Always the Last to Know

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Note: As far as Yaoi pairings go, I think Iruka and Kakashi could be good together and they are often a beta couple in other Yaoi stories. Still, one has to wonder where the idea comes from since they really don't have many scenes together. In fact, the only one I can think of is Iruka's overprotective – and totally right – speech about how entering Team Seven into the Chuunin Exams was a bad idea.

Iruka knew it was a little sad to be in the Academy on a Saturday but he had papers to grade and God knew trying to grade while surrounded by ninja-to-be was not exactly the best plan. Other teachers did it, but then other teachers hadn't had to deal with Sasuke after he'd gotten his fifth 'Emo' in a row. So even if having Naruto in his class had taught him the importance of keeping the work completely out of reach of the students, he did draw the line at spending his entire day at the school and was accordingly leaving at lunchtime when he spotted Kakashi walking by.

"Hey, Kakashi," Iruka greeted the masked man. "I haven't seen you around in awhile."

Kakashi slowed to a stop and shrugged. "I've had a lot of free time since I suddenly found myself student-less."

"I'm sorry about Sasuke," Iruka said awkwardly. He really didn't understand it. Sasuke had been a bit broody, sure, but to just up and leave after trying to kill Naruto? Then again, there were rumors that the boy had had a run-in with Itachi and ended up in a coma but Iruka really didn't think Kakashi would be in any mood to answer any questions on that subject.

Kakashi sighed heavily and absently glanced in the direction of the memorial stone. "Aren't we all?"

"Naruto should do well with Jiraiya, though," Iruka said, trying to be positive. "And Sakura's still around."

"True, true…" Kakashi agreed. "If nothing else, I can say I taught the Mimi-Sannin."

"I was about to head to lunch. Would you like to join me?" Iruka offered.

"Ichiraku's?" Kakashi asked, as if there were any doubt.

Iruka laughed. "Of course. Naruto made me treat him so often over the years that I practically go through withdrawal if I don't stop by once a week or so."

"Well, far be it from me to keep Teuchi from a much-needed regular customer while his biggest fan is away," Kakashi decided. "Let's go."

- -

"Greetings, Iruka," Teuchi greeted cheerfully, unsurprised to see him. "Oh, and I see you've brought Kakashi. It's about damn time, you two."

Iruka shot the ramen chef a questioning look, but he appeared not to notice. "…Okay. I'm glad you approve, I suppose." Although of what, he hadn't a clue. Perhaps he had realized that Iruka was trying to provide Kakashi with some much-needed human contact since Team Seven broke up and Kakashi started doing missions at a rate that would shame Gai?

"I can't see why I wouldn't," Teuchi told them. "You two will be good for each other, I can tell."

"Yeah, Konoha's a lot more open-minded than you seem to think," Teuchi's daughter Ayame agreed.

Before Iruka or Kakashi could ask for clarification, Teuchi asked, "Would you like a table? The ones in the back are fairly private."

Kakashi glanced at Iruka before shaking his head. "No, we should be fine up here at the counter."

After they had ordered but before their food was ready, loud thumping made them turn around to see Gai hopping on one leg past the Ramen Bar.

"If I don't manage five laps around Konoha, I shall do thirty laps on my hands!" Gai vowed.

"I'm know I'm going to regret this but…" Kakashi muttered under his breath. In a louder voice, he called out, "Gai, what the hell are you doing?"

"Ah, my most youthful rival!" Gai beamed, stopping his hopping but still standing with one leg up in the air. "I see you have brought Iruka here for your most youthful date! To answer your question, I am improving my balance. One never knows when they will need to fight with one leg or while disoriented and to be unprepared would be most unyouthful."

Kakashi and Iruka sat in stunned silence following Gai's proclamation.

Finally, Kakashi found his voice. "What was that last part?" he asked weakly.

"I'm training my balance because-" Gai dutifully began to repeat.

Kakashi shook his head. "Not that! The other part."

"That I see the two of you are on a most youthful date?" Gai asked.

"We're not on a date, Gai," Iruka explained.

"I wouldn't bother if I were you," Kakashi advised. "Gai's not really the most…reasonable guy around."

Gai frowned. "I see."

"Really?" Kakashi sounded shocked but hopeful.

"See?" Iruka asked smugly. "Sometimes it pays to be direct."

But Gai wasn't finished. Eyeing them disapprovingly, he announced, "It is most unyouthful to deny true love."

"What did I tell you?" Kakashi asked rhetorically. "I would know him better than you. He is my eternal rival, after all."

"What?" Gai's eyes widened comically. "You're finally admitting to our most youthful rivalry? I knew this day would come, my hip rival!" he gushed.

"Yeah, yeah…" Kakashi muttered, already regretting his words. "Did you have some training to do?" he hinted.

"You're right!" Gai exclaimed, beginning to hop down the street once more. "Two laps down, three to go…"

"What was that about?" Iruka asked, confused.

"I have no idea," Kakashi confessed. "Then again, that's usually my reaction to talking to Gai."

"Hey, what's Gai doing?" Anko asked, entering Ichiraku's. "He almost knocked me over shouting about youth and epic rivalries."

Kakashi shrugged. "Oh, who even knows? Speaking of Gai, though, he seems to think we're dating. Do you know anything about that?"

"Teuchi and Ayame seemed to be implying that, too," Iruka added.

Anko smirked. "Did they, now? Huh."

"You know something!" Kakashi accused.

Anko shrugged. "I might."

"What do you know?" Iruka demanded. "This is the first I've heard of it."

"Really?" Anko drawled, raising an eyebrow. "Wow, you two really don't get out much, do you?"

Kakashi nodded.

Iruka, on the other hand, was offended. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"EVERYBODY knows about the two of you," Anko replied.

"You're telling me that everyone thinks we're dating?" Kakashi demanded.

Anko considered the question. "I would say about ninety-five percent of Konoha is convinced."

"But we barely know each other!" Kakashi pointed out. "I don't think I've even seen him since the Sandaime's funeral."

Anko shook her head almost pityingly. "You know a little thing like that isn't going to stop the conspiracy theorists from insisting you're having an illicit affair. If anything, hiding the affair by pretending to have little to do with each other is much more sensible than relying on the same old 'just friends' shtick everyone else tries and everyone knows Iruka is the sensible one out of all of us."

"Where did the rumors come from in the first place?" Kakashi wondered.

"Honestly, I have no idea," Anko admitted. "Like I said, everyone thinks that."

"Well, who generally starts these things?" Iruka asked sensibly.

The three of them stared at each other for a moment before reaching the same conclusion.


- -

Iruka and Kakashi found Kiba in the middle of a conversation with his faithful canine companion, Akamaru.

"I know, Akamaru," Kiba was saying. "I can't believe Naruto never noticed Hinata's in love with him and used to follow him around everywhere. Then again, I suppose he was kind of busy being in love with Sasuke and pretending to like Sakura."

Akamaru barked twice.

Kiba sighed. "Okay, fine," he said indulgently. "I'm willing to concede his denial is so great he honestly believes he likes her like that. Although seriously, if he had to choose between a date with Sakura – or hell, a serious relationship with her – and hearing how Sasuke is, we all know what he'd pick. That means something, I tell you!"

Akamaru barked again.

"What?" Kiba asked, looking around. "Kakashi and Iruka are here? Hey guys, what's up?"

"Were you aware that there is apparently a rumor going around that Kakashi and I are…" Iruka trailed off, searching for the least intimate way to say it, "involved?"

Kiba snorted. "Who isn't?"

"Until about an hour ago, we weren't," Iruka responded dryly.

Another bark from Akamaru.

"Akamaru's right; that's just sad…" Kiba informed them flatly.

"I've barely been in Konoha with all the missions I've been taking!" Kakashi said defensively. "We're still not up to full strength after the invasion, you know."

"Yeah?" Kiba asked. He nodded in Iruka's direction. "What's his excuse?"

"The kids I teach still believe in the stork," Iruka offered.

"I can see where you might be out of the loop then," Kiba decided. "Still, you really need to get out more."

"Did you start these rumors?" Kakashi asked bluntly.

"W-what?" Kiba sputtered. "No, of course not!"

Iruka was skeptical. "Really? You're usually the one who starts these things."

"No, I'm usually the one to start the 'Sasuke and Naruto are madly in love but deeply in denial' things," Kiba corrected. He shook his head ruefully. "Seriously, trying to convince people of that when Sasuke tried to kill Naruto and Naruto keeps perfunctorily asking Sakura out is a full time job."

"Since everyone thinks you're delusional on that front, I'd imagine it would be," Kakashi agreed.

"Not everyone!" Kiba objected.

"Everyone but the fangirls thinks you're delusional," Kakashi amended obligingly.

"They'll come around…" Kiba vowed.

"Kiba," Kurenai called, walking up to them. 'We're going to be meeting at Training Ground 3 tomorrow at nine, okay?"

Kiba nodded. "I'll be there."

"Iruka, Kakashi, what are you two doing here?" Kurenai asked. "Have you finally admitted your secret passion for each other?"

"Why does everyone keep asking us that?!?!" Kakashi demanded.

"Because it's kind of obvious," Kurenai said patiently. "Don't feel bad, though. Love is a wonderful thing and shouldn't be hidden away like a dirty secret!"

"But we're not in love," Iruka protested. "This is the first we've seen of each other in three months."

"Love can endure over great distances," Kiba insisted. "Just look at Naruto and Sasuke."

"You kept your secret well," Kurenai attempted to assure them. "But you gave yourselves away when we were nominating teams for this last Chuunin Exam."

"Well, I suppose that WAS one of the rare instances in which we interacted…" Kakashi admitted.

"I would like to take this time to point out that I was totally right and if you had waited to enter your team then Sasuke wouldn't have run into Orochimaru and would probably still be here today," Iruka declared.

"Hindsight is always twenty-twenty," Kakashi grumbled. "Besides, if that were the case, Sakura wouldn't have come into her own and Naruto wouldn't have met Jiraiya. Granted, it might be worth it to find another way to bring out their potential if Sasuke were still here, but the Exam wasn't all bad."

"So much sexual tension in that argument," Kurenai said dreamily. "I couldn't tell if you were together or if you were still in denial but it was so very clear to me that you two were soul mates."

That stopped the bickering pair up cold.

"Wait…" Iruka said horrified. "That was you?"

"Why, God, why?" Kakashi moaned.

Kurenai beamed at them. "And now that I see you've realized your feelings and are together, I feel so vindicated."

Akamaru barked at that.

"Akamaru's right, guys," Kiba told them. "Where did you guys think I got it from?"

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