Blithe Spirits

Part One

Note: I have no good explanation for this. Nor do I have an apology, really. Enjoy. Feel free to roll your eyes along the way. See you at the bottom of the page.

There had never been a time when Kakashi could say that he was on friendly terms with mornings, but he and the morning sun rarely spoke to one another anymore. College could be blamed. Late nights doing homework, instant noodles, and caffeine made him a stranger to the hours between eight and twelve. The relationship wasn't improved any with his lifestyle ten years down the road: late nights finishing manuscripts and sketches, take-out, and more caffeine combined with the occasional bender when he was just tired of being conscious but not tired enough to sleep.

So it was easier to understand why, when he found himself roused from bed at the ungodly hour of nine by gentle thumping at his flat's door and then partially blinded by the light flooding in from between the slats of his wooden blinds, he felt that the sun was just being a bit vindictive.

"Coming," he groaned even as he rolled over to hide his face in his pillow… only to roll directly out of bed and onto an old takeout carton on the floor.

His tiny, one-room apartment looked a bit… well, he called it homey. Everyone else would call it a biohazard. Trash, dirty laundry, empty take-out containers, discarded papers—some covered in script and other in the neat font of his typewriter—littered the floor from the kitchenette to the front door. Shelves lined almost every wall with volumes of books filling every inch. Posters of scantily clad women with gob-smacking bust-to-hip ratios covered the bits of exposed wall and ceiling.

The gentle knocking continue as Kakashi found himself staring up at one such woman from the floor, admiring her breasts in between blinking the sleep out of his eyes.

With some effort he managed to heave himself onto his feet, stumbling briefly over the dragging hems of his sweats. He reached the door and laid his forehead against it with a loud 'thump'. After convincing his eyes to open again, he pressed one to the peephole.

No one.

Frowning he reached for the handle and opened the door, slouching against the frame.

At first, all he saw was hair. Pink. In the vicinity of his knees as the girl was knelt down and adjusting the laces of her brown and pink sneakers.

After a moment, she lifted her head and paused when she found herself face-to-knee with his legs. Immediately, the girl hopped to her feet, smiling sheepishly as she canted her head to one side, her high ponytail swaying as she did so.

Well, this made the whole nine a.m. thing a little more forgivable. Especially the skirt. Frilly and short, yellow and covered in little red flowers. It was obscenely cute and girlish paired with the ponytail, tank top, and extra short, denim vest. "Gay," a friend had called such observations once upon a time. He disagreed. He was a connoisseur of women's clothing. And of women for that matter.

"Can I help you?"

The girl sighed and adjusted the bag on her hip. "My name is Haruno Sakura," she began in a rather business-like tone tempered by a smile and an offered hand painted with green polish. "I've been hired by the Yum-Yum Publishing Company to be Hatake Kakashi's personal assistant slash concierge slash housekeeper. Oh, and at some point I'm supposed to mention Jiraiya, so…"

Oh, that just figured. "Sorry, you've got the wrong add—"

He didn't even get the door half-way shut before she had one sneaker-shod foot in the way. Nice legs, he thought blithely. He lifted his eyes to hers and she bared all her teeth at him this time in what had to be the sweetest and most vaguely threatening smile ever. "Jiraiya said you'd react like that," she replied. "It's nice to meet you Hatake-san."

It was possible that this was the dumbest thing Sakura had ever done. Sure, Ino could probably come up with a few more examples to compare it to (after all, her memory of Sakura's worst moments was conspicuously sharper than Sakura's) but going to Jiraiya for a job had to be in the top five. At least.

After all, what kind of an idiot was she? Sure, he was a family friend, but that hardly stopped him from trying to get a peek down her blouse whenever he had the opportunity and, yeah, she had gone to him, but she still felt that he was taking advantage. He knew she was clamoring for the money and that she was just looking for a desk job.

"Personal assistant, huh?"

Sakura glanced around the apartment. "Yeah," she said slowly. "For some reason he thought you needed someone to take care of you."

She kicked a pair of boxers aside for emphasis and then looked to the man. Hatake Kakashi. The name wasn't familiar, but apparently his work was, in the world of ecchi and porn, exceptional. Jiraiya himself had seemed abnormally proud of him, as if the slump-shouldered, droopy-eyed creature before her has burst forth into life from his loins.

She wanted to smack herself for visualizing that and then smack Jiraiya for everything else wrong at the moment. She had gone to that man looking to push papers and ended up a glorified nanny.

"That's very nice of him," Kakashi began as he rubbed at the back of his neck, which made her smiled. It was obviously some kind of nervous tic and was, for some reason… endearing. Mixed with the horrible posture and sleepy eyes, it was downright adorable in a pathetic sort of way. She almost wanted to give him a cuddle. "But I don't need a babysitter."

Oh, so he saw that too. Well, at least they were on the same page.

Skeptically, she glanced around the apartment and then looked back to him, her eyebrows lifted. "Really now?"

"Okay, I don't want a babysitter."

Sakura sighed. Okay, so this job was easily the modern equivalent of indentured servitude, but she wouldn't let this guy get in her way. Jiraiya had given her an advance in payment and she had actually kissed him the minute she saw the amount. On the lips. And she didn't even feel particularly dirty about it either, which would have really worried her if that very morning she hadn't been able to walk through her building's lobby rather than sneaking down the fire escape just her avoid her landlord. "Jiraiya thought you'd need some convincing."

The man lifted an eyebrow at her as she began to rummage around in her satchel. She spared him a glance through her bangs and then looked quickly back to the task at hand. Okay, so someone obviously worked out. This gig might not be all bad. At the risk of being a total bitch, she was expecting someone shorter, hairier, and with possibly more than one skin disease. At best she had been expecting someone like Jiraiya and while the man was kind of good-looking, no—just no.

"Ah!" she chirped happily, her hand finally falling upon the book that she had been half-tempted to wrap in brown paper just to avoid the off chance of it falling out in her building's lobby and someone seeing it. She wasn't exactly a prude but there were just some rumors that didn't need to be getting around; especially not with that creeper living in the flat beside hers. "Okay, so he gave this to me as a bargaining chip, a 'don't harass the pretty maid and you get it' deal. He told me that this was a one-of-a-kind, advanced copy of—" Sakura stopped short as she jerked her hand up and back to hold the book out of the man's reach as he lunged for it. Her free hand planted itself on his chest to hold him back and she lifted her eyebrows again. "Icha Icha Adventures. Fanboy much?"

Kakashi narrowed his eyes at her and she smiled faintly to herself. Well, he was awake now at least. "Give," he ordered.

Sakura smiled and shoved him away gently. "In a minute. You should know that I'm changing the terms a little," she replied, pinching her fingertips together. "It's still a bargaining chip, but it's more of a 'you don't kick me out and I don't light this on fire' deal. Mm-kay?"

"That's blackmail."

"No. It's closer to extortion." She tipped her head to the side and placed her free hand on her hip, trying to assume the posture she did when she was bargaining with her parents. "C'mon, Hatake-san. I'm really very nice. I can run errands for you, I'm a decent cook, I'm willing to make a go at making this place inhabitable, which I'm sure is more than what you could say for anyone else in Japan. I bet there are homicide clean-up crews who'd run away screaming from this mess. What do you say? Your publishing house is paying me, so you're not really losing anything on this deal. I don't even really mind the disgusting posters on your ceiling."

His eyes narrowed as he glanced up at one of the aforementioned posters. Then, slowly his gaze drifted to the book in her hand and then to her face. She smiled and his shoulders, which had squared presumably in preparation to jump her and forcefully relieve her of the prized book, slumped again. "How many days are you working?"

"I think the idea is that I come by every day."

His lip curled a little at that. "Fine. Book."

Sakura nodded and held the book out to him, but quickly jerked it away again. "On second thought," she began, tapping her chin as he groped in disappointment at the empty air. "I should probably hang onto this. For a while at least, I mean. Just until you realize you can't live without me."

He scowled. She grinned. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

Kakashi appreciated Sakura's attempts to be an inconspicuous addition in his house, but they fell rather flat in such a small apartment. To be fair that wasn't her fault. Well, no. It kind of was. She might not have been able to help the fact that her parents were very kind and blessed her with genes that made her very attractive, but she was at fault for wearing that skirt.

Or at the very least he was feeling uncharitable enough to blame her for that, even as he amused himself by watching her as she cleaned. Bending, straightening, bending, crouching, straightening, bending… it was almost better than the fitness channel.

"So, you draw manga. Do you write too?"


She glanced back at him as if expecting something more and then after a beat moved to dump a pile of filthy dishes into the sink, apparently giving up.

Kakashi could see where this was going to get troublesome. After all, this was one of the reasons why he didn't have a woman in his life. Hell, this was one of the reasons why he chose to be alone period. Conversations with people—people that he didn't work with and fans that didn't know his work better than him, anyway—were labyrinthine and littered with dangerous pitfalls and traps. Saying the wrong thing reaped horrible consequences. Feelings were fragile, like sugar-spun glass. People were offended by honesty, even when wrapped in a heavy layer of fluff. In a way, one was expected to be an exceptional dancer and Kakashi felt he had two left feet.

So, it was easier to just not bother. People he worked with excused it as the artistic temperament and he could hold up a conversation with readers as long as it revolved around when the next volume would be out.

Sakura allowed for neither of those options.

"It's a series called Strings," he began awkwardly. "There are a few different series under the title, but they all take place in the same world."

"And it's…"


She nodded. "What got you into that?"


At this she laughed aloud and it made Kakashi smile. It was a pleasant sound, high and airy. (It was at this time that he should have realized that he was doomed.)

"What do you do?"

Sakura shrugged. "Right now I'm taking a year off before going to college."

"So this is a summer gig?"

"I don't know. If your publisher keeps paying me as well as they promised to and as long as you're not completely unbearable, you might never get rid of me."

Kakashi frowned at the ceiling. Well, that certainly put a damper on his intentions to live the rest of his life isolated from all human contact that didn't include the food delivery guys. Then again, there were numerous and far less agreeable kinds of interruptions. Interruptions that didn't wearing tiny, frilly skirts for example. "So you're eighteen."

"Just turned in March. How old are you?"


"Younger than I thought. The hair kind of threw me."

"Does a lot of people."

She hummed and kicked a few dirty shirts into a laundry basket.

Kakashi woke some hours later to find that the only light coming in through his window was the soft glow of the streetlamp, which he could only really see with one eye. There was a blue sticky note over the other.

Groaning, he grabbed the square of paper and then sat up so that some of the light from the window hit it. There was a quickly drawn flower in the upper left and painfully neat writing beneath a phone number: Call me if you need anything. The apartment's clean and dinner's on the stove. I didn't want to wake you again. I took your house key to make a copy. I'll be back tomorrow around the same time.

Once he managed to process this, he turned to survey the room around him.

Wow. When did the place get so spacious? And he could hardly remember the last time he saw the floor. He rolled out of bed and uneasily began exploring this new, bizarre territory.

The counters in the kitchenette were practically sparkling and as he ventured across the room and opened a cupboard, he realized that all of the plates were, beyond all reasonable expectations, just as freakishly clean. To his disappointment she hadn't forgotten her bag and, consequently, the book, which docked a couple hundred points from her score, but his reasons for firing her were quickly disappearing on him.

His last hope of having a reasonable excuse to get rid of her was that the food on the stove. Maybe it would be utterly toxic. After all, being a good housekeeper didn't equate being an excellent—oh, great. That smelled heavenly, although Kakashi could admit that he was hardly a gourmet. Years of take-out food and microwave dinners did tend to deteriorate the senses. Curiosity nagging at the back of his mind, he reached for the fridge, tugged the door open, and then gaped a bit in wonder at the fact that not only were the glass jars of ancient, unidentifiable stuff gone, but that it was clean and filled with real food—raw vegetables and fruit, things that he hadn't touched in decades.

It was all so surreal, almost as alien to him as mornings. It felt a bit like he was standing in the middle of someone else's house right down to the vague scent of citrus fruit hanging in the air.

Well, it was just a bonus that she was good at her job, he reasoned with himself. After all, he couldn't fire her. She still had his book and he suspected that her threats of violating the precious script were not to be taken lightly. So she could stay. At least until he managed to get it away from her.

Sakura liked to think of her morning routine as a workout in and of itself. The mess that Kakashi could make in a single night was just astounding and it was important to get to his place by nine in order to finish the cleaning before she had to start on lunch, which he was occasionally awake for. In reality she was cooking simply to stock his fridge with better options than take-out and whatever mystery meat had once inhabited the fridge. Honestly, she had almost been afraid to touch it.

But that wasn't really the work-out part. The work-out part came in at seven-thirty when she rolled out of bed, ran to the shower, washed and shaved in record time, stumbled out, got dressed, and packed her satchel. The rush was necessary because following this was the run down the hallway to the elevator and this had to be done in such a way that it didn't draw the attention of her neighbor, or, as she called him, Sleazebag-san.

On this particular morning, she was ten minutes behind schedule and found herself rushing out of the apartment in her stocking feet, her shoes in hand. She was just getting in the elevator when his door opened and the man himself oozed out into the hallway. Sure, he was tall and good-looking. Sure, he worked at a tech company and made more money in a day than she did (or rather used to) in a week. Sure, he was attracted to her like flies were attracted to sugar, but her finger was on the "close door" button the entire time, even as he ran for the elevator, one hand in the air and a big grin on his face. She didn't even bother to hide her cheeky smile as the doors shut almost on his nose.

It really was the little things.

Like putting a vase of daisies on Kakashi's windowsill. It was such a small thing and yet it made her happy, like she was getting away with something criminal. Mostly because she knew he'd complain. He'd complain, but he'd never quite muster the energy to remove said vase.

Despite her initial feelings, it wasn't the worst day job in the world. If nothing else, Sakura was finding the man entertaining. Well, entertaining in between the times that he was downright exasperating. Entertaining in between his bouts of openly gawking at her legs to the point where she was half-tempted to ask him if he knew what color her eyes were. But he was entertaining. And interesting. There were moments when he was surprisingly fun to talk to (when she could get him to talk at all), revealing depths that he didn't seem to want to acknowledge. And he wasn't hard to work for really. That was more of a bonus than she could say.

Sakura was putting the last of the dirty dishes in the sink when the lump of flesh and bone that was Kakashi finally came to consciousness and rolled off of his futon. She watched him, a tiny, bemused smile on her lips as he dragged himself across the floor to the bathroom. The door shut and a moment later the shower kicked on. Sakura rolled her eyes. Okay, so sometimes he was just pathetic.

It was about ten minutes later when the water shut off. She looked up when she heard the bathroom door open, ready to ask Kakashi a question, but then stopped herself short.

So, Kakashi shirtless wasn't anything new. In fact, she was pretty sure that after two weeks of existing alongside him and his (for a man who never seemed to leave the house) well-sculpted chest, she had grown an immunity to nice pectorals. But the fact that his sweats were missing in lieu of a towel was a bit distracting. Just a bit.

It took Kakashi about a minute of rooting around in his dresser to finally notice her (still standing, gaping, staring) and for just a moment he looked surprised—as if he had forgotten all together that he had a housekeeper. Then he began to grin that lazy, lopsided grin that changed him from an attractive man into a downright handsome one. Then he gasped and slapped his hands over his chest as if attempting to save his virtue. "Sakura!"

She stared at him for all of second longer and then collapsed in a fit of laughter against the countertop. "You're pathetic," she scolded, one hand over her mouth to stifle her giggling. "You're utterly shameless and we both know it."

"Hey, it's only fair," he replied, his hands dropping back to his sides.


He scoffed. "As if I haven't noticed the dirty looks you shoot my way."

"Oh, that's different! You stare all the time. I think you attempt look up my skirt more often than Jiraiya tries to look down my blouse."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow at this as he shimmied into a pair of boxers, awkwardly arranging them under his towel before casting it off. It was only a tiny improvement. Kind of. "First of all, shame on you for going along with that old double standard—if you get to ogle me, there's no reason I shouldn't be able to return the compliment. Secondly, as interesting as I'm sure your choice of undergarments are—and I'm willing to bet that if I've seen one pair of girl-boxers, I've seen them all—I'm not trying to look up your skirt."

Sakura blinked. It sounded like she had offended him. Also, how did he know what kind of underwear she wore if he wasn't looking? "Then what are you doing?"

Kakashi could almost taste his own foot. There wasn't a way to explain himself without it coming out… creepy. Well, no way to say it to Sakura at least because no matter how strangely and almost disconcertingly comfortable he felt with her, they had only known one another for a couple weeks. He glanced up at his ceiling thoughtfully. A sizable pair of breasts stared back down at him and he smiled. "You don't look like that," he said, pointing.

Sakura frowned and crossed the room to stand beside him. She snorted as she looked up. "And thank God. You realize that if anyone's breasts were that large they'd have serious back pain?"

He laughed despite himself, grinning at her and the way her lips were twisted into a disapproving frown as she glared at one Jiraiya's most prized female leads. It was even kind of cute how she crossed her arms insecurely over her own chest. "Exactly. It's… nice having a real individual of the female persuasion around. I'm just... basking in it."

Sakura stared at him, obviously as skeptical as he was because he wasn't even quite buying that line. But, to his relief, she simply shook her head rather than slapping him as he had anticipated. "You know, you're not a bad looking guy, Hatake-san," she murmured. "You could probably have a real woman."

"I could."

"So, why don't you?"

He shrugged.

"I see." She was smiling now. "You're unable to have a committed relationship because of some dark, bleak past, right? Because you're the anti-hero."

"That's probably one of the nicer explanation I've heard for it. If a bit melodramatic."

Sakura rolled her eyes at him and turned away. Apparently he wasn't as subtle as he thought he was at dodging questions.

Kakashi watched her as she returned to the sink. "So… how long do you think you're going to keep my book?"

She glanced up at him and laughed. "I don't know. I suppose until I can trust you not to fire me."

"I just said I liked having you around."

"I also like my neighbor's cat when he drops by my flat, but just as soon as she comes home, I toss him out in the hallway," the girl replied with a glance over her shoulder and a smile. "Do you want me to start on lunch? Or breakfast, in your case."

He sighed. "Sure."

Oh, not good.

Not good on so many levels of not goodness.

Kakashi didn't even realize what he was doing until a familiar face was staring up at him from the page of his fresh sketchbook. It was a doodle, he tried to justify to himself. She was around and it didn't mean anything that she ended up in his notebook. It was like artists who drew fruit or rooms or trees. She was there so he drew her.

Except he found himself fiddling over the proportions because, no offense to Sakura, but her breasts weren't that big. So he drew her again and oh shit he was in trouble now because it was kind of an interesting challenge to draw a woman who didn't come with her own flotation devices (and fun to draw someone with such a genuinely tiny waist).

The clothes looked a bit bland for Sakura though. What had she worn the day before? A sundress with clunky, American-style boots and a ratty vest—a bit like she had gotten dressed in the dark. Like every other day. Colors and textures that didn't quite go together—chunky hiking boots with pretty, frilly skirts, dainty slippers with boyish cargos and a baseball cap—seemed to be her quirk.

And it made for a rather aesthetic, both in real life and on the page.



He slapped the sketchbook closed when her voice was suddenly too close for comfort. He suspected that it would serve him better to keep this disturbing development a secret. Her disapproval of what he did was subtle, but she always regarded his shelves of books with a scowl and was visibly annoyed by the drawings she did see him working on. It was safe to assume that she wouldn't appreciate being drawn, even if it was entirely innocent (and oddly enough it was). But, still, he'd play it safe. After all, he had watched her lift his futon—frame and all—the other day without any assistance in order to clean under it and it was probably best not to piss off inordinately strong young women.

"I'm going to go now, I think."

Kakashi turned to look at the clock and then face her, frowning. She was right behind him, shrugging into one of her coats. "So early? It's not even three."

"Well, I kind of have a date tonight." She shrugged. "It isn't a big deal. My friend is just setting me up with a guy she knows, so I feel like I kind of have to go, but if you need me to stay for any reason…"

"No." It came out a little too quickly for his liking. It was also a little bothersome that it felt like a denial of the vague feeling of jealousy bubbling in his chest, because of course she had friends to go see because she was only eighteen for God's sake and hanging around his place was her job. "Thank you, Sakura. Have fun."

And it wasn't like saying her name felt horribly weird.

What the hell was wrong with him? Maybe Jiraiya was right. He needed to get out more often.

She smiled. "First names now?"

He shrugged in reply. "Unless that's a little too casual for you."

"Not at all." She pulled the strap of her satchel over her head and the turned toward the door. "Later, Kakashi."

Sakura knew that a date was over when the desire to put her head through the table outweighed her desire to stay a second longer. Incidentally, the first usually climbed in direct proportion with how touchy-feely he got under the table and it usually went through the roof after the second time she had to shove his hand off of her thigh. This was the third date in a row that she had copped out of early by feigning a headache. Wait… maybe it was the fourth?

Well, Ino would have the exact score the next day anyway.

She sighed as she stumbled into her apartment, grateful that her neighbor seemed to be busy entertaining a guest, but a bit annoyed at how loudly he was doing so. She glared at their adjoining wall as she pulled off her heels and made a face. Okay, she was so not putting up with that all night. If it didn't stop soon, they could count on an unscheduled fire drill ruining their evening.

With her mood now totally soured, she stomped her way to the bathroom and proceeded to scrub every trace of date make-up off, wishing to scour away the experience with it. She wasn't quite sure where Ino got these guys, but her supply seemed endless. The worst part that the blond thought that she was being a friend and therefore couldn't be blamed or cursed. The accusation that she needed to get a life was one that she had fielded many times before and Ino was one of the biggest advocates of it, although all she was accomplishing was stockpiling Sakura with a supply of horrible date stories to share with her future children. If she had any.

It was just very possible, she was beginning to think, that there was just something fundamentally wrong with her.

Sighing, Sakura dried her face on the towel draped over the shower door and then pulled her dress up over her head on her way to her bedroom (or rather where her futon laid behind a privacy curtain hung from the ceiling). Along the way, her phone began to ring and she swiped it up off the cupboard and answered without glancing at the number.

"Hello?" She propped it between her jaw and shoulder as she fumbled to undo the hooks of her bra.

"Damn. I was kind of hoping to get your voicemail. Sorry about this."

Sakura smiled, though she wasn't quite sure why especially since a small part of her felt incredibly strange answering the phone while topless. "It's all right, Kakashi. What's up?"

"I'm not interrupting your date?"

"Nope. The date got cut short. What's up?"

"That was quick. It's not even nine."

"Yeah, it was kind of a dud. Kakashi, did you call me just to hear my voice or what?"

He laughed at her and she smiled a little wider. "Sorry. Bring by some bottled water in the morning."

Sakura cringed as the noises from next door got a little louder.

"Strangling a cat to get your frustrations out?"

"No," she sighed. "That's my neighbor. He's… bizzay as a friend of mine would put it."

"Ah, you see that's why I live at the end of the row and rent out the apartment next to me."

Sakura laughed. "Yeah, well your company isn't paying me that well." She glanced at the adjoining wall again. "Actually… would you mind if I brought the water over now? There's a twenty-four hour store on the corner and they're liable to keep this up all night and I know you'll be up until the most ungodly hour…"

"Uh… sure. What kind of employer would I be if I let you sit through that?"

"A typical one. I'll be over in a little bit."

"What's this?"

Sakura grinned as she dropped two canvas bags of dirty laundry onto the step outside of Kakashi's flat. "My laundry," she said. "I figured that I can just take it and yours down to the Laundromat tonight and that'll definitely kill some time."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow as he leaned against the frame. "Carrying all of that down there by yourself?"

"Nope. You're coming with."

"Who says? I might be doing incredibly important work."

"You mean you're busy doodling in your sketchpad?"

He eyed her and Sakura smiled all the wider. For whatever reason, being able to be a merciless pain in his ass rubbed a bit of balm on the sore that was her evening thus far. In fact, just being around Kakashi made everything better to some degree. She blamed this on his attitude. There was something inherently relaxing about being around someone who was so laidback he spent half of the day asleep. Especially since she had always wished she could be a little more like that.

"Will this help me get that book any sooner?"


Kakashi rolled his eyes, but nodded and turned back inside, leaving the door open for her to follow.

"So, how bad was the date?"

Sakura sighed. There was something kind of relaxing about the Laundromat; some combination of the scent of detergent and softener and the loud hum of the washer in the backdrop. She and Kakashi were the only people there, sitting together on one of the folding tables with their backs to the wall and their laundry bags at their feet. "On a scale of one to ten?"


"A twelve, at least."

He laughed at this and she nudged him with her elbow with a frown. "Sorry," he apologized, but he hardly sounded sincere. "Was he just boring, or what?"

"Boring and skeezy," she replied with a shrug. "His hand seemed magnetically attracted to my thigh and maybe I'm a little old-fashioned, but I don't catch passes on the first date."

His gaze dropped to her legs. "I don't know if I really blame him. It's a nice thigh."

Sakura nudged him again. "If I wanted to date an octopus, I'd date my neighbor. I'm afraid to share an elevator with that man these days."

"Sounds like he's not short on company." Kakashi frowned a little, sparing her a sideways look. "Why does he harass you?"

"I think he's slept with every woman in our building and I'm just the last on his checklist. He's recently changed tactics. He's not being a forward pervert so much as more as he's trying to be a suave pervert, which is working out for him about as well as the former. On the plus side, it's more fun to turn him down now. But enough about the many creepy men of my acquaintance; let's change the subject."

"All right," Kakashi said. He glanced at her and then shrugged, "You mentioned before that Jiraiya was a family friend?"

The girl laughed and spared him a sideways look. "Yeah. Believe me, that's not something I admit very often. But, yes. He's a friend of my grandmother's…"

It was fortunate that they had waited until their clothes were dry and bagged to screw around with the laundry carts. Kakashi accused Sakura of starting it, but she was quick to point out that she had only mentioned that she had always wanted to ride around in one. He hadn't needed to comply with this whimsical little notion.

At any rate, they were going to have to find a new Laundromat for their next adventure out because the owner, who lived above the place and was woken by Sakura's raucous laughter and shrieks when Kakashi nearly pushed her into a wall, was not best pleased by their actions.

"Your fault!" Kakashi shouted at her back as the girl ran ahead of him. The shouting of the broom-wielding Laundromat owner was not yet out of earshot and they didn't want to be anywhere in the area just in case the little old woman was more fearsome than she looked. Well, really it was just in case her son, for whom she was yelling as they were scrambling out the door, was the fearsome one.

Sakura laughed as she looked back at him, her cheeks flushed and her eyes bright. "Just keep up!"

Some minutes later they rounded the corner, turning onto the road her apartment building was on. Sakura turned around and swung her laundry bags at him, laughing. "You're a pretty good sprinter for a guy who spends all of his time sleeping and writing porn," she said, walking backwards so that she could face him.

Kakashi pouted as he blocked her bags with his. "I work out," he insisted.

"And thank God for as much as you walk around shirtless." She grinned at him and then stopped, turning to look down the street. "Well, my building is just up here. I can go the rest of the way on my own, I think." She looked to him and, slowly, her grin softened into a genuine smile and she let out a contented sigh. "You know what?"


Sakura swung her laundry bags over her shoulder and propped her other hand on her hip. "I had a lot of fun tonight." She let out a giggle, as if surprised by the idea. "You were a better date than my actual date."

The man shrugged, trying to ignore the fact that he was a bit proud to receive such a compliment. "With age comes experience."

Another giggle and she took a step closer. Her hand moved from her hip to his neck and with a gentle tug, she guided him down to her height and pecked him on the cheek, leaving a grease mark of vanilla-flavored lip balm behind. "Thanks, Kakashi. You're a good boss, a good date, and actually a bit of a knight in shining armor if you think about it."

"Yes, that's me," he deadpanned as her hand dropped back to her side, "Holding open doors, walking ladies home, and saving damsels from having to listen to their skeezy neighbors getting it on."

"And they say chivalry is dead," she replied. She smiled a little wider. "I'll see you tomorrow?"

Kakashi nodded and watched her as she turned and started off down the street. He lingered until she reached the entrance, where she paused to wave at him before disappearing inside. Then he stayed a moment longer, just staring at the spot where she had once been and wondering why he kind of missed her already.

"I want you so much, Kakashi. Quit teasing."

Contrary to what one might thing, Kakashi didn't often dream of sex. Sex was usually one of those 'secret' things in a person's life. It was usually something they didn't talk about or even acknowledge; something they repressed. However, sex was in a lot of ways Kakashi's business, so while it had been some time since his last roll in the sack (so long that he couldn't properly remember just how long), it wasn't as if he was necessarily deprived of it.

So finding himself in such a dream came as something of a surprise and it was even more of a shock when he realized just who he was with.

"Sakura." He groaned it into the shell of her ear as her hips—her legs wrapped around his middle—arched up into him. The heat of her arousal seared him through his sweats and a new fire raged to life under his skin, setting his whole body alight in a way that he wasn't sure sex had ever managed in the past.

And they hadn't even gotten to that part.

He mouthed a spot on her neck as his hands explored the wonderful, feminine curves of her waist. She wasn't spectacularly well-endowed—not even here in his dreams—but she hardly needed to be. He liked all aspects of a woman's body and of course he didn't mind a handful of breast or ass, but there was something markedly under-appreciated about how painfully sexy a woman's waist could be.

"Kakashi," she whispered as her fingers raked through his hair and then down his shoulders. Her voice was soft and pleading; seductive without meaning to be. "Kakashi, come here… kiss me."

He made it a point to tease her, taking his time with the sculpted curve of her jaw and that soft spot just behind her ear. She laughed at him again and, when he didn't feel particularly offended by that like he might in reality or in any other dream, he realized that this obviously wasn't the hot, frenetic foreplay shared between two new lovers. This was the foreplay of a comfortable, long-standing relationship and it felt quite bizarre.

But even so, Kakashi couldn't quite shake his disappointment when he opened his eyes just before he could actually kiss her and the feeling lingered, boring a hole in his stomach even as he lay wide-awake in his futon staring at the wall.

Yeah. He was pretty sure that this was worse than the drawings.

1. Hi.

2. ...

3. Yeah I don't really know what to say for myself either.

4. Then again, who are you to ask for logic? You read this thing.

5. All right, all right. This idea came about... I assume because I liked the idea of Kakashi wandering around in sweats. That and I couldn't shake the question: "What would all of the characters' modern/RL equivalents be like? How would the Kaka/Saku relationship work in modern day without the teacher/student framing device?" And since I see Kakashi being a socially awkward loner type, it made sense to take that a step farther and make him almost a total hermit and how better for a repressed romantic to make money than to write and draw smut? And how better for Sakura to enter his life than to take on the role as the intrusive, quirky female?

6. I also might have been binging on romantic comedies. Maybe.

7. And I said that this would be a two-shot in the note in House Calls, but it might very well be a three-parter. NO LONGER. If I let myself, I could make this drag on for AGES.

8. Besides, I had this deliciously fun idea to bring in living, grown-up Obito (and, bite me, I see him being gorgeous) and I want to explore that—suggestive turn of voice optional. So basically I'm taking this as my opportunity to ply canon with wine and chocolate and take advantage of it—suggestive turn of voice... not really needed.

9. I poke copious amounts of fun at him here, but understand that I do love Jiraiya to bits. Mostly because I usually like to focus on the depth of his character rather than just on the fact that he's a pervert. ... Okay, I know that here we're pretty much just getting the pervert, but this story isn't about him, is it?

10. I justify the quickness of the relationship in this manner: Kakashi and Sakura have good chemistry. Their personalities play well off of each other because of the contrast with Kakashi being lazy and laidback and Sakura being more energetic and emotional. In House Calls, the relationship moves at a snail's pace towards romance... because they've known each other for seven years. But shouldn't that make it move faster? No. Because not only was he her 'teacher' for a good amount of that time but he was also her friend and comrade. When we have established feelings for someone, it takes a lot longer for those feelings to shift than, say, the feelings involved in a newborn relationship.

(All right, I'm done talking your ears off. Please review if you want to see more. Rated T for now because I'm not quite sure how citrusy this is going to get.)