A/N: To be completely honest, I'm not sure exactly what to call this. It started out as a collection of drabbles, then a collection of one-shots, and finally I just strung them all together and called it a story. . . or something like that. Constructive criticism is always appreciated, but be nice. ;-)
The inside of the club was dark and sweaty and pulsing with the collective energy of the crowd's alcohol buzz. Sakura was faintly aware that she would be hearing the music pounding in her dreams tonight, and probably for half the morning in the form of a killer migraine.
'Look underneath the underneath.'
Even now, she would never be able to forget that particular maxim. It was one of the many things her sensei had imparted to Team 7, and of all of his advice, perhaps the most useful.
Whenever she was challenged, Sakura remembered Kakashi's words. Look underneath the underneath. It was her chief encouragement in the face of trouble at the hospital, and always put her on her guard during missions and combat with enemy shinobi. Look underneath the underneath. The saying was especially helpful when facing the greatest mystery of all: Hatake Kakashi himself.
He had a tribe of fangirls, which perpetually surprised Sakura. Her perverted old teacher had fangirls? She was prepared to admit that the mask really was sexy, and Kakashi possibly the hottest jounin of his generation. Or any generation, for that matter. But fangirls? Now that she gave it some thought, it was a miracle the man was still single.
And then again, it was also a miracle the man was still alive. Kakashi liked booze. He liked bars late at night and enemies and toying with danger. Of course, Sakura was well aware that most shinobi liked the same things. They were, in that way, utterly predictable. But everyone else had someone to look after them; to make sure they didn't drink too much alcohol or pass out in a club or sleep with more people in one night than they were acquainted with by day. In all of the bar-hopping madness, Kakashi stood alone. Off to the side, quietly observing his fellow ninja make fools of themselves as he nonchalantly tossed back his liquor. Sakura had seen it before, and she was seeing it now.
His hair gleamed in the laser-tag lighting of the club; the pink-haired girl was sure that her's was reacting similarly. Perhaps the most conspicuous aspect of his appearance was the absence of Icha Icha; in its stead was a tall alcoholic beverage that he was sipping as steadily as rain water. By this point, Sakura was certain that he was more than a little drunk, and equally certain that she was in the same state of wine-induced sexuality.
She knew, because she had been watching. From her seat on the barstool, she also noticed that she wasn't the only one studying the copy-nin; and of course there were those observing her as well. It was not unexpected, or even unwelcome. Wherever the two went, people stared. Sometimes it was about their hair. Mostly it was about their bodies.
Kakashi's attraction was like a hurricane, or a tornado. Elusive most of the time, hitting you with rain when what you wanted was thunder. And like any storm, he had a crowd of followers who dedicated their lives to tracking his movements, and in the end were only half-successful in predicting where he would strike next. And rarely prepared when it actually happened.
Sakura, on the other hand, was more like a flame. When in her presence, the other sex was immediately attracted to her like moths. The glow of a conquest yet to come was bright in their eyes and thrummed through their veins like liquid gold. She was a novelty, a risk. She paraded around confidently even though she could hardly control them and certainly not herself. When the time came for the men to take that final plunge, they found that they could not do it. It was safer to watch, safer to beat around the bush and make promises they wouldn't dream of keeping. Even moths knew on some intrinsic level that playing with fire was not wise.
She was relatively untouched by any man. She was inextinguishable. And she was tired of waiting.
Sakura stood, drink in hand, and began to make her way over to the copy-nin's hidey-hole. It was a small corner, a place where he was hidden from most people's view and of course could see the entire building perfectly. Kakashi watched as she stalked single-mindedly through the dance floor, avoiding the limbs that flung themselves about, seemingly unattached to bodies, and the hips grinding to the tune of one-night-stand sex appeal. They both knew she was coming to (for?) him, and neither knew quite what to do about it.
In the end, they did nothing. As if a magnetic force was pulling her there, Sakura swam doggedly towards him through the sea of people. Kakashi let her come, swallowing his drink with all the methodic familiarity of a banker when dealing with money, or a sculptor with clay. He was, admittedly, curious. And hardly drunk at all. Really.
"I've been worried about you, sensei," she announced as she sidled up to his slouching form. It was quieter in this corner, almost secluded, and they didn't have to shout to be heard. The copy-nin took a long sip before acknowledging her presence with a small nod.
"Is that why you've been staring at me all night?"
"I haven't been staring at you!" Sakura cried, aghast. "I've been trying to make sure you don't drink yourself to death. You should be grateful, you ass."
The lights flashing sporadically through the club's darkness made it hard to tell, but Sakura was pretty sure that he was smiling. "Is that so? I'm sorry, I thought I'd outgrown the need for a baby-sitter."
Sakura opted to finger his jaw line rather than dignifying that with a response. The mask was soft to the touch, sleek and satiny. It occurred to her that she had never touched it before, even though. . . Kakashi was looking pointedly off in another direction, his eye scanning the mass of dancing bodies for a familiar figure. His stance was relaxed, lazy, almost as if he had been expecting this.
"You know, sensei," Sakura murmured next to his ear, "I don't think it would even matter if you ever showed me your face."
The great copy-nin stiffened, then immediately regain composure. After a casual sip of his drink, Kakashi voiced calmly, "And why is that?"
Sakura smirked, and removed her hand from the jut of his chin.
When in doubt, change the subject. "I haven't seen you in a while. . . I've been missing Team 7 a lot lately."
She wasn't the only one. For the first time that night, Kakashi's single eye stopped roving through the crowd. He turned his head slowly, and allowed their eyes to meet. How long had it been since he'd really looked at her? Had he ever?
Sakura refused to look away. It was heady, having a man stare at you and look like he continue for eternity and never have enough. Moth to flame. Moth to flame. He should be careful not to get burnt.
Kakashi also refused to look away. It was gratifying, knowing that a woman was content to peer into his black orb and feel safety. Eye of the storm. Eye of the storm. She should make sure that she didn't wander out of it.
Around them, the crowd was growing, expanding, a living organism. Bodies pushed and pulled, beginning to overflow into their little corner. A particularly large man jolted into Sakura, effectively tearing her eyes away from her former sensei and causing her to lose her balance. Kakashi steadied the teetering kunoichi by grabbing her by the elbow and pulling her into his chest.
Sakura looked up, green eyes wide with surprise, and Kakashi couldn't help himself. "Do you want to go for coffee?"
A/N: This is sort of an apology fic to those who've reviewed Like a Stone, because I haven't updated it in. . . what, two months? Anyway, in its entirety, this piece is dedicated to: The Magical Whatever, CloeyMarie, Zenna, Arianna-san, Silent Kunoichi a.k.a. Fiona, warmfuzzies, moodiful819, and Dolphingirl32173. I am immensely grateful for the reviews. And also, I've already written the next chapter for this (as well as the third and fourth chapters) so you don't have to worry about the update being late. :-)