The next day began innocently enough. In retrospect, Kakashi decided, it had all the ominousness of a clear sky right before the thunderstorm blows in, but at the time it had just seemed like a nice morning.
Well, okay, perhaps not “morning” so much as “early afternoon.” Okay, “late afternoon.” That is to say... there were not yet visible stars. After his experience yesterday, Kakashi had felt compelled to be a bit later than usual for his appointment with Team Seven. They’d probably whine a bit, of course. Kids that age are so sensitive about everything.
“Yo,” he said, appearing in a puff of smoke atop a pillar of the bridge. He’d taken care to have his book out and open prior to teleporting, because while he didn’t believe in Gai-style arrivals, all thumbs and blinding smiles, he did respect making a good entrance.
“I was on my way here when the octopus I’d packed for lunch attacked me. I managed to make it out alive, but the rest of the lunch was lost.”
Somewhere, crickets chirped and cicadas hummed.
Kakashi glanced at his students, surprised. Where was the yelling? It was practically dinnertime. Instead… Sakura was looking at him with sort of a far-off expression, blushing slightly. Naruto was staring at him as though he’d never really seen his sensei before. Which, what with the mask and all, was sort of true, but still… Sasuke at least looked normal. By Uchiha “I have vowed to kill my brother and only then will I avenge my clan and regain the use of my facial muscles” Sasuke standards.
Kakashi very slowly put the book in his back pocket, careful not to make any sudden movements. The odds that his team had been killed and their places taken by enemy nin was still small, but best to err on the side of caution.
As he did, he noticed out of the corner of his eye as Sakura hurriedly shoved something pink into her back pouch.
He breathed a gentle sigh of relief through the mask. His team was really his team. Only a genin would attempt to hide something by shoving it behind their back. No ninjutsu, no strategy, just praying no one noticed as you acted like you were still in school, passing a note to your friend.
His team was composed of idiots. But they were his idiots.
Which meant that he should probably teach Sakura a lesson about proper concealment techniques.
He smiled. “Sakura-chan! Good job! I see you’ve already figured out that tonight’s mission will be litter control. And you’ve already started on it.” And because he was, after all, a jounin, it was no problem to appear behind her and grab the item out of her pouch. Sometimes, it was very cool to be him.
The item in question turned out to be a piece of paper. It was pink. It was folded up and somewhat the worse for wear at the corners. It was…
He was going to kill Gai. Or himself. Or (with a mental nod of acknowledgement to Uchiha Itachi) the whole village, because they might have seen this.
A personal ad. For him.
If he hadn’t already made a point of covering his face, he’d have vowed then and there to never show it again.
And the damned crickets were still chirping.
“Alright, your assignment for tonight is to find and destroy every single one of these posters.”
Maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. After all, could pink posters really undo the over a decade of effort he’d put into being known as a lazy, unreliable bugger? Years of arriving late to things or not at all, visible indifference… and then there was the porn. He didn’t just read porn in public because he enjoyed it.
Okay, he mostly read porn in public because he enjoyed it. Still.
Because he didn’t want people relying on him. They could for missions, of course, he’d do his damndest to complete a mission and bring back his whole team as unhurt as could be managed. But to be relied on for anything else… he didn’t want that. Didn’t want that kind of responsibility.
But when not doing things meant people weren’t hurt because they hadn’t expected you to remember, because you were Hatake Kakashi and everyone knew that was just how you were… that was safe.
And now Gai and his stupid vow and pink posters were threatening that.
But… it wasn’t as though the whole village was suddenly going to start chasing him, right? Just because this was Konoha, the village where all girls under the age of fourteen had the hots for Uchiha Sasuke, the poster child for short, dark, and needlessly angst-ridden, didn’t mean the older villagers were suddenly going to decide that under the (literal and metaphorical) mask of Hatake Kakashi’s lazy, perverted fašade lurked a shy, gentle shinobi just waiting for the right person to bring him out.
“…an’ then he gets this weird look on his face, and tells us we gotta find and destroy all the posters in the village.” Naruto explained, before turning away from the far less important task of telling the story to the far greater one of finishing his second bowl of miso ramen.
“Posters?” Iruka asked.
“Yeah.” Sluuurp. “Fuzzy brows says they’re ‘cause Kakashi-sensei’s shy and so Gai-sensei’s helping him find a date, and Sakura-chan says it’s romantic,” a slight shudder showed what Naruto thought of that particular interpretation, “but I figure it’s just ‘cause he reads porn all the time and he’s old.”
“Naruto, Kakashi-sensei isn’t that much older than I am.” Iruka observed. “Do you think I’m old?”
Iruka didn’t feel that obligated to defend Kakashi personally, he hardly knew the guy. But as someone who hadn’t had a date in… an amount of time he refused to quantify… he could sympathise. A little.
Naruto looked over at him, surprised, with what appeared to be at least half a bowl of noodles dangling out of his mouth. Sluurp, and it was gone. “You’re not old, you’re just…. dunno... you’re Iruka-sensei.”
“Ageless, huh? Like the Hokage mountain?” Iruka replied, reaching over to ruffle Naruto’s hair. “You have any of these infamous posters left?”
“Uhm…” Naruto looked thoughtful. Or catatonic, the two expressions were rather close. “Yeah. ‘cause I was grabbing a bunch but Sasuke-bastard said to give them to him so he could fire-jutsu them and I said he was just showing off and I’d take care of ‘em myself. And then I remembered you were gonna take me out for ramen and I forgot.” He grinned, then reached around to pull something pink out of his back pouch. “Here ya go.”
It was… very pink. And definitely the work of Maito Gai.
Okay, Iruka could definitely feel sorry for Hataka Kakashi. And would. Just as soon as he stopped laughing.
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