Disclaimer: See first chapter.
AN: Um, so yes, just a couple of things. Firstly, I did change my penname. When you're dealing with me, you're dealing with an indecisive person, baby! Secondly, I apologize for the wait, but my beta and I had to make sure this chapter was perfect for you guys (or relatively perfect, lol). Thirdly, I promise that the Kakasaku action will begin to snowball from here on out.
As always, thanks to my "superbly fantastic-ness" beta, Harrison J. Pecans. (Couldn't resist, I'm sort of hooked on 'Coupling'.)
Kakashi blinked at her. Those were probably the words he least expected to hear coming out of her mouth, seeing as she had taken flight the other day when he brought it up.
"Talk, huh?" he said after a moment. There was a long pause in which neither of them moved, only stared at each other in silence as if daring the other to speak. Finally, Kakashi sighed and slipped his book back into his hip pouch. He'd been expecting to have this talk with Sakura. In fact, he had prepared an explanation the other day when he purposely "bumped into her" at the sweet shop.
He didn't like sweets. Well, he didn't mind strawberry uiro, but that was probably the only thing he could tolerate without feeling excessively sick. That day, he'd been mulling over how best to explain what happened during his exam without being redundant and awkward, and just when he thought he had figured it out – "Sakura, as you know, you're not a young girl anymore…" – she ran away from him before he could get a word in.
If Sakura had known that he didn't like sweets, she probably would have suspected that he had ulterior motives upon entering the sweet shop in the first place. People who don't like sweets don't buy them. Fortunately for him, she didn't know that – and that gave him a plausible excuse for being there so that he could talk to her about his medical mishap. After all he was the adult in this situation.
Well, Sakura was an adult now too, actually…
She certainly doesn't have a child's body anymore.
He sighed. That was exactly the kind of thinking that got him into this situation in the first place.
Now it seemed he was getting his big chance to explain himself, but he couldn't remember what exactly he had been planning to say now. "Sakura, you know you're not a young girl anymore…" And? "…and as such, sometimes the male subconscious develops these fantasies, you see…" Oh, but that sounded like he was admitting to having fantasies about her. Maybe he'd better reword that…
Sakura stared at Kakashi as he stood beside her. Of course, the first thing anyone noticed about Kakashi besides his hair and his mask was probably his height. He was remarkably tall, and Sakura noticed just now that his posture was very slightly slouched. His eye looked unfocused, like he was deep in thought about something – or he might faint. Either one.
"So anyway," she said tensely, clearing her throat. "Maybe you should sit."
Kakashi's eye suddenly refocused itself on her face for a brief second before he quickly looked away at something off in the distance and stuffed his hands in his pockets. "Ah, I think I'll stand," he said lightly. "Sitting on the ground isn't so good for my aging joints, you know. I have a difficult time getting back up."
Sakura snorted and looked him up and down skeptically. "Right. I can tell you've been suffering from aching joints for years, sensei."
Kakashi hummed tunelessly to himself. "Ever since I was twenty," he replied, his eye crinkling in a smile.
Sakura sighed and allowed a small grin to play at her lips. "You know, I really think you should sit down," she said quietly. "This is probably not going to be a short talk. You'd better make yourself comfortable."
Kakashi looked mildly surprised. He wasn't sure how talking about an erection during a medical exam was supposed to take a long time. He figured it would go something like, "Hey, so you know it's just what happens to men sometimes, don't you, Sakura?" She would nod understandingly and sympathetically at this and say, "Oh, yes, sensei, I'm a medic. I know all about erections." He would go on, "And you understand that sometimes when a pretty girl touches a man there, even if it's just for a medical exam, sometimes it will come to attention, right?" She would continue nodding, "Of course, sensei," she would say. "But I'm not a girl anymore, I'm a woman. Please, let me show you…" And then Sakura would slowly unbutton –
Kakashi suddenly swallowed hard and looked sharply to the girl sitting on the ground near him. He had not been expecting that scenario to turn into something x-rated. It wasn't exactly a bad thing, he supposed. After all, she was blossoming quite well… but the fact that she was sitting right there made him feel especially guilty.
Sakura mistook his sudden rigid posture as a silent refusal to sit down. Maybe he didn't like the grass tickling him, she thought wryly. "Anyway," she said. She figured it was better just to get everything out of the way now, or this conversation would go nowhere. "Um… it is okay for me to talk to you about this, right? I mean, if it's not okay, I can go talk to Naruto or something… although I'm not sure how much help he would be… but you just seem like the best person to talk to about this…"
Kakashi's eye widened as she babbled on. "Talk to Naruto…?" he echoed. He didn't think she would actually discuss this sensitive matter with such an insensitive brute – and wasn't she bound by the medical privacy act anyway? "Er… isn't that… private information?" he asked worriedly, giving her an apprehensive look.
She knit her brows, looking confused. "Private? But everyone knows about it… I mean, it was never really a secret in the first place…"
Kakashi's heart nearly skipped a beat. "Uh… what?"
Sakura concluded that they were not on the same wavelength. "Well, yes," she continued. "Everybody knows that Ino drinks heavily… but… what were you talking about?"
He didn't need to say anything, he just sent her a darkly significant look – but even that was unnecessary. As soon as she asked the question, her eyes widened in realization and a berry pink blush stained her cheeks. "Oh, that," she murmured, looking embarrassed.
"Yes," he replied. "That."
"I don't really want to talk about that right now."
"I thought that's what we were going to talk about. I didn't realize you had other pressing issues."
Sakura's eyes widened. "Pressing?"
Both of them looked at each other awkwardly. "I didn't mean to say it like that… perhaps I should rephrase," Kakashi grunted after a moment of contemplation. "I didn't realize you had other things on your mind."
Kakashi was beginning to look a bit annoyed. "Now you're just being ridiculous," he mumbled.
Sakura's mouth gaped open like she was a fish out of water. "What? I'm not being ridiculous!" she protested. "I can't help it! You keep saying things like you mean something else! It's not my fault what you say can be easily misconstrued…"
"That, and you're young," Kakashi supplied. "Of course your mind would jump to something inappropriate. Raging hormones, you know."
Sakura ignored the 'raging hormones' part and grinned triumphantly. "Exactly. So it's not my fault, really."
"Then again," Kakashi said quietly, looking away and shifting his weight on the balls of his feet. "You're not that young anymore…"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Kakashi took a while returning her gaze. When he finally did, he spoke at the same time. "I'm just saying… that the reason I got a – well, you know – at the hospital… it was because – "
Sakura looked very uncomfortable, and shrank back almost defensively. "I know," she said quickly, interrupting him. "Those kinds of things happen. It's not the first time it's happened, so you don't have to explain…"
"Oh?" He looked genuinely surprised to hear this. "I didn't know that… I thought…"
He thought he'd traumatized her for life, that's what he thought. She had acted so embarrassed, so flustered, like she'd never dealt with that kind of situation before. Of course, he mistakenly assumed…
She sighed tiredly at him, shaking her head. "You're only human, just like every other male in Konoha," she said.
Even though this was true, she felt odd saying it – almost like she was a dirty liar. When she was younger, Kakashi always seemed mechanical, incapable of defeat and unsusceptible to human weaknesses like silly emotions. Even on those rare occasions he was beaten and hospitalized, she never thought of him as a person. That was probably the main reason she was so uncomfortable with his accidental erection the other day. Emotionally detached teachers do not get aroused when a former student is touching them there. That was a given.
Kakashi seemed to relax a little bit, and he gave her a wary look. "Sometimes I forget how mature you can be… at times," he admitted. As an afterthought, he added, "You know, when you're not running away."
Sakura opened and closed her mouth a few times in shock, and Kakashi saw her becoming slowly infuriated. "I… Kakashi-sensei, I didn't want – you can't expect me to… honestly…"
"Yes, that's exactly what I thought," Kakashi replied dryly, smirking behind his mask.
She glowered at him. "Well, what did you expect me to do?" she asked haughtily, crossing her arms.
He shrugged. "Oh, I don't know… talked to me, maybe? Resolved our issues?"
"I don't need to!"
Kakashi's eye glinted in amusement. "Right," he said. "Because we've clearly resolved our issues about my – thing."
Sakura continued to glare at him, looking irritated. "You mean erection?" she snapped. "Why can't you say erection?"
"I'm no medic-nin," he replied airily. "I've no idea what all this medical nonsense means."
She sighed. "But… everyone knows what an erection is," she reasoned. "You know what it is. I mean, you couldn't have been so oblivious that the first time it happened to you that – uh… you…" She trailed off, looking increasingly embarrassed. When he raised en eyebrow curiously, she blushed harder and looked away. "Never mind," she mumbled. "I'm not even going there…"
Kakashi shrugged. "Suit yourself. But you're missing out, Sakura. My pubescent years were just full of – "
She groaned. "Please, don't say e– "
"…exciting stories and adventures?" he finished, shrugging. "Okay."
Sakura grumbled something under her breath that Kakashi didn't catch, and he decided it probably wasn't that important anyway so he didn't press the issue. A slight breeze blew through Konoha at that moment, rustling the big cherry blossom tree they were under. Petals floated to the ground, twirling; Sakura thought they looked like small ballerinas, dancing on the wind. Kakashi noticed that the brilliant pink matched Sakura's hair. Some of the crumpled up origami paper tumbled away with the wind. Neither of them made a move to collect the failed art projects.
"Kakashi-sensei," Sakura said, frowning after a moment of silence passed. "When you were my age… what did you do when you thought you and a friend were growing apart?"
Kakashi looked at her for a moment. Sakura looked so sad; she was looking at her hands in her lap, examining them half-heartedly with furrowed brows and worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. Watching her, he felt a pang of sympathy. Even though they were no longer part of the same team, she, like Sasuke and Naruto, was still a part of him that he couldn't replace.
She could literally feel her heartbeat in her chest as the seconds ticked by. There, I said it. I'm discussing my problems about Ino. Starting to talk about it, though, brought no comfort. As the silence grew between them, marred only by the occasional chirp of a songbird, Sakura became increasingly uncomfortable and started to fidget.
"When I was your age," Kakashi said all of a sudden. "I didn't have any friends left in Konoha."
Sakura snapped her gaze up to meet his, but his expression was not one of sad reminiscence like she expected. He looked like he didn't really care; like the statement was just a fact, nothing more. Just as she was about to ask him what happened to his friends, he pulled a hand out of his pocket and rubbed his neck idly. "This is about Ino, isn't it?" he asked.
As usual, Kakashi was right. She nodded. "I just needed someone to talk to…" she explained, a mild hint of desperation evident in her voice. "I don't know what to do anymore. Ino stresses me out a lot… When I'm not at the hospital, I'm always out at a bar with her, because that's all she ever does – drink, drink, and drink some more! And she always gets completely hammered… I worry about her. Worrying about her keeps me up at night, Kakashi-sensei! And just when I think I might be able to get a decent amount of sleep, I worry about something else – the hospital, patients, Naruto, Sasuke… and then I can't get to sleep."
Kakashi nodded, noting that he didn't make it onto that list. "Have you tried telling her you don't want to go out?"
Sakura gave him a sharp look. "Ino doesn't know the meaning of the word 'no'. To her, yes means 'yes' and no means 'just kidding, of course I'll get drunk with you'."
"Hmm. I see."
Sakura stared at him. "…You see?" she echoed lamely. "That's it?"
"Ah, well, I'm afraid I don't have much experience dealing with this kind of thing…" Kakashi looked almost sheepish.
She frowned. "Obviously. Maybe I should have gone to Naruto… but he's not much better…"
"You know, maybe it's a good thing you've started origami," he pointed out, gesturing vaguely to the papers that were held down by a rock. "Focusing on something like that, instead of Ino or your work, might actually help you relax."
Sakura looked down at her origami materials and sighed, leaning down to study her book. "Yeah, I guess… but I get so frustrated when it doesn't turn out right." She looked back up at him. "It just stresses me out even more."
"It's not hard," he said somewhat cheerfully.
She shot him a withering look. "Yes, but you're a genius. It probably took you ten minutes to learn how to fold a paper crane."
"Seven," he corrected. "And I'm flattered. But really… it's not that difficult."
"You made it look so easy the other day."
"I learned how to fold a crane when I was a kid. I think I must have been nine. So, obviously, I've had years to practice my technique."
Sakura smiled. "Nine? Was it a stress reliever for you too?" she asked jokingly. She guessed it probably wasn't – what did a nine year old get stressed about? (Mind you, he was a child prodigy in a ninja village, but even so.) She figured it was probably an arts and crafts project.
"Not really," he responded, looking a little reminiscent. "I was folding them for my mother."
Sakura gaped at him for a moment, surprised to hear him mention anything about his family. She didn't know very much about him, and she certainly didn't think that she would be the one he would talk to about his parents. She was about to say something when he spoke rather abruptly.
"If you'd like, I can teach you how to fold a crane."
"Er – actually, that would be nice," she said honestly. Trying to do it on her own and failing repeatedly was beginning to get annoying. A little instruction here and there would come in handy.
He chuckled. "I still have that book I wanted to lend you. You left it at the bar last night."
"In any case," he continued. "Since the book was my payment, I guess that means that you now owe – "
"What?" Sakura interrupted, narrowing her eyes. "I didn't agree to that in the first place – Ino did."
Kakashi mulled this over in his head. "Fine," he replied. "Then consider my origami lessons payment."
She scoffed. "Not full payment."
An idea popped into her head. "Tell me about your mother," Sakura demanded suddenly. "Then we'll be even."
There was a long pause as Kakashi stared at her almost suspiciously. Then, with a lazy shrug of his shoulders, he said, "Well, I'm sure I've got some ryo stashed in my apartment, so I can pay you back the rest…"
She wondered why he was so reluctant to talk about his mother. He was the one who mentioned her, after all. Most people didn't just bring something up on a whim. Usually, if somebody brought something up, you could be pretty sure that they were secretly hoping to discuss it. At least that's what Sakura had concluded after years of conversations with various people in the village. Apparently, though, Kakashi was the only person who brought up facts at random without the desire to discuss or elaborate. He was probably just weird – and that really came as no surprise.
Sakura wasn't going to force him to tell her about his mother. It really wasn't any of her business; she was merely curious. Finding out that Kakashi had a mother was another of those 'Kakashi-is-human?' moments that had to be verified, almost. Like if she didn't prolong the moment, she would start doubting that it had actually happened.
But maybe, with careful and gradual encouragement, he would begin to talk about his mother.
"Well, shall we?" Kakashi said suddenly, pulling her from her reverie. She blinked at him.
"Shall we what?"
"Well, I'm not about to go home, get that book, and come back here only to make a return trip later on," he explained with a dismissive wave of his hand. "It's too much walking for one day."
"Oh." Sakura started collecting her things, and then she realized – "Wait, Kakashi-sensei," she said, pausing to look up at him curiously. "Are you inviting me to your apartment?" She'd never been in his apartment before. It was odd that all of a sudden he would just invite her out of the blue…
He shrugged. "Not really. We can sit out on the steps. It's such a nice day."
Kakashi was still as elusive as ever, Sakura thought wryly.
The apartment was completely devoid of sound or human presence when Ino woke up. It was around noon, and at first she'd been startled to learn she wasn't in her own comfy bed – I hope I didn't go home with one of those boys, she thought – but then she realized she was in Sakura's bed, as there was a standing picture of Team Seven on the nightstand, as well as a glass of water and a couple of small pills. Accompanying it was a note that said, "Ino, these are for the headache you're probably suffering from right now. Love, Sakura."
Indeed, her head was pounding, and she groaned, cupping her face in her hands.
What happened last night?
How did I get here?
Why am I in Sakura's bed?
A sick feeling washed over her. Oh no. She couldn't have…
But her something in the back of her mind told her she did.
"Sakura… what have I done?"
AN: So what did you think? Remember: A review in the inbox is worth two in the... something. I'm just going to go read Harry Potter now.