Summary: She told him she loved him in the space between words. He failed to follow his most basic of rules: underneath the underneath. In the end, however, she blamed Naruto; because, after all, he couldn't write for shit and someone needed to continue Jiraiya's work.


Icha Icha Succedaneum

"What do you mean, Madoka has no depth?"

"She doesn't feel relatable."

"Of course she's not relatable. She the female lead! It's written for a male audience!"

"Exactly," Kakashi replied, single back hue narrowed on Sakura before aiming itself at Naruto; some level of determination mixed with latent irritation mixed there.

The blonde felt as his neck hair stood on edge. He swallowed the bite in his mouth and edged a nervous smile that made his eyes shut.

"Why did you write half of it from her perspective, Naruto?" He smacked the blue book down onto the table; some items rattled. His other hand was on his thigh, both legs spread before him. "All of Jiraiya-sama's works were from the lead male's point of view." His voice was dark, darker than usual.

"I… ah—."

"You've got to be kidding me! What's wrong with it being from her perspective some of the time?" She slammed her palm on the table; her other hand was on her hip as she half bent over to glare at her former sensei. "It gives the story a well-rounded feel because you're not just getting his side of it. What is your problem?"

He pulled his gaze from Naruto; the silver-haired Jounin's focus was now entirely on the pinkette. His eye narrowed. "This," he snapped, tapping the front cover of the book with his pointer finger, "is not written in first person."

"You're point?" she fired back.

Naruto blinked from the other side of the table; he looked between the two Jounin and swallowed again. Blue orbs glanced about the restaurant. A handful of eyes were drawing in their direction. "Ah… guys, really… there's no need—."

Kakashi made a sound of frustration. "It's not simply a matter of just the chosen character perspective; it's also written in third person. All of Jiraiya-sama's other works were in first person. If Naruto had truly followed the example of his mentor then he would have done it correctly."

She closed her eyes and counted to ten, trying—desperately—to even her feelings out. "Can't you see how valuable it is to see her side of it? Did you ever consider that Jiraiya was never good at writing the female half into his stories?

"Not to mention, the previous novels were based on his exploits. You can't possibly expect Naruto to… he's with Hinata for Kami's sake!" Her brow and the bridge of her nose wrinkled in indignation; hands had moved to her hips while she addressed him.

Kakashi stood up then, knocking his chair back slightly. "What I'm trying to say, is that he should stay true to the original work!"

She shook her head, appalled. "Basically, how she feels doesn't matter at all? You didn't care about her story?"

Kakashi sighed and smacked a hand over his face; he pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes shut. His free hand went to his hip. "Look, it's a story. A good story. One that the dynamics of which did not need to be changed. All of the women in Jiraiya's works have this appeal… they're…" he trailed off, waving his hand in front of him in some kind of an attempt to visually find the words, "they're… cute and have an innocent quality about them. Madoka is… well, she's experienced; which, is not something his other characters weren't. But, she's so serious. The story lacked—."

Sakura could feel her teeth grinding. "She had substance. She was a real woman! You don't like her because she wasn't some made up facsimile of a man's fantasy! You don't like the story because it was real; it wasn't some funny concoction that bled humor with half baked sex scenes meant to empower the male figure by having the woman lavish him over actively. I—."

"Hey! Now, I liked those," he defended. "Those were probably one of the only things—."

"Of course you would like those the most! Ugh! Kami!" She dug her hand into her hair, half screaming in her throat. "Just, to hell with it." She immediately turned on her heel and walked out of the restaurant, door swinging behind her in way that that almost had it slamming into its frame.

"Sakura!" Kakashi called halfway through her grand exit. "Sakura!" he called again just before the door slammed on itself. He made a noise of frustration, half yelled it in aggravation whilst running a hand through his hair; he partially upset his headband in the process. He turned around and didn't spare Naruto or the onlookers a glance as he snatched up the little blue book that caused the whole mess and went after her.

"Kakashi!" Naruto called out to him, standing up. But, it was too late; he was already gone, half dashing after their female teammate. With an exaggerated sigh he flopped back into his seat. He supposed he should be grateful he wasn't left with the bill, but, damnit… those two…

He briefly wondered if he should have told Kakashi why Sakura was so pissed off at his affront… He shook his head and let it go, redirecting his attention back to his plate of food. No, that was a mess he—for once—wisely did not want to be in the middle of.


Kakashi let out an exaggerated sigh himself as he stopped just outside the door; Sakura was nowhere to be found. As to be expected, he supposed, of a Jounin level medic. He scratched the back of his head with a soft, muttering sort of sound as he looked about, black hue narrowing. When nothing magically appeared to help him deduce her direction he looked down, eye drawing to the book still in his grasp.

What was she so upset about, anyway?

In that moment, staring down at the little blue book, it occurred to him that in order for Sakura to have been so upset about his critique… she would have had to of read it… and based on her earlier statements… she would have to of read… the others.

He blinked.

Since when did Sakura read…

He'd been so wrapped up in the argument none of this occurred to him.

It could easily be said by any number of people that knew him, or, just happened to pass through his company, that Kakashi liked Icha Icha; to some, this had been commented upon as being unhealthy. It was honestly then better to say Hatake Kakashi was obsessed with the series. It was so bad an obsession, in fact, that when Jiraiya had passed away, his second thought after the initial depression of losing his teacher's sensei had been: what in the hell was he going to read?

And then Naruto had decided to take up the mantle and he really hadn't been sure how he felt about Naruto, writing, and Icha Icha in the same sentence. However, he'd let it slide just to see what the blonde bundle of hyper-activity could manage to come up with.

And thus the small hardcover in his hand wrapped in blue design had been born.

Still, none of this really explained what Sakura was so upset about, or—wait—what in the hell was Sakura doing reading porn?

Smack!

The front cover of the little book hit his face in some form of self-affliction.

Sakura. Reading. Porn. Same sentence.

Alright, so perhaps he was overreacting a wee bit. Sakura was, after all, an adult woman; never mind the fact that she'd been his student for a number of years, off and on, never mind the fact that he'd known her at the cusp of puberty, and never mind the fact that she was reading porn. Well, he certainly didn't have to know about it, did he?

And that's really what Icha Icha was—erotica. Granted, it had a plot and a wonderful little love story to wrap it all up in a whimsical way that gave you a semi-fuzzy feeling in the darkest chambers of your heart, but, it was still erotica. And not the fluffy sort of erotica he knew the pinkette kept on her shelf for those cold nights when she needed a warm fuzzy. No, there were no minced words pretending to be something dirty; those words were just what they were. The male and female anatomy were not rosed over.

Somehow the very thought of his Sakura reading… that… the same sort of thing he beat off to in the silent moments between the cotton of his sheets added a connection to his brain he was not entirely sure he was comfortable with. No, there was no sure or not sure.

He wasn't.

His head suddenly hung in a way that could be described by an onlooker as comedic.

Even so, as much as he tried to burn the image of Sakura reading the same thing he…to … he had to talk to her and at least sort this mess out. The girl had a tendency to hold a grudge and the longer you waited the worse it got. He had no intention of dealing with her fully flared aggression tomorrow.

And thus, without much else, he set off in the direction of her apartment with a practiced procrastination that couldn't be taught.

When had she decided to start reading Icha Icha anyway? Had it been on a whim? Had she been browsing the book section of the store one day and just decided to give it a try? And if so, how long had it been going on for? How long had he not known about it?

She was a woman of twenty-two now; certainly old enough to purchase such things… It was just odd though; women didn't read Icha Icha—women her age certainly didn't. At least, he didn't think they did. Was there a new fad he wasn't aware of?

Sakura really didn't need to read it.

She was a beautiful, successful, driven woman of twenty-two. Anyone who saw her, regardless of sex, could see that. He'd personally received a number of compliments himself on how proud everyone was of her and what a fine job he and Tsunade had done molding her… although it was hard to argue he'd had too much to do with it. The point was, however, that any guy would be a complete numbskull not to want her for the long term. Sakura was, and would likely always be, the perfect shinobi female package all wrapped into one: she had fine cooking skills, she was fun to talk to when she wasn't angry, she was smart and easy to smile, she loved her career and did very well at it, she had nice legs, rounded hips and her breasts had long since caught up with the rest of her, she—god damnit…

Smack!

Book. Face. Again.

Right, so this train of thought wasn't going anywhere healthy; he would only assume the knowledge of her newly acquired reading tastes had done that to him—he blamed it solely on that, anyway.

He pushed it away, and, once more redirected them.

She was lovely in her own way; this was nothing new to him or anyone else with a set of good working eyeballs. He had to wonder, did she date? Was she seeing anyone? It was hard to tell; namely, because Kakashi wasn't the sort to dig into people's personal lives unnecessarily and also—like himself—Sakura was a private individual. He could hardly recall a time he or Naruto had ever been invited over to her place, much less inside. At best, he'd been there knocking on her door to grab her for a mission now and then; however, he'd never been invited in. This thought didn't bother him so much, but, had she ever invited anyone else in?

When he saw her at the bar with her friends she wasn't with anyone… He hadn't really been paying attention then either. In fact, for all he knew she could have been trying to see how things worked with Sasuke again; they'd been off and on for a while. At some point he'd been sure they'd decided to break it off for conflicting… interests? He wasn't sure. Naruto had told him something about it at some time or another.

He sighed.

Was she seeing Sasuke again? He scratched the back of his head. He'd thought for sure when the fourth wheel to their original unit had returned, some punishment following with that return, he and Sakura would have been secured as a couple; he assumed a proposal would have been around the corner considering Sasuke had plans to remake his clan. He needed a wife for that, and, he wasn't well-known for his patience.

Were they dating in secret now? It wouldn't be too surprising; people—girls—tended to go over the top when it came to Sasuke seeing anyone. If they weren't talking about it they were sulking over it. Even for someone as disinterested as he was, that wasn't hard to notice.

And with Sakura being as she was now… the male half of that following wasn't far behind. And who could blame them? It wasn't just her emerald eyes you could get lost in; it was the way she walked when she didn't think anyone was looking… the way her hips swayed and her ass—damnit.

Smack!

That was the third time.

Kakashi pinched the bridge of his nose, half hunching over as he moved down the dirt street. Right, so, his brain wasn't giving up in that regard… Was it really so bad then? He was a man after all; she was a woman. Perhaps if he looked at it in a purely abstract, unemotional way his sick and twisted subconscious would move on.

Her body was a well-oiled machine; a finely tuned weapon—tool; everything his body hummed in recognition of want over. Her legs were thick and curved in all the right places; when she flexed, mid-moment before she jumped into a sprint or leapt to dodge an oncoming attack, he could see every striation. It was the same for any other part of her body. As a member of her team it went without saying he'd come in contact with that body on more than one occasion during training or a mission. That full, hard, figure had been pressed against him in a tight situation or two; the bindings around her breasts did very little to hide the fullness of them to him; the thin material of her black shorts and her medic apron were little barrier when the curve of her ass was pressed into his lower abdomen. At the time he'd ignored it because of the situation; you just didn't in the heat of an adrenalin rush when lives were on the line. Now, however, it was hard to push it from his mind. He could deny the memory sent a rush of faintly veiled warmth to places he hadn't anticipated.

Kakashi shook his head, rubbed his face and reached for the rail leading up to the second story of her apartment building. He had to get over this before he spoke to her and fixed all of this; hopefully, once this was all sorted out he could just go back to pretending she didn't read anything with even a hint of smut between the lines. Maybe he's use the Sharingan on himself… that worked with a mirror, right?

He looked up at the red, chipping paint of her door; he paused on a moment before reaching up and knocking.

A few moments passed on; there was quiet as he stood there, staring at the front of her door with his hands on his hips. The book had been securely tucked away in his pouch as was his habit.

He took an involuntary step backwards as her door swung open.

"What do you want?" While the question wasn't entirely rude, it didn't come without some bite either.

He couldn't help but notice she wasn't dressed as she had been perhaps a half an hour ago; his eyes unconsciously traveled from the top of her to the bottom. Her hair was free of its traditional headband and instead tied back with a clip so much of it spiked up in the back above her crown; the remaining strands hung about her face. She'd changed out of her shinobi gear and into something more relaxed; a long white sundress hung from thin straps on her shoulders; her feet were bare. But, the oddest thing was the pen docked in the comfort of the top of her right ear, and, the nearly invisible ink stains on the tips of her fingers.

"Hello?" she prompted, shifting from one foot to the other as she leaned into the jam of her door.

Kakashi shook out the muddle of his thoughts. "I wanted to talk to you."

"About?"

"Earlier; in the restaurant."

She eyed him for a moment; her narrowed emerald hues were scrutinizing. Finally though, something must have given because she stepped aside. "Come in then." She turned, leaving the door open to him and the cool air of her apartment breezing across the bare parts of his skin.

He was a little surprised by her invitation, but, stepped in anyway; the door clicked shut behind him, leaving him in a small hallway entrance. He slipped his shoes off, noting the small kitchen set off to his left. It was closed off from the rest of the house, save for the open bar area above the sink that led out to the rest of the humble abode.

It wasn't a large space and he was a little surprised to see in a semi-haze of disarray. Her bed was unmade, the headboard flush against the wall directly in front of him on the other side of the room; it was set slightly to the left. Next to it was a desk; papers and stacks of books were precariously stacked on an upper shelf built into it and above the actual workspace. To the right of that, also flush against another wall, was a book shelf with more books and items still. There was also a table with chairs in the space and a few other sparse pieces of furniture meant to store her clothes or for guests.

The colors were soft and barely colorful; it was… nice, he supposed. The hum of some jazz music echoed in the background from a radio or stereo; it had a nice pop to it, and the vocals were a bit different, but, overall it gave a nice atmosphere.

He stuck his hands into his pockets as he stood there in the middle of her space. He watched her backside as she leaned over her desk, moving papers around and looking to perhaps be organizing something she was working on.

He reached up and rubbed the back of his neck. "Look… I'm not really sure what you're upset about… But, I believe I got out of hand back there."

Wait… was that a… snort?

"Sakura?"

"Is this your way of apologizing for being a book nazi?"

"Uh…"

"Because if it is, it sucks."

"Sakura—."

She spun around to face him; she pointed at him, a stack of papers in her grasp as she did so while she addressed him, "I'm mad at you because you don't understand the story; you don't understand her story."

"What do you want me to say?" he replied, at a loss. His hands spread in front of him. "I didn't hate her side of it; I just felt is wasn't necessary and took away from the traditional feel of Icha Icha. The fact that she slept with slew of men to forget Jiro kind of threw me off though…"

Sakura rolled her eyes. "See. That. You don't understand why she slept with all those men."

"Now, that's not true. I just felt it was a little overkill for her to do it just to forget Jiro, to try and forget about him." Now she was just insulting his comprehension.

"She loved him!" she blew out in one breath. "What did you expect her to do, pine? How traditional for the heroine to wait on her prince to come back to her," she spat.

"You know that's not what I meant," he said.

"Then enlighten me, sensei."

Now he really felt like throwing something; she was being so frustrating. "Why in the hell are you reading Icha Icha anyway? It's not exactly your style of reading material."

She barked unexpected laughter. "Oh, really? So, now there's something wrong with me, an adult woman, reading erotica? What's your excuse?"

Oh this conversation was not going to way he planned. At all. "I just mean that… it's not exactly targeted at a young female audience."

"So?"

"So… So you should be going out. Not obsessing over some book Naruto wrote and arguing with me over the finer details of. Are you and Sasuke—."

"Sasuke and I are not together," she snapped; her tone implied he'd hit a nerve.

He was sure he was going to regret this, but, stuck his foot in his mouth anyway. "Ah… Why?"

She exhaled thought her nose and looked down; her arms came to cross over her chest. "Because… he seems to think I'm more interested in someone else."

"Oh… are you?"

"Not that it's really any of your business…" she half muttered, still not looking at him. "But, yes, I am…

"It's doesn't matter," she jumped with her words once more; she was pointing the stack of papers at him and stepping closer, one hand on her hip. "This still doesn't discount the fact that you're being an absolute jerk about this book. You're not seeing all sides of it. You're not seeing her side of it, Kakashi.

"Jiraiya-sama's stories were always a love story at the core; always. And that's what Jiro and Madoka's story is all about; two people finally seeing each other for who they are and not what they are; it's about two people overlooking the other's flaws and accepting their own; it's about them accepting each other, their own demons, and themselves.

"Can't you see that?"

He sighed long and hard. "It's not that I don't see that, Sakura…"

Her brow wrinkled and the frustration came back to the light of her green hues.

He spoke quickly then, "There are other things besides the way the story is written I don't like. For one… Jiro is… well, for one, he's ten years older than the lead female. And because the story isn't written with that humorous annotation Jiraiya wrote it in it makes it almost too real.

"He sees himself as damage goods; he's been a shinobi for a very long time, and, he's done a lot of things he's not proud of. His entire thought process if that of a person who's ready to expire; he has sex to go through the motions and give himself some sort of relief from everything he can't rid himself of. The woman he involves himself with aren't bad people; however, they're the type you date because you don't plan on getting serious anymore than they do.

"On the flip side of that you have Madoka. She's young, aspiring and in many ways a breath of fresh air to the reader. She's serious about her work and holds no bones about doing everything it takes to get to the top and to be accepted among her fellow shinobi. Realistically, there are a lot of men who are interested in her, but, she's hung up on Jiro; because of this she chooses to sleep with men who aren't any more serious than she is, like Jiro.

"The whole tone of the story is… aggressive, sad and it makes you think," he explained. "I guess that's why I don't like it as an Icha Icha story; it's not what I expected."

She stood there, entirely different expression on her face. He could see this rippling effect forming in her eyes; it was as if he'd given her the world with those words; he wasn't sure how deal with the consequence of his feelings over that.

"Sakura," he said slowly, softly, "why does this matter to you so much? I know why it matters to me, but, you shouldn't really care at all.

She swallowed and her eyes drew down to his chest as her arms hung at her sides. "It's ah…." She brought her free hand up to her face and rubbed her temple idly. "It just bothered me because Naruto worked so hard on it."

He wasn't sure if she was being honest about that, but, he decided to take the other approach and revisit something else. "Look, don't worry about Sasuke; if you're interested in someone else why not tell them?"

She cleared her throat, still not looking up at him. "Things are usually more complicated than they appear. You know that, Kakashi." She took a deep breath and stepped past him.

His gaze followed her and he turned as she stepped into the kitchen where he couldn't see her anymore. He trailed after her and leaned into the door frame. She'd set her papers down on the counter and was opening a cabinet, looking for something.

"Anyway," she went on, "what does me and dating have to do with reading Icha Icha, or, becoming interested enough in it to argue it's 'finer details'? Hm?"

Kakashi sighed. "I just think… you should be seeing someone… instead of obsessing over a book…"

"Ohhh… like you?" she clipped as she pulled a box out and flipped it open. Two tea bags were removed and the box was replaced back.

"That's different."

"Why?" she asked, of course. "Is it because I'm a woman and you're a man?" She readied a kettle and filled it with water.

He frowned. "No…"

She rolled her eyes as she turned off the water for the sink. She turned around and set the kettle on the stove, tea bags still in hand as she adjusted the temperature next. "So, it's ok for Naruto to write the book, but, it's not ok for me to read it? That really doesn't make sense, Kakashi… unless, of course, it's that I was your only female student at one point." She glanced at him, brow raised.

Oh, he really didn't like the tone this conversation was taking. As such, he couldn't really form a response, not fast enough anyway.

"So that's it?" she went on, looking genuinely surprised. "You just don't like the idea of me, someone you once looked after, reading porn?"

"I would rather not know about it, if that's what you're asking," he muttered.

"No, you would rather I go out on dates and see other people than do that." She rolled her eyes again, still facing the tea pot. "Maybe I want to stay at home, lonely and spend my time reading lewd things."

His hand hit his face as he stifled the urge to grumble. Was she doing this on purpose? "I just think you should get out and spend some time with a few nice guys. It would certainly be healthier than reading Icha Icha."

"In your opinion," she returned, now facing him, hands on her hips. The tea bags had been placed on the counter. "In my opinion there's nothing unhealthy about it; certainly not when the pot is calling the kettle black, don't you think?" She was snapping again.

"Quit turning this around on me!" He found himself raising his voice now; mostly because he was growing tired of this song and dance. Couldn't she understand he was worried about her?

"Quit trying to run my life; quit telling me what to do; quit telling me what I shouldn't be reading because you're not comfortable knowing about it; mostly, quit being a prick!" With each statement she got closer and closer to him. Her hand reached out, once she'd come up on him; the side of her fist slammed onto counter next to the papers. In the process the counter rattled.

He watched, poised, as the sheets jumped… and then fluttered to the floor; they flitted in several different directions. He couldn't really stop himself from bending down out of polite habit, trying to pick them up.

"Wait…!" he heard her say as he took two in his hands, eye automatically moving across the scrawled text.

He stilled.

"Damnit, Kakashi!" she half snapped, half yelled at the same time while ripping them from his hands. The thin slips slid through his fingers. He didn't stop her, didn't say anything as she moved about and picked up the rest of them. In the distance, he heard the tea kettle go off.

"Shit," she cursed. The sound stopped.

He stood up, slowly.

"Kakashi?" she asked, curious look on her face.

He turned, walking as quickly as his feet would take him towards her door without another sound. He reached for the door knob, turning it, pulling it open.

Slam.

Her palm was next to him, chakra enflaming it as she shut the door. He stood here, hand open from when the knob had slipped from his grip.

"Kakashi…?"

He sighed; his eye shut as he took a moment. "There are a great many things my… brain can wrap around when it comes to you Sakura… but, one of those is not writing something I've…" He couldn't even say it; the very idea of it just made all those thoughts he'd had brewing around in his head earlier worse. He couldn't help how he felt; it was Sakura for Kami's sake. His little Sakura was writing the very same thing he found sexual release in—her words. "Let me leave," he asked nicely. So that I might find my sanity, he chose not to voice.

He stiffened as her front pressed into his back, as he felt the fullness of her unbound breasts, lacking confinement of any kind, pressing into his back. His throat caught as her hips, her front, pressed into his ass, and, nearly jumped once her arms wrapped about him… once her face tickled the back of his neck—her lips.

"Sak—." Even interrupted his voice felt hoarse in his own ears.

"It was you," she whispered, warm breath a trail of electric heat across his neck; it rolled over his spine like water. "You were the one I'm interested in…" Her embrace tightened; she squeezed, pressing herself closer.

Then he jumped; he turned in her arms. He took hold of her arms, her wrists then as he tried to pull them away from him. He couldn't process much else other than he needed to get her off of him; he needed to get away.

Now.

"Sakura, you don't—."

"Don't," she bit darkly, the ripple in her eyes that much more magnified into his one. "Don't tell me I don't understand, or I'm too young, or that we can't do this because I'm too good for you and you're just too damned damaged.

"Don't," she whispered hoarsely, tears catching in her throat, "tell me that."

His mouth, behind the cover of his mask remained opened; his jaw was slack with some failed reasoning he couldn't respond with now.

"You don't think I haven't agonized enough over it? You don't," she rasped, trying to keep her voice straight, "think I haven't lain awake at night, trying to tell myself, asking myself, what the hell are you thinking?

"I love you."

His grip tightened on her arms; the comparison to his earlier hold was laughable at best. If it bothered her, however, she wasn't reacting to the pain. His eye was widened; he couldn't stop the action, nor, could he stop the way his body tightening, flexed, in reaction to those words. He couldn't quite quell the erratic spasm of his heart as they tumbled from her dusty pink lips.

"When Naruto came to me with damn book," she went on, voice in still much the same condition, "I agreed to help him. In the process I got lost in the project," she choked out, "And… I wrote what I knew… what I couldn't really voice for myself when Sasuke accused me of being… distant, devoid, detached from him. I hoped… I had hoped I'd just get it out of my system while writing it, but," she breathed out, staring at his chest, hands gripping his shirt, her body jumping as she tried to fight the emotions, "It just made it worse…"

He didn't know what to say. He swallowed and tried to form coherent thought instead of all the images his mind coagulated together in some mass he barely recognized. He was torn between running and trying to comfort her. How did you comfort someone when their point of pain was you?

And then she did something he hadn't been expecting at all. He found himself falling back against the door as her hands came up; his hands fell to her shoulders as if to stop her, to push her away, but, he didn't.

Her sea-greens stared into his one good eye as she reached, slowly; her thumbs hooked under the fabric of his headband. It slipped off, clattered soundlessly to the floor. His breath hitched as the edges of her warm, soft fingertips next hooked under the fabric of his mask. He watched her, locked in her endless gaze as she hesitated, as if waiting for him to stop her. When his body failed to obey his mind, to react, and all he could too was lean back into the thick wood of her door… she tugged.

Her fingers twisted under the fabric, moving gently across his cheeks; the action sent white-hot energy down his body, setting his skin on fire with anticipation. Again, he was torn between stopping her and going with what his body wanted… seeing where it all went.

Her finger pads flattened as her hands moved, palms at the same time flush against his skin. Within that moment—the moment the spandex jumped and fell about his neck and collarbone—was the moment he truly stopped breathing, and, he would forever be convinced time stopped.

She stared at him and he couldn't help but wonder what she saw there; there was nothing beautiful about him, in his opinion—nothing magnificent like Sasuke. His face was not pretty, nor was it disfigured in a way his charges had once speculated. His mouth was not as wide at his father's had been, but, his eyes were just as lazy… his cheeks were just as cut and high though. His nose was more like his mother's; angular, but, nothing to really to point out as a signature or classic feature. His chin was sharp and not nearly was square at Sakumo's had been. He wouldn't say he was unhappy with his face, but, anyone could argue he looked something like his father; his mother's features were simply too faintly mixed in for anyone to really point out.

Which, was really the reason he'd initially worn it; now it'd just become so much of a habit he couldn't stop.

"I always wondered why you wore it…" she whispered as if reading his thoughts; it was more to herself as her fingers trailed an analyzing grace down his cheeks, over his brow, down his nose… Her thumbs swept over his eyelashes and he had to close them just to find the strength to breathe outward—finally. She tickled him, but, not in a way he found unpleasant.

Vulnerable… was the only real word he could use to describe how he felt in that moment.

When next he opened his eyes her fingers were stretched out; the tips barely held his jaw line. Her thumbs were half pressing into his chin and lips; she held him prisoner and all he could do was stare at her, half broken in the cage she'd erected him in. He didn't want to break the binds.

Just when he imagined it couldn't really get to be any more of an emotional train ride than it already was, just when he thought his heart was finally starting to calm even under her scrutiny and grasp…

Her lips descended onto his.

She tilted her head; he watched in slow motion as she drew into him, eyes shutting like a satin curtain; the softness of her lips touched his. His parted automatically, good eye closing on instinct. He inhaled, breathing her in. Her fingers slipped between the strands of his hair, hushing over his ears. The moment her tongue touched his he felt himself gasp; his body took over and all rational thought was gone.

He embraced her; she was flush against him.

He cradled her in his arms, pulling her to him as he adjusted, tilted his head to slant his mouth completely and fully across the opening of hers. A free hand dug into her hair; he heard the clatter of her hair piece on the floor in the silence of the space. The previous tentativeness, slowness, of the moment was lost as he lost himself in her. He took over the kiss, bathed in her scent, her taste.

He heard her muffled moan against his lips; he felt the way her leg separated his two. She shifted and pressed, against the hardness there between his thighs; the motion was a distinct caress in the best way it could be. A groan escaped him; but then it became much worse when she did it—again. He gasped into her mouth and pulled away, ripped his swollen lips from hers as he held part of the hair along the back of her head in his fingers. Emerald eyes opened at the same time his two did. He couldn't quite stop the way the tomoe swirled in his left eye.

"Stop that," he managed to get out, voice half broken.

She moved her thigh again; he sucked in breath unexpectedly. "That?"

"Yes," he bit off between clenched teeth. "If you don't then this is going to go somewhere I'm not sure you're ready for." He couldn't really believe the words that were coming out of his mouth.

Then, of all things, her hand reached down; her leg shifted, and, before he could stop her, she was cupping him. His hand was over her wrist just as she pulled up, digits caressing his sac.

"Fuck," he breathed out, head moving to hang back against the door as his body shuddered in uncontrolled reaction to her.

"I'm not stopping," she replied.

His eyes shot to hers. "This isn't some game, Sakura. It's not a book or some love story you're writing about."

She was glaring at him them. She squeezed and his jaw tightened. "I said," she bit off, "that I loved you. I want this; I've wanted this for months. Quit treating me like a child."

It was on the tip of his tongue to agree with her; you didn't go letting a child kiss you, grope you… she'd come a long way from feeling like a child, much less looking like one. He didn't voice any of this, however. Instead, he pushed her away; before she could speak like she was looking she was going to, he picked her up. He crossed the distance of her studio apartment and deposited her on the bed. It bounced under her and she stared up at him, using her forearms to hold herself up and watch him.

When he began to remove his vest her mouth shut.

"Wait!" she shouted.

He stilled; a brow arched and he wondered… had she suddenly changed her mind?

She scrambled across the bed on her hands and knees. When she reached the edge of the bed where he stood, she sat up, still on her knees. Her nimble fingers pushed his out of the way and reached for the buttons to his shirt. Her eyes were locked there and she began to slow process of undressing him herself.

His arms went slack, dropping to his sides as she worked.

She tugged at his shirt, pulling the rest of it out of the belted waistband of his pants; the rest of it was unbuttoned with a little frown on her part. But, this didn't last long as she slid her hands up the opening of his shirt; her thumbs ran across the inside of the hem that held the trail of buttons on the outside. As she locked her gaze on his she pulled it off and away from his arms. He never really thought he could describe something as simple as someone removing a shirt as… sexy… but, it was.

The aforementioned item dropped to the floor in a hush of material against wood; the buttons gave a little series of clicks.

Still watching him, she pulled up on the spandex under shirt; the one he'd kept from ANBU. He held his arms up, accommodating her and breaking eye contact as she took this off. It too fell to the floor with little more than flump sound. Her gaze locked on his again as she worked his belt; the anticipation was building as she kept going. There was something a little… electrifying about a woman, half kneeling before you as she barely stood on a bed to your full height while she went about the process of removing your pants.

Before he felt it the belt was a clack sound against the floor. His buttons was undone; his zipper was lowered. Surprising him, in the same forward movement that she'd done everything else in, his boxer briefs were gone with his pants; both items dropped around his ankles in a pool of a rounded curtain.

Her eyes pulled away from his and she plopped back onto her hip, her legs to the side of her on the mattress. He didn't move or speak as those same green hues that had carefully taken in every curve of his features now took in the rest of his bare body with the same attention. A blush never even crossed her cheeks as her depths stilled on the place between his legs; he wasn't sure if he was more turned on by her boldness, or, her lack of innocent reaction. It was so very different from the girl he'd once known; whom, at the very thought of kissing Sasuke had been sent into a flurry of cherry red expressions.

When she shifted, slipping her legs out from under her to hang over the edge of the bed and made moved to stand he stopped her. Her eyes were on his, questioning, but, not fearful as he reached for the hem of her dress. Much as she had done to him, he kept that gaze locked as he pulled it up; the fabric pulled tightly along the underside of her thighs, and, eventually she adjusted, lifting up with her hands so that the pressure gave just enough for him to pull it all the way up. The cotton whispered against her skin as she held her arms up or him; it was gone, released from his grasp only to meet its end with the rest of the pile next to him, behind him.

Her expression did not reveal to him if she questioned how he saw her. Did she? Did she secretly ask herself, as he had, what does he see?

But, this thought was lost in the moment as both mismatched hues took her in, finally. She was half lying back, using her forearms to hold herself up; she hadn't moved from her place on the edge of the bed with her legs hanging over, toes barely brushing the floor.

Her body was just as he had imagined it; mostly, anyway, because nothing was always as you pictured it in your mind when you had never actually seen it.

Dusty-rose hued nipples perked outward from the center of soft, rounded mounds whose size suited her perfectly. Pale flesh, as quiet in pigment as the fallen snow covered every inch of her; it stuck to her without inclination of fat. Years of hard work, deliberation, sweat, patience, tears and soundless cursing had brought him the girl—no—woman he saw before him. He admired her iron-clad strength in both the literal sense and the metaphorical. This body, the one his ached and hummed in response to, was the result of all that. It was something… he'd never really taken the time to actually consider so… deeply until she was there… laying bare and unashamed on her own bed before him… wanting, telling him with her actions and her words that she loved him.

It was then he noticed she'd gone commando; another shock to add to the list of things he didn't know about her.

She jumped under him, eyes widening a fraction and for only a moment; his arms held him up to either side of her, his face within inches of her own. When he kissed her it was soft, investigating and different somehow. His lips explored hers, tasted, tempted; he nipped gently at her bottom lip, eliciting a gasp from her that shot a sense of satisfaction from him. It was a wonder he could pull that from a woman with such a simple action; no one had ever reacted to him as such before.

She kissed him back finally; it was just as gentle, lazy and serene. She too was testing the waters in a manner much more careful that before.

It dragged on for a while longer, but, eventually as both of them participated in the action caution and tentativeness turned to heat, lust and want—a complete reflection of their bodies' desires.

She shifted; he moved with her

A fractured action passed; clumsy, fluid motion found him settled between her legs with his mouth on her neck and his erection bumping her thigh, her wet sex. Unadulterated in her movements, she arched; her breasts flattened against his chest as her arms came up, hard grip a vice on his shoulders. He could hear the sounds that left her mouth; they were not whimpers or helpless vocalizations of a woman held caged by his ministrations, but, rather they were complete—she held nothing back and he couldn't help but find that incredibly sexy. She wasn't hiding anything in that moment; she let go in his arms as he moved down her body.

His tongue worshipped her breasts; it swept over her nipples one at a time. He would tug the peak into his mouth, biting so that he might listen and feel her reaction; after he would lavish the offended area with his mouth. He enjoyed every gasp, every cry; something in his chest jumped when she whispered his name.

Tender kisses made a faded, hot path across her inner thigh. He could faintly see her hands curling into fists on the fitted sheet under her. She was tensing under him; her breaths were broken with something he could only label as anticipation; he saw it when he looked up into her eyes. There was only a brief pause before he continued, using his teeth every so often. The deft muscle in his mouth flattened against the area between her sex at her thigh; the conclave next to her core was where he licked, moisture and feverish trail as he swept upward.

"Kakashi…!" he heard her say, louder than before. He couldn't stop his teasing though; the slow, lethargic actions were simply him; he wouldn't admit there was some part of him that worried this, this thing they were doing, might not happen again. Thus, he wanted to make it memorable and endless to his satisfaction.

His breath was slow and even as he exhaled warmly across her labia and clitoris; she jolted under him, her body twitch in coiling desire. His own body shook with it; it was that part he held back while it all but demanded he just take her. Instead, his eyes closed and his mouth descended on her; with his lips he tugged the nub into his mouth and swirled it with his tongue. Her hips were taken hold of in the same moment; she nearly bucked out of his grasp as his fingers dug into her skin.

"Fuck," and then the sound of something ripping.

He was unmerciful in his actions; his fingers, two at once, thrust into her and she met him. All he could hear was his name on her breath, her gasps as licked and teased her, bringing her closer and closer to that edge; he let her hang on it. The brutal muscle of his mouth replaced his fingers; he found himself short on air as he moved it in and out of her, lapping at her and taking in her scent, her taste. The liquid heat of her had his erection painfully throbbing. His body thrust against her mattress in tune with her own against his face. He could feel the moisture coating the tip of his cock.

His face was sticky with her residue of her want; it dripped faintly from his chin as he made a deep, guttural sound into her. The body under him went tense, taunt like the string of a guitar, against him unexpectedly; her fingers were in his hair, pulling painfully and dragging nails into his scalp as hips thrust into his mouth. Even after the wave passed her, as she rode it, he continued until she begged him to stop.

"Ok…" she raggedly echoed, chest rising heavily, arm over her eyes while lips were parted. A thin sheen of sweat danced across her skin; he noted this as he crawled up her, trailing the tip of his nose across her stomach and inhaled that smell. Silver strands tickled his neck and drew tiny trails across the same place… her breasts. He heard her sharp inhale when he briefly suckled on one.

His body was on fire; blood pumped an unrelentingly through his veins. It thumped, hummed, sang in the presence of her scent that was all over his face, at the suppleness of her as his skin brushed against hers, at the way she looked… laying there, staring up at him with emerald hues reflecting desire—for him.

"Oh Kami," he muffled against her mouth as she pulled him down for a brutal kiss, shocking him. He shuddered against her, fingers tightening in the sheet under her as she lapped at her own juices. The careful resolve he prided himself on slipped a good seventy percent at that.

"Damnit, Kakashi," she commanded against his mouth, her teeth accidentally clicking against his as she did so, as her fingers cut into his ass, "just fuck me already." Her hips slid under his and before he could stop her she had slipped hand between them; in one quick, fluid motion he was inside of her.

She might as well have hit him; there wasn't any air left in his lungs after that.

He stared down at her, mute and poised above her; both hands pressed, ripping into the cotton of her bedding as he tried to find breath. He closed his eyes, sound he didn't recognize escaping his past the opening of his lips as Sakura thrust upward. Both hands found their way back to his ass, digging in for leverage.

"Move," she whispered in a demand.

His eyes flashed opened; mismatched orbs analyzed her flushed skin slicked in perspiration. He watched the rise and fall of her chest, tomoe spinning wildly in reflection of his inner chaos. And then he had to ask himself… why was he hesitating? Because he didn't want to break her? Because this wasn't exactly how he planned to spend his day? Because it was Sakura and in some twisted way he assumed she needed something… better?

"Fucking hell, Kakashi. If you don't—."

He silenced her with his mouth, with the unmerciful slam of his hips against hers. Her nails bit into his flesh, quick and instantaneously; the pressure lasted a second before he tormented her with his tongue, the nip of his teeth, the way he drew her tongue into his mouth and sucked on it while moving in and out of her without contention. One arm wrapped around her, pulled her flush against him while the other stilled the movement of her hips, took hold of her thigh and directed her with his own action. Liquid heat rolled off his body as he panted against her mouth; he could hear the smack of skin against skin as he unrelentingly pounded into her.

She was tight, wet, hot and sent a combination of feelings through him he didn't know how to process all at once. He gave over to the moment, accepting, tasting, smelling, and breathing her in. He didn't question it, he just acted.

His teeth were on her neck; he relished the way she jumped under him when he offended the skin painfully. He sucked and she raked a path of red up his back. He growled deeply in his chest, giving over to the beast she ripped from him. In the distance, he could hear the headboard rattling against the wall, the springs of her bed screaming in protest to his violence.

"Fuck…yes!" he heard in his ear, felt as the words escaped her mouth in a hot exclamation across his skin. She ripped at his hair; her mouth found his neck at some point and somehow he lost the grip on her thigh as she met his thrusts; her legs were about his waist as ground her sweaty clit against his pelvic bone.

"Fuck," he cursed raggedly, breathlessly, himself as she lit a path of fire along the underside of his ear with her tongue. He took hold of her hair, pulled it back so her neck angled bare to him. His mouth found the front of her throat, nipping, sucking, licking; he felt the sounds reverberate across there as she reacted to him, demanding more.

"Kakashi… almost…!" she cried out as her words trailed off, the sounded pained with something akin to begging as she angled herself under him, slid against him. "Please…" she asked helplessly, throat catching in a way that tugged at him. "Just… please.."

He wouldn't have been able to deny her even if he was so inclined; her words… voice, did him in.

He released her and moved back slightly; he lifted her up with a careful pressure just under her lower back. Two pillows were snatched from a place on her bed; his hands shook, aggravating him as he settled them under her bum. Nervousness was long gone, but, desire… that made him shake, shudder, and quake under her careful gaze.

No one had ever looked at him like that.

He adjusted himself under her scrutiny. Her visible labored breath was something memorized as each clear bead rolled off of her in the moments her chest rose and fell. He couldn't stop looking at her, at each action, reaction that he caused while his body moved back to where it had been. His mouth found hers, lids shutting as he thrust into her at the same time—hard. The sound that escaped her, muffled cry of reprieve into his mouth, was unlike the ones before. She clung to him, desperate in her grasp to feel him as he hit that place inside of her that set stars firing behind her eyes. Movements were quicker, faster, harder as she tightened, twitched around him. Her walls held him in a vice that spasmed and caused him to shake and rasp against her. His brow knit, eyes tight as they closed. As she cried into his mouth, grabbing, digging, trying to break him in her grip as she finally let go he joined her.

Deflated, he dropped onto her. Legs were a tangle, her hair tickled his face as it half mangled over him where he exhaled across her hot flesh. He lay there for a long while, basking in her… in her scent and the soundlessness of the moment; he listened to her breath, to her heart as it slowed from the hammer it had been in her chest. He listened to his own pulse still, beating back to something he recognized. The stick of sweat was not even enough to bother him from his present position; however, when he felt that part of him softening, sliding, from her he knew it was time to move. Body aching in protest, he rolled onto his back next to her grunting; an arm carelessly draped over his eyes. He welcomed the coolness of her AC as it jerked on unexpectedly; the vent above them both directed a cool breeze.

"Do you regret it?" he heard her say suddenly, quietly.

He mulled the question over for a moment, mostly because his brain wasn't in the right place just yet to think at all. He swallowed because his throat was dry, licked his lips for the same reason. Quietly, he thought it over, considering his response and her reaction to it.

Finally, "No."

She didn't say anything, but, he knew she nodded.

Another moment passed. He could hear nothing in her apartment aside from the AC; there was no ticking clock, no tapping of a dripping faucet, and no whirring of some mechanical device; there was no white noise from a TV or radio that had been left on.

The mattress dipped as she moved; he felt her getting up. His eyes flashed open. He couldn't really explain his next action, not really; his body just demanded he react. With a speed he was generally commended for, he moved; his arms were about her waist. He felt her body tense even as he pulled her back against him. Her butt settled against his thighs as he tightened her in an embrace where he sat on the edge of the bed; his lips pressed into the center of her back. His eyes shut as his crazed, erratic silver strands tickled her skin; the tips danced a design across her skin. He was ok not seeing her expression even as he clung to her. She relaxed; quietly… his thumbs drew circles into her stomach; the action as comforting… tender and his way of preparing for words he hadn't even figured out yet.

"Why?" he whispered, his voice dark but not demanding.

"I asked myself the same question." Hers was soft, distant, but, directed at not just herself—him as well. The response was a rumble under his face, her skin. "I once thought I could be happy with someone like Sasuke. I was living on love, chasing after a child's dream, and always assuming how I felt about him would be enough to make everything right; that's what I thought. But… the entire time…

"I never asked why," her voice lowered to a whisper on the final word.

The digits on her stomach stilled as rough palms covered his own; she squeezed.

"I never asked to love you," he could hear the tremble in her voice. "He said to me, 'There's someone else.' And I thought he meant I was cheating on him, but, then he said… 'You're heart… it doesn't belong to me anymore.' I wonder… did it ever?" Again, she sounded like she was talking to herself, not to him. "You were always there for me, Kakashi; the entire time he was gone, you were right there with me.

"Protecting me, protecting all of us. You're this… complicated man, so filled with things I can't begin to unravel. There's so much I want to know about you, so much of you you've overcome… you didn't let it beat you… torture you. There's this part of me, the part that sees the way you pour yourself into the keeping the people you love safe… you're a passionate man at heart. I just know," she went on, voice a little stronger, "that if and when you love me back… I won't have to worry about you not being there, or not giving me anymore of yourself than you're comfortable with. When you love me," she explained, "it won't be diminutive or lacking; you'll give as much to me as you give to anything else you dedicate yourself to. I don't want a moment… I don't want drama, or, a relationship fraught with broken pieces to put back together.

"I want those afternoons we spend together and you listen to me go on about something as mundane as cell replication; I want you sit beside me when something's bothering me, not saying a word until I'm ready; I want to enjoy those secret jokes we share that no one else gets, especially Naruto; I want to tell you how much I love the look in your eyes when you tell me it's me you've requested for an S-Class mission because you don't want anyone else patching you up…

"I want forever," she whispered in finality.

He found himself silently basking in her warmth as she spoke, the heat that radiated off her back and seeped into his skin. His eyes were shut, ears open to every confession expressed; each one constrained his heart a little tighter, lifted it at the same time. There were things he wanted to say, to argue against, but, hadn't. And the longer she went on the less and less power each of his delayed oppositional responses had.

Still, he said, "I'm fourteen years older than you."

"Yes, you are."

"I was your teacher."

"You were."

He sighed. "You expect a lot from me."

"Nothing you can't provide," she whispered.

"I'm too old, too fucked up for you to break my heart, Sakura." It was an accusation, hoarsely spoken.

"I won't."

He stood, pushing her up and whirling her around; rough hands gripped her shoulders; pink strands whipped and stuck to her face, her partially opened lips. He stared into her eyes, breast beating, frantic, under her emerald hues.

"I love you; that won't change, Kakashi." He could see the uncertainty in her eyes, the fear of rejection; she'd hid from him well… but now... "It hasn't… not in all the months I've been trying to fight it.

"Give this a chance. That's all I ask." Please; the plea went unspoken.

Something crumbled inside of him, something torturous; the vivid images of her laying out on the bed under him… the sounds, the smells, the way she tasted… His forehead dropped against hers, both eyes shutting; his grip loosened to a caress on her biceps. Gentle fingers, hers, were placed on his hips. The scent of her tempted his senses while his insides fought with each other, aching with memories.

"… I haven't done this in a while," he murmured as his eyes opened to see hers flash, widened, to his own in silent recognition. "…We'll go slow…"

There was this… smile on her face; she held most of it in, he could see it…. Her joy, unbridled and dancing in her eyes in a way that warmed him. "Alright, Kakashi. I can do slow… as slow as you want." Her arms wrapped around him.

His lips descended to meet hers and for the moment, with his own quiet joy filling him, he realized how mutely funny it was when one considered what all of this had started over. One small and wholly perverted little book series that Jiraiya had inspired the start of and she had written for. It was then he remembered the papers he picked up on the floor and pulled away from her.

"Kaka—?"

"Are you writing another book?"

She blinked. "Um… well… yeah..." She eyed him, depths narrowed. "Is that a problem?"

He smiled. "Only if you stop."

And then she laughed.


AN :: So, I hope you're happy with it… because it took me nigh a week to complete… This was suppose to help give me a nice little fun break from my SasSak and ItaSak pairing stories; it was suppose to be cute and funny… and look what it turned into, right? Whatever, I blame Kakashi—angsty man. Blarg.

Blade

suc·ce·da·ne·um (sks-dn-m)

n. pl. suc·ce·da·ne·a (-n-)

A substitute.

(Also, another word for Ghost Writer)