Edited: 3-21-05

A/N: Ok, word of caution though, this is a spur of the moment fic so it won't mention any of the storyline so far. Just think of this as a missing scene from one of their missions. Also, don't expect perfect grammar because I just want to get this story out as soon as possible so I didn't proofread it thoroughly. I just suddenly had this idea with SNOW (since it's almost Christmas and all) so I thought might as well break out of my hiatus with a oneshot story D

Hope you all like it!

Foot Prints
By Violet Karuto


Two pairs of footprints were seen leading into the forest. Sakura inspected them both. One was clumsy, walking in bold and irregular patterns as it seemed to make a beeline for the forest. This must be Naruto's, Sakura concluded to herself. The other, however, was the opposite. With the soft, almost nonexistent print, and neat foot-shape crease, it is doubtful that anyone else could walk so beautifully and confidently as if they had all the time in the world.

Ah, Sakura thought, of course Sasuke have his own qualities that attract her to him, and, can she believe it? Even Naruto have his own unique side that sometimes makes Sakura want to smile in spite of herself.

Occasionally, just occasionally, she would be jealous of them both, even Sasuke-kun, of their bond, their friendship, their goals in life. Where did that leave her? Behind. Like now, as she looks into the white forest and the footprints in the snow.

She can never compare to those two members of team 7. Naruto has his own charisma and determination that makes him stand out, and Sasuke is just….well….Sasuke. He doesn't have to be anything, just stand out there on the streets and the people would acknowledge him to be something great. Now, herself, on the other hand, is like a shadow of the team, a stepping stone for both of them, a temporary catalyst for an event to happen and then was thrown away and forgotten afterwards; an ephemeral dream.

She was like a sacrifi-. No, Sakura halted in mid step, enough wallowing in self pity, she told herself. Finally looking up to where she was going, she noticed that the snow had begun drifting again. Turning back, she saw her own footsteps in the snow leading to where she is currently. Funny thing is, her prints are like an exact definition of who she is. Small, dainty, fragile, and uncertain. Laughing bitterly to herself, she continued walking, knowing that she has to catch up.

Catch up! Ha! Here, Sakura can't help but let out a bark of laughter. All she has ever been doing in her life was catch up. Catch up to Ino, catch up to Sasuke, and now, catch up to Naruto even. Her footprints will always be halfway through theirs, always incomplete and unnoticeable.

Finally, unable to hear any sound whatsoever around her, Sakura dropped to her knees and lay, face up on the soft cold snow. Staring dazedly towards the drifting sky, she reached out her hands from her side to try and catch the elusive flakes. What does it take to catch something that keeps slipping away from your grasp? What does it take to finally catch up and reach the sky?

"Sakura?"

Blinking stupidly, Sakura realized that a head has come into her field of vision, blocking her view from the infinite sky. Staring curiously at her intruder, she noticed the ever famous mask and the mob of white hair. Half of the hitae had dipped unevenly onto his face to cover his sharigan eye. A thick scarf was wrapped loosely around his neck as his right eye stares steadily down at her.

"Yes, Kakashi-sensei?"

"Are you alright?"

Here, Sakura realized, that she is still lying in the snow and he is still staring down at her, seemingly ten feet tall. Feeling her back numbing from the biting snow, she slowly sat up and ran her hand through her hair to brush away some remaining snow. Smiling sheepishly towards her teacher, she stood up and brushed herself off before rewrapping her navy blue scarf around herself.

"Yes"

Throughout the whole process, Kakashi did nothing to help his student up but stood on the side looking bored with his hands thrust deep into the pockets. Sakura, noticing this, was secretly relieved that her sensei, at least, did not deem her fragile enough to haul her on her feet. The last thing she wanted right now was being thought as weak.

Seeing that his student is up and ready, he started to walk off towards the leading footsteps.

"We better hurry up, or we won't catch up"

Nodding absentmindedly, Sakura started to shuffle through the snow while staring curiously at her sensei's footsteps. Light, easy, and almost unpredictable at where the next landing will be. Ah, she thought, she had never noticed that third pair of footsteps. Was it there before?

"Sakura?"

Startled out of her reverie, Sakura stares at her teacher in surprise, forgetting that he was walking right in front of her. Watching the amazement on her face, Kakashi's eyes crinkled in a smile.

"You wouldn't think that I would just leave you here to catch up by yourself would you?"

Silence engulfed the scene as Sakura fought to answer by instinct. Of course, she would have said, Naruto and Sasuke were always your top priority, wouldn't seem right to change that rule now. Seeing through the thoughts of Sakura, Kakashi frowned to himself.

"You would" It was a comment, really, plain and simple.

Covering for her unguarded thoughts, Sakura ran up to walk beside her sensei while laughing to herself. "No, of course not." she lied, "I was just surprised, you see, I was thinking about something and wasn't really expecting an interruption" Trying to settle his doubt, Sakura smiled up at her sensei.

Kakashi didn't say anything as they continued to walk in comfortable silence. After a while, with no signs of Naruto or Sasuke, Kakashi stopped dead in the middle and grabbed Sakura before turning her around. Surprised, Sakura can only stare as her teacher kneeled on one knee and stared at eye level with her.

"You know that we would never leave you behind, right?" There was also a hint of desperation in the question, but it was lost on the befuddled girl.

"Of course" Sakura replied with practiced ease as she started to feel a foreboding emotion welling up at the pit of her stomach.

"But you don't believe that", Kakashi countered with a deadpan expression, watching as Sakura's emotions play across her face, from anger to sadness and finally to resignation.

"No," She answered tiredly, her mind a total mess, "no I don't." By now, Sakura had her eyes cast downwards, unable to look at her teacher's penetrating gaze. How can Kakashi-sensei see through her thoughts just like that? To her, Kakashi-sensei had always occupied a neutral zone in her mind, never too distant or too caring. This is the first time that he has took a step past the neutrality zone and into the compassion one, thus changing the whole equalibrium in Sakura's mind. This is a change that she had never anticipated. It was always the same, Sasuke, Naruto, and Kakashi-sensei on one side, and Sakura on the other. They had always been two separate entities and she has no intention to change it now.

Coming back into present time, Sakura is horrified to realize that she had actually admitted her ever so long dilemma just like that, to her teacher no less. Her mind must have been too lax to notice this crucial mistake. Frowning to herself, Sakura tried to free herself from Kakashi's hold as she could feel a strong thundering emotion trying to break through.

"Nevermind, Kakashi-sensei, pretend that I hadn't said that" No matter how hard she tries, she realized that Kakashi is not letting her go anytime soon. Frantically looking around, she finally met his eyes and was taken back by the intense and pained raw emotions dwelling in his one exposed eye. Feeling that her emotions are about to go into overload, she struggled harder against his hold and found herself pressed against his chest.

"Kakash-"

"Shh…" His hold was strong and warm and Sakura could feel herself stiffen in it. She has been independent for so long, it was uncomfortable to have someone suddenly hold you like this, "Just relax and let it go, I'm not going to leave you"

That word did her in. Unexpectedly, Sakura could feel herself tearing up as she buried her face into his warm scarf and her hands went around his neck as he lifted her up bridal style. Finally releasing her emotional barriers, Sakura let her tears flow freely and held onto Kakashi as if it was her last lifeline.

It was too much. Throughout her life, she has always been alone. Alone to do everything and trying to make herself at equal status with everyone else. She had never expected help or aid from anyone, even her parents. Kakashi, dear Kakashi-sensei, was the first person to actually look back and came searching for her for whatever reasons unknown. For that, she was eternally grateful and understood that this would be enough for now.

"Kakashi-sensei, y-you can put me down now, I can walk by myself"

Staring down at his red-eyed student, he smiled tenderly at her nervous expression and fought the urge to crush her to himself once again.

"No," he said as he looked towards the road ahead, "you have been walking by yourself long enough. It's time for someone to walk with you. Even for just a while, we'll get there somehow." With that, he looked back down at her and pecked her forehead with his lips through his mask.

Blushing prettily to herself, Sakura could hear him chuckle into the cold morning air as mists formed around his breath. Yes, she thought, it was time for change and, maybe, she would finally catch up with the rest of the world. But, she paused as she looked behind Kakashi, I don't have to do it alone this time.


Edited: 3-21-05