A/N: To those of you who wonder: This is not a sequel not a continuation. No this, my friends, is a new, re-written version of Underneath the Surface! It took me a shitload of time to do it, but it had to be done! I hope you'll like it as much - if not more - as the first version. Enjoy!

Warning: Unbeta-ed, Sex, slight character bashing, bad language sometimes.

Disclaimer: I do not own. All rights and characters belong to Masashi Kishimoto!

Underneath the surface

By General16

Is it really supposed to be like this?

This though came to Naruto, not entirely uncalled for, as he looked at the cashier behind the counter. The hatred staring back at him from dark eyes nearly had him cringing, but he refrained with an effort. The only thing he could really do was to sigh quietly to himself. He shifted a little uneasily, but the woman didn't make a move to register his merchandises. Slowly, as if he would have trouble following her movements, she pointed at a sign above her head instead. Despite her… helpfulness, Naruto eyes didn't follow the finger; he already knew what it said: This store reserve the right to refuse customers.

What else could he do than shrug and walk away from the glaring old hag, not bothering to bring the things he had wanted to buy back to their place? The ugly harpy could for all he cared go and fuck herself with them. He stopped outside the automatic doors of the store and looked up at the rapidly darkening sky, where dark clouds were quickly gathering with the promise of rain. Standing there with his hands in his pockets, he concluded that it had, yes indeed, been an extremely shitty day. Naruto reflected on it and didn't like the remembrance one bit.

It had started as any other day in his life and the mere thought made him moodier than he'd already been. He'd woken up in his run-down apartment, alone like always, and after rubbing the sleep from his blue eyes he'd dragged himself to take a shower. Once naked and under the rays he'd discovered that he didn't have any hot water… again. It was the fifth time in three months that the landlord had cut it off without telling him. Not that he'd ever expected the fat, smelly man to do it anyway. Nothing happening to him nowadays could surprise him, he had since long stopped to be amazed of peoples pettiness.

After he'd taken a quick, freezing shower he ate breakfast - an apple and a glass of orange juice - before he got dressed. He always frowned when he put his clothes… He liked black, black was a nice color but the orange…

He'd realized that morning that he really, really hated it. He was barely able to drink the juice just because it had that certain color. All the more unfortunate when there was little he could do, not when most of the stores treated him like he had leprosy and refused to let him buy the things he wanted. Hell, sometimes they didn't even let him enter.

Hence he was stuck with the orange, the only clothes one little store would sell him, and at a ridiculous expensive price too. Naruto had given a deep sigh as he tied his hitai-ate around his head and gathered all his things for the mission he had been assigned to that day. It was only a D-ranked one, and Naruto had feared that his life as it was right in that moment, was going to continue until he either died in battle or was an old man, too decrepit to be of any use. During the boring mission, consisting of escorting an old lady to her home and on the way back alone to Konoha, Naruto had pondered over his fate. He'd asked himself – as he'd done many times before – just what kind of unlucky star he'd been born under.

He was seventeen going on eighteen, almost grown up and a damned good shinobi to boot, and still only a genin. He couldn't care less though; he'd grown out of the craving of having a rank defining his abilities since long ago. It was, however, kind of hard to get higher ranked mission with his current label. Friends or no, neither Iruka or Tsunade couldn't assign him with missions above C-rank, however much they wanted to.

He wanted, no needed, the money a riskier mission could provide, though it was fruitless despite how much he begged or pleaded – something that was not his forte. The council adamantly refused to let him enter the Chunin-exams. They didn't want him to grow too strong or powerful, nor did they want him in a more influential position. They had never said it out loud, of course, but notwithstanding whatever he showed on the outside, Naruto wasn't as stupid as they thought. The blond was more than aware of their fear of him, of what he could be, and more important: what he could do.

And thanks to that he remained a genin, and not able to keep up with Sakura or Sasuke. Both had achieved their jounin rank a couple of months back, with flying colors and all that shit. Naruto had no chance at going against the council and Tsunade's hands were just as tied. It was only thanks to her and Iruka that he wasn't totally falling behind the rest of his peers. Iruka had taken up to teach him in private in the evenings, going over everything from jutsus to advanced taijutsu. If not for his low chakra reserves Iruka would've been among the elite of Konoha himself. Not that the chunin was bitter in any way, no he liked to teach and scare every new generation of wannabe-genins into submission too much to ponder over what ifs.

If the council ever found out about the help, Naruto and Iruka both would be thrown in the deepest, darkest dungeon they could muster up. Nevertheless, due to the combined help from a kind leader and a devoted teacher, Naruto was not the dead last all the others assumed he was. It wasn't like he could announce it to the world unfortunately; he couldn't even rub it in Sasuke's face like he secretly wanted to, if only to shut the bastard up.

The arrogant raven couldn't get over the fact that it was Naruto and none other that had defeated him and brought him back, just as he promised he would do all those years ago. The Uchiha never let an opportunity slip to taunt and insult him, trying with all his might to rile his blond rival up. Unfortunately for Sasuke, Naruto was used to that since birth and never really rose to the bait despite the stinging words anymore.

Yanked out of his thoughts when the first drops of rain hit his face, Naruto tried to shrug off the looming depression and began to walk towards his home. He didn't really feel like going back to his empty apartment, not wanting to be alone with his thoughts, but regardless of his wishes he didn't have anywhere else he could go.

He couldn't walk into a bar, he was still underage, and not to any of his friends either. If they could still be referred to as such, that is. They had stooped down to just about ignoring him since Sasuke returned, or said that they were too busy to hang out with him. He could readily accept that they were all occupied now that all of them were chunin or higher but come on… They weren't unavailable all the time right?

Seeing as he was already set on an inner path towards brutal honesty, Naruto silently realized that he only had two persons he could call friends nowadays. Tsunade and Iruka cared about him, looked after him and were set to see him grow into something more than the dead last he'd been dubbed to be, so long ago. He appreciated the thought, he really did, but it was kinda hard to feel even remotely positive, what with the way things were going for him.

The rain fell heavier around him, soaking his clothes but he didn't pick up the pace. His mood that day matched the rain and the heavy-clouded sky perfect. When he was close to his apartment he noticed something strange… or really it wasn't that strange or unexpected either that his home was on fire. Naruto stopped and stared at the flames engulfing his residence, dimly musing that it was a shame that it had started to rain - it would restrain the fire. He didn't move for a long time, just stood there with hands in pockets and the blue gaze far away.

Absently he noted that the fire was spreading rapidly in the dilapidated building, and a small glimpse of relief briefly flowed through him as he was the single tenant in the old house. No one but him would find themselves without a place to stay tonight. A strange feeling of freedom suddenly flashed inside of him. It was like a burden had been lifted from his shoulders, freeing him from the weight of having to live there anymore. And yet he felt sad too, the conflicting emotions of reprieve and grief battling for dominance as he saw the one place he'd been able to call his for fourteen years turn into smoldering ash before his eyes.

The faint sound of many voices cheering the fire on reached his ears and numbness settled in. It forced the earlier emotions to evaporate and disappear into the recesses of his mind, covering the chaos like a blanket of nothingness. He spotted a crowd of celebrating people in front of the burning building. Their clothes were colorful and bright, almost shining in the light the fire created. Some were laughing and slapping their comrades' shoulders, some grinned and pointed and some stared solemnly at the spectacle. They never noticed him way back at the end of the street, never saw his blue eyes grow dull and hollow as he witnessed the display of blatant joy at his expense.

The festival arranged every year on this very day was over and on their way home they had – as they had every time since his fourth birthday – decided to give him a special reminder. Naruto could only feel absent gratitude that it wasn't him personally they'd decided to target this time, only his dwelling. Then again, he was kind of convinced that they thought he would be inside. Or at least hoped so.

He couldn't really believe that he'd actually forgotten. He hadn't noticed the festival the villagers arranged on the tenth of October due to his mission outside the village. He knew that Tsunade had rigged it that way; to keep him out of harms was as long as possible. The festival was the anniversary of the Yondaime's death and his birthday after all.

"Happy fucking birthday, Naruto", he muttered to himself.

The only thing he felt when the nothingness gave way for other emotions was…fatigue. Yes he was tired. He sighed heavily and turned around, leaving the burning inferno behind, never bothering to glance back. He walked the streets of Konoha – now abandoned in the sudden rain - lost in dark, depressing thoughts. Why was it so hard for him to succeed with anything?

All his efforts, all his hard work was always futile and hopeless, it didn't matter whatever it was; he didn't get any credit. He'd brought Sasuke back. Wasn't that worth something? Wasn't anyone grateful for that? No, he didn't get as much as a simple 'thank you'. What he did get, was scolding for beating Sasuke up from the council, a bash on the head from Sakura - again for beating Sasuke up - a bored 'Hn' and an absent pat on his head from Kakashi, and more hatred from the villagers.

He had bled countless times for Konoha, but did he get anything for protecting everybody?

Well technically, but nothing of the likes of what he'd always wanted anyway. Mental abuse, neglect, glares, refusal to the most basic of standards and so on seemed to be the proper gifts offered to him. The list was long - too long for him to think about right now - but in the middle of all the misery he still didn't complain, he never did. It wasn't all for his love of the village, because he did really love his home of birth. No, it was thanks to the council and the rules they had designed, a preventive measure to restrict him in every way possible.

If people attacked him and he ever fought back he would be arrested and sent to jail without a chance of pardon. If he refused to leave a store he would be arrested and sent to jail without a chance of pardon. If he tried to leave the village without permission he would be arrested, sent to jail, and then most certainly sentenced to death. If he ever tried to betray the village, in any way, he would be killed on the spot. He couldn't help but wonder why the council was so obsessed with jail.

Really, wouldn't it be better just to deport him or banish him? Why the urge to see him behind bars? No he gained plenty for shedding his blood for this wretched place, and for what? Because the Yondaime, his own fucking father, sealed a nine-tailed demon fox in his son's belly and then died without leaving any explanations behind. How was that justice? He was hated by everyone, wasn't wanted anywhere inside of Konoha's walls, but wasn't hated enough to be set free either. And the saddest part was that he didn't have enough tears left to shed any longer.

He just felt so drained when forced to play the part of the village-clown every fucking day and he was worn out. He didn't want to participate in the tragedy that somehow was his life any longer. All he wanted was to be able to hope and have his dream like everyone else. He wasn't even allowed that little luxury.

Let's not permit the monster to have a life. Let's confine him and keep an eye on him, just in case he loses it.

He chuckled darkly, and thought that the village should be very grateful for the fact that he hadn't snapped... yet.

"Naruto?" A voice woke him up from his musing and he stiffened.

Oh great, just when I'm at my lowest he of all people spots me!

He quickly suppressed the warm, unwelcome stir of emotions bubbling up inside with practiced ease and turned around. Kakashi stood behind him, curiously looking at him from under an umbrella with a shopping bag in his right hand. Naruto gave a faint nod and turned around to walk away again, not wanting to linger another second.

The warmth he felt every time he met his former sensei was harshly pushed aside to be locked away where it would remain. He swallowed the lump forming in his throat, lying when he told himself that Konoha's famous Copy Ninja was the last person he wanted to see then. Not when he would only be greeted by detached indifference that would sting more than the otherwise aloof attitude. Kakashi's withdrawal from his side had been even more painful than all the hatred combined from the villagers. It had made his heart crack and bleed with every faint nod of acknowledgment, always being left behind to stare at the wide, retreating back moving away from him without even a word in greeting for over two years.

"Wait a minute, Naruto", Kakashi called out behind him. "What are you doing out in this weather this time at night?"

He stopped and bowed his head, taking a deep breath to steel himself as he glanced back over a shoulder. His eyes remained empty, not showing a glimpse of his inner turmoil when he stared back and met Kakashi's inquiring gaze. Naruto really didn't want to remain; he wanted to run as fast as he could out of there, out of the village and never return. He didn't do it of course, too grounded by the small glimmer of concern in the Copy-nin's exposed eye. He ignored the way his mind seemed to latch onto the hope rising at that look, ignored the ache in his chest at this small sign of worry for his person.

"Good evening, Kakashi-san", he greeted dully, avoiding to answer the question asked.

"Quite, albeit a little wet, ne?" Kakashi frowned when Naruto's gaze seemed to become even more vacant at his words, his eyes a pale blue instead of the usual, vibrant azure the older man was so used to.

"You wanted something?" The blunt question deepened Kakashi's frown, the underlying hollowness in the blond's voice all the more alarming as it matched the eyes perfectly.

"Not really, but now that you mention it… Why aren't you at home? You shouldn't be out in this kind of weather; it can be bad for your health." Naruto scoffed and averted his eyes, staring in the other direction. He couldn't bear to meet Kakashi's gaze any longer, not when the man seemed genuinely concerned for once.

"I don't have a home to return to", he mumbled quietly, his wet hair falling to cover his eyes as he bowed his head again. Kakashi took a cautious step closer, at first thinking that he must've misheard the words.

"What was that?" he asked, just to be sure.

"It seems like I'm without a residence at the moment, because of an unfortunate accident." Really, what else could Naruto say without slandering the ones doing it? It was too deep ingrained in him to keep his mouth shut and carry the burden alone. For him to rat the villagers out… it simply could not be done.

Did I miss something? Since when did Naruto speak like that?

"Accident? What are you talking about?" Naruto almost jumped out of his skin when a hot puff of air ghosted against the wet hair plastered against his neck. When an umbrella suddenly shielded him against the elements he realized just how close the other had moved.

"A fire. My apartment's burning as we speak."

"What? How-"

"The usual way I reckon. A broken wire I've been meaning to fix for a while." Kakashi saw right through the lie, his eye narrowing as he took in Naruto's tense shoulders and defensive way of speaking.


"Did you want something?" Naruto tersely repeated, itching to get the hell out of there. Kakashi scowled at the curt query. He suppressed the urge to snap back, instead choosing to wait with prodding questions until later.

"You don't have any other place to stay at do you?" Kakashi wondered instead. He saw the blond's shoulder sag just a little, and his back moved as if he was sighing deeply before he spoke.

"Not that it's any of your business but no, I don't. Would you like to know anything else, Kakashi-san?" Kakashi barely refrained from flinching at the calloused timbre, thinking fast for a reply that wouldn't agitate Naruto further. He needed answers to the jinchüriki's somber mood, and if he was too forceful he would only make the youth retreat deeper behind the walls he'd erected around himself.

"I'm not trying to pry, Naruto, but if you don't have anywhere to go what will you do? You can't be outside in this kind of weather any longer; you're going to get sick." This was said in a neutral tone, but the blond didn't budge.

"I'll manage, I have before", Naruto mumbled and started to walk away again. Kakashi dropped the umbrella and grasped the boy's wrist in a firm grip, the other shifting the grip on the bag until it dangled from his wrist.

"I can't let you stay outside right now", he almost barked and reeled the youngster to his side. He picked up the fallen umbrella from the ground without relinquishing his hold on Naruto. "You can stay at my place tonight and go see Tsunade tomorrow about new accommodations."

Naruto didn't answer and when Kakashi glanced at him again he saw that the boy stood as rooted to the ground, just staring at him with a puzzled expression.

"What are you staring at? Come on and get moving it's cold out here."


"Naruto, I'm not leaving you out here when you don't have a home to go to, what kind of fellow ninja would I be if I did?"

"So you're just letting me stay at your place because I'm a colleague?" The jinchüriki averted his gaze, afraid to see what lay in the grey eye trained on him. Kakashi refrained from sighing, and relaxed his grip on Naruto's wrist a little. The smooth skin felt cold to his touch.

How long has he been out here anyway?

"Does it matter?"

"I guess not."

"Good, so let's get going. I hate to be out in the rain."

They walked in direction of Kakashi's home, side by side under the umbrella. Silence ruled between them, and Kakashi glanced at Naruto once in a while. Kakashi was no fool, he knew Naruto lived a hard life but had never really thought more deeply about it. He felt a sting of guilt as he speculated of what his old sensei would have said about neglecting his only son that way.

Well I'm not the boy's guardian right?

He lived a busy life with missions occupying almost every day, and on his days off he wanted to recover and relax. When the other two in team seven became jounin he'd rejoined ANBU and now missions swallowed all his time, as they didn't have enough manpower to cover all of them properly. Really, almost every ninja in the whole village was overworked these days. Still, it didn't dampen the growing guilt inside of him, adding another layer of remorse to the ones already residing there.

He realized that he hadn't been around enough the last year to have any deeper knowledge about the 'hows' and 'whys' of Naruto's reasons to behave so gloomy. It was so weird when the loudmouthed blond was quiet. It worried Kakashi, greatly even, as he wasn't a person prone to feel much outside remorse, loyalty and a kind of aloof fondness for his peers and subordinates. They arrived at his apartment and Kakashi unlocked the door, letting Naruto enter before he closed it behind them.

"Did you get the things I wanted?" said a dark, hoarse voice, clearly addressing the silver-haired jounin beside Naruto. The blond looked down at the small, brown pug stared up at them, grinning when he saw the blond beside his master. He'd always liked the blond. He smelled really nice despite the small ominousness clinging to his scent, courtesy of the Kyuubi, and was fun to be around.

"Naruto! Long time no see, what brings you here?" the dog asked and sat back at his haunches, waiting for a response.

"Hey Pakkun", Naruto greeted quietly, and then looked up at Kakashi with a silent query in his eyes, avoiding the dog's question with obvious ignorance.

"Go ahead and take a shower, get yourself warmed up. I'll lend you some clothes while yours dry up." Kakashi hadn't been exposed to the rain for that long; he'd be fine without even a towel.

Naruto, drenched to the bone and dripping on the hardwood floor in the hallway, nodded and walked towards the bathroom, while Pakkun stared after the blond. When the door clicked shut behind Naruto, he turned his head and gave Kakashi an inquisitive look. Kakashi shook his head, silently telling the pug to leave it. However, the small canine would have none of it, and trotted after the Copy-nin on silent pads as Kakashi walked towards the kitchen. He lived in quite a big apartment for being a bachelor. It had two rooms, one bathroom and a combined lounge and kitchen. The two rooms were divided by a counter, making the room seem larger than it really were.

"Hey, what's with Naruto?" Pakkun questioned behind him as Kakashi started to put his groceries away. He dropped a small bone on the floor with a muted 'thump', but Pakkun kept his eyes on his master.

"I'm not really sure", Kakashi answered eventually, when the dog's boring gaze started to annoy him.

"What happened? I've never had the brat greet me like that", the pug mumbled a little forlornly. He bowed his head and sniffed the bone, deciding to leave it till later. He didn't really feel comfortable in the tense atmosphere that had arrived with the couple and wanted some answers.

"His place burned down. Gave some lame-ass excuse and tried to shrug it off as nothing. I said he could sleep here till tomorrow." Pakkun's brows rose at the non-committed explanation, silently wondering why Kakashi felt the need to play indifferent in front of him.

"A little convenient that it would burn down tonight, huh?" the pug muttered mostly to himself, but as Kakashi had almost as good hearing as the dog, he nodded in agreement.

"That's what I thought too. I'll try and see if I can get him to talk about it later."

"Right… good luck with that."

"You doubt my interrogation skills?" The dog snorted, picked up the bone and turned his back on Kakashi, heading towards the couch.

"Not really. It's your people-skills I'm worried about", the pug said around the bone.


Naruto slowly undressed in the bathroom and hung his wet clothes on the almost empty towel-rack. He looked around with what could have been curiosity, if he hadn't felt totally numb both physical and mental. The white room was much cleaner than he expected, it was Kakashi's home after all. In fact the whole place looked fresh and almost… comfy.

He hadn't thought that a guy like his old sensei could make a place feel so pleasant, but hey, he didn't really know the man, they had only interacted on missions and training. It brought out painful memories, as training with team seven meant that Naruto was sitting by the side while watching Sakura and Sasuke spar. Other times he was pitted against the Uchiha as Kakashi read one of his books, not really paying any attention to anyone besides Sasuke. Naruto gritted his teeth at the memory and stepped into the shower cabin, suddenly shuddering, his skin covered in goose bumps as he was exposed the cool air.

The hot rays of water sprayed over his lean, tanned body and he could almost feel that day's events wash down the drain with the water. If only all of his other problems could do the same…

He basked in the heat for almost fifteen minutes before he turned the knob and stepped out, drying his wet skin with slow movements. He felt drained and dejected when thoughts of his home and other similar events throughout the ears reared their heads. It sometimes felt like he stood on the sidelines and watched his life in slow motion, as if he was expected to laugh it all off and tackle every new day with a smile.

But Naruto wasn't smiling. He'd been through far too many things, and while he'd come out alive he knew he wasn't as fine with his situation as he let others believe.

It pissed him off to no end, that no one could see it. Take Sasuke for example. He didn't have a clue what was so special about him. It had evaded Naruto for all these years. The guy's brother slaughtered his whole clan and left him alive, it'd been a great tragedy that had scarred the raven and Naruto felt truly sorry about that but... Sasuke still had friends that had stood by him through it all, and a whole village that adored him.

Naruto saw so many more positive things than negative, but he knew Sasuke would never agree with him. It irked him and he wasn't above admitting that yes, he was indeed jealous, if only because the bastard was too blinded by the whole 'Avenger-thing' to see what he really had: A village at his beck and call, friends, talent, skill, the Sharingan and respect which, in the long run, hadn't been enough. The fucking council had even agreed to help him kill his brother, for fuck's sake! No, Sasuke behaved like it was their freaking duty to help him, and that only made Naruto angrier.

He stopped that train of thought when he felt the entity inside of him stir, waiting just under the surface for the perfect moment to strike at his will. He was still tired and angry, and thinking of Uchiha Sasuke didn't make the oncoming migraine better, not did it keep the Kyuubi suppressed. The thing he actually wanted the most was to sleep, a dreamless sleep without nightmares for just one night. Maybe then he would wake up and feel refreshed in the morning instead of weary. He knew it was too much to ask for though. After all, he was Uzumaki Naruto, doomed the day he was born into a bitter, cold and merciless life as a confined vessel in the hidden village of Leaf.

Heh… it would've been better if I'd let the Akatsuki capture me six years ago…

His reflections turned darker as he wrapped the dark, blue towel around his slim hips and opened the door. Naruto wasn't usually one to wallow in self-pity, but after the shitty day he'd had, he felt more than justified for moping around a little.

"Kakashi-san", he said when he found his unexpected host on the couch in the lounge, and the older man looked up from the ever present - Naruto grimaced - orange book. He didn't see Pakkun; he guessed that the older man must've dismissed the pug and sent him back.

"Yes?" He cocked his head to the left, both of his eyes visible when they turned into happy crescents as he'd removed his hitai-ate.

"You said something about clothes?" Naruto reminded, trying not to feel embarrassed by the fact that he was next to naked and didn't care to smile back. He was too aware of his bare skin and the proximity to the other man, even when he didn't really understood why.

"Oh yeah, come with me." Kakashi rose as he put the book on the table, next to his teacup.

He led the younger man into his bedroom and pulled out a pair of dark blue boxers, a black pair of sweats and a white t-shirt from a drawer. He handed the clothes to Naruto and left him alone in the room without another word. Naruto dressed and took the opportunity to look around. It was quite spacious, with a window and a single bed opposite the door, a bedside table with a lamp and a drawer to the right of it.

That was it. No photos except two on the drawer; one of team seven and one of what must have been Kakashi's own genin team. Naruto frowned when he looked at his old self and snorted in disgust.

He walked out of the bedroom and joined Kakashi on the couch, but didn't try to strike up a conversation. He was totally fine with being quiet for once. He looked around in the commodious room and spotted a bookshelf next to the TV in front of the couch. It was filled with scrolls, the obvious collection of Icha Icha books and many other manuscripts of various sizes and shapes.

He glanced at the older man, who seemed absorbed by the book in his hand again, noticing the other cup of tea on the table that was obviously meant for him. Naruto cocked one eyebrow at this sign of a hospitality he hadn't expected, but he didn't make a move to take it. He knew the man wouldn't try to do anything, but experience from getting his food or drinks poisoned made him wary of things that he hadn't prepared himself.

It didn't take many minutes for Naruto to grow bored. He shifted in his seat, changed from one position to the other, fingered the hem of his borrowed t-shirt, and scratched his right calf with his left foot and so on. He sighed… loudly. Several times even, without getting any response from Kakashi. After about ten minutes of this, Naruto gave in and looked at Kakashi. He hesitated for a couple of seconds, feeling oddly insecure and flustered.

"Hey", he called out after summoning up some courage.

"Hm?" Kakashi responded a little absent.

"Do you mind if I pick something to read?"

"Sure, knock yourself out." The Copy-nin waved at the bookcase with one hand, keeping his eyes firmly on the book. Naruto made a small, appreciative sound and walked to the shelf, his eyes darting from one book or scroll to the other, trying to decide on something interesting.

Behind the cover of his own book, Kakashi eyed Naruto's back. He was well aware of the fact that Naruto wasn't twelve anymore, hadn't been for years. It didn't stop him from feeling shocked to see that the jinchüriki visibly weren't a child, images of the youngster's well developed chest, hard abs and lean back underneath smooth, tanned skin swimming before his mind's eye. He was almost as tall as Kakashi now - he had even outgrown Sasuke - and the body was slim and lithe. He'd never seen Naruto without clothes before and now he regretted that he finally had, if only because he knew that he would never get the image out of his head.

Kakashi learnt that Naruto looked more than good in his clothes, black and white more suitable on him than orange. Kakashi's cognizance reeled, as Naruto looked so much more grown up and adult-like with his spiky, sun-kissed hair down without the hitai-ate tied around his head. But as always the most striking part about Naruto was his eyes.

They were simply beautiful, those orbs in that rare, cerulean color so intense and deep it always made one feel like falling whenever gazing too long into them. When his thoughts turned down that path there was little Kakashi could do to stop them, or stop to notice even more.

The smooth, caramel skin, the straight nose, the finely arched eyebrows, the strangely appealing scars on otherwise smooth cheeks… to pick a few. Or those pink, plump lips... They looked good enough to eat, and if Kakashi had been slightly more unmoral than he already were he would've ravished those lush pieces of meat a long time ago.

Kakashi's flinched internally. Naruto was his student, STUDENT, and it wasn't appropriate from him to harbor feelings like that for him. It was borderline cradle-robbing; the boy was thirteen years younger than him for crying out loud!

Although… Kakashi's mind whispered sultry in his inner ear. Naruto had been considered an adult since the day he became an active ninja, he was fair game! Kakashi was thankful for his mask, when he felt his cheeks color slightly, a blush steaming from lust and not so little shame because of said lust painting his skin. Despite his wishes his eyes had a mind of their own, slowly traveling the length of the blond's body, cataloging the details about his appearance that he hadn't noticed before.

Like how the soft light made the damp, blond hair glow like polished honey, or the subtle outlines of well-developed muscles shifting beneath the fabric when Naruto moved a little. How the too big pants rode low on narrow hips, how utterly fuckable that tight little ass…

Stop. Right. There.

Kakashi quickly put his eyes where they belonged, pushing the erotic images into the back of his mind when Naruto turned around with a scroll in his first. He'd first become aware of his attraction towards the jinchüriki two years ago, feeling sick at the mere thought of taking advantage of the boy's obvious admiration for him. He'd felt even more depraved when he'd actually contemplated it briefly, before berating himself for it, guilt weighing heavily on him for thinking about it in the first place. He'd held out a year before cracking.

Thus came the decision to put some distance between himself and the object of his ever growing attraction, and he was re-joined with his old ANBU buddies, the ones still alive that is. And besides, he knew Naruto felt nothing like that for him. It wasn't worth to destroy whatever was left of friendship between them just because the blond made him horny.

After a brief look Naruto found a scroll about seals and settled for that one. He was actually quite gifted when it came to seals, he found the complexity of crafting and understanding the meaning behind them strangely compelling. He had studied the topic very thoroughly with Iruka, and the chunin had been delighted when they finally found one of the few things Naruto actually enjoyed reading, for more than ten minutes at a time. He sat down in the couch and began to read; soon engrossed when he saw it was a scroll Iruka had talked about but hadn't been able to get his hands on.

Kakashi studied the blond again, observing the blue eyes brightening as Naruto read and decided to make a try to get a little more information on his ex-student. He'd missed talking to Naruto, missed to have him around. That was where Kakashi's aforementioned non-existent people-skills came in. It didn't start out too bad.

"Didn't know you were the type to read, Naruto", Kakashi suddenly said and Naruto met his eyes, only to avert his gaze a second later. Kakashi's intense scrutiny made him feel a little uncomfortable, what with all the unnamed feelings he didn't have a chance in hell to stop.

"Well… there are a lot of things you don't know about me", he mumbled, trying to ignore the other man and drown in the scroll again. Kakashi frowned at the sullen timbre, starting to get a little annoyed at the blond's attitude. He decided to provoke him a little and see what sort of reaction it would trigger, having the knowledge of Naruto's hot temper firmly in mind.

"Didn't really know that you could be quiet for more than five minutes either."

That was where it went from not so bad to great idea phrasing it like that, idiot…

"Kakashi-san, if you're only going to list all of the things you didn't know about me can you do it in silence? I really want to read this scroll and your attempts to tick me off are getting kind of irritating", Naruto responded without looking up from the scroll. Kakashi snorted at the retort, though made quick work of composing himself, not letting Naruto know just how irritated he was before the blatant avoidance of conversation.

"I'm not trying to tick you off, I just wanted to see what else I didn't know", he lied unabashedly. Finally, Naruto looked at him though not in the way he wanted. The boy just gave him a bored air and stared at him with narrowed eyes.

"You had your chance to get to know me while I was on your team, Kakashi-san. Why would you bother with it now, when you showed no interest then?" The blond had a point, Kakashi admitted but it hadn't been exactly like that.

"It wasn't that I wasn't interested Naruto, I just…"

"You just what?" Naruto interrupted, a blush slowly creeping up the boy's neck and Kakashi realized that this was a delicate subject. It didn't matter, Kakashi wasn't about to drop it this time. He wanted to know the reason why Naruto acted like… well not like himself. Or maybe he acted like himself? He had no intention of backing down, not before he would find out just how much of himself Naruto was hiding. He'd had a hunch for a while that Naruto wasn't all he pretended not to be, and would be damned before giving up.

"You were too busy training Sasuke and didn't have the time to care for or train the other two? What the fuck is so fucking special about him anyway? What did he have that I or Sakura didn't? Was it because he has a Sharingan or is a genius like you?" Naruto bitterly spat out, clenching the scroll in his hand, crumpling the parchment.

"Jealousy? I didn't even know you had it in you." Kakashi couldn't help it that it came out sounding so mocking. He cursed Pakkun in his mind as the pugs words about him and his abysmal social skills came back to haunt him. The reaction he got, however, was remarkable.

"You can fucking bet I am!" Naruto roared and threw the manuscript on the floor when he snapped. Feelings that had built up and had been suppressed for almost fifteen years spilled out, and Naruto jumped to his feet.

"How am I supposed to feel when poor little Sasuke got and still gets the special treatment when that pathetic little fucker don't even know how to spell misery? I hate how everyone treats him like a fucking prince in one breath, and in the other they spit and throw shit at me! I haven't slept one single night since I was four without nightmares, without fear for what they will do to me next! I've been mentally abused and persecuted over and over again since I was four fucking years old! Why shouldn't I be envious of Sasuke, who actually had a family, it was only his fucked up brothers fault that he became an orphan in the first place! But I, who never even knew who my parents were until I was fifteen, am always treated worse than the lowest stray! So tell me why shouldn't I be jealous?"

Naruto shouted at him, blue eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill over, barely held back. His whole body shook from rage, his fists clenched so hard that the nails dug into the skin, almost drawing blood.

Kakashi couldn't do much more than to sit pinned by Naruto's blazing gaze, feeling stricken and more than guilty.

Hard life? Fuck you, Hatake. You never knew just how hard!

"You've been…?" He couldn't even finish the sentence, the horror and wrath swirling inside of him evident in his voice. The low timbre seemed to shake Naruto out of his enraged stupor. He slumped down on the couch and buried his face in his hands. He gritted his teeth and shut his eyes tight as he tried to fend the anguish off, when the memories struggled to brake free.

Kakashi couldn't remain seated, too incensed to keep still. He stood with a grace Naruto secretly admired, and started to pace back and forth in front of the couch.

"Why the hell didn't you say something Naruto?" Kakashi finally growled and stopped in front of the quiet blond.

"What do you reckon I should've said? Who the fuck would've believed me, or helped me? Nobody gave a shit about me then, most of you still don't fucking do! You're ignorant if you for one second think that I haven't thought about all the possibilities. I did what I could so fuck you and fuck your misplaced pity!" Naruto finished in a choked gasp, and it nearly broke Kakashi's heart because Naruto was entirely right. He had been ignorant, too into his own pain of just losing his last remaining precious person and later, when the grief had lifted from his mind, he hadn't been able to care about someone again.

He hadn't been able to look at the little boy and not see his father in the blue eyes, or his mother in his bright smile and personality. It had nearly torn his already broken heart in million pieces, and so he'd turned his back on the one person who definitely deserved the title of Hero. Naruto carried the burden of being the Kyuubi's vessel, had done so with the weight a lesser man would've kneeled under.

Kakashi looked now though, and what he saw was a lonely soul that was close to its breaking point. He saw a boy who just wanted to be treated like everybody else. He saw an almost grown man who didn't have a single person to lean on. This time though, Kakashi wouldn't turn the other way, he wouldn't abandon Naruto again and betray his sensei, his own heart or Naruto further.

He hesitantly crouched down and slowly wrapped his arms around the heavily breathing blond, feeling the fragile body shiver and shake from the need to cry, though not a single sound or tear slipped out. Kakashi wondered what Naruto had been forced to endure to make him cry in silence, convinced it wasn't anything good.

"You can scream if you want Naruto, nobody is here but me", he whispered and rested his mask-covered cheek against that unruly nest of soft, blond locks. Naruto chuckled a little and lifted his head to meet the older man's eye, his own reddened and a little swollen. The sad smile practically made Kakashi's heart bleed.

"I don't scream when I cry. After so many years with no one around I simply… can't", Naruto whispered and averted his eyes. He hadn't really meant to tell all those things to Kakashi, of all people, but now that the cat was out of the bag he would just simply go with the flow… It was the first time he had the chance to tell someone of what he had been through, not even Iruka knew the whole truth. Regardless of the relief, he knew that he was going to feel worse really soon, the memories always did that to him.

"Well I'm just saying that if you want to, you can", Kakashi answered and hugged him a little tighter, glad that Naruto didn't pull away. Instead the youth's arms slowly wrapped themselves around Kakashi's broad back, hugging him back. It felt so good. Kakashi was warm and firm under his hands, and Naruto needed something to hold on to when the memories broke free, crashing down on him like an emotional avalanche. Kakashi's arms still rested around his shoulders and he felt… safe and protected; a feeling he never really had experienced before. So he did what Kakashi told him to, when the pressure inside of him built up and broke free.

He screamed.

Naruto woke up slowly as rays of sunlight danced over his face. The blond peered against the light, wondering where it came from as his bedroom window usually didn't catch the morning sun. All he was sure of was that he was feeling really comfortable at the moment. He hummed softly, shifting to get a little closer to the warm, hard something he was laying on. He kept his eyes closed, sighing and pressed his ear against the firmness beneath him, not thinking too closely at the fait sound of heartbeats he could hear.

Wait a minute…

He propped himself up on his arms, looked down and saw Kakashi. His eyes widened as he took in the the silver-haired jounin. He was slumbering with one arm over his mask-clad face, the other around Naruto's waist. They were pressed quite intimately against each other, their hips aligned and legs tangled.

Naruto blushed heavily, feeling a stir of heat deep down inside when Kakashi shifted and mumbled something in his sleep. The action caused their already connected groins to press even closer, and the blond stiffened in time with his growing erection. Naruto had never felt anything like this, never wondered about love and lust and all that came with it. He had no idea how to handle, or even recognize the emotions welling up.

With subtle movement, he managed to untangle their legs and got up to his feet without waking the older man. The feelings mellowed somewhat but a small echo of them lingered in his mind, ready to rise up at any given moment.

Blue eyes darted around the tranquil room, not really sure of where to look. Was it okay to just stand there and stare at the sleeping Kakashi? Wasn't that kind of… creepy? Would Kakashi be mad at him once he woke up? Would he even want Naruto to stay, or did he want the blond to leave even before that?

The internal conflict tore through Naruto and he hovered uncertainly beside the couch, his mind going a mile a minute while trying to come up with the best plan of action. He was saved from the trouble when Kakashi mumbled again, drawing Naruto's eyes to his sleeping form once again.

It was the first time Naruto had seen the Copy-nin so relaxed and unguarded, it made his heart ache a little from those nameless emotions.

He couldn't help but slowly let his gaze wander over that tall, slim form. His eyes lingered on the long limbs, noticing that the muscles underneath the dark fabric looked strong and powerful even when in rest. The jounin's shirt had slipped up just a bit sometime during the night, revealing washboard abs under pale skin. A slim line of fine, silver hair trailed from Kakashi's navel, disappearing beneath the waistline of his pants.

On their own accord, Naruto's eyes followed the trail, wondering what it would feel like if he would kneel down and run his tongue over it, follow it down and… His thoughts slammed to a stop right there, and Naruto scrambled into the kitchen to drink some water. He needed it in order to get rid of the sudden dryness in his throat.

After gulping down a large glass of the cooling liquid, Naruto braced his arms against the counter and closed his eyes. He took several deep breaths, head bowed and brows furrowed in concentration as he battled the unfamiliar emotions. What was it that made him feel like that? Why was it just so hard to breathe properly when around the older man?

He was so confused, he had no idea how to handle the feelings, had no protection against them. A sigh echoed around the silent room, and Naruto opened his eyes. He stared down at his clenched hands and decided not to dwell on it. He straightened and turned around, eyes immediately searching for Kakashi, and collided with the Copy-nin's intense, mismatched gaze. Naruto almost flinched but managed to compose himself at the last second. He looked away, the serious stare directed at him made him flustered, he couldn't bear to meet it any longer.

"How are you feeling?" Kakashi's voice was a little hoarse and a grain of sleepiness still lingered in the smooth timbre. It wreaked havoc with the blond's insides, made it feel like he had a gut full of butterflies and liquid heat.

"Fine", he eventually mumbled, not daring to look at the silver-haired man in fear of what his eyes would show. Kakashi snorted and rose with a sigh, languidly stretching his long body once standing up. Naruto followed the movements out of the corner of his eyes, wishing he could touch the smooth skin revealed as the shirt slid up just a little more, exposing most of Kakashi's stomach.

"Yeah right. Because last night didn't happen, why wouldn't you feel fine?" There was a definitive lack of aloofness and bullshitting riddles, and Naruto arched his brows as the older man walked by, their shoulders touching for the briefest moment.

"Well its true, Kakashi-san." Naruto couldn't help it and did flinch this time, when Kakashi gave him a deadpan stare over his shoulder.

"I'm going to the bathroom so why don't you make us something to eat? And it's just Kakashi", he said, refraining from arguing about Naruto's lame response and left the blond alone. The boy shrugged and did as the older man asked and made breakfast. When Kakashi returned they ate in silence, Naruto with his eyes glued to the table so he wouldn't see Kakashi's face. He knew the man didn't show it to anyone, and if the jounin didn't give him permission Naruto wouldn't peek, however curious he was. When he didn't hear any more sounds from the other side of the table, he slowly raised his eyes and found the older man staring at him.

"What?" He asked a little apprehensive and couldn't help but blush under the steady, perceptive gaze. Kakashi didn't answer but continued to evaluate him with his eyes, and Naruto could almost feel the scrutiny burn his skin with its intensity.

"Well I just wondered exactly how long you've been wearing that mask of yours", he finally mumbled with an elbow propped on the table, his chin cradled in his right hand. Never once did his eyes stray from Naruto's face.

"What are you talking about?" Naruto decided to play dumb; he really didn't want to expose more of himself than he already had. Besides, he felt more than a little uncomfortable when met with his unusual bluntness. He'd never seen Kakashi so serious before, had never imagined that he even could be serious outside of battle.

"Don't give me that crap, Naruto. I know you're just acting so stop stalling and answer my question", Kakashi responded with a bored tone, never changing his position. Naruto frowned, dropped the act and crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned back in the chair.

"Why should I tell you anything, Kakashi-san?" he countered. The Copy-nin seemed to ponder on the question as if he was trying to pick the right things to say.

"Kakashi. And I would like to know who you really are, why you feel the need to hide yourself behind a fabricated personality", he explained calmly. Naruto processed the meaning behind the words, looking for any hint of the sincere curiosity the older man appeared to feel. Should he show his real self to this man, who hadn't shown any interest whatsoever until Naruto practically threw the truth in his face? Naruto felt confused when feelings battled in his mind, not knowing if he could trust the jounin with his secrets.

"Well I could tell you… but the thing is that I don't trust you. I don't feel like spilling everything out for you, when the only things I know about you is that you like to read porn and that you're notoriously late", Naruto informed rather bluntly, reclining back in the chair as he waited for a response. He'd said that as a test, to see how sincere the older man was.

Kakashi, in turn, nodded slowly and hummed to himself. He could agree that the jinchüriki was right and at the same time he felt impressed. He'd clearly underestimated the blond – obviously more than once – and wasn't beneath admitting that he'd been wrong. Now it seemed that the only way to show it to Naruto was to agree, however reluctant he felt whenever talk about his own life came up.

"Fair enough. I'll answer any question about me, as long as I get to ask you some in return. I trust you, Naruto." Kakashi smiled and leaned back to await the blond's response.

Naruto had been firm in his belief that Kakashi would refuse, too protective of his privacy to play along with his request. The blond felt slightly put out when the older man said that, not quite sure what to believe. But Kakashi just met his doubtful gaze with calm and serious eyes, not showing even a hint of the uneasiness he felt inside.

As the silence stretched a smirk slowly curved Naruto's lips, sparks of mischievousness dancing in his eyes the longer he started at the other. Kakashi frankly didn't like that smirk one bit, even if he was happy that Naruto seemed to have dropped his defenses a little.

"Who am I to refuse that offer? Well then, Kakashi… What do you look like under that mask?" Naruto could barely hold back a snort of amusement when the older man scowled, his eyes glowering with a silent promise of retribution. But alas, Kakashi knew he didn't have much choice, not if he wanted to gain Naruto's trust. It irked him to no end that the blond had turned the game against him, to be one of the few to be graced with the knowledge of how he looked. He loathed the though, would've been more than happy to permanently attach the mask to his face so it could never be taken off again.

Smart-assed brat…

Slowly, he reached up with his right hand and hooked a finger over the edge of the black fabric, pulling it down to reveal one of Konoha's greatest secrets.

"Like this", he sighed after a long moment of silence, and couldn't help it when his lips twitched in grim amusement. Naruto's eyes were wide as saucers, too busy goggling at the elusive face he'd wanted to see since the age of twelve to notice Kakashi's wry mirth.

Whoa… you're shitting me…

Why the hell did the man hide something so… beautiful? The scar over Kakashi's left eye was longer than he had imagined; running down over the high cheekbone, to the middle of his pale cheek. It didn't ruin his looks the slightest though. On the contrary, it only enhanced his striking features, granting the man a sort of rugged quality to take the edge off otherwise flawless beauty.

Naruto involuntarily leaned forward to get a better look at sculptured lips, which looked damn kissable and downright delicious. The nose was just a tad crooked, bearing silent testimony of having been broken more than once in the past. Being subjected to the full impact of those heavy-lidded eyes underneath elegantly arched brows, Naruto had to ignore the slight tightening of his abdominals. He noticed that the strong, angular jaw was tense, a clear sign that the impassive face was a mask, hiding emotions beneath the calm exterior.

Kakashi carried his age and profession with ease, looking like a man ten years younger. Naruto was also surprised over the lack of scars on the silver-haired jounin's face, a clear evidence of the man's sufficiency and skills as one of Konoha's elite shinobi.

And with that knowledge, together with the unexpected pleasure of seeing his face fully, Naruto had to suppress the impulse to lean over the table and taste the silver-haired man's lips. The blond didn't however tempted he felt. He leaned back into his chair instead, his eyes raking over Kakashi's face over and over again.

Kakashi, in the meantime, just sat there with his arms crossed and looked a little uncomfortable, still waiting for Naruto to speak up. After what felt like hours, but in reality it had only been a minute or so, Naruto finally lowered his eyes, a blush slowly coloring his cheeks.

"That was… kinda unexpected", he mumbled down at his empty plate. Kakashi relaxed when the blond looked away, not realizing how tense he'd been until then. He barely refrained from pulling his mask up in place though, despite feeling a little itchy and exposed. He was doing this for Naruto's sake, to show him that he was a man worthy of Naruto's trust. He couldn't hide behind his mask anymore, not if he wanted to really fuck it up between them.

"Am I safe to ask you a question of my own now?" Kakashi asked when the strained silence stretched between them, bordering on turning uncomfortable. Naruto raised his head again, looking like something between irked and bashful. He had a hard time meeting the older man's gaze, still not prepared to actually see Kakashi's lips curl in a small smirk.

"I guess…" Naruto reluctantly agreed after a while. "It wouldn't be more than fair."

"Then you don't mind to answer what I asked earlier", Kakashi stated, leaning back as he waited for the blond to begin. Naruto snorted with mock amusement, a sardonic expression wiping the former away.

"Why do I wear a mask?" he repeated, crossing his arms over his chest as he frowned and seemed to think the question over. Kakashi didn't miss the defensive pose, or the uneasiness subtly displayed by body language only.

"Let me put it this way…" Naruto began; blue eyes slowly meeting red and grey. "If people are out to hurt you in every possible way, will they stop if you show them that it actually does hurt as much as they think when inflicting it?"

"No", Kakashi immediately responded. "Most likely it will only goad them, rile them up further." And right there… he had his answer; Kakashi realized when a sad smile formed on Naruto's lips. How blind had he really been all these years, he couldn't help but wonder. Naruto saw the second Kakashi understood and nodded somberly.

"That's right. If the people would've ever seen just how much I hurt, how much I suffered, they would have killed me. I did the only thing I could do back then. In order to protect myself I never showed them that they did indeed hurt me, that their abuse affected me and killed a small piece of me each time. I put on a happy face every time I stepped outside of my home, woke up each day and fell asleep each night with the hope that tomorrow would be better, that I would finally get to know… to understand why."

Naruto looked down on his hands when he silenced and Kakashi frowned.

"I don't have any problems understanding that part. But why would you deliberately want to make yourself seem stupid? Don't give me that look", Kakashi chastised when Naruto glared. "I know you're smarter than that, you've shown it on more than one occasion."

It felt good to finally have the guts to ask the question that had been nagging in the back of his mind for some time now, Kakashi realized. The youngster in front of him was an enigma just begging to be unraveled and Kakashi had never been a man to refuse a challenge.

"And make it worse? They hate me because I'm a vessel for a demon with no way out, how much more would they have done if they knew I actually had brains too?"

Kakashi was bound to agree with him. That would've indeed been like waving a red piece of cloth in front of a raging bull. He looked at Naruto with new respect, recognizing the strength it took to be able to hide significant sides of your personality for years like Naruto had.

"So, why the hell are you still here?" Naruto started and gaped at Kakashi, not expecting to hear that come out of the older man's mouth.

"…what do you mean?" He asked and tilted his head a bit, and Kakashi had to fight the urge to lunge over the table and attack the smooth neck bared so innocently.

"I don't think anyone would've blamed you if you ran away, Naruto. This place has treated you like dirt and you've done nothing to deserve it. You've protected this village, risked your life over and over. That's why I'm asking. Why are you still here?"

Naruto stared for a moment, flabbergasted and confused. Then he smiled, the smile developed to a grin and then he started to chuckle. Kakashi frowned when the chuckle turned into laughter, the mirthless sound tinged with slight hysteria. He humored the blond though, waited with his arms crossed over his chest until Naruto stopped. The blond took a moment to wipe tears from his eyes, before looking at Kakashi again.

"A couple of days after I was born and the Kyuubi was sealed inside of me, the council decided that I was a weapon they could use. But at the same time they realized that to hone a weapon that could also feel and think, had the same equality to turn against them.

They created rules especially for me, to restrict my movements and development. They were afraid that too much freedom, would allow me to grow too powerful for them to handle. The rules forbid me from fighting back or leave the village. If I do, I'll be either incarcerated or killed."

Kakashi was astonished of how cruel the council could be, and yet he had seen evil before in its purest form. The treatment of Naruto was… inhuman. How could they not see that they forced Naruto to become what they feared by treating him like that?

"They gave me an apartment to live in, since there wasn't anyone who wanted to take me in. I got money out of a fund up till the day I became a genin. Then it was my own responsibility to earn my keep." Naruto looked away when he revealed that, too aware of Kakashi's gaze boring into him.

"The ramen and orange?" Kakashi asked, his voice low and even. Naruto nodded, afraid to meet the other's gaze again as he feared what he would see in those perceptive eyes.

"D-ranked missions don't pay that good, unfortunately. Ramen isn't cheaper than any other food, but Teuchi was one of the few decent enough not to spit in it or refuse to serve me. And I'm only allowed inside one clothing and weapon shop in Konoha. They agreed to let me buy the jumpsuits and some weapons, nothing else."

That explained a great deal, and Kakashi slowly nodded the more Naruto elucidated. He always thought it was weird how hard Naruto had pushed for missions; three or four a day had never seemed enough to satisfy him. Kakashi had to give it to him, despite the gaudy color of his clothes Naruto had grown to become an outstanding ninja. Who wouldn't when forced to walk around like a live target?

"I see. But there's still one thing I don't understand." Naruto frowned and turned to him again, looking far too guarded for Kakashi's liking.

"And that would be?"

"Why are you still here?" Kakashi had to chuckle at Naruto's incredulous expression, it just looked that funny.

"Didn't you hear me?" the blond asked, miffed by the question.

"And I'm not buying it. I'm sorry for what they've done to you but I'm not that stupid Naruto. I know that if you wanted to leave, you could." They fell silent again, eyes clashing in a silent war of wills. Naruto admitted defeat after about five minutes and gave a long, suffering sigh.

"…because I love this place. I have people I care about here, people I would gladly give my life for", he mumbled as he crossed his arms over his chest again, feeling oddly out of place and slightly embarrassed.

"Well there you go, that wasn't so hard was it?" Kakashi smiled and chuckled again when Naruto reached up to rub at the back of his head, a little sheepishly.

"Yeah well… it's not like I have anywhere else to go even if I did leave", he said with a small smile.

"Oh I'm sure Gaara would love to take you in."

"I'm smart enough to know that he can't grant a rouge nin a place to stay, you know it too, don't you?" Kakashi inclined his head in agreement.

"True. Now what about your apartment?" Naruto had to take a moment to catch up with the swift change of subject, his smile growing sadder.

"What date was it yesterday?" Kakashi had arrived home from a two week long mission the day before, and hadn't really paid that much attention to the festival. He'd just gone straight from the gates to the grocery store near his home. Still, he'd been more than aware of the date and what had transpired on it, 17 years ago.

"October 10", he answered, only to freeze in his chair a second later, when it dawned on him exactly what Naruto was implying. "It was your birthday yesterday", he whispered and his heart felt heavy when Naruto nodded.

"Yes. So you can understand now why I was kind of… depressed", Naruto mumbled and turned away from Kakashi, letting the man survey his flawless profile so that insightful eye couldn't see the deep pain in his own.

"Naruto… I'm so sorry…" It felt too lacking. No words he said could make it better or change what was done. Kakashi sorely wished he had the power, but as wishes – especially his – never came true, Kakashi could only offer poor comfort instead. The sorrow was replaced by the blond's next words, and the careless shrug that came with them.

"It's no big deal… I'm used to it."

"Stop being so fucking selfless, Naruto. It doesn't suit you." Naruto flinched and his head snapped back, his eyes wide and a little hurt as they stared at the older man. The harsh quality in Kakashi's smooth baritone cut deep, wounding Naruto in a way he had trouble understanding.

"What can I do? You know as well as I do that if I try to leave I would have at least ten ANBU hot on my tail before I even get one mile away from here. I have no other place to go, Kakashi. I have to endure…" The anger faded as quickly as it came, and Kakashi was left feeling hollow and so fucking helpless.

"I know. I'm sorry I said that." He felt ashamed when the hurt receded and the blue eyes trained on him grew slightly warmer. He, most of all, didn't deserve Naruto's kindness directed at him. He was far too beyond the line of forgiveness to ask for it now.

"Damnit…" the Copy-nin sighed and closed his eyes, his brows knitted in agonized frustration. Naruto didn't like that look on the Copy-nin's face, wanted to wipe it away. His heart reached out to the other man, brimming with compassion as he understood the older man's feelings all too well. He knew they wouldn't get anywhere talking about this topic, and decided to direct both of their thoughts in another direction. It wasn't the smoothest subject, maybe, but it was something Naruto had wanted to find out since he'd been twelve.



"Why was it always about Sasuke?" Incompatible eyes cracked open, the grey sharp and focused while tomoes lazily spun in the red Sharingan eye. Kakashi didn't even try to suppress the deep sigh working its way up from his lungs, releasing it as he leaned forward. He reached to take one slender, tanned hand in his pale one, gently squeezing the long fingers as an act of comfort. He held Naruto's gaze, never looking away as he began to explain something he should've told the blond a long time ago.

"Because you're so much stronger than Sasuke. I was never really worried about you, Naruto. You have and always will be stronger than the last Uchiha." The Copy-nin couldn't help it, and a small smile curved his lips when flaxen brows slowly cocked, clearly broadcasting the doubt Naruto felt before that reply.

"It's true you know. When we started as a team you grew stronger with such rate it was hard to keep up with you. Sasuke is a genius, yes, and have the Sharingan. It didn't help him against your natural talent or determination to always succeed though. He can't cope with difficult situations the same way you can, he never could." Kakashi tightened his hold on Naruto's hand when the blond made a move to withdraw, forcing Naruto to keep their eyes locked; coercing the blond to see the truth Kakashi was telling him.

"Just look at you two. He couldn't handle the fact that Itachi killed his clan, decided to avenge his family and buried all his feelings apart from hatred deep inside. You on the other hand… No matter how cruelly you've been treated always rise up again. It doesn't matter what life throws at you, you always pick yourself up and try again." Kakashi released the hand in his and leaned back, still staring at the blond, silently daring him to tell him otherwise.

Naruto broke the stare, looking vulnerable, flushed and embarrassed as his eyes darted around, looking at everything but Kakashi.

"I took it upon myself to look after Sasuke." Naruto froze when Kakashi carried on talking, listening attentively without looking his way. "He resembled me at that age so much it's almost scary. I saw the path he had chosen to walk on and wanted to help him take on another direction. I never meant for it to seem like I didn't want to train or look after you or Sakura. It seems like I didn't succeed with either of those things and I'm sorry."

Silence ruled between them. They both felt awkward and disconcerted, averting their gazes from the other as the minutes ticked away. Naruto hadn't been prepared for the fierce joy flowing through him as the words washed over him, hadn't expected to feel like a stone had been removed from his chest. The gratitude he felt towards Kakashi in that moment was endless, for finally having an answer to the question he'd been mulling over for six years.

"Thank you", Naruto suddenly said, startling Kakashi out of his thoughts.

"For what?" He honestly didn't see what Naruto had to be thankful of, not with the way Kakashi had neglected him at a time when Naruto had needed him.

"For explaining", Naruto said and smiled. It reached his eyes, warming them and deepened the vibrant color to a more azure than the usual bright blue. Kakashi's conscious screamed at him before such understanding, raged at him to tell the whole truth and prove to the blond just how much of a worthless bastard he really were.

"I avoided you when you were little because I couldn't stand to look at you." The warmth immediately vanished from Naruto's eyes. He froze in his chair and the smile slipped off, taking all chanced of further acceptance with it. Kakashi gave in to the urge to hide his face in his hands, callous palms scrubbing over the clean-shaven skin. He looked up at the other man, as serious as he'd ever been.

"I lost everything to the Kyuubi. My last teammate was one of them who died in the attack, and my sensei – the closest thing I had to a father – gave his life to save us. He sealed the beast inside of you, left you to fend for yourself in a cold world where most were out to get you."

"So you were just like the rest of them", Naruto stated flatly, ignoring the way his heart clenched in his chest. Kakashi shook his head in negative, supporting his chin against a fist, looking all for the world as bored as ever. Naruto knew better though. The tension radiating from the Copy-nin was so thick he could've cut it with a kunai.

"You're wrong. I knew perfectly well that you and the Kyuubi were two separate beings. No, Naruto… I couldn't bear looking at you and see my sensei stare back at me."

You could've heard a pin drop in the sudden silence. Kakashi kept his eyes closed, not daring to look up and meet Naruto's eyes. He knew he'd blown it. Naruto would never want even be near him after hearing something like that. It still didn't stop his heart from hoping; beat speeding up ever so little when the blond shifted in his seat. The Copy-nin jerked when hands closed over his and his eyes snapped up to the blond's face.

"I'm not my father. Do you see me as him now?" Silver hair danced around his face when Kakashi shook his head. "Then stop beating yourself up over it. I'm not mad at you for never being there when I was a kid, I never knew of your connection to my dad till a couple of years ago. I only wanted you to notice me when you were my sensei, to acknowledge me as a capable subordinate and as someone up to your standards."

Kakashi forced himself to remain where he was when the urge to lunge over the table and capture Naruto's lips with his threatened to overwhelm him, together with bone-melting relief. He still had a chance to make Naruto trust him, to correct past errors and see where the future could take them.

"I forgot how utterly forgiving you can be. That's not something you've ever hidden." They smiled at each other, both hearts beating a little faster the more they stared at each other. Naruto could look forever into Kakashi's eyes; the grey and red so strangely compelling, pulling him in with a peculiar sort of magnetism. Realizing he was clinging to Kakashi's hands, Naruto flushed red and released the other man, leaning back in his chair while trying to will the blush away.

A thought occurred to him and he spoke it out before he could give himself time to change his mind.

"You-" he began only to stop and breathe deeply before speaking again. "You mentioned that you decided to look after Sasuke because he was similar you… mind to elaborate?" Kakashi snorted and reclined back in his seat, deciding to humor the blond's attempt at ignoring the odd chemistry between them.

I'll give in this time, Naruto…

"Ever heard of Konoha's White Fang…?"

After the abrupt start, Naruto sat in silence as Kakashi told about his life. He couldn't almost comprehend the story unfolded. He felt somber when Kakashi lowly spoke of his father's – Hatake Sakumo's- suicide and how he after that followed all the rules down to the last dot. He felt like crying when the older man told of his first mission as a jounin, how he gained his Sharingan and a little more wisdom at the cost of his best friend.

Naruto wanted to ask more when Kakashi only skimmed over his years in ANBU, and opened his mouth to do so, when he caught the haunted glimpse in his eyes. Steering his thoughts from that path, Naruto decided to leave it to a time when Kakashi – maybe- would feel comfortable talking more freely about it. Another query came to mind, when Naruto's eyes fell on the mask pooling around Kakashi's pale neck, once the other man stopped talking. The mood had lifted a little during Kakashi's story, leaving them feeling a tad more relaxed with almost demanding answers to past curiosities. It also left room for them to be a little more teasing towards each other, an opportunity Naruto – who was feeling ten times better than the day before – almost pounced to take advantage off.

"Really… what's with the mask?" Kakashi grinned, actually honest to god grinned, and mirth danced in his eyes when Naruto answered with a grin of his own. He couldn't help it, really. His mouth had a mind of its own it seemed.

"I think we'll leave that to later", he teased, chuckling lightheartedly when Naruto gave a playful pout. He was glad that the blond felt better, pleased that he also felt lighter inside than he'd done in years.

A true bond of trust and friendship was forged that morning and they both felt the underlying attraction. It pulled them towards the other, made their gazes linger a little longer each time their eyes met.

Briefly looking up at the clock on the wall, Kakashi startled when he realized that they had been talking for almost three hours. He was also very, very late for his next mission.

Shit. She'll rip me a new one once I'm at the Tower!

"Damn… I have to go. Right now." Moving more hurriedly than Naruto had ever seen him, Kakashi disappeared out of the kitchen and into his bedroom. The blond could hear him rummage around in there, turning in his seat when the older man emerged thirty seconds later. Heat speared him when he took in the sight of Kakashi decked out in his ANBU gear. He reveled in the way the black, tight pants clung to his legs and ass, how the elbow long armguards enhanced the corded strength in Kakashi's arms or how the vest hugged his torso. A porcelain mask was perched on the side of Kakashi's head, flattening the silver hair slightly. Naruto was afraid he was drooling and had to check, discreetly dabbing his mouth with his hand.

Kakashi looked up from where he'd been tying a pouch filled with shuriken around his right leg, catching the blond stare, and smiled, once again behind the protection of his black mask.

"See something you like?" It was a dangerous move, but if he hadn't been reading Naruto entirely wrong, he alleged that the blond wasn't completely uninterested in him. Naruto flushed red and sputtered in outrage, trying to cover his staring by giving the older man a glare. Suspicions confirmed, Kakashi smirked and stalked closer to the younger man. Naruto fought the urge to shrink back as Kakashi came towards him, looking greatly attractive and a little intimidating. The blond had never seen Kakashi in his ANBU uniform before, and felt like the other man had gone through an alteration with the change of clothes.

His aura was different, more commanding and compelling than when in his usual jounin outfit. Gone was his usual, slouched gait and in its stead was a gliding, deadly stalk. Kakashi moved with the grace of a feline, his movement graceful and he radiated a sort of arrogant confidence. It unnerved the jinchüriki, greatly even. Kakashi had a slightly feral gleam in his eyes when he stopped before the blond. He leaned down and placed his hands on the edge of the table, trapping Naruto between his muscular arms. Cornered between the tabletop and the Copy-nin's lean frame, the blond desperately wished for a way to understand why the rattled emotions reared their ugly heads.

It was Kakashi – a smoking hot one – and he had nothing to fear from him, that much he knew. He was uncertain on how to respond to the way Kakashi was looking at him, the hunger in mismatched eyes both confusing and egging him on towards something unfamiliar. He leaned back against the table when Kakashi bowed down towards his face. Naruto's eyes widened the close Kakashi came, his heart lurching in his chest when the Copy-nin stopped; their noses not even an inch from touching.

Kakashi was very aware of just how innocent Naruto was. The blond didn't even recognize his attraction for what it was; he could see that in wide, innocent eyes. He made an effort to stamp the urge to pounce down, and just smiled instead. Now was not the time to confuse Naruto even more, not when the bond between them was so fresh and tender. He'd had the thought in mind ever since waking up, keeping it firmly in mind during their entire conversation. Kakashi wouldn't take a no for an answer, and thus moved in for the kill, so to speak.

"How about you move in with me?"

"…Excuse me?" Kakashi would've laughed at the heated retort, if not for the small glimmer of hope in Naruto's gaze. He chuckled and retreated, giving Naruto space to regain his breath, which had hitched at the close proximity to the Copy-nin.

"I have a spare room I'm not using. You can have it till you've found something more permanent."

But if I'll have my way you'll never leave…

"Wha-you're offering me to live here. With you." Naruto deadpanned after a moment of stunned silence, and the bewildered expression on his face was enough to send Kakashi's hormones into overdrive again. He turned his back on the blond, deliberately sounding vague when he replied over his shoulder.

"Yes. That way I get someone who can look after this place and you won't have to feel stressed about finding a new place. The only thing I require is that you clean up after yourself and that you promise me to eat more vegetables."

The Copy-nin wanted to snicker when he caught sight of Naruto's indignant face out of the corner of his right eye.

"I'm not a kid! And I'll be damned before I eat more vegetables than Iruka already forces down my throat."

Glad to hear that he's still himself underneath that depressed surface.

"Great, we have a deal then. Here's the key" Naruto barely caught the jangling key thrown at him, and barely had time to blink before Kakashi was perched on the sill by the opened window to his right.

"I'll be back in two weeks. Make yourself at home and I'll see you then."

"Hey! Wait a min-" Naruto yelled in vain, because Kakashi just slipped his snarling Wolf mask in place over his face, gave him a lazy salute and was gone in a puff of smoke.

"What the hell…?" He did grin when he said that though, and looked down at the glimmering piece of metal in his hand. Pure elation filled him, making him feel lightheaded as if he was drunk and his grin widened. Kakashi was not what Naruto had thought he'd be. The enigmatic Copy-nin was kind – in his own way – serious yet a tease and had far more depth than he'd ever imagined. And he might just be very much in love with him.

Now, if he could only figure out what he was supposed to feel like when in love…?

Well… there's always someone I can ask.

"How do you know when you're in love?"

Iruka choked on the ramen he'd just put in his mouth, almost inhaling the hot noodles into his lungs. He coughed violently, his body trying to dislodge the food stuck halfway down his throat. Naruto helped by patting the brunet on his back, whose face was growing alarmingly purple by the second. When Iruka could breathe properly again, he turned his head to look at Naruto with watery eyes and a slightly reddened face.

"Where the hell did that come from?" Naruto blushed at the inquiry, feeling oddly bashful as he avoided the other man's gaze and stared down into the half-eaten bowl of ramen in front of him. Iruka frowned. He knew ramen wasn't all Naruto ate, but the blond did indeed have a certain love for it, and to see Naruto not even finishing his first one had alarming bells going off in Iruka's mind.

"I'm just curious, I guess", Naruto addressed the bowl with a shrug, not fooling the chunin at his side for a second. Naruto couldn't lie for shit to those he cared about. Iruka and Tsunade knew Naruto better than the most, or at least to the point the blond let them. It didn't deter Iruka in the least. He honestly cared for Naruto, wanted to see the blond grow into all of his potential and lead a happy life. That the villagers got away with treating Naruto the way they did always pissed Iruka off, leaving him and Tsunade to pick up the pieces and try to help the jinchüriki in the ways they could.

A week ago Naruto had seemed more down than usual, displaying a moodiness Iruka had never seen in him before. He'd worried on the day of the festival, but hadn't been able to look out for Naruto the way he usually did. He'd been away on a mission, one of the rare ones he'd get sent for some times, when his busy schedule allowed. When he came back a couple of days later, Naruto had been back to his usual, bright self, though some things had still been different.

Naruto was more… genuinely happy. There was a certain bounce in his step that hadn't been there before, and his smiles were brighter, more solid and real than the sometimes fabricated feeling Iruka got from them. He'd wondered over the change, curious over what had brought forth such a change in the blond's normally guarded demeanor. People always assumed that Naruto wore his heart on his sleeve, but that's where Sasuke, Sakura and all the others were wrong.

Naruto was smart in that way. He only let people see what he wanted them to see, keeping his real, inner thoughts and feelings hidden behind the big smile and flamboyant antics. It took much to earn Naruto's trust, as Iruka had discovered years ago. He'd been over the hills with happiness the day Naruto outright gave him his trust, when he gave Iruka the privilege and Iruka would always guard that with his life. It had made Iruka a little too over-bearing in his protection of his young friend though, but the chunin didn't care. He'd do as much as he could for the blond for as long as he could. And at the moment it seemed like he would have to share a little wisdom in the matters of the heart.

"How to know when you're in love? You could've asked me for something a little easier to explain", he gently chided the blond with a small, teasing smile. Naruto dared to look at him then, responding with a smile of his own.

"Yeah I kinda figured but… I want to know." Iruka, feeling like this could take a while, sighed and placed his chopsticks on the counter, leaning his elbows against it and stared at the wall across with furrowed brows.

"Well… it's really obvious in my opinion. You can't think properly around the person in question. You blush and stutter and feel like your stomachs filled with butterflies. You'll feel hot all over, like a fire is spreading inside. Your heart beats a mile a minute and feels like it's about to burst whenever near and you just can't stop your eyes from following them." Iruka's smile deepened, warped from soft and reminiscence into mysterious and sensual.

"You don't mind their bad qualities because they're overshadowed by the good ones; it only makes you like them more. You want to wake up and their face is the first thing you see, just as it's the last thing you want to look at before going to sleep. Sometimes you feel like you can't stand not to touch them, want nothing more than to be able to kiss and just be near. Your feel like you're about to suffocate when they're in pain, you want nothing more than protect them with all you have. And sometimes…" He drifted off, obviously lost in a faraway memory. Naruto had unconsciously leaned closer to Iruka, holding his breath in wait to hear more.

"And sometimes….?" Naruto urged. His heart almost stopped when Iruka turned to face him; his eyes warm and soft and his mouth curved in a secretive smile.

"And sometimes when you look at them… you just forget how to breathe."

Naruto stared. A sense of doom slowly came over him the more he let Iruka's words sink in. It was scary how accurate the chunin's had described all of what Naruto felt, down to the tiniest detail. Well except for the forgetting how to breathe part. He could still draw air in his lungs when around the silver-haired jounin, just not very good.

Does that mean I'm really… no. That can't be right. I'm sooo not in love with Kakashi. Nope. Never gonna happen…

"That's… really interesting." It was a bland reply for sure, but his brows were furrowed in thought and his eyes stared at nothing. Iruka smiled again and patted the blond on his back.

"So… care to share who's caught your fancy?" Iruka's own brows cocked when a bright blush bloomed on Naruto's scarred cheeks.

That was unexpected.

"I-It's not that I'm interested in someone! I just wanted to know!"

You're denying a little too hard there, Naruto…

Resisting the urge to pry it out of the blond, Iruka dropped the obviously touchy subject and tried with a diversion.

"Hey, did you find a new place to live at yet? I heard you mentioning something like that the other day." Naruto may have thought that Iruka didn't catch the small sigh of relief, but the brunet chose to pretend as it rained and turned back to his food.

"No…not yet", Naruto muttered into his own bowl, slurping cold noodles as he avoided looking at Iruka. While the chunin knew about his home going up in flames, Naruto hadn't told him just where he was staying at the moment. He'd been deliberately vague when Iruka had asked him, and had said he was staying at Kiba's place. He didn't really have the guts to tell the older man that he was sharing space with Konoha's Copy-nin at the moment – even if the man in question wasn't at home. Iruka had nurtured a slight dislike for Kakashi ever since Naruto was twelve, when the silver-haired jounin nominated team seven for the Chunin Exams.

"Have you looked?"

"Um… no."

"You'll never find a new apartment if you don't put some effort into finding one. You can't impose on Kiba forever, you know."

"Huh?" Iruka frowned and looked at the blond.

"Kiba. You said you were staying at his place." Naruto's answering smile was way too wide to be believable, and when the blond's hand reached up to rub at the back of his neck, Iruka's suspicions were confirmed.

"Heh, yeah but he doesn't mind", the blond lied. Naruto hoped Iruka wouldn't go and ask the Inuzuka whether the jinchüriki was living with him, 'cause if he did, Naruto was so screwed. Iruka, already knowing Naruto was lying through his teeth, slowly turned to fully face the blond.

"Where have you really been staying for the past week?" Faced with Iruka's stern expression and hard eyes, Naruto began fidgeting in his seat, avoiding looking the chunin in his eyes.

"Hehe… what do you mean? I've really been living with-"

"And maybe pigs will start flying when hell freezes over", Iruka interrupted. Judging by the way Naruto blushed and squirmed Iruka had a feeling he wouldn't like the answer one bit.

"Come on, Naruto, it can't be that bad can it?" Naruto froze and reluctantly glanced at the brunet. Naruto was an orphan, had never had parents and had no idea how they behaved towards their kids. But as he met Iruka's eyes, seeing the concern mixed with annoyance and curiosity in the brown orbs, Naruto couldn't help but think that Iruka probably was the closest thing he'd ever come to know how it was to actually have a father.

"It's a long and boring story, really, Iruka and I'm sure you have better things to do than-"

"Naruto." The warning in Iruka's timbre told Naruto that the brunet's patience was beginning to wear thin. He sighed and slumped in his seat, staring down into his half-eaten bowl where noodles were turning soggy in the cold broth.

"Kakashi found me the night my apartment burned down and the day after he said I could move in with him. I took him up on that offer." This was delivered to Iruka in a detached, clinical tone, but the older man was far from stupid. Armed with the knowledge that Hatake Kakashi was not a man to offer up his home in such a casual manner, ever, Iruka was deeply suspicious of the Copy-nin's true motives. There had to be some reason as to why the man had done that kind of thing, other than plain compassion and kindness.

"…I see. And what did he want in return?" Despite Iruka's calmness, Naruto knew the older man was angry on the inside. The blond threw his former sensei a stern look, silently scolding him for doubting his common sense and Kakashi's intentions. He could understand where Iruka was coming from, however. Kakashi wasn't close to anyone, sans himself, and Naruto was fairly certain most of Konoha's population and fellow shinobi actually believed in the image the Copy-nin projected, without seeing if for the mask it was.

"Don't be like that", Naruto replied when Iruka's calm seemed to crack under the rising anger. "He doesn't have any ulterior motives."

"And how can you be so sure?" Naruto exhaled explosively, rolling his eyes at the qualm dripping from the chunin's words.

"I just am. I can't say more without breaking Kakashi's trust in me, so just accept that he openly and honestly offered me a home without any aims." Naruto turned away and silence stretched between them. Iruka was a little at loss for words at this show of maturity from the blond, but was hit with guilt and the feeling that he should most likely apologize to Naruto. Firstly for not trusting the blond's own judgment and secondly for thinking bad about one of Konoha's most trusted shinobi. Whatever reasons Iruka had for disliking the man, Kakashi wasn't the bad guy the chunin sometimes wanted him to be.

"I'm sorry", Iruka eventually said. "You're right that I shouldn't doubt you or him. It's just that…" Iruka trailed off and Naruto's mouth curved in a small smile and glanced at the other.

"It's all right. I wouldn't believe it was really you if you hadn't been over-protective", Naruto teased. Iruka's reluctant chuckle and embarrassed smile had Naruto joining him, their laughter echoing out of the ramen stall. Naruto didn't really know what was so funny, he just couldn't stop laughing. He felt liberated in a way, knowing that Iruka wouldn't berate him for his choice of shacking up with Kakashi.

"So…" Iruka glanced at the blond once they'd stopped laughing. He really wanted to ask more about Kakashi, if the earlier inquiry about love had anything to do with the Copy-nin, which he was fairly certain it had, but opted to stay away from that subject. For now. "Ready for tonight's lesson?"

Naruto groaned. He had totally forgotten that they were supposed to study chakra networks and how they differed from person to person, from animal to animal and so on that night. It was, without a doubt, the most boring thing Naruto could think of. He knew it was knowledge necessary for him as a shinobi, and a small pang of resentment shot through him. If he'd been learned the proper things, like everyone else, while he'd been at the Academy he wouldn't have to cram it into his skull like he had to do nowadays.

"Not looking forward to it", he muttered as he crossed his arms on the counter in front of him, his head dropping down to hide in black fabric covering his forearms. Iruka chuckled again and heartily slapped the blond's shoulder. The hiding youth totally missed the devious expression on the older man's face.

"Tell you what… if you promise me to at least make an effort and read through the scrolls I have once… I'll lend you something interesting." The older man suppressed a guffaw when he could almost see non-existent fox ears perk up at that. Blue eyes peered up from underneath blond bangs, twinkling with curiosity.

"Something interesting?"

"I'll say no more. Do well and you'll find out." Naruto straightened and grinned, feeling exited before the prospect of a reward. Iruka chuckled again.

Really, sometimes it's like he's still twelve…

A low thud and a slight, scraping sound right outside had Naruto jolting awake. He sat up from where he lay sprawled on the couch, the book on his chest falling to the floor. Naruto looked at the door with bleary eyes, trying to shake the lingering dream - brought on by the book Iruka had given him – from his mind. He glanced down at the floor where the hardcover lay, blushing a little at the title blazing up at him from the blue cover.

Do you love a man? A gay sex guide and consciousness book!

He'd thought he would pass out from embarrassment when Iruka handed him the book earlier, blushing as the usual bashful and stern teacher had winked at him. Apparently Iruka wasn't as bashful and stern in the bedroom; Naruto discovered when the older man also handed him a pack of condoms and a tube of lube.

"Knock yourself out, but tell Kakashi to go easy on you. You're a novice, after all."

"W-what the hell are you talking about?"

Iruka hadn't answered but his knowing smile had been reply enough, and Naruto had decided to quickly steer from the topic. He couldn't really be certain what to think at the blatant way Iruka seemed to encourage Naruto's confused feelings for the Copy-nin, however reluctant and wary the chunin had been earlier. It still didn't stop the blond from reading the book, nor from developing some very interesting fantasies after he was done.

Another thud shook Naruto out of his thoughts, and directed his attention towards whomever it was making the noises outside the apartment. He stood up and padded on silent feet to the door, his keen ears trying discern the sounds. A jangling key and scraping from sandal wearing feet had Naruto almost slapping his face, annoyed at himself. It had to be Kakashi back from his mission, no one was stupid or suicidal enough to try and break into the Copy-nin's home after all. Naruto frowned the longer the seconds ticked by, wondering why the hell Kakashi wasn't unlocking the door. Growing impatient Naruto huffed, reached up, turned the bolt and yanked it open.

And then, as soon as he laid eyes on the Copy-nin, Naruto - just as Iruka had said - forgot how to breathe.

Huh… seems I'm really in love with him then.

This insight didn't fill him with the same amount of panic he'd felt as when he'd talked to Iruka earlier. Instead, he felt… elated, happy and more serene than he could ever remember feeling before. Then, as he regained his equilibrium and drew new air into his lungs, he got his explanation as of why Kakashi hadn't unlocked the door himself. The Copy-nin was leaning heavily against the railing across the landing, shoulders slumped and back hunched. His head was bowed and his breath sounded strained to Naruto's sensitive ears.

The exhaustion the older man projected had the blond frowning, and he was also covered from head to toe in what seemed to be a mix of blood, mud and other unpleasant substances of unknown origin. Silver hair was wet and clumped together, hanging down and concealing half of the Copy-nin's face when the older man slowly lifted his head. Under the grime coating Kakashi like a second skin, Naruto also spotted some vicious looking lacerations, and he realized that the blood was partly Kakashi's own.

Naruto's gaze slowly traveled over the silver-haired man, taking in his ragged clothes full of tears and holes. He focused on Kakashi's face again, noted the lack of obscuring porcelain and the dull, tired mismatched eyes staring back at him from behind dirty, matted tresses.

Naruto's stunned disbelief turned into concern when the Copy-nin didn't seem inclined to move. He just stared at Naruto as he had never seen the blond in his entire life, eyes vacant until they met worried, blue orbs. Light and a slight semblance of sanity seemed to return to the older man, and he took a wobbling step from the supporting rail, his voice hoarse as he whispered,

"Oh right… I left my Sunshine here."

Naruto frowned at the rather strange remark and closed the small distance between them, taking a hold of the Copy-nin's right arm. He tried not to grimace at the slime coating the appendix and gently tugged the older man inside the door, supporting him when Kakashi swayed with every step.

Naruto didn't dare to talk as he guided the exhausted man through the apartment towards the bathroom, ignoring the tracks Kakashi's dirty sandals left behind them. The blond knew Kakashi had to suffer from some severe case of post-mission stress and was afraid to snap him out of it, lest the older man would become violent. While Naruto could handle himself against his former sensei just fine, he had no desire to destroy his – their – home by dealing with a delirious, lethal ANBU.

Once inside the tiled room Naruto began to undress the older man, maintaining the silence. He worked slowly, stripping the Copy-nin of his mask and protective vest first. The heavy garment landed on the floor with a clunk, followed by the black tank top. Blue eyes regarded the smooth, scarred skin revealed for him, and a heat began to burn in the depths of his abdomen.

Naruto shook himself out of his reverie, scolding himself for almost drooling over the exhausted Kakashi, when it was clear that the man could barely stand on his own. The armguards and gloves came next, adding to the growing pile of dirty armor together with the pouches attached to the Copy-nin's belt. The blond winced a little when he could see the wounds on Kakashi's arms and shoulders more clearly. They weren't deep but they were quite a few. They looked raw and angry, three of them still bleeding.

He left them be, knowing the blood would wash away in the shower and the wounds would close up by themselves. When Naruto reached for the belt holding Kakashi's pants up, he almost lost his nerve. Could he really do this?

It was his first time taking care of someone, he felt clumsy and not so little awkward with his attempts at being careful. The older man didn't give any visible signs of caring whether Naruto undressed him or not, and that gave the jinchüriki the courage to quickly undo the belt and button underneath it and pull the zipper down. The sound of metal sliding open boomed in Naruto's head. The blond gulped when he crouched down and undid the wrappings around Kakashi's legs, removing the pouch attached to his right thigh in the process.

Taking a deep breath, as to steel himself, he guided the wet pants and underwear down long, muscular legs, averting his eyes the whole time. When the clothing was bunched around Kakashi's ankles, Naruto straightened and helped the older man step out of the pile, and his sandals at the same time. He steered him towards the shower, shoving his own pants off as he followed Kakashi inside the small space. Standing behind the silver-haired ANBU, Naruto reached around and twisted the shower knob.

Not even while being blasted by a stream of cold water did Kakashi react, giving Naruto all the material he needed to know about Kakashi's state of mind. The water warmed quickly and soon they were both drenched. Naruto didn't waste any time, and grabbed a bottle of shampoo.

He began washing the frozen man with gentle movements, keeping his touch light. Kakashi sagged under the feel of Naruto's fingers in his hair and on his skin, as the blond washed the muck covering him away. The younger man slowly massaged tensed muscles, almost missing the quiet sigh of relief Kakashi made. The water around their feet colored red and brown as Naruto washed Kakashi from head to toe, being mindful of the lacerations, until it was clear and steam filled the bathroom. Kakashi leaned back against the smaller blond, his eyes closed as his head rested on Naruto's shoulder, exposing the long, elegant neck to Naruto's interested gaze.

Having no time to admire the pale column, or the grace the man excluded so easily, Naruto hurried to turn the water off when he felt Kakashi sag even more against him. He reached for a towel hanging on the rack just outside of the shower, quickly wiping the taller male with efficient but gentle movements. Kakashi's wounds had stopped bleeding at this point, and Naruto dared to leave him for a few seconds as he rapidly toweled himself dry and pulled his abandoned sweats on.

It only took two minutes, but by the time Naruto was back at Kakashi's side he was leaning against the wall, clearly out of strength. After a little shuffling and a few stumbles along the way, Kakashi was finally sitting on the edge of his bed, shoulders slumped and head bowed. Naruto mused whether he should dress the older man or not, deciding against it when he saw Kakashi sway. He tried to not stare at the toned, naked form… he really did.

Don't think, don't look. Just dress those cuts and put him to bed.

Producing a clone, Naruto sent it to get the medical kit stored in the kitchen and kneelt at Kakashi's feet. The Copy-nin had a rather deep cut running diagonally over his left thigh that needed taking care of, but he didn't think it would require any stitches. However determined he'd been to keep his eyes from straying to where they had no business straying, Naruto had no chance in hell – being so close and all – to not notice the rather interesting sight of Kakashi's nakedness.

Now's not the time to think about that. Focus, Naruto!

The clone was back soon enough with the kit and disappeared in a puff of smoke as Naruto dispelled it. He was starting to get a little worried over Kakashi's silence, didn't really know how to handle the older man in this state. He missed the smiles he'd been graced with before Kakashi's departure, missed how the mismatched eyes had twinkled at him with mirth, not to talk about that almost kiss…

Stopping all sort of interesting thoughts to claim his attention – perverted or worried - Naruto concentrated on dabbing all wounds with antiseptic fluid, before gently dressing them with adhesive bandages. Once done, Naruto gave a sigh of relief as he climbed to his feet and guided Kakashi down underneath the blue comforter. Naruto tucked the older man in, taking the opportunity to card a hand through slightly damp, soft silver hair. When he straightened and was about to turn around to leave, a hand suddenly shot up from underneath the duvet and caught his right wrist in a surprisingly strong grip.

Naruto visibly startled and glanced at the pale hand hanging onto him like a lifeline, not expecting him to have any strength left in him. What Kakashi whispered next, made the blond freeze, both from shock and nervousness.

"Please… stay. Don't leave me alone…" It was almost too low for Naruto to hear, but when he met Kakashi's eyes – the mismatched gaze heavy-lidded and filled with pain – he couldn't deny the request. Before the desperation and loneliness staring back at him, Naruto's nervousness evaporated and was replaced with a suffocating feeling. It squeezed his heart painfully, it felt like it was about to explode from the pressure. He wanted nothing more than to take Kakashi in his arms, to make that look go away and keep it that way for the rest of his life. Not quite sure if his voice would work should he try to speak, the blond nodded and took a step closer to the bed. The Copy-nin relinquished his hold and his arm fell to the mattress with a heavy thump. Naruto nudged Kakashi as he lifted the duvet and lay down beside the older man, sighing with secret contentment when his chest was weighted down by Kakashi's arm.

Feeling more relaxed and secure than ever, both men sighed with bliss. Lids grew heavy, breaths deepened and soon the only sounds in the room came from the two occupants quiet breathing as sleep had claimed them.

Kakashi woke up slowly, disoriented and sleepy, only to discover that he was twined around Naruto like a damn slinky. Not complaining about his bed-mate but more than a little confused of the happenings leading to this situation, Kakashi quickly made the decision to get up before he'd do something stupid. Like molest the stunning creature in his arms, for example. He doubted Naruto would appreciate that, and he was still a little unsure where he stood with his former student. Ignoring the slight ace he still felt from his mission – his own fault as he'd been in a hurry to get home – Kakashi got out of the bed only to stop once standing.

Staring down at himself he noted the distinct lack of clothing and his wounds cleaned and dressed. Slowly, he looked at Naruto – still sleeping angelically – and almost reconsidered his resolution to remove himself from the bed. Clearly Naruto had been more than okay to get into the bed naked with him. He barely remembered anything from the night before, only vague images came back to him when he tried to recollect exactly what had happened.

A warm feeling enveloped him as he gazed at the sleeping jinchüriki and a tender smile curved his mouth. He would express his gratitude for the blond's help later… possibly by kissing the living daylights out of him. Pulling on a pair of grey sweats from the dresser, Kakashi walked into the lounge with the kitchen as his destination, when something in his peripheral vision caught his attention. A book was lying on the floor, and as the curious man he is, Kakashi picked it up.

He nearly dropped it when he read the title though, but after a few, comprehending seconds an evil smirk twisted his lips.

A gay guide and consciousness book, huh… imaginative title.

Smirk widening, Kakashi took a seat on the couch, his mind full of the many different ways he could exploit the knowledge of what Naruto had been up to when he'd been gone. He was quite sure he was as interested in Kakashi as Kakashi was in him. The Copy-nin could understand if Naruto wasn't really clear on his feelings though, and took great pleasure in the thought of teaching him all there was to know about love and lust… because it was what he felt for Naruto. He'd come to realize during his long, hellish mission just how much he wanted – no – craved the blond. How he wanted to hold him and protect him from danger, how he wanted to wake up every morning and fall asleep every night with Naruto by his side.

He'd never felt anything like this before, never knew he could. It scared the crap out of him and at the same time made him feel happier than ever before. He'd vowed then, as he'd been sitting in a bush with rain almost drowning him and hostile nins everywhere, that he'd tell Naruto about his feelings as soon as he got home. If he got home. And here he was, sitting with his desire in the next room; dying to get close. To touch, to taste, to drown to himself in all that was Naruto…

When Naruto rose from his slumber, feeling more rested than ever, he noticed two things: The room was eerily silent and he was alone in the bed. He sat up, bleary eyes scanning his surroundings. He frowned when he heard a chuckle from the lounge. Getting up he treaded on silent feet towards the sound of Kakashi's mirth, and stopped in his tracks as soon as he entered the living room. His eyes widened with horror as he took in the sight of Kakashi reclining on the couch – in sweats only – a wide smile dazzlingly spread over his face and… a blue book in his hand.

No… nonononono! This isn't happening! It's just a dream, an illusion!

Unfortunately for Naruto, he was wide awake and definitely not dreaming, not when Kakashi turned to face him, his smile morphing into a devastatingly sexy smirk.

"Morning", he greeted the horrified blond, his eyes raking up and down the tanned form so generously presented to him. Naturally, Naruto couldn't respond. He was too busy beating himself up over his own stupidity. Why hadn't he put the damned book away last night?

"I see you've been picking up rather… interesting reading material since I've been away."

"No-you see-t-that's…" Naruto stutter was so uncharacteristic and cute that Kakashi couldn't help it when another, amused chuckle escaped him.


That god damn raised eyebrow! It should be illegal to look that sexy when doing it! Naruto tried to calm down, tried to ignore the blush working its way up his neck towards his face.

"I-Iruka gave it to me", he managed to get out, almost choking when Kakashi's other brow rose to join the first.

"…Really? And what reason did he have to do that?"

"N-no reason really… just said I should know what I'm getting myself into and-"

"Getting yourself into?" Kakashi quoted and dropped the book on the coffee table, smoothly standing up. There was something predatory over him as he walked towards the blond, a hunger shimmering in his eyes the closer he got to his prey. Naruto took a step back, not really knowing how he should act in a situation like this.

"And what… exactly are you getting into, Naruto?" The blond flinched when his back connected with the wall behind him. He swallowed when Kakashi stopped a mere inch from him, caging him in by bringing his hands up and putting them on each side of the blond's head. Kakashi leaned down, placing his face as close to Naruto's as he could without actually kissing him.

Naruto blinked at the close proximity, his cheeks coloring an alluring shade of pink and his tongue darted out to moist his suddenly, dry lips. Kakashi eyes followed the movement, the heat in them almost scorching him.

"Um… I'm not really sure what he meant", Naruto offered meekly in answer to Kakashi's question, desperately trying to breathe normally, when all he wanted to do was to hyperventilate.

"Not sure? Tell me then, Naruto, what are you feeling in this moment?"

Tell? He couldn't think for fucks sake! How could he possibly explain anything when his brain refused to focus on anything but the way Kakashi looked at him, the closeness and the dire need burning inside of him to get even closer?

"Like… like I'm out of breath…" Said breath hitched when Kakashi closed the last inch between them, pressing his chest flush against Naruto's.

"Uh-huh. What else?"

"Like… my heart's about to beat itself out of my ribcage", the blond whined, his eyes snapping shut when soft lips slowly pressed gently against his neck, right below his ear.

"Go on…"

"I-I feel so hot…" The lips moved lower, teeth coming into play and nipped at the soft skin where his neck met his shoulder.

"And more?"

"And... and I'm gonna die if you don't touch me more!" Naruto cried out when Kakashi bit down on his collarbone, a soft tongue sneaking out to sooth the tender skin left behind.

"'I will, I promise. And you can touch me too", Kakashi murmured against the bite mark, removing his hands from the wall to place them on the blond's shoulders. They slid from there down Naruto's arms, feeling Goosebumps break out at the light touch. When he reached Naruto's hands, he took them in his own and placed them around his waist.

"Touch me, feel me", Kakashi commanded, the low timbre making Naruto weak in the knees. Hesitantly, the younger man moved his hands, feeling smooth skin littered with scars underneath his fingertips. Kakashi gave an appreciative purr as Naruto explored his back, neck and shoulders, shivering at the caresses. Naruto's touch seemed to burn him, made him hotter than before. But he couldn't let the lust cloud his mind totally; he had to make certain things clear before they could take this further.

Moving his own hands up over Naruto's heaving sides, grazing erect nipples briefly; Kakashi placed his hands around Naruto's slender, tanned neck, gently pressing his thumbs under his chin. He forced the blond's head up, meeting heated, slightly glazed blue eyes.

"Naruto… do you want this?" Naruto wasn't so far gone that he didn't know what Kakashi was talking about. Did he want to do this? Did he want the Copy-nin, to have him surrender to Naruto and surrender himself to Kakashi?

Hell yeah…

"I've never been more sure in my life", Naruto told him, eyes serious and voice calm, albeit a little hoarse from arousal.

"I hope you do know that this isn't going to be a one-time thing. I want all of it, your body… and your heart as well." Naruto actually stopped breathing. His body froze as he stared into Kakashi's eyes, seeing that the older man really meant what he was saying. The suffocating feeling was back, his heart aching from the love spilling over. He slumped in Kakashi's arms, his head falling to rest against a pale shoulder.

"…I… Kakashi…" He couldn't collect his thoughts, couldn't wrap his mind around the reality staring back at him in form of mismatched eyes. Kakashi pressed a kiss against Naruto's temple, closing his eyes as he inhaled his scent, thoroughly familiar with the feeling coursing through Naruto at the moment.

"I'm in love with you", Kakashi breathed against the younger man's ear, sending shivers of anticipation and happiness down his spine. He didn't give a flying fuck about what social morals or rules said. He'd be damned before he'd let Naruto slip from his grasp, now that he had him he would never let go. Naruto was still against him, had stopped to gasp for air as soon as those words left Kakashi's mouth.

"Huh?" Kakashi smiled. How could he not?

"I am in love with you. Probably too much for my own good." Naruto raised his head and met Kakashi's gaze, doubt and trust vying for dominance in blue eyes.

"This isn't some sick joke, right?" The Copy-nin's smile softened and he lowered his head to press a tender kiss against full lips, putting all of his heart in it.

"I would never do that to you. I love you, Uzumaki Naruto, with all of my heart…" A chocked sob broke from Naruto's throat, something in between laughter of happiness and a cry of relief.

"I have no idea if I'm supposed to feel scared or happy but… I'm pretty sure I'm in love with you too ", Naruto managed to croak, his throat feeling tight and dry as he finally said it out loud, even to himself. Kakashi's arms tightened around him, holding the smaller man hard against him as their hearts beat with the same, fast rhythm.

From there it didn't take long before their shared kisses turned hotter, their minds and bodies heating up with equal desire to feel the other in every way possible. Hands explored, lips kissed and sucked, teeth nipped and nibbled and somehow – Naruto had no idea how that happened – they were on the floor. Kakashi hadn't really planned for them to have sex in the living room for their first time, but figured that if he couldn't wait another moment Naruto was probably in the same state.

Kakashi worshiped Naruto's body with his hands and lips. He spent so much time exploring every inch of tanned skin, slick from perspiration that Naruto was almost in tears before the time the older man reached Naruto's aching erection. The blond cried out when a hot mouth engulfed him, sucking on his heated flesh with such pressure that it left him at loss for air.

His reactions where uninhibited and loud, his cries of pleasure echoing around the room in an intoxicating mix of innocent desire. Kakashi hummed appreciatively around the flesh in his mouth, making sure with every move and sweep of his tongue to give the blond as much pleasure he could handle, and then some.

Naruto arched his back every time Kakashi's tongue snaked around his cock, had no chance in hell to hold back on his reactions as he was tumbling towards the edge of ecstasy. He barely noticed when a finger sneaked down between his lower cheeks, beginning to gently circling around his clenching entrance. The tip of the finger slowly traced the wrinkly skin, shallowly dipping inside without entering fully.

The saliva dribbling down the blond's shaft and balls helped Kakashi with relaxing the tight pucker he wanted to breach, and he doubled his mouth's efforts when Naruto didn't seem inclined to disapprove at all. On the contrary, when Naruto finally became aware of the older man's intentions, he moaned loud and long, the wanton quality in his voice all the permission Kakashi needed.

The finger sunk in to the third knuckle with one, smooth movement. Naruto threw his head back and whimpered at the strange feeling of having his most private part invaded. But at the same time it felt better than he'd previously thought it would. He wiggled his hips, trying to get acquainted with the new sensation. Kakashi moaned around the blond's cock and moved his hand, eliciting another whimper – this time more pleasured – from Naruto.

Feeling more desperate by the second, Kakashi didn't waste any time and withdrew the finger only to return with another joining the first. As soon as he was as deep as he could reach with his fingers, he turned his hand palm up and curled the tips – searching for the spot he knew would drive his jinchüriki crazy.

Sensitive tips softly bumped against Naruto's prostate and the reaction was all Kakashi had hoped it would be. Naruto arched off the floor, his abs clenching and body twisting from the sudden, unexpected onslaught of pleasure. It coursed through his veins like electricity, numbing his mind and shutting it down to all but the sensations roaring inside of him. He couldn't have held back his keening cries even if his life had depended on it, too into Kakashi's ministrations to even try to care.

A third finger soon accompanied its mates, twisting and stretching the tight hole at Kakashi's leisure, all three digits coated with an ample amount of spit. When the Copy-nin had all but reduced the blond to a wanton, writhing mass of raw nerve endings he withdrew his fingers and mouth – ignoring Naruto's whine of protest - and straightened to loom over the younger man.

"Look at me", he husked, almost coming undone when tan lids fluttered open to reveal smoldering eyes. Naruto's gaze was darkened and hazy from pleasure, and if Kakashi hadn't been sure about Naruto wanting him before, he was now. The heat in the cobalt gaze threatened to scald him, burning into his own eyes with an intensity he'd never been subjected to before.

"Do you want this?" Naruto's lids sunk to half-mast when he felt a blunt pressure against his achingly empty hole, and he keened low in his throat. "Answer me, Naruto."

Kakashi's voice was like liquefied fire, slithering inside his mind and setting his senses aflame. The blond managed to nod and wound his legs around pale, narrow hips, pulling the older man closer to him.

"Yes. I want you", Naruto replied throatily, smiling ever so little when Kakashi tensed up at the sound of his voice. No words were further spoken between them as the Copy-nin bent down to press a soft kiss against the blond's pliant lips, tongues meeting and tangling as the older man finally moved his hips, pushing his throbbing cock inside the blond.

The jinchüriki tore his lips from Kakashi's at the first, initial shock of pain, hissing in discomfort and clenching his eyes shut, but he didn't let up on the grip around the other's waist. Instead his legs clamped tighter, keeping their hold firm till Kakashi was fully sheathed balls deep in the tightest heat he'd ever had the pleasure to experience.

Both groaned low in their throats, Naruto head falling back and exposing his slender neck to Kakashi's mouth to feast upon as he held still and waited for the younger man to adjust. Naruto moved a little, wiggling his hips and ass as he got used to the feeling of being filled to the brim. Kakashi gritted his teeth together and moaned at the action, starting to pull back slowly only to return a second later. Naruto panted and moaned, his cries of pain mingled with pleasure fanning the fire burning in Kakashi's abdomen.

It started out slow and gentle but quickly morphed into something more savage and animalistic the more they immersed themselves into the other. Sweat coated their skin, teeth, tongues and lips clashed together and cries of pleasure floated around them. They goaded each other, hands roaming over wet skin to further fuel the desire roaring between them. They raced head to head with the other from peak to peak, going higher and higher with every pull and thrust to reach the final edge and tumble over it together.

Hearing Naruto's cries change from low and hoarse to high and needy, Kakashi paused for a moment to brace his hand against the floor underneath, returning to slamming inside the blond while balancing on one arm. The other slithered down sweat-slicked, trembling muscles and skin, long fingers curling around the weeping cock slapping and bouncing between their straining abs.

Naruto's whole body tensed, his ass trapping Kakashi's cock in a vice-like grip as the silky walls constricted around him. Sweat beaded on his forehead and rolled down the sides of his face, the salty droplets splattering against Naruto's chest and neck. The sight was almost too erotic; the image of Naruto writhing to get closer underneath him, moaning for more burned into his retinas and Kakashi lost it.

Kakashi jerked Naruto's cock once, a slow pull with his hand as his cock hit Naruto's prostate one, final time and the blond lost it. Thick spurts of cum coated Kakashi's hand and the blond's stomach as he came, thrashing and quivering beneath the Copy-nin, the onslaught of pleasure undulating through him so great he couldn't utter one, single sound to voice it.

The silent undoing and the trembling walls clamping down around his dick was the last straw for Kakashi. Head thrown back and back arched, he thrust one, two times more and emptied his load inside the blond. A deep, guttural groan ripped from his chest as he was pushed over the edge and into an abyss of bliss.

Kakashi collapsed atop of Naruto, their chests heaving as they tried to regain their breath. Shaking hands came up from their hold around Kakashi's shoulders to tangle in the soft hair at his nape, nimble fingers gently carding through the strands. Kakashi gave a sigh of deep satisfaction and relaxed further, his body almost melting and he hummed contently.

Naruto chuckled a little breathlessly under him, feeling so very relaxed and drained at the same time that he could've remained in the floor for the rest of the day.

"…Wow…" he said eventually when he felt like he'd regained his senses. Kakashi didn't move, but the blond knew that the older man was smiling.

"I couldn't have said it better myself." Silence ruled between the two lovers, a comfortable quietness that was filled with so many possibilities they had no idea what to voice first.

"So… what happens next?" Naruto asked after a while, beginning to feel a little cold and his body was starting to ache from lying on the hard floor.

"I don't know about you, but I could use a shower." Kakashi's reply didn't sound as flippant as he felt. He finally had enough strength to raise his head from where it'd been resting on Naruto's chest, and he locked eyes with the blond. A small glimmer of uncertainty had entered the blue orbs, a feeling Kakashi could understand but not relate to. He knew that Naruto was very much inexperienced in all that was love and lust, but he wanted the blond to trust him more. He wouldn't throw him away or abandon him, not when he finally had him.

"…Oh. Well I can just… make breakfast or something while you do that?"

You're so adorably dense sometimes, Naruto.

Deciding to wipe the slightly guarded look off Naruto's face, Kakashi leaned up to press a soft kiss against pouting lips.

"I didn't say I wanted to take it alone", he murmured, a smirk curving his mouth when Naruto tensed under him, only to relax into the kiss a moment later. Kakashi got up from the blond, not missing the small wince of pain when his soft dick slipped out of Naruto's swollen asshole.

"Come on, darling, no use in dawdling around on the floor all day", he drawled as he helped the jinchüriki to his feet. Naruto blushed when he felt something wet leak out of his ass and trickle down the back of his legs. He ignored Kakashi's leering smile and punched his shoulder instead.

"Call me darling again and I'll rearrange your face for you", the blond muttered and limped towards the bathroom, followed closely by a snickering Kakashi.

"I don't wanna go out for food! Can't we just stay in and make something ourselves?" Kakashi ignored the blond's whining and took a hold of his arm when said blond tried to turn around and go back to their apartment.

"Nope. I suddenly have this insane craving for ramen and you're just gonna have to come with me."

"But why? I don't want any ramen, you can go and eat by yourself!" Kakashi glanced at the blond, trying to ignore when the sight of the cute pout stirred the heat already simmering in his abdomen a little more.

"I'm in dire need of protection", he offered solemnly, smirking under his mask at the incredulous look Naruto gave him.

"Protection? Protection from what?" The smirk grew wider.

"You see, on my last mission I stumbled over a pack of hyenas with the intentions to eat me. Long story short I managed to escape their evil clutches but now they're after me, hence the need for protection. You never know when they'll find me."

"Fuck you. I'm going home", Naruto deadpanned and yanked his arm from Kakashi's hand, turning on his heel to walk back.

"But the hyenas, Naruto! Think about the hyenas!" The blond stopped and sighed deeply as he pinched the bridge of his nose, before turning back to face his lying lover.

"Why are you so adamant to drag me out? I just… I don't really feel like…" His words trailed off and he looked away, feeling far too uncomfortable with saying the rest of the words on his tongue. Kakashi turned serious, his one visible eye compassionate as he put a hand on the jinchüriki's shoulder.

"I just want to eat dinner with you at Ichiraku's. I know you don't want to have people staring and whispering behind your back whenever you go out, but that's just the way things are right now. I'm with you, I'm by your side every step of the way, so don't let them get to you okay?" Naruto looked up at him, his eyes holding sad and begrudgingly affectionate sparks.

"You're just too much of a smooth talker for your own good, you know that right?" Knowing he'd won and that Naruto would come with him, Kakashi smiled. His eye turned into a happy crescent as they resumed their walk.

"Ah, but it's a good trait. If it wasn't for my ability to talk myself out of bad situations the hyenas would've-"

"Shut up about god damned hyenas already!" Kakashi was about to open his mouth to offer a reply, when a voice cut in and interrupted him.

"Kakashi-sensei!" Both men stopped in their tracks, the blond scowling and the silver-haired man muttering,

"Speaking of scavengers…" Naruto snorted before they turned around, waiting as Sakura and Sasuke walked up to them.

"Sensei! When did you get back? Tsunade-sama said you'd be out on a mission for another three days." Sakura smiled at Kakashi, not even noticing the blond standing a step behind him. Kakashi frowned, feeling more than a little put out by her question, and the blatant disregard of Naruto made his answer a little more curt than usual.

"I came back yesterday. And since when do you go and ask Tsunade-sama about my whereabouts?" Sakura didn't even bat an eyelash, she just smiled wider.

"We wanted to ask you if you would train with us", she just said, glancing to Sasuke as her smile took on a sickening sweet quality. The Uchiha heir was as stoic as usual, standing one step behind Sakura with his normal, blank face. Kakashi eyed the duo and then glanced at Naruto. He looked as blank as Sasuke, empty of even a sliver of emotion. Kakashi didn't like it one bit. Deciding to end the meeting quickly, he was about to retort when Sakura finally took notice of his companion.

"Naruto?" "Where have you been? I haven't seen you for weeks." Resisting the urge to roll with his eyes, the blond took a step forward till he was standing shoulder to shoulder with Kakashi. He had no desire to stand around making idle chitchat but knew there would be hell to pay, should he choose to ignore his former teammate.

Thus he slapped his mask on, a wide and almost glaringly false grin splitting his mouth. A tan hand came up to rub at the back of his head, and he almost puked when he forced his vocal cords into submission and chuckled a little sheepishly.

"Heh, sorry about that. I've been busy with missions", he explained, his eyes growing darker with agitation when Sasuke snorted. It seemed like Sasuke had decided to join the conversation and Kakashi tensed up. He knew how the raven could push Naruto's buttons like nobody else and was prepared for the inevitable explosion.

"You mean busy baby-sitting and dog-walking, dobe?"

"Sasuke…" Kakashi reprimanded, seeing as the blond was starting to get pissed off by Sasuke's mere presence. Sasuke, being who he is and all, ignored the warning in his former teacher's voice.

"You can't really dance around the fact that it's what you fill your days with, right? That or stuffing your face with ramen when you're not sprouting your usual Hokage-bullshit."

"Sasuke, that's enough", Kakashi barked, growing slightly alarmed by the lack of immediate reaction from Naruto. The blond's head was bowed by his body was trembling ever so slightly, clearly broadcasting how he was struggling to contain his anger and not lash out. It turned out that it was the day when Naruto's restraints proved too weak.

"Why?" The Uchiha directed his condescending glare to Kakashi, pinning him with black, bottomless eyes. "Once a dead-last always a dead-last, you should know right? Even your meager training couldn't help the dobe, after all." Before Kakashi could respond a shout interrupted him.

"Shut up, shut up SHUT UP!" Sasuke raised his arms in the last second, blocking the punch Naruto threw at him or he would've been left with a broken nose. The momentum behind the blond's slug instead managed to throw the Uchiha back into a wall, the back of his head hitting the bricks with a resounding crack.

"Sasuke!" Sakura cried as the raven slid to the ground, slumping down on his knees with ears ringing from the impact. As the girl rushed forward to her wounded infatuation, Kakashi held Naruto back when the blond snarled and tried to go after his tormentor.

"Naruto, stop!" The Copy-nin urged, trying to think fast when he saw the jinchüriki's eyes flash red. "He's not worth it!" Naruto wasn't listening, completely consumed by rage as he stared at Sasuke with the most venomous glare the Uchiha had ever encountered.

"Don't you dare say that about Kakashi, you son of a bitch! He's a great teacher and a great shinobi, better and stronger than you could ever hope to be!" Naruto struggled against Kakashi's hold, trashed but was unable to break free. He could ignore any taunts against himself but would never, ever accept anyone slander Kakashi as long as he was alive.

Sasuke tried to regain equilibrium, feeling lightheaded after being knocked into a wall. He'd never known Naruto could be so strong when he wanted, had never expected the blond to explode like that just because he'd said Kakashi's teachings had been meager. He stared at the blond, a sense of dread pooling in his stomach the longer he met that intense, crimson stare.

"If I ever hear you talking about him like that again… I'll kill you", Naruto said solemnly, his timbre low and serious, making the promise behind the words all the more potent. Eyes flickering back to blue, Naruto turned his head to meet Kakashi's worried gaze.

"I've lost my appetite, I'll go home first." The Copy-nin nodded and released his lover without a word, watching as Naruto headed back towards their apartment. Sakura closed her mouth as she'd been gaping the whole time, and frowned at Naruto's retreating back as she knelt at Sasuke's side, steadying him when he wobbled.

"Are you just gonna let him walk away like that? He just attacked a comrade!" Her outrage didn't faze Kakashi. As Naruto rounded a corner and disappeared from view, the Copy-nin walked to the pair on the ground and crouched down in front of them.

"Shut up Sakura, and grow the hell up", he cheerfully told his pink-haired student, grinning when her jaw dropped.

"Sasuke… I can't really say that I didn't warn you." The raven's eyes flashed for a second at the light scolding in the older man's voice. "But I can say that you didn't get more than you deserved."

"Wha-" Silenced when Kakashi suddenly raised a hand, Sasuke was forced to remain quiet.

"I wasn't finished", the Copy-nin gently chastised. "Naruto is an amazing person, strong, reliable and fiercely loyal. He possesses all the best qualities any shinobi would be proud of, but that's not what makes him so much stronger than you." Kakashi smiled when he saw anger flood Sasuke's eyes, but carried on before he could be interrupted.

"His forbearing heart. That's what makes him able to bear the burden of being a jinchüriki, that's why he can stand all the emotional abuse, take all the anger and why he can still care. Because Naruto cares about all of us despite what we've done to him. Think of that the next time you mock him for a fate he's done nothing to deserve."

Standing and leaving the rebuked pair behind, Kakashi didn't even spare them a glance as he walked away. His heart swelled with pride for his lover, he couldn't stand not to touch him for another second. Just as Kakashi was about to make the proper signs to teleport home, his stomach rumbled and reminded him why they'd gone out in the first place, beating his stirring erection into submission. Lowering his hands and looking down at his abdomen, Kakashi sighed.

"All right. I'll pick up something to eat, then we can go home and molest him", the Copy-nin said, placating both his stomach and libido in once stroke. Now, if he could only help with Naruto's situation a little, give it a nudge in the right direction… This were the thoughts the Copy-nin entertained himself with as he ambled towards the closest convenience store, whistling all the while.

"You don't happen to be able to enlighten me on this mystery?" Kakashi cocked his head to the side and gave the Fifth Hokage a puzzled look. He was standing before her desk; his back slouched and hands casually tucked in his pockets.

"I'll try my best, Hokage-sama. I've always been fond of riddles and puzzles."

"Then read this and tell me what you think." Tsunade tossed the scroll in her hand to Kakashi, who caught it and did as ordered. Oppressed silence ruled the office, grating on Kakashi's nerves. He'd never show it, of course, but it was annoying all the same.

"I don't see the issue here, Hokage-sama", the Copy-nin addressed his supreme commander when he was done. "It looks nothing like a mystery to me. To be honest I think it's kinda obvious what it means."

"Not really what I wanted to hear, Kakashi." Tsunade's scowl didn't intimidate the silver-haired jounin the least.

"Then I'm not really following, Hokage-sama."

"Considering the councils attitude against Naruto rising to any rank above genin, I just wondered if you had anything to do with the fact that they've changed their minds." It had been a shock for the whole village when Kakashi and Naruto came out as a couple three months ago, nobody really believing it until they'd seen it with their own eyes. They'd met encouragement, slandering, taunts and anger from then on, but as neither of them really gave a hoot about what people thought, they happily carried on. Neither had ever been happier.

"I have no idea what you put in your sake today, but I assure you that I had nothing to do with it", Kakashi assured Tsunade, gazing out the window behind her with bored eyes.

"Don't fuck with me brat!" Tsunade roared as her temper erupted. She rose and violently slammed her palms against the desk, making the wood crack in the process.

"That's the third this week", Shizune muttered behind Kakashi, flinching when Tsunade leveled her with a glare worthy of any Uchiha.

"For the past three weeks someone has been doing nightly raids into every council member's bedroom. This unknown shinobi has then proceeded to threaten them with bodily harm and other unpleasant details I won't bore you with, unless they change their minds about Naruto. Then this damn shadow has disappeared into the night to never show up again. Make no mistake, they're scared shitless and I couldn't be happier for Naruto but…" Tsunade bowed her head, her bangs shadowing her eyes as she looked down on the piles of paper on the cracked desk. "But this is not how we operate in the hidden village of Leaf. We do not go around and promise to maim people under our protection, however justified it may be." She took a quick pause, breathing heavily through her nose.

"Do you see where this is going, Kakashi? You are the one closest to Naruto, the only one in this village fucking stealthy enough to pull it off. Naturally you're the first – and only to be honest - on my list of suspects", Tsunade growled and raised her head again, staring at Kakashi with hard, brown eyes. Her right eyebrow twitched when she was met with the sight of Kakashi's face obscured by a worn, orange paperback. A single eye became visible over the edge of the book, twinkling innocently at her.

"Oh, excuse me. Did you say something?"

The whole village heard the scream coming from the Hokage tower, and saw a dark figure hastily leave through the shattered window, broken from the desk the Hokage had thrown after the Copy-nin in his escape.

Kakashi was still laughing to himself as he entered through the window of his and Naruto's apartment, finding his lover on the couch. Naruto was sitting on the edge, his elbows resting on his kneed and his chin cradled in his palms. He was staring at an open scroll lying quite harmlessly on the coffee table, with a bemused expression on his face.

"Darling, I'm home", Kakashi greeted as he sat down beside the jinchüriki who – instead of shouting at him to stop with the 'darling' crap – just turned his head, giving him a calculating look. When the silence grew just a tad uncomfortable Kakashi couldn't help but fidget a bit under that steady, azure gaze. He smiled a little as he pulled his mask down, he didn't need it in order to keep a poker face.

"What? Bad news?" he reached for the scroll and scanned the contents, his smile widening. "Good news, it seems."

"What did you do?" It came out sounding more like a statement than a question. Naruto nodded at the parchment in the Copy-nin's hand, the one declaring that he was now allowed to enter the Chunin-exam, the Jounin-exam and even try out for ANBU if he felt like it. Kakashi's smile vanished and he frowned. Was he that transparent or did he have some sign over his head saying: HATAKE KAKASHI DID IT!

Of course it was true, but that didn't mean he would say out loud and admit it. It had been the only way to get the council to see reason, to understand what a waste it was for Naruto to wither away as a genin for the rest of his days. It wasn't anything personal and… Okay, that was a lie. It had everything to do with the fact that Kakashi loved the blond and would do anything to help him. Even if it meant to seek out the council members, one at a time, and threaten with maiming and bodily harm if they couldn't reevaluate their decision and see reason. Of course they hadn't caught him. He wasn't the best assassin in ANBU for nothing, after all.

"I have no idea what you're talking about", Kakashi told Naruto, missing the smirk curving the blond's mouth when he looked away. He didn't miss the arms snaking around his waist, or the puff of warm air breathed in his ear. Heat stirred in his gut, a surging of desire slowly starting to shoot tendrils of warmth through him.

"Whatever you did… thank you."

Kakashi smiled as he turned his head, lips meeting lips in a sweet kiss that left them both at loss for air. It developed into something more passionate, and soon enough the two lovers were engrossed with each other. The world was forgotten as they melded together in a fervent embrace, hearts connecting as their bodies joined in the ultimate show of their love for each other.

They were at peace, at long last their nightmares were chased away by the light their love had infused in the other. And in the night, when loneliness made itself reminded in their minds and dreams, all they had to do was reach out and the other would be there. Ready to shoulder the other's burden, always there to show they were not alone. Not anymore and never again.

The End.

A/N: Please leave a comment and tell me what you thought, it would be really appreciated! And I love all of the ones who's commented on the first version, you're all the best ^^