Author's note: First attempt at writing Naruto fanfiction, and a multi-chaptered one at that. (nervous smile) Hope it'll turn out alright. Do tell me what you think, especially if any of the characters are OOC.

Well, read, and hopefully enjoy!

Disclaimer: Naruto and all characters mentioned are created by Masashi Kishimoto.

On Tuesday Nights

Kakashi glared at his bed.

The bed, as furniture was wont to do, just sat there and cheerfully ignored him.

He narrowed his eyes and glared harder, quite certain that the waves of murderous intent were rolling quite nicely off him in lethal dosages.

But the bed didn't even flinch. It was exactly as he had left it on the day he had gone away on his mission-solidly planted in the center of his room, neatly made with the pillow placed in the exact center against the headboard, blankets spread over smoothed sheets with only one crease in the center where he had set his pack down to fix the angle of his hitai-ate just before leaving.

And that crease was starting to seriously annoy him. Curving up like that, like a warm inviting smile, beckoning him to come closer, whispering promises of the much-needed relief and sweet release of slumber…

Kakashi jerked himself out of the trance with a quick shake of his head, letting out a soft snort of disdain that he was actually having a battle-of-wills with his bed.

He sighed, rubbing at his uncovered eye tiredly. The mission hadn't been especially difficult or very long for an A-rank one, but he had run into complications on the way back. A couple of unfriendly characters, that was all, nothing he couldn't handle. But they had forced him into using his Sharingan a bit too much for his liking and with little chance to rest properly in days, he had to admit he wasn't feeling too good.

The jounin eyed the bed longingly. He was exhausted, his limbs felt oddly leaden and weak. His chakra was running terribly low, he could feel it within him, flickering like a guttering candle flame in a strong wind. Truth be told, he was starting to think he should have gone to the hospital after reporting to the Hokage after all.

But it's Tuesday night, damnit! He straightened abruptly, turning his back on the bed resolutely and fumed.

Tuesday nights were 'Sake and Dinner nights with Iruka-sensei' for goodness sake! Marked out in his mental calendar in red and triple underlined.

He wouldn't miss it.

Especially now, when there were so few of these Tuesday nights left.

Chasing that depressing thought out of his mind with a deep breath, he strode purposefully to the bathroom, slipping off his hitai-ate. Pulling off his mask as well, he peered blearily into the mirror over the sink. His reflection peered back wearily at him with mismatched eyes, a thin young man with dark shadows under his eyes, face pale under a layer of grime.

He grimaced, closing his eyes briefly. His eyes ached, a dull pain that throbbed in time with the headache that was building at the back of his head. He rubbed the back of his neck absently and coughed. Sand Country was known for its harsh terrain and extreme climates and the weather hadn't been exactly cooperative with the sandstorm that had sprung up while he was there. Kakashi coughed again, biting off a curse in dismay. It'll be such a nuisance to be coming down with something when he was trying to recover his chakra.

The hospital was starting to look real appealing.

Not now! He told himself angrily. It was only a little cold. Besides, he really wanted to meet Iruka for dinner.

The chunin, unlike him, was a decent person. Nice and normal, as normal as a shinobi living in a hidden village could be. But Kakashi knew the Academy teacher was different in an intrinsic way from him and his comrades.

Comrades, for he didn't think he could see the other jounins as friends.

Sure, he respected of them, worked well with them, risked his life to protect them if the need arises but he had never felt compelled to seek out their company. When jounins got together, they talked about their missions, new weapons or jutsus they've acquired, made casual conversations of rumors of dangers to Konoha…things that came a little too close to the actual bloody fieldwork they all had to face on a regular basis.

It wasn't the bloodshed or the killings which was central to his profession that bothered him. He wasn't squeamish like that or had psychological after-effects of this sort. On a mission, he always knew what he was doing. He made all his choices with a clear calculated mind, killed with purpose and intent. There really wasn't much of a choice between a few nameless people- be they ninja, women or children-and the safety of the entire village. They must protect their own because no one else would. It wasn't even the knowledge that every time he leaves the village may be the last time he'll ever see it again either. His own mortality did not particularly worry him. No self-respecting ninja ever wanted to die old in bed anyway.

What disturbed him the most was that the others reminded him too much of his place in this societal structure of theirs, that him-along with the other jounins-were nothing but weapons honed by careful instructions and past experiences to be quick, competent and deadly. It frightened him sometimes to be so focused and intent on the mission, he had forgotten why it was so important in the first place. In those sudden moments, he felt his insides freeze up in ice and something chokes his throat so bad he had to pause to regain his breath.

This lack of purpose, lack of identity, this great nothingness where his sense of being was supposed to be was downright terrifying.

Listening to the other jounins, remembering the emptiness…it made him feel so alone, sometimes.

But Iruka was different. He was a shinobi too but his world was filled with lectures, childish pranks, ink and parchments. Mundane everyday things, sweet in their simplicity, reassuring in their constancy, a sense of stability that was at odds with the high tension danger-at-every-turn kind of life he led. He was glad to learn about these things, knowing that life went on in the village while he was away.

Besides, talking with Iruka was comfortable. And comfortable was good when sometimes he was so cold inside he could barely feel. He would listen to the cadence of his companion's voice over hot soup or sake as the chunin related in delight some child's progress or shook his fist at another student's transgressions, and the ice inside him would melt a bit.

The chunin really cared for his students and guided them with a firm but caring hand. Not like him, Kakashi thought with an inward chuckle, who was tough and unrelenting on his charges and took a frightful amount of perverse pleasure at witnessing their suffering. Listening to Iruka talk, he sometimes felt like he was a cynical bastard who has grown old before his time. But regardless, it made him happy to hear the teacher speak for it filled him with this wonderful warmth of companionship and reminded him of the precious things that they were all, in one way or another, working hard to protect.

It was nice, really, as if he had a friend.

Almost as if he was still human enough to deserve such things as friends.

That was why, right now, after days of being away on a solo mission, where his world had been narrowed down to only survival and mission, he didn't think he would like to stay alone in the bleak hospital just yet.

With a sigh, he stepped into the stall and turned on the faucet for a quick shower. The wound on his side where a stray kunai had embedded itself stung under the water, reminding him of its presence quite suddenly and made him frown. Once the shower was completed, he dried off and sat down, carefully peeling back the field dressing he had slapped hastily over the injury. The gash was deep and had bled rather insistently. But he was sure it hadn't hit anything vital and had managed to stop the bleeding, so he had forgotten about it.

Now the skin surrounding the wound was starting to swell and turn red, sure signs of inflammation. Kakashi pursed his lips, probing the wound cautiously with gentle fingers. He really should go to the hospital.

Ah well…maybe after dinner…

With that decided, he covered the wound with fresh gauze and dressed himself, pulling his hitai-ate and mask back in place. Glancing at the clock sitting beside the photograph he had taken with his young charges of Team 7 on his bedside table, he realized he should get going if he didn't want to be too late.

He had barely taken a step towards the door when a wave of dizziness struck him unexpectedly. Kakashi swayed, reaching out blindly to grasp something to steady himself but only succeeded in crashing into the table and knocking the lamp to the ground. The room blurred and spun crazily around him.

All of a sudden, the floor was looking a lot closer than it did a second ago.

Must this really have to happen on a Tuesday night?

And with that last plaintive thought, his world faded into darkness.