Disclaimer: Don't own, don't sue.

A/N: Want to know something sad? The following conversation actually took place...between me and one of my best friends.


Hatake Kakashi sat on the floor of the apartment, alone, staring listlessly into the darkness around him. His back rested against the wall, and the shadows above his head matched the shadow that he wore across his pale face. Slowly, he tilted his head back to stare up into this darkness. Once again, it was three thirty in the morning, and here he was awake and alone...wrestling demons, trying to force skeletons back into closets. It was a nightly ritual with Kakashi. He fell wherever he fell, and slept like one dead until three, when a dream would wake him--never the same dream twice--a dream that turned into a nightmare of all his failures, of all his shortcomings, from the face of his father to the death of Obito to the desertion of Sasuke. He came here, out into the dark hall, to fight them alone.

Unbeknownst to Kakashi, this night, he was not alone.

From beneath a small coverlet that he couldn't remember pulling over himself, Umino Iruka watched Kakashi intently from the couch a few yards away. He had spent nearly as many sleepless nights as Kakashi, waking when the copy-nin left their bed, or watching him from the couch on nights like tonight—nights when he had stayed up far later than Kakashi, grading Academy papers. No, no matter what he thought, Hatake Kakashi was not alone.

Tonight was the first night that Kakashi had been able to feel the gaze burning into him, and the longer Iruka looked, the more intently Kakashi began to feel his eyes upon him. The stir of movement from the cover that he had placed over the sleeping chuunin's body had been enough to alert him to the fact that Iruka was indeed awake. A strange uneasiness overtook Kakashi; he wanted Iruka to fall back asleep, to forget ever seeing him like this, and at the same time, he wanted the chuunin's company.

Kakashi had not long to wait. Tonight, the look in Kakashi's eyes was simply to heavy a burden to let him bear alone. With chillbumps creeping across his bare arms and legs, Iruka wrapped himself in the blanket and slipped quietly to Kakashi's side.

"What's the matter, Kakashi?" he asked gently, hugging his knees to his chest.

"Nothing," the jounin mumbled, a little too quickly. "I can't sleep, that's all."

He started a little when he felt Iruka's smaller, warmer hand slip into his. "Something is wrong, Kakashi," he insisted quietly, "And you won't tell me what it is, will you?"

He shook his head slowly and wouldn't look at him; why answer a question that Iruka had already answered for himself? He felt the chuunin's hand slip from his and to Kakashi's arm, which he held in that delicate, pleading grip he had used so many times before.

"It hurts you," Iruka accused, his voice quivering, "Don't try and say that it doesn't."

"I won't lie," Kakashi muttered.

"Why won't you just talk to me?" Iruka asked, tears welling in his dark eyes. "It hurts me that you're hurting and won't tell me why. I don't want to see you suffer anymore after everything you've been through, Kakashi. I'd do anything to help you, and you won't let me..."

"There is no help for the damned," the older man remarked bitterly, and stood up. He was about to walk away, to disappear into their bedroom, when Iruka clutched his hand again, pulling himself up to face him.

"Not if they won't let themselves be helped," Iruka told him, as tears fell unnoticed from his eyes. "Not if they push away every single person that ever tries to love them."

"You don't know everything I am," Kakashi said sharply, narrowing his one visible eye and managing to look disgusted. "You don't know the anger—the hatred—I live with it, you've never seen me relieve it, and I will not make you my first target, Iruka!"

"Then tell me about it!" Iruka cried, cutting him off. It was as if he had issued a dare. "Tell me about it, tell me every single black thought that has crossed your mind! Show me if you have to—go ahead! Throw me down and tell me to leave you the hell alone! Target me, Kakashi," Iruka took a step toward him, opening his palms to show that he would not put up a fight should Kakashi choose to obey. "I'll still love you. I'll still care," Iruka finished, laying his hand on Kakashi's arm once more.

"You don't know what you're saying," Kakashi jerked his arm away. "I'll hurt you, Iruka. I will. I'm not putting you through the hell that I am, not for one minute!"

Iruka could only smile bitterly. "I'm in hell now, Kakashi. Hell is watching you smile, seeing how beautiful it is when you do, and not knowing if you mean it. Hell is hearing you say these things about yourself and not knowing why you say them. Hell is not understanding you and knowing that the only reason I can't is because you won't let me."

Kakashi remained silent for a moment, turning to look at Iruka with a dark, pleading eye. Iruka was now trembling to his very fingertips, his blanket forgotten on the floor. He met Kakashi's gaze evenly through his tears. His chest rose and fell quickly. Kakashi watched it; he watched the dolphin panting, crying, he took in the look of complete anguish that dominated Iruka's usually smiling features, and he felt something inside of him shatter.

"My heart is breaking," Kakashi murmured softly, "And this is the first time I get to watch it."

"Let me in and maybe it won't," Iruka retorted, and then began to sob.

Instinctively, Kakashi went to put his arms around him, but hesitated. He had caused all this, he had no right to try to comfort Iruka's pain. "I feel so bad," he mumbled, more to himself that to Iruka. He knew the words were inadequate, but what good had he ever been with words?

"You feel bad?" Iruka turned on Kakashi, his voice violent and slurred by tears. "I'm choking on my own bloody tears, and you feel bad?"

"Iruka, I do," he replied earnestly. "I feel awful, terrible. I don't deserve to be your friend...I don't deserve to be your anything," Kakashi finished weakly, and turned his back on the chuunin.

Iruka began to cry harder. "Don't start that again! It's not true."

"It is. I'm not a good person, Iruka. You'd be better off without me," he replied quietly, and turned toward the front door. "I won't be the reason for any more of your sadness than I have to be, Iruka."

"You're...no...Kakashi, don't, don't leave me!" Iruka's trembling turning to violent shaking as he took a step after the copy-nin, but nothing met his outreached hand except a wisp of smoke.


A/N: I'm usually not a big fan of uke!Iruka, but I couldn't find a way to put him in Kakashi's place for this fic. Please, no on be too disgusted with me because of it! It just had to be Kakashi in the self-loathing role. Reviews of any sort are welcome, but constructive criticism will be rewarded with cookies.