Written for the KakaSaku Faerie Tale Challenge on the LiveJournal community. It was being hosted by Caitiy and the idea was simple: take a faerie tale and KakaSaku it. I chose Little Red Riding Hood.

All the usual disclaimers apply: Naruto is Kishimoto's, LRRH is Grimms' (sort of), and the concept of this fan fiction is me. Please enjoy, and thanks for reading!


I've got a chip on my shoulder

And a halo on my head

I'm an angel with an attitude

And my favorite color's red

- "Angel With An Attitude" by The Ditty Bops


It was a perfectly gloomy day. The sky was overcast with thick grey clouds so impregnated with moisture that they seemed hardly able to move. Not a crack of sunlight penetrated the mass of darkness and every person on the street had an umbrella on hand. Every so often, the eerie pre-storm quiet was disrupted by a deep growling sound: thunder rolling in across the treetops. For now, it was only a warning of bigger things to come, but everyone knew when the storm finally broke it was going to be a violent one.

But things like super colossal thunderstorms meant nothing to ninja – and less than nothing if said ninja happened to fall under the command of a certain Copy Ninja.

Much to everyone's dismay, Kakashi hadn't cancelled training at all. He'd shown up late as usual (forty-eight minutes, to be exact) and with yet another unbelievable excuse as to why. After nearly six years of dealing with the man, it was hard to say whether he actually expected them to believe the lies or if this was his odd way of joking with them. Either way, it didn't change the fact that he'd insisted they immediately get into things. That is, right after Sakura harangued him for being late and Naruto tried to talk him out of training.

The results of both actions had been ten extra laps around the village perimeter – with no chakra use. That was doubled to twenty when Sai chose that moment to exercise his brand of humor by asking if Kakashi's inability to come at the appropriate time extended to other areas of his life.

It was needless to say that by the end of training, the younger three members of the team were exhausted, sweaty, and more than anxious to get home. The last thing they needed was to get caught in a downpour.

"Hey, Sakura, what're you doing later?" Naruto panted as he used his shirt to wipe the sweat from his face.

Sakura pulled her gloves off and stuffed them in her hip pouch before subtly swiping her hands across her skirt. "Showering," she replied immediately, grimacing as a damp, dirt-ridden piece of hair stuck to her cheek. "And after that, baking."

Three sets of eyes looked up at that – though one was, admittedly, only half a set and was doing its best not to seem too overly interested in the conversation.

Immediately, Naruto broke out in a wide, beaming grin. "You're the best, Sakura! So, what're you makin'? I hope it's those triple fudge caramel sundae brownies."

Kakashi's eye flickered back to his book with an unheard sigh of disappointment.

Laughing pleasantly, the pink haired girl shook her head and said, "Actually, I'm making oatmeal raisin cookies with pecans."

And with that, Kakashi's eye flickered back up from his book.

The blond haired boy's lower lip turned outward in a pout as he grabbed his loudly colored jacket from the ground. "Brownies are better, but cookies're okay, too."

Sai gave a fake chuckle and paired it with an equally false smile as he cocked his head to one side and commented, "One shouldn't be picky when one has a small—"

"Actually, they're not for you guys," Sakura cut in, deftly preventing what would have been the fifteenth argument for the day.

She might as well have said that all holidays were cancelled indefinitely and that Ichiraku Ramen had gone out of business – that was how horrified Naruto looked. It took him several tries before he was able to stutter, "B-But … who's more deservin' of homemade cookies than your own team?"

Silently, Kakashi had to admit that the kyuubi vessel was for once asking a legitimate question.

Sakura's cheeks colored a pale pink as she looked away, a small smile playing across her lips. Rubbing a hand down her arm in a display of unease, she said, "They're for Tsunade-sama. She's been a little down lately, and I thought they might cheer her up."

Naruto blinked, taken aback by her admission, but recovered quickly with a hearty laugh as he rubbed the back of his neck. "Ah, that's cool! But next time, it better be triple chocolate caramel sundae brownies, 'kay?"

She smiled gratefully at her effervescent teammate and nodded. "Okay. Well, I better get going then. See you guys later!" Sakura waved over her shoulder as she trotted off the training ground, completely unaware that a shrewd grey eye was tracking her progress thoughtfully.


Kakashi normally wasn't one for sweets of any variety, but like any supposedly steadfast rule there were a few exceptions:

Sweet and sour pork with a good beer.

Honey tea for when he was sick.

And Sakura's oatmeal-raisin-pecan cookies.

She very rarely made them, seeing as the loudmouth on their team insisted on having confections guaranteed to cause diabetic shock, but the few times she did he would always pocket a few extras … and then watch innocently while she pummeled Naruto for eating them all.

Part of him felt bad that the blond suffered for the sake of his latent sweet-tooth, but the greater part of him really didn't want that information coming out. It was bad enough his teammates used Icha Icha to bribe him into good behavior (he still refused to be labeled an addict); there was no way he would give them further ammunition.

He sighed heavily, his thoughts turning away from Junko's impressive fellatio skills to ones of fresh, warm cookies that were moist and with just the right amount of sweetness. Cookies that melted on his tongue, that smelled deliciously of vanilla and cinnamon and a hint of nutmeg. Cookies that….

Weren't for him.

Disappointment crashed through him, leaving him with a damp mouth and no interest for porn. Why did she have to mention she was baking for Tsunade? It wasn't like the Hokage really needed them. Just the other day, he'd overheard her complaining to Shizune about gaining weight – a very poor topic of discussion to bring up around a pregnant woman, he'd discovered when Shizune had given her mentor a highly discourteous earful.

But bad subject matter aside, it seemed a waste to give cookies to someone who couldn't appreciate them. It would be doing Tsunade a favor to relieve her of them.

Which, actually, wasn't a bad idea at all.

He turned down the next street without an ounce of hesitation and doubled back toward the Hokage Tower. There was a pretty decent liquor store on the way, and he knew the proprietor liked to pander to the Hokage's every need. With a few appropriately placed words, he'd be in business.


"Ugh! It reeks of cookies in here! Do you have any idea how hard it is to work out when the whole place smells like a bakery?" Ino complained bitterly, her voice coming out a little strained due to the crunch routine she was in the middle of completing.

Sakura grinned at her roommate while loading a small gift basket with the cookies. "Act like a kunoichi and suck it up, Pig," she called back, snickering when the blonde muttered a few very impolite words back.

She covered the cookies with another layer of wax paper before shutting the lid securely. It had started raining like crazy while she'd been baking and she didn't want all her hard work to get soggy – especially with how good this batch turned out. Not too sweet, soft but firm enough that they didn't crumble. They were probably some of the best oatmeal-raisin-pecan cookies she'd ever made, and she couldn't wait to give them to Tsunade.

Of course, she'd set aside another dozen to give to Kakashi. The last time she'd made them, she'd noticed how his eye had perked a little on the first bite. If Naruto hadn't been such a greedy pig, she would have let him take the rest home.

Setting the basket of cookies on the coffee table – which was coincidentally right next to Ino's head – Sakura went over to the main closet and pulled out her raincoat.

Ino paused mid-crunch, her eyes squinting as if trying to see more clearly. "What the hell is that?" she demanded, giving a nod toward the article in her friend's hand.

A grimace crossed Sakura's face as she slipped the voluminous garment over her shoulders. There were narrow slits for her arms to go through, three clasps to hold the front closed, and a deep hood that fell nearly to her nose when pulled up. The whole thing was a bright, screaming red and looked very much like a cape.

"Oh, this?" she laughed. "This was a birthday gift from my mom."

The blonde wrinkled her nose distastefully. "You should probably burn it."

Sakura frowned, smoothing a hand down the fabric almost protectively. "I think it's kinda cute. Like out of a faerie tale or something." She did a twirl, letting the fabric swing about her hips in a wide arc.

"It's a little jailbait, don't you think?"

Tossing her roommate an annoyed scowl, Sakura snatched up the basket and headed for the door. "You should probably focus more on your ass than your abs."

The door shut on Ino's outraged snarl. Sakura, a triumphant smirk on her lips, pulled her hood up and practically skipped down the stairs and out of the apartment.


"An' so I … so I said. I said t'him, 'Jiraiya! Tha's not a wom'n!' An' he said – can y'guess? C'mon, guess!"

Kakashi winced as the very inebriated Hokage shoved his arm a little too hard. He glanced at the clock wistfully. It was almost four in the afternoon now; he'd been in her office for the last hour and a half, plying her with sake, and besides the slurred speech she wasn't showing any signs of slowing down. Honestly, the woman's tolerance level was severely unhealthy. He'd had two cups (just to be polite) and felt ready for a good nap.

Letting out a quiet sigh, the copy ninja shrugged and replied, "He said, 'what do you mean that's not a woman?'"

Tsunade's snicker dissolved into a hiccup, and she belatedly tried to smother it behind her hand. "Oops! Tha' slipped out, kinda like this one time when Jiraiya and I were—"

"Here, have some more sake," he interrupted quickly. It didn't take genius level intelligence to guess where that story was going.

For a moment, the older woman blinked in confusion as her cup was refilled, but then a wobbly smile touched her flushed cheeks. She lifted her hand in a toast, but she was so unsteady that the alcohol sloshed over onto her hand. "To my mostest … mostest? Hey, is tha' a word?"

Kakashi slouched even further than he already was and groaned, "No, it's not."

She howled with laughter and the rest of the sake spilled across her desk. He flinched at seeing such expensive liquor wasted on wood. "Ha! I made a new word! K'shi! W-write it down 'fore we f'get! I, Tsun… Tsudan…." She frowned, her lips twisting thoughtfully.

He arched a brow and supplied, "Tsunade?"

The woman pointed a dramatic finger at him and exclaimed, "Ah! Yes! My name! Hey, drink more. If y'can still say Tsunder… If y'can still say m'name, you're not drinkin' 'nough!" She looked down at her now empty cup and scowled. "Hey, where'd it go?"

Kakashi quickly grabbed the sake before she could and refilled both their cups, though he had no intention of drinking his. He glanced at the clock again and felt his heart sink. Sakura would probably be here soon, and Tsunade was still going—

A soft snoring sound drew his attention back to his drinking companion. Tsunade was slumped across the front of her desk, one hand resting limply on a pile of documents while the other rested inside a little planter full of violets. The poor little flowers were being crushed under her fingertips.

"About damn time," he muttered as he stood up and quickly got to work. He knew there was a small sleeping area attached to the main office for those nights when the Hokage worked (or drank) late and couldn't make it home. It was out of the way, and if she ever asked him about this afternoon he could legitimately say he carried her there to sleep it off.

Kakashi wasn't a weak man by any definition, but even he had trouble lifting the dead weight of a drunken woman. Tsunade wasn't particularly tall, but she was a lot heavier than she looked. Most of that was due to the muscle she'd built up and maintained over her years as Fire Country's premiere kunoichi, but a portion was also due to her, ah … aesthetics. Which, unfortunately, were proving difficult to work around. If he slung her over his shoulder, her breasts pressed into his face and that just didn't seem right; she was the Hokage, after all. Lifting her under the arms wasn't an option either, nor was a fireman's carry.

Finally, after much consideration, Kakashi decided the best way to approach this problem was bridal style: one arm supporting her back, the other looped under her legs. It took a couple tries before he managed it – once because his stance had been off, the second because she rolled out of his arms with a sleepy murmur – but eventually he did. He hurried her to the small bed and even took the time to tuck her in nicely before slipping back into the office and shutting the door.

He took a moment to control his heart rate before going to faze two: Henge no Jutsu. It was a simple trick, one of the basics learned in the Academy, but it was probably one of the most useful jutsu in a ninja's arsenal. The seals fell from his fingertips without much thought, having been done countless times before. With a faint pop Kakashi was suddenly shorter, blonder … and bustier.

Kakashi paused on his way over to the desk to look down at his ample chest with an arched brow. "Wow," he breathed, his voice sounding exactly like Tsunade's. He probably would have kept staring at himself had a knock not come to the office door, followed by a very pregnant Shizune.

"Good afternoon, Hokage-sama," the dark hair woman greeted cheerfully as she waddled over, a stack of documents tucked to her chest. Her smile faded when she noticed the wet marks on the wood. It turned into a frown when she saw the overturned bowl and a scowl as she took in the empty sake bottle on the desk. "Tsunade-sama!"

He sat down and adopted his best Hokage glare as he said, "What is it, Shizune? I'm not allowed to take a break when I need to?"

"But … But in your office? What if the Elders were to see this?"

Kakashi flicked a slim, well manicured hand dismissively. "If they drank a little more, maybe they wouldn't be so uptight."

"Tsunade-sama!"

Whoops. Maybe his Tsunade impression wasn't all that accurate after all. Sighing under his breath, he asked, "What do you have there, Shizune?"

The dark haired woman shook her head but placed the documents on the desk, angling them in such a way that they weren't sitting in the spilled sake. "The trade reports from three years ago, as asked for," she replied. "Also, the meeting with the Daimyo's advisors has been moved up tomorrow to seven in the morning. I already rescheduled the hospital walk through for later that afternoon. Oh, and Sakura-chan is here to see you."

Immediately, his mood lifted at the idea of oatmeal-raisin-pecan cookies … and seeing Sakura, of course. Kakashi smiled with Tsunade's face and said, "Well, show her in."

Shizune's brow furrowed as she glanced at her 'employer' curiously. "Tsunade-sama, are you…?"

He arched a questioning brow.

Shaking her head, she smiled and said, "Never mind. I'll send her in."

She left the room and a moment later Sakura came in with a large basket that smelled strongly of cinnamon, vanilla, and other delicious things. A smile was on her face as she pushed the enormous hood of her bright red … thing back.

For a moment, Kakashi was distracted from his edible target by how warm her smile was, how it wasn't anything like the smiles she gave him. It made him feel a little jealous to know that was what Tsunade was treated with daily. Sakura was a pretty girl, but she was more so when she smiled like that.

But ruminations about her and her prettiness could wait. Right now, there was a basket of cookies that didn't have his name on it he needed to worry about.

Leaning forward to prop his elbows on the desk, as was Tsunade's wont, Kakashi smiled and said, "Sakura-chan. What a lovely surprise."


Something was up with Tsunade; she was being far too chipper for a Monday morning. It took Sakura a second to locate the reason why, but when she did her nose wrinkled distastefully. Her eyes narrowed as she regarded the empty sake bottle on the desk and she shook her head. "Isn't it a little early to start happy hour, shishou?" she demanded.

Tsunade shrugged indifferently – not at all what her typical response would be. "It's five o'clock somewhere, Sakura," the older woman replied.

Sakura blinked, taken aback by the unexpected retort. This was normally the part where her mentor pulled rank and said that as Hokage she would decide when she could and could not drink. Maybe she was drunk already … but, no. If that were the case, her speech would be slurred and her eyes glassy.

Setting aside the odd response for now, Sakura smiled again and placed her basket on the desk. "I brought you a present, shishou: oatmeal-raisin-pecan cookies. I thought they might cheer you up a bit."

To her surprise, the older woman's smile brightened considerably as she accepted the basket. "That's very kind of you to do," she commented, lifting the lid enough to inhale. "They smell wonderful."

Sakura's eyes narrowed suspiciously. Okay… That was just plain weird. Her teacher was always complaining about her weight. At the very least she'd expected some sort of reprimand for bringing a non-diet friendly treat into the office. She watched as Tsunade pulled a cookie out of the basket and bit into it, her eyes falling closed as if it was the best thing she'd ever eaten.

Something was definitely off, and it sure as hell wasn't sake related. Tsunade never ate like that in front of other people, not even Shizune. She would have sat there picking at it slowly until Sakura left. Either the Hokage was on drugs or….

Or that wasn't the Hokage.

Her mind flashed back to the time she'd brought these cookies to a training session. Naruto had gone and taken almost the whole batch. Oh, he'd denied it like crazy, but who else would it have been? Sai would have asked to take some, and Kakashi-sensei didn't like sweets enough to ever pull a stunt like this. With the way Tsunade was acting and her blond teammate's history of pranks, she was willing to bet that the person sitting at the desk was Naruto.

And if it was, she was gonna make him regret impersonating the Hokage of Konoha.

Adopting the sweetest smile in her arsenal, Sakura said, "Your shoulders look a little tense, shishou. Want me to massage them for you?"

There was a brief pause in the hand that was reaching for another cookie and Tsunade's amber colored eyes took on an uncharacteristic shrewdness – for both herself as well as Naruto. And yet, it was disturbingly familiar… The imposter set the cookie back and gave a soft laugh. "That'd be lovely, Sakura-chan."

"Oh, it's my pleasure, Hokage-sama," she simpered, cracking her knuckles as she stepped behind the chair. An almost cruel smirk twisted on her lips as she settled palms to shoulders, summoned a little chakra … and squeezed just hard enough to make it very uncomfortable.

The fake Tsunade hissed in pain, her shoulders stiffening sharply.

Sakura leaned over, her expression carefully innocent. "What's the matter, shishou?"

Tsunade cleared her throat softly and smiled despite the suspicious dampness in her eyes. "Perhaps … a little more gently?"

She frowned, feigning confusion. "But this is how I've always massaged your shoulders," she argued.

The imposter's eyes widened a touch before returning to a neutral sort of happiness. It was a subtle thing, one she probably wouldn't have noticed if she hadn't been leaning over the person's back. That meant … this wasn't Naruto. Naruto and subtlety went together like two positive ends of a magnet.

So, if it wasn't her sneaky teammate, who could it be? The only people on the training ground had been her, him, Sai, and Kakashi, and she would bet her next mission pay that it wasn't the last two. Maybe it was Konohamaru? They'd caught him before lurking around in the bushes to watch Naruto train. And he was certainly sneaky and mischievous enough to do it.

Deciding a bit more investigation was in order, Sakura shrugged nonchalantly and said, "I guess we did train a little harder than usual the other day. Sorry, shishou."

"That's alright, Sakura-chan," the imposter replied, a note of relief creeping into the words.

She continued the massage at a much more humane pressure, using the chakra she'd summoned to help ease the stiff muscles rather than abuse them. Whoever this was had some seriously tight knots in their neck and shoulders. It seemed unlikely someone as young as Konohamaru would have such cricks. Typically it was the older ninja, the ones who went on more missions and were under a great deal more stress, who had shoulders like this.

Maybe it wasn't Konohamaru then? Maybe it was someone like…?

Shiranui Genma.

Sakura seemed to recall spotting his newly promoted chuunin team waiting outside the training area. And it was no secret that he and Tsunade had a small, private war going on between them. It'd started a while back when the Hokage had been informed that the former playboy was dating her assistant. All Sakura remembered from the incident were numerous shouts of 'lecherous bastard' and 'sagging hag' and lots of things being thrown across the office. She'd thought a truce had been called when Genma had proven he was serious about his relationship with Shizune – so serious in fact that they got married two years ago – but perhaps they were on the outs again?

If it was Genma, she knew a sure-fire way to find out: flattery.

Feeling confident that she had the right suspect now, Sakura pressed her thumbs into a particularly stubborn knot and commented, "Did you sleep well, shishou? You look well rested and your eyes are much clearer than they were yesterday."

"I did, thanks. Could you move a little lower?"

She frowned at the response but did as she'd been asked. Okay… That wasn't exactly the answer she'd been looking for. Maybe Genma was trying to tone it down a bit? If that was the case … she'd just have to ramp it up a bit.

"And are you whitening, because your teeth look fantastic," she gushed, rotating the heels of her palms up the tight spine. The imposter groaned quietly, tipping their head forward so she could work all the way up their neck.

"Now you're just flattering me," the person mumbled distractedly.

Sakura's eyes narrowed at the exposed neck she was working on, her head tilting thoughtfully. Definitely not Shiranui Genma. So who was it then? Who would go so far as to impersonate the Hokage of all people just to get some homemade—

A muffled thud came from behind the door leading to the office sleeping quarters.

Her hands stilled and a queasy feeling shot through her stomach. Maybe she'd been wrong all along and this wasn't about cookies. What if this person whose shoulders she was massaging was an assassin, and that thud had been…?

"Sakura?"

Belatedly, she remembered her roll and returned to massaging the potential enemy. "Sorry, shishou," she laughed. "I just thought I heard something."

"You did, hmm? Probably that pig."

"You mean Ton Ton," she supplied through gritted teeth. "She's in the main office under Shizune's desk. I saw her tail poking out when I walked in."

"Then maybe it was plumbing. Either way, it's nothing to concern yourself with."

These excuses … they sounded an awful lot like something Kakashi would say. But he wouldn't ever impersonate the Hokage, at least not for cookies. Still though, she couldn't shake the feeling that this wasn't some random, unknown enemy; this was someone she knew. Someone crafty and so skilled at creating a Henge no Jutsu that she could actually touch them and still not notice a difference.

Well, she could be just as crafty. And genjutsu was one of the areas she excelled in.

Sakura sighed under her breath and removed her hands from the fake's shoulders, lacing her fingers together and stretching them before her. "I guess I better leave now, shishou. It looks like you have a lot of work to do," she said, pulling her hood up again so as to hide her face. She was horrible at lying, and her plan wouldn't work if the person suspected something was up.

The imposter smiled at her, their eyes creasing in a very familiar way. "That I do, Sakura-chan. Thanks for the cookies."

Smirking, she turned her back on the desk and replied, "You're very welcome … Kakashi-sensei!"

And with that, she whipped about, her hands forming the final seal for a release jutsu … but all that remained behind the desk was a puff of smoke and hastily drawn smiley face tact to the back of the chair. The cheeky bastard even had the gall to steal the entire basket.

Sakura shook her head and, grumbling under her breath, marched over to the bedroom door to see what he'd done to her mentor. Just as she was reaching for the knob, it slammed open so quickly that she had to leap back or risk losing her hand.

"Shishou!" she exclaimed as the older woman – the real one – stomped over to her desk, ripped down the smiley face, and flopped into the chair with a hard grunt. "Shishou, are you alright?"

"Never better, despite being man handled like a bad piece of meat," Tsunade spat out. The smell of sake clung to her clothes and her cheeks were flushed, but it was difficult to say whether that was due to indulgence or anger. With another irritated huff, she grabbed her pen and began filling out mission reports.

Sakura remained next to her, shifting from one foot to the other while chewing on her lower lip. Her mentor was obviously furious and she didn't want to risk having it directed onto her, but … she had to know….

"Shishou, what happened?"

Tsunade snorted derisively and tossed her pen on the desk. When she looked at her apprentice, Sakura was relieved to see humor mixed in with the outrage. "What happened was," she explained tersely, "that pup Kakashi had the audacity to try and get me drunk. His intentions were to wait for me to pass out so that he could steal the cookies you shouldn't have baked for me to begin with. Really, Sakura. Consider my waistline in the future."

Despite the situation and the fact that she was going to kill her team leader, she couldn't help smiling at the reprimand. "Yes, shishou. It won't happen again."

"Better not. Even if they were oatmeal cookies, you probably had to add a pound of butter and sugar to make it taste good. Anyway, don't worry yourself about trying to even the score. It's Hatake Kakashi first of all, and though you're extremely talented you wouldn't stand a chance against him."

"But, shishou—," she protest, only to be cut off when her mentor shot her a glare.

"Second of all," Tsunade continued with a devious little smirk tugging at her lips, "I already took care of it."

Sakura blinked and gave the barest shake of her head. "Wait… You took care of what?"

"Revenge." The gleam in her amber eyes was such that it left Sakura feeling cold all over. "I knew the minute he showed up with a bottle of expensive sake that something was up. A ryo pincher like him carrying around good booze? Unheard of. So … I slipped a little something into his cup."

Eyes widening in alarm, Sakura whispered, "Shishou … what did you do?"

Tsunade leaned back in her chair, her eyes glittering with malicious triumph. "Oh, nothing much. Just added some eye drop solution into his sake. It's tasteless, odorless, and right about now he's probably curled around a toilet wishing he'd never had the nerve to set foot in my office." Her eyebrows rose as Sakura headed quickly for the door. "Sakura?"

The pink haired girl turned back, an apologetic smile on her lips. "Sorry, shishou, but I have to go. There's someone I need to see."

For a moment, the two of them simply looked at each other, but then Tsunade waved her hand dismissively and said, "Fine, fine. Go show that would-be wolf some mercy. But not before you take a few pictures for me, understood?"

"I promise," Sakura laughed as she hurried out of the office.


Kakashi slumped against the toilet bowl and groaned miserably. Sweat dripped off the end of his nose, his hands were shaking, and despite having emptied his stomach of everything he'd ever eaten in his entire life it was still roiling in a horrible, sickening way. Whatever Tsunade had slipped into his sake (damn, she was good; he hadn't even seen her hand move) was certainly doing its job. And fast. He'd barely made it a block before an unfortunate flowerpot received the first of many return deliveries.

Another wave of nausea flooded over him and he lurched forward, coughing violently. This was hell. It had to be, and if this was what he had to look forward to then he'd make damn certain he didn't die for a very long time. Or ever drink with Tsunade again.

He'd spent the last twenty minutes or so between dates with the Porcelain Goddess trying to figure out where he'd gone wrong. It wasn't like he didn't share a drink with the Hokage every once in a while. And his excuse for bringing the sake so early in the afternoon had been good and legitimate: he was recommending Sakura for promotion to jounin. It was a perfect cause to celebrate, so what could have possibly tipped her off that—

The sake. It'd been a forty ryo bottle that the proprietor had insisted he take after hearing it was for the Hokage. Damn it, he knew he should have wheedled one of the lower shelf bottles off that guy! Well, it didn't matter now. He was stuck hanging over a toilet seat with a basket full of delicious cookies he didn't even want to think about eating. Today was definitely ratcheting up to be one of the most miserable days of his life.

A knock came to his door, followed by a very familiar voice calling, "Kakashi-sensei?"

Okay, now it was officiallythe most miserable day of his life. The last thing he needed was for his pretty pink haired teammate to see him like this. Kakashi managed to find enough voice to croak, "This isn't a very good time, Sakura."

"I know, and that's why I'm here. I have something to help your stomach."

He lifted his head – slowly, so as not to disturb his precarious constitution. Whatever Tsunade had given him must've had some sort of hallucinogen in it, because he could have sworn he heard Sakura say she had a cure for him.

"While I'm sure you're a very nice auditory hallucination, it still isn't a good time," he rasped shortly before dissolving into another round of vicious hacking. When was this going to end? He was tired, his entire body was nothing but a giant ache, and he was almost positive he would never taste anything but bile again. He should have known better than to try and pull one over on a Sannin. Especially a Sannin that knew poisons inside and out. This was worse than death, worse than walking behind Gai, worse than—

Kakashi almost whimpered with relief when a cool, slim hand very gently brushed his hair away from his face, pushing his hitae-ate off onto the floor in the process. He heard the metal thud heavily on the tiled floor and a moment after that the gurgle of his toilet being flushed. Someone knelt down next to him, but he didn't bother opening his eyes or lifting his head from the seat rim.

It looked like his auditory hallucination had progressed into a full-sensory one because even in his condition he recognized Sakura's citrus-y shampoo. She sighed, her fingers still combing through his hair soothingly and said, "You look awful."

He groaned in agreement.

Sakura sighed again and suddenly her fingers were gone. Kakashi grunted and quickly squeezed his jaw shut when she tried to press something to his lips. She made a scoffing sound and he could just imagine the eye roll that undoubtedly accompanied it.

"You're such a baby," she complained. Her hand was back, only now it was cupping his jaw and applying just enough pressure to warn him that she could force his mouth open. "Come on, Kakashi-sensei. I'm trying to help you."

"Mm-mm," Kakashi replied stubbornly. He wasn't so completely out of it that he'd just take whatever she handed to him. She was trained by Tsunade, after all.

She clicked her tongue impatiently and withdrew. "Kakashi-sensei, don't you trust me?"

He opened his mouth just enough to say, "No," before quickly clamping it shut again.

As soon as the word left his abused mouth, he regretted it. Silence fell in the cramped bathroom and Kakashi cracked an eye open to see Sakura staring at the ratty bathroom mat forlornly. He hated seeing her like that. What he hated even more was that he was the cause of it. Lifting his head the barest of centimeters from the porcelain, he attempted to rectify things by saying, "What I meant is that I trust you … completely."

She turned to face him slowly, and the minute he saw her wide eyes he knew it'd been the right thing to say. And, now that he thought about it, it was true. He trusted all of his team completely, but Sakura a little more so than the boys. Over all their years together, after everything they'd been through, the only one he never worried about was her. He knew that, no matter what, Haruno Sakura would be just fine. He trusted in that.

For a moment neither of them said a word, but then Sakura did something that surprised the hell out of him: she kissed him. Not on the lips (that would have been a bit awkward given his current situation, but not entirely unwanted) but on his temple, right along his damp hairline. She drew back with a shy smile and held the container of chalky white liquid to his mouth again.

He had no choice now but to take it or else risk breaking what he'd just so recently repaired. Sucking in as deep a breath as he could take, Kakashi let her tip the liquid into his mouth. It was thick, it coated and clung to his mouth and throat horribly, and it tasted like a thousand different vile things at once … but it worked. He could feel it as soon as it hit his stomach, calming the sickening turbulence on contact.

It didn't take long for the queasiness to be neutralized, but even after it had passed he remained slumped against the toilet. He was too sore to move and, quite frankly, he rather liked the way Sakura was petting him right then. He also didn't mind her proximity either; her fruity shampoo was infinitely better to smell than what he had been for the last twenty minutes. Kakashi sighed, perfectly content to just fall asleep as he was.

But apparently Sakura didn't think that was a good idea because she was suddenly hauling him upright, using a bit of chakra to get the job done, and guiding him toward his narrow bed. She stretched him out, even going so far as to take his shoes and vest off. The shuriken quilt was pulled up just beneath his chin and the small waste basket was placed within leaning reach should he need it.

She made to leave and he moaned a dissent, his fingers catching on her wrist. Sakura smiled down at him, and for a moment Kakashi forgot to breathe. It was different than the one she'd given when she thought he was Tsunade. It was gentler, warmer … better. And it was all for him. She patted his hand reassuringly and said, "I'm just getting you some water."

"Don't leave," he mumbled, his voice thick with sleep and strain.

She rolled her eyes at him, but the smile was still lingering so the overall effect was somewhat marred. "I won't leave, I promise. Besides, it'd be like child abandonment if I did."

Normally, he would have complained at being called a child, but right then the only thing that mattered was that she stayed. Kakashi let himself relax into the lumpy mattress, content to listening to her move about his apartment. He watched her as best he could from his prone position as she set a glass of tap water on the sill above his head. She dragged the only chair in his apartment – a folding chair that sometimes served as a table – over so that she could sit next to him. It was the first time in many, many years he'd had someone sit with him while he was sick, and he had to admit that it was rather comforting.

"Sakura, could you read to me?" he asked weakly, milking the situation for all it was worth.

She blinked slowly, as if trying to decide whether he was joking or not. He put an extra dose of pathetic in his gaze, which did the trick because she let out an exasperated sigh and grumbled, "Alright, fine. What do you want me to read?"

"Well, Icha Icha Paradise is right…."

Sakura arched a brow, daring him silently to continue.

Kakashi pulled the blanket up a little higher and edited, "Or there's a shopping catalogue on the floor."

Shaking her head, Sakura reached behind her and pulled out a heavily worn paperback from her hip pouch. Its pages were curling in all sorts of directions, the spine was creased to the point that it flopped open easily, and the cover was so scarred that he could barely make out the title. He thought he saw the words 'wolf' and 'dove', but that had to be wrong. Sakura wasn't the sort to be interested in hunting manuals.

"Hope you don't mind a good historical romance," she commented, her cheeks flushing a very appealing shade of pink.

"I'd rather you read Icha Icha … but a good historical romance is fine," he added when she gave him that same challenging look.

Sakura cleared her throat, opened to where she'd left off, and began to read. "She danced away as his hands fell from her and—"

"You're not doing it right," he complained.

She shot him a menacing glower. "It's my book!"

"Yes, yes, but a story – a good story – always starts with 'once upon a time'."

A low, irritated growl sounded between her clenched teeth as she started over again. "Once upon a time she danced away as his hands…."

Kakashi closed his eyes, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth as she continued on. He wasn't really hearing the words, merely the sound of her voice. And as sleep finally took over, the last thought he had was that having her there with him was far better than enjoying stolen cookies.

The End


***Note: The lines Sakura is quoting are from "The Wolf and the Dove". It's your typical historical romance, though it's a little better than most. I chose it because it was a book my grandma and mom both liked quite a bit, so it's a little special to me.