A/N: Well, I was inspired by Chapter 449 to write this. Hope you will enjoy it! ^_^
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own them. Naruto and all its characters are property rights of Kishimoto-sensei.
Chapter 1: Living the Lie
The smell of sex hung thick in the bedroom air. Iruka remained lying on his bed, pretending to sleep even as he listened to the quiet shuffling in the room as his lover got himself ready to leave.
It was always the same. The man would come over to his apartment after midnight almost every night and stayed till the next morning, leaving before the sun rose. Sometimes, it was wild, hot sex, other times, they would just cuddle and sleep.
Just like a couple in love.
Except they are not. Not really.
How long this has been going on, Iruka wasn't sure. But it had definitely been more than half a year and the chunin was beginning to wonder where this was going to take them. They behaved like lovers under the cover of the night sky, but when daylight came, they merely greeted each other like friends.
Or perhaps only as acquaintances.
It hurts. Iruka knew he had allowed himself to fall in too deep. He had reminded himself so many times to not get drawn in. But throughout the course of this almost non-existent relationship, through those sweet, loving words the other had uttered and the deep confessions of love in the silence of the nights, Iruka had willingly given up the fight and given his heart to the other man.
It was a foolish move on his part, knowing that their relationship would never be brought out in the open; knowing that the same man who whispers loving promises to him in bed would never even give him a second glance when they meet on the streets. He had questioned himself so many times over, wondering if this was worth it, what he was getting himself into; but when his lover returned in the late evening, he would abandon all his reservations and surrender his heart, body and soul to the other.
It was agony and bliss at the same time. The other's presence was like an addiction; one that he knew was bad and could lead to his destruction, but couldn't find it in himself to break it.
The bed dipped under the additional weight that crawled onto the sheets and he felt warm lips pressing against his neck, as he kept his eyes closed. And like so many mornings before, a deep baritone whispered into his ears.
"I have to go, love."
Iruka did not respond, did not even stir. He felt the weight leave the bed and his window silently opening. Then, the presence was gone.
And it was then, like so many mornings before, Iruka allowed his tears to fall as he felt his heart breaking a little more.
The chunin startled at the call of his name and he turned his head, while trying to keep the pile of books and papers in his arms from toppling over. He smiled at the sight of his favorite blonde bounding towards him. Even at sixteen, Naruto still behaves like the kid he had known all those years. The teen stopped in front of the academy teacher, the broad grin never leaving his face.
"Iruka-sensei, I haven't been seeing you around. How have you been?"
"I'm good." Iruka shifted the books in his arms and gave the blonde a warm smile. "Been a little busy in the academy. What about you? What have you been busy with?"
"Training." Naruto yawned. "Kakashi-sensei is trying to kill me with that training regime."
"Now now, stop accusing me of that. You were the one who was so eager to start training that you camped out in the hospital while I was recuperating." Another voice cut into the conversation. "In the end, because of you, I was kicked out of the hospital by Tsunade-sama."
Iruka looked past the blonde's shoulder to regard the group walking up to them. He fought to keep the smile on his face as the group neared them.
"Yo." Kakashi's eye turned up in an arc as he greeted the academy teacher. Iruka bowed politely in return.
"Iruka-sensei." Sakura smiled at her former teacher, raising her hand in greeting. "It's good to see you. Naruto was still lamenting a while ago about how you've seemed to disappear recently."
"It's good to see you too, Sakura." Iruka smiled as he turned towards the girl, glad for the distraction. "I hope your training with Hokage-sama is going well."
"Oh yes, I'm sure of that. I think Naruto can testify to the fact that her punches are getting stronger lately." Sai nodded in acknowledgment. "She's one scary woman. Probably worse than Tsunade-sama herself."
Sakura's brow twitched. "What did you say?" Naruto swallowed hard when the kunoichi clenched her fists and advanced towards Sai with a menacing glare.
"Sa…. Sakura-chan, calm down." Naruto tried to pacify his infuriated friend to avoid her landing a punch on the pale boy. The three adults stood watching as the kunoichi attempted to pounce on her teammate.
"How do you ever deal with them, Iruka-sensei?"
The chunin turned at the voice and smiled politely at Yamato who was shaking his head in exasperation. He turned back to the scene where Sakura was now restraining Naruto, stopping him from plummeting Sai, who had undoubtedly, insulted the blonde again.
"Used to their antics, I guess. They aren't that hard to deal with once you know what works and what doesn't." Iruka smiled at the old memories of those teens when they had been in his class. It was amazing to see how they have grown.
"Ah, Iruka-sensei has always been good with his students. All of them loved him enough to obey what he says." Kakashi commented lightly. Iruka swallowed hard at the voice; the voice that whispers loving words and soothed his tears in the night, but spoke nothing more than polite greetings at other times.
"You flatter me, Kakashi-sensei." Iruka said, keeping his voice steady, but his eyes not meeting the other man's. "You are not doing too bad yourself. You've gotten the three of them to work together pretty well."
"On that, I can't claim credit." Kakashi smiled. "Yamato has spent a longer time with them than I had. He's the one who's managed to teach them well."
"You are too modest, senpai." Yamato grinned and watched the three teens standing a distance away, arguing about yet another random matter. "The three of them get along better with you more than they do me."
"Maa…. If you stop scaring them with your stern looks, they will probably loosen up to you more."
"Oh well, who's the one who taught me that look?" Yamato snorted. "Yours was worse than mine in those days."
"Long gone were those days. That look doesn't work anymore on this generation."
The two jounin laughed good-naturedly. Iruka turned away, feeling left out of the conversation. He felt a heavy feeling settle in the pit of his stomach as he listened to the two chat easily about everything and anything and came to the realization that this could never happen between him and Kakashi.
'He looked more like a couple with Yamato more than he does with you.'
Iruka squashed down that thought with what last self-preservation that he had. No, he couldn't think of it this way. After all, they were never a couple.
Bed-warmer, friends with benefits, a casual fling. Anything along that line, but never couple, lovers, and confidante. He should stop hoping for that, should know that it was something that would never happen.
His friends had known something was up with him, but had never been able to pinpoint on what was going on. Iruka refused to tell and Kakashi had covered his scent well. Whatever it was, the extent that the jounin had taken to cover all traces of himself around Iruka was enough to tell the chunin that this relationship would never be more than a midnight rendezvous.
The pain stemming from his heart threatened to overwhelm him. Seeking a form of distraction, he headed over to where Naruto was preparing to punch Sai. He halted the fist mid-air and tugged the blonde backwards.
"That's enough, Naruto." Iruka pulled his student away. "You are creating a scene here."
The blonde refused to relent. "But Iruka-sensei, he–"
"Maa… Naruto, didn't you say you want to go for ramen?" Kakashi strode up to the group with a smile, placing a hand on Naruto's shoulder, trying to placate him.
At the mention of his favourite food, Naruto's attention deviated from Sai and instead, he focused on the academy teacher with a wide smile. "That's right! Let's go for ramen, Iruka-sensei. My treat!"
Iruka hesitated and then he smiled weakly. "I guess not."
The blonde frowned. "Why not?"
Before Iruka could come up with an explanation, Kakashi spoke. "Join us, Iruka-sensei. It's rare that Naruto is buying us ramen. You won't get another chance like this."
Iruka felt his heart thumping against his chest as he shifted his gaze away from the older man. He smiled and ruffled the blonde's hair. "I would love to, Naruto. But I have a lot of work to do today. Looks like I will have to give this once-in-a-lifetime offer a miss."
"Eh?" Naruto frowned. "You can do your work later, Iruka-sensei. It won't take long and you do need your lunch."
"Naruto's right, Iruka-sensei." Sakura smiled. "You still need to eat. I don't have training with Tsunade-sama today. I can help you after lunch."
"Well Sakura, I– "
"Are you on your way to a date, Iruka-sensei?" Naruto eyed his teacher suspiciously.
The chunin blushed, but he felt his insides turned cold when he sensed a sudden spike of angry chakra from beside him. Swallowing hard, he turned to face Naruto with a smile on his face. "Of course not, what gave you that idea?"
"Because you never turn me down ever before when I ask you for ramen." Naruto sulked. "And I haven't seen you in so long, I thought it would be nice for us to get ramen together today."
"I…" Iruka trailed off, unable to find an excuse good enough to turn down that goodwill. But he couldn't stand just being there. It just hurts too much. He sighed deeply and smiled apologetically at the genin. "I'm sorry Naruto. I really don't think I will be able to join you today. I will buy you ramen next time to make it up."
Before anyone else could say a word, Iruka turned on his heels and walked away, unaware of the lone grey eye following after his retreating back.
The bed dipped under an additional weight and Iruka stirred awake. He did not shift from his position as the weight settled itself and wrapped a pair of arms around his waist.
"Naruto was pretty upset that you went off this afternoon. He was looking forward to having lunch with you."
Iruka turned his head and managed a smile on his face. "I was busy."
"The academy. They are having their mid-term tests coming up."
"But still, they had been right. You could have joined us for lunch first. After all, Sakura did volunteer to help. There shouldn't have been anything you won't be able to finish."
Iruka sat up slightly in bed. A silver brow rose as he settled against the bed board and sighed deeply.
"I can't, Kakashi." Iruka turned to look out of the window. "I can't stand being there pretending that we are not even acquainted."
The jounin's eye softened. He sat himself up beside the younger man and cradled him against his chest. "I'm sorry."
'Are you really?'
Iruka wondered when they had fell into a pattern like this: Kakashi would apologize for not being able to make their relationship public and Iruka would try to understand, even if he didn't quite really knew the underlying reasons. Then they would be comfortable for a while and when something arise that will bring out Iruka's insecurities, the routine would repeat itself again.
Iruka wondered how long this practice would last before he finally breaks.
"Don't be." He whispered, hating his own weakness at how easily he submit to the older man; how he never voiced out what he really wants. "I understand."
Kakashi sighed and pressed a kiss on the top of the brunette's head. "Give me a little more time."
'How long? Months? Years? Never?'
The chunin nodded quietly. He took in a deep breath and tried to focus on other matters that could take his mind away from the pain. "So, how's Naruto's training coming along?"
Kakashi smiled, albeit a little strained. He laced his fingers with the younger man and gave the tanned hand a soft squeeze. "Good. He's catching up pretty fast. I'm sure he will be able to master his element chakra soon.
"It's comforting to hear that."
The two were silent for a while after that. Finally, the jounin spoke.
"Give me some more time. I promise I will make it right soon."
Iruka closed his eyes and despite the pain in his heart, he nodded.
Kakashi stared at the pre-dawn sky in silence. He would need to leave soon if he wants to avoid running into anyone he might know, seeing him leave the chunin's apartment. Tilting his head, he stared at the man nestled against his chest, sleeping peacefully.
"I have to go, love." He whispered into the soft brown hair. Iruka nodded sleepily and turned onto his other side, freeing the jounin of his weight. Kakashi leaned over and pressed a soft kiss on the tanned cheek before slipping off the bed and dressed quietly.
He shrugged on his vest and turned his eye towards the younger man on the bed. It was unfair to Iruka, he knew. But he couldn't bring himself to acknowledge anything. At least not yet. He didn't know what was holding him back. Was it pride, fear, insecurity or responsibility? Probably all factors were involved. Whatever it was, he wasn't ready to be in an open relationship yet.
He slipped back into bed and ran his fingers through the long hair. Smiling, he pressed a final kiss on the tanned neck.
"I love you, Iruka."
He pulled on his gloves and replaced his mask. Opening the window, he slipped out gracefully and eventually disappeared into the still dark sky.
In the room he left behind, brown eyes stared blankly into the darkness, the silent tears rolling down the cheeks.