Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of its characters.
Slight spoiler warning up to chapter 244 of the manga.
Title and inspiration are from Snow Patrol's "Run". One day I shall write something completely unrelated to sap, music lyrics or sappy music lyrics. Sadly, today is not that day.
Most importantly, thanks again to Don Amoeba for the beta. Any remaining mistakes are my own.
A minute before the alarm rings, Iruka's hand reaches forward and shuts it off. The bedroom is quiet and still, with Iruka lying curled on his side of the bed and Kakashi leaning against the windowsill, watching. Weak morning light filters in through the glass at his back but Kakashi doesn't feel it, too intent on watching Iruka perform his early morning ritual to care.
Iruka yawns hugely and literally rolls out of bed to his feet. Kakashi smiles at the picture he makes: rumpled pajama bottoms low on his hips and hair in tangled disarray, and says, "Good morning."
Iruka ignores him in favor of stumbling towards the kitchen to make his liquid breakfast. While the coffee brews, Iruka wanders inside the tiny bathroom. He leaves the door open but Kakashi doesn't spy—Iruka will throw a fit if he does—and instead lounges against the hallway wall, having a one-sided conversation while Iruka brushes his teeth.
"Coffee's done," he announces needlessly when Iruka finishes; the timing of Iruka's morning preparation is exact and precise as a science. Very little changes day to day as Iruka is fond of routine, although Kakashi has tried to rid Iruka of his more telling habits. He considers it an overwhelming success that he has managed to train Iruka out of blushing at every tiny innuendo. That Iruka has taken to throwing anything within reach at him instead is an acceptable if unfortunate side effect. Not that Iruka ever manages to hit him but everyone should have a goal.
Kakashi's is to eventually work up the nerve to tell Iruka he loves him. He has been trying for the past days but it's harder than he expects. Especially since Iruka is swamped with paperwork from his job and mission reports from the office and doesn't have the time to listen to Kakashi. It's not deliberate, he knows, but it is hurtful all the same because it brings to mind the other time when Iruka didn't listen to him, which is what got them in this mess.
He told Iruka in the beginning not to get attached and that he isn't the kind of man Iruka should be getting involved with, but Iruka didn't listen. The other man stuck around even after Kakashi flat out told him he didn't want a relationship. Iruka asked him what was wrong with being friends and Kakashi stupidly said, "Nothing."
That was the beginning of the end, and Kakashi is convinced to this day that at his answer, Iruka already declared victory. Stubborn sneaky chuunin. It's one of the many reasons Kakashi loves him and it makes him wish he had the courage tell Iruka that sooner. A tiny part of his mind whispers that Iruka hasn't ever said it either, but it's smothered in the knowledge that it is his turn to take the first step, not Iruka's.
Because it's Iruka's apartment they are living in, Iruka who asked him to move in, Iruka who kissed him slow and deep under a starless sky and told Kakashi he will wait. He has made Iruka wait long enough, but Kakashi takes comfort in knowing that he will be doing the waiting from now on. It's precious little comfort but this boon is still more than he deserves—and not nearly enough for Iruka.
"I need to tell you something."
He has a speech prepared but words abandon him when he sees Iruka half-dozing in his seat with the strengthening sunlight pouring through the tiny kitchen window turning his hair a warm caramel and touching down the golden length of his bare back. Kakashi feels his breath catch, which shouldn't be possible but happens anyway, and reaches out to brush his fingers along Iruka's cheek.
The skin is smooth and warm beneath his fingertips, further driving the speech from his thoughts, but Kakashi doesn't care because everything he wants to remember is here in this man before him. For a second, he lets it all fall away and whispers, "Iruka."
Iruka's eyes snap open, and Kakashi sees bewildered confusion and a little fear in them before they flicker to the clock on the wall and Iruka jumps to his feet with a small cry.
"Crap," he mutters, scrambling for his uniform and his papers at the same time. "Crap, crap, crap."
Kakashi hides a grin and moves out of the way as Iruka barrels through the apartment after his belongings. Another lost opportunity but Iruka in a panic is almost worth it. Almost.
"I'm going now," Iruka says, yanking the door open and juggling with his bag, files and coffee. It's a testament to either his training or caffeine addiction that he doesn't spill a single drop of coffee as he runs down the stairs and sprints towards the Academy.
Left alone, Kakashi sticks his hands inside his pockets and sighs, replaying the speech in his head. Maybe he'll try again this evening.
The day passes uneventfully.
He goes to see Sakura, who is the only one of his students left in Konoha, but she's buried in her training and he doesn't want to interrupt her. It's good to see her determined and focused, and he is proud of her although he doesn't say so.
He visits some of the other jounin but they're busy as well, either on missions or training their students so eventually Kakashi drifts back to Iruka. Classes are out for the day and Iruka is in the mission office working. The room is crowded and noisy, making it no surprise that Iruka doesn't notice him when he enters.
Taking a seat on the couch, he waits for the others to leave and Iruka to notice, which he never does. Finally, when the crowds are gone and Iruka is the last chuunin behind the desk, Kakashi stands and goes to him.
"What I was trying to say earlier," he begins but already it sounds wrong so he stops. Iruka doesn't look up from his papers; Kakashi isn't sure whether it's better or worse that Iruka is not listening to him. Still, he has to do this—it's nearly a self-appointed mission by this time—and he clears his throat, saying firmly, "Iruka, listen."
The light scratch of pen on paper stops as Iruka stills and half-turns in his seat. "Ka—"
The door opens before he can finish and Iruka looks away, distracted again. Kakashi closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. He will not eviscerate Genma for the man's extremely poor timing. Genma is a friend (sort of) and a colleague. But then Kakashi spots the drawn expression on Genma's face, the faint blood stains on his uniform and how he looks anywhere but at Iruka, and realizes that Genma knows.
Kakashi steps forward, but Iruka speaks first. "Genma, you're back early. The mission must have gone well."
Nothing in Genma's expression or stance gives him away. "Not really. There's a change in plans. I need to report for a new mission." He hands his old mission scroll to Iruka and heads for the door without taking a new one.
Iruka isn't an idiot; Kakashi knows the chuunin is well aware of which missions only the Hokage is allowed to assign, though Kakashi himself doesn't know until now that Genma rejoined the ANBU. They were teammates for a short time when Kakashi was fifteen, before Kakashi requested and received permission to switch to solo missions. Genma, being his senior and weirdly protective, refused to allow his transfer. Kakashi got his way in the end, but thinking of it now, he appreciates Genma's objection even if it rankled at the time.
"Be careful," Iruka says as Genma is leaving.
Genma pauses and ducks back into the room with a smile. It's one Kakashi hasn't seen for a long time, not since they shared missions, and it's startling how the feral grin transforms his impassive features into something cold and vengeful. In that smile, Kakashi knows why Genma returned to the ANBU; Genma's major failing as a shinobi is his enormous protective streak regarding his family and his friends. Kakashi wonders what he did to be included in Genma's list.
"Don't worry about me," Genma says. "Those bastards are as good as dead."
Iruka smiles weakly. "That's, ah, good."
The grin fades as Genma takes a few steps back to the desk. "Iruka," he says, voice edging close to concerned. Kakashi wills him to stop speaking—not yet, he hasn't told him yet, just give him another day, an hour even so long as Iruka hears it first—and miraculously, Genma continues with, "take care of yourself."
"Of course." Iruka is probably thinking Genma has snapped from stress, and he sounds more worried than before but Genma is already gone.
Kakashi relaxes and nearly pleads, "Let's go home."
Iruka doesn't reply or look at him but he nods once and gathers his things. They leave together.
He has to wait until after Iruka showers and eats before attempting again. But, it's even more hopeless than the first time because Iruka is completely ignoring him for yet more work.
"Your work ethic sucks," Kakashi tells him; Iruka continues not to listen.
Kakashi isn't used to being unheard because he doesn't contribute to conversation like most people so when he does speak, people shut up and listen. Iruka is quiet but he's definitely not listening and Kakashi is sick of it. He's frustrated and unnerved because there's nothing he can do and it has been a long time since he felt helpless.
"Iruka," he snaps and the other man turns a page of his grade book in response. Kakashi wants to scream.
I love you, he thinks. I love you. I love you, and if you pay attention for one second and listen to me I can tell you. And then you can shout at me for being an idiot and not telling you sooner because I really messed things up this time, but I'm trying to fix it now. I just need you to listen, please, Iruka, just listen to me.
Iruka sneezes and keeps working. Kakashi waits a moment in futile hope before he gives up and goes outside to destroy something. He doesn't know what he is doing wrong, and for the first time, it occurs to him that he might fail.
Hours later when he returns, the apartment is already dark. Iruka has gone to bed without him. Kakashi crawls in beside him and Iruka rolls over, dragging the blankets with him and leaving Kakashi's side of the bed cool and bare. Kakashi watches him sleep and promises, next time, definitely. He'll tell him next time, because Kakashi has failed at many important things in his life but he is not going to fail Iruka in this—not any more than he already has.
Next time arrives sooner than he anticipates.
Iruka has had a long day, but he's still smiling at the end of it so Kakashi isn't too worried. After dinner, Kakashi pokes around their apartment looking for something to do while Iruka works. It's quiet around them and peaceful, but Kakashi is tense and pacing, antsy from suppressed nerves. His skin prickles and he jams his hands inside his pockets to keep from rubbing his arms.
It's too quiet in the apartment, uncomfortably like the calm before storms. Time's up, he thinks and, last chance, Hatake, now or never.
"Iruka," he says, turning around, but Iruka is asleep facedown on his work. Kakashi makes a face and goes to prod him awake. "Hey. Just go to bed if you're that tired."
"Can't. Got work," Iruka mumbles and Kakashi freezes even as his heart starts to race. This is it; this is the moment because Iruka is half-coherent but still aware and most importantly, listening.
"Hm?" Iruka's nose wrinkles and his eyes blink blearily, searching for Kakashi.
"No, shh, close your eyes. I need to tell you something." His palms are sweating and his throat is dry and fuck, it didn't seem this hard in his imagination.
"'kay." Iruka closes his eyes obediently and his face slackens in sleep.
It's nearly too late. He yells at himself to just say it, just do it, don't think, just be a man and tell him before this chance disappears. Before he has to go and Iruka never hears him say—
"I love you."
—and that's it, as simple as that. Three little words that fall from his lips and Kakashi has never been more relieved or felt so stupid. Why was he so nervous? It feels so natural and so incredibly easy to admit it, and Kakashi laughs a little in amazement. "I love you," he says again, simply because he can and it feels good.
Iruka smiles in his sleep. "Love you," he murmurs and then Kakashi loses him to true sleep.
He runs his hand through Iruka's hair and kisses him gently on the lips. Nothing happens, but he's not surprised and sits down to wait. This next part he's not sure of and he contemplates going to see Obito to ask when someone knocks on the front door.
Kakashi frowns; he certainly didn't think someone would come to get him and definitely not to have knocked first, but Iruka jerks awake and Kakashi realizes it's an actual knock—and what it means for Iruka.
"Don't answer it," he says but Iruka doesn't listen and goes to the door.
Kakashi wants to stay where he is because he doesn't want to see the look on Iruka's face when they tell him. But behind his closed eyes he can still imagine the shock and horror, and it is the act of a coward not to face someone you've wronged. He steps beside Iruka as the messenger is leaving and Iruka is saying, "Thank you for telling me," as his hand curls into a fist around the bloodied forehead protector.
Iruka silently closes the door, squeezes his eyes shut, and his breathing is ragged as he hurls the dented metal and stained cloth away and slumps to the ground. His head tilts back to rest against the closed door and the pain on his face hurts Kakashi more than any weapon or hit ever has.
He crouches next to Iruka and says, "I'm sorry," but Iruka isn't listening and can't hear him. He apologizes anyway, over and over, as Iruka sits defeated on the floor, knees drawn up to his chest, hands clenched and lip bleeding from where his teeth have bitten through. Kakashi hears the anguished cries despite Iruka's efforts and feels tears rising. "I'm sorry," he says again and Iruka's head drops forward as his shoulders begin to shake.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Don't cry," Kakashi whispers but Iruka doesn't listen.
Comments, criticisms, boasts about how quickly you figured out the ending are always welcome. This was my first time writing in present tense so please let me know how I did. And thanks for reading.