Disclaimer -I do not own Naruto - trust me, if I did Kakashi's mask would have been removed a LONG time ago ;)

Icha Icha Gambit

A/NSo here it is! I'm really looking forward to what everyone thinks and will try to updat as much as possible. Its going to be a large project so please stick with me if it interests you ^^
I will warn you, there is going to me mature content!

Chapter 1: Placing the pieces


Tsunade sighed heavily.

"Look, I know this probably sounds ludicrous, but I'm sure you understand how limited for choice I am for this particular mission."

Kakashi stared at her. He had never openly glared at the Hokage before, with obvious reason, but right then he was considering how much of a real chance he might have if it came to a fight. It was no secret the woman could have thrown him through the wall, but she'd have to catch him first.

Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Well?"

He narrowed his own further.

"I am NOT doing this."

"I do believe, as your Hokage, you are supposed to follow my orders."

He folded his arms and lifted his chin slightly in a gesture that screamed defiance.

The blonde rolled her eyes, taking two sake cups out of her drawer, along with the notorious bottle that always seemed close at hand. "Here." She pushed one towards him whilst downing hers in one gulp.

He ignored it and continued to glare.

"Hatake, if you continue to look at me like that, I will throw you off this tower."

He sighed and uncrossed his arms. Truth be told, the woman sure could move when she wanted to, and as he'd never actually sparred with her personally, he could only guess his speed might outmatch hers.

"Look Hokage-sama, there are plenty of other shinobi who could do this. They'd probably be grateful too. I just can't believe I am your only choice, and to be honest, this feels like something Jiraiya would think up." He tapped his pouch where the little worn orange book sat.

Tsunade smiled at the mention of her late friend and nodded. "It does, doesn't it?" She poured herself another cup of sake and looked at the copy ninja matter-of-factly. "This has to happen. Sakura is the only person I can send on this mission. She's got the strength to protect herself if something goes wrong and the ability to heal herself thoroughly. I need my best kunoichi on this, and she's my best. But.." She sighed deeply, contemplating the bottle in front of her. "I can't let her go until.." she waved a hand.

Kakashi regarded the Hokage with a skeptical eye. He was half wondering whether this was some kind of poorly thought out revenge for catching him glancing over the rather distracting sight of her sleeveless kimono which was revealing a little more cleavage than usual, if that was even possible. The fact she was angry at that was beyond him. They weren't exactly hard to miss, and he was only a man, after all. He sighed.

"Why not ask Naruto? I'm sure he'd be more than happy."

Tsunade snorted derisively in a way that reminded the silver-haired shinobi of Sakura.

"I'd prefer it done by someone older, with more experience; someone who'll be gentle."

Kakashi cocked an eyebrow at her. "Who says I'll be gentle?"

"She used to be your student. I know you care for her, because I do, so I know you're the right person for this job."

"Then why don't you do it?" Kakashi snapped, in a very un-Kakashi-like way.

She glowered at him.

"What about Sai? He could probably do with the practice."

"I said older and more experienced, not socially inept."

"Genma, then? Hell, Gai even. Anyone else."

"Genma is scouting this mission and leaving in two weeks and I would not set Gai on my worst enemy. Besides, would you really be comfortable if I asked any of the other older shinobi to do this?"

"Yes," Kakashi deadpanned.

Tsunade jumped to her feet, slamming her palms against the desk, clearly over arguing. "This is happening. I need this to happen, because I cannot possibly send my apprentice on this kind of mission with her still being.. " She trailed off, her expression softening slightly.

"Couldn't Shizune go on this mission instead?" Kakashi offered.

Tsunade shook her head, sitting herself down and picking up the cup she had previously offered Kakashi. "Shizune is definitely a talented medic, but I wouldn't feel safe sending her in there without the kind of brute strength Sakura has. It's not that I doubt her ability, it's just..."

"You know Sakura will be more likely to put a man through the floor." Kakashi offered.

Tsunade smirked as she raised the cup to her lips. "Precisely." She took a sip and looked the Copy Nin in the eye. "Besides, Shizune is scheduled to be in Suna in a week anyway and the target is only going to be on Hachimitsu Island for three days and Shizune won't be back in time."

Kakashi sighed heavily.

"This is vastly inappropriate, even by my standards."

"Kakashi, if you read that rubbish Jiraiya wrote I doubt much is inappropriate by your standards."


Tsunade placed the cup down with a sigh. "This isn't exactly easy for me either, you know. You used to be her teacher, you're still her comrade and superior, and if anyone were to find out it would definitely look sketchy at best." She rested her chin on one hand, while the other played idly with the cup in front of her.

"You know why I wouldn't feel comfortable asking one of the other jounin, or even her younger friends to do this?"

"It couldn't possibly be because it would make them either feel like a perverted old man or a ridiculously uncomfortable idiot, would it?" Kakashi asked drily.

Tsunade actually smiled. "A lot of attitude hidden under that mask, hm?"

"Mn," was his only response. He shook himself mentally, not usually letting his emotions get the better of him.

"I'm a woman. As such, I know how important it is for it to be right, and I love Sakura, I don't want to give this to one of the younger shinobi because I don't want it to be some clumsy tryst, and I don't want to ask any of the other older shinobi because it would just be another mission. There would be no consideration for her at all."

Kakashi folded his arms again. He was quickly losing his patience, which for him was saying something. This had to be the most ridiculous thing he had ever been asked to do. Hell, this was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard of anyone being asked to do. Sure, he cared about his students. Sure, he could understand Tsunade's reasoning to a point, but still..

"Tsunade-sama, I just- it's too.." He shrugged, unable to find the words.

She sighed again. It was something she seemed to do a lot when faced with this man. "You're the only one who can do this. It needs to happen, she needs to go. This is a big mission for the Leaf. The Intel she gathers could be invaluable."

Kakashi put his hands in his pockets and fixed her with his best stoic stare.


Kakashi blinked. Since when did the Godaime say please?

"She won't go for it." Kakashi replied.

"Convince her."


"I'm sure you've had plenty of practice," the blonde drawled.

"So? The girl has ridiculous expectations."

"Meet them."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow in response.

"Besides, she's not that deluded anymore. Barely last week, she kicked some guy out of the hospital for assuming it was ok to call her sweetheart."

"I'm sure you were proud," Kakashi said sardonically.

"Very, but that's not the point. I believe you will be successful in this mission."

"Successful.." Kakashi repeated the word back to her. "It's more than a ten year gap.."

"What's age where skill is involved?" Tsunade was considering the sake bottle again. She glanced at the clock. Was one-thirty too early for one more? "So, do you accept this mission?"

"Do I have much of a choice?"

"If you don't I'll just assume you don't need it anymore and remove it."

Kakashi paled.

Tsunade raised her eyebrows.


"Good! To business then, Hatake-san."

Kakashi stared at her. To business? How could she be pleading for her young apprentices' virtue one minute and then be so matter-of-fact about it the next?

"You realise this could destroy our team?"

"She'll forgive you. You're Kakashi-sensei," Tsunade shrugged. "The girl worships you."

Kakashi felt a little smug at that. Of course she did. All his teammates did, and so they should. Admittedly they had all gone their separate ways for a while but they had come back together a stronger team because of it, and although their respect outwardly seemed to lessen over the years, he still knew they looked up to him. Which was why accepting this seemed all the more terrible.

"You realise this could destroy my soul?"

Tsunade openly snorted. "Please, I've read all the Icha Icha books. Having a pretty girl call you sensei? I'm sure it's some-"

"That's not the point." Kakashi cut in, rather bravely, he thought. "It's one thing to mildly entertain a brief thought while your little student runs ahead of you in tiny shorts, it's another set of moral dilemmas entirely to actually act on it."

"There is no one else for this particular mission."

"Tsunade, you're asking me to take my students virginity."

She raised her eyebrows at him, but chose to let the lack of honorific drop in light of his current stresses.

"You're taking her virginity like it's a pawn in shogi."

"A necessary move, however sadistic it may seem."

Kakashi gave her a dead eye.

She didn't blame him, it was ridiculous. She knew, however, what would happen if she sent Sakura to the Hachimitsu Resort without the issue of her virginity being addressed. She couldn't stand the thought of that being her first time, especially when considering the kind of low, filthy rich bastard her target was. Kakashi was definitely the better option, whether he saw it or not. "Kakashi, if it makes you feel any better, I'll talk to her afterwards and explain the whole thing, she'll forgive you."

"It does not."
"Just go!" The irate Hokage bit at him, her patience snapping.

Kakashi gave her the filthiest look he dared and could manage with only one eye. She responded in kind by throwing the now empty sake bottle at his head. He disappeared in a puff of smoke and the bottle collided with the wall. Tsunade sighed heavily and put her head in her hands. The door cracked open, and looking up, she found herself staring at that familiar pink head.

"Tsunade-shishou, is everything alright?"

Tsunade smiled up at her apprentice looking a little wary. "Oh, you know, just a run in with your dear sensei."

Sakura smiled. "Was he ridiculously late again?"

Tsunade rolled her eyes. "Something like that." She watched Sakura, who was eyeing the remains of the bottle with the kind of expression that told the old sannin she was about to be rebuked for drinking so much again. She decided to divert the oncoming lecture.

"Actually, Sakura, could you do me a favour?"


"I want you to tag along with Kakashi for a while. I'm sick of him moping around and you two are pretty close, right?"

Sakura blinked at her master. "Umm, well.. I guess. I mean, he's Kakashi, so he doesn't exactly pop around for unnecessary chats or whatever, but he's my Sensei and we're teammates, so..." she shrugged.

"Sensei.." Tsunade mused. "Suppose that makes him feel old."

Sakura wasn't quite sure where this was going. It wasn't like she called the Hokage her sensei, so there was no jibe at her in that sentence that she could see. "Maybe it does," she replied with a smile, "but I think he secretly loves it." She rolled her eyes, placing a hand on her hip. "Especially with his morbid fascination with Jiraiya-sama's books. I mean, I read them out of curiosity and all, and I'm pretty sure in every book the female characters refer to the protagonist as sensei." She shook her head. "I'm sure Kakashi-sensei must get some perverse pleasure at hearing his only female student still refer to him as, well, sensei."

She stopped, looking up at Tsunade all of a sudden; afraid she may have said something inappropriate. "Please don't think I'm saying Kakashi-sensei would EVER do anything like that! I'm just saying he's almost as perverted as Jiraiya-sama. Not that-!"

"Sakura," Tsunade interrupted with a sigh. "Stop babbling. It doesn't matter anyway; technically Kakashi isn't your sensei anymore so even if something were to ever happen it wouldn't even be an issue." She smiled slightly at the shocked look on her young pupils face. "Besides," she added with a coy smile, "I hear he's quite attractive underneath that mask. A little fun with an older man could be just what you need."

Sakura flushed. Was she really having this conversation with her shishou? Again? She cringed, remembering how the crafty Godaime had plied her with rice wine one night and enticed the information regarding her lack of sexual experience out of her. She glowered at the older woman.

Tsunade shrugged, "just saying, Ayame-san caught a glimpse of him once when he was eating and she swore he had the most attractive face she had ever seen on a man."

"Really?" Sakura sounded skeptical. Why would someone so handsome hide his face? "I still reckon he's got some kind of ugly mole or something."

Tsunade rolled her eyes. "What if he's so good looking it would be distracting to his opponents?"

Sakura eyed her suspiciously. "Shishou, do you have some kind of crush on Kakashi-sensei?"

The older woman just barely managed to stop herself throwing the desk at her clearly stupid apprentice. She took a deep breath. "No, Sakura."

Sakura giggled nervously at Tsunade's unimpressed tone. "Sorry, shishou."

"I'm just curious. Aren't you?"

"Well, Naruto and I used to try all the time.." she smiled, remembering how their sensei always had one up on them. The last time Naruto tried it ended up with him being hung by his ankles on the washing line outside Kakashi's window. It had been quite a sight to see the hero of the village in such a degrading position.

Tsunade smiled slyly. "Maybe you haven't been using the right tactics."

"You think if we stole his Icha Icha collection and threatened to burn them he'd take the mask off?" A familiar gleam entered Sakura's eyes at the thought. Tsunade sighed. She was almost ashamed Sakura was still this innocent at twenty.

"That's not quite what I meant.."

Sakura looked at her questioningly.

"Well, there are certain things, as a kunoichi, you could offer in exchange..."

Sakura burst out laughing. She was still bent over when Shizune entered the room, eyeing the two women with genuine concern. Given the look on Tsunade's face, Sakura was either being very brave or extremely stupid.

"What's so funny?" the older medic asked, slightly concerned by the twitch in Tsunade's left eyebrow.

"Tsunade-shishou wants me to seduce Kakashi-sensei!"

"What?" Shizune looked at her master, confused.

"I'm just saying, Sakura, to be a fully capable kunoichi there are things you just need to know how to do, and this could be good practise."

"You want me to seduce my sensei." She waited for her master to laugh.

"He's not your sensei anymore."

Sakura's brow furrowed. Sure, that much was true. It had been quite a few years since Kakashi had officially been her sensei, but he was her comrade, her captain, a friend who occasionally kept her company when the two of them were in the village together between missions...

Shizune scrutinised the Godaime's face suspiciously. "Tsunade-sama, what are you-"

"Anyway!" Tsunade cut in quickly. "Sakura, I need you to keep an eye on him. I have given him a mission and I need you to, err... Help him."

"What kind of mission could Sharingan Kakashi need my help for?" Not that Sakura would mind a break from the hospital. It had been a while since she had the chance to run around punching enemy ninja. The idea made her grin. Yep, she could definitely use the workout.


Sakura blinked. "What?"

"He has been on a few demanding missions lately. He isn't injured so confining him to the hospital will be a waste of our time and resources, but I'm benching him for two weeks and I need you to keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't try to sneak off with a mission. Those girls on the jounin mission's desk are quite susceptible to his charm, I've heard."

Sakura nodded. Kakashi could definitely be charming; she experienced it firsthand whenever he persuaded herself, Naruto or Sai to pay for dinner. The fact he could even get Sai to pay said something of his abilities in that area. It made sense he could charm some of the younger female chunin into overlooking his grounded status to give him a mission. Especially if he was as handsome as Ayame-san suggested... Not that that mattered. Nobody could see his face. Although, not that they needed to...

Tsunade openly grinned. She couldn't help it. It was almost too easy to plant the ideas in the young girls head, and it might help Kakashi out if Sakura was already starting to entertain thoughts about him.

"Make this your priority. You're dismissed, Sakura."

Sakura bowed to her shishou and left.

"What are you doing?" Shizune's eyes narrowed as she dumped some papers on the Hokage's desk.

"Nothing," the woman replied, flicking a blonde pig-tail over her shoulder. "What's this?"

"Mission reports. Tsunade, you can't actually be-"

"Shizune, leave."


"If you don't, you can go down to the archives and spend the next five hours making sure the files are alphabetised."

"See you later, Tsunade-sama."

This was nuts.





Kakashi stopped listing any appropriate words he could think to describe his situation to watch a familiar blonde head pushing through the crowds to get to him.


Kakashi cringed. "You know, Naruto, I haven't technically been your sensei for a few years now."

Naruto punched the stoic man playfully on the shoulder. "Don't be crazy, you'll always be sensei to us!" the blonde smiled widely.

Kakashi rubbed his arm. Crazy was another appropriate word.

"Have you seen Sakura-chan?"

Kakashi tensed. "No."

"Ah man, I was hoping she would join me for lunch, but she wasn't at the hospital and I just came from Baa-chan's and she wasn't with her either. You reckon she'd be with Sai?"

Kakashi shrugged.


They both turned around to see the aforementioned kunoichi running towards them waving. Kakashi studied her with more scrutiny than usual. Sure she had gotten attractive over the years. He had pretty much admitted this to the Hokage. He couldn't help looking every now and then, especially since she had turned eighteen and it didn't make him feel as perverted. She had a nice figure, bright eyes, cute smile, smooth looking skin... but that hair was just a ridiculous colour on a woman. Seriously, it screamed adorable and young. Maybe if she dyed it..? But then, she wouldn't be Sakura anymore, and he didn't want that. He realised, with a sigh that no matter how appealing she may be as a woman, there was no shaking that little girl he knew her as. Albeit a little girl that could break him in half.

"Hi, Sakura-chan!"

She smiled at her teammate, before turning to Kakashi.

"Hey sensei," –he cringed again- "What did you do to Tsunade-shishou?"


"She was pretty angry.."

He shrugged.

"Anyway, she asked me to keep an eye on you these next few weeks."

Kakashi looked at her questioningly.

"How come?" Naruto asked, looking between his two friends with mild curiosity.

"Apparently she ordered him to rest, and for some reason she's under the impression he's going to try and charm a mission from the desk girls.."

"Does she?" Kakashi asked with feigned indifference.

Naruto laughed at this. "Practising your seduction techniques, aye sensei?" Sakura slapped him on the head. The Jinchuuriki rubbed over his blonde locks with a chuckle. "I doubt he needs practise anyway, with all the books and advice from Ero-Sennin, right Sensei?"


Sakura rolled her eyes and stalked towards Ichiraku. "Coming?"

"Hell yeah!" Naruto punched the air and ran after her.

Kakashi watched them go. They may be two respected shinobi in their own right now, but some things never changed. He found his eyes lingering slightly on Sakura's behind. Then again, some things did. He sighed inwardly. An appreciation of physical features was not going to be enough for him to be able to do this. Which was strange as he never really gave that much thought to his conquests. They, however, weren't trusted teammates he would have to work with again. How was he supposed to do this and still maintain their friendship? Somehow he couldn't imagine Sakura ever going for casual sex. Admittedly all he had to go on was her adoration of Sasuke, and that was a long time ago. He really had no idea what situation her love life had been in since twenty minutes ago and he really wasn't welcoming the insight.

The behind in question suddenly stopped moving and turned. Kakashi's eyes snapped up to see a slightly frowning Sakura looking at him.

"You coming?"


Clearly she planned on starting her "mission" now. Kakashi slouched a little more and followed her almost begrudgingly. He couldn't believe that blonde-haired slug had done this to him. Not only that, she had made sure Sakura would be around constantly. He was sure he'd be able to slip away from her, but there were only so many places he could hide and if she made it her business to follow him around he had no doubt she would succeed. He glared at that ridiculous hair. He honestly couldn't remember being in this bad of a mood since Gai had beaten him at tracking down that goddam cat when they were genin. Sure, he had a cold that day, but still, he should have found it first.

He sighed again. Needless to say his day wasn't exactly making him happy.

Sakura stalked up and sat on a stool next to Naruto. Obviously she had been mistaken. There was no way she had just caught her old sensei looking at her ass. Sure it seemed that way. His eyes made the same movement she caught some of the other men in her life doing at times. She had hit Naruto only the day before for such an offense. Admittedly, the self-proclaimed next Hokage had the subtlety of an elephant among mice, but still... Maybe Kakashi-sensei had just been looking at something on the floor? But he had looked up the second she turned around, which meant he knew she had turned... She bit her lip.

"What's up, Sakura-chan?"

She smiled at Naruto. "Oh, nothing."

Kakashi walked in, taking the stool next to her. She glanced up at him and he creased his eye at her, indicating a smile. "We ordered for you already, sensei. I hope that's ok."

He blinked at her. "Mm."

She turned to Naruto questioningly. Sure, Kakashi had never been the most talkative person in her life, but even she had to admit, he was being rather monosyllabic.

Naruto grinned. "I think he's feeling a bit old."

"Or I guess he's just annoyed Tsunade-sama has taken him off the missions roster for two weeks," Sakura offered with a curve of her lips.

"Probably because he's getting old," Naruto added.

Sakura turned at the sound of her old sensei sighing rather dramatically.

"Remember the days when you were terrified of me?"

Naruto and Sakura laughed, picking up their chop sticks as the food came towards them.

"idatake masu!" They chorused. Kakashi dipped his head in thanks then poked his ramen around the bowl. Sakura was watching him carefully out of the corner of her eye. She couldn't believe it had pretty much been eight years and she still hadn't seen him without his mask, and she had to admit, Tsunade had piqued her interest in this particular area once again.

"Hi Naruto-kun, Sakura-san, Kakashi-senpai."

Sakura turned to see Sai walking up to them. He was glancing around at the other customers, uncertain. She smiled at him. He had definitely made progress since being assigned to team Kakashi but he still looked awkward and out of place when he was out in public. Naruto patted the seat next to him, and Sai carefully sat on it.

"Want something to eat, Sai?" Sakura asked. He shook his head. She smiled and turned back to her own food. Her eyes hit Kakashi's bowl and she nearly punched him out of sheer frustration. It was gone. He'd eaten the whole thing in the 10 or so seconds she had been distracted with Sai. She sighed agitatedly. How did he do that? It seemed every time they ate together something would claim her attention long enough for him to chuck his food down.

"I hope you choke." She muttered.

He looked at her confused and she indicated to his empty bowl. He smiled at her, rubbing the back of his head as if trying to honestly pull off contrite. She rolled her eyes at him and returned to her own ramen. Naruto had just finished his first helping and was being offered a second. She was on a team of pigs.

"So what have you been up to, Sai?" She hadn't seen the pale man in about a week.

"I had a mission," he replied simply.

"ANBU?" She asked. He nodded in response. "Well, I'm glad you're not injured."

He gave that rare, small smile of his and said, "Thank you, Sakura-san."

She couldn't help smiling back. Yep, he had come a long way alright. She looked around at her teammates. Sai listening intently while Naruto explained in detail his last mission to Wind country and how if it wasn't for him, Gaara would probably have died. Sakura rolled her eyes. She doubted very much the Kazekage had even needed his help. She suspected he called on the Leaf to send Naruto as back up sometimes just for company. She glanced to the other side of her to find that Kakashi had taken out his worn copy of Icha Icha Paradise. She rolled her eyes yet again.

"You realise its rude to read that kind of smut at lunch, right?"


She continued to look at him. He seemed a little tense; or as tense as Kakashi could ever be. The usual slouch to his shoulders had a strange tightness to it today, however, and given that Tsunade had clearly tried to take his head off he really must have been feeling angry at being forced to take some time off.

"Everything ok, Kakashi-sensei?" She asked lightly.


She made an exasperated sound and squarely turned her back on him. If he didn't want to talk, she wasn't going to force him.


She spared him a glare over her shoulder.

"Do you think you'll always call me sensei?"

She turned around, disbelief clear on her face. "Naruto isn't right, is he?"

Kakashi put his book down and studied her face. She shifted uncomfortably under the extra long stare, wondering what he could possibly have found so interesting about her all of a sudden. When he still didn't say anything, she turned her jade eyes to his and decided to break the awkward silence. "Um, it's no different to what it's always looked like," she muttered.

"What?" Kakashi looked genuinely puzzled.

"My face..."

"Oh." He sat back, and she was unaware that he had even leant forward. "You look older."

She glared at him. "I know working with Tsunade-sama has probably given me a few worry lines sensei, but I'm only twenty."

"No, I meant, you've grown up." He said it so simply and with such a happy eye crease she couldn't help but smile back.

"Thank you, sensei."

He seemed to frown slightly. It would have been pretty hard for anyone else to tell, but being on his team for eight years meant she could probably read expression in that one eye better than most people could read their mothers own face.

"Are you really worried about getting old?" She couldn't seriously believe Hatake Kakashi would worry about something so inevitable, but she supposed she had never really known him to speak of his fears. If he even had any; and if this was his, it seemed a pretty silly one.

"Do you think I'm old?"

She laughed lightly. "Years are nothing," she said simply with a shrug. "No one would ever think you were in your thirties to look at you, and you certainly don't act like it." She added a small roll of her eyes at that last part.

He smiled at her then, and she felt a little pride at having seemed to cheer him up a bit.

"I'll always have you to keep me young, I guess."

She looked up at him. Her? Did he mean her specifically or the whole team? She glanced over her shoulder at the two boys, then back at Kakashi who was still smiling down at her. For some reason he seemed to be referring to her alone. She felt a little heat in her cheeks but was smiling brightly up at him. Everyone knew Sasuke had been the centre of attention on team 7, and Naruto became his golden boy pretty quickly. She had never felt back then that Kakashi had really cared for her development that much. After training with Tsunade-sama and being able to prove her worth that first time they were sent on the mission to recover Gaara, she had realised that she didn't need his approval. He had given it back then anyway, and it made her feel great.

She forgave his apparent oversight of her abilities a few years ago when he had explained how he never believed he was capable of bringing out the best in her and was happy someone else had. More than that, he was glad they could be on a team again. He had always been there for her, looking out for her, and she had eventually realised that was the best thing you could ask for from a sensei. He had cared; still did, and that was all that mattered.

Hearing him acknowledge her growth now made her particularly happy at being recognised as his friend outside of their team. She didn't know why, but it made her feel warm. It was nice when your sensei saw you as individually important and not just another part of his routine.

He stood up, ruffling her hair gently. Normally she would have frowned at him for messing up her hair, but she just smiled as he sidled out with a small wave. She turned back to the other boys. Naruto was busy trying to explain to Sai how he could use being an artist to get girls, while Sai was wondering out loud; "get them to do what?"

"Naruto," Sakura sighed, "please don't teach him bad habits."

Naruto turned to her with a grin, which faltered as he glared at the empty seat beside her. "Where's Kakashi-sensei?"

"Oh, he just-" Sakura's mouth dropped open. "No.." she whispered, mortified.

"That damn bastard!" She slammed her fists on the table so hard the dishes shook.

"S-Sakura-chan.." Naruto mumbled nervously.

"He skipped out on the bill AGAIN!"

Naruto blinked at her. "Dammit!"

She threw down some ryo to cover her and her soon to be dead sensei before taking off. He had made her feel good about herself. He had made her let him get away with messing up her carefully placed pink hair. He had made her think she was important in his life. Oh yes, it could be said by all the ninja of Konoha and beyond that Hatake Kakashi could be a charming man, but by the first Hokage she was going to punch him through the ground. If there was one thing in the world she hated, it was being manipulated.

She caught up in time to see him slip through the window of his own apartment. She stopped on the street below, smiling slightly and taking her time to pull her gloves on. She leapt up the building and slipped in quietly.

Pakkun looked up from Kakashi's bed. She placed a finger over her lips and the little pug shrugged before settling his head back on the covers. She stretched her hands above her head idly, before standing in front of his bedroom door.


Kakashi jumped out of the way as his bedroom door flew into his kitchen sink. He blinked in utter horror at the little pink headed figure that sidled casually into his living room.

"Hi, sensei," she said sweetly.

Kakashi did not like that tone, especially not in his delicate home.

"Uh, can I help you?" He removed the towel off his wet hair, silently thanking the universe that he had decided to only stand under the water for thirty seconds to cool off in the Konoha summer heat.

"I believe you owe me money."

Kakashi blinked at her. Usually him skipping out on paying was almost expected, and had never warranted a home visit demanding to be repaid. "Oh."

He continued to stare at her confused and scratched his masked chin. "Umm.. Why..?"

Her eyes narrowed dangerously and he noticed her fists were clenched.

"I mean, umm- it's not been-you haven't.."

"Since when have you ever been lost for words?" She raised an eyebrow at him. He chuckled. She had a point, but she didn't have to know how much panic he was feeling at the prospect of having to pay to fix this building after she was done with it.

She crossed her arms over her chest and looked at the couch. He noticed she was worrying her lip with her teeth and frowning in a way that he could only term endearing.

"Sakura-chan?" He tried for endearing himself, something absolutely no one would ever connote with him.

Her eyes snapped up at him and he held his breath.

"You made me feel happy about myself just to squirm out of paying for dinner."

He looked at her. She seemed quite upset by this knowledge, and he wasn't sure why.

"I've been doing as much since I first met you, Sakura," he pointed out.

"Yeah, but.." She glanced around, and then sighed. He studied her closely, watching how the fingers on her left hand picked at her right sleeve.

"You charm everyone," she said finally. "I just thought, after all these years, maybe we were friends enough for you not to have to anymore."

Ah. He gave her his best smile, which was redundant given half his face was covered. "Sakura, I do it to you guys because it reminds me I can still get one over you."

She looked up at him, eyes round in her head.

"Besides," he added with a shrug, "just because I scored a free meal from it doesn't mean it isn't true."

That faint, pink blush tinged her cheeks as she smiled down at her shoes. Demure, he believed was the word for it. Not that he had ever thought of it to describe her before. Anyone who knew her would have laughed at that description. Brash, bold, violent, brutally honest... She looked up at him, still smiling. "Thank you, sensei."

His smiled lessened slightly. "Yunno, Sakura, eventually you'll have to stop calling me that."

She looked at him blankly. "Why?"

"Because friends don't call each other sensei," he gave her a small smile, which she returned.

Then she laughed lightly.

"Unless you ask them nicely." Her smirking mouth turned into a small "o" shape. She looked at him quickly. "I mean, umm.."

Kakashi just stared back. Had that really come out of his little student's mouth? Maybe Tsunade was right about her not being a little girl anymore, but he was pretty sure that was the closest thing to innuendo he had ever heard her say. He realised he needed to say something, and resisted the urge to laugh it off as he would have done before that meeting with his Hokage that morning.

A grin pulled at the side of his mouth for a second, and then he blinked at her. Would he? She was an adult now, whether he struggled to see it amongst all that pink or not, and he occasionally shared a little flirting, a dirty joke here and there, with the other female jounin. Admittedly he shared a lot more with some of them. For the good of his recent "mission" he put his hands in his pockets and fixed her with an amused stare.

"Why Sakura-chan," he teased lightly, "what are you up to behind closed doors?"

It was worth it just to watch that blush creep down her neck before she tried indignantly to glare at him. "That's none of your business!" She snapped.

He chuckled to himself before realising her fists were clenching again.

"Sorry, Sakura," he said quickly, "what's a little fun between friends?"

She rolled her eyes at him, turned, and abruptly left through his bedroom window.

He slouched back against the kitchen counter, the tea he was making forgotten on the top. He pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a sigh. What the hell was he going to do? When he thought about it seriously, if he hadn't known she was a virgin and she instigated a little light flirting, he would have been intrigued by it. He would have gone along with it because everyone loves to have their ego's stroked. He probably would have enjoyed it. He knew her better than any of the other kunoichi in the village and up until that afternoon had always felt most relaxed when he was around her. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realised that if this had just been something that had happened by chance, if she had said that without him having Tsunade's stupid mission lingering in the back of his mind, he would have happily pursued that blush.

He liked making her blush.

He blinked at this revelation.

He supposed he could admit that much. Ever since he had complimented her on choosing such an inappropriate length of skirt for her eighteenth birthday, he knew this. It had been reaffirmed the following day when she had dragged herself to training with what was evidently a terrible hangover, and he had casually mentioned she should show off her legs more often. She had blushed furiously and he had chuckled, telling her it would probably be to their advantage when faced with male enemies. Her face had flushed as red as her shirt and she proceeded to punch the ground at his feet.

He smiled at the ceiling

"What was that about?"

Kakashi watched the pug trot into his living room before sitting on the couch and scratching his ear.

"Sakura-chan was a little angry I skipped out on the bill."

The pug stopped scratching to look at him.

"Why are you happy about that?"

Kakashi spared Pakkun a look before turning to observe his door, which had a giant split down the middle. "I just subdued Tsunade's sparring partner without raising a fist. I'm oddly proud."

Pakkun shrugged and curled up.

Kakashi left his door in its new home and flopped down next to him, taking out his beloved Icha Icha and putting his feet up unceremoniously. He didn't really have anywhere to be for the next two weeks. He figured Sakura would be back eventually under Tsunade's orders, and he guessed he could waste time til then. He glanced over at a small shelving unit and found his eyes resting on a small blue book. It wasn't his favourite, but that didn't make it any less good. Maybe he should be doing some research into how to complete his latest mission?

Well he supposed if that was really the case he would be following Sakura around or talking to some of her other acquaintances to see what she liked, but he couldn't quite bring himself to do that yet. If he started down that road, it became real. He sighed heavily, heaved himself off the couch and picked up the blue book. He placed the orange one on the shelf and made his way to the window.

"Later, Pakkun."

The dog made a gruff sound as Kakashi leapt out to the street below. He ambled away through the crowds towards the quieter part of the village, Icha Icha Tactics in his hand.

It was kind of like research, right?