A/N: This is the last chapter. Oh my gosh! I'm done! Thank you all so much for making this my longest (and most popular) story to date and I hope you all enjoyed the ride as much as I did!
I haven't written battle scenes in a while, so I'm a bit rusty. I almost wanted to cop out and not do it, but I felt that would be cheating you all some how. So, you better appreciate the effort!
All the Broken Pieces
Part III: Chapter 10
He wouldn't have said it was raining, exactly, but there was no chance Iruka was going to meet Kakashi on their last day of training with out an umbrella when everything was soaking wet. Walking outside was rather like attempting to walk close to- but not yet in- a waterfall. He opened his black umbrella immediately upon stepping outside and started heading towards the memorial stone.
As a rule, he'd left Kakashi alone after he'd learned the older man spent his mornings there. He respected the Jounin's wish to be alone with his ghosts. He knew that feeling only too well. But Kakashi had specifically asked him to be early that day, and the chuunin really couldn't very well tell the man no.
He set of down the street at a brisk jog, easily avoiding the deepest puddles and only allowing his sandals to become mildly soaked. It was mid-October by now, and while Konoha never got as cold as he remembered Mist being, the idea of having soaking wet and frozen toes was not on the appealing side.
Of course, neither was the idea of finishing training with Kakashi. True, he'd managed to master Chidori the day before, and true he was so much stronger now that he didn't really recognize himself sometimes. He had to resist showing off to his students just because now he knew he could. Time was up, anyway, even if there had been a reason to keep going.
What he was going to miss, though, was the convenient excuse to spend hours in the company of his—he'd finally decided the all purpose 'significant other' would work here—and then another several hours after that cuddling and talking. He hated to lose such an easy and inconspicuous way to meet up.
Guess they'd soon have to exercise their creativity if they wanted to keep this discrete—which both of them did. Kakashi wasn't the only one with powerful enemies that would do anything to take away what he loved the most. It was the same reason he'd hesitated to show Naruto the affection the boy so craved, until he was fairly certain he could handle the least of those enemies.
Iruka smiled as he used his chakra to walk across a particularly large puddle blocking his path, all the while scolding himself for such a useless waste of his resources. But it sure was fun.
The field was still and completely empty except for Kakashi, who was standing there dripping wet. He hadn't even brought an umbrella.
At a less solemn moment, Iruka would have teased the older man about his lack of preparation. The slump in Kakashi's shoulder, the way he didn't look up when Iruka walked into the clearing, almost made him want to anyway, just to try and make some of that tension disappear. Instead, he walked up silently and held his umbrella over both of them.
Kakashi didn't move or look up, nothing more than a slight shift in his stance gave any indication that he knew Iruka was there.
They stood in silence for a long time, Iruka allowing his eyes to wander over the familiar names of his parents and friends. Wouldn't they be impressed if they could see him now? Actually, Hayate would probably laugh at him.
Kakashi half turned to look at him, allowing him to see the uncovered Sharingan, and the tears it was leaking. It created the odd sensation of giving Kakashi a look of having two separate faces; something that Iruka knew was almost true. The eyes blinked, and Iruka got an eerie sense of déjà vu. Like last time he was here, in some other life time so long ago, when he'd seen that eye the first time. It had been chilly and rainy then too.
Just like before, too, the eye was pleading with him. There was pain there, deep and brutally unyielding.
He didn't run this time. Instead, Iruka stepped a fraction closer and slid his hand softly into Kakashi's. Maybe he could not remove that pain, but he could let his lover know that he no longer had to face it alone.
The rain had picked up a little, beating a steady rhythm against the top of the umbrella, when Kakashi decided to speak again. His voice was hoarse, as though he'd been crying, even though they both knew he hadn't. "I don't even know which people I come to visit anymore. I've lost count of how many of those names I should be able to put faces to, but can't any longer."
Iruka squeezed the hand in his. "But you still care about them enough to hurt, 'Kashi, and that's more than they would ever ask of you."
The silver-haired Jounin let out a shaky breath before reaching up and pulling his hitai-ate back down. He turned to smile at Iruka, giving his hand another squeeze before letting go. "I believe we have one last bout of training, Sensei?"
Iruka snorted at playful tone in the other man's voice as he said his title. Only Kakashi could pull off that tone with that innocent of an expression on his face. "That is sort of the deal isn't…"
He found himself interrupted by the soft jingle of a bell, and this time groaned as he looked at the little object bouncing in Kakashi's hand. "So, you've officially run out of ideas, have you?"
"I like symmetry," came the easy smile back. "Besides, no better way to truly test how far you've come."
"You know that."
"Better than anyone." Iruka frowned out at the drizzle that was now a downpour. "We're going to get wet, aren't we?"
"Oh, don't turn into a cat on me now. Pakkun wouldn't like that."
"Why is it I almost always get wet when I'm with you?"
"You answer that, Hatake, and I'll hit you in the mouth."
Kakashi snickered, feeling the tight coil of tension in his chest ease as he did so. Maybe he should invite Iruka to come with him more often, if it was going to have this effect on him every time. "If you want this bell, you'll have to do more than that."
Resigned now to his fate, Iruka lowered his umbrella and ran to put it under one of the trees before turning to face Kakashi, dropping into his attack stance, fighting the grin that came to his face when he saw the annoyed look the Jounin was giving the silver-hair that was drooping in his face. "Whenever you're ready, Kakashi-sensei."
"Now who's making that sound dirty," came the pouty response. "Go ahead, Iruka."
The Chuunin leaped up, soundlessly, into the branches above his head, but didn't remain there long as he leaped at top speed from branch to branch. Kakashi wasn't turning his head to follow him, but Iruka knew that he was at best only a tree or two behind his movement—if at all.
He dropped back two trees, relying on the back-tracking to throw the Jounin off slightly, before darting out of the tree at top speed and launching a barrage of kunai at where the Jounin stood, no longer afraid that Kakashi wouldn't dodge.
For a second, it appeared as though some of the kunai had hit home, but Iruka didn't have time to process this fully before the clone turned into a puddle of water and he had to get moving again.
If Kakashi had left that clone, then he was in serious trouble.
Iruka managed to duck the kick that was aimed at his head with a neat drop to the ground, lashing out with his feet as he fell to try and trip the Jounin up. Kakashi stepped back neatly, but Iruka was already moving again.
There was no hesitation this time as he lashed out at his opponent, blocking and throwing punches and kicks blow for blow. At some point, Kakashi must have pulled out a kunai, but Iruka didn't notice until an inch or two was neatly removed from the end of his pony-tail.
He dropped back; unsheathing his own weapon before reengaging his opponent with an echoing sound of steel-on-steel filled the morning air. The Chuunin pushed more chakra into his feet, using the extra boost to launch himself over the Jounin's head. He landed on his hands and kicked out, donkey-style. Kakashi stumbled forward slightly, his feet sliding into the muddy puddle just as Iruka had planned.
He rolled into a crouch, quickly forming the sequence of hand signals required to cause the water in the puddle to turn into a sticky goo.
Kakashi was faster, his gloved hands a blur as he raced through the signs for his Doton Shinjuu Zanshuu no Jutsu. Iruka cursed softly as the other man disappeared under the ground. He raced for the trees, but not quite fast enough as the Copy-nin grabbed his ankle and sent him tumbling to the ground.
Kakashi was on top of him, pinning the Chuunin neatly to the ground with a kunai at his throat, before he had time to think of retaliating.
They stared at each other, neither really concerned about the kunai's position since both knew Kakashi was far too skilled to actually hurt Iruka unless he wanted to.
"I don't want you to take the Jounin exam." Kakashi said after several moments of silence.
"You're good enough now, we both know that…but I don't want you to."
Iruka placed his hands on his hips, unconsciously adopting his best 'I-am-your-sensei-so-you-better-not-lie-to-ME' stance, as he tried to glare the older man down. "Explain. Now."
"You could do it, Iruka, but I can't. I couldn't…if anything happened to you…I couldn't…."
Iruka's face softened as he saw his lover choking on the words that were trying to come out of his mouth. He stepped forward and gently took the gloved hands in his own.
"You want me to be safe."
"You're so happy here, with your children, and the higher class missions would take you away from them. Away from me. Maybe…"
"Maybe forever." Iruka frowned. Kakashi was right, as usual. He had the skills now, as far as power went, but he certainly didn't have the experience. Jumping from Academy Sensei with almost no missions to a Jounin continual A-Rank missions—the eleven Iruka had already been on gave him nightmares as it was. He would probably get himself killed, power or not, and the last thing he wanted was to give Kakashi one more name to visit everyday.
The Jounin just nodded, seemingly unable to bring himself to say the words.
Iruka didn't respond for a long time, but then leaned forward and kissed the masked mouth gently. Kakashi responded instantly and almost half whimpered when he found the mask blocking him.
Iruka chuckled a little, reaching up to pull the other's mask down. "If you don't want me too, I won't."
He kissed Kakashi again, this time making full use of the lack of cloth. Kakashi grinned into the kiss, eagerly allowing the Chuunin full access to his mouth…until he heard the jingle of a bell by his ear. He pulled away, surprised, and his blue eye widened as the little silver sphere danced in front of his vision, held there by two brown fingers.
"But, if you don't want me to tell everyone that I got this from you," Iruka grinned cheekily, pulling the bell close to his chest before Kakashi decided to snatch it from him, "you'll make sure Tsunade and Asuma accept this idea, so we aren't dragged into anymore horrendous bets. And," here, Iruka removed a bright orange book from behind his back, "if you want this back, you'll remember to never under-estimate me."
If possible, Kakashi's visible eye widened further and he reached automatically into his pouch to find it empty. "That's cheating!"
"A ninja must know their adversary," the Chuunin grinned wickedly, "and know how to exploit his weaknesses terribly."
Kakashi growled in response, reaching out to pull his laughing and dripping wet student, best friend, and lover in for another kiss.