Iruka opened the door and slammed it closed behind him. He flicked his sandals off with his toes and practically nosedived into the couch. The damn thing didn't open up into a bed – he'd checked the previous night after Kakashi had gone to his room – so his head jammed into the armrest awkwardly. The discomfort wasn't enough to make Iruka move, though. He was too tired.
He'd come home with enough time to lie on the couch for an hour or so before he had to get his ass up and make dinner. He could lie here, maybe fall asleep, and when he woke up, he'd be in his apartment with his single bed and his groceries in the fridge and…
The door opened. Iruka let out a sigh as he heard light footsteps approach his makeshift bed. He didn't react when he heard a soft deep voice say, "Maa… Sensei, did you have a rough day at work?"
Kakashi waited for a response, so Iruka grunted noncommittally. He didn't bother to move or otherwise respond to his roommate's presence.
"Iruka-sensei, do you still want to cook dinner?" Kakashi asked.
Iruka grunted "Mm-hmm." He would get started once he recuperated a little bit. Then he'd get up and hobble over to the refrigerator and…
"How about I take us out for dinner?" Kakashi asked as he leaned over Iruka's head. "Isn't it uncomfortable to have your neck in that position?" Kakashi asked.
"Mm-hmm," Iruka grunted again, answering the second question and ignoring the first one.
However, Kakashi didn't understand that. "Great! I'll just change into civilian clothes and we can go out…" he started moving away, but Iruka's hand shot out to grab Kakashi's pant leg.
"I will cook dinner. You may go out if you want," Iruka stated slowly, his head never moving from the cushion it was buried in.
"Why not?" Kakashi asked, the light tone never once leaving his voice.
"Because I'm going to have to buy furniture," Iruka said, finally turning his head so that he could look up at Kakashi. "When a space becomes available, I'm going to need to basically buy everything all over again: furniture, food, cookware, books, clothing… I have money saved, but that's for me to live off of when I retire."
"You're preparing for retirement?" Kakashi asked, stunned. Ninja rarely survived long enough to retire. But then, Iruka didn't go on many missions. Once he stopped teaching, his income would cease, too.
"Yeah," Iruka said as he sat up and rubbed his face. "There will come a time when I can't stand my students anymore, and you idiot Jounins drive me up the wall as it is. Ninja don't have an income without missions, and when I'm forced to quit my current missions I won't be able to care for myself. I… don't have any children to take care of me when I get old."
Kakashi stared at Iruka in open surprise. After a moment he shook himself out of his awe and said, "Then I'll buy you dinner."
Iruka plopped his butt down on the stool in front of the Ichiraku Ramen shop and nearly fell down. He righted himself –he'd missed his stool by half a tush – and chuckled in embarrassment.
"Sensei… are you okay?" Kakashi asked with a concerned look in his eye.
"I'm just tired," Iruka said with a smile. "I wasn't really ready to go out for the evening."
"Maa… of course you weren't, Sensei! I dragged you directly here from my couch."
"Yeah, about that," Iruka asked as Teuchi the ramen man noticed them and started heading over. "Why exactly is it that you are insisting that I don't make dinner?"
Kakashi shrugged noncommittally and said, "It just doesn't seem right that you lose your house and then become my servant when I let you live with me."
"Hey, Iruka-sensei. How're you doing?" Teuchi asked from the other side of the bar. "I heard you lost your apartment in that fire the other day."
"Yeah…" Iruka mumbled, still shocked over what Kakashi had just told him. Who knew The Great Copy Nin could be so considerate?
"Did they ever tell you how it started?" Teuchi asked.
"It was my downstairs neighbor," Iruka said. "Mrs. Takanachi was burning a candle and forgot about it. She and her husband went out because their kids were at their grandmother's for a sleepover and… poof. Fire."
Kakashi looked over at Iruka with an interested look in his eye. "When did you hear that?" he asked.
"Shizune left a letter in my box at the Academy this morning," Iruka replied. "She probably got there a little before I did and asked the secretary to make sure I got it."
"You have a box at the academy?" Teuchi asked, looking a little lost.
"It's a mailbox," Iruka explained, wondering how the conversation had managed to switch. "It's a way for the Hokage, the Academy administration, parents, other faculty, and even students who need to give us things after hours or when we're busy teaching, so they can reach us easily on things concerning school or our students. Or our homes burning down. Or missions. I found my last three mission scrolls in my box when I came to work in the morning."
"That seems pretty convenient," Kakashi said. "Kind of messed up that you didn't get a mission from the missions office or an official summons from the Hokage if it was important, but…"
Iruka knew that voice. He could have turned around to see Naruto barreling down the street toward him, but he didn't even bother. No… if he just put his hands on the edge of the counter then he could be prepared to brace when…
Naruto rammed into Iruka's back as he threw his arms around his favorite teacher's chest. His momentum carried both Shinobi forward, and it was fortunate that Iruka was facing the counter with his arms braced for impact or else his back would have had a huge painful bruise across it for days. As it was, his arms caught them and he could receive the hug Naruto was giving him with only the pain of squished ribs.
"Hi Naruto," Iruka managed to squeeze out despite the lack of air in his lungs. "How have you been?"
"I'm so happy to see you're okay," Naruto mumbled into Iruka's back. Then Iruka felt Naruto release him and turn his stool around so they were looking into each other's eyes. "I heard about the fire the next day and I saw the wreckage and I knew it was your home! So I went to Grandma Tsunade and the old hag wouldn't tell me where you were. She just said some crap about you needing time with your new roommate to get used to each other. Then I had all of this training because Kaka-Baka wouldn't stop our training on Saturday or today – and he's been weird doing training kind of like you used to do, but special for each of us teaching us jutsu and having us practice and…"
Iruka looked over at Kakashi, wondering briefly if Naruto knew the Jounin was right there listening in or if he'd noticed and then forgotten. Either way, Naruto kept rambling and Kakashi wore a carefully disinterested look on the area of face the world could see.
"Naruto," Iruka said, breaking into Naruto's rant. The boy paused, looking at Iruka and waiting for the older man to continue. "I'm glad to see you! And I'm touched that you were worried about me. I'm fine, and I'm living with Kakashi-sensei until a space opens up and I can be assigned an apartment."
Naruto's jaw dropped. "You're staying with Kakashi-sensei?!" he screeched.
"Who is staying with Kakashi-sensei, Dickless?" a soft voice asked. Iruka focused behind Naruto and saw Sakur and Sai approaching at a comfortably slow pace (at least, comfortably slow when compared to Naruto's mad attack on Iruka).
"Iruka is," Naruto all but shouted at his teammate, finally turning his shocked stare away from Iruka. "His house was the one that burned down, and now he's staying with Kakashi-sensei!"
"I didn't know you bent that way, Sensei," Sai said to Iruka. "If you're living together, then aren't you going to be getting married soon?"
Sakura's fist was so fast Iruka couldn't see it move as she hit Sai on the head. "He's not gay!" she snapped. "Well," she amended with a touch of pink in her cheeks, "he might be gay. I wouldn't really know. But that's not why he's staying with Kakashi. There isn't a place to stay because of the Chunin exams. Kakashi-sensei has the space for another person even if he doesn't have a second bedroom."
"Thank you, Sakura," Iruka said to the Kunoichi.
"Then, if you don't have a place to stay, isn't it appropriate that one of us buys him dinner?" Sai asked Sakura.
"Yeah," she said. Then she moved forward to take a stool next to Iruka and told Teuchi, "I'll pay for Iruka-sensei's dinner."
"No, I will!" Naruto said loudly as he started to push Sakura off her stool. "He's my favorite sensei, so I'll buy him ramen!"
"Naruto, stop pushing!" Sakura screeched.
"Sakura, let me pay!"
"You never pay! You're such a cheepskate!"
"I am not!"
"Yes you are!"
Iruka sighed and rubbed his scarred nose in irritation. Clearly after four years neither one had managed to mature. "CHILDREN!" he shouted, using his Teacher Voice to grab their attention. Both teens froze in their struggle over the stool and looked at Iruka in horror. Good. He still had them trained.
"Kakashi-sensei already offered to pay for my dinner," Iruka said in a calm voice as he made eye contact with each of his previous students. "Thank you for your generous offers, but I think I'll stick with my original plan."
Naruto stepped back from Sakura slowly, his eyes never leaving his old sensei. "Are you sure? Because I've been saving and it's only right I pay for you after you've paid for me so many times."
"I'm sure," Iruka said with a nod. "Would you three care to join us? I'd like to catch up…"
"BELIEVE IT!" Naruto shouted as he jumped onto the stool next to Sakura's. "Kakashi-sensei, are you going to pay for mine, too?"
"NARUTO!" Iruka shouted again, causing Naruto's head to snap around in surprise. "Quit acting like such a kid! Kakashi-sensei offered to pay for me because I don't have anything. You save your mission pay, so you can afford to pay for yourself. Quit expecting people to pay for you now that you're a successful Shinobi!"
"Awwwwww! But sensei, it's tradition for a sensei to pay for his student!" Naruto whined, the serious mood evaporating with the familiar old argument between academy sensei and student.
"No it isn't," Sakura said. "Iruka-sensei never took me out to ramen! He just likes you a lot so he treated you!"
"He did not!" Naruto griped at his teammate.
"Yes I did," Iruka said with a chuckle as he swiveled back to the counter. "I liked you and I felt bad that you were alone, so sometimes I took you out. I couldn't do it for everyone, so I'm sorry I didn't give you any special treatment Sakura, but I did do it for you."
Naruto just gaped at his Academy-sensei.
"It's okay, Iruka-sensei," Sakura broke in with a smile. "I didn't expect you to do anything for me. I was a little nuts when I was in your class."
Iruka chuckled. "I wouldn't say that," he said with a smile. "But you and Ino were just so in love that you drowned everything else out. Now, what shall I order tonight? Mr. Teuchi, may I have the miso ramen? I don't think I've had that in a while."
With that the conversation turned to normal topics.
Kakashi watched as Iruka dragged himself toward the Hokage Tower and his shift at the Mission Desk. In the end, he'd paid for not only Iruka's dinner, but that of his students' as well. It had amused him to no end when Naruto had pulled his full little frog purse out of his pocket and apologized to it before gingerly opening it to remove the required money. It was as funny as when he realized that the blond had only eaten one bowl of ramen because he was the one who had to pay for it.
"So, Sensei, when are you marrying the other sensei?" Sai asked.
Damn that brat. "Excuse me?" he asked mildly as he swiveled back to look at the newest member of Team Seven.
"Sai, you IDIOT!" Sakura screeched as she punched the idiot savant in the ear. Sai, Kakashi noticed, didn't dodge the attack, although he did move with it so that he wasn't hurt by Sakura's massive strength. "Don't say something so stupid like that!"
"Why not?" the younger man asked in his emotionless tone.
"Because it's none of our business," Sakura hissed. Then she turned to Kakashi and said, "Sorry, Sensei."
"Maa… Sakura, do you believe that I should ask Iruka-sensei out?" Kakashi asked, turning his visible eye up in a smile.
"Umm…. I don't know," Sakura said. "Do you go for guys?"
Kakashi blinked. Was she taking the question seriously? "Sai seems to think so," he replied noncommittally.
Sakura rolled her eyes. "That isn't an answer, Kakashi-sensei." She waited for Kakashi to give her a real answer, but when it became clear that Kakashi wasn't going to do that, she said, "I guess if you like guys and you seem to be good to Iruka-sensei what with letting him stay at your place and taking him out to eat, I wouldn't be opposed to you asking him out."
The three male Shinobi just stared at the pinkette. Then Naruto pointed at her and said, "Who are you and what did you do with my friend?"
"What?!" she screeched as she took a swipe at the blond idiot. Kakashi watched them enact the same game that they'd partaken of as children while he took the time to collect his thoughts.
Did he like Iruka? The guy cleaned his house, made him meals, and bought food for the refrigerator. He exploded at little things like wet towels on the floor, but the pack took to him faster than they had Naruto. He was smitten – he'd already admitted it to himself. Would he want to pursue a relationship with the volatile Sensei?
Was he ready for a relationship? BN (Before Naruto) he'd been a manic-depressive killing machine who had been ordered to take Genin teams in an attempt to soften him to social interaction. Now AN (After Naruto) he allowed people in and had a few friends. Okay, so he had one friend. But Gai now was more true friend than Eternal Rival. Asuma had been his friend before his death, and now Kurenai had sort of managed to take her husband's place (but not really, because she was a woman and he liked her for totally different reasons than he had Asuma).
He knew he was messed up. Obito had taught him that. Even though he'd taken Obito's death to heart and had changed, he still hadn't let anyone close until Naruto and Sasuke had managed to worm their ways under his skin. He knew sex, but he didn't know relationships. Iruka seemed like a relationship kind of guy.
Either way, he had better wait until he knew Iruka better. He'd only really known they guy for a few days, even if he'd been aware of his existence for a few years. He'd have to wait and see if he liked the guy enough to give a relationship a try. After all, it was quite a risk.
What if Iruka broke his heart?