The exodus of children screaming from the school grounds had slowed down to a trickle by the time Kakashi ambled through the Academy gates. Seeing as Iruka wasn't actually expecting him, Kakashi wasn't technically right on time. His non-timing was still decidedly brilliant.
Iruka was in the courtyard, his eyes politely focused on his companion's face, while his attention was trained on the handful of little monsters still lingering on the Academy grounds. Iruka shifted his stance, a subtle opening: he'd noticed Kakashi. Kakashi didn't approach Iruka--civilians tended to get flustered around him, and the woman talking to Iruka was no kunoichi--but he aligned himself with Iruka so that anyone paying close enough attention could not mistake that they were together.
Tension snapped through Kakashi at the sound of a short, sharp scream. The woman next to Iruka sighed heavily. "That boy," she said. The baby that had been curled close to her breasts was held out towards Iruka. "Would you be so kind, Iruka-sensei?"
"No, I'll--" Iruka said, but the baby was already in his arms.
The woman turned on her heel, and shouted: "Hibiki!"
Poor strategizing on her part, Kakashi thought. She had given Hibiki plenty of warning, and a good idea of which direction she'd be approaching from. If the boy had learned anything during his time at the Academy, he'd be long gone before his mother arrived. Given the shout of laughter that met the woman's threat, Kakashi held out very little hope for young Hibiki.
"Chikako-san," Iruka said, and if he sounded a little panicked, only Kakashi could hear it. Iruka was holding the baby with all the caution one would demonstrate towards a scroll of unknown origins. His polite smile faltered when he met Kakashi's eye.
Laughing at Iruka when he was in distress tended to have unfortunate results. Kakashi let his eye curve anyway; Iruka was too preoccupied by the baby squirming in his hands to notice. The baby's face was growing red, obviously displeased with being manhandled.
"Iruka-sensei," Kakashi chided as he slid neatly into Iruka's personal space, "she won't bite you." He gave the baby a brief once-over, and added: "Not for another month, at the least."
Iruka inclined his head towards Kakashi. "I don't like babies," he admitted. He sounded deeply aggrieved as he continued: "People assume, you know. Because I'm a teacher."
Kakashi supported the baby's bottom with one hand, and used the other to tickle her belly. She looked at him thoughtfully before gurgling in approval.
"I teach pre-genin," Iruka said. "They can walk under their own power. They can talk. They don't--normally--throw up on me. Teaching kids how to throw shuriken doesn't mean I have maternal instincts--and if you laugh, so help me, I will end you."
Kakashi hummed absently. "What's her name?"
"What?" Iruka asked, thrown off-balance. He recovered himself quickly. "Miyako-chan."
"Hello, Miyako-chan," Kakashi said. Miyako's sticky fingers wrapped around Kakashi's index finger. She had a good grip. Kakashi approved.
There was a dawning realization in Iruka's eyes. He tightened the corner of his lips in the way that meant he was trying not to smile. Iruka spoke slowly, as if cautiously feeling out unfamiliar terrain: "Kakashi, is it possible that you like babies?"
"Maa, sensei, I wouldn't say I like them," Kakashi said. "I'm not afraid of them."
The gibe hit exactly as expected. Iruka bristled. "I'm not afraid of her," he protested.
Kakashi smiled brightly. His eye curved shut, blurring Iruka's outraged face. "If you say so," he said, agreeably. Before Iruka could come to any unnecessary conclusions, Kakashi continued: "Babies are simple. Their needs are basic."
"They also drool," Iruka pointed out.
Drool was infinitely better than the bodily fluids Kakashi had grown accustomed to on the battlefield. He shrugged. "No worse than puppies."
Iruka eyed Miyako. "Then have you thought about having children?" Iruka sounded carefully disinterested.
He'd been too late to head off conclusions on Iruka's part, after all. Kakashi gently extracted his finger from Miyako's grip, seconds before a string of drool would have landed on him. "So serious, sensei!" Kakashi said. "Babies may be simple, but they quickly grow into that."
Hibiki was being marched towards them, his mother's hand fisted in the collar of his shirt. The boy looked sulky. His mother looked murderous. She faltered briefly when she caught sight of Kakashi.
"This is where you take over, sensei," Kakashi said.
The tension eased from Iruka's shoulders the moment Miyako was returned to her mother. There was no hint of uncertainty about Iruka as he turned his narrowed eyes on Hibiki, who seemed to shrink beneath him. If his chakra had been developed enough, Kakashi was certain the boy would have been employing an earth jutsu as a means of escape that very second.
This, Kakshi thought mournfully, would take a while. Perhaps his timing hadn't been as good as he'd initially believed.