I Like You That Way
Naruto walked over to where Kakashi was reading his Icha Icha under a tree.
Kakashi glanced at him.
Naruto was nervous and unsure of something. He stared at the ground, the way he used to when he had something really important to ask. "When you said you were finally starting to like me, and I freaked out, and you said you didn't mean it that way…" Naruto glanced up at him. "Did you mean it that way?"
"What way?" Kakashi asked nonchalantly. "When I said I didn't mean it that way, I was addressing the implication that I had not liked you up until that point. I was afraid that I had hurt your feelings, when such a thing was not necessary. Or intended. I am not the most demonstrative person, so my words got tangled up. Does that make sense?"
Naruto furrowed his brow and looked at the blades of grass waving in the wind. "Yeah…but that's not what I'm talking about."
Kakashi stood up rested his hand on Naruto's shoulder, tucking his book into his pocket. "What are you talking about?" Naruto was not the kind of person to concern himself with small problems. For Naruto to be upset, what was on his mind had to be earth-shattering. Therefore, Kakashi was concerned.
"If you like guys," Naruto said. "Or not."
"If I…" Kakashi chuckled, squeezing Naruto's shoulder. "I see."
Naruto raised his head and took in Kakashi's expression. Then he started laughing. "It's a pretty silly question, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is," Kakashi agreed.
"You can't be gay! You keep reading those Icha Icha stories Jiraiya writes," Naruto said. He kept laughing. "Of course you're not gay. A gay person wouldn't read Icha Icha."
"No, but a bisexual person might," Kakashi said. His voice didn't change, but his expression became deadly serious.
Naruto stopped laughing instantly. He looked at Kakashi with wary, wide-eyed confusion. "Huh? What's that?"
"A bisexual person is a person who likes both sexes equally," Kakashi said. "A person who could fall in love with a man, or a woman." He smiled, though it was a surely inappropriate smile for the context. "Or sometimes both at once."
"Uh…" Naruto's mouth fell open. He looked at Kakashi for a moment with blank horror, then let out a yell and stumbled back, out of range of Kakashi's hand. He pointed at Kakashi, shaking. "That's perverted!"
"Hmm," Kakashi said, which was neither an agreement nor a disagreement. "You think so?" He smiled. "You seem to think a lot of things are perverted."
"A lot of things are perverted," Naruto retorted.
"Is being in love perverted?" Kakashi asked.
That stopped Naruto cold. He had to think about it. "I don't know."
"If being in love motivates you to kiss someone, is that perverted?" Kakashi asked.
"How would I know?" Naruto demanded. "The only person I've ever kissed is Sasuke, and I didn't even want to! It was an accident!" He threw up his hands. "Honestly! Kissing that jerk twice and not getting to kiss Sakura-chan once. It's an outrage. It sucks!"
"And your desire to kiss Sakura-chan is not perverted?" Kakashi asked innocently.
Naruto flushed. "I…don't know…" He looked worried. "Maybe." Then he got angry all over again and pointed at Kakashi. "But you're just changing the subject! Are you one of those super creepy bisexual people you talked about?"
Kakashi stared at Naruto for a moment, taken aback. Then he hung his head. "Creepy?"
Naruto blinked. "Huh? What's the matter, Kaka-sensei?"
Kakashi slowly raised his head and pointed at himself. "I'm creepy?"
Naruto frowned, stroking his chin. "You're creepy in a lot of ways."
"Huh?" Kakashi's shoulders sagged in disbelief.
"You have silver hair, you never say much, you've only got one eye that's really yours, the other one is an Uchiha thing you never explained how you got, you're always reading porn and you don't seem to care much about anything." Naruto nodded. "Yeah, I'd say that's pretty creepy. I mean, you don't tell anybody what you're really thinking, and half the time when we think we're talking to you it's just a clone because you ran off and did something else."
Kakashi felt supremely cut down. "I always use a shadow clone when I have to leave on emergencies. I told you, a shadow clone shares their experiences –"
Naruto stroked his chin and frowned harder. "On the other hand, a lot of the things that make you creepy also make you cool."
Kakashi was confused all over again. He scratched his temple. "They do?"
"Your silver hair is really stylish, even if it's weird, and you have a super special top secret jutsu you keep in your eye, and being silent and not caring about other people seems to be the universal definition of what's cool," Naruto said. "Plus you're really loyal and you love us and would die to protect us, so it's like you're part of the family. And we couldn't live without you and you're the best teacher ever, so…"
Kakashi could tell Naruto had confused himself. "So…?"
Naruto sighed and stopped the intense thinking. "Maybe it's okay that you're gay. Or bisexual, or whatever you are. It's okay, because you're still you, and you're the same as when I knew nothing. You're Kaka-sensei, and that's that."
Kakashi felt unusually touched. Naruto had taken him off guard, as usual. "Thank you. That means a lot to me, Naruto."
Naruto smiled. "Yeah…well…" He studied the rustling leaves of the trees. "What if…Did you mean it that you liked me like that? That gay way?"
Kakashi knew he could solve all this with a lie, but that might not be the best solution. So he stuck it out. "What would you do if that were true?"
"I don't know!" Naruto protested. He looked at Kakashi with wide eyes. "How am I supposed to know what to do when that happens? I don't like guys!"
"What if you just said no?" Kakashi asked lightly. "No, I'm not interested, so please don't look at me that way?"
"Well – But – Then…" Naruto struggled, his brow furrowing. "Then we wouldn't be friends anymore. Or teacher and student, or whatever. Because it'd be uncomfortable. You can't stop liking me that way, and I can't stop not being interested. Then…Doesn't that put a damper on things? Wouldn't that damage the team? What about teamwork? What about being there for each other?"
"What about you and Sakura-chan?" Kakashi asked. "Does liking her and Sakura-chan not liking you in return cause a rift in your teamwork?"
Naruto looked stricken by the suggestion, but he thought about it, staring at the ground. "No…I guess when it really matters we're always there for each other. Our non-relationship is just something we joke about nowadays."
"Then it can be that way with us," Kakashi said gently. "If I did like you that way. You wouldn't have to be alarmed, Naruto. We'd just be comfortable with that. Because we'd know that neither one of us is going to cross our boundaries."
Naruto nodded, his brow furrowed in thought. "I guess so. Yeah. That makes sense." Then he looked at Kakashi in confusion. "So do you really like me that way, Kaka-sensei?"
"I…I don't," Kakashi said finally. "But if I were…to like somebody that way…I would not want you to reject me as your sensei."
"I wouldn't do that," Naruto objected. "Never!" He ran to Kakashi's side, hesitated, and then slowly wrapped his arms around Kakashi's waist. "I love you. No matter what – no matter what happens, I'll always love you. You'll always be my sensei. I can't give you up like that; you're one of my precious people."
Kakashi closed his eyes and desperately grabbed onto those words. "Thank you…Naruto." When Naruto didn't let go, he hesitantly raised a hand and ruffled Naruto's hair.
Naruto smiled up at him.
Kakashi wanted to kiss him.