“You want us to pretend to be a couple,” Iruka says, feeling his eyebrows practically disappear under his hitai-ate.
“Well, what I want is two shinobi who know each other to go deep undercover and run a bookshop. You could try for brothers,” Tsunade says, shrugging, “but being a couple might be easier.”
Being a couple with Kakashi. Like that’s a normal mission for Iruka to get sent on. Pretend to be a couple undercover with the man he would like to date if he thought Kakashi would ever look his way.
Kakashi appears to have no reaction to the whole thing.
“You can’t send Yamato?” Kakashi asks, voice dry.
Iruka bristles: he might not be jounin level, but he’s a good shinobi, and he’s at least read something other than Icha Icha Violence, which almost certainly makes him overqualified compared to Kakashi.
“Are you done questioning your Hokage’s decisions?” Tsunade asks.
“How long is the mission?” Iruka interjects, trying to defuse any potential problems
“As long as it takes to complete it, but we’re expecting any moves to be made in the next two months.”
“When do we depart?” Kakashi asks.
“0600, the day after tomorrow.”
Kakashi disappears in a puff, papers rustling on Tsunade’s desk, and Iruka shakes his head. He grabs both stacks of mission briefings from her desk—Kakashi can read it while they travel if they don’t see each other before then.
“I’ll do my best, Tsunade-sama.”
“Please don’t kill him.”
“...I’ll do my best,” Iruka repeats.
He can’t tell if the noise Tsunade makes is closer to a laugh or a cry.
The mission details stipulate that Kakashi has to cover up his scar and wear an eyepatch, which makes sense: Sharingan no Kakashi’s reputation precedes him, and having a spinning red eye and distinctive facial scar doesn’t work well undercover.
Iruka is surprised to see the same requirements listed for himself with regards to his scar. While there are some people that know of him, vis-à-vis Naruto, it tends to be in name only. His profile has never been reported in any bingo books.
He wonders if Kakashi will have any makeup or if he should pick some up for him. Iruka could ask, he supposes, but he’s already feeling less than charitable about being sent on this mission to begin with.
Iruka has long considered himself and Kakashi to be friends, but based on Kakashi’s reaction to the assignment, he’s less certain of his position in Kakashi’s life.
Well. Iruka doubts this mission will end up clarifying anything, anyway.
There is someone knocking on his door at 0700 and it isn’t Naruto, because Naruto doesn’t knock, and if somebody has died, couldn’t they wait for Iruka to start grieving at a more reasonable hour?
Iruka scowls as he pulls his robe around him, and makes the short journey to his front door.
“This better be good,” he says, flinging the door open.
“Ah, did I wake you, sensei?” Kakashi asks, tranquil and perfectly dressed.
Iruka grimaces: all Naruto does is talk about how Kakashi is late, and keeps them waiting, and how lazy he is, and here Kakashi is at Iruka’s doorstep before the sun is fully up.
“Can I help you, Kakashi-san?” Iruka asks, clutching his robe closed. “I didn’t think our mission was until tomorrow.”
“I wanted to make sure you have everything you need for the mission,” Kakashi says breezily, pointedly staring where Iruka’s body is blocking him from entering the apartment.
Iruka thinks about all the money the mission will net him, and how it might almost be like a vacation during the moments Kakashi isn’t around. He serenely imagines the coffee he will make this morning, and how he won’t offer a cup to Kakashi, even though every good-natured and welcoming instinct in his body will be screaming at the thought.
Iruka smiles and moves aside.
“Are you packed?” Kakashi asks as he steps inside and toes off his shoes. “Since you’re normally teaching, I don’t want you to be unprepared.”
“I’m going to make myself coffee,” Iruka says, ignoring Kakashi’s question as he closes the door.
He does not ask Kakashi if he would like a cup.
“What’s special about the packing?” Iruka asks, yawning. “I’m bringing civilian clothes, makeup, and a weapons scroll.”
“Makeup?” Kakashi pauses just outside the kitchen—come to think of it, has Iruka even had Kakashi over before?
Iruka walks around him and presses the blessed start button on the coffeemaker. His favorite mug is in its rightful place to it.
“That’s right,” he says, watching the coffee percolate. “It was in the mission briefing packet you left on Tsunade-sama’s desk.
“Henges fail,” Iruka continues. “And our scars are too distinctive to be uncovered if that happens.”
Kakashi is silent for a beat, and it would be nice if Kakashi standing in his kitchen looking at home were a regular occurrence and not related to undercover missions.
He pours himself a cup of black coffee as soon as the pot finishes, weighing burning his tongue by drinking it immediately versus looking silly casting a minor healing jutsu in front of Kakashi.
“Do you have any chamomile?” Kakashi asks.
The sound of Iruka’s kitchen cabinets squeaking open makes Iruka turn his head. Kakashi is looking through his kitchen, presumably for tea.
“Nope,” Iruka says, popping the last syllable, cradling the warm cup like it contains the secrets to the universe. After a moment, he gives in to his better instincts and adds, “I have rooibos.”
He still isn’t revealing that he stores the kettle in the cabinet. If Sharingan no Kakashi can’t find it on his own, then the mission is already doomed.
Iruka really wishes he didn’t find the mere concept of competence so attractive, watching Kakashi go through the incredibly simple process of making himself a cup of rooibos.
They end up sitting at his table, warm mugs in hand.
“I grabbed your mission packet for you,” Iruka says.
“Thank you,” Kakashi says, and Iruka basks in the warmth of that statement.
“I wasn’t expecting this type of mission,” Iruka says.
“With me?” Kakashi asks, quirking his visible eyebrow.
Iruka flushes despite himself: it’s the stuff of cheesy shinobi paperbacks—an undercover mission with one’s crush—and he’s starring in one.
“It’s a bit Icha Icha, isn’t it?” Iruka takes a long drink of coffee, unable to make eye contact.
“Sensei, I didn’t take you for a fan of the classics.”
Iruka lobs his napkin at Kakashi, who lets it hit him in the middle of his forehead. He’s more charmed than annoyed, a feeling he begrudgingly admits to having frequently around Kakashi.
Something that gets even stronger when Kakashi lowers his mask fully to drink his rooibos.
They take a circuitous route on their trip out of Konoha. In what Iruka admits is a smart move, Kakashi sends off a clone in a different direction at one of their overnight stops.
It isn’t worth the risk of them being followed to find actual lodgings, and Kakashi calling a halt to the day’s travels in a bit of navigable forest seems reasonable.
He’s never been a fan of sleeping in trees, but he’s a shinobi and even he can handle the discomfort of a few nights perched on a branch.
Iruka is scoping out the trees, looking for the comfiest one, when he hears the unmistakable sound of a scroll unfurling.
“What are you doing?” Iruka asks. They only left in the morning; Kakashi can’t be low on supplies already.
“You might want to step behind me,” Kakashi non-answers.
Which Iruka does, holding his pack to his front.
Kakashi says a jutsu that Iruka doesn’t catch, and then there’s a small house in front of them. Iruka blinks, twice, and it doesn’t go away.
“What is that?”
“Sleeping quarters. It’s a little small for two, because Yamato was overloaded with work, but it’s better than sleeping outside.”
“I’ve lived in apartments smaller than this,” Iruka mutters.
“It’s recyclable!” Kakashi says. “Or compostable. I forget which one.”
“I was thinking an eyesore, since we’re undercover.”
Kakashi stands still. “...Do you want me to seal it away?”
Iruka looks between the building and the trees covered in knobby branches.
“Well, since you already set it up…”
Following Kakashi inside is an easy decision.
Oasis Country really seems to live up to its name, Iruka thinks. The main city is clean and bustling, and he keeps seeing happy families pass by as Kakashi-in-henge tries to unlock the door of their new residence.
The Oasis citizens are not shinobi people: the few headbands that Iruka spots are pledging affiliations to other lands.
The book shop, complete with an apartment upstairs, is a cozy place, small but packed with books. If Iruka were a civilian, he imagines this would be a satisfying life—he loves being a teacher but the novelty of this situation is pleasing.
A civilian life like this isn’t for him, not long term, but pretend is nice.
Especially when he can pretend Kakashi is really his, that Kakashi wants him too.
Iruka carefully applies the thick makeup to Kakashi’s scar. It’s a shame to cover it up, and they’ll both be using henges designed to make their features more generic, but if the henge fails, it’s best their scars aren’t apparent.
“You seem practiced with this,” Kakashi says, shifting in his position in the chair.
“What, you think this is the first time I’ve been undercover?” Iruka hums while he gently applies concealer under Kakashi’s eyes.
Kakashi is silent, but it isn’t the quiet of a concentrating shinobi. It’s the tacit blankness of someone trying to avoid sharing their thoughts.
“Oh my god, you do.”
“I didn’t say that,” Kakashi says, voice tinged with petulance.
Iruka takes a deep breath: he will not become a missing-nin just because Kakashi is frustrating.
“Do you want me to finish your makeup or not?” Iruka asks.
“I didn’t know you took long term missions out of the village,” Kakashi says.
It’s not an apology, but it is an attempt, and if they’re going to be doing this every morning, well. Iruka will accept the shoddily-waving white flag.
“I don’t very often,” Iruka concedes, “but Mizuki and I considered it a rite of passage to do an undercover mission after making chunin.”
“Seems like he was doing that full time,” Kakashi says, and Iruka’s hand shakes, the makeup sponge almost slipping from his grasp.
“Iruka.” Kakashi’s hand encircles his wrist. “I didn’t mean that to sound dismissive.”
He takes a deep breath, focusing on Kakashi’s hand on his skin, and the clarity of Kakashi’s eye looking up at him.
“We all get deceived sometimes.”
“There,” Iruka says, putting down the makeup sponge onto the counter. Kakashi with his scar covered and his mask off is a strange sight. The man is handsome either way, but this makes Kakashi look safe, and Iruka knows he’s anything but that.
Iruka switches the bottles of makeup and starts filling in his own scar. Their civilian personas haven’t had the rough life of shinobi, and while it’s unsettling to see himself without a scar, it does make the personality switch easier to inhabit.
He’s not Iruka without his scar, he’s Akio. He’s in love with his husband of five years, and thrilled to have gotten the bookshop of their dreams.
Mizuki is nothing to him.
“We should kiss,” Kakashi says, edging up to him by the bedroom vanity, and it’s only because Iruka isn’t holding anything that he doesn’t drop something.
Kakashi huffs out a breath. “If we’ve been married for years, then it’s best you don’t look startled when I kiss you.”
Iruka has imagined kissing Kakashi more times than he’s willing to admit to anyone, and while he’d known they would have to kiss, he wasn’t expecting this.
Their kiss is not professional, even a little, if one can even be made so. If they weren’t on a mission, if they were in Konoha and Iruka had been brave enough to make a move, he wouldn’t stop kissing Kakashi, but they are, so he pulls away, hoping his reaction isn’t obvious.
Kakashi lingers in Iruka’s space, and then gives him one more kiss.
“I’ll get downstairs opened up,” Kakashi says, making a jounin-quick exit.
At least his makeup didn’t smudge, he thinks with some pride as he looks in the mirror, even if his heart feels like it’ll leap out of his chest.
“We don’t actually have to keep the books, you know,” Kakashi says, sitting on the edge of Iruka’s desk, feet dangling.
There is a mug of rapidly cooling darjeeling in his hands.
“What if there’s something hidden in the books?” Iruka asks, twirling his pen in his hand.
“You mean other than the poor financial decisions of owning a bookstore?” Kakashi asks, craning his head into the account book Iruka is totaling.
“I’m not going to run this place into the ground,” Iruka says, watching as the tea in Kakashi’s mug flirts with spilling over the side.
Kakashi takes a sip of his tea and makes a contemplative sound.
“You’ve got a rounding error on line 20,” Kakashi says, pointing to it.
Iruka flushes, fighting the urge to be defensive, and forces himself to take a calm look at the column.
There is a rounding error exactly where Kakashi said there is, and one further down.
“Maybe you should do math more often, sensei,” Kakashi says. “You’re cute when you’re frustrated.”
It’s just part of the mission, Iruka tells himself.
“Well, we wouldn’t want any errors,” Iruka says.
Iruka unceremoniously assigns the task to Kakashi, employing his best teacher voice as he explains the procedures and their timing, and fully enjoying the look of vague regret on Kakashi’s features.
“Is this why Naruto does what you tell him?” Kakashi asks.
Iruka scoffs. “No, that’s what Ichiraku is for.”
“It all makes so much more sense now,” Kakashi teases. “Is Ichiraku the way to your heart, sensei?”
Stupor washes over him like a perfectly targeted jutsu.
He panics, and takes a cue from the surroundings of stacks of books: “I like someone well-read.”
“Does that include Icha Icha?” Kakashi asks.
Iruka throws a paperclip at him, then snorts when he ducks and it falls into Kakashi’s tea mug.
The people here are readers, much to Iruka’s delight. A new book comes out and it’s all Iruka can do to keep the shelves stocked.
Maybe it’s the genius intellect or the finely honed skills of a lifetime, but Kakashi excels at finding people new books to read. He approaches each request for ‘I don’t know, maybe some science-y non-fiction’ or ‘romance but not embarrassing’ with the same frankness and thoroughness of an A-rank mission.
Iruka always keeps a book open when he’s behind the counter, intending to catch up on his long-neglected pile of reading—Kakashi’s presence makes that difficult.
He sees the attention Kakashi provides, catches the flash of a henge-changed smile, and wishes some of this could be real.
“I didn’t know the previous owners had sold the place,” the customer tells him, leaning on the checkout counter.
“It was a lucky break,” Iruka says.
“If you ever want someone to show you around,” the man continues, “I’d be happy to do so.”
Iruka’s face brightens as he realizes this isn’t quite the civility of a welcoming villager and he glances at his fake ring, glinting in the sunshine streaming through the window.
“Ah, have you met the other owner, Satoshi, yet? He’s my husband,” Iruka replies, feeling Kakashi approaching. “Is it five years now?”
Something is crackling in Kakashi’s chakra, which is almost entirely dampened, but Iruka doesn’t see any danger.
“Six next month,” Kakashi says, sidling up behind him and placing an arm around his waist. He presses a kiss to Iruka’s cheek and the resulting flush is natural.
The customer stammers out an apology about not having realized the shop had two owners as Iruka totals him up and waves off the contrite words.
Kakashi waits for the customer to exit the shop, and then flips the door sign to closed.
“Don’t flirt too hard,” Kakashi says to him, walking back to face him, mirroring him from across the counter. “You might sprain something.”
Iruka rolls his eyes. “I didn’t realize he was, at first. I thought he was just...friendly.”
“Aren’t we friends, sensei?” Kakashi asks, placing his hand on Iruka’s chin and tilting it up.
Iruka wants to kiss him so much it stings in his throat and he clenches his hand.
Kakashi kisses him on the forehead before Iruka can weigh the risks.
“In case we weren’t convincing enough,” Kakashi says.
He walks off, whistling, and turns the sign back to open.
Iruka isn’t entirely composed by the time the next customer walks in, but he coughs and squares his shoulders. A forehead kiss from Kakashi shouldn’t leave him so off-guard.
“They want a book,” Kakashi announces, undoing his side of the sheets and crawling into bed.
Iruka blinks at him. “Who does?” he asks. “It’s ten pm.”
Kakashi sighs and rolls over to face him in bed. “No, the people we’re trying to find, the ones expected to make a move.”
It’s not that Iruka has forgotten they’re on a mission or their actual lives—he thinks about Naruto every day—but having Kakashi so close and unguarded makes it difficult to remember this is for a mission. It’s something Iruka doesn’t want to give up.
“A lead I was chasing down panned out.”
“Is that why I couldn’t find you during the lunch rush?” Iruka asks, remembering the line that wrapped around the counter.
Kakashi coughs, and Iruka doesn’t press him. That probably means the answer is no, but he’ll let it slide.
“We’ll need them alive, so that T&I can use them to crack the code in the book.”
It does feel a bit like a spy movie, Iruka decides. “Did you get the title?”
“Mmhmm,” Kakashi replies. “We only have one copy of The Shinobi Path, so anyone who asks about it is potentially our target.”
Even in the depth of moonlight, gazing at Kakashi makes his heart stammer.
“You’ve got some toothpaste right there.” Kakashi brushes at Iruka’s cheek, the pad of his thumb soft on Iruka’s skin.
There’s no mission-related reason for Iruka to need to kiss Kakashi, but he wishes he had one.
Iruka is taking his makeup off in front of the bathroom mirror, glad the day is done. He scrubs with a washcloth and makeup remover until his scar reappears.
It’s good to see his own face.
Danger prickles up his side, and he reaches for a bottle of mouthwash to use as a weapon; there’s the rush of impact and then he’s covered with something wet.
Dazed, he wonders if it’s blood, then looks down.
The remnants of a plastic balloon are on the ground. He’s soaked with water.
A damn water balloon.
“Kakashi,” Iruka says calmly, “I hope you’re currently fighting off the intruder in our home because I know you aren’t stupid enough to do this.”
“You were supposed to catch it, Kakashi says, flipping his eyepatch down with a sigh. “You were too slow.”
“I’m not a Hyuuga,” Iruka says flatly. “I can’t use the Byakugan to see when you lob an item at me.”
“Well, then you need to pay better attention,” Kakashi insists, leaning against the doorframe, “in case you’re alone when things go down.”
“I’m a capable shinobi,” Iruka argues. “Tsunade picked me for a reason.”
“And not Yamato,” Kakashi says, a smile tugging at his lips.
Iruka rolls his eyes. “Maybe Yamato would be able to live up to your water balloon mission standards—”
His rant is cut off by Kakashi’s lips on his own. And it’s Kakashi’s face, scrubbed free of makeup, no civilians around to maintain their cover.
“You’re doing fine,” Kakashi says, gently brushing a piece of wet hair out of Iruka’s face.
“You were just scolding me,” Iruka splutters.
“A bit rude of me,” Kakashi says, hands settling on Iruka’s waist.
Kakashi smiles at him, and Iruka was a sucker for it when he hadn’t seen below the mask—but with Kakashi’s actual face, it’s almost too much.
“I’m glad you’re the one on this mission,” Kakashi says. “I really did think you would catch the water balloon, though,” Kakashi says, glance falling to the hot pink balloon remnants on the floor.
“Don’t push it,” Iruka says, kissing him again.
“I’m still not going to read Icha Icha,” Iruka warns, the realization that the shop actually has the series and Kakashi might want him to read them popping into his mind.
“S’fine,” Kakashi says, squeezing his hand across the kitchen table. “I don’t like to share.”
Iruka doesn’t ask Kakashi to clarify what he doesn’t share: he’s happy enough imagining it’s him.
It’s a nice, steady routine: whoever gets up first starts the coffee and boils the water for tea. One of them scrounges around for some kind of breakfast food. They eat and drink together, Iruka reading the newspaper and Kakashi doing the hiragana crossword.
Iruka and Kakashi arm wrestle over washing the dishes. He knows Kakashi lets him win, but he doesn’t mind it all that much.
The bad guys make their move on the bookshop on a slow business day, and it’s the agitation in their frames and chakra that clues him in that something is off.
He often gets irate customers looking for a last minute birthday gift, or dashing between shops for a best seller, but rarely does he get customers with a touch of frenzy in their eyes.
Iruka takes his time looking for the book requested, leaning into his well-crafted reputation as an annoyingly detailed bookseller.
“Satoshi,” he calls to the backroom of the shop, where Kakashi is probably doing crosswords, “won’t you make me my favorite kind of chamomile tea while I help these customers?”
Iruka smiles at the two men, pushing some loose strands of hair away from his face. “Now, what was the title of the book?”
“The Shinobi Path,” the taller of the two grits out.
He hums at the counter, and taps his chin. “Would that be under self-help or non-fiction?”
“Aren’t those in the same category?” the shorter man asks.
“Not even close,” Iruka says, grinning. “If this were a library, they certainly wouldn’t shelve them together.”
Iruka wonders, fleetingly, if Kakashi is even in the backroom. They had lunch together, of course, but he could’ve retreated upstairs for a midafternoon nap. It’s not that Iruka necessarily needs Kakashi for this—but he does appreciate having backup.
“We can start in non-fiction,” Iruka decides, pitching his voice to the backroom of the store.
He straightens a few errant magazines on the rack, and tries to focus on the chakra signatures of the men following him. They’re either not skilled enough to suppress their chakra from him, or they aren’t concerned in a civilian neighborhood.
“Look,” the tall one says, glancing at Iruka’s name tag, “Akio, we’d just like to get this book and to go on our way.”
Iruka smiles agreeably, and takes a step back. The book they want happens to be shelved in the corner—Iruka and Kakashi’s endeavor to stave off any runaway attempts.
Iruka ducks just as a teacup hits the wall directly above the one holding the book in the head and shatters.
The shards scatter and Iruka yanks a hardback from the shelf, ready to take advantage of the surprise.
“I like coffee,” Iruka says gleefully, holding the hardback-turned-attack-weapon above his head.
“Now, dear, there’s no need to get violent,” Kakashi says, flipping his eyepatch to reveal the Sharingan.
The two men fall into the thrall of the Sharingan. Iruka is a grown man, so he doesn’t pout, but he is disappointed that his book is relegated to its original purpose and deprived of its chance to save the day.
Iruka looks at Kakashi, pushing all his annoyance into his expression, and Kakashi sighs.
“You wanted to hit them with the book, didn’t you?”
“Maaaaaybe,” Iruka says, hugging the book to his chest. It’s not every day he gets the opportunity to bean someone with a book: the Academy frowns on that sort of thing.
“I broke my favorite teacup for you.”
Iruka looks down at the fragments of periwinkle pottery littering the floor.
“I’ll give you one of mine back home,” Iruka says, conciliatory.
“Home,” Kakashi echoes. “Right.”
Iruka wavers, then reaches out to squeeze Kakashi’s hand.
As excited as Iruka is to get back to Konoha, it’s bittersweet to hand over the keys to the bookshop. He has a scroll sealed full of books—all the things he meant to read but found too difficult to focus on when Kakashi was nearby—that he’s bringing back home with him.
Iruka and Kakashi haven’t talked about it, but surely this won’t end when the mission does. Right?
“Iruka,” Kakashi says as they make it through Konoha’s gates with dawn breaking in the sky, “I need to stop by my apartment, but if you’re free tonight…” He trails off, face flushed above the mask.
“I don’t think I can sleep without you,” Iruka says, sheepish. “Although my bed isn’t as comfortable.”
He worries for a moment that despite Kakashi asking if he’s free, Iruka still managed to come on too strong. Their mission is over, so maybe Kakashi wants to go back to whatever they can pass off as normal.
“It’s a date,” Kakashi says.
And then he tugs down his mask and kisses Iruka.