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You Belong With (someone better than) Me

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“That’s all from me,” Iruka lifted his eyes from the grade report he’d finished reading off, wrapping up his fifth student feedback report of the night. “Did you have any other questions about your daughter’s progress, Nakamura-san?” Iruka asked, gently closing the folder of Kanade’s information and handing it across the desk to her mother, who accepted it with both hands. 

“I did have one question,” she said, “It’s not about Kanade, but…” she tucked the folder into her bag and dug around for a moment before withdrawing a small photograph. “I wanted to tell you about the nice young man in this picture. He’s my cousin, Kotaro. A weaponsmith.” She wiggled her eyebrows conspiratorially. “He’s got a strong back and a lot of stamina, if you know what I mean.”

Iruka knew exactly what she meant. Face heating, he accepted the photo, sparing a quick glance down at it. He’d seen the man - Kotaro, apparently - around the village. He was tall and muscular, with wide shoulders and soft eyes. A rather unfortunate bit of facial hair, but Iruka wasn’t one to hold that against someone. Everyone had their idiosyncrasies. “I’m sure he’s very nice,” Iruka said weakly, tucking the picture into one of the drawers in his teaching desk. 

“Oh he is,” Nakamura-san insisted, leaning forward. “His contact information is on the back of the photo. If you’re interested.”

I’m very much not, but I suppose I appreciate the sentiment? Iruka thought tiredly, forcing a smile. “Thank you for your consideration,” he said. “As for Kanade-chan…?”

“Oh, she loves your class, and she’s been improving steadily, as you noted,” Nakamura-san said, finally taking her cue to leave. “Thank you for everything you do for her, Iruka-sensei.”

“Of course,” Iruka said, rising also and bowing politely. “It’s my honor to do so.” He held the bow as she crossed the room.

“Oh,” Nakamura-san paused at the door, “Just so you know, Kotaro’s usually only free on Sundays.” She turned and winked at Iruka. “But for you, I’m sure he could make an exception.”

“Ah,” Iruka said awkwardly, bowing again to avoid eye contact, “Yes. Thank you for the information.”

As soon as she was gone, Iruka flopped back into his chair and groaned loudly, covering his face with his hands. He still had another three days of parent-teacher conferences to look forward to, and that was his ninth proposition-by-proxy this week. What was it about being a single male teacher that made all of the village busybodies come out in droves? It didn’t make sense. Iruka wasn’t particularly clever or talented, and he certainly didn’t have much in the way of disposable income. So why had it come to this? He yanked open the desk drawer, staring forlornly down at the small mountain of photos residing there. He didn’t have the heart to throw any of them away, but at this point he was starting to run out of room for actual teaching aids in the drawer. Clearly, something had to be done about the situation. But what? 

Start dating? With what free time? Iruka was barely making ends meet with his punishing schedule as it was, he didn’t have time to date anyone. That’s why he was still single! He barely had time to take Naruto out for ramen between his missions, and woe to any man who thought Iruka would prioritize a date over spending time with the growing boy. 

But this was starting to get ridiculous, Iruka thought, shutting the drawer a bit more forcefully than was strictly necessary. No one had been so invested in his personal life when he’d been running missions. He paused, considering that for a moment, and decided that yes, it wasn’t just rosy hindsight. While his friends had given him some grief about being the perpetually single third-wheel, he hadn’t really been close enough to anyone else in the village to warrant that level of attention. So maybe it was more a problem of visibility? Iruka was almost always in the village these days - teaching, working the mission desk, taking Naruto for ramen… yes, the real problem here was that people were entirely too familiar with Iruka, so he bore the brunt of Konoha villagers’ well-meaning but excruciating attempts at matchmaking.

But how to get it to stop? He couldn’t even bear to throw out the useless photos, so telling them to their face that he didn’t have time for their matchmaking was out of the question. But he had equally little time to devote to deterring them! What he needed was something that would require very little effort, but would have significant enough visibility and impact to be both noted and respected by the villagers.

Packing up his supplies, Iruka considered his options. He could buy a fake engagement ring, but people were bound to start asking around about his mysterious fiancée. Worse yet, if it ever got out that the ring was a fake, he’d be back to square one, but instead of giggling it would be pitying stares and sympathetic hand-pats that accompanied the photos. It wasn’t that Iruka couldn’t get a date, and a fake ring might give the mistaken impression that Iruka thought he couldn’t get anyone without faking it. The issue here wasn’t a failure to get a date, but rather a lack of willingness to pursue the option. 

Could he get a fake boyfriend? Iruka immediately dismissed the idea. For one thing, he couldn’t afford an escort. And if anyone found out the boyfriend was fake, he’d be in the exact same position as he would be in with the fake ring - pity and hand-pats. No thank you.

Grumbling under his breath, Iruka gave the classroom a once-over, plucking a stray shuriken out of the wall and wiping the blackboards down one more time before letting himself out and shutting the door. He glanced at the hall clock and winced. It was late. By the time he managed to cook something, it would be too late to digest it properly. Besides, he had homework assignments to grade, and if he spent an hour or more buying ingredients and making an actual meal, he wouldn’t be getting to sleep until midnight. Then he would be getting up at six, rushing through breakfast and back at the Academy by seven to prep for classes. Ugh. 

Iruka decided he’d rather sleep an extra hour than go to the effort of preparing a healthy meal (especially since his healthy meals always ended up tasting terrible), so he headed in the direction of the nearest shop that offered carry-out meals. He picked up something with vegetables and a lean protein to feel like he was at least wasting money on healthy pre-prepared food. It was cheaper to cook his own, but at what cost? Iruka needed his sleep, especially with several more days of parent-teacher conferences looming in his future.

As he was waiting for his meal, he happened to glance outside and caught sight of Kakashi wandering by. Iruka immediately perked up, realizing that if the jonin-sensei was around then Naruto was probably somewhere in the village, too. Iruka hopped from one foot to the other, more anxious for his food to be ready. He really didn’t have time to go looking for Naruto tonight, but he wanted to see the boy. Maybe if he put off grading for one night, he could visit the kid. He could catch up on grading over the weekend. 

“Here’s your order, Iruka-sensei,” said Fujita-san, passing Iruka a wrapped bundle of delicious-smelling food. “Have a nice night.”

“Thank you!” Iruka beamed, rushing out into the night. By some stroke of luck, Kakashi was still out there. “Oh! Kakashi-san!” he called, hurrying over.

Kakashi, nose stuck in his usual reading material, lifted his head slowly, turning to Iruka. “Ah, Iruka-sensei. To what do I owe the pleasure?” 

“Oh,” Iruka felt his cheeks heat as he realized how rude it probably seemed to jump straight to asking where’s Naruto? “Are you back from your mission?”

“Mm,” Kakashi made a noise of assent. “The kids did well.” 

“Oh, good! I’m glad to hear it. And you’re all fine?” Iruka looked Kakashi over, but he wasn’t really the sort to look injured, even if he was. Elite jonin like Kakashi didn’t get to that status by broadcasting their injuries. 

“Nary a scratch between us,” Kakashi said. “We just got back. I think Naruto might be looking for you, actually.” 

“Oh!” Iruka glanced down at his dinner. “I only bought enough for one person,” he frowned, then turned back to Kakashi and said, “Have you eaten yet?” 

Kakashi’s visible eye widened in surprise. “No,” he said slowly, “I haven’t.”

“Here,” Iruka pressed his dinner into Kakashi’s chest, “You take this, Naruto and I will find something for the two of us.”

Kakashi glanced down at the dinner, then back up to Iruka before carefully accepting the wrapped meal. “...thank you?” 

“Thank you,” Iruka countered. “Have a good evening, Kakashi-san.” Then, before the jonin could formulate a reply, he scampered off. 

The next morning Iruka dragged himself out of bed early so he could throw rice in a pot and toss some dry sardines in a pot of water. He managed to scrounge up some cabbage that had seen better days, chopped up some tofu, and was just throwing them into the fish-water when Naruto wandered into the kitchen, scrubbing his eyes and yawning loudly. 

“Morning, Iruka-sensei,” Naruto said, a bit too loudly for six in the morning, “Sorry I fell asleep here again last night. I was planning on going home, I promise.”

“I don’t mind if you sleep over, Naruto. That’s what the guest futon is for,” Iruka reassured him. “Are you hungry?”

“You’re cooking?” Naruto grinned widely. “What are you making?”

Iruka gestured at the simmering pot and then turned to dig in his fridge for the miso. He pulled it out and scooped up a large spoonful, gazed at it consideringly, and put about a third back. “Miso soup, rice, and I’ve got eggs in the fridge,” he said. “Nothing too fancy, I’m afraid.”

“Sounds great!” Naruto exclaimed. “Kakashi-sensei brings me breakfast like that sometimes. But he usually makes fish and vegetables too.”

Well good for him, Iruka thought, half sincere, half snide. I’m glad one of us knows how to cook.   He tasted the miso soup consideringly. It might have too much miso. Or not enough. Or was he supposed to take it off the heat before adding the miso? He didn’t remember. The rice pot wasn’t steaming anymore, and Iruka lifted the lid only to smell the distinct odor of scalding rice. “Oh!” he yelped, turning off the burner and staring at the rice, wondering if it had cooked through this time or if he would once more be having al dente rice for breakfast. He grabbed the spoon he’d used to taste the miso soup and took a small bite of rice. It tasted slightly burnt, but seemed soft enough. A little on the firm side, but certainly not the worst rice he’d ever made. 

Behind him, Naruto giggled. “Did you burn the rice again, Iruka-sensei?”

“That’s enough out of you,” Iruka groused. “I’ve told you before, the smoke adds flavor!” he scooped a large portion into a rice bowl, setting it down in front of Naruto before dishing up a second bowl for himself. Quite a bit of rice was stuck to the bottom of the pot. Lovely. He’d leave the pot to soak while he was at work, hopefully it would be washable by the time he got home. 

“Make sure you eat the cabbage, too,” Iruka warned, setting a bowl miso in front of Naruto. He moved back across the kitchen, plucking two small styrofoam containers and two eggs from his fridge. “And eat your natto, it’s good for you,” he added, plunking the little box down and setting the egg down beside it.

“You really need a new rice cooker, Iruka-sensei,” Naruto observed, ignoring the natto and cracking the egg over his rice, pouring a bit of soy sauce over it before vigorously stirring it in.

Iruka sighed, popping open his natto container and removing the thin paper covering the beans. He used his chopsticks to stir the fermented beans around before piling them atop his rice and cracking his own egg over them. “I’ll get one eventually. But this works fine, for now.”

“At least rice cookers don’t burn the rice,” Naruto pointed out. “I think that’s probably worth it, right?” 

Iruka shrugged. Rice cookers could get pretty spendy, and the ones at the secondhand shop had appeared to be on their last legs. He was saving up, of course, but he had other priorities. He could handle a bit of burnt rice. “You really should eat the natto,” he encouraged. 

“I tried it once, Iruka-sensei. I think it almost killed me,” Naruto said too-seriously. “I’m just not cut out for healthy food, I think.”

Iruka laughed before he could help it. “Oh, fine,” he shook his head. “Next time, then.” It was something of a joke between them by now - Iruka would give him natto, Naruto wouldn’t eat it, and the natto would go back into the fridge.  

The two of them ate in comfortable silence, and Naruto wordlessly gathered up the dishes, putting them in the sink before running some hot water. Iruka felt his eyebrows climb in surprise. “Oh?” he said, “What’s this?”

“You made breakfast, so I’ll wash the dishes,” Naruto declared. “Kakashi-sensei always makes me wash the dishes when he brings me food, so I’ve gotten pretty good at it,” he added, beaming with pride. 

“That’s very kind of you,” Iruka said, “I guess I’ll go get my things, then.” He hadn’t bothered unpacking his teaching satchel, but he still double-checked it to make sure he had everything he needed. That done, he wandered back into the kitchen, spotting Naruto attacking the rice pot.

“Oh, just let that one soak, I’ll get to it tonight,” he told Naruto. 

“Okay,” Naruto agreed cheerfully, setting it in the sink and following him to the door. They left together, Naruto not-so-surreptitiously sniffing his shirt. 

“If you feel you have to do a smell check, you should probably just shower and change,” Iruka chided. 

“Yeah, yeah,” Naruto waved him off. “It’s fine.” 

Iruka considered pressing the issue, but in the end, he decided it wasn’t worth the shouting. “Have a good day of training,” he said as Naruto drew to a halt at the corner of the street. 

Naruto beamed back at Iruka.  “You too, Iruka-sensei!”

Iruka waved him off with a smile, before picking up his pace and heading for the Academy. He had another long day ahead of him, and running late wasn’t going to make it any easier to get through.

“Thank you for always taking care of our boy,” Tsutsuji-san said, heading for the door, “And remember what I said about my friend Hiei,” she added with a small titter. “He’d definitely be interested.”

“Of course, Tsutsuji-san,” Iruka managed to say in a strangled voice, “Thank you for your consideration.”

“Oh you’re very welcome, Iruka-sensei,” Tsutsuji-san said. “Have a nice evening.”

“You too,” Iruka replied. As soon as she was gone he shoved the third photo of the night into his desk drawer. This had gone so far beyond ridiculous he wasn’t sure what word he could even use to describe it. Scowling, he straightened up the classroom, shoved some homework assignments in his bag, and matched out of the Academy in a huff. He had to find something to make this stop!

“Yo, Iruka-sensei,” Kakashi called as he exited. The jonin was leaning casually against the Academy gates, age-inappropriate reading material in hand. Kakashi glanced up fully as Iruka approached, his eye widening as he took in Iruka’s appearance. “Rough day?” he asked, pushing off the gate and transitioning to a more vertical slouch. 

“You could say that,” Iruka sighed, then frowned in confusion. “Forgive my rudeness, Kakashi-san, but why are you here?” 

“Maa, I wanted to ask you if you had time to grab dinner sometime. Since you gave me dinner yesterday, I thought I might return the favor,” Kakashi explained. 

“Dinner?” Iruka repeated, frowning. “What, like tonight?” 

“Whenever you have time,” Kakashi clarified. 

“Oh. Uh. Sure, I’ll get back to you on that…” Iruka turned to leave, then paused, an idea forming in his mind. “Say, Kakashi-san?” 

“Yes?” Kakashi was still standing there with a vague expression on his face.

Iruka glanced around nervously to make sure no local busybodies were watching, then leaned in. “How would you feel about making that dinner a monthly arrangement? I’ll pay, of course!”

Kakashi’s eyebrow lifted in response. “Mind if I ask why?”

Iruka glanced around again. “Do you mind if we talk it over somewhere else?”

“Like over dinner?” Kakashi suggested, sounding faintly amused.

“Somewhere private,” Iruka specified. 

“Dinner at my place,” Kakashi amended.

“At your place?” Iruka echoed faintly.

“It’s pretty private,” Kakashi assured him. “Just me and the ninken.” 

“Okay,” Iruka agreed. “When?”

“We can go now,” Kakashi suggested. “I have all the ingredients at home already, we just need to eat them.” 

“You bought enough for two?” Iruka asked faintly, not sure how this conversation had gone from maybe a dinner sometime to a home-cooked meal at the copy-nin’s house.

“I usually take some leftovers to Naruto,” Kakashi explained. “He never eats vegetables when left to his own devices.” 

Iruka laughed at that. “True enough,” he noted with amusement. 

“So it’s decided. You can tell me more about whatever it is you can’t discuss publicly over dinner,” Kakashi gazed at Iruka for confirmation.

“Sure,” Iruka agreed, mentally apologizing to his future self for the pile of grading he’d be doing this weekend. “Sounds great.”

Nodding, Kakashi turned and began wandering off, heading into the village. It was at this point Iruka realized he had no idea where Kakashi’s house was. Well. If Kakashi was going to agree to Iruka’s harebrained scheme, perhaps it was a good idea to know where the man lived.

It didn’t take them long to reach their destination. It turned out Kakashi had a modest one-bedroom apartment with a wide living room and a cozy kitchen and dining area. Kakashi pulled out a small induction burner, setting it on the table, carrying over a large pot a moment later. It was packed full of vegetables, tofu, shirataki noodles and beef. “Hope you like sukiyaki,” Kakashi said, pouring a thick sweet dashi broth over the ingredients.

“Are you kidding? I haven’t had beef for two weeks!” Iruka exclaimed, probably more excited than he should have been, but beef was expensive and he was starving. “This looks amazing, Kakashi-san!”

Kakashi scrubbed at the back of his neck awkwardly, a blush rising on his visible cheek. “Maa, sensei, it's just a bit of chopping vegetables.”

“Yeah, well, considering I don’t even do that half the time, I’m impressed!” Iruka grinned at Kakashi, unable to contain his excitement. 

Kakashi set a small bowl in front of him with an egg, then carried over a steaming bowl of rice for each of them before settling down at the other table setting. “So,” he began, cracking his own egg into the bowl and lightly scrambling it, “What did you want to ask about that you couldn’t bring up in public?” 

“Well,” Iruka began, cracking his own egg, “Lately I keep having well-meaning people trying to set me up on dates, and honestly it’s starting to get on my nerves.” 

Kakashi hummed sympathetically to show he was listening, then adjusted the temperature on the burner to bring up the temperature of the sukiyaki broth. 

“So I was thinking,” Iruka continued, picking up the provided chopsticks and attacking the egg with a bit more ferocity than was probably warranted, “Maybe I should just… pretend to date someone? Just to stop the nagging.”

Kakashi turned from the sukiyaki to gaze at Iruka. “Oh? Were you planning to ask me out on a fake date, then?”

“Here’s the thing,” Iruka said, finally setting down his chopsticks to look Kakashi in the eye, “I have no time for dating. It’s why I’m not dating anyone currently. So I really don’t have the energy to spare for faking it, either.”

“Hmm,” Kakashi made a thoughtful noise. “Sounds difficult.”

“It is,” Iruka agreed. “And then, you offered dinner, and I thought maybe…” He tried to think of how to explain his thoughts in a nice (or at least nice-ish?) manner. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but… if I were going to only go on sporadic dates with someone, it would have to be someone who’s… also sporadic?” He grimaced, realizing that maybe this wasn’t the most diplomatic approach. 

“Ah,” Kakashi said, digging into the sukiyaki with his chopsticks, checking the doneness of the meat. “So you don’t want to go on dates, but you still want to pretend you’re dating.”

“Exactly,” Iruka exclaimed, pointing at Kakashi excitedly. “I need someone… low effort? Who wouldn’t care if we only went out, say, once a month. Or less, even. Less than that would be ideal.”

“I see,” Kakashi grabbed Iruka’s plate, plopping some beef on it. “Here,” he handed it back before serving himself as well. “So you want us to go on fake dates, but not very often. What am I getting from this arrangement?”

“Oh,” Iruka realized he’d not really thought that far ahead. “Well. I’m really busy, so I can’t offer much. I can, uh… buy you dinner once a month? Or maybe less than once a month?” Iruka offered, smiling weakly as he dipped the beef into his raw egg before dropping it onto his rice and shoveling it into his mouth. Oh. The rice was perfectly tender, the broth was just the right balance of sweet and salty, and the thinly sliced beef was melting with marbled fat. “Oh wow,” he moaned. “Maybe you don’t need to eat out, this is so good.”  

Kakashi snorted in amusement. His own beef had vanished, though his mask was still in place. 

Iruka averted his gaze out of courtesy before continuing. “So. Uh. What do you want from me, then?”

“Eh,” Kakashi said, serving himself some of the vegetables. “I don’t really need anything. But this sounds interesting, so I’ll do it.”

“You’ll pretend to be my boyfriend and you don’t want anything in return?” Iruka asked, surprised to have gotten Kakashi to agree so quickly. He’d thought the jonin would at least ask for something from him, but Kakashi seemed remarkably easy to please. Then again, that had been the whole reason Iruka had asked him in the first place - he wanted someone low-effort. 

“If I think of something, I’ll let you know,” Kakashi said. “Now eat, the sukiyaki’s not going to finish itself.”

It wasn’t until Iruka got home late in the evening that he realized he and Kakashi had never decided when their first official “date” was to take place. Oh well, he thought, dumping the pile of grading out on his kotatsu with a heavy sigh, surely they’d be able to discuss it soon enough. For now, he had homework to grade.

“Oh, hey Iruka-sensei!” Naruto called from the kitchen. “Welcome home!” he poked his head out to gaze at Iruka curiously. “You were out late.”

Urk. “Yes,” Iruka answered awkwardly, “I was having dinner with Kakashi-san.”

“Oh really?” Naruto asked, wandering out of the kitchen and into the living room. “Why didn’t you invite me?”

“It was rather last-minute,” Iruka admitted. 

“Oh,” Naruto said. “Okay. Cool.”

“Why are you here?” Iruka finally asked. 

“I came to wash the pot from this morning,” Naruto replied, “and then I ate some of the food in your fridge, so I had to wash my plate after that. Did you know you don’t have any instant ramen in your kitchen?”

“Yes,” Iruka replied with an amused snort. “There’s a reason for that. It’s not healthy.”

“It’s a lot easier than cooking, though,” Naruto grumbled. “So what did you have for dinner with Kakashi-sensei?”

“We had sukiyaki,” Iruka replied, settling down on a cushion and pulling out one of the homework papers. “Did you eat the rest of the rice from this morning?”

Naruto laughed. “No, actually I just ate some fried eggs.”

“That’s not enough for dinner!” Iruka protested. “You should have eaten more than that.”

“It’s fine,” Naruto assured him, “I had a big lunch.”

Iruka gave him a look, but Naruto didn’t flinch, so he must have meant it. “All right,” Iruka finally said, “But if you get hungry…”

“I know, I know, I just have to tell you.” Naruto flopped down on the other side of the kotatsu, wrinkling his nose as he eyed the homework spread across the table. “Oh, this stuff? Gross.”

“Hey, that’s my occupation you’re calling gross,” Iruka protested, setting his pen down momentarily to shoot a scowl in Naruto’s direction.

“Yeah, but homework sucks,” Naruto said. “I bet you didn’t like it when you were a kid, either.”

“Immaterial,” Iruka replied, “It’s important to make sure all the students understand the coursework and have a firm grasp on what we’re learning in class.”

“Oh sure, but important doesn’t mean it’s not boring,” Naruto shot back, grinning and ducking under Iruka’s half-hearted swipe at him. 

“If you’re just going to be a pest…” Iruka warned.

“I’ll be good!” Naruto promised, lifting his hands in a gesture of surrender. “I just… didn’t want to be alone tonight.”

“You’re always welcome to stay with me,” Iruka said, lifting his eyes to make sure Naruto saw he was serious. “You know that, right?”

“I do,” Naruto admitted, shuffling around so that most of his body was hidden under the kotatsu quilt, tucking it up under his chin and grinning at Iruka. “It’s just nice to hear it, sometimes.”

Iruka smiled. “Then I’ll say it as many times as you need.”

The next morning Iruka dragged himself out of bed and stumbled into the kitchen. Rather than make rice, he had a vague inkling that maybe toast and soup would be good enough for the day. He dug some corn potage out of the fridge and had it heating on the stove, shoving the toast in the toaster. He scrounged through the fridge, finding a few tomatoes which he sliced up and sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. He dished up the sliced tomatoes, tossed the toast onto plates, and poured two bowls of the corn soup just as Naruto wandered into the kitchen. 

“Toast for breakfast, huh?” Naruto commented sleepily. “And tomatoes?” 

“And corn soup,” Iruka added. “I just heated it up on the stove.”

“Looks great,” Naruto commented, sitting down at the table and clapping his hands together. “Let’s eat.”

“Let‘s eat,” Iruka echoed, then dug in. The tomatoes were… oversalted. But still mostly edible if you ate them with the toast. The soup was fine, at least. 

“Thanks for the meal!” Naruto exclaimed after practically inhaling his breakfast. “I’ll wash the dishes.” 

“Thanks for the meal,” Iruka mumbled as he finished his own breakfast, then wandered back into the living room to pack his school bag. 

He and Naruto left together not too long after that, parting ways at the same corner as yesterday. Iruka trudged the rest of the way to the Academy, already exhausted. Just one more day of parent-teacher conferences, he reminded himself. Then he had a whole weekend… of double shifts at the mission desk. And all the grading he hadn’t finished yet. Iruka groaned. 

“Yo, Iruka-sensei!” 

Iruka blinked, not sure he was seeing things right. “Kakashi-san?” he said, spotting the jonin casually leaning against the Academy gates, drawing confused looks from passing staff members.

“Please, it’s just Kakashi,” he said, moving away from the gate and walking over to Iruka. “We’re dating, after all.”

“Right,” Iruka said, feeling off-center and a bit confused. “Did we… have something scheduled?”

“Nope!” Kakashi replied cheerily, then lifted a thermos. “But you looked tired after last night’s dinner, so I thought I’d bring you some of my favorite coffee.”

Iruka hadn’t gotten around to the grocery store to buy more of his own coffee, and the swill in the teacher’s lounge could double as paint-thinner. Coffee sounded marvelous, though he still felt a little confused . He stared at the thermos in Kakashi’s grasp, struggling to formulate a response. “But...why?”

Kakashi pressed the thermos into his hands. “Just a thoughtful gesture from your boyfriend, that’s all.”

“I can’t accept this,” Iruka protested, his hands closing around the thermos anyway. “I already told you, I don’t have a lot of time - ”

“It’s fine,” Kakashi assured him, taking a step back and lifting his hands. “I already made the coffee, so you might as well drink it.”

“True…” Iruka glanced down at the thermos with a sigh. He decided that he could accept this one gesture, so long as he impressed upon Kakashi that this sort of behavior couldn’t become a habitual thing. Iruka just didn’t have the energy to reciprocate, and he didn’t want it to look like Kakashi was putting all the work into the relationship. “Thank you,” he said, lifting his head to face the jonin, “I appre - ”

Kakashi was gone.

Sighing exasperatedly, Iruka waved the thermos in the air. “I appreciate it!” he shouted, just in case the man was still hanging around. He supposed that popping in with random gifts and then vanishing was to be expected when ‘dating’ someone as eccentric as Kakashi. He still felt bad, though. He’d specifically asked Kakashi to do this because he hadn’t wanted to go to much effort. If Kakashi was going to do his best to sell the relationship, it would look pretty bad if Iruka wasn’t doing his best, too. 

With a groan, Iruka stared down at the thermos of coffee. This was going to be more work than he’d bargained for.