Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto and they should arrest me for what I've done to Iruka!
His profession was the one constant in his life, the thing that centered him. Inconveniently kindhearted and generous to a fault, he was a bit of an anomaly in the violent and dangerous times he lived in. It as not lost on him that he taught the children the finer points that would lead them to commit violence on others one day. As he would learn, one by one, of his former student's tragic ends, the thought that they grew up to die while applying his lessons weighted on his heart terribly.
But while he had them in his hands, he shared his heart and soul with his students. In return, their earnest hearts attached to their demanding but compassionate sensei. He was not just the most popular sensei, he was the best. At least for teaching the very young. It was the only time his heart felt connected.
The past year had been an unusually tough one. If it hadn't been for the routine of his overworking at school and helping with office tasks, he felt that he might have faded away altogether. As it was, he had been losing weight and sleeping poorly. Even his many admirers were taken aback, becoming as concerned as they were aroused when they stole glances at him walking by. They all assumed that he had close friends to confide in, and didn't want to pry. He was such a private person, given to blushing and kind words, it was a natural mistake to think that he had his own circle of close loyal friends.
When he looked in the mirror he mostly saw the ugly scar that ran across his face. In reality, he was stunning, and it was a curse for him to be so beautiful. It intimidated the softer souls, the ones he would likely fit in with best, and they never approached him. It overly motivated the selfish and macho types, who were crude and brash and made him feel hunted. He had strained friendships with the people he worked with, or so he felt. He was unable to accept that they genuinely admired him, enjoyed his company, would have been delighted to have him along with them anywhere. For the most part , they secretly harbored crushes, but feared that confessing would bring more distance between them and they were happy to at least have an arm's-length part in his life.
He didn't see it that way. He was lonely most of the time when he wasn't working, so he just tried to work as many hours as he could. He was comfortable in the controlled social setting of the workplace. Too much time on his hands and he got to thinking too much. But things had gotten difficult lately, there had been attacks on the village and they were shorthanded. They kept cutting back on classes, and he'd had to go on missions. Back to killing. He loved Konoha and never considered refusing his service. The damage to his soul was accruing with each day he committed foul acts and was diverted from his sanctuary.
It was then that he made the surprise connection with Kakashi. In the most unlikely of events, he had actually rescued the superior warrior. Iruka had stumbled onto the scene of a wounded Kakashi about to be beheaded while on his journey back from another far less dangerous mission and had rescued him, not as an assigned task, but as a human impulse. This detail came as a warm realization to the silver-haired man when he found out while still in the hospital who had saved him and in what circumstance. He dealt with Iruka many times on a professional level, but wasn't one to go for flashy dates and so never counted himself among the drool-from-a-distance club.
When he was released from the hospital, he had called on Iruka and taken him out for ramen, surprised that he'd said yes. Since he'd explained it was in thanks for the rescue, Iruka agreed readily. It broke the ice enough that they very slowly, cautiously, began getting to know one another. There were times when Kakashi wondered what the hell he was doing. It only took sitting that close and talking for a couple of hours with their guard down to make Kakashi realize just how unbearably attractive the man was. That settled, his next move should have been to drag him off by his hair and nail him, using his experience and dominance to overwhelm him into submission. It has been immensely effective in his "relationships" so far, and he always got a good review and an open invitation afterward.
But this was different. While his desire was as strong or even more so than normal, he had an even stronger desire to step back and see this man's face, watch him blush, feel the compassion in his voice when he spoke of the students he adored. Somewhere in the ashes of his heart, it had reached him. He wanted to be held dear by this doe-eyed soul. It was a dangerous thought for someone in his profession, and he tried to fight it. So they would see each other in fits and starts, neither really admitting to having feelings for the other until it was too late. It hit Kakashi first. The giddy thrill of new love. As Kakashi gave over to it, doing funny, silly things to provoke Iruka into letting him get closer, touch, finally a kiss, and they were both head over heels. It was a balm for them both.
It made Kakashi feel strong and proud , and he found the butterflies that this new love set loose in his stomach were delightful. It enabled him to continue to take it slowly, something he wouldn't have considered desirable before. But his precious person had appeared, and his precious person had a tender soul that he instinctively knew required gentle progress into such dangerous waters. They were incredibly chaste at first, Kakashi ending his advances at the first sign of resistance or doubt. The agonizingly delectable above-the-waist stage lasted almost a month.
For Iruka, the butterflies threatened to take him down. As hopelessly drawn as he was to the older man, he feared being pulled under. His personality was such that he had a tendency to feel trapped by the desires of others. But the emotions he fought to suppress were irresistible, and he knew before he dared to admit it that he was falling in love. Just sitting together and touching hands and lips was unbearably pleasurable. When they stepped up to mild groping, he thought he might die and go to heaven all at once.
Still Kakashi was patient. Iruka began to grow a little, then a lot, nervous as he realized where their desires were escalating to. It reached the point where they had done everything except penetration, and he felt like he was hanging onto a ledge, not quite able to let go. He'd only experienced it as a youth, it hadn't been his idea, and the memory was not warm. It worried him, and on some level, he felt a touch ashamed. Everything else up to that point was fine. But this was very difficult for him.
To Kakashi's credit, he still didn't push. He was gentle and encouraging, patient and sympathetic. The more Iruka experienced this kind of gentleness, the more he began to overcome his doubts. They had a couple of false starts, evenings that ended abruptly. Even then, the fierce ex-ANBU with a stallion's reputation was understanding. He wasn't looking for the act, he was building a connection. Once they got going, he was sure that he could please his uke and draw him even further into his heart. He longed to merge their bodies, to get as close as humanly possible.
Iruka had finally made up his mind to go through with it this time. He'd finally come to understand that he there wasn't going to be a perfect time, that he'd have to trust his lover to guide him through it so they could deepen their relationship. They'd had a little sake with dinner, taken their time working up to it. Iruka was honest about his nervousness and they were taking it a step at a time. They finally decided on where (the bed), which lube (the clear one) and the level of lighting. Kakashi was working his magic on the nape of Iruka's tanned neck, one of his secret sensitive spots and started gently working in a well-lubed finger. The gorgeous rump tightened involuntarily, and he waited until it unclenched to start working again, slowly, they had all night to get this right. Iruka was tense, massaging his partner's hardened member with a little less skill than he usually did.
"It'll be alright," Kakashi breathed into the back of the sweet brown neck, kissing and softly biting into the firm flesh. "You don't have to be afraid. We'll make sure that you're ready. I want you to enjoy this."
Iruka tried to relax, but inside he knew he would just have to bear it until they get past this hurdle. His anxiety rose again, but he tried to push it down and concentrate on why he was doing this. This man he was so connected to, so vulnerable to.
Kakashi pulled back, withdrawing his probing finger, looked Iruka in his flushed nervous face.
"I feel like I'm forcing this on you ." He couldn't help being disappointed.
"No. ..it's…I am really ready to start. It's just the initial act, you know, I think we just need to do it and…"
"Get it over with?" Kakashi frowned. "Iruka, I'm not sure you know what the word 'ready' means. We can wait a little longer."
Iruka kneaded his hands together nervously, feeling bereft that their connection was broken for the moment.
"You understand, don't you?…wasn't it hard for you the first time?"
It caught Kakashi off-guard, and he blurted out incredulously, "You mean you honestly think that I'd be a bottom? Hell no."
"What?" Iruka said, holding his breath. "Why do you say that?"
"I meant what I said."
"You mean you won't …do that for me?"
"No. You don't want to do that anyway."
"How do you know?"
"Do you?" Kakashi asked, mouth twisted in mild sarcasm. "You want to fuck me?"
Iruka blushed. "No, you're right. I don't." He felt like more than just the mood had taken a bad turn.
"I already knew that, even if you didn't. I have a little more experience with this kind of thing," (Iruka cringed inwardly at that) Kakashi sighed. "So we don't have to upset each other asking theoretical questions about acts we aren't interested in committing, right?" He was getting testy.
"So you feel that being a 'bottom' is…?" Iruka persisted, a sinking feeling in his stomach.
"Not gonna happen. I'm too much of a…" he caught the look in Iruka's eye. It hit him.
"a man?" Iruka finished for him, throat tight. "Unlike me I suppose." His eyes glittered with hurt.
Kakashi felt like a complete idiot. Iruka hadn't been trying to argue about their positions. It was about suppositions, instead.
There it was , ugly in its honesty. Kakashi considered the act they had just nearly consummated to be an act of degradation if done to a real man, Iruka thought. He felt suddenly naked and embarrassed, and reached for his clothes. He shook off the other man's hands when he tried to reach him. His shame boiled in his cheeks and ears.
"Wait, wait, Iruka - I have issues with me doing that - I don't have that opinion of people that I make love to…" he explained helplessly to his lover's back. "You're really overreacting…"
Iruka had his shorts on already, pulling a t-shirt over his head and shivering. He felt like his heart was going to burst in his throat, and he almost wished that it would, and end this horrible moment.
"You should go." he barely got it out, his throat dry and tight. He pulled away at the hand that grasped at his shoulder, kept his back to the source of his pain. "I want you to leave."
It was as hard a blow as any that had landed on the hardened soldier in his entire career. And he'd set it up himself, hurting the person he already loved more than anyone else in his adult life. He gathered his clothes ,and dressed as well, his mind racing for a way to stay and patch this up.
"I'm sorry, Iruka" was all he could think to say.
"You were honest with me. At least you gave me that much. At least you didn't wait until after." he sounded so betrayed.
'Just," he turned, and Kakashi was shocked to see tears in his eyes. "Just go!"
"Iruka, we'll talk, okay? You're upset now so I'll go now, but we'll talk. We'll sort this out - we'll be okay. This doesn't have to be a big deal," he soothed, worried. "I'm only leaving out of respect for your feelings." He felt sick inside.
Iruka said nothing, only shook his head and hugged himself miserably. Why he used the word respect, Iruka couldn't fathom. Relationship? He felt like the man's urinal. A vaguely disgusting thing with a prominent function. So stupid. He'd know the man been a user, had heard the "hung-like-a-horse" stories about his exploits when the staff parties had degraded to drinking and gossiping marathons.
He heard the door close as Kakashi left, and curled up on the bed and expected to break down in tears. But instead he felt a pounding in his ears and a familiar, old, black despair, and he stared dry-eyed at the closed door for hours, wishing it would heal over and leave him sealed alone with his humiliated soul inside forever. He never slept, rising red-eyed and shaky to shower and try and gather himself up. There was no school, but he was expected to hand out scrolls first thing, so he was due in even earlier than usual.
He felt like everyone could see through him, the way his lover did. He was a dirty object masquerading as a soldier, a teacher, a man. Just yesterday he had foolishly dared to hope that he had found his soul mate and validation as a real person. That it fell apart made sense to him. This was his punishment for pretending to belong with other people, for letting his guard down. He should have learned his lesson long ago. His mistake had made the fall ten times as far, ten times as fatal.
He kept his eyes averted, acting busy, working with the papers and not looking at the people. He assumed they would take their assignments undistracted and take no notice if he just kept moving. They all noticed, but as they often did with him , they assumed he had friends to help him with whatever was obviously eating him up inside. Genma had dropped a hint to Tsunade, and while her first urge was to go inspect her gentile chunin, she was in the midst of bigger matters.
The sun had set and he still sat at the desk. He'd done everything there was to do, but he couldn't bring himself to leave the shred of comfort that being in the office represented. He sat staring at a blank memo pad. There was really no motivation to move. He couldn't imagine eating or sleeping. He was still being forced to exist, so he just continued to exist where he sat.
He felt Kakashi coming well before he came to the door. It was like being chained and tortured. Once the trace of chakra brushed him he was paralyzed with anguish. He could only wait for the unbearable appearance of his ex-lover.
"Yo," Kakashi said softly, experimentally. He looked at Iruka and his heart sank. It was even worse than the worst he'd prepared himself for. Iruka really thinks that we're through, he thought.
The man at the desk said nothing. He'd pressed his fists to his forehead and leaned forward. It left Kakashi to view only the top of his head, like some odd turtle.
"I guess it's too soon to talk yet?" he asked. No response. "I don't want to cause you more pain. Just tell me if I can stay a minute. We don't even have to talk, just let me sit here with you for a few minutes."
Still no response.
"You're not going to stay there all night are you?" he tried to come around to the desk. "Look, I know you're upset with me, but at least you can let me get you home safely."
Iruka moved then, bolting up and out of the chair in case the other man was planning on helping him up. He stumbled blindly, tripping over his own feet and crashing into a file cabinet. The hands that approached to help him were batted away frantically, almost in panic.
"Don't touch me!" he shrilled.
Kakashi's eyes narrowed as he backed away. He was way too upset to leave him alone like this, but he was just making things worse.
"Just calm down a minute, I'm going." he stepped out, listening in the hallway, masking his chakra. When he was sure he'd heard Iruka sit heavily in the chair, he headed for Tsunade's office.
It had taken a while, but he finally calmed down enough to get on his knees and start picking up the papers he had knocked to the floor when he'd jumped up out of the chair. He heard the door open and held still, hoping whoever it was would move on.
"Umino Iruka, I know you're in here," Tsunade strode in, looking down at him. "What, are you hiding?"
"I dropped these," he said quietly, slowly straightening up. "What may I do for you, Honorable Hokage?"
She waved him to sit, but he just stood .
"I think we've been working you a bit too hard, Iruka. You look unwell." No, he thought Please no. "I want you to take some time off."
"No thank you. Please," he said sadly. "My classes have already been postponed and I'll have nothing to do."
"Exactly. You need to get some rest." Iruka shrugged and nodded miserably.
He caved in already? Tsunade wondered. Damn that Kakashi! She knew from his confidential records that the sensei had been treated many times for his recurring depression, but this was far more acute. She needed to do more than just remove him from work. A change in scene was in order.
"I have a deal for you," she smiled. "I have an outpost that could use a supply run in the DMZ. It's next to an amazing hot spring and lake. Would you consider making the delivery, and spending a few days at the spring to wait for the return package?"
"That's not nice, I know, telling you I'm going to let you have a few days off, then monopolizing your time with a task," she continued.
Iruka had lifted his head. "I will accept this task." Got him, she thought. He looks a tad more alive.
"Would you like me to send someone else as well, in case you run into any problems?" Oops, wrong question. Iruka's already dark eyes turned black.
"In a DMZ? Unless you think I need a babysitter, it would be a waste of manpower."
"Very well, come to my chamber tomorrow morning as soon as you can. Just bring yourself and a one-day kit; the supplies will be quite a load already." She looked back over her shoulder as she went out the door, noted that he was still standing in the same spot. Sighing, she headed back down the hall.
He hadn't slept, so at 4:30 he showered and prepared a day kit, trudging back to the hokage's, thankful that it was too early to run into anyone. He'd seen Gai running in the distance but he was going in the other direction and hadn't seen Iruka and that was good. Fortunately, no one else was out running this morning.
He reached the hokage's and the office was empty. Too early, of course. In deference he waited outside the door. There was no reception area or chair, so Iruka assumed a waiting crouch, sitting on his haunches.
"Gah, Iruka, man you look beat!" Genma said, bending over him. He rubbed his dry eyes, realizing that he'd dozed off. Genma took his arm and pulled him up, correctly surmising that he'd be stiff from the position. "Why didn't you just go get a chair?"
"I'm supposed to meet Tsunade here," he said tiredly.
"She told me to go ahead and get you going," Genma said. He led Iruka to large pack on a metal frame. "It's heavy. Here's the map, and here's some water." He stepped back after helping Iruka strap everything on. "Are you sure you don't want some help with this? You look like you're not feeling well."
"I don't need any help, thank you, Genma. Tell Tsunade I said so." Genma wouldn't have been free to make that offer on his own, so he could only assume the hokage had told him to suggest it. He knew he was being set up, they were being pretty obvious, but he really didn't need to be "tricked" into spending a couple of days away from all of these eyes.
It took 12 hours of steady walking to get there, and his back was screaming uncle by the time he'd handed off the pack. It was well into the night, and there was no point in heading on to the springs yet. He found a low pine branch and hauled himself up on it and stretched out. He fell blissfully asleep in a very short time. He was so exhausted mentally and physically that ,when the missing nin came to hover, staring, a few inches above his face , it never registered in his consciousness. The nin studied his features carefully, the better to perfect his henge.
The second day at the hot spring was better than the first. His head was finally clearing, and he was starting to peek back at the terrible fight he'd had with Kakashi with the thinnest of inclinations to re-examine it. He was almost dressed to go back for the return supplies when he found himself flanked by ANBU masks and being manhandled to the ground.
"Don't struggle," came a growl in his ear. They bound his arms and legs, blindfolding and gagging him, roughly pulled up his clothes as if looking for something. It was straight out of one of his nightmares, except he kept thinking that it was real. He was slung across a shoulder and hauled off.
They dumped him in front of Tsunade, who looked frustrated. "He's not wounded?"
"Check his entire body," she ordered. Satisfied that they'd found no wounds, she addressed his confusion.
"You were seen attacking the outpost," she began, holding a hand up to silence him as he began to ask a question. "You received moderate injuries. I don't detect any recent healing, and you're clean. So it must have been a henge."
"Unfortunately, you were outside of the village and not on a ledgered mission, and alone at the time. Protocol dictates that I must confine you under observation for no less than 2 weeks. Unless they can locate the user of the henge, which at this point is unlikely."
He was still trying to get his bearings when this latest bit of news hit home, and he looked at her wide-eyed. Prison?
"Iruka, we both know this is just a formality. I'm going to use my discretion to stretch the rules this time. You will stay in your residence on house arrest,. I will have people check on you from time to time. Your obligation is to cooperate with the guards, and to arrive timely for inspection here in my chamber if directed. If you leave your premises without permission, fail to cooperate with any guard, or miss an inspection and you will be remanded to the prison to wait out the remaining portion of your hold."
Iruka nodded, still dazed. He felt acutely the shame of being suspected as a traitor, it barely fit on his already full plate of angst.
"If at any time you feel that you may have had some part in the attack, or witnessed anything relating to it, you may contact me directly. Pojjin, escort Umino Iruka to his home."
Iruka hung his head, and followed without a sound.
"I'm supposed to stay inside. I'm inside. What else do you want me to do?" he asked dully. He'd left the door unlocked and unsealed day and night in ridiculous over-compliance to allow his guards to check on him. That way he didn't have to get up to let them in. He certainly wasn't stopping them.
"Iruka, come on," Genma shook his shoulder. "Look at me."
Iruka opened his eyes reluctantly. The man looking down at him frowned. "How can you lie in bed for three days in a row and look like you never sleep?'
"Are you ordering me to answer that?" he asked flatly. Part of the requirement, do as the guards say.
"Yes, if I have to."
"I have slept very little."
"Have you been eating?"
"Do I have to…
"Yes, dammit, answer me! When I ask you something you have to answer me."
"It's a waste of resources."
Not sure what that meant, Genma shook his head.
"No one thinks you've done anything wrong, Iruka. You're taking this awfully hard."
Heavily obedient, Iruka sat up, slid his legs over the edge of the bed. In briefs and a rumpled white t-shirt, Genma noted, he was still an awesome sight regardless. When he went to stand, he wobbled, and Genma was only too willing to take his arm to steady him. "You'll keep you balance better if you open your eyes," he said quietly, their faces inches apart. Iruka opened his eyes and averted them downward, and Genma reached up and caught his chin with his free hand.
"Don't ," Iruka tried to pull back, but he was held fast.
"You can't just curl up and die in here. It would be sin for someone like you to waste away while you have so many admirers willing to help you." his breath was warm on Iruka's chin, but it gave him cold chills. "I won't allow…"
"What won't you allow, Genma?" Kakashi growled, stalking across the room. "What part of checking on prisoners includes trapping and groping?" Released, Iruka stepped back and turned away. He seemed to hesitate a moment, then walked stiffly into the bathroom and locked the door.
"What the hell are you doing in here, Kakashi?"
"I noticed his house was unsecured and I thought I'd see why," he lied. Ever since Iruka had been placed at home, he'd been checking on the activity around it. When he had things to go do, he left Pakkun to watch for him. When he felt like Genma had stayed just a little too long, he'd stepped in ."And I find you here playing 'who's your daddy' with Iruka. You think it's funny to jump him when he's down?"
More like grab the gold ring while it's in reach, Genma thought furtively. He lowered his voice ."I was just trying to get through to him. He's completely demoralized right now. He just lies there, not eating or sleeping."
"If you think I'm going to keep quiet about what I just saw, you're wrong." Kakashi warned. "You don't need to be the one to check on him."
"From what I hear," Genma retorted, "he doesn't want you checking on him either." He was rewarded with a murderous glower.
In the bathroom, Iruka was curled up in the tub, covered with the robe from the hook on the door. The light was off, and he concentrated on the cool feeling on his cheek where he's scrubbed his fist hard against it to erase the feeling of Genma's hand on his skin. His arm upper arm lay across his ear, effectively blocking out the noise in the next room. It suited him even better than the bed, he was less available here. He settled in with the unreasonable intent to stay there until his confinement was over.
When Kakashi started to direct Genma to go with him to see the hokage, they both paused, and regarded the closed bathroom door. There was no way they could assume that he was all right in there.
They looked at each other, still angry, but setting it aside for the moment.
"Iruka?" Kakashi called. He looked down, and Genma said it out loud as he noticed.
"The light's off.". He went to pound on the door, blocked by Kakashi.
Kakashi tested the knob. Still locked. :'Ruka!"
He easily defeated the lock and popped the door open a crack. When he got it open enough to step in, Genma was crowding against his back and he hissed at him to back off. He got close enough to see that Iruka was breathing and appeared to be unharmed, physically at least. He was certain that Iruka had to know they were there, but he didn't move. Kakashi could sense that he was awake. He turned and pushed Genma ahead of him, closing the door again behind them.
"He's fine. Let's go."
Before he could object, Kakashi ushered him out the door. They caught Tsunade still at her desk, and when they both started talking at once, she slammed her hand on the desk to silence them.
"What the hell - Genma, report. Kakashi, wait your turn." She held her shoulders and leaned forward on her elbows on the desk.
"Iruka is getting stranger every time I check in on him. I finally tried to talk some sense into him ,and Kakashi here steps in and accuses me of lurching on the poor guy. Iruka was so upset, he's in the bathtub curled up in the fetal position. This is just getting way out of hand." Genma blurted his story quickly, expecting to be interrupted. Kakashi glared but held his tongue.
Tsunade thrummed her fingers on her shoulder, nodding. "Kakashi?"
"If you didn't tell him to grab the prisoner in his underwear and force him close against his will, then he's gone above and beyond the call of duty. He was making an unwanted advance and it was just luck that I was there in time to stop him. You can't trust him on this assignment, not since you've threatened Iruka with jail if he doesn't obey his guards. You've set him up to be assaulted."
Genma glared. "I wasn't making an advance. He needs help, you saw him. I was just trying to get through to…"
"Stop." Tsunade said quietly. "Genma, in light of this I'm going to call your participation in this matter complete. Although, I do NOT believe that you were molesting anyone. Because if I did, you'd be facing some serious consequences."
Not happy, Genma nodded angrily.
"Kakashi. As for your role in this, I'm not comfortable with you hanging over Iruka either. I would guess that he is uncomfortable with your presence as well. I am requesting that you refrain from entering his home while his confinement is in effect. Really," she shook her head, sweeping a hand into the air. "for all of the whining I've endured, you've given me almost no useful information about the actual subject here. What is his state of mind? "getting stranger" tells me nothing. And, how is he physically?"
"He's unresponsive for the most part. He's not taking care of himself. He admitted to not sleeping, in spite of the fact he just stays in bed. He admitted to not eating. He smells like he hasn't bathed."
"Does he appear to be ill?"
"No, his body still seems strong enough, although he's getting a little shaky when he stands up."
"I thought you said he doesn't get up."
"I ordered him to. He complies with my orders. That's how I got him to admit to that he's not eating or sleeping well."
"Is he sad?"
"Very. Overly." Kakashi chimed in. Genma nodded.
"Do you think he will harm himself?"
They both considered, shook their heads. "He hasn't done anything to suggest that."
'Okay, look," Tsunade concentrated her gaze on her entwined fingers. "If he were in danger of injuring himself or others, I could have him medicated - um, regardless of his wishes (careful, she thought. Iruka's recent refusal to take the antidepressants she'd recommended was a private medical matter) but as it stands he has demonstrated his ability to meet the requirements of his confinement. He can even obey you when he obviously would rather not, in order to meet a higher goal. He is well enough physically. Being stubborn, smelly and sleepy are not violations, nor are they gross aberrations."
"I appreciate that it is a shock to see our kind sensei this way, but he is in mortifying circumstances. And fresh off of some other," she shot a deliberate look at Kakashi "personal crisis. I will make sure to keep a close eye on him. You gentlemen needn't concern yourselves with this any longer. I expect you to honor my wishes and stay out of this."
"So, you're just going to leave him moping in a cold bathtub in the dark?" Kakashi asked in frustration.
"I'm going to send - someone (she caught herself - to mention the name of the person she would use next, it might invite debate on her choice and she was in no mood for it) with an order for him to report to my office for inspection tomorrow. Rest assured, I will examine him myself. We will see him through this."
She beckoned Shizune after the two departed. "Have Shikaku report to me here tomorrow. I think we can find him trustworthy to take over Genma's duties. Since it's short notice, I'd like you to deliver the summons to Iruka now, Shizune. Don't linger. Just be sure he understands what he's being asked to do."
Shizune set off on her tasks, and Tsunade turned to gaze out the window, taking a moment to settle her troubled thoughts.
It had been creepy, the way the front door was open and the man was so carelessly unprotected in the bathtub of all places. His only real concern was the light, which caused him to cover his eyes and complain when she turned it on and forced him to look at the summoning order. She made him repeat the directions. Did he understand? He said that he did. She reluctantly turned out the light, as he had fervently requested when she left. How someone with survival skills like Iruka's could leave themselves so completely unprotected…it felt suicidal to her, no matter what Kakashi and Genma's opinions had been. She was going to catch Tsunade and tell her so tomorrow. It was a good thing she would be evaluating him soon.
He never showed up. Shikaku was nonplussed, dismissed twenty minutes after he'd arrived. His services would not be needed after all. Raido and Iwashi had been dispatched to take the chunin into custody for failure to comply.
They'd had the decency to put pants on him before taking him into custody. He was barefoot and his t-shirt was starting to look grimy, his hair greasy and falling in his down turned face. In his devastation he was still heart stopping. She deeply regretted having to pronounce judgment on him.
"You are remanded into custody, Umino Iruka. Once you have been processed into your cell I will be sending for you, and we will conduct an evaluation at that time. Guards," she motioned sadly," please remove the prisoner." At least they'll clean him up so he doesn't smell like that, she thought. As humiliating of an experience as that would likely be.
As much as they would have liked to afford him some dignity, it was safer to have more than one person go in and assist him with his cleanup. No one wanted to be accused, or tempted, to do anything untoward while he was in their custody. He blushed madly and kept his head down the whole time, silent and bitter.
Once he was cleaned up and dressed in his pajama-like prison uniform, they left him alone in his harshly lit cell. He sat unmoved at the edge if the cot, staring at the floor. His mind would seize on a painful or frightening moment, where Genma grabbed him, where the guard forced him to remove his last shred of clothing, when the ANBU tightened the blindfold and gag…and it would play over and over, and he would try to fit it into his psyche, figure where he must deserved it some how, or asked for it, or secretly desired it. He briefly remembered an incongruent warm moment with his students, and he shoved it away instantly - he was disgustingly different than the man who had been in that moment, the man who was an honorable sensei. He didn't want to filthy those memories by allowing them in his obsessing thoughts.
When they brought him to Tsunade, it was in a medical examining room. She checked him over and made small talk, trying to draw him out, and was ignored. She tried ordering him to talk to her, but he was in prison already and there was nothing else she could do to him, so he didn't bother to obey. She tried to pull his head up and force him to look in her eyes. He looked down and away no matter what she did. She yelled at him to snap out of it, threatened and poking him roughly with the needle when she gave him an immunity booster, anything to get a rise out of him. He was slowly disappearing into himself right under their noses.
It was a week into his incarceration, only four more days to go. Tsunade had debated with herself and decided against allowing visitors before, but the situation hadn't improved. And he kept asking. He wasn't a small child any more, he was becoming a young man. And he swore he could handle the situation. The idea had potential. This was one person who was precious to Iruka still.
When he was led into a interview room, he sat with his ritual stare at the floor, silent. He didn't react when the door opened. He only jerked back from the touch on his shoulder internally, outwardly motionless. When the person spoke, the shock of recognition hit him hard and he gasped in agony. The only "at least" that was left was ripped away. "At least Naruto will never see me like this." His hand came to his face and he tried to suppress his cry of anguish. Not in front of him, don't let him see me like this, he thought helplessly. Please, no.
"Sensei," Naruto said quietly, startled and heartsick. "What have they done to you?" He wrapped his arms around his beloved mentor, his first family member. He held the shaking man tight, hoping to reach him, having been warned about his deeply depressive state. They'd told him that they were preparing to medicate him against his will any day now. Nothing had elicited a reaction from him until now.
Naruto hardly recognized him. He was gaunt and haunted, someone else had done his hair and had it all wrong. Naruto reached up and undid the band in his hair, slowly and carefully combed through his hair with his fingers.
"They screwed this up, let me fix it for you, Sensei." he said kindly, voice shaky. It cut through Iruka's heart like knife. The slightly clumsy hands bumbled soothingly in his hair, and he fought to keep from clutching the younger man to him. I can't be near him anymore. He needs to forget about me, now that he sees how I really am. He felt his hair being fixed back up in a familiar-feeling arrangement.
"That's better," Naruto said sadly. Iruka felt a few warm drops fall on his arm. Naruto's tears.
"Please Sensei, won't you look at me? I want to see your face. I've really missed you. I was thinking that if you needed some help when you get out of here, you know, until you feel better, maybe I could come stay with you for a while. You remember, don't you? Like I used to. Wouldn't that be nice?"
It was unbearable. He wanted to bite his tongue and bleed to death right now, desperately wanting to escape, but just as fiercely wanting not to worsen this for Naruto. His blood pressure was rising, his vision blurring. He managed to tip his head up to try and give Naruto what he wanted, a look into his eyes, just before he passed out.
The look in his eyes gave Naruto a glimpse into his sensei's soul, and the madness that he saw there gave him nightmares for days afterward. He wondered if his sensei would be lost forever as they came at his frightened call, carrying the limp man away.
When he woke up in the infirmary, he was much calmer. Hate when food was proffered, not much, but it was a start. He began to dress himself, albeit mechanically, when it was appropriate. He resembled his obedient state e from his home incarceration. It was worlds apart from the day before. Naruto must have been able to reach him, they guessed.
Naruto visited him every day after that, briefly, and he quietly listen to the boy and let him talk about how he would be taking care of him. He would nod, still not up to talking, and let him cling a bit. He accepted the pills now, the effects of which wouldn't be fully effective until he had taken the full dose for at least a week or two. It looked encouraging. His encarceration period was over. He would be released to Naruto's care tomorrow. He would be seen twice daily at the infirmary for the first week on Tsunade's orders. Everything was looking up.
Except Iruka. He had been palming the pills, releasing them secretly into the water when he peed. He'd found strength now , though, in a single goal. There was only one way to really keep from dragging Naruto through any more of this. When he was released, he would be able to end everyone's unhappiness once and for all. It made him feel better, a lot better. It wouldn't be long now. They would be so relieved to be rid of him, and he would be so glad to just be done with it and never have to face any of them again. It was exciting. It was a provoking feeling, unidentifiable, similar to joy. Almost thrilling. It was hard to keep a straight face when he thought about it, but he knew if they caught him giggling they might suspect. For once he was going to do something right the first time.
When they arrived at Iruka's apartment, Naruto and Raido fussed and made sure he was comfortable in his bed. By the time Raido left, a nervous Naruto came in and offered Iruka his noontime pills. Iruka recognized them as the psyche med and a tranquilizer. He palmed them with a smile and thanked Naruto as he pretended to take them, He felt guilty at the relieved look the boy wore after he 'took' the pills. He's relieved that I'll be sleeping soon and he won't have to watch over me. Don't worry Naruto. I won't subject you to this disgusting babysitting any longer. I care about you too much.
He feigned sleep, knowing from eavesdropping that Naruto had things he needed to go pick up and was just waiting to be sure he was settled. When he heard the door close and lock, he slipped out of bed and into his clothes. He pulled a mask out, some blades, a small spade. He tucked the equipment into his cargo pockets and spared time for a small sigh. All according to plan.
He went out through the window, forcing his lazy body to take him up into the rooftops and trees, away from the busy village. At the woodland's edge he stopped , found the spot in the thicket he'd envisioned. He slid in under the greenery, on his back, patches of sky visible through the quivering leaves. Perfect. No need for the mask now. He pulled it from his mouth and dropped it next to him.
He turned a bit sideways and began to dig. He dug a small trough, as long as his forearm, twice as wide and a foot and a half deep. That should be sufficient. He turned back over onto his back, let his arm hang into the hole. His senses were heightened, and the freshly dug earth smelled welcoming.
A tear surprised him on his cheek. He wasn't sad. His mind thrummed with electricity. Everything that had happened , all the agony, the shame, the horrible emptiness of death and humiliation of lost love - it couldn't touch him now. The weight was gone. He was going to be free.
He lifted his arm and focused on his chakra to find the right place. Down the river not across the stream, he though giddily, and a half-giggle half-sob broke from his lips. Concentrate, now. For once you're going to do something right. He gathered his wits and grew serious. He took his blade and slowly, yearning to experience every aspect of the moment, neatly split the vein lengthwise. The long, careful, deep slice gushed forth instantly. It hurt somewhat irrelevantly. Compared to the pain of the last few weeks, it was ecstasy. He dropped the blade into the hole and placed his arm down next to it. It should hold whatever his body would give up, keep him undetected. Tears rolled mysteriously down his cheeks and he smiled weakly, growing numb and cold as he faded from consciousness.
Kakashi had arrived to drop off some fruit, knocked hesitantly. No answer. He just wanted to drop them off with Naruto, make an initial contact, let Iruka know he was still waiting for him. Not to push him. He refused to give up hope.
He began to get concerned. When he checked the side of the house, he saw the open window. Damn!
Forcing the seals, he ducked inside. The bed, the open drawers…he sensed immediately that Iruka had taken off. He quickly summoned Pakkun to help him track. When the nin-dog appeared, his reaction shocked Kakashi.
"Hurry Boss!" Pakkun yelped, taking off like a jet. Kakashi hadn't yet told him what they were doing…"I smell his blood, lots of it." His heart sank he raced after the charging pug.
Without the nin-dog, Iruka's plan would have been foolproof. Only the dog's keen sense of smell took them without delay to the spot where the limp body lay hidden. Kakashi dove under the foliage and swept his body up, blood splashing heavy, and bamphed them into the infirmary. Sakura was putting away instruments and gasped when they appeared. Kakashi swiftly placed the body onto the table , praying it wasn't too late, and Sakura moved quickly to seal the vein and encourage the heart to beat. Others moved to assist her, and Kakashi had to stand away to give them room to work. He collapsed in the corner with his head in his hands to await the verdict, overwhelmed.
It couldn't have been closer. Iruka had been very, very good . But the people who cared about him had been better. He was wrapped and restrained and alive. They were mercifully keeping him sedated until they could build up the antidepressants in his system, to give them a jumpstart at reaching him. Naruto came and cried by his bed every day; Kakashi would let him and then gently take him away, sometimes joining the young man for ramen, a small thing he could do for Iruka. Kakashi came to sit every evening that he wasn't on a mission, staring sightlessly at his open book and listening to the breathing that he thought had been stilled.
Iruka fought the medics when they first woke him, struggled blindly and unexpectedly calling out for Kakashi. They sent for him, and his heart was in his throat as he slipped in the room. Iruka clutched his arm and cried. The jounin held him tight and said the millions of things he'd wanted to tell him, kissed his tears and promised to be there always. They clung together, and Iruka felt something small bud in his chest as he was held in those protective arms. A tiny feeling of warmth, the possibility of being cared for again. He gripped the feeling in spite of his doubts and fear. It suggested the possibility that he could get better, find his way back. By the time they sedated him for the night he was calmer, and he was aware of his visitor's comforting presence as he fell asleep.
He was able to talk to Naruto a little by the next week, able to give a little cry of relief when the boy gripped him in a crushing hug. When Sakura came to check on him he looked less pained every day, was able to listen when she talked without wondering if she would always be ashamed of him for what he'd tried to do. When she gave him a warm smile he was able accept it. It was excellent progress.
It took many weeks before they deemed him well enough to think for himself. When they finally released him, Kakashi had himself removed from duty and spent the week at Iruka's, even though he had daily therapy sessions and was released on his own recognizance. The jounin couldn't bear to let him out of his sight yet. He set Pakkun at the door when he was gone. The independent Pakkun often elected to stay the night, seeking attention from the frail but recovering chunin, much to Kakashi's surprise. It seemed impossible, but their love and trust was starting to rebuild.
The moonlit night was too beautiful to waste and Kakashi drew Iruka away from the dimly lit bedroom and out onto the rooftop. He cradled the handsome face in his hands, absorbing the look of the creamy moonlight highlighting the features he loved, that he never wanted to see in pain again. Iruka smiled shyly, his gentle blush warming them both. He was much calmer now. They settled down to watch the stars, Iruka's head comfortably nestled on Kakashi's strong chest. They were connected again, scarred and damaged, but connected.
The moon regarded them with compassion, and sent them light and hope, still watching as they crept back inside to escalate their gentle love play. A smiling nin-dog came discreetly out the window and took their place on the roof, allowing the couple their privacy, smiling smugly in his sleep.