When Iruka got to the Mission Desk, he was instantly attacked by Izumo and Kotetsu. Fortunately, they attacked him with questions, not fists, so he managed to fend them off well enough for the duration of his shift. After they were relieved from duty at the end of the afternoon, however, Iruka found himself being dragged out of the Hokage tower and pulled into the nearest alley.
"So?" Kotetsu started. "What's it like living with the Copy Nin?"
Iruka shrugged. "I don't know. It's not like I've really had the chance to hang out with him. He seems nice, I guess."
Izumo glared. "That's a non-answer," he accused.
Iruka shrugged. "He set me up on his couch just before we went to bed, and he woke up late. He stayed for breakfast, but he left immediately after to train his team. We only did a little talking."
"Oh." Kotetsu looked really downtrodden, so Iruka decided to throw him a bone.
"You know, he's pretty nice," Iruka said. "I guess he doesn't hate me as much as I thought he did."
"Really?" Kotetsu asked. "He was glaring daggers at you at the fire."
Iruka shrugged in confusion. Should he be telling his friends about this? It wasn't really something personal between himself and Kakashi, he guessed. "I made a comment at breakfast that I may only do deskwork, but I am good at cooking, and he made this comment that made me think that he actually doesn't…"Iruka trailed off, losing his nerve in talking about this with his friends.
"… Hate you?" Izumo finished for the other Chunin at the same time Kotetsu asked, "What did he say?"
Iruka sighed. "He said he didn't doubt that I had some handy skills, but he was impressed that I can cook."
Silence ensued. Then Izumo said, "Maybe he's not such a bastard after all."
"No, he's a bastard," Kotetsu stated adamantly. "He wouldn't have verbally bitch-slapped Iruka in public when he argued about that Uzumaki kid's team being nominated for the Chunin exam if he wasn't. He also wouldn't turn in horrible mission reports late or belittle Iruka when he arrives to his own apartment burning down."
"Fine, he's a bastard," Izumo snapped. "But maybe he's a nice bastard. He did take you in and give you his couch even though he didn't really want to. I know a lot of Shinobi wouldn't have done it."
"Yeah, Genma's a true bastard," Kotetsu agreed with a nod.
Iruka couldn't help it: he cracked a smile. This was why they were his friends. They could always cheer him up and talk him through something he couldn't figure out. Not that Genma was the only Shinobi who wouldn't invite others to stay over out of the kindness of their heart, but he was apt to be the most adamant about not letting people in unless they were beautiful busty blondes.
"I guess Kakashi is nice," Iruka said, getting back to the real topic at hand. "He was very considerate last night when we got to his place, and he even keyed his traps to me so I can come and go."
Kotetsu and Izumo froze for a second and exchanged a quick look. "He was… considerate?" Kotetsu asked tentatively.
Iruka shot his friend a questioning look. "Yeah. He got me a blanket and pillow for the couch, and then he gave me a glass of water and told me where to find meds for my hangover. What do you think I meant?"
The look of relief that washed over his friends' faces made Iruka nervous. "Oh, we didn't mean anything," Kotetsu lied.
Izumo smacked his shoulder and hissed, "You didn't mean anything. I said nothing!"
"Okay…" Iruka said as he started edging away from his friends. He had a good idea what he thought they were talking about, and it made him uncomfortable – he was pretty sure they were sleeping together, but he hadn't been aware that they thought he slept with men. At least, not in any way that wasn't platonic.
And besides, wasn't it a commonly known fact that Kakashi slept with women? At least, that was the rumor.
Not that those kinds of rumors could necessarily be believed…
But, getting off of that uncomfortable subject, Iruka said, "Hey, I need to be getting back to the apartment to make dinner. See you guys tomorrow."
"Okay," Izumo said with a wave.
"Hey, let us come over sometime!" Kotetsu called as Iruka started to make his way down the alley, causing Iruka to pause.
"I don't know if Kakashi-sensei would like that," he said. "I'll ask him."
"That's all we ask," Izumo said as his fist fell none too gently atop Kotetsu's head, causing his roommate to wince in pain. "Later."
"Later," Iruka echoed as he turned and finally made his escape.
Iruka used his key to enter Kakashi's apartment and leaned on the door once he was inside. He could feel peoples' eyes on him all day, especially as he'd walked home after his discussion with Izumo and Kotetsu. He knew the rumor mill in Konoha worked fast, but he'd never been the butt of a scuttlebutt before, and the speed of the rumor made his head spin. Zumo and Ko had approached him out of concern for their friend, but he was anxious to find out how long it would take for people to start coming up to him to ask what Kakashi's face looked like.
With a sigh Iruka pushed away from the door and removed his sandals. Then he locked the door and put his key in the bowl as Kakashi had the night before. Then, after a second of thought, he added his other keys to the bowl. No point keeping them in his pocket if he didn't have to. One of them no longer had a door it could open…
He smacked his hands over his cheeks to snap himself out of his depressing thoughts. No point in missing his apartment. It was gone. He may as well move on.
Kakashi had said that he would be home around sunset from training his team, but from what Naruto had told him while he was still Kakashi's pupil the Jounin was consistently a couple hours late. Since Kakashi had stayed for breakfast and hadn't been in a hurry to leave, Iruka assumed that the same still held true with his new team. So Iruka didn't feel in any kind of rush to start cooking dinner. He'd be ready at sunset because he would be hungry, but he'd save Kakashi's portion for him in the fridge. There wasn't any point in breaking his back for someone whose may or may not be there.
So instead, he went to the couch and sat down. Then he reached over the arm of his seat and brought up the shield he'd saved from the rubble of his building. Originally, he'd set it on the table, but in his cleaning fit he'd moved it several times, and eventually it had found its place leaning against the side of the couch out of the way. Iruka ran his fingers over the familiar etchings in the metal and stared down at the precious antique in his hands – literally the only thing he owned.
Well, not quite the only thing anymore. He set the shield back down next to the couch and went back to the entryway to pick up his new knapsack. After breakfast, he'd gone to the Hokage tower and filled out all the appropriate change of address and apartment request forms. Because he'd suddenly lost his home, the ninja on duty had given Iruka a basic bathroom supply kit. Then he'd gone up a flight of stairs and picked up his standard-issue Chunin uniform, weapons pouch with the basic compliment of kunai and shuriken, rations, matches, first aid kit, Hitai-ate (he hadn't been wearing his to the bar since he'd been dressed as a civilian) water canteen, bedroll, and carry pack. He'd also gone to a Ninja supply outlet to purchase blank tags and chakra wire.
Now he pulled all of his new stuff out of his pack. Izumo had thought to bring Iruka one of his spare uniforms, which Iruka had immediately put on at the Mission Room. He liked having new clothes, but the ninja supplies tended to be too stiff. He'd learned to wash them before wearing them or else risk getting blisters in very uncomfortable and embarrassing places. Fortunately, Izumo had been kind enough to tell Iruka that he could just keep the spare uniform, telling Iruka that he couldn't just wear one all week and expect people to be willing to share any personal space with him.
With that memory in his mind, Iruka decided that before he started making dinner, he should probably do a load of laundry. He stood and shook out his new uniform before heading into the hall. There was a washer unit in the bathroom by the door, so he was going to just stick his new clothing in it and let it run, but then he noticed that Kakashi's door was open. And he couldn't help but peer in.
The line of dust that ended in the hallway annoyed him. Apparently Kakashi barely lived in his apartment. Otherwise it wouldn't have collected so much dust. Briefly Iruka wondered if Kakashi would mind if he cleaned his room? Impulsively, he poked his head through the door looking for a laundry basket. If he could see the laundry basket from the doorway, he'd go in and fetch it to add to his own load. If he didn't see it, he wouldn't bother.
He did see it. It was right next to the closed closet door. He reached in and grabbed it, adding the clothing – very boring Jounin uniforms – to his own load. After he finished the laundry, he fetched the duster and started cleaning the room. He figured that if Kakashi hadn't wanted him in there, he wouldn't have left the door open. It's not like he was peeking in where he didn't belong, and the only reason he opened the closet at all was to sweep the floor in there and do a decent job. He was careful not to look at the other man's stuff. If Naruto was to be believed, Kakashi was a man who relished his privacy.
When Kakashi finally came through the door – on time, amazingly enough – Iruka was cooking dinner.
"Hey," Iruka said after Kakashi's greeting of "Yo." "I hope you don't mind, but I did a load of your laundry and I cleaned your room."
Kakashi walked over to the counter and placed his keys carefully into the bowl. "Did you look into anything?"
The concern, even though it was disguised with a calm tone, didn't surprise Iruka in the slightest. Shinobi were consistently paranoid about their personal belongings, so the Chunin was prepared for the question. "I didn't snoop around," Iruka said as he gave the food a stir. "I just dusted and swept, and the laundry was out in the open so I took it. Swept inside the closet, but I didn't pry into anything. Your laundry is folded on your bed and the sheets are almost finished washing."
"You've been busy," Kakashi noted as he seemed to inhale deeply.
Iruka smiled. "Yep! But it's a simple dinner tonight. Stir fry." That's when Iruka looked up from the food and noticed that Kakashi was carrying a huge bag of dog food. "Where did that come from?" he asked. Kakashi hadn't been carrying that a second ago.
"Maa, Iruka-sensei, didn't you know that dog food comes from a store!"
"But you weren't…" he noticed the baldly innocent look Kakashi was giving him and sighed, giving up. "Who is the dog food for?"
"I'm glad you asked!" Kakashi said as he set the big bag down on the ground at the end of the counter. Then he bit his thumb and slammed his hand on the ground. With a poof eight dogs appeared in the living room.
"Hey, Boss," Pakkun said from his spot on the couch.
Iruka sat after dinner under a pile of fur with his feet propped up on Bull, who had displaced the table when he'd plopped down on the ground. Judging by the snores, they were all asleep.
Good, because dinner had been a noisy, chaotic affair with dogs everywhere eating their kibble, begging for scraps, talking, laughing, barking, and trying to sneak food. Iruka had almost felt like he was back at the Academy with his students hyped up on sugar, but not quite. The jokes were better and aside from them trying to get around him and to the human food, they tried to include him in some jokes on Kakashi. Nothing went over the Jounin's eyes, but it was a fun game to try.
Kakashi leaned forward in his chair across from Iruka and said, "I think they like you."
Iruka smiled down at his pile of puppies. "It works out, since I like them, too."
"Pakkun likes how hard you fought for the village. I'm sure that when he was released he told the others because the next time I summoned them for dinner they demanded to meet you," Kakashi said quietly.
"I wonder what Pakkun told them," Iruka mused. "I don't remember doing anything particularly spectacular that day, other than getting hurt."
Kakashi chuckled. "I think it was your determination. He told me that now he knows where Naruto got his pigheadedness from, as well as his heart."
Iruka couldn't keep the blush from staining his cheeks. "Do you summon them for dinner very often?" he asked in an attempt to change the subject.
Kakashi sat back in his seat and idly scratched his cheek with one finger. "I guess I summon them once or twice a week, and they usually stay the night. I hope you don't mind."
"I don't mind," Iruka said as he once again looked at the mass of fur surrounding him. "I'm just wondering where I'm going to sleep."
Kakashi let out a soft chuckle. "At least you won't need a pillow."
"I don't think I'll need a blanket, either," Iruka agreed. "They sure put off a lot of body heat."
They lapsed back into silence. Then, because he knew he should probably just ask it and get it over with Iruka said, "Hey, Kakashi-sensei, would it be okay with you if I invited a couple of my friends over to visit next weekend? They're a little worried about me and…" he shrugged, words failing him in the most uncomfortable way. Kakashi's look hadn't changed, really, but there was something about the expression in that one revealed eye that looked a little tense. "Never mind," Iruka said with a smile. "It's rude of me to invite people to someone else's house. I'm sorry for bothering you."
"No, Iruka-sensei, it's fine," Kakashi said with a pleasant smile shining through his eye. "You've been a wonderful guest so far, and it's nice of you to put up with my nin-ken despite their childish behavior."
"Childish behavior?" Iruka asked. He'd figured dogs normally acted that way, but Kakashi continued as if he hadn't heard Iruka speak.
"I wouldn't be willing to have your friends spend the night, but they can come over on Saturday, I suppose."
Iruka smiled, recognizing the kind gesture for what it was – a sacrifice. "Thank you, Kakashi-sensei. I'll let you know what we decide to do. Of course, you are welcome to join us."
Kakashi paused before he answered, his right eye opening slightly in surprise. "Thank you, Sensei. I'll think about it."