Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. I don't even own a car.

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A peaceful breeze blew off the river, ruffling the hair of the two men lying along the bank. On their backs, they faced away from each other, their heads nearly touching. Fluffy white clouds drifted across the sky, changing shapes in the wind as well. Cloud-watching, Kakashi decided, was a very nice way to spend a morning. That Shikamaru kid was definitely onto something. His hand drifted upwards above his head, gently combing through the longer brown hair of the man beside him. Iruka sighed, catching his hand, caressing the worn palm gently.

"Why me?" he asked gently.

"Because you were there," Kakashi answered flippantly, biting his tongue too late. It wasn't true, and it would probably hurt Iruka's feelings. Kakashi hated it when he did that, not because Iruka held a grudge, but because he didn't. Kakashi held his breath, trying to sense the other's mood. But there was no response, no change in breath, or drawing away of any kind.

"'Ruka, I didn't mean it," he started to apologize lamely.

"Mmm. What?" Iruka didn't seem to realize their conversation wasn't over.

"I didn't mean it. You deserve a better answer than that. You just caught me off-guard." Which happened quite frequently around Iruka, he realized.

"No, you meant it." Iruka's voice was strong and final. Kakashi groaned, mentally slapping himself in the head. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

"And it's the truth, for once." Iruka didn't sound angry at all. Kakashi allowed his mind to roam backwards and realized Iruka was right.

All along, Iruka had been there. To yell at him, to congratulate him, to share in his students' successes and failures. He had the uncanny ability to show up just when Kakashi needed it because, of course, Kakashi would never go looking for him, not on purpose, not at first. And later, if he just happened to run into Iruka because he just happened to be someplace he knew Iruka might be, well, it was just good luck to run into someone he could call a friend.

It all changed after the funeral.

He found himself at the memorial stone, remembering the last time a Hokage died. Then, he met up with Ibiki and Asuma drinking sake together. Several hours later, Kakashi had had enough reminiscing and decided to visit Iruka. He imagined Iruka would be angry with him for sending such young students after Sasuke, but he didn't care. Somehow, having the man yell at him would provide a safe haven, something familiar, something normal.

Iruka met him at the door with a look of absolute sorrow. Obviously he wasn't the only one struggling with memories tonight. Yet, through that grief, Iruka smiled to see him, reached out his arms to greet him and Kakashi had stepped right into them. Something flared, an instinctive need after the fury of the attack on their village, the death of their leader, and the utter ecstasy of survival. He hadn't been all that drunk, and Iruka not at all, but the hug turned into a savage kiss. Iruka hadn't even stopped to look at his face as he pulled his mask down, Kakashi realized later, nor did he blush or stammer. It was just pure instinct.

As the clothes dropped off, they pushed and pulled each other onto Iruka's bed, falling together in a tangled heap. Mouths and bodies clashed in the darkness. Iruka slid the hitai-ate over both of Kakashi's eyes. "Don't think, just feel," he whispered roughly. And then Kakashi's world tilted, because, suddenly, it was Kakashi's body pressed face-first into the mattress, Kakashi's wrists' held in an iron grip over his head, Kakashi's teeth biting his own lips to keep from crying out during those first torturous moments. Iruka's body moved over him, pinning him in place, burning his back with kisses. And soon, it was Kakashi's hands clawing the sheets, Kakashi's body rising to meet Iruka's, and Kakashi's voice crying out, "Yes, yes, harder, faster, please, don't stop, Iruka!"

In the utter darkness, Kakashi relaxed, all emotion and being. In these few moments he could drop all the faces he wore - sensei, jounin, anbu, son of, student of - and revel in a purity of existence he hadn't even considered. The feel of Iruka's teeth against his nape, the smell of sex and sweat in the air, and the sounds. Kakashi flushed, remembering the sounds they made that night.

And when they were both panting, ears ringing, Iruka had flipped him over like a pillow, pulling him on top of Iruka's tan body, and kissed him senseless all over again until Kakashi was so spent he couldn't move at all. Then, and only then, did Iruka remove the hitai-ate and place it on a table nearby, and Kakashi slept cradled on Iruka's chest.

"I think you're getting over-heated. Your ears are red."

Iruka's voice jolted Kakashi out of his reverie and he looked over. Iruka had moved closer, lounging on one elbow to watch him. Leaning even closer, he whispered, "Or is that a blush, Kakashi? Just what are you thinking?" Which only made Kakashi blush again, turning his face away so Iruka couldn't see his eye. Iruka rolled onto his stomach, his mouth finding Kakashi's ear and teased it just so, until Kakashi HAD to look at him just to protect his ear from further onslaught.

"You're right," Kakashi said finally, his breath unsteady.

"Mmm?" It really bugged him when Iruka used his syllables against him.

"You were there."

Iruka nodded. "But you never apologized, Iruka."

"What? I apologized!" Iruka sat up, scandalized that Kakashi would claim foul now.

"You apologized if you hurt me, you apologized for keeping me up late and making me tired, but you never apologized for..." Kakashi's voice dropped off.

It was Iruka's turn to blush, finally. "For what? I didn't do anything wrong."

Kakashi sat up as well, turning on him. "For pushing me into that bed and doing what you did!"

Iruka reached out and pulled Kakashi's head to his shoulder. "You needed me," he said simply. "You needed me to be...stronger so you could let go." He stroked Kakashi's cheek through the thin cloth. "You're the big, strong, ruthless and fierce copy-ninja! But even you need a break from being you, just once in a while." Kakashi nodded against Iruka's neck, sighing. True, again. Only in Iruka's arms did he feel truly safe and able to turn off all that was 'Kakashi'. And, if Iruka had apologized, Kakashi could admit now, he would never have returned because it would have meant Iruka felt awkward about it as well. "Weren't you scared, Iruka?" Because Kakashi knew if their roles had been reversed, he would never have found the nerve to go up against himself that way. "Terrified," the younger man laughed in his ear. "You could have pushed me out of the window, or broken my arms, or..." Kakashi nodded again, "Getting pushed out of the window would have been a most, mmmm, tame, and unlikely, response." "Exactly!" Iruka exclaimed, his heart pounding in memory of what could have been his final mistake. He shrugged, holding Kakashi tightly, kissing his hair. "But it worked out well, all in all, I think." Kakashi laughed, reverting to his crude speech to torment Iruka. "Yeah, I got fucked and you grew some balls!"

He lay back against the grass again, ignoring the other man's stuttered protests, his head in Iruka's lap. "You never change, Kakashi," Iruka smiled down at him. "Why mess with perfection?" Iruka twisted his hands in Kakashi's hair briefly, painfully in response, but with a smile on his face. "It's almost noon," Iruka said finally. "My shift starts in an hour, and your students are still waiting. What will be your excuse this time?" Kakashi smiled, pulling Iruka down to meet his masked lips. "I was waylaid by a stalker-sensei while meditating," he answered wickedly. "You can't tell them that! They'll think I'm the pervert now!" Kakashi laughed, allowing Iruka to push him to his feet, standing up next to him. He pulled Iruka to him and rested his head against the man's shoulder. "5 more minutes," he promised, "and I promise I'll go." Because Kakashi needed very few things in life, but this was something he needed most of all.

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Originally Kakashi's answer to Iruka's question at the end (What will be your excuse this time?) was "I was lost in contemplation of the shape of a man's lips." But I'm a Fruits Basket fan, and all I could hear was Shigure's voice in the dubbed anime (Kyo's a stalker! Kyo's a stalker!) so I changed it. Damn you, Shigure, how dare your corrupt my writing!