Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. I'm not even sure I own my brain sometimes.

AN: As always, a big thank you to my delightful editor Sal for reading through and getting this chapter back to me within a few days. Awesome work, Sal mate! And another big thank you to the darling Lenap for providing translations for Russian!Ibiki. Inspiration to you, my talented friend!

Since I seem to have survived the purge (so far) I'll be deleting the notice I set up a few weeks ago notifying my move and this chapter will drop back into its rightful place. I'll do it in a few days because it's almost midnight and I'm freaking tired! But I promised I'd have this chapter up today and... well it's 20 mins until midnight so it's still technically today!

Stranger Situations

Chapter 10: Checking Out

"Morning," Kakashi said as he wandered into the kitchen. "Is that coffee I smell?"

"Indeed it is. Still take it black?" Kurenai asked as she pulled a clean mug from a cupboard.

"As sin," Kakashi confirmed, leaning against the kitchen island next to Anko. The small Chinese woman was sitting on the counter top wearing nothing but a singlet, tiny lace knickers, and a scowl. She slumped against him with a tired groan as soon as he was within leaning range. Kakashi pressed a kiss to her hair and supported her weight easily as Kurenai handed him a steaming mug. "Mmm, thank you, dear. How'd you sleep?"

"Well enough if not enough. The little one decided that six o'clock was a great time to start practicing its kickboxing against my bladder and refused to settle again."

Though she was obviously in need of more sleep, Kurenai spoke with a small, fond smile and rested a hand protectively over her protruding stomach.

"It? Haven't you caved and found out if you're having a boy or girl yet?" Kakashi asked before taking a sip of the richly fragrant coffee.

"Nope, it's going to be a surprise. It's too easy now-a-days to know everything about your baby before it's even taken its first breath. There has to be some mystery left in the miracle of birth, some anticipation."

"The anticipation of labour pain isn't enough?" Kakashi smirked.

"Oh please, I'm a traditionalist not an idiot. It will be drugs all the way."

"Smart girl. And what about you, hmm?" He scratched Anko's chaotic bed head gently. "Why're you up so early?"

Anko groaned and swatted at Kakashi's hand. "F'ck off. Gimme y'coffee 'n shuddup."

Kakashi grinned and gulped at his drink before pressing the half full mug into Anko's hand, which greedily snatched it away.

"Mr. GQ Magazine turned out to be less than Prince Charming, apparently. Anko's just finished tossing him out," Kurenai said.

"Oh?" Kakashi glanced down at Anko's knuckles. They weren't even red. Whatever the guy had done it hadn't been bad enough that Anko felt the need to smack him around so. "Did he turn into a pumpkin at midnight?"

"I hate you," Anko growled at Kakashi and gulped down some of his coffee, blanched in disgust, and shoved the mug back into his hand. "And I hate the way you take your coffee. What kind of a person doesn't want sugar with their caffeine at this time of the morning? You're abnormal." She plonked her head back onto Kakashi's shoulder with an angry grumble of, "Bitch."

Kakashi and Kurenai shared a smile at Anko being her usual sunny morning self and dutifully ignored her.

"You're up earlier than I thought you'd be. Asuma's still snoring his head off and we've yet to see Genma or Ibiki," Kurenai said while fetching the coffee pot.

"I need to get back to San Francisco at a respectable time this morning."

"So, what happened to Iruka last night?" Kurenai asked a little too casually as she topped up Kakashi's cup and her own. "Genma mentioned that he put you both in the same room."

"I did, worst bloody mistake," Genma muttered as he stumbled into the kitchen, stretching his arms over his head and yawing wide enough that they heard his jaw click. "I'll tell you what fuckin' happened to Iruka last night. This shit stick here-" Genma punched Kakashi in the shoulder, jostling Anko enough that she growled in annoyance and shot a death glare at Genma from between tangled clumps of hair, "-fucked the little guy til he screamed loud enough that I heard it clear in my room down the hall, then did a repeat performance about ten minutes ago. Not the worst wake up I've ever had but buggering fuck, man, it's early."

"The sun's up," Kakashi said with a cocky grin as Genma stole Kurenai's coffee and received a smack on the back of his head for his trouble.

"It's arse o'clock in the morning and you're a cock jockey," Genma sniped and Kakashi barked a laugh at the insult. He couldn't say he'd ever been called that before.

As Genma rummaged around fixing himself a coffee after Kurenai liberated hers from his grasp, something Genma said clicked in Kakashi's head and his smile shifted into a smirk. "Why so upset that you heard Iruka getting off last night?"

All of them knew that Genma didn't discriminate with who he bedded and it wasn't the first time one of them had made a partner scream within hearing distance, or screamed themselves. That kind of thing was impossible to avoid when operating in a close knit team for years. Hell, Kakashi knew exactly what all his friends sounded like during sex and he'd never screwed any of them.

Genma glared at him over his shoulder from where he was rummaging around in the fridge and muttered, "Fuck off."

Kakashi chuckled darkly as Kurenai and Anko looked between the two men with increasing interest.

"I'm missing something here," Kurenai said and Anko nodded her agreement.

"It's too early to decipher man-speak, but I smell blood in the water. What're you getting at?" she demanded and jabbed Kakashi in the ribs.

Kakashi just continued smirking and Genma's glower darkened.

"Seriously, Cyclops, shut the fuck up," the Australian muttered and the women's interest rose another notch.

"Share," they both demanded at the same time as Genma growled, "I will hurt you."

"You know, there are doctors who can help you with that," Kakashi said with smug casualness and Anko gasped in realisation before starting to cackle evilly.

"Aww, who was the unfortunate lady?" Anko asked with a grin that was all fangs. "It's not a race, you know."

Kurenai let out an inelegant cackle of laughter as she caught on. Genma banged his head against the fridge door and muttered, "I hate you," to the room in general.

"Dobroe ytro," came Ibiki's thick accent as he entered the kitchen.

Various greetings were voiced from the rest of the group, Genma's less than enthusiastic as he stirred sugar into his coffee more aggressively than necessary.

"Coffee?" Kurenai offered.

Ibiki slipped his hand into his back pocket and pulled out his battered flask, answering, "Dog hair."

"Hair of the dog," Anko corrected him absently for what had to be the millionth time since they'd met and Ibiki shrugged uncaringly as he leaned against the counter.

"Why the frowning?" Ibiki asked Genma and before the Australian could answer him, Kakashi grinned and said, "Remember Brussels?"

"Which time?"

"Zinneke '97."

"Still?" Ibiki raised an incredulous eyebrow and Genma snarled.

"Fucking twice! Twice in my whole damn life and oh fuck you!" he snapped as Kakashi started laughing. "I'm getting my workout early today. Get your arse out back."

"You know, not everything has to happen early," Kakashi replied with a smirk before gulping down the rest of his coffee and moving towards the double patio doors.

"There is little blue pill that will-" Ibiki started with his own smirk and Genma deliberately shouldered him on his way past.

"You're next, Smirnoff," Genma growled and trailed Kakashi out to the back yard.

"I'm going to kill him," Iruka growled as he looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. Iruka's not entirely sure how to go about killing someone with the training and experience Kakashi had, but he would manage it somehow. By all things violent and painful, he would manage it!

If Iruka had thought that the bruise on his neck was big the day before, it was nothing compared its size that morning. Well, that wasn't entirely accurate. Technically there were two hickies on his neck; they were just so close together it looked like one, large, dementedly shaped mark. If that wasn't infuriating enough, there was no way Iruka would be able to hide it anymore! It was too high up his neck for a collar to completely cover and that's if Iruka had had any clean collared shirts left. As it was, he was down to t-shirts and last night had shown that leaving his hair loose was insufficient for shielding the bruising from view.

Conclusion: Kakashi was a dead man.

When Naruto saw the mark he wasn't going to be anywhere near as discrete as Sasuke. Iruka's little brother was going to flip out and Iruka would be lucky if the whole hospital didn't know by the end of that conversation. No doubt Sasuke was going to be less than impressed as well. Sasuke had been furious when the hickey was half the size! Damn Kakashi and his stupid, sucky mouth!

Thoughts of the infuriating man's mouth instantly brought up memories of how Iruka had been woken that morning. The young teacher had been dragged from a blissfully dreamless sleep with a ragged moan as wet heat and fierce suction enveloped his cock. Iruka had opened dazed, dark eyes to the view of mismatched eyes watching him intently between strands of silver hair as Kakashi's talented mouth swallowed him down to the root. The sight had hit Iruka's libido like a sledge hammer and he was arching up and coming with a shout before he'd even fully woken.

Kakashi had drunk Iruka down and kept working him gently; only pulling off once Iruka was shifting away and moaning from over stimulation. Iruka was gasping in air and lying boneless on the soft mattress, trembling with the aftershocks of such a fast and sharp orgasm. With a low hum of satisfaction, Kakashi moved up the bed and murmured into a small, cinnamon ear, "Good morning."

"Nngh," Iruka grunted back as teeth scraped over his neck, setting off a deep, delicious ache.

Kakashi had eased off the bed and left Iruka lying there dazed and flushed with a flippant, "We need to leave for the airport in an hour or so. I'll be downstairs when you're ready."

Iruka's reply to that had been a very muddled, "Eh?" to the closing door.

With a sharp tug, Iruka pulled his t-shirt over his head and scowled at the way the pale blue material did nothing to hide the hickies.

"Shit," he muttered and ran his brush through sleep tangled hair before pulling out his shaving razor and toothbrush.

After Iruka had finished his morning routine and shoved all his possessions into his backpack, he made his way downstairs where the scent of coffee called to him like siren song.

"Morning, Kurenai," he called to the dark haired beauty standing by the glass doors leading to the back yard.

"Hey, Iruka. Cups are in the third cupboard above the sink and pot's on the stove. Help yourself."

"Thanks," Iruka muttered and got down to the serious business of feeding caffeine into his system. "Where's everyone else?"

"Most of the guests went home last night. Asuma's still asleep, Anko's getting dressed, and Ibiki's lazing on the porch watching Genma and Kakashi beat the shit out of each other," Kurenai said with an air of total unconcern for such alarming words.

Iruka was across the room in a few quick strides and a shocked, "They're what?"

Sure enough, there was Kakashi and Genma trading vicious, lightning fast strikes.

"Why are they fighting?" Iruka demanded and flinched as Genma kicked Kakashi's legs out from under him. Kakashi rolled smoothly back to his feet and drove his fist into Genma's gut. "Why the hell are they fighting?"

Kurenai let out a peal of musical laughter and patted Iruka on the arm. "Don't worry your dear head over it, they're only training. If they were serious there'd be blood."

A quick left jab from Kakashi had Genma stumbling backwards and spitting a glob of red onto the grass.

"More blood," Kurenai corrected and Iruka made a very nervous sound. "Well, I'm going to get dressed, can't wander around in my nightie all day. Why don't you go sit with Ibiki and enjoy the show?"

Iruka took her advice and walked outside to where Ibiki was slouched on one of the couches, his feet crossed on top of the matching coffee table. The large man took up almost the whole two-seater so Iruka perched on the couch arm with a friendly, "Morning."

"Ytro dobroe," Ibiki said and offered Iruka his flask.

Iruka grimaced as his stomach gave a half hearted flip. "Oh no. No thank you. I definitely learned my lesson last night."

"You belly sick?" Ibiki asked, not taking the flask back.

"A little, yeah." Though Iruka figured it was more nerves than anything. Nothing like being woken up by a blowjob from one of the most dangerous men you'd ever met before getting on his private plane and having to break the news to him that you'd withheld information and will be walking out on him as soon as the plane lands. Oh, and watching said man beat the crap out of one of his closest friends as a little morning exercise. Yeah, his stomach wasn't exactly fantastic that morning.

Ibiki jiggled the flask and said, "Dog hair is good for morning after."

Iruka let out a huff of laughter. "Thanks, but not for me. I'll stick with coffee."

Shrugging, Ibiki took a long pull on his flask and Iruka returned to watching Genma and Kakashi.

"They're amazing," Iruka said slightly breathlessly as he watched the flurry of rapid punches and blocks exchanged between the two men. "I've always wished I could do that."

"You not know fighting?" Ibiki asked and Iruka was quite surprised by the level of curiosity in the Russian's voice.

With a small, sheepish smile, Iruka looked to where Ibiki lounged comfortably beside him, the black eyes attentive. "No. My friend – Raido – learned and teaches the kids some self defence, but I've never gotten around to asking him to show me anything much. I know how to throw a punch without breaking my little finger, but that's about it."

The scarred Russian clicked his tongue disapprovingly. "This is no good," he said and leaned closer to Iruka in a conspiratorial manner, lowering his voice. "I teach you now."

"Now? Really?" Iruka would be lying if he said that the offer didn't hold great appeal for him. His heart had already begun to speed with excitement.

"We do smart though." A thick finger poked Iruka in the chest. "You have heart of bear but body of bird, so I teach you to fight dirty," Ibiki grinned wickedly and stood, motioning for Iruka to follow. "Vstavai."

Iruka pushed to his feet with half excited anticipation and half anxious certainty that he was about to collect a whole new set of bruises. However, it was a fantastic distraction from all the other things clamouring in his head to make him nervous so he was very willing. They stepped clear of the furniture. Facing off against Ibiki reminded Iruka just how huge the man was and the teacher laughed as he looked up into black eyes.

"I don't think anything you can teach me will make a difference if I'm facing off against someone as big as you."

Ibiki waved a thick hand through the air. "Size, it not matter. Anko is tiny and very deadly. All men have same weak place." The Russian pointed at his throat, "Here," his nose and eyes, "here," and strangely enough, his foot, "here. Also, here," Ibiki finished by tapping on his diaphragm. "You hit and enemy will fall."

"Right," Iruka said with an affirming nod and pointed at the locations Ibiki had indicated repeating, "here, here, here, and here."

"Da. Now, stand like this." Ibiki took up a pose and Iruka copied him. It was a comfortable and instinctual stance, legs apart and slightly side on with one foot forward, fists raised protectively in front of his face. "Good! Form is good."

"Okay," Iruka said, grinning but serious. This was great!

Ibiki stepped toward him and patted his forearms. "These protect this," he said and poked Iruka in the forehead.

"Got it."

"They punch," Ibiki swung his hand slowly at the left of Iruka's head and Iruka moved his arm to intercept, "yes, you do this. They punch," the same moves were repeated on the right side, "and you do."

This time, Ibiki swung a bit faster and Iruka easily blocked the hands slapping at his head.

"Good," the Russian declared and then moved to strike Iruka head on without warning. Iruka flinched back and moved his hands together to defend, open palmed. Ibiki grabbed hold of one of Iruka's wrists and yanked him forward.

"Woah!" the small teacher exclaimed as he was sent stumbling into Ibiki's broad chest and a massive hand clamped onto his shoulder. About the same time as Ibiki gripped him, Iruka's heart beat kicked rapidly and the smaller man had to forcibly stop himself from struggling free. He'd known as soon as he'd accepted Ibiki's offer for the impromptu lesson that there would be close physical contact involved, but the surprise move had left him shaken.

"That is, how you say, beginning mistake. You block punch so, and now I have you." Ibiki directed a friendly smile down at him and released Iruka so the slight brunette could put some distance between them. "For front punch, you not give them chance to catch. Stand like I show."

Taking a steadying breath, Iruka took up his stance again and Ibiki did too, saying, "Punch front at me."

Iruka moved slowly, like Ibiki had, and instead of blocking the strike the large man pivoted on his feet and moved out of the way.

"You move, they go past," he said as Iruka's arm straightened with the end of the punch. Ibiki took hold of Iruka's wrist again, the massive hand encircling almost half his forearm. "You catch them, they not catch you. Yes?"

"Yes," Iruka agreed as they held the pose, waiting to see what happens next.

"You pull," Ibiki pulled forward slowly and Iruka had no choice but to go with the movement, "and elbow."

As Iruka moved forward, Ibiki lifted his other arm and aimed his elbow right for Iruka's nose, miming throwing effort behind it so Iruka had no problem imagining how hard the strike would be in a real fight.

"You hit nose, they bleed and eyes are crying. Trust me, it hurt very much, cannot breathe, cannot see."

Iruka stood there for a moment with Ibiki still grasping his wrist and the elbow hovering in front of his nose. He could easily imagine how damn much it would hurt to take a hit full to the face with his own body weight driving him forward and Ibiki viciously driving his elbow back.

"That would do some serious damage," Iruka said as Ibiki released him and they took up their stances again.

"Is the idea, yes?" The Russian grinned. "Now, you to me. I am large so pull hard."

"I won't hit you?" the smaller man checked.

Ibiki fixed Iruka with serious black eyes and said, "Try to."


"No argue. Hit me."

The large fist shot forward, right for Iruka's nose. The small teacher flinched back and pivoted on his feet as Ibiki had done. The fist missed him by mere millimetres and Iruka caught the following wrist in a tight grip. Using the moving momentum of his own body, he pulled hard and yanked Ibiki forward with all his strength, driving his elbow back at the same time. There was a loud slap of skin meeting skin and Ibiki grinned wickedly at Iruka from behind the large hand that had caught the thin elbow.

"Otlichno! Again." And the Russian was yanking himself out of Iruka's grasp and advancing immediately. Iruka skipped back a step, trying to regain his footing and was barely quick enough to counter the next strike. He caught it with the wrong hand, still yanked Ibiki forward and spun out of the way instead of trying to strike back, quickly skipping out of range.

"This is good also," Ibiki said as he turned to face Iruka. "Not strong, but quick. You fight very good with more teachings." Ibiki motioned Iruka back and they took up their stances again.

Once more, Ibiki struck out and Iruka countered it as shown. Satisfied that Iruka had learned the move, Ibiki stepped back and nodded.

"From behind is harder to fight, but much damage can be done to the enemy."

Over the next few minutes, Ibiki taught Iruka how to best drive his elbow back into an enemy's solar plexus, crush the instep of their foot, gouge out their eyes, and crush their windpipe. Somehow, Iruka didn't think he'd be teaching any of these moves to the kids.

"What about the groin?" Iruka asked and Ibiki shook his head.

"We are men, happy to break nose before balls. Protect our balls is instinct. Hit if you have clean shot, they will drop, but dig out eyes will drop them for longer." Ibiki's smirk was positively terrifying. "Now, let us see how you have learned."

With those words, Ibiki darted forward and Iruka had barely enough time to block the right hook flying at his face before skipping back and aiming a strike at Ibiki's throat. Ibiki batted his blow to the side and tried to drive an uppercut into Iruka's stomach. Iruka twisted to the side and grabbed Ibiki's wrist, yanked to pull him off balance and didn't get a chance to try and elbow him in the face before Ibiki was executing some crazy move and Iruka ended up with a massive forearm wrapped around his throat and shoved face first into one of the veranda's support beams.

"Now what?" Ibiki rumbled into his ear and Iruka answered him by driving his elbow into his ribs and trying to stomp on his foot.

Ibiki let him go and Iruka swung around, using the momentum of his body to throw a punch. Ibiki caught his arm, yanked him off balance, and before Iruka knew what was happening the world spun and he was on his back on the soft cushions of the couch, the backs of his knees smarting where they'd thumped against the armrest. Ibiki was grinning down at him.

"Prevoshodno! Very good! You are smart student, I am pleased, good instinct," praised Ibiki as Iruka tried to figure out how he'd ended up flat on his back. "You will take down a normal man with practice."

Iruka grinned back. "So what do I do after I've dropped him?"

"You fly away, little bird, fast as your wings carry you," Ibiki said very seriously and Iruka recognised the good advice for what it was.

"And then you give us a ring," Genma called out and Iruka looked to the side to find him and Kakashi leaning against the railing watching them, "and we come sort the bugger out for ya."

Iruka was surprised and touched by the offer, but hid it behind a cheeky grin. "By the time you fly over he'll be long gone," Iruka said. "Might give the police a call instead."

"Ah, ruin all my fun," Genma complained jokingly and dug an elbow into Kakashi's ribs. "Wouldn't be the first time we got to someone while they're safely behind bars, yeah."

Kakashi chuckled and scratched under his chin. "Always makes things more interesting."

A shiver ran down Iruka's spine as he thought about the small hints the group of friends had dropped during his time with them. A dangerous collection of people if ever Iruka had met any.

"Well," Kakashi said with that air people get when they're wrapping up a visit, "we have to get going, the plane leaves in about an hour."

"Che, I was sick of your fugly face anyway," Genma declared with a yawn and a stretch, wincing before poking gingerly at his ribs. "Fuck, mate, next time I'm just gonna pitch you and gigantor against each other and watch. Least you two are evenly matched."

Ibiki threw Genma a dark glare as Kakashi cocked his eyebrow. "Sore loser," Kakashi said and jabbed Genma in the ribs, earning a hiss.

"That's it; get the fuck outta my house. Iruka, as soon as that plane lands you ditch this bastard's sorry arse and high tail it back to your bro. This guy's nothing but bad juju, dude."

Iruka sat up and mock saluted, saying, "Ditch the bad juju, got it," and made a mental note to look up what 'juju' was later.

Clarissa was their air-hostess again and greeted them with cool efficiency as they exited the car and approached the steps to the plane. Iruka noted that she still ogled Kakashi's arse on his way up, though. After she'd seen them comfortably seated and served fresh coffee, Clarissa asked, "Do you require privacy again, Mr. Hatake?"

"Yes," Kakashi answered flatly and took a sip of his drink.

Clarissa's nostrils flared and her lips pressed into an angry thin line. "Very well," she replied in a clipped tone and turned on her heel.

Iruka sighed internally and called out, "Clarissa," halting the woman just as her hand landed on the door to the cockpit. She turned and fixed him with unfriendly eyes. "The coffee's excellent, thank you."

Clarissa replied with a perfunctory, "You're welcome, sir," before disappearing through the door and snapping it closed behind her. Iruka turned to Kakashi with his eyebrow raised.


"What?" Kakashi asked, though the quirk to his lips told Iruka that the handsome man knew exactly what he was talking about.

"You know what," Iruka said with fond exasperation. "Leave the poor girl alone."

Kakashi hid a smirk behind his coffee cup as he took another drink. "I have no idea what you're talking about," he said after he'd swallowed and schooled his features again.

Iruka snorted inelegantly and clipped on his seatbelt. "You're so full of crap."

"How so?" Kakashi asked straight faced but with amusement twinkling in his grey eye.

Iruka fixed him with a bland look. "All the expensive suits and private planes in the world can't hide what's really underneath, Kakashi."

"And that would be?"

"A school yard bully." Kakashi let out a huff of laughter and Iruka grinned, continuing with, "You can try and cover it up with suave moves and smooth words, but it doesn't change the fact that your favourite pastime is pulling pigtails."

Kakashi threw his head back and laughed, the sound bouncing around the cabin and making Iruka tingle with warmth.

"Hey, I'm a teacher," he continued to tease, "I can spot a bully a mile away and it's my job to put them on the straight and narrow, make them give up their snot-nosed, bratty ways."

"I'm starting to have disciplinary teacher fantasies over here, sensei. Keep talking like that and I'll make it my life's work to bully people in front of you as often as possible," Kakashi said, mouth curving into a filthy leer.

Iruka felt the heat rising in his cheeks and looked away, scratching at his scar nervously and missing the curious narrowing of Kakashi's eye.

After his 'workout' with Genma, Kakashi had had a quick wash and changed his grass stained clothes for supple silk and wool while Iruka said goodbye to the others. They had been wonderfully welcoming and endlessly fascinating to speak with. Iruka felt very fortunate to have spent a night with them and grateful that they'd been so warmly inclusive of a stranger.

Iruka had shaken hands with a sleepy Asuma – dragged from his bed by Kurenai to see Kakashi off – and had his hand swallowed by Ibiki's massive paw while favoured with a pat to the shoulder and a promise that they'd drink samogon together again. Kurenai had given him a fond kiss on the cheek – the baby kicking Iruka when she pressed close – and Anko had kissed his other cheek and taken the opportunity to cheekily grope his arse. Genma snatched Iruka up in a hug, lifting the slight teacher off his feet before telling him and Kakashi to 'get the fuck outta' his house again with a big, friendly grin and a kick aimed at Kakashi's backside.

They'd climbed back into Kakashi's sleek car and driven to the airport through the mid morning traffic, their conversation kept deliberately light and centring around the previous night. The fine edge of tension was back between them once they were alone again but Iruka was trying hard to act as though nothing was out of the ordinary.

"So why are you sitting all the way over there, hmm?" Kakashi asked, bringing Iruka back to the present as the businessman nodded to the empty seat between them. "I'm starting to worry I smell."

"Don't be ridiculous," Iruka chided and lazed back in his seat. "There's no need to sit on each other's laps and you know I get twitchy during take-off."

Kakashi huffed and moved into the seat next to Iruka, belting up. "That's why you should definitely sit on my lap. I'll have you know that I am a certified distraction technique."

"Kakashi-" Iruka started to protest with an exasperated sigh but Kakashi took Iruka's smaller hand and lifted it to his mouth, grazed his teeth across the meat at the base of the dusky thumb. Iruka's next breath was shuddery as Kakashi nipped his way up before slipping the digit it into his mouth.

"Fuck," Iruka said breathily on an exhale when Kakashi swirled his tongue and sucked.

"Delicious," Kakashi said, voice low and gravel rough as he pulled off the teacher's thumb and leaned over so he could slide his tongue over the shell of a small, cinnamon ear. "When you were sparring with Ibiki this morning, you were gorgeous. You move like a cat, Iruka, all sleek lines and sharp jabs." Without preamble, Kakashi cupped Iruka between the legs and Iruka tried to push into the pressure but was restricted by his seatbelt. "I would've loved to have had you on my team, train you personally. I'd run you hard during the day, work you until you could hardly stand, your muscles stone heavy with exhaustion, and then I'd take you to my tent, stretch you out on my bedroll all limp and pliant, and fuck you through orgasm after orgasm." Kakashi said, kneading Iruka's cock through his jeans. Iruka's hand latched onto Kakashi's forearm tightly and he moaned. "You'd have no strength left to resist me, forced to lie there and take it until I'm ready to let you rest. Some nights I'd fuck you until you passed out and then keep going. You might wake up hours later with me still moving inside you."

"Oh f-fuuuck," Iruka groaned, the images Kakashi was conjuring sharp in his mind, and shuddering as he realised that he was in serious danger of coming in his pants. "Stop talking, damn it."

"If I was your commanding officer, you wouldn't be able to talk to me like that. I'd be the one disciplining you, sensei." A sharp nip to Iruka's earlobe and a firm squeeze between his legs had the young sensei keening but remembering the dark bruises that Kakashi had already left on him. Iruka jerked his head to the side, away from Kakashi's mouth, and tightened his grip on the pale, muscular forearm.

"Give me another hickey and I'll show you exactly how much of Ibiki's lesson I remember," he threatened, voice husky with arousal, and Kakashi made a noise more growl than hum.

"I would love to tussle with you anytime, sweetheart. Any excuse to get you hot and panting under me." To emphasise this, Kakashi slid down Iruka's zip and pushed his hand inside the jeans, palming him through his underwear.

Iruka's head fell back against the seat with strangled, "Hnng,"

"That's it," Kakashi murmured and squeezed a little tighter.

Iruka shuddered and managed to groan out, "Wait, just wai- Christ!" Kakashi slipped his hand beneath the band of Iruka's underwear and dragged his thumb over the wet head of Iruka's cock. "Fuck, fuck, Kakashi, just wait a second."

"Why?" Kakashi asked as he shoved his hand deeper and curled his fingers around Iruka's tight balls.

Tightening his grip on the muscular forearm, Iruka ground out, "At least… at least wait until we're in the air, damn it."

"We are in the air," Kakashi answered, amused, and Iruka twisted his head to look out the window at fluffy clouds and blue sky.

"Son of a bitch," he huffed and his words are met with a deep chuckle that was little more than grumbling vibration in Kakashi's throat.

"Told you I'm a great distraction," Kakashi said into the space behind Iruka's small ear and dragged his thumb over the glans again.

Iruka's mind is hazy with pleasure, but he knew he needed to stop Kakashi. It was wrong to be pleasured when Iruka had yet to break the news of the boys' discharge from the hospital and his immanent departure. But it felt so good; it always felt good when Kakashi's hands were on him, plucking and stringing his body to the tune the brilliant man wanted to play. Not this time, though. He'd given himself a night and that morning had been sprung on him without warning, but this he could control. This he could stop before it became a situation that would later leave Kakashi bitter and angry.

Taking a firm hold of Kakashi's wrist, Iruka pulled the pale hand from his jeans and quickly refastened his zip. He could smell himself on Kakashi's skin and the scent sent a shiver of arousal down his spine that he forcefully ignored as he clasped Kakashi's skilled hand between his smaller ones.

Kakashi had gone utterly still and was watching him silently, grey eye narrowed intently. It never failed to remind Iruka of something primal watching from the shadows.

"What's wrong?" Kakashi asked, his tone low and gentle, and Iruka tried not to resent him for it. Kakashi had every right to treat him like a skittish animal after the way he'd acted over the past few days.

"I don't want to," Iruka said and then blushed deeply as Kakashi looked pointedly at the way his jeans were straining across his crotch. "We need to talk, Kakashi."

Kakashi sighed through his nose as his talented lips pressed into a thin, displeased line. "Conversations that start with those words never end well."

"No," Iruka agreed, "and I suspect this one will be no different."

He let the pale hand go easily when Kakashi shifted it out of his grip and had to suppress a smile as the elite businessman flopped back in his seat like a petulant teenager.

"Do we have to?" Kakashi asked and scrubbed a hand through his hair, further mussing the already scruffy silver strands and the sight made Iruka want to touch. "I'm tired of arguing with you."

"I don't want to fight with you either," Iruka reassured him.

"Then let's not," Kakashi declared, waving his hand through the air in emphasis. "Let's go back to me feeling you up and you moaning my name."

"I didn't moan your name," Iruka protested indignantly and Kakashi smirked.

"You were working up to it. I figure another two minutes and sixteen seconds and you would have."

Iruka may have spluttered a little before demanding, "How the hell do you figure that?"

"Because," Kakashi said, voice deep and velvety, his smile sharp and knowing, "that's how long it would have taken me to strip your pants off and get your cock down my throat."

Iruka swallowed as a sharp spike of arousal shot through his groin and his cock throbbed within the confines of his jeans. Kakashi smiled provocatively, his single eye dark and promising. As tempting as Kakashi's offer was – and by the heavens was it tempting – Iruka wasn't ready to allow Kakashi to have control again, didn't want to feel vulnerable and exposed. But he could give instead of take.

"Alright, we'll talk later," he said and had to quickly catch hold of Kakashi's wrist as the gorgeous man reached for him again. "Let me, okay?"

The silver crowned head tilted curiously and Kakashi retracted his hand, stroking long fingers over the rapid pulse in Iruka's wrist. "I'm all yours, sensei," he said in a deep voice that held equal amounts of enticement and challenge.

And just like that, the ball was completely in Iruka's court. Kakashi was waiting for him to make a move and the young sensei sat frozen, unsure of what to do and feeling unaccountably shy. Even after all they'd done since meeting, Iruka felt like he was back on the first private plane, travelling to San Francisco and owing Kakashi a kiss as payment for his airfare.

Flexing his hands nervously, he glanced up at Kakashi and asked, "So, umm... is there anything you'd like me to do?" more timid than he'd like.

Iruka was not sure why, but Kakashi's eye darkened to the colour of thunderclouds and the next thing the teacher knew he was hauled onto the larger man's lap.

"Dangerous question, sweetheart," Kakashi said before licking his way past Iruka's full lips.

The kiss went on for several long minutes, one of Kakashi's hands cradling the back of Iruka's slender neck and the other clamped firmly on his arse.

Twisting his head to the side, Iruka panted, "Wait, wait a second."

"Yes?" Kakashi asked into the curve of his jaw, tone husky and teasing.

"I'm supposed t-to be nngh!"

Kakashi continued to nip at his neck and grind against him, enjoying the younger man's surprised grunt and involuntary shudders. Iruka's neck was very sensitive and terribly addictive. With a frustrated groan, Iruka pushed Kakashi back by the shoulders and slid off of his lap and onto the floor.

"I'm supposed to be doing this, damn you," he griped and reached for Kakashi's fly.

Kakashi leaned back in his seat and slipped the soft wrap off his head, mismatched eyes heated and hungry. "By all means, don't let me interfere."

Iruka took his time, went about the business of bringing Kakashi to climax slowly, being careful to draw it out and greedily tuck away every moan and gasp.

When Clarissa went to tell her passengers that the plane was about to begin its descent, she was stopped in her tracks by the sight of the dark haired man – she hadn't bothered to learn his name – on his knees between Mr. Hatake's spread thighs and making obscenely wet noises. He didn't notice her arrival but Mr. Hatake did, fixing her with a glare that froze the blood in her veins. His silver hair was hanging to hide his normally visible eye, the scarred one uncovered and burning, vivid crimson. Mr. Hatake curled forward, sliding a hand around the back of the other man's head protectively – as if trying to hide him from her gaze – and snarled, "Go," so viciously that she was back in the cockpit with the door closed before her mind caught up with her body.

Iruka flinched back from what he was doing, looking up at Kakashi with startled eyes.

"What?" he asked, voice rough with arousal and from the intrusion of Kakashi's cock.

Kakashi smiled down at him gently, brushing his thumb over a scarred cheek.

"Go faster, please. You're making me crazy."

Iruka relaxed and gave a small smile before lowering his head again and doing exactly as Kakashi asked.

When the plane descended ten minutes later, it was with his hand held in Kakashi's large, warm grip, a sullenly aching erection, and with the strong flavour of Kakashi's release on his tongue.

"Mr. Hatake! Mr. Umino!" Matherson greeted them jovially as they entered the Spiral Leaf's shining foyer. "Welcome back to your home away from home."

"Matherson," Kakashi greeted with a slight nod as Iruka murmured, "Hello," and made to step around the manically grinning manager. Iruka wasn't one to hold grudges, but the man's behaviour the first day they'd met – when he'd singled Iruka out in the foyer crowd and confronted him over his presence – still rankled and Iruka didn't want to talk to him if he didn't have to.

Matherson, however, was apparently ecstatic at the chance to talk to Iruka and stepped into his path, asking enthusiastically, "Did you have a pleasurable trip, sir?"

The man's words couldn't have been more poorly chosen if he'd been privy to everything Iruka and Kakashi had gotten up to during the last seventeen hours. Iruka's cheeks flushed in embarrassment, ducking his head and readjusting the strap of his backpack – he'd refused to surrender it to the doorman – which in turn drew Matherson's gaze to the large hickey on his throat.

Matherson blushed brilliant red and started spluttering, "Oh! I- you- that is- I mean-"

Kakashi, so obviously swallowing down laughter that Iruka felt the urge to kick him in the knee, hooked an arm around Iruka's hunched shoulders.

"The trip was extremely pleasurable," Kakashi purred, eyes sparkling with pure amusement as Matherson darkened so much that he turned an odd shade of purple. "Goodbye, Matherson," he said and drew the smaller man towards the elevators. Iruka kept his eyes firmly on the floor and didn't shrug out of Kakashi's hold until the elevator doors had closed behind them.

"I hate you," the embarrassed teacher spat so venomously that the elevator operator flinched. The man couldn't understand his passenger's language but he sure recognised that tone!

"Oh come now," Kakashi said, white teeth flashing in a cocky grin.

"No, seriously, the only thing I feel for you right now a deep and pure loathing."

"That's only because you wouldn't let me get you off on the plane," Kakashi said before dropping his tone to a throaty rumble and ducking his head to murmur into a cinnamon ear, "which I plan to rectify as soon as we're back in the suite."

Iruka could feel his cheeks heating even further than their no doubt still brilliant red and growled, "Urge to kill, rising."

"You'll feel better after an orgasm or two," the taller man quipped and gave Iruka a light pat on the shoulder. Iruka responded by directing a glare so dark at Kakashi that the smirk on the handsome face was replaced by a wary expression. "Maybe three."

Iruka didn't deign to respond, but he did continue to glare at nothing and everything. They reached their floor quickly – Iruka still impressed by the elevator's smooth speed – and made their way through the gilded doors of the suite. Iruka headed straight for the bedroom and heard Kakashi's appreciative comment of, "Now we're talking," come from behind him as the businessman closed the main doors.

"No," Iruka corrected as he entered the bedroom and went straight to the closet, dropping his backpack onto the bed, "I wanted to talk on the plane but you were more interested in screwing around."

"Interesting choice of words," Kakashi quipped from the doorway and Iruka glanced over his shoulder to see the older man leaning against the frame, muscular body relaxed but expression slowly hardening. "What are you doing, Iruka?"

"Packing," Iruka answered shortly as he grabbed his empty duffle and tossed it onto the bed next to the backpack.

"Why?" And Kakashi's tone was definitely taking on a warning edge; one that sent skitters of apprehension down Iruka's spine. But he was done, done with it all. He and Kakashi had been playing a messed up game since they'd met and enough was enough. The song was ending, this Midsummer Night's dance of seduction and trickery slowing its steps to the inevitable crash at dawn.

Iruka had always known that this situation wouldn't end well, with new friendships forged and everyone happy, but that had never been his concern. Kakashi wasn't his priority; his priority had always been the boys. Seeing Naruto and Sasuke healthy and safe and home was always his goal, both his and Kakashi's needs and wants were only ever going to come second. He'd known for the last few days that Kakashi was the type of man who needed to always be first, to be the priority, and he'd been pushing Iruka to make him that that since they'd met.

Iruka had also been fighting him on that aspect every step of the way. Looked like the fight wasn't over just yet, not that Iruka was surprised. He jerked a handful of clothes from where they were neatly draped on hangers and stuffed them into his bag, feeling bad about the creases he was putting into the carefully ironed fabric. He wasn't usually so callous with other people's hard work.

"Because it's time for me to leave, the boys are being released today."

He chanced a glance at Kakashi – the pale face intent and emotionless in that way Iruka hated – before turning back to grab his remaining clothes and was relieved to see his black polo shirt. One of the staff must have collected and laundered it, and if Iruka knew who it was, he'd be tempted to give them a hug.

"When did you find that out?"

Throwing his shirt on the bed next to his bag, he shoved the remaining clothes away and said, "Naruto told me yesterday."

"I see."

No inflection in that tone what so ever, Kakashi could have been stating that the sky was blue or water wet. Without giving himself time to hesitate, Iruka stripped off his t-shirt and threw it into the bag before pulling on the polo shirt. They were both silent as Iruka zipped up his duffle, the rest of his gear already stored in his backpack. All that remained was to walk out the door.

"Why didn't you tell me?" Kakashi asked and Iruka sighed.

Trust him not to just let me leave. It always has to be on his terms, when he's ready.

Kakashi was still leaning in the doorway and for the first time Iruka began to suspect that it was a deliberate manoeuvre to block the exit. Unease began to coil in his gut and his internal warning bell that Iruka had been convinced was broken around Kakashi started to chime.

"I tried to on the plane, you weren't interested," Iruka said and met Kakashi's stare flatly.

"And yesterday?"

"There didn't seem to be an appropriate time."

Kakashi flashed a fleeting smiled and it was as warm as a blizzard. "Bullshit."

"When would you have liked me to tell you, then? While we were fighting? During one of our tentative truces or when you were relaxing with your friends? How about while we were fucking?" Iruka snapped and saw the flex of Kakashi's jaw as the larger man grit his teeth.

Iruka continued to match him stare for stare for a long moment, the silence hanging heavy in the room.

"What'd you want me to say, Kakashi?" he eventually asked and Kakashi's eye was as hard as iron.

"The truth."

"The truth is that I tried to tell you on the plane and you weren't interested."

Iruka might not be much good at this game, but he still knew how to play.

"What're you trying to achieve here?" he asked and picked up his duffle bag, slung his backpack over his should while walking around the bed so that it was no longer between them.

Kakashi straightened, his broad body completely blocking the door, and Iruka stopped, dark eyes narrowing.

"What are you trying to achieve?" he asked again, but this time his tone was much lower and edged with warning.

"I'm trying to determine the truth," Kakashi answered, tone just as low as Iruka's. "I don't think you're being entirely honest with me here, sensei."

"You have no right to question my honesty after the stunts you've pulled," Iruka bit out. "Don't think for one second that I've forgotten how you neglected to mention your association with Sasuke or his request that you escort me over here. I don't remember you being entirely honest with me then."

"Don't try and change the subject."

"I thought the subject was honesty."

Kakashi's eye narrowed dangerously and Iruka was caught between wanting to smirk and backing cautiously away.

Not so fun being on the receiving end, eh, Kakashi?

Iruka was feeling more like himself than he had in almost five days. His brother and dear friend were alive and well, he'd caught up on his sleep, and he was finally feeling back in control. Kakashi looked like he was about to lose his, though.

"You manipulated me," the larger male growled and Iruka laughed, all bitterness and sharp edges.

"You hypocrite," he spat and Kakashi took an angry step forward. Iruka should have felt afraid, should have backed away and either tried to cool the situation down or run, but his temper was far beyond caution. "I didn't manipulate shit. All I did was withhold some information, which you've done to me more times than I can count since we met."

"And that makes it okay?" Kakashi demanded, eye widening and his brow creasing. "There are a lot of people I'd expect this from, but not you."

That pulled Iruka up short because Kakashi's tone was one of betrayal. Iruka hadn't been expecting that, but perhaps he should have. Kakashi had been saying for days how he believed Iruka to be the most honest person he'd ever met. Iruka barely knew the isolated business tycoon, but he did know that Kakashi lived in a world of deceit and superficiality. It hadn't been Iruka's intension to add to it, he'd only wanted to try and get out of this predicament on his own terms, and by doing so had sunk to their level.

Iruka dropped his gaze. "Don't put me on a pedestal, Kakashi. I'm human, I'll always fall off."

"I just don't understand why," Kakashi's tone was as close to pleading as Iruka suspected it ever got and he scrubbed a hand over his face in frustration, swallowing down the flash of irrational guilt.

"Where do you see it going, this thing between us?" Kakashi didn't answer and Iruka hadn't really expected him to. "What we have, it's a phosphorous burn – quick and brilliant and leaving nothing behind but scorch marks. We fight more than talk, I wrestle for equality while you snatch at control, and neither of us trusts the other."

Iruka stepped up to Kakashi – the movement consoling rather than aggressive – and laid his hand on Kakashi's bicep. The taller man's muscles were like steel cable beneath the soft silk of his shirt.

"Thank you for your generosity and kindness during these difficult days." Iruka looked into Kakashi's eye and tried not to flinch at the flat, emotionless gaze. "Thank you for helping my family. Goodbye Kakashi. I honestly wish you happiness in life."

Iruka never saw it coming. The moment he made to leave, Kakashi moved like lightning. The backpack was ripped off his shoulder, the duffle bag kicked out of his hand, and Kakashi's arm hooked around his chest, yanking him off his feet and slamming him against the wall with a force just shy of violence.

As Iruka's breath choked out of his lungs, Kakashi's mouth slammed over his and strong hands grabbed hold of his arse, dragging him up the wall to a more convenient height. Iruka kicked and struggled but the larger male leaned into him, pinning him with his greater bulk.

Wrenching his head to the side, Iruka snapped out, "No!" and Kakashi growled, the sound rumbling deep in his chest as he dragged his teeth roughly over the possessive marks on Iruka's neck, making them throb sharply. Iruka heart was running wild as jack rabbit and it had nothing to do with arousal. Sheer, blinding panic shot adrenaline through his body and had him lashing out.

"Get the hell off me!"

Possibly, it was because Iruka himself didn't know what he was going to do that he managed to catch Kakashi by surprise and slam his fist into the side of the silver crowned head.

Kakashi dropped him, darting back a few feet and Iruka acted immediately. He shot from the room, snatching up his bags on the fly, and sprinted for the front doors. Bursting through them, he didn't slow his pace one whit as the bolted across the reception room to smack his hand against the elevator call button. Some higher power had obviously decided to take pity on him because the elevator arrived immediately and the doors slid open with a notifying ping.

"Lobby, now," Iruka snapped as he stepped inside and the operator leapt to obey his order with a startled expression.

When the doors slid closed and the elevator started its smooth ride down, Iruka clenched his jaw and forcibly steadied his breathing.

"Are you alright, sir?" the operator asked warily and Iruka nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

When the elevator doors opened, he felt steady enough to say, "Thank you," before stalking across the foyer. A porter looked ready to rush over and offer to take his bags but Iruka gave a sharp shake of his head and the man settled back into his position by the desk. Thankfully, Matherson was nowhere to be seen and the glittering guests milling in the area took one look at his face before opening a path to let him through. Without any interruptions, Iruka was out the doors.

There was a light rain falling, barely heavier than mist, and it dusted Iruka's arms and face like miniature shards of ice. Stopping once he hit the footpath, Iruka looked up and down the busy road with no clue what to do or how to get to the hospital across town. His body thrummed with nervous energy and the need to get away, far away, right the fuck now.

"Hey! Hey, son!"

Iruka looked over at the call and saw that a taxi had pulled to a stop on the side of the road, the driver – a weathered looking man in his late fifties with only a sparse smattering of ginger hair remaining – looking at him with a concerned frown.

"Y'look like ya can use a lift, son."

"Yes," Iruka agreed vehemently. "Thank you."

Throwing his bags into the back seat and clambering in after them, Iruka let out a relieved breath and clipped on his seatbelt.

"Where to?" the driver asked him and clucked sympathetically when Iruka gave him the hospital's address. "No wonder ya looked so freaked out."

Iruka gave a laugh that sounded broken and said, "No. That's all good now. They're okay," before burying his face in his hands.

The driver respected his need for silence and turned on the radio. Credence filled the silence, wailing about a bad moon rising and Iruka almost laughed again at the fitting words but swallowed it down, scared of how it might sound should it escape his throat.

God, fuck, he'd punched Kakashi! Punched him right in the head and then run like the devil was on his trail.

Devil, Iruka snorted to himself. Not quite the devil, but still very dangerous.

If Kakashi had come after him – if Kakashi had decided to take exception to the fact that Iruka had punched him in the fucking head – Iruka was in no doubt that he'd be little more than a bloody smear on the ridiculously expensive carpet by now. Just that morning, Iruka had watched while Kakashi beat the tar out of his close friend for a bit of training and fun, and he'd gone and punched that same man only hours later!

But Kakashi had messed up too! He'd… fuck, what had he been thinking by grabbing Iruka like that? What in the nine levels of hell had he been thinking? Iruka had said thank you and goodbye and it should have been over! Why was it never over where Kakashi was concerned?

Iruka's head snapped up at that thought. What if it still wasn't over? What if Kakashi came after him?

"Y'doing okay back there, son? Yer lookin' mighty pale. Not gonna make a mess in my back seat, are ya?"

It took a moment for the driver's words to make sense through Iruka's spinning mind and after a few moments he was able to answer, "No, not going to make a mess."

"Good," the man said and turned down the radio a bit. "Why don't'cha tell old Sam what happened, eh?"

Iruka ran a hand over his head, fiddled with his ponytail for the distraction of it.

"I just punched a man in the face," he said dully and Sam hummed interestedly.

"He deserve it?"

"What?" Iruka asked, still amazed that he'd just admitted to a total stranger that he'd assaulted somebody.

"Did he deserve it?" Sam repeated.

Iruka thought about that. True, he'd just assaulted Kakashi, but only after Kakashi had assaulted him first.

"Yeah," Iruka said with a small, nervous chuckle. "Yeah, he really did."

"He dead?"

"What? No!" Iruka said horrified and Sam laughed, gravel rough and croaky.

"He bleedin'?"

"No, not at all." And Iruka was relieved to realise that Kakashi was probably unharmed by the whole confrontation. "I don't think I even bruised him."

"Say he got off lucky then," Sam said gruffly. "Y'gonna punch a man ya should see that he remembers it fer a few days."

Iruka laughed, breathless and a little hollow, and relaxed further into his seat. "I'll remember that for next time."

"Yep," Sam said with a nod. "See, now'a'days folks'll get all cranky over a bit a boxin' but I say it's better to sort yer differences with fists than in some damn courtroom full of suits spoutin' mumbo jumbo and wearin' wigs. Ain't no kinda profession when y'gotta wear a wig, tellin' ya. But between men, few punches thrown'll sort out a issue right quick. None of this draggin' it out over months crap. Y'ever punched someone before?"

"Not since I was a child," Iruka admitted and flexed his hand, realising there was only a dull ache and not the sharp hurt of properly slamming his fist into something. He can't have hit that hard, didn't have the room to swing properly fenced in between Kakashi and the wall.

"Ain't nothin' wrong with that, peace loving man m'self. But some situations'll call fer a fella to stand up fer himself. Don't never be ashamed of that, son."

"Thanks, Sam," Iruka said sincerely. "I appreciate it."

They chatted about easier things for the remainder of the drive, Sam happy to tell Iruka all about his grandkids and how he was taking them to their first baseball game when the season started up again. When they arrived at the hospital, Iruka handed over the fare money and a generous tip.

"Y'take care of yer self, now," Sam said, offering his hand to shake and Iruka grasped it warmly.

"You too," he replied and ducked through the rain into the hospital to collect his boys. He made sure to flick his shirt collar up before entering their room.

It was late before the three of them were fully settled at Naruto and Sasuke's small apartment near the university. In true student fashion, they'd gotten pizza for dinner and enjoyed it with some beer already in the fridge. As Sasuke went to shower – determined to wash of the stench of betadine and bleach, he'd said – Naruto and Iruka curled up on opposite ends of the couch with hot mugs of tea, the television turned low.

"So…" Naruto started.

"So," Iruka copied with a teasing smile and an arched eyebrow, but Naruto didn't smile back and that quickly had Iruka frowning. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"That's my line," Naruto said and fixed Iruka with a steady gaze. Naruto was so loud and playful that Iruka often forgot that he was no longer a boy but swiftly becoming a man, and often sharper than he let on. Especially when it came to Iruka's moods. "What happened?"

Iruka gave a small, dismissive shake of his head. "Nothing worth talking about," he said and cradled his mug with both hands to hide the slight tremor in them.

Naruto put his mug on the floor and shuffled forward until their knees pressed together, then he reached out and pressed fingers to the collar of Iruka's shirt. Exactly over the spot where the hickies were. Iruka jerked back in surprise, eyes wide and no doubt shining with nervousness, and Naruto lowered his hand back into his lap.

"What happened?" he asked again, eyes full of concern for his brother. "You've been strange since you picked us up, since before then even. You've been evasive and nervous and I…" Naruto looked down at his lap and Iruka had to touch him, had to reach out and rest his hand on his little brother's shoulder reassuringly.


"Don't do that," Naruto said and laid his hand over Iruka's, squeezing it firmly. "Don't be secretive anymore." Blue eyes like summer skies looked at Iruka imploringly. "Tell me what's going on."

And Iruka was helpless against his brother like this, defenceless against his sincerity and genuine concern. Most of all, Iruka was defenceless against his familiarity and the inherent comfort of it. Iruka didn't want to tell his brother about how badly he'd screwed things up, but there had never been secrets between them and Iruka never wanted there to be.

"I'm afraid…" Iruka took a steadying breath and ducked his head, long hair loosed from its customary binding hours before falling against his cheeks. He only took a moment to steel his resolve before raising his gaze again. "I'm afraid I've been rather a huge idiot," he said.

"I've been saying that for years," Naruto quipped with half smile that didn't reach his eyes and Iruka huffed a quiet laugh.

"I don't even know where to start," he admitted.

Both brothers jumped as Sasuke's voice came from the doorway to the lounge room. "How about the beginning."

"Shit," Iruka gasped, his hear pounding, as Naruto yelled, "Give us a fucking heart attack, asshole!"

Sasuke strode across the room and shoved the coffee table closer to the couch with his foot before taking a seat on it, facing the brothers. He was wearing a pair of jeans and a fitted t-shirt and Iruka saw that Naruto wasn't the only one who had put on some muscle during their time abroad.

"Well," Sasuke pressed and Iruka wanted to swear again. Bad enough telling Naruto about all that had happened, now he had Sasuke in on the confession too.

"Tell us," Naruto encouraged, giving Iruka's knee a nudge with his.

Iruka sighed, ran a hand through his hair, and said, "It all started when I couldn't get on a flight in Tokyo."

From there, the whole story came out. Not in graphic detail! At least not the graphic parts, but the rest of it – the deals he and Kakashi had struck, the confession of their sordid childhood, the market place, hospital bills, trip to LA – all of it spilled from his lips in a rushed confession that concluded with, "And then I punched him in the head, grabbed my bags, and hightailed it like my arse was on fire."

Both the boys had been silent through the telling, but when the tale had come to a close Naruto leapt off the couch and started pacing agitatedly around the room.

"I'm sorry," Iruka muttered to his tea mug clamped tightly between his hands and Naruto swung around.

"No! Fuck no! You're not sorry about anything, none of it, no!" The blonde clenched his hands in his hair and let out a loud, infuriated noise. "I'm gonna kill him! I'm gonna punch him in his fat, smug face and then I'm gonna punch him again!"

That had Iruka off the couch, hand up and placating while tea – gone cold long ago – slopped over his other one. "Whoa, Kit, simmer down."

"Simmer down? That two faced, cock sucking, son of a bitch fucking-"

"This is my fault," Iruka insisted and Naruto swung around to face him, mouth already open to start talking again but Iruka jumped in first. "It is. I let him get away with it all and I have to take responsibility for my own actions."

"This is not your fault," Sasuke said viciously from where he was still sitting on the coffee table. "None of it."

"Some of it absolutely is," Iruka protested then snapped, "No, listen to me," when both boys started talking at the same time. "Kakashi may have put me in a difficult position but he also helped me- us out an incredible amount. He got me here, he offered me solace about our past, and he gave an obscene amount of money for the hospital bills. I was the one making stupid decisions."

"You were also running on nervous tension and zero sleep," Sasuke said and Iruka couldn't argue with him there.

"We weren't doing much better," Naruto said bitterly. "When you told us you were going to find a place to stay, why didn't we just give you the key to our apartment? Instead I offered for you to share my bed at the hospital and Sasuke wanted to pay for a hotel room."

That revelation was like a slap to the face and the muscles in Iruka's legs liquefied, dumping him inelegantly back on the couch. Why hadn't he thought of that? This whole time, he could have been staying here! Why the fuck hadn't he thought of that?

Naruto voiced his thoughts for him. "Why the fuck didn't we think of that?"

"Kakashi would have thought of it," Sasuke said with great surety and Iruka froze.

"If we didn't -" he started but Sasuke cut him off.

"Trust me, he thought of it. He just didn't mention it because it didn't fit in with his plans."

"And we're back to punching him repeatedly in the face," Naruto growled.

"No," Iruka snapped. "We can't blame all that's happened on one person, no matter how easy it would be."


Iruka cut Naruto off sharply, asking, "Should we place blame on Sasuke for the accident? Or on you for wanting to come to America in the first place?"

Both boys were silent and Iruka met their matching belligerent stares with fierce stubbornness.

"There's no blame to place here, this is no one's fault. It's just something that's happened. A damn bizarre situation where lessons were learned and mistakes made. We all did what we thought was right in the moment, all responded how we though best. I won't blame completely Kakashi for how it turned out and neither will the two of you. If anything, I caused this because I wasn't thinking things through clearly and allowed myself to be pushed around." Iruka clenched his hands around his mug. "This will never happen again, not any of it, so we walk away. It's a clean end and it will stay that way."

Naruto looked like he wanted to argue more, but Iruka saw that he also understood what it was Iruka was saying. There may have been a lot of mess left behind, but there had also been a lot of good intentions and Naruto was the type of person to focus on the positives in life. His younger brother wouldn't forgive Kakashi, but he also wouldn't pursue it. Sasuke, on the other hand, still looked upset and ran a frustrated hand through his hair.

"I just… I don't understand, Iruka. Why didn't you come to us? Why didn't you come to me?" Sasuke asked, the normally steady obsidian eyes deeply troubled. "You must know I'd do anything for you, the both of you."

Iruka reached out without thought, grasping Sasuke's arms and squeezing them, his mug clamped between his thighs.

"I know," he said sincerely. "Sasuke, I know that. We both know that."

"Then why?" Sasuke demanded and Naruto came to sit next to him on the coffee table, knocking their shoulders together.

"This isn't about excluding you," Iruka promised his young friend.

"We made a promise," Naruto said quietly, "that we'll never come to you for money."

"That's stupid!" Sasuke uncharacteristically burst out. "That's completely ridiculous! I have more than enough for all of us!"

"And that doesn't matter to us!" Naruto yelled back with an agitated wave of his arms.

"We love you, Sasuke, for just you. It's important to us that you know that," Iruka said.

"We wouldn't go to any of our other friends for money," Naruto snapped, "so why the hell would we go to you?"

"Because I have it and they don't!"

"So what?"

"Boys, calm down," Iruka interceded firmly before gentling his voice and saying to Sasuke, "Our independence is important to us, we've struggled to become self sufficient and we're very proud of it. The good luck we've had, it's incredible. To be able to achieve higher education with our meagre finances let alone the fact that our landlord seems to have forgotten we exist -"

Oh, he hasn't forgotten, Sasuke thought passionately. Not for a second.

"- and hasn't raised our rent despite the price of rentals steadily increasing each year, I can't even begin to believe our good fortune."

"What he's trying to say in his typical long-winded way," Naruto said with a grin, "is that we're doing great!"

Iruka ginned as well and agreed, "Yeah, we really are. To make things even better, we have amazing friends. The ones we've grown up with-"

"And one stubborn bitch that followed me home one day," Naruto jumped in, jostling his and Sasuke's shoulders together with rough affection.

"Followed you home?" Sasuke muttered menacingly and the brothers chuckled.

"What Naruto's trying to say with his usual ineptitude is that you've already given us everything we need just by sticking around and being you. We don't want anything else and we'll never ask you for anything that might make you doubt that."

"Like money, dipshit."

"Oh for the love of…" Iruka leaned over and punched Naruto in the arm. "Warm and fuzzy are just a pair of slippers to you, aren't they?"

"Possibly a hat too," Naruto agreed with a massive grin. "One of those furry Russian ones."

Iruka smiled as he thought of Ibiki and turned his attention back to Sasuke. "What we're both trying to say-"

"In our long-winded, inept ways."

"Yes, thank you, little brother. What we're saying is that you're family and we want you to come live with us."

Sasuke froze, his whole body going completely still as his eyes widened and he whispered, "What?"

Iruka rubbed at his scar sheepishly. "It just seems to us that-"

"Your brother's an asshole," Naruto said jovially and Iruka had to swallow down a strange combination of tolerant sigh and laughter.

"Well, yes, he doesn't seem the most pleasant of guys."

"And your mum-"

"Naruto, that's enough!" Iruka snapped. Regardless of how uncaring Sasuke's family seemed; it was just plain bad manners to badmouth someone's mother. Shooting Naruto a warning glare, he continued with, "We know our place is small and it's likely not what you're used to – and you're under no obligation what so ever to accept – but if you'd like to, Naruto and I would love to welcome you into our home."

"Besides, it's not like you don't mooch off us half the time anyway," Naruto said and scrunched his nose up when Iruka stared at with exasperation. "What? He does!"

"He does not! Sasuke does more around the house than you do, lazy brain."

"Hey! I totally do heaps around the joint, I'm always doing stuff!"

"Unless playing video games and almost setting the kitchen on fire while making toast is 'stuff' I have no idea what you're talking about."

"I put the bins out!"

"After I kick you off the couch!"

A sniffle caught the brother's attention and they both promptly shut up and snapped their eyes to Sasuke's hunched form. Sasuke's head was bent, his long fringe hiding his face, and he sniffed again though it was obvious he was trying to be discrete.

Unfortunately for Sasuke, discrete and Naruto didn't exist in the same universe.

"Dude, are you crying again?"

It was a close finish between Sasuke and Iruka for who slapped Naruto in the head first. As the blond yowled and flung his hands up to protect his skull, Sasuke snapped, "I'm not crying, moron," and Iruka swiftly grabbed Naruto's mug of tea off the carpet before it got kicked over. He tactfully didn't mention the tears Sasuke quickly swiped off his face while Naruto wasn't looking.

"So," Iruka said, placing his and Naruto's mugs around the side of the couch and out of kicking range, "you don't have to answer us now, but the offer's open and there's no retraction date. Have a think about it, okay?"

Sasuke shuffled his feet and Iruka hadn't seen him do that since he first came into their lives as a tentative young teenager still unsure of his welcome.

"Are you… are you sure?" he asked and Naruto shifted to flop onto the couch next to his older brother, slinging an arm over Iruka's shoulders and pulling them together.

"Hey, man, this is us you're talking to. We both agreed on it before we even talked about it," Naruto said.

"Besides," Iruka added, both brothers sporting matching grins, "we're great at adopting people."

Obsidian eyes flicked between them for a few moments before Sasuke's mouth twitched up a slight amount and little creases formed in the corners of his eyes. For the controlled young man, that was the equivalent of a beaming smile and Iruka clapped a warm hand on his shoulder. It was a special moment, beautiful in its simplicity and meaning, one that Iruka tucked away in his heart to keep safe and treasure forever.

So, naturally, Naruto went and bombed it by saying, "Y'know, on second thought I'm not sure this is such a great idea. He's such a cry baby he'll be weepy and snotty all over the house."

Iruka had just enough warning by Sasuke growling the word, "Dead," to duck out the way before the boys became a rolling, flailing ball of fists and shouted insults. Grabbing the mugs, he took them to the kitchen and dumped their cold contents into the sink, flicking on the kettle to make a fresh brew.

It had taken Iruka awhile to learn that Sasuke and Naruto's fights always sounded a lot more violent than they actually were so he wasn't worried. He knew they were both really laughing on the inside.

Leaning in the doorway, he watched them grapple for the upper hand and realised that from all the revelations that night neither of the boys had even twitched at Iruka revealing he'd been intimate with another man. Not that Iruka had thought it would be an issue; it was just nice to have been proven right and warmth filled him.

It was all over, his family was safe, Sasuke would come to live with them, and life would go back to something that made sense. Breathing a huge sigh of relief, Iruka closed his eyes and rested his head against the wood.

It's all over and we're stronger for it, he thought and felt that last thread of nervous tension bleed out of his shoulders.

"Asshole! Get off of me!"

Iruka opened his eyes to see that Sasuke, as usual, had gotten the upper hand and Naruto was pinned with his face shoved into the carpet.

"Not until you admit that you're a cry baby," Sasuke gloated and Naruto went off in an impressive fit of swearing.

America really has taught him some new words, Iruka thought with a raised eyebrow.

Considering he couldn't see Naruto admitting to any such thing anytime soon, Iruka decided it was time to step in and do his duty as the big brother.

"Pile on!" he yelled joyfully and pounced on Sasuke's back, pinning him on top of Naruto. "Now neither of you gets let up until you admit that you're pretty, pretty princesses and wear women's undies."

The cries of horrified protest were sweet music to his ears.

AN: Holy codfish, batman, it's finished!

Not the story, just the chapter. Silly rabbits.

I am overwhelmed by all the encouragement/bribes/abuse/threats sent by readers to update and continue this story. I know it's been over a year since I updated, but it's been a very hard time for me and my family, and fanfiction was not at the top of my priority list. I hope to be able to update again within a reasonable timeframe but unfortunately the hard times have not yet passed so please be patient and understanding of long delays. Your encouragements have been wonderful during a trying time and I thank you all sincerely for them!