Author's Note: This was written for the fanfiction contest at Narutofanclub at deviantART. I might continue to write this fic, though it's a one-shot for now. Concrit and reviews are welcome. Also, spoilers for past chapter 238, if not more, so be warned.

And as a side note…wow, first fic submission in...almost 9 months. Well, then.

Blossoming

She silently closed the door to the room and walked over to the desk. From there, she slid out a slim black-covered notebook from the stack of papers and books.

There was no one else in the Fifth's office at the moment, save herself. It was the best time to look through the notes. At least, that was what she thought.

Leaning against the Godaime's desk, the young girl discreetly lifted the cover and started to read the scribbled writing. Taking in every detail very carefully, her eyebrows furrowed in concentration. She thought that she could have heard the slightest noise to avoid being startled there, but she did not notice the man that was standing behind her for a few minutes at all.

He tapped his foot once, which was enough to gain her attention. She spun around and backstepped, hand reaching to her side pouch, hair twirling about her face. But once she saw the person, her eyes lit up and she stopped.

"Kakashi-sensei!"

He arched an eyebrow. "Sakura? What are you doing?"

She glanced down at the notebook's pages again. "Research."

Kakashi walked up to where she stood and gently took the book from her, flipping it over to its cover and looking at the symbols engraved on it. "These are Tsunade's notes that she took herself, aren't they?"

She paused. "Yes…"

"What are you doing with them, when she's not here?"

"I'm studying," she simply replied.

"Oh? Does Tsunade-sama know that you go through her notes?"

She looked away. "If she really didn't want me to read them, she would have stopped me by now."

He flipped open the notebook again and rifled through the pages, quickly scanning through what Sakura had already read.

Information on Akatsuki. And…the Kyuubi.

'That explains it,' he thought, though he only said "Ah."

The young girl bowed her head ever so slightly, eyes lost within her sad thoughts.

Her former teacher smiled sadly. 'Things haven't changed, have they?' He closed the book. He walked towards her, but went right past her and to the window, where he stood with his hands in his pockets while gazing outside.

Sakura blinked for a moment. "Wh…What are you doing here, anyway?"

He leaned against the wall, looking lazy. "I was looking for Tsunade-sama to discuss a certain matter with her, but obviously, she wasn't here."

"…Oh."

They stood there like that for a few moments, with him staring out the window most of the time watching the tree branches swaying rhythmically in the breeze, while she looked down at her clasped hands, looking miserable.

Kakashi's view flicked to the corner of his eye and he observed her for a short while.

"It's been a long time, hasn't it," he murmured.

"I guess…"

'So much has changed in just six months,' he thought. When the two other members of his team went their own ways respectively, when Tsunade took Sakura under her own wing, he simply had no team left to teach or train.

He had not requested a new team, and they did not make him take one.

"Have you heard word from…either of them?" she asked tentatively, trying to indulge herself in false hopes.

"Well…" He noted the sudden change in her demeanor, her wide eyes lighting up ever so slightly and her mouth slightly agape in anticipation, and continued on carefully. "I've heard from people that have seen Naruto and Jiraiya in various places. He seems to be doing well."

Hints of nostalgia were in her smile.

"And…" He faltered. "Orochimaru has been keeping a low profile lately. We haven't heard anything about Sa-"

Her eyes immediately turned downcast, green orbs and irises clouding up.

"-suke."

She grasped her arms and held them against her chest, closing her eyes.

'The name's still taboo to her…'

"Sakura…"

And suddenly, she was all warm smiles and sunlight, making a sound of quiet, content laughter.

He stopped, confusion spreading on his face. "Hm?"

"It's nothing," she said. "Really."

And in that instant, realization hit him. She wasn't as old as she seemed.

"So…how have things been?" she asked.

He sighed and looked out the window again. "Without you three around, it means that I have a chance to go out on more missions."

"What missions have you been on lately?"

He watched the reflections in the glass. "A few S-rank ones. I've been out on one or two of them for this whole period of time, since I could never take you three on one."

"Oh." She seemed unsure for a moment. "Does…that mean that you never really liked being our Jounin team leader?"

His eye flicked back to her. "No."

"But you just said that… But look at how much trouble we've caused you now…" she said with a hard-to-identify tone in her voice.

"Did you think that I would have agreed to being a Jounin teacher had I not known the potential consequences of doing so?" He turned his head from the view of the scenery and looked straight into her eyes. "Sakura. I used to lead a team before. And…" his eyes started to glaze over in memory as he looked away. "Even then, when I was young and foolhardy, and even when I had the help of Yondaime and was under the instruction of him, I lost parts of my team, one by one." His expression hardened. "I knew what I would be getting into, when I decided to train the three of you."

He paused, and though she couldn't see his mouth, she could tell that he was smiling fondly. "Even now, I don't regret it." 'I should, but I don't.'

Her former sensei walked up to her and slipped the book into her hands. "I hope Tsunade is teaching you well."

For the first time in their conversation, her smile was pure, happy, genuine. "She is."

"I've heard that you're learning at a remarkable pace."

Her eyes held some kind of a fire in them, and her fierceness shone through her words; "Three years isn't a lot of time."

"They will come back, Sakura," he said as reassuringly as he could. "You'll see those boys again someday."

And then, her voice was suddenly like that of a petulant child's. "You…will you come and see me again? Because…I miss them. I miss us."

His voice said "Sure," though his eyes said a promise and an 'I do, too.'

'You will see them one day, whether it is for the better or worse,' he thought as he left.

---------------

'The one thing I regret…is not being able to see anything with this old eye of mine, not being able to foresee this tragedy…'

Outside, the wind stilled to a stop.