There was a running joke, within his group of friends, that if there was a hill to die on, Iruka would stand atop it, tombstone in hand. Iruka, more self-aware than most shinobi, was well aware of this fact; he knew his stubbornness was at times a problem, but everyone had their flaws, right? Relatively speaking, being a stickler for the rules and one's own preferences wasn't a bad flaw to have. If there was one rule Iruka lived by, it was that he gave little on his own morals and stances.
Rokudaime Kakashi Hatake was no exception to this rule. If anything, he was especially beholden to it. Over the years, Iruka and Kakashi had become unexpectedly close friends, but Iruka was still unwilling to allow the man—Hokage or not—to get away with the antics everyone else seemed to turn a blind eye to.
And so, there he stood—satchel slung over his shoulder, keys in hand, staring down at the plastic package sitting on the welcome mat outside the door to his apartment. There was a cardboard insert stuck inside the clear vinyl depicting a young, pretty woman wearing a skimpy parody of a traditional red kimono, decorated with floral patterns. She stood with one leg popped out behind her and a wide smile across her face. Across the bottom of the insert, orange block letters read "ROMANCE HEROINE"—an obvious attempt to avoid copyright infringement.
Iruka felt the urge to laugh and/or cry at the package on his doorstep—both in relatively equal measure. At the very least, he couldn't say he was very surprised—Kakashi was one of the few people in the village who could rival Iruka's sheer bullheadedness.
He unlocked the door, disarmed the wards, and kicked the package inside. It tumbled pitifully in the genkan. Iruka wrinkled his nose at it as he stepped inside, as though the costume itself was the source of his frustrations. As he kicked off his shoes, he noticed a small note taped to the back of the package and bent down to pick it up.
"picked this up for u the other day," the note read in Kakashi's nearly-unintelligible scrawl. "hope u like it." It was signed with a henohenomoheji, and the smiling face seemed to be mocking Iruka.
Despite his irritation, Iruka smiled a little. What a dork, he thought, and almost chastised himself for calling the Hokage a dork. Almost.
He kicked the package to the side of the genkan so that Kakashi would see it the next time he came over. Two can play at that game, Iruka thought wryly.
The next afternoon, Iruka nearly dropped his armful of groceries as he struggled to juggle them and unlock the door simultaneously. He tumbled inside, very nearly sending a week's worth of produce scattering about the entryway.
As soon as the door closed behind him, the hair on his arms stood up at the feeling of a chakra signature in his living room, sitting on his couch.
"Kakashi?" he called out, standing stock still. What a great shinobi I am, he thought, giving this intruder a warning.
"Yo!" A voice called from the living room. Iruka felt the tension melt from his body at the familiar sound and slipped his shoes off, noticing that the costume wasn't where he'd left it.
Walking into the apartment, Iruka saw a tuft of silver hair peeking up over the back of the couch.
Kakashi poked his head up. "Sensei," he smiled. His mask was down, as it often was in Iruka's apartment—a fact that Iruka didn't let himself analyze too deeply. No matter how many times it happened, it always made Iruka's heart feel like it was going to flutter out of his chest.
Afternoons like this—when he came home to find the man lounging on the couch, mask tucked under his chin, hair wild, reading his smutty books—made Iruka forget that Kakashi was Hokage. That Kakashi had helped kill a god.
He put it out of his mind and trekked to the kitchen to put the groceries away. There, on the countertop of the kitchen island, sat the Halloween costume. Mocking him. He frowned and placed the bags on the counter, picked the package up, and walked back into the living room.
"Kakashi," he said, voice sharp, to the back of the couch.
"Hmm?" Kakashi didn't look up from the book in his hand. Iruka recognized it not as Icha Icha, but as the book on traumatic events during childhood and the effects on development that he'd recommended Kakashi read. It nearly made him feel bad for the hell he was about to unleash.
"What is this?" his voice didn't yet betray the full severity of his ire, but it was firm. His Teacher Voice.
Kakashi poked his head back up and squinted over at Iruka and the package clutched in his hand as if he didn't know precisely what the teacher was holding. "That's your Halloween costume, sensei," he said, incredulous, "we talked about this."
And there it was—the boiling point. Iruka knew Kakashi was doing this to get a rise out of him, but he could not quell the pure rage boiling in his veins. He could tell by the minute tensing of Kakashi's muscles that the silver-haired jerk knew what was coming, but by then the words were already tumbling from his mouth.
"Hokage-sama!" Iruka's voice was already of seismic magnitude, but it only continued to crescendo, "We have talked about this! I will not dress as a woman for Halloween, ESPECIALLY NOT AS A WOMAN FROM ONE OF YOUR PORN BOOKS!" Iruka's face was burning cherry red as Kakashi turned to look at him again, still infuriatingly nonplussed. Iruka couldn't hold it in any longer, and without another thought he launched the package at Kakashi's—the Hokage's—head. It hit its target with a pathetic crinkle and flopped to the couch.
As soon as the projectile hit, Iruka's face drained of color and he clasped his hands to his mouth in shock and horror. Belatedly, he wondered if a dozen or more ANBU operatives were about to bust down his door—he'd just assaulted the Hokage.
Kakashi merely looked at him, eyelids heavy with projected boredom and an expression that seemed to ask, "Are you quite finished?"
Iruka felt bad for yelling at his friend, but the bored look on Kakashi's face was already beginning to light the fires of anger anew deep in his gut. He took a deep breath, steeling himself, now that he was pretty sure no ANBU were coming to haul him away to T&I.
"Do you have a better idea?" Kakashi asked, sounding like such a premise was nearly impossible to him.
Iruka rubbed at his temples, turned on his heel, and marched back into the kitchen. "It shouldn't be hard to think of one," he called back as he began sorting through the groceries.
Kakashi followed him and wordlessly they began a dance of putting veggies here, boxes of rice there, granola bars in the cabinet, milk in the fridge. Not thinking about what it meant that Kakashi knew precisely where everything was kept in Iruka's kitchen was a conscious choice for the chūnin, and he glanced over for a moment as Kakashi placed some grapes in the crisper.
In reality, the two were close in height—Kakashi only had a few inches on Iruka—but as the man glided around the kitchen with his lithe, natural grace, Iruka felt like Kakashi towered over him.
It was odd, and Iruka was still acclimating to it—this new friendship that they'd settled into. Before the war, Iruka had thought Kakashi disliked him; they'd had a fair number of public arguments to corroborate that assumption. But then Kakashi had come home a hero and been named Hokage, and Iruka—who had become somewhat of a permanent fixture in the Hokage Tower—was stuck spending a lot more time around the man. Between the two of them helping Naruto make jōnin, Iruka being promoted to Vice Principal, and, well, the lack of things to seriously argue about, they'd been thrown together by circumstance.
And there they were, putting Iruka's groceries away together like it was the most natural thing in the world
"Something on my face, sensei?" Kakashi turned around from the fridge with a smirk.
Iruka realized he'd been staring and tried to temper the blush he felt rising on his cheeks. "No, I— I'm just thinking of Halloween costumes, that's all," he lied.
Ah, yes, the Halloween Debacle. Of all the things Iruka had learned about Kakashi in the past couple of years, the most surprising was, perhaps, the man's penchant for Halloween. It was Kakashi's favorite holiday and one that he intended to take very seriously, now that he wasn't really active duty. Iruka hadn't pegged the jōnin as a big holiday person, but then again, he'd known very little about the man before the war.
It was. . .cute? Adorable? Iruka swept those adjectives away, settling on the slightly more neutral term "endearing" to describe Kakashi's obsession with the fall holiday. The way Kakashi had brought him spiced cinnamon tea on the first day of autumn and busted out an impressive collection of sweaters and scarves for the season was endearing, not cute. Not adorable.
And most endearing of all had been the look on Kakashi's face when he'd told Iruka that he was finally going to be able to host a Halloween party that year. Even without the mask, Kakashi's facial expressions were subtle, but Iruka could see the child-like excitement on his face, regardless. It would be the first time Kakashi had invited guests to the Hatake estate since before. . .
"Because why not?" Kakashi had said, after telling Iruka about the party, "the place has enough ghosts for it, anyways." It had been a joke, but Iruka had caught the glint of sadness in Kakashi's eyes as he said it.
Anyways, a few days after Kakashi had announced the party, Gai had challenged the host—his Eternal Rival—to a costume contest. Subsequently, the entire guest list had somehow gotten involved, and so had been born the Costume Debacle; because Kakashi—with his incredible single-mindedness—had been intent on getting Iruka to do a joint costume with him for the past month. And, of course, he wanted nothing more than for Iruka to dress up as the heroine from one of the Icha Icha novels.
Kakashi had insisted that Iruka was "perfect" to play the part of Mai-chan. According to Kakashi, both she and Iruka had "luscious brown locks, golden skin, and perfect thighs," (the last part had been added with an incredible amount of eyebrow waggling, for which Iruka had almost punched the Hokage).
"Well?" The voice pulled Iruka from his thoughts. He looked up to spot Kakashi leaning back against the counter, looking at Iruka as though he'd read the chūnin's mind. "Any ideas?"
Iruka blushed again and ran a finger over the raised edge of his scar as he wracked his brain for something, anything to get Kakashi to shut up about the costumes.
"Hmm," he leaned against the edge of the island, directly across from Kakashi. He brought a hand to his chin, brow furrowed in concentration. "Oh!" Iruka could practically feel the lightbulb above his head switch on as he looked at Kakashi with wide eyes and a smile to match. "I know! We'll go as Hashirama and Tobirama Senju!"
Kakashi's eyebrows shot up and the corners of his bare mouth angled upward. "The first and second Hokage?" he asked as if he needed Iruka to justify the suggestion.
"Yes," Iruka crossed his arms, playfully defensive. "It's perfect. I can't believe I've never thought of it before! We've got the looks for it," he gestured to his hair and Kakashi's own, respectively, "and it'll be a much better costume than your silly idea."
Kakashi scoffed a little, but Iruka could plainly see the smile he was trying to hide. "What about my face?" he asked.
Iruka leaned a little closer and studied Kakashi's bared face for a moment, fingers placed pensively at his own chin. Struggling to suppress his smile, he teased, "Yes, well, you're not as handsome as Tobirama, obviously," he lowered his arms and leaned away, turning to wash his hands at the kitchen sink. "But I suppose there's nothing that can be done about it."
He picked up the hand towel from its place on the rack and turned to look back at Kakashi over his shoulder. When he did so, the silver-haired Hokage was much closer than Iruka had expected. He hoped the surprise didn't show too blatantly on his face.
There was something indiscernible in Kakashi's expression as the taller man gazed into Iruka's eyes, standing mere inches apart. He chuckled softly, "You know what I meant, sensei."
Iruka laughed too and hung the towel back up, turning to fully face the man crowding in behind him. He fought off the thoughts about how the proximity made his skin feel electrified. "Leave it to me, Kakashi-sama," he said, "I have an idea."
A few days later, Iruka was sitting down to grade papers at the kitchen table. His Halloween plan was now fully in motion, and he smiled to himself as he took a luxurious sip of cinnamon tea and settled down at the table. Kakashi was off his back—for now, at least—he didn't have to wear some skimpy dress to the get-together, and the party would be fun in another couple of weeks. All was well.
Just as Iruka picked up the first sheet of homework to be graded, his front door burst open with no warning. There were only three people that knew how to disarm his wards, so the intruder had to be either Naruto, Anko, or Kakashi. Izumo and Kotetsu had also once had such privileged access—until Iruka discovered they'd been mooching off his ice cream supply, so their Ward Privileges had been temporarily revoked.
The fourth option, Iruka thought, was an intruder. Before this thought had registered, Iruka's body was already jumping into a defensive stance and grabbing the kunai hidden on the underside of his desk on autopilot. People pegged Iruka as nothing but a desk-jockey, but he wasn't ignorant of the fact that his proximity to both the Nine-Tails jinchūriki and the Rokudaime Hokage painted a target on his back.
Just as he was crouching, poised to pounce, his eyes caught the blur of orange dashing into his apartment, and all the tension melted from his body at once.
"Naruto!" He scolded, arms dropping to his sides.
"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto shrieked in reply as he dashed for his favorite sensei. He grabbed Iruka's shoulders, and the chūnin nearly winced at how tight the fingers were digging into his collarbones. "You've seen Kakashi-sensei's face?!" He demanded, ignoring the fact that he was about to be chastised.
The wind that Iruka had been amassing in his lungs for the scolding of the century quickly dissipated. He looked at the whiskered face before him, confused. "You haven't?" He asked innocently. He'd never thought about it before, but the realization hit him then and there—of course Naruto hadn't seen Kakashi's face. As much as they both loved the kid, the little Uzumaki wasn't exactly discreet.
"NO!" Naruto howled as if to prove Iruka's point. "What does he look like? Does he have buck teeth? Huge lips?? Tiny lips??"
Naruto continued his barrage of questions and Iruka wondered how many others had been cornered by the boy in the quest to learn what the bottom half of Kakashi's face looked like. He was only half listening, rubbing at his temples, when a particular point caught his ears.
"Is he ugly?? Kaka-sensei said that you said he's ugly, and—"
"What?!" Iruka cut him off. Iruka wasn't the kind of person to make disparaging remarks about others, especially not about those he cared for, or when he thought they might be repeated. And that was beside the fact that Kakashi was devastatingly, earth-shatteringly attractive. "I never said that!"
"Well," Naruto started. Iruka could tell from the teen's deep intake of breath that this was going to be a very long, very rushed explanation. "I was trying to get a peek under Kakashi-sensei's mask, ya know, but he caught me and I was trying to butter him up, so I told him, 'Oh, Kaka-sensei, you must be the most handsome Hokage! You gotta show me what's under the mask, I wanna know for sure!' and then he said that you wouldn't agree with that, and weren't you a good judge of handsomeness? And that you didn't think he was as handsome as Old Man Tobirama! And so I said—"
"Okay, okay," Iruka cut him off, punctuating the interruption with a firm hand on Naruto's shoulder. "First of all, it's Lord Tobirama to you, kid; and second of all, I was just teasing him."
Naruto looked at him carefully, appearing to weigh the truth in Iruka's words. "Iruka-sensei?" he asked softly, sounding very much like the young boy he still was in Iruka's mind.
"Yes, Naruto?" Iruka tried to keep his voice level. He was aggravated, sure, but when Naruto used his cute, soft voice, Iruka melted like butter. He was pretty sure that Naruto knew this by now and used it against him, the little bastard.
"Why have you seen Kakashi-sensei's face?"
Iruka smiled and ruffled Naruto's hair, not allowing himself to think about how he had to reach up to do so nowadays. He pulled out the chair adjacent to his own at the table and patted the seat before taking his own.
"Kakashi-sensei is a friend, Naruto," he said as Naruto settled into the chair. The boy grabbed Iruka's cup of tea and took a long swig before Iruka could stop him. "Hey!" He chastised as he tried to grab it back, but quickly relented and accepted his defeat. Naruto grinned at him over the edge of the cup, the little bastard.
"He trusts me, I guess?" Iruka continued with a smirk. "He's private about it, Naruto. You should respect his wishes."
"Yeah, but I wanna knooooow!" Naruto whined after taking yet another drink of Iruka's tea.
Iruka shook his head and laughed softly, looking back down at the spread of papers before him. "Did you want to spend time with your favorite sensei, or did you just come here to harass me about Kakashi-sensei's face?"
When he looked back up, Naruto was grinning sheepishly and rubbing at the back of his neck.
"Uh. . .I. . .uh. . .Gotta go, sensei!" He bolted up and out of the window beside the table.
Iruka briefly considered yelling out after him about the proper use of windows and doors, but instead settled for shaking his head and sighing with a smile. That boy had a lot of Iruka in him, but a good bit of Kakashi, too.
A week later, Iruka and Naruto sat cross-legged on the floor of Iruka's dining area. The table had been shoved against the wall to accommodate the large amount of paint, cardboard, string, and other miscellaneous craft supplies surrounding them.
Naruto was carefully applying coats of red paint to the pieces of cardboard that Iruka had trimmed to size. Once they'd been painted and had the chance to dry, Iruka planned to tape them together or tie them with string to form a crude (but passable) imitation of the plated armor that Hashirama had worn in his time.
Iruka was pleasantly surprised at the focus and dedication Naruto was exhibiting for his assigned task and, like so many times before, his heart swelled with affection when he looked over at the whiskered boy. Deep down, Iruka knew that Naruto was more man than boy—had been for quite some time—but Iruka figured he would never stop seeing Naruto as he'd been when he was young and practically begging for ramen.
Naruto must have felt Iruka's stare—he looked up at where Iruka sat watching him. "Do I have something on my face, sensei?" He asked, half serious.
Iruka looked at the smudges of red paint on Naruto's forehead and cheeks. "No," he laughed, "not at all. I was just wondering, Naruto, what are you going as for Halloween?"
The boy's cheeks flushed a little red and he ducked his head again, looking back down at the piece of cardboard he'd been working on. "Oh, uh. . .that's a secret, sensei!"
Iruka narrowed his eyes at the little jinchūriki, his brow starting to furrow. That sort of admission could only mean that something about Naruto's costume would make the sensei angry. "Naruto," he started, the warning clear in his voice.
Before he could press for further details, though, the front door burst open.
Doesn't anyone in this village know how to knock?!
"Speak of the old pervert!" Naruto laughed, pretending to be more annoyed than he really was. "Kakashi-sensei, are you here to help Iruka-sensei with his costume, too?"
Iruka could tell by the way Kakashi's eyes crinkled that he was smiling as he stepped into the apartment. He held up a plastic bag in his right hand, and there was a stack of broken-down cardboard boxes tucked under his left arm.
"Actually," he said, kicking the door closed behind him, "I brought some takeout and some supplies to start working on my own."
"Your own?" Naruto asked innocently as Kakashi made his way into Iruka's small kitchen. The boy was quickly distracted, however, by the smell of ramen emanating from the takeout bag. "Did you bring enough for me?!" He jumped up to hurry after Kakashi, nearly upsetting the tub of paint, his previous question completely forgotten at the prospect of Ichiraku's.
Iruka caught the paint container just before it tipped over onto its side and frowned in the direction of the kitchen, but the expression lacked any real ire. Kakashi's presence was a pleasant surprise; though it wasn't rare for them to share takeout dinners every now and then, the Rokudaime had been complaining about his busy schedule just a few days prior, so Iruka hadn't expected to see much of him before the party.
He capped the paint and stood, remembering that he had a gift for Kakashi, as well—the most crucial piece of the entire Tobirama costume. He retrieved the bag from his entryway closet, smiling as he listened to the playful banter between Naruto and his former jōnin-sensei.
In the kitchen, Naruto was already stuffing his face full of ramen, and Kakashi looked up at him with something between amusement and annoyance; Iruka was all too familiar with the feeling.
"I have something for you, Kakashi," he said as he made his way to the kitchen island where the other two men sat perched on the bar stools. Iruka took the spot beside Naruto and slid the bag in front of Kakashi.
Kakashi eyed the package and then looked back up at Iruka. "For me, sensei?" he asked, eyebrows slightly raised.
Iruka laughed. "Yes, for you, silly. Open it."
Naruto continued his slurping but watched with wide-eyed curiosity as Kakashi pulled the bag open and reached in.
Iruka knew the piece of fabric was soft and light, made of the same material as Kakashi's other masks. The key difference, however, was that rather than the plain navy or black masks Kakashi preferred, this cowl had been screen printed with a cartoon rendition of the lower half of the second Hokage's face—war paint, patented smirk, and all. The method of printing patterns and designs onto fabric was fairly new—made possible by the technological boom the village was currently going through—and the strange custom order had cost Iruka a pretty penny. He'd told himself that the price was worth avoiding dressing up as a character from a smut novel, but the soft, warm look on Kakashi's face wasn't a bad reward, either.
Kakashi looked at him with wide, glassy eyes. His eyebrows were still slightly raised, and Iruka could tell that he was smiling beneath the mask. He felt guilty for it, but Iruka wished that Naruto hadn't been present so that he could've watched the expressions play across Kakashi's bare face, instead.
"This was your solution?" Iruka could hear the smile in Kakashi's voice as the Hokage asked a question they both knew the answer to, still holding the mask up to inspect the printing.
"Yes," Iruka confirmed. "I know it isn't perfect, and it'll probably look a little goofy, but I thought it would make you feel more secure than a henge or something. You don't have to wear it if you don't want," he added quickly, feeling a sudden stab of doubt, "I just thought it would be fun."
Kakashi looked up again, his dark eyes glittering. "It's great, Iruka. Thank you."
A few minutes later, Naruto took off with a vague, mumbled excuse about a mission in the morning. Neither Kakashi nor Iruka knew what mission the young shinobi was talking about, but figured they'd tortured him enough for the day.
Iruka was once again seated cross-legged on the floor of the dining area. Across from him, Kakashi's long legs were sprawled out despite the man's concentration on painting his own pieces of cardboard the vibrant blue color that Tobirama had been known to wear.
"Thank you again, Iruka," Kakashi said without preamble, not looking up from the task at hand.
Iruka paused and looked up from cutting cardboard with a pair of old, dulled scissors. His fingers hurt and he looked at Kakashi for a moment before asking, "For what?"
Kakashi finished with the strip he'd been working on and placed in with the others on a piece of newspaper to dry. With a sigh, he set his brush down and finally looked up at Iruka. "For the mask," he said. He looked down again, fiddling with a loose string on the bottom hem of his shirt. "Most people aren't as easy-going about it as you," he said, voice softer. "They almost get offended about it, for some reason."
Iruka huffed out a laugh and went back to cutting the cardboard. "It's not a big deal, Kakashi. I just didn't want to make you feel uncomfortable, is all. I get it."
"And. . .I'm sorry, Iruka-sensei," Kakashi added as though Iruka had not said anything, his voice impossibly quieter.
Iruka stopped and whipped his gaze up. Kakashi's head was still ducked and he still fidgeted with the frayed ends of his shirt.
"For what?" Iruka laughed, a little nervously, unsure of what Kakashi possibly had to apologize for. He set his scissors and cardboard off to the side and scooted a little closer to the Hokage.
Like a child that knew he'd done wrong, Kakashi still refused to meet Iruka's gaze. "For trying to pressure you into a costume you didn't want to do," he said to the floorboards.
Iruka wanted to laugh—the Hokage looked like one of his sulking pre-genin. "I know it was all in good fun, Kakashi," he said gently, placing a hand on Kakashi's knee.
Kakashi's gaze jerked up at the contact and Iruka almost drew back, worried he'd done something wrong. He knew that both he and Kakashi weren't very touchy—being orphaned at a young age did that to you—but he didn't think a friendly pat on the knee was so bad.
But then Kakashi's hand was blanketing his own, and all at once, Iruka was hit with the dizzying realization of how close the two of them were. Kakashi's unmasked features were only about a foot away from his own, and Iruka's gaze was inexplicably drawn to the other's lips. They were the perfect shade of pink for Kakashi's pale skin, fuller than Iruka had expected before seeing them, and parted slightly in the dim light of the apartment.
The thought came unbidden, unwanted, and shocked Iruka out of his reverie about the Hokage's lips, of all things. When he snapped his gaze back up, though, Kakashi's eyes were already on his own, watching. Iruka knew instantly from Kakashi's expression that the other knew exactly what he'd been thinking.
He jerked his hand back, desperate to put space between them so he could actually think once more. "Kakashi, I—" he started to stand.
"I should go," Kakashi cut him off. "Thank you for your help, Iruka-sensei."
Iruka couldn't bring himself to meet Kakashi's eyes, not when the man was clearly so offended by what Iruka had been thinking. He felt a gust of wind and heard a rustling of leaves and knew that Kakashi was gone.
The pounding on Iruka's door became louder and louder as he hurried to the entryway.
"Coming, coming!" He shouted, already pretty sure of who was on the other side. When he opened the door for Naruto and Sakura, he was only slightly surprised by their costume choice. His inner prankster—the one he'd never lost from his Academy days—wept tears of joy. He schooled his expression as best he could, putting forth the facade of the stern Academy sensei he was known to be.
"That's incredibly disrespectful, Naruto, Sakura. I thought you two knew better," he chastised, leaning against the doorframe.
Sakura had the decency to look at least a little sheepish, but Naruto beamed at him with the jinchūriki's signature enthusiasm.
"Aw, c'mon Iruka-sensei," he laughed, "you know it's gonna be hilarious!"
The two former members of Team 7 stood on his doormat in matching attire—pre-war style flak jackets, long-sleeved shirts, fingerless gloves, masks pulled up over their noses, and their hitai-ate pulled down over their left eyes. Naruto had spiked his hair up in an imitation of Kakashi's signature wild mop, but Sakura's was merely pulled back into her typical ponytail.
Iruka had to admit, it was hilarious—Sakura's idea, no doubt. Naruto was the prankster, sure, but Sakura's sense of humor was witty and off-the-cuff.
"Alright, alright, c'mon in," Iruka tried to suppress his laughter as he waved the kids in. He shut the door behind them and made his way back to the bathroom as Naruto plopped down onto the couch. "I'm almost ready," he called, standing in front of the mirror over the sink as he tried to perfect his hair and tie on the headband Hashirama wore before founding the village.
Iruka had spent the majority of the day—the past couple of days, actually—worrying about Kakashi. He hadn't heard from the Rokudaime since the night Kakashi had fled the apartment and for all Iruka knew, Kakashi might not even dress up as Tobirama. He felt guilty for having such untoward thoughts about his friend in the moment, but he didn't think that it was enough to merit the complete cold-shoulder he'd been given for the past week or so.
Regardless, he'd spent way too much time and effort on his costume to back out now, Kakashi be damned. The Hokage would have to see Iruka at this party, and then the two of them could duke it out.
"You guys ready?'" Iruka asked as he stepped out of the bathroom.
Naruto and Sakura both looked up from where they'd been watching the TV lazily. The two pairs of eyes lit up as Iruka stepped into the light.
"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto jumped up, "you look just like Old Man Hashirama!"
Iruka did have to admit, the resemblance was striking. His hair wasn't nearly as long as Lord First's, and he was a little more tan, but they bore a passing resemblance. On top of that, his DIY armor had turned out better than he'd hoped and, as long as it stayed in one piece for the entirety of the night, he thought he might actually have a shot at winning the costume contest.
"Thank you, Naruto!" He beamed. "Are you both ready?"
The trio decided to walk through the streets, rather than by rooftop; the evening was pleasantly cool, and the late afternoon sun cast golden-orange light over the entirety of the village. Many of the storefronts had Halloween decorations and displays out, and the alleys were filled with the smells of pumpkin-flavored baked goods and apple cider. It was the perfect evening for a Halloween party, Iruka mused.
The walk to the old Hatake estate from Iruka's apartment was not a short one; the home was on the outskirts of the village among many of the other old clan compounds. The chatter between Naruto and Sakura made the journey pass quickly, though, and before long the three of them stood in the genkan of Kakashi's ancestral abode. Between Iruka's rushed, last-minute preparations and the relaxed pace at which they'd walked, they arrived at the optimal time—perfectly fashionably late.
The living area of the home was mostly open-concept; from their place in the genkan, the kitchen and dining area were to their left, the living room and sitting area to the right. The two sides of the grand room were separated by shoji screen dividers that had been slid to the middle of the area, leaving a large, open space at both ends. At the back of the living room, the sliding doors that led out to the engawa had been left open, and Iruka could see that there were guests milling about the vast backyard, as well.
"Naruto, Sakura!" A voice called from the living room. Sai, the fourth member of Team 7, appeared before them as they were slipping their sandals off.
"Sai!" Sakura greeted, throwing her arms around the boy in a quick hug.
Sai regarded Iruka with a small, polite smile, a nod, and an, "Iruka-sensei." The pale boy wore a brown shirt and pants, a small blue vest, a pair of floppy dog ears, and a hitai-ate.
Pakkun, Iruka realized, chuckling inwardly. After a few moments of small talk with Sai, Iruka took the opportunity to excuse himself and find his own partner-in-costume.
Now that he was here and saw the crowd already gathered at the party, Iruka was hit with a sudden wave of uncertainty. Kakashi, who he hadn't seen in nearly a week, was nowhere to be seen, and Iruka felt oddly out of place.
He headed for the kitchen, hoping to find someone to momentarily assuage his doubts—or at least some alcohol to drown them in. It was his luck to find both in Anko and a bowl of punch that would've been begging to be spiked.
The kitchen was large and luxurious, like the rest of the old home. The cabinets formed a U-shape around a kitchen island that hosted the oven, stove, and a bar-top with several stools. His purple-haired friend stood in one of the corners of the U-shape, leaned back against the edge of the counter. Izumo and Kotetsu were there as well, dressed as a couple of pirates and mirroring her relaxed shape.
"Ruka-kun!" Anko yelped upon seeing him enter, apparently already a few glasses of punch deep. She was dressed in a long green robe, a wrap shirt, leggings, and a cheap-looking blonde wig tied into ponytails. Tsunade, if Iruka had to guess.
He smiled as he entered, trying to suppress the nervous energy sitting in the pit of his stomach. Anko met him halfway and pulled him into a quick hug before shoving a cup of punch into his hand, throwing an arm around his shoulders, and pulling him back with her to her spot against the cabinets.
"The Shodaime, huh?" Kotetsu asked.
Iruka leaned back beside Anko and took his first sip of sickeningly sweet punch. "Yeah," he chuckled, trying to keep the nervous edge out of his voice. "Kakashi was thinking about dressing up as Tobirama, but I haven't talked to him in a little while. I don't know if that's still his plan, or—"
"Or if he'd gone back to his ridiculous idea to try to get you into that skimpy kimono?" Anko guffawed, cutting him off.
Iruka's cheeks burned bright red as he turned the words over in his mind. "His. . .what?" The mumbled question was mostly cut off by the eruption of laughter from his three friends.
"Oh, c'mon, 'Ruka," Anko took a sip of her drink and clapped him on the shoulder a little too hard.
"I thought everyone knew," Kotetsu added. "That stupid costume pitch was just to rile you up! Even if you went with it, Hatake would still get to see your legs in that mini-skirt."
There was another eruption of laughter, though Izumo at least eyed him a little sympathetically. Iruka's mind was reeling with the implications of what his friends were saying, his insides torn between letting hope flutter in his chest and shutting the thoughts down as the jokes they were.
"Excuse me," he said. It was barely audible above their drunken laughter, and none of them did much to protest as Iruka shrugged Anko's arm off and made a beeline for the door.
He stopped on the engawa, leaning against one of the support posts to catch his breath. The air was crisp and cool in his lungs; it was refreshing, and helped to calm his rabbiting heart down from its unhealthy tempo.
In the backyard, some of the kids were scattered about playing games and chatting. There were adults, too, each with a beverage in hand. Kurenai, Yamato, and Gai were seated on the benches around the empty firepit, and Gai flashed him a bright smile and a thumbs up when he noticed the faux-Shodaime.
Iruka smiled back with a little wave but turned back to admire the beautiful evening. It was the perfect night; the weather was gorgeous, all his friends were present, and he hadn't a care in the world.
Well, except for whatever the hell was going on with Kakashi, who was coincidentally the only thing missing from Iruka's otherwise perfect night. The thought came unbidden, but Iruka didn't fight it— not this time. There was no use in denying the feelings he'd been repressing for months—years? —now; they weren't going anywhere, regardless. And despite his efforts to hide them, at his first slip up Kakashi had still—
"Good evening, sensei," a voice came from beside him, where seconds before had only been empty space.
Iruka stiffened in surprise—one moment the space beside him had been empty, the next it had been filled with Kakashi's chakra. He turned and saw a masked face—this one an imitation of the Nidaime—looking back at him.
"Or, should I say—aniki?"
The mask covered it, of course, but Iruka could picture the exact way the right corner of Kakashi's mouth would be upturned in a smirk as he spoke. He couldn't help the way his eyes roved over Kakashi in his costume. The man was handsome regardless, of course; but dressed as Tobirama Senju—whom Iruka admittedly had a bit of a crush on—he was nearly heart-stopping. Even with the goofy looking mask, something about the way his hair was complemented by the fur stole at his shoulders, the pretty blue of the cardboard armor contrasting with his pale skin, and the gleam of the happuri against his cheeks made Iruka's stomach feel like it was doing somersaults in his abdominal cavity.
"Kakashi," he managed, intelligently.
Kakashi smirked again and turned to lean his shoulder into the opposite side of the post, following Iruka's gaze out into the yard. "I make a pretty convincing Tobirama, don't I?"
Iruka swallowed, wondering if it'd always been so difficult to do so. "Yes," he said, leaning into the post once more and watching Choji, Ino, and Shikamaru bobbing for apples in the yard. "You look great, Kakashi," his tone was more subdued than he would've liked.
Iruka could feel Kakashi's gaze turn from where he'd been watching Iruka back out to the yard, as well. Iruka stole a glance out of the corner of his eyes.
"I can tell by the way you look at me," the Rokudaime said, "I can tell that I'm convincing."
The corner of Iruka's lips played up into a smirk and he looked over at the man beside him. "How's that?"
Kakashi glanced over at him for a moment and then back out to the yard again, his gaze distant, almost unseeing. "You said he was handsome, that's how."
Iruka barked out a laugh. Nervousness bubbled in the pit of his stomach; he had no idea what Kakashi was trying to get at. "What? Kakashi—"
Kakashi turned and looked at him, and Iruka felt like he might crumple under the weight of the man's full attention.
"You're looking at me like you think I'm handsome, sensei," Kakashi smiled as he said it, but Iruka could see that the crinkles at the corners of his eyes weren't deep enough for it to be genuine.
"Kakashi—" he started, reaching out for the man's cardboard-clad arm.
"MY RIVAL!" Iruka was cut off by the boisterous exclamation of Gai noticing that Kakashi was nearby.
Kakashi met Iruka's eyes again and he shrugged with a put-upon smile. Before Iruka could say anything else, Gai bounded up to the two of them dressed as a vampire, fake fangs and all.
Iruka stood awkwardly at the edge of the group as Kurenai and Yamato gained them and Gai jumped into a speech about how 'Hip and Youthful' Kakashi's party was, and how he and Iruka made a 'Shining Example of the Founders of the Will of Fire!'
Not far into Gai's proclamation, Anko showed up at Iruka's side and whisked him back into the house to try some hard cider Raido had brought. He looked back as she drug him away by the arm, but Kakashi didn't even seem to notice his absence.
If Iruka had not known Kakashi so well, he would've spent the rest of the night wondering if, somehow, Kakashi had forgotten he was there and that their costumes were supposed to be a package deal.
But he did know Kakashi—too well for his own good, sometimes—and so he knew that there was no way Kakashi was so oblivious as to just forget that Iruka was even there. No, Kakashi was much too smart for that, and so the inevitable conclusion was that he was purposefully ignoring Iruka.
For what, Iruka did not know. But as the evening trailed on, he couldn't so much as catch Kakashi's eyes from across the room. When Kakashi gathered everyone to announce he'd be lighting the bonfire soon, holding a bag of marshmallows and chocolates, he practically threw a bag in Iruka's direction without meeting the sensei's eyes. When Iruka gathered with Kurenai, Gai, Yamato, Anko, Kakashi, and Genma at the apple bobbing pool, Kakashi wouldn't even look at him. And when Tsunade-sama, the unofficial judge of the unofficial costume contest, gathered everyone around the great room to announce the unofficial winners, Kakashi didn't even stand beside him. In fact, the Hokage pointedly stared at the floor rather than at where Naruto and Sakura, the winners of said unofficial contest, were jumping up and down and hugging Iruka with childish glee.
The sun had set by the time Iruka settled onto one of the lawn blankets set out by the bonfire, cider in hand. Some of the party guests had departed for the evening, but a good few still remained. It seemed as though everyone else had gone back inside to escape the cold bite in the air, and Iruka was alone in the yard. He smiled to himself, taking a sip of cider, and appreciating the fun he'd had during the party, even if Kakashi had been acting weird.
Footsteps approached, but he didn't look up from where his gaze was fixed to the fire. He could tell who it was by the feel of their chakra reaching out—cool, and just a little scraggly at the edges.
They plopped down cross-legged next to him, leaving an inch or two between their sides. Iruka held out his mug of cider unprompted, already knowing that Kakashi would try to steal a sip.
Thin fingers took the proffered mug and Iruka splayed his hands out behind him and leaned back as Kakashi took a long drink. When he dared a glance at the other man, he noticed that the happuri was gone, and Kakashi's silver mane was back to its usual unruliness.
Kakashi set the now-empty mug onto the grass beside them and leaned back in a position that mirrored Iruka's. His mask was down and he wiped at his lips with the back of his hand.
"I'm sorry I haven't spent much time with you this evening, Iruka-sensei," he said quietly. His voice was a little raspy even after the drink.
Iruka smiled, gaze glued to the tendrils of flame dancing wildly. "You had to play host. I understand, Kakashi-sama," he said, teasing. He sat for a moment before adding, "You've been avoiding me, though." His voice was more solemn, but the statement was not a question nor an accusation—a mere statement of fact.
Kakashi shifted his weight a little, moving his left hand so that his pinky barely touched Iruka's own. "I wanted to apologize for my behavior, as well," he didn't deny Iruka's previous assertion.
Iruka didn't move his hand and said nothing.
"It was childish of me to leave you hanging like that, even if I was busy."
They both sat in silence for a while, listening to the distant cacophony of voices and the crackling of the fire.
"I don't want you to think you can't count on me, Iruka," Kakashi said finally.
Iruka looked over at him. In the light of the fire, Kakashi's skin glowed soft orange and his dark eyes reflected the flames almost perfectly, as though they were emanating from inside Kakashi himself. Iruka thought of how many times Kakashi had seemed ethereal—inhuman, almost. He wanted to laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all—Kakashi feeling like there was a single person in the village who couldn't count on the Hokage, Kakashi thinking he'd disappointed Iruka somehow, the flames in Kakashi's eyes. But those same eyes were much too earnest for Iruka to laugh, and instead, he sat entranced by their dark depths.
Iruka swallowed. "Never," he said, quieter than he'd meant to. He finally pulled his hand away from where their fingers were brushed together—the electricity between them much too distracting—and pointedly did not look at Kakashi's face as he did so, knowing that he'd imagine a look of disappointment there if he did.
Instead, he nudged his shoulder into Kakashi's playfully. "The whole village can count on you, silly," he said, tone lighter, "You're the Hokage, for crying out loud!" And Iruka was self-aware enough to recognize the beginning of one of his rambling episodes, but not temperate enough to stop it. “So I know I can count on you, and so does Naruto, and Sakura, and Sasuke, and the whole rest of the village! You’re a great leader, and I’m sorry if I made things weird the other day when you were over. I— I didn’t mean— and, I mean, I’ve known, but I didn’t— I didn’t want it to affect our friendship. But it did, and I’m sorry. And I understand if you don’t want to be as close, or if—“
"Iruka," Kakashi said, his tone sounding like it wasn't the first time he'd said the sensei's name in a bid to cut off the tangent. He chuckled a little. "You didn't want to ruin our friendship?"
Iruka could feel Kakashi's eyes on him but couldn't make himself look up from his lap. He took a deep inhale and ran his palms over his thighs, trying to wipe some of the sweat off.
"You said I was looking at you like I thought you were handsome," he started, picking at the blades of grass poking up beside the blanket. "And I was—because I do. Think you're handsome, that is," his cheeks were heating but he didn't allow himself to stop, his tempo gradually increasing with each word. "And it's not just because you're dressed like Tobirama-sama, though I do think he's quite handsome, but it's because you're you, and you're amazing and great and the Hokage—which really has nothing to do with it because I would like you even if you were a genin. Not that there's anything wrong with being a genin! But you're also my best friend, and I'm sorry if I messed things up, because this past week has been hell without you. So. . .yeah," he finished weakly, wiping the bead of sweat from the back of his neck.
Kakashi leaned back on his hands again. Iruka brought his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them, still unable to meet Kakashi's eyes.
Kakashi chuckled, just a brief exhale of breath. "What I'm hearing, sensei," he said, sounding much too light-hearted for the panging in Iruka's chest, "is that you do think I'm as handsome as Tobirama Senju."
Iruka snapped his gaze up to Kakashi, his brows furrowed and eyes narrowed. "Kakashi-sama!" He struggled to keep his scolding down so that the other party-goers wouldn't hear his incoming tirade. "Why can't you take anything seriously?! Here I am, baring my heart and confessing my love for you, and you—!"
Iruka would have kept going if not for the self-satisfied glint in Kakashi's eyes. He slapped a hand over his mouth, finally processing what he'd just said.
My love for you.
"Kakashi, I'm so sorry, I—" Iruka started, muffled through his fingers.
"I love you too, Iruka."
"—I never meant to drag you into my feelings, and—" Iruka cut himself off, not sure he'd heard Kakashi's interjection correctly. He lowered his hand from where it was still clamped over his mouth. "Wait," his eyes went wide, "what did you just say?"
Kakashi was smiling at him, warm and open. With the mask pulled down, he didn't have to close his eyes to convey his happiness, so he was gazing at Iruka with soft fondness in his eyes. He placed a hand over where Iruka's had fallen next to the sensei's lap. "I said, 'I love you too, Iruka.'"
"You what?!" Iruka asked again, not sure that he wasn't trapped inside a genjutsu like the Infinite Tsukuyomi, where all his wildest dreams were brought to life.
Iruka's eyes were glued to Kakashi's own, and it was taking everything in him not to look down at the hairpin curve of Kakashi's lips. He watched as Kakashi let out a small sigh and moved his hand to cup Iruka's cheek.
"I'll just show you, then," Kakashi whispered.
Iruka was frozen in place as Kakashi leaned in and brushed the softest, sweetest kiss Iruka had ever felt against his lips. The warmth of the contact was enough to imbue Iruka with a little confidence and a little bit of sense, and his eyes fluttered shut as he grabbed Kakashi's arm and pulled him back in for another kiss.
This one was deeper, a little more intense, but no less sweet. Suddenly, though, Iruka jolted upright and away from the other man as he realized something.
"Kakashi!" Iruka gasped. He grasped blindly for the hem of Kakashi's mask, having suddenly remembered that they were sitting out in the open, right outside Kakashi's full house of guests. "Your face!"
Kakashi chuckled and managed to corral Iruka's hands with his own. "Am I that foul looking, sensei?" he jested, pulling the mask back up.
Iruka sat back and crossed his arms. "You know that's not what I meant!" He gestured over to the sliding glass door that led into the backyard from the house. Inside, Naruto, Sakura, Ino, Hinata, and Kiba all had their faces practically smushed against the glass. "They might have seen! Think of the scandal—the current Hokage making out with the Headmaster while dressed as Nidaime and Shodaime, respectively! The Council would have your head!"
Kakashi looked at him with those large, soft eyes again as he took Iruka's hands back. "Iruka-sensei, do you think I am so senseless as to not put them under a genjutsu before coming over here to talk to you? Besides, I would hardly call that making out."
Iruka gaped at him again. "I cannot believe you," he said, but his voice was full of mirth.
"Hey," Kakashi said, the corners of his eyes crinkling with a smile. "You're the one who's in love with me."
Iruka glared at him, but there was no real heat behind it. New knowledge in hand, he reached to pull Kakashi's mask down. "Happy Halloween, Nidaime-sama," he said against Kakashi's lips before kissing him again.