|chibirisuchan (chibirisuchan) wrote,|
@ 2004-09-14 23:33:00
On their way into the village, Naruto shuffled along beside Iruka, feet dragging the ground, shoulders slumped, hands shoved in his pockets, scowling like a little thundercloud. He heaved an enormous sigh, and Iruka stopped walking.
"It's not the end of the world, you know," Iruka said ruefully.
"But I thought I had it all figured out! And now nothing went right and you're all mad at me and Kakashi-sensei won't get his present and..." Naruto sighed again. "...And that rat bastard had no right yelling at you, it was my fault... do they always do that? Is that what happens when you've got a real family? I mean, in Konoha everybody knows I'm the freak, there's no point at yelling at anybody else 'cause I'm the demon and there's no fixing a demon and stuff -- but when you've got a real family, do people make your parents feel bad when you do stuff wrong...? 'Cause that stinks! Nobody ever told me you'd get in trouble because I'm a brat... I'm so sorry...!"
Iruka sighed too, and put an arm around Naruto's shoulders, and then suddenly Naruto was clinging to him with his face buried against Iruka's side like a scolded puppy. Iruka stroked the sunny blonde thatch of the boy's hair and tried to find the right words.
"Yes," he said eventually, "this is what happens when you've got a real family. Because you do have a real family, Naruto: you've got us, in everything but blood."
Naruto couldn't find the words to reply, but his arms tightened fiercely about Iruka's waist.
"Gently," Iruka reminded him, a bit rueful, shifting in the boy's arms so that the pressure wasn't quite so uncomfortable against the snug swollen fullness in front.
"...'m sorry...!" He scrubbed the back of a hand across his cheeks, and mumbled, "Why do I screw up everything?"
"Not everything," Iruka said, rumpling his hair a little. "You had -- ah -- very good intentions when you were thinking of Kakashi's present. The problem was the execution."
"But why couldn't I just get it for him? It's not fair... I don't know what else I could've done!"
Despite himself, Iruka sighed. "Didn't it ever occur to you to buy a gift certificate and suggest he pick up that CD himself?"
Naruto's jaw dropped open. Then he fell over flat on his back in the middle of the street, vaguely twitching all over.
"Apparently not," Iruka murmured, the corners of his lips twitching again.
"I'M SUCH A MORON~~~!" Naruto howled at the top of his lungs.
Four bowls of ramen later, Iruka was still trying to placate the gloomy orange ramen disposal unit sitting beside him.
"...bu' n'jas don' think o' gf'crtffkats..." (gulp) "they think of like kicking things and throwing things and blowing things up and-- and--"
"Ninjas can think of gift certificates if they want to," Iruka said. "Remember the lessons on stealth? It's much quieter to buy a gift certificate than to burn down the restroom and throw smoke bombs at the shop owner."
"But gift certificates haven't got any... I don't know... coolness factor."
"Stealth, remember? Blending in? Not getting noticed?"
Naruto heaved a huge sigh and looked at Iruka's half-finished bowl of ramen. Wryly, Iruka pushed it over to him.
"...Iruka-sensei, you rock." Naruto set about inhaling his fourth-and-a-half bowl of ramen for the day. "Can I have another?"
Iruka blinked in astonishment.
"Kakashi-sensei's probably going to want zucchini or something for lunch and dinner," Naruto said. "I gotta get actual food while I still can."
"After we find his present, all right?" Iruka temporized. "We'll get you a bowl to take home, to 'survive' on this evening."
"Oh yeah... I gotta think of something that isn't Icha Icha Paradise..."
Despite himself, Iruka shivered a little. "Please don't say it that way," he said. "You're too young for Icha Icha Paradise to be the only thing on your mind!"
"I'm not that young!" Naruto protested, and hopped down from the ramen cart's stool. "Come on, I've got another idea."
Their first stop was a camera store, where Naruto bought a disposable camera; he still wouldn't explain anything, though, and each step they took had Iruka worrying a bit more.
The brief detour through an alley was even more confusing, but at least Naruto wasn't actively scrounging through the trash -- instead, he took the chance to shape seals and transform himself into his sexy-no-jutsu form. The orange jumpsuit stretched oddly over his female form's, er, assets; 'Naruko' grinned at Iruka's expression and said "Come on!"
When they stopped in front of a lingerie store, Iruka's heart sank into his stomach and settled there.
'Naruko' said proudly, "Here we are! Okay, we just have to find some things that fit you and--"
"What precisely are we doing here?" Iruka asked, hoping he wasn't blushing as much as it felt like.
"Well, you're a girl, so we need to get you lingerie, so I needed to be a girl so I could come in with you and bring the camera, so here we are--"
"Wait," Iruka said, rubbing his temples. "Further back than that. Why are we in front of a lingerie store?"
"Further back... well, it's all 'cause Kakashi-sensei's a kinky pervert, of course!"
Somehow, Iruka resisted the urge to knock his head against the wall until it stopped hurting. "All right, forward again. I hope I'm missing the connection between Kakashi's taste in literature and us standing in front of a lingerie store with a camera in your hands. At least, I'd better be missing the connection, because if I'm not missing the connection, you're in a lot of trouble starting in about ten seconds--"
Very patiently, 'Naruko' said, "It's simple. We go in and find you some things that fit over your tummy and I take a lot of pictures and we go and get them developed at one of those hour places and we turn 'em into a calendar and--"
"We WHAT?! --NO!!!"
"But they won't let me in with a camera if I'm a guy--"
The street sign wasn't attached to its pole nearly firmly enough, Iruka decided, as he ripped it off and began to beat 'Naruko' over the head with it until 'she' poofed back into Naruto's own body and took off running for the alley again
Iruka followed at a determined waddle, still gripping the street sign. "Naruto? Naruto, get back here so we can finish this conversation!"
From the nearest rooftop, Naruto hollered down, "Only if we do more talking and less beating me up!"
"That entirely depends on if you still plan on personally taking obscene pictures of me, female and pregnant, and then printing copies!" Iruka growled, glancing around to see if anyone was in earshot. "What is wrong with your head today?"
Naruto hopped down to the fire escape and sat with his heels dangling over the edge about ten feet above Iruka's current strike range. "Look," he said. "I taught you sexy-no-jutsu, right? So I figure you know I know how girl bodies look! So I thought you wouldn't mind if it was me taking the pictures 'cause you'd know I wasn't taking them for me to personally be a hentai pervert at you--"
"The problem is taking the pictures at all!"
"But wouldn't you rather I give him a kinky calendar that has you in it than a kinky calendar that has somebody else in it? 'Cause then he'll be looking at you!"
"I'd rather you didn't give him a kinky calendar at all--!" Iruka stopped, frustrated to the verge of hair-tearing, because the boy looked like he'd just been kicked. "Naruto--"
"The two things Kakashi-sensei loves best in the whole world are you and Icha Icha Paradise," Naruto said, lower lip trembling. "And I can't give him Icha Icha Paradise now. And I thought you'd be happier if he was looking at you like that, like you're the most gorgeous person ever... I thought this was a better idea than Icha Icha Paradise 'cause it might make you both happy...! Why doesn't it make you happy too...?"
Iruka stopped, and looked around again, and then refocused his chakra into his feet and carefully walked up the wall to sit beside Naruto on the edge of the fire escape.
"I'm having a very hard time with two thoughts right now," he managed. "One is the thought that you want to take perverted pictures of me. That's just... terrifying."
"They don't have to be perverted," Naruto mumbled. "Okay, maybe a little perverted, 'cause it's for Kakashi-sensei-- but I'd let you pick out the clothes and stuff, that's only fair--"
"The other problem is the thought that anyone would want to look at me like this," Iruka said, gesturing helplessly at the child-distorted body. "Honestly, Naruto -- do you really think anybody would find this attractive? You keep talking about how fat I've gotten..."
"How do I know what Kakashi-sensei thinks? He's a pervert, after all."
And that makes me feel even better about myself, Iruka thought sourly, digging a hand through his hair. So the only excuse Kakashi has for enjoying my body is the fact that he's perverted enough to find freakish things desirable? Naruto, I love you, but how do I explain that you need to shut up before I have to kill you?
"Look," Naruto said, as though he were the one who needed patience in the conversation. "I don't know much about how Kakashi-sensei thinks, but I know how he looks at you. Sometimes when he thinks we're not watching, he looks at you like you're the most wonderful, awesome, precious thing in the whole wide world. And the look on his face when he sneaks up behind you and scares you to bits so he has to catch you before you fall over and he gets to put his arms around you..."
Naruto paused for a moment, rubbing his chin, and then sighed. "Okay, I gotta admit, at least half of that look is him getting way too many kicks out of pulling pranks on anybody, and you know I'm saying that as an expert on pranks," he amended. "But the rest of it is that he loves having a reason to touch you -- he loves having a reason to touch the baby in particular -- it's just he's gotta try to be all macho and not admit he's being mushy whenever Sasuke-that-bastard and I might see him. It's a guy thing."
"I do understand guy things, Naruto," Iruka said, one eyebrow twitching.
"Yeah, but you don't understand macho," the boy said patiently, as though he were the adult explaining to the child. "You don't go around posing and acting all badass and stuff, you just act like yourself and you don't care if you're tougher than the next guy, maybe it's 'cause you're a chuunin instead of a jounin, you haven't got to prove anything to anybody, but anyway... Kakashi-sensei and Sasuke-that-bastard and me, we all do macho. So he needs an excuse when he wants to not do macho."
"So making a sexy-lingerie calendar takes care of the macho part," Naruto said desperately. "And the calendar being you takes care of the mushy part. 'Cause then he can look at pictures of you smiling just for him, with the baby in your tummy, and then he can be all mushy and not have to worry about if it's too un-macho or something. See?"
With an enormous sigh, Iruka wrapped an arm around the boy's neck and scruffled knuckles through his hair, then let go and leaned back on his hands to try to ease the near-constant ache in his back. "...I just can't believe I'm actually thinking about this..."
"What would've been really cool is if you'd gone and took pictures every month, so it'd be like a real calendar and stuff," Naruto said a little wistfully. "Like watching the baby grow up, except just not born yet."
Iruka shrugged a little, scratching behind an ear, and managed, "Sorry? The children did trace on the wall, but that's not what you're wanting, is it."
Naruto heaved an enormous sigh, and tipped his head sideways to rest against Iruka's shoulder. After a long quiet moment, he asked, "Iruka-sensei, do you think my mom was ashamed to be having me?"
"...What? No--" Iruka stared down at the blonde head in utter shock. "Naruto, of course she wasn't ashamed to be having you!"
"I keep trying to tell myself that too," the boy said, gazing down at the street and kicking his feet a little. "I mean, they probably didn't know I was going to turn out to have a demon and stuff. So I'm kinda glad they never had to find out. But I just kind of wonder sometimes... if my mom liked me while I was inside her tummy, or if she was ashamed for people to see..."
Iruka buried his face in both hands, shaking all over. "It's not-- that's not why I..." He stopped, and tried again. "I'm sure your mother was never ashamed of you. I'm sure that she was delighted every time she felt you move inside her, that she loved watching you grow. And feeling you kick. And I'm sure she wanted to live for you, to watch you growing up too. It's not the baby that I'm ashamed of. It's myself."
"Why?" Naruto asked, bewildered.
Feeling incredibly stupid, Iruka said, "I'm not sure, actually. I'm just... I feel so clumsy and awkward and..." He shrugged a little, helpless.
"That's just 'cause you're fat," Naruto said matter-of-factly.
"Thank you for the news flash," Iruka said with a groan.
"No, it's okay to be fat when you're having a baby," Naruto said, giving him a look that said and people call ME dense. "That's normal, Iruka-sensei."
Iruka laughed despite himself. "Well, when you put it like that..."
"So will you?" Naruto asked. "I got another idea too! I mean, the baby needs to be the size it is, so you shouldn't mess with the sexy-no-jutsu to make your tummy smaller -- but you remember what you looked like, right? You could make a clone and we could take pictures of the different months that way. It'd be cool! I mean, it's kinda a pre-birthday present for the baby too, like a calendar specially waiting for him to be born."
"Naruto," Iruka said in a half-strangled voice, "I am not letting my child look at a calendar of me wearing lingerie!"
Naruto gave him an odd look, then shrugged and said, "So, okay, like, how about a swimsuit calendar? We can go to the pond and splash around and stuff. --And people are used to seeing people in swimsuits, so you can show the baby too--"
"But not swimsuits on pregnant people--"
Try as he might, Iruka simply couldn't think of a good response to that. "Just... because," he said, rather lamely.
If he'd grown up in a normal family, he would never have thought to ask things like this... but if he'd grown up in a normal family, he might look at me and sneer, and I don't know if I could bear that from him...
Sensing an advantage, Naruto pulled out the heavy weaponry: a blubbering bottom lip and enormous blue eyes that wibbled. Pitifully. "Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaase?"
"But it's the only thing I can think of that Kakashi-sensei would like as much as Icha Icha Paradise! He's picky! He doesn't even like ramen! --And I'm not even going to set fire to anyone's shop or anything this time! I'm being good! I really am! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaase?"
With his face hidden in one palm, Iruka said in a very tiny voice, "Not setting fire to the bookseller's shop is good, but--"
"Oh, God, I surrender already," Iruka murmured. "But--"
"Score!" Naruto crowed.
"But," Iruka said again, more firmly. "This is going to be a family-friendly calendar, understood?"
"Oh, sure, whatever!"
"And I think that means we should have pictures of all of our family in it."
Naruto blinked at him.
"You three should be in it too," Iruka said. "We'll find Sasuke and Sakura and we'll all take pictures by the pond this afternoon. All right?"
Naruto wavered for a minute, and then something obviously occurred to him, because he started chortling. Evilly.
"Suuuuuuuuuuuure!" he said, far too enthusiastically for Iruka's peace of mind. "Yeah, we gotta get Sasuke-that-bastard dragged into this. And Sakura-chan too of course!"
Somehow, the nervous feeling in the pit of Iruka's stomach that had started with the stop in front of the lingerie store hadn't gone away yet.
Naruto kept chortling all the way through lunch. Unfortunately, this was about the least successful option on the list of "potential ways to keep Kakashi from getting curious and poking at a secret." About half of lunch -- which wasn't ramen specifically because Kakashi was taking a little vengeance for the mysterious and unexplained chortling -- was spent with Naruto and Kakashi poking verbal jabs at each other, Sakura complaining at them both, and Sasuke rolling his eyes quite frequently.
"Trust me," Iruka said, both hands up. "It'll be all right. We just have a little birthday errand to run this afternoon, and I need their help."
"Oh, you I trust," Kakashi replied, eye narrowed. "Him I don't."
"Blehhhhhh!" Naruto pulled down an eyelid and stuck out his tongue at Kakashi, then jumped out of his chair and ran for the stairs, calling over a shoulder,. "Iruka-sensei, I'll, er, Meet You There. You know where. So I'm not saying it out loud. So there!"
"Moron," Sasuke said. "What do you need, Iruka-sensei?"
"I have a particular mission for the whole of team seven," Iruka said, trying not to grin too much.
"Well, lucky me, I'm the squad leader--" Kakashi began.
"Including you, of course," Iruka replied without missing a beat. "Your mission is to stay right here and make sure Sakura-kun's cake doesn't burn while the rest of us are taking care of the errand. Understood?"
Kakashi looked so crestfallen Iruka really couldn't help leaning over to pat the top of his head like a puppy's. "We'll be back right afterward," Iruka assured him. "I'm sure you have enough reading material to keep yourself entertained for a bit. --You can even take notes on your, er, inspirations."
Kakashi's eye narrowed again. "Now I know you're trying to ditch me."
"Of course I am," Iruka said. "What kind of birthday surprise is it if you know what we're doing for you? Be good. Stay here and make sure the cake doesn't burn. Promise me."
"Oh, all right."
Iruka smiled and kissed his cheek, and headed upstairs to pack towels and a camera and film for the afternoon.
Kakashi glanced at the timer on the stove. Twenty minutes. And Iruka didn't say a thing about what had to happen after the cake's done...
At the pond, Iruka tried to explain the concept of a 'family-style swimsuit calendar,' except that Naruto and Sasuke weren't listening because they were already busily trying to drown each other. Suddenly, Naruto's enthusiasm for the prospect made a little more sense, since his new greatest goal in life appeared to be temporarily reset on "soak Sasuke's head and provide the opportunity for lots of blackmail pictures of him looking like a well-used dishmop."
Sakura was positively drooling over the opportunity to see Sasuke dripping wet and sparkling in the sunlight, and lost no time folding her yukata and splashing in with them; Iruka smiled to himself and took out the camera and started to take pictures of the three of them playing in the water.
...Well, for a certain value of "they were all still breathing afterwards so it wasn't technically homicide" playing.
It didn't take the boys long to wear themselves out, given that half the time they couldn't catch their breath because their head was being held underwater; Sakura claimed the camera from Iruka somewhere in the middle of the drowning process, muttering something about apertures and angles of refraction in the spray, and Iruka stepped back and let her have at it.
When the boys were both flopped over gasping on the beach and Sakura had gotten her fill of taking pictures of wet-panting-smudged-sunglittering Sasuke, she turned toward Iruka with an impish grin that wouldn't have been out of place on Naruto.
"Your turn, Iruka-sensei," she said sweetly.
Naruto summoned the energy to lift his head and glare. "You promised!"
Iruka didn't recall actually using the word 'promise,' but still, an agreement was an agreement. "All right," he said a bit sheepishly, loosening the yukata's obi and slipping out of the comfortable cotton fabric.
The sound of the camera's shutter startled him enough that he dropped the yukata on the ground: "S-s-sakura-kun...?"
"It's a birthday present for Kakashi-sensei, remember?" she said, still grinning. "Getting undressed is perfect photo material for him. --Now, we're going to have to get you rumpled and blushing, and some dripping wouldn't hurt either. Nice start on the blushing, by the way."
With a giggle, she took another picture.
Naruto was staring up at her with an expression compounded of disbelief and awe. "Sakura-chan, you're dangerous with that thing!" he said, sounding unsure about whether he should be more scandalized or impressed.
"Thank you!" she replied, with a photojournalist's gleam in the eye. "Throw a bucket of water at Iruka-sensei, will you?"
"I... er... but... --Naruto...? Naruto, please..."
"We all have to make sacrifices for the sake of art," Sakura said piously, tossing her hair back. "Naruto? Bucket."
"Yes, ma'am," Naruto said, and scooped a pail of water out of the pond.
From his perch in a nearby treetop, Kakashi chuckled quietly to himself and reloaded the film cartridge on his silent, flashless, high-speed stealth camera. After all, opportunities like this didn't happen every day; although he admired Sakura's dedication to the art, she'd missed five or six excellent shots during Iruka's undressing because she spent too much time considering the artistic framing of an image. She hadn't yet developed the true voyeur's keep-the-finger-on-the-shutter-button, machine-gun style photographic technique.
Jiraiya had taught him the basics of it years ago, in fact: always keep the shutter moving, boy, because you never know when you're going to be caught and slapped into next week. Kakashi had taken the genius's words to heart, and spared a moment to silently renew his vow of eternal gratitude to Konoha's legendary sannin on behalf of happy perverts everywhere.
By the time Team Seven returned from their afternoon's photo shoot and the ensuing debate over how best to assemble the pictures in the calendar (all of them suspiciously damp and in the boys' case oddly bruised), Kakashi was ever so innocently curled up on the sofa with one of the respectable pregnancy books. He waved an easy hello as they came through the door vaguely dripping.
"Enjoy your errands?" he asked with an entirely straight face.
As Iruka hesitated, torn between politeness and honesty, Naruto said, "I'm starving! What do you wanna eat? And it better not have eggplant or zucchini in it!"
"Hmm... I guess that means no stewed squash puree either, doesn't it?"
Naruto howled in agony at the very thought; Sakura giggled, and Sasuke rolled his eyes and brought a fist down on the top of Naruto's head.
"He's just messing with you, moron."
"...Dammit, if I wasn't worn out and starving to death I'd kick your ass..."
"Boys, no blood on the schoolhouse floor," Iruka said firmly, wringing the last few drips of pond-water out of his ponytail.
"So what would you like for dinner, Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura asked, sweet and polite as a little angel. With a shiver, Iruka realized that nobody would ever believe him if he told them she turned into a raving tyrannical fanatic-artiste with a camera in her hands.
"Well... I was thinking about boiled cabbage and natto with ketchup..."
Despite Naruto's protestations of starving, he still had the energy to drop to the floor clutching at his throat rolling around making gagging sounds.
Kakashi's visible eye curved upward into a happy arc. "But I think a Wave Country-style mixed-grill sounds better, don't you? And Asakusa in the market square has a family special on weekends."
Naruto was back on his feet in a flash. "Let's go!"
"You're sure you wouldn't prefer the boiled cabbage and natto?"
If looks could kill, Kakashi would have been a small smoldering blood-smear on the floor right about then.
"I take it that's a no," Kakashi said, putting a bookmark in his book and setting it down. "There's just no accounting for some people's tastes."
"That's my line!" Naruto protested. "Come on, let's go already!" He latched on to Kakashi's elbow and started pulling.
Feeling silly, Iruka said, "Um... can I at least get some dry clothes first...?"
Sakura said, "Iruka-sensei's right. My yukata's still wet. And I have to wash my hair and fix my makeup and--"
Naruto toppled over again with a wail.
"I'll hurry," Iruka said, trying for a peace offering.
"Yeah, but she won't!"
Suddenly Sakura was looming over him with fire blazing in her eyes as she cracked her knuckles. "Narutooooooooooo..."
The boy gulped hard, and offered a sickly grin. "...But you're so beautiful you don't need to change anything, Sakura-chan! --was that the right thing to say?"
"How do you think I get to be beautiful?" she shot back without blinking. "It takes work!"
"No it doesn't," Kakashi said with one of his more insinuating smiles, looking at Iruka appreciatively.
Sakura sighed. "But we don't all have someone who loves us that much, someone to make us feel beautiful," she said, looking at Sasuke.
"Hey, you have me!" Naruto protested.
"Fascinating as I find the philosophical analysis of the interrelationship of love and beauty," Kakashi said, "the longer we stand here debating it, the longer we wait for dinner. And for Sakura-chan's cake too."
"...Okay, I understood the 'longer we wait for dinner' part of that," Naruto said. "Come on, people, let's move it already!"