Beginning Note: So I'm planning on this being at least a five chapter story. I don't really write too many expansive stories now. I just don't have the time I used to with a job and a boyfriend. It's not an excuse, but I do rather like my short one-shots. I get a sense of satisfaction from them. Not that this story doesn't give me that since I feel like I've taken an enoumous amount of time to make sure that everything is as I want it to be. Okay, enough rambling. Enjoy.

Disclaimer: I do not own, nor shall I ever own these delightful characters, even though I would LOVE to take Kakashi home with me and do naughty things to him. They are the copyrighted by Kishimoto Masashi. Any discrepancy within the characters and their behaviors is my own doing. Especially with Sasuke and Kakashi. Same for the story line!

Ties That Bind

Chapter 2

"What the hell do you think you're doing!?" demanded Sasuke the minute Kakashi exited the house.

"Excuse me?"

"I asked you what you were doing."

Kakashi scratched his head lazily and gave an exaggerated yawn as he slouched against the outside of Sakura's house.

"I was having a nice nap until I felt a murderous presence, which turned out to be only you."

"Knock off the bullshit, Kakashi," the younger man snarled.

"No Kakashi-sensei? Tsk, tsk. You should really respect your elders, Sasuke-kun," Kakashi said mockingly.

"You don't deserve respect," Sasuke hissed.

Kakashi instantly straightened and glared at his former student. The aura that he gave off was frightening and the young ANBU had to fight an extremely strong urge to back away. Instead, he took a step closer to the older man.

"I don't deserve it, huh?" the Copy-nin asked, keeping his voice friendly, masking his fury the way he had been taught ages ago. The teenager in front of him would benefit from training like that. Sasuke's newly displayed and tightly coiled temper would get him killed one day. "And why, pray tell, is that?"

"You are a ruthless and worthless man who takes advantage of people! Especially ones in emotional upheaval!"

Kakashi didn't even flinch at the accusation. He saw where this was going. The younger Uchiha was jealous.

Pathetic, he thought.

"Sounds more like you're describing yourself," Kakashi said, pulling down his mask and smiling. His visible eye was cold. "And by people in emotional upheaval, you mean Sakura, right?"

"Of course that's who I mean! You're taking advantage of her!" Sasuke accused.

"How?"

"She's in pain. You're using her pain to satisfy you own desires."

"Is that so? Any number of women in this village are more than happy to sleep with me if I were so inclined to take them up on their offers. So you don't like the fact that I have a bond with her and that I care about her?" the Copy-nin asked, inspecting his sleeve for fuzz.

"This thing you have… This thing you forced on her. It's disgusting!" Sasuke raged, feeling the heat of his anger boiling under his skin.

"I forced nothing on Sakura. This was chosen of her own free will."

The teenager's eyes narrowed and he spat at Kakashi's feet. A kunai appeared in his hand.

"Let her go!"

The Jounin was gone. Instead, the Uchiha was left staring at a small cloud of dust. He ground his teeth in fury.

"Coward," he bit out.

The cool, thin edge of a kunai rested on the delicate skin of Sasuke's throat. He froze, his own kunai clutched tightly in his hand. In his anger, he hadn't sensed the other ninja behind him. Another kunai was aimed at his heart.

"Your temper is going to get you killed," Kakashi said silkily. "As an ANBU, you should know that."

Sasuke's knuckles cracked and he shifted his weight slightly to the left, hoping to catch the older man off guard. The elite shifted with his old student.

"You lose."

"The Uchihas don't lose," the teenager snapped.

"That's right," the Copy-nin said, kunai at his former student's neck disappearing. He appeared in front of Sasuke, twirling one of the steel weapons on his pointer finger and slipping the other into his leg holster. "They just run away. Or at least the more recent generations."

The glare Sasuke gave his teacher was vicious.

"I'm sorry to say," Kakashi said, casually still spinning the kunai. "But you're more of a coward than I'd ever be."

The teenager snarled and swiped at the older man, who disappeared for a second time. Cursing wildly, Sasuke tried to sense the other man, but all he could feel was his rage. He took a deep breath, trying to calm himself.

His former teacher reappeared several feet away, waving his fingers mockingly. Sasuke surged forward, his kunai aimed at the Copy-nin's left leg. If he could cripple him, he could gain the advantage. He let a second kunai slide into his right hand so he could immediately attack again. He grinned in triumph as he felt the steel blade hit flesh.

"I win," he said smugly to the Copy-nin's shocked face.

"Think again," came a voice in his ear before the teenager flew several feet forward from a hard kick to his back.

Sasuke lifted himself from the dusty road onto his hands and knees, coughing. Kakashi stood over him, his exposed eye cold and unfeeling.

"How?" the teenager choked out.

Smirking at his former student, the gray haired Jounin pointed to a log lying in the middle of the road, the Uchiha's kunai embedded in it. Sasuke cursed silently. He had forgotten the elite's fondness for tricks, especially Kawarimi no Jutsu.

"Besides the fact that I have been a ninja and an elite far longer than you, you've grown lazy and cocky," his old teacher informed him. "You've grown so used to the sharigan, that you've forgotten your basic nin skills. Tut tut."

The last remaining Uchiha gritted his teeth in anger and wiped the blood at the corner of his mouth. Standing up with a slight wince, he faced Kakashi and stared hard at him. He would die before he let that old man touch Sakura. He needed to hear it from Kakashi's mask covered lips.

"I care about Sakura," Sasuke said, clenching his fists tightly.

"Funny way you have of showing that," Kakashi said, resuming a lazy stance that irritated the Uchiha to no end. He wasn't even taking this seriously! "You haven't been around in the last few years."

The teenager felt something akin to shame burn in his stomach. His life had been all about revenge and in the end, it had been empty. And all the while, he had thrown his old life, his friends, Konaha, aside. It had still been there when everything had settled back down, but it hadn't felt the same.

"You know why," the dark haired ninja said shortly. "That doesn't change anything."

The older man let out a short, harsh laugh.

"That changes everything, Sasuke. You don't all of a sudden get to care."

The Copy-nin's face dropped slightly and he looked sad.

"And you don't get to care especially since you're the reason for all of Sakura's tears. Do you know what it's like to watch someone be destroyed by somebody they love?"

Sasuke stayed silent.

"Of course you don't," Kakashi scoffed. "You've never loved anyone but yourself."

"I love Sakura," the teenager snapped at his former teacher.

"No, you don't, Sasuke," the masked elite said. "Because if you did, this conversation wouldn't be happening. You say you love her because you don't remember life before her being in love with you and it's convenient. You say it because you know that there's a threat."

"Say it then!" Sasuke yelled. "I want to hear you say it."

The Copy-nin ignored him.

"I spent nights with her crying on my shoulder after you left. I watched you break her heart and her innocence time and time again. I felt her tears burn my skin because she couldn't understand why you wouldn't love her.

"Say it," Sasuke whispered, knowing the elite could hear him. "Dammit, Kakashi. Say it."

The older man stared straight at his former student and took a deep breath.

"I love her. I have for a long time."

The Uchiha squeezed his eyes shut.

"It's not right. You're too old for her."

"Do you think that really matters to me? And I don't have to justify anything to you, of all people."

"Do you even care what people are going to say about you guys? About her?" Sasuke asked, glaring.

"They won't say anything the both of us haven't heard before. People have talked about us for years."

Sasuke was taken aback. Years? He tried to rack his brain and figure out if he remembered anyone talking about Sakura and Kakashi. He had seen them together at the bar and the training field a lot, but that didn't mean they had a relationship.

"You can't all of a sudden want something that someone else has," Kakashi told his former student.

"This is bullshit!" the dark haired teen spat.

"Go home, Sasuke," the older ANBU said, voice steely. "You aren't helping her or yourself at this point."

The Uchiha took a step forward and Kakashi stood up to his full height.

"Go home now before I make you go home," the gray haired nin threatened. "And you don't want that."

The younger man turned on his heel and stalked in the opposite direction, towards the Uchiha complex.

Kakashi aimed a smirk at the teen's back. His old student had been thrown by his behavior and that made him smile. Sasuke thought he was in control of his emotions, but he was beyond wrong. He had given Kakashi enough information about his mental state without saying anything, though the teenager had said enough.

Despite his best efforts, Sasuke lost the battle. He had a long time ago. Ever since he decided that his revenge was more important than the love of a pink haired ninja. Pinching the bridge of his nose, Kakashi sighed and headed back into Sakura's house.

o-o-o-o

"It can't be true! You can't be dying. Isn't there something you or Tsunade can do?"

The pink haired medic shook her head sadly.

"It's too far gone," she said, placing her thin, pale hand over his sturdy tan ones. "Sensei was just here and she's pissed at me."

"No offense, Sakura, but I'd be kind of pissed at you too!" Naruto exclaimed. "I mean, how could you not tell us!?"

"I thought I had more time," the jade-eyed woman admitted. "I refused to believe I was as sick as I am. My chakra's depleted to a dangerous level. Any lower, and that will kill me, not the tuberculosis."

"How long do you have?" her blonde friend asked, afraid of the answer.

"I don't honestly know," the kunoichi said, resting her chin on her knees. "I haven't seen a medic since I first found out."

"What am I supposed to do without you?" Naruto asked, fear creeping into his voice.

"Naruto, if anyone can pull through anything, it's you," the girl said with a small smile.

"Here I am upset about losing you and you're the one dying. That's selfish. But I can't help it."

"Naruto…"

"You're one of my best friends," he whispered, tears welling in his blue eyes.

"Oh, Naruto," she said softly, wrapping her arms around him. His body shook with quite sobs. "I love you, you know. You are the best friend I could have ever asked for."

Sakura looked up and saw Kakashi standing in the doorway. She gave the Copy-nin a sad look as she stroked the normally happy Jounin's hair. The look she gave the older man pained him. There was such hopelessness and desperation in her gaze. Kakashi knew that the girl didn't know how to comfort her friend.

The masked man cleared his throat to let the blonde boy know he was there. The teenager's head flew up in surprise.

"Oh! Kakashi-sensei!" he exclaimed quickly, wiping away stray tears. Kakashi pretended not to notice, for which the younger ANBU was grateful. "Where's Sasuke?"

"He went home," his teacher said. "You might want to go after him to make sure he doesn't destroy the entire Uchiha complex."

Naruto grimaced, and then nodded.

"I'll make sure he doesn't do anything too stupid," he said before giving Sakura a quick hug. "I'll be back tomorrow, okay?"

The girl smiled and him and waved before his disappeared. Sakura gave Kakashi a questioning look as he entered the bedroom and sat down next to her.

"I don't know what to say to him. What can I say?"

"Nothing that you haven't," the ANBU said.

"Oh, and Sasuke may destroy the Uchiha complex?" she asked him, eyebrow raised.

"He didn't like what I had to say to him."

Sakura scowled. "Good. What did you say to him?"

Kakashi waved the question away with a gloved hand.

"Not important," he said flippantly.

"Well that's bullshit," she said, giving the older nin a look that he pointedly ignored. "Why don't you want me to know? If it wasn't important, Sasuke wouldn't be so pissed."

"Point duly noted," the Copy-nin said. "I'm sure you'll find out in good time."

The pink haired medic rolled her eyes at her former teacher's dramatics. Kakashi always needed to add an element of mystery to everything he did. It was like he made life like a puzzle. It used to drive her teammates and her crazy. But Sakura liked to think that after several years, she had figured out at least a little bit about the masked man.

"Fine, be that way," she said with a sigh, settling back on the pile of pillows that had been pushed to the side of her bed.

The older man's visible eye crinkled in a smile at her playful annoyance. It was a tone he was very familiar with. Kakashi loved when she got exasperated with him. Sakura's nose would scrunch up and her eyebrows would furrow slightly. She looked adorable.

"You love it when I'm annoyed, don't you?" she asked dryly.

"You have no idea," he shot back. "Would you like me to make you anything?"

"Hm, maybe. Half the time I'm not even hungry and when I do eat, I throw it up," the teen said with a grimace.

Kakashi slid his mask down and frowned at her. No wonder the girl was so thin. She wasn't eating on top of being so sick.

"I may be able to help you with that," the older ninja said. "Do you have food in your fridge?"

The medic nodded.

"I've been getting my groceries delivered the past couple of weeks. They were just delivered the other day."

"How does my secret recipe ninja soup sound?" the Copy-nin asked with a quick wink.

"Really? Secret ninja soup? I didn't even know you knew how to cook," the girl told him, nose crinkling at the ridiculous name.

"I may be a bachelor, but I've survived this long because I do know how to cook. So, soup?"

"It's hot, Kakashi," the kunoichi complained.

"Please, Sakura?" her old teacher asked, face worried.

Sakura gave in.

"Okay, fine, but only because you look so heartbroken," the pink haired Jounin told him.

Kakashi gave her a soft smile, causing Sakura to shiver with pleasure. He always made her melt. She wondered if the older man knew how she felt about him. She tried to be subtle, but it was usually better just to lay it all out when it came to the masked elite. Flashy and dramatic was more Naruto's style.

He extended his hand to her, pulling her into his arms and gathering her close. She flushed bright red as she was pressed up against Kakashi's muscular chest. He picked her up and carried the teenager into the living room. The elite set her down on the worn sofa.

"You can keep me company," Kakashi said with a slight smile as he stripped off his gloves and went into the kitchen.

"What kind of soup are you making?" Sakura asked still feeling and relishing the feel of the ANBU's strong arms.

"If I told you, it wouldn't be a secret," the gray haired ninja quipped and laughed when the kunoichi scowled at him.

"Secret ninja soup," he reminded her.

"Secret ninja soup, my ass," she muttered, her head disappearing behind the back of her couch.

The Copy-nin just chuckled. When she flipped him the middle finger, he just laughed harder.

o-o-o-o

Uchiha Sasuke roared with frustration as he embedded another kunai into a practice dummy, imagining it was his former teacher. That stupid, lazy Jounin thought he was just so superior. And that damn grin that he knew was present under Kakashi's mask. He could always tell when that mocking grin appeared, making the Copy-nin's exposed eye crinkle in mirth.

He hated it.

Pulling all his chakra to his hand to create the chidori, he raced towards the practice dummy and slashed at it with fury. It exploded, bits of charred wood and burning fabric raining to the ground around him. He stared at the destroyed dummy, out of breath and feeling satisfaction pool in his stomach.

Naruto stood at the edge of one of the many Uchiha complex's practice fields, watching his friend breathe heavily, surrounded by what used to be a weapons practice dummy. It had been a long time since the ninja had seen his friend lose control this way. His entire cool exterior had peeled away, leaving the teenager raw and exposed for the child he was. The child he never got to be. It was painfully obvious that the dark-eyed young man still had some growing up to do. It pained him to see Sasuke this way, so desperate. But that seemed to be the Uchiha's consistent state.

Desperate to defeat Itachi, desperate to be stronger, desperate to kill Orochimaru. His anger was hard to watch. The blonde ANBU could see the burdens that weighed down his best friend's shoulders. As much as he liked to pretend, the last Uchiha was not all there right now.

"I think you've done a good job of killing that weapons dummy," he called out, a grin splitting his face.

Sasuke turned and scowled at the teenager who housed the kyuubi. Sweat ran down his forehead, causing his hair to stick to it and his cheeks.

"How long have you been standing there?"

"Well since you already know the answer to that, I'm not even going to bother," Naruto drawled, sauntering onto the practice field, tossing a shuriken in the air and catching it. "Are you still pissed at Kakashi-sensei?"

The dark-eyed ninja narrowed his eyes and turned away, pulling a kunai from his leg holster and hurling it at the furthest dummy, almost fifty yards away. It connected with the wood with a solid 'thunk.'

"I guess so," his friend muttered under his breath.

"It's not right," Sasuke said, running a hand through his thick hair. He pulled out another kunai, fingering the sharp edges with the tips of his fingers. "He's too old for her. She deserves someone her own age."

"What? I don't understand what you're saying, Sasuke."

"He's in love with her, Naruto."

"Who is?"

"Kakashi."

"In love with whom?"

"Sakura..."

"Kakashi-sensei? In love with Sakura?" the ANBU asked, incredulous. He began to laugh, but trailed off when he saw the Uchiha's face darken. "Seriously?"

"You saw them," the other teenager said, clenching his fists tightly. "On the bed together, all tangled."

"Well, age is relative," Naruto mused. "It's nothing anyone hasn't heard before. There have always been rumors."

Where the hell had Sasuke been when these rumors were flying around the village? He couldn't even remember hearing them before.

"That doesn't make it right!" Sasuke shouted angrily. "Think about what people will say about her."

"Sasuke, you make it sound like Sakura cares about what others think. She couldn't care less about what the village thinks."

That made the Uchiha pause.

"Why wouldn't she care?"

"She hasn't for a long time," blonde said, scuffing the dirt with a sandaled foot.

The dark-haired teen blinked in surprise. The Sakura he remembered had cared a lot about what other people thought. He remembered when they were twelve how careful she was about her appearance and how she presented herself to the world, especially him. He remembered the day of the Chuunin exam, so long ago, when she cut off her beautiful pink locks while fighting for him. Yes. She was very different from the little girl he had left at the edge of the village all those years ago.

"It still isn't right," Sasuke muttered darkly.

His friend gave him a sad look.

"You couldn't have expected her to wait around forever."

When the other ninja stayed silent, Naruto's eyes widened.

"You did expect her too." The young man frowned. "I'm disappointed in you, Sasuke."

The Uchiha froze in shock. Never had Naruto expressed disappointment in him, even when he abandoned the village. He had just stubbornly pressed on, trying to bring the dark-haired boy back to the place where he belonged. At hearing his friend's uttered words, Sasuke felt something like shame creep into his stomach. An unfamiliar, gut-wrenching that made him burn with guilt and self-loathing.

"I just always thought…" He trailed off.

"That she would be here waiting for you?" the holder of the kyuubi asked incredulously. "Come on, Sasuke. We aren't children anymore. You can't expect her to wait, especially since you brushed her off after she told you she loved you. You chose to leave her, not the other way around."

The truth stung the Uchiha genius. Since when had Naruto become so wise? The thought of losing Sakura squeezed at his heart. Did that mean he loved the pink locked kunoichi? She had good qualities and her skills were desirable for a ninja. Ones that would be beneficial for the rebuilding of his clan. But did that line of thinking mean he loved Sakura? Was all that worth pledging the rest of his life to her?

"You're being selfish, Sasuke, and you're too proud to admit it," the blonde ANBU told him blithely. "This isn't even about you. It's about Sakura and what she wants. What you want shouldn't even be in this equation."

The other ANBU sighed. He was due for some serious introspection it seemed.

"I don't want to lose her is all, Naruto. And I still believe that Kakashi is taking advantage of this situation."

The orange jumpsuit clad teen snorted.

"Trust me, he's not taking advantage of her unless she wants him too," he assured the other Jounin, causing the Uchiha to flush scarlet. "You know Sakura. If Kakashi-sensei even thought of taking advantage of her and she didn't want it, no force on this earth would keep him safe from Sakura's wrath. I learned that lesson the hard way."

"But—"

Naruto sighed heavily.

"Believe me when I say that this isn't anything Sakura didn't want. While I didn't realize that it was this far along, I did see this coming. Ever since we went our separate ways, she and Kakashi-sensei have gotten really close," he said, running his hands through his already messy hair. "Just go and try and talk to her later, okay. Apologize for being a jerk."

"Wha-what!?" sputtered Sasuke. "I wasn't being a jerk!"

"You totally were. Just shut up and apologize, Sasuke."

Sasuke let out a frustrated grunt and threw his remaining kunai into the nearest weapons dummy with a solid 'thwack.'

"I'll apologize," he told his friend. "To both of them."

The Uchiha was rewarded with one of Naruto's bright smiles.

"Good. I hate it when you and Sakura fight. Let me know what happens. I would stay and train with you, but I told Hinata I would be home to cook dinner tonight."

"Hen-pecked," was all Sasuke said to him.

Naruto made a face and the dark-haired teen and sped off with a quick salute.

Now that he was alone, the lone survivor of the Uchiha clan went over to where he threw his last kunai. He tugged on it, but it was embedded too deeply for him to pull out. He was still angry and that would not help him when he went to go talk to Sakura. This would take some time and an annoying large amount of meditation.

"Ah, shit," he muttered.

o-o-o-o

"This is actually really good," Sakura said to the older nin sitting across from her.

She munched happily on a piece of thick, crusty bread, using the soft inside to mop up the leftover soup in her bowl. Her stomach was thankfully not rebelling against the meal. She had to admit, the Copy-nin's cooking was exceptionally better than hers.

Kakashi's visible eyebrow quirked up and he gave the teen a vaguely insulted look.

"I told you that I could cook."

She rolled her eyes and shrugged at the Jounin.

"Yeah, but I didn't exactly believe you. I would think your apartment would be stocked with instant ramen and junk," she said innocently, knowing full well that it was, despite the Copy-nin's excellent cooking skills.

Kakashi let out a 'hrpmh' before collecting the dishes and depositing them into the sink to be cleaned. Sakura snickered at his reaction, making no attempt to hide her glee.

"Don't be so cross," she said with a small smile. "I know your refrigerator is actually stocked with real food. You'd look like Choji if you ate all that stuff."

The older man regarded the girl with his exposed eye before rewarding her with a lopsided grin. Seeing his smile made Sakura think about how nice it was to see Kakashi without his mask on. She remembered when Team Seven was still together, they had schemed to try and see the visage behind the face mask. It seemed strange to think they had always been so curious at what lay hidden behind the thin cloth. She never imagined that the Copy-nin would be so handsome.

She giggled at that though, causing the source of her amusement to turn from his task at hand and regard her with a curious look. She waved a dismissive hand in his direction.

"I was just thinking about how Sasuke, Naturo, and I always tried to catch you without your mask on."

Kakashi chuckled. They weren't the first to wonder what lay hidden behind his mask.

"We were so silly as children," she mused, tracing the grain of the wood on the kitchen table with a thin, pink-polished finger. Sakura's features became sad and she let out a sniffle. "It seems so long ago, but we're still children, aren't we?"

The elite frowned as he put the bowls off to the side to dry. He sat down next to her and pulled her wandering hands off of the table and into his comforting grip. It broke his heart to see her not wanting to let go of the innocence and the past that had left her so long ago.

"There's nothing wrong with being afraid of the future, Sakura," he told her softly.

"What future? I don't have one anymore," she said, breath hitching in her chest before silently starting to cry. "I'll be forgotten. I won't have done anything worth remembering for this village."

Kakashi reached out and wiped the tears away with gentle fingers before drawing the pink-haired kunoichi into his embrace, settling her comfortably on his lap.

"Never," he murmured into her strawberry-scented hair.

His body rather liked the feel of her there, but he tamped down his desires. Not many would say that the Copy-nin was one to become so emotionally invested in others, but for some reason, it was different with Sakura. It always had been.

He pressed his lips against her forehead as silver tears slipped down her cheeks and burned him through his shirt. How he wished he could take away the pain and torment she was feeling.

"I'm sorry," she whispered into his neck, hot breath causing shivers to race down his spine. "I feel so foolish."

The Jounin smoothed her hair away from her tearstained cheeks and shook his head.

"Don't be. You're scared and that's understandable."

Sakura heaved a huge sigh before pulling away to gaze at her former teacher. His dark eyes bore into her jade ones, causing her to flush to her hairline. The look he gave her was one she was used to seeing on Kiba or Lee's face or on several of the faces of the men in the pub that she frequented. She didn't know whether to feel giddy or unnerved.

The kunoichi shifted unconsciously, making the former leader of Team Seven suppress a groan of want. It would not do to rush this.

"I'd like to make you dinner tonight, Kakashi," the teenager said, fingers playing nervously with the fabric of his mask that was pooled around his neck.

The grey-haired ninja raised an eyebrow at the sudden proposition. This was certainly a different and interesting step in their relationship. She gazed up at him, the question burning in her eyes.

Yes? No?

He grinned at her.

"Do I get to pick what we eat?"

Sakura just rolled her eyes and gave an exasperated nod. The stupid, lazy ninja would make this more complicated just because he liked a little drama to be injected into everyday life.

Tonight would definitely be interesting.

o-o-o-o

Sakura bounded to the door happily when she heard the knock. He was early which was strange for the Copy-nin whose usual excuse was that he got lost on the road of life. The kunoichi's face fell when the door opened to reveal Sasuke.

"Oh."

"Not who you were expecting?" he asked, somewhat irritated.

"No, not really," she said back coolly.

"Can I come in?" the last Uchiha asked, eyebrows raised as he noticed her outfit.

The medic had a gauzy, black sundress on, a little large due to her weight loss, but she looked gorgeous regardless. She had applied a little make-up to brighten her pale visage and her thick pink hair was tied in a loose braid, strands floating around her face making her look angelic.

Keeping her face blank, Sakura moved aside so he could step over the threshold.

"Make it quick, Sasuke," she said, shutting the door. "I have plans."

The dark-haired ANBU let his eyes rove her figure before meeting her green gaze. She frowned at his assessment of her, crossing her arms protectively over herself.

"Are you done staring?" she asked snidely.

"Are you sure you should be going out, all things considered?" Sasuke asked with concern.

The girl rolled her eyes.

"My life isn't stopping because I'm sick and dying. I'm going to do everything I normally do until I can't."

Sasuke opened his mouth to reply, but Sakura waved him off.

"You're not my mother, Sasuke. Lay off."

"I'm just worried about you," he said, moving to stand next to her. "I think going out to the pub would just be a bad idea."

Sakura turned to face him, staring into his beautiful black eyes. Eyes that she once wanted to gaze into hers like they were doing now.

"I'm not going out to the pub, not that it's any of your business," she snapped. "I'm having dinner."

"With Kakashi?" the Uchiha asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

"As I said, it's none of your business," the pink-haired medic said dismissively. She moved into her kitchen to check whatever she had in the oven.

"I think it is my business since I'm your friend," he said. "I care about you."

Sakura paused as she leaned towards the open oven. The heat that billowed out made the tendrils of hair drift around and her long braid fell to the side as she looked at him. Sasuke had never seen her look more stunning than at that moment, her full pink lips parted slightly.

"Sasuke, when have you ever cared about anyone besides yourself?" she asked, standing up as she shut the oven door.

She walked slowly into the living room, padding softly on bare feet, and stood in front of him with her hands on her hips. The ANBU felt his heart tighten at the truth. It had been a long time since he had cared about anyone outside himself. He watched as she unconsciously licked her lips, his eyes following her tongue's movement.

Unable to control himself, Sasuke bent down and kissed Sakura gently, sucking on her bottom lip before she pushed him away roughly.

"What the hell are you thinking, Sasuke!?" the pink-haired kunoichi yelled furiously, bringing her thin hand to her lips. "You're freakin' lucky my chakra's drained or else you'd be through the damn wall right now!"

That had been the kiss she had always wanted from him, and now that she no longer loved him, he was willing to give it to her, the damn bastard. Who the hell did he think he was?

Sasuke on the other hand, was pleased with himself. He knew he'd be able to pry the medic away from his stupid and lazy former teacher. He smiled smugly down at her but faltered when he saw her glare.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" she demanded, punching him in the chest. "Why do you think I'd want you, of all people, to kiss me?"

"You've always wanted me to," the Uchiha said, grabbing her wrists so she could not continue to hit him.

Sakura inhaled sharply, tears welling in her eyes. How dare he. How dare that jackass think she was desperate enough to turn into mush at his touch. She was no longer a naïve and innocent twelve year old. The jade-eyed kunoichi's knees buckled slightly and Sasuke reached out to catch her. Tears leaked down her cheeks despite her best efforts and she beat her fists against his chest, sobbing slightly.

"Where were you six years ago when I wanted you to love me?" she asked, choking on her breath. "All I ever wanted was for you to love me. I fought to bring you back after you left."

"I know," he murmured into her pink tresses, guilt making his stomach churn. His grip tightened on her thin, shaking body. Her illness was slowly ravaging her beautiful body. "I know and I'm sorry."

Sakura pulled away and stared at the last Uchiha with accusing jade eyes.

"You can't say 'I'm sorry' and expect this to all go away," she said coldly. "The things I did to get you back, I wasn't always proud of what I did."

"I know what that's like," Sasuke said softly, hands sliding down to caress the girl's waist and butt, wanting to feel close to her.

The kunoichi gripped his hands, fury mounting in her gaze.

"No. You don't get to want what you can't have," she told him, voice silky and deadly. "You had your chance years ago. You can't all of a sudden want me because Kakashi does."

"That's not fair, Sakura," the black-haired ANBU said, staring at her desperately. "I was a different person when we were twelve. There was a lot going on. I didn't have time to think about anything else than killing Itachi."

"You never deserved me," she whispered, sorry that she had to tell this man the truth that he couldn't see for himself. "You didn't then and you certainly don't now."

A look of hurt replaced the look of pleading that was on the teenager's face. He was supposed to be apologizing.

"Sakura—"

"You never wanted me, Sasuke."

"I've always wanted you," he protested weakly. "How am I supposed to tell you that at age twelve?"

"The same way I told you, you asshole," she snapped, pulling out of his arms and retreating to the other side of her living room. "It's not rocket science. I told you I loved you, hoping you could love me back. Or at least love me enough to stay. All I got was you telling me I was annoying and a fucking thank you."

"I know—"

"You don't know shit! I sacrificed more than you can imagine to bring you back to Konoha. It was more than you deserved."

"That's not fair," Sasuke said again, holding his arms out to her. All he wanted to do was embrace her again, not fight with her.

"News flash, Sasuke. Life isn't fair. Naruto got stuck with the nine-tails demon, ignored most of his life, and look at him. There's already talk about him being Hokage when Sensei decides to step down. I get your life has been hard. Between half the people in the village, I'm luckier than most. But do you want to know the difference between you and I, Sasuke?" she asked.

He stared at her with now emotionless eyes, all thoughts of an apology forgotten.

"The difference is that I know how to appreciate life. I live for the little moments each day, especially now. All you care about is you and how everything affects the Uchiha universe. I refuse to be a part of it anymore. I spent too many years worrying about it."

"Sakura, I wish I could fix this between us," Sasuke said softly, meaning each word. "I know I'm not the person I was, the person you were so desperate to love all those years ago. I live with the choices I've made. Barely, but I live with them all the same. I can't tell you how sorry I am about what happened the night I left and everything else that happened. I know that sorry doesn't make it better or make the hurt go away."

"It doesn't matter whether or not you're sorry, Sasuke," the pink-haired medic said, clasping her trembling hands in front of her. "You can't change any of this. This isn't something that can be fixed the way you want."

"Please, Sakura-"

"Get out, Sasuke," the teenager ordered, turning her back to him. "I can't do this anymore. I just can't have you here right now."

"Because Kakashi is down the street on his way to be here?" the Uchiha asked bitterly, feeling the Copy-nin's chakra like a weight pressing against his chest.

"No. Because you are the last person I want to see right now."

Sasuke slumped at her monotone voice. He shuffled over to her and wrapped his arms around her waist. She stiffened as he placed a feather-light kiss at the nape of her neck.

"I hope you'll forgive me one day and change your mind about us."

"There won't be a one day. You and your damn empty Uchiha complex can go to hell," was all she said.

A/N: Well, this is going better than expected. I guess This may be done sooner that I had anticipated. I added six more pages without even realizing it. I usually say that and then I get distracted by life and updates come less frequently. I give you permission to harass me. (But not too much.) But I shall continue to plug on. Oh and Kawarimi no Jutsu is the Body Replacement Technique or Substitution Jutsu or whatever nonsense they call it in the anime. Please read and review. Thanks!