Chapter 1: Home
Iruka stood on the hill and took a deep breath before exhaling and feeling every muscle in his body relax for the first time in days. The smell of salt and seaweed was carried by the wind with a promise of cold misty mornings. He could hear the roar of waves crashing on the rocky shoreline and grinned.
The sun beat down on him through the clouds and the beach in front of him stretched out for about two miles. Large rocks jutted out from the coastline and small rocks and pebbles made up the beach. The familiar well-weathered building that was the research headquarters sat back in the dunes a small hike away. He watched birds coast on the wind skimming the water before halting and diving under the surface. Off to his right was the old lighthouse that was now run remotely.
A rounded head poked out of a wave. Black eyes blinking before disappearing back below. On a rock not too far down the hill was a heard of about eighty of them. Seals. Grey seals to be exact. He felt an all too familiar longing for the life he could have had. If he hadn’t become an elementary school teacher, he would have followed his parents and been a marine biologist. As it was, he was a regular volunteer during the tagging season on the island. Iruka grinned and began to climb down towards the building.
When he got there, he could tell they had repainted over the summer, and that some of the roof had been replaced after the last winter. But the rocks he had lined the building with as a kid were still there, and his parents’ names still sat engraved on a plaque by the front door. He touched the tarnished brass and traced their names.
The familiar smell of the building hit Iruka as soon as he crossed the threshold. Cedarwood, a bit of mildew, salt, and woodstove. He placed his bag down at his feet before sitting on the bench to take off his boots.
“Iruka!” Kotetsu’s head popped around the corner of the entryway. His hair as wild from the wind as always. He caught Iruka in a hug halfway through untying his second boot.
“It’s good to see you too Kotetsu.”
“Hey, Ko- Iruka!” A second voice, Izumo, joined and soon Iruka had a second pair of arms around him. Kotetsu rubbed his face against Iruka’s like a cat.
“It’s been so long! I’m so relieved to see you! The interns! They left us! All alone on this piece of rock!”
“Guys. Guys, I can’t breathe!” Iruka said laughing. The two of them let go so Iruka could catch his breath.
“Sorry.” Izumo rubbed the back of his head.
Iruka finished untying his shoes still grinning.
“What have you been up to? How’s the mainland? Did you bring us treats?” Kotetsu quickly asked as Iruka made his way to the main gathering area of the building. It was a sitting area attached to a small fully functional kitchen with a slider door out to a small patio. It had two small couches, a meager dining table, and a few bookshelves of well-loved novels.
“I might have brought you something. You did send me a list.” Iruka placed his hiking bag on a kitchen chair before rummaging around in some of the pockets. He pulled out some bar soap, condoms, lube, laundry soap, Tylenol, baking chocolate, two large handles of whiskey, some fresh apples, a large jar of peanut butter, some plain black tea, and some honey.
“Our savior!” The two other men mock bow at him and begin to gather the items to put away.
“Yeah, we were getting a bit low on some of these.” Kotetsu grinned holding the box of condoms.
“As long as I don’t hear it I don’t care.” Iruka laughed. He put the apples away in a bowl on the counter, taking one to eat. He picked his bag back up and made his way to the room at the end of the hallway.
It was small. More of a closet with a small desk, a bed pushed against one side, and a singular window looking out over the dunes. It had been his childhood bedroom. Before his parents died the three of them would come out to conduct research as seal biologists working with the state. Iruka, of course, had been too young to do much besides watch and help input the data on the computer, but like his parents, he had fallen in love with the island.
In the beginning, all of his parents' research had been conducted out of their own pocket. They lived in the lighthouse and maintained it in order to live on the island. Eventually, they got some grant money and built the research building. That was around the time that his mother had found out she was pregnant. It was a strange upbringing that was for sure but the fact that their legacy was still going made Iruka feel like there would always be a piece of them around.
Iruka unpacked his belongings and ate his apple. Setting up his laptop and making sure he could log into the Wi-Fi. He opened the curtains to the window and looked out across the dunes. It was still pretty early and he knew the tide would be coming in shortly which meant he got there in time to help out with the day’s work.
He was broken out of his thoughts by the sound of a very loud and unfamiliar voice. Curious he made his way back out to the hallway.
Standing in the doorway was a man dressed in a bright green field jacket, pants, and hat. Next to him was a man wrapped completely in cold grey weather gear aside from a dark blue hat he wore on his head. Izumo and Kotetsu were talking to the two of them animatedly. The man in green had Kotetsu’s hand clasped in both of his and was shaking it vigorously.
“Thank you so much my, friends! Your compassionate and welcoming nature is most refreshing! Thank you so much for allowing me to bring my good friend Kakashi along as well! I am sure you will find that he is an exceptional worker! We will do our best while here to assist you in any way possible!” He finally let go of Kotestu’s hand.
Iruka blinked a few times taking in the scene before the man wrapped in the scarf looked at him.
“Thank you so much for coming all this way! It’s an honor to have you here!” Izumo grinned before noticing that Kakashi wasn’t paying much attention. He followed his gaze to Iruka.
“Oh, Iruka! These are two more scientists who are going to be working with us this season. This is Maito Gai and Hatake Kakashi. Gai and Kakashi this is Umino Iruka.”
“Wait Maito Gai? Like the sea turtle biologist?” Iruka quickly exited his room and came over to greet the two other men.
Gai gave Iruka a thumbs up, “I am honored that you know of me!”
“How could I not! Your paper on Sea turtle cold stunning linked to increased hatchling success, and climate change was fascinating!”
Iruka stuck his hand out to shake Gai’s. Kakashi began to undress from his layers. His jacket came off and was hung up on the rack by the door. Then the hat came off revealing silver hair that rivaled Kotetsu in unruliness. Curiously he left the scarf on around his lower face. Iruka found himself staring over Gai’s shoulder. He couldn’t help but notice that Kakashi’s left eye remained shut, a scar running vertically through it. He fought the urge to scratch at the one that ran across his own nose. Suddenly conscious of it.
“It was nothing! I am merely doing my best to help educate the minds of youth everywhere!”
“Hatake Kakashi… that name sounds familiar.” Kotetsu had a pensive look on his face as he watched the other man take his boots off. Kakashi grinned. Or Iruka assumed it was a grin based on the eye crinkle.
“I’m a penguin biologist. I spent the last two years in Antarctica. Before my funding dried up.”
“That’s right! You’re the guy who found the lost colony of penguins!”
“That would be me. Do you have a place I can go put down my bags? It’s been a rather long hike.” Kakashi stood up.
“Oh yeah. This way.” Kotetsu gave the two new men a brief tour of the small facility. “The latrines outside. Composting toilets to reduce the impact we have on the island. You guys will be staying in the big room. I hope you don’t mind sharing. We usually have about six interns or so over the summer staying in there so there’s plenty of room. Izumo and I stay in the room attached to the kitchen. Iruka is in the small room at the end of the hall.” Kakashi glanced at Iruka.
“Are you the head researcher?”
Iruka did scratch at his scar this time, “No. I’m a seasonal volunteer. This is my fifth year helping with tagging. I’m actually an elementary school teacher. We’re on a break right now.”
“Ah. I assumed because your name was on the building and since you had your own room...”
“Oh, my parents started this project. They’re the ones that got the funding for the building.”
What’s that supposed to mean? Iruka eyed the man warily. He knew the warning signs. Apparently Kotetsu and Izumo picked up on it as well because they quickly changed the subject.
“Well the three of us were going to go down shortly and start with processing the pups. You are both welcome to come with or you can take the day and get acquainted with the house.”
“thank you. I will stay in today.” Kakashi made his way to the room he would be sharing with Gai.
“I will join you as soon as I put my things away!” Gai was all enthusiasm. His energy rivaled the fifth graders Iruka taught.
When the two of them were out of eyesight the three remaining men turned to one another and mouthed:
Oh my god.
Did you see that dudes arms? They’re like tree trunks.
What’s with the scarf?
This better not backfire like the Mizuki incident.
I didn’t even know they made pants that shade of green.
The three of them laughed and went to go get the gear ready to go.
Gai’s outfit proved to be a difficult thing to overcome. On one hand, it seemed to work as a distraction for Izumo and Iruka to sneak up and catch the seal pups. On the other hand, it seemed to also alert them to their presence from a distance. Over the course of four days of work, they had managed to catch five seal pups out of thirty-eight.
It didn’t help that Kakashi didn’t seem to keen on lifting a finger to help and more just watched and gave “encouragement” from the sidelines. Eventually, however, the training period ended. Which meant that they were going to be switching into teams of two and rotating through shifts. Iruka had been dreading his first shift with Kakashi. He was pleasantly surprised however that when push came to shove, he was efficient and effective at tagging and processing the seal. Iruka actually broke his record for the fastest catch and release on their first outing.
After a full six hours, they had caught three seal pups.
Iruka was cleaning and putting the gear away when he noticed that the datasheet on the clipboard was blank. He looked through the bag and didn’t find any that had been filled out. Surely this was a joke. There’s no way an accomplished scientist wouldn’t record the data. Surely there is some sort of mistake.
Iruka exited the storage room to find Kakashi in the sitting area scarf pulled up around his face.
“Kakashi, where are the datasheets?”
“I didn’t use any.
“What do you mean you didn’t use any?”
“I didn’t use any. It’s all right here though,” He tapped his forehead, “If you need me to write it down.”
“It's all… How can I possibly trust that you remembered that much data accurately?! Why wouldn’t I need it written down?! Why wouldn’t you write it down to begin with?!”
“Ma. It’s not that big a deal. The pups are gonna grow in the next few days anyway.” Kakashi shrugged, “besides. I don’t forget.”
“Are you shitting me right now? This has to be a joke.”
“What has to be a joke?” Kotetsu poked his head into the kitchen.
“Kakashi here doesn’t believe in datasheets. Or recording data.”
“I never said that. I said that I have it all right here.” Kakashi tapped his head again and pulled what looked like a worn romance novel with Fabio on the cover.
“What?” Kotetsu's brow furrowed.
“What’s going on? Oh, Kakashi and Iruka! You’re back! How was the wrangling?” Gai entered the room. Iruka was starting to wonder if the man had anything that wasn’t a rather violent shade of green.
“We caught and measured three,” Kakashi said not looking up from his book.
“Just what I expected from my energetic friend! A record I will have to beat when Kotetsu and I head out in a few hours!”
“Only he didn’t record the data. So basically, we have three tagged animals that haven’t been recorded. So, we are going to have to re-catch them and reprocess them. So basically we caught nothing.”
“Surely Kakashi remembers! I have never met someone with a brain as youthful as his! He can memorize most anything!”
“Gai, I appreciate you trying to defend him but-“
“he’s not lying. I do remember all the data we took.”
Iruka felt his eyebrow twitch in annoyance. He was saved from responding by Kotetsu.
“Okay then. Kakashi will you please write it down and fill out the datasheet for us? From now on we need you to use them.”
“You got it, boss.” Kakashi turned a page in his book. Iruka stormed off.
Iruka was going to kill him.
He was going to cut him open with a dissection knife and feed him to the gulls.
Or push him off a cliff.
Or push his head under a wave for a period of time.
He turned his attention back to the datasheet on top of the pile.
… the rocks were grey and smooth. Rhonda seemed to enjoy perching on a large rock that was in the shape of a skillet before leaving her pup to fend for itself. Upon retrieval the pup looked at me as if to say, “mister, why must you do this?”. . .
Vegetation: barky twiggy and pointy
Identifying marks on pup: lonesome eyes, yellow tag# 463 left rear flipper, and a small scar on left eyebrow presumably from a long night out at the bar.
Iruka took a breath and counted to ten then released it.
It did nothing.
He stood and decided that fresh air would do him some good. He had been sitting in front of the computer for two hours already inputting datasheets, and while it wasn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, Kakashi’s subpar data sheets were going to make him scream.
Sure he was at least filling out the data sheets now, but at what cost?
Was it partially Iruka’s fault for insisting that the other man write something, anything, in the spaces provided?
Did it warrant such unscientific and unprofessional data collection?
Iruka entered the kitchen muttering to himself. Izumo sat at the table reading and barely glanced up when he entered. Iruka went to pour himself some coffee only to find that the carafe was nearly empty and only filled his mug about an inch. He felt a vein in his forehead twitch before he slammed the mug down and began to make another pot. It was an unspoken rule everyone knew. You never leave the pot empty. Or close to empty.
Izumo looked up then. Concerned as the Iruka loudly started a fresh batch of coffee muttering to himself.
“Everything alright there?” there was a reluctance in his voice. He had faced bull seals less intimidating than Iruka in a foul mood.
“Everything. Is. Fine.” Iruka slammed his finger down on the power button and the coffee started gurgling, “Just that the supposedly amazing Hatake Kakashi cannot fill out a data sheet to save his life, despite the fact that he’s got several publications, awards, and is talked about so highly! And someone took the remainder of the coffee and didn’t make more!”
“...o-oh.” Izumo stared wide-eyed as Iruka fumed leaning against the counter. The man took his mug and downed what was in it before setting it back down on the counter a little too loudly.
“What’s all this noise now?” Iruka’s head whipped to the doorway so fast Izumo thought it was going to snap off. Kakashi slouched against the doorframe with a mug of coffee in his hands, his book clasped in the other.
“You-“ Iruka was too mad to continue
“Me?” Kakashi said as he made his way over to the sitting area and flopped down opening his book. Izumo watched in abject horror as Kakashi placed his boots on the coffee table. He could tell Kakashi was watching Iruka over the top of his book. Iruka tensed up as the room filled with a heavy atmosphere. It was only about a minute but felt more like it lasted an hour. Iruka said nothing before turning around and leaving the room.
Izumo let out a shaky breath. “you shouldn’t push him like that.”
“It’s fun.” Kakashi shrugged, “Besides he needs to relax.” Izumo shook his head before gathering his belongings and leaving the room as well.
Iruka went for a walk.
He climbed the dunes and stared at the ocean.
He walked to the old lighthouse and back to the research building.
Then back to the lighthouse before finally sitting down and staring at the ocean.
He was mad.
He was mad that he was mad.
He was mad that Kakashi got to him.
That he didn’t seem to take the research seriously.
That he was so accomplished and didn’t deserve it.
Iruka screamed before flopping backward. He hadn’t stopped to grab a hat or gloves just his jacket and boots from the doorway. He would have to go back soon. He took another deep breath and let the smell of the cold ocean air fill him. He didn’t want to fix Kakashi’s data. Actually, he refused to fix his datasheets. If that asshole wanted to come in and mess up a research project that had been going for twenty plus years just because he was bored, he had another thing coming to him.
Iruka sat up with a new conviction and made his way back to the research center. He
threw open the door, went to his room and collected all of the data sheets he had set aside that needed fixing.
He found Kakashi in the sitting area off the kitchen where he had left him. He didn’t look up at Iruka’s entrance so Iruka cleared his throat. Kakashi’s eyes flickered over to him before going back to his book.
Iruka dropped all of the data sheets on his lap.
“Fix them. Fill them out completely and accurately or I will feed you to the gulls.” He turned on his heel and went back to his room to input the rest of the data.
I have a lot of emotions about people not filling out data sheets properly.
Thanks for reading.
Chapter 3: An Exchange of Philosophies
I own nothing
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kakashi fixed the few datasheets Iruka gave him but he didn’t change his behavior. In fact, his notes got worse. Now accompanying the overly descriptive narrative style were doodles of the seals. And poor ones at that. With little cartoon speech bubbles above them.
To top it all off he only did it when Iruka was the one on shift with him. Everyone else’s data sheets were clean and neat and professional.
Iruka offered to fill out the datasheet. But as soon as it went back into the folder Kakashi somehow got his hands on it and made “corrections”.
It was infuriating.
“You have to get rid of him,” Iruka begged Izumo. They were sitting out on the patio enjoying the midday sun. Izumo was taking notes on some published journal articles so that he could write his doctoral thesis. He stopped and looked up at Iruka.
“Because he’s being a nuisance.” Iruka fought the urge to pull on his hair.
“Iruka. We’ve had interns who were less helpful that Hatake has been.”
“But he refuses to take anything seriously.”
Izumo shrugged and went back to his article, “Maybe he just likes pushing your buttons. Try not reacting to him and see what happens. Or, here’s a wild thought, confront him and actually talk to him.”
“And what exactly do I say? Hi, sorry to bother you but I have a few questions for you about your behavior towards me and your datasheets. Mainly, what the fuck?”
Izumo shrugged, “It would be a start.”
Iruka sighed and put his face in his hands. “I already know why he’s acting like this.”
“you do?” Izumo looked up again. Iruka kept his face in his hands.
“It’s because I’m not a scientist.”
“I really don’t think that’s it.” Izumo shook his head.
“There’s nothing else it could be.”
“if you say so. I still say you should just talk to him.”
“Maybe.” Iruka bit the inside of his thumb and looked out at the grasses swaying on the dunes. He got up and stretched, “I’m going for a walk.”
Izumo lifted his hand to say goodbye as Iruka went inside to grab his hat and jacket. When he entered the sitting area he saw Kakashi sprawled across the couch reading yet another Fabio romance novel. Iruka shook his head and made his way to get his gear from his room. When he exited he nearly ran right into Kakashi who was standing in front of his doorway.
“Woah. Sorry.” Iruka rubbed the back of his head and blushed. There was a silence that stretched out between the two of them as they stood just a bit too close to one another. Kakashi made no indication of moving and instead studied Iruka’s face as if looking for the answer to a question.
“Um. Can I help you?” Iruka looked for a way to get around the other man but not finding one met his eyes.
“I can’t quite figure it out,” Kakashi began, “You’re not a scientist, and yet you seem to think you’re in charge. Despite the fact that it’s Izumo who is the head scientist and the one who’s name is on the grant and the research. You’ve never been mentioned in the research articles either despite your “five years of experience”. You show me absolutely no respect even though I am by far more qualified than you and you treat me like one of your young students or an intern. I shouldn’t need to tell you this but it’s not exactly a difficult job. It’s not rocket science, Iruka.”
“I’m sorry? Are- are you trying to pull rank?” Iruka put his arms on his hips, feeling himself start to lose his temper.
“I am an actual scientist.”
“An actual scientist…. You know what. You’re right. I am but a humble elementary school teacher. I’m sorry I can’t live up to your expectations. Forgive me for not fawning over you and your lost colony of penguins. Maybe you should go back to Antarctica. At least the penguins will respect you there. Now if you will excuse me, I am going for a walk.” Iruka shoved his way past the other man and stormed out of the building not caring that he slammed the door behind himself.
He walked with no destination and found himself down by the haul outs for the pups.
“Not a scientist? What exactly qualifies someone as a scientist? Doing science! Respect him. I’ll respect him.” Iruka picked up a rock and threw it as far and as hard as he could towards the water. Making sure not to hit any of the seals. He screamed in frustration and sat down on the rocks. Then he flopped down and watched the clouds move across the sky. He took a deep breath and released it. He concentrated on the thrum of the ocean through the stones.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw movement and turned his head to see a seal pup flop its way over to lay next to him. It’s dark brown eyes met his.
“Hello.” Iruka smiled at it.
It huffed a breath through its nostrils.
“I don’t suppose you have these types of problems. Swimming all day. Hauling out in the warm sun on a nice rock.”
The seal yawned.
Iruka’s grin widened, “I guess he has a point. I’m not a scientist. I’m a volunteer and he doesn’t know about everything that has happened. Or what this project means. But he didn’t have to say it like that.”
The seal scratched at its self with its pectoral.
“Maybe he spent too much time in Antarctica and forgot how to socialize. I’ve read some crazy stories about the scientists there.”
The seal blinked, it’s eyelids slowly closing.
“It doesn’t help that he’s always hiding his face in that damn scarf.” Iruka felt his face flush again as he remembered their close proximity.
Jesus, did he have a crush? A crush? Seriously Iruka? What are you? Twelve? Besides he’s awful. Annoying. Rude. . . attractive.
He had a crush. When the fuck did that happen?
Iruka groaned again and the seal rolled over annoyed at being woken up.
“Iruka dear friend are you alright? You didn’t fall, did you? I can go run for help if that is the case!” Iruka turned his head to see Gai in all his green glory running in place just a few feet from him.
“I’m fine. Thanks. Sorry.” Iruka sat up and sighed. He stood and brushed the seaweed off his jacket and pants. “Sorry to disturb you,” Iruka said to the seal before walking over to Gai.
“Were you compelled by a passionate urge to commune with the beasts that you study? I often find myself exchanging philosophies with the turtles!”
“Oh, no. Nothing like that. Just needed some air.” Iruka laughed at the image of Gai talking to turtles.
“Well, then would you care to join me? I was just finishing my afternoon jog and was about to head back to HQ. I would be happy to walk back with you if you’d like.”
“Thanks. I think that might actually be a good idea.”
The two of them set off back towards the research building. A steady but not uncomfortable silence between them.
“I know I commented on discussing things with the animals, but sometimes it’s best to talk to someone who can actually respond,” Gai said as they reached the halfway point climbing up the dunes.
Iruka sighed again and paused on the top of the dune, “I just don’t get it. Why am I the only one having trouble with him?”
“Kakashi! He refuses to fix the mistakes he makes, always finds a new way to annoy me, and whenever we do talk, he insists upon insulting me!”
“I do not think that is Kakashi’s plan.” Gai’s generous brow furrowed, “I think it’s actually the opposite. He is just trying to figure you out. He has spent a very long time in isolation.”
“Yeah yeah. Two years on Antarctica.”
Gai shook his head, “Longer than that. Two years in Antarctica but most of his life was spent with his father traveling on a boat. His father studied migratory sea birds and followed them on their migration paths. I met Kakashi back when we were kids. They stopped their boat near my home town one summer while his father guest lectured at a local university. I did not see him again for many years. Not until his father passed away. Even then Kakashi isolated himself. He took a job as a Lighthouse keeper with another friend of ours, but our friend passed away in a tragic accident. I think Kakashi blames himself for it. He’s always been very blunt and critical of himself.” Gai started walking again, “I am only telling you this because I don’t want you to think he is a bad person. Far from it actually.”
“I don’t think he is a bad guy. I just wish he would just take this more seriously.”
“Maybe he thinks you are taking it too seriously. Has he actually done anything that jeopardized the project?”
Iruka thought about it. All of the data was technically on the datasheets. He was very efficient and thorough with his processing of the seals minimizing the stress on the animal. He was clean, cooked for the group regularly, and despite leaving the coffee pot empty not bad to live with.
“I guess not. But he could just talk to me instead of picking on me.”
“I don’t think he really knows how.”
They reached the building and Iruka sighed yet again.
“Thank you, Gai. I will keep all this in mind, but I can’t guarantee I won’t get mad.” Iruka shook his head, “he just sets me off for some reason.”
Gai clasped Iruka’s shoulder, “You are a good man Umino Iruka. I am sure you two will work things out.”
The two of them entered the building and were met by the sounds of Izumo and Kotetsu laughing. The sound of music and the smell of cooking food filled the building. Gai slipped off his running shoes and was waiting for Iruka to take off his boots. “Go ahead. I have to make a phone call anyway.” Gai nodded and soon his voice joined the others in the kitchen. Iruka smiled at the sounds of laughter before heading to his room. He took off his sweater and hung it on the door before booting up his computer. It was nearly five PM and the sun was setting on the other side of the building.
He booted up his computer and opened skype. Within seconds he received a phone call.
“Iruka-senseiiii!” came a loud voice, causing the speakers to crackle. The camera showed an image of a head of blond hair far too close to the screen.
“Naruto you’re too close to the computer again.”
“oops.” The boy backed off to reveal a young boy in a bright orange t-shirt, “I just got so excited! I miss you so much! What’s new? Did you tag anything today? Anything weird happen?” Iruka laughed.
“Nothing today. I have two more weeks until I am home and school starts back up.”
“Don’t forget you promised to bring me out for Ramen when you get back!”
“How could I forget you remind me every time we talk.”
“Well, how else am I going to make sure you don’t forget me?”
“I don’t think I could forget you even if you let me.” Iruka laughed, “I mean you are living in my apartment.”
Naruto blushed, “you never know.”
The two of them caught up. Naruto was basically Iruka’s younger brother. The two of them stuck together in foster care long enough to form a bond. When Iruka turned eighteen and was able to move out he took Naruto with him and became his legal guardian. Iruka worked two jobs through school and graduate school. He was lucky that the state seemed to look the other way but it was also concerning in the grand scheme of things. If something happened to Iruka, he doesn’t know what would happen to Naruto.
There was a knock on Iruka’s door before it opened.
He turned to it and saw Kakashi standing with a bowl and plate. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” Kakashi glanced at the screen where Naruto was craning his neck as if he could see around the room if he just moved his head.
Iruka checked the time on his computer, it was nearly eight.
“Oh. I lost track of time. Naruto you need to go to sleep.”
“Awww. But it’s still so early.”
“No buts. You need to go to sleep. You have tutoring tomorrow.”
“ugh. Do I have to?”
“yes. No buts. Sleep. Now.”
“Fine. Night Ruka.”
“Goodnight Naruto. I love you.”
“Love you too. Bye.” Iruka’s screen went black and back to the skype home page. He turned back to Kakashi who was still standing there with the bowl in his hands.
“I brought you some dinner.” Kakashi held out the bowl and looked around for a place to put it before stepping into Iruka’s room and placing it on the desk, “Kotetsu and Izumo are also very loudly complaining that you are not present so that you can partake.”
“They opened one of the handles of whiskey I presume,” Iruka asked with a small laugh as he picked up the bowl. It was rice fried with fish and some dried mushrooms.
Kakashi nodded, “If I was you Sensei I would stay in your room. Kotetsu has already asked me five times if the rumors are true about living in Antarctica and Gai is currently doing three hundred push-ups with Izumo on his back.”
Iruka took a mouthful of food and looked at Kakashi expectantly. Kakashi was making no indication of leaving.
“Well, are the rumors true?” Iruka asked instead.
“Which ones do you want to find out about?”
“hmm.” Iruka took another bite of food. Why did he have to be a good cook too? “I think the one they were asking about was whether or not everyone was always having sex. I’m more curious if the glaciers and silence are as magnificent as everyone says. If it’s as humbling an experience.”
“It is.” The response is almost inaudible. After another moment Kakashi turns to leave but Iruka stops him.
“Kakashi. I’m sorry. You were right. I was treating you like an intern instead of an equal. I am going to do my best going forward to change that.”
Kakashi grinned beneath the scarf, “Maa. I suppose I could have handled the situation better myself. I’m not very good at this. Talking and living with other people. I pushed your boundaries and I am sorry for that.”
“Does this mean you will write a proper datasheet for once?”
“We will have to wait and see. See you in the AM sensei.” Kakashi turned and exited Iruka’s room.
Thank you, everyone, for all the comments and kudos. It means a lot.
Thank you also for reading.
The first pebble appeared about two days after Iruka and Kakashi had apologized to each other. It was a small white stone that was smoothed to a rounded shape. Iruka had been getting ready for bed when he found it on his pillow. Assuming it had just come in with him by accident, he placed it on the windowsill.
The second pebble was on his desk. It was an odd place to find a pebble but Iruka sometimes brought stones along with him without thinking. It was grey and speckled and reminded Iruka of a small bird's egg. It joined the white one on the windowsill.
It was when Iruka placed a striated green and purple stone with the others that he noticed how many he had accumulated over just a few days. There was at least a dozen lined up along the windowsill, some of which had been found in odd places such as under his blankets, in his empty coffee mug, and in his boots.
He stared at them for a moment before shaking his head and grabbing his sweater to go out for his shift.
Kakashi was already dressed and waiting by the door with his book in his hands and one of the bags of gear at his feet. Iruka was starting to wonder if he had brought an obscene amount of books or if they were left here by other volunteers. Iruka sat on the bench to put his boots on and frowned when yet another stone hit his toes.
Kotetsu. It has to be him. He’s the only one who still gives me shit over how I decorated the outside of the building with stones from the beach. Iruka dumped the stone into his palm and placed it on the bench to finish getting ready. His mind was already coming up with a plan to get him back next time they worked together. Something along the lines of filling the gear bag with large stones and making him carry it.
Iruka stood and made his way to leave but Kakashi didn’t move. Iruka looked at him expectantly. Kakashi wasn’t reading his book and was instead possibly frowning behind the scarf in the direction of the rock.
“I have no idea. They’ve just started appearing everywhere. A few more and I can give one to every student in my class as a souvenir.”
Kakashi tore his gaze away from the small grey stone and smiled, “I think the rocks have always been here. At least I’ve observed a few on the beach.”
“I meant inside.” Iruka sighed, “Come on. We have about ten more pups left to work up and about a week and a half to do so.”
The two of them exited the building and made their way to the haul out. They were able to catch and process two more pups, one male, one female before it started to get too dark to work safely.
They made it back in time for Kotetsu and Izumo to drag Kakashi into the kitchen to make them food. Iruka went to go clean the gear then input their datasheets. It was best to get it done immediately in case they needed to fix something.
When Iruka looked at the sheets he noticed that Kakashi had stuck to his word and his data sheets were neat and concise. Aside from the occasional relevant doodle in the margins that is. Such as a drawing of a strange spot on the nose of one of the newly tagged pups and the not so relevant penguin in the corner. Iruka shook his head. On the second datasheet he found that his 5 was looking more like a 6 where the tag number was. He looked around his desk for a pencil to fix it but couldn’t find one. He always kept one in his jacket just in case so he got up to go grab it.
He pulled the jacket off the rack and heard something fall out hitting the floor. Looking at his feet he saw the grey stone from earlier. Still staring at the stone Iruka continued to dig through his jacket for the pencil. Eventually, his fingers closed on the familiar shape but they also hit something unfamiliar. Yet another rock. A flattened brown one. One that reminded Iruka of a skipping stone. He sighed, shoved it into his pants pocket, and was going to leave but decided at the last minute to pick up the grey stone. He brought all three items to his room. He added the two new stones to the windowsill and stared.
It couldn’t have been Kotetsu. I haven’t been home long enough for him to have slipped them into my jacket. That leaves…
“Iruuuka!” Izumo called from the doorway a mug in his hand that Iruka was certain didn’t have coffee in it. “Woah. That’s a lot of rocks. Why do you have a bunch of rocks?”
“Anyway, foods done. And you have tomorrow off so you’re drinking because Kotetsu won’t because he has to work tomorrow and I don’t want to be the only one partaking.” He turned on his heel before clapping and saying “Come, come.” Iruka laughed.
The two of them entered the kitchen to find Gai and Kakashi competing to see who could peel an apple with a knife the best. Kotetsu was watching in amazement as the two of them did so. The peels from their apples already nearly on the floor.
“who’s winning?” Izumo asked as he stumbled into Kotetsu’s chair before falling into the one next to him.
“I don’t know.” Kotetsu hadn’t blinked in about two minutes.
“You guys better eat those after. I didn’t drag them all the way here for them to be wasted.” Iruka was at the stove heaping food onto a plate for himself. Some sort of pasta that looked as good as it smelled.
“Wouldn’t dream of it Sensei.” Iruka came over to the table and sat down in the only open chair across from Kakashi.
“So what’s at stake here?” He asked as he took a bite of his food. Closing his eyes for a moment.
“Ah!” Kotetsu and Izumo screamed at the same moment that Gai threw up his arms in triumph with a declaration of, “I win!” Kakashi stared at the peel he had severed and the large chunk of apple he had managed to chip off that was now in his hands. He sighed.
“Yes, it looks like you did” Kakashi sighed and started to cut up the apple.
Izumo got up with a sudden declaration of “SHOTS!” and stumbled his way into his and Kotetsu’s room.
Iruka raised an eyebrow and continued to eat his food. He finished most of his plate by the time Izumo stumbled from the room with one of the whiskey bottles Iruka had brought with him. It was already about halfway gone from their previous night and Iruka figured it would be done by the end of this one. He shook his head as Izumo went to the counter behind him and began pulling down mugs. There were no shot glasses in the building. The remaining four could hear Izumo pour the liquid into the cups trying to get the proportions right while muttering to himself. “No, wait. Nope. Shit.”
“Zumo? Hold-“ Kotetsu got up to help his hopeless boyfriend. “Hold on. Wait.” Kotetsu laughed, “dude. How much are you going to spill? Just fill the mugs.”
“But that’s too much!”
“Don’t worry about it. We will play a game. I will help you drink yours. Gai can drink some as well so it’s not just the three of you. We just have to watch it.” The two of them brought over mugs and set them down in front of everyone. Iruka looked at it as he ate the last of his dinner and got up to clean his plate.
That’s a lot of whiskey.
“What game are we playing?” He asked as he came back into the conversation, “And was the result of that competition literally just a shot of whiskey?”
“Because he lost my friend here must take all of tonight and tomorrow off and not do any work. You may not know this but he has been working on his report and publication for the Godaime Foundation this entire time! He has only taken a few hours break a day to read or make dinner.”
“Oh, you’re funded by the Godaime Foundation as well?” Iruka looked up at Kakashi who nodded and seemed to be contemplating the mug in his hands.
“yes. I was funded by them. They were very generous while I was in Antarctica so I am merely trying to get a jump on things as a way to say thank you.”
“They’ve helped us out here a lot over the years.”
“booooring.” Izumo was leaning on Kotetsu. “Let’s play a game. Let’s play a game. Let’s play a game of questions. We have a judge who asks a question, everyone else places their answers into a bowl and then the judge reads them and the rest of us have to go around and guess who wrote them. If we get them wrong, we have to drink. Since Ko and Gai shouldn’t be drinking they will be judges and can play every other round if they want.”
“Sounds excellent! I will judge first!” Gai paused suddenly unsure, “What is the question?” Iruka passed around some pencils and paper that he kept in the coffee table.
“Thank you, sensei.” Kakashi’s eyes crinkled in an amused grin. Iruka huffed.
“Let’s start easy. Favorite color.” Kotetsu said as he began to write. Iruka was struck by how lucky he was that Izumo was left-handed so that they could hold hands while they wrote. One by one they all put in their slips of paper.
“Alright! We have- Blue, Blue, Orange, and Brown.”
The two blues are those two dummies. So, the brown one must be Kakashi, since I am orange. Maybe we don’t have enough people for this? Whose favorite color is brown?
Kakashi got Iruka’s color wrong thinking that it belonged to Kotetsu who sometimes had a pair of orange socks he wore around.
“They’re actually Iruka’s. I borrowed them a few years ago and just never returned them.” He laughed.
“So that’s where those went!”
“I am sorry friend but it appears you must drink.” Kakashi sighed and looked around as everyone turned to him expectantly. He rolled his eyes.
“Kakashi you don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Iruka began concerned the other man didn’t want to drink or remove the scarf.
“Maa. It’s fine. It’s not a big deal anyway. I just get cold easily.” He reached up and undid the scarf.
Iruka was annoyed, to say the least. Aside from another small scar and a beauty mark, the man’s skin was flawless. He smirked and took a drink from his mug.
Aaaand he looks good too. Bastard.
“Next question is, Favorite marine animal.”
They went around and tossed their answers in. Kotetsu removed each one with a pause for effect.
“Dolphin. Leatherback Sea Turtle. Portuguese Man’O War. Harbor Seal.”
Iruka got this one wrong. He hadn’t expected Kakashi to put dolphin down, it seemed an odd choice for a penguin and bird specialist. Gai of course said the turtle and Izumo was obsessed with jellyfish and jellyfish-like creatures. Iruka took a drink from his mug and laughed when Izumo took a drink from his despite not losing the round with a cry of “Solidarity!” Iruka was beginning to suspect that Gai was rubbing off on him.
The rest of the night went like that. They answered about ten questions before Ko had to leave with Izumo who was falling asleep, and Gai bid them goodnight shortly afterward.
Iruka had nearly finished his mug of alcohol and felt warm inside. He was at peace, listening to the wind howl outside.
“Who’s Mizuki?” Kakashi’s voice broke the silence hardly a noise over the wind.
“Hmm?” Iruka looked up to find Kakashi leaning over a paperback he must. Have pulled from one of the shelves. He turned the cover to show Iruka the signature. Iruka felt himself grimace.
“Oh.’ He sighed and rubbed the scar on his nose, “Like two? Or so years ago this asshole named Mizuki showed up here. Working on his master’s thesis he says. He was sent here by the foundation and had a background check but I guess that didn’t matter. He stays the whole season from pupping to weening. But things start going missing. Datasheets. Expensive equipment. Years and years of computer files. Turns out he had written an entire paper, gotten it published, and was writing more with our data without telling us or getting permission. We weren’t even listed as contributors or mentioned at all. It was Kotetsu’s first year as the director of the project so he panicked and confronted Mizuki. Mizuki took off but it turned out he had also taken most of the funding for that year as well. The foundation was not happy. We were lucky enough to be allowed to stay open and continue but we almost lost a lot of good information. Almost everything my parents had collected would have been gone if I hadn’t made copies when I first started volunteering. So long story short Mizuki is a backstabbing dick who if I ever see again will have an unfortunate accident for messing with this project.”
“Ah. That’s rather violent of you sensei- Wait. Kotetsu’s the director of the project?” Kakashi leaned back as what he just learned sunk in.
“Mhm. Izumo is in charge of the research because of his thesis but Kotetsu is technically the one in charge of the whole project.”
“Isn’t that a conflict of interest.”
Iruka shrugged, “They’re practically married. They’ve been together since the seventh grade.”
“That’s … a very long time.”
Iruka nodded, “Want to see something cool?”
“Sure.” The two of them got up and to Iruka’s credit he only nearly fell over once as he made his way over to the patio. He opened the door and the two of them stepped out and climbed the small dune so they could see the ocean. The wind whipped around them more up here.
“A sea of stars,” Iruka said. The ocean was alight with small blue lights. As if the stars had fallen into the ocean. With each wave that beat down on the shore, a flash of bright blue light spread out in the water. He could make out the shape of the rocks just offshore in the surf as they broke the tide and waves.
“Bioluminescence.” Kakashi breathed out. He had redonned the scarf at some point, “I haven’t seen this in a while. It was always one of my favorite things to see at night when I was sailing with my father. We would throw a net overboard and haul it up glowing. He would tell me all of the different organism and we would pull out a microscope to look at them. I saw it in Antarctica sometimes but it’s different here.”
“It’s probably the thing I miss the most about being here. There’s so much light pollution where I live that you can barely see the stars. Here you get twice as many. My dad used to say it was magic. Both of my parents believed very strongly in what they did and started here. It’s almost like they’re still with me when I come here.”
They stood in silence just watching the waves until Iruka started shivering. The alcohol starting to wear off. “Shit it’s cold.” The two of them stumbled back down the dune laughing as they slid. They re-entered the kitchen and stood by the woodstove for a moment to warm their hands. Kakashi had taken the scarf off of his face, which was pink from the wind. Iruka stared at it for what was probably a very long time now but he didn’t care. He bumped his shoulder against Kakashi’s.
“You’re not so bad you know. Goodnight Kakashi.”
Iruka stared at the pebbles from his bed and continued to muse over them.
He liked them. He couldn’t deny that. They were a puzzle that begged to be solved. Why? And who? Not Ko. No Izumo. Gai? Gai didn’t seem like the sort of person to inconvenience someone by placing a rock in their shoe.
It was nearly two AM when it hit him.
Penguins court by bringing each other pebbles.
So penguins actually don't court using pebbles, sadly. It is a normal behavior for a lot of birds because it's part of nest building for them. What's interesting is that it's a way of bonding for penguins since they mate for life. Kakashi would 100% know this.
Thank you everyone for reading! I really appreciate all of the enthusiasm for this story.
The storm hit the next day. Iruka watched it roll in across the water from near the lighthouse around ten AM during his morning walk. Dark purple and green clouds stacked as high as skyscrapers.
He made it back to the research center at the same time that Kotetsu and Gai were getting back. The wind picked up the sand and threw it violently around them. It yanked the door out of Ko’s hand as he opened it to let Iruka through. It took Gai’s added weight for them to pull it shut. Once it was shut the wind pushed against it, but they locked it just to be safe.
“Izumo!” Kotetsu called out. The three of them entered not bothering to take his gear off yet. They found Izumo and Kakashi placing the final piece of plywood over the sliding door. Izumo had nails in his mouth as he held the board in place for Kakashi.
“Was this storm on the radar?” Iruka asked shaking the sand out of his jacket sleeve.
“The wind shifted last night. It was supposed to stay far offshore originally.” Kakashi said as Izumo nodded.
“Great. Is everything tied up outside?”
“I believe so. We put most of it away when the interns left. We still need to check the emergency gear and radio.” Kotetsu nodded and went back to the front door and opened the bench that they usually sat on to take their shoes off.
“I will do one last perimeter walk,” Iruka said as he pulled his hood up.
“I will go with you.” Kakashi put the tools away and grabbed his jacket and hat from by Kotetsu. The two of them managed to exit again with Gai’s assistance.
The sand pelted their skin and water collected on their faces from the ocean and the rain that was starting to fall. There was a distant crack of thunder that spurred the two of them to walk faster.
Most of the windows had wooden shutters that swung down from above and could be tied down to protect the glass. They found two that needed to be tightened and one that needed to be retied. The whole walk took them about fifteen minutes in all but by the time they came back to the front door, they found that the wind was pushing against it to the point where it was impossible for them to get it opened.
“Hey!” Iruka banged on the door but his voice was drowned out by the wind. A loud crash of thunder sounded and the rain began to come down in sheets sideways. “Shit.” He looked around as Kakashi tried in vain to open the door. He banged a few more times before Iruka pulled him away. “There’s a boathouse a bit of a walk away!” He had to scream over the wind. Their clothes were soaked through in seconds. Neither of them were wearing their waterproof gear and the two of them had to walk into the wind. By the time the small building was in view, Iruka had watched lightning touch down a few yards away from them three times. He quickly hurried to the door thankful it was a sliding door for easy boat removal. It took effort on their part but they were able to get it open and then closed it behind them.
The boathouse had seen better days. There were considerable gaps between the boards that made up the walls and the wind whipped through causing the whole building to shake. But the rain stayed mostly out. Inside was an open water kayak strung up on the ceiling, and an old Whaler that had seen about as much attention as the boathouse itself. There were a few cans of paint and some tools but nothing else.
Kakashi had his arms wrapped around himself shivering. Iruka began to look for a light or a radio he could use to contact the others.
“I knew I shouldn’t have come to this hellish spit of rock. Stupid seals. Stupid project. Should have let Gai come on his own.” Kakashi leaned against the wall and slid down it to the ground. His teeth chattering.
Iruka paused mid search and glared at the other man for a moment before continuing his search.
When he didn’t find anything, he started pacing.
They sat there listening to the wind and rain broken up by loud crashes of thunder. The walls and roof shook with every gust and the whole place shifted at an angle that didn’t sit well with either of them. They both watched the boards lean and released a breath every time the building stayed upright.
Iruka didn’t know how much time had passed before Kakashi broke the silence.
“I have a confession to make,” Kakashi said from where he had planted himself against the far wall of the boathouse. The wind howled through the cracks in the boards.
“oh yeah? And what is that exactly?” Iruka tried to keep the bitterness and anxiety from his voice but failed.
“I’m not here only because Gai dragged me here. And my funding wasn’t cut per-say.” Kakashi leaned his head back against the wall. He was shivering. He pulled the soaked scarf tighter around his neck.
How the hell had this man survived in Antarctica? Iruka waited for him to continue but stopped his pacing.
“I was sent here by The Godaime Foundation to review the project. I’m actually taking a look at all the current long-term projects being funded. Making sure the investments are worth it.”
Iruka bit his cheek, anger flaring, “Why? What makes you so special?”
“I’ve been asked to take over as chairman of the company.” Kakashi gave a violent shiver but opened his eyes to watch Iruka.
Iruka felt invisible and yet highly visible all at once. He felt like this was the worst possible place to be stuck with someone as infuriating as Hatake fucking Kakashi, soon to be chairman of The Godaime Foundation. He felt like he had been made a fool of.
He let out a bitter laugh, that soon grew into a fit of laughter he couldn’t contain.
“It’s true. They’ve been asking for years. I turned them down a few times, but Tsunade wants to retire. And I’m getting tired of the cold.”
“So what? You came here to check this “hellish spit of rock” and make sure it was up to your liking? So that when you take over you can rip the funding away? Completely killing years and years of research and data collection?”
“I came here because I was told there were some past issues with funding. I was told if I was so worried about their judgment on funding this project, which at the time I had deemed highly unnecessary and foolish, then I should go and take a look at it.”
Iruka ran his hands through his hair in frustration, “You haven’t once cared about this project since you got here, have you?”
“At first, I was trying to remain objective, yes. But as the weeks progressed, I found I was unable to do so. I might not have cared at first but don’t say I don’t care now Iruka. That’s not fair. After all, you’re the one who lied about Mizuki.”
Iruka felt his blood go cold, “What?” His voice was barely a whisper above the wind and rain.
“You lied. You said Kotetsu was the one who confronted him, but it was you. It was you who allowed him to come into this project. You sent his paperwork to The Foundation. You were emotionally invested in him. He betrayed you. Nearly drowned you in the process. They have a whole report they gave me.”
“Emotionally invested? Emotionally- Yes, I was dating him. If you had all this information already why did you even bring it up?”
“I needed to see if you were still attached to him.”
“How else would I know if you would send him more money if we continued funding? How do I know you weren’t still involved?”
“There was an investigation! He stole federal money! Why do you think I don’t have my name listed anywhere on the data? Why do you think I have no claim to this place? That was the deal I struck with The Foundation. In order to save their reputation, they made me a volunteer instead of a partner. And you know what? It didn’t matter because I’m a school teacher! Because my parent’s legacy could continue! Because I couldn’t let Mizuki get away with what he did at the cost of the project. Does your report say how he tried to push me from a cliff? Does your report say how many students this program has helped get through graduate school? Does your report say anything, about the people who have lived on this “hellish spit of rock’?”
Kakashi stood now and approached Iruka his whole-body tense but still shivering, “No. That’s why I came all the way out here! You’re so goddamn frustrating! I-“
“I’m frustrating? You’ve been leaving rocks in my shoes for days! You’re not a bird Kakashi! Talk to me like I’m a fucking person, will you?”
“I’m trying to talk to you!”
“Are you really? Because it doesn’t seem like we’re talking! It seems like we are going to kill each other before we even get out of this boathouse! Let alone survive the storm!”
“Well, what do you want me to say? I came here expecting to find a half-baked research project with underqualified staff and instead found that on top of that not being true, at all, that there was a volunteer that I couldn’t take my eyes off of, so, I and panicked and didn’t know what to do so I took flirting advice from penguins and all I want is to hold your goddamn hand and kiss your stupid face! But now we might die in a fucking storm in a rundown boathouse about a mile away from where we should be!”
Iruka’s breath caught. He was suddenly very aware that the two of them were merely inches away from each other. He could feel Kakashi’s breath on his face. He smelt like coffee and rain, and seawater. And Iruka found himself reaching for Kakashi’s scarf without thinking. He pulled it down and closed the distance, kissing him with enough force to cause the two of them to stumble briefly.
“We aren’t done talking about this,” Iruka said as Kakashi grunted in response and pulled him back in to deepen the kiss.
“Iruka! Kakashi!” they heard a call and saw the light of a flashlight sweep past the building. The two of them parted still close together. Iruka’s hand was still fisted in the soaking scarf.
Kakashi shivered but not from the cold this time. “We could just not respond.” He suggested.
Iruka shook his head and felt a small smile cross his face, “We’re in here!” Iruka went to the door and opened it some, waving. Izumo ran up to them. The wind was still just as violent but the rain had died down some for now.
“Oh, thank the heavens.” Izumo pulled out a hand radio, “Ko, I found them at the boathouse. We’re heading back. What the fuck happened? You know what. Save it. Let’s go before it gets worse.”
They got back to the research center greeted by Kotetsu and Gai who were both emotional wrecks. Gai immediately crushed Kakashi in a hug and Kotetsu did the same to Iruka.
“It started raining. We couldn’t get the door open the wind was too strong and no one answered us. So we had to take shelter.”
“Almost got struck by lightning.” Kakashi added, “A few times.” The two of them had begun to shed their soaked shoes, hats, jackets, and Kakashi tossed his scarf. Shivering Gai brought them towels before taking their soaked laundry to hang.
“I’m gonna go change then stand by the stove for an hour or so,” Iruka said as he made his way down the hall in squelching socks.
“How’d you get your scar?” Iruka asked as he laid next to Kakashi in his small twin bed his fingers trailing down the scar across his eye. Kakashi closed his eyes and shivered. The two of them were under a mound of blankets with layers upon layers of socks and sweaters on to try to get warm. They had stood under one blanket by the woodstove for a while until they could both barely stand before they both snuck away to Iruka’s room. By the look that Izumo gave Iruka though, they weren’t fooling anybody.
Kakashi brought one of his hands up to hold Iruka’s, placing a kiss to his knuckles. Iruka felt his face flush as his heart skipped for a moment.
“It was an accident when I lived in a lighthouse. A pane of glass shattered due to the cold and cut my eye. I was bleeding badly. My friend and coworker, Obito, went to go get help. But the currents must have been too strong or the wind too rough. The boat was found but they never recovered his body.”
It was a story similar to too many Iruka had heard. Losing someone at sea was always difficult because 9 times out of 10 there was never a body. It was a very hard thing to accept, you always held out hope they would come back.
“What about you?” Kakashi traced Iruka’s scar and a shiver ran through Iruka’s body.
“I was little and I slipped in the boat on my way here and hit my face on a cleat hitch.”
Kakashi smiled and Iruka flushed further. They sat in silence for a bit. Observing each other. Both of their eyes slowly closing in exhaustion.
“We still need to talk about what’s going to happen with The Foundation.”
“That can wait until the morning.”
“Yes. That can wait.” Kakashi bumped his forehead into Iruka’s and closed his eyes. Not letting go of Iruka’s hand. His breathing evened out and Iruka heard the wind howl. Rain and sand hitting the side of the building. A crash of distant thunder sounded and Iruka felt safe as he slid into sleep.
Thank you so much for reading. I'm happy you guys enjoyed this as much as I did. The next chapter will probably just be a small epilogue of sorts.
Kakashi woke up to a mouthful of brown hair, a dead arm, and more warmth than he had felt in years. It took him all of thirty seconds to piece together the reason for all of these things was the man asleep next to him. Iruka. He had known the man for about a month and since the day of his arrival, his thoughts had circled him like a compass to a magnet.
Kakashi’s gaze drifted to the row of rocks along the windowsill and his heart fluttered a bit at the fact that Iruka had kept them. All of them. He glanced down at the frazzled head beside him before finally giving in and gently climbing out of the bed to go relieve his bladder. He passed by the sitting room and relaxed when he saw no one was there, going in to make some tea. While waiting for the water to boil he decided he might as well start a fresh pot of coffee. Once both were done, he grabbed his book from the table, two mugs (one coffee one tea), and went back to sit at Iruka’s desk.
Iruka woke up around noon. By that time Kakashi had already sent fifteen emails back and forth with The Foundation (from his phone), finished his book, and was getting very worried that Iruka was ill, despite Izumo assuring him that Iruka always slept in late when he didn’t have to work. Kakashi didn’t actually believe anyone could sleep that late.
“Hey.” Iruka sleepily poked his head out of the blanket cocoon he had made after Kakashi left the bed.
“Good morning Sensei. Did you sleep well?”
“Had the weirdest dream.”
“I certainly hope it wasn’t like the one I have where Gai decides to take up aqua aerobics.”
Iruka laughed briefly, the smile remaining on his face. “Nah. It was actually about you.”
“Was I doing aqua aerobics?”
“hmm. No. But there were other aerobics involved.”
“other aerobics? Were those aerobics with you?”
“Towards the end. After you convinced me to build a snowman and we cuddled in an igloo.”
“That doesn’t sound so strange.”
“The snowman looked like Gai.”
Kakashi laughed, “Alright that is strange.”
“You even put a green tracksuit on it.” Iruka yawned sleepily.
Kakashi laughed and held out the mug of coffee to Iruka who unborrowed and sat up. He had gone and replaced the coffee a few times so it was still hot. Iruka took a sit before holding it to his chest and closing his eyes. “I have a confession.”
Kakashi’s breath caught in his throat. He knew this had been too good to be true.
“I have a roommate. Sort of like my brother? But also sort of a son?” Kakashi let out a breath.
“A brother son?”
“He’s fourteen. We went through foster care together for a while. He’s been living with me for five years now.” Kakashi let that sink in. He didn’t really have family aside from a few close friends and his dogs. Oh. Iruka didn’t know about the dogs.
“I have a confession too,” Iruka looked up at him with his brow pinched in concern and Kakashi fought a laugh, “I have eight dogs.”
Iruka blinked, “eight? Where do you keep them? Were they with you in the arctic? Why are they not here?”
Kakashi couldn’t help his smile at the tone Iruka used as if the dogs not being at the research facility was a crime. “A friend of mine was watching them while I was in the arctic and he’s watching them now too. Tsunade told me I absolutely could not bring them with me. I tried.”
“Bosses take the fun out of everything.” Iruka drank some more coffee, “Where are you planning on heading after this?”
“My father owned a few real estate places that I rented out to friends for income. There’s a few about forty minutes from Konoha. I can probably crash at one of those for a bit until I find my own place. I will have to go to HQ a few times for appearances but the job is mostly remote so I don’t have to worry too much about where I wind up.”
“Oh! That’ll be good! My apartment is in Konoha. That’s where I teach.”
“So quick to get me to your place? We haven’t even been on a date yet.”
“Hmm.” Iruka’s cheeks flushed, “you’re right. We will have to fix that.”
The day finally came for Iruka to leave. His time was up and while Izumo and Kotetsu still had winter preparations to do, Iruka was a volunteer and had already pushed the limits of his stay. Iruka sighed as he looked at his bag sitting against the desk in the now bare room. All of the rocks Kakashi had given him had been removed from the windowsill and placed in a small pocket in his jacket. Their weight pressing against his side. Iruka closed his eyes and breathed in the smell of the place once more before finally moving to pick up his bag.
Everyone was gathered at the door talking. Kakashi was also leaving that day and was already wrapped in his scarf, jacket, and hat. Iruka managed to pull his shoes on before Izumo and Kotetsu crushed him in a hug. Iruka managed to get them to let go when he promised to visit them on the mainland more. Gai shook his hand firmly, saying something about how they will surely meet again and how it was a joyous occasion to have met him and work with him and how happy he was that he and Kakashi were finally getting along. Iruka grinned and waved as Kakashi pulled him out the door by his hand. When Kakashi start the hike across the island to the dock, Iruka pulled his hand from his.
“Wait.” Iruka turned toward the door and ran his fingers along the plaque with his parents’ names. “Until next time.” He kissed his fingers and placed them against their names before turning and catching up with Kakashi.
“So, where do you want to go for dinner?” Kakashi asked as they walked hand in hand, the breeze blowing and the sun shining against the ocean. Turns cried out on the shoreline and the seals lay about in piles and Iruka smiled because for the first time in years he was ready to go home.
Thank you so much for reading this. It isn't a very long last chapter but I am happy with it. This was a very fun story for me to write and I hope you enjoyed it too. Feel free to comment if there are any questions you have.