Forgiveness is a Virtue

A Naruto Fanfiction

Pairing: Kakashi/Sakura

Rating: M


Yes, I have been sucked into the KakaSaku-verse and sadly I could not escape it. So, because I feel that there need to be more Kakashi/Sakura fictions out there, I decided to write one.

This time around, I'm making sure I go and type up at least six chapters ahead (as you read this, chapter seven is in the works). I'm also making sure I scrounge this fiction thoroughly before posting anything. This of course means that chapters will take me a while to look over before I post them because I don't have a beta. Luckily, I'm pretty good grammar wise, but there are always those little things that slip through my watchful gaze.

Of course you, the reader, could clearly see the 'M' rating on this fiction. That means there will be mature themes for mature audiences. I hope that I do not offend, but I would like to point out that in the future, I did give you fair warning.

I think I've said enough for this fic. So, without further ado, sit back and enjoy.

Disclaimer: For all future chapters, I do not own Naruto nor in any way am I affiliated with them. This fanfiction is merely for fun, not profit.

Kakashi was at the Hokage Stone Faces monument in the Hidden Leaf Village. Currently, he was sitting on top of the head of the third, enjoying his Icha Icha Paradise when he remembered something.

He was supposed to meet Tsunade thirty minutes ago.

He turned another page. Thirty more minutes couldn't hurt.

The blonde haired hokage sat at her desk, tapping her finger irritably. Kakashi stared back down at her with his lazy, hooded, one eyed gaze. Tsunade stared at him, waiting for him to say something, but when he made no move, she sighed in exasperation.

"I shouldn't have expected more from you, seeing you're always late," she began, pinching the bridge of her nose, "but I thought when I told you the mission I was going to give you was of top priority, you would at least be here within ten minutes of the meeting time." She let her hand fall from her face and slap on her desk. "I won't make the same mistake again."

Kakashi shrugged. Of course she shouldn't have expected more. In fact, she shouldn't have made assumptions in the first place. But he kept his thoughts to himself. "Well, I'm here now. What is it?"

Tsunade's eyes widened slightly, but the expression was gone in a flash. "That's right," she began sliding open numerous drawers to her desk, rifling through each one. Papers slid against the sides and pens rattled. "You and a fellow jonin will be traveling to the outer reaches of the Land of Fire to a town called Unon. There, you will be assigned as bodyguards to the Miyazaki family that resides there."

Kakashi groaned inwardly. Those sorts of missions were dull at best. Nothing ever happened because most of the time, the complaint was made because the man or woman was overly suspicious. In the end, whoever was assigned would be sent away after a week or two, receiving apologies for misspent time.

Besides, those sorts of missions were usually given out to chunins or to genins because they were so easily handled for said reasons. Kakashi could count all the times when bodyguards were actually needed on one hand.

"Why do I have to go?" He almost sounded whinny to Tsunade which made her irritable. She did not need a complaining copy nin.

"Because, we have reason to believe that this mission is indeed of high importance." Tsunade opened up another one of the desk drawers and pulled out a scroll. She handed it to Kakashi which he took without hesitation. "It seems that before the family had become a powerhouse in the trade industry, they were a lowly family of farmers."

Kakashi opened the scroll and read the stats of the family. Yes, they were only workers of the land. There was no history of any blood relatives of great importance, and their income was, well… He made more money in a month than they did in a year.

"So," he said, analyzing and compiling the facts, "you're saying that their position of power was obtained by other means."

"Yes." Tsunade pressed her fingertips together and rested her elbows on her chair. "It seems that the Miyazaki family had struck a deal with a gang not far north from Unon."

"A deal?" Kakashi raised his one visible eyebrow, trying not to sound too interested. Perhaps this won't be as dull after all, he thought. They always had to have a hook in them. They were what made them exciting. "What kind of deal?"

"We're not sure."

Well, so much for that.

"But that's the reason why we need jonins' to go." Tsunade's eyes narrowed and her muscles tensed. "We believe that there was an exchange of money on behalf of the gang. With this money, the Miyazaki name rose up and became what it is today."

"But," said Kakashi, putting his hand to his chin in thought, "money alone can't bring power. There also has to be some sort of…"

"Convincing." finished Tsunade. "We believe the gang had 'influenced' the rise of the Miyazaki family with force. So, we must assume that there is something big going on in that town."

Kakashi rolled up the scroll and slipped it into the pocket inside his vest, quietly thinking to himself. So, this family went from nothing to everything in what is, in business terms, almost over night. This gang must really want the Miyazaki name to spread.

"So you're saying you want me to go down there on this so-called 'bodyguard' mission, when in all actuality, I'm down there trying to figure out what is the deal with the gang and the Miyazaki family."

Tsunade smiled. Even though the silver haired shinobi could be almost insufferable at times, she had chosen him for a reason. He had a quick body and an even quicker mind. He would make sense of the claptrap. "Yes, exactly. But again, you aren't going alone."

Kakashi sighed quietly. While he supported the idea of teamwork heavily, a one man army would be best for this kind of thing. He could easily sneak around without having to worry about anything else. Then again, another set on hands could be helpful. He couldn't foresee any problems, but no one could ever be so sure.

"Okay, who is this fellow jonin?"

Tsunade looked at the clock at the far side of the wall. She sighed, running a hand through her hair. "She should have been here twenty minutes ago…"

She? thought Kakashi. Quietly he searched through his brain, thinking of all the female jonin he knew. Ino? No, she's too inexperienced. TenTen? Hardly… Hinata? No, she would accept a mission if I'm going, she's too shy. Then, who could it…?

Then, it hit him. It was all so clear and it made perfect sense. But even knowing who she was didn't help quell the uneasiness in his stomach.

"Hokage-sama, I don't know if you know, but she and I didn't exactly leave on the best of terms…"

"Yes, yes, I'm well aware of the little spat between you two." Tsunade waved his worried words aside like an irritating fly. "But it's been so long, I bet she's forgotten."

Kakashi shook his head. Hardly…

She slipped her foot into her other boot, buckling it tight. She adjusted her gloves, made sure she had everything she needed for a long trip, and sighed quietly to herself.

"Well, I guess that's it."

Naruto and Kakashi stood behind her, watching her pick up her large backpack, hoisting it over her shoulder. Her forehead protector with the leaf insignia shone dimly in the poorly lit apartment. It mirrored everyone's moods.

Naruto stepped forward, trying vainly to hold back tears. He looked at his long time friend, his heart pounding. It was going to be a long time before he would see her again and he didn't want to mess anything up.

"Can I…" he started, hesitant. "Can I… hug you?" Naruto flinched, awaiting a flying fist straight towards his head. Instead, all he heard was laughter.

"Oh course you can, stupid!" The girl dropped her backpack and flung her arms around the more than shocked jonin. But his mind soon came back around to the sense of things and his arms wrapped around her back.

"Please come back." he pleaded. "Please come back. If you don't, I'll…" Naruto held her tighter, afraid to let her go. His hands bit into her green vest, clenching so tight it was almost if he thought she'd disappear if he moved the slightest bit.

The girl in his arms was fighting with intense emotion as well. She had better control however and patted his back affectionately. "Don't worry Naruto, I'll be back. I promise." Slowly she disengaged herself from his grasp and smiled cheerfully. "Besides, the mission is only supposed to last a few months."

Naruto sniffed, doing his best not to look like a runny nosed child. "Yeah, I know." He sniffed again, wiping the back of his hand across his mouth. "I know."

The girl gave him another smile and turned her attention to Kakashi who had apparently ignored her and Naruto's touching moment. Instead, he had pulled out Icha Icha Paradise and was thumbing through the pages lazily.

The girl, slightly put out, held her hands out in front of her. Kakashi didn't glance up and instead continued to read. The girl flexed her fingers toward her, adding emphasis when she said, "Can I have a hug?"

"Hn." he flipped another page. She began to get frustrated.


His eye darted across the words, taking them all in. It was a good issue, this one.

"Kakashi-sensei…" Her voice wavered. She swallowed and stretched her arms out further. "Please, can I have a hug? I'm going to be gone for a while and…" she bit her lip and stared at the ground. "I'm going to miss you."

Kakashi sighed heavily and pocketed his precious book and stretched an arm forward. The girl was grinning widely, looking forward to his warm embrace. Instead, his hand fell on the top of her head and rustled up her hair a bit.

"Good luck."

The girl blinked a few times, caught off guard. Then her eyes narrowed and she smacked his hand out of the way. Her fists curled into tight balls of furry. Naruto could see small tears form at the corners of her eyes. Her voice cracked. "Kakashi-sensei, even after all this time, you still won't give me a hug? I mean, dammit, I'm--" Her voice wavered again and she had to give herself a moment.

"I'm leaving on my first ever long term mission! I could come back all mangled and bleeding, or maybe I won't come back at all. And all you have to say about it is good luck?" The girl spun around, picked up her backpack and swung open the door. Her head whipped around and her tears had fallen and cascaded down her cheeks. "It's good to know that your Icha Icha Paradise is more important than your own student. So thanks." She left without another word, slamming the door behind her. The pictures on the walls rattled and off in a distant room, the two could hear something fall and break.

Naruto turned to the silver haired nin, a frown on his face. Kakashi saw it out of the corner of his eye and he knew Naruto was disappointed. Very.

"You could have at least given her a hug."

At that time, Kakashi didn't know what was wrong with what he had done. Even until this day, he still didn't know. He had always rubbed the heads of his students as a sign of affection, so he didn't see any problem with doing that at that point in time.

But then again, it was her first big mission and he had sent her off without more than a 'good luck.' In a small sense, he too would have been disappointed, but not enough to make her as angry as she was when she left.

When three years had passed since the day she had slammed her door, he had regretted his decision of not hugging her. He began to think that the one single moment with them in the apartment was the last moment between them before she literally fell off the face of the planet. Grudgingly he began to accept the folly of his choice, but did not beat himself up over it.

So now he stood there, awaiting the girl he had so casually shrugged off, without much preparation.



"Please burry my body somewhere nice; perhaps a hilltop or maybe a field of green."

At that moment, the door to the office swung open and inside stepped a woman wearing a green flak vest, similar to the men's own jonin vest, but much more slimming. Underneath was a fishnet shirt and underneath that another white tanktop. Her black shorts were beginning to ride up, so the woman fixed them before anything embarrassing could happen

She was breathing heavily; her short hair clung to the back of her neck with sweat. She straightened and leaned back, popping out her spine before rolling her wrists a little.

"Sorry I'm so late Tsunade-sensei." she said, still catching her breath. She stepped forward and smiled bright, glad to see her blonde haired teacher once again. "My alarm went off late. I think something may be wrong with it. I'm going to go buy one later on today after you brief me on the mission." She sat down and rested her hands in her lap, completely ignorant to the ninja standing five feet behind her. "So, where's this partner I keep hearing about?"

Tsunade blinked at the woman's sudden appearance. Then she began to struggle for control over her laughter. He's right behind you! she laughed inwardly.

The female jonin watched as her sensei went though rather strange and awkward contortions of the face. Immediately she stood up and rested a hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay? Is something wrong?"

"N-No," managed Tsunade, her voice shaky. "I'm fine. Really. Actually, you're partner is already here."

The woman's eyes widened and she smiled wide. "Oh? Where?" She had been anxious when she had heard rumors of her being sent on another mission. She had just gotten back a few days ago and she was already behind hauled off to another area.

She didn't mind too much though. In fact, she loved it. She loved to travel, to fight, to experience it all. Besides, they always allowed a little of vacation time in between. Plus, the pay wasn't so bad.


The woman immediately froze. It had been a long time since she had heard that voice. A long time. But the memory associated with that voice was not a pleasant one. Her fists curled, her body turned, and Kakashi found himself staring down the finger of his former student, Haruno Sakura.

"You." she spat, pushing her finger even closer to his face, making him almost go cross eyed. "You are my partner?" She refused to say his name, almost as if 'Kakashi' would make her tongue drop out of her mouth.

Kakashi smiled but onlookers could only tell by the slight crinkle around his visible eye. "Yeah."

Sakura whipped around and stared back at the blonde woman who was on the verge of cracking her ribs. "I refuse to work with this man!" she shouted, pounding her fist on the table to underline her point.

"Why is that?" asked Tsunade, her face clear and passive but her stomach was curling with laughter.

"Because!" yelled Sakura, throwing her hands up in the air as if it made all the sense in the world. "Because he's Kakashi-sensei!"

"I'm not your sensei anymore." cut in Kakashi but he was immediately silenced by a death glare from Sakura's sharp, jade eyes.

"What's wrong with Kakashi?" asked Tsunade, trying to draw the pink haired jonin's attention away from the cornered Kakashi.

"Well, let's see here!" she said, faking innocent pondering. "He's a pervert, he's lazy, and he's inconsiderate!" Kakashi heard her voice pick up in pitch as she continued to list all of his faults. At 'inconsiderate', he knew she was walking down the road of a past memory.

"He doesn't give words of advice, he refuses to put down his stupid Icha Icha, and he doesn't give hugs! He's--he's--" she sputtered, looking down at her fingers, trying to think of something else she could count on them. "He's just… KAKASHI-SENSEI!"

"I'm not your sensei."

Sakura gave him one last glare before she fell down in the chair in front of Tsunade's desk, completely spent. She put a hand to her forehead and tried to rub away the oncoming headache.

Any normal person who had heard so many insults hurled at them would be, at this point, not a happy camper. But Kakashi found it all very amusing. He was afraid, during a small point of time when she had suddenly waltzed in, she had changed. But when he saw (and heard) her spitfire attitude, he knew she was still the same Sakura who he had first seen seven years ago.

Now that she sat huffing and fuming, he could get a better look at her. She had changed. A lot. Her hair had stayed short, but it had gotten softer in color. Her eyes seemed much more deep, like a jade hue. Her features were sharper and more elegant in a sense. She was tall and built for fast movement and quick jabs. In the end, she had grown up. There were some things that hadn't changed and one of them was her manner. She was still quick to temper and hot with her words. He had learned from past experiences to not get in the way of a disgruntled Sakura because she would hurl words at you that would seem to, at times, hurt as much as a fist in the face.

Sakura had steadied her breathing and was now looking down at a stray string on the corner of her battered flak jacket. She picked at it idly as she looked up at the hokage.

"Doesn't matter, does it?" she squeaked quietly.

Tsunade shook her head, all laughter pushed aside. "No, it doesn't. Kakashi is the best man for this mission and you must learn to accept him, even for all of his… faults." Tsunade had the mind to not contradict what Sakura had identified as the copy nin's poor traits. In reality, they were what made him 'him' and were not flaws.

Sakura, if cross examined by an outer party, would be labeled as hot tempered, vain, overly talkative and nitpicky. These however were not defects in her personality but bits and pieces that made her who she essentially was.

"Well then, can you transfer me out?" she pleaded, twining the fingers of both her hands together, imploring her. Sakura did NOT want to be stuck with a man, who for the past three years, she had thought of as one of the most obnoxious, halfhearted buffoons to ever walk the face of the planet. That, and the fact that she had thought over one thousand ways of death she could inflict upon him; it would be almost too tempting if left alone on a lengthy mission.

"No Sakura." said Tsunade, ignoring her student's beseeching tone. "You have gone through a lot these past few years and have become one of the best kunoichi in this village. You are invaluable to this mission and cannot be replaced."

Sakura, if her head wasn't filled with thoughts of torture, would have blushed at the compliment. But she was so consumed by her rage she just gnashed her teeth together and fell back into the chair, crossing her arms together. "Fine." she grumbled, blowing a stray bang out of her face. "I'll go, but I won't like it!" she added on quickly, ending her tirade with a final sense of 'I still hate the man'.

Kakashi had taken the insults with ease. It was the actions that followed afterwards that had begun to sting. Is she so hateful of me that she doesn't even want to work with me? he wondered dubiously. Then, she had to go and say that last part, adding salt to the wound.

Kakashi scratched the back of his head, clearing his throat. Tsunade and Sakura looked up with wonder and disregard respectfully. "Perhaps this isn't the best of ideas." he started, doing his best to ignore the hot gaze that was Sakura's boring into the side of his head. "If a team cannot cooperate, then there is little hope for them. I believe this, er, discomfort, could lead to disastrous results." He cleared his throat again, feeling awkward all over. "So, could you reconsider?"

Tsunade leaned back into her chair and closed her eyes. Another headache was forming right behind her tear ducts and it was pulsing painfully. I swear, she thought with a bit of exasperation in her inward voice, these two are like children!

"I do not care what has happened between you two!" she suddenly snapped, making both Sakura and Kakashi flinch slightly. "There is no one else for this mission. No one." she stood up, her brown eyes flashing angrily. "I don't care if there's a blood feud between you two, you are going to go to Unon together and you are going to like it!" she moved forward with lightening fast speed and was soon hauling Sakura and Kakashi out of her office by the backs of their collars. "And if you two not being able to get along upsets the mission," she flung her hands forward and Sakura and Kakashi went sprawling on the floor, "you'd best kiss and make up because I DON'T CARE! Now, GET GOING!" She gave them one last glower and slammed the door to her office. Inside, one could hear obscenities being spurted out of the woman's mouth in sheer annoyance.

The two nin just sat on their aching bottoms for a moment, trying to sort things out. When both realized that they were indeed going to be sent on a mission together, they sprung up. Or rather, Sakura sprung up and Kakashi slowly pulled himself up off of the floor.

Sakura's eyes flashed and her finger was pointing at his face again. If his mask had been off and she was an inch closer, she would be picking his nose.

"This. Isn't. Over." she growled dangerously low before spinning around and stomping out sight. He heard a door slam in the distance and Kakashi knew she was safely outside, away from his tender body.

Kakashi immediately began to regret his actions three years ago. I wonder if there's a time traveling jutsu…

Sakura had made it to the middle of town when she realized that she had stormed out before being told of the mission. Immediately she felt very foolish and a hot blush of embarrassment stained her cheeks. I let my emotions get the best of me, she thought despairingly. And I don't think I can face up to Kakashi-sensei so soon after what I said.

During her time away, she had gone through many experiences. Some were good, other were bad. Some were covered in blood. But during the time when she had nothing to do, all she could find entertainment in was hateful thoughts towards her former sensei.

He's so stupid! She kicked her foot and a small cloud of dust rose from the point of contact. And insensitive! He couldn't even spare me kind words of encouragement…

Sakura had a sneaking suspicion that she was more hurt than angry at what Kakashi had done, or rather, what he didn't do. But it was much easier for her to handle anger than it was emotional pain because anger was easily taken out on her opponents or an unsuspecting tree. Emotional pain couldn't be removed in such a way.

Sakura stopped and found herself thinking of Sasuke. She had felt that emotional pain when Naruto had dealt the final blow, promptly ending Sasuke's life and suffering. Even though it was for the best, seeing he was so entangled in the dark force now as Orochimaru, she could still remember how much she had cried after his death.

I couldn't sleep for days, her inner voice whispered as she began walking. Inner Sakura was screaming Of course you didn't! You loved him! Idiot!

Sakura sighed and continued walking where her feet decided to take her. She found herself turning towards a familiar noodle shop, Ichiraku. She smiled knowing who was probably sitting there, slurping up endless quantities of ramen.

She pushed the hanging sheets of white away and sat at the farthest stool. A man turned around and the second he saw her, his eyes lit up. Sakura put a finger to her lips and he immediately understood her plan. He snickered quietly to himself and returned to preparing another dish.

Sakura looked down the counter and watched Naruto finish yet another bowl of ramen. He gulped down the food, sipped the last of the broth, and set the white bowl on top of at least a dozen others.

"Keep 'em coming!" he shouted, waving his chopsticks in the air like a baton, conducting the cooking process. The man smiled and poured another basket of dried noodles into a pot of boiling water.

Sakura smiled as her friend reached for another bowl, a seafood mix, and began scarfing that one down as well.

Sakura decided that it was time she struck.

She scooted over two seats and lightly tapped the blonde's shoulder. She could hear a grunt as he continued to eat and she knew she had his attention.

"I'm sorry, I forgot my money at home." she said, grinning. "Would you mind if I borrowed some?"

Naruto set down his bowl and gasped for breath. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a toad purse. He handed her a few coins and picked his chopsticks back up. "There you go Sakura." Then he continued eating.

Sakura was chucking, doing her best not to fall to the floor. She said a quick thank you, sat back in her original seat, and ordered.

It was a good thirty seconds before Naruto coughed up the ramen, sending noodles flying across the room, shrimp lodged in his throat, and broth to come spewing out of his nose. He turned in his seat, ignoring the noodle that hung from his lip and his now dirtied orange jacket.


Sakura turned lazily on her stool and raised an eyebrow. "Yeah?"

Naruto lunged forward and plowed into Sakura, launching both of them into the street. Sakura was happy that Naruto was glad to see her, but the broth was bleeding into her clothes. She didn't want to walk around the rest of the day smelling like a fishmonger.

"Sakura, you're alive!" he picked her up and spun her around like a rag doll, crushing her back with his arms. While Sakura turned blue and gasped for breath, a small part of her mind registered 'he's gotten strong'.

Naruto, noticing his once previously dead friend gasping for air, set her down on the ground, rubbing the back of his head sheepishly. "Eh heh… sorry."

Sakura coughed and beat on her chest, trying to get proper airflow again. Once alive and able to breathe, she glared at Naruto, putting her fists on her hips. "What are you trying to do, kill me??"

"No, I swear!" Naruto put his hands in front of him in self defense. "I was just…" His hands dropped and a very somber look fell on his features. Sakura watched with amazement as the matured and handsome Naruto gather tears in his eyes. He stepped forward and wrapped his arms around her in a tight, yet comfortable embrace. "Sakura… I'm so glad you're back."

Sakura was shocked at how quickly Naruto's mood had changed. But even with her quick glance, she knew he had matured greatly. Her hands wrapped around his back and she squeezed. "I'm glad to be back too Naruto."

Sakura and Naruto spent the rest of the day reminiscing about the past and all of their 'hijinks' so to speak. When Naruto questioned the mission Sakura had undergone, she cast her eyes aside and mumbled something he couldn't quite hear. He decided that she didn't want to talk about it and dropped the subject.

Instead he told her how he was doing. He was going out with Hinata, much to Sakura's pleasure, and told her the relationship was going so well, he was going to ask her to marry him. It was at this point Sakura truly did see that Naruto had grown up.

"Wow, I can't believe you're actually going to propose to her." said Sakura, her arm hooked around his in a friendly contact.

"Yeah," said Naruto sighing. Sakura could see a sort of silly grin spread on his face. He rubbed the back of his head, blushing slightly. "She makes me really happy. I can't see myself ever leaving her."

Sakura was green with envy. She hadn't met anyone who could make her feel that way. The last time she was in love, it had ended in horrendous results. Years afterwards, she had been in many relationships, but none of them had lasted for more than a month or two.

"You're lucky," she mumbled, feeling a sudden chill from the night air. Depressing thoughts began to cloud her mind and she slowly began to lead Naruto to the closest bar.

"Yeah, I guess I am." When the sounds of glasses clinking together and the smell of alcohol permeated the air, Naruto looked down at Sakura who refused to look back up at him. "Sakura?"

"I'm in the mood for a drink." she stated simply. She tugged on his arm and pulled him into the bar, fully intent on getting rid of the ugly feeling that was beginning to churn in her stomach.

The moment she stepped in, a shrill shriek nearly left her deaf. "Oh my god, Sakura!" A blonde haired woman sprung off her seat and wrapped her arms around Sakura's middle. The pink haired jonin knew exactly who it was.

"Hey Ino Pig." said Sakura smiling.

Ino looked up and shot her a smirk. She pulled back and put her newly manicured fingernails on her hips. "So Forehead Girl, where've you been?"

Sakura sighed and walked forward to the bar, Ino hot on her heels. She was aching for gossip and wanted to know what had befallen her pink haired friend while she was gone.

Sakura set a few coins on the table, putting her hand underneath her chin. "The strongest stuff you've got." she drawled, not caring about the look the bartender gave her.

"Comin' up." he said, picking up her money and setting about fixing her a glass. Ino sat down next to her, a look of worry on her face. Never before had she seen Sakura so despondent. "Hey girl, what's the matter?"

Naruto was also curious as to the abrupt change in his friend's attitude. He too sat down next to her and slung an arm across her shoulders. "Yeah Sakura, what's up?"

Sakura sighed and let her head sink to the counter. "I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life." she grumbled, pounding her head slightly on the counter.

Naruto and Ino exchanged glances and began to laugh. Sakura, seeing nothing funny about her plight, sat up and sent death glares at both of them. "Shut up. It's not funny."

"But it is!" giggled Ino, taking a sip of her already present glass of alcohol. "You just haven't found the right guy yet."

Sakura sighed as the bartender set down a clear glass with a brown tawny liquid inside. She took the glass and gave a tentative sip. Immediately, she coughed, tears coming to her eyes. "Augh! It burns!" The pleasant after tingle made her forget the initial pain and she took another drink, making a female guttural sound as it went down. "There isn't a man out there for me." she said, running a finger along the rim of the glass. "I'm going to die a lonely woman."

Naruto smacked his hand across the back of Sakura's head. Sakura immediately reacted and caught his wrist in a vice like grip. Naruto would usually be afraid at this point, but he was so dissatisfied with her words, he didn't care. "Don't try your angry look with me." he said, raising an eyebrow. "You deserved it."

Sakura stared at him and into his blue eyes. She dropped his wrist and took another drink of the powerful alcohol. What does he know? she thought.

Slowly as time passed by, more and more past acquaintances showed up, each one more surprised than the last by Sakura's appearance. By the end of the first hour, Naruto, Ino, Shikamaru and Choji were all crowded around Sakura, talking, chatting happily, and drinking as much as their purse would allow.

"…and then he said, "Why should I? I'm not your maid!"" The table thundered with laughter. Naruto was spitting up his sake while Shikamaru was grinning at his clever use of words. Ino slapped him on the back, her hand swinging like jelly.

"You're a funny one Shika-kun!" giggled Ino, hiccupping slightly. She suddenly felt very sick and excused herself.

Sakura felt very light and bubbly. All of her friends were by her, the night was beautiful, and she was so intoxicated, all of her negative thoughts were buried deep within her to be remembered another day (or in most cases, the next morning).

Sakura put her hands up in the air, waving them slightly. "Okay, okay, I-I've got a…" she burped, "a story."

The group of friends huddled together, awaiting a tale woven by colors and strong liquor. Sakura swayed slightly as she put a finger to her lips, recalling the memory.

"Right before I left--"

"Oh! Oh!" Naruto waved his hand up in the air. "I know this one!" He stood up to make his presence known. However, he stood up a little too fast and fell backwards out of his chair and to the floor.

"Shut up Naruto!" snapped Sakura ten seconds after the blonde had fallen unconscious to the ground. "This is my story! Now," she cleared her throat to add a deep atmosphere. "Before I left, I gave hugs to the people I loved."

Shikamaru slung an arm around Sakura, kissing her on the cheek. "I know, baby, I know. I got one of those hugs."

"I didn't give you a hug, stupid."

"Oh, I guess I thought I wanted a hug then."

"Anyways," Sakura pushed Shikamaru's hand away, "I gave hugs to the people I loved; Naruto."

"Wh-wh-wh…" Choji was trying to form words in his mouth, but his brain couldn't keep up with what he was trying to say.

"But you said people." Ino had come back and plopped back in her chair, putting her hands together and setting them under her chin. "Naruto isn't 'people', he's 'person'. You can be such an idiot Forehead."

"Shut up Ino Pig! I was getting to that!" Sakura took another drink, no longer feeling that burning sensation. All it made her feel was warm and fuzzy. "I wanted to give hugs to 'people'," she rolled her wrist back to let her hand flop for exaggeration, "but 'people' wouldn't let me."

"Well, who was this 'people'?" asked Ino, taking another drink.

Sakura dipped her head low and stared down into the brown alcohol before her. "Stupid Kakashi-sensei."

"So?" Choji took a large swig of Ino's drink, getting him a smack in return.

"So?" sputtered Sakura, slamming her glass down. "I leave on a mission that I may never return from, and he won't even give me as much as a hug?!" She slammed her fists on the table, teeth gnashed together. The alcohol could not negate the utter urge to kill the silver haired jonin. Higher and higher her anger rose until she was screaming. "That man is an unbearable ass who can't see beyond the pages of Icha Icha Paradise!"

As she rose to her feet, swaying slightly, her other drunk friends looked up with a bit of surprise. They had never heard such words come out of Sakura's mouth when it came to Kakashi. In fact, most of the time, she had always said things of kindness.

But it was apparent by her angry frown and flashing eyes there was something wrong between her and her former sensei.

She grabbed her glass and swung it out in front of her in a mock toast. "To Kakashi-sensei!" she slurred in a hardly suppressed rage. "May your bed always be cold and your balls always blue!" she tilted the glass back. Further, further, then she tipped backwards and fell to the ground, unconscious.

Kakashi was sitting around with his fellow male nin Guy, Jiraiya and Genma. Guy was the first one to initially call the meeting after seeing his downcast rival wandering around the streets without a single book in his hand.

"So my friend," said Guy, taking a sip from his sake cup, "what's on your mind?"

"My impending doom." murmured Kakashi, taking a drink of his own cup through his mask.

"Your impending doom?" questioned Genma, leaning back in his chair and putting up his feet on the table. "Some deep stuff you're thinking there."

Jiraiya poured himself more of the rice wine and downed the small cup in a single gulp. "What made you put yourself in that state of mind?"

"Sakura." groaned Kakashi, feeling a headache come on just at the sight of her anger twisted face in his mind. He looked down at his sake cup. All of his hopes lied within that cup. He downed it.

He was going to need more.

"Ah, your pinked haired student." said Genma, setting his cup in his lap. "So, she got back today?"

"Yeah," said Guy before Kakashi could get a word in. "The rumor is that her original mission had been extended due to complications. Did you know she was gone for a little over three years?"

"Wow," said Jiraiya, "that's way more than the average first mission should be, or any mission for that matter."

"So," said Guy, patting his friend on the back as he poured more sake into his cup, "why is she making you so glum?"

"Because," sighed Kakashi, taking another drink, "she hates me."

The men at the table broke into laughter. Kakashi ignored them and continued to drown his worries away. When Guy saw that Kakashi was less than amused, he held his hand up, signaling the guys to stop. "I don't think she hates you." said Guy, grinning. "I mean, you were her sensei for crying out loud!"

"Yeah," said Kakashi, swirling his cup, "but I screwed up."

The men went silent, each lost in their own thoughts. But their thoughts were similar without really even trying.

Glances were exchanged between them, each egging the other on to speak. No one wanted to say anything on threat of death by Kakashi, but they were so curious and the alcohol made their tongues so loose, no one could hold on much longer.

"Is it…" said Guy hesitantly, "I mean, did you… well, you know… pursue her?"

Whatever contents were in Kakashi's mouth were spat out and spewed all over Genma who promptly cursed and tipped back in his chair, taking the brunt of the attack.

Kakashi beat on his chest, trying to regain his breath. He turned around, his one eye wide and angry staring at Guy. "What are you, a dimwit?! I wouldn't try and go after my student!" And really, even through the haze of his slurry mind, the thought was preposterous and that was something considering Kakashi had drunk fourteen glasses of sake.

"I'm sorry!" Guy put up his hands in defense, obviously aware of how angry Kakashi was. "You know, it's just you can't count those kind of things out!"

Kakashi, getting rein back on his anger, turned back around and drank his fifteenth glass. "Don't say anything like that again." he murmured.

Genma was still cursing as he got up off the ground. He shot Kakashi a death glare, one that the nin didn't see or didn't care about, and sat back in his now upright chair. "Damn Kakashi, I hope you don't choke…"

"So then," said Jiraiya, doing his best to stray away from the ever worsening topic, "what did you screw up on?"

Kakashi sighed again, pouring another glass. But he had miscalculated and the sake was being poured onto the table, not into the cup. He quickly adjusted and began speaking. "You know, it was her first mission."

The men nodded. It was a big deal, the first mission of a jonin. It was a major milestone in the life of a nin and it was one that should always be treasured. A first mission is like the imprinting of a baby animal: your future is shaped deeply upon it.

"Well," he said, sitting back, "she was saying her goodbyes. And when she came to me, she wanted a hug." he looked at his glass, watching the liquid ripple slightly off the edges. "Well… I didn't give her one."

The men were slightly put off guard by this. On one hand, they were expecting something more dramatic, like an oath of revenge or the complete absence of his being. Although, in the other hand, a girl like Sakura relied heavily on her friends. During a time of emotional conflict, like the anxiety of her first class A mission, she would naturally reach out to those closest to her. That included her sensei. And when he refused to give her a hug…

That made it seem like he didn't care.

"Well of course she's mad at you." said Genma, now seeing the full picture of his downcast attitude. "You royally screwed up."

"But I don't get it." said Kakashi, becoming frustrated. "I said good luck."

The men rolled their eyes. Guy turned to his friend and slapped him on the back of his head. "That's like giving your lover a box of tissues for your tenth anniversary. You can't just go and do that. You need to think your actions, especially ones that involve Sakura, more carefully." Guy leaned back into his hair and crossed his arms. "No matter what she says, she really looks up to you. You need to be more considerate."

The men nodded in agreement and Kakashi felt cornered. Even his loyal companions were against him.

So, if he was going to have a reasonable trip with Sakura, he would have to be considerate. Well, he could do that. Maybe.

"Of course I can do that," he grumbled, "it's not hard." It was more to himself than anything. "But I still have to talk to her."

"Why?" asked Jiraiya, curious.

"Because, she and I are going on a mission." he said, taking one last drink before he decided if he had one more glass, he'd throw up.

"A mission together?" Guy stood up, knocking his chair to the ground. His eyes flashed and the fellow male nin's could swear the wind picked up around them. "This is the perfect chance to patch things up between you two!" He brought his finger down and pointed it at Kakashi. Kakashi dimly told himself that it was the third finger in his face today. This one was close to poking his hitai-ate into his sharingan. "You must… make up!"

Kakashi yawned and pushed his rival's finger out of the way, quickly ending the heroic moment. "Yeah, yeah, don't get your boxers in a bunch."

The men around the table laughed until they heard 'Icha Icha Paradise' being screamed from across the room. The men turned their heads and saw, at the far corner of the bar, Haruno Sakura wobbling on her feet, bringing her glass to a toast. She had gotten taller and much more muscular. Genma's toothpick fell out of his mouth and his eyes slowly widened. "Woah… That's Sakura?"

Guy and Jiraiya were both surprised. The vain pinked haired girl had grown into a strong, beautiful woman. The idea of Kakashi pursuing her didn't seem so farfetched anymore.

Now, however, she was speaking with slurred speech and trembling legs.

"To Kakashi-sensei; may your bed always be cold and your balls always blue!" Then, she felt backwards, unconscious. The glass in her hand fell to the ground and rolled across the wood. The people in the tavern hadn't noticed; they too were on the verge of collapsing.

The male shinobi however, did notice.

"Did she just say…?"


They were silent. Kakashi was on the brink of hyperventilating. His eye was wide as he watched the pink haired jonin snore softly. "I have to be considerate to that?"

Guy turned around, a mournful look on his face. He set an apologizing hand on his friend's shoulder. "Perhaps… it will be harder than expected."

Jiraiya and Genma broke out into laughter and Kakashi despaired.

"Well," said Genma, wiping a tear out of his eye, "we'd better bring her home. Her friends are so wasted they haven't even noticed she's fallen asleep." Genma stood up slowly as not to make himself sick and started towards Sakura.

"Wait." said Kakashi, also standing up. However, his steps were less steady than any of the others and his voice was not as strong as it usually was. "I'll… I'll take her."

Genma shook his head, laughing. "No way man. You're almost as bad as her! Look at you; you're about to collapse."

Kakashi was prepared to rebuttal his remark when he realized that he was, indeed, very smashed. So, without having any other option, he said, "Fine, we'll both take her. How's that sound?"

Agreeing, the two men went over to Sakura's snoozing body as Ino, Shikamaru and Choji were still laughing. Naruto still lay on the floor passed out. I guess he can't hold his alcohol, mused Kakashi.

Genma picked up Sakura while Kakashi paid the bartender for the drinks she had ordered (which was a lot. Kakashi had to search through all of his pockets to find enough money). Then, the two men were off, waving goodbye to their fellow friends.

Their footsteps against the gravel on the road were the only things heard besides Sakura's soft snoring. The cool air, much to Kakashi's pleasure, helped clear his mind and his senses. Soon he was walking as normal as he would every other day.

"So, where does she live?" asked Genma, shifting Sakura's weight slightly in his arms. She seemed thin enough, so he couldn't figure out why she weighed a lot. Must be muscle, he thought to himself.

Kakashi stopped, mentally smacking himself. "Damn…" he ran a hand through his hair. "I don't remember."

"You don't--" Genma would have punched his friend in the back of his head if he did not have an unconscious body in his arms. So, he opted for words. "I can't believe you. You really do need to work on your social problems."

Perhaps he did. Perhaps he had grown so accustomed to, over the years, the peace and solitude that was he, himself, and his shadow. He didn't do much anymore except irritating missions and reading his Icha Icha books. Did he really become so secluded?

"Well, no matter." said Genma, startling Kakashi out of his thoughts. "Where should we put her?"

Kakashi sighed and put a hand to his forehead. "Isn't it obvious?"

Genma shifted her weight again. His arms were getting tired. "No."

Kakashi sighed again and headed down the other side of the street. "Come on, we'll drop her off at my place."

Sakura's senses were filled with the smell of the outdoors and a pleasing musky scent. She snuggled in closer to its source and sighed with content.

"Reminds me of something." she mumbled as she turned around to get in a more comfortable position. "Like…"

Then, it all came back to her.

She was supposed to be in a bar, not a bed. There wasn't supposed to be blankets and pillows. The smells she should be smelling were supposed to be sunkissed peaches (according to her shampoo bottle), not the rugged forest! Immediately she shot up, knowing something was wrong. Then, just as soon as she reacted, she regretted it.

"Oh god…" she frantically looked around and spotted a trashcan near the bed. Immediately she grabbed it and retched.

"Awake I see."

Sakura looked up from the rim of the basket to see her sensei fully dressed and holding a piping hot cup of hot tea. He smiled at her and said, "Good morning."

Now, to most people, this scene would be one of comfort and happiness. The sun was just rising over the hills, birds were singing, and the sweet smell of morning dew wafted through the open window.

It was one of the worst moments of Sakura' life.

Kakashi watched as Sakura went from sick to a gaping fish. She sat there with the bucket in her arms, her lips trying to form silent words.

"I…" her voice came out in a small squeak. She cleared it and began again. "I am… at your house?"

Kakashi nodded and set down the cup of tea on the nightstand. "Last night at the bar, you passed out. I brought you back here because, well," he rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, "I forgot were you live."

"You forgot where I live??" Sakura felt herself go hot with embarrassment because she was in her sensei's bed and red with anger because he had forgotten where she lived.

Where she lived dammit!

But she just sighed, shaking her head a bit. "I should have guessed." she said softly. Kakashi heard something in her voice he couldn't recognize, but he knew it was something negative. Maybe it was… discouragement?

He handed her the cup of tea, one that she took with a curt nod. She sipped it slowly, letting the aroma seep into her nostrils and sooth her mind. The headache however was a problem.

"Here." Kakashi held out another glass, this time filled with a red thick liquid substance.

"What is--?"

"For your hangover."

Sakura blushed furiously and she snatched the glass out of his hand. She looked down into it, eyeing its contents with apprehension. "What is this stuff?"

"Roots and herbs, the works." Kakashi watched as Sakura gave it one last sniff and tilted the contents of the glass into her mouth. She spat up a little bit, but continued to down the glass until it was gone. She smacked her tongue on the roof of her mouth, setting the glass far away from her.

"That was… disgusting."

"Yeah, it is pretty bad. It works though." He had relied on the 'hangover healer' countless times and the taste never got any better.

The room was very silent, neither person having nothing to say. Sakura set the trash can down on the floor and Kakashi thought of something to try and break the tension.

"Kakashi-sensei," started Sakura, looking down at the bed sheets. She spread her hand across the dark blue fabric, smoothing out any wrinkles.

"I'm not your sensei. What?"

"Thanks for… you know, letting me crash here." Even though you didn't remember where I lived, she added silently. In the end, she had to be grateful. It was better than her waking up on a cold wooden floor or worse… she shuddered at the thought.

"Ah, it's okay." said Kakashi, waving it away. "It was no big deal, really."

Sakura nodded, her attention still glued to the sheets. "And another thing," she said, picking off stray pieces of lint.


"I need to know something."

"Oh?" Kakashi raised an eyebrow as he leaned on the doorframe. What could Sakura need to know? Was there anything he was hiding from her? He couldn't think of anything. Did he say something out of context last night? No, not that he could remember. That however wasn't saying much. "What's up?"

Sakura blushed and looked at him, smiling at her foolishness. "I ran out before Tsunade-sensei could tell me about the mission. Do you think…?"

Kakashi laughed, ignoring Sakura's sudden heated disposition. "Ah Sakura, you haven't changed much."

Sakura's eyebrows went down to a crease. She pushed out her lip slightly, giving her the image of a pouting child and looked up from under her brows. "What do you know?"

Kakashi chuckled as he moved to his closet on the other side of the room. He slid open the door and she could see that he didn't have much variety in clothes. At all.

"Do you wear the same exact thing every day?" she asked with disbelief.

Kakashi rummaged through the pockets of the vests hanging up until he pulled out a scroll. He shut the door and held it out to her. "I don't believe in a fashion sense. Just as long as I'm comfortable."

Sakura found all of these points to be valid reasons however she still believed someone should have at least a little variety. I'm not too shocked, she said to herself. She took the scroll and opened it quickly, scanning the paper.

"So…" she said after a moment longer, "we leave today for Unon. And we're going to be gone…" she looked down the page. Stats, no. Difficulty, no. Ah, length of departure…

"Six to twelve months!?" cried out Sakura. "But… But I just got back!" It isn't fair, thought Sakura. Like hell it isn't! cursed Inner Sakura. She was looking forward to a nice vacation on her return. She had it all planned out: sleep, eat, chat with friends. Sleep, eat, sleep. It all looked so good!

Kakashi watched Sakura roll up the scroll. She threw it at him and caught it like it was nothing. Then she fell back onto the bed, despaired. "Dammit…" she cursed, closing her eyes. "Not a single break…" she hit the bed with her fist. "Dammit!"

Kakashi felt bad for Sakura. If it has him in her place, he would be upset too. But Tsunade had said how important the mission was and how both were needed, so he knew she wouldn't back down.

Sakura groaned and swung her legs off the bed. She stood up slowly and stretched, popping out her back. As she rolled her shoulders she said, "I'm going to go home and get packed. I'll meet you down at the front gate at two o' clock."

Kakashi nodded and moved out of the way of the door so she could pass. As she passed, she had made sure that they had stayed fully out of contact and no eyes had met. This was when he realized that Sakura wanted to get out of his apartment as fast as she could. He could tell by her quick footsteps and her trembling fingers at the straps of her boots. He hadn't even gotten in a word when she was at the front door, giving him a curt wave.

"Thanks again." she murmured with a small nod. Kakashi nodded in return.

When the door shut, Kakashi sighed and went into the kitchen. He looked down at the tray he had prepared. It had his cup of tea, a plate of cookies and a bowl of fruit. It was set for two.

He dumped out the tea and threw away the cookies and fruit with more force than necessary.