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Underneath It All_Chapter 5 (Part1)


I'm soooooo....tired from the loooooooong plane ride...but just vgotta do this first before I hit the sack.




CHAPTER 5

THE TRUTH BEHIND THE MASK

PART 1

 

 

             

“ This is the last time Hatake ! ” Pakkun said angrily as he jumped into his master’s room. He knew he’s been saying the same old line every night for the past 10 years. But like all those previous times, his anger would immediately dissipate once he saw the forlorn expression on his master’s face.

 

The pug sighed. “ Spying on the Umino boy is not healthy. This has to stop at some point Kakashi, you know that don’t you ? ”

 

There was a short silence before the pale, handsome man smiled slightly. It was an empty smile filled with sadness. “ Yeah, I know. Old habits die hard ” he said softly, shoving his stuff into his backpack. “ Is he safe ? ”

 

Pakkun nodded “ For now he is”

 

“ Huh ?”

 

“ He’s going on a mission ”

 

“ Where ? ”

 

“ To Sand with Team Seven ”

 

Kakashi frowned.

 

So…Iruka was the substitute shinobi Tsunade assigned to baby-sit his team.

 

“ When are they leaving ? ”

 

“ Tomorrow morning ”

 

Kakashi nodded as he slung his backpack over his shoulders. “ I need a favor from one of your brothers. ”

 

Pakkun sighed again, knowing fully well what the favor was. “ Very well, I’ll send Dashi out ”

 

 

 

*          *           *           *          *          *

 

 

 

Iruka was not sure why he was selected to lead Team Seven for the mission in the first place. He was damn sure that there were other more qualified shinobi that the Hokage could have assigned to baby sit the three Genins. He tried to reason with her of course, but the Godaime was adamant that he needed some time off from the village to polish up his shinobi skills.

 

Under normal circumstances, Iruka would have been delighted for such an opportunity, but in this particular arrangement, he could not help but to feel otherwise.

 

He knew that Kakashi was very protective over his students and glancing at the nin-dog who was curled asleep on his bed gave him an insight of what the Copy-nin actually thought of his ability as a ninja.

 

He doesn’t trust me with his team…he thought sadly.

 

With shoulders slumped in depression, the Chuunin slowly sat on one of the window sill of the guest quarters, looking aimlessly at the vast desert which surrounded the village. Unlike the harsh daytime extremities, the nights in the barren regions were surprisingly pleasant and cool. Iruka reluctantly found himself relaxed as he enjoyed the gentle caress of the desert wind on his exposed skin.

 

So peaceful….he smiled into the night, closing his eyes.

 

It was during quiet times like this that he missed Kakashi the most.

 

The feeling was nothing new of course, but still, the sensation the thought often conjured made him sigh with longing.

 

Kakashi, where are you right now ?

 

Iruka tilted his head upwards towards the clear night skies, eyes scanning the vast heavens for a particular group of stars.

 

The Stars of Konoha….

 

 

xxxFlashBackxxx

 

 

Iruka sat on the heath by the fireplace poking at its dying ambers with tear- filled eyes. He knew that the day would come eventually and he thought he had conditioned his mind to be more or less prepared for it.

 

But never in his wildest dreams did he imagine that the day would come too soon.

 

Throughout the years both he and Kakashi have became very close and dependent on each other for both physical and emotional support. He was so used of having him around that the thought of parting with the older boy for such a long period of time made him feel strangely alone and lost.

 

He knew that sooner or later, Kakashi would be called for such a dangerous mission. He was a Jounin after all regardless of his age.

 

At some point, he was actually coming to terms that his best friend was special, and that in his still tender age was forced to choose Konoha over everything else. That was the path all of them would eventually take, but deep down inside he selfishly wished that Kakashi would forever remain as the boy he knew and not the genius young Jounin he was slowly becoming.

 

The current threats against Konoha have forced his friend to grow up faster than normal children of his age, thus sacrificing his childhood in the name of duty.

 

It was a huge price to pay and Iruka was very afraid of the repercussion.

 

 “ Ruka ? ”

 

The Genin turned and saw a figure climbing into his room through the opened window.

 

“ Kashi ! ”, he exclaimed and ran towards his friend. Tears which he was trying to control broke free as he flung his arms around the older boy’s neck.

 

The young Jounin held him tenderly and whispered soothing words into his ears. When the worse of his tears were over, Kakahi gently tilted Iruka’s face and wiped the tears away “ Will you walk with me ? There is something I want to show you ”

 

Away from prying eyes, the two boys walked hand in hand towards the peak of the Hokage mountain. After some endless wondering, they finally found a spot they liked and sat on it, appreciating the breathtaking aerial view of the village underneath the clear night sky.

 

“ When will you leave ? ” Iruka asked suddenly, his dark head lowered, concealing his face under the shadows.

 

“ At dawn ”

 

“ When will you be coming back ?”

 

“ I’m not sure…6 months the least”

 

“ 6 months ?”

 

Kakashi nodded “ One year the most…I hope”

 

There was a moment of silence. “ I miss you already ” Iruka confessed, his voice hardly audible, so close was he to the point of breaking down for the second time.

 

But he could not… would not show how much their parting was hurting him.

 

Kakashi felt it though and wrapped his arms around the other’s slender shoulders, pulling him gently to his warmth. He could feel the beating of Iruka’s heart and felt a stab of pain in his own.

 

How he came to care so much for his friend remained a mystery. He never felt this way before, this overwhelming desire to protect; to care and to love unconditionally.

 

It was a feeling unclouded by intentions.

 

This is love…he thought, …In its purest form.

 

“ Ruka, can you see that ? ” Kakashi pointed upwards towards a group of stars far south “ The stars of Konoha” he whispered, his voice soft and tender “ It is a beacon to us. To help us find our way home during our travels. I never fail to look at it every night. It is my favorite group of stars ”

 

“ Really ? ” Iruka asked, blinking away the tears.

 

The young Jounin nodded “ Whenever you think of me, look up to them and I’ll be there looking

back at you ”

 

Pools of shimmering orbs gazed up at him “ In that way we’ll always be together ? ”

 

Kakashi laughed and pulled his best friend close to his heart “ Definitely ”

 

 

xxxEndofFlashbackxxx

 

 

Iruka quickly wiped the stray tears away. He knew he was a fool to hope for what was lost to him years ago. But how could he stop wishing when every night he was reminded of his friend by the particular clump of shining stars.

 

He remembered the embrace they shared in the rain by the memorial stone on the night of Sandaime’s funeral. It was something most unexpected, yet desperately craved for. However after that incident, Kakashi’s attitude towards him became, if possible, colder and distant to the point of openly avoiding him as if he was a plague.

 

And Iruka could not find it in his heart to blame the man. After all, he was just a lowly Chuunin and did not deserve such attention from a high ranking Jounin.

 

Kakashi must have regretted his brash actions.

 

Suddenly Iruka was jerked away from his depressing thoughts by a gentle lick on his fingers. He looked down and saw Kakashi’s nin-dog looking up at him. “ Dachi, you’re being affectionate tonight ”

 

Golden eyes regarded him solemnly. “ Why are you so sad sensei ? ”

 

Iruka forced a smile on his face. “ What makes you say that ? ”

 

“ I can sense it  ” the dog answered simply.

 

The Chuunin sighed in defeat. It was pointless to lie and decided to settle for the partial truth “ Well, I have a lot in mind lately, that’s all ”

 

The dog was silent as he studied the Chuunin intently. “ You think my master send me here to ridicule your ability as a shinobi ? ”

 

“Am I wrong in that assumption ? ” Iruka countered, suppressing the hurt in his voice.

 

The dog was silent.

 

“ Why are you here Dachi ? 

 

“ I’m sorry sensei. As much as I like you, you of all people should know that each mission is classified ”

 

Iruka could not help but feel even more depressed. The nin-dog’s answer indirectly confirmed his suspicions. He tried to control the tremor in his voice. “ Am I that incapable in his eyes  ? ”

 

The dog stepped closer and laid his head on Iruka’s lap as if trying to comfort him “ Sensei, try to see underneath it all. ”

 

“ I’m trying Dachi ” Iruka whispered, turning his face away once again towards his favorite group of stars and letting the lonely tears finally slipped down his face.

 

I’m trying very hard…

 

 

 

 

*          *           *           *          *          *

 

 

Just outside the Sand borders, Pakkun watched sadly as the lone Anbu perched silently on the scheduled branch, staring up at the familiar group of stars. He had took it upon himself to station his brother and sisters to watch the perimeters as to give their master his much needed privacy.

 

He knew that the man needed to be alone.

 

And he had been around long enough to also know that underneath that stoic porcelain mask, his master was shedding warm lonely tears for the beautiful Chuunin-sensei whom he gave up years ago.

 

“ Pakkun…” pleaded his sister as they both watched their master’s lonely figure

 

The pug shook his head slowly “ No Chichi…let him be ”

 

“ But he’s hurting…”

 

“ He needs to sort this one out himself ” Pakkun explained with sad eyes “ All we can do is to ensure his safety while he’s in such a state ”

 

The female dog bowed her head in defeat and slowly walked back towards her post.


-TBC-

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