Getting to Know You
Author's Note: The argument between Iruka and Kakashi about entering Team 7 in the Chunin Exam is only in the anime. In the manga, they never talk about it. So in this story there's been no disagreement between them.
Iruka was on his way home from the Academy. As he walked, he reflected on both the cute and infuriating things his students had done today.
Konohamaru was going to graduate this year, and he'd shaped up into an excellent candidate for a genin team. Of course, Konohamaru wanted to be on a team with his two best friends, and was already calling them a team. Iruka doubted it would be wise to split Konohamaru's fledgling team apart, but it wasn't a decision solely up to him.
Iruka walked past trendy cafés and clothing stores, traveling down one of Konoha's busiest streets. He cut across it in order to get to Matsu Avenue, a quieter residential street. He was only a few blocks from home.
"Iruka-san!" a voice shouted gladly.
Iruka turned around, quickly catching sight of Gai in his brilliant emerald green spandex. Gai waved. Iruka blinked and waved back. He and Gai didn't know each other that well, but he knew Gai because of the students he had assigned to Gai over the years after the final exam at the Academy level.
"Iruka-san, I have been looking for you in order to ask of you a most important favor that I would be eternally grateful for," Gai called. He gestured for Iruka to come closer.
Iruka respected Gai a great deal, so he trotted over at Gai's excited hand motions. He'd only been going home to grade papers, after all. "How may I help you, Gai-san?"
"In spite of my interjections to the point that I would be the most suitable person to take care of Kakashi while he recovers from the overuse of the sharingan, Godaime-sama insisted that I was urgently needed on the border," Gai said. He gestured at Kakashi dramatically. "Therefore I decided that you would be the most suitable person to take care of my Eternal Rival while I am away, Iruka-san."
Iruka looked past Gai. He hadn't even noticed the Copy Nin. But then he saw why. Kakashi was not standing, but sitting in a wheelchair. A pastel yellow blanket was swaddled around him. He forced an airy smile, but he was shivering. Kakashi looked singularly miserable.
"Kakashi-san," Iruka said blankly, unable to hide his shock. "Hello."
"Maa…" Kakashi studied Iruka for a moment with a vague look in his uncovered eye. "You're taller from here, aren't you? Like a giant. A giant Iruka on stilts."
Iruka was somewhat alarmed. Kakashi had always been businesslike and respectful to him. He looked to Gai. "Ah…are you sure he should be out of the hospital?"
"Fresh air is good for him," Gai declared. "What his body needs is to be out of the hospital and among people again! The reek of the hospital is definitely not conducive to my rival's recovery. Hospitals are singularly un-youthful."
Iruka hesitated. Then he sighed, crossed over from Gai to Kakashi, and got behind the wheelchair. He took the handlebars and pushed, rolling Kakashi down the street. "Well, he can't stay here in the middle of the street. It's freezing for him. The wind is blowing, and this blanket is not sufficient to keep him insulated."
Gai's smile shone brilliantly. "Thank you, Iruka-san! I knew you would be the man for the job!" He hugged Iruka tightly. "You'll take care of him the entire time I'm gone, won't you? It'll take me about a month."
"Thanks," Kakashi said casually. "I know you'll be gentle with me."
Iruka looked between the two of them, flustered. "Alright, already. If you won't go back to the hospital –"
"I won't," Kakashi said.
Iruka took a deep breath. "Then I would be happy to take care of you. Please allow me to take you into my home."
"Thank you very much," Kakashi said. "I will strive not to be an annoying houseguest."
"I'm sure you won't be an imposition," Iruka said reassuringly.
Gai slapped Iruka on the back. "Fabulous! I will be back in one month." He fished out a bottle of medication from the pocket of his vest and shoved it down the front pocket of Iruka's vest instead. "This is for Kakashi. It's for his pain."
"Um, does it have…dosing instructions?" Iruka asked.
"On the bottle," Gai said. He pointed at Kakashi. "Recover, my rival, so that we may resume our youthful rivalry when I return!" Then he ran off.
"I'll get you somewhere warm," Iruka said. He started pushing the wheelchair again.
Kakashi couldn't suppress another shiver. "That sounds nice." He looked up at Iruka with a smile. "Do you have hot cocoa?"
Iruka snorted. "I have hot cocoa."
"Great." Kakashi weathered the rest of the journey to Iruka's apartment in good spirits, resting in the wheelchair silently.
Iruka didn't attempt to engage Kakashi in conversation. He suspected that Kakashi was currently doped up in addition to being exhausted and ill. Besides, he needed the time to think. It still needed to sink in that he'd been made responsible for one of the most valuable jonin in the village, and it was someone Iruka already knew. Sort of. As much interaction as he'd had with Kakashi due to Kakashi being Naruto's sensei.
What he knew was basically that Kakashi was very serious about his ninja way of putting team members before the mission, that he was hard on his students, and that he put up a front of goofiness to keep people from prying into his personal life. The porn reading, the lateness, and the excuse-making was all part of an obvious mask, as obvious as the one on his face. Kakashi didn't attempt to hide the fact that he wasn't letting anyone get to know him; and yet, for all the obviousness, Kakashi was so good at being sneaky that it was impossible to pry into the Copy Ninja's personal life anyway. It was a taunt.
And here Iruka was, wheeling Kakashi towards his apartment. He assumed he had the privilege of taking Kakashi home instead of having to live in Kakashi's apartment until Gai came back.
Iruka had never lived with anyone. Well, as a child, yes, of course. As an adult, no.
By the time he reached the sidewalk in front of his apartment building, he began to feel a little excited. He'd have company for three or four weeks. While Kakashi was not the typical person's idea of company, Iruka thought Kakashi probably wouldn't be too difficult. And when Kakashi was well enough to move around on his own, Iruka wouldn't have to worry about leaving Kakashi alone for a few hours while he taught classes.
For the first few days, he would be keeping a very close eye on Kakashi, of course. He'd get Daikoku to cover his classes. Daikoku was an obliging sort of person. He was an older teacher, about ten years older than Iruka, and he was very good-natured.
"This is it," Iruka said brightly. "My apartment building."
Kakashi looked up at the building. It was painted strawberry milkshake pink, with white shutters on the windows. "How nice," he mumbled.
"We're going inside," Iruka said.
Kakashi didn't respond.
Iruka pushed the wheelchair up to the front door and opened it. The wheelchair fit like a peg in a slot. He was glad the door was wide enough. The wheels almost scraped.
The lobby was butter yellow with brown carpet packed down by all the years of people walking on it. Iruka pushed the wheelchair down the hall until he reached the staircase.
"I'm afraid you'll have to walk up the steps," Iruka said apologetically. "My building's a little old. It doesn't have an elevator, because it's only three stories tall. The old building codes said that building designers didn't have to put in an elevator unless a structure was five stories tall or more."
Kakashi looked up at him. "Hmm?" Then he smiled at the look of worry. "Fine, fine. I can walk. This wheelchair is just an unnecessary precaution."
Iruka was surprised. "Really?"
Kakashi stood, wrapping his blanket around himself. "Sure."
Iruka folded up the wheelchair and set it against the wall. He'd have to come back for it later. Maybe he'd just attach a note to it so that people knew where the wheelchair had come from. Iruka trusted the people in his apartment building not to mess with others' belongings.
Kakashi took three steps, to the foot of the stairs, and crashed on the steps like a sack of potatoes.
Iruka let out a yelp. "Oh my god, are you okay?"
"Fine." Kakashi waved a hand weakly. "I meant to do that. I'm inspecting the stairs for safety."
"Oh, you are not," Iruka huffed, crossing over to the staircase and yanking him up by one arm. "You're really hurt."
Kakashi's legs were shaking so much he could hardly stand, even with Iruka holding him up by the arm.
Iruka hoisted him up bridal style. "Let's get you up the stairs."
"W-wait a minute," Kakashi protested, wide-eyed. "What do you think you're doing?"
"Carrying you," Iruka said.
Kakashi wilted. "Maa…" He shut his eyes, his skin tone gray.
"You can't walk and you shouldn't be out of the hospital," Iruka said. He reached the top of the stairs and marched down the hallway. He didn't care if the other residents of the apartment complex saw him carrying Kakashi. To him, it was just a responsibility that had to be done. It meant nothing about either of their manliness.
"Don't take me back," Kakashi moaned piteously. "I can't stand to be back in the hospital. They're mean to me there."
Iruka snorted. "Relax. I'm not taking you back to the hospital, Kakashi-san. I'm taking you to my apartment like I promised I would. I wouldn't lie to you or Gai-san."
Kakashi clung to him.
He opened the door to his apartment and pushed it in with his foot, then turned around and closed it behind them with one hand, quickly. Iruka grabbed Kakashi's sandal and pulled.
"Hey, what?" Kakashi opened his eyes and looked at Iruka in distress.
"Off with your sandals," Iruka said firmly. "You're not tracking things all over my nice floor. You're also not wearing these in bed." He took off Kakashi's sandals.
"My feet are cold," Kakashi said.
"I can tell," Iruka said. "I'll lend you a pair of my socks. The winter ones. It'll be alright."
Kakashi shivered, his teeth chattering.
"Oh, what has Gai done to you?" Iruka sighed.
"Nothing," Kakashi said defensively. "I was like this in the hospital."
"You should have been getting better in the hospital," Iruka said.
"They're mean to me. I told you."
After slipping off his own sandals, Iruka carried Kakashi across the house to his bedroom and laid Kakashi down on his bed.
Kakashi struggled to sit up.
"It's only for a moment," Iruka said. He went over to his dresser and rummaged through his sock drawer. He came out with a pair of thick, fuzzy socks. "Here." He smiled at Kakashi. "Here we go." He crossed over to the bed.
Kakashi reached for them.
Iruka pulled the socks out of reach. "No." He looked at Kakashi sternly. "Let me."
Iruka expertly pulled the socks onto Kakashi's feet. "There. Better."
Kakashi shifted slightly. "Thank you," he muttered.
"I don't want you moving," Iruka said. "Not more than necessary." He sighed. "For god's sake, Kakashi-san, I don't even know what happened."
"Ah. I used a new sharingan technique and it used up too much chakra," Kakashi said. "Also, the Kazekage is alive again."
"Well, that's nice," Iruka said politely. "But you shouldn't have used your sharingan like that and put yourself in danger."
"How would you know –"
"Naruto and Sakura should be furious with you," Iruka said. "You have a record of taking terrible risks."
Kakashi sulked. "I don't like it here anymore. I want to go back to the hospital."
Iruka stared at him. "Why?"
Kakashi shifted on Iruka's bed uncomfortably. "You're meaner than they are."
Iruka sighed. "Oh, I am not. Here." He gathered Kakashi up in his arms again. "Let's go to the living room and made you warm. I'll fix you a cup of hot chocolate."
Kakashi brightened at the mention of hot chocolate, but he still looked sickly.
Iruka's living room was small, with white walls, dated shag carpet, and a squashy sofa upholstered in brown corduroy. Iruka loved his sofa.
Iruka arranged Kakashi on the sofa, piled under all the guest blankets. "How is it?"
"Nice and toasty," Kakashi said. He looked relieved. He shut his eyes and let his head fall back. Iruka noticed dark circles under Kakashi's eyes.
"You haven't been sleeping well, have you?"
"They check my blood pressure every forty-five minutes in the hospital," Kakashi said. "I told you they were mean. They can't even let a man sleep."
Iruka smiled. "Well, I'll let you sleep. You can sleep all you want."
Kakashi looked pretty much asleep already.
Iruka quietly went into the kitchen and prepared hot chocolate. When he came back, Kakashi was lightly snoring. He was torn. "Kakashi-san?" he said softly.
Kakashi woke up, his head snapping up. "Yes."
"Your hot chocolate."
Kakashi's expression lit up, making it worth disturbing the man's sleep a little longer.
Iruka gave him the mug of hot chocolate with a pot holder, so he wouldn't burn himself. "Be careful." He glanced away, at the door of his guest bedroom. He'd have to clean up some miscellaneous things in there so that Kakashi had some proper privacy.
When he looked back, Kakashi was already taking a sip. "Mmm." He smiled at Iruka with whipped cream foam on his upper lip. "Delicious."
Iruka blinked. Wait, upper lip? As casually as anything, Kakashi was enjoying hot hot cocoa, mask free. "What happened to your mask? I thought you somehow ate and drank with your mask on."
"It's an illusion," Kakashi said. "When I take off my mask to eat or drink, I usually put up a genjutsu to keep people from peeking. I don't have the energy. And I'm on strict orders not to use any chakra for the next six weeks."
"Well, that's wise." Iruka nodded.
"It's a pain," Kakashi said. He studied Iruka. "But I suppose if you do everything for me then it's okay."
Iruka blinked. "Like what?"
"Anything I would need chakra for," Kakashi said.
"Well, I'm sure that won't be a problem," Iruka said soothingly. "Especially since you won't need chakra to do anything while you're living here with me. You're going to be resting."
Kakashi drank his hot chocolate and promptly fell asleep.
Iruka was a bit startled. He had to take Kakashi's mug to keep it from rolling out of Kakashi's hand. He also wiped Kakashi's mouth with a napkin without waking the man up. He really was on his last leg.
Kakashi slept all through Iruka's favorite tv shows, all through Iruka grading his papers on the kotatsu table in the living room, and all through dinner preparation. Iruka woke Kakashi to eat. Kakashi was groggy. He ate half his meal, mumbling only the words, 'Thank you,' and 'Real food', before passing out again.
Iruka cleaned up, watched more tv, and went to bed, keeping his door open so that he could hear Kakashi if anything happened. He also had a partial view of the sofa where Kakashi lay.
He fell asleep wondering why Kakashi always took such poor care of himself.
He woke up to Kakashi's mumbling. Iruka jolted upright in bed.
Kakashi's voice was remarkably clear, due to the acoustics of the living room and hallway leading back to Iruka's bedroom. "Kaleidoscope…no…"
Kaleidoscope? Iruka threw his covers off, stuck his feet into his slippers, and walked out into the living room, wrapping his bathrobe around himself.
Kakashi was tossing and turning; if he'd had the energy, Iruka thought he would be thrashing, fighting in his sleep. He'd fallen over onto the sofa instead of sleeping sitting up. In vain, he was trying to push himself up on his shaking arms. "Mangekyou," he said again, the word for kaleidoscope. Iruka hadn't been wrong about that.
Iruka knew plenty of people who were violent when wakened suddenly. However, he didn't know what else to do. "Kakashi?" he asked softly.
"Get away," Kakashi said. It was more of a wheeze than anything. "The kaleidoscope…"
Iruka had to hope that Kakashi didn't have the energy to kill him. He knelt down in front of the sofa and grabbed Kakashi's shoulders.
Kakashi snapped awake instantly. He stared at Iruka with wide eyes.
Iruka realized that Kakashi had managed to uncover his sharingan, but that there was no telltale glow. He gasped. "You've drained out all your chakra!" He yanked Kakashi's hitai-ate down over the vulnerable, chakra-consuming eye and pushed Kakashi into a sitting position, then sat down beside the man.
"Maa…I was asleep," Kakashi said forlornly. "I didn't do it on purpose." Before Iruka could say anything, he asked, "Are you going to be mad at me now? The nurses are mean to me. They don't like it when I struggle. They say I was being difficult. But I was asleep. They would knock me out with their sleeping pills or whatever, but I didn't like that. So they made me nap. Instead of sleep. I can't get enough sleep. But they don't like it when I struggle. They get mad. So are you going to be mad at me?"
Iruka hardly knew what to say. He understood why Gai didn't want Kakashi to be in the hospital now, though. Kakashi looked so much like a small child. Iruka didn't know if it was because of Kakashi's night terror, or if it was because he was chakra exhausted, or if it was just something about the light in the room right now.
He slipped an arm around Kakashi's shoulders and leaned against the man. "I'm not going to be angry with you."
Kakashi looked at him hopefully. "Really?"
Iruka seriously doubted the med nins spent their spare time smacking Kakashi around – not everyone was like Sakura – but he was horrified nonetheless. The children in his classes who asked for extra reassurances were always the ones from bad homes. Whatever happened in the hospital, Kakashi had come away feeling insecure and suspicious of caregivers.
"Really," Iruka said gently. "You can't help what you do when you're not awake."
"Will you stay with me?" Kakashi asked. "Maybe I wouldn't do stuff in my sleep, then. If you were with me, I might not fight in my sleep."
That request tugged on Iruka's heartstrings fiercely. How could I say no? "Of course I'll stay. I'm supposed to be taking care of you. That is exactly what I will do."
Kakashi looked amazed. He snuggled into Iruka's embrace, resting his head against Iruka's shoulder. "My head hurts, Ruka-sensei."
Iruka had forgotten the pain medication in his vest. "I'll be right back."
Kakashi's head snapped up. "No."
Iruka realized that Kakashi didn't understand him. "I'll just get getting the medication you've been described out of my vest pocket. I'll be right back."
Kakashi whined, but he allowed Iruka to get up.
Iruka went back to his bedroom and got the orange bottle out of his vest pocket, where Gai had stuffed it. He brought it back to the living room and turned on the lights as he went, scanning the label on the bottle. Take with food and a glass of water. Four to six hours? He'd let the medication lapse way too long. No wonder Kakashi's head hurt.
He looked at Kakashi guiltily. "I'm sorry."
"You mean you can't stay?" Kakashi looked hurt, then hid his expression by hanging his head.
"No!" Iruka was alarmed. He sat down beside Kakashi and slid an arm around Kakashi's shoulders again. "I mean I'm sorry that I let your pain medication lapse. I should have given you a dose with dinner."
Kakashi looked incredulous. "Is that all? That's nothing to be sorry for."
Kakashi wrapped his arms around Iruka and held on with a surprising amount of strength for a chakra-drained man. "Stay."
Iruka didn't try to disengage himself. Kakashi was hurting from something far worse than a headache. He hugged back, holding onto Kakashi tightly.
Kakashi nestled his head in the crook of Iruka's shoulder and neck. "Stay."
"I'll stay," Iruka said. "I'm staying."
"Gai stays," Kakashi said. "But he had a mission…he had to go on…"
"I don't have missions to go on," Iruka said gently. "I'm a teacher. I can stay and take care of you."
"Ruka-sensei, don't die." For all its childishness, Kakashi spoke the words as though it was an order of the highest caliber.
Iruka kissed the top of Kakashi's head before he could think better of it. After all, Kakashi was a jonin, not a child. "I promise. I promise I won't die."
Kakashi squeezed him, and then relaxed. In spite of the headache, it seemed that Kakashi was in the process of falling asleep on him.
Iruka let him.