So now he knew Kakashi was the one watching him. It made sense in a wayit explained why he never felt spied on when Kakashi was visibly around or when he knew Team Seven was away on a mission.
Of course, it made no sense in any other way. If Kakashi needed a hobby, couldn’t he have taken up ikebana or origami or something other than follow-the-poor-innocent-and-somewhat-bewildered-Chuunin? Heck, training a bonsai to grow in the shape of his hair could have happily kept him occupied for years.
“Iruka-senseeeeeiiiii! You’re not listening!” Naruto yelled indignantly from next to him. He’d taken Naruto out for dinner again. Officially, it was to celebrate a recent successful return to Konohana. In reality, Iruka wanted to thank Naruto for something else.
It was Naruto’s offhand comment two weeks ago about his training schedule that had led to Iruka putting two and two together. He couldn’t tell him that, of course. ‘Naruto, thanks for helping me realize your teacher seems to be stalking me.’ Of course, if free ramen was involved, the blonde probably wouldn’t care what it was for. ‘Hey, Naruto, thanks for teaching Jiraya the sexy no jutsu so he can spy at bathhouses.’ ‘Hey, Naruto, thanks for helping Sasuke finally wrench the title of angstiest nin in Konoha from Neji, who’s held it for three years running.’
Thankfully, Naruto’s devoted loyalty to Konoha and the Akatsuki being too cheap to budget for food bribes would forever prevent the village from being lost through ramen.
So Iruka turned back to Naruto and began listening in earnest to a tale of how Naruto’s bravery, skill, and quick-wittedness had been the only thing to save the whole team all from certain death. He especially enjoyed the part where all the others had fallen in to the obvious pit trap- Kakashi because he’d been too busy reading, Sasuke because he’d been too busy checking his hair in a nearby puddle, and Sakura because she’d been too busy paying attention to Sasuke. Naruto, of course, had seen the trap from miles away, though his insightful warnings had been ignored until it was too late.
If the shinobi training ever fell through, Naruto probably had a great career ahead of him in novels. With a bit more nudity, they’d sell to the same audience as the Icha Icha novels. Okay, a lot more nudity, but both authors showed a certain unwillingness to be burdened with facts or plausibility.
Iruka nodded knowingly at all the right places, winced appropriately when necessary, gasped at the tense parts, and congratulated Naruto on his handling of such a difficult mission. It was easy, because he really genuinely cared about Naruto. It was hard not to like him, he was just so sincere about everything he did. Unlike that sensei of his, who had unaccountably decided to make Iruka’s life difficult.
Kakashi-san was a far superior ninja, being not just a jounin but a legendary copy nin. So Iruka, who by now had decided to treat this as some sort of undeclared battle, couldn’t hope to beat him in any traditional shinobi way.
But Iruka was a teacher. So was Kakashi. But while Kakashi had taught three students for several months, Iruka had been teaching proto-nin hellions for years.
That was why he’d been able to notice his stalker in the first place. Years of eight-hour days in the classroom with a bunch of students always willing to throw chalk, spitballs, and the occasional kunai at the back of his head had honed a situational awareness many a battle-hardened ANBU would have envied.
After all, everyone knows good teachers have eyes in the back of their heads. Well, everyone except Kakashi, who had graduated the academy when he was six.
So… Iruka rubbed the scar on the bridge of his nose thoughtfully… pretend Kakashi was a particularly difficult and disruptive student. What did you do?
First, you ignored them.
Screw that. It was driving him nuts, even if he’d never admit it. Besides, you ignored such behavior if you thought it was a cry for attention, which this wasn’t. Kakashi probably didn’t even realize he’d been found out.
So on to step two: attempt to direct the student’s energies into more productive channels.
There was no note, but the fact that it was a brand new book and had been placed dead centre on the mat made it clear it was a gift for him.
He pushed up his forehead protector. No booby traps or scrolls, it was exactly what it looked like. A book on folding paper in intricate ways in order to make it look vaguely like other things, complete with a sample packet of origami paper in the back cover.
He ran his hand through his hair, which folded back only to spring into its normal pose as soon as the hand left it. He never bothered to do anything but brush it, but somehow his hair, like him, had developed a unique set of properties that made perfect sense from the inside while remaining incomprehensible to anyone else.
It couldn’t hurt to read the book. A properly folded piece of paper would probably make a handy yet unexpected weapon. Or the next time Gai-sensei forced a competition, he could suggest it involve crafting paper cranes.
He smiled, his visible eye curving upward. Whoever had left the gift had been surprisingly thoughtful. Which meant it couldn’t have been Gai.
Ah well. He’d solve the mystery later. Right now, he was on a tight timetable. It was seven now, and he’d told his students to meet at seven fifteen. That meant he had only two hours to eat breakfast, visit Obito, stop by the bookstore, and watch Iruka-sensei teach his first class of the day.
He’d meant to overload himself with Iruka, figuring that repeated exposure might give Kakashi some sort of tolerance to being around him.
So far, it wasn’t working. In fact, the more time he spent observing…not stalking, observing… Iruka, the more time he wanted to spend doing so.
Worse, the other day he’d caught himself absent-mindedly carving a heart into a tree while stal… watching Iruka practice throwing shuriken with his students.
But it was still a harmless hobby. Iruka couldn’t mind because he didn’t know, Kakashi wasn’t any more inattentive or late than he always was, and surely it was worth continuing for the fillip of joy it added to an otherwise potentially mundane day?
Besides, it was a mission. An unofficial mission, perhaps, but he took all his missions seriously.
Well, most of them.
Well, some of them.
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