A/N: Title translates from Japanese into: "Look In The Mirror". Yes, there is a reason why it's in Japanese writing instead of English. Explained later.
I originally spawned this little baby from the thought, "Even if Kakashi walked around Kohona without his mask, under the right conditions, no one would recognize him anyway!" At first, I was just going to put this as a prompt request, until I was attacked by the bloody plot bunny.
Actually, I'm pretty proud of this, seeing as it was written at midnight and took the better part of an hour to complete. (I edited it later, when I wasn't half asleep and was pleasantly surprised at how little needed to be changed).
NOTE: Sei Hansha = Mirror Reflection. Normally, I don't put a lot of Japanese into stories when I can avoid it, but this story seemed to ask for it.
Disclaimer: Don't own, don't claim to, don't profit from it. All of this is in the name of fun.
There was always so much pressure on him. (For him to be the best, to be the smartest, the strongest, the most elite of the elite and the last one standing). Expectations piled up on him, (to be the aloof and mysterious jounin that confounded those that worked alongside him, who terrified enemies without ever showing his face, and the one who could steal all their secrets with one glance), and they didn't ever seem to stop.
Hatake Kakashi hated it, (no, he loathed it), but for his village, for the community he swore to protect with his life, he put up with it. He knew that having a reputation was a delicate balance, (after all, his father killed himself after destroying his own).
Kakashi's mask allowed him freedom in the only way he could get. He was allowed an identity no one expected anything from. He had an alter-ego no one cared about, no one demanded things from, a cover no one questioned or gave a second glance. Kakashi hid his face, so he didn't have to become the persona he loathed all the time.
Sometimes, he compared himself to a superhero, (ones that he occasionally read about in books hidden by his distinctive orange dust-cover). Not because of his inflated ego, but because when he wore a mask, he was the victor that people looked up to, adored and mimicked and met everywhere with high expectations. The jounin was a monster to his enemies and his hidden face lined bingo-books in every village, and every missing-nin he met couldn't help but want his severed head on a platter.
But, when he was without his mask, and his straw-like hair covered his distinctive eye, he was a nobody. Someone who led a content-enough life without glory, fame or awe following his every step. Crowds didn't part for him, they didn't question him when he read, they didn't question him when he didn't read, he was given a chance for peace and a real life that didn't constantly involved his clothes soaked in blood, (and vomit and other questionable bodily fluids that were neigh impossible to wash away...). He could be late or on time and no one would care or question it. It was invigorating in a way only understandable to those who'd understood the pain of constant public attention.
People wondered why he shied from the prestige of Hokage. The idea alone would be enough to make the power hungry drool and long for it. Kakashi was neither power-hungry or keen for more eyes watching his every step. (Shyness wasn't part of his nature, but neither was constant scrutiny something he enjoyed). His every decision wouldn't merely affect two or three people in his cell, but an entire village. He didn't need, (didn't want), the additional pressure, (not at all).
The weight on his shoulders was crushing enough. Strong enough to bear the burden, but fragile enough that a little more would make him snap. That was the jounin's disposition.
When he came back from his latest mission bathed in the blood of his enemies, (and honestly, a lot of his own), he walked, (limped), to the Mission Room with an orange book in hand, (Icha Icha dust-cover, but actually an intriguing anthology on the uses of obscure and forgotten plants), gave the closest chuunin on duty his mission scroll, (his handwriting smeared, scrawl illegible, and decorated with an array of spills - because that is what they expected from him), Kakashi decided he had enough with the charade. Being Hatake Kakashi was sometimes too much work than it was worth.
Tsunade glared at him when he asked for a week off. (Her gaze was slightly off, but that was because she had been drinking a little more than usual; an entire genin team and their jounin leader had been massacred just out of Fire Country). She understood that soldiers were human too, but there was a war brewing! She needed all her men at hand to call and fight the battles they needed to win. However, her face softened, and gave him four-days leave as a compromise. Kakashi was far too important to allow on leave for extended periods of time, but also too important to work to the bone and leave him with a tenuous mental state, (his current being unstable enough as it was).
Smile hidden, the jounin left the room with the signed papers, (from the window, of course; that was expected of him), and on the roof performed the right signs for teleportation, (thinking how only a pre-genin would stuff up the simple hand-signs). Smoke cleared and his eyes adjusted to the darkness of his home. Specifically, his room, barren and cold and slightly musky with the scent of abandonment. His last mission, (not only taxing physically and mentally), was a tad longer than what he was usually given. Not that he knew that at the time of accepting the scroll. Well, if he should be picky about information missing from the parameters, details regarding the two missing-nin that attacked him early on would have been more helpful, definitely. (If he knew that they had summons that liked dog meat, it would have helped his tactical planning heaps).
Thankfully, he wasn't injured enough to justify bothering the medic-nin. (It wasn't that Kakashi minded the hospital that much. However, the Copy-Nin couldn't afford looking weak). Cracked ribs would heal with time, bound tightly with clean white linen bandages that hid most of the bruising. Cuts and lacerations needed a good night's rest and his body would fix him right up. Chakra depletion would replenish as soon as he ate and rested. He was good to be left alone. (Not to mention, he didn't need anyone he didn't know prodding at his gut and generally observing him critically, their heightened expectations unmet as they realized that he was human as they were).
Quickly, he went through the same rituals he underwent after every mission to help him feel more human. (Oh, he was biologically human, but Hatake Kakashi was always thought of being above that; better than a normal mortal and therefore competent to cope with traumas most people couldn't live through without going insane). The jounin showered in scalding hot water and used half a bar of strongly scented soap to wash away the smells of sweat and dirt and grime. (He'd tried every type of soap, but none ever got rid of the scent of blood that cloaked him; not entirely). While he showered, food cooked on the stove, timed to perfection so that as soon as he finished dressing, the stew would be ready. Scarfing that down without care of manners or discretion or the need to hide his face was a truly vitalizing feeling.
Always one for multitasking, (reading and fighting was another one of his specialties), he picked up after himself as he ate, loading the washer with muddied clothes and removing expired foodstuffs from his fridge and cupboard. (As the years passed since he was classified as a jounin-sensei, he'd steadily accepted more and more work that led him out of the Fire Country, and so the amount of perishables lining his shelves decreased with it).
Finished with those, he'd brushed his teeth with spearmint toothpaste, brushed his hair exactly eleven times, (the man had a slight obsessive-compulsive disorder, and preferred odd numbers when he could), and downed a shot of reliable sleep medicine, enough to knock him cold for several hours. (Truth be told, Kakashi had trouble sleeping. In the rare times he could without medicine, he overslept. Sometimes, there was more truth in his tardy excuses than people gave him credit for).
Upon waking, Kakashi became a new man; almost literally. He forsook his mask and in the morning rays of the burgeoning sunrise reflected in his bathroom mirror, he shaved his face clean of stubble, slapped on some peppery after-shave, and spent a good half-hour working his hair into the relaxed mess that conveniently would disguise his Sharingan eye and scar. While he worked with the tangled mess of rough hair, he dusted it with a water-resistant powder that would only remove itself should he activate his chakra with the right hand signs. It turned his hair from its distinctive silver to a light sheen of golden blond.
Dressing in a form fitting blue turtleneck and denim jeans, he looked startling different than what he usually did, (skinnier without the bulky vest, shorter without the padded footwear, and the jeans made his legs stretch in an attractive way). His smile was brilliant as he practiced it in the mirror, (Kakashi did actually have to practice smiling in the mirror to work out kinks in his jaw that people never noticed when masked), his hair seemed smoother and brighter, and his visible eye seemed to shine just a little more with life and possibility.
Unmasked, the jounin wasn't startlingly handsome or anything, regardless of the rumors that floated around. Cover an apple with a napkin, and people get curious; they begin to question and guess before exaggerating rumors to elephantine proportions, turning it into a pumpkin. However, at the end of the day, it would still be an apple, (not even a tasty red apple; just a slightly bruised one with a small hole in it from a worm). It was the same with Kakashi's face; it wasn't special, there were no odd growths, no distinct scars, (not including the small bump on his chin he got when he fell from a tree as a small child and skinned it, too stubborn to tend to the wound), and it was not exceedingly beautiful or handsome, (of which he was kind of thankful, because he'd always thought that 'ruggedly handsome' was a title deserving only to fictional porn-stars in his literature).
Around puberty, he stopped looking entirely like a miniature of his father, and his features grew out to have a touch of the softness of his mother, (he had her nose and high cheekbones, or at least, that's what he liked to think). It was enough that he could stop hating his reflection and it was then he decided he could use his other identity, as it were, to his advantage. He could be normal for once, ('normal' being a subjective term in Kakashi's case).
Calling himself 'Sei Hansha', (a name the jounin felt was fitting and simple enough to remember), Kakashi was free. He walked outside, (barefoot because he actually liked the feeling of grit and sand between his toes when he wasn't on a mission), and whistled jovially to himself, (the theme song to the Icha Icha movie), noting, (as he always did with a certain jilt of joy in his gut), that no one spared him another glance, not even questioning his lack of foot attire. Ninja villages were always a touch more accepting in general to different levels of crazy, and Leaf was not the exception to the rule. (Gai was a prime example, as was Lee who followed him).
For about two years and a half years, (technically two years, seven months and twelve days; the jounin always had a firm grasp of times and dates, regardless of what his habit of being late led one to believe), Kakashi always walked to the same place when he had free time in his alter ego state. He went to the place of the nice chuunin-sensei, Umino Iruka.
While Naruto was off with the toad-sannin, Jiraiya, and Kakashi was working himself to the ground to compensate for the sudden lack of something in his life, (namely three sub-par, annoying brats that he may or may not have developed some affection for), Lady Tsunade had kindly given him a month off work, (mainly because of the fact he'd burned his chakra pathways with multiple depletions). Bored as he was, (banned from jutsu and any fun and theatrical shows of ninja prowess), Kakashi walked around the village as 'Sei', deciding to really discover the place that he was so vehement on protecting was like, but as a normal person, (it wasn't that bad, actually; a few karaoke bars definitely proved above par with entertainment and alcohol).
In one of the weapon stores that littered the village like fleas to a rat, Kakashi met Iruka bulk-buying several practice throwing knives, (all of which blunter than a butter knife), and blank sheets of paper to make exploding tags, (though they were good for paper airplanes, too). Somehow they struck up a conversation on the differing benefits of chakra thread to chakra wire, (both held a huge difference in use, especially in certain traps, not that many civilians understood that), and eventually led to Kakashi helping the other, smaller man carrying the shopping bags home, (from manners, because the bags weren't really heavy enough to require assistance), and then staying for a cup of tea, (black, because Kakashi couldn't stand milk and sugar residue left on his tongue).
Other topics filtered through, like favourite literature, (surprisingly, Kakashi's was poetry and Iruka's was horror, mainly because civilian horror writers were so wholly inaccurate on matters of blood, gore and human anatomy, that their works were like comedy to ninja), favourite food, (Kakashi liked raw eggplant in salads, to which Iruka shrugged and said that his was eating raw tomatoes like apples), pet peeves, (the chuunin hated odd socks with a passion, which made Kakashi laugh and say that he hated it when his socks matched), and the meaning of life, (Kakashi immediately blurted out "porn", to which the younger man snorted and then countered with "sex", quickly amended to "good, fucking, mind-blowing sex, that is").
Kakashi couldn't stay away, and returned soon after, (again, in the state without his mask and natural hair color). He liked being 'Sei' with Iruka because it really meant Kakashi could be himself. He didn't need to act, to conform to previous ideals on his character, and was able to relax and eat at a pace that suited him, (though the first day they ate lunch together, Iruka had been shocked out of his mind by how quickly the other man could eat; habits were, after all, difficult to break, without practice).
It made the jounin happy to know that ranks didn't matter in his unmasked state. Iruka would cuff him around the head and berate the older man when he was being stupid, ("In all my years, I have never seen anybody try to do that with a fucking fork!"), and would laugh at him when he was utterly ridiculous, (like when Kakashi accidentally washed his whites with the colours and all of his ivory singlets became a garish shade of pink).
However, Kakashi thought to himself, Iruka was special enough on his own. Who would have known what spunk the teacher had, (or what a nice ass he had when he turned around)? The man was funny, ('sadistic' could easily be another word to describe some of his pranks), smart, ('evil genius' was apparently too harsh, according to Iruka when presented with the title), almost as eccentric as he was, (to this date, Kakashi could not make the man keep his bowls and his plates in the same cupboard, no matter how many times he removed and rearranged his kitchen), and stubborn to a fault, (no matter how many times Kakashi said his toasted sandwiches tasted like dirt, Iruka made them the same way every time).
But it was good because Kakashi matched all those things and more, (stubbornness was something he claimed, too, and proved that every time he ate Iruka's toasted sandwiches without flinching), and they stayed in their own awkward balance that never completely teetered out of whack.
Dating turned out more natural than he thought it would be, (gossip in Mission Room lines always seemed to hold some measure of complaint to romantic companions), and Iruka was a very patient man when it came to Kakashi's odd timetable, (Kakashi would always say that he was a hired mercenary that didn't want to be a ninja, even though he was good enough to be one, to explain his erratic ebb and flow of missions, not to mention his knowledge of chakra and weapons). Sometimes, Kakashi worried that his 'Sei' persona wouldn't be enough one day, and that they'd break-up, (because Kakashi might have been a tough guy, but was prone to fits of insecurity like everyone else). Iruka certainly knew enough to see that 'Sei' was hiding something, (Kakashi always flinched when Iruka made a move to see under his low fringe, a habit soon broken and only questioned silently through their eyes).
'Sei' was Kakashi and a world without Iruka seemed so much darker for both sides of his life, (especially since the younger man could blush brightly enough to light a room, a little quirk that Kakashi exploited endlessly). He felt surprised every time they met on the street or the Mission Room and would talk casually, (about the weather, about Naruto, about general niceties that Kakashi knew irked Iruka to no end), with Kakashi as the famous Copy-Nin, mask and all. Iruka's polite and distant facade hurt a little, but lately there'd been an odd spark in his eyes that Kakashi couldn't explain, (after all, they didn't technically know each other, even though Iruka knew him so well without a mask; more than most people could claim).
They'd done well for over two years, and Kakashi was feeling hopeful, (three years was coming up soon, and he did so love odd numbers). However, he still questioned how Iruka would react if he knew that he was dating the jounin who had taken over his former students and enrolled them in an exam he felt they were not ready for? Since they were talking about moving in together, (Iruka complaining that Kakashi slept at his house so often, that he might as well move the hell in; turns out the chuunin noticed the clothes being sneakily added to closet for convenience's sake), Kakashi decided that enough was enough, and he had to lay everything in the open.
His life on both sides was a lie in one way or another, and he eventually concluded, (after much mental debate, turmoil, stress and general angsting that would make a Uchiha proud), that it wasn't enough to have Iruka as one, too.
The chuunin was lying in a small patch of sun near the window, when Kakashi entered, looking very comfortable on his stomach on a scratchy wool rug, (dressed only in a pair of not-tight-enough black shorts; Kakashi leered quickly before moving on). Iruka didn't look up, his eyes fixed on his book, (a title Kakashi recognized as one he had read before and mentally noted to talk about later, once the other man was done so he couldn't accidentally spoil anything), the music playing in the background, (techno-classical music that Iruka was all too oddly fond of), not loud enough to drown out the sound of the door opening and closing, (Kakashi with his own set of keys, of course), but Kakashi knew for certain that Iruka knew he was there when the smaller man bent his knee, foot in the air, and gave a little wiggle of his toes as way of greeting.
Pausing near the doorway, the last Hatake took in the scene before him, (literally; activating his Sharingan by opening his eyelid and allowing a small trickle of chakra to flare up to record the image). Iruka turned his head to 'Sei', (finally), and raised an eyebrow which practically screamed, "See something you like?" (The answer always being, "Hell, yes!").
Like usual, Kakashi couldn't keep the grin creeping up and overtaking his features. The action was smooth and he felt his features softening with happiness, (and he was thankful he practiced in the mirror because a smile just after a mission was always stiled and awkward and honestly quite terrifying otherwise). Kakashi the Copy-Nin was just as perverted as Kakashi's 'Sei', and so he licked his lips and leered at the chuunin again, (only making Iruka roll his eyes while his lips tugged up in a crooked smile of his own).
"So what brings you to my humble abode?" drawled Iruka as he turned a page, (he licked his thumb to do that, a habit the jounin noticed he did on every page divisible by five; thinking about it, they both had odd affinities to certain number requirements).
"Sex." Good to starting things out on a lighter note, Kakashi figured blithely.
"Don't need to state the obvious." Ahh, Iruka always had comebacks for whatever Kakashi threw at him. It was refreshing, and certainly more than engaging.
Shrugging, Kakashi moved closer and sat down on the couch, (all sprawled out with his leg slung on the arm rest, comfortable as anything; Iruka's worn old couch seemed to have the best dents and sunken parts for ideal lounging activities). "Shouldn't ask then."
"No, you haven't answered my question though. There's an air of tension around you; you're going to tell me something." The matter-of-fact tone of voice, instead of surprising, was turning the jounin on slightly, though this wasn't quite the time for such activities, (even though it sounded far too similar to his sexy teacher 'I-am-so-going-to-punish-you-with-a-ruler-and-bend-you-over-my-desk' voice).
"Want to guess?" Stalling, always a good tactic, when in doubt. (Who knows? Something might come and distract them, efficiently ridding Kakashi - momentarily, at least - of the burden of confessing).
"I've known for a long time now, there's no need to make it a big deal." Iruka ended the sentence with a heavy sigh a touch too dramatic to be taken seriously, but he closed his book and gave his full attention to the taller man.
One gray eye widened, and Kakashi moved on with caution. "What is it?"
Staring at him with a set expression, Iruka suddenly smiled and laughed, "You're gay."
"Very funny." An eye roll was always an acceptable reaction in such situations, (even though having one visible eye lessened the feel of the action).
"I thought it was." Shrugging, Iruka stretched and sidled up to Kakashi on the couch.
"Seriously, what do you think it is?" Kakashi was getting anxious, (which, if it got bad enough, he knew would lead to awkward hiccups interrupting his speech and he'd prefer to be without that).
Pausing, Iruka looked at him with an observing gaze, chewing his bottom lip as he pondered the question. "You're not breaking-up with me, because it's not that type of tension. You're not dying, though it's close with all those waves of anxiety pouring from you. I think you're going to tell me something awful that'll probably make me mad."
"You know me far too well." The Copy-Nin tried and failed to make light of the last comment, (Iruka's eyes flashed warningly, the brown darkening momentarily to black before returning to normal).
"Then spit it out." The pre-genin teacher sighed heavily, (as if waiting was causing him physical pain). "I want to get the angst and yelling over before chapter nineteen, okay?"
(Deep breaths, Kakashi reminded himself). If the jounin could kill people, he could do this, (yet another example of flawed logic), and the thought gave him the courage to blurt out, "I'm not who you think I am."
"So, you're not a funny, introverted, eccentric, sexy man who I happen to like?"
"Well, I am that, but, well, you see..." Kakashi wasn't sure where he was going with his sentence, and it trailed off weakly.
"You're trying to tell me that you aren't smart, adorable and utterly clueless?" Iruka was starting to smile broadly, (which was distractingly cute).
"Maybe not quite how I was picturing this conversation to go," Kakashi flashed Iruka a look, (one that seemed to silently complain and whine and question all at the same time), and groaned, "Can you stop interrupting? Please?"
"Fine, fine. Since you asked nicely." (Manners went a long way with Iruka, someone who dealt with rudeness on a day-to-day basis).
Taking a deep breath, Kakashi recited, "My name isn't 'Sei Hansha' and I'm not a mercenary-for-hire. But I haven't lied about anything else, I swear." (He'd practiced the speech in his head, but he was pretty sure that the words weren't meant to tumble out quite so quickly, or mush together to become something akin to a new language).
"Finally, Kakashi. Took you long enough." Iruka moved closer, and the warmth seeped through his thin clothes, seeming to touch every part of his body. (Vaguely, a apart of the jounin wondered whether it was some special bloodline limit of the teacher, before quickly casting the thought away; no one else would ever have such an amazing ability except Iruka).
"You knew? For real, you knew?" Two parts happiness with one part confusion and another part in a daze made the Hatake's tone come out wondering.
"For a while now. When I realized that your mission reports, along with your mission time frames and injuries lined up perfectly to 'Sei', not to mention the whole covering one eye deal, I figured your identity about five months ago." His words were important, (Kakashi knew they were), but with Iruka nuzzling his neck, he found it difficult to keep a train of thought on the same track.
"I'd have thought sooner," Kakashi finally gasped after a pause, (Iruka started suckling on his neck, and damn it, he was good). "And I imagined more anger and yelling and maybe even crying..."
"Well, yes. Initially, I was mad, (but I didn't cry, because Umino men do not cry), but then I understood why you did it." Pulling up from his comfortable position, Iruka planted a soft kiss on the other's forehead. "You jounin all are a little batty, but I like things a little crazy; keeps things fun. As for the length of time it took me to unravel your secret... Love makes people blind to faults, you nitwit."
"You love me?" Kakashi smiled, (a big, more natural grin that wasn't totally feral but bared his teeth almost threateningly).
"Yeah, and you love me. I have no other explanation as to why you could eat my toasted sandwiches every time I make them."
"So you do know exactly how awful they are!"
"Not quite; I like them, every one else usually spits them out. Not you, oddly enough. You soldier through them every time, complaining to the bitter end."
"Quite right then. Love makes us stupid." Kakashi wrapped his arms around the chuunin, (because he started to straddle his lap and Kakashi wanted to keep the man in place).
"Didn't it ever cross your mind that I'd be flattered to know you at your most real, most vulnerable; when you're not hidden by a mask or a cover or a title or some endless stream of rumor and lies?" questioned Iruka with real curiosity in his tone, (startling smooth and stable considering he started to grind their hips together; Kakashi damned his clothes).
"No," was all Kakashi could gasp out as he tightened his hold on the other. (From the sun, or maybe it was just him, but Iruka was warmer than usual).
"So silly over something so simple. And you wonder why I don't let you buy groceries for me."
"I thought it was because I bought everything in odd numbers, even when specifically not asked to do so."
"There's that, too," Iruka agreed before leaning down to kiss, (sweetly and innocently, quite the contrast to what his wandering hands were going).
"So... we're good?" As soon as he said it, he felt stupid, ('cause only Iruka could make Kakashi such an imbecile in such little time with so little effort).
"Yeah." A chuckle. "We're good. But lose the clothes and we'll be better than good in about fifteen minutes, if you catch my drift."
A/N: Hope you liked the story. I noticed as I was editing this, that it started off fairly serious, then went off into a lighter tangent. And dear God, I committed some serious bracket rape, notice that?
As for the reason why the title's in Japanese, I guess it sort of ties into the story. You probably thought the Japanese meant something really fancy, but it actually translates pretty simply. Same with Kakashi and the expectations to what's underneath the mask. It's hard to explain, but I hope you understand why I chose to do that.
I would really appreciate comments for this, because it's so out of my normal writing style... So, thanks for reading, and any feedback with be cherished!