Author's Notes

- It popped into my head and wouldn't go away. I couldn't get my homework done, so I had to write it out. I hope no one suffers.

Tolerant Intolerance

Summary: Kakashi has a sudden change in his perceptions about his and Iruka's involvment with each other.

Warnings: Language, Sexual situation ( malexmale), possibly disturbing medical imagery, coarse language, enough SAP to put your dentist's kids through Harvard ( seriously, I almost gagged on the sugary sweetness, but... some people are into it)

Disclaimer: Naruto and its characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto. Chasing Cars is property of Snow Patrol.

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" Oh gods... Iruka!!!"

" Ka- kashi- uhhhn !!!"

Silvered hair fell forward to trail across sweaty coffee strands, storm and ruby blinked lazily into lust hazed chocolate, pale fingers slowly released their death grip on golden skin. The two Konoha shinobi gently melted together for a brief moment as the hammering of their heartbeats eased.

Kakashi pressed his face into the comfortable hollow created by Iruka's neck and shoulder. Ragged breaths stirred the tresses haloed across the pillow, the younger nin reciprocating with the silver. " Oh, shit. 'Ruka, that was..."

" Yeah. " Iruka agreed with the unspoken comment, his voice satiated and heavy. He slipped his fingers from his partner's lax grasp and lightly ran them along Kakashi's sweat slick back. " It was." A low groan rumbled deep in his broad chest, vibrating through the man atop him. It morphed into humming, the melody familiar and sweet; Iruka's current favorite. It faded slowly into a cat-in-the-cream grin. " Maybe I should go on missions more often, if this is what happens when I get back."

" Hell no !" Kakashi lifted his head and spoke the stern words with an even sterner expression as he faced his bedmate; the contentment and calm of the afterglow shattered by the strong emotion. " You shouldn't have been on any missions at all and Tsunade-baaba was outta her fuckin' mind to send a chuunin to -"

" Hey, hey , hey," The smaller man wiggled in the other's embrace, trying to shake Kakashi's rant. " , first off, don't speak so disrespectfully about our Hokage. " Iruka raised a brow and put on his own disapproving face. " And secondly, do you think so little of my skills as a ninja?"

Kakashi riled again. " That's not what I'm talking about and you know-"

" No, that's exactly what you're implying; that I'm not a capable shinobi. " Iruka grunted and pushed the jounin off, hissing as the man's half hard cock was unceremoniously pulled from his body. Discarded clothing was jerked from the floor and used to clean the cooling mess on Iruka's stomach and softening member. He continued his defense as he wiped away the white streaks. " I realize that I'm not an elite jounin like you, Kakashi , but I am a soldier of Konoha and I am perfectly capable of undertaking missions when my Hokage deems it in the benefit of our village."

" Did you practice that in the mirror?" Kakashi snorted. He had rolled to the side when the other man oh so mercilessly ejected him from their intimate position and had listened in irritated silence until the last part of Iruka's speech tickled a tiny part of his slightly dazed mind. Laughing out loud, the silver haired nin grabbed the soiled shirt, threw it back over the edge of the bed and wrapped both arms around the protesting chuunin. " 'Ruka, are you making public service announcements in you're spare time? 'Cuz that was very inspiring. "

" I'm being serious, Kakashi." The dolphin growled, refusing to be distracted by his partner's amusement. Iruka squirmed and fought the restraining arms. " You act as though I'm a civilian with no training, or worse, just a lowly substandard layman who isn't fit to do more than spend his days in the mission office or tend scraped knees at the academy ! " Iruka was getting louder and his raving seemed to have steered off of the silver haired man onto a tangent. " 'Cause you know what they say, ' those that can't, teach'! "

The elder ninja felt a twinge of hurt at the accusation in Iruka's voice, even though he recognized the words as those whispered spitefully by other ninja who were simply jealous of the dolphin's abilities. Kakashi realized something else, as well. He's babbling about these past insecurities because they're still insecurities for him, especially since his mission didn't go smoothly. Mismatched eyes glanced over the toned golden skin, newly marred by several bandages, the largest covering the brunette's entire upper arm.

The jounin gave a mental shake to clear the residual panic. He had returned from his own mission later that afternoon, a B rank that thankfully went off without a hitch, when he ran into Genma just outside the missions room. The senbon sucking shinobi had quickly informed Kakashi of Iruka's appearance at the village gate earlier that morning, tired and dirty and BLEEDING AND POISONED... Calm down, 'Kashi. He's OK now. He's right here in your arms with his ass still sore from your cock and fighting mad like usual. His reaction had been unduly strong, something he chalked up to the fact that he simply hadn't been expecting the chuunin to have been sent on any missions. Iruka had always been waiting for him at the missions office when he returned, or at least didn't kunai him when the jounin snuck into the brunette's bedroom at ungodly hours in horrific states of hygiene and injury. Kakashi hadn't been prepared for the deviation in routine, that was why he was angry at the Hokage for sending Iruka out into the field, even if Iruka was the most suited. It messed with his schedule. Yeah, that was it.

" Well, I'm sure you've got your wish, because I'm certain the Hokage won't be entrusting me with any more missions. The ranks may not be as substantial as they once were, but there are plenty of ninja who wouldn't have been discovered, banged up and nearly lost the scrolls they were sent to retrieve on a C rank mission." Iruka's rueful spiel had not halted, despite Kakashi's re-initiation of contact.

Kakashi took several deep breaths before knocking his forehead against the other man's; not hard, just enough to get his attention. " Iruka, you know I don't think that shit. The people who do think that shit are just jealous bastards who don't understand what it takes to teach those little hellions day in and day out. And you know not to listen to their crap." The jounin took turns staring into each dark brown orb. " You know that I know that you are the best damn chuunin in Konoha and you're better than half the jounin as well. Fuck, everyone knows you would make jounin , no contest, if you ever decided to take the exams. " Kakashi began rubbing the tip of his nose back and forth across the dolphin's scar. Cheek, bridge, cheek and back again. " From what I've read of your C rank, it should have been labeled a damn A, and not only did you NOT lose the scrolls, but you also managed to get the coded scrolls so we could decipher them. "

His voice softened a bit as he continued. " So you are not a screw up, not a sucky ninja and not really mad at me for questioning the Hokage's sanity."

The elder ninja felt his entire body light up with the laughter that came bubbling out of the brunette's mouth. Iruka chuckled as he spoke. " Nice try, Hatake... You're diversionary tactics are deplorable, waaayyy too obvious." The brunette quieted, the smile fading from his rounded face. It was apparent to Kakashi that Iruka was still brooding over the technicalities of his mission.

Kakashi snuggled closer to his bedmate, sprinkling kisses across the pink lips and the dark horizontal scar. Kami, he's fucking gorgeous. I'm thinking another round in the sack might get his mind off all this stuff. It'd certainly work for me. Hmmm. Odd how I'm the one who started out pissed off and ended up the one trying to calm him down. " I think our earlier performance demands an encore, ne?"

" I'm really tired, Kakashi." Iruka gave a strained smile. He kissed the jounin lightly, then shifted until he lay on his side, facing away from the other man. " Are you going to stay the night?"

Gray and red gazed down at the back of the dark head. Damnit, he's still upset. Kakashi debated for a second. He normally didn't stay through the night, sneaking away in the early morning hours before Iruka ever awoke, and if the chuunin was unhappy with his presence tonight then beating a hasty retreat could be to his advantage. Of course, Iruka hadn't asked him to leave.

" Yeah, if you don't mind. "

" I'll make breakfast in the morning." The reply came in the form of a sleepy murmur, Iruka hugging himself tighter and turning his face into the pillow.

Kakashi laid on his back, arms behind his head, staring blankly at the ceiling.

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The jounin wasn't sure how long he had been asleep, a rare thing for the highly trained shinobi. It only occurred when Kakashi slept with Iruka at one of their flats, the silver haired nin only reaching that level of security and comfort in that very specific situation. Though some instincts were too ingrained to be set aside. Kakashi remained perfectly still, breathing even, eyes barely cracked open as he took in his surroundings; he was curious as to what had disturbed his preciously deep sleep.

Judging by the light in the room, it's about 4 or 5 a.m.. There's a bird on the roof practicing a few pre dawn arias. Not enough to wake me up, though. I guess I finally rolled over at some point; my arms are trapped between me and Iruka. Kakashi buried his nose further into the nest of dark hair at the back of the man's neck, seeking the sandman once again. Guess that's why I feel so warm, hot actually and... is Iruka shaking?

Kakashi opened his eyes fully, blinking to adjust to the dark room, and focused on his bedmate. The brunette was indeed shaking slightly, the line of his body vibrating, twitching the sheet and blankets where they lay across his shoulder. Curiosity and concern forced his limbs to uncurl and move. One pale arm slid across the bandaging, hand pulling the thick covers further up the dolphin's body. " Hey, 'Ruka? Are you cold?"

There wasn't a response, of course Kakashi didn't expect one if the man was still asleep. Which he assumed Iruka was, up until the point he placed his hand on his chest. Iruka's heartbeat was slamming against his ribcage, thundering against Kakashi's palm, far too harsh for mere sleep. There was a sharp hitching in the man's breath. The jounin braced himself on an elbow and leaned over the other man. " Iruka? Iruka, are you OK?" Is he crying?!

Again, there was no response. Kakashi brushed sweat soaked strands from the chuunin's face, surreptitiously searching for tears,. Fuck, he's burning up. " Iruka, wake up."

Eyelids flickered uncertainly before cracking open, head tilting up towards the scarecrow's voice. It took Iruka a few moments to bring his gaze on the silver haired man, the chocolate orbs unfocused and fighting to roll back into his head. Kakashi felt his own heartbeat stutter. The chuunin parted his lips. " K-ka-shi..." His speech was halting and obviously forced. " ' Ka-shi I-" Iruka turned his head and vomited over the edge of the mattress. The stench of bile was accompanied by the cloying scent of blood. A lot of blood.

Don't panic, don't panic, don'tpanicdon'tpanicdon'tpanic... Kakashi held Iruka's hair away from his mouth and kept the man turned on his side, face clearing the edge. The stream of bile ended, the brunette dry heaving pitifully...don'tpanicdon'tpanicdon'tpanic... Kakashi rolled onto his side of the bed, sitting up and pulling his discarded sweat pants and mask from the floor. The dark material was yanked up his legs and settled at his waist within an eyeblink, mask jerked over his face, then the jounin crossed to the other side, carefully stepping around the pool of crimson tainted mess. ...don'tpanicdon'tpanic... He dodged another bout of sickness, hands cradling the fevered face. " It's okay Iruka. It'll be okay."

" Ka-ka- uhgn- I- I'm sorry." Iruka's eyes were a bit more focused, his gaze trained on the sharigan. Tears rolled over the bridge of his nose, wetting the scar before tracing an ashen cheek and soaking into the sheet. " Wanted-wanted to t-tell you-" Vomiting once again interrupted his words.

" Stop talking, 'Ruka. Just breathe, just breathe. " Kakashi could hear his voice, calm and collected and nothing like how he felt on the inside. He waited until the brunette finished being sick, wiped his mouth on the corner of the pillow case and wrapped the blankets tightly around the trembling form. " Just hold on , Iruka. I'm taking you to the hospital. Just hold on." The jounin swept Iruka from the bed, clutching him tightly to his chest, and made the seals for teleportation.

" Hold on."

They arrived in a swirl of smoke and confused looks smack in the middle of the emergency room. Kakashi didn't stop once he and Iruka materialized. He pushed past the cluster of nurses who had been gossiping at the front desk and barreled down the corridor, shouting as he ran. " Get the Hokage! NOW!"

" I'm right here, brat! " Tsunade popped out of an exam room directly in front of the jounin, only his skilled reflexes keeping him from losing his balance and falling face first. Her irritated expression quickly disappeared when she saw Kakashi's cargo. Tsunade became all business as she directed the silver haired shinobi into the room she had just vacated, her nimble hands sweeping the cards and chips off the exam table and shooing the doctors ( poker buddies) to the side. " Put him here."

Kakashi gently laid Iruka on the table, careful to keep the blanket around his body; he knew the dolphin was self conscious. It was a difficult task, however. Iruka had progressed from tremors to full force seizures, his body thrashing about on the thinly padded bed. Kakashi held him down, hating every second he had to manhandle his chuunin. " Do something, Tsunade."

" What happened?" The Fifth ignored him and made her own demands. She moved around Kakashi's restraining hold, pushing the shaped piece of plastic into the brunette's mouth to keep him from swallowing his tongue. Other nurses and doctors were scampering around, dragging in various equipment and calling off stats.

" He showed no signs of illness when we fell asleep. About three hours later he was shaking, vomit contained blood-" ...don'tpanicdon'tpanicdon'tpanic...

" He was throwing up blood? Was he coherent? "

" Yes. " Kakashi kept his eyes on Tsunade and his voice professionally detached. ...don'tpanicdon'tpanicdon'tpanic... " He had trouble focusing, words were stilted but he was talking until we teleported. "

Tsunade lifted the brunette's lids, exposing mainly white. " Did he tell you anything?"

" Uh, no." The jounin faltered, remembering the dolphin's words. " He was aware of what was going on but he didn't seem to know the cause. "

" Shit."

" What?!"

The Hokage removed the jounin's right hand from Iruka's upper arm, the one bandaged tightly and now smeared with viscous crimson and puce. " Poison. He was poisoned. Fuckin' Stone." She pointed at a red headed nurse. " I need three #84 and two sedatives! The strong ones!"

" But- but it was a low grade neurotoxin. " Kakashi stammered, his cool demeanor slipping further. " He gave himself the antidote and the nurse gave him another dose when he got back."

Tsunade began cutting away the gauze. She threw the strips to the floor and grabbed three syringes from a tray offered by the nurse. Kakashi nearly threw up at the sight of the wound, the thin line had swollen and split the skin further, blood and pus and something that was not natural flowing from the injury. " Hold him. " The order was given to the jounin who placed more of his weight on the struggling patient, two more hefty orderlies were laying across the chuunin's legs. Tsunade plunged the needle directly into the gash. As soon as the thick fluid was drained into the ninja's body she jumped up, ripped the blankets away and stuck the second syringe into the chuunin's thigh, the third into his neck.

Iruka reacted instantly, his body tensing, arching like a drawn bow. Kakashi found himself staring into wide open brown eyes, scared and helpless. Then they rolled over white, again, and the brunette slumped back on the table.

" You can let him go now, Kakashi-kun."

Kakashi stood uneasily, slowly releasing his death grip, but not removing his hands from the unconscious man. He kept his eyes locked onto Iruka.

" Clean him up and take him to Room #2 in the critical ward. Give him the usual drips with an extra sedative. Keep the last two needles on hand, dose him if he has another fit. " The large breasted woman removed the instrument from Iruka's mouth and moved to the doorway, giving orders and shuffling through papers. " I'll be there in a few minutes to start his treatment." Tsunade turned towards the lone shinobi, standing immobile over the bed. " Hey brat, come out here." She received a rather unpleasant look and hand gesture in response. Her reply was to march up to the taller man, grab his ear and haul him bodily from the room. " You are in the way and if you don't cooperate you won't be allowed to stay with him while he's here."

Like to see you try to keep me outta here. Kakashi glared at his Hokage, but followed her a little ways down the hall. He wanted answers and he knew Tsunade would be the only person to give him some. " Is he going to be alright?"

Tsunade leaned against a dull gray wall and crossed her arms over her ample chest. " Yes, you got him here in time. Thank the gods." She cast eyes over his appearance, a piercing observant look. He knew she was cataloguing his half naked state and adding it to the image of a sheet draped Iruka. Kakashi waited for her to make a comment, but the woman seemed to have dismissed the thoughts. " Another hour and there would have been no way to neutralize the poison. "

" What the fuck happened, Tsunade?" Kakashi leaned forward, his stance belligerent. " He got two- count them- two doses of antidote within hours of being cut. How did this happen?"

" The poison Iruka-kun and the hospital staff treated yesterday was an inferior grade toxin, as you said. It had immediate, but not life threatening , effects and no one had any reason to think it differently. The problem is that the initial poison was laced with a few extra ingredients, these chemicals reacted with the first antidote and created an entirely new poison within his body." She leaned back and let her head thump against the wall. " Giving him two antidotes just made it worse."

Kakashi wavered slightly, then slumped forward, his body coming down from its adrenaline rush. He ran a trembling hand through his disheveled hair. " Oh shit."

" It's an old trick, not very popular nowadays since it requires extra skill. That's why no one thought to check for it. But some of the older Stone shinobi still practice it. " The Fifth shivered unconsciously, hands rubbing her bare arms. " It's a very slow and agonizing way to die. "

I almost left him alone tonight. I almost left him to die alone in his bed. Kakashi wavered more, the realization hitting him squarely. I almost left him to die. Rage was immediately displaced onto the nearest person. " Why the hell did you send him on a mission to Stone of all places?!"

Tsunade arched a brow, lips thinning into a tight line. " He's a shinobi of the Hidden Leaf Village, an experienced chuunin who's proven himself, especially today and-"

" You sent a school teacher on a retrieval mission-"

" It was a C-rank genin level missi-"

" All retrieval missions are supposed to be ranked B and higher and you know that!" Kakashi was yelling and he didn't care that he was standing in the middle of a hospital corridor. He could have been standing in the neonatal ICU and he wouldn't have curbed his volume, or anger. " It wasn't like he was going to be able to just stroll into their highly fortified village, leisurely pack up over two dozen potentially damning scrolls and just wave as he walked out of-"

" And that's why I sent him!" Tsunade screamed back. She bounced off the wall and stood toe to toe with the furious jounin, her head craned back to make eye contact. " Iruka- kun was the best person for the mission and he did a damn good job to boot! I've got jounin in this village who would've brought home a bunch of worthless parchment because they would have NEVER taken a moment to THINK about why there was an extra set of scrolls! And they probably wouldn't have even known they were poisoned at all since the initial symptoms were negligible!"

" HE ALMOST DIED!!!" Suddenly Kakashi's entire body was trembling uncontrollably, his stomach twisting and rolling until its contents surged upwards. He slapped a hand over his mask.

Tsunade had obviously seen his eyes go wide, her healer's instincts kicking in as she rushed him into the nearby men's room and shoved his face over the toilet. " Damnit, brat."

Yanking the dark cloth from his mouth, Kakashi spilled his meals from the day before into the porcelain bowl. Each upheaval was violent and accompanied by gasping sobs. He had just enough sense of mind to be aware of the older woman holding his silver hair back from his face; just as he had done for Iruka. The thought caused Obito's eye to flood.

" Have you been drinking milk?" Tsunade's incredulous voice was heard above the retching.

Kakashi spit several times, bits of undigested rice stuck in his teeth. Looking into the toilet, the jounin understood the woman's question; the bowl was filled with chalky colored fluid, small clumps of vegetables and meat scattered throughout. He did wonder how she could expect him to answer when he was barely able to breathe, but he ground the words out between great swallows of air. " 'Ruka... made some kind of... chowder... for dinner... had milk... in it." Another stream of sickness was ejected from his stomach. He braced one hand against the stall partition to steady himself. He really hated being sick.

" But you're lactose intolerant! I'm surprised you didn't end up here before Iruka! " Her fingers continued combing back the long strands. " Why the hell did you eat it- uh, nevermind."

The jounin finished spitting the last remnants of dinner into the toilet and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. A bunch of paper towels was thrust into his face. " Thanks. " Kakashi croaked, accepting the damp towels with a nod. He kept his face turned away from his leader, embarrassed by the tears and the tremors still coursing through his frame. What the fuck's wrong with me?! The hand that had been rubbing his back in soothing circles fell away.

" Come on, brat. Clean yourself up. "

Kakashi straightened up, removed his hand from the stall and slowly backed out. He found his way to the row of sinks and leaned heavily on the edge as he spun the cold water faucet to full blast. The jounin caught a glimpse of the blonde in the mirror, standing behind him at the stall door. Her eyes were focused on him in the reflective surface.

Blonde braids swung back and forth. Tsunade swung with them, relaxing her pose. " Were you sneaking out when all this happened or did Iruka end up at your place last night? "

" What?" Here it is. He and Iruka didn't hide the fact that they were screwing each other but neither did they advertise. In an atmosphere where your loved ones could be killed simply because they were associated with you, one kept most relationships private. I'm going to get the inner office dating speech. Bitch.

" You don't usually stay the whole night." Tsunade's piercing gaze had returned. " When you sleep at Iruka's place , you almost never stay until morning. "

" How do you know that?" Kakashi was thrown off by the lack of a sermon. It quickly turned to annoyance at the woman's statement.

" I'm the Hokage." She smiled wickedly and tapped a well manicured nail on her upper arm.

" So where did you two practice the horizontal limbo last night?"

Sucking water directly from the faucet, the jounin took a moment to rinse the horrible acidic taste from his mouth. After spitting, he responded sharply. " His place."

" So you were leaving?"

" No."

Tsunade's interest seemed to pique, but before she could investigate her attention was directed to the restroom door where a medic had popped his head in. " Hokage-sama, we're taking Iruka-san to Room #2, now. " He disappeared as swiftly as he had appeared.

Catching the jounin's arm as he tried to make a break, Tsunade squeezed firmly. " First I want you to get a shirt and some slippers, at least, or you're going to catch a cold in here. And find something to cover your eye. The last thing I need to deal with right now is a chakra depleted Sharigan user. When you're dressed you can come up. "

Kakashi thought about arguing, but considering the near bone breaking pressure being applied to his arm, and the beginnings of a stress headache from his abused sharigan, he decided he probably should get a gown or something. He nodded and the older woman released him. As he took a step towards the door, intent on stealing some scrubs from the nearby closet, the Fifth gave him a parting comment.

" You know, when Iruka stays at your place, he's always there when you get up in the morning. You should think about that. " She exited , but looked back into the room. " And no matter what you decide about that, you need to tell Iruka about the milk thing. Orders from your physician."

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Kakashi did think about the Hokage's words; Iruka staying the night, not the milk thing.

He thought about them while Tsunade channeled her chakra into Iruka's limp body, her life energy repairing the damage done by the poison.

He thought about them while a nurse cleaned and healed Iruka's wound, the medical jutsus knitting the torn flesh.

He thought about them while Sakura brought him a uniform shirt and hitai-ate, her soft one sided conversation filling the room for a brief time.

He thought about them while he sat in silence for the next fifteen hours, watching over the room's lone patient.

Kakashi leaned back in the uncomfortable hospital chair and rested his skull on the wide window ledge. The ceiling was as uninteresting as the one at Iruka's, the jounin tiring of its water stained acoustical tile in under an hour. He had originally thought that maybe the pitted 2'x2' rectangles would distract him from the torment of Tsunade's comment, but the discoloration of the water damage morphed into a humongous bosom and winking face. " You know, when Iruka stays at your place.." Damn, bitch. She needs to keep her nose outta other people's business.

The Hokage had promised that the young man would make a full recovery, Iruka would be sore and weak for a few days, the effects of the antidote and sedative. However, the woman had assured Kakashi that the chuunin simply needed to sleep off the strong painkillers then he would be allowed to go home. It was getting late and the jounin had been told by several people to go home to shower and sleep. He silently refused. Even Tsunade had tried to tempt him with a plate of broiled salmon and rice

( How the hell does she know my favorite food?), her earlier arrogance replaced by subtle sympathy. Kakashi shook his head and pulled his borrowed head band down further over his left eye, mussing his limp hair even more than the hectic morning had.

It was dark in the room. At half past nine the sun had long gone , stars puncturing the velvet sky and framing the full moon. Kakashi had moved onto the pale orb once the ceiling had lost its allure. Iruka's always there when I wake up, whether I'm at his apartment or mine. Always. How many times have I stayed in his bed 'til daybreak? Three, maybe four, times since we started sleeping together. Not at all for over half a year. The jounin tilted his head back towards the hospital bed, his thoughts sweeping backwards in time, mind grasping at the bygone beginnings of his and 'Ruka's involvement.

Before the Chuunin exam Kakashi had only known Iruka by reputation; as the beloved academy sensei that everyone knew and respected, as the once master prankster of Konoha, as one of the many Kyuubi orphans. Oh, he had always thought the man attractive, sitting behind the missions desk and glaring in disapproval at Kakashi's barely legible report. Iruka was the only ninja in Konoha who didn't quake in fear under the Copy Nin's cold indifference. That had piqued Kakashi's curiosity. Once Naruto became a part of his team the jounin discovered another facet to the dolphin, his almost father like love for the blond boy. That had also raised his interest. But it was after Iruka blew up at him in front of the ranks of shinobi and the Third Hokage, that Kakashi decided he would have to find out more about the fiery brunette. Specifically whether or not he was inclined towards some adults only fun; it had been forever since the silver haired man had indulged in a casual romp and he figured Iruka would satisfy his craving.

Unfortunately their first sexual encounter did not occur under such favorable circumstances.

The tragic events surrounding the final round of the chuunin exams had left Iruka beyond distraught, refusing to leave Naruto's bedside for the first two weeks of the boy's hospital stay. Kakashi had finally convinced ( read: snuck up on and teleported) the smaller man to return home to shower, change clothes and catch some sleep. Except the chuunin had apparently reached his breaking point and had sensed the scarecrow's fraying nerves, as well. Iruka dragged Kakashi under the hot water and into his bed, every kiss and touch laden with grief as the jounin took the younger man. It had been hard and fast with no few tears afterwards before they fell into exhausted slumber.

Kakashi exited several hours later, leaving Iruka to finish his much needed nap.

Neither one discussed what happened. It wasn't unusual for people to engage in sexual conduct under stress, particularly among the shinobi ranks; mission sex was just another need to be fulfilled, like food and water. Kakashi and Iruka left the episode behind them, both assuming the responsibility of weakness on their respective parts, and continued to deal with the fallout of Sasuke's departure and the rebuilding of their village.

Two months later Kakashi had stumbled upon the chuunin as the brunette was leaving the Hokage's Tower. Iruka was leaving the missions room late and Kakashi had been returning from a very very bad A rank. Exclamations turned into pleading which turned into very sensei-like demands; the jounin, once again, ended up in Iruka's shower and then his bed. The sex had been less frantic, but no less emotionally charged.

Kakashi left within the hour.

That whole first year was almost nothing but stress relief and comfort sex. So much was going on between the both of us, the academy practically became an orphanage overnight with 'Ruka taking charge of all the little ones, I had so many missions I hardly had any space to breathe; but we always ended up in one futon or another at least two or three times a month. Kakashi mused as he watched the brunette sleeping undisturbed. He flittered through various memories of himself and Iruka, smiling at some, flinching at others. The jounin noticed a pattern had emerged that first year, one of sex and little else between them. They did not socialize, conversation was generally limited to ' where' and 'when', little was exchanged other than saliva and semen.

And then...

Kakashi wasn't sure exactly how or when it started. Maybe with Iruka stopping by his apartment to share a letter he received from Naruto. Or maybe when Kakashi invited the chuunin to tea as he happened to be passing by the academy during break. Whatever the genesis, the two men began to see each other outside of the bedroom. Eventually tea became ramen, ramen became sushi, sushi became homemade bentos ( Iruka's contribution) , bentos became full course dinners

( Kakashi's handiwork) . Somehow we started dating and I didn't even know it.

Iruka stirred in the hospital bed. A hand twitched and settled, the gold skin ashen in the moonlight. Kakashi stared at him for another moment before shifting to his feet. The chair was picked up and set bed side, metal clad feet quietly clicking on the hard floor, jounin reclaiming his seat. Kakashi wearily removed the hitai-ate, setting it on the bedside table. He wanted his view to be unobstructed. A breath or two passed , gray and red following the line of the dolphin's body beneath the thin sheet, watching the rise and fall of the man's chest. The silver haired man reached out and slid his hand across the cool sheets until his fingers grasped Iruka's.

Problem is I did know, I just didn't want to admit it. If I denied any strong attachment then I could keep up the delusion of us being fuck buddies, of being just friends. Because a fuck buddy couldn't be held against me, couldn't be harmed in order to get to me, couldn't die because of me. Couldn't rip my fucking heart fro- Kakashi realized his grip had tightened, his breathing halted in his chest. He consciously ordered his muscles to relax, the jounin resting the patient's hand in his own and bringing his other hand to lightly trail over the scarred face. I pretended for nearly a year, Iruka. Pretended you were just a convenient screw, a friend with benefits and nothing more. Because- because...

I'm an idiot.

The skin beneath his fingers was slightly chilled and he could feel goosebumps prickling the man's flesh. He would never understand why hospitals were always kept so cold. Kakashi unfolded the extra blanket left at the foot of the bed, draping it over the prone body, pulling it up to Iruka's chin.

And I am in love with you, Iruka.

Kakashi listened to his lover's soft exhales. More memories arose, other nights when he stayed awake to look at his bedmate, shared meals, conversations over tea. One in particular kept working its way to the forefront: a night several months prior. Iruka had been standing at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables for dinner, singing quietly. Kakashi was sitting at the small table, sharpening his kunai. A scene of domestic tranquility. The jounin had asked about the tune. The chuunin turned and his beautiful smile shone in the tanned face. " It's just a pretty song."

Silver hair swayed as Kakashi dipped his head, fingers tugging the mask down to pool around his neck, eyes closing in concentration as he recalled Iruka's favored words. " I don't quite know... how to say... how I feel..." Without making a conscious decision, Kakashi found himself lifting the thick blankets and carefully sliding under them to nestle against the smaller man. He lay on his side, arms trapped between their bodies, nose almost pressed to the golden cheek. Softer now, he continued his serenade. " Those three words... are said too much... they're not enough..."

Obito's eye began to water, quickly followed by his own and he shut them both to keep the tears at bay. Deep gripping emotion overwhelmed him, like he hadn't felt in a long time. It blanked out the rest of the song, coherent thoughts, anything that wasn't directly connected with the presence of the sleeping man. Even his breath stalled in his throat.

" If... I ... lay here..."

Kakashi's eyes snapped open, disbelieving his ears. Lifting his face a few inches to get a better look, the jounin at first thought that he had imagined the lyrics; Iruka lay perfectly still, eyes closed, lips parted sligh-

" If I just... lay here..." Iruka sang again in his roughened voice, the words barely above a whisper and halting between intakes of precious air. His eyes slowly fluttered open.

The silver haired man was struck speechless for a moment, the pure joy and relief at seeing the moon's reflection in the brown orbs drowning his earlier despair. Then he remembered himself and brought one hand up to caress the beloved face. " Iruka? "

The corners of the brunette's mouth raised slightly before falling back into song. " Will you lie with me... and just forget the world..."

Saltwater drops ran freely over Kakashi's face, wetting his ears and the pillow case below. " Do you need anything? Are you in pain? "

There was a small shake of the head. " All that I...am... All that I ever was..."

Tell him NOW!!! Tell him before something awful happens to him and he doesn't make it!!! Tell him before you end up dead in a ditch in Mist! TELL HIM!!!! Kakashi drew in a deep breath. " Iruka, I-"

Iruka's head tilted towards the scarecrow, bringing them nose to nose. Half lidded doe eyes shone in the dim light. " I thought you wanted to sing." His lips lifted again in a smile, then he continued with his song. " Is here in your perfect eyes... They're all I can see..."

I guess it's a conversation for later. I can deal with that, since later involves me waking up with him in my arms. Kakashi sighed, content to let the moment just be. He did have to fumble for the next line, however. " I- I don't know where...Confused about how as well.." He moved closer to the smaller man, still careful of his freshly healed body, and whispered the words into the dark skin. " ...Just know that these things will never change for us at all..."

Dark eyes slowly fell shut. " If I lay here..."

Mismatched eyes were hidden under thick lashes. " If I just lay here..."

" Would you lie with me... and... just forget the world..." Iruka finished. His breath was warm on Kakashi's cheek, soft and caressing. " You're tired, 'Kashi. Go to sleep."

That's laughable. " I don't normally take health advice from people in their sickbeds. " The jounin snickered sleepily. He felt more than heard the rush of air that was a snort of laughter from the younger man; it sent tingles all through his body. Snuggling closer, nose buried in the dark hair just above Iruka's ear, Kakashi was ready to sleep for the next ten years in his current position, except he suddenly recalled, with mild annoyance, that he was supposed to bring up a certain subject as ordered by their leader. " Uh, Iruka?"

" Hmmm?"

" I-I'm lactose intolerant." Kakashi mumbled, almost hoping the other man wouldn't understand and would be too far gone to question further. Otherwise, he was going to get a severe scolding for the stupidity of withholding that particular piece of information. He waited for either reaction. He got neither.

" I know. " Iruka turned his face just enough to place a light kiss on the underside of a pale jaw. " I've been using soy milk for over a year, now. G'night, 'Kashi." And with that, the dolphin slid back into peaceful slumber.

Kakashi lay in bed, lover held close, laughing silently at life's little lessons. He fell asleep with the barest hint of a smile curling the corners of his mouth.

owari