|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2005-07-12 22:52:00
"Don't give me that," she growled.
"Kakashi-sensei gave me an assignment and I'm getting it out of the road
so I can go back to bed and you being embarrassed is not going to come between me and a dark room with a pillow! Now
sign where the nice man is taking and pick up that yukata and move it!"
The poor inn manager looked very nearly as flustered as
Iruka did; apparently he wasn't any more accustomed to aggressive teenage girls
coming in and threatening him within an inch of his life if he didn't get her
teacher into a bath and herself into a room as quickly as possible. "Ah --
"What?" the girl snarled.
"Nothing!" the man squeaked. "Nothing at all,
"Well, is or isn't it nothing?"
"It's-- er-- ladies in Umino-sensei's condition -- the
heat of the springs isn't exactly recommended, it's a bit counter-recommended
in fact-- I mean, Umino-sensei has a certain very valid point when she says she
oughtn't go into the springs themselves--"
tell me this is the first time you've had someone show up pregnant,
mister," Sakura said, steely-eyed.
Iruka wondered a bit wildly if he should mention this
hangover-induced alternate side of her personality to a trainer who would be
able to use its full potential -- say, Ibiki-san in the torture and
The poor cowed inn manager actually flinched behind his
serving tray, as though it might be some sort of protection, and started to
chatter wildly. "No -- no, of course not! -- ahahaha -- of course not,
there are wooden baths where the spring-water's mixed with cooler water for our
more delicate and frail guests -- not that I'm saying Umino-sensei is frail,
not at all! In fact the cypress baths are particularly recommended for late
pregnancy -- the minerals in the water, the warmth -- er, in any case, not a
problem at all, just -- not the onsen themselves--"
"So you have
got facilities Iruka-sensei can use?"
"Yes, of course-- of course we do, Haruno-san, the
baths are quite safe, quite soothing really-- ha ha-- er--"
"That's all I needed to know," she said to the inn
manager. "Iruka-sensei, sign your name and take that yukata. Right now."
Sakura dropped her head back and howled with frustration.
"I'm signing!" Iruka said hastily, and did so.
"It's all right, mostly. We'll find you a nice room and everything. That's
not the issue--"
"If that's not the issue, then there isn't an issue, got it?"
"Haruno-san--" the inn manager squeaked.
Iruka wondered if anyone in this village had ever given the
man genin-level concealment training, because he was certainly hiding a
remarkable amount of himself behind the questionable protection of one rather
"Haruno-san -- because of Umino-sensei's condition --
it's, ah, recommended -- somewhat strongly recommended -- that she should stay
with a partner who could make sure that she isn't overheated, or doesn't slip
on the wet stones, and--"
"It's all right!" Iruka said hastily, waving both
hands. "I just won't go into the baths, Sakura-kun can go to her room and
I won't be in the baths so I won't need supervising and it'll all be
Sakura groaned, turned around, thumped her head against the
wooden pillar she'd been leaning against, and said, "No, it's not. All
right. We're both heading to the baths as soon as I drop this bag in our room.
Where's the room?"
you get it through your head that you're here to relax whether you like it or not?" She shook her head
gingerly, picked up Iruka's yukata as well as her own, and stabbed a finger at
the cowed manager. "Room. Now."
"Yes ma'am," he said, and scurried ahead of them
along the hall. He opened a door at the far end and bowed frantically as Sakura
stalked after him, chattering a mile a minute about how he hoped everything was
satisfactory and he'd personally see to their every requirement and let him
know the moment anything was needed; Iruka couldn't catch his eye long enough
to apologize before Sakura hauled him into the room too and shut the door in
the inn manager's face.
She dropped the bag on the floor, sank to her knees almost
as though she were wilting, and scrubbed both hands through her hair with an
aggravated sound, then struggled back to her feet and started unzipping her
dress. "Yukata," she muttered like a mantra. "Yukata, baths, bed. I can do this."
As gently as he could, Iruka put a careful hand against the
nape of her neck and rubbed a little, his fingertips seeking out the pain-knots
there. "Sakura-kun," he said. "Really. It's fine with me if you
want to sleep. It's fine if we don't go to the onsen itself-- we're here at the
inn, we're out from underfoot; that's close enough to your orders, isn't
fine if we don't go to the baths," she said stubbornly. "I've got
med-nin training, remember? Every time I look at you I want to scream about how
much stress and emotional upheaval those morons have put you through, and how much
you need to relax and regain your
balance. And I know you love onsen, and I'm not about to let you spend a
weekend in this inn without setting foot in any of their soaking-baths! I don't
know what your problem is, but those idiots have given you problems enough
without you adding onto the collection by yourself--" She started working
her arms out of her dress, and Iruka turned around hastily, afraid he was
blushing to the roots of his hair.
Even hung over and completely miserable, Sakura still wasn't
stupid. She was utterly still for a moment, putting the pieces together; and
then she groaned softly, and there were more fabric-rustles, and then she put a
hand on Iruka's shoulder and pulled.
Safely dressed in her yukata, and with one eyebrow
twitching, she informed her painfully blushing teacher, "It's not like
I've got anything you haven't seen before. It's not like I've got anything you
haven't seen every day for the past several months, in fact. Iruka-sensei,
pardon my bluntness, but you're being as stupid as Naruto. --Although in the
opposite direction. Not that that helps." She flopped down cross-legged
atop a folded futon, and said, "Talk."
"I'm male, remember?" Iruka said defensively,
looking anywhere but at her.
Sakura snorted her opinion of that. "You could have
fooled me. More to the point, you're going to fool anybody who looks. You're
quite convincingly female right now; you'd get a lot more stares walking into
the men's side than into the women's side."
"But that's the point,"
Iruka said with a sigh, and settled himself carefully beside her. "I can't
go into the men's side because of how I look,
but I can't go into the women's side because of who I am. It wouldn't be right. It'd be as bad as if Naruto had taught
Jiraiya-sama his jutsu and Jiraiya-sama used it as a free pass to go and peek
at women in the baths by getting in with them--"
"Are you actually crazy or just spectacularly
dense?" Sakura asked. Iruka blinked, several times. The girl shook her
head again, flopping back onto the futon with a groan and staring up at the
ceiling. "Now I almost see where Naruto got it from. That's terrifying.
Anyway. Iruka-sensei-- in case you hadn't noticed, you're not Jiraiya-san."
"I know that," Iruka said, flushed and
"No, I don't think you do." She rolled over and
fixed him with her best glare. "If you were anybody else -- if you were
Jiraiya-san or Kakashi-sensei or Naruto, there's no way we'd be sitting here
having this conversation because they'd already have tried to race off to get
into the women's baths, and I'd already have either knocked them cold or
drugged them with something and tied them up gagged and blindfolded in a
closet. Admit it."
"Gagged and blindfolded in the closet?" Iruka
managed. "That seems a little excessive..."
here," she said, poking his shoulder, "is that you don't think like a raving hentai. You
think like a teacher, or a little like a doctor -- if you found me with a gash
across my chest, you'd bandage me up and you wouldn't grope me while you were at it. And yes, that's technically
possible. It's got everything to do with intent. --And with drool, or lack of
it," she added irritably, rubbing her temples. "Hard to miss the
"But it's still not... proper... I mean, if the other
women knew that I was a man..."
"Iruka-sensei, in case you hadn't noticed, you're gay," she said, enunciating carefully, as though speaking to
someone who barely grasped the language.
"But I -- er -- what difference does that make? I'm
look at women like sex objects. That makes all the difference in the
world," Sakura said. "You look at women like almost-normal people who
happen to curve in weird places. You look at women the way most women look at
each other, without wanting anything sexual from them -- either that or you
look at them and blush like a kid who's been scolded about propriety even if he
doesn't understand why! In any case, you certainly don't look at me like you
want to have sex with me. Aren't I right about that, at least?"
"Of course I
don't -- I'd never -- you're my student,
you're barely a teenager, I'd never -- I couldn't--!" Iruka sputtered to a
stop and buried his face in both hands. "I can't believe I'm having this conversation with you! But I'd never look
at Naruto or Sasuke-kun like that either--"
"Okay, I need a better example," Sakura admitted.
"Kurenai-sensei. She's an attractive person. And if you were in a bath
together, you wouldn't ogle her either."
"She's a co-worker! And
a jounin! It would be beyond rude; it'd be verging on suicidal actually--"
"That didn't stop you with Kakashi-sensei, did
With his shoulders hunched around his ears and his face
buried in both hands, Iruka managed, "I didn't -- I wasn't -- that is --
um. ...Kakashi was the one doing the ogling..."
Sakura groaned. "Yes, of course. Of course he was, we're talking about
Kakashi-sensei. And we're talking about you, too. ... Still. You're not making
this easy, you know. --You're intelligent enough that you've got to have seen my point."
"Yes, but -- Sakura-kun..." He stopped, and
sighed, and said carefully, "Sakura-san,
then, since you're thinking and reasoning like a grown woman. I do see your
point. I grant you that ogling women in a bath would be the farthest thing from
my mind. Truthfully, not dying of embarrassment would be my biggest concern.
"But what?" Sakura said, grinning. "But you
can't admit I'm right?"
"You're right," Iruka said quietly, looking out
through the shoji screen at the shadows of the trees in the garden. "But so
am I, I think. If you were a woman in a public bath who was told that one of
your fellow bathers was a man transformed into a woman -- you wouldn't stop to
ask whether he was actually a nice person, whether he was a teacher or a doctor
or -- or otherwise not interested. You'd just want to pound the man into next
week and then demand a refund and an apology from the bath-house owner,
"Yes," Sakura admitted, "but I'm accustomed
to life in Konoha, which means life around a pack of congenital perverts with
ninjutsu skills. People here aren't used to thinking of ninjutsu skills, and
you wouldn't fit even the most wild-eyed definition of 'congenital
pervert.'" She studied his face and the embarrassed hunch of his shoulders
for a minute, and said, "And I'm still not convincing you, am I."
"I'm sorry," Iruka said, head bent.
Sakura chuckled a little. "Don't be. Your entire
problem is that you're too nice for your own good; people don't get the chance
to walk all over you because you walk over yourself for them."
"Sakura-k-... I mean, Sakura-san..."
"Don't," she said tiredly, shifting closer and
leaning her head against Iruka's shoulder. "Please don't. I'm not that
grown up. I'm young enough to have been really stupid about getting myself drunk
last night, anyway. And... I'm jealous, too."
"Jealous?" Iruka said, startled. "What on
"I'm jealous of them," Sakura admitted, eyes
lowered. "Of how Kakashi-sensei treats Sasuke-kun, of how you treat
Naruto... I've never had a teacher who thought I was that special, a teacher
who liked me as me, rather than as a
bright student. I'm the class genius, not the teacher's pet. It's only natural,
I guess -- Sasuke-kun has his bloodline, Naruto has that insane chakra, they
have the kind of raw natural potential that makes teachers pay attention to
them. I'm book-smart but I'm just normal in terms of strength, and I'm a girl
on top of it; nobody ever expects as much from a kunoichi as from a shinobi. And...
I mean... we've gone to bath-houses before, and the guys are over on the other
side splashing and horsing around and trying to drown each other; and sometimes
Kakashi-sensei laughs, because of course anybody would laugh at that amount of
idiocy, and there's always idiocy around those two... but... I'm always on the
other side of the fence, just listening, just wondering what fun they're
having. And I'm jealous."
"Sakura-s... I mean..."
"I don't want
to be 'Sakura-san' if the boys are still kun to you," she said miserably.
"I don't want to be that much farther away! Because I'm already the one on
the outside listening, wishing I could really be a part of the group the way
they are, instead of the third-wheel tagalong they have to protect... and so I
was thinking... it's silly, but... here, in this place, I'd be on the same side
of the fence. And when you laugh I'd finally be able to see why, because I'd be
there with you, so... so we could both laugh..."
Her voice caught a little in her throat, a little hiccup
verging on a sob, and Iruka enveloped her in a hug, resting his cheek against
the crown of her head and smoothing her hair. "You should have told
me," he said. "Why didn't you or Sasuke ever tell me? I told him last
night too -- neither of you should ever feel left out. Being a team means that
nobody gets left out! And so does being a family. I know I'm biased when it
comes to Naruto, because I feel like I'm the only family he's ever had -- but
families are meant to grow, you know? Just look at me right now for proof of
Sakura giggled softly against his shoulder, her breath still
a little ragged; Iruka tried even harder. "I... I'm not very good at being
a woman, I'm sorry about that -- Satori-san thinks I'm downright impaired at it
in fact -- but if you give me some hints I can try to be like an elder sister
for you while we're here. Satori-san said that girl bonding always has
something to do with playing with each other's hair. --Oh! I promise I won't do
anything irrevocable to your hair -- I know better than to cut it, I'm not that hair-sense-impaired, so you don't
have to worry about anything worse than crooked ponytails or something else you
could fix -- I'm really not very good at doing things with people's hair, but
if you'd like me to try, then we could, er, play with your hair? Or mine if you
like? And... we could eat chocolate. Or you could eat chocolate anyway, and I
could drink milk and pretend it was chocolate; does it work that way? And --
and we could gossip? Although I'm months out of the Konoha gossip loop, so that
wouldn't be very entertaining for you, would it.... I'll think of something,
Sakura-kun, I promise. Do you think you can stop crying? I promise I'll try my
best, and crying's only going to make your headache worse..."
Sakura sighed, and patted Iruka's shoulder as she sat up
with perfectly dry eyes, and she said, "Iruka-sensei, you were supposed to want to go find the baths so
we could sit on the same side of the fence. But thank you anyway. It's kind of
you to try."
His jaw dropped open. Then he closed it, and chewed on that
little nugget of information for a moment, and then said, "You little minx."
"I'm a ninja,
you know," Sakura said with half-lidded eyes. "And you're the one who taught me emotional
manipulation of vulnerable targets was rule number 17. Remember that class? I certainly do."
"Yes, I remember that class," Iruka said, on a
"That's interesting about Sasuke, though," Sakura
mused. "I doubt he'd have been trying number 17 on you. I mean, despite
the fact that he's brilliant and gorgeous and lonely and in desperate need of
someone like me to love him and heal his wounded soul--"
Iruka hoped his little choke of madly-bit-back incredulity
might be mistaken for a cough. Yes, she
said that with a straight face. She's a teenager. She's so painfully a teenager, despite her vocabulary and her
intellect; I can't let myself forget her real age either. These poor, poor
"--I do recognize he has some areas where he could use
some work," Sakura finished without blinking. "When it comes to human
interaction, he's either a walking ice cube or trying to tear your spleen out, and
it's really rare to catch anything in between. What on earth were you two talking about?"
"None of your business, Sakura-san," Iruka said, half indignant and half unwillingly amused;
but he didn't miss her little flinch.
"That part I wasn't faking," Sakura said, a little
rueful. "I really don't want you to treat me differently than the boys if
you can help it. And... I really do wish I could be there laughing and splashing
with them, on something closer to equal terms, even if it's only when we're off
duty where it doesn't matter that I'm too weak... Rule 18, after all," she
added with an attempt at a chuckle. "Emotional manipulation works best
when you're telling verifiable truths, because the story holds up better under
"I'm sure the hangover helps with coaxing yourself to
the verge of tears and sounding as miserable as you possibly can," Iruka
"Oh, definitely. Not enough that I'd ever want to do it
this way again; there are all kinds
of less unpleasant pain I can come up with on short notice. I think stubbing a
toe hard is going to be my standby in the future. But I thought at least I
ought to try to wring some use out of
the experience, as long as I'm stuck with the hangover at the moment..."
She hesitated a minute, and then asked in a very small and sheepish voice,
"How angry are you?"
"I'm not sure," Iruka said with a sigh. "I
can't tell whether I ought to be angry, or proud of how well you've studied, or
angry with myself for being proud of you for tricking me, or just give up and
get to resigned already. Congratulations, by the way."
Sakura rolled her eyes. "After the past 24 hours you've
had, Iruka-sensei, I'm amazed that you're functioning at all, not that I
managed to trip you up for a minute. You really do need some nice stress-free
relaxing time with no
building-destroying morons anywhere in sight. --And doesn't soaking in a nice warm
bath sound good?"
"You don't give up, do you," Iruka said, now
purely amused despite himself.
"Nope! Naruto's been demonstrating the art of
relentless, mindless prodding long enough that I've picked up the basics,"
she said with a grin. "I plan to put it to good use in
...And she says that
so proudly, like it's a good thing... teenagers. "That's nice,"
Iruka said, hoping his face was straight enough. "So what have you been
"Teaching Naruto takes a saint," Sakura said, rolling her eyes again. "A saint
with a lot of lungpower! You know that better than anybody. --I should call you
Saint Iruka-sensei until you surrender."
"I don't qualify as a saint," Iruka said.
"And I'm sure Kakashi
"Kakashi-sensei doesn't teach," Sakura said. "He hits you over the head with
things and waits for you to figure out whether or not it was a lesson once your
eyes stop crossing themselves. --And part of the lesson is in learning to tell
whether it was actually a lesson or just sheer gleeful harassment."
There needs to be
something I can say to defend him here, Iruka thought. There really does. He opened
his mouth to try, then sighed and dug a hand through his ponytail and said,
"Pretend I came up with a reply to that, okay?"
"Poor Iruka-sensei," Sakura said with a giggle.
"It's been a long day for both of us."
Iruka nodded, and started dredging up the energy to push
himself back up. "Let's lay out the futon so we can both get a nap before
dinner," he said. "Really. You've just wanted to go back to sleep
this whole time, and I'm exhausted too; everything else aside, I'd have been
afraid we'd both fall asleep and drown in a bath!"
"That's a good idea," Sakura replied, trying to
stifle a yawn. "And after nap and a dinner I'll have more energy to nag at
Iruka sighed a little, and changed the subject with an
effort. "Don't forget to take more aspirin. And a full glass of water.
It'll help when you wake up."
"Whatever you say, Saint Iruka-sensei." She
grinned at the way her teacher squirmed at that. "You are lecturing a medic-nin's apprentice about aspirin, you know,
even if you're used to Naruto."
"I'm sorry," Iruka said, sheepish and tired,
nudging one of the futon flatter with a foot. "I'm really not all together
"That's all right," Sakura replied. "I don't
usually tear people's heads off when trying to reserve a room either! I'm going
to have to apologize to the poor guy later. Turn around."
"Here." Sakura stepped around behind Iruka and
began unfastening the buttons at the back of the maternity gown, then blinked
at her teacher's yelp and startled clutch at the fabric. Then her eyes widened,
and then narrowed again.
"Iruka-sensei, for heaven's sake! If you're this jumpy
about undressing in front of another woman, what are you going to do when I
give you your prenatal examinations?"
woman? I mean-- prenatal examinations? I mean-- you? I mean--"
Sakura sighed, and moved to stand in front of her teacher
again, and pulled the dress fabric free briskly, as though she were simply dressing
an unusually tall (and peculiarly embarrassed) doll.
"Oh, hush," she said. "We're both girls here.
Aren't we." She picked up
Iruka's yukata and held it for a moment, eyeing the teacher who was trying
unsuccessfully to hide as much as possible behind frantic hands. "It looks
like you're lucky," she added, wickedly cheerful. "No stretch marks
yet! You might not get them at all, though it's too early to tell-- all right,
all right, here's your yukata--"
Iruka practically snatched it out of her hands and wrapped
it around himself, then stared down at the two obi that had been folded into
the package, without the faintest idea of what to do with them.
"Going to swallow your pride and ask any time this week?"
Sakura asked; Iruka gulped, and then nodded a little. She took the longer one
from him and folded back the front of the yukata so that she could reach around
Iruka's waist, then began wrapping and folding it to fit snugly beneath the
"This is an iwata obi," she said. "Traditionally
speaking, an older woman who's had children should have taught you how to wear
it, on the day of the dog in your fifth month, but we'll pretend. It helps
support your back and your abdomen at the same time; some mothers still wear
them under regular clothes because of the support. The other one is a heko obi;
it's soft so that it'll fit gently and flex with you. We're certainly not going
to tie you up in a regular woman's obi right now; you'd never be able to
breathe between the pressure from the baby and the pressure from the
obi-boards." She tucked the last end in, straightened the folds of the
yukata, and gently tied the heko obi about her teacher's waist, then patted
lightly. "See? Not so traumatic after all, letting one of your students
look after you."
"Thank you," Iruka said, blushing like a sunrise
and still shaken, trying to look anywhere except at their yukata. "But...
I mean... there's a difference between knowing obi and -- and prenatal
"Iruka-sensei -- externally, you're female," she
said, clearly looking for the simplest words she could find for a teacher she
considered unusually dense. "Internally, we don't exactly know. We've got
a reasonable guess, considering that you managed to get pregnant, but if
there's anything unusual -- your hip bones, for example--"
"Kakashi helped me with that," Iruka said
defensively. "We broke my pelvic bones and reset them."
--no, wait, I heard you, I just didn't want
to have heard you-- anyway. You still have a man's shoulders, even if you've --
ah -- adjusted the hips; there might be other unusual arrangements of the way
you stand, the way your weight balances, other internal things -- and I'm the
only trained medic for hundreds of miles that has any business knowing why you could be an unusual case for a
pregnant woman. And I'm sure you don't want a civilian doctor to hear you
screaming that Kakashi can bear the children next time while you're in the
middle of labor and not thinking about what you're saying. Right?"
"Yes -- yes, but-- Sakura-kun, you're too young to need
to know any of this, you shouldn't have to--"
"It's not a case of 'have to,'" she said
impatiently. "I'm training to be a medic because I want to. I want to be able to help people too, not just kill them.
And it's a lot more pleasant giving prenatal examinations than stitching
someone's perforated guts back together on a battlefield! I'm going to be a
medic-ninja, Iruka-sensei. I'm not
going to have that many chances to take care of people who aren't battle-wounded.
I want to help you. --And I'm good at
it! Tsunade-sama says I've got amazing chakra control, even. Is it because you don't
trust me? You think I don't know enough to help? Is that why you're worried about
how young I am?"
"That's not it at all,"
Iruka said, and sighed, and sank down on the edge of one of the futon again.
"That's-- Sakura-kun, I know how good your control is, and I know how intently
you study. I'm not worried about your skills in the least. If you were ten
years older -- five, even -- I wouldn't have any concerns at all."
though," Sakura said, frustrated. "It's not my fault I'm young! It's
not my fault I'm weak next to those two maniacs, it's not my fault I don't have
a bloodline limit, it's not my fault I'm a girl, but somehow it doesn't matter that it's not my fault because nobody
can see past it anyway--"
"Wait," Iruka said, putting both hands on her
shoulders. "Slow down. I never said anything was your fault."
"You didn't have to..."
"Sakura--" He stopped again, and carefully drew
her into a hug, because this time the way she was trembling on the verge of
tears wasn't calculated at all. "Listen to me. You're brilliant and you're
talented and if you were a few years
older I wouldn't hesitate. I'm only hesitating now because -- you're only half
my age, Sakura-kun, and I can't help feeling that I'm the one who's supposed to
be protecting and assisting you, not the other way around. I can't help that
I'm twice your age and your teacher, any more than you can help being young and
my student. It's just something that makes my heart ache, because you shouldn't
have to do things like this yet."
"But will you let me? --Please?"
It was the please that did it, really.
She truly wants this,
he realized. She truly wants to be a medic,
just like Naruto wants to be Hokage.
"Let's think of it as an extra class," he
suggested, smiling wistfully. "Your first hands-on medical internship.
Although I'm fairly sure this isn't what they mean when they say to teach by example,
I'm sure it will still be an educational experience for you, won't it? So I
wouldn't really be abandoning my duty as your teacher, just revising the
definition of a classroom..."
"That's a yes?" she breathed, eyes shining.
"Really? Thank you, Iruka-sensei!"
She flung both arms around him, bouncing up and down, and then wincing when it
jostled her still-aching head. "...Auugh! Remind me to pounce on you again
when my head's not trying to fall off, okay?"