With him it had always been like a game of twenty questions. Of all the details she'd wanted to know about him, he'd always give her the least interesting ones. Or he'd lie.
They were sitting across from each other at a local tea bar. Curls of sweet-smelling tea mist rose between them. He was looking at her with one, dark eye. His expression was neutral, but it suggested a hint of amusement.
She wrapped her fingers around the small cup of tea and leaned in. Her voice came at barely above a whisper. Her words were for no one but the silver-haired figure in front of her.
"I want to know," said the pink-haired kunoichi.
"Know what?" answered the man. The form of a wry smile pressed itself into his mask.
"What it is we're doing. What is this?"
His lone eye skimmed her face. Her lips were soft and rosy. He had tasted them earlier that morning, when he was in bed.
A long, pink bang hung down across her forehead. It had begun to curl in the tea's steam. Her sharp, jade eyes were moving slowly, searching his face. Her thin eyebrows were knitted enough to be expressing anger, but they were distanced enough to be suggesting concern.
"Well this is breakfast. We're having breakfast, would you like a mochi?" said the man as he playfully brandished a squishy, glutinous green ball in front of the girl's face.
The girl leaned back in her chair, crossed her arms and looked angrily away from the man. He was still waving the stick of mochi around in the air until the little desert flew off the stick and landed with a hollow plunking sound in the girl's tea. She turned back to him and threw a disdainful look, but the sheepish grin on his suddenly unmasked face lured her back in.
He had made her look at his beautiful, exposed face just to get on her good side.
She cast a glance at her tea cup. The mochi ball was gone. He was chewing.
"You put your hand in my tea!" yelled the girl when she made the connection, but before she could get any angrier, her companion shook his head.
"Speared it on this," he explained quickly, and he held a small toothpick up so she could see.
The girl scowled, but said no more. For a while they drank their tea quietly, but she soon broke the silence.
"Who was Uchiha Obito?" asked the girl, foregoing the linearity of their discussion. She rested one elbow on the table and set her cheek in her palm. She would hear better this way.
"Why do you want to know?" answered the other ninja, a tinge of suspicion in his voice.
"You stare at his name every time you go to the memorial." she answered smartly.
"I could be staring at any name." suggested the man.
"Don't even try. I can tell exactly where on exactly what organ a kunai thrown from fifty meters is going to hit just by the angle. I know what name you're staring at by the angle your head tilts every single time."
"I've been outsmarted." declared the man happily. His eyes closed into two arches of amusement.
The girl said nothing and kept looking at him for an answer.
"Obito was a friend," finally came his reply.
The kunoichi's eyes narrowed somewhat, and her piercing green gaze continued to stare at the man sitting contently in front of her. Taking a new direction, she asked a different question.
"Where did you get your sharingan?"
"It was at the bottom of a box of cereal. I almost swallowed it with my breakfast that time."
A chopstick whizzed by the man's ear, and he could have sworn that a microscopic splinter had lodged itself in his cartilage. He pawed at his ear for a second, as if scratching an itch, but he quickly resumed smiling at the now fuming girl sitting across from him.
"Why? Do you want one too? We can go buy some cereal right now." he continued to tease.
"Did you get your sharingan from Uchiha Obito?" demanded the girl, cutting off the man's continued attempts at bantering.
There was silence.
A child somewhere outside the tea bar was crying for his mother. The waitress came up to their table and refilled the teapot.
He never answered her question. He just moved them on to a different subject. But that was how she finally found out where his sharingan had come from.
It was like her private little copy-ninja-based game of twenty questions. The more bizarre his answers got, the closer she knew she was to getting the truth. When he stopped answering altogether, she was there.
It was the same way she'd gotten past all of his defenses.
The first time they went to bed together, they'd both thought it was a mistake.
She'd just gotten back from a mission during which every single person under her command had been taken out. She'd spent the night crying and pounding sake in her apartment. He'd only stopped by to see how she was handling the situation, which he'd quickly realized was not very well at all.
So he'd stayed with her and talked her through it.
In her drunken haze, the girl had admitted that during the entire fight, the only person she could think about was him. She told him she'd fought on because she couldn't bear the thought of not saying goodbye to him.
He didn't tell her that he'd had a similar experience a few missions back. He'd just kissed her.
They didn't speak to each other for two weeks after that night. It wasn't until team seven was thrown together on a mission that they saw each other again. The first night of said mission, she snuck into his room at their inn, and while Naruto and Sasuke slept unaware next door, the two of them renewed what should have been a one night stand.
It was a one night stand that evolved past the mission's end. It evolved into nights spent together just talking about people and events. It evolved into lunch dates disguised as mission reviews at local restaurants. It evolved into mornings spent under the covers laughing and forgetting all those hollow ghosts that plagued them. But most importantly, it evolved into the game of twenty questions.
She played the game, and he let her play it. That was how she cracked him, and before he could do anything about it, she knew more about him than anyone in the world ever had.
And he loved her knowing all those things, because for the first time in his life, he didn't have to carry the weight of who he was alone.
A few days after the tea shop conversation, the copy-ninja and his only female student took an overseas mission, the first to be offered under the Godaime's reign. The Hokage speculated that the mission would take some years to complete, and on five separate occasions before their departure she had urged the two to reconsider.
But they were deaf to persuasion.
So Tsunade, Naruto and Sasuke saw the two off on a rainy, August morning. As a suffocating humidity enveloped the capital city, the two ninja said goodbye to their closest ones, shouldered their packs, and darted off into the distance.
That same night, Naruto and Sasuke drank more sake than they had ever done before in their lives. Tsunade treated both for alcohol poisoning, but she didn't scold them. They had their reasons.
In his inebriation, Naruto had sadly moaned out the last thing Sakura said to him.
"See you soon."
It was the irony of the words that had broken the blond boy's heart.
The mission took a year and a half longer than the Hokage had expected.
Correspondence from overseas was severely limited, and every four months or so the sandy-haired sannin would receive a letter from her apprentice. The girl never went into detail on how or where they were living, which Tsunade assumed had something to do with the slight chance that the letter might be intercepted.
The Hokage's only comfort came at the end of every letter. Sakura always closed with the same four words.
Progress is being made.
Tsunade kept the mail from her apprentice in a locked drawer in her desk. She shared them on occasion with Naruto and Sasuke, both of whom had expressed concern when Sakura didn't bother writing to them.
Naruto expressed his concern a little more loudly than Sasuke did. He just didn't seem to understand how difficult it was for mail to come from overseas.
Time trickled by slowly.
Established routines continued, and Konoha flourished on, seemingly unaware that two of its most loyal citizens were missing.
The second year after their departure, TenTen married Neji, both at the age of twenty-four. That same year, the pretty purple-haired ANBU captain, who had always called Kakashi "sempai," fell to a rogue group of S-class criminals looking to emulate Akatsuki. In her will, she had requested that those who were in charge bury her next to Hayate. Genma had personally initiated the mission to track down and destroy the group of ninja that had claimed her life.
The third year, Hinata finally managed to secure a date with Naruto. She had paid for their dinner at Ichiraku, and the next day the old cook had scolded Naruto for ripping off a girl. The blond boy's defense was that he had had no idea it was a date. That was how he finally realized Hinata was in love with him. The Ichiraku cook had to lay it all out for him. Leave it to the man who fed the boy to point him in the right direction.
The third year away, three genin fresh out of the academy were killed on a C-class escort mission. It had actually been more on the level of an A-class mission. The client had lied. The jounin teacher, who'd barely managed to finish off their assailant, returned to Konoha shamed and full of self-hate because he knew that what had happened to them had happened before. Only that time, the jounin teacher was competent enough to keep all of his students alive.
The fourth year Jiraiya put out Icha Icha Equipment. It was the top selling book in all of Konoha for fourteen weeks. Perhaps spurred on by a chapter entitled "for those who marry late," almost half of the hidden village's kunoichi decided to scout boyfriends. Sasuke still remained the most desirable yet elusive bachelor. Somehow he could still not bring himself to favor a single girl.
"How are you going to rebuild your clan?" Ino had snapped one night as they were out having drinks.
Sasuke's slightly inebriated answer was, "I'll figure something out."
And five years later, on a cold December night, a small boat docked at one of the Fire country's fishing ports. Of the dozen or so passengers who disembarked there, two were setting foot on their home soil for the first time in half a decade. But there was something else.
They were welcomed home like heroes.
It had been the most successful operation that the Fire country had ever completed. In the midst of all the celebration, something slipped in that no one would have counted on. Free-flowing sake, fireworks at 3 a.m. and days of raucous parties were enough to fog even an elite ninja's overdeveloped sense of detection.
It wasn't until the following September when someone finally noticed something strange.
"Excuse me, but you shouldn't be reading that in class, not on your first day," barked an irritated Iruka at a boy sitting in the back row of class.
Without lowering his comic, the boy spoke back to his teacher.
"I already know everything you're going to teach me."
A few girls giggled at his response, and they threw furtive glances in the boy's direction, hoping to catch a glimpse of his face behind the comic book. Iruka's face, however, fell into an expression of extreme annoyance. It was an expression he hadn't used since the days of Naruto's useless outbursts.
"Okay funny guy, what's your name?" demanded Iruka.
"Shouldn't you have a list with all our names on it or have you not even looked at it yet?" the boy said back in a slightly mocking tone.
Iruka blushed. He indeed hadn't found time to look at the academy roster before the school year had commenced. Grabbing it off his desk, he ran his finger down the list to new academy students and began to call roll.
"Here!" squeaked a chubby little girl.
"Ah, are you Chouji's niece? I've been expecting you."
Her round face nodded.
At the sight of the next name, Iruka dropped his clipboard.
He ran up the aisle to the boy hiding behind his comic book, and with one deft swipe he grabbed the book out of the boy's hands.
The boy wore a mask, had unruly snow-white hair and Iruka audibly sucked in air when he saw that a pair of amused green eyes was staring up at him.
"Well?" asked the boy.
"H-Hatake Minori?" Iruka stuttered.
"Here, sensei!" shouted Minori to Iruka who was standing right next to him.
"How old are you?" asked Iruka when he had finally pulled himself together.
"Four," answered Minori dully.
It suddenly made sense to Iruka why that famous mission of Sakura and Kakashi's had taken an extra year.
And with the unveiling of Hatake Minori, it was no longer Sakura's game of twenty questions.
It was up to all who knew Hatake Kakashi and Haruno Sakura to ask questions. After all, they would never get any explanation from the two without playing that game. And the most popular question was the simplest.
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Thanks for reading. This was a one-shot. I hoped you like it. R/R please.