"Ah, Kakashi, just the person I wanted to see," Tsunade said, giving the jōnin a hearty pat on the back and almost making him stumble.
Kakashi scowled, but most of the effect was lost in the mask that perpetually covered the bottom half of his face. "You ordered me to come here."
"That I did, that I did," she said cheerfully, wandering around behind her desk and sitting down. "Now, I have an extra-special mission for you."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. The way she said it set off all his warning bells, and somehow he didn't think that the mission being 'extra-special' meant it was an S-rank.
"I'm classifying it as an S-rank," she announced, forcing him to take back his thoughts, "And I will not accept failure. Is this clear?"
"What is the mission, Tsunade-sama?" he asked shortly. He may be completely loyal to his village, but he wasn't stupid. And there was no way he was going to agree to something that she was hedging around explaining clearly. It was probably a mission to settle a bet in her favour or something. He hoped it didn't involve his mask.
"You, my friend," she said, beaming, "Are going to be a father."
Kakashi's eyes widened, and he did the only thing any self-respecting ninja would do in his position. He whipped out a kunai, and stabbed himself in the arm. He swore as he watched the blood drip down to his wrist. Apparently he wasn't dreaming.
On to the next viable option, then. He brought his hands together and whispered, "Kai." Nothing happened.
Tsunade stared at him in alarm. "Perhaps that wasn't the best wording," she mumbled. "Kakashi," she said a little louder, "You haven't gotten anyone pregnant, as far as I'm aware."
Kakashi glared at her. "Then why would you say that?"
"What I mean was that the Elders have decided you need to be a father, to continue your bloodline. Because you haven't yet decided to start a family, they wish to force you into one."
"Oh, no." Kakashi shook his head forcefully, and took a step back. "No more Hatake's. I can't raise a child. I don't want one."
"Yes, we've figured out that you would be unable to raise a child on your own. That is why we've gone to great lengths to help you find your soulmate so you can reproduce as soon as possible. She will be able to take care of the brat for you while you are away on missions," Tsunade said calmly.
Kakashi stared at her in disbelief. "You want me to find a girlfriend, get married and have a child? How long are you giving me for this?"
"A week," Tsunade said, grinning at him. "It shouldn't be too hard. We've set everything up for you, there are eight willing participants."
"Participants?" Only the mask stopped Kakashi's mouth from falling open.
Tsunade nodded sagely. "Yes, participants. I saw it on civilian TV one time. You're the 'Bachelor' and girls fight it out to be your girlfriend, and at the end of the time allotted you pick one to marry. We picked kunoichi that we thought were compatible with you, and then asked them to come on the show. Everyone will be watching it, it should be fun."
Kakashi's eye narrowed dangerously. "Fun? You intend to bet on who I'm going to choose, don't you?"
"Of course!" Tsunade smiled happily at him.
"I refuse," he said flatly.
Tsunade sighed. "I thought you were going to say that, so I'll tell you this: you will not receive any missions at all until you complete this one which, by the way, you will get paid for if you complete it successfully. The money can go towards your honeymoon."
Kakashi stood very still. He didn't really have a choice now. He would go crazy if he didn't have missions to go on, and Tsunade knew that and had exploited it, the crazy bitch. "Fine," he seethed, "Show me who I'm supposed to date."
Tsunade handed him a piece of paper gleefully. She didn't expect Kakashi to fall in line properly and actually marry and impregnate any of the candidates like the elders wanted him to, but she didn't really care about that. It was just fun watching the brat squirm.
"These cannot be people you think are 'compatible' with me," Kakashi said in disbelief. "Anko is certifiably crazy, and Hyūga Hinata is sixteen for Kami's sake. I am not going to have sex with a teenager."
Tsunade shrugged. "Well, her father insisted that she be included. He's probably right, from a purely logical point of view. A Hyūga-Hatake child would be a great asset to this village."
Kakashi rubbed his forehead tiredly. "What if I don't like any of them?" he asked, defeated.
"Then you make the best out of a bad situation," Tsunade said firmly. She softened her voice a little. "Look, brat, I know you're looking at this as something you don't want to do. But you're thirty, which means you're getting on in years, particularly for a shinobi of your status. So see it as a bit of fun. You might just find the girl you want to settle down with, you never know."
Kakashi personally couldn't see himself settling down with anyone, but he kept his mouth shut. The short silence that resulted made the following crash all the more noticeable, and three eyes swiveled to the door as a harried looking chūnin staggered in under the weight of a gigantic stack of papers. Unaware of the eyes on him the man dropped the stack on the Hokage's desk, brushing the strands of hair that had dared to stick to his face out of his eyes. "Apologies, Hokage-sama," he mumbled, "But I think I broke a vase."
Tsunade's eyes lit up as she focused on the man in front of her. "Iruka-sensei," she purred, ignoring what he'd said, "School has finished for the year, has it not?"
Iruka looked startled. If Kakashi hadn't been mourning his own unhappy predicament he would have felt sorry for the chūnin, because Tsunade had the same look in her eyes now as she'd had when detailing his unfortunate fate to him. "H-hai, Hokage-sama. I have a lot of mission room and paper work to do while I am not teaching."
Tsunade flapped a hand at him nonchalantly. "Someone else can do all that boring stuff. I have a new mission for you."
Kakashi coughed, trying to remind her that he was still in the room and he hadn't finished talking to her. She frowned at him. "This involves you too brat, so be patient."
Iruka glanced over and noticed him for the first time. "Uh, Hokage-sama? I'm a chūnin. I don't think I'd be capable of going on a mission that Hatake-san has been selected for."
Tsunade snorted and shook her head. "On no, not this mission. This mission you were practically born for. You have all the qualities it needs." She ticked them off on her fingers. "One, you're nice, and everybody likes you. So you'd be able to handle being in the same room with Kakashi for long periods of time. And two, you're gay, which means you won't hit on all the girls and you must have splendid taste in fashion."
Kakashi looked at the chūnin curiously at the mention of the last point. He'd never considered that the mousy-looking-but-with-a-hot-temper man that looked after the missions desk would be interested in men. Though to tell the truth he'd never really thought about Iruka much at all.
Iruka had turned a fine shade of red and was pinching the bridge of his nose so hard it looked like it hurt. He knew better than to question his leader but this was personal. "Firstly, how do you know what my sexuality is and secondly, why would it ever be important on a mission?"
Tsunade shrugged like it didn't really matter. "It's in your file. I'd have to say it's a shame though, Sensei. A lot of women would want to have you as their baby daddy. A lot more than those who want Kakashi over here."
Iruka stared at Kakashi, puzzled as to what the obvious jab was for. The jōnin stared back blankly, amused by the way his nose crinkled in his confusion. Eventually Iruka blushed and turned back to Tsunade, embarrassed that he'd just been staring down a senior trying to find answers for something that was none of his business. "What is this mission actually about, Tsunade-sama?" he asked politely.
"We're having a competition of sorts," Tsunade explained. "The winner of which will get Kakashi's hand in marriage."
Iruka glanced at the jōnin to see what he thought about this but he just slouched there looking as bored as ever. "But I don't want Hatake-san's hand in marriage," he protested.
Kakashi's eye widened slightly and Tsunade laughed. "You're not a candidate, the ones working for his hand are all female. I want you to help organize the brat so that he gets to where he needs to be on time, and pick clothes for him so he looks decent for his dates. I am trusting your reliable instincts for this, Iruka-sensei."
"I… guess so?" Iruka glanced once more at Kakashi, wondering again what the silver-haired nin thought about all of this. It was definitely the weirdest mission he'd ever been ordered on.
"Good, it's all sorted then!" Tsunade clapped her hands and trust a sheaf of papers at Iruka. "Your mission starts now, you can go together." Neither of them moved. Tsunade shook her head at them irritably. "Off you go now, shoo."
Iruka walked slowly out of the room, staring at the file in his hands. What had he done to deserve this? He didn't know Kakashi all that well on a personal level, but from what Naruto said about him (and he said a lot) he was a lazy perverted bastard. Going by that and his own experience of the man his mission of getting Kakashi to go anywhere on time and dressed properly would be quite a difficult one. And given that it would all take place within the confines of Konoha it would probably be D ranked so he'd get minimal pay for it. He groaned without thinking.
Kakashi peered over his shoulder to look at the file. "There's no need for you to sound so put out by this," he said conversationally. "You're not the one who has to come out the other side with your soulmate and future all planned out." His voice was strangely devoid of emotion but the bitterness was clear in his words.
Iruka blushed and cursed that it happened so easily. He hadn't thought about it like that. As far as things stood between them he was getting off relatively easy. "I'm sorry, Hatake-san. I didn't realize you were opposed to this. You seemed so… relaxed in there."
Kakashi shrugged, easily keeping in step beside him. "Maa, there's not too much point getting all hyped up about something I can't change. Also, seeing as we're going to be living together for the next week you should probably call me Kakashi."
Iruka made a strangled sound. "Living together?"
Kakashi pointed to the file. "Apparently you, me, and all my possible future wives are going to be holed up in the Uchiha section of town for the next week or," he frowned over the paper, "Until I make my decision. Crap."
Iruka flipped a couple of pages only to verify that they were indeed expected to stay in the Uchiha compound. Something to do with 'privacy,' a word that made him nervous in these circumstances. A brown envelope was stapled to the last page with the words 'Kakashi's clothing fund' on the front. Iruka opened it to be confronted with more money than he could ever remember seeing at once. "This is more than I make in a month," he gasped.
Kakashi examined the envelope. "Then you're definitely underpaid," he remarked.
"Why would you need this much money for clothes, though?" Iruka wondered. "Don't you have anything suitable at all?"
"I find that my uniform is acceptable enough clothing for anything I do." Kakashi sighed. "But I'm guessing that Tsunade-baka wants me to wear something fancy."
Iruka grabbed his arm, forcing him to stop walking and spin around to face him. "You can't refer to our Hokage like that – hey, what happened to your arm?"
Kakashi looked down at his arm absently. "I can refer to our darling Hokage as whatever I want, considering what she's forcing me into. As for the arm, I got bitten by a shark."
"Ha-Kakashi-san, I'm serious." Iruka frowned. "Even if you won't tell me what happened, you need to do something about that wound."
Kakashi waved him off. "It's just a little scratch. I'd forgotten it was there, really."
Iruka growled, actually growled like a dog, and swept the jōnin's sleeve up his arm past the wound without asking for permission. Kakashi almost jerked back at the touch. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had been so forward with him, as even the medical staff had a healthy fear of his abilities. They tended to hang back even when he was half-dead from chakra depletion.
The chūnin reached into a pocket of his flak jacket and pulled out a scroll, summoning a large box with it. "It's a first aid kit," he said to Kakashi's questioning glance. "Needed much too often when I make the stupid decision of combining pre-genin with sharp objects."
Kakashi nodded. He'd never heard of something like that being summoned, but it was logical in not only a classroom situation. It seemed the chūnin was resourceful as well as fearless. When the cut had been cleaned, gauzed and wrapped Iruka looked back at the mission file, returning the first aid kit to the scroll. "It looks like we're expected at the Uchiha compound at seven, and after that we're not allowed to leave. So we have," he squinted at the sun, "Around about six hours to get you suitable clothes for the week and pack up whatever stuff we need from home."
Kakashi let out a long-suffering sigh. "Do I have to go shopping with you? I can just go home and you can pick me up at six fifty-five with whatever you want me to wear."
Iruka looked mildly offended. "Okay, maybe I'm just a paper-pushing chūnin and you're used to hanging around with more interesting and powerful people. But remember that I don't want to be doing this any more than you do. So the short answer is yes, you do have to go shopping with me. Otherwise I will pick out leather chaps and a cowboy hat and you'll be forced to wear them every night because Tsunade-sama will not let you wear your uniform."
Kakashi was stunned into submission.
In retrospect, he'd actually enjoyed shopping with the hot-tempered chūnin, if only because it was easy to get on his wick and make him either extremely mad or mortified.
"Sensei, do you think that girls prefer boxers, or briefs? Or maybe I could go commando," had worked particularly well, especially when he'd shaken his hips erotically. He was sure Iruka's blush had reached at least to his navel.
"I think I look sexy in tight briefs, they show off my package nicely," had gotten him dragged out of the store by his hair, Iruka muttering, "I hope they're so tight they cut off the circulation to your cock and it falls off."
"Oh such naughty words for a Sensei to say," he'd chided, waving his finger back and forth. Iruka just fumed at him.
On some level he'd known that he was on his way to seriously upsetting the chūnin, but on another he couldn't stop. Technically this was his last day of freedom, and being a complete dickwad made him feel slightly less doomed.
He may have gone a bit far in Haruko's Formal Wear by sitting through an hour of fitting for a formal kimono before telling the chūnin that he didn't need one because he still had his father's, and then forcing the poor man to get his own, choosing one off the rack in purple because "Hey, you're gay, right? And purple is a pretty damn gay colour."
Okay, so he definitely shouldn't have been forcing his unhappiness out on the chūnin. He was only trying to do his job after all, and before that he'd been doing pretty well with putting up with all the shit Kakashi handed to him. He'd been sending him wry, half-amused smiles all day and verbally sparring back almost as good as he got. But the look he gave at that comment was a mixture of anger and unhappiness, but mostly disappointment.
Iruka had taken the kimono from him anyway and disappeared to try it on without a word. He'd come back with it on, and Kakashi had wanted to say that he was sorry, that he was just tired and frustrated, but he couldn't because he'd never said it to anyone before and he didn't know how to now. Instead he whispered, "It suits you," because it did, although the sleeves were a little long. He couldn't help but think that the deep purple would make the near-permanent blush on the chūnin's cheeks all the more rosier.
Iruka had just given him a small, tight smile that was all sarcasm and no warmth and said, "Because I'm gay, right? Purple's my colour."
Kakashi found he missed the warmth. He could do nothing but shake his head in answer, a movement Iruka didn't see because he was talking to the sales clerk about pinning up the sleeves.
They'd gone to Iruka's pace next, to collect his stuff. He had a lot of stuff, and a lot of photos. He'd shoved clothes into his bag quickly and messily, as if he wanted Kakashi in his apartment for as little amount of time as possible. Kakashi searched diligently, but could not see photos of Iruka with anyone over the age of fifteen. It seemed that the man spent all of his time with children and that, along with the fact that the packet of condoms in the drawer beside his bed was still sealed (he wasn't snooping, he was merely checking out who he was dealing with) gave Kakashi enough reason to believe that he didn't have a boyfriend. That fact made him feel a bit better, for reasons he wasn't quite certain of.
"Are you done snooping around all my stuff?" Iruka asked, but the tone wasn't mad, as he'd expected it to be. Instead the younger man sounded resigned. "We're going to your place now. You'll have to tell me where it is."
He felt slightly nervous letting the chūnin into his home. He wasn't exactly anti-social, at least in more recent years, but his home was still a Kakashi-only space. Friends were for public places. But Iruka only stood patiently in the middle of his lounge-cum-kitchen without commenting. Somehow he knew that if he hadn't offended the man earlier he would have said something to make the air between them less awkward but it wasn't going to happen now.
He collected his father's black kimono from the chest in the bottom of his wardrobe, smoothing it out and blowing away the dust. He hadn't looked at it since he'd last seen the elder Hatake wearing it, some twenty-odd years ago. The kimono would give him memories to think about that, although less than pleasant, were more attractive than the ones living in the Uchiha compound would give him. He gritted his teeth. What was Tsunade thinking? He didn't need to be reminded of how he'd failed Obito, or how he'd done even worse with Sasuke.
Then there was a hand on his shoulder, shaking him, and he whirled around to grip the wrist tightly. Iruka didn't look afraid as he'd expected, just weary and determined. "You need to hurry up, Kakashi-san. We have to be at the compound in less than half an hour and you still need to get dressed."
Kakashi nodded and placed the kimono carefully into his bag. He tried to think with the mentality that the sooner he got there the sooner it would all be over, but that didn't quite work when he knew he was required to leave with a life partner.
He'd never been inside the Uchiha compound before. He'd never had reason to. While the Uchiha's had still been alive they'd looked down on him for wielding a sharingan they assumed was stolen and when they were gone no-one went there. It was much bigger than he'd realized, and they'd obviously cleaned up, stringing up lights to make it look almost like a mini-festival.
Kakashi scowled under the mask. Tsunade must have been planning this for a while, but had only told him at the last minute to make sure he wouldn't bolt. Damn that sneaky old hag.
He resisted the urge to scratch his butt. He was wearing a suit, of all the god-awful things, and Iruka had had the nerve to look slightly more cheerful when tying up the tie for him. "It matches your sharingan," he'd said helpfully, and Kakashi resisted the urge to punch him out of jealousy. The chūnin was still wearing his nice, comfortable uniform whereas he was dressed up in a stiff, scratchy suit.
"I feel like a trained monkey," he whined, then snapped his mouth shut instantly. He didn't actually want Iruka to pity him, not that the chūnin would, considering how he'd been acting all day.
"Well, you're going to have to act like one soon, so get used to it," Iruka had said, tying a black silky thing in the place of his hitai-ate. It felt weird on his skin. Then he'd leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially, "It's only a few hours, and then you can take it off and wear whatever you want. Sharingan no Kakashi should be able to do it, ne?"
He'd felt stupid for complaining. But now he was here and he was expected to choose the woman of his life from a short lineup. And there were cameras right up in his face. He'd never felt so nervous, or so uncomfortable. He wanted to run back to his little bland apartment and lock himself away alone for the rest of his life. That sounded a lot better than this.
"Hatake Kakashi, the man of the hour has arrived!" Tsunade was crowing, and he twisted around to ask Iruka what he was meant to do but the chūnin had deserted him. "He has seven days to choose one of these beautiful ladies to be his partner for life. Who will that lucky lady be? Place your bets now, and follow closely!"
She was standing on a new wooden stage – an obvious design of Tenzou's - with the eight Kunoichi she'd chosen standing in front of her. Kakashi shoved his hands in his pockets. Iruka hadn't let him wear his gloves or bring any weapons and he felt almost naked without them.
"Come up here, Kakashi," Tsunade was saying, and waving him forward with a wildly large hand gesture. As he got closer he could see why she was so exuberant about the whole deal. Someone had obviously been into the Secret Sake Stash and may have become a little tipsy. "Ah, true love," she exclaimed, crushing him to her bosom. "You look so handsome, Kakashi-kun."
He tried to wriggle out of her grip with no result until a familiar gruff voice said, "Tsunade-sama, you need to save some for us. You're not actually in this competition."
Shit. Tsume? Inuzuka's and their inherent touchy-feely gene made him incredibly uncomfortable, and this situation was even worse. He felt like a tasty piece of meat being fought over by dogs and vowed that he would never again set foot inside a strip club.
Inuzuka Tsume's hair was as wild as usual, and she wore a more than slightly creepy grin on her face. The dress she was wearing was floor-length, but that didn't mean it was modest. The slit in the side of it went up past her waist and that was enough to tell she wasn't wearing anything underneath it.
"Tsunade-sama," Kakashi said, backing away slightly and only just managing to keep the panic out of his voice, "What am I supposed to be doing?"
"Enjoying yourself, brat!" She thumped him on the back so hard he thought he heard his teeth rattle. "You have fifteen minutes one-on-one with each woman from now. Start with Tsume, as she's so keen."
And then he was being dragged off to a secluded area. It was probably supposed to be beautiful and romantic, with the space only being lit by small paper lanterns and candles, but he was feeling more creeped out than anything. Especially with the camera thrust in his face like that. His brain was shouting, too much invasion of personal space! Get out of here! but he shoved the feeling down. He didn't have a choice but to go through with this.
Tsume grinned at him, and he was almost certain she had fangs. "Kakashi-san," she growled, "How would you like to become one of the pack?"
He caught a glinting in the shadows and realized with a sick sense of fascination that she had brought her ninken Kuromaru with her. "I already have my own pack, Tsume-san," he said carefully. "Aren't you supposed to talk about more casual things on a first date?"
"Oh, I don't do dates very well, Kakashi-san," Tsume admitted, "But it's mating season, and I could do with another litter of pups."
"Litter?" Kakashi felt suddenly quite lightheaded. One child was more than enough, thank you. He'd dealt with a litter of puppies before and he could only imagine that human babies would be even more troublesome.
"Oh yes, you'd produce some fine children."
Kakashi backed up slowly and quite purposefully so he was back at the stage. "Next, please," he called out, his voice betraying very little of his nerves.
When Mitirashi Anko dropped down in front of him he almost wished he had Tsume back. Almost. "I'll bet you're not afraid to experiment in the bedroom," the purple haired kunoichi purred, and he wondered if that was a pick up line that many people used. He was suddenly very glad Iruka hadn't followed through on buying those leather chaps because he had the feeling Anko would really have appreciated them.
Her dress, if it could be called that, was made of leather and covered very little. Kakashi coughed lightly and directed his eyes away, but not too far. He'd have to catch her if she made a grab for the mask, which was a given in any situation. "So, uh, what do you like doing in your spare time?"
"I'm very flexible." Anko smiled and lifted a leg into the air, showing much more skin than was necessary. "And I like dango. I'd like it a lot more if I got to lick it of a set of sexy abs like I just know you're sporting." She licked her lips with a creepily long tongue that was in no way seductive.
Kakashi shuddered internally. He didn't have a food fetish, or any other kind of fetish really, and he didn't really want to think of the other things Anko might be into. She told him anyway. "I like chains and whips and chakra cuffs. I think you'd be good with a whip."
He didn't think he could make fifteen minutes. "Next?"
Anko scowled at him, and at Kurenai who had appeared beside her. "I'm not finished. I get fifteen minutes, remember?"
Kurenai looked from Kakashi to Anko then back again. "Maybe you should try again tomorrow," she said gently to the tokubetsu jōnin. "Try a different approach."
Tsunade lifted Anko up and hauled her, still scowling, back onto the stage. "Kakashi-san decides the rules," she announced.
Kakashi rolled his eyes. "If it were my rules, I wouldn't be here," he muttered, and Kurenai smiled at him.
"I thought that would be the case," she said softly. "Do you want to go sit down to talk?"
Kakashi nodded, and followed the hypnotic sway of her red dress to a table away from the stage. He liked Kurenai well enough. If it came down to it she might be his best choice, to spend the rest of his life with a friend. At least he could stand her.
"You look pretty shaken," she observed.
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Have you ever been hit on by Anko? Or Tsume, for that matter? I swear neither of them would know subtlety if it hit them in the face. Which it wouldn't, because it's subtlety." He sighed, and rested his chin on his hand. "How are you holding up, with the baby and all?"
Kurenai gave him a genuine smile. "Hiru-chan's looking just like his daddy. I still miss Asuma often, but I am grateful every minute that he managed to give me this wonderful gift in his child before he died."
Kakashi stared down at the tablecloth. "If you don't mind me asking, why did you sign up for this? I know that you don't love me, and I doubt you'll ever like me as more than a friend. So, why?"
Kurenai sighed. "You know as well as I do that you're not going to get somebody to love out of this. If you do, it'd be a miracle. Asuma was the one for me, the only one. I'm not going to find somebody else that will replace him, so I thought that if you needed the option, I'm here for you as a friend if you need it. You would be the strong father figure I want for Hiruzen, and I would be your baby-maker. It's a trade, of sorts."
Kakashi nodded, thoughtful. "I don't think I'd be the best father," he admitted.
"You would learn," Kurenai said adamantly. "And I know that you would not treat Hiruzen any different than you would your own child, and that's what is important."
"But would you?" Kakashi asked bluntly. "I know it means a lot to you to have Asuma's child, and I don't think any child of mine would ever be able to match up in your eyes."
Kurenai lowered her gaze to the tabletop. "I think I could do it. I don't like to believe that I would be able to love any child of mine any less than another, no matter who the father is. She would still be my baby."
"Thank you. I don't think it would be the best option for you but… I will keep it in mind."
"It's not a problem, Kakashi." Kurenai smiled at him and he could see why Asuma had fallen for her. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all. "Are you ready to talk to your next suitor? Anko and Tsume will kill me if I end up with more time with you, and the sooner you get through everyone the sooner you can get out of those clothes, right?"
"Maa, that makes sense," Kakashi said, nodding. There was nothing he wanted more than to take off the ridiculous suit and slip back into his uniform. "I'll talk to you later?"
"Good luck, Kakashi."
His next suitor was as direct as Tsume but slightly less… overbearing. Kakashi squinted at her. "Aren't you from Suna?"
The girl had her hair pulled up into four sandy blonde ponytails and he thought it looked ridiculous. But at least she didn't look like she'd dressed up to meet him. Now that he looked, she was wearing a Suna hitai-ate around her neck and what seemed to be her usual battle dress.
"I am Temari," she said shortly. "My brother is the current Kazekage. If we were to be joined in marriage it would form an even stronger bond between our villages."
Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "How old are you?"
"Nineteen," she replied. "But I am mature for my age."
"And you have already given up on finding love?"
"My village comes before anything."
"It's not really necessary, you know. Konoha and Suna are on relatively good terms, thanks to Naruto," Kakashi said. He tried not to think about how he'd probably had the same mindset when he'd been nineteen.
"I realize that. It's not my only reason."
"You're attractive, strong, and would make good children."
Kakashi pointed at the mask that covered the majority of his face. "How do you know I'm attractive?"
Temari shrugged. "You look like you have well-defined cheekbones, a strong chin. And as a jōnin you obviously have a well-toned body."
Kakashi felt slightly out of place discussing his physical appearance. He tended to avoid thinking about what he looked like whenever he could. "So, you would stay in Konoha then? Sand irritates my skin."
He tried not to think about the fact that he was questioning her about becoming his wife. She had qualities he liked in a fellow shinobi, but she was still just a kid really. And he definitely didn't feel that 'spark' that you were supposed to feel when you found your one true love.
"Yes, I would be sort of an unofficial ambassador for Suna located in Konoha."
Kakashi sighed. All these women seemed to be going about this the wrong way. It wasn't as if he were an expert in the dating field but still, even he knew that this wasn't how first dates were supposed to go. "Well, what do you like to do in your spare time?" he asked. Isn't that usually how you got to know someone?
"Well, when I'm not fighting I have a little bit of a thing for flowers." Temari blushed lightly as she said it, embarrassed about showing such a feminine side, and Kakashi watched with interest. "I collect and press them, and I'm interested in Hanakotoba. I guess it's a little girly."
"Not at all," Kakashi said. "Hanakotoba is a very interesting practice and should be used more often. It can be very useful, as is knowing the difference between plants and flowers when you are out on a mission."
Temari glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, lashes downturned and smiling shyly. Kakashi wanted to kick himself for being so stupid. He hadn't meant to turn her into a simpering mess; she was better as the hardened Kunoichi.
"Oi, give someone else a turn." Anko was scowling at Temari, obviously jealous that the younger girl had gotten more time with Kakashi than her. "Don't monopolize the hunk." She batted her eyelashes coyly at Kakashi.
"Alright, alright, have your next one," Tsunade said, pushing a woman he didn't recognize towards him. She seemed a lot drunker than she had been in the short time before.
The woman had black curly hair and glasses he couldn't see through, and she was wearing a pink kimono. "Hatake Kakashi-san," she said, and her voice was painfully quiet. "I am Suzume."
"And you're from Konoha," he asserted, a little unsure after having been faced with Temari.
"Yes." She gave a barely perceptible nod. "I teach at the academy."
"You are a chūnin then?" He didn't know why Tsunade would pick a chūnin for him, and he got the feeling she'd just drawn names out of a hat to see who'd be the most interesting.
"Hai." She smiled nervously.
"And what makes you want to be in a relationship with me?" Kakashi asked. He really didn't know any of these women well, and he was honestly confused as to why they'd want to be with him.
"You're mysterious and handsome," she said in the same, quiet voice. "I feel like I need a little bit of excitement in my life, and you'd help with that, right, Kakashi-san?"
Excitement wasn't the first word he'd use to describe what he did. He spent most of his time on missions, came home bloody, and spent the rest of his time reading Icha Icha or tormenting Tenzō. "It would certainly be a change for you," he conceded.
"A change is what I need at this point in my life," Suzume said. "That is why I came here." She pushed a lock of hair behind her ear and smiled shyly.
The fact that all the women who were participating in this had no interest in his personality and only wanted him for his strength and apparent good looks made him a little mad. He was being reduced to simply being a shinobi again and he didn't like it. "I hope you get your change," he said simply, and then stared at Tsunade until she got the hint and thrust the next girl at him.
Hinata stumbled and he barely had time to try and catch her before she crashed into his chest, almost immediately pulling away and taking on the appearance of a ripe tomato. "I am s-so sorry, Kakashi-sensei," She said, eyes on the ground. "I hope you don't think badly of me."
Kakashi pulled out a chair at a nearby table and gestured for her to sit. "Hinata, why would I think badly of you?"
She didn't sit in the chair but rather perched on the edge of it. "I fell. I am graceless and a failure as a Kunoichi."
Kakashi frowned. He had the niggling feeling that she was just repeating something that had she had been told many times. "I've seen you fight, Hinata. You are anything but graceless. You just need to work on being more sure of yourself, that's all."
"I…" she didn't really seem to know where to go with it. "Thank you, Kakashi-sensei."
"You can't call me sensei if there's a chance we could get married," Kakashi said, cracking a smile.
Hinata looked nothing short of terrified. "I don't want to marry you!" she burst out, then covered her mouth with her hands, eyes wide. "Please don't kick me out of the competition, Kakashi-sensei."
"Don't worry, there's practically no chance of me choosing you," Kakashi said, before realizing it sounded much too harsh. "Because of your age, of course. I'd feel like a pedophile. But if you don't like me like that, why are you in this… thing?"
"My father," Hinata choked out. "He doesn't approve of Naruto, but he thinks you would be a good choice for a husband. I don't want to get married, but – but if I get kicked out of the competition this early he'll only say that it proves how weak and worthless I am."
"Ah." Kakashi had never liked Hyūga Hiashi. Hinata, though a lot different character-wise, reminded him of his own childhood, being expected to perform everything perfectly. "I promise to keep you in for as long as possible, okay? Spend the time you're here thinking of ways to talk to Naruto. That boy's so thickheaded he won't know you like him until you tell him straight to his face. And," he leaned forward to whisper in her ear, "I think you'll find he has family roots that even a Hyūga can't complain about."
Hinata blushed at the close contact. "T-thank you, Kakashi-sensei."
He gave her a shut-eye smile. "No problem, Hinata-chan."
Tsunade gave a loud gasp behind him, and faced the camera. "What dastardly secrets did our hero whisper to the beautifully blushing Hyūga? Is this promise all just a front for a blossoming romance? Stay tuned for the next episode of -"
"Ano, Tsunade-sama?" Izumo peered out from behind the camera. "Kakashi-san hasn't finished talking to all the girls yet. And have you seen Kotetsu?"
He looked around for his fellow cameraman and found him with his camera through a hedge directed up at the high hemline of Anko's skirt. Fuming, he dragged his friend away. "She will kill you if she finds out you're doing that, Ko."
Kotetsu was blurry eyed when he finally turned to acknowledge Izumo. "I think she's not wearing underwear, 'Zu."
Izumo growled. "If we're getting paid to ruin Kakashi-san's life you could at least do it in a dignified manner, Kotetsu."
"Right, right." He readjusted his camera and pointed it back towards the silver-haired jōnin who appeared to be getting molested by a drunken Shizune.
"I've always thought you were hot, Kakashi-sama," she purred, and Kakashi blinked twice at the sama part. No freaking way. Shizune was on his lap looking like she was about to get freaky. "Your mysterious jōnin ways. I want to see your mysterious jōnin face."
"No way." He couldn't push her off, because Tsunade would get angry and when Tsunade got angry things got broken. Important things, like his bones. But if Shizune deemed it okay to sit on his knee then Anko and Tsume would be fighting for the next turn, and that wouldn't be pretty. "Could you, perhaps, back off a little?"
Shizune stood up, swaying slightly, and pouted. "Am I not good enough for you?"
"This is a first date," he reminded her.
Shizune flapped a hand carelessly. "Oh, but I've loved you forever."
"Next, next!" Kakashi shouted. Declarations of love were not something he needed to hear. It was almost worse than being outright groped.
Shizune was pulled away from him and a new woman silently took her place. He was almost afraid to look up. "Kakashi-san," she said softly, and he had to look.
He'd recognize that purple hair anywhere. "Yūgao-san," he replied dipping his head slightly in respect. He'd never considered dating another who was in ANBU. They were too unstable, too broken. "Sit, and tell me why you're here."
She sat. "Since Hayate passed I've been drowning myself in work, and you know very well what kind of work it is and what it does to people."
It was true, and he could notice it now. She was thinner than when he'd last seen her, her lips pulled downwards in a state of permanent unhappiness.
"I want out, but to get out I need something to replace that. A baby would work, I think, which is why I'm here with you. I doubt you want a relationship with anyone, Kakashi-san. I know that you hate letting people close. But I'm willing to have a purely physical relationship with you if it gets me a child."
"Well, you'd definitely have your hands full with a Hatake child," Kakashi said, crinkling his eye shut in a curved smile to hide just how lost he felt. "They're all supposed to be geniuses."
"Any child of yours will be a genius," Yūgao said simply. "And yes, they'd be the perfect distraction. I would devote my whole life to them."
Kakashi thought that that didn't sound particularly healthy but as he'd devoted a large chunk of his life to serving in ANBU he couldn't really judge. Looking after a child seemed like a much better addiction than killing people, really.
"That's all I really wanted to say," Yūgao said. "It doesn't matter what your likes and interests are, or what mine are. Think of it as a partnership."
She got up and moved away, leaving Kakashi feeling completely nonplussed. "That's it for the interesting life and times of Hatake Kakashi!" Tsunade said, giggling madly into the camera. "Tune in tomorrow for more fun times with the Copy-nin and his lovers."
Kakashi rolled his eyes and slouched away before anyone noticed. He'd never felt so utterly and completely drained, and from eight short conversations no less. "Izumo-san," he whispered, approaching the more reliable cameraman, "Do you know where I'm supposed to be sleeping?"
Izumo pointed to a building on the left. "Up the stairs, first door on your right," he whispered back. "Why are we whispering?"
"So those mad fangirls don't realize I'm gone," Kakashi whispered back, and hightailed it to the building Izumo had indicated.
"Door on the right, door on the right," Kakashi muttered as he went up the stairs, and kicked the first door he saw open. He frowned. "That can't be right."
There were two futons in the room, and one was currently occupied. Umino Iruka was splayed out on top of the mattress with papers scattered around him, snoring gently. Curious, Kakashi picked up a sheet of paper and stared at it. 9am, chakra control briefing. 10am special guest quiz. 11:30am taijutsu lecture. He shook his head. The man had been giving a mission and he'd brought more work for himself to do whilst on it? He had to be insane.
Kakashi stared at the younger man and sighed, beginning to pick up all the papers and pushing them into a semi-tidy stack. When he was done he eased the blanket out from underneath Iruka, who muttered something unintelligible, and draped it over his shoulders. He owed him at least that much for being such an asshole all day.
He was too tired to find out if he was really supposed to be here or if he had his own room so he just flopped down on the unoccupied futon anyway, and shut off all thought from the day to his brain. Tsume by herself would be enough to give him nightmares, and he didn't want Iruka to think that the fearsome Copy-nin cried in his sleep.