Disclaimer: I do not own "Naruto."

Note: This story is dedicated to asuka02redeva who was actually the one who came up with this idea. Thank you my muse! ) Also, I highly recommend listening to Hoobastank's "The Reason" for this fic. The song popped into my head as the story progressed and I just realized that it fit. Anyway, enjoy!

The Reason

This was her chance. Who else would know better than him? He was his best friend after all. There were even implications that they may have even grown up together. But even as Haruno Sakura stole a glance at her companion walking amicably by her side, she hesitated. And so the pair continued on in silence until her companion came to a sudden halt, forcing Sakura to stop in her tracks as well.

"Is there something you want to ask me, Sakura?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Sakura laughed nervously, looking anywhere but at him.

"Then why do you keep looking at me like that from the corner of your eye? Something is obviously on your mind, so you might as well come out with it."

Sakura looked him directly in the eyes. Those sweet kind eyes that conveyed nothing but friendship and understanding. They told her that if she had a question to ask or a secret to tell, that he would do everything in his power to provide the answer and harbor that secret to his grave. Sakura gave a sigh and plopped herself down just a little bit off the dirt trail they were walking on and under the shade of the trees.

"You got me, Pakkun. You might as well take a seat because I've got a lot on my mind and this might be awhile." Sakura said while waving to an empty spot on her left.

The pug gave Sakura a sympathetic smile, waddled to her side, and sat down on his hind legs next to her. Pakkun turned his head looking up at her with his big, brown, puppy dog eyes, prompting her to speak.

"Oh, Pakkun!" Sakura smiled sadly down at him and began to scratch the back of his ears, "Whatever am I supposed to do about your master?"

"Ah, so this is about Kakashi then is it?" Pakkun said, slowly nodding his head.

"I just don't get him you know? You'd think that after all these years he'd open up to me, that he'd at least share a little bit of his life outside of work with me, that he'd see me as something other than his subordinate."

Humans really aren't that sharp, are they? thought Pakkun, looking up at the pretty face of the green-eyed, pink-haired woman gently massaging him behind the ears. She was definitely no longer the young adolescent he and his master once knew. Sakura was now a fully grown adult and a highly attractive one at that, for a human. It was no wonder his master always seemed to be in heat around her.

"Kakashi doesn't open up to anybody, Sakura. You know that. It's nothing against you." Pakkun said gently. "It's just his way. And you know he no longer sees you as just a subordinate. You've been equals ever since Team Kakashi. You've proven to him that he needs to respect and treat you as such, and he has."

"I know." Sakura said softly. "But I still wish…"

Pakkun noticed that Sakura was now staring out at the distance with unseeing eyes, lost in thought at what she was about to say, but didn't.

"Kakashi has a strange idea of what it is to protect people." Pakkun said, finally breaking the silence.

"What do you mean?" Sakura asked, looking into Pakkun's eyes once more.

"Sakura, you do know why Kakashi's always late, right?"

"Well, yeah. I think we've all caught him just staring at the memorial at one point or another."

"Do you know why he's always doing that?"

"He's lost people he's cared about I'm sure."

"Not just cared about, Sakura. Loved."

"Kakashi was in love? I didn't know that! Who was she?"

"You're getting me wrong, Sakura. Kakashi wasn't in love, but he did love his best friend, Obito, and his sensei, the Fourth, and his other teammate, Rin. Ever since his father died, Kakashi's team was his family. To lose them one after the other…"

Pakkun looked up at Sakura significantly.

"…After that, it seemed like he had made a vow to himself to never let anyone else in. It's like he had been pushed to his limit and wasn't going to let anyone else get close enough to love and lose again. With each loss, came a new barrier. When he lost his father, he began to wear the mask. When he lost his team, he began to hide behind the books. It's hard to tell who he's trying to protect, the people he keeps pushing away or himself. I've come to think it's both."

"Oh, Pakkun, how awful! I never knew…"

"But…" Pakkun gave a small smile, "I think that's changing."

"Changing? Changing how?" Sakura looked at Pakkun confused.

Humans really do need everything spelled out for them, don't they? thought Pakkun.

"Sakura, haven't you noticed anything different about Kakashi lately?"

"Different? Different how?"

Pakkun continued to look up at Sakura's face and continued to smile widely at her. Sakura could feel herself starting to burn. She was sure the flush on her face was beginning to show.

"You-you've noticed?"

"The male species never was good at hiding his intent regardless if they're human or otherwise, but then again, if he did that, how would the female know he wanted to mate with her?"

"Oi, Pakkun! I can't believe you just said that!" Sakura looked at the small pug aghast.

"It's still true." Pakkun smirked. Who knew dogs could smirk?

"You're saying that Kakashi wants to, wants to…You know!" Sakura said flailing her hand to convey what she didn't have the courage to say out loud. "…With me? Me?!"

"Pheromones are a strange thing. You can smell it a mile away…" Pakkun trailed off, amused at how Sakura's face was becoming more and more screwed up in horror, and Pakkun knew it wasn't because of the idea, it was just the blatancy in which he spoke of it.

"But he doesn't even talk to me! How could he…"

"I just told you, Sakura. Kakashi has a strange sense of what it is to protect someone, either himself or the person he loves, but in this case, you are allowed to assume he actually is in love."

Sakura stared at Pakkun in awe. "Kakashi? In love? With me? Pakkun, how do I know you're not just pulling my leg? I mean, honestly, to propose that Kakashi thinks of me in that way!"

"Well if you don't believe a word I say, Sakura, you could just ask him yourself seeing how he's headed our way." Pakkun grinned at a flustered Sakura who just now caught the tall, lean form of her ex-sensei making a bee-line towards them.

"Yo." Kakashi said with a wave of his hand. "I was wondering where you two had gone off to. What have you guys been doing?" Kakashi asked. He was focusing his question at a very red faced Sakura, who had immediately stood up at the mere sight of him, but it was Pakkun, who still sat calmly at her feet who answered.

"Oh, Sakura and I here were just having a little heart to heart, but I really should be off and leave you two alone." And with that, Pakkun gave Sakura a knowing wink and disappeared in a "poof." Sakura stood with her mouth open still staring at the quickly dissipating smoke, shocked and appalled that Pakkun, who was supposed to be her friend, could abandon her like that.

"What was that about?" Kakashi asked, smiling down at Sakura. Sakura slowly turned her head to look at him and promptly shut her mouth.

"Nothing!" Sakura said, adamantly shaking her head.

"Well it couldn't have been nothing. You look absolutely flustered!" Kakashi said, laying a warm hand gently on her shoulder while Sakura nearly jumped out of her skin. Kakashi himself jumped backwards at her reaction. "Geez, Sakura! Seriously! What were you guys talking about?!"

"Sorry, Kaka-sensei! It's just that, just that…" And Sakura found herself getting lost in Kakashi's long gaze. You really didn't look at people that long, right? And not with that look in your eyes, right? Maybe Pakkun really wasn't pulling her leg…

"…Kaka-sensei, what's going on with you lately?" Sakura finally said, letting out what was really on her mind.

"What do you mean?" Kakashi asked, clearly taken aback.

"It just feels like things have…changed between us." Sakura said quietly. She looked deep into Kakashi's one exposed eye, mentally preparing herself for his denial, but instead…

"Yes, things are definitely changing." Kakashi answered back and Sakura noticed that his eye was somehow focused solely on her mouth. When Kakashi finally raised his eyes back up to Sakura's, he knew that she knew.

"How did this happen?" Sakura whispered.

Kakashi rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, looking up at her from his bowed position. "It didn't happen overnight if that's what you're asking. Pakkun was right. After day, after day, and after so many years, my eyes had to eventually open up and see what was in front of me."

"Which is what exactly, Kaka-sensei?"

"A reason to stop acting like a paranoid fool and to stop hiding behind walls that hurt rather than protect me and the people around me. I couldn't see what I was doing before because I never saw the hurt I was causing…But then you came along. When I saw how I was hurting you by pushing you away…You gave me a reason to just stop it already. That's when I knew. That's when it happened."

"So this is it? You're laying down the line?"

"More like crossing it I'd say." Kakashi smiled at her and Sakura smiled back at him. "It just leaves open the question of whether or not you feel the same way."

Sakura looked him in the eye hoping that he could read her answer and raised her hands to his face. When he didn't raise his own hands to stop her and simply continued to watch her, Sakura softly brought her fingers to the edges of Kakashi's mask and began to slowly bring it down. When it was completely down to his neck, Sakura gently caressed the lone scar that came down to his cheek, caressed the smoothness of his cleanly shaven jaw, and then moved the very same caress to the bottom of his lip.

"No more walls?" she asked quietly.

"I no longer have a reason to want them."

"Then, Kakashi, my answer is yes." Then Sakura softly pressed her lips against his, with Kakashi kissing her back just as gently.

In the shadow of a tree, a lone pug smiled at his master and his mate, then disappeared in a poof of smoke.

The End