Hey Guys, Im going to start doing weekly reviews for some Manga. Since 446 is due out TODAY I was going to start with 445 and maybe a bonus review of 446 later this week. Naruto will not be the only reviews I will be doing on a weekly basis I will pick random Manga's and just knock this up for fun.
Okay where to start with this 0_o, I guess from the start. Now the thing that has been annoying me for awhile has been most of us know Peins past and who he is. Do we really need a whole back drop again. We could have just fast fowarded to how he became so powerful rather then when he was with Yahiko. This is all explained to us way back during the flash backs with Jiy before his death. I like the focus on Yahiko and how it was him that put the idea into peins head, but still there was no need for this pointless flash back. Which in honesty could have been summed up in a few pages rather then 17. I mean we all know whats coming, one of those famous Naruto speeches that will take another 17 pages about how his pain and how him and Pein are alike, which will then lead to a battle no doubt. This was a three out of ten, Once again I found the Naruto art abit lacking this week, The detail was very low and the back drops was just open space almost all the time, way to rasie the bar on the art, I was hoping for something a bit more before they had that week's break in between 445 and 446.
Page 15 below was about the hight of the whole thing, we get to see three greats facing off against Hanzo. I would have been happier for the story to lead on after Jiy had left them rather then before, that is the real mystery to us readers. What happend after their training and when the Konoha Ninjas pulled out. How did Pein become the way he is. I know this is a build up but is it one we need or is it just more Naruto self indulgent rubbish. Saldy I think its the latter. in a round up poor story and dialog, mixed with weak art makes this a very poor read.
Hope you enjoyed the read. Im happy to take suggestion to what to review next week.
First Name: Azuma
Last Name: Yunoki
Age: 18 years old
Birthday: 18 June
Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Height: 172 cm or 5'6")
Current Family: Parents, Grandparents, 2 older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister
School Year: 3rd Year B Group
Favorite Song: Gabriel Fauré's Après un Rêve (according to the 1st game)
First Appearance: Episode 1 (Anime), Chapter 1 (Manga)
These are the songs he's played in the concours.
First Selection: Grieg: Peer Gynt Suite No.1~I.Morning Mood
Second Selection: Massenet: Meditation from "Thaïs"
Third Selection: J.S. Bach: Partita for Solo Flute in A minor, BMV1013~IV.Bourrée anglaise (Anime), Tomaso Albinoni: Adagio (Manga)
Fourth Selection: Sergei Rachmaninov: Vocalise (Anime)
Yunoki Azuma was born as the third son to the Yunoki family which
gains its prestige from the Business Industry, and because of this,
since Azuma was a child, he had been raised and instructed to maintain
a good appearance and become a support for his brothers; though it also
appears that he should not outshine them in any way, judging from how
he was told to quit the piano when he showed progress above one of his
brothers and later took up the flute instead.
As he is a student in the Music Department of the school, people would assume that he would continue on to pursue a career in the Music Industry but that is not the case. He’s merely pursuing the musical career until the end of High School and according to his grandmother can only regard it as a ‘hobby’ before he must continue on to study a major in college that would benefit his family’s business and assist his elder brothers.
He excels both musically and academically and is shown to occasionally help out the student committee's works, though it doesn't seem that he's part of the student council itself.
Throughout the story, Yunoki Azuma is shown to have two sides to his personality; a ‘White’ personality that he publicly display to his peers and what we see from the beginning of the series, which is that of a charming, considerate, and ‘princely’ character, and a ‘Black’ personality that he shows to Hino Kahoko and we only see from volume 4 of the manga onwards (He shows his "Black" side to Hino at the end of Episode 11 and the first minute in Episode 12), this personality is similar to that of an antagonist in a way that he is deceiving everyone and picks on Hino whenever they’re alone. It is assumed by Hino that the ‘Black’ personality is his true identity, though after meeting his grandmother and learning about the constraints and burdens he holds towards his family, Hino starts questioning whether if that’s really the case.
Hihara Kazuki : Kazuki is Azuma's classmate and is shown to be his best and possibly only close friend. They first met before the school's opening ceremony in their first year; Kazuki assuming that Azuma was his senior and asking him for directions before he later found that Azuma was the student representative for the new students, and it appears they've been friends ever since.
Hino Kahoko: Kahoko is the main protagonist of the series, and Yunoki was one of her possible love interests in the dating simulation game. In the manga and anime, Kahoko's personality and her view of the world slowly attracts Azuma to her, to the point that she's the only one he's revealed his dark side too. While he passes off his flirtatious bullying and harassment towards her as 'teasing' and jokes, he evidently shows jealousy and disdain when he learns that she asked Tsukimori and Hihara to go on a 'date' to the amusement park with her before she asked him (Referenced from the 35th chapter of the manga). He usually refers to her as 'Hino-san' in front of others and simply 'Hino' in private (He eventually refers to her as 'Kahoko' occasionally later in the anime).
Yunoki Miyabi: Miyabi is his younger sister, and the only one of Azuma's siblings that is introduced thus far. She is shown to care about her brother's well being.
Takashina Ayano: One of Azuma's omiai candidates, she was fascinated by him as a child and became determined to become his wife. Azuma, however, isn't really keen on that idea and enlist Kahoko's help to dissuade her by passing Kahoko off as h
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Long ago . . .
"Sakumo-san, thank you for coming," the blond Jounin said, stepping back into the office.
"Is everything all right? Kakashi--"
"Is in the yard, with the students. I called you because . . ." He petered off, sitting down at his desk and rubbing his eyes. "Sakumo, Kakashi has started wearing mask. Do you have any idea why?"
"No," Sakumo said, too tired to be truly concerned. "Have you asked him about it?"
The Jounin frowned. "I thought maybe you could ask him. I'm a bit worried about him; I've never had a student quite so--"
"Thank you," Saskumo interrupted, standing. He knew it was rude. He couldn't bring himself to care. This man had implied things about his son--his son, who was brilliant and--and--and now he had something else he had to deal with. He couldn't do all this. "I'll talk to him." He walked out of the office and into the yard.
Kakashi sat alone on a swing under an old tree, watching children play. A long cloth was tied around the lower portion of his face, knotted behind his head.
"Kakashi?" his father called, managing to smile slightly when blue eyes looked up at him. "Come on."
Kakashi got to his feet, very thin and straight. He had tested in the Chuunin exams just a few weeks before; only eight months after becoming a Genin. The Third had put him under the care of one of their younger Jounin, a man that everyone said was a genius. They had no other Genin they could pair a six-year-old with. No one else could compare with Kakashi. Sakumo was proud of his boy, and yet still wondered if his wife had been right. If it wasn't too much, too fast. He felt like he didn't even know his child anymore. The year had been . . . bad.
And now his son was wearing a mask.
They walked in silence for a long while. "Why?" Sakumo asked finally.
Silence stretched awkwardly. "I'm very proud of you," Sakumo said after a while.
Kakashi didn't respond.
"We haven't spoken lately." Weeks, since they had had a real conversation. Anything beyond 'good morning' and 'have a nice day.' Sakumo blamed himself. There was no one else to blame. He had isolated them from their village. He had ostracized their entire family. He had become so involved in his own pain that he had forgotten his only child, leaving him almost entirely in the care of a Jounin he barely knew.
He was a failure, but Kakashi was suffering for it.
"Why are you wearing a mask?" Sakumo asked again, the words quiet. He put a hand on his son's arm, stopping him.
The boy--the child, really--pulled away, glaring. "I don't want to look like you. I don't want to see my face, and I don't want the others to see it, either. I hate you, and I hate what you did, and I hate that I look like you."
"Kakashi--" Sakumo started.
"Leave me alone," Kakashi snapped, turning and bolting down the street.
Sakumo almost followed. But--no point. Not in any of it. All he did was bring his child pain. He sat heavily on a bench, his head in his hands.
There was no way out of anything.
"So, you were how old when you became a Jounin?" Iruka asked, a note of barely hidden incredulousness in his voice.
Kakashi didn't smile, though it was a chore. He was proud of what he'd accomplished, and it was nice to have someone he actually cared about sound impressed. "Thirteen."
"Huh. And how old when you became ANBU?" Iruka asked again, folding laundry.
That one, Kakashi had to think about. "Seventeen," he said finally. "I'm pretty sure I was seventeen."
"Huh." Iruka folded two towels, setting them on a pile, and reached for a bedsheet. "If you were a Jounin by the time you were thirteen," he said slowly, "who was in your team?"
Kakashi shifted. His limbs still felt vaguely sluggish, and he was getting cold again. It seemed like he slept most of the time, still. "Other Jounin," he said, pulling the blanket up around his legs. Outside, rain pattered against the building, distant and faint. He could taste the burn of ozone, and suspected they might have lightning later.
"Were there other Jounin your age?" Iruka asked. He was frowning at a hole in the sheet, his finger wiggling through it as if that might make it go away.
"Not really. Itachi, but he's a bit younger than me. And we didn't travel in the same circles."
Iruka just looked at him for a moment. Kakashi looked back. Discomfort grew. The impressed look had given way to an entirely too thoughtful one. "Yes?" Kakashi asked, uncomfortable.
"Hmm? Oh, nothing," Iruka said, shaking his head as if rooting himself back in his body, and returning to folding. "I just--well, you and Uchiha Itachi were really the only geniuses that had to grow up alone. The Sannin all had each other, and even still, Orochimaru turned out like he did. I was trying to figure out if there was a difference between those that handled it all right, and those that didn't. It seems like you'd be awfully isolated."
Kakashi frowned behind his mask. "I wasn't isolated."
"So you had friends?" Iruka asked, perking up.
"Well--I didn't need them."
Iruka was looking at him thoughtfully again. "Hmm," he said, and tied two socks together.
"Hmm?" Kakashi asked. He really disliked having someone draw conclusions about him. He drew conclusions about people, not the other way around. Another reason he preferred lying to telling the truth. People didn't make decisions about you.
Outside, thunder growled.
"Nothing." They were silent for a moment.
Kakashi sprawled back out on the couch, feeling sleepy once more. He stared out the window at the setting sun, at the reds splashed across the sky.
"Why do you wear the mask?" Iruka asked.
Kakashi just shrugged. Then he grinned, both eyes curving. "Makes me mysterious."
Iruka snorted and carried the clean clothes to his bedroom, then came back for towels and sheets. He tossed a blanket on the couch and it bounced across, half unfolding over Kakashi's legs. Kakashi pulled it farther up, enjoying the heat.
He was getting tired of being tired all the time. Of being cold, and exhausting easily, and sleeping for most of the day. Especially of this stupid damp storm, which made his bones hurt. Still, he could see the improvement. Taking a shower left him trembling from fatigue, but at least he could get all the way through one without having to sit down.
A few more days.
Iruka put the towels away, and walked back into the living room. He could sense Kakashi fading again, could feel the man's chakra ebbing, and knew that he'd be sound asleep in another half hour.
Still, Kakashi roused himself and blinked owlishly. Iruka was getting used to the Sharingan, and the clean scar that marred the smooth flesh around it. He no longer felt the urge to stare. He still wondered, though, why the mask.
Kakashi apparently wasn't willing to answer that question.
"What did you do today?" Kakashi asked, leaning heavily against the arm of the couch.
Iruka headed into the kitchen, talking through the doorway while he prepared dinner. The window was sleeted with rain, making the night even darker. "Oh, mostly work."
"You were home late."
He couldn't quite suppress the grin, and he leaned around the doorway to see Kakashi. "Sorry, honey," he said, near mockingly.
Kakashi snorted a laugh. "Well, Shikamaru's not quite as good company . . ."
"You win at Shougi yet?" Iruka asked, heading farther into the kitchen. He peered into cupboards, wishing he'd gone grocery shopping. But the storm had been threatening, and he hadn't wanted to get caught . . .
"I've won several times, thank you. He's just won more," Kakashi added, in an undertone.
"Where were you?" Kakashi asked again.
"Visiting Mizuki," Iruka answered. He had ramen, mostly left over for Naruto, and some vegetables . . . maybe if he chopped enough vegetables, the ramen would be edible.
"Mizuki? Didn't he try to steal the--"
"Yes," Iruka said, before Kakashi could finish the thought. "He's still in prison. I try and see him at least once a week." The carrots had gone bad. He sighed and tossed them into the garbage. Scratch that idea.
A shadow fell across him, and Iruka looked up to see Kakashi leaning against the doorframe, trying to look nonchalant and still looking very pale. "Didn't he use you?" Kakashi asked.
The kitchen lit up for just a moment, and thunder snarled.
Iruka frowned. "Eventually. But he was a friend, and everyone makes mistakes."
"Most people don't try to kill each other," Kakashi said dryly. "You can't tell me that betrayal didn't hurt you."
Iruka scratched at his forehead. He hated these conversations. "Of course it did. He was my best friend. But everyone's redeemable, Kakashi," he said softly, back turned. "I have to believe that."
Kakashi was silent behind him. "Hn," he said at last.
Maybe they could just order food.
"Want me to cook?"
That was it. They were ordering food. "You go sit down before you fall down," Iruka said, frowning. "I'm going to the place down the street. What do you want?" He pulled a menu off his corkboard and handed it to Kakashi.
Kakashi shook his head. "Order often?"
Iruka didn't bother with an answer.
"Why are we talking about this?" Iruka asked, throwing out the pick-up dinner containers before settling back down on the floor with his plate. He could feel his face burning.
"Because it's funny," Kakashi said cheerfully.
"My sex life is not funny," Iruka muttered, only partially annoyed. Even he could see the humorous side, he had to admit.
"No, but your lack of a sex life is hilarious."
He mock-glared at Kakashi. "Isn't virginity supposed to be a turn-on?" he said, his plate in his lap. "Maybe I'm lying just to be sexier."
Kakashi laughed. "But you nearly had sex in a tree." It was almost a question.
Iruka groaned. "You know, when you made Genma stop teasing me, I thought you were going to let this drop."
"I was just making Genma drop it. That doesn't apply to me. So. Sex in a tree?"
"It was just fooling around, thank you," Iruka said, sniffing.
The apartment lit for a brief moment, as another bolt of lightning tore through the sky.
Iruka eyed Kakashi. "Apparently I have a thing for guys who look old," he said.
"Hey!" Kakashi protested instantly.
"I was born with this hair," Kakashi said.
"So was Mizuki," Iruka answered. "Besides, why are you harassing me? I mean, I somehow doubt you have a secret life as a sex fiend."
Kakashi looked smug. "More than you."
"You don't know how much fooling around I did," Iruka countered.
"I know I'm not a virgin."
Iruka looked at him carefully. Kakashi looked utterly smug. "You're not a virgin?" Iruka asked doubtfully.
Kakashi shook his head.
"You've had sex?"
Iruka seriously doubted it. "When?" he demanded.
"That's what I thought," he said, snorting. "You can't possibly tell me that you, the guy who says he had no friends because he was a Jounin at thirteen, has had sex. You don't even drink, so you couldn't have picked up at a bar."
Kakashi was looking mildly amused, eyes half lidded.
"And since you don't have a peer group--oh, wait, I know," Iruka said, waving his chipsticks in the air. "You had sex on a mission."
"I've got it!" Iruka said dramatically, standing up and carrying his plate into the kitchen. He still couldn't see out the window; rain was coming down in sheets. "You were on a mission, and something terrible happened, and so you had sympathy sex!"
There was no answer from the other room.
Iruka put his plate in the sink, grabbed a glass of water, and started to wander back out. "Only, you were really young," he said thoughtfully. "Got it! You were scared and got taken advantage of, but it was really okay because--"
He stopped dead in the doorway.
Kakashi wasn't smiling. He wasn't eating. He was staring at the doorway with half-lidded eyes, gaze cold. "I wasn't taken advantage of," he said quietly.
Iruka flinched, and went pale, the meaning of that statement sinking in with the realization that the rest of it hadn't been denied. "Oh. Oh, Kakashi, I'm sorry," he said softly.
Kakashi was sprawled back against the couch, feet propped on the table, gaze still half-lidded and deceptively bored.
"I didn't mean--" Iruka stopped, cringing internally. Of all the stupid things. It wasn't as if people having sex on missions was an uncommon occurrence. Not terribly common, either, but stranger things happened. "I'm really stupid sometimes," Iruka said, half stuttering over his own words.
Kakashi kept looking at him with that disinterested stare. "That's all right," he said casually. "Better to have sympathy sex than to be used and betrayed, and go back for more."
Iruka froze. Better to have sympathy sex than be used. Better, because to be used meant you were weak. To go back to the user was stupid, and foolish, and needy and--and desperate.
Something tightened in his chest, something hard and cold and painful. Carefully, he picked up Kakashi's dinner plate and carried it back into the kitchen. Better to have sympathy sex then be used. He scraped off what was left of the meal, set it down in the sink, and started to run water. Stupid to allow yourself to be used. Worse to go back to the user.
Mizuki had used him. For sex? To steal? They hadn't been friends. Mizuki admitted it, told him he was foolish and naïve and good for nothing. And yet he kept going back to the man.
He'd hurt Kakashi. That much had been obvious. He hadn't meant to, but--
But what? But he had, so it made Kakashi lashing out all right? It made it all right for Kakashi to say something calculated to hurt? To imply weakness in Iruka? It was effective, that was certain.
Lightning tore through the sky, and in that moment he saw Kakashi's shadow blasted on the wall in front of him. Thunder pealed into the silence.
"I'm sorry." The words were still cold.
Iruka didn't respond. He was shaking. He didn't dare speak.
He heard Kakashi take a deep breath, and step forward. "I didn't mean that."
"Yes, you did," Iruka said. His jaw was so tight it hurt. Better to have sympathy sex then be used. To be used and return was pathetic.
"No. I'm sorry."
He dropped his water glass into the sink, and it shattered. "No, you're not," he snapped, picking out the still-whole base and throwing it toward the trashcan. "You say things like this, and I don't know why you feel a fucking need to say these things--to, what? Get a reaction? I've seen you do this before--hell, you did this to me when you nominated Team Seven for the Chuunin exams! Well, you got a reaction."
He felt the hand more than saw it, and snarled a look over his shoulder. "Don't touch me."
Kakashi pulled away.
Iruka swept up the last of the glass with a towel and tossed all of it into the garbage. Then he turned to face Kakashi.
He was still shaking. "Mizuki was a mistake," he said. "But before that, he was a friend when I needed one. You're just an asshole." He turned back to the sink, hands braced on the counter. "Get out of my kitchen."
"Get out!" Iruka yelled. There was a moment of silence. Then he felt Kakashi retreat.
He stared at the running water for a long time. It hurt. He'd hurt Kakashi, but it hadn't been on purpose. That--that had been calculated. And it worked. It brought up all the things that had torn at him when Mizuki had betrayed him. All the insecurities, that he was only good for being used. That Mizuki had only been his friend so he could laugh behind Iruka's back. That he, himself, wasn't worth anything.
Pathetically needy. Used.
"Shit," Iruka hissed. He couldn't stay here.
He looked at the rain out the window, then shut off the water and stormed into his bedroom. He ignored Kakashi, sitting carefully silent on the couch, and changed into sweatpants and shirt.
"I'm going jogging," he said, walking straight through the living room and to the door.
Iruka didn't answer, just bolted out and slammed the door behind him.
He ran. If he went hard enough and fast enough, maybe the anger would burn out. Maybe he'd forget everything.
His clothing soaked through almost instantly. He kept running, splashing across empty streets and out, away from the people and bright windows. Somewhere dark.
Trees arched overhead. He ran deeper into the shadows, focusing on the uneven ground beneath his feet, the cold rain hitting hot skin, anything but the hurt.
Kakashi didn't know how to be friendly. This wasn't worth it. He'd thought they were friends. Iruka knew people, but somehow it seemed like every time he got close, things went bad.
Maybe there was something wrong with him.
Iruka stopped running. Rain streamed down his back, mingling with sweat. He put his hands on his knees and panted, breathing in gasps. His clothes were plastered to his skin, his flesh pimpling with cold.
When he looked up, he realized he was at the monument. He put a hand out, palm flat on the black stone. It was wet, and cold, and it made him shiver.
His chest hurt from breathing. He rubbed an arm across his face, wiping away moisture. It dripped back in, from his hair, from the rain. One finger traced the names of his parents, shaking. He fell forward slowly, folding his arms across the stone and leaning in, as if they were there. As if he could feel them, somewhere, watching.
"I need help," he whispered. Rain pelted his head, hammering down through his hair, on the back of his neck, on his spine. "I don’t know what to do."
He rolled, dropping his arms and staring up at the sky, leaning back against the monument.
They'd been gone for twelve years. Twelve long years, and suddenly it was like it had been two days. That darkness opened up inside him, nearly swallowing him, and he realized he was crying. Iruka slid to the wet ground, bracing his arms on his knees and resting his head.
He needed them, and they were gone. He'd needed a friend, and Mizuki had used him. Kakashi was right. Kakashi was an asshole, who hurt him. But Kakashi was right.
By the time he'd worn himself out, had berated himself and hated Kakashi and run through the entire gamut of emotions, the storm was fading. He was shivering, his teeth chattering, and he was soaked. Iruka stood, his body protesting, and started the long walk back to his apartment.
He was tired. Bone-weary. It took much longer to get back than it had to run away.
He opened the door and nearly staggered inside.
He froze. Silence reached him, broken by the sound of his teeth knocking. He clenched his jaw to hear over them, and realized what was missing.
Carefully, he walked through the room, toward the back. The bathroom was empty. So was his bedroom. He looked out the window, at the drizzle still coming down, and remembered the cold. Remembered Kakashi, still struggling with blood loss and minor organ damage, and barely able to even keep his own body heat up.
He shrugged into a coat and ran out the door.
Iruka looked up, frowning. "How can you be such a baby?"
"You're pulling my stitches," Kakashi grumbled.
"I'm not pulling your stitches. I'm not even near your stitches," Iruka said, frustrated. He lifted the ball of cotton, preparing to dab antiseptic on the slash along the back of Kakashi's arm.
"I haven't touched you yet!" Iruka exploded.
Kakashi flinched, and looked back over his shoulder. "Sorry."
Iruka took a deep breath. He needed to act like Kakashi was a child. That was all. Just the same way he would treat one of his students.
One of his students who was naked to the waist (with the exception of the mask). Who was very well muscled. Whose skin was crisscrossed and threaded with long, pale scars.
Iruka paused, eyes tracing the mesh of white lines. His mouth had gone dry. "You get injured often?" he asked softly.
Kakashi twisted, peering back farther, shoulders sliding under Iruka's hands. "Sometimes. Not usually badly."
Iruka nodded wordlessly. He touched a knot of flesh, twisted and gnarled, just under one shoulderblade. "How did this happen?"
Kakashi reached back with one long hand, feeling the scar for himself. "Kunai. Moved enough to keep it from getting my spine, but not quite enough to dodge entirely," he said nonchalantly.
Iruka kept staring.
"Hmm?" That scar traveled up, under Kakashi's mask. Three more scars traveled across it.
"You all right?"
"Fine," Iruka said absently. His hands slipped, sliding down the indent of Kakashi's spine. Wickedly twisted flesh wrapped around the Jounin's waist, notching over one hip, and vanishing into his pants. Iruka's fingers drifted over what he could see, feeling how the chakra was fainter there than everywhere else. The chakra pathways healed better than skin, but not perfectly. Damage them badly enough, and the person would never recover.
His mother had lain in a hospital bed, her chakra lines cut, bones and nerves shattered and torn. She had slowly faded away into nothingness.
The body under him twisted, and hands grabbed his. Iruka jumped and looked up into mismatched eyes. He blinked several times.
"Are you all right?" Kakashi asked quietly. His eyes flickered back and forth, between Iruka's own.
"Fine," Iruka said after a moment. Then he smiled sheepishly, realizing how distant he'd gotten. "I'm fine. Really. Sorry. I just--I don't--"
"You have scars, too," Kakashi said, smiling and releasing Iruka's hands to tap the bridge of his own nose.
Iruka touched his scar reflexively, then slid back on the couch. "I know. It's not that, I just--" he gestured to Kakashi. With the other man turned to watch him, he could see scars on his chest as well. "Sorry. I'm not used to so many. I mean, not since my parents--" he stopped there. "I'm just not used to it."
Kakashi watched him. "You've been on missions," he said finally. "I'm sure you have a few yourself."
Iruka felt his face turning pink. "Not so many. I haven't really done that many missions."
Kakashi turned his head away, smothering a sudden yawn, then turned back. "Why not? You're a Chunnin. You could do missions."
Iruka shook his head. "I prefer teaching. I like the kids, and I'm good at it. And I really don't like killing people."
Kakashi watched him for a moment more before nodding solemnly. "Some don't." He settled back against the couch, his energy fading. Iruka scooted closer, lifting the man's arm and dabbing antiseptic on the wound inside his elbow.
"Do you ever talk about your parents?" Kakashi asked, almost sleepily.
Iruka glanced at him. He was staring across the room, and Iruka followed his gaze.
A picture of the three of them, before their death, smiled back at him. He looked away. "Not really. Who wants to hear about that?"
Kakashi lifted his shoulders and dropped them again. "My parents died. I'd listen."
Iruka stopped and looked at Kakashi, who was staring right back at him, slouched on the couch. Something niggled in the back of his mind. Something he didn't like about that statement, that he couldn't quite place. After a moment, Iruka stood, bending over Kakashi to reach the rest of the cuts. On his neck, and the back of the man's arm, and various smaller, less dangerous ones, on his torso. He bandaged them wordlessly, then picked up his things and headed into the bathroom to put them away. By the time he came back out, Kakashi was asleep.
A long time ago
"I don't understand."
Sakumo sighed and shifted, gathering Kakashi's knees in one hand and pulling him more snugly into his lap.
"Is it because I joined the academy?"
There was a bare pause. Not long. But long enough.
Kakashi swallowed and stared hard at his knees. "I know Mother doesn't want me to be a ninja. I can stop. I won't be a ninja anymore."
"It's not because you joined the academy," his father said quietly.
Too late, though; the silence said everything. His mother was gone, and Kakashi knew why. He remembered them fighting. They fought about it a lot.
"It's not because of that," his father said again.
Kakashi squirmed until his father let him down. He stood in front of the man, looking up at him solemnly. "I'll quit."
"No," Sakumo said loudly.
Kakashi's eyes widened. He'd never heard his father talk to him like that.
"Kakashi . . ." Sakumo wilted, elbows on his knees. "Kakashi, something very bad has happened with your mother. She's going to live in a different place now."
"Very bad?" Kakashi asked softly. Suddenly, he wanted to cry. "Will she be okay?"
"She'll be fine," his father said, refusing to look up from his hands. "But she can't live with us anymore."
"Can I see her?" Kakashi asked.
Sakumo hesitated. "When you're older," he said finally.
Kakashi stared at him, as if he could divine the truth from what his father was saying. Finally, though, he had to concede defeat. "Promise?" he asked softly. He wouldn't cry. He wouldn't do anything like that. He was strong. He was going to be a ninja.
It had been bothering Iruka all day, and it wasn't until he saw Genma snap his toothpick in two--though why that triggered his memory, he had no idea--that he realized what it was.
"My parents died," Kakashi had said.
"Just wait," Genma had said, "the next thing he'll tell you is that his mother is dead."
Iruka took a deep breath as his temper rose, snarling through his blood. There had to be a reason. A misunderstanding. Maybe Genma was wrong. Maybe Kakashi had meant his father was dead, not both parents.
"Genma?" Iruka asked, deceptively calm.
Genma--who was studying his broken toothpick with a frown--grunted.
"Where's Kakashi's mother?"
The Special Jounin shrugged, fishing a senbon out of his pocket. "Not sure anymore." He flipped it through the air, catching it in his teeth before chewing on it.
"Are you certain she's alive?" Iruka asked. He nearly held his breath, waiting for the answer. If he wasn't certain, then maybe she was dead, and Kakashi hadn't misled him.
"No idea. But last I heard she was." The senbon flicked from one side of his mouth to the other, sharp and glimmering.
The rest of the day passed in a haze. Eventually, Iruka closed up and headed back to his apartment.
By that time, anger had had a chance to boil. His parents were dead. There was nothing even remotely all right about saying someone was dead when they weren't.
He opened the door, fury building to a storm, and immediately had to swallow it.
Shikamaru was sitting across from Kakashi, staring hard at a Shougi board. Kakashi was slouched back in a nest of blankets, eyes half-lidded.
"Shikamaru?" Iruka asked. "What are you doing here?"
The boy looked up and shrugged, frowning slightly. "Asuma asked me to come keep Kakashi company for a while."
"Ah." Iruka wondered how to get rid of him. Shikamaru, however, didn't need a prompt--after a moment's study, he stood.
"I should go. We can finish tomorrow," he said, and made a quick exit.
"I think he cheats," Kakashi grumbled, staring at the board. "He won three games out of five. That's just not normal. I'm good at this . . ."
Iruka stood, nearly trembling. He took a deep breath. Then another. Kakashi still hadn't noticed. "What happened to your mother?" he said at last, trying to sound as conversational as possible.
Kakashi didn't look up. "Dead."
Iruka nodded. "Oh. When?"
"On a mission. What do you think about this set-up he has going?" Kakashi asked, poking at pieces.
Iruka still hadn't come entirely into the room.
Kakashi finally looked up.
"Genma seems to think she was alive fairly recently."
Kakashi just watched him.
Slowly, Iruka took off his shoes and entered the room. He didn't look at Kakashi. He wasn't sure if he could. "Is she dead or not?"
There was a long moment of silence. Iruka prayed she was dead. That it was a misunderstanding. Anything.
"No," Kakashi said finally. "She's not."
Anger and hurt rose like a tsunami, swamping Iruka. She wasn't dead. Kakashi had lied to him, and for no reason he could see. The man had made something so important nothing more than--than--
"Why would you say that she was dead?" Iruka nearly yelled, furious. "Is this your twisted way of trying to make friends? To say something I might relate to?"
Kakashi's eyes closed, a smile under his mask, and he shrugged nonchalantly. "She's dead to me."
"Dead to you and dead aren't the same thing!" Iruka shouted. "Dead to you means you were angry and glad she's gone, but if you ever decide you still love her you can go see her!" Something twisted in his stomach, something black and yawning. "I can't! My mother is dead, no matter what I wish!" It was then that he realized how much it hurt. To use something like that, to make everything he'd dealt with nothing more than a device to get close--
Iruka whipped away, stalked to the kitchen, turned, stalked back. Kakashi was staring hard at his hands. The smile had been wiped from his face.
"I'm sorry," Kakashi said quietly. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
Iruka glared at him. "You asked me what I wanted, in order to date you. I want truth. Where is your mother?" he ground out finally.
Kakashi was silent for a long time. When he spoke, he didn't look up. "In another country. Being held for trading vital information to one of our enemies."
He felt like the room had dropped out from underneath him. Iruka stared. "What?"
Kakashi still didn't look up. "She hated being a ninja. When my father enrolled me, she was going to take me and run. In trade for sanctuary, she traded information on our village. My father found out. He stopped her. I learned about it when I was older."
He was very wooden. Iruka, hands braced on his hips, glared at the far wall. Then he glared at Kakashi. Then the wall.
He stood, silent.
"I understand," Iruka said finally, still angry but trying to be reasonable, "why you might tell someone your mother was dead if they asked. But why volunteer that information? Why lie?"
Kakashi didn't squirm. "You looked like you wanted to talk. I thought maybe . . . maybe if you wanted to talk, you'd talk to me."
"Kakashi--" Iruka said loudly. He heard his own voice and stopped dead, took a deep breath, and tried again. "Kakashi, if I wanted to talk to you, I would. I would talk to you if I felt I knew you, and trusted you. But I don't!" His voice was rising again, and this time he couldn't bring himself to care. "You lie about nearly everything from what I can tell, and I'm not sure I even know you!"
Kakashi sank further into the couch. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be sorry!" Iruka yelled. "Tell me the damn truth!"
Kakashi stared at his hands. "I did."
"After I caught you in a lie!"
He glared even harder at his hands. "I'm sorry."
Iruka opened his mouth to shout something else, but nothing came to mind. Instead, he stormed into his bedroom and slammed the door.
It felt so good, he slammed it again, just for good measure.
He rolled over on his futon, staring at the bedside clock.
With a frustrated sigh, he swung his legs over the side and stood, shuffling out of his bedroom in nothing more than drawstring pants. A glance at the couch showed Kakashi, sprawled out in black ninja basics, a vague shape in the dark.
Iruka stared for a moment. The man's eyes were closed, but his breathing was fast. Awake.
Iruka walked into the kitchen, got a glass of water, and walked back out into the living room. He stood in front of the table with the game of Shougi still laid out, and watched the man pretend to sleep.
"I loved my parents very much," he said into the silence.
An eye fluttered open, but Kakashi didn't otherwise move.
"When they died, I was--" he couldn't even begin to explain that hurt. That sense of utter despair. Of loneliness. The void that opened up, that not even the village could fill. The anger at being left alone, and the guilt at being angry. The firm belief that, had he been there, he could have done something. That he should have died too.
He realized he was holding his glass tight enough to make his hand sore, and forcefully relaxed. "It hurt," he said finally. "More than anything else ever has. And it never stopped."
One eye glowed dully red in the dark, almost invisible.
"I reacted more than I should have. But when you lied about that--" he stopped again. He was shaking.
Kakashi sat up slowly. Blankets slid as he shifted, moving over on the couch. The sound of fabric against fabric whispered through the air.
If he apologized again, Iruka might kill him. Apologies meant nothing.
"I don't remember much of my mother," Kakashi said quietly. "And I wasn't close to my fa--" he stopped dead. His head dipped, a silhouette against the window. It came back up a moment later. "I was angry at my father. I didn't mean disrespect towards you, or what you've gone through."
Iruka's eyes were burning. He nodded sharply, hoping Kakashi couldn't see how wet they were. It was too much for a single day. Too much anger, and remembered grief.
"I never changed your bandages," Iruka said after a moment, when he was sure he could talk.
"It's all right," Kakashi answered simply.
Iruka set down his glass of water and picked up the supplies, shifting over to the couch. He sat down in the vacated spot, settling things in his first aid box while Kakashi pulled off his shirt. Slowly, the anger was draining out of him, replaced by exhaustion and weariness.
He untaped the worst of the injuries, a stitched gash near Kakashi's spine, and swished alcohol onto a pad.
They sat in silence for a long time. The sting of alcohol drifted between them, quickly dispersing, leaving only the way Kakashi smelled. Clean, and warm, and vaguely of sun. Then Iruka spilled more alcohol onto a pad, and the sting was back between them.
"This is bleeding," Iruka said, watching the gauze turn pink.
"I ripped the stitches earlier."
Iruka didn't respond, only checked it before putting a new cloth on top and taping it over once more. The silence stretched between them, bordering on uncomfortable. All Iruka could think of were his parents dying. Not much else would come to mind. But--he could work with that. "How old were you, when your father died?" he asked into the silence.
Kakashi 'hmm'ed. "Eight," he said finally, and said nothing more.
"That must have been hard."
Kakashi's hand tightened on the edge of the couch. Underneath his fingers, Iruka felt the man's muscles tense.
"Not really," Kakashi said. "It was his choice." The hands relaxed after a moment, but the tension didn't ease.
"Just because it's his choice, doesn't mean it doesn't hurt." Iruka re-bandaged Kakashi's arm, then let his hands travel across the man's shoulders to the other side. Quietly, he dug his fingers into heavy muscle, hitting pressure points. The knots gave way, and some of the tension drained off.
"Whoa," Kakashi said quietly.
Iruka grinned, where Kakashi couldn't see. "Where did you live, afterwards?"
Kakashi shrugged, gracefully. "The Fourth let me stay with him for a while. Before he was the Fourth."
Iruka nodded, checking the deep cut under Kakashi's arm.
"Five years later, I moved into the Jounin bachelor apartments, and just stayed."
Iruka's mind sped, thinking. Five years. "You were thirteen?"
Kakashi 'hmm'ed again. "What about you? Where did you live, after your parents died?"
Iruka flinched from the memories, then took a deep breath. It wasn't fair to ask Kakashi, and expect to not be asked in return. "In a foster home, for a while. Eventually, in my own apartment that the village paid for." He remembered being lonely, and feeling lost.
Mostly, that had gone away.
His hands fell to his knees, looking at the broad expanse of Kakashi's back. In the dark, he couldn't see the scars; only a lot of pale skin. "I should let you go back to bed. You need to sleep."
"I'm feeling better," Kakashi said, twisting to look back. The expanse of his skin was broken by the mask, black and inky. Silver hair sprouted above it, half of it crushed and the other half sticking up.
"I know. You'll probably be well enough to go home in a day or two. But right now, sleep."
Kakashi sighed and looked like he might protest, but Iruka could read the exhaustion radiating from him. He stood and got his glass of water again, heading toward the bedroom before Kakashi could argue.
"So, can he cook?" Genma asked, wandering into the mission office.
"Why are you here?" Iruka asked, rubbing his eyes. "You don't work here. I know you have missions. You must have somewhere to go home to."
Genma grinned around his toothpick. "Everyone comes through here eventually. It's the perfect place to be."
Iruka sighed and gave into the inevitable. "Yes. He can cook."
"And you had fun last night?"
"Yes. We had fun."
"Not too much fun, I hope," Genma said, grinning again.
Iruka only glared at him.
Genma sobered. "All right, what's wrong?"
Iruka paused, not really sure if he wanted to share this. It seemed silly. "Everyone is taking this whole me liking men thing really well," he said finally. "I mean, this is a big realization for me. It's just so . . . so . . . anti-climactic."
Genma laughed. "That's because we already knew. Mizuki--"
"Yeah, I know," Iruka muttered. He stared down at the school forms, still vaguely annoyed.
Genma hopped onto the desk, leaning back on his hands. "Besides, he told us about both times."
"Both times?" Iruka squeaked. "There was only the once!"
"Mizuki said you were on a mission together--"
"That doesn't count," Iruka snapped. "We didn't get very far--" he stopped. Genma was laughing.
"And you didn't realize you liked men earlier?" the Special Jounin crowed.
Iruka folded his arms over his chest and glared at nothing.
Genma kept laughing. And laughing. And then he finally stopped, but when he looked at Iruka, he started laughing again.
Tsunade walked in the door and stopped dead. "Something funny?" she asked after a minute.
"Iruka--Iruka--he says he didn't know he was gay, even though he practically had sex with Mizuki in a tree--"
"We didn't practically have sex," Iruka ground out. His face was burning. He was going to kill someone. Mizuki had been a mistake. A really bad mistake, starting from the first day they'd met. He just hadn't realized it at the time.
"You practically had sex--" Genma laughed. "Mizuki told me in detail--"
Iruka stood up, grabbed his bags, and headed for the door. Tsunade was still watching them.
"--said the bark was really uncomfortable--"
"Can I help you, Tsunade-sama?" he asked politely, trying to ignore the fact that his face was nearly purple.
"--and Iruka says he didn't know--"
Tsunade handed him a satchel of mission scrolls. "If you'd hand these out to the appropriate people?"
He nodded and took them.
Tsunade looked at Genma, then back at Iruka. "You're gay?"
Iruka's lips thinned down to a line. "Apparently."
"He's seeing Kakashi," Genma managed.
Iruka turned to glare at the Special Jounin. He was sitting on the floor, holding his stomach, and when he looked at Iruka he started laughing again. "How could you not know?"
"What's going on?" Kurenai asked, pausing in the doorway.
"Nothing," Iruka ground out.
"We're watching Genma be hysterical over Iruka's apparent obliviousness," Tsunade said.
"I wasn't oblivious," Iruka said through clenched teeth. "I just didn't know I liked men."
"After having sex with Mizuki in a tree," Tsunade added.
"We didn't have sex!" Iruka shouted.
"Who?" Asuma asked, walking up and stopping beside Kurenai. "You and Kakashi?"
"You had sex with Kakashi?" Shizune asked.
This couldn't possibly get worse. Why was it, Iruka wondered, that people always arrived at the worst times? Like some sort of strange summoning technique. The slightest bit of gossip, and there were people everywhere. "I haven't had sex with anyone!" he yelled, frustrated.
"Guess dinner didn't go as well as it could have," Asuma murmured. Kurenai elbowed him, and Iruka gave her a grateful look.
"Not with anyone? He's a virgin?" someone--he thought it was Shizune--said quietly.
He couldn't win. He really couldn't. And with everyone crowding the hall, he couldn't even escape.
"Who's a virgin?" asked an overly familiar voice.
Iruka turned still redder and dropped his head. He was not even going to look up. He really, really wasn't.
"Iruka is," Tsunade said. "So be nice, Kakashi."
"Hey," he said calmly, "I wouldn't take advantage. Don't know why you assume I would . . ."
Iruka felt Kakashi stop in front of him. He still didn't look up. "Hi," he muttered.
"Iruka, you look sunburned again."
Iruka moved his eyes, but not his head, glaring up at Kakashi from under his brows.
Kakashi was looking into the mission office, though, at Genma, who was still on the floor. Kakashi sauntered in, and knelt in front of the other man. He looked back over his shoulder, single eye half-lidded. "Is he troubling you?"
"Just teasing," Iruka sighed.
Kakashi nodded. Then he looked back at Genma, who had stopped laughing (though not smirking) and said, "Remember that mission we were on, together? The one with Inuzuka Tsume? And her dog?" The last words were stressed, and Kakashi smiled brightly. "Remember that night--"
"Uh, yeah," Genma said, smirk gone. "Thanks. I remember." The toothpick flicked from one side to the other.
Kakashi nodded happily and stood. "Now--Tsunade? You asked to see me?"
Kakashi left the Hokage's office with his mission scroll in hand, and headed to the main office. He poked his head inside, where Genma was flipping through files.
"Iruka?" Kakashi asked.
"Went outside," Genma answered, without turning.
Kakashi nodded and headed out.
Iruka was sitting in the grass under a tree, stacks of paper around him held down by rocks.
"Yo," Kakashi said, stopping in front of the Chuunin.
Iruka looked up, lifting one hand to shade his eyes. He smiled. "Hello, Kakashi."
Kakashi put his hands in his pockets, unsure now what he should say. He felt he should say something. This hadn't been so hard the day before, when Iruka had gone to his apartment for dinner.
Iruka saved him. "Thank you for stopping Genma. I appreciated that."
Which only reminded him of overhearing that Iruka hadn't had sex, which he was trying not to think about. "You're welcome," he said, battling back the urge to say something that would make the younger man blush. It was just so funny to make people squirm. But he was trying to be charming. Or something like that.
They stared at each other a moment more.
"You have a mission?" Iruka asked finally.
Kakashi nodded. "I'll probably be gone a few days."
"All right. Be careful."
Kakashi's mind stopped, for just an instant. He couldn't remember the last time someone had told him to be careful. Rin, maybe. And before her--no one he could think of. "All right," he said finally. "I will."
Iruka just nodded and smiled, like he hadn't just said something shocking.
After a moment, Kakashi wandered away.
"What is wrong with you?" Genma asked, astounded and horrified.
Iruka hid his face. Looking back on it, sneaking into Genma's apartment and putting itching powder in his shaving cream really hadn't been the most mature thing to do. It had been something he would have done years ago. He just couldn't help it. After listening to Genma call him "virgin-boy" and "oblivious-man" for the last two days, it seemed only fair.
He glanced up at the Special Jounin. The man's jaw was bright red. Iruka smirked, then told himself he shouldn’t be laughing at another's pain, and returned to staring at his hands. "Sorry, Genma," he said contritely.
"No, you're not!" Genma yelped.
Iruka couldn't hide the smile this time, though he did smother it as quickly as he could.
"You are a truly sick individual, Iruka!" Genma said.
Iruka stared at the mission office doorway, wishing someone would come by. Maybe Tsunade could give him more work, or--
A small dog in a blue vest went racing by the door, a scroll clamped in its jaws.
Iruka frowned. That wasn't Akamaru, and the only other person he knew of that could summon dogs--
He stood and hurried to the doorway. The dog had vanished into the Hokage's office. A moment later, Tsunade opened the door, following the pug out. "Iruka," she said, stopping dead. The scroll was in her hand, her fist tight. "Get a medic. Follow Pakkun--he'll take you to Kakashi."
"Hurry up, kid," the dog said, and started to run.
He couldn't be hurt. He couldn't. Rumors said Sharingan Kakashi never got hurt.
The three of them ran through the forest, two men following a pug in ninja clothes. Pakkun had given them the basics; the scroll Kakashi had stolen contained plans for an attack on an allied village. The attackers realized he had it long before they should have, and while he managed to make it most of the way back, a group of them--a squad of twenty Chuunin--had caught up.
Kakashi wasn't dead. Beyond that, Pakkun couldn't be sure how he was doing.
Iruka ran, searching for signs of enemies as he kept up with the medic and the dog. They passed from shadow to light and back again, the forest dim even in mid-afternoon. The three of them were breathing hard, air rasping through lungs. Pakkun scratched the trees, sending leaves and bark and moss scattering down to the forest floor.
Ninja got hurt on missions all the time. Iruka repeated that, trying to make this real. But it couldn't be Kakashi. Kakashi was supposed to be invincible.
"Here!" Pakkun called, and with a flurry of claws and bark, he was up into an ancient tree. Boughs hung, darkening the interior, creating a perfect hiding place.
Iruka jumped, propelling himself up. He flew through a shaft of light, and then into the darkness of the canopy. Birds hushed at his passing, or darted quickly out of the way.
He nearly stepped on the body. Iruka tripped, caught himself, and knelt, eyes looking everywhere but at the man before him. No signs of the enemy.
The medic landed beside him. Put a hand on the Jounin.
The man lay on a branch on his stomach, curled slightly. He was breathing. Blood soaked his shirt, soaked the branch. The moss squelched.
Iruka's heart hammered into his throat. Silver hair. Silver hair that was normally bright and shining, and was now matted with blood. What he could see of Kakashi's face was smeared with it. Iruka tore his eyes away, straining to listen for sounds of pursuers, of anyone moving around below. His job was to keep them safe, and he couldn't do it while staring at the fallen Jounin. He couldn't do it if he panicked.
Iruka breathed carefully, trying to measure each one. Leaves twisted, turning long strands of ivy that hung down into the darkness. One of them glimmered red in the half-light, and Iruka looked away again.
"Nothing's broken," the medic said softly. "They got some fairly major veins, though he bandaged them before he passed out."
Relief shuddered through Iruka. Nothing broken. Blood loss. Blood loss could be bad, but--Kakashi was breathing.
"We have to get him to the hospital," the medic said. "I can't treat him here."
Iruka nodded, silent. "Take him. I'll watch for followers."
The Jounin had spent three hours in the operating room, while they repaired internal damage, stopped the bleeding, and transferred enough blood to keep his organs functioning.
Iruka waited through all of it, but not inside. He sat on a ledge around the building, peering in through a window. He couldn't stand hospitals. Not since he was a child. Not since his parents died.
So he sat on the ledge and peered in the window, and only when they put Kakashi in a normal room did he enter.
They let him see the other man almost immediately, but warned him Kakashi wouldn’t wake for another few hours. Possibly longer.
Iruka stood beside the bed, watching the slender chest rise and fall. The doctors had pulled the mask down far enough to expose his nose--or, more likely, they'd pulled it off but replaced it--and tubes threaded into him, bringing extra oxygen and who knew what else.
He was very small.
They were nearly the same height, but Kakashi--he looked like a strong breeze might blow him away.
Eventually, Iruka touched him. Just the back of his hand. To see that he was real.
He was cold. Iruka sat down on the edge of the bed, putting Kakashi's hand in both of his and rubbing.
Kakashi's hands were longer. Slender, almost bony, fingers stretched beyond Iruka's grip. His skin, normally pale, was now so white Iruka could easily make out blue veins threading underneath.
He tried hard to ignore it. Everything would be okay. Kakashi was fine. Just needed to rest.
Long ago . . .
"I don't want my son--"
"He's my son too, Li," Sakumo snapped.
Kakashi tried to sink smaller on the floor, tucked into the corner. He didn't want to hear this. He didn't want them to fight.
"Do you have any idea what will happen? He's only five!" his mother shouted, enraged.
"He's a genius! A genius unlike anyone has seen since the Sannin! You can't honestly expect him to wait until he's older--"
"I can wait," Kakashi offered, nearly trembling. "I can wait. I won't do anymore ninja things." He should have known not to do them in the house. He'd broken the lamp, and now everyone was so angry . . .
"Kakashi, why don't you go to your room for a little while," his mother said without looking at him.
"Please don't fight," Kakashi murmured. "I won't be a ninja until it's okay--"
"Kakashi," his father said softly. "Let us talk about this, all right?"
He wilted. "Yes, sir," he said quietly, and shuffled out of the room. He stood in the hall, though, listening.
"I do not want Kakashi to join the academy." It was his mother. She had to be angry about the lamp. He wanted to tell her that he wouldn't break anything else, but they'd asked him to go to his room . . .
"Why not?" his father said, sounding like he was hurt. "He's brilliant!"
"That's the problem, Sakumo. He's brilliant. Do you know what happens to brilliant ninja? They test out early. I was a Chuunin at ten. I wouldn't wish that on anyone, much less my own son. I won’t have it."
Kakashi curled down by the wall, hugging his knees. He hated it when people were angry. He could feel something in the air, pressing against him. It hurt.
When his father spoke, there was steel in his voice. "You're being ridiculous. He'll be fine. I've already enrolled him--"
"You did what? How could you do that? You know how I feel about this!"
"You were on a mission and enrollment was due. He's a genius, Li! He's going to learn whether you want him to or not! Better he learn at the academy, under someone's tutelage!"
"He'll have no one to talk to because he'll be too young, and he'll get hurt!"
Kakashi put his hands over his ears, hiding his face. He wished he were normal. Then they wouldn't fight. It was all his fault.
"He won't get hurt, he'll be at the acade--"
"And when he graduates? What then? What happens--"
Kakashi got up. The air was too heavy, and filled with color. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn't do anything, and it was all his fault. He ran out the door, into the yard, and heard behind him, "--I want my son to be safe!"
When Iruka saw Kakashi awake for the first time after a full day of unconsciousness, he couldn't hold back his smile.
The man had his mask all the way up again, and he was leaning heavily against the doorframe, talking to a nurse.
"You may not leave, Kakashi-san," the woman was saying, standing firmly in Kakashi's path. "You can go lay back down and stay there while you regain some strength."
"But there's nothing wrong with me," Kakashi said persuasively. "Really. I'm just a little tired."
Iruka paused, and then went in search of a doctor. It took a few minutes, and he had to wait while the man finished something, but eventually they were able to talk.
"How is Hatake Kakashi?" Iruka asked quietly. "If he's able to go home, he would rest better." From what he'd seen in the doorway, with Kakashi still so pale he was almost blue and looking like he could be knocked over by Pakkun, and yet still obviously determined to leave, Iruka had the impression that the Jounin wasn't going to stay peacefully.
The doctor sighed and cleaned his glasses before settling them back on his face. "Kakashi is weak. The blood loss was fairly extreme; we saved his organs, so there was mostly only minor damage, but his body needs time to replenish. He's going to be sleeping quite a bit over the next few days, even with his advanced chakra. Furthermore, I don't know if he'll be functional enough to take care of himself."
Just then, Kakashi walked past the door wearing a lab coat and pushing an empty gurney.
"Excuse me," Iruka said, stepping out of the little exam room they were in. He followed Kakashi for a few steps. "Going somewhere?"
Kakashi jumped, then turned and smiled sheepishly behind the mask. "Just, ah, for a walk."
Iruka stared at him, arms folded. "Why don't you come talk to the doctor with me," he said finally, taking Kakashi by the arms and steering him toward the exam room.
He was surprised when the ninja didn't fight him. He was frightened at how thin the man was, and his skin was cool to the touch.
"Doctor, could you please repeat what you said a moment ago?" Iruka asked, blocking the doorway, Kakashi in front of him.
The doctor repeated it.
Kakashi wouldn’t look at either of them. "So I'll go home and sleep," he said lazily. "I can refrain from doing anything else."
"And when you start sleeping through meals? Weakening because you aren't eating? Start showing warning signs but are too tired to make it back to the hospital?" the doctor asked.
"I'm not staying here," Kakashi grumbled. "There's no reason."
"Kakashi-san," the doctor said, sounding like it was only with great effort that he used the suffix, "you came very close to dying. We have to watch for internal bleeding, for any stitches that might be re-opened--"
"What if he stayed with me?" Iruka asked. His eyes widened when he heard what he'd just said. But he hated hospitals, and he couldn't blame Kakashi for wanting to leave, and that way--well, they were friends . . .
Kakashi was staring at him.
"If you're willing to change bandages, check for warning signs, and take care of him . . ." the doctor said dubiously.
"Mostly he needs rest, right?" Iruka asked, his mouth going dry. He wasn't sure what he was doing, but he couldn't seem to stop.
"I'm standing right here," Kakashi muttered.
Iruka and the doctor ignored him.
"He's going to sleep. He just needs someone to watch over him. Right?" Iruka asked again.
"Yes," the doctor said finally. "I suppose."
Iruka gave a weak smile. "I could do that."
"I want to go back to my apartment," Kakashi said sullenly.
The doctor turned to glare at him. "Here are your choices. You can either go with Iruka-san, or stay here."
Kakashi looked utterly mutinous. "I'd like to go back to my apartment," he said again, much more distinctly this time.
"You are not fit to stay by yourself," the doctor repeated.
"It's sleeping," Kakashi said, the normal indolent tones back. "I'm sure I can rest on my own."
"And feed yourself? And check your wounds? Change bandages?" the doctor asked.
Iruka reached out with one finger and pushed the slim man.
Kakashi's eye widened in surprise, and he had to take three steps before fetching up against the wall. "What was that for?" he asked, leaning.
"You're strong enough to take care of yourself?" Iruka asked.
Kakashi glared. Then he glared at the doctor. "I'll stay with Iruka," he muttered finally.
"I certainly don't need a babysitter," Kakashi was still protesting, nearly two hours later.
"I know," Iruka said, not for the first time, as he opened to the door to his apartment. "But humor the doctors." He glanced around the living room self-consciously, toe-ing off his sandals. It wasn't filthy, but it certainly wasn't like Kakashi's apartment.
Okay, it was filthy. Kakashi went in past him, pausing to stand beside the couch. Iruka hurried to close the door, then grabbed laundry off of the pull-out.
Kakashi folded down onto it even before the clothes were entirely out of the way. "I don't need someone to look after me. I've changed my own bandages."
"Do you need anything from your apartment?" Iruka asked, ignoring Kakashi's statement and quickly tidying.
Kakashi leaned against the arm. "No. Nothing. Maybe clothes. Later."
Iruka only nodded. "Well, let me get you some food, and change your bandages, and then if you want to nap . . ."
"I don't need to nap," Kakashi muttered, peering around. "I'm fine."
Iruka did his best to ignore the sulky tone. "Right," he said. "Let me just go get some bandages." He took his armload of clothes into the bedroom, shoving them into the hamper.
His apartment was only slightly bigger than Kakashi's; still, he had a separate bedroom and living room. There was a linen closet between them, and he dug through it quickly, looking for sheets and blankets. "You'll have to sleep on the couch," Iruka called. "I mean, you can use my futon during the day if you like, but I’m just not nice enough to give it up at night." There was no response from the other room. He hurried into the bathroom, grabbing gauze pads and medical tape. He hesitated, then picked up a container of salve, too. "We'll get you settled, and I'll head to your place to get you a change of clothes," he said, coming back into the living room.
Kakashi had fallen asleep, curled into a ball in the corner of the couch. His head was pillowed on the arm, his mouth slightly open.
"Or, you can nap first," Iruka said softly, shaking his head with a smile. He draped the blanket over Kakashi, and went into the kitchen to fix dinner.