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Once more, with feeling

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It’s Iruka’s birthday. Like the past four years, he bought a big chocolate birthday cake (baking is not one of Iruka’s strong points) and brought it to his shift in the mission room to share it with anyone who would want to congratulate him and celebrate.

Iruka’s shift is close to its end, and more than three quarters of the cake are gone, eaten by the fluent string of shinobi who went through the room to deliver their mission reports or get new assignments. What’s left of the cake is set on the coffee table in the small adjacent lounge room where gossipy shinobi like Genma and Anko love to spend their relax time, slacking on the old battered couches and snooping around the shinobi that come and go.

“Look, look, he’s already here,” Anko says around a mouthful of her second serving of chocolate cake deliciousness, nudging Genma’s ribs. “I told you he would try again this year.”

Genma turns and watches discreetly over the back of the couch, hiding behind the spikes of Anko’s purple hair, to see Kakashi walk into the mission room with his usual slouch and his hands in his pockets. Kakashi stops at the end of Iruka’s line with a bored droopy expression, a crumpled mission report sticking out of a pocket. It must have been an easy mission, because Kakashi looks unharmed. He even might have tried to look slightly better than his usual; his uniform looks quite fresh, and his hair is a tiny bit more tamed, like he tried to—Kami forbids—comb it. No, that’s not possible.

“There he is, yes.” Genma finishes his piece of cake and lets the plastic plate and fork on the table. “Do you really think he’ll try again? Or will he chicken out at the end, like on Iruka's three past birthdays?”

“Do you wanna bet?” Anko looks at Genma sideways.

“No, thanks, I know better than betting against you,” Genma says, raising his hands in defense and returning Anko’s toothy grin with his own lopsided lazy one. 

“Next,” Iruka says, raising his voice, and Kakashi finds it’s his turn. 

Yo, sensei,” Kakashi says, with his signature little wave and eye smile.

Iruka smiles back, looking genuinely pleased to see Kakashi—but doesn’t Iruka look like that with everyone? He’s always polite with well-behaved shinobi. 

Iruka picks up Kakashi’s report. “Good afternoon, Kakashi-san. Welcome back to the village.” Iruka starts checking the report, with a little frown, probably trying to get past the annoyance of the wrinkled paper and Kakashi’s awful handwriting. The report must be good enough because he’s not scolding Kakashi yet.

Genma and Anko watch the whole scene like they are watching a TV show. They’re only missing a bucket of popcorn.

“Look, here he goes,” Genma says, perking up. “He’s going to speak again.”

Kakashi fidgets a bit with the hand in his pocket and finds the courage to speak. He clears his throat. “A little fox told me today it’s a special day for you. Happy birthday, Iruka-sensei! I brought you a little something. A silly thing, really.” Kakashi pulls his hand out of the pocket, and places on the desk in front of Iruka a little object made of glass and metal. It’s a wind chime. “Sorry it’s not wrapped, I bought it during my mission. I saw it and thought of you.”

Iruka looks delighted. He picks the delicate glass and moves it to produce its sound, a pleasant tinkling. “Oh, thank you so much, Kakashi-san! It's beautiful. You really didn’t have to buy me anything.”

“Don’t mention it, sensei. It was my pleasure.” Kakashi laughs, bashful, and waves his hand dismissively.

Iruka stamps the approval seal on the report and puts it away in its due pile. He looks up at Kakashi, and smiles at him again, still holding the glass chime. 

The situation quickly becomes awkward. Iruka is clearly waiting for Kakashi to say something else, and Kakashi doesn’t. 

Anko cringes from her place in the couch. “Oh, no, he was doing so good up until now.”

Genma pouts. “The past years he didn't bring any gift. I don’t know, this time he looks more… Resolute?”

Anko turns to look at Genma, putting her arm on the couch back. “How so? How can you know what is going on inside his hard skull, with all that fabric covering him and his annoying stealthy attitude? Can you speak Kakashi-ish? Because I can’t most of the time. That’s why it’s so much fun watching his pitiful attempts to ask Iruka out.”

Genma can’t help a fond smile. “Don’t be cruel, Anko. You know Kakashi is awkward, he’s always been. The man is a walking disaster with social things. And Iruka can be a lot to handle.”

Anko chuckles, trying not to make much noise. “Yeah, Iruka could chew Kakashi and spit him out. He’s right to be careful.”

“Are you having fun?” A deep voice startles the two nosy tokubetsu jounin. “Shit!,” Anko squawks, “Don’t do that, Ibiki. Do you want to give us a heart attack?”

Ibiki doesn’t reply. Genma guesses that’s because he doesn’t think too highly of shinobi who fail to be aware of their surroundings and can be startled as easily as that. But even Ibiki knows better than telling those unflattering things to Anko. Genma suspects also that Ibiki and Anko are more than friends, and so Ibiki might be risking some nights sleeping on the couch if he makes Anko angry.

Whatever the reason, Ibiki just looks at them with his poker face and sits by Anko on the couch, joining them to watch the scene between Iruka and Kakashi.

Could it be that Ibiki is aware of Kakashi's recurring ordeal on Iruka's birthdays, and he's curious too about if Kakashi will succeed this time? That’s a surprising new facet of the imposing T&I commander. Genma stores that precious information in his mind folder tagged as potential blackmail material and smiles innocently. 

“Come on, Kakashi, it’s now or never.” As much as Anko likes to make fun of Kakashi’s struggles with Iruka, Genma knows she’s rooting for him. “I swear, if he doesn’t speak up this time I’ll go there and kick his saggy ass.”

“I don’t think Kakashi’s ass is saggy, I kind of like it,” Genma says, amused.

Anko throws Genma a mocking look. “Neither do I, silly. Who wouldn’t like to grab that ass? But if everything goes as we have been expecting for the last years, that ass has Iruka’s name engraved on it. Iruka would kill us slowly if we grabbed it, even a tiny bit.” Anko sounds a little wishful but also amused with the ass-grabbing idea.

“I don’t think you have to worry about that,” Ibiki says, also looking amused, and that really is a sight to behold, in Genma’s opinion. “It doesn’t look like Kakashi’s going to do anything about it this time. Again.”

Ibiki is right. Kakashi is jabbering some silly small talk, looking sheepish, and ready for a shameful retreat.

“Oh, no, he’s about to leave,” Anko panics, and looks like she’s going to yell at Kakashi to make him stop.

It’s not necessary. The three prying shinobi in the lounge couch freeze as they hear Iruka slam his hand on the desk surface.

“Kakashi! Don’t you have something you want to tell me? Don’t do it again, please. I’m tired of waiting.”

Kakashi gets petrified with Iruka’s words. He looks terrified and physically unable to speak a single word.

Iruka sighs and stands from his chair. He turns to the chuunin working in the desk at his left, who’s looking at him with wide eyes, like everyone else in the room. “Izumo, will you manage if I leave before my shift ends? There’s only 15 minutes left.”

Izumo nods, his mouth open in shock. “Sure, Iruka,” he manages to say.

Iruka gives him a thank you smile, hastily gathers his things into his satchel, and walks around his desk to where Kakashi stands, still frozen. Iruka grabs Kakashi’s arm and pulls at him. “Come on, we’re going to Ichiraku to have dinner. You’re paying.”

Kakashi resists Iruka’s pull for only a second, then starts to follow him. “Yes, Iruka.” He sounds relieved, but there’s a shining blush in the little part of his right cheek that’s exposed, and strangely too, in the tips of his ears. Who would have known that Kakashi could blush like that?

And so Iruka and Kakashi leave the room, leaving behind about ten surprised shinobi, including the three ones peeking from the lounge room.

“Well, that was unexpected,” Anko says, pleased.

“But effective,” Ibiki approves.

“I’m happy I didn’t place my bet. After all, Kakashi didn’t do it.” Genma gets a senbon from one of his weapon bags and places it in his mouth. He stands from the couch, ready to leave. He's thrilled to tell the story to Raidou, who is as much of a gossip as himself, but uses to leave the dirty work of gathering the information to Genma. “Have fun, you two! See you around.” Genma leaves with a salute and a grin of anticipation.

Anko smiles too. “Kakashi’s a lucky bastard. Iruka did all the work for him. Anyway! It was about time they got together. Now that Iruka is setting the pace I hope things will go much more smoothly. I’m pretty sure this counts as a first date—and I know Iruka’s schedule about things that have to happen according to each date number. Kakashi is in for big surprises. He’s going to love it.” Anko laughs to herself. “I’m happy for them.” 

She turns to Ibiki, her smile gets more personal and her voice more intimate. “Shall we celebrate the happy event with our own private party? Do you want to come to my place tonight?”

“I’d love to,” Ibiki replies, stoic. They stand up and leave too.


Later that night, after a pleasant dinner at Ichiraku where Iruka manages to make Kakashi admit that he had been intending to ask Iruka out for a long time, Kakashi walks Iruka home and Iruka mentally checks out all the points in his first-date bullet list, including their first kiss.