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A Marriage Inconvenienced

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He was haunting her.

She would turn a corner and see him enter a shop. As she crossed the village she would catch a flash of his distinctive hair color. Sometimes Sakura could smell the faint scent of his generic soap amid the antiseptics of the hospital. These things were figments of her imagination. Konoha was a small village and while she might not know everyone, it was inevitable that she would catch glimpses of him as she ran her errands. As for smelling him- well, that was simply her paranoia.

So it was with some relief when she received a mission for the next week to the border of Fire Country. In recent years, there were a series of viral outbreaks when spring arrived. It was a plague of unknown origin, causing a number of varying symptoms, with the most common being a sudden high fever. It would then go under a period of dormancy before killing the host. Sakura believed this was one more thing to blame on Akatsuki, more than likely devised by that weird plant guy before he was killed by Leaf ANBU.

She had just set foot in the village where she was to establish her vaccination post when she was accosted by Naruto. "Sakura!"

She gave him a squeeze only for him to poof into nothingness. "Bunshin," she muttered in exasperation.

Not an hour later, the real Naruto arrived, sheepish but cheerful. Well, not entirely. There was a strain to his smile that Sakura found unnatural. She knew he hadn't been the same after that conflict with Akatsuki; some of his enthusiasm had mellowed. That was what had driven him to the border of Fire Country. Some of the smaller villages without protection had been demolished during the fight against the enemy ninja. Naruto helped rebuild some of the villages that had been damaged in the battles and plant some fields of rice. But for the most part he loitered around, with his kage bunshin, keeping others safe.

Alone.

So with this in mind, Sakura had lunch with him. And as determined as she was to keep her secret from everyone, she knew that it was inevitable she would spill it when she saw Naruto's strained smile.

"Kakashi asked me to have his children the other day."

Naruto blinked, and then a true smile grew on his face morphing into a genuine laughter. It was a wonderful sight. Then he had to ruin it by talking.

"Which position did you guys do…"

One of Sakura's chopsticks snapped in her hand. "Naruto," she growled in warning.

"I'm sorry." He rubbed the back of his head sheepishly, but Sakura could tell that he wasn't sorry. "It's just that Kakashi's about as sexual as a tree log."

Her anger dissipated and she giggled. "I know what you mean. It was really weird. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't heard the words come out of his mouth." She popped a piece of her food in her mouth with her lone utensil. "Maybe if I'm lucky he will forget about the whole entire thing. I am engaged after all." Naruto scowled. "What?" Sakura asked suspiciously.

He wiggled in his stool. "Well…you spent so much time training to be the best. And now you are going off to marry this guy that you barely know and I won't see you anymore."

"You can still visit me."

"Yeah, but it's not the same. We won't be going on missions and are forced to eat burnt rice in the middle of a thunderstorm. Instead it will be me and you talking in whispers as we sip imported tea. At least with Kakashi you would still be here. Well, not here, " Naruto said as he looked at the rickety stall. "In Konoha, where you belong."

Sakura sighed. "Not everyone can be like you, Naruto. I want to move on to different things. Are you going to take that away from me?"

He shook his head. "No. I just wish…"

"Yeah, I know." They ate the rest of their meal in silence listing to the humming of the cook a few feet away.

~O~

Kakashi saw a flash of pink dart over him, heading over to the direction of the Hokage Tower. He stared in that direction long after she left, while a part of him itched to go after her. Sakura had not taken the news of his intentions well- a highly disappointing reaction. As a result he decided to let her mull over the thought for a few days. There had yet to be any word on her wedding date, so there was still a sufficient amount of time.

His stomach gave a loud grumble and he turned sharply in the other direction to the food district. Kakashi was never one to ignore the call of his stomach. He found Genma, Raidou and Anko at one of the first restaurants. He promptly helped himself to some food from a plate as he pulled up a stool.

"Well, if it isn't the man of the hour, the great Peacemaker himself," Genma said. He waved to the cook for another plate, knowing that his food was already lost.

"Is that what they are calling me now?" Kakashi asked mildly.

Raidou spoke up. "Rumor has it that the trip you went on was a major success in keeping the treaties. War isn't in the air anymore."

Kakashi fleetingly recalled how he was almost blackmailed by Rock Country's daughter. If they knew how close… but they didn't and he wouldn't say a word.

"Yes, well- It wasn't as hard as some people might suggest. There was a ninja to represent every country, and we traveled together to visit every country. People believe that it was a difficult mission, when in actuality was fairly simple. As long as we didn't kill each other, the mission would be a success. Considering we all wanted to live…" Kakashi trailed off with a shrug.

Genma rubbed his chin in thought. "You know, I think you owe me money from ten years ago. Do you think you can use some of that reputation of yours to pay me back?"

"No, I don't owe you money. I have no idea where you came up with that," Kakashi replied in feigned ignorance. It wasn't true. He had used that money to buy himself a pair of new couches. That couch had served him faithfully for eight years. Then he received that two year mission and he ended up giving one of the couches to Genma, so it evened out anyway. But if Genma knew, he would probably call out that tried and true method to get more money, charging interest.

They continued to talk more, saying a few words here and there in between bites. Genma and Raidou left first, having an appointment somewhere, leaving him with Anko.

There was a cagey smile on her face, one that usually preceded a story that was sadistic or perverted. And on not so rare occasions, both. Kakashi made himself comfortable in the chair.

"So you know what I found the other day? Now I wasn't looking for this, I want you to know. It just so happens that Shiranui," she made a face of distaste, "threw away one of my magazines outside of the sandal repair shop. You know the one?" Kakashi nodded. "Well, that magazine was incredibly important to me. Not only does it have an article on the herbal uses of rosemary, but it highlights my profile in the Bingo Book."

Kakashi made a noise of understanding. Anko's profile stood out in the Bingo Book as one of the most colorful. That was saying something considering the company of top ranked ninja that she stood alongside. Then again, it did mention her tendency of using a herd of porcupine as a weapon.

"So, I'm getting mad right? I've been up and down the streets looking in trashcans for this magazine and then I find it." She smiled smugly.

Kakashi blinked. "That's it? I thought there was more to the story."

Anko rolled her eyes. "Don't be impatient, Hatake. I wasn't talking about the magazine. I was talking about these pods…"

Ah. It was just his luck that the most salacious female in the village would encounter the sex pods. He listened to Anko as she went into graphic detail on how the plants were shaped, complete with hand gestures and hip movements. Kakashi averted his gaze to retrain his composure, half amused and half embarrassed by her antics. Unfortunately, his eye caught her reflection in the mirror.

It looked as if she was having a fit.

He turned to her once more to catch the tail end of her story.

"…and when I found the magazine I took the pods home."

"Did they bloom yet?" He asked in curiosity, wondering what the flowers actually looked like. Kakashi also wondered why he had rejected Anko so flippantly. She might not be the ideal mother, but he was hardly the ideal father. All it would take would be a well-placed rumor that she would jump at the challenge.

"Don't be stupid. I chopped them up and fed them to Hebi."

Oh, that's right , Kakashi thought in resignation, Anko was insane. Plant emasculation aside, there was Anko's unfortunately named pet rabbit. Hebi had been around since Kakashi had known her, and it had the strange quality of changing color and from male to female. So Hebi was either imaginary or a twenty year old, tri-colored, hermaphrodite bunny.

He cleared his throat, trying to ignore the sharp smile on her face. "Interesting. Well, I need to be on my way now." He made a hand motion as if he was looking at his watch.

Anko frowned in disappointment. "All right, see you later, Hatake."

As he left the shop, he saw Sakura on the rooftops again, this time carrying a large bag. He sighed when he realized she must be going on a mission, and he would have to postpone the talk longer than he'd like. There was some good that came from his talk to Anko, and it wasn't just that he preferred Sakura because she was less insane. Both were aggressive females, notorious for their tempers. Both were accomplished jonin, and both were admired for their beauty. But there was something in talking to Anko that made him uneasy. Every conversation felt like work.

Anko planned her words very carefully, saying things that she knew would provoke reaction. It only intensified when she was around him, as if his normal unflappable manner was an affront to her existence. As a result, his lack of reaction led her to say and do things more lascivious than normal.

In other words, Kakashi's mere existence encouraged her insanity.

But talking with Sakura was easy; her reactions were completely natural and sincere. There wasn't a contest in their conversation. Even when she was plotting something, he could see the little wheels in her head turning. Sometimes he would do something completely unexpected to surprise her, and at other times he would let her continue with her little plot. The results never failed to amuse him, even when it was at his expense.

Kakashi hoped that quality had not changed in Sakura. With those concerns in mind, he went to the Hokage Tower, determined to find out what his favorite kunoichi had been doing during his absence.

He heard a loud crash behind him, followed by a bellow. Ah, Kakashi thought, Anko must have received the food bill.

A few hand signs later, and he was gone in a cloud of smoke.

~O~

 

Sakura's mission was fairly simple, albeit time consuming. After the initial plage outbreak, Tsunade had developed a medicine to combat it. It had to be updated every year to check on variations of the strain, but so far it was working. Sakura and the other medics had been sent to the villages to set up posts to inoculate everyone. There were other groups of ninja heading into neighboring countries to see the vaccine. Giving the villagers shots for a week would have been boring without Naruto's company, and Sakura was grateful that her friend stuck around. It was also helpful that he had visited most of the villages and was familiar with the people there. As a result, Sakura was given the most hospitable treatment possible and had access to the nearby hot spring free of charge.

So Sakura took her time, knowing that this mission was very much like a vacation. There weren't any ninja throwing sharp objects at her face, she could have dinner with Naruto every evening, and then settle in a hot spring.

When she arrived back to Konoha, she went straight to the hospital to report back, dumping her bag in her office. It didn't take her long, and a few minutes later she was out in the street looking for something to do. It was still early in the afternoon, so she made a stop at Ino's. She answered the door with her hair wrapped in a towel.

"Want to go shopping?" Sakura asked.

Ino moved from the doorway to let her in. "I'd love to, but I don't have any money. I just came back from a mission and the client didn't pay us. Something about me having an excessive attitude or something. I wasn't really paying attention. So I'll probably have to pick it up tomorrow."

"Don't tell me you spent the bonus you received on the last mission already!"

"Oh, it was well worth it." Ino grabbed Sakura's hand and opened the door to her bedroom. "Take a look at this bad boy!"

Sakura looked inside, finding nothing but a bed, a nightstand and a few random socks.

"Eh?"

"The bed! New sheets, pillows, mattress, the works! It's guaranteed to knock you out in one minute after lying down. It is designed to mold with the contours of your body, giving your back support. They say it makes you look three fourths your age." Ino waved her hands in exuberance.

"You want to look fifteen?"

Ino sighed. "That's not the point. The point is that I'll look thirty when I'm forty."

"Oh." Sakura frowned. She wondered what were the odds that Ino would be using the same mattress twenty years from now.

When Ino was finished dressing, they went to the Yamanka flower shop to check on things.

"Who runs the shop when you are away?" Sakura asked.

"One of my cousins. He's usually in the back ordering things. He's not bad at the front though. We get a lot more female customers when he's there. It's a bit insulting." Ino pushed the door open and held it for Sakura.

"Hello. Did anything big happen while I was gone?" Ino yelled over the crowd of females that circled the front counter.

"Excuse me ladies, but I have business to attend to." There were sighs of disappointment as Ino's cousin shooed them away and locked the door.

"Ino! Hmm… well, let me think for a minute. It was just the usual. The supply of lilies was a bit poor so the vendor gave us a discount for our next batch. The duo-colored roses should be in tomorrow. What else? Oh yes, I remember." Ino's cousin frowned in annoyance. "Why didn't you tell me about the monstrous flower arrangement that would be delivered here? I don't know who this Sakura Haruno is, but you should inform her that the Yamanaka flower shop is not a delivery post."

"One, Sakura is right here." Ino pointed over her shoulder. "And two, how did you not know about the flowers? Everyone knew! You don't live in a cave."

"I knew about the flowers, but I didn't know they were delivered here ." He took a good look at Sakura. "Are you her? Ah, that's right, the little girl from the Academy." He looked her up and down. "You are a bit older than I remember."

"That," Sakura said icily as she folded her arms over her chest, "was because I last saw you when I was nine."

"Yes, well…" He cleared his throat and turned back to Ino." I didn't accept those flowers."

"What?"

"Then where are they?" Sakura asked, shoving Ino out of the way.

"I sent them to your apartment."

Sakura's eyes turned wide. "But I was on a mission for a month!"

He shrugged. "They didn't come back; I assume that they found somewhere to leave them."

Sakura groaned. She hoped that she was not kicked out of her apartment because it was blocking the hallway. She had been gone for three weeks; it was possible the entire arrangement was rotted by now. And when a large stack of paperwork was plopped in front Ino, Sakura knew she was on her own.

So she went back to the hospital to pick up her bags and grudgingly went back to her apartment. As she approached, she noticed that her belongings were not scattered across the front. That probably meant that she had not been kicked out yet. And the hallway in front of her apartment was empty.

What if the delivery men asked the landlord to let them in? Sakura thought.

A pit of dread grew in her belly. There would be rotting flowers all over her couch. She stuck the key in the lock, shut her eyes and gave the doorknob a twist. She sniffed the air.

It smelled fine. This good sign led her to peek through one eye and then opened them properly. Empty. Her apartment looked normal and there wasn't a single inappropriate flower in sight. Sakura sighed in relief and thumped her bag to the corner of the room.

She flopped ungracefully on the couch, noticing that the tension building in her shoulders had disappeared. Really, flowers shouldn't give her that much stress.

Half an hour later she woke up to the smell of food. Ms. Tokushima was cooking next door. Stretching, Sakura crawled out of the couch and knocked on her door. For a civilian, the woman had an uncanny sense for knowing when Sakura returned from a mission. Either that, or she checked to see if Sakura's mail was picked up.

It wasn't long before she was eating, the grandmother clucking about Sakura's weight. It was tradition for the woman to chastise Sakura like this every time she came back, whether Sakura had been deprived of proper meals from the mission or not. Of course, Ms. Tokushima was no willowy person herself, so it was possible that the kind woman believed her words.

Sakura was washing the dishes when Ms. Tokushima answered Sakura's mystery.

"Sakura, you shouldn't have your flowers delivered here. I know you had them delivered somewhere else for a time, but it really created quite a bother when you were gone. I understand the circumstances, but the men from the other side of the hall wouldn't be so understanding."

"Yes, I know there was a misunderstanding at the delivery spot. I thought they would have been in my apartment but it was empty. Do you know what happened to the arrangement?"

"Oh yes. I wasn't here for the delivery; I suppose the landlord must have let them in your apartment. I don't know when it happened, but it couldn't have been more than a few days, not in this heat. I thought I was imagining the smell at first, but by the second day, there was no denying the stench." Ms. Tokushima had a sly smile on her face that grew as she continued. "But fortunately, I heard someone knocking on your door. A tall, handsome man with a very distinctive hair color, I've seen him with you before."

The food in Sakura's stomach felt a bit heavy.

"Well, he was very understanding when I told him you were out of the village. I don't know who he is but he must have been a jonin. He said he smelled the flowers even before I told him. And the nice man even offered to throw them away, so I let him in."

"Really?" Sakura didn't know how to feel about this. Kakashi never did anything unless he could get something out of it. Oh, crap. "Were you there?"

Ms. Tokushima shook her head. "I had to meet my grandson in the park later that day. And I knew that you were familiar with him so I wasn't concerned. Was that bad?" She frowned in concern.

"Oh, I was curious," Sakura shrugged in nonchalance. There was no way she was going to admit to Ms. Tokushima that she had given a giant pervert the privacy to ogle Sakura's underwear drawer without supervision. "I trust him, so it's not a big deal." She also knew where he lived, so she could bop him on the head if anything was missing.

That night, she slept uneasily, wondering what Kakashi had found.

~O~

Kakashi couldn't believe his luck when the Sakura's neighbor handed him the keys to the apartment. Getting rid of the giant flower arrangement was a bit of a pain, but a few well chosen jutsus made it easier for him than most people. Unfortunately, he didn't know one to get rid of the smell, so he popped open the windows.

And now, for his real work.

Going through Sakura's apartment was easy. She was an extremely organized person. This would go well with his own tendency of simple living, he didn't know what he would do if she was a pack rat. She still loved the color red, she liked her drinks simple, avoiding most flavored teas. She owned one romance novel, but the pages were still stuck together because she had not read it.

She loved photographs, and had various photos of her friends and family hung in the hallway. A quick peek into her bathroom revealed fluffy towels. Kakashi gave her shampoo a sniff and recognized the familiar scent of her. She had two drawers full of supplies for her medicine kit. Her undergarments ran the span of demure to risqué. She loved shoes though, and was loathed to throw a pair away, even keeping a pair of boots that had the heel broken off.

The picture of Team Seven was kept by her bed, just like his.

He hadn't been wrong, this marriage had to happen.

She was perfect.