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The Lady Scarecrow and His Dolphin- Part 4
Title: The Lady Scarecrow and his Dolphin

The Beginning
Part 2
Part 3

Standing on Kakashi’s doorstep with a nice bottle of wine and a small box of desserts Iruka felt slightly nervous. Earlier he had dropped off a set of bath salts and scrubs labeling them from Kakashi’s admirer. He had also included a small note about how Kakashi had seemed troubled/stressed earlier and may need them to unwind later. Not sure how the gift would be received after this latest development of his crush being revealed. Telling Kakashi that he was the secret admirer was going to have to happen soon but for the time being Iruka wanted to enjoy the moment.

Dressed in a pair of dark wash jeans that were fitted to be just slightly tight around the areas that it mattered. A white tank top under a black button down that Iruka had left partially unbuttoned with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. A necklace with a kunai and shuriken charm hung around his neck. Iruka had settled for having his hair half up and half down. Taking a deep breath Iruka knocked on the door and prepared to do his best on this dinner.

Kakashi had been pointedly ignoring the small box he’d found on his doorstep earlier, not even wanting to open it when he had a date tonight. It sat on his counter, where he’d placed it after discovering it, and the jounin himself was focused fully on cooking. He’d gone for a simple pasta, with some chicken cut into small chunks and stirred in, and just a sprinkling of some seasoning. Genma had often commented that Kakashi’s pasta was to die for, so the jounin was hoping Iruka would enjoy it.

After his customary hour-long shower and then the rushed frenzy of hiding away his stash, Kakashi had finally settled on getting dressed. Remembering Sakura’s glare when they’d split up earlier, he’d forgone the usual uniform and chose one of his dark navy sleeveless shirts with the attached mask and a comfortable pair of jeans. He’d thought about throwing on a nicer shirt over the navy one, but he really didn’t like dressing in layers.

After all, he wasn’t even wearing his headband or an eyepatch over his Sharingan, though he kept the eye closed.

At the knock, Kakashi glanced up and turned down the heat on the stove, tugging up his mask and settling it over his nose before he strolled over to the door and opened it. “Ah, Iruka-san. Right on time, I see,” he said cheerfully, stepping back and holding open the door. “Please, come in! Dinner’s almost ready, so you can make yourself comfortable.”

Getting a good look at Kakashi, Iruka did a mental squeal. Smiling Iruka slipped off his shoes before walking into the room. “Not everyone can make a grand entrance like you can Kakashi san.” Moving further into the living room, Iruka looked at Kakashi, “I didn’t know what you were making so I brought wine and dessert, for if all else failed.” Holding up his offerings with a small smile, Iruka waited to be told where to put the items.

Taking his time Iruka studied Kakashi briefly and noted that the man was even more attractive when he wanted to be. It wasn’t necessarily the only thing that attracted Iruka but it certainly didn’t hurt matters. “Did you need me to help with anything?”

“Ah, you can just put them in the fridge.” Kakashi led the way back to the kitchen, and that’s when his eye caught the box he’d carelessly left on the counter. Yikes! He didn’t know what was in there yet, and he couldn’t exactly sneak it off to hide now that Iruka had arrived… He fought back a grimace and turned back to smile at Iruka. “Sorry about the mess, I tend to get… caught up in cooking.”

Sure enough, there were ingredients spread over the countertops, and of course his new book was open beside the stove where he’d been reading a little while waiting on the food to get ready. With a laugh, Kakashi walked over and closed the book, setting it on top of the box so it was out of the way, and then gestured to one of the cabinets. “Ah, if you’d like, the dinnerware is over there. It shouldn’t be too long now until food’s done, maybe about another five minutes or so.”

After putting his items in the fridge, Iruka began the task of setting the table. His mind running a mile a minute as he thought about what it could mean that Kakashi hadn’t opened his earlier gift. It could mean he had just been busy. Or it could also mean that he wasn’t interested. Though Kakashi had put Mr. Yoi next to what he assumed was Mr. Ukki.

Finishing his tasks, Iruka meandered back in the kitchen and began to quietly clean up some of the items so there wouldn’t be as much clean up later. As he worked, Iruka whistled lightly a happy tune. Not wanting to let his previous thoughts intrude on his attempts to have a good time.

“Enjoying your latest book?” Iruka asked mildly having noticed that Kakashi was still stealing glances at it throughout his cooking.

“It has a surprisingly nice plot,” Kakashi said offhandedly, shrugging. Even as he said it, he realized that he’d just repeated what his admirer had said about the book in the note. Not that it mattered, because it was true. Normally yaoi didn’t have much in the way of plot, but of course Jiraiya had surprised him again. “Maa, how’d you know it’s my latest? Been keeping up with my book purchases, sensei?” he teased, turning from the stove to carefully pour the pasta out of the pan into a serving dish.

Once the pan was in the sink and mostly rinsed off, Kakashi lifted the serving dish and went over to the table, setting it down in the middle carefully. “Dinner is served,” he said, smiling, pulling out the chair opposite his own. He was the host, so he was going to play the part… and well, if he could say so himself.

“Considering that book isn’t technically out yet I would assume that it was your latest. Alas with the great Kakashi san the world may never know.” Iruka dimpled at Kakashi before laughing lightly at Kakashi’s attempts to seat him.

“Oh no please take a seat, you can start serving and I will get the drinks. Wine generally goes better with pasta or would you prefer the sake?” Shifting back into the kitchen, Iruka brought out the two bottles. Flicking out a small knife. Iruka began to uncork the wine with a slight twist of his wrists bringing it forth. Waving it under his nose, Iruka smiled at the smell.

How’d you know it wasn’t out yet? I’ve never seen you read Icha Icha before,” Kakashi said, raising an eyebrow. He couldn’t even picture it…

Dutifully, Kakashi began serving the pasta, giving both plates a generous amount. “We’ll go with the wine. I haven’t had any in who knows how long,” he went on, glancing up into the kitchen. “And I didn’t think to buy any last time I went shopping. Good thing you brought some, eh?” He looked back down at his admittedly small table and frowned lightly, deciding that he could always leave the pasta on the counter so it wasn’t between them and putting their plates so close to the edge.

With that in mind, he carried the dish back into the kitchen, setting it on the counter closest to the table, before returning to his seat.

“Icha Icha is all certain of my acquaintances will talk about.” Iruka sighed. “You have no idea how much I want to bellow about it being inappropriate to discuss that in school but the main culprit makes amazing coffee.” Going a little dreamy eyed before shaking his head to clear it, Iruka poured the wine before setting down the bottle. Sitting down across from Kakashi he studied the meal with an appreciative eye. “This looks better than I thought it would. No offense but I was fully prepared to eat antacids after eating your cooking.” Teasing slightly, Iruka took a bite and moaned in appreciation. “Okay it’s official you cook and I’ll bake and life will be great.”

“Wine and alcohol in general is a hobby of mine.” Iruka confessed after taking a sip. “I don’t drink often but I have an appreciation for the time and effort that goes into them. Anything that inspires that type of dedication to craft should be savored.” Mentally Iruka included Hatake Kakashi on that list and made it a point that he was going to do his damnednest not to let his limbido with in spitting distance of Kakashi if he could help it.

“They’re good books,” Kakashi said, shrugging. They were his favorites, in fact, but he was sure Iruka already knew that, from Naruto if nothing else. “You should pick one up sometime and read it. Sure, some parts are really corny, but the plots are usually very well thought-out and thoroughly researched.” With a somewhat nervous chuckle, he fiddled with the edge of his mask and considered the pasta on his plate. It was true that he didn’t like to show his face very often to people that didn’t know him very well, but… well, he was hungry.

He tugged the mask down, taking a sip of the wine like he’d been planning to do just that the entire time. “Cooking is just a hobby… something I like to do after a long mission. Helps me get back in the groove of living the life of a human instead of a tool, you know? When I first started trying to cook, even Naruto had issues eating it. Ugh, talk about embarrassing.” He laughed, feeling his face heat up in an embarrassed flush at the confession.

“But I’m glad you like it. Maybe sometime you can bake for me, return the favor?”

“Where do you think dessert came from?” Iruka teased laughing. “Considering Naruto was my own personal test subject for my initial concoctions I can relate to how bad something has to be for Naruto to have issues with it.”

Leaning forward while keeping his eyes neutrally to the side, Iruka whispered. “When I first started baking I messed it up so badly it triggered the kyuubi chakra to destroy it before Naruto even got it into his mouth.” Putting his head down, Iruka sighed.

“You want to talk about embarrassing. The Gondaime almost had a stroke she laughed so hard.” Shaking his head, Iruka sat up again being polite enough not to look directly at Kakashi’s face.

“Baking is an ideal teacher task, I have found though. My baking is some of the best bribery but the biggest curse for when we do bake sale fundraising.” Shivering Iruka continued eating. “I would love to bake for you sometime. What do you like?”

“Oh, I eat mostly anything, really.” Kakashi tapped the table idly as he thought. “In fact, I’m looking forward to tasting anything you bake… I’ve heard good things about the bake sales, but usually I’m out of the village when the academy holds one.” He’d noticed that Iruka was taking care not to look at his face, which was very surprising. Even Genma and Sakura had taken advantage of seeing his bare face before they’d gotten used to it.

“Iruka-san,” he said gently, after watching the man fixate his gaze somewhere off to the side. “It’s really all right. I pulled down the mask willingly. If I really cared about you seeing my face, I would have blindfolded you.” He laughed it off as though it was a joke, but he had in fact done that to people in the past. Needless to say, they hadn’t been too happy, but Kakashi had had rules about hosting dinner at his house.

“I’m actually fairly surprised you aren’t trying to memorize it to describe it to Naruto later on. He’s still trying his best to damask me, and Sakura’s been trying to help him just for laughs.”

“Eating almost anything and enjoying it are totally different concepts.” Looking at Kakashi’s face and smiling gently Iruka continued. “Blindfolds? Outside of the bedroom!” Gasping and clenching at imaginary pearls, Iruka continued his role of affronted sensibilities, “Whatever would the neighbors think?” Snorting Iruka continued to grin. “Surprisingly enough I think the demask Kakashi thing revolves more around his desire to make sure you don’t rest on your laurels. I swear half the time he pisses off Sakura or the Godaime or even when he irritated the Third it was more to make sure they hadn’t lost a step.”

Scratching his chin thoughtfully he sighed and shook his head. “The little bastard played pranks just to make sure everyone stayed in shape. I have to admit the exercise was very effective though.”

“So I’ve heard.” Kakashi laughed, shaking his head. “Last time he pulled a prank on me, he ended up running laps around the village with Gai and Lee as an apology for being ‘unyouthful’. I didn’t even have a hand in it!” He chuckled, taking a bite of his pasta and savoring the taste, glad that he’d lived up to his reputation. “As for the blindfolds… well, I had them lying around.” He grinned. “So why not use them? Sure discouraged people from asking for my cooking just to see my face.”

He raised his glass and sipped from it. “But isn’t this better? No blindfolds, no masks, just two people enjoying a nice dinner and better company.”

“Here, Here,” Iruka tipped his glass to Kakashi with a grin. “Maybe I should try the blindfold thing with the bake sale volunteering. Somehow it always ends with everyone baking in my house. Surely that would discourage them.” After some thought Iruka shook his head. “Nope nevermind that would just be asking for a bigger headache. I think I have a soft spot for people.”

Then Iruka was hit with a rush of memories and clenched the table briefly. Dimpling he looked at Kakashi with a mischievous expression. “Shall I tell you the latest gossip or would you prefer to get it directly from the source?” Waggling his eyebrows up and down suggestively Iruka waited for the response.

“Shinobi thrive on gossip, as I always say.” Kakashi grinned, leaning forward. “Do tell. I’ve been out of the loop with the gossip vine lately.” Okay, so that wasn’t exactly true, but the last rumor he’d heard was about Iruka ogling him in the mission room, and it was from Sakura. And certainly this gossip was about his darling little pink-haired student and her date. He’d meant to set a clone out to watch them, but his clone had instead been more interested in helping him clean the apartment.

“Tell me, how’s the date going? Do I need to stalk my rival’s protégé and threaten him with bodily harm or is he safe?” He mirrored Iruka’s mischievous expression and rubbed his hands together. Of all the boys in Sakura’s age group, he had a good feeling about Lee… and that wasn’t just because he was nearly a younger Gai and Kakashi trusted Gai with his life… but Lee was still a young man, and Sakura was still his precious student.

“Well dinner went very well and let me just say Sakura killed it in her pumps and mini skirt.” Giving a nod of approval, “Lee wore a nice button down and slacks, opened doors, held out chairs and was a total gentlemen. There was blushing, laughter and conversation.” Shaking his head ruefully, Iruka continued. “After being such a gentleman for their date they took a walk through the park and well the moment was right.”

Blushing a bit because he couldn’t even believe his own eyes. “Sakura grabbed Lee by the shirtfront and laid one hell of a kiss on him. At that point my clone got squashed by Naruto’s clone who fell out of the tree in what I assume is shock.” Putting head in his hands and laughing Iruka grinned. “Before my clone died though it did see Gai, Ibiki and Anko sitting in a tree eating popcorn and dango.”

Kakashi nodded approvingly, listening to the update. The gentleman part was expected and very much appreciated, so he’d have to clap Lee on the back for it. But apparently he was the only one who knew about the date who hadn’t been spying on them… even Gai and his lovers – ugh, why’d he have to think of that now? – had been watching!

“So I don’t have to hurt him because the date was obviously a success, but he’s still got to pass my ‘Dating Sakura’ test. And it’s not going to be easy, even for him…” He laughed, already imagining the trials he was going to set up for the boy.

“Oh heaven help us all. The Hatake test of underneath the underneath.” Iruka gasped putting his hand to his heart. “Only the strong of heart will survive and prove their eternal youthfullness in all their youth.” For a moment Iruka managed a straight face before he began to crack up. “Okay I couldn’t speak about youth with a straight face. It is just too much effort. How do they do it all the time anyway? Oh no no thinking about Gai...”

Trailing off Iruka shuddered. “Quick pick another conversation topic.”

Kakashi was soon clearing away the dishes and putting them in the sink to clean up later. On the way back to the table he went to the fridge and pulled out the dessert, humming softly as he headed back to Iruka and setting the dessert on the table. The conversation had been kept light, mostly because Kakashi had no idea what to say. He wanted to get to know the chuunin, but what on earth could they talk about other than swapping student stories and cooking/baking mishaps?

Gai was certainly off-limits too, if only to save their sanities. And Kakashi really didn’t want to ask how long Iruka had had a crush on him.

“Here we go, the dessert you brought! It does look delicious.”

“Looks are only so important after all it is the taste that will determine the dish.” Iruka responded bashfully before plating Kakashi’s torte and passing it over. Opening a small container with in the box he spooned out some of the vanilla creme and placed the strawberries on top before closing everything up. “Bon appetite.”

After the initial first bites, Iruka settle back in his chair and regarded Kakashi with a small smile before asking the question that had be niggling at him. “Kakashi san why did you agree to dinner with me? If I can be so forward as to ask.”

Oh wow, this stuff was amazing. Kakashi thanked the heavens above for the torte and only barely stopped himself from digging in, choosing instead to take small bites and still pay attention to his dinner companion. When the question of why was spoken, he laid down his fork and fixed Iruka with a contemplative look.

“Honestly? Because you interest me, Iruka-san. Nobody else has just freely admitted that they have a crush on me, and certainly didn’t tell me what they liked about me. Sure, it was usually my body, or my reputation… I came to expect it, almost. So your answer was a very pleasant surprise… especially since I was sure the rumors about you ogling me were false.”

There was no other way to think about it but Iruka was sure he blushed to his toes. “I didn’t ogle....I studied intensely, I mean observed you with longing...Oh you know what I mean.” Popping another piece of torte his mouth, he sighed. “Sorry if it embarrassed you but I wear my heart on my sleeve mostly. I have heard that when confessing to a crush it is often a good idea to be specific and when confessing to a ninja in particular being honest is key. Not to mention after observing others having a go and prior mistakes being opportunistic when necessary never hurts in the pursuit for the person you like. So yeah...” Feeling a bit shy, Iruka coughed. “So any questions for me about anything?”

Well, if he was asking… “How long?” he asked simply, tilting his head. “I will admit I’ve never thought of you in that way, and people don’t generally develop crushes on the people who irritate them and push their buttons just to get a rise out of them. Well, in my own experience, that’s how it happens. But you looked underneath the underneath, saw past the aloof, apathetic exterior, and called me out on it in front of my students and the owner of Ichiraku.” He chuckled sheepishly. “I must say I’m very interested in the man who likes me for me.”

“I guess it started out innocently enough when you became Naruto’s sensei.” Coughing lightly Iruka took a drink of wine. “Well imagine my shock. The man who I thought of as a pervert being the sensei of the boy I consider family. Working in the mission room I could hear all sorts of things. After listening to the different sides of you from everyone else's opinion I figured I would find out more about you myself. There were too many conflicting reports.”

Twiddling his thumbs, Iruka looked at Kakashi for a moment and blushed again. “If this get’s out I will deny it ever happened but...” Now Iruka stopped even more embarrassed then before. “I may or may not have taken a leaf out of Hinata Hyuuga’s brand of observing. My stealth skills have always been top notch. Watching you play with your dogs, humor Gai and other things made me realize that there may be more to you then I thought.” Now Iruka was sure he was now going to stay in a permanent shade of pink for the near future.

“Being a career chuunin isn’t anyone’s idea of glamour and I hated the fact that everyone else just let you get away with stuff when you are better than that. So I guess me losing my temper and yelling at you about your reports was my way of getting your attention at least a little bit and getting the work handed in so that I wouldn’t spend an extra hour after work trying to decipher the damn report.”

“So… that’s why you actually stand up to me. I’ve always wondered.” Kakashi scratched idly at his jaw, thinking. He was surprised that it had been that long… that had been years ago, right? He vaguely remembered Iruka declaring that his team shouldn’t do the Chuunin Exam because they weren’t ready just yet, but that had been nothing, and Kakashi had nearly forgotten about it in the excitement of the Sound and Suna invasion.

“I only ever gave you bad reports so you’d yell at me,” he admitted after a moment. “It was refreshing to get treated like a normal person instead of this big, bad, famous jounin. Well, by someone who wasn’t close to me, I mean. Gai, Genma, even Asuma and Kurenai… they treat me like a normal person, but hell, we grew up together, and we’re all crazy jounin anyway. But you… oh, I had no idea what to do that first time you stood up and demanded I do the report over.” He chuckled. “But irritating you was fun. So I kept giving you bad ones.”

“Oh believe me I know. Imagine my surprise at coming back after being on a mission myself to find out that you had turned in an immaculate report, the first time.” Twitching slightly at the memory Iruka sighed. Grinning at Kakashi, Iruka continued, “To this day I have never cleared a mission room as fast as I did. It was the day I created the big head jutsu’s evil cousin. Unfortunately it is labelled an kinjutsu.” Pouting a bit at Kakashi, Iruka grinned. “You are very lucky you didn’t go in the mission room that day.”

“Now before I forget I should warn you that just because you cook well and I adore you don’t think you can just turn in any old thing and expect me to accept it.” Wagging his finger at Kakashi, Iruka took another bite of his torte and sighed happily finishing up the dessert.

“For all every one sees you as the big bad jounin. Do realize that I will go toe to toe with you anytime I think you are wrong. However I will keep those instances private unless you make them public.” Tapping his chin, Iruka thought some more. “Also I have a temper, I am ferociously protective and stubborn as hell. Does any of that bother you?”

Kakashi laughed, holding up his hands in a defensive manner. “I will turn in better reports, I promise, but they won’t be perfect like yesterday’s. I just really wanted to get home and shower, and I rarely have missions that leave me like that.” That being said, he turned back to his torte and took a few more bites, nodding as he listened to the rest of Iruka’s warning.

“Iruka-san, if any of that bothered me, I wouldn’t have stood for it,” he said after a moment. “It’s common knowledge you have a scary temper, and quite a few jounin take care to give you nice reports so they don’t have you glaring at them. Besides that, you’re the only one who took Naruto in when he was a child, and I’ve heard enough stories to know that you’d seriously maim anyone who so much as looked at him wrong. And stubborn? I’m betting that’s where Naruto got it from!”

“Got it in one.” Iruka sighed before chuckling ruefully. “Heaven help me and do you know how hard it was to get him to eat vegetables! My stubbornness had to get worse to counteract his!” Throwing his hands up in the air Iruka sighed.

“This may be a bit presumptuous of me but I have tickets to this movie showing tomorrow and if you are interested I’ll make dessert afterwards.”

Part 5