Author's notes : Inspired by all the wonderful stories that challenge Kakashi's perception of Iuka's place in his life (including but not limited to 'The Kakashi Mission' by jbmcdragon and 'Tolerant Intolerance' by chikatai) …I wrote this with the idea that they are in an established long term relationship, but that isn't actually clear in the final draft. Also, any and all comments and constructive criticism are welcome.

SAFE

Beep… beep… beep…

Kakashi wasn't sure if the repetitive sound was more annoying or more reassuring. On the one hand, it was about to drive him up the wall in the otherwise silent room, but on the other, it was concrete proof that Iruka was alive and well.

Total chakra depletion was NOT life threatening as he knew better than most. The only reason Iruka was even in the hospital at all was because it had never happened to him before and Kakashi had been away on a mission when it had happened, so to be on the safe side, the Hokage had decreed that Iruka be hospitalized for a few days so that someone could always be there to watch over him in case there were complications.

It wasn't the first time that Kakashi had had to sit at Iruka's bedside while he recovered from some injury received on a mission. Granted, it was usually Iruka sitting waiting for Kakashi to wake up, but bedside vigils were not new to either one of them.

No, what was different this time was the fact that Iruka had not been on a mission. He had been in the village; at the academy. In Kakashi's world view, that meant that Iruka was safe.

Two days before, Kakashi had left the village confident in the knowledge that Iruka would be waiting for him when he returned. What he had not expected was to be met at the village gate by Genma and escorted directly do the hospital with no explanation. When the Hokage herself met them there, his first thought had been that Naruto or perhaps Sakura had been injured on a mission. It didn't occur to him to worry about Iruka because he rarely went on missions during the school year and Iruka was SAFE in the village.

He had been naive; kidding himself. Intellectually he knew that bad things could happen in the village. He just didn't want to admit it to himself. The nine-tails had destroyed part of the village thirteen years ago. Hidden Sand had attacked inside the village during the Chunin exams. Moreover, Iruka taught small children to fight and to throw sharp objects. None of that mattered. Kakashi had convinced himself that Iruka was safe while he was in the village. But it wasn't true and Kakashi was going to have to come to terms with that.

Hostages. Iruka and his students had been taken hostage in their own classroom, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the academy in the middle of a village full of ninja. Three missing nin had managed to infiltrate the very heart of Konoha and no one had noticed until they sent one of the children out with demands.

All the security measures would have to be revised. It was unthinkable that such a thing could happen in the Fire Country capital. Everyone in the village was supposed to be SAFE. Not overpowered in a classroom. Not restrained by chakra draining handcuffs.

Yes, Iruka was a ninja. Yes, he went on missions; sometimes even dangerous missions. When that happened, Kakashi worried; just like Iruka worried about him when he went on dangerous A or S ranked missions. Missions were dangerous. They were allowed to worry about each other. School was NOT supposed to be dangerous. Iruka was NOT supposed to be overpowered and chained to his desk. His students were NOT supposed to be threatened and used as hostages. ANBU was NOT supposed to have to risk the lives of children to liberate them from madmen. And even though those same children would one day be fighting and dying for the village, they should NOT have to witness that level of death and destruction at such a young age.

But it had happened. Somehow, Kakashi had to come to terms with the fact that Iruka could be in danger at any time; that this could happen again. That someday, he might come home from a mission and find a new name to add to the list of loved ones to visit at the memorial stone. And while that thought made his heart ache in ways that he didn't like to contemplate, it was a fact that he was going to have to accept. And he would accept it in time. Really, he would. But for now, he was here at Iruka's side and he would keep him safe for as long as he could and trust that the village protected its own when he couldn't do it.

It was all he had. It would have to be enough. For now, Iruka was alive, and and the blasted monitor was proof of that. So, in the end, the repetitive sound was more reassuring than anything. For now, Iruka was safe, and that was all that mattered in the end.

Fin