Chapter 16

Genma landed on the rooftop next to Kakashi just as the sun started to peek over the top of the horizon. The two nin slid over the edge and dropped soundlessly onto the ground below. As they made their way around to the front of the house, Genma chewed at the inside of his lip.

"You think he'll be okay?" His voice was hushed, barely above a whisper. "I feel bad just leaving him there like that."

Kakashi looked at him over his shoulder and nodded. "Shikamaru's in good hands. Chouji's been his best friend since before they were in academy. If anyone knows what to do, it's him."

Genma nodded. "I know, but…"

He almost ran into Kakashi's back as the Copy Nin stopped. Kakashi turned around and slipped his hands into his pockets. His posture was easy and relaxed, but Genma could see that his one visible eye was guarded.

"Do you want to go back?" Kakashi asked quietly.

Genma froze, holding Kakashi's gaze evenly. This was a tricky situation. He cared for Shikamaru deeply, and he wanted to make sure his friend was all right. But this was Kakashi. Kakashi was home, he was safe. He was alive and well and wanted to spend his first morning back alone with Genma. It was unbelievable. It was exactly what Genma wanted.

It was also incredibly stupid. Genma was so head over heels for Kakashi it was slowly killing him.

Genma knew that it would be all too easy to slip into this fantasy that Kakashi was in love with him and the Copy Nin was jealous of the attention Genma was giving Shikamaru. Or maybe that he was envious of the time Genma had spent alone with the young Nara while he was away. Genma knew he needed to be careful, guard his feelings, and not come across as too eager. If Kakashi found out how Genma truly felt about him, he would either break off the relationship they had now altogether, or worse, continue on like nothing was different out of pity. Genma couldn't think of anything worse than being with Kakashi only because Kakashi felt sorry for him.

He knew he should really step away and create some space between the two of them, but looking at the younger man now, seeing his lonely eye watching him, waiting, Genma couldn't make himself do it. And who would be able to, really? Did anyone in the universe have that kind of willpower? Doubtful. Besides, Kakashi was just back from a terrible mission. He might be functioning again, but that didn't mean he was back to normal, or that he was all right. Genma knew Kakashi still needed someone and the special jounin was more than pleased to know that at this moment, he was that someone.

"No, I don't want to go back," Genma whispered. His voice was steady and sure. "I promised you a bath and a fuck and I intend to deliver."

Kakashi's demeanor changed almost instantly. His eye brightened and he reached out his gloved hand to take Genma's.


Genma let himself be pulled onto the porch and he waited with a small smile tugging at his lips as Kakashi unlocked the door to the charming, two story traditional. When the Copy Nin slipped inside, he turned and reached for Genma's hand. The special jounin took it without a second though and stepped over the threshold.

The interior of the house was minimalistic but beautifully designed. Warm colors accented furniture and gave the space a welcoming atmosphere. As Genma toed off his sandals and moved through the genkan, he couldn't stop his eyes from wandering over the few simple kakemonos hanging from the walls and various ikebana that dotted the otherwise undecorated space.

"Don't start to think I'm all artsy or anything," Kakashi whispered. "It's all Sasuke. He does those with Ino and Hinata every couple of weeks. It's like his therapy or something."

"They're beautiful," Genma breathed.

"Yes they are."

Kakashi led Genma down a hallway and motioned with a finger over his lips as they came to a staircase. Genma followed silently and stifled a laugh as he was shown into what he figured was Kakashi's room.

"Why are we being so quiet?" he asked.

Kakashi smiled as he rummaged around for clean clothes. "A little bird told me that the Hokage has today off. If he's here, I don't want to wake him up on the only day he gets to sleep in."

Genma returned the smile. "Aw, you're so sweet."

Kakashi shrugged. "I don't know how long we're gonna be able to stay quiet though." He turned and flashed a grin in Genma's direction. His unmasked face was haggard but nothing less than stunning in the fresh, morning light.

Genma's heart fluttered. That damn smile really made him weak in the knees, but he had absolutely no intention of giving Kakashi the upper hand with only a pull of lips and a quick flash of teeth. Moving through the room towards the bathroom, Genma pulled at his flack vest. "Oh, I don't know. I have a few ideas on how to keep your mouth occupied."

Watching Genma glide across his bedroom, Kakashi said nothing. His grin slipped away as his mind and his body took on a more serious stance. His eyes followed the special jounin as he shed the flack vest and pulled the uniform top over his head. The leg wraps came off easily, but Genma took his time sliding his pants down over his hips. Kakashi figured the older man had picked up on the fact that Kakashi loved his back, because he was milking the view for all it was worth. Genma let the pants drop to the floor and stood naked, running his hands through his hair, pulling the dirty-blond locks into a bun and securing it with a band from his wrist.

When Genma looked back at him, Kakashi felt less like the waggish predator, and more like a desperate teenager. His entire body was tense, coiled like a spring. He had given Genma the lead once again and he was ready and waiting for the older man to tell him what to do. It wasn't surprising after the night they had just spent together. Kakashi felt better in many ways, but there was still a part of him that was suffering, still pieces of him that were aching.

The tokujō held out his hand and after only a moment's hesitation, Kakashi took it.

The bathtub was huge. It could have easily fit five people with room to spare. Kakashi began filling the tub while Genma warmed the water for the shower. When the Copy Nin joined him under the spray, Genma welcomed him with a kiss. They ran their hands over each other slowly, reacquainting themselves with each other's bodies. It had been only hours since they had last been together, but that particular coupling had been raw and desperate. There had been no time to appreciate simple things like the pulse beneath Kakashi's jaw, or the way Genma's nipples tightened into pebbles when Kakashi pinched them.

When they finished washing, Genma turned off the water and led Kakashi to the tub. Lowering himself in, he turned and beckoned for the younger man to follow. He sat with his back against the wall and the water up to his collar. As Kakashi slipped in after him, he watched Genma's hands run slowly over his chest and stomach. His eyes flashed as they trained on Kakashi, waiting for what he was going to do next. The Copy Nin shivered and moved to kneel between Genma's legs, his hands moving to the edge of the tub. As he hovered over Genma's body, Kakashi realized for the hundredth time that this man was everything he had ever wanted, everything he had ever dreamed about.

Genma felt dizzy. Above him, with cheeks flushed, hair damp and heavy, and breath labored, Kakashi looked down into Genma's face with a want so obvious it might as well have been carved into the lines of his face. The Copy Nin came close and pressed his lips to Genma's, slid his tongue into Genma's waiting mouth. The kiss was not like the ones they had shared the night before, no, this kiss was tender and slow, lips and tongues moving gently against each other. Genma brought his fingers to Kakashi's cheeks and ran them down and over the rough stubble on Kakashi's jaw.

Maybe he was crazy, but Genma could swear that there was something different in Kakashi's touch. Not just different from last night, but from all the other times they had been together. Usually there was an underlying playfulness in the way the Copy Nin held him, even during the most intense moments. But tonight the touch Kakashi used as he moved against Genma in the tub was one of reverence, of complete and utter seriousness. There was no playfulness, no humor, just a feeling of intensity so potent that the air seemed to sizzle around them. The water their bodies soaked in was cold compared to the heat of their flesh as passion mounted achingly slow. Genma soon lost his breath as Kakashi's hands explored him, touched every part of him.

Kakashi felt dizzy. There was something about Genma that was different. Genma had never held Kakashi like this before. He had never clung so desperately. Kakashi knew he was stupid. He knew it was his imagination, his desperate want for Genma to love him making the touch seem more significant than it actually was, but it made no difference. Kakashi was lost. He shuddered helplessly as Genma's tongue slid up his neck, as the special jounin's hands trailed up his thighs. His eyes squeezed shut as calloused hands palmed his cock, wrapped around his length and stroked him slowly, precisely.

When Genma pushed against him, he rolled back to sit on his heels. Waiting with a desperation powerful enough to make him crazy, Kakashi watched as Genma turned around and placed his hands on the rim of the tub, right where Kakashi's had been. His back arched deliciously and then he twisted to look at Kakashi over his shoulder. His eyes were dark, full of heat. The special jounin beckoned him with a jerk of his head, a flick of his tongue over his lips.

Kakashi did not hesitate.

He wrapped himself around Genma's body. He slid his hands over toned abs, dipped his fingers down into the valleys between Genma's strong thighs. He crushed his erection between the special jounin's lower back and his own stomach. He groaned as his length slid between smooth skin and muscle, the warm water giving the sensation a new and entirely different feel.

Genma pushed back, pressed his body so tightly against Kakashi's that the Copy Nin started to forget what parts were Genma's and what parts were his own.

"Come on…" Genma whispered into his ear. He felt the tokubetsu's hand pulling at his hair.

"Do it. Fuck me right now, like this."

Kakashi felt that if he were to die at that moment, it would be all right. It wasn't an "I love you", but it was as close as he was ever going to get. His hands shook as he reached up and took Genma's chin in his palm. He kissed the older man hungrily before taking his length and pressing forward into Genma's body. It was warm and tight, and only the smallest amount of resistance slowed him before Genma sighed and relaxed fully. Kakashi gasped as he was engulfed, as his body met the perfect line of Genma's back. He took a moment to breath and then leaned down to kiss up that beautiful scarred skin. Genma moaned in response and slid his hand back to Kakashi's hair.

They were moving before either of them was really ready. It didn't matter however, all the two men cared about was giving whatever they had, taking whatever the other was willing to give. They rocked against each other, writhed together as one, lost themselves in the water and heat and desire so deep it was as if they were being swallowed whole.

Climax was not a word that could describe what Genma felt as stars danced across his vision. His own hand pumped his length, but even that seemed to be out of his control. His entire body seemed to suddenly belong to someone else and he was just along for the ride. Pleasure clouded his senses, tension uncoiled and released from within him in such a powerful wave that he momentarily lost his mind. When he came back to himself, Kakashi was wrapped tightly around him, growling into his neck as his cock pulsed deep inside him. They hung that way for a long time, neither one of them able to speak, to move, to do anything but try and catch their breaths.

Finally, Kakashi's lips grazed his shoulder and his hoarse voice whispered into Genma's ear.

"Did I hurt you?"

Genma made a noise that was half chuckle and half whimper, "No."

Another long stretch of minutes passed as the two stayed tangled together, just breathing, coming down, coming back to reality.

"Let me up?" Genma asked.

Kakashi lifted himself off of the older man's body and watched as Genma slowly straightened and turned around to face him. The Copy Nin's mind was already a little frazzled, but Genma threw him for an even greater loop when he moved forward and climbed up into his lap. One powerful thigh came around each of Kakashi's hips and the silver-haired nin had to sit back fully on his ass.

"Are you okay?" Genma asked, wrapping his arms around Kakashi's neck.

Kakashi tilted his head up, kissing Genma softly on the mouth. The move felt natural, easy.

"Yeah, I'll be okay."

Genma nodded once before he kissed Kakashi's temple and embraced him gently, his hand sliding through the younger man's hair like a child's.

Kakashi was stunned. Never before had someone comforted him with something as simple as a hug, and he was exceptionally happy with this unexpected turn of delicate intimacy. He slid his hands around Genma's waist and rested his brow in the curve of the special jounin's throat. Affection was not something he had ever seen himself lacking, but in that moment as Genma held him so lovingly, Kakashi realized that there was quite possibly a world of sensations that he had been missing. An entirely new realm of emotions and feelings that he had never before experienced because the people he had been with, and even loved on occasion, had never truly loved him back.

Startled at his own conclusions, Kakashi pulled back suddenly.

"Hey, Gen?" he asked.


He looked up into Genma's face, searching. "Gen, I uh…"

Was it possible that Genma loved him? Just a little?

"I was just… wondering?"

I love you. Can't you see?

Genma smiled and he rested his forehead against Kakashi's. "Wondering what?"

I love you and I wish with everything that I am that you love me too.

The moment stretched too long, and Kakashi realized it had passed.

"It's not really that important. Do you want to get out? The water's kind of nasty now."

Genma laughed and kissed him and Kakashi's heart felt as if it were going to break. When had he become such a coward?

They left the tub, drained the water, and washed once again. This time they laughed and play fought and spit water at each other. The tension was gone and the horror of the mission was forgotten, at least for now. They were back to that easy friendship they kept finding themselves returning to. It was natural and comfortable for them both and so they ran with it. They didn't question it.

"I'm hungry," Genma said as he snapped Kakashi's thigh with the corner of his towel.

Kakashi yelped at the sting on his flesh and moved into the bedroom, "Me too. What are you making me?" He grinned at the special jounin as he plucked the clean clothes he had collected earlier from the bed.

"I don't know," Genma made a face. "What do you have?"

Across town, Akimichi Chouji dragged Nara Shikamaru through the door to his bedroom and dropped him on his bed. The young Nara let out a long sigh and let his body fall sideways onto his pillows.

"Woa, wait, your flack vest," Chouji said. "And take off your shoes."

Shikamaru reluctantly sat back up and toed at the heel of his sandal. He got frustrated after a few seconds however, and pulled his leg up to grab the sandal with his hands. He tossed the offending piece of uniform across the room and cringed at the loud thud it made when it hit the wall.

"You know you didn't have to c—"

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Chouji muttered as he closed the curtains. "Shut up and go to sleep already."

Shikamaru smiled and fluffed his pillow. He was exhausted. He couldn't remember when he had slept last. Had he taken that nap on his desk the day before? Or had that been two days ago? He realized as he rubbed at his eyes that he had no idea what day it was, what time, or even how he had gotten home.

"Flack vest," Chouji said again.

Shikamaru pouted. "You do it."

Chouji grumbled under his breath but Shikamaru could tell he was holding back a smile.

"You're such a child."

"Am not."

"I'm gonna punch you," Chouji chuckled as he opened Shikamaru's vest and pulled it from his shoulders. He then took the gear to the footlocker at the end of the bed and disposed of it. Usually a shinobi's footlocker was extremely personal space and was not shared with anyone, but Shikamaru trusted Chouji. After all, Chouji knew this bedroom like he knew his own.

"Now sleep for God's sake," Chouji muttered as he made his way toward the door. "You look like a zombie."

Shikamaru chuckled without any real humor and stared at the floor. It was true he was beyond tired but the last thing in the world he wanted to do at that moment was sleep.

The door closed, but Chouji did not leave. He grabbed the chair from the desk and plopped down a few feet from where Shikamaru sat. He rested his elbows on his knees and slipped a lollypop into his mouth.

"If you're not gonna sleep, then tell me what happened." Chouji said.

Shikamaru felt his cheeks heating. The story was humiliating. He knew Chouji would do what he always did and just listen—exactly what Shikamaru needed at the moment—but knowing that didn't make telling him everything any easier, or less mortifying.

Taking a breath, Shikamaru spoke so softly it was barely a whisper, "I broke it off."

Chouji said nothing. He merely swished the lollypop stick from one side of his mouth to the other. The movement reminded Shikamaru of Genma, but he quickly pushed that thought out of his head. He did not need to be thinking about Genma now too on top of everything else.

"I told him I didn't want to see him outside of work, and if he wanted to fuck he needed to find somebody else."

Chouji nodded. "You mean that?"

Shikamaru suddenly felt nauseous. The gravity of what he had said before in his office had not escaped him, but it wasn't until he said it again aloud that it finally sunk in. He had told Neji to leave, that he never wanted to see him again. It was finally over, this toxic thing they had between them. He didn't have to wait alone in his room at night for someone who might not be coming. He wouldn't have to plan secret meets and complicated meeting places at strange hours. He wouldn't have to go behind friends and family's backs anymore. He would never again have to feel ashamed for letting someone manipulate him so profoundly.

But that also meant that he would never again feel Neji's soft skin under his hands. He would never again feel the press of Neji's lips on his own, or the fascinating texture of Neji's tongue on his throat. He would never hold Neji again, lay with him, come with him.

He would never laugh with Neji again, or cry, or just be with him ever again.

"Shikamaru," Chouji's voice pulled Shikamaru from his thoughts. His chest was tight. His hands trembled. He stared at the floor, too frightened of what he might do if he looked up and met Chouji's sympathetic eyes.

"Shikamaru, seriously, are you going to be okay?"

"It fucking hurts to breathe." Shikamaru felt like he would cry, but there were no more tears to be shed. "He said I didn't matter. I thought he'd come to me for help, but he was just there to use my stuff. He doesn't care what I think or how I feel or anything because I—I don't matter."

Chouji shifted, bringing himself closer. He spoke in a hushed voice as if they were speaking where someone could hear.

"You already know what I think, so I'm not gonna say it."

Shikamaru nodded and the two of them sat quietly for a few minutes. Over the years long silences between the two friends had become commonplace and not the least bit awkward. If the measure of a friend was how long two people could sit comfortably together without talking, then there was no one in the world that was better friends than Chouji and Shikamaru.

When Chouji finally spoke again, it was in the same quiet, conspiring voice as before. "You really need to sleep."

"I don't want to sleep."

"Why not?" Chouji asked.

Shikamaru could feel that same mortification seeping in again but he pushed the words past his lips. It was Chouji after all.

"You know that moment, that four or five seconds of time when you first wake up and you're just lying there? You're still climbing out of your dream and everything is just… okay?"

Chouji nodded slowly, confusion etched into his face.

"I can't… I can't deal with that," Shikamaru whispered. "I can't wake up to that again because when it all comes back and I remember everything that's going on and how stupid I am…"

Shikamaru trailed off. He had been about to say how he just didn't want to wake up any more, but if it sounded that melodramatic in his head he knew it would sound worse if he said it aloud. Instead, he closed his mouth and just let the unspoken things sit in the air between him and his best friend. He sat and tried not to think about Neji or Genma or missions or the fact that he was so tired his brain could only coherently follow a half a dozen thoughts at once.

Finally, Chouji spoke. "Well, you're not stupid. You might be a little dull around the edges right now, but that's because you haven't slept in like ten years."

Shikamaru actually laughed. It was such a Chouji thing to say, obvious and to the point. When his best friend stood and pushed Shikamaru back onto the pillows, Shikamaru didn't fight it.

"All right, sleep time."

Shikamaru rolled to his side and curled up on the pillow. His body physically ached from many things besides fatigue and his heart hurt with every beat, but watching his friend as he replaced the chair at the desk and moved to the door, Shikamaru remembered that he was not alone. Far from it in fact.

"I'll hang out here with your mom for a bit, just in case," Chouji said.

The Akimichi's worries were baseless, however. When he turned back he found Shikamaru had already fallen asleep. Finally the crease in his brow had smoothed and the tension in his body was slowly ebbing away.

Chouji smiled softly and he slipped out of the bedroom and into the hallway.

Genma rinsed and tossed a mixture of blackberries and raspberries in Kakashi's metal colander. After setting it aside he measured flower, eggs, and salt into a bowl and whisked them together.

"I need the milk," he said.

Kakashi retrieved the milk from the fridge and handed it to Genma before snickering, "I can't believe you're making them. They're such a pain."

Genma smiled. "Copy Ninja Kakashi, master of a thousand jutsu, can't make a crepe?"

"It's not that I can't," Kakashi pouted.

Genma shook his head as he added salt to the mix and moved to turn down the heat on the burner. "Well, I'll make them whenever you want them."

Oh, nice one. Why don't you just ask if you can move in?

"Do you make omelet rice too?" Kakashi asked.

"Don't tell me you can't make omelet rice."

"Oh, no I can make omelet rice, I was just wondering if you did."

Genma smile widened as he grabbed the mixing bowl and returned to the stove, "Of course."

"Okay," Kakashi chuckled behind him, "I'll keep you around."

Genma put oil in the pan and checked the temperature, but not before throwing a look over his shoulder. "Fine, but for future reference I don't usually like to have sex first thing in the morning. Today was special."

What? Why did you say that!

"Too bad," Kakashi chuckled behind him.

There was a long silence as Genma poured the batter into the pan and tilted it in a circular motion to spread the mixture thin. The special jounin's anxiety grew as his last words rang in his ears. So stupid! Hopefully Kakashi just took it as a joke. Just another teasing comment to add to their "let's joke about getting married because it's so absurd" routine. By the time the crepe was ready to flip, Genma's heart and lungs were so knotted up he could barely breathe. He tied to push words past his lips, anything that would ease the tension, but then he was startled as strong hands came around his waist. His heart fluttered as Kakashi's unmasked face rested against his neck. The warmth of the Copy Nin's body as it pressed against his back was welcome and managed to slowly sooth his racing heart.

"This is nice," Kakashi whispered.

Genma let out a long breath. Focus. He tried to keep his voice steady as he replied, "Yeah, it is."

Kakashi's arms tightened around him. Genma lifted his hands to Kakashi's and ran his thumb over the Copy Nin's scarred skin. When Kakashi's lips ghosted across Genma's ear, the special jounin almost moaned.

"Thank you," Kakashi whispered. "Thank you for staying with me."

Genma stood still, willing himself not to tremble, not to do anything that would give away his distress. His heart hurt so much. There was no way he was going to be able to do this. He loved Kakashi so much it was tearing him apart. What was he supposed to do? How was he going to bare it?

Instead of answering, Genma tilted his head back and kissed Kakashi on the jaw. "You're making this hard."

Kakashi chuckled and pulled away slowly. He moved to stand beside Genma as the special jounin slid the first crepe out of the pan and added more batter.

"Can I try?" he asked.

"Sure." Genma relinquished the pan gratefully. Having Kakashi standing over him, watching his every move, was just not what he needed at the moment. Backing up, he leaned against the frame for the kitchen doorway. He felt his pockets but remembered his pack of cigarettes was still in the drawer in his office.

"Damn," Genma sighed.

"What's up?" Kakashi asked, flipping the crepe with ease.

Genma shook his head, "Nothing. I just left my cigarettes at the tower."

A soft voice spoke at Genma's side.

"I have some."

Startled, Genma turned to meet coal-black eyes and a pale, handsome face. Uchiha Sasuke stood not even a foot from him and he hadn't felt a goddamned thing, not even the whisper of a chakra signature. For just a moment, Genma believed the stories about how the last Uchiha survivor was, in fact, a ghost.

Feeling his mouth go dry, Genma stood frozen as Sasuke regarded him curiously. There was nothing about the Uchiha's demeanor that said he had malicious intent, but there was no getting around the fact that there was a terrifying air surrounding Sasuke all the time.

"When did you start smoking, Sasuke?" Kakashi asked over his shoulder.

Sasuke's eyes left Genma for just a moment while he spoke to Kakashi. "They're not mine. I was holding them for Inuzuka."

Genma marveled as he studied Sasuke, he hadn't had that many opportunities in the last few years. The boy had grown from an attractive teenager into a gorgeous young man. Dark hair, angular features, smooth unblemished skin, tall and lean, but muscular. He was like a painting, a perfect sculpture. A mixture of danger and beauty and—oh God he was nineteen like Shikamaru and Shikamaru was too damn young and that meant that Sasuke was too damn young to be thinking he was pretty Genma what are you doing?

"Uh…" Genma choked out, "that would be great, Sasuke-kun. After breakfast?"

Sasuke studied him for another moment before he nodded.

Genma remembered Sasuke's father, Fugaku, and how his eyes had penetrated right through you, just like Sasuke's were doing now. Genma shivered. It wasn't that he was frightened he was just feeling a little cautious. The boy—man—standing before him had caused a lot of trouble and set in motion a lot of events that had killed a lot of people. He was also capable of things that Genma couldn't even begin to imagine.

Kakashi's laugh broke Genma from his thoughts.

"I wish I had a camera so you guys could see yourselves right now."

Genma blinked. How long had he been standing there gawking like a moron?

"Go sit down, Sasuke," Kakashi grinned and motioned with the spatula. "We're having crepes."

Sasuke reluctantly pulled his gaze away from Genma and headed towards the bar stools. It was incredible to watch him move. He was just like Kakashi, all grace. No movement wasted, everything was fluid. When Sasuke sat, he watched Kakashi as the Copy Nin started filling the crepes with berries, but his eyes found Genma again after only a few moments.

Suddenly, there were hands on Genma's shoulders. The special jounin twisted his head around and this time he met with blue eyes and a mop of wild, blond hair.

"Be very careful," Naruto whispered. He threw an arm over Genma's shoulders and pointed to Sasuke.

"His vision's based on movement."

Genma pulled on his best aloof expression and scoffed. It wouldn't do to ruin his image more than he already had that morning. "Thank you for the warning, Hogake-sama."

Naruto chuckled and beamed a wide smile at the tokujō. "Shiranui-san, it's good to see you. How's it going?"

"Fine, sir," Genma replied.

Naruto chuckled again as he pulled the orange juice from the fridge and took two glasses as from the cupboard. "Fine? Sounded like it was a lot more than fine this morning."

Genma was sure he heard a snort from Kakashi's side of the kitchen but he ignored it. He folded his arms and leaned against the doorframe once again as years of practice kept his embarrassment off his face.

"I apologize if we woke you, sir."

Naruto waved his hands like there was something foul in the air. "Bluh, it's too early for 'sir' and 'Hokage'. I'm just 'Naruto' until eight thirty. Except on weekends, then I'm 'Naruto' until lunchtime, but that's only if Iruka doesn't catch me before—oh wow what are you making, Kakashi-sensei? It smells sooo good!"

"Keep your hands off."

"But I wanna—"


"Just a taste!"


Naruto made a face but didn't argue as he took two glasses of orange juice and went to sit at the table. As he slid into his seat, Genma watched with growing fascination as Sasuke followed and sat beside him. Naruto smiled at Sasuke and the two shared a few brief, whispered words. It was beautiful the way they interacted with each other. Back when two of them had been on Kakashi's team, before Sasuke had left the village, Genma had seen the two together once or twice out at the market or at the ramen stand. They had obviously been friends but Genma would have never guessed that there was more to their relationship then that. The whole thing brought up a lot of questions in the special jounin's mind. Was it something that had happened between them that had made Sasuke leave? What had happened when he had come back? How was their relationship now that Sasuke's emotions had been shut off? How did that even work?

"You okay?" Kakashi's voice was in his ear.

Genma turned and took the plate of steaming crepes from Kakashi's hands. The sugar and berry concoction smelled divine and the Copy Nin had prettied them up with a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

Holding the plate in a grip much tighter than it should have been Genma stared at the patterns of dusted sugar against the dark blue ceramic of the plate. He was suddenly unsure. He felt out of place. This was more than just a quick breakfast after a buddy fuck. This was an intimate setting of family and loved ones sharing the morning meal. Where did he fit into this? Did he even have the right to take part in it?

"Genma?" Kakashi paused in pulling down plates to look at him. "Gen? What's up?"

Genma forced his eyes to lift and meet Kakashi's. He shrugged his shoulders even though he felt as if a profound weight had just settled on them.

"I…" he said softly.

Kakashi set the plates on the counter and came closer. His eyes were full of concern. "What?"

Genma swallowed. "Is this okay? I mean it's family…"

Kakashi surprised him with a grin. He took the plate from Genma's hands and leaned in. He kissed the special jounin's lips right there where Sasuke and Naruto could see everything. Genma's first reaction was to pull away, but there was something in Kakashi's touch. That same feeling Genma had felt earlier in the shower and in the tub. That feeling kept him from shying away, from trying to hide in front if Kakashi's most important people. He knew somewhere deep down that if Kakashi kissed him with an audience, then Kakashi didn't care if people saw.

That thought was liberating and Genma felt lighter having realized it. It wasn't an "I love you" or anything so concrete, but it was good enough. At least for now. When Kakashi pulled away, Genma was smiling, genuinely. When the Copy Nin leaned forward again and whispered softly into Genma's ear, the special jounin couldn't help but turn into him and nuzzle his neck.

"You are my family," Kakashi murmured.

Genma's heart burst. Naruto teased them as they sat down, and Sasuke seemed to enjoy making Genma uncomfortable with his probing looks, but they welcomed him to their table and that was all Genma could possibly ask for.

And the breakfast was delicious.

When Shikamaru awoke, he lay quietly for a few moments drifting up and out of a dream filled with throwing stars and young genin's laughter. He rested against the pillows, one arm by his head and the other across his chest. He floated hazily on the edges of both reality and the dream world for a few moments, enjoying the sound of the wind sending the maple branches sliding gently across his window.

And then the dream world started to slip away. The events of yesterday started filling his mind, caving in his peaceful conscious. Thoughts of missions and work and exhaustion and Genma and Chouji bringing him home after…

Shikamaru squeezed his eyes shut. He could stop it if he tried. He could halt the rush of things he didn't want to think about. If he concentrated on work or strategy or something like that he could keep unwanted memories at bay. ANBU training schedule. Medical reports. Documents that needed filing. That strange painting on the wall that lead to section thirteen.

Wait, section thirteen.

Shikamaru's eyes snapped open. How the hell had he forgotten?

Throwing himself out of the bed, Shikamaru moved across the room and retrieved his satchel from the floor. He set the bag on his desk and yanked it open. Inside were an assortment of things like notebooks and kunai and empty water bottles, but what he wanted was the leather case that held various folders and files. Tossing the satchel on the bed, Shikamaru opened the leather case and took the top file from inside.

File number thirteen, eighty-one, fifty-one, zero, zero. S-Class.

The task of stealing this file had been surprisingly easy. A quick memorization of the access codes, a little shadow manipulation and the file was out the door and into Shikamaru's bag. The whole thing had taken less than fifteen minutes. He hadn't even been missed.

The whole thing had caused Shikamaru to rethink the security protocols in the entire Hokage tower, but that was a problem for another time.

Hands trembling, Shikamaru pulled out his desk chair and sat. He had no idea what he was supposed to be looking for, but Iruka had seemed quite intent on him getting this information and reading it. As he opened the file, Shikamaru was met with a picture of Sasuke and a breakdown of his medical records. He started reading, wanting to understand everything as thoroughly as possible.

Five pages in, he stopped. He went back and read over the paragraph again. And then once more. He couldn't believe what he was seeing, what this file was implying.

Shikamaru looked up. His mind was racing, branching out into a thousand different scenarios.

"Is this…" he murmured, "Is this right?"

Slapping the file closed, Shikamaru stuffed it back into the case. He quickly changed his clothes, brushed his teeth, and retied his hair. He grabbed his shoes and satchel and ran out the door. His mother called after him as he breezed through the entry, but he only spared her an "I'll be back later!" before slamming the door behind him.

Leaping over rooftops, Shikamaru made it to the Hokage tower in less than a few minutes. He pushed through the entrance and rushed up the stairs. He passed a few people that called out to him, but he ignored them. When he came to the Hokage's office, he didn't knock or wait to be admitted. He pushed right in and walking in on Iruka and Naruto arguing over a stack of papers as Kakashi watched from his perch on the desk.

"Shikamaru!" Nauto's eyes were wide. "You're back!"

Iruka turned to him and fixed him with a similar look. "Oh, Shikamaru-kun, are you okay?"

Shikamaru nodded. "Of course I am, but that doesn't matter. I need to speak to Neji. Do you know where he is?"

Naruto stiffened and his eyes glanced at Iruka sideways. "Did you tell him?"

"Tell me what?" Shikamaru growled.

Iruka straightened and wrung his hands. "You know I can't. I've been sealed so I can't tell him anything. I just gave him the file number."

Shikamaru's mind continued work, to sort out the information he had read and combine it with what he already knew and the reactions and behavior of his Hokage and assistant.

"I need to speak to Neji," Shikamaru's voice was low, menacing, "right now."

Kakashi spoke from the desk. "It's not possible, Shikamaru. Neji is out on a mission."

Shikamaru blinked stupidly at Kakashi for a moment. "Okay, fine. I need to talk to Sasuke."

Naruto shook his head. "Sasuke's with Neji."

For a moment, Shikamaru considered the possibility that he was still asleep. His head was starting to hurt as his mind continued to scatter in more directions that it really should be going.

"How the hell could Sasuke be gone? He was here when I left this morning. Did something come up in the last few hours?"

Iruka, Kakashi, and Naruto all exchanged surprised glances before Iruka turned back to Shikamaru.

"Shikamaru-kun, you didn't leave the office this morning. You left three days ago."

Shikamaru blinked. "What?"

Kakashi slid off the desk and came close. He placed a steadying hand on Shikamaru's shoulder.

"Chouji came and took you out of Storage on Saturday morning. It's Tuesday now."

Shikamaru's mind reeled. It was no wonder his body felt so rested and his head had not hurt when he had first gotten up. He had just figured he had slept through the day and had awoken in the late afternoon. Three days? How was that even possible?

"Okay," Shikamaru turned to Kakashi, "I left on Saturday. So Sasuke and Neji left Sunday?"

"Yesterday," Naruto corrected.

"What's going on, Shikamaru?" Iruka asked gently. "What did you find out?"

Shikamaru's eyes burned. His heart was throbbing as his conclusions were coming together. He had been so stupid. He was supposed to be a genius but he hadn't seen what was going on right in front of him.

"I…" Shikmaru's words caught as a lump welled up in his throat. "I thought I knew. I thought I knew him but I didn't. I was so wrong. I'm such a fucking idiot."

"What?" Kakashi eyes were full of concern.

"Neji," he whispered. "He—he doesn't hate me. I fucked up. He was trying to fix it."

Shikamaru stood immobile as the reality of what was happening crashed down around him. His chest hurt as he took a breath.

"It's all my fault."