Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or the characters contained therein, they belong to Masashi Kishimoto who is kind enough to let fans write fiction. I make no profit from this nor do I intend to.
A/N: This was written for the KakaSaku LJ Comm prompt 'Stroke of Midnight.' Many, many thanks to Clearheart for encouraging me to post after not writing anything new for such a LONG time. Also tons of thanks to the last minute late night beta efforts of Ronsmyhero and Flametwirler so I could sneak in just barely under the deadline! Without you ladies I would never have gotten this up on time! THANK YOU!
A New Year
(30 minutes to midnight)
"So, Sakura – your turn now," Ino addressed her longtime friend. "Who was your first New Year's kiss?" She quirked an eyebrow at her former rival knowing the answer wouldn't be particularly fun for Sakura, as she seemed to have the worst luck with men and romance.
The medic in question narrowed her eyes slightly, annoyed with the blonde woman's question but unable to refuse as Ino herself, Hinata and Tenten had already answered. "Well…," she paused looking for a way out of telling the rather embarrassing story.
She glanced around the pub looking for something, anything to distract the women with whom she was sitting. Her eyes traveled over the smoky room in vain. Although there were many shinobi there to celebrate the New Year, there seemed to be little of any interest actually happening aside from fairly quiet drinking – New Year's never was one of those huge party-till-you-drop type holidays in Konoha. Now, Suna, on the other hand…
Realizing what Sakura was trying to do, Ino shot her a dirty look.
Sakura caught the hint and sighed. Finding nothing to save her, she decided to fib just a little. Reluctantly, she started the story of her second New Year's kiss. "Alright, alright," she sighed again. "A couple years back I was on an assignment with my team – Kakashi, Naruto and Sai. Our mission was to escort this rich merchant and the spoiled bastard of a brat he called a son through Grass."
"Oh, no…" Hinata gasped as she raised a hand to her mouth, guessing where Sakura's story was going. Hinata, herself, had had on occasion problems with clients on escort missions. Sometimes clients seemed to think that their mission-fee bought things other than protection from kunoichi and convincing them otherwise, without giving undue offense, could be tricky – entire kunoichi classes were devoted to this difficult topic and other similar situations.
"Oh yes," Sakura exhaled heavily. "Our mission spanned the winter holidays." She shook her head. "What a disaster. That client's son had 'nightmare' written all over him."
"Yeah, yeah, we get it," Ino huffed. "Get on with it – the guy was a pain in the ass. Details! Give us all the awful details!"
"Okay, okay! I'm getting to it!" Sakura snapped exasperatedly. "Anyway," she glared at Ino who rolled her eyes, "as I was saying, I was on a miserable escort mission. And, the client's son was a total perv. He was always hitting on me and doing his best to get me alone whenever possible. It was a total pain to try and deter him without upsetting him too much or his father."
"Oh, that sucks, Sakura," Tenten shook her head sympathetically. "I've had my fair share of those – we all probably have. Thankfully, if you could really call it that, Lee tends to be a bit of a moral watchdog and doesn't stand for it when clients try to get too familiar with me."
Ino snorted incredulously and raised an eyebrow at the weapons mistress. "Seriously?"
Tenten nodded an affirmative and shrugged as if to say, 'Yeah, I'm surprised that he's actually good for something on missions outside of fighting, too.'
Sakura sighed with a bit of raw envy. "You're lucky there, Tenten. I've no one to try and help me out of those awkward situations. Naruto tends to be too clueless to be of much help, Sai could care less, and Kakashi…" She paused for a moment to rethink her statement allowing her eyes to rove the room briefly before coming to rest on the object of her contemplation. "Well, no, that's not quite true. Kakashi sometimes tries to give me a hand without actually appearing to do so." She shook her head and turned away when the subject of her contemplation caught her gaze and smiled at her briefly before returning to his favorite novel. "I think..."
A very old and slightly faded memory moved forcefully to the front of her mind. Reflexively, she tried to push it away, but, for some reason (a bottle of sake on an empty stomach most likely) this time she couldn't. She turned back to her friends. "Um, I'll be back. I need to–"
"Hey, it's only twenty 'til! You can't leave yet! We're not going to let you out of it that easily, Forehead!" Ino huffed with annoyance though she didn't try to actually stop her friend.
"Sakura!" Tenten exclaimed with surprise at her friend's sudden change in mood.
Ignoring Ino and Tenten, Sakura rose and determinedly made her way to the corner of the pub where Kakashi had made himself comfortable. Feeling unsettled, she stopped in front of the lazy man, doing her best not to lose her sake-induced courage. "Kakashi?" she timidly greeted him.
"Hmm?" he responded negligently, not even bothering to put his book away or even look up from the smutty pages.
She frowned, sensing a dodge coming and marshaled her courage. "Do you remember how we first met?"
His glance shot up from the pages of his orange companion to actually look at his former student – wondering if she was drunk or somehow otherwise incapacitated. Upon finding her serious in her question, he decided it was safe to respond. "Of course I do."
She raised an eyebrow, wondering what he would say. "Really? Do you?"
He chuckled. "I may be old, Sakura, but I'm not senile, you know."
The medic rolled her eyes getting a bit impatient – it'd taken her a long time (and a bottle of sake) to work up the courage to ask him about it and she wasn't going to let him weasel out of her question now. "I'm glad you remember." She tilted her head to the side and smiled brightly. "Tell me."
"Eh-heh, you can't be serious?" he asked, wondering what had gotten into his former student and why she was suddenly interested in their first meeting. A small prickle of fear trickled down his spine as his sake-laden mind made an interesting connection – one he desperately hoped was wrong.
Sakura frowned, unwilling to take any nonsense from the older man.
He sighed, beginning to guess what she was trying to get at and wanting nothing to do with it. "Fine, fine," he sighed with some resignation and hoped his answer would pass muster. "I first met you after being assigned your genin team. I met up with you, Naruto, and Sasuke in one of the academy classrooms. And, when I opened the door, I intentionally allowed an eraser to fall on my head. One of Naruto's pranks, no doubt." He smiled, though the memory wasn't really a particularly pleasant one.
The medic frowned and shook her head slightly, not convinced that her memory was wrong. "No…"
"No?" Kakashi silently cursed as he raised his visible eyebrow inquisitively. He'd known that one day she might remember and, up until recently, had had no problem with that. But, now she was no longer a child or a student – instead, she was a young woman, and a beautiful one at that, both of which he'd been trying very hard to ignore since her seventeenth birthday.
"No," Sakura answered more firmly. "No, that wasn't the first time," she continued before she lost her courage.
"Oh, really?" the silver-haired man asked faintly, knowing that this was a losing battle but unwilling to admit defeat.
Sakura noted a brief flash of what she thought might be panic skittering across the usually impassive face of her former sensei and realized that he might have had a couple cups of sake too many – he was allowing himself to be cornered far too easily. "Really," she replied even more firmly as she eyed him for a moment more, looking for the answer. "You're sure you were thinking about our first meeting?"
"Why? You remember something different?" he asked carefully, wondering if there was anything he could do about what was coming home to roost and wishing that he hadn't ordered that third (or fourth) bottle of sake – his mind too muzzy to function well enough to get him out of the situation.
She narrowed her eyes, suspecting that he knew exactly what she was asking about. "As a matter of fact, I do."
"Pray, do tell," he choked, trying to remain calm, while a small part of him still dwelled in denial.
"Several years before you took on our team, I took a New Years vacation with my parents."
"That's nice," he murmured in hopes that he might be able to derail her.
"Yes, it was. My father worked hard and wanted to treat his girls to something nice." Sakura smiled at the memory, allowing herself to be distracted from her objective.
Kakashi smiled in relief to himself at her distraction, feeling as though he might actually succeed in escaping the corner into which he'd accidentally allowed himself to be trapped.
After a moment, Sakura shook her head and briefly glared at her former sensei. "Anyway, as I was saying, we stayed at this fancy hotel – one of the ones that important people regularly use with tons of crazy security. Was a lot of fun."
"I'm sure it was," Kakashi responded, still trying to distract Sakura from what he guessed to be her goal.
Sakura ignored his comment, catching on to his strategy. "So, the hotel had this huge extravagant party planned for New Year's Eve and somehow my parents got on the list."
"Wow, that was lucky." He smiled, still hoping to prevent what he knew was coming.
"Yes, it was. I've always wondered how they managed that. Anyway, since there were a lot of children staying in the hotel they arranged to have a massive kids' sleepover-type party event so the adults could enjoy the evening." She smiled at the memory as she continued. "Of course, I went to play with the other children."
"That was smart of the hote," Kakashi murmured, vainly trying to derail the younger woman.
"Mmm-hmm," Sakura nodded, remembering how exciting it had all been for her. "So was having some of that crazy security around – some of those kids were the children of some very important people. There were guards placed discretely around the perimeter – I didn't understand at the time, but I do now and appreciate the hotel's foresight, especially since there was a foiled kidnapping attempt sometime after midnight."
Having temporarily run out of appropriately leading remarks to distract Sakura, Kakashi nodded his agreement.
"Anyway, I was having a great time until some of the boys picked on me because of my hair." She paused, waiting for a reaction from her former sensei.
"Really? That's too bad," he commented noncommittally, mentally crossing his fingers though he knew at that point it was futile.
"Yeah, at least, it was until this guy came along. He was wearing some sort of a military uniform with a scary white mask – one of the security guards, off duty or on, wandering on patrol or something." She waved her hand dismissively as what he had been doing wasn't important. "And, you know what he did?"
"No… What?" Kakashi asked, dreading the answer.
Sakura frowned at his stubborn refusal to show any recognition of her story. "He stuck up for me – said he liked my pink hair and showed the other kids his own hair, which was also a funny color. And, after deciding that he was super cool – he was obviously some sort of special warrior – they left me alone." She smiled at Kakashi's faint inadvertent wince.
He did his best to smile. "Well, isn't that nice."
"Yes, it was." She beamed at him. "After the other kids wandered away, I spent the rest of the evening with the nice man with the china mask and funny hair. He was kind, in a way, and didn't seem to mind having a five-year-old hanging around." She paused, "At least, I don't think he did. I don't think I really gave him any choice now that I think of it." She blushed a little at the realization.
Despite himself, he chuckled and quickly turned it into a cough, though, not quickly enough.
She caught it and smiled through the faint color on her cheeks – he was remembering. "And, do you know what? When the clock struck midnight I kissed him. Another of those guards – completely ignoring my presence –had been complaining to my strange haired friend about being assigned to the kids' party with no beautiful women to kiss at the stroke of midnight."
Kakashi, fairly confident that the expression was hidden by his mask, smirked at the memory of what Sakura did next – she was a spitfire even when still a small child.
His former student continued unaware that Kakashi was enjoying the memory just a tad bit. "So, precocious girl that I was, I offered to do the honor." She flushed a little at the memory of the moment, it was awfully forward even for an innocent child.
"Oh yeah?" the older man couldn't help asking with some amusement.
She sighed. "Sadly, he declined and went off in search of a girl more to his liking, leaving me with the guard with the funny colored hair." Quickly recovering, Sakura grinned. "Undaunted, I offered to kiss him instead." She eyed her former sensei looking for some sort of a sign of recognition. Upon finding none, she continued, knowing that he did remember and just didn't want to admit it. "And, you know what?"
After an uncomfortable pause, while he desperately looked for and failed to find a way out, Kakashi asked the expected question, "What?"
Sakura beamed as she continued. "He said 'yes', even removed both of his masks so I could." She frowned a little. "But, he didn't kiss me back – at the time I was really disappointed."
"Oh, you don't say?" he asked, doing his best to sound surprised and concerned.
Sakura raised an eyebrow, wondering why he was being so difficult and decided that she would just have to say it. "I do say. And, I say that man was you."
"And…?" he asked, not even denying it and desperately hoping that she wasn't after what he thought she was after.
She sighed and rolled her eyes. "So, I want my kiss now."
Kakashi's eye widened without his conscious direction. "What?"
Sakura pouted a bit. "Don't you remember?"
Kakashi shook his head, not in denial, but, rather, in disbelief.
She frowned. "Because I was so disappointed, you promised you'd return the kiss when I was older."
He swallowed. Hard.
"Well, I'm older."