Hatake Kakashi was completely in love with Umino Iruka.
He never thought he would fall so deep for anyone. After the first half of his life, he did his best to numb himself, to feel dead inside, because the void was less bad than the pain. When all the alternatives are bad, mark the less bad as good. ANBU wisdom was handy for everyday matters too.
Then he wasn’t in ANBU anymore, and he had to recalibrate his way of living. By then, he was so used to diverting any feelings that he had grown a thick crust around his heart—nothing got in, nothing got out.
It was okay until Sandaime forced on him the one genin team that passed his bell test. Kakashi had to dust off his rusty empathy and try not to be too caustic with the kids. Before he realized it, the sneaky bastards had made cracks in his shell. Especially Naruto—that kid had the ability to melt the iciest of barriers. Heart-warm no jutsu, they should call what he did.
And Naruto didn’t come alone. Where there was Naruto, Umino Iruka wasn’t too far. Little by little, Iruka’s influence trickled through those vulnerable cracks in Kakashi’s cocoon, and pooled inside, until one fine day Kakashi realized he had feelings for the sensei, and those feelings were probably what normal people called love.
“Shit,” Kakashi thought. This wasn’t something he was looking forward to.
Well, it didn’t have to mean anything. Kakashi was perfectly able to keep on with his life the same way as before. He had more urgent issues—Konoha’s dire situation after Sound’s attack, Sandaime’s death, Godaime’s new ways, the Akatsuki, Sasuke’s defection, Team Seven disbanding, and the surge in back-to-back S-rank missions that left him quite worse for wear most of the time.
Yes, Kakashi definitely had a lot on his plate. Staying alive took most of his concentration. He was also training hard to unlock the next levels of his sharingan, treading unknown terrain, risking his sanity and his health in the process. Business as usual.
So, Kakashi stubbornly ignored Iruka’s frequent attempts to be friends with him. He liked to be around, yes. He thrived with Iruka’s energy, with his positivity. Just being close to Iruka, Kakashi could feel his soul batteries charging up. Iruka was a singularity, a focus point, Kakashi’s origin of coordinates. When Kakashi had bad moments—and he had many of them—the memory of Iruka helped him go on, helped him try harder, and gave him a reason to want to get out of whatever tough situation he was in and come back home alive.
Kakashi daydreamed of Iruka’s smile, his scar crinkled by one of his wide dorky grins, his strong arms crossed in a confident stance, and a thousand other things. And on his lonely nights, he fantasized about much more intimate aspects of the sensei. Iruka had ousted Icha Icha from Kakashi’s fantasies.
But Kakashi kept a wide safety margin around the teacher. When he was in Iruka’s presence, Kakashi smiled his trademark eye-smile and teased Iruka with vaguely flirty lines, retreating behind feigned obliviousness every time the conversation got too personal for his liking. It wasn’t that Kakashi enjoyed pestering Iruka, he just didn’t know a better way to interact with him without combusting like a crushing teen and outing himself.
It looked like their shared history was made up of a bunch of dramatic moments where they fought together—Kakashi saved Iruka’s ass more than once, how could he not?—and a long series of lighter interactions where Iruka tried to be friendly and Kakashi mostly deflected it.
“Thank you for your hard work, Kakashi-san. I hope you’ll get those wounds checked at the hospital,” Iruka would say with a worried look on a nondescript day working at the missions desk, getting Kakashi’s mission report, slightly stained with dried blood.
“Maa, it’s nothing, sensei, don’t worry. Tomorrow I’ll be okay,” Kakashi would reply with an artificial eye smile.
“Don’t be like that, I can walk you to the hospital if you feel too tired to go—”
“Ah, it’s okay, really. Have a nice day, Iruka-sensei,” Kakashi would do his silly wave goodbye and get out of the mission room, trying not to faint on his way out.
Or they would meet by chance at Ichiraku’s one of those Thursdays Iruka treated himself after a hard workday, with or without Naruto, and talk about something light—never missions or darker shinobi stuff. Kakashi loved listening to Iruka’s animated stories about his students, about Naruto, or some book or movie he recently watched. Kakashi could have listened to Iruka reading the telephone listing and still enjoy it like Iruka was telling him the secrets of the Universe. His voice was the best sound ever and soothed something raw deep inside Kakashi’s twisted spirit.
Kakashi was a bit dense when it came to social intricacies—he never felt the need to spend his precious energy on it. But after some time, even he noticed that Iruka was very insistent on trying to spend time with him. After some intense analysis of possible reasons, Kakashi could only conclude that Iruka was, inexplicably, interested in him. Like, interested.
Kakashi wanted to hide under a rock. How? Why? What could Iruka possibly want from him? Company? Sex? Eternal love? Well, Kakashi knew he had a fanbase in Konoha—some people were attracted to elite ninja, and he was kind of a celebrity. He also wasn’t too bad at seduction missions, when he pretended to be a different person, a likeable one, and played his suave side mercilessly. But no fangirl or fanboy’s fascination survived for too long when exposed to Kakashi just being himself. He had perfected the subtle art of shooing people away by means of his sheer personality.
That Iruka still put up with him was a fact that pleasantly surprised Kakashi every single day that passed. He was, in a way, waiting for the other shoe to drop. The last thing he expected was for Iruka to want to get closer to him.
In a village of shinobi, he couldn’t be the only one to notice.
Genma called him out one night in their favorite shinobi-only bar, sitting in the most secluded booth the place offered, while they tried to filter out the noise of play-back music and less-than-professional singing that came from the little stage—Fridays were karaoke night in the Founder’s Den.
“I shouldn’t have to be the one to tell you this, but you do realize that Iruka’s been trying to ask you out for years, don’t you?”
Kakashi kept his calm and looked away from Genma’s eyes.
“You’re reading too much into the situation, Genma. Iruka’s just being nice to me, like he is to everyone.”
Genma took a sip of his drink. “You can’t possibly be that dense, Kakashi. You’re the smartest of us all. Half of Konoha would like to be on your shoes right now, and you’re playing oblivious. What’s your problem? You’re a master of avoiding people you dislike, and you don’t avoid Iruka. At all.”
Kakashi didn’t know how to answer. Of course Genma had seen through his mask of agreeable indifference—he knew him too well. Kakashi picked his next words carefully.
“I like Iruka, but from a distance. It’s better this way.”
“Better for whom?” Genma burst out. “Iruka is hard-headed, but eventually he’ll get tired of running after you. You’d better think about it, Kakashi. Are you willing to see him turn around and knock on another door? Because that’s what’s going to happen if you keep teasing him and stepping back.”
“I’m not teasing him.”
“Don’t play fool with me, it doesn’t work.”
It didn’t, and Kakashi knew it too well. Genma had been like a distant guardian angel since their ANBU times. Genma was seventeen and one of Minato-sensei’s personal ANBU guards, and Kakashi was a rookie in regular ANBU ranks, so small and cocky Genma couldn’t not feel protective of him, even if Kakashi soon overtook him in skill and killing efficiency. But still, after all this time, Genma liked to keep an eye on him and speak up when he felt Kakashi needed it, regardless of Kakashi’s insistence on showing him that he didn’t need nor want his help.
Not that Kakashi ever listened to him. Genma sighed. “Look, do what you want, as always. Just remember my words, okay? Iruka won’t wait for you forever. You could get the jackpot but you’re playing around. Don’t let this chance go.”
“Yes, mom,” Kakashi said, very serious.
Genma rolled his eyes, finished his beer and went to the counter to order another one. He got intercepted on his way, as usual—hazards of being a mover and shaker in Konoha’s shinobi social life, Kakashi thought as he lowered his mask and threw his head back to finish his drink too in a long gulp.
There were loud cheers and applause when a new couple got onto the scenario and started a bouncy pop song that was top ten perhaps five years ago. There was also movement on the seat Genma had left empty. When Kakashi lowered his head, Iruka sat there, fidgeting with a glass of something dark and sparkling.
“Hi, Kakashi-san. Can I sit with you?”
“Of course.” Kakashi’s smile was genuine and reached his mouth for a change. He didn’t put his mask back in place after drinking. Iruka’s gaze had a wistful edge tonight. Perhaps he was a bit tipsy. Kakashi couldn’t tell just by looking at the flush on Iruka’s face. Iruka flushed easily when talking to Kakashi.
The teacher asked him about his week, and they engaged in one of their easy lightweight conversations. But something in the air tonight was different; something was stealing part of the lightness and replacing it by a heavier intent.
As Kakashi listened to Iruka, Genma’s words spun in his mind. Don’t let this chance go.
Kakashi watched Iruka talk about his kids and their latest mischiefs, appreciating the way his eyes lit up and his love for his students poured from his whole being.
Iruka won’t wait for you forever. Those words hurt. Kakashi didn’t want to think about it. His fragile homeostasis was fueled by a few friendly interactions with Iruka and a lot of fantasizing about him the rest of the time. This balance would crumble and die the moment Iruka got involved with someone else.
Ah, it was going to hurt like hell. It was a question of time, Kakashi guessed. Iruka was too good for him, he was too good for anyone Kakashi could think of, but he wouldn’t be single forever. He would want a family—he’d admitted to Kakashi that he regretted deeply not having adopted Naruto when he was a neglected little kid, and he dreamed of still being able to do it.
Some awful day, a perfectly adequate pretty kunoichi or civilian girl would show up. Iruka would fall for her and they would live happily ever after and have two point five kids. A happy ending, as Iruka deserved.
After all, who was Kakashi to stand in the way of Iruka’s happiness?
“Kakashi-san, are you okay?” Iruka’s voice snapped him back to the still-not-dreadful present. His expressive brown eyes studied Kakashi’s face. “You spaced out for a good while. Do you want to go home?”
“I’d love to,” Kakashi said, absently. Oh, he did, he would really love to go to a place he could call home, instead of his own aseptic apartment that was a sad mock of the real thing. He wanted to go with Iruka, to make himself a place in Iruka’s home, in his life. He wanted to go where there was only him and Iruka, safe from the world, and let Iruka devour him. He wanted to surrender to his own deep hunger, to beg Iruka to obliterate him and make him stop thinking. Kakashi was deadly tired of thinking so much.
Some of his carefully hidden desires were not so well hidden tonight, it seemed, because Iruka saw a hint of it all in his eyes. Iruka’s pupils dilated a notch.
“No, don’t say it. Don’t say anything. I better go.” Kakashi spread his hands open on the table to push himself on his feet, but Iruka took hold of his right wrist. “No! Wait, Kakashi, please.”
Kakashi stopped, half-standing. His body screamed to pull his arm away from Iruka’s hold, to cut that contact that burned his skin and didn’t let him think straight. Iruka was grabbing his arm, but he could as well be grabbing his neck, his very spine. Kakashi froze.
“Let go,” he said, his voice strained.
“No,” Iruka defied him with a soft voice and a look of concern, “not this time. This time we talk.”
“I… Just…” Kakashi huffed, frustrated, and jerked his wrist free. Iruka didn’t try to stop him a second time.
Kakashi stood up and walked to the exit like he’d been summoned for an emergency mission. He didn’t even pay his tab.
He was barely out of the door into the chilly night air when he heard a loud screeching sound coming from the bar sound system, followed by Iruka’s voice calling his name at 80 decibels.
“Kakashi! Come back inside, please. I want to tell you something. I’ve wanted to do it for a long time.”
Kakashi stopped dry and turned around, shocked. He saw Iruka standing on the stage, haloed by the colourful spotlights, and a little treacherous thread on Kakashi’s mind found him stunning, as always.
Iruka gripped the microphone tightly, and looked tense and embarrassed to death, but he went on determinedly. The people around were expectant, delighted with the unexpected show. They all knew who Hatake Kakashi was, and Iruka was pretty popular in the shinobi social circles too, so Kakashi was sure this event would be on everybody’s lips for a long time.
“You’re hard to get, Kakashi. This is my last hope, but I just have to try. I hope it works. If it doesn’t, I won’t bother you anymore.”
Iruka turned to the karaoke machine and selected a song. Slow guitar and piano arpeggios filled the place. The people kept a religious silence.
Kakashi stood frozen on the doorstep, looking at Iruka as the music of a romantic ballad started to play, and Iruka started to rock to the rhythm, preparing for the vocal part. Kakashi wished that the earth would open and swallow Iruka before he could embarrass them more. Or even better, than the earth would swallow Kakashi himself. And, if possible, crush him to death too, so he would never have to look at all these people’s faces again.
Then Iruka started to sing.
Wise men say
Only fools rush in
But I can’t help falling in love with you
Shall I stay?
Would it be a sin
If I can’t help falling in love with you?
The world around Kakashi dissolved. Iruka’s voice went straight to the center of his heart. Iruka was not a great singer. The song was old and saccharine sweet, and not one of Kakashi’s favorites by far. But the way Iruka sang its verses, the love confession contained in them, and the feeling that Iruka’s voice carried—all these things got to Kakashi in the best of ways. Or the worst, depending.
Kakashi felt like being in one of those images where a little winged chubby naked angel pierces a poor victim’s heart with a tiny bow and an arrow, from side to side.
He waited until the song finished, in part because he was transfixed looking at Iruka, and in part because he was suffering a mini heart attack.
Kakashi came back to his senses when the music died and the public around erupted in a frenzy of applause and cheers.
He would never live this down, but honestly, he didn’t care.
Kakashi walked to the stage. The people parted before him, letting him get to where Iruka stood, microphone in hand, waiting for his reaction with his heart in his throat.
Kakashi stepped up on stage and walked very close to Iruka.
“I will never forgive you for this,” he said, but he was visibly smiling under the mask. Iruka started to breathe again.
“You didn’t give me many options.”
Kakashi took Iruka’s hand in his. “Let’s go somewhere more private.”
They stepped down the stage and walked towards the exit. The people around went back to their business slowly, with wide smiles on their faces. Just before going out, Kakashi saw Genma’s face between the crowd. He grinned, winked and made a “mission complete” field hand sign. Kakashi glared at him with no real heat behind it.
“So, it did work?” Iruka said as they finally went out to the empty street.
“It did, But only because it’s you.”
Iruka grinned. “Fair enough. I wouldn’t want you doing that with anyone else.”
"I couldn't. I've been an idiot long enough. I promise you I'll make it up to you for being so late."
Iruka laughed. "You'd better. You've left me waiting for years."
They didn’t talk much more on their way to Iruka’s home, holding hands. They were still coming down from their adrenaline rush, and they knew they would have plenty of time to discuss things.
There, leaning on Iruka’s door, they kissed for the first time. It was a good kiss, all Kakashi had expected and more.
“Do you want to go in?” Iruka whispered, wrapped in Kakashi’s arms, pressing little kisses on his jaw and cheeks.
“I’d love to,” Kakashi surrendered.
And so, they started their story together that night thanks to an old cheesy song and to Iruka’s determination and lack of musical self-consciousness.
Hatake Kakashi was completely in love with Umino Iruka, and after years of pitiful pining, he finally accepted that Umino Iruka was completely in love with him too.