Written as a response to the heat! Also I needed to take a break from some super intense multichapter story planning! This will be in two segments. Happy summer...


Exasperation

Cicadas chirped as the sun continued to unleash its unrelenting heat upon the undeserving city of Konoha. Sakura, like many others, was seeking relief underneath the shade of a tree. Leaning against the wall of the hospital, she closed her eyes against the glare of the sun-drenched dirt road. Even through her eyelids she felt the light burning her, and she frowned against the discomfort.

Her foot tapped in impatience as she cracked an eye open, glancing down the road: No one was coming from either direction. Scowling, she kicked at some innocent dirt, only for her toes to squirm as the particles stuck in between them.

"Stupid dirt, stupid sun, stupid work…" She wiped some sweat from her sizable brow, glaring at the heavy stack of papers sitting on the bench beside her. Sighing, she slumped down next to it, flicking a mosquito off the tip of the stack. Her skin was sticky, her lips were dry, she had a lot of work to do when she got home, and she wanted nothing more than to lie spread eagled on the floor of her apartment, watching the ceiling fan spin in blissful cool.

(…)

The trees seemed to jump out of the way as Kakashi raced past them, pushing aside branches and brambles. He sped through the forest at unprecedented speed, leaving no trace of his presence save the quivering leaves. He ignored the perspiration running down his face and dampening his mask, choosing to focus only on his goal.

He came to a sudden stop on the outskirts of a clearing. Crouching low in the bushes, he observed the scene before him. Two men clad in startling green jumpsuits were contorting their bodies into impressive positions, the spandex of their outfits stretched too tight across their lean muscles. Sweat rolled down their faces, leaving a sticky trail from their heavy eyebrows down to their defined chins.

The taller of the two rose with perfect grace onto one foot, bringing the other to rest in the crook of his knee as he tipped his head to the sky. A contented grin stretched across his face as he squeezed his eyes shut and brought his palms together, his elbows sticking out.

"Now, dear Lee," he boomed, with an air of utmost solemnity, "the next position is the Crane."

"Oh, that sounds very youthful!" Lee's voice, suspiciously high for a man of twenty-three years, rang out through the clearing as its owner mimicked his mentor's fluid motions. The two stood several feet apart; Lee wobbled experimentally, peeking out of one eye to make sure he was doing it correctly. He then steadied himself with ease, the picture of tranquility as he closed his eyes.

With their attention devoted to higher powers, Kakashi knew it was his time to strike. He quietly crept out of the bushes and into the clearing. His target lay in plain sight, and it was with great care that he approached Gai's open pack. Redirecting his chakra to blend in with the natural chakra of the forest, he began to silently sift through the bag's contents.

"All right, my dear protégé, the next stage is to…" As Gai turned his face forward again, blinking his eyes open slowly as if waking from a pleasant nap; however, his pleasant aura evaporated as he saw a familiar silver-haired head bent over his belongings.

"Eternal rival!" he shouted, eyes shooting wide open. "How dare you trespass on our manly yoga bonding time to go through my most secretive rucksack?!"

Kakashi did not seem to have heard. His face was blank as he continued to rummage around in the bag.

"Eternal rival!" Gai repeated. "Explain yourself!" Lee, too, was fixing Kakashi with an unforgiving stare.

Under the scrutiny of their blinkless gazes, Kakashi sighed and decided to relent. "Oh, it's you," he said, feigning mild surprise as he looked a Gai. "Didn't expect to see you here. Did you say something?"

Gai roared in agony. "Your contemporary ways will continue to baffle me for the remainder of my youthful existence!" he cried. "As hip as your response was, I must still demand a proper explanation for your blatant invasion of my privacy!"

"How youthful of you to demand," Kakashi said absently, frowning at a particularly sweaty sock.

Manly tears began to fight at the corner of Gai's eyes. "Oh Kakashi, while you flatter me, I cannot relent!" He sniffled heartily and continued, his voice thick with emotion, "Without adequate reasoning I simply cannot allow this to go unpunished!"

Kakashi's casual investigation of the bag's contents did not pause as he said, "There is an item of utmost importance in here."

Gai gasped. "What sort of item?" His wide eyes were trained on Kakashi's gloved hands, enraptured as he was by the newly discovered mystery.

"Confidential," Kakashi said seriously. Gai nodded in understanding. Lee watched on, his mouth agape as he observed the two elite shinobi at work. "I must secure it."

"Are your intentions youthful?" Gai's voice was a whisper that nonetheless carried across the clearing.

Kakashi nodded. "I'm afraid so."

Gai's brow furrowed in confusion. Youth? Fear? He did not compute.

"I do not compute," he informed his rival.

Kakashi sighed, looking up at Gai for the first time. "I'm sorry. I'm just really concentrating. It's very important, you know." Gai watched in awe as his rival continued his grave task, pondering just what could have captured the copy ninja's attention so powerfully.

"But, Gai-sensei!" Lee's voice interrupted the respectful silence that had fallen. Gai frowned at his young ward, wondering why Lee was distracting the shinobi on a quest.

"What, Lee?" His voice betrayed impatience.

Lee hopped closer to his sensei, his posture never wavering. Hushing his voice and glancing nervously at Kakashi, he said, "As youthful as his mission might be, the fact remains that he has most dishonorably invaded your privacy without your permission, and even in spite of your protests!"

"What are you trying to say, Lee?" Gai threw Kakashi a fearful sideways glance, but his rival did not seem to be aware of their conversation.

Lee moved even closer, putting his lips to his esteemed teacher's ear. "You must challenge him."

"CHALLENGE?!"

Kakashi felt the force of this bellowed word make him wobble to the left, its inherent passion rustling through his hair. With another sigh, he turned his face to Gai, squinting against the painful brilliance of his rival's winning grin.

"Challenge?" he repeated weakly.

"Yes!" Kakashi winced, the sound ringing in his ears. "There is no other acceptable course of action!" He unclasped his hands and held them above his head as if baring claws; the change in position made him resemble the unfortunate offspring of a green tiger and a caterpillar.

Lee watched with adoration and Kakashi with trepidation as Gai continued to speak with zeal, spittle flying forth from his mouth. "Clearly only a very grand challenge could fit the struggle for this much sought-after object! I envision a contest to determine who looks best in a piece of ladies' swimwear, the one in that catchy song…"

"An itsy bitsy teeny tiny yellow polka dot bikini!" Lee supplied breathlessly.

"Yes!" Gai roared, waving an index finger at Lee in approval. "That! We shall don the aforementioned outfit and strut about the town, showing off our manly physiques and asking for constructive criticism from the general populace—"

Kakashi stood up with a sigh, brushing the dirt off his pants. This was taking longer than expected, but at this point he was too far gone to turn back now. He had a job to do.

"No," he interrupted calmly. "It's not your turn."

Gai's enthusiastic description of how their contrasting body types would play an important factor in the judging spluttered to a stop at these words. "Not… my turn?"

Kakashi shook his head. "Remember? Last time you had us do the dango-eating contest."

Gai frowned. "Ah. Yes. As usual, you have corrected me with your impeccable memory and keen sense of style."

Wondering what his style had to do with the thing but deciding it was a question for a later time, Kakashi said, "Today I will pick the challenge."

"Yes!" Gai said, his voice strong with determination. "The record stands at 79 to 81, and I shall surely prevail today as I have on 81 past occasions!" He hopped excitedly. "What shall it be today, my rival? A poetry contest? Or we could compete to craft the ultimate smoothie—"

"Guessing game."

"… What?"

"A number guessing game," Kakashi repeated simply. "We have to guess a number, one to one thousand." He reached into his leg holder and retrieved a kunai. Pricking his thumb with its tip, he made several hand seals. "Kuchiyose no jutsu!" he muttered, placing his palm on the ground.

A squat little pug appeared in a puff of smoke, scratching his ear as he stared droopily up at Kakashi.

"Imminent danger?"

Kakashi shook his head. Pakkun sighed, his muscles relaxing as he took in his surroundings. As soon as he noticed Gai grinning at him, he let out a little whine.

"Another competition?" he looked at Kakashi skeptically. "Kakashi, it's so hot out, I don't want to…"

"Oh, calm down," Kakashi said unsympathetically. "All you have to do is pick a number."

"Why can't Lee do it?" Gai asked. "Surely he is mentally capable—"

"They're both going to," Kakashi explained, sliding his hands into his pockets and shifting his weight to his left foot. "They'll both agree on a number between one and one thousand, and whichever one of us guesses closest wins." Gai still looked confused, so Kakashi continued, "There is a representative of each party in the number-guessing team, so that it's less likely cheating will occur. This way, their team won't be biased."

Gai nodded. "All right, whenever they have selected their number, I am ready to guess! In the unlikely event of my failure, Kakashi, I pledge to stand atop my apartment building and bellow the national anthem—"

"That won't be necessary," Kakashi assured him. "I just want the… item."

"Fine, my eternal rival!" Gai cried. "Whatever you say!" He then closed his eyes and began undergoing deep breathing tactics.

Kakashi waited patiently as Lee and Pakkun conversed in hasty whispers; he thought he might have even seen a harried game of rock paper scissors, which Pakkun of course won. (They didn't play best two out of three, so Lee never got the chance to figure out that Pakkun's paper looked exactly the same as his rock and scissors.) Once they had agreed upon a number, they turned to face the contenders.

"As the current leader," Lee announced, his posture rigid with formality, "Gai-sensei is awarded the first guess."

"You may guess now," Pakkun added in a bored monotone. He shot Kakashi a glare, but Kakashi conveniently had been fixated on a butterfly fluttering past his nose, so he appeared to remain blissfully unaware.

Gai's face was twisted in concentration, sweating profusely under the strain. Eventually, just when Kakashi was betting for steam to start seeping out of his ears, it seemed that the pressure was too much for Gai. "One!" he shouted.

"And that's your final answer?" Pakkun wheezed. Gai nodded, looking wary that there was a catch and he would have to do more serious contemplation. His entire body sagged with relief when Pakkun smacked his lips and turned to Kakashi.

"Your turn," he said through his smirk.

Kakashi cupped his chin in his hand, carefully scrutinizing Lee and Pakkun. Lee's paralysis and Pakkun's relaxation suggested that Gai was far from the mark, so it would be easy for him to say "one thousand" and win it easily… but he wouldn't settle for that. He wanted more than just a guess in the right ballpark. He wanted a complete win, a homerun.

The four of them waited in a silence that seemed to stretch tangibly, the heat disrupting the image of the trees and causing them to ripple in the distance. The buzzing of the insects and Pakkun's steady pants were the only sounds as Kakashi stroked his masked chin silently, both of his eyes trained on the two in the know. Lee began to tremble slightly, his gaze flitting nervously from Gai to Pakkun to Kakashi. His lips were clamped tightly shut, and when Kakashi caught him staring and gave him his full attention, fixing him with a pleasant stare, Lee yelped through his closed mouth and stared fixedly forward. Smirking, Kakashi cleared his throat.

"Three hundred seventy-four."

Pakkun let out a wheezy chortle, his long ears flopping as he shook his head in disbelief. Lee's mouth dropped open as he stared at Kakashi in fearful awe.

"That's— that's correct!" he spluttered. "That's exactly what it was!"

Gai let out a moan of defeat, slumping forward. "Trust my eternal rival to guess correctly with perfect accuracy!" he groaned.

"How did you do it?" Lee whispered, his eyes wide and glistening with newfound admiration for his teacher's great rival.

"I analyzed your postures," Kakashi said conversationally, covering his Sharingan again as he bent over Gai's pack.

"Oh, the power of the Sharingan!" Gai bawled, throwing his head back in anguish. "One day I will defeat it!"

Pakkun trotted over to Kakashi, automatically sniffing the pack's contents. "What are you even looking for?" he asked.

Kakashi's hand curled around the desired object. "It's confidential," he said, straightening up and pocketing it.

Pakkun snorted, looking up at Kakashi shrewdly.

"Is it for the girl?"

Kakashi only grinned, sending Pakkun back to his realm as he too disappeared in a cloud of smoke, leaving Lee to console his weeping mentor.

(…)

Sakura huffed out a huge breath of air, watching the pinks strands of her hair flutter in the artificial breeze. Her feet swung idly against the warm bench as she listened to the irritating buzz of a fly she had so far been unable to squash. Sure, being a medic and a shinobi had given her a great appreciation for all types of life, but in this heat she found it hard to extend her good nature to this particular insect.

After another unsuccessful attempt to send it to its early grave, Sakura sighed and grabbed a file folder from the top of the pile. She began to fan herself, closing her eyes as she listened to the paper flap with the movement.

Her temporary reprieve was interrupted by the arrival of a man via smoky cloud. She moved the file folder away from her face to fix the visitor with an unamused glare as he dusted himself off.

"Now now, Sakura, no need to get catty," he said, walking towards her.

"I've been waiting for twenty minutes," she seethed. She gave him a quick once-over; he was covered in little bits of twigs and leaves. Where had he been? Her eyes rose to his, her glare cool.

"Did you even find the chapstick?"

Kakashi nodded, reaching into his pocket and removing a small yellow tube. He deposited it into her waiting palm, observing her as she applied it to her dry lips. Smacking them together and deeming it satisfactory, she rose to her feet, stretching her arms above her head as she yawned.

"Well, I for one am ready to go home," she said, releasing a deep breath. "I've got a lot of work to do later…" Bending her knees and bracing them for the incoming weight, she carefully lifted the staggering pile of papers, holding them awkwardly in front of her chest. They came up past her mouth, and she trapped the rolling tube of chapstick with her nose.

"All right, let's go," she said, her voice muffled by the musty papers she would have to study later. The two of them began walking at a slow pace to accommodate Sakura's load.

After a few strained paces, Kakashi noticed how much trouble she seemed to be having with the obscene stack. Deciding that the gentlemanly thing to do would be to help out, he offered, "I'll take some of that for you."

Sakura let out a breath of relief, loosening her tight muscles in anticipation of the lightened load. Her relief quickly became annoyance, however, when she noticed that he had only removed a single file folder from the pile. She gave him an angry glare as he began to fan himself absently.

"Thanks," she snarled. "That's really helpful."

"Glad to be of assistance." Seemingly oblivious to her continued struggle, he only kept walking at a leisurely pace, putting a rather rude amount of emphasis on his freedom of movement as he let his free arm swing at his side.

Unwilling to put up with his difficult ways today, Sakura snapped, "You know, you could carry a little more."

Kakashi reached over and plucked the chapstick from beneath her nose. Ignoring Sakura's warning growl, he merely slipped the tube into his pocket and continued to fan himself.

"Kakashi!"

He looked at her blankly. "What?"

She rolled her eyes. "You're supposed to be a big strong shinobi!" she said angrily. "Why can't you handle half of this stack?"

"You're the one with the super strength," he said, obnoxiously blasé.

"You're the one with the penis."

Kakashi's eye widened as he looked at her over the top of the file folder, his few visible features arranged in mock scandalization. Allowing a few moments of silence to heighten the effect, he said, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"Well," Sakura sighed, "you can go running across the village for a tube of chapstick, but you can't help me carry these stupid files that I could've gotten a good head start on had a certain man not been harassing me all day!"

"Oh I see," Kakashi said simply.

"Do you?" Sakura sent him a skeptical glare.

Kakashi shot her a fiendish eye crinkle over the top of his file folder. "It's perfectly understandable that thoughts of my impressive genitalia distract you from—"

"Idiot!" She would have smacked him were her hands not full, and she wondered if that was the real reason he wasn't jumping at the chance to lessen her load. "That's not what I meant! You're inconsistent, is what I'm saying."

Kakashi's lone silver eyebrow turned up as he frowned at her, wounded. "Really? Last night I think you were singing a different tune about my, ah… consistency—"

Sakura's face flushed red. "PERVERT!" she cried, her voice an octave higher than usual. She coughed in a superfluous attempt to mask her embarrassment, frowning as she noticed that Kakashi's eye was narrowed in a mischievous grin.

That damn fox… "Really, it's too hot for this…" She let out an exasperated sigh. "No. What I MEANT is that your chivalry is inconsistent. You can do little trivial things for me at the drop of a hat, but when I actually NEED you, you can't bother yourself to lift a finger. You'd much rather watch me struggle." She punctuated her complaint with a great huff, sending the chronically offensive fly whizzing away from the bridge of her nose.

"… You know, bringing my penis into it was very misleading."

"Enough about your penis!" Sakura exclaimed. "I'm sorry I brought it up!"

Even though his lips were concealed, she could tell by his eye that he was pouting. "Oh but Sakura, now you've gone and gotten me all flustered. That's why I can't carry your things; it's much too hot for poor old Kakashi."

"Well it's not my fault you're dressed for a blizzard in scorching weather!" she snapped. "Maybe if you weren't wearing all of those clothes—"

Her voice faltered as she saw his obvious grin, realizing what she had just said and how he interpreted it.

Kakashi's delight was clear in his tone. "If you're suggesting that I strip…"

"Agh!" Sakura brought her palm to her face in annoyance, and then yelped very loudly as the stack of files spilled from her hand and fell on top of her. She went down with them, landing unceremoniously on the dirt ground with a sharp pain to her rump. As she looked at the important papers strewn across the dirt road and listened to Kakashi's sadistic chuckling in the background, she could only hang her head in defeat.

"I give up."

The files were promptly collected — without any help from Kakashi, much to Sakura's chagrin. They proceeded to her apartment without any more words; even Kakashi didn't want to poke at Sakura's fuming silence. He even opened the door for her (the death glare he received left him no other choice) before flopping onto her couch, watching as she tipped the files onto her kitchen table. He winced when they settled there with a loud thump and sent dust flying into the air.

Thoroughly exasperated, Sakura turned to see him pouting at her again.

"… What is it?"

Kakashi lazily flicked at a piece of lint clinging to his wet mask. "It's very hot."

"Congratulations!" Her voice dripped with sarcasm. Kakashi seemed to notice neither her tone nor her comment, continuing as if he had not been interrupted.

"There are two reasons for this," he said matter-of-factly. "Sun." His index finger popped up. "Clothing." The middle one followed.

Sakura sighed in realization. I think I know where this is going…

"Similarly, there are two solutions. Changing the weather is one, but I'm too tired for that."

"Oh, I had forgotten that the weather bows to your whims."

Still ignoring her, Kakashi said, "So that one's ruled out. Sakura." It took her a moment to realize that he was directly addressing her; she had been watching a spider climbing up the screen window, and upon turning to look at him she saw that he had fixed her with an intense gaze.

"… What."

His conversational tone contradicted the way he was looking at her so intently. "You're hot. I'm hot. We're also both incredibly overheated." Sakura rolled her eyes. "There is only one solution." Without any further hesitation, he began to remove his vest.

Finally, they had gotten to the root of the problem. "Ah, Kakashi, no, it's too hot for that."

"I disagree," he said simply, tossing his shirt to the side. As he pulled his mask off, her eye twitched at his perfectly blank expression.

She collapsed into a nearby chair, groaning, "No, Kakashi, it's WAY too hot for that. We haven't had rain in weeks and even Shishou's face on the mountain is getting a nice, even tan." She frowned, turning to see her own pale line of skin cutting through her otherwise satisfactory tan. "Not like mine, stupid tan lines… that piece of rock has it easy. She doesn't have to deal with her hair sticking together in this damn humidity, either…"

"Your skin is very nice."

"… Are you even listening to me?"

A zipping noise accompanied his answer as he undid her shirt. "Every word."

"… Kakashi, Kakashi, no. No!" He frowned, finally halting his fingers. He was crouching in front of her, clad only in his shuriken print boxers. "It's. Too. Hot."

"But they can't really breathe, all cooped up in that inconvenient piece of fabric," he reasoned, eyeing her bindings with much distaste.

"… Kakashi, put your pants back on."

She could see the pout curving his lips now. "I think you underestimate the discomfort my sensitive area is experiencing right now…"

"No! Listen to me!" She crossed her arms across her chest, forcing him to snap his gaze back up to her eyes. "You need to listen to me more, you know. Everything I say is very important." She allowed herself a little sniff of self-pity.

Kakashi was the picture of patience as he watched her, giving every sign that he was listening for her to continue. She smirked at his obedience. "Good boy," she said. She was surprised that he didn't seem to mind the condescension in her tone. "Also, if you're going to insist on being chivalrous — which is really pretty pathetic, it just shows that your masculinity is threatened by how awesome I am — you can't do a half-assed job. If you're going to be decidedly gallant, you have to do the thing properly." She gave him a self-satisfied nod to signify that she had finished.

"… I don't think it's fair for you to be going over my flaws when you're hell-bent on keeping my good points out of the picture."

Sakura raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

Kakashi nodded. "I think that, in particular, the question of my masculine identity could be answered if you let me finish what I started and—"

Frustrated beyond belief, Sakura clamped her hands over her ears. "Blah blah blah, you're terrible! You're just looking for an excuse to have sex with me!" Noticing that his gaze had dropped downwards again, she uncovered her ears in order to re-fold her arms over her chest.

"It's your fault," he told her. Her eye twitched. "When you put on that chapstick, it just got me all hot and bothered…"

Sakura's palm flew to her forehead again.

Kakashi let out a very put-upon sigh. "But if you insist on denying a poor man his pleasure, I guess I'll just have to deal with it all by my lonesome."

This elicited another roll of the eyes from Sakura. Really, this man could be pathetic sometimes. "All right, I give up."

His face lit up, and she could tell he was fighting down a smirk. "Excellent choice," he said seriously. "Sometimes surrender yields the most satisfaction…"

It was Sakura's turn to smirk.

"Who said I was surrendering?"

(…)

Within the hour they were outside again, trudging along the street to cool down their muscles. Sakura groaned as the sweat rolled down her body in buckets, wiping her sweaty forehead with an even sweatier forearm.

"You know," she said wearily, "it was great at the time, but I think that in the long run it made the heat problem worse."

"Agreed," Kakashi said firmly. Even the stoic copy nin was showing signs of the heat, his posture sagging even more than usual. "Some rain would help."

Sakura rolled her eyes; they felt sore after doing that so much today. "Yeah, but there's not much we can do about that, is there?"

Kakashi merely hummed non-committally. Sakura took this as an invitation to begin expanding the topics to complain about.

"… And then that nurse Junko thought she was being real clever when she flushed that guy's ear down the toilet, but then the med student studying under her threw up all over the floor that poor Momo had just mopped… what do you think of that? I mean, the guy was a total asshole, and he was going to get off on diplomatic immunity since he was the wind daimyou's nephew twice removed or some other bureaucratic bullshit, but it's still pretty gross." She waited expectantly for his response; her eyebrow twitched angrily when she noticed that he was staring absently at a passing bird.

"Ugh, there you go, not listening to me again!" she exhaled. "You and your selective hearing…"

His head snapped towards her. "Actually, I have been listening," he said. "I have a selective response system."

"Pfft."

"It's called free will."

"Oh please—"

"But that's not the point."

Silence settled between them. For several agonizingly long moments, Sakura fought to expectation to ask him to elaborate, but eventually his endless patience won out over her grudging curiosity. "What is the point?" she asked wearily.

"The point is that it's very hot."

Sakura threw her hands up over her head. "Oh, not this again…"

"I would like to fix it."

"We already tried your 'solution'," Sakura scoffed.

Kakashi shook his head. "We only tried the second one."

"… And the first was…?"

"Taking care of the weather problem." His eyebrows were knitted together, showing that he was very serious about the matter, even when Sakura laughed.

"Kakashi…" she said, wiping away what could have been a tear of mirth but was more likely sweat, "you're a great ninja, pretty intuitive and talented and all, but… you can't change the weather."

"I've cut a lightning bolt in half before, you know."

Sakura nodded obligingly; she had heard that one before. "It's a nice trick… but doesn't solve the problem of getting lightning in the first place."

Kakashi sighed. Him? Sighing at her? He had a lot of nerve. "You're forgetting one crucial detail… again."

"… Again?" She didn't like being treated like she was twelve again, but she was very confused. "What?"

"This is the second time today that you've forgotten that…" — he paused for dramatic effect — "… the weather bows to my whims."

Sakura snorted. Really, where did he come up with this stuff?

"Don't laugh." Kakashi frowned. "You said it yourself."

"When?"

He had the mask back on, but Sakura was almost positive that a small smile was curling underneath it. "Just today, actually… at about 2:54 pm."

Frowning, Sakura counted backward in her head. Sex, sex… then before that— no, no, more sex there… ah! She vaguely remembered when he was first listing his two "solutions" to their very hot problem. Her expression contorted in anger as she whirled her head to face him.

"I was being sarcastic!"

Kakashi ignored her. "You also said that it was hot, and that the heat was making your hair stick together in clumps. Last week Tuesday at about 3:15 in the morning, you mentioned in passing that anything is better than the Clumps, even the Frizz after the rain."

So far he had recounted her comments with disturbing accuracy, so she was wary to let him continue. "… I did…"

"So it's been a general consensus that rain is needed, and that I'm the man to bring it. I will have to do this."

Heavily, Sakura sighed. "Oh brother…"

Kakashi held up one finger. "There's more. I've been listening to your comments on my attempts at chivalry. You seem to think that I'm putting the effort into the wrong places."

"Nothing the exact things I say, for example," she muttered under her breath.

Unperturbed, Kakashi kept going. "So, I've spent some time considering traditional chivalry.

"What time?" Sakura asked. "We didn't even have that conversation an hour ago."

"And I decided that a practical application of my chivalric tendencies, given the current predicament, would be holding an umbrella for you as you walk in the rain." Finished, he looked at her blankly.

Sakura considered how to approach what was apparently a very sensitive subject for him. "… All right. The umbrella thing I can accept, but… the rain, Kakashi. The rain's the problem."

"I've faced worse problems before," Kakashi scoffed.

Sakura's shoulders sank a little lower. "Here we go…"

"In the depths of an Iwa prison camp," he began, "I had nothing but an ill-fitting loincloth, the chains that bound me, and a toothpick one of the guards had spat at me."

"And let me guess," Sakura interrupted. "You managed to make it out without a mark on you."

"Close," Kakashi said. "I sustained no physical damage, but by the end of it all the loincloth wasn't in the best shape, and I had some lipstick smudges on my person from an old woman picking flowers in the forest outside the camp—"

"EW!" Sakura shrieked.

Kakashi looked very hurt by her disgust. "I couldn't help that I was fatigued and attractive. It's a deadly combination, Sakura."

"It's a detail I could have lived without," she said, still shaking from the scarring mental images.

"Well—" He seemed determined to defend himself, but Sakura wanted to put that story behind her as soon as possible.

"The point, please?"

A sigh. "The point being that you yourself said that I am intuitive and talented."

"Not to mention long-winded and egotistical. And tactless."

Kakashi stopped walking, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You wait here."

"Excuse me?" She wriggled out of his grip, turning to face him with her hands planted firmly on her hips.

"I have a quest to complete," he explained. His features were set in determination.

"And I have things to do." Sakura was not one to be out-determined.

Kakashi's frown deepened. "I won't be long," he assured her.

Fixing him with a hard stare, Sakura considered it. She weighed her options carefully before reluctantly saying, "… Fifteen minutes. I'm not waiting for you any longer than that. If you're not back here by then, I'm going to turn around and go back to my apartment, rain or no rain."

Kakashi tapped his chin with a forefinger. "I can't make any promises about time," he said vaguely.

"That's nothing new," Sakura snorted.

He did not seem to mind the comment; apparently, his fixation on this dumb umbrella thing made him impervious to her little quips. He raised his hand in a lazy, two-fingered salute. "Later," he said. He disappeared in a poof of smoke, leaving her coughing as it stuck to her skin.

"Stupid man…" she grumbled. Bound by her promise to spend a quarter of an hour waiting for him, she plopped onto a nearby bench with a resigned sigh.