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Hold Back the River

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“Iruka-sensei, I’m worried about you.” Naruto looked up from his textbook on the history of the first shinobi war to stare at his old, and current, sensei. “Do you have anyone special you’re seeing? I’m worried you are lonely…”

 

“Hmm Naruto, and I’m worried about you too. How will you become Hokage if you are not focused on your history? I thought it would be more interesting since you saw some of this in those flashbacks, right? The poor Rokudaime-sama will never be able to retire and we both know how much he tires of this post.” Iruka cocked his head to the side with a small smile on his face. Naruto and he had a running joke being overly formal when referring to Kakashi. The man hated it and it amused Naruto to irk his Kaka-sensei; and Iruka was always down to joke around with Naruto. They had been at this study-game for over a year now, so anything to lighten the mood!

 

Unfortunately, the moment was interrupted, “maa, sensei, I hope you don’t spread such rumors in my village; it may hurt moral, ne? And please, just Kakashi…”

 

Iruka blushed and whipped his head to the window mouth gapping. “Hokage-sama! I’m so sorry, I never wou-"

 

“Kaka-sensei, what are you doing just showing up here?! I’m trying to learn and boot you out of office! You know you distract Iruka-sensei and I need him to focus. Leave.” Naruto boldly proclaimed. He wanted to talk to Iruka alone and Kakashi always took Iruka’s attention away. Why was Kakashi so annoying?

 

Iruka looked startled, “Naruto! You can’t talk to Kakashi-sama like that. But I am also curious what you are doing here?” Iruka looked at Kakashi expectantly.

 

“Please just Kakashi…” How many time’s is he going to have to say this. “I just wanted to stop by and see how you were coming along with your training. You know, since I don’t want to be Hokage and all.” Iruka looked embarrassed and frazzled at the comment. It was exactly what Kakashi was aiming for.

 

“Hokage-sama, I’m so sorry we will immediately stop our silliness and get straight back to work!” Iruka bowed low. Naruto practically cackled as Kakashi’s head fell with a sigh.

 

“Good one Iruka-sensei! Kaka-sensei, see? You are making him uncomfortable and all stiff. Please leave?” Naruto put his one good hand in front of his face, trying to mimic his old begging face, but it looked very silly with one hand only.

 

Iruka looked, face in open horror, from Kakashi to Naruto; back and forth. For their parts Kakashi and Naruto continued to stare at each other waiting for the other to blink first.

 

Iruka took the minute to compose himself. Clearing his throat, he decided to answer his Hokage’s inquiry. “Naruto is progressing very well! I feel like we are making great progress and he is almost at chuunin level knowledge! It hasn’t been quite even a year and yet he is doing so well.” Iruka’s praise didn’t come easily and Naruto practically preened.

 

“He will soon surpass my level.” Iruka knew that he agreed to help Naruto for the whole two years to gain enough knowledge to be considered jounin, but he had his doubts. How could a chuunin prepare the greatest shinobi alive to be a rank higher than he himself could achieve? Iruka knew he was a good teacher and he had most of the knowledge of a jounin, he supposed.

 

Naruto didn’t like the sound of that. “Iruka-sensei, no one knows the history of Konoha and all this material like you do. I don’t think I’ll ever surpass you!”

 

“Naruto, you have already done so in so many ways.” Iruka said very seriously. Naruto looked dubious but didn’t argue.

 

“Thank you for the report Iruka-sensei. I’m sure you will continue to do a fantastic job in guiding Naruto’s continued education.” Kakashi gave his signature crescent eye smile and body flickered away, exiting as suddenly as he entered.

 

“Finally! Now about your dating life, you know now that I’m dating Hinata, things are great! You really need to find someone. I don’t want my Iruka-sensei to be lonely!”

 

This was the third time this week (and it was only Wednesday) that Iruka had to listen to Naruto yell at him about his dating life. “I’m not lonely Naruto. I’ve been on my own since I was 11 and I like my own company just fine! Really!” Iruka huffed irritated all over again, how could this boy go from heart-warming to brain frying all within 5 minutes?! Iruka was emotionally exhausted by it, not that Iruka had the greatest emotional stability, but it was just getting to be too much.

 

“Ugh! What is up with your generation?! All loners.” Naruto may have had a point there. The around 30s crowd of Konoha-nin really didn’t seem to the outside world to be all that interested in love or dating.

 

“Clearly, we aren’t getting more done tonight, so why don’t we stop here? I know you will want to go out with Hinata-chan right? Since it’s so amazing to be dating and in love or whatever.” Iruka did like Hinata a lot and thought she deserved the world. And what kind of teacher would he be if he never noticed her crush? So, he was happy Naruto finally figured it out and she seemed so happy. If her happiness meant he had to be accosted constantly by Naruto and his annoying brand of “concern” so be it.

 

“Yes! I’m outta here!” Naruto wasted no time and would have given his father a run for his money on speed as he bolted out the door and down the street.

 

Iruka was left alone in the classroom, typical. He started cleaning up the supplies Naruto left strewn about his desk, book marking where he left off (turning back a page since Iruka was sure Naruto probably lost his attention before officially stopping). He dropped a scroll, which seemed to have a mind if its own as it rolled right under the desk. Sighing Iruka got on all fours to reach the demon text, cursing under his breath.

 

“My my sensei, what a… mouth you have on you.” Iruka catapulted upward, banging his head hard on the underside of the desk. “Oh… I’m sorry Iruka-sensei, are you OK?” Kakashi stepped up to Iruka who was holding his head blinking stars out of his eyes.

 

“Hokage-sama, what did I ever do to have the pleasure of your company twice in one evening?” Iruka said irritated but attempting civility.

 

“Please, just Kakashi…” Kakashi looked exasperated at having to say this again. Iruka was incurable. “I couldn’t help but notice that you were being bothered by Naruto. I was hoping to commiserate with you.”

 

Iruka looked up, finally able to see straight, but was he hearing straight? “Naruto is bothering you too Kakashi-sama? But of course, he would be so bold.”

 

“Iruka-sensei, I’m not a God… Could you drop the sama already?”

 

“Kakashi-saaan,” Iruka looked like he was really trying at least. “I really don’t see why we should be taking Naruto seriously. He’s just young and in love for the first time, ne?”

 

“Iruka-sensei, have you ever been in love?”

 

“Wah!? I hardly think that is important to know…” Iruka’s blush was fierce and Kakashi enjoyed every second. Teasing Iruka and seeing his blush was the highlight of his week.

 

“Well, maybe not, but it may make you more sympathetic to his actions. But still, I was not trying to pry. I was hoping we could talk, and its late, so maybe we can talk over dinner?”

 

Iruka looked up, he was hungry and didn’t really want to cook tonight. “You aren’t just trying to get a free meal out of me, are you? Because I don’t have the funds that you do.” Iruka looked at Kakashi suspiciously, all the stories he’s heard from Naruto about how cheap Kakashi is swimming to the surface.

 

“Iruka-sensei, you wound me! I would never try to take your money. You deserve a raise even! Dealing with Naruto again as a student. In fact, you are doing more work for the village for the same pay aren’t you? This doesn’t seem nice of your Hokage does it?”

 

Iruka hasn’t considered this. He wanted Naruto to do well and succeed and achieve his dream! But if it got him free dinner, he was going to milk this. “Wow, I never considered how I was being taken advantage of by my Hokage!” Iruka smiled at Kakashi showing his jest.

 

“Ma, it’s troublesome, but why don’t I make it up to you with dinner then? I’ll promise to pay, so you’ll know I am not about to take advantage?” Kakashi bargained.

 

“I’m not sure I’m allowed to deny a request from my most esteemed leader, nor would I want to.” Iruka and Kakashi’s relationship has been full of ups and downs, but right now it seemed they were on an up.

 

Kakashi helped Iruka pack up the rest of the study materials and put them in the storage closet before leaving the classroom. He seemed to know where he was heading, confidently strolling forward, robs billowing, clearly expecting Iruka to follow him. Iruka didn’t mind at all. He was tired after his full day of teaching, pre-genin in the morning, then one old obnoxious genin in the afternoon.

 

They were ushered into a booth at a well-known BBQ place not too far from Iruka’s apartment. “I thought you ate ramen too often sensei, so I wanted to broaden your palate.”

 

Iruka deadpanned, “yes, because I’ve never had BBQ before; this really should be a treat.” Kakashi laughed, deep from his diaphragm. “So, Naruto has been on you as well? I wonder how many others have been treated to him playing cupid.”

 

“Well so far I have only heard of you and me, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gai turns up pouting and making challenges.” Kakashi looked around paranoid for a second. Iruka laughed, light and airy.

 

“I see. It seemed, for me, his primary concern is me being alone, not really that I need to be in love.” Iruka smiled at Kakashi who kept an amused glint in his eyes. “I’m sure that we can nip this in the bud! Maybe we can just keep each other company every so often? A nice dinner like this? You can count it as my overtime pay, I get a free meal, and we both tell Naruto we are going out without lying.” Because Iruka knew he wasn’t about to go on actual dates with actual people any time soon.

 

Kakashi portrayed shocked, but he had gotten the exactly scenario he had hoped for. “Are you suggesting we go on “dates” to placate Naruto? Hmm now there is an idea.”

 

“It may be the concussion talking, but I think we can really work with this. We can plan them on evenings I tutor Naruto, so he sees… we probably don’t even have to say anything. The shock would silence him, for once.” They both laughed at the idea of a silent Naruto.

 

“Unlikely, he will actually just lament his precious Iruka-sensei spending time with “pervert Kaka-sensei”.”

 

“Oh, he won’t.” Iruka knew he probably would. “But I don’t want this to perturb your life in any way. You are our leader and I’m sure you have meetings and are busy often. And I don’t want the village to think we are dating and ruin your chances of finding a real date, you know!?”

 

Kakashi held up his hand to stop the rant. “Oh Iruka-sensei, I definitely don’t have any time to find a ‘real date’, but I do have to eat, and your tutoring sessions are scheduled, so I should be able to make that work. It’s only 2 days a week maximum.” Iruka nodded.

 

Their food was there in a jiff and it was delicious. Even though Iruka joked about him having eaten BBQ, he had never been to the popular restaurant right by his house before. Once he finished all he could possibly eat and Kakashi paid, Iruka stuck out his hand.

 

“Deal? A couple nights a week we have dinner, we never have to outright say we are on dates or anything, but I’m sure Naruto will get it!” Iruka said it out loud and started to wonder if perhaps he did hit his head a little too hard on that desk.

 

“Sounds like a great deal to me Iruka-sensei. You’ll have to start calling me by less formal addresses you know?” Kakashi was one sly devil, Iruka had not thought of that. If they were dating, he shouldn’t be saying Hokage-sama…

 

“Looks like you are getting a better deal from this huh Ka-ka-shi-san?” Iruka emphasized each syllable with a flourish.

 

Kakashi smirked under his mask, “you have no idea.” Before Iruka could really hear or digest it he said louder, “well, what a wonderful first date. Until next week.”

 

“Yes, until next week.” Iruka watched as Kakashi walked off in the opposite direction of his apartment thinking, ‘what in the world did I just get myself into?’

 


 

Monday came so fast, Iruka hardly had the time to think about his new “arrangement” at all. He remembered as he was helping Naruto understand why the villages went to war in the first place, when the original goal was to help maintain peace so the children could grow up and not be murdered all the time. It was a long night so far.

 

As 7 pm approached Naruto and Iruka both seemed to be on their last thread of patience when a knock came at the classroom door. They both turned their head with the same look as it opened to reveal their beloved Hokage.

 

“Baka-sensei, what are you doing here again?? You know you distract Iruka-sensei and I was just getting this.” Naruto was most certainly not getting it was all Iruka could think. Then he gained his wits and was about to punch his beloved pupil for being rude to their leader when Kakashi interrupted.

 

“I was hoping to get to distract Iruka at dinner actually. We have a reservation and it’s rude to be too late. And the reservation was at 6:30…” He whispered that last part, but ninja had good hearing it seems.

 

“What!?” Both Naruto and Iruka’s voices booming over Kakashi’s.

 

“Yes, well we better be off if we aren’t to make our host upset.” Said Kakashi as he grabbed Iruka’s elbow and started dragging him out of the room by the door of all things! Before they left the threshold, Kakashi turned to Naruto and said, “You need to clean up your own mess this time, Iruka isn’t your maid.”

 

Naruto was indignant, but also in such shock he wasn’t sure what was up and down! And then his sensei were out of sight and sound.

 

“Did Kakashi-sensei just steal Iruka-sensei? Should I be worried? Where are they eating?! What is happening??!”

 


 

Iruka had no clue where they were heading, but he was glad that he was finally the one to rush out without having to clean up for once! For once! When was the last time he got to feel so giddy getting to rush out of boring work with the promise of a nice evening?

 

Never. That was when.

 

Kakashi led Iruka toward the section of the city where the Hokage tower was. In fact, if anyone asked him in that moment, he would think that Kakashi was bringing him to the tower. Were there even restaurants in this part of town?

 

Kakashi still had a hold on his elbow as they moved gracefully through the crowd. A few people caught Iruka’s eye, giving him a very questioning look. He responded with a shrug and a goofy smile, barely having time to even recall if he knew the person or not.

 

“Why do I feel like I’m pulling a prank? It’s very exciting leaving that classroom for someone else to clean. Now I understand why Naruto does it almost every week!” Iruka’s face was practically ripping apart at the seams with how wide he was grinning.

 

Kakashi stopped at the front door to an apartment building right by the tower, looking at Iruka with his own conspirator’s smile. “Maa, sensei, you really should have started walking out on him many years ago! It’s great fun and I’m happy to share it with you finally.” He waved his hand and the doors lock made an audible 'click', allowing Kakashi to pull open the door. He beckoned Iruka to follow him in.

 

“Kakashi-sam…san, where are we exactly? This doesn’t seem like a restaurant with reservations and an angry maître d’ about to give away our table.”

 

“We are at my living quarters, and I am an excellent chef and maître d’.” It felt like an explanation, and yet Iruka felt no more informed than he was before he entered the lodging.

 

“I had no idea that you took reservations from yourself. This must make balancing the responsibilities of the Hokage very difficult! How does Shizune-san know when you are busy with yourself?” Kakashi almost tripped at that wording, staring wide-eyed at the sensei. Iruka was either as innocent as a field mouse, or a master of the straight face. Kakashi wasn’t sure which one he hoped for either.

 

“Sensei… I thought I would bring you here for this first dinner so that Naruto wouldn’t find us. I imagine he is looking into every restaurant in the city by now trying to save you. But he’ll never find you here.” Kakashi grabbed Iruka’s hand after they removed their shoes and put on the house slippers by the door. Iruka was thankful for the guidance since he was too busy looking at all the paintings and beautiful decorations in the official home to pay attention to his own feet.

 

Iruka and Kakashi walked into what Iruka decided was a dining room, but was bigger than any personal home’s dining room he had ever been in. This must be used normally for dignitaries and the like. Iruka blushed at the notion that he would be dining with the Hokage in the same place where the leaders of the whole world dined! There were already some dishes on the table, and Iruka wondered if they were actually late somehow.

 

“Kakashi-san, you should have told me what time you wanted to eat! I would have finished with Naruto earlier. I’m so sorry, how long have you been waiting? I hope it’s not cold or anything, and you aren’t starving!” Iruka looked over all the dishes. They looked delicious, but also home-made. He wondered if Kakashi made these dishes. He said he was a great cook, but Iruka would be the judge of that!

 

“Iruka-sensei, let’s sit and eat. I was just joking earlier. I wanted to get you out of there fast without Naruto being too annoying, so I made up the timing.”

 

“Oh.” Iruka’s mouth made a perfect little “o” and Kakashi could not look away from it. It was the perfect timing for an interruption and interruption did they get.

“Eternal rival-sama! In the springtime of your youth with love and affection finally added!” Gai literally twirled into the room dropping rose petals. It shouldn’t have surprised Iruka to see, but his mouth changed from an “o” to what could only be described as constipated shock. He was trying not to laugh at rose petals but failing and it was clear on his face.

 

Kakashi looked exhausted as he replied, “yes, yes Gai thank you.” To Iruka he said, “I won our last competition and he insisted to hop one-footed around the village walls 1000 times as his punishment, which seemed a bit harsh for losing in a staring contest, so I suggested he could just play the waiter to my date this evening. He was supposed to be professional and silent as per our agreed terms.” Kakashi gave Gai a very bland look over Iruka’s shoulder and Gai, strained smile, slowly started backing out of the room picking up petals on his way. Considering he was backing out on his hands since he couldn’t use his leg anymore finally broke Iruka.

 

It was uncontrollable, loud, and there were definitely snorts in his laughter, but Kakashi couldn’t think of anything better sounding at that moment. He brought Iruka to a tatami mat and sat down next to him.

 

“Where did he get those petals?! And why did it feel like there was an ocean sunset happening behind him? Oh Kakashi, how is he going to serve us? With his feet??” This brought another howl of laughter from the young man. Kakashi couldn’t help but laugh, just quieter and controlled of course (he was the Hokage after all).

 

“I very much hope he will find a way to deliver our meals without the use of his toes.” Kakashi said the last word with so much disgust that Iruka started laughing anew. Kakashi didn’t think he’d seen Iruka laugh this much or smile this much ever. Of course, he had heard Iruka’s laughter with Naruto, but he never thought he would get the chance to be present for it. Iruka was still grinning as he calmed down. His scar almost looked like a second smile, and the flush on his cheeks really emphasized it. Iruka brushed away a wayward tear before it could fall. Iruka tended to be an emotional person, but he was pleased to wipe away a happy tear tonight.

 

Iruka decided to start eating now, not wanting to talk any more until he had more control over his faculties. The plates on the table held little figure food appetizers, and he didn’t want to ruin his appetite for whatever the main meal was. He popped a gyoza in his mouth and it practically burst with flavor. He didn’t think he had eaten better honestly, and he said as much.

 

Iruka couldn’t tell for sure, but there looked like there was a bit of red coloring the pale skin of Kakashi’s cheeks just above the mask. Iruka hoped his compliment had caused the rouge tint, finally some reaction from Kakashi! Iruka was tired of always being the one blushing and stammering.

 

Gai decided to burst into the dining room at this moment. They saw him practically demure in his wheelchair for once, and a tray was balanced on his lap with what looked like a perfectly prepared fish with veggies.

 

“Oh Gai-san, thank you so much!” Iruka bowed his head slightly to show his thanks to the older man. It felt awkward to be served by his superior, but it was also awkward to be eating companionably next to a man so high above his own station that it almost made him laugh again, though not necessarily in a happy way. Before he could brood, Gai used his knee somehow to frisbee the dishes in front of Iruka and Kakashi respectively.

 

“Think nothing of it, kind and full-hearted Iruka-sensei!” Kakashi gave Gai a look so bland and dead, that Iruka literally felt like his spirit had left his body.

 

“You’re still here Gai? I thought you left already, since you have finished your end of the deal.”

 

“Oh! my hip and youthful rival!! One day, I will match your cool air! But I’m afraid my springtime is a fiery inferno bursting out of my very pores! I swear I will become a more worthy rival for you. This, though not an official defeat, will motivate me to pour more of myself into training!”

 

“Gai-san, how do you propose to train for being cold and deadpan when it is so against your nature? Why would you want to be when you are so vibrant?” Iruka wanted to make Gai feel like his passion wasn’t a bad thing! He brought joy -and annoyance- everywhere he went. Honestly as long as it wasn’t directed at Iruka, it was very amusing.

 

“Iruka-sensei!!!” and Gai was on his knees in front of Iruka, tears streaming down his face looking completely unable to control himself in the least. Iruka had only ever seen this level of babbling from the man when he was with Lee-kun and both were blubbery, blabbering messes. Maybe Kakashi had the right idea. Iruka would go for cold so he could get on with his “date” properly. Iruka dropped his smile and turned away from Gai.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry Gai, I thought you were leaving,” Iruka deadpanned, looking extremely blankly into Gai’s eyes. He felt a little bad, but the man was really going overboard here.

 

Gai gawked. “So hip! So youthful!! You and Kakashi were made for one another. What an emotional rollercoaster you sent me on. I will go immediately and climb the face of my rival to hone my own emotions.” And Gai was gone. That worked way too well. Iruka patted himself on the back metaphorically.

 

Iruka smiled as he finally took a big inhale of his fish, it smelled and looked amazing, so he started eating it. It tasted delicious as well, Iruka turned toward Kakashi to tell him this but was stopped in his tracks. Kakashi was giving him the most peculiar look.

 

“What? Do I have something on my face?” Iruka started for his napkin when Kakashi’s hand shot out, preventing him from lifting the cloth to his lips.

 

“Sensei, I feel as though I have been out-matched against Gai. That has never happened before. I thought you were a goner with his tearful face, but you were masterful. I’m very proud.” Ah so that face was pride.

 

“Well, I’m happy to make my Hokage-sama proud of my skills against a far superior ninja.” Kakashi couldn’t stop the large, stupid smile from his face, so he turned toward his own fish. He looked back over and noticed Iruka focused intently at his own food, pleased smile and a light flush, but he was not looking toward Kakashi at all, in fact he had closed his eyes.

 

Kakashi trusted Iruka, though the man was clearly unpredictable, so he took his mask down to begin eating. Kakashi ate just a little slower than normal and glanced more than he normally would at his companion. Iruka never looked over, and Kakashi smiled as he ate.

If the other dates were even a quarter of the fun as this one had been, Kakashi was very much going to enjoy his time.