The Smile.

Hatake Kakashi wasn't lonely. He was lone. Solitary. He liked other people well enough, enjoyed their company while he was with them and when working as part of a team, but was always relieved to go home to his solitude. Being famous didn't help. It robbed him of the quiet anonymity most self-contained, self-sufficient people preferred. But even if he hadn't been famous he would still stand out in a crowd, white haired, one eyed, taller than most. So he hid his face behind a mask and his mask behind a book and pretended to ignore the world watching him.

Therefore it was with some surprise that he found himself watching someone else, around the edges of his book, the way he was accustomed to being watched. Of course he was always aware of everyone around him, who they were, what they were doing, the level of their potential threat. He was a jounin, it was second nature. But right now he was focused on the chuunin at the mission desk where he'd come to hand in his report on the day's mission. The dark haired man was sorting papers on its dark polished surface with the automatic efficiency of someone who sorted a lot of papers. His tanned nimble fingers were skimming through the stacks, shuffling, collating, filing, while his mind was clearly on something else. Kakashi couldn't help wondering what.

It was the scar that had attracted Kakashi's attention, a line over the top of each cheek joined by an arc across the bridge of the nose. Not a battle scar, at least not in the conventional sense. Not something that could have been caused by stabbing or slashing during a fight, and he knew every mark a blade could make on the human body. No this had been deliberately cut. Someone had sliced the tip of a knife across the contours of the chuunin's face, marking him forever. Most likely while he was tied up or while someone held him down.

He must have seen the man, and the scar, before. It was old and had faded to no more than a line on his tan skin. The reason Kakashi was noticing it now was that he had just killed a man with an almost identical scar. The man had been a bandit and his scar had registered as familiar, although it wasn't until now that he realised why. He hadn't felt good about the kill, it shouldn't have been necessary and he always preferred to capture thieves so that they could be dealt with properly. But the villagers who had paid for his protection had run out into the open, instead of staying where he'd told them, as soon as the rest of the men terrorising them were secured. That gave the scarred bandit the chance to snatch two small children as hostages. The only way to be completely sure of saving both kids, unharmed, was to kill silently from behind.

Kakaski studied the young man in uniform on the other side of the room. His skin was naturally dark, not weather hardened, it was much too fine and delicate. Probably ticklish too, Kakashi noted as the man brushed a stray lock of hair away from his face then scratched the back of his head, betraying a trace of agitation. How did this neat, modest chuunin, manning the mission desk during the last and least popular shift of the day, come to have the same scar as a vicious bandit?

He was familiar, Kakashi knew that he had seen him here on a number of different occasions, but he wasn't one of the full time mission room staff. He must have some other job that took most of his time and just filled in here when he was needed. That he was willing to do so without the slightest hint of resentment suggested two things. That he had little else to do with his spare time, and that he had a willing and generous nature. The chuunin in question looked up, saw Kakashi waiting to hand in his report and smiled.

It was as if a window had opened into Kakashi's soul, pouring in golden sunlight, waking something that had been slumbering there for far too long. The smile was so sweet, so warm, so goddam beautiful that he stood in silence, behind his book, unwilling to break the spell.

"Hatake-san? Hatake-san, do you have a report for me?"

Kakashi lowered his book and crossed the distance between them in an instant, making eye contact for a second before the man lowered his eyelashes, thick dark lashes that any woman would envy, and bowed politely.

"Er yes, here." Kakashi slipped the book into his back pocket and pulled out a slightly crumpled piece of paper. The chuunin carefully smoothed it out against the top of the desk. The smile was gone and Kakashi felt suddenly deprived, next time he'd keep the paper flat.

"This seems to be in good order. Thank you for your hard work."

Another bow and yes! His pulse quickened. Another smile. Kakashi's eyes and lips curved upwards happily. He was tempted to linger but the mission room was now officially closed. So he turned and left with a cheerful wave. But he would be sure to find out when this man was on duty before he handed in his next report. He wanted to see that smile again.

Ooooooooooooooooooo

Umino Iruka liked working in the mission room. Of course he was a teacher and he loved teaching, he would never give that up. But really enjoyed spending a few hours in the company of shinobi who were out there everyday. He'd only done a few missions since his appointment at the academy, and he missed the excitement a little. Not that teaching wasn't exciting in it's own way, and it was a challenge that few of even the most talented ninja's could rise to. But he liked hearing everyone's stories about their adventures, their battles, and the jutsus they'd used. And because everyone was expected to hand in their report in person it gave him the opportunity to spend a little time with some of the most elite jounin, who he would never have spoken to otherwise.

There was one elite jounin in particular that he liked to watch for. The most elite of them all in his opinion, Hatake Kakashi. He'd seen him here five times in the past and he'd been too shy to even look at him. Keeping his eyes lowered, bowing, and thanking him for his work. But it had been enough to simply breathe the same air for a few minutes. He never stayed long but never hurried either. It was in the hope of seeing him that Iruka always took the late shifts when he could, because Hatake-san had a reputation for handing in reports at the last possible moment, if not later.

Today he was in luck. The man he'd been watching for came into the room about ten minutes before he was due to close up. And he didn't hand in his report right away but stood slouched against the wall reading his book, as if he'd forgotten why he was there. Iruka didn't look at him directly but tried to catch him in his peripheral vision as he sorted reports into binders and filed them away. After a while he had the distinct impression that he was being watched, so he looked up to see who else was there, but they were the only two in the room. Of course now he had to acknowledge the other's presence. So he asked for the report.

"Hatake-san? Hatake-san, do you have a report for me?"

For just a moment their eyes met. Iruka was so surprised by the speed at which the other man had moved and the calm intensity in the single blue eye staring at him, that for once he didn't blush. He took the report, which looked as if it had been crammed into a back pocket for a week, and straightened it out. With anyone else he would have made them fill out a new one, but he doubted that he could string that many words together in front of this particular jounin. Anyway it was legible, and Iruka taught twelve year olds, he'd seen worse.

"This seems to be in good order. Thank you for your hard work."

Then something wonderful happened. Hatake Kakashi smiled at him, right at him. Iruka could distinctly see the curve of his mouth under the mask, and his eye crinkled into an arc so that the blue almost disappeared. The cold, almost hidden, assassin's face became the warmest, most open, most beautifully human thing he had ever seen. Emotion washed over him like a tidal wave. Fortunately Hatake-san turned away and didn't see him blushing as he fought furiously to reign in his chakra. He was surprised that the elite jounin didn't notice anyway. Perhaps he did, but of course he must have more important things to think about than the reactions of a lowly desk chuunin. But the stakes were raised for Iruka, now it wouldn't be enough to just be in the same room as Hatake Kakashi. He wanted to see that smile again.