Attention: This story is no longer active aka no more updates! If that bothers you, then please don't read for you'll just be upset in the end.

Author's Note: Just a few things before you read. The story will differ from the manga and anime where I don't have Sasuke chasing after Orochimaru, nor does Naruto leave to go train with Jiraiya.

This takes place four years in the future, making them either sixteen or fifteen, and this will be a two arc story.

The first arc will be the romance arc, taking up a good chunk of the story, depicting how Sakura and Kakashi finally get together and come to terms with their relationship while also trying to keep it secret from their peers. Don't expect things to be too rushed between the two, as I can't imagine them suddenly waking up one day realizing they love one another. It might seem kind of plot-less till the second arc which will be the mission arc – changing both Kakashi and Sakura's lives completely. I can't say much else lest I spoil it for you.

It's PG to PG-13ish for now, but I'll probably need to up the rating later.

And one last thing. I have been informed that the beginning of my story resembles another so if you notice that it's purely coincidental – although its your choice whether to believe me or not O.o

And that's it for now. Enjoy!

Courage Needs You – Chapter 1

The room was graveyard silent, besides the subtle pen scratches that each stroke brought. Stacks of paper and a mountain of scrolls surrounded the Hokage, providing a makeshift hideaway that was definitely not by her own choice.

Another peaceful day, another day spent doing paperwork. Funny, she thought the paperwork would have receded considering missions were at a low the past couple of months. The most thrilling thing as of late was an escort mission ambushed by a group of moronic thugs who got their butts kicked three ways from Sunday.

It wasn't that she wanted trouble per se, but a little excitement was well overdue.

She stifled a yawn when a knock clomped against her door. Finally a distraction!

"Come in."

In came Kotetsu, holding a new stack of the current bane of her existence.

"This is the latest report concerning the Grass and Leaf border mission," he said, placing the folder atop the teetering stack of papers.

She sighed, eyeing the paper with an intense sense of disdain. If she had known this was in the job description, she would've given it a second thought – and a third, and maybe even a fourth.

"The mission went smoothly I take it?" she questioned, opening the folder and flipping through its pages with a mild interest.

"No injuries or casualties of any kind, Hokage-sama."

Not that she was expecting any; it was a simple information retrieval mission that consisted of a unit of three chuunins, after all.

"All right, thanks Kotetsu," she said by her way of dismissal. He gave a nod and 'poofed' from her office.

She skimmed the report, informing her that the rumors of disturbance along the Leaf and Grass border were simply that – just rumors. No evidence of any kind to suggest otherwise. Signing it, she put it in the section labeled 'Shizune', who would file it for her later.

Thank god for the person who thought up assistants and secretaries.

Up and down, down and up. Through her pink wisps of hair, Sakura peeked at Naruto and Sasuke, who were too busy glaring at each other to notice her gaze. Pursed lips and furrowed brows indicated that neither was even close to giving up any time soon. Unlike her, they were competing, giving them that extra adrenaline boost which would long outlast Sakura's weakening stamina.

She could feel her thin arms starting to shake; the slight ache in the beginning was now a full-fledged flame rippling through her muscles.

It was only ten more.

Up then down…

Her goal was so near.

Up and down…

So close, but…

Up – down…

Never close enough.

Up, down, up, down…

She started trembling, her whole body a wobbly mess. She briefly wondered if a Richter scale was getting readings before she collapsed against the soft grass with a groan; whether it was from exhaustion or defeat, she wasn't quite sure. Rolling onto her back, she felt beads of sweat tickling her skin before disappearing to dampen her cherry locks.

Staring lazily into the bright blue afternoon sky, she could see from her peripheral vision the continuous up and down motion of her two teammates. She sighed airily. They were both still going strong.

The requirement was two-hundred pushups in ten minutes, and she was still unable to complete it. It wasn't even as if she could come back and finish after resting since their sensei had integrated a time limit with their exercises. She lay there for a few more minutes in limbo, feeling neither happiness nor misery, while trying to block out her teammates and their apparent success.

Frowning and feeling disparaging, she hoisted herself up with unsteady arms before proceeding to her next task. She knew she wasn't as physically strong as Naruto or Sasuke, nor would she ever be, but sometimes it was so blatantly obvious that thoughts of resentment towards them and childish feelings of the world being unfair, filtered through her mind.

She knew her male counterparts would complete their four-hundred pushups in their ten minute time frame with ease, before dashing off to do their hundred laps within an hour limit, while she was only required to do fifty.

Honestly, she just wasn't made to do this kind of training. It reminded her of boot camp, or the like. She cursed her sensei, wishing he were here to suffer and endure this so-called 'stamina training' as well, even though she knew it probably wouldn't even cause him to break a sweat. She sighed enviously. How he managed to do one-thousand three-fingered pushups with her on his back, she had no idea but felt a new sense of pride knowing her sensei was indeed that strong.

Scanning the area, she knew he was probably in some nearby tree, reading his latest edition of Icha Icha Paradise while keeping a protective eye on them. He was the only person she knew who could successfully pounce at any moment while still being lethargic. It was a Kakashi thing, she supposed.

It was remarkable though, that in the last four years he hadn't changed a bit; still managing to be the same twisted and belated individual that she always knew him to be. In fact, not a whole lot had changed at all.

Even though they had all successfully made chuunin, they still trained under Kakashi with a mutual agreement. He had yet to pass any other genins. If it wasn't for the fact that she knew Kakashi was a morally righteous man, she might have thought he failed the other genins on purpose so the tie between all four of them wouldn't be broken. But he would never fail a potential ninja because of sentimental bonds. Hell, she wasn't sure if the man knew how to be sentimental in the first place.

Rounding her tenth lap she caught sight of Sasuke and Naruto zooming around the bend, making her realize she almost envied the blond. Without nisus and just being him, he managed to capture a lot of Sasuke's attention in these last years. Not in a romantic sense, but a brotherly bond (which both would quickly die before admitting). Through the bickering, insults, and bruises, they both silently enjoyed the competition and having each other to remind them the importance of training and being a ninja.

She was so lost in her wandering thoughts that she suddenly stumbled on the uneven ground, falling unceremoniously on a patch of dirt. How embarrassing for a chuunin to trip so easily, was the first thing she thought before filtering that information away to dwell on later. She lay there uncaringly, feeling the sting of a new cut being infected by the dirt underneath her.

Was it weird that she enjoyed the pain? She told herself she shouldn't, but telling herself repeatedly did nothing to convince herself of the truth. Laying there for a few more seconds, she decided it might seem awkward if the others saw her and languidly pulled herself up.

Is it always going to be like this? She thought dejectedly before a sudden 'poof' broke her from anymore musings.

"Oi Sakura, what's bothering you?" he asked in his no-nonsense manner which she had become familiar with over the years. She inwardly shrunk away while sighing at the same time. She really hadn't wanted him to see her fall like that – or at all.

Dusting herself off, she stared at her teacher who indolently leaned against a tree.

"Nothing Kaka-sensei," she said impassively. "I'm just a bit distracted – that's all."

A silver eyebrow rose up. "I see…"

Sore, hungry, frustrated, and now miserable, Sakura crossed her arms bitterly while blowing a few strands of hair from her face, allowing Kakashi to see the glare in her eyes. She knew he knew she was lying, it would be idiotic to think otherwise since he was one of the most perceptive people she knew, but honestly, she did not feel like explaining things to her teacher at this moment. She was simply not in the mood. Hopefully if he knew her as well as she thought he did, he would let it slide and let her continue on with the training that he ordered.

"Well," he pushed off the tree to stand in front of her, "since you do seem to be rather distracted today, I'll grant you early leave."

For a split second, relief washed over her that she was allowed escape from his hellish boot camp drills, but… as soon as that second passed a familiar tingle crept and spread through her chest like a rose vine, pricking and piercing its way through her system in an unending mess of swirls and curls. She cringed; she always experienced that tingle whenever she felt hurt.

It wasn't right – nor was it ever right when she felt like this, which seemed to be happening more frequently than was acceptable. She felt torn between anger and liberation, but felt more comfort and reasons to be angry than relieved. She was annoyed that he would even permit her to go in the first place, but she was even more livid that secretly inside it was what she wanted anyway.

This wasn'thow she was supposed to be. When did she lose her will and determination? When did her confidence slip away? And how dare he give her the option of leaving! It was…degrading. It would have been so much simpler if he ordered her to continue on with her training…then she wouldn't have had to feel these conflicting emotions. Glaring heatedly up at her teacher, who still towered over her despite her growth spurt, she tried to control her frustration directed at an undeserving and oblivious Kakashi.

"No, I'll continue and finish the training that you prescribed Kaka-sensei." She stepped around him to continue with her laps, but not before catching his furrowed brow. What he was furrowing at, she had no idea and forced herself not to dwell on it either. She could do this. She had to do it. She needed to prove to herself that she was better than this…better than what they thought of her.

Kakashi silently watched as his student continued jogging with short labored breaths. He had ordered this training exercise to help their endurance and stamina levels; albeit primitive it was still very affective.

Even though he had singled Sakura out to do half the exercise requirements compared to the boys, he could clearly see she was still having difficulties with it. Although she was a genius at GenJutsu, she still had a long way to go to prepare her body, and not just her Chakra skill anymore.

Maybe I should have asked less of her, he pondered, before glancing over his shoulder just in time to see Naruto and Sasuke whiz by, both of them neck to neck trying to outdo the other. He smiled.

With a soft thud, Sakura collapsed against her bed; her whole body feeling entirely numb and feeble. Worming her way further into the soft cotton fabric, she let herself indulge in the simple pleasure of lying down. She only wished her mind could have gone numb from today's training as well.

She had managed to accomplish 476/500 sit-ups, 195/200 pushups, and 41/50 laps, each within their own time frame. She had failed all her requirements while her two teammates surpassed theirs with flying colours. Oh well, she thought, heaving a sigh. It wasn't like Kakashi was paying attention to her training anyway.

Sighing, she took note that she was doing that quite a lot lately before a loud gurgling grumble erupted. That's right; she had missed lunch today with her only nutrition being that of a granola bar she had snatched in the morning before dashing off to 'their' meeting place. Without even needing to look through her curtains, she could see the bright reds and oranges peeking through, indicating it was indeed evening already.

Rolling over in fetal position and squeezing her eyes shut, she tried to let sleep overtake her, but the grumbling and tightening in her abdomen wouldn't have any of it. Lying for a few more minutes, in a miserably lazy state, she knew the knot in her stomach would not leave and thus, she was forced to crawl out of bed.

Sauntering into the kitchen, she was met with only empty cupboards and a deserted refrigerator.

With her mind continuously sidetracked, she had forgotten that she needed to grocery shop today since both her parents were away on missions, again, and wouldn't be returning for another week. She silently shook her head. To simply forget was not in her nature.

Alone again eh, Sakura?

Pitying herself seemed to be a new habit she had acquired over her teenage years also.

In actuality, she knew she should have adapted to her parents life style long ago, but she could never seem to find comfort in being by herself. The people who enjoyed their solitude and seclusion, much like Sasuke, she could never understand. The world is filled with so much suffering; one shouldn't have to feel the anguish of being lonesome as well.

Not having the patience or energy to go shopping, she decided it was easiest to go into town and eat at the nearest ramen shop. Shopping could be worried about tomorrow, amongst other things.

Slipping her blue sandals back on, she trudged into town with anything but enthusiasm. She reminded herself that laundry was also at the top of list of things to do. She was meaning to do it today, just like her grocery shopping, but also like that it slipped her mind. Today's outfit had been the last clean one and she sulked knowing she would have to improvise tomorrow.

The ten minute walk went by slowly as she finally arrived at the shop. She could see a few blobs which she deciphered as people through tired eyes who were eating quietly and peacefully.

Paying them no heed, she slumped down on the nearest available stool and ordered her shoyu ramen with a tanmen topping.

"Well isn't this a surprise."

Pivoting to the right, she saw his right eye curved, the only sign of him smiling. How she had missed the large halo of silver hair to begin with, she wasn't quite sure.

"Oh sensei, I didn't see you there," she said voicing her thoughts. She was not the only one who found that fact unordinary. He brushed it off though, thinking and knowing she was still exhausted.

"I've never seen you here before," he said, voice betraying nothing even though he was curious inside. He watched her eye his empty ramen bowl, before turning tired, almost half-lidded dewy green eyes in his direction.

"I forgot to go to the market today."

She seemed almost dejected at the fact that she had forgotten something, Kakashi observed, forcing himself to hold in his grin and bite his tongue unless he remind the girl that yes, she was indeed human and humans made mistakes and forgot things all the time. Things which she would in turn scoff at, as if saying 'ya, maybe you buddy, but I'm better than that'

"So I take it you come here often?" she asked behind a stifled yawn, and in his usual smooth monotone voice he replied:

"I live five minutes from here," he said, ambiguous as always.

"Really?" Sakura couldn't help as her eyebrows arched. Even though she had known Kakashi for four years and saw him almost everyday, she had no idea where he lived, so the news was shocking yet thrilling at the same time. She had almost expected to hear him live in the woods isolated by himself miles and miles away, considering how late he always was when it came to their meeting place…now she knew how idiotic that notion was. Kakashi was simply Kakashi, and would never be punctual, no matter how close the destination was.

Her train of thought ended as a hot bowl of ramen was placed neatly in front of her. She even forgot her sensei was beside her, as she twirled the noodles around and around the chopsticks in a state of reverie. For some reason, she could never find enthusiasm to eat. Only the logical and intellectual part of her allowed her to keep herself sustained.

Keeping quiet, Kakashi noted she still had her dirty red top and black shorts on from earlier. Her knee was still scratched up and muddy from when she fell, and her hair was nothing less than disheveled. In all honest truth – she looked anything but dignified.

He continued to stare at her openly, but with his usual steely gaze. He needn't to bother trying to be subtle for she was in such a state of oblivion that she seemed to block out everything but her bowl of ramen.

He knew she was just extremely weary at the moment, and the numb, weak feeling she felt right now would probably be replaced by aches and stiffness when she woke up. He had a pretty good idea she would be far from happy tomorrow, but then, she should've been used to such conditions anyway.

But, besides the obvious, something just wasn't quite…right. Dark charcoal eyes scanned her over in contemplation, morphing into suspicion.

She was usually a well kept girl, who cared about her appearance as much as the next. The Sakura who sat next to him, shoveling noodles into her mouth with lacking energy, was not the Sakura he had known these last few years.

The differences weren't large or copious, but small faint characteristics that she seemed to have accumulated over the months. The average person would have never noticed, and he wasn't sure if it was because the changes were too small and insignificant to spot, or because she was too ingenious to make it noticeable. Nevertheless, he found his stomach turning and knotting in atypical discomfort. Maybe one of these days he should show up on time for the girl…

He watched her give a soft satisfied smile as she lay her money on the table before standing on wobbly legs.

"I'll walk you home."

Sakura started at his voice, her mind still muddled and foggy from fatigue. How could she have forgotten he was there? Shaking her thoughts away, she gave a tired smile in his direction, relieved when he didn't comment on her distracted deportment.

"Thanks, sensei."

She figured it took less energy to comply than to argue, and a small part of her also felt content that she would have company - even if it was only for a few minutes. The ten minute walk was uneventful and for the most part silent. The sun had completely hidden itself and the moon was starting to illuminate the sky in its steed. This time she did not let herself forget Kakashi's presence and achieved that by glancing at him as discretely as possible. If he was aware of her occasional staring, he didn't let it show as he continued with his long strides, slouched walk, and pocketed hands.

Sakura freely yawned and ran a hand through her hair, or at least tried to as it got snagged in numerous knots. She let out a frustrated sigh and glanced at Kakashi one more time, in what she hoped was an inconspicuous manner.

What was inconspicuous to most was only blindingly obvious to the Copy-nin, as he silently wondered why she kept peeking at him through her cherry tangled locks. Fortunately for her his interest wasn't strong enough for him to voice his question. He was surprised she still seemed to find her way home in her hazy state.

She frowned as her house came to view. It was dark and uninviting, making her want to walk away.

"Thanks again for walking me home Kaka-sensei," she said, honestly feeling appreciative. She gave him a smile, one that didn't quite reach her eyes then paused.

"Well…I guess I'll see you tomorrow then," she continued as she walked up to her front door. Kakashi gave a nod in acknowledgement. Just as she was about to close her door, she heard him call out.

"Oh and Sakura," he paused till she opened up her door again. "You still owe me twenty-four sit-ups, five pushups, and nine laps," he grinned, before disappearing in a flash. She was right – he was just too damn perceptive for her liking.