Chance Encounter

by paxnirvana

Fandom: Naruto

Characters: Kakashi Iruka

Rating: PG-13

Date: 10/20/04

Notes: Manga continuity, if you please (for minor differences). I heart/squee these guys utterly. facepalms I don't need more muses! Really I don't... sobs plaintively

Disclaimer: Belongs to Masahi Kishimoto, Shueisha, and VIZ. I just make people love them more and want to buy stuff to show it.

He was walking to the teacher's room, two hours after his last class, a towering stack of loose-bound books perched precariously in his arms. Today he'd been excused from serving in the mission room -- and this was why. The stack he held was student copy books that needed to be graded in the next two days. The stack was high enough that he had to peer around it from time to time to keep his bearings, because most of his mind was focused the spring exams upcoming and the probability of certain problematical students passing the competency review rather than on his surroundings. He was also musing on the likelihood of a certain genin returning from his mission this afternoon and stopping by Iruka's apartment hoping for a treat of ramen. Which he would be unable to provide, seeing as he was currently nose-deep in copy books. At the back of his mind, as always, lurked the knowledge that certain reports were never, ever handed in on time -- and probably hadn't been even though he wasn't there to receive them -- and why was that anyway when the missions had been so light for Cell 7 lately?

Was he an ogre for expecting them within the week? He thought not. It wasn't unreasonable, what he asked. Technically, they were due within a day. If the Hokage decided to audit him, he could be in trouble for not having those reports to hand. He was being more than understanding - going out of his way, actually - by allowing such laxity. So why couldn't the other cooperate? Or at least seem even mildly contrite? He frowned slightly, increasing his pace unconsciously and closing his eyes for a moment, shaking his head in disgust over the other's notorious laziness where paperwork was concerned.

Therefore the body he encountered so abruptly was completely unexpected.

As was the mutual oof! and the scattering of copy books like leaves. He fell one way as the other sprang nimbly aside; Iruka landed awkwardly despite his training, bruising his elbow on a pathway stone. Well, he did manage to catch half the stack of books, at least, and that had likely affected the gracefulness of his landing, but the top half of the stack spilled across the pathway regardless.

He glared at the mess. Annoyed. Weary. Aggravated. A doodled-on book cover was abruptly thrust before his eyes. He blinked it into focus, then blinked again as it was then set neatly on top of the stack in his arms. His gaze traveled up from the half-gloved hand that had placed it to the arm with its red-black-swirl patch on blue, jumped from there straight across to a familiar swathed, nearly obscured face. Silver hair bristled wildly above, only confirming the identity of his inadvertent collision. Hatake Kakashi. The hidden face promptly grinned at him, the single visible eye crinkling in mild amusement.


"Kakashi-sensei," he said, sighing heavily in faintly embarrassed exasperation. "My apologies, I didn't see you there." And how had he taken a jounin like that unawares anyway? Particularly carrying all those books. He looked around at the rest of the mess spread about him, sighed again. They'd been in order by class too.

He carefully set the remaining books down on the ground beside him. Another battered book appeared in front of his face. Pages fluttered as it was jiggled.

"On the stack, if you please," he said stiffly, reaching for another book on the ground himself. The book in front of his face, thankfully, vanished.

"Are all these from your classes?" There was only bored inquiry in the tone. He tried not to bristle as he crawled along the paving stones, over grass gathering up more books.

"Yes," Iruka said tightly.

He heard a familiar scratching sound. Kakashi-sensei certainly scratched his head a lot. Perhaps, Iruka thought darkly as he smoothed out the bent cover of yet another copy book, he had dandruff. Or maybe head-lice. The unkind thoughts made him feel petty. It was unworthy of him to think that way. Particularly since Kakashi-sensei had gone out of his way to reassure him about Naruto's progress that day. Even if he still didn't know quite what to make of the man's actions. Holding him like that while he cried... Back rigid, embarrassment flaring, Iruka quickly stacked up a half a dozen more books.

"That's a lot of students. More than the regular load, isn't it? You popular or something?"

Iruka sat back on his heels abruptly and stared at the other man. Kakashi was crouched nearby as well, all the books that had fallen near him already neatly stacked beside him. It was only the few near Iruka's hands that remained to be gathered.

"Er... I... No, it's just that..." His mind blanked and he fell silent. Was he? Granted, he did get a lot of transfer requests. But since Mizuki went rogue, the pressure had been greater on the remaining teachers. That was all.

"We're still short staffed. I do what I can," he said quietly, bowing his head and gathering up the last few books quickly.

"Aa. Meaning you can't say no, eh?"

He jerked his head up sharply and glared at the other man, but once again there had been no mockery in the jounin's voice.

"Thank you for your help, Kakashi-sensei," Iruka said stiffly, shifting the smaller stack on top of the larger one and straightening the spines out carefully. He reached for the stack Kakashi had gathered, but the other man grabbed it first and rose to his feet. It was nearly a third of the pile.

"I've got these. Then you'll be able to see what's in front of you."

Iruka eyed the jounin sharply again, but the words were still only bland. The single eye met his gaze steadily.

There was no reason to argue the offer. Forcing himself to relax, he gathered up the bigger stack carefully then started along the pathway to the offices again.

He could hear the slow shuffle of Kakashi's sandals behind him. It was deliberate, of course. He flushed faintly at the effort the jounin was going to. The walk to the offices was silent and should have been relaxing, but his nerves were still unaccountably jangled. It was a relief when he finally reached the entrance. He leaned one shoulder against the doorframe, grabbed the latch with the far hand, juggling the stack in his arms carefully, eager to get inside. A half-gloved hand caught the door once he'd elbowed it open and drew it the rest of the way. He gave a reluctant grunt of thanks and walked through.

"In the teacher's lounge, if you please," he instructed his chance assistant, striding off that way himself. The halls were empty, as most of the other teachers had already gone home. He could no longer hear the shuffle of sandals behind him, but that didn't mean the other man wasn't following. When he reached the lounge door, he was proved right. A half-gloved hand shot over his shoulder and slid the door open for him. He glanced sideways at the other, caught the gaze crinkled with amusement again and glanced just as hastily away.

Why did the other find him so amusing?

He strode to his desk and dropped the stack with a thump in the middle of it. He was glad to finally get them out of his arms. It felt a little better being ready for action again. He turned as a shoulder brushed his. Kakashi set his own stack carefully beside the first, lining them up carefully so the spines met.

"You'll grade all of these tonight?" There was a touch of grudging respect in the other man's voice. Or maybe it was just disbelief that anyone would willingly expend such effort.

Iruka stared at the two stacks. Nearly forty books in all. A weeks worth of lessons in each. It would take him hours and hours to check them all. He sighed before he could stop himself.

Beside him, Kakashi stuck his hands into his front pockets, shoulders slouching into his usual lazy pose, and glanced at him sidelong. The single eye glittered at him oddly.

Iruka stiffened. "No. But I need to get a good start on them. I should be here for several hours more tonight. Why?" He shifted on his feet. Wondered how he could get the other to leave now that his task had been completed.

"Hn. Well. It's Friday night."

Iruka narrowed his gaze, annoyed. He had no one waiting for him at home. The day of the week hardly mattered to him. "Ah. You have somewhere to be?" he said, trying not to sound too hopeful. Maybe the other man would leave soon and let him get to his work.

"Ichiraku's not a bad place."

Iruka started at the name of Naruto's favorite ramen stall. He turned toward the other man, face going still, a touch of guilt stirring.

"Missions have certainly been light lately," Kakashi continued with seeming unconcern, tipping his chin up slightly and watching Iruka openly now.

Which definitely meant pay had been light. Given the way Naruto ate, the boy was likely out of both money and food for the month. He'd be hungry. Iruka nodded at the jounin once.

"Thank you, Kakashi-sensei for... your assistance with the books," he turned away from his desk briskly, oddly unable to thank him for the indirect news of Naruto. The boy was too proud to ask for help, he knew. No matter how hungry he might get. Guilt surged higher in Iruka. He should have been paying closer attention to the boy. "Oh. Would you please turn off the lights when you leave?" The last he threw over his shoulder as he headed for the door.

He heard a soft chuckle from the man still standing, slouch-shouldered and hip-shot, behind him. "Going home after all?"

He was glad he was facing away from the other man. The flush on his face was most unprofessional. He rubbed his scar where it ran across the bridge of his nose with a knuckle, ducking his head slightly. "Er, yes, I think so."

The chuckle had been a pleased sound and not mocking at all. There was no reason for it to send that odd wash of warmth through him. Before he could embarrass himself further, he hurried through the door.

As he slid it closed behind him, he heard the other man say, almost fondly, "Ah. I thought you would."

He didn't dare look back.

-- end --