This is a fanfic I wrote for a theme of my Iruka-festival on my dA Iruka-fanclub (the link's on my main page). The theme was Bathing/Swimming. It's not exactly perfect, but I thought it was a fun little idea.
This fanfic hasn't been corrected thoroughly by anybody else than me, so it might be full of mistakes. If anyone's interested in correcting it, please say so!
I don't truly plan on continuing it, but if you guys want me to, I could add a few more chapters to make it turn out nicely :) Of course, my most important project is Clueless teachers, so this one would have to wait a bit. I hope you understand
Enjoy! Reviews would be very appreciated!
Edit: I changed a few things to focus more an the characters' feelings, but I tried to keep the same light style I previously used in that story. I hope you'll like the new version!
It was already past 9 o'clock when Iruka finally finished correcting his students' homework. Puting down his red pen, the chuunin stretched a bit his sore muscles and heaved a content sigh. He looked through the window: it was already pitch dark outside and the moon could be seen through layers of misty clouds in the starless sky. Was it already that late? It sure had taken him more time than he had first expected... He was probably the only living soul still inside the academy at that hour. Again, the chuunin mused tiredly as he started to put together his belongings. Not that he minded it - the job had to be done and he hated grading at home anyway. And it wasn't so bad either to finish this late because it meant he was going to stop at the local bathhouse to reward himself for his hard day of work. That thought brought a small, tired smile to the brown-haired man's lips.
When Umino Iruka stayed past 8 o'clock at the academy, he always went to the bathhouse to relax into the hotspring a bit before heading home. At first, he had only indulged into these bathing sessions once in a while at the end of especially rough days, but over the years it had slowly become a habit for him to go to the bathhouse whenever he left work after eight o'clock. At these hours, public baths were usually less busy and Iruka liked it that way. It wasn't that he was shy to frequent bathhouses, but he was a bit prude and preferred, when it was possible, taking his bath alone.
So Iruka left the academy and quietly headed for the bathhouse. At this late hour, streets were mostly empty and a peaceful quietness seemed to rule over the usually busy ninja village. The chuunin sighed contently as he walked through the deserted streets, fully enjoying that quiet atmosphere even if people seemed to think of him as a loud person. He frowned at the thought. He had gotten that unfair reputation during the period of time that academy teachers liked to refer as "the Naruto days". The blond teenager sure had known ways to drive him mad back then... The chuunin smiled with nostalgia at the thought.
Naruto… The blonde had grown so much over the years. Iruka remebered the time when the ramen-lover used to cling to his hips and hug him so childishly. But nowadays, the teenager was taller than him and only his still slightly boyish face proved that not so long ago, he had been just a child. How many years had passed since he left the Academy? Four, maybe five years? My, time sure passed fast...! And Naruto had gained so much maturity during those years. Oh, people usually didn't realize it because he was still as boisterous and enthusiast as before, but he had gained maturity in his thoughts and interests – to the advantage of all Konoha inhabitants, really. Iruka was one of the few people who actually realized how much the teen had grown and was proud of the person Naruto grew up to be. Proud to know that the young jerk he used to teach had turned into a fine –even if still a bit excessive- young man in the end.
To the brown-haired man's great pleasure, they still met once in a while to talk a bit over a bowl of ramen at the Ichiraku ramen bar. Sometimes, Naruto's current and famous teacher, Hatake Kakashi, would join them as well. They never talked much to each other, though. Well, the Copy Nin didn't seem to be a very talkative person to begin with…
To say the truth, Iruka didn't know much about the jounin. He knew for a fact that the silver-haired man was widely known to be a genius and a very powerful and skilled nin as well as a very eccentric men who liked to read pornographic novels in public area and who made up some of the crappiest lies he'd ever heard of. But that was all. He had no idea what kind of person Hatake Kakashi truly was like.
At first, he hadn't minded at all about it; he had respected the jounin's obvious desire to keep his private life to himself and hadn't given much thoughts to who was the so-called mysterious Hatake Kakashi behind his laid-back attitude. Or at least, that was how it used to be at the beginning. But for some unknown reason, his lack of knowledge about the ex-anbu started to bother him. He couldn't tell exactly when he started feeling that way - hell, he couldn't even tell for a fact why he suddenly felt curious to begin with. All he knew was that at some point between the chuunin evaluation and Sasuke's return a year ago, it began to bother him. And ever since, the chuunin hadn't been able to stop wondering what kind of person the mysterious Copy nin he met with so often and everybody talked about truly was.
Iruka sighed helplessly at the thought; he wished he knew at least why it bugged him so much... Some part of him reasoned out it probably had something to do with the fact that he kept on running into the silver-haired man almost everyday, but somehow that explaination seemed pretty shallow to the academy teacher - he met with countless other strangers everyday as well and he had never felt the need to find out more about any of them before. Of course, he sometimes happened to be a bit curious about some of them, but it wasn't the same thing. What was so special about Hatake Kakashi anyway for him to be so curious? When he thought about it, the whole situation was quite paradoxal; Iruka was curious about the jounin because he was different from all the other strangers he met with on daily basis, yet he couldn't figure out how the silver-haired jounin was different from them because he didn't know him at all. The academy teacher snorted at the thought.
Iruka hadn't intended to go as far as to try to satisfy his curiosity and find out more about Hatake Kakashi. Really, he hadn't. But as months slowly passed by, the chuunin couldn't help but notice that his curiosity wasn't going away like it was supposed to in such situations. Which was troublesome, to use an expression one of his ex-student fancied a lot. So in the end, the brown-haired man gave in and tried to learn more about Kakashi-sensei, in hope to finally get rid of that curiosity he felt toward the silver-haired man - or at least that's what he kept on telling himself. But no matter what he told himself, Iruka couldn't help but honestly feel a bit shameful about this initiative of his; he had never thought much of people who showed interest for other people' private life – especially strangers. And now he was one of those people, he thought guiltily. Talk about hypocrisy...
But in the end, his worries and efforts turned out to be pointless since his egoist little quest led him nowhere; even after weeks of information gathering, he had found himself in the same position as before his investigations: he knew as much about Hatake Kakashi as Naruto had told him randomly in their discussions in the past years. Which wasn't much, to say the truth.
It wasn't because Naruto wasn't perspicacious; the teenager had grown to be very perceptive over the years, even though he still acted dense. But Naruto, as unbelievable as it might have seemed to some people, had also learned about respect and discretion. Yes, discretion - it did sound unbelievable, but it was true. Naruto wasn't one to share personal information –no matter how juicy it was- if he thought it would hurt someone. Such an attitude made Iruka proud of the teen's maturity, but at the same time it depressed him a bit since Naruto seemed to be his best – and almost his only - source of information about the Sharigan user. Anyhow, the academy teacher had decided he wouldn't ask the ramen-lover about his current teacher. Naruto's attitude was admirable and Iruka respected it too much to try prying information out of the young man. It would be just... wrong. Especially since Kakashi seemed to be a very secretive person - or at least that's what people he had asked about it had told him.
It was truly amazing how little trustable information could be found on Hatake Kakashi! Even the two gossip whores of the village, Awaki and Anko, didn't have much to tell him. Sure, they had heard about a few far-fetched gossip stories - and Iruka didn't doubt they had invented a few of them as well - but there was nothing serious that could satisfy his curiosity there. He had learned, for instance, that Hatake Kakashi was a closet fan of Madonna, was anorexic and crossdressed on Tuesday nights at a bar on Wildertree street.
The chuunin didn't put too much faith into these stories, but he had to admit those were very amusing mental images.
Of course, after going round in cercle for a while, Iruka had tried to get a bit closer to the silver-haired man; if he was to learn more about Hatake Kakashi, the best way to do it was to go at the source, he reasonned. But it didn't work out pretty well; to the brown-haired man's regret, Kakashi-sensei didn't seem to like him much. Whenever Iruka tried to start a conversation with the Copy nin, his uncovered eye fled the chuunin's gaze and he found some ridiculously obvious lie to disappear as fast as possible. It upset a bit the academy teacher to be treated like that - the jounin always seemed to be so cool and composed toward others, why did he look so uncomfortable in his presence? Maybe he was just annoying the silver-haired man or something – there are always some people you can't stand at first sight for some unknown reason. Maybe he was one of those people for Kakashi-sensei?
Iruka sighed as entered the bathhouse, his chain of thoughts getting a bit morose. He paid the entrance fee and went to the changing room, thoughtful.
As he was changing himself, the academy teacher frowned, wondering why he was feeling depressed by that thought. What did it matter if Hatake Kakashi found him annoying? Why was he even caring in the first place? He had never given a damn about what people thought about him before! Why should it matter now? If Kakashi-sensei didn't like him, there was nothing he could to about it, so why bother? He was stupid to even care.
Chasing those pointless morose thoughts away, the chuunin left his clothes in a nearby locker, quickly washed himself and walked to the male artificial hotspring. As he entered the bathing area, a smile graced his previously scowling features; he was being lucky to day, the bath was completely empty. All his! Feeling strangely content with himself for some unexplainable reason, Iruka sank into the hot water of the deserted bath and sighed contently as he felt his sore muscles relax into the warmth of the bath at once. Nothing was better than a good quiet bath after a hard day of work, Iruka decided. Ignoring the part of him reminding him that he sounded like an old man, the chuunin closed his eyes and let his mind wander freely and aimlessly. Soon, he found himself loosing contact with reality as he soaked into the warm water.
Iruka was unceremoniously brought back to reality when he heard some splashing noises and giggles coming from behind the wooden wall on his left. His still a bit hazy mind vaguely informed him that the said palisade hid the women's bath, so those sounds were probably coming from feminine customers - three young women, by the sound of it.
Correction: three rather loud young women.
Iruka wondered with mild annoyance what they were doing at the bathhouse so late. Not that he really cared that they were there at all - it was their right to take a bath at whatever hour they pleased. He just wished they could be more quiet about it, that was all.
Iruka closed his eyes again slid back to his peaceful half-asleep state, trying to ignore the voices coming from the adjacent bath. But just then, something he heard caught his attention and drove him back to awareness.
"...Kakashi? Are you talking about THE Hatake Kakashi there, Aki?"
"I don't believe you! He doesn't seem to be that kind of guy!"
"What do you mean? You think I'm not a trustworthy enough source?"
"No, she's right," a third voice added excitedly, "I've seen it myself. It's really obvious!"
"See? I told you!"
"No way! Stop making fun of me!"
"We're dead serious, Mano-chan!"
"If it was as obvious as you pretend, the news would have circulated all around Konoha in a matter of hours! As if the famous Hatake Kakashi could fall in love without anyone talking about it!"
Those words got Iruka's eyes shot open at once. What? In love? Hatake Kakashi? For some unknown reason, the brown-haired man suddenly felt fully aware and alert. His curiosity winning over his tiredness and his pride, the chuunin listened shamelessly to the three women gossiping on the other side of the bathhouse wall.
"The news hasn't come up yet," the first woman answered almost secretly. "We've kept it to ourselves until now, but I think more and more people are starting to suspect it. A few chuunin working with me at the mission room might have noticed it as well. It's only a matter of time before the news spreads out!"
"Yeah, this is all exclusive stuff we're sharing with you! Even Anko-san is not aware of it!"
"And she's gonna be sooo green with jealousy when she learns we knew before she did!" the woman named Aki laughed evilly.
"Ahh, stop torturing me like that already and tell me more about it!" Mano whined loudly.
"Ah, but you have to swear you won't spill it, okay?"
"Why, I wouldn't even dream of doing that!"
"Okay then," the third young woman said with excitement. "We've seen him. It was so obvious it's a wonder nobody has noticed it before. Well it's true that he has a mask that hides most of his facial expressions but..."
"Cut it already, Renyu!"
"Ah, right. Sorry. Well, whenever Kakashi's around a... certain person... he acts totally differently: he loses his cool attitude and gets all shy and intimidated!"
"Yes! He can't even manage to talk to that person correctly. Right, Aki-chan?"
"Yeah, we've seen it several times. Whenever that person speaks to him, he starts babbling and positively runs away like a school girl!"
Iruka blinked, stunned by this new revelation. He had never imagined Kakashi-sensei could be that kind of man! To run away in front of his crush...! How so... unKakashi-ish! Wasn't the man always cool and composed? This sure was unexpected.
"My, he has it hard!"
"You said it."
"But I don't understand why he should be so shy and afraid about it... Given he's one weird fellow, he still has a hell of a good reputation in the ninja world! Seriously, who would, in their right mind, turn down the famous and sexy Hatake Kakashi?" the girl named Mano asked suspiciously. "Does he have the hots for a married woman or what?"
"Not exactly. You haven't heard the juiciest part yet...!"
"Do we tell her, Aki?"
"Tell me what?" Mano all but cried.
"Well, you see... Hatake Kakashi doesn't have the hots for a woman..."
"You mean he...?" she asked breathlessly. On the other side of the wooden palisade, Iruka felt his breath being taken away as well. A shy silence ensued.
"I can't believe it... So he would be into men?"
"But... with the book he's reading...!"
"People working at the mission room have noticed, you told me?" Mano asked thoughtfully. "So his crush would be working there? It wouldn't be Genma or Raido-kun...?"
"No, the guy's name is Iruka."
For a short moment, it seemed to Umino Iruka that the Earth had stopped turning. As to imitate her, the chuunin stood frozen, staring blankly in front of him - even his heart seemed to have stopped to beat. But then, his heart came back to life as the meaning of those words truly sank in. In fact, his heart was beating so fast that it seemed as if it wanted to break out of the tanned man's rib cage.
What!? Kakashi-sensei liked... HIM?! No. No no no no no no, there was a mistake somewhere! Kakashi-sensei, in-in love... with him? No no no, there was a mistake; they were mistaking him for someone else for sure...! There had to be a mistake-
"Heh? Who's that?" Iruka distantly heard the girl named Mano ask bluntly.
"You know, that tanned chuunin who always put his hair in a ponytail? He's got a scar on his nose."
Okay. There was no mistake. Iruka felt his cheeks burn as his heart pounded madly in his chest. So K-Kakashi-sensei...? No way! Impossible! Those women were out of their minds! How could they even come up with something so... so far-fetched? It was ridiculous!
"Him? You're sure?"
"What makes you so positive about it?" Mano asked a bit sceptically.
"Well... A lot of small things, actually. First off, Kakashi always come to give his mission report Iruka-sensei - and only Iruka-sensei. I know, I work at the mission room and in eight months, I've never seen Kakashi give his reports to anyone else - except to the Hokage, of course. That's suspicious, right? Sometimes he walks in the mission room and when he sees his dear Iruka's not there, he says something about having lost or forgotten his report somewhere and comes back only when Iruka's there. For eight whole months! That's awfully suspicious, if you ask me."
"And he alwaysruns away when Iruka-sensei tries to speak to him! I've seen at it too!"
"Yeah, he mumbles some random nonsense to have a reason to get away and totally flees like a shy schoolgirl with her first crush. That's so not like him!"
"Plus, he's always hanging around the academy, faking to read his horrible little orange book. I know, I work part-time at the Academy and I can see him sometimes hiding in that big Oak tree which has a clear view of Iruka-sensei's classes. It's a wonder the guy never spotted him!"
"My..." Mano breathed out, sounding impressed.
"There's more; I have a cousin working at that ramen bar, I think the name's Ichiraku... Anyway. I questioned her and she told me Kakashi often showed up to eat ramen when Iruka was treating one of his ex-students, a good customer of the place. She found it really weird because she had never seen that man eating there before and he nevercomes when Iruka's not there." Aki said matter-of-factly. "And she told me he keeps on stealing glances at the chuunin whenever he looks away," she whispered in a secretive way.
"And the other day, I heard Iruka telling someone he kept on running into Kakashi-sensei lately. Does that sound like a coincidence to you?"
"You think Kakashi would follow him around and run into him purposefully?" Mano asked in a hurry, sounding very excited.
"I'm sure of it. He's so head over heel with the dolphin man, it's obvious. He would do anything to be able to steal a few glances at his beloved Iruka-sensei!"
"That's not all! You've not heard the best part yet!" Renyu added with glee. "You know, I heard my colleagues talking about it at lunch one day: supposedly, Iruka had found a huge box of expensive home-made chocolates on his doorstep on his birthday. He had no idea who had given those to him and was under the impression someone was pulling a trick on him. That guy's just so clueless it kills me - Anyway! I wanted to confirm our little theory, so I visited all the specialized places selling home-made chocolates and I found out that there was only one person who had bought that kind of box in the past days. Guess who?"
"No! You're serious?!"
"Dead serious!" Iruka started to feel it becoming harder and harder to breathe and think calmly with every argument that was brought up. He put his hand in front of his gaping mouth to muffle the sound of his erratic breathing as his brain seemed to have some difficulty catching on. All those things... It did make sense, but... But...!
"And how does that Iruka respond to him?" The woman named Mano asked after a while and Iruka couldn't help but listen again, feeling strangely drawn to that disturbing discussion for some reason.
"Well you see, it's quite pathetic actually... He doesn't have a clue."
"What? It can't be!"
"But it's true."
"How can it be? I mean, with Kakashi-san hanging around him all the time like that?!"
"I know. But Iruka is just that kind of guy. He's nice but he can be so dumb at times..."
Silence ensued again. Iruka gulped, thinking over all the argument he had heard. So... Kakashi-sensei...? Now that he thought about it, everything seemed to make sense... Kakashi's weird attitude... The ramen bar... And the anonymous chocolate box he received...! Oh, how could he have been so blind? It was obvious that Kakashi-sensei... that he... with him...? At that thought, the chuunin felt heat rise up to his cheeks.
"Do you think Kakashi's got a chance with that Iruka though?" Mano suddenly asked, and Iruka's attention went back again to the discussion.
"Yeah, we think he's gay." HEH!?
"Well, he's 28 and he's never had any known girlfriend. Some people close to him told me he's never dated a girl before. Never! That's definitely not normal - especially since he's otherwise a good match: rather handsome, mature, safe. And he loves children too."
"And most importantly, he doesn't even seem to be attracted to women at all."
"Yeah, and we're not the only ones suspecting he might be into men: Anko's under that impression as well."
Whoa, wait! Anko thought h-he...?
Iruka passed his hands in his dark hair as panic suddenly overcame him. This was worse that anything he'd imagined... It was common knowledge Anko was the biggest gossip machine of the whole village. What Anko knew, everybody knew! Now the whole village was ought to think he was gay! Oh God, what had he done to deserve that...?!
"She told me as well that Iruka has shown a very suspect interest in Kakashi lately...!" the woman giggled and Iruka suddenly felt like bagging his head against the wooden palisade.
He truly was the biggest jerk of the town. Of course, his sudden curiosity about the silver-haired man couldn't have gone unnoticed for long. It was ought to be discovered sooner or later by Anko or Awaki; they knew everything that happened in that damn village. Who had he been kidding anyway, telling himself that nobody would notice anything if he was subtle enough? Subtle enough! They lived in a goddamn ninja village! The whole village was full of paranoids who spent already far too much time imagining plots, let alone discovering truths. If he would have been able to, the academy teacher would have hid himself under a rock and never showed up again.
"And you have to take into account that we're not talking about any random guy; we're talking about the famous Sharigan Hatake Kakashi... Seriously, who in their right mind would turn down such a guy?" Aki pointed out with a touch of a leer.
"Yeah, and he's so sexy too! So cool, so... mysterious!" Mano giggled. "And I heard he's quite handsome under that mask of his!"
"Handsome, you say? Ha! He's drop-dead gorgeous!" Aki burst out.
"Really?" the two women asked with obvious interest.
"I've got first-hand info about it," she said smugly. "My cousin working at the ramen bar got to see his face twice!"
"Waa, she's so lucky!"
"No, the one who's lucky is Iruka-sensei!" they all giggled.
"It's a shame he's too clueless to even take advantage of his luck..."
"Speaking of which, have you heard about Yagami-kun?"
And so on went their carefree discussion, but Iruka wasn't even listening to them anymore. Instead, he was thinking hard about what he had heard, replaying every word of that strange discussion he had spied on.
So Kakashi had... feelings for him? He would have never imagined... But it did, afterall, make sense. It was just... so sudden. So unexpected. That revelation left the chuunin strangely numb for some reason. As if he couldn't get accustomed to the idea. To think he had thought the jounin hated him! It was almost funny... in a strange, disturbing kind of way.
Then, the academy teacher's chain of thought went to the lastest - and perhaps the most troubling - part of the discussion and he frowned, feeling suddenly uneasy.
Could he be... gay? Sure enough, he had never truly felt attracted to a woman before, but that didn't mean he was automatically homosexual... Of course not. And it was not because those-those gossipers thought he was gay that it meant they were right about it. But, strangely enough, the thought of being gay didn't disturb him as much as it should have. Nor did the idea of going out with Kakashi-sensei...
Kakashi-sensei... Iruka felt his cheeks blush even more at the thought of the man. He still couldn't quite believe the famous silver-haired man liked him that way. It was... so unexpected, so fast! Those thoughts left the chuunin with a strange knot of mixed feelings in his gust. Iruka truly needed some time to think it all over. To decide what he would do about it... Yeah, he needed time...
Silently, so that the three women in the adjacent bath wouldn't hear him, the brown-haired chuunin left the hotspring and went to the changing room, a thoughtful frown marring his features.
"...Is he gone?"
"Yeah, he left the place." The woman named Aki answered coldly. At once, the three naked women gossiping in the hotspring exploded into clouds of smoke yo revealed two young men and one young kunoichi in swimming trunks.
"Waaa! It's so unfair! Why did I have to play Mano? She was the dullest character!" Naruto whined loudly, stretching his muscled arms behind his head.
"So you wouldn't screw up," was Sasuke's straight answer.
"Do you think it'll work?" interrupted the pink-haired woman anxiously.
"That's what we'll see soon. We did what we could; now it's up to them to sort out their feelings. Let's just wait and see what happens," Naruto grinned, sinking deeper into the water as he let his whole body melt into the warmth. "Ahh, this bath is sure nice"
"Naruto! You jerk, this is a women's hotspring!"
"So what? There's nobody around!"
"Idiot!" Sakura yelled, punching the blonde boy on the head.
"Let's just hope it'll work out," Sasuke said quietly to no one in particular as Sakura was trying to beat the hell out of a whining Naruto.
That night, Hatake Kakashi kept on sneezing, for some unknown reason.
...He would buy some cold medicine first thing in the morning, he decided.
To be continued...