Kakashi woke up in the same chair.

Tsunade was sitting on the opposite side of the bed, monitoring Aya's vitals. She saw his eye open and smiled. "Three hours and twenty-nine seconds."

"That long? It felt shorter."

"Speak for yourself," a hoarse, weak voice croaked from the pillows. Aya Fukuda looked up at her lover. "Hey."


Then Aya burst into tears.


One day later...

"Kakashi, I swear I didn't do anything improper," said Shiranui, his hands raised in innocence.

Kakashi twirled the two kunai in his right hand. "Stay still, Shiranui, or else I might just miss my target and hit something important."

The other jounin bit his senbon as Kakashi hurled the weapons at him, thunking into the two apples balanced on each shoulder. There was one more on his head. "Kakashi, I didn't know she was your girl, and secondly, nothing happened. Really! Go ask her!"

"She can't remember, since you so conveniently got her drunk," Kakashi growled. "Stop inching away. I haven't even started shuriken practice. And frankly, if you had done anything..."

Shiranui groaned even as the next kunai speared the apple off his head.


"K, I don't get it," said Aya. "Why didn't your team blab since they saw me visiting you guys on that hideous swamp mission?"

"I don't know, Aya. Maybe they just felt we deserved some privacy."


Sakura burnt the last of the photos. Ino and Tenten sat next to the small bonfire, disappointed.

"We really should have just broadcast the news and not, y'know, waste time taking tabloid photos," said Tenten. Ino sighed and propped her chin on her hands.

Sakura groused as she put in the dozen written reports about sightings and locations. "If he'd taken a little longer..."

"Well we couldn't have put out the "Shinobi Scandal" debut issue when he was grieving, could we?" Ino asked. "Tsunade-sama would've stomped us flat, and then our senseis would stomp our stomped remains. And then our parents would burn the red greasy smears-"

"Ino, we get it. It would've been bad to do that." Sakura and Tenten looked mournfully at their first and aborted attempt to get a proper paparazzi culture flourishing. "Ah well... back to the drawing board. Who else we got, Tenten?"

"Shikamaru and Temari... Shikamaru and Ino, that should be easy...Sasuke and every other genin available...Neji and me what the hey?! Sakura, you evil..."


A/N: alright, I had to end it, it was becoming soap opera-ish. It started simply enough, but that's what happens when the characters have minds of their own.

Thanks for reading all the way, you've been remarkably patient! Reviews welcome

Next piece will probably be a shorter tale focusing on Hinata.