|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2005-07-04 21:45:00
A few hours after Kakashi had left for his shopping spree,
Iruka woke to the sounds of someone being violently ill, and the sounds of
someone else moaning. With a yawn and a small tired sigh, he untangled his feet
from the blankets and walked quietly toward the bathroom.
Sakura was the one emptying her stomach into the toilet;
remembering entirely too clearly what it had felt like a few months earlier,
Iruka got a washcloth and wet it, and crouched by her side to wait for the
latest round of spasms to ease before he touched her cheek with the cool damp
fabric. The girl made a pathetic little whimper, eyes screwed tightly shut and
one hand clutching her head.
"Iruka-sensei, I'm going to die..."
He washed her face for her with a careful hand, and said
ruefully, "Believe it or not, a hangover really isn't life-threatening,
however much it might feel like it at the moment."
"You don't understand," she moaned. "I want
to die... have you got a kunai? Will you just cut my head off for me so it
Deciding it was best not to answer that one at the moment,
Iruka quietly guided her towards leaning her forehead against the cool,
slightly damp water tank, and got a glass of water for her. "Rinse your
mouth," he said, "and then sip at it, a little at a time. I'll be
back in a minute..."
Sakura clutched at Iruka's sleeve. "Don't leave!"
"You've gotten dehydrated, so I need to get a little
sugar and salt into your water," he said. "And I need to check on
Naruto too. I'll be right back, I promise."
With a groan, Sakura started beating her forehead against
the toilet's water tank. It only lasted about two thunks before she gave up,
whimpering again; with another sigh, Iruka headed downstairs.
Naruto was curled up on the couch with his face buried in
the crevice between the pillows, emitting a series of strange half-muffled
"Naruto? Naruto, don't do that, you don't want to
"Turn off the sun!" he groaned.
Iruka bit his lip to keep from laughing at that request,
because the poor boy wouldn't have taken it well. He couldn't turn off the sun,
of course, but hanging a heavy blanket over the window blinds seemed to serve
almost the same purpose. It was only a few minutes' mixing to fill two glasses
with water and stir a pinch of salt and sugar and a few drops of lemon juice
into them, to make it easier for dehydrated bodies to accept the liquid; it
took a little coaxing to extract Naruto's head from the sofa, but when he was
huddled around the cup instead of away from it, Iruka headed back upstairs to
check on Sakura.
She'd crawled back into her bedding, the wrong direction, so
that her head was at the dark spot at the bottom of the blankets and her feet
were sprawled across the pillow.
"Sakura-kun, you really should drink this..."
Iruka considered for a moment, then untucked the blanket at
the bottom of the futon and tugged so that he could find enough of her head to
be able to locate her mouth. "I promise this will make you feel better
soon," he said, offering the cup. "Do you want help drinking
"Go away and let me die in peace..."
"You're not going to die," Iruka said, rather
tartly. "Now, I can either help you drink this or I can make
you drink this; which would you prefer?"
One of Sakura's hands wormed its way out of the blankets and
took the glass.
After he'd gotten a reasonable amount of fluid into the
hangover-stricken children, Iruka went looking for Sasuke, who was no longer
curled up under the kitchen table. He wasn't anywhere in the house either;
after a moment's thought, he went outside and looked up. Sure enough, the boy
was sitting on the roof, wearing an expression that said an interruption
wouldn't be welcome. Iruka sighed again, rubbing the hollow of his back almost
reflexively against the ongoing ache there, and headed back inside to find a
corner and a book to read while he waited for Kakashi to come back with the
groceries and Sasuke to come back from whatever brooding he'd found necessary.
It really shouldn't have taken hours for Kakashi to come up
with breakfast food, Iruka thought, opening a cookbook to look for recipes that
were easy to digest for hangover victims. But since it was Kakashi, he
wasn't really all that surprised, either.
Iruka only realized he'd dozed off when he woke again --
only his cookbook was gone, and had been replaced by a fluffy warm blanket and
pillow. He blinked around drowsily, digging a hand out of the blanket to rub at
sleep-fogged eyes, trying to focus on a pink and blue blur...
...a pink, blue, and silver blur...
"Good morning!" Kakashi said brightly, bending
over with a breakfast tray in his hands. "Feeling any more rested now,
love? Here, let me help you sit up--"
With a flurry of blankets, Iruka found that he'd scrambled
away and was shivering with his back pressed into a corner before he was even
consciously aware of moving.
"...Where is Kakashi and what did you do with
Kakashi didn't even blink. "I'm being good for two
"But... but you... but...!" Iruka gestured
"Hmm...?" Kakashi glanced down at the tray in his
hands, the rose in the vase, and the frilly pink apron adorned with hearts and
teddy bears. "...Oh, this? I just thought it would help me remember to be
good if I make sure to dress the part. And what's more wholesome than being a
Despite Kakashi's best intentions, a twitch of a grin was
starting to show through; he was clearly too used to relying on the mask as he
said, a little too wide-eyed and earnest, "Isn't the apron just adorable?
I found it at the kitchen shop, along with the little angel cookie cutters;
take a look at the toast..."
Sitting at the breakfast table after Kakashi had patiently
coaxed him down from his terrorized clinging to the top of the nearest
bookshelf, Iruka stared down in horror at the little angel toasts and tried not
They even had little raisin eyes. It was terrifying.
I should have known better. I should have thought. Leave
it to Hatake Kakashi to turn 'being good' into an act of psychological warfare.
Nobody else could manage to be so aggressively good at people...
Kakashi had insisted that a happy family ate meals together,
and had rounded up all three of the children and coerced them into chairs at
the kitchen table.
Naruto was still too busy clutching his head and whimpering
about the sun to notice anything unusual about his plate.
Sasuke was staring down at the toast with Sharingan-wheels
spinning in his eyes and a spasmodic twitch at the temple.
Sakura, hand over her eyes to block out the light, was
fumbling around her plate with one hand trying to find something edible. Her
fingers landed in the jelly; despite herself she looked through her fingers at
that, then realized she was sticking her fingers through angel-shaped toast.
Then she looked over at Kakashi to protest, and focused on
Naruto looked up at the scream. "Huh? Oh... good
"What the bloody hell's so good about it?"
"Well, the breakfast is good," Kakashi said
perkily. "Made with all my love and devotion--" There were even
sparkles dancing in the air around him. Iruka didn't want to think about how
he'd come up with the jutsu to manage that.
Somehow, Sakura seemed to be impervious to the sparkles.
"And YOU! ANGEL TOAST? What the HELL--"
This was shaping up to be quite a morning-after, Iruka
thought, rubbing his temples against the wash of deja vu as he watched Kakashi
holding up a plate of cute bunny-shaped orange slices to try to coax Sakura
down from her trembling perch on the top of the refrigerator.
The sound of someone pounding on the front door was simply
icing on the cake.
Trying to ignore the sound of Sakura's high-pitched, almost
hyperventilating whimpers and the sway-and-glitter of Kakashi's
sparkles-no-jutsu dancing over the walls like the world's most horrible,
seasickness-inducing wallpaper, Iruka made sure to pull the kitchen door firmly
closed before hurrying towards the front of the schoolhouse.
"Yes, just a minute, I'm coming--"
Iruka opened the door to find several of his students' parents
standing on the doorstep, apparently in the midst of a loud argument with each
other. Keeping a polite smile fixed on his face, Iruka hastily scanned the
mental list of potential disasters that could be in the making.
I don't know what trouble the three of them got into
beyond the drinking once Sasuke and I left -- I don't know who owned the clown
game Naruto beheaded, might be him -- I don't know who owned the bar -- I don't
know who might have reported them to the authorities for being underage -- I
don't know what happened AT the bar – yes, this is going to be far, FAR too
long a day on four hours of sleep...
Trying to keep the nervousness out of his voice, Iruka
started on a polite introduction, but only made it through "May I
hel-" before the man who'd been pounding on the door had stormed indoors
and was shouting in his face.
"How long did you plan on teaching our children like
this, eh? Teaching them your disgusting 'lifestyle choices' -- how you ever got
hired in the first place is beyond me, you--"
Iruka felt his knees giving way, but couldn't seem to summon
the control to do anything about it. He felt as though he'd just been punched,
as though his throat had knotted shut and the air had turned to acid in his
What -- how -- who noticed? --How COULD anyone
notice? There are no Hyuuga or Uchiha here, not beyond Sasuke; how did anyone
else see through the jutsu to see that I'm a man in disguise? Why would they
look? Who suspected we were ninja? Who
discovered it-- how long ago-- who told them...?
Someone was helping Iruka into a chair, making little
fussing sounds with a furrowed, unhappy brow, and the words being shouted at
each other around his head didn't even make sense. The first thing to do was to
relearn to breathe.
None of these people are ninja -- or if they are, what
would they gain by revealing that my body is a disguise? How could they reveal
me without revealing themselves-- there's no proof they can point to in public,
no one's tried to dispel the jutsu, I'm sealed now anyway -- but -- we were
never given the details, maybe one of them has another bloodline like the
Hyuuga or the Uchiha, maybe that's why we're -- but -- but in that case we've
been here eight months, I've been pregnant for half a year, why NOW-- what
"What's going on here?"
Iruka clutched at the sound of that voice like a lifeline.
Kakashi was still wearing the apron and smiling like their own portable indoor
sunbeam, but the tinge of warning in his voice was still audible.
"You!" the door-pounder spat at Kakashi. "You
lazy good-for-nothing, couldn't find a woman of your own race who'd have
"--What?" Iruka wheezed, now completely
"You bigoted idiot," someone else shouted from the
midst of the pack. "Her race is the least
of our questions--"
"Iruka-sensei," said a gentle voice right beside
his ear, "ignore them, ignore them all, most of us think that there's
nothing wrong with your relationship with Hatake-san--"
"--most of who?
I most certainly do have a problem
with a woman pregnant out of wedlock teaching my children about--"
us that they're married--"
"--neither of them wears rings, she hasn't taken his
"--that lazy-assed slum-picker couldn't get a woman of
his own race so he went and picked up some stray wog bitch from the dog pound
None of them saw anyone move, but suddenly the last speaker's
head rocked back and he hit the floor like a sack of grain. The thud of the
body hitting the floor seemed to silence all the hysterical accusations with
Kakashi's smile was on the verge of manic; on the tray he
was still holding as though it were about to be used as evidence in a trial,
the jelly on the angel toasts was swaying very slightly, and the tea in the
cups was a bit rippled, though not a drop had spilled.
"Excuse me; I'm not quite sure I heard him correctly
before whatever drugs he's clearly been overindulging in caught up with
him," Kakashi said, terrifyingly mild-voiced. "Would someone care to
explain what precisely you people are doing here?"
There was a long, long moment of silence.
"He said it badly, Hatake-san," one of
the parents said, looking at the body on floor. "Very, very badly."
"Yes," Kakashi agreed, showing far too many teeth.
"He did. Care to clarify?"
There were a couple of desperate-sounding thumps coming from
the other side of the kitchen door, as though the three inside were trying and
(mercifully) failing to break it down; Iruka silently thanked the gods that
Kakashi had had the wit to keep the children out of this.
He was slowly starting to catch up with the frenetic pace of
events, and he put both hands over his mouth to keep from bursting into
somewhat hysterical laughter that would have been wildly inappropriate.
Is that all they
have to hold against me? I could understand being horrified by learning their
town harbors a trained team of assassins, living undercover as their children's teacher and her
family... or by the knowledge of a male assassin posing as a schoolteacher and
...'stray wog bitch' -- is that truly what they think when
they look at me...?
...is that ALL they have against me, against us...? Nothing
about assassins in their midst, nothing about a man living as a woman, just the
shade of my skin, and my name, and rings...?
The meek-voiced apologist pushed a pair of wire-framed
spectacles up his nose, and coughed a little apologetically, and said to the
tops of his shoes, "Our children have told us for months about
Umino-sensei and her baby, of course. It's just that until last night, not all
of us had seen you both together, you see..."
"And there we were, dancing in public -- ah, the
scandal of it, I see now," Kakashi said, far too helpfully.
"Of course you're worried about the scandal of your schoolteacher's erotic
dancing with me in the village square. Even six months baby-round and covered
from shoulders to knees, obviously a mere glimpse of her luscious golden body
is going to tempt any red-blooded man into a frenzy..."
"Kakashi!" Iruka yelped, feeling his face
"It's not that the two of you were dancing with
the group in the square, Hatake-san," the apologist murmured, adjusting
his glasses again. "Of course you can dance like the rest of us--"
"It's nice to hear that I qualify as 'like the rest of
you' despite the fact that I'm so pigmentationally challenged when compared to
my gorgeous golden dancing-seductress here."
"Hatake-san--" The apologist took off his glasses
and rubbed at the bridge of his nose. "Hatake-san, Sanada-san is... well,
a 'traditionalist' is putting it more kindly than it deserves. He doesn't speak for all of us. The rest of
us -- we don't mind her race. We wouldn't have hired her if we did."
"Really?" Kakashi asked, wide-eyed. "That's a relief. I'd thought that perhaps your
superintendent was blind, and that was how she'd slipped past your screening
The apologist flushed a deep red, and said, "We have no
quarrels with Umino-sensei herself, by
herself. The question that has been raised is more to do with, er, Umino-sensei
as a plural--"
Kakashi blinked wide innocent eyes toward Iruka's stomach,
and said, "Good heavens, when did that
happen? Yes, she does seem to be more plural than usual at the moment; I wonder
how long that's been that way? You say none of you noticed until last night?"
another of the men said stiffly. "The issue here is that... your name is Hatake, and hers is Umino. And you
don't wear rings. And many of us are concerned about what Umino-sensei might be
teaching our children about the importance of marriage to the father of a
"Especially when the father is a lazy albino
good-for-nothing and the mother isn't?" Kakashi asked, still holding the
tray full of angel toasts and speaking as cheerfully as though he were
commenting on the weather.
"Hatake-san -- Sanada spoke very badly."
"I'm just making sure we all know what we're talking about.
So the full list of your issues are that we don't wear rings, we don't share a
name, and I sunburn too easily for her? And that she dances so beautifully, of
Still wearing the terrifying chirpy-homemaker face over the
pink apron, Kakashi said far too perkily, "I'm sorry I was so thoughtless!
Trust me, I fully appreciate how
beautiful and desirable she is. Of course
I should have brought blindfolds to distribute, and hankies for the nosebleeds!
Silly, silly me; I'm so thoughtless some days. Do any of you need blood
transfusions? I'm sure I can round up some volunteers--"
Iruka's mouth was opening and closing silently, trying to
come up with some non-cover-blowing way to remind Kakashi that 'blood
transfusion volunteers' were not rounded up by nailing his students'
parents to the wall with senbon and collecting what helpfully spilled out.
"Look, are you married or aren't you?" one of the
others demanded, impatient with the apologist's faltering of the interrogation.
"And if you aren't, what are you going to do about it? She's our
children's schoolteacher, for God's sake--"
Kakashi turned toward the new speaker, beaming. "Ah -
the condensed version! Thank you, sir. Much appreciated!" He set the tray
down and walked over and shook the man's hand, despite his victim's startled
and uncomfortable attempts to pull away.
...But there weren't any sudden screams of pain, Iruka realized
with a sort of giddy relief; perhaps the vow to be good was holding anyway,
despite the extreme and undue provocation.
Kakashi walked over and set a hand on Iruka's shoulder, and
a thumb was tracing scout-kanji into the back of his shoulderblade: don't
"All of you are parents, of course, so surely you
understand what it means that she's in her final trimester now," he said
to the crowd, practically sparkling with indulgent pride. "I keep telling
her she's not overweight, and of course she's not; she's simply gaining what
the baby needs. So her rings have gotten too tight to be comfortable. There wasn't
a point in resizing them for a couple of months, and then resizing them
The woman who'd come to Iruka's rescue with the chair swatted her husband
across the head and said, "I told you
that she wasn't wearing her rings because of her pregnancy! But would any of
"That doesn't explain why he isn't wearing them--"
As the crowd degenerated into arguments and accusations
again, Kakashi squeezed Iruka's shoulder in gratitude that he hadn't twitched
too visibly at the excuse, smiling fondly down... and Iruka had to resist the
urge to try to tug the collar of his shirt up to his chin, because he knew
Kakashi had chosen to stand right behind his shoulder for the view of the
Finally one of them clapped his hands sharply together, and
took the interrogation by force. "So you're saying you are
"Yes, of course we are. We took our vows in a private
ceremony last year, witnessed by four of the lords of Fire Country,"
Kakashi said, with such vast and sober piety that Iruka choked, wheezed, and
desperately clamped a hand over his mouth to keep from bursting into laughter.
He had a sinking suspicion he knew exactly which day Kakashi
meant -- it had involved an extremely drunk jounin proclaiming his love from
the top of the Hokage mountain, pouring a libation over their stone skulls as a
'wedding toast,' and collapsing in a snoring heap before Iruka could even
summon the coordination to say yes, no, or beat him over the head. Which made
it at best a half-complete
mock-wedding -- but at least it gave him a grasp of a date to use as an
anniversary; and he'd thought Kakashi was too drunk to remember the event at
"And you still
haven't gotten around to legally changing her name?" the impatient one demanded.
"We haven't because we don't intend to," Kakashi
said, all earnest sincerity. "Both of us are orphans. We'd like for both
of our family names to continue. So some of our children will have her name,
and some will have mine." He bent forward and cupped a hand against the
curve of Iruka's belly, and said, "Of course this one will have your name,
love. You're the one doing all the hard work carrying him; it's only fair that
it's your turn first!"
Iruka was still trapped making voiceless goldfish-faced
gasping expressions, torn between what do you mean, 'some of our children?'
I don't remember agreeing to do this again, let alone several times! or what
do you mean, my name? Your family already has two legends to continue; I'm just
a schoolteacher! or the general all-purpose howl of frustration which was
sounding better and better all the time.
"That's awfully convenient, " the impatient
one growled, with half-lidded eyes. "So where are the wedding pictures?
Any kind of visible proof?"
"Do you take all of your wedding pictures with you on
vacation?" Iruka demanded, his voice cracking a little high in panic.
"Albums are heavy to pack--"
And meanwhile his mind was spinning through they'd be within their rights to demand a
certified marriage certificate, we'd have to contact the Hokage for that, which
would mean admitting a tie to Konoha-- damn it, why didn't Naruto's graffiti
talents ever extend to forgery? We should have expected they'd demand proof
sooner or later rather than simply taking our word for it, I wonder if
Sakura-kun's seen enough paperwork in the Hokage's office to fake a marriage
The indignant woman hit her husband over the head again, and
said, "Iruka-sensei, never mind him, he's going to get an earful when we
get home! Just show him your wedding rings and hopefully we'll be able to shut him up and get the lot of them out
of your hair."
"I, er, I think they're upstairs," Iruka said
hastily, his mind scrambling for anything small and circular that would hold
enough of a transformation to support a tactile inspection. Kunai-hilts? Or -- milk jug rings or-- I'll
--except that Kakashi had already tossed a little velvet box
to the skeptic.
"Do you want it signed, sealed, and notarized too?"
he asked, with an edge under the too-angelic tone that would have had any
sensible person running to hide.
"That's three rings," the skeptic said, blinking
into the box.
Kakashi held up an empty hand, and said, "When she
couldn't wear her rings any longer, I put mine with hers, to keep them company.
It would have been cruel to flaunt that I could still wear my rings when she's
so uncomfortable about her changing appearance."
"And would you swear to that in a court?"
"In a heartbeat," Kakashi replied, without
blinking. "I'll swear it to you right here. If you want the two of us to
have our rings on hand for inspection at will, I'm sure I can find a jeweler to
sell us a couple of necklaces we can put them on; but my ring won't touch my
finger until hers can as well. It's a sensitive topic for her, the way that she
looks lately. Ask Satori-san about the difficulties they had convincing my wife
that she could be fit to be seen splashing in the pond with the children, or
the trauma of shopping for a dress and tidying her hair and make-up for the
festival, since you won't take my own word for it."
The skeptic looked around for some more support; but the
apologist was trying not to stare at the one on the floor who'd started
twitching and frothing at the mouth, and the skeptic's wife had balled up a
fist that looked to have a near magnetic attraction to his skull, and the others
were industriously looking anywhere else.
"Really," Kakashi said, far too ingenuous for
anyone's good. "It's a long trip back to Fire Country, and I don't want to
leave her alone for very long now, but if you're that concerned about the legal status of our private and intimate
behavior, well -- some of our former students came to visit during the festival.
We can ask one of them to run back to our home village and request that the lord
make a signed and sealed copy of our birth certificates, our marriage
certificates -- while we're at it, why don't we get a copy of Iruka's teaching
certificate and diploma? After all, you only have our word for it that she's
certified to teach as well."
"Oh-- and immunization records too! Wouldn't want her
to be able to transmit chicken pox or measles or such to the class. Will that
be good enough? Although I suppose full hospital records would really be
better, to demonstrate that we're not harboring any infectious diseases -- of
course, we should get those signed and notarized too, as proof that they
haven't been tampered with in transit..."
A couple of them had slipped out the door while Kakashi was
so helpfully itemizing his list of things that their word wasn't good enough
for. A third wasn't as lucky, and tripped over a pair of sandals when trying to
make his quiet escape.
"Really, we can have it all certified if you'd
like," Kakashi said, looking far too saintly in the pink fluffy
teddy bear apron, and there was a suspicious overabundance of sparkles in the
sunbeam that shone through the front window and warmed the chair Iruka was
sitting in. "It's good training for the children to run for days on end.
Physical exercise, you know. It may take a month or two to get everything
signed and sealed; the lord is a very busy person. But I'm sure that if we
explained the circumstances, and your concerns about Iruka's fitness to share a
room and instructional lectures with your children, surely they'd make an
exception and hasten the bureaucratic paperwork--"
"That's... it's all right, Hatake-san; we'll accept
your word for it," the apologist said. "The most important thing here
is that you teach our children to value marriage, of course, and it seems that
you do value it yourselves, so it seems that our issues -- our reasonable issues, that is," he
amended, looking at Sanada's twitching body on the floor-- "have been
He took the box from the skeptic and handed it back to Iruka
with a slight, apologetic bow; then he turned for the door, and started herding
the lingerers out.
"Ah, leaving so soon?" Kakashi said, cheerfully waving fingertips after them. "Would you mind
taking the rabid one with you? Or at least drag him out into the schoolyard if
you don't want him either -- it's just that he's frothing on our floor, you
see. Given the delicacy of Iruka's condition, we wouldn't want her to come into
contact with whatever it is he's contracted... thank you, very kind of
Kakashi closed the door much too gently, and stood leaning
against it for a long, silent moment. Once the room was empty, the pure, ragged,
barely-suppressed power crackling out of him made Iruka's throat seize up, and made
it hard to breathe around the tension in the air.
"Kakashi," Iruka said, and couldn't keep the
terror out of his voice despite his best efforts. "Whatever you did to
that man -- he isn't going to die, is he?"
"What would I have done to him?" Kakashi asked,
not turning around; the sheer rage pouring off him was enough to make Iruka's
blood run cold. "Clearly frothing mad, lying there on the floor foaming
and twitching, someone should take him to a hospital--"
"Kakashi." Iruka's voice broke despite his
best intentions; he swallowed hard and tried again. "Tell me what you did
to him isn't going to be fatal. Please."
"Drunken jounin party pranks," Kakashi said.
"He'll be fine. ...In a few weeks."
Iruka let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding,
and let his head fall back against the wall. "Thank you."
"...Not going to scold me for the 'in a few weeks' part?"
Kakashi's attempt at the harmless-sheepish-diversion voice
was far less convincing when that earth-shattering rage was still seething
through the room, making the air itself all but crackle.
"I thought you'd killed him," Iruka breathed.
"Thank you for his life."
Kakashi lifted one shoulder in a stiff half-shrug, digging
one hand through his hair. "If monumental stupidity around ninja was that
fatal a mistake to make, the world's population would be much, much lower than
it is." He hesitated for a moment, then asked, "Are you all
Iruka considered for a moment, realizing that his hands were
trembling around the little velvet box. "I'm not sure," he said,
quietly. "I've... um... never seen you this angry before."
"I know," he murmured into the doorframe.
"I'm sorry. This is why I don't let myself lose my temper in combat. --But
this wasn't even combat; the bastard had no
excuse to speak of you like--" He stopped himself short, and placed one
flat palm very carefully against the wooden doorframe, because the alternative
would have had his fist going straight through it.
Then Kakashi drew a tense, shaking breath, and turned, and
smiled that terrifying homemaker-smile with too many teeth, and tried again.
"I should get a couple of necklaces, don't you think?"
Iruka looked down at the box in his hands to avoid having to
see the futile, trapped rage still simmering behind Kakashi's eyes, boiling
over without any acceptable outlet. It was a well-worn box, and Iruka fumbled
the lid open, hearing himself chatter through sheer nerves.
"These are good -- down to the worn patches in the
velvet even. I can't even tell they're an illusion; what were they to begin
with? How'd you fix them so solidly in this shape without any time to
prepare?" He folded his hands together in a couple of quick seals and
Iruka blinked, and then blinked again, and said,
A moment later, he realized why. "Oh," he
breathed. "They belonged to your parents, didn't they. That makes sense --
they're more durable to carry with you than a photograph, and you're hardly
easy on your uniforms... I hadn't thought that you would bring something so
important to you on a deep cover mission like this, or that you'd carry it on
you constantly like that, but... you're more sentimental than I realized,
aren't you?" With a rueful smile, he added, "Underneath all the
underneaths, finding something like this... I'll have to tease you, won't
Kakashi didn't respond; the air was still thick with power
spinning without an outlet, and so Iruka took the man's ring from the box and
looked at it more closely. "They're pretty," he said. "I don't
remember what my parents' rings looked like. I don't think they ever found
enough of them to find rings... I should ask the jewelers in Konoha, don't you
think? Someone might remember." He turned the ring in his fingers, and
said, "Did your father wear his on a chain? It barely looks worn. No
scratches or anything, it's remarkable..."
Kakashi made a noncommital sound.
"Do you want to go outside and destroy something?"
Iruka asked. "That treestump left over from the sudden-kitchen-remodeling
could stand to be knocked down; I'm always worried when the schoolkids start
climbing on it, some of the corners are jagged and -- er-- should I shut up and
just let you go hit some things already?"
"My timing," Kakashi said fiercely, "is horrible. All my life. Too young to save
my father, too slow to save Obito, too late to stop the Hokage, too late even
to put out the burning eggs or shut up that idiot's bigoted mouth; too late and
too slow for every damn thing that's ever mattered--"
The kids had stopped banging on the kitchen door. Iruka
hoped this was a good sign, or at least not a horrifically bad one, but he
didn't have the spare concentration to deal with it just then.
Kakashi dug both hands through his thick silver thatch of
hair, and then dropped his head back against the wall with a solid thunk, and said,
conversationally, half to the ceiling, "There's something I was meaning to
ask you last night. Actually I've been meaning to ask since we got here, but it
was never quite the right time -- anyway, I thought the festival would be nice,
you know? Nice quiet evening, we got to dance, I got to watch you eating ice
me about how you watch people eat ice cream," Iruka begged. "The
parents would fire me on the spot."
Kakashi chuckled, and padded softly across the room, and sat
on his heels by Iruka's chair. "Yeah. Well. There was a question I was
going to ask you, by the lake. Except then there was Naruto, and one thing
turned into another, and then the beanbags thing, and then it all went to hell, and... I can't
actually think how I could have come up with worse timing, now that I think about it. But it doesn't get any
better, does it? It might have if I'd just had a little more nerve last night,
if I'd just been a little faster, if Naruto had just waited a couple more
minutes, but... there's always something, isn't there? I was going to ask
sooner, but first we found out the hands-on way that it was even possible for people living in
sexy-no-jutsu to get pregnant, which I probably wouldn't have believed unless
I'd seen it, which we are seeing of
course, but it was still a hell of an adjustment for both of us, and -- and
then there was the exploding kitchen, and then you were mad at me for something
or other, and then..." He stopped, and sighed, and bent his head to rest
on to Iruka's shoulder. "And then there was last night, and then there was
this morning, and damn but I want to strangle that bigoted ass, I want to
strangle all of them really--"
"Kakashi," Iruka said, cautious, "what are
you talking about?"
"I'm talking about how I'm a coward with terrible
timing," he said. "Horrible timing. The worst. Always, always too late..."
"And your lateness is new somehow?" Iruka asked
lightly. Kakashi snorted.
"No! No, it's not
new! That's the problem! ...That's always been the problem."
"I'm not sure how even perfect timing could have done
anything about the parents this morning," Iruka said. "And really, I...
I don't mind... what that one said. I'd rather have heard it, to know that
there are people who think that of me, than not to know at all; this way I can
expect it, I can try to prepare, try to think of ways to deal with it-- I
wouldn't be surprised if no one's taught these children about different races,
really; they're all fair-skinned, even our three genin are, and my family and the
Second Hokage certainly aren't typical of Konoha either. I suppose Asuma-san
gets his coloring through the Second's family... I really don't know why it had
never occurred to me that someone might object to us for that reason. Of all
the reasons that people might object to us, that one never even occurred to me.
But now that we have been warned, we
can try to counteract that prejudice for the children; so I'm oddly glad that
he said as much as he did, I really am--"
Kakashi finally put his fingertips to Iruka's lips. "That's
not what I'm talking about," he said, a bit huskily.
The air pressure was still oppressive, charged with swirling
currents of energy that all but crackled through the room. Kakashi seemed to be
having difficulty breathing too; he took another deep shaky breath and blew it
all out, then tried again.
The kitchen had been almost too blessedly silent, for too
long; there was something squeaking in there. "Kakashi," Iruka said
gently, "the kids-- don't you think it's time we let the kids back
"It can wait two more minutes," Kakashi replied,
distracted. "Can't it? Just two minutes, please--"
...That wasn't squeaking.
Suddenly, it all made a horrible, horrible amount of sense. The charge in the air, the spinning to
the power, now being met with crackling -- chirping--
Their eyes widened at the same moment.
no," Kakashi breathed, and launched himself at Iruka.
Naruto's Rasengan tore a hole in the kitchen door, then
sheared off when the Chidori deflected it into plowing a long crevasse through
the wall, and the snarl of spitting crackling power exploded halfway across the
I woulda taken out the door just fine
if you hadn't--"
"--You didn't need
to take out the door, you imbecile!"
"--people were screaming
at them, bastard, Kakashi-sensei was gonna do something major, I could feel it he
was so pissed, even when they stopped screaming it was all -- all -- dammit, somebody had to go help even if you're too frigid to give a shit what
happens to Iruka-sensei--"
mean you tear down half the building, moron!"
"--it woulda been just fine until you went and
screwed up my aim and--"
idiots! Shut the hell up and just let me go back to bed! My head's killing me, I want to throw up, I'm sick of you both -- I don't care anymore--" Sakura stormed up what was left of the stairs
and slammed the door to her bedroom.
A dangling piece of floorboard hanging through the ceiling wobbled
and dropped to the charred floor.
thought with his last remaining hold on rationality, is why pregnant women get accused of hysterics. Because they deserve to
have hysterics at moments like this. Anybody deserves to have hysterics at
moments like this.
The sound that was coming out of his throat wasn't human,
but he couldn't seem to stop it -- a hoarse, choking, keening noise that
hitched with his gasps for breath, halfway between hysterical laughter and a
Sasuke and Naruto paused in their arguing to look at their
teachers. And then they both went pale. With that last, madly dangling little
scrap of coherence, Iruka thought that it shouldn't have been possible for
someone with Sasuke's skin tone to turn any paler without actually being
possessed by Orochimaru and turning bone-white as a consequence.
"I'm sorry," Naruto whispered. "That was
stupid, wasn't it? I'm sorry, Iruka-sensei--"
"That," Kakashi agreed, softly, "was
so far beyond stupid I have no words. Both of you. Sit down, shut up, and don't touch a single goddamn thing until I
He turned and stalked up the fractured stairs two or three
at a time, and they could hear Sakura's half of the argument if not Kakashi's;
and from her screeching replies, it sounded like he wasn't about to accept the
excuse that it hadn't been her idea and that she wanted to sit in the dark in
peace because it wasn't her problem.
"Iruka-sensei?" Sasuke asked, low-pitched.
He couldn't breathe around the half-laughter half-sobs that
were trying to tear his throat raw; somehow he managed to wheeze, "Six
months... at least... Kakashi took six months to tear a wall out... you two --
not even twenty-four hours? We
haven't finished paying for the kitchen... Oh, god, what am I going to do...?
--why didn't I listen, Sasuke-kun?"
"What?" the boy asked warily, as though afraid
Iruka were going to snap at any moment.
Iruka scrubbed both hands across his cheeks; wheezing on a
mad, sharp giggle, he choked, "You told
me -- you had tents-- should've listened -- I wouldn't have known when you came
back, wouldn't have cared, wouldn't have spent half the night fighting with him
and crying and -- God -- if you'd just torn out the tent wall, who'd have cared? Why
didn't I listen? I shouldn't have let
you in the house, you could've destroyed the forest with your stupid little
rivalry if you wanted to, nobody would have noticed, it all would've been so
much easier, oh God, what am I going to do--?"
"Nothing," Kakashi said from the top of the
stairs, with a sullen Sakura in one hand and a bag in another; the pink apron
was soot-stained and dusty from the explosion, and it was one more thing too
much for Iruka to take. Kakashi took the steps three at a time on the way back
down, and pushed Sakura at the boys, and crouched on the floor beside Iruka.
"You're not going to do anything," he said firmly.
"I'll take care of it. You're going to go stay at a spa with Sakura for
the day, and probably the weekend, and you're going to soak in the
going to relax and when you get back these two idiots and I are going to have
dealt with it all and you won't have to do anything about it."
"But-- you-- they-- the wall, the schoolroom,
there's got to have been structural supports in there and-- and--"
"I'm being good for two weeks, remember?" he said,
with a fingertip to Iruka's lips. "That means nothing is allowed to upset
you on my watch. That means it's my responsibility. And... I'm hoping someday you
can forgive me for being two minutes too damn late again. But for right now? You're going. Sakura, you're carrying the
bag. Satori's uncle runs the spa on the south side of the mountain. See if
he'll give you the family-friends rate. Tell Satori what happened, and don't
let Iruka go mad fretting over this, and you're not to let either of you set
foot off the grounds until I come fetch you both."
"The sooner you get Iruka there, Sakura, the sooner you
can shove your head under a pillow and go back to sleep."
That penetrated the girl's sullen hung-over haze.
"Right," she said, and grabbed the bag with one hand and Iruka's
elbow with the other.
"I told you how much my timing sucks," Kakashi
said dryly, "but I'm trying to
work around it, I really am. Do you happen to grade on partial credit?"
As in, they only half destroyed the
"Okay, never mind the partial credit," Kakashi
replied, waving goodbye far too perkily for anyone wearing a tattered and soot-stained pink
apron dangling by one remaining strap. "Go on. Have a vacation. You like
onsen. Go relax! You deserve it; you need
it by now. --And don't worry! Remember, I'm being good! For two whole weeks! It'll all be fine!"
Sakura dragged him off the porch before Iruka could explain
that from what he'd seen that morning, Kakashi's definition of 'being good'
worried him even more than Tsunade's idea of a sure bet. He tried appealing to
her good nature.
"Sakura-kun? Sakura-kun, really, I don't think we
should just leave them there -- the boys need you around to keep from ripping
each other's heads off, Kakashi needs me around to keep from taking dangerous
and stupid and illegal shortcuts when it comes to funding repairs-- trust me,
we found that out last time-- really, we should go back and help--"
"Like bloody hell we are," Sakura growled, making
Iruka blink at her tone of voice; he'd never heard that particular sound come out of the ordinarily ladylike girl.
"I'm getting the hell away from all three of those idiots, I'm getting a quiet
dark room where nobody can piss me off and I can shove my head under a pillow
and die without anybody tearing apart
the building around me, and if the only way I can do it is to drag you along
with me-- and Kakashi-sensei gets really
pissy when we shirk on missions-- then dragging you along is exactly what I
intend to do! Now shut up and start enjoying yourself whether you like it or
As they marched up the hill toward the traditional old hotel
where the hot spring guests stayed, Iruka silently composed a prayer he
directed toward the little moss-covered shrine Sakura hauled them straight
Little god, whoever
you are, please don't let any of them get to be dead, maimed beyond
recognition, or shooting their mouths off to my students' families while I'm
not there to take care of things. And please let there be a schoolhouse there
to go back to. I'm not even picky about how well it's standing, just let there
be something there, please? I'll come back with sweet rice and spring water for
you later, I promise, but I'm kind of getting myself a little kidnapped at the
moment, so please make a few allowances.
He clapped his palms together three times as they hurried
past, and managed a bobbled half-bow in the shrine's direction, and followed
Sakura up the hill.
(Up next: Kakashi being aggressively, vindictively good at
the boys, the boys with hammers they're not even allowed to use on each other's
skulls (how will they cope?), Satori and Sakura inflicting girl-bonding on Iruka, and more...)
See the next post in my journal for some reader-response-type questions? ^__^;;