Author: Carcinya (Isolde on fanfiction(dot)net)
Keywords: Naruto Iruka Kakashi
Spoilers: Possible up to episode 90
Summary: "There's a difference between knowing the path, and walking the path." [Completed, KakaIru]
Disclaimer: This story is based on situations and characters created and owned by Masashi Kishimoto, various publishers including but not limited to TV Tokyo. The song and the plot are mine. "Warning Sign" is Coldplay's. 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. Or flamers.
Blast, but I hate this new paging policy!
Here comes the fluff, err, the last part. Enjoy! (Diabetics, consider yourselves warned.)
Dedicated to Ninja Better and Lizmun (Evil Kazumi) because they have been real nice to me. Wah! hugs
And to Kiasca, my LJ soulmate. Way to go, kiddo!
Warning Sign: Part 2/2
- 2 hours later -
"Naruto, would you please stop pacing?"
"Sakura-chan! It's been two hours!What's Tsunade-baba doing to him?"
"Naruto. Tsunade is the best healer I've ever met. She'll save that Jounin of yours," said Jiraiya.
"Not buts, brat. We've gotta wait, is all."
Iruka-sensei, Naruto thought desperately, please be okay.
Ramen without Iruka-sensei just wouldn't be the same.
"I wish it would stop raining," whispered Kurenai.
She glanced at Kakashi.
The Jounin had not left his spot by the window since Iruka had been admitted in surgery, two hours ago.
In a critical state.
Asuma was smoking outside. Sakura and Naruto were bickering to vent some of their anxiety. Sasuke looked indifferent as usual, leaning on a wall, arms crossed on his chest. Gai was praying fervently, on bended knees, in the middle of the room - a sight which would have been rather comical given his atypical choice of clothing, had the situation been any less serious.
It had been sheer chance that the rescue team had bumped into Team Seven training with Jiraya-sama on their way back to Konoha.
Fate really had a twisted sense of humor.
Kurenai would never forget the look on Naruto's face: curiosity, light sympathy, all swept away when he realized who exactly laid on the board... Then there had nothing but dread, horror, and abiding anger.
They had been waiting for two hours, but it could as well have been two days, or two weeks, for all their anxiety.
The large wooden doors leading to the operating room suddenly opened.
Tsunade was very pale under the blood.
All ninjas in the room sprang to their feet in a flurry of anguished questions.
Kakashi did not move.
"Hush, now," said Tsunade, holding up her hands to stifle them. "Iruka's condition is stable for now."
She could not suppress a small smile at their collective sigh of relief.
"But," she went on, "he's still in a very serious state. The katana punctured his left lung - sheer luck it missed his heart - leading to a tension pneumothorax. It also damaged his spinal cord. We were able to fix most of the damage, but I had to use Naosu No Jutsu on him."
Gai and Kurenai gasped softly.
"Naomu no Jutsu?" asked Naruto, confused.
"The Naosu No Jutsu is a healing spell which can cure almost any injury. It is rarely used, however, because of the pain it brings to the patient. Some people ... cannot endure it."
"Their mind ... snaps... from the pain."
"Then why did you use it, you old hag?!"
"Because Iruka would have remained paralyzed otherwise," she said simply. "But Iruka is strong, I don't think..."
A sinister crack interrupted her.
Kakashi's fist had connected with the wall. Blood dripped slowly on the white concrete.
They were in for a long, long night.
- 3 hours later -
"Right. Iruka-san has been moved to the PACU. He's stable, but what he needs now is rest. Tsunade-sama did well," said Shizune gently.
"PACU?" echoed the ninjas, equally confused.
"Post anesthesia care unit," she replied. "Do you want to see him? You'd have to stay behind the glass, of course. We don't even allow that usually, but ..."
She was cut off as two Genins and a Jounin sped past her, Asuma and Sasuke trailing behind them at a more sedate pace.
Shizune shook her head disapprovingly.
"No running in the hallways!"
Kurenai was about to follow them, when she noticed Kakashi had not moved an inch.
"Aren't you coming?" she questioned.
"What for?" came the listless reply.
"That's the least you can do."
"Kakashi! He saved your life, for Hokage's sake!"
"Throwing his life away like that ... Fuck!" shouted Kakashi, surprising both Kurenai and himself. "I didn't ask him to save me. I didn't ask him to! I have nothing to do with this! Nothing!"
Kurenai paled as understanding dawned upon her suddenly. She took in Kakashi's drawn face, and remembered another scene, years ago. The healer-nins around Obito's body. The blood and the bandages on Kakashi's face. He had worn the same look back then - caged and scared and hurt.
"It was not your fault, Kakashi," she whispered softly, meaning both Obito's death and Iruka's injury.
"What he did ... it didn't make sense. It just didn't!"
"Love rarely does."
Kakashi turned back to the window.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he said.
"I am not blind, Kakashi. And neither are the others."
"I don't know what you're talking about," he repeated stubbornly.
"So that's the way it is?" asked Kurenai sadly. "I pity you, Kakashi. So caught up in your own fears..."
Kakashi did not answer.
After a while, Kurenai turned away.
"Don't make him wait for too long," she said, turning back one last time before she went through the PACU's doors, "You might not get another warning sign."
- 6 hours later -
"Kakashi-san, I understand your concern but ..."
"Don't make me enter his room by the window. You know I would."
Shizune sighed and massaged the bridge of her nose.
"You really are unmanageable, you know that? Fine, you can go in for a while."
"I must warn you, though. He's still under respirator and monitoring - it's pretty scary."
Kakashi nodded again.
"Off you go then. Behave yourself," she called after him half-heartedly.
Kakashi walked down the corridor leading to the PACU, his light pace breaking the thick, artificial silence.
Shizune had said Iruka's bed was number 22.
Kakashi paled a little when he saw Iruka. Or maybe it was simply the moonlight.
Iruka looked dead, was the first thing that came to his mind.
Ghastly white, so unlike his usual warm, chocolate skin tones.
Silent, so unlike his usual bouncy and cheerful self.
Immobile, save the rhythmical, forced heaving of his chest.
A sinister parody of everything Umino Iruka was.
All because of him, Hatake Kakashi.
Had Kakashi been a lesser man, he would have turned back and run, or cried, or shouted, or maybe the three at once.
He did neither.
He drew a chair next to Iruka's bed, and took the younger man's cold hand in his.
- 8 hours later -
Kakashi waited, a silent shadow in the moonlight, Iruka's hand in his.
He waited two hours, his body motionless, his mind restless - one single thought running through his mind endlessly.
My fault, my fault, my fault, my fault ...
But he did not cry. It was a relief he did not deserve.
He watched Iruka breathe with an almost painful intensity.
In. Out. In. Out. In. Out...
He watched until there was nothing left in his mind but that comforting rhythm.
In. Out. In. Out. In. Out...
Suddenly, Iruka's hand twitched in his palm.
Kakashi looked up to find Iruka's brown eyes on him, wide with fear and confusion.
Iruka was terrified, he realized. Completely lost.
"Don't fight the respirator," said the older man instantly. "Let it breathe for you."
Iruka obeyed and seemed to calm down a little as oxygen filled his lungs once again.
"You're in reanimation," Kakashi told him. "You're safe. It's okay."
Unconsciously, he began stroking slowly the inside of Iruka's palm with his thumb.
"Ah, I'll got and get a nurse ..."
Iruka squeezed his hand and shook his head slightly.
Stay, his eyes said.
Iruka went back to sleep, fingers intertwined with Kakashi's.
- 12 hours later -
"Shhh... you're going to wake them up!"
"Too late," mumbled Kakashi.
He pried his fingers gently from Iruka's, and stretched with a yawn.
The younger man slept on, oblivious.
"Why didn't you wake me up earlier?" asked the Jounin, a little annoyed at having been caught asleep.
"You were burned out, what with the mission and all ..." answered Kurenai.
Her crimson gaze went from Iruka to Kakashi.
"There's hope for you yet," she said.
Asuma and Gai exchanged confused glances.
Silence hung thick between the ninjas for a moment, only disrupted by the respirator.
The door slid open to reveal Tsunade.
She nodded at the three Jounins, walked over to Iruka's bed, and scanned briefly his record.
"Iruka woke up once," said Kakashi suddenly.
"What? When?" came the immediate flow of questions.
"He woke up briefly during the night. He was a little disturbed by the respirator, I think," remarked Kakashi, "but he went back to sleep all right."
"Why didn't you call a nurse?" asked Tsunade, frowning.
"He asked me not to," Kakashi replied simply.
"Asked you? While intubated?" Tsunade raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "You must be joking."
Kakashi shrugged. His gaze strayed to Iruka's prone form.
"He asked me not to," Kakashi repeated. "Just not with words."
Tsunade gave him a pensive look.
"I see," she said slowly - though it was hard to tell if she really did.
"Maybe it would be best if you remained by his side, then," she added after consideration. "In case, you know, he woke up and asked you again."
Kakashi was pretty sure the mighty Hokage was plainly making fun of him, in her usual twistedly caring way. He could not quite bring himself to be mad, though, because she had just spared him the need to humiliate himself further.
Tsunade knew all this very well, of course.
Watching over Iruka was no longer a whim, but a mission - and one Kakashi could, and would, undertake with particular dedication and no second thoughts.
- 72 hours later -
Iruka indeed woke up again, but this time there was nothing to ask. He did not fight the respirator, because he simply wasn't under respirator anymore.
He had one hell of a killer headache, and he felt like he had been trampled over by a furious herd of Academy pupils.
But he was alive.
He took in his surroundings carefully.
An hospital room. Some flowers. Chocolate! Plenty of get well cards and ...
Wait, was that snoring?
He felt a strange weight settled on his right shoulder - yet he was positive only his left side had been wounded.
Iruka's eyes narrowed as he twisted his head to get a better look at the intruder - who had the nerve to be fast and noisily asleep on his shoulder.
He glimpsed a mop of unruly silver hair.
His heart skipped a beat.
The older man shifted, obviously waking up.
"Good morning," offered Iruka.
Or tried to. His voice was raspy from disuse, and his greeting ended up sounding a lot like a hoarse "morn'g".
Kakashi looked up, startled.
"Yo," he said vaguely, sounding like his usual bored self.
That was no way to salute someone you had just been conveniently using as a pillow, Iruka thought.
"You're hurting me," he said. Which was true, technically - he simply did not say where.
"No way," replied Kakashi, frowning. "They dosed you up with enough morphine to kill an elephant!"
Iruka gazed at him like he had sprouted another head.
Had Kakashi just compared him to a pachyderm?
"Huh," said Kakashi, almost sheepish. "Sorry. I really am no good at this, aren't I?"
Iruka did not answer, still frowning slightly.
"That's the part where you're supposed to say, 'You're not that bad'."
"True," the younger man rejoined tongue-in-cheek, "you're worse."
Kakashi's visible eye twinkled.
If Iruka joked, however lamely, he could not really be mad at him. Could he?
He decided to bring back the subject on safer grounds.
"I owe you one," the masked ninja said suddenly.
"I suppose you do," replied Iruka pensively. "Though it wasn't my initial intent, you know."
"Anyway, I am in your debt. You can ask me whatever you want," cut in Kakashi. "Except my unmasking myself," he added as an afterthought.
Iruka laughed, though it came out a little hoarse.
"Would your answering a question - truthfully, mind you - repay your 'debt'?"
His dark-haired companion pondered his question thoughtfully.
"Why do you hate me so much?" he asked after a while, his voice still raspy and low, carefully avoiding Kakashi's gaze.
The Jounin started.
"I don't hate you," he said immediately.
"Well, you sure don't act like it," said Iruka, looking up and meeting the older man's eye. There was humor, strength and maybe a little sadness in those deep dark brown pupils of his, youth and age all mixed up in a strange bittersweet blend that was typically Iruka.
Don't make him wait for too long.
"Well?" probed the young man, tilting his head to the side.
You might not get another warning sign.
"I am scared," he admitted - it was easier than he had thought.
The other ninja looked vaguely surprised.
"Scared of what?"
"Of you," said Kakashi quietly.
Iruka had not expected that. His eyes widened.
"Of... of me?" he repeated stupidly. "You must be joking! There is nothing even remotely scary about me!"
"That's not what your pupils said," answered Kakashi pensively.
The former Academy teacher sputtered in outrage.
"Anyway," resumed the older Jounin, "I am scared of you, because... well, you know," he ended lamely.
"Enlighten me," said Iruka stonily, not having forgiven him yet for his comment on his teaching methods.
Kakashi raised an eyebrow.
"Are you sure you...?"
"Yes, well. Go ahead, I'm all ears," said the younger man with an impatient wave.
"Okay," said Kakashi.
He lowered his mask, leaned in, and kissed Iruka on the lips.
He pulled away after a few seconds and lifted his mask back in its place.
Iruka was very red, Kakashi thought, it made him look a little like a lobster.
But a cute lobster, mind you!
"Ah, huh ... Kakashi-sensei ..." stammered Iruka, his voice a raspy whisper.
Kakashi nodded in sympathy.
"That's what I meant," he said.
Iruka visibly tried to recompose himself.
"Are you saying," he said slowly, and there was an edge to his voice, "that you've been acting like a jerk to me for the past two years, because you liked me?"
"It sounds worse when you put it that way," whined the Copy Ninja.
"Are you aware that this kind of behavior is usually associated with four-year-olds?" Iruka said sternly, glowering.
"Err ... " replied Kakashi, because there really was nothing else to say when Iruka was going all teacher-like on you.
"Well? What do you have to say for yourself?" asked Iruka.
"Not much, I am afraid," answered Kakashi, rubbing the back of his head.
"'I am sorry', would be a good place to start," Iruka supplied helpfully. "And, for that matter," he added quietly, "I am sorry too."
They looked at each other pensively for a while, until Kakashi broke the silence again.
"Did you mean it?"
"What you said ... earlier," he specified."After the fight."
"Huh," said Iruka, sheepishly, "I don't remember much, you know. What did I say?"
Kakashi grew a faint dusting of pink on his exposed cheek.
"You said ... You said you had been dying a little everyday since you met me."
"Did I, now?" said Iruka vaguely, refusing to meet Kakashi's eye. "I must have been delirious."
The other Jounin wasn't satisfied.
He reached out and lifted Iruka's chin with a finger.
"Did you mean it?" he insisted stubbornly.
"What if I did?" questioned Iruka curiously.
"Then I would have to kiss you again," he said, because that was as close to an apology as he could manage.
Would that be enough?
There was fear in his voice, faint and almost unnoticeable - but Iruka heard it, because it matched his own.
He gave a soft, almost shy smile.
"I meant it", he replied simply, a playful glint in his brown eyes.
Kakashi grinned under his mask before lowering it again. He kissed Iruka with all he had, because Iruka was all he wanted. He was surprised, and not a little pleased, when he felt the younger man kissing back, his tongue boldly straying out his mouth and caressing his own.
Neither heard the door sliding open, and neither noticed the ninjas entering the room.
Said shinobis could not contain their amusement very long, and soon their snickers and chuckles gave them away.
Kakashi pulled away from Iruka and drew back his mask.
"Woops," he said, winking at the younger man.
Iruka was very red and so embarrassed he couldn't speak. He held Kakashi's hand in a death grip.
"Took you long enough, kids," said Asuma when the laughter subsided. "Gai, you owe me two thousand yens."
The weird Jounin sighed mournfully as he searched his pockets.
"Alas, it seems like the Fates are against me today."
Sakura and Shizune were delighted - a little too obviously, perhaps ...
"Iruka-senseiiiii," whined Naruto in mock horror, "And here I thought you had good taste."
The former teacher gave a wan, apologetic look.
"Nobody's perfect," he said dryly, but his eyes were far too warm, and his hand never left Kakashi's.
Kurenai gazed at them pensively, a soft smile gracing her lips.
"Why the change of mind?" she asked Kakashi.
The Copy Ninja shrugged.
"Well," he began earnestly, "Iruka can be very convincing."
Iruka shot him a wary look.
"Such a skilled tongue ..." Kakashi finished, only half-jokingly.
"Kakashi!" exclaimed Iruka, in utter mortification. He whacked him on the skull disapprovingly.
Said Jounin hooked an arm around his shoulder and drew him against his chest with a happy, childlike laugh.
Iruka's mind protested furiously.
It was already irrational, Iruka thought, to fancy finding love in a man's arms in his late twenties.
But to find it in Kakashi's?
And he could go on for a while like that!
Iruka was a man of order, of organization, neatly folded underwear and color-coded homework stacks. He loved his quiet, unsurprising life - he had planned it all, from his career to his retirement, from his children - three - to his burial - and ...
Kakashi was a walking natural disaster, a tornado of disturbing humor, novelty and twisted time perception. Like a stone thrown in a calm pond, a sugar dropped in a coffee cup, Kakashi trampled on his comforting habits, questioned his beloved certainties and ...
They had spent years fighting and resenting each other. Building a relationship on such grounds was utterly unreasonable and ...
And then he thought, what the hell.
Iruka closed his eyes, and buried his face in Kakashi's neck. He felt the older man shift a little and hold him tighter.
As he drifted off trustingly against Kakashi, he could almost hear - so, so faraway - an old ballad his mother used to sing at night to scare off the monsters of his childhood, and lull him to sleep when they just wouldn't go away.
'For in my heart there is but one,
One land, one hope, one smile;
For in my mind there is but one,
This my path, my choice alone -
Take my hand, and you shall see,
Just how simple love can be;
For in my mind there is but one,
This my fight, my blood to shed -
And I shall sing on my own,
All that cannot be said;
I will follow you, lover mine,
Until the stars die and the world cries -
Tears of pensive joy and pained lies,
In the bittersweet light of a frail sunshine;
For in my heart there is but one,
One home, one dream, one man.'
That's it folks!
The poem is from, erm, me. Yes, it sucks. No need to flame me - I know.
Thanks, many thanks to all the people who read/reviewed this story!
Please review? (I am a feedback whore, it can't be helped...)