Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters are created by Masashi Kishimoto, but the new plots (meaning the ones you don't recognize!) are mine. This fanfiction had been written for entertainment purposes only and without intention of infringing upon any copyright.
Title: The Reunion
50-shinobi Theme No 01: This Is My Way as A Ninja
Summary: There was a time when Sakura used to hang onto his every word. Not anymore, though. It was then that Kakashi realized Sakura had grown up. Kakashi/Sakura. 50-shinobi theme No: 1.
The Reunion by elle6778
Where was Tsunade?
This message from Suna had better be urgent, or else someone would pay for this interruption to her day. Her only day off this week, and the chuunin at the Communication Tower had to come disturb her. None of them could find Tsunade, and this was not the first time either. But could they not find someone else to ask for help?
Twitching with impatience, Sakura scanned the external envelope of the nearby buildings as she walked along the street at a brisk pace. She could not locate her shishou by her chakra because Tsunade tended to shield her chakra whenever she escaped from the Hokage Tower. Not to mention there were many places in Konoha shielded from chakra detection.
After a while, she stopped with a huff of exasperation. She supposed there was another thing she could do. Directing some chakra to her fingers, she pressed them against her ears to enhance her hearing. Once the technique had taken effect, she focused her concentration onto different buildings, trying to locate her shishou's familiar voice.
It was not long before she honed in on the location of her elusive shishou's voice. The Godaime was at the ANBU headquarters, which explained why the chuunin could not find her. And she was talking to someone in one of the briefing rooms. While she had no intention of eavesdropping, she could not help but overhear the conversation.
"You are being stubborn," Tsunade snapped harshly.
"I work solo, Hokage-sama."
Sakura's steps slowed at the familiar voice, and her eyes widened in recognition. It had been years since she had heard the voice. At once, her heart lifted at the thought of seeing his familiar face… or mask.
"Not this time, Hatake," Tsunade growled.
"I do not need the assistance of some medic," he said calmly.
Sounding increasingly irritated, Tsunade barked, "I'm not having you injured and unable to return the way you've just done. So you're going to have a medic on this mission, whether you like it or not. And this is an order."
Silence followed her proclamation, and Sakura could imagine them trying to stare each other down. A small smile of amusement twisted her lips.
"I'm sending Sakura with you."
Sakura's jaw dropped. Tsunade was sending her out with Kakashi on a mission? The fact that it was Kakashi meant that this must be an ANBU mission. Tsunade knew how she felt about those missions, so when did her shishou plan on telling her about it?
"That is unwise. She would only slow me down."
There was a pause before Tsunade pointed out, "This is Haruno Sakura we're talking about."
"With all due respect, I'm well aware of that, Hokage-sama. I still don't need the assistance."
But wait, what had he just said? That she would only slow him down? Hatake Kakashi, who had the nerve to go off on an ANBU mission six years ago without so much as a single goodbye, had the gall to speak about her like this when he had not set eyes on her in all that time?
Sakura ground her teeth in ire and her hands clenched into tight fists. Then, deciding that she did not need to hear any more of what was obviously a private conversation, she dispelled the hearing-enhancement. With measured steps, she continued her journey towards the ANBU headquarters.
Lips thinning, she forced herself to remain calm. There was no point in reacting to the words he had said. Kakashi could say anything he wanted, it was his opinion, after all.
Still, she was entitled to feel angry. As much as she had missed him initially, time had a funny way of numbing things. If she had heard those words six years ago, she would probably be beside herself with misery. Well, perhaps that was a bit of an exaggeration. But she certainly would not have felt so mad at the Copy-Nin.
How could he say such a thing when he barely knew her? Things were different now. She had spent years training under Tsunade, both in the medical field and in ninjutsu, only ceasing three year ago because Tsunade had said that there was nothing more she could teach her, and that she should try something else. She had taken her shishou's advice and progressed her career in the field, and it was only last year that she had returned to work full time in the hospital. If Kakashi had been around, he would have known that her skills were nothing to be laughed at.
If Kakashi had been around, he would know that she would not slow anyone down.
Then again, this was Kakashi she was talking about. The man probably would not notice such a thing even if it slapped him in the face. After all, he barely took notice of her when they had gone to rescue Gaara five years ago, which was pretty much the last time she had any contact with him.
Reaching the entrance of the ANBU headquarters, she nodded to the sentry on duty. His ANBU mask bobbed as he returned her greeting.
"Sentry duty today, Eagle?" she asked with a small smile. She knew who was under the mask, but protocol prevented her from addressing him by his name.
"Unfortunately." Nudging his head backwards towards the door, he asked, "You need to go in?"
"I have a message for the Hokage," she told him.
"Oh, thought it might be something else," Eagle muttered, sounding a little disappointed. Then, performing a quick jutsu, he pushed the door open. "Go on in."
Her brisk steps took her to the briefing room where she had found her shishou's voice earlier. As it came into sight, she could hear the two familiar voices conversing softly within. She stopped when she came up to the door and then knocked.
"Tsunade-sama, it's me."
"Sakura? Come in."
Without pause, Sakura let herself into the room and shut the door firmly behind her, her gaze landing on the two occupants. Standing there in his usual relaxed pose was her ex-sensei, Hatake Kakashi. She had not seen him in years, but he looked exactly the same. At her entrance, her shishou and her ex-sensei turned to her.
"What are you doing here?" Tsunade queried, her brows furrowed.
Sakura retrieved a note from her pocket and extended it to her shishou. "A message from Suna."
Hazel eyes lighted up in understanding. "Ah, I've been expecting that," she said as she took the message.
When Tsunade began to read, Sakura turned her attention to the silent man standing nearby. Trying to push his earlier words to the back of her mind, she mustered up a smile.
His single visible eye seemed to be assessing her, and then it creased. "Sakura. It has been a long time."
"Yes," she muttered dryly. It was difficult to put up a friendly façade when she could still hear his words ringing in her mind. "Just got back?"
They fell into an awkward silence.
Feeling uncomfortable, Sakura turned to the side to stare at an old, faded mission strategy chart on the wall. This was not how she had envisaged their reunion after so many years. But then again, she had not expected him to belittle her abilities so soon after his arrival.
"You came at the right time, Sakura. I was about to summon you."
Sakura swiveled around at the sound of her shishou's voice. "You did?" she said warily.
"You'll be going on a mission with Kakashi on Wednesday," the Hokage announced firmly, darting a pointed look at the Copy-Nin as she did so.
Sakura grimaced inwardly when she noticed the almost imperceptible tensing of Kakashi's shoulder. Although he said nothing, his reluctance could not be clearer.
Well, since it was such a hardship, she would give him a way out. It was not as if she needed to prove anything to him. Without looking at Kakashi, Sakura said, "I'm sorry, but my patients need-"
"Delegate them to some other medic," the Hokage interjected impatiently.
Sakura opened her mouth to protest, but before a word could come out, Kakashi spoke casually, "Perhaps if Sakura is busy-"
"What is the matter with you two?" Tsunade snapped before he could finish. "You're both going on the mission and that's it."
A pause followed, and then Sakura sighed in resignation, "Yes, Tsunade-sama."
When the mission commenced two days ago, the last thing Hatake Kakashi had expected was for it to turn out this way. He should have seen it coming, though.
Still, this was not the first time a client had withheld crucial information from them. After all, the more dangerous the mission, the higher fee had to be paid. In this case, a full ANBU squad would be more appropriate instead of a single operative and a medic.
Hidden behind a cluster of boulders and by the dust cloud jutsu he had called forth earlier, Kakashi tried to locate the rest of the enemy. Almost immediately, he pinpointed five shinobi of at least jounin-rank, which meant that the rest had been subdued by his Mangekyou Sharingan. Sucked into the void, those enemies were no longer a threat to him or his partner.
However, the price of the Mangekyou was high, for he was now almost completely out of chakra and was barely able to move. What was even more annoying was the fact that he had not managed to neutralize all of their enemies. So much for being an elite ninja with a thousand jutsu under his belt. He could not even get him and Sakura out of this mess.
It was embarrassing that he was in such a sorry state, but Kakashi could not being himself to care. At least, not about himself. His main concern was the pink-haired kunoichi hovering over him. Why was she still here? He had told her to leave, had he not? Why was she not obeying his instructions? This was why he preferred to work alone.
"Leave, Sakura. I'll distract them," he reiterated.
A pair of stubborn emerald eyes glared at him. "No, I'm not leaving you here!" she hissed as she slipped her hand behind his shoulder to prop him up.
"This is an order, Sakura," he ground out sternly.
Over the last couple of days, it became apparent to him that she was not pleased with him. The reason was still unclear, but she had at least allowed him to run the mission up to this moment. But now, the only response he received was a raised brow, blatantly challenging him to do something about it if she disregarded him. Her stubborn countenance was enough to tell him that she was not planning on obeying anytime soon.
Kakashi swallowed a groan of frustration. She had to go. The situation was getting out of control and he could no longer protect her. If she stayed, she would be putting herself at risk and that was simply not acceptable.
It was not acceptable because he refused to lose another comrade like this.
"Sakura. Just go."
"Stop being so stubborn, Kakashi," she snapped at him, her jerky movements displaying her agitation while she hoisted him upwards with that superhuman strength of hers.
"I'll slow you down. Leave me here and report back to Konoha," he pressed with growing desperation, reaching out to dislodge her hold. It was ironic how HE was the one who would slow her down, considering his objections to the Hokage not too long ago.
She shot him a sideway glare as he tried to push her off. "Not a chance, Kakashi! Have you forgotten what you taught us?"
Stilling, he blinked at her. Now what had he taught them that he shouldn't have? Whatever it was, he was fairly certain that it would come bite him in the ass now.
"What is it?" he could not help but ask warily.
"I'm not leaving a teammate behind. You taught us that, remember?" She took a deep breath. "That's my way as a ninja, and it's too late for you to talk me out of it now."
His eyes widened at her words. Whilst it was true that he had given them that particular lesson while they were still genin, he had not anticipated this situation. He had not meant for her to stay back, risking her neck for his life. Besides, he had lived long enough for a shinobi, while she had her whole life ahead of her.
Before he could think of something to say, she looked away, her gaze sweeping their surrounding, no doubt attempting to find a route out of their precarious situation. Her arm tightened around him securely, and the next thing he knew, she was leaping off eastward into the fog created by the dust.
With no apparent effort.
He did not recall Sakura being THIS strong. What had Tsunade done to her in all these years? But then again, he was growing older by the day, so his memory might be a little faulty. Maybe Sakura had always been this strong and he had missed it, somehow.
Shouts rang out behind them, alerting Kakashi that their presence was detected by the enemy forces.
"There! Those damned Leaf-nins!"
"Close in on them!"
Still, Sakura ran.
Wind swept past him at an incredible speed, telling Kakashi that she was fueling her movements with chakra. He knew that her chakra control was exceptional, but he had not expected this level of ability. But then again, the last time he had worked with her was back when she was fifteen. It was clear that she had improved even further under the Hokage's tutelage since then.
Much to his incredulity, they soon made it to the border between Wind Country and Fire Country. The change in landscape meant that they were surrounded by trees, a terrain that they were most familiar with.
As expected, Sakura immediately launched into the nearest tree and continued to speed ahead. Each time her feet landed on the next tree limb, Kakashi felt his breath jarred out of him, and from the sound of her labored inhalations, she was beginning to strain under the additional load, enhanced chakra control or not. It was hardly surprising, considering that she had been running for hours.
He could still sense the enemies behind them. At the rate they were going, neither of them was going to make it. Furthermore, he could feel himself beginning to lose consciousness. And once he did, it would be even harder for Sakura to support him.
"Sakura…" he called out.
She tensed, but she kept on moving.
"Leave me here," he insisted with growing dread as black and red spots began to dance before his eyes.
Without even looking at him, she ground out, "No. And shut up. You're distracting me."
He heaved a weary sigh. At some point in the distant past, she would not have dared to use such a tone with him. Where was the respect? She used to look up to him with those adoring green eyes, did she not? Then again, right now, it was probably difficult for her to look at him in such a way, seeing that he was too weak to even move on his own.
Too weak… to even keep his eyes open, he thought as he slid into oblivion.
The night was silent apart from the low hum of chakra coming from within a dark cave carved in the side of a cliff. It took a while before the glow of the healing chakra slowly dissipated as Sakura healed the last of Kakashi's critical injuries. She could do no more, for she herself was completely drained. Tomorrow, she would continue healing him.
Sakura closed her eyes and let out a long, relieved breath. For a while, she thought that they would not make it. Kakashi had been heavy and terribly injured, after all.
Opening her eyes, she slanted a look down at her unconscious ex-sensei. He had lost it halfway through the journey, but she was not surprised, considering the wounds he had sustained. Shaking her head, she let out an exasperated sigh. How could he even think that she would leave him there all by himself? Teammates were important to her, especially one who had once been her teacher, despite his degrading remark about her slowing him down.
Maybe he still taught of her as a little girl, she thought with a frown. After all, the last time they had worked together was a long time ago. He probably did not know what she was capable of now.
He should have guessed, though. Why else would Tsunade assign her as his sole partner on this mission?
Sakura scowled deeply as she thought about the mission. The ranking of the mission already told her that it would not be easy. Infiltrating a highly guarded compound never was. Still, they could have made it if not for the fact that someone had fed faulty information to Tsunade.
They had been ambushed even before they could get to the main compound, which meant that their target already knew that they were coming. As skilled as they were, there was no way the two of them could have held their ground against two dozen shinobi of various classes.
Sighing, she cricked her neck as she thought of what else she needed to do. Tsunade needed to be informed, of course, but she had no chakra to do anything of that sort right now. So it had to wait, at least until morning.
A slight shuffling sound broke into her thoughts then, and Sakura turned to find Kakashi mumbling in his sleep. Her eyes narrowed when she saw him shiver as he tossed and turned.
No chakra meant that she had to go back to basics.
Without further ado, she briskly stripped off her jounin vest and her long-sleeved top, leaving herself clad only in her inner vest and pants. Kneeling beside the other shinobi, she proceeded to do the same for him. Once she had divested him of his outer layers, she snagged a blanket from his backpack, throwing it over them as she laid down beside him.
Holding on to him securely, Sakura yawned widely. She was tired but someone needed to keep watch.
If only she could just close her eyes for a while.
The first thing Kakashi noticed when he opened his eyes was the unfamiliar surroundings. Blinking until his vision focused, he noted that he was in some sort of cave. The only illumination it had was from the slight glow of the moon, filtering in from a very narrow entrance.
The next thing Kakashi noticed was the soothing warmth wrapped around his back. His body hummed with pleasure at the sensation. Something delectably soft, curvy and…
His eyes snapped wide open when a familiar scent hit him.
Sakura was wrapped around him, her arms secure around his midsection. That in itself was not disturbing. What was disturbing was the fact that he could feel every single contour of her body molded against his back. His vest was off, and it felt as if there was nothing except two thin layers of cloth separating them.
It hit him then that Sakura had not only grown as a shinobi, but also as a woman. It was obvious, now that he thought about it. After all, those surprisingly generous breasts and the curvaceous hips had not appeared overnight.
A thin sheen of sweat broke out over his forehead.
If Sakura was aware of the nature of his thoughts, he would be a dead man. He had seen what those fists could do, and he was certain that she would not take too kindly the fact that he had these fleeting thoughts in his mind about her, however natural it was for a man to do so.
Not to mention it was highly inappropriate.
Then he felt a shift of muscle behind him, enough to tell him that she had woken up. Kakashi kept himself immobile, waiting for her to make her move.
Still positioned behind him, she leaned over his body and stared down at him.
"You're awake?" she asked.
"Just," he mumbled.
She moved away, allowing cold air to brush against his back before she tucked in the blanket around his body. He heard her walk around him, and then she was right in front of him.
Blinking in astonishment, he stared as she stretched, pulling her sleeveless vest taut against her curves. She did not seem at all concerned about their earlier proximity. Could she truly be that oblivious to such things?
A pair of guileless emerald eyes landed on him as she knelt down. "Slept well, Kakashi?"
He nodded, fighting to keep his eyes above her neck. Ogling his ex-student was wrong, no matter how much she had grown since he had last taught her anything. She had been a fully fledged jounin for many years, after all. And before that, her training had been taken care of by the Godaime herself.
"Let me check on you," she said, lifting the blanket off him slightly.
He snapped out of his contemplations when her fingers touched the hem of his top. His hand wrapped around her wrist, stilling her movements.
"I'm fine, Sakura."
Her lips thinned in disapproval. "You used that jutsu of yours again. And you know just how much it takes out of you."
"I feel okay."
"In that case, you wouldn't mind if I check you over, would you?" she retorted immediately, her chin setting in a firm line.
Knowing that he was too weak to win this battle, Kakashi decided that it was best to just give in.
"No, I don't mind," he said with a resigned sigh.
Sakura placed her hands on his chest, and he felt her warm chakra seeping into him. He could feel her probing at his wounds, healing whatever injuries he had left over from last night. He had to admit that it felt good, being tended to by her. She was obviously a skilled medic.
What else did he not know about her?
"Are you angry at me for disobeying you?"
Startled out of his contemplations by her sudden question, and especially by the inaccuracy of her deduction, Kakashi could only stare at her for a while. He supposed he could use it to explain away his displeasure, but that would be untrue. And perhaps, instead of fobbing her off with his usual excuses, he should be open with her this time. She was, after all, no longer a child.
"No." But he held up a hand before she could say anything. "However, you should have listened, Sakura."
Her chin lifted stubbornly, taking her hands away from him. "You really expect me to leave you there?"
"It was necessary."
She stood up abruptly, giving him an irritated look. "Obviously not, since we've gotten out safely."
He swallowed a sigh of exasperation. "We were lucky."
The air suddenly chilled, and some instinct of his told him that he was in danger. There was this urge in him, pushing him to back away from the kunoichi before him. And then realizing how silly it would seem, he remained still, even though the prickly feeling of alarm did not leave him.
"Are you saying that I'm incapable of saving our asses?" she asked in a deceptively soft voice.
Well, she had proven beyond doubt that such a thing was not the case. But before he could form the appropriate words, she stood up and turned away from him.
That was when he saw the dark swirled tattoo on her arm, causing his eyes to widen in realization.
"I heard you when you were talking to Tsunade."
Kakashi yanked his gaze away from her ANBU tattoo, still trying to process the fact that the little pink-haired kunoichi had apparently managed to make it through the grueling trials required to join the elite.
"What?" he blurted.
A pair of emerald eyes pierced him as she glanced over her shoulders. "You didn't want me to slow you down, remember?"
Kakashi cringed inwardly. She had heard him say that? He was not even aware that someone had been listening in. Forcing out a chuckle, he rubbed the back of his neck. "I didn't mean it that way, Sakura. I'm just… used to working alone."
"Really?" she shot back dryly. Disbelievingly.
"Really," he insisted, fighting the urge to look away. The way she was looking at him made him feel guilty. It was hardly surprising, seeing that he HAD thought that she would be more of a hindrance than help.
But without her, he would probably be dead right now.
Could he feel even more foolish?
Sakura wanted to laugh. Did Kakashi really think that she would believe him when he wore that expression? She knew him long enough to read the subtle signs which told her that he was trying to talk his way out of something.
Well, she would just have to save him the trouble, wouldn't she?
With a huff, she waved a dismissive hand around. "I don't buy that. But it's okay. You don't have to convince me that you wanted me along on this mission, even though I DID end up saving your sorry ass." Smirking, she added, "At least I managed to pay you back this once for all the times you saved me in my genin days."
The way Kakashi looked at her told her that he did not know what to say. He was staring at her silently. Clearly, he had not expected her response. What did he expect her to say?
Deciding that she might as well go all the way and clear the air, she added, "Look, Kakashi. Neither of us has to pretend. We've been through too much for that. I know that you think that I would be a nuisance on this mission, and I can understand why. You don't really know me after all these years, I think." Her lips twisted wryly. "Anyway, this mission is a one off thing, it's a job. And it is not likely that you'll find yourself in this position again. So you don't have to worry."
A long moment passed before Kakashi finally remarked, "You're different."
She smiled. "You noticed, huh?"
His mask stretched as he smiled, his eye still displaying that slightly bewildered look. "You've grown up."
"People tend to do that, Kakashi," she responded with a chuckle. It was nice to hear such a thing from him. She could almost say that it was some sort of acknowledgement of her status. "So, I guess you will stop patting me on my head, huh?"
"It will be hard, but I'll try." His eye creased further. "You're my favorite, after all."
She snorted in response to that.
She was about to refute his claim when she saw the earnest light in his visible eyes. Her lips parted in surprise at what she saw.
Kakashi actually meant that.
Her heart softened immediately.
But before she could say anything, Kakashi stood up and held out a hand. "Start over? We are fellow ANBU after all."
She knew what he meant. This was his offer for them to start again, not as teacher and student, but as true comrades. As two adults. The notion was pleasing, especially considering what he had said a few days ago. Whilst she no longer felt the need to obtain his approval, she was more than pleased that things had turned out this way.
"I took myself out of active ANBU duty sometime ago," she told him with a smile.
He shrugged. "Offer still stands."
So she took his hand. "Friends, then."
He beamed. "Now that's more like it."
And then he reached out to ruffle her hair.
A/N: And that's my first story for the 50-shinobi themed challenge. Hope you've enjoyed it. The sequel is up, called The Temptation. Please review if you could. Thanks!