|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2005-07-13 21:01:00
Side Effects, Chapter 15
Somehow, Iruka thought to himself miserably as Satori
brushed his hair on the evening of the harvest festival, this has turned out
to be the most painful part of being a woman and pregnant. Not the backaches,
not the tired feet, not the getting punched and kicked in places it shouldn't
be possible to be punched and kicked... no, getting yourself declared
'ready' for a party is definitely the most painful part.
Iruka had never really cared that he wasn't an attractive
person, not the way Kakashi and Sasuke were. They were both brilliant and
gorgeous; some people envied them that. Iruka might have envied the brilliance,
but since brilliance seemed to be tied to peculiar personality habits -- in
Sasuke's case a profound aversion to human company and conversation, in
Kakashi's case... well, too many peculiarities to list -- in any case, Iruka
occasionally spent a wistful thought wondering what it would be like to be a
genius, but all in all he was happier being just reasonably intelligent,
boringly reliable, and at peace with himself.
He'd never spent a single thought wishing he were more
attractive. It was enough to be aware that Kakashi appreciated him as he was,
and that living under sexy-no-jutsu and growing heavy with pregnancy hadn't
changed that. It was good to know that he wasn't repulsive to the one he loved.
But beyond that, attractiveness for its own sake was never something he'd
wanted. It had simply never occurred to him, until now.
It had never occurred to him that his lack of physical
beauty was something to mourn, or to deny, or to camouflage. Not until he
became a woman -- and even then, not until he became someone whom another woman
was determined to make pretty -- and to make feel pretty.
Satori meant well. That was perhaps the most painful part of
all. Satori thought that it was a crime that Iruka "lacked the
self-esteem" to make himself pretty with makeup and hair and dresses and
jewelry. And whenever Iruka tried to explain that he didn't mind not
being pretty, Satori was completely horrified at him.
As though it was unthinkable that any woman could be truly
at peace with herself if she wasn't pretty... and as though it was unthinkable
that any woman didn't need to try to compensate for that lack.
Men didn't bother with this, Iruka thought, eyes closed
against a tension headache caused by the mirror's reflection of Satori's fierce
attention to his hair. Men didn't care if they were attractive or not.
Attractiveness was just something that happened, or didn't, and didn't have
much effect on their lives. Men got up, looked in the mirror to see if they
felt like shaving, shaved if they felt like it, simply washed their faces if
they didn't, and got on with life. It didn't matter if the face in the mirror
was a particularly gorgeous or homely one. It was a face, it was there to keep
your eyes from falling out, it did its job.
What he had learned from Satori was that women didn't do
that. Women got up in the morning, looked at themselves, were disappointed with
what they saw, and tried to change it.
Iruka had always been careful to hide his scar with makeup
while he was being a woman, through a vague sense that women would care about
things like that. And being a ninja, he knew a fair amount about camouflage.
None of the students had ever guessed that his face was scarred. Neither had
Satori had cheerfully ordered Iruka to let her give him a
fashion makeover. Iruka, who was quite aware that he didn't understand the
intricacies of female self-decorations, had accepted with relief. And then
somehow it had all gone wrong when she realized that his face was scarred and
that he honestly didn't care beyond hiding it.
Somehow, the combination of Iruka's visibly scarred face and
his quietly peaceful acceptance of the fact that he wasn't particularly
good-looking had combined in Satori's mind into a shape Iruka had never
Iruka had honestly thought that it was all right not
to be attractive. That it wasn't anything he should be upset over. It was just
a fact of his life; it wasn't any particular impairment, or anything he needed
to compensate for. He'd been happy with himself, and hadn't needed to worry
whether or not he was lacking anything.
Satori, on the other hand, was convinced that anyone who
thought they weren't attractive and didn't try to disguise that with
makeup and hairstyling had desperately crippled self-esteem and couldn't
possibly be as at ease with it as Iruka claimed to be. And she was also
convinced that the scar was the source of his crippled self-esteem, despite the
fact that he clearly camouflaged it well enough that most people didn't guess.
To Satori, his own awareness of his scar must have convinced him subconsciously
that he couldn't be beautiful, and that that was a thought she was determined
to remove from his mind whether he had a problem with it or not. The more he
tried to reassure her that he didn't mind how he looked, the more upset she
became about the idea that he should always like how he looked...
as though the lack of a conscious awareness of personal beauty was almost as
severe as the lack of a hand or foot.
So Satori had been terribly upset, and had tried her best to
make him beautiful... and for some inexplicable reason, Iruka couldn't seem to
make himself stop hurting because of it.
Kakashi hadn't understood at all, of course.
"Obviously it was traumatic," he'd chuckled,
flipping another page in that perverted guide book to the pleasure points of
pregnant women's bodies. "Any time women get the clothes-shopping gene
triggered, the results are never pretty. But the worst of it's over, right?
You've bought the dress, she'll have her way with your face and your hair for
the party whether you like it or not; the safest thing to do is just shut up
and nod and try not to think about it. More importantly -- come over here, I
want to try out page 86 on you!"
"Yeah, I'd like to show you page 133, but you aren't
going to be big enough for that for a while yet."
"The problem is that Satori-chan thinks you're having
self-esteem problems, right?"
He was bizarrely right and wrong at the same time, and Iruka
couldn't think of a way to try to explain it, when he wasn't even sure he
understood it himself. But Kakashi took a second's silence for agreement, and
patted the futon with a very come-hither grin.
"No better cure for self-esteem than having someone
demonstrate to you exactly how sexy you are, you know..."
And so Iruka had let himself be lost in Kakashi's
straightforward and uncomplicated appreciation of his body... and afterwards,
curled up on his side, he'd spent almost an hour trying not to cry.
It was stupid. That was the most frustrating part of
it. He should have been able to laugh and shrug it off and go back to
being happy with himself. But Iruka had never before had the experience of
being told that he was damaged and pitiable because of a flaw he hadn't
realized he was supposed to feel badly about having.
Especially not when he was supposed to feel badly about
something so shallow and uncontrollable as the face he was born with...
The bitterly ironic part, Iruka thought to himself with a
sour grin, was that he hadn't had a self-esteem problem until Satori had
taken it upon herself to improve his self-esteem...
Do all women live like this? Are they all taught to look
in the mirror and be disappointed and have to change things before they
consider themselves fit for being seen?
It hurt. It hurt to look in the mirror and remember
that he was supposed to want to change more than the scar. That he was supposed
to be dissatisfied with anything other than painted perfection. Iruka didn't
know how it could possibly have helped anyone's self-esteem to be taught that
their face had to be changed and redesigned before it was presentable to the
world. To be taught that "special occasions" meant more time painting
and changing than usual, and that the prettiest faces were the ones most
carefully changed from what they had been to start with...
It hurt, and it made him angry. Thinking that maybe that was
why Sakura-kun had been so anxious to have time to do her face and hair no
matter what the mission they were on. Thinking that maybe the child so
peacefully resting beneath his heart would be taught to hate her own face, if
it looked too much like his...
When Satori realized that there were tears running down
Iruka's face, she dropped her brush in shock. "Iruka-sensei? Iruka-sensei,
Iruka shook his head, face buried in both hands, unable to
come up with a coherent answer.
Everything. Nothing. The fact that this is how a woman's
world is -- everything is wrong, and yet you won't even understand what I'm
saying if I try to explain; I've run out of words for you, you can't even hear
me when I say that it shouldn't have to be like this...
Frantic, Satori ran toward the stairs and called down.
"Kakashi-san? Kakashi-san, it's Iruka-sensei -- she's crying, I don't know
what's wrong, I don't know what I did but--"
Mercifully, Kakashi didn't decide that this was an occasion
for teasing therapy or lecher therapy. He was there in three seconds flat, and
he quietly gathered Iruka into his arms and let him cry; Satori, however, was
still in a frantic state.
"I don't know what to do," she said, on the
verge of tears herself. "I'm so sorry -- I want Iruka-sensei to understand
that it's all right to let herself be pretty, that it's all right to want
to be pretty -- that the scar isn't that noticeable with the makeup, that it's
all right to be rounding -- that she's prettier than she thinks she is, that
she really can be completely beautiful if she wants to be -- I just... no
matter what I say, it's like she can't hear what I mean..."
Iruka's hands knotted convulsively in the fabric of
Kakashi's shirt; Kakashi stroked his loose, rumpled hair smooth with a gentle hand,
still quietly listening even to his wordless sobs.
"Kakashi-san?" Satori asked, miserable.
"Should I just go? I don't know why, but I always seem to upset
Iruka-sensei... the scar doesn't matter, she's pretty enough to start with, but
I don't know how to help her see that..."
"Why don't you go make some tea, Satori-chan?"
Kakashi suggested, still stroking Iruka's hair. "Gives everyone a chance
to calm down, gives me a chance to kiss my wife breathless, sounds like a good
arrangement all around..."
Sniffling a little, Satori nodded at him vigorously.
"I'll be right back," she said. "Make sure you do a really good
job with your part too, Kakashi-san, because she needs to know how
beautiful she is to you!"
"Oh, I think I can arrange that," Kakashi said
wryly. "Hear that, love? I'm now under official orders to kiss you silly!
Isn't this a wonderful day to be alive?" He bent his head and tenderly
kissed the tear-tracks from Iruka's cheeks, then gathered him into his arms and
settled them both on the floor and rocked him back and forth softly, waiting
again for Iruka's tears to ease.
When the worst of the storm had passed, and Iruka was
sitting huddled against him for comfort but no longer sobbing so desperately
that he could barely breathe, Kakashi kissed his cheek again, and let one light
hand wander over the curve of his belly to feel for any unexpected knotting or
"No pains, I hope...?"
Iruka shook his head a little, still trembling with grief.
"I'm... I'm just... pathetic..."
"You're not pathetic," Kakashi said, "and
ordinarily we both know it. What's really wrong?"
To his disgust, that started the tears welling into his eyes
again. "Why... why can't I... be good enough? Why does she have to change everything
about my face and my hair and... everything...? I never used to think I was
ugly, but... why can't I be good enough as I am...? If I were really... a
woman, if I'd been one all my life, people would already have taught me that my
face was... unacceptable, not to be shown the way it is -- what about the
baby...? If she's a girl, and if she takes after me... I couldn't forgive
"Wait, wait, wait," Kakashi said hastily,
holding Iruka even closer. "What do you mean, what if the baby takes after
you? I pray every morning that the kid does take after you! Because I
know how much of a little hellspawn I was to deal with, and I don't wish a
repeat of that on anybody-- and there's not a damn thing wrong with your face!
Who told you there was?"
"I... I thought it was good enough... just hiding the
scar, but Satoshi-san says I have to do more than that, and... I... I didn't
care, before, but..."
"Don't let her upset you," Kakashi murmured.
"She thinks she's trying to help, being all girly and fashion-mad at you.
Girls just do that sometimes, it's like a compulsion..."
"But what if she's right about me?" Iruka
whispered, blinking at tears again. " I didn't used to mind what I looked
like... but... what if the baby takes after me? I don't want our baby to feel
like she has to hide her face like this all the time, just because I'm... not
Kakashi was staring at him, with his jaw hanging open.
Miserable, Iruka shut his eyes against the reflection of the
two of them in the mirror. "I never used to mind," he choked. "I
didn't care that I wasn't good-looking. I still wouldn't care if it was just
me. But... it's not fair to the baby... I mean... I'm as common as dirt. Brown
face, brown hair, brown eyes, brown everything, dull and plain and homely as a
clod of mud scraped off someone's shoe, and it didn't matter until now...
nobody had ever told me I needed to change myself..."
A collection of ceramics rattled alarmingly in the doorway;
Satori was standing there white as a sheet, and the tea tray was slipping out
of her hands.
Kakashi was across the room to rescue it in less than an
eyeblink; with the tray balanced on one hand, he grabbed her elbow with the
other, and more than half dragged her into the room. Iruka flinched and looked
away; Satori gasped, and pulled away from Kakashi's hand in order to run across
the room and fling both arms around Iruka.
"I wasn't saying you needed to change
yourself!" Satori wailed. "I was trying and trying to come up with
something in the mirror that would make you smile -- because you always said
you didn't like yourself as you were--"
"I said I didn't mind being who I was," Iruka
murmured, face turned away. "I didn't. I didn't mind being plain --
"Who ever told you you were plain?" Kakashi
"That's what I've been asking!" Satori said.
"She's got absolutely beautiful hair, I wish mine were that soft and
thick, and half a dozen people around the village would kill for a tan like
that too, and I've been trying to show it off, instead of just hiding her scar
and pulling all that gorgeous hair up into a cockeyed ponytail -- I wanted to
show her off to herself, so she could see that she was gorgeous--"
"All I saw was that nothing I was doing was
right," Iruka whispered, with a cracked half-laugh.
"No, Iruka-sensei," Satori said, caught
halfway between exasperation and guilt. "What you were doing said that you
didn't care what you looked like. And then you said you didn't like what you
looked like-- didn't like, didn't mind, whatever-- so I thought I'd just teach
you some of the other things you can do with what you already have! Didn't your
mother play with your hair when you were little? If I were your mother I
couldn't have resisted..."
Kakashi sighed deeply, and sat down and put an arm around
each of them. "Satori-chan, let's back up a little here. For one thing...
Iruka was orphaned, very young..."
Satori's eyes widened, and then began to glitter a little
too bright with unshed tears. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry-- I didn't mean
Iruka shook his head a little, staring down at nothing.
"It's all right. There's no way you could have known."
"So... you didn't have anyone to teach you...? Anyone
"About makeup and hair-arranging? No," Iruka said,
feeling guilty about the careful spin on the truth. It wasn't actually a lie,
it just wasn't all of the relevant information... with a sheepish
half-chuckle, he added, "I hadn't realized it was supposed to be that
"Of course it is!" Satori said.
"Of course it's not," Kakashi said wryly.
"It's not important enough to cry over. Satori-chan, I know you
mean well, but Iruka is one of the most honest and straightforward souls you're
ever going to meet in your life. If she says she doesn't care what her hair
looks like, then she means she doesn't care what her hair looks
like. She doesn't mean 'I do care but I'm embarrassed about myself' or
'I don't have enough self-esteem to do anything else' or anything like that.
She just means 'as long as my hair's not getting in my face I'm happy with it.'
She's practically like a man some days," he added with a gleeful grin that
Iruka had to fight to keep from knocking off his face. "And if Iruka's
happy with herself, then so am I. Understand?"
Satori blinked quite a few times, in a clear case of mental
gastrointestinal distress. Once her brain had managed to digest the information
somehow, she asked Iruka very, very carefully, "Is he
"Perfectly," Iruka said, trying to keep his
expression neutral. He's just as serious as I was the last eighteen times I
said I didn't mind looking like myself... --never mind, it must be a
conditioning thing. If you're taught you have to be attractive and you have to
repaint your face and reupholster your head in order to try to be attractive if
you're not, then of course it's going to be hard to hear someone saying
something else... the poor girl...
Looking absolutely wilted, Satori said in a very tiny voice,
"Iruka-sensei, you really don't care at all...?"
Feeling somehow guilty, Iruka said in an odd kind of
half-apology, "I really don't. But I suppose I could try to learn how to
"No you don't," Kakashi said quite firmly. "I
liked you much better when you were happy waking up in the morning and looking
at yourself. I miss that you. I want to see that Iruka in the mornings again.
So whatever it takes for you to be happy with yourself, that's what I
want you to do -- not spending more time worrying over whether you're
not doing what you ought to be doing about something. Got it?"
With a rueful smile, Iruka nodded, and reached up to twine
his fingers through Kakashi's. "I'm sorry, Satori-san," he said.
"It's just that I'd rather still recognize myself when I look at a
Crestfallen, the girl said in a tiny voice, "I suppose
that means you won't want the kanzashi set either...?"
"I... I thought... they'd look nice in your hair... but
if you don't want anything like that..."
"If you want to play with my hair, that's all
right," Iruka said, a little sheepishly trying to find a middle ground
between pleasing Satori and being able to live with himself. "I just... I
want to recognize my face when you're done with it, if you don't
"'If I don't mind?!' Iruka-sensei, it's not
about--" Satori stopped, threw her hands in the air, and unexpectedly
started to giggle. "All right. I promise. But when I'm done, you're doing
my hair, got it?"
Iruka blinked, startled. "But... I... I don't know
"So I'll teach you! Emiko taught me the most adorable
set of braids that she loops up with a ribbon that gets turned into a flower,
you'll love it, and it's hard to do it on yourself, elbows just don't bend that
direction! So that's why you've always got to have a girlfriend handy to help
you do your hair the way you like..."
"Crisis all done?" Kakashi asked, already reaching
into his pocket for a book. Iruka's eyes widened in shock, and he all
but bodily threw Kakashi out of the room.
"If you're going to read that, do it somewhere else!"
"Read what?" Satori asked.
Blushing bright crimson, Iruka stuttered, "He... it...
there's this... series... he... --Never mind, it's not great literature.
At all. Practically the opposite in fact..."
Satori giggled. "Kakashi-san reads romance books?
That's so cute!"
Iruka buried his face in both hands with a groan.
With a wickedly self-satisfied grin tugging at the corner of
his lips, Kakashi said, "You see, love? Literary passion binds all the
world! Across the barriers of space, time, and gender -- particularly gender,
in fact-- quite a lot of bindings across several genders sometimes--"
"Get out!" Iruka shouted.
"Yes, dear." And the door closed behind his
Cheshire-cat grin as he walked whistling down the hall; the rustle of book
pages was already audible.
Satori's mouth was hanging open; she turned to Iruka, about
to ask a question, and he hastily shoved the brush back into her hand.
"Hair," he said desperately. "Fiddling with
it. Lots of, uh, fiddling. I'm going to need practice to get yours right, after
all -- we should, er, concentrate on.... fiddling with hair... and... girly
stuff like that... right...?"
Satori giggled. "Iruka-sensei, Kakashi-san's right;
sometimes you do sound just like a man! All right, don't worry about a
thing; you sit right there and rest, and I'm going to teach you all
about the 'girly stuff like that.'"
You know, God, I've tried to be a good person, Iruka thought in weary resignation. I've tried
to keep an eye on Naruto as well as anyone could. I've tried to teach my
students as well as I'm able to. I've tried to keep Kakashi on a leash AND not
let it be one of his kinds of leashes...
I thought I was doing fairly well... as well as could be
expected, given the circumstances... so I just have to ask one thing. How did I end up in hell while I'm still
Fate is such a bitch...
quick note: Kanzashi are the decorative pins and bells and jingles and etc. that are used in sets as traditional Japanese hair arrangements. Sometimes they're single items, but sometimes three, five, or more pieces are designed to be used as a group.
Chibi-Kakashi (with an evil grin): And some of them are sharp and pointy enough to make great weaponry too! Maybe I should get Naruto to actually teach me... between the homicidal hair rigging and the easy admission to the women's baths...
*crunchGYAAAHthudcrashrattle... clanganganganggg... thump*
Chibi-Iruka (dusting hands off): Or maybe you shouldn't, honey. Places like that can be verrry dangerous to your health, you know. Particularly when you've been seen in one...
Chibi-Kakashi (watching the birdies go chirp chirp chirp around his head): ...yes dear...