Cruel Fate

A/N: Hello my darling readers. I'm so sorry for keeping you in the doldrums for so long but fear not, I shall be posting as much as possible in the next while. Keep your eyes peeled for long awaited sequels, new chapters to old stories and oneshots as fast as I can pump them out. Hope you like this one and it's not too rough. I edited it myself. Please review.



This was unfair. Fate, it would seem, is not with out a sense of humor, a sick, twisted sense of humor. Hatake Kakashi, the sharingan user, the master of a thousand jutsus, the summoner of canines…was stuck henged as cat. He lifted himself up on his back paws and looked into one of the shop windows at his reflection. His fur was grey and a little scruffy, his sharingan eye was a different colour than his regular eye but it held none of the special qualities it should. His vision however was sharper than normal. The scar than ran vertically across his eye socket was there and to his grudging delight made him look badass. No cat in the village would mess with him. The grey cat cocked its head and continued to survey its appearance. The bi-coloured, feline eyes shifted to the chakra collar fastened around the lanky neck and Kakashi wondered how he'd gotten so sloppy.


He'd been in the small town for an hour but was quickly drawing attention as an outsider. Noticing there was a very high volume of cats in the town, he quickly changed form and headed out to find his target. It was rare that there were spies in the fire country but Tsunade had decided to send him so the intel must be legitimate. He slunk down the street, hissing at a male feline who had arched its back aggressively. Cats. They're really such a pain.

He leapt into an open window and up onto a shelf where he could observe the people in the bar. He sat there for almost an hour, twitching his tail, waiting for the targets to appear. He was beginning to get restless…or maybe that was sleepy. He was beginning to have an understanding for why dozing was called cat nap. He felt an overwhelming urge to just close his eyes and rest. He felt his lids slide closed and fell almost instantly into a deep sleep. Someone walked past him and he was instantly awake again. It would seem that cats can move from REM sleep to fully away with ease. A handy piece of information. He closed his eyes again and laid his head on his front paws. Might as well rest up while he waited.

He didn't know how long he'd been asleep but a boisterous laugh from the other side of the room woke him. He recognized the man as the suspected spy. It would appear that the intelligence reports were correct as two rock nins followed him into the room. The spy nodded to the bartender and then headed to a secluded table near the back of the bar. Kakashi stretched upwards and jumped to the floor, ambling towards the table while appearing to be chasing a bug. When he got to the table he felt the undeniable urge to rub his head against something. He started with the table leg but ended up against the leg of one of the rock nins. He released a very feline growl when the man picked him up by the scruff of his neck.

"There're too many damn cats in this town!"

The spy pulled Kakashi towards him and stroked his head. "They're lovely animals. Cats are very clean, independent and…" Kakashi began to struggle when something was forced over his head and settled on his neck, "intelligent. Wouldn't you say, Ninja?" Kakashi gaped at the man who was once again patting his head but seemed to be addressing him. He tried to transform back to his normal form but only got a tiny pulse of chakra before it seemed to extinguish in his pathways. It had been brief but more than enough to get the Rock nins' attentions.

"A ninja! How did you know?" The spy smiled and lifted Kakashi off his lap and looked into his bi-coloured eyes.

"We may have many felines in our village but I always recognize a new face. I've got a chakra collar on him. All we have to do now is dispatch him from the world like a helpless kitten." The spy's sadistic smirk evaporated when both sets of Kakashi's front claws sunk into his arm. This kitten wasn't completely helpless yet. With a yelp from his victim the jounin was set free and began bounding from table to table towards the window.

"STOP THAT CAT!" More hands were trying to latch onto him as he leapt to freedom.

The run back to the village took forever but at last he'd gotten home, though he'd never been so tired in his whole life. Damn these short legs. When he got back to normal he'd forever be grateful for his tall stature.


He glared and tried to scratch the collar off, trying to decide what to do. He'd tried to see Tsunade but Izumo had thrown him out of the Hokage tower. He made a mental note to hurt the chuunin later. The idiot hadn't even notice the chakra burst he'd given off. Well, Kakashi was exhausted and the burst had been very small but really! Now he was stuck…as a cat! Dropping back down to the ground he tried to formulate a plan. What he needed was a place to stay. He'd already been chased by several young children and wanted nothing more than to get out of sight and have a meal that DIDN'T consist of something he had to catch. He needed someone to let him into their home. He needed…a good hearted sucker. And finally something was going right because just the man for the job was walking past him.

Iruka was heading home from the academy loaded with books and marking when something brushed against his leg. He glanced down at the lanky cat that was looking up at him expectantly. Iruka smiled and stroked the grey head.

"Hi there. Haven't seen you around. Are you new in town?" Kakashi meowed and pressed into Iruka's caresses. "Hmm, you've got a scar. Are you a big, tough, tom cat?" Kakashi purred as the brunet stroked him. He couldn't help it. It felt amazing. He shifted his head from one side to another to direct the petting to where he wanted it. Gods! Who knew such a simple touch could make you feel so contented. "Well, Tommy Cat, you seem to have a collar on. Why don't you head home? I'm sure your people miss you." With that Iruka stood up and headed towards his apartment leaving Kakashi with a strange feeling of being starved for attention and slightly annoyed that Iruka hadn't immediately taken him home. Was he going to have to spell it out for the chuunin? Meowing, he raced after Iruka, almost tripping the man and making him spill the contents of his book bag on the ground.

"Oh COME ON! Now see here mister. You've got a family. Just go home and…leave me to wallow in my misery," Iruka mumbled.

Kakashi was somewhat taken aback at the usually bright and happy teacher's response. He'd be the first to admit that he didn't know Iruka very well but the man always was smiling, so friendly and happy. Could it be that he, Hatake Kakashi had failed to look underneath the underneath and see that it was all an act, probably for the entirety of the village's sake.

Iruka shook his head and sighed despondently. "I'm talking to a cat. I'm not sure if the depressing thing is that I look completely insane or that it's one of the most pleasant interactions I've had in weeks. Bye Tommy Cat. Go home and see your masters." Iruka turned and walked away leaving a very shocked Kakashi behind.

'Huh' the jounin thought as he began slowly trailing after the brunet. He'd worm his way into Iruka's heart, no matter what. Why did that thought make his stomach clench? Must be a feline anatomy thing.

Iruka was finally settling in with his dinner when a light plinking alerted him to the rain that had started to fall. Soon it was pouring, raining cats and dogs, as the saying went. He regarded the sky with a sad smile. Iruka had always love thunderstorms but he'd be surprised if they'd actually have one. There hadn't been one decent thunderstorm all summer, just cool, dull, normal rain. With a sigh he was about to go back to his supper when something caught his eye.

Kakashi had been out on the balcony for half an hour waiting patiently for Iruka to notice him. He was not worried at this point. He had all the time in the wor…A drop of water hitting his head wrenched his eyes to the sky. Great. This is just peachy. The rain began to fall faster and harder, his fur clinging to his body very uncomfortably. No wonder cats didn't like water. It was only about two minutes before he was completely soaked. He pressed his paws up against the glass door and yowled. Even to his ears it sounded pathetic. Gods he was cold, and wet and miserable. Maybe he should have tried Kurenai or Sakura or Ino. He shuddered when he thought about the fifteen year olds squealing, holding him too tightly or forcing him into doll clothes.

Suddenly Iruka's eyes were drawn to him. 'Oh thank the gods!' The brunet moved to the door and opened it to let the sopping cat in.

"Tommy? What on earth are you doing here? Oh you poor thing. I'll get a towel." Soon the teacher was tousling his fur. It was incredibly uncomfortable but the thought of licking himself dry…well, maybe that part didn't sound so bad but hairballs on the other hand. So he let himself be dried and soon was no longer soaked and feeling somewhat better, but hungry. It felt like it'd been weeks since he'd eaten. Meowing loudly he licked his lips hoping the chuunin would get the message. Iruka chuckled and patted his damp head.

"Hungry, huh?"

'Eureka! He can be taught!' Kakashi yowled and jumped off the couch and headed toward the kitchen leaving a chuckling chuunin to follow him.

"Well I don't have any cat food but I think I might have something that's to your liking." He went to his cupboards as Kakashi leapt onto the counter, already purring at the promise of food. He was however shocked to find that Iruka's cupboards were rather barren. The brunet sighed and smiled at his new companion.

"I know, pathetic, isn't it? I'm afraid I don't entertain guests very often. Ah! Here!" He pulled a can of tuna toward him and held it up by his face, smiling at the cat. "It's not fancy but I guess if it's good enough for me, it's good enough for you." Kakashi fought the urge to roll his eyes. Well actually he couldn't roll them. What was it with cat's eyes anyway? Bizarre organs to say the least. Iruka scooped the contents of the can into a bowl and set it on the floor. Kakashi immediately leapt to the floor and began to eat. Nothing had ever tasted so good. Not the expensive sushi or the kobe beef he was fond of, nothing had ever tasted as exquisite as this cheap can of generic tuna. Kakashi looked up when a small saucer was set down beside him. The grey cat looked at the offering of cream presented to him and then up at the teacher's gentle smile.

Damn…there was the twinge in his stomach again. He must still be hungry. He ate happily as Iruka moved around the apartment. Finally when he'd had his fill Kakashi began following the chuunin around trying to gain his attention. Much to his delight Iruka picked him up and placed him on the couch while he began grading papers. The evening passed rather uneventfully with Iruka rubbing behind his ears while finishing his marking. A few hours later Iruka stretched his arms above his head flashing his new companion his muscular abs as his shirt rode up.

"Well, Tommy, I'm heading to bed. You're welcome to join me if you want." Kakashi's tail twitched when he thought about being snuggled. He wasn't exactly a…snuggly kind of guy. Iruka saw his annoyance and raised his hands defensively. "Or not. I'll leave my door open if you change your mind." Kakashi watched the brunet disappear into the bedroom and almost immediately began to feel lonely.

'I thought cats were supposed to be independent. Why am I pinning for attention the second he leaves the room?' Deciding he just wanted to explore, yeah, explore, cats were curious creatures, he headed to where the Iruka had disappeared, stopping short in the doorway when confronted with just a few inches shy of six feet of luscious tanned skin. Iruka was totally naked and brushing his soft hair in front of a mirror as he sat at a feminine looking dressing table. Spying the feline in the reflection Iruka grinned and looked over his shoulder.

"So you're a peeping tom cat, huh? Come on." Iruka moved to the bed and slid under the covers, patting the sheets beside him. Kakashi simply stared, trying to process what he'd just seen. This feline body sure was reacting strangely to the sight of the chuunin without clothes on. Shaking his head he bounded up onto the bed and curled up by Iruka's feet.

"Oh gods, now I have to worry about kicking you in my sleep! Are you sure you don't want to sleep up here?" Kakashi responded by turning on his side, his back facing Iruka. The chuunin sighed and laid down his head, somewhat disappointed that his new friend didn't want to sleep next to him. He'd been looking forward to having the warmth of a body up next to him, but this was the first night the cat had been here. Secretly he was hoping that no one owned his new friend. The company, even from a mindless animal, was exactly what Iruka needed right now, especially considering the circumstances. He tried to free his mind from worry but it was so hard when… Sighing again he closed his eyes and quickly fell into a fitful sleep.

Kakashi watched the chuunin's face furrow as he dreamt. What could be haunting the man's sleep to make him toss and whimper so pathetically? Pulling himself to his feet, he slunk up closer to the chuunin's face. It was inexplicable but watching the umber brows draw together made him want to soothe the young man. He nuzzled Iruka's chin and the chuunin let out a long breath of relief, some of the tension washing from the tan faced. He repeated the motion, and Iruka relaxed more. Kakashi couldn't seem to understand it but somehow it made him feel better, though he'd never tell the chuunin that. Iruka mumbled something and a small smile graced the full lips as the cat curled up next to him and fell asleep.


Iruka took a deep breath and coughed loudly as fur was sucked up his nostrils. Kakashi leapt to his feet, his claws digging into the covers and Iruka's arm. The chuunin made some very pathetic sounds, coughing and grimacing at the same time. Finally when he'd regained his breath, Iruka held up his hand toward the feline.

"Ah, gods, sorry, Tommy. I guess I'm not used to waking up to someone in my bed." The chuunin chuckled at himself and then groaned, falling back onto his pillow. "I'm a comical genius and the only one privy to my sense of humor is a cat. I have nothing in life." Kakashi wished dearly that he could laugh. Iruka was right, he did have a good sense of humor, though the jounin didn't know why Iruka thought that no one knew that. As far as he knew the man had lots of friends. Why, here at home, did the man seem to give off an air of loneliness. It just didn't fit with the Iruka he knew…or he thought he knew. He watched the man stretch his naked body and roll over to look at him.

"Do you ever have a day where you just don't want to get up, Tommy?" Kakashi just stared blankly at the chuunin as the brunette played with his tail. "Let me tell you a secret, that's me every morning." Kakashi watched in shock as the teacher grudgingly dragged himself from bed and into the bathroom to get ready. His eyes raked the tan back as the teacher splashed water on his face and pulled his hair up. Iruka stared for a moment at his reflection as he gripped the edges of the sink. He had bags under his eyes and the usually bright face was gaunt, as if the teacher was dreading something inevitable.

As he walked back into the room Kakashi had to wonder why the chuunin didn't have a girlfriend. He was attractive enough. The bronze body was muscular though too thin, the chocolate hair was rather sexy, especially when left to hang around the handsome face. Kakashi thought back to the grin Iruka had given him last night. The smile was breathtaking really. The way the dark eyes had lit up and sparkled with mirth was nothing short of spectacular…not that he thought of men that way. So why didn't the chuunin have some pretty young thing to keep him company, someone to cook for him and keep him satisfied and happy? He shook off the thoughts as Iruka pulled on his uniform and gathered his things. When he was ready to leave the chuunin turned to him.

"Okay, Tommy. You should probably stay outside today. If your owners find you, thanks for the company last night. I'll get you some more food incase you're back tonight." He ushered the cat out the door with his foot before closing it behind them and locking it. Quirking and eyebrow he looked down at the feline. "Well, time to face the world."

In a flash the chuunin's face changed as a smile spread across it. Never before had Kakashi seen the subtleties of the smile. It was forced, nothing like the smile Kakashi had been given last night. He watched the muscular back concealed with the bulky uniform move away, the shoulders slightly slumped. Not so slumped to make the teacher look depressed but now that he'd noticed he couldn't find a word other than despondent to describe the body position. The young man looked almost tortured as he walked away.

Though the copy cat shrugged it off easily, Iruka's smile kept flashing in his mind. First the fake one, then the real one, and Kakashi wondered why he'd never noticed. 'Probably because you hardly ever noticed him much, now didcha? Not until he was feeding you and scratching your tummy.' Kakashi was about to ponder over how Iruka always seemed to fade into the background when he shook his head and tried to kick his collar off. 'Damn you stupid…piece of…Gods, if my ninken find out about this…'

He set off on a less than pleasant day, trying to get someone smart enough to notice who he was but he could never get close enough to anyone to make them see that it was him giving off the small chakra bursts. Finally when he'd exhausted himself again and been chased by several dogs and small children he climbed up a tree that looked into the academy, right into Iruka's classroom. This was real emotion, he could tell. Iruka was really smiling, really yelling, able to be the real him around his students. However the young chuunin let out a great sigh when he let them out for lunch and looked over all the marking he had to do. He watched the chuunin gather up a stack of paper and move towards the door, only to collide with another teacher coming down the hall way.

"Oops, sorry about that. Just in a rush," the man said as he kept right on going, leaving Iruka to pick up his papers. Kakashi's tale twitched with annoyance as he watched the strain in Iruka's smile as he picked up the sheets of paper.

"Yeah, not to worry, it happens." Iruka waved cheerily, though Kakashi could see just how hard it was for the chuunin to keep up that façade. It only got worse as Iruka had loaded up his bag with all his marking and was just leaving the academy when a jounin Kakashi worked with often skidded up to the man and flat out told Iruka he was taking his missions room shift as he took off from the sputtering chuunin. Finally Iruka dropped his hand and quietly whispered, "Yeah, no problem. Whatever you need."

Kakashi kept wandering down the street, following Iruka's every step until a dog chased him up on top of the buildings. From up there it was like seeing Iruka from a whole new perspective. He could see the way Iruka's youthful face was starting to look to old for his young years, how the man's brows furrowed when ever someone asked him for something but the way he kept right on smiling. How could no one see the strain under Iruka's smile? How could he have never have noticed?

Too busy…too busy with whatever came up. His team, his missions, his problems, his life. And here was a human being, spread so thin that he was almost transparent…and not a person could see it.

"Hey 'Ru!" Iruka turned and grinned, only a little strained as Genma and Raidou jogged down the street to catch up with him. Iruka was glad to see them but really in a rush. "Hey you. Working too hard?"

Iruka smiled wide, trying to hide the bags under his eyes. "Well you know me, never happy unless I'm run off my feet. Oh has uh…has…"

Genma smile and Raidou ruffled Iruka's bound hair. "You're too cute 'Ru."

"Are you telling me you still haven't talked to him? No, he's not back yet." Genma held up his hands as Iruka's face fell. "But hey, you know him. He's never on time. Something probably just came up."

Iruka heaved a big sigh, his shoulders slumping a little before he straightened up, his fake smile back on his face. "I just hope he's alright, that's all."

"You should talk to him when he gets back, 'Ru. You never know how it will go." Raidou said, clapping Iruka on the shoulder.

Kakashi watched Iruka chuckled morbidly, and shake his head. "Just as long as he gets back okay, I don't want to embarrass myself." The cat felt another flash of anger at whoever had made Iruka feel like he was nothing. "But I've gotta run. I've got missions office, shit two minutes ago. Bye!" Iruka waved cheerily over his shoulder at his friends as he dashed off down the street, people knocking his shoulder and he apologizing to every one of them.

That night, Kakashi was waiting right outside Iruka's glass door as the chuunin entered the apartment. The young man grinned and then looked to each side as if checking to see if anyone was watching. 'Cute,' Kakashi thought as Iruka slid the door open for him.

"Hey there Tommy. I thought you'd be back with your family by now." Kakashi purred as Iruka picked him up and snuggled him a little. "Well I'm glad your back. I'm sorry. I didn't get a chance to pick up food for you today. I didn't get off from the missions room until just now and all the shops are closed down now." Iruka looked mournfully at the clock on the wall that already said it was nine o'clock. "And I still have all that marking to do," Iruka whispered, his voice shaking a little as if emotion was trying to escape from it. Iruka set Kakashi down and moved deeper into the kitchen. "Why don't we see what I have for you, Tommy Cat," Iruka said as he opened his fridge to take in the contents. Kakashi was horrified to see that there really wasn't much there either, just a few containers of leftovers and some condiments. "Here," Iruka said, pulling one of the containers towards him, revealing a few bits of fish. He smelt the container before setting it down for Kakashi. "If I'd still eat it, it should be fine for you."

Kakashi purred as he began to eat but was almost sick when Iruka pulled out another container of food that had clearly started to spoil, and just scooped the moldy parts away and gingerly trying some of the food. The scarred nose wrinkled and Iruka scooped the whole container in the trash and carefully washed out the Tupperware and put it away. "I wasn't really hungry anyway," Iruka told the cat before moving his work to the couch, Kakashi watching the young man in awe from his bowl. "It's too late to eat," Iruka told his rumbling stomach.

Kakashi gaped, suddenly too guilty to eat. Iruka had given him the last edible meal in his house. He eventually ate the food as Iruka tried to settle into his marking but only when the sweet young man almost got up to throw the food out, thinking the cat's nose was probably better than his. He choked down the bland fish, feeling guiltier than ever about all the ramen lunches with his team that he'd left Iruka to pay for. How many nights had Iruka gone hungry for each one of those?

The night went from bad to worse as he kept having to nuzzle Iruka awake as he neared the end of his stack of papers. There was only a few left and he wanted Iruka to be able to go to bed and get a good sleep. Iruka grunted as Kakashi woke him again, now finally on his last paper. "Oh, Tommy, what would I do without you? You're the best alarm clock ever." Iruka's drowsy voice broke Kakashi's heart and he nuzzled against Iruka's ear, purring loudly making the tired teacher laugh and push back against his touch. "Mmm, I hate to say it but I'm glad your people haven't found you. Do you belong to a ninja? Maybe someone on a mission? Maybe…Hatake-san's kitty?" Iruka laughed at the notion. "Can you imagine that, Hatake-san with a cat? No, I don't think his summons would like that." Iruka finished off his last paper, heaving a great sigh. "I guess that means it's bed time, doesn't it. Oh my, I don't have…kitty litter. Oh dear. I hate to put you out again at this hour. Is there any chance you'd know how to go on paper?" Iruka asked him, making Kakashi jump up from the couch to Iruka's sliding door, demanding out. No way was he going to go with Iruka having to clean it up. A few days ago he might have found the idea funny but that was then. Iruka sighed as he let the cat out, mournfully waving as his companion disappeared.

He sighed as he opened the wood puzzle box that held his finances, pulling at the few bills and tiny piles of coins. Not enough for his rent but he had a cheque coming and hopefully Aoba would remember the hours he took for him. Then he would be okay. 'But he hasn't remembered for two months…and you've just let him. If he doesn't bill your hours for you, you don't eat.' Iruka couldn't help but sob a little at his sorry state. No one knew, no one talked about it, how the jounin's manipulated less powerful chuunin like him. And everyone took from him. He'd have to try to beg a meal or two off Kotetsu and Izumo, but that was just as terrible. They got hit often too; jounin passing shit parts of their jobs off on chuunin so they could take more missions. Missions made money. Iruka hadn't been out of the village in two years. Kotetsu and Izumo often got stuck with gate duty when they should have been trying to get decent missions. No one spoke about it when all the decent paying missions were taken. Not many said anything when the jounin 'forgot' to pay them for the work they did. Most just grinned and bent over, getting fucked by the men and women who were supposed to be protecting them; their saviors.

Iruka started to cry as he thought about how pathetic they all were. They all just suffered in silence, complaining to each other, sometimes loudly, about how they did it for the village.

He brushed his tears away as he saw a flash of movement in the corner of his eyes, his Tommy Cat back at the door. "H-hey," Iruka said as Kakashi stepped through the door. "Didn't think that you'd be back tonight. I was just going to get ready for bed, you coming?"

Kakashi followed Iruka into the bedroom, watching from the floor as Iruka shed his clothes and sat down in front of the mirrored vanity that looked like it might have belonged to his mother. Iruka held his brush in his hands for a minute, sighing sadly a few times before releasing his hair and pulling the brush through it. 'It's like looking at a piece of art,' Kakashi thought as he watched. 'Beautiful, but so tragic,' his mind whispered as he took in Iruka's frame that was slight, when if properly fed would have been wider than his own. 'How did this happen?' he wondered before thinking of all the times he might have been a perpetrator. He was glad to see that he'd never done anything too underhanded but regretted the ramen bills, the crappy mission reports he'd submitted and especially not noticing what Iruka was going through. Iruka patted beside him as he crawled into bed, lying down before scratching behind the cat's ears.

"Can I tell you a secret, Tommy?" Iruka asked, his tone soft and serious. "I have a friend, well, not really a friend. More like…like a crush, and he's…he's late getting back from a mission. I…know…he doesn't really see me but…I can't help but like him." Iruka sexual orientation was a bit of a surprise to Kakashi but not much. Hell, Raidou and Genma were even open about it. But…they were jounin. Would chuunin be given a hard time with having a crooked sexual orientation?

"I just…I just hope he's okay," Iruka whispered, rolling over and passing out in exhaustion. Kakashi stood a vigil guard over Iruka for hours, just looking down at the man and musing about the sad existence before cuddling up beside him, still feeling guilty about how he'd never realized how Iruka was living.

It went on like that for days, though Iruka did seem to have a few lucky accidents during those days. Someone had mysteriously been sneaking food into his classroom while he helped other teachers with their marking instead of working on his own. Iruka had asked around if anyone had seen who'd left it but everyone had no idea, though one teacher had said he'd seen a cat slipping around the halls one day.

Kakashi, when he wasn't busy sneaking food for Iruka, spent his time watching him and the other chuunin intently. Some were more strained than others but it was clear that most of the chuunin weren't getting the kind of working conditions they deserved. None seemed quite as strained as Iruka though. He took everything Kakashi's friends gave out and kept that worn smile on his face all the while and he stepped up to aid his overworked friends and co-workers too. Watching the chuunin move about the village and in their homes before he dashed off to Iruka was like looking into some sort of alternate dimension. Kakashi had even witnessed a most horrific moment when poor, little Izumo was cornered and groped by a man that Kakashi had been on missions with many times, his nervous chuckle, as he tried to laugh the jounin's advances off, kept rising in pitch as he became more and more panicked. Then after the jounin had left, the young man curled in a ball and started crying, apologizing to Kotetsu who just held him, trying to shush his lover's frantic apologies because the truth was that neither of them had done anything to stop it. No, the chuunin condition was right at the snapping point, Iruka ready to snap along with all the rest of them.

For nights in a row, Iruka would share his secrets with Kakashi, speaking of his money problems, his depression and mostly about this mystery man that he was so crazy about. "Tsunade is sending out a search party for him today. He should have been back days ago. I'm so worried about him. He'll be alright, won't he? I mean, it's not like anything would change much even if he does come back but I'd hate for him to be hurt somewhere."

Kakashi thought the guy sounded like an asshole but maybe that was because he was suddenly feeling very protective of the chuunin. Part of him hoped that the man wouldn't come back and take his Iruka away but part of him grudgingly wanted Iruka to be happy, not this sad shell that he appeared to be more often than not. Mostly he'd just grown accustomed to Iruka's care, and Iruka took much better care of Kakashi than he did of himself. He always made sure Kakashi had enough to eat, which seemed to be a lot easier as Iruka kept finding money in corners of his apartment. Kakashi had whisked the much needed money from the drunken hands of nins he knew wouldn't miss it, silently padding Iruka's pockets a little bit at a time.

"My god, Tommy! How do you keep finding those?" Iruka asked as he picked up Kakashi and the crumpled up bill at his feet. "You're now and forever my good luck charm!" He snuggled the cat, Kakashi purring and nuzzling back into Iruka's chin. More than anything Iruka needed recognition and love. Maybe Kakashi needed it too because making Iruka smile seemed to do so much for his own mental state. In fact he was in such a good mood as he followed Iruka to the hokage tower that morning that he didn't even notice the blonde hokage who started following him the second he set foot in the building. Kakashi was about to pick a windowsill to watch Iruka work from when two strong, female hands caught him and held him up under the scrutinizing hazel gaze.

For a second Kakashi just stared at Tsunade before giving off the strongest charka pulse he could and wiggling in her hands. The hazel eyes shot wide and she quickly bustled herself and the cat off to her office before unsnapping the collar and commencing yelling at Kakashi even before he'd transformed. "What the hell is wrong with you? Do you know how many people I have out looking for you right now? Where the hell have you been, Hatake?"

Kakashi laid, flat on his back where he'd rematerialized from his cat form, panting in effort. He'd hardly had enough chakra to change back to human. "Ungh! Sorry, I've just been stuck as a cat for almost a week. It was of course my first and foremost mission to annoy you though." Groaning he propped himself up against the couch and covered his sharingan eye with his hand, trying to block out all its properties, his chakra drained enough already. "It was a set up. They knew to expect me," Kakashi explained as Tsunade cursed loudly.

Kakashi carefully laid out the events that lead up to his being confined as a cat and his trying to get people's attention in the village after he'd been back. Which lead him to what he considered to be the most important issue. "I think we have a serious problem with our chuunin, especially the ones not taking as many missions," Kakashi said evenly, wanting to break it gently to the hokage just how bad the problem really was.

Tsunade straightened up on the couch and looked at Kakashi's serious expression. "What do you mean, Hatake? What's going on?"

However she didn't get a chance to hear what that was as two of the squads she'd had out looking for Kakashi entered the office, all of them rejoicing at seeing the copy nin alive and well. Kakashi signaled to Tsunade that they'd talk in the morning to which she nodded stiffly, letting the half dozen jounin lead Kakashi out of the room. In truth Kakashi was a little grateful. He was exhausted and just wanted to go home and sleep for a few days to regain his chakra supplies. So he let the crowd of rambunctious jounin pull him into the hall, most of them clapping him on the back and giving him a hard time about all the work they did trying to find him. The silver haired man's stomach churned with distaste as he saw some of the men, his friends, who had been misusing the chuunin around him, not even acknowledging that they'd done anything wrong. He wanted to recoil, wanted to push them away but he just kept right on walking with them.

"Watch yourself! Important people coming through," one of the jounin joked as he elbowed his way past a chuunin, knocking the papers the man was carrying from his hands.

Kakashi stopped in place and looked at the chuunin as he picked up his papers and straightened up, familiar warm, brown eyes going wide when they landed on him. There was poorly veiled joy and relief in those depths and that's when it hit him.

'It was me all a long. I was…am the jerk Iruka was worrying about. Kami, I'm such a fool,' Kakashi's mind chastised as he watched Iruka smile nervously and slink past the group, trying to avoid getting knocked aside again as the jounin pushed Kakashi past. His stomach churned even harder as he thought about all the times he'd just brushed Iruka aside, never realizing what a unique and suffering person he was or that his complete indifference was breaking the young man's heart.

Those thoughts followed him home and try as he might he just couldn't sleep. His body was so exhausted but he couldn't shut his mind down. He dozed on and off for hours, waking up in the late evening and wondering why he wasn't passed out like he usually was when he was this tired. His thoughts turned back to Iruka. He would never understand why he did it, he was so drained already, but he found himself leaving his house and henging back into a cat. In a few minutes he was at Iruka's patio door, scratching to be let in. He watched Iruka stand and stretch, moving over to open the door for him.

"Hey there, Tommy. I didn't think you were coming tonight? You ready for bed? I was just about to settle in. Did you eat today?"

Kakashi responded by rubbing up against Iruka's leg and heading into the bedroom, perching jauntily on the bed, waiting for Iruka to join him. The chuunin followed Kakashi in, chuckling to himself. Iruka seemed to be in a good mood tonight, a genuine good mood. He felt a little guilty as he watched Iruka strip, his eyes gliding over the lightly scarred, dark skin, following the curves of the too thin body around and around until they landed on that sheet of brown silk as Iruka let his hair down and sat at the feminine dressing table. The bristles of the brush pulled through those perfect chocolate locks and Iruka smiled into the mirror. Kakashi had to wonder about Iruka as the younger man sat there naked, brushing his hair like he had ritually for the nights he's been with Iruka and presumably all nights he hadn't. Was Iruka a virgin? Did he just prefer men or was he gay? Did he usually prefer women but just have an attraction to him?

His thoughts trailed off as Iruka turned to him and smiled, setting the brush down on the antique looking vanity. "He came home today, Tommy!" Iruka chirped excitedly as he crawled into his worn sheets and patted the bed next to him, waiting for Kakashi to join him. "He was fine, of course; I always worry for nothing when it comes with him. But I'm just so glad he's back in the village." Iruka absentmindedly scratched Kakashi's ears, smiling sadly to himself. "Genma and Raidou want me to tell him how I feel about him but…but how can I? I'm just a chuunin. I don't even think he knows I exist." Iruka's face lightened a little and he looked down at his pet. "He did look at me today, not like he ever had before I think. It was different… I don't know!" Iruka buried his face in his pillow and groaned loudly. "You must think I'm pathetic. I know it's silly but…I just feel like if I had a chance I could make him happy. Though…" Iruka looked at his slightly dilapidated surroundings and sighed, "I don't know how. I don't really have much to offer someone like him. He probably doesn't even like men. This is all just…" Iruka slumped back on his pillows and sighed, "pipe dreams."

Kakashi nuzzled Iruka's chin, glad when he got a real smile from the man. "At least I have you, right Tommy? You're not wearing your collar tonight," Iruka noticed as he scratched Kakashi's neck, while the cat nin purred in appreciation. "Does this mean I get to keep you?" Iruka murmured as he closed his eyes, his over worked body and mind drifting off almost immediately. Kakashi too drifted off quickly. He'd later realize that he missed Iruka's body heat against him as he slept.

The next day Kakashi slipped off from Iruka's early and headed to the Hokage tower. Iruka had tried to feed him in the morning but Kakashi had obstinately sat at the door and twitched his tail until Iruka had put the leftovers back in the fridge and sadly let him out. Tsunade had been beside herself when Kakashi had told her every grim detail of what he'd seen in the past week, shifting between looking outraged and queasy as Kakashi laid out what had happened to Izumo and how Iruka was practically starving. Then she'd looked tired, the full weight of her negligence and oversight falling firmly upon her shoulders.

"How could I have missed this?" She asked quietly, her real age showing through the jutsu.

"We all did. I don't think anyone knows how bad it is or they wouldn't do it. The jounin of the village might be selfish but they would never endanger the village purposefully."

Tsunade nodded and dug around in a drawer for a scroll, her weariness quickly becoming rage again as she found and unrolled it. She made a few hand signs and slammed her hand down on the paper, her desk groaning from the force. With in three minutes every jounin in the village was crammed into her office, gabbing to one another about the missions they were taking and laughing about some great deception they'd pulled, probably on some poor unsuspecting chuunin.

"All of you shut the hell up!" The blonde bellowed, making Kakashi smirk from where he was leaning up against the wall. The rest of the room whipped around to stare at their leader while Kakashi surveyed the group. "I am disgusted with all of you!" Tsunade bellowed, catching her usually highly praised, highly prized staff off guard. "I've been recently informed that virtually every member of my elite ninja rank has been abusing their power over the lower ranks, especially the chuunin. We have chuunin starving, dangerously overworked, molested…" She paused and glared hard at the jounin Kakashi had seen molest Izumo, his already pale skin going ashen under Tsunade's icy glare. "You've been hogging all the worthwhile missions, passing mission room and gate shifts off on chuunin..." Her voice dropped to a venomous whisper, her tightly clenched fists shaking with rage. "And not even billing their hours."

Kakashi noticed with satisfaction that many of the jounin looked guilty and all of them looked horrified, especially Genma and Raidou, who despite being friends with many of the chuunin, hadn't noticed what their subordinates had been going through. Kakashi made a mental note to try and get closer with them, knowing they were friends Iruka.

"Now," Tsunade continued, "I'm imposing a limit on the number of missions that Jounin are allowed to take and I don't want to hear any complaints. You'll have to make a small sacrifice of luxury for the good of the village. As will I and many others so we can create equalization payments for ninjas unable to take missions like teachers and those who permanently man the missions desk. I can't even begin to convey how ashamed I am of all of you… and myself, but rest assured that there will be no more indifference here and if I hear of anyone mistreating someone of their lower rank from this point on they will answer to myself or to Ibiki. Do I make myself clear?"

Heads nodded but finally Kurenai raised her hand a little bit timidly. "How many missions will we be allowed to take a month?"

Tsunade frowned a little, clearly not having thought it through enough before calling the meeting. "Since most chuunin can't take A-ranks or naturally S-ranks, I won't be limiting those but for now I want all of you to take no more than two B-ranks a month. If you need more money you'll just have to take Cs and Ds and try to get by like the chuunin have been." A couple of voices in the back of the room dared groan and Tsunade slammed her fist down onto her desk, smashing it right down the center in fury. The room quieted to dead silence after that.

"Our village is built on the backs of our chuunin. It may be your blood that's being shed out there but without their hard work and dedication nothing that you fight for would make any difference. Remember that. Now all of you get out of my sight."

The jounin scattered, all running off to avoid Tsunade's wrath and Kakashi's eyes paid particular attention to Genma and Raidou who were whispering furtively to one another. With a lazy wave to Tsunade, Kakashi followed them out into the hall, listening intently to every word.

"Do you think that Ru, Zumo and Ko have it so bad? Why would they keep quiet? Wouldn't you think they'd say something if things were that bad?" Genma demanded, looking very pale indeed.

Raidou didn't say anything but increased his stride, the pair of them bee-lining it for the missions room. The room was full of disgruntled jounin, the ones who dared be pissed off about the new changes to their lifestyles were all lining up to get the best missions they could. The couple walked past the line up to the side of Iruka's desk, returning any glares they got from people who thought they were jumping the line.

"Hey, Ru," Genma said gently, trying not seem too concerned as he leaned casually against the side of the desk.

"Oh, hey Gen, Rai," Iruka said, looking up his friends briefly as he sent another jounin off with a mission. "You know I can't let you guys cut the line if that's what you're shooting for," Iruka said absentmindedly as a very sour faced woman stepped up to the desk. He'd gotten a lot of that look today, like something was all his fault but he had no clue what. He'd also gotten a few sympathetic looks as well, and that had confused him even more.

"No no, we just wanted to see how things were going. Are you doing okay, Ru?" Raidou asked, his brows furrowing a little.

"Well," Iruka said, sending the woman off with practiced efficiency, speaking as he worked frantically to appease his superiors who were waiting on him. "We're pretty busy all of a sudden but things are fine. Why?"

Genma and Raidou exchanged glances but mutually decided this wasn't the place to have an in depth discussion on the subject. "Oh, it's nothing. Hey, can we have dinner at your place tomorrow?" Genma asked, watching Iruka's face carefully for a reaction and to his horror he noticed that it went rather pale at the thought of feeding three mouths and not just one. "We'll pick up the ingredients if you cook us that excellent tuna sashimi thing you made for Raidou's birthday." It felt terrible to think that dish might have done more than just over extend Iruka's budget, putting their good friend into destitution for the price of a nice kunai and a slab of good tuna.

"Oh yeah, we'll buy enough food to feed the village if you make that again!" Raidou said encouragingly, his hand finding his lover's and squeezing it for comfort. "Come on, it'll be fun! We'll have some sake and all cook together. It'll be Sunday so you shouldn't have too much marking or anything like that, right? Please Ru?" Raidou pretended to pout, making the chuunin laugh and nod.

"Okay, that does sound like fun. Come over around six and we'll get started. Thanks guys." Iruka smiled broadly and Kakashi, who was watching from across the room, noticed that it was a real smile. Now all he had to do was get an invitation to join them at that dinner.

A few hours later when the missions room had cleared out all three of the clerks received summons to the hokage office, arriving in the midst of the pack of chuunin who were standing around anxiously, staring at Tsunade's still broken desk. Their hokage seemed to be in a very bad mood but you couldn't tell it from her expression which was softer than most of them had ever seen. "First of all," she started, her voice soft, "I want to tell you how sorry I am, to all of you. There is no excuse for not noticing how most of you have been living, although it would have helped if even one of you had spoken up." The chuunin were collectively silent in awe at how soft and kind Tsunade's words were, especially when she was usually screaming and throwing things at them. Not to mention what she was saying, had someone finally told?

"Now, I have here equalization payments for all of you and you'll notice that your next pay cheques have substantial raises. Also, for those of you who have been vying for more B-rank missions, you'll be very needed this month so be sure to take good care of yourselves and for Kami sakes, please start standing up for yourselves. It's disgraceful that none of you have taken any actions on this matter in all this time. Now, come get your cheques and get the hell out of here. Your jounin will be taking over any missions office or gate shifts for the rest of the night. They all thought you deserved a night off to enjoy yourselves."

The group stared at the hokage in shock before slowly heading up to where dozens of cheques were lined up on the floor, seeing as how Tsunade's desk was still in splinters. Whoops of jubilation could be heard all the way down the hall as they started looking at the numbers on their cheques. Izumo leapt into Kotetsu's arms in joy, kissing his lover thoroughly as Kotetsu supported his weight. "I am going to feed you until you explode, baby," he squealed excitedly, making his spiky haired lover chuckle against his lips.

"And I'm going to pound that sweet ass of yours until you explode, Zu."

"Promises, promises." Izumo looked over his lover's shoulder at Tsunade, flushing at his disrespect. "G-gomen nasai, Hokage-sama."

Tsunade's eyes were narrowed but her traitorous lips curled upwards and she gave him the smallest of nods. Izumo grinned and cuddled into his lover's body as Kotetsu carried him towards the door. "Domo arigato, Tsunade-sama," he murmured before winding his fingers in Kotetsu's spikes and kissing his lover's neck.

Iruka stared down at his cheque in shock as he leaned against the wall of the hall. It was enough for rent and food for three months. He was so busy staring at the little piece of paper that he didn't notice when someone lazily lounged against the wall beside him.

"So how much did you get?"

Iruka jumped about a foot in surprise, his precious cheque slipping from his fingers and was snatched by pale fingers of an ANBU gloved hand. Iruka gaped at Kakashi, so stunned he couldn't even speak.

"Hmph," Kakashi said, looking down at the number on the piece of paper. "Not bad," he said, turning and handing it back to Iruka, "but you of all people deserve more." He watched in amusement as Iruka flushed so deeply that even his ears turned colour and the younger man started to stutter. How had he never noticed before how adorable Iruka was, how full and soft Iruka's lips looked or how remarkably precious the chuunin-sensei was.

"H-Hatake-sama…" Iruka sputtered, looking like he might faint at any moment. "H-how d-did your mission go?"

Kakashi winced at the brunet addressing him so very formally. "Kakashi is fine Iruka and my mission was… very informative, but over all a good experience. Still, it's nice to be back."

"Th-that's good to hear. I was really w…" Iruka clapped a hand over his mouth and swayed on his feet, Kakashi reaching out to steady him. Iruka looked down at Kakashi's hand on his shoulder and then back up at his crush, sure now that all this was just an amazing dream, it had to be, there was no other explanation.

Kakashi smiled behind his mask and gently began to lead Iruka down the hall. "You don't look so good, Iruka. I know just the thing. How about I buy you a bowl of ramen?"

Now Iruka knew it was too good to be true and he recoiled, his eyes filled with pain as if Kakashi had slapped him. "That's not very nice, Hatake-san," Iruka snapped, unable to comprehend that Kakashi was asking him to be kind and not making fun of him. It was just out of the realm of possibilities in his mind that Kakashi could actually be asking him out on a date so that only meant that the man that he'd had a crush on for years was being deliberately cruel.

Kakashi's visibly eye widened in shock and he reached out a hand towards Iruka. "No, Iruka I…"

"No, I get it. You've made your point Hatake-san!" Iruka's tone was angry and bitter and it broke Kakashi's heart to hear the young man speak in such a way. He'd inadvertently hurt Iruka so badly that the man, who seemed to be able to take anything had finally snapped and released some of that pent up rage and frustration right at Kakashi. "Of course, no jounin would want to hang out with a chuunin unless they can stick them with a bill for something. Sorry, I don't much feel like buying you ramen today, even if I can afford it for once!"

Sure Iruka looked sexy when he was mad, those big brown eyes fiery with anger but Kakashi felt too bad to notice it much. Clearly his treatment of Iruka over the years had been harder on the man than he'd thought. "Iruka, I wasn't…" But Iruka threw up his hands in disgust and stomped down the hall away from Kakashi, who could do nothing except watch him go. He'd really screwed this one up and he didn't know what to do to make it right again but he knew that he wouldn't stop until Iruka realized that Kakashi saw him as so much more than just a chuunin.

Safely inside his apartment, Iruka sunk to the floor and held his knees to his chest, feeling so disillusioned that he didn't ever want to leave the confines of these walls ever again. How could Kakashi have been so cruel? He'd always thought Kakashi, while a bit of an eccentric, was a good man. He wanted to cry but just couldn't let himself, he'd always expected something like this if he'd ever worked up the nerve to actually talk to Kakashi. He just wanted to go to bed and wake up this morning before this had ever happened.

Iruka was jerked out of his paralyzing depression at the sound of scratching at his balcony door. Sighing he pushed himself to his feet and let Kakashi inside. "I'm going to lie down, Tommy. Please come with me," he begged in a sad, exhausted voice, scratching Kakashi's ears before heading into his room. He stripped off all his clothes and pulled out his hair tie and crawled under the covers, pulling Kakashi to his chest and burying his face in the grey fur. "Life sucks, Tommy. This should have been the happiest day of my life. I got a huge lump of money, I talked to Kakashi, but I just wish I was dead now."

Kakashi's stomach tightened at the words, truly believing that Iruka meant what he said, nuzzling Iruka's chin to offer some comfort. They younger man smiled for a second before growing serious again. "What if he wasn't teasing me?" He asked no one in particular. "What if he was actually going to… Well it doesn't matter now either way, he'll never talk to me again." Iruka let out a dry sob and buried his face in his pillow, falling asleep almost immediately.

Kakashi transformed back into himself and looked down at Iruka sadly, his fingers seeking out the smooth tan skin and the silky strands of Iruka's hair. He was pining; there was no other word to use. He wanted to wake Iruka up, to kiss him and tell him just how wrong he was, that the copy nin could finally see what all his years of using the sharingan hadn't. But he settled instead on pulling Iruka tight to his body and gently kissing the crown of chocolate hair.

He stayed that way until Iruka began to stir in the morning and quickly changed back into a cat and proceeded to follow Iruka around the town. Most of the chuunin were in very good moods but Iruka still seemed a bit down, his smile a bit fake as he headed to a store to pick up a bottle of sake for his dinner with Genma and Raidou.

Iruka fondled the bottle of expensive sake longingly but moved on to a more conservatively priced bottle. After looking at it for a second he smiled slyly and picked back up the expensive bottle, deciding he could afford to treat himself tonight. When he turned to head to the cash register however he walked straight into another person, the bottle of sake slipping from his fingers. He reached desperately to grab it, his forehead coming in contact harshly with the top of a silver crowned head.

Kakashi grunted in pain but managed to snag the bottle before it hit the floor. His trademark one eye grin was firmly in place as he rubbed his head and handed the bottle back to Iruka. "You really didn't have to knock that much sense into me, Iruka, I really wasn't teasing you yesterday." Their fingers brushed as Kakashi slipped the bottle into a very stunned Iruka's hand, watching with delight as an adorable blush spread over his tan cheeks.

"I…I…" Iruka stuttered, completely at a loss for words. He was so in shock, not only from Kakashi's miraculous rescue of his splurge buy but also that his crush was talking to him after how he'd acted yesterday. "Uh…thank you," he practically whispered, his cheeks a deep crimson. He turned the bottle around in his hand, shyly avoiding Kakashi's gaze, which the older man found completely irresistible. Iruka gasped as two gloved fingers lifted his chin and then rapped him gently on the nose.

"So I hear you're having a big night with Genma and Raidou tonight. Mind if I invite myself over? I haven't had a really good meal since I've been back and I've heard you make a mean tuna sashimi."

Iruka flushed and gently chewed on his full bottom lip, his breath coming in light pants at Kakashi's proximity. He couldn't figure out why he wasn't jumping at this chance to have dinner with Kakashi. A week ago this kind of interaction between them would have seemed like a dream. Which was probably the reason he was so hesitant, something just felt so unreal about this situation. The thought suddenly struck him, 'Genma or Raidou told him!' He gritted his teeth in anger at their betrayal but let his face relax when Kakashi frowned. It wasn't his fault after all and he hadn't just laughed at Iruka and was trying to…get a date? That did seem a little far fetched but even if this was just a dream, Iruka was going to soak it up for as long as he could.

"I…guess one more couldn't hurt. Genma and Raidou promised to buy out the market so there should be enough food."

Kakashi grinned and grabbed a few more bottles of the expensive sake and snagged the one from Iruka's hand. "Fantastic! I'll get the sake then. You shouldn't have to spend your hard earned money on us moochers, especially when you're cooking."

Iruka was in a complete daze as Kakashi paid for the sake and they walked back to his apartment. Kakashi seemed to have noticed that Iruka wasn't capable of holding much of a conversation at the moment so he just chatted away about this and that to make the chuunin feel more comfortable, gently guiding Iruka with a hand on the small of his back at any time it was remotely appropriate…and maybe a couple when it was superfluous.

When they'd gotten settled at Iruka's and were sharing cups of the delicious sake, Iruka seemed to loosen up a little and began engaging in the conversation. They were getting along famously until a knock at the door seemed to darken Iruka's mood, completely confusing Kakashi.

"Alright, let's get this party started!" Genma cheered as Iruka let him in, both he and Raidou's arms loaded with bags of food. He totally missed Iruka's rigid posture though Raidou's brows furrowed a little at Iruka's fairly cool reception. They both froze however when Kakashi waved from the living room. "Hatake, what are you doing here?" Genma asked stupidly with a shocked grin, making Iruka outright scowl, as if his suspicions had been confirmed.

Noticing Iruka's rather grouchy mood, Kakashi got off the couch and placed a reassuring hand on the chuunin's back, rubbing a slow circle to help calm him. "I hope you don't mind, I ran into Iruka and invited myself over. I hear he's a great cook."

Raidou was smart enough to stay quiet but Genma's face split into a sly grin. "Oh, he is. We really should do this more often. Iruka's cooking is fantastic. Well, the more the merrier. I'm sure you'll find EVERYTHING here to your taste." There was little to no subtlety to Genma's words and Raidou clapped a hand to his face and groaned softly to himself but Kakashi pretended not to have noticed what Genma was implying.

"I'm sure it will be great. Can I give you a hand with anything, Iruka?"

The younger man just shook his head, digging into one of the bags of food to pull out the ridiculously expensive white truffle oil and the tuna. "No, that's fine. You guys go have a drink and I'll get this ready." He smiled when Kakashi pretended to pout but moved with the other two men into the living room. They chatted for a few minutes before Genma excused himself, anxious to give Iruka kudos on having the balls to finally talk to Kakashi.

Raidou watched them go before turning to Kakashi with a suspicious glare. "What the hell are you doing here, Hatake? If you're doing what I think you're doing I swear I'll…"

His low hiss died off as Kakashi raised his hand to silence him. "I'm not. Just trying to make up for lost time of me being a blind jack ass…if he'll still have me."

Raidou's eyes narrow but finally he nodded. "Be very careful, Kakashi. This isn't a game. Iruka really likes you."

"I know. He has for a long time, hasn't he? I was just to self involved to see it." Raidou and he chatted quietly, not touching the subject again now that Kakashi had been sufficiently warned until heated whispers from the kitchen slowly began to rise in volume and they stopped to listen.

Genma was beaming as he stepped into the kitchen and ruffled Iruka's hair. "Way. To. GO! I can't believe you did it! So are you two dating or is it still up in the air? He seems like he's sweet on you. How did this happen so quickly?"

Iruka never took his eyes off where he was slowly slicing a beautiful tuna fillet. "Why don't you tell me? You're the reason he's here, aren't you?" He couldn't help but lash out a little. He'd been expecting to have a really pleasant evening with two of his closest friends but now he was sure that one of them had spilled an important secret to his crush and he didn't know what to or how to feel about them anymore, even if their interference had helped.

Genma's brows furrowed in confusion, "what do you mean, Ru? What's going on?" It had been a long time since he'd seen Iruka this worked up and frankly he didn't want to be on the receiving end of Iruka's wrath, especially when he was holding the carefully sharpened sushi knife.

Iruka growled and slapped the knife down on the counter, turning to face Genma. "You told him! I know you did. You both swore you wouldn't tell him, which is why I told you. I TRUSTED you!"

Genma blinked stupidly, staring at Iruka in complete shock. There was what seemed like several minutes of that stunned silence before he squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. "What? Iruka, what are you saying? Of course we didn't tell him. Why do you think I was so surprised to see him here?" Genma knew that he had to tread carefully. Iruka was not prone to losing his temper but when he did…

"Then what the hell is he doing here? All of a sudden he just takes an interest in me when he's hardly made eye contact with me for years? Bull shit! You told him, I know you did!"

Raidou looked at Kakashi as they listened to Iruka yell at Genma, the words bull shit, told him, and I know you did, floating through the apartment clear as a bell.


Raidou shook his head as a very awkward silence fell around them, Genma and Iruka probably having realized that they could be overheard. "So… interesting meeting in the hokage's office yesterday…" Raidou was pretty much just trying to say something so that Iruka wouldn't be too upset that they'd been eavesdropping. They chatted about nothing important for about ten minutes, both wanting to get up to see if their respective love interests were okay but managed to remain seated. Finally Iruka and Genma returned to the living room, both of them loaded with trays of food and small plates. Iruka's cheeks were flaming red with embarrassment that Kakashi could have overheard them but the two men who were already sitting down played if off.

"Wow, Ru, this looks amazing. You work fast," Raidou said encouragingly, getting up to take the plates from Iruka's heavily laden hands.

"It went quickly with Genma's help. The hot food is cooking now. My table is a little small for three so I figured we'd be more comfortable in here for four," Iruka said quietly, not meeting anyone's eyes as he nodded to his two person café table.

Kakashi stood and took two of the trays which were expertly balanced on Iruka's arms and set them down on the coffee table. "This looks incredible, Iruka. Thank you so much for letting me join you. I certainly don't eat like this very often. Do you think if I brought over groceries every once and a while I might convince you to cook for me, or at least show me a thing or two in the kitchen. It would be nice to have someone to share a meal with now and then…"

Raidou smiled at Kakashi's rather sweet plea for another chance to spend time with Iruka while the chuunin blushed furiously and only managed a small nod in reply, eager for the company as well. "C-cooking for one…isn't much fun," Iruka managed to choke out, handing Kakashi a plate and chopsticks.

The silver haired man grinned behind his mask and looked down at the food hungrily. "This looks incredible. Would any of you mind if I stripped down a little before dinner?" He'd addressed the question to the group but was only looking at Iruka's flushed face. When no one objected, he pulled off his hiatai and pulled down his mask before undoing it and pulling it over his head, showing his whole face off to the room.

Iruka's eyes were glued on Kakashi's handsome features, never in his life had he even dared to dream that he would be privy to seeing them or that they'd been so beautiful and at the same time unremarkable. Kakashi was gorgeous but not perfect, scars marring the good looks and the lower half of the face ghostly pale from always wearing the mask, but to Iruka Kakashi was everything he'd wished and more. He smiled nervously when Kakashi grinned at him, his fingers longing to reach out and touch Kakashi's cheek to see if it was real or just a jutsu.

"May I?" Kakashi asked, pulling Iruka's plate from his hands and loading it up with food before handing it back and refilling Iruka's sake cup. He helped himself to his own food too, quickly trying a piece of the white tuna with the delicious oil on it and the bright orange caviar. "Oh ma gods," he murmured as the fish melted in his mouth, moaning in pleasure as the delicious tastes assaulted his tastes buds before swallowing and grinning softly at Iruka. "That is the best sashimi I've ever had. If you're going to cook like this when we have dinner I'm going to have to start working out again. What do you call this masterpiece?"

"W-white truffle tuna capriccio," Iruka murmured, his cheeks so hot they were about to spontaneously combust. He looked at Genma and Raidou, noticing how the pair were just barely able to contain their grins of delight, which had nothing to do with the food. "It's my father's recipe. E-enjoy," he said to the group before digging in himself. It wasn't often that he got to eat like this either, even though he was the chef.

They all ate until they were about to burst as Iruka brought out more food for them. When Iruka came out with the chocolate covered strawberries and dango for desert he couldn't help but notice that Genma and Raidou had taken up the entire couch, leaving the arm of the chair that Kakashi was sitting in the only spot left. He hovered for a moment but when the silver haired jounin patted the spot that was intimately close to him, Iruka blushed and sat down.

It was hard to say if it was the mass amounts of sake that they consumed making him brave or just clumsy but at some point Iruka had slid down off the arm of the chair and was perched on Kakashi's lap as they all laughed and chatted together. After a couple of hours of pounding back sake Genma gave a very fake yawn and stretch.

"Well look at the time. It must be pushing…nine thirty. We should really get out of your hair. Ru, thank you so much for a fantastic meal." When Iruka made to get up off Kakashi's lap Genma held up his hands. "No no, we'll show ourselves out. Have a good night you two."

Iruka and Kakashi watched them leave, Iruka letting out the sweetest little giggle before pulling back and looking at the man who's lap he was sitting in. Shifting uncomfortably, he gave a nervous chuckled and tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. "I guess we don't have to share a seat anymore." He tried to get up but two strong arms wrapped around his waist, holding him in place, making him blink in surprise.

"I'm pretty comfortable," Kakashi murmured, pulling Iruka tight to his chest. Somehow, holding Iruka like this felt like the most right thing he'd ever done. Iruka just fit so perfectly in his arms.

Now it was definitely the sake that made Iruka bold this time, and if you asked him later what he was thinking at this moment he would groan and hold his head and mumble that he had no idea but when he was looking down at Kakashi like that and the man was smiling up at him it seemed like a good idea. Very slowly he leaned in, his fingers gently touching Kakashi's pale, scarred cheek, and caught Kakashi's lips in a soft, needy kiss. His heart was slamming into his ribs as he deepened the kiss, his hand sliding into Kakashi's coarse silver hair. Then like a he'd been electrocuted, Iruka jumped up off Kakashi, his big brown eyes wide in surprise at what he'd done.

"I-I'm s-sorry. I…I didn't mean to do that. Oh gods, I-I-I w-wasn't thinking…" Iruka turned away, completely mortified that he'd just done that. "You can go if you want. I'm sorry." He picked up the desert plates, muttering 'idiot' to himself under his breath but like when he was buying the sake, when he turned around he was chest to chest with Kakashi only this time he was staring up at the man's handsome face instead of the mask.

Without saying a word, Kakashi pulled the plates from Iruka's hands and placed them back down on the coffee table. Looking into Iruka's wide, stunned eyes he gently cupped the bronze jaw and pulled their faces together. Their lips locked in a long chaste kiss which quickly deepened as Kakashi's arms snaked around Iruka's waist and pulled him close.

As their tongues brushed Iruka melted into the taller man's arms, his heart both soaring and breaking at the same time. 'He probably just wants to sleep with me. Still, this was something you never thought you'd have. Just enjoy it for now and you can pick up the pieces of your heart later.' Keeping that in mind he hungrily kissed Kakashi back, pressing their bodies together to show Kakashi how welcome this was and slowly started moving them back towards the bedroom. Not wanting Kakashi to change his mind, Iruka was quick to strip off his clothes, keeping the kiss going as he frantically fumbled with his pants. As soon as he was completely naked he slid Kakashi's jounin vest off his arms, the uniform shirt quick to follow. After unbuttoning his crush's pants he slid nervously back on the bed, displaying his naked form for Kakashi.

The jounin looked down at the young man he was so infatuated with and slowly pushed his pants off his hips. Being an efficient student of behavior, he could tell that Iruka was nervous or hesitant in some way as he slowly crawled onto the bed and hovered above the brunet.

"I-I have lube," Iruka stuttered, scrambling for his bedside table and pushing his lone vibrator aside to grab the small bottle and pushing it into Kakashi's hand. "I can stretch myself if you don't want to," he whispered, his cheeks flushed with both embarrassment and shame. He just didn't want Kakashi to leave.

Moving with purpose but very slowly, Kakashi reached out and pulled the bottle from Iruka's hand before placing back into the drawer and laying down on his side next to Iruka on the narrow bed. Pulling the slim body close, Kakashi was amazed at how well they fit together and how he'd never stayed with anyone long enough to enjoy the feeling of soft, warm skin pressed against his. "We can do that another time if you prefer," he murmured quietly, stroking Iruka's hair and cheek softly. He tried to keep his voice smooth and reassuring, treating Iruka like a startled horse. He knew that if Iruka got anymore skittish right then and for any reason got out of the bed it would take a long time and a lot of patience to feel Iruka in his arms like this again.

"You don't seem all that comfortable right now Iruka, we don't need to rush this…" When at first Iruka looked panicked and then confused, Kakashi snuggled in tight to Iruka's side, burying his face in the chocolate hair and breathing in the calming scent that hung there. Never, in all his years, had he felt as at peace as he did right then, holding the befuddled teacher in his strong arms.

Feeling like his brain was about to explode with confusion, Iruka hesitantly leaned into Kakashi's embrace, barely able to comprehend what was happening. "O-okay…" he whispered against Kakashi's collarbones uncertainly, wondering to himself if this was just a fantastic dream or if Kakashi would still be there in the morning. When Kakashi inched away a bit and looked down at him, he turned his big brown eyes up to his crush. He couldn't tear his gaze away from Kakashi's unmasked face as the older man gently stroked his cheek. There was tenderness and disbelief in Kakashi's eyes that melted his heart and as the man spoke his words left Iruka completely breathless.

"How could I never have noticed how beautiful you are?" Kakashi mused as he gazed down adoringly at Iruka's handsome face. "I swear you're the most real person I've ever known, even when you are wearing your fake smile. How could I not have seen how special you are?" Kakashi pressed their mouths together in a long chaste kiss before pulling Iruka back tight to his chest and sighing in concern. "What are we going to do now?" he murmured softly, tangling his legs in Iruka's when he felt the chuunin tense in fear. He gave a low chuckle deep in his chest and used his whole body to give Iruka a reassuring squeeze. "I don't ever want to let you get out of this bed and sooner or later someone is going to come looking for me, though I'm sure they'll come looking for you first. Don't you pretty much keep this whole village running?"

Iruka let out a weak, astounded chuckle, still wondering how Kakashi knew so much about him. "I-I'll take the heat," he murmured against Kakashi's chest with a bit of a grin. "If I do as much as you say then I should have a sick day or two coming to me."

"I wouldn't want to get you into any trouble, even if you do deserve a day off." Kakashi tried hard to keep himself settled and let Iruka get some sleep but his traitorous hands and lips kept finding their way back to that mocha skin. After the third time and a rather heavy make out session, Kakashi pulled back, gasping for air. "I'm…sorry! I really do want you to get some…sleep!"

Chuckling softly, Iruka pulled Kakashi down to his shoulder, running his fingertips through the sweaty, silver spikes. "It's okay. I'll call in sick tomorrow. I don't think it will be a problem. I don't think I've taken a day off in years."

"I'm not very good at it myself but please let me show you how to relax. We can't have you working yourself into an early grave." When Iruka hummed and rubbed the pads of his fingers against Kakashi's scalp lazily, the jounin smiled and kissed Iruka's shoulder, sure that in the morning Iruka would drag his exhausted body to school like a good soldier. He really did have to let Iruka go to sleep. However an hour later he could still feel Iruka's muscles contract around him and hear the unevenness in Iruka's breathing.

"Go to sleep," he commanded in a deep whisper.

"I can't, Iruka responded, lifting a hand to gently stroke Kakashi's cheek. "What if you're not here when I wake up? I don't want this to just be a dream."

The thought made Kakashi sigh at how tragic his mocha skinned lover was and be struck with the fact that he was already in love with Iruka. "Don't worry, I'll be here. I promise." And that was it for him, he realized as Iruka finally fell asleep in his arms. He was now Iruka's body and soul, ready to live his life to make someone, who was essentially still a total stranger, truly happy.

Waking up hadn't exactly been what he'd expected. His skin was slick with sweat and his bladder was uncomfortably full. It wasn't the most romantic of ways to wake up but when Kakashi looked down at Iruka's peaceful face he knew that if he woke up that way from then on he could die happy. The look in Iruka's eyes as he kissed the long, graceful neck and they fluttered open was priceless, the younger man looking completely overwhelmed that Kakashi was still in his bed and last night had been real.

True to his word, Iruka sent in a summons letting the school know he wouldn't be teaching that day and spent the whole time lounging and relaxing with Kakashi. In fact for the next few days, Iruka and Kakashi were almost inseparable, especially Kakashi, who was delighted to find that every time he popped into the missions room, Iruka's face would turn the most adorably sexy shade of pink. He continued to try to convince Iruka to take more time off though he couldn't seem to make the young man stop cooking him lavish meals every day. 'At least he's putting on a little weight in the process,' Kakashi mused after Iruka presented him with another elaborate meal. "You won't even let me help!" Kakashi whined, feeling a little guilty that even in his off time Iruka was far more fixated on making him happy than looking after himself.

"I like cooking for you!" the younger man insisted, "besides, I can't let you learn all my secret recipes or you won't need me for anything. Eeep!" He let out a very unmanly cry as he was pulled to Kakashi's lap and his lover started nuzzling his neck.

"I don't think you have to worry about that," Kakashi purred, finding himself completely addicted to Iruka's smell. He reluctantly released Iruka, the smile slipping from his face as Iruka set out new food on his balcony and threw the old food away. Kakashi had forgotten about Tommy but it was clear that Iruka had not and seeing his dolphin so despondent but putting on a brave face was heartbreaking for him.

When Iruka saw Kakashi's worried face, he put on a big, dubiously genuine smile and wandered back to the table to start their dinner. "It's nothing, Kashi. There was just a stray that had been coming to see me, I thought that maybe he needed a new home but he's stopped coming by so his owner must have found him."

Kakashi just hummed in understanding at the time but the next day he went to a local nincat breeder and picked out an adorable black and orange kitten for his lover. Iruka was ecstatic to receive his gift, fawning over the little ball of fur and kissing Kakashi until their lips were raw.

"You didn't have to do this, Kashi," Iruka purred against the thin, pink lips as he stroked the happy kitten on his knee.

"He can keep you company when I'm on long missions." He rubbed the kitten's chin with his index finger, having to admit the tiny thing was pretty adorable. "He should be very trainable, like a ninkin but if you just want him as a pet I'm sure he won't mind getting fat and spoiled." When Iruka grinned and rubbed the kitten's tummy, Kakashi smiled, ecstatic to have been able to make Iruka happy. Still, part of him felt guilty that he'd gleaned such a very personal perspective on Iruka's life without the chuunin knowing. He felt like he was lying to Iruka by not telling him and he just couldn't make himself comfortable with that. "So…" he started uncertainly, terrified that when Iruka found out he would be so furious or mortified that he wouldn't want to see Kakashi anymore. "Does this mean I can keep you?" He parroted what Iruka had said to him just a few nights ago and waited to see if his lover would respond.

Iruka was slow to put the pieces together, just thinking that Kakashi was being sweet, but when the realization him it hit him hard. All the incongruities, all the things that just hadn't made sense about the past couple of weeks seemed to come into focus. Iruka's body went stiff in Kakashi's arms and after gently setting the kitten on the floor clapped a hand to his mouth and fled to his bedroom in shame.

"Ru…Ru, please, just listen…" Kakashi rapped lightly on the bedroom door before testing it and finding it open. As he pushed it open and peeked inside. He was met with Iruka's back, his lover sitting at the antique dressing table with his head in his hands.

"Ru…please don't be angry. I never meant to invade your privacy like that. I was stuck henged as a cat and…aww, Ru. Please, I honestly didn't mean to intrude on your life, but I'm not sorry I did. At the very least if I've made day to day life a little bit easier and more enjoyable for you then it was all worth it." He slid up to Iruka's back and rested his hands on Iruka's slumped shoulders. "I think I can offer you so much more though. Maybe it's just selfish because I want you to be with me but I wouldn't take back the time I was stuck as a cat with you for anything."

One of Kakashi's hands slowly stroked Iruka's hair while the other moved on instinct to the brush on the dresser in front of him. He began gently pulling the bristles through the silky strands. "I think I fell in love with you the first time I saw you sitting here, brushing your hair in all your naked glory. It hadn't been my intention then but I'm glad that I got to see the real you, even if it was for just this short time." When Iruka looked up into the mirror, Kakashi could see the confusion and hurt in his eyes and he slowly set the brush down and gathered Iruka's hands in his as he sank to his knees. "Please Ru, I know that you never would have wanted me to know so much personal information about without realizing you were spilling it to me but I'm still not sorry if I get to keep you. Please…"

Kakashi slid forward, pressing his lips to Iruka's hands, looking up at Iruka, whom he considered to be his lover despite the fact they hadn't had sex yet, pleadingly, begging the chuunin not to turn away. After what seemed like an eternity Iruka managed a small smile and nodded, making Kakashi gather the man into his arms in relief. It took a few days for Iruka to completely getting over Kakashi's glimpse into his very private life but on the fourth day after he pulled Kakashi into his bedroom purposefully. They lay together in the tangled sheets, basking in the afterglow as Iruka purred contentedly against his chest and Kakashi smiled to himself, amazed that something that had seemed like such a cruel twist of fate had become the best thing that had ever happened to him.