A/N: Last time on "Nymph"! Sakura distresses Kakashi by being female. And now... the Conclusion!


Part Two

I can't describe my mood the next day, but its far from content. I hole up in the quietest corner of the common room at headquarters, scribbling out illegible reports and glaring at anyone foolish enough to venture near me. I can attribute this to a variety of things, most of which would be Sakura's fault. I have the horrible sinking feeling that perhaps my injury yesterday wasn't an accident, and that the kunai which cut me hadn't come from an enemy, but from a pernicious young girl. I can't be sure, but if my gut instinct is right, I fear for her reliability in the field. But perhaps I just feel this unforgiving because I spent most of last night in a near painful state of arousal without any relief, and this, I think, is a reasonable enough excuse for a man to be a bad-tempered asshole.

After wittingly or unwittingly pushing me to the brink with just her chakra alone, she had prepared for bed the same as usual as if nothing untoward had happened. But by 'same as usual', I mean that she once again left the bathroom door ajar as she changed. I could have looked if I'd wanted to. She would have let me. I was allowed to stare at young naked flesh I have no right to, but instead I rolled onto my back and kept my eyes rooted in the ceiling.

I am sick of this game.

Not even Genma comes near me now. From the concerned looks he shoots me from a safe distance, I think he has come to the likely conclusion that Sakura's presence in my home has begun to grate on me, which would be true, though probably not in the way that he thinks.

I avoid heading back to the apartment until much later than I would normally. I continue to sit at the desk in the common room, ignoring the half-finished papers before me to instead focus on watching every second tick by on the wall clock. At six, Sakura is undoubtedly fixing something for us both to eat in my kitchen; cooking ridiculously sophisticated things that will probably have the neighbours thinking I've randomly turned gourmet after years of packet noodles and microwave meals. At seven she's probably wondering where I am, and my plate of food will have turned cold and neglected. By eight I imagine she's cleaning it up as if it is her responsibility, and it annoys me. I wish she would leave well alone. I wish she would stop touching the things that belong to me, putting her mark on them, making them more hers than mine. I wish she would leave my apartment and never bother me again, but at the same time I crave her proximity. I want her nearby. I want her.

I don't move until the clock strikes half past ten. The common room is empty all but for myself and the only other people out and about in the building are cleaners, workaholics and men like myself who are avoiding either their wives, girlfriends or disturbingly sexual female students.

My feet feel heavy as I walk home, in absolutely no hurry to rush the inevitable confrontation. Because I plan to do it tonight. Today she will have gotten her payment for the last mission, which should be more than enough to cover a deposit on a new apartment, so she has absolutely no excuse to remain with me. I turn the corner of my street and take note of the light blazing from my apartment window. She is there. It wouldn't fit her exasperatingly conscientious style to leave without turning the lights off.

She's asleep on the sofa when I enter, a torn envelope clutched to her chest and one arm thrown out to the side to dangle off the edge of the furniture. The images I've had in my head – of sleek, naked thighs twisted in covers and of nightshirts riding up indecently while she slumbers in provocative positions – are suddenly blown out of my head to be replaced by the reality. She's not sexy when she sleeps.

She's beautiful.

For a moment the sight of her takes my breath away and the bitterness forgets to crowd my thoughts. She's just a girl; swathed in blankets with her hair fanning out over the cushions in perfect stillness like she's been here since she pricked her finger on the spindle.

I watch her for too long. Eventually she sighs and a finger twitches, and I remember that I am standing in my apartment obsessively watching a young girl sleep. There's a word for this, and it's lewd.

The envelope catches my eye and for a moment I frown. Is she reading my mail now? Some of my cynicism arouses once again and I remember the sinister things this girl has been doing to me lately. I slip over quietly and relieve it from her grasp, trying to ignore that it drags across her supple breasts, and that her nipples are extremely visible through that white shirt.

In the kitchen I empty the contents of the plain envelope onto the table and turn over the slip of paper that falls out. I realise my mistake immediately. It's nothing more than her paycheque. I nearly laugh at how paranoid I've become, to think she'd even gain anything from reading my mail.

I rub my hands hard over my face, dragging my mask with my palms like I want to peel out of my own skin. Right then I hear her blanket shift and my head snaps up to see her rising. She looks over the back of the sofa at me, and for once her expression is oddly blank. There are no secretive smiles or teasing eyes. She just looks deeply and utterly unhappy.

"We need to talk, Sakura."

She nods and her gaze slides to the floor as stands and walks towards the kitchen alcove where I sit. My shirt is rather short on her, and though I look for it, I can't see her panty-line. Is she wearing anything under there? While I try to figure out the best way to say I want her gone from my home, she comes to a stop beside me and picks up the cheque on the table. Her face is still drawn and glum.

In a casual way I gesture to the slip of paper and ask if this means she'll be moving out. After all, she has no excuse now. Her eyes flick up to meet mine, and they're duller than normal. "It's not enough," she says quietly.

"What do you mean?"

"I went to see the landlord, but he'd already found another tenant. So I went to see my old landlady to ask if I could have the apartment back, but she refused, and for some reason she needs twice as much as she first asked for the damage, and the only apartment I can get with what's left is the one above the fish shop."

I watch her carefully, half suspecting deceit. But she seems genuinely upset. Her jaw is clenched like she's holding back emotion, and her thumb nail is scoring angry lines across the edge of the cheque. "If you want me to go, I'll go," she says evenly. "I'm not sure where yet, but I'll go."

"No," I say, before I can even think about it. "No, you can stay."

I only realise why I say that when she gives me a wobbly but ever so grateful smile. She whispers a thank you, and then she's bending down to embrace me softly around the neck. To my own shame, I like it. I even like that she's started to cry and now she can't let go. I especially like that the position is awkward for her, so she has to ease her bottom onto my lap to keep hold of me. The shirt has hitched up and her sun-kissed thighs are exposed, inches away from my hand, and I can even see the faint tan lines from her shorts.

I don't hold her or embrace her, or even touch my hands to her. If I did, I wouldn't be able to stop them from wandering, and then I'd probably find myself pushing up that terrible shirt and conjoining with her right where we sit.

Is she doing this deliberately? Is she squeezing out some fake tears for some excuse to press her body against mine and overwhelm me with the erotic, earthy scent of her un-perfumed body? The real scent of her is more headier and enticing than any glamorous fragrance in a bottle. It reminds me of flesh and sweat and sex and softness.

My hand touches her shuddering shoulders, and its through nothing less than sheer force of will that I set her back. But this, if anything is worse. I'm confronted with shiny cheeks, moist eyes, and faintly heaving breasts. The power and subtlety of breasts has never been lost on me, and now they threaten to destroy me by begging my touch with their firmness and pretty pink nipples.

I force my gaze to her face, and I don't think she's noticed my thoughts as she shows neither offence nor triumph. I still don't know which I could expect.

"It's ok," I tell her. There are always other missions. There are always more pay cheques.

She nods and laughs bashfully as she agrees. "Thank you, Kakashi-sensei."

There's a momentary pause where we look at each other and don't know what to say next. It's the kind of pause where impulsive young people do stupid things like kiss each other on the mistaken belief that it's destiny, when really its just a way to fill an awkward silence.

I vaguely remember my unwavering vow to come here tonight to tell her to pack her bags, and now not only is she staying, she's sitting half-naked on my lap with her hands joined behind my neck.

She's good.

"I imagine you're going to bed now," she says finally.

"Yes," I say ineffably.

"Goodnight then." There's no kiss goodnight, however. She seems to sense that I'm not in the mood. Instead she just slides off my lap with a blush – and not the romantic kind either. It is more the blush of a girl who just cried in front of someone they would rather not display strong emotion before, not the blush of a girl who wears only a shirt in a single man's apartment. It's almost like she has no awareness of the implications. Perhaps that really is how it is? Maybe she has no sexual interest in me whatsoever? What if all this comes down to me being a desperately lonely man projecting his lust onto a younger girl and sexualising behaviour that is actually perfectly innocent and naïve?

I might prefer that. If it really was all in my imagination, I'd at least have some chance of control. But I'm not crazy, and the small hand that slides across my chest as she stands has to be anything but innocent.

I stand heavily and make my way to bed. Sakura, already arranging herself on her make-shift bed gives me a worried glance. "Sensei," she whispers as I pass, "are you angry with me?"

"No," I say, but I can't expand on it. Perhaps someone who wasn't truly fed up would ask in bewilderment about what on earth had given her that impression. I'm obviously within the negative spectrum of human emotion tonight, but I'm far more annoyed with myself than I am with her.

She hesitates for a moment, looking at the floor as if there's something that weighs on her mind. I wait. She could acknowledge her game out loud now and it would spare me my conscience. I badly need to know it isn't just me. But whatever she wants to say, she changes her mind and moves to lie down.

"Ok… goodnight," she breathes, cheating me of vindication.

I splash water on my tired, weary face in the bathroom and look at the man in the cabinet mirror. He's pale and sleep deprived with dark bruise-like smudges beneath his eyes. Why would any girl want him? Where was the attraction? What was the point?

This failed confrontation does nothing to ease my growing disquiet, and later I lie in my bed trying to ignore the steady, constant thrum of arousal in my blood that has accompanied me all day before it was stoked to an uncomfortable degree by her crying stint in the kitchen. She seemed less concerned about teasing me tonight, but nevertheless she's still steadily creeping closer, patiently biding her time and wearing me down, and I still haven't ensured my escape despite my best intentions.

I can't take much more.

The morning routine is the same. She finds herself breakfast and takes a quick shower. Before she leaves for work she pops her head back around the bedroom door to let me know where she's going and how grateful she is for everything, and not to sleep in. Once more there is a touch of hesitation when she addresses me, like there is something more she wants to say but can't put into words.

But I still haven't recovered from so many nights of sleep depravation, and I sleep in twice as long as usual. By the time I finally make it to the jonin headquarters, I've missed at least two meetings and people are even more exasperated with me than usual.

"Hell, Kakashi," Genma remarks to me. "Sakura really is keeping you up at night."

He's no longer joking because I think everyone has noticed by now that I haven't quite been sleeping the same since Sakura moved in. They notice Sakura is as bubbly and energetic as usual, and I know that they're beginning to put this down to difference in age.

I think this is when people started to worry.

I come across Sakura on my way home. She's standing in the street arguing with a mature woman with iron-coloured hair, and never in my life have I seen this girl cowed in an argument, but there it is. Something tightens in my chest. A weakness. I slow to observe, and something like pity makes some of my frustration with her loosen.

It's her former land-lady of course, Sakura explains when she finally gives up and joins me. She went back to try and argue for some leniency, but apparently none is forthcoming. It surprises me that she did this, as I suppose it means she really does hope to move out soon, and that somewhat contradicts my delusion that her only purpose in life is to torment me.

I try to offer her some of my paycheque but she refuses as if I've insulted her. She says she won't take money she can't pay back. The only form of charity she will ever take off anyone is shared space, and even then she insists on making up for it two-fold. When we get home that evening she has bought new kinds of food with her paycheque that I would never dream of buying (partly because I wouldn't know what the hell to do with it) and she cooks us a dinner that seems ridiculously healthy and tasty.

It's back to as it was before, but I can't seem to get frustrated by her.

"My mother taught me how to cook, because she didn't want to see me turn out completely undomesticated," she tells me, pouring me a glass of something that tastes like apple soda. "It's nothing special really."

But I know she's downplaying herself. She went to a lot of effort with this meal and I'm beginning to think that her debt to me for taking her in like this is quickly shifting to a debt on me for being spoiled by her.

She's even cleaned the apartment. It wasn't exactly messy before since I am a naturally tidy person, but the porcelain in the bathroom is shining once again, the mirror is devoid of flecks of toothpaste, and the mildew building up on the tiled floor for the last ten years has miraculously disappeared. There is not a speck of dust to be seen on any hard surface, my kitchen cupboards have been reorganised, and now the clothes hanging in my closet have been sorted according to colour.

I wonder if she has a touch of OCD in her. I almost refuse to believe one person can do so much around an apartment in one day. Has she mastered some form of time jutsu?

When I look at her I see her watching me with a strangely eager, almost self-conscious expression. Is she seeking approval? It seems important for her to do these things for me, and I think I understand why, but at the same time I suspect it's deeper than that. It's not that she's trying to impress me… more like she's trying to make up for something bigger than just me lending her a place to sleep at night.

As we clear away the plates – because we both refuse to let the other handle it alone – she turns to me shyly and says, "There's a film I want to watch tonight. May I?"

"What's it called?"

It's called some foreign title I don't really remember. I do remember saying yes, and before long we're sitting on the sofa, watching a telly full of people saying deep, meaningful things in subtitles. Sakura is sitting too close, but that's par for course with her. I'm almost getting used to how casually she invades my personal space, with her arm brushing mine and her knees drawn up to rest against and almost over my lap. Once again I don't think she realises what she's doing, and if she does, she would make a marvellous spy with nonchalance like this. Maybe I should recommend her the next time I see Tsunade? It might get rid of her for a while at least.

But it turns out this film is the worst of the monkey documentary and the romantic comedy rolled into one, gloriously awkward film.

After ten minutes the sex starts, and it never really stops. It is essentially a film composed entirely of sex scenes strung together with people saying thoughtful things while taking their clothes off or putting them on again.

I found the monkey program embarrassing, but this is just excruciating. Did Sakura known it would be like this? I discover myself stealthily crossing my legs and shooting furtive sideway glances at Sakura who, yet again, seems oblivious to any awkwardness in the room. She looks transfixed with the film, not even remotely perturbed by all the grunting and groaning and grinding that's going on. She doesn't even look flustered.

"I'm tired. I think I'll call it a night," I say when I can't bear it anymore.

Sakura looks at me with the same wide eyes as if I've kicked her. "But it's only ten o'clock. You're not embarrassed about the film are you? We're both adults."

"I'm not embarrassed," I lie helplessly. "But are you sure you're old enough to watch things like this? Isn't it an eighteen?"

"So I'm old enough to have sex but not to watch actors fake it?" Sakura scowls at me "Where's the sense in that?"

I'm sure there's sense somewhere, but I don't feel like arguing this point. It'll cost me more than it's worth, because this game she's playing with me is far too dangerous, and the last thing I need reminding of is that she's legal. So instead I just reiterate that I'm tired before she comes up with another form of rhetoric to test her sexuality on me.

Her weight against my side has me trapped though. "Don't be such a fuddy-duddy," she admonishes.

I forget the dictionary definition of 'fuddy-duddy'. I can't remember if it denotes an old fart or just a dull kind of person… or both. Either way I feel goaded and shoot her an annoyed look. She meets it with a stolid stare while a woman and a man gasp and groan in the background. Heat crawls through me, striking an uncomfortable balance between being pleasurable and terrifying. This is what it's like when Haruno Sakura looks at me with those eyes that reveal such knowingness and naivety. She's beautiful and untouchable and she practically offers herself to me on a plate, and unsurprisingly my body is responding, even though my mind recoils.

At least she isn't caring to look at my lap so she won't notice the purely physical effect her proximity and the situation has on me. It's embarrassing, and I can't stand. I realise that she's doing it again. The same way she can manipulate a conversation to draw me out of my diffident shell and then send my scuttling back inside with one deliberate remark, she can alternate between enticement and platonic gestures to confuse me as to which is the truth.

I look back at the television set, and I have a sensation like I'm about to fall off a wall, though I don't know which side I'll land on yet. Sakura's warmth against my side radiates through me, making my clothes feel uncomfortable. I can taste apples in my mouth from the drink she gave me, and the television screen seems to be sliding further and further away, like I'm standing six inches behind myself.

Something changes on the screen and I have to blink because I'm sure I'm wrong. The two lovers entwined in passionate, artistic coitus have gone, and instead there is a man with pale hair and a petite young woman with dire pink. She moans like Sakura when she leans back, and her high, round breasts bounce in time to the powerful thrusts of the man beneath her.

It's not my imagination. I can tell the difference between reality and imagination, and this is nothing short of a hallucination.

Sakura's hand rests on my stomach. "Kaka-sensei, what's wrong?" she asks me, noticing the sudden laxity in my expression. "If it embarrasses you that I'm watching this, then just pretend I'm not here."

She asks the impossible. I could no sooner ignore her presence than I could ignore my own need to breathe. "If you weren't here, I'd be masturbating," I say savagely.

Her breathing stops for a fraction of a second. "Well, then," she says, a mixture of surprise and deviousness, "what's stopping you?"

Her cheek is touching my shoulder and her fingers are drawing slow little circles over my abdomen, and it's unethical and far too familiar but I can't seem to find the will or the energy to rebuke her.

I break the rules of the game. "Don't, Sakura…" I whisper, half pleading.

"What are you scared of?" she whispers back.

"I'm not scared," I say, but in truth she terrifies me. She has me right where she wants me, and I know what will happen now but it's past the point where I could have stopped it. I don't have the power to resist her – I never really did anyway – and when her hand slips down from my stomach to mould her palm over my stirring erection my hand seizes hers and it's not to pull her away.

I force her to touch me. To grind her hand hard against the part of me that aches for her the most, to rub against me exactly the way I like it. Up and down, our hands push together. She watches my face, her lips parted and she's enraptured by her effect on me. Up and down. The material of my pyjamas is negligible and her fingers squeeze around me tightly, stroking me and seducing me completely. The feeling floods my blood like a drug, climbing through my lungs to make my chest heave to reach my head and make the room spin so drastically I have to close my eyes. A desperate grunt escapes my lips and I'm already close. She could make me come right now just by the feel of her small hand clenching my cock and her breath on my neck.

She's leaning over me, her leg slipping between mine so the full length of her soft flesh presses irresistibly down upon mine. "Is this alright, Kakashi-sensei?" she asks softly, playfully, and behind her the hoarse moans of a woman's ecstasy echo from the tinny television set.

I don't have the will to reply. It's not alright but that will hardly make a difference now, will it? She's kissing my neck, and cheek, and chin – soft, almost innocent little pecks that are at odds with her overly familiar hand squeezing my penis. My hand clenches around her arm, but I don't know what else to do. I don't want to pull her off. Not really. And I'm worried I might hurt her.

When her tongue teases my ear and her deft fingers begin to unbuckle my belt, I think I try to shrink into the cushions of my own accord. "Sakura," I gasp, "Don't."

She pretends she can't hear me. The belt loosens and she's dragging down my zipper, too impatient to undo the top button or anything else.

And then her hand – her small, soft, warm hand – is reaching beneath my clothes and curling around my cock through my thin briefs. A shocked name tumbles from my lips, and belatedly I try to push her away, but one sliding squeeze has me rigid... and maybe I'm not really trying anymore. I hear her soft laugh near my ear. I hope she's not laughing at me, but even if she was it wouldn't diminish my desire for her, and when she finally slips her fingers beneath my underpants to grasp my naked flesh in her bare hand, I feel myself thicken and jerk.

My hand seizes her wrist and I shudder hard. "Shit, Sakura, you've got to stop."

Her surprisingly rough fingers stroke me once, and the friction is so delicious that lights flash behind my closed eyes.

"Stop it." But my voice lacks conviction.

Her hand begins to pump me within the confines of my clothes. I am lost then, utterly and completely. All I can do is let my head fall back and my fingers claw into the sofa's cushions. Every slide of her hand sends blissful pleasure roaring through me. It's exquisite to the point of pain. She knows what she's doing. It's like she's planned this all along.

A terrible thought hits me.

"Was it you?" I rasp. It's difficult to think clearly, but this one thought is too persistent to simply ignore. "Did you blow up your own apartment? To move in here?"

Her hand slows but never stops as she peers up at me. A small smile plays on her moist lips. "You say such silly things sometimes," she says, and then she resumes her sure, swift pace and my hips nearly lift off the sofa as a guttural groan tears from my throat. Her touch is so hot and slick, and I am already so near the end.

Unable to stop myself, I reach to grab her free hand near mine, and to feel her squeezing my fingers as tightly as I squeeze hers is a whole other level of pleasure above the baser, dirtier one gripping my body. Her strokes never falter, drawing me ever closer to the edge, attempting to rip the very essence out of me. It's more than I can bear after so many days and nights of unending torment. My back arches and my hips thrust, trying to force more of myself into her hand. Just a little more.

She's picking up speed, and panting against my neck as if she's as turned on by this as I am. I can feel it tightening in my balls. Like a mind-reader she seems to know exactly what I need, and the next moment she's cupping them in her hand, rolling them in her palm. All I can hear is my own desperate panting deepening into groans as her hand returns to pump my shaft with more confidence and recklessness than any woman has ever touched me with. It's far too late to stop now. If anyone interrupts now I will kill them and then make her continue. If she stops here she could ask anything of me and I'd do it. So long as she finishes the torture she's started on me.

My peak hits like a small death – it's arrival inevitable but no less devastating when it slams through me. I surrender. An unpleasant stickiness spills across my hip and seeps visibly through my clothes, and Sakura's rhythm suddenly turns to long, slow strokes as she milks me in time to each throbbing wave that passes through me. Spots dance before my eyes. My body pulses. She really has drawn my essence out and I am left spent and leaden, clutching sweaty fingers around hers as I try to catch my breath.

Sakura releases my softened organ almost reluctantly and withdraws her hand. She seems fascinated by the milky fluid drenching her fingers, and her eyes seem almost glazed, shining with an inner fever as she flicks her gaze to mine. No longer does she look coy and amused. Her face is flushed, her body is restless, and her breathing is shallow.

Experimentally she licks the back of her sticky fingers, tasting my semen.

It's too much. I tried my best, I honestly did. There is only so much a man can resist before his character is completely disassembled and he no longer recognises even himself. In spite of my experience and restraint and her repulsive games and naivety, I can no longer see the reason why I should resist.

Her breath escapes her in a rush as I push her down onto the sofa's cushions and unfasten her zip by grabbing both sides of her vest in my fist and pulling. Beneath it is that tiny black crop top that compresses her chest, held in place by one strap over the shoulder and a button. I don't unfasten the button. I tug the top down hard and the button snaps off to roll somewhere down the back of the armrest.

I'm no longer content to see glimpses of her breasts through a steamy mirror from two rooms away. Now I can hold them in my hands and feel their warmth and softness as I suck the small pink peaks. Sakura's head moves restlessly like her hands over my shoulders and hair. She begs me to bite her, and I do, hard enough to make her yelp and leave white indentations on her perfect skin.

There's a wildness about her when she's like this that both stirs my blood all over again, but at the same time it almost thwarts me. She pulls my hair and bites my lip when I try to kiss her, and every pinch and scratch of her nails that she makes no effort to temper feels like a well-deserved punishment.

Her body squirms against mine and she plucks at my hands, urging them down her sides. "Touch me," she demands, offering herself with a heady arch of her spine. I allow my fingers to wander over the thighs that now seem to be caging my hips and her skin is dewy and smooth, but she groans in frustration. "Not there," she sighs. "Down there. Touch me there."

In case I'm uncertain as to what 'down there' means, she takes my hand and forcefully slides it down over her stomach and between her legs.

She's soaking wet, even though the thin material of her shorts, and at the lightest touch of my fingers against her soft, moist flesh, her body reacts like she's been electrocuted. Her hips angle towards my hand, begging silently for more and she's forgotten how to kiss. She just presses her face to my cheek and breathes.

I want to explore her. Every inch of her. I want to learn every millimetre of her most intimate places, but she's impatient. As my fingers slide against her folds, she only grips my hair tighter. "Don't play with me," she says, her teeth nipping my chin. "I don't want to be teased."

This is rich coming from the girl who does nothing but tease. Yet I'm just as desperate to end this week long foreplay and fuck away the frustration she's layered upon me, so I artlessly twist her until she is lying on her stomach, and then pull her shorts and panties to her knees in two tugs. I like her in this position of exposure and submission. I love her cries and the way she bites the armrest as I slide my thumb over her hot folds until I find her damp opening and press into unimaginable heat… and impossible tightness.

Here is where my doubts begin. She is so tight that even at this point she is biting her lip in discomfort. I try to work a second finger inside her, but now she's turning rigid with pain and I can feel the fragile resistance that will tear if I persist.

It's unbelievable. I never considered this possibility after enduring all her provocative advances. She has moved so naturally, so easily, that I assumed it could only have been the result of practise and experience. Now I'm horrified with myself, of how far I've let this carry on, and all I can do is quietly sit back and fasten my fly.

I stand.

"Where are you going?" she asks, sitting up but making no move to cover herself.

I'm going to my desk. I turn on the lamp, pull open the drawer and retrieve the chequebook I hardly ever use. I can feel Sakura's smouldering gaze drilling into my back as I scribble down her name on the paper slip and write down an amount on money that is exactly double what the paycheque from the last mission was worth. After I finish, I sit and stare at it for a long time, rubbing my hands through my hair and over my face. What have I been reduced to tonight?

Eventually I turn around and move to hand Sakura the slip. I try not to look at her. She's sitting there, half-naked and proud, and if I succumb to drinking in her beauty I'll only forget my place again. But when she takes the cheque and realises what it is, I don't think I've ever seen her looking more insulted.

"That should cover everything," I say tiredly, sitting on the edge of the coffee table. "That's more than enough for a deposit on a new apartment."

Sakura is almost speechless. "I didn't come here to prostitute myself," she says in a low tone.

"Then what did you come here for?" I ask. "You don't need to be here. There are other people with more room and more money who could accommodate you, but instead you chose me. You act like this is a game, but you're barely more than a child. Do you even know what you're doing? Do you even care?"

Sakura's hand lowers to her lap, and the cheque is creasing slightly between her fingers. She still looks annoyed, but oddly blank. I don't think she understands. From the vague look she gives the wall, like an impetuous student attempting to ignore a teacher's lecture, I'm under no illusion that she cares.

I really am a fool. I was never good at building healthy interpersonal relationships, and apparently I'm just as bad at deflecting the unhealthy ones. So I stand up again and reach for my jacket.

"Where are you going?" Sakura asks flatly. She's in a mood now because I've spoilt her game.

"I'm going for a walk," I say. "I won't rush you out but I expect you to be gone before tomorrow afternoon."

I don't walk particularly far. I stop at the cenotaph and sit down, and for once I'm so wrapped up in my own life that I forget to think about Obito's. The night air nips at my hair and sends a shiver down my spine, but I'm not going to go back. I'm just not that strong. Instead I put my head in my arms and try to think which kind of deity I've pissed off that this twist of fate has been thrown at me.

Perhaps I enter a hypothermic coma, or just hibernation, but somehow I manage to sleep and when I wake up I'm lying on my side across the base of the cenotaph with Kurenai standing over me, checking my pulse.

"I thought you were dead," she says, giving me one of those worried looks that people keep shooting me these days. "Have you ever read The Little Matchstick Girl?"

It's morning, and it's been daylight for several hours. "What time is it?"

"Eight. What happened? Did you get that drunk last night?" She sniffs over me suspiciously, but she won't be able to detect what isn't there.

"Last night," I echo and sigh. I remember Sakura and her hand drawing out one of the sweetest orgasms of my life, and I remember how soft her skin felt beneath my admittedly rough hands and how she gasped and pressed herself against me when I touched her between her legs.

And I also remember giving her money and warning her to be gone before noon. I could go home and see if she's taken any notice of that ultimatum, but it probably won't be safe to return till late this evening.

Under the impression that I might have work waiting for me at headquarters, I admit myself to the library. It isn't until I realise that I've snapped at five different people on the way that it becomes clear my mood is worse for wears today. Having slept rough, I don't look good, which always elicits more concerned looks and 'are you alright?'s than normal, and when you're not alright, this is probably the most irritating question to be asked.

I tuck myself away in the upstairs gallery, surround myself with books and scrolls, and snooze between reading extracts of Split Elemental Affinity Theory Redux. I think I need to catch up on all the hours of lost sleep that Sakura has given me, because I'm still tired for the rest of the morning, and still grumpy to boot. But that's understandable, right? I'm a thirty something man who missed an opportunity to get laid. That's depressing in anyone's standards, but to also be victimised in an elaborate campaign launched by your own student is doubly so.

Towards midday I'm drawn out of my reverie by a feminine laugh I know all too well. I'm hidden behind stack upon stack of scrolls and tomes, but I'm convinced she knows I'm here.

No. That's too paranoid. Sakura might not look it at first glance, but she's a very studious, bookish person. I know that when she's not at the hospital or headquarters, she is almost certainly here.

Maybe, unconsciously, that's why I came here?

I move to the balcony and peer down at the ground floor. Immediately my eye is drawn to the bright-haired female figure standing at the main desk, her hip leaning against it. Her back is to me and her arms are wrapped around a wad of papers against her chest and she's talking to the librarian.

She must know him pretty well, seeing that she comes here every other day. They're obviously on friendly terms because he's grinning at her and she's bending her body towards him in that innately flirtatious way of hers, and when she laughs again it goes right up my spine like a knife against a guitar string. She must know I'm here. She's flirting deliberately to make me jealous. And it's working, because when I look down at my fist, it's clenching the railing so hard that my knuckles have gone right past white and into a colour I don't think there's a name for.

Sakura finishes checking out her reading material and leaves, her hips swaying. Whose benefit is that for? The librarian? Mine? Has she always walked that way and I've simply never noticed? She is female, after all, and females are encumbered with wider set hips and legs, so I can't exactly fault her for the way her gender walks. But it all seems so calculated to tempt.

But if she's here, I know she certainly isn't busy doing what she should be doing – which is searching for her own place to stay. I half expect, when I return home, to simply find Sakura's stuff still in place and probably the girl herself sitting on the sofa, watching full on hardcore pornography. She probably found the stash of tapes beneath the birthday cards at some point during her cleaning.

I don't leave the library until I've finished the scroll I'm reading and my stomach is beginning to ache with hunger pains. I stop at my favourite take-away to order some plain rice and fish and head home to eat, because I never really got the hang of eating in public.

The first thing I'm hit with the moment I walk in my own door is how remarkably like Sakura the place smells. I look around, but I can't find her, and certainly her things are missing. Even her toothbrush in the bathroom is absent. Is it possible that in the space of three hours she's managed to secure a flat for herself and moved out? Or, and this is infinitely more likely, has she just moved in with someone else?

Probably some other man more susceptible and open to her charms than me. I would put money on the librarian.

I sit down in my kitchen and eat my rapidly cooling meal, and even though I've never found fault with this particular chef's cooking before, I can't help but feel it pales in comparison to some of the carefully prepared meals that Sakura has made for me.

Even more annoyed for having admitted this to myself, I drop my chopsticks and push my face into my hands, hoping to rid myself of any and all thoughts of Sakura. I want to do something mindless. Something that will distract me from my dark thoughts and take me to a happier place.

I don't have many choices. It's either alcohol, drugs, or television. Since the TV is closest, I park myself on the sofa and settle myself down with absolutely no intention to move for the rest of the day. Sakura's blanket is folded on the floor before me, and I spend an equal amount of time staring at it as I spend staring at the screen.

Even when my door starts shaking beneath the hammering of a persistent fist, I don't get up. Naruto calls through the door, saying there's a mission to take, and that he knows I am in here because he can hear me being lazy. I ignore him until he finally decides to give up and go away. I'm not in the mood for a mission today. I'm certainly not in the mood to trail around after Sakura, watching her laugh and tease Sai and make that metaphorical knife score my spine again. I'll get over this eventually. I'll have to. But not right now.

There's a string of suitably brain-numbing programs on that see me through to dinner. And then another string that sees me through the rest of the evening. I fall into watching a hard-to-follow impressionist film that makes absolutely no fucking sense. But I watch it anyway, because it still somehow manages to make more sense than my life.

I spend the night on the sofa. I don't know why. Perhaps because I can't be bothered getting up, or perhaps because of what happened here last night. Or perhaps because this sofa smells like Sakura the strongest. I bury my nose in the cushion she used as a pillow and I can smell her shampoo.

And yes, I dream of her. How can I not? I dream that she wakes me up with gentle, insistent kisses as she straddles my body on the sofa. Her hands yank at my trousers but they won't come off, and I'm so frustrated that I'll probably wind up soiling myself anyway. When they finally do come off, she just carries on kissing me and rubbing herself against me like she did the other night. I want nothing more than to just get inside her, but when I finally summon the strength to overturn her and align myself to her-

But it's not me. It's someone else. In the way of dreams, I've made the seamless transition into spectator, and I'm forced to watch as another man holds the object of my obsession down and penetrates her again and again to the sound of her passionate, erotic moans.

I wake up, fully aroused and sweating, surprised only that I haven't messed my underwear. It takes several minutes in the cold shower to chase away the lingering desires left over from the dream, and even then I know I haven't killed it completely. At some point I'll be reminded that my treacherous body wants to fuck my student.

At headquarters I meet my team who display varying levels of exasperation and concern at my appearance. Sai is as indifferent as ever, Sakura just frowns, and Naruto demands to know where I've been for the last two days.

"Subsequently the best brothels also tend to take the most travelling to get to," I answer elusively as I take the mission scroll I'm being offered. I open it, but it's just a sea of words my brain can't take in. "Where is this?"

"Wave country," Sakura replies primly as she might on any other day. Her tendency to suck-up hasn't altered much.

"You couldn't have gotten anything closer?" I ask Naruto more harshly than I intend to. He just shrugs, but he looks at me strangely. As do the other two. And when Sai notices you're in a funny mood, that's when you know you should reign it in a little.

"Nevermind," I say. "We'll work it out over lunch."

Which means we're going to the cafeteria. There's no more secretive smiles from Sakura anymore as she and Naruto lead the way. Her expression is always slightly vacant whenever our eyes chance to meet, which isn't often. As much as I can't stop myself staring at her, she seems to have no similar interest in me.

It's like a kick in the gut. I'm not sure I'm happy about the prospect that already Sakura has lost interest.

The cafeteria is crowded and noisy, which I prefer when I'm trying to distract myself from one of the people around me. The food here is bad, but its free, and at least the coffee is halfway decent, so when we manage to secure a table for ourselves, Sakura turns on waitress mode. "Anyone want coffee?"

"No," says Sai.

"Juice," says Naruto.

I say nothing, but Sakura has no intention of having the decency to ignore me. "Kakashi-sensei?" she prompts politely with a sweet, saccharine smile to let me and everyone else know that I'm being the unreasonable one.

"Just coffee," I say grudgingly. She slips away with a sashay of her hips.

Naruto whispers to me, "You're awfully grumpy."

"Is that relevant to the mission?"

"I guess not, but-"

"Then shut up."

"There's no way he got laid in the last two days," Sai says, staring at me.

"Your vast understanding of human emotion and behaviour strikes again," I say tritely, and spread the mission scroll out over the table. "Now fill me in."

The two boys do just that and I sit brooding, absorbing it slowly as I stare sullenly at the scroll. I catch mentions of assassination attempts and something about an explosion and some family wanting to catch perpetrators, but I find my attention gradually drifting from the scroll to the counter across the room where Sakura is standing at the coffee machine.

"…would that be ok?" Naruto says, breaking into my thoughts.

"Great." I have no idea what he said or what I'm agreeing to. My gaze darts back to Sakura who is still standing at the coffee machine, but is now talking to someone. A tall male someone who is in a classic 'I'm into you' stance and smiling in a way he probably hopes is attractive. And Sakura's body language encourages him, as it always does. How is it that everywhere Sakura goes, she picks up men like a dog picks up ticks. She's shameless.

"What's taking the coffee so long?" I demand grumpily, straining my neck to see around a group of people who have just drifted between our table and Sakura, obscuring my view of her and her new boyfriend.

"It's not a big deal," Naruto says. "You don't even drink coffee…"

But by then I'm already on my feet and pushing my way through swathes of people. I hear Sakura's feminine giggle. The knife is scraping down my back. Before I really comprehend what I'm doing, I've pushed straight between the two chatting lovebirds and have grabbed a cup to start making my own coffee. The surprised silence of Sakura and her toy boy at having been so rudely interrupted is nothing but audible satisfaction to my ears.

"Do you mind?" the boy asks, sounding disbelieving that anyone could be so obnoxious. But really, he hasn't seen anything yet.

"Not at all," I snap and punch the button for the hottest, blackest coffee available. I turn to glance at Sakura who is standing beside me with a cup of juice for Naruto. "We do actually have a mission to run through, so if you could perhaps find it within yourself to stop flirting with every piece of meat that crosses your path for a few minutes in order to do some work, I'd very much appreciate-"

"You don't have to speak to her like that; we were just talking," the boy interrupts, putting his hand on my arm the way people do when they feel other people are out of line, or possibly psychotic and dangerous.

I push his hand off me and raise a finger at him, my temper beginning to unravel. "Seriously, don't touch me," I warn him. I honestly can't be held accountable for my actions if this particular boy annoys me any more.

But funnily enough, it's the boy who loses it faster. It's amazing how irritated people become when you push them, insult their girlfriend and then jab fingers in their faces. "And don't you point at me," he snarls, giving my shoulder a push.

My vision doesn't go red, but certainly important areas in my brain for higher reasoning suddenly switch off and I grab the boy by the front of his shirt and twist. "Care to try that again?" I goad, and I know he's going to hit me. I can't wait, because then I'll have a good excuse to knock the teeth out of his pretty face. We'll see if Sakura still wants to flirt with him after that.

But she's suddenly beside us and placing a hand on my wrist. "There's no need to get so serious," she tells us. "Let's just drop it."

I look at the boy looking at her like she's some kind of brilliant white angel of peace and goodwill. He'll do anything to please her because she's aiming her most beguiling smile at him. What a fool. She doesn't care about him anymore than she cares about me.

"Don't you dare look at her like that," I bite out, and my fingers tighten in his shirt. Without stopping to think, I throw him sideways and his head bounces off the coffee machine before he slumps, dazed. I'm only dimly aware that half of the cafeteria is looking on in silence. I'm more aware of Sakura. She's staring at me with wide eyes and softly parted lips like I've shocked her. She's not used to that. Good.

"What's wrong with you?" she asks in a small, uncertain voice.

She's so painfully beautiful.

"You," is all I can say before the boy straightens and with a grunt of anger, lunges at me. Sakura's still standing too close, and the shove knocks my elbow against her arm. I hear the splatter of juice before I turn and see that Naruto's drink has made an attempt at freedom and is now mostly drenched over her vest and boots.

I would have turned and belted the boy properly had Tenzou not suddenly oozed between us, sipping his own polystyrene cup of coffee. "You feeling alright, Kakashi-sempai?" I realise he's creating a diversion to give the boy time to make his getaway. Anyone looking on can see I'm the one spoiling for a fight, and why, but Tenzou the goody-two-shoes won't let me get away with that.

"I'm fine," I grumble. Although perhaps I'm suffering from a little testosterone poisoning.

"You look like you slept on the streets," he points out helpfully.

"I did."

"Oh," he says. "Well, whatever's bothering you, don't take it out on Sakura."

This makes me roll my eyes.

"You should go apologise to her," he continues.

I look around for her, but all I can see are footsteps of orange juice leading out of the canteen. "You're right," I say grimly and follow the watery prints. Everyone parts before me like word just got out I'm a leper. I pass the table where Sai and Naruto are sitting, and the latter calls out to me asking what the hell is going on. I ignore him and follow the footsteps out into the corridor where they begin to fade, but not before stopping at the doorway of the ladies' room.

Without thinking I push inside.

A blonde woman washing her hands at one of the sinks turns and looks at me aghast. "You're not allowed-"

"Out," I say shortly, and hold the door open for her.

She looks like she wants to protest, but she was going to leave anyway. She shoots the pink haired girl standing next to her a suspicious look and then sails out past me with as much an air of dignity as one can muster when being evicted from a public toilet.

I let the door swing shut again. Sakura regards me with a tilted head and a closed expression. A wet towel has paused against her breast.

I'm drawn towards her like I have no control over my own legs. In a moment I am standing directly before her. Standing too close. I can smell her body's array of contrasting scents – sweet shampoo, soft skin and tantalising perfume – and also the orange stain sunken into her clothing. Her lashes are lowered and her chin is tilted up, and her skin looks so young and smooth under the artificial lights above the mirrors, and her lips so full and kissable.

"You have to stop it," I tell her before I can give in to the urge.

She reclines her hip against the sink edge. "Stop what?" she asks as she resumes dabbing her spoiled vest.

"The games you play with men."

Her hand pauses again. "What games?" she asks softly, looking at me with a frown.

"You can't lead them on the way you do," I say. "People get hurt."

"You're hurt," she says with surprising candidness. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry… just… don't play with me."

"I've never played with you," she says, fixing her bright open eyes on my face. "I've never played with anyone."

"You're always playing."

"No, I just enjoy being nice to people. Something you never bother to do."

"You've confused being nice with flirting and leading them on."

She stares at me. Looking into her eyes is like looking down into a river of shifting colours and moods. "No," she breathes. "But you have."

She thinks that's the truth, but she's still young. She knows how to manipulate men so well that she does it without realising. Perhaps what she thinks she is simply being friendly and teasing, but to the man opposite her, she is making him fall in love with her. I shake my head. Regardless of how ignorant she may be of her affect on other men, she couldn't have been ignorant about the way she affected me. "Don't pretend that you haven't been playing me," I say harshly. "You don't stick your hand down a man's pants just to be 'nice'."

Her chin tilts down slightly, almost sulkily. "Perhaps. And if you'd let me stay another night or two, I would have made it to your bed. I would have come to you, naked, and lain down next to you. I doubt you would have resisted."

She's unbelievable. And conceited. I tell her so and she smiles slightly like it's a compliment. "Kakashi-sensei," she whispers, "I never strung you along. I tried very hard to make you like me because I like you. Isn't this something good for both of us? Why do you fight me so hard?"

"You're my student," is the only excuse that falls from my lips.

She lets her finger reach up to hook into my mask so slowly drag it down. The smile she gives me when she sees my face is warm and worldly, and before her I feel young and stupid and awkward. "Yes, I am, and I've taken lives," she says softly. "I've saved some too. I know what its like to die, and I know what it's like to be saved from the brink and given another chance. I've travelled to every country on the map, and met more people from all over than I can remember. I've experienced a lot. I'm your equal in everything that matters. Now I want to take a lover, and you're the only one that will do."

I ask the question I've been asking since the moment she turned up on my doorstep. "But why me?"

She beams at me now, and taps my nose. "Why not? You're handsome. You're clever. And you need someone. Why can't it be me?"

"I can't be your first."

"Why not?"

Because I'm thirty years old and those years have been filled with blood and violence and enough deviant sexual encounters that to touch her would be to taint her. She may be a complete nymphomaniac, but everything she does is pure and earnest, if not slightly too forceful.

But if I'm honest with myself, it's not really her welfare I am concerned about. It's my own.

"I trust you," she says, leaning forward and tilting her head up so that her lips just barely brush my chin. "Do you trust me?"

"No," I say with a resounding lack of hesitation.

She pauses uncertainly, and for once I can see regret in her eyes.

I'm glad to see it. Her confidence is so unshakable that sometimes it's hard to believe she notices other people and their feelings. But now I see that she knows my heart perfectly.

"I'm sorry," she says again. "I never wanted to hurt you, but I wasn't messing with you either. Please, trust me. I could be very good for you if you'd let me."

She may be right. She may be very, very wrong. But I think back to last night and my lonely apartment and how I felt her absence more keenly than I should have, and that if I repel her again I will be resigning myself to many more nights of newfound loneliness like that. She drives me up the wall and invades me sense of personal space. And she's made me crave it.

My treacherous hand reaches up to cup her cheek and she closes her eyes to lean into me like my touch is bliss. She reminds me of a cat. Charming, intelligent, unceasingly loving and affectionate, but still fickle enough to stray if she doesn't get the attention she wants. It must be why I've always been more of a dog person. But if you give the cat what she wants, she's yours for life...

"Where are you staying?" I ask her, tracing my thumb across the edge of her lower lip.

Her liquid green eyes slide open to regard me from beneath long lashes. "My parents' house."

In my head I've been imagining nothing but a myriad of other men. In my head I imagine her turning up on the doorstep of some other casual male acquaintance and giving the same sob story she gave me about having no where to live. I've been imagining her enchanting some other man with her dimpled charm and cooking, and it's been killing me. I only realise this when her admission lifts an enormous weight off my shoulders I never realised was there, and suddenly I feel light and happy.

And I rarely feel happy.

"You can move back in today," I tell her.

Her vixen smile twitches on her lips. Benediction for her fox. I know with all certainty then that she'll be in my bed tonight and we'll end up making love. I know this as surely as I know the sun will rise tomorrow, and it's just as inevitable.

I can already feel her damp, naked form wrapped around me and as good as taste her sweet lips on mine. The sensation will be perfect when I penetrate her soft body, though I'll have to be gentle with her, because I've certainly never been with a virgin before. In a way it will be a new experience for both of us, but it'll be exquisite. I can tell from the electricity that passes between us even now when only my fingertips are ghosting her skin. Tonight we'll both let go completely and I'll pound into her, letting every drop of anger and loneliness and frustration and obsession pour into the act. Our cries will mingle as I press her against me, my fingers digging into her flesh so tightly there will be bruises all over her ass tomorrow, and I'll shudder, and shove, and pulse inside her until there's nothing left in either of us but silence and shivering.

I could take her now in this restroom, and she'd probably welcome it. I'm painfully ready and clothes were never much of an obstacle to horny men. But at least one of us has to keep her inexperience in mind, and no matter how desperate I am to take her in my arms, I couldn't do it in a place like this.

Besides, I know perfectly well that there are probably a hundred people in the corridor outside with their ears pressed against the door. In the space of this conversation, I am sure everyone who witnessed the scene in the cafeteria has now put two and two together and extrapolated exactly what is going on. I also doubt my following Sakura into a restroom has gone unnoticed either. As far as anyone else is concerned, our reputation is sealed.

I mention this to Sakura, but she doesn't seem to care. In fact she seems amused and excited by the prospect of a scandal. She wants her sexuality recognised, come what may, and perhaps she wants her power over me recognised too?

Before we part we share a kiss. It's small and short, but really it's our first. Our lips may have met a few times two nights ago in a frenzy, but this is the first kiss that is just that; a kiss. It reassures me to think something pure and simple can come from this. It's a promise of so much more.

I hold her close for a moment, and then she's slipping away, giving me that same old secretive smile that is mine alone and always will be.

But I wasn't wrong. News travels fast, and I know exactly what I did and how it looks. I lost my rag with a boy half my age for talking to my student who I might as well have publicly declared a whore. There's only a couple of reasons why a normally esteemed man would do that. The first would be that he's having a nervous breakdown. The second would be that he is besotted with his student and driven to despair. For me, in that moment it was a bit of both perhaps, and so really it is no wonder that you were informed. She is, after all, your apprentice and I'm your best jonin.

So I wasn't that surprised by the summons I received, and oddly, neither was I surprised that you did it out of concern for me rather than for Sakura. Like anyone else who knows Sakura intimately, you're perfectly aware of her innate ability to capture the hearts of men without even realising. I can see from the tense worry in your eyes as I tell you my story that you think I'm just another fool. You think Sakura is too new at this game to understand the rules and be trusted with a real relationship, but you'd be wrong.

Sakura will never change. She will be, at twenty-six, the same as she was at sixteen, and at thirty-six, and then at forty-six. She will always stick her cold feet beneath my legs while watching TV, and she will always try to be what she thinks I want her to be, and I'll get a cook and a housewife out of it while she does.

She'll always use her charm on other people, and it will always attract other men. But while Sakura is a nymph, and a deviant, she is, and always has been, faithful.

You don't need to worry about me.