|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2004-08-04 22:43:00
So I posted chapter 21 when it wasn't actually finished, because I was so cheesed off at people demanding updates like they were a God-given right that I ranted some at the start and end of the chapter and just chopped it off and posted it.
Unfortunately, that left me without the resolution to the chapter...
which meant I had to turn the resolution into a chapter of its own. And it wasn't meant to be a chapter of its own; it was meant to be one (fairly short) scene in a chapter, likely Kakashi and Iruka talking on the porch, possibly with frying pan in hand.
So now I've had to turn it into a semblance of a chapter, but I don't know whether or not it sucks, because all I can really see is how it doesn't go the way I'd originally meant for the chapter structure of the story to flow... which is a disappointing reflection on how much people who are too impatient to get more of a story can screw with the production of it and make it harder to write, but that's another rant.
So anyway, if anybody wants to tell me whether or not it sucks, and keep in mind I'm trying to get back my own pacing for the story so I may take advice given or I may go ahead and write it my own way because not writing it my own way based on feedback was what got me into this mess to start with -- in other words, I do appreciate feedback but I'm not going to feel compelled to use it...
ed: GAH the formatting sucks, I copied out of HTML which I already converted from Word and spent 45 minutes manually cleaning up, I just don't have the brainpower left to fight with LJ formatting too; this is why they call it a draft...
Side Effects, Chapter 22 (preview)
Despite the grumbling of an impending thunderstorm, the birds were happily singing their lungs out in the daily pre-dawn hallelujah chorus. Directly outside the window, in fact. In the next room, Sakura was snoring quite loudly; Iruka hoped it was because of the intoxication rather than her usual method of sleeping. Iruka himself had spent the past hour lying still on the futon trying hard to get some kind of actual sleep -- but the harder he tried, the more his mind ground in circles.
I have to get some kind of sleep if I'm going to deal with him, with them, tomorrow -- make that today -- make that what, three hours from now? Damn it.
He should have known better. They all should have, but they're children. I can understand their being overexcited at the proposal of an adult they respect taking them out to do something adults do. But he's their teacher! What in the hell did he think he was doing? How could he...?
How could I? How can I even consider raising a child with a man who takes his underage students out to get drunk out of their minds?
I should have known. I should have realized a long time ago-- the first time we argued about the chuunin exam, I had a taste of it -- but I just loved him too much, the sense of humor and the unexpected whimsicality and the strength under it... and the hell of it is he's responsible, sometimes. Under his own definition of responsibility. I thought I understood that definition; how could I have been that far wrong...?
Damn it, if those birds don't stop singing their heads off I'll take their heads off for them--
Iruka rolled over and shoved his head under his pillow, one hand hard over the top ear. It muffled the singing and the snoring and the thunder-growls, but it also muffled breathing. At this point, he wasn't sure if he cared.
I have to get some sleep or else I'll be screaming at him tomorrow -- today -- and I don't want to scream at him -- I don't know what to do about this. I don't know what to do about a difference this deep... he should never, ever have thought of taking them out to get drunk on their very first night in a town where we're all living undercover! What in the hell was he thinking? How could I have expected him to be that much of an irresponsible, thoughtless, near-malicious fool? They'll be so miserable tomorrow--
So will I, for that matter. I have to sleep--
and the birds' enthusiastic dawn serenade were NOT helping him forget that it was only an hour or two before sunrise. With a groan, Iruka curled up smaller, trying to fit more of his head and shoulders under the pillow.
I wonder what he's doing. Whether he's sleeping or not.
I wonder what Sasuke's doing too...
And that is NOT a situation I can even pretend to handle on a couple hours' catnapping! Why did he kiss me like that? Playing 'I'm the caretaker now' is one thing, but... what am I going to do if he's decided he has a crush on me?Because I'm the first person who's actually stopped and listened to him since his parents died? Because he's that much alone...? Please, any god that's watching this farce -- please don't let him have decided he's got a crush on me just because I'm someone who'll listen to him without stalking him... and someone who's visibly able to give him an heir--! Oh, hell...A little hysterical, Iruka bit his lip to keep from laughing aloud. Sakura-kun and Ino-san and the rest of the kunoichi would kill me on the spot...!
Which is one more thing I DON'T need to be worrying about at five a.m., but...
I'm worrying about nothing; I'm too tired to think straight... he knows I'm Kakashi's. Of course he knows that. He couldn't not know it.
Then one small, miserable voice in the back of his mind whispered:
Am I still Kakashi's...?
The thunder snarled again, menacing but impotent.
I love him. I can't imagine my life without him in it. But can I raise a child with someone who takes children to get drunk on a whim? There's no guarantee he wouldn't do exactly the same with our own child-- and I know we have such fundamental differences about children...
And the damned birds had to go. Had to go NOW. Because shoving the window open and shouting at the birds' nests and flinging random books and other improvised missiles at the tree was much less painful than continuing that line of thought.
Iruka slammed the window shut and slid down the wall, both hands knotted in his hair, hunched over to knock his forehead methodically against his tucked-up knees, slightly parted to accommodate the bulge. It wouldn't be possible for much longer; the growing bulk of the pregnancy already made it impossible to hug knees to chest properly anymore.
The birds were now having an animated and high-volume conversation about that cranky human's rudeness.
Iruka couldn't help himself. He started laughing; it had a strained, hysterical edge to it, but it was that or scream in frustration, and his throat was sore already from the night's rants and tears and the rest.
The thunder cracked so close by that he flinched despite himself; a few seconds later, something pinged off the window... followed by more, a steady, solid patter of heavy midsummer rain.
Iruka stared at the rain-shadows on the window for a long minute, half-blind, and then wearily pushed himself to his feet and began looking for an umbrella.
It was tricky to maneuver around the too-hastily-relocated bookshelves and desk; Iruka found himself climbing over the desk with one elbow shoved through the only crack in the closet he could manage with a bookcase half-blocking the door, groping around blindly for an umbrella and cursing Kakashi, the rain, the birds, and the conspiracy of the universe that made 5 a.m. one of the most unpleasant hours ever invented.
Finally, he gave up on an adult-sized umbrella in the closet and crept downstairs to look in the schoolroom for the children's supplies; several of them had left umbrellas behind at various times, and the collection fluctuated wildly.
And if Kakashi even thought about teasing him for bringing Chidori-chan's far too cute pink hearts and flowers umbrella, there would be bloodshed, and Kakashi would find the umbrella shoved up a place umbrellas were never meant to visit, let alone open into...
...I'm not even sure if I can afford to stay with him, for this child's sake. I need to sleep. Not just for my own sake. Why am I looking for an umbrella?
Because I threw him out, and it's raining.
He has a tent. He'll be fine.
...But I threw him out. And it's raining.
And... I want to work this out. I need to work this out. I need him. I love him, even when I want to kill him; I can't help it...
It's selfish of me. I should think of the child; I know how he is with children, I've always known, nothing either of us can say will change that.
I was a fool even to start this. I should have known better. I should have expected this. I shouldn't have let myself be so completely blindsided, I should have thought of how he treats children months ago...
but I don't want to leave.
...It's selfish. I don't know if I still have the right to be selfish. I can't think just of myself anymore. It's not my life he's going to be flippant with...
--damn it, it's pouring out there. And where is Sasuke?
The boy wasn't in evidence; his scroll was still lying on the floor, but Naruto's snores were the only sound coming from the living room.
The thunder cracked again; with a muttered curse, Iruka gathered up three of the children's umbrellas and threw a poncho around his shoulders and put his hand on the front door.
...And there was some kind of animal on the porch, because he heard claws tapping along the wood, a solid echo from a fair amount of weight, and a snuffling sound.
All the philosophical anxiety was gone in a jolt of pure adrenaline. They're asleep, drunk, they'll never wake up in time if it gets past me--
and before Iruka even realized what he was doing, he had several shuriken in one hand and the doorknob in the other, bracing his shoulder against the doorframe in case he needed to close it quickly to block an animal's lunge, peering carefully through a crack just wide enough to let him fling shuriken edge-on...
...at the world's most adorable retriever puppy. It snuffled eagerly at the front door, with a soft little whimper of pay-attention-I'm-cute-you-know, and lifted one paw to bat at the crack in the door.
Heaving a huge sigh and trying to get his heart unstuck from where panic had lodged it in the back of his throat, Iruka sat on the floor and swung the door open.
"And just where on earth did you come from...?"
Tail wagging a mile a minute, the puppy bounded in and proceeded to try to lick Iruka's face off.
"No, wait, you-- hey--! Back off-- sit--!"
And, much to his astonishment, the puppy did sit, all aquiver with barely leashed energy. Iruka reached over to scratch behind the hopefully-perked ears, and the puppy leaned hard into the scritches, tongue lolling out in bliss.
Around its neck was a collar with the Konoha mark.
Iruka's hand froze mid-scritch. Kakashi's nin-dogs...
The puppy whimpered a little, butting his head against Iruka's palm, begging for more scritching.
"It's not your fault, little one," Iruka told the puppy softly, leaning on the door for balance as he stood. "I'm having a disagreement with your master, that's all. Come on. Show me where he is..."
Oddly enough, the puppy wouldn't go past the edge of the porch; it dug its heels in and scrabbled to stay on the wooden deck, and whined softly.
"Come on already," Iruka said with a chuckle, and bent to scoop the puppy up.
The minute he walked past the edge of the porch, though, there was a soft poof of smoke, and the dog's collar fell into Iruka's startled hands.
...Summoned specifically to keep watch over the house, then? And not allowed to lead me to you? Kakashi, that's not bright, even with the spectacular string of stupidity you've indulged yourself in this evening. What if you slip on something in the wet, or fell over something in the dark?
All right, point taken, but still... Iruka sighed to himself. What if I fall over something in the dark, stumbling around the forest looking for you?
But the search proved to be much shorter and simpler than Iruka would have guessed; glimmering faintly through the rain, there was a familiar silver-thatched top to one of the shadows huddled beneath the biggest remaining tree that had survived the kitchen redecorating.
Sound carried further than sight in the rain-spattered pre-dawn darkness; Iruka took a breath to call his lover's name, and then stopped short when he realized there were two voices.
"Easy for you to say," Kakashi replied to another shadow, huddled beneath the shelter of the tent canvas, which he'd rigged up over a couple of the lowest branches. "The hell of it is, apparently I went and triggered Iruka's 'defender of innocent children' reflexes. And I've never seen anything scarier than Iruka in 'righteous protector of the helpless' mode. I may be sleeping in your doghouse for the next three months, at least..."
"Your mate's breeding, right?" said a vaguely-familiar, rumbling voice. "It's nothing personal. All the bitches get touchy when they're having pups. Especially their first litter."
"Pakkun, in case you hadn't noticed, Iruka is not a bitch," Kakashi said, with a peculiar note of barely-suppressed, somewhat bemused hilarity. "And I certainly hope we don't produce a litter of pups!"
"So? Doesn't change the fact that your mate's breeding, right? Get her a steak or something and it'll all be good."
"...You know, mutt, it never fails to amaze me how spectacularly unhelpful your advice can be."
"You're asking a dog for marital counseling, remember?" Pakkun growled. "If you aren't getting a steak for your breeding mate, you louse, then get one for me! Counselor's fee."
"Put it on my tab," Kakashi retorted, and then yelped as Pakkun bit his hand.
"Cheapskate!" the dog growled around a mouthful of Kakashi.
"Ingrate!" he retorted, prying the dog off with a foot.
"Why would any mate love you when you won't even buy her steak when she's breeding?"
"I never said I wouldn't!" Kakashi shot back, annoyed. "I just said I don't think that's going to fix this--"
"Steak fixes everything," Pakkun said.
"You sound like Naruto," Kakashi sighed, nursing his injured hand. "Make yourself useful, go check the house or something..."
"Your mate was just throwing things out the window screaming at the birds for being birds," Pakkun replied, nonplussed. "And your mate's a chuunin. They come with spiky bits and good aim. I'm staying well out of attack range from your cranky, breeding not-a-bitch, thanks all the same..."
"Then you'd better get moving," Iruka said through grated teeth, smiling at the dog quite fixedly.
Kakashi and Pakkun gave near-identical yelps; Kakashi ducked smaller and Pakkun took off at a headlong gallop, nearly braining himself on the other tree in the process.
"Er... hi?" Kakashi offered, rather sheepishly; as Iruka came closer, he gathered his feet under himself, as though expecting a physical assault at any moment. "I, er, expected you'd be making a lot more growling and fuming when you hunted me down. Um. I have to ask if you brought the frying pan..."
"No," Iruka said, rather tartly. "Studying your brains after splattering them all over the yard won't help me understand how your mind works, much as I might wonder." Still surly, he thrust an umbrella into Kakashi's hands.
Kakashi blinked down at it for a moment, and, wisely, he bit back any sort of commentary about the pink and the frills. "...Thank you. You didn't need to..."
"Yes, I did," Iruka said. "We need to talk."
After a silent moment, Kakashi said very faintly, "Love, how did you make that into the most frightening thing I've ever heard you say? ...how angry are you?"
"I don't know if I can even answer that right now."
"...Would you like to sit down, at least?" Kakashi patted a dry spot next to himself under the shelter of the tent-canvas.
But Iruka sat down a little further away with a heartfelt sigh; at this level of exhaustion, everything hurt.
Kakashi's gaze sharpened at that sigh. "Pain...?"
"Just... exhausted, and frustrated, and bewildered, and furious-- how could you...?"
Iruka shook his head a little, still more incoherent from his tangled, tired-out frustration than he liked to admit. He worked to put together something that might sound halfway rational.
"How on earth could you take two barely-teenaged children out to get drunk on the first night of an undercover mission...? I don't know if I can understand that. Will you do the same to our child? Without even blinking? What else haven't we mentioned to each other about how we feel about raising children? How can I even think about raising a child with you when you do things like this?"
Kakashi flinched as though it had been a physical blow. "Iruka..." He stopped, and sighed, and said, "That is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, isn't it. How do we explain what we assume, since we assume it to be so natural it doesn't need explanation..."
"I shouldn't have been so shocked," Iruka said, staring down at the grass fixedly. "I knew how you felt about your 'soldiers.' But this is something too fundamental -- I would never have imagined you could even consider something like this... They're barely even teenagers, and this time it's not just me being overprotective! There are laws about the drinking age for minors--"
"Yes, there are," Kakashi murmured, very quietly. "But the laws fail to take into account human nature."
"Yes, I remember how much you worried about the laws when your first solution to the problem of repairing the kitchen was to rob the bank," Iruka shot back. "Is it human nature to decide that laws are only made for those who can't get around them when the laws become inconvenient? I never thought you would do something like this--!" He stopped short, one hand pressed hard against his side; Kakashi was there in an instant, his hands folded over Iruka's.
"You are having false pains, aren't you," he said. "Earlier tonight-- with that stupid clown game-- damn it; I thought rest would help..."
"And how the hell am I supposed to rest when you're out until the crack of dawn getting underage children drunk? When you've dumped into my hands the job of defusing one of the most traumatized boys I've ever known? When he's so lost and alone he doesn't even remember what it was like to be loved -- when you're too busy amusing yourself tormenting the other two to notice--" Iruka stopped again, teeth ground against a whimper of pain.
"You're exhausted," Kakashi murmured, his hands cupped carefully against Iruka's belly. "You're exhausted and furious and you're braced for a fight, and without even knowing what you're doing, you're dragging out chakra you haven't got to spare. It's straining your hold on the jutsu."
"Then what do I do?" Iruka whispered, fighting not to surrender to the sick, cold wave of fear that washed over him. "How do I fix it? If... if the child's... --I don't know what to do about this! I don't know what to do about anything --"
"It'll be all right," Kakashi murmured. "I promise."
"Asking me to trust you is not a good idea right now," Iruka snapped.
Eyes lowered, Kakashi murmured, "I know. Let me ask you just to listen to me. You decide whether or not you can trust me after that. All right?"
Because there was nothing else he could do, Iruka nodded a little, and didn't resist when Kakashi slipped an arm around his shoulders for support.
"We need to help you relax and let go of the combat-charge, and when we've got your chakra flow settled so that the baby has what it needs, I'm going to put a light seal on you," he murmured. "It should make it easier to keep enough of your energy flow in the paths your body needs right now. You'll be able to break it if you try, but I wouldn't advise it, considering what it's going to be holding in place for you. Can you trust me that far?"
Iruka nodded again, stiffly. "I'm warning you. 'Helping me relax' had better include some kind of explanation of what the hell was going through your head tonight."
"I understand," Kakashi murmured. Then he whistled softly, and said to one of the larger shadows, "Over here, Chibi."
Something lurched out of the dark; Iruka yelped and flinched closer to Kakashi's supportive arm. His sleep-deprived and distracted mind had interpreted that particular hulk of shadows as another piece of the tent, until it opened its eyes and yawned -- and then stood up -- and up...
"What is that thing?"
"Him? He's my Chibi," Kakashi said lightly, reaching up to scratch under the jowls of a dog the size of a horse. Or maybe a small mountain range. Or an offshore island. Or... Iruka shook his head sharply.
"You named that thing 'chibi'?!"
"You should've seen his big sister!" Kakashi replied, with a grin; he whistled again and pointed at a spot, and the appallingly misnamed Chibi settled itself with a thump that Iruka would have sworn should have been picked up on an earthquake detector somewhere.
More than a little intimidated, Iruka huddled closer to Kakashi as the huge dog blinked enormous yellow eyes, yawned again -- revealing far too many teeth in a mouth that could have taken his head off in one munch -- and then started wagging its tail.
"Watch out for the tail," Kakashi offered helpfully. "He gets carried away when he gets enthusiastic about someone. Hasn't actually killed anyone with either the tail-thumping or the doggy breath yet, but there've been a couple close calls. And it looks like he likes you!"
"I'm, er, flattered?" Iruka managed, offering a hand to sniff.
Chibi considered the hand for a moment, then ignored it entirely and proceeded to lick Iruka's face half off with one swipe of a tongue that could have been used for a beach blanket.
"Okay, that's enough, you big lug," Kakashi told his dog firmly, helping Iruka scrub the doggy-drool off his face. "We're under here to not get soaked, thanks." He lifted Iruka with a bit of effort, and turned him to kneel facing the shaggy curve of Chibi's flank.
"He's the most comfortable thing for you to lie against around here," Kakashi said. "Take the pajamas off, will you?"
"All right," he said, unusually subdued for the aftermath of what could have been the lead-in to some outrageous flirting. "But at least turn the shirt around so the buttons go down the back, so I can give you a backrub?"
Feeling a little silly, Iruka pulled his arms inside the pajama top and wriggled until the buttons were facing the back, then put his arms through again and gingerly settled against Chibi's flank. Chibi was warm, and shaggy, and damp, and smelled appallingly of rain-drenched dog, but the enormous thing made a contented whuff when Iruka leaned against him. Then the huge head swiveled around, and Iruka saw a little pink flick of the Tongue of Doom before Kakashi said, "No more licking!"
With an enormous sigh, Chibi dropped its head onto its forepaws. Something that huge had no right to make puppy eyes. Because the puppy eyes were correspondingly huge, and the sheer force of aren't-I-miserable-looking was overwhelming from close range. Iruka found his fingers scratching obediently before he even realized what he was doing.
A few moments later, he realized that Kakashi was already halfway through unbuttoning the pajama top; his fingers were light and cautious, and when he finished, neither of them moved for a moment. Then, more hesitant than Iruka had ever seen him, Kakashi drew a shaking breath and touched his fingertips against Iruka's shoulders, almost as though he was expecting to be pushed away.
Iruka closed his eyes and kept scratching at Chibi's furry shoulder, to hear the tail resume its delighted thumping. Kakashi ran his fingers lightly down Iruka's back, and took another unsteady breath, and leaned his palms into rubbing at the knots of tension between Iruka's shoulderblades.
Somehow, Iruka thought unhappily, it doesn't make it any better that neither of us have any idea where the hell we go from here.
The backrub wasn't really helping when every minute of silence that ticked by felt like a wire being stretched more and more taut; with an explosive sigh, Iruka said, "So what in the hell were you doing taking them out to get drunk and coming in at virtually the crack of dawn?"
"I do have reasons, if you want to hear them," Kakashi said.
Iruka bit back the reflexive Yes, I'm sure you had quite a good time laughing at their misery. Because, true as it was, Kakashi wouldn't have offered it as an explanation by itself. Not if he had any idea what was good for him, anyway. Taking a couple of careful, steadying breaths, Iruka nodded a little, and said, "Ten minutes."
"You only gave me five last time," Kakashi noted.
"I don't think anyone could explain this in five minutes."
Kakashi nodded a little, and moved toward Iruka's side; when the moonlight glanced across his face, Iruka bit back a startled cry.
"Oh, this?" Kakashi lifted rueful fingertips to the bruised cheek and bloodied lip. "Sasuke and I had quite a -- vivid conversation. About what people with responsibilities did and didn't do to upset their pregnant lovers. He had a point, so I gave him one shot for free."
"Where is he? What did you do to him? Did he -- did you--"
"Relax," Kakashi said, both hands up. "The last time one of the nin-dogs looked around, he was sleeping in the kitchen because Naruto snores too loudly when he's drunk."
Iruka let out a sigh from a deep breath he hadn't even realized he was holding.
"I won't say Sasuke's fine," Kakashi said, a bit wry. "I'd never say he's fine; but he's no more messed up than he usually is, and maybe a little less." He moved a little closer still, and settled one hand against the hollow of Iruka's back, rubbing gently. "By the way -- thank you. I knew sooner or later you'd wear him down enough that he'd actually let himself talk to you."
"You could have warned me--" Iruka stopped and shook his head. "And you're not distracting me that easily."
"It's not a distraction," Kakashi replied, leaning both hands into the massage now. "It's part of the reason. If you'd had Naruto and Sakura underfoot, how much do you think he'd have said? Beyond 'hmph' and 'moron', that is."
"Sasuke talking to me has nothing to do with getting Naruto and Sakura drunk!"
"Yes, it does, actually," Kakashi said. "He needed quiet, and peace, and listening. None of which describes Naruto or Sakura very well. But that was what he needed to be able to open up to you. Our two extroverts, on the other hand, needed the loudly-partying, alcohol-induced variety of the can opener of the soul. --No, don't tense up again. Just listen a bit longer, all right?"
"There is no reason for two children that age to 'need' alcohol!"
"Did you know that Naruto wonders if maybe Hinata-chan stutters around him because she's afraid of the kyuubi inside him?" Kakashi murmured, both hands carefully rubbing at a knot of tension in the hollow of Iruka's back.
"He said that to me tonight," Kakashi murmured. " Alcohol is a drug like any other. And it doesn't take a genius to apply it to anyone that you want to extract a little information from -- in public, even. All good fun, 'of course it's just a party and everyone's doing it.' Which means anyone can apply it to anyone in a social situation without even a comment. And anyone can slip something into their drinks."
"Here?" Iruka asked. "In this town?"
"Do you know why it is we're here?"
Iruka looked away. "...No."
"Neither do I," Kakashi said. "And that worries me. We still don't know what, or who, we're up against. We don't know whether they've identified us more than we've identified them. And alcohol is a fairly potent drug that's universal, cheap, and publicly available. Someone had to teach them how to handle it."
"But not right now! They're too young for that--"
"Iruka -- they're shinobi, and they're also teenagers. And nobody's warned the students explicitly about the way someone could use alcohol on them, in front of witnesses, for whatever purpose. It's always been just 'drinking is bad, don't do it until you're old enough.' Anyone who's spent more than ten minutes around a pack of teenagers knows how quickly 'Don't do that' turns into 'They think I can't handle it? Just watch me.' Anyone could have taken them drinking. I needed to know what kinds of things they would say when someone did. Whether they would start bragging about Konoha and their escapades and other things that an alcohol-loosened tongue might let slip. And that's why I needed to be the first one to do it."
Iruka's hands knotted in the grass so tightly that he found himself with a fistful of roots. "Excuse me, I don't think I heard you correctly. 'No one else had illegally drugged them witless yet, so I volunteered in the name of scientific inquiry.' Is that actually how you just explained this evening to me?"
"If you'll think back, I never got them drunk while we were out on team missions," Kakashi murmured.
"Which is why I thought you had more sense than this!"
"On team missions," Kakashi said, "I'm always there to supervise them. Or so close to always that it's good enough. Here, they aren't my squad or your students. They're three teenagers who happened to come from our village to visit their former schoolteacher. The people we are in this village have no authority over them."
"And if they even think about taking advantage of that, they know they're in for pure hell when we get home."
"But there's no reason for them not to make friends, to talk to those friends, and, inevitably, for those friends to try to impress each other. With kids that age, impressing each other usually involves defying parents and demonstrating their concept of 'doing what grown-ups do.' Their parents aren't here, and two of them don't have parents to defy. That leaves us in the position of 'the ones to be defied.' And drinking at parties is the easiest outlet available for defiance; if they don't want to look too much unlike regular teenagers, they might even justify it as part of their cover."
Iruka sighed. "...I can see that. And there aren't Hokage monuments to be painted here. But that still doesn't mean you should go and make them drunk..."
"Teenagers throw parties with alcohol, particularly when they're underage. When you're legal, there's nothing forbidden anymore, which means it loses the mystique. Alcohol is among the cheapest of the available drugs, a common point of rebellion, an easy party-starter, and a way of demonstrating how 'grown-up' you are to all the people watching. --Unless you'd rather have them experimenting with sex..."
"No!" Iruka yelped.
Kakashi nodded a little. "So I took them drinking. I wanted them to learn from the experience. I could keep them under control if they drank too much -- we particularly don't know what would happen to Naruto if someone drugged him -- and I learned several rather startling things about the way their minds work. And no matter who lectured them how often, waking up in the morning with the hangover from hell is going to convince them they don't want to drink like that again."
Iruka glared over one shoulder. "Aversion therapy? They're not dogs to be trained with a swat from a rolled-up newspaper!"
"But lessons are more memorable when they're learned through personal experience, aren't they, Iruka-sensei?"
After a long, silent moment, Iruka murmured, "I don't agree -- I never will agree -- but I understand that you had reasons. You know I'm never going to approve of your methods, but they're yours. And I know nothing bad will come of tonight beyond foul headaches and foul tempers tomorrow. But I'm still angry, and bewildered, and... --you threw all of us into this purely for your own amusement. Will you be this capriciously cruel with the lessons you teach our child as well?"
"Considering how many years we have left before we've got a teenager on our hands, we'll have to wait and see. But let's talk about these things as they come up, shall we?" Kakashi replied, light-voiced, but with a thread of outright fear running beneath it. "We will talk about them, won't we?"
After a long, silent moment, Iruka said, "I'm not leaving you tonight, if that's what you're asking. But damn it, you'd better swear to me that you're never doing this again!"
"Of course not. It shouldn't need to be done twice for them to get the point," Kakashi said wryly. "At least, not if they have the common sense of eggplants. --Which means I'm not quite so sure about Naruto, actually; but I'm confident Sakura-chan will have gotten the point loud and clear by tomorrow morning!"
"You don't have to sound delighted about that, either!"
Kakashi sighed, and said in a startlingly subdued voice, "I'm sorry."
Iruka blinked three or four times, then scrubbed at his ear since the problem had nothing to do with his vision and everything to do with his hearing. "...What?"
"I learned some invaluable things tonight when we were out drinking, and so did they. I don't regret learning them. But... I'm just... I'm sorry that I've gotten you so upset. You didn't need that. I didn't think you'd take it this hard..."
"Kakashi," Iruka said, "how could you not know that I'd be furious with you for dragging them in drunk out of their minds at four in the morning?!"
A little sheepishly, he said, "I'd expected you'd be asleep before we got in. I didn't want eighty decibels of Naruto to come crashing in in the middle of a delicate conversation between you and Sasuke, so I thought I'd just keep us all out of the way until you were both safely asleep, and then I'd just apologize for their hangovers tomorrow... er, today..."
"How was I supposed to go to sleep not knowing where any of you were? We hadn't even set up places for them to sleep!"
"But you see, that's the other advantage of bringing them home drunk; they sleep just fine wherever you put them, just curl 'em up in a corner and they stay there--" Kakashi stopped, rather hastily, and then mumbled, "And that was the wrong thing to say too, wasn't it."
Iruka dropped his head forward against the shaggy pillow of Chibi's side. "...I don't even know where to start..."
Once in a while, Kakashi knew when to keep his mouth shut and his hands busy being helpful. He'd untied Iruka's ponytail and was slowly stroking his fingertips through the long dark strands, scrubbing at the scalp a little to try to release the tension, then letting his palms wander down the back of Iruka's neck and shoulders. His hands were warm, and comforting, and Iruka sighed.
The hell of it was, after the rest of the night, this new set of information was barely even a surprise. It fit, in some twisted Kakashi-brand combination of pragmatism and mischief. Any other time, Iruka would have felt compelled to try to reeducate his lover with some sort of blunt instrument to the skull -- new and unexpected houseguests simply were not given sleeping-places by virtue of getting them too drunk to notice they'd been dropped on the floor and rolled into a corner! -- but tonight, it was just another piece that added shape to the puzzle of how on earth Kakashi could have done it to begin with.
Kakashi noticed the slight easing of tension in the shoulders beneath his hands, and asked very, very cautiously, "You don't mind?"
"It's not that I don't mind, it's just... so typical..." Iruka sighed. "I love you, even when I know I'd be smarter to put you on a leash like one of the nin-dogs and take you to some sort of class on basic civilization. You shook me tonight. You -- I didn't think you'd do something like this to any of us, and that scared me. I didn't know what to think about anything anymore. But it's just so typical that you thought it'd all be fine, that you were counting on coming in so late I'd never know and they'd be so tired they wouldn't protest sleeping on anything that didn't move..."
Kakashi blinked a couple times. "You mean you forgive me?"
"Like hell!" Iruka growled. "You are never doing this again! You are never disposing of sleeping space for houseguests by getting them too drunk to notice the floor! And now that they've been 'educated' about alcohol you are not taking them drinking again! Not until they're old enough, and probably not then either!"
"...Is the right answer 'Yes, dear'?"
Iruka buried his face against Chibi's scruffy shoulder again. "...It's a start."