A/N: No, I'm not leaving the story. I'm just slow.



"You probably misheard."

"I did not mishear!" she exclaimed, slamming the table with her free hand. "Even you didn't deny it! Instead you sprouted some crap about four and five starting with the same letter."

Kakashi considered this. "It's true."

Sakura sighed and eased back into her seat. He wasn't worth it. She took another dumpling.

He had asked to listen to her story in detail, but rather than listen quietly and keep his ears open for any information useful for his investigation, he chose instead to criticize each of Team Seven's actions that night one by one, as if that would reverse the outcome and send her away. He didn't seem to understand that he himself was part of that team.

"Well? What happened once he grabbed you?"

The female jonin took a breath and released it, all the while chewing on the store-brought brunch.

"For the first second, nothing," she explained after a moment. "Then I lost all feeling. Not in the numb sort of way. It was more like there was nothing there."

She looked down at the plate between them. It had one less dumpling than it had four seconds ago, and she hadn't been the one to take it. She looked up at Kakashi. His mask was suspiciously lopsided.

"And I couldn't move," she finished.

Kakashi turned to look out the window. So far the information wasn't pointing anywhere useful.

"Naruto tried to go back with me, but you held him back. Sasuke... he was pissed."

"But the target didn't get away?" he asked, still staring outside.

"Of course not!" she defended, offended at Kakashi's mistrust of her team's competence. "Sasuke was on him in an instant. He would have ripped Ryou's throat out if he imagined it'd be helpful."

She pulled another dumpling toward herself.

"I blacked out after that. But I know all three of them - you," she paused to wave a hand in his direction, reminding him of his involvement in the event. "Everyone's working to find a way to help me back."

Kakashi nearly smiled behind his mask. Her tone was that of utmost confidence. The idea of him ever passing a group of genin seemed incomprehensible to him, but if he was doomed for it to happen, it made sense that they would be the kind of students to put this much faith in their teammates.

But it was also possible that she was just hopelessly optimistic.

Sakura bit into her food. She knew this Kakashi did not like her, but thinking back to the team leader who knew her and accepted her was reassuring. When he had all but threatened the previous day not to be her teacher if he could at all help it, the idea had hit her like a slap in the face. But as she had later told him, she realized she had no reason to be mad. There was no way in hell he would ever let her down, not after all those lectures he had given on the importance of valuing one's teammates. Even if the man sitting before her didn't come through, and even if he hated her guts, she knew her boys back home were doing all they could to help her return.

As nice as it was thinking about that, it also served to bring Sakura more worry. She could only imagine how panicked they were and how much they were beating themselves up over this.

"You're probably kicking yourself right about now," Sakura mused aloud, not oblivious to the technically incorrect tense use.

Kakashi snuck another dumpling under his mask.

Sakura stretched out on her chair and looked up at the ceiling. She needed to work, run, train. Anything that was outside the walls of this apartment.

"You should have tied him up when you had the chance," Kakashi chided.

"Naruto and Sasuke had already beat the crap out of him when we got there. He was laying on the ground wriggling like some noodle. None of us expected he would have any energy left."

"Regardless," he insisted. There was no excuse. He should have been detained. It was standard mission policy.

"He was just a pushover who got lucky," Saukra frowned.

"Cases like these demonstrate precisely why you never let your guard down on a mission."

"You seem to be forgetting you're one of the four people who did," she bit back. "You're not completely innocent, either."

It was Kakashi's turn to frown. His skills would deteriorate in coming years...

"I say we blame this all on the Hokage," Sakura said, extending the idea as a peace offering. "We weren't ready for another mission."

She had already mentioned the part about them having fresh-arrived from Suna.

"Why wasn't a different team sent out?"

Sakura laughed at that. "I'm pretty sure the Fifth was more concerned about getting to bed than finding anyone better."

She pushed herself up straight.

"If you knew the Hokage you'd understand," she nodded wisely. Nothing like having the upper hand over Kakashi using knowledge from the future.

Her smile faded with the mentioned of her mentor. What was she thinking, now that Sakura had disappeared? Did she blame herself?

Kakashi interrupted her before she could fully board that train of thought.

"It's Tsunade, isn't it?"

Sakura blinked rapidly at him for a full second. This was the part where she would be devoured into a black hole for bringing back knowledge from the future and messing around with the unspoken rules of time.

"I didn't say that," she said quickly.

"But you did," he said, surprisingly sounding like he didn't care either way. "During the healing two nights ago. You said the Hokage herself had trained you."

And that was all the information he needed. There were not many kunoichi in the village in this time period who could even be considered for such a position, much less ones that were specifically medics.

Sakura let her head smash into the table.

"Did I just break some otherworldly and eternal time-travelling law?" she mumbled into the table.

Kakashi shrugged. "You're probably breaking one just being here."

She peeked up enough to ask, "Is there anything else I let slip?"

He shrugged again.

Chin on the table, Sakura poked at the remaining food, wondering if sharing more knowledge of what was to come would truly negatively affect how events played out. Kakashi now knew who the Third's successor would be, and everyone was still in one piece. The Third, Sasuke, Pein... she could potentially change all of this.

"Before he touched you," Kakashi began, changing back the subject. "What were you all doing that no one noticed him getting ready to attack?"

Indirectly, what he was really asking was why he was being dishonored with her presence. Sakura answered him anyway.

"Naruto and Sasuke were arguing over who had done what during their fight," she mumbled, poking at the last dumpling with her chopstick. "You were listening to them, and I yelled at them to shut up. That was when he grabbed me, like his strength had come back all of a sudden. He said something melodramatic like 'it's begun'," she imitated his voice here. "And that's when I lost mobility."

Kakashi looked thoughtful for a moment. With equal thoughtfulness, Sakura pierced the dumpling through its side.

"It almost sounds like he planned this out," he said carefully. "If he regained his strength in an instant as you say, he may have only staged his defeat."

That was a strange, new idea to Sakura. He had recuperated too quickly for it to be true.

"What he said at the end also sounds like he may have had plans for you from the start."

"You mean I was being targeted?"

"It's possible," he said, fist on chin, now completely in strategic-thinking mode. "Why else would he have needed to make himself appear defeated?"

That didn't sound realistic to her.

"Why would anyone want to come after me?" she asked. Naruto the jinchuuriki, Sasuke the now truly last Uchiha, and Kakashi the Copy Ninja. They all had reason to be sought after. Why would anyone want her?

"You were the Hokage's apprentice, weren't you? That has to count for something."

Sakura didn't look convinced. "I don't know..."

"At any rate, that man had something on his mind if he was willing to risk being captured after his attack."

They each silently worked through the idea, wondering how they could utilize this information.

"Which village was he from?" Kakashi asked.

"I'm not sure he was affiliated with anyone. He had no headband or anything that distinguished him from anywhere."

"A mercenary?" he offered.


"You said it was called time-jumping?"

"That's what the Hokage called it," she confirmed with a shrug. "There was nothing jump-like about it to me, though. I just blinked then woke up in the middle of the forest."

He considered this. Then, deciding there was nothing more to say, he pushed his chair away from the table and stood.

"I'll see what I can find with this information," he told her.

"Are you leaving?" she asked.

"I need to check if this guy's name comes up in any other cases. I also need to check the term time-jump."

He turned away from her.

"Wait," she said. "Do I have to stay here?"

"You need to be ANBU to access the Intelligence Division's files," he said, correctly interpreting her wish to follow.

"How long will it take you? Can we go find me something to wear when you get back?"

If she had to stay locked in here all day again someone was going to get hurt.

The older jonin turned slightly to look at her sideways.

"Why?" he asked, quite unnecessarily.


He seemed to think about it for a minute. Then he turned around without a word.

"You don't really expect me to wear your ugly, old clothes for as long as I'm here," she pleaded.

"We'll see," he answered, heading to his room.

Sakura slumped back into her seat, hopeful that he would come back in a better mood. She reached for her chopsticks to finish up the last remaining, disfigured food item, but it was nowhere to be found.

"You took the last dumpling!" she cried.

"You criticized my fashion sense," he responded, closing the door behind him.

He blocked the sounds of her fuming out of his mind. There were more pressing issues at hand. Had he really had a hand in failing to prevent this from happening? If part of this mess was really because of his own failures, he would make a point of going back with the girl when this was all over, and he would kill his future self nice and slowly.

At least he wouldn't have to worry about dying in enemy hands.

The red chakra oozed from the young man. His breathing had become heavier, and his eyes carried a hint of madness that was by no standards human. Just looking at him sent an icy shiver crawling up Ryou's spine. Sasuke finished binding him up with chakra wires, taking special care to pull more harshly than necessary. He pushed him down to the ground with enough severity to make him cry out in pain.

"What did you do to her?" Naruto commanded, stepping over the man's body.

Ryou did not respond, his quickened breathing the only indication that he understood the level of danger he had placed himself in.

"Answer him!" Sasuke demanded, pulling him back up by the scruff of his shirt.

Kakashi stopped staring at the spot where Sakura had vanished and stepped over to the three men's location. He pulled Ryou away from Sasuke and toward himself.

"Where is she?" he asked, voice dangerously collected.

"Th-the past," Ryou gasped. "I only sent her to the past-"

Kakashi pushed him back into the ground.

"You should have let me go with her!" Naruto growled, attention now focused on his team leader.

"You are more useful to Sakura here-"

"Fuck being useful!" Naruto yelled. "You let her disappear right in front of our eyes!"

The jonin knew arguing was pointless. He would have in fact preferred not to reply. But as their leader he had certain responsibilities, and one of them included making sure this boy understood that he had not abandoned her.

"Think, Naruto," he began. "This is going to be difficult enough with only-"

The jinchuuriki made it clear that he didn't care to hear the man's excuses. He bent down and struck the ground with a clawed hand, creating a large, deep fissure in the ground. Ryou squirmed, all the boldness he had displayed when attacking Sakura gone. All the signs of an impending transformation shone in Uzumaki Naruto's eyes. He regarded the older jonin dangerously, looking ready to attack.

The first punch came from elsewhere. Sasuke struck his teammate out of the blue, causing Naruto to stumble. In under an instant he snapped back upright, fist raised, ready to strike right back, but froze it midair upon catching sight of his friend.

"Control yourself," Sasuke said simply, poised for another attack.

Kakashi's hand hovered right over his weapons pouch. The Kyuubi chakra sealing tag Jiraiya had prepared for a case like this had been used long ago. Kakashi had developed his own version of the seal, but his fuuinjutsu abilities did not compare to that of the Sannin's. If it came down to using it, his cheap imitation would only have enough power to give him and Sasuke some seconds to run.

Luckily it wouldn't be necessary. The blow had been enough to knock sense back into him. The Kyuubi's chakra receded, Naruto's eyes returning to normal. But the anger remained. As far as the Fourth Hokage's son was concerned, Kakashi and Sasuke had each let Sakura down tonight. He turned his back to the group, stomping through the clearing in anger, frustration, and pain.

Kakashi could only watch Naruto's back, seeing him stop to yell at the tops of his lungs in anguish. He knew that outside of getting Sakura back, there was nothing he could do to ease Naruto's torment. But he just had to understand that he couldn't have gone with her.

"We need to interrogate him," said Sasuke.

Ryou whimpered in the background.

"I'll do it," Kakashi growled.

What good was the investigations unit if their entire library didn't hold a single scrap of worthwhile information?

No Ryou, no time jumping, no nothing. He would have to check with the lead the Hokage had mentioned, with the family who had been involved in the last recorded time incident. He had absolutely nothing else to go on. He was reluctant to go back empty handed, but there was no point in staying here.

On his way home Kakashi considered checking on the younger girl again, but decided there was little to gain from it. The previous day he had done it as his way of confirming that she showed no signs of being a crazed murderer. However, there had been plenty of opportunities for her to make her move, none of which she had taken advantage of, leading Kakashi to the conclusion that perhaps he should finally admit she was really who she claimed. He also had to trust Pakkun's judgement, who had no issue with the girl. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Of course it would be on the same day he decided this that she would decide to make her move. When he entered the apartment she was gone.

Kakashi's senses flared up. Her lingering scent on the couch suddenly became noticeable, and he could hear the pacing of Old Lady Tanaka next door, muttering incoherently under her breath. His site became sharper, but he didn't need that to know she wasn't there. Kakashi immediately let his chakra seep into the floorboards as he began searching for any traces of her last footsteps. His mind quickly began tracking nearby chakra signatures that might belong to her. She couldn't have gone far. He had sent Pakkun to watch her, and with any luck the pug had probably left trail markers for him to follo-


He dashed out the door and down to the first floor of the complex, pushing his legs using every ounce of strength he had ever accumulated as a shinobi. Nearly there, he began analyzing the chakra ahead of him to prepare himself for what he would find in the room before him.

With a final burst of unnecessarily wasted energy, he threw the door open.

Pakkun blinked at him once before turning his head back to Sakura.

"You owe me some biscuits," he stated. "I like the lamb flavored ones."

"Nuh uh!" Sakura complained. "I said he'd overreact! He ripped the door a new one, so I say this qualifies!"

"But you neglected ta mention that-"

"Pakkun!" Kakashi barked.

The pug blinked again in half a flinch, but otherwise showed little reaction. He was going to get it later...

Sakura clicked her tongue.

"What are you two doing down here?" he demanded.

"Laundry," she said, wisely keeping any defiant tones out of her voice.

Kakashi let the word register for a minute. Laundry. Of course. What else would they be doing in the laundry room? Perhaps he should have gathered that much information the moment he realized she was still within the building.

His sudden rage dissipated. He was out of sorts.


"I dirtied those clothes yesterday."

"It couldn't have waited until I returned?"

"Why?" She did not need his supervision to wash her single set of clothes.

He stared at her for a second. Without a reply, Kakashi disappeared back upstairs.

Knowing he would have a few minutes alone for the first time in days, Kakashi slowly made his way up the steps with gloomy enthusiasm. Habit dictated he dump himself on the couch, but recalling this was where the intruder was staying, he sluggishly redirected himself to his bed. He was beginning to feel as confined as her.

So maybe he had overreacted. Despite consciously making an attempt to accept her innocence, more than likely his subconscious was hard at work, just waiting for her to make a wrong move. Unfortunately, she seemed to have no plans to betray anyone. Hewas the one betraying himself by not living up to his standards, letting his unfavorable emotions towards her affect his actions.

It was difficult for the jonin to pinpoint precisely what bothered him so much about her. He had done a better job that morning of tolerating her, but there was still something off. Naturally having someone forced upon him contributed to his aversion, but as a mission he should have been capable of sucking up his irritation and approaching it professionally.

It was really entirely her fault. The girl was too comfortable around him. That wasn't to say others who worked under him were necessarily always tense and stiff when near him, but there was some sort of barrier present that allowed him to keep his distance. She overdid her level of comfort to the point where she had no qualms with insulting and mocking him. And yet, it wasn't done with contempt or any apparent feeling of superiority. She was almost friendly, in her own twisted way. He could almost, just almost, sense that there was some respect there towards him, but if that was the case why didn't she just keep quiet and out of the way like all the others?

Not wanting to allow for the girl to go as far as to infiltrate his thoughts, he pushed her out of his mind and focused his attention on the fascinating nothingness the walls had to offer.

The fifteen minutes it took her to finish up flew by all too fast, and she was soon back in the oversized shirt and rolled up pants, Pakkun at her heels.


He glanced at her shape in the doorway but didn't move.

"I had to get Pakkun to get some coins for me out of your room again. I hope you don't mind..."

It was precisely things like this that demonstrated that she took him into consideration when making decisions about how to steal his possessions. He knew she could have just walked into the room and taken them herself.

"It seemed like a reasonable request," Pakkun said. Kakashi gave him a half-hearted glare. "If it really bothers you, feel free ta take it outta my food budget."

He was only offering because he knew Kakashi wouldn't do it.

"It doesn't matter," the jonin said, waving the matter aside.

There were no further signs of him acknowledging her presence.


No matter how much you ignored her, she just wouldn't go away.

"About my clothes..." she started.

"Is there some reason why I should agree to take you?" he questioned.

"Why not out of the goodness of your heart?" she asked hopefully.

Kakashi sat up on his bed and looked at her harshly. Clearly his heart had no goodness.

"I can pay you back with house chores," she offered carefully.

"Don't touch anything." Kakashi grounded.

"Then what else do you expect me to do?"

Kakashi eyed her carefully. For a second he hesitated, unsure whether or not opening his mouth would be worth it.

"I'm unsure of whether or not I'll be receiving any missions in addition to this one," he told her. Sakura waited to see how this was in any way related to the matter at hand. "But if any sort of breakthrough takes as long as I think it will, it's likely the Third will place me back on the regular mission roster."

Sakura still didn't get it.

"If that's the case, putting up with you on top of dealing with mission injuries and hospitals will be unforgivable," Kakashi continued.

Now she was beginning to get where this was going.

"Your healing job last time was surprisingly decent."

She was honored that he had recognized her abilities, but the 'surprisingly decent' part was insulting.

Knowing he would never finish asking directly, Sakura responded. "I can take care of that. I'll trade you my abilities for a chance to get the hell out of here."

Kakashi regarded her carefully, appearing to consider the terms of the arrangement, as though he had not been the one to suggest the very thought. A moment past where Sakura considered just leaving without him, but then he stuck a fist out at her, his thumb pointing out to the side. Was this some sort of cheesy way to seal the deal?

When Sakura stared at his hand dumbly, he raised his arm higher to place his injury closer to her view. That's when Sakura saw the light cuts on it, probably from his having summoned Pakkun so often these past few days.

Sakura took a couple steps into the room and hovered a hand over the minor cuts. This was one of his more ridiculous healing requests, but she wasn't going to voice that aloud.

"This means we're going, right?" she confirmed.

Pakkun turned his eyes away from the glow of Sakura's chakra to look at Kakashi as well.

"Do I have to go with ya?" he asked. It wasn't that he didn't like Sakura, but he really had much better things to do than follow her around.

"Hm," was his noncommital response for the both.

The small cuts healed fast, and just as Sakura was about to declare the process done, Kakashi pulled away to inspect her work. She watched as he pushed and pulled at the thumb, testing the thoroughness of the job.

"Well?" Sakura prompted. Was His Majesty satisfied?

Kakashi set his hand on his knee and stared down at it. With depressed slowness his slouch deepened, nearly unnoticeable. To Sakura, that expressed a distraught acceptance to what he needed to do. She stepped out of the room and shot off to change.

The older jonin let himself fall sideways and landed on his pillow with a thump. Pakkun jumped on the bed, hopped onto his chest, and stared directly into his owner's eyes.

"Do you need something?" he asked, after an extended silence.

"I want to go home," said the ninken.

"Do you find being in my presence that offensive?" he frowned.

"Yes." Pakkun replied simply.

"I see."

When he said nothing more, Pakkun placed his paws on the jonin's chin to look at him more closely.

"Stop moping," the dog encouraged. "Doing this isn't gonna kill ya."

"I'm not moping," he brooded.

"She hasn't done anything too terrible yet, has she? No one's asking ya to mate with her, just to keep her alive."

Kakashi glared at him. "She fed you, didn't she?"

Pakkun blinked. "Call me if you need anything."

He disappeared with a pop, leaving Kakashi to stare at the ceiling.

What next? With this trip for a simple search of clothes, the girl would begin to settle in. The Intelligence Division's scrolls were doing nothing for him, and if the lead the Third had given him led nowhere, he would come to a dead-end. Meanwhile, the Hokage sat comfortably behind his desk, understanding the mission was likely to go nowhere anytime soon, and yet was perfectly content to let Kakashi's freedom wither away before him.

They didn't pay him enough for this.

Deciding it was about time she finished up, Kakashi pushed himself off the mattress and hauled himself out of the room.

"Haruno," he called.

There was no response, but she emerged a few seconds after.

His back was to her when she emerged. Kakashi headed to his doom with two unhurried steps, but there was no sound behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see her eyes fixed on him, upset.

"My name is Sakura," she informed him.

"Yes," he responded, turning his attention forward again. "It is."

Sakura frowned but said nothing.

The two jonin hit the rooftops and made for the shopping district.

"Finish up within an hour," Kakashi called through the wind.

The kunoichi's eyes widened. An hour? There was no way he was going to limit her to only sixty minutes outside that hell-hole. She wasn't a prisoner, despite what he liked to think.

"Okay," she said, with no intention of following orders. "Did you learn anything at the archives?"

The answer was most likely no, but she still felt the need to ask.

"No," he debriefed in great detail.

"Oh," she responded with equal enthusiasm.

The rest of the trip was quiet, save the sound of the villagers below. Sakura took the opportunity to enjoy the scenery. She had always considered Konoha to be a beautiful place. After being locked up for extended periods of time it seemed even more so, so she greedily drank in the sights.

They were nearing the center of the district when Kakashi came to a sudden stop. His stance indicated he didn't know where to go from there, so Sakura took the lead. The Motokaya shop was in sight, and so was her freedom from Kakashi's baggy pants. With a beaming smile and some quick words to Kakashi, she dashed inside.

The place looked the same as always, down to the old, mistreated mannequin in the back corner of the shop. It wasn't a particularly large store, but it offered enough variety to keep its customers interested. The best part was that clothing here was both stylish enough for being inside the village, yet durable enough for missions. And if Ino disagreed, that was totally her problem.

Sakura browsed excitedly, dismissing any assistants who offered their help. But her excitement quickly dwindled as she remembered she was here on business and not pleasure. She would have to be practical with what she bought. It was disheartening, but Sakura was still determined to enjoy her momentary freedom. This trip was a nice distraction from living in Kakashi's cave.

After some more idle looking, guilt took over when she spotted Kakashi slumping against the window, looking beat down and tormented. Sakura could almost see the raincloud hanging over his head.

Somehow shopping wasn't all that fun when it was at the expense of her teacher's mental health.

The kunoichi grabbed whatever looked familiar. There was no sense in getting used to a completely new set of clothing, she thought, so she set upon searching for whatever resembled her usual style. She set her findings to the side, and proceeded to go find her team leader to procure a means of payment.

"I'm done!" she proudly announced.

He didn't seem particularly excited. "Let's go," he said, pushing himself off the building.

"But..." Sakura paused, confused. "I need to pay."

With a deliberate slowness that would have made any other shinobi run for safety, Kakashi turned his head to look Sakura square in the eye.

She hesitated. "I... thought you were going to cover it?"

His eyes narrowed, and he stared.

"It's not like I was carrying money on me," she defended. "If I had any I wouldn't have had to wait for you to bring me out here."

His eyes burned into her head, expressing a complete disinterest in her excuses.

"I'll pay you back in six years," she quickly offered.

"Every cent. You will pay me back each and everycent," he proclaimed, pushing past her into the store.

"Of course!" she responded, following after him.

"And there will be interest."

They could negotiate the specifics later.

It took a lot longer than an hour. The first store hadn't been the last. The kunoichi had had to visit three additional shops before she purchased what she considered to consist of the essentials. Granted, it all probably fit in a single knapsack, so she had done a decent job compared to horror stories Kakashi had heard about females and shopping, but it had still been a depressing way to spend his afternoon. The final stop had been to find food. She insisted they had had enough of that same take-out from the convenience store and declared that she would cook tonight, as thanks for everything he had done so far. He didn't like the idea, but it was considerably cheaper.

They were on their way back home, going past the park near the apartment. The kunoichi carried the majority of the merchandise. All Kakashi had to burden him was a small bag of groceries, and that was only because she hadn't had enough hands.

"It wouldn't kill you to take another bag," she complained.

"I carry out the mission, you carry the stuff," he responded.

"It's hard to walk like this," Sakura grumbled. It wasn't particularly heavy, but it was bulky and it made walking difficult and uncomfortable. "Sensei!" she groaned.

He sighed, but made no move to help.

They arrived at the apartment and set everything down at the kitchen table. Kakashi pulled up a chair and rest his head on the table, determined to uselessly sit around while she put everything away. He only lifted his head when he heard her set a board and knife in front of him.

"If you help me chop the vegetables we can eat faster," she said, leaving the materials in front of him and turning to begin her own work.

He stared at the materials boredly for an extended period of time. He made no sign of noticing Sakura snatch the materials back away with a huff when she realized he had no intention of helping, and his head went back to its resting place a few minutes afterward.

Sakura took a deep breath and sighed, not particularly surprised at his refusal to cooperate. In all likelihood the Kakashi from her own time would not have helped without extensive amounts of prodding, but at least he would have put up an interesting fight with some banter. The man before her was irritatingly unresponsive, which she understood to be his way of putting up walls and keeping his distance.

A need to receive some sort of recognition from him was what kept her from yelling and screaming and telling him to stop being such a prick. She needed to prove to him that she was not a burden, that even if she couldn't participate fully in the efforts to get her back, she could still pull her own weight. Maybe then he would acknowledge her as the teammate she would become, and maybe that would rid them of the oppressed atmosphere he seemed to impose between them.

Sakura set a plate of simple rice and vegetables and some eggplant miso soup before him, and watched approvingly as Kakashi began to pull the food towards himself without any sort of protest. She sat in front of him with her own food, ready for her first proper meal in days. She looked up when she realized the older jonin hadn't begun to eat, and was instead giving his bowl a curious look.

"Something wrong?" she asked.

Kakashi looked up and blinked at her.

Was it the mask? He usually had no problem turning himself away if he wanted to eat without it, though Sakura knew he was already a master of somehow mysteriously eating through it.

But Kakashi gave his head a small shake and turned around him and his masked face around as he began to eat - soup first.

Their quiet meal was interrupted by a knock on the door. Whoever it was, Sakura decided they'd better leave soon. She had not gone through all the trouble of making this misanthrope food all for nothing.

Kakashi opened the door to find an ANBU waiting. The ANBU bowed slightly before handing the jonin a scroll.

"Another mission," the official stated. Sakura couldn't decide whether Kakashi was pleased or disappointed. Maybe he just didn't care. She could feel the ANBU's eyes peering at her curiously over Kakashi's shoulder.

"It's an escort mission," Kakashi said, a hint of disappointment in his voice. "C rank?" he looked up at the ANBU questioningly.

The ANBU shook his head. He had nothing to do with the Hokage's mission-distributing habits.

Kakashi rubbed his hand through his hair. There was nothing inherently wrong with a C rank mission, but it had been a while since he received one. Did the Hokage think he couldn't handle both Haruno and a second mission at the same time?

Whatever was going on through the old man's head, this would at least get him out of the house for a while.

"Departure is scheduled for tonight. You are to escort Eiji Tanosuke to Otafuku Gai. You will be accompanied by Hagane Kotetsu and Kamizuki Izumo."

A trip to Otafuku Gai wasn't a particularly dangerous one, and could likely be handled by a team of genin. But Kakashi understood by now that the self-importance that often came with obtaining excessive wealth regularly led to purchases of over-ranked missions and meaningless dispatchings of overqualified teams.

Behind him, Sakura recognized Yamato's voice behind the mask. She hadn't realized he had been in ANBU, though she couldn't claim to be particularly surprised. But now that she recognized him she felt a small amount of panic well up inside her, knowing he had more than likely spotted her by now. Resisting the urge to spring to her feet and hide, Sakura lowered her head as inconspicuously as possible.

"I guess I have no choice," said Kakashi. "I'll prepare for tonight and meet them at the village gates."

Taking his words as a dismissal, he prepared to bow himself away.

"Wait," Kakashi interrupted. "You wouldn't want to join us for dinner, would you, Tenzo?" His eyes crinkled into a smile. "I made plenty."

Sakura made a choking sound in the background, making the ANBU glance back. He visibly shifted uncomfortably, and deliberately avoided the question.

"I wish you well on your mission," he said, before disappearing in smoke.

Kakashi gave a small sigh of disappointment before closing the door behind him. Sakura gave him a glare, half for her own sake and half for poor Yamato-taicho.

"Aren't you supposed to keep ANBU identities a secret?" she admonished.

He responded by picking up his plate of food and turning his back to her.

"That was Yamato-taicho, wasn't it?"


"That ANBU," Sakura explained, waving an unseen hand in the door's direction. "He was assigned as Team Seven's temporary leader after you overexerted yourself with the Mangekyou."

So he would be going by Yamato, then. The changes in codenames were too much for Kakashi to keep up with. He would keep calling him Tenzo and there was nothing anyone could do about it.

"Do you think it's bad that he saw me?" she asked, worry in her voice.

Kakashi took his time finishing off a bite of food before responding. "Probably not, so long as you don't interact with him much."

"Then what will happen by sticking around you for so long?"

"Something dreadful," he responded gravely. "You should leave immediately before it gets worse."

Sakura cracked a smile despite herself. This was a friendly side of Kakashi, in its own twisted way.

He stood up and stretched, back still to her. Sakura glanced down at his plate to see it wiped clean. It was ridiculous how fast he ate.

"Not too bad," he said offhandedly, making his way to his room. "But you could have used more eggplant."

She smiled again.