AN: Alrighty... this is just a one shot. A very, very long one shot. I apologise for its length.

Thanks to Shi-kun over at Aaarinfantasy's forums for beta-ing this.

Disclaimers: Naruto and all the characters therein are property of Misashi Kishimoto and Shounen Jump. I don't own it nor do I gain any profit from it. Only the satisfaction of my own perverse whims.

Warning: Lemon and angsty. It's an angsty lemon. pictures an angry citrus fruit in her head ... >.> Yeah... right. Enjoy.

Dead Man Walking

"Kakashi-sensei?" Iruka asked as he sat on the bed, his sharp brown eyes dimmed with uncertainty.

Looking down at my hands, calloused and scarred from years of unquestioning service to the country I swore I'd live and die in, I wondered what it'd be like to leave. Leave it all behind, the blood and the tears that I had shed for a place that was haunted by the painful ghosts of my past. Of the things that I had done that caused me so much pain. Places weren't haunted by the dead, people were, the words surfaced bleakly in my mind.

"Are you alright?" His questions persisted but still, I didn't take my eyes off of the palm of my hand. That was a place that was accustomed to the feel of blood. It was accustomed to dealing death to others. A knife in these hands was a certain death for anyone who gave me a reason.

"Answer me, Kakashi-sensei!" The man demanded. But still, I didn't dare answer because I knew what I had to say. I knew what was wrong and he wouldn't like the answer. He wouldn't like the pain that I was about to inflict on him.

It was easier to kill a stranger than it was to hurt a friend.

Hands, slender yet competent, cupped either side of my jaw and he turned my face forcefully to his. My eyes still held the palm of my hand. I imagined seeing blood soaked through my skin, mingling with my own. Running wild, like a poison through my body and racing to an inevitable destination; my heart. I could imagine it chasing away the light that was there, replacing it with its own warped sickness. I could almost hear Tsunade as she said, 'We must amputate before the sickness spreads.' And I found myself wondering what she would find. A debilitating disease that would rob me of my personality, of my future, of my happiness.

"Kakashi-sensei!" He forced me to look at him by shoving his face into my line of vision. I allowed myself to focus on his face, his tear filled eyes.

"You need to find someone else, Iruka." I found myself whispering.

"What?" His voice trembled, his eyes pleading with me to take back that softly spoken sentence. "What are you saying, Kakashi?"

I had tried to break it off before, but was only obstructed by my stupid selfishness. Instead of uttering the final words, I said the ones that he most desperately wanted to hear. The definition of those words had been warped by my own unwillingness to accept the sins that I had committed. The sins that I dwelled in as I swam through those warm, dark eyes. Reaching up, with strangely steady hands, I wiped away the tears that spilled over his cheeks. "You are too good to be in a relationship with someone like me, Iruka." Someone damaged, "I want you to forget about me."

"Stop being stupid!" He snapped, slapping away the hand that held the crystalline drop. My eyes caught the diamond-like twinkle of it as it arched through the air and splattered against the barren, white wall of his apartment. "Stop trying to get rid of me!"

What could I say to make him go away? What could I do to make the pain disappear from his eyes? I could close my eyes. "I don't want to see you anymore, Iruka. I don't care about you. You are annoying and I felt sorry for you. I could never love such a stupid man like you"

As if I had slapped him, he recoiled and stared in shock. My eyes traced the trail of that tear as it slid down the white wall. I ignored him as he struggled to remain calm. He had always been terrible at holding his own emotions. With dead, dull eyes I turned and stared at him, waiting for him to explode characteristically. "Get out." Iruka whispered softly, "Just get out."

I felt sick to my stomach with the idea of him hating me. Convincing myself it was for the best, I walked down the apartment's stairs and out into the street. The sun seemed obscene and mocking as it peeked out behind fluffy, white clouds. I glanced up at it, inwardly accusing it of being too bright and happy before stuffing my hands in my pocket and resuming my usual gait.

I shivered, feeling a gaze heavy on my back. Turning around to see who it was, I came face to face with Iruka, who was looking angry. Furious, even. In his hand, he held a kunai which he half-heartedly threw at me. I dodged it sloppily and was rewarded with a long, deep cut across my cheek. The material that usually confined my face seemed to gape, baring more skin than I would have normally minded but I refused to let that bother me. Instead, I gave Iruka a questioning stare. The crowds seemed to part, skittering out of the enraged teacher's way as if he were a rabid dog.

"I won't let you walk away from me!" The teacher breathed when he came up close enough that the gawking crowd that was gathering around us couldn't listen in. "I won't let you make me cry anymore!"

Deflecting the hand that went for my neck was simple. I grabbed his wrist as his hand was just about ready to clamp down on my throat and twisted it behind his back before ushering him into an alleyway. When we were far enough away from the main street, I let go. "If you are going to fight with me, try not to do it in public. I wouldn't want you to make a spectacle of yourself, Iruka-sensei."

"How dare you?" Iruka asked, his voice quivering with emotion. "How dare you say those things to me? What did I do to deserve this, Kakashi?"

I wasn't expecting Iruka to understand what I was going through. What I had put him through was for the best. Soon, I'd lose my mind. I could already feel my grasp on reality slipping, even now. Insane, violent thoughts never seemed to leave me alone. I wanted, no I needed to hurt someone, something--- anything, just to relieve the empty feeling inside. I could no longer care for Iruka the way he wanted me to as I could no longer care for myself. "Don't ask questions that you don't want the answers to, Iruka-sensei."

"I do want answers! I want to know why you are so warm one minute and so cold the next! I want to know if you really love me because sometimes, I get the feeling that you are just saying those words and you don't really mean them! You promised me you wouldn't hurt me like this!"

I had honestly forgotten that promise. "If you are so sure that I don't love you then why the hell does it matter? Move on Iruka-sensei." I asked.

"It doesn't matter!" He seemed to be so angry that he was finding it hard to put coherent sentences together. He lashed out at me, catching me unawares. For a teacher, he moved damn fast. I stepped backwards but he charged onwards, nimbly kicking at my feet as we moved further into the alleyway. Suddenly, I dove at him and ducked under his fist before coming up in front of his face. I wrapped my arms tightly around him to keep him from hitting me anymore.

Burrowing my face into the junction where his neck and his shoulder met, I said, "Stop!" His struggling intensified and again, I felt compelled to soothe him. "Stop, stop! Just stop it! Iruka!" As I called his name, he stilled.

"Why me, Kakashi? Why do you put me through this?" I heard him whisper, sounding broken.

My hands came up, gently smoothing the wisps of hair caught in the gentle breeze that swept through the alleyway. Absentmindedly, I kissed his temple before stepping away. "Because you would have me." I said, trying to smile but feeling myself fail miserably at it.

"But you won't give me a chance to assure you that everything will be alright!" He said, and I turned to see that he was blushing furiously and looking at everything but me.

"Would you have me now?"

"N-no!" He snapped, too quickly by half.

I didn't bother to follow that up with a comment. I was too tired to care. Iruka. Gods, what did I do? What was I thinking? I stuffed my hands in my pocket and turned my back on the flustered man. Hands grabbed me around my middle, pushing me against the wall. I turned just in time for my back to slam against the slimy bricks. His hands held me there. I could hear the steady thud of his heart. I could smell his breath as it fanned across my face. I could feel the heat that radiated from his shivering limbs. What did he see in my eyes as I looked into him that compelled him to kiss me? His mouth assaulted mine, shoving, forcing his way through my half hearted attempts to dislodge him.

We stood between two large dumpsters, covered from the crowded streets that ran parallel to each other. I found myself responding to him. Not because I wanted to, but because it was what he wanted. I rocked my head back, feeling my hair stick to the wet wall. His mouth blazed a hot trail across my skin as his hands fumbled clumsily for the button to my fly. It popped open and I gasped as his hand brushed against the hypersensitive skin just at the base of my cock. Our teeth gnashed, bruising lips and flesh alike in our desperate attempts to… to… what? This was my attempt to close my eyes on the wrongness that I had dealt Naruto but I wondered what Iruka must have been thinking to do this. I had to fill the emptiness inside of me. I thought that living in the love that the charming blond boy had for me would be enough but it only made the yawning chasm where my heart was, open wider. Could he see it? Could Iruka see that gaping, obscene flaw in me?

A ragged gasp, from my mouth I think, tore the soothing flow of my thoughts. I clutched his shoulder as he poised himself over me and pushed in with gritted teeth. I had never been violated as such, but maybe the word violated was too strong of a word for what I felt as he held my hips and clumsily worked on finding a rhythm. It felt uncomfortable to have him seated hilt deep inside. I didn't dare to move in fear that my innards would lurch out of my body. I gasped as his clumsy efforts paid off and he brushed against that spot that seemed to fill the empty voids with warmth. Arching my back, I clung to his shoulders as he drove himself into my body, the sound of our ragged panting, the soft staccato slap as our skin met, and the people marching to and fro, oblivious to our pleasure mingled in the air like an intoxicating scent.

A hand left my shoulder, wrapped around my shaft and skillfully worked in time with his body. Soon it became hard to bite back the urge to scream. My hips moved jerkily upwards and as I moved down, I found myself filled to the brink. Again and again, he hit the spot deep inside, sending cascading, shimmering waves of heat over my body. Our mouths mashed together, greedily swallowing each other's moans as we came, his cum spilling into my receptive body, as mine splattered over the front of his shirt. We stayed like that, not daring to move lest someone had heard us. Taking in deep, gulping breaths, we stared at each other and I wondered then, why I had done this. Why I had let Iruka use me.

"Gods." He said, sounding disgusted as he pulled himself away from me and righted his clothes. I slid down the wall and sat, folding my arms and legs up as I watched him push back the hair that fell over his face. "How… can someone who commands such… respect… have so little love for himself?" Iruka asked and then as he tugged his flak vest closed, he melted back into the crowd.

I don't know how long I sat there, staring up at the clouds beyond the buildings that encased the alleyway. In order to respect yourself, you have to love yourself, I thought. "I don't know how." I whispered, a belated answer to his question. I, who was deemed one of the most skilled ninja in the country, didn't know how to feel one of the simplest, basest of human emotions. I didn't know how to love. But why did I want to learn how to love when I had seen the dark marks it had left on the people around me? On poor, sweet and innocent Naruto. Beautifully naïve Sakura. Angry and passionate Sasuke. Yes, even Sasuke knew how to love.

Eventually, the stink of the alleyway drove me to stand and leave that place. Finding it somewhat suiting that I had just been defiled by someone I had considered a friend and a lover, in such a dirty, low place. I smiled darkly.

When I made my way out onto the street from the alley, the crowds were beginning to thin. The skies were darkening and the hungry, rumbling threat of an approaching storm echoed through the late afternoon air. When finally the threats rang true, the skies opened up and the heavens poured down, soaking everything and everyone unfortunate enough to get caught in it. Still, I wandered and let the rain baptize me and wash the sins off of my soiled skin.

I found myself staring down at the stone, at the names that were engraved in it. Reaching out, I brushed fingertips across its gleaming surface, feeling the carvings grate against my flesh. Somehow, I felt like I stolen their opportunity, squandered it and now, I imagined them staring down from heaven, filled with resentment. I was feeling resentful for them. So stupid. I touched my forehead protector; the metal plate felt cold and slick on my fingertips. My hands followed the line of my nose, hooking beneath the mask and yanking it down. Here's the face of the man that squandered your life, Obito, I silently screamed at the mass tombstone. Here's the man that you should hate. The undeserving. The ungrateful.

"You are going to catch a cold if you stand out in the rain like that, Kakashi-sensei." Iruka's voice stole the train of my thought. I turned and watched as he approached, safely tucked away beneath a wide umbrella.

"Concern? I'm flattered." Despite my words, my voice painted a different picture. I turned back to the stone, no longer able to concentrate on just why I was there to begin with. He held the umbrella over me, standing motionless beside me.

"I don't know why I waste my time on such an ungrateful bastard!" Iruka snapped, turning away from the monument and abandoning me to the rain. I tilted my head upwards, tasting the cool water as it splashed across my face and into my mouth. My eyesight became blurry, perhaps from the rain but I knew otherwise. The warm tears flowed, mingling with the rain and dropping from the corner of my chin into the already water slogged material of my flak vest. Pulling off the hitai-ate, craving more open flesh and more of the fresh rain, I ignored the way it chilled my skin but revelled in how it felt to shuck off the dirt, grime and blood that stained it. I smiled because in the rain I felt more human than ever before.

"Are you coming? Or are you just gonna stand there like an idiot and wait to grow roots?" Iruka asked, snapping me out of my thoughts.

I silently slipped into his apartment with him. I stood, dripping water over his hallway as he went in search for a clean towel.

"Thanks." I say softly, taking the towel and patting my dripping and damp hair.

"Go into the bathroom and take a hot shower. I left clothes in there for you. You are a bit skinnier and taller than me but they'll do until I get your stuff dried." He said before turning his back on me and disappearing around the corner.

I found myself standing in his bathroom, naked and staring at myself in the mirror. I looked old. I could already trace the faint cobwebs of age spreading across my face. My eyes were dull, no longer bright with youth. Had that spark ever been there? I wondered and figuring it never had been, I got into the shower.

When I got out of the shower, smelling of Iruka's shampoo and soap, I found my clothes gone and in their place, cotton pyjama pants and a white undershirt. Shrugging into them, I yanked my fingers through my hair to dislodge the snarls. I did all of this with one eye closed, the sharingan had been sapping my strength since I had taken off my hitai-ate. It would have to be put back on again, or I would most likely pass out from the massive amounts of chakra it consumed to use. Finally, I gave up on my hair with a sigh. Who did I have to impress, anyways? Certainly not Iruka, who had already seen the worst side of me in that disgusting alleyway.

A tap at the door got my attention; I turned in time to see Iruka open the door. He leaned against the doorjamb, nursing a large mug of something hot and steaming. He took a cautious sip before speaking to me. "Your hair is a mess."

"So?" I asked.

Turning away from me, he padded down the hallway. His bare footfalls were painfully loud in the ridiculously small apartment. I followed him, feeling like a lost puppy. Into his bedroom, he sat down on the bed. The mug in his hand had been replaced with a brush. He parted his knees and looked down at the bare floor before back at me. I didn't move, and so he felt compelled to order me with a curt, "sit."

Settling between his knees, I closed my eyes as he brushed my hair in soothing, rhythmic strokes. My eyes felt heavy, I dropped my head to his knee and I wasn't quite aware when he had stopped until he spoke again, "I'm done."

It was evident by just a peek into his apartment that his work was his life. And a productive life filled with love and serene chaos, it was. Textbooks, reports that were covered in a child's scrawling hand, and an assortment of scrolls littered the floor by his bed, proving that he most often than not, fell asleep marking assignments and making up lesson plans.

"What do you want to eat, Kakashi?" He asked me, I turned and stared at him. The look on my face must have given him the idea that I hadn't heard him, and so he repeated himself.

I shrugged. "You don't have to."

"I know I don't have to, Kakashi. I want to." Iruka muttered. He stood and put the brush on the stand, where he had abandoned his mug. He left me there, standing in his bedroom. I listened quietly to his footfalls as they dimmed in the tiny apartment.

By the time I joined him in his small kitchen, he was already making toast and scrambled eggs. He didn't speak, nor did he look at me while he went about the kitchen. I settled myself in a chair at his table and looked down at the schoolwork that scattered across its surface. Geography tests, most of them were marked with bright red ink. A plate of fluffy eggs and toast was plunked down in front of me and by the time I had taken up the fork that had been laid down on the table, he scooped up the papers and shoved them into a satchel that hung off the back of one of the other chairs. When the table was clear enough to accommodate it, a glass of milk was poured and put down. "I'll get you some sheets and pillows. You can sleep on my couch. Your clothes won't be dried for a while. They smelled bad so I threw them in the washer." He said curtly before disappearing down the hallway to the linen closet.

I ate. My body was on autopilot as it went through the machinations of assimilating the food in front of me. It was rich, wholesome food. Something my body hadn't seen in a while. Not since I had come back from my last mission with my students, not since Iruka had confessed his love. When the plate was washed and put away, I found Iruka in the dark living room. No lights were on. No tv. Just him, outlined by the oily light of the street lamps. It was still raining out; I could still hear it throwing itself against the buildings and onto the pavement below.

"I am going to bed. I have to be up in the morning." He said, brushing passed me, "I suggest that you do the same." I caught his arm before he was out of my reach. He paused and looked at me, contempt in his dark eyes. "Don't touch me." He hissed, yanking his arm out of my hand.

He stared at me, uncertain. I stared back, watching every nuance of his beautiful face shift. "I'll leave." I said suddenly, not wanting to hear him tell me to get out.

His hand came out as I passed, touching my arm. "Don't… " His voice was soft, barely audible over the persistent patter of ran against the windowsill. "Don't go. I'm sorry, Kakashi." He looked up from his hand on my arm to look into my eyes.

"What are you sorry for?" I asked, curious.

"For taking advantage of you. Of being mean to you when all you really need is a friend."

I shrugged off his explanation, feeling uncomfortable. "It doesn't matter, Iruka-sensei. For what it's worth, I'm sorry to have put you through this. It seems that the definition of friend for me, is victim. That's all you are. Victims to my circumstance. My inability to love is so glaringly obvious but it seems that no one can understand it."

"Because everyone else knows how to love and you do not?" Iruka spoke the words, and suddenly I realized how perceptive he really was. "I thought the same thing. I thought, how can anyone love me when I don't know how to reciprocate? How can anyone love something as incomplete as me?"


"No," he held up his other hand to silence me, "That little boy… Naruto… he taught me what it was like to love. It's scary to feel like that. There's a vulnerability about it that is so terrifying that the thought of being completely alone seems more palatable."

I turned towards him, that single movement was mirrored and I found myself cradling him against my chest. "You can't learn to love someone all by yourself." Iruka whispered, his breath hot against the material of my shirt. "It takes the work of many different people to show you the beauty of it."

I didn't want to accept his words, but as I listened I found myself understanding. I found myself hoping that I hadn't screwed things up so badly with my selfishness that there would be no chance for me. I shivered at that thought, my grip on Iruka tightening. "But I don't know what I want Iruka. I don't know if I want to be loved at all."

"I know, Kakashi. It's obvious that you don't know what you want anymore."

"I don't think I ever knew. It's all been provided for me. An obvious route has always been in front of me. My family name, Obito's death, all of it has been the dots that I have connected slowly in the path that has gotten me thus far. If I had a choice, if I could go back and do it all again… I think I would have done a lot of things differently."

"Like what?" he asked, pulling away from my arms.

"I think I would have left when my father asked it of me."

"Your father asked you to leave?"

I nodded, unable to trust my voice. For a while, I fought back the urge to cry. I clenched and unclenched my fists at my side as I gained control of my riotous emotions. Finally, in a voice that was rough and barely recognizable, I said, "When he came back from that mission all he could think of was leaving. That's all he would talk about. Taking me and going elsewhere. I was a childish kid, I only wanted to be with my friends and the shame of having a father that had failed so fantastically had paralysed me. Eventually, after refusing him enough times, he stopped talking. Stopped eating. All he did was sleep and then, for a time. He didn't sleep at all. All he did was lay in bed and stare at the wall." It was as if the floodgates had opened and everything rushed out, spilling into the dark night air. I remembered the sick look on my father's face. The dead gleam in his eyes that reminded me much of the same look in my own. His hair hung lank over a face that was once flushing with vitality. His skin sagged, the concavities of his face more pronounced by the deep shadows beneath his cheekbones. I couldn't remember the sound of his voice, but for the haggard, dry wheezing sobs that he was able to utter deep in the heart of the night when he thought I was asleep. All happy memories of my father had vanished and the only thing that remained were the horrific last few months of his life.

I don't remember what I was looking at, but I knew that I was speaking. The words tumbled like the rain outside, from my mouth, untethered. I recalled the day I discovered my father dead. I came home from school, thinking about the big project that was due the next day and how the girl I fancied had blessed me with a few words and a soft smile. The windows were shut, the house was quiet; nothing unusual. I didn't bother to go and check up on my father because I figured that I'd know what I would find; him lying on his side, staring at the wall blankly as his mouth moved over the wordless regrets that plagued him. I fixed myself something to eat and did my homework. Took a shower, finished off the rest of my homework and did the chores. I walked by his room then, carrying clean linens to put on his bed. The door was ajar and immediately, I sensed that something was wrong. The sheets dropped from my hand and I stepped over them blindly as I pushed the door open. The stench of blood, of unwashed body, of vomit, piss and feces assailed me. The smell of it, even as I spoke blindly to a sympathetic Iruka, assailed my senses and coated my tongue. His guts spilled over the tatami floors glimmered in the hall light. The blunt knife he had used lay a foot away from his outstretched hand, coated in blood. I didn't say much. I didn't do much. Only closed the door and phoned someone, I forget who and then in what seemed a few minutes later, he was scooped up off the tatami by a number of medic-nins and poured into a body bag.

"Gods…" Iruka said, his voice thick with emotion. His eyes were wide as he stared at me, obviously he was rattled by what I had said. Suddenly, I wanted to slap that look from his face and to keep from doing so, I walked passed him to the window and stared blankly out at the street. "Gods…" He repeated.

"My father had committed hara-kiri to run from the shame he had inflicted. He was a man respected, a man who loved strongly. A man who couldn't possibly have betrayed his friends. I am the result of that."

"I can't imagine what you went through seeing that, Kakashi. But he was dead long before that night." He said, wrapping his arms tightly around my waist. I could feel his cheek pressing against my shoulder blade.

"He didn't leave me a note! He didn't leave me any parting wisdom. He didn't show me how to love, I was too young."

Stepping around me, he grabbed the sides of my face much like Naruto had done earlier that morning. "He did!" Iruka exclaimed, "He showed you that he loved his friends enough to face the ending that he did. He knew the importance of that mission and yet, despite it all he chose to rescue his friends than the success of the mission. He showed you his commitment and his love to you by staying, when all he really wanted was to leave. He faced his fears and although, he wasn't strong enough to conquer his shame, he did it for you. That's love, Kakashi."

"If that's what it is then I don't want it. I don't want to die like that."

"You already are dying like that, Kakashi." Iruka said darkly. "You are already dead on your feet."

"Am I supposed to feel better hearing you saying that?" I snapped, losing my patience. I wasn't looking for comfort or sympathy that was for certain. What I was looking for was for someone to explain to me what the hell I needed to do in order to redeem myself. I needed reassurance. "Goddammit, Iruka! If you are so fucking wise then teach me how to love!" Whirling around to face him, I screamed at the top of my lungs. My hands had snaked out and shook him frantically. "Teach me! Save me! Do something but don't let me die!" My words echoed in my brain, I could hear the fear and the desperation. I dropped to my knees, hugging him like a drowning man given a buoy. I clung to him in hopes of saving myself from drowning in the hopelessness I had wrought.

A hand brushed through my hair. He leaned down and pressed his lips to the crown of my head, inhaling deeply. "You are my mission." I buried my head into his stomach, feeling the ache in my chest intensify. I didn't hear the rest of what he said but whatever it was, I felt something snap inside. Something broke and the cold, aching well of tears inside of me finally overflowed. I collapsed then, at his feet and I curled myself into a ball trying to fight back the urge to beg him for help. I had already shattered enough of myself in his presence; I couldn't afford to lose anymore.

The sound of hoarse, ragged sobs haunted me. My father's face, begging and pleading me to go away with him and start anew. My own coldhearted and unforgiving attitude towards him. The reality of what a sacrifice for love meant. The enormity of my redemption and how little there was to salvage. As unforgiving as the driving rain. As uncaring as the thunderclouds above. As pure as a child's love. The things lost. The things found. The things that were yet to be discovered. The pain that wrapped around my soul and strangled the happiness.

Dark, smoldering eyes. A laughter that was like a spark in the darkness that gaped in my soul. Strong arms to yank me off the ground when I stumbled. The things that I had embraced. The warmth. A beacon of light. The darkest days didn't seem so dark anymore.

No longer.

No longer alone.

"Kakashi." A voice split the darkness asunder and I opened my eyes, redeemed. I looked into the face of my salvation and I smiled genuinely, for the first time. "Are you alright?"

The only trace of the storm that had howled through the village was the wet pavement and the soaked foliage. I could hear people outside, laughing and talking. I wondered what they were talking about. I smiled. "I'm fine, Iruka." I whispered, grabbing at the covers he had thrown off of me. I wrapped my arms around his waist and dragged him beneath the covers, smothering him with kisses.

This was what it felt like to be grateful.

"You have got to let me get up, I'm going to be late." He said, pushing the blanket off of him. He disappeared into a room off of his own and when he resurfaced, fully dressed, he dumped my clothes onto the bed. "Just because it's perfectly acceptable for you to be late, doesn't mean I will!" Iruka cried as he gathered up books and papers frantically.

I grinned as I shrugged into my clothes, listening to his agitated noises. He breezed by and I found myself lurching forward, wrapping my arms around him. Brushing my lips against the crook of his neck. I whispered in his ear, "Thank you."

He stilled his fidgeting and leaned against me, sharing in the warmth of our embrace before the wild, swift currents of life caught us up again. A hand freed itself from the stack of schoolwork he hugged to his chest and touched my cheek, lingering there for a moment. "You are not alone anymore, Kakashi." He said softly.

Catching his chin, I turned his face and leaned over, kissing him. The taste of him was intoxicating. I drank desperately, knowing the moment would soon be gone but as soon as it was gone, I knew that I would have a chance for another.

He caught my hand, tearing away. "I'm going to be late!" He groaned and then, the moment was snapped clean in two. I followed him out of the apartment and down the stairs. I listened to his fussing as he checked over the things that he had grabbed. As we parted, he caught my wrist. "Come by tonight. I'll cook dinner."

My smile grew at that invitation. "Alright."

He leaned closer to me, my breath caught in my throat. I stood motionlessly as he pushed the mask up around my mouth and onto my nose. "Bye!" He yelled as he whirled and dashed down the street.

I walked to the usual meeting spot, seeing Sakura and Naruto there waiting. Sasuke was leaning sulkily against a tree, but I could see him glaring angrily at me. "Your late!" Sakura and Naruto both yelled, pointing accusing fingers at me.

"Sorry... There was this pretty fish in the river and I stopped to chat with him awhile."

"Kakashi-sensei's finally lost it!" Naruto exclaimed.

"Can't lose what you never had, Naruto-kuuuun!" I said happily.