Warnings for whole series: a little language, a smattering of violence, implied past character death, alcohol, and angst. Last chapter.


pt. 6, final

by vernajast

kakashi x iruka

Kakashi paced his apartment, a frown hidden behind the dark cloth of his mask. It was too small, cramped, and messy to suit him now, with his bed shoved into one corner and the kitchenette's single square of cabinet space squashed between the wall and refrigerator.

His Icha Icha collection annoyed him the most. There was a light layer of dust on the shelf that refused to let him forget that for over half of a year he had devoted his time to a different pastime, and he steadfastly refused to clean it.

This was driving him mad. He had to get out. He had to do something to bring some kind of closure. And he knew what that something was, though he was loath to do it because it would mean everything was truly over. The relationship he had never actually had was over.

It's about time.
Shut up.
They'll enjoy the visit, too.
Sure, so they can laugh.
Baka! They wouldn't!

Carefully, Kakashi cut a strip from one of his blank scrolls. From the drawer in his bedside table, he produced a grease pencil, and he tucked the two sacred objects away in his pouch. He watered his plant. He fiddled with the photographs on his windowsill and wondered if he could find one of Iruka to add to the collection.

He finally left the apartment when he couldn't find any other way to stall.

The trek to the memorial stone was one he could make in his sleep; he literally had on more than one occasion in those early days after the Kyuubi's attack, when their deaths were fresh, deep wounds on his soul. When he arrived, he knelt at first to offer a solemn prayer and remained kneeling to whisper a second, an apology, to Iruka.

He took out the scroll piece and the grease pencil and leaned in, wary of the sharp edges of Iruka's name and not at all surprised to find dry blood staining the corner of the first symbol. It made him smile, and with the hint of it still twisting his lips, he made a delicate rubbing of the teacher's name.

Surveying his work and deeming it acceptable, the pencil returned to his pouch and the scroll piece was slipped into his pocket to remain clenched between his fingers. It would be sewn into the lining of his pouch later, alongside Rin and Obito. Father and Mother. Kushina-san. Sensei.

The wind in the trees caught his attention, and he turned a single gray eye up to watch the branches sway in the breeze. Perhaps he would stay for a while, he decided and sat down, leaning his back against the cool stone and the names of the shinobi whom he had once told fledgling Team 7 were heroes.

In an empty apartment across town, Umino Iruka's voice continued to narrate his life, and Kakashi's frantic slap to the keyboard had done more than advance to the next video. They were no longer repeating.

"-six bowls of ramen, but he was so excited about training for the chuunin exams that he forgot and only had four. I feel like I got away with something, like the order of the universe has been disrupted. But I like it. I've never seen Naruto so focused..."

"-that I know I was wrong. When it was Naruto who beat Hyuuga Neji, I suddenly understood. I should have pushed them harder, I should have expected more. I was too soft on them, and Hatake-san...Kakashi, he was right. They aren't children anymore; they're the shinobi I trained them to become. I just wasn't ready to let go..."

"-I'm so tired of being alone..."

"-believes that Sasuke-kun left to join Orochimaru, and I swear, if that snake..."

"-that he's gone with Jiraiya-sama. Maybe it's for the best, but I don't believe Naruto will ever give up..."

"-saw Kakashi at the training fields. I wonder if he would be interested in reading the newest letter from Naruto? Sakura-chan's finished with it, so I suppose I could ask, but..."

"-and Kotetsu says Kakashi was going to-oh, ha-ha, it seems like I'm developing an infatuation with the man! Izumo won't quit teasing me..."

Another video loaded, and an image of Iruka sat very still in front of the camera, almost as if he were examining the room beyond the screen. "I have some great news: I'm taking some time off from the academy to complete a mission, a B-rank, something to break up the hum-drum of everyday and hopefully remind me why I do this job."

He reached back and tightened his ponytail, bit his lip, smiled.

"And when I get back, I'm going to ask Kakashi to go to dinner with me. I shouldn't play favorites, but without Naruto in the village, it's too quiet. And I wonder, well, perhaps Kakashi feels the same without his team. I think maybe he does, and I think, maybe, we could help one another."

He rubbed his scar with his index finger and sighed. "I think we could be friends once we got to know each other. I'd really like that."

The young teacher continued smiling for a few quiet moments, and then bent down, fiddled with something, and the screen went blank.

Five seconds later, his voice began again.

"Um, hi, there. I've never kept anything like this before..."

[ . end ]

I hope you've enjoyed it. Er, here's a tissue? I am likely going to write a one-shot about Iruka's mission (with no definitive answer as to his whereabouts, of course), and some of the people on Y!Gallery are trying to convince me to write a hypthetical "Iruka returns" piece, but I'm resisting that as I usually don't do sequels and would hate to ruin the angst.

Thanks to the KakaIru LJ community for the motivation. Their comments on part 1 are the reason 2-6 got written, and this story is proof of just how powerful your comments can be in getting an author excited about a story. Of course, if you don't leave a comment, no worries; I'm just happy you read it. Thanks!

Lene / vj