Summary: The greatest tragedy is perhaps not the lost of loved ones, but to have them stand before you and not know how much you love them. A Kakashi-Iruka shounen-ai fic.

The Way We Were

Er…a warning first, this is a very cliché plot (wince) but I'll try my best to make it worth a quick read at least. Also, I'm a little nervous since it's the first time I'm writing a multi-chaptered shounen-ai fic, not even sure I'll be able to finish the entire story but thanks in advance for bearing with me. (smile) In case anyone is wondering, this story is not a sequel to "Finding Camaraderie"; in that one, there were no amorous feelings between the two, unlike how it is rather evident here (smirk).

And so it begins…

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

Chapter One

The dish still needed to simmer for another minute or two when he heard jangle of keys and the front door creaked open.

He smiled. "Don't get jumpy now, it's just me." He called out, adding a dash of pepper to the wok.

"Kakashi?" Iruka poked his head around the kitchen doorway. If anyone should be wearing a mask, it would have to be Iruka, Kakashi thought as he watched the chunin's face shifted through a myriad of expressions from wariness, to open surprise, finally lighting up with a look of unrestrained delight and affection that always managed to make his heart skip a beat. "What are you doing here?"

"Well!" He huffed, feigning a hurt tone and turned back to his cooking. "I'm happy to see you too."

Iruka's loud, distinctive laugh echoed slightly in the hallway where he could hear him moving around, taking off his sandals and setting the stack of schoolwork to be graded on the low table in the living room. Then, his favourite person was beside him, thoughtful enough not to stand on his blind side and leaning over to give him quick peck on his masked cheek.

"You know what I mean." He grinned. "I thought you won't be back until tomorrow."

"The mission went well, so I'm back early." Catching Iruka's careful searching gaze as the chunin automatically assessed him for injuries, Kakashi shook his head. "Don't worry, I'm not hurt."

"I'm glad." Iruka's expression relaxed with relief. "But shouldn't you be at home resting? I was even going to go over to your apartment later to air it out." His nose wrinkled slightly. "You know how stale and musty they get when no one's been in it for so long."

"I know. But after three weeks away on a long mission, do you think I'd rather rest at home or come see my sweetheart?" He laughed at the blush that clashed comically with the dark annoying scowl on the schoolteacher's face. The chunin was certainly not a sweet anything-he was all sharp wit, hot tempered and iron willed-still, he was decidedly amusing when he was riled. Kakashi beamed happily then added more seriously. "I just wanted to…er…that is, to…you know…uh…"

With a sheepish grimace, he rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably, finding great difficulty in putting into words these strange inexplicable feelings that grip him sometimes. The wish to do something nice for the chunin, to be with him, to make him happy…

"I think dinner is done." Iruka pointed out helpfully, but he smiled to show he understood, brown eyes soft with gratitude.

"Er, right." Kakashi cleared his throat, dishing up the vegetable stir-fry onto the plate. "Besides, it's Thursday. I know how Thursdays are always exhausting for you so I thought you'll like some dinner."

Iruka groaned as he helped scoop the steamed rice into two bowls and carried them over to the dinning table. "Too true." He slumped into the chair and waited for Kakashi to sit down with the dishes. "No break in my class schedule, afternoon remedial plus double shifts at the missions desk."

Kakashi made a noise in sympathy and they started to eat. The jounin pulled his mask down and took a bite of the chicken, relishing the comfort of being able to eat slowly, dining with someone he didn't feel uncomfortable showing his face to. He snuck glances at the chunin as he ate, indulging in a sight that he had been deprived of for three weeks.

But his delight was tempered by the fact that Iruka seemed even more fatigued by work than usual. The school teacher was pale beneath his tan, a few straggly strands of brown hair had fallen from where they were usually tied up neatly in the pony tail to hang about his neck, making him look frazzled and tired. There were shadows under his eyes and a glassiness to his gaze Kakashi had failed to notice earlier. It was obvious he made an effort to answer the jounin's attempts at conversations but as dinner wore on, his grew quieter, a slight frown creased his brow as he picked listlessly at his food.

"Is it really that awful?"

"Huh? What?"

"The food." Kakashi gestured to the almost untouched food on Iruka's plate. "You've hardly eaten anything."

"Oh!" Iruka laughed apologetically. "No, dinner is fine, delicious in fact! I'm sorry, I'm just not feeling very well." He shook his head, one hand coming up to rub at his temple, wincing. "The kids were a handful today and I've got this headache all day and-"

"It's alright." Kakashi interrupted, smiling dismissively though a tiny hint of concern tugged at him. Iruka seldom spoke about being unwell even when he was. "Why don't you go lie down for a bit? I'll put these away in the fridge and you can have them later when you're feeling better."

"But you've come over specially to make this dinner!" He protested in dismay.

"And it'll re-heat just fine." Kakashi replied firmly. He stood, starting to clear away his own empty bowl and covering the plates of uneaten food up. "Go on, go rest." He nudged the chunin with a foot, shooing him towards the door.

Iruka sighed, resigned, and gave him a half-hearted smile. "I'm sorry." He repeated, getting up slowly. Kakashi raised a hand in acknowledgement as he bent over, trying to rearrange the items in the fridge to make space for the leftover dinner.

Suddenly, he heard a sharp gasp behind him.

"Iruka?" He whirled around.

The chunin stood hunched over, clutching the back of his chair with one hand to steady himself. The other hand was pressed tightly against his forehead, his whole face contorted with agony.

"Iruka!" He cried sharply as the schoolteacher crumpled to his knees, clutching his head in both his hands. In an instant he was by his side, crouching down and slipping an arm around the chunin's shoulders. "Iruka." He called again, stricken. "What's wrong?"

"Damn it. Head. Hurts." Iruka panted, breathing quick and shallow. "A lot." His eyes were squeezed shut against the pain, but when he opened them for an instant to squint at Kakashi, the jounin saw they were bright with tears.

The pain was bad, very bad.

With a curse, Kakashi clawed off his hitai-ate. The world spun and tilted with a whirlwind of colours as it always did when the Sharingan was revealed, then swiftly righted itself. He trained his eye on the chunin, working desperately to identify the jutsu and dispel it.

Nothing, there was absolutely nothing.

Only a tortured Iruka curled up on the floor, shaking and gasping hard as if he couldn't breathe.

"Okay, fine. No worries. Hospital. Yes, we'll go to the hospital. They'll know what to do." He knew he was babbling but he was too frantic to care. Iruka shuddered and bit back a cry as the pain escalated, his hands clenching and opening in helpless anguish.

Kakashi caught his hand and held it tight, his heart hammering in his chest. "Hang on, Iruka. It'll be alright soon." He instructed. Years of experience gained from dealing with crisis in the field was kicking in but he was still a bit surprised at how he managed to sound so calm when he was ready to explode with fear inside.

Briefly, he considered the syringes of morphine in the supplies pouch of his vest but dismissed the thought almost immediately. He had no idea what was wrong with Iruka and drugging the man might make it worse.

Giving the cold, clammy fingers a comforting squeeze, he released his hand and gathered the chunin into his arms, preparing to start the teleportation jutsu.

"Ka-kashi…help-" Iruka choked, his voice a strangled whimper. He jerked, his back arched against a wave of fresh pain that crashed through him.

Then abruptly he went slack, his head lolling to the side to rest against Kakashi's shoulder.

And the jounin's heart went cold.