This story is a gift for my dear friend Taryn Streambattle.
Not only is she a wonderful person, Taryn is one of my favorite writers. I highly recommend her work.
Upon taking up the pen for her gift, I ventured into a genre that heretofore I've left mainly unexplored: romance.
Don't worry, I latched onto the familiar security-blanket of humor while taking this journey.
"Take it easy there; I didn't ask for an assassination!" Iruka reprimanded, gripping the other's shoulder before he could cause more damage.
The younger nin paused, mid-stab, and gave the sensei a questioning look. "Well then, how am I supposed to do this?"
"Here, I'll show you."
Reaching over to wrap his hand over Konohamaru's, the sensei guided the blade over the green pepper, slicing it into strips. "A kitchen knife is handled differently from a kunai. It's not used for stabbing. Normally." Iruka qualified since, in a pinch, a kitchen knife was as good an improvised weapon as any.
"Well what do you expect? I'm a ninja, not a cook!" Konohamaru huffed defensively.
Iruka chuckled. "It wouldn't hurt you to be both."
He tipped the cutting board and scraped the vegetables into the pan, where pieces of beef were already sizzling. Iruka preferred taking his students out for Ichiraku Ramen rather than cooking. But a man can't live on ramen alone or, as Kakashi sardonically told him one day- "If you insist on getting half the kids in this village addicted to something, why not try vegetables?"
Konohamaru set the table while Iruka finished up the stir fry. Finally the food was ready and the genin took a bite. "Hmm. It's not as rubbery as the last time, Iruka sensei. You're getting better at this."
The chunin snorted. "Thanks…I think…"
The conversation turned to the boy's training and his new team while they ate. "We're getting really strong, Iruka-sensei," he boasted happily, "Too strong for those D-rank missions you keep giving us."
"Are you now?"
"We are!" Konohamaru insisted, growing louder as he exclaimed, "Tomorrow, when we go to the Mission Room, you better give us a real mission! We're ready!"
Iruka smiled at the boy. "I'm sorry, Konohamaru, but tomorrow I won't be giving you any missions. It's my day off."
"No way," the genin protested skeptically, "You don't take days off. And tomorrow's Saturday. What are you going to do if you're not teaching or in the Mission Room?"
"This might come as a shock to you, but I have things to do besides work."
"Like what?" Konohamaru pressed.
"I'll use the morning for fitness and chakra training," Iruka recounted, "Some laundry and chores later on. Unwind with a bit of reading after that. And then I'm spending the evening with a friend."
Konohamaru had listened to his intended plans with an unimpressed face, until he heard the word 'friend.' "Which one? Kakashi-sensei?"
"No. He's away on a mission."
"Kotetsu and Izumo?"
"Gate guarding duty."
"Genma? Or Raidou?"
"Then who? …It's not a gi-irl, is it?" Konohamaru teased. His sensei's face flushed slightly and the boy's jaw dropped. "It is a girl!"
"A woman, actually. Her name is Anko."
"You're going out on a date!"
"You don't have to sound so horrified."
"But…but you never…I mean…I never see you…"
"Konohamaru. That's enough," the sensei interrupted sternly, though he couldn't hide traces of amusement at the boy's confounded expression. "We were supposed to be talking about your training, not my social life."
"Yeah, but this is a big deal," the preteen insisted. "You actually got a girl to go out with you! Do you know what you're going to wear tomorrow?"
Iruka was about to dismiss the question and get the conversation back on track, when he hesitated. "My uniform. Why?"
"You can't just wear you're uniform," Konohamaru exclaimed.
"It's what I always wear," Iruka pointed out. "I don't see why I need to change that just for a date."
"Well it's no wonder you can't get a girlfriend." The genin snorted. "Where's your sense of style?"
"Ah, is that why you wear a twelve foot scarf?" He teased, reaching across the table to ruffle Konohamuru's hair. "So the girls can fawn over your fashion sense?"
Despite Iruka's outward dismissal, the boy's words did make him wonder. It wasn't too implausible to think that Anko, with her own flair in style, might find him boring in his standard issue uniform.
"Funny, sensei." Konohamaru crossed his arms. "You don't get how this works at all. When's the last time you even went on a date?"
The teacher frowned at the boy.
Jumping to his feet, Konohamaru grabbed his sensei's arm. "You'll need help if you're going to snag a second date. Let's check out your closet."
Crisp, navy blue uniforms clung on wire hangers. Older, more worn versions were stacked on the closet shelf. A hamper on the floor of the closet brimmed with the standard-issue gear. The only break in the line of navy blue was a set of funeral blacks, also standard-issue.
Konohamaru gawked incredulously. "You mean you really wear this all the time?"
"I believe I already told you that."
"But you don't have anything else?" he persisted. "Anything at all?"
The sensei sighed and rubbed his scar, considering whether to answer honestly. "I do have another closet," Iruka reluctantly admitted, "Where I keep clothes for undercover work. I haven't really worn them in years, but there is civilian gear in there."
The genin instantly brightened, snapping around and accidentally overturning the laundry basket. "Perfect! Then what are we waiting for?"
The teacher rolled his eyes, amused at the boy's honest enthusiasm to help, and led the way to his storeroom. Konohamaru's eyes widened as the door opened to reveal an enormous walk-in closet, filled with all manner of attire. Farmer's garb hung beside elaborate kimonos, sharp business suits, beggar's rags, and everything in between. "Now we're talking!"
Iruka sighed, leaning casually against the door frame while Konohamaru pawed through his collection. "I don't know if I like the idea of wearing something that's, basically, a disguise," he confessed. "It's like I'm trying to be someone I'm not. I just want her to like me for who I am."
"Like that's gonna work," Konohamaru muttered distractedly before grabbing up a hanger. "Aha! This is perfect."
"No." Iruka emphatically swiped his hand through the air, recognizing the old costume. "Just… no."
"Oh, come on! You'll look really cool." The boy wheedled, holding out an outfit that consisted mainly of leather and mesh, embellished by multiple belts. Iruka stared at him, one brow slightly arched in an expression that clearly broadcasted his disapproval.
"Why is it even in your closet if you wouldn't wear it?" At the sensei's protracted silence, Konohamaru decided to up the ante. "I dare you to wear it! I...I double-dog dare you!"
"'Double-dog dare?'" Iruka chuckled, shaking his head. "What am I, twelve?"
Konohamaru pouted, replacing the hanger with a disappointed grumble of "Boring."