"What are you talking about?"
Kakashi looked up from his book at the sound of that voice his eyes scanning his surroundings quickly to check if had been noticed by anyone. He hadn't, the booth in the back of the bar was dark and inconspicuous enough it hadn't merited a look from anyone but Kakashi up to that day, though it seemed there were some people sitting in the booth next to him.
Kakashi relaxed and went back to his novel; the hero, a young girl with magical powers, was about to face her nemesis and if Kakashi read at his usual speed he could finally find out if the bad guy was the girl's brother before his food was ready.
"You know, Iruka, the game."
A voice he recognized as Izumo said in the adjacent booth and Kakashi frowned. Maybe he should have gone to a different place to have dinner, he didn't want to listen to the rowdy group beside him while reading the climax of the novel, they were going to distract him.
"I've no clue what you're talking about." That was Iruka's voice and he sounded bored and completely uninterested in whatever game Izumo was talking about.
Exactly as Kakashi felt. He turned his attention back to the page, the word standing in sharp relief for a moment.
"Where have you been living all these years Iruka?" That other voice belonged, unsurprisingly, to Kotetsu. "It's the longest running and most difficult game in Konoha, we've been playing it for years!"
Kakashi had a bad feeling about the direction the conversation was taking, his book forgotten he masked his presence just in case and eavesdropped for all he was worth.
"No, still no clue. And I'm not sure I want to know."
"Come on Iruka, you have to participate! It will be fun!" Izumo was insistent and Kakashi could hear a long suffering sigh. He had no trouble guessing who was the source of the sound.
"Ok, I'll bite. What game?"
"The seduce and unmask Hatake Kakashi game." Izumo and Kotetsu said at he same time in an amused whisper and Kakashi had to suppress the urge to groan.
He had thought he was rid of that bloody game for years only to have it come back when he was expecting it less. It wasn't funny, he didn't consider it amusing in the least. He hadn't when it began, all those years ago thanks to those bastards he had called his friends, and he had learned to hate it with a passion after the years.
The people in Konoha thought he was unaware of the bet, and that he just liked to be mysterious and unattainable. They had never considered the possibility that he might know, and the fact that Kakashi would not let anyone close to him was that fucking game's fault.
Kakashi might be a loner, but the fact that when someone approached him he had no idea if they really liked him or if they were in the game made it impossible for him to be anything else.
His evening completely ruined now, Kakashi stared morosely at the table while he waited for his food.
"You're joking." Iruka's voice took him out of his musing, something in the tone striking a chord in Kakashi. He sounded outraged.
"No, we're not," Kotetsu said, clearly unrepentant. "Genma outlined to us sometime ago, it's been going on for years!"
Genma, the fucking bastard, was dead meat.
"You mean to tell me," Iruka said slowly, a dangerous undercurrent in his voice that made Kakashi blink. "That for years now everyone and their dogs in Konoha have been trying to seduce Hatake Kakashi just for a bet? To try to take off his mask?"
Kakashi blinked at those words and the tone. He had not thought highly about Iruka before, to be honest he didn't like the man a lot. He didn't know him, that was true, but the couple of times they had spoken Iruka had treated him coldly. Probably because of that time during the Chuunin examination. The only remarkable thing about Iruka was that he was bold and unafraid, regardless of whom he was talking to, and that he was completely uninterested in Kakashi.
"Um, yes." Iruka's friends might have caught on the tone as well, if the hesitant answer Kotetsu gave was any indication.
"Are you aware you're talking about a person here?" Iruka continued, his voice full of that righteous indignation Kakashi remembered from the Chuunin examination. Iruka was furious, on Kakashi's behalf. Talk about a surprising turn of events.
"It's a harmless bet." Izumo defended himself.
Kakashi almost snorted. Yeah, harmless. He would like to see how any of them would react to be the object of such a bet.
"A harmless bet?" Iruka sounded about to hit the roof. "You're playing with a man's life here! It's no wonder Kakashi is so screwed up, I wouldn't trust any of you further than I can throw you if I was in his shoes."
Iruka was right, of course, which made Kakashi consider him in a new light. For a long time Kakashi had hoped a person would appear who wouldn't want in the game, who would want to know him just for Kakashi, not to find out what was beneath the mask.
Iruka had not expressed any wish to know Kakashi, but he fit the rest of the requirements.
"Hold your horses, Iruka," Kotetsu said, trying to calm his friend down. "Kakashi has no idea what's going on, you can't blame us for the man's neurosis."
"He doesn't know?" Iruka countered, his voice thick with disbelief. "You think Kakashi has no idea of what's going on? The man's a bloody genius, you idiots! He's probably known all the time, or you think someone as popular as he is would want to spend all his time alone? He reads porn non-stop but he doesn’t have sex even when half of Konoha is throwing themselves at his feet. Buy a clue, for God's sake!"
"We thought you didn't like him and that you'd find it funny," Izumo said, his voice disappointed and a bit pedantic. He sounded like a five years old who had been denied a treat.
"I don't like him," Iruka replied calmly. "I'd have the same reaction if you made that same bet about Orochimaru."
Kakashi shuddered at the comparison though he could see what Iruka meant. He was feeling more and more interested about the man, he had always considered him too uptight and bland, but he was changing his mind really fast.
"You know what, guys," Iruka said, and Kakashi heard a rustling of cloth signalling clearly someone had stood up. Iruka was leaving. "I think I'm not hungry anymore. I'm going home."
"I'm not feeling up to company tonight. If you're playing that way with someone all of you claim to like and respect, I don't want to think what other bets are running around now."
Kakashi made a decision in a split second. Iruka was what he had been looking for, and he had found a way to end that stupid game once and for all.
He stood up from his booth and approached the Iruka, who was standing staring at his friends with his back to Kakashi. There was a shocked silence when Izumo and Kotetsu saw him, their eyes bulging out when the realization that Kakashi had heard their entire conversation reached them.
Kakashi slowly tugged his mask down at the same time as Iruka turned to face him, his face flushed crimson with fury while his eyes grew impossibly large. Izumo and Kotetsu's eyes were riveted to Kakashi's face as he leaned closer to the frozen Iruka.
Before he lost his nerve, Kakashi pressed his lips against Iruka's, the contact chaste and brief. Kakashi was feeling highly conscious with his face bare like that and every eye in the bar fixed on them, but he forced himself to act nonchalant and smile at Iruka. "Thank you," Kakashi whispered against the skin of his cheek and Iruka blushed deeper if possible. He turned to Izumo and Kotetsu and tugged his mask up. "Iruka wins. Game over."
He turned to the door, signalling to the waiter that his food was no longer needed. He paid for it nonetheless, feeling Iruka's eyes on the back of his head the entire time, and left the bar in silence, the book clutched in his hand like a lifeline.
Kakashi teleported home, not trusting his legs to carry him the way back, and dropped on his bed, his eyes staring blindly at the ceiling.
He had done it. He had shown his face in public and probably got rid of that stupid bet once and for all. It had taken all his courage but he had managed.
And he had got something else out of it tonight.
He had finally found the right person.
His lips curling in a smile, Kakashi let the book fall from his fingers and began to plan how to seduce Umino Iruka.