Iruka stared at the pug standing on top of his desk at the Academy, its big, wet eyes staring back at him clearly unimpressed.
"Tell your Master I am not interested," he said, enunciating each word slowly for the benefit of the dog. The dog blinked, and if he could he would have cocked an eyebrow. Iruka was certain of that. "I feel honoured he feels that way but no thank you."
"As you wish, Iruka-sensei." Was it possible for a dog to shrug? Well, this one talked, so he guessed shrugging wouldn't be too much of an effort for it.
The dog jumped from the table, casting a last, inquisitive look at Iruka before walking unhurriedly to the door and leaving the room. Iruka closed his eyes and sighed loudly.
He would have never believed it before, but his life had become exceedingly surreal in the past two weeks. Ever since the day he heard about that stupid game.
The bet. How on earth had Izumo and Kotetsu imagined, for just one second, that Iruka would be ok with that? That he would find it amusing? He had listened to them with growing disbelief, the ramifications of what they considered a harmless game hitting Iruka at once. It was so cruel it had left him breathless, and the fact his friends were unable to see it only made it worse.
And then--well, he'd said Kakashi had to know for sure, but having him listen to his conversation--If Iruka could have dug a hole in the ground at that time, he would. He had never wanted to disappear so much in his life.
Then Kakashi had kissed him.
He had wanted to hit Kakashi for it, he really had, but to be honest, he had been so pissed off with Genma and the rest of Konoha on Kakashi's behalf that it had been difficult to summon the rightful indignation. And it wasn't hard to guess the reason for Kakashi's actions: they didn't like each other much, that was true, but apparently he had known about the bet and Iruka had been the only one to stand up for him.
So Iruka had won the bet without even trying to, and he had seen Kakashi's mysterious and unmasked and, let's face it, incredibly handsome face. He had also tasted, albeit briefly, Kakashi's soft lips.
And his mind was a complete mess since then because he didn't like Kakashi and he didn't want to, but it was difficult to hang on to his animosity when Kakashi wasn't only unfairly beautiful and skilled, he also seemed intelligent and, now, interested in Iruka.
And Iruka was running out of reasons to reject his advances, indirect as they were.
It had started with a simple thank you note and a rose attached to it. The fact that said note and rose were nailed to his door with a kunai told Iruka who were they from, even before he got to see the henohenomoheji signing it. Only a crazy jounin would consider appropriate to give a kunai such use, and Kakashi was the craziest of Konoha's jounins.
Iruka had believed that would be the end of it. They had never been more than nodding acquaintances who had a common student and went down together in Konoha's history for having the most embarrassing row in public. Iruka had defended Kakashi. Kakashi thanked Iruka. End of story.
The next day there were no roses, instead there was a crazy jounin waiting for Iruka at his doorstep. With a home-cooked meal. It had been hard to send Kakashi away, especially because whatever it was he had made smelled delicious. It was not by chance that Iruka was one of Ichiraku's best customers, even before Naruto. Iruka loved food but he sucked at cooking.
"This is a token of my appreciation, Iruka-sensei," Kakashi had said with a smile visible even under his mask.
"You don't have to," Iruka had tried to say, but really, whatever it was in his hands was almost making him drool.
Kakashi had pushed the plate into Iruka's hands, clearly signalling he wasn't going to stay. "Enjoy it, Iruka-sensei," he had said before disappearing in a puff of smoke, leaving only dried leaves on his wake.
And it had really been delicious; Iruka had wolfed down the most amazing hot pot since his mother's, the food warming him inside.
The next day had been a set of shuriken left at his doorstep. They were beautifully crafted and had very small waves engraved on them. Iruka was glad it wasn't dolphins, he hated when people was unimaginative like that.
It was at that point Iruka realized it felt more like a courtship than a thank you gift, and had the niggling suspicion that his principles had won him more than a game he wasn't even participating in.
He had tried to find Kakashi and return the gift, but had been told he was away on a mission.
That hadn't stopped another gift from being delivered to Iruka's doorstep. A book, this time. Iruka had looked at the bundle on the ground, the square shape giving away the contents very quickly, and rolled his eyes. If it was one of those porn books Kakashi carried around all the time he was going to return the shuriken to him in a very painful way.
It wasn't porn. It was an adventure book about a magical girl, the cover suspiciously similar to the one Kakashi had been carrying with him that day at the restaurant.
Iruka had devoured the book, staying up until morning dying to know how the girl would react to her brother's betrayal. He even had tears in his eyes when at the end she was forced to kill him.
He had confronted Kakashi when he arrived at the mission desk five days and a set of kunais, some lovely rice bowls, a potted rose bush, a picture of Naruto with Kakashi and Jiraiya, and the second book of the magical girl series later.
"Kakashi-sensei," Iruka had said softly, touched by his interest but not completely convinced he wanted to start a relationship, any kind of relationship, with someone as deranged as Kakashi. "Please stop sending me gifts."
Kakashi had tilted his head slightly, looking at him with something resembling disappointment in his uncovered eye. "Are they not to your liking?"
"No, I love them," Iruka had hastened to clarify. "The second book is even better than the first one, and when Mahiro meets her--"
"Please sensei, I haven't read it yet!" Kakashi had interrupted him at that point, his voice tinged with panic, his hands covering his ears. Iruka had thought his reaction quite endearing, and promptly blushed at his own thoughts.
"Sorry," Iruka had laughed. "But it feels too much for just a thank you gift."
"They're not just to thank you."
Iruka had already guessed that much. "I'm choosing to consider them so."
"Oh." Kakashi had sounded really disappointed and Iruka had felt bad for it.
"Please stop sending me gifts."
Kakashi had nodded, dejected, and Iruka had believed it was going to be the end of it.
He had obviously grossly underestimated Kakashi's stubbornness. Now he had resorted to his dogs.
Iruka sighed, looking vacantly at the ceiling. It was getting more and more difficult to reject Kakashi, and it didn't look as if Kakashi had any intention to stop yet. So far he had sent five of his nin-ken, Pakkun being the last and more amusing of the lot. If only because Iruka could see in his expression how much he disliked the task his master had assigned to him.
"He's never going to give up," Iruka reflected out loud in the empty classroom.
"No, I don't think I will, Iruka-sensei," Kakashi's voice carried from the window, startling Iruka from his thoughts. He would have felt embarrassed to be caught off guard like that had this been anyone else. Iruka was a good shinobi, Kakashi was simply the best.
Iruka turned to glare at him, but it was impossible to put much heat in it when Kakashi was staring at him with fondness clearly written in his expression. The little he could see of it.
"You just won't take a no for an answer, will you?" Iruka said, resigned.
Kakashi laughed softly and shook his head. "No, I won't."
Another sigh. "I guessed as much."
He stood up and moved to the door, completely ignoring Kakashi until he had opened it. He turned to look at him then.
"You get one chance and just one," Iruka said in his more serious voice. "Screw it up in any way and you won't know what hit you. And that doesn't mean I'm agreeing to a second one even if you don't. Am I clear enough?"
It was difficult to believe that Iruka was grudgingly agreeing to go out with Kakashi just so he would be left alone later, especially considering Kakashi's happy expression. "Yes."
"Friday, seven o'clock. If you are late even one minute, the date is off," he said before leaving the classroom and closing the door.
He had to be insane; he had agreed to go on a date with Hatake Kakashi.
And even worse, he was looking forward to it.