Part 1, Confusion

Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto. Duh.
Notes: This is kind of a random short my brain threw at me. It'll either have two or three chapters, depending on whether I decide to lemon it or not. I put it under M just in case I do.

Part 1, Confusion

"Come home with me," said Kakashi, standing up to leave the crowded bar, on a night in mid-winter.

Iruka just stared at him for a moment, blushing. "Thank you, but no." he replied finally, shaking his head resolutely. Kakashi nodded, waved casually, and walked away.

The young Chuunin teacher wasn't sure what to make of the event. It was true that ever since Kakashi had taken over a Genin team comprised of his former students, they had become something like friends. Not at first, of course, since at first they had fought over differing opinions about what the Genin were and weren't ready for. However, as time had passed, they had settled into an easy truce, and especially since the breakup of Team Seven, could often be seen sitting and talking together at social events.

They never showed up together, of course. Kakashi would saunter in an hour or so after the party or gathering started, walk around the room a time or two greeting people, and then find Iruka and drag him off somewhere semi-quiet to talk. Kakashi would always leave before Iruka, and always go home alone, while Iruka sometimes left with friends. It wasn't even that Kakashi and Iruka tried to be in the same place, but since they had some friends in common, it didn't seem strange that they would wind up at the same social events.

Still, Iruka wasn't sure if they were friends. He would probably have said "Yes" if asked, but it would be partially out of politeness. They certainly weren't dating, and as far as Iruka knew, they certainly weren't planning on having any kind of casual sex affair. So when Kakashi said "Come home with me" it was as if the words came from nowhere, and Iruka's refusal seemed the only possible response.

It irked him. The words stuck in his head, even as he proceeded to get more smashed than most of Konoha had ever seen him. When Izumo wound up dragging him home, Iruka was muttering "Why would he ask me that?" over and over, but Izumo couldn't get out of him who "he" was or what it was "he" had asked. Sighing, Izumo heaved his inebriated friend into bed and got him settled, then went into the kitchen and retrieved some aspirin and water to leave on the nightstand. He figured it was the least he could do for Iruka, who had not only dragged him home in such a state before, but kept him from making some pretty bad mistakes while drunk.

In the morning, Iruka felt horrible. He gratefully took the aspirin with the water, wishing he remembered who brought him home so that he could thank them later. There was school that day, and he couldn't quite remember why he had been stupid enough to get so drunk. Sighing, he dragged himself through his morning routine, chugged about twice as much coffee as usual, and headed off to the Academy.

It was almost the end of the school day when it hit him. He'd been giving the students busy work, and after the first few dire threats, they had realized it was not the day to misbehave. Iruka was sitting behind his desk pretending to read something important off a random scroll, but really he was just trying to keep his lunch down. "Come home with me," he whispered softly, remembering, and then rubbed his scar thoughtfully. Why would Kakashi ask him that? It hadn't been a tease, he was sure of it. So what had the man meant? Did he want a one-night stand? Something more? Surely if he wanted something more, he would have asked Iruka out properly, wouldn't he?

Sighing, Iruka looked up at his students. They were diligently scribbling away, and he was overwhelmed with a rush of love for them. They were so simple, so straightforward to deal with, and he always knew exactly what they needed from him. "Okay, class, leave your papers where they are. Don't worry if you didn't complete them, it won't count against you. Let's go out and play, okay?" A cheer went up from the class, and they raced Iruka to the door, his mind clearing instantly.

It was one week later when Iruka saw Kakashi again, and this time it was across the mission desk. Usually when Kakashi turned in missions, he would stay to chat for a moment, unless it was very busy. This time he merely handed Iruka the paper, waited to make sure everything was okay with it, and then said "Later, Iruka-sensei" and walked out.

Izumo looked at Iruka curiously. "Did you two argue or something?" he asked.

"No," replied Iruka simply. "We didn't argue at all."

Izumo thought about that one for a moment and then said, "He was the one who said something to you that made you drink yourself into a stupor though, wasn't he?"

Iruka turned to look at his friend, studying Izumo's face carefully. "Did you bring me home that night?" Izumo nodded, and Iruka continued. "Thank you. Please don't pry, though, it's nothing bad that he said, so you don't have to worry about me. He was just being Kakashi, and everyone knows how confusing he is."

Izumo wanted to pry, but he was a good friend, and so instead he stomped down on his curiosity and went on with his work.

Two weeks passed. A party at Anko's place and one at Genma's both went unattended by Kakashi. Iruka found himself hanging out with Kotetsu and Izumo at the first one and with Izumo at the second because Kotetsu was out on a mission. It was his turn to bring Izumo home that time, and he did so without complaint, as always. He was used to the fact that his friend drank to excess when his lover was away, and didn't really blame him. Had he a lover, he might have been the same, he thought.

Another week passed, and Genma invited most of the Jounin and a few of his Chuunin friends out for drinks. Iruka found himself sitting between Kotetsu and Izumo, who had some sort of petty argument going on. He knew that by the time an hour or so had passed, he'd either be switching seats or dealing with them trying to grope each other around him, but he didn't argue. His friends were strange, and sometimes annoying, but they were loyal and kind, and he accepted their quirks easily.

It was an hour or so after the group arrived that Kakashi came and stood behind Izumo, giving him a one-eyed glare. "You're in my seat. I always sit beside Iruka-sensei."

Izumo's eyes widened and Kotetsu tensed, sensing a threat to his partner. Iruka sighed, and said, "Just switch with me, Izumo, and then he can sit on the other side." This was accomplished with no bloodshed, and Kakashi proceeded to make the usual conversation without any indication he'd been radiating killer intent at Izumo just a moment ago, and no mention of either his strange offer several weeks ago or his absence. However, when he stood to leave, he paused briefly as if to say something, shook his head, and said, "Later, Sensei," waving casually as usual.

Things went back to normal, almost, after that. Except that every time he saw Kakashi, Iruka wondered about that invitation, what it had meant, what could have been if he had taken it. Whether he should have taken it, regardless of what it meant. He thought about it while working at the mission desk, while talking with his friends, while talking to Kakashi. The only time he didn't think about it was when he was with his students, carried away by their exuberance and their dedication to learning what it meant to be shinobi.

The only other difference from normalcy was that every time they parted now, there was that slight hesitation before Kakashi's wave, before he said "Later, Sensei," before he walked away. Just a few seconds of hesitation, barely noticeable, but there, every single time. Iruka wondered what it was he should say at that moment, what the key was to finding out the answers to his questions about Kakashi's intentions… but every single time he simply waited, and let Kakashi walk away.

It was summer when Iruka went to a party at Genma's and found no Kakashi, but he overheard someone say Kakashi was away on a mission, so he didn't think much of it. Kotetsu was also away, and so Iruka and Izumo wound up spending time together. Izumo was oddly sober that evening, and when Iruka asked him why, he shrugged, "I don't really want to be here. Will you come with me if I go?" Iruka nodded, and the two wound their way through the streets of Konoha to Izumo and Kotetsu's home.

"Iruka-kun, are you seeing anyone?" asked Izumo, carefully not looking at his friend.

"If I were, I would have told you, Izumo. We're friends, right?" was the reply.

Izumo brushed his hair out of his eyes and sighed. "Of course. It's just that you've been acting like something's up for a while now, and you haven't told me anything. You act like… you're either seeing someone or want to be," he explained, brushing his hair back over one eye, as usual.

Iruka grinned, as usual amused by his friend's quirk. Then he realized Izumo was expecting an answer, and shrugged. "Everyone gets lonely, Zumo. Even me."

They were at Izumo and Kotetsu's place at this point, and Izumo let them in quietly, mulling over the matter. Iruka settled himself into his favorite chair in the living room, and Izumo sprawled across the couch. "Iruka-kun, if you're lonely, why don't you find someone? You know half of Konoha is interested in you, in one way or another. You could easily have whatever you wanted, whether it's sex or a relationship or even marriage."

Iruka pulled his hair out of his ponytail and ran his fingers through it. "You make it sound so easy, Izumo. I don't want just anyone though. I don't know who it is I want, or in what way, and I'm not the type of person who can just start something without knowing those things."

"What will you do then? Will you be lonely forever, Iruka-kun? Will I have to watch you be sad forever?" asked Izumo, his comfortable position on the couch contrasting with the seriousness of his words.

Iruka looked up at his friend through the thick curtain of hair he had freed. "I'll try, okay?"

Izumo nodded, and replied, "That's the best anyone can do, I guess. Then he smiled, slowly, and asked "So, how long has it been since you had sex anyway, Ruka?"

Iruka smiled back. "You offering to fix the fact that it's been far too long?"

With a shrug, Izumo replied "Ko's away, and you're here, and he wouldn't mind. You up for it?"

A mischievous grin crossed Iruka's face, and he replied, "I'm not up yet, but I will be…"