Author's Note: Let's face it -- If I owned Naruto and its fictional characters, I would be doing something better than typing out this disclaimer.

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Paper Heart.

Act I.

She had grown to become wise beyond her years, her body lagging behind as her mind developed beyond typical teenaged standards. Seventeen years old, yet her words reflected the deep and wise analytical impulses of an elder individual. However, she remained unhurried towards the idea of adulthood and the unavoidable life of heavy responsibilities as a Konohagure Kunoichi. To her metaphoric standards, the age of seventeen years was the teetering edge of adolescence. Due to her reasoning, she held every day of the year in the palm of her hand; making the best of her memories before she crossed over to the second milestone of life.

Perhaps she did it to avoid the small spark of fear quelling inside her young and innocent heart. She was somewhat afraid of the future, feeling as if life would come on her eighteenth year to clasp a chain and ball to her ankle. To afterwards have a book of rules thrown and skittered to the side of her feet, stating in wordless means that giggling about boys and sharing precious secrets between close friends is nothing but an immature smear of the past.

"You okay?" a voice called to her in question, interrupting the long line of thoughts and snapping her out of her trance. Her green eyes averted from the ground as a comforting hand squeezed her shoulder in assurance.

"Kakashi-sensei," she began, with a questioning tone reverberating as she said his name. His visible, dark-hazel eye glanced down in response.

He was an adult. Thirty-one years of age, she figured he should have had formed at least some depiction of life through a number of experiences. She decided to ask him, merely because he was the only person around, but mainly because his insightful words always seemed to find a way to settle her troubled mind. She knitted her hands.

"What's it like, becoming an adult?" she quietly asked, picking on the grass in front of her. "How does it feel when you're forced to tuck your childhood in your pocket, only to refer back to it with memories?"

The orange illumination of the bright, setting sun revealed the shadow of his smile formed behind his mask; casuing her stomach to flutter involuntarily. A strange reaction -- no, a normal reaction, she confirmed in her head. She had analyzed his mysterious looks countless times; from the shapely outline of his chiseled jaw to the slight, faint trace of dimples when he curtly smiled. She doubtlessly knew he had to be nothing but handsome underneath. She inwardly nodded, telling herself anyone would've had the same reaction she just had. However, convincing herself was hard, especially when he continued to stare at her at an unknown depth.

Another butterfly escaped its cage to tickle her stomach.

"What?" she managed out, raising an eyebrow at him as she bit her tongue to control herself.

He shook his head and averted his gaze towards the shadowed outline of buildings.

"Nothing," he softly replied.

"So?" she pressed on. "What is it like?"

"You really want to know, don't you?"

"Well, yeah... I guess."

A sigh escaped his lips as he leaned back on his elbows. He looked different somehow, she noted. Logic told her it was because his Jounin vest was off, but there was something else different about him that nagged her curiosity. Her eyes looked at his figure whole, searching to find an answer as he looked ahead.

"Well," he began. "At first, you don't feel anything. As if life decided to skip you, and move on to the next person." She saw his eye glint in the remaining sunlight, reflecting a look of both nostalgia and sadness as he looked down. "You then open your eyes, realizing they were closed for a quarter of your life. Like walking out of a door, to then realize it's a window."

A moment paused before he briefly laughed and shook his head in disbelief.

What the hell am I saying? she saw him mouth to himself.

He turned to her and offered a sideways glance.

"I'm sorry, Sakura-chan," he apologized. "I can't explain it into words. This is one of those great mysteries of life you can only know from experience. From feeling," he added. Her brow was furrowed in both confusion and contemplation.

From feeling, her mind repeated. Perhaps he knew the answer to her condition. There were times when she almost feared it as a serious medical problem; wondering if she should call the surgeon, to crack her ribs and take the odd warmth growing in her chest. The burning that spread to her vocal chords at questionable moments, stealing her voice and leaving her speechless during conversations. It would singe her nerves afterward, tingling her fingertips and reddening her face as the warmth briskly touched her cheeks.

"Kakashi-sensei," she called out once more. She roughly brushed away the pink locks of hair that fell on her face, as the Konoha wind blew its final breath before summoning the black veil of stars to appear.

He laid himself on the grass, closing his eye and crossing his arms to the back of his head as support. "Hm?" he replied, assuring her that he was still listening.

As she watched him, she abruptly felt the symptoms of her sickness rise. Her mouth opened to utter the question, but nothing would come out. Her mind went over what to say at least a hundred times, yet she was wordless. In a desperate attempt to regain her voice, she clutched at her burning chest and swallowed her dry throat. His eye slightly opened to glance at her in question.

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"Y-yeah, I'm fine," she peeped out.

He continued to look at her, patiently waiting for her inquiries.

"L-lately, I've been having this weird pain in my chest. Well, I wouldn't call it pain, exactly," she explained. "More like a feeling... for the lack of better words." He saw her pink hair lightly tossle as she shook her head and muttered to herself.

"Any... Anyway," she continued. "I get lightheaded at strange moments, and my stomach begins to tie itself into knots. Occasionally, my voice goes out when I don't mean it to." She pasued for a moment before she frantically leaned towards him, eyes touched with a hint of panic. "I've been thinking it's some sort of disease or something, but I'm too scared to go to the doctor to--"

Her frenzy explaination was cut short with the sound of his laughter. His hands rose and covered his face, continuing to laugh in his palms. Not finding anything funny about the issue, she frowned and lightly slapped his shoulder.

"Kakashi-sensei, I'm serious!"

"I know, I know! Sorry."

He sat up after a while and patted her head the way he used to when she was twelve. She blushed, feeling like a naive child again; tentavely questioning the mysteries of the world and expecting an answer each time.

"Don't worry, it's not a disease," he confirmed with a smile. Her eyes lit up at the news, but then dimmed after a few seconds as more suspicions filled her mind.

"What is it then?" she asked, hugging her knees as she looked at the ground.

He was slightly taken aback at her seriousness about the issue. She quite honestly didn't know what was going on with herself, and he responded by laughing at her words. Biting the inside of his cheek to ebb down the pang of regret, he lifted her chin up with his index finger to face him.

"Hatsukoi," he merely said.

"Sure sounds like a disease to me," she bluntly stated, rolling her eyes. He took his hand away from her face and chuckled larconically.

"So, who's the lucky person?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"

"You know," he explained, pointing at her stomach. "The one who's been giving you the butterflies."

Her eyes widened. How did he know about the butterflies?

"Well, who is it?" He pressed on. "Sasuke-kun? Naruto-kun?" He leaned forward and covered the side of his mouth with one hand to whisper in her ear. "Or is it Lee-san?" he playfully asked.

She smirked.

"Sensei!" she exclaimed, nudging the side of his head and pushing him away. "He gives me gnats in my stomach, not butterflies!"

He grinned and cleared his throat, signaling that he was momentarily serious about the topic.

"This is a pretty important part of your life, Sakura-chan."

She frowned again. How does a disease become an important part of her life? Is it his way of saying she was slowly dying a painful death of some sort?

"Neji-san? Kiba-kun?" He rubbed his chin and thought, still trying to figure out who the person was. His eye looked back at her in question. "Are you sure it's not Sasuke-kun?"

She slapped a hand on her forehead and groaned. "Sensei, you of all people should know it's not him. I got over him like--"

"--two years ago. I know," he verified. "Just making sure."

She gave up the idea of romance and dreams of receiving her first kiss a long time ago; realizing that it was a waste of time to dwell on something that was nonexistent. After being painfully rejected at least a hundred times, she decided to throw the towel down. If she couldn't even catch the attention of a guy she'd risked her life taking care of in his weakest moments within the past couple of years, she might as well not bother trying at all. It had been five years since she was grouped with him, accompanying him through deadly missions and life and death situations. Yet, he still hasn't looked towards her direction. Not even a glance.

"Shikamaru? Shino?" his voice grabbed hold of her from a sea of thoughts. "Uhh..." he scratched the back of his head, running out of possibilities. Raising an eyebrow, he added, "Ch... Chouji, even? Or maybe--"

"It's you."

She watched as his smile slowly withered away.

"Sakura, if this is supposed to be a joke, it's not fu--"

"I'm not joking."

Time seemed to stop, clinging on to the eternity of silence as the stars hung overhead.

Finally, he decided to speak up.

"Haruno Sakura, you are my student. I am your teacher. What you're feeling is--"

"I know I'm your damn student, but what the hell does that have anything to do with what we're talking about?" she exploded. "You haven't even explained the symptoms I'm having!"

She still doesn't know what she's feeling, he thought to himself as he sighed in frustration.

He reluctantly rose and stood up, towering over her sitting figure. "Your symptoms are nothing more but emotions that need to be disregarded," he stated coldly, almost brutally. "It's too dangerous to hold on to."

He decided to leave afterwards, putting his hands in his pockets and turning around; briskly walking away at a fast pace. Even when he heard his name calling out to him, toned with the clear, questioning voice of a woman, he dared not turn around. It would be too much for him, sending him on the edge of a cliff with nothing but common sense and logical reasoning to hold on as support. A cold hand roughly grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop.

"Kakashi, please," she begged. He remained still, looking ahead to avoid seeing her eyes brim in liquid as it glowed a green facade in the night.

"What do you want?"

"I need to know," she bit down the tears. "I need to know what Hatsukoi means."

His heart stopped for a moment.
There was always a possibility they could be...

He abruptly halted his thoughts from continuing; shaking his head and shrugging off her grip from his arm as he headed home. Slightly turning his head, he answered over his shoulder.

"First love."