Warning! Dark angst ahead. Some very hard to take parts. If you know my writing you know where it's heading.

A/N: The time line is a little skewed for the story's sake. Hope it works. Edited by the wonderful michelerene. Love you!

Warning: Not for the faint of heart. This story involves abuse and rape. Yaoi. Consider yourself warned!

Search for Strength

Iruka trudged through the village as quickly as possible. He was making great effort to look like he was rushing but he was late and lord knows what would happen if he was late. He knew Mizuki cared about him; they'd been friends for years. It wasn't until they'd started sleeping together that things got ugly. All of a sudden Mizuki had changed. He was no longer the caring supportive friend he had been for all the years previous. It had started off small. First an insensitive comment or a selfish act, before long Mizuki was verbally abusive and very pushy when it came to his needs…all his needs.

Iruka had never been in a relationship before and was eager to the point of desperate to make is lover happy, so he never complained. To complain would only have made it worse.

One time, after seeing each other for about two months, Iruka had become frustrated with the fact that they never went out; Mizuki choosing instead to stay in and have rough sex for hours to the point where Iruka almost couldn't walk the next day. He knew Mizuki wasn't comfortable with people knowing that they were dating having not told anyone that he was gay but argued that they could go out in a group like they had a million times before they started dating.

"Come on, it'll be fun! We can go get a drink and catch up with everyone. I haven't seen Anko in ages and I want Kakashi to tell me everything about how Naruto's doing. I need to know if I should be training with him. I don't want Naruto to fall behind his team. You know how competitive he is with Sasuke." Mizuki glared at him, his body language similar to that of a caged animal ready to tear it cell apart.

"What, spending time with me not good enough for you? You don't need anyone other than me." Iruka shrunk a little in fear as Mizuki stood and advanced on him.

"No, no of course not. I just thought going out would be a nice change. We never go out and I'm worried about how Naru-." Mizuki growled, fisting Iruka's collar and slamming his back against the wall.

"I don't like you spending time with that monster…or is that you just want an opportunity to talk to Kakashi?" Iruka gasped in shock at the statement.

"No! No, you know that's not-."

"Do you want to flirt with your old crush like all the other useless cunts in this town?" Mizuki's eyes glinted with something Iruka couldn't place…something wild and dangerous. "Do you think about him? Do you think about him when I fuck you? Do you wish it was his body slamming into you?" Mizuki began furious groping Iruka's body, grinding himself against his dumbfounded boyfriend. "Is that why you're with me? Am I just a Kakashi replacement? Does my hair remind you of him?" Iruka finally found his breath opening his mouth to refute, "No, Mizuki I'm with you. Please we'll stay in. I'm sorry I said anything. You know you're everything I need."

He was to late though; Mizuki was more than angry now. He had entered a manic state and nothing Iruka could say would abate his anger, jealousy or his growing arousal.

"You're mine, you slut. Don't you ever forget that!" Mizuki move his face close to Iruka's ear, his warm breath and very sexual words sending blood to Iruka's crotch.

"Don't ever forget that it's me that makes you feel good. No one can make you as happy as I can. No one will ever want you like I do. You will never find someone better than me. Do you really think that he would want you? Do you really think you're good enough for someone like Kakashi?"

Iruka then made a fatal mistake. Mizuki had been groping his thigh and moved his hand to Iruka's now straining erection cupping it and making the brunet moan loudly just as Kakashi's name was mentioned. Mizuki lost it.

"You're getting hard thinking about him right now!" Before Iruka had anytime to react a pale fist connected with his jaw and he crumpled to the floor. He gingerly touched his split lip and fearfully looked up at his lover who was still shaking with anger. The reality of what had just happened sinking in, the silver haired chunin sunk to the floor and tentatively reached toward his brunet.

"Iruka…oh gods…I'm so…are you alright?" Iruka nodded a little dazedly.

"Yeah, I'm okay." Mizuki gently cupped his face; kissing his cheeks tenderly while whispering, "I'm so sorry. Oh baby, I can't believe I did that. I'm so sorry. It will never happen again." Iruka wrapped his arms around the Mizuki's neck and allowed pale arms to scoop him up and carry him to the bedroom. Mizuki gently laid him on the bed before crawling in beside him and wrapping the brunet in his arms.

"I love you, Iruka. I'm so sorry. I love you." Iruka snuggled into his boyfriend's chest, his heart pounding at the first time anyone had ever said that to him.

"I-I love you too, Mizu."

The three simple words had erased all wrong doing and it was only a matter of hours before Mizuki was suggestively rubbing the tan back and stripping Iruka of his clothes even when he got no response. The sex wasn't as rough as usual but Iruka hadn't been in the mood and it was all but non-consensual.

Iruka sighed deeply before breaking out into a light jog. Suddenly, a large orange blur tackled him to the ground.

"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto screamed as he gripped his old instructor tightly.

Pain flew through Iruka's body with the extra weight applied to his heavily bruised body. Kakashi, who had been walking home with Naruto didn't fail to notice the grimace that formed on the brunet's face before the head of blonde spikes pulled back to look at the academy teacher. Iruka immediately forced a smile on his face when the blue eyes met his.

"Hello Naruto, how's your training going?" The blonde flashed Iruka a contagious smile.

"Really good! Working with Kakashi-sensei has been great. He works us really hard but if I keep at it I'll be stronger than Sasuke-teme. Plus, I'm on the same team as Sakura-chan! Soon she'll see I'm cooler than he is." Iruka couldn't help but chuckle. Kakashi's eye curved into a happy arc, masking his real thoughts expertly.

"We were actually just talking about you, Iruka-sensei." Iruka looked at the man questioningly. "Naruto and I were wondering if you had dropped off the face of the planet. We never see you anymore." Iruka shifted uncomfortably under this orange and blonde burden.

"Oh, I've just been really busy and…" A pained look crossed Naruto's face.

"Iruka-sensei, you're not mad at me are you? I'm still your favorite student right?"

"What? No, of course, I'm not mad at you? Why would you think that?" A bit of relief rushed to the azure pools.

"Well," a wave of sadness flooded back, "I thought…we haven't gone out for ramen in ages and you never seem to want to spend any time training with me and…" Iruka wrapped his arms around the sulking child.

"It has nothing to do with you. I've just had a lot on my plate lately. Why don't I take you out for lunch tomorrow and we can catch up." The contagious smile was back and Iruka couldn't help but grin.

"Great we'll meet you at Ichiraku's." Iruka looked at Kakashi in shock and stuttered.

"We…oh…uh…I don't think…" Kakashi grinned widely beneath his mask before interrupting.

"I'll treat. Naruto's not the only one who's been missing your company, you know. I don't think a Saturday has passed when Anko hasn't wailed that you weren't there to dance with her." Trapped, all Iruka could do was nod in compliance. Kakashi was just reaching out to help Iruka up when a puff of smoke revealed a very annoyed Mizuki.

"There you are! I was getting worried, you're never late." His eyes shot a deadly message and Iruka knew that he was going to get it as soon as they got back to Mizuki's apartment. Mizuki smiled broadly at the blonde pre-teen.

"Hello, Naruto! Kakashi. Come on Iruka, we're going to miss the movie!" Reading between the lines Iruka knew that if he didn't make an excuse to leave immediately he would regret it.

"Right, I'm sorry. I was just on my way when Naruto bumped into me. I gotta run. I'll see you for lunch tomorrow, Naruto." Mizuki grabbed Iruka's arm making brown eyes wince in pain before transporting them away. Kakashi's eye narrowed before he followed a very happy blonde down the street.

Iruka backed against the wall of Mizuki's apartment in fear.

"You were late and on top of that you were with them! I told you to stay away from them!"

"I'm sorry. Naruto tackled me. I couldn't just push him off." Mizuki advanced on him menacingly.

"Why don't you get it, Iruka? I love you. No one else. And you love me, and no one else. I though you got the picture but I guess I'll have to remind you. Take off your clothes."

Iruka was far passed refusing Mizuki's requests. He stripped naked, standing before his lover. It had been months since the sadistic man had gained complete hegemonic domination over Iruka and he smirked at the chunin's lack of dignity before slamming the tan body into the wall, tears leaking from the brown eyes as a pale hand gripped his hair painfully pulling his cheek away from the wall.

"I'm going to take it easy on you because you're trying to be good, but don't go to lunch tomorrow. Make an excuse, he'll understand." Iruka nodded mutely and Mizuki smacked the face into the taupe coloured paint sneering.

"There's a good boy." Iruka closed his eyes as he heard pants being undone and tried to brace himself for the inevitable pain that was seconds away from wracking his body. He cried in anguish, impaled fully by his tormentor's dry phallus, his temple hitting the wall on every thrust. After several minutes Iruka's head was pounding, the sensitive skin surrounding his temple would be badly bruised assuming he didn't have a mild concussion from the abuse. A tongue grazed the back of his neck and up to his ear making a shudder of pleasure run through his body. Angling his thrusts, the pale man found Iruka's sweet spot and hammered it again and again while reaching around fisting Iruka roughly. Mizuki was smart and knew that if Iruka was pleasured and loved he could get away with anything.

"Tell me you love it. Beg for it. Tell me you love me." The whispers in his ear made Iruka moan loudly. It was twisted, he knew, but he couldn't help but respond to the sexual demands of his abuser.

"I-I…l-love…ah…Misu…please!" Mizuki's hand released Iruka, drawing a whimper of need from the brunet's throat.

"Please what? Tell me, baby, what do you want?"

"I-ah…want…you. P-please…let me finish!" Iruka gasped the words, panting into the drywall.

The hand returned to its ministration. Iruka moaned in gratitude rocking his hips back and forth to gain more friction on both sides of his body, all pain forgotten with the sweet promise of release.

Grunting, Mizuki emptied himself into the tight body, driving the brunet's head into the wall with particular force and releasing Iruka all together.

Crumbling in a pathetic heap, Iruka scrambled to his knees and preceded begging Mizuki to help him release, not daring to touch himself for fear of the other's wrath. Cold, vicious eyes looked down at the pleading pile of worthlessness beneath them. Winding his hand in the chocolate locks, he brought the teacher's mouth to clean his flaccid member of semen and blood before leaning down and tasting his supremacy on his sub's lips. Sneering he pulled the tan body up, returning it to its original position facing the wall. He slid two fingers into the bleeding entrance, slowly caressing the tan groin and thighs before wrapping his free hand around the straining erection. Two fingers turned into three, three turned into four, and four turned into fisting him up to his wrist. He pumped Iruka's arousal to distract him from the pain. He didn't want Iruka to feel it now – he wanted him to feel it later, preferably when lunchtime rolled around tomorrow; just a little reminder not to attend. Finally Iruka came with a pained scream, the silver haired chunnin turning him mid release and pounding his fist into the tan abs and straddling the now prone and shaking brunet, glaring down at him expectantly.

"Th-thank you," Iruka panted, clutching the horrible purple bruise that was forming on his stomach.

"You're welcome, love. Now clean yourself up and make dinner." He walked away leaving the out of breath man in a heap on the floor.

Iruka hunched over his desk grading papers. He glanced at his watch; 12:13. He was late to meet Naruto for lunch. Guilt ripped through him but he knew he would regret it if he left the school. Sighing, he went back to grading Konahamaru's paper on the replacement jutsu which was even worse than the one Naruto had submitted on the same topic years ago, the page full of the teacher's red ink. The sound of the door sliding open made him look up only to find the aforementioned blonde and his silver haired jounin looking at him expectantly. He released a string of curses in his head trying to avoid they're gazes.

"I'm really sorry, Naruto, but I don't think I'll have time to have lunch today. I have a ton of work to do. Maybe next we-."

"Nope!" The blond bounded up to the desk and wrapped his hand around his teacher's wrist, "you're coming now! Kakashi-sensei says you need a break and he's treating us to as much ramen as we can eat. Now come on!" Iruka's eyes flicked to the jounin lazily leaning against the back wall of the classroom and tugged nervously at the strands of hair he'd left down today to cover the bruise on his face.

"I-I can't. I'm sorry. I have to finish this."

"Nonsense. Half an hour for lunch won't hurt." Kakashi was very suddenly at the teacher's side and had the other wrist captured. Sighing in defeat, Iruka allowed them to pull him to the door, trying not to think about how much this half hour would end up hurting him. He half heartedly struggled as the pair dragged him down the halls of the academy, lamely arguing that he had to finish grading. Mizuki watched the scene from the door to his classroom, his mind already thinking about how he would have to punish the little teacher later.

Naruto was on his tenth bowl of ramen, chatting happily to Iruka about everything from missions to girls, Sakura in particular, though she occupied far less of the conversation than Sasuke did. He glanced at his watch distractedly, terrified of what Mizuki would do if he had paid Iruka a visit at lunch only to find him absent. Smiling and ruffling the blonde's spikes he stood up.

"Well, I hate to do it but I'm going to be late if I don't get going. It was good to see you, Naruto. We'll hangout again soon." The blonde hopped off the stool and wrapped his arms around the teacher.

"I've really missed you, Iruka-sensei. Please don't let it be so long before I see you again." Kakashi, who had been watching the exchange, saw the utter guilt and depression in the younger man's eyes.

"Naruto, go meet Sakura and Sasuke at training ground three. I'll be there shortly." The blonde nodded before giving the chunnin another squeeze and dashing away. Kakashi gave Iruka a disarming smile, his visible eye curving into an arch.

"I can't believe this but I forgot my wallet. Why don't you pay and then follow me to my place. I can pay you back before you head to class."

"No, don't worry about it. It's fine." Iruka threw a wad of money on the counter and turned toward in the direction of the school, a hand on his shoulder causing him to spin.

"I insist. This was supposed to be my treat. My apartment is on your way back. It won't cost you any time at all." Iruka was about to reiterate his protests when he found himself transported to Kakashi's front door. The jounin unlocked it and raised his hand offering the teacher entrance.

"Oh…I…why don't I wait here?" Kakashi sighed a shook his head.

"It might take me a minute to find it. Besides, there's something I need to discuss with you." Iruka wearily stepped inside; Kakashi securely locking the door behind him.

"So, what is it? Is this about Naruto?" Iruka blanched at the serious look Kakashi was sending him.

"No. Iruka take off your clothes."

Iruka's head buzzed as panic tightened every muscle in his body. He forced a smile onto his face; sure that he had misheard the copy-nin.

"Sorry, I didn't catch that?" Nervously chuckling at what he was sure was a perverted joke on the jounin's behalf.

"I'm serious, Iruka. Take off your clothes now!" Iruka backed into the wall of Kakashi's small main room, fear pulsing threw his veins.

"Wha-what are you doing?" Kakashi was advancing on him menacingly, blocking his escape route to the doorway.

"Something I should have done months ago."

In a flash Kakashi had lunged at the chunnin, binding his hands behind his back with wires.

"Kakashi, please stop! What are you doing?" Not listening, the pale hands turned him around and started removing his vest. Iruka thrashed wildly in attempts to escape. Realizing the futility of his actions he closed his eyes as a man he deeply respected began to unbutton his shirt, tears beginning to leak from the corners of his eyes. His mind spun, the crystal image he held of the legendary ninja shattered as Kakashi pushed the shirt off his shoulders trapping it with the vest along his bound wrists. He held his breath waiting for the torment and torture of Kakashi's groping hands. Seconds few by and finally, his lungs aching Iruka drew a fresh breath and chanced a glance at the man before him. He looked in shock as Kakashi stared at his chest not with lust but in concern and anger.

Releasing a shaky breath Kakashi raised his eyes to meet the warm brown pools.

"I should have known. How long has he been doing this to you?" If possible Iruka began to panic even more, finally understanding why Kakashi had brought him here.

"No, you don't understand. It's not what you think. It's my fault. I'm always making him mad. If I just listened, this wouldn't happen," Iruka repeated Mizuki's words like a parrot.

"Iruka, you're a shinobi. How can you let him do this to you?"

"I…he loves me."

Kakashi growled in rage, spinning Iruka by the shoulders to face the large mirror over his dresser.

"Listen to yourself. For Kami's sake look at yourself." Iruka gazed at his reflection in the mirror taking in fully for the first time the damage that had been inflicted to his body. Kakashi's arm wrapped around him, fingers gently grazing the enormous bruise on his abdomen.

"This doesn't look like love to me." Iruka met his gaze in the mirror before dropping it to the floor, embarrassed that his long time crush would see him in such a frail state. Iruka had desperately wanted Kakashi for years but even as teenagers Mizuki had discouraged pursuing a relationship, stating that Kakashi was too cold and aloof to build bonds, especially after loosing Obito and Rin. But here was the ex-ANBU captain's arms protectively around him, concern pouring from his visible eye. A breath caught painfully in the tan chest as he felt warm breath by his ear.

"You deserve better than this. Please, do something about this," he cut the wires binding the brunet with a flick of his wrist, "or I will." Iruka swallowed thickly before nodding and moving to the door.

"I'll do something, I will. But Kakashi, please stay out of it. You'll only make things worse."

His afternoon had been hard. The children had known something was wrong and asked him incessantly about what was bothering him. He had simply told them that he was overtired but promised he would be in a better mood tomorrow. He gratefully retreated to his apartment after class, trying to avoid anyone who could see through him. However, upon entering his living room he quickly realized his mistake in trying to find sanctuary or solace here. Mizuki was sitting on his couch glaring daggers at him.

"Where were you at lunch?" Iruka shifted uncomfortably, trying to hold onto the sliver of determination Kakashi had given him.

"I went for lunch with Kakashi and Naruto. They practically dragged me there. I didn't have a choice." Mizuki arched a silver eyebrow and stood from the couch.

"I thought I told you to cancel."

"And I thought I just told you, I didn't have a choice. People are starting to wonder what's going on with me and I don't know what to tell them but the truth." Mizuki continued his slow advance, venomous anger leaking from his very soul.

"And what is the truth, Baby?" Iruka shrunk a little but didn't back away, determined to face this before Kakashi got involved.

"The truth…" he took a deep shuddering breath, "the truth is you're horribly abusive. I want to be with you but not if you keep hurting me." Cool rage flared in the aggressor's eyes.

"What are you going to do, Iruka? Leave me!" he snorted in indignation, "you know you're nothing without me." The brunet shrunk to the wall, feebly blocking the words from entering his head…but they'd been drilled in long ago.

Iruka woke up with a black eye and a swollen lip. A note on the table read that Mizuki had called in sick for him and that he'd come by tonight. Iruka sighed deeply before heading to the bathroom to check out the extent of the damage. The clock read 10:30 and Iruka's body was screaming in pain, begging for a hot shower and a return to the warm bed. Mizuki had gotten smarter about where to lay his abuse as marks to the face we always noticed, but last night he had been very angry. The bruises to his face were nothing compared to the fresh marks that riddled the rest of the tan body. Iruka stepped into the shower and remained there until the water turned cold, secretly hoping to drown in the shower spray. After getting dressed, he set about making tea and breakfast for himself when a knock at the door startled him. The deadbolt in place, Iruka crept to the door to send the visitor away. No one could see him right now. It would cause too many questions.

"Who's there?" Iruka cursed internally as Kakashi's voice floated through the closed door.

"Iruka, it's me. Can I talk to you?"

"It's not the best time, Kakashi. I'll see you tomorrow."

"Why aren't you teaching Iruka?"

"I'm not feeling well today and I don't want to give you whatever I've caught. Please, I'll talk to you tomorrow." There was a silence from the other side of the heavy wood panel and the chunnin breathed in relief at a crisis averted when the voice rang out again.

"Iruka…open the door before I break it down." Sighing, he opened the door slightly so that the chain was still in place and Kakashi could only see a sliver of his body and face.

"Everything's fine. Please, comeback later, I need to lie down."

"Iruka, let me in." The anxiety in Kakashi's eye made Iruka's determination melt and he closed the door, sliding the chain out of place and opening it completely. The jounin stepped in and inhaled a sharp breath as he took in the teacher's battered profile. He ran his thumb gently along the tan jaw and brow, frowning deeply.

"Oh 'Ruka."

Kakashi stayed with him for an hour, carefully applying bandages and ice to his wounds and Iruka couldn't help but wonder what it would be like to be with someone who treated him like that all the time. The thought alone baffled him and he forced it from his head as he was certain from the long months of Mizuki's brainwashing that all relationships were violent.

"I thought yo-."

"I tried. I'll try harder but I need a break. I hurt everywhere." Silver brows furrowed in a scowl.

"Come stay with me until he leaves you alone. I'll make sure he gets the message." Iruka looked at the jounin as if he had grown an extra head, not daring to think about why the great Copy Nin was offering to help him.

"No, I'll take care of it. Don't get me wrong, it's sweet and...confusing that you want to swing in and save me but I'm serious when I say you'll only make it worse."

"I don't understand."

Iruka shook his dark hair and smiled sadly. "No…how could you. You should go. If you can stop by the school at lunch tomorrow, I'll talk to you then." Kakashi remained stationary for a minute before nodding and striding to the door. He waited until he heard Iruka lock it behind him before heading straight to the school to converse with Mizuki, a little apprehensive due to Iruka's warning but he couldn't just do nothing.

His timing was perfect. It was still the middle of lunch and Mizuki was in his classroom when he slid open the window and stepped into the room. The two silver haired men stared at each other for a moment before the younger plastered a fake smile on his face and chirped happily, trying to veil his murderous intent.

"Kakashi-san! To what do I owe this honor?" Kakashi decided to play the farce and forced his 'pleasant mask' in place.

"I was just wondering if Iruka-sensei was here." The chunnin smile faltered a bit and he quickly covered his rage with worry.

"No, he wasn't feeling well so he took the day off. The guy's been working to hard if you ask me." Kakashi nodded in agreement and hopped back onto the windowsill.

"Oh, Mizuki-sensei?" The silver haired teacher raised his gaze to the jounin.

Looking back over his right shoulder so Mizuki could see the deadly warning in his eye, he continued, "If you ever hit him again you'll beg for death before I'm through with you." Not waiting for a reaction, Kakashi disappeared from the window confident that he had done his job.

Iruka had curled up on the couch with a cup of tea and was channel surfing when his 'lover' kicked in the door.

"Misu, what's wrong?" Mizuki strode to the couch and grabbed a handful of brown hair, yanking it back forcefully.

"WHAT DID YOU TELL HIM?" Iruka whimpered in pain. His body not ready for another thrashing like last night's.

"Tell who? What are you talking about?"

"Kakashi, you stupid slut! Kakashi knows about us! How did he find out?" Iruka swore softly.

"I-I… I told him to stay out of it. I'm sorry Misu, I-." he was cut off as pale fists thrashed his body mercilessly. For hours Mizuki beat and raped his semi-conscious body until he complained of his fists hurting and left Iruka alone in his apartment in a pool of blood. It wasn't until Kakashi ripped his door off its hinges at noon the next day that Iruka was found half dead on his living room floor. Kakashi had scooped him up in his arms and sent team 7 to the hospital to let them know they were coming.

He hadn't said anything when they took him to the hospital except to whisper a plea to Kakashi to stay with him.

Two units of blood and several hours later, Iruka was looking much better, meaning he looked like he'd been attacked by a person as opposed to crushed by a truck.

He smiled reassuringly to team seven.

"I feel much better. I know I don't look it, but I feel better than I have in a long time." He met Kakashi's gaze and smiled resolutely. Naruto was sitting at a distance, an equally far off look in his eye. Iruka frowned, "Come here, Naruto." The blonde move to the bedside but didn't meet his beloved teacher's gaze. His blue eyes flew wide as said teacher pulled him into a tight hug, cradling the back of the spiky blond head.

"I'm okay. I'm going to be alright now. I promise. I'll be my old self in no time. We're going out for ramen as soon as I'm out of here okay?" He laid a light kiss on Naruto's crown and lifted his arms gesturing for Sakura and Sasuke to hug him as well. The pink haired girl rushed to his side and sobbed lightly into his neck.

"Ssh it's okay, Sakura. Everything's better now. Sasuke?" The haughty teen huffed and looked away.

"SASUKE UCHIHA, YOU EMO BRAT, GET OVER HERE AND HUG ME, DAMNIT!" The pale boy glared but moved into the brunet's embrace, smiling softy once his face was covered by the tan arms. When they had finally disentangled themselves, Kakashi cleared his throat.

"Can you all wait outside for a sec. I'll be out in a minute." The three nodded and left the room, glancing back at the smiling patient before leaving.

Kakashi opened his mouth to speak but Iruka cut him off.

"Don't tell anyone what happened." The jounin's mouth hung open behind his mask in shock.

"What? I'm going to arrest him right now!"

"No, you're not. Promise me, no legal or personal actions. Don't tell anyone. He's a good teacher, even if he is a little fucked up. I'm leaving him. That's enough."

Kakashi stared blankly before swallowing the emotion that had crept into his throat and nodding.

"Say the words, Kakashi. Promise me you won't do anything or tell anyone."

The pale man stayed silent, knowing if he made Iruka a promise he'd never break it, before nodding again.

"I promise." Iruka rested his head on the pillows behind him and closed his eyes.

"Thank you."