a/n: written for the LJ KakaSaku AU Contest. We were asked to choose from the themes given and I chose high society. For more info, you can go to my author page where I have posted the contest link. Voting has started, so if you're interested, go ahead and read all the stories (from so many amazing authors, I tell you!) and vote for the one you like the best.

Originally, this was supposed to be a very short oneshot (only the winter 2010 portion), but it suddenly took a mind of its own and I just couldn't stop. So I apologize in advance if this is scattered, or if there are plotholes. I hope you still enjoy reading!


Seasons
by: cutecrazyice

. . .

The world wasn't ready for a whirlwind romance, especially one between a prince and a pauper.

Konoha Entertainment Daily

Former child star and blue blood, Uchiha Sasuke, was found kissing a girl in the streets of Tokyo, Japan after leaving a motel with said girl. Who is she? Sources say that she is a local living in the streets – a 21-year-old vixen who spends her time selling baskets of flowers on sidewalks and public parks. But is that the only thing she sells? What could the two have been doing inside a motel for three straight days, other than what lovers usually do? The Uchiha family has been asked for an interview, but there has been no comment from their representative as of yet. We now standby as this shocking news spreads across the world like wildfire. Will this new development tarnish the well-respected reputation of the Uchiha family for good?

Sasuke wasn't exactly a prince – but with the royal blood running through his veins from his mother's side and the fact that his father was one of the wealthiest businessmen in Asia, he might as well be.

Sakura wasn't exactly a vixen living in the streets – a fact that she was highly pissed off at, what is wrong with tabloids these days? – but with her current job as an errand girl for a flaky woman's flower shop and moonlighting as a watch vendor (only decent watches, mind you) just to put food on her baby brother's table, pauper wasn't a far-off term.

There was one more thing the world wasn't ready for: the announcement of love and possible marriage between the most eligible bachelor in Japan and a random girl with pink hair.

. . .

Winter, 2009

Uchiha Mikoto stared at Sakura as if she were a particularly annoying fly in the woman's soup. Sakura stayed still, standing in front of the intimidating woman and trying not to twitch.

"Your real name is Haruno Sakura?"

Sakura didn't understand the logic of giving out a fake name in the first place, but nodded her head, anyway. Too late, she remembered Sasuke telling her to always answer his mother with words, as that was apparently more polite.

"Yes, Uchiha-san."

Silence.

"What do you want from my son?"

"Mother, we want to be toge—"

"I was asking her, Sasuke," Mikoto replied mildly, eyes still focused on the pink-haired girl. "I'm sure she can speak for herself."

Sakura inwardly gulped. Her knees were slightly shaking, but she locked them in place and resisted the urge to look at Sasuke for guidance. She needed to do this for him. For herself.

For Naruto.

"We want to be together, Uchiha-san. We love each other and we feel it's—"

"How old are you again?"

It was incredibly unfair that the woman could keep on interrupting Sakura, but she couldn't do the same.

"Seventeen, Uchiha-san."

Silence. Mikoto finally stopped giving Sakura her patented piercing stare, looking thoughtfully at a spot on the floor as if trying to think clearly – her face gave no indication at all of what it was. Then she turned her gaze to Sasuke, and finally, back to Sakura.

"Shall we have a proposition?"

The pink-haired girl glanced uncertainly at Sasuke, who gave out a subtle nod.

"Yes, of course. What is the proposition?"

"You're only seventeen years old. Surely what you're feeling isn't certain? I'm a fair person, so I'm not going to drive you away from this house – you may stay here as long as Sasuke wants. You are more than welcome. However, please consider how much it would relieve me and my husband if you both remain friends while in the same space. You can show affection, but will be sleeping in separate quarters and will not be allowed to be alone together at night. I propose one year."

"One year?" Sakura echoed.

"Yes, one year. Sasuke, if you still feel the same way for her as you do now, then I will not stop you from marrying her. It is a fair agreement, is it not?"

From of the corner of her eye, Sakura could see that Sasuke's expression was unreadable. This most likely meant that he wanted her to make the decision.

Silence.

Then Sakura nodded her head. "Of course. I understand, Uchiha-san."

"You may call me Mikoto."

Sakura tried not to smile. "Thank you, Mikoto-san."

Sasuke breathed what looked like a sigh of relief (still subtle – he always seemed to do things that way) before he finally moved to stand by her side, taking her hand and entwining his fingers with hers.

"Thank you, mother."

Mikoto merely nodded her head before standing up from her seat and leaving the receiving room quietly. The two stared at the door as it closed before staring at each other.

After a while, Sasuke smirked.

Sakura beamed.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Her fairy tale started the minute Sasuke asked her if she would like to come with him to his home.

"Wow, you call this a house? This is like a freaking palace, dude! I totally change my mind – you're not a bastard, after all!" Naruto exclaimed.

Sasuke rolled his eyes at the blond, who was practically bouncing and yelling like a madman at whatever new stuff caught his fancy. Giggling, Sakura followed Sasuke as he toured them around, monotonously introducing each and every aspect of the house like a walking map. Half an hour later, they still hadn't gone through the entire place yet.

It was all too big, really, and lovelier than she had ever imagined. Sasuke's family seemed to like a mixture of classic Asian and contemporary American furniture, and the result was a merging of the old and the new in a tasteful way. Most likely, the porcelain vase on her right cost more than her arm and leg, and she shifted away, nervous of breaking it.

When her younger brother (well, younger only by a few months) wandered off to noisily admire a gaming room, Sakura took the opportunity to sidle closer to Sasuke and whisper, "So should we tell him?"

His response was quick. "No."

"Why not?"

"Because he can't keep his mouth shut."

"He will, if it's something this important," she insisted.

From somewhere inside the gaming room, Naruto shouted cheerfully. "Hey, Sasuke-bastard! I'll play with your cool stuff for a while, okay? Don't touch my sister inappropriately!"

Sakura tried not to laugh. Sasuke smirked.

The world was right in calling him a prince – he was charming and polite, with just a touch of arrogance that didn't really deter his beauty. It was a perfect flaw, and she could understand why girls fell for him.

She wondered if she would, too, someday.

Sasuke looked like he was about to say something, but then he froze. Then he suddenly took her hand.

"Sasuke-kun?"

"Act like we're in love."

She stared at him uncertainly, but obeyed and made a move to peck his cheek – it would have looked that way, until Sasuke turned his lips to hers, just a breath away. She almost gasped.

"Good morning, Sasuke."

It was Sakura's turn to freeze momentarily before turning to the source of the deep, unexpected voice. The man in front of her made her eyes widen – not so much as what he said, but what he looked like.

Lithe, with silver-gray hair and a slouched stance that made him look less tall than he really was. But what kept her attention was the leather patch that hid one of his eyes, exposing only one black orb that gazed at them curiously.

And a very odd mask covering his mouth.

"So this is Lady Hinata?"

The name had Sasuke stiffening, and Sakura remembered that this was the woman he was supposedly engaged to – a wealthy, well-bred girl from a prominent clan that wanted to unite with them to strengthen their business. She really had to get the names straight…and who was this guy, anyway?

"No, she's not. Read the news, Kakashi. She's Sakura, my girlfriend."

The warm look from the man turned openly hostile in the blink of an eye.

"So this is the girl you're philandering with."

Sakura opened her mouth to protest. "I'm—"

"She's my girlfriend," Sasuke interrupted. "And she will be my wife. Come on, Sakura." When Sakura turned to glance in the direction Naruto had vanished in, the young Uchiha sighed and went off to fetch him – leaving Sakura alone with the strange man named Kakashi. Not that she was bothered.

His gaze trailed from the tip of her toe to the top of her hair. "Contrary to popular belief, I do read the papers. I just didn't expect the rumors to be true. So you're a paid whore? How much do I have to pay to get you in my bed?"

The hairs at the back of Sakura's neck stood on end, like a bristling cat.

"Maybe you shouldn't be reading papers too much," she bit off, trying to be polite.

"And maybe you should mind your manners," he drawled.

Okay, maybe being polite wasn't really necessary. "And maybe you should mind your own business, sir."

A pause, as he frowned at the emphasis before he spoke again. "You may call me Kakashi. Enjoy your time while you're here. I'm sure you're not going to last."

Then he walked off, leaving her to stare after him in incredulity. What just happened?

"Sakura? Are you okay?"

Sasuke came out seconds later, dragging a whining Naruto along.

"Yeah, I'm fine," she replied. "Who was that?"

"Did he say anything bad? Do anything?"

"…no. Who is he?"

Mansion guard? Close, meddling friend?

"He's my uncle."

. . .

Spring, 2010

The Uchiha charity dinner wasn't something she was looking forward to, especially when she had no dress to wear and no place in the small yet obviously prominent crowd that gathered in the mansion's large dining hall. Naruto was more than eager, of course – but then again, the idea of scrumptious food all set in one huge table was enough to have the blond's blue eyes sparkling in excitement. Sakura, in the meantime, was nervous and painfully uncomfortable as she stood in the corner, watching with rapt attention as the Uchihas mingled and worked their way through the distinguished throng.

They had on their finest outfits and most expensive jewelries, while she was wearing the brown dress given to her by a kind stranger when she sold him flowers for his wife a year ago. She stood out, alright.

"I'm pretty sure that's the girl I saw in the newspaper months ago. I couldn't be mistaken. So this is where she's been hiding all along?"

"I know what you mean. And that bump in her dress? That's her swelling stomach. I heard she's pregnant and Mikoto is covering it up by pretending she's a visiting friend."

The bump in her stomach was the frump her dress experienced when Naruto tried to sleep on it, and there was no time to remove it by bothering Sasuke with trying to find the iron around this too-big place. She tried not to scowl at them and wound her ribbon-sash tighter to cover it up, grumbling under her breath until Sasuke found her.

The fresh spring flowers in the vases filling the hall probably looked better than her.

"Are you alright?"

"They think I'm pregnant," Sakura blurted out, glancing at the girls who had been gossiping about her. "Who are they again?"

Sasuke turned to peek discreetly over his shoulder before donning an expression almost like an eyeroll. "That's Karin, and that's her friend Tayuya. Karin's father and Tayuya's brother are my father's associates."

"Where is your father?"

"He'll be here soon. He just has some deals to finish. He'd like to meet you."

When Sakura only looked at him doubtfully, he took her hand and squeezed. "Don't worry. As long as you stand up to my father, like you did my mother, there won't be any problems. Now, come with me."

"I'll just stay here."

"Sakura—"

"Seriously. I can't roam around here. I'll just say the wrong things and end up embarrassing you."

"Sakura—"

"Seriously, Sasuke, don't worry. I'll go to sleep soon, anyway." Sakura nodded in assurance. "Go mingle so I can observe you."

"I can get you a teacher to help you out with decorum, if that's what you want."

"That sounds dandy," she said brightly.

"Happy birthday."

"My birthday was months ago," she teased.

"I know. But you only told me tonight. So, happy birthday."

Smiling slightly, her raven-haired prince lifted her hand and placed a light kiss at the back of it. It made her blush and smile back.

Suddenly, a flash of silver caught her eye. Sakura immediately turned her head and, sure enough, her first guess was right. She glared at the man, even though he couldn't see her. He was too busy talking to an elegantly-dressed woman with black hair, his one hand on her shoulder and his other lightly touching her wrist. There was an open expression of interest in the woman's face as she stared at his eye patch, and the mouth that was no longer covered by a mask.

Sakura stared right along, following the movements of the man's lips as he whispered something to the woman, and the woman smiled invitingly. His hands were long and they played with the woman's neck, bringing her closer until they were as intimate as two could be in a crowd like this.

Then he turned to look at her.

Ashamed to be caught snooping, Sakura broke from his intense look and turned back to Sasuke, unconsciously tightening her hold on his hand. He was staring at her, too, his expression curious.

"What's wrong?"

"Will you tell me anything about your family if I ask?"

Sasuke hesitated before nodding. "Sure. Why?"

"I don't know. I'm afraid."

"Of?"

She glanced at the spot where the man with the silver hair was. He had disappeared, along with the woman. It was obvious what was going to happen, and for some reason, the fact that he had taunted her when he was doing it himself angered her further.

But this wasn't a war she could win.

"Sasuke, what if they all find out this is all a ruse?"

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Contrary to popular belief, Kakashi was a man who observed, and observed well. He observed the guests as they sweet-talked the Uchiha, especially now that Fugaku wasn't around and Mikoto was the obvious choice for gaining business favors. He observed the Uchihas themselves, Mikoto as she smiled pleasantly at everyone, and Sasuke as he followed decorum and helped his mother out in greeting those that he knew.

He observed the girl named Sakura, pink hair standing out, her every move making it obvious to the trained eye that she didn't like being here, but loved being with Sasuke, anyway.

She was a very good actress.

"So this new girl you've been staring at since the dinner started…"

"I wasn't staring at her," Kakashi replied automatically, shifting his attention back to his date for the night. Kurenai eyed him knowingly.

"You were just being subtle about it. But I know you well," she said. "She looks cute, by the way. Poorly dressed, but cute."

"She's the girl from the papers," Kakashi explained. Kurenai nodded her head.

"Ah, the much-talked about lover of Sasuke. It looks like they care for one another."

"He does. She's just pretending."

"And how would you know that?"

Because it's in the papers. She's just using him to get to his money. She's a manipulator who will just break his heart.

When he didn't respond, Kurenai sighed and placed a hand on his chest.

"Alright, stop thinking about her. You should be thinking about me," she tiptoed to whisper in his ear, "and what I can make you feel tonight."

The widow beside him began to place her other hand meaningfully on his arm, squeezing it lightly and smiling at him. He liked that about her – the fact that she was never possessive of him, having still loved Asuma with all her heart. But she was human, and humans sometimes needed comfort and heat. It was safe to say she used him when she was lonely, and he used her when he was feeling horny.

Unbidden, he turned his head towards the girl bothering his mind for quite a while now. To his surprise (although he never showed it), she was staring at him. Those green eyes widened slightly before averting from his gaze, and she went back to talking to Sasuke in earnest.

"What do you have in mind?" Kakashi asked, eyes still trained on the pink-haired girl and wondering why she'd been looking at him. Then he began to get angry, because he wasn't supposed to be thinking about her, anyway.

"First, we should sneak out of here and get a room," Kurenai whispered seductively.

"Sounds like a plan," Kakashi said before tearing his eyes away from the sight and wishing she would drop her glass and embarrass herself – and then disappear to where he and the Uchiha family would never have to see her again. It was an irrational thought.

Pulling Kurenai away from the room, he began to lead her to a darkened corridor, where she pushed him until he was plastered to a wall and she started to unbutton his dinner suit. She began trailing hungry kisses on his neck when a smooth, pleasant voice interrupted them.

"Oh, Kakashi – just the person I wanted to talk to."

It was familiar enough for Kakashi to pause and remove his hands from anywhere near Kurenai, allowing the woman the chance to straighten up her dress and her hair, which he had already been in the process of mussing.

Mikoto waited as they arranged themselves before smiling and addressing Kurenai as if nothing had happened.

"Good evening, Kurenai."

Recovering from the slight embarrassment of being caught, the widow smiled at Mikoto graciously. "Good evening, Mikoto-san."

"Would you mind if I borrowed my brother for a moment?"

"Of course I wouldn't mind."

Mikoto waited as Kurenai quietly went back to the dinner hall, a smile plastered on her face until the other woman disappeared. Then the smile turned into a frown as she gazed at Kakashi in disapproval.

"She could be using you, you know."

"Asuma left her a vast fortune – nearly as big as ours," he replied in part-amusement and part-irritation. "Is it too much to comprehend that she might desire me?"

"She could still be after something. It could be my husband's business deal, or—"

"Mikoto, not everyone is after our money."

That had her sighing, in a way that she never would, had it not been him in front of her. Then her gaze turned to the spot Kurenai disappeared to, and it hardened.

"Not everyone – but apparently someone is. And I need your favor, for my son's sake."

His irritation and amusement turned to wariness as he stared at his sister's – half-sister, but that was forgotten years ago – determined look. She was a wonderful woman, the perfect match for her ruthless husband, an amazing wife and loveable mother – but she was as subtly manipulative as anyone in their family, except for Sasuke, who'd never been truly exposed to the political aspect of their lives.

Itachi was the most manipulative, when he was still alive and trying to protect his brother. But that was long forgotten, too.

"Kakashi?"

"What do you want me to do?"

"I want you to train Sakura in the art of our world. Turn her into a social butterfly and teach her our manners and ways."

A pause, before Kakashi asked, "And?"

Somehow, he knew he wouldn't like what would come out of her mouth, even if he had no choice but to follow. He owed her, and their family.

"I want you to seduce her. I want you to help me ruin her."

. . .

Summer, 2010

When Sasuke informed her he had found a teacher to help her out with decorum and the basics of living in a high society world, she wasn't expecting the teacher to be someone she knew, much less didn't really like.

Nevertheless, the sight of Kakashi as he strode in the library shocked Sakura enough to nearly drop the book she had been reading. Hastily, she slid it behind the couch she was sitting on and braced herself for whatever insult or taunt he was bound to throw at her.

None came.

Instead, Kakashi greeted her cordially before selecting a book entitled Etiquette: The Art of Proper Words & Actions from one of the shelves and placing it on the table in front of her. Then he asked her to read through it so she could answer his questions when he came back three hours later.

She expected the questions to be difficult, even mischievous. To her surprise, he asked basic questions and simply corrected her in a non-judgmental manner when her answer was wrong.

The next day, he taught her how to properly address people, from the lower-ranked to those directly related to the royal family of Japan, and other countries.

The day after that, he taught her how to properly eat and hold her utensils. When she fumbled and held her teacup wrong, he placed his own hands on top of hers and directed her how to properly do it.

His hands were warm and his touch was firm, sending a jolt through her as she tightened her hold on the teacup and hurriedly snatched her hands away. Her reaction irritated her so much, along with his actions, that she decided to call him out in the most polite way possible the next day.

"Why are you being so nice? What's your motive?" she blurted out abruptly when he was already in the middle of discussing the history of the Uchiha family, starting with how Mikoto's father was a cousin twice removed of the emperor himself.

Okay, so maybe she wasn't really being polite.

Kakashi looked at her intensely, oddly quiet. Then he asked, "Why are you here? In this mansion with my nephew?"

Because he asked me to pretend to be his fiancé until his father hands over the business, and he can decide against an arranged marriage. Because he promised to provide a home for me and Naruto when this is all over.

"Because I want to be with him. I care for him," she said instead, then realized by the look on his face that her answer was his reason. There was silence on his end before he nodded his head and turned back to his monotone lecture of the family history – just like Sasuke's monotone when he toured them around the mansion on their first day, months ago. While the raven-haired boy's voice was no-nonsense and bored, the silver-haired man's was low and deep.

One week of training became two, and two became three. The information she learned made her head want to explode at times, but it got her excited as well, every morning when he told her what lesson he would be teaching her for the day. Her mind was like a sponge, absorbing all information he gave out, and from books she read when she had any free time at all.

Three weeks became four.

"Why did you volunteer to teach me?" Sakura asked when he started teaching her about the kind of horses used for horseback riding in their stables. He was scrubbing one named Penny, showing Sakura the strokes and the proper equipment. Penny seemed to like it, breathing affectionately on Kakashi every few minutes.

"I didn't volunteer," he replied simply.

They've talked about the weather, politics, their lessons, about Sasuke, about Naruto, even about Sakura – but they've never talked about him, because he didn't seem to want to. But she was persistent, and tried to catch him at the oddest of moments.

Which, while there were plenty, still didn't deter his evasiveness.

"Then why are you teaching me?"

Kakashi shrugged nonchalantly. "Mikoto asked me to."

She looked at him doubtfully. "So you always do whatever she asks? Even if it wastes your day?"

"She doesn't ask much, really."

She noticed that he didn't comment at all on the wasted-day question, and decided not to pester him about it.

Four weeks became six.

"I told you, stand up straight and don't look down."

He started teaching her the waltz, and how to properly dance with high heels. Currently, the high heels they had snagged from somewhere in Mikoto's has-beens pile were killing her feet, making her want to crawl to her bed and sleep dreaming of foot massages and cool ice cubes.

Plus it wasn't helping that he was being so strict.

"I'm trying," she grumbled.

"Try harder."

"You try harder," she nearly snapped.

His eyes crinkled behind his mask, and she took that as a sign that he was smiling. Rolling her eyes, she straightened her shoulders and counted the dance beat under her breath.

"Sakura, you're not—"

"I'm looking down because I'm trying not to step on your precious feet," she explained through gritted teeth.

Holding her still, he removed his hand from her waist, bending down and abruptly removing her shoes from her feet. She yelped.

"Hey! What are you—"

"Let's dance without the damn stilettos first."

The bad language surprised her enough to let him throw the shoes to a corner and get back to his position – one hand on her waist, the other bringing her palm in the air. He tightened his hold and pulled her closer, and the momentary pause from her surprise vanished as she felt his warmth so near.

Maybe it helped that he removed her shoes, so she wouldn't be eye to eye with him and he wouldn't see the faint stain of pink on her cheeks. Becoming nervous, she began to babble about the first thing that came to mind.

"Sasuke's birthday is in a few days. I don't know what to get him. Do you think he'll like the color red? I keep seeing him in blue and honestly, it's so boring. I thought of getting him a pink shirt for laughs, but I don't think it would make him laugh. He's so odd sometimes, it frustrates me and Naruto. We tried to prank him once and he ended up getting so pissed, he wouldn't talk to us for four days. So yeah, pink is a no-no. How about a tie? Do you think he would need one on big-time events? I can't afford a silk tie, but—"

"I thought I told you to concentrate," he interrupted.

Technically, he told her to try harder.

"No, you didn't," she said stubbornly.

"Very well. Try, anyway," he countered softly. Then he nudged her back and twirled her, before pulling her abruptly and dipping her down. Sakura squeaked and closed her eyes, grabbing his shoulders and waiting for the fall.

It didn't happen.

When she opened her eyes, she found his head lowered near hers, and that black eye gazing observantly. His hands were still on her waist, stopping the fall.

"Was that a waltz?"

"No."

"…"

"You should get him cuff links. I know someone who makes it cheap but classy. Her name's Tenten."

"…okay," she whispered breathlessly, her hands shaking slightly. "Thank you."

"Don't mention it."

"Why do you wear that mask? And that eye patch?"

Without missing a beat, he took her back up with him and let her go.

"They feel nice on my skin."

She didn't believe him.

Six weeks became eight, and finally it was over. She learned what she needed to learn, and he was done teaching.

On their last day, he bid her a silent goodbye and strode out of the library as swiftly as he had strode in on their first day. He taught her a lot, yet she still didn't know a single thing about him – except that sometimes he was absent when the woman named Kurenai called him up, and that he promptly cut off any questions she may have had pertaining his thoughts, and his life. In that area, he was stern and aloof, even rude.

The lump in her throat had no place there, but suddenly she wanted to know more.

And there was only one person to ask.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

That person, however, was already sleeping. Sakura ended up spending the rest of the day with Naruto, trying to teach him some of the things she had learned. Unfortunately, he was more interested in how the movie Iron Man 02 ended than the practice of drinking from a champagne flute properly. After Iron Man 02 came Toy Story 03, in which Sakura swore she saw tears glistening out of Naruto's eyes, even when he tried to hide them. Then he was too tired to watch anything else and ended up snoring on her bed in earnest.

Tossing and turning in bed beside him, she finally threw the covers off her and decided to get herself a glass of milk to ease the restlessness down. It was a warm summer night – the kind of warmth that brought content to the bones, the perfect simmer of wind and heat.

Halfway through the lamp-lit corridor, she stopped in her tracks when she saw the man occupying her thoughts stagger through the hall in a slightly zigzag motion.

"…Kakashi?"

The silver-haired man remained silent, lurching towards her instead and bracing one hand on the wall as his one eye crinkled cheerfully.

Even through the mask, she could smell the faint trace of alcohol on his breath.

"You're drunk?" she asked in wonder. Kakashi, man always in control and never a misstep, was drunk?

"Nooooo," he said, his voice smooth until the word lasted for more than a second. Then he was stumbling, and she had to catch him before he fell facedown to the floor. Slinging one arm over her shoulder, she braced herself for his weight as he swayed before he managed to steady himself.

"I never get drunk," he said again, tone stubborn.

Which meant that he must have had a lot more alcohol consumption than usual to get this intoxicated.

"I want to go home," he demanded.

"You are home," she pointed out, steering him in the direction of his room – or at least, what she knew was his room. It was difficult, considering he was trying to maneuver her in the opposite direction, which he insisted was where his room was. In actuality, that direction was where the pool was, and she was afraid if she allowed them to go there, they would end up accidentally swimming and looking like drowned rats.

"My room's there, pretty lady," he slurred, pointing crookedly. She ignored his statement before some of the words filtered through her focused mind.

"So you think I'm pretty, huh?" she joked, amused.

He blinked. Suddenly he was staring at her, eyes squinting intently. "I've always thought…you…pretty…"

It took her a second to realize that his face had moved closer and her nose was practically touching his masked cheek. Her own cheeks flaming at his admission, she abruptly pulled away. She was more than relieved to find that they had reached his bedroom and that it wasn't locked.

After a lot of grumbling and resistance, she was finally able to guide him to the bed, bullying him at moments when he became too stubborn. She tried to get him to sit down, but he refused, standing straight and trying to drive her away (by flailing his hands in the air, as if swatting a mosquito). Because he didn't sway for about a minute, she took that as an opportunity to remove his jacket and drop it on the floor (she swore she'd pick it up later and place it in the laundry) before standing in front of him as he faced the bed, ready to lecture.

"Alright, that's all I'm removing. Now go to sleep, you drunkard, and—"

Her words were cut off as he swayed forward. Alarmed, she tried to back off, then squeaked when her knees hit the edge of the bed, causing her to stumble back – it didn't help that he was still swaying forward until he was pinning her to the bed with one hard, shocking bounce. The weight almost cut off the air from her lungs, and she tried not to grumble as she made a move to push him away. He remained immobile.

"Kakashi?"

Silence.

Then, "Hmm…"

"Um. Get off me, please?"

"…huh?"

Rolling her eyes, she pushed at him again, glaring when he didn't budge. "Kakashi, would—"

"Hmm…"

"Kakashi, would you—"

"Uchiha Kakashi, would you please—"

He cut her off and grabbed her wrists, rolling over and taking her with him until she was on top of him, legs spread wide over him. She squawked, and almost panicked, and would have definitely yelled at him—

"Hatake…Kakashi…I'm Hatake Kakashi…I should…have died…"

—if not for those quiet words.

Surprised, Sakura stared at him, barely acknowledging the fact that their faces were now just inches away, like earlier. She tried to absorb what he said, trying to understand, before their current position finally registered again, and she flushed – his hands were still firmly holding on to her wrists, fingers moving over them in slow circles until she couldn't think straight. Then they stopped.

He was breathing softly, indicating that he was already asleep.

Her fingers itched, and she realized that she was looking at his mask and his eye patch.

He would never know, right?

Removing her wrists from his grasp, her hands tentatively trailed up until they reached the edge of the soft wool covering the bottom half of his face. Slowly, she peeled it off.

His mouth was firm, and smooth. His cheeks were pink, most likely from the alcohol. Her fingers itched to trace them, but she resisted, telling herself that this was an invasion of privacy. No. No.

Insides skittering, Sakura's hand touched the velvet patch, black and cold. Then before she could lose her nerve (or before the guilt could increase), she peeled that off, too, as slowly as she could so as not to disturb him, or get caught—

She sharply breathed in at the sight.

There were pockmarks surrounding his eye, ugly and twisted with so many veins and scarred skin. Where his eye should have been was a network of bruises that would probably never be healed.

He was blind.

He was half-blind, and she never even knew.

Slowly, carefully, she placed her fingers on the marks, tracing them lightly and wondering why they felt so warm when they shouldn't be. Her lips drew near, blowing soft air on the spot. Then they drew nearer, lips almost touching that roughness—

He shifted beneath her.

"I…Hatake…"

Her fingers trembled. Her heart stopped.

It was the wake-up call she needed.

Abruptly, she took her whole hand off, as if scalded. Then she practically leaped away from him, arranging his mask and eye patch hurriedly before fleeing the room as fast as her feet would carry her.

Those feet led her to another room on the other end of the mansion, and before she could stop herself, she was banging away at the door, not caring that she'd be waking up the whole place if she kept this up.

A minute later, the door opened and a sleepy-looking Sasuke came out.

"Sakura? What is it? What—"

"You promised to answer any questions I had about your family, right?"

"Yes. Why—"

"Why is his last name Hatake, not Uchiha?"

He frowned, as if having trouble comprehending what she was saying.

"What?"

"Is he adopted?"

"No," he replied slowly, brain cells finally waking up. "He's my mother's younger half-brother."

Dissatisfied, she demanded more. Rubbing his eyes, Sasuke tried to be patient and relayed what he could, until she finally learned more information than the silver-haired man would have given her.

His and Mikoto's mother had an affair with his father, resulting to him being born. Because Mikoto's mother loved her father more, this man was left behind and in the end, he ended up killing himself. Kakashi's father had committed suicide.

Kakashi wasn't an Uchiha. He was forced to adopt the name when Mikoto's father adopted him, to stop any rumors that could destroy their family name from circulating.

It was horrible, and she tried not to react too much. But there was one, more important information she needed to know.

"What happened to his eye?"

Sasuke stopped rubbing his eyes and froze. Then his face closed up – the first time it did when he was around her.

"What do you mean—" he started.

"What happened to his eye?" she asked firmly, an unknown panic skittering inside her.

He frowned.

"Mountain-climbing accident. Him, his best friends Uchiha Obito and Rin, and my brother."

"So he was the only one who survived?"

Silence. She counted the seconds, refusing to back down, telling herself that she would bully it out of him, too, if she had to—

Then Sasuke finally answered.

And she wished he didn't.

"No. He killed them."

. . .

Autumn 2010

It took Sakura a few weeks to figure out that Kakashi wasn't just absent around the mansion, either too busy to attend or too lazy to actually bother. She realized he was actually around because Sasuke had seen him and Naruto had seen him – hell, practically the whole household had seen him – even when she didn't.

This, of course, led her to one conclusion.

He was avoiding her.

He was avoiding her, and was doing a good job at it.

At first she was bewildered. The last night she talked to him was when he'd been drunk, so it wasn't likely that he even remembered the conversation, much less the fact that she had taken off both his mask and eye patch to get a good look at him.

Then she began to feel guilty. Okay, so there was the slight possibility that maybe he did remember what she'd done, and was so disgusted that he couldn't even bear to look at her again.

Minutes after, she deemed it the most ridiculous theory ever. If he remembered, he would have confronted her by now.

She then began to grow very restless.

Was he ashamed of his past? Was that the reason he kept his face covered, his mouth shut? Did he think she was going to judge him, just like the Uchiha family obviously did?

Just like Sasuke did?

The restlessness remained at his continued absence, and it only grew on the day of the charity ball – the event where they were going to bring her out and introduce her to society as the newly-improved Sakura.

She didn't realize the extent of her being on edge until Sasuke asked her to stop picking on her gown. When she didn't listen, he had to take her fingers and remove them himself, earning him a look of surprise as she finally became aware of what she was doing.

"I'm sorry," she said, smoothing out her the silky material quickly. "I didn't hear you."

There was silence as Sasuke, who was sitting on her bedroom couch, stood up and strode towards her, his expression neutral. However, she knew him long enough to read the worry underneath.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm fine," she replied automatically, smiling. "I just feel nervous about the whole thing."

Technically, that was the truth. Well, half-truth.

When Naruto came in fifteen minutes later sporting a charcoal-gray suit and a grin that nearly shone, Sakura had to stop herself from ogling. Seeing her expression, his grin only grew wider.

"I know, I know. You don't have to say it, Sakura-chan. I know I look gorgeous!"

Sasuke frowned. "The term is handsome, idiot. And stop smiling like that. It looks weird. And fix your hair."

"You're weird," Naruto retaliated, making faces at the Uchiha as he combed down his unruly hair with his fingers before finally focusing his attention on the pink-haired girl's outfit. "And you are a lucky bastard! My sister looks like a goddess!"

Sakura beamed, turning around.

Naruto's jaw dropped. "What the hell – Sakura-chan!"

Cheeks turning red, she hastily covered herself up with a shawl.

"Don't listen to him," Sasuke grumbled. "You look fine."

"But—"

"She looks beautiful, Naruto," Sasuke cut off. It was probably the surprise of being called by his first name that had the blond shutting up and finally nodding.

"Fine, let's just go. I want to eat already! And celebrate my birthday!" Then he was bouncing off outside, completely unconcerned about wrinkling his expensive outfit.

When Sakura made a move to follow, Sasuke stopped her by a hand on her wrist, turning her back around gently.

"Sasuke-kun? What is it?"

"Are you sure you're okay?"

"Yes, I am." She grinned at him, kissing his cheek affectionately. "Thank you, Sasuke-kun. I really wanted Naruto to be at this ball."

Sasuke smirked. "I know." Then, sobering up, he said, "My birthday's done, but I wasn't given my freedom yet."

Sakura smiled sadly. "I know. You're still not allowed to not marry into the Hyuugas."

"Hn. Can you wait a few months? After my father announces my inheritance? I know I said it's just one year, but—"

"Sasuke-kun, it's fine. A deal's a deal."

"Hn."

Which translated to thank you in his vocabulary.

"You're more than welcome." She hesitated. "So you're really not telling them the truth?"

The thought of the truth not coming out brought her some sort of relief, as the image of Kakashi's disappointment flashed through her mind. Then it began to irritate her. Why would she care about Kakashi's disappointment? He was avoiding her, wasn't he?

Screw the man.

"I can't. They'll kill me."

Sakura blinked. Then it took her a few more seconds to realize that the smirk was back on his face.

"You were joking," she stated in wonder.

"Hn."

"You actually know how to joke!"

"Well…hn."

Grinning happily, Sakura took his arm and linked hers to it, pulling him out of the room. "I think I'm ready to come out."

"You're as odd as your brother."

Sakura laughed. Then she tossed the shawl to the bed, not caring anymore.

"I know."

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Mikoto looked at the guests as she asked the person beside her some questions. "Are you sure you've trained her enough?"

"I'm sure. She's a very fast learner."

"How many weeks again?"

"Eight."

"Did you try to seduce her?"

"No. Not yet."

A pause.

"Why not, Kakashi?"

Calmly sipping his champagne and wishing for something stronger, Kakashi replied, "Because these things take time."

The lie was smooth, unlike his usual way of lying about being late after trying to get a cat out of a tree. Mikoto, after exchanging pleasantries with a guest, finally turned to look at him blandly.

"You know I worry about Sasuke. And you know I worry about the latest information I discovered."

"I know," he replied quietly.

"She never mentioned it. I'm certain she lied about other things, too."

"I know."

"Please help me, Kakashi."

"I will."

"And she might try to get to you, too. Please don't get carried away."

"You know I won't."

Spotting her husband, Mikoto gave a light squeeze on her brother's arm before moving on. The squeeze conveyed two things: 1) I'm glad you didn't bring a date; and 2) Please don't disappoint me.

Twenty minutes later, a tall boy with messy hair bounced his way towards Kakashi. It took him a minute to realize that the person behind the stylish suit was none other than Naruto, and that the boy was grinning at him.

"Hey, old man," Naruto said cheerfully.

"Hey, weird boy," Kakashi intoned.

The blond made a face. "Very funny. So where's the food?"

"It will be served in a while."

"How long is a while?" Naruto whined.

"In a few minutes, maybe," Kakashi replied, amused.

"It's my birthday, you know."

"Happy birthday."

"No gift?"

"No."

Naruto pouted. "Mean old man."

He kept on babbling about the food, Sakura, Sasuke, video games, wanting to go horseback riding and wanting to shoot arrows in the air someday. He was like this whenever Sasuke wasn't around, and Kakashi was the only other person he knew – talking until he ran out of things to talk about (not that that ever happened).

"It would be so much fun! Just like that movie Princess Diaries – not that I watched the whole movie, because it's for girls and I'm a dude and it would be lame if I did. I'm pretty sure I don't need as much training as that Mia chick, and…and…"

Naruto stopped talking and began staring at somewhere to their right. Curious as to what finally quieted the blond, Kakashi turned his head slightly.

Ah.

"That's Hyuuga Hinata. Sasuke's former fiancé."

"I didn't ask!" Naruto hissed, abruptly looking away and turning a very bright red.

"You were looking."

"I wasn't looking." Naruto scowled.

"Maybe you should ask her to dance," he suggested mildly.

"I don't dance. Guys dancing are weird."

"If you say so. But you're still looking at her."

"I am not!"

Kakashi didn't fail to notice the blond kept sneaking glances at the white-eyed Hyuuga heiress – and to his surprise, the heiress kept glancing shyly at Naruto, too, blushing as she did so.

Finally, after a few more minutes, Naruto brightened and started to cup his hands around his mouth. Then, realizing that wasn't proper, he started waving both hands enthusiastically instead, to his left this time.

Taking a sip of his drink again, Kakashi turned to look.

And his lungs became oddly devoid of air.

Fugaku and Mikoto were exchanging pleasantries again – this time, to a girl wearing a white gown that covered up her legs, but left her entire back bare. She had creamy skin waiting to be touched, and a pink tinge that made his hands itch.

Her pink hair was tied in an elegant, simple braid.

After the Uchihas left, she was approached by a very busty blond woman who Kakashi knew was this side of the city's most famous celebrity surgeon. They talked animatedly for a while, Sakura's eyes sparkling and Tsunade's approving smile widening before the blonde doctor was steered away by a white-haired man who appeared to be her date. Kakashi knew him to be a best-selling author, though a private one. When Sakura was finally left to mingle on her own, she was immediately greeted by a blond man, slimmer than Naruto and with longer hair tied in a ponytail. It took him a minute to place the man. Deidara – Itachi's old friend and heir to a leading pottery-making organization in Japan. It didn't take him long, though, to figure out what Deidara was doing. Based on the man's touch on her elbow and the way it lingered there, it was obvious that he was flirting. Subtly looking for Sasuke, Kakashi found his raven-haired nephew talking to Karin and her father, but glancing worriedly at Sakura out of the corner of his eye. It was common knowledge how much of a notorious playboy the blond was – even more so than Kakashi himself.

For a second, Sasuke's and Kakashi's eyes met – and it was enough for them to silently communicate, despite the Uchiha boy's reluctance. He turned back to Karin's father, obviously wanting to get away but unable to at the moment.

Without hesitation, Kakashi placed his glass on Naruto's hand and moved.

"Hey, old man! I'm not a waiter. Where are you—"

Ignoring the boy, he strode forward, gait relaxed. Sakura was listening with rapt attention to the long-haired blond as his hand gestures grew bolder, trailing his hand from her elbow to her upper arm. As she made a move to back away, her eyes shifted – and locked straight into Kakashi's, widening slightly at the sight of him.

They were surprised, confused and the greenest that he'd probably seen in his lifetime.

Kakashi kept her gaze until he reached them. Then he turned to Deidara and nodded.

"Deidara."

The blond didn't seem to know what to do except nod back and reluctantly remove his hand from Sakura's arm.

"Hatake."

The greeting, while not cruel-sounding, was deliberate. Expression unchanging, Kakashi turned to Sakura, who was still looking at him uncertainly.

"Sakura."

"…hello, Kakashi."

Casually, he held a palm up. "May I have this dance?"

She glanced at his hand, then at Deidara, who looked like he wanted to protest. But suddenly he smiled, albeit reluctantly, winking as he did so.

"Go ahead. It was a pleasure to meet you, Sakura-san."

"Likewise, Deidara. It was a pleasure."

There was silence as Sakura took his offered hand and walked with him to the dance floor, where some couples were swaying to the jazz of an instrumental band that wore tuxedos and sat at the center of the hall's makeshift stage. Their melody was as elegant as the brilliant chandeliers hanging on the ceiling, and the sparkling flutes of wine being passed around in polished silver trays by roaming waiters.

Slowly, he placed his hands on her waist and hand, assuming the position they had during one of their practice sessions.

He tried to ignore her hair near his nose, and how it tantalizingly smelled like jasmine. Her palm against his was warm and soft, her other uncertain on his arm.

Finally, she spoke while staring somewhere on the floor.

"You shouldn't be ashamed of your last name."

"What did I tell you about manners?"

She lifted her head and straightened her posture, eyes clashing to his.

"And you shouldn't be ashamed of your father," she whispered defiantly.

"You shouldn't flirt with Deidara like that," he countered smoothly.

"Why? What does it have to do with you?"

"Sasuke might take it the wrong way."

"I wasn't flirting with him. And Sasuke-kun isn't the jealous type."

"If you say so."

"I…you haven't been around."

I couldn't be.

"Yes," he said instead.

The music changed from its jazzy beat to a slow tempo that had some of the couples on the floor dispersing and heading for the newly-laid out food. Naruto was already making a beeline for the tables much to Sasuke's chagrin, as he tugged the blond to slow down.

"You don't look anything like your brother," Kakashi commented.

She froze in his arms.

Slowly, he let his hand slide up from where it rested on the silk of her dress until it was almost halfway between cloth and skin – almost, but not quite.

Her skin was like the silk of the dress, but warmer. Softer.

Sakura stiffened further – he couldn't be sure if it was from his touch, or his statement. Testing her, he skimmed his hand higher, letting his palm rest on the warmth that seemed to be calling out to him since he'd first glimpsed it.

She didn't move at all – but her mouth parted slightly, a small breath releasing.

He wanted to place his fingers there, and told himself to stop that train of thought.

"You've been avoiding me, Kakashi," she stated.

To compensate for not placing his fingers where he wanted, he let them move slowly over her back. He wanted to do so much more, and told himself to resist.

"I had a long mission. I had to get Mikoto's cat to the vet in Paris," he intoned.

"Liar," she whispered.

Look who's talking.

"Who is Naruto?"

"My brother," she answered without hesitation.

Removing his hand from her skin, he slowly moved his head closer until his mouth was inches from her ear.

"Liar," he murmured.

He wanted to erase the flash of betrayal and sadness in her eyes, and the disappointment twisting inside him.

He told himself to get a grip. This madness had no place here.

She had no place here.

Mikoto was right.

. . .

Winter 2010

He didn't avoid her anymore. But they never had those precious library moments anymore, either. Sometimes, she saw him in parties with various girls in his arms, all beautiful and well-bred and nothing at all like her.

It made her despise him.

Once, Sakura found him drunk again and stumbling over the gardens, telling her he needed to go to the cemetery and talk to his friends. She ended up rousing Sasuke to have him bring the inebriated man to the bedroom to sleep it off (because there was no way in hell she was repeating that one tender moment in his bedroom that should never have happened). The next day, she and Naruto found Kakashi sitting in the dining room with Sasuke, eating breakfast. She didn't know what happened that night, but suddenly Sasuke wasn't as hateful of his uncle anymore, speaking to him more politely than she'd seen him in all the months he'd interacted with the man.

She desperately wanted to find out what brought on the change, but knew it wasn't really her place to ask. Naruto, however, was bolder about these things.

"Hey, you guys are actually friends! That's freaking fabulous! So what's for breakfast?"

Sasuke smirked. Kakashi looked at her, gaze silent and unreadable.

It made her long to know what he was thinking.

That afternoon, when she and Sasuke strolled in the inner garden to enjoy the cultured flowers and the cold wind that seeped through the French windows, Sakura tried to keep her voice low and unobtrusive.

"What happened?"

Already knowing what she was talking about, Sasuke merely mumbled. "Hn."

Rolling her eyes, she tried again.

"Seriously, Sasuke-kun."

There was a pause before Sasuke shrugged. "He talks a lot when he's drunk."

Yes. I know. And I know you hated him because he survived and your brother didn't. And he still can't forgive himself for what happened.

Instead, she said, "He loves you."

"Hn."

"It's unconditional."

"Hn."

"Will you ever forgive him?"

This time, there was a long silence as Sasuke stared through the windows at the blanket of snow that covered the outside grounds in deep, enchanting white – the kind of white that made you think either of clear bliss, or hazy confusion. Then he let out a deep breath, cold air puffing out of his mouth.

"I'm learning to," was his response.

It was enough.

A few weeks later, she found Kakashi in the library with Naruto, teaching the blond what he had probably taught her months ago - except Naruto was probably louder, inherently more argumentative than she could ever be. He retaliated by giving him mysterious eye crinkles and reading a magazine that Naruto deemed the most disgusting magazine in the world.

"I kind of agree with Naruto," Sakura said to him one day, wrinkling her nose as she stood by the doorway of the library, where he was fixing the books that the blond had left cluttered on the table. "Why do you read that, anyway?"

He didn't answer for a while, taking his time in arranging the books before striding over to the door. Just before he left, he uttered words she knew she would probably never forget.

"There are just some things that aren't your business, Sakura. I should teach you that someday."

When the library lessons were over, he took Naruto out for horse riding lessons, and made her brother the happiest boy on earth.

It made her want to hit him and hug him at the same time.

Once, she found him watching Sasuke kiss her cheek, and taking her hand more often than usual. Mikoto's proposal (which was backed up by Fugaku as soon as he met Sakura) was almost up, and everyone was watching, observing. But his observation made her feel more conscious, more vulnerable.

She didn't understand him. He was nice to her loved ones, but didn't seem to want anything to do with her.

It made her slowly hate him.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

He didn't know why he didn't recognize her the first time she came out, months after that damning charity ball.

Her hair was the same color, and so were her eyes – silky pink threads flowing gently on her shoulders, and bottle green eyes that seemed to look like bright jewels most of the time. Perhaps it was the dress that distracted him at first, because he had never seen her wear such a thing – short, sweet and very green. It was almost as if it was made for her, the way it fluttered around her knees and gracefully embodied her being.

She was in Sasuke's arms. They were dancing together in the middle of the Christmas-themed hall, him whispering in her ear, and her smiling softly, looking at him with such sparkling eyes and swaying gracefully to the music that it looked like she almost belonged here, with all these high-class people that were born with golden spoons in their mouths.

His mouth went dry at the way her skin glowed and the way her smile emphasized it.

His hand tightened on his wine glass as Sasuke whispered some more in her ear, touching her waist as they danced, making her lean her head a little bit more on his shoulder, her smile growing.

He knew this was all a ploy on her part – how could it be anything else, really? – but sometimes, he couldn't help himself from thinking that she was the bright joy of this whole place –which was why he always treated her carelessly, like he didn't deem her presence important enough.

Kakashi had always been contradictory that way.

Sometimes, he wondered why she always looked out of place when dressed in her ordinary clothes – she looked better as a princess, with that lovely, subtle grace that seemed to emit from her.

He tried to tell himself she wasn't lovely, and her kindness to Sasuke, Naruto, Sasuke's parents, the household staff…they weren't true. He tried to tell himself she was a nuisance, and a liar.

He tried to tell himself he didn't want to be near her, because her presence was just sometimes too intoxicating that he didn't seem to want to do anything at all except touch her, and feel what it would be like.

He needed to seduce her – but he realized that doing so would be his downfall.

When Sasuke pressed a kiss on her mouth, Kakashi didn't realize that the glass in his hand was already broken.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Sakura would never understand how it happened, and why it was happening. One minute, she was out in the hall, laughing as Sasuke loosened up and made fun of the snobby people he had to rub elbows with –the next minute, the boy she had always considered one of her best friends was suddenly kissing her, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

Then, a few seconds after he had gone to get some drinks, she was suddenly dragged on the arm by a looming figure that she didn't recognize at all. She was still stunned by the kiss, so maybe that was why she didn't protest – she merely stared at the figure until they were in another room, where the lights were out and the sounds of the laughter and merriment were far away. Only whispers now, filtering through her ears, making her aware that at least she wasn't taken too far away.

It was only when he turned around to face her that she recognized him.

It was only when he spoke that her heart fluttered in a way she didn't want it to.

"Kakashi? What's wrong? What—"

"What are you doing with Sasuke?"

The words were blunt. She didn't understand why he was always aloof with her when she had done nothing to him.

"I was dancing with Sasuke. He asked me to come to the dance. I wasn't doing anything wrong—"

"You were flirting with him."

She stared, knowing she was doing no such thing. He stepped closer. She shook her head and tried to explain again.

"I wasn't flirting with him—"

"You were. Don't deny it."

A spark of irritation flared. Suddenly, she was not so patient anymore. Who did he think he was? She decided that the best option was to just leave and ignore him – and she did just that, her head bowed slightly with a muttered goodnight, then holding herself high as she started to walk out of the room.

She was stopped by his hand on her arm again. He pulled her closer, not-too-gently now, and she stumbled until she was only inches away from him. She tried to get away, but he wouldn't let her.

His coal-black eye was so cold, it was almost scary. There was a fury in it that she had never seen before.

"I wasn't flirting with him. It is best if you understand that, because I'm not that kind—"

"You kissed him."

The spark of irritation grew. "He kissed me."

"I know what you're after," he interrupted once more, his voice cold and calm. "You're flirting with him to get in his bed, so you could con him to fall under your spell and get some money out of it. That's it, isn't it? You're worming your way to the Uchiha fortune."

She didn't know why, but suddenly her temper snapped – and before she knew it, she was lunging at him, her eyes firing up, her fury dictating her to do what she did next.

Slap.

He let her arm go as her hand connected with his right cheek, and for a moment, she was taken aback – the sound was sharp and very clear.

Realizing what she had done, she immediately backed away. But she didn't stop glaring as she turned around, prepared to stalk off and leave. She took a step to the door, her heart oddly hurting – he had always been angry at her lately, never kind—

Sakura managed no more than a startled gasp as he grabbed her again and wheeled her around.

"Take your hands off me."

"Don't you dare do that again." His voice wasn't cool now, but molten hot. His eye had grown in fury, all but scorching her with his look. Her heart was beating so fast, even while she tried to ignore it and send him a scathing, determined look.

"I will do anything I please, and I can be with anyone I want, even if I am not of your class. Now take your hands—"

"Your manners are still not intact, I see. It looks like I need to teach you another lesson."

"I don't need—" She tried to shrug his arm off, but he tightened his grip. "Kakashi, you're rude and unintelligible and—"

Her breath caught in her throat when he suddenly, abruptly dragged her against him. She felt her body slam against his, his arms wrap around her. Her green eyes flashed in shock when she saw those hot, dangerous eyes and realized exactly how he was going to teach her the lesson.

Her heart beat even faster.

She told herself it shouldn't as he gripped her hair, his gaze burning into her.

He uttered only a sentence.

"Let's both stop talking for a minute."

And his mouth closed over hers.

She fought him. She liked to believe she did. She had been prepared to fight him, to hiss and scratch and claw the minute she realized what he was up to – what he'd been intending to do. He had no right, no right to do this at all. Not to her.

His mouth was hard and hot, and plundering hers in a way that left her no choice but to feel it. His body was hard, pressing hers close in a way that left her no choice but to be molded against him, to feel him tighten with every growing second. She could taste the anger in his mouth, as well as the frustration. And something else, something that was coming dangerously close to the surface.

She realized that Kakashi, in her fairy tale, was the villain – the dark man who would make sure she did not get her happy ending. But she kissed him back, anyway, because her knees were weakening and her blood was simmering and everything was becoming a big, big blur.

Her heart was aching, wanting for him to be kind to her, for just a moment – the way he was kind to everybody else.

He had no right to make her feel this way – and she knew she needed to stop him sometime.

But she wanted him to go on and on and on.

Eventually, the kisses turned soft, and sweet – his tongue slipping in, tasting the silky cavern of her mouth until a sound close to a moan eased from her. He pulled her closer, trailing those long fingers on whatever bare skin it could reach. She was burning, melting, surrendering—

He abruptly pulled away.

Slowly, Sakura opened her eyes and found that it was still dark, still silent – and he was looking at her with something she could not understand, and something she wanted to. So much.

Then he left, without a word or a backward glance.

Silence.

Sakura closed her eyes, trying to control the rising burn in her heart and the dark ache it brought.

Because fairy tales can be cruel.

Because Kakashi was the man she wanted, and the man she was never going to have.

. . .

Spring 2011

"Sakura-chan! Look at my amazing gardening skills!"

Perched comfortably on one of the mansion's backyard benches a few meters away from the blond, reading a novel entitled War and Peace and nibbling on the orange she snagged from the kitchen, Sakura nodded.

"That's good."

"No, seriously. Take a look!"

Grinning, she closed the book and walked towards Naruto, who was holding a shovel triumphantly in one hand and pointing his free one on a baby plant whose roots were currently filled with fresh soil.

Making approving noises, Sakura kneeled down and patted the soft dirt. There was still a shallow, freshly-dug hole beside her, along with some seeds.

"What are these?"

"I don't know, but I'm planning to plant them too and call them The Naruto Wonders—"

"Let me help."

The last interruption came from a voice behind Sakura. She froze, her hands stilling on the dirt she was patting.

"Kakashi, old man," Naruto greeted enthusiastically. "Look, I'm doing what you taught me."

"Hmm, nice. You've done a great job. Naruto, the chef is calling for you. Genma would love your idea for tonight's menu."

How Naruto would know about the household menu in the first place, Sakura didn't know. But she kept quiet as her brother practically sprinted off, as excited about food as he usually was.

She felt Kakashi kneel beside her, the warmth of his body causing her to stiffen even more. Resolutely, she ignored him, scooping some of the seeds and scattering them on the hole. Then, skipping the shovel, she began to push the mounted soil beside the hole to cover the seeds.

"You're doing it wrong," he murmured.

She ignored him, pushing more soil almost viciously, wishing he'd just go away—

He stopped her by placing a hand on her wrist, almost scorching her.

She snapped and turned. "I wasn't doing it wrong! I wasn't—"

It took her a second to realize that his face was close, and he was removing his mask, uncovered eye watchful and intense.

No. Not here. Not in broad daylight, where anyone could walk in any minute and see. Naruto could see, Mikoto and Fugaku could see, Sasuke could see—

The hand left her wrist, only to trail on her hand, gently placing it down on the earth and guiding her movements as they slowly covered the seeds. Her gaze flickered to his lips, watching as he quietly spoke.

"You have to pat it down gently. Don't lay a hard hand like you're trying to hit it. It needs care and attention."

"Why did you kiss me?" she blurted out.

His hand didn't stop from its movement, caressing the dirt and in turn, her hand.

"Because I needed to teach you a lesson."

"Did you feel something?"

"No."

"You're a liar," she whispered.

This time, his hand paused from its movement. Then he finally looked at her.

"Pot calling kettle," he murmured.

"Don't say th—"

"Who is Naruto?"

She stared at him defiantly. "He's my brother—"

"Lia—"

"—and I don't care if we're not related, or orphanage kids. He's still my brother where it counts. I won't lie."

Her breath stopped as he took their hands off the ground and pulled her closer, dragging her and staining the edges of her dress. She tried to speak, but he interrupted before she could even say a word.

"Do you love my nephew?"

Love, not in love.

Her answer was steady. "Yes."

His finger circled her wrist, feeling her rapidly beating pulse. His eyes stayed on hers, before flicking down on her mouth.

There was silence.

"Do you miss them?" she asked quietly, hesitantly, as his face inched closer. "Itachi? Obito? Rin?"

"More than anything," he answered softly.

Then he lowered his mouth to hers, kissing her as sweetly as he had last December, but briefly enough to make her long for what she shouldn't. Her lips parted, but he backed off before she could taste more.

"This is over," he said abruptly, and stood up. "Goodbye, Sakura."

His footsteps were soft. Then they were gone.

As she stayed where she was, both hands now in the dirt and pushing forcefully to control her shaking, the want inside her shifted to something else that frightened her entirely and made her wish to run far, far away.

Her fairy tale slowly crumbled at her feet as she fell in love with the villain.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

His room was dark, and so was his mood. It wasn't difficult to pretend that he wasn't home, because he'd locked his door and turned off the lights before anybody could figure out that he was there and just a knock away. It wasn't difficult to stare at the rain through the shadows of his curtains, watching as they rolled down the glass windows and fell to the ground in steady pitter-patters.

How odd.

Rain wasn't supposed to come when the weather forecast announced it wouldn't. Maybe it meant he shouldn't believe the TV news all the time, too.

Maybe it meant nothing at all.

Soon, the rain became an insignificant blur, and it wasn't difficult to ignore it altogether as he turned his attention back to the glass in his hand. The whisky swirled, color rich and vibrant.

What was difficult was the remembering. Sometimes, Kakashi wondered if he was a masochist at heart. He could not seem to forget what he vowed to forget, could not seem to come to terms with his own words. A promise was a promise, wasn't it? Get her out of here, protect Sasuke.

Stay the hell away from her.

Stop thinking about her.

An image of Mikoto came to mind. His free hand fisted. She was family, and he loved her more than anything.

Then black hair was replaced by pink, and black eyes were replaced by green. Pastel pink, like the lilies he saw in the garden in full bloom. Bottle green, the kind that darkened when hit just right by the sun.

No. Dangerous thought.

A smile that widened everytime she was happy. A temper that stirred up his mind for endless duels, making him itch to shut that mouth in a way that would heat them up thoroughly.

Skin soft as silk.

No.

He wanted to seduce her, but not because Mikoto asked him to.

He wanted to taste and claim every inch of her, all for himself.

He wanted her to look at him, and not be repulsed by what she saw when he took off his invisible mask.

He wanted corrupt her, until he was all she could think about. Until it absorbed and consumed her every waking moment, just like it did his.

Scoffing at the irony, he took a gulp, letting the alcohol fill his system. She had turned nineteen this March, and what was he? In his thirties, and jaded for life. He was supposed to be too good for her, but in truth, it was the other way around.

He should stay away from her. The goodbyes were said and Mikoto was mistaken – Sasuke didn't need protection from this girl, not at this point.

He should leave her alone.

But like a man possessed, he stared at the rain and drank his second glass. Then third. It tilted in his hand as he tried to come to grips with the thundering storm building inside him, churning in his gut.

Outside, the skies answered, rumbling loudly and echoing all over the place.

Like a man possessed, he slammed the glass down, threw open the curtains and watched the lightning strike down, bold and vicious and challenging him. Restless, he took the glass again, holding it tight.

No. No.

Then green eyes and the sweetest kisses filled his mind again, taunting him and tainting him.

The glass fell from his hand and shattered on the floor, and so did his resolve.

He was out the door before he could stop himself.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

When Penny neighed and an answer came from somewhere behind her, Sakura tried not to stiffen.

"You shouldn't be here," he said quietly.

"I was cleaning Penny and it started raining, so I had to wait…" Realizing it was still raining, she turned around in surprise. Kakashi was drenched from head to foot, his clothes sticking to his body and his silver-gray hair scattered all over his face.

"You're drenched," she blurted out.

He shrugged. "I've been through worse."

She wanted to ask him. What are you doing here? Don't you know I can't be near you?

Instead she said, "I'll go get you some blankets." Then she turned away and pretended that she and the horses were the only ones here, and the man who made her feel too many things wasn't in the same space at all.

After taking Penny to the stall and bringing enough hay to last her for the night, Sakura silently went on to arrange the old blankets she found in an old oak table. Sometimes, Naruto slept here when he wanted to sneak in sugar cubes to Penny, having gotten attached to the horse so quickly. Taking one of the blankets, she turned around.

"Here, maybe this will help dry you up until the rain—"

"I don't need that."

Her breath caught in her throat when she almost bumped into him. It took her a moment to realize that he had moved closer – close enough that she couldn't escape, couldn't evade him if she wanted to. She looked up, and saw that he was looking at her with something in his eye that she had not seen since that night last year at the Christmas party.

Her heart started beating very fast as he quietly took the blanket she'd been gripping in her hands like a lifeline, dropping it gently on the ground beneath them. Just as quietly, he spoke.

"Are you with Sasuke?" His hand touched her elbow, much like Deidara did before. But while her skin didn't tingle when the blond man did this, her skin tingled now.

"…no. Not that way."

"Did he ask you to marry him?" His other hand cupped her neck, thumb rubbing her jawline. Her breath hitched.

He won't, because none of this is true.

"Not yet."

His one eye darkened as her lips parted without her being aware of it.

The next words out of his mouth were low, and certain.

"Then this is not over."

Then he moved his hand to her cheek and lowered his mouth to hers, their lips not touching.

"Stop me if you don't want this. Tell me to stop," he whispered against her, his hands resting on her cheeks. He breathed on lips, making her too aware of everything, most especially his scent – that musky, forest-like scent that overwhelmed her senses more than she wanted it to. When her lips parted even more, his hands tightened, then trailed over her jaw. Then he stopped moving, and waited.

He was asking for her permission. He was going to stop if she told him to.

The thought that he would go away left her feeling oddly hollow. She was greedy and selfish and aching for this man more than anything in the world, and for this one moment, she didn't care.

The first touch of his lips on hers was sweet, and perhaps inevitable.

What was sweet suddenly turned fiery and wild as his hands started moving again, and he kissed her back with a hunger that threatened to consume them both, even as he told her that this could only happen tonight. It was hot, and it burned her, and she stood on her toes as he tilted her head, his tongue tasting her like she was his breath of fresh air, his salvation.

She would give him tonight.

Her heart threatened to burst as she recalled all the precious moments she stored in her memory forever: her first dancing lesson from him, his vulnerability when drunk, his palm on her bare back, his affection for Naruto and Sasuke, his stolen kisses in the dark. His deep, deep love for the people who left him behind, alone to live and suffer the consequences. Like stolen snapshots, they came back to her in full force and made her feel more alive than she'd ever been.

Her feelings and words drowning in an incoherent haze of arousal, she whispered to him to remove all their barriers as he slowly undid the buttons of her dress one by one.

Even as the palm of his hand burned her breast through her bra and had her insides tumbling over each other, she stopped his hands and repeated her words and this time, she placed her own hand on his wet eye patch, touching softly. He stiffened, but did not protest as she slowly peeled it off.

The look on his face was tense, as if he was waiting for her to be disgusted and back away. Heart breaking for him, she touched the scars, marveling at them – all the web of bruises that he seemed to be ashamed of. She kissed them one by one, letting him know that he was lovely. That he was beautiful because of them.

Resistance melted, and so did all barriers.

He carried her to the nearest empty stall, one filled with hay, and there they tuned out the world as they freely touched each other. When his hands removed all remaining clothing and his mouth closed in on her stiffened pink nipples, she gripped his hair and moaned out his name. When his tongue and fingers tasted and touched her beneath, so skilled and sure, she held on to the hay beneath her as she begged for him to go faster until his fingers pistoned furiously and his mouth sucked hard, and she flew away in a blinding orgasm of overwhelming pleasure.

When her bones were melted enough and her body felt like it could move no longer, he built the frenzy again, slow and steady. As he slipped inside her and what started out slow became fast and almost desperate, she embraced him and braced on, anticipating the flying and the soaring and the eventual falling.

This time, he flew and soared and fell with her.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

He woke up to the sound of hooves moving on earth, and birds chirping in the barn's upper beams. When coherence returned, he realized three things that frightened him more than losing Itachi, Rin and Obito ever had.

He was the first man to touch her.

He didn't want her just for that night.

She was gone.

. . .

Summer 2011

"Are you sure you're both going to be fine here?"

Sasuke didn't exactly eye the house in distaste, or wrinkled his nose – but the slight scowl was enough to have Naruto smirking in glee.

"What's up, bastard, haven't gotten down from your princess pedestal? Surely you can wave at your commoners even when you're busy checking out your million-dollar wardrobe and make-up?"

The scowl deepened. "That doesn't even make any sense."

Naruto grinned. "Just playing, man. Or should I say your highness?"

"Fuck off."

"Ah, wise words! I'm so proud of you, honey!"

"No bad language here, please," Sakura put in, walking out of the bedroom where she had placed her backpack. "Naruto, can you get the other bags for me?"

"We should have just hired somebody to bring it up," Naruto whined, then shut up quickly at Sakura's look. "Fine, fine, I get it. You don't want the media to know we're here."

"Thank you, honey," she said sweetly.

The blond made a face at the name, but obediently went to retrieve the bags from outside their front door. When they were finally left alone, Sasuke's scowl mellowed into a frown as Sakura started to look around, as if already imagining how she was going to decorate the place.

It wasn't a mansion, but it was what Sakura requested. How one would willingly choose this over any mansion he offered to buy (and he did give her a lot of offers, and showed her those places, too), he would never understand. To his surprise, Naruto agreed willingly after hearing about the so-called "break up" a week after Sasuke's father gave him his inheritance. It was an early birthday present, his father had said – and with the present was his blessing for Sasuke's and Sakura's wedding.

"Sakura."

Staring at the ceiling and muttering under her breath (most likely listing down personal touches, even when the place was already fully furnished), she was probably the prettiest thing he had ever seen. He called her name again, waiting until she finally looked down and at him.

"Thank you so much, Sasuke-kun! This is—"

"You know I can marry you. Provide for you and Naruto. I'll take care of you."

The interruption had her quieting down and moving closer to him. When she placed her hands on his shoulders and moved her face closer, he stiffened, then melted, then closed his eyes.

It was her first willing kiss to him, gentle and soft and just a little bit wet. He remembered their kiss last Christmas, remembered how she never brought it up at all. He supposed it was his own fault, for being so passive and sometimes too polite about too many things.

He tried to deepen this kiss, tried to tell her what he couldn't in words. But before he could really kiss her back, she broke off, backing away and looking sadly in his eyes.

He already knew the answer.

"Did you feel anything?" she asked, tension in her body. It was like she was bracing herself for his answer.

Silence.

Then Sasuke shook his head and lied. "No."

Slowly, the tension eased out of her body, and she smiled in relief.

"That's why we can't marry, Sasuke-kun."

The sadness etched in her face despite the smile made him want to go to her, but he restrained himself and settled for standing where he was.

"Does the man you love know you love him?"

She looked at him in surprise.

"I'm not blind, Sakura."

Silence.

"It's no use, Sasuke-kun. He doesn't love me back, so might as well not burden him with the knowledge."

As if not wanting to talk about it anymore, Sakura proceeded to tour the place, brightening up when Naruto came back with their remaining bags and showed his excitement by carrying her and twirling her around. He made the same impressed noises that he did when he had first toured the Uchiha mansion, and it made Sasuke understand more that they never were after his money, like the tabloids and practically everyone else thought.

They just wanted a home.

Naruto chatted excitedly about the scholarship Sakura had received from a university in Japan, courtesy of strings that Sasuke pulled. The strings he pulled, but the scholarship Sakura alone received, proving just how brilliant she was when she aced their entrance exam. Apparently, even if she had not gone to high school, she had read all of a friend's school books and was even more proficient than the average high school graduates. The blond pledged to support her by finding work in the meantime (she refused to take more money from Sasuke, too, insisting that this house and the small loan he gave out was enough), and promised that they would make it through. When Naruto spoke further, saying that one day he was going to be as rich as the bastard and would pay him back for all his kindness, Sasuke realized one more thing. He did not say it aloud, though.

Goodbyes said, with the two's insistence that he visit them from time to time (Naruto promised to punch the lights out of him if he didn't), Sasuke walked out the door of the little cottage. He turned around to stare at it one more time, shaking his head and smirking.

He had more family than he could ever hope for, and they weren't just found in the Uchiha mansion.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

Aside from being a chef that could bring orgasm to people just by one bite of his scrumptious dishes, there were three other things Genma was well-known for:

1) His ability to please his lover (well, it used to be lovers, but his current lover would probably castrate him if he repeated his past deeds, before he met her) in extraordinary, sometimes experimental ways.

2) His ability to become "Mr. Motormouth" when certain gossips were especially good.

3) His ability to keep his mouth shut on the things that counted.

He supposed witnessing Naruto charm his way inside the mansion by flirting with the female gate guard who'd had a crush on him since last year (he was totally oblivious, of course) and sneak in the back door was one of those things that counted – especially when the blond got distracted in the kitchen and snagged a blueberry cheesecake on his way (a cheesecake that Genma took pride in making). To where, Genma wasn't sure. But he had connections to find out.

Ten minutes later, an eager Shizune (otherwise known as the mansion's stay-in nurse – and his personal nurse, in more ways than one) relayed news to him that made him grin in mischief around the toothpick he was currently sucking in his mouth.

"Naruto did what?"

"He punched Kakashi and told him that he was a bastard old man!"

"Oh." Interesting. "And then what?"

"And then he said that he wasn't stupid and he knew Kakashi had more than that stone cold heart of his and to make use of it before it became smashed ice cubes."

That did not make any sense at all. But Genma nodded, anyway. "Then?"

"Then Naruto said that he found out that Sasuke's and Sakura's relationship had been a facade all along!"

Wait. Now that was pretty unexpected.

"Really?"

"Yeah, really. And nobody was supposed to know, but Naruto apparently eavesdropped and found out."

"Oh."

"Then guess what?"

"Hmm?"

"Naruto threatened Kakashi that if he didn't marry his sister, he would personally make sure Kakashi died an early death with his fists embedded in the old man's face!"

Well, hot damn. Nobody threatened the "old man"that way.

"So I take it Naruto got kicked out? Beaten to a pulp?" Genma winced when he realized he was already sounding like Naruto with the words he used. Oh, that boy would be so proud.

"No."

Genma stared in surprise. "What?"

"No, Naruto was unharmed."

"Seriously?"

At this, Shizune's brown eyes sparkled. Did he just say she was sexy? No, she wasn't only that – this girl was gorgeous.

"Kakashi demanded quietly where Sakura was, and went after her," she declared, then sighed in contentment. "Isn't it romantic? I knew he was looking for her since she and Naruto left abruptly. He'd just been doing it sneakily."

Hmm. So that explained Sasuke's avoiding the guy like a plague, and said guy in the library on the phone nearly every day, inquiring about recently sold houses in Japan (and no, Genma wasn't eavesdropping – he just happened to be there when he brought the guy his lunch, since the guy seemed to forget to eat nowadays).

But speaking of sneaky.

At the expression on his face, Shizune smiled meaningfully, making Genma instantly hard in his pants. Maybe they could go sneak someplace where he could cajole her into fixing this ache in him – and of course, he could fix whatever ache she had, too.

They tried to stay quiet in the food stockroom (and it was difficult, with him wanting to hear her scream out his name as she clamped around him like a vice) as whispers in the kitchen arrived. It sounded like Naruto, and…

"Naruto-kun, thank you for l-letting me know. I got here as soon as I could. I'm happy he went after her. "

"Well, he'd better. Or I'd pumme – er, I'd give him a piece of my mind."

"Naruto-kun…my father will kill me if he finds out we're together right now, e-especially here."

"I understand if you want to leave."

The reply was shy. "I don't. I-I like being with you."

There was a nervous but pleased laugh. "Ah…great! Let me just grab the rest of Genma's cheesecake for our dessert. We're gonna have a secret picnic in the park!"

"O-okay."

Ah. That's true. Hyuuga Hiashi will definitely mutilate the blond if he found out.

Kissing Shizune to stop her raspy scream as he plunged himself deeper inside her, the toothpick-sucking chef smiled to himself.

Another day, another secret to keep.

. . .

Summer 2012

He woke up to the sound of footsteps shuffling outside the door, and the sight of pink hair attached to his nose.

Smiling, Kakashi breathed in her scent, quietly delighted when he smelled traces of the apple-scented shampoo he had bought for her (he was quite addicted to the scent, as well as her original jasmine one). She moved and murmured something before continuing to snuggle up to him, and he almost chuckled at how his morning wood responded almost instantly.

Down, boy.

After all, they pretty much quelled all their energy last night with all those…activities. He should let her rest and sleep for now.

Something clanged loudly outside, probably the kitchen, followed by muffled curses. Sakura stirred again, stretching like a cat and making him come in contact with her warmth as she did so. He grunted. Slowly, she opened her eyes, green flecks sleepy and charming.

"Good morning," he said softly.

Yawning, Sakura murmured groggily, "Good morning." She snuggled closer to him, placing a kiss on his naked chest. He grunted again, but tried not to move.

Her palm slid on his stomach, tracing lazy circles.

He remained silent.

Smiling, she began trailing her hand down and lazily enclosing him in her grasp.

He stifled a groan.

"…Sakura?"

"Hmm." She squeezed.

"I'm trying to let you sleep."

"Hmm." Then she made up and down motions, swirling and tugging until he grew bigger, despite his effort not to.

He arched slightly, hand digging on her shoulder. "Sakura…"

She pouted. "But I want to play." An impish smile came on her lips before she crawled under the covers. He knew what was coming next. He tried to stop her, he really did – but the sucking was distracting him and turning his supposed-to-be-ignored wood into a full-blown mast, and pretty soon his hands were already on her hair, massaging her scalp and directing her movements. He supposed this was his punishment (more like reward) for taking her last night from behind. And against the wall. And on the kitchen table. The list went on and on, really. She sucked harder, and Kakashi began to happily forget about last night.

Of course, it was at that moment that Naruto decided to knock.

"Are you covered?" he yelled.

Kakashi managed a hoarse yes (because technically, he and Sakura were still under the covers) and a quick reattachment of his eye patch before the door was slammed open, and a very chipper Naruto greeted them loudly.

"Good morning! I cooked a delicious sausage recipe that Genma gave me to try out for Hinata, and you're going to be my lab rats for – what the hell!"

Kakashi tried not to chuckle as the body under the covers with him froze.

"She's already having her breakfast," he rasped.

Naruto spluttered, went beet red, and would have fainted then and there if not for Sakura's head peeking slightly from underneath the covers. She eyed him sheepishly.

"Um. Can you give us a minute, Naruto?"

"An hour," Kakashi corrected. "I'm going to have my breakfast after hers, too."

Needless to say, it was all Naruto could do to stay still as he took back his offer of breakfast and called them the biggest perverts on the planet. Then he was careening off the room furiously, stomping all the way and muttering something about needing a bigger house with thicker walls.

Kakashi managed a lock the door before he went back to business.

Well, pleasure, really.

-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-

An hour later, he woke up to sunlight on his face and Sakura snoring softly on a pillow. Not quite wanting to wake up yet, he pulled her towards him, smiling slightly when she immediately moved closer.

Breathing in her scent again (seriously, it was really addicting), he tried to think of what they had to deal with for this week – Naruto's extra lessons for his part-time work as Sasuke's accountant (the kid was surprisingly a whiz at math), Sakura's extra night classes for her second year of college, the new library Kakashi had invested in…

Dinner with the Uchiha family tonight, after not communicating with them (except Sasuke) for more than a year. Mikoto had been adamant about the not-communicating part, until recently. He missed his sister, and sometimes thought of her obsession with protecting her family.

But none of that, and none of those deaths, were his fault. He knew that now, despite the nightmares that came.

Sakura had assured him it would be alright – and if it wasn't, well…they always had each other, right? And Naruto. And Sasuke. And Hinata. Oh, and the sometimes-cooking-for-them-secretly Genma.

He closed his eyes and contentedly absorbed her warmth, her comfort. Her heart.

"I love you," he murmured. There was no response, as she continued snoring against his neck. But that was alright, too. He knew what his wife felt for him, as she never failed to show him every single day, in her simple ways.

She told him once that she'd always dreamed of a fairy tale life, with happy endings of the lovely princess being swept off her feet by her gallant prince. Then she told him that she didn't need that, not really, because she wasn't a princess, anyway – she was just a regular girl, ambitious and selfish sometimes, who enjoyed mischief with the most perverted – and possibly nicest – villain in the world.

They were going to be fine.

. . .

Konoha Entertainment Daily

Mysterious and formidable bachelor, Uchiha Kakashi, who has disappeared for more than a year, was seen flying in last night with the pink-haired ex-fiancé of one Uchiha Sasuke – said formidable bachelor's nephew. Sources say the two have been secretly wedded in a remote town church with only Uzumaki Naruto, her brother, as witness. What is happening? Who is this vixen who has miraculously transformed from being a local flower seller to one of high society's most photographed woman? Is there a war going on between uncle and nephew? The Uchiha family has been asked for an interview, but only one comment came from renowned Lady Uchiha Mikoto: "It's my son's birthday. I kindly ask that you respect our privacy today. Thank you."

. . .

Konoha Entertainment Daily

Lady Hyuuga Hinata, one of the most sought-after bachelorettes in Japan, was found kissing a very familiar blond – one related to a certain newlywed with pink hair. Just what is going on between Miss Hyuuga and Mr. Uzumaki Naruto? Sources say…

. . .

The End.


a/n: I wasn't able to write the scene where Kakashi goes after Sakura. Darn writer's block. D: And yeah, the ending's kind of abrupt, but argh...I don't know what to write anymore.

MANY THANKS TO: smos aka thecrazypot aka Stella! She beta'ed the first part of the fic. Any mistakes due to changes are completely mine.

P.S. I took the liberty of changing some personalities, but just to an extent. This is AU, after all, so I hope no one's offended or anything like that.

Reviews are appreciated. :D