He waited.

"This is a short one, maybe a few days, no longer than a week."

It's been three weeks.

After the first week, he couldn't sleep well anymore. He became restless, and found himself lying on his cold bed staring at the ceiling, trying to make his mind wander away from his lover. He would watch the sun rise.

He waited.

After the second week, his body forced him into sleep. He would come home exhausted, just wanted to pass out so he could wake up and face the next day. He didn't eat well; at this point his body was fighting his mind. He couldn't help it. He didn't want to sleep. When he did, he found himself dreaming. He found himself having nightmares. Even in his sleep, he was restless.

He waited.

After the third week, he wasn't himself. Coworkers made their concern known, but he just didn't care anymore. He wanted his lover back. It's been way too long. He wasn't just worried anymore. Oh no, he was way past that. He was now paranoid – being paranoid is better than turning pessimistic. He blamed it on the lack of sleep, and eating.

He waited.

Sleep overcame him, but he wouldn't fall into deep sleep. He was alert. Every noise was caught by his ears. A lone dog barking at God knows what. The rustling of leaves. It kept him awake. It was better than having those nightmares. His body fought with him though. So he found himself drifting in and out sleep. The dog barked again. The leaves rustled. The window rattled.

He shot up in bed eyes going straight to the window. There he saw a guilty looking jounin, frozen in mid movement.

"...Yo", came the rusty greeting. He was tired.

Iruka got out of bed and walked over to him and helped him into the apartment, with a hand on his elbow keeping him steady. His eyes wandered over him looking for any injuries in the dark, only aided by the dim light of the moonlight. He noticed that Kakashi was dirty – no – filty. His vest was torn and stained with blood that he hoped wasn't his. His eyes finally met the lone tired one.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you…"

"Wasn't asleep"

Silence followed.

"Let's get you cleaned up…" Iruka whispered, and began to lead him to the bathroom when Kakashi pulled him back into a tight embrace. Iruka accepted it without hesitation. How he missed this warmth, despite its current state. It felt as though someone lifted all the weight off his shoulders. He was back.

He sighed, "I'm sorry I'm late." There was a pause, "things didn't go as planned."

Iruka replied by hugging him tighter, "I missed you" he whispered, and pulled away with the sudden realization that Kakashi must be very very tired. "C'mon…". He took Kakashi into the bathroom and helped him undress. He washed him, thoroughly. Making sure to get all the muck and grime off of him, and Kakashi didn't complain. Not one bit. The few cuts and scratches he had stopped bleeding on their own accord. He toweled him dry, led him into the bedroom, and laid him on the bed. Iruka removed his own shirt and went under the covers to join his lover. Kakashi instantly took him into his arms, and drew him in close.

Iruka gave him a tender kiss and whispered the word "sleep".

Kakashi gave a small nod in agreement.

He slept.