Notes: This was intended as a follow-up to 'Still' by zm1x5 (http://zm1x5. after reading a comment about 'hearing Iruka's side of it,' but theoretically it is a standalone one-shot quadrabble.


Don't come home. The words echoed in his head. Iruka felt ill as he dropped the disconnected phone in the floor, not bothering to hang it up.

He stared at the scroll in his lap until the words blurred. You've served your village well. Be proud.

He felt nausea come over him again and thought for a minute he deserved the indignity of it, but then decided he didn't want to have to change clothes or clean the mess up. He barely made it to the toilet in time, heaving, his throat burning and bitter.

At least now he had a good excuse tears in his eyes.

After flushing the toilet and rinsing his mouth out, he laid down in the floor, the chill tiles cool against his feverish back. He sniffed and realised how pitiful it sounded. That only made him sniff more, so he rolled over, arm over his head, and tried to muffle the noise he made.

"We need him sharp, Iruka, on edge. Ready to kill on command, you know this. A ninja in love is a liability. A ninja in love is no longer a ninja. Any hesitation threatens this village."

"But—"

"Would he hesitate to kill you if commanded?"

Iruka's eyes widened at the question. "No!" he answered immediately. He ducked his head under the severe gaze and amended with a mumble, "Maybe."

"He's received a message that you're ill. He'll be calling to tell you he's coming home. Make sure he doesn't. He'll receive the next mission shortly, but don't tell him that. Understood?"

Iruka nodded through the pangs in his stomach. "I understand," he whispered.

Iruka jerked and his eyes fluttered open when he heard a tapping sound at the window. He didn't realise he'd drifted off. He got up and walked out to his bedroom, stomach shaky and hopeful. The full moon and open drapes made his room bright. Bright enough to see a small branch hitting the left side of the window with each turn of the wind. His shoulders fell.

Don't be stupid. That window won't be getting used any time soon.

He climbed on the bed, not bothering to change and curled up in the center, falling asleep quickly.

If he dreamt of Kakashi all night long, hesitating and confused, he didn't remember it when he woke. 'Don't come home' was all he remembered. And Kakashi hadn't.