A/N: This is my entry for the Fairytale Competition over at the KakaSaku LJ community. This story is extremely loosely based off of "The Tinderbox" by Hans Christian Anderson, which is very much like "Aladdin" in the aspect that it involves a magical tinderbox, dog summons, and three wishes. But really... the intent of this fic is for some wild, light-hearted fun. I hope you enjoy. ;D

The Summoning

A KakaSaku oneshot

It started with a tree.

Sakura tilted her head back, holding her water canteen up to her mouth. Above her she could see the leaves swaying overhead in the afternoon sun, feel the bark of a wide branch beneath her feet, and the choking disappointment when no friendly drop of moisture met her lips.

She frowned as she shook the canteen several times. Faint sweat made her clothes damp, and it seemed this small movement only increased the heat rising from her body, rather than make cool water magically appear in tidal waves amount to quench her thirst. Strange, how that worked.

The young woman let out a dejected sigh, arms drooping down in a daze as she shot up a hopeful glance to her training partner.

Kakashi studiously ignored her wide, pleading green eyes. He leaned back against the tree instead as he pulled out his book, flipping to the first page. "I take it you want a break now?"

Sakura felt faintly incensed at the fact he wasn't sweating, or fainting, or suffering the major onslaught of a heat stroke. Sometimes she wondered if her long-time team leader was even human. Over the years, she had collected an impressive list of data about her sensei that may or may not have inconclusively proven otherwise.

Such as the fact that she had never really seen him eat, or sleep, or sweat, or drink water. Speaking of which…

Sakura leaned forward, bracing her hands against her knees. Her lungs worked up sharp, short breaths as her body went into cool down mode. A break was beginning to sound very good. "I'm out of water. Mind if I drink from your canteen?"

Kakashi motioned to the ground. His eyes never left the book."It's down by my pack."

Sakura plopped on to the branch, taking a seat. With each passing second she could feel the exhaustion of her muscles sinking in.

"Ah, sensei," she said with a sigh, leaning back. "It's so nice of you to retrieve the water for your tired student. Very thoughtful."

"Nice try, Sakura, but guess again."

Sakura frowned and turned her head to gaze at the death-defying hundred foot drop to the forest floor. The effort required to get there didn't seem very appealing at the moment at all. "Are you sure you don't want to get the water?"

"If you want a drink, you can get it yourself," Kakashi reasoned.

As he said this, he also took a seat and turned the page of his book. The rustle of paper filled the air – a quiet whisper compared to the leaves brushing overhead. Sakura was certain that it was not heartlessness that motivated Kakashi's words, rather than his strong desire to laze in the shade during the heat of midday, and read his favorite book.

Nevertheless, this did not stop Sakura from grumbling as she stood back up – muscles aching – and rolled off the branch in a graceless lurch. Tumbling down, She righted herself so she could actually land on the next tree branch with her feet, then made the successive jumps necessary to reach the ground. The impact of each landing jarred her bones, and the heat of rushing air felt like a furnace.

A monster. That man was definitely a monster and not human at all. Because a real human, Sakura reasoned, would have shown some compassion and fetched her some ice cold, refreshing water from the closest vendor in town, in a bottle, with a lemon squeeze – then come running back to wait on her every whim. Now… was that such an unreasonable thing to do?

She landed with a final leap. Their packs were set against the base of the tree. Sakura snapped the cap off Kakashi's canteen with a vengeance and gulped down as much as possible, not caring as it splashed down her front. Her sweat slick fingers gripped on to the rope netting that covered the outside. To heck with conservation. If he wanted water, he could refill it at the stream himself. Fair was fair.

It wasn't until Sakura finished draining the canteen dry and entertaining dastardly thoughts of Kakashi going the rest of the day with a parched throat that other curiosities began to grab her attention.

She paused. Her green eyes went wide with intrigue. The prickly grass crunched beneath her weight as she fell down into a silent crouch and leaned forward.

Sakura, by nature, was a very curious girl. Inquisitive since childhood, it was not uncommon to find the kunoichi poking and prodding among new objects of interest – an old medical text book, a strange leak in the ceiling of her apartment, or interesting stitching on a patient, perhaps – until her hunger for knowledge had been sated and sense of wonderment fulfilled. This was the excuse she gave to her mother seven years ago as a child when she was caught down by a muddy creek prodding a dead frog with a stick.

And served as her excuse now as she gazed at Kakashi's backpack. Which certainly made for a strong curiosity.

Intensive ninja training did not go without some benefits. Sakura had acquired some mighty fine stealth and dexterity skills, which only enhanced her snooping abilities. It was an absolute requirement for recon missions… or just sneaking around in general. With a quick dart up at her sensei to ensure he was not looking her way, then with a swift flick of her wrist, Sakura was able to unsnap Kakashi's pack with ease. Nary a rustle filled the air as she idly rummaged through his things. Lightly… just with faint touches.

She had often wondered what her sensei might carry around. His beloved books, for sure, but perhaps there were other items of interest she never knew? Sakura was rather fond of carrying her special medi-pack kit in her back pouch, as well as a folded paper for special clothing item summons. One could never have enough red headbands, towels, and high heeled combat boots in reserve, in her opinion.

She tilted her head to get a better look in the shade as her fingers felt along the soft inner lining of Kakashi's pack. Many of the items she encountered were generic tools that any ninja worth his salt would carry: kunais, shuriken, bandages, solider pills, and scrolls. Yet as Sakura flipped through these items, one by one, she found there was something strangely personal about going through Kakashi's things. She imagined it was like getting a special rare peek into his life, and she was finally seeing some aspect her sensei that he never volunteered freely on his own.

It was almost as if she expected to find a secret diary detailing all of Kakashi's thoughts and troubled feelings. Maybe even a secret, or two. No such luck, however, and she had to satisfy herself with the generic items instead.

The her surprise, the kunais held an extra heft in the handle that Sakura did not expect. She let her hands fall into the grip she had often seen Kakashi grip the kunais, testing out the weight as she turned them in her hands, then gently set them aside to continue along with her snooping.

The bandages she found were still sealed up tight in their original packaging… typical for a man who never sought extra medical help, she thought. The solider pills were also untouched. But interestingly enough… the rough wrappings used to toughen knuckles had plenty of use.

Sakura paused. A tingle of awareness prickled the back of her neck. She shot a glance up the tree at Kakashi, but found that he was still engrossed in his book. She stared for a long time at his distant figure high above in the trees, watching as Kakashi licked his finger to turn to the next page. A quick flip, and faint rustling as the pages crackled. Then quiet once more. There was nothing more than peaceful solitude as the sun touched down and made her sensei's hair glow with a silver burn. Somewhere far off, a bird was singing. Then even farther away, Sakura could hear the babble of the local stream. Nothing out of the ordinary.

False alarm. Perhaps just paranoia on her part, but it never hurt to be too careful. The breeze picked up in that moment and swept through the training ground, cooling Sakura's face. She let out a slow sigh, quietly rolling her neck and wiggling her fingers to loosen up her muscles before diving back into her investigation.

She deftly let her fingers run along the scrolls Kakashi kept tucked away in the side pockets of the pack – which would be easy to grab in dire situations. Two of the scrolls were meant to carry weapons. Sakura recognized the black sealing symbols inside that listed off which part of the scroll concealed what weapon. Her sensei had a penchant for razor wire and explosion tags, she discovered. Though she had never seen him use them in a fight before.

It was the last scroll, however, that she found most puzzling. It had no markings she recognized. The black ink went around in spiky circles, and it wasn't until Sakura pressed her hand to the center of the worn and crinkled papering that she realized it was a summoning scroll.

Her mouth formed a small 'oh,' as realization washed over. Of course, that would explain the smears of blood across the top and bottom. Now that she understood the meaning she thought that it couldn't have been more obvious. This must have been what Kakashi used to summon his ninken pack. The loud, slobbering group of dogs that Sakura found so adorable. Was this scroll for the original summoning contract? Very intriguing.

Holding it up and tilting it around a few ways, Sakura examined it further. She knew that after contracts were made the scroll itself was not necessarily needed for a summoning. Just a bit of blood and a jutsu, and you're good. With that being said…

She slipped the contract into her back pouch.

After another sweep through, Sakura placed everything back into Kakashi's pack exactly as she found it. Took one final swag from his water canteen for any last drops. Then placed the lid back on that one, too.

Within in seconds she was back up the tree.

"Ready, sensei," she called. Kakashi was already tucking his book away, and reaching his arms high above his head in a lazy stretch.

And so, they finished their spar.

Four hours later, Sakura reclined at her kitchen table. She was fresh out of the shower with damp pink locks. Steam wafted from the bathroom door, and the smell of soothing lavender rose from her skin with every movement as she dried her ears with the warmest, fluffiest towel she had in possession.

She sprawled the summoning contract on her lap in the process. Drops of water fell on to the paper before she had time to wrap her hair with the towel. She actually felt a little proud about this grab. For moments during the spar she feared that Kakashi would stop everything, point an accusing finger and denounce her for raiding his things… but such a thing never happened, and now she was free to give the scroll a closer look.

"Okay," she said, feeling all set for further investigation. There were apples and oranges in the fruit bowl at the center of the table. Grabbing an apple, she took several loud bites and munched thoughtfully. Green painted toenails moved up and down as she bounced her foot.

The instructions for the summoning process proved to be very simple. Sakura was pleasantly surprised by the numbered directions that glared out in a bold, spidery script. There were three directions in all.

"One," she read out loud, "hold up your hand."

Sakura did so.

She took another bite of her apple, munching along happily. She found herself amused by the simplicity of the script.

"Two: prick your finger."

She decided to skip that gruesome step, finding it unnecessary for her intent. She wasn't out for making a contract after all.

"Three… place hand in the center of the circle," Sakura paused, then stretched the scroll out further, finding more to this last direction. "…keep hand position pointed at a twenty degree incline away from the home seal at top of the scroll while envisioning the summon in your head, and wishing with every fiber of your being for said summon to appear in a clear and specified location. It is recommended that this location be on land, as some summons do not appreciate being called to an unpleasant plunge of water (salt water, or otherwise), or over the abyss of a cliff. Do not summon while overly hungry or tired, unless in a dire life and death situation. Pregnant woman are advised to seek medical consultation before attempting to summon. If your summon has never been seen before, and cannot be envisioned, then it is recommended that…"

Sakura skipped the rest of the lengthy, and surprisingly over-descriptive third instruction which ran on for three more paragraphs. She slapped her hand over the center of the contract with a playful smack. A tendril of wistful longing went through her as she imagined what it might be like to really call a summon.

Every other shinobi in the known world had a summon… so why couldn't she? Sakura thought there was something very unfair about life that she should be without one. But it was not so simple to track down these elusive mythical contracts or the beasts who carried them. Otherwise, Sakura was certain she would have an whole array of summons.

Perhaps it was this wistful thinking that did it. Or the fact that Sakura had seen Kakashi's ninken countless times, and could imagine them without effort. Whatever the reason… Sakura did not expect it when her whole kitchen exploded into a loud, explosive din.

Sakura choked on her apple. The kitchen chair went toppling back as she stood up, sputtering all the while. The bowl of flour she had prepared on the counter for cake baking later was knocked over, sending white powder all over the floor. Pots and pans fell with a clatter and a fork went flying past her ear in all the commotion as the silverware tray was clawed down.

There were dogs everywhere. On her counters and chairs and crowding up her tiny kitchen area. A strong odor of mud and matted fur hit her nose like a blast. There was loud yelping and barking. Overwhelming energy and enthusiasm.

"You called, boss?" Pakkun said. The small pug stared at Sakura with droopy eyes. He sat on the table top, directly across from the kunoichi, and only a hand span away. His dog breath wafted into her face.

Sakura flinched back then slapped her palm on to the table with a final splutter, coughing up the piece of apple lodged from her throat. She wheezed and gasped, but still feeling quite winded.


"…Sakura?" He always had trouble remembering her name.

With blind fingers she reached out and righted the chair again, collapsing into the seat. Her hands visibly trembled. "What… wh-what…"

The pug blinked at her with solemn eyes, then gazed about her kitchen with a slow crane of his head. "Where's Kakashi?"

"Kakashi is not here," she said, faintly. Her towel had fallen away from her head.

"Is he in trouble…?" Pakkun asked, leaping to his feet.

For an animal that seemed just as slow and lazy as his master, he moved with a surprising quickness. The other dogs of the pack perked their ears up at this, hackles instantly raised. Sakura could tell they were all ready for action. If she told them Kakashi was dangling off of the Hokage mountain about to plunge to his death, she had no doubt they would all be there in an instant.

"It's not like that," Sakura explained. "I'm the one who summoned you."

"I'm not sure what you mean," the pug said.

"I'm not quite sure, either," Sakura admitted.

"She must really love us!" one of the dogs cried joyfully. "To call us just for fun!" He had pointy ears and brown fur. If Sakura remembered correctly, she was pretty sure his name was Akino. She was almost certain that the dog was crying behind his dark sunglasses.

Another dog ran about her kitchen with happy enthusiasm. Something about the manner of his headband and long whiskers seemed oddly familiar. "Sakura! Sakura! Are you going to send us on a mission?

The same dog circled around a few times. "It's been forever since we've done anything! Please, please say you called us for a reason."

The dog now stood on his hind legs, resting his front paws on Sakura's lap – claws digging into her skirt. His tail wagged back and forth with cheerful speed. She absently ran her hand over the top of the his head, still feeling the bristles of when his hackles were raised moments before. In the back of her mind, she remembered that this dog's name was Guruko.

"Hey, don't eat that!" Sakura shouted. She suddenly stood up, brushing the energetic dog off her lap and quickly made her way across the kitchen to slam the fridge door closed. A couple members of the pack scattered at this action. They both regarded her with dejected sighs.

Sakura gripped her hair, ready to scream, and already feeling stressed from the few minutes of exposure to Kakashi's ninken. She let her eyes sweep over the apartment. There were eight dogs in total, all regarding her with what could only be called an expression of begging.

She couldn't take this anymore.

She turned to the pug on her table. "Pakkun, I want all of you to leave now."

She was surprised when the small pug drooped at this order. The wrinkles on his forehead became more pronounced.

"Then… you really don't need anything?"

Sakura felt breathless. "Nothing! I'm sorry for summoning you. It was an honest mistake. Now, please go."

So this is what kicking a puppy must have felt like. A low keen and whimpers filled the air as the ninken heard her words. Pakkun stood up, small nails clicking across the table as he went to the far off corner. He paused to shoot a droopy-eyed look over his shoulder.

"Sakura, can I speak with you for a moment?" he asked at length. His voice was a dreary rumble.

"Uh… sure."

She stepped over a ninken sprawled on the ground, with bandages around his neck and head (his eyes were covered, too, Sakura noticed) in her effort to meet with the Pakkun. She leaned down to his level. The smell of meat was fresh on his breath.

He looked simply apologetic. Or perhaps it was just the wrinkles around his face that made him always look that way. "Listen, Sakura…" he said in a lowered, hushed tone. "I know you never meant to summon us. In fact, I'm not even sure why you have Kakashi's scroll—"

"—It was an accident!—" she began to explain frantically.

"—but the thing is, the boys have been cramped up for a really long time now with nothing to do…"

Sakura blinked.

"Do you think you could do us a favor, Sakura?" Pakkun asked. Behind him Sakura could see the other dogs were all watching with intent interest.

"What kind of favor?" she whispered.

Pakkun lowered voice even further. "Do you think you could give us something to do? Just some quick, meaningless mission. Believe me when I say it would be good for them."

Looking past Pakkun again, Sakura saw that the white dog of the pack was twitching – his tail moving neurotically at every jump, and there was a strange tic to his eye. They were in a sorry state indeed. They were probably stuck in limbo for months, if the past missions were any indication. She could not recall any mission of Kakashi's lately that would require any extensive back-up help, but then again she didn't really know much about Kakashi's solo-mission life at all.

"Okay…" she agreed quietly. "What sort of things can you guys do?"

"We can fetch you anything you ask for."



Sakura found that somewhat doubtful. "I don't recall you guys ever fetching items for Kakashi."

Pakkun scratched behind his ear, headband moving with every swipe of his back foot. He stood up and gave a shake before treating Sakura with an almost indulgent air.

"Don't you know? Fetching is what dogs do best," he gave a smile. Or perhaps that was just another wrinkle.

Sakura leaned over the table and propped her head in her hand. She pointed to the counter and white powder on the floor. "Then you can start by replacing the flour you guys knocked over… or better yet, go bring back a cake."

That would keep them occupied for a while, she decided. Especially since carrying a cake would require hands. Which dogs most certainly did not have.

"It's not our fault if you're crappy at summoning…" the small pug grumbled.

Nevertheless, before the last syllable of the dog's complaint faded away, the nin-dogs were gone. Smoke and a faint breeze rushed past Sakura that sent her hair flying into her mouth. Clean air free of dog odor filled her lungs, as well as a fresh sense of freedom.

Sakura sighed in relief, pushing the hair away from her face. The apartment was quiet once more with a peaceful solitude. Picking her way among the toppled kitchen, she set about righting everything that had fallen in the commotion. Then taking a wet washrag she cleaned up the powdered mess. There were muddy tracks, too.

By the time Sakura finished, all was clean and set in order again.

Then instantly made disorganized by the sudden appearance of eight noisy dogs. Loud barking chaos. Their presence pushed Sakura back until she was shoved against the kitchen table. She was pretty certain the dog with glasses, Akino, was sitting on her foot.

"Here's your cake!" one of the nin-dogs shouted.

Before Sakura had even react something came flying out of the air. It was big, and round, and dark. It was only due to her quick reflexes that she was able hold her hands out in time to catch the hefty object.

Within the next few seconds Sakura's mind went through acrobatics as her thoughts raced to identify the feeling of the cardboard against her hands – a round plate, or placeholder. Then on top of that a generous two layered cake. Dark brown with rich chocolate crumbles on top, and with a lone white candle taking up the center. The cake's icing splattered on to her clothes.

"Thanks for the mission…" Pakkun's low voice carried over the din. Then in the next instant they were gone. More smoke and a rush of air.

Sakura found that her mouth was open with a mixture of shock and stunned silence. She closed her jaws and regarded the sweet in her hands. She was not sure how the dogs were able to bring her a cake so quickly, or even how they could do so. But through it all only one thought made its way through the confusion her mind.

"So the cake… was not a lie?" Her cracked, tremulous voice was filled with astonishment. She set the cake down on the table.

After rummaging through a drawers, she brought out a match to light the candle on top. A small, cheerful flame against the dark.

The following days, Sakura's imagination went wild with the possible implications of being able to summon Kakashi's ninken… how they could fetch anything… and most of all, how they were going stir-crazy with inactivity and wanted to fetch things for her.

She hit the library the next morning and read her way through every book on summoning jutsus she could find. Her curiosity had been piqued, and hunger for knowledge over the subject made voracious. She read through the books front and back, learned how there were varying levels of summoning and how even the ninja of lowest skill could summon a companion. As long as the chakra capability was there.

Of the varying levels, the blood-pact was the deepest and most binding – these partnerships usually lasted for a lifetime and were the most difficult to accomplish. While the summoning method Sakura accidentally employed the day before could only be called of the most shallow level. The texts she read likened it to a friendly call, or shout for help. Whether the summons responded or not was up to the summon. This method was certainly more unreliable (as any contracts without blood-pacts were), and there were many variables that factored into whether the call would work or not.

It was all interesting, but Sakura thought the practical application of the act was absolutely the most gratifying part. She found herself summoning the pack frequently for even the most meaningless chores. Such as hiding things around the training ground so she could sharpen her tracking skills, or fetching grocery items, or new arm guards, headbands, and kunais. Over each summon, she thought that maybe the nin-dogs were growing accustomed to her. They greeted her eagerly each time and had learned to roll over for belly rubs.

New drapes, and a coffee table. A cabinet stacked with gourmet foods, and warm blankets with interesting, dark designs. It seemed that they were able to fetch anything she requested, as if from thin air. The most impressive find so far though, she thought, was when they were able to bring texts of rare jutsus she had never even seen before. It was an extensive collection, and she wondered how they might even know of where to find such materials.

Sakura tapped a pencil against the desk with restless impatience now, as she waited for the clock in the Hokage's office area to reach six o'clock. Her stomach rumbled with hunger.

Summoning the dogs in the office was certainly out of the question.

She could only imagine the mass panic and chaos that would ensue. It was always all the dogs or none, as Sakura did not have the fine-tuned ability of summoning only one creature that the blood-pacts provided.

By the time Sakura was freed from her office duties she was starving. She made her way outside and hid behind the building of the Hokage's office, far away from prying eyes. She stepped over trash and litter, and avoided the leftover rain that dripped from the metal awnings.

She hastily pulled out the contract and slapped her hand down for a quick summon. The edges of the scroll's yellow papering had developed small tears from the constant use.

The pack's hearty barks met her ears, tails wagging. To Sakura they were like a mass of fur, and many heads, and legs. Before the smoke even cleared, Sakura's wish was made.

"Bring me Kakashi's wallet," she said.

Then they were gone… then back, wallet flying towards Sakura's face… then gone again faster than she could hum the first verse of her favorite nursery rhyme. Pakkun's thanks which trailed after every summoning lingered past her ears.

They were getting quicker, she noted with a sense of pride and growing gratification as she ran her hands over the worn-down leather of Kakashi's wallet, there were creases around the fold. This was only her third time asking for Kakashi's money, and she had a vague suspicion she could go pulling this tactic forever without the jounin ever noticing. Such was the faith she had in her sensei's regard for worldly, everyday things.

Not only that… but after all the meals he skipped out paying over the years, she figured it was only fair that she should get some meals from him in return. Even if this decision was one that wasn't mutual, or even noticed and acknowledged.

The ramen she ate that day was the best she ever tasted. Warm noodles over a golden, steamy broth. The fact that she didn't have to pay for it with her own money might have also contributed to the deliciousness factor.

The sun was setting by the time she finished her meal and headed back to her apartment. The air was cool and brisk, and long shadows cast about from the glowing dusk. Her footsteps echoed off the cobblestone. In her peripheral vision the other people drifted by like ghosts. The color of the various clothing and sound of voices washed over her senses.

"Did you enjoy your meal?"

Sakura felt her heart skip in surprise. To her right, leaning against a lamp post with an attitude of supreme comfort – was Kakashi. With his book out and casual slouch he seemed timeless. As if he could have merged with the scenery. It was hard to say if he had been standing in that position for long, or if he was attracted to the spot for the reading light. Like one of the many bugs that bounced about the yellow glow.

"What makes you think I just ate?" Sakura demanded, building up into a fine huff. She had discovered over the years that the best defense was always a scathing and heated offense. A bug flew by her face which she flicked away.

"I saw you at Ichiraku while passing by." Kakashi pushed away from lamp post. It was strange to see his static figure move in the shadowed light. "And also… you have a bit of broth on your chin." He took the liberty of wiping it off.

Suddenly feeling crowded, and more than a little more than paranoid, Sakura took a half step back.

"Have you been waiting here long?" she asked. Her green eyes darted up to his face in suspicion.

Kakashi tucked his book into his front pocket. "Not too long," he said, tipping his head back to gaze up at the pink sky. "Just stopped for a quick read."

"You're always reading, sensei," Sakura pointed out.

"Ah… you know me so well."

Sakura would argue that 'no', she really didn't know much about this man at all. Other than the fact that he didn't need to eat, sleep, or sweat, and he had some awesome summons.

Sakura sulked. "I noticed that you didn't join me, then."

She couldn't help but feel a little put-off.

Kakashi offered a small smile. "Then I'll be sure to do that next time," he said.

He stretched out his hand to ruffle her pink hair, and brushed by as he walked away. There was more warmth and a fluttering glow in Sakura's stomach as her heart leaped to her throat… then nothing at all.

The sounds of his footsteps echoed back. His silver hair gleamed from the lamp lights. The moment he was out of sight, however, Sakura made a dash around the nearest corner to pat down her back pouch in paranoia, knowing that the extra show of interest in her life was more than a little suspicious. She was instantly relieved to find the summoning scroll was still there.

She was less happy to find that Kakashi took back his wallet.

The next morning, Sakura found her usual hours of quiet solitude rudely interrupted.

The plate she was drying shattered to the floor in surprise, as her apartment was filled with the ruckus of eight baying voiced. Bits of spit and foam flecked the air as Sakura was pressed against the kitchen sink. She was surrounded by the nin-dogs. Their nails clacked against the hard ground as they rushed to her side, mouths holding on to her clothes.

"What's going on?" she cried. Pakkun, who sat on top of Bull (a dog as big as his namesake), gazed at her with droopy eyes, and answered back with a dreary voice.

"You're being summoned," he said.

"I'm what –?" But before the question could even leave her lips, Sakura found that the world around her was rushing by in a whirl of colors. A loud roar of wind sounded in her ears and ripped the air from her throat.

Then the world slammed back into being, and Sakura discovered that instead of standing in her kitchen, she was now on the grassy ground of a park. The ducks were swimming in the far off pond, and the trees swayed sedately in the wind. Her heart was hammering a thousand miles per hour.

And Kakashi sat on the ground before her, reading beneath a tree. The dappled sunlight played across his lean figure.

The ninken let her go, and ran off to bark at the ducks and roll around in the grass. They seemed completely at ease with their master nearby. Sakura thought they even seemed… more playful.

Kakashi closed his book with a snap. "Yo."

Sakura was still shaky from the sudden transportation through multiple dimensions. Her clothes were damp with slobber. She idly shook the hair off her shirt. However, it did not take long for her to recover some bit of ire. "Kakashi, what the hell are you—"

Kakashi smoothly pulled on object from his pocket, and held it up for Sakura to see. It was his wallet.

"Do you want to explain what you were doing with my money?" he asked.

Sakura shut her mouth, opened it, shut it thoughtfully and gazed off. Then began fiddling with the hem of her skirt. There was not easy to explain this one.

Kakashi lowered his hand. "I did notice when it went missing the first time, but I wasn't sure who took it."

"Ah…" was all Sakura could manage to say.

"At first I thought it might have been Naruto. The amount of cash taken both times was the exact amount needed to by a ramen at Ichiraku, but then there was the whole issue of Naruto not being stealthy enough steal the wallet and slip it back… twice… without my notice."

"Hmm." Sakura agreed.

There was a pause as Kakashi regarded her, perhaps waiting for a heartfelt confession break forth from Sakura's lips. However, there was only the sound of indignant quacking as the ducks took flight in the distance, and yelps as the dogs chased them back and forth.

Kakashi let out a sigh, shoulders drooping in dejection. "Sakura, this has to stop."

Sakura felt a hot blush stain her cheeks. Anger and embarrassment.

"I don't know what you're talking about!" she lied. Perhaps there was no point in doing so by now, but she couldn't help but feel defensive.

Kakashi stood up, and to Sakura he suddenly seemed very tall as he walked towards her.

"Did you know," the jounin said, pulling to a stop in front of Sakura. "That my apartment is now filled with only half the things it used to have? At first I thought I was going crazy… thought I was misplacing things when the first kunais went missing..."

Sakura's eyes went wide with realization, and her gaze snapped up from the ground to his face. The skirt hem went forgotten in her hands. "Oh my god."

"Then the there was the cake, and the jutsu books, and the couch and tv… speaking of which, I really want that couch back."

"I didn't know you could bake cakes, sensei," Sakura said, impressed.

"It's just a hobby… I don't really like sweets, but I find that making dishes is a nice way to pass the time."

Sakura's mind was still reeling over the fact that all the things she requested of the ninken came from Kakashi's apartment. However, thinking it over, it all kind of made sense in a way that they wouldn't steal things from the general public, and only take things from what they thought they rightfully owned. Which in this case, was whatever Kakashi owned. The same hot blush from before returned to her cheeks.

"It didn't take long to piece things together, though. Then this time when they took my wallet without explanation, I just followed them to you. Then waited for you to walk by later."

If Sakura knew the teleportation jutsu, she would have made her way to a secluded spot far, far away from the park. And away from Kakashi. Embarrassment lanced through her stomach with increasing heat and an odd lump rose in her throat.

If Kakashi noticed her discomfort, he didn't say anything. Instead he rubbed the back of his neck.

"The only thing I can't figure out," he said. "Is how you managed to summon my ninken all those times."

A very pleased smile broke out across Sakura's face. "I'm actually a little proud of this one," she explained. "I stole the summoning contract from your pack the other day, and have been summoning them ever since. Sorry about the whole stealing from you thing, though. I never meant for it to go this far."

Kakashi frowned. "But you thought it would be fine if they took things from other people?"

Sakura dug into her back pouch and pulled out the scroll. "I didn't think it was stealing… I just didn't want to think about it at all, I guess."

The jounin accepted the scroll back. Sakura could see now that there were lines of exhaustion on his face. She wondered just how much of a toll these past few days had been on him.

Sakura regarded him with a scowl. "You know, sensei. You should really let your summons run around more. Give them attention. They claimed that they were going bored out of their minds."

"They're not pets, Sakura. They're highly skilled ninken – trained to hunt, terrorize, and bring down the most dangerous shinobi of our time…"

Whatever else Kakashi was about to say was cut off by a giggle. He looked down to find Sakura giving Pakkun a belly rub, his little legs twitching in the air. At seeing their pack-mate receiving special treatment the other nin-dogs were now nudging past each other to make their way over. There was something beguiling about the way her mouth curved up with carefree laughter, and how the pink hair brushed by her face.

With a sigh Kakashi reached down to lay a hand on one of the passing dogs. Akino, as it turned out to be in this case, wagged his tail at this singling out from his master. His sunglasses reflected the light as he tongue lolled out. Despite himself, Kakashi found a small smile tugging at his lips.

"Sakura, let's make a deal. If you help me move back all the furniture to my place, I'll cook you dinner."

That blush and smile in return was all the answer he needed.