Star of Silver, Heart of Tin- Chapter Three
Upon awaking, Kakashi was aware of an extremely bright light shining uncomfortably into his face. He had heard stories from comrades who had had near death experiences and they sometimes described bright lights. He supposed he really was dead after all, and heaven, or wherever he was headed, was determined to blind him. Although...he found it strange that heaven smelled strangely of antiseptic.
A beautiful face filled his vision, a woman calling his name with the voice of an angel and pink hair. He hadn't expected angels to have pink hair.
His heavenly vision was shattered when she frowned and demanded he snap out of it. His surroundings snapped into focus and he discovered that he wasn't dead, but in a hospital room, and since Sakura was watching over him, he could only assume he was in Konoha.
His mind frantically tried to piece together how he had gotten here, but all he could remember was how he'd pitifully let down his guard and allowed himself to be cut with a poisoned blade. He thought for sure he would die deep within the mine, but somehow, fate had allowed him a chance to see a certain lovely kunoichi again.
"Sakura," he smiled, trying to sit up but finding his limbs still feeling numb and unresponsive.
"Lay down," she demanded, pushing him back down on the bed with a hand on his chest. "I won't allow my patient to overexert himself just when he's finally regained consciousness."
Her voice was stern but she couldn't hide her smile and Kakashi replied with one of his own.
"How did I get here?" he whispered with parched lips. "I thought for sure I was going to die."
Sensing his thirst, Sakura stood to poor him a glass of water from a clear plastic pitcher by his bed.
"Kiba found you," she replied. "Or more accurately, Akamaru smelled you out. You were apparently in one of the far tunnels. They found the hostages as well and were bale to get them out safely. If it weren't for that dog's nose, you probably would have died. They brought you back to me just in time. If I had been any slower in making an antidote, you would have been a goner."
The medic wrapped an arm around his shoulders and propped him up enough to allow him to drink. The second the glass touched his lips, he realizing he wasn't wearing his black mask. His entire face was exposed.
"I guess I should be thankful you're the one tending to me and not another nurse at this hospital," Kakashi chuckled between sips. "If another woman saw me without my mask off, she would undoubtedly fall for me and the two of you would have to fight over me."
Sakura rolled her eyes and silenced him by tilting the cup so he had to drink more water. It was true that upon removing his ANBU mask and then the black fabric underneath, she had been struck by how handsome he was. It was a shame he kept it covered all the time, but the fact that she was one of the privileged few that truly knew what he looked like made the sight even sweeter. She just hope he wouldn't constantly keep it hidden from her from now on.
He finished his water and Sakura perched at the edge of his bed, eyeing him critically. Now that he was back home and not in immediate danger of dying, it was time to get some answers.
"Why didn't you tell me you were leaving for a mission?" she asked quietly. "I know ANBU sometimes have to leave quickly, but it was so sudden. You didn't even leave a note to cancel your lunch date with me."
Guilt flooded his heart as he heard the hurt in her voice. He hated that he hadn't been able to talk to her in person, but her questions meant that a man he had trusted had let him down.
"I tried to find you at the hospital that day to tell you, but you had already left. I gave Neji a note explaining what I could and told him to give it to you. You never got it?"
Sakura's green eyes narrowed suspiciously and Kakashi wasn't sure whether she was wary of his actions or the Hyuuga's. "Neji? That's odd, because he seemed to try every excuse in the world to see me while you were gone, but he never said anything about you leaving me a note."
"Strange," Kakashi said. "He doesn't seem like the kind to forget about something like that."
Sakura took his hand in hers, loving the way her small hand was enveloped by his large one. She supposed none of what had happened mattered now that Kakashi was home and had obviously missed her as much as she had him, but she couldn't help but be disturbed by this development. If Kakashi had given Neji a note, and the Hyuuga had purposefully withheld it, then he was being more than a little overprotective. He was trying to manipulate Sakura into cutting off her relationship with him.
"No," the kunoichi said in response to Kakashi's remark as she turned over this troubling news in her mind. "He doesn't."
Since lingering effects of the poison still remained, Sakura insisted the Copy nin stay at the hospital for the next few days. The man who was usually so adverse to even stepping foot inside a hospital seemed perfectly content to lay in bed, reading his Icha Icha novels when alone and chatting up the pink haired medic when she was attending to him.
He knew how to make her laugh, a trait Sakura appreciated , especially after a tiring shift at the hospital. He would also compliment her or make a playful remark with just enough innuendo that her cheeks would flush and she would finger the spangle at her neck self consciously until she could come up with a witty remark to put him back in his place.
Although she hated the fact that he had been hurt, she couldn't help but love all the time she got to spend with him, not just on her lunch, but during her shifts. He would only be under her care for a few days and she was going to make the most of it, and she couldn't help but notice that Kakashi seemed to enjoy her company as well, although he did request for his mask to be returned to him and insisted on wearing it at all times.
She brought him food from the employee cafeteria since it was much better than what was served to the patients, and today she had put together a tray of cold soba noodles, vegetable tempura, a small salad and a little cup of lemon jello.
The second she opened the door, Kakashi seemed to perk up, although she wasn't sure whether it was due to her presence of the fact that she was bringing him food.
"How do you feel?" Sakura asked as she carefully set the tray across his lap. "Any persisting numbness?"
"My fingers still feel a little tingly but they're much better. I can hold my book easier now," he replied, picking up his chopsticks and immediately picked up a firm yellow cube of jello. Sakura smiled. He always ate dessert first.
She pulled up a chair beside him and began to eat her own food, although she started with the noodles and intended to save dessert for last. She noticed how he handled the chopsticks better, proof that he was more dexterous than the day before. If all went well, he would be free to go in the next day or two.
"How about the wound? Any burning or itching?" she asked, pointing to the bandage on his arm with her chopsticks.
Kakashi shook his head. "The cut is fine. Although, I was wondering when I get a sponge bath. You said I was sitting her for two days before I regained consciousness and after that, I've been here another two. Don't you think it's about time you gave me a good cleaning?"
He managed to keep his tone serious but there was a mischievous glint in his open eye. Without his hitai-ate to cover the eye containing the Sharingan, he simply kept it closed.
Sakura struggled not to smile as she answered in an equally serious tone, "I can have one of the male orderlies come in and clean you up after lunch if you would like." She finally had to giggle when his face fell, his displeased expression evident even with his mask on.
"No thanks. I'll just wait until I get home," Kakashi sighed.
Sakura smiled around a piece of sweet potato tempura. His answer was just the one she had been expecting.
Neji wearily walked home towards the Hyuuga compound, his mood nearly as dark as the night sky overhead. All of his careful planning had failed. Kakashi was back in the village and he had yet to make any progress towards winning Sakura over. In fact, she seemed even more enraptured with Kakashi than before he had left on his mission.
He simply didn't understand what Sakura saw in him. Neji was from a good family. Even the Hyuuga branch family was honorable and respected, but Kakashi's family name had been tarnished by his father and would probably die along with the White Fang's son. Neji was devoted, and a gentleman, which is more than he could say for the Copy nin with his dirty books and the endless rotation of girls he so casually courted.
Sakura deserved better. She deserved him, and it frustrated the Byakugan user endlessly that she couldn't see that.
The sun had long ago set and the streets were deserted, the cool night lit only by the lanterns and street lights of Konoha. Neji rounded a corner to find a lone figure walking his direction, a petite woman in a medic uniform. The Hyuuga instantly recognized her as the object of his current thoughts. Her shift must have ended hours ago. It was strange she was walking home so late.
"Sakura," he said with a courteous dip of his head.
She greeted him with a smile, although it wasn't quite as sunny as usual. Perhaps she was tired after working all day.
"You're getting home quite late. Shall I walk you home?"
The kunoichi inwardly sighed. She didn't really feel like dealing with the Hyuuga at the moment. She was tired and just wanted to get home and didn't want to tip toe around certain topics with him. However, it would be rude to decline and seemed like more trouble than it was worth. Widening her fake smile, Sakura accepted.
"May I ask what kept you at the hospital so late?" Neji asked as he fell into step beside her. "Is Tsunade working you too hard?"
"No, it's not Tsunade. I just stayed late talking with a patient," she replied, thankful that her apartment wasn't far and she wouldn't have to keep up this conversation much longer.
Neji didn't have to guess what patient she meant. He knew perfectly well that Sakura had insisted she be the medic assigned to Kakashi when he returned from his mission. She had turned down his lunch invitations in favor of staying at the hospital and eating with him. His voice went cold and flat as he responded, "Ah, you mean Kakashi."
This was exactly what Sakura had been dreading. She couldn't bring up the silver haired man without upsetting the Hyuuga. She knew Neji liked her and he thought that he was better for her. Perhaps in some ways he was, but the didn't chance the fact that Sakura wasn't attracted to him in the slightest. He was too formal, too uptight. Kakashi was so wonderfully spontaneous and funny, but Neji didn't seem to understand.
"Yes, Kakashi," she replied irritably. "Although frankly, it's none of your business. I'm tired of you putting him down all the time. Who I date is not your concern and I'm I wish you would quit acting like a disapproving father whenever I bring him up."
Neji could hear the anger in his voice and it sparked his own. A father? He didn't want to be a father to her. He wanted to be her husband for kami's sake! But she clearly needed some guidance in her life if she thought running around with a loose man like Kakashi was what was best for her.
Sakura had broken stride, walking ahead and intending to finish her trip home on her own, but Neji caught up to her, grabbing her wrist and pulling her to him.
"Sakura, he's all wrong for you. He's just going to hurt you in the end. He's done it to a hundred other girls. Can't you see that? You can do better."
The medic whirled on him, jerking her wrist from his grasp. "I can do better? You mean someone like you? I know that's what you're driving at!" Even in the dim light her emerald eyes were luminous, flashing with anger. "This is all because you're jealous of Kakashi, isn't it? You would rather I date you instead. Sorry, Neji. You're not my type."
Sakura's words surprised him. Her blatant refusal stung but what angered him more was how trivial she made his intentions seem. This wasn't about making her his girlfriend on a whim. This wasn't about simply winning her over in a display of masculinity. He wanted to be with her forever.
"I don't want to simply date you, Sakura," he said sharply, his words gushing forth before he could stop them. "I want to marry you."
Her jaw dropped at the words. At first, she wasn't sure she had heard him correctly. Surely the great Neji Hyuuga who seemed to good to date anyone wasn't talking about marriage was he? However, his next words confirmed it.
"The elders have already approved of you. They think you would be a great asset to the Hyuuga family. It's a great honor and you should-"
"And did you ever stop to consider maybe asking me how I felt about all of this?" Sakura cut in, her voice rising along with her anger and shattering the night time quiet. "Marry me? Neji, do you even love me?"
Now it was his turn to be struck silent. Love? He honestly hadn't even factored that into his equation. Hyuuga marriages were usually arranged. They were about strengthening the family clan, not whirlwind romances. It was true that love often followed the binding, but to him, marriage was about-
"Duty. This is how you're viewing this, isn't it? You have a duty to choose a good wife, so you chose me, without thinking to tell me or to even ask me!"
"Sakura, I promise this would be a very wise decision on your part if-"
"Shut up!" she screeched, uncaring that anyone within a couple of blocks could probably hear her. "I am not getting married because it's wise. I'll marry the man I love and I can say with certainty that it isn't you. If I hear you say another word about anyone I choose to date, I will personally knock you through the closest wall. Do you understand?"
Neji said nothing, still in shock of how his plans were crumbling before him. The woman who was supposed to be his wife now wanted nothing to do with him, was throwing his offer of prosperity and security back in his face in favor of a womanizing lout.
Tired of waiting for an answer, Sakura turned on her heel to leave but Neji once again reached out for her, fingers catching the star spangle at her neck and breaking the delicate chain. The necklace fell to the ground unnoticed as he gripped her arm hard enough to bruise. Sakura whipped around, breaking out of his grasp and delivering a chakra infused punch. It would have hit him directly in the face and crushed teeth and bone if Neji hadn't been quick and blocked with crossed forearms in front of his face. As it was, he could feel the pain of the impact reverberate through his bones, possibly fracturing the ulna in the arm that had taking the majority of the blow.
"Stay away from me," she hissed angrily before stalking away, rounding the corner and disappearing from sight. This time, Neji didn't go after her.
Kakashi watched Sakura's hands move over his chest, smoothing over bare skin in a way that felt surprisingly good. He reclined back against the pillows, savoring her touch and watching her expression. Her eyes were closed as she probed his body with her chakra so she couldn't see him smile beneath the mask. A small wrinkle always formed on her forehead when she was concentrating and he found it to be adorable.
"Well, it looks like you back to normal," she said, dispelling her chakra and opening her eyes. "There's no trace of the poison in your system."
"Good, that means I can finally go home and sleep in my own bed...although I'm afraid it will be much lonelier without you."
Sakura felt her cheeks warm as a blush threatened to stain her cheeks but she turned away before he could see it. She got up and went to the nearby sink to wash her hands that were already clean, her back towards him as she replied, "Didn't you say you had a dog? I'm sure you could snuggle with him at night."
Suddenly, he was behind her, although she hadn't heard the slightest sound of him getting out of bed, the hazards of being around a ninja. His arms gently encircled her waist as he pressed his bare chest to her back, and Sakura couldn't stop her cheeks from burning crimson or the way her heart began to beat rapidly against her ribcage.
"I hardly think my dog Pakkun would be up for some snuggling," he whispered, his masked lips brushing her ear. "What I was suggesting was that if you ever take some time outside these hospital walls, I hope you'll consider spending them with me every now and then."
His voice was low and raspy, but gentle, playful, and was making Sakura's stomach flip flop as if the floor had just dropped out from under her. She was acutely aware of the fact that he wasn't wearing a shirt, and his skin felt so good, warm and firm against her back. This felt so right, so perfect being in his arms.
She didn't resist when he gently turned her around, two digits lifting her chin up to him as the other hand entwined with her own fingers, still damp from their washing. He leaned in close, their lips barely touching, and Sakura was wondering if this would finally be the first kiss from him that she had been dreaming of since his teasing at the restaurant all those weeks ago.
She let a hand come up to brush silvery bangs out of his eyes, tempted to tug him in close and finally taste his lips.
He whispered, lips almost touching hers with every soft word "I guess what I'm trying to say is I..."
Sakura waited for him to continue, but instead, he gently took the hand that had been touching his hair and found himself staring at the five small bruises on her wrist. In her anger, she had forgotten to heal them the night before and hadn't even thought about them this morning.
"Sakura," Kakashi said quietly, "Who did this to you?"
His hand moved over her wrist, his fingers and thumb matching up perfectly with the purplish splotches on her pale skin. She could say that she had done it while sparring. Such things happened all the time during practice matches, but she didn't want to lie to him and supposed she might as well tell him about Neji now rather than try and hide it.
"I kind of got into a fight with Neji Hyuuga last night," she began quietly. "He didn't like the fact that I was seeing you. He said you weren't good for me and I told him to mind his own business."
"And then he grabbed you?" Kakashi asked. Although his voice was quiet and calm, Sakura could sense the anger simmering just below the surface.
"W-well," Sakura stuttered, unsure of how to say what was coming next. "First he asked me to marry him."
She had been expecting explosive anger, surprise, even laughter, but Kakashi's expression didn't change. Instead, he continued to speak in that same, quiet voice.
"Did he now?"
"Y-yes. But I told him no, of course. He doesn't even love me. He just wanted a wife that the elders would approve of. He said he had already talked to them about me. Can you believe that? He just views marriage as an obligation, not a romance, and so I told him to leave me alone and then I punched him in the face. Too bad he blocked. But everything is fine now so you don't have to worry about it."
She was rambling and she knew it, but she was just trying to smooth everything over and make Kakashi drop the subject. She had never seen him angry, but she knew that as an ANBU, he was capable of terrible things and she really didn't want him going after Neji when he was in this kind of mood.
"Maybe I should go have a word with him about going around and leaving bruises on women," Kakashi said almost matter-of-factly.
"No, that won't be necessary," Sakura said with a forced smile. "I straightened him out last night."
"I'm sure you did, but now I want a turn. Just a little man to man talk."
He pulled her close in a hug, his masked lips pressing to her forehead briefly before he grabbed his simple black shirt, made a few hand seals and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
"Oh no," she moaned, head in her hands. Not only was Neji in for some trouble, but she hadn't yet signed the forms for his discharge from the hospital.
A rigourous sparring match with Lee and Ten Ten had allowed Neji to vent some of his frustration, but had done little to get his mind off Sakura. Lee had commented that the fire of his youth was burning especially bright today as he put more force behind his attacks than normal. He was angry at himself for not seeing how fundamentally different he was from Sakura. He was calm and duty driven, usually level-headed until his future wife had got herself tangled up with the wrong kind of man. Sakura was strong and skilled, and excellent kunoichi, but it seemed she still let her emotions rule her decisions and had yet to get them under control.
It wasn't that he thought there was no place for love. He believed that it could be attained, but it was a luxury shinobi often could not afford. His kind had duties, obligations that came before turbulent emotions. If Sakura did hope to find love, he doubted it would be with Kakashi. A man like that wasn't interested in love, at least not the emotional kind.
It was just as the Copy nin crossed his mind that Neji sensed a powerful and familiar chakra. His head snapped to the right and he found Kakashi himself casually leaning against the wall, arms crossed over his chest nonchalantly. His one-eyed gaze however, was intensely focused directly on him. For a moment Neji though the ANBU member was simply going to watch him walk by, but then he pushed away from the wall and fell into step beside him.
It was broad daylight on a street with many witnesses and Neji knew Kakashi wouldn't do anything brash in such a place, but he could still feel an angry aura simmering around his tall, lanky figure.
"I hear you had a little encounter with Sakura last night," the silver haired man said, his voice low, but holding an edge that was clearly threatening. However, Neji was not one to be easily intimidated.
"I spoke with her, but I don't feel I should have to explain myself to the likes of you," the Hyuuga answered shortly.
"I didn't come here for an explanation. I came to tell you to stay away from her and if I catch her again with bruises caused by you, you're going to be sorry."
"She's hardly a delicate flower and I doubt she needs your protection," Neji snorted. "Not that your protection is worth much because soon enough you'll be off with another woman. I know how you operate, Hatake."
Kakashi abruptly stepped in front of him, blocking his path. "You know nothing," he hissed. "And my relationship with her has nothing to do with you. I'm asking you to stop pursuing a woman that clearly has no interest in you."
Neji bristled at his words, lavender eyes narrowing angrily. "Whatever issue Sakura has with me will stay between her and myself. You don't need to intervene."
The Hyuuga tried to push past the man in his way but a strong hand on his shoulder stopped him, squeezing him just hard enough to be uncomfortable, but not enough to be painful. His single dark eye burned in Neji's as he spoke.
"I will intervene, because you are harassing the woman I love."
Out of all the things Kakashi could have said, he had not been expecting that.
"I don't care if you or this whole village disapproves, but I love her and I will do what I have to in order to protect her. So understand that when I tell you to leave her alone, I mean it."
Neji tried to play off his surprise with a scoff. "I'm sure your kind of love comes cheap. How many other girls have you said that to?"
Kakashi's chakra flared dangerously as his grip on the Hyuuga's shoulder tightened. Neji prepared to strike at the offending hand when an ANBU in full uniform suddenly dropped from the rooftops to the ground in front of them.
"Neji Hyuuga, you are wanted at the Hokage tower immediately for a mission briefing," the anonymous man said from behind the red and white bear mask.
The brown haired man nodded in response. "I'll be there in a moment," he replied as Kakashi grudgingly dropped his hand.
The messenger left as quickly as he had come, leaving the two staring at each other wearily.
"You had better not hurt her Kakashi. You had better treat her with the respect she deserves." Neji warned.
"That goes for you as well. Bruise her again outside of a sparring match and you'll be answering to me."
Even as Neji made the hand seals for a teleportation jutsu and disappeared in a puff of white smoke, he did not let his gaze waver from Kakashi's.
When his opponent was finally gone, the Copy nin allowed himself to look around, seeing that their little dispute thankfully had not drawn any attention. He was prepared to walk back to he hospital to give him the time to clear his head and calm down when he saw something on the ground glinting in the sunlight. He bent down to retrieve the sparkling artifact and found a small star-shaped spangle on a thin silver chair that had been snapped. He slipped the broken necklace into his pocket, knowing exactly who to return it to.
"Good morning, Hokage-sama."
Neji accompanied his greeting with a formal bow but Tsunade didn't seem to be in the mood. She waved at him to come in distractedly without looking up from the document she was reading. The Hyuuga waited patiently for her to finish, but when she finally looked up, her normally attractive face was pinched in a scowl.
"Neji," she barked. "I trust your eye is healed?"
"Yes, thank you for asking," he replied graciously. "Your protégé did an excellent job healing me."
"Yes, well I have a paper here from my protégé saying that your eye was repaired nearly two weeks before I called you in for the mission in the mines."
Neji's smile instantly disappeared and his face blanched, realizing he was in very serious trouble. Tsunade folded her hands neatly on the desk and stared at him hard with honey colored eyes.
"I'm not going to ask about your reasons for lying to me or recommending Kakashi for the mission. What I am going to require is that you take this next mission without any resistance whatsoever."
Neji tried to swallow down the growing lump in his throat.
"You will be going to Grass Country to assist several villages in rebuilding after a flood. All structures were destroyed so you will virtually be recreating these villages from the ground up. This process will take months, possibly as long as half a year."
Neji stifled a groan.
"You will also be in charge of three genin who will assist with this task. Any trouble they cause will be you're responsibility so you are to keep them in line."
The Hyuuga could no longer keep silent. He felt this punishment far outweighed his crime. "Hokage-sama, be reasonable. Rebuilding villages is C ranked at the highest, and it hardly seems fair that I act as babysitter for as long as six months."
A blond eyebrow arched at his words as she settled back in her chair and crossed her arms over her ample bosom. "Neji, you not only lied to my face, but manipulated me into sending another shinobi for the job who wasn't as well suited for the mission as you were. As a result, this man got hurt and nearly died. I could go to the Hyuuga family with this but I think you'll agree with me that this form of punishment is far less severe, don't you think?"
Neji hung his head, defeated. If word reached the main house about what he'd done, he'd be shamed for far longer than the six months this mission required. His hands were essentially tied. He would have to go.
"Very well, Hokage-sama," he said, straitening as he tried to claim the last of his dignity.
"Good," Tsunade said with a smile. "Go pack your bags. You'll be leaving immediately."
Sakura brushed her shower damp hair away from her face as she stared into her piteously empty fridge, hoping something delicious would magically appear. Alas, the only staring back at her was an orange and a half empty bottle of soy sauce. She was dressed in an oversized T-shirt and some shorts that had grown a little too short for public decency, so they had become pajamas. She was freshly showered and warm and really didn't want to venture outside to go shopping, but with her cupboards so bare, she would either have to go buy food or eat instant ramen again. Neither sounded very appealing at the moment.
She let the refrigerator door swing shut and peeked in the freezer, finding a carton of chocolate ice cream that was only two thirds gone. Grabbing a spoon, she sat down on the couch with the entire carton, not caring that she was eating even worse than Naruto.
She figured she earned a little treat after figuring out how to keep Kakashi and Neji from killing each other. She had simply asked if Tsunade had read over the files on Neji's eye and requested that perhaps he needed some time away from the village since he had been coming on a little strong. Sakura didn't want to break his heart by politely telling him she was not interested now and never would be. Tsunade had chuckled that Sakura may very well have more admirers than just Neji, and soon she would have to be breaking many hearts with her refusals. The pink haired kunoichi had just laughed, deciding to bring up the topic of Kakashi at a later date. Tsunade would undoubtedly want all the juicy details and after satisfying her curiosity, give her the dreaded lecture that Sakura had already heard from her mother on more than one occasion.
When the Hokage realized Neji had been perfectly well for the mission, but had lied to get out of it, her mood had turned stormy and Sakura had made her exit, returning to the hospital to finish up her shift. She hadn't seen Kakashi since then but figured he hadn't killed Neji before he was summoned, so at least she could rest easy.
She was just about to take the first bite of luscious chocolatey goodness when there was a knock at her door. Grumbling at the interruption, Sakura set down her ice cream and went to the door, throwing it open and preparing to send whoever was standing there on their way.
There stood Kakashi with a bag of takeout and a bottle of wine.
"Yo," he said, lifting a hand in greeting. "Sorry to come by unannounced but I wasn't sure if you had eaten yet and it seemed a shame to miss having a meal with you since it I couldn't come by on your lunch hour."
The food smelled heavenly and conversation with Kakashi beat being alone any day.
"You are amazing!" she exclaimed, motioning him inside. "I think I might have starved without you."
Kakashi entered and went to the kitchen, as Sakura took two plates out of the cupboard.
"Before we eat, there's something I wanted to do earlier today but didn't get a chance to," the Copy nin said, taking the plates from her and putting them on the counter so he could have her full attention.
"Sakura," he began, clasping both her hands in his. "I know my reputation precedes me as never staying with one woman long, but I want you to know that I care about you deeply, possibly deeper than I've ever cared for another."
Sakura gasped as he dropped to one knee and pressed a masked kiss to the back of her hand like a medieval knight.
"I'm yours for as long as you'll have me, and whatever it is between us, I hope we can make it official."
"Like boyfriend and girlfriend?" Sakura asked with wide green eyes.
"Of course!" she exclaimed, tugging him to his feet and into a hug. Kakashi held her for a moment, loving the feel of her smaller form against him before pulling away and reaching into his pocket.
"Well, since you said yes, I get to give you this."
He took out a small black box and opened it up allowing her to see the small silver star inside.
"It's my necklace!" she cried in delight. "I thought I had lost it!"
"Yes, but I added something to it. I hope you don't mind," Kakashi said as he lifted it out of the box for her to see. On the back side of the star was a small heart made out of pinkish metal.
"The metal was in my pack when I got back from my last mission," he explained. "I don't know how it got there and I'm not sure if its tin or something else, but the color reminded me of you. I made a bit of it into the heart and fused it to your necklace. Do you like it?"
"I love it," Sakura said smile lighting up the whole room just as it had done the first time he met her.
"And I love you," he whispered.
Sakura's eyes grew wide at his words. "Y-you do?"
"I know it's crazy, but you're all I think about. You're the only one I want to be with."
Her green eyes grew shiny and wet with unshed tears, but he knew they were not tears of sadness, but of joy.
"Here, let me put the necklace on you," he said gently, urging her to turn around."
"Oh forget the necklace! Give me the kiss you've been teasing me with for weeks!" she exclaimed, tugging down his mask and grabbing a fistful of his shirt to pull him down until their faces were even.
Kakashi chuckled at her eagerness but allowed her to press her lips to his, finally sampling the softness he had wanted to taste for so long, but hadn't because he didn't want her to be like all the others. He'd wanted the kiss to mean something, and here in this moment, he couldn't think of a better way to finally share such an intimate moment.
Sakura practically melted as his arms wrapped around her while he pressed her up against the counter, his lips working against hers at a deliciously languid pace. The necklace dangled forgotten from his fingers, her ice cream was melting and their food was getting cold but Sakura didn't care.
In this moment, she realized that the small tin heart and sparkling star weren't just joined as a necklace, but as people. Her steadfast soldier had nearly met his death, but she had brought him back, and she would do it again as many time as she needed to. In this moment, Sakura realized that she truly loved him too.
Aww, the cheesiness! I need some crackers to go with all that cheese! But the fairy tale was supposed to have a happy ending so I delivered. Sorry about the lack of smut, but it was against the rules.