Guy's team was staking out Kakashi's apartment. Oh, they were good, he had to give them that. Lee had managed a little stealth to make up for his complete lack of genjutsu. Tenten was even more difficult to spot. Neji he had to make an actual effort to notice—a tribute to Neji's jounin status—but Kakashi was still better.
He was almost afraid to open the door.
Kakashi surreptitiously disarmed several of his traps and unlocked the door, deciding to ignore them. It was probably just another of Guy's crazy training regimens. He stepped into his apartment.
There were flowers. Everywhere. In the entranceway, on his table, in a heart shape on his bed. They were even in his bathroom. Kakashi wondered what insane challenge Guy had lost to himself and whether he had decorated the apartments of everyone he knew like this, or if it was just Kakashi.
Kakashi prayed it wasn't just him.
He sneezed. He sneezed again, almost disbelieving. There was so much pollen, he might have to burn the place down to have it clean again. Ashes couldn't be as bad or disturbing in comparison. He desperately needed to change his mask, but to do so would mean to expose himself to even more of it.
This was a job for someone else.
Kakashi opened his window and leaned out. "Hey! If you've got nothing better to do—!"
They'd disappeared. Kakashi heaved a sigh. They'd probably gotten the same treatment and wanted to see how far the damage extended, maybe garner a little amusement from his fellow suffering. It looked like he was on his own.
It wasn't like he enjoyed the extra work and problems attached or liked other people impinging on his personal space, but Kakashi wished he still had a genin team. He sighed again, grabbed a spare mask and some money, and left to buy trash bags. His current supply was sadly deficient.
On the way back, cleaning supplies and garbage bags clutched in one hand, the most recent Icha Icha novel open in the other, he ran into Guy's team again. This time, they hadn't bothered with hiding. He didn't even have to move his eye from the text to spot them, convenient considering that the seventh chapter was his favorite and he'd only read it twelve times. He'd only just gotten to the bit with the pirates.
The team was standing across the path to his door—Lee in the middle, his teammates a little behind and to the side of him. Tenten and Neji were silent, staring at Lee with something like long-suffering tinged with disbelief.
It seemed that maybe the mystery would be cleared up after all. Kakashi heaved a mental sigh and closed his book, maybe just a little interested in hearing what antics Guy was up to now. Besides, they would probably continue to bother him if he didn't listen. Maybe he could convince them to clean up the mess Guy had made of his apartment. Maybe Guy had sent them to do so. Judging by their expressions, maybe he was expecting too much.
"Kakashi-sensei!" Lee's earnest face peered back at him. Tenten and Neji looked pained, but Lee just looked serious and extremely dedicated to whatever task they'd been given. "We've been instructed to give you a message."
"Oh God," said Tenten, peering down at the ground as if it held salvation, or at least some enemy nin she could kill.
Neji was staring at the sky, muttering about how it was his fate to be cursed so.
Kakashi was no longer sure he wanted the mystery revealed. Some mystery in life could be a good thing, especially if it meant he didn't have to listen to whatever could make even Neji look like that.
Lee cleared his throat. "To my most esteemed Rival," he began, then looked to Tenten and Neji.
After a moment, they stared back at him, both having finally gotten some semblance of control over their facial expressions. Neji looked blank, but Tenten's eyebrows kept furrowing. Lee was oblivious to this, making a motion that Kakashi interpreted as they were supposed to recite it together.
Tenten repeated herself.
Neji said, calmly, blandly, "I've forgotten the words."
Lee cleared his throat again. "On a clear Springtime day, when the sun is high and flowers are bloom—" Tenten had clamped a hand over his mouth. Lee struggled, words muffled.
"You know what? I think we've all forgotten the message," said Neji. Tenten nodded eagerly. Lee nearly broke free, but Neji helped restrain him and Tenten moved her hand down to Lee's neck to start dragging him away.
Lee's words were choked, but he tried his best to argue. "It's admirable," wheeze, "that Guy-sensei is giving his be—" choke, "—nd we should support him in—"
Kakashi watched, wide-eyed, as they carried Lee away.
Maybe it wasn't a training exercise after all.
After a few moments, he blinked a couple of times and pulled himself together enough to walk up to his door. He would have plenty of time to put the incident out of his mind while cleaning. Kakashi opened the door to see that all of the flowers were still there. It seemed like they had bred in his absence—carnations and chrysanthemums; gardenias and geraniums; and many, many more having somehow spontaneously generated. They covered every available surface and piled high on top of one another. He had no idea where Guy could have even gotten them all.
Kakashi barely knew where to start. It might have been worth it to listen to Guy's message if he could have roped Guy's team into cleaning his apartment. Kakashi then remembered Lee's reddened face as he choked out the words, "It's admirable that Guy-sensei is giving his be—"
There were only so many ways that sentence could end. Surely it was for the best that Kakashi would never know.
By the time Kakashi had made his apartment more manageable, he had gone through three masks, twenty-three trash bags, and was late for his meeting with Sakura, Naruto, and Sai by even his standards. Sai was scheduled to leave for a solo mission in just twenty minutes. Kakashi really ought to run for the training grounds at the outskirts of the village where they had originally planned to meet.
Kakashi glanced down at his pollen-covered clothing, stained and encrusted from contact with the remains of several hundred mangled flowers. He looked and likely smelled like a meadow of wildflowers had attempted to eat him. Not that he was able to tell, as he hadn't been able to smell much of anything for the past several hours—one of the few blessings of the overwhelming pollen.
Even Kakashi's hair had petals in it.
Once Kakashi had finally finished scrubbing off several layers of skin and changed into clean clothes, it was likely Sai had already left.
Kakashi took his time, making a quick stop to deposit the last of the flowers at the monument, frowning at the stone and certain that Obito was laughing at him. "This is your fault, you know," he said. He didn't stick around to hear Obito's reply, late enough as it was without wasting time listening to Obito mock him.
He wished he'd either waited or been on time for once. Sai had already departed, but there were three people present at the training grounds.
Kakashi arrived just in time to see Guy pose, thumb extended, at Sakura and Naruto. "I'm counting on you!" Guy glanced over at Kakashi and winked provocatively, then jumped swiftly away, into the treetops.
Kakashi didn't want to know.
Judging by their expressions, they hadn't, either. Their eyes were round, mouths still hanging open. Sakura made an odd strangled sound, then turned to Kakashi. Naruto continued watching, face filled with horror, off into the direction Guy had disappeared.
Kakashi held up a hand. "We'll pretend this never happened." Sakura nodded fervently. Naruto just stared into space, eyes wide, explosion imminent as soon as he managed to get over his trauma.
Kakashi left Sakura to it.
The following week was much the same. Strangely, it was days before he saw Guy in person again, though his handiwork was everywhere.
On the way to the missions desk, Kakashi was stopped by Shikamaru. In one hand, Shikamaru held an envelope, in the other a cigarette. Shikamaru took a deep drag before brandishing the letter, tossing it into Kakashi's hands. He offered no immediate explanations, facade one of purest boredom. Before walking away, he muttered only, "so troublesome," in response to Kakashi's query as to what the fuck it was and why it had glitter and sparkly letters on it.
Before Kakashi could even work up the nerve to open it, keeping a careful eye on Iruka who was peering over with entirely too much curiosity, Lee appeared, body blurred, hair flying, weights off and speed entirely too high for a kid his age. He snatched it from Kakashi, adding politely, quickly, and with wild-eyed desperation, "Sorry! Old copy! Newest version soon!" He whirled away with it as fast as he'd appeared.
Kakashi waited a moment with growing dread, but nothing more happened. Iruka's lips twitched briefly, but that was all. No one else had been present to see any of it. If not for the faintest of smirks hiding in Iruka's eyes, Kakashi would have thought he'd possibly been hallucinating. He walked to the desk, deciding not to say anything, holding out a hand for his latest mission. Iruka handed it over, taking obvious pity in his lack of pithy comments.
Kakashi looked at the mission. Not enough pity. He looked back at Iruka.
Iruka smiled. "As you already know, teaching can be a rewarding experience."
Kakashi's wish for genin had come true in the worst possible way. "I'm not trained to instruct at the academy."
"It's only for a few days. You'll be teaching a special course for those who've already graduated—just a few lectures. I'm sure you'll be fine."
Everyone said Iruka was a nice person, but if you turned in one little report late or looked into that too bright smile, it became readily apparent what a mischievous asshole he really was. "I'd requested something outside of the village."
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Iruka. "I must have missed that, caught up as I was in all of the late paperwork." His saccharine tones were at odds with the sharp amusement in his eyes.
Kakashi tried to remember how late his last report had been. He'd meant to turn it in at least close to on time considering the consequences of his last slip, but then Anko had invited him out for drinks with Kurenai, Guy, and several other jounin. No one said "no" to Anko. At least, not twice.
Considering the aftermath, though, he thought it would be better in the future to avoid the situation entirely. It had taken him two hours to re-write the alcohol-sopped report and the entire day to sleep off the hangover. Between his concern over Anko's evil smile the next morning and the unexpected hickey under his left ear, he'd forgotten to turn in the report for a few of days.
Judging by Iruka's demeanor, he hadn't been the only one.
"Would you like me to find you something else?" Iruka asked, eyes gleaming and teeth revealed in something like a smile.
Kakashi realized he'd gotten off lucky.
"No, no. I'm good," said Kakashi, keeping a firm grip on his mission papers.
"Are you sure?" Iruka was flipping through several more. Kakashi edged away.
"Quite. I'll just . . . be going now."
"But here's a nice B mission that would get you out of Fire Country for the next week and a half," said Iruka. "Decent pay, far afield, all you have to do is rendezvous with—"
"I'm good," said Kakashi, slipping out the door.
Despite his new concerns over the suddenly real possibility of being confronted with a group of new genin (ones he couldn't even flunk the first day this time around), Kakashi couldn't quite put the letter out of his mind. It had been in his hand only for a moment, but some of the sparkles clung to his fingers and the blue ink had somehow smeared onto his skin.
Kakashi went home, scrubbed his hands until they turned red for the second time in as many days, and waited. The newest version never arrived.
Possibly connected with this, Kakashi heard from Iruka when he went in the next day to pick up his instructor's materials that Shino and Kiba weren't speaking to one another for some reason and Akamaru had vomited glitter all over Ibiki's shoes, resulting in yet another village incident everyone found hilarious and no one could laugh about.
Kakashi knew better than to ask questions—especially considering Ibiki's involvement—but he was grateful in his suspicions. Definitely grateful, not curious.
Not curious at all.
On the way out for a much-needed drink after his first day of lessons, Tenten and Neji walked up to him, expressions strange. Tenten was fidgeting with one of her kunai. Neji carried a small, wrapped package in one hand. It was rectangular and fit in the palm of Neji's hand. The wrappings were a shining, glossy silver and were held together by a red ribbon tied in an intricate bow.
They stopped in front of him, looked at one another, looked at the box, and then stared at Kakashi with the gaze of those who had looked upon the madness of possibilities and not come away untouched.
Neji was the first to break the moment, nodding a greeting as though it had never happened. He grabbed Tenten's hand in his and walked firmly away.
Kakashi thought Neji chose wisely. Kakashi didn't want to know what was in the package, either. He took a step after them, then stopped. He turned firmly around. It was definitely better to stay in his apartment, maybe clean some more. Once the last traces of the bouquets were gone, he would feel better.
Cleaning failed to comfort. There were still traces of the flowers showing up in the oddest of places. There were pink and red petals under his pillowcase and a sprig of Baby's Breath in his sink. A torn leaf was caught between two books and a smear of pollen ran along a cabinet door. He found one stray lilac dropped among some old pictures.
Kakashi threw away the petals, leaf, and Baby's Breath. He cleaned off what last traces of pollen he could find, though he suspected the apartment was still infested. He picked up the lilac, twirled it between his fingers for a moment, then placed it pressed between two pages of Icha Icha Violence.
It wasn't that he wanted to keep it. He liked the irony of it, that was all.
He did some last dusting and vacuuming that would be thrown to hell the next time his nindogs came in and got fur everywhere and then took out the trash bags. At last, the apartment was some measure of clean. He would be glad never to see so much as another flower petal.
Before he could so much as settle down to finally relax, maybe take a look at what he was supposed to talk about at tomorrow's academy lectures, there was a knock on the door. Kakashi quickly switched masks, focused more on how to convince Tsunade or Iruka that he needed out of Fire Country for the duration of spring and what was with luck a springtime-inflicted problem than on whoever was on the other side of the door. Surely Guy would be over this by summer. If not, he might at least be less annoying about it by then.
There was another knock, louder this time. Snagging a book to look less available and pasting on a bored expression, Kakashi answered it.
Even his home wasn't safe.
There were more flowers, a mishmash of them—daffodils, poppies, and even more baby's breath. There was even an ungodly pink ribbon wrapped around the stems in huge loops and layers. All of these failed to obscure Ino.
"Special delivery!" she said, pressing them into his arms—as though the last hadn't been enough— with the most wickedly amused smile he'd seen since the jounin had all foolishly gotten drunk and played strip poker with Anko.
Fuck his classes and missions. Kakashi was hiding in his apartment and not answering the door until spring was finally over.
Anko dropped by early the next morning. To be more specific, Kakashi woke to a "Hey there, sexy!" and barely stopped himself from throwing the kunai he'd instinctively grabbed as he'd rolled out of bed. Not that they'd have caused damage, but Kakashi didn't want holes in his wall from Anko dodging.
Anko pouted. "That's not a very warm and neighborly welcome."
"Would you rather I'd have thrown them?" asked Kakashi calmly, straightening from his crouch and wondering how the hell Guy had gotten Anko in on his schemes and what was coming now.
Anko gave him an obvious once over, spending entirely too long lingering over his bare chest and nipples for Kakashi's mental comfort. "And you even wear your mask to bed! How cute."
"Is there a point to this?"
Anko feigned a wounded look. "Are you still upset with me for—"
"We agreed never to speak of that again," Kakashi interrupted, suppressing the twitch of his hand to his neck.
Anko laughed. "I wasn't the one who gave you that."
"And I told you I really don't want to know," said Kakashi, repeating the sentiment to himself. Guy had looked a little too doe-eyed the next day and if drunken antics at Anko's apartment had led to the current situation, Kakashi was going to have to kill himself. "I'm sure there's a reason you're here besides your desire to mentally scar me."
"That's just a bonus," she agreed. Her expression turned more serious. "If you don't go to your lecture this afternoon, Iruka will have to do it. That will cut short his free-time." She didn't say that this would make Iruka pissy and that a pissy Iruka would mean worse missions for everyone. He'd only just recovered from his last bad mood following Anko's party.
Kakashi opened his mouth to agree when she continued. "If he has to do your stupid lectures, then he'll have an excuse to work on mission reports tonight, and that's unacceptable." Kakashi stared, wide-eyed, at Anko's red, possessive, and rather scary eyes. "You will be going to the academy today."
Kakashi found himself nodding almost unwillingly, bending under the psychic pressure Anko brought to bear.
Anko smiled, all sweetness and light flirting again. "Good," she said. "And Kakashi?"
"Yes?" asked Kakashi, wanting nothing more than to get her out of his room so he could prepare and brace himself for the day, maybe engage in a little ritual cleansing of his spirit with a few chapters of Icha Icha.
"If you have the time, feel free to bring Guy by tonight. I'm sure Iruka and I wouldn't mind at all." With a wink, she triggered a smoke bomb and disappeared.
All of his work cleaning had been undone and he didn't know how he was going to look Iruka straight-on when he picked up more of his lecture materials later this afternoon. Kakashi was beginning to wonder if the life of a missing-nin might not be for him. If he ran fast enough and far enough, neither Guy nor Anko could find him.
Then again, giving in to his fear of Anko was what had gotten him into this mess to begin with.
Kakashi heaved a long-suffering sigh, grabbed some clothes, and got ready to face the day.
"You're kidding." Anko was going to kill him if he let slip his grip on the lecture materials.
"You really don't need to come in today," Iruka reassured him, trying to pull the papers back. "I can take care of the lecture, really."
"No, I've got it," said Kakashi, tugging them back to himself. "You're busy today I've heard. If you don't finish going through those reports this afternoon, you'll have to work on them tonight."
Iruka's eyes were almost wild with desperation. "That's fine. I have the whole day free, no plans at all. Plenty of time to go through them this evening."
"Didn't you tell me teaching was an honor? What kind of person would I be to give that up?"
"Weren't you annoyed at having to do it? The students yesterday said you called them all a bunch of wimps and spent half the time reading porn."
"It's good for them. Exposes them to things they should learn in their youth." Kakashi nearly lost his grip as he realized he'd used a word like "youth." Guy was starting to get to him. To make up for it, Kakashi added, tone one of spite, "Besides, I've heard you've got a hot date tonight."
Iruka let go, all the fight draining out of him. "She already got to you, huh?" He was suddenly a sinkhole of despair.
"Good luck," said Kakashi insincerely, clutching the papers close.
"Don't forget these," Iruka said, heartlessly pushing forward another sheaf.
Kakashi took them and left the man to his woe. Kakashi almost felt some measure of empathy. But at least Anko was pretty, he told himself. Sure, Iruka would have to deal with her insanity and hidden dangers and kunai, but at least she didn't shower him in flowers and bad poetry. The most Iruka would have to worry about would be Anko tying him up, having her way with him, and then proposing kinky threesome and foursomes.
Kakashi had to worry about sparkles. Sparkles. He felt no pity.
One of the students, probably a Nara going by the dark, spiky hair, was sleeping in a corner. Two students in another corner were squabbling in the flirting manner known only to small children, about two minutes from coming to blows, Kakashi judged, keeping a bored eye over the messy shuffle of his papers. Only one person seemed even remotely interested—a young, perky, familiar-looking girl watching with starry-looking eyes and taking copious notes in her small pink notebook. Her pen was a shiny purple and at least a third of what she wrote devolved into little hearts.
"And next on the agenda," he drawled to the classroom of students apparently as uncaring as he, flipping to the next page to start on the second stack of papers Iruka had handed him, "is the rare springtime of lo—what the hell?" These pages were different than the rest, a light perfume drifting up from them. Kakashi had thought the scent of roses had been that which still clung to his clothes and skin, writing it off as remnants from that damn third bouquet delivered to his doorstep that morning.
Several students perked up at his disturbed look. The two students in the corner had started poking one another, back and forth, one whispering sharply, "Stop touching me. Stop touching me."
The girl in the front raised her hand. "The Rare Springtime of Love?" she asked hopefully. "Do you mean we finally get to hear The Talk?" Kakashi finally recognized her as Guy's niece. There was no way this could end well.
"Class is dismissed," said Kakashi. Anko be damned, he shouldn't have left his apartment. "Lecture's over for the day."
"But I wanted to hear—"
"I SAID STOP TOUCHING ME."
It was at this point the squabbling pair had finally broken out into violence, shoving over desks and punching one another. Ah, young love.
Kakashi gratefully broke up the pair and sent the other students out so he could give the two a private talk about what was and was not acceptable behavior for ninja in the pursuit of a relationship. Contrary to that shown by certain jounin, it was not with veiled threats or knives drawn.
"So we should send flowers?" asked one, eyeing the other dubiously.
Kakashi was having difficulty believing he was actually having this conversation. "No. No flowers," he said with a shudder. "Just, try not to kill each other."
He didn't stick around to see what new methods they might try. Sai was supposed to get back today and Kakashi wanted to see someone sane. Sai didn't count, but he was close as Kakashi could get in this village.
His visit with Sai didn't go so well. He'd already been to see Naruto and Sakura and not only updated Kakashi on their status, telling Kakashi that they still hadn't recovered from some unnamed horror, but also demanding an explanation for what had happened in the few days he had been away.
Kakashi had no answers for him. None that he was willing to share, anyway; any theories he had on what Guy had told them was pure conjecture and Kakashi was keeping them to himself or—better yet—not thinking about them at all.
Eventually Sai left, dissatisfied, eyes narrowed and heading straight back for his teammates. Kakashi hoped rather fervently that Sai wouldn't share any answers he might find there.
For his part, Kakashi returned to his apartment and stayed there, in hiding, the rest of the day.
The rest of the week was much the same.
"I have returned, my rival!"
Kakashi's team was traumatized. His apartment was a bio-hazard zone, vestiges of the pollen remaining no matter how thoroughly he cleaned. Neji and Tenten now had trouble meeting his eyes and Lee looked entirely too strangely at him, as though Kakashi had some strange, inner, hidden quality, that he desperately, desperately wanted to see so he could believe it for himself.
Not to mention the incident with the chocolates. If Kakashi lived a pure and ascetic lifestyle, maybe he would never be haunted with memories of it again. He lived in fear that it would be haunting his nightmares for years to come.
"I'm sorry to have spent so long away and delegated so many of my efforts, but I was unavoidably out of Fire Country on a mission." Kakashi took back every terrible thought he'd ever had about Iruka. Then he remembered the love letters from Guy Iruka had slipped into the lecture notes daily since his date with Anko and thought them all over again.
"Did you like the flowers?" Guy asked, expression anxious, eyes wide and waiting.
"Out," said Kakashi, eye narrowed and pointing at the door.
"Or the poetry? I composed it myself on—"
"What about the—"
Kakashi shoved Guy forcibly out the door.
Guy stayed away the remainder of the day, but this was only to regroup. He returned later that night.
Kakashi kept the pillow over his head, reaching with a hand to add the blankets in a makeshift shield.
"God, Guy, SHUT THE FUCK UP!" he heard Anko bellow from the apartment above. There was the sound of something thrown. "It's three in the morning!"
"You may try to subvert my attempts to woo my Rival, but I shall persevere!" More off-pitch, overly sentimental, sappy past the point of even the stupidest fool-in-love's taste singing followed. It was soon accompanied by Anko throwing her houseplants to their deaths.
Guy remained undeterred.
Kakashi drifted off at some point, but woke just a few hours later with a hard-on and the fading wisps of a dream involving Guy, chocolate, and pages seventy to ninety-one of Icha Icha Tactics.
Kakashi was never going to sleep again.
The next day, he made it safely through the last of his classes, tired and twitchy at the lack of sleep, but otherwise okay. There wasn't even a note from Guy, Iruka having finally forgiven him, apparently, or at least decided to keep Anko at bay with juicy gossip and purloined letters. He went directly home and crashed on the couch. He stared at nothing for twenty minutes before dragging himself up to put together some sort of early dinner. He had no intention of being anywhere anyone could find him later tonight.
He wasn't fast enough. He'd barely finished his food when someone knocked loudly and with a boisterous air that could only be the one person he least wanted to see. Kakashi eyed the window. He decided not to risk it; he would just pretend he wasn't there.
Time passed. The knocking continued.
Finally, near-disbelieving at the levels of Guy's persistence, Kakashi opened the door. If Guy hadn't given up in the past hour, it was unlikely that he would in the next few minutes. Kakashi was beginning to fear what Anko and his other neighbors would do to him. But especially Anko.
Guy was wearing a tux. Kakashi didn't know that anyone in the village even owned a tux. It was green. Green. The bow-tie was orange. Who the hell sold these things? In his hands, there was a yellow rose with its stem cut sewn onto . . . was that a corsage?
Kakashi closed the door.
"No, wait, Rival! I have tickets to—"
Kakashi jumped out the window. Whatever Anko did to him couldn't possibly be worse.
Guy had followed him, abandoning the corsage in his haste. Like so many before him, Kakashi made the mistake of looking back once he hit the woods—back at Guy's shiny hair and shinier smile, hands waving tickets to—were those to the just-opened Icha Icha movie?
Kakashi lost his footing.
Guy looked even shinier up close despite the dim light from the setting sun. It shimmered around his head and hair in a halo, highlighting his concerned expression, his freaky, large eyebrows drawn together. Damn sunsets. Or maybe that was a concussion from Kakashi's fall. Surely that was the cause of this strange lightheaded feeling.
The dizziness had nothing to do with Guy's arms wrapped firmly around him, one hand wrapped around his wrist, the other gently cradling his head. Kakashi must have hit harder than he thought. He almost thought Guy was leaning close, like he was going to do something stupid like kiss Kakashi through his mas— Kakashi froze at the very thought.
"Your pupils look fine," said Guy, "but your pulse is a bit fast." Kakashi was most definitely not disappointed. Kakashi was just losing his mind. "Let me check—"
"Look, Guy, don't you think it's enough?" Kakashi snapped, shoving away Guy's hands and squirming out of his arms. He ignored Guy's kicked puppy look, intent on getting the hell away. "You've bombarded my apartment with allergens, terrorized our teams, instilled in me a phobia to fucking flowers, and given the entire village the wrong idea about our relationship. I haven't had a moment's rest or respite without some new, unwanted interruption that turns out to be entirely your fault.
"Why can't you just leave me the hell alone?"
Kakashi stood unsteadily, feeling like shit and unwilling, unable to take back his words. He walked away without further conversation. He couldn't bring himself to look back, afraid if he did he would say something more.
He asked for a new mission out of the village the next day. A much contented Iruka gave one to him, asking no questions and oblivious to much else, the poor fool having obviously given in and lost his will and reasons for trying to escape Anko in the first place. Kakashi refused to fall the same way.
He read through the scroll on the way back to his apartment to pick up his equipment. He'd leave a letter with Sai telling the team he would be gone a few days. Packing was the matter of a few moments and he ran across Sai on the way out, tossing the quickly scribbled note to him with a minimum of words.
He didn't see anyone else as he passed through the streets, then village gate. There was no sign of Guy at all. Kakashi refused to feel guilty. The weather was clear and his mission looked to be relatively simple.
Maybe things were finally looking up.
Kakashi's life had taken a serious downturn.
The mission—supposedly a simple A-class information retrieval—had gone poorly, to say the least. Instead of three chuunin guards, there were five—and another jounin Kakashi didn't spot until nearly too late, catching a throwing star to one shoulder and nearly taking a kunai to the throat. He barely turned a killing blow into an annoying nick that nagged at him the entire trip home.
The scroll he turned in turned out to be old information; one of their Wave Country spies had sent in the latest the day before—too late to send word for Kakashi to return. By that point, he'd already been on his way.
Worse, no one had forgotten Guy's antics or Kakashi's reactions in the duration of his absence.
If the inhabitants of the village weren't laughing at him, they were glaring or (oh, God) looking like he'd butchered their puppy. Lee's eyes were entirely too shiny and tear-filled for Kakashi to stand looking at him for any length of time. Tenten kept fingering her kunai speculatively. Neji just looked cold.
And his own team likely still couldn't look at him properly, though Kakashi didn't know because he was avoiding them like hell. Tsunade had asked when the wedding was before sending him on his way. Even Iruka had been whistling an overly familiar tune when Kakashi went in to give his mission report.
Also, Anko's pending revenge for all the noise right before Kakashi'd left had him nervous. Happiness tended to make her humor sharper, more deadly. He was no longer so certain that she had been the lesser evil. Maybe a date with Guy wouldn't have been so ba—
Kakashi wondered if this is what madness felt like. They had warned about it in the anbu. They'd just never mentioned that it would come in the form of Guy in a tuxedo serenading him as if he were some romance-obsessed damsel.
At least he had some downtime and Guy seemed scarce since his return. Kakashi couldn't bear to think what would come next.
It was the new version of Icha Icha Paradise, with extra illustrations and five new scenes. It was left on his doorstep with only a simple note.
Kakashi read the note again, rubbing the delicate rice paper softly between his fingers. The letters were plain, simple. There were no flowery scents or oils added. No mention of a later rendezvous.
"I am not seriously considering this," said Kakashi.
He pocketed the book and opened the door to his apartment. He needed to drop off his field kit and shower. He didn't think Guy would appreciate the dirt and blood.
He wondered if maybe there had been something on the blade that had nicked him. Touching the rice paper lightly once more after he'd placed it on the table, he decided that he almost didn't care.
"Your medic said you were fine, Kakashi." Tsunade did not look amused. "Your wounds have been dressed. There was no poison in any of them. The muscle in your shoulder's already healing. You're fine."
"But—" Tsunade was not having any interruptions. Her foreboding expression alone cut Kakashi off.
"I've checked you, too. You have two days of downtime, but they're not medical leave. They're just the regular time off. Take it. Stop worrying. Get the hell out of my office."
Eyeing Tsunade, her huge pile of paperwork, and the tic developing in one eye, Kakashi decided that was a good idea. He did so.
Kakashi did not do romance. He didn't. Everyone knew this.
Ino's eyes were sparkling. She looked caught between amusement and something else entirely. Kakashi decided that if the words, "cute," "romantic," or "love" passed her lips, he was leaving the store.
"You're still helping out at the shop?"
"Just for the day. I have some time off and it lets me spend more with my dad. We've been rather busy lately, but I'll be seeing Chouji and Shikamaru later." Kakashi glanced idly around. The selection looked a little . . . decimated, as compared to the last time he'd been by the shop, looking for Sakura several weeks ago. The question to where Guy had gotten the bulk of his supply was answered. "Anything I can help you with?"
Just one word.
"Do you have any roses?" he asked, facade of boredom.
Ino wasn't taken. She was grinning—the same smile she'd had when she'd given him that damn bouquet—as she gestured to one wall of the store. "Over there. But I've heard Guy prefers sunflowers, actually."
Kakashi twitched, and changed directions to the overwhelmingly bright sunflowers. Of course. He wondered what the hell was wrong with him.
"And I've heard that he has today off, too." Kakashi twitched again. "Just in case you were interested." Ino looked innocent.
"How much do I owe you?" Kakashi asked as he grabbed a bunch of them, ready to get the hell out of there.
"Oh, no. It's on the house." Kakashi eyed her warily. Ino's smile turned evil. "After all, I'm seeing Sakura after my teammates."
Once more, Kakashi fled.
It seemed that the only person other than Guy who owned a tuxedo was Rock Lee. Kakashi took one look at his shining eyes and his smaller stature and decided that Tsunade was wrong—there was definitely something wrong with him.
"But—" Lee's eyes shone with the most terrible of hopes, like he believed Kakashi might not be a terrible human being after all. He stepped back as though at any moment he would invite Kakashi in, maybe join Ino in offering Kakashi tips to Guy's heart.
Kakashi backed away, waving his hands.
"If you want—" Lee started to follow him.
Kakashi quickly walked away, ignoring Lee's calls after him. He decided against making calls on anyone else. It would be best to just get this over with—rip the dressing off the wound quickly rather than suffer through anymore such scenes.
What the hell was Kakashi thinking?
It was rare that Kakashi ever truly surprised Guy. Sure, Guy would pretend to be astounded by many of his quips and responses, but they had fallen into a bit of a pattern over the years. It was comfortable, familiar. Easy.
Kakashi was glad that Guy looked just as disbelieving as Kakashi had felt for the past few weeks.
He casually held out the sunflowers. "Sorry, but I don't do midnight serenades."
Guy continued to stare.
Kakashi lowered the flowers and scratched at his nose with one hand. "It seems that I, ah, owe you a bit of an apology myself." Guy blinked a couple of times. "I, um. Oh, fuck it." Kakashi dropped the make-shift bouquet and pulled down his mask. He planted his hands on either side of Guy's vest and tugged him forward into the most awkward kiss of his life, including that time with Rin and Obito and the lost bet. Kakashi had the terrible feeling that somehow both his and Guy's genin teams were watching.
He pulled back and slipped the mask back up. He had to strike quickly before Guy recovered. "Can I come in?"
"So. I think we need to lay some new ground rules." Kakashi ignored Guy's hopeful look. "No speeches. No flowers. No references to the 'springtime of youth' in bed. Lots of sex." Kakashi thought a moment, remembering Anko. "We also invest in serious sound-proofing."
Guy was grinning like he'd won one of their challenges.
"Is that acceptable?"
Guy flung his arms around Kakashi, drawing him close. "Oh, Rival, I promise I'll be gentle and—"
"And another thing!" said Kakashi, trying to push Guy off of him. "Don't call me that when we're having sex! It's a definite turn-off!"
"But in chapter fifteen of Icha Icha Tactics—" Kakashi zoned out for a moment, all of his blood leaving his brain in a strange, exhilarating, and almost painful rush. Guy had read the Icha Icha series for him. It had to be love.
Kakashi found that he could not flee into the night while Guy was crushing them together, arms like prison bars. "—and then we could try out page eighty two of—" Guy was de-arming and stripping Kakashi as he spoke. Guy's hands were also not leaving any flesh they lingered near unattended in the process. It meant he had to go slow, but Kakashi didn't care.
He couldn't quite remember why he wanted to escape anymore.
Oh. Yeah. That.
"I don't do romance," said Kakashi.
Guy smiled, though it had a different look to it, the angle of his mouth or the set of his rather large eyebrows. "I know. It's okay. I know for you it's just se—"
"It's not just sex." Kakashi shifted his forearm, easing up on Guy's throat, shocked at his own reaction. "Sorry. Sorry, I don't . . . This was a bad idea." Kakashi rolled off of Guy, touching feet to floor and intent on collecting his mask, pants, weapons, and book as quickly as possible. Preferably without looking Guy in the eyes. At least he'd removed all of Kakashi's weapons, first, as he was obviously too far gone to be trusted with them.
"Kakashi, wait," said Guy, voice serious, expression probably matching, very carefully not touching him.
"Such a bad idea," said Kakashi, trying to remember which vest was his. He checked the left pocket of the one in his hands. Bandages, no book. He placed it on the table.
Guy cleared his throat. Kakashi looked at him. "I said no speeches."
"I wasn't going to." Guy reached out very slowly to touch Kakashi's shoulder. "Not with words, at least." Guy traced the slight curve of Kakashi's shoulder to his neck, followed a tendon up to his jaw. Guy caressed Kakashi's cheekbone with a thumb, not even pausing over the scar he'd licked just minutes before, moving on to card his fingers through Kakashi's hair. They were so close Kakashi could feel each breath Guy took in and let loose once more.
He is way too close to me, thought Kakashi, and then they were kissing again. It went from sedate to fierce, one of Guy's stupidly strong hands digging into his arms and the other wrapped around his back. Kakashi ran one hand through Guy's ridiculous haircut and another down to his ass. They stumbled back to the bed, clumsy, desperate.
"You're right. It's not just sex." One of Guy's hands trailed up and down Kakashi's back in an almost absentminded rhythm with Guy's words. Kakashi leaned into it, letting his whole body sprawl lazily against Guy's, still coming down from the high.
"But it's sure as hell not romance."
"Yes, well." Guy bit Kakashi's ear lightly. "We did that earlier."
"What are these?" asked Kakashi, brandishing the papers back at Iruka. Already, he'd returned to normal, any pity or distraction gone.
"Your mission papers." Iruka looked too innocent. Kakashi had grown wise to his tricks.
"Then why does this say 'Marriage License'? And why is Guy's name filled in to the other blank?"
"Tsunade-sama gave them to me to add in. She said it was an S-rank mission only you could handle." This was how Iruka knew all the good gossip. People handed it to him in gold filigree.
"Where's my real assignment?" Kakashi had already realized that there were too many people to kill to be able to do any realistic damage control. Plus, it would cut into his reading time and the applications thereof. The only answer was to change the topic and forget about it.
"If it's Naruto you're worried about, he's already told me that he's sure the scarring will only last a few decades. He'll get over it. Eventually."
"You aren't reassuring and I don't care about Naruto's opinion." Kakashi was a terrible liar. He felt not at all subtle as he asked, "And Sakura?"
"Is helping Ino pick out your bouquet." Kakashi was never going to live it down. "Apparently Sai and Lee are helping." There was no forgetting about it. He would have to change his name, go into hiding, and put his genjutsu skills to the test. Being a missing-nin couldn't be that bad of a life.
But he wouldn't have his team. Or his deranged, enthusiastic, and entirely too athletic rival.
It might be worth it. Maybe.
Iruka handed him his real mission papers. "You're smiling." Kakashi took them, not even glancing at them this time. Instead, he touched his fingers to the cloth of the mask.
So he was.