Sakura had always been a hopeless romantic.

Everything was romanticised in her mind—life, roses, death, surgery, first kisses, rows of desks, music, laughter, friendship—everything had a corresponding ideal, and everything was treated in an almost reverent manner. The simplest things filled her with awe when she was little, but one thing was always foremost in her mind, always held in great honour above all the rest.

Love at first sight.

The danger in romanticism is that we are blinded by it to the point of folly. When Sakura first saw Sasuke, she liked what she saw. She deduced from this that she was in love, and, because she told herself that she loved him, she did. Despite everything you've been told, we are what we believe ourselves to be, and romantic that she was, she believed herself to be in love.

That is not to say that she did not truly love Sasuke. She poured her heart into him; she devoted herself to him mind, body, and soul. He became her life, her romance, her everything.

When you love someone in this way, you become content. Just to see them is enough nourishment to live on; to hear them speak is your greatest joy. A smile graces their lips, and you can die happy. Such was it for Sakura for six years of her life. Time and time again Sasuke rejected her, ignored her, and pushed her away, but just to be near enough to him to be pushed away was the greatest joy that life could bring her. She smiled often, and could frequently be heard laughing.

Naruto constantly sought her affections. Lee asked her to be his girlfriend. This meant nothing to her. Calls from Earth seem preposterous when you walk on the clouds, and the wooing of men seems laughable when you are in love with an angel. She was driving at full speed, no brakes, tunnel vision fixing her gaze on nothing but Sasuke. Calls from the side went unnoticed, or ignored, or rejected. Maybe she couldn't have reached them even if she had tried.

When Sasuke left, she continued speeding ahead. Unable to stop, but now devoid of her guiding light, she spiraled off into the darkness. Her heart froze. Her mind went blank. Her eyes lost their shine.

It was love at first sight. Sasuke was supposed to fall for her and live out his life with her. They were supposed to die together. Even if they were to die young, their tragic romance would live on. That was how it was supposed to work.

So why didn't it? Everything she had ever believed in had been disproved in this one act of betrayal.

Naruto was her only hope, and she now put all her trust in him, put her entire soul into him as she had into Sasuke, because he was all that she had left. She sobbed, begging him to bring Sasuke back to her. She needed him to survive. So wrapped up was she in her devotion and her loss that she didn't notice the pain she caused her best friend. Naruto was accustomed to it, though, and knew better than she how to deal. He hid behind his smile, as always, and promised to bring Sasuke back.

When he came back without Sasuke, when she saw his broken body, reality washed over her. Naruto had gotten hurt—had nearly died—for her. Because she told him to bring Sasuke back. Sasuke, who didn't even want to come back. Sasuke, who didn't even love her.

Because he didn't love her, she finally realised, and never had, and never would.

And with that, her universe was shattered. She was no longer a hopeless romantic; only one word remained of that to describe her, and that was 'hopeless'. She lived without hope, but with determination. Because it didn't matter if she now knew the truth. Sasuke would remain in her heart forever.

-

Over the years, Sakura healed. She went on with life. One of the wondrous things about humans is that their hearts can keep on beating, even after they have broken. It was if a hole had been ripped in her chest long ago. It had healed up along the edges, was smooth and clean, but still a whole, still a missing part of her life.

She became a practical person. A fight just had to be won, not won with honour and grandeur. The first snowfall was just frozen precipitation, nothing more. And love? She no longer believed in love, because to believe that she had loved Sasuke would be to tear her heart open afresh. So she told herself that she had never loved him, that she would never love anyone. She became a cynic, a hardened kunoichi.

But even one who has decided to live without love needs companionship. So she now latched onto Naruto in the same manner that she had devoted herself to his friend, no matter how different she told herself it was. She didn't love Naruto because she had decided that she didn't, otherwise she might have. But as it was, their friendship grew, and Sakura could almost be happy again.

Still, every once in a while, she felt a tug of melancholy and remembered when Sasuke had been with her. She would bite her lip, trying not to cry, but eventually the tears would spill down her face and she would fall asleep that night on a wet pillow.

One such night, she couldn't sleep; even after her tears had dried up and her limbs were weary from trembling. Barefoot, she stole from her flat and walked through Konoha, not knowing where she was going, but feeling driven by a strange sense of purpose. She wandered seemingly aimlessly, taking random turns and sometimes doubling back on herself, but she continued to walk, ignoring the bits of gravel that stuck into the bottoms of her feet.

Eventually, she found herself at a field on the outskirts of town. In the centre was a large, black stone, shining in the moonlight, and a figure stood before it, seeming to gaze endlessly at the engravings on its surface.

Kakashi, she thought, and nearly turned back, but the same strange force that had driven her there made her continue forward, walking hesitantly towards him. When she reached him, she stood still, not speaking, simply standing beside him. She wondered if he even noticed her, but then ridiculed herself for even thinking that. Of course he does. He's Kakashi.

They stood there for what might have been a minute or an hour, surveying the memorial tablet, when Kakashi spoke, making Sakura jump.

"Five years," he said. "It doesn't seem that long."

Sakura nodded. "And yet it seems a lifetime." She paused a moment, but then burst out, no longer able to contain the question she had held within her ever since that day when she had woken up on a stone bench on the edge of the path out of Konoha. "Kakashi-sensei, why did he leave?"

"You know why, Sakura."

She nodded impatiently, angry at herself for not being able to get her question across. "I know he had to kill Itachi, but why—why—?"

Then she was sobbing again. She balled her hands into fists and put them to her eyes, trying to stem the flow of tears, but to no avail. She didn't want Kakashi to see her like this, but all of the emotions she had repressed for so long poured out of her at once, manifesting themselves in bitter tears.

Kakashi stood awkwardly for a moment, then stepped close to her and pulled her to him, burying her face in his shoulder. Sakura caught her breath, and he wondered if he had acted inappropriately, but then she pushed herself closer to him and cried into his vest.

"I-I'm so s-sorry, sensei," she sniffled. "B-b-bringing all my pr-problems to you, b-but it's just so—so—"

Unsure of quite what to do, Kakashi patted her back lamely as she poured what seemed to be the contents of a small lake onto the shoulder of his vest. Then Sakura looked up at him with her green eyes glassy from tears, and it was his turn to catch his breath. After all these years of knowing Sakura the girl, he was shocked to catch a sight of Sakura the woman. And, he realised, she was beautiful. It didn't matter that her nose was red and her face was wet, she startled him with the woman that she had become.

As she continued to cry over the boy who had hurt her so much, Kakashi acted on an impulse. Using the hand that wasn't occupied in holding her to him, he reached up and pulled down his mask. Then, cupping her chin, he pulled her face up to him and kissed her softly.

He could feel the shock on her face, and realised that this was probably her first kiss. Feeling distinctly guilty for taking it like that, he began to pull away, but, to his surprise, she began to kiss him back. One hand reached up behind his neck, and she pulled herself up to her tiptoes, pressing her mouth to his. Kakashi slid his large hand down to her back and held her closer, marveling at the feel of her slender body beneath his touch.

After another immeasurable minute, or hour, or day, they pulled apart, and he looked down into her face.

"Kakashi-sensei," she said. "Why—?"

A small smile crept onto his unmasked face. "A kiss under the moonlight like that? I couldn't resist. It was just so romantic."

She glanced away. "I don't believe in romance anymore."

"Oh, really?" He looked at her sadly, then smiled again. "Well, I guess I'll just have to fix that." He pulled her in to kiss her again.

Sakura was confused. She didn't believe in love, but when Kakashi kissed her like that…

She smiled as she leaned into him again. Maybe, she thought I'm become a hopeless romantic again.


My first try at KakaSaku, so be nice to it -

Happy Valentine's Day!