Stumbling

Or

Rising? What is this Rising of which you speak?

"Kaka-sempai? Kaka-sempai! Kaka-sempai, are you…oh, my Kami-sama."

Kakashi was of the mind that the only thing better than a mid-morning shower was watching his former student flounder at the sight of him clad in his very small towels. Thankfully, he had two- one for his face and the other for his lower half. Although, maybe he should drop the latter. If she reacted this cutely to seeing just his bare torso, he would love to see her reaction to all of him.

"Oh, Kami-sama. Oh, Kami-sama. I am so sorry!" Her voice was shrill from embarrassment. Her face was red with it.

When all he did was stand there, she slapped a hand over her eyes and tried to back away, waving one hand wildly behind her.

"My eyes! Oh, Kami-sama, my precious eyes!"

She was presumably searching for the wall to help her find her way out of his apartment in her self-induced blindness. If she wasn't careful…

"Oomph!"

…she would fall over the coffee table. She squeaked as her hands came away from her eyes to brace herself and she got a good glance at him. She was up from the floor in a second and next to the wall before he could register her movements.

"Tsu-tsu-tsu-tsunade-shishou…"

She had her eyes tightly closed now and both of her fair hands were feeling along the wall, leading her to the window…

"Tsu-Tsunade-shishou sent me. That is, sent for you. Sent me to send for you. So, um…"

…which was her presumable exit. Now, he couldn't have her leaving so soon. He thoroughly enjoyed watching her stumble over her words and own two feet like some love-struck, little schoolgirl, which she very much was not.

"She said that y-you should see her a-a-as soon as you can. But not in the romantic way! See as in meet! Um, not that you were thinking otherwise or anything. I mean that would just be silly, you and her! Not that there's anything wrong with you, of course! You're a very nice catch! I mean…um…er…"

She looked ready to bolt. He really hoped she wouldn't, or else…

"Ite!"

…she would run into the glass. He smiled affectionately as she refused to open her eyes even as she stumbled back and fell hard on her rump. She struggled to pick herself up off the floor, holding onto the window sill to keep her balance. Rebounding off his closed window had to be painful, but she looked so cute doing it. He chuckled. She threw him a dirty look, which came out looking positively ridiculous without her most certainly glaring, green eyes open.

An evil idea came to him then. He moved over to her. Her head immediately swiveled to the sound of his movements. She was so tense right now. He had to restrain the laughter that was beginning to bubble up inside.

"Here, let me get that," he offered, acting the perfect gentleman as he opened the window for her.

She still refused to look at him and he smiled at her hesitant expression.

"Th-th-tha…"

"You're welcome, Sakura-chan," he said as he raised his other hand to ruffle her hair.

The towel fell to the ground with a thud.

Sakura's head followed the noise. Still, she kept her eyes painfully screwed shut.

"Kakashi?"

"Yes, Sakura-chan?"

"Was that…"

"Why don't you open your eyes and find out," he teased.

She was glowing red from her neck up. She really was just so cute. She fled through the window he had opened for her.

He watched her speed off with a loving smile. He loved it when she acted like this. It was so different from the strong-willed, self-assured kunoichi everyone took notice of. The shy, nervous girl he had just seen was a side of her that only he had the pleasure to witness. He prided himself on having such an effect on Konoha's most beautiful kunoichi, who never even spent the time to notice her other, numerous pursuers. Not even Sasuke could get her to stutter the way he could.

As he placed the towel back around his waist, he laughed and again thought the only thing better than a mid-morning shower was watching her reaction to seeing him in only a towel. It made him want to see how she would react if the towel was gone.


He made it to the hokage's tower an hour after the little run-in with Sakura. It wasn't very important if she had sent Sakura on her way home, so he saw no reason to hurry. He still remembered that tight dress the hospital supplied standard to those that needed fresh clothes. And she still had a few small blood stains from her work at the hospital. Her hair was tousled from her doubtlessly stressful day. She had a habit of pulling on her hair when she was frustrated. It made her look like she had just crawled out of bed. Or been doing naughty things in bed. But that wasn't like his kunoichi. And he made absolutely sure no boy changed that.

Speaking of which…

"Man, I'm telling you, she's a total babe! That butt! Those breasts! Those deep, green eyes! That sexy pink hair! She's the girl for me!"

Some of them refused to learn.

"Yeah, man, but what about Hatake? And that loudmouth and the crazy guy with the ink? They'd tear you to pieces!"

"Naw, dude, I could take them! Especially the scarecrow! He's pushing forty, ain't he? The old man would be easy to take down."

How rude. He was only thirty-four. It was the hair, wasn't it? When would everyone realize it was silver, not grey.

"I don't know, Kisuke. We are talking about the Hatake Kakashi here. You know, Copy-nin extraordinaire? Who has beaten your ass, oh say, a dozen times?"

Kakashi really didn't think the young fool known as Kisuke should scoff at him like that. Especially when he was going to beat the living shit out of the motherfucker for even thinking about his kunoichi like that.

"Hey, I've gotten stronger lately! I could so take him, no prob. And then I'd take her, if you know what I mean. I'd take her all night long!"

Sagara Kisuke, a boy that refused to learn a lesson the first eight times, ended up with a face full of floor. Kakashi strolled on, easily ignoring the moaning boy he left behind.

"I told you so," Kisuke's wiser friend muttered.

Kakashi smiled as he worked his way to Tsunade's office. He didn't bother to knock and walked right in.

"And you're sure he….well, it's about time, Kakashi."

"Yo," he greeted his hokage, who was talking on the phone with someone. She ignored him in favor of her phone companion.

"He's here, Sakura-chan. You take your shower and get some sleep. I have a mission for you tomorrow and I want you in top condition."

The hokage hung up the phone and turned to glare at him. Hm. Sakura was taking a shower? He had an evil plan.

"Where the hell have you been? Sakura said she left your place over an hour ago!"

"Gomen, Tsunade-sama. I had to stop and help a little boy learn his…"

"Keep your lies to yourself! I've had it up to here with your lame excuses. Here!"

He caught a small stack of papers she threw at him.

"What's this?" he asked.

"Medical bills. For all the young men you've put in the hospital lately. The village could handle two or three, but thirty is just ridiculous, Kakashi. From now on, you pay!"

He frowned. They had deserved that. And deserved to pay the bills as well.

"You can't protect her forever, Kakashi. One day, one of them is going to get his claws in her, whether you like it or not."

"That won't happen."

"Oh? And just how do you plan to stop it?"

"With your permission, I'd like to make her mine."

Tsunade laughed in his face. She laughed so hard, she was crying. Kakashi scowled behind his mask.

"Aren't you a little old for her?" she laughed again.

"What is age to shinobi?" he shrugged.

"She's your former student." Tsunade was serious now.

"And as my former student, I know more about her than even you do, hokage-sama."

"Be careful, Kakashi," the woman frowned. "I know things about my student that you will never know. Just knowing what she did and what she has been does not mean you know her."

"With all due respect, Tsunade-sama, we've grown close these last few years. You saw to that yourself by sending us on so many missions together. I realized how much I liked spending time with her and I made a point to get closer. I know her."

"You realized how much you like her?"

Kakashi sighed. She was going to make him say it before he had even told his kunoichi.

"I love her," he confirmed quietly.

"Well…then you have my permission." Tsunade turned to the paperwork that littered her desk.

"Just like that?" He was expecting more of a fight.

"Just like that."

She shooed him away and he was only happy to go. She caught him at the door, though.

"Oh, and Kakashi…if you hurt her, I'll break every single bone in your body and order my medic-nin not to heal you."

Her sugar-sweet smile made a shiver run down his spine. He nodded and left for Sakura's apartment.


The sight before him was beautiful indeed. All her luscious curves and touchable skin laid bare before his eyes. She shone with the water that still clung to her from the shower. The little reflections of light on the droplets made her sparkle and added to her normal healthy glow. She was so beautiful. He really should catch her dressing more often.

She hadn't noticed him sitting in her window yet. He knew the moment she turned around, the perfect vision before him would vanish as she would stumble for some sort of covering, most likely the towel she had discarded on her bed. He sighed.

She paused at his exhalation. Then, she slowly turned around, as if fearing what she might see. For a moment, all she did was stare at him. Then, quick as a spark, she grabbed her towel and hid in her closet, screaming at the top of her lungs.

"Kakashi, what the hell do you think you're doing!"

He landed in her room and padded over to her hiding place.

"Now, Sakura, turnabout is fair play."

"You dirty, old pervert! This is a completely different situation! It's not like I was trying to barge in one you in such a compromising position!"

"Still, fair is fair," he responded happily. He loved riling her up. She always looked so cute when she was enraged. "You got to see me, now I get to see you. Now, come on out and leave the towel."

"What! Hell no! Besides, I only saw you with the towel! How is you seeing me without mine fair?"

"The opportunity was there, Sakura. It isn't my fault you didn't take advantage."

"Well, it isn't my fault that you have the modesty of a twenty dollar whore! Get out of my room so I can dress!"

"Really, Sakura. I've got as much as a fifty dollar whore at least," he pouted. "You're in the closet. Can't you dress in there?"

She was very quiet for a while. He decided to stick his head in the closet to see if she was still alive and well. She threw a shoe in his face. Yes, she was fine.

"I don't have my bra or underwear," she said softly.

"That's no problem," he smiled. "I'll get them for you. Just tell me where they are."

"What? No! No! Just get out!"

"Although, now that I think about it, you don't really need a bra or underwear, do you?"

He would prefer to see her naked, but the thought of her without undergarments was very arousing. Maybe he could get her to come out without them.

"T-that's just sick, Kakashi! And uncomfortable. But mostly sick! Do you now how many guys would try to feel me up or look up my skirt? Do you want me to get molested?"

"Who's going to know? I won't tell anyone."

"But, I just…just…"

"Just?" he prompted.

"I just feel naked without them on."

He wondered if she would let him experience how naked she felt without them on. Probably not.

"Come on, Sakura. It's me. I've seen you in less."

She stuck her head around the wall to give him a withering look.

"Gee, thanks. That makes me feel so much better."

"Don't mention it."

She huffed at his dismissal and pulled her head back into the closet.

"Fine," she finally agreed tentatively.

He heard the towel drop and the slide of the hangers as she found something to wear. With a mischievous grin, he snuck up and peeped into her closet. He was just in time to see her naked form slowly disappear beneath the red dress as she slipped it over her head. He smiled happily, even as she took notice of him and went bright red.

"Kakashi!"

"Gomen, Sakura, but I am only a man," he grinned cheekily, knowing she would scream at him for it.

"You are one of the most perverted, most immodest old men I have ever had the displeasure of knowing. You sick, sadistic bastard, I'm going to…"

He gazed at her lovingly, remembering the first time she had done this particular screaming rant in his face. It was also the first time she had stuttered in his presence. It was the first time, after eight years of knowing her and three years of loving her that he had the courage to mildly flirt with his ex-student. She was exceptionally lovely that day. It was Sasuke's birthday and Sakura had pulled out all the stops. Even though she went to great lengths to look beautiful for the celebration, he could tell that she was over him. Their body language screamed closeness, but not intimacy. At least not on her part. He might have been imagining it, but he could have sworn Sasuke made more physical contact than per usual. He overjoyed when Sakura didn't even notice. But, she had been very fond of Sasuke when she was younger. That might come back if she found out he was now interested in her. Kakashi decided he had to make his move.

It started out simple, the two of them sitting together at the table as everyone else danced in the Uchiha manor courtyard. He had casually placed a hand on her thigh, gently squeezing as they talked about jutsu theory (she arguing that strength was more important than proper direction when forming seals and he arguing that strength was important, but direction more so for someone without perfect chakra control). Her amazing brain started failing her as his thumb rubbed the outside of her leg. She started stuttering up a storm. It was comically that when he let go, she was suddenly speaking coherently again. He found he wanted to test this new power.

He then started absently playing with her hair. She had blushed beautifully and had trouble forming complete sentences. When he removed his hand from her hair, she had instantly been able to keep up with his sudden change in topics. Another thing he loved about her was that she could hold an intelligent conversation in just about any subject. They were now talking about the offensive capabilities of various medical jutsu (she insisting that medical jutsu was almost always fatal when used offensively and he pointing out that he and she had survived many encounters with Kabuto).

He took it to a new level when the slow songs started and he draped his arm around her. After the wistful sigh she gave as she watched Naruto and Hinata come closer for the slow beat, he hadn't been able to help himself. She had smiled shyly at him and started babbling. He thought it was the cutest thing. He didn't let go if he could help and even when he couldn't help using his arm, he always replaced it as soon as possible around her shoulders.

When the sake was passed around, he had a lot and under the guise of being tipsy, had knocked the teeth out of a chunin that had the balls to ask her to dance when she was sitting right next to him. His arm was around her, for Kami's sake! That was when their pattern was set up. She had chewed him out for knocking out someone who had wanted an "innocent dance" and stormed off. At first, he was angry that she would have the gall to yell at him in front of all their friends, but then realized he loved her gall and could only laugh about, which led to her screaming at him when she heard his laughter across the room.

It was always like that. They got in some good moments together and one way or another it would end up with her screaming at him. Somehow, for him, those good moments in the cycle always seem to outweigh her temper. And now, again, they had come full circle.

"…and feed them to Akamaru! Do you understand me?"

Now that she was done with the yelling stage, he would begin another sweet stage in their little circle.

"Yes, Sakura."

"Hmph!"

'Hmph' indeed. The way she crossed her arms in front of her had the most wonderful effect on her cleavage. He smiled appreciatively.

He took her hand, managing to lightly brush her left breast (so squeezable), and pulled her into the room. He sat her on the bed.

"Sakura, we need to talk."

He purposefully made his tone grave. He smiled inwardly as her expression turned worried and her scowl at him was immediately dissolved.

"Kami, what did Tsunade say? Is Naruto alright? Sai hasn't finally said the wrong things to the wrong people, has he? Did Sasuke defect to some other pedophilic bastard offering him power? Tell me!"

"Calm down, Sakura. It's nothing like that," he assured. Only his kunoichi would be able to think up such explicit fears in so little time. He held back his chuckle. "I've been thinking about this a lot lately."

His tone must have given him away, or something, because she immediately picked up on his humor. She always could read him the best.

"Oh, no. You're breaking up with me, aren't you?"

Her foxy grin almost made him laugh, but he remained firm in his serious approach.

"Sakura, I'm serious. Do you…think I'm old?"

"Old as in how? Old as in age? Or old as in mind; because, frankly, I think you have the emotionally maturity of a thirteen year old."

"Let's try old as in age?"

"Well…you're what? Sixty?"

"Thirty-four."

"Hai, hai. Silver, not grey. I know."

"Just answer the question, Sakura."

"You aren't about to have a mid-life crisis on me and go gallivanting off with pre-teen girls who I might have to teach this summer, are you?"

He blanched. Good Kami, what would she think of next?

"That's not an answer, Sakura."

"No, Kakashi. You're not old."

Her matter-of-fact tone soothed his nerves. He hadn't realized how much that had been weighing on his brain.

"Naruto, Sasuke, Sai, and I are just better than you are."

And she just had to bring him down with that little cut to his pride. At least he knew which direction her mind was headed. She still didn't think he was asking her opinion of his eligibility to be her lover.

"Do you think I'm…physically attractive?"

He was worried she had caught him when she didn't say anything for a while.

"Kakashi, what's with all the questions? You're beginning to sound like some self conscious girl- does this make me look fat, does my butt look big to you, is my hair too blonde…wait. Kakashi, are you gay?"

And then she proved that she is indeed clueless and in need of some serious correction.

"Sakura, I am not, and I repeat, not nor will I ever be gay."

"Okay, gees. Don't pop a blood vessel or anything. Kami-sama."

"You still didn't answer the question."

There it was. That unmistakable, shy blush. She was fidgeting now. She could just be embarrassed because she was talking about her former teacher and not because she liked him. He was on the edge of his seat.

"Well, um, I-I s-s-suppose you're good looking."

"Really? What about me makes you say that? What do you find attractive?"

"Me, specifically?"

"Yes, what do you find attractive about me?"

"Well, um, er, you have a nice butt?"

"A nice butt?" he asked nonplused.

"Yeah, it's…well, it's not too big, but not too small. Kind of in the middle like. And it looks firm, I guess."

He wanted to ask if she would like to check how firm it was, but resisted. He knew it would scare her off.

"Okay. Is my butt my only good feature?"

"N-no. You have some very nice abs. A-and despite your skinny appearance, you're actually quite muscular. And very a-a-agile."

Kakashi nodded. He was physically appealing to her at the least. Now for the deciding question.

"Do you mind if I'm late all the time? Should I start making it to meetings on time and such?"

She thought long and hard on this one. Her forehead wrinkled and her lips pouted out. She was so cute that he wanted to kiss her. She took so long deciding her answer, he had almost lost his self control.

"I think…I think that if you stopped showing up late, you wouldn't really be Kakashi anymore. A-and who would want that?"

There was love in her eyes when she looked at him. It wasn't that close friend love either. It was the 'I'm deeply, madly in love with you' love. The little minx had hid it from him, somehow. And he thought he was the one who could read her. He couldn't stand it anymore. He pounced.

She squeaked as he threw her back on the bed. He pulled down his mask and kissed her long and lovingly. She responded in kind and fisted her hands in his hair. She was absolutely prefect: the sight of her; the smell of her; the feel of her; oh, Kami, the taste of her; even every little sound she made. All the women of his past were nothing compared with her. He could feel her shortness of breath and broke the kiss, also breathing hard.

"Wh-wh-wha…"

"I love you, Sakura."

"N-now what do I say to that?" she asked a little angrily.

He knew she loved him-their kiss told him that much- so he would play her game.

"'I love you, too' would be nice," he laughed.

She just shook her head. "'I love you, too' is so lame though. It…it just doesn't convey what I feel. It just seems so lacking."

"Heh. I feel the same about 'I love you,' but I still said it."

"Yes, you did," she smiled sweetly.

She caressed his bare cheek, that deep, inexpressible love shining in her eyes.

"You know, this is your first time seeing my face."

"Yeah."

"I thought you would be more excited about seeing it."

"Drooling all over myself in ecstasy at the godly visage revealed before me?" she asked sarcastically.

"Something like that."

Her smile was the sweetest, most beautiful thing he would ever see.

"Did your face really matter all that much?"

"I guess not. If my face didn't matter, then what did?"

"Kakashi mattered. Lateness, lame excuses, perverted mind, unbelievable sensitivity, kindness, strong will, and all. It's Kakashi I love. Not Kakashi's face."

"Good to know." He couldn't help but smile.

He nuzzled at her neck and she giggled. Music to his ears. He pressed more weight on her and was suddenly reminded that she was not wearing a bra or underwear. He was immediately aroused.

"Y-you know, Naruto and Sai are going to kill you."

"And probably Sasuke too."

He didn't want to think about the boys. He wanted to think about how best to get her out of that dress.

"Somehow I doubt that."

He nipped at the base of her neck. She gasped.

"You'd be surprised."

"Tsunade's going to mutilate you."

"No, she's fine with it."

"Really? You talked to her about it? Before talking about it with me?"

He kissed her, trying to apologize. It seemed to work.

"Well, I didn't want her coming after me when I made you mine."

"M-m-made me yours?"

"Sex, Sakura."

"I know what you meant! But here? Now?"

"I'm not going to be able to wait, Sakura. You're too irresistible. That's why I talked to Tsunade first."

"Oh."

He started nuzzling on her neck again and she had no complaints. He deemed that as the okay to go. Now, off with the dress.


He laughed. He couldn't help it. That was probably the best sex he had ever had and with the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. She was laughing too.

"W-wow."

He chuckled and kissed her.

"That was…well…

"Amazing," he finished for her.

She laughed.

"What?" he questioned.

"At first, I used to hate how tongue-tied and clumsy I'd get around you. It was so annoying. But as time went on, I really didn't mind stumbling over my words and falling all over myself. Do you know why?"

"Why?"

She scared him half to death when she stood up and fell toward the floor. Too bad the night stand was in the way of her head. She would break her neck before she hit the floor! He reached up and pulled her down on top of him. He held her tight, afraid she would do something stupid again if he let go. He scowled down at her when she smiled up at him winningly.

"Because I've come to realize whenever I stumble or fall, you're always there to catch me."

He sighed. Now how could he stay mad at her when she said things like that? Of course, just because he couldn't stay made at her doesn't mean she wouldn't get punished.

As retribution for this little fright, he would constantly hoard her attention, be extra clingy for the next couple of days, and make sure no man ever stepped within touching distance of his kunoichi. That would teach her.

So, with a mischievous smile, he kissed her again.


Author's Note:

Stumbling isn't so bad when there's someone there to catch you.