Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.
Hatake Kakashi was no longer. The man before her was only a scarecrow of that man she had known so long ago and he terrified her beyond all expectations. KakaSaku.
"You have it?"
The man nodded handing a shadow the scroll in his hands. In turn the shadowy figure knelt before another cloaked in red and said something in a foreign tongue before handing it to the other, more dominate figure. The man glimpsed the bottom half of the man in red's face; he saw his pleasant smile only for a moment.
"Not bad considering this was taken from Konoha. Perchance," the man in red asked off handedly, "did you happen to see my dear partner?" The messenger nodded. He'd seen his dear partner enough times in the past to ever forget the face.
"Yes," he answered with caution.
"And?" his employer promoted as if speaking to a child. He swallowed.
"What do you wish to know?"
Mouth twisting he spoke, "Everything." There was a pause before a second smile crept over his lips. "But first can you confirm the location."
"It is confirmed." The messenger replied.
"I thought as much...Did I not tell you, Zenhai?" the master exclaimed happily turning towards the shadow. The shadow replied in the same unfamiliar tongue. "You did a fine job," the man in red said turning back to him, "and you shall receive what is due to you in time, but there is one more thing I must ask."
The servant bowed lower. "Of course, anything you ask."
The man in red smiled and holding up the returned scroll in his hands, "Truly, my dear man, I thank you for the effort of bringing this back, but I need one more thing you see." He laughed. "I must admit I need my dear partner back, it is most essential for my plans."
He nodded in understanding and his employer clapped happily. "Now, tell me about this everything if you please."
Having been explained by the Hokage that she was on a mission during her hospitalization, saying they wanted to keep such things under wrap for safety purposes, Sakura was well aware of her circumstances and why none of her friends showed up with flowers and chocolates. Everyone excluding Kakashi that is, but Tsuande-sama waved off her question briefly saying that the Copy-nin had simply been in the area when it happened and witnessed the whole thing.
Sakura found that a little strange. Hatake Kakashi was never to be spotted anywhere near the hospital unless forced. Nonetheless, like a good pupil Sakura kept her mouth closed and decided it was best to keep that subject for a later date.
So currently, a whole two weeks later, Sakura was happily (or not so happily) helping Tsunade with her usual paper work. Really, the woman was a slave driver. This wasn't even her job.
Sakura huffed leaning her face into one hand as she ideally spun a pen between her fingers of the other. The document was about some mission or another that had almost been completed successfully, but, per usual, something or another happened and blah, blah, blah... She was supposed to give a summary to Tsuande, but this was her twentieth report to read in the past seven hours and she was tired. The words were merging together before her eyes and Sakura, in her infinite medical knowledge, knew that wasn't a good sign. It was a sign to call it a day.
Looking up at the clock Sakura smiled fleetingly. It was almost time, and just when she thought that a presence materialized in the open room where jounins and other such shinobi rested to write their reports, which she usually had to read after they did so. The presence didn't startle her in the least, it happened with such frequency now that she automatically knew who it was.
"Kakashi, how was your day?" A smile came to rest on her lips as she spoke his name. There was still an ebbing discomfort when he sat down at the desk across from her, but it wasn't as tangible as it used to be; nevertheless, it was a lingering presence.
She needed to stop thinking Kakashi was crazy, she really did, because to the visible eye he wasn't. In the time she spent with him, he'd been a perfect gentleman. Well, as far as he could be. Needless to say, he was considerate and didn't try to kill her or anything. Still there was that vision of insanity in her mind and it wouldn't let her go. It was that and that alone which reminded her to be cautious, but more and more nowadays she was finding that she no longer care about that.
He was with her and that was all that mattered, and it bothered her that she wasn't bothered by that ever growing feeling of complacency around him.
"Suitable. The weather was quite nice today." He said copying her position and leaning his cheek in to hand. "Yours?" his eyes moved down to regard her sizable stack of papers and scrolls.
"Don't tempt me," Sakura bit out warningly. He smiled warmly.
It was strange, Sakura thought going back to her paper work, how their relationship evolved from that incident in the hospital. He'd been her teacher and then her friend or sorts before he disappeared, and now...Now he was something more.
She never questioned his behavior at the hospital and he never questioned her reactions to them, but there was some sort of silent understanding between them concerning that time. He sometimes touched her cheeks and hands, but nothing more than that. He never tried to kiss her or hold her hands; they were simple touches. Sakura wasn't even sure what she felt about them. She was more unsure of why he touched her. It seemed at times he touched her just to touch. Other times his eye took on a strange hue that made her feel both uncomfortable yet needed, as if he were reaching out to see if she was indeed real.
If others noticed their increased time spent together they didn't comment. They were no longer teacher and student, but two grown adults. Naruto, though, as usual had been the only one to make any sort of comment, but he'd been quietly shut up by Sasuke remarking on something to make Naruto mad as hell. Sakura didn't quite remember what he said but was grateful nevertheless. She wouldn't have minded answering questions about her relationship with Kakashi, they didn't kept in secret in any way, but she was more or less silent on the subject because she wouldn't quite know how to answer any questions.
Were they a couple? Certainly not.
Were they friends? Of course.
Sakura sighed loudly gaining Kakashi's attention from his Icha Icha novel, "Something bothering you?"
Sakura shook her head. "Not really, just tired."
"Want me to walk you home?" he asked going back to his novel his voice light.
It seemed as though the copy-nin had made a habit of walking her to her apartment. It started just when she got out of the hospital and resumed her normal active duties. Tsuande didn't want her to go on missions again just yet for obvious reasons, but Sakura was beginning to feel the itch of boredom creeping into her muscles and nerves. She wanted a mission. Bad. She wasn't a combat medic for nothing. Yet she digressed. Kakashi had been coming to walk her home everyday from Tsuande office or the Reporting Room, a communal official space for report-writing shinobi, since she started. Not that she needed it, but she suspected that he liked her company for reasons unknown to her. She liked his company as well, but the nagging question of why he was so…attached, one could say, to her kept playing with her mind. What in the hell was that man thinking? Whoever said women were the more confusing sex was dead wrong and should be executed for spreading such false truths.
"You really don't have to do that," Sakura answered never staring up from her work. She did that for two reasons; one was because she wanted to finished, and the other was that sometimes his looks made her shiver. She didn't feel like shivering right now.
He was quite until, "I don't mind doing it."
His answer was so basic that Sakura was confused by it. Many things confused her about Kakashi. This sense of peace she felt with him was uneasy to say the least, but she craved for it nonetheless. It was like the sea before a storm. The warning bells had gone on for so long that they just became silent after a while leaving Sakura with an eerie serenity about her. Yet she was curious to see what would come, to see what he would bring. Yes she knew Kakashi wasn't normal; her instincts told her that much, but she didn't know what was different. That insanity she'd seen had come and gone leaving her nothing else to search for.
Slapping her last file closed Sakura closed her eyes and stretch letting out a mew-ish noise. Her eyes met Kakashi's when she opened them again and she noted that the man was staring at her strangely. Shaking her head and stood up.
"Care to meet me outside," she began, "I have to leave these things off in Tsunade's office." He nodded replacing his book in his jacket pocket.
"See you in a bit." And with that he left.
It only took Sakura a few minutes to put away her files and scrolls before she was outside standing by Kakashi, who held up his hand in greeting.
"Yo, it's been a while."
She smirked at his lame attempt at humor before linking her arm with his own. His returned the motion tightening his arm around hers. She liked it when it was just them. She couldn't explain why, but she did. She felt safe and needed and those were feelings she hadn't experienced a lot.
"Keep your day job, Kakashi. Stand up comedy just isn't for some people."
"I think I'm quite funny, Sakura."
Sakura lowered her head. "Sometimes, but you don't mean to be." He laughed lightly at her jab at him, but said nothing more. He really wasn't the one to carry on the conversations. That was her job. Not that he was completely quite all the time, but he was a man who talked when he wanted to speak or had something to say. He wasn't boring in the least like she used to think when she was younger. In fact, he had some amusing anecdotes at times, and even if they were impersonal Sakura was happy he was at least sharing some things about himself with her.
All in all, Sakura was happy with him. He always offered a new light on different subjects they talked about, and she loved to hear him speak. His voice was soothing and deep, masculine, and she loved listening to him at times though his speeches could hardly be called long.
Sakura sighed again looking up at the night sky. The village of Konoha, despite the darkness, was warmly lit. Sakura could hear the distant, quiet conversations of families, and the glow from windows and street lamps made her feel warm and a little intoxicated. The village had always struck her as quaint at night and quaint always gave her a cozy feeling.
"I miss Konoha when I go on long missions," she spoke suddenly, more to herself than Kakashi, but she knew he was listening. "I love it here, especially at night. I like looking at the lights from the Hokage Mountain during the winter when it's cold, too." Her face scrunched up. "During summer the village is nice to look at, but it's not as magical or as warm looking as it is in the fall and winter."
"What has been your longest mission away, Sakura?" He asked softly not wanting to disturb the peace she felt.
"That's classified information, Kakashi." She smiled looking at his raised eyebrow and shook her head. "It was six months, but seriously the rest is classified. Tsunade would kill me if I said anymore."
"She sent you gambling to pay off some of her debts, didn't she?" he asked.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "Well I didn't say anything, but it was a real mission despite that reason. Really, that woman needs help. I think she's jealous of me because I'm better at gambling than she is. I bet I could even bet you, Kakashi." Sakura said daringly looking into his one eye bravely.
His eyes closed in another smile. "Was that a challenge, Sakura?"
"Take it as you like." Sakura shrugged gliding closer to him.
Before she knew it they were in front of her apartment building and Sakura, like she always, was split between inviting him up for tea or coffee or just leaving him to do his own thing. And as if sensing her discomfort, Kakashi smiled.
"I'd better go now. Tsuande has a mission for me tomorrow."
"A mission. What mission?"
"That's classified, Sakura." She laughed a little, said goodnight and goodbye, but before she could turn her back and walk up the stairs Kakashi did something he never did before.
He kissed her.
It was fleeting, so much that it couldn't rightly be called a kiss. He had his mask on as well. Sakura tried to emphasize that point in her mind. She hadn't even had the time to look shocked before Kakashi smiled again and wished her a goodnight.
He took the whole episode in stride, complete and utterly confidant in his actions. If anything, Sakura thought, he must have meant it as a friendly action. He didn't make a fuss over it anyway. He didn't look into her eyes with a longing gaze, with love, or with any other such romantic silliness, but purely smiled and walked away.
Friendly. That's all it could have been.
Bending over her bathroom sink and looking into her mirror, Sakura tenderly touched her lips. When she pulled her fingers away she was smiling. Kakashi kissed her. It was so strange. The moment played on and on in her mind. It wasn't like she hadn't been kissed before, but this was Kakashi. This was different. She had never been kissed by an ex-sensei, a man who thrilled yet terrified her; a man who made her feel safe one moment and cautious the next. It wasn't a fiery or passionate kiss, their flesh hadn't even touched thanks to his mask, but it had been the most revolutionary kiss of her twenty-five years of life.
When she saw her reflection in the mirror, just one moment later, her smile was radiant.
"Oh, God," she whispered to no one but herself, a sinking feeling in her stomach, "I'm in trouble."
The following morning, Naruto greeted her with a wide cat shire grin. "Hey, Sakura-chan," he chanted.
The sun was painfully bright as it reflected into Sakura's eyes off the Hokage Tower. Having just woken up on thirty minutes prior, Sakura was still adjusting to being awake. She longed for the days when she was able to get up and not have to deal with adjusting too much to the new day. Naruto, though, didn't seem to have that problem as he stood there just smiling at nothing in particular. It was either because of his natural cheerful and energetic ways or he had got some last night. Thanks to Hinata. Whichever it was Sakura was envious.
"Mornin', Naruto." She looked around again and sighed. "What are you doing here so early? You usually don't come see Tsunade until noon."
Throwing his arms behind his head Naruto laughed. "Yeah, well I decided to get an early start today. Couldn't really sleep, ya know," he winked at this and Sakura rolled her eyes. At least that answered the question of why exactly he was so happy. "Hey, did you know that Kakashi had a mission today. He left about ten minutes ago."
Sakura nodded. "Yeah, he told me last night."
"I didn't think good ole' Tsuande was going to let him go anywhere for a while, but I guess I was wrong." Naruto continued following her up the stairs to Tsunade's office. Sakura stopped in her tracks.
"Why do you say that?"
Naruto peered up at her confused, child-like. "Well, it's like he's been gone a long time and no one knows where, ya know."
Sakura blinked once. Something filled in her, heavy and troubling. It reminded her of that time she stole money from her mother's purse a long, long time ago. Sakura swallowed. It was that same guilty feeling again. Naruto shook her shoulder. "Hey, are you alright, Sakura-chan?"
Immediately she smiled. "Yeah, of course, just a bit tired and I guess I can see your point, but Tsunade seems to accept whatever story he's told her."
Naruto this time was by her side as they strode down the hall. "Maybe he lied?"
Sakura shook her head. "I don't think he did. Tsuande may suck at gambling but she is very intuitive."
Naruto nodded sagely. "You got a point there, but still I want to go on a mission with Kakashi, you, and Sasuke."
"You know Sasuke can't leave Konoha, Naruto; he might never be able to again." Sakura said with a bitter taste in her mouth.
For Sasuke's past sins, and there were many, he was lucky enough to be accepted back into Fire. Though she didn't think he would ever be able to leave Konoha again unless with ANBU escorts, or unless Naruto became Hokage; maybe then things would change. Shaking her head, Sakura rid herself of those thoughts.
Naruto wisely changed the subject after that and they talked about other things until Tsunade yelled at them to come in.
"Naruto, Sakura, what are you two during here so early?" She sounded annoyed at best. Tsuande glowered at them as they entered the room, her red nails tapping the desk. Sakura was sorely tempted to say something back, but decided to hold her tongue. Naruto choose the opposite.
"You need to lay off the drinks, Tsunade-baasama," he laughed.
Tsunade stopping tapping her finger nails. The room became deadly silent. "What did you say?"
"I just said that you..."
Sakura cut Naruto off, holding his mouth shut as he trashed around. "He said that you look absolutely radiant today, Tsunade."
Tsunade gave her a quizzical, half amused look before stretching her arms out in front of her and glaring one last time at Naruto.
"I have your mission, Naruto," she began flipping through her files. Behind them Shizune entered with a stack of papers, gave a quick smile to both Sakura and Naruto, before dumping them on Tsunade's desk. The woman's look was priceless.
"You have to be kidding me, Shizune."
"Afraid not." she answered back lightly. "Looks like fun if you ask me."
Sakura groaned into her hands, dreading the tasks Tsunade would make her do. Didn't she do enough paper work yesterday? Tsunade, sensing her pupil's emotions, smiled.
"Sakura, don't worry, I'm making that Sasuke do some of the paper work today, since that good for nothing has nothing else to do." She smiled as Naruto and Sakura looked at her, surprised.
"B-But why?" Sakura asked confused. She usually did the paper work. Why did she sound so proud of that? Maybe she really did need some time off again.
"Naruto," Tsunade said ignoring Sakura, "take your mission file and go see Aberu. He'll explain your mission in full detail when your other team mates arrive."
Naruto crossed his arms at the dismal but wisely said nothing stupid and with a few loud words left the room, but not right before giving Sakura a thumbs up and one-eyed wink.
"Now, Sakura," Tsuande said turning towards her with shinning eyes, "as for your mission..."
From that moment onwards everything that Sakura ever knew to be true would disappear. And far in the future, when she was old and grey, kids would sometimes ask her if she could take back anything what would it be, and without fail she would always answer:
"I sometimes wish I never knew what happened to him."
And that was it.
A/N: Sorry for taking so long to write this chapter. I've been in major slump, still am, but I will try my best to get the next chapter out.