The Silent Blade: Hunter
Author: Carcinya (Isolde1 on fanfiction(dot)net)
Keywords: Naruto Hunter-nin Iruka Kakashi
Spoilers: Possible up to episode 145
Summary: The way of the ninja is shrouded in shadows and mysteries. But some secrets are not meant to be unveiled, as Kakashi painfully discovers, when he pries into something he probably should not have. (Book 1, KakaIru) Edited version
Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto, various publishers including but not limited to TV Tokyo. No money is being made and no copyright infringement intended.
Now, now, people. If Naruto was mine, do you really think I'd be sitting at my computer, sipping bad coffee, and writing bad fanfiction? Honestly.
Author's notes: I apologize in advance for any spelling or grammar mistake there might be in this story. I am French, and still only learning the beautiful language that is English. Besides, I don't have a beta-reader. Poor me. Any comments are welcome, but obviously flames will be used to roast marshmallows. Yummy.
Chapter 5: Insight
"Insight" (From Merriam Webster)
1 : the
power or act of seeing into a situation
2 : the act or result of apprehending the inner nature of things or of seeing intuitively
"Humans really are strange creatures," sighed a voice behind Iruka.
The Hunter whirled around with a startled gasp.
A boy sat on a stone bench, humming softly to himself. He looked up and Iruka gasped. His eyes were strangely blank, without pupils, the irises an odd shade of blue, almost glasslike. It was like looking into a mirror -- both revealing and deceptively blank.
"Who are you?" he said, warily.
"Don't you know?"
"If I knew, I wouldn't be asking," retorted Iruka dryly.
The boy smiled.
He did not seem threatening -- but then, neither did Iruka. The young man reached for his weapons almost instinctively, horror creeping up his spine when he realized he did not have them anymore.
"Where are my blades?" asked Iruka curtly, anger and fear lacing his voice, "and for that matter, where am I
"You should know. This is your dream, after all."
"I am dreaming," repeated the Hunter. Then, after gazing around pensively, "Obviously."
He stood in the garden of his childhood home, which the Kyuubi had destroyed almost thirteen years ago. Everything was exactly as he remembered -- the light breeze, the cherry trees, the pond. The house itself was unchanged as well, so ancient it seemed to be rooted to the earth itself.
There was one glaring difference, though -- leaden, eerie silence loomed over the whole estate, when back in his younger days the household had been so full of life and joyous cries.
It had taken but the careless swing of a paw to squash it all forever.
Iruka squeezed his eyes shut.
"I meant it, you know," continued the boy, "Humans are the strangest beings I ever came across."
The Hunter opened one eye, warily. When he saw that the strange creature wasn't going to disappear anytime soon, he opened the other with a weary sigh.
"You see, there is one fundamental contradiction in your specie."
Iruka quirked a skeptical eyebrow.
The boy ignored him.
"There is nothing human beings treasure more than life. Life in themselves, life in those they hold dear. And yet ..."
"Yet most of the things you create are meant to destroy."
Iruka swallowed audibly.
"You are a telling example of that contradiction, Iruka."
"I have never met a single human who loves life more than you do. Who else but you would get up at the crack of dawn, just to taste the morning before it awakened? Who else but you, as a child, would cry like the world was ending every time the sun set, for there was so much to do, to see, to learn -- and yet so few hours in a day to live them all? Who else but you treasures each life as it was unique?"
"Every life is unique," interrupted Iruka. "Any death is an irreparable loss."
"Even a murderer's?"
"In a twisted sort of way -- yes."
"Yes, that is what Umino Iruka is all about," the creature nodded. "And yet ... you are one of the most refined and perfect killing machines that ever dwelled on this earth."
"Kill so another can live -- what else is there?"
"There is always a choice. Look," said the boy, and suddenly the scenery changed to the familiar outskirts of the Academy. Iruka watched, befuddled, the children playing and chasing each other with joyous leaps and shouts. He couldn't recognize them.
The boy snapped his fingers once.
There was a white flash, and then ... loud, piercing screams that told of unnamable terror and pain.
One after the other, the children fell on the dusty ground, and lay there, motionless, wide-eyed, blood-painted puppets suddenly cut off their strings by an invisible hand.
"Murderers. Traitors. Deserters," said the child, "Every single one of them."
Iruka stared, speechless, as the corpses on the ground slowly morphed into adult bodies.
The Hunter couldn't tear his eyes off the battered faces.
He knew them all.
For he had killed them all, at one time or another.
Shaking in mute dread, he tried to recompose himself before turning back to the boy. He was gazing up at him peacefully.
"Your parents could not understand your tears -- nobody could."
"Who are you?" he managed to croak out. "Who are you?
A brief look of pain crossed the boy's face. He shook his head wearily, and closed his eyes.
Then, suddenly, his features began to change, his skin darkening, and he seemed to glow for a few seconds.
When the shimmering light receded, Iruka found himself staring at a perfect replica of himself in Hunter uniform, his porcelain mask in one hand, a bloodied Tsume in the other.
"I am you," said the creature simply. "Who else?"
Iruka woke up with a start, his breathing ragged, his heart beating wildly.
Just a dream, he thought, relief flooding through him.
Or was it?
The young man groaned as memories of the previous night washed over him. He remembered drifting off in Kakashi's arms -- he blushed a little at that -- and then ... well, nothing.
It was embarrassing, really.
He moved his limbs gingerly, checking for any sign of telltale soreness -- and was relieved to find none. So Kakashi had been quite the gentleman. A faint, impish smile tugged at his lips. After all, if anything ever happened between them, he'd rather he got more out of it than just a displeasing ache in his nether regions. A pleasurable shiver coursed through his body, but he shook it off quickly, amused at his own fickleness. Yes, he desired the Jounin. No, he was not going to do anything about that, and no, he did not want to question why.
Iruka stretched like a cat, languidly, and yawned into his hand. He noted a light stiffness, a vague ache, in his left arm, but all in all he felt mostly all right -- if a little tired.
He hesitated, torn between snuggling back under the warm, rumpled covers -- they still held Kakashi's scent, not that it mattered, of course -- and yielding to a lifetime of self-discipline and an innate loathing for laziness.
Being essentially himself, Iruka got up.
As he looked around, he couldn't hold back a small sigh. Kakashi's room looked even messier than the night before, if that was possible. He had vaguely hoped, optimistic fool that he was, that broad daylight would help a little.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Iruka walked to the open window at the other side of the room. Outside, Konoha was slowly shaking off the drowsiness of the night. The Hunter inhaled deeply, the crisp cool air tickling his nose slightly. He sneezed once, then closed his eyes, basking in the warm sunlight, reveling in the odd sense of peace that washed over him.
A faint presence of the edge of his consciousness made him whirl around suddenly.
"Good morning," offered Kakashi good-naturedly. He handed Iruka a steaming cup of coffee, laughing a little as the hunter hastily snatched it from his hand.
Iruka downed the cup in one gulp, to Kakashi's endless amusement, and sighed contentedly.
"Thanks," he said -- and Gods, but he meant it. Kakashi truly was gift from heaven.
"You're a complete addict, you know that?" said Jounin commented with a Cheshire grin.
Iruka mock glared at Kakashi. He then noted, with no small amount of self gratification, that the older man had yet to put his mask back on.
Such trust, he thought, vaguely stirred. He blushed hard.
Kakashi eyed him curiously.
Iruka realized, cheeks flaming, that he had been staring for a while.
"Ah, huh," he stuttered, mortified. "Err..."
Kakashi's mismatched eyes twinkled.
"You really are cute when you blush," he remarked playfully, grinning in childish delight when the younger man flushed even harder.
"You're teasing me, aren't you?" Iruka said in sudden realization.
"Well, maybe," admitted Kakashi happily. "But you're cute anyway," he added, for the simple pleasure of watching a famous Hunter squirm like a child under his gaze.
Iruka snorted and shook his head, before turning back to the window in a futile attempt to conceal his embarrassment. Kakashi came to stand next to him. He wore gray, faded jogging pants and a matching tee-shirt -- honestly, he looked more like a professional slacker than an elite, genius ninja.
But who was Iruka to judge him, when he himself was the walking definition of "deceptive appearances"?
They watched the sun rising in companionable silence.
Or rather, Iruka did -- the Jounin kept glancing at Iruka, who was still mostly naked, wearing but one pair of Kakashi's boxers. After the hunter had dozed off in his arms, Kakashi had pragmatically finished undressing and washing him. He had then carefully dried him off, helped him in one of his own boxers and tucked him back into bed.
All that, without ravishing him on the spot.
Teaching Team Seven had given him steel nerves, but still!
He almost checked to see whether he had grown a halo yet. Saint Kakashi, pray for our souls.
Because, hell, there was no denying he wanted Iruka. Badly.
"Your swords," he began, because such trains of thoughts were definitely hazardous for his health, then stopped abruptly when Iruka turned to face him. He looked younger with his hair down, Kakashi decided, deceptively innocent and carefree, strands of dark hair framing his face and softening his features. He was still a little too pale, and there were dark circles under his eyes - but his skin had lost that sickly ashen hue, and at least he did not look like he'd drop dead anytime soon, which was an improvement in Kakashi's slightly biased opinion.
"What about them?" questioned Iruka curiously, tilting his head slightly to the side.
"They are good swords," replied Kakashi lamely, for he had utterly forgotten what he was about to say.
Iruka shot him a bewildered look, unable to help the puzzled frown that lodged itself on his brow.
"Yes, I guess they are," he answered carefully, as if speaking to a small child, or to an irritable lunatic. "Where are they, by the way?"
Kakashi gestured to the corridor vaguely.
Iruka nodded, then closed his eyes. His hands began to form complicated hand seals under Kakashi's curious gaze.
"Ken Yuuki No Jutsu," he breathed, and both swords materialized themselves into his hands.
Iruka beamed, absurdly relieved to handle the familiar twin swords. He loved the soft, almost alive feel of their leather hilts - they told the story of his life. Any elite ninja -- facing, dealing death -- held a special bond with his weapons -- it was a matter of life and death, of victory and loss, of killing and being killed.
But for a Hunter, this went even farther. Iruka's blades were an extension of himself, his only ever reliable allies in a world full of treachery, blood and deception -- a world he had for the most part woven himself with his lies.
It was somewhat pathetic, and very telling, Iruka mused, for him to have but two swords -- graceful instruments of death and destruction -- to call his friends.
He placed Tsume against the wall, his light mood evaporating.
"Handy," commented Kakashi. "Thanks."
"You copied it," he said in a small voice. "You fucking copied it."
"Yes, well," rejoined Kakashi, shrugging, "It's not like I could help it."
"This is a Hunter jutsu. You're not supposed to know it."
Iruka looked so distressed it was almost funny, Kakashi thought. How could someone be so experienced and sweet at the same time?
"I promise not to use it in front of anyone," he said solemnly, a smile tugging at his lips.
Iruka stared at him a moment longer, before rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly.
"You're making fun of me again, aren't you?" he said without resentment.
Kakashi smiled at him then, that infuriating, placid smile of his -- but, for some reason, Iruka could not bring himself to be mad. Kakashi's gaze shifted from the hunter to the blade he held in his hand.
"May I?" he asked simply. He wanted to see for himself -- on what he thought to be a vaguely masochistic, childish whim - the swords that had very nearly beheaded him the night before.
Iruka looked faintly startled by the bold request. But then, Kakashi was the first ninja beside Iruka himself to have ever dared to touch Tsume or Kiba ... even if that was only to carry them back to his house.
"Sure, go ahead," he replied, handing the leather scabbard to the older man.
Kakashi unsheathed the sword. Kiba gleamed in the sunlight, the warm blaze of the blade very far from the pale glint it was graced with under the stars. It seemed somehow less threatening.
It was truly a work of art, the Jounin mused. He weighted it experimentally, awed at the feeling of perfect balance the blade seemed to possess.
Kiba cut through the air neatly as Kakashi mock fenced a few steps. The Jounin was disagreeably surprised to find his motions rather inelegant and almost off-balance. He frowned.
"No," said Iruka unexpectedly, "Not that way. You're wielding it like a katana."
He stepped closer.
"I know," the hunter offered with a sympathetic grin.
"It was the same for me at first. Kodachis are shorter and lighter than katana, so their gravity center is completely different." He placed his hands over Kakashi's, unconsciously moving to stand between the Jounin's arms. Guiding Kakashi's motions, they assumed a simple attack stance. "You're used to power fights, that's why you were slightly off-thrown. You should grip it lower, so as to swing it more easily; and put less power in your move."
"Yes, sensei," Kakashi said good-naturedly -- though inwardly he found it rather funny that Iruka of all people - whom Kakashi had until recently thought could not wield a katana to save his life -- would give him, a Jounin and ANBU, Kenjutsu advice...
Iruka had the grace to blush.
"Sorry," he mumbled, "I didn't mean to sound patronizing."
"It's okay," Kakashi whispered, nuzzling the nape of his neck. "I like your stern teacher persona."
The young man quickly wriggled out of Kakashi's arms and turned away.
"Look at me," said Kakashi suddenly, frowning.
Iruka refused stubbornly to meet his eye and busied himself with sheathing back the sword.
"Look at me," he repeated.
"Thank you very much for your help. I'll be going now," Iruka replied smoothly, without so much as a backward glance. He grabbed both his swords, and moved to get his clothes, hanging on a nearby wooden chair.
Kakashi's deep voice stopped him dead in his tracks. Iruka tensed, his sore muscles stiffening in anticipation.
"Why are you running away?" came the soft question.
"I am not!" Iruka shot back hotly, whirling around -- just as Kakashi had expected he would.
Sometimes Iruka was so clueless, so predictable it was almost ludicrous -- if downright adorable. Had Kakashi not faced him in a sword fight before -- and lost -- he might have had trouble believing this nervous, troubled young man was the same feared Hunter who could probably wipe the floor with most of Konoha's ninjas, himself included -- and with a hand tied behind his back, to boot.
Who are you, Iruka? Do you even know it yourself?
"Are too," replied Kakashi placidly.
"Why would I?" huffed the hunter, insulted. He crossed his arms on his chest defensively.
Kakashi eyed him without enthusiasm, a thoughtful frown marring his handsome features.
"Because you're scared. The truth is, you're completely freaking out," he pointed out dryly.
"Nonsense," said the hunter, trying to keep his voice steady, but inwardly fuming and wanting out, quick, before he got into a splendid display of his self-control where Kakashi was concerned -- or lack thereof.
"I'll be blunt, because it's obvious you're not going to listen otherwise. I like you. I want you. And I'm pretty confident that you like me back -- unless you're going to try and deny it?"
Iruka tried to, honestly he did, but words simply refused to leave his mouth. He was blushing hard, heart hammering in his chest, and to his utter embarrassment, he was shaking a little.
Kakashi's words echoed in his mind.
I like you.
I want you.
It shouldn't have mattered, but it did -- and there was absolutely nothing Iruka could do about that.
"Glad to see we agree on something," continued the Jounin. "Now tell me. What is holding you back? What are you afraid of? And don't give me any of that hunter crap," he added wryly as Iruka opened his mouth to answer.
"It's not crap," shot back said hunter, looking distinctly vexed. "My status ..."
Kakashi looked bored.
"Will you stop hiding behind your title?"
"Me, hiding? That's rich, coming from a man who keeps his face covered most of the time!" cried Iruka, outraged.
"Right now I'm not the one wearing a mask," replied Kakashi without missing a beat.
Iruka flinched as if he had been slapped. He gritted in teeth in sudden, frustrated anger.
"You think you're so wise," he spat bitterly. "You think you know everything about me -- that you've figured me out..."
"Wrong. That's one of the things that I like most about you -- I never know what to expect. That, and your eyes, of course."
The dark-haired ninja shot him a dirty look, his fists tightening in obvious annoyance.
"Could you try and be serious for once?"
Kakashi had a small smile, tired and yet sincere.
"I am completely serious," he said simply, and he meant it.
Their gazes locked in a contest of will for a few seconds.
Iruka was the first to look away, his shoulders sagging as he let out a weary sigh. He felt completely foolish and just a little hurt -- though he did not know exactly why.
"I'm tired," he murmured to no one in particular.
Kakashi hesitated, then made up his mind. He stepped closer to Iruka and put his arms around him in what he hoped was a comforting embrace. The younger man, shocked, stiffened at first but made no move to remove himself from the slightly awkward hug.
"Relax," whispered the Jounin against the top of his head, "you're so tense you look like you're going to snap anytime. You don't have to be strong all the time, you know," he added as an afterthought.
Iruka had a shaky laugh.
"If I am not strong, no one will be for me."
"I would," Kakashi replied on impulse.
He shivered when Iruka lifted his head to look at him, his eyes very dark and very old, and completely out of place in that young, soft face.
"Why?" asked the hunter simply. Almost curious.
Kakashi did not answer. He simply stared at the younger man, feeling vaguely, inexplicably sad.
"Why?" insisted Iruka. "Why bother?"
"You really have no idea," realized the Jounin in slight awe, "what a precious person you are. Not Kurohyou," he added as Iruka's brow furrowed, "Just you, Umino Iruka -- Academy teacher and coffee addict extraordinaire."
Iruka turned an interesting shade of crimson.
"Stop teasing me already!"
Kakashi gazed at him pensively, before tilting Iruka's chin up with a finger. He then ran both hands through the hunter's thick mane of dark hair. Iruka squeezed his eyes shut, blushing profusely.
"Kakashi-sensei ..." said Iruka, warningly.
"Are you going to kick me again?" Kakashi cut in half-seriously.
"Maybe," breathed Iruka, his voice strangely altered. He opened his eyes. "Are you willing to take the risk?"
He did not mean just the potential kick Kakashi might receive.
"Hell, yes," replied the Jounin calmly. "It's worth it ..."
Iruka wasn't convinced, and was about to say so, but then Kakashi's lips were on his own, firm and warm and a little chapped, and he forgot what he would rather have said.
Kakashi pulled back after a few seconds.
"You did not kick me," he stated, looking ridiculously smug.
"You call that a kiss?" shot back Iruka, not missing a beat. "I..."
He was cut off again as Kakashi slammed his mouth against his own, his tongue sliding between Iruka's parted lips. The Jounin crushed him against his chest, hands still lost in the hunter's dark locks. As Kakashi began acquainting himself with the insides of his mouth, Iruka wondered, idly, whether the older man had a fascination with his hair. He remained completely still, losing himself into Kakashi -- his taste, his smell, his skin -- and gods, but it felt good ...
"Why did you stop?" asked Iruka, breathless and confused as Kakashi pulled back again.
The Jounin raised an eyebrow.
"Well, you were not exactly responding."
"Sorry about that," Iruka mumbled sheepishly. "I just got, err ... carried away?"
Kakashi laughed -- and there was mirth in his eyes, simple and childlike, as he leaned forward again and ...
... stopped millimeters from Iruka's lips.
"Tease," murmured the hunter huskily, heart hammering in his chest. "Kiss me ..."
This was probably the sexiest thing Kakashi had ever been told, and he was very happy to oblige. He smiled delightedly when he felt Iruka responding at last. Damn, but that kid knew some tricks, the Jounin thought as he let out a soft gasp -- Iruka nibbling playfully on his bottom lip.
And then, Iruka raised himself on his tiptoes, took Kakashi's bushy head between his hands, and kissed him soundly. Kakashi brought his arms around Iruka's waist -- one hand straying lower, cupping the smaller man's bottom appreciatively. Iruka retaliated by deepening the kiss, which did not displease the Jounin in the least.
They remained locked in a passionate embrace during long minutes, moaning and pressing against the other, until Iruka stiffened all of a sudden and wrenched himself from Kakashi's grasp with a cry of pain.
The dark-haired ninja clutched at his left arm in helpless, abject distress, and squeezed his eyes shut to try and control the overwhelming sensation.
"Wha..?" said the Jounin, puzzled. "Your wound?"
"No," the Hunter replied through gritted teeth, "I am being summoned."