(Kind of AU-ish – Sasuke returns at some point after the Pain attack, talked into reason by Naruto and Kakashi.

A fic of shadows and things that go bump in the night along with people who go bump in the night ;3)

Summary: 20 year old Chuunin Haruno Sakura is given a mission to investigate sudden, gruesome deaths of livestock, interesting right? As a precaution a Jonin level ninja has to accompany her, enter Kakashi Hatake. When things begin to take on a sinister old nightmares returning all too clearly and the appearance of an ancient darkness their lives are at risk, but if they do survive there's no guarantee of escaping their sanity...

Disclaimer: I do not Own Naruto or any of the aspects of Naruto mentioned in the fic.

Warning: Rated M for language, violence, lemon (later in the fic)

If you're too young to view this kinda material, leave or keep very, very quiet ;)

Also if you do not like KakashixSakura or hints of SasukexSakura - don't read :)

Otherwise~ Enjoy people! :)

Old Beginnings.

Sakura sighed softly as she wrote her report, filling in all the necessary details, where she went, what for, how long, yadayadayada... Sakura's mind was so easily distracted this morning. Whether it was the tweeting of the petite birds flitting past her window or the smooth breeze that lifted the scent of her namesake through her open window or her wandering daydreams about a certain, Sharingan wielding Shinobi...

Stop it. Sakura chided herself mentally, Keep going with your report! Thoughts of him, were taboo in her mind now, it just wasn't right, not after what had happened.

Sakura tried as hard as she could but she just couldn't muster the concentration. It was eight a.m, her report was due in at ten, she had two hours to blow and once her mind was set on it then there'd be nothing to worry about. But that was exactly it, she couldn't set her mind on it.

Man up Sakura, you're better than this. A tiny voice called from the back of her mind.

Sakura sighed and admitted defeat, her inner reason was right, of course. She gritted her teeth and finished the report with only small difficulty, she had been assigned to find a missing child. Reports had flown in from all over The Land of Fire, missing children, farm animals even local wildlife disappearing completely, sometimes mauled carcasses of unknown creatures would wind up on local supply routes. Sakura had found the small girl of six...in around twenty different pieces. The family howled and begged that she could find the killer but, that had not been her mission.

She stared vacantly out of her window, trying to forget the bloodied sprawl of broken limbs. She was relieved that Spring had arrived, bringing with it everything she loved. The plants, blooming as they saw fit, new life spreading into the world. She wanted to go out and embrace it.

Ever since Naruto had left, Sakura had trained with Tsunade, she'd grown up, hardened herself. But when he had come back, her focus shattered, opening old wounds. A single tear tracked it's way to her cheek before she wiped it away.

Stop it Sakura, there's no point, just get over him. Sakura shook her head and stood, mentally tracking through what she needed to do today.

Report, Hospital, Family, Naruto for sparring, finally SPA! Sakura was excited to have a deep spa session, her mission had lasted three weeks. Her attitude was, a mission is never backed out of, no matter how difficult the clues became. That had meant three weeks of minimal hygiene and minimal personal maintenance and hair seemed to grow faster in certain areas when she was on a mission...

Sakura shook her head and strode out into the bustling street of Konohagakure. Sakura had already showered this morning and it was only nine fifteen so she decided to go for just a walk and revel in the onset of Spring, it would take her mind off of him. She tied her crimson hitai-ite around her short, coral hair, zipped up her boots, tucked her report scroll inside her vest and as a last moment whim, tugged on her shuriken belt. With that she was off, not too sure where she was going to waste forty-five minutes but To hell with it. She smiled, Nothing could go wrong! Or so she thought...

"Sakura-chan!" Naruto barrelled down the street, beelining for her.

"Naruto!" Sakura waved and deftly dodged him as he tried to tackle her to the floor. This sent him flying into a market stall, head first, watermelons splattered on the floor and a very serious snarl formed on the old lady's face.

"Gomene! Gomene!" Naruto shrieked begging forgiveness of the woman. Naruto begrudgingly handed over some money to compensate for the loss and sauntered back to Sakura with a frown creasing between his eyebrows.

Sakura giggled, he had watermelon seeds plastered on his cheeks.

Naruto hasn't changed a bit, almost twenty and still acting like a twerp... I'm glad that he can be happy at least. Sakura smiled at the blonde man who stood before her, he was a far sight taller than her now and he looked older facially, if not through his actions.

"You were far too rash!" Sakura chimed, beaming brightly.

"Know it all..." Naruto grumbled.

"Duh, it's why we were put together in the first place, so I could pound some sense into you!" Sakura laughed, Naruto was so easy to be around. It would be so much easier to love Naruto than anyone else... But that's not how the world works. Sakura could never see him as more than a brother...

"Earth to Sakura!" Naruto was waving his hand violently in her face, "I said, are you going to see the Hokage?"

"Oh!" Sakura blushed at her distraction, "Yeah! I have a report to hand in!" Sakura smiled brightly, her minty eyes glistening in the Spring sun.

"Awesome, I'm on my way there too, gotta talk to Tsunade-sama about when she's planning on dying!" Naruto beamed.

"Naruto!" Sakura's shocked horror only lasted a few minutes before succumbing to the humour of the situation. He obviously had an ulterior motive but she decided against pushing him.

"So how's things?" Sakura asked, breaking the not too unpleasant silence that had formed between them.

"Not bad, I'm training mostly for my Jonin exam..." Naruto walked with his hands clasped behind his neck, also enjoying the Spring by the looks.

"I see..." Sakura hadn't thought about becoming a Jonin yet, training with Tsunade had become her main focus point. "Who you training with?" Sakura asked politely.

"Uh..." Sakura shot a sideways glance at her friend, seeing discomfort play across his face.

"You ok Naruto?" Sakura raised her eyebrow.

"Yeah! I forgot I promised to go train with S-" Naruto stopped abruptly, beaming to cover the blush.

"Who?" Sakura was beginning to find this irritating, what was he hiding?

"No one! Bye!" Naruto disappeared in a puff of transportation jutsu.

"Naruto!" Sakura growled, he was definitely catching up with that annoying blond some other time.

Sakura stood patiently outside the Hokage's office, eager to just get this over and done with, she needed to get back to the hospital, asap.

"Sakura, come in." Tsunade called through the door.

"Hai Tsunade-sama!" Sakura pulled open the large door and walked in, head held high and pulled the report from her vest.

Tsunade eyed her curiously, smirking at the way Sakura thought nothing of this action.

"My report, Tsunade-sama." Sakura held it out to her mentor.

"I can see that," Tsunade took the scroll and her eyes darted across the paper, "Everything included?" Tsunade looked up into Sakura's pale green eyes.

"Everything." Sakura repeated.

"Good, then you won't mind going out on another?" Tsunade smiled almost slyly.

"I only came back yesterday!" Sakura blurted, a questioning look from Tsunade set her right, "Gomene, I would be happy to." Sakura was disappointed, she had wanted to have at least a week off to help in the hospital.

"It's an A-class, you're going to need a partner." Tsunade went back to the paperwork on her desk.

"Oh, that's fine!" Sakura smiled, though she preferred to go alone these days.

"Your partner was supposed to be here ten minutes ago so he should be making his way now." Tsunade smiled briefly.

"Don't tell me..." Sakura's mouth opened in mock-horror. "I'm going on a mission, with..."

"Yo!" A familiar voice called from the doorway.

"Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura tried to suppress a small bubble of joy. She hadn't seen Kakashi in at least a year.

"You almost seem disappointed Sakura-chan!" His voice was teasing but Kakashi's single inky eye looked bored as ever, pouring over the new Icha Icha novel.

"Not at all Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura plastered on an overly friendly smile and turned back to Tsunade. "So what's the mission?" Sakura beamed brightly, trying to push the excitement from her mind.

"Well, you're to see a man and his goats." A rueful smile played across the older woman's lips, before Sakura could respond the scroll was pushed into her hands and she was ushered out of the room.

"Goats?" Sakura sighed, what could be A-class about goats?

Sakura had agreed to meet Kakashi by the gates at midday so she took her time packing a small rucksack, a bedroll, matches, medic kit and other basic necessities... She shrugged on her gear and zipped herself up, adjusted her arm guards and gloves. She locked her door and froze, hand still on the key. A familiar pulse of chakra emanated from behind her.

"Go away." Sakura breathed. No response came from the Uchiha. "I said-!" Sakura spun around to find he was no longer there. Anger tore though her. Why was he messing with her again?

Sakura gritted her teeth and thumped her fist against the door behind her. He was in her thoughts, in her dreams, now he was back in Konoha. On second thoughts, Sakura was glad she was going on a mission. She wouldn't have to think about Sasuke.

Sakura arrived at the gate five minutes early, she sighed and placed herself on a small bench. She figured it would take another twenty minutes or so before she arrived so she closed her eyes and basked in the mild Spring sun.

"Why did I bother?" She sighed.

"Bother? What do you mean? Sakura-chan?" Kakashi whispered in her ear. This earned an all too innocent "Meep!" From Sakura as she bolted from her position. Kakashi emerged from the bushes behind the bench, amusement playing across his exposed jet eye.

"What the hell?" She exploded, arms, flailing angrily.

"Tut, tut," Kakashi teased, "No good ninja would have been caught off guard by the infamous Kakashi Hatake!" Kakashi smiled, pulling out his new Icha Icha novel from the pouch on his back.

"Shut up, you're a lazy bum, that doesn't make you bad at concealing yourself!" Sakura countered weakly.

"Mhn." Kakashi uttered softly, "Come on then, lets go." Already walking through the gate, nose in his book.

"Wait!" Sakura shook her head, jogging lightly to catch up.

"It's not my fault you're slow as ever Sakura." Kakashi retorted flatly, flipping a page.

Sakura simply shook her head and walked alongside him, pulling out a small map of The Land of Fire.

She plotted the route with light pencil sketches. Outlining rest points, route changes on obstacles, The farm itself was on the outskirts of a small market town so they could choose between staying at the farm or an inn if needed. Sakura scribbled a few more notes down before she had exhausted the task. She folded the map away and continued to match Kakashi's pace.

They continued on, neither of them speaking until they stopped for lunch. Kakashi passed her a small bento packed with rice, salmon, eggs and lettuce. Simple yet effective. Sakura dug into her bento and realised, Kakashi was about to eat! Sakura whipped her head up, a strip of salmon dangling from her mouth, to see...Kakashi adjusting his mask, pulling it over his nose. Disappointment flared in the pit of her stomach.

If only I'd looked sooner! Sakura smiled, remembering when team seven had spent the day trying to see Kakashi-sensei's face. The people in the ramen bar looked like they'd seen some kind of a sex God under that mask...

"Staring isn't polite Sakura." Kakashi chuckled as the woman's cheeks turned a rosy pink.

"I wasn't staring Kakashi-sensei." Sakura pouted and turned her head to conceal the blush.

"Then what were you doing?" Kakashi's onyx eye scrutinised the side of her face subtly.

"I uh, was remembering back to when Naruto, Sasuke and I had tried to see under your mask!" Sakura stuttered, unsure of what else to say.

"And?" Kakashi raised his visible eyebrow, curious to what she was getting at. He remembered the mask under the mask trick.

"Why don't you show your face?" Sakura asked abashed, it felt like an extremely intrusive question.

"ANBU's never show their faces, not even in their village." Kakashi said with deliberate slowness.

"But you aren't ANBU any more?" Sakura countered coolly.

"Habits are hard to kick?" Kakashi cocked his head to one side, as if pondering something.

"So there's nothing wrong with your face?" Sakura blurted out, immediately dipping her head in shame, she's overstepped personal space, she knew it.

"Wrong with it?" Kakashi shot her a confused look, well half a look.

"Oh nothing, nothing!" Sakura smiled, although she considered herself an adult, she sure was not acting like one, "I'm sorry Kakashi-sensei, that was out of place, forgive me."

"What?" Kakashi looked up from his book.

When had he gotten that back out?

Sakura's eyes narrowed, "Lets just go, Kakashi-yarou!" Sakura poked her tongue out, childishly.

God Sakura get a grip. Sakura's inner voice was beginning to sound like Ino-pig's voice, Mocking and condescending.

Kakashi just laughed and stood, "I'm sorry but Jiraiya's got a way with words."

"Perverted words." Sakura corrected, but he had a point. Sakura had taken to the Icha Icha books, a guilty pleasure she had no intention of sharing.

"Oh and how would you know?" Kakashi shot her a questioning glance.

"Uh," Shit. "Naruto managed to get a copy from somewhere and showed me and Sasuke-kun!" Sasuke-kun... Why'd I call him that?

"Oh I see," Kakashi nodded acceptingly, flipping a page with a giggle.

They continued on in silence after that. Sakura began to worry, even though they were using the busiest supply route they didn't encounter a soul. Sakura thought nothing of it for a while, busying herself with chakra control, pulling it up and spreading it through her fingertips. That's when Kakashi's book snapped shut.

"Sakura, stop." Kakashi's tone was low and urgent. Immediately she cut off the flow of chakra, body braced, anticipating attack.

"What is-?" Sakura began before a gloved hand placed itself over her smooth lips.

"Shh..." His tone was hushed. Sakura's eyes flicked around the road, open plains to their left, dense forest to their left. Her eyes fell upon a shadow in the trees. Her heart seemed desperate to escape the confines of her chest, judging by the incessant hammering against her ribcage. It was a huge mass of darkness, writhing and contorting like a nest of adders. Sakura could see two small pinpricks of crimson, pulsating in the mass of inky shadows.

"Keep walking, don't look back," Kakashi whispered quietly, releasing her mouth slowly.

Sakura nodded and tried to control the instinct building up inside her, one that coiled fear in the pit of her stomach like a poisonous snake. I told her to scream, it made her break out in a cold sweat, her legs were weak and wobbling.

"That's good, just keep walking." Kakashi was close at her side, his hand on her back, comforting her as well as keeping her walking.

"What is it?" Sakura muttered, hating herself for how weak she sounded.

"I'm not sure." Kakashi lied. He knew full well what it was but he wasn't going to go frightening her about it now.

"Ok, will we be safe?" Sakura asked, again hating for young she sounded, like a child asking her father if he'll chase away the monsters from her bedroom closet.

"Of course, I'm Hatake Kakashi, what could go wrong?" Kakashi chuckled.

"What the man who fell for Naruto's board eraser trick?" Sakura giggled softly.

"Hah, the very same." Kakashi smiled under his mask, that day really did change his life.

"The one who practically soiled himself when I shattered the ground he was hiding in?" Sakura nudged his ribs as she recalled his 'rabbit-in-the-headlights' look.

"True...But you are the scariest woman I'd ever met, aside from Tsunade-sama...maybe..." Kakashi's eye shut happily.

"Hey! I am not scary!" Sakura roared, glaring at the small portion of Kakashi's face that was visible.

"Sure you're not!" Kakashi nodded, sarcastically, waving his free hand nonchalantly, Icha Icha had appeared yet again.

Sakura went to slap him when she realised, the ominous, watched feeling had faded away.

"Hey Kakashi-sensei," Sakura continued looking forwards. She didn't want to turn around just yet, "Has it gone?"

Kakashi nodded, "Mnh." Nose only centimetres from the page.

"I hope we don't see it again..." Sakura shivered at the memory, "It was so close to Konoha... do you think we should inform them?" Sakura's brow furrowed, concerned for the village, for her patients that she hadn't seen for weeks.

"Nah, if anything Naruto's gunna run head first into it and that'll sort out the problem eh?" Kakashi's tone was playful.

"Yeah, it'll end up Naruto getting way over excited and half of Konoha being decimated." Sakura sighed, knowing that it was the truth.

"The half that's been rebuilt..." Kakashi mumbled almost inaudibly, his eyes had dropped from his page momentarily, grieving silently for the loss.

Sakura nodded solemnly. It had been almost three years but Konoha still wasn't the same. Everyone had tried their best but it had been a hardship. Restoration of the village was a hard and gruelling process but it was getting there. Memorials for those who lost their lives, houses had been constructed for those who were lucky to escape with their lives. Business' had began to regain their affluence. The hospital was in full working order and was still treating victims of the attack.

One Yuuki Kobayashi was Sakura's favourite patient, a middle-aged, greying woman with sharp icy eyes. She would talk to Sakura for hours about her many different cats. About how Aiko was her favourite little moggy and how he would curl up on her dressing gown, suckling at the soft material. Ryū was a dangerous little tyke, he would bring in mice, rats, bats and Yuuki even swore that a male hare had been brought in one day. Their conversations were identical each time. Sakura could recite their conversations backwards. Yuuki had suffered severe brain trauma from the attack, she would never come out of the state she was in. Always reliving the same things, Sakura pitied her for this but not overly so, she was a strong woman deep down, just a little...muddled up.

They walked on into the last dregs of the sunlight, only stopping when visibility was at it's lowest. Kakashi had abruptly stopped in the middle of the road, Sakura had been trudging along behind him and crashed, nose-first into his backpack.

"Itai..." Sakura grumbled, rubbing her sore nose.

"Shouldn't be so close should you?" Kakashi chuckled, "You okay though?" Kakashi asked, almost absent-mindedly.

"Sorry Kakashi-sensei." Sakura mumbled venomously.

"What was that?" Kakashi looked over his shoulder enquiringly.

"Nothing nothing." Sakura waved her hand and smiled innocently.

"Mhn." Kakashi frowned slightly, "Come on then." Kakashi gave a beckoninggesture with his index finger.

Sakura eyed him curiously as he backed off into the dense bank trees behind him, disappearing completely from view in a matter of seconds.

"Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura hissed, crouching down low, reducing her silhouette.

"Over here Sakura-chan," Kakashi whispered back, teasingly, "Don't tell me you're scared?"

"Of course not!" She hissed back, mustering the courage to follow the idiot copy-ninja into the forest.

Sakura gingerly crept forward, her senses a buzz of tension. Her eyes flitted around the thickening trees, looking for irregular movement, irregular shapes. Every step she took was lighter than a breath of air, she made no noise, avoiding any kind of debris. She tenderly sniffed the air, trying to sense a disturbance in the woodland environment. Nothing. She froze as a resounding snap echoed from her right. She was deep within the greenery. She opened her mouth slightly and closed her eyes, heightening her hearing. She moved her head slowly from side to side, listening for the slightest draw of breath, the rubbing of material, anything to signify where Kakashi lay hidden.

Gotcha. Sakura smiled as she turned forty degrees anti-clockwise. She drew a shuriken silently from her holster and deftly launched it at full force into the darkness. Thud. It had connected.

"Sakura-chan!" Kakashi squeaked, "My Icha Icha novel!" He hissed from the darkness.

Sakura took this opportunity to launch, her legs were like coiled springs ready to burst forth. She shot towards the unsuspecting copy-nin and pinned him against the tree he was leant against, causing him to drop his book. A feral smile of triumph played across her lips.

"Dead." Sakura growled.

"You'd like to think so eh?" Kakashi smiled back just as fiercely.

"What-?" Sakura was cut off by the touch of a cold, deadly kunai to the small of her back and a gloved hand to her mouth.

"If I wanted to I could end you, right here, right now." Kakashi's clone talked in perfect sync with the real Kakashi, who was whispering all too close to her left ear. His tone was a deadly neutral.

"Don't be so hasty, you obviously have much still to learn." Kakashi chuckled, regaining his usual whimsy. He released Sakura as his clone dissipated into nothingness.

"Hai Kakashi-sensei!" Sakura chimed snidely.

"Come on," Kakashi sighed, picking up his injured book, "My poor Icha Icha novel!" Kakashi's eye was filled with, all to comical, real pain.

"Oh get over yourself, have mine." Sakura held out her copy towards the copy-nin, which she had concealed in the same kind of pouch Kakashi held his.

Kakashi stared wide eyed at the pristine Icha Icha novel, "You read?" He whispered.

Sakura shot him a hateful glance, "Of course I read!" Sakura dropped the book and smiled as Kakashi dove onto the floor to catch it, his face was that of awe.

"Come on, Kakashi-sensei, I'll set up camp, oh and don't lose my place..." Sakura trailed off as her bookmark fell to the floor with a flutter. Kakashi smiled sheepishly as Sakura's eyes darkened.

"Gomene!" Kakashi squealed and backed up against the nearest tree.

"Oh, don't you worry, you will be." Sakura glared evilly, picking up the little handmade bookmark. It was an origami shuriken, a small child in Konoha had made it for her after she had healed their sick grandmother. A token of respect. Sakura had cherished it since.

"I don't like the sound of that..." Kakashi muttered.

"Tch." Sakura sighed and pocketed the paper shuriken along with her metal one into her holster.

Sakura began busying herself, clearing the small space of sticks and other uncomfortable objects and scattering them outside the clearing after constructing the basis of a small fire. She set down her bedroll and placed her rucksack as the pillow. She sparked a small fire and nestled down, knees drawn up to her chin, setting a small pot over the fire heating some water for some tea.

"Sakura?" Kakashi asked quietly.

"Hmm?" Sakura looked up from the depths of the fire and into Kakashi's cool onyx eye.

"Are you okay?" Kakashi was genuinely concerned.

"Yeah." Sakura brushed him off, forcing a smile to her lips. She was not okay.

"You don't seem your usual self." Kakashi pitched her copy of Icha Icha into the air, she caught it with a swift movement and tossed it onto her bedroll.

"You haven't seen me in almost a year, how do you know what my normal self is?" She snapped dangerously.

"Hey, I wasn't being nosy, you know me better than that right?" Kakashi sighed softly and pulled out his injured book, lazily flicking it open with lacking enthusiasm.

"I'm sorry, it's nothing really." Sakura smiled as convincingly as possible.

"Sure, sure, get some sleep as soon as Sakura-chan, I'll take first watch." Kakashi flipped to the next page.

"Sorry." Sakura picked the kettle out of the fire swiftly and poured a cup of tea before setting it beside the fire. "There's some for you, g'night." Sakura muttered before settling into her bed, sipping slowly on the dark, tangy liquid. She picked up Icha Icha and began to read.

"Sakura..." Sasuke's voice was dark and husky.

"Sasuke, please, don't." Sakura pleaded, struggling against him.

"But Sakura you love me don't you?" Sasuke breathed as he held her from behind. One arm snaked around her waist, the other arm to her neck. His tongue tracing the crook of her neck.

"I do!" Sakura began to sob, tears rolling freely down her smooth cheeks.

"Hey, don't cry, that's just going to get me angry, you don't want that do you?" The spiteful voice snaked into her ear, polluting her thoughts.

"Please, just let me go." Sakura begged, sobs shaking her body.

"Oh Sakura, you're such a tease..." Sasuke purred, the arm around her waist began to shimmy off her shorts.

"Sasuke stop!" She cried. So very afraid of what he was going to do.

"I don't want to!" Sasuke hissed viciously as he sunk his teeth into her neck. Pulling his trousers down in the process.

"No!" Sakura screamed.

"Sakura!" Sasuke cried as he plunged himself into her. Pain erupted from inside her.

"Sakura!" Another voice called from far away.

"Sakura!" Kakashi was shaking the young woman violently. She had began to stir in her sleep a few minutes before. He had thought nothing of it, until the screaming had started. She was writhing and thrashing around, screaming out for someone to stop. "Sakura listen to me!" Kakashi held her upright. A strange sensation was forming in the pit of his stomach. Something resembling fear but not quite.

"Sasuke, no!" Sakura lashed out with her foot, connecting with Kakashi's abdomen, winding him slightly.

"Sakura," Kakashi wheezed, "Wake up!"

Her mossy eyes flicked open abruptly, "Kakashi-sensei?" She whimpered, tears creating a wavering pool of green around her irises.

"It's okay now, I'm here, he's gone." Kakashi held her against his chest, letting her clutch his clothes, tears soaking into his chest. "It's okay now, it's okay." He repeated soothingly.

"I- I'm so sorry!" She bawled chokingly. Rocking against him as she cried it out. She felt so weak, so vulnerable and she hated herself for it.

"It's okay, don't worry," Kakashi crooned, "I'm here." Kakashi squeezed her tight, acting off an impulse he had not felt for a long time. It was disconcerting but he couldn't let her be, not while she was like this, he wouldn't be able to live with himself if he did. So he settled for cradling this broken girl until the sky began to alight with veins of salmon and coral, signalling the beginning of a new day.

A/N - I'd like to thank .13 for proof reading this for me! I hope the rest of you enjoyed it as much as they did! It's my first Naruto fic but I love kakashixSakura so any suggestions/criticism are greatly appreciated - Much love ~^-^ Esuta! xx