On one of his first missions as a genin, Iruka had been distracted at an inopportune moment by his sensei, causing him to miscalculate a jump and smash headfirst into a tree. While he preferred to Never Speak Of This, he still recalled with surprising and unwelcome clarity the feeling of disorientation and not-entirely-there-ness he'd experienced after he'd regained consciousness.
He felt exactly like that now, even down to the headache and ringing noise in his ears. No, wait, one small change… his face didn't have an impression of bark on it. Okay, so that was a good change.
And he had a date tonight. He wasn't sure yet if that was a good change or not.
He'd been in a haze when he'd gone out to confront Kakashi-sensei. Why him? Why Kakashi? The only logical thing to do had been to go find Kakashi and yell at him for getting Iruka into this mess in the first place. Well, okay, the logical thing was to curl up into a fetal position in the pitch-black classroom, close his eyes, and wait for it all to go away, but he couldn't in good conscience do that.
For one thing, the janitor would be by in about an hour to empty the wastebins.
Iruka took a deep breath, willing the dizziness to subside. He was an adult. He was a shinobi of Konoha. He would act his age. He was calm, he was collected, he was…
…not going to have enough time to get ready if he didn't hurry up and get home.
Shit. He began sprinting across rooftops towards his apartment.
Why had he agreed to this? It wasn't as though he'd been encouraging Kakashi's interest. But Kakashi's question had come from nowhere, and he'd been so surprised by it that he'd just said the first thing that came to his mind. Which, for some unaccountable reason that would probably bear intense thought later, had been a yes.
And Kakashi'd been smiling when he asked him. You couldn't actually see the smile, of course, but his single visible eye curved and he just… radiated smile.
Unpredictable bastard. They'd better be going someplace nice to eat.
Iruka let himself into the apartment, slipped off his shoes, and tossed his chuunin vest on the futon.
And Kakashi had better pick up the damn tab.
He headed into the bathroom. The face staring back at him had shadows under reddened eyes. The jounin-sensei thought he was attractive? The man must have suffered from one too many head wounds while he was Anbu.
Iruka scrubbed his face with cold water and combed his hair before putting it back in its usual ponytail. He didn't want to go out of his way to get ready for the date, but Kakashi already had him at a disadvantage. Iruka would at least make himself presentable this evening, it made him feel like he'd taken a little control of the situation back from the jounin.
So he compromised by freshening up and changing into clean dark jeans and a black shirt, leaving his mesh shirt on underneath it. The whole process took only a few minutes, leaving him to sit by the door and try to kill time until seven. Unfortunately, a glance at the clock revealed he'd been left with that frustrating amount of time too long to do nothing but not long enough to do anything. Of course, he couldn't blame that on Kakashi…no, wait… give it a minute… thinking…ignoring laws of causality… damn Kakashi.
Iruka sprawled out on the futon to wait.
Okay, was the plan to sit quietly through this date and at the end explain gently to Kakashi that he just wasn't interested? Was he wasn't interested? Argh, now Kakashi had him thinking in grammatically incorrect ways! Iruka mentally edited the last thought with red pen. Was he interested in Kakashi?
There was a knock on the door.
Contrary to popular belief, betting pools, and the holy books of several religions, Kakashi could be on time. If he felt like it.
He usually didn't feel like it.
Kakashi was lazy, but he'd never been stupid. Of course he could get to a given place at a certain time…. He'd been on enough missions where doing otherwise would have killed him. But not dying often enough had taught him that there was something precious and special about NOT being at a given place at a certain time. And lying almost mortally wounded on the cold, rough ground…enough times that he'd lost count… did wonders for one's appreciation of a nice, comfortable bed that practically begged you not to leave it.
Mmm, bed….begging…. Iruka…. He clamped down on that chain of thought just before knocking on Iruka's door.
He was nervous. And Iruka… his eye widened as the door swung open… Iruka was gorgeous. The black shirt showed off the trimly muscular form usually hidden by the bulky chuunin vest, and was open at the top just enough to show a mesh shirt lay underneath. And the jeans… the jeans did NICE things to Iruka's already nice legs. And probably to his ass as well, which Kakashi would make a point of getting a look at later.
Unfortunately, even he knew it was generally bad form to use one's Sharingan to check out your date.
…if they found out you'd done so.
"Ready to go?" Iruka asked, bringing Kakashi out of his reverie. He wondered if Iruka had checked him out, as he'd been too preoccupied to notice. He hoped so. He'd dressed up a little… hadn't wanted to scare Iruka off… and thought he looked alright. (Spending a lifetime as a ninja usually restricted your dress sense to such things as: "can I fight in it," "is it machine washable," and "how can I get this pesky bloodstain out?" This is why most ninja wear a lot of dark colours and always pretreat their stains.)
Kakashi's reply was, perhaps, not worthy of the jounin's wit or intelligence. "Ahh… yeah." He moved away from the door slightly to allow Iruka to exit. "After you."
"Ah, Kakashi-sensei, you're the one who knows where we're going." Iruka riposted, in a tone of mild rebuke.
"….right." He let out a light sigh that was caught by the mask. Now he looked like an idiot AND he couldn't check out Iruka's ass 'cause he'd have to be slightly in the lead.
I will not make an idiot of myself. I will not scare Iruka off. I will get a second date. I will not drag Iruka into a back alley and ravish him… unless he asks nicely… or the third date…. whichever comes first…
Thank you to everyone for taking the time to read this, especially last chapter's reviewers Hey-Diddle-Diddle, Neome21, Eudoxus, sidhe-ranma, Ika-chan, Isolde1, cheerful-pinkstar, Spectre, faithb, Nezuko, Seadragon, Bomb-O-Maniac, b-s, Clemence, MakoRedEyes, PolkaDot, goingcommando, JoshuaGlass, paxnirvana, The-MarmaladeCat1, SmokingPanda, Bitethehandthatfeeds, Azamiko, BlueTajiri, OrenjiRenji, Alicorna, TheSlashyMonster, firedraygon, spikemyangel, Renn, ivybluesummers, sna, BookofChanges, May, Iceheart, ShiRurounioftheAphrodesiac, easure, xtwilightx, SailorComet, Ryals-Shoal, Maldoror, eFooeFoo, Wanwingunotenshi (thanks for taking the time to review all the chapters at once!), SabakunoS.moore, DownRighT-evil, CassielDarkmoon, Hokai Amplifier, and Kat Maxwellpcg.
And Nezuko and Momo-chan, who served as betas and cheerleaders for this chapter.
And this chapter's dedicated to bitethehandthatfeeds. If you haven't read "Butterfly in Reverse," do so now. It's breathtakingly beautiful, with some of the best characterization of Kakashi I've seen. Though I recommend reading something funny afterwards, as it's heavy on the angst. (May I recommend meleth78's "Look, Look!" or Suke-san's "Love is the Strongest Energy"? …or you could be lazy and just reread this one.)
Anyway, thanks. You're all amazing people whose comments and feedback truly brighten my day.