Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Or the characters of Kakashi and Sakura, which is why they might be a bit OOC...
"My dear, you dance divinely."
Sakura grimaced at the smell of soy sauce and sake drifting from the loose-lipped mouth of the greasy daimyo whose dancing reminded her of a crab. Why couldn't evening shoes come with steel toecaps?
And why the hell did she have to take a mission like this in the first place? Sure it paid the bills, but the feel of sweaty paws clasping her hands and sliding sneakily down her waist, made her wish that drinking on the job was acceptable for a shinobi.
"Er, thank you."
Replying to his oily compliment, the pink-haired girl tried to force a few extra inches of space between herself and the sweating man, who had to be about 20 years older than her. It was so unfair, there were a few good looking guys at this function, so why did the highest-ranking pervert have to get his eye on her?
Looking around for her two teammates, Sakura scowled at the sight of one of them at the buffet, stuffing himself, and the other flirting with a girl in a tight black dress. She really hated being teamed up with no-name chuunin who thought that a C rank mission meant free food and fun.
It would have been different in the old days, the 18 year old thought bitterly, as she took advantage of a moment of her partner's inattention to spin outwards, only to be pulled back in, closer than before.
In the old days, Naruto and Sasuke would have broken the arm of any guy who so much as touched me. If they weren't busy fighting with each other, that is. And Kakashi sensei would have been hiding behind the scenes, watching me, ready to give orders to get me away from any weirdos.
The too-warm hand at her waist slid down a few more inches, and Sakura's smile began to show teeth. It wouldn't do to break the wrist of the highest-ranked official at the occasion, but she was getting awfully tempted. Besides, she could always heal him again in a few seconds and apologize. Maybe it wouldn't become an international incident if she did it unobtrusively.
Deep in thought, Sakura did not notice a tall, silver-haired figure approaching through the crowd, until he was actually standing behind the daimyo, one gloved hand firmly gripping the suit-clad shoulder.
"Forgive me for disturbing your Excellency." Hatake Kakashi gave a short, crisp bow as the man, releasing Sakura, turned irritably to face him.
"Well, what is it?" snapped the daimyo, staring up at the masked ninja. Sakura half expected Kakashi to smile tolerantly and perhaps even pat the grumpy official on the head, but instead her former sensei stood at attention, eyes respectfully downcast.
"A messenger has just arrived outside for you my lord, it seems quite urgent. Something about a fire in your wine cellar, I believe."
Bushy eyebrows shot up. "My wine cellar!?" Moving with greater dexterity and speed than he had shown all evening, the daimyo dropped the pink-haired girl's hand and began pushing his way to the door without a backward glance. Sakura watched him go, trying to decide whether to feel relieved, confused, or maybe a bit insulted. Looking up at her former teacher, whose visible eye was curved into a smile, she decided relief was the way to go.
"Well, then, shall we?"
And taking a step forward, Kakashi caught hold of her right hand in his, and curled an arm around her waist. Sakura nearly stumbled as he turned and guided them into a rhythmic step in time with the music.
"Kakashi sensei, what are you doing!?"
He gaped at her comically.
"I must be terribly out of practice if you can't tell that I'm dancing, Sakura. At least tell me I'm not as bad as his Excellency."
Sakura burst into giggles at the imploring look on his face and placed her hand on his shoulder.
"At least your hands are staying where they're meant to be, and your breath doesn't smell like sake, sensei."
"And I don't step on your toes."
"And you don't step on my toes," she agreed with a smile. Suddenly a thought struck her.
"Sensei, what are you doing here anyway? Are you on a mission?"
Sakura thought a flash of something like guilt might have briefly appeared on the man's face, but it was hard to tell, what with the mask and forehead protector in the way.
"Oh, not really, actually I just finished one, so I had some free time, and then when I was at the hospital Shizune-san happened to mention you were at the big shindig at the daimyo's place."
One pink eyebrow rose skeptically. "And I know how you just love big shindigs, Kakashi sensei, I'm sure you couldn't resist coming."
The silver-haired man shrugged, his gaze roving about the room. "Well your two 'team mates' seem to be enjoying themselves." His dark eye narrowed disapprovingly. "I wonder if they were even keeping an eye out for their team mate?"
Speechless, Sakura gazed up at him. Cogs in her mind began to turn, filling in the blanks, until everything came into place with a click that was almost audible. Her teacher turned his attention back to her face.
"Sakura, did you hear something?"
Ignoring his question, the pink-haired medic looked him straight in the eye.
"Kakashi sensei, is the daimyo's wine cellar really on fire?"
The masked jounin seemed to consider for a moment, as if calculating something.
"Well, if it's not now, it should be in abouuuuuut…two minutes, give or take."
Her face paled.
"Sensei, please tell me you didn't set up explosives in a nobleman's house just to use as a diversion to stop that old pervert from groping me."
"Whoops, you got me."
Kakashi grinned down at her, looking very pleased with himself. Sakura groaned and dropped her head forward onto his khaki vest, turning it from side to side in disbelief. Then she abruptly realized that it was probably the sweetest, most chivalrous, if unbalanced thing a man had ever done for her. Naruto's promise to get Sasuke back didn't count; he had been 12 at the time; ditto for Lee saving her in the Forest of Death during the first chuunin exams.
Kakashi sighed deeply. "It's not that I don't believe you were fully capable of breaking his hand off, and sewing it back on in full working order. It's just that, after all, you're my first and only female student, and when I see some guy with his hands all over you, I can't help feeling a little…"
"A little fatherly and protective?" Sakura guessed.
"A little jealous and possessi-…or yeah, fatherly and protective, sure, that too," the silver-haired man said hastily, trying to avoid his former student's green eyes, which had become approximately the same size and shape as saucers.
"Kakashi sensei, did you just say –, " Sakura shook her head suddenly. This was not exactly the time or the place to start delving into such issues. "Never mind."
She could have sworn her teacher breathed a soft sigh of relief.
"Anyway, thanks for saving me, sensei. If you have somewhere to be, you can go if you want, I'm sure I can handle myself for the rest of the night."
"I've got nowhere to be tonight." He slanted a wary glance at her, "If you don't mind, that is."
A little surge of relief at his words surprised her. Some things never changed; something about Kakashi's presence made her feel safe and reassured like nobody else' could.
"I don't mind at all." Sakura smiled.
Author's Note: Now if only I could spin out a chapter of Shikamaru Plus Glasses Equals, with as great an ease...Did you like this one? I've been wanting to do this storyline for a while. I kind of like the way it came out.