Notes; I did research a little before writing this, but I apologise if anything isn't accurate. Also, unbeta-ed, so read at your own risk xD
Iruka gazed up at the ceiling from his bed, following along the faint patterns that stretched out to the walls. A small sigh left his lips and he closed his eyes, letting his body relax into the soft, warm sheets. Minutes passed before he grimaced and turned, searching for a new comfortable position that would sooner help him drift off. But he couldn't. Every image he tried to float to the surface of his mind was ripped apart by that dark, pained face with spinning crimson orbs.
The village had been informed this morning on the betrayal of Sasuke Uchiha. Iruka knew that he had seen it coming years ago, but had hoped as the young survivor grew up and found his path alongside his new comrades that things would change. He had hoped that Kakashi-sensei's words of wisdom – which the jounin had discussed with Iruka to keep him in the loop – would have some affect on Sasuke's decision and turn him back to his right path. But it seemed it just wasn't enough – Sasuke had made his decision and abandoned his Village.
Iruka knew he should have done more. From the start he should have taken more time and care into Sasuke's loss, as he had eventually found courage to do so with Naruto. He had tried once or twice by catching the young Uchiha after class to try and offer his support, but Sasuke would brush off the subject with a small grunt and politely state his need to leave. There wasn't anything Iruka could have done about that; he couldn't have forced his student to stay and talk.
The problem was that Sasuke was so different from Naruto, who Iruka had eventually noticed his own similarities in – someone he could relate to, as Naruto could him. Sasuke was nothing like Iruka or Naruto; instead of his sleeve, Sasuke's heart was locked so deep inside his chest that no one could even begin to scrape the surface. Iruka had often wondered if it was the fear of letting someone close and being betrayed again, or simply because the path he had chosen didn't require any friends to walk alongside him. Either way, it was impossible to reach the boy's emotions, but, surely, there must have been something he could have done to avoid this from happening.
He couldn't deny that he had perhaps relied on Kakashi-sensei too much to fix the issue; with a class full of students, Iruka had only so much time to give his attention individually, where as Kakashi only had three students to keep an eye on. There was also Iruka's distant theory that, being a jounin, Kakashi would have better knowledge than him about the real cruelness of reality; he had been on higher and more dangerous missions than Iruka which had no doubt lost some comrades and friends on the way. Iruka had, had his fair share of pain, but he could only imagine how often a jounin would come across such unfortunate circumstances, and therefore mentally trained to know how to steer away from the dark path of pain and solitude. He thought Kakashi's personal experiences, that every shinobi faced, would help Sasuke to understand that he was not alone, but it seemed Sasuke's hatred and need for revenge was far too strong now for anyone to help him.
The feeling of utter failure Iruka felt towards the boy he was supposed to watch grow into a great shinobi could barely have been a light pinch compared to how Kakashi must feel. After all, Sasuke had been placed under the jounin's responsibility. Despite the harsh words exchanged during the chuunin exam nominations and the awkward atmosphere that had surrounded the two teachers after that, Iruka still felt both guilt and pity for the man, and kept Kakashi in his thoughts in hopes that he would be alright; the jounin was still human, after all.
He turned to face the other wall again and stuck a leg out from under the sheets, the previous position now too hot and uncomfortable. He closed his eyes again with another attempt of drifting off, only to hear the clock ticking away the time passing by. He let out a frustrated sigh and glared at the clock to see 2:20am flashing back at him. It was no use; perhaps a light walk through the quiet, empty village and some fresh air would ease him a little, as lying there, staring at the ceiling was doing him no good.
He climbed out of bed and quickly changed into some casual clothing, before heading out into the village.
The air was indeed fresh but a little chilly, and Iruka mentally thanked himself for deciding to take a coat after all. He circled the quiet village, lost in his tangled thoughts, until he heard quiet footsteps appear in the distance.
He glanced up, dark brows knitting slightly at the soft, slow and irregular steps coming his way. They knitted deeper when he noticed a familiar chakra signature he couldn't quite match a face with, which flickered back and forth quite carelessly. A shadow came into view under the dim street light, and Iruka could only stare with wide, blank eyes when the figure finally appeared from behind the corner, walking along the pathway without giving Iruka a single glance.
It was Kakashi, dressed in loose, black bottoms and a vest with a mask attached to it. His headband and flak-jacket were missing, as were his gloves, and his hair looked more wild than usual. It was a strange sight to see, as Iruka had never seen Kakashi without his uniform and weapons before. Even his orange book was missing. What puzzled Iruka more though was the fact that the jounin's shoes were missing, and he was walking, or rather, wobbling through the village with only his bare feet.
The first assumption that popped into Iruka's head was that Kakashi had been on a mission and was perhaps staggering his way towards the hospital, but… there were no recent injuries he could find on the jounin from what he could see, and he was certain the hospital was the opposite way from the direction Kakashi was heading.
Iruka bit his lip awkwardly, unsure whether to catch up with the jounin and make sure he was alright, but considering the man had just so blatantly blanked him told him it was best not to; after what had happened today with Sasuke, he understood that Kakashi may not want to be bothered, perhaps the reason for roaming the empty village so late at night.
He stayed where he was for a moment and simply watched, knowing that if something was seriously wrong, he would never forgive himself for just walking away. Even from the distance now, he could sense Kakashi's chakra all over the place, and his steps were so irregular to his usual strange walk. It was when the jounin's shoulder bounced lightly against the wall from a poorly-aimed step that Iruka decided to trust his instincts that something was wrong.
He followed his second assumption by glancing around the roof tops, his eyes squinting into the shadowed areas around him, considering that perhaps someone had performed some kind of genjutsu on the man; but in their own village, who would do such a thing, unless it was some kind of prank being played by an old student or immature comrade?
At 2:30 in the morning?
He couldn't sense anyone else around. Glancing back to Kakashi, who was now heading far out up the pathway, ready to turn a corner, Iruka gave into his concern and followed after him. He quickly caught up and fell into Kakashi's slow steps.
"Kakashi-sensei?" he called out in a quiet, uncertain voice.
After a couple of seconds, Kakashi seemed to hesitate and stop in his tracks, but didn't turn to face the chuunin.
"Are you… alright?" At this, the jounin's head turned slightly and Iruka blinked, shifting to come into the man's view and glance up at what could be seen on his face.
He blinked again.
Kakashi's eyes were open and gazing straight past him, somewhere behind him into the distance. His eyes were somewhat glassy, giving Iruka the impression that the jounin was not 'all there.'
"Kakashi-sensei?" he said quietly again, and this time, a small mumble left the jounin's lips, the noise completely inaudible.
"W-What?" Iruka's brows knitted slightly, puzzled and concerned.
"…Don't know…" was the simple, flat response, before Kakashi turned and began to walk again.
At this, Iruka immediately ruled out the assumption of genjutsu; if the jounin was responding then he was apparently aware of Iruka's presence rather than locked into another world of the genjutsu user's imagination. Despite his awkward and embarrassing realisation, Iruka couldn't quite help the small smile that formed on his lips.
The copy ninja was sleepwalking.
Biting down on his lip again, Iruka watched as the jounin continued his way along the path, unsure on what to do. Iruka was no sleep-expert, but he had heard it was usually not a very good idea to wake a sleepwalker and confuse them with new, sudden surroundings. Not only that, but this was a jounin he was dealing with, who, if startled in this situation could possibly cause a lot of damage in lashing out. There were no weapons on Kakashi's person, but with his chakra flaring around so carelessly, it was likely he could kill Iruka without even realising.
Of course, there was also Kakashi's pride to think about; surely being told by a lower rank that he'd been found sleepwalking through the village would not do much good to his dignity. He couldn't just leave him though, lest something were to happen beyond the jounin's unconscious control.
He followed after him again, keeping his steps quiet to not startle the man. He glanced back to Kakashi's clothing, a small frown appearing on his face at the noticing of goose-bumps decorating his pale arms; he must be freezing outside in only his… pyjamas. Sighing, he unzipped his coat and shrugged it off, before lifting a hand to lightly press against Kakashi's shoulder. The jounin automatically stopped, as though convinced he'd walked into a dead end in the path.
"Here," Iruka whispered, as he gently draped the coat around the man's shoulders. "Shall we go back home?" he kept his voice at a low and quiet volume.
After a long pause, Kakashi mumbled something again, though the only word Iruka was able to catch was 'Sasuke,' which still barely reached his ears.
Iruka froze, unsure on how to react. He shifted again to meet Kakashi's eyes, as the jounin stared straight into the distance with the same blank expression. Iruka's mouth straightened into a thin line, hesitating for something to respond with. He felt a stab of pity for the man, as he wondered if Kakashi was perhaps dreaming about his 'ex' student; Sasuke's betrayal must had hurt him harder than Iruka had thought. His heart burned with that familiar guilt, as he wondered if the pressure so many of them had put on Kakashi to save the Uchiha had resorted to this.
Kakashi soon moved again, towards his apparent-decided direction. Iruka sighed, feeling somewhat powerless, as he couldn't simply pick Kakashi up and return him home without risking some form of panic attack. He couldn't reason with the man either, as he couldn't understand what on earth the jounin was trying to say.
Inhaling another sigh, Iruka caught up and walked with him, his eyes darting around at their surroundings in curiosity of where they were going. If Kakashi attempted to pass the entrance gates, then he'd have no choice but to alert someone and receive help returning him home, but for now, as long as someone was watching over him, he guessed the jounin wasn't really in much danger.
Raising a curious brow, he finally glanced back to Kakashi to see if he could get some clues nonetheless. "Where are we going?"
Again, Kakashi took a while to respond, before slurring out what sounded like, 'home.'
Iruka blinked again but shrugged it off in acceptance, realising there was no chance of understanding what was going on in the jounin's mind.
Kakashi seemed to know where he was going, as there was hardly much hesitance in his steps, apart from the odd stumble in which he managed to catch himself again. Iruka looked at the man's feet with a wince, knowing that they were going to be sore tomorrow with all these small stones scattered around. He wasn't risking running off to find a spare pair of shoes though, not wanting to lose the jounin and let him walk off into any danger.
He let out a small yawn, finally greeted by his sleepiness. A small pout crossed his lips as he realised he was going to be exhausted tomorrow; it must have been around 3am now and he'd hadn't a wink of sleep yet.
Kakashi turned again, stumbling slowly into the entrance of the training grounds. Iruka looked around cautiously, hoping he wouldn't have to tackle the unconscious man from trying to throw himself at a training stump.
"It might be a little late for training…" he laughed weakly, his volume still as quiet as before, yet speaking nevertheless as his voice seemed to be triggering into Kakashi's ears if not a little.
Kakashi ignored him, passing the training stumps and approaching the large marble stone next to it. Iruka's lips parted like a goldfish as he followed, genuinely curious now as to what connection Kakashi had here. He knew enough about Kakashi to trust his teachings, but other than that, the man was more an acquaintance than anything else.
They must have stood there for about half an hour, or so Iruka's tired mind thought, and he was shivering from the cold by the end of it, merely waiting for Kakashi to move his gaze from behind-the-stone-and-slightly-to-the-right, and turn back to the village. The jounin had been standing in the exact same position the whole time, just staring beyond the stone as though time had frozen.
"Sh-shall we go now?" Iruka whispered through a shiver, smiling weakly at the man. "I-I'd really like to go to bed…" He yawned again through the long silence that followed.
"…Sa-suke…?" Kakashi suddenly mumbled, the word slurred, broken and barely heard.
Iruka blinked. "No," he whispered, "It's Iruka… Iruka-sensei?"
There was a faint twitch in Kakashi's silver brow, which would have been unnoticeable if Iruka wasn't focussed so intently on the man's face.
"…U-ka…" the jounin mumbled lazily, along with something else the chuunin couldn't quite catch.
Iruka blinked again. "Um, yes…" He looked away awkwardly. "Shall we go now?"
Kakashi seemed to hesitate for a moment, before he slowly turned and staggered back towards the entrance of the training grounds. Iruka let out a breath of relief, looking forward to slipping back into his bed for his remaining… three hours. He inwardly groaned.
They walked back through the night-time Village. Iruka had no choice but to follow Kakashi in trusts that the jounin knew where he was going, as the chuunin hadn't a clue where the man lived. He could hear small mumbles escaping Kakashi's hidden lips, though unable to understand what the man was saying. He guessed that Kakashi had forgotten his presence altogether, as his inaudible sentences didn't seem directed at him, but to the jounin himself. Iruka didn't intervene, more concerned with getting Kakashi back home so he could snatch back as much sleep as possible.
They finally reached what seemed to be Kakashi's home, as the silver-haired jounin slipped through the open door without a seconds thought. Iruka couldn't deny his concern that he'd left the door open; anyone could have breezed inside without difficulty. He glanced to Kakashi's back as the jounin approached another room to the house, and decided he had little choice but to go inside and make sure he would be safe for the rest of the night.
As he stepped inside, he immediately noticed Kakashi's missing weapons that were lined up on the sofa. It was an unusual place he'd expected to see them, but he considered it was possibly intended in the man's sleepy state.
He quietly approached the room the jounin had disappeared into, to see Kakashi slipping back into his bed while muttering something to his pillow. A small smile twitched at Iruka's lips at the unusual sight; the infamous copy ninja appeared so vulnerable and… oblivious to his surroundings. He couldn't help but feel thankful that he'd found the man when he had, fearing now that someone else could of done; it wouldn't be surprising if there were enemies out for the copy ninja's blood, that could have broken into the village to be greeted by such perfect opportunity and advantage… it sent a chill along Iruka's spine at just the thought of it.
He knew he had to say something tomorrow, tell the man what had happened, but he had no idea what the outcome would be. He didn't want to humiliate Kakashi and then possibly be avoided for the rest of his life out of shame; the copy ninja was supposed to be a fearless, respected and professional, and although Iruka didn't know the man that well, he could guess that the 'awake' Kakashi would not have wanted to seen tonight.
Despite his relief that Kakashi was now in bed, Iruka couldn't help but wonder if this was just a one off, or if it had happened before. If the latter, Kakashi could be in serious trouble if the Hokage were to find out, as the ninja would become more a liability in the night than a protector of the village. He felt another stab of pity, and decided that tomorrow night he would take another walk around the village to see if Kakashi was repeating his actions, and then decide what to do about it from there. For now, the jounin was safe, and Iruka doubted the man would be getting out of bed again anytime soon.
He quietly stepped forth, arranging the sheets and tucking the jounin in, before leaving the room again. He quickly searched around the house to ensure no power supplies had been turned on during Kakashi's antics, and on the way, cleaned up a used dish, returned a tin of tuna to the fridge, and pulled out the plug from the filled-up bathtub.
He closed the front door behind him and made his way home, desperate to get a couple of hours sleep before his shift started.
Iruka was frustrated but not surprised to find himself an hour late for work, but his unusually lateness was brushed off by his superiors and he soon found himself catching up with his duties. With the help of cups of coffee he had lost count of, he had managed to get through each lesson, despite the three or four bursts of impatience when the little devils refused to settle down.
By the end of the schooling hours, he was drained of energy, and yet still had his shift in the mission room to complete. It was just so typical that the day he was unorganized and exhausted, the queue of jounins waiting impatiently to have their reports filed were half-way down the mission room. He hadn't the tolerance for excuses of missing reports today, and snapped at each jounin (who apparently all owned some form of summoning that liked to chew on important pieces of paper) to take a seat and simply re-do them. Sensing his temper, he was spared from a riot and given peace to continue his work.
That was until he noticed the next jounin in the queue approach the table, and Iruka felt an extremely awkward atmosphere surround him as Kakashi placed his report on the desk.
"Good evening, Iruka-sensei," came the usual greeting from the jounin.
At this, Iruka quickly assumed with relief that Kakashi had no recollection of what had happened last night. Letting out a breath he hadn't realised he was holding, he glanced up at Kakashi with a warm, welcoming smile, but it slipped from his lips as soon as it had come, when he saw the state of what could be seen on the jounin's face. His eye looked a little droopy, different from the usual lazy look he had noticed in the past. He could see a small bag curled under his eye, tinted a very pale purplish tone.
He looked exhausted.
Snapping out of the mirrored, blank staring contest, Iruka cleared his throat and lifted the report to his eyes. He froze as he read along the lines, dark brows frowning in disbelief, as he pinpointed the words that mostly stood out.
The report was supposed to be filed two days ago, a longer stretch of time than usual for the copy ninja to hand in his reports.
Glancing up at Kakashi, he noticed the jounin raise a silver eyebrow that looked like he was daring Iruka to comment on it. Biting his tongue, Iruka looked back to the report and stamped it as valid, relieved that he didn't have further access to mission details; it wasn't his job to make judgement, but ensure the reports were properly filled in.
"Everything seems to be in order," he said softly, and glanced up questioningly when the jounin didn't move.
Kakashi's eye was pierced into him intently, but the defensive look had faded into something… suspicious. There was a new atmosphere surrounding them that Iruka couldn't quite place his finger on.
"Iruka-sensei?" the jounin then said quietly after a short pause.
Iruka blinked, feeling somewhat uncomfortable by the tone.
"Maa," Kakashi frowned and glanced away, seeming lost in his thoughts. Iruka's shoulders relaxed at the now calmer-looking expression. "This may sound a little… odd, but," He looked back to Iruka, eye squinted in confusion. "Were you in my home last night?"
Iruka's blinked again, parting his lips in a silent gasp as he tried to collect his puzzled thoughts, but Kakashi quickly answered his question.
"I could sense a chakra signature this morning, and um… some of my things have been moved around…" He looked almost disbelieved at his own words; that someone had managed to enter his home without him even noticing. "I couldn't put my finger on it until just now - your signature matched…"
Iruka wasn't going to say anything. He was going to leave it another night and see if he even needed to confront Kakashi about it - until now, when the jounin revealed the impression that Iruka had broken into his house. Despite his consideration towards Kakashi's pride, there was no way he was going to let the jounin think that he would do such a thing.
"Ah," he sighed, lifting a hand to his nose to rub the deep scar tissue. "Actually, I needed to talk to you about that,"
Kakashi's eye widened in surprise at the chuunin's open response.
"I have a break in half an hour. Can you meet me somewhere and we'll talk about it?"
A small glare flashed through the jounin's eye, though Iruka could see it was more… alarm than annoyance. "What were you doing in my home?" the jounin then snapped defensively, surprising Iruka.
The room went quiet and eyes turned on them. Despite his innocence, Iruka blushed deeply at the unwanted attention, before his eye snapped back to Kakashi with a firm look. Thinking on his feet to turn the attention away from them, and avoid a humiliating situation for the jounin, he told a quick lie.
"I've been given orders to keep this private, Kakashi-sensei."
Kakashi froze, and Iruka could see panic flicker through his eye. His heart twisted with guilt, but soothed himself with knowledge that things could have been a lot worse.
"Alright." Kakashi mumbled quietly, and without another word, he turned and left the room.
Iruka inhaled a deep sigh, feeling a sense of dread surround him. He should have seen this coming.
As soon as Iruka exited the building, he saw Kakashi leaning against the wall, watching him with an anxious eye that told Iruka he'd been waiting there since. The fact that Kakashi wasn't bothering to paint over his edginess with his usual, lazy posture also gave Iruka the impression that the jounin was troubled about the situation more than he really should have been. Either that, or there was more to this than Iruka understood.
Sighing, Iruka turned down the path, motioning for Kakashi to follow. "Let's go somewhere private."
Kakashi didn't say a word throughout the entire walk, but gazed into the distance with the same empty looking eye Iruka had seen last night, but this time, there was a hint of sadness to it.
They stopped at a brown bench, where Iruka sat down the patted the empty space beside him. After a moment's hesitation, Kakashi sat down and glanced at him in impatience.
Oh Kami… Iruka should have prepared himself for this. He inhaled a deep breath, gathering his thoughts and deciding where to start.
"Last night," he began, and Kakashi's shoulders slouched so low Iruka hadn't realised how tense they were. "Last night, I went out for a walk because I couldn't sleep…" His eyes lifted to the trees around them, lost in his thoughts. "I think the Sasuke situation had got to me harder than I'd thought… Even though I saw it coming, I hadn't really prepared myself for it…"
Kakashi's brows knitted deeply. "Sorry? I thought this was about a mission?" he said, faster than he'd hoped. "You said you were given orders…?"
"Ah," Iruka snapped out of his thoughts; he had been so wrapped up in deciding how he was going to tell the jounin, that he had forgotten that detail. "That wasn't true… I just said that because I didn't want anyone else hearing this."
"So it wasn't a mission?" Kakashi's shoulders seemed to deflate even more.
"No," Iruka shook his head. "But last night, when I was out in the village, it must have been around 2:30, I saw you wandering around," He quickly continued before Kakashi could open his mouth. "You were walking around in your pyjamas. At first, I thought you'd just come back from a mission, but you were sleepwalking."
Kakashi stared at him in disbelief, speechless.
"It was nothing too serious," Iruka tried to reassure. "You were just wandering around. I would have woke you but, well," He sighed, stroking along the scar on his nose. "I thought it would be easier to just let you walk around, than startle you and risk any danger, so I walked with you until you were ready you go back home."
His prediction was right. He could see the embarrassment in Kakashi's eye as the man stared at him, trying to disbelieve his words but seeing no reason to.
"Wh-what happened?" Kakashi forced himself to ask, his voice quiet and uneasy.
"Nothing really," Iruka shook his head softly. "You walked to the memorial stone and stayed there for a bit, then went back home to bed," He bit his lip awkwardly. "I followed you inside because I thought you might have left the power on for something, so I just checked around quickly. It was nothing serious," He smiled weakly, again, trying to reassure him. "You just made yourself a tuna sandwich and run the bath. There were kunais lay out on the sofa too, but I didn't know if you'd done that before or not, so I just left them there, figuring if you hadn't, you might work out what happened yourself," He shrugged and glanced at the jounin's sandals. "Were your feet not sore?"
Kakashi took a minute to respond, still registering everything he was saying. "A little," he mumbled. "But I thought it was just wounds re-opening from my last mission…" He bit his lip under his mask, averting his gaze to the trees. "I was more concerned about the chakra signature left there…"
"Sorry," Iruka whispered. "It was pretty late. I was tired and must of and forgot…"
Kakashi looked down at the floor. "Sorry."
Iruka blinked. "For what?"
"Keeping you awake."
Iruka smiled softly. "Don't be. I'm just glad I found you before someone else did – you know how immature some of the ninja here can be."
He let out a small chuckle, but cut himself off when Kakashi's expression didn't change. Despite being told and reassured, he still seemed to be troubled with something.
"Does the Hokage know?" the jounin suddenly forced out, as though the question had been on the tip of his tongue the entire time.
Iruka blinked. "No, why?" What did the Hokage have to do with it?
The rustling leaves on the trees cut out the long silence. Iruka stared at Kakashi with concerned eyes, almost hearing the jounin's mind creaking with tangled thoughts trapped inside. When too much time passed to be considered a pause, Iruka spoke up.
"This conversation won't leave this bench…" he said softly, offering Kakashi the opportunity to speak.
A deep sigh escaped Kakashi's lips and he rubbed his tired eye. After another long, breath-holding pause, he spoke again. "The Hokage's threatened to suspend me."
Iruka blinked his wide eyes. "Why?"
He had to admit, he hadn't expected the jounin to talk so quickly without persuasion; which made Iruka even more concerned at what was going on, since Kakashi was usually so secretive with his personal business. Perhaps it was because Kakashi, like any human, simply needed some form of comfort at this moment, or maybe it was that Iruka knew enough now to pass up on the opportunity to speak.
"Because I've been unreliable lately," Kakashi sighed, and quickly fixed his words. "More than usual."
Iruka noticed a small lump slide under Kakashi's mask, the jounin licking his dry lips. "I made a promise to someone that I'd take care of Sasuke… that I wouldn't let him down." He closed his eye and inhaled another sharp breath of air, dipping his head down slightly.
Whoever it was that Kakashi had made that promise to must have been someone dear to the jounin, Iruka thought, especially after Kakashi had practically chastised him during the chuunin exam meeting for doubting his confidence.
Iruka leaned down slightly in attempt to meet the man's eye, sensing a dark confession about to arrive. It was a strange situation to be in, as Kakashi was usually the one listening to his comrades, instead of the other way around.
"I saw it coming," Kakashi then murmured so quietly that Iruka had to focus his hearing. "I thought I could talk him out of it, make him realise there was more for his life here than out there," His eye snapped up weakly to the trees again, gazing through the branches at the bright blue sky. "I couldn't sleep for weeks... I…" he cut himself off.
'Didn't want to let him down,' was what Iruka picked up from his pained expression.
Another silence surrounded them. Iruka bit his lip softly, knowing the jounin wasn't finished, but unsure if he wanted to.
"I was responsible for a failed mission," Kakashi suddenly admitted, his voice very quiet and dripping with shame. "Two days ago, two of my teammates were injured because I couldn't focus properly. We had to abandon the mission and take them back to Konoha hospital. They were alright, thankfully, but I put them in danger, and nearly lost them their lives…"
"Why did you accept the mission if you weren't fit for it?" the question left Iruka's lips before he'd had chance to consider the guilt Kakashi was already feeling.
Kakashi winced under his mask, already expecting the question. "I couldn't stand… seeing what was happening," His knuckles turned pale from the tight grip on the bench, eye tightening slightly into an extremely weak glare. Whether it was aimed at Kakashi himself, or the situation, Iruka wasn't sure. "Sasuke was my responsibility, I was supposed to know how to fix it, but I didn't!"
That was the first time Iruka had ever seen such burst of frustration release from the jounin, and it sent a sharp stabbing pain to his chest, knowing full well that he himself had relied on Kakashi to know the answer. He sat in silence, his eyes wide and intent; come to think of it, it was also the first time he'd ever seen any sign of humanity from the man.
"I needed to get away from it,"
'I needed some sleep,' Iruka's mind translated, knowing now that it was Sasuke's deteriorating heart that was keeping Kakashi awake. A mission was the only way he could escape the issue.
"I know it was wrong," Kakashi whispered, as if he was reading the chuunin's mind. "It was selfish and careless, and I shouldn't have done it, but…"
"You were tired…" Iruka finished his sentence, gazing lightly at the jounin.
Kakashi met his eyes incredulously, and slowly nodded. "Yeah…"
His eye softened slightly, a sign that told Iruka he was grateful that he was understood a little. "Then Sasuke left yesterday," he continued, swallowing the thick lump of saliva at the back of his throat. "I'd already been given the suspension warning, so I couldn't go on a mission until I'd slept – I couldn't sleep until I'd been on a mission... So I took a couple of sleeping pills to force myself to sleep,"
"So that's why you were sleepwalking," Iruka nodded, as everything finally fell into place. "And why you seemed so irritable in the mission room…"
"Actually," Kakashi sighed, the long sound seeming one of relief. "I thought you'd been given the responsibility of suspending me… and that you were in my home, to report back to Tsunade-sama,"
"Oh…" That warning glare made sense now, since the jounin was convinced he was being spied on. "I promise you, I knew nothing about the suspension warning." he said honestly, and glanced down to Kakashi to show his sincerity in his eyes.
The jounin was gazing at the floor again, but he nodded softly, signalling he believed the chuunin.
"What will you do now?"
Kakashi's eye snapped up in confusion at Iruka's question.
"I mean, about the sleeping thing," Iruka said quietly. "Tsunade-sama won't let you out of the village unless you recover properly, and I don't think it's a good idea taking those sleeping tablets again… You were lucky I was the only one around at the time."
"You mean," Kakashi blinked in surprise. "You're not going to tell the Hokage… about last night?"
Iruka mirrored the blank gaze, and then offered the man a soft smile. "You get some real sleep, and I won't tell." He could see hesitance in Kakashi's eye, knowing as well as the jounin that it wasn't that easy. His smile never faded though. "I think I have an idea."
Kakashi's silver brow rose. "Huh?"
The door opened and Iruka stepped inside first, motioning for Kakashi to follow.
"Make yourself at home." He smiled, moving away piles of paper from the sofa for the jounin to sit.
Kakashi stole a curious glance around the room, his tired eye failing to notice when Iruka subtly placed a team-7 picture down on its face, wanting to take away any memories of Sasuke for now, until Kakashi had enough sleep to recover and focus on that issue himself.
"I'll be right back,"
He entered the spare room and opened the closet to take out a sleeping mat. Laying it down on the floor, he then cushioned it with a couple of blankets and placed a pillow at the head of the mat.
Once finished, he called for Kakashi to come in. The jounin hesitantly stepped inside the room, glancing down at the made-up bed with knitted brows.
"Iruka?" he murmured uncertainly.
"You're sleeping here," Iruka announced with a soft smile, standing to his feet and approaching the curtains to close them.
The strip of light faded, shielding the afternoon-sunlight from peering through the window. Kakashi blinked his eye to adjust to the new dim light, and turned to see Iruka shuffling through a desk drawer for something.
"Are you sure about this?" the jounin asked, and frowned when a pair of pyjama bottoms was forced in his arms.
Iruka turned again, picking out a thin plastic bag that held dozens of small cones from the drawer.
"I wouldn't offer if I didn't mean it," the chuunin confirmed, as he knelt down in front of the desk and picked out a stick from the bag, ignoring Kakashi's hesitance. "Go and get changed. Bathroom's across the hall and to the left."
Kakashi blinked, realising the object the man was holding was, in fact, an incense stick, which he was now adjusting to the wooden holder. He gently chewed at his lip underneath his mask, uncertain as to why the chuunin was offering such help, after the careless mistake he had recently admitted concerning his mission; he had expected to be given the same look as Tsunade had, as his teammates had…
Too tired to question it further, and desperate for any form of rest he could steal, he turned and found his way into the bathroom to change.
Iruka lit the incense stick, creating a distinctive scent around the room. He figured it was worth a try, to see if a new surrounding and atmosphere could help the jounin shift his mind from the recent events, just as he imagined why the man believed a mission would help; new scenery, scents and company. Surely, it was worth a try.
Kakashi soon returned, clutching his uniform tightly to his chest, and now wearing a pair of grey pyjama bottoms with a similar masked-vest to the one Iruka had seen last night. Iruka could see the very slight hint of a blush rising underneath the lining of his mask, embarrassed that he had taken the 'make yourself at home' comment to a whole new level.
Smiling to shift away the awkward atmosphere, Iruka patted the made-up bed beside him.
"Sit down and make yourself comfy," the chuunin ordered in a soft tone. "I'll be back in a minute," Saying this, he stood up and disappeared somewhere into another part of the house.
Kakashi's eye flickered from the door, to the bed, a hesitant gaze pierced there, but his exhaustion, again, defeated his humiliation. He was desperate to get some sleep, and if swallowing his pride to accept help from a comrade was the only way how, then he was willing to go along with it.
Placing his uniform down on the floor, he climbed into the bed and pulled the sheets around his waist. The smell of the incense sticks attacked his nostrils straight away, yet it was surprisingly not as sickly as he'd imagined. Strangely enough, it was the kind of scent he would have imagined the chuunin's home to smell like.
Iruka returned shortly after, holding a mug in his hand with light strokes of mist rising from the container. Kakashi immediately became curious, by this, and the entire method Iruka was trying with him.
"My mother used to do this for me," Iruka smirked lightly, as he knelt down and placed the mug beside the bed.
A silver brow rose. "What is it?"
"Warm milk," Iruka's eyes scrunched up, smiling brighter than before.
Whether or not the warm-milk-trick actually worked, Iruka wasn't sure; he had always found it soothing because of the warm, comforting reminder of his childhood it seemed to give. Perhaps the technique could offer Kakashi a different source of comfort, rather than his usual surroundings and lifestyle – something different and refreshing, which could help him settle down easier.
He stood up again and brushed himself down. "I need to head back to the mission room," he announced with a weak smile. "I should be home before it gets dark, but hopefully, you'll be asleep by then." He chuckled lightly.
Kakashi nodded, and, for the first time, Iruka saw a small smile crinkle in his eye. "Thank you, Iruka-sensei."
"You're welcome," Iruka nodded. "If it works, then you're welcome to stay here until you're ready to go home,"
He saw a twinkle of something in Kakashi's eye, as though he had flattered the jounin with his generous offer.
"I'll see you later, sleep well,"
"Have a nice evening," Kakashi smiled fondly.
Kakashi listened as the door quietly clicked closed. He glanced down to the mug of milk with a small wince, unsure if his stomach would hold the strange temperature-choice of liquid down; he'd never heard of milk being served hot before. Picking it up, he took a small sniff, before slowly tugging down his mask and taking a sip.
He soon finished it, to Iruka's advice, then placed down the mug and snuggled into the sheets. Resting his head against the pillow, he gazed into the distance with a strained, exhausted eye. He could hear the faint sound of birds chirping outside, preparing for their own sleep. He could smell the incense stick, reminding him of where he was, and that Iruka would return home soon.
He'd have to find a way to thank Iruka for such kindness, he thought with a small smile forming on his hidden lips. Perhaps he could buy the man dinner tomorrow, or offer to share a bottle of sake with him…
His thoughts span through ideas as he closed his eyes, barely noticing that his troubles had left his mind the moment he'd stepped through Iruka's door.
Iruka was wrong; it had been two hours after the sun had gone down when he was finally able to return home. The mission room had been hell after his break and he soon found himself exhausted again.
He entered his home with as little noise as possible, tiptoeing around the room to put away his flak-jacket and pouch. Glancing over to the door, he quietly approached and slowly opened it an inch.
The copy ninja was fast asleep in the bed, face pressed into the warm pillow and as still as the dead. Light, long breaths made its way to the door, signalling a healthy, undisturbed sleep.
Iruka smiled and closed the door again, tiptoeing into the kitchen to fix himself some food, before heading off to bed.