Wasting Time

By Lywinis

"What is love? What is the nature of this emotion that makes it so incredibly appealing, and yet so utterly alien when it stares you in the face?" --Silverfox

The air in the village is warm and summery as I close the last of my reports, initialing and stamping them for review tomorrow morning. The windows are open, and I can hear the chatter of the villagers, see the last of the shops getting ready to close. I look at the clock, and to my surprise, I can see it's nearly midnight. I hurry and finish my work, but by the time I've locked my office and I'm speeding over the rooftops as silent as a shadow, the lights in most of the offices and houses are dark and cold. I know I have to get up early tomorrow. This sucks.

But what else is there? Where else would I be going? I don't have that many friends, and my family is gone, killed many years ago by a monster fox. There's nothing for me besides the endless reports, my classes at the academy, and my students. You might think it's a lonely life, but it really isn't. I'm happy.

At least, I think I'm happy.

As I pass the ramen shop, I can't help but smile. There's nothing but darkness, but my memory superimposes a blond kid with an expressive face and a normally impudent attitude demanding another bowl. Chuckling, I move on, my speed blurring my form to the human eye.

I love this village, this place, its people; but I can't help but think that I'm missing something. Normally, I work so hard that I don't notice it, but it's times like these, when the whole village is cold and dark, and everyone is with those they love that loneliness strikes. The summer breeze blows back my ponytail and I smell contentment on the air, that sleeping quiet that is Konoha at night. There are the sentries, of course, but even they ignore me after a cursory glance. I'm just the Chuunin professor, after all.

Sighing quietly, I head for home and my lonely bed. Not that I mind. I'm so busy, you see. There is so much to do now that we're rebuilding after the Sound village's attack. So many of us are so worn out day by day, we can barely hit the bed before sleep takes us. Weary sleep is the best medicine for those of us who have lost family, and for those of us who were close to Hokage-sama. Grief is unbearable at times, but heroes should not be the cause of weeping. They should be celebrated even after death.

Ah, Sandaime, my father figure; I wish you a peaceful rest on this night, and all nights. We need you more than ever now, but Tsunade-sama is doing an admirable job of whipping the village back into fighting shape. I think you would be proud of both of them. Jiraiya-sama is even helping to rebuild, in his own way. We miss you, but we will not wallow in a defeated state. The fire of Konoha lives on in all of us, especially the young leaves.

Do not despair, Hokage-sama. Your village is in good hands, like you knew it would be.

My apartment lights are on. I didn't leave them on. My hand strays to the pouch at my belt, withdrawing a kunai and gripping it with sweat slick palms. I take a deep breath and slip in through the bedroom window, which is open. I can smell something in the air, almost like…roses? I look around, and see that my bed has been almost blanketed in red and white roses. What in the hell is going on here?

Creep to the door, avoid the squeaky floorboard, use a mirror if you're going to look around corners…don't screw up.

My heart is pounding, and I make an effort to slow my breathing. Who is in my house? I creep forward, and dart to the couch, leaping over it and crouching behind it for cover. It won't do me any good if there are exploding tags anywhere, I know, but it's an effort. Don't screw up, don't screw up…

I nearly yelp as my hand brushes something soft and warm lying on the couch. Scrambling away, I see him lying there, his mask tugged down around his face, his sleepy eye closed. A book obscures his jaw and nose, and I move to push it away, curious as to why he would let his guard down enough to sleep in my apartment. Something makes me hesitate, something makes me stop, and I move quietly into the kitchen. I'm not afraid of him, strangely enough; I'm just curious as to why he's in my apartment.

I see the table; the candles have almost burned out, and the meal there is cold. I smile. So he did this, but why? I spot the box. A small tag bearing that kanji-scribed face rests on top of it. With a shaking hand, I read the inscription: "Happy birthday, Iruka."

I move back into the living room and see that he's sleeping soundly. Normally this man would be up the second I leapt over the couch, but apparently he's relaxed enough to where he can sleep here undisturbed…he can finally let his guard down. I'm honored.

I move the book and gaze at the face I've wondered about for a while now. A strong jaw and hawkish nose make his face decidedly handsome even though he takes such pains to hide it from everyone. This is the first time I've ever seen it; then again, this is the first time I've come home to find him asleep in my apartment. A night of firsts, indeed.

I place a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Kakashi-sensei…"

He jerks awake; his kunai is at my throat before he can bring himself to his senses enough to know it is me. "Iruka, I'm so sorry, I didn't know…I mean…happy birthday." The last is phrased as a question, almost as if he's afraid I'll kick him out and rail at him for breaking and entering.

I repeat my gesture, and I'm amused at the blush that creeps its way up his neck and face. "Arigatou, Kakashi." He reaches up tentatively to touch my cheek, and my smile spreads to warmth that fills my belly and makes me feel complete. This is what I was missing. He's there now.

Who cares that my birthday was last month?

I don't know why I decided to write this piece of fluff, but it seemed like the time for such things. (Yay for stream of consciousnes babbling.)I've been melancholy for the past couple of days due to laryngitis and other stuff on the home front, but this cheers me up each time I read it. Hope you enjoyed.