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The Lady Scarecrow and His Dolphin- Part 5
The Lady Scarecrow and His Dolphin
The Beginning
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

It was a few months later that Kakashi finally realized he was in over his head. He and Iruka had been seeing each other on a fairly regular basis, spending time together when they found the time between Iruka’s teaching and mission desk duty and Kakashi’s training, challenges, and missions. That was all well and good; Kakashi was enjoying himself, and even endured Gai’s long, flowery, tearful speeches about his Eternal Rival enjoying a Youthful Spring Romance and Sakura’s starry eyes every time she came across the two.

Besides that, the gifts from his secret admirer were still coming in, also on a fairly regular basis. Notes were now just signed ‘Admirer’, which made Kakashi wonder vaguely why they weren’t a secret anymore and if they weren’t secret, why didn’t he know who they were. Sakura had been digging, or so she claimed, and he’d been asking a few well-placed questions here and there without letting on that he had a secret admirer. It was pretty embarrassing for someone to be able to plant a gift in various places for him to find, and Kakashi not sense anyone.

That wasn’t even mentioning the threats and warnings he was getting from Iruka’s friends and admirers, which he tended to ignore because no, he wasn’t planning on hurting the chuunin, and no, it was really none of their business what went on between them. Since they were more or less dancing around the issue of making themselves official, the village still saw them both as fair game, which irritated Kakashi when he saw some fool flirting with Iruka, or had to pry off one of his own admirers when they went out to parties.

But Kakashi was determined to discourage the secret admirer, if only to avoid questions he was sure Iruka would ask if he found out about the mysterious gifts. Since being around Iruka a lot hadn’t stopped the flow of gifts, he’d started leaving them where he found them, and only moving them if Iruka was coming over.

For the first time in a long time Iruka was a little apprehensive. He didn’t know why he was worried. But he was. The mission he was leaving on had been in the works for a while but Iruka hadn’t been the initial person requested for it. The fact that the first two people selected for the mission both came down with a severe case of poisoning the day before did not bode well. The mission was a fairly straightforward one as far a missions went.

The land of Waterfalls was requesting assistance with revamping their ninja academy curriculum. Iruka was the highest authority in the academy available since he was the head teacher. Naruto had been due a vacation and this mission was a form of relaxation for him because he was familiar with the village and they knew him as well. Shino had been selected for the mission because he also needed a break and the mission wasn’t stated to be too difficult.

According to the mission standards it only qualified as a B rank mission because of the diplomatic hoops that would need to be leaped through among other complex issues. There was also the fact that in order for Iruka to do his job effectively he had to be above reproach and he could already feel a migraine blooming at the thought.

Knocking on Kakashi’s door, Iruka knew he should have sent word but he just wanted to see the other man before he left. He also wanted to see how Kakashi liked the dog tags that had both their information on them. In his mind it was time for them to make it official if only so he could finally knock the hell out of some of Kakashi’s more determined admirers.

Kakashi’s head shot up, and he had a minor panic attack. He wasn’t expecting anyone; his apartment was a mess and his bathroom was still littered with beauty products here and there. He’d been fairly good at keeping them hidden away nearly all the time unless Sakura came over, just because he and Iruka spent quite a lot of time in his apartment and Kakashi didn’t feel like rushing to hide everything every time they made plans. He hadn’t yet built up the willpower to tell Iruka the secret just yet, but he was working toward it slowly.

“Just a minute!” he called, setting the technique scroll down and leaping up to stash away his things in the bathroom. Being used to it, it didn’t take very long before his apartment was enterable, and a few minutes later, he had secured his mask over his face and went back to the door, opening it and peering outside.

“Oh, Iruka! I wasn’t expecting you today,” he said cheerfully, beaming behind his mask. “Did we have something planned that I completely forgot about? Come on in, I was just reading a few scrolls that Gai let me borrow.”

“No it is just I had a mission and I wanted to make sure that things were settled before I left.” Iruka toed the ground lightly before walking in. Removing his shoes at the door he went to the couch and sat down. “I know I didn’t give you a lot of time to think about it but if we don’t get this settled before we leave I will have it on my mind and I don’t want the distraction.”

Twiddling his fingers a bit, Iruka looked at Kakashi steadily before taking a deep breath. “I understand it is a big step for us but I think it is normal all the things considering. So what do you think?”

Oh, right. The dog tags. They had been the reason that Kakashi had been going over the technique scroll, because he’d been staring at them nearly every minute since Iruka had given them to him. He’d needed the distraction and the scroll had offered just that. So the jounin reached in his pocket and extracted the dog tags, sitting down beside Iruka and staring at the words engraved into them.

“I’ve been thinking about it ever since you gave them to me, honestly,” he said after a moment, chuckling nervously and avoiding Iruka’s eyes. “I mean… yeah, it’s a huge step, and I’m not really sure I’m ready for it, but…” He looked up, away from the tags, and offered a weak grin. “All right. If you’re sure about it, and us, then I’m all for it.”

“If you aren’t sure then we can wait. You don’t trust me with something and I know it must be hard for you. Things you hide aren’t often as scary as one would think.” Kissing Kakashi on the cheek, Iruka stood up. “You should take a nice hot bath. Light the lavender scented candles I brought you last week, put on a face pack and soak. Relieve some tension and clear your mind. I will be back in two weeks tops and we can talk about the dog tags then. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.” Waving and with a quick wink, Iruka was gone.

The… lavender scented… that he gave him? Kakashi froze, gaping at the chuunin but unable to form words. He had indeed received candles the week before, but they were in a box from his secret admirer… which meant that he’d been seeing the admirer every day since the beginning and had had no clue! What sort of genius jounin was he?

And, though the bath idea sounded divine, Kakashi had far more important things to worry about. He had been so worried about Iruka learning about his secret before he was ready to tell him, and turns out that he’d known about it for months! And all those gifts that Kakashi was quick to hide, to avoid questions… were from him!

Resolutely, Kakashi got to his feet, put the tags back in his pocket, and went in search of Sakura and Genma. Both of them had been puzzling over the admirer’s identity alongside Kakashi, and telling them was his first priority. He wandered around the village, asking around for them both, until his search ended when he came upon Lee and Sakura enjoying lunch together. Genma could wait; all Kakashi had to do there was scour the bars later, or find Raidou.

“Sakura, it was Iruka.” To anyone else, the statement would seem cryptic, but it was all the jounin could manage in his shock. “This entire time… it was Iruka.”

“I take it that you didn’t know already?” Lee inquired blinking slowly.

“Lee you knew!” Sakura gasped. Turning to her boyfriend in disbelief.

“Well you told me that the admirer stopped being secret around the time that Iruka sensei and Kakashi started seeing each other. So I assumed that it was just easier for Iruka sensei to give Kakashi san presents and spoil him. Presents he may not accept from Iruka sensei normally.” Lee responded thoughtfully.

“Lee you have to tell me these things!” Sakura pouted smacking Lee on the arm.

“My apologies blossom I thought you knew too.”

Smiling softly, Sakura sighed. “Well are you okay with this sensei? I mean it must be a lot to handle. It does make sense though. You did say he followed the Hyuuga method of adoration.”

“I never understood the Hyuuga method of stalking their intended.” Lee mused. “Though with Iruka sensei’s stealth skills it shouldn’t have been a problem.”

“But he’s a chuunin and a teacher no less.” Sakura murmured.

“Have you ever wondered how Naruto can be the most visible person in the village but still manage to do pranks and not get caught. Highly visible pranks no less.” Lee pointed out gently. “Iruka sensei taught him.”

Kakashi groaned, his shoulders slumping. Of all people, Lee had figured it out first. “I knew Iruka was very good at stealth and that his skills are actually jounin level… I mean, it’s not that hard to figure that much out. But… I just never suspected that he knew, that he was the admirer.” He ran a hand through his hair, frowning in thought. Had there been another sign besides the admirer dropping the ‘secret’ part in notes? He couldn’t think of one. Iruka certainly hadn’t given him any clues until earlier.

“He went on a mission… won’t be back for about two weeks,” he said after a long moment, already dreading the next fourteen, Iruka-free days ahead of him. He’d ran into Neji earlier, who had mentioned that Naruto was also off on a mission, same time-frame, so the two were most likely sent off together… which really cut back on a lot of Kakashi’s daily plans. Sure, he could still train with Sakura, to keep her on her toes, and he had Gai’s challenges, and Genma and Raidou sure liked throwing parties at their shared apartment… and Kakashi knew better than to doubt Iruka and Naruto’s abilities, because if he did, then he’d worry the entire time. Worry that he was losing two more precious people to dangerous missions, with him not being able to do a thing about it.

No. Kakashi wasn’t going to just sit around and wait for them to get back. He was a jounin, a living legend. He would take missions, short ones that wouldn’t have him gone for more than a few days. He would go on about life as he had before.

And when Iruka got back, they were going to sit down and talk about the whole secret admirer business.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your date,” he said, straightening back up into his usual slouch. “I’d better get over to Training Ground 5. Today’s Tuesday, and Gai’s probably waiting for me to make an appearance so he can challenge me during my solo training.”

“Oh it is fine. This was very important and you probably needed to tell someone else to get it out of your system before you stew on it for a while.” Sakura wave her hand in the air giving her sensei a grin. At her boyfriends groan when Kakashi mentioned visiting Gai, she studied her boyfriend.

When Lee turned green, Sakura frowned at her boyfriend for a minute. “Kakashi sensei, I don’t think that is a good idea.”

“Gai sensei is otherwise occupied at the moment.” Shivering lightly, Lee kissed Sakura quickly. “There we go instant bad image removal.”

“Now we have to do that again for my bad image.” Sakura giggled.

“But it’s Tuesday,” Kakashi said, frowning. “Gai knows that Tuesdays are mine. Hell, Ibiki and Anko know Tuesdays are mine, too. We made an agreement after the last time I came across them being… er, occupied.”

Knowing that he was making things much worse for the teenagers in front of him, Kakashi quickly shook his head and shut up. He really didn’t want to think about his rival doing the things he was so obviously doing, and any distraction would be very welcome. What a day for Iruka to leave on a mission! Well, he could always wash his dogs, if he wasn’t going to be challenged today… Kami knew they all needed one.

“Say, how about you two come by my place later? It just turned into Bath Day, and you know the dogs love you, Sakura,” he suggested, hoping that getting Sakura’s mind on his ninken would take away the bad images of Gai, and this way Kakashi could also get to know Lee a little better.

“Sure.” Sakura smiled and nudged Lee who looked thoughtful for a moment.

“I would like that.” Lee grinned teeth shining naturally. “I imagine it will be much more involved then washing turtles.”

“Yes because nin dogs are faster.” Sakura chuckled.

“Turtles have more crevices though.” Lee argued as they measured difficulty.

“Lee I win.” Poking Lee in the nose lightly the other man shook his head.

“I know, even when you are wrong you are right.” Lee retorted.

“Exactly...Hey!” Bursting out laughing Sakura chuckled before putting Lee in a headlock.

“If you still want to spar Neji was looking for a partner earlier.” Lee wheezed waving at Kakashi.

Part 6