|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2005-07-13 21:24:00
Side Effects, Chapter 22
(yes, finally... (Monty Python voice: 'I'm not dead yet!') More after the 30
pages of this installment...)
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 decade-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
Which is one more thing I DON'T need to be worrying about at five a.m.,
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
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 finding 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
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
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
--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
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
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
...at the world's most adorable retriever puppy. It snuffled eagerly at the
front door, with a soft little whine 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
"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
Around its neck was a collar with the Konoha mark.
Iruka's hand froze mid-scritch. Kakashi's nin-dogs...
The puppy whined a little, butting his head against Iruka's palm, begging for
"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 whimpered softly.
"Come on already," Iruka said with a chuckle, and bent to scoop the puppy
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 fall 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
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
"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
"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
"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
"I don't know if I can answer that."
"...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
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 so--!" 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
"It'll be all right," Kakashi murmured. "I promise."
"Asking me to trust you is not a good idea right now," Iruka
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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. Alcohol is
the cheapest drug teenagers can easily get their hands on when they throw a
party, after all."
Iruka sighed. "...I do recognize that. And there aren't Hokage
monuments to be painted here. But that still doesn't mean you should go and
make them drunk..."
"Would you rather have them proving their grown-upness to each other by
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 they finally had a conversation they'd been needing to have for a long, long
time. --Apparently Naruto is a pineapple in Sakura's world view, by the
"A pineapple...? --no, I don't even want to know," Iruka corrected himself
hastily. "And why didn't you at least try sitting them down and telling
them this first?"
Kakashi sighed, both hands busy rubbing at the hollow of Iruka's back. "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. It's a lot more effective than a lecture. And the lesson's more likely to
last, when they draw their own conclusions for themselves."
Iruka glared over one shoulder. "Aversion therapy? They're not your nin-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
"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.
"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
"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
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
The patter of the rain against the tent canvas was oddly soothing; now that
the sun was beginning to brighten the sky in the east, even if it hadn't cleared
the horizon, the birds were quieting down again.
Without the constant throb of active outrage fueling his need to stay awake,
his mind was a rather dazed blank, and the combination of aftermath and
exhaustion were gaining on him. Iruka found his eyes drifting closed despite
himself, and he shook his head a little, blinking.
"It's all right," Kakashi murmured, his hands deft and tender as he rubbed at
the lingering points of tension in Iruka's back. He bent close enough to brush a
kiss against Iruka's bare shoulder, and added, "The idea is to have you
"I should be awake if you're going--" a yawn cut the words short, but he
finished a little sheepishly, "going to seal me..."
"We can do that later. You need sleep more than anything else. --Here."
Kakashi made quick work of the buttons, then carefully lifted him again and
turned him over so that his back was resting against the warm shaggy hulk of
Chibi. Then he lifted one of Iruka's feet into his lap and set the
outdoor-sandals aside and started rubbing his calf and ankle, kneading out the
Iruka yawned again and snuggled against Chibi with a sigh. "You
manipulative... oh, that's good, right there..."
"Always glad to please." Kakashi turned his far too skillful fingertips to
the chakra-points in his feet. Iruka wasn't even aware he'd been making some
wordless happy noise until Kakashi chuckled at him; even then, he couldn't
summon the energy to growl.
"You should sleep too..."
"But then who'd torment Naruto and Sakura by banging around the kitchen
bright and early frying greasy bacon and eggs for breakfast?" Kakashi replied,
far too gleefully.
Since his foot was right there in Kakashi's hands, Iruka went ahead and
"...Ow. But you know the more miserable they are today, the better
they'll remember the lesson about what they shouldn't have done
Iruka kicked him again, harder this time. "And who was responsible for
"It's not like I tied them to the bar or anything--" Kakashi stopped, and
sighed, and bent his head over Iruka's bare feet. "And you're going tense again,
I can feel it."
"What do you expect?" Iruka asked, frustrated. "Every last bit of
their misery is your responsibility, and you're enjoying that!"
"It's not like you've never played a prank in your life, you know," Kakashi
Iruka drew himself straighter in sheer indignation. "When I played
pranks on people, I made sure they were conscious and coherent, so they'd
know how badly they'd just been gotten! There's no point in it if your
victim doesn't realize he's been had--"
Kakashi threw back his head and laughed. "I didn't know you were such a
"Where do you think I learned how to anticipate Naruto?" Iruka stopped and
shook his head, and said, "And that's beside the point here anyway!"
He pulled his feet away from Kakashi and began the rather awkward process of
figuring out how to stand without leaning too heavily on Chibi or stepping on a
paw; the child-swollen girth wasn't yet unmanageably awkward, but Iruka was
still adjusting to the loss of the ability to bend in the middle, and absolute
bone-deep exhaustion made everything more clumsy and difficult.
"Relax," Kakashi said again, setting both hands on Iruka's shoulders. "I'm
serious about this. You need to rest."
"You think I'm not serious?" Iruka demanded fiercely. "I'm dead
serious. You're not going to make them any more miserable than you
"All right," Kakashi replied, soothing. "I'll be good. Sit down and let
"No! You're not doing any more to them. They've had enough
already-- they've had more than enough--"
"I said I'd be good, didn't I?"
"I don't trust you anymore!" Iruka shot back, furious. "For all I
know, 'being good' in your dictionary means 'I won't burn the eggs while
I'm frying them in three inches of grease to make the kids even more nauseous!'
There's no way I'm leaving you alone to--"
Iruka stopped short when he realized Kakashi wasn't smirking and waiting for
the best moment to throw in another smugly misinterpretable witticism; instead,
Kakashi looked simply and utterly stunned. He sat down with a thump in the soggy
grass, staring at Iruka with the eyes of a child who'd just been slapped.
"...And dammit, you DON'T get to make ME the bad guy!" Iruka shouted,
shaking with reaction to that shocked and heartbroken look. "How am I supposed
to trust you now when you say things like that? Yesterday I would have
trusted you to mean 'being good,' but yesterday I trusted that you wouldn't take
children drinking and look where that got me-- how am I supposed to know how
many layers of 'underneath the underneath' I have to try to read next? I thought
I knew, but I don't, and I don't know where to start learning again,
Chibi had drowsed through most of the argument, but Kakashi's mute stunned
pain earned a yellow-eyed look back and forth, followed by a deep
rumbling almost-growl at Iruka.
"No!" Kakashi ordered, clamping a hand over the huge dog's mouth. "No, Chibi.
This one's my fault."
The dog gave him a questioning look, but subsided with a grumble, flopping
its head back onto its forepaws with a vast sigh. Kakashi didn't move, head
"Tell me," Iruka said, shaking, half an order and half a plea. "Tell me how I
can know when to trust you again. I want to know. I just don't know how much
I've assumed that I shouldn't have-- tell me--"
...and then Kakashi's fingertips were against his lips, the faded scars from
years of summonings oddly smooth in contrast with the weapon-worn calluses.
Before Iruka could protest being hushed in the middle of a far too serious
question, Kakashi had gathered him into his arms and held him close, a little
too tightly, too desperately, afraid of being pushed away.
Iruka sighed almost as deeply as Chibi had, and tried to relax into Kakashi's
arms. It was more difficult than it should have been, because the outrage and
the exhaustion and the frustration were all tangling up together chattering in
his mind too loudly to let him get a thought in edgewise. Part of him still
wanted to shove Kakashi away and make him spend the next month borrowing a spare
corner of Chibi's doghouse just to make sure the message had gotten
across-- just when he'd thought his point had been made, Kakashi had turned
around and proved he'd been cheerfully heading straight back into
prank-of-the-moment life as usual, and it was so maddening to be ignored
or condescended to or teased by turn, and...
...and the little hitch of Kakashi's breath was far too familiar, from
earlier this evening.
So was the unexpected damp warmth against the skin of his throat. Iruka
twisted awkwardly, staring down at his lover's unkempt thatch of silver hair and
black-clothed, faintly shaking shoulders. The shock of it was almost like ice
trailing down his spine and settling in a cold knot in his belly.
"Oh, God, don't," Iruka said, almost horrified. "Please don't
"I'm not," Kakashi mumbled into his shoulder.
You, Iruka thought, are the world's worst liar. "Dammit, I
didn't mean-- I'm--"
The rest was cut off by Kakashi's hand. "Don't you dare apologize," he
replied, huskily. "And how do you think I feel? How do you think I felt tonight,
watching you standing there..." He stopped short, and coughed a little to try to
cover for a sound that might have been a sob. "I'm sorry. I'm an idiot. The kids
will be fine, that's not the problem -- but I'm an idiot for not realizing the
only one I'd really hurt was you."
"The kids are not fine--"
"They'll wake up cranky and sick and they'll be fine by tomorrow," Kakashi
murmured, still holding him close. "This isn't about them anymore. This is about
you. You meant it when you said you didn't trust me anymore. And tonight
wasn't worth that. I'm sorry."
"How can you say this isn't about them? This is entirely about them -- if you
Kakashi put his fingers to Iruka's lips again. "Listen to yourself," he said.
"'If I hadn't taken them drinking'... no matter how you try to finish that
sentence, it comes down to the same thing. If I hadn't done that, you wouldn't
be sitting here at dawn after a sleepless night wondering what else I might do,
wondering whether you can trust me with anyone's child, let alone our own... and
it wasn't worth the trade. It wasn't worth your grief, and the loss of
"You're damn well right it wasn't worth it," Iruka said, a little unsteadily.
"But you never answered my question. How can I relearn what you will and won't
do for a prank? --What did you mean by 'being good?' Am I going to have
to protect them from you the rest of the day, to keep you from 'driving their
lesson home' as long as the chance presents itself?"
"Any other day, I probably would have considered 'being good' by
'being less bad than usual,'" Kakashi admitted tiredly. " But not today. Not
after this. I am taking you seriously. I just wish I'd had the decency to
take you seriously eight hours ago."
"That makes two of us," Iruka murmured.
Kakashi sighed again, smoothing Iruka's hair with a light hand. "I knew you
wouldn't approve, and I should have let that in itself stop me. Or at the
very least, we should have discussed it first. 'Because you don't want me
to' should have been a good enough reason by itself, not something to try to
dodge around and sneak past. I won't ignore your feelings like this again. I
Then Kakashi scrubbed a hand across his cheek, not nearly as
casual-and-offhand as he obviously had meant the gesture to look, trying with no
success whatsoever to mask the fact that his face had just been streaked with
tears. Before Iruka could decide whether to fuss at him for the tears or scold
him for the pointless and badly unconvincing attempt at hiding them,
suddenly Kakashi was wagging a finger under Iruka's nose.
"And besides, how am I supposed to lull you to sleep and have my way with
your unresisting body when you keep getting upset and going tense like this? I
have to stop upsetting you, and you have to relax and drowse off, so I can
molest you properly!"