For awhile, a certain silver-haired ex-ANBU used his formidable skills to track and study one particular tan chuunin teacher, Umino Iruka. It wasn't a mission from the great Hokage nor was it a favor; it was for unknown personal reasons and if he were to rank this mission, he would classify it as S-rank.
He had learned many things to his target as the days went by. This includes the assertive and gentle way on how he handles his students and how many people admires him for his carefree and welcoming demeanor. He had also seen the different contorts of the said man's face like the way it would scrunch with justifiable anger and how he would have the softest feature to calm a crying student as he whisper encouraging chants, and even the way his cheeks were painted a tinge of red when a colleague confesses her feelings or he gets presents from his beloved students.
But as much as he wants to say he'd seen and known all about the teacher, he is far from it, after all, he can only examine the sensei from a distance; that's why for the last few weeks he decided to study Iruka-sensei in close range. He then coincidentally eats at Ichiraku Ramen when Iruka will eat to have small talks and he hands out late slightly ineligible reports so the chuunin would twitch in annoyance and wait for him to rewrite it. There are also times that Iruka would accidentally forget his umbrella on a rainy day and Kakashi would accidentally pass by the Academy gates. This is to say, he makes instances where he would be Iruka's company.
And tonight, according to his hard earned information, the teacher will bring out handfuls of papers from the academy to check his students' exams and tally the semester's grades. The not-so-original-plan went with the jounin bumping to the academy instructor and helping him carry the papers as a sorry excuse. As for his reason why he did and does this Mission Iruka, he tells himself it just lies within questionable curiosity and deep interest, or maybe even beyond that.
Kakashi found himself inside the Iruka's small abode subsequent to his self-proclaimed mission of carrying papers. The chunnin sensei had invited him for dinner and the eagerness that came with it was making the proposal hard to turn down. Offered to seat at a tatami mat near the kotatsu, Kakashi did so as he carefully made mental notes. The atmosphere of the apartment is soothing and cozy, similar to the aura the owner gives off. It smells of old scrolls and school documents stashed at a nearby desk together with the paper they brought and along with it, the fragrance of coffee stuck on the furniture and walls which probably because of sleepless nights of checking school works.
Iruka is at the kitchen when Kakashi caught a small whiff of blood and with it a faint hiss. He stood from his seat and went to the source.
"Are you all right?" He asked behind the smaller sensei.
Iruka glanced back at him, "Ah, yes. Just a cut." He replied as he washed his finger and opened a cupboard, bringing out a bandage to wrap around his small wound.
"I should help with dinner," Kakashi decided, "I'm the one imposing after all."
The smaller man didn't reply immediately, possibly considering the suggestion. "If it won't trouble you, Kakashi-sensei then..." He trailed off and Kakashi took the knife, cleaned it and started cutting what's left of Iruka's work.
As dinner was being made, they had random talks and to Kakashi's comfort, were nothing personal, not even post mission stories but conversation about his students and unsurprisingly, Naruto. In a couple of minutes, everything was done and they both served it on the table. They each took a seat so they were on either side of the kotatsu, face to face.
"Thank you for the food." Kakashi heard Iruka mutter and the man started digging in for food.
Kakashi then slid off his mask as he followed Iruka's lead. Why he wasn't reluctant to let the other man see him was outside of Kakashi's comprehension. Maybe it has something to do with him knowing Iruka from his secret observation that he wanted the other to know something of him as well. He felt eyes on him but continued eating without looking at Iruka. It was perhaps weird for the other man to see his bare face. After a few moments, he realized that Iruka had lost interest to his face and it made him comfortable and disappointed at the same time.
With his third rice serving, Kakashi put his chopsticks together and lay it across his bowl. A few more munching and Iruka was done as well. It was a fairly relaxing and quiet dinner except for the patting of rain on the roof that started halfway their meal.
"I'm sorry." He heard Iruka speak. He looked back at him, pulling his mask up and stared in question. "I was being selfish." Iruka added. Kakashi kept silent, wanting the teacher to continue. "I actually wanted to take a peek underneath your mask so I invited you for dinner Kakashi-sensei but I think it became inconvenient now that it started to rain."
Kakashi still didn't speak and Iruka apologized again. "I even let you help with the papers and dinner. I'm sorry for being selfish, for taking your time."
"It's fine. Please be more selfish."
Did that come out of his mouth? Apparently it did. He saw the tan teacher expression and it was mixed between surprise and delight. If Kakashi weren't wearing his mask, he probably will have the same look as Iruka. Well, the jounin wasn't lying. If helping him with papers and dinner is what it takes to get closer to the chuunin then it's most welcomed.
"All right." The teacher nodded, "But only if you would stop handing out overdue and messy reports on purpose." Iruka lips curled up to form a hesitant smile.
"OK." Was all Kakashi said amused by the fact the other knew.
He didn't even deny that he did in intentionally. Now, what will he gain if the other knew his quirks that recently just formed? Or what will he lose?
"Then also, please stop saying you coincidentally want ramen when you know I'm gonna eat at Ichiraku."
"OK." Kakashi then saw Iruka fidgeting, tracing half of his scar across the nose with his finger.
At the back of his mind he wanted to know what Iruka thinks of what he did. Did he just play along with it? Did it bother him in some sorts? Or somehow enjoyed his company as well?
"...lastly please don't hide my umbrella when it's raining." Iruka stared at him, "Just say you want to see me is fine." The smaller man dropped his head to release eye contact.
Kakashi softly chuckled at Iruka's words. "Aren't you being too full of yourself Iruka-sensei?"
"T-That's..." Iruka started, "I thought I was too but when an ex-ANBU starts stalking you by the tree near the classroom and watches from across the roof beside your house, you just can't help but feel flattered."
"It might be strange to say this but Kakashi-sensei..." Iruka smiled between holding a laugh, "...you're like a kid begging for attention."
"I wasn't begging."
"Then wanting attention."
"I wasn't." Kakashi defended.
Iruka finally laughed at this. "Please enlighten me about what it is you were actually doing." He challenged.
Kakashi thought about it. He actually had, even before this, the moment he realized he can't point out why he does the things he does. Observing the teacher from afar was enough back then. He liked what he saw; it was calming as if he was watching a serene landscape. But as he indulged himself to the sight, a thought pushed through about why just watch? Why not experience firsthand how it feels to be around the teacher? Why can't those expressions be directed at him? Why can't those expressions be exclusively for him? Are there more to what he observed? He actually desired more. More of the different faces he makes. To hear more of that concerned and relieving voice. To touch that tanned skin. More. More of Umino Iruka.
This desire was excruciating.
The sweet silence between them then broke when a hawk flapped its wings to rest at Iruka's window.
"I'm being summoned." Kakashi spoke as he rose from his seat.
"I guess so." Iruka came after the jounin who was preparing to leave by the window. The tanned sensei reached out his hand to pull Kakashi's head to his level.
Kakashi let himself be dragged as he met Iruka's face within an inch distance. He saw the playful smirk on Iruka's eyes and the glint of pink dusted across his cheeks.
"Please return safely." The academy teacher whispered, closing the distance between them to plant a chaste kiss on the mask-free skin near Kakashi's eye. "So we could talk without the need for you to accidentally collide with me on the streets." Iruka then flashed an all-out smile.
Ah, that's it.
That's the smile that caught Kakashi from the start. It's part of why he had started to get closer to the sensei. He wanted to know how it feels when the smile is directed at him. And now he has. It's like a trap in the form genjutsu. It lures the one who sees it and brings them to a tranquil state. He had seen it as he reassures kids that everything is fine even when they get hurt over superficial scars. It unknowingly says, 'I'm here so don't worry'. It's a bright smile that can guide a lost heart. It's a warm smile that can melt even the coldest heart. It's a powerful smile that found its way to Kakashi's heart.
"I will." Was all that Kakashi could say as he unwilling transported away from the cunning smile of Iruka.