Warnings: Mild shounen-ai. KakaIru… I guess a hint of SasuNaru
Disclaimer: T_T I don't own Naruto. I don't even own the majority of opinion!
Notes: This is shorter than I intended. But oh well.
Iruka had always preferred dogs to most other animals. So when a strange dog wearing a shirt and a pair of sunglasses approached him in the streets, he didn't back off right away. It cocked its head up at him and grinned with its mouth open. "Iruka-sensei?"
It took a few moments for Iruka to register that the dog was actually speaking to him. "Y-yes?"
"I have a special request for you from my master Hatake Kakashi." The dog sat down on his hindquarters and tilted his head like a puppy. "Will you accept the message?" His tongue lolled out of the side of his mouth.
"Y-yes, I will."
The dog cleared his throat in an attempt to appear impressive and straightened his back. "Iruka-sensei, Kakashi-sensei formally invites you to join him for lunch at the Rice Hut. He says he will be paying so don't bother bringing money."
Iruka blinked. "Kakashi-sensei…"
"Would like to buy you lunch," finished the dog, slouching again into a relaxed position. "Whaddya say? Free lunch, a friend, maybe even a scratch behind the ears?" He glanced with round eyes over the tops of his sunglasses. "How about it, sensei?"
Laughing, the teacher reached down and scratched the dog behind his ears. "Yes, I'll go." The dog butted into Iruka's hand, tongue once again dropping out of the side of his mouth. It felt a little strange to be petting something that talked, but then again strange things tended to happen in the Hidden Leaf Village. Plus it was a little strange to be asked to lunch at three o'clock in the afternoon. But that was Kakashi- always late. With a final pat, Iruka stood up straight and nodded to the dog. "Will you be showing me the way?"
The dog grinned sloppily and nodded before taking off at an easy lope. Iruka followed at a trot, waving at passing children and nodding to their parents. He knew the way well enough to the Rice Hut, so even if he lost the dog, he knew he would be able to get there. Soon enough, the garish red roof of the Rice Hut came into view. Outside, lounging against an ugly green pillar was none other than Kakashi.
The other ninja was reading well worn pink backed novel, but looked up as soon as Iruka began to approach him. "Aa. I see that Neko-chan found you," he said, waving his hand a little to dismiss the dog.
Iruka raised an eyebrow. "Your dog's name is Neko-chan?"
"Yeah." Lazily, Kakashi reached up to scratch at his head. "So, you hungry?"
He wasn't. "Um, yes, of course!" He laughed and silently cursed his face for the blush that was beginning to spread across his cheeks. "Thank you for inviting me." He was about to make a little bow when he noticed the other ninja had his back turned and was already entering the restaurant. With a little frustrated whimper, he followed.
Inside the Rice Hut was just as loud and obnoxious as the outside. The seats were all a brilliant orange while the tables contrasted with a luscious blue. Hanging from the low ceiling were fish nets strung with brilliantly colored Chinese lanterns. And, to accentuate the color, steam hung in the air like an indoor fog. In the back kitchen, pots and pans were being banged and loud voices could be heard complaining about the freshness of fish. Iruka winced and followed his companion over to a table towards the back where the tables turned into private booths.
Kakashi sat down and leaned back as if he was comfortable being in such a strange atmosphere. He fingered the pair of chopsticks that were set before him and grinned across the table at Iruka. "Glad I finally caught you when you were free."
Iruka gave a weak smile, trying to think of when the other man had tried to reach him at all. "So… is there something you wanted to talk about?"
"What do you want to eat?" Kakashi said, abruptly changing the subject. "The food here is really good. Personally, I was considering having the third combo."
"I think you should get that, too. You'll like it." The silver haired ninja raised his hand to his mouth and called out, "Ichiro! Two number threes at table six!"
A rather harried looking young man poked his head out from the kitchen area. "Ah… Kakashi-sensei… I will bring them right away!" With a charming grin, he disappeared, followed by a loud crash and more yelling.
"Oh, I forgot to order drinks. Is it all right if we get them when he delivers the soup?" Kakashi leaned his head on his left palm, propping his elbow on the table. "If you're thirsty now, I can just call him back out." He grinned, the one visible eye crinkling happily.
"N-no, that's…all right." Iruka looked down at his hands, wondering if he would ever get a chance to speak. Once again, the blush on his cheeks flared to life.
"Good. Then we can talk."
Iruka looked up quickly and caught a dangerously serious expression on his companion's face. "Is something wrong, Kakashi-sensei?" he asked, worried. "Did Naruto… was he misbehaving?"
Kakashi was silent for a minute. Then he spoke up slowly. "Do you know that the Red Festival is coming up in a week?"
"It's a family festival."
Iruka's nervous heart plummeted. He remembered going to the Red Festival with his family when he was very young. He had made wish boats out of the red maple leaves and floated them down the stream. It had been his favorite festival of the year, what with the lovely fall colors and all the good food to eat. His family had been at its closest during the Red Festivals. At night his father would tell ghost stories and in the morning his mother would sing. All this… before the Nine Tails. Before…
"What?" Iruka looked up suddenly from where he had been staring at the table.
"I thought that would get your attention," Kakashi said, a hint of a smile passing through his eyes. He shifted slightly against the booth. "Two of my students have no family to celebrate this festival with." His tone was casual, but carried an undertone of deeper meaning.
"Naruto and Sasuke…"
Kakashi nodded and leaned forward. "A teacher is close to a parent, ne?"
Iruka blinked. "You want me to take them to the festival?"
"No, I want us to take them to the festival. As their parents."
~ * ~
Iruka stared glumly at the boxes in front of him. They looked nothing like the wonderful food boxes that his mother used to make for the festival. His rice was clumpy and slightly too brown and each piece of sushi that he had tried to cut looked like someone stepped on it. Even the small pudding cups that he had labored over were spilling onto the other food. With a groan, Iruka let his head drop onto his arms. How on earth had Kakashi convinced him to be the "mother" in this situation?
Just then a loud knock sounded at the door. "SENSEEEEEEIIIIIII! FESTIVAL TIME!!!"
Only one person in the village could be that loud and that annoying at seven thirty in the evening. Iruka crossed his kitchen and opened the door to greet exactly who he thought it was- Uzumaki Naruto. The blond boy stared up at him with one of his famous foxy grins. Amazingly enough, he wasn't wearing his usual orange outfit. Instead, a dark blue kimono graced his young frame. It was complemented by a pale blue obi which matched his eyes. Obviously, Naruto had not picked out his own clothes. "Hello, Naruto."
"Hi, Iruka-sensei." The blond hopped into the house and bounced around a little. "Kakashi-sensei made me wear this but I think it looks stupid. He's making Sasuke wear one, too. Sasuke's wearing a white one. He's going to get food all over it. Kakashi said if he was going to have to wear a kimono, so were we. You're wearing one too, aren't you? Blue is a really boring color, sensei. Did you make food for us?" By now, Naruto was peering into the little boxes of food. "Wow, you really suck."
Iruka put his hand to his forehead and laughed a little. "Calm down, please…"
"Okay, I'm not really that excited, it's just that I've never gone to the Red Festival before and Kakashi-sensei said we could make wishes and Sasuke was nervous about coming and there's lots of good food to be eaten and they said we could get some ramen and yakiso-"
Fortunately for the mild-mannered teacher, another knock sounded on the door. He hastily excused himself and hurried over. Upon opening it, he found the remaining two of his party on his doorstep. Sasuke was wearing a very disgruntled expression and a white kimono with purple trim. To tell the truth, he looked absolutely stunning. But he was eclipsed by the man standing behind him.
Kakashi had always been good looking. But now, traditionally dressed in black and red, he looked magnificent. His usual bored attitude was replaced by a strange look of parental pride as he pushed his dark haired charge into the house. "Well, Iruka-sensei, are you ready to take our children to the festival?"
Iruka blushed deeply. "They aren't our children…"
"Tonight they are."
For some reason, this made butterflies run amok in his stomach. Our children… He had to grip the door frame to keep a hold on reality. Ah… this is why he could never be Jounin, even if he wanted to. His emotions were plain as day and they affected him much more than they should for a truly talented ninja. "Yes, for tonight…"
Kakashi turned and suddenly Iruka noticed that he wasn't wearing his usual headpiece. Both eyes were visible and both were crinkled up in a smile. The rest of his face, however, was still covered in black cloth. "You still get to be the mommy, though."
"Sensei!" An upset looking Naruto tugged on Iruka's sleeve. "Can we go, please? I want to eat! Sasuke is being stupid. Let's go! I want to leave!"
Kakashi backhanded his student lightly. "Calm down, Naruto. We're going."
"Ooooowww! Is that any way to treat your son on a festival night?" Naruto pouted.
"You're not his child," growled Sasuke.
"You're both my children tonight!" Kakashi said, grinning and dragging the two into a hug that neither really wanted. He let them go and gathered Iruka to him. "And you're my beautiful wife." Cheekily, he planted a cloth covered kiss on the Chuunin's forehead. "Ah, I love my family." And, before anyone could protest, he skipped out the door. "Come on!"
The others followed him, the boys slightly grumpy and Iruka blushing brilliantly as he lugged the dinner boxes in the evening light. Outside, red lanterns had been hung along the streets along with large signs listing the events in different parts of the village. They had already decided on a destination, so Iruka didn't even glance at the signs. Naruto and Sasuke on the other hand began to squabble about where to go first. Kakashi ended up smacking them both upside the head before they continued toward the picnic area.
"Sakuraaa-chaaan!" yelled Naruto as soon as they got there, waving at the pink haired girl. She waved back, smiled winningly at Sasuke, and then returned to the food she was sharing with her little sister.
Sasuke spread out the green striped blanket and they all plopped down on it, with the exception of Kakashi who excused himself to get some water. Iruka handed out the boxes to the boys and himself, setting a place for Kakashi beside him. They had set up next to the Inuzuka family who, as usual, had a grouping of various dogs around them. Akamaru sniffed his way over to Iruka and barked happily, wagging his little tail.
"Well, hello, Akamaru-kun," Iruka said politely and scratched him behind the ears. Akamaru wiggled closer, smiling delightfully. Kiba also smiled and his eyes fazed a little as if he could feel his ears being scratched as well.
"Kiba-kun." Iruka smiled. "It's good to see you here with all the family." He gave Akamaru a final pat on the head and then sent him running back to his owner. "Even your older brother is here!"
"Yup!" Kiba grinned widely. "Everyone in my family!" Then his face took on a puzzled expression. "Iruka-sensei, why are you here? You never come to Red Festival. And Naurto and Sasuke are with you? What is going on?" He laughed a little. "Are you adopting them?"
"We're his kids for the night," Naruto stated, smiling broadly and flinging his arms around his former teacher. "He's our mommy!"
"Na-Naruto!" Iruka turned red.
"It's true, though," Naruto said, responding to Kiba's puzzled expression. "Kakashi is our daddy and Iruka is our mommy for the night."
Kiba blinked several times and then nodded dumbly. He turned back to his family without another word, as Akamaru began to cheerfully chew on Komaru's ear. The entire clan was here… though they were scattered throughout the crowd. Thus, several dogs would trot by each minute, carrying something for their masters or just roughhousing on the grass.
Kakashi returned just as a pair of puppies tumbled each other into the Inuzuka family's food. "Water, anyone?"
Naruto grabbed for a bottle, while Sasuke reached for the same one. They fought over it for a bit, as expected, and then Sasuke ended up taking one of the remaining two bottles. Kakashi handed Iruka the last one. "You and I will be sharing tonight, my dearest wife."
Iruka's face couldn't have been redder if he had tried. "Please don't call me that, Kakashi-sensei…"
"Don't call me sensei, then," Kakashi replied. His eyelids lowered a little.
"What… should I call you?"
Kakashi was silent for a moment, his gaze still holding Iruka's. Then, suddenly, both his eyes arced into a smile. "You can call me Beloved."
~ * ~
That night was one of the most beautiful nights that the Hidden Leaf Village had ever seen. The stars peeked between the trees, and the full moon shone down brightly while fat red lanterns dispelled the darkness in places the natural light didn't reach. People everywhere were smiling and talkative. Iruka personally felt that he hadn't known life until this moment. Walking with Kakashi and his two quibbling students… eating dumplings off a stick… it was absolutely beautiful.
They spent at least an hour (and all of Naruto's money) at a fish catching booth, waiting for Naruto to catch one of the wiggly goldfish. Sasuke took about three tries before getting his, and Naruto was not about to lose to his rival. When he finally did catch one, he managed to catch two at the same time. He dubbed them "cute" and carried them proudly in their plastic bag. Sasuke had already named his fish "Fish."
The next hour they spent at various gaming booths. Sasuke won a large purple bear at a shuriken accuracy booth for those under fifteen. He claimed it was going to be a dummy for sparring, but Iruka could see the shine in his eyes when he held the soft bear to his side. Kakashi loudly claimed that he would win flowers for his wife at a weight guessing booth. And, to Iruka's embarrassment, he ended up with a bunch of red carnations from the silver haired jounin. Naruto, too, won a small plastic frog at a shooting booth and tried to make his fish be friends with it. He had named it "Stupid" so that he could tell people "I'm with Stupid" whenever they asked if he was alone. Iruka tried a throwing game and won an alarm clock which shrilled "Good moooooorning!" quite loudly. He gave it to Kakashi.
Finally, they visited the food booths. Despite having just eaten, the two boys and Kakashi wolfed down food for at least three people and severely depleted both Iruka's and Kakashi's money. Naruto clambered for ramen, Sasuke's sushi disappeared at an alarming rate, and Kakashi fairly wriggled at the mention of yakisoba. Iruka himself only took a few dumplings before following his still-munching companions back to their blanket.
They shooed away some of the Inuzuka's dogs before settling down and waiting for the fireworks. Naruto fell against Sasuke, causing the dark haired boy to yell at him. Kakashi reached out and lifted Naruto into his lap, which caused even more excitement before they all settled down. Naruto was on his back, watching the sky, while Sasuke had propped himself up on his elbows. Kakashi leaned against Iruka as they waited patiently.
Some of the younger chuunins had been put in charge of the fireworks with an elder watching over them. Several of the families had been worried about this, but it seemed to work out even better than previous years. The sky soon was littered with brilliant reds and golds. Occasionally a blue or green firework was set off, but since it was the Red Festival- there were primarily warm colors.
Towards the end of the display, Iruka suddenly started. Kakashi had taken his hand and laced their fingers together. He leaned close to the dark haired man's ear and said quietly, "Thank you, Iruka-sensei." Iruka's stomach filled with butterflies.
"Kakashi…sensei…" Iruka blushed deeply. "Kakashi… thank you. You were the one who thought of this. They look like they're really having fun."
"Are you having fun?"
"Aa…." Iruka turned so that he was facing the other man. "Yes. I am having a wonderful time."
"I like you," Kakashi said simply.
"Sensei!" cried Naruto, jumping onto Iruka and hugging him around his stomach. "Can I sleep at your house tonight?" He rubbed his cheek against the older man's kimono. "Your house is soooooo coooooool…."
"Yes, Iruka. Let's all sleep at your house." Kakashi's eyes seemed to rip holes in Iruka's self-control. "Come on, Sasuke."
They made their way back to the chuunin's house and settled down for the evening, Naruto and Sasuke in the guest room, Iruka in his room, and Kakashi on the couch. In a few minutes, the boys had begun to snore. Iruka, on the other hand, lay awake.
He rolled over and over and then finally spread out all over the bed. Kakashi had said it. He had said… "I like you." What did he mean by that? Did he mean "I like you because you're a nice person?" Did he mean "I like you because you make worse rice than I do?" Did he mean "I like you because you also take care of Naruto?" Or did he mean… Iruka closed his eyes, not willing to think of it any more.
"I said, 'I like you.'"
Iruka sat straight up and faced the intruder on his room. Kakashi stood in the doorway, his arms folded across his chest. The black kimono he was wearing slid down his shoulder. Iruka took a shaky breath. "What do you mean?"
"I mean…" Kakashi began, and then stopped. It took at least half a minute before he spoke again. "I mean that I want to know you. I had fun. You…" He moved across the room and perched on Iruka's bed. "I think I'm attracted to you, too."
The silver haired shinobi moved closer and pressed his cloth-covered cheek to Iruka's. "I want to get to know you. I want to date you. I want to be… I want to be with you."
Iruka couldn't say anything.
"I'll wait. I'll wait until I know you better. I…" Kakashi pulled away and took the other man's hand in his own. "I'll wait until you're ready." He stood up and then walked out, pausing at the door. "Iruka… you're wonderful."
"So are you…" Iruka whispered and smiled to himself. "So are you."
Notes: If you want to review, that's cool. If not, that's cool, too. *yawn* I'm feeling Shikamaru-ish tonight…