Warning! If you don't read the Naruto manga or have not past the Hidan and Kakuzu arc, you may not want to read this. But if spoilers don't bother you, feel free to continue on.
This was inspired when I accidently saw a spoiler in the manga while downloading and it pissed me off at first, but I figured I could make a good one-shot with it. ::shrugs:: There's no beta for this. Gomen.
The skies were gray that day. Sadness pressed its heavy mark on usually bright faces. No one smiled and even the children must've sensed something off in the air.
Once again, Konoha had lost one of its most elite Shinobi. The village was drenched in black as they headed toward the ceremony. This time, the death had hit close to heart.
Asuma Sarutobi. His body was encircled in what could only be the most expensive polished wood, cherry black with the embroideries of his beloved country's symbol along the edges. It was a closed casket ceremony. The pain was hard to bear and yet, it showed in few faces.
One of the most frequently repeated rules, taught and engraved into young minds, as Genins were not to let your emotions be known. Emotions were a sign of weakness. Weakness could only lead to defeat.
Sakura never agreed with that rule. Wasn't it emotion that led so many ninja to put their lives on the line on a daily basis? Wasn't it emotion that gave ninja one last push for survival when they needed it most? Wasn't it emotion that made us all individuals and a bit more human?
Sadly, Asuma's emotions would not give him the strength to live one more day. It only gave him the strength to fight one last battle with honor before he left his wisdom with his three most beloved pupils.
Ino wasn't herself since. Sakura couldn't bring herself to call her Ino-pig or pass the flower shop. She honestly didn't know what to say to the girl and as much as she felt her pain, the ones who understood her the most right now was none other than her two prior teammates of team ten.
Ino stood by Choji, taking a firm grip on his hand as she held in that weakness, called emotion. It was a sight likely to never be seen twice unless under circumstances such as these. She hoped it would never happen this way again.
Shikamaru hadn't shown. He had taken it the hardest. He had also taken up Asuma's smoking habit in memory and that may have been where he was now. Lost in thought with a cigarette between his lips.
It was too hard. Sakura's eyes burned and whenever she looked to Naruto's face beside her, he was angry. No – determined.
He felt so far from her and Kakashi- sensei- his face was impassive as always. Wasn't Asuma his close friend? Didn't he find it hard to control himself from punching at the casket in front and weeping to the heavens why it was so? Obviously, even if he did, it didn't show.
The ceremony was as chilled as death itself. Even Kurenai, now that rumors were afloat on the nature of her relationship with Asuma, kept her crimson eyes dry at the sight of her most precious love, now deceased in a box. The only thing to keep her tied to his soul was the bit of life brewing in her womb.
Sakura was relieved when the ceremony was over. She didn't know why. She just knew that she had to escape these frozen facades. The heavy air and the black figures. It was all too much.
As the crowd left the ceremony, she felt out of place. It didn't feel right going to Ichiraku for Ramen with Naruto. She didn't feel right asking Ino to go shopping with her. Most businesses kept their shops closed in honor of his death and the hospital's staffs were nearly cut in half because of the unfortunate occasion. She didn't want to go home.
She watched as Naruto disappeared into the crowd, most likely going to find Shikamaru and vow that he'll help him get revenge. Kakashi brushed past her, on purpose or unintentionally, she didn't know.
Her hand reached forward to grab his sleeve. "Kakashi-sensei…" Her hand stopped in mid air and her words fell silent.
She let him go.
Everyone felt it, but no one was saying it. The person next to them, their teammates, their family, their friends, they might not be there tomorrow. Her sensei, he could be gone too some day, and it wasn't until now that she realized there was so much she didn't know about him.
She remembered how she stared in awe at her sensei, when she was twelve. She was so gullible and believed everything he said without question. Whenever she cried, his pat on her head made the world just a little bit brighter. When others looked down at her, when others kicked her aside, he told her to keep going. He was the one that taught her to protect the ones she loved. Love was an emotion, wasn't it?
Sakura shivered. It was strange how small she felt amongst the crowds passing by her, passing through her.
Finally deciding to move from that spot, she planned on going home to toss these dark clothes in her closet. They made her feel dark. She wanted to put something bright again, not to mock Asuma's death, or act like it wasn't there, but to brighten up the world just as her Sensei did for her so many times. Asuma wouldn't want people to grieve for him so deeply.
There was no work and there was nothing else to do. Her next mission was to find her Sensei.
Did I just-
Kakashi shook his head. He thought he heard Sakura call out to him, but he must've been wrong. She looked so troubled at the ceremony, but then again, who wasn't? Times like these made you dwell on the things you usually tried to avoid. Like wondering what you would do if you lost someone you loved again? If they would be there the next day? How you would go on without them?
He had known Asuma for a long time and learning of his death was a pain he couldn't find words to describe. His heart went out to Kurenai. Surely, she had wanted to tell Asuma of the news as soon as he returned and it never happened. Asuma would've been overjoyed. Most likely he would've announced it all over the village on surround sound and keeping his relationship with Kurenai secret no more. It was a bittersweet miracle.
He had held Kurenai in his arms earlier before the ceremony began. It was a brief hold of comfort between friends and she was grateful for the sympathy. At least, for now, they still had each other and the rest from their generation.
Now that the ceremony was over, Kakashi was relieved to leave. The air was too heavy and the draft was too cold. Perhaps, finding a nice spot amongst some trees next to his Icha Icha novel would provide him with some ease.
As he walked through the village, he passed by Ino and Choji, dragging down the street. Their faces were down and as ironic as it was, they were finally getting along. It was too bad that it took something like this to happen.
"Hey, Kakashi-sensei," Ino greeted, hardly any light shedding in her expression. Choji waved too and Kakashi responded with a quick "yo".
"We're heading to the buffet, if you wanna tag along," Ino offered. Most likely there were heading there since it was where Asuma would often take them when he treated them. It broke his heart at the sight of it.
Without explanation, Kakashi reached forward and patted Ino on the head. Her eyes went wide with surprise, but just as she froze, she melted under his comfort.
Tears welded up within the corners of her big eyes, glistening like gems. Just then, he couldn't help, but think of Sakura. Poor Sakura, when she was helpless and looking for his guidance. When a pat on the head just like this one eased all her wounds. He was hoping he could do just a bit of that now, for a couple of students that had lost their sensei.
He knew that feeling all too well because there was a day, when he too had lost his sensei.
"I'll tell you what. It'll be my treat," Kakashi offered with a smile beneath his mask.
They both tried to refuse his offer, but he quickly ignored their pleas and began walking towards the buffet. With a sigh, Ino followed. Choji looked slightly happy as well. No one could replace Asuma, but it was nice to enjoy something like this occasionally. Maybe someday they'd invite Kurenai and treat her. Treat her and the little Asuma offspring that would probably be taught that smoking was a nasty habit.
It seemed Ino had this exact thought as she released a small giggle. Choji passed her a confused look. As the three headed to the buffet, a very familiar pair waited at the entrance, most likely with the same thought in mind.
Shikamaru and Naruto, hands in their pockets.
"Yo," Kakashi greeted.
"Yo," Shikamaru responded and they all wordlessly entered the buffet. It would be an awkward, but warm dinner for them all.
Sakura found Kakashi easily that night. Much easier than she had expected. Usually she'd end up having to go by his apartment first, then the memorial, and then if he was in neither in those two places, she had to search the village for some random spot where'd he pick to read his Icha Icha series.
Somehow, she just strolled down the dusty paths of the sleeping village, crossed over the bridge to a familiar patch of hanging willow trees, and there he was. Funny, how his body drooped as he sat against the large, thick tree trunk, the willow's branches drooping identically. He didn't seem to notice her until she smiled at the thought of how similar he was to the lazy tree.
His laziness was probably one of the very few things she knew of him.
Kakashi greeted her quietly as she approached him. He nudged over to make room. He always easily read the hint that she needed to talk with little effort. Eyes stood on the pages on his book, but she knew his ears were open to her.
She folded her legs in front of her, hugging them close as she took in the cool breeze running through her mint green dress. She was almost tempted to fall asleep on her knees beside him before she remembered her purpose for coming.
"How are you feeling today?"
Well, that was an odd question. Her voice was soft and sincere. She had meant her question seriously.
Kakashi didn't revert his eyes from his book. "There have been better days, Sakura".
Sakura sighed. She tilted her head at him lazily, still resting on her knees. "Why do you always answer personal questions so vaguely?"
Kakashi shrugged carelessly. "Just in my ways, I guess".
"Hmm. I see". This was getting nowhere. The grass beneath her was comforting and if she didn't continue to pursue, she might eventually find herself floating away into slumber right in that very spot.
She battled with herself, trying to find a question that would lure some deeper, secret truth from her mentor, now equal. Sensing that she had more to say, but wasn't sure how to weave it into words, Kakashi closed his book. He set it on his lap before leaning his head against the tree.
"Did my answer disappoint you?"
He said it so lightly, like nothing ever bothered him. Didn't things ever bother him, she wondered? Didn't he ever feel the need to talk just as she was doing now? His face, his eye, and so much were covered in mystery she didn't know of.
She laughed, "It's just that- well, I was thinking, you know?"
"Mmm hmm?" He nodded.
"I was looking at Choji today and Ino, and thinking about how Shikamaru didn't show. I was looking at all the other teams I grew up with together with their former sensei's except them and it made me wonder, aren't you afraid? Do you ever go out there and fear not coming back?"
"I fear it everyday, but you can't run from death. When you're a ninja, you should expect it".
Sakura shook her head, her short hair waving messily like a disgruntled child. "I know. I know that already. But as a human being, doesn't it bother you? Aren't you afraid of leaving us behind?"
To her surprise, he shook his head. "There's nothing to be afraid of. You've all grown so well and you don't need my looking after anymore".
Her face was blank. It was like she was getting all the wrong answers, but she wasn't sure if she was asking all the right questions. She didn't want to look foolish.
Suddenly, without warning, she leaned on his shoulder and pulled her arm across to tighten around his neck. Kakashi grew stiff, unsure of how to react. They were equals now, but still, wasn't this a tad inappropriate? Then again, someone did just die and if the whole village begun embracing all kinds of people on this day, if wouldn't be questioned.
He was warm, surrounded in an earthy tone that made her close her eyes and see herself bundled up on her couch by a fire. It was a smell she wasn't well familiar with. It was strong enough to linger, but soft enough to comfort. It was masculine, youthful and father-like all at once. She couldn't quite place what he felt like in her arms, but her head nuzzled beneath his neck at the moment seemed to have a better affect than his pats on her head.
"Kakashi?" She whispered timidly as she held him. He noted how he only said his name and answered with a hum.
"If anything bad ever happened, to either one of us, I mean, well-" she sighed, still unable to string her words together without sounding weird. "I'd wish I had spent my time better with the people I cared about and when I think about it, I feel like I hardly know you at all".
Sakura pulled away, sending him this solemn gesture in all sincerity, hoping that he would understand. And he did, as he always had, wordlessly. "Well I don't know when we'll always have the time, between missions and things like this, but as of this moment, my time is free. Ask me anything you wanna know".
Her face brightened, and for a moment, the woman in Sakura faded, just for an instant, her features melted away to a few years prior, where her eyes lit up at the sight of the first cherry blossoms in season. She had looked too serious before, and for some reason, as much as Kakashi had grown to admire it, he couldn't help, but wish that she wouldn't grow cold too fast. He hoped she wouldn't end up like him.
"Really? Oh, but I have so many questions, now I don't know where to start," she tilted her head with a laugh, oblivious to the fact that her arms still rested over the expanse of his broad shoulders.
The young woman thought for a moment, tapping her chin and unable to figure out how to start the conversation. Finally, Kakashi gently took hold of her arms to re-capture her attention. "Here. I'll help you out".
He reached up and lifted his hitai-ate to reveal a scarred crimson eye. Then he motioned to the corners of his mask, and slowly slipped it down to his neck. As if that one motion were a chord to her expression, her jaw fell as he exposed his face to her.
She had never seen his face before and she was overwhelmed by it. His mismatched eyes, one of a dark shade of russet, and the other, a wordless story that he had not told her yet, looked up at her, wise and pained in all his years, and yet, still flickered with a tint of humor that made him look younger. Pale cheeks bones rose with that smirk of sarcasm he had always hinted through his mask, now fully visible in the moonlight. Kakashi's jaw was strong, and while the creases across his forehead made him look determined, the dimple dented into his left cheek did not let you take him seriously.
It was strange. She felt like tonight, Kakashi was not Kakashi, or at least in the sense that she had always known him. Something was changing inside her. Something was changing inside them both, although they could hardly figure out what.
As her eyes washed over his every detail, completely taking them into memory before they vanished behind that cursed piece of cloth once again, she couldn't help, but feel slightly attracted.
It might've been sinful. It might've been inappropriate, but it wasn't a longing, or a lustful emotion. It was more like a contentment, pleased by what she saw as if she had known what he looked like all along, and that fleeting emotion was swiftly discarded as fast as it came.
It was as if before she even uttered a question, just that one gesture revealed everything about him, and with that she was satisfied.
"Not enough?" he asked and she shook her head.
Her fingertip rose to linger by his Sharingan, but it never met his eye. "Is it a story too early to tell yet?"
Kakashi nodded, "All in time, Sakura, all in time…"
But wasn't she here because time was their very enemy? What if time never allowed her to hear that story?
With a defeated sigh, she slunk back against the tree beside her sensei, her eyes closed. Looping her arm in his, she whispered, "Tell me a story, Sensei, a happy one".
Kakashi complied, knowing she was reaching out, to the depths of his past, where Sharingan hadn't happened yet, and the smile on his face was still fresh. He decided finally, as his gaze settled on the peaceful face of his student- no – his friend, that he'd show her to the sides of Kakashi before the world would someday erase him.
"Alright, I have a good one…"
She nuzzled comfortably against the tree, her eyes closed and relaxed as she listened, and for the rest of the night they chatted like a bunch of elderly reminiscing on the sweeter days.
Sakura didn't know what time would allow, or how long she'd be able to spend with the people she cared for most, but for that night alone, she'd cherish this moment, memorizing what they shared so that no matter what happened, they could always come back to this memory.
Six years later…
There she stood again, heavy in a familiar, but unwelcoming atmosphere where all the usually bright faces were darkened again.
There she stood, among the citizens of Konoha, surrounding a closed casket of yet, another honored Shinobi. She didn't know him this time, thank God, but she could tell among the crowd who the unfortunate souls were that did.
Even after working in the hospital for so long and always confronting death, she could still find it hard to get used to. Before her mind weighed with lead, a squeeze on her hand awakened her. Thick, rough, but warm fingers held firm in hers and she looked up, at the man who had worked so hard to brighten these days for her.
Here was this issue again. Time. How would she spend it wisely?
Despite the occasion, Sakura passed him a covert smile, a reserved meaning only he understood. With a nod, he returned it, and she could almost see it behind his mask.
She kept her hand in his, despite the rules, despite the surroundings. Time was precious, and since she knew better, she wouldn't waste it being conscious of what others thought.
Leaning her head on her former teacher, now lover's shoulder, Sakura sighed. Time couldn't have been spent better than this, and to think it sparked from the moment a curious student wanted to cherish her teacher. What she found instead, was a person who'd always understand her, and stand by her for the rest of her days.
That is, however long that may be…
Sakura was content at this, and knowing all she could about Kakashi, she could hardly think of another thing she hadn't known about him now. So if anything happened, she'd have a lot to hold onto.
Suddenly, the feel of cold metal slinked around one of the fingers she had laced in his and she looked down with a quizzical look about her. Her eyes widened, taking her older features to a time when she was younger like they often did, as she noted the glistening symbol now embracing her ring finger- another wordless gesture that she completely understood.
Sakura could hardly contain her joy although she knew she had to. There were some things after all that she had left to learn about Kakashi-
And that was that, he too, knew how to spend his time wisely…
I didn't even plan on that segment for the ending, but I couldn't resist leaving it just slightly KakaSaku. I just love them, so KakaSaku all the way.
If some details are off, I apologize since I haven't read the manga after the Gaara-napping and I only know some spoilers. Hope you enjoyed it although it was just a drabble.