by: Guardian of Jupiter

* * * * * * * *

Iruka was seventeen when he made his first kill. All throughout his five years of being a genin, Iruka had never killed anyone. His time had been full of D rank, C rank and sometimes B rank missions that had never required Iruka to take out his kunai and stab it right through somebody's heart.

Being a genin had never really opened up his eyes to the reality of being shinobi. It had been educational and mind-opening but it had never once made Iruka realized the true extent of what his village required him to do. Oh, he knew about the possibility of killing but he didn't know how vividly it would stay in his mind.

Iruka was disillusioned.

He knew he could never forget that night. It had been cloudless and the moonlight had spread its shadows all over the forest ground. He was on a mission as a chuunin, a mission to retrieve an important scroll for one of Konoha's clients from a place that was strongly guarded. He had been so quiet but his short experience as chuunin was bound to cause him to make mistake.

The chase hadn't been long but the fight was. It had been bloody and the adrenaline that rushed through his body had made everything seem so vivid. He remembered the grunts of pain, the hissed curses and the clangs of clashing kunai. But most of all, he remembered the point when his kunai was finally embedded deep into his pursuer's chest, through the flak jacket and all. He remembered the way the blood spurted, the way the death gasps sounded and the way the lights in the dark eyes faded.

Most of all, he remembered the way the blood – blood that was not his own – tickled between his fingers and seemed to seep through his skin.

He ran home after the first kill. The scroll was still within his tight grip and he was painfully aware of the thick, red liquid that was slowly staining the precious parchment. Iruka couldn't find the strength to care about the scroll, about the dark night that surrounded him and so he ran recklessly, leaving his trails obvious and allowing the sharp points of branches to scratch him deeply. Everything was blurry. The only clarity in front of his eyes was the dying man that had his kunai buried deep in his chest. The memory was repeating like an endless, torturing loop. The bile was rising. The sweat was cold. The adrenaline shook his steady hands.

Iruka had always known that he was gentle in nature. He was born to love, to nurture and to cherish. He was born to make other people happy. The blood that was staining his hands was not what he imagined being a chuunin would bring him. Oh, he knew – he had always known - that he would have to kill during his time as shinobi but Iruka couldn't believe the pain that came from the aftermath. He had wanted to protect but until now, he hadn't known the price he had to pay to protect his beloved Konoha.

He didn't even make it halfway to Konoha before he stumbled over his feet somewhere near a slow but high-falling stream and the nausea was too strong to be ignored any longer. With a dull thud, his knees and his hands hit the moist ground beside the flowing stream. The scroll slipped from his stained hand and rolled away from him. Iruka was shaking; he was cold. He raised one of his hands to cover his mouth, violently resisting the impending bile.

The scent of metallic liquid on his hand assaulted his nostrils without warning. A second later, Iruka retched.

He retched, heaving over and over again until there was nothing left for him to throw out but sickeningly yellow liquid.

Oh… God… Iruka scrunched his eyes shut. Oh God! The action did nothing to ward off the repeated images of the man he had killed. He wasn't meant to do this! He needed to wash off this scent, this feeling of dirtiness… this, this stench! Iruka shakily unzipped his flak jacket, hastily ripped off his head protector and slowly, tumbled his body into the running stream and all the while keeping his eyes tightly closed. The water was shallow and it wasn't enough to cleanse him so Iruka crawled along the stream, ignoring the way the river stones dug his hands and knees painfully as he moved upstream toward the small waterfall.

Once he was there, Iruka let the water shower his body as he sat underneath the rushing water with his knees drawn close to his chest and his head between his knees.

Iruka was seventeen when he first killed someone. He wondered why it was he who felt dead instead.

* * * * * * * *

Kakashi was twenty-one when he first knew that his cold heart could quicken with something other than adrenaline, lust and anger. At first, he didn't know the meaning of the way his heart palpitated. It was a strange sensation; his stomach fluttered and then the fluttering feeling moved upward, hardening at his chest and throat and the feeling ached. That was when he knew that this particular feeling was different than when he was on a rush or when he was angry or when he spent time in somebody else's bed. He had never ached in such a heavy way that made it hard to swallow.

He was on his way home from a fruitless scouting mission. Being in ANBU sucked big time. And unlike most ANBU agents, Kakashi's problem was not the stuffy feeling the porcelain caused (after all, he wore a mask ever since he could remember) but the way his missions were always almost never worthwhile. Sneaking here and there, protecting the Hokage who needed no protection and really, who in their right mind would call their colleagues using animal names? ANBU was so overrated.

For the whole seven years he had been in ANBU, the memories of Obito and Rin had kept him going, kept him alive but at the same time, kept him feeling numb. He couldn't open himself voluntarily to others no matter how much he wished he could. He connected, he dated, and he fucked. He just wished he could feel something deeper than just the superficial emotions that filled him one night and left him so achingly empty the next morning. And the next morning. And the next. Until he repeated the whole cycle.

Sandaime wanted him to move on.

Gai wanted him to savour youth more vigorously.

Obito wanted him to see the world for both of them.

Everybody wanted him to live. That was one of the few things that Kakashi couldn't find a way to do. He simply didn't know how. He had done everything that everyone else had done and yet he was still numb and… sometimes, when the nights were especially bad, he felt so dead inside.

His musing was abruptly ended when he caught sight of something shiny on the stream bank. It could have been a reflection of the bright moonlight on the water but Kakashi was trained to never ignore such things. Furthermore, it was close to Konoha.

He landed with a silent thud, blending in with the shadows of the forest that he knew so well. As he crept towards the shining thing, he thought he heard gasps of breaths but he wasn't sure they weren't the sounds of flowing water. The stream bank was empty except for a Konoha standard flak jacket and a head protector that were discarded carelessly on the grass.

An easier breath escaped him when he realized that it was not the enemy but one of Konoha's shinobi. He made himself visible to the stream, looking for the owner of flak jacket and head protector.

Even with the bright moonlight, he heard first, rather than saw, the person's whereabouts. Almost inaudible gasps reached his ears. The sounds were tortured and raw and from where he stood, Kakashi implicitly knew the gasps were escaping involuntarily from a tightly closed mouth. He moved towards the sound. Of all the sounds that he had heard in his twenty years; of all the sounds of enemies' and friends' gasps of dying, crying, laughing, surprise and ecstasy, it was the sound of a complete stranger's painful breaths that made his heart tighten in a way that he couldn't understand.

Then, he saw him.

A man… no, Kakashi realized… a boy, a few years younger than him, sat underneath the gentle waterfall with his head hidden between his knees and his arms wrapped tightly around the closely drawn legs. It took Kakashi a while to realize the boy's shoulders were racked with violent shudders, suppressing the great sobs from escaping.

Through the slits of his porcelain mask, Kakashi stood and observed – captivated – the way the cascading water continued its gentle flow through the black strands of hair that were spilling their way over the shoulders and arms. Like spilled black ink, Kakashi thought. Like the ink that he had often drawn on skin whenever he wanted to set a seal or curse.

His feet moved without him knowing it. It was only after a few steps had been taken that Kakashi realized he had moved at all and that he didn't want to stop moving. It was like this silently tortured boy was pulling him, beckoning him.

Without any word, Kakashi lowered himself beside him. But the boy gave no notice of his movement. He realized that the boy was so deeply immersed in his own pain he was oblivious to his surroundings. Such a rookie mistake. Either the boy was a genin or he was just plain suicidal.

Touching would be bad. He would certainly startle the boy into offence.

"This is not a good place to break down." He spoke up emotionlessly.

The boy stiffened and unravelled his curled arms to quickly reach for the kunai in his pouch.

Okay, Kakashi thought as he intercepted the flash of kunai that was plunging toward his heart, not suicidal. No man who wishes to die would fight for his life.

"I mean you no harm." Kakashi stated, keeping the offensive hands within the grip of his own.

Underneath the shadows of flowing water and the dripping wet black hair, Kakashi could see the boy's eyes widen at the Konoha ANBU agent's porcelain mask of Hound. It was hard to distinguish the tears from water but then it was too dark for Kakashi to really see in detail the face of the boy in front of him.

"An ANBU…?"

And the kunai fall into the shallow water.

"Wha… what?" Iruka didn't understand. His words came out stuttering as his breathes were still hitching from previous sobs. "Why are you here?"

Kakashi let go of the wrists. "To tell you that this is not a good place to break down."

"I… I…" Iruka stammered with tears still running down his cheeks. "I'm not…"

"You're not?" Kakashi tilted his head slightly to the left, knowing any expression of disbelief he made would be lost to the boy. "You mean, you're not crying, sobbing like you've lost something great in the middle of the night? You mean that you're just having fun letting this water washes over you while you're fully clothed?"

"I'm not breaking down." Iruka looked away from the mysterious ANBU agent and wiped his tears in an embarrassed motion, thankful that the darkness hid his flushes. Where the hell had he come from? And why did his distress warrant any attention from a shinobi as great as an ANBU agent? He was just a chuunin!

Kakashi's face curved in an ironic smile. He knew the all symptoms first-hand. He noticed the way the boy's hands refused to stop shaking, the way tears kept on falling, the way the words came out hitched and irregular and most of all the way the boy's body curled in the most protective way. The only different was he had not been a teenager when he first felt blood that was not his own wash over his hands and fingers. And when you were only eleven, taking somebody's life tended to elicit similar reactions and even more. Now that Kakashi was twenty-one, he knew he was lucky to have had the Yondaime as his sensei.

"The blood isn't fading, is it?" Kakashi said quietly. In a way, he was reminiscing as well – the feelings that he felt all those years ago.

Iruka gasped softly as the remark hit home. He had been watching the way his fingers wouldn't stop shaking and the way that despite the continuous flow of the water, the blood-red stain was not going away.

Silence filled the space between them. Kakashi was waiting for the boy to acknowledge his words and Iruka was once again reliving the murder that he had committed. The tremors wouldn't cease.

"It…" Iruka choked out. "It stinks… I… I can't wash it away no matter how long I stay under water… and I…"

Kakashi turned his face to watch the boy, his dark hair falling forward, curtaining his bent head and both of his hands curled into fists in front of his face.

After a while, Kakashi spoke up quietly. "On bad nights, it'll stink the most. On worse nights, you can almost feel the blood slicking between your fingers."

Iruka heaved at the words. "It'll never go away, will it?"

The voice was so small and frightened that Kakashi felt his heart tighten even more. In one, most unbelievably crazy moment, Kakashi felt the strongest urge to draw the slight boy into his arms, offering the comfort that he had never wanted to offer to anyone before. His own voice dropped in compassionate tone, "No. But you'll learn to live with it."

"How?" Iruka cried. He no longer cared if he was crying so pathetically in front of a great ANBU soldier who probably thought he was being a baby. The next words stumbled out brokenly. "How can you learn to live when the image of those… those dying eyes keep on reappearing whenever you close your own eyes? How can you learn to live when your hands sti…stink of blood, your dreams full of gui…guilt and you know the next day when you wake up, it'll all start over again?"

Iruka dropped his face on his blood-stained palms. "And… and how can you learn to live your own life when you know you're… you're responsible for ending one?"

"That's what being a shinobi means." Kakashi said simply. "You kill to protect the things that matter to you. I learned to do that every single time I throw my kunai at someone."

Kill to protect. Iruka wasn't sure he had anyone else left to love, let alone to protect. Suddenly, the world seemed even darker. He had tried to lie to himself for the last seven years of his life that he wasn't lonely – that he could cope whatever life threw at him. He told himself that even without his parents to acknowledge his existence; he could still graduate from the academy, pass the chuunin test and be the son that his parents had always wanted.

The day he passed the chuunin test and was given the chuunin flak jacket, he had run to the memorial to show to his parents. He had smiled, he had bragged how easy the tests were and he had laughed happily in front of his parents' engraved names. Even in front of his parents, Iruka had learnt to lie and believe the lie.

But, how could he kill to protect people that didn't need his protection anymore?

"I don't know what matters anymore…" Iruka said softly. "All that's left to me are names engraved on the memorial stone."

Kakashi took a few moments before admitting. "Me too."

Iruka's head snapped around to look at the porcelain mask. The sorrowful tone was an utter contradiction to the cool and emotionless face of Hound. His heart ached in sympathy and sadness for this unknown man. Without thinking, Iruka reached up to touch the rigid shoulder beside his own. "I'm sorry…" Iruka said softly.

Kakashi's eyes went wide behind the mask. His breathes suddenly hitched and his heart stood still for a moment before thundering at the tone of the voice. Suddenly, Kakashi wished that the darkness was not so oppressive so that he could watch the face of the boy that managed to make him feel this way. "Sorry…?"

"Yeah," Iruka continued, oblivious to the emotions that he had evoked in the man who been feeling numb for so many years. "I know how hard it is to lose somebody that matters. It…" Iruka choked up again. "It feels like vast emptiness. So, I'm so sorry for your loss."

Kakashi couldn't breathe. This boy was so… compassionate and gentle-hearted that he was unreal. Here he was, a stranger, in a very intimidating ANBU mask. And there the boy was, in amidst of his own hell and pain. Despite everything, the boy's heart was large enough to have room for compassion for him, whom he had barely known for an hour.

Unreal… and yet, the boy was sitting merely a breath away from him, looking more vivid than anything else he had encountered all his life. Kakashi didn't know what was happening to his heart but he knew it was unlike anything he had felt before.

"I…" For the first time ever, Kakashi was speechless.

The moment passed away as Iruka let out a silent sigh. The tremors ceased and gave way to occasional shivers. He raised his face to the waterfall, wanting so badly for the water to wash everything. "So, how do you kill to protect those who don't need your protection?"

"I don't know," Kakashi said honestly. It surprised him that he could still be honest. "I guess I told myself over and over again that I do it to protect Konoha. And eventually, I stop thinking about the specific and I content myself with the general notion."

Iruka turned his head once again to face the ANBU agent. "Do you think I can do that?"

No. Kakashi thought. Even though he couldn't see Iruka's face clearly, this strange conversation told him about Iruka. You are too generous, too compassionate and you are born to love, never ever to kill. This world is too dark for you and I wish we could meet in different circumstances. But Kakashi knew that this was also a world that you could never escape once you have made the choice.

So, he said, "Time really does heal everything. Just… give yourself time. What time cannot heal, time will help you endure."

Iruka went silent for a long time. Swallowing hard, he raised his eyes to meet the obscured ones.

"Thank you…" And an unbelievably heart-breaking smile broke out; the shadows that outlined the smile would forever be branded in Kakashi's heart and mind.

"I didn't do anything…" Kakashi started but Iruka raised his fingers to cover the mouth over the mask. Iruka shook his head.

"You made my world suddenly feel less oppressive. You made me feel hopeful again."

"It is foolish to think the world of shinobi is hopeful." Kakashi stated.

But Iruka smiled that sad smile again and it made Kakashi's heart ache again and again. "That's what I used to think. But you somehow… proved me wrong."

Kakashi wanted – so damn bad – to kiss the boy in front him; he wanted to kiss the smile that was both heart-breaking and so god-damn beautiful and he had not even seen the boy's face clearly or even learned his name. This impulse hit him so fast, was so uncalculated and so strange and yet Kakashi couldn't find the will to give a damn.

Without a word, Kakashi pushed his porcelain mask upward so that his face was visible and the little moonlight that escaped through the cascading water gave Kakashi a beckoning image of the boy's dark eyes widened in surprise at his indiscretion. But Kakashi wasn't worried about his identity as an ANBU agent being exposed. The night was dark and if Kakashi couldn't see the boy's face, he doubted the boy could see his.

"Wha…" Iruka gasped.

The hand that Kakashi slid through the boy's wet strands stole whatever it was Iruka was trying to say. "Shh…" Kakashi leaned close, pulling his mask a little lower for every inch closer until he was hovering a breath away from Iruka's lips. "I just…" The murmur muffled as skin collided. "I want to just…"

Iruka lips felt cold, wet from the prolonged exposure of the freezing stream against his lips. Kakashi started off with slow movement, taking the initial taste and gauging the degree of acceptance from the boy who made him feel things that he could not identify. The lips under his were moving in an unsure motion, as if he didn't know how to respond or whether he should respond at all. The boy's hands were gripping futilely at his ANBU armor; Kakashi could feel the indecision of whether to push him away or to pull him closer. The movements were inept, tentative and clumsy. It was as if the boy had never been kissed.

He was taking this boy's first real kiss. Kakashi suddenly realized. The indecisiveness was the boy's shyness and trepidation. He should be ashamed of stealing something that should have been the boy's right to give. But, instead, Kakashi felt the thrill that ran through his body at this revelation and the feeling of utter accomplishment for being the first to notice the hidden treasures of compassion, generosity and tainted innocence. He didn't know how this boy could have remained so... undiscovered by people around him – he had noticed him within the first hour he met him.

And Kakashi proceeded to teach the beautiful person in front of him how to kiss him. He brought both of his hands to cradle the boy's curved jaw, tilting his mouth to the right angle, so that their mouths fit perfectly without their noses clashing. Then, Kakashi coaxed the cold lips open with his own lips and tongue. He ran his tongue along the ridges of the full lips, nipping softly and repeatedly until he heard breathless gasps escape the tantalizing mouth. Kakashi smiled softly – he liked this type of gasp more than the earlier tortured ones.

The hands that were on his armor slowly moved upward to slide their fingers through his own pale hair. No longer were the hands hesitating whether to pull or push. Apparently, the dark-haired boy decided that this kiss was something that he needed not to be afraid of as Kakashi felt the gentle pressure, bringing the kiss deeper.

Iruka felt his spine shiver at the growl that the ANBU agent let out. The Hound growled in such a way that instead of being afraid of being prey, Iruka felt deliciously excited. What was it about this man that made him feel and behave like this?

When he felt a warm tongue slipped into his mouth, teasing every corner, Iruka's breath sucked in sharply unable to hide his surprise but immediately the surprised gasp turned to a soft moan when he heard Kakashi chuckle at his initial shock. His hands curled at the husky laughs emitted from the ninja, pulling the hair in his hands into fists. Behind his closed eyes, no longer did he see the blood or the lights fade from the eyes of the man he had killed, but he the silhouette of an ANBU soldier that had his arms around him; the hands anchoring him from slipping too far away from reality.

They kissed under the dim moonlight, under the rumbling waterfall, under the shadows. They kissed due to an attraction of nothing more than words exchanged, pains shared and a stroke of luck that brought them together. They kissed not because of lust but because of a feeling that was too strong for them to ignore and handle.

Iruka was seventeen when he was first kissed. Not only was it the night he made his first kill but also the night his first real kiss sent his spine shivering and his heart pounding. He was kissed by a person he had never known before with a face that he had never seen. But the kiss was too breath-taking to be considered as anything but unforgettable.

Kakashi was twenty-one when he was first brushed by an emotion other than adrenaline, lust and anger. Even though the kiss was not the first one he had initiated, it was the first kiss that he had taken without lust as his drive and sex as his objective. He wanted to kiss this mysterious boy just because he needed to. He didn't recognize the emotion but he knew he wanted to have the feeling for as long as he could.

Suddenly, the kiss ended as Kakashi abruptly pulled away, pushing his mask and his porcelain mask back in place and his hand reached up to his ear. "Yes?"

Bewildered at the suddenly cold tone, Iruka breathed, "What? What?"

Kakashi sat still, listening to the radio in his ear. Then he gave a sharp nod and inside he was cursing his ANBU leader. Looking at the boy beside him, he opened and closed his mouth. He didn't want to leave but his blasted ANBU leader was calling him – an hour without contact could drive his leader into a frantic fit. He knew that if his leader was within radio range it would take him less than five minutes to be here. He didn't want him to see him with this boy because his ANBU leader was an anal-retentive bastard who followed the rule of killing anybody who might discover any of the ANBU member's identities.

"I have to go."

"Now?" Iruka bit his lips. He didn't want to let this man go. He fully knew that once he let this man out of sight, he would never again see him because he didn't know who this man was and that he could never reveal himself to him as anything other than an ANBU agent. It was ridiculous to be feeling this strong when they had only met an hour ago.

"I have to." The regret and reluctance in his tone was clear but it didn't soothe either Kakashi or Iruka's disappointment. Iruka nodded before he looked away.

Kakashi's heart ached painfully. He wanted to get to know this boy even more. He wanted to know every emotion that he knew the boy capable of feeling. He wanted to see him under the bright sun and not hidden in the darkness. He wanted… he wanted…

To hell with regulations! Kakashi thought. He had found someone who made him feel incredibly good and he would be as much of a fool as the people around this boy if he let him being in ANBU stand in the way. If he knew the boy's name, he could come and see him – there was nothing that an ANBU database couldn't find.

"Give me a name – your name." Kakashi demanded.

Iruka's eyes went wide in disbelief. "But I couldn't… you, you shouldn't."

"Please, any name." Kakashi knelt down, cupping the boy's face within his palms. "I want… I need… to get to know you."

Iruka was torn. Oh gods! He wanted for this man to find him. And then what? If he ever showed himself as other than an ANBU member, Iruka would automatically know the man as Hound and knowing the identity of an ANBU agent was a clear violation of shinobi rule – he could be killed if they were found out.

"I want to get to know you too." Iruka said softly.

"Then, tell me your name and I'll find you," Kakashi insisted, desperation clear in his words. "No one will have to know."

Iruka looked up at the kneeling man in front of him in silent amazement. He couldn't believe the feelings that this man brought upon him! And he didn't even know what he looked like!

Whilst he watched Iruka contemplate, Kakashi toyed with the idea of producing a light so he could see the boy's face more clearly. Even if he didn't have his name, Kakashi knew he could always find the face. The boy was a shinobi! Sooner or later, the boy and he would surely cross paths in the Mission Room.

Hesitation within Iruka only lasted a few more seconds before he decided that getting to know this stranger was worth of all the risks of being eliminated. He wanted to take the chance.

"My name is I…"

But the name was left unfinished as Kakashi's back stiffened and he pushed him even further into the darkness. Iruka didn't need to be told that the ANBU squad had arrived and he sank even deeper to the darkness behind the curtains of the waterfall, hiding his chakra.

"Hound!" From where he was hiding, Iruka could see a large ANBU leader with a bear porcelain mask.

"Yeah?" The Hound's body was slouched in an almost lazy way.

"Where have you been? And why the hell are you soaking wet?!"

"In front. I was waiting for you. Then, I got bored and decided to take a swim." A sardonic reply came out. "Besides, we're already in the vicinity of Konoha. It's not like this mission is worthwhile anyway."

The Bear snorted at the cocky answer. "Let's go."

The indecision in the Hound's posture was only apparent for a split second with his masked face tilted slightly towards the darkness in which Iruka was hiding before he disappeared.

And Iruka never saw the Hound again.

* * * * * * * *

The dark room was silent except for the sounds of heavy breathing and the scent of sex hung thickly in the air. On the bed, two figures stretched out with one man draped exhaustedly over his taller companion. Their eyes were closed in contentment. Both of their hands found each other, intertwining the fingers tightly. The movements were minimal except for the lazy kisses the darker man dropped on the fairer man's neck, shoulders and chest.

The sound of a chuckle broke the silent cocoon surrounding them, "If this what greets me every time I go for a long mission, perhaps I should take them more often."

Iruka unravelled the intertwined fingers so that he could use his arms to brace himself on Kakashi's chest, smiling teasingly down at his lover. "True, being on an extended mission may grant you certain perks, but you forgot one very important thing."

Kakashi folded his freed hands behind his head. "Yeah? Remind me."

"Well…" Iruka pretended a thoughtful expression. "You will miss doing this every night."

The smirk on Kakashi's face at Iruka's remark was lewd enough to make him blush. "Then, I guess I'll have to do it again to make up for the last two weeks I wasn't able to."

Iruka's eyes went wide at the blatant invitation. When he felt Kakashi's deft hand caress the small of his back then move to cradle the curve of his ass, Iruka yelped. "Kakashi! We've done it twice already!"

Using his other hand to slide through the silky strands of his lover's hair, he asserted a gentle pressure to bring Iruka's lips down. "That should cover two of the nights that I missed. We still have another twelve nights to go," he purred against Iruka's bruising lips.

"But I…!" Whatever protest that Iruka tried to voice was silenced with an open-mouthed kiss. The scandalized muffle was abruptly transformed into a resigned whimper and finally settled, to Kakashi's delight, into a needy moan. He loved the fact he had the power to cause Iruka to melt in his arms with only a few practised kisses. Kakashi exploited his larger form to roll their position so that he was lying possessively on top the responsive sensei.

Iruka had learned from the first time he tasted Kakashi's persuasive kiss under a tree with the afternoon sun shining over them a year ago that he had no will or strength whatsoever to deny Kakashi anything. The jounin knew all his sensitive spots and Kakashi was not above using that knowledge to render him into this. A simple touch from Kakashi and Iruka was lost.

Kakashi ran his lips over the addictive caramel skin – the full lips, the stubborn jaws and his lover's neck – as he kissed and nipped along the well-trodden paths. The skin was already bruised from previous love-making but Kakashi could always find another untouched spot to taste. This wide expanse of honey-colored skin was his to explore. Only his and no one else's.


The said man abandoned the skin under Iruka's ear to taste his name on his lover's lips. Then he looked down at the panting man; he was torn between untold affection and amusement at the way Iruka's heavy lids covered the expressive soft-brown eyes in utter exhaustion. A soft smile broke out before Kakashi chuckled, "Looks like round three will have to wait."

Iruka let out a breathy laugh, "I can't believe you just said that you're willing to postpone sex."

"Yeah, well," Kakashi grinned. "There's always a first time for everything."

Iruka waited until Kakashi rolled them back to their original position where he was comfortably lodged within Kakashi's arms with his head nestled on the contour of Kakashi's neck before he spoke up. "And I bet not all your first times are as memorable as this." He laughed quietly. "The first time Hatake Kakashi postpones sex!"

"I'll have you know that I remember all my first times," Kakashi declared. "One of the perks of having the sharingan is that I can recall every moment as easy as playing a movie projector."

Sleepiness was completely forgotten as Iruka propped upward once again; his deep curiosity was switched on. "Really? So if I asked you questions like 'do you remember the first book you've ever read', you still can remember?"

"Can't you remember?" Kakashi asked back, his eyebrows raised. "I don't need sharingan to remember that."

Iruka looked almost sheepish. "I'm not sure of the first book I read but I think it was The Legend of the Nine Jinchuuriki."

"Kind of ironic, isn't it?" Kakashi teased. "Your first book was a children's book about the nine jinchuuriki and you ended up taking care of one them."

"Well, I prefer to think of it as fate," Iruka said primly as he tucked a loosed strand behind his ear, smiling down at Kakashi. "What about you? What was your first book?"

"It was a manual for shuriken application."

It was Iruka's turn to raise his eyebrow. "Are you serious?" When Kakashi didn't answer, Iruka jaw dropped open before he erupted into laughter. "A manual for shuriken application? Man, I know you're a genius but who reads that crap at such a young age?"

Kakashi laughed. "Why, sensei! I never thought those kind of words would come out of your mouth. I'm shocked!"

The deep flush across Iruka's scar made Kakashi laughed even louder. "Shut up." Iruka pouted.

Kakashi ceased immediately but the amusement was still clearly visible in his eyes. Clearing his throat, he restrained himself from kissing those pouting lips before giving up the effort and bringing Iruka's lips down to meet his. A few moments later, Kakashi spoke up. "Since we are clearly having fun with 'first time' game, I think it is my turn to ask you right?"

Iruka was still breathless from the kiss before so he merely nodded.

"Great," the silver-haired jounin grinned. "Tell me about your first kiss."

Iruka snorted and blushed. "You know all about my first kiss."

"A peck that lasted only a second from your genin team mate is not something I would consider as a kiss," Kakashi reminded. "I'm talking about moving lips and all those tongues meshing. If you can't recall which type of kiss I'm referring to, I'll be more than happy to demonstrate to you."

Iruka blushed deeper at the leer on his lover's face. A year with this maddening man did not make Iruka any more immune to all those perverted innuendoes than before he met the jounin. Iruka didn't think he would ever be accustomed.

"Well…" Iruka began hesitatingly. "There was this man that I met a long time ago." Kakashi quieted down. Whenever Iruka sounded like that, Kakashi had learned to stop teasing and to start listening. "I remember the kiss very well. He kissed me in such way that as soon as the kiss ended, I fancied myself to be in love with him. For a long time."

Kakashi watched the faraway look in Iruka's dark eyes. He knew Iruka was remembering the kiss and willed himself to not be a jealous bastard. He willed himself not to start asking Iruka the man's name so he could hunt the man down. It would be stupid and irrational because it was his fault for asking Iruka about his first kiss.

But he hadn't expected Iruka's answer to be someone other than him. When he first kissed Iruka, he was convinced the man hadn't kissed much – probably at all – so he was hoping Iruka's answer would be him and he could proceed to reminiscing with him. But then, like fear, love was a not rational feeling either. Despite of all the justifications Kakashi told himself, his heart tightened in growing jealousy. He was one possessive asshole and Kakashi knew that.

Iruka was oblivious to his lover's mood as he continued. "I remember when he first slid his tongue into my mouth. I was so shocked that that action was included in the art of kissing!"

"Yeah?" Kakashi's voice sounded rough and Iruka looked down to his lover with confusion in his eyes.


"So…" Kakashi pretended a nonchalant tone. "How old were you when this…" Asshole – pervert –bastard. "…man kissed you?"

"Seventeen." Iruka answered uncertainly. He had known this man for a year and he had never seen Kakashi look this… odd. The muscled chest beneath his body went rigid and the bi-colored eyes were cold. If it was anybody else, Iruka would have described the mood as anger.

"So, was he good looking?" There was that tone again. Iruka was unsure what was happening right now. And to think only a minute ago, they were sharing laughter, enjoying the aftermath of their love-making.

"I… I don't know." Iruka bit his lips, wishing that they were talking about something else. If this topic was so unpleasant, why would Kakashi want to keep on prodding? "It was dark and he was in ANBU. And I kept my eyes closed when he took off his mask to kiss me."

It took Kakashi more than just a minute to break free from his jealousy haze and take in what Iruka was saying. An ANBU mask? Suddenly a strong wave of memory washed over Kakashi. A memory of meeting a breath-taking, compassionate and gentle-hearted boy nine years ago. He remembered the way the boy made him feel that night and how all those feelings lingered with him long, long after that.

Iruka said he was seventeen when he met the ANBU agent. And if Iruka was what he thought he was, the age would match. Iruka was twenty-six and nine years ago, without any of them knowing, they had met. Kakashi's heart came alive and his breathes quickened with that revelation. He had to make sure.

"Tell me about that night."

Iruka pushed himself into a sitting position, straddling Kakashi, as he shook his head. "No. You're acting strange and I think it would be best if we talked about something else."

As fast as the red-hot jealousy had come, the feeling quickly vanished and Kakashi wanted to laugh when he realized Iruka had known he was feeling off but the innocent sensei didn't know that he was jealous of the man nine years ago. Kakashi sat up as well. He leaned against the headboard, keeping the slender chuunin on his lap. "Please," Kakashi murmured. "Tell me."

Iruka sighed. He really didn't understand the man. And Iruka well knew that was one of the many reasons why he couldn't resist him. "I was on my way back home from the mission on which I made my first kill… It wasn't pretty – I mean – when I had a breakdown. I was just half-way from home but I… needed to clean the blood and I found a stream."

Kakashi's smile slowly grew as his conviction hardened. But he let Iruka continue uninterrupted.

"And there I was, bawling like a baby under the small waterfall…" Kakashi chuckled and Iruka grinned, happy to notice Kakashi's weird mood was gone. "… when suddenly an ANBU agent appeared from nowhere, scaring the crap out of me."

"What did he say to you?" Kakashi asked quietly.

From the moonlight that filtered into their room, Kakashi could see the grin on Iruka's face soften into one of those fond smiles that he had learnt to love so much. Iruka raised his eyes to meet Kakashi's eyes before he whispered softly. "He gave me a very good piece of advice; one that I hold so close to my heart."

"And what is that?" Kakashi held his breath; his heart pounded heavily. If Iruka said what he had told the boy that night then he knew without a doubt that this was the boy that had haunted his dreams for so many nights after.

"He told me that time heals everything and even if it doesn't, it will help you endure." Iruka reminisced.

Kakashi inhaled sharply at the answer. "Oh, my god…" Kakashi breathed. The answer was exactly what Kakashi wanted to know. It told him that even though it took nine long years, he had finally found the first person who had taught him to feel beyond superficial feelings.

He couldn't believe it. Iruka was the first to teach him to love. Twice – when Iruka was seventeen and he was twenty-one and again when Iruka was twenty-five and he was twenty-nine.

Iruka had been his beginning long before he had chosen the academy sensei.

Oblivious, Iruka continued on. "Because of those words I managed to hold on. Some of the pain time did heal and the rest of the pain, time has helped me endure. And I'm glad I followed his advice because if I had given in to my pain all those years ago, I would never have been able to be with you like this now." Iruka faltered. He could never say out loud the part where they had shared the kiss and how he had let the stranger go.

But Kakashi seemed to notice the hesitation and he decided to continue the story for Iruka. "After that, both of you shared the most unforgettable kiss under the tumbling waterfall before the ANBU soldier had to go away with his leader," Kakashi said huskily.

Iruka's eyes went wide as he met Kakashi's eyes in disbelief. "What…? How… how do you know?"

"But the soldier didn't want to leave. Instead, he begged for your name, not caring about the consequences of exposing his identity to someone." Kakashi finished instead.

Iruka was shocked when his mind began to make the connection. It could not be… Kakashi was there? As… as the ANBU agent…? How is that possible…? He spoke up shakily; he was almost afraid to say anymore. "And… when I finally gave in to his request, he pushed me into the darkness and a second later his ANBU leader came. After he left, I… I never saw him again."

"I never found that boy again either no matter how hard I searched. Without a name or even a clear memory of his face, my search was a futile act from the very beginning." Kakashi held Iruka's face within his hands, knowing the shock and awe on Iruka's face was mirrored on his own.

"My god…" Iruka whispered. "You are him?"

"Yes." Kakashi answered solemnly. "I am Hound. And now you know my every secret."

Iruka couldn't find any words to say. Inside his mind, he recalled the night and compared Kakashi's voice with the one that had been haunting his dreams for many, many nights. Suddenly, all those instantaneous attractions made sense – why he was left breathless when Kakashi had leaned close to kiss his ear, whispering 'Happy Birthday'; why he was anticipating the fateful kiss under the tree with bright afternoon sun showered upon them and why his heart clenched in indescribable pain when he shared Kakashi's pain that night at the hospital.

The attraction wasn't new and it had been blooming for the last nine years – never ceasing and deep down, Iruka knew it was never forgotten either.

"No wonder I fell in love with you so quickly…" Iruka murmured.

"That is supposed to be my line." Kakashi looked down at the upturned face.

The dark-haired sensei shook his head softly. "No, they were your words that I held so deeply inside. It was your strength that you showed me that night that really taught me what being shinobi really meant. The feelings that I feel for you are an extension of all the feelings that I felt for that ANBU operative nine years ago."

Kakashi could only pull Iruka's face closer, kissing the lips of the man who was his beginning when he was twenty-one and once again, when he was twenty-nine. Only now did Kakashi understand why loving Iruka was as easy and as important as breathing.

It was because he had always, now and then, been in love with Iruka.

"You are mine…" Kakashi growled in between kisses. "You've always been mine."

Iruka tightened his grip on Kakashi's shoulders in response, trying so very hard to not drown from the relentless kisses and yet, he knew implicitly that he would lose the fight eventually. The revelation had shaken Iruka to his very core but as the knowledge that Kakashi was the man from his past settled in, Iruka knew there was no one else he rather the stranger be but the strong and gentle man Kakashi was.

After a while, Kakashi lifted his lips away and whispered hotly. "I seem to be your first for a lot of things. Let me add one more. I want to be the first to make love to you on the beach. I recall sometime ago you said to me that you've never been to the sea."

Iruka was both blushing and laughing as Kakashi pushed him down on the bed. It looked like there would be no postponement tonight.

* * * * * * * *

Author's Notes

Thanks to Fluffy Dolphin for beta-ing this for me. She has always been the greatest!

Regarding the age different of four years between Iruka and Kakashi was not fictional. I finally decide to stop guessing and start finding out the real information about Kakashi and Iruka. I've got my information from www(dot)leafninja(dot)com and they have a lot! So, the age different might be different from the age that I guessed in The Beginning universe, so, let's just ignore it yeah?

And... the fact that Sandaime is still alive in The Beginning universe also is the result of my guessing. I wanted to do the timeline of before Naruto went off with Jiraiya but if that is so, Iruka would have been 22 and not 25! So... another thing to ignore...

After ignoring all those glaring mistakes, this one-shot takes off a year after The Beginning but nothing that cannot be understood without reading The Beginning.