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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Behind the Porcelain Mask

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters and make no money from this. Masashi Kishimoto does.


"Kakashi-senpai..." Sakura called out, twisting her neck to look at Kakashi's face. "What is that poking my butt?"

"It could be one of my weapons." It wasn't. But he wasn't about to admit it.

Being stuck in an air vent, splayed on top of her so they could both look through the grid inspired some silly images to pop up in the Copy Nin's mind; which in turn caused his body to react against his will.

"How can you be thinking about that at a time like this?!" The girl below him shrieked as she wiggled under him to try and put some distance between them. Unfortunately, her struggling only resulted in pressing her bum harder against his groin. The lack of space was becoming suffocating.

"I wasn't thinking about anything." Kakashi ground out as he pressed a hand to her shoulder, pushing her down to incite her to stop moving. With her torso forced so low, Sakura raised her hips instinctively, refusing to stay still.

"Right, you aren't." She spat back. "I can still feel it. Move!"

"I can't! There isn't enough space, just settle down and it'll go away." The Copy Nin growled as he gripped her hip, wishing she would just lay down again. This new position only made their little problem worsen. If he hadn't been a fan of doggy style, he knew he would be now.

"Liar! You're just enjoying it, you pervert!" Sakura growled as she renewed her efforts to struggle away from him. The top of her head pushed up against his chin until the back of his skull hit the ceiling of the vent, earning a pained gasp from Kakashi.

"Stop it, I hear them coming." Kakashi muttered as he clasped a hand over her mouth, using his full weight to trap her down. There was no doubt he would be paying dearly for this later, but the voices of their targets were entering the room below them already.


Chapter Two: Behind the Snake Mask


Swirling the contents of her glass, Suzuka sighed heavily. Of course, Kakashi would never be on time. Forty minutes and two refills of umeshu later, her companion was nowhere to be found. For the umpteenth time, ultramarine eyes roamed the room, taking in the excessive amount of patrons crowding the establishment. Why he had chosen such a popular spot was a mystery to the young ANBU, who was well aware of his dislike of large gatherings. On the upside, her drink played the part of enjoyable company quite well. Its alcohol warmed her, coloring her cheeks a distinct shade of pink,  kept her busy and even entertained.

While sipping on the sweet concoction, the young woman was free to either eavesdrop on the conversations of strangers or allow her own thoughts to run loose. The words shared by her closest neighbors would have her rolling her eyes, if her slightly intoxicated state didn't make it funny. Never would she understand what was exciting about a man whispering sweet nothings in her ear. Maybe her shinobi profession sucked any meaning out of those sappy exchanges. When she could die any day, being told that she was the most beautiful woman in the country just wasn't that appealing.

On that note, the last time she had been with a man was hard to recall. A few months had passed, at the minimum, that much she could tell. Relationships were a subject she'd rather avoid, having so little to say on them. Her last boyfriend had been killed barely a month after declaring his flame to her and any hopes of being part of a lasting and fulfilling marriage buried with him. Reminders that a ninja's life was a hardship were too easy to find. Even a decade later, Kurenai still mourned at Asuma's grave, never to forget the father who left a child and lover behind. Fate was cruel to them.

"Yo." A baritone voice suddenly greeted, snatching the girl from her thoughts.

"Kakashi-senpai! I thought you would never come." Suzuka exclaimed as a smile brightened her features, masking her anger perfectly. If he picked up on the forced nature of it, he showed no reaction.

"I would hate to disappoint you in such a way, Suzuka-chan." He replied as he took a seat beside her. To top it off, the only detail that had changed in his outfit was  a missing flak jacket. By taking off even that lone item, the other jonin appeared so much more casual, less intimidating.

"I already got started." She explained before taking another sip of her lukewarm drink. "I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all." Kakashi let out as he raised his hand to call a waiter. "Do you prefer warm or cold saké?"

"Warm." At least he was gallant enough to ask for her tastes.

When the bottle arrived, the older man didn't hesitate to serve them both and offered her one of the cups as he raised his own.

"To an easy mission?" He suggested, lifting an eyebrow.

Suzuka gave a small nod before tilting the warm container against her lips. In all honesty, she didn't enjoy the rice beverage all that much unless it was a finer variety, hence why she preferred it heated. The flavors dissipated in the process, making the taste easier to stomach for the young woman. A soft chuckle escaped her lips when she noticed her companion returned his empty cup to the table.

"I would be tempted to think it was harsh, at the pace you drink." The young woman teased as she poured some more of the liquid for him.

"Or just very inclined to celebrate." He corrected as he took hold of the hand that held her own drink, guiding it to her lips. "Celebrate with me."

Suzuka's fingers let go of her cup, instead letting her friend hold it for her so he could press it against her lower lip. Blaming the heat that spread across her cheeks to the alcohol, she parted her lips and swallowed the rest of the cup's contents when he tipped it down. His thumb swept across her lips, wiping away any remaining moisture.

"I have a feeling that this will be a good night." Kakashi announced as he served her more saké.

If imbibing copious amounts of alcohol was his definition of a fun time, then he was damn right.


By the time Kakashi led her out of the bar, all that Suzuka could see were blurry buildings that seemed to disappear before she could even take a guess at what they were. Where they were going was unclear, but in the back of her mind she heard his voice repeating that he was taking her to his apartment so she could sober up. With a frustrated whimper, she leaned into the Copy Nin, taking advantage of the support his hard body provided. Either he handled his alcohol better than she did or he'd drunk far less than she had. It was hard to keep track of the quantity each of them ingested after he'd pushed the bottle out of her reach and insisted on serving them both.

With a mind as foggy as the Water Country, keeping her objective at the forefront of her mind had become increasingly harder. Extracting answers from him, on the other hand, had been impossible. The man had fed her stories of impressive missions and hilarious team moments, all of which she had fair doubts were true. Kakashi was an incredible ninja well versed in all of the shinobi arts; deception was no stranger to him.

No sooner than when he shut the door behind her did she realize that they had entered his home. Out of habit, she kicked her shoes off, sighing in relief when her feet landed on the wooden floor free from any constraint. The hand Kakashi placed on her lower back ushered her towards his bed, causing a sudden realization to dawn on her. The evening he had planned was far from an innocent friendly outing. Clumsily, she stepped away from the bed, bumping into his desk instead.

"Kakashi-senpai." Suzuka called out as she pressed a hand to his chest, too weak to prevent him from closing the distance between them.

With a kiss bordering on impatience, he silenced her. A soft moan left her lips when his arms wrapped around her to pull her even closer to him as he settled between her thighs, allowing his tongue to enter her mouth and brush against hers. The fingers on his torso gripped the thick material of his shirt, their owner momentarily lost in the moment until the cogs in her brain restarted turning. This wasn't why she came here.

"Kakashi-senpai." The young woman repeated, pushing against his upper body with all the strength she could muster in her drunken state. "Wait."

"I don't think I can do that." Kakashi rasped before claiming her lips once more. His hands quickly busied themselves with her dress, pushing it down until the top half pooled at her waist so her naked chest was exposed to him.

"No, we can't do-- ah!" Her sentence was cut short when his mouth captured one of her pert nipples, eliciting another whimper from the female ANBU.

When her companion hiked the skirt of her dress up her hips and tugged her underwear down her legs, Suzuka's heart hammered in her chest, filling her ears with its insistent pounding. For just a second, she was tempted to allow him to continue, to let his hand fondle her breast longer, his lips tease hers a few more times; but she couldn't. Even if her body disagreed strongly with her mind, fighting to convince it with every small jolt of electricity that sent pleasurable waves down to her crotch, she knew she couldn't let this happen.

"Release." She whispered meekly, out of breath as Kakashi's mouth assaulted her neck with a flurry of hot kisses. "Kakashi-senpai, it's me." Her voice, not so high-pitched anymore, exclaimed as she gripped his shoulders, willing him to back away from her.

Black hair had turned to vibrant pink, blue eyes to emerald. He wanted to bed Suzuka, not Sakura.

"Sakura." Kakashi breathed out in the crook of her neck as he ground her hips into hers, causing her hips to jerk back against him due to the delicious sensation it sent throughout her body. He seemed to calm down, though he didn't tear himself away from her.

Now that she was free to use her chakra without exposing herself, the medic  hurried to break down any alcohol left in her system. As soon as he felt the familiar energy, her best friend jumped a step back, eye wide as he finally understood what was happening.

"Sakura?" He repeated, his jaw slack. Even in such a shocked state, he'd remembered to pull his mask back up, while she hadn't thought of stealing a glance earlier. Really, could there ever be a moment where she didn't envy his skills anymore?

"Yes." Sakura nodded, grabbing the desk for support as she tried to slow her heart down, still too stunned from the turn of events to think about covering herself.

His dark eye roamed her naked form, barely long enough for the woman to notice, before he spun on his heel to give her some privacy. Understanding why he had turned away, she hurried to replace her dress into a suitable position.

"A henge?" Kakashi questioned, tone low and what she assumed to be hurt.

"Yes." She admitted, hanging her head as guilt seeped through her. The henge was no basic jutsu, no such low-level genjutsu could fool him. The jonin-level technique she had used covered even her scent and voice, everything that could possibly give away her true idendity. Deceiving him had been necessary; he would never have allowed her to accompany him on ANBU missions otherwise.

"Why?" He asked as he dropped onto the bed, leaning his arms on his knees as he looked up at her. The expression he wore was unreadable even to Sakura, who knew him so well.

"You wouldn't have let me be your partner otherwise." The kunoichi admitted as she sank to the floor, letting the furniture support her.

"Why would you want to go with me?" The even and quiet tone of his voice was far from a reflection of his thoughts, that much was obvious to his old teammate.

"Don't be an idiot." She snapped back, narrowing her eyes. "You know why!"


"Kakashi-senpai!" Sakura screeched as she ran to his side, gaze taking in his battered body for injuries.

Injuries which were not hard to find. The deep gash across his chest still gushed blood, making her wonder if he was even still alive. The medic in her took over immediately, her hands flying to the wound, glowing green as she did her best to stop the bleeding.

"Kakashi-senpai!" The pinkette cried out as tears welled up in her viridian eyes. "Talk to me! Please!"

No response.

Letting loose a guttural scream she didn't recognize as her own, she focused on the gaping hole that threatened her best friend's life, refusing to let him slip to the other side just yet. Tsunade's hands joined her own quickly enough, permitting hope to bloom in the young kunoichi's heart. With the two of them, maybe they could still save him.

Inch by inch, the skin was meshed back together, the bleeding long stopped. Lesser medics had treated his minor injuries while Konoha's best worked on the largest; a strategy that augmented his chances of survival by reducing the overall stress inflicted on his body.

"Kakashi-senpai..." Sakura begged, looking up at his closed eyes. "Please, wake up!"

Was it too late already?

As Tsunade finally closed the wound, Sakura stepped behind her former teacher, cupping his head in her bloodied hands to force him to face her.


The fingertips that brushed against his throat felt the irregular beat of his heart, so weak she truly believed he was dying before her.

"You can't."

Biting her lip, she tapped his cheek lightly, watching closely for the moment his eyes would open. He always came back alive. Always.

"You can't, you can't, you can't, you just can't!" Sakura whispered hysterically as her head hovered above his, tears spilling onto his cheeks.

"Kakashi-sensei..." She murmured when he still didn't respond, the world around her spinning, her breathing so erratic she might faint any second.

Sakura pressed her cheek against his as her knees buckled, loud sobs racking her body. He wasn't coming back this time. This was it, he was dead. Even he was gone.

"Sa... kura?"

Her eyes shot open as she heard his voice, wondering for a second if her mind was playing tricks on her.

"Can't breathe..." Kakashi wheezed.

"You're alive?" The girl mumbled as she got to her feet, lifting her head to examine him.

The dark eye she knew so well was open and staring back into her own. Her heat skipped a beat as her mouth fell open, words vanishing somewhere between her throat and her lips.


"I thought I'd lost you too." Sakura's voice uttered brokenly. "I can't let it happen again."

"This has nothing to do with it." Kakashi barked, standing up to pace the room.

"Don't lie to me." She muttered as she got to her feet, wiping away her tears. "This has everything to do with it."

"Even if it did, that's none of your business!" He shouted, making the younger woman flinch in surprise. Never before had he even raised his voice in her presence. "Deceiving me like this was uncalled for!"

"Maybe if you'd speak to me I wouldn't have to do this!" Sakura screamed as she approached him, gripping his arm to make him face her.

Kakashi slapped her hand away and glared down at her, the anger swirling in his onyx depth unmistakable. "I don't speak to you because there's nothing to say."

"Like hell there is!" The pinkette growled as she shoved him a step back. "You've been distant for a while already... Then you just return to ANBU and there's nothing to say about that?!"

Her ex-sensei gripped her wrists, making her wince in pain, before he pushed her against the nearest wall and trapped her there with his body. Defiantly, the kunoichi maintained eye contact, determined not to let him win so easily even if the lump forming in the back of her throat threatened to choke her.

"I said," He started, tone so low it sent shivers down her spine, "it's none of your business, Sakura."

"I'm sure you'd be the last to follow your own advice" She rasped, struggling to loosen his hold her hands.

When he freed her, Kakashi's head leaned closer to hers, his gaze locked with hers.

"Leave." He ordered bluntly, his warm breath tickling her lips and reminding her of the very different tension they had shared barely minutes ago. Maybe if she offered him something else, he might be more compliant.

"No." Sakura insisted as her hands wove into his hair and pulled him closer until her lips crashed against his.

Jade eyes slid closed as she kissed him, feeling her ex-sensei tense against her before he gave in and responded, with added aggression. After having pulled down his mask, he slanted his mouth against hers once more, becoming gradually more demanding and forceful.

"What are you doing?" Kakashi asked as he pulled away to breathe.

"What do you think?" She muttered before leaning in for another kiss.

"You don't want this." He said as he broke the kiss, mask pulled up already. "You won't fool me twice."

Defeated, Sakura sighed as she let her head roll back against the wall. Her companion moved away to sit on the mattress again, burying his face in his hands to hide his frustration. Staring at the ceiling seemed to be the best option for the moment, although it didn't help her find a solution to this mess.

"What's wrong with you?"  Kakashi grumbled as he looked up at her. "I'm your sensei."

"You seemed to have no problem with that just a minute ago." The kunoichi mumbled as she ran a hand though her hair. At this point, she couldn't bring herself to give a damn.

"You can go now if you only intend to mock me." He sighed as he laid down on the mattress, staring at the ceiling.

"That wasn't my point. You're just trying to change the subject again." She pointed out while she walked to the his desk so she could sit on it.

Looking at Kakashi splayed out on the bed, Sakura's lips twiched in a tiny smile. She knew the body under that huge shirt so well. After all, she was the only medic he would allow to perform his annual check ups. Why he hid under such baggy clothes was another mystery. As much as she hated to admit it considering the anger that still boiled within her, he had gotten her quite worked up. All those times where she had been a tad bit too lonely on late nights or when their sparring sessions became a little too physical were resurfacing in her mind and only added to it. Now wasn't the time to ponder over such trivial matters, she reminded herself.

"You should go anyway." Arguments were never his thing, were they?

"Kakashi-senpai..." Sakura pleaded, her expression showing him all the regret she felt for duping him.

"Go." He repeating as he pointed the door.

With a sigh, the junior obeyed his command. As she opened the door, she turned to throw a last glance his way, catching little more than a pool of dark blue with a tuft of silver hair. Feminine fingers tightened around the doorknob, their holder torn between the desire to stay and to respect his wishes. Ignoring the pain in her chest, the kunoichi exited the room. Oddly enough, the simple sound of the door clicking shut made her heart clench, as if she was leaving behind a piece of herself.

The path to home being so familiar to her meant that her feet carried her with a will of their own, while she only went through the motions mechanically. The cold winds bit into her skin, feeling no remorse for the girl who had to hug herself for a meager amount of warmth. For some reason, she couldn't remember the temperature being that low that evening as she and Kakashi returned to his apartment. The saké might have been responsible for it, she reminded herself.

This situation was to be expected. Deep down, she had hoped that Kakashi would open up to Suzuka after a mission or two before she simply vanished into thin air. Yet, Sakura was aware that this was only wishful thinking. How would she have approached him then, confronted him with the knowledge of why he had returned to ANBU? No matter how much she pondered over it, she was convinced that his reason was not innocent.

Nonetheless, the expression in his eyes when he had realized what she had done haunted her. All she had in mind was his well-being. Believing that he would understand was naïve, she knew. Yet, whether because she had clung to the belief anyway or simply refused to think of all possible outcomes, she hadn't been prepared for his reaction. Never in almost fifteen years had they fought. They had gone through the occasional scuffle, but nothing serious. While she had screamed at him countless times for various reasons, he had barely ever raised his voice. The few times he had shouted at her had only been out of concern, whenever an enemy wounded her.

To know he had joined ANBU again had created a hollowness inside her, left her to think he thought too little of her to inform her of such an important decision. Finding out by treating his near fatal injuries had been a shock. She had always steeled herself for such a heartwrenching moment, but the preparation did nothing to lessen her anxiety and anguish when he had arrived, dressed in ANBU uniform no less. Why he had retained the information from her was a mystery to the kunoichi; a mystery that cut deep. Did he not trust her enough to share this with her?

What she would have done if he had died that night... She couldn't bear to lose him, too. Too many had died in the war, far too many. The Juubi had been an immense threat all by itself, but paired with Madara destruction had been inevitable in every country. The faces of many comrades flashed before her mind, some friends, some acquaintances. The young woman inhaled a long, shaky breath as she shut her eyes, fighting the tears that tried to well up in the corner of her jade eyes. Thinking about them  still brought her so much pain, even a decade later.

Losing Kakashi was not an option. He was all that she had left, the only person she shared a deep connection and bond with. He couldn't go just yet, not when she still needed him, more so than ever. She could never let go of him. If he was to be gone... Then she might as well follow. An exhausted sigh escaped her throat, which had tightened uncomfortably. As much as she desired nothing more should he die, she was well aware that letting herself wither and let life leave her body would be irresponsible and selfish.

As was believing that her ex-sensei was the only one who was there for her. Tsunade was still alive, too. She was truly a second mother for the kunoichi, but their friendship was different. They met each other either at the hospital or the Hokage building, exchanged brief greetings and shared bits and pieces of medical knowledge every now and then, but that was where their relationship ended. Perhaps it was because of her advanced age that Sakura feared her death less. She was almost sixty-five, after all. Her absence would still be painful to the young girl, but it was inevitable. No one was immortal. Or at the least, not at a reasonable price. Kakashi was still only forty. He wasn't a young man anymore, but he still had many years left ahead of him if he was careful, as Tsunade and Hiruzen had proved.

What about her team? Hideki, Hajime and Akemi counted on her to train them. They were already chuunin, fortunately, and could take care of themselves, but she still tutored them. Whenever she was not out on an A or S-ranked mission, she was their captain, in the same manner Kakashi had remained close to team seven even after their graduation. She still had so much to teach them and the kids were eager to learn. Maybe it was simply because she was their sensei, but she loved the brats to bits. Just as Kakashi had promised them, she had vowed to protect each of them with her life. They would grow into fine shinobi.

Ino had survived the war as well, much to Sakura's relief. While they spent very little time together due to their many responsibilities and having a team of genin of their own, the two women still indulged in gossping whenever they had the chance. The Yamanaka was the sister that she had never had. No matter how much they fought, they were always a shoulder for the other to cry on should one of them have a reason to shed tears. Maybe if luck decided to shine on her tomorrow, she would get to spend some time with the girl.

Before Sakura realized it, she had stepped in her home and locked the door behind her. A glance at the clock showed it was late, past midnight already, but she was well aware that sleep would elude her for quite a while. Hopefully tea would soothe her enough to allow her to find a few hours of sleep before the sun rose. With this in mind, she rummaged through her cupboards to find her kettle and tea bags. As she waited for it to be ready, the kunoichi couldn't help but wonder what Kakashi was doing by now.

Had he managed to fall asleep soon after she had left? It was usual for him to rest his body too little for his own good, but perhaps tonight had been different. Slumber was such an easy escape from the torment of an active mind that would pester you with constant thoughts of either painful or infuriating events. In a way, she hoped that sleep had claimed him quickly. With a few days to mull over their situation and her demand, he would calm down and let go of his anger towards her. She could always wish.


"Tsunade-shishou." Sakura called as she knocked on the door of her superior's office.

"Come in." The older woman replied, voice even and free of any indication that she was drunk again, much to her pupil's relief. This conversation required seriousness.

"Tsunade-shishou." The pinkette greeted with a nod of her head as she made her way to the Hokage's desk.

"What is it?" The blonde lady replied, apparently in a foul mood already so early in the morning.

"I wanted to speak about Kakashi-senpai." Sakura demanded, standing as straight as she could while images of Kakashi's bloody return danced in her mind, still fresh.

"Of course you would." Tsunade mumbled as she placed the reports back on the desk, looking up at her subordinate for the first time. Even if her tone was rough, the junior could still see worry flashing in her honey eyes. "What did you want to ask me?"

"Why did he go back to ANBU?" The young woman asked, hiding none of her worry and fear.

"I don't know." Came Tsunade's simple answer as she looked out the window, leaning her cheek in her palm.

"Didn't you ask him before accepting his request?" Her pupil inquired as she stepped closer to the desk, gripping the end of it with her small hands.

"No, it was none of my business." The Hokage replied with a sigh, raking her other through her bangs. "He's a great asset to ANBU and that is all I considered before accepting."

Sakura knew that duty came before anything else for them; for shinobi. Yet, the answer she received from the woman she loved like a mother was hard to swallow. Foolishly, she had hoped her mentor would have refused his application  in her favor, to keep him where it was safer so she wouldn't have to fear for his life quite as much. But Kakashi, just like her and any other ninja, was a tool to his village. While they weren't treated as mere objects, they would be used for the best interest of Konoha if they agreed. It was thanks to people like them that the village remained safe and prosperous.

"I know it's not easy for you, Sakura." The busty woman let out, snapping the other out of her thoughts. "But I won't interfere with his choice."

Obviously, her shishou believed the same thing as her. Her former sensei was not returning to the special squad for fun. His motives were much darker. Still, she refused to admit it. She would hear it from his mouth if she was to believe it. Until then, she had to make sure he would live.

Which left her with only one option.

Sakura decided right then that she would follow him and protect him, no matter what she must do for it. The Copy Ninja had saved her so many times already. At first, it had been because she was a weak genin that had a knack for throwing herself in harm's way, until she became strong and no longer needed his protection so much. There were still the moments where powerful enemies would gain the upperhand over her, and he would always come in time to pull her away from the blade that could have killed her.

After the war, he had been the one to keep her sane, to hold her when she would cry her heart out at night, mourning the many people who had lost their lives to protect the living. Without his help, Sakura had no idea how she could have coped with the overwhelming pain that threatened to swallow her whole. No matter how inconsolable she would be, he remained next to her and guided her through it. She was aware he had experienced similar losses in his own time, that he knew what she was feeling. Maybe it had been why he was so comforting.

Now, it was her turn. She would help him, no matter what it took.

"Then let me be his medic on any ANBU mission he is assigned to." Sakura demanded as she looked up at her mentor, eyes glimmering with a newfound determination.

"What?" The blonde exclaimed, blinking rapidly. "Are you crazy, girl?!" She shouted as she jumped to her feet, slapping a palm to the desk.

"I don't care." The pinkette stated while locking her gaze with the older woman's. "You said you wouldn't interfere with Kakashi-senpai's choice, so let me make my own."

The duo didn't move for quite a while, competing in a glaring contest until one of them relented. Even now that she pratically matched her Hokage in almost every skill, holding such intense eye contact remained intimidating. Sakura held great respect for the woman and disliked challenging her in such a reckless way, but there was no other way around this. She had to do this.

"Keh." Tsunade growled as she plopped down in her chair, closing her eyes when she returned her cheek to her palm. "Fine."

The younger kunoichi stared at the other woman for a few seconds before her lips curled in a timid smile. It wasn't often that they argued over important matters, and this was the first time she had managed to convince her. As a bonus, it hadn't even been that hard. Then again, Tsunade could most likely tell how this situation was eating her up alive on the inside.

"You can go now, I'll do the necessary paperwork and call you when we have to tattoo you." The Hokage muttered as she shooed her disciple, frowning at her.

"Thank you, Tsunade-shishou." Sakura whispered as she exited the room, turning back to throw her a grateful glance.


As she lay in bed, eyes closed in an attempt to inspire sleep to claim her, Sakura's mind was filled with thoughts that came and went as they pleased. It seemed slumber was not what her body desired, no matter how heavy her eyelids became. After having spent the better part of the night replaying the evening spent with Kakashi in her head and trying to figure out a way to fix the whole mess she had created, she still came up empty-handed. The only result was a throbbing head and wet cheeks, and a now relatively clear mind that refused to rest.

The only part of the night that she hadn't yet picked apart and autopsied was the hot exchange while she was in the form of Suzuka. Just because of the images that flashed before her eyes, a small jolt of electricity was sent down from her abdomen to between her thighs. Sakura sighed as she rolled onto her back, opening her eyes to stare at the ceiling above her. That moment hadn't been part of her plan, at all. Never had she expected Kakashi to take such a... liking to Suzuka. In fifteen years, it was the first time she'd even heard of him showing sexual interest towards someone else.

Of course, that didn't stop her from wondering about him every now and then. After all, he was a handsome man. At forty, he still appeared barely thirty and his reputation was more than impressive. What young woman wouldn't be attracted to such an extraordinary male? For all she knew, he was the strongest in Konoha. Back when she was still a chuunin, it had been hard not to let her imagination wander about where else her teacher excelled. His position only made him all the more desirable, in a way. She had never thought this kind of fantasy would be what made her squirm, but the thought of being taken by her teacher, the top jonin of Konoha who had promised to protect her with his life plenty of times, was definitely a turn on.

That was when her curiosity started, but also when it peaked. Ever since, it had been occasional. She would think about him, wonder how experienced he was or just what he liked on some lonely nights where her libido manifested itself. Daydreaming about bedding her former teacher and teammate wouldn't do her any good. Distractions were welcome every now and then, but not when they popped up every time you spoke to someone. Now though, she was alone and Kakashi certainly wouldn't be visiting her any time soon.

Her cheeks flushed as Sakura remembered just how he had touched and kissed her. He'd really been about to have his way with her, she noted. Her panties had been removed, all that was left was for him to... The girl bit her lip as warmth rushed to her lower abdomen, reliving some of the sensations he had created. If she'd been wondering if he could be any good, she had definitely been answered, and quite in detail too. When she had kissed him, he'd responded to her. The kiss had been harsh and demanding, but still good enough to make her sway for a little while.

A little relaxation couldn't hurt, could it? In fact, it would surely help seduce the sandman...

Sakura wriggled out of her clothes, deciding that they were too restricting and her apartment too hot to need them either way. With a content sigh, she settled back down on the mattress until she found that perfect, comfortable spot. Her hand travelled down to the warm spot between her thighs, caring little for teasing any other sensitive skin. Patience was not her forte tonight. The company of a male certainly wouldn't have been refused that night, but wandering out to fetch one would be too much trouble. Although, Kei, her usual partner, most likely wouldn't have minded the midnight visit.

As her finger traced her slit, the kunoichi breathed out a quiet whimper. The image of a certain silver-haired man popped up in her mind, his head between her thighs. Gasping, the medic pressed her thumb against her clit to relieve some of the pressure that had just gathered there. The girl bit her lip and shut her eyes tightly, a small growl escaping her lips. He was definitely not the one she was supposed to be thinking of. Surely it would be easier if the imaginary sight of his face against her sex didn't make her so darn aroused. Or maybe if he kissed his way up her breasts and...

Enough. There were plenty of other guys who could fill this role.

Yet, with every stroke and moan, the scenarios including her ex-sensei only multiplied. She really tried to convince her stubborn imagination to picture another person with her in her bed, but its refusal only strengthened as her arousal increased. Proportionally, her will only weakened as she neared her climax. What did it matter? Kakashi wouldn't know. Fantasizing about him just this once wouldn't hurt any body. In fact, her body seemed to be very enthusiastic about the idea.

Just this once.


Even as they ran side by side, jumping through the trees and heading towards Warabi once more, Kakashi was intent on ignoring her. He'd muttered a half-hearted greeting when they had met at the gates of the village, and that was been all he had said all day. While the sun was heading west already, getting ready to set and give place to the moon and night, Sakura enjoyed its last warm rays on the small patches of skin that were exposed. The comforting heat of the sun was what she missed most in winter.  At the very least, the kunoichi could be thankful that it had been warm and bright today. Another gloomy autumn day would only have enhanced the sour mood that floated between them.

The mission they were assigned was related to their previous one. Again, Sakura had to wonder why ANBU were sent to do this kind of work. It required little skill, especially since no other ninja were involved. Breaking two lovers apart was something anyone with a minimum of brain could do. To send two highly skilled shinobi overseas twice for this crap seemed strange. Perhaps Tsunade was throwing grunt work their way so she wouldn't be at risk, so she wouldn't have to go through the horrors of the special division just to help her friend.

As much as the theory relieved her, it also angered Sakura. Her and Kakashi's talents shouldn't be wasted on useless missions like these, even if it was for their safety. As a kunoichi, she was well aware that she could die any day on the field and accepted the risk willingly. Konoha's best interest was her priority. On the other hand, maybe she only saw one side of the situation. If her shishou had wanted to keep her from harm's way, she might as well have removed Kakashi from ANBU to save her the trouble of joining to help him.

All she had to worry about was the objective. Two major business companies whose leaders' children were involved in a romantic relationship were a nuisance to somebody. It was easy to come to the conclusion that it was the father of Ichiro who employed them. After all, why would he try to scare his own son out of the relationship when he could target the daughter of his competitor instead? Considering that the woman had been mooching information on the Sugawara company from Ichiro, it would only be normal that the CEO would want her out of the picture.

How they were to go about it wasn't precised in the briefing, but that was to be expected. As Konoha's highest ranking shinobi, they were more than able to come up with a decent strategy that wouldn't expose their village's involvement. Refraining from showing off that they were ninja was also included in the details. They were pratically unheard of overseas, and desired to remain that way. No Kage in their right mind would agree to send their troops away for extended periods of time in a land they knew very little of. The payoff for this mission must have been exorbitant for Tsunade to accept it. Their employer was one of the richest men in Warabi, after all, it was no surprise that he would agree to spend an incredible amount of money to achieve his goals.

 "Why did you join ANBU?" The dry baritone voice pulled Sakura out her thoughts.

The younger woman looked at her teammate, expression blank. As if that answer wasn't obvious...

"Because I was worried for you, Kakashi-senpai." She muttered, pratically muted out by the sound of the wind.

"Somehow, that makes sense to you?" He replied, casting her an annoyed glance.

"Maybe I'd change my mind if I knew everything you did." The kunoichi spat back, hiding none of the anger that swirled in her emerald orbs.

"You don't need to worry about me, Sakura." Kakashi retorted, his tone losing some of its edge. Simply hearing her name made the girl feel better. Over the years, she'd discovered her companion refrained from using it in arguments. It was a strange habit, she felt, but it made her feel safer.

"Fine then." Sakura sighed with a shrug of her shoulders. "If I'm going to risk my life out on missions, then I'd rather it be with you..." As if predicting where his partner was going with this, Kakashi 's head spun to look at her, eyes narrowing. "I know I'll die out there one day," she continued, lowering her gaze to the grass below her moving feet. "It'd be nice to share my last mission with you, sensei."

After all what had happened in the last decade, all they had lost in the process, Sakura could say these words confidently. It would only be fitting that they leave this world together. Neither of them would have to suffer the loss of the other; it would be a painless conclusion to their story.

If only everything was so simple.

A gloved hand grasped her wrist, forcing her to skid to a stop and be swirled around to face her captain. He held her hand close to his shoulder, his black eye staring straight in her own, darkened with an unspoken threat. Matching his gaze was overwhelming in that moment. Ranks and skill didn't possess any weight in this situation; all that was left were raw emotions.

Why was the thought of Kakashi dying, even when she wasn't alive herself to experience the loss, still such a heartwrenching idea?

Much to her surprise, he broke their visual contact to turn his head to the side. She could have sworn he had sworn under his breath, but the cussing never actually reached her ears, leaving the woman to wonder if she had imagined it. His fingers left her wrist, only to travel down to her back and pull her against him in a delicate embrace while his other hand cupped the back of her head. Sakura could only blink, too surprised to even move her hands, which were still suspended in the air at his sides.

"You're too young to be thinking about such things." Kakashi whispered into her hair. "I regret not being able to protect you from all of this."

"Kakashi-senpai..." Sakura breathed out, too shocked to be able to reply.

"Just try to be happy, okay? For all of us." For all of us... For those that didn't get the chance to live long enough.

His arms lowered to his sides slowly as he took a step back, refusing to look her in the eye. He had never hugged her before. Of course, she had been a little too affectionate for his taste every now and then, but he had never initiated it.

"What about you?" The kunoichi asked, raising a pink eyebrow. "Why can't you be happy for them too?"

"Who told you I was unhappy?" Kakashi countered, slipping his hands in his pockets.

"You." Sakura answered, frowning and frustrated that he still avoided the topic so stubbornly.

"I don't recall saying such a thing." He let out as he started walking, only waiting for her to follow him before he resumed their previous pace.

Once more, she had a perfect view of his back. Backs seemed to be what she saw the most as a child. Whether it was his, or theirs, she saw them all too often. They were always going ahead of her, leaving her behind, jumping in harm's way to protect her... Even as an adult, he thought she could still believe that the world was all flowers and beauty.

"Do you think I am happy, Kakashi-senpai?" Sakura inquired as she sped up to stand at his side.

He looked at her for a second before looking straight ahead of him again, hesitating to answer her question.

"Are you?" He asked, breaking the long silence that had swallowed their conversation.

"You really can't tell?" She replied evenly, lips curling in a small, sad smile as she observed him examine her.  


With the stars bright and the moon high in the sky, Sakura was able to relax after a harsh day of travelling. If running all these hours hadn't taken its toll on her, the exchange with Kakashi had. The kunoichi was convinced that she hadn't the last of her partner's sour mood caused by her deception, but she was relieved that he put it aside for the time being. Her cheeks stung from the cold breeze that blew by every now and then, though she paid it little attention. It was a welcome distraction from her train of thoughts. This time, she was dressed warmly, thankfully.

Being hugged by the Copy Nin had been quite a shocker. Replaying the fresh memory in her mind still made excitement rise in her abdomen. It had taken him fourteen years to do this. How long would it be until he was able to open up to her?

Emerald eyes roamed over his sleeping form, watching him intently now that he was unaware of her gaze on him. Other than his return to ANBU, there were very few clues to his current state of mind. After all, he had always been aloof and quite stoic. Still, Sakura was certain that his adamant refusal to admit that he wasn't in tip-top shape in that rock-hard head of his wasn't normal. Call it instinct, but she just knew that he wasn't doing well and was maybe too proud to seek help.

What could push someone as exceptional as Kakashi to suicide missions?

Tsunade had come to the same conclusion as her as well, so Sakura felt secure in her opinion. Shinobi who gave up on life weren't uncommon. While they were far from the majority, Sakura wasn't acquainted with another ninja who hadn't suffered the loss of a friend through this means. In a way, she had been spared from this, though life had compensated for this blessing otherwise.

Why Kakashi only reacted this way a decade after the war confused her. If it was all the deaths and atrocities they had witnessed, then why hadn't he gone back to ANBU years earlier? The man was the strongest person alive and she was certain of it, so what had happened for him to act like this so suddenly? Thinking back on her own situation, the kunoichi found these questions impossible to answer.

Their friends had sacrificed their own lives so that all of them could live. How could he throw away their gift so carelessly?


Next chapter: Necessary Anger

Now in Warabi for a whole week, Kakashi must deal with Sakura's constant presence to execute their new mission. His lack of teamwork frustrates her greatly and his anger at being deceived resurfaces, narrowing their chances of success and increasing the tension between the two of them.


Umeshu - Plum wine

Chapter Three: Click Here

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