They say you die only once.
But I died more than once.
The first time I met him was when he had rudely bumped in to me in the street, partially being my fault because I had a mountain pile of books in my arms while finding my way to my apartment. I was young, maybe nineteen or twenty. He even rudely snapped at my direction, gave me the most hated and angry glare before calling me a pathetic excuse for a shinobi. After hearing him spit the words at me, I knew I died.
We were never formally acquainted, but I had deep respect for him, for he is the infamous copy ninja. Perhaps he even became my idol, someone I looked up to and whom held my greatest respect. And when the time came for me to sort out the newly graduated genins in to group, we were finally acquainted. He had given me the coldest and most bored stare and flat out greeting I have ever heard. It took all of my control to remain calm and composed and not be affected by his attitude towards me. But then I knew, at that moment that I died.
I took up the job of filing mission reports to earn myself some extra money so that I can keep some savings, in case anything does happen to me. It was a pathetic thought, but it was there in the back of my mind, growing and nagging, clawing at my conscious and everyday thinking. And ever since I did, I encountered him everyday when he came in to hand in his D-class mission reports of his three charge. He would smile sarcastically at me, maybe even mock me in front of people, and yet I wonder. Have I done something to offend him? Have I said anything that he maltreats me so? It was on a spring afternoon, and I was already clearing up the folders so that I may go home. He came in, with yesterday's mission report in hand.
"I'll take care of it." Came my tired voice, as I took the folder and set it on the desk, whilst I proceed to pack away, all the while hurting.
"You have nothing else to do. Of course you will."
"It's the only thing you're good at anyway."
Hearing those words echo in my ear, I knew I died.
There was a time I'll never forget and that was when I truly felt bitter and angry towards him. I strongly opposed against his decision to enter team seven in to the chuunin exams. It was preposterous! Suicide! Insanity! I knew I had to deal with my students leaving. But this was just like buying a one-way ticket to Death Valley. I told him, opposed him in front of the Hokage and other shinobis, and he had snapped in my general direction, eye burning with anger.
"They're my soldiers now. Don't interfere."
Hearing that come from his mouth, I felt like was useless. Like my worry for those still young and growing shinobis were nothing and empty. Like my concern for them were pathetic and worthless. Hurt, I took a step back and focused on staring at the floor, because I knew I died.
The Hokage took my opposition seriously and he offered me to run a test on the nominated pupils. I saved team seven for last and as much as I hated to admit, Kakashi was right. They have indeed grown and have become more experienced shinobis. But deep down, I knew that the small tests I gave them are nothing compared to the real exam. And he knew that.
"It will never be enough." He said. I said nothing as I watched his hair blow in the wind, while he sat on the roof of the academy. "It will never be enough. Not for a person like you."
Not understanding what he said, I left. I didn't know how to take what he just said, but deep down inside me, I knew I died.
Time passed and I busied myself with work. But no matter how hard I try, I knew I was fooling myself. Somewhere along the way, I knew I fell for him hard. I cared for him in a way that I myself am afraid to know or admit. It had always been there, ever since I heard of the copy ninja when I was younger; I always treasured his identity as something precious in me. Silly? Yes. Pathetic? Yes. Sad? Oh yes. And reality came slapping me in the face, when I saw Kurenai half carrying and half dragging him to the hospital, his condition fragile and his body limp. Seeing him in that state, I knew I died.
Tsunade coming and governing Konoha was probably the most tiring thing I have ever experienced. My workload doubled the normal rate and everyone was busy-busy. Then I heard from Naruto that Tsunade 'fixed Kakashi-sensei' while I treated him to ramen. I could no longer ignore the flutter in my stomach or the sudden inability to breath due to the idea that he was okay. I headed for the hospital to drop by a greeting, but I regretted it.
"Spare me your goodwill. I get enough headaches just hearing them from Naruto."
I didn't know how else to react. I simply gave him my politest bow and wished him well, before leaving the hospital. I cried that night, not understanding why he mistreated me. It was not the first time I asked myself that question, for it came to me when things like these happened. That night, as I lay in my bed, I knew I died.
It is a general rule that he promptly ignores me straight out. He never looks at me unless it was something he needed, like a folder, or a scroll, some sort of form for some application or the other, or basically just student records of my last batch, which would be Naruto's class. His eyes met mine for more than just a brief second, and in the span of my life, I've never seen anyone look at me in the way he did. Lust, hunger, want, desperation, curiosity and long time admiration meshed up in to one, enough to make that droopy lazy eyed look disappear and give him an over all handsome look. And when I saw him looking at me, as in really look at me, I knew I died.
Now, here I lie, suddenly remembering the times I died, trying to stay awake as they carry me to the hospital. A mission gone horribly wrong and a fight that grew desperate merited me a wound and judging by how fast the colors were fading, I knew that it was critical. I was vaguely aware of a hand pressing against my chest, stopping the hideous gush of blood and me being carried on a stretcher back home, to where, I hoped, they could save me.
But not even Tsunade could.
Poison tainted my entire blood system and no amount of healing or continuous blood transfusion could save me. Tsunade estimated a total of one week before I would cease to live, in which I already spent the past four days of that one-week limit asleep. Now I lie here, on my sterile bed, staring at the window, feeling incredibly weak and tired. My chest hurts, my head pounded and I could feel a pull. A slight tugging in my very being, like gentle touches, slowly pulling me up.
The door opened, and he came. He sat beside me, staring at me with an emotion I could barely see in his eyes because everything was strangely starting to glow. Eyes, yes, I can see his two eyes. One dark as the night sky and one as red as blood. And then for the first time, I felt like dying wasn't so bad after all.
"I heard what happened." He said, staring at me.
"You were careless."
"Two lives for the price of one."
"It didn't have to be yours."
"There was no one else."
"You should have remained in the academy."
"I didn't want to feel useless."
"Who told you that you were useless?"
"You did." I said, smiling slightly. "You always did ever since I met you."
"You catch me during my worst moods."
"You just simply hate me."
"I know." I whisper.
Things were getting brighter and brighter that I could not help it, I had to close my eyes. I allowed my eyelids to drop slowly, blocking that bright glow.
"Iruka!" He cried out, my hand suddenly in his, and for once I felt warmth tickle my inner beings, and I smile.
"It's okay, I am happy."
"How can you be?" He demanded, face hovering on top of mine.
"Because for once, I chose how to die." I smile. "For once, the reason of my dying didn't have to be you."
As I close my eyes, I knew that I would never see the skies again. I knew that I would never hear the running steps or the noise of my students in class. I knew that I will never find out what happened to the rookie nine that I let loose. I knew that I would never find out if Sasuke ever fell for Sakura. I knew that I would never find out whether Naruto will be the great Hokage that he aimed for and that I pray he will become.
But I knew one thing.
I loved Kakashi.
And, as much as it hurts right now, he somehow loved me back.
They say you die only once.
But for me, it's a lie.
Because I died nine times.
Something I cooked up in my nine-hour flight. I don't even know what triggered the idea of such a fic. But, well, I was feeling depressed the whole time I was in the plane. I didn't want to leave Philippines, but well never mind.
Here's the result.
I feel sorry for Iruka.
Most of the happenings there are made up while some came from the anime, in which I just added a few this and that to make the fic work to my liking.
I rarely write in first person. In fact, I never do, unless it is required. So this may seem a bit off, because – oh you get the meaning! I'm no English expert .