|The Shop Around the Corner: Rescue Me
Author: Emmy Kay PM
Detective Kakashi Hatake, decorated veteran of Konoha's Finest, finds his favorite hangout has turned into a cutesy coffee shop. Heads are going to roll, starting with the brown-haired, brown-eyed barista.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Kakashi H. & Iruka U. - Words: 15,384 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 63 - Follows: 2 - Published: 01-03-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7706539
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Title: The Shop Around the Corner (Rescue Me)
Author: Emmy Kay
Summary: Detective Kakashi Hatake, decorated veteran of Konoha's Finest, finds his favorite hangout has turned into a cutesy coffee shop. Heads are going to roll, starting with the brown-haired, brown-eyed barista.
Contains [warnings]: AU.
Word Count: ~14800
Author's Notes: Written for the Winter 2011 round of the KakaIru Fest. For Sejitsu. This turned out a little more serious and a lot longer than I'd originally planned. Many thanks to Anenko for excellence in beta-ing and encouragement. All errors are mine, all sense and goodness are hers.
Prompt: Coffee shop AU.
Disclaimer: Naruto and all affiliated characters belong to Kishimoto Masashi. This story is written without permission and for personal/fan/nonprofit entertainment purposes only.
"Kakashi! Kakashi! Let me in!" Genma shook the door, rattling it on its hinges. "I know you're in there!" He had been standing in the hallway for nearly ten minutes, trying to get Kakashi's attention. He wasn't particularly worried about the neighbors. While most people were happy to have a cop living in their building, Kakashi had famously alienated every resident to the point where Genma didn't know if anything but the certain smell of death from the apartment would trigger any calls down to the precinct offices. "Don't make me break down the door!"
A little click was the only response.
For a moment, Genma wasn't certain that Kakashi had unlocked the door. It was just as likely he'd been double-bolted him out. Dubious, he turned the door handle. It opened.
Cautiously, he walked into an apartment that defined the word "lived-in". All the shades were drawn, the television was tuned into some foreign-language soap opera, there were piles of take-out boxes littering the floor, and years' worth of crap slung all over the broken down furniture. He turned to look at the fellow law officer who was doing a fair imitation of a body/mind meld with his lounger.
"How are you doing? Raidou and I haven't heard from you in days. Not since your psych eval."
Kakashi grunted, noncommittally. He needed a shave. He scratched himself through a convenient hole in a worn undershirt. The ragged sweatpants from the Konoha Police Academy had seen better days.
Genma wandered over to the kitchen. "Hey, you got anything to drink?"
"Then go somewhere else," Kakashi retorted, ensconced in his armchair, staring raptly at the television screen.
Genma opened the fridge. Then quickly shut it. The contents frightened him. He came to a decision. "Let's go out. Get a drink."
"I'm going to stay in. I've got to finish watching this. I want to see how they resolve the issue of her cancer and his mother."
"Do you even speak," Genma looked at the television for a moment, "Korean?"
"How can you tell? All they do is cry." He looked at the screen again. "And eat."
"Duh." Kakashi rolled his good eye. "That's why it's so good."
"C'mon. Let's go."
"Let's not. I've got a lot of reading to do."
"You've only got cop books, cop manuals, cop magazines, and porn. You're going to read the porn."
Kakashi didn't deny it.
Genma sighed. He went to stand in front of the television. "Move it, Hatake. You're supposed to be trying to get better. Get some air and activity. Doctor's orders."
"Drinking doesn't count as an activity," Kakashi refuted. He took a wad of dirty laundry that he'd been using as a pillow and threw it at Genma.
With the lightning-quick instincts of the long-suffering, Genma dodged. "It's better than staying in and reading porn."
"Porn is interactive!"
"When's the last time you left the house?"
"I went to PT two days ago."
"Besides physical therapy?"
Kakashi didn't answer.
"You are going to get cleaned up and you're going to get out of this place." Genma sniffed. "When's the last time you showered?"
"I cleaned around the wound this morning."
"That's not what I asked."
"Fine. I'll shower, you'll get something to drink and then you'll go away. But I've got to finish this episode."
"You are a philistine and do not appreciate the finer things in life," Kakashi declared, heaving out of the lounger in the direction of the shower. A few minutes later, he limped into his bedroom, dressing quickly. The clothes hung on him, a signal of how much mass he had lost. He placed a fresh eyepatch over his scarred left eye and wandered out into his living room.
"Don't you own anything that's not a trenchcoat, or a navy suit, or a navy suit and trenchcoat combo? You are a walking talking stereotype, you know that?" Genma called through the apartment, digging through the closet after opening the windows. "Detective Hatake, on the case, 24-7."
"I like navy and I like trenchcoats," Kakashi grunted, blinking at the sudden light.
"People will think that you're either a detective or a perv. Don't wear them so often - you're bound to scare away anybody who might have you."
"If they're scared so easily, then maybe I don't want them."
"With an attitude like that, it'll be a wonder if you get anybody to look at you twice."
"Seriously, when's the last time you've had a date?"
"I mean, it would save me and Raidou a lot of work if you got a boyfriend."
"Yeah, that's right. The focus of my dating life is to relieve you of work."
"I can always dream." Genma shoved Kakashi out the door.
"Ah, crap," Kakashi swore to Genma as they rounded the corner. "My bar's gone!"
Genma looked up. Indeed, the Broken Bucket, with all its heavy wooden and leather decor, smoky atmosphere and grunge was gone. In its place sat what looked like a coffee shop. Auntie's Place was written in cutesy script on the window, above a stylized steaming mug. A little "Help Wanted" sign sat beneath the street number, 2305. "You can see through the windows now," Genma said, awed. "It's as if it were, you know, cleaned."
"I want to go home," Kakashi said, looking uncomfortable.
"After all the trouble I went to to get you out of the house - no way are we not going in there."
"It's depressing," muttered Kakashi. "They turned a perfectly good bar into a place my grandma would like. Sorry. My 'granny' would like."
"C'mon, let's try it. It's about time you got out of the apartment anyway. Besides, you're not allowed to have any booze now. Not with the drugs you're on."
"You never did like the Broken Bucket," Kakashi accused his friend and partner.
"No, I never did," Genma agreed. "It was dirty, service was terrible, the toilets were always broken, the food was lousy, and it was overpriced."
"It was a great bar. You could meet an informant there and nobody would ever know."
"Nobody knew because nobody wanted to go in there. It was the worst place ever. How could you think about eating at a place that's named after a rusty piece of hardware? It even sounds disgusting." Genma opened the door.
A single bell rang when they entered the shop, still bickering. They were surrounded by the uplifting smell of freshly brewed coffee and sugar, with the slightest hint of new paint from the cream colored walls. A few glass-doored refrigerators stood by the counters, filled with soft drinks and ready-made snacks. Genma dragged Kakashi up to the counter, where they were greeted by a smiling man, his brown hair pulled into a short ponytail. He was dressed in a plaid collared shirt with the sleeves rolled up past his elbows, and a full-length white apron with the shop's name on it. The thin line of an old scar ran across the bridge of his nose. A mostly empty tip jar sat next to his elbow.
"Coffee. Black." Kakashi didn't bother to look at the chalkboard menu above the old-fashioned register. He knew what he wanted.
"Would you like some milk? Sugar?" The voice offering was pleasant, a small gesture was made to his left. "They're on the table over there -"
"I said. Coffee. Black. Just regular coffee. Think tar. No fancy-schmancy flavors, no milk, and especially no sugar. I don't like sweets. And I don't want to pay a fortune for black water."
The brown eyes remained unflinching in the face of Kakashi's irritation. It almost seemed as if he smiled a little wider. "No milk or sugar. Right. Would you like a cookie or a scone? Perhaps a muffin?"
Kakashi eyed the barista's name tag. "Iruka, I said, I. Don't. Like. Sweets."
"It's free today. It's our first day. You get a free cookie or muffin with a cup of coffee."
Was it just Kakashi or was there something genuinely, perversely, amused in those brown eyes?
Genma broke in. "Yes. Give him a cookie. Anything will be fine. Sorry, he's just that way." To Kakashi, he said, "Don't be an ass."
Genma was rewarded with a bright smile. "What would you like, sir?"
After a moment of checking the menu, Genma said, "Uh, a medium latte."
"What kind of cookie?"
"Please take a seat. I'll bring your orders out to you when they're ready."
"It's coffee - how long does it take to pour a cup of - " Kakashi sputtered as Genma grabbed him by the back of the trenchcoat and pulled backward. Genma nodded apologetically toward the counter person, who quickly busied himself with the hulking metallic espresso machine behind him. Genma dropped some change into the tip jar.
Kakashi found himself being steered into a seat at a table. "Why'd you tip?"
"Because, you cheap pain-in-the-butt, people who are forced to deal with you need to be compensated."
"Who pays you?"
Genma said, with the resignation of someone who has had this conversation many times before, "You saved my life at least twice, and Raidou seems to think that is a big lump sum against your jerkiness. Sometimes, though, I wonder."
Kakashi sat down, purposely choosing the seat with the best view of the shop. He sighed. It took a lot more energy to walk a block than he remembered. He looked around. The chairs and tables were simple wooden affairs. There were a few loungers and little end tables. In one corner, a young family was arranged around a few child-sized pieces of furniture, along with shelves of toys and books. In another corner was a table piled high with boardgames. Two nicely dressed elderly men sat engrossed over a half-cleared chess board. A rack of newspapers sat by the door.
"So, how are things?" Genma asked.
"Let's see, I was shot when I should have been on vacation somewhere warm and beach-like. Then, I get an unwanted medical leave of indefinite length, and third, while I was out of my mind in the hospital, my bar and hangout disappears. It turns into a frou-frou looking coffee shop with actual people in it. Things are just peachy. And how are you?"
Genma sighed. "You're an misanthropic ass. You're not just an ass - you're the lieutenant commander of all jackasses. And you deserved to be shot in the ass."
"I was shot in the leg, funny guy." Kakashi thought for a moment. "Yeah. I am." He laughed, creakily, perhaps for the first time in weeks.
A white apron entered Kakashi's field of vision. A lean, muscular arm reached forward, placing white coffee cups on saucers and small plates down on the table. A few lines of black tattoo emerged from under the sleeve. Kakashi looked up. The neutral expression on the man's face broke with a wry little smile in Kakashi's direction. "Enjoy," he said.
Kakashi did not believe he was being sincere.
"Thanks," Genma said.
Kakashi watched the man retreat, moving gracefully among the tables.
Genma picked his up and drank. "Oh, wow." He took another sip. "Nectar of the gods. I've got to tell Raidou about this place." He took bit into his cookie. His eyes almost rolled into the back of his head. "So... good." He paused to look at Kakashi, who hadn't moved since the servingware was placed on the table.
Kakashi was frowning at his cup.
"What's the matter?"
"This!" Kakashi pointed to his cup. Hanging on the lip of the cup, was a single cookie in the shape of an angel wing.
"It's cute. So?"
"This - thing - replaces my Broken Bucket!" Kakashi felt mortally offended.
"It's just a cookie - not a sign of your impending fall from manhood. I'll eat it if you don't want it. Or I could bring it to Raidou. He likes cookies."
Kakashi picked it up and flapped it a bit. Then he caught the eye of the counter person, who stopped wiping down a table, placed a hand on a hip and arched an eyebrow at him. Iruka, he remembered. Kakashi bit into the cookie, his teeth white and sharp. It was lemon - aromatic, tart and barely sweet. He swallowed. The taste lingered on his tongue. Iruka suddenly smiled, eyes curving upward encouragingly, like a burst of sunshine.
"So really, how did it go with your eval?"
Kakashi responded curtly, "Results are pending."
They both knew that kind of response meant that failure was an option. Kakashi had been a cop, training to be a cop, or wanting to be a cop for as long as he could remember. He had sworn to protect and serve - it was what he did, what he had expected to do for his entire life. If Kakashi couldn't be a cop, he had no idea what he was going to do. And therein lay the problem. At the age of 32, Detective Kakashi Hatake, decorated veteran of Konoha's finest, scion of a line of highly regarded officers going back nearly to the city's founding, was burned out. For some time now, he had been acting on ingrained habit, reflex. A dangerous thing in his profession.
"What're you going to do now?"
Kakashi gestured to his cup. "Drink coffee. Do some reading. Watch my soaps. Wait."
"You know, Raidou and I-"
"-gotta help me, Iruka." Something in the tone made Kakashi's inner alarm start to ring. He casually shifted his head to listen.
"I can't hire you. You know why."
"-think you're better than me now?" Kakashi's eye narrowed as he focused. Some tattoo-covered punk with dirty blond hair was holding the "Help Wanted" sign in one hand. The other hand was gesturing wildly in front of Iruka, whose expression was rapidly changing from apologetic to annoyed.
"Mizuki - " Iruka said, voice taut, "You are creating a scene."
"Maybe I'll take a seat and you'll serve me."
Iruka placed his hands on his hips. "I think you need to leave."
"I'll go when I'm good and ready. "
Kakashi looked at Genma, who gave the barest trace of a nod. Kakashi stood up and limped off to stand next to Iruka. Genma got into position behind Mizuki.
"Is everything okay around here?" Kakashi asked calmly.
Mizuki looked to see Kakashi in front of him, and off to his side, standing just a little too close for comfort, was Genma.
"This is my neighborhood. My coffee shop. I'd like to not have any trouble here," Kakashi said, his voice smooth, his manner casually confident.
Genma smiled. "It really is time to go."
Mizuki took the hint and left. But as he stepped out, he yelled, "I'll be back - just you wait, Iruka!"
Iruka looked a little upset. As Kakashi stood there, Iruka drew himself together. "Thank you very much for that. Mizuki - he's not the most rational of people, sometimes."
"I could see that you had it under control, but I don't like to see people getting hassled," Kakashi said.
Iruka stuck his hand forward.
Kakashi stared at Iruka's outstretched hand.
"Thank you -" Iruka's voice faded.
Genma stepped forwad and shook Iruka's hand. "Detective Genma Shiranui, and this is my partner, Kakashi Hatake. Excuse him, he's got no couth."
"Iruka Umino. And I do appreciate it. Something like that on the first day we're open - it's not something we'd like to advertise."
Kakashi looked around the cafe. The little scene barely caused a ripple among the customers in the shop. "It looks all right."
"If there's anything I could do to repay - "
"Oh, no," Genma said. "All in a day's work."
"Well, okay. Um, here," Iruka reached into an apron pocket. He pulled out a few slips of cardstock. "If you can accept, please take these with my thanks."
Genma glanced at the cards. On them were printed a variety of coupons, for free coffee, free baked goods, free drinks. As he reached forward, Kakashi snagged them before he did.
"Hey! I paid for the coffee!" Genma objected.
"You snooze, you lose."
"Some gratitude, for getting you up today."
Kakashi tapped his leg. "I'm sorry, you said something about gratitude?"
Genma sighed. "Never mind."
Kurenai entered the shop, a smile growing on her lips. She took in the curtains, the small cluster of older women chatting in the corner, a teen studying, the two old guys playing chess to the side. "This is really nice, Kakashi. When Genma told me about your coffeeshop - it didn't seem like you at all. It's so friendly."
Kakashi grunted. "It's not mine." He didn't like being taken out as an obligation, like some dog, but he appreciated the effort the squad was making so he kept the sarcastic reply to himself.
"Genma says differently. He says you've been coming nearly every day this week."
"It was free," Kakashi explained. What he didn't explain was how he watched the shop, only visiting during Iruka's shift. Kakashi couldn't explain it. It was disconcerting. He just found himself drawn to the man, to his way of treating the customers, his warmth and politeness, his occasionally dry quip. Iruka was clearly unconcerned about Kakashi's scowling demeanor, seeming to find it and Kakashi's reappearances endlessly amusing.
Kurenai waved a hand. "You drink coffee here, you protected somebody's honor here, it's yours." They approached the counter. "Oh, I see why, now." Iruka looked up from his reading, the late afternoon sunlight slanting across the window to create shadows across his face, accenting the strong bone structure of his cheeks, nose and chin, the brown ponytail lit with threads of red and gold. Kurenai giggled and squeezed Kakashi's arm, leaning into his ear. "He's cute."
Iruka looked at Kurenai's hands on Kakashi's sleeve. His smile slipped, ever so slightly.
Kurenai said, a little louder than strictly necessary, "You know, Kakashi, it's been forever since you've had a boyfriend. Maybe it's time."
Kakashi wanted to punch her and the stupid grin she had on her face as the message made it across the counter. An impish look danced across Iruka's face. "How can I help you?"
Kurenai ordered a hot chocolate with whipped cream.
Iruka looked at Kakashi. "And for you?"
"Coffee. Black. No -"
"No fancy-schmancy flavors, no milk, and especially no sugar. Like tar," Iruka said, a twinkle in his eye. "And you don't want to pay a fortune for black water."
Caught with his mouth open, Kakashi paused. Then he raised a finger and said, "...Right."
And as Iruka turned and bent down to open the mini-fridge under the espresso machine, the back of the unremarkable khaki pants suddenly turning quite remarkable, Kurenai squeezed Kakashi's arm again. "And he's got a great - "
Sometimes, having such accepting co-workers and friends was flat-out embarrassing. Kakashi could feel the heat creeping up on his cheeks. "Thanks. For pointing that out. Really."
"Some things need to be pointed out to you, Kakashi," Kurenai smiled. "I'm just here to help."
He abandoned her, limping away to sit at a table. She couldn't hide her grin when she caught up with him.
The bell rang, signaling another customer entering the shop. Kakashi looked up. Ibiki Morino. Kakashi caught sight of Iruka's face. It had the same expression that Kakashi thought he was having. That awkward "you weren't invited to this party" look. Kakashi didn't mind Ibiki, but that was as positive as anybody's reaction toward him got. Nobody really liked the head of Internal Affairs. Kakashi was just surprised anybody outside of the force had the same reaction. But Ibiki made himself known very, very fast.
"How's the coffee made?" Ibiki asked, without any social niceties getting in the way.
"Depends on what you order," Iruka replied, stiffening defensively.
"I want a soy half-decaf macchiato."
"The coffee is fair-trade, the beans are from Kenya, roasted locally. The milk is from - "
"What's in these cookies?" Ibiki barked.
"They're made by my aunt. Organic flour, sugar, butter - "
"Your aunt? Why is this called "Auntie's Place?" Is it her place or yours?"
"No - it's really my aunt's place, but she thought it was funny to name it that."
"Good enough," Ibiki nodded, relaxing. "Make it a large. To go. And get me a slice of that pound cake."
Ibiki came and sat down at the same table as Kurenai and Kakashi. Damn, Kakashi thought. So much for a pleasant conversation among friends.
"Something about that kid is sort of familiar," Ibiki declared, staring.
Kakashi sighed. People who thought he was paranoid had never encountered Ibiki Morino. "You're a cop. You think everybody looks sort of familiar - like everybody's face is already framed in a mug shot."
"No," Ibiki shook his head. "Something I can't quite figure out. Ah, forget it. How's the leg?"
"It's getting better," Kakashi said.
"It's a shame you didn't get a clear shot on the kid that did it to you. Aiming for Genma, was he?" Ibiki was very open about talking about such things in public: the more mayhem, the better. Even Kakashi knew that it made everyone uncomfortable. Ibiki seemed not to care. "What were you two doing in the convenience store, anyway?"
"Getting doughnuts," Kakashi dead-panned.
Ibiki nodded, until he realized Kakashi was probably joking. "Really? I thought you didn't like sweets."
"We were trying to find the location of a suspect from that case - "
"Really, Ibiki, maybe Kakashi doesn't want to talk about it right now," Kurenai interrupted.
"Nah," Ibiki said matter-of-factly. "Kakashi's only got his work to talk about."
Kakashi had to give it to Ibiki on that one. The man knew things.
Kurenai smiled without it reaching her eyes. "Then maybe some of us want to talk about other things."
Iruka came by their table, his hands full of cups of hot coffee. Kakashi saw Ibiki's intense focus land on the edges of Iruka's tattoo. Kakashi rapidly moved, blocking Ibiki's grab for Iruka's arm. The cups tipped and spilled.
"I'm sorry," Iruka apologized, retreating, dropping some towels on the table to mop up the mess. "Let me get you another."
"I'm sorry," Kakashi said to Iruka. "He's just really clumsy." Even though they both knew it was nothing of the sort. "Ibiki - " hissed Kakashi. "We're dealing with civilians. You just don't grab people like that."
"Yeah, yeah, you're right." Ibiki rubbed his eyes. Then he grinned, or as close to a grin as Ibiki could manage - all teeth and little humor. "Listen to you - sounding all grown up and civilized and protective and cop-like. Almost as if you hadn't lost your motivation."
That stung. Kakashi rolled his visible eye in studied denial. "Yeah. Whatever."
Iruka came by a second time and successfully dropped off their coffee and cookies. There was an extra cookie on Kurenai's plate. He slid a slip of paper on the table. "Your receipt," he said, looking at Kakashi.
"Thanks," Kakashi said, "but she paid - you should be giving it to her."
"Oh, okay," Iruka said, nonplussed. He disappeared, leaving the paper in between all the plates.
Kurenai picked up the paper, scanned it a moment, and then put it in her pocket.
And right in front of them, a brick crashed through the window. Kurenai, Kakashi and Ibiki dove for cover. An elderly woman at the back of the cafe screamed, hysterically. Iruka froze, then ducked under the counter. A few seconds passed with no other sound. Kakashi cautiously peered up. He looked over the jagged edges of the broken glass. He couldn't see anything out of place, and more importantly, couldn't see anyone out of place.
Kurenai asked, "See anything?"
Kakashi shook his head.
Ibiki was already on his phone, calling it in. They checked out any possible witnesses, canvassed the street, made a report, bagged the brick for any possible clues, but it was unlikely anything would come of this case of vandalism. Even if it bordered on threatening the life of an officer. No one had seen anything. Kakashi was almost glad now that Ibiki was here. Ibiki would get to the bottom of this - because Ibiki on a case was like a starved, maddened dog on fresh meat. That's what Ibiki did: consume, devour, digest.
Ibiki turned down the offer of a replacement coffee as Iruka started to make rounds with covered paper cups. "Time to go back to kicking the truth out of the servants of the people," he announced as he left. Kakashi and Kurenai stood around for a while longer, chatting with the other witnesses in the cafe.
"You okay?" Kakashi asked Iruka.
"Yeah. I just - I just don't know what to think about this." Iruka shook his head.
Kurenai suggested, "It's probably just a stupid kid on a dare or something."
"I hope so." Iruka sighed. Then he excused himself to go make some phone calls.
It was only then that Kurenai reached over and smacked Kakashi on the back of the head.
"What?" he asked, smarting from the force of her blow.
"For a genius investigator, you're dumb as a box of rocks." She snapped a piece of paper in front of him. It was the receipt from earlier. "It's a phone number."
"So? Lots of receipts have phone numbers on them." Kakashi shrugged. He lifted the cup coffee to his mouth, completely unconcerned.
"It's his phone number, you dummy. It says, '528-491. Call me.'"
Kakashi swallowed, the coffee going down the wrong pipe. "Oh." He coughed to clear his throat, his eye wide. He reached for the paper.
If Kurenai were a less nice person, she would have played a prolonged game of keep-away. But she was very nice, so she didn't. But she wasn't so nice that she didn't file away the story for later gossip sessions with the rest of the squad.
"No wonder you haven't dated, unable to pick up something like that. How long has it been?"
"None of your business."
"Genma's totally right about you." Then she reached over and smacked his head again.
That evening, Kakashi stopped in front of "Auntie's Place." The broken window was covered with a sheet of plywood secured from the inside. The door was locked, and the "Closed" sign was up, but he could see Iruka inside through the glass door.
Iruka looked up, and Kakashi could feel the pleasure in his smile as he unlocked the door. "Can I help you?"
Kakashi shuffled his feet. "No, I just thought - wanted to see how you were."
"Thanks. You want to come in? I'm cleaning up." Iruka sounded almost shy. "It's nice, you know, how quickly the report was taken and the uniformed police came."
"Yeah." Kakashi found himself tongue-tied. Despite all the banter he could easily have with his co-workers, he could not, for the life of him, maintain a conversation with this man. This really cute man. "You know, I'm a cop. A detective." Was he bragging?
"No, I couldn't tell," Iruka said, smiling.
"With all the trenchcoats and blue suits, I thought you had to be a cop. That, or a perv." Iruka's eyes squinched just a little in his teasing.
Oh, Kakashi thought. Astonished. Someone was flirting with him. Iruka was flirting with him.
"I was just saying - maybe it's because me and Kurenai and Ibiki were here that you got a fast response."
Iruka nodded. "I was just happy to get a response at all. My aunt - she was worried about the business in this part of town, because it's not great, but it's the best she could afford."
"It's not that bad," Kakashi assured him. "Good location - a bunch of bus stops, and the tram stops here. And I live just around the corner."
"Well, that's reassuring," Iruka said.
Kakashi looked at him a moment, wondering if Iruka was being sarcastic. And decided that no, he was sincere. Someone was sincerely glad that Kakashi was around. It was sort of a new, odd feeling. A good feeling.
"So how's business?"
"Some amount of looky-loo's, but okay. My aunt's all worried about how quickly a window guy can come."
A phone rang. Iruka pulled one out of his pocket. "Hello? Naruto - how are you? Yes - yes - tomorrow. That's right. At the shop. You know how to get here? I'll meet you at 5. Don't forget your books, like last time. Okay? Okay. Good. Bye."
As he slid the phone back into his pocket, Iruka explained, "That was Naruto, he's a kid I tutor."
"You like tutoring?"
"Yeah. I hope to become a teacher. Once I finally graduate."
At Kakashi's inquiring look, Iruka continued.
"I've been working full time and taking one or two classes a semester. It just takes a long time to get a degree that way. I'm hoping to be done in a couple more terms."
"You could have gotten some loans and gone full time. Be done a lot faster."
"I want to work with troubled kids - there's not a lot of money in that. I can't go into debt and not be able to pay it back."
"So you're a stickler for doing it right?"
"I am, now."
Kakashi blurted, "I'll walk you out."
Iruka's eyes widened with surprise, but then he smiled. It was a sweet smile. "That would be nice."
Kakashi held the door open - but Iruka tugged it away from him. "I've got to lock the door."
"Oh, yeah." Kakashi reflexively inhaled as Iruka brushed by to lock the door. The way Iruka smelled, like sugar and coffee, sweet and earthy, made his stomach tighten involuntarily.
It was a nice night, quiet. Kakashi limped along, happily enough, listening to Iruka talk about school and the shop. Hell, he'd have listened to Iruka reading technical architectural guidelines if he could stay near.
Their hands almost but didn't quite touch as they walked.
Iruka looked at Kakashi thoughtfully. "Why'd you become a cop?"
"To protect and serve," Kakashi said glibly.
"No, but really," Iruka pressed.
It had been so long since anyone had ever questioned Kakashi, questioned his motives, questioned him to find out something more, cared enough to ask that the words came to him slowly. "I don't know if I wanted to be a cop my whole life - I just knew I had to become one. My whole family was either in the military or the police, or both. My father died in the line of duty - and I thought this was the best way I could honor his memory."
"I'm sorry - " Iruka said sympathetically.
"It's okay - he died a long time ago. But thanks."
They walked in silence for a while. Over the buildings, Kakashi could see that the sun had faded, leaving in its wake a faint silver half-moon and the first twinkles of evening stars.
They approached a brownstone. "Well, good night," Iruka said, a trifle breathlessly.
Kakashi looked at Iruka. If only he could bottle the stars and the moon and the memory of this moment. It was a dream - the inception of which he couldn't recall.
"I can't invite you up," Iruka blurted.
Kakashi said, "You shouldn't. You don't know me."
"It's not like that - " Iruka said, his face suddenly seeming quite young, illuminated with the faint light of the moon and the wash from the streetlamp. "I wish I could invite you in, just for a drink or something - but - I live with my aunt." Iruka looked so adorably embarrassed, Kakashi didn't have the heart to feel bad. "She's probably asleep - she gets up early to do the baking - so -"
"It's okay. You need to be cautious." The skin around his eyes crinkled good-naturedly. "I wouldn't want to have to protect you from myself."
"Well... goodnight," Iruka said, his skin flushing faintly. Iruka pulled out a key, unlocked the door and went inside.
"Goodnight." Kakashi stood on the sidewalk for several minutes, watching the lights go on and off inside the house, before he went on home.
Kakashi walked into his own apartment and looked around. He couldn't remember the last time he had anybody over who wasn't inured to his slovenly ways. Damn, he needed to clean up. Genma was right. He lived like an animal. With a sigh, he dug around until he found the garbage bags and set to work.
O you whom I often and silently come where you are that I may be with you,
As I walk by your side or sit near, or remain in the same room with you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire that for your sake is
playing within me.
Kakashi walked into the coffee shop. As he made his slow, hitching way across the floor, he noticed the new person at the counter and all the other people sitting around the shop. Even in its first couple of weeks there were more people here than he had ever recalled being at the Broken Bucket in all the times he'd visited. And he'd been a regular.
He imagined it had something to do with Iruka. Certainly, it had everything to do with his own continued visitations. The way Iruka seemed to light up when he entered the shop, the little grin he seemed to give just to Kakashi. All these things and more made Kakashi as steady a customer to the coffee shop as he had been to the bar. Steadier, even.
Iruka was sitting at a table with a blond teenager, a book open between the two of them. It didn't look like it was going well. Iruka had a strained look, lips thinned, as if biting back some potentially hasty words. The teenager was nervously fidgeting, a frown between his eyes.
"Naruto - you need to focus on this poem. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Why do I need to learn poetry anyway?" Naruto said sullenly. "It's not going to make me a better cop."
Kakashi seated himself at an adjacent table. "You want to be a cop?" he asked, a little amused.
"Yeah. I'm going to be a great one," Naruto asserted. "I'm going to be Police Chief one day!"
"I'm a cop."
"Naruto, this is Detective Kakashi Hatake. Kakashi, this is Naruto Uzumaki," Iruka introduced.
Naruto perked up. "You're a detective? For real?"
"Yeah. I was a beat cop for a couple of years before then. And I read poetry all the time."
All the gears in Naruto's head seemed to have screeched to a halt. "What?"
"It's true." It was true. After all the cop books, cop manuals, cop magazines and porn, Kakashi was quite fond of poetry.
Iruka put his hands under his chin and watched, a smile inching across his face.
"Are you kidding me?"
"No. Why would I lie to you? I don't even know you."
Naruto looked like he was visibly struggling with the concept. "You like poetry? Why?"
"It's helpful. It makes you think about the way other people think. That's very important if you want to be a cop." Kakashi added, "I like reading. If you're no good with writing and paperwork - then you won't be any good at being a cop."
"What about math?" Naruto challenged.
"Cops need lots of math."
"To see the statistical prevalence of crimes and what types of crimes occur over the city. That way, a chief can best decide how to deploy his officers."
"Hm. What about science? I think science is hard."
"Science is useful. Consider forensics. It helps us figure out how some crimes were committed and by whom."
"But I'm going to be Chief! I can have other people do that for me!" Naruto was excited, as if he had hit upon the ideal solution.
Kakashi burst out laughing. He couldn't help it. "You try to run a department without being able to understand anything people tell you."
Defeated, Naruto fell back to a much-loved position. "But I don't like school!" he whined.
"Look, you don't have to be a genius to be a cop, but you can't be ignorant and be chief. And we all work hard - that's how our jobs get done."
Iruka looked pleased, and the smile he gave Kakashi sent a burst of warmth through him. "Hey, Naruto. I'll get you something to eat. A little sugar won't hurt." And he stood. He quirked an eyebrow towards Kakashi. "Would you like something?"
"You know what I like," Kakashi said.
"Black as tar," Iruka quipped, standing up.
They exchanged smiles before Iruka went to the counter.
"Can I see your badge?" Naruto asked eagerly. "Please?"
Kakashi reached into an inner pocket of his trenchcoat and pulled out his billfold. He opened it, the badge gleaming brightly gold under the soft light of the cafe. Whatever his own personal habits, Kakashi kept his badge spotless.
"Ooohh," said Naruto, awed. "Can I hold it?"
"Nope," replied Kakashi. "You've got to earn it yourself, kid."
"No. How do I know you're going to return it?"
"I'll tell Iruka," Naruto said, playing his trump card.
"Tell him." Kakashi shrugged and tucked the badge back into his pocket.
"Tell me what?"
Naruto and Kakashi swapped looks like guilty schoolboys. "Nothing, Iruka," they chorused.
Iruka placed a plate down on the table, along with a bunch of mugs.
"Lemon cookies!" Naruto exclaimed, reaching for the angel-wing shapes eagerly.
"You like the lemon cookies?" Kakashi asked.
"Yeah. But they're Iruka's favorite."
"Yeah," Naruto said. "I think Iruka calls them the "heavens help us" cookie. The cookie of last resort. Right, Iruka?"
"Does he?" Kakashi's face twitched with the desire to grin hugely, his eye flickering to Iruka's flushing face. Heavens help us. He stored that away. "What's your favorite, Naruto?"
"I like anything, everything. But I most specially like these -" he gestured to a cinnamon roll with its distinctive brown interior spiral. "Auntie makes them really great."
Naruto had set to work with renewed enthusiasm. Kakashi was amused. Naruto struggling with his books and papers could easily have been the originating image for the phrase "hitting the books."
Soon enough, it was time for the shop to close and for Naruto and the other shop workers to go home.
Naruto packed up, haphazardly stuffing books and papers into his bright orange backpack. Someone had taken a big black marker and drawn a big spiral on the front. "Next week, Iruka?
"Next week, Naruto. It's late, do you want me to wait with you at the bus stop?" Iruka asked.
Naruto protested, "I'm not a baby. I'm almost 15 years old, I can wait by a bus stop myself."
"I'll go with you," Kakashi interrupted.
"Thanks," Iruka said, inclining a grateful look toward Kakashi, who unthinkingly leaned in his direction.
Naruto looked at them. Becoming aware of their audience and their body language, Kakashi pulled away from Iruka. "See you in a few," he said.
Once they were safely out on the street, Naruto snickered. "Heh heh, you like Iruka."
"He's a good guy," Kakashi said, mildly.
"You'd better be nice to him," Naruto warned. "Or I'll - I'll sick Auntie on you. Best believe it."
Kakashi decided not follow up on the threat. Hard-won experience had taught him to be wary of women protecting their precious people. What the hell is happening here? I'm having a conversation with a 14-year-old about my prospective love life. On the other hand, all of Kakashi's professional training had taught him that there was no point in wasting a valuable source of information. "Is it obvious? About Iruka?"
"Do you think I've got a chance?"
Naruto looked at him and snorted.
Kakashi waited. The kid looked like he was bursting with things to say.
"It would be weird for Iruka to be dating somebody. And a cop..."
"Weird? Because he's interested in guys?"
"If Iruka is, then he is. We don't talk about that. "
"What do you talk about?"
"We just talk about school and stuff. It would be weird if it were girls or guys. I've never met anyone Iruka was interested in before. I think it would, I don't know, be too personal or something for him. " Naruto shrugged. "Anyways, he's a nice guy. And he's okay looking - for a guy. If I were into that. WHICH I AM NOT."
Kakashi fought to not laugh.
"If Iruka were a girl, I'd say he'd be the kind of girl you take home to your parents. Not the kind of girl that sends you naked pictures of herself - you know, if you didn't ask. "
Whoa! thought Kakashi. What were kids learning these days? And wasn't that an interesting image to have in the back of one's head - the very proper Iruka sexting him. Hn. He put that thought aside as Naruto kept talking.
"Not that I'd ever ask - Iruka would kill me if he ever found out. I've never gone with anybody anyways." Naruto suddenly looked like he had admitted something he shouldn't have. "Thinking about Iruka as a girl is giving me a headache," he muttered. "Next thing that will happen is me thinking about me as a girl - and ugh, my head!"
Kakashi brought things back on track. "How do you know Iruka?"
"I'm in a program. For Youth At Risk." Kakashi could hear the capitals from the way Naruto spoke. "Iruka's a volunteer. Judge Sarutobi put us together - he told me that Iruka has a thing for helping hopeless cases."
"Oh yeah?" Kakashi said casually, making a mental note to feed the kid more cookies at some point in the future. Once primed, the kid didn't need any assistance in talking, just a little bit of direction.
"Yeah. Like feeding stray cats and dogs. Iruka loves that stuff." Naruto glanced up at Kakashi. "You know Judge Sarutobi?"
"A little," Kakashi admitted. As well as you could know somebody who had been your grandfather's golfing buddy for 40 years.
"He's nice. Kinda weird. But sooo ooolllld." Naruto asked, eyes narrowing, "How do you know Iruka? You don't plan to do something weird to him, do you?"
"You know, practice some weird cop moves on him or something."
The kid really needed to read more, if only to expand his vocabulary and find synonyms for 'weird.' "I met him a little while ago in the shop. That is all."
"Well, Auntie will probably want to meet you."
"Have you met Auntie?"
"No." Kakashi couldn't help himself. "Is she weird?"
The bus finally pulled up. Naruto grinned as he got on board. "Nah. She's a trip."
As Kakashi returned, he looked up and saw Mizuki enter the shop. He hurried in through to the back room, following the raised voices, wondering what sort of trouble Mizuki might be bringing with him this time.
"Iruka - " Mizuki yelled, angrily. "You fuck! You owe me!"
"What do you think I could possibly owe you now?"
"You can't take a hint, Iruka. I thought that brick would have said something to you."
"What does it say, except that you're still a punk?"
"It says that you don't know how to return favors, and you don't know anything about brotherhood."
"You've been saying that for years, Mizuki," sighed Iruka.
"When we got inked, we swore we'd be brothers to the end. And look at you now - after all we've been through together -"
"I have tried to help you Mizuki - don't you think you could have tried to help yourself? Just a little?"
"What the hell does that mean?"
"It means you've wasted every dollar I've given you, you lie to me all the time, and you've blown every chance I've given you -"
Past the shadows of the entry way into the backroom, Kakashi could see Mizuki raising an enraged fist against Iruka.
Studiedly casual, Kakashi limped towards the door. "What does Iruka owe you?" He nudged open his trenchcoat, idly revealing his service automatic.
It was almost comic how quickly Mizuki backed up. He spat, "Just you wait, Iruka. I'll be back." As he fled, he reached out and crashed his arm through a shelf of mugs, which dropped and shattered on the floor.
"Do you want to press charges? He admitted he threw that brick."
"On Mizuki?" Iruka looked uneasy. "No. I don't."
"You sure? It'll be easy. I saw the whole thing. I'd make a good witness."
"No." More certainty. "Please put the gun away, Kakashi. I don't like them."
"Can you at least tell me why he'd want to do this to you?"
"No, I can't."
Kakashi's eyebrows drew together. "Why not? What's going on here?"
"You just got cop voice," Iruka said, coldly. "I don't respond well to cop-voice."
"What do you know about cop voice?"
"That voice that all cops get when you don't do what they want."
This felt... oddly... too much like interrogation to Kakashi. He went at it in another direction. "I'm not stupid, Iruka. You need to tell me about Mizuki. This is not the time for some misplaced loyalty. He threatened you."
"He didn't mean it." Iruka paused, and Kakashi could feel the tension in him grow until he made a decision. "We grew up together. The way we came up - you owe something to the neighborhood. Part of that is giving people a second chance - even a third - even if they've done you wrong. Mizuki will figure it out - he's just got more things to work out than other people."
Iruka nodded, not meeting Kakashi's eyes, flushing dully.
Kakashi could tell Iruka was hiding something from him, he wasn't a fool. "Look, if there's something between you and Mizuki - you need to tell someone. He doesn't seem real stable."
"I don't want to talk about Mizuki anymore."
"You need to talk to someone - silence is not always the best answer."
"Fine." Iruka nodded, his arms crossed over his body.
Kakashi sighed. He didn't know how he had gotten involved in this, but now that he was, he meant to keep at it. Not that Iruka needed to know that. "Can I still walk you home tonight?"
Iruka stared out through the glass windows. "I'll be okay - I don't want to bother you - "
"It's no bother. I'm asking. Iruka?"
Iruka focused on him, and suddenly, Kakashi found himself the recipient of the sweetest smile he could remember. "Yes."
While Iruka finished with the money and the safe, Kakashi slowly swept up the broken china. Mizuki had also broken the tip jar, change was spilled all around the counter. Then he put away the things on the tables; the board games, books and toys. He paused at the chess set, the white and black pieces coming easily to hand. When was the last time, he wondered, that he had played?
It was after Iruka finished locking up and they were on the street that he spoke again. "I want to thank you for talking to Naruto about school."
"No problem," said Kakashi. He thought it better not to tell Iruka what else they talked about. Iruka might not thank him for that.
"He's a good kid," Iruka commented. "He's just had some bad luck. He didn't grow up with a lot of money or supervision, and some of his friends are poor influences." The way Iruka spoke, Kakashi could sense a thread of fellow feeling, as if Iruka were talking about himself.
"He told me how you met."
"I was doing part of my teacher training - and Judge Sarutobi contacted my professor for volunteers, people who wanted to work with troubled kids. Then we got paired up. That was two - no - three years ago." Shyly, Iruka asked, "Do you really like poetry?"
Tilting his head in Iruka's direction, Kakashi recited:
"...the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face;
It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists;
It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees-dress does not hide him;
The strong, sweet, supple quality he has, strikes through the cotton and flannel;"
A smile bloomed on Iruka's lips. "That's wonderful."
Embarrassed at Iruka's pleasured regard, Kakashi said, "Photographic memory. It comes in handy in my line of work. What do you like?"
"Lots of things. Shakespeare. Keats. Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Not that I could quote any to you."
"Oh. A romantic."
Iruka flushed. "Maybe."
Kakashi stumbled. His limp had become more pronounced as he grew tired.
Concerned, Iruka asked, "What happened to your leg?"
"I was shot." Kakashi kept it short, his voice clipped.
"What?" Iruka exclaimed. "Are you serious?"
"It's okay. I just got to keep up the physical therapy and it'll heal fine."
"You act like it's nothing."
"It is nothing."
"You can't be walking me home - with a leg like that."
"Relax, Iruka. I need the exercise. I just can't go so fast right now."
"How'd it happen?"
And Kakashi told him, skipping over the confidential elements. He and Genma had been interviewing suspects for a homicide - they had stopped at a convenience store and walked into an armed robbery. Following a swift assessment, Kakashi had taken out a threat. What made this telling peculiar, he realized, was that this was the first time he'd told the story to someone who wasn't a cop, or a cop-related therapist.
Iruka was astonished. "You're a hero!"
"I'm an ass," Kakashi corrected.
"You saved that clerk's life."
"Both of them were just kids. And the perp - he was stupid. I should have been more aware, and then we might have wrapped it up without anybody getting hurt. Least of all, myself."
"Thank you for telling me," Iruka said. Sadly, he added, "Those poor kids. They must have been so scared."
Kakashi felt self-conscious. "I don't like using the gun, Iruka. No good cop does. But I'm trained to do it, and sometimes, it's a necessary tool."
"I know," Iruka said. "It just - it's upsetting, that's all." After moment, he asked. "Do you hate him? The kid who shot you?"
Kakashi shook his head slowly. "No. I can't. But if I hated him - or any of the other perps I'd ever come up against - I'd never get past it. Do I wish it never happened? Yes. Do I wish he never had a gun? Yes. Do I think he should never be able to use one again? Yes."
They approached the brownstone.
"Goodnight." Iruka didn't move any closer to the door.
They looked at each other again.
Almost as if Iruka couldn't help himself, he reached forward and his hand stopped just shy of Kakashi's face. He dropped it, awkwardly defaulting into holding out a hand. "Thanks for walking me home. Again."
"You're welcome," Kakashi said, taking Iruka's hand. Instead of shaking it, he turned it over, and rubbed his thumb slowly over the knuckles, feeling the texture of soap-roughened skin, the yielding of muscles and tendons under, and strength of the bone further beneath.
A fine shiver ran through Iruka's hand, causing it to tighten over Kakashi's fingers.
Kakashi released it reluctantly. "Anytime."
"I'm really sorry - but my aunt - "
"Yeah. I know." Kakashi smiled. "Good night." He waited to see Iruka slow shut the door behind him. A scrap of verse floated in his head:
"To see him pass conveys as much as the best poem, perhaps more;
You linger to see his back, and the back of his neck and shoulder-side."
Right after dropping Iruka home, Kakashi went home and opened his laptop. He logged into the Konoha online criminal database, two-finger typing Mizuki's name, guessing at the spelling. As Mizuki's file opened, Kakashi whistled. Long-time member of a small-time gang that specialized mostly in mischief and minor vandalism. This wasn't that surprising - there was any number of small, largely social groups of poorly parented kids in their city. Kakashi wished it wasn't so, but for the most part, those groups were largely controlled by the gang task forces.
But Mizuki was a special case. Kakashi shook his head. If there was a list of kids that no-one should get involved with, Mizuki rose to the top. This was a seriously messed up kid - a history of violence, substance abuse, multiple trips to detention, psych evals indicating many failed attempts at various forms of therapy for correcting both behavioral problems and a potential chemical imbalance in the brain.
There were a lot of reports, listed by most recent and going back in time. After the first few, Kakashi skimmed, noting the repetitious nature of most of Mizuki's charges. There was a gradual increase in the amount and extremity of the nature of his crimes, as was the case of most serial criminals. He halted in his reading.
What the hell was this?
In one of the last scanned sheets, there was a single line about known associates. In Ibiki Morino's firm handwriting with the distinct squared-off edges, was printed "Iruka Umino." The name was tagged, with a link leading to further records. The dates coincided with Ibiki's tenure as head of the gang task force.
Kakashi paused, his hand over the "more" button. Should he? Swearing at himself, he clicked on it. A message popped up on the screen. "Sealed under order of the court."
There were ways of getting around that, Kakashi knew. The physical records were in deep storage at the city courthouse downtown. And he knew enough people there that getting them wouldn't be a real problem.
If he did this, he would be violating Iruka's civil rights. He would be opening the juvenile files of someone who probably thought that history was gone and safely buried after he had turned 18. If anybody, especially Ibiki, ever found out he got these without a court order, he'd be in deep trouble.
He really wanted to look at those records. Kakashi continued to stare at the computer screen, undecided. Why was he even hesitating? He had done worse things for less benign interest.
Because this was Iruka. For once, he wanted to not know. He wanted the mutual exploration and discovery of another soul. The cynical part of him said that he wanted to be lied to. Maybe he did. By Iruka himself, if it came down to it. But not this ransacking of the past.
"Forget that," he said and shut the laptop. He walked away to his bedroom, with every intention of getting ready to go to bed. He was turning into a damned boy scout.
Minutes later, he returned to the living room, swearing loudly. He was going to hate himself in the morning. He grabbed his coat.
Deep in the basement of the courthouse, Kakashi sat on the floor, bad leg stretched out in front of him awkwardly, a large brown envelope on his lap. He slowly opened it, pulling out a stuffed accordion file labeled "Umino, Iruka."
He flipped the folder open. He exhaled, a low hiss in the deep silence of the store room. In his lap, on top of the file, sat a black and white photo of a skinny, sullen-looking teen with long, loose brown hair standing in front of a height strip. In his hand he held a placard with a date, a booking number and a precinct. A distinctive scar ran across his face, along with a number of bruises and fresh cuts. His sleeve had been cut to expose the crudely drawn black tribal tattoo circling his arm. Despite Kakashi's hoping against all evidence, it was unmistakable. This was his Iruka.
Iruka had run with the same gang as Mizuki. Most of his short list of criminal activity could be placed as pranks or dumb kid stuff. Almost all of it had been dismissed. Except for one. A charge of accessory to involuntary manslaughter. A street fight involving a large number of youths from a variety of other groups. Weapons included knives, guns, lengths of wood and other construction materials. The result had been dozens of arrests, a number of serious injuries and a few deaths.
After several months spent in juvenile detention, Iruka had been released early into the care of his aunt. The presiding judge, Hiruzen Sarutobi, indicated that he had taken into consideration Iruka's spotless detention records, as well as the stacks of commendations from the guards, parole officers, the detention center counselors and therapists, and teachers. The main condition of his release was that he maintain contact with the court until he reached his majority. Following his release, Iruka had stayed as clean as a whistle.
Kakashi went home, burdened with this new information. He should have put all the clues together - they had been there all along. Iruka's desire to do the right thing, his sympathy for the would-be robber, his acquaintanceship with Judge Sarutobi, and Ibiki's reaction.
Inside his fridge, Kakashi found a long-forgotten beer. He popped it open. All he wanted to do was to forget the angry, hopeless, sullen eyes that had stared back at him from that long-ago photograph. Eyes that had looked at him with such hope and trust a few hours earlier.
How did that boy become his Iruka? And when did Iruka become his?
In the past, Kakashi had gone for a quick physical release. When that proved to be empty, he had settled for a comfortable solitude. Nobody sane wanted to be the other half of a cop's life. Not when that half whittled down to a quarter, or even an eighth, all the way down to nothing. The work was paramount, the 48 hour shifts, the interruptions and calls at all hours of the day and night, the constant threat of danger and death. The loneliness had been tolerable when he had had the drive to protect his city, his people. He had even been perversely proud of his dedication that precluded genuine relationships. Recently, though, it had started to become burdensome, unbearable. Where had that fire gone?
Since he had met Iruka, without fully realizing it, Kakashi had begun to hope. This time, he had wanted something else. He wanted sugar in his coffee, he wanted the sweet, tart promise that lay in Iruka's smile. For a moment, he had thought maybe something would be possible with Iruka. Maybe they'd get to know each other like regular people do. Go on dates, meet each other's friends and families, argue about what to watch on television. It had all seemed so promising.
He should have known. Hope wasn't for people like him - people who handled the garbage of society. And once you handle enough, you become permanently stained. By the suspicion, by the alienation, by the hopelessness of it all.
Kakashi tripped over his own feet, light-headed. The trip downtown was harder on his leg than he expected. It also probably didn't help that he had mixed alcohol with his pain meds. And that was the last thought he had as he fell, cracking his head on the kitchen counter.
ARE you the new person drawn toward me?
To begin with, take warning—I am surely far different from what you suppose;
Do you suppose you will find in me your ideal?
Do you think it so easy to have me become your lover?
Do you think the friendship of me would be unalloy'd satisfaction?
Do you think I am trusty and faithful?
Do you see no further than this façade—this smooth and tolerant manner of me?
Do you suppose yourself advancing on real ground toward a real heroic man?
Have you no thought, O dreamer, that it may be all maya, illusion?
Kakashi awoke, groggy, head aching so badly he immediately shut his eyes again. Someone was pounding on the door, over the sound of the television. He shifted from his position on the lounger, unable to remember when over the past few days he had moved from the kitchen floor.
"Kakashi! Kakashi!" The door rattled. It didn't sound like Genma. Or Raidou. Kakashi couldn't think of anybody else who would bother. Certainly, it couldn't be his neighbors. They'd be thrilled if he dropped dead.
He peered out the little hole in the door, his vision still bleary enough that he couldn't quite believe who he saw standing out in front.
Iruka. He was carrying a bag with an "Auntie's Place" logo on it.
Kakashi would have retreated, except that a brown eye suddenly stared at him through the peep hole. "Kakashi, is that you?"
Kakashi didn't answer. He did, however, turn the locks and back away.
Iruka opened the door. He stood at the threshold a moment, uncertain whether to enter.
"Come in or get out. Either way, close the door. Don't want the neighbors getting an eyeful," Kakashi grunted, scratching himself in his worn boxers and threadbare undershirt. He could feel Iruka's glance pulled toward the ugly, puckered mess of his thigh, the skin still pink where the irregular seams of the wound were stitched together. Then his eyes bounced up to Kakashi's face, the old scar that bisected the left eye, its distorted pupil and permanently bloodied iris.
As if aware of the rudeness of his perusal, Iruka looked off to the side. "Hey! Is that the one about the girl with cancer and the terrible in-law?" He pointed toward the television.
Kakashi nodded. "Yeah." He went over and shut off the television.
Iruka asked, "How are you?"
Kakashi struggled with the traitorous rill of happiness at the sight of Iruka. He felt vulnerable. He didn't want Iruka here, in his home, his mess. Finally, he said, "I'm fine."
"I brought you some food - where should I put it?"
Kakashi pointed toward the kitchen. He saw that his beer bottle still lay on its side on the floor, under the kitchen table, a circle of damp still under its open mouth.
"I want to say you've got a nice place, but..." Iruka said, tentatively, looking at the mess in the apartment. He walked into the kitchen.
"Sorry," Kakashi apologized, without meaning it. "The maid hasn't been for a couple of years."
"It's hard to find good help these days," Iruka said, struggling to be cheerful. Kakashi could hear him digging around in the fridge.
"You don't have to be here," Kakashi said, unable to walk away and return to his lounger, yet unable to settle in Iruka's presence, anxious over what Iruka must think.
"I want to." They faced each other over the kitchen counter. Iruka's expression was infinitely kind. He gestured toward Kakashi's face. "How did that happen -?"
"A long time ago. Don't want to talk about it," Kakashi said curtly, backing away from Iruka's touch.
"I was talking about the bruise above your eye."
Kakashi lifted his hand to his forehead and winced as he accidentally poked the tender spot. "Nothing."
"Does it still hurt?"
"I said, I don't want to talk about it. Any of it. Aren't I allowed to keep some secrets, Iruka?"
Iruka inhaled sharply.
Kakashi was immediately sorry after witnessing Iruka's reaction. But he knew exactly why he'd said it, and that he would have said it again the same way.
After a moment, Iruka said, evenly, "I think you're in pain. How's your leg?"
Kakashi found that he had been kneading it unconsciously. He dropped his hand. "Fine."
"You don't look fine." Iruka's eyes cut over to the bruise on Kakashi's forehead.
"I was clumsy. I'm fine now."
"You seem just great," Iruka responded sarcastically. Briskly, he asked, "Have you taken your meds?"
There seemed no other way except to ask outright. "What is this? What do you want from me, Iruka?"
Iruka's eyebrows drew together into a troubled frown. "You missed a session of physical therapy. So, Genma called the shop. He wanted to know if you'd been around the last couple of days. I volunteered to come by and see if you were all right. He told me about the meds. How you don't take them properly."
"I don't need you being concerned about me." Genma. What was that toothpick-sucking clown doing, bringing in Iruka to check on him?
Iruka continued to look at Kakashi, his face soft, eyes warm.
It hurt to talk to that open face, knowing the clipped, cold voice that was coming out of him, but Kakashi continued to do it. "How long have we known each other?"
"Two or three weeks?"
"Why would you ever think that you know me well enough to come into my place and move stuff around in my fridge?"
"People are worrying about you."
"Maybe people should worry about themselves."
"What are you saying?"
Bluntly, Kakashi said, "I saw your juvie records, Iruka."
Iruka inhaled sharply, reddening. At first, Kakashi thought it was anger, but then he realized, stricken, that Iruka was ashamed.
"I knew I should have told you, right after Mizuki that last time. But maybe it's better this way." Iruka drew himself up. "I know I can never take back what I've done or give back what was taken away. But I'm working to make things better. Make sure it never happens with any of the kids I'm entrusted with."
Kakashi found himself unable to speak. This kind of open honesty was not what he was expecting. He, of all people, understood what the justice system had done to and for Iruka. And the tremendous effort it must have taken for Iruka to change in a cold and sometimes cruel system. Iruka was everything anyone could hope for in rehabilitation. He had all of Kakashi's sympathies.
Not that he could tell Iruka that. In fact, it would be better if he did not tell Iruka. Kakashi grabbed a hold of his sympathy and squashed it. "Am I right in thinking there is something here? Maybe? Between us?"
Iruka flushed. Then nodded.
"I think," Kakashi said, "we should cut this thing off before we get in too deep."
They looked at each other across the table. "Is there anything else?" Iruka asked, dimming like a light turned down as he absorbed Kakashi's words.
Kakashi shook his head. "This - this thing that is here, between us - it's not enough. What I know - I can't forget. And that means this thing - whatever it is - can't happen."
"I almost expected this. That's why I didn't want to tell you. I just didn't want to believe it. Not of you," Iruka said faintly. "I thought maybe you'd understand."
"I do understand." Kakashi reached to find his inner bastard, the one that everyone but Iruka thought he was. "Naruto told me that you have a thing for rescuing hopeless cases. Feeding strays. But I don't want to be rescued or fed. Save it for someone who needs it."
"You're right," Iruka said, as if shaking himself awake from a bad dream. "This can't happen. You don't need me. But it's a shame... I like you - I liked you - I could have - maybe, fallen for you."
"You think you could fall for me?" Kakashi felt the dull thud under his sternum. This wasn't what he wanted to hear. Was it?
"But you're right, I don't need someone who's going to turn on me because of something I've done half a lifetime ago." With a sigh, Iruka walked out. Before he shut the door behind him, he said, "It's only been a couple of weeks, right? Easy to forget."
What had he just said? Kakashi suddenly wanted to chase after Iruka and beg for another chance, but he thought bitterly that he'd never be able to catch up. This just proved how much more Iruka deserved than him. "What would someone like that want with a broken down piece of crap like me?" he wondered. He continued to stare at the space where Iruka had been.
The phone rang. Kakashi ignored it until he heard Genma's voice on the answering machine. "Kakashi! Answer the freaking phone! I know you're there!"
Kakashi picked up. "Genma."
"Has Iruka been there yet?" Kakashi could hear the clatter of street noise in the background.
"I didn't hear from him, so I thought he hadn't made it over there yet. I can't get away for a while."
"What's Iruka got to do with me?"
"He likes you. I can't imagine why."
Because he has a thing for hopeless cases. "I don't think he'll thank you for sending him here. Your attempt to play Cupid really screwed up."
And Kakashi found himself telling Genma about the brusque way he had spoken to Iruka.
Genma inhaled sharply. "Damn it, Kakashi! You always do this - screw up any chance people give you. Get your lame ass up already and find him and apologize. He's worth it. And you should believe that you are worth it, too. Why the hell do I even bother? It's only your own damned future. Honestly. Go!" The call ended with a furious click.
The phone rang again. "Hello?" Kakashi answered, cautiously.
"Take a freaking shower before you go, asshole!" Genma bellowed. "You can't be trying to chase down your future all gross and dirty like I know you are!"
"What?" asked Genma, sounding thoroughly exasperated.
Kakashi checked the time on his cell phone. It was past closing time for "Auntie's Place." He had figured he'd just tail Iruka home and have it out on the street, like the unhousebroken bum he was. Keep it on neutral territory. But still, it was really late.
He sighed. Might as well try the door. While he wasn't looking forward to this conversation with Iruka, he was even more afraid of the conversation he was bound to have with Genma later if he didn't have it. The door opened, even though "Closed" sign was posted. The little bell rang in the quiet store.
"Hello?" he called. "Hello?" He felt uneasy. The shop didn't feel right, didn't look right. The board games were still out - chess pieces scattered over a table, some fallen to the floor, joining a broken mug laying on its side.
"Can I help you?" Iruka edged out of the backroom, looking nervous.
Kakashi leaned forward on the counter, his voice low. "Look, I'm sorry about what happened earlier. I wasn't myself." This was harder than he thought it was going to be. "No, you know what - I was myself. I'm still sorry."
"Can I get you something to drink?" Iruka said formally. Nothing like his warmth of the past. Kakash's eyebrows dropped. He was in deeper than he thought if Iruka was speaking that way to him.
"Yeah. You know what I like."
"Yes, sir," Iruka said, a little loudly. And he fired up the big espresso machine.
Kakashi frowned deeper. When Iruka started the milk steamer, Kakashi asked, "do you even remember what I like?"
"Oh, yes," Iruka said. "And you want a cookie, as well? Sir?"
Kakashi cocked his head, listening. There was something off about Iruka's delivery - a little too loud, a little too formal, a little fast and nervous. Then he saw Naruto's backpack on the floor, markered spiral on the front. There was, however, no Naruto in sight.
Then, Iruka deliberately reached down and placed a fistful of cookies in the shape of an angel's wing on the counter, hand shaking. Heavens help us. He looked up at Kakashi, his eyes wide and nervous, checking to see if the message had been received.
Kakashi nodded. Very softly, just loud enough so that his voice could be heard but the individual words would hopefully remain indistinguishable, he said, "No, I think I'd like another kind of cookie. I don't see any cinnamon rolls out here. Do you have any in the back?"
"We might have one, but it's being held. Do you want your coffee to go?"
"To go is fine. Don't bother going to the back." Casually, Kakashi said, "I think Whitman wrote about the cattails, prairie grass, the dogwood -"
Iruka froze. That face of his. That open, dear face, that showed every single emotion and thought. It was fortunate for the both of them that Iruka's back was to the open door of the backroom. Then, very cautiously, he nodded.
"Know what? I was probably thinking about calamus."
Iruka expertly poured in the coffee and then the milk, swirling the spoon through the liquid, producing a whirlpool in the froth. "Help yourself. To some sugar."
Kakashi walked out with his cup in hand, hating the need to walk away from Iruka. The bell rang as he exited. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket. He dialed without checking the numbers and spoke briefly with the 911 operator. Then he circled around to the back of the store. The back door was slightly ajar.
Kakashi slowly walked toward the open door. He heard Mizuki's rough voice. "Did you take care of things, Iruka?" God, he hated that guy.
"Yes," Iruka said, softly.
"Then finish tying the kid up."
"I'm sorry, Naruto," Iruka apologized, upset, over the sound of duct tape ripping off the roll.
"It's okay, Iruka. It's not your fault. It's that butthead's."
Kakashi edged toward the door, peering in through the opening. He saw Mizuki holding a gun on Naruto.
"Aren't you afraid I'll try to escape?" Iruka asked, testily.
"Nah," Mizuki replied. "I know that as long as I've got your little pet, you won't do anything. Will you, Iruka?"
Iruka reddened angrily. "You be careful of Naruto!"
"Shut up, fag." Mizuki raised his gun hand and hit Iruka brutally across the face, knocking him to the ground.
Kakashi fought down the growl that rose in his chest. The urge to go in there, to protect Iruka from that bastard, to physically wreak vengeance on Mizuki, rose strong and fierce. He could taste the adrenaline in the back of his mouth. But he couldn't do it. He had to wait for backup. Damn it.
Chattily, Mizuki said, "Why Sarutobi is such a fan of yours, I'll never know. We are the same and yet he gave you a second chance - a clean slate. I got nothing. Less than nothing. I got blamed for the whole thing and got put away for so much longer than you. What I want to know is, why you, Iruka? We are the same and yet people treat me like I'm nothing. You don't deserve any of this. You got an aunt who took you in. You got a judge who let you off. You got a school to take a chance on you. But you aren't better than me."
"Detective Hatake will be coming," Naruto declared, pugnacious. "And he's going to kick your ass!"
Kakashi thought, You better believe it.
"Then it's a good thing your boyfriend isn't here," Mizuki snickered, nastily.
"He's not my boyfriend," Iruka protested.
"Fucking gimp," Mizuki jeered. "Like he'd be able to save you. Now. Open the safe."
"Don't do it, Iruka! That's yours and Auntie's money! You can't give it to that guy!"
Torn, Iruka looked at Naruto.
"The safe, Iruka. Or the kid gets it."
Unintimidated, Naruto glared at Mizuki. "He's no good, Iruka! You can't give in to buttholes like him!"
"You shut up," shrilled Mizuki, his voice rising. "I'll shoot you."
"When I become a cop, I'll make sure dirtbags like you never -"
"Shut up! Be afraid, you stupid kid!" The gun in Mizuki's hand began to shake violently in Naruto's direction. Mizuki's eyes widened as he began to panic, afraid he was losing control of the situation.
"Naruto - enough!" Iruka yelled, clearly afraid.
"I don't care! He's a butthole dirtbag!"
"Shut up! Shut up!" Mizuki screamed, moving toward Naruto, gesturing wildly.
"You hurt Naruto," gritted out Iruka fiercely, "and you'll be sorry."
Mizuki stood still a moment, trying to regain his self-control. "Iruka, tape that big mouth shut. I don't want to hear it anymore."
The slightest sound of footsteps alerted Kakashi to someone coming up behind him. Genma silently clapped a hand to Kakashi's shoulder. Then Genma jerked his thumb behind him, indicating the approach of Asuma and Kurenai. Kakashi tossed a few signs in their direction. With quick nods, Asuma and Kurenai disappeared around the corner.
Biting his lip, Iruka knelt in front of Naruto, the roll of duct tape in his hands. "I'm sorry."
"S'okay." Naruto's eyes, panicked despite his brave words, roved over the room, stopping at the moving shadows visible through the open back door. Iruka gave the slightest shake of his head.
"What is that?" Mizuki asked, twitching.
"Nothing," Iruka said, nervous. "I think it's a stray."
"Open the safe."
Feeling it had gone on long enough, Kakashi stepped out into the door and into the room, his own gun trained on Mizuki. "You know you shouldn't be feeding the strays, Iruka. They always come back."
Frantically, Mizuki pointed his gun at Naruto, hands shaking. "You know I'm not afraid to use it. Tell him, Iruka."
"Mizuki, you've got to drop the gun," Iruka warned. "You're going to hurt somebody."
The bell on the front door rang.
"What's that?" Mizuki startled, staring off toward the front of the shop, his weapon listing on his fist.
"The cavalry, you motherfucker," Kakashi said, grinning bloodthirstily as he and Genma rushed to tackle Mizuki. Genma reached Mizuki first, but it was Kakashi who landed the first crunching hit. Mizuki's gun went flying as he went down, shrieking obscenities.
The gun hit the ground and went off.
Time ticked off chillingly slowly as Kakashi yelled, "Iruka!" Helplessly, he watched the bullet emerge from the mouth of the gun, headed toward Naruto. Astoundingly quickly, Iruka leaped forward, pushing Naruto out of the way while simultaneously tucking himself around the teenager.
The bullet harmlessly buried itself in the wall next to the safe.
Asuma and Kurenai rushed from the front the store, grabbing Mizuki from Genma and Kakashi, throwing him to the floor and cuffing him. Mizuki continued to holler, which only earned him contempt from the detectives.
"Shut up," scowled Asuma.
Iruka scrambled to his knees next to Naruto, ripping off the tape, freeing him.
"You okay?" Kakashi asked, checking both of them for further injuries. Thank heavens, he thought. Both Naruto and Iruka seemed unharmed.
After a minute, Iruka began to shake in reaction. "I think - I think so," he shivered.
"Iruka, you would have died for me," Naruto said, blue eyes wide and wondering and suspiciously damp.
"Of course," Iruka said simply.
"You're freaking awesome!" Naruto shouted, throwing his arms around Iruka's startled form.
After Mizuki had been taken away, their statements had been taken down, and Naruto escorted home after effusively exclaiming about the awesomeness of his rescue, Iruka called his aunt. Then Kakashi found himself alone with Iruka in the shop.
Iruka looked exhausted. He choked out a laugh that wasn't very funny. "This has got to be the craziest couple of weeks ever. You and then Mizuki - "
Kakashi didn't want to be in the same category as that guy. "I'm sorry," he said.
"You just saved my life. I think that's got to make it okay."
"I protect and serve. That's what I do. And you're the only thing I've got to protect." Kakashi reached forward trace Iruka's rapidly bruising cheek with a gentle finger. "When Mizuki spoke to you like that - and then he hurt you - I wanted - I wanted to rip his head off - " Kakashi's eye glittered darkly, his voice a low rumble.
Kakashi dropped his hand and shrugged. "It's true."
"Well, thank you. For helping us, but not hurting Mizuki. Not too much, anyway."
Kakashi looked around for a moment. Then, gathering up his courage, he said, "Iruka, I'm sorry about what happened earlier. In my apartment. I really am."
"Oh." A myriad of emotions crossed Iruka's face, before it regained that dimmed look Kakashi remembered.
"I want to start again."
"No." Iruka was definite.
"Well, first, I should thank you - what you did was heroic and amazing. Secondly, I want to punch you. Because you treated me like you wanted - like you wanted to - to be with me. And then you didn't want me. I can't take that - it's too hard."
"No - No," cried Kakashi. "It's not you, it's me."
"No - it's really me. I don't know if I'm good enough for you."
"I'm a jerk with bum leg and all the bad instincts of a cop. The only thing I've had going for me was you - and I fucked that up. Ever since I met you - I've only wanted to protect you."
Iruka bowed his head, as if he were listening, but unwilling to comment.
"You're great. Iruka - it's not you who should be ashamed, it's me. You're great. What you've done with your life - turned it around - you're really helping people. Some days, it feels like all I do is shovel shit. You're so much better a person than I am. How can I be worthy of you?"
Iruka's head shook slowly from side to side.
"I was scared - I didn't want this thing between us - because that meant I'd be open to rejection - and if I do care about someone, then I'm afraid that they'll just leave. Or worse, that I won't be able to protect them, that they will be hurt because of something I've done. But I have to admit that I do want this - I want you."
Kakashi could see the moment comprehension dawned, as Iruka turned towards him. "You made me feel terrible because you wanted to protect me from you?"
"You are such an ass." This was said with a kind of awe and not outright hostility, which gave Kakashi a little hope. "Protect me, huh? That sounds great, but you didn't give me a chance to decide whether or not I'm interested in being protected - in being with you. I'm an adult that's fully capable of making decisions, and taking responsibility for them, good or bad. Let me decide."
"So, then," Kakashi said. "What have you decided?" It was the most uncomfortable thing Kakashi had ever done, waiting to see the inevitable rejection in Iruka's eyes.
"I don't know…"
But Kakashi didn't want to go away without a fight. "You said you grew up giving people a second chance."
"This might be more than a second chance - " Iruka said, temporising.
"A third chance, then." Kakashi pulled out his last resort. "Iruka - I lied."
"I do need you. Save me." Kakashi took Iruka's hand and raised it to his face, nuzzling the calloused palm with his cheek. At first Iruka resisted. "Please." Iruka began to melt.
"Don't you specialize in hopeless cases?"
"I guess. We can try. Start again."
"Really?" Kakashi lit up with relief.
Slowly, Iruka nodded. "You rescued me, so I guess I could try saving you. For a little while."
Kakashi kissed the inside of Iruka's hand. "Thank heavens," he said.
Iruka laughed and grabbed Kakashi and pulled him into a deep, wet kiss. If Kakashi had been a dog, his ears would have risen sharply and his tail start to wag. As it was, when Iruka moved away, Kakashi whined in his throat, his eye wide with astonishment and sudden want. "I can't believe you would miss this because of fear. Come home with me?"
"You can meet my aunt."
"Oh." Kakashi faked a smile. "Yay."
Kakashi vacuumed around the new couch and lounger. He scooted by his closet, which was now split between two distinct wardrobes. Trenchcoats and blue suits hung on one side, khaki pants, plaid button-downs and a few tweed jackets with leather patches on the elbows on the other.
Ever since he and Iruka had moved in together nearly a year ago, it had become Kakashi's job to do most of the cleaning. For Iruka, he didn't mind. Besides, this was his day off. Much as he enjoyed returning to work, he had learned to take an extra special pleasure in his days off.
Following many months of therapy, Kakashi had returned to the force, his will to protect his precious city and its people renewed. Kakashi had realized that he wasn't just honoring his father's memory, upholding the family tradition of service. He was also genuinely interested in protecting his precious people, and Iruka had rekindled that drive.
Iruka opened the door, dropping his satchel on the floor with a thump.
"How was your first day teaching?"
"I'm so tired, Kashi," Iruka sighed. "Maybe I was wrong to think I could do this. Those kids need so much help..."
"Come here," Kakashi gestured to the couch. Iruka sat. Then Kakashi started to gently rub Iruka's shoulders. "It's just the first day. The first day is always hard. It'll get better, Ruka. And I know there's nothing you can't do."
Iruka only groaned with relief at the touch of Kakashi's talented hands.
"I'm sure you were great. We'll order in, get whatever you want. Of course," Kakashi considered, "you don't have to go back."
Iruka shifted under Kakashi's ministrations. "I have to go back - tomorrow's the day when we really start with my lesson plans. Besides what would I do if I didn't go back?"
"You could stay home. Play chess with me. But you can't sit around eating bonbons and going to bookclubs with the neighbors. You'll have to earn your keep. Cook and clean and do laundry and be my househusband. But – "
A gleam lit Kakashi's eye. "A few conditions."
Iruka knew that look. "What kind of sick, twisted conditions would you make up to go with that option? Constant nudity?"
"No - yes - well, maybe. Maybe you could be naked except for an apron. A very small apron. That opened in the back." Kakashi leered.
"Oh, stop," Iruka said, laughing. He stood up and stretched and walked over to his satchel. From under a stack of papers, he dug out a small scrap of fabric. "How you found out about this - I'll never know. I just bought it."
"I'm a detective."
"And a perv."
"I've never denied it."
"I thought that the first moment I saw you. That trenchcoat was a dead giveaway."
"The first time I ever saw you, you were wearing an apron. Only it was much, much too big for what I had in mind."
"Isn't that my line?" Iruka laughed. Then he hesitated. "This was supposed to be your anniversary gift - that's not until next week."
"Can I open it now? Ruuukaaa? Pleeeeze?" Hopefully, Kakashi asked, "Can we do the sheriff and the little schoolmarm?"
Iruka blushed. "Maybe you could be the schoolmarm that needs rescuing this time." And then he gave Kakashi a look filled with love.
And Kakashi returned it, because, heaven help him, he knew he had had a narrow escape indeed. "Done."
FOR him I sing,
(As some perennial tree, out of its roots, the present on the past:)
With time and space I him dilate—and fuse the immortal laws,
To make himself, by them, the law unto himself.
All poetry is by Walt Whitman.
Please forgive any inaccuracies about the law and law enforcement personnel.
In California (Morgan Hill Times, Tuesday, May 3, 2011):
"…in juvenile court. An involuntary manslaughter conviction carries a maximum penalty of two to four years in state prison. An accessory conviction would result in a maximum fine of $5,000, one year in jail or prison, or both."
mizuki = cornel, variety of dogwood shrub (Narutopedia)