AN: Uh…so yes. An update of sorts? I apologize to everyone who was lovely enough to send me comments and who were waiting, what…a good year now? Probably. I want to finish, I really do – my interest in writing subject matter has changed a great deal though, so it's almost painful to drag through. I'll try to get back into this though…I hope. Jiraiya hit me pretty hard a few months back, and I haven't had time to do much of anything, so all the 'must-do-now' art and things have been stacking up. Euagh, enough rambling. These chapters seem so ridiculously short now. Hopefully more next time…whenever that is.
Repository: Chapter 10
Thirty four days.
For thirty four days he followed his routine. Woke up, went to work, prepared dinner and went searching. Thirty four days of wandering aimlessly about Konoha searching for a flash of silver, or orange, or a black slouching shadow. Thirty four days that all ended with a box of leftovers and an unsettling disappointment.
Oh, after the first three or four days, he had known that the masked man had left the village. He knew that the jounin wouldn't know either way if he had stopped. He knew it was a good waste of his resources and cut deeply into his own time; often his sleep.
But Hatake Kakashi hadn't told him he was going away. Hadn't told him when to expect him back. Hadn't deemed it necessary to even inform the brown-haired chuunin that he needn't come that night, or the night after, or the thirty two nights after that.
His pride would have none of it. Besides, there was no way to tell what the man's reaction would be when he finally did return. For all he knew, it was another of Kakashi's games -- trying to trap him yet again because he hadn't thought of the same twists; the same catches.
No, it was better to play things carefully.
At least, that was the initial reason.
Knowing that the man wasn't in Konoha, meant that as time went on, he wandered the village less and less. More often, daybreak would find him slumped against the door to the jounin's apartment. Sometimes curled on his own couch, pulled up near an open window, bento left clearly visible on the sill.
If the other villagers noticed, they knew better than to interfere in the peculiar habits of shinobi.
If the other shinobi noticed, well…they knew better than to interfere in the peculiar habits of shinobi. Most of them, at least.
The first week had Maito Gai trailing him with bentos of his own. The second, third and part of the fourth had Maito Gai trailing him, keeping up a near constant barrage of poetic verse meant as a deterrent to what was assumed as a waste of his efforts- that Hatake Kakashi would find his dedication Very Considerate and a Noble Exemplar of Youthful Determination, but essentially pointless endeavor.
Hearing that from Gai had been…revealing.
He started avoiding Gai; avoiding his own home, where Gai was sure to find him. It had become a habit now. It was…comforting in a strange way.
He wasn't hurting anyone, and if it started affecting his work, no doubt the Godaime would have something to say about it. Aside from that, it really wasn't the village's concern what he did.
So he kept making dinners, and he kept waiting; and he kept wondering just why he did it.
Yuugao had served many Tuesdays for Konoha's A.N.B.U., running patrols between missions. Tuesdays were good days, if not a little boring.
From her experience, ninjas didn't like working on Tuesdays, and as a direct result, she had yet to encounter any invasions, spies or generally incompetent vigilantes attempting to wreak havoc on Konoha's borders on said weekday.
Yes, Tuesdays were good days.
Then again, a lack of activity left for far too much introspection in the quiet nights.
Moonlight brought too many memories of a dark-haired lover and swords that illuminated the night.
Alright, so that was another bad thing about working nightshifts; romanticizing Hayate and twisting his techniques into poetic prose. Hayate's techniques were about blinding and misdirecting the focus of his opponents. He had spent a good deal of time with her, trying to teach her how to detect such things. It had saved her more than once.
But sometimes she couldn't help but fantasize him into something more – taller, more assured of himself. Still alive.
That last one was the bane of many.
Her thoughts were interrupted rather rudely when there was a whistling sound and the dull thunk of more than one object impacting wood near her feet.
Well, that wasn't normal – at least for local wildlife.
Bear, we've got a problem. She signaled to the large man keeping vigil to her left. It looked like it wouldn't be a peaceful evening after all.
There was a fine line between friendship and stalking, it occurred to Iruka after the third week. A fine line, and a good deal of hiding.
He'd always been good at hiding; a childhood of mischief and a mob of angry villagers made that essential, even beyond his line of work. That mishap with Shikamaru and Shizune had made the skill quite useful.
But Gai…Maito Gai gave a whole new meaning to avoidance and misdirection. Iruka was quite certain he'd invented at least six new techniques in the process, and was likely to need more once the latest had been discovered…
It would end, he hoped, when that perverted jounin finally made a reappearance, but until then he would have to measure out his 'Gai face time' carefully.
He sighed, tying the cloth firmly around the bento, preparing for yet another day paranoia.
"I'll be fine." The Hound was limping, catching himself with his good hand on the charred remains of a tree as he stumbled. "I need to see the Hokage…"
Yuugao reined in an exasperated sigh, easily catching up with the exhausted man. When they had found him, she estimated he had only been fighting for approximately two minutes, but already the forest had suffered severe collateral damage. Clean slices, scorched wood; it hadn't turned out much better once they had joined the fray.
He'd been weaponless – if he'd had one, it had probably been dropped near the point his hand had been crushed. He'd need that looked at first, if he was to use it again. It was hard to imagine the Hound needing support in battle – he had always been the one to bring the team home.
She held up her hand, face impassive, even beneath the porcelain beast. "Hound, look at me."
Bear worked well with her, and she was thankful for that. If he didn't, she'd have had to signal her order, and Hound would have caught her deception even before he moved into place.
"Look I just need to sleep it off. Say what you must so I can go find a bed."
"I have nothing to say to you, soldier. I just needed time for Bear to get behind you."
Hound slumped to the ground without a sound under the larger man's hand, and Yuugao knew that he would have another lump to add to his collection come morning. It was preferable, however, than discovering he had died in the night – she would be held responsible now, after all.
She nodded to Bear as he shouldered the limp form, taking off towards Konoha. All that was left now was to collect the assailant's tags, cover their tracks and wait for the next shift to arrive. She just hoped he hadn't dragged a greater threat down upon them now that she was alone.
"You are seven times the fool Hatake."
He cracked open an eye, squinting at the silhouette in the window. It was bright…white; this wasn't his home. Sterile. Not the forest either then.
It was remarkably comfortable in bed, even if he couldn't feel any of his limbs.
"What did I do this time?" It was hard to concentrate. There must have been some sort of drug in his system; pain relief most likely. His left hand wouldn't move.
"Where should I start?" Her silhouette crossed its arms in a menacingly aggressive manner. Really, couldn't she be a bit gentler with an invalid, he thought vaguely. "You really fucked up with Bird Country. Next time, I don't care what your reasons are; you will see medical nin a minimum of three hours before you leave on mission. I can't spare the staff, but apparently it's a necessity."
"Did the scroll –"
"It's with the code breakers as we speak, but I'm not done with you." Her silhouette grew larger as she approached the bed, arms crossed and glaring. "There is the matter concerning one of my shinobi that you are directly responsible for."
"I've been gone for over a month –" He didn't socialize; how could he possibly be responsible for someone else's actions while he had even been in the village? It didn't make sense.
"Which is exactly the issue at hand."
"I don't follow."
"For God's sake, Hatake, I gave you three days before you left to prepare yourself. In three days you didn't think to at least inform your lover that you wouldn't be around? I don't care if you're trying to keep it below radar but I won't have my shinobi worrying themselves sick over an irresponsible brat like you."
"Lover?" Well he hadn't seen that one coming. Since when did he have a lover? If there was one thing he was certain of, it was that he would have been quite aware if he had been sleeping with anyone.
"Don't you dare deny it." She snapped, "If word is true, he's been waiting for you every night since you left. Even Sakura-chan's been getting worried about him! Probably asleep at your door even now, Hatake. I need him healthy and awake. The only reason I haven't demanded a change in the situation is because it's your damn responsibility."
"Umino Iruka?" He knew he had been forgetting something when he left – he'd just assumed it was the anxiety over his success with Morino Ibiki.
"I want to see you treating him better, or you'll be taking as many D-ranks as fit in your week. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find someone as competent as he is with filing and has the clearance? If that man is unhappy, all of Konoha is unhappy!"
He assumed that meant that Shizune would be unhappy at not being able to split her workload, which would mean Tsunade would not be happy to enjoy her favored pastimes. He could see how that could easily lead to a village-wide discontent.
She hadn't been lying, it seemed, Kakashi thought with a detached confusion as he crouched in the branches.
He had been watching his apartment every night for a week, just to be sure…but she hadn't been lying. Part of him wished she was. The other -traitorous- part found it intriguing.
That part was hopeful.
There had to be some reason…something that explained why – right! The deal they had made.
Surely he had known that the jounin had gone on a mission by now? Perhaps he was giving the man too much credit. Did he think that Kakashi was the sort to ask this time devotion of him on whim?
…okay, so maybe that was the sort of thing he'd ask for…but he wouldn't actually expect them to follow it! Not to this extent.
…it was somewhat –dare he say it- endearing in a way. The brown-haired man curled against the door and wall, head lolled to one side. If he wasn't careful, Kakashi knew he might grow accustomed to the sight of the chunin asleep like this. In that case, Tsunade ba-chan's assumptions may not run unfounded for long.
Tomorrow he would open his door for the chunin, but for tonight- tonight he would watch again to make sure that no one harassed the brunet. Not at all because he wanted to see the dazed, bleary look on his face when, around three forty-five, he would be startled awake by the morning guard shifts, and slowly make his way home.
"I thought I told you not to sleep outside, sensei."