Happy Birthday, Kakashi

Title: Hands

Rating: R

Genre: Romance, mild angst

Pairing: Iruka/Kakashi

Length: 2000 ish words

Summary: Iruka convinces Kakashi how beautiful his hands are...

Warnings: mild angst, shounen ai, mild swearing, yaoi

Author Notes: First time doing an Iruka POV, came to me the other day looking at my own
tired, worn, hands I promise only mild angst this one, no one dies either, yay :) Smut
level wasn't as high as I expected first posting after hubby came home, but trust me, the
two I'm editing and cleaning up now will more than make up for that... Thanks again
Hatochan, for EVERYTHING, always, more than you know... and yet again for the beta...

Disclaimer: Naruto and it's lovely characters don't belong to me, they belong to Kishimoto,
but Kakashi asked if he and 11 other jounin, chuunin, and a pervy old sannin could be traded
over to me for his birthday, apparently it didn't work... damn there goes the birthday orgy...

The quiet snick of the window latch was loud in the darkness. It must have been a rough mission. He always came in through the window after those missions, as if the smaller portal kept his presence from being too intrusive, disturbing the peacefullness of the darkened room. The slight breeze and scent of damp leaves confirmed the open window. A shadow ghosted past on silent feet, skirting around the bed to reach the bathroom. I waited, listening to what would sound to anyone else to be mere shower sounds, but to me they spoke volumes concerning the condition of the man being drenched within. The raindrop pattern of water pounding against the glass door seemed to last forever.

A very rough mission.

A few more minutes of waiting and I knew the water must be ice cold. I debated going in to check on the other shinobi, but decided to give him a few more moments alone with his thoughts, unpleasant though they must have been. My wait wasn't overly long. The fall of water abruptly ceased and a burst of humid air followed the man into the bedroom. I heard the damp thud of a towel hitting the floor next to the hamper and smelled the clean herbal scent of my own soap. I watched pale skin and silvery hair make their moonlit way towards me before the other side of the futon dipped low. Perfectly defined muscles flexed and tensed, creating sharp shadows along the marble like contours of his body.

I heard the quietly whispered "Tadaima," and answered "Okaeri," just as quietly.

Just to make sure he knew it was more than a formality, I repeated, "Welcome home, Kakashi." Only silence answered. That was not entirely unexpected. It was difficult sometimes returning from a mission and then going back to a normal life. So every shinobi devised a routine, some nearly as elaborate as the tea ceremony, to help them decompress, return to normality in their own way. Kakashi would sneak in through the window, silently erasing all trace of the mission before coming to my bed. What happened after always depended on the mission. At times he would be gentle and considerate, sharing and giving until I wanted to cry with the very beauty of our lovemaking. The times when he was not so gentle or considerate were no less wonderful, though, in the way a wild, harsh thunderstorm showed its beauty, all nails and teeth and flexing muscle. There were also quiet times, when he said not a word, the only sound his lips on my neck, or the tiniest of sighs as he filled me with the proof of his desire. Even rarer were the nights after a perfect mission, where seemingly nothing went wrong, nights filled with joy and laughter, softly whispered words of love interspersed with teasing. And there were the nights of anniversaries. The nights every shinobi knew and understood. Nights of memory and regret, filled with phantoms and dreams. Nights filled with silence or tears, sake and remembrance. Nights spent alone or huddled quietly in the arms of a lover, cursing the darkness.

Tonight was an anniversary of sorts, for Kakashi anyway. The anniversary of his birth. I wondered if the long shower meant he had failed to come to terms with another year outliving his former team mates or if it was some new torment from the latest mission. The clock ticked down the minutes 'til midnight in the quiet room, the only sound our breathing and the relentless forward march of time. Another tick and I shattered the silence. "Happy Birthday, Kakashi."

"Hmmmmm," he answered. Well, it wasn't the most polished or refined answer I had ever received, but it was an acknowldgement.

"Are you almost ready to talk about it?" I had my own routine, like every shinobi's partner; wait in silence until he approached the bed and get him to talk it out as soon as possible without intruding too much on his pain. If he was answering, in however primitive a manner, he was almost ready to share this night's burden. Another grunt was the only reply. I sat up and leaned back against the wall, waiting for him to join me. Perhaps five minutes later, the other presence moved to sit beside me. "Was it bad this time?"

"Not as bad as some, but bad enough." Which meant it was probably pretty fucking horrible, but if he was willing to make the attempt to live with it, who was I to say otherwise. "I'm ok."

"What can you tell me?"

Kakashi never looked up, kept staring at his hands in his lap. "Just a standard, run-of-the-mill assassination mission. Nothing out of the ordinary." Nothing out of the ordinary for an elite jounin ninja. Very much out of the ordinary for anyone else. His voice was worn and rough. "I guess it's just been a long few weeks. I'm tired and things just never seem to stop. Been a long time since my last real downtime. I'm ok, though."

"You sound like you're trying to convince yourself, Kakashi. I'm not one of the mission-room shinobi you have to BS... Ok, I am, but not here, not now. Here and now I'm your lover, I'm here for you... What's wrong?"

Kakashi brought his hands up into sight. Although he was naked and still barely damp, he still wore his gloves, the metal protectors fogged from the shower. A ragged piece of bandage peeked from one leather covering.

"It's not serious, is it Kakashi?" A slight tone of anger clouded my voice, but not for Kakashi. I wondered if he would ever tell me what happened or how. So much had to remain unshared between us. Mission confidentiality and security demanded it, and although I understood, it didn't mean I always accepted willingly, especially not when they sent him back out night after night after night, with barely a break in between. Eventually odds like those won.

"No, not really. Just a few more scars to add to my collection. Nothing new."

"Kakashi..." This moroseness, this... this melancholy was something new. "Let me?" I gently brought the hands to my face and removed the gloves. He resisted once before giving in. Smart man. I'm more stubborn than you are tonight. The fraying bandage was grubby and stained. Most likely applied himself shortly after battle, and not yet replaced or properly attended. Most definitely not looked after by a medic. I kissed the palm of the unbandaged hand and he shuddered. I unwound the fabric from around the clenched fist, wincing in sympathy at the deep slash on the palm, the bruising and swelling, the cracked skin over the knuckles. Small bits of plaster still embedded in the broken skin. "Kakashi?"

"Punched a wall. It's fine, nothing's broken." The hands were pulled back, twisted together in his lap.

"Kakashi, it isn't fine. You're not fine. Why didn't you get this taken care of properly?"

A deep sigh weighed down the already heavy atmosphere. "I hate my hands." Nothing more was offered for several long moments. The loose papers on the dresser rustled in the breeze, the only sound to break the stillness surrounding us. When he spoke again, eyes locked onto his wringing hands, the pain and utter weariness in his voice caused my own throat to grow tight. "They're ugly. Hangnails,blisters, calluses... I've chewed the nails to the quick; they're rough and sharp and look horrible. The scars... "

"Kakashi, those scars were earned honorably, defending our village and our comrades. If your nails and fingers are chewed and bitten raw, it's from worry, worrying about the people you protect every time you pull on your hitai-ate, every time you accept a scroll and whatever mission it contains." I tried to convince, to comfort.

He wouldn't accept it. " They kill. You've never seen me squeeze the life from a toddler because some rich merchant wanted to hurt a rival. You've never seen me cause hurt and pain and death night after night after night. " Kakashi's hands were gripping each other so tightly, the fingers twitching sporadically. " Too many scars, everywhere. I'm all bruised and bloody. And kami help me I like to think I'm not vain, but all the fine lines like spiderwebs... I'm getting old Iruka. I'm already old for a shinobi, how many of us live past 25? I'm already several years past that, nearly a decade past the average age of shinobi with my rank, my experience. How much longer can I do this and remain effective. And what happens to all of us when I can't do this any longer?" A metal guard pressed into the opposite palm, threatening to draw blood.

" You kill and maim fulfilling your mission duties, never in moments of wanton destruction. I'm a shinobi, too, Kakashi. I'm not ignorant of what that entails. I've performed the same tasks. " I laid a tentative hand on his thigh, fingers curling gently over the swell of muscle. I rub my own facial scar with the other hand, trailing to the crow's feet beginning to crease the skin around my eyes. " Yes, you're getting older every day, we all are, but that's just more time we've had to share with each other. And this village will still be protected when you and I are both long gone. Your students, my students, they will pick up where we leave off; that's what we've trained to do, to protect everything we hold dear when we're gone. " He remained silent, motionless, and I could see the sharingan watering in the dim light. " And even if you had to give up the shinobi life tomorrow, I wouldn't love you any less. "

" Iruka, I just-"

"Kakashi..." I carefully took hold of his clenched fists, pulling them into my own lap, working my fingers between the palms to pry them apart. " Did you know that your hands are one of the things I love the most about you?" After separating his hands I began to stroke them, tracing the imperfections, large and small. I spoke quietly, soothingly. " So strong and capable, but tender and loving. They can cradle a baby bird and return it to its mother's nest so quickly she never rejects it. Your hands pat Naruto on the head after a job well-done, giving him the acknowledgment he craves, wiped away Sakura's tears when you returned and told her they failed to bring Sasuke back. Your hands form the signs for jutsus most of us will never learn in order to protect this village and everyone in it. They show me so much love every time we are together. Your hands are two of the most beautiful things I've ever seen "

He sighed again, softer, weaker. The pale fingers began to relax under my touches.

" Your hands are two of the most beautiful things I've ever seen, Kakashi, because of all you've done with them... and because they're a part of you."

" B-Beloved, I ..." The strained voice hitched around the emotional endearment, his thought unfinished.

I gently kissed each hand and then leaned close to brush another across his forehead. "Kashi, love, I know how much you love me... let me show you how much I love you." My own strong capable hands eased him back onto the futon.

There was nothing hard or fast or rough that night, no mere seeking of release. Instead it was slow and tender, showing him all the love I had for him, the love he so richly deserved. Some would say my very act of making love to him was taking, but I knew the very care and love and desire I showed him gave much more than it ever took. I would happily give and give and give to the man underneath me till there was nothing left of myself. And after I gave him a much needed release, tears falling like a soft spring shower from both our eyes at the very beauty of it, I kissed the fluttering eyelids and smoothed the delicate pulse jumping in his throat. "Happy Birthday, Kashi love, and let this be the first of many gifts on this day." I pulled him close and we fell asleep wrapped in each other's arms.