Red Threads: Chapter 6

Iruka lay on his futon mattress curled up in a ball, listening to Obito's steady breathing and trying to take comfort in the simple sound. He was angry, but not at Kakashi. It was true, he did have feelings for the older nin, but Kakashi had never paid him much attention before. Even Iruka realized how pathetic it was to be excited that Naruto had brought him along for ramen, if only because it meant he could interact with him. Iruka never acted on his feelings, though, just like he never acted on his feelings for anyone.

He tossed to his other side, his mind traveling down a familiar path. It all came back to Mizuki, really. He'd loved him so much, first as a friend, and then as something more, but Mizuki hadn't returned his feelings. Worse, he'd let his hatred consume him to the point that he nearly killed Iruka. It was Iruka's belief that the scar on his back was nothing compared to the one on his heart. Since Mizuki's betrayal and his death, Iruka had opened his eyes and realized he's spent all of his teenage and young adult years pining after a straight man that didn't care whether he lived or died—one that even had a fiancé, for god's sake.

He hadn't wanted to end up alone. He'd tried flirting with a few men that caught his interest, Kakashi among them, but he had no experience and he felt hopeless at it. At some point, he'd decided there was something wrong with him and he'd started thinking about having a family without a partner.

True, Kakashi was a jackass, but Iruka knew underneath it all he was a good man. Why had he lashed out at him so violently? He'd wanted to prove to him that he was a normal, stable person, but now, no doubt Kakashi would re-double his efforts to find Obito a new home, possibly even with himself. Iruka rolled back to his other side, realizing it was nearly midnight and he was still awake. Obito, however, was sleeping peacefully, as if he'd taken Kakashi's words to heart.

Obito had already been disappointed in his short life, yet he still managed to trust Kakashi. Why couldn't Iruka? Why did he have to freak out any time someone tried to get close to him? It was easy to love children. They never hurt or betrayed him. But Kakashi...Kakashi could do a great deal of damage.

Iruka tried a new position, the blanket getting tangled up in his feet. When he'd adopted Obito, the restless feelings were supposed to go away. He was supposed to have closed the chapter in his life about finding and loving a partner. Now, thanks to one insensitive Sharingan-user, he was transformed into a frustrated teenager again, who didn't understand his own heart. Iruka sighed, flipping onto his back and staring up at the ceiling.

"What's wrong with me?"

His question went unanswered, but he must have fallen asleep at some point, because he woke to the sound of the rocking chair creaking.

"Don't yell, okay? I was out of line last night. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pressured you like I did." Kakashi sat in the rocker, Obito in the crook of his arm, quietly feeding their son. Confusedly, Iruka squinted out the window. It had to be after ten. Kakashi must have returned early that morning and taken care of Obito before his crying could wake him.

"No...I'm sorry. I lost my temper last night, and I was just trying to push you away. I'm not entirely sure why I do it," Iruka explained, still feeling groggy and disoriented. "I just get flustered easily."

For a long moment, Iruka simply tried to wake up, while Kakashi continued to feed Obito, obviously considering Iruka's words.

"You used some pretty bad language last night," Kakashi finally said, his small grin visible since his mask was down. Iruka stood and rolled his eyes.

"I do a lot of things I don't normally do around you, it seems. I'll be right back," Iruka said. He headed to the restroom, where he splashed his face with water and generally tried to wrap his mind around the fact that Kakashi had not only come back despite his verbal thrashing, but he'd apologized to him.

It tugged at Iruka's heartstrings more than Kakashi's lame pick-up lines ever could.

When he returned to the nursery, Kakashi was just placing Obito back in his crib, and handing him some toys they'd acquired over the past few days.

"I reported to Tsunade last night, and she declared my mission a success. I've been re-assigned," Kakashi said, turning to face Iruka with his hands in his pockets. Iruka crossed his arms over his chest, frowning.

"But she said a week...we were supposed to have two more days," Iruka protested. He was startled when he felt Kakashi's knuckles brush gently against his cheek. Kakashi smiled at him charmingly.

"Duty calls, and you can't pout like that or I won't be able to go. I'm glad she gave me this time to make peace with all of this. I can do my job now knowing Obito is right where he belongs. I'll be out of the village for a few days, but it shouldn't be too hard of a mission. Keep him safe for me, okay?"

Iruka swallowed thickly and nodded. Kakashi was standing so close, touching his cheek so tenderly--was he going to kiss him?

Iruka uncrossed his arms and almost desperately gripped Kakashi's flak vest. Slanting his head slightly, he brought his lips to Kakashi's and closed his eyes tightly. He was going to stop being so defensive. Even if Kakashi could devastate his heart, he was going to give him the chance to treasure it.

For a second, Kakashi was unresponsive, but then Iruka felt him relax into the kiss and his hand settled on Iruka's hip. Obito's happy noises finally distracted them both from the sweet kiss.

Kakashi smiled softly at his little son.

"I'm leaving you in charge, Obito-kun. Don't let your daddy forget about me while I'm gone. If you can, try to convince him to say yes when I come back and ask him out on a date." Kakashi winked at Iruka as he said this, while Iruka just blushed attractively. Reluctantly letting go of Iruka, Kakashi scooped Obito out of the crib and placed a kiss on his cheek.

"Aass!" Obito said sweetly, smiling up at Kakashi.

"I thought we were going to go with Papa," Kakashi said.

"Baa baa," Obito said. Kakashi's proud grin broadened.

"Keep practicing, but you're learning fast. Take good care of your daddy, okay? Let him sleep at night and don't be so fussy."

After one more loving kiss, Kakashi passed Obito to Iruka's waiting arms. Iruka followed him to the front door, where he stood with Obito on his hip, big brown eyes sad to see Kakashi leave.

"Be safe, Hatake. You better come back in one piece," Iruka threatened. Kakashi stared at them for a moment, and then quietly pushed up his headband. Iruka saw a flash of spinning red, and then it was covered again.

"Just a reminder for the road. I love you, Obito. Papa will be back soon," Kakashi promised, before ambling off towards the village gates.

Iruka stood at the door for a long time, till Kakashi had faded out of sight.

"Daa?" Obito cooed, tugging on Iruka's sleep shirt. Iruka glanced down at him in surprise. He was still blushing lightly, and there was a happy glow in his eyes.

"Come on, Obi-kun, let's go make some breakfast. Daddy hasn't eaten yet." Gently, Iruka closed the front door.

Iruka returned to his duties in the mission room the following Monday. He typically only worked mission room shifts on Monday and Thursday afternoons, and his plan was to leave Obito with his sitter. It was hard, but Iruka's income didn't allow him to take too much time off work. Due to the academy being on break, he wouldn't have to return to teaching duties for another month, for which Iruka was grateful.

As he entered the mission room, Genma looked up with a big smile, ignoring the ninja who had just handed him a mission.

"You're back! Well, how'd it go? What's the kid like?" Genma asked. Iruka smiled in fatherly pride and pulled a small, square photo out of his pocket. He'd had it developed the day before.

He rounded the desk and held the picture out, which Genma looked at in surprise.

"I'd heard you adopted a baby...but is it really true? Is he Hatake's kid?" Genma asked, eyeing the tuft of wild, pure white hair.

"Yeah, but Kakashi is still going to be in his life. It's just that his missions keep him out of the village so much that he can't properly care for him alone."

"Wow, didn't expect that one, but he's a cute kid. Congratulations, Iruka," Genma said with a smile. Iruka thanked him and took his seat, diverting some of the line to himself. He happily propped Obito's picture up against his coffee mug, and took delight in showing it off to anyone who even barely glanced at it. Towards the end of his shift, a familiar voice caused Iruka to look up with a delighted smile.

"That just might be the cutest brat I've ever seen. He reminds me of a certain handsome, incredibly skilled ninja I know."

"Mmm, I think he looks a little like Jiraiya-sama, too, with all that white hair. Welcome home, Kakashi," Iruka said with a mischevious grin. The older ninja huffed in amusement and extended not one, but two mission reports.

"I was talking about his Papa. How is he? Where is he, for that matter?" Kakashi asked. The only thing that kept the note of panic out of his voice was the fact that he knew Naruto was out of the village, and thus couldn't be babysitting his child. Iruka clearly picked up on Kakashi's nervousness.

"He's with a former student of mine, but she's very reliable. I trust her completely. My shift is almost over, so if you can hang around a moment, we can go pick him up and then head home."

"Sure," Kakashi said, as Iruka none-too-discretely scanned him for any injuries he may be hiding. Genma watched the two of them, snickering slightly around his senbon. Kakashi merely raised an inquiring brow.

"Something funny, Shiranui?" Kakashi asked. Genma stamped approval on another report and casually added it to a growing pile.

"Nothing much...just wondering when I'll get my invitation to the wedding."

"W-what?" Iruka stammered, blushing hotly. Kakashi just smirked.

"You two just seem awfully cozy all the sudden. It's cute, really. I should have made my move sooner, Iruka," Genma teased. Kakashi's amusement turned into a scowl almost instantly. Iruka, meanwhile, was apparently trying to imitate a goldfish. Genma laughed out loud as he gathered his things, since the next two workers had arrived to replace himself and Iruka.

"Relax you two, I'm only joking. You should see the looks on your faces, though!"

Iruka finally recovered and chuckled nervously, gathering together his papers, and leaving Kakashi's mission reports unread on the pile. Kakashi eyed the teacher nervously, distracted from Genma's teasing.

"Aren't you going to read that report?" Kakashi asked. Iruka glanced at it, but shrugged dismissively, pulling his shoulder bag over his head.

"No, Tanaka-san can get it. I want to go pick up Obito-kun. Come on," Iruka said. Kakashi lingered, looking at his report almost longingly. He was going to grab it back, but Iruka's replacement swiftly picked up the pile and began re-organizing it, likely based on rank. Iruka and Genma stood at the door, both of them curious about why he was staring so intensely at the stack of mission reports.

"Let me guess—did you write sweet messages to Iruka-kun in your mission report? How cute," Genma said, smirking. Iruka looked surprised, and sought confirmation from Kakashi. Too proud to confess, Kakashi just shrugged and joined them.

"It's nothing," Kakashi said.

"Well, okay, if you're sure. Let's get going," Iruka urged, not giving him any time to linger.

A/N: Muahahaha now I am getting paid to write fanfiction. I went to work early and wrote this before anyone came to the office. It's a super fun way to shave about two hours off a shift, lol. Anyways, thanks for the feedback on these last few chapters. As I've said in my profile, I write for stress relief, and this has been a very stressful week. Reviews make it better, though! Thanks for each one!

Oh, and to someone who asked how long this story would continue, likely only a few more chapters. I'd like to do a time skip at the end and write some about once Obito is a little older, but no promises just yet.