This story is my entry into the AU contest over at the kakasaku LJ comm. I'll put a link on my profile so anyone interested can go and read all the luscious kakasaku AU stories getting posted. There's every variety of AU story there - vampires, high society, Education, Wizards, etc.

My choice was "Entertainment" though it did leak into Education somewhat. I really enjoyed delving into my fantasy Kakashi - so this story is a little glimpse into my ideal version of him. Might surprised you - might not. I hope you like it.

The Art of War

A Kakasaku AU (seriously long) one shot

"Wake up, lazy," Ino whispered harshly, nudging Sakura's left arm and making her shift awkwardly in her desk. Obviously ignoring Ino's need to keep her awake was the preferred choice, but she was in class so out of disrespect for her teacher she might as well stare at him with dead eyes for a while instead of conking out on the desk. It was only polite.

"Nice of you to join us, Miss. Haruno," Professor Hatake lazily drawled from in front of the blackboard in the small theatre style lecture hall.

"Thank you, Mr. Hatake," Sakura said sweetly, then blinked slowly as she put her chin on her hands on the desktop and watched him turn back to the board to continue his monologue on the Art of War and the ongoing history of weapons. The class was interesting, but they were doing review and the last two days had been less than exciting. University was supposed to be fun, right? Just a week left to the final and the summer off. Even the Prof. looked like he'd had enough.

"I just noticed that Hatake has a pretty good ass," Ino intimated. "Why did it take this long to realize that? Nicely toned… squeezable…"

Sakura lifted her heavy head and gazed at the man indolently jotting points on the board with a small piece of white chalk. As he typically did, Hatake wore a white shirt and tie – a patterned some such plain looking thing – and a suit. And just like each class, he slipped off his jacket to reveal chalk prints (always on the right side) on his pant leg. Sakura liked to call him the absent minded professor. He was consummately late, and always had some ridiculous excuse. More often than not, he would give them vague answers to questions and seemed to want to be elsewhere just as much as they did.

But Ino was right. His ass was of a superior quality and the perfectly cut suit pants accentuated it nicely.

"Must work out at a gym," Ino continued. "Think he does a lot of squats?"

"Hey, shut up," Naruto growled from the seat up behind Ino. "I don't want to be forcibly thinking about Hatake's ass. I'm trying to concentrate on the lecture. Why the hell did you two take this class? Pre-med doesn't require it."

Sakura glanced back to see Uchiha Sasuke shaking his head and berating them with his narrowed eyes next to Naruto's crossed arms and curled lip. Sai was on the other side of Naruto and seemed completely indifferent to the whole thing.

"Ignore them," Ino goaded loudly, and then turned back around. "So how old do you think he is?"

"Who, Naruto?" Sakura mumbled, confused.

"No, Hatake. Geez. How much sleep did you get last night?"

Sakura rubbed her glassy green eyes and sighed. "Not enough. I studied until 2 AM and then my neighbours had a fight. I hate that building."

"Why don't you just move in with me?"

"Uhm, maybe…"

Sakura gazed sideways and then back at the teacher flipping the pages of the text he was reading from, barely glancing up or caring if anyone was listening. He was an odd sort of man, now that she looked at him. His hair was blanched white, but naturally, so she wondered if he was part albino or just prematurely gray. He kept it parted neatly on the right and combed down. His eyes were dark, almost a slate colour, and quite attractive, though sleepy looking. A silvery line ran through his left eye, but it wasn't very easy to notice unless she was close – which was rare. Once she had bumped into him while entering the lecture hall because they both had their noses in books, but other than that, he kept his distance from them.

She vaguely began to grow curious about how he got the scar.

"Twenty nine," Sakura said evenly.

"What?" Ino snorted, making Professor Hatake look up.

When he looked back down and then turned to the blackboard, Sakura continued. "He looks about twenty nine, maybe twenty eight. And he does look like he takes care of himself."

"Yes he does." Ino waggled her eyebrows.

Sakura had never really noticed before, but she supposed he was a good looking man, though very staunch and tidy. His tamped down hair, the pressed ties, the starchy suits and the chalky pantleg screamed nerd. But nerds were awesome in her book, though unfortunately not the dark and aloof beings her inner self typically gravitated toward. Covertly she glanced back at Sasuke with regret and embarrassment of their debacle a few years before. She was twenty now so things she did as a fifteen year old shouldn't matter – even though she remembered them quite vividly.

"Bet he has three kids and a small dog." Ino was chewing the end of her pen now.

Sakura's green eyes took in the room and the people scribbling down all the things Hatake was putting on the board as if their lives depended on it. Then she looked back at the man as he put his book on the desk and then with two fingers, tugged his tie loose slightly while continuing his narration. She tried to imagine him with a sweet little wife who wore dresses and liked to clean. She tried to see him in a family photograph with his silver haired kids. For some reason, she couldn't picture it.

"I'm thinking possibly one kid, and a hot trophy wife that cheats on him," Sakura ruminated, tilting her head as she watched him unbutton the top button of his cleanly pressed shirt to reveal a white t-shirt underneath. "And he likes to watch political shows and have one glass of whiskey before bed."

Ino chortled into her hand and shook her head. "No. I think he's the cheater. He probably gets it on with students looking for a better grade. I can't imagine who wins more in that situation. He really is pretty hot in an older, yet pencil-pushing kind of way. I wonder how good he is in bed..?"

Sakura couldn't help but laugh at that too. "I don't see a wedding ring."

"Cheaters don't like to wear them."

Suddenly, the church giggles turned a little too loud to be ignored.

"Haruno and Yamanaka, pay attention or get out," Professor Hatake warned.

"Sorry, Sir," they said in unison and suddenly the giggles were back.

Professor Hatake rolled his eyes and then took a deep breath. "All right. Read the rest of the chapter and I'd like five hundred words on your conclusions on the best battle strategies used in World War I by tomorrow. Final is next Thursday. It's not going to be a cake-walk so re-read all the chapters and review your notes. I don't like spending my free time marking crap."

The student union building was full to bursting with the university crowd: people with noses in books, drinks and food in hand. Sakura managed to snag a table near the windows overlooking the quad by racing three other girls to it. She really hated the week before finals. Usually they were in a restaurant drinking a beer and talking about the weekend. Now success was on everyone's minds and work was the order of the day.

"I don't know why you two can't shut up in class. It's hard enough for me to pay attention," Naruto grumbled, plopping down on one of the hard vinyl chairs around the small table. His books dropped noisily to the table top and he slumped over on top of them.

"Sorry, Uzumaki," Ino said sweetly. "Can't help it if our teacher's considerable sexuality is distracting. I bet his wife is a happy woman. I'd have ten kids with him if he wanted."

"He's not married, nor has kids," Sasuke said evenly.

"How do you know?" Sakura shot out, taking the seat directly between Naruto and Sasuke. Sai was on the other side next to Ino, pulling playing cards from his rucksack and, as usual, ignoring the conversation.

"Just a guess."

"So no hard evidence then," Ino snarked.

"Well, we'll never know so…someone help me with this essay," Naruto added, rubbing his head. He flipped open the text and began furiously scanning the pages.

Sasuke leaned back coolly and crossed his arms. "He walks to work everyday. He buys his own lunch and he wears no ring. He never gets phone calls that I've seen and at least twice I've noticed him flirting with the lady who runs the campus store."

"Flirting?" Sakura repeated incredulously.

"Hand on the small of her back, whisper in her ear, yes. Flirting."

A fair bit of excitement crawled over Sakura's skin at the thought of Kakashi Hatake whispering in a woman's ear. Her interest in him was peaking exponentially with Ino's ass revelation and now the idea that he wasn't asexual. "What does he do after school then?"

"How the hell would I know?" Sasuke mumbled.

"No one has ever seen him out of school hours?"

Ino shook her head. "I have a twenty that says he's got a house full of cute kids, a dog and a wife that waits for him at the door. The flirting is mid-life crisis."

Finally Sai leaned forward and snapped the cards down, apparently tired of everyone's misunderstanding. "I believe you have to be mid-life for a mid-life crisis, Ino. Though, I could be wrong. I've got a twenty that says he works out at a dirty gym and goes home to a high maintenance girlfriend. No kids, no dog. Probably a nice uptown apartment."

Sasuke shook his head. "Single. Plays racquetball after work and reads the paper in a coffee shop. Had a long term once but split up so he's sulky and dislikes the idea of relationships."

Giving in to the direction of the conversation, Naruto gave up studying and piped in, "You're on. I'll say live in girlfriend and new baby. He looks sleepy all the time." His blue eyes turned to Sakura who was biting her lip. "What about you?"

"I have no idea. He seems pretty neatly pressed and almost pristine in the morning, but then by the time he's leaving at the end of the day, his tie is loose, his jacket is slung over his messenger bag and he's looking like he's dragging himself nowhere. I don't think he's married. But I'm not sure if he's single or not. I don't think he has kids, but maybe a dog."

"Come on, Haruno," Sasuke prodded. "Make a decision."

"Single then, but considering dating. Maybe internet dating… I'll definitely say dog."

"Nice!" Ino squeaked. "Bets are in. Closest to the truth gets a cool eighty bones from the others." She picked up the cards on the table and began expertly shuffling them. "So how do we find out?"

Sasuke shrugged absently. "It's Friday tomorrow. No studying and no late classes. Someone will have to follow him. It'll be the best night to get a glance at his life."

"I'm out," Naruto grumbled. "I've gotta work and so does Sai."

Sai blankly nodded his concurrence.

"I can't either," Sasuke added. "I'm helping Kiba move to his new place at my building."

Sakura looked at Ino and raised her brows. "Looks like it's just us."

"Geez, Haruno. I just got a date with Hyuuga Neji. I can't back out on that. We're going to the beach and dinner. You know how long I've been chasing him."

Sakura's elbows hit the table and her face dropped into her hands. Of course she would get stuck with it. Who else would do something so stupid for a measly eighty bucks? She supposed she could spin the story to sound like she won and that would serve them all right for sticking her with the duty of trailing him alone. And eighty dollars might give her the lift to get out of the crappy apartment and into a better building – like Ino's. As much as she wanted to move and liked Ino, the idea of sharing an apartment with her was without appeal.

"Okay. Okay. I'll do it." She sighed heavily as she reached out for the cards that Ino began to deal. And under her breath she mumbled, "What other plans do I have anyway..."

Sakura brushed her teeth over the cracked moss-green sink in her spec of a bathroom as plans formed in her tired brain. Why she'd ever agreed to follow Professor Hatake home after school was beyond comprehension, but then the mighty dollar flashed in her mind and she was reminded of her dwindling bank account.

It was just a casual walk fifty feet behind someone she happened to somewhat know, right? What could it hurt? If he asked her if she was following him, she could just say they happened to be going the same way. Maybe a brief conversation outside of the classroom might provide her with the answers she needed without following his lazy, yet toned ass home.

"Hm," she said to herself as she looked at the ragged towel wrapped around her wet pink hair. "That doesn't sound so bad."

Because it was Friday, she slipped on just a pair of old, slightly worn in low-rise jeans, a white t-shirt and flip flops. Fridays were dress down days for most people dragging themselves to school; often she'd see people in their plaid flannel pyjama pants wandering campus so grubby jeans would be fine.

The walk to the campus was quick, as was the short jaunt to the student union building to find her cohorts sitting around playing a brief game of "would you rather" and sipping at their coffees.

"Your hair is still wet," Ino remarked as she approached. As usual, Ino was dressed to the nines with her hair perfectly arranged and her makeup vogue worthy.

"Got up late," Sakura responded in a pedestrian tone.

"So!" Naruto rubbed his hands together and grinned like a schoolboy with a slingshot under a broken window. "Today's the day I win the money for my lunches for the next month."

"We'll see," Sasuke chimed in, sipping his half-caf latte and grinning more darkly than anyone knew he could.

For a moment, Sakura began to wonder if Sasuke had the inside track on information about their History of War teacher. Perhaps this bet had floated around a classroom before and some other schlub had to follow him home on her only free Friday night before exams.

Sai leaned forward and gestured toward her clothing. "Listen, Sakura. I don't mean to criticise, but an exceptionally built young woman in a tight white t-shirt and jeans – not to mention long cupcake pink hair – is going to easily be noticed following a lazy looking white haired teacher along. You should try to be more covert. If his live in girlfriend sees you, that'll be it. You might be responsible for breaking up a happy family."

"You mean his wife and kids," Ino corrected.

"Girlfriend and new baby," Naruto added.

"Zip it. I am perfectly capable of staying out of sight." Sakura crossed her arms, and scrunched her brow meaningfully. A quick glance at everyone said that, by the nods and tilts of their heads, they agreed with Sai's assessment. When she looked at Naruto, she reached down and tugged at his hoodie. "Fine. Fine. Then let me borrow this."

The History of War class was half full today as many of Sakura's co-students had dropped off the previous day's essay assignments and ventured home. Hatake seemed perfectly fine with that as he sat at the large desk with his feet up, ignoring the traffic to and fro.

Sakura sauntered up to the desk and stood there for a moment, watching her professor comfortably reclined in his wooden chair, an orange book in his hands which she didn't recognize.

It was a prime opportunity to get a proper look at him as they'd been watching him from fifteen feet away all term. As usual, his white shirt was crisp and clean, long sleeved with a ghost of a pinstripe – always buttoned to the wrists, never turned up. His hair was brushed down in an almost sixties "dad" look, but it had a hint of messiness underneath, like it needed a cut. It curled just a tiny bit on the ends and the style was choppy. But now close up, she could definitely see that he was attractive. His slate eyes were deep and intense, his chin strong and his nose almost like a roman statue.

Perhaps following him wasn't going to be so bad after all. It seemed that his front view matched the calibre of his back view quite nicely.

"Do you need something, Sakura?" Professor Hatake asked calmly without looking up from his book.

Immediately, Sakura's face turned red and she stammered out, "N—no—that is—I have your—paper."

Hatake lifted his hand and pointed to the stack of papers near his crossed feet. "Perhaps an eye exam would be a good summer appointment for you, Miss. Haruno."

"Uhm," Sakura's wide green eyes glanced at the finger pointing down at the papers when she caught sight of something around his wrist. When she looked back at his face, he was watching her. Then, sort of awkwardly, he retracted his hand.

"Can I help you with something else or are you lost?"

"No—no…I was just wondering what you were reading," she recovered nicely.

"Nothing that would interest you. If there isn't anything History related, why don't you head out and get studying."

Sakura blinked twice and finally spun on her heel. It was the longest personal conversation she'd had with the man and it almost felt like he knew something was up. Paranoia was settling in.

Casually, Sakura hung out with Ino on the steps of the Engineering building which was the last building before the campus turned into regular streets – and undoubtedly, her target would be passing by any minute. He took the same route to and from campus everyday.

Sakura leaned lazily against the red brick and Ino sat neatly on the thick railing beside her, both trying as covertly as possible to watch the road. Naruto's hoodie was slung over Sakura's arm and Ino was taking her bag home so that she didn't have to lug it around on her covert operation.

Finally, at six thirty, Professor Hatake Kakashi wandered by them later than expected. The good news was that he couldn't even be bothered to look in their direction.

"Good luck, Sakura. Don't get caught by his wife."

"He's only dating…on the internet," Sakura snorted, then slipped Naruto's huge hoodie on and pulled up the hood. Here goes, she thought.

Once he got about thirty feet away in his slow paced easy strides, Sakura slipped onto the sidewalk, gave a perfunctory wave to Ino, and began hunting her prey.

For fourteen blocks, Sakura followed the indolent and glacially paced Professor Hatake on the other side of the road. Twice he'd stopped at stores to look in the window, and once he assisted a woman carrying bags to her car parked on the street. So far, Sakura saw nothing shocking, interesting, nor determinate about his situation.

But he was a walker so she imagined that they wouldn't be far from his home, even though houses were not in the general area that they were heading. This part was closer to the downtown core and businesses liberally littered the buildings. Perhaps his gym was this way, she wondered, as it seemed everyone concurred that he worked out (as did his perfect behind). Perhaps Sai was right and he lived in an expensive high-rise apartment.

It was seven when Kakashi finally picked up his pace and after crossing University Ave and King St., he stopped outside a restaurant that Sakura had never been in before. The sign had some kanji on it, and in English, it read "Ichiraku". It resembled a traditional ramen shop. The outside wall was completely windows, so it was difficult for Sakura to go and look in without being noticed. But she had to see what he was doing. Maybe he was meeting someone there? Maybe his wife? Girlfriend? Boyfriend?

If he had a hot boyfriend, she would be so happy. She really, really had to see.

"Damn it," she grumbled as she darted across the busy street to the other side and slipped inside the alcove where the red door to the tiny restaurant sat. The long window in the door gave a half-decent view of the restaurant, but he wasn't anywhere to be seen.

"Arg. This better be worth eighty bucks…"

Taking a deep breath, Sakura slowly pushed her way inside the restaurant, angrily rueing the sound of the bell tinkling her arrival overhead.

"Ohayooooou!" an older man said from behind a steel counter not too far from the door. Sakura's stunned wide eyes found him and she managed a perfunctory nod. He looked to be about sixty, and wore a little white hat and apron. He was almost cute in a grandpa way with his perky smile and neat outfit. "Please come in," he added, seeing her still flush against the door in panic.

"I—I was just having a look—around-aaaannd…" Her hands groped for the doorknob, finding it just as Professor Hatake appeared from somewhere to stare right at her.

"Haruno Sakura. What are you doing?" he said lazily from just in front of the steel counter. His silvery eyebrows rose in query.

"I'm—I was just on my way downtown—I was—food, I wanted hungry..."

A wry grin (which Sakura had never seen before) spread across the professor's face. He slid onto a stool in front of the counter and looked up at the menu boards above the older cook's head, comfortably leaning on his elbows. "The tonkotsu ramen is excellent here."

"Arigato, Kakashi-kun." The cook bowed toward him and then seemed to resume the vegetable chopping that Sakura had seemingly interrupted.

"Do itashimashite, Teuchi-san" Kakashi answered easily.

Sakura's jaw hit the floor.

"It's impolite to hover in doorways," Professor Hatake added, glancing at the stone-still Sakura, still too shocked to move.

"S—sorry," she mumbled, and then staggered forward slowly to stop at the end of the counter. "I'll just sit—heeeere."

"Are you alone?" Teuchi asked. "Sit with Kakashi. How owes me a story today and they are always interesting. And when there's a pretty girl, they get much much better."

Sakura's wide green eyes caught her teacher's and he made an obvious sigh and pointed to the stool next to him. "Probably should see someone about that stutter after your eye-check, Sakura," he added.

Sakura slid onto the stool, feeling incredibly close to him. "El. Oh. El." she said dryly.

Kakashi scoffed under his breath.

"What can I get you, Miss?" Teuchi asked, his expert hands still chopping away even as he looked up. Pots boiled on the burners behind him and the scent of ramen and tasty things wafted in the air. The lighting was dim and intimate; a golden glow hovered above the counter and candles sat on the tables behind them.

"I guess I'll just have what he's having." She thumbed at her teacher.

"Excellent," Teuchi answered. He stopped chopping and busied himself with something at the far back counter, and then returned with two beers in tall glasses, and two shots of something.

"Oh…wait," she whispered, remembering that moths would likely fly from her wallet should she open it. "I didn't—this…"

"It's a Sapporo. Just drink it. I'll get the bill."

Sakura looked to her left to see him lifting his beer to his attractive lips, though his eyes were on her. "Thank you, Professor," she said quietly.

"Listen. I don't advertise what I do, so just call me Kakashi out of class. All right?"

"Kakashi," Sakura repeated, and then took a sip of her own beer, her lips curling into a wide grin around her glass.

They sat for a few minutes in silence, listening to the gurgling sound of the pots on the stoves when Sakura lifted the tiny shot glass up. "What's this…Kakashi?"

"Sake. You won't like it."

With an impertinent little lift of her brows, Sakura put the small cup to her lips and downed the contents.

He was right.

It burned a little and tasted what she imagined rubbing alcohol would be like if drank warm. She made a little snapping sound with her tongue as she tried to get the taste off of it. Finally, she downed the rest of her beer in hopes it would quell the fire.

Teuchi laughed harder than she thought was polite. But before she could recover, another beer was placed in front of her.

"So, Kakashi-kun. Let's hear today's story."

Kakashi, taking his second beer into his hand, nodded while his eyes scanned the ceiling. "Okay. I don't think you've heard this one before."

The tightness of Sakura's shoulders was beginning to loosen, her body was growing warm with the alcohol. She relaxed against the countertop, putting her chin on one hand and turning fully toward Kakashi.

"Back when I was twenty two and had just returned from my studies abroad, I found myself with a bit too much school debt and no decent job. My girlfriend at the time was what you'd call "high maintenance" and so I was in a dilemma."

For effect he paused the talk with a sip of his beer, and then he set down the half empty glass and used his hands to aid in animatedly telling the story. Undoubtedly he was warming from the alcohol as well.

"I had an old friend who was in the city at the same time and he suggested a way to make some easy money really fast. He knew I was a blackbelt as we'd trained together over the years. Apparently he'd heard of an underground Kumite going on at some basement dive in the East end. The purse was ten thousand. Lots of high rollers."

"Wait." Sakura put her hand up. "What's a Kumite?"

"It's a martial arts fight," Teuchi chimed in happily and then looked eagerly to Kakashi, "So what happened?"

"Well," he half laughed. "I fought for two days – eighteen guys. I got my ass kicked, but managed to win all the rounds. The final championship fight was the Saturday night and my opponent arrived. You could feel the floor shake when he stepped in the ring. He was as big as a mountain, and twice as solid. I nearly shat myself looking at him."

"Oh no," Sakura breathed out. She had been listening intently, sipping her own beer until she suddenly realized it was once again empty. And true to Teuchi's obvious hospitality, another one was there before she could say no.

Kakashi grinned. "The big guy steps up and looks me up and down. I'm bruised and bloodied. I'm skinny and about a foot shorter than him so he laughs. What can I do? It's ten thousand. So I get in my stance, hands up. The big guy does the same. His meaty hands are the size of my head. The official says "start" and I make one valiant effort by doing a jumping roundhouse."

"What happened?" Sakura asked excitedly, practically on the edge of her seat.

"I got him in the nose, right on the bridge. Smashed it. He hit the mat so hard that I'm sure I bounced up half a foot off of it from the impact."

Teuchi laughed and clapped a couple of times. He was still grinning as he brought two large bowls of ramen and slid them in front of Kakashi and Sakura. "So what happened with your girl?"

"Ah," Kakashi hummed. "I called her up and told her I was going to take her for the entire weekend to the finest hotel and we would have an expensive dinner. I told her to meet me there. I even bought her a diamond necklace."


"And when she got there, she took one look at my bruised up face, my cut lip and my limp and dumped me."

"What? That's insane." Sakura breathed out. "What about the necklace?"

Kakashi scoffed. "She took that before she walked out."

"That's a terrible ending. You should work on that," Teuchi snickered, sliding two more beers in front of them.

"I think she's had enough, Teuchi-san. I'll have hers." Kakashi looked at Sakura. "Eat your ramen before you get sick."

"Okay," she answered congenially, her grin a little too telling of how much she was enjoying herself. "Got anymore stories?"

"Ah, it's nine thirty. I better get moving," Kakashi mumbled, digging in his messenger bag for his wallet and tossing more than enough money for both meals and the drinks onto the counter. "As always, it was exceptional, Teuchi-san. I'll see you Monday."

"Of course, Kakashi-kun. Bring your young friend back too and I'll give her some butter-corn ramen next time. You make a very nice couple."

Kakashi's eyes turned in Sakura's direction momentarily and then he nodded. Sakura could see he was just placating Teuchi and had no intention of bringing her back.

"Are you going to be okay to get home?" he asked out of courtesy.

"Oh, yeah," Sakura replied with a dismissive wave of her hand. "No sweat."

"Okay. Be careful. It's dark. Maybe take a cab."

"Don't worry, Kakashi. I'm good."

He nodded uneasily, but she gave him an award winning overly happy, yet somewhat flirtatious smile. "Okay," he said again. "See you Monday." And then he grabbed up his jacket and bag, and was out the door before she knew it.

Sakura watched him until he passed by the windows and was gone.

"You are Kakashi-kun's student?" Teuchi asked, wiping the counter and removing Kakashi's empty bowl.

"Yeah. Oh, hey, Teuchi-s—san. Do you know if he's married?"

"Kakashi? Married? Oh, no." He laughed a little and it got harder as he thought about her question. "No, not married."

"Thanks," she mumbled as she slid off her stool and gathered up Naruto's hoodie. "You wouldn't happen to know what direction he went, do you?"

A knowing smile stretched across Teuchi's face until his weathered teeth showed. "I can actually tell you where he's going if you like."

"Oh Hell yes. That would be amazing!"

Kakashi picked up the pace as he headed the two blocks to his place. They were going to be pissed at him for being late, but they should be used to it by now. Surprisingly, he had enjoyed his dinner a little too much tonight with the unexpected company.

Haruno Sakura had been a straight A student of his for the last three months. It was hard not to notice her as she always sat somewhere in the front three rows of his lecture hall with her flower petal pink hair and her intense focus. He was a man after all so of course he noticed how well put together she was. Today's get up of a tight white t-shirt and thigh hugging jeans had to be a favourite. Even her Gucci friend Ino didn't have the same appeal. Sakura's maturity made her stand out. Get a couple of beers in her and she was downright charming.

He checked the flashing giant clock on the corner bank display as he passed, imagining that Genma was probably grumbling into his drink while Kurenai was practicing the tirade that she reserved just for his extra-late nights.

Two more blocks hurried past and Kakashi swept into the entrance of the Metalsteam Music Hall, past the bouncer and through the patrons that had come early. Of course, Kurenai was already heading his way through the tables of people with a stern look on her face the very second she caught sight of him.

"Kakashi!" she shouted over as he waved a little and begged for a minute with a pointed finger. "One minute," he mouthed. She stopped in her tracks and crossed her arms. Again he asked for patience with another point of his finger before slipping through the back hall, up the back stairs and with a quick turn of his key, into his small apartment.

The map Teuchi had drawn was on the back of a takeout menu and was as accurate as any street map. But when Sakura arrived at what she thought was the address, she came to find nothing but a rundown looking old factory with graffiti on the walls and one neon sign that read "op n". It couldn't possibly be there. It looked like a place that nice young university students went to die.

Perhaps Teuchi was messing with her.

But as she stood there and watched, a number of people headed for the doorway. Girls in short skirts and stilettos and men dressed as hipsters and punks and all manner of outfits roamed within the doors. They would pause there, speak with someone, and then slip inside.

Well, it definitely wasn't abandoned. And she'd come that far so what would it hurt to go a little farther. Her curiosity far outweighed her fear now anyway. The man had become this amazing mystery she was desperate to unravel.

Crossing the street, she maneuvered to the front entrance and watched a few more people pass by. Music was thrumming through the inner door every time it opened and the thick scent of smoke and booze filled the air.

A man stood in the doorway, heavy and menacing looking, but upon closer inspection, she realized it was a guy who worked security at the university. She thought his name was Kankuro or something like that. He'd always been friendly when he saw her.

Finally, gathering her courage, she slipped into the entrance foyer and looked up at Kankuro with a flirtatious smile. "Hi."

"Oh Hey," he responded, holding out his hand and taking a twenty from each of the couple that were passing beside her. "Are you here for the band?"

"Band…Yeah. I am."

"Twenty cover tonight."

Sakura patted her sides and felt her empty wallet in her back jeans pocket. "Shit. I forgot my wallet. Oh damn. Oh no. I'm- meeting my friends here and I won't have a ride home. What should I do…?" It wasn't comfortable for her to play the damsel in distress, but what other option did she have. "Oh my god. I'm so stupid…"

Kankuro's face melted to a look of familiar concern and he glanced over her head to see if anyone was around. "It's all right. Just go on in. But if anyone asks, you paid."

"Oh Kankuro. Thank you so much," she squeaked. "You saved me. You're the best." She gave him a quick hug and darted through the back doorway with relief. Using her good looks and a little flirtation to gain entrance really felt underhanded and she swore she would make it up to him.

Once inside, the darkness of the full to bursting room was tempered with a myriad of coloured lights overhead as well as the blue-green fluorescents that hung above a makeshift bar to the left – all glass and girders.

Immediately she was bumped and jostled around as everyone was crowding toward the small stage at the far corner. The room had to be the size of the lecture hall, but flooded with bodies and tables; graffiti covered every wall and old looking posters were tacked up lopsidedly on the pillars that spaced out along the side of the room. She had to admit, it was pretty damn cool – a rusted box with silk inside.

Sakura looked down at her flip flops and ratty jeans. The hoodie was four sizes too big and her white t-shirt shone in the black lights propped sporadically from the tops of the pillars. Her hair turned violet.

Everyone she could see was dressed for the scene. Some men wore ties, some wore expensive looking shirts and some were in concert tees with chains on their belt loops. The women were a whole other level altogether with their jewels and fancy up-dos. It was such an eclectic gathering of people, yet she felt like she'd worn the absolutely wrong thing.

"Hi," a man just a touch taller than her said from her left, making her spin toward him in surprise. The sound of the drum kit being touched and set was encouraging the excited noise in the place to rise, and so she had to lean closer to see what the stranger was saying.

"I said hello," he repeated. "You're here for the band, yeah?"

Sakura stared at his blue blue eyes and his long blond hair. His accent was unusual but his smile was what put her on alert. There was something a little greasy in his attitude even though she would go as far as to say he was attractive. She always imagined herself a good judge of character so faint alarm bells rang in her beer taxed brain.

"I'm Deidara…Dei. I haven't seen you here before. First time?"

"Oh. Yes. I actually didn't know it existed before tonight."

Dei winked and leaned close enough to say in her ear, "It doesn't exist."

Sakura creased her brow and the man laughed. "Let me buy you a drink," he offered quickly, pressing his hand on the small of her back and ushering her through the crowd toward the bar. In a place where she knew absolutely no one and nothing, she felt obliged to just be shifted. What else could she do? If only Ino had come with her.

"What'll you have?" the young bartender asked, and it shocked Sakura who was just making her way onto a barstool. When she looked up, the most attractive looking bartender she'd ever seen waited patiently for her order. He had black eyes, and long black hair tied back in a ponytail. Actually, he looked a lot like Sasuke but without the stick up his ass. His nametag read "Itachi" and even though he didn't smile, she couldn't take her eyes off of him.

"Let's get two buds and two shots of vodka," Dei said plainly and Itachi's face darkened when their eyes met. But he went about getting it anyway.

"So what do people call you, hm?" Dei asked Sakura as he handed her the beer.

"I'm Sakura."

"Very fitting. So you're here for the band. It's quite an unexpectedly large turnout."

"Ah, yeah. I heard they were amazing," she lied. She was lying through her teeth. What a night of deceit it was turning out to be. It seemed that eighty bucks appeared to be what her soul was worth.

"How about that vodka." Dei picked up the shot glasses and put one in Sakura's fingers. Reluctantly she took it. It went down a little too smooth and she began to think after all the beers at the restaurant, the sake, and now this, she was getting a little drunk.

The drums suddenly clunked again and the sound of feedback from a microphone squealed in the building, making people groan.

"Sorry," came the raspy, sexy voice of the female singer working away at setting it up. "Check, check," she added and it sounded loud in the large hall. "Check one."

A cymbal crashed quietly and then the heavy hum of an amplifier being plugged in and a few tugs on a guitar string seemed to set the crowd alight with whoops and cheers.

Sakura propped her feet up on the stool rung and stood up enough to get a good look at the stage.

A soft strum of a six-string guitar ran through her body like a freight train.

A sudden snap of drumsticks together accented the drummer's count of "One, two, three, four!" And then, to Sakura's delight, the music rocked to life. Hands flew up into the air, clapping; people jumped up and down to the beat. Sakura could feel the thump thump of the drums in her chest as the immediately likable song swept her into its rhythm, but even with all that, her eyes were glued to the guitarist.

Never. Never. Never! in a million years would she have ever expected Professor Hatake Kakashi to be standing up on stage, expertly wooing a crowd of people with some of the most excellent guitar playing she'd ever witnessed.

He was like some person she'd never seen before. His consummately combed hair was sticking up this way and that in a perfect conglomeration of sexy bedhead. The mystery of his wrist was solved as his ragged looking black t-shirt gave her a clear glimpse of the tattooed sleeve that went from his wrist to some amazing place hidden by the fabric. His jeans were a little baggy with a leather belt and hung on that perfect posterior in the most tantalizing way. But it was the talent that had her licking her lips in anticipation.

He'd throw his head back during a particularly difficult riff and his lean, toned body would move as if he and the guitar were one.

"He's good," Dei yelled near her ear, a little touch of jealousy in his tone. When she turned her head to look at her current escort, he held another shot of vodka up for her.

She shook her head but he obliged it into her hand.

Her gaze uncontrollably turned back to Kakashi as she was mesmerized, transfixed, just as it seemed every other woman in the place was by his talented fingers.

While enjoying the fifth song in a row, Sakura couldn't help but notice the other members of the band. The singer, a dark haired woman with incredibly large eyes and legs for days swayed her hips and owned the bar with her smoky voice. The drummer, a man with long brownish hair and a sexy grin to match, was so involved with what he was doing, Sakura doubted he could see anyone in the room.

But it was Kakashi that continually drew her eyes. Kakashi commanded the audience and the adoration. Women reached forward, grabbing his pant leg and dancing provocatively in front of him. He was loved.

Finally, tragically, the set finished and the singer announced that they would be back after a short break. Sakura tried to keep her eyes on Kakashi but the swell of the crowd around them made it hard to see where he'd gone. Last she saw him, the hot young bartender was up on the short stage handing him a beer as he was putting his guitar up on the stand.

The chatter of the crowd seemed to level off with the lack of music before speakers piped some alternative song she knew above them. Her head was feeling fuzzy, almost cottony and it was getting hard to concentrate. She looked at Dei, who was grinning in some confident way. She'd lost track of the shots he'd plied her with, but she was feeling so warm and contented that she couldn't care anymore.

"Feeling good, yeah?" he asked, and his voice sounded far away. "Need some air?"

Sakura blinked slowly. Maybe she did need some air. Maybe she needed to lie down…

Slowly she slid off the barstool and her feet were lazy and uncooperative. Dei's hands shot out toward her hips, but before he could grab on, another arm swung around her waist from behind and hoisted her back onto the barstool.

Sakura's heavy head flopped a little, but she managed to see a person swing around her and stand between her and Dei. Some raised voices could be heard just above the clinking of glasses and the excited chatter of the other patrons, but to Sakura, it all sounded very distant.

"This one's off limits," a voice said evenly, but the warning was clear. "She's with me."

It actually all seemed quite funny, so Sakura giggled.

"I'm glad you find this amusing," Kakashi's voice chided. Sakura looked up to see his stern gaze just inches from hers. He was shaking his head.

"Itachi. Tell Kurenai that I'll be back a little late," Kakashi said to the man behind the bar and then regretfully set his bottle of cold beer down on the countertop. Damn he wanted that beer. The lights were hot and he deserved it after the day he was having.

What on earth was she doing there? Damn Teuchi and his desperate desire to see Kakashi with a woman again. Women were trouble and Sakura was just proving it in spades.

Her glassy, translucent green eyes lifted to him and she smiled. "Hi Kakashi."

It took all he could not to laugh. Even intoxicated, she was likable – infuriatingly so.

Damn Dei. Thank goodness Itachi had sensed the prick was trying to get someone drunk. The man was a total letch. He'd pointed her and Dei out to Kakashi when he'd brought him a beer. Itachi had only meant to complain, maybe get Dei barred from the club, but when Kakashi saw her stark hair, purple under the lights, he had to intervene.

He'd probably shoved drink after drink in her hand until she couldn't think. Creep.

"Come on, Sakura. You need to sleep it off."

Gently, he slid his arm around her waist again and tugged her off the barstool. In her drunkenness, she wrapped her arms around his neck and fell against his chest. Anyone watching would undoubtedly think they were a couple.

With her hanging on him, it would be difficult to get her up the stairs. So when they shuffled through the back hall and got to the landing, Kakashi scooped her slender body up into his arms and carried her.

"I like this," she slurred out, pressing her cheek against his shoulder and rubbing against the soft cotton of his shirt. "God, you smell awesome." One finger slid down his pectoral as she hummed her appreciation.

He got to his door, decidedly ignoring her clumsy and drunken come ons and managed to get his key in the lock. He carried her inside and placed her unsure feet on the wooden floor.

"Come with me," he said quietly, and led Sakura over to the bed in the small one room apartment. "I want you to lie down and close your eyes. I'll come and check on you in a little while."

Sakura's hazy gaze met his and then she looked at his mouth. "I really like your mouth," she breathed out. "Your lips are nice." She traced a finger over them.

"Sakura… I said sleep."

"Kiss me and I'll do what you say."

Kakashi rolled his eyes. He was going to beat Dei to pulp the next time he showed his face around there. Had Itachi not said anything, who knows what sort of trouble Sakura would have been in at the moment. In the big scheme of things, she was not going to remember much in the morning. And because Dei had plied her this much, Kakashi ended up being the one in the awkward position.

Thank goodness for her that he was a decent man. She'd probably never remember what happened tomorrow.

"Kiss you? Why should I?"

"Because you want to. I can tell you want to kiss me. I can tell by the way you're looking at me. I can tell by how you looked at me at dinner."

"You might be wrong."

"I. Said. Kiss m…!" But before she could finish, Kakashi pressed his mouth to hers hard. His hand slid to the back of her hair and he twisted his fingers into the strands to tilt her head just the way he wanted. He pulled her tightly against him with his other arm and she moaned softly.

Sure he wanted to kiss her. He wanted to do a lot of things to her because he was a healthy man and she looked the way she did in that tight white t-shirt and those hip riding jeans. She had an ass that wouldn't quit. How many afternoons in that lecture hall had he seen her in something tight and form fitting and imagined himself peeling it off. Her yoga pants were almost the death of him. He'd noticed her from day one and kissing was the least of his desires.

So maybe he wasn't completely decent…

He kissed her for a long time, sliding his tongue into her mouth and then taking the opportunity to run his lips down her long perfect neckline. She sighed in pleasure when he nipped her ear lobe, and then he brushed his lips across her cheek before he captured her mouth again and again.

When he finally stopped, her eyes were shut. Her fingers were still tightly gripping his t-shirt, but she was inches from passing out. He was glad of it. He wouldn't have to worry about her wandering (or falling) back downstairs and getting into trouble.

She was easily led to the bed and flopped heavily to the mattress on the floor when he pushed her. The ragdoll fall she made had him chuckling to himself before he flipped the covers over her and left.

There were two more sets to do and Kurenai was bound to have his balls after being late twice in one night. At least Genma would be good after Kakashi bought him a round.

When he got back on stage and slid his guitar strap around his shoulder, Kurenai covered the microphone with her hand and growled, "So what's her name?"

Kakashi just grinned and clicked his footpedal.

Sakura awoke to something lying flush and warm against her back. When she cracked an eye, the terrifying realization that she didn't know where she was her hit like a brick to the stomach. That blond bastard from the night before just wouldn't stop feeding her vodka. But as much as he was to blame, so was she. Why didn't she stop?

She closed her eyes again and tried to piece together the night. First she was at the restaurant, then at the bar where Kakashi played guitar like a god. Then she was pretty drunk and he brought her up some stairs… And then he…kissed her…

If that was the last thing she remembered, then why was she in a strange bed with someone practically on top of her. Suddenly the warm body behind her shifted and very carefully, she turned over, fully expecting to see a complete stranger or worse…Professor Hatake there.

But before she got a good look at her bedmate, a warm tongue lapped across her face and made her sputter and kick until she fell off the low mattress and onto the hard floor. When she looked back up, a small pug dog was lying at the edge of the mattress, his little paws dangling over the edge and his bum up, tail wagging fiercely.

"A dog...?"

"Down Pakkun," a familiar voice said.

Sakura shifted hastily to peer around the dog, and to her surprise, Kakashi was standing across the room. He was working at the collar of a crisp shirt, tying his tie and buttoning his buttons in front of a full length mirror.

The little dog hopped down from the bed at his command and situated itself against Sakura's thigh.

"Sorry. You must be warm. He likes sleeping against people."

Kakashi finally turned around after flipping down his collar over his tie. He raised his eyebrows slightly. "Feeling okay?"

"No. I feel really sick. What am I doing here..?" she breathed out. "What happened…?

"That blond guy you ran into when you first got here bought you about six shots and two beers. I suppose if we add that to the four beers and the sake at the restaurant, you were probably intoxicated beyond your capacity. Luckily the bartender noticed, told me and I put you up here to sleep it off. No one touched you. You were safe all night."

For a brief second, the world seemed to spin out of control as her body reacted to the welcome news. She plunked her forehead on the side of the bed and reached down to stroke the dog. The desire to laugh hysterically was only dampened by her churning stomach.

"Wait… Whose shirt is this?" To her dismay, she realized that she had not been wearing a sex pistols shirt, a size too big, when she came the night before. "Where the fuck are my pants!"

"You got sick on yourself and on my bed. My friend Kurenai cleaned you up and threw one of my shirts on you. I slept in the staff lounge downstairs. But I have a meeting at the University this morning so I needed to get ready to go."

Kakashi bent and picked up his messenger bag. "I'm sorry. You'll have to go too."

"I slept in..your bed? I don't understand. We're still at that nasty bar?"

"Yes. Wait, nasty?"

"You live above a bar? With a dog? Who is Kurenai?"

Kakashi shook his head. "I really don't have time…"

"I need some answers. The entire night after I got here is a total blackout. I need to hear this. You can't make me go home without telling me what happened."

With a sigh, Kakashi plopped down in the chair by an old desk in the corner of the large room. It was dark slightly in the room, and Sakura could see a fireplace on one side with a sofa in front and a row of beautiful guitars – seven maybe – lined up on stands along a small area on the far side of the bed. A tiny kitchenette was near the desk where Kakashi sat and the windows spaced all around the room were covered in reddish curtains, blocking out the sun.

"All right," he began. "Kurenai is the lead singer of my band and a good friend. I'm her son's godfather. We've known each other for years. Genma is the drummer and he is a cop in the city. I'm a university professor for the time being. And you've met Pakkun." Kakashi gestured to the dog who was now trotting over to put his front paws on Kakashi's thigh. "I own this bar and this building. Itachi is a good bartender and likes to watch out for the girls who can't watch out for themselves. Now if you don't have any other questions, I need to get to work."

Sakura looked down at the red sex pistols shirt and over to his bed which looked like the sheets had been yanked off and replaced with a thick sleeping bag. The tag from the naked mattress glared from the side.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, realizing that she must have made a lot of hassle for him with her ridiculous covert operation. "So nothing happened. I just slept."

"Yes. Now we need to go." Kakashi got up and grabbed a pair of his jeans hanging over the back of the chair behind him. He tossed them on the bed in front of Sakura. "Put these on and I'll show you out." Then he stood up and turned around.

It took seconds for her to get to her feet and slip his jeans on. They were just a little big and hung on her hips nicely. Boyfriend jeans – isn't that what Ino called them?

"Okay," she mumbled.

"Your clothes are in a bag downstairs. And Sakura…" He turned and looked at her intently. "I'm your professor. I'd appreciate it if this went no further than this room. Being in this sort of situation isn't appropriate. Let's forget last night happened."

"Forget? But you ki—you ki-"

"What? I what?" Kakashi asked plainly.

By his reaction, she began to wonder if she only dreamt that amazing, toe-curling kiss. Really, why on earth would her History of War professor ever kiss her? He seemed more perturbed than anything at the moment by her presence and it left her feeling guilty as well as sick.

"Nothing," she breathed out. "Nothing at all."

"Okay. Let's go."

In the first few hours after she got home, Sakura remained in his t-shirt, pressing the collar of it against her nose to smell him. All the incredible revelations about Kakashi came rushing back. She wanted to know more. She wanted to see more. His guitar playing was mind blowing and his story at the ramen shop shook the foundations of the bland little box she had fit him into since that first day of school.

The History of War just became her most interesting class.

The eighty dollars seemed so not important now. In fact, she couldn't care less about it. Her whole being was focused on learning more about him.

When she finally slept, felt better and was able to keep food down, Sakura spent the rest of the weekend in a ball on her rickety futon in her tiny apartment studying between bouts of banging on the wall because her neighbours were arguing nonstop.

By Monday morning, she was more nervous than sleepy when it came to heading for school.

As usual, she swept into the student union building to find her group of cohorts lazily discussing the weekend. The only one who seemed to have any energy was Ino who appeared to be bursting with news about her date with Neji.

As soon as Sakura sat down beside her, Ino started regaling her with tales of the beach and the sunset and what a great kisser Neji was. Her hurried speech went on and on with every detail flying out of her mouth so fast it made Sakura's head spin. But if Ino was talking, no one was asking her about her night.

"And what did he do?" Sakura coaxed.

"Oh. My. God! He put his hand on my…"

"Wait a second!" Naruto piped up, putting his hand out in front of Ino's angry face. "What the Hell happened Friday, Haruno? I'm looking forward to winning this bet! Give us the scoop."

Like someone had punched her stomach and let them loose, the butterflies started. It seemed that the lying, deceptive Sakura was going to have to make an appearance. It didn't sit well, but she had a few things she still needed to do.

"I lost him. I don't know what happened, but one minute he was there and the next he was gone. I'm sorry."

"Whaaaaa?" Naruto grumbled. "What the Hell, Sakura. It's not like he's some super ninja that can disappear. How far did you follow him?"

She shrugged slowly, trying to look innocent. "Maybe I was too far back."

Sasuke and Naruto looked at each other. "I suppose we could do it tonight," Sasuke said calmly. "I don't have anything I have to do."

Naruto nodded, rubbing his chin. "I don't think I have work either. I think I could make it."

Sai shook his head. "I have to study. I have two exams on Thursday."

"Oh exams, yeah." Sakura tried to direct the conversation. "I thought we were getting together for a study session for Professor Hatake's class. I need some help with that and was hoping we could meet at Ino's place and review together."

"I don't know." Naruto scrunched his brow. "You know how our study groups work out. We'll just have a couple of drinks and talk and no one will study. I don't want to fail this class."

Sasuke bobbed his head a little in thought. "I think Sakura is right. We have all week to follow Hatake. If everyone is free, then let's meet at Ino's and study. I missed a few classes a couple of weeks ago so I want to discuss the lectures."

Relief flooded Sakura's insides. At least for one more night, she'd have her chance to have his little secrets all to herself. If any of them knew he was playing music at a bar, they would be lining up to go and see. For some reason, Sakura wanted to keep that incredible part of him all to herself.

"So seven o'clock at Ino's?" Sasuke queried the group.

"Thanks for volunteering my place," Ino growled, but she was grinning and laughing. Conversations suddenly started up with her teasing, and the subject of their History teacher was all but forgotten.

Universe 0, Sakura 1.

For the hour before the History of War class, Sakura felt butterflies swan diving in her stomach. Fear and anticipation swirled to fill her with a bursting sick feeling that tickled her abdomen. And when she reached the door, her heart was pounding like a bass drum against her ribs.

The rumbling conversation of the fifty students who filled up the lecture hall calmed Sakura momentarily while she took her ubiquitous seat next to Ino. But as Kakashi sauntered into the hall in a dark suit, a fifties looking red and blue tie and his hair combed down, she felt the butterflies turn to bottle rockets.

He dropped his messenger bag onto his desk and then unlatched it, looking for some papers.

"All right. I've graded the essays and they weren't too bad," he announced to his desk. "It's nice to know most of you are paying attention instead of just staring blankly," Kakashi rambled off as he pulled a stack of papers from a folder. He looked up at the group and scanned for a volunteer. He stopped at some random girl Sakura barely knew and smiled. "Hinata. Would you mind handing these back?"

The purple haired girl squeaked a little 'yes' and stood up to take the papers from him.

He backed up from the gallery as Hinata shuffled around the room whispering names of people she didn't know. Kakashi retreated to his desk and pulled out his text.

"Okay. We'll go through the chapters and I'll give you some indication of what will be on your exam. It'll be a short class and then we'll dismiss until Thursday."

Again Kakashi scanned the group and to Sakura's dismay, he seemed to avoid meeting her gaze. She supposed it was probably a good thing because she might have given herself away with a large grin should he have looked at her – but the idea that he was pissed started to take away her enjoyment of the whole adventure.

He did seem quite cold Saturday morning. Especially after the fact that he'd kissed her the night prior. Passing out was something she'd never done before, but no matter how drunk she was, she never lost time. He had definitely kissed her and she could still remember how amazing it was. Actually kiss just seemed like too simple a word for what he had done to her.

The idea that he was purposely ignoring her sat like an undigested dumpling in her stomach.

Hinata was suddenly there hovering between her desk and the blackboard, and she smiled as she asked, "Haruno?"

Sakura stuck out her hand and snatched the paper from the timid girl. She slapped it down on her desk, plunked her text on top and then forced herself to stare at the pages. She couldn't even look at him she was so upset.

It felt like her ice cream cone had dropped to the pavement – and it was the last one on earth.

The review was brief, like Kakashi said it would be, and before everyone could gather up their books and shuffle to the aisle to get out of the lecture hall, Kakashi was flying out the door.

He was definitely, definitely avoiding her.

She sighed heavily and felt the difficulty at not being able to complain about the situation to Ino. How badly she wanted to tell her about every crazy thing that happened and ask what she should do. But he was her teacher and like he said, it was inappropriate.

She couldn't help it. She was finding herself incredibly attracted to him.

"Aren't you coming?" Ino asked as she hoisted her expensive satchel on her shoulder and stood next to Sakura's desk from which Sakura hadn't even budged. "Hey what did you get on your paper?" Ino asked, tilting her head to see the essay scrunched under the textbook.

"What?" In a fog, Sakura looked down at the half crumpled paper under her text and checked the mark. At the top of the page, written in red it said "Good job, lightweight." She'd received a 92% and a happy face.


Ino's apartment was a good place to study. Her rich parents owned flower shops around a number of cities and so her furniture was comfortable, clean and soft. She also had a scoping, breathtaking view of the city from the eighteenth floor apartment that probably cost what Sakura's did for a year.

It would have been amazing to live in that building, but she was putting herself through school and money was something to be spent when needed. Extravagance and luxury would have to wait until she was a doctor.

Everyone was already there when Sakura arrived, and so she sat on the floor, flipped open her text, and put in her required amount of time. The talk strayed between History of War, to English, to Biology to the bar next to the building, to the sexual deviance of their co-students. The topic shifted as much as Sakura's attention.

Finally, deciding she'd done her friendly duty for the night, she stood up, peered at the clock and said, "Wow, it's only eight. I'm so tired. I think I'm going home to bed. There's no class tomorrow so I'm going to study all day."

All their eyes rose up to her and Ino's brow creased tightly. "I though we were going to hit the bar next door?"

"I'll go next time. I'm whipped."

Lies, lies, lies. Oh, she was going to Hell in a gilded, uncomfortable hand basket.

"Okay," Ino shrugged and singsonged, "But don't blame me if we have fun without you."

Sakura speedwalked down University Ave until she came to King. Carefully she dodged the traffic and hopped up the curb to find herself in front of the red door of the Ichiraku. Rain had started to patter along the windows and concrete walks, and it only made her hurry more. She wouldn't want to look like a drowned rat after all.

"Don't be too late. Don't be too late," she chanted, turning the knob and slipping inside as quietly as possible. Again, that damn bell betrayed her.

"Ohayooooouu, Sakura-chan!" Teuchi called over, and Sakura tried to smile. She wasn't too late. Kakashi was still there. But the shock of seeing a woman pressed up to him on his left nearly choked her with embarrassment. Why hadn't she even dreamt that scenario up when she imagined all the things that could go wrong with showing up there?

"Come, come. Sit down. I have butter corn ramen just for you!" Teuchi said, waving her over and pointing to the seat on the right side of Kakashi.

Sakura stared at the couple sitting at the steel counter and if she could shrink into nothing, it would have been a welcome ability. If only she had the power to reverse time. The disappointment with the situation was tangible.

"You know, I'm sorry Teuchi-san. I just remembered that I had a study session with some friends. I should probably…"

But her words were cut off by Kakashi lifting a hand lazily and pointing to the seat next to him. He wasn't even looking her way. "What did I tell you about lurking in doorways, Haruno."

"It's impolite."

"It's impolite," he parroted and then sipped his beer.

Timidly, Sakura approached, but stopped a stool away to just lean on the counter. From where she stood, it became obvious that Kakashi had already imbibed a few beers. His tie was loose and pulled down about three buttons. His shirt was open to the tie and rolled up unevenly at the sleeves. The appealing tattoo on his arm was colourfully vivid against the cottony white shirt. But it was his eyes that told the story of the last couple hours. They were heavier than normal and slightly red. Four empty glasses were on the steel counter in front of him and at least three shot glasses were overturned in a row.

Maybe he didn't drink them all, but he'd obviously had enough. Maybe Teuchi couldn't keep up with washing them…

"Sakura. This is my daughter, Ayame!" Teuchi said happily, holding a hand out and gesturing to the attractive dark haired woman on the other side of Kakashi.

"Oh," Sakura breathed out in surprise, but when the woman stood up a little on the rung of the stool, she used Kakashi's arm to steady her. She then reached across him, practically shoving her breasts in his face to shake Sakura's hand.

"Hi," Sakura said as sweetly as she could, taking the woman's hand and shaking it.

"Nice to meet you," Ayame answered equally as saccharine. "Is this one of your little students, Kakashi?"

Kakashi brought his beer to his lips and his smile touched the rim. "Yep."

Sakura's lips pursed and her brow creased.

"You've come just in time! Kakashi is going to tell us about how he got his scar." Teuchi held both hands out as if he was welcoming Kakashi.

"Really…?" Sakura said as calmly as she could. Well no matter what the night brought, she would at least have another exceptional piece of information for her fantasies.

"You don't want to hear that," Kakashi slurred a little and then patted the chair next to him. Sakura tilted her head, slightly confused. Was he or wasn't he with Ayame? The woman was practically sitting in his lap so why would he want her to come and sit next to him?

"Tell us about the time you got shot, Kakashi," Ayame purred, her long fingers clamped possessively over his forearm.

"That's not a very good story."

"I'd like to hear it," Sakura said a little more quietly than she meant to.

Kakashi's intense dark eyes turned her way and he watched her for a second. Sakura could feel her face getting warm.

"Okay, okay," he said with some quiet defeat. "Sit down first."

Inevitably, Sakura sat down. It seemed he was going to keep pointing until she complied so she did. Within seconds of taking a seat, she could smell his heady cologne mixed with beer. The delicious smell of the ramen made Sakura's stomach growl softly and she was grateful the bubbling pots concealed it.

Teuchi slid a beer in front of Sakura and a glass of water in front of Kakashi. All their attention was undivided now that Kakashi was ready to tell another story – and of all things, being shot! Sakura could hardly believe what she was hearing. Perhaps it was some play on words and he was talking about a needle. Who was this man?

"I was eighteen. As you know, I'm decent at karate and have a bit of a background with weapons."

"I didn't know that!" Sakura blurted out.

"Oh." Kakashi's eyebrows rose in intoxicated confusion. "Well my father made weapons for a living. Since I was six I knew how to smith a balanced katana or build a long range sniper rife if needed. He took commissions when I was a boy and had wanted to pass the skills on to me when I got older. I was polishing gun barrels at four."

Sakura nodded, trying not to get him off track. But by his explication on his father's occupation, she figured his taking a bullet was a work accident. "Go on."

"Where was I? Oh, eighteen. Well, I was working for a private security company and was doing some armed escort work for a Japanese businessman's daughter. We were in Paris at the time and she was a hell of a pain in the ass. She wanted to go to every club, every shop and every restaurant from Lourdes to Troyes. I limited her to The Marais and she hated me for it."

Sakura was already lost. "I'm not following."

Kakashi looked at her and sort of shook his head a little. "Sorry. Let's just say she was demanding. While we were there, she started seeing this guy who was the seediest thing on two legs. Orochimaru something or other. He was a snake. There were three of us watching her in shifts and when it was my shift, she ditched me to go clubbing with him. I was going to get fired if I didn't bring her back so I scoured her favourite clubs until I found them."

"And?" Ayame chimed in.

"And, I dragged her out of the club kicking and screaming. Of course he followed. But before I could put her in the car, he came at me swinging. Well he's drunk and stupid and I don't want to hurt him, so I used his own body weight to bring him to the ground."

Sakura sipped her beer silently, hanging on his every word. But Ayame was preoccupied with squeezing his knee and gasping ridiculously at every little comment. This, Sakura was unable to ignore. Kakashi, however, seemed positively obtuse to anything Ayame was doing.

"And then he got up. I told him to just stay down, but he's up and swinging again."

"Did he pull a gun?" Ayame breathed out, her hand on her chest.

"No, but as we're fighting, this young fresh-faced police officer shows up and yells for us to stop. Poor kid looks to be as young as I was. The thug is coming at me and I'm not about to let him think he can win, so I toss him to the ground again, but this time I grab his wrist, my foot is on his back, and I begin to twist. In those days, I didn't know my own strength and I guess I popped his shoulder out of the socket. He yowled like a wounded cat."

Ayame giggled softly and Sakura shook her head, finding herself already at the bottom of her beer. Teuchi motioned to get another but Sakura put her hand up and smiled. Thankfully, Teuchi complied.

"So the girl is sobbing against the car, calling me every name in the book in French. The creep she is dating is sobbing like a child as well and suddenly, the cop pulls his gun. The poor officer's hand is shaking so badly that I'm scared he's going to kill us all by accident. So I drop Orochi's arm, which makes him scream like a little girl, and then I put my hands up."

"And!" Ayame nudged.

"And so everything calms down. The gun is lowering, the sobbing is subsiding. I'm losing the tension in my shoulders and things are going okay. Even the crowd watching begins to trickle away. But then the cop goes to holster his weapon and wouldn't you know it, butterfingers drops it to the pavement. It goes off, and I get a slug in the right thigh."

Sakura couldn't help gasping. He really had been shot...

"That isn't the best part though, right Kakashi?" Teuchi laughed.

"No. I was in the hospital for two days before my employer shows up. His daughter had told him everything that happened in her own view, and you know what he does?"

Sakura's eyebrows rose in anticipation.

"Fires me."

"Oh my god," Ayame laughed.

"I flew out of France two days later and never went back."

Sakura was still astonished. "You were actually shot."

Kakashi nodded, giving her a calm, hazy grin. "Hurt like Hell." He turned to Teuchi and tapped the bar. Within seconds, another beer was placed before him. "Want one?" he leaned over a little and asked Sakura.

"Oh, Ayame. Your ride is here," Teuchi said mildly as he wiped at the counter. "Don't be late tonight. Your mother doesn't sleep when you're out!"

"Yeah, yeah," Ayame mumbled, slipping off the barstool to leave. She slid her purse over her should and Sakura could see she looked like she was dressed to go out in a short black dress and heels. "Want to come, Kakashi? My friends and I are going dancing."

Sakura's brows rose as she watched Kakashi shake is head. He looked over at Sakura in a sleepy, lazy way and said, "I have to tutor my student tonight."

With an exasperated breath, Ayame walked away grumbling, "Your loss."

Kakashi shrugged at Sakura. "I don't think so."

The rain drenched the streets and Sakura stood with Kakashi outside the Ichiraku, both knowing that the first step would soak them. Teuchi had called a cab before they walked out, but neither of them seemed like they were in any particular hurry.

"Not playing tonight?" Sakura asked calmly.

"Monday. Bar's shut. Tuesday is Hell night and then regular bands start again on Wednesday." He stared out at the murky sky, darkening above them.

"Hell night?"

"Open mic. …Hell."

A soft breath of a laugh escaped Sakura. He was funnier than she ever imagined on those afternoons in his classroom talking about history and war and weapons. Who knew that he had lived so many of those things instead of just reciting them from a book. At that moment, Sakura believed he was the most interesting man she'd ever met.

"Why didn't you look at me in class today?" she queried evenly.

Another shrug shifted his frame. "I'm your professor. I'm there to teach you. You learned something whether I look at you or not."

"Were you upset about Friday night?"

Kakashi turned to look at her. His eyes were still quite red and his breathing was slow, just like his reactions and reflexes. "I've had nights like that where the beer goes down and then I'm stupid enough to mix with vodka and sake and other bad things. The bed spins, the room spins, I might fall into someone that I have no business falling into – if you know what I mean. Everyone has those nights. I own a bar. If that bothered me, then I'd have a rough life."

"Okay." Relief flooded her.

"Why aren't you studying? My exam is in a couple of days. You always seemed like the studying type."

Sakura fell lightly against the wall and smiled. "I'll ace it. I'm not worried."

Kakashi's brow rose. "Really. So what brought you here then?"

Her vibrant green eyes slowly roved the street and then the Ichiraku sign and then his face. She couldn't answer him. What could she say? He was the reason she was doing anything anymore, including lying to everyone.

"This can't go on you know," Kakashi continued. "Why do you keep following me?"

Sakura looked up and met his sleepy gaze. "Because you won't follow me."

Kakashi seemed to lean into her then, placing a hand beside her on the brick wall and drawing closer. Sakura felt her knees weaken. It seemed like he was going to kiss her again… But when his face was so close that his lips just brushed her cheek, she heard him speak in her ear, "I'm your professor. And this can't happen – as much as I would like it to."

Then he stood up and turned toward the street just as a cab pulled up.

He grabbed her arm and tugged her toward the cab. Rain pelted them as he opened the door and shoved her in, and then tugging out his wallet, he threw some money at the driver up front. "Take her home."

"Wait," Sakura growled. "We aren't finished talking!"

"Go home and study," he said with finality, and then slammed the door. The cab lurched into drive quickly before she could tell him to wait.

And just like that, he was gone.

Tuesday was uneventful and Kakashi wasn't sure if he was happy about it. He'd risen early – six AM was for zombies – and had a meagre breakfast of boiled eggs and buttered toast. Pakkun watched him until he tossed the last bit of the bread over for him to happily chomp away on.

"Go for a walk?" he asked, and the dog went wild.

He'd taken Pakkun to the school a number of times. The pup was expertly trained and if dogs could talk, he imagined Pakkun would have a british accent - he was just that damn smart.

They trotted along University and onto the campus to find the foot traffic slender and people scarce. And when Kakashi got to his office, Pakkun curled up on the little dog blanket he had put in there the first time he'd brought him in.

Three hours passed in a haze of paperwork. His voicemail and email was full to bursting with questions about the exam, but he felt no need to answer them. Had they shown up in the review class like the keeners, then they'd know what was coming. Kids were obsessed with social networking. There was no reason they couldn't ask their livejournal friends.

As the clock ticked away, Kakashi found himself hungry again. He stopped by the Dean's office, tendered his resignation, and then took his pup to the nearest coffee shop.

So far so good.

Kakashi recalled his first day at the University, being oriented by the Dean himself. They walked the campus and the large man waved his hand at things like a game show host. "Don't use the staff parking off hours. Don't eat the stew surprise on Thursdays. And don't, under any circumstances, date the students." That last one was sort of a given.

Kakashi never imagined he would want to date a twenty year old, but suddenly they were like circling hyenas with their perfect hair, smooth, fresh faces and yoga-fit bodies. No one warned him, least of all Ebisu, whom he had graciously taken the class from after he broke his leg skiing. It was a one-term deal and helped pay for the renovation on the kitchen at the bar.

Teaching just wasn't his thing. He'd done it once, tried it on for size, and found it a little tight.

One more exam day and it would finally be over.

Tuesday was uneventful and Sakura knew she wasn't happy about it. She'd studied. And yes she'd told Kakashi that she would ace the test, but her type A inner personality thought that confidence just wasn't enough of a guarantee. Ninety's were a self imposed standard; Sakura studied for History of War just as hard as she studied Anatomy.

Ino met her in the late after noon at the local watering hole they liked to frequent after class. Within two hours, Naruto and Sasuke sauntered in, however, Sai was at home and sleeping the day away since he had crammed all night.

"I need this break," Naruto sighed. "I've been reading that stupid law book for my exam tomorrow and it's starting to just look like ant races. Sasuke, get us a pitcher."

"Get it yourself," Sasuke mumbled. His eyes looked as tired as Naruto's did.

Ino rustled around in her purse for the moment looking for her lipstick. "I wonder if Hatake will be at the school tomorrow? I heard he quit today."

"What?" Sakura blurted out, spitting half her salad across the table.

"Nice," Naruto snorted, flicking a piece of lettuce off his arm. "Why'd he quit?"

"Well, it seems that the History of War teacher is actually Ebisu who broke his leg skiing over the winter break. Hatake said he'd fill in. The secretary in the Dean's office told me all about it when I popped in today to see about some transcripts. We saw him leave and then she told me. Don't tell anyone, but she listens in to the Dean's conversations over the intercom. They tried to get him to take another year teaching but he refused." Ino flipped her hair and shook her head. "If we want to settle our bet, we'll need to check him out like soon."

"Why don't we go today? He's probably around the university still," Sasuke said evenly.

"Wait, wait," Sakura sighed, feeling the lies and deceit and moral dilemmas ripping a hole in her façade. "About Hatake… I already know his deal."

"What? How?" Ino asked excitedly.

Sakura closed her eyes and promised, swore up and down, that this would be the last lie.

"I asked."

Naruto's brow scrunched up. "You just asked? Why the heck didn't we think of that?"

"So?" Sasuke prodded. "Married? Kids?"

Sakura looked around at all their expectant faces. "He's not married. He's got a dog. He lives in tiny apartment. I didn't have the guts to ask if he's actively dating."

"Hm," Ino hummed, "Sounds suspiciously like you won."

"Keep the money," she mumbled absently. "I don't want it anymore." Out of the whole situation from start to finish, she found that the thing she really did want was out of her reach. And eighty dollars wouldn't change a thing. "Sorry. I don't feel like going out tonight."

When it got to dinner, Kakashi was again holed up in his favourite haunt and Ayame was cooking this time. It seemed that Teuchi's wife insisted that he take her out for dinner – something other than ramen, probably.

Ayame looked cute in her little paper hat and apron which Kakashi felt obliged to mention once or twice. He laughed a little when she told him to "shut it".

He had the tonkotsu ramen again.

And every five minutes, his eyes darted to the door.

After the Ichiraku, he moved on to the bar; open mic night was in full force. The crowd was decent, probably because exams were almost over and people were celebrating. And again, Kakashi caught himself watching the door.

When he locked the thick metal entrance to the Metalsteam Music Hall and bid everyone goodnight, he knew what he was feeling was not fatigue, but disappointment.

With Wednesday came a salesman, but it was a man that Kakashi knew and bought from often, so he was welcomed in the bar with a handshake and a cold beer.

After an hour of talk, they started dealing.

"It's nice," Kakashi admitted, strumming his pick over the strings to make the Fender Stratocaster in his strong hands sing. He sat up on the stage with it plugged into his amp while the prep staff cleaned the bar for the night's regular band shows.

"That colour is Dakota red, and the fretboard is made of rosewood. That's a quartersawn Maple Neck with Soft "V" Shape and Vintage Tint…"

"You don't have to sell me on it," Kakashi interrupted, closing his eyes and plucking the strings. He caressed the neck and used his fingertips to make the music rise through the building. It bounced off the high ceiling and sent a shiver through him. It sounded luxurious, but what else was to be expected of a Stratocaster.

Sakura stood outside the front entrance door and tugged a little to find it serendipitously and thankfully unlocked. The sound of a guitar playing sweetly inside was the first thing that rushed up to meet her as she stepped inside the semi-lit music hall.

When she got through the short hallway, she was not surprised to see Kakashi up on the low stage with a guitar in his hand. The sound of his music was intoxicating and when Sakura looked around the bar, all the employees stood with rags and mops in their hands, staring. The collective awe extended to the bartenders who were supposed to be stocking and to the man in the brown undersized suit that stood next to the open guitar case on the table.

Sakura herself couldn't move. Each string he hit, each riff and each series of quick accurate notes had Sakura's chest pounding, her skin tingling. The man could play. His talented fingers swept over the neck of the instrument, tenderly touching, pressing, sliding up and down, coaxing out the most intense and perfect sounds.

So there she stood, for as long as he played, and just watched. And in those few incredible moments, she knew absolutely that she'd fallen for him.

When Kakashi stopped playing, he was nodding to himself while his eyes drank in the supple shape of the guitar. It almost seemed like a lover to him as he caressed it, stroked it and gently turned it in his strong hands.

Sakura felt it was silly to be jealous of a guitar, but damn, she would have loved to have strings at that moment.

"Okay," Kakashi said as he gripped the neck of the guitar and stood up. A quick step down brought him to the floor. He held his hand out for the large man in the little suit, who gratefully took it with an extra wide smile. "Let me write you a cheque."

"That'd be fine," the salesman said happily.

Kakashi gingerly set the guitar down in the case and closed it up like it was the most precious of artifacts, and then his head bobbed up to look at the bar. And that's when his gaze shifted and he caught sight of Sakura.

His eyebrows rose just a little and then he put a finger up to beg a little time. His gaze roved to Itachi who was back to placing bottles on the shelves behind the glass bar. "Hey Uchiha? Can you bring me the bar account chequebook. It's under the float safe."

Uchiha? Sakura spun to look at the long haired man saunter around the bar with a small black folder in his hands. It couldn't be….

Itachi gave the folder to Kakashi, who sat down and hurriedly wrote a cheque. The whole business was done in minutes and just like that, Kakashi was now looking at Sakura with a mix of expectation and confusion. When he finished with the salesman, he got up and began to move toward her.

Sakura's first steps toward him were timid, and she held a bag up to show she hadn't just shown up to admire his playing. "I brought your pants back." When they were so close she could reach out and grab him, she stopped.

"Ohhhh. I see." He nodded as if the puzzle was finally pieced together. "I was starting to worry that you were stalking me."

"I'm not stalking you!" she squeaked with indignation and a touch of embarrassment.

"I've had stalkers before. This seems sort of similar."

Sakura closed her eyes and tried to dissuade herself from rising to his goading. "Do you want your pants or not."

A lopsided smile crossed his face and he shrugged. "I suppose. You didn't stretch them out, did you?"

"What the Heeeeelllll….?" Sakura breathed out, shocked. What was up with him?

"Sorry. Don't get pissed. I'm just messing with you," he placated with a laugh, taking the bag from her hands and tossing it next to the stage. "Shouldn't you be studying?"

"Uhm, yeah, but no. I just came to ask you something." She bit her lip and wondered if she was finally crossing the line. It was presumptuous to think that it was okay to pry into his personal life, even if he'd been letting her in bit by bit.

"Shoot," he encouraged.

"Did you quit the class?"

"Ah. Yamanaka has been running her yap." Kakashi crossed his arms. "I did. I was only filling in for a friend. The renovation in the kitchen here is done and I have other things I need to move on to. I'm not really an early riser. Too much structure there."

"Then you aren't my professor anymore."

Kakashi's brows jutted up slightly; obviously he understood what she was throwing out there.

In the past, Sakura wasn't one to be so bold with a man, but he didn't seem like someone who could be charmed or flirted into wanting something. He was worldly and older and pretty damn amazing. But if she didn't try, didn't really put the effort in to get something going between them, she was sure she'd be telling her grandkids someday about her one greatest regret.

She didn't want Kakashi to be it.

He let a long slow breath out and tilted his head back for a second. He started walking slowly toward the exit and confused, Sakura jaunted beside him.

"How old do you think I am?" he asked plainly, his feet moving slowly, but moving nonetheless.


Kakashi stopped. "Really? Twenty seven?"

"Or eight." Sakura bit her lip.

"I'm forty four."

For a second, Sakura thought her heart stopped. "You are not!" she ground out.

"No. I'm not. I'm thirty three."

"Oh. Well that doesn't seem so bad."

At that, Kakashi laughed. "No, it is bad. It just doesn't seem so bad because forty four seemed a lot older. But forty four is closer to thirty three than twenty is."

"So." She shrugged diffidently.

For a moment, silence stretched between them. It was starting to become evident that he actually did have a hang up about them. So what if he was thirteen years older, and so what if he was once her professor. All she could see now was this hot musician who lived an amazing life and had given her a kiss that melted her panties.

Didn't he feel anything similar to that?

"Kakashi…I "

"Hey, Kakashi. We've got an issue in the kitchen," Itachi shouted out, half holding the door behind the bar open to reveal a gleamingly bright room.

"Okay, be right there," he called back, and then looked back down at Sakura. "Get studying. I'll see you tomorrow at the exam." And then he let go of her arm and turned away, nearly darting to the kitchen.

Stunned, Sakura stood there and looked at the empty place that Kakashi had just occupied. Was he really brushing her off just then?

Kakashi flicked off the water valve under the coffee maker that was spewing burning water across the countertop and onto the floor. "Well that's crap now," he grumbled. "Itachi, call the supplier and see if we can get another today."

"Sure," Itachi answered, pushing the water toward the floor drain with a mop.

Shit, that was bad timing, he thought. But he supposed if she had stood there looking like all his favourite things much longer, they might have ended up in his apartment. How would that look in the morning when he tried to casually supervise his way through their exam knowing they'd taken such a step. And how much focus would that have stolen from her?

Would it make him one of those men to have a much younger woman? And how would they explain their relationship to people when they were asked how they met? "I was her teacher" held a creep factor that no one should claim.

"Hey slick. I heard you bought a new guitar," Kurenai's smooth voice asked from the bar doorway that Kakashi was heading for.

"Fender Strat. Beautiful piece of craftsmanship. I might play it tomorrow night."

"I noticed something else pretty that you seemed to have acquired," she added. "You must really like her, Kakashi. I haven't seen you this interested in a woman for a while."

He tried to shrug it off. "She's a nice kid. She's just returning the clothes from the other night."

"Just returning them, hm?" Kurenai teased. "Funny. I've seen you push away women for a hell of a lot less before – and they do anything nearly as bad as puke in your bed."

Well, she had him there. The last woman he dated liked to paint her nails different colours and that bugged him. The one before that was giggler. She'd say something and then giggle and then giggle. Every fucking thing was funny. The one before that was a lawyer, and everything had to be a friendly argument. Who liked arguing that much? He'd lied when he said he'd had a stalker before. Kakashi didn't figure himself aware enough of other people to know if that was the case. But if Sakura was a stalker, then it seemed he wasn't having much of a problem with it.

One more day, he told himself, and things would go back to the way they were supposed to be.

Exam day. As usual, Sakura was up and ready before the sun and thankfully, it would be her very last exam before the summer was hers. Funny thing about medical school though, was that the work never really ended.

But History of War would.

She met Ino outside the student union building and they sauntered in together to find Naruto, Sai and Sasuke reviewing their notes one last time before the test. There were always enough chairs so Ino and Sakura sat down.

"This is it. Last exam. Anyone want to go to the beach later? Maybe play some volleyball?" Naruto asked happily.

"I'm going back to bed after this," Sai said matter-of-factly.

Sakura couldn't find any words. It seemed they had stuck in throat – most likely those damn butterflies again swarming up there. They would be in the same room again soon. For two long hours they would be in the same room – where they could actually see each other.

What if he didn't look at her again? What if he ignored her?

"Nice shirt, Sakura. Gone punk on us?" Naruto asked, looking at her with an impressed grin.

"Sex Pistols. Nice," Sasuke drawled with a curl of his lip.

Sakura could only smile back.

"When I say so, you can turn over your booklets and start. You have two hours to complete the exam. When you are finished, place it on the desk before you leave. Any questions?" Kakashi asked from the front of the lecture hall. He'd had them all space out so that there would be no temptation to copy, and he had a box of pencils on his desk for the multiple choice should anyone have been dense enough to forget them – which some were.

"Okay. Go ahead."

The volley of papers flipping filled the room like the sound of a small surf crashing on a beach. Kakashi snorted softly and retreated to his desk. Within seconds, he had his feet up, his book open and nothing but two hours of soft core smut ahead of him.

Pencils scratched away and the odd cough would startle someone else, making a chair bottom squeak, but other than that, everything was pretty quiet. Kakashi read a little bit of his book, immensely enjoying the subtle buildup to the naughty bits. He flipped a page, and without really meaning to, he looked up at Sakura.

Damn it. That was like the fourth time he'd done that. But had he known she would be wearing a short casual skirt, flip flops and his Sex Pistols shirt, he would have prepared himself better.

Her long legs were crossed and her toenails were painted the same colour as the fender he just bought. But probably only he would ever notice a thing like that. Her lips were red as well, and she would place the end of the pencil just below them when she was thinking. Her long, cupcake pink hair was hanging loose and straight around her face and down her shoulders, and that shirt looked like a million dollars on her perfect body.

He swore he would never ask for it back.

How could he not stare? In two hours, she'd no longer be his student. In two hours, he would no longer be a professor and all those inane, yet reasonable rules he was bombarded with the first day would no longer apply.

For another ten minutes, he managed to turn his attention back to his book. But when his eyes greedily floated up again above his book, she was looking back at him.

He could see that she had to fight a smile. He loved that he could do that to her, make her grin like a fool just by looking at her. It was something he understood well because there had been the odd time when she'd done that to him.

The clock ticked to nine thirty. An hour and a half left….

People had filed out as they finished. Sakura had finished after an hour and it didn't surprise Kakashi in the least. When she dropped her paper on the table near his feet, she said quite casually, but quite sincerely, "Have a good summer, Sir."

He'd nodded a little and then bowed his head back into his book as she walked out.

He could smell the sweetness of her perfume as she left.

When the two hours were up, Kakashi stood up and wandered over to the last occupant of the room and stood in front of his desk.

"Time's up, Naruto," Kakashi said evenly.

Naruto continued to furiously write, putting a finger up in a desperate attempt to give himself more time.

"You're the last one."

"I just have like…ten more multiple choice. Please, let me finish. I studied all night for this." Naruto didn't even look up from his paper to talk, he just continued to hurriedly scan the questions and scratch an answer.

Kakashi sighed softly and stepped up to stand beside Naruto's desk. "A."


"A. C. D. A. B. A. D. Good job."

With a lopsided grin, somewhat like Pakkun's when he got a juicy treat, Naruto held up his paper. "This was the most awesome class, Mr. Hatake. The weapons part was my favourite."

"I like weapons too. Do you have a favourite?"

Naruto's blue eyes shifted around the room as he thought on it for a second. "I like the Samurai swords, but if I had to pick something, it would be the M99B sniper rifle with the telescope sight. That's pretty cool."

"You were paying attention," Kakashi laughed a little. "I'm sure you'll get a great mark."

"Thanks. Hey, Ino said you quit. Is that true?"

Kakashi bobbed his head in concurrence. "This was just a short term thing. I actually own a bar downtown. Metalsteam Music Hall. Have you heard of it?"

"Yeah! Sasuke's brother works there. Itachi. He says it's pretty cool and he's been trying to get us there all term. Now that exams are done, we'll come check it out."

"Well, if I don't see you, enjoy your summer and good luck with your studies."

"Thanks, Mr. Hatake."

"I'm not your teacher anymore, Naruto. Just call me Kakashi."

"This is Mr. Hatake's bar? Are you sure you heard him right?" Ino nudged Naruto as they joined the long line outside the Metalsteam Music Hall. She held onto his arm tightly as the heels she'd worn were too tall even for Lady Gaga.

"It is," Sakura said solemnly. "I've been here a…couple of times."

When Sakura looked up, Ino was shaking her head. "You've been holding out on us. You must have it pretty bad for him, Sakura. A little hot for teacher, huh?"

Sakura's eyes widened. "What m—makes you say—that?"

"Oh geez. You suck at lying."

Minute misplaced indignation filled Sakura. As of late, she believed she'd gotten quite good at lying. In fact, she was pretty much a damn expert and if she hadn't had a moral attack, she would have been eighty bucks richer.

"What's with that face?" Sasuke snorted.

"Shut up," Sakura growled quietly and crossed her arms.

The line moved fairly quickly, but the first band was already playing when they got inside. Ino still teetered on her high heels and she forbade Naruto from being out of grasping distance. Unfortunately, that left Sakura to go and get the drinks as once Sasuke's ass was in the chair at the table, there was no budging him.

When she got to the bar, the ubiquitous Itachi was bartending. Sakura was beginning to think the older Uchiha lived there as well.

"What'll you—oh, it's you again. Back for more punishment?" he asked smoothly.

"No. But I guess I should thank you for saving my butt the other night. I didn't realize I'd had so much."

"It wasn't exactly your butt I saved, and you're welcome. That guy comes in here and slithers around after the girls. Kakashi banned him so we don't have to worry about that again. So what did you want?" Itachi leaned on the bar closer to Sakura so he could hear her order.

"Two drafts – whatever you have on tap, and a cosmopolitan for Lady Gaga. I'll have aaaaaa—Sapporo, please."

The smile that grew on Itachi's face was so much sneakier looking than she'd seen from the stoic bartender.




"You're only the second person in this bar that drinks that. That's all. Just found it amusing." He shrugged, but the grin remained as he went about getting her order.

"Shit," she mumbled. It must be Kakashi's beer as it was the one they always at the Ichiraku. Well, she supposed there wasn't anything she didn't like about him now so it wouldn't be shocking that he influenced her drink choices. He influenced her perfume choice and her clothing choice and her undergarment choice for tonight. Beer seemed like the least of the coincidences.

When she returned to the back table in the bar, she found everyone silent, mouths agape. Sakura put the drinks on the table and turned to see what they were all mesmerized by, when she fixed on Kakashi plugging the amp into his red Stratocaster. His shirt was gray tonight and had Radiohead splashed across it. Each of his wrists had a leather cuff on them and again, his hair was that perfect coiffure of gel, mousse and fingerwork that made up that sexy bedhead. He was like a music god up there and the crowd was already showing their appreciation by rushing to the front of the stage.

Kurenai was working the mircrophone stand to the right height and Genma was spinning a drumstick in his fingers of his left hand while he took a drink of water using his right.

"Good evening," Kurenai's smoky voice cut through the thick atmopshere and people clapped and whooped. "We've got a good set for you tonight. And Kakashi's got a new guitar so don't be surprised if he lets loose a little."

The crowd jumped to their feet, cheering, as Genma snapped out the call with his drumsticks and the music rumbled through the building. And indeed, as Kurenai had predicted, Kakashi's guitar took over. The sound pealed sweetly along with Kurenai's perfect voice and the drums beat out the time. Sakura could feel the bass drum in her stomach.

"Holy shit! He's awesome!" Ino screamed across the table, then got to her feet and held her drink up. But the shoes did her in and she plunked back down heavily. Sakura tried not to laugh when her friend reached down to try and covertly rub her behind.

The set was about ten songs long and at least twice the floor was given to Kakashi to toy with his guitar, strumming it tenderly, bringing it to a peak with expert foreplay.

He was so good, Sakura felt like crying.

Kurenai and Genma disappeared after the first song because her eyes could only find Kakashi. They followed him, drank him in. Even when Kurenai laid her arm over his shoulder and hugged herself close to him while she sang, she could only see him. It was overwhelming. How had she fallen so deeply, so fast?

She thought about his stories in the Ichiraku and how he'd chosen her company over Ayame's. She thought about how he'd almost kissed her again outside the restaurant and admitted that he wanted things to happen as much as she did.

It seemed his willpower was far superior because she'd given in the first moment they sipped a beer together.

But he was skilled at the art of war and she was just a novice. Her lies had gotten her so far but in the end, her morals had slapped her into submission.

It was painful to watch him and not have him.

Everyone at the table was clapping and enjoying the music, and Sakura didn't have the heart to tell them she wanted to leave, so she pulled one last lie out of her slender repertoire.

"Oh this beer is making my stomach hurt."

Naruto's immediate concerned look settled on her. "What's wrong?"

"I think I might have eaten something earlier that didn't agree with me."

Ino held a hand up to Sakura's forehead, but Naruto worried his lip a little. "It wasn't the seafood place I took you for lunch was it?"

Sakura thought back to the chef salad she had – no fish. "Maybe."

"Well, let's take you home," Sasuke said with a hint of annoyance. Obviously he didn't want to leave. Sakura didn't want to either.

"No, no. I'm going to grab a cab. I don't think I could walk home right now. It's fine."

"If you're sure…" Ino said. She could always count on Ino for the out. The girl knew her own mind and if she didn't want to do something, she didn't do it. Clearly Ino wanted to stay and so the three of them would stay – Sasuke for his brother and the band, and Naruto because he'd become her prop due to the ridiculous shoes.

"Okay. Call me tomorrow – later – after noon…" Sakura said, before waving and heading away. When they all turned back as if she had not even been there, she easily slipped away.

Kakashi unplugged his sweet new Stratocaster from his amp and managed to avoid getting the sweaty fingers from the girls in the front on the body of it. It was a decent purchase and he couldn't wait to use it again the next night. But it was Thursday so his band only played one set and let some of the other bands play as well. It was a music hall after all. He'd bought it years ago with the intention to showcase local talent.

When he'd put the guitar back in its case and taken it to the back lounge, he re-emerged with a rare bit of quickness to his step. If he wasn't mistaken, and his excellent eyesight never was, he was sure he'd seen cupcake pink hair floating around in the crowd. He was equally as certain he saw Gucci, Sulky and the blond kid who he helped cheat today. They were at a back table under the red lights, but when he got closer, there was no pink haired shirt-stealer in the bunch.

"Professor!" Ino shouted upon seeing him. She lurched up out of her chair and appeared to try to run over to him, but she had some odd zebra striped things on her feet and nearly tumbled to the concrete floor. Kakashi, being a gentleman and the payer of the insurance, jolted forward and righted her.

"It's just Kakashi. I'm not your professor anymore."

"I can't believe you can play like that, professor! Wow. Just wow. I mean….wow." She obviously didn't hear a word he said.

"I get it. Wow. Thank you, Ino."

Naruto got up as well and came over to shake Kakashi's hand. "We had no idea you played. Man, you can shred. Was that a Fender Stratocaster?"

Instantly Kakashi liked Naruto that much more. "Yeah. Dakota red. Bought it yesterday." No matter what, the kid was getting an A.

"Nice! I took lessons a few years ago but gave it up when I came to university. So this is what you do instead of teaching?"

Kakashi smiled. "Mostly. Hey, have you seen Sakura? I thought I saw her with you guys."

"She's sick!" Ino blurted out, lurching forward again with obvious exaggeration, grabbing onto Kakashi's sleeves to stop herself from falling. She gripped him tightly and then shuffled up to try and wrap herself in his arms.

"Sick? Gone home?"

Naruto nodded.

Kakashi glanced over at the table to see Sasuke sitting there and chatting with Itachi. They were like the same person. Unfortunately, neither man was who he was interested in.

"Thanks for coming tonight. I'll get Itachi to get you some drinks on the house. Stick around because the next band is excellent." And after extricating himself from the disappointed Ino, and then giving a short wave, Kakashi vacated the main bar. Clearly disappointed, he went back into the back lounge and picked up the guitar case before slipping to the back stairs and making his way up to his apartment with a slower step. Really, the day had been exhausting.

As usual, he'd left his door unlocked, so he just pushed his way inside. Typically when he'd enter the apartment, Pakkun would dive on him. But when he looked down at the dark floor, to his dismay, there was no dog.

"Pakkun?" he called.

A small snort reached him from his bed and when he flicked on the light, he understood immediately why Pakkun would rather be there. At that moment, Kakashi would rather be there too.

"Breaking and entering now? You are going to Hell, Haruno."

Sakura sat cross legged in her tight jeans and bare feet on the end of the mattress. Pakkun nuzzled against her stomach and growled appreciatively when she scratched his neck.

"I already know that. I've lied and manipulated my way through this entire week so what could a little B & E hurt?"

Kakashi stepped in and closed the door behind him. Finally Pakkun jumped off of Sakura and came to greet him. He bent down and scratched the dog behind the ear. "My drummer is a cop. I could go and get him."

Sakura let a leg shift so one bare foot fell to the floor. She leaned back on one arm sultrily and Kakashi closed his eyes for a second, trying to keep the conversation pace as steady as it was. She seemed to know just how to push all the right buttons on him. It didn't help that she teasing him from on his bed.

"If you really think you should." She held out her hands together, wrists up. "Got some cuffs."

Kakashi laughed a little, pointing his finger at her. "Oh no. I know what you're doing. I have to admit that you're much better at manipulation than I had ever imagined."

A light breath of amusement escaped Sakura. "Better than I ever imagined too. But it seems you bring that out in me. Half the things I've done this week, I couldn't ever have seen myself do until I met you."

Trying not to rush, Kakashi walked around to the side of the bed, dropped the guitar case on it and pulled the Stratocaster out. Carefully he placed it on the stand next to the other guitars and then bent to put the case on the floor.

Sakura tilted her head to look at his collection. "You really love guitars, huh?"

"I've always had a thing for music. I grew up making weapons and after my father died, I was released from that. I went about finding something that fixed that part of me that needed to create. Music was perfect. It balanced the other part of me that fought in dirty basements for money and got shot at." Kakashi took three steps forward and pointed to a black guitar with a long neck. "I made this. First thing I made that I really loved. I was fourteen."

"It's beautiful"

"It's shit. But it works and the next one I made was better. Its no a Stratocaster…" Kakashi turned and looked at her, then paced a little, unsure exactly of what to do. It was definitely a first, but all the reasons to keep them apart had trickling away that very day. He wasn't her teacher anymore and she had proven to be exactly the woman he wanted.

Sakura smiled. "So are you going to kick me out?"

"No. Well not as long as you don't puke on my bed again."

"Ha ha," she huffed with exaggeration.

"I see you're still in my shirt. Theft as well as breaking and entering."

"You can have it back if you want," she said sweetly, lifting the bottom up a touch to show a hint of her firm stomach.

"You've been reading up on strategy. Wear me down and then give me something that'll make me happy? Your manipulation tactics are excellent."

"You taught us the importance of positioning in battle. I figured this was a good a position as any."

Finally, because he was wound up from playing and getting a impatient with the run around banter, Kakashi walked over to the end of the bed and sat down beside her. "What are you really doing here?" She was so near to him that he could feel the heat from her body, smell her sensual perfume, practically taste the sexuality that oozed from her.

"What do you mean, what am I doing here?" The look she gave him was a twisted scowl of confusion. "We're dating."

"Come again?"

"Well, let's examine the last week. Twice you bought me dinner and drinks. You gave me your shirt to wear and I've slept in your bed. I think all that's left is a piece of jewellery or something. All the necessary required pieces fit."

"I don't think so."

"I've been dated before. This feels sort of similar."

At this, Kakashi couldn't help but laugh. God help him, she was good at manipulation. There was no point now in not being honest. He wanted to date her as much as she had decided she wanted to date him – or apparently was dating him.

"All right. All right." His hand reached up and stroked her cheek. "You win. You've got me. I think we both knew it was going to end up like this."

"Don't we both win?" she said softly, drawing closer and closer to him, her body practically shivering in anticipation of another kiss.

Finally he put them both out of their misery as he pressed his lips to hers. It was superior kiss to the last because they were both sober and taking their time. It seemed to go on and on and Sakura nearly passed out from the way her body reacted. Damn it all he could kiss.

When he eventually broke the kiss, his hand slid into her hair and he spoke onto her lips. "You definitely paid attention in class. I wouldn't have guessed you'd be such an expert at the art of war."

Sakura's hand slid up his shirt at his side and she dragged her nails along his skin. The smile on her face was an indication of what they would be doing in a few minutes. "Well," she whispered softly, "I had an excellent teacher."

I really love writing AU. All mistakes, inconsistencies and odd ideas were mine. Unbeta'd. Thanks for reading.