Title: The Happy Curse of the Black Diamond

Rated: Mature

Warnings: Language and sexual content

Synopsis: A/U fic. Kakashi is transported from Konoha Village to Konoha City and there he must experience three moments of pure happiness, or he and Sakura will face unfortunate consequences.

Author's Notes: Ah, hello! Thank you for clicking the link and deciding to give my very first fic a shot. Please go easy on me! After years and years of reading, I thought what the hey, why not? And after reading everything I could get my hands on I still needed more of the sarcastic, witty, incredibly clever, incredibly lazy, recluse, sexy genius that we've all come to easily love.

I've always wondered about how the calm, collected Kakashi would react if he was put into a situation he had no control over. I had the funnest time writing this.

Ah, one last thing. I've been dying to write a story like this, where I am able to give my favorite character a chance for closure since he's lived a very unfair life.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Chapter 1 - Incandescent Insanity


He felt out of place. In all his thirty-two years of living he had never seen anything like it. He wasn't sure of how or why he was there. But he was almost sure of one thing. He was going crazy.

It wasn't unheard of in his field. There were many nin he knew who fell completely off their knockers. And now he reasoned that he probably did too. It was pretty much inevitable. He had been rather stressed lately.

The last thing he remembered was the mission. It was originally suppose to be conducted solo, but Tsunade-sama had required him to take a medical nin with him. Probably due to the fact he had been returning from his previous missions quite injured. Sadly, age was finally catching up to him and this new assignment was suppose to be one hell of a cookie. So he reluctantly agreed, despite a slightly damaged ego, and sought out his infamous student to be his partner. The one, the only, Haruno Sakura.

Much to his surprise, it took a lot of convincing on his part. They hadn't been on a mission together in some time. Years actually. She was pretty peeved at him, but after he explained that he would not have any other medical nin, she seemed to soften up her resolve to not be anywhere near him.

Since Team Kakashi split many years back, he had gone back to ANBU. To get in a few good missions before he'd take on early retirement. Naturally, most of these assignments were solo missions, therefore giving him very little opportunity to see his old students. And they were generally very busy themselves. Sai had a new team of genin he was teaching. He understood that that took a lot of tedious time. Naruto was finally going to achieve his dream of becoming Hokage. Tsunade decided to announce her retirement later that year and she had been forcing him to shadow her around until he was ready to take over. And Sakura- his adorable, little student. He actually had no idea what she had been up to. Well, besides what he had been reading in the paper.

But he remembered that she was formidably strong, calculative and it was rumored that she was on par with her Shishou's medical skills.

He wouldn't settle for anyone less to accompany him on this precarious mission. However, once they had crossed Konoha borders, he began to doubt his previous conviction.


*Flashback*

"Sensei! Can you slow down?" Sakura desperately wanted to wipe her brow to keep the sweat from invading her eyes, but they were moving so swiftly that her arms were too numb to move.

Kakashi sighed and slowed down. Slightly.

"That's not slowing down! Think we can take a break?" she struggled to ask through her gasps of breath.

Finally, his irritation forced him to turn around, but instead of his annoyance growing as he suspected, he felt pity for her. There she was. The woman he deemed so high. Covered in dirt and sweating in all the unattractive areas a person could. He grimaced underneath his mask as he took perch on a wide branch waiting for her to catch up.

Sakura took a clumsy leap onto the large branch and belly flopped on the hardened wood in relief, next to him. After several minutes of her trying to catch her breath, she flipped over onto her back and gazed up into the sky, calming the frantic palpitations of her heart beat.

"So.. What's the mission? What's the strategy?" she lightly laughed. She had never felt so embarrassed in her life, but luckily he was showing no signs of disapproval. So far, so good. From the corner of her eye she saw him leaning against the tree, reading his dirty novel as usual. The visual was so nostalgic.

"We'll discuss the mission later. The plan I had before won't work out now so I'll have to come up with something along the way. I'll let you know once we hit Earth Country."

"Why? Things haven't changed since we left." she asked curiously.

"Because."

"Because?"

His obsidian eye trailed over her figure and he subtly shook his head. She was still slim and toned, fuller in areas, but that was to be expected with age. He just didn't understand the problem. "Sakura, when was the last time you worked out?"

She pushed herself up to sitting position with much effort and glared. "What are you trying to say? I'm not fat at all."

"Of course not." he looked up from over his book and waved his hand in front of him as if he were shooing away her question, "Out of shape, perhaps."

Sakura huffed her breath and turned her back to him. How dare he just call her out of shape!

Kakashi sighed. "We barely have left Konoha and you need to rest. I estimate that we'll arrive in Earth Country in two weeks instead of one. Our plans have to change."

"No they don't! This is one break. We'll make it there in time." She answered indignantly.

"I doubt it. At this pace-"

"Sensei." she interrupted stubbornly, "We'll get there in time."

Kakashi eyed her skeptically. If she was struggling this much already, she wouldn't be in any position to defend herself properly. "We're still close to the border. I could request another medic nin to come with me."

Sakura openly glared daggers at him. With damaged pride she asked, "What are you trying to say?"

Kakashi felt like he was digging himself into a hole. "I'm not trying to hurt your feelings. This mission is dangerous, Sakura. I don't want to have to worry about you while-"

"You don't have to worry about me!"

A moment of silence passed between them. Kakashi could feel the awkward tension around him as her eyes attempted to kill him with her mind.

Finally, after deciding whether to speak or not, he said, "You asked about the mission. I was just expressing my opinion of it."

She narrowed her eyes further, "Yeah? I only asked so that we could actually talk. You haven't spoken this whole time."

"I'm usually alone during missions these days."

"Are you alone now?" she replied angrily.

Kakashi sighed. He could already sense the difficulties ahead. "Are you sure you still want to come?" he asked calmly.

"Sensei, when was the last time you saw me before this assignment came up?"

He lifted a brow curiously. That was a sudden change in topic. "This is no time to be discussing this. If you're accompanying me, we have a long ways to go before we reach Earth Country."

"Answer the question."

He paused and exhaled loudly. Knowing her, she wouldn't relent until he answered her irrelevant question. However, knowing her, he had a feeling this was a trap and ever fiber in his bones didn't want to say anything. It would just create further hassle and if one thing was for sure, Hatake Kakashi did not like hassle. But he knew there was no other way around it if he wanted to make it home by the end of this month. He supposed he could humor her. Placing his book down, he tried to recollect his thoughts. It had to be recently. Perhaps at the training grounds? Or at Ichiraku's?

"There was still snow on the ground." she finished his thought as she turned to face him with an unreadable expression.

Had it really been that long?

He gave her an incredulous look. From the top of his silver hairline, he could feel sweat beading. They were already well into the steamy heat of summer. It couldn't have been more than six months since he last saw her. Could it?

"We've been busy." he reasoned, breaking the silence. "I know you've been busy in your lab and at the hospital. I'm always out on assignment. We've just been busy." he repeated, cursing himself for making an excuse that for the first time in a while he did not want to use.

"When was the last time you heard I was on a mission?"

Kakashi shrugged. He was sure that no matter what he said at this point would not make the tension lessen.

"Five years." she shook her head sadly, "Five years since I stepped out of our borders."

He went wide eyed. Him exclaiming, 'No way!' would be highly inappropriate. Five years. That would mean that she hadn't left since.. since that incident. Why hadn't he noticed? He should have known. He should have noticed at least that much. Seeds of guilt were planted in him as he tried to make sense of the awkward situation. If he had known he would have done something about it. Right? "Then why did you agree to come on this mission with me?"

"Because."

"Because?"

The corner of her mouth curved upwards. "Because you asked me to."

Underneath his mask, a small smile began to form as well, a very sad smile. Perhaps if he had tried to ask her to accompany him on a mission sooner she wouldn't be the mess she was now. One of the strongest kunoichi that he had ever encountered, and she was his student. Now she was probably on par with a very good genin.

He should have noticed.

"Now ask me when was the last time I saw you."

"Sakura.."

"Ask me."

Hesitantly he asked, "Fine. When was the last time?"

"In the hospital a week ago. You were unconscious in my operating room."

He shook his head in disbelief. "But you were never there when I woke up."

"I was always the person to sew you're lazy ass back together, but once you were out of harm's way I had to return to work. You were right, I am busy. But I'm not too busy to save your life every other week."

Kakashi nodded, absorbing the information. He felt like a complete ass. Here she was, yet again, always doing things for him, but he hardly gave her anything in return. He told himself inwardly that he'd try to visit her every once in a while in the future. And he hoped he would actually do it. It was so much easier with the boys. They would both just show up where ever he was and force him to train or eat with them. He was just so wrapped up in his own world.

His daily routine was to eat, sleep, train and remember. The best relationship he had was with the marbled memorial. The times when people would see him at the tavern or any other place social was because someone had forced him to go. It wasn't like he was purposely shutting off everyone from his life. He just didn't find it necessary for where he was in his life at the moment. Maybe he was going at things the wrong way. Maybe his students still needed him. Maybe he should stop treating others' like an obligation.

He had an opportunity to make amends. She was with him now. He could start there.

He lifted his arms to support the back of his head as he slouched further against the tree bark. "So that's why I don't have any scars."

Despite her anger, Sakura laughed. Her absentminded Sensei always found a way to make her laugh. It was amazing how he could take a heavy situation and dissolve it. Annoying, most definitely, but it was oddly something she missed very much. "Yeah, I'm that amazing."

She really was. It was a wonder to him that he was alive. The last few missions he was sure he returned with some type of gaping hole in his body, or some appendage blown off. Although, however good she was with medicine, she still needed to have sharp kunoichi skills to do an A class mission. It didn't matter that she was a Jonin already. She hadn't had field experience in years.

"Sakura, I think you should go back." he honestly suggested, hoping that he wouldn't hurt her ego too much. He wanted her alive if he wanted to better their relationship.

Her previous fury returned. "No."

"Why push yourself to do something you're not prepared for? In a few weeks you should be fine to go out on the field. Why now? "

Sakura looked down for a moment trying to find the right words to say. "Because, since the day you barged in at my lab demanding that you only wanted me to go with you, that you needed me, the kunoichi in me decided that I needed this. I've been afraid to go back out there. And every day for years now, one of you shows up on my table, bloody and bruised, and it's made me think that maybe if I was with you guys on missions, you all wouldn't hurt so much. But I was still so afraid. Until.. until you convinced me that I'm needed out here. I want to do this again, Sensei. I'm tired of being a coward."

"There is no doubt that you are a skilled medic, but you should train a little more before jumping back out here. Our mission is A class. This isn't one of your experiments. You could die out here."

"I could die in the village."

"Sakura, I'm serious."

"I know you are, Sensei. You honestly think I haven't thought of this? So what, I'm a little rusty. After a few days I'll be okay. It's not like I haven't trained at all during the last five years. Plus, you're my best choice as my first partner in half a decade. Nothing that bad will happen to me."

Kakashi shook his head. "Although you are right, I can't always watch your back on this assignment."

"You won't have to. I'm still really strong. I have a few new moves. I won't be a burden on you. I swear it."

He chewed on the inner part of his cheek as he thought. She was just as stubborn as ever. He was probably the best person to be partnered up with her on her first mission in half a decade, but they were up against something he had never even seen before. It was just legend. A legend that many people chased and almost all have disappeared. He didn't want her to come, but she was now peering up at him eagerly with her emerald eyes behind long, dark lashes. Oh, no. She did it. She slowly blinked. It just wasn't fair. Kakashi groaned. "Alright. We'll go slowly at first and we're training everyday till we get there."

Sakura squealed with joy and flung her arms around his neck gratefully. "You won't regret this!"

He had a feeling he would.

And, boy, was he right. Aside from the sad, sad training routine they took up, she had lost her inability to move quietly while traveling. If she wasn't panting, she was stepping on twigs, rustling bushes, and being louder than an elephant walking on bubble wrap. They were constantly targeted by wandering nin and bandits. Everyday, he had taken a kunai that was meant for her head, into one of his appendages, and everyday she would have to heal him.

But he didn't complain. Much. He actually enjoyed her company when she wasn't in the way. Despite the time they spent away from each other, it was as if they weren't estranged at all. They basically picked off from wherever they left off. The journey was pleasant and, surprisingly, quite fun. The most fun he had in a while. But as they approached half way to the borders of Earth, his worries grew. He could see the sad look in her eye as she bandaged him up, and her strong determined will as they sparred. She was getting better, but a few days to make up for the years she had taken off? He didn't know if she'd be ready.

However, after a few more days, she was looking more promising. Her grace while fighting returned. She was moving more swiftly and soundlessly.

It had taken them three weeks to reach Earth Country.

"Okay! I think I'm ready!" she said excitedly.

"You think?"

Sakura playfully smacked his injured arm. "I know it's taken us a lot longer to get here than expected."

"No! Not at all." he replied sarcastically.

She narrowed her eyes and grinned mischievously, "Yes, we have made plenty of progress during our very short, lightening fast journey here."

'Right. Progress.' Kakashi smirked, feeling quite amused.

"At least I'm ready to help you out?"

Kakashi gave her an eye-crinkled smile. "Yeah, you're ready now. But that's because I'm a skilled and wonderful teacher."

She laughed. "Thank you, Sensei, for all your hard work."

"It's nice to be appreciated once in a while."

"Okay, okay. Now that we're done with discussing about your greatness, let's talk about the mission. We're already here."

"Ah, after three weeks, you still haven't lost your curiosity."

"And after three weeks, you're still as charming as ever."

"It's a curse." he shrugged, self-satisfied.

"Sensei." Sakura sighed deeply. "The mission?"

"Ah." he stood up from his sitting position and pointed to the direction they were suppose to be heading to, "We're going to travel to the eastern mountains. We have to find certain cave, I'm not sure which cave yet, and about ten miles below ground level, we'll find an exceptionally large black diamond. We're going to take it back with us to Konoha and take a vacation."

Narrowing her impossibly green eyes, she scowled. "You've been waiting three weeks to tell me this?"

"It was only suppose to be a week. I suppose the extra time has hyped up your expectations a bit."

"What the hell, Sensei! This is suppose to be an A-class mission?"

"There are probably some bad guys here and there, I assume. At least it's not S-classed." he replied nonchalantly.

"You know how many caves are in the eastern mountains of Earth? The whole east side is all mountains! And there has to be hundreds of caves!"

"Don't be silly. There's probably half that amount."

"And we have to search each one?"

"Of course not. Would I really put myself- us through that?" he smugly smiled, "After my research, I've narrowed our search to two locations. It will take us a half days journey. We should leave now." He dug into his pack for communication devices, and placed it over her ear, adjusting it so it would fit her more comfortably. "Like I said, there will be dangers while locating the diamond and even more so after we retrieve it."

"What kind of dangers?" she asked unnerved by his serious tone.

Kakashi paused, searching for the right words that did not sound too ridiculous to say. "There is legend that there is a guardian protecting the gem. It does not sleep and it cannot die. That's all I know."

"That's comforting. We have bed time stories informing us on our mission ahead."

"It's more than just a story." he hardened his eyes hoping she'd buy it.

"No, no. It's an adventure." she said sarcastically, "So what does this black diamond do if it needs to be protected by a creature who does not sleep or die." she said dryly.

"I don't know." Kakashi shrugged.

Sakura groaned exaggeratedly. "This is going to be nothing but time consuming. The diamond better be really, really big."

"Lots of things are time consuming." he sighed and leaned up against the tree behind him. It seemed that everything about this mission was simply time consuming. Retraining Sakura. Keeping Sakura entertained.

"Even if others think you're mysterious, I know what you're thinking, Sensei." she glared.

He smiled innocently. "Don't worry. I always do my research before anything. If it weren't for the survival rate for those who attempted this mission, I wouldn't have been worried. There had been many, hundreds actually, who have tried to find the diamond but all went missing afterward, except one woman. Books only comment on the fact that she was said to be grateful, and that was all."

Her eyes darkened slightly. "I'm assuming she meant that she was grateful to be alive. If it's that bad, Sensei, what do you think our chances are?" she asked apprehensively. Only one survivor. At least with basic assassination missions, the chances of them coming out of it alive was higher. Even though she felt foolish for stepping into a fairytale, she couldn't deny that the sound of 'only one survivor' scared her a bit.

"Pretty slim."

"Then why did you agree to this assignment?"

"The pay is pretty high. And I do plan to retire soon." he answered aloofly.

"Sensei! This isn't time to be joking around." she screeched.

He flinched his head back and winced. "It seemed interesting." And that was the truth. He heard this ninja legend from his father as a child and he thought it was a bedtime story. When the mission scroll was presented to him he couldn't help to be but curious. His father would talk about strange creatures, powers that did not rely on chakra to mold anything, and of course the many failed attempts to find this mystical diamond. The story, though a little ridiculous for a man his age, intrigued him. Kakashi was never one to ignore things that interested him so much. Life was too short.

Sakura shook her head. However lazy her teacher was, he was never one to back down from a challenge. But she believed that his curiosity had gone past its limits this time. "There's only been one survivor."

"We're going to come out of this alive. Even if I have to abort this mission, I promise that this won't be your last time on the field." he smiled at her reassuringly.

"And mess up your perfect streak of completed missions?"

"Anything for my favorite student."

"Anything? Since my life is on the line, want to show me what's under your mask?"

"Nice, trying to slip that in there." he smirked while turning around and walking towards their destination.

Sakura grinned and ran to catch up with him, "Can you blame me? It's been almost ten years and I haven't seen what you look like. It's almost an insult to our relationship."

Kakashi chuckled, placing his hands in his pockets, "I'll tell you what, after this mission I'll show you."

"But-"

"We've survived war and countless of other life threatening missions. We're going to survive this one, too. I'll be sure of it."

"No, I'm not worried about that." she lied, "It's just.. I really have to wait until after the mission?"

He snorted. "You've waited a decade, you can wait a few more days."


The land of Earth was breathtakingly beautiful. The trees were vast, lushly green and the land looked as if an artist had carved it into a masterpiece, clay creation. The soil even smelled nutrient filled. Sakura breathed in the dewey, clear air, closing her eyes, silently making a small prayer before the mission would begin.

It was approaching dusk, the reddish, orange sun was setting off into the horizon. It was time to execute his plan.

"We're splitting up and inspecting the two caves. They are located about four-hundred meters apart. We will only venture three miles below surface then regroup. After we rest tonight, we will try to retrieve the diamond in the morning."

"What makes you think it's these two caves?"

"They are the only two caves that are uncharted. It has to be one these two. And hopefully, after the inspection, one of them will have a dead end, and that will cancel that one out." he said cheerfully.

"You are impossible."

"I think I'm rather practical."

Sakura tightened her pack snugly around her hips and looked at her map again. "Okay, I'll go right, you go left. Keep in constant communication. If we lose signal, be sure to be back here within the hour."

He smirked. "And I thought I was captain."

"I suppose I'm getting back into the flow of things." she replied confidently with a wink, before turning to walk with a sway of her hips.

"If anything goes wrong-"

"I'll let you know." she finished his sentence, "Besides, I'm sure you placed one of your teleporting tags on me somewhere. I don't even want to ask where, or how you did it."

"That's why you're my-"

"Favorite. Sensei, you're getting too-"

"Predictable? Two can play this game."

"But that doesn't count! It was so obvious that I was going to say that!"

"Really? I thought I was going out on a whim on that one."

Sakura stopped to face him causing him to stop as well.

"No hitting." he instructed, pointing his index finger at her.

She lifted her hands and he braced himself, but instead of a painful sting he felt her smooth his standard ANBU uniform around his collar affectionately. "Try not to hurt yourself too bad tonight. I have to save my chakra reserves for tomorrow. You know, for when you accidentally blow yourself up."

"You too. Don't do anything too brave."

"Are you kidding me? I have to survive if I want to see your face."

"I'm glad your motives are in the right place."

She softly smiled and closed the gap between them. With inhaled breath, she brought her arms gently around the middle of his hard frame and embraced him. "You promised me that this won't be our last mission."

"Sakura-"

"I don't want to lose one of my precious people out here again." she spoke softly into his chest.

With an unconscious smile, he slowly he brought an arm up and held her closer. "I promise."

Satisfied with his answer, she gave him a genuine smile, unmasking her appreciation and turned again. "I'll hold you to that." And with that she disappeared from his sight.


Lifting his hitae-ate underneath his ANBU mask, the tomoe in his sharingan began to slowly spin, adjusting his sight to the darkness of the cave. Flares would attract unwanted attention. Thank Kami for his night vision. He carried his ear upwards and listened. The drops of running water could only be heard. He sniffed the air. There were only the smell of metals and mildew intermixed. So far it was only a basic cave, but he had several more feet to travel through.

Carefully weaving in out of the stalagmites and the dewy drippings of the stalactites, he still could not find anything out of the ordinary. There were no remnants of anything man-made. However, there were no traces of anything that indicated any wildlife had entered inside either. No signs of nesting nor bat gauno.

"Red, what's your position?" he called through his ear piece.

"I'm almost ninety meters below surface. There are no signs of anything suspicious."

"Are there any signs of anything living?"

"Insects, bats, raccoon holes so far."

Kakashi exhaled in relief. She was safe. It was more than likely it was the cave he was in. "Okay. We can meet now. I've collected enough information."

"I'm glad you said so. The further I walk, the more I seem to smell-"

Suddenly he heard a large crash over the line and Sakura's heavy heaving, struggling to breathe. "Red! What's going on?"

Another bang echoed his transmitter. His hand pressed against his ear, attempting to hear better. "Red!"

More blistering crashes were heard over the line. One after the other, over and over mixed with her painful screams. The chaos seemed endless. What the hell was going on!

Finally the sound died down and all he could hear was silence. Torturous silence. His body went rigid with dread.

"Red." he said called out more calmly, but there was no reply. Not even static was heard through the head phones. "Red, say something." he begged desperately.

"Crow, I'm fine." Sakura fell into a fit of coughs, blood splattering all over her hands. One of the stalactites was embedded in her midsection. But she would be alright. This was cake compared to many other situations she was in. "The cave decided to fall apart on me."

He exhaled in relief. "Don't try to smash anything. You might cause a bigger cave in. I'll be there in a second."

"Will do."

Kakashi performed his hand sign and waited. Nothing happened. Curiously, he did it again, hoping a familiar poof would happen, but again nothing happened. Something was blocking him.

Being the skilled medic she was, she could smell a faint odor in the air that most would not be able to detect. Her fear grew. "Crow? Are you there?"

"Yeah, I'm here." he scanned around him to see if there were tags preventing him from using his chakra.

"I smell high traces of carbon monoxide in the air." she informed him.

Kakashi nodded, affirming the information to himself. "Use the oxygen in your pack. I'm not able to teleport out of here, but I will be there as fast as I can."

"Hurry, Crow." Sakura didn't have the heart to tell him that her oxygen tank had busted during the cave in. Not only was her body destroyed under the crippling weight of the rocks but so were the rest of her supplies laying in scattered pieces around her.

He already had enough on his plate and she knew it would only add to his already elevated stress levels. She hurriedly lifted the small cloth of her shirt over her nose and focused her chakra to clean out the chemicals invading her system. For some reason she could feel her ki draining and at a remarkably fast rate. She had no idea why but she was sure that she didn't have much time.

Kakashi turned to leave the cave but the exit had vanished. He retraced his steps, but there was a wall and only one way to travel. Deeper into the cave. This was impossible! The wall wasn't there before, this couldn't be possible. Perhaps he was under genjutsu.

He closed his eyes and whispered, "Kai!"

Cracking an eye open he saw that nothing had changed. Was it still genjutsu? His tomoe began to spin frantically, attempting to release him, but nothing was changing! Not even his sharingan could stop whatever was holding him there. If it wasn't genjutsu, then that meant the enemy had an earth affinity.

Monkey – Dragon – Rat – Bird – Ox – Snake – Dog – Tiger – Monkey

"Chidori!" he roared, charging forward to the wall and smashing his lightning current against it. The walls of the cave didn't even budge. No sound echoed, no indentures to the victimized wall.

"Crow, what's going on?"

"I can't get out of the cave."

Panic began to fill her. What if he couldn't make it in time?

"Red, I will find a way out of here. Just hang tight." he reassured her as if he were reading her thoughts.

Sakura sat quietly, listening to his every attempt to knocking whatever barrier was keeping him from her. Several hours passed by and he would not stop. It seemed that the man who was rumored to know over a thousand jutsus was attempting to use every one in order to save her life.

She listened desperately over the line, her only contact with life outside the darkness of this cave. His usual steady breath was ragged and unstable. And, for the first time, she actually heard him yell painfully in frustration. Whatever war, battle or mission they had faced he was always the calm in the midst of a storm. She could hear him make his anguished attempts to save her and it made her ache more than her wounds.

Her body began to betray her as she fell into a fit of convulsions, irritating her wounds causing her to bleed out more. She turned her head and retched blood and bitterness. She did her best to conserve her chakra and to keep herself alive for as long as possible, but everything she had was sucked out of her, faster than she had expected. This was it. She was dying.

"Sensei." she called to him calmly despite the shakiness of her voice. "Last winter, I never got to thank you for escorting me to the festival."

Kakashi felt himself stiffen. She had not spoken a single word over the last few hours until that moment and he could already hear the goodbye in her voice. He grew angry. If he wasn't giving up, she damn well better not as well. He was determined to reach her and he would. "And you're still not going to thank me. You're a medic. Use your chakra to filter your air."

"It was the last time we really spent with each other, you know, besides this mission."

"We'll make up for it later. There are lots of festivals in the fall. I'll try to take you to at least one." he half joked trying to alleviate the situation.

Sakura smiled, "It's fine, Sensei. Even though we only went that one time it was enough for me. In the past it use to bother me that I never really got any of the attention in the group, but I get it. Sasuke with his problems, Naruto with his own problems, and Sai just being a problem, I understand that being the perfect person I am, I had to sit back and let the needy be helped."

"That's very big of you." Kakashi smirked, shaking his head. It was amazing that she could still kid around when he knew she was in pain. "Plus, it was very obvious that you were my favorite."

She tried to laugh but instead she began to cough severely, blood splattering everywhere. "Shit, it's so cold."

"Red," Kakashi paused, closing his eyes in great reluctance. "What's your condition?" he asked softly.

"Honestly?" warm liquid began to pool in her eyes, threatening to fall from the idea of admitting out loud that she had lost, "There's nothing more that we can do."

Silence passed between them. She was too afraid to talk. He was too stunned to breathe. She thought he was slowly trying to come to terms with what was going on, until she was startled to hear a large bang followed by more explosive sounds.

"Sensei." she called out softly.

No reply besides the loud screeching sounds of his Chidori hitting the walls could be heard through the transmitter.

"Sensei!"

Again, no reply.

"SENSEI!" she screamed before she fell into another fit of convulsions.

He stopped moving when he heard her gurgle, almost as if she was choking on something, he was sure her blood. She shouldn't be yelling. She should be focusing on her chakra and healing herself.

She finally regained her composure. "Sensei," she spoke in heavy breaths, "I know this is hard, but I need to leave you with a few instructions."

"I'm getting you out of there." he answered stubbornly.

"Please." she begged.

"No."

Her breath began thicken and wheeze as nausea overwhelmed her, but she tried to keep it together. There wasn't much left for her and she couldn't leave this world with how things were now. "There's a box underneath my bed. Pass it along to my dad, will you?"

"Stop."

Closing her eyes, she reminisced of better times and smiling faces that seemed so close to her now than being miles away from where she was. "Please tell the boys that I love them. Make sure they don't get into too much trouble. Or kill one another. That would be really bad." she tried to laugh but the pain was too much. Shakily, she removed her hand that was pressed against her wound. She didn't feel the need to control her bleeding anymore.

"It's hard for you to talk right now. Just wait a little longer."

".. My chakra is exhausted. And it has been for some time now. The fumes are in my system, and I've been bleeding out this whole time." she finally admitted.

"No." he denied.

"Sensei.. it'll be okay. Whatever happens, I'll be fine. And please don't blame yourself. I don't. This mission was fun and I wouldn't have done it any different." she smiled sadly, "But while I'm still lucid, I want to tell you-"

"I.. I promised you. And I will get you out of there." Kakashi slammed his fist against the wall and held it there. The damned thing would not budge.

"Story of my life. My boys and their attempts at keeping their promises to me. You all deserve better."

Kakashi clenched his fist and repeatedly began hit the wall. 'Move!' he yelled in his head.

"This past decade.. I wouldn't have done it any differently with you. Live happily, Sensei. Live well for me."

Energy began to surge inside him, propelling lightning thundering outwards, obliterating his ANBU mask into particles. The whole room illuminated brightly with blue light and Kakashi did not notice at all. He could not feel the pain of his immense power projecting, nor could he feel the sting of wetness in his eyes threatening to fall. He could not feel the tightening of his chest, the struggle in his breath and the wracking of his tired body.

'Please.. Please let me save her.' he begged. Visions of his student flooded his thoughts. From her naïve youth to the remarkable woman she became. He couldn't lose another one. He just couldn't.

Suddenly the wall disappeared. Kakashi exhaled a sigh of relief and ran forward with all his might. But.. something was different.

Instead of a tunnel, he found himself in an enclosed space, still within the cave. The room was illuminated by several torches that even without the powers of his kekkei genkai, he was able to see every corner and crease on the walls. And the room smelled oddly of cinnamon.

But there was no time to contemplate the smells, or how he got into this peculiar room. He had to get to Sakura and fast.

"Your friend is beyond your help." A tired voice of an older man called to him from behind.

Kakashi whirled around and found himself standing in front of a tall, lanky old man that strangely resembled one of those spirit guides in stories or a wizard.

"You've got to be kidding me."

"Oh, I do love a good joke. But I'm afraid this is very much real."

The older man wore a deep brown robe that was blackened on the bottoms from dirt and wear. Tightly in his possession, he held a tall, wooden staff. His silvery hair flowed down to his midsection and his long wispy beard flowed even longer. His smile was merry and his eyes were mischievous. Deep emerald orbs, very much like..

"Is there a way out of here?" he shamelessly asked. He wasn't quite sure if the man in front of him were friend or foe, but he was sure that Sakura needed his help.

"I suppose there is, but you merely have to look to see."

Kakashi eyed him questioningly, "I'm usually one for being cryptic, but I really don't have time for this. Can you direct me the way out of this place?"

"Time has no significance here." the older man lifted his hand, indicating to their surroundings.

"I take it that you won't." Kakashi began to perform the hand signs for his chidori to smash against the wall when the old man lifted a hand, motioning for him to stop. He could no longer feel his chakra course through his system.

"There is no use, young man. Your friend is now beyond your help."

"No, she isn't." Kakashi defended confidently. She was alive.

"Well, at least in this room she is." the old man chuckled to himself and took perch against a large rock.

"This isn't time for jokes, old man. I need a way out of here."

"Don't be rude, child. In this room, there is no time, for time is infinite. There is no hunger, pain or death." his eyes closed and his head began to bob downwards. Kakashi could have sworn that he had just fallen asleep. Soon enough, an impossibly loud snore echoed the room, and it's loudness seemed to have woken the older man back up. He shook his head softly and smiled to himself. "It's get's rather boring down here, don't you think?"

Kakashi eyed him questioningly. "Am I dead?"

"Poppycock, what makes you think that?"

"There is no hunger and pain here. That time is infinite." he repeated.

"Yes, but I also did say that while we were in this room, did I not?" he mused.

"Although I clearly have enjoyed our conversation, I need to get out of here. My friend is in dire need of medical attention."

"Hatake Kakashi, are you satisfied with your life?"

Kakashi took a step back in surprise. "How do you know my name?"

The old man smiled. "I know many things about you. The boy genius who survived war and tragedy, growing up to become a fine, powerful young man who trained the most influential people of this century. And you, yourself, becoming one of the most influential as well."

"That doesn't explain how you know so much about me. Who exactly are you?"

"There are many things I do know of, child, but how I know, I do not know. I just do."

"Who are you?" he repeated.

"Answer me, dear boy. Are you satisfied with your life?"

Kakashi shook his head. "I don't have time for this"

"If you pass my tests I can assure you that you and your friend will survive this."

Kakashi paused, observing the older man carefully. A glint of shine from the man's fingers brought his attention. It was a ring. A ring with a black diamond. "You are the guardian of the black diamond."

"Very good. For almost a millennium now I've been its guardian. I am the legendary Mylan. I'm sure you've heard of me."

"No. I can't say I have." he shrugged.

Mylan gave him an incredulous look and coughed embarrassed. "I have been around for many years. My legend has probably faded throughout the years, I suppose." he waved his hand in the air as if the thought did not bother him, "But nonetheless, do you accept my challenge?"

"If I refuse?"

"Then I cannot allow you or your friend to leave."

Kakashi had an eerie feeling that he was up against something he couldn't fight. Also, the old man did evaporate his chakra in an instant. There was something almost mystical about him. Although he appeared to be fragile, he was radiating a power so strong. The type of power unheard of, ancient. Something that had been long forgotten by man, but was still very much alive. "If I pass, my friend and I may leave Earth country."

"If you pass, you and your friend will live many happy years into old age. I assure you. Although not many do succeed my challenge."

Kakashi carefully weighed his choices, which wasn't much- participate in an impossible challenge and have a shot at survival, or die. "I suppose I don't have much of a choice."

Mylan smiled cheerfully, his eyes crinkled. With his long, slender fingers he reached into his sleeve and pulled out an old, tattered, leather bound book and with precise movement he opened it, carefully going over the golden, tattered page. "There is always a choice, son. You simply have to make the one most befitting to you."

"If it's to ensure the life of my comrade, I'll do what I can."

"That's very honorable of you. Haruno Sakura is definitely a wonderful asset to this world."

Kakashi didn't even feel the need to question how the man knew of her name. He stood with stiffened shoulders, anticipating what was to come. He wondered what the old man would have him do. Riddles? Possibly fighting some exotic creature?

"There will be no fighting in my domain." the old man cheerfully answered his thoughts.

'Of course he could read my mind.' he thought passively.

"Ah." it seemed that Mylan had found what he was looking for in his book, "I ask you again, Hatake Kakashi, are you satisfied with your life?"

Kakashi lifted a brow. He supposed that he could answer the personal question, but it was strange. Satisfied with life?

Was he? He lived well, he assumed. He excelled with missions and had enough wealth to last him lifetimes- although he never did it for the money. He had a mostly stable roof over his head, food to eat and clean clothes. His life was simple, but it worked for him. "I suppose so"

The old man gave him an omniscient smile. "Life should be something to enjoy. Humans are allotted few years on Earth. It is best to spend that time wisely."

"I'm a simple man. I do enjoy what I have."

"Do you?" Mylan questioned.

Kakashi hesitated. "I believe I do."

"A man completely satisfied with his life would hold no apprehension in his voice. With conviction he would defend that his life was meaningful."

"I'm more passive-aggressive." he shrugged.

Mylan chuckled. "Do you believe that your life is meaningful?"

With careful thought, Kakashi replied, "My life is meaningful. I've had my regrets, but I've tried to do the right thing."

"Yes, you have done the world many great favors. But does that make your life meaningful?"

Kakashi was dumbfounded. Was this a trick question? He had no idea what this man wanted from him. The questions weren't riddles or something requiring extensive knowledge, but it was still hard. Very hard. No matter what he replied it didn't seem to be the right answer.

But he did fully believed that he found his life meaningful enough.

"The funny things about humans is that there is never enough of anything. Never satisfied with what they have. But you are most definitely not like that, are you lad?"

"Yes, the whole reading thoughts thing. Slipped my mind."

Mylan slowly closed his book and returned it inside his sleeve before walking gracefully towards Kakashi."One thing that has to be admired about man is happiness. They are able to express joy in the purest form, and it seems that in all your years you haven't achieved that quite yet. That's why I'm surprised that you have found such satisfaction with your life."

"I don't know what you're trying to get at. Maybe I am satisfied with my life, maybe I'm not, but I'm fine with what I have. Let's get on with these tests, if you don't mind. "

"But this is the test."

"What?"

"There are many that have gone into the beyond hoping more for you."

Kakashi took a step back as if the older man were threatening him. Many from the beyond? Did he really want to go on with this? "I choose a different test."

"Excuse me?"

"You said that there is always a choice."

"But I never gave the option."

"Even if there is no option, there is always choice."

"Touche." he grinned proudly. "You learn well, but I'm afraid your wit can't save you or your friend here."

With much aggravation, Kakashi said, "I'm standing here answering useless questions and Sakura is out there dying. I shouldn't be here wasting my time." he then turned to walk.

"There is no time here."

Angrily he spun around and charged the man. "I'm a fool to be idling my time here for no reason. It's more likely that I have fallen under a strong genjutsu, or a trap."

"I assure you this is no trap. This is fate." Mylan reached inside his robes once more and pulled out a beautiful pocket watch with an interesting key hole engraved on its front, connected to a woven, golden chain.

"Ah, a watch, for a place that doesn't have time. I think that's my exit cue."

"Not a watch, lad. This casing is for convenience sake- and for style. Now look." he used his thumb to flick open the watch and inside was an image- moving images to be more precise, from a memory that existed many years ago- his memory. Kakashi walked closer to the man. He couldn't believe his eyes.

There in front of him was his beautiful mother smiling at him while making breakfast. The next image was of his father reading to him by the fire light of their living room. The next was of his team the day he became a Jonin, and he just received gifts from all of them besides the stubborn Uchiha Obito. These were all memories he held ever so close to. The ones he'd remember when paying respects at the memorial, and the ones he kept most guarded. Anyone torturing and plundering his mind for information would never be able to see these precious memories of his.

"How.. did you?"

"Keep watching."

Kakashi turned back to the screen hoping for more of them, but instead he saw Sakura. She was laying unconscious atop rubble, bleeding profusely. Her skin was deathly pale and he could hardly see the rise of her chest. Was she even breathing?

"We have to get to her now." Kakashi commanded.

Mylan grinned crookedly, looking as if he he hadn't a care in the world. Lazily, he pounded his walking stick against the ground twice. In an instant she disappeared from the projection and suddenly appeared on the floor beside him, no longer injured.

Quickly, he fell to his knees and gathered her to him. He ran his hands over her stomach and across her temple, making sure that her injuries were really gone, and they were. But he wasn't convinced yet. This couldn't be her, could it? He hesitantly reached for the bottom, inside of her shirt, and sure enough there was his teleportation tag. He reached for her wallet and found a picture of Team 7 and Team Kakashi with their own signatures scribbled on the back. It looked like Sakura. It smelled like Sakura.

"It is Sakura." the old man confirmed.

Relief overwhelmed and ached through him. Here she was! Unharmed and very much alive. She would be fine.

"Not so fast."

Kakashi held her against him more protectively.

"I will not cause harm to this young maiden if you proceed with the test and pass. You must pass if you want to save her life and your own." Mylan pounded his cane against the ground once more and Sakura disappeared from his arms as quickly as she appeared in them.

"Where have you taken her?" he stood up angrily.

"She's safe. Learn to lend some trust, lad. I am not your enemy. Think of me as one of those spirit guides from fairy tales or a wizard." he winked, "I am not dangerous."

"But you are dangerous."

"No, intimidating perhaps. But life lessons are always intimidating at first. You will be glad when this is all over."

"When?"

"Oh, I apologize. If you pass."

"Well, that's comforting." Kakashi could still feel her luke warmth against him giving him the strength to take on the challenge. If he succeeded they would both be fine. He had to try. "It seems I have no other option but take your challenge. Okay, I'll do it."

"Hatake Kakashi, you are a good man. Strong, powerful, intelligent and loyal. But you've lived a selfish life. A half life. You were destined for more than what you are."

Kakashi narrowed his eyes at the man passing scrutiny on him. "I have done everything I could for my comrades and my country." he defended.

"Ah, but you haven't done everything you could for yourself."

"I thought I've been living a selfish life? Doesn't that contradict itself?"

"Guarding yourself is also selfish. To a degree it is understandable, but you have barricaded yourself so, that you have made yourself alone. A lone wolf is meant to travel in packs, my dear boy."

"I'm fine with being alone."

"You were destined for much more." the old man repeated.

Mylan closed his eyes and waved his free hand, rainbowing it over his lanky form and whispered words unfamiliar to Kakashi. Colors swept the room in waves, a beautiful mix of cerulean, jade, violet, colors of the sunset, intertwining with colors of the ocean and night. Kakashi had never seen anything like it. The mixture flew towards him and he was surrounded, completely engulfed in the power resonating the ancient man. Mylan pounded his stick on the ground once more and smiled genuinely at Kakashi.

"Live well."

*End of Flashback*


His head ached and pounded. There were so many sounds around him, ringing against his sensitive eardrum. Everything around him smelled awful, almost toxic. He was afraid to breath in and open his eyes.

'Crazy old man.' he grumbled inwardly.

Finally, he mustered the courage to peak open his onyx eye.

'Where the hell am I?' his eyes widened.

It was official. He had lost his mind. His genius would create a world so elaborate even as he went nuts.

'Is this real life?'

The streets were blackened. Giant, rectangular blocks of windows soared into the sky, forcing him to crane his neck all the way back. There were hardly any trees. And the people.. The people were strange. And there were so many of them! They were everywhere. Walking, paying no heed to one another. Some were entering and exiting strange, enclosed wagons that did not require horses or mules to pull. Just where in the hell was he?

He found himself sitting on a metal bench, right in the middle of everything, off to the side.

It was very uncomfortable. Kakashi out right laughed.

'I have gone mad.'


Thank you for reading! Feedback will be much appreciated, but please please please be kind! I don't know why, but I'm absolutely nervous about posting my first story up. Ah, this is exciting. ^_^ More soon. I'm thinking of putting up one of my one-shots I've written during my procrastination times in class. Thank you, again!