Part 19

Iruka had been raised with good enough manners to know the right way to leave a dinner party. Even if the party in question did consist of one human host and more dogs than he could count. He hitched the puppy closer to his chest, bowed politely to Kakashi and turned his back to the door as soon as it had been closed.

He stood there a couple of seconds, feeling stunned as the puppy grumbled sleepily about something, wondering what to do. He tried to concentrate on leaving the vicinity of the jounin quarters before running onto anyone he knew. He did not even want to think of what he had been told until he was safely within the confines of his home. He desperately wanted to go home, lie down on his bed and look at all that was familiar. After what Iruka had heard, all he needed to do was bury his head in his pillow and forget about it until he was rational enough to think.

He was angry – very, very angry, not just because he had been compared to the Fourth and found inferior. He was angry that Kakashi had never noticed him before Naruto had pointed him out. Iruka had been noticing Kakashi for as long as he could remember. He was not sure when the obsession had started – when he had seen Kakashi walk down the Konoha main road with his ANBU gear and his dogs (as if the mask did anything to hide that silver hair) or when Iruka was a student and the twin legends of Uchiha Itachi and Hatake Kakashi, the youngest ever students to graduate, were told in each class at the academy in hushed voices.

Well, Iruka thought wryly, all he had done to show Kakashi he had the same qualities as the Fourth was go on a mission with him, rescue a bunch of dogs, break a leg and, lest he forgot, have sex with the copy-nin. He had had to do all that just to get Kakashi's attention, Iruka thought in a fresh wave of anger, as he clutched the puppy tighter. He wondered what he would have to do to keep Kakashi interested. While Iruka did not exactly call out to be noticed like some of the ninja did, he was hardly in hiding or residing in the Fire Country Monastery.1 Kakashi was just too blind to notice what was around him, unless it was thrust right at him, Iruka thought. Then, Iruka realized with a guilty start that he was gripping the puppy so hard that it was starting to whimper.

With a muttered apology, he relaxed and brought up the pup to kiss her on the forehead. And stopped – and sniffed. Thinking back, Iruka recalled he did remember Pakkun taking a bath. He knew, from Sakura's complaints, that Pakkun used the same shampoo she did, so it was probably a personal choice. He had seen some of Kakakshi's other nin-dogs taking baths, but he could not recall any of the newly-rescued dogs bathing. By the smell of it, the puppy had not bathed since birth – which was not very surprising--but still, something that needed to be dealt with immediately.

It was as he detoured to buy some herbal rose-scented shampoo (since the puppy was a she, Iruka was sure she would appreciate the feminine touch) he remembered that he had invited Kakashi for breakfast the same day he had promised to take Gai shopping. He groaned and wondered if he should do something about it. On the top of it all, as his mind cleared, he thought wildly of what to feed sixteen dogs.

Iruka walked home dazed, the puppy fast asleep in his arms, until he almost walked face first into the broad chest of Ibiki, who was standing in the foot path leading up to his quarters.

"Oh," said Iruka, suddenly more alert than he had been since some time back. "Ibiki-san, I didn't see you." Which was a pretty lame statement for a ninja to say to a six-foot-something guy with scars across his face, standing directly in his path.

"Can I have a word with you, Iruka-sensei?" Ibiki asked in a serious tone which did not bode well.

"I guess," said Iruka, feeling slightly overwhelmed and somewhat apprehensive. "What is it?"

"Can we talk about this inside?" Ibiki suggested, and Iruka had to juggle the pup, shampoo bottles and hand seals before he managed to open the door to his apartment .

"Why don't you come in," he said a little weakly, wishing it was otherwise.

"Isn't that one of Kakashi's pups?" Ibiki asked, as Iruka placed his shopping on the floor and tried to coax the sleepy pup to lie on top of it. Iruka was sure that was Ibiki's way of putting him at ease, since there was no way anyone could have not noticed that Iruka was lugging around a pup curled up in his arm.

"Mine," Iruka said with a weak grin. "I'm adopting her."

"Ah," Ibiki said with an air of understanding. "Easier to raise than kids, I hear."

"Really," said Iruka wondering how in the world Ibiki would know, unless he raised little kids and puppies for food.

"Well," said Ibiki with a shrug, as he walked over to the sofa and sat down comfortably. "That's what I heard from Inuzuka-san," he added. "Says dogs are easier to toilet train than kids."

"Well," said Iruka, at a loss for anything to say and irritated by the way his day was going. He was sure Ibiki was not there to impart his knowledge of raising dogs or kids, but he did not really want to push the issue. With a mental shrug, Iruka slowly sat on a chair facing the Interrogator and decided that the pup should stay with him on his lap while he talked to Ibiki.

"Let me get straight to the point," Ibiki said after a small pause. "The reason I'm here is because there are signs that someone has tampered with some of the ANBU personnel files in the Hokage office."

"Oh," said Iruka with a sinking feeling. He knew exactly what was being referred to.

"And when I checked for signs of entry…" Ibiki said suggestively.

"OK, I did it," Iruka said, without bothering to cover up his misery. "I took a peek into Kakashi's file." Actually, he had read the file from top to bottom as fast as humanly possible but he was not going to admit that.

"I know," Ibiki said blandly. "If it had been anyone else but you, I'd have them bound in chains and grilled to made sure they aren't spies."

"I'm not," Iruka protested heatedly.

"You're just lucky Kakashi is not a part of the ANBU-root," Ibiki continued. "Then you'd be dealing with Danzou-sama, not me, and that would be the end of you." Ibiki looked at the roof, where a rather odd wind chime made by the six year olds hung, and said rather smugly. "Of course, you wouldn't have easy access to ANBU-root files or …"

"What do you want from me?" Iruka interrupted rudely, not willing to wait it out. He was in hot water; he saw little point in stalling.

"I was wondering if you were willing to tell me what exactly you were looking for?" Ibiki said in a steely voice, clearly not too pleased at being interrupted. "We are a country at war, and Iruka sensei, no matter how innocent your intentions are, I can't have you pulling stunts like some lovesick school girl."

"I'm …" Iruka struggled with the correct way to say that he had meant no harm and he had been an idiot and if Kakashi ever found out, Iruka was as good as dead.

"How about a trade," Ibiki said in a slightly more friendly tone that made Iruka glad he had a puppy to hug.

"What trade?" Iruka asked, already feeling little pinned.

"How about you tell me what your intentions towards Kakashi are and…"

"What are you, his mother?" Iruka shouted, before Ibiki's stern gaze forced his mouth shut.


"Don't tell me you came here out of the goodness of your heart," Iruka said forcefully, though his heart was beating wildly. Normal people did not speak to the head of Interrogation division like that and expect to live. But after being carried back to the village on Ibiki's back and having spoken about his love life, Iruka was past the point where he was intimidated by the larger man.

"I do care for the ninja in the village," Ibiki said with seriousness. "If they are not mentally stable, then they would not be fit to be ninja anymore."

"Is that why you were nice to me when you brought me back to the village?" Iruka asked.

"Why don't I tell you how it works," Ibiki said with a grimace that made Iruka want to whimper. "I knew the next day that you had gone through Kakashi's personal files, but I thought I'd wait and find out if you were going to pass on the information to the enemies. Kakashi is, at present, an important asset to the village, and I was wondering if you might make him unusable."

Iruka stared, wordlessly. He remembered what Kakashi had said about Ibiki having had sex with Kakashi and about knowing the secret of Kakashi's first lover. He could see Ibiki keeping such information out of Kakashi's file not because of any friendship or any such feeling but because not all Hokages and council members were as understanding as the Sandaime. Should someone find out about Kakashi's childhood and scandal resulted, Kakashi would not be able to function properly, and Konoha would loose one of its most formidable weapons.

"However, after our little chit-chat I realized you did not mean any harm," Ibiki continued smoothly. "But now -- I wonder…"

"I think that's none of your business," Iruka said coldly.

"Maybe," Ibiki agreed readily. "But I do have to make sure neither of you is going to fall apart."

"We won't," Iruka asserted with false bravado. "I think you should leave now. I'm tired, and I have a breakfast date …"

"With Kakashi," Ibik asked. "Is that what is bothering you? Do you have to tell him something?"

"There are certain things I have to decide on my own," Iruka replied, so Ibiki would not inadvertently say something that could affect his judgment.

"Oh," Ibiki looked amused. "Let me tell you something I've learned from my years of studying the human mind, then. Iruka-sensei, you've already made up your mind on what to do. But do you know you have?"

Iruka stared at Ibiki and then smiled faintly and tilted his head to the side to show his understanding. "I remember Naruto told me about the final question at the chuunin exam," he said, instead of answering directly. "Will you take a mission without knowing the outcome of a mission?"

"And your answer is?" Ibiki pressed.

"Yes," Iruka said, without hesitating. "I'm a ninja no matter what, and I know just how fragile life is. If I do not find out what I'm missing out on, I'll regret it forever. If I took only missions which I knew were sure to succeed, then I'd never take any missions."

Ibiki looked pleased at the answer. "You'll make a fine jounin," Ibiki said in approval.

"But there is the matter of the ANBU records," Iruka said, bringing up the subject he did not want to bring up. But he knew he had to get it over with if he was to move on and…

"All I'm asking you is that you keep an eye on Kakashi," Ibiki said. "You can tell him if you want to. Most high-rank ninjas do have someone who keeps an eye on them; whether it be their mother, wife or a close friend. It's how it is here in Konoha. It's not just to make sure they're not selling the village's secrets to the highest bidder; it's also to make sure they are mentally stable. While most physical illnesses are easily seen and treated, those with mental problems rarely see themselves as sick. Sometimes there are no outward manifestations of mental unrest -- unless it's something minute only people close to that person would know and…"

Iruka looked at Ibiki and nodded finally, understanding what he was being told. "I read his file. It says he's never had a breakdown."

Most ANBU had breakdowns, some in private, some public, but always recorded. The ANBU handlers' main worry had been that Kakashi had never broken down; which meant he was very good, had hidden it, or worse, he was bottling it up. So, at the end of his tenth year as ANBU, Sandaime had stepped in and forcibly removed him from the ANBU ranks.

"It's up to you to keep an eye on him," Ibiki said with a nod. "He's finally shown an interest in someone after all this time -- there might be hope for him."

"What do you mean?" Iruka asked, feeling slightly apprehensive. "What do you mean there is hope for him?"

"What do ninjas do when they are no longer ninjas?" Ibiki asked and then smiled when Iruka frowned. "It's not a trick question, Iruka sensei, it's just an observation. People should have lives outside their work -- and Kakashi has been living inside his little shell for a long, long time. He takes care of his team members at the expense of his life, and he has never turned down a dangerous mission. He lives for his work, but you've finally managed to get his attention -- I don't know how …"

"Naruto paid him for it," Iruka said, strangely enough feeling none of the bitterness associated with it.

" -- and perhaps you can finally ask him to drop that stupid mask of his and join the real world."

Iruka looked at Ibiki for a while, thinking over what Kakashi had told him.

"You have to understand, I'll always love him. Just, I think I can love you."

Iruka didn't know if Kakashi could ever love him the way he loved the silver-haired man. But he was going to give it a try.

"I'll keep an eye on him," Iruka said finally. "I love him." Ibiki nodded his satisfaction and got up to leave, but Iruka held up a hand, stalling. "But…" Ibiki frowned, but Iruka continued. "…I'm going to tell him that you asked me to keep an eye on him, and I will only tell you if I think something is seriously wrong with him. If you want some sort of daily report or update, then I suggest you try asking one of nin-dogs."

Ibiki nodded his agreement to this condition.

"Two," Iruka continued a little breathlessly, pushing his luck while the going was good. "I want you to take Gai shopping for clothes for his date with Shizune-sama tomorrow morning. And while you're at it, you'd better tell me -- what exactly do you think is the best way to feed sixteen dogs."


Having finally gotten that confrontation over with, Iruka finished up for the day. He tucked the puppy into his laundry basket under the kitchen sink and stumbled into his bedroom, ready to fall into bed. His leg was throbbing painfully, and the calf muscle spasmed whenever he stood still for longer than five minutes. All he wanted to do was sleep for a long, long time

And stopped.

And stared.

"How long have you been here?" he asked in a carefully controlled voice.

Kakashi looked up from the Icha-Icha Paradise he was reading and smiled. Iruka assumed he was smiling, since his eye curved into a crescent. He was seated cross-legged on Iruka's bed, looking at home in his jounin uniform. "Iruka-sensei, you didn't tell me you had a collection of Ich-Icha of your own. This is even better than mine."

"How did you get in?" Iruka asked slowly.

"See, now everyone thinks Jiraiya only wrote few Icha-Icha books – the thing is, most people don't know that the same book has several versions. Now, take this for example – it was written before he became a Sannin, and his writing shows the lack of experience."

"You mean the throbbing hot rod that dived into her inviting womanhood," Iruka said dryly, giving up trying to have a proper conversation with Kakashi. "Well, I did notice in the next book that it became a sixteen-inch, hot, throbbing manhood and her lush…"

Kakashi nodded, looking delighted and then added, "I'm looking forward to his latest book; it's supposed to be rather fascinating -- the main character has some sort of secret which is going to be revealed."

"I just can't wait," Iruka deadpanned, as he finally stepped into the bedroom, tiredness and the unexpected events of the day getting the best of him. "The main character probably has got two dicks and no balls," he said, too tired to even bother blushing. He sank onto the corner of his bed and toed off his sandals, trying hard not to groan. He had wanted to shower before bed, change his clothes and brush his teeth. But now that he had finally sat down, all Iruka wanted to do was lie back and fall asleep. Not that it was possible.

"I thought we were to meet in the morning," Iruka said as patiently as he could. "For breakfast."

"I thought it over, and then realized I can stay here with you until morning," Kakashi said, looking up from the book with another sunny smile. "It'll be morning eventually."

"Ibiki-sama came to talk to me," Iruka finally said.

"I know," Kakashi said seriously, his smile gone. "I heard."

"Good," said Iruka, flustered but pleased the hard part of the conversation was over. "I think. I don't have to repeat what I just said."

"So you did plan on saying yes," Kakashi said with a small grin, as he pushed down his mask. As always, Iruka felt lightheaded at the sight of those perfect features. He had a feeling it was going to take him a while to get used to it. "Then why did you not tell me?"

"I was going to let you stew a little," Iruka admitted finally. "After all, I've been pining away for you for a quite some time, and it seems only fair that you suffer at least a fraction of what I felt for a couple of hours."

"You are a cruel man," Kakashi said in a perky voice. "Let's just get that part over with so you can get into bed with me."

Iruka stared a few minutes before he could speak coherently. "Let me tell you this before you get swept away by the tenderness," he said sarcastically. "Just because I said yes to having -- some sort of relationship with you, it does not mean I'm going to fall into bed with you."

"Been there, done that," Kakashi quipped, making Iruka want to punch his lights out. He took a deep breath, stood up and limped over to his clothes rack to pick up something to wear. His leg seemed to have fallen asleep after the brief rest and seemed to have no inclination of waking up.

"I'm really tired," Iruka said finally. "I don't feel like arguing with you or coming up with witty one-liners to everything you say. I'll see you tomorrow or can you…"

"That the way you treat your true love?" Kakashi's voice held a note of teasing in it.

"If you think I'm going to go all out and shower you with red rose petals, you've got another thing coming," Iruka said wearily as he walked into the bathroom. Despite what he had said he did not think Kakashi would leave. Especially if he had some reason to be there, so Iruka washed hurriedly and changed into a loose bottom and a large t-shirt he reserved for bed on cold nights.

Walking into the bedroom, he spied Kakashi on his bed in a more relaxed position, lying on his side, head propped up on one elbow, still reading intently. When Iruka walked in, he looked up with a smirk, "Thought you'd be better dressed for the occasion," he said. "Or at least undressed for the occasion."

"I'm starting to regret this already," Iruka mumbled, loud enough for Kakashi to hear as he dropped his dirty clothes into a corner of the floor after recalling that the puppy was now the sole owner of his laundry basket.

"Get into bed, Iruka," Kakashi said, sounding serious. "I promise not to do anything you don't want."

Iruka stood irresolutely, staring at the intruder in his bed, and then smiled. "Do you have any idea how many times I've had fantasies about having you in my bed," he said. "But now I'm too tired and my leg is cramping and …"

Kakashi drew back the cover invitingly, then scooted to the other side of the bed. "I'll be on the top of the cover if it makes you feel any better," he offered.

It was not a particularly cold night and Iruka was too exhausted to argue with it. "Fine," he said, as he crawled into bed and pulled up the cover on his side. "Aren't you going to sleep?" After all, Kakashi had also gotten back from the same mission as he had, and Kakashi had been at it a little longer than Iruka had.

"In a minute," Kakashi said absentmindedly. "I'm getting to the good part where the hero saves the day by jumping in front of a milk cart."

"The out of control milk cart full of helpless milk maids, all with ample heaving bosoms and a distinct lack of underwear," Iruka said dryly.

Kakashi burst out laughing at that, and Iruka blushed and turned on his side, facing away from Kakashi. "You should write a book, Iruka-sensei," he said. "It will be called Icha-Icha Paradise Abridged Version.2"

Iruka opened his mouth to tell Kakashi that he was sure it was going to be a bestseller, but he could not decide if it was worth saying or not. Instead, he burrowed deeper into the bedclothes and closed his eyes, trying not to think about his situation. Maybe he should not have said yes to Kakashi – perhaps it was big mistake. It was not his heart he doubted, but Kakashi's. What was Iruka to Kakashi, a person to crash in on and act as a distraction, a joke. Was he capable of having a regular life with Kakashi?

Tired as he was, he fell into an uneasy sleep, where Iruka kept on running around Konoha looking for an elusive answer to a question he did not know existed. He was sure the answer was there, but every time he stopped to think, he could not remember what the question was. However, he knew he could not stop, so he kept on running until his leg started to hurt and …

Iruka woke up twisted in his sheets, gasping for breath, as a painful cramp seemed to twist his calf muscle into a pretzel. He sat up hurriedly and tried to grip his left leg with his hands but the sheets prevented him from doing anything more than scrabbling at his leg weakly. His room was dark, the curtain, which he never closed, was drawn close together, and he could not even see his hand in front of his face let alone his leg.

"I got it." The voice next to him made him jump, having momentarily forgotten that Kakashi was in bed next to him. Iruka flopped back into bed, his heart beating wildly from the double of shock of waking up to a cramp and the presence of someone else in his bed after a lifetime of sleeping alone.

Iruka tried to steady his breathing as Kakashi's fingers closed on his leg with unnerving accuracy and started to massage his abused muscle gently. As the long fingers dug into the knots in his calf, Iruka sank further back into the pillow biting back a cry of pain. As he relaxed, the pain in his leg diminished, and instead a surprisingly comfortable warmth started to spread through his leg. He slowly lifted his head for a better look, expecting to see nothing and was rewarded by the sight of Kakashi, whose finger tips were glowing slightly in the dark.

"What…" Iruka said in confusion, scrabbled with his hand for the reading light by his bedside and switched it on, then gasped in understanding. "Your chakra …"

"Lightning chakra," Kakashi said slowly, even as his fingers worked out the stiffness. "It's similar to tiny electric shocks that'll stimulate your nerve endings and relax your muscles."

"Oh," said Iruka flopping back into his bed. "So the chidori is not your only talent."

"Oh," said Kakashi, he voice taking a playful tone. "If nothing else, I can work in a massage parlor when I retire."

Iruka tried to imagine Kakashi working in such an establishment and was instantly rewarded with an image of females piling one over the other as they tried to get his attention. The stab of jealousy that followed at the thought of Kakashi touching someone else so intimately was also shocking.

"I had no idea you were thinking of alternative life styles," Iruka said, as Kakashi lifted his leg a little and forced his knee to bend and then straighten. His muscles moved smoothly, and his leg felt as good as new.

"Everyone should have a fallback plan," Kakashi said as he slid one of his hands until he was cupping the sole of Iruka's foot while the other slid under his knee.

"Well," said Iruka as Kakashi continued to slide the lower hand up, until he reached the waist band of his pants. "Hey …" he started to inch away. "Will you stop that, it's not even…"

"Bad dreams, Iruka-sensei," Kakashi's voice was far more serious than his teasing finger would suggest. "You seem to be worrying, even when you should be resting."

"That does not mean you should …"

"Doubts, Iruka-sensei?" Kakashi asked, even as his hand slid in, feeling warm against his skin. "You know what they say about doubt – there are two things you should not do in doubt, and one of them is get married."

Iruka's head snapped up at that, and he stared at Kakashi, eyes wide. Though his voice was causal, Kakashi's maskless face betrayed his feelings. His eyes were anxious, and Iruka could see that Kakashi was as unsure of Iruka's feelings for him as much as Iruka was of Kakashi's. But what really made Iruka's heart skip a beat was the word "married" – Kakashi had not said relationship or sex or any other word. Instead, Kakashi had used a word which usually, at least in Iruka's mind, stood for lifelong commitment and sharing.

Iruka relaxed slightly, not fighting, at Kakashi pulled him up for a kiss. Maybe Iruka knew love and sex as two separate things, but perhaps Kakashi needed to seal everything with sex – making love. So be it. After all, Iruka thought, he had nothing to lose.


When Kakashi had first tried to flip him over, Iruka resisted. He was not yet ready for that, he thought, as he resisted, but now he could not even think of one good reason as to why he had opposed that idea. Iruka clenched both hands hard in the sheets to either side of him and buried his face in the pillow, groaning as Kakashi's fingers moved inside him.

He felt sweat-slick and hot with it, those long fingers reaching to his very core, making him feel sensitized and aching. He groaned low in his throat when Kakashi's hand spread over the small of his back, pressing his hips down against the dampened sheet as his fingers twisted, reaching in toward Iruka's center as if he sought to make it his own.

"Kakashi," Iruka whispered, closing his eyes as Kakashi added another finger. At the beginning, it had been just odd, and then after the second finger a little pain but more of a burning sensation in an area that had been untouched before. It was also strangely pleasant, and Iruka remembered to bear down, so he would not be discomforted even more. As the third finger was added, the slow burn started to edge past the line of pleasure and into something else now, something slow and achy and blissfully sweet that threatened to swallow him whole.

A slow kiss against the back of his shoulder, and Iruka moaned for it, feeling Kakashi's hair brush hard across the back of his neck. Kakashi's breath was shaky, and Iruka pressed back against him, letting him to know it was okay, he could do this, that Kakashi could do whatever he wanted with him, and it would be okay.

"Iruka," Kakashi said, and it was barely audible on the breath that expelled it. Iruka spread his thighs and pushed up onto his elbows, urging him in, as far as he wanted to go, and Kakashi gave a shaky laugh as his other hand groped for Iruka's hip, pressing him down again.

"Patience – wait a little."

Simple command, breathed out on a whisper, and Iruka buried his face in his arms, feeling the strain in the arch of his shoulders, his thighs, his toes as they curled against the sheets. His whole body was stretched thin with the need to come, but he also did not know what to expect. The novelty of the feelings, the experience as Kakashi took control of his body surely and expertly, making him feel strong and wanton as well as scared of the final outcome.

Kakashi was in control, something which Iruka understood. It was not just sex, it was also his willingness to let someone take control of his body – something that had never happened in his life. It was a scary feeling for Iruka as he lay helplessly, his butt hanging in the air in what should be a totally humiliating position, his breathing sounding loud in the closed room. But it was exhilarating – it was liberating that for once Iruka did not have to think about what to do next. Someone else was doing that for him.

"Iruka." Another wet kiss to the back of his shoulder, tongue flickering with the heat of a brand against the sweat that coated his skin, and then the fingers were gone. Iruka groaned aloud, feeling stunned at the sudden emptiness of it, but then Kakashi's body was pressing heavy against his back, knees pushing his thighs further apart, and Iruka almost sobbed with relief at the first rough thrust as Kakashi's cock slid into him.

Bliss – it was shear perfection. Completion. Iruka pressed his face against the pillow, gasping through the first hard pain of it, but it was a good pain, and it didn't last near long enough for his liking. Then there was nothing but the slick slide of Kakashi's body inside him, above him, around him, and there wasn't enough air in the room, he didn't think there could be enough air in the entire world.

Kakashi's grip on him was hard, possessive, and Iruka arched under it, moaning when Kakashi's hands slid under his arms and up around his shoulders, holding him back tight against his chest as he rode him. Iruka spread his thighs as far as he could, tightening his hands in the pillow under his head, and Kakashi sank his teeth into the side of his neck, breathing out hard against his skin.

And it was hard and fast and hot and messy and everything they both needed right then, and Iruka couldn't hold back the tears that unexpectedly sprang into his eyes as the pleasure of it burned through him, crackling under his skin like an itch he couldn't scratch. And then finally -- finally -- he plunged over the edge with a hoarse cry that seemed to rip the very heart out of him, and there was nothing but Kakashi's arms to hold his trembling body together.

Afterwards, Kakashi lay panting hard on top of him, a hard and sweaty lump of body that enveloped him completely, refusing to let him go. He mouthed blindly at the side of Iruka's neck in a lazy, satiated rhythm that made Iruka smile, even though he knew it was going to leave a hell of a mark in the morning.

Kakashi seemed to want to say something, his voice sounding hoarse. But Iruka did not want to hear those words then, not when they were lying in the afterglow of sex. He wanted those words said to him when they were both able to think clearly, when their brains were not leaking out of their ears. "It's okay," he gasped, sliding sideways until he could fold Kakashi into his arms. Kakashi went willingly, curling in against him, and Iruka held him tightly, telling him with his body that he wasn't ever going to let him go.

"Love you, too," he murmured instead. There were so many things he needed to deal with – them – both of them. Iruka could make a list, and it would be endless. But he gave those worrying thoughts a firm push and sank into his pillow willingly. But it was enough, for this moment, to lie here in their bed with Kakashi in his arms, and know that it was real.

They were ninjas, and all they had was the present. If there was anything to come, Iruka decided, they would deal with it in the future.



Future was

Iruka opening his eyes to find himself in bed alone with solemn faced dogs sitting all around him. "Are you going to be our new mommy?" Pakkun asks in a serious voice.

Iruka stepping on a small yellow puddle on his way to the kitchen and wondering if Ibiki knew anything about toilet training leaking pups.

Iruka listening to Gai tell him about his date with Shizune for the forty fifth time. It was starting to become a weekly event.

Iruka finding out that all his students had learned how to recognize cloud patterns during his absence.

Iruka deciding that he did not want to approach Tsunade for muscle relaxing lube, no matter how tempting.

Iruka coming home after a long day at work to find Kakashi darning his socks in mismatching thread while sitting on Iruka's bed.

1 I have no idea if there is such a thing.

2 I should rec the Naruto Abridged Version, available on youtube, made by two extremely talented guys. It's worth watching, if you haven't already come across it. Each part is about 5 to 10 minutes long and therefore easy to watch. :)

All right, at long last I have finished this story. I should thank everyone who stuck with me to the end and made helpful suggestions on the way. I also thank anyone and everyone who ever bothered to read this. This was written to be read.

This fic would not have been possible without the help of my wonderful beta. She was the one who pointed out the errors and made all sorts of helpful comments.

If there is anything else you think I need to deal with in my fic let me know. I think it can do with an epilogue if there are any loose threads to be tied up.

Thank you.