Blind Man's Bluff

by BitterEloquence

Disclaimer: If they were mine, they'd be wearing a lot less clothing and more of that lovely mesh material and Kotetsu and Izumo would be canon-ly toegther instead of in my own little world.

"There are none so blind as those, that will not see."

-Old Proverb

If there was one thing that really riled Izumo's normally placid and calm temper it was the annoying habit people had of assuming.

Didn't their parents ever teach their children that assuming 'makes an ass out you and me'? Really, you would think that in a village of ninja that they'd be able to get reliable intelligence and realize one pertinent and important fact.

That he and Kotetsu were not dating!

For Gods sake if he had to put up with one more smirking look of amusement and one more ribbing joke about 'where his husband' was he was going to go to go on an ass-kicking rampage.

On that note, why did everyone assume he was going to be the bottom dammit! It wasn't fair.

Wait….that wasn't the point! Ugh.

He could only blame his flustered state on the fact that once more, he and Kotetsu had to suffer through yet another round of amused looks and knowing whispers when they went to lunch earlier that day. His best friend and partner in crime seemed to be woefully unaware of the rumors circulating about them however and he just didn't have the balls to bring it to his friend's attention.

That would just be…weird!

So instead, he simmered silently and tried to pretend like he as if enjoying his lunch until Kotetsu teasingly made a swipe for his dango. Izumo blocked him with a pair of skillfully wielded hashi and leveled a dark look on his roommate. "Don't even think about it." Kotetsu had pouted cutely, handsome face set into cute, if feral lines, by his spiky mane of dark hair.

"But Izu-chaaaaan. You're not eating it!" The tension had eased out of him then. He was unable to resist Kotetsu's often rough and tumble way of showing affection. Izumo snorted and munched the dango right in front of Kotetsu despite the other man's pouting look. Kotetsu whined and poked him in the side with a grumbled 'Tease' under his breath. Izumo felt a smirk curve the edges of lips as he eyed his friend from the corner of eye. He really was more like a puppy then a man sometimes. Kotetsu seemed to think a playful nudge to the ribs, a firm clasp of a hand to the shoulder could make all things well and good in the universe. The thing was, he was often right when it came to Izumo. Just being in his friend's presence seemed to cheer Izumo up.

They didn't really need words anymore.

Kotetsu and he had managed to work out a system of communicating with the slightest shifting of body language and a raised brow. It was almost like a language of their own; one that existed between themselves and no others.

They shared the same space.

It was cheaper on a chuunin's pay to get a nicely appointed apartment and share if with someone rather then the tiny cubbyholes they could have afforded on their own. They shared the same bathroom but in Izumo's opinion, it was better then the community bathroom he and Kotetsu had been faced with in their other choices when they'd been apartment shopping together.

They shared the same clothes sometimes, much to Izumo's chagrin. Considering he and his best friend were near the same height, he had found himself accidentally pulling Kotetsu's pants out of the not-yet folded laundry heap more then once. Only to discover his mistake later as he realized the hem of his pants were an inch too short and of course the tightness of them in…certain areas.

Kotetsu, damned bastard that he was, never failed to tease him about how he should wear tight pants more often since it showed off his ass so nicely.

Fucker. Why was he looking at his ass in the first place? He so wasn't helping things.

Sure, they hung out a lot but that was what friends did! And they lived together, not to mention worked together so of course most of their time would be spent in each other's company. It worked for them though. So why the hell did people insist on trying to…to taint what they had by assuming he and Kotetsu were lovers!

Kotetsu had a secret and he didn't like it.

It felt damned uncomfortable keeping something from Izumo. He felt vaguely sick to his stomach each time he noticed it. Whenever he and Izumo went out to eat, to hang out with their friends, he couldn't help but notice it! People stared for fucks sake!

How did you break it to your best friend that most the village seemed to think you were shagging each other? That wasn't exactly the most politically correct conversation to hold with your male friend after.

Oh hey! How was your date?

It was great aside from the fact that she thinks we can only be friends because she and everyone things we are screwing like rabbits. How was your day?

Ugh. He was screwed. No wait, correction, he wasn't getting screwed and that was the problem. It was damned hard to get dates when the female population of the village seemed to think you were gay! Especially when your so-called lover was supposed to be your best friend and roommate.

How stupid was that! Like he and Izumo could ever be like that. They were just friends! Sure, he'd admit it, he usually ended up having more fun spending a night at home hanging out with Izumo then on his dates lately but that was because they could talk. Could really talk and were comfortable with each other without all that emotional crap getting in the way.

Of course, the fact that he didn't have to worry about Izumo wondering if he was gay probably helped things a lot though. Wouldn't that be damned uncomfortable otherwise! Ugh…why did he feel sick to his stomach at the thought of Izumo freaking over that?

What would his best friend do if Kotetsu turned out to be batting for the other team? Would he be fine with it? Would Izumo fly off the handle and call him disgusting? Why did that terrify the living shit out of him? Why did the thought of Izumo leaving him and abandoning their friendship scare him shitless?

Tch' this was getting him nowhere. He had to tell Izumo. Had to tell the man before he heard from some unknown source that everyone thought they were lovers. Because if Izumo found out from someone else, he might assume Kotetsu really did feel for him like that and then he might freak out and hate him or something.

He might leave him.

No, there was no doubt about it. He'd have to tell him.

Finding Izumo was not very hard after all. They had spent so much time in each other's presence that they had an almost sixth-sense about where the other was. As expected, he found his friend going through the heavy stack of paperwork they still had not managed to convince the Gondaime to take care of. Seeing the haggard look of dismay on Izumo's face, Kotetsu felt a wry smile touch his lips.

"Don't worry, I'll enlist Shizune-san into helping harangue Tsunade-sama into doing her paperwork again. She still owes us from when we stopped the Hokage from going to that poker game, remember?" Izumo nodded and grimaced softly at the memory of that particular night. It had taken some fast talking on their parts to keep Tsunade tied up and busy in the office. By the time the furious woman had realized that she'd missed her game, the hastily fetched Shizune had arrived to properly tongue-lash the Hokage while they'd made their escape.

Chuunin they might be but fools they were not.

Of course, they'd had to pick up the ruined mess of Tsunade's office the next day but some good had come out of that since Shizune now owed them big time. Seeing the amount of paperwork that needed to be filed, Izumo reluctantly agreed with Kotetsu's suggestion that the cash in their favor with the jounin. "Yeah, I don't think we're ever going to get of here tonight otherwise."

Kotetsu grimaced as well and prodded a stack listlessly only to receive a sharp look of warning from Izumo for his troubles. 'Don't you dare' Hung silent and unsaid in the air and his hand dropped back to his side.

Not that he was whipped or anything.

It was just that they had more pressing matters was all. The thought of taunting Izumo into a playful fight was far too tempting and Kotetsu squared his shoulders with a sigh and looked down at his friend seated at the desk. Dark strands of spiky black hair all but shivered with nervous energy like an excited dog's hackles as he studied the taller man for a moment. "Izumo?"

"Hmnn?" He made an absent sound as he studiously marked off the places where Tsunade would have to initial. His dark eyes never left the paper and he only bothered to look up when Kotetsu's hand appeared in his range of vision to lightly trap his own pen-wielding one in a surprisingly warm grip.

"We need to talk. Do you have any plans right now?" Izumo was trying to figure out why he was suddenly so hyperaware of the warmth radiating from Kotetsu's hand. Dark eyes blinked in surprise as that question sunk in and Izumo looked up through that heavy forelock of dark brown hair. Something in Kotetsu's tone troubled him.

Troubled him almost as much as the odd sensation of the man's calloused fingers closed around his own and he blinked owlishly up at his best friend and roommate. "About what?" The bandana-wrapped head canted to the side as he shot Kotestu an inquisitive look but the small shake of the man's head stopped him from asking anything else. 'Not now' It didn't need to be said. "You hungry? I think it's about time for lunch anyway." Izumo stood and stretched until his back creaked in protest. He'd spent most of the morning hunched over the desk trying to figure out which forms Tsunade had lazily, and incorrectly filled out and which ones were safe to pass onto different departments.

It irked him that she still hadn't bothered to approve the bill increasing the pay of all chuunin employed by the village for teaching purposes and administrative duties. Conflicts of interest his ass! It wasn't like he'd drawn up the damned agreement, she could blame the village elders for that!

Stingy old hag.

"Sure, works for me." Kotetsu shrugged and raked his hand through wild locks, messing them up even more. If that were possible of course.

In the decade or so he'd known Kotetsu, Izumo didn't think he'd ever seen his friend with what the kunoichi were fond of calling a 'good hair day'

Of course, Kotetsu would argue that Izumo poking fun at his hairstyle would be like the pot calling the kettle black. That was neither here nor there and the two chuunin slipped out of the stuffy office to walk the short distance from the Hokage's tower to their apartment.

There was a tension that filled the silence and distance between them as they approached their home and Kotetsu kept shooting furtive looks at Izumo from the corner of his eye when the other man wasn't looking. Izumo kept glancing at Kotetsu, using the pretense that he was looking at the various items displayed in the windows as they walked by them.

Finally however, they arrived at the apartment and Izumo pretended to be fascinated by a non-existent speck under his fingernail as Kotetsu unlocked the door. The shorter man removed his shoes and left them in the entryway before walking towards the kitchen. "What do you feel like?" He glanced over his shoulder curiously then, the single visible dark eye questioning as he grinned forcibly at Izumo. He knew it came off too sharp and too full of teeth but he knew it was better to pretend everything was okay rather then letting Izumo see how nervous he was.

Izumo watched his friend silently for a long and troubled moment, watched how the bandage stretched across Kotetsu's face crinkled along with the corners of his eyes as the dark haired man moved to poke through their fridge in search of food. "Curry." Izumo murmured tonelessly and snuck around Kotetsu to grab a can of soda from the refrigerator.

It was a test.

A test to see just how Kotetsu would react to his close proximity considering the nervousness his friend displayed around him, but also a test to see if he reacted with the same hyperawareness as before. His body brushed against Kotetsu's leaner and more lithely muscled form as he grabbed the can of soda. They were close enough that he could feel the slight jolt of surprise run through that slender form before he drew back.

"Curry it is." Kotetsu tried to mask his reaction with a bright and cheery smile but Izumo saw right through it. His more solemn nature took over as he stared at his friend for a long and hard moment.

"Stop it." That quiet command had Kotetsu's hand stumbling as he reached for the spice rack. Bottles went tumbling off the multi-tiered rack to clatter across the counter.

"Shit." He muttered as he started to right the fallen bottles. "What are you talking about, Izumo? I thought you wanted curry."

"Stop acting like nothing's bothering you, Kotetsu, and just spit it out." Kotetsu's mouth opened as if he were about to answer. "And don't you dare lie to me." The dark-haired chuunin's mouth snapped close with an audible click. Izumo just glowered at him until he flushed guiltily and hung his head.

"Let me get lunch started." Kotetsu muttered sullenly and much like a chastised dog, he slunk off to cook lunch since it was his turn to fix their meal. Contrary to popular belief, Izumo was the one who wore the pants in their friendship so to speak. No, that wasn't true. They each had their strengths and weaknesses. Kotetsu's more gregarious and friendly nature made him a natural when dealing with people while Izumo's more practical side meant he was the one who made sure the bills were paid on time. Kotetsu saw to it that they had good food to eat and a comfortable place to return to while Izumo made sure they didn't accidentally overspend their budget for the month.

Practical and impractical.

They complimented each other well and had come fit together over time like yin and yang. Izumo was the balancing force to Kotetsu's often expressive and passionate nature while his friend brought life and laughter into Izumo's too serious existence and made him happy.

Izumo couldn't imagine his life without Kotetsu.

Kotetsu was terrified of loosing Izumo.

The ironic circle of circumstances they found themselves in was unmistakable; both afraid to tell the other because they were each afraid of loosing their friend in one way or another. Out of the two of them, Kotetsu had never been one to keep a secret, especially from Izumo.

Kotetsu settled into an uneasy silence as he prepared their lunch. Exotically tilted eyes were troubled and stormy with unhappy emotions as the dark-haired chuunin worked quietly. Meanwhile, his friend settled down at the table and fell into silence as well. Izumo could sense that Kotetsu needed some time to himself to gather his thoughts and put them into words so he let his mind drift back to his odd reaction when Kotetsu had touched him.

It was unusual reaction and a troubling one.

Kotetsu had touched him before so why did that one touch affect him so? The intimacy of that warm hand atop his own had left Izumo hyperaware of Kotetsu and his very presence in the room. He could hear the faintest catch of the man's breath as he breathed in the steam rising from the pot where their lunch simmered. He saw from the corner of his eye how the light gleaming through the windows shot across Kotetsu's wild and spiky hair, painting it almost silver in places where those silky strands glowed brightly under the light.

Izumo had always been aware of how handsome his best friend. Many a kunoichi had fallen for that handsome face and that wolfish grin. Though, in all the years he'd known Kotetsu, Izumo had never seen him be in a serious relationship. It always seemed like something came up, that his attention was centered somewhere else. Be it work, the chuunin exams, or even Izumo himself, Kotetsu always seemed to choose that over any chance he had at attaining a serious relationship.

Considering Izumo was the same way, was it really any surprise that people thought them lovers? Neither held down a steady girlfriend, they lived together, seen in each other's presence more often then not. No, perhaps it wasn't too surprising the people of Konoha thought the were dating. The clatter of the plate placed in front of him shook Izumo out of his thoughts and he blinked in surprise as he snapped to the here and now. A brief smile was given to Kotetsu and the other man grinned impishly before settling down with his own hashi to eat the chicken curry.

Izumo loved Kotetsu's cooking and preferred it to his own so he ate the curry with relish. Things settled into a familiar routine as a companionable silence fell over them. It was a comfortable silence. The kind of silence that two friends who had been together for years could share and Izumo almost fooled himself into thinking everything was okay.

After their lunch, Kotetsu cleared his throat however and reminded Izumo that there was still something bothering his friend. Izumo peered up through his heavy forelock of hair to stare at his friend curiously and watched as Kotetsu fiddled with his plate nervously. "Umn…." That was hardly the most intelligent start of a conversation and Kotetsu grimaced guiltily before trying again. "Izumo, I think there's something we need to talk about."

Why did his stomach clench up suddenly with such tight tension? A troubled look filled Izumo's eyes and he stared at Kotetsu curiously for a long and uncomfortable moment before his gaze dropped away. "About what?"

"About the fact that people seem to think we're lovers." Kotetsu had deliberately waited until Izumo didn't have something in his mouth or a drink in his hand. He didn't relish the idea of it coming out of his friend's nose as he snarfed it after all. Izumo didn't choke or have a mile aneurism like expected however and Kotetsu could only blink at the faintly saddened look that crossed his friend's face.

"Ah….about that." Izumo wondered why his voice sounded weaker then it normally did even to his own ears. "I've heard that before." He just hadn't thought that Kotetsu had noticed…drat.

"Oh….you're….umn…okay with that?" Kotetsu could feel his pulse rate increase as his palms began to get sticky with nervous sweat. "I mean, it's not true of course but it's sort of ruining our reputations." Kotetsu tried to make a joke out of their situation and grinned wolfishly. "That's probably why you haven't been able to get a girlfriend."

"Hey now! You're the one who hasn't gotten laid in how long?" Izumo tossed his hashi at Kotetsu and the other man caught them with a laugh. "You're the one who claimed his last girlfriend was boring and you came crying to me because you were bored." No real heat touched his voice as a teasing grin curved his lips. Kotetsu flushed a tad guiltily and batted his lashes at Izumo tauntingly.

"But Izu-kun, I only have eyes for you." Izumo wondered why that husky whisper had a twist of something coiling deep in his stomach and he flushed darkly.

"Jackass. I wouldn't date you if you paid me." Izumo felt relief rush through him then as Kotetsu and he joked back and forth. Finally, that dark little secret was out between them and nothing had changed. He wasn't going to loose his friend after all and they could still be the same just like always.

"But Izu-chaaaaan." Kotetsu pouted then as he gathered up their plates. "I see how it is. I cook and I clean and you don't even want me." A mock-sniff heard then as he carried the plates into the kitchen and left them in the sink for Izumo to pick up. It was their rule. If he cooked, then Izumo cleaned the dishes and the kitchen and visa-versa.

It was a good system and one that had served them well over the years. Theirs was a comfortable and happy routine and Kotetsu was relieved that things could remain the same between them even after a strange revelation like that. He'd been secretly worrying himself sick with the thought that Izumo would find out and be disgusted with him and the thought that they could be more then just friends,

So he was relieved that things were the same between them….right?

Surely he was! He didn't want things to change and all those rumors were just that. Rumors.

Unsubstantiated and stupid rumors to be traded around the village like candy because bored ninja in Konoha had nothing better to do then gossip.

Of course, he was happy that Izumo wasn't going to leave him, they that were still friends. This was good news and he was happy!

If he were happy…then why did he feel so empty and alone all of sudden?

A/N: Because there just isn't enough Ko/Izu out there I wrote this fic. And it's written for bite-the-hand-that-feeds, a sweet and absolutely amazing author who consistantly blows me away with her writing. Go read her stuff now!