfortunately, she didn't seem to like it any better.

She was restless, and as much as he wanted some peace, he enjoyed her company. It would be better to entertain her than to have her sitting practically on top of him, and staring in boredom as he tried to read.

"Want to get a drink?" he offered in defeat.

"Show me your face first."


"Alright, a drink sounds fine." Sakura got up and took his hand to help him up. As he got to his feet he could see the smirk playing on her lips. "I'll just beat you tomorrow."

He was reminded right then of why he kept wearing the mask. Mouths could be so revealing. Honestly, he did enjoy their battles. She had become a smart and interesting woman, but still graced with innocent fascination. The combination was very appealing. Her sweetness was absorbing, but she could be cold and hard if she needed to be. There was no doubt that Sakura had grown to an exceptional ninja.

After mulling along back into the village centre, they reached the pub and slipped inside to find a few friends already there. They spotted Gai, Genma and Anko at the back of the room and Kakashi held up his hand in greeting.

"Come on, looks like they have room," he said as he placed his hand on Sakura's back, gently ushering her towards them.

With timid hellos, Sakura made her way to a chair next to Genma as the small group welcomed them. The contingency was made up of some of the strongest elite in Konoha, and she felt a little in awe of the expertise and experience at the table. They always made her feel welcome, and she hoped that one day Jounin of their calibre would look at her as an equal.

"Hey Hatake, what have you been up to? Just get back?" Anko winked at him.

Sakura decided that she wasn't too keen on Anko.

"Yeah, been gone two weeks. I think I'll take a break for a while. I'm behind on my reading."

A light chuckle resounded around the table. Kakashi's interest in erotic reading material was a favourite topic among their group. It was never something he was embarrassed about which furthered the entertainment factor. A personal interest in his late teens, they were surprised to find at thirty-three he was still addicted to it. Everyone needed an escape from some of the difficult missions and the harshness of the life they chose. Kakashi needed his smut, Anko her chocolate, and Genma, his women.

As the evening wore on, the group reminisced and drank more than Sakura had ever seen a group drink and still remain somewhat sober. But slowly, the conversations became intoxicated and slurred, filled with old stories and interesting things she'd never heard before. She was enrapt as she leaned on her elbows on the table, listening intently.

"So Sakura, what's new?" Genma said in a smooth tone and smiled widely. He noisily moved his chair close to hers and made it obvious that he was going to take a direct interest in her.

"Fine, Genma." She watched him stretch, and then lower his arm on the back of her chair. He leaned so near to her that his cologne was all she could smell. It was a pleasant scent, and coupled with the warmth of his body beside hers, a small flutter stirred in her stomach. It had been so long since someone had shown a more flirtatious interest in her.

"Seeing anyone still?" he asked calmly. It would have seemed blunt coming from anyone else but it seemed he could say anything with that voice and it would be acceptable, especially to women.

"I never was, actually." She was suddenly nervous, albeit flattered, at his now obvious advances. "Um, why?"

Anko and Gai had begun chatting about summoning and Kakashi had been listening, but upon seeing Genma move closer to Sakura, his attention shifted. As much as he knew he should leave them to their conversation, he couldn't. It was obvious what Genma was up to and he silently admonished himself for not having seen it coming. Sakura was exceptionally beautiful and Genma usually couldn't resist someone like her. The consummate bachelor was too much of a playboy to pass up the opportunity. Kakashi was tempted to pull her chair nearer to his, but that might give a bad impression so he let it play out.

"How about a late dinner with me tonight?" Genma raised his eyebrows and she looked into his attractive chestnut eyes while he gave her more attention than she'd had in a long time.

This was a date, wasn't it? He was asking her out? Surprise, surprise, she mused. The thought was appealing, but he was really quite a bit older than her. Although in the grand scheme of being a ninja it really shouldn't matter. Old enough to kill, old enough for pretty well anything else. Age wasn't, or at least shouldn't be, a factor. The thought began to take on a shape of a lesser evil as she considered it, until it became downright appealing. But still, something held her back.

She looked at Kakashi, who was looking at her strangely.


She smiled a little as she turned back to Genma. How long had it been since she had a date? Far too long. But Genma had a reputation that was not entirely wholesome, and that alone should make her say no. But being on the verge of twenty, she'd had very few prospects lately. In truth, she was somewhat lonely for some interest from the opposite sex. Her game with Kakashi, although fun, was clearly not enough. She couldn't deny that her attachment to her three men usually pushed others away, and she didn't find herself in this situation often. It did merit some consideration, serious or otherwise.

She glanced at Kakashi again, but he didn't say anything or interject, and she knew somewhere deep down she had hoped he would. At that moment, his indifference stung her a little. If a woman had come near him, she was sure she would have put a stop to it. Sadly, she realized he didn't care if she had a date.

"Alright," she said to Genma. "When?"

"How about now?"

"Shouldn't I change?"

"No. You look perfect, actually." He grinned and she wasn't sure if she liked it. "Come on, we'll go somewhere casual.

He took her hand and helped her out of her chair. She turned back to Kakashi to see that he was still watching her. Was that shock on his face? She'd never seen that look before.

"Um...I'll catch up with you tomorrow?" she said with a lilt of questioning.

"Ah, yeah, if I'm around." He turned away to look at his other friends while raising his hand in a good-bye gesture.

Nice. The lack of concern he gave steeled her will, and turning from the table, she put her hand in Genma's and led him to the door.

Kakashi spun around just in time to see them walk out. Shocked. He was shocked, and not about Genma asking, but about Sakura saying yes. It was definitely a first.

"Whoa, Kakashi, do you think that's wise to let Genma take Sakura out? You're pretty protective of her. I'm surprised you let that happen," Anko said with clear astonishment.

"She can take care of herself," he replied calmly. Protective? I wouldn't call it protective. What does she mean?

"I think she wanted you to say something to stop her," Anko added.

"No she didn't, why would you think that?" Kakashi raised his exposed silver eyebrow in mock confusion.

"Men are clueless." Anko shook her head. "Subtlety is wasted on you, Kakashi."

"Do you think they'll get into trouble? I don't know if our innocent Sakura can handle Genma," Gai added in the same half-nervous tone as Anko.

"She'll be all right. She's a grown woman, and a Konoha Jounin for God's sake. What are you two so worried about?" Kakashi looked at them as he shook his head. They both looked back at him in a strange way and silence ensued until Anko sighed.

"She's nineteen."


"Can you recall her ever having a boyfriend or being in a situation that Genma might put her in?"


"He might be a little forceful with her."


"Um, persistent."



"She can take care of herself."

"Doesn't it bother you that she's with another man?"

"I'm not her father, you know."

"That's not exactly what I mean."

"Be more plain, Anko."

"Urg. Subtlety is wasted on you, Kakashi"

It wasn't really; Kakashi didn't want to admit that it did bother him. He figured that she was his Sakura too and that Genma was not exactly the ideal man for her to be alone with. He could admit to himself that he might be a little possessive also, but just didn't show it as openly as Sakura. Years of training together and playing their game had attached him to her, he just wasn't sure in what way.

"She can take care of herself," he reiterated quietly, almost convincing himself. Maybe tomorrow he would spar hard with Genma.

"Where would you like to go, Genma?" Sakura asked. The nervousness bubbled just below her calm façade, although she wasn't entirely sure it was concealed enough.

"Don't worry, Sakura, I'm not going to bite you. You can unclench your fists." He smiled softly and she could see some genuineness in his face.

"Sorry, I'm a little nervous. I actually can't remember how long it's been since I've been out on a date. You sort of took me by surprise." She tried to relax her body, and then took a deep breath.

"I can't believe you haven't had a date in a while. Men must be falling all over themselves to take you out. What have you been doing?" he laughed, a little stunned by her admission.

"Well, missions, spending time with my friends, and fighting with Kakashi." She smiled thinking about it.

"What the hell are you battling with Hatake over?"

"Oh, well, he sort of challenged me because I want to see his face." She smirked a little. If she was embarrassed, it wasn't obvious; she truly enjoyed the game with him.

Genma stopped abruptly, and she stopped beside him. For a moment he just looked at her like he was trying to find the words. "Sakura, there is only one way to get Kakashi's mask off, and I'll tell you that there is no man that can do it."

"What?...Oh!" Understanding dawned on her as Genma laughed. She felt heat rise in her face at the thought of that kind of interaction with Kakashi. The possibility had occurred to her that she could get it off that way but she'd never seriously considered it.

Undoubtedly, she was jealous when women would blatantly throw themselves at him in front of her. But she had yet to see him accept one. Did he show his face to women? The possibility that she was not ranked as high as a one-night stand for facial viewing was sort of upsetting.

"Well, I think if you really wanted to go that route, you could do it. You probably wouldn't find it difficult, actually."

"Why would you say that?" she asked, but figured she knew the answer anyway.

"Well, you two are together a lot, and really, I don't see him with other women…ever. I just figured that maybe you two had something going. I was pretty surprised when you accepted my invitation, and in front of him no less. I've seen him turn down women plenty of times around you, but I thought I might have had it wrong so I took a chance." His smile was just the right side of his mouth raised in a cocky smirk.

Unfortunately, Genma's reasoning wasn't the answer she thought she would hear. She expected him to say that she was pretty, that she was a woman, that she could persuade him if she tried, not that he thought there was already something between them. It wasn't that she was entirely opposed to the idea; she just didn't expect it to have ever crossed anyone else's mind.

Maybe her feelings were part of the reason she wanted to see his face so badly. But Genma was wrong about Kakashi. He was protective of her, but never interested in anything but their game or an occasional drink at the pub, or so she thought.

Genma watched her eyes move and her mouth twitch in thought. Oops, should have kept my mouth shut, he thought.

"Am I wrong?" he said, breaking her inner thoughts.

Sakura loved Kakashi, she loved all three of them, but the realistic goal had always been Sasuke. Flirting with Kakashi was one of her favourite things; it was how the game started. But it was a safe flirtation. It's not like she ever expected anything to come of it. Naruto was the warm, kind one; Sasuke was the cold, mysterious one, and Kakashi had been the fun one, the protective one, and she supposed mysterious as well.

"Uh, Sakura, I can't believe that I am saying this but maybe we should forget tonight. I can walk you home." Genma bowed his head a little in mock defeat. It became obvious to him that her mind had been shifted elsewhere and he felt a little bit like an intruder.

"Oh, Genma, I'm sorry. I probably should have said no, you really took me off guard back there and I thought that...well, I'm sorry." She looked guiltily up at him.

"It's alright," he laughed. "Come on, I'll walk you. Just don't tell anyone that I didn't hit on you. It might ruin me." He winked.

She nodded and immediately the tightness in her body shrank away. Apparently, she was in agreement with at least some of what he had said.

Slowly and with a little more general comfort between them, they walked to her small apartment and she stepped up on the first step to the door.

"Sakura, since I was so nice to walk you home, how about a good-night kiss?"

Now that was unexpected, she thought sarcastically. Genma was Genma. Honestly, she had almost expected it before they even reached her doorstep. But she wasn't really attached to anyone so what could it hurt to try it on for size?

Without actually answering with words, she slipped her hand around his neck and pulled him towards her. It had been a long time since anyone had kissed her, and the anticipation fluttered into her body.

Genma rested his warm hands on her hips and pulled her closer to him as well. Their lips met. It was nice, soft, and a gentle brush of lips. It had definitely been too long since someone had kissed her.

Sensing her willingness, he slipped his tongue into her mouth gently and she gave in to it. His arm pulled her against him and they leaned their bodies into each other. The warmth between their bodies was wonderful in the cool night air.

When she finally pulled away, her breath was heavy, her cheeks flushed. She had to admit that she didn't think anyone had ever kissed her like that. Yeah, she'd been kissed but—wow--he was pretty damn good at it.

"G...Goodnight." She stumbled a little on the step as she headed up to her apartment. An embarrassing flush of passion lit her cheeks. It had been too long, but being honest with herself, she knew it was not Genma that she wanted to kiss her like that.

"Night, night, Sakura." He was grinning devilishly from ear to ear as he turned and walked away.

She shut the door behind her, and her breathing slowed a bit. "Wow, Genma," she whispered, while her fingers touched her lips lightly. It was a long time since she'd had feelings like that. It was a nice little reminder.

She would have trouble sleeping all that night.

End Chapter 1 – revised January 06, 2006. (meh, fixed it again)

Leafy girl