Chapter 8: Love and Family
The usual dark and gloom of the house was shattered by the long unheard sound of laughter. The laughs were unstrained and free and they never stopped. Of all the deserted houses and of all the unwashed stains of sins in the area, that house shone bright with its cheerful lights filtering through the opened windows and sounds of people rustling around and talking loudly in lively ways.
For the first time in a long time, the Uchiha district whispered no more of unsung lament and silence vengeance; it sang of blooming and vibrating life.
Inside the house, in the living room, sat Iruka and Naruto exchanging stories of their pranks while Kakashi's eye twinkled in unhidden amusement and fondness and Sasuke listened with vivid doubt all over his face. Perhaps he couldn't reconcile the serious, sometimes frighteningly fierce academy sensei that used to tie him up in high places with Naruto with the image of a young boy who had tried to paint Sandaime's face while the Hokage was asleep and actuallysucceeded.
The table was nearly groaning with the weight of food that Kakashi brought (it was Kakashi's turn) and some that Iruka had cooked (never again would they ask Naruto or Sasuke to cook). They had spent the last hour laughing (Sasuke nearly smiled, Naruto would have sworn it, but there was no way the icy boy would ever admit to it), and talking as their faces flushed with hilarity and happiness.
"I don't think I can ever forget the way Anko-chan looked when she realized that I had replaced her dango with a waxed replica. It actually took her three chews for her to notice that it was a fake!" Iruka regaled them with a large smile. "Of course, I was running for my life for the next three days. You wouldn't believe how scary she is when she's angry."
"I believe you, sensei," Sasuke agreed fervently, remembering the chuunin test. Kakashi noted with silent amazement Sasuke had slowly lost his icy reserve as one by one unseen expressions graced the boy's face.
Naruto, obviously, was thinking the same thing as Sasuke as he nodded vigorously.
Kakashi quirked his pale eyebrow. "Did something happen to both of you that I actually missed making fun of?" The mask hid the evil smirk.
"It's nothing!" Naruto denied loudly. "Nothing that would concern you, Kakashi-sensei!"
"Really, Naruto-kun?" Iruka looked at the blond boy. His face was flushed with previous laughter and his eyes glinted with a playfulness that Kakashi had never really seen before. "Because the only time that I can recall you guys meeting her was during Chuunin test and she told me that –"
"Iruka-sensei!" Both of the boys protested loudly, obviously not wanting to give Kakashi-sensei anymore embarrassing stories that would promise them perpetual humiliation.
Iruka's eyes widened slightly at the sound of Sasuke complaining like the young boy that he should be, instead of the vengeance-driven boy that he was. Apparently, Kakashi realized it too because Iruka saw Kakashi look to him before shaking his head in awe. Butterflies fluttered pleasantly in Iruka's stomach.
"Iruka-sensei," Kakashi drawled teasingly, "One of these days you must tell me. Without the boys' loud protests, of course. I'm running out of things to tease them about; you can only make fun of Naruto's clumsiness and Sasuke's icy angst so much."
It was comical to see Naruto and Sasuke exchanging horrified looks. Iruka couldn't help but laughing out loud again. "You are an evil person, Kakashi-sensei!" Iruka said.
"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto whined. "You're supposed to be on our side, not Kakashi-sensei's!"
The look of outraged betrayal on Sasuke's face agreed with Naruto. "Kakashi-sensei has corrupted Iruka-sensei," Sasuke observed with an adorable frown.
Iruka resisted the urge to draw both of the boys toward him and engulf them in a hug. It had been a very long time since Iruka had seen Sasuke act anything resembling his age or Naruto act so very happy without a mask of pretense on his face.
"Yeah!" Naruto suddenly jumped up. With an accusing finger pointed out to the still smirking, smug-looking jounin, Naruto announced, "I'll not let you do that to Iruka-sensei!"
"Naruto!" The admonishment that Iruka intended didn't come out intimidating at all since it was hard to sound threatening wtih peals of laughter still bubbling inside. "Don't be rude to your sensei!"
Kakashi looked at Iruka; he was itching to kiss the flushing face and taste the happiness upon those tempting lips but he really didn't think Naruto nor Sasuke would appreciated that very much. Yes, after several grand dinners, Kakashi concluded that Naruto and surprisingly, Sasuke, too, were fiercely protective of their previous sensei.
Naruto was easy to read with his blatant affection showing through loud voice and shameless hugs. Kakashi only realized Sasuke's silent protectiveness when the boy had volunteered to cook (disastrously, Kakashi might add) for their third dinner when he'd observed Iruka was too tired from teaching a handful pre-genins and Kakashi almost smiled to see the barely hidden flush of pleasure when Iruka thanked him profusely while his hands settled in an almost familiar way on Sasuke's shoulders.
Of course, even the burnt dinner and horrifyingly dirty kitchen could not take away the touching expression on Iruka's face when both Naruto and Sasuke stood guiltily in front of him. But even the kind Iruka-sensei would not let them try again, not without supervision, and had punished them by making them clean the place thoroughly.
Kakashi thought that if it was anyone else, Sasuke wouldn't even let him or her touch him in the first place.
Iruka was priceless and rare and Kakashi was so lucky to be the one Iruka wanted.
"But Iruka-sensei," Naruto protested. "He deserved it! Just this morning, he deliberately came four hours late to make me wait even though I had purposely come late so that I would arrive the same time he did!"
Kakashi laughed and Sasuke muttered the word 'idiot' repeatedly.
Iruka looked at Naruto with amusement. "So, are you saying that you were late too? Shall I scold you as well?"
Naruto spluttered indignantly but could not find the words to defend himself. "I…I…" Then he glared at his impudent and still laughing jounin sensei.
Without warning, Naruto reached down for a slice of the cake that Kakashi had bought that evening and threw it hard at Kakashi. Kakashi saw and dodged effortlessly.
It would have ended just like if the cake hadn't flown past Kakashi and landed on Sasuke's face. With an ominously loud SPLAT!
The living room was disconcertingly quiet as all faces turned around to watch the cake drop piece by piece from Sasuke's angry face to his lap. Iruka's eyes went wide but to Kakashi's great amusement, he could see the twitching laughter that threatened to escape.
"Na…ru…to…" A deep growl rumbled from the seething boy and not even the guilty grin and a hand reached up to scratch blond hair could save Naruto.
"It wasn't my fault!" Naruto protested, looking around for anything to protect him from the upcoming Uchiha wrath. "I was trying to shut Kakashi-bastard-sensei up and, and it's not like you were helping me!"
Sasuke glared at Naruto while his hand reached down to scoop up a handful of cake.
Kakashi sighed. This would not go well. He knew he should have just bought plain, butter cake instead of this elaborate cake with lots of icing on top. So much for trying to impress Iruka.
"And here I am, trying to save both of us mind you, and you don't even…" Naruto's rant was abruptly interrupted. The cake flew across the table and landed with equal force on Naruto's face.
Naruto spluttered and looked at Sasuke in disbelief. A prolonged silence settled between the two rivals; Naruto, with his wide disbelieving eyes, and Sasuke, with the ghost of a satisfied smirk on his face.
Which was replied by the customary, "DOBE!!!"
Within seconds, not only cake flew all over the table but also the yakisoba that Iruka had made along with angry curses and shouts. The whole living room was in utter chaos within seconds.
Usually, Iruka would shout on the top of his lungs to stop this madness. Usually he would produce a clone and drag the troublesome boys away to tie them somewhere far and high – away from the civilization of humans. But tonight, Iruka had been so happy, no longer lonely and felt like he was the luckiest man alive to be here.
And so, Iruka laughed; loud and clear and it caused all the rest of them to gape at the usually serious, strict sensei be, not angry, but amused.
Iruka laughed until tears tickled at the corner of his eyes, until his face flushed.
By Gods… Kakashi thought. Iruka was so goddamn beautiful like that – with happiness surrounding him, coloring his face with beckoning flushes. He knew then that Iruka was born to love and be loved. Kakashi nearly reached out his hands to pull the laughing sensei to him and kiss the lips; to taste the joy.
Naruto was the one who recovered first, so, with a big smile – all traces of previous anger gone – he took another handful of cake and threw it at Iruka.
Iruka gasped as the cake landed unceremoniously on his face.
"Naruto," Sasuke's eyes went wide at Naruto's bold action.
Naruto just laughed as he saw the mischievous glint in Iruka's eyes as said sensei stood up and reached for a morsel of pie that lay unfinished on the table.
"You asked for it, Naruto-kun!"
And thus, a messy and playful food fight broke out between all of them.
"Sasuke-kun, that was unfair! It wasn't me who threw that!" Iruka complained through breathless laughter.
"Well, Iruka-sensei, since Sasuke couldn't hit me, naturally he'd choose someone who is easi-"
"Are you telling me I'm an easy target?!"
SPLAT! And then, a pout outlined the mask-covered face amidst the icing and something that looked suspiciously like soba. "I was trying to say easier on the eyes."
"Liar!" Another splat, another laugh.
"Easily forgiving?" Kakashi provided hopefully.
"Liar!" This time, Naruto joined in as well and Kakashi resignedly took double cake-ammo.
"You are so going to pay for this, Sasuke," Kakashi growled as he threw the residue of cake on his face at the amused-looking boy.
Sasuke returned the pie that he was holding in his hand. Kakahsi evaded the projectile and it hit Naruto instead. "Sasuke-bastard! You did that on purpose!"
"It's just because you're so slow, dobe." Sasuke was openly smirking now.
"Don't call me dobe!" Another unknown substance flew.
"Dobe!" Sasuke returned the gesture with equal vigor.
"Hey, hey, don't include us in your lovers spat." Kakashi was not being helpful.
"Kakashi-bastard!" A chorus of annoyed shouts was inevitably directed at the shameless jounin.
The rest of the night saw them running around for cover from all the flying cake, yakisoba, pie and other unidentified substances being flung; laughing until the whole old, previously sad house became aglow with happiness; playing like they were still unburdened children.
The rest of the night saw Iruka break out from his reserve; saw Kakashi taste a glimpse of a childhood joy that he had been denied; saw Naruto forget his feeling of isolation and saw Sasuke regain his forgotten smile.
The rest of the night saw them let go of the sadness and pain of the past.
And the rest of the night saw them bonding like a real… family.
"Goodnight, Iruka-sensei, Kakashi-sensei." Sasuke stood in the doorway, feeling his previously lightened heart dropped with unexplained heaviness as he watched both of his sensei prepare to leave.
Iruka smiled. "Goodnight, Sasuke-kun. Good thing I made all of you clean up that awful mess." And then, a soft laugh escaped. "Though, I don't think I have ever felt this sticky in my entire life."
Sasuke and Naruto stifled a shudder when they remembered Iruka's infamous authoritative voice boom out as he made them clean the living room. Their respect for their sensei grew as they saw Iruka manage to make the lazy jounin clean the house as well. "Um… yes," Sasuke managed. "Thank you."
Iruka's eyes softened at the vision of Sasuke standing in the big doorway, in front of his even bigger house. Iruka had always thought of Sasuke as a lonely boy but now, with the dark, gloomy house looming behind the dark-haired Uchiha; Iruka realized just how lonely he was.
The urge to invite him and Naruto back to his house was strong because somehow, his teaching instinct told him that Sasuke didn't want any of them to leave him in this gloomy house. However, he also knew Sasuke would not appreciate either him or Kakashi volunteering to let him stay with him or thank him for the invitation.
As Iruka had known all the years he taught Sasuke, he knew the Uchiha pride was much, much stronger than his other weaknesses. Just like Naruto's stubbornness.
Therefore, Iruka only held out his hand and tentatively reached out for Sasuke. Even though he knew Sasuke despised touches, Iruka couldn't leave him with just words. With a brave soft tousle of Sasuke's hair and a soft chuckle, Iruka whispered kindly, "Well, I'll see you sometime tomorrow, I guess…"
It was the first time anyone had ever, ever wanted to touch his hair and dared to do so. Sasuke's head snapped up to look at Iruka's face in surprise. For a few moments, Sasuke watched Iruka's face, his dark eyes scrutinizing. The look on the sullen boy's face was indescribable.
Without words, Sasuke moved forward into Iruka's personal space and as quickly as possible, the dark-haired boy wrapped his arms around Iruka's waist and gave it a quick, tight squeeze and as he moved away kept his eyes down.
Even in the darkness of late night Iruka could see the dark blush creep up Sasuke's pale face.
Kakashi's eye was wide with disbelief and Naruto's jaw dropped open in surprise.
Iruka's sharp intake of breath had been audible when Sasuke had tightened his awkward hug but after that, he had recovered quickly. His smile widened at Sasuke's adorable attempt to show his gratitude and affection. Feeling brave enough, Iruka knelt down in front of the embarrassed boy and drew him close for another hug.
He held Sasuke for a full minute; until he felt Sasuke's awkward hands move upward to fist a handful of Iruka's kimono in each of his hands; until he felt Sasuke turn his face into the contour of his neck.
Until he felt Sasuke hug him back.
Then he whispered, "I'll see you tomorrow."
Iruka was glad when he felt Sasuke's head move in agreement. It was then Iruka let Sasuke go.
When Iruka stood up once again, Naruto shook himself out of his shocked trance and clearly felt left out. He threw his arms around Iruka for his customary goodnight/goodbye embrace, almost toppling both Sasuke and Iruka.
The position was somewhat awkward with Iruka trying to hold both of the boys but Naruto's hug was tight and Sasuke's grip was secure. Iruka was not going to let either of the boys go just yet. He savored the feeling of fullness when he had an armful of boys, loving the attention he was given and generously giving back his own.
"Dobe, let go," Sasuke mumbled, clearly embarrassed.
"Nuh uh!" Naruto tightened his embrace; he didn't care who he hugged, just as long as he hugged someone. "You hugged Iruka-sensei longer than me. It's not fair!"
"Then let go of me and hug Iruka-sensei on your own!" Sasuke hissed.
"But then, I'd still have to let go!" Naruto argued back. "Not going to happen, bastard!"
"Idiot! Sasuke bristled.
Iruka, who was still squished between the two boys, felt the vein of irritation pop when his ears became the direct recipient of the loud insults thrown by both of the boys. "Alright, how about both of you…"
"Why are you still not letting go?!"
"No way in hell I'm following your orders!"
Before either of them could say anything else, Iruka brought his hands together to perform seals and suddenly, both Naruto and Sasuke found themselves tied to the electric poles facing each other.
Iruka stood with both of his hands on his hips. A sweet (evil) smile that caused both of the boys to swallow hard curved up. "Now, you both have ample time to continue your conversation while figuring out how to untie those knots. And for your information, Sasuke-kun, I've improved the knots considerably."
"What!!!" Naruto wailed. "Iruka-sensei….!!!"
"Have a good night, Naruto-kun, Sasuke-kun." Iruka smiled again and turned around to drag Kakashi, who seemed to be frozen by the situation, out of Uchiha compound.
The scary smile immediately vanished the moment they stepped on to the main road. Iruka turned to face Kakashi, mouth open to say something but halted suddenly at the weird expression etched on Kakashi's face.
"Um…" Iruka hesitantly started. "Kakashi? Is something wro-" Iruka gasped when Kakashi suddenly darted his hand out to draw Iruka close, pulled his mask down and kissed Iruka in the middle of the deserted road.
The kiss was hard, prolonged and clearly long-awaited. Kakashi had been meaning to kiss the maddeningly beckoning young sensei all night, trying to imagine what happiness tasted like on Iruka's lips. Was it sweet or was it addictive? And with Iruka's lips responding so willingly under Kakashi's assaulting ones, Kakashi knew this taste was something that he would keep craving – for the rest of his life.
Iruka knew he should be used to Kakashi's sudden, untimely kisses but for every kiss that the jounin stole, Iruka was still startled. But the scent, the feel and the taste that came after were so familiar – comforting – that he didn't balk but responded to the kiss. Right now, as if his hands had a life of their own, one wove through Kakashi's hair and the other sneaked around Kakashi's waist, pulling the jounin closer.
A few moments later, Iruka pulled away from the kiss. Looking up at Kakashi, he asked breathlessly, "Do you want to come over?"
Kakashi growled at the interruption and pulled Iruka back into the kiss. Kakashi's kisses were bruising and desperate before he broke the kiss to answer huskily, "Definitely."
Then he kissed Iruka again.
When they arrived at Iruka's modest house, Kakashi couldn't help but recall that very night when he first saw Iruka in a new light. The night that changed his life – from a man who was hardened with blood and death to the man who was beginning to understand the beauties that life had to offer and learning to enjoy every second of it. That night, he had never imagined he would be this happy. He had never thought he would dare to dream of living beyond the life of a shinobi.
And now – tonight – with Iruka's hand tightly wrapped around his and Iruka pulling him playfully into his house, Kakashi could hardly believe he was finally here; at this moment. The moment where he was finally living; no longer just existing – living the life that Yondaime would have wanted him to have.
"Kakashi?" Iruka spoke. "What's wrong?"
Kakashi shook himself out of his musing and looked at the person – the precious person – who had made all of this happen. "Nothing's wrong." Kakashi smiled softly. "I've never felt this good before."
Iruka smiled brightly in return. "Really?"
Iruka looked at the man in front of him. For the weeks that they had been together, they had yet to sleep together. Iruka was too shy to say anything and he thought that Kakashi didn't want to push him. Maybe Kakashi thought he had pushed Iruka into this relationship too fast and too soon that and he didn't want to push Iruka into doing something again.
Iruka had had a lot of time to think this over. It had been nearly over two months since Iruka had said yes and he had thought this through thoroughly. If they were to move to the next step in this relationship, this time, it would be Iruka who would have to indicate to Kakashi that he was ready – and that he was definitely willing.
Because for this to be a two way relationship, Iruka had to be the one who wanted and show to Kakashi that he wanted it.
However…saying that out loud was definitely out of question. When words were hard to find, Iruka could only use actions. Now that Iruka had finally completed reading the guide book, he wanted it to be tonight. Iruka was confident enough in the love that they shared to trust Kakashi to not laugh at him.
Well, if Kakashi thought that tonight would be just like any other night of conversations and sake, he was going to prove the jounin wrong. Hopefully it would contain less conversation with even fewer drinks and more action. And Iruka hoped that awkwardness wouldn't pay him a visit tonight.
Iruka smiled a secret smile as he slowly backed away from Kakashi. Early signs of embarrassment and exhilaration colored his cheeks but Iruka had never been this sure and determined before. With his back facing his bedroom door and his eyes resolutely locked on Kakashi's visible blue eye, Iruka deliberately raised his hand to unfasten the dark blue ribbon and let his dark hair cascade down like black ink dribbled down his neck. He could see the way Kakashi's eye followed the movement of the dark tresses and Iruka felt his heart skip a beat.
His feet didn't stop retreating and Iruka let the secret smile became wider. He saw a response. A sign that he was doing something right.
Kakashi's heart stopped beating at the sight that Iruka made, smiling like that, before it pounded rapidly when he saw Iruka let down his hair. Kakashi dared not hope and yet, he was hoping that Iruka was giving him some sign that he was ready to take this relationship further.
Kakashi had never planned to push Iruka. The first time he did, he had almost lost Iruka to his hastiness. But, if Iruka kept on retreating to bedroom with a smile like he was inviting him to follow him, Kakashi didn't know if he could stop himself from pulling the sensei to the bed himself instead of being patient like he had promised.
Seeing Kakashi's intense eye watching him almost made Iruka come undone; he had always had a weakness for Kakashi's eyes – they fascinated him the most. Courage deserted Iruka then – the only thing that drove him to continue was the rush he felt when he saw that single blue orb darken into undiscovered passion. Iruka deepened his breaths, calming his jumping nerves and once again, he brought his hand to slightly loosen the sash so that he could slip the kimono off one shoulder effortlessly.
When one smooth, caramel-colored shoulder became bared, Kakashi instinctively moved forward and reached out for Iruka. He couldn't help himself. His hand touched softly at the spot between neck and shoulder before fitting in his fingers among the curves and caressing the length of the naked shoulder. For some unknown reason, Kakashi was completely turned on at the sight of Iruka's shoulders. Especially if Iruka's dark hair spilled over them. Kakashi wanted to bury his face amongst the hard flesh and the soft hair and admire the contrast.
Blushes inevitably arose, tinting Iruka's tanned cheeks when he felt Kakashi's touch. It was a simple touch but Iruka felt so possessed by Kakashi. Gathering his courage, Iruka reached back to touch the silk mask pooled around the other's pale neck. He felt the thundering beatings of the pulse beneath his fingers. Alive and so very attractive in the darkness – Iruka swallowed hard.
His hands were trembling when they slowly pushed Kakashi's silken kimono off both shoulders. As the pale, sleek pair of those broad shoulders came to Iruka's view, a pink tongue slipped out to moisten the suddenly dry lips. Anticipation and desire filled the room thickly and Iruka could both hear and feel the rumbling growl from Kakashi's chest.
Under the dimmed light of the room, the silver shuriken glinted invitingly from Kakashi's bared chest. Iruka's breath caught at the sight of the forgotten gift that he had given to the jounin – Kakashi was still wearing it like Iruka was still wearing the dark blue ribbon.
The gifts tied them together. Iruka would always be bound to this man – in heart and in soul. And soon in body too.
"Iruka?" Kakashi broke the silence around them. He noticed the difference between tonight and other nights and he had a pretty clear idea of Iruka's plans. Or he hoped he did. He held back his breath, letting hope rise so high even though he knew he shouldn't. "What are you doing?"
The blushes deepened. Iruka cast his eyes downward, as one of his hands reached down for the doorknob behind him. Turning it slowly open, Iruka pushed his bedroom door open with his back.
Then, Iruka raised his eyes to meet Kakashi's. Underneath the midnight-colored hair, Iruka's obsidian eyes called out for Kakashi. Softly, he whispered, "Spend the night with me…?"
A hot rush traveled throughout Kakashi's body at the request. This was the sign he was waiting for. The sign that Iruka was ready. The sign that Iruka had finally stopped hesitating, second-guessing himself, doubting himself and the feelings they shared.
"Gods…" Kakashi murmured huskily as he brought himself nearer to the academy sensei, looking so young in his seduction and yet no less tempting. Kakashi cupped the strong jaw with both of his hands, looking directly into Iruka's eyes. "Oh Gods… I thought you would never ask…"
The blushes were bright and the smile that Iruka gave to Kakashi was wide. Iruka reached up to wrap his arms around Kakashi's neck. Kakashi supported Iruka with his own hands around his chuunin's waist. Kakashi's lips sought Iruka's in the dark and easily found them. Both of them stumbled awkwardly into the room before Kakashi nudged the door behind them closed.
Behind the closed door, echoes of laughter were heard.
And behind the closed door, they began to share their lives together...
A/N: I planned to end The Beginning with 'The Last Step' but I've forgotten to change the status to 'completed'. Silly, silly me. People ask whether The Beginning has finished or not and I thought that I couldn't change the status, not after a few months being up as work-in-progress. So, I wrote the conclusion for The Beginning because I miss writing Kakairu so much due to my master course (which eats my brain alive as well as my time) and also because you guys have given me such lovely reviews. Thank you for sticking up with me all through those times of slooowwww updates. I hope my writing hasn't rusted during the 'forced' hiatus.