Chie Tokushima had avoided most of the tourist traffic so far by doing her errands early in the morning as the sun was beginning to peek out. Today, she had no choice but to make her way through the throngs of people as she went to the Hokage Tower. There were many people gathered, some standing with their faces tilted up to catch a glimpse of the Hokage through his window. Others stood in a line to gain admittance inside the building. Grumbling to herself, Ms. Tokushima approached the back of the line. But the line thinned quickly as the ANBU guards were quick to shoo away all of those with unnecessary requests.
A woman in front of her held up a camera. "I just wanted to get a small picture with him," she explained to the guard. "It would only take a minute." .
The ANBU was unrelenting. "The sixth Hokage is very busy. Take a picture of Hokage Mountain instead."
She turned to look at the gigantic rock wall. "We have mountains surrounding our village. It is not terribly impressive. My village would have had the face carved in it already. I want a picture of the man," she whined.
"Go down to the field with the artists. I am sure there is someone who will do a henge for you." The guard turned to Ms. Tokushima. "I need to see your identification and please state your reason for admission."
"I am the Hokage's tailor and I am here to deliver his winter coat for him." She handed over her papers and a large bag in her arms.
The guard took a peek in the bag before setting it down. "Is he expecting you?"
He waved his hand to catch someone's attention. "I need the list." Another guard walked over and they sifted through the pages. "Ah yes, I see you already have permission to enter. Walk over to the group over there and they will lead you inside in a few minutes."
Ms. Tokushima stood behind a man covered in dust as she waited for the guards to thin out the rest of the line. Most of the people were turned away and some were sent to another building. During all of this, she could hear the steady click of cameras as the tourists snapped pictures.
Finally, Ms. Tokushima was led inside with a group of people and they sat in the chairs in the waiting area in the hallway. She leaned comfortably in the chairs and closed her eyes as she waited for her turn. One by one the people were called into his office leaving Ms. Tokushima alone in the hallway. A woman carrying a tea set entered the room and dropped it off. She did not close the door properly when she left and Ms. Tokushima could hear snippets of the conversation from her spot in the hallway. She opened her eyes when the conversation grew louder.
"Please Hokage-sama, one little peek is all we need." It was the voice of the man who stood in front of her in line.
"I said no."
"But we can't put up your masked face on the Hokage Mountain. It's a tradition that the Hokage has his face exposed. It's a symbol of the connection between the village and its leader."
She heard a button unsnap. "You see this kunai? It's a symbol of the connection between your body and a dumpster."
Ms. Tokushima chortled. She knew that there was something charming about Kakashi when she first saw him standing uneasily in front of Sakura's door. His casual stance showed that he was a self-assured man, but his evasive answers betrayed his intentions. So she invited him in, curious of the mysterious man that was older than the boys that Sakura frequently turned away. He was a taciturn man whose words were filled with dry wit and it struck an immediate liking in her. She was always very good at judging people and she could tell that Kakashi was a man whose heart was in the right place.
Her laugh echoed down the empty hallway and she knew they had to have heard her. Light streamed in from the door as it opened and the dusty man was looking at her in annoyance.
"This is a private conversation," he said loftily.
Ms. Tokushima looked up at him, hardly believing that he had the audacity to talk to her that way. She gave him a stern look that had frightened her three sons when they were younger. "You should know better than to give the Hokage advice on matters of tradition."
The man look suitably cowed and he shuffled off to the side as another man appeared.
"Ms. Tokushima, I thought I heard your voice. Please step inside." Kakashi turned to the dusty stone worker. "Don't bother me with this request again."
Ms. Tokushima rose from the chair and stepped around the man. "Make certain you wash behind your ears when you get home," she said kindly. "There's quite a bit of dust collected back there."
She shut the door and made her way over to one of the cushy seats in front of the desk. "You shouldn't make an old woman like me wait so long in order to see you."
Kakashi walked over to a table where a tea set was waiting. "My apologies. It's normally not such a bother, but the crowds were becoming too much without a screening process set up in place. Would you like some tea? They just brought it in."
"Yes, that would be lovely." Ms. Tokushima placed the bag onto the large desk and patted it. "I've made a few changes to my initial idea for your coat. Why don't you take a peek?"
He set the tea in front of her and pulled part of it out. "This has sleeves," he said in puzzlement. "I thought you were going to make a standard cloak."
"I decided that it would be a more suitable look instead. The cut of the outfit goes better with what you are currently wearing. This style is all of the rage in the north. It will make you look quite handsome." She placed the cup of tea down. "Now, tell me. How is your pursuit of my Sakura?"
Kakashi looked at her with a blank face and Ms. Tokushima sighed inwardly. It was so difficult to get most shinobi to show any emotional response. It was a miracle some of them managed to find a partner to tolerate them.
"I think this was a mistake," he said after a pause.
Ms. Tokushima raised an eyebrow in surprise. "I beg your pardon?"
Kakashi avoided eye contact with her as he looked at the ornate tapestry that was on the wall. "I can't force her to do anything and I think I may be pushing for something that doesn't exist."
"You told me you loved her." And Ms. Tokushima knew that it was true, because she saw the way his eye had widened in surprise when she first asked him. He might have been a self-assured man, but he was ultimately like many men. He found it difficult to understand his own emotions without guidance.
He sat down in the chair next to her and picked up a cup. "I nearly accepted another woman in my bed the other day." Kakashi's voice was low as if he swished the water in his glass.
"Ah, yes. I heard about her." She waved her hand dismissively as Kakashi began to pale. "Various rumors are going all over town, although most people believe the girl was lying. Is that why you turned her down, because of Sakura?"
He pressed a hand to his face. "If only. I turned the woman down because I realized that she had been with someone else I knew. I lost track of my head and I didn't even think of Sakura. If I'm not faithful to her now, how can I reasonably claim any right over her?" He took a drink from his cup and stared at it glumly.
Ms. Tokushima heard the strain in his voice and was relieved that he wasn't completely emotionless. Kakashi needed someone to tell him to accept his feelings. His own logic was prohibiting him from truly committing.
"Don't be a fool. You stayed faithful to Sakura even though you have no obligation to her. You are thinking with your head and this is a matter of the heart."
Kakashi stood up and made his way over to the other side of the desk. He went through one of his desk drawers and found a small slip of paper. He pushed it across the table. "Read it."
Ms. Tokushima opened the small yellow paper to find a short note in neat writing.
Please make living arrangements for me this following week. Please do not tell Sakura, I would like for it to be a surprise.
Kakashi tapped his fingers against the desktop as he stared at the note on the table. "Her future husband will be here in a couple of days. Things are falling into place and they are not to my advantage."
Ms. Tokushima shook her head in exasperation. "Did you listen to me? You must take this one step at a time. First, we have Sakura call off the wedding and then you can win her heart. Continue to be her support and then she will come to you. I don't know why you are so worried. You seemed fairly confident the last time I saw you."
Kakashi tossed the yellow note into the garbage bin. "You haven't met Norio. I thought I had a chance with the time between now and the wedding to persuade her. But now that Norio is coming here, things won't be the same. I'm running out of excuses to see Sakura now that the project we are working on is almost finished. She will take the time she spent with me to spend time with Norio." She could hear the disgust in his voice.
"The small advances I have made will mean nothing once she remembers how he makes her feel. He's charming and he has a way with words that make people like him instantly. He offers her an escape from her current life and I think that she might take it."
They sat in silence, both of them deep in their own thoughts.
"If he is so charming, why don't you think she will be happy?" Ms. Tokushima could see the faint lines on his forehead as he contemplated her question.
"There is a thin scar behind Sakura's ear. It is hard to see most of the time. She hides it behind her hair and she flinches if anyone touches it. There is a story there, and there is pain, and that is the reason she is running away into a marriage she doesn't need. I want to know the story behind that mark. Norio probably hasn't seen it, or he hasn't bothered to ask about it. Perhaps he thinks that thin scar has always been behind her ear. He doesn't understand that the scar should have been healed and the only reason it remains is because Sakura felt like she deserved it.
"Norio only knows her as the pretty girl that leans on his arm like an ornament, because that is how she is in his world. The brief glimpses of her personality that he has seen are not enough to gauge who she is. And I know it's only a matter of time before she becomes fed up with being an ornament and by then it will be too late." He raised his hand to rub at his hair.
"When will you see her next?"
Kakashi looked out the window. "The sun is beginning to set, so she should be arriving at any moment now."
"I see." She stood up from the chair and patted his head affectionately. "I'll talk to her and see if I can get to the bottom of this. Remember, her betrothed may offer her an escape, but you offer her a home."
There was a sharp rap at the door and Ms. Tokushima turned around to see Sakura walk in the office
"Ms. Tokushima, what are you doing here?" Sakura gave her a hasty bow and placed her large stack of folders on a nearby table."
"I was only here to drop off a coat." She turned around to face Kakashi. "Why don't you try it on? I want to see how it looks before I leave."
Kakashi gave her a calculating look, but reached for the coat anyway. She heard Sakura's breath hitch as he placed his arms through the sleeves. Ms. Tokushima smiled to herself, there were few things more irresistible than a perfectly cut coat on the right person.
"It feels good," he said as he pulled at the cuffs with his wrists.
"It's form-fitted for you." She patted his chest and nodded her head in approval. It came down below his knees and had a high collar so he wouldn't need a scarf in the wintertime. A devious thought came to her head, and she did her best to keep herself expressionless. "And I'll work on adjusting your trousers. I didn't realize you needed so much room in the pelvic area."
There was a long and awkward silence.
Ms. Tokushima gave Kakashi a smile and turned away to pick up her bag. As she left, she noticed Sakura's eyes were not even close to looking at his face and situated somewhere decidedly lower.
"Have a good day," she patted Sakura on the arm as she made her way out of the office. Sakura looked at her guiltily and gave a timid smile.
Ms. Tokushima chuckled as she shut the door behind her. She should have practiced matchmaking years ago.
"Are you feeling okay, Sakura?"
Sakura looked up from her desk to see the nurse with concerned eyes. "Er… yes? What makes you ask?"
"Well…" The nurse's face turned pink in embarrassment. "You were humming to yourself. It wasn't bothering me at all, but you never do that."
Sakura looked at her with surprise. "I was humming?" As if a song had been stuck in her head all morning and her foot was still poised for another tap onto the floor. But she hadn't been aware that she was humming out loud. "I'm sorry."
"Oh no, it was lovely. Never mind, I suppose I was making something out of nothing." The nurse went back to her station.
Sakura shook her head and tried to get back on task, but five minutes later she closed the file in her hand. It was no use; she was now having a hard time concentrating.
"I think I'm going to go home after lunch," she said as she looked at the clock.
The nurse stared at her. "Ah… okay. I'll be sure to tell that to the others in the hospital."
"Do you think they will mind?"
"No, not at all. They might be surprised, you rarely leave work early. Have a nice afternoon, Sakura." The nurse gave her a pleasant smile as Sakura packed up her things to leave.
She walked down the streets of Konoha, weaving her way through the thick crowd trying to ignore the butterflies in her stomach.
Today was most likely the last day that she would work on Kakashi's eye. If all went well, Kakashi would no longer have Sharingan in a few hours. It was amazing she had made it all the way to lunch before she left the hospital. A part of her really wanted to talk about it with someone else, but the sensible part of her kept her mouth shut.
She ate her lunch at home and whittled down the rest of her afternoon by cleaning her house. The busywork kept her mind away from the nerves coursing through her body. Finally, she saw the sun was beginning to set and made her way over to the Hokage Tower. It was still a little bit early, but Sakura didn't want to wait anymore.
She knocked on the door and stepped inside to see that Kakashi was alone, staring outside the window at the village below.
They made their way over to the desk in silence, their usual habits becoming more like a ceremony.
Sakura placed her feet on the edges of his seat. "Are you ready?" she whispered.
"Not really," he admitted with a quiet chuckle.
Sakura pressed her hand against Kakashi's temple and followed the familiar pathways that lead to Kakashi's eye. The Uchiha chakra began to burble in agitation, but Sakura ignored it and focused on her work. The bond between the eye and his system were already severed, leaving only the barest of connections. She smoothed the ends of Kakashi's chakra system and began to push it forward to connect with the eye, pushing the foreign chakra back into dormancy at the same time.
She felt Kakashi's body turn tense. His hands had slipped down to where her feet were resting along either side of his thighs.
"That doesn't feel very good," Kakashi said as he gave her ankles a squeeze.
"Pressure is building up in your eye," she responded. "Now shut up and let me concentrate."
The chakra from the eye was flaring up and pressing back, but Sakura was able to keep her energy and Kakashi's steady. A tiny smile was beginning to appear on her face as she steadily pushed the Uchiha chakra back. She nudged Kakashi's chakra into place to compensate for the connection that was being lost. Slow and steady, she proceeded forward.
"I think it's working," she heard Kakashi mumble. She ignored him and kept going, afraid that a pause would regress her progress and cause the foreign chakra to fight back. She was somewhat aware of the sweat that was beginning to bead along her forehead and the passage of time as the sun began to set. But she continued her pace slowly, and finally, she could feel the pressure yield more and more.
She opened her eyes and looked at his face "Take off your eye patch," Sakura gasped. "I want to see this."
Kakashi removed to black strip of cloth and opened her eye to see. One of the tomoe had already vanished, regressing back a level. She gave the energy another nudge and saw the eye lose another. It was getting easier now. The eye was spinning and Sakura struggled to keep her concentration. The eye froze to a standstill and Sakura felt the chakra pushing against her own, her fingertips tingling with heat. Kakashi's grip around her ankles was tight and she knew the pressure in his head had to be unpleasant.
The red color began to fade away to reveal a dark brown eye. She felt Kakashi's face crinkle in delight as she closed her eyes. There were still a few things left to do. Kakashi's chakra system was disconnected from the eye and she had to reconnect it before it died from chakra loss. She connected his system to the dormant eye and sent her own chakra to massage the inflamed tissue. Finished, Sakura snapped open her eyes to look at her handiwork. The brown eye was still looking back at her
"Yes," she muttered as she looked at her handwork. Sakura lifted her hands and threw them up in the air. "YES!"
Giddy with success, she lunged forward to give him a hug. Unfortunately, Kakashi had the same idea, and as Sakura shifted her weight to the seat of the chair where her feet were resting, he was scooting the chair back in order to stand. They collided in an embarrassing display unworthy of the elite ninja that they were. Sakura was caught mid-crouch without anything to stand on and nearly tumbled onto the floor. She wrapped her arms around Kakashi's head since it was the only available object she could cling to. Kakashi was caught off guard as her entire weight shifted onto his upper body. His hands flew to her knees, hoping to stabilize his balance.
They clung to each other for one, terrible second, enough time for both of them to reflect that Sakura was stuffing Kakashi's face right into her cleavage.
Then the forces of gravity came into his play and Sakura's back smacked on the desk when Kakashi was no longer able to keep his balance. She grunted in surprise as she made contact with the uncomfortable wood and let go of his head when he tried to stand up. Mortified, her arms flung to lie on the desk on either side of her head. Her action scattered the neatly piled scrolls onto the floor in a loud clatter.
She winced and cast her eyes in the direction of the tapestry that hung on the wall, holding her breath for Kakashi's inevitable cheeky comment. But the moment passed as silence continued to reign, so she looked back to Kakashi. His eyes were not fixated on her breasts, nor was there a teasing smile on his lips. Instead, his eyes were focused on something just about her shoulder before they locked onto her eyes. Sakura noticed he had yet to let go of her knees, holding them up with a firm grip.
It would have been better if Kakashi had given her a proper grope, then she could have smacked him over the head, called him a pervert and the moment would have been over. She wanted him to let go or do something to break the quite stalemate that had spontaneously burgeoned. Kakashi seemed disinclined to do either and Sakura was stuck in her own traitorous thoughts and the intimate position that she was currently in.
His left hand began to move, his thumb grazing over her kneecap and making its way slowly up her thigh. Sakura felt her mouth go dry as her skin rippled with goosebumps. His eyes were locked onto hers and Sakura's breath hitched at the intensity of his gaze even as his fingertips danced along the edge of her shorts. He blinked and both of Kakashi's eyes crinkled into his trademark smile. The wandering hand reached up to her waist to snap her skirt down and the other pulled her up by the arm.
"I knew you could do it," he said in a cheerful voice as he gave her a polite hug.
Sakura bit her tongue to keep her attitude in check. She knew he was trying to get past the tension in the room by ignoring it, but she felt a little snubbed by his aloofness. Sakura slid off the table and glanced at the clock on the wall. She had been working on his eye for two hours and she felt cramped, uncomfortable, and starving.
"Do you want to have dinner? I'm really hungry."
Kakashi was tying the black strip of cloth around his face. Sakura had the urge to rip it off his face, annoyed that no one would see her hard work. "I would, but I'm afraid I can't do that."
"What? Why not?"
"Because there is someone coming to see you, and I'm fairly certain he will take offence if you have dinner with me instead of him. This took a little longer than I thought it would and he should be arriving at any moment now."
Sakura looked at him in confusion. "I don't know what you are talking about."
"I think Kakashi is speaking about me," said a male voice.
Sakura's mouth fell open when the door opened and she saw her betrothed standing in the doorway. "Norio! What are you doing here?"
Norio shut the door and reached forward to give her a hug. "I have come to see you before the winter set in as it will be a long time until spring. I could not sustain the idea that I would have to wait several more months before seeing you. I hope I was not interrupting anything important."
"Oh!" Sakura's face turned deep red in embarrassment. "No, not anything. Do you want to have dinner? I haven't eaten yet."
"That would be an excellent idea," he said as he smiled at her, the dimple she loved rising to his cheeks.
"Okay, I have to drop a few things off downstairs before we can leave. It will take me about half an hour."
"I will wait for you here," Norio said as he went over towards her.
Kakashi watched in horror as Norio leaned forward to kiss Sakura and he began to pick up the fallen scrolls on the floor.
He was not jealous. He was not jealous. He was not jealous.
Calm, Kakashi looked up once more and saw Norio's lips locked onto hers, his hand on her rear and his other hand lost in her hair. Okay, he was jealous.
He was not going to strangle Norio. He was not going to strangle Norio .
But he noticed something as he watched the couple that gave him hope. Sakura was uncomfortable, her arms stiff at her sides. She did not lean into Norio like she leaned into him. Kakashi placed the scrolls on his desk with a smirk.
"I.. uh.. sorry. You surprised me," he heard her mutter. "Oh, I'm so nervous that you're here. I don't think you've met my family."
Norio cleared his throat. "There is nothing to worry about. I think it will be a fine visit for the both of us. You may not be used to my advances and your people may not know my ways, but a kunoichi is a woman first."
She nodded, giving him a coy smile. "I will see you in half an hour." She practically skipped out the room, neglecting to say goodbye to Kakashi. He felt his irritation rise.
Norio nodded and made himself comfortable in one of the seats across from Kakashi. "And how have things worked out with you, Cousin?"
"Not bad," replied Kakashi, thinking of the best way to get retribution. "The village has hit a note of prosperity. We should be able to pay off some of the loans we have with your family in another year."
"Ah. Father will be pleased to hear about that. Speaking of which, he wanted me to inquire on your relationship status." Norio crossed one of his legs. "I hadn't the heart to tell him what I saw last July. I suggest you address the issue with him as soon as possible. You owe him your honesty about your sexual leanings."
Kakashi scowled. "That was a misunderstanding."
Norio frowned. "Misunderstanding? A misunderstanding is something that was overheard out of context. It is a little bit different to brush off what I witnessed."
Kakashi tapped his figures on the desktop, hoping that none of the village rumors would hit Norio's ears. "You don't understand. I was drunk and stupid and Tomio... He already knew that there was no meaning behind the kiss."
"If you insist, Kakashi. I don't particularly care about the circumstances." He leaned forward with an annoyed expression. "Honestly, I am more disappointed that the two of you stole my spot.
"I beg your pardon?"
"Sakura is a bit cold towards me. It is understandable and I do not begrudge her any of her hesitancy. It appeared that she and I had finally reached a certain amount of understanding during the party that night and I was looking for some privacy. I led her to the secret corner and we found the two of you there." He frowned, "It killed the mood."
Kakashi smiled beneath his mask, pleased by this delayed information. "Well, that's too bad," he said blithely. "I happen to be well known for taking things that once belonged to someone else."
"Well, it is a bit impolite. I do not care who you are, stealing things is simply rude."
"That is a rich accusation coming from you."
Norio frowned. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Kakashi cocked his head to give Norio a piercing look, "Absolutely nothing. Plagiarist ."
"You heard me." Kakashi reached into his left-hand pocket to remove a bright red book. "Could you imagine what Sakura would say if she found out all of those personal letters you sent her were actually excerpts from Icha Icha Violence ?"
Norio became very still as he stared at the red book on the desk. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
Kakashi raised his eyebrow and opened the book to a spot where the spine had cracked open. "Do not fear the beating of your heart, nor the fire that flows through your veins. It is love and passion that brings together conflicting ties of humanity, and it is man and woman that bring this world to completion. You may be the enemy, your people may not know my ways, but a ninja is a man first."
Norio was scowling at him. "I can't believe you carry that filth on you."
"Don't try to change the subject, Plagiarist." Kakashi smirked as he saw Norio's reddened neck, a sign of frustration.
"I will wait for Sakura downstairs," Norio responded as he stood up from his chair.
Kakashi chuckled as he put the book back in his pocket. Perhaps Norio's visit was a blessing in disguise after all.