Kakashi peeked over his right shoulder at the man walking several feet behind him. He tried to keep his body language casual. This was nothing more than a walk around town. There was nothing to see he was just a normal jounin walking about. An open door leading into the store of a vegetable vendor caught his attention and he ducked in. The store had a nice huge window that he could look out to see his target.
Well, not really a target. Umino Iruka wasn’t a mission handed out by the Konoha field office. If anything, Iruka was one of the most highly trusted individuals in Konoha. But that wasn’t the reason that jounin ranked and ANBU level Hatake Kakashi was following the man around. No, the real reason was quite simple.
The elite shinobi had only one goal in mind: trying to work up the nerve to ask Umino Iruka out on a date. And he had been trying. He always ended hastily backing up and away from the Iruka’s curious expression every time he got within five feet of the other man.
For the past three months.
Kakashi blew out a heavy breath. He looked out the window for a quick orientation of Iruka’s location. He gulped and clutched at the window frame with white knuckled grip - which made him thankful for his gloves - as he noticed Iruka heading straight for him. Kakashi’s heart started pounding fast. His knees felt locked in place so all he could do was press himself against the small wall space between the window and the entrance. His battle trained mind frantically pointed out all the escape routes in the immediate vicinity but he just couldn’t move his leaden legs.
Iruka walked in with a cheerful greeting to the owner, an old granny with deep wrinkles around her mouth, who stood behind the polished wooden counter next to the cash register. His brown eyes swiftly scanned the store and a slim dark eyebrow rose at the sight of Kakashi.
“Good morning, Kakashi-san.” Iruka said politely.
Kakashi swallowed in the attempt to wet his suddenly dry mouth. He managed to stutter out a weak, “Go-Good morning.”
Iruka paused and looked at him as if expecting something more.
Trying frantically to escape his gaze, Kakashi managed to convert his panicked flat position into a casual slouch. The store owner, who’d seen quite a few ninjas do more foolish things in her life time, smirked at the jounin over Iruka’s shoulder.
After a moment of awkward silence, Iruka turned away from Kakashi and started chatting with the old woman about one of her grandchildren who he’d once taught. Without Iruka looking at him, Kakashi was able to regain his senses enough to sneak out the exit and back onto the street. Kakashi was never more grateful for the mask which covered his lower face. The heat flooding his cheeks would be entirely too obvious to the casual observer without it to block his pale skin from view. He couldn’t believe how much Iruka affected him. Every time the other man was within a few feet all his years of training seemed to vanish as if it had never existed. He stuttered, fell over his own feet, and blushed from just a glance from the chunin. For the longest time he wondered if this was some strange ninjutsu which affected coordination so powerful and unnoticeable that even he couldn’t cancel it.
It wasn’t until Asuma took him aside and pointed out what the hell was going on that he got his answer. He was in love. Head over heels. Completely and totally gone on Iruka-sensei.
And he hadn’t known what to do about it.
At first he’d been terrified. He didn’t want to open himself up to that level of anguish. Losing everyone he’d ever loved before he’d even reached his second decade of life had nearly broken him once. Only the teachings those very same loved ones had managed to pound into his cold-mannered skull had been the only thing which had held him together.
And now his heart had gone and fallen for someone else. He had no idea what to do about it. Extensive ANBU training didn’t cover how to date someone that you weren’t planning on killing within a few hours. But after several months of feeling absolutely miserable because he had taken to avoiding the chunin as much as possible had quickly destroyed the idea that if he just ignored his feelings they would go away as if they were a mild fever that would soon break. Those emotions hadn’t abated, if anything they got worse.
So Kakashi tried to ask him out only to fail spectacularly, and he’d fallen into a cycle of not even being able to talk to Iruka without sounding like an idiot. He clutched at his silver-grey spiked hair and growled in frustration. Villagers skirted around him and shot him wary looks.
“Stupid,” Kakashi grumbled to himself. “He probably thinks you’re so stupid!”
“I wouldn‘t call you stupid, Kakashi-san.”
Kakashi jerked around to look at Iruka staring at him with a solemn expression. He had to choke back a gasp. As it is it took all of his self-control not to use his chakra to transport away.
“Asuma came and talked to me yesterday,” Iruka continued.
Instantly, Kakashi flushed and with dawning horror he could guess at what Iruka was going to say next. He could going to kill Sarutobi Asuma. Slowly, painfully and messily.
“How do you feel about dinner at my house tonight?”
Or maybe he owned Asuma a big favor.
Kakashi nodded mutely, feeling so stunned and joyful that he couldn’t get his throat to work.
“Kakashi, sometimes the things we want most aren‘t that difficult to get,” Iruka said, a smile lingering on his lips. “I‘ll see you tonight.”
Tongue-tied the jounin nodded again and watched Iruka walk away. His heart seemed to be skipping beats. And a pressure he hadn’t even realized had been crushing him lifted away.
Maybe, just maybe, love wouldn’t be so painful this time around.