Disclaimer: Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto!

Chapter 19

Let Go

"Hey Sakura, wait up." Ino's voice echoed in the empty entrance way and Sakura sluggishly turned, waiting as Ino scrawled some notes on a file. She yawned, the muscles stretching uncomfortably in her jaw as her eyes watered and she blinked away the tears while Ino crossed the distance between them.

"You're leaving late." She commented, their languid footfalls tapping in unison on the stone tiles.

"Yeah." Sakura replied and her shoulders drooped with fatigue. "I had some extra work I wanted to finish before the weekend."

"What are your plans for tonight?"

"Go home and eat a frozen dinner. Maybe watch a movie." She answered dully, her voice plain and lacking in energy.

"Perfect, you're coming out with me."

"What, no!"

"Yes you are." Ino insisted brightly.

"I don't want to." She muttered sulkily in reply.

"Doesn't matter." Sakura sighed while rolling her eyes.

"You're ruining a perfectly good evening."

"Sakura, going home to eat a frozen dinner and watch a movie by yourself is not an acceptable way to spend a Friday night!" Ino countered with annoyance and gave her friend a severe look. "You're not old."

"Fine." She returned aggravated, knowing Ino would not let up until she had her way. "But don't try to set me up with someone again. I'm comfortable with where my life is thank you." Sakura retorted with equal annoyance and Ino grinned.

"Fine."

"And you know, this whole trying to make Chouji jealous thing is ridiculous and not to mention, it isn't working. Why don't you just show up at his place covered in melted chocolate? I'm sure he'd take you back in a heartbeat just to lick-"

"He doesn't like chocolate." Ino interrupted with a scathing glance as they stepped out of the sharp, sterile scent of the hospital and into the calming air of the village.

"Slabs of meat then?"

"That's disgusting!" Sakura giggled at her brash reply while jostling lightly down the steps.

"My god your brain is disturbing when you're tired."

"Oh you haven't seen anything yet. Just wait till tonight." Sakura teased and Ino laughed.

"Maybe it is a bad idea…for…" Sakura crinkled her brow when Ino's voice trailed off and looked up from the stairs, puzzled to see surprise in her expression. She followed her line of sight, staggering on a step.

Kakashi stood at the bottom, his hands tucked loosely in his pockets and his shoulders slouching as he watched her descend, waiting for her. Sakura's pace slowed as she stared in disbelief, her mind stunned into silence as she drew nearer to him.

"Good evening Kakashi." Ino said with a friendly and casual tone, the intrusion of noise causing Sakura to drop her gaze abruptly.

"Ino." He replied with a brief nod in her direction. The blonde glanced between the two fighting a grin from her lips.

"Well, I'm off. I'll see you tomorrow Sakura." She called giddily over her shoulder and Sakura fidgeted nervously in front of Kakashi, her attention on the ground as she drew in a calming breath. It didn't help with the hammering of her heart or dispel the sweltering heat radiating from her body.

"Hi." She mumbled after a moment, not able to stand the quiet between them. She felt his focus on her, intense and suffocating and she wanted to hide from it so that she could breathe easily again and stop the single, recurring thought in her head.

"Can I talk to you?" Kakashi nonchalantly asked and her heart stuttered and leapt into her throat.

"Umm." Her voice cracked and timidly she met his gaze. It was different somehow, still guarded and unrevealing, but it was softer and inviting; drawing her in to a place of warmth and assurance. She quickly looked away while releasing a shaky breath. She must be going crazy. "Ok."

She waited anxiously for him to continue, worrying her bottom lip with her teeth when he didn't start immediately. He was the one that wanted to talk so why the hell was he not saying anything? Was he realizing he'd made a mistake by coming to see her? Was she supposed to start the conversation? Maybe she could start talking about…the weather, or…Sakura resisted the urge to rake her fingers through her hair, keeping herself unnaturally still as her thoughts became frantic and desperate.

"Let's go for a walk." Kakashi murmured after a moment, taking a few steps before turning and looking at Sakura expectantly when she remained motionless. She snapped into movement, a brief second of relief brushing her mind as she fell into step beside him before tension instantly rooted in her stomach. It clung to her heart, dragging it down into that leaden clump that squirmed uncomfortably as they followed a well worn walking trail into the patch of forest beside the hospital.

A few squabbling chirps sounded from high in the towering trees and Sakura listened with feigned interest, hoping to distract herself from the uneasiness she felt, but was disappointed when they silenced. She exhaled heavily, her eyes dropping to the vibrant green grass sprouting on the edges of the dirt path and heat seeped into her cheeks as she deliberated on stealing a peek at Kakashi.

A restless breath caught in her lungs as she cautiously raised her gaze. His hands were still tucked in his pockets and he seemed to stare with mild interest ahead of him. She studied his silver hair, remembering its coarse texture between her fingers before following the line of his profile, pausing on his masked lips. Her heart thundered in her chest and she promptly returned her attention back to the grass, chastising herself.

"So where're we going?" She questioned, ignoring the disquiet undertone in her voice.

"No where in particular."

"Oh."

Her hands swung awkwardly by her sides and she slipped them into her pockets, immediately pulling them out and picked at the seam of her shorts, tugged on the hem of her shirt before deciding to cross her arms. Sakura stole another anxious glance at him, her heart unable to recover as they travelled deeper into the forest, isolated from the steady hum of the village. This was too much, her calm and collected composure eroding away and revealing the escalating worry and perturbing emotions as the shadows swallowed them in the thickening darkness, the sun sinking behind the mountains and its light unable to penetrate the dense stretch of forest surrounding them. What purpose could he have for talking to her? Why would he suddenly seek her out?

Sakura skirted around any notions of hope that Kakashi was going to give her a glimpse of what she'd secretly yearned from him, unable to come to terms with those desires herself she was careful not to tread in that territory knowing that it would absolutely, most certainly, probably end in disappointment. Why is he doing this? She ordered herself to stop asking questions she didn't really want the answers to and concentrated hard on making her pulse and body temperature return to normal.

"I used to come here sometimes when I was younger." Kakashi remarked softly and Sakura blinked in surprise, bringing herself back from the unsuccessful attempts of calming her heart to see the path widening into a small clearing. A rickety, wooden bench sat in the center and she observed it warily, wondering how many people had fallen victim to slivers from that thing as Kakashi walked towards the wooden fencing lining the edge of the clearing. Sakura fretted in her spot before following him, resting her hands on the rough surface of a rail as she stood by Kakashi and looked out onto the village. Lanterns were being lit in the dying rays of light and she watched with interest, her fingers strumming mindlessly against the wood.

"It's beautiful." She breathed, her eyes zigzagging through the distant streets and pausing on a few of the pedestrians on their way home before passing over the faces carved in stone. They looked menacing with the dark shadows cast across their features, a judgemental scowl drawn across their mouths and Sakura bit her lip while turning away from them. She let her back lean against the fence, the encasing silence stiff and mocking in her ears.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" Sakura pressed while watching the dusty, pink clouds skim across the azure sky. "I hope it wasn't just about the scenic views of Konoha." She conceded short of a whisper and pushed herself from the railing, her stomach suddenly fluttering with a wave of butterflies.

"No, it wasn't." She drew in a shallow breath, licking her lips before facing Kakashi. His gaze was thoughtful on her, something raw and overwhelmingly honest in it and goose bumps prickled on her skin despite the warm caress of air.

"You said you've moved on. But I don't think you have." Sakura swallowed hard, her chest trembling lightly.

"Did Sasuke talk to you?"

"Sasuke?" Oh fuck. Sakura pivoted on her heel, the extreme desire to slap herself for revealing such information. How could she be so stupid? Kakashi grasped her wrist and she halted the leather on his palm smooth and warm against her skin.

"Sakura." His grip tightened marginally, unwilling to release her and she closed her eyes.

"I have moved on Kakashi." She whispered, drawing in a steady breath. "It's taken a long time, but I finally have." His hand twitched around her wrist before releasing it and she waited, her body pulsating and her mind urged her to walk away, but she remained rooted in her spot.

"Was that the only reason why you wanted to talk to me?" Sakura questioned, anger crackling in her voice. What was he doing? Why after all this time?

"Why?" She demanded when he didn't answer and turned to see his back facing her.

"Why would you say such a thing? What do you want Kakashi?"

"Nothing Sakura. It doesn't matter." He answered, his voice indifferent and she gritted her teeth.

"God damn it Kakashi you're lying! What did you want me to say? I already told you I had feelings for you, but I'm finally at a place in my life where it doesn't feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest every time I think about you. Maybe that's moving on maybe it isn't, I don't know. But you made it abundantly clear that I made the right decision about you, that this relationship wasn't important to you and now you do this! And the night of Sasuke's wedding you…I don't understand." She finished desperately, pleading for him to say something.

"You were the one who walked away that night." Kakashi murmured and she inhaled sharply, leaning back stunned before clenching her fists.

"What did you expect me to do?" She countered fiercely while grabbing his arm and forcing him to look at her. "After months of you not saying a single word about us you just expect me to hop back into your arms after you drunkenly confess something?"

"You didn't have to leave with him. We could have talked." Kakashi replied heatedly, his height cowering over her as she glared up at him.

"Like what we're supposed to be doing now?" She snapped and he released an aggravated breath that stirred the tips of her hair. "Fine, it was a mistake to walk out that night, but you're the one who wanted to talk so talk."

"I…" His voice hung in the air and Sakura's body shuddered with anger.

"You know, I've come to realize you're terrible at talking so let me make this easy for you." She bit out, his prolonged silence infuriating her.

"We fucked each other and I got emotionally involved while you didn't, or maybe you did, I don't fucking know. And you know what, maybe there was something there, but let's just let it go. It won't work between us." Sakura concluded furiously, her chest rapidly heaving and she couldn't look at him.

"Sakura-"

"No, let me go!" She yelled, struggling in his grasp. She couldn't think properly, was so angry and she didn't understand why. She'd told herself not to expect anything and she couldn't be near him, didn't want him to see her like this.

"Sakura wait, please." Kakashi insisted and she stopped, his grasp so tight that it was almost painful on her upper arms. She stared at his chest, followed the dark green stitching around his vest pockets as her anger slowly ebbed and a lump formed in her throat, making it difficult for her to swallow.

"Sakura, I'm…" He exhaled heavily, his voice thick with uneasiness. "I'm- I'm in love with you." He confessed arduously, the words sounding almost painful to say. Sakura's brow furrowed, her brain not understanding.

"What?"

"I'm in love with you." He repeated more smoothly and he relaxed his grip before his hands fell to his sides. "I have been for a long time now. It just took me awhile to figure it out." He admitted softly and Sakura drew in a painful breath.

"Oh." Her body felt numb and yet it quivered with an electrifying bewilderment of excitement and uncertainty. She swallowed to relieve the constricting knot and gradually her gaze met his, confusion on her face when she recognized his tender expression; had seen it for fleeting moments when they were together. Oh. Her mind fumbled for something to say, anything to end the growing silence and halt the laborious hammering of her pulse.

I didn't know

I love you

Why didn't I see it before?

This won't work

"You have a black eye." Sakura stated flatly and she reached towards his face, her fingers hovering reluctantly above his skin. She scrutinized his gaze, looking for any sign of doubt or regret and gently let her finger tips touch him when she saw nothing but certainty.

"Why do you have a black eye?" She traced the ugly bruise, intently watching it disappear under her touch.

"It's unimportant really. Just a small altercation at the bar." He answered casually and the green glow of chakra faded. She'd forgotten how warm his skin was and she stared at the newly healed area, biting her lip before her fingers hooked the edge of his mask.

She didn't look for his permission, but instead gradually pulled the black material, her knuckles brushing against his cheek as she studied the emerging features. She'd also forgotten how much she missed revealing his face like this, seeing his pale, beautiful skin and the curve of his lips. She touched the small cut on his bottom lip, her fingers remaining long after it had vanished and she couldn't tear her gaze from his mouth.

Sakura stood on her tiptoes, their breath mingling in the short space between them and she watched detached as her fingers traced his bottom lip. They followed the curve of his chin and the line of his jaw before she laid her palm flat against his cheek, her body leaning in towards him. Nagging doubts whispered in the corners of her mind, trepidation oozing from that tightly secured place where she locked all emotions of fear and doubt to keep herself objective, to remain functioning in the face of gut wrenching terror and her mouth hesitated a breath away from his. This isn't…I shouldn't…Kakashi splayed his hand against the small of her back, the simple touch flaring the underlying desire ingrained deep in her bones and gently she pressed her lips to his.

And god how she'd missed this, her eyes sliding shut as warmth poured into her body. She'd just wanted to feel this once more, his body pressed intimately against her and she relished in the unhurried, sweet movement of their mouths against each other; aware she was being dragged closer to the edge, to the point where she would never want to let go. Sakura drew back, her chest rising rapidly from the innocent kiss and she couldn't hide the ambivalence in her eyes as she stared at him.

"I don't…I don't know if we should do this Kakashi." Sakura conceded, her throat painfully tight as her heels came to rest on the ground and her hand dropped to his chest, unwilling to let go of him just yet. "It's just…this isn't…" The logical side of her had analyzed every angle, every possible outcome and they all lead to the same conclusion; run. Run far and run fast from Kakashi, away from this dangerous situation. It would not end well. But the other side of her, her heart and soul screamed for her to forget logic, to forget the voices of her parents, of the elders and the villagers and to love Kakashi without reservation, to give herself over to him completely.

"I know." Kakashi acknowledged while clasping her chin and raised her face to look at him. "I know Sakura, but I'm tired. I'm so tired of telling myself to stay away from you. I've been alone my whole life and…" He drew in a steady breath, contemplative creases forming at the corner of his onyx eye.

"I'll take whatever time I can have with you."

His resolute tone reverberated deep inside her, fine cracks splintering through the protective walls around her. It was just that simple. It had been this whole time. Nothing was ever guaranteed in this life, but they could take the time they were given and she was so tired as well. Constantly telling herself it couldn't possibly work and maybe she'd been waiting for him all along to say something like this she realized; her inner world drowning in cacophony as restraining barriers crumbled. A fury of emotions surged through her and Sakura surrendered to the wants she could no longer conceal, to the longing to be by his side, to be loved by him and her lips fervently crashed to his. She fisted some of his silver hair; the vest pockets digging roughly into her chest as Kakashi wrapped his arms tightly around her, securing her against him.

And yet, she was scared because when it ended a day, two weeks, or fifty years from now she knew she wouldn't be the same. He would take pieces of her, weave himself into her soul so that when he was gone she would feel hollow; incomplete until she could replace the emptiness with new pieces, but it would never be the same. It was too late though, the damage was done. She loved him and would willingly let him take what he wanted, knowing she would collect little treasures from him and keep them tucked safely inside her.

Kakashi's breath fanned across her face and she smiled while resting her forehead against his. She wished the moment could stretch on, be suspended in this feeling of contentment for a little while longer before the harsh criticisms of reality weighed on both their shoulders and she marginally tightened her grip around his neck. Her mother's infuriated expression flickered into her mind, the threatening sentiments ringing in her ears and she nimbly pushed them away. She didn't want to think about that, not in this moment.

"What do we do now?" Sakura prompted in a timid tone and her stomach fluttered anxiously.

"Are you hungry?" She pulled back to look at him curiously.

"…Yes." Kakashi smiled that subtle, enticing grin she'd seen so many times and Sakura wanted to kiss him so badly that her lips ached to feel his again, but she refrained, reluctantly tearing her gaze from his mouth.

"Dinner is a good a place to start." Sakura smiled, leaning into him teasingly before abruptly looking down the path on the other side of the clearing, tension coiling around her heart. Muffled chatter drifted through the forest and she stepped back from Kakashi, adjusting her dishevelled top.

"C'mon, let's go to my place." She insisted, the mutterings of the approaching people growing increasingly louder as Kakashi tugged the black material over his features.

"Ok."

Sakura released a stiff breath when they disappeared from view, their pace quicker as they followed the winding trail back towards the village. The remaining glow of light dissipated in the thick stand of trees and she edged a little closer to Kakashi, a sudden conspicuous chill sweeping across her bare arms and legs. She vaguely noticed the damp, earthy smell of the forest, her attention too focused on glancing at Kakashi every few moments to ensure she wasn't dreaming; that this was actually happening.

"Is something wrong?"

"Huh? Oh no, umm no." Sakura stuttered awkwardly and listened to his soft, amused chuckle.

She gritted her teeth, deciding to keep her attention strictly on the ground so that she would stop making a fool of herself and let her thoughts idly wander. She panicked when she remembered the state of her fridge, a half full milk carton and a freezer stacked full of frozen dinners. She'd meant to go shopping a few days ago, but time had run away on her and frozen dinners were so much easier to prepare. Maybe she could order take out and get it delivered, or quickly run to the store and…Sakura's thoughts stalled before dimly realizing he was going to be in her apartment. And they were going to be alone. With no one to disturb them.

Sakura's body flushed with intense heat, her core throbbing with pleasure at the unrelenting image of her pushed up against a wall and Kakashi between her thighs, making her moan desperately for her release. She tried to dispel the image, but it was only replaced with memories of sleepless nights and the carnal pleasure he had given her.

Sakura was surprised when she found herself in front of her door and she fumbled with the keys in the dark, the click of the lock jarring in the silence. "Well, this is home now." She managed smoothly as she flipped a light switch, a fluorescent light flickering to life in the kitchen.

"I suppose you want a tour since you've never been here before." She finished in a hushed tone and cleared her throat guiltily while turning away from him. She briefly touched her cheek, surprised to feel her skin still so warm and hoped it didn't show.

"Sure." Kakashi replied casually.

"Here's the kitchen. Obviously. And my dining room table. I finally broke down and bought all new furniture." She admitted, her fingers trailing along the smooth edge of the polished wood as she walked to the opposite side of the table, away from Kakashi.

"I see that. It looks good." He remarked and she saw a smile on his masked lips.

"Right." Her breaths were short and anxious as she briskly crossed into the living room and hurriedly continued, her tone jittery. "And this is the living room. Here's my new couch. It's quite comfy compared to the last one and folds out into a bed. Not that you're interested in that or care. Anyways the two chairs. They're pretty comfy too and also recline. That there," She pointed to an empty TV stand, taking a few steps away from Kakashi and kept her back to him, trying to hide her blush. "That's where my TV is going to go. The old one broke and I haven't gotten around to replacing it yet. I can't really decide which one I want. They're so expensive, but I think I'd like a big one. It'd be a little nicer to watch movies on and I guess TV shows. But it's just so hard to justify spending that much money on-" Kakashi touched her wrist and she stopped her rambling,

"You're nervous." He stated, his fingers delicately tracing up her arm and Sakura forgot how to breathe. He swept her hair over her other shoulder, his hand resting on the back of her neck while his hot breaths tickled the shell of her ear and a shiver slipped down her rigid spine.

"Why?" His thumb stroked the side of her neck and she wanted to melt into his touch.

"Because." She whispered while closing her eyes, gathering some semblance of courage before continuing. "I'm wondering how long is an appropriate amount of time to pass before I show you to my bedroom." His touch faltered and her pulse roared in her ears as she waited for an answer, resisting the urge to fidget nervously.

"I don't think conventional rules really apply to us." His masked lips brushed against her ear as he spoke and heat pooled low in her belly before she faced him. His gaze was soft and completely revealing, showing her that tender expression that made her heart pound in her chest. She cupped his cheek, kissing his masked lips briefly before grasping his hand and leading him to the bedroom.

"You're absolutely right."

***

Sakura stirred, her mind drifting seamlessly between dreams and reality as she pulled the blanket over her exposed arm, the skin ice cold from the morning air. It stopped at her shoulder and her brow creased as she tried to pull the unyielding blanket higher, memories of last night rustling in her brain. She stopped and carefully listened to the trepid quiet, comfort twinging in her chest at the sound of his steady breaths. Sakura opened her eyes and was surprised to meet his mismatched gaze, immediately rolling over while groaning.

"Ugh, I must look like such a mess." She mumbled while pulling the blanket to hide her face and the mattress dipped behind her, his skin hot against her back as he gently pressed his lips to her neck.

"Not any more than usual." Kakashi teased, kissing her once more before withdrawing to his side of the bed and she was disappointed with the loss of his heat. She combed her fingers through her hair, untangling a few of the knots before lying on her side facing him. He'd propped himself up on his elbow, his cheek resting on his palm and she studied his tousled silver hair, entranced by the way the light would shimmer over a few stray strands. Her attention dipped to his face, her gaze catching his and something kindled inside her, glowing warm and diffusing through her body, thick and fragile as it nestled into the layers of her skin and she wanted to wrap Kakashi around her, protect this feeling forever.

"You know, it's not that cold in here." Kakashi informed her and Sakura looked at him curiously. "And that blanket is obstructing my view. I suggest you remove it." His tone was perfectly serious and a mischievous glint played at the corner of his eyes.

"You're such a pervert." She huffed with small amusement while throwing her pillow in his face and securely tucked the blanket under her arms.

"I thought it was worth a try." His muffled voice sounded from underneath the pillow before he lifted it up and dropped it onto the floor. Kakashi slid his arm behind his head while staring up at the ceiling and Sakura watched a smile curve onto his lips. He was different somehow, the strain in his shoulders and voice gone and his smile, it was just different, lighter.

Sakura sidled closer to him under the blanket, avoiding his eyes as she slipped a leg between his and draped herself across his chest, her breasts pressing firmly against him. Kakashi snorted softly, his hand resting on her arm while his calloused fingers followed the curve of her spine. She shuddered against his warmth as he lazily traced a circular pattern across her back, her muscles twitching when he glided over sensitive areas and she listened to the constant drum of his heart.

"Why did you leave?" Kakashi questioned in a muted tone after a long moment had passed. Her fingertips paused on a jagged scar across his ribs, pursing her lips for a brief second before answering.

"I thought it was nothing more than just sex for you. That is of course all I had wanted it to be, but when I realized that I'd…I couldn't stay. It would've been so much more painful when you finally decided to leave." Kakashi rested his hand on her back and something itched in the back of her mind as they remained silent, their chests rising in unison.

"If…I had of stayed and told you my feelings," She raised her head to look at him, her gaze desperately searching his. "What would you have done?" She watched conflicting emotions flicker across his features before he exhaled heavily.

"I don't know." He tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, regret in his eyes as he continued in a strained tone. "I probably would have left, but I…Things have happened in my life that has made me…" She watched the struggle on his face as he tried to explain, the apprehensiveness in his voice and she saw a glimmer of something in his gaze she didn't understand. It looked like…sharp realization stung Sakura. He was scared. Hatake Kakashi was scared.

The notion clashed with her definition of Kakashi. She had never seen fear in him, not even when she was shaking so violently from terror she didn't think she'd be able to stand, but he would remain composed, slicing through enemy throats until the threat was gone; the mission completed. She burned to know about his past, to learn the secrets of his life so she could comprehend the workings of his mind, truly understand his thoughts, but it wasn't the time for that. He wasn't ready.

"It isn't important now. We're here, together and we don't have to think about what might've happened. How things would have been different." Sakura finished gently, assuring him with a small smile before resting her cheek back on his chest.

"But this is still is crazy." She added sternly, her mother's face entering her mind.

"I know."

"And completely illogical." People wouldn't understand, hell, she barely understood it herself.

"But that doesn't matter." Sakura concluded softly with a smile. "Shinobi were never known to be the sanest people to begin with so I guess it only makes sense for us to do something like this." Kakashi grinned in response and her fingers outstretched towards him, her thumb following the line of his scar above his eyebrow. She knew the odds, what everyone would say, but it didn't matter. She wanted to try. Kakashi's stomach growled voraciously and she turned towards the source of noise, her eyes wide.

"That's right, we never did have any dinner last night." She remarked abashedly giving him a furtive glance before springing from the bed, the wood floor cold on her feet.

"Don't move." She instructed while gathering his long sleeved shirt from the floor. "I'll make you breakfast."

"Breakfast? You can't even handle dinner, how are you going to manage breakfast?" He countered jokingly as he reclined against the wall and Sakura tugged shyly on the hem of his shirt, pulling it further down her thighs.

"Breakfast is a different matter." She emphasized, her cheeks tinging pink as his gaze leisurely travelled down her body.

"Now what kind of cereal do you want?" Sakura questioned as she backed towards the door, bumping into her dresser. "I- I have all kinds."

"That's making breakfast?" Kakashi pressed, crinkles around the corner of his eyes as he smiled.

"Of course. I have to pour the milk in it." She retorted playfully and he gave a cordial chuckle.

"Surprise me."

Sakura paused at the door, the smile fading from her lips as she gazed at him in her bed, her heart suddenly throbbing unusually loud. It still seemed impossible to be at this moment, after everything they'd gone through, everything she had and hadn't done, hadn't said to him; they'd still managed to find their way here. She didn't want to repeat those same mistakes, to keep things hidden from herself or from Kakashi and she inhaled a shallow breath, her fingers clenching the door frame. She needed to say it out loud. A trickle of fear drained into her limbs, making them quiver as he studied her curiously. She had to tell him; couldn't let fear dictate what she was going to do anymore. He deserved that.

"I love you Kakashi." Her voice sounded surprisingly strong for how incredibly small she felt and she kept her gaze on his, fighting the urge to run. The corners of his mouth upturned into a grin, that simple action unravelling the tightness in her chest.

"I love you too." Sakura nodded, the apprehension melting from her body as she started towards the kitchen. She shook her head, berating herself for being so silly. Of course he does, an elated smile spreading on her lips as she grazed her warm cheek. Of course he loves me.

***

Ino hummed mindlessly over the whir of a fan, her hands deftly stripping the leaves from the stems of yellow roses before placing them in a bucket of water. She filled it quickly, glancing at the clock before sliding another tall bucket towards her. Water sloshed over the edge as she positioned it beside her, the bell above the door chiming and she sighed impatiently when she looked at the time.

"You're, oh my god your face!" Ino exclaimed in shock when Sasuke appeared from around the corner and Naruto snickered. "Is that from Kakashi?"

"Who else?" Sasuke snapped acidly.

"So I take it it went well then."

"If you mean well by how much Sasuke got his ass kicked, then yes. It went extremely well." Naruto offered and Sasuke glared at him.

"I noticed you weren't one of the ones to help pull him off me."

"Only trying to make it look believable. No one of my rank would ever consider messing with the copy nin while he's in the middle of a fight." He replied and Sasuke scowled.

"Just hurry up and heal me." He demanded while grabbing a stool and plunking it in front of Ino.

"All right calm down and Naruto, help me out a bit." She nodded towards the table and Naruto sighed.

"I won't calm down. You should've done this yesterday, but no, you were too busy. And you wouldn't let me go to the hospital." Sasuke ground out, hissing in pain when Ino roughly pressed into his bruised cheek.

"Then maybe you shouldn't have gotten your ass so thoroughly beaten."

"I was making it look believable." Sasuke interjected fiercely.

"Mhm, right. And besides, you couldn't go to the hospital. What if Sakura saw you?" Ino finished, ignoring his scornful glare.

"Yeah, if Sakura manages to find out what we're doing she would be…" Naruto shuddered, a rose dangling in his hands before continuing. "Tell me again why you're making us do this?"

"Because I'm tired of waiting for those two idiots to figure it out on their own." Ino replied, turning Sasuke's chin to heal his black eye. "You guys both agreed they seemed happier with each other and we had to do something quickly or else she might've ended up with Ryou."

"I don't understand. You're the one who set her up with him to begin with." Sasuke reminded her and Ino arched her eyebrow.

"Yes, that was a bit of a miscalculation on my part. I had hoped she would see what she had with Kakashi, but Ryou was a better match than I thought. They would actually make a good couple." Ino acknowledged, clicking her tongue as a cut sealed on Sasuke's upper lip.

"Now what? We were supposed to get them to meet last night, but I couldn't find Kakashi and then I couldn't get a hold of you. How do we get them to run into each other now?"

"We don't." Ino answered Naruto, grinning when he scrunched his face in confusion. "Kakashi came by the hospital last night. They're probably still in bed enjoying each other's company."

"Gross." He mumbled, shutting his cerulean eyes in disgust.

"See, I was right. Kakashi just needed a little push to realize his feelings. Now whatever happens is up to them." Ino beamed and slapped Sasuke's shoulder before turning back to the table and began to strip off leaves again.

"I still think it was a bad idea to meddle in their lives like that." Sasuke conceded and Ino scoffed.

"That's funny coming from you who's willing to manipulate anyone to get what you want." Sasuke stood from the stool, rubbing his jaw as he walked away.

"Whatever. It's over now." He murmured before disappearing around the corner.

"Look at you, master of solving everyone else's problems." Naruto commented, tossing his last rose into the bucket and splashing droplets of tepid water onto Ino's forearm. "Too bad you can't fix up you and Chouji." Ino halted, resting her hands on the counter as she bowed her head slightly.

"Oh no, I didn't mean…I was just-"

"It's ok Naruto." She interrupted him, giving him a smile before placing the rose in the water.

"Not everyone was meant to be together." Ino admitted and Naruto stood flustered, searching for something to say.

"You should go before you distract me any further from my work. I still have three arrangements I need to do!" She ushered him away with her hands, a large, reassuring grin on her face.

"Ok, I'll see you later." He called over his shoulder and she earnestly peeled off the leaves, three fresh roses added to the bucket before the bell clanked in the distance. Ino's hands slowed and she sat on the stool, throwing a leaf onto the table as she sighed heavily. She knew it all too well, that no matter how much you loved a person, sometimes it just wasn't meant to be.

But she had a good feeling about Sakura and Kakashi, the reason why she could no longer sit idle and watch them push each other farther away. She knew what it was like to love someone and have them look right past you, their heart belonging to somebody else so no, she wasn't going to let them waste what they had been given, even if they were too moronic to see it.

Sakura could thank her later Ino decided while smelling the rose, the delicate scent curling in her nose while the satin petals brushed against her lips. She placed it into the water, humming as she twisted her hair into a messy bun. It would work between them because she had a good feeling about them; the same feeling she had about her and Chouji. It just had to work between them.

The bell chimed again, her mother's voice lilting her name and Ino smiled. She brushed her dirt stained apron as she stood, pushing Chouji to the back of her mind as excitement bubbled inside her, but she quickly concealed it. She could not tell her mother this juicy piece of gossip under any circumstance knowing that all of Konoha would know before lunch. And she didn't want to listen to a repeat of her mother's remarks on how they were such a terrible match and that it wouldn't last long. She had a good feeling about them.

Ino turned the corner, her mother greeting her warmly as she grabbed a delivered cardboard box on the counter, preparing for a busy day of work.

It just had to work between them.


Well, I thought it was time for this story to end. Kind of an anticlimactic and stereotypical ending I suppose. I originally had it where she ended up being with Ryou, but after thinking long and hard about it; I decided to return to the original purpose of this story. It was something that was supposed to be silly and stupid and just for fun. Somehow I ended up taking a detour into exploring how easy it is for a relationship to fall apart and how insecurities, lack of communication, fear, different perceptions of events, and all those other things can play a role in ending a relationship. So I gave them their happy beginning (And so much fluff, I know. I'm sorry).

And while editing this, I started thinking about the end of the chapter and realizing I don't think they have some jutsu that allows them to copy other people like that. Oops, but I left it (maybe Sasuke somehow caught Kakashi in an illusion with his Sharingan…idk) because I thought it made for a nice twist. And for anyone who's interested, I might be thinking about a sequel. I haven't decided yet. I'm curious to see how things would turn out between them, but I think it's also nice to just leave things like this.

Also, a huge thanks to everyone for their comments on the last chapter. I really was not expecting such kind remarks and support so thank you very much. I really appreciate it and I enjoyed reading each one and seeing people's different opinions.

That's it. The chapter title is a song by Frou Frou. Thanks to everyone who has read the story and to everyone who has commented. You've helped shaped this story into what it is and its been a lot of fun. Hopefully it was enjoyable and the last chapter lived up to expectations and is satisfying, but it's ok if it didn't. I tried.

Cance