In the interest of full disclosure, Iruka will admit that he believes Hatake Kakashi is dangerous.
By the same vein of logic he uses to define this, however, he is also dangerous, but that only comes as a surprise to everyone but himself. After all, although the largest percentage of his time is spent dodging sharp objects hurled at him by six year olds, he was regularly in the field once too – and there are still certain missions for which his particular set of unique skills are highly suited – the Umino family may not have any well-known Kekkei Genkai, but they were still one of the first families of Konoha, and they have their own legacy.
While his official file still designates him as Chunin, Iruka has no doubt that he could move up in rank, if only he felt the need - but he’s always been comfortable exactly where he is.
Truthfully, it could be said that a small part of Iruka enjoys danger. There’s always been something of a daredevil in him, and he hasn’t lost it as he’s grown older, only learned to conceal it out of necessity – though on occasion, teaching small children the proper method of lethal kunai throws is akin to walking across hot coals and other feats of theoretically non-lethal daring – and while Kakashi radiates danger like a bonfire gives off heat, Iruka has never been afraid of him.
He’s heard the stories, naturally – Kakashi’s reputation doesn’t so much precede him as barge ahead, kicking open doors, waving brightly-coloured banners, and setting off fireworks – but Konoha is home to many ninja of renown; and equally as many whose names are whispered by parents to frighten their children into keeping curfew and going to bed at night. As such, Iruka has never paid it much heed.
And anyhow, Iruka finds fearing danger to be counter-productive.
That being said, he wishes he could make clear sense of whether Kakashi is trying to lure him in or ward him off. Iruka would walk one road or the other, if only it would actually appear; instead he feels consistently like he is being blindfolded, spun around, and set loose in the forest without a map.
The frustration is beginning to get to him.
Iruka is not a stupid person, and he does not expect that doing the same thing over and over again will garner him different results on each attempt; so when it does, he finds his patience quickly frayed and his blood pressure climbing to heights that would surely alarm his doctor.
Iruka is proactive by nature, however – the better to avoid death by poorly-thrown practice kunai – and he isn’t about to spend his life waiting around for the perpetually-late Jonin (handsome though he may be) to grow tired of his own game of hot and cold.
Kakashi is – with ironic reliability – the last in and last out of the mission room during Iruka’s shifts. Iruka – previously not-unwilling to give an inch if the situation might be improved by his sacrifice – has taken to staying late, waiting for him to arrive.
Sometimes he doesn’t; and every day, Iruka slides an extra minute into his shift, setting a precedent he hopes not to regret later. In any case, it’s not as if he’s wanting for work to do, and he enjoys the silence of the mission room after everyone else has gone home.
When Kakashi does appear, it’s always with surprisingly little fanfare. On this night, he slouches in like a child with a late homework assignment and the seat torn out of his pants. He puts his mission report down on the desk and smiles, underneath his mask. Iruka has learned one hundred and nineteen nuances in Kakashi’s facial expressions by the glint in his eye and the wrinkles created in the fabric of his mask alone.
Iruka slides the report across the desk towards himself and gives it a cursory glance. Kakashi’s penmanship, as ever, is like knife strikes in soft tree bark.
“You know, I have no trouble figuring out your...god-awful handwriting; but you, Kakashi-sensei, are still a mystery to me.”
“Good,” Kakashi says, though warmly. “Isn’t that part of my job description?”
“I think you may need to take some time off.”
Kakashi blinks, impassive. “They put me on medical leave, once. I ran out of things to read.”
Iruka’s last medical leave was to have his appendix out. When he returned to work, Genma had taught his entire class how to shoot sharpened pencils from their mouths like senbon.
“What if I say it’s just dinner?” Iruka proposes, though he knows it won’t be – not with the way they’ve been circling around each other for months. But it’s up to Kakashi to do the risk assessment; Iruka’s not about to do it for him.
He wonders if most Jonin even bother.
Kakashi’s eye narrows and his spine straightens. “What happens if I say ‘no’ again?”
Iruka’s first instinct is to glance around the mission room, to see if anyone is listening to their exchange; they are never alone for these kinds of conversations – which is probably part of the reason for their repeated failures – but he represses it, knowing the room is empty now. The way they have to keep their voices low, to stifle the room’s tendency to echo, adds a level of intensity to their words that he finds himself unprepared for.
It feels like they really shouldn’t be speaking about this at all. “Then the next time you arrive late to submit your report, I won’t be here waiting for you.”
Kakashi’s eye widens – it’s almost imperceptible, but Iruka knows the signs; he’s studied, utilizing all the talent that other sometimes believe he lacks outside the classroom, the secret language of Hatake Kakashi. He’s nearly fluent now – this is clearly a line in the sand that the Jonin did not expect to see drawn.
Kakashi likes to play games – with his co-workers, with his students – it’s only with his enemies that he is ever unfailingly direct. Iruka is exactly the opposite; perhaps that’s exactly what Kakashi needs.
Iruka stands, starts gathering up his papers, and Kakashi’s hand shoots out, catches Iruka’s wrist with a speed and strength that has Iruka tamping down his automatic counter-response, even if he’s not one hundred percent sure he would lose such an exchange. They come very close together across the desk, eyes meeting – Iruka can see one of his own in the clean, reflective surface of Kakashi’s hitai-ate and is pleased to note the small pupil, the steady blink response. No fear.
“You like to live dangerously, Iruka-sensei,” Kakashi tells him, as Iruka wonders what the texture of the mask might be, pressed against his lips.
He’s still calculating all the risks of finding out as he responds, “I always have.”
The way Kakashi’s eye gleams in the mission room’s low light, Iruka knows without a doubt that whatever happens between them is going to be worth braving every danger.