The Hokage's office still felt bare. The bookshelves that had been filled during Tsunade's time were empty. Unhindered by curtains, the large window to the side provided a clear view to the village below. The desk held only paper on its surface and was absent of personal effects. The gifts sent to the Hokage were placed on the floor with little thought and the stack of brown boxes led to the feeling of a temporary habitation. The only thing real in the room was the Hokage and his response.
Kakashi's response was unvarnished and far too calm for such a monumental decision. The empty atmosphere grew as Sakura's feeling of nausea intensified. She leaned back in her chair and pressed her hands to her face. She had been there for a few minutes and already felt exhausted by the brief conversation.
"I can't take out the Sharingan," she moaned in frustration. Her chest was growing tight and she struggled to keep her emotions in check.
She heard him lean back in his chair before he spoke. "I don't want you to take it out. There are several other medics capable of performing the task. You are the only other person besides Tsunade capable of shutting it off and turning it back into a normal eye."
"Kakashi, this is insanity." Sakura stood up and began to walk around the room in agitation and avoided eye contact with him. There was nowhere to hide in this room.
"I believe you have the skill to do it and so does Tsunade."
"That is not what I meant!" Sakura slammed the file against the boulder that was mysteriously present in the room. She looked out the window so Kakashi wouldn't see the tears that were threatening to take a hold of her. "You've had the Sharingan for ages! I can't turn it off! That would be wrong." She saw Kurenai and Shikamaru cross the rooftops on their way to the school building.
She wished she was out there instead of in this office.
"Sit down," Kakashi said in a firm voice. Sakura took another deep breath to regain her composure. She hesitated before lowering herself back onto her chair. There were several reasons that she did not want to do this at all, some of which couldn't admit to herself.
"I get a headache every time I use the Sharingan. But I also wake up with a headache every morning. It goes away after I channel a little bit of chakra into the eye, so it is not a pressing issue. It is a minor inconvenience for the benefits that I receive, and I've never complained about it. However, I hand out the missions now and there is no reason for me to continue having them."
"The Hokage is supposed to be the most powerful ninja in the village," Sakura protested as she finally looked up at him. "You can't do that without the Sharingan."
The look Kakashi gave her was cold. "If it was purely about strength, Naruto would be Hokage right now. I became a jonin at age thirteen and that was before I received the Sharingan and before you were born. Don't insult me by suggesting my talent is only based on this cursed bloodline ability."
Sakura flinched at his harsh tone. Despite their mutual teasing and odd relationship, there was a level of disrespect she shouldn't cross since he was Hokage.
"My reputation was based on the Sharingan, but it is time to move on. All of the nations that signed the treaty are determined to keep it, and external threats have decreased. What has increased is my ability to succeed, my understanding of the village's needs, and my headaches. I need the Sharingan out."
"Have Tsunade take it out if it's so important to you," she replied in a feeble voice. "I don't want to have anything to do with this." Sakura shuddered with the recollection of the Sharingan as it whirled.
"I can't ask her since she left the village for a vacation. That's why she gave all the information to you. I'm surprised you haven't noticed."
Sakura was surprised. The Ehime estate was now sending her daily letters concerning her wedding plans. Sakura frequently sought out advice from Ino before she sent out the response letter and it made her days busy. Now that Kakashi mentioned it, Tsunade's disappearance was so obvious.
"Do you even know how dangerous this is?" Sakura wrung her hands in her lap. "The Sharingan is extremely dangerous to mess with. It's not like the Byakugan where the bloodline ability is pre-existing and only requires a gentle push of energy to activate. The Sharingan is more like a parasite. I'll have to use my chakra to persuade the Uchiha chakra back in the eye and separate the connection with your system. The force of the three different types of chakra at such a specific point could cause the eye to explode in your skull."
There was a pause. "That sounds painful."
"You would be dead," she said bluntly, hoping to scare him into abandoning the idea.
"Ah. At least it wouldn't hurt."
She sighed at his flippant acceptance. "Kakashi, please reconsider this." She was dangerously close to begging, but at that moment she didn't care. Screw pride, this just might be one of the worst missions of her life. She leaned forward and went to grasp one of his hands in between her own. She noticed the palm of his hand was startlingly smooth in comparison to his rough fingertips. He didn't wear gloves anymore. " Please ."
His face softened under her gaze. "I'm sorry, but my mind is made up." His other hand reached over so he could hold each of her hands in one of his own. "This request is more than just about the Sharingan."
"I don't understand what you mean," she said as her eyes began to burn once more. A tear spilled down her cheek as she closed her eyes.
Kakashi's fingertips threaded in between hers. "You don't have to worry about it. All I need you to do is help me out with this." He gave her hand a squeeze and withdrew his hands from hers. "Enter," he called out.
Sakura wiped the tear from her cheek as she opened the door. She hadn't even heard the person knock.
"Hokage-sama," the chunin bowed in respect. "I have the reports that you request--" The man stopped as he looked at Sakura's odd position. "Why are you sitting like that?"
Sakura was leaning forward in her chair and her left arm was still reaching for Kakashi's hand. Her mouth opened to respond but her mind blanked. She couldn't admit that she had been holding hands with Kakashi, a situation that she was now recognizing as slightly inappropriate. She pulled her arm back into her lap.
"She's begging for a raise," replied Kakashi when Sakura failed to respond.
She gave the chunin a watery smile as he gave her a puzzled look. Why couldn't she think of lies as smoothly as Kakashi?
"You'll have to forgive her silence. She's mute so it makes it very difficult for her to communicate," he continued.
Sakura felt her sadness diminish as her level of annoyance increased.
The chunin nodded sympathetically as he turned to Kakashi. "Why is she crying?"
"She's allergic to me."
The chunin's eyes grew wide in surprise. "That's really weird."
"Which is why she is begging for a raise," Kakashi said impatiently. "The reports?"
The chunin apologized and handed the papers over. He left the office in haste, sensing his unwanted presence.
Sakura wriggled in her chair as the door clicked shut. "He's not very bright."
Kakashi shook his head. "I have to put him on missions with people that can easily sense deception. Otherwise, he might get himself killed in an obvious trap."
"You should make him a teacher," Sakura suggested. "He'll catch on to liars pretty quick that way."
Kakashi nodded as he mulled the idea over. "A sink or swim approach. I like it. I'm certain there is a teacher who would like to go on active missions again. There always is." He jotted down a note on a blank piece of paper.
She looked at the heavy file on the desk in resignation. "I'm not going to change your mind, am I?"
"You don't have to sound so miserable about it. This is a good thing." He held up his hands in defense when she gave him a dirty look.
"I know Sasuke used Tsukuyomi on you," Kakashi said in a gentle voice. "Is that why you don't want to do this?"
Sakura's body stiffened in response and she wished he could take those words back. Tired of the emotional rollercoaster he put her through, she picked up the large file and tucked it under her arm. She was done with this conversation.
"The request is more than just about the Sharingan," she said unhappily, using Kakashi's own words against him. "I'll study the file and get back to you next week."
She left the office in haste to let him ponder the mysterious statement alone.
Kakashi frowned as he heard a knock on the door. He specifically asked the officers below for minimal interruptions today. Sakura was supposed to arrive in the afternoon to speak to him about his Sharingan. The upcoming appointment had made him into a bundle of nerves. He hadn't spoken to her since he discovered the situation was even more delicate than he assumed.
He expected her to be exasperated and worried about his extreme request. Kakashi had not been prepared for the tears or Sakura's uncharacteristic begging. It was as someone had sucked out her spirit and left a defeated girl in her stead.
He had also heard from Tsunade, Naruto, and Ino that Sakura had largely recovered from her encounter with Sasuke. But seeing how quickly her mood had dropped made Kakashi realize then how vulnerable Sakura still was. He couldn't risk saying the wrong thing and scaring her off with his words. And she couldn't risk doing the wrong thing or he would be dead.
Unsurprisingly, Kakashi had been in a foul mood the entire day.
People had been willing to honor Kakashi's request for silence. It must have been someone extremely persuasive or important to gain access. Kakashi moved the envelope from the Ehime estate to the side when she saw the door begin to open, prepared for an onslaught of crotchety elders with a long list of complaints. Instead, he was met with a vision of pink and green and a brilliant smile.
Maito Gai walked in the room with a large bouquet of flowers.
Kakashi hadn't had a real conversation with the man since the announcement had been made several weeks ago. Gai left the village as soon as the announcement was made because he had been personally requested by a client for a mission, which meant the man had plenty of time to come up with a speech. Gai had only made three steps into Kakashi's office when his eyes began to water.
"Hokage-sama, my most gracious leader and former rival in love, battle, and rank! I, Maito Gai, give my allegiance to you in mind and body. My actions in battle will be a testament of my loyalty to you!"
Kakashi could feel a headache forming. "First of all, I know your name because I know you. Second, you don't have to call me Hokage, but I'm sure you will ignore my suggestion. And third, I know you are loyal since you've come to my aid several times before."
"Ah, Konoha is blessed indeed for finding someone so..."
Kakashi settled himself in his chair and zoned out as his friend began one of his extravagant speeches. Fortunately, he was prepared for such encounters since Ms. Tokushima had sewn six pockets in his new outfit. One for shuriken, one for kunai, one for his summoning scroll and three pockets that were perfectly sized for volumes of Icha Icha . He reached into the left pocket that contained Violence and flipped it open. Gai had yet to make his way to the window for dramatic effect. That was always the start of his second wind.
Kakashi might have considered Gai a close friend, but he had realms of eccentricity that were still unexplainable. Experience had taught that it was best to let Gai say his entire speech as soon as possible so the conversation could proceed in a normal fashion.
Of course, the definition of normal was flexible.
Kakashi looked up when he saw Gai holding up the bouquet of flowers to the sky. Since it looked like the speech was wrapping up, Kakashi began to pay attention once more.
"... far beyond the lush mounds of the north! And then there is Konoha at the hip of Fire Country, which bears the insignia of Leaf with pride. Our village contains tight thighs of ninja strength..."
Kakashi's eye widened at Gai's very peculiar description. There was an odd theme to the speech.
"Gai," Kakashi interrupted. "Did you sleep with a woman recently?"
The man paused mid-sentence, every nuance of his face screaming with a guilty ' yes. '
Kakashi pressed a pair of fingers to his nose. "I really don't want to hear about it."
Gai cleared his throat. "Forgive me, Hokage-sama. Perhaps I was a bit too enthusiastic."
"I said I don't want to hear about it. " Unwelcome images were already beginning to enter Kakashi's brain and the illustrations in his lap were only aiding his imagination. He snapped his volume of Icha Icha Violence shut and placed it back into his pocket.
There was a long pause as both men extricated their minds from their very private thoughts.
"If you are not offended, Hokage-sama, I will be leaving." Gai's face was red from embarrassment.
"Go ahead," replied Kakashi in amusement. His friend probably spent half of his mission contemplating a suitable speech to demonstrate his respect and ended up with poetic innuendo.
When Gai opened the door to find Sakura with her hand held up to knock on the door. He mumbled something to her and left. Sakura shook her head as she entered the office, undoubtedly surprised by his timid reply. She stepped over the abandoned bouquet of flowers and made her way over to Kakashi
"I've studied the file." She sat in the chair across from his desk without hesitation and placed some of her own papers on his desk. "We won't be able to turn off the Sharingan immediately. The chakra in your eye will have to become acclimated to my own before I can coax it back into a dormant state. Otherwise the eye could react negatively and respond in a violent fashion. Possible reactions could be a more aggressive state of chakra usage; it could give you brain damage or reject all chakra and break down." Sakura listed the drawbacks in a professional voice, aloof and completely impartial. It was a far cry from the emotionally attached person Kakashi knew.
"I see. And how long will the acclimation period take?"
"It depends on the eye itself and your own body. I imagine it will take several months. I want to schedule your sessions three times a week in the late afternoon. I'll come here when I've finished with my last patient. We can start today if you would like."
Kakashi said nothing of her distant attitude. "How are we going to do this?"
"I'm just going to use some of my chakra around your eye to become familiar with the pathways that have grown over time." Sakura looked around his office to gauge the surroundings. "I'm going to need a comfortable angle to do this, but you don't have anywhere to lie down."
"If I'm going to lie down, I'm going to be in my own bed and not in an office." He had put a few more things in the room since Sakura's last visit. Kasumi had pointed out his tendency for making things rather plain so he made a little effort to make it more personable. The boulder from the Tsuchikage was still under the large window. He had mounted the tapestry from the Raikage that depicted a large mountain on the wall. The wall on the far side of the room was decorated with fans, the largest of which was a gift from Garaa. The small glass statue from the Mizukage was on a shelf behind him. Kakashi was considering filling that wall with glass statues so it didn't look so random. Fortunately, well-wishers had sent him plenty of those as gifts. But he hadn't put in any more furniture.
"Well, I can't work on the eye if we are both sitting down. You're too tall for me."
"You could sit on the desk," Kakashi suggested.
She frowned. "I don't know..."
He tapped his hand on the wooden counter. "It should give you the height you need."
He saw her hesitate and then make her way over to the surface and sat down. Kakashi pulled his chair forward so he was sitting between her thighs. It gave Sakura a good angle to work from and it gave him a great view of her chest. The fates were kind enough to give him such a lovely bonus prize for his brilliant idea. "See? Perfect."
"You can leave your headband on. I don't think this is going to take very long." Sakura placed her hands on either side of his head.
He could feel the familiar sensation of her chakra crawl down his neck and tingle around his nasal passages. It was a pleasant thrum that made Kakashi want to close his eyes and drift asleep. He wondered what were the odds Sakura would allow him to use her chest as a pillow.
The pleasant tingle suddenly altered into sharp pain and he swore. Sakura pulled away her hands as he reached up to remove the black cloth away from his eye. Kakashi hissed as he noticed the cloth was already wet with blood. His mask was absorbing the large drips of blood coming from his eye and the smell of copper tickled at his nose.
"I told you." Sakura's tone was vicious and unrepentant. "I told you this was a stupid plan." She had removed a cloth from her medic kit and one hand reached forward to press it against his bleeding eye. The other hand slid in his hair to hold his head steady. "I barely did anything before it reacted. This might take longer than I thought."
"I didn't think it would bleed," he explained, somewhat puzzled by the reaction. The taste of blood came to his lips as he spoke.
"You didn't read the file," she responded in exasperation. "I told you I was severing the chakra connection between you and the Sharingan. You should have known this would happen. It's like when I use my control to break the ground or the Hyuga use their Gentle Fist method. Things bleed when they get cut. Imagine if I tried to force all of the chakra back at once."
Kakashi winced as her hand tightened around the strands of his hair. "Thank you for doing this."
"You didn't give me a choice."
"True." Kakashi reached up and pulled down his mask and wiped at the wet spots on his cheek and mouth. "I'll tell you one reason why I'm doing this if you tell me one of your reasons why this upsets you so much. And don't tell me that it is dangerous. Tsunade wouldn't have given me the information if she thought that I would end up dead in a month."
Sakura's gaze was centered somewhere on his mouth before her eyes snapped up to look at his own. "I will do it if you go first."
Sakura placed her hands in her lap as Kakashi reached up to press the cloth against his eye. He noticed that her posture had stiffened once more and he gave her a comforting smile.
"Konoha has to move on from the past. The village was founded with background politics, uncharitable compromise, and resentment. A central part of it was the Uchiha clan and the Sharingan that gave them talent above others. By closing the Sharingan, I am closing the turbulent history that comes with it."
"But you won't," Sakura argued. "As long as Sasuke is around, the legacy of the Sharingan is still alive. You have no idea what it means to the people of this village knowing that there is one other person with the Sharingan besides Sasuke. And that includes me. He could show up right at this minute and try to burn everything with Amaterasu and you could zap it away with your Mangekyo Sharingan. Nothing could replace that sense of security, not even Naruto."
"I hope you didn't tell anyone about my request. I don't want people to panic as you suggested."
"I didn't," Sakura responded. "But I think they will notice when we finally have the Sharingan off."
"One would think," responded Kakashi. "But a few more things need to occur before I plan to let anyone know about it. So until that time, I'll continue wearing the eye patch." He raised the sodden strip of cloth and then tossed it in the trash bin. "Well, not this one."
Sakura raised an eyebrow. "So you want me to turn off the Sharingan so you'll have a working eye, so you can continue walking around half-blind?"
Sakura pressed her hand to her face. "I will never understand you."
"You know me better than you think." He gave her a pat on her knee. "Is that all for today?"
Sakura slid off the desk and brushed down her skirt. "Yes. You can take the pressure off your eye in five minutes. These sessions might take more time as we make more progress, but I don't want to make any definite plans yet. It's just one day at a time right now." She popped her back and picked up the papers she brought with her, making certain that the yellow folder was in her hands.
"I'll see you in three days." She paused when she saw the pink bouquet on the floor. "What are the flowers doing there?"
"Gai brought them for dramatic effect."
"Oh." Sakura felt a devilish smile across her face as she backed away from him. "You know, you should probably burn those before anyone else sees them."
She saw one of Kakashi's eye narrow in suspicion as she felt the door handle hit her back. "Why?"
"There might be a tiny, tiny , gay rumor going around about you." Her hand grasped the doorknob and gave it a twist.
"WHAT?" Kakashi stood out of his chair and sent it skidding to the back of the wall. "What do you mean about-"
Sakura slammed the door when she was in the hallway and his voice disappeared behind the soundproof walls. She walked back to her apartment with a smile, her mind replaying the look of horror on Kakashi's face. The taste of victory was a sweet one.
She waved to Ms. Tokushima as she passed her up the stairs. When she was inside her apartment she placed her papers on the kitchen table. She set the water on the stove to make some tea and went to water her plants. When the tea was ready she made her way back to the kitchen table and opened up the envelope from Norio.
The following is an estimated budget summary for the Ehime Estate for the next quarter.
Sakura frowned and removed more documents from the folder and all the papers contained lists of numbers. The sheets fell to the floor as her stomach gave a lurch.
She scooped them off of the floor and made her way out of the apartment, not even bothering to shut the door. Sakura couldn't believe that she had mixed up her personal letters again. After the first mix-up with Ino and Tenten she should have learned her lesson. She had double checked the folder before she had left the hospital so the only other solution was that she left the folder in Kakashi's office. And if Norio's letter was like the last one, she was in for a world of humiliation. The last thing she wanted was a bunch of village elders going over her personal letters.
Why did humiliation follow her so readily?
Sakura didn't bother to use the stairs to climb up the building and she rocketed up the side of the building with chakra. She stormed into the Hokage's office without knocking.
Kakashi was sitting in his chair and didn't even bother to raise his head to look at her. Instead, his eyes were glued to the page in front of him like it was Icha Icha . Sakura recognized the yellow envelope on his desk, identical to the one she held in her hands. Furious, Sakura reached for the nearest object, a metal fan tacked on the wall, and threw it at his head. Kakashi shifted his head to allow the fan to pass and impale itself on the wall behind him. His eyes didn't lift from the page.
"That's personal, Kakashi!" She slammed the envelope in her hands on his desk and picked up the one that was meant for her. "Let go!" She yanked the papers out of his hands. A quick glance revealed her worst fears and her entire body grew hot from humiliation.
"Ah, hello Sakura." He reached behind him to remove the fan. "Do you need this? You look a bit flushed." He snapped his wrist downward and a gust of air floated her hair back.
A series of insults danced on the tip of Sakura's tongue. Most of them were variations of where, precisely, Kakashi could stick that fan.
Kakashi had the gall to smile at her. "I don't know why you're so offended. It's nothing I haven't read before."
She raised a shaking fist at him in anger. This infuriating man was incomprehensible. One minute he was completely serious, then he would be kind, and then he would be the most annoying person she ever met. Unfortunately, Rule Number Something-or-Other of the Ninja Handbook was that you weren't allowed to strangle your Hokage.
"Go kiss another man, Kakashi," Sakura retorted as she stuffed the papers back in the envelope.
Kakashi groaned in annoyance when she slammed the door behind him. She had been adamant that she would not spread the terrible misunderstanding the first time around. Was she teasing him or was the rumor actually going around?
He needed to talk to Genma.