Warning: This story is unbetaed. Fluff and I hope the characters are not too OOC...
by: Guardian of Jupiter
"Naruto?" Iruka called tentatively as he slipped inside the boy's apartment. He had been softly knocking the door for the past five minutes and being the only visitor of this particular apartment… well, up before Naruto had been appointed as genin, as the matter of fact… he knew where the careless boy hid his apartment key. Once inside, Iruka looked around. "Naruto… Are you awake yet?"
No sounds, no sense of chakra and no sense of human presence at all. And there was an unwashed bowl of ramen, opened carton of milk on the table and no glass in the sight. Iruka sighed softly as he unconsciously brought up his fingers to rub the scar across his nose. Naruto probably had gone training with Team 7 and Kakashi-sensei. Apparently Naruto had forgotten about their little promise to go and have breakfast together. Well… this wasn't the first time Naruto forgot about him.
Ignoring the growing hurt he felt inside him, Iruka looked around the utterly messy space. He softly shook his head in faint amusement. He had just helped Naruto cleaned his apartment last week… with a length of lecture of course.
Naruto wasn't exactly quiet either when he cleaned his own mess; he pouted and was grumbling noisily at Iruka's every order. Iruka, being the soft-hearted person he was, had felt bad of course; when he saw Naruto sulked petulantly, so he threw a small pillow playfully at Naruto. The boy was spluttering with mock indignant and then with a very wicked grin, he threw the pillow back. Iruka, breathless from laughter, declared war and Naruto ran to get more 'ammo'. Then they had laughed and played around the messy apartment. It took some time for the playfulness to end and they had to clean the room again.
Iruka smiled when he remembered that day as he automatically bent down to pick up the scattered scrolls and empty cups of instant ramen. Iruka didn't know why he cared so much for Naruto. Well, he did know that the fact Naruto was an orphan, alone and had a monster lived inside of him. And he knew that the loneliness that he saw in the boy's eyes when he first met him somehow made him remembered his own pitiful childhood. But that supposedly wasn't enough to make him love the boy so much that sometimes Iruka had even considered taken Naruto's guardianship legally.
Iruka didn't know why and he didn't think that knowing why was very important. He cared for Naruto and it was enough. As long as Naruto received the deserved loving and feeling of family love as he grew, Iruka was more than happy. And he knew Naruto was growing up, meeting more people and loving every second of it. As long as Naruto was happy and leading his life in the right way, Iruka knew he had done his job as a sensei and as a guardian.
With these thoughts swirling in his mind, Iruka continued to put back the scrolls orderly. The room was so messy that he knew it would take more than just an hour to clean it. Ah, well… he was here already, might as well make himself useful and cooked Naruto lunch too. If the blonde didn't come home by lunch, he would just leave the note that he was here. He was after all having a day off today.
And of course, there was no need to remind the boy about their forgotten promise. Iruka knew the boy could take guilty trip faster than he could.
Knowing that he was going to be here long, Iruka removed his chuunin vest and took out the apron that he bought for Naruto. Not that the boy would use it, seeing him would rather make ramen than real food. And he set for work.
"Oh crap…" Naruto breathed when he walked in his apartment. It was dark outside when he finally got home. Kakashi-sensei was torturing them and Naruto knew that pervert-sensei of his was enjoying every moment of their angry remarks and whining. And now, walking into his apartment, instead of seeing the aftermath of tsunami catastrophe, he saw his living space was so clean that he had to run outside to see if he was walking in the right apartment.
Yup… definitely his apartment. But who would…? Naruto walked inside his apartment warily as he scratched his unruly blond hair in bewilderment. He went straight to the kitchen; mainly because he was hungry and there was no need for his stomach to go on feeling empty just because some person came here earlier and cleaned his house, right?
First thing he noticed when he walked into the kitchen was there was unusually large note stuck on his refrigerator, enough for even him to notice. Iruka knew Naruto tended to miss his notes, so this time, he put extra large note for the blond to see.
I came this morning and you weren't here, so I cleaned your apartment, again,Imight add.
We've just cleaned it last week! How did it end up like this!
How many times do I have to tell you never to drink milk right from the carton? It's really unhygienic… I mean, unclean.
What did I say about having ramen for breakfast? You must have real food for breakfast and no, ramen was not a real food, no matter what you say.
And please don't leave the scrolls on the floor. You might step on them and fall down. That cupboard beside the table is there for a reason, you know.
Anyway, I made you some lunch, or perhaps dinner, if you come back late.
Reheat the food just like I taught you.
Just don't burn down the apartment, okay?
"Iruka-sensei…" Naruto breathed, confused after reading the note. Iruka-sensei was here? Didn't he have classes to teach today? What was he doing here, cleaning his house so early in the morning? Didn't Iruka-sensei just come helping him cleaning his apartment just a week ago? And… Naruto read further down the note… cooking him lunch too? Or was it dinner? Iruka-sensei can be so confusing sometimes.
Wait a minute…Naruto froze.
"SHIT!" Naruto exploded and his eyes went wide with remembrance. He had promised to have breakfast with Iruka-sensei! He had totally forgotten about that! It was all perverted, lazy Kakashi-sensei's fault! If he hadn't tricked him into believing that they were going to do more than just stupid D-rank mission, which that was exactly what they were doing today, he wouldn't have gotten so damn excited and forgot about his promise with Iruka-sensei!
And to think it was he who was whining to Iruka-sensei about not be able to see his favorite sensei much lately and demanded to have breakfast with Iruka-sensei! Ohhh… Iruka-sensei was going to be so mad at him…
Guilt ran a hundred miles per second. Panic and insecurity set in like whirlwind. And then he remembered what Sakura-chan had said… It made his fear doubled.
Naruto wanted to go to his sensei's house and asked for his forgiveness. What if Iruka-sensei was so mad at him that he didn't want to see him! What if Iruka-sensei didn't want to take him out for ramen anymore! What if Iruka-sensei was cooking his last meal… that this would be the last time Iruka-sensei ever come to his apartment? It was the second time he forgot… wait… was it third time? He couldn't remember but Iruka-sensei always smiled that gentle smile of his and tousled playfully his hair, saying he didn't mind. What if Iruka-sensei stopped tousling with his hair?
Or… a horrible, horrible thought popped out.
…Or what if Iruka-sensei wouldn't let him hugged him anymore? Naruto's face went white with fear at that very possibility.
He was irrational and senseless and stupid as he ran out from his apartment, leaving it wide opened and ran, ran toward his sensei's house. Naruto suddenly felt six years old again, before Iruka-sensei came and approached him and gave him his smile. The same darkness started to consume him fast and as he ran, he felt tears built up in his eyes.
He didn't want to be alone anymore! Now that he had felt Iruka-sensei's familial love, Naruto didn't want to lose it! His heart gave a tight squeeze and the tears spilled already. Iruka-sensei was going to be so angry! Naruto wanted to hug his gentle sensei and say how sorry he was! Then, then he would smack Kakashi-sensei too for making him forget and told Kakashi-sensei to apologize to Iruka-sensei! His feet ran faster.
Kakashi was on his way home. His posture was languid; every muscle was flashing the 'lazy' word every time he moved. For once, Icha Icha Paradise was no where in sight. Probably because it was dark and even a genius cannot read in the dark. But no matter, he was in a very good mood. He had spent nearly twelve hours torturing his cute students, enjoying every curse (that would be Naruto), every grunt (ah… the ever 'wordy' Sasuke, very eloquent in using his extensive vocabulary) and every shout, both inner and outer (only Sakura would have two minds… really twisted…).
As he jumped effortlessly from one rooftop to another, looking up at the dark sky, he heard very loud running steps on the street. He stopped immediately and remained where he was, no even bothering to hide his presence because whoever made that loud noise, definitely not a ninja. So, Kakashi just stood where he stopped and with both hands in his pockets, head tilted a little to the side, bland expression and all, he waited.
Not much longer later, he saw a flash of orange and blond, running fast like his life depending on it. …It's Naruto… Kakashi realized and one pale dark eyebrow rose in puzzlement. Where did that boy want to go at this time…hmm? He seemed energetic enough. And to think just now, the very same boy was whining about tired and hungry and sleepy and… well, he wasn't going to repeat all of Naruto's excuses. He could use this next time Naruto was whining…
As Naruto ran closer, oblivious of Kakashi presence, Kakashi's eyebrows drew close in concern at the boy's expression. He looked panic, very, very distraught and was already crying. Did something happen? He had never seen that kind of expression on Naruto's usual happy face. Naruto didn't even felt his presence nearby even though Kakashi didn't hide his chakra. It proved how disturbed the boy was.
Kakashi watched Naruto passed below him with no intention of slowing down. After a while, Kakashi sighed and followed Naruto.
He had to make sure Naruto didn't do anything stupid. With that level of intelligence of Naruto's, Kakashi couldn't take any chance. If something happened, Iruka-sensei would do much more than just glared and shouted at him. Oh no… an angry chuunin like Iruka-sensei was not very pleasant person to deal with.
Where are you going Naruto? Kakashi thought as he ran after Naruto.
Naruto panted as he stopped in front of a door he recognized so well. He had spent nights here as much as he had spent night in his own apartment. Since he had Iruka-sensei, he simply couldn't find the logic of sleeping alone in his quiet and lonely apartment. Besides, Iruka-sensei didn't mind; in fact, Iruka-sensei had once admitted that he didn't like the lonely house himself and always, and Naruto meant always, happy when Naruto declared he wanted to spend the night in Iruka-sensei's house. Then, they would stay up together and Iruka-sensei always had interesting stories to tell him.
Naruto felt sobs rising up his chest again when he thought about the possibility of Iruka-sensei not letting him slept in his favorite sensei's house anymore. Or not be able to hear Iruka-sensei's soft, soothing voice telling him stories at nights. Rubbing the tears off his eyes impatiently, Naruto gave in to his hysteria.
"IRUKA-SENSEI!" Naruto wailed like a lost child as he pounded the door. He was a lost child, whom had lost the hand that was always there to guide him. "SENSEI!"
And Naruto pounded the door like there was no tomorrow. It was true, Naruto's childish mind reasoned among the hysteria. If Iruka-sensei hated him, there would be no tomorrow. There would simply be no tomorrow!
"IRUKA-SENSEI! OPEN THE DOOR!" Naruto cried, tears already falling down and Naruto didn't care if everybody heard him sobbing like a child. "IRUKA-SENSEI!"
On a nearby rooftop, Kakashi stood, immobilized by the sight of Naruto went hysteria. In front of Iruka-sensei's house. Screaming and pounding as if his life depending on Iruka-sensei to open the door. Crying and openly showed his vulnerability. It made Kakashi realized that despite all the toughness Naruto display while completing their missions, he was really just a twelve years old child. What the hell had happened? Kakashi thought as his one blue eye wide with disbelief.
"IRUKA-SEN…" Naruto's hysteric cry was halted by the sound of the door opened and a very, very frantic Iruka-sensei stood in the doorway. With his hair unbound, his shirt disheveled and his tanned face pale. Obviously, Iruka was anxiously putting on his clothes when Naruto started breaking his door down.
"Naruto-kun…" Iruka looked down at his favorite ex-student, immediately looking for any injuries and found none. Apprehension was filled in his face. "Naruto-kun… What's wro… uft…" Iruka muffled in shock as the object of his utter concern catapulted himself into his arms, sobbing and trembling hard. Iruka lost his balance at the sudden force and fell on his butt, sprawling in the doorway with a very, very frightened and distraught thirteen year old boy wrapping his arms tightly around Iruka's chest. Obviously, Naruto had no intention of letting Iruka go.
If Kakashi wasn't anxious too about Naruto very odd, very out of character behavior, he would have laughed at Iruka-sensei's predicament. With his hair down and face losing all his blood like that, Iruka looked so young and frightened as well. Kakashi considered of helping Iruka, but decided to just watch. After all, as Iruka so eloquently point out, Iruka did know Naruto more than him. And Kakashi stood quietly and watched intently the way Iruka gentle hands wrapped back around Naruto, wisely letting Naruto sobbing and wetting his chest like he was going to break himself.
Kakashi's intense eye…well, eyes now, because Kakashi pulled up his head protector and revealing the infamous Sharingan… didn't miss the way Iruka leaned forward in his embrace, securing Naruto from breaking all over. Nor the way Iruka bent his head to whisper words of comfort to Naruto's ear, occasionally gave soothing kisses on Naruto's temple. Nor the way Iruka so shamelessly showed his love and concern to Naruto in the doorway, for everyone who walked this road to see. Kakashi's eyes grew darker with emotions that he never knew capable of feeling as he watched the unbelievable gentleness of Umino Iruka, calming the hysteric Naruto like a mother comforting her son, who was afraid at the sound of crackling thunder.
Kakashi felt something crack inside of him. And the loneliness had never felt this strong before. He had heard rumors about how Iruka loved his students, even they had left the academy. But until now, especially after the chuunin test, where they had exchanged heated disagreement, Kakashi only saw a very protective sensei who reluctant to let his students took the risks and chances. And now… seeing how Naruto tried to regain his senses and sanity back by going to Iruka and seeing how Iruka comforted Naruto, Kakashi now knew, why even after more than a year leaving the academy, Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke (if he ever managed to talk in full sentence) still respected, loved and repeatedly said Iruka's name whenever they compared him with Iruka-sensei.
Kakashi probably way more superior than Iruka and had a lot more powerful jutsus to teach his three students but when it came of living a life other than shinobi's way of life, he finally knew that Iruka could do a whole lot better than him. He had gone through a lot of mission with his three students and from there he realized they had something that he had long forgotten. They were compassion, easy to forgive someone else and they knew the value of life. They opted to let emotions to sometimes rule their thoughts and they were willing to give life a chance even if they knew the consequence of letting emotions involved. And now, he knew from where their compassionate characteristics came from.
From Umino Iruka. Their very own academic sensei who no longer looked plain and uninteresting in front of Kakashi's eyes. …Stunningly impressive… Kakashi breathed. Even Iruka had no longer taught the genins, his presence and teaching were always there.
Iruka was an academic sensei. He should have taught his students about how a shinobi should not at any time let his feeling in control. Shinobi was after all a killing machine; a tool to be used. But instead of following the shinobi's usual way of life, Iruka had taught his students about all those feelings that shinobi should not feel. Iruka didn't want his students to miss the chance to live as a human, or all those little significant things life had got to offer.
And somehow, somehow, Kakashi's respect to the young chuunin grew. Iruka, like him, had lost his precious people but unlike him, Iruka had the courage to give life another chance and opened his heart for someone to fill, while he, the famous Copy-nin, still mourned at the memorial every morning and made up outrageous lies about his lateness. Iruka had been hurt badly before, when Kyuubi took his parents' lives and yet, he still managed to love Naruto.
No wonder Sandaime valued him and always regarded Iruka highly. Iruka was indeed priceless.
"Shh…Naruto-kun…It's going to be alright…" Iruka whispered as his hands rubbed comfortingly Naruto's back, feeling his heart broke when the boy tightened his grip to Iruka as if he was his last lifeline. "Whatever it is, you can tell me…"
"I'm…I'm…" Naruto muffled as his face still deeply buried in Iruka-sensei's chest.
"What is it Naruto?" Iruka whispered softly. Worries filled in his tone. Naruto had never this hysteric before. And he heard Naruto mumbled something. Something about angry, not wanting to be alone again, sorry and what was that? Iruka furrowed his dark eyebrows, trying to catch Naruto's words.
Patiently, Iruka brought his hand to smooth softly the unruly blond locks, coaxing the boy to lift his face from his damp shirt. And Naruto slowly lifted his face away and looked down in fear of Iruka-sensei's anger. Tears still slowly slid down his whiskered cheeks. Iruka knew better than to force Naruto to face him, so he made low, soothing sounds. "Are you going to tell me now, Naruto?"
"…i'm…i'm…sorry, iruka-sensei…" Naruto said softly, still in Iruka-sensei's lap and still looking down. Iruka-sensei was warm and gentle and he didn't want to lose Iruka-sensei. "…I'm really…really…really…sorry…"
Iruka raised his eyebrows in puzzlement. "Sorry? For what Naruto?" Iruka's hand never stopped smoothing Naruto's hair in his effort to comfort him.
"I didn't mean to…to forget about our promise to have breakfast together, Iruka-sensei…" Naruto bit his lips, feeling tears welling up in his eyes again. "I didn't mean to forget you… Please don't be angry at me."
Iruka's dark eyes went wide and his body froze in understanding. Naruto went hysteric just because he thought he, Iruka, was mad about the forgotten promise? Why now? Why not when the first time Naruto forgot their promise? Was it something he did this morning? Because he cleaned the apartment and made Naruto lunch? Somehow, Iruka didn't think that was the reason.
Now that he had started talking, Naruto could stop himself. "I, I thought you don't want to come to my house anymore. I thought you would not let me sleep in your house. I want to hear your stories, I want to tell you how annoying Kakashi-sensei is, I want to tell you how angry Sasuke make me feel all the time, I want to eat your cooking, I want you to take me out for ramen, I want to play pillows with you, I want to hug you anytime and anywhere, I want you to play with my hair. I don't care if you shout at me. Just don't leave me, Iruka-sensei. Don't let me be alone again. "
Iruka blinked and looked down at the young boy in his lap. His heart melted at the look of big blue eyes, glistening with tears and fear lurking in them as he blabbering non-stop. Naruto was scared. Why? He had been angry with him before. He had even shouted at the aggravating boy. Why only now? "Oh, Naruto-kun…" Iruka breathed. "How can I be mad at you? What makes you think I would leave you?"
Relief began to fill the blue eyes but fear still there. "I…I don't know… This is the third time I forget… And, and Sakura-chan had said something to me…"
"Sakura was there with you before you came here?" Iruka was bewildered. Nothing about Naruto was easy and predictable.
"No, no…" Naruto shook his head hard and his grips on Iruka-sensei's damp shirt tightened. "Sakura-chan told me something about what will happen when you break your promise to the same person three times. She was angry at me when I told her the first time I forgot our promise…"
"Ah…" Iruka nodded. "Well, what did she say?"
"She said that the first time you break the promise, it means you forget. The second time you break, it means you're busy. The third time you break, it means… it means… you simply don't care for the person to make up the two promises you broke earlier…" Naruto looked up to his beloved sensei whom had saved him from himself when everybody else didn't care for him. To Naruto, Iruka-sensei was the beginning and would always be the first priority in his life.
Now, Iruka-sensei probably thought he didn't care for him enough to keep the promise from breaking the third time. Which was totally not true, of course!
"Sensei!" Naruto said suddenly and leaned forward to hug his sensei tightly. "I love you, I love you, I love you! Please don't believe what Sakura-chan said! If, if I already broke three times, I'll keep the next ten promises, I promise!"
Iruka smiled fondly, falling even more in love with the noisy boy who barged into his quiet life. He probably hadn't said often to Naruto, but he loved the boy too. Naruto had made his empty life meaningful because Iruka needed someone to fuss over and Naruto simply loved being fussed. They were perfect for each other, like brothers, like father and son… like family. That was it… Iruka wanted a family of his own; to make up the one he had lost and he had found it in Naruto, just like Naruto had found it in him.
"You've already made your first promise, Naruto…" Iruka smiled as he returned the boy's hug. "You'd better keep it…"
Iruka's smile grew wider when he felt Naruto nodded vigorously that Naruto's hard chin hit repeatedly at his shoulder. "…And Naruto…?"
Naruto muffled the word 'yeah?', still reluctant to let go of his sensei. Iruka-sensei's long unbound hair tickled his face, but Naruto didn't care. Iruka-sensei alwayssmell like fresh green leaves in the morning; his sensei smell like home, like a place he could always return to. To Naruto, Iruka-sensei's scent was what he described as dependable, gentle and loving.
"I love you too." Iruka's eyes closed contently as he whispered the words. Naruto was so lovable. Iruka knew he would die protecting this boy; from Naruto himself and the people around him. "There's no way I'm giving you up just because one lousy forgotten breakfast. Remember that."
Kakashi still stood unmoving from the very spot, watching the whole scene so intense that he lost awareness of his surrounding. His whole concentration was on Naruto, who so shamelessly sat in Iruka's lap, and on Iruka, who loving every second of Naruto's undivided attention. And without Kakashi realizing it, he used his Sharingan to study Iruka's face. Flushed from happiness, his expression was soft, peaceful and the smile never left his youthful face.
Kakashi had forgotten to breathe as his red eye traced the way Iruka's dark lashes shadowed his cheekbone, the way blushes tinted across his scar, the way his lips curved and most of all, the way his ebony hair fell on his forehead and tumbling over his shoulders. Then his eyes fell down to Iruka's gentle hand, slowly rubbing and reassuring the boy… while the other hand hold Naruto protectively. His sharp ears heard Iruka's soft voice, whispering to Naruto how he would never give the blonde up and how he would always try to be there for him…
Kakashi had never seen a more loving and peaceful face than Iruka's face and for some odd reason… he wanted to be the one who put that expression on Iruka's haunting face… he wanted to feel those hands, comforting him at nights when he felt the world was too much for him… he wanted to hear Iruka whispered reassuring words, pulling him out from the dark and hell-deep guilt… and he wanted to do the same to the youthful and vulnerable-looking sensei with his dark hair framing his face like that.
Kakashi had the wild urge to give his life another chance…
The attraction was swift and realization was fast that it shook the silver-haired man from his trance. He shakily exhaled the breath that he didn't know he was holding. How did by just watching Iruka comforted Naruto brought all these feelings? Kakashi wanted to taste the compassion and love he knew Iruka would, could offer. He had seen it and now he wanted it.
He continued to watch Iruka stood and smiled the way Naruto remained clinging to his favorite sensei's waist.
"Naruto, let's go inside." Iruka said. "It's cold outside. You're going to catch a cold if we stay outside like this."
"Can I sleep in your house tonight, Iruka-sensei?" Naruto asked; his eyes were wide with hope. "You can tell me another story, then, then, we can have breakfast together!"
Iruka laughed as he tousled the blond hair affectionately. He didn't realize how significant the gesture was to Naruto that the boy grinned so wide, savoring the moment. Iruka put his hands on his hips, leaning forward; his expression was half-serious, half teasing. "It's that another promise, Naruto-kun?"
"Always!" Naruto said fervently, so serious that Iruka nodded, reflecting the smile on Naruto's face. "For you, Iruka-sensei. Always!"
"Go inside, then, I want to lock the door," Iruka didn't manage to finish the sentence and Naruto had already bounced inside, vibrating with happiness. "Wash your face first and brushed your teeth!"
Iruka smiled at the exasperating 'yeah, yeah' from inside and he turned back to the door to close it. That was when he finally aware of a presence of someone. His dark eyes immediately shot up to a particular rooftop and he finally saw him.
It was Hatake Kakashi.
Kakashi was standing, looking down at Iruka. Kakashi no longer wore a bland expression. Kakashi was looking at Iruka with both of his eyes, instead of one. When their eyes met, Iruka felt a pleasant shudder ran through him at the intense way Kakashi's mismatch eyes looked at him. Iruka didn't think it was anger, nor displeased… Kakashi was just looking at him in such inscrutable way that it was Iruka's turn to be unable to breathe and inevitably blushes rose.
If he hadn't known better, he would think the infamous Copy-nin Kakashi was admiring him. Which was impossible, of course.
Kakashi liked the way moonlight washed over Iruka's lean body. He liked the way Iruka blushed. He liked the way Iruka expressed his feeling just now. He liked the faint lines of gentleness at the corners of Iruka's lips.He liked the way Iruka looked at him. Most of all, he liked the way Iruka just stood there and didn't close the door, equally captivated by him.
He had seen it and now he wanted it…
And Kakashi did want Iruka. More than anything else in this world. He knew Iruka could teach him just as much as he could show the young sensei. And Kakashi wanted to feel again.
Naruto had once told him that Iruka-sensei was his beginning; how Iruka-sensei had changed his whole life. A small smile curved up, hiding behind the mask. Perhaps Umino Iruka could be his beginning too.
So, slowly Kakashi bowed at Iruka and winked at the gaping sensei before completely disappeared.
Ah, yes… this is the beginning… Kakashi thought.