Iruka woke to the obnoxious sound of his alarm. The teacher groaned softly, not quite ready to get up and face another day.
Iruka loved teaching. Children were wonderful, and he enjoyed getting to pass on the Will of Fire to the future generation.
The problem was that Iruka wasn't teaching today. No, Iruka would be working the mission desk, where every person and their mother could walk up and pester Iruka at their leisure.
Iruka tried to keep his schedule under wraps. He really did. Somehow (and Iruka seriously suspected Genma on this one) his schedule kept getting posted around the village.
Still, Iruka was a shinobi, and he would never let this deter him from his work. The chunin was ready for the day and out the door in no time, keeping to the side streets to avoid running into anyone.
For decades, children of the village had been told stories of the red strings of fate, of soulmates , as bedtime stories. They had always known there was a grain of truth to them. Those that had managed to find their soulmates in their lifetime could attest to the fact that it was different from simply being in love.
Ever since Iruka had been a small child, he had been able to use a sort of echolocation technique, passed on from his mother. Things were fine… until everyone found out .
Iruka's biggest secret had been discovered when he was still a teenager. He could see the red strings of fate . He had mistakenly trusted Mizuki, his longtime friend. Once Iruka explained that no , he couldn't see his own string, and that Mizuki's belonged to someone else, Mizuki immediately spread it around the entire village. Within an hour, Iruka was being summoned to Hokage Tower.
Things slowed down marginally since then, though Iruka was still bothered several times a day by couples asking if they were soulmates.
Iruka crossed through an alley, just over halfway to the mission room. It had been a while since he had been able to make it this far through the village without being stopped.
With that thought, Iruka's peace was ruined when a silent presence dropped down next to him. Iruka's hackles raised instantly, waiting for the dreaded demand that he use his powers once again. Instead, he turned his head to see Kakashi Hatake, one of the newer jounin teachers. The man kept pace with him easily, hands resting in his pockets and his one visible eye looking as bored as usual.
He's probably curious about the next batch of students .
Iruka opened his mouth to speak, only to be interrupted by a shouting woman down the street.
"Iruka-sensei! Iruka-sensei!" The woman shouted, dragging a man along behind her as she approached. Iruka could see Kakashi tense out of the corner of his eye, but the jounin didn't make a quick exit as he had expected him to.
The woman, an older Inuzuka named Karimi that had graduated from the academy before Iruka had become a teacher, was nearly out of breath when she finally stopped in front of him. "Iruka-sensei! I need to know if Hinoku is my soulmate!"
Iruka sighed. Proper manners had been long-forgotten when it came to his echolocation abilities. Of course, part of that was because Iruka couldn't find it within himself to deny a request. He was, after all, the only person in the world known to be able to see the strings of destiny.
Instead of arguing that he was already having a conversation, Iruka shot an apologetic look towards Kakashi, and activated his echolocation. Kakashi stiffened immediately in response, apparently being one of very few people who could hear his ability. So far, the only clan that could hear the tiny clicks were some of the Inuzuka.
Putting that thought away for a later time, Iruka looked between the two lovers. The woman's string shot off behind her, disappearing through buildings and out of eyesight. Hinoku's string went somewhere to the left, almost the exact opposite direction of Karimi's.
Even though he hadn't meant to look, Iruka caught sight of Kakashi's string. The man was still patiently waiting for a moment of Iruka's time, and he almost felt guilty for looking.
However, Kakashi's string was… strange. The man's string extended a few feet out and just disappeared. Many times before, Iruka had seen villagers who had deceased soulmates. Their strings were no longer visible at all. Kakashi's was definitely an oddity, but Iruka tried to keep his mind on the task at hand. The chuunin would never reveal something like that to someone who never asked.
"Karimi… Hinoku is not your soulmate. You both have soulmates waiting for you somewhere else." Iruka answered truthfully.
Karimi wilted immediately, turning and dragging her boyfriend away. Honestly, Iruka never understood why people put so much effort into it. Yes, soulmates were probably wonderful, but wasn't love good enough anymore?
Once they were gone, Kakashi seemed to relax again. Iruka waited for the inevitable question. There wasn't a single person who had witnessed his jutsu and didn't ask about their string.
"Brutal, Sensei." Kakashi spoke softly, surprising Iruka a bit.
Iruka huffed, crossing his arms defensively. "You would have me lie to them?"
Kakashi smiled behind his mask, the lone eye a crescent. "No, no. I admire the way you stick to your guns… even when it upsets people greatly." The older ninja answered easily.
Iruka's eyes widened. Only the Lord Third had ever agreed with his brutal honesty before. "Oh… thank you."
Kakashi turned back towards the direction of the mission room, prompting Iruka to move with him. "I was wondering if you could tell me a little bit about my next team, Sensei."
Iruka didn't think about Kakashi's string again for a long time. The strange jounin had failed the next team, but Iruka never held that against him. He knew that Kakashi had his reasons, and only hoped that the next group would pass.
The next group did pass, and the chuunin found himself in Kakashi's company much more often. Naruto would drag them both to Ichiraku's, and then ditch out as soon as he was full.
"Maa… he really is something." Kakashi commented, watching Naruto run away to join his friends.
Iruka smiled fondly, thinking about how far Naruto had come in such a short time. "Yeah… he is."
Of course, Iruka hardly ever got to spend time in public without someone coming to demand his services.
"Iruka! I need you to look at my string!" Genma called out as he approached the stand. Iruka recognized the blond woman following him, but couldn't quite place her.
Genma wedged himself between Kakashi and Iruka, leaning against the stool that was still warm from Naruto. "Well? What do you see?"
"Maa… is that any way to ask a favor from someone?" Kakashi answered from behind him, startling Genma enough that the tokubetsu jounin actually jumped .
"Kakashi! I didn't see you there. Sorry." Genma replied sheepishly, rubbing his hand on the back of his neck.
One silver eyebrow rose. "It's not me that you should be apologizing to. It's common courtesy to ask when you want something." Kakashi scolded before turning back to his meal.
Iruka was just as shocked as Genma was. No one had ever stood up for Iruka like that before. Even more surprising than that , was that Genma actually apologized.
The man was blushing, his eyes refusing to make contact with Iruka's for more than a second. "Sorry, Iruka. Would you mind looking at my string? If you have the time, that is."
Iruka smiled at the rare politeness streaming from Genma's mouth. "Of course."
Naturally, Genma hadn't found his soulmate, but Iruka was more concerned with Kakashi. His string was still stuck, hanging in mid-air as if it didn't know where to go. He almost felt bad for the man, though he had to admit that not everyone cared about their "destined" love.
After that night, Iruka found that many of the villagers were asking for his services in a way that wasn't so overbearing and rude. He knew that it was Kakashi's doing, and couldn't bring himself to mind when he found himself dining with the mysterious man much more often.
When Naruto left with Jiraiya to train, Iruka assumed that he wouldn't see much of Kakashi around.
He had never been so happy to be proven wrong.
Kakashi was seemingly everywhere. He was constantly showing up when Iruka was eating, and often lounging up in the trees that he happened to be passing by. Iruka fought hard to hide his smiles everytime he sensed the other man's chakra as he walked down the street.
Even more than just running into each other, Kakashi had started showing up at Iruka's apartment. The first time it happened, Iruka was grading papers at his kitchen table when Kakashi just slipped through all of his protective wards and greeted him with a lazy wave.
Iruka didn't even mind.
Kakashi was the only person in the village that Iruka knew wouldn't ask about his string. Sometimes, he fought with himself over it. Should he tell him?
Every time, Iruka talked himself out of it, and every time he felt a bit worse. Kakashi was his friend. His best friend, even. Still, Iruka wouldn't bring it up when he didn't even know what was wrong with Kakashi's string in the first place.
It was a warm summer night. Iruka had been working on some paperwork for the mission room when Kakashi effortlessly jumped through his window. Iruka greeted him with a smile. "Hey, Kakashi. Would you like some tea?"
Kakashi nodded, but Iruka could always tell when something was on his mind. If it was something classified that he couldn't talk about, Iruka would likely never hear about it. Iruka stood, stretching and working the kinks from his back before wandering into the kitchen.
After filling the kettle with water, Iruka turned to find Kakashi directly behind him.
The chuunin froze, suddenly face to face with a maskless Kakashi. His eyes scanned the newly bared skin, even though his mind was telling him that this was private . Kakashi wouldn't want him to look.
Before Iruka could come to terms with that fact that Kakashi's mask couldn't have fallen on accident , the older man surged forward, crashing his lips into Iruka's.
Iruka's heart flooded with warmth, and he didn't hesitate to kiss back. Kakashi gripped his sides tightly, pulling him closer.
In a moment, Iruka regained his senses and pushed the confused jounin away, trying not to swoon at the beautiful face that was now pouting in his direction.
"Kakashi." Iruka mumbled, rubbing his hands on his face. "We can't do this."
Kakashi tilted his head, and Iruka was suddenly reminded of a puppy. "Why not? I was starting to think that maybe you liked me." Kakashi asked sheepishly, an adorable blush spreading over his face.
Iruka huffed, looking at the floor to avoid being pulled in by the lone stormy eye. "I do ." He admitted quietly. "I like you a lot . But… we both have soulmates waiting for us. I can't exactly ignore that when I am the only person that can see it."
Kakashi frowned, crossing his arms. "I thought that you couldn't see your own string?"
Iruka met his gaze again, and shrugged. "Well… I can't."
"Then it's my string that's the problem? I've never cared about my string. I care about you ." Kakashi spoke softly, moving his hands into his pockets.
"I know." Iruka replied. "If you cared, you would have asked by now."
"Do you know who my soulmate is? If you don't know, then it doesn't really matter." Kakashi replied pointedly.
Iruka was surprised by the question, shocked into silence as he tried to figure out how he was supposed to explain Kakashi's broken string. "No. I don't. Your string…"
Kakashi furrowed his silver brows again. "My string?" He asked, probing for more answers.
Iruka sighed in defeat. "It's… strange ." Kakashi didn't respond, simply waiting for Iruka to elaborate. The teacher huffed again, getting frustrated as he searched for the proper words. "It… stops . In mid-air."
Kakashi blinked for a minute, his eye turning towards the floor. "It just stops? How long is it?"
Iruka raised his eyebrow curiously. "Not very. Only a couple feet."
Kakashi huffed a laugh, a smile breaking across his face. Iruka was nearly blinded by it, his eyes drifting down to the perfectly shaped lips that had always been hidden behind thin fabric. "Can you look at it again?"
Iruka sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose as his frustration grew. "Kakashi…"
"Please? For me?" Kakashi nearly begged, and Iruka found himself helpless to resist.
Iruka activated his echolocation, searching out Kakashi's string once again. Sure enough, it was there, hanging in the air uselessly.
"Just watch for a minute, okay?" Kakashi spoke with a smile, oddly calm for a man that was being rejected.
Iruka did as he was told, watching as Kakashi started moving. The older man circled him slowly, watching as Iruka's jaw dropped in amazement.
Kakashi's string was following him. As Kakashi walked around him, his string followed Iruka like it was magnetized to him.
Iruka couldn't see his own string… but he could see his soulmate's.
It was only by sheer force of will that Iruka kept from bursting into tears at the new revelation.
Kakashi. Kakashi was his soulmate.
Iruka cut off his jutsu, reaching out and pulling the smiling man into a hug.
"I guess that means I was right?" Kakashi drawled, and Iruka could nearly hear the smirk that was undoubtedly on his face.
"I guess I do know who your soulmate is." Iruka mumbled, rubbing at his watering eyes as Kakashi pulled away.
"So… how about that kiss?" Kakashi asked, leaning forward slightly with an unfairly cute smile on his face.
Iruka gave him a playful shove, chuckling as he actually managed to knock the graceful jounin off-balance for a moment. "Who just up and kisses people ? Ask me on a date like a normal person , and I might consider kissing you afterwards ." Iruka replied, his smile uncontrollably large as Kakashi's face flushed.
"Maa… so mean. " Kakashi pouted. "Would you like to go on a date, Iruka?"
Iruka smiled fondly, unbelievably happy with this crazy turn of events. "Sure. You can take me out to ramen."
Iruka couldn't help but chuckle as Kakashi groaned at his choice. "We can date, Kakashi." He commented with a smirk. "But you get to tell Naruto when he comes back!" Iruka shouted with a laugh, grabbing Kakashi's hand, his soulmate's hand, and dragging the pouting man out the door with the biggest smile.