From the beginning, Kakashi was scared of Iruka. Because Iruka was braver than him. Not the face-a-squadron-of-enemies-of-unknown-abilities braver, of course, because Kakashi did that all the time. Though he was pretty sure that face-a-squadron-of-children-of-unknown-temperaments was pretty much the same thing, and Iruka could handle that just fine.
It was the other kinds of bravery that Kakashi found so intimidating. Iruka had suffered too, but he didn't hide. He didn't retreat behind a mask, or a book of porn, or nonchalance. He threw himself into his work too, of course, but not as a form of escape. It was because he cared about it.
And that's what was so scary about Umino Iruka. He cared. He allowed himself to care. About people, about things, about the village. Didn't he know better by now? When he bought Naruto ramen and ruffled his hair, didn't he realise Naruto would probably get killed on a mission someday? That when he wished the ninja in the mission room success, that might be the last he saw of them? That he sent his students into a world where they would kill or be killed, die fighting for their village or perhaps for betraying it?
Iruka had, of course, been the one to ask him out. Kakashi didn't make first moves. Hell, Kakashi didn't make moves if he could help it. Too risky. Even if it went well. Especially if it went well. Because going well just meant it was going to go more horribly later.
But Iruka had asked him out, and that implied he'd started to care about him. Which Kakashi didn't get, really, but he'd been surprised enough to go along with it. At least at first.
But they went on that date, and somehow that led to another, and sometimes Iruka would just turn and look at him and smile like the world was perfect.
And then he was trapped. Because Iruka did care about him, and it scared him. And he cared about Iruka enough not to want to hurt him. And because hurting him was inevitable, Kakashi was terrified.
Iruka was a chuunin. Didn't he get that trusting Kakashi was a bad idea? That he'd just end up getting fucked up worse than life as a ninja did to you anyhow? But no, Iruka just went on caring about Kakashi as though the past didn't matter. Or the future wasn't bound to happen.
And then one night, he saw Iruka break down. It must not have been the first time Iruka had done it, but it was the first Kakashi'd seen, the first time he'd seen a tear in the bravery and cheerfulness that Iruka wore like a cloak. Kakashi had come over that evening to find Iruka sitting absolutely still at his table, his face drained of colour and his eyes seeing something that wasn't there. When Iruka had turned to face him, finally noticing his presence after what felt like hours of standing there watching, he'd practically launched himself at Kakashi in a way that would have knocked down a less athletic man.
In between incoherent noises, Kakashi had been able to make out that a team of genin had been killed on a mission. This team consisted of students from the first class Iruka had taught at the academy. They were some of the first students he'd graduated, apparently.
And somewhere in all of that, in spite of the pain of knowing Iruka was hurting and he couldn't stop it, could only try to ease it, something in Kakashi loosened. Because Kakashi knew that Iruka was scared. That Iruka feared caring as much as Kakashi did. That the real bravery of Umino Iruka was not that he denied that he could be hurt, but that he knew it, and chose to care anyhow.
So maybe it was okay that Kakashi was scared.
And then Kakashi cried too. Because he cared.
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