The forest floor was littered with fallen leaves, scattered by battle. Blood dripped from above. Iruka couldn't move. He couldn't see where the blood was coming from or whose it was. It could be his own, dripping from one of the tree limbs he'd crashed into earlier. He didn't want to think about who else it could belong to but his mind supplied the images anyways – Sakuya missing an arm, hanging upside down from a tree with his face shredded; Mika, mouth frozen open in a scream as a tree limb skewered her from behind. He should be dead like they were. He would be soon.

The noise of battle was like a fly's nagging buzz, keeping him from slipping into oblivion. They'd been ambushed. He'd heard a child crying. He'd rushed in, sprung the trap. The trees had come alive and attacked them, killing Mika before the enemy nin had a chance to. Sakuya hadn't been so lucky. Their team leader, Hatake Kakashi, had arrived before the enemy could do the same to Iruka. Small blessings. Infinitesimally small. Kakashi had sent one of his dogs for help, though he didn't seem to need it.

Iruka had always respected Kakashi. He'd nearly had a heart attack when he'd learned that Kakashi was leading them on this mission, certain that he was going to screw up. He had, but a heart attack wouldn't be what killed him. Rapid blood loss was the current high contender, followed closely by collateral damage from the ongoing fight. His vision was getting blurry but he thought two more green-clad ninja had joined to fight the ones in black. It was hard to tell. All he could see was Kakashi.

The man was a legend among the village, and Iruka now knew why. He was perfect. Fluid, graceful, powerful, deadly. The enemy didn't stand a chance. Iruka knew he should be horrified but he couldn't look away, not even when Kakashi's hand went through one of the enemy ninja, creating a plate-sized hole in the man's chest. A drop of blood landed on Iruka's cheek and rolled down, tracing a path parallel to where his tears had fallen earlier. He was out of tears for now but he could still feel them staining his cheeks, marks of his own weakness.

It was getting harder to see the fight. More figures joined in, occasionally stepping between him and Kakashi, blocking his view. He sensed someone kneel next to him, felt the faint disturbance their chakra made as it came close and attempted to identify friend or foe. He was too drained to get more than a vague sense of presence. Something moved in front of his face – a hand, likely – but he couldn't blink. His eyes were frozen straight ahead, pointed towards Kakashi.

He wondered if they thought he was dead.

More sounds filled the air. Noises like words, but his mind was too disjointed to process them. Hands. The warmth of chakra seeping through his skin, testing if he was alive, then assessing his wounds. He was being turned over and that was enough to finally snap his body into a reaction. He screamed as the broken bone in his leg scrapped against muscle. Tears started anew. He thought he saw Kakashi turn and look at him but that made no sense. Kakashi wouldn't care about a failure like him. Then everything went black and the sounds of battle faded away.

Bright light pierced his eyelids like jagged knives. Iruka whimpered and tried to turn away but there was nowhere to turn to.

"Nurse." A familiar voice spoke the word with a tone of endless patience and confidence. Fabric rustled, light footsteps as befitting a shinobi, the hiss of metal on metal, and some of the harsh light went away.

Iruka tentatively opened one eye. It took a while for his vision to focus. He let his other eye open while his mind slowly processed what he saw. There was a light above him that soon dimmed. Tiled ceiling, lots of white. He shifted his head slightly on the pillow. An old man returned to his seat next to Iruka's bed. There was a book on the small table next to his bed, with a yellow piece of ribbon sticking out of it as a bookmark.

"Good afternoon."

Iruka's response came out as a raspy wheeze. Sarutobi shushed him and poured a cup of water from the pitcher beside his bed. The old man's hands were strong but that wasn't surprising. Iruka had learned long ago that the Hokage was nowhere near as frail as he looked. He lifted Iruka's head slightly and brought the cup to Iruka's lips.

"Slowly. That's good."

The water was warm, but he didn't care. It felt like heaven as it trickled down his throat and he wanted more, wanted to tell the old man that he didn't need to be babied but he knew better. He couldn't move his arms. As much as it shamed him, he needed the old man's help.

The cup was drawn away as the nurse finally bustled in. She was a small woman with short black hair and a plain uniform. Sarutobi sat back and watched as the nurse prodded Iruka. He shook his head to her questions – Can he sit up? No. Can he move his arm? No. Did he have anyone that needed contacted? No. She ran her hands over him, palms hovering an inch above his skin. He felt her chakra tickle his nerves as she assessed his damage. When she was done she spoke to Sarutobi, ignoring Iruka entirely.

"He'll need at least a week of rest. We'll know better tomorrow on when he can be released. He should be able to rest at home once he's mobile. I can't say yet how long it'll be until he's fit for active duty again."

Iruka flinched and bit back another whimper. From the look Sarutobi shot him, he was unsuccessful at hiding either. The nurse glanced at him but didn't say anything as she walked out of the room.

He didn't want to go back out there. He didn't want to watch his friends get murdered. He didn't want to be murdered. He didn't want to be a liability.

"Rest," Sarutobi said. There was a wealth of sympathy and kindness in his voice. Iruka prayed to every god he could think of that Sarutobi hadn't picked up on Iruka's fear. "We can discuss your options later." His prayers were in vain.

Sarutobi stood and placed a gnarled hand against Iruka's cheek. "There are many ways that a shinobi can serve his village, many paths to honor. You are not limited in what path you can take."

He could still feel the warmth of the old man's hand on his face even after the door closed and the remaining light flickered off. He drifted to sleep but it was not a peaceful sleep, riddled instead with nightmares of man-eating trees and Kakashi's disdainful glare.

They held the memorial for Sakuya and Mika while he was still in the hospital. He was both disappointed that he couldn't attend and relieved that he didn't have to deal with a sea full of accusing faces. By now the whole village must know. How long would it be until one of Sakuya or Mika's friends confronted him about it? What had Kakashi told them? Iruka wasn't well liked. He had been, when he was much younger but after his parents died... things had changed. He'd changed. Only Sarutobi and Mizuki seemed to like that change.

His chakra had recovered enough to manage a teleportation jutsu from the hospital to his front door. He nearly passed out as soon as he landed. His face smacked against the wood of the door. It fell open beneath his weight. Mizuki must have left it unlocked again. He kept doing that, no matter how many times Iruka asked him not to. Why did he care, it was Iruka's stuff that always got stolen, not Mizuki's.

He really should move off the floor at some point and close the door.

Iruka maneuvered himself upright, hissing as he put weight on his right leg. The med-nin had healed most of the damage but it was still stiff and sore, likely would be for a few more days. He told himself that was why he teleported home, and not that he was trying to avoid interacting with anyone he didn't have to. He locked the door, debated throwing on the chain just to piss Mizuki off for not locking the door but he couldn't bring himself to actually lock Mizuki out. Besides, then he'd just have to clean up the glass when Mizuki broke a window to get in.

The wall provided a modicum of support while he limped his way down the hall. He opened the door to his bedroom and stopped. The place was a complete mess, the exact opposite of the way Iruka had left it. There were magazines, dirty clothes, and dishes still partially full of food scattered across his bed. He almost swore but that seemed too much effort at the moment. Mizuki must have let one of his slob friends stay over while Iruka was gone. Reason number two why Iruka was never able to keep anything decent in the apartment.

He turned and hobbled back into the main room. The couch was uncomfortable and had thin cushions but at least it was clean. He dropped face first onto the couch and was halfway successful in pulling the afghan over himself before he passed out.

Iruka smelled tea. He didn't remember making any tea and Mizuki didn't like the stuff, said it tasted like rotten leaves. Iruka opened his eyes and stared at the coffee table. At first he was confused why he had passed out on the couch and then it came back to him – the hospital, the mess in his room, his injury. He was tempted to close his eyes and sleep the rest of his life away but he had company. Iruka made a vague grunty hello sort of noise that sounded nothing at all like a real word and tried to sit up. That didn't work so well so he settled for shifting slightly so his face was less buried in the couch cushions and more turned towards his guest.

"Feeling any better?" Sarutobi asked. Somehow the old man made sitting on one of the rickety chairs from the kitchen seem regal.

Iruka blinked in response.

"I hope you don't mind, but I made tea." There were two cups set out, with small plates as mismatched saucers. Sarutobi had his cup in hand. He'd take a sip every few seconds and then pause to savor the flavor. Iruka wasn't sure what kind of tea he'd made, but there certainly wasn't anything in the house that justified savoring. The second cup sat near Iruka and was accompanied by a covered takeout container. His stomach growled as the smell of food hit him.

He made a second attempt at sitting up, executing a sort of half-roll that didn't go very well considering how stiff he was from passing out on the couch and not having taken the meds they'd given him. A pair of hands caught him before he face-planted on the floor and helped him upright on the couch. Iruka stared, slack-jawed, at the dog-masked ANBU. He expected ANBU to be around - with Sarutobi they always were - but this was the first time one of them had ever interacted with him. He kept staring as the ANBU picked the blanket up from where it'd fallen on the floor and draped it over Iruka's lap.

"Thank you," Sarutobi said, with that bemused smile of his, the one that always made Iruka feel like Sarutobi was laughing at him. "Iruka thanks you too, or will when he remembers his manners."

Iruka blushed and stammered out his own thanks.

"Are you hungry?"

Iruka turned away from the ANBU and glanced at the food. When he looked back, just a brief glance, the ANBU had moved to the far side of the room and was scanning the spines on the top shelf of the bookshelf. He hoped Mizuki hadn't mixed porn in there again.

Sarutobi cleared his throat.

"Y-yes. Thank you." Iruka's head snapped forward. He pried the lid off the takeout container. The smell of beef ramen filled the air and his stomach growled louder. He almost never had a chance to get ramen – Mizuki hated it.

Sarutobi watched him as Iruka picked up the chopsticks and carefully balanced the plastic bowl in his lap. He could hear the ANBU moving around the room. Usually they came in pairs. He guessed the other one was keeping a watch outside. But, knowing how important the Hokage was to the village, there was probably several more that he would never see, the real threat while the more visible guard drew attention away from the guard people didn't see. Layers underneath the underneath, and all that.

"Your room was quite a mess."

Iruka nearly choked on his ramen. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the dog-masked ANBU glance towards him for a short second before going back to looking at the books.

"Yeah." He kept his eyes on his food. "I guess."

"Quite unlike you."

Iruka sighed. They were going to have another of those conversations.

Sarutobi was silent from several minutes. Iruka could feel the weight of the old man's eyes on him. "Well, I suppose we've covered that topic enough times that it doesn't bear repeating. But, do speak with your roommate about keeping his slovenly habits contained to his own room."

"Yes, sir."

Sarutobi sipped at his tea and after a minute of silence, Iruka went back to eating. After a week on hospital food the ramen tasted like heaven, but he knew he wasn't going to come close to finishing it. He was already starting to feel full.

"Have you given any thought to what we spoke about earlier? About your options?"

Iruka put his chopsticks down as his appetite fled. "I wasn't aware I had any." He didn't want to see Sarutobi's expression. He was certain that he wouldn't like it.

"There are always options. Officially, you're on leave for the next month, as far as active duty is concerned, but I'd like to make that longer."

Iruka's head snapped up. There was no trace of humor on Sarutobi's face, no sign that he was joking. "But..."

"It's up to you whether you return once your month of leave is up, but I think you might be happier staying closer to home. At the very least, it'll be easier to keep your house in shape. There are a lot of ways that a ninja can serve his village. Your skill in the field is well developed. You have a good sense of cooperation and teamwork. How would you like a chance to pass on some of that knowledge to the next generation of ninja?"


Sarutobi's smile widened and Iruka knew he'd fallen into Sarutobi's ploy. In honesty, he would have taken anything short of sewage duty to get out of going back on active duty.

"The Academy is running short on teachers. I think you'd be a good fit there. You like dealing with children, don't you?"

There was a child crying but Iruka couldn't find it through the thick cluster of trees. Iruka stopped, turned. Something was wrong. Where was the child? Too late.


He nodded quickly. "Yes. Um. Yes, I'd like that."

Sarutobi gave him a long, measuring look. "Good. I've arranged for you to help out in Fusaka-san's class. They're pre-genin, around six or seven years old. Won't be too much trouble. You can start next week."

"T-thank you, Sarutobi-san."

He smiled and set his saucer down. "Always happy to help. Are you done?" Sarutobi motioned towards the bowl in Iruka's lap.

Iruka nodded and started to get up but Sarutobi waved him to stay. Iruka's face turned red as Sarutobi took the bowl from his lap, covered it, and then took it and his empty cup towards the kitchen. "I... But..." Iruka started to stand but a firm hand on his shoulder kept him in place. He stared up at the ANBU. "I didn't... he..." He had a feeling the ANBU was trying not to laugh. The refrigerator opened and closed. There was the sound of rushing water, then dishware being set aside in the plastic drying rack. Sarutobi was smiling as he walked back into the living room. "You didn't have to..."

"Finish your tea." Iruka obeyed automatically. He wasn't sure whether the knack Sarutobi had at getting him flustered was an old man thing or a Hokage thing. Maybe it was a bit of both. He set the empty cup back down on the plate. "Good boy. Now why don't you get some rest in a real bed. We can see ourselves out." Sarutobi disappeared into the kitchen with Iruka's dirty dishes.

Iruka just sat there staring.

"Come on, I'll help you."

Iruka jumped. He'd forgotten the ANBU was still in the room. "Uh... thanks." He was blushing again. The ANBU had a nice voice. He had nice hands too. They steadied Iruka as stood, keeping him from falling back onto the couch. He probably never would have made it to his bedroom without someone helping him. The door was already open. The mess that had filled his room was gone. Iruka nearly groaned at the thought of Sarutobi cleaning his room for him. He prayed that Sarutobi had asked one of the ANBU to do it. It was embarrassing enough having the Hokage doing his dishes.

He was only vaguely aware of falling into bed and covers being pulled over him. One door shut, then another. He fell asleep and dreamed of a man wearing a dog mask dancing beneath blood red leaves.

The two real ANBU guard stepped out from the shadows as soon as Sarutobi walked outside. Kakashi closed the door behind him and double-checked that it was securely locked. He waited until they were on the street before speaking.

"Who's his roommate? The one you dislike so much?"

Sarutobi glanced at him, a slight frown marring his face. "Tsukano Mizuki. A chuunin, graduated the same year as Iruka."

"Is he trouble?"

Sarutobi shook his head after a moment. "No. No, I don't think so. Just troubled. You know how they are when they're young." He shot Kakashi a sidelong glance. "Though I suppose you're not that much older yourself. He'll grow out of it. It's just unfortunate that Iruka puts up with his childishness."

"I see."

They walked in silence for a few moments. The village was quiet. The majority of shops had already closed. Most people were home eating dinner or gathered at restaurants in better parts of town. They passed few people. None paused for more than a moment when they caught sight of Kakashi's mask.

"What did you think?"

Kakashi tilted his head and frowned behind the mask. "His injuries are recovering nicely. For a while there I didn't think he was going to make it back to the village." He could still picture the blood covering the boy's broken body, the way he'd screamed and cried. If Kakashi had been slower, if he'd been too late... He'd lost two. That was bad enough, losing the entire team was unforgiveable. He'd been careless.

"He needs someone to look after him. He's not going to talk to me, not yet at least, but I was hoping..."

"No." Kakashi bit the word out sharply.

Sarutobi stopped and turned to give Kakashi a hard stare. Kakashi stared right back.

Neither of them were willing to give. Kakashi spoke first. "I understand that he's your special pet project or something and that his life is a little fucked up but I have enough on my plate right now. I don't want your charity case, and I honestly don't know why you even think I could or would help him to begin with."

Sarutobi's voice was as hard as his stare. "I had thought you would understand, given that you were his team lead so recently. While his situation is not as severe as yours, there is an obvious similarity."

The loss of Obito and Rin twisted in his gut like a poisoned knife. "That was a long time ago." The image of Iruka's tear-stained face filled his vision. "It would be a bad idea." He took a step back and bowed low. "Thank you, Hokage-sama, but I respectfully decline."

Kakashi leapt backwards and disappeared into the shadows of the rooftops. He could feel Sarutobi's stare piercing through his skin the entire way home.


He groaned and rolled over, burying his head under the pillow.


Why did people keep insisting on him being awake? It was so unfair.

"Yo! Dipshit!" Something hard smacked into his side. He hissed in pain.

Iruka lifted the corner of the pillow and glared as best he could while squinting against the light. "What?"

Mizuki squatted down until his head was level with the bed. "Huh. So you really are alive in there. I was wondering how a corpse got from the living room to the bedroom. And cleaned too."

Iruka let the pillow fall back over his face. "You're an ass." The words were muffled but he was pretty sure Mizuki could still make them out.

"That's an ass." Iruka yelped as Mizuki swatted him on the rear. "So what happened on the mission? No one's saying anything specific – ambush, things went south, Kakashi saved your ass like the grandstanding showoff he always is."

"He's not a showoff."

Mizuki snorted. "Could have fooled me. Dude practically has chicks falling all over him, or at least he would if he wasn't a creepy fucker who reads porn in public. That and I hear he's gay or something. Maybe he's asexual. Creepy fucking homo."

Embarrassment and anger twisted inside of him but he wasn't awake enough or well enough to even begin to sort out the root of either emotion. "Mizuki!"

"Yeah, yeah, I know, queer solidarity. I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. He's just so... freakish. I can't believe you got to work with him. He's like a legend. Creepy, pervy legend. I wonder if he knows Jiraiya. They could get together and be old creepy pervs together, make creepy perv butt-babies. Well, except that Jiraiya's straight."

Iruka shifted the pillow halfway off his face. "Be nice, will you? He saved my life."

"Yeah. Sorry. Too bad he couldn't save the other two."

Iruka paled. His stomach lurched. He mentally calculated the best way to get past Mizuki to a trash can.

"Still, details. You're holding out on me man."

He half-glared at Mizuki. As much as Mizuki was his friend there were some days where he wondered why he bothered. No. That was a lie. He knew why. Mizuki had always been there for him. When his parents died, when he got in fights, when his jounin instructor kept holding his team back from the Chuunin exam until most of their graduating class had already been promoted... Mizuki had been there. He may act like an asshole sometimes but he always had Iruka's back. Aside from Sarutobi, he was probably the only true friend Iruka had in the village.

Iruka sighed. "It was hell. I don't really want to talk about it right now." He closed his eyes but all he could see was Mika impaled by trees. His eyes snapped open and he stared at the bookshelf.

"What happened?"

Mizuki wasn't going to let up until Iruka gave him something. He chose his words carefully. "Someone tipped them off. They knew we were coming, so we weren't able to get the information we needed. Our contact was dead. We were on our way back. Kakashi was behind us, covering our tracks to make sure no one from the village was following us. He thought they were still there, but they were already ahead of us. They set a trap. There was a kid and... they had this really powerful jutsu that controlled the trees."

Apparently he hadn't chosen carefully enough. He forgot sometimes how well Mizuki knew him. "You tripped the trap."

Iruka flinched. "I thought he needed help. It was just a child."

"Was it?"

His fingers curled in the bedspread. Guilt threatened to overwhelm him again. Sometimes he wished Kakashi had been a little slower, that he hadn't saved Iruka. Then he wouldn't have to deal with all the guilt and the pain and the fear.

"No, it wasn't. It was an illusion."

"So it's your fault." There was no question but also no direct accusation, just a statement of fact.

"Yeah," Iruka whispered, as if by keeping his voice down he could keep that fact from leaving his small bedroom.

Mizuki watched him for a long minute, his expression blank. "So what are you going to do now?"

He rolled over onto his side. He wished he could curl up with Mizuki, eking at least a minor bit of comfort from the presence of a friend but Mizuki hated it when Iruka tried to initiate contact. Usually it was followed by a long string of jokes about Iruka trying to make Mizuki gay. "The Hokage offered me a post at the Academy. I start next week."

"So they kicked you off of active duty."

Iruka sighed and resisted the urge to glare. "They didn't kick me off. I had the choice to go back onto active duty. I chose not to."

"You ran away."

He was too tired to deal with this. The longer he was awake, the more his body reminded him of exactly how much it'd been through lately. All the major damage had been patched up at the hospital but that left a cornucopia of scrapes, cuts, and bruises that still needed time to heal, not to mention the soreness from where he'd been nearly gutted and all the broken bones that had been rapidly mended.

"Yes, I ran away. I'm tired. Can I go back to sleep now?"

"Yeah, sure thing." Mizuki bounced off the bed, his steps light, as if they'd been talking about girls instead of how much of a royal fuck-up Iruka was.


Mizuki paused in the doorway and turned to look at him.

"Please don't tell anyone what I told you. About the mission."

A blinding smile stretched across Mizuki's face. "Of course, Iruka. You can trust me. We're friends. I won't say anything."

Iruka offered a small smile back. Mizuki turned off the lights and shut the door. Sunlight still poured through the thin blinds but it was at least dim enough that Iruka could get a bit more sleep.

He was glad he had such a good friend.

He was going to kill Sarutobi. He was going to murder Sarutobi and anyone else who thought that pre-genin weren't 'too much trouble'. There was paint in his hair. He was fairly certain one of his fingers was bleeding. The entire classroom was a mess. Four of the girls were crying and the rest of the children were involved in some sort of mass combat involving paint brushes and spitballs. Through it all Fusaka-san just sat in her chair, munching on an apple and grinning like a loon.

Iruka kept gawking, his gaze shifting between her and the children. How dare she let them run amuck like that. How did she stand this chaos every day? How dare they act out, and on his first day. He was going to get fired because of this and then he'd have to go back out on the field and deal with more illusionary children and get more people killed and eventually get himself killed...

He didn't realize he was yelling until he stopped. The children froze. Iruka panted for breath. He wasn't sure what he'd said, but at least it was quiet for the moment. Very slowly, all of the children backed away from each other and returned to their seats. The four that had been crying looked at him with wide, wobbly eyes but their tears had been put on pause.

Fusaka-san clapped. "Nice job, Umino-kun. Next time use that trick before they start throwing paint, but otherwise, good job."

Iruka stared at her.

"Think you can manage to get the brats cleaned up now?"

He nodded dumbly and then stared out at the class. They stared back. One by one, students rose from their desks and marched over to the bank of sinks on the side wall. They silently started scrubbing the paint off of themselves, and when they were done, from their friends.

Iruka was slightly in awe. "What exactly did I say to them?"

Fusaka-san grinned. "You told them that if they didn't stop misbehaving you were going to put a jutsu on them that made their footprints glow so their parents knew exactly where they were at all times."

"Oh." Well that had certainly been inventive of him.

"Can you?"

The children paused as one and watched him, likely hoping that he was lying so they could go back to misbehaving.

"Yes." He'd used it on a fellow chuunin as a prank when they were in the Academy together. "Ask Arisawa Tomiko about it sometime."

The children went back to their scrubbing with renewed vigor.

"Ah. Well if you ever need a test subject, feel free to use Koji."

The little boy she named froze and turned pale. Iruka smiled. Koji had been one of the loudest, most obnoxious kids so far. "Noted."

Fusaka-san went back to her apple, still smiling. He'd never thought that all the pranks that had made his teachers hate him when he'd been in the Academy would come in handy years later and actually win the approval of a teacher. He had a feeling he was going to enjoy being a teacher instead of a student, even if he did end up covered in paint sometimes.

Kakashi groaned and stared at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. A tired and pale jounin stared back at him. He should be sleeping. He couldn't. It was four in the morning. He was off duty for at least another week, which meant a full week without worrying about someone trying to kill him in his sleep. Well, a full week where it was much less likely that someone would try to kill him in his sleep. His brain had other plans. His brain had had other plans ever since his last mission, the one with the damn kid... Okay, so maybe not much of a kid. Umino was what, five years younger than him? The distance seemed wider than that.

He remembered being Iruka's age. He'd been a jounin for five years by then. Umino had practically flunked out of being a chuunin. He was weak. He'd never make it any higher than chuunin in rank. He should be beneath Kakashi's notice but instead he seemed to be all Kakashi could notice. He kept thinking about the chuunin. He kept remembering how Umino had looked, lying on the forest floor with tears spilling down his face.

The dreams were the worst. At least when he was awake, Kakashi could distract himself, but asleep his mind seemed to take that one image and run wild. Instead of an enemy making Iruka cry it was Kakashi. In one dream he'd used a birch branch to stripe the chuunin's back from shoulders to ass and back again. In another he'd had Iruka on his knees, his tears trailing over lips stretched wide from deep-throating Kakashi's cock. In every dream Iruka had begged him for more and Kakashi had happily complied.


Kakashi pressed his palm against the cool glass of the mirror. The cold did little to ground him. He wasn't getting back to sleep any time soon, not with how worked up he was. He should go train, go work off some of his pent up energy, but he didn't want anyone else to see him like this. He felt like his desire for Iruka was written across his skin. He didn't want anyone to know about his sin, even if they were only in his head.

That left one other option. Heat pooled in his groin. Kakashi shoved down the hem of his pants with one hand and freed his growing erection. He spit twice in his palm and then wrapped his fingers around his cock, nearly moaning from anticipation of release. He closed his eyes. Images came to him without any effort, as ready as if he'd just been thinking of them. He had been, not all that long ago, which is what had driven him from sleep.

The image of Umino Iruka on his knees filled his mind. Kakashi inhaled sharply. In his vision, Iruka had his hair pulled down from its usual ratty ponytail. He was naked, his tanned flesh smooth, waiting to be marked. A wave of pleasure tingled down Kakashi's spine as he ran his hand slowly up and down his erection. He pictured Iruka licking his lips and leaning in to take Kakashi into his mouth.

This was every shade of wrong. The boy was barely legal. He'd almost died under Kakashi's watch. Sarutobi had wanted Kakashi to mentor the boy and here he was, up too late in his bathroom jerking off because the kid looked hot when he was in pain. Further proof of just how fucked in the head Kakashi really was, but he couldn't stop himself.

He curled his fingers tight around himself as he pictured Iruka swallowing him down. He could imagine how warm Iruka's mouth would feel, wet in all the right places. He imagined that Iruka was eager for it, lapping at Kakashi's cock, trying to take in as much as he could, stretching his mouth until it burned. Every time Iruka pulled his mouth back, Kakashi ran his thumb around the base of the head, imagined Iruka's tongue following. He could almost hear the loud noises Iruka made as he sucked on Kakashi – tiny little moans of pleasure as Kakashi pressed in all the way to the back of Iruka's throat, faint pops as Kakashi pulled out and broke the suction from Iruka's mouth, loud slurps as Iruka sucked him back in.

Kakashi wrapped his long fingers in Iruka's hair and pulled until tears bristled at the corner of Iruka's eyes. He took control from Iruka and gradually increased the pace, working his way in and out of Iruka's mouth with increasingly brutal thrusts, shoving his way down Iruka's throat over and over again while Iruka greedily sucked on him. Tears threatened to fall as Kakashi pushed in too hard and too fast to be fully comfortable for Iruka. Kakashi's hand moved lower, closing tightly around Iruka's throat. His fingers dug in.

He came thinking about the way Iruka's throat would vibrate around his cock as Iruka whimpered in pain.

Kakashi shoved himself violently away from the mirror. He fell backwards against the open bathroom door. He was panting heavily, the sound of his breath too loud in the quiet apartment.


His head banged against the wood of the door. He needed to get out of the village. He needed another mission, something to distract him for a few weeks until this obsession went away. It would take a day or two for the Hokage to find something of suitable length. He'd just have to avoid Iruka until then.

Kakashi cleaned himself off with some toilet paper, pulled up his pants, and went back to bed. He slept peacefully for the first time in days.

There was something off in the bar. People kept looking at him strangely, though that could just be because he was too young to be in here. He wasn't the only one in the bar that shouldn't be. The bartenders here didn't care about age, which is why Mizuki and his friends liked the place so much. Iruka thought it was a bit too dirty and definitely far on the shady side. He didn't like being here.

He told himself he was just being paranoid. He hadn't been sleeping well. Nightmares from his last mission kept him awake.

The weird looks seemed to happen too often to be paranoia, and there was more than just the looks. Whispered conversations would pause when he walked past. People avoided meeting his gaze. It reminded him of when his parents had died. He'd gotten a lot of that as a kid, usually to the tune of 'poor little orphan, he lost everything, you know'. This was different. Yeah, a bit of the same pity was there but it was mixed this time. There was more than just pity there, something darker. Every now and then someone would glare at him when they thought he wasn't looking. It made Iruka's skin crawl.

"I'm going to get some air," Iruka said. Mizuki ignored him and kept talking to the cute konoichi next to him.

It was dark outside, had been for some time, but the street was lit with strings of red paper lanterns strung in a zigzag not far overhead. Outside was almost as loud as inside, as crowds from the bars spilled out into the street. Iruka turned to the left and weaved his way through the crowd until he got to the quieter plaza that housed the farmer's market in the mornings. The water in the fountain in the center of the plaza glowed, casting a faint blue light over the cobblestones. The shops were all closed, save for a small café in the far corner. A slightly older couple sat at one of the wrought iron tables, the only occupants of the plaza aside from Iruka.

He perched on the edge of the fountain and stared back towards the bar district. From here, the noise of the crowds was indistinct, barely more than a faint hum in the background. He watched the off-duty ninja swarming the street. He hadn't wanted to come out. He had work in the morning. He was going to be tired all day and the kids were terror enough without him being extra sleep deprived. It didn't help that once Mizuki got him out of the house and down to the bar, he'd spent the rest of the night ignoring Iruka in favor of what Iruka considered to be Mizuki's most obnoxious group of friends. Considering the kind of people Mizuki liked to hang out with, that was saying something.

Iruka caught a tuft of white hair pass by and looked up, expecting to see Mizuki leaving without him. It wasn't Mizuki.


Kakashi stopped and turned. It was hard to read him with the majority of his face covered. One expression looked pretty much like the other. Kakashi waved and then started to turn away.

"Wait." Iruka bounced to his feet. "I mean... sorry... and..." He dropped into a deep bow. "Thank you." After a long minute, he straightened. Kakashi was watching him. "For saving my life." Kakashi kept staring. Iruka blushed and looked away.

"No problem." There was little warmth in Kakashi's voice and none on his face. He started to turn away again.

Iruka didn't want him to go but he couldn't think of anything to say to make Kakashi stay. "Coffee..." Not the most brilliant thing, but he could work with it. Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "I could buy you coffee... as thanks. Or dinner. Or a drink. Non-alcoholic for me, obviously, but... something."


That certainly wasn't the response Iruka had expected. "To thank you..."

Kakashi's eyes seemed to go straight through Iruka. "You already thanked me. So, why?"

"Because I'm grateful to you..."

"You're lying."

Iruka felt his blush increase. He shifted nervously on his feet. He hadn't really thought out the reason behind his request, it had just seemed like the right thing to say at the time. If he was honest with himself, there was more to it than just wanting to thank Kakashi. "I... I think you're a really amazing ninja and I really respect and admire you. And I just wanted... I don't know... to get to know you, I guess." He hoped Kakashi wouldn't read too much into that but he knew better than to really believe that Kakashi wouldn't. He was a ninja, trained to look beneath the beneath.

Kakashi took a very deliberate step backwards. "I don't think that would be a good idea."

Iruka frowned. He'd expected a simple no. "Did I..."

"It would be best if we limited our interactions to those of a strictly professional capacity."

He felt like he'd been punched in the gut. He could feel tears prickling at the corner of his eyelids but he refused to let himself cry in front of a jounin, at least not more than he already had. Kakashi stopped moving away from a moment and stared at him. Iruka was certain that Kakashi could tell he was about to cry. He felt like such a baby.

"You don't hate me, do you?" His voice broke halfway through.

Kakashi was still staring at him. "Why would I hate you?"

He could feel tears threatening to fall. "Because... the mission..." He was such a crybaby. Kakashi probably couldn't stand how weak Iruka was.

"No." Kakashi's voice was different than earlier, softer. "No, I don't hate you." There was a strange expression on his face as he took another step backwards. "I have to go."

In the space of a breath, Kakashi was gone. Iruka slumped on the edge of the fountain and let his face fall into his hands. Tears moistened his palms. He bit his lip to keep from making a sound.

He felt like such a loser.


Iruka paused. The street was mostly empty save for people setting up shop for the day. He was going to be late for class if he didn't hurry.

Two men in uniform marched up to him. "You Umino?"


The right hook caught him by surprise. Pain blossomed in his face. The force of the blow made him wobble, nearly knocked him to the ground. The second hit, this time to his stomach, finished the job.

"You're a disgrace. Failures like you should just die."

Iruka gasped, trying to pull in the air that had been knocked out of him. "What?"

"Next time you're on a mission, stay away from any more of our friends. You've gotten enough people killed already."

He felt like the entire village had collapsed around him. That was why people had been whispering about him. They knew. Everyone knew.

"Fucking pathetic."

He couldn't move. He stayed crouched on the ground long after the two bullies had left. Everyone knew. They were going to hate him. How long would it be until someone else came after him because they were friends with Mika and Sakuya? Would he make it until lunch time? Was someone going to barge into the Academy and demand his head? It'd been days since he first noticed people whispering about him. How far had news spread?

"Are you alright?"

Iruka's head snapped up. He didn't recognize the old lady standing next to him. She took one look at his face and tsked loudly.

"You should put some ice on that, dear. Don't want it swelling. Do you need a hand up?"

He stood quickly. "No. Thanks. I'm fine." He wasn't fine. He was far from fine. He was shaking.

She patted him softly on the shoulder. "Okay. You take care of yourself, deary. I'm right over there if you need anything." She pointed to a fruit stand a few shops down.


She kept glancing over her shoulder at him as she walked back to her stall. He was going to be late. Iruka brushed the dirt from his pants as best he could and ran towards the Academy. His stomach ached with each step but he forced himself to keep moving. Maybe the teacher's lounge would have some ice he could use to stop the swelling on his face.

Fusaka did a double-take when he walked into the classroom. "Sit," she ordered before he had time to offer an explanation. He obediently took the chair she pointed to. She disappeared from the room.

"Iruka-sensei?" Miyaka tugged on his sleeve. "Why's your face funny colors?"

Several pairs of tiny eyes were watching him. Most of the kids had arrived save for one or two stragglers. Fusaka returned with a blue-wrapped cloth bundle in her hand.

"Well, Miyaka, I was very tired this morning and my roommate's very messy and while I was getting ready to come here this morning I tripped over one of the things he'd left lying around and I fell and hurt myself."

Miyaka frowned at him. "Why didn't you just dodge the ground?"

He winced as Fusaka pressed the blue bundle to his face. It was cold. He offered a wan smile to her and lifted a hand to hold the bundle in place. Judging from the concerned look she was giving him, she didn't buy his story one bit.

"The ground is very hard to dodge, especially when it sneak attacks you." Miyaka nodded in agreement. "So, why should good ninja put their stuff away and not leave things lying in the middle of the floor?"

"So that Iruka-sensei doesn't get a black eye," the room chorused.

Iruka resisted the urge to groan. "Close enough." He did a quick count of the room. Everyone was present.

"Alright, class," Fusaka's voice instantly had the children's attention, "why don't we get out our paper and crayons and make signs to put around our homes about the danger of leaving things on the floor?" There was a chorus of happy consent. "And, if any of you have time, you can make a second sign for Iruka to take home so that his roommate knows not to leave things lying around too." Another chorus of consent.

Fusaka's voice dipped low as she leaned close to Iruka's ear. "You and I should talk."

"It's nothing," he whispered back.


He plastered on his most carefree smile. "I'm fine. Really. I've had worse in the field. It was just an accident, I swear."

She gave him a hard look but pulled away. It hurt to keep smiling but he did anyways. Better to smile through the pain than let it take over you. At least, for now, Fusaka had his back. He wasn't sure how long that would last, but it was a small comfort and he'd take any comfort he could get.

A thought came to him as he watched the children draw. Word had gotten out about his last mission which meant someone had talked about it. As far as he was aware, the only people who knew what had happened were himself, Sarutobi, Mizuki, and Kakashi. Sarutobi wouldn't say anything. Iruka hadn't said anything. Mizuki promised not to say anything. Which left... Kakashi. He hadn't taken Kakashi for the gossiping type, but that was the only option unless someone had gotten hold of the mission report and that was supposed to have been sealed with the Hokage's records.

So, had Kakashi told people about the mission before or after Iruka had failed to ask him out? He wasn't sure which option was worse.

"I'm concerned for you, Iruka."

Iruka stared down at his teacup. He hurt. He felt like his entire body was one mass of bruises. So far, no one else had attacked him outright but that didn't stop the little bits of bullying. He'd trip over nothing, get hit from behind by small rocks or a piece of fruit, get bumped into tables and knocked into walls. He stopped going out except to work. He started taking the roofs to and from the Academy, running as fast as he could to avoid being spotted.

He deserved it. All of it. It was his punishment for getting his teammates killed.

"I'm fine." This was not the first time he'd had this talk. It felt like rote.

"You're not fine. Tell me who's doing this."

He continued to stare at his teacup. "No one. There's nothing going on."

Sarutobi sighed. His chair creaked as he leaned back. "You have to talk to me, Iruka. Tell me what's going on."

"There's nothing going on."

Another sigh. "Alright. I'll respect your privacy. But my door is always open if you need anything, anything at all."

A fraction of a smile ghosted across Iruka's face. "Thank you."

"How's the Academy going?"

Iruka glanced over at Sarutobi. Relief filled him at the change in topic. "It's good. I really like it." The Academy was his only safe ground outside of his apartment. No one dared touch him on Academy grounds. If any of the teaching staff had heard the rumors, they didn't act like it. Fusaka had been worrying over him like a mother hen for the last month and the rest of the staff weren't much better. Even teachers that he'd barely said more than a word or two to before went out of their way to talk to him. It was probably one of the few things keeping him sane right now. That and his weekly tea with Sarutobi.

"Good. I've heard only good things from the teaching staff. They really like you. I think you've got a good shot at a permanent position in a year or two."

Assuming he was still alive in a year or two. He wasn't sure how much more of the current treatment he could take. "I... I'd like that."

Sarutobi's expression shifted, becoming slightly colder. "And how's Mizuki?"

Iruka shifted in his chair. Sarutobi's dislike for Mizuki was one of the few points of contention between them, though so far he'd yet to do more than suggest that Iruka find better living arrangements. "He's fine. I haven't seen him much this week. He's been doing D-ranks." It was genin-level jobs but Mizuki liked the easy money.

"I see." Sarutobi paused and refilled Iruka's cup, a sign that he wanted Iruka to stay for a while longer. They'd keep talking until the tea ran out. "Tell me about your students."

Iruka smiled and launched into a description of Koji's latest antics.

It was beyond late by the time Kakashi finally made it back to Konoha. He should have stopped for the night but the relative nearness of his village made him press on until the gates were in sight. It was raining lightly, the first tentative drops from what promised to be a fairly massive storm. Dawn was barely an hour away. By then the faint drizzle would become a downpour. He should have headed home – sleep was slowly becoming a necessity – but his feet took him towards the Memorial Stone instead. He liked to stop there first when he could. It was a ritual of sorts, one he'd been following for as long as he could remember. Get in, say hi to those who had passed, go see those still living.

He turned the corner and stopped. There was someone already at the stone. It seemed strange for someone to be at the Memorial Stone at this hour, but Kakashi was here, so he couldn't really say much. He started to turn but there was something about the stranger that made him pause. The man seemed familiar. Kakashi moved closer. Long brown hair worn loose, thin frame, skin slightly darker than the norm. There was a faint sound coming from the stranger, muffled by the rain.


The man – no, boy – in front of the stone jumped. He slowly turned. Part of Iruka's face was shadowed, marring his face like an ugly bruise. The dim streetlights provided poor illumination against the rain. Iruka's eyes were large and red. He was shaking. Rain rolled down his face like a steady stream of tears.

"It's late. Shouldn't you be sleeping?"

Iruka looked away. The shadow on his face moved with him. It wasn't a shadow at all.

Anger flooded Kakashi, as cold and fierce as if he were about to step into battle. Beneath the anger was a strange sense of possession, outrage that someone had dared touch what was his. He bit down on his emotions, keeping the sudden killing rage from spilling over into the atmosphere where Iruka would sense it. His first thought was of Mizuki, but if Mizuki was the type to abuse his friends, then there was no way the Hokage would have let Iruka live with him.

Kakashi wasn't aware of moving until his fingers brushed Iruka's hair. Iruka instinctively flinched as Kakashi's hand came closer and then stilled under his touch. He seemed nervous. That was new.

"What's wrong?" He was slightly proud of how calm he sounded. He felt detached.

Iruka's mouth opened but no words came out. He looked up at Kakashi. His eyes seemed lost.

Kakashi's fingers traced the edge of the bruise. He should turn and walk away. He should stay far, far away from Iruka. If he didn't, he would be no better than whoever had left the mark on Iruka's face. He should be the one leaving marks. How dare someone else beat him to it. Kakashi knew then that he was trapped. There was no way for him to walk away, not with tears painted across Iruka's face, not when he looked so desperate and vulnerable. He was never going to be able to get the way Iruka looked out of his head. He didn't even need to use the Sharingan to burn the image into his mind, though he was tempted.

"Who did this to you?" He spoke like he was on the battlefield, his voice a hard command.

Iruka's mouth opened, the answer on his lips. He hesitated. Kakashi's fingers twitched as they brushed through Iruka's hair, wanting to curl and pull. Iruka dropped his head. "It doesn't matter."

Kakashi dropped into a squat, putting himself level with Iruka. "It matters a great deal. It matters to me."

Iruka glanced at him. Hope shone faintly in his eyes. "Really?"

Kakashi pulled down his mask so that Iruka could see him smile. He kept his expression bright and cheerful, the exact opposite of the whirling mix of emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. "Really."

For a second Kakashi thought he had Iruka but then the chuunin dropped his gaze. "It doesn't matter. I deserved it."

He held back a sigh. Had he ever been that young and melodramatic? "Why do you think you deserved it?" Iruka's eyes darted to the stone and Kakashi connected the dots. He sighed and straightened, letting his hand fall away. "That wasn't your fault." How the hell did anyone know about that anyway? The mission report had been sealed. "And you certainly don't deserve someone beating you up over it."

Iruka didn't look up, didn't look at all like he took Kakashi's words to heart. "Thank you. That means a lot to me. I know you don't like me but-"

He spoke without thinking. "Who said I didn't like you?"

Iruka's head snapped up. "But... you said..."

Temptation gnawed at him and he couldn't help teasing Iruka a little. He felt like one of the konoichi standing in front of a sweets shop while complaining about her diet. If he reached out, just a little... "I said we should keep things professional. I said nothing about whether or not I liked you."

There was that hope again, shining like a small beacon from Iruka's eyes. "Then... you... you like me?"

He was an ass. A royal ass. He shouldn't be doing this. The Hokage was going to kill him. It would only take a few simple words to make Iruka his, right here, right now, but as much as he wanted to, he couldn't bring himself to do it.

"I don't think it's a good idea." He took a step backwards.

Iruka's hand shot out, grabbing on to Kakashi's sleeve. Kakashi let him. "Why? Why isn't it a good idea? Please, I know I'm just a chuunin, but... I..." Iruka's voice dropped to a whisper. He looked down. "I really like you."

Why could things never be easy? "Umino. Iruka. I'm not a nice man. I kill people for a living. I kill a lot of people, in vicious, violent ways. You don't need that kind of blood staining you. You can find someone better."

Iruka looked up at him like a kicked puppy. "There is no one better. There's only you."

Kakashi closed his eyes and counted to ten. Closing his eyes only made it worse as images from his fantasies came back to haunt him. He made it to four before he snapped his eyes open.

"If you knew what I was really like, you wouldn't want that."

Iruka's gaze never wavered. "I want you."

He shouldn't. He really shouldn't. Kakashi stepped forward and wrapped his fingers in Iruka's hair. He tugged his hand forward, pulling Iruka off the bench and sending him tumbling to his knees. His head almost smacked into Kakashi's thigh but Kakashi held him steady. With his free hand he pushed down the front of his pants, exposing his hardening cock to the cold air.

"Show me how much you want me."

Iruka's eyes were wide with surprise. He glanced up at Kakashi. Tears gathered at the corner of his eyes, threatening to spill over. Iruka paused for a brief moment then closed his eyes and leaned forward. His mouth closed around Kakashi, sliding forward until he had half of Kakashi's cock in his mouth. Kakashi groaned and tugged on Iruka's hair. Iruka obediently pulled back and slowly started to suck on Kakashi.

It was obvious that Iruka was unskilled. He wasn't new to having another man in his mouth but he was obviously didn't make a habit of it, at least not enough that he had any sort of finesse. In Kakashi's fantasies, he'd always pictured Iruka as a pro – ready to do whatever, whenever, and do it well. Reality was more to Kakashi's liking, though he couldn't help but imagine what it would have been like being Iruka's first, teaching him exactly what to do to bring Kakashi pleasure. That thought pulled another moan from Kakashi's lips.

Kakashi pushed his hitae up and twisted his fingers in Iruka's hair, causing a thin trail of tears to roll down Iruka's cheeks. He kept twisting until Iruka's muffled groan of pain reverberated against Kakashi's cock. If he only got to do this once, he was sure as hell making sure he remembered it. The lighting could have been better, but it was at least lit enough that he could make out the way Iruka's lips pursed around Kakashi's cock and the faint blush that stained his cheeks. Iruka shifted, spreading his legs slightly. Kakashi eyed the bulge forming in Iruka's pants. Iruka's mouth wasn't enough.

He pulled Iruka's head back, freeing his cock with a loud, wet pop. Iruka had a brief moment to look confused before Kakashi shoved him down to his hands and knees. He pressed Iruka's face to the ground and then stepped behind Iruka. His hands settled on Iruka's hips as he knelt. In one swift motion he pulled Iruka's pants down, taking his underwear with it. Kakashi reached into one of his vest pockets and pulled out a thin vial of weapon oil. It wasn't the most ideal substance and it smelled nasty but it was the best he had. He poured half the vial in his palm and briskly lathered it across his cock, paying special attention to the head. His fingers spread Iruka's cheeks. He poured the rest of the oil over Iruka's entrance and used two fingers to work it inside. Iruka whimpered slightly as Kakashi shoved his fingers inside but beyond that stayed silent while Kakashi worked. When he judged Iruka coated well enough he wiped his hand on the grass to get rid of the excess oil.

Kakashi gripped Iruka's hips tightly, his fingers digging in hard enough to leave bruises. As Kakashi lined himself up to Iruka's entrance he stared down at the dark patchwork of bruises already marring Iruka's skin. Someone was going to pay for those. Iruka cried out as Kakashi shoved forward, impaling Iruka in one swift thrust. He pulled out almost immediately and thrust back in with a low groan. Iruka was blissfully tight. His insides squeezed around Kakashi's cock, warm and welcoming, just begging to take in Kakashi's length.

Iruka's fingers dug into the wet ground, leaving small furrows in the earth. He was panting, his breathing disrupted every few seconds by a loud sob or wanton moan. Distantly Kakashi was aware of the rain picking up. It felt like tiny shards of ice pelting against his overheated skin. The patter of the rain blended with the fast slap, slap of skin striking skin. Iruka's hair covered his face. Kakashi reached forward, suddenly needing to see the tears that he knew were there. He grabbed a handful of hair and pulled. Iruka cried out loudly as he was arched backwards. He turned his head slightly to look at Kakashi. He was gorgeous.

Dirt stained Iruka's face but it only seemed to add to his beauty, giving a rough, disheveled edge to his appearance. His eyes were wide, pupils dilated in a mix of pain and pleasure. He was crying and the tears mixed with the rain so that it was hard for Kakashi to tell where the tears started and the rain ended. His mouth hung open, his voice unleashed in a wild cacophony of noise. There were no words coming from Iruka's mouth but to Kakashi it all sounded like pleas, begging for more. His lips were swollen from sucking on Kakashi moments before. His mouth hung open wide like he wanted to take Kakashi in again.

Kakashi came with a shout. Iruka fell forward as Kakashi released his hair, catching himself on his palms before his face could hit the dirt. Kakashi's hips jerked forward once, twice, then stilled as he spilled his seed into Iruka's body. He counted out his breaths, feeling his body slowly relax, pulling back from the edge. Iruka didn't move. Kakashi stared at him, at the join of their bodies and the lewd tableau of Iruka's naked and bruised back.

As soon as his breathing evened, he reached forward and wrapped his hand around Iruka's erection. Iruka gasped and flinched. Kakashi let his fingers play against Iruka's skin as he dragged his hand down. He was surprised at how hard Iruka was. It was evidence of how much Iruka had liked Kakashi's rough treatment and that knowledge only made him want Iruka more.

His thumb circled Iruka's head and rubbed against the slit, earning him a low moan. He slid his hand back up and repeated the pattern. Iruka's hair fell around his head like a dirty halo, obscuring all but the nape of his neck. His shirt bunched beneath his armpits. Kakashi gradually increased the pace of his hand, touching Iruka the same way he'd touched himself repeatedly over the last few weeks while he'd thought of Iruka. From the way Iruka's breath hitched, he was as appreciative as Kakashi had been.

Iruka's fingers dug into the dirt. Kakashi could feel Iruka's body shaking against him, like a scared rabbit caught in a predator's jaws. Every few seconds a large shudder would wrack Iruka's frame and he'd tense around Kakashi's cock, still buried inside of Iruka. If he hadn't just come it would have been enough to get him going again.

Kakashi leaned forward until his chest covered Iruka's back. He planted his elbow on the ground next to Iruka's head and closed his fingers around Iruka's left wrist in a vice-like grip. His breath ghosted over the exposed curve of Iruka's ear.

"Come for me, Iruka."

Iruka came with a shout. His entire body spasmed and then went limp. Kakashi slid his arm around Iruka's chest to hold him up. Iruka's chest heaved as he sucked in deep gulps of air. His panting was louder than the rain. Kakashi waited until Iruka's breathing slowed before moving. Iruka groaned as Kakashi pulled out. He let the rain wash him clean before he tucked himself back in his pants. His hand prints stood out vividly against Iruka's skin – two on the hips, one on the wrist. He wanted to add more. Maybe some other time.

"Go home."

Kakashi turned away and didn't look back.

He found Kotetsu and Izumo at a small café near the front gate. Izumo offered a faint smile as Kakashi approached. Kotetsu sipped his tea, seemingly ignoring Kakashi. He stood next to their table and crossed his arms.

"What's going on with Umino Iruka?"

Izumo's smile faltered. "Umino-kun? Why do you ask?"

"You know why I'm asking." The pair of chuunin were the biggest gossips in Konoha, and they were about the same age as Iruka. If anything was going on, they'd know.

Kotetsu put down his teacup. "There's a rumor going around that he's responsible for his teammates' deaths. Some people saw that as dishonorable."

Kakashi unfolded his arms and placed his hands flat against the table. A crackle of lightning arched up from the table, shorting the lamp that hung overhead. Silence fell over the café. Both chuunin pressed against the sides of the booth and stared at him with wide eyes.

"For the record, Iruka has never caused anyone's death." His voice carried through the café. "For the record, Haruno Mika and Kobayashi Sakuya were killed in a trap set by Mist ninja, a trap which nearly cost Iruka his life as well. Umino Iruka is one of the most honorable ninja in this village. Anyone who has a grievance with Iruka has a grievance with me. Is that understood?"

The chuunin nodded frantically.

"Good." He straightened. "Enjoy your tea."

Their eyes followed him as he left. No one moved. He stepped into the street and disappeared into the crowd.

Kakashi waited until his prey turned the corner onto a deserted side-street before dropping from concealment. He knocked the taller of the two to the ground with a right hook and sent the other sprawling with a punch to the gut.

"What the fuck?" The taller started to swing, took one look at Kakashi, and froze.

"If anyone lays another finger on Umino Iruka, I will find both of you and break every bone in your hands."

The taller man's eyes widened. The other was still gasping for air. "What the hell, man? That's not fair."

"I'm not a fair kind of guy. Consider yourselves warned." He leapt up onto the roof and watched from concealment until they scurried away. Two down, half a dozen more to go.

The door slammed shut. Iruka looked up, startled, as Mizuki stormed into the living room. His face was flushed, though Iruka couldn't tell whether it was from exertion or anger.

"What the hell did you do?"

Iruka put down his pencil. "What?"

Mizuki stopped on the other side of the coffee table and stared at him. "Seriously, what the hell?"

It was too early in the day for Mizuki to be drunk. Maybe one of his friends gave him something. Maybe he was under genjutsu. Either way, Iruka was confused. "Yelling at me without context isn't very useful."

Mizuki crossed his arms. "Kakashi?"

Iruka paled. He hadn't seen Kakashi in two days. No one had been around when they'd... He blushed just thinking about it. It was so unlike him to do anything like that, especially in public. Some days he hated the rumor mill in Konoha. Seriously, how did people find out about them? Iruka hadn't sensed anyone, though that didn't mean too much. Kakashi would have sensed anyone, though admittedly he'd been a bit preoccupied. Iruka felt his blush increasing. The memories of that night were going to stick with him for a long time.

"There. Context. What the hell? I can't believe you slept with that creepy fucking perv."

He felt like he was going to die of embarrassment. "Is that what people are saying? That we slept together?"

Mizuki's eyes narrowed. "You did, didn't you? I mean, most of it's just speculation, and damn if that guy doesn't have the creepy overprotective psycho-stalker vibe thing going, but you totally did it with him, didn't you? I can't believe it. You little slut. He got back from his mission what, a day ago? Or has it been going on longer?" Mizuki dropped to his knees and leaned forward, his hands pressing against the wood of the table. "Did you sleep with him on your mission and not tell me? I can't believe you didn't tell me. You're such a slut."

Humiliation twisted in Iruka's gut. He shifted backwards until he was pressed against the edge of the couch, as far as he could go without getting up off the floor. "Will you stop calling me a slut?" Even if it was true. He felt like a slut, the way he'd gone down on his knees for Kakashi right in front of the village's sacred monument. He'd gone back the next day and stared at the furrows his hands had made in the mud, then pressed the dirt flat with his shoe, eliminating the physical reminder of what he'd done. "I slept with him once, right after he got back."

Mizuki's smile widened, sending chills up Iruka's spine. The way Mizuki stared at him sometimes made Iruka feel like he was a deer about to be pounced on by a vicious predator. "Details."


"Aww, come on, man." Mizuki dropped back onto his heels. "You have to share. That's what friends do."

He felt guilty for all of a second before he shoved the emotion down. "I'm sorry, but I'm not comfortable talking about it." The less people who knew what he'd done, the better. Look at what had happened with news of his mission. From the way Kakashi had acted the other night, it seemed unlikely that he'd been the one to tell people about Iruka's mistake which left Iruka with no idea how the news had spread.

Mizuki frowned. "You're no fun."

Iruka remembered something Mizuki had said and tried for a change of topic. "Why did you call Kakashi a stalker?"

"Oh, that." Mizuki waved a hand dismissively. "Apparently he's been going around town beating the crap out of everyone who beat the crap out of you. He had this whole big scene with Kotetsu and Izumo the other day where he said you were responsible for those two kids who died on your last mission and that you were his bitch..." Iruka's eyes widened. He nearly choked on air. Mizuki rolled his eyes. "Okay, so not those exact words, but that's why people think you're dating, because he came back to town and went all psycho-protective. Makes sense though, if you screwed him as soon as he got back. I mean, why else would a jounin like that give a crap about you if you weren't putting out?"

Mizuki's words stung, but they were secondary to the complex swirl of emotion that filled him at the thought of Kakashi taking vengeance for him. It was unnecessary. Iruka deserved everything he got but at the same time he was a little relieved if it meant he got a reprieve, no matter how brief. Things would go back once Kakashi lost interest. It was only a matter of time. Once Kakashi got his fix, then he'd stop protecting Iruka. Mizuki was right. There was no way Kakashi cared about him. He was just in it for the sex and Iruka had been more than eager to give that up.

He was vaguely aware of Mizuki talking to him but Iruka was too wrapped up in his own thoughts to pay attention. After a few minutes Mizuki got bored and walked away.

Eventually Kakashi would get bored too. He wasn't sure how he'd handle it when Kakashi did.

"Come with me."

Iruka stopped in the middle of the street and stared. Kakashi leaned against the side of a building. Iruka was positive he hadn't been there a few minutes ago. Kakashi pushed himself off the wall and walked away without another word. Iruka turned and followed.

Questions hovered on Iruka's tongue but he held them back, not wanting to bother Kakashi with the trivialities of Iruka's insecurities. He hadn't seen Kakashi in a week, which had left him wondering if the thing with Kakashi had been a one-time thing. Apparently not, or at least he hoped that's why Kakashi wanted Iruka to follow him.

They walked in silence. The streets were mostly deserted and the few people they passed paid them little notice. Kakashi led him through an unfamiliar section of the city. He was vaguely aware of where they were in relation to a few of the major landmarks but he'd never really been back in this area before. He knew the Uchiha compound was around here somewhere, along with some of the older and more distinguished family homes. Block houses and apartment buildings turned into fenced off houses with carefully manicured lawns and then solid walls of fencing with nameplates as the only demarcation of where one compound turned into another.

Iruka was surprised when Kakashi stopped in front of one of the walled compounds. He placed his hand over the join between the doors of the gate. There was a faint ripple of chakra and then the doors swung open.

"Come in."

Iruka glanced at the nameplate as they passed. It said Hatake in large block-printed characters. The doors swung shut behind him, momentarily cutting off the light until Kakashi spoke a single soft word. Lanterns lit up around them, forming a line between the gate and the main house not far ahead. Their shoes clattered quietly against the grey cobblestone walkway. In the dark past the lanterns, he could make out a large yard, stretching for a short distance to either side. Shadowed shapes rose up at irregular intervals – trees and shrubs, most likely.

Kakashi didn't look back as he slid open the front door and walked into the house. Iruka paused momentarily at the entrance. He felt like he was intruding, but Kakashi didn't say anything, just kept walking deeper into the house. Iruka quickly toed off his shoes and left them lined up neatly next to Kakashi's in the entranceway. He jogged for a moment to catch up, stopping two feet behind Kakashi and falling back into a walk. Kakashi stopped at another sliding door. It opened with a hiss, like it hadn't been used in a while and needed maintenance. The room beyond was dark.

"Go in and take off your clothes."

Iruka cast a sidelong glance at Kakashi and hesitated a brief moment before stepping inside. He moved just beyond the fall of light from the door and unzipped his vest. Kakashi followed. The door slid shut. He heard a switch flip and light filled the room. Kakashi walked past him, pulled down his mask, and dropped onto the couch, seemingly oblivious to the fact that Iruka was stripping a few feet away. Iruka folded each piece of clothing as it was removed and left them in a neat pile on the floor. He hesitated with his hands on his underwear before shucking it and adding it to the pile.

"Kneel." Kakashi pointed to a spot on the floor by his feet. Iruka awkwardly obeyed. Kakashi pulled out Iruka's ponytail holder and tossed it onto the coffee table. His fingers carded through Iruka's hair. "We need to talk."

"Okay." There were a lot of things they should be talking about, like what Kakashi's intentions were and how word had spread around the village, though he doubted those were the topics Kakashi had in mind.

"About your last mission..." Iruka tensed. Kakashi's fingers tightened in the loose hair at the nape of Iruka's neck. "What happened wasn't your fault."

Iruka lifted his gaze from the carpet to meet Kakashi's eyes. He felt far too vulnerable having this conversation while naked. The fact that Kakashi still had his clothes on only emphasized the imbalance of power between them. "Yes, it was. I appreciate-" He cut off as Kakashi's hand twisted painfully in Iruka's hair.

Kakashi's eyes seemed to pierce straight into Iruka. Belatedly he realized Kakashi had uncovered his Sharingan. Iruka quickly shifted his gaze from Kakashi's face. "You fell for a trap. Your teammates fell for the trap. Any ninja with any shred of compassion would have fallen for that trap. The fault lies with the Mist ninja who set the trap, not on you."


Kakashi yanked Iruka up by the hair and then tugged forward, sending Iruka sprawling face-first across the couch. He tried to push up to right himself but Kakashi caught his hands and twisted them behind his back. Thick rope circled his wrists at lightning fast speed. The hemp burned as it rubbed against his skin, looping from his wrists, up his arms and then back down again to bind his fingers together, leaving his arms completely immobilized.


"This ends when you accept that it wasn't your fault."

He was about to ask what ended when he felt the familiar gathering of chakra. He had a brief moment to panic and then Kakashi's hand landed hard on Iruka's exposed ass. Iruka cried out, more from surprise than from pain, though the slap had definitely stung. He wiggled in an attempt to reposition himself but Kakashi's hand shifted from Iruka's hair to his arms, pinning him against Kakashi's lap. He gasped as another slap landed on his exposed ass.

"Kakashi-" He cut himself off and inhaled sharply as Kakashi's hand landed again. "Please. Stop." Each word was bit out to the steady repetitious smack of Kakashi's hand.

"I told you how to end this."

"But..." He gasped as Kakashi's hand struck. What had been a tolerable level of discomfort was rapidly shifting to extreme pain. "Kakashi. I..." Iruka bit his lip to hold back a cry of pain. He closed his eyes but that didn't make it any better. The Academy taught them techniques for withstanding torture but Iruka couldn't think of any of them right now. All he could focus on was how unreasonable Kakashi was being and how much it was starting to hurt. That and the embarrassment of being naked, splayed out across another man's lap, and spanked like a child. He tried to concentrate on his breathing but every time Kakashi's hand hit him it jarred his concentration."Kakashi-"

The next slap seemed to reverberate all the way up Iruka's spine. He cried out and squeezed his eyes tight against the tears that threatened to form. Kakashi had yet to show any sign of slowing down. Iruka could feel the faint trace of chakra on Kakashi's hand, reinforcing it. To Kakashi, the impact of hand on flesh was like nothing, but Iruka could barely keep himself together. He could feel his resolve crumbling away with every hit.

Reasoning obviously wasn't going to work which meant his only option was escape. He bucked, trying to push himself out of Kakashi's lap. He only managed to get an inch of space between his chest and Kakashi's lap before Kakashi's grip tightened on his arms and he was shoved back down into place. The subsequent slap was hard enough to make Iruka scream.

"You can't escape this."

Tears rolled down Iruka's cheeks. He choked back a sob. Kakashi's hand fell back into its steady rhythm. Slap. Slap. Slap. Iruka pressed his face into the cushions of the couch to muffle his sobs. His ass felt like it was on fire. Each time Kakashi's hand hit, Iruka's breath hitched, like a full body hiccup. Worst of all, he could feel himself getting hard. Every hit drove his hips forwards into Kakashi's legs, creating maddening friction between Iruka's bare cock and the fabric of Kakashi's pants. Kakashi was hard too, judging by the growing bulge Iruka felt pressing against his chest. His hope that Kakashi hadn't noticed Iruka's reaction was short lived.

"Well, you certainly are full of surprises." Iruka bit the pillow to muffle a scream as Kakashi slapped him hard on the left cheek. "I'm starting to think you don't want this to end." His hand fell on the right cheek. Iruka's hands clenched as much as they could against the ropes binding him.

"It's not your fault." Kakashi's voice was calm and steady, almost soothing. Iruka screamed into the cushions. "It's not your fault." The fabric was getting wet from saliva and tears. "It's not your fault." It hurt so much. He wanted it to stop. He wanted it to be over so he could find a hole to crawl into so he could die of shame. The last of his resolve shattered under Kakashi's hand.

"It's..." Iruka screamed as Kakashi's hand landed again. "It's not..." He sucked in a deep breath just before the next hit struck. "...not my fault..."


Iruka screamed in frustration. He trembled from head to toe. His legs hurt from the awkward position he'd been forced to hold. It felt like Kakashi had been holding him down for years, though he doubted it had passed an hour yet. There was no way he was going to be able to walk any time soon. He couldn't stop crying. Kakashi didn't even slow down.

"It's not..." Slap. " fault."


He felt like he was on the brink of collapsing. He couldn't take much more. He'd reached his limit. "Notmyfault." He gasped the words out in the short space between slaps.


Iruka screamed. He'd lost sense of the room, lost sense of time and place and anything that wasn't the fabric of the couch pressed against his face, the feel of Kakashi's legs beneath his chest, and the fiery pain in his ass. Another slap hit and he felt the world tilt as he nearly passed out.

"Not..." He hurt so much. "Not..." He had no idea what he was even saying anymore or why. " fault."

The next hit broke him. Iruka went limp in Kakashi's lap, any faint scrap of resistance gone. It wasn't his fault. If Kakashi said so, then it wasn't his fault. He sobbed into the cushion and waited for the next strike to hit. He felt like it would end him, like he'd die, right there from too much pain. The expected strike never came. Instead, the ropes around his hands fell away and he was lifted, turned until he was cradled against Kakashi's chest. He shook and sobbed into Kakashi's shoulder. Kakashi's hands ran over his arms and through his hair, his touch gentle and soothing. He was vaguely aware of Kakashi talking, making soft calming noises but the individual words were beyond Iruka's comprehension.

His tears slowed and the gentle caress of Kakashi's hands shifted. Kakashi's fingers brushed against Iruka's cock, reawakening his erection. He was shifted slightly, causing a whimper of pain as his ass brushed against Kakashi's pants before he was shifted onto one hip. Wet fingers traced the curve of his ass, eliciting more whimpers from Iruka until they slipped between his cheeks and pressed inside. He shivered and clutched at Kakashi's shoulder.

Kakashi's hands worked him, front and back, until the pain took a backseat to lust and tears of pain blended with tears of frustration. He needed more. Kakashi was teasing him, barely touching Iruka's cock with one hand while the other methodically stretched him, fingers twisting maddeningly inside of him.

"Please..." His voice was hoarse from crying.

Kakashi's fingers pulled away. He pushed Iruka backwards onto the couch. Iruka hissed as his ass pressed against the fabric. His legs were hooked over Kakashi's shoulders and he watched in fascination as Kakashi pushed down his pants and slicked up his cock. Memories of how full his mouth had felt around Kakashi's cock filled his mind. He'd been waiting all week for this. He couldn't forget the feel of Kakashi's cock shoving inside of him, the way Kakashi had controlled him, had made him come from a single command. Despite everything Kakashi had done, or maybe because of what he'd done, Iruka wanted Kakashi more than ever. He didn't think he was ready to analyze just how twisted that made both of them.

Iruka hissed as Kakashi's cock slowly slid inside of him. He closed his eyes and savored the feeling of being spread and filled. Kakashi's hand settled on his hips. His fingers pressed against the tender skin on Iruka's ass, bringing a fresh wave of tears to the surface. He opened his eyes. Kakashi was staring at him like he was in rapture. Iruka opened his mouth to speak, though he had no idea what he was going to say, but then Kakashi moved and all thoughts of words left. Iruka's mouth hung open as he arched against the couch. Pain mixed with pleasure and it was enough to drive him mad. Maybe he was mad. That was really the only explanation why he still wanted Kakashi so desperately after everything he'd put Iruka through.

"Say it." Kakashi's voice was low and deadly. The tone went straight to Iruka's groin.


"Say it." Kakashi's fingers dug into his ass, his nails pressing in hard enough to leave marks.

Iruka screamed. Kakashi's hips snapped forward, setting a brutal pace. Iruka felt like he was going to go mad from sensory overload.

"Not my fault," he gasped out. It hurt every time Kakashi thrust forward, his hips slapping against the tender flesh of Iruka's ass but at the same time it felt so good.

"Good boy." In any other situation, that phrase would have rankled. Right now, Iruka was too far gone to care. "My good little boy." Iruka groaned. That shouldn't have sounded endearing but it was. "Who do you belong to?"

Gods, he needed Kakashi to stop talking. He needed Kakashi to stop looking at him. It was all going straight to Iruka's groin and he was so close to the edge, he felt like he was about to fall over and he didn't want it to end this soon. He moaned, practically keening with pleasure each time Kakashi thrust into him. The way Kakashi was looking at him felt so deep, so personal. The Sharingan swirled slowly, fixed on Iruka, and he wondered if Kakashi was recording this. The thought that Kakashi wanted to record it, that he wanted to keep this part of Iruka with him permanently, nearly made Iruka come. He felt wanted. He felt needed. He felt possessed. No one had ever made him feel like that before.

"Who do you belong to?"

Kakashi's hips pounded into him. It was too much. "You." Iruka's head rolled back into the cushions. He screamed with pleasure. "Gods. Yes. You. Kakashi. I belong to you." Release washed through him like a tsunami. The wave crashed over him, broke against his skin, and left him feeling wrung out.

He collapsed bonelessly against the cushions and fought to stay awake. Kakashi grunted, bit his lip, and thrust furiously into Iruka. His fingers dug into Iruka's hips as he came. Their flesh slapped loudly together and then went still. Kakashi leaned down. He was breathing heavily, his chest heaving with exertion. Kakashi's lips covered Iruka's. His tongue pushed into Iruka's mouth for a deep, possessive kiss.

"Mine," Kakashi whispered as he pulled away.


Iruka told himself he'd rest his eyes, just for a moment, but exhaustion pulled him under in seconds. He was barely aware of Kakashi's arms wrapping around him but the warmth of Kakashi's touch stayed with him all the way to morning. That night, he had no nightmares.

Kakashi leaned against the wall and tried to watch Iruka without being overly obvious that he was watching Iruka. He was failing miserably, judging by the winks Anko kept sending him every time she sidled up to Iruka or the teasing looks the other jounin sent Kakashi. Iruka looked so out of his depth every time someone of higher rank talked to him. At least he'd stopped flinching every time someone touched him... well, except for when someone clapped him on the back but Kakashi was entirely to blame for that. He smiled a little wider as he thought of the symmetrical marks he'd left across Iruka's back yesterday and the way Iruka had cried while he'd made them.

"Nice catch you got there."

Kakashi glanced sideways at Genma then followed Genma's gaze to Iruka. "I suppose so."

Genma was silent for several minutes as he rolled a senbon between his teeth. "You know..." He was very carefully not looking at Kakashi. "He's not at all like what I expected."

Kakashi shifted against the wall, straightening from his slouch. Genma tensed. "What's that supposed to mean?" A few of the more perceptive ninja at the party cast the pair of them quick looks. The laughter in the room took on a faint nervous edge.

"It wasn't meant as an insult." Genma kept looking at Iruka. The chuunin was laughing at something Kurenai said. If he had any clue about the tension in the room he didn't show it. "Like I said, he's a nice catch. Friendly. Polite. I'm kinda surprised no one had the balls to go after him sooner."

"So why didn't they?"

Genma shifted his feet. He pulled the senbon out of his mouth and rolled it between his knuckles. "You know... the rumors."

Kakashi held himself very still. Genma looked like he wanted to be anywhere but here. "What rumors?"

Genma swallowed. The noise level of the party had taken a sudden dive. "I think I need a smoke. Come outside with me."

They navigated the crowd in Kurenai's living room and stepped out onto the balcony. Iruka glanced up as Kakashi moved, his eyes following Kakashi as he crossed the room. Kakashi shook his head almost imperceptibly. Kurenai said something that drew Iruka's attention away, though his smile this time was forced, uneasy. Genma shut the glass doors behind them. The senbon had disappeared from his fingers, replaced by a thin cigarette. Genma placed it between his teeth, lit up, and took a long drag before finally turning to look at Kakashi.

"You really don't know?"

Kakashi leaned his forearms against the railing and shook his head. "Enlighten me."

Genma exhaled, sending a long stream of smoke drifting up through the wood slats to the balcony above them. "The short version – he's a slut." Kakashi's hands tightened against the railing. "That one always struck me as odd, since you never saw the kid with anyone and the guys who said they'd slept with him... I don't know. It always struck me as a bit odd, you know? Like they were the wrong type for a kid like him. And when a guy starts talking about sex, you assume they're making half that shit up. For Iruka's sake, I hope they were."

"What kind of stuff?"

Genma shrugged. "I don't even remember. It's been a while since that kind of rumor was going around. There was this one guy, big beefy dude, who talked about hitting Iruka while they had sex. Stuff like that, about how Iruka'd let a guy use him." Guilt twisted like a knife in Kakashi's gut. He wanted to find the men who'd touched Iruka before he could and break their hands, but it didn't matter. He wasn't any better. "It just started going around. I mean, you know how we all like to talk, and it just sort of built up until Iruka had this reputation for being cheap and easy. Doesn't help that he hangs around bars and spends time with known druggies. He's too young for that sort of shit. And then there was the stuff with his teammates and all the pranks he pulled when he was in the Academy. So, yeah, rumors. Kid's got a reputation, which is why I was surprised at first when I heard you and he were a thing."

Kakashi mentally replayed their entrance earlier. Iruka had been hesitant to come with him, almost afraid, but Kakashi had insisted. He wanted Iruka around and he figured it'd be good for them to do something together that didn't involve the bedroom. When they'd arrived people had given Iruka looks but they'd been polite. There'd been an obvious warming up period while Iruka acclimated but he'd done well. He was fitting in. Kakashi's friends liked him, and Kakashi liked that they liked Iruka.

"But, hey," Genma's words interrupted Kakashi's thoughts. "Rumors are just rumors. I mean, the stuff about his team wasn't true so who knows how much of that other stuff was true."

Kakashi snorted. "You'd think, as ninja, we'd be better at seeing underneath the underneath."

Genma laughed. "Yeah. Pretty dumb, aren't we?" He clapped Kakashi on the shoulder. "But thanks for being the brave one to take the first peek. He's a pretty nice kid." He turned and leaned sideways on the railing, his eyes on Kakashi. "I guess it's fitting that you two got together. You're very alike. I mean, you rarely come out unless we drag you and Iruka's always alone except for the few times he goes out with Mizuki and his cronies."

Kakashi raised his visible eyebrow and smirked. "Nice to know I'm not the only one who thinks that guy's a creep."

"Creepiest of creeps." Genma shook his head. "Iruka would do so much better if he dropped that guy's ass. I mean, half the stuff that goes around about Iruka comes from Mizuki." Kakashi froze. He felt like his veins had turned to ice. Genma kept talking, oblivious. "I guess that's why people assumed all those rumors were true. I mean, who stays friends with someone who's spreading so much shit about you unless it was true. Come to think of it, all those guys who slept with Iruka were friends of Mizuki's too. Iruka must have a really big heart to willingly put up with all that crap."

"He didn't know," Kakashi whispered, speaking more to himself that Genma.


"He didn't know," he repeated.

Kakashi straightened and turned back to look at Iruka. Faint laughter carried through the glass doors. Iruka was smiling, happy. It was as if all the pain of the last few months had washed away – the horror of his mission forgotten, all the pain Kakashi had put him through obliterated. The thin glass separating them felt like an impenetrable barrier. This was how Iruka should be, how he could be if he didn't have Kakashi and Mizuki dragging him down.

He'd known all along that he shouldn't get involved with Iruka. It was wrong. He was wrong, messed up, sick in the head. But he was in too deep to stop now. His obsession with Iruka was only getting worse. Each time they had sex it was just adding more fodder for his fantasies. He didn't think he'd ever find anyone who hit all of his buttons like Iruka did. No one else even came close.

Genma dropped his cigarette to the floor and ground it out beneath his boot. "Well, that changes things, doesn't it?"

"It does."

Warm air gusted across Kakashi's face as Genma stepped inside. Kakashi stayed where he was, his elbows resting on the railing as he leaned back against it. He watched Genma join the group around Iruka. The chuunin glanced over at Kakashi. He smiled and waved but made no move to join them. The quiet of the night settled around him.

He needed to have a talk with Mizuki.

Iruka stretched and winced as the welts on his back throbbed in pain. He glanced at the stream of children pouring out of the room and froze. Fusaka was frowning at him. He offered a wan smile back but it did nothing to melt Fusaka's glower. She shut the door firmly as soon as the last child was out of the room.

"Show me your back."

Iruka shifted so that he was facing Fusaka. "I don't think that's necessary."

Her frown deepened. "Show me your back or I'll go straight to the Hokage."

Iruka paled. His stomach clenched into a knot but moved into the corner of the room, out of sight of all the windows, and turned to face the wall. He draped his vest over a chair. His hands shook as he gripped the bottom of his shirt. Lifting his arms hurt but he held back another wince. It was easier when he was prepared for it. Footsteps echoed in the room as Fusaka walked over. Iruka clenched his shirt in his hands.

"Who did this to you?"

He stared down at his hands. "It's not what you think."

"I don't care what it is, I want to know who did that to you."

Iruka pulled his shirt back over his head and turned. He looked up at Fusaka and felt sick at the mixture of disgust and pity on Fusaka's face. "It doesn't matter."

Fusaka took a step closer and placed her hand on Iruka's shoulder. "Is this part of that bullying that was going on before? You need to talk to the Hokage. You need to make this stop."

He blushed and looked down at the floor. "It's not. It's... different." He felt so embarrassed talking about it and then felt bad for feeling embarrassed. There was nothing wrong with what he was doing. There was nothing wrong with the way Kakashi treated him. It was what he wanted. It felt good, right, and yet, he couldn't help but feel ashamed talking about it. "It's consensual."

Fusaka squeezed his shoulder. "Iruka." She tipped his chin up until he met her gaze again. "Iruka, is Hatake-san the one who did this to you? There are rumors... that you two are dating. If he hurt you... If he's been hurting you, you can get protection. You can make it stop."

Fear washed over him and he brushed Fusaka's hand away. "It's not like that. I love him." It sounded so desperate when he said it. "He..." He wanted to say that Kakashi loved him too but he didn't know that, not for certain. He hoped, but Kakashi had never actually said the words. "He cares about me." He could tell how much Kakashi cared about him by the way Kakashi touched him, by the way he would kiss Iruka like Iruka was the only air he needed, by the way he held Iruka while Iruka cried. He belonged to Kakashi and it felt so good to finally belong.

"People who care about each other don't hurt each other." Iruka winced at the sudden rise in volume in Fusaka's voice. He hoped that no one else had heard that.

She started to turn. Iruka panicked and grabbed her sleeve. "Please. Please don't tell anyone about this. It's what I want. I promise I know what I'm doing and this is what I want."

She looked at him like she did sometimes with the children, when they said or did something that reminded her that they'd one day go off and get themselves killed if they didn't grow up. "Iruka, you're eighteen. You're too young to know what you want."

Defiance welled up in him. For the first time in a long while, Iruka was prepared to fight for what he wanted and not back down. It was a good feeling and he knew Kakashi was the source of that strength. "I'm old enough to march out onto the field and fight and die for this village but I'm not old enough to decide who I want to sleep with?"

She had no answer for that.

Kakashi slid onto the bar stool and raised his hand to flag the bartended. Mizuki glanced over at him, snorted, and took a long sip of his drink. His beer bottle hit the bar with a loud clank.

"What the hell do you want?"

"Gin and tonic," he said as the bartender stopped in front of him. He overpaid and left the money on the far side of the bar. The bartender nodded his thanks as he set Kakashi's drink in front of him and then disappeared to another end of the bar. Kakashi took a sip through his mask and stared at the mirror that stretched across the wall in front of him. "I want you to leave Iruka alone."

A predatory grin stretched across Mizuki's face. "Me? I've done nothing to Iruka. From what I hear, you're the one beating the crap out of him and calling it a relationship."

Kakashi set his glass down a bit too hard. "I know what you've been saying about him. I know what you've been doing to him, and I want it to stop."

Mizuki turned to the side and let his elbow drape over the edge of the bar. "You know what the difference between you and me is? I'm not screwing him while I'm tormenting him. I'm not that sick in the head."

Kakashi's fingers curled tightly in Mizuki's shirt, just below his neck. He hadn't even been aware of moving until his hand was nearing Mizuki's throat. Mizuki paled but didn't move. "I could kill you." He wouldn't even feel remorse about it. He'd never thought of harming another Konoha ninja that wasn't a missing nin before he'd met Iruka but he would have gladly killed Mizuki if it got him away from Iruka.

Mizuki's smile stretched wider. "You could, but you won't. You can't cross that line, not yet. But you will, and he'll hate you for it, assuming you don't kill him first." Kakashi's fingers loosened involuntarily. Mizuki leaned closer. "I'm his best friend, remember. If you kill me, he'll hate you. If you kill me, the Hokage will have you imprisoned. Either way, you lose."

A wave of cold washed over him, like it did right before battle. His fingers clenched again. "There's a lot of things I could do to you that don't involve killing you. There's a lot of ways I could get rid of you with no one the wiser." He leaned in and dropped his voice to a whisper. "You could go out on a mission and never come back. A lot of people owe me favors." When he pulled away, Mizuki was as white as his hair. Kakashi stood. "Think about that. If I find out you've been spreading more rumors about Iruka..." He smiled. For some, the mask made his smiles worse because they had to imagine just how sinister his expression was. "Well, who knows what would happen."

Kakashi turned and left with a wave. "Good night, Mizuki-chan."

Kakashi bowed low as he stepped into the Hokage's office. "You wanted to see me?"

Sarutobi smiled and gestured to the chair in front of his desk. "Have a seat." He lifted the ever-present tea pot from where it sat on the corner of his desk. "Tea?"

"No, thank you."

The Hokage looked up at the two ANBU guards poised statuesque at the corners of the rooms. "You may leave us." Kakashi watched them slip out of the room from the corner of his eye. Sarutobi waited until the door clicked shut before he let his smile drop. "When I asked you to look after Iruka, this was not what I had in mind."

Kakashi resisted the urge to shift in his chair like a naughty school boy. "Which is why I declined the offer."

Sarutobi raised an eyebrow. "And yet you and Iruka are obviously intertwined."

Kakashi pursed his lips. "That was unexpected."

"Then there should be no issues in disentangling yourself from Iruka." Sarutobi's gaze pierced Kakashi.

He very slowly folded his hands in his lap to keep from clenching them into fists. "I'm afraid that is not currently possible. He and I are quite... involved." That was putting it mildly. Obsessed would have been a better choice. Or dependent, reliant, bonded...

Sarutobi leaned forward, his face as dark as a storm cloud. "Then I suggest you become uninvolved. He's just a boy, dammit. He's suffered enough abuse and I will not have you persisting it."

He opened his mouth to protest but no words came out. There was nothing he could say in his defense. The Hokage was right. Iruka was just a boy and the way Kakashi was treating him... He'd known from the start that it wasn't right. That was why he'd tried so hard to stay away. Apparently he hadn't tried hard enough. The Hokage was right.

He felt cold. He looked down at his hands, expecting to see ice forming on them but there was nothing, just pale skin and warm blood beneath it. "Is that an order?"

"It is."

He stood and bowed mechanically. "I understand. It will be as you command." He turned, very carefully not looking at the Hokage as he did so. He paused with his hand on the doorknob. "Please select a new mission for me. I would like to leave tomorrow."

He heard Sarutobi sigh as Kakashi closed the door.

Iruka smiled at Kakashi as he opened the door. The visit was unexpected but he was glad to see Kakashi. He was always happy to see Kakashi.

"Can I come in?"

Iruka's smile slipped a little but he stepped aside. "Of course." There was something off about Kakashi.

"Is your roommate here?"

"No, he's out." Mizuki had been out a lot recently. He'd also started remembering to lock the door. It'd only taken Iruka two years of nagging.

"Have a seat."

Iruka blushed and complied. He hoped Kakashi didn't have anything too kinky in mind. The apartment walls were thin and he really didn't want his neighbors listening in.

"We have to talk." Kakashi remained standing. He wasn't looking at Iruka. His voice sounded a lot like it did on their mission – cold, hard, authoritative.

He had a feeling he wasn't going to like this talk. "O-okay. Did... did you want some tea? Coffee? Can I get you anything?" He started to rise.

"Sit down."

Iruka dropped back onto the couch and swallowed nervously. "Kakashi..."

Kakashi stared at the wall. "I'm leaving. Tomorrow. On a mission."

"O-okay." Kakashi had left for missions before but he hadn't acted like this. Usually there was a lot of going-away sex involved. Incentive, Iruka had called it once, to make Kakashi come back to him. "Is it a long mission?"

Kakashi nodded.

Iruka licked his lips. "Have a safe journey, then." The words sounded lame even as he said them but he didn't know what else Kakashi wanted him to say.

Kakashi turned to look at him. His visible eye was hard, like Iruka was an enemy instead of his lover. "When I leave, this ends."

Iruka felt his blood run cold. "What?" He must not have heard Kakashi right. He belonged to Kakashi. That's what Kakashi had said, over and over again, every time they had sex. He'd thought he was safe with Kakashi. He'd thought Mizuki had been lying when he'd said Kakashi was only using him for sex.

"We're done." Kakashi's voice was stern. He sounded like a stranger. "I don't want to see you anymore."

Iruka felt tears welling up. Kakashi looked away. "Why?" His voice broke on the word. He choked on a sob.

Kakashi's hands curled into fists. "Because we're not a good fit. Because you deserve someone better than me."

"There's no one better than you."

Kakashi sighed and dropped his head. "There is, and eventually you'll find him."

Iruka stood. He wrapped his arms around his chest to hide how badly he was shaking. "I don't want to find someone else. I want you. I want to belong to you, like you said I did."

Kakashi's head turned slowly to pierce Iruka with his gaze. "I don't want you."

Iruka dropped to the couch. He was shaking uncontrollably. Tears fell like a river down his cheeks. He was distantly aware of Kakashi turning and walking to the door. He needed to stand up. He needed to stop Kakashi but he couldn't move. He felt paralyzed.

Kakashi stopped. "There's one more thing. I know I don't have the right to ask this of you, but move out of here. Stop letting Mizuki ruin your life. You can find better friends. You can afford a better place. You don't have to live like this."

There was a long pause and then Kakashi started moving again. The door closed. Kakashi was gone.

Fusaka found him at the Memorial Stone. He didn't look up as she approached, staring instead at the kunai that he'd been idly fidgeting with for the last several hours. The point pressed against his fingers. If he pushed just a little harder he could draw blood. He wasn't sure why he hadn't yet.

"Anko was looking for you."

He ignored her.

"She mentioned that there was an apartment open in her building. On the second floor. I wasn't aware you were planning to move."

"I'm thinking about it." He spun the kunai between his fingers.

She hesitated for a moment before closing the distance between them. She sat next to him on the stone bench and too the kunai from him. He let her. There was a soft clank as she set it down on her far side.

"I'm worried about you."

His hands hung uselessly without the kunai to fidget with. This is the point where he should be telling her that there was nothing to worry about. He wasn't sure if that was true or not.

"I know you miss him, but... It's been weeks. It's time to move on."

He sighed and dropped his head into his hands. "I don't want to move on." Saying that he missed Kakashi was an understatement. He felt like someone had ripped his heart from his chest. He felt like he was dead, his reason for living gone. Kakashi had disappeared off on a secret mission, then come back and refused to even be in the same room as Iruka, and now he was gone again.

He couldn't even cry anymore. All of his tears had been used up.

"But you will." She patted his knee. Likely it was meant to be comforting but he felt like she was being condescending. But she was right. The overwhelming sadness he'd felt when Kakashi had broken up with him had dimmed. He wasn't sure if that was because he'd grown accustomed to it or if he'd actually started moving past it.

"You're young," she continued after a long pause. "Young love seems like the only love." There was a wistful note in her voice that made Iruka straighten and look at her but she stared out at the village, lost in memories. "We think that love will consume us, but eventually it fades. Everything fades with time."

He wanted to argue but he kept his mouth shut. There was a bond between him and Kakashi. He wasn't sure when it had formed. Maybe on their mission. Maybe when Kakashi had pulled him to his knees from this very spot. Maybe it had built up over weeks of pain mixed with pleasure, of reverent touches, of whispered promises. But the bond was there and he could feel it even now. The pain would fade but Kakashi owned Iruka, or at least a small part of him, and that part would always respond to Kakashi, no matter how many days or weeks or years passed. He loved Kakashi and he always would.

Fusaka stared silently into the distance for several long minutes. When she spoke again, her voice was quiet, hesitant. "I'm sorry you have to go through this. I know how hard it is, but it'll make you stronger in the end."

He sighed. He wasn't sure what exactly his intention had been when he'd come out here. The last time he was here, the night Kakashi had found him, he'd thought of ending it all, of killing himself to escape the torment that he'd brought upon himself. He wasn't that person anymore. He'd changed while he was with Kakashi. The thought of suicide had crossed his mind but it had never actually been a real option. He wasn't as weak anymore. He was stronger than that. Kakashi had made him stronger.

He felt like a fool for making Fusaka have to hunt him down. "It's not your fault." He blushed as Kakashi's lesson came to mind. It wasn't Iruka's fault either.

Fusaka didn't answer. Iruka had expected her to be relieved, or at least make some sort of comment but she remained silent. When Iruka looked over at her she looked away, a guilty expression on her face. There was something she wasn't telling him.

"What did you do?"

Her expression twisted into a grimace. "I told Sarutobi about the marks on your back."

Iruka felt the color drain from his face.

Fusaka didn't look at him. "I found out what had happened later. I'm sorry. I didn't realize the Hokage would be so strict. He... he ordered Kakashi to break up with you. That's why Kakashi's been gone so much. I hear he'll be gone for months with his current assignment."

He should be angry but he wasn't. He felt betrayed but at the same time he couldn't blame Fusaka. She'd acted out of concern and the Hokage had in turn acted to protect Iruka. If anything, it was his fault for being so weak that his friends felt the need to protect him from himself.

Iruka sighed and stood. "I won't pretend that I'm happy with what you did, or that you had any right to tell the Hokage about it, but I understand." He half-turned to look down at her. She stared back at him with guilt in her eyes. He knew then that she was right – he'd forget about Kakashi and move on, maybe even find someone else to love. But he needed to get stronger first and that wasn't going to happen if he kept letting other people control his life.

He started to walk away.

"Iruka." He paused but didn't turn. "Iruka, I'm sorry. I really am."

"It's okay. I just wish that people would stop deciding how my life should be without consulting me."

He left without another word.

"Come on, Kakashi-sensei! Why do you have to be so slow?"

Kakashi grinned behind Icha Icha and followed Naruto up the stairs to the boy's apartment. He was a bit impressed, though he'd never admit it out loud in the boy's presence. Naruto's neighborhood was a lot better than what he'd expected, especially for a little brat who lived alone. The Hokage had probably arranged for a living stipend for him, though obviously he spent more on rent than he did on maintaining his clothes or weapons. Naruto stopped in front of a door on the second floor and pulled out a key. The door swung open.

"I'm home," Naruto shouted as he barged in.

It seemed a little strange that Naruto would shout a greeting to an empty apartment but then a familiar voice answered, calling a response greeting back. Kakashi froze in the entranceway.

"I brought my stupid jounin-sensei home to eat with us."

There was silence from the other room. "I see." The tremor in Iruka's tone was too subtle for Naruto to pick up. "I'd best set out another plate then. Why don't you go wash up? Thoroughly."

Naruto whined but stomped down the hall, presumably towards the bathroom. Iruka appeared in the hallway. His smile seemed genuine enough, like he actually wanted to see Kakashi. It made Kakashi melt a little inside. Iruka had changed from when he'd been a boy – filled out some, grown his hair longer, built up his confidence – but Kakashi had seen all of that before in the years he'd spent watching Iruka from afar. He'd never had a chance to see Iruka being so domestic. He looked adorable with an apron wrapped around his waist and a bit of flour on his cheek.

"Are you going to come in?" Iruka asked softly.

"Only if you want me to."

Iruka looked away. A faint blush colored his face. He hesitated. "Come in." He disappeared around the corner.

Kakashi toed off his shoes and locked the door. He followed Iruka into the kitchen. There was a loaf of bread cooling on the counter, next to a bowl of salad. Iruka bent over and pulled a glass pan from the oven. Kakashi couldn't help but stare at Iruka's ass. Iruka set the pan on the stovetop and tossed his oven mitts on the counter before turning back to Kakashi.

"So. Long time, no see."

Kakashi shifted and scratched the back of his head. "Yeah. Something like that."

Iruka crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow.

The intervening years had definitely been good to Iruka. Kakashi eyed him with newfound appreciation. Gone was the timid boy with no friends, the downtrodden pariah that let people walk all over him. Kakashi had been witness to more than enough temper flares, most of them caused by Naruto, to pity anyone who tried to mess with Iruka now. He had a feeling he could still make Iruka drop to his knees if he wanted to.

"You look good."

Iruka stared at him.

Kakashi sighed and looked away. "I'm sorry." The apology wasn't close to what Iruka deserved but it was the best he could manage.

Iruka's hard stance melted a fraction. "Took you long enough." He shifted on his feet. "You know, you didn't actually have to cut off all contact. I would have been fine seeing you."

"No, you wouldn't."

Iruka studied him for a long moment. "No, I wouldn't have. Not at first." He looked down and brushed his hands on his apron. "But I got over it."

Kakashi felt the familiar stab of guilt that he permanently associated with seeing Iruka. "If it helps, I didn't want to leave."

Iruka sighed and slouched against the counter. Kakashi's fingers itched to reach up and run his hands through Iruka's hair. Dinner was going to be difficult but if age had taught him anything, it was restraint.

"I know. Sarutobi ordered you to leave." Kakashi's eyes widened in shock. Iruka looked over at him, his expression sheepish. "That was as much my fault as yours."

Kakashi crossed the kitchen in two steps. His fingers brushed against Iruka's cheek, right over the spot of flour. "It was never your fault."

Iruka caught Kakashi's hand as it fell away from Iruka's face. "It was. It took me a while to see that. Fusaka... the teacher I was interning with... she found out. She's the one that eventually told the Hokage about the extent of our relationship." Iruka paused. His thumb brushed against Kakashi's palm. His eyes were focused on Kakashi, his gaze open and sad. "I don't blame you, you know. Not for leaving. I did, but I don't anymore. But you didn't have to stay away for so long. I wanted you back. Even if it was just as friends." He blushed but didn't look away. "You made me feel like I belonged and I miss that."

Now that he was so close, it was hard for Kakashi to pull away. He should but instead he leaned closer, until his nose touched Iruka's. He pulled his mask down with his free hand. "I had to stay away. Do you have any idea how much I want you right now? How much I've always wanted you? I never stopped loving you, not even for a day."

Iruka looked like someone had just gutted him. His hand squeezed Kakashi's tightly. "L-love?"

Kakashi closed his eyes and let his forehead rest against Iruka's. "Yeah. I love you. I always loved you, which is why I had to let you go. I tried to warn you. I'm not a nice man. I'm... I'm sick and disgusting and perverted and-"

Fingers pressed against Kakashi's mouth. He pulled back and opened his eyes. Iruka stared at him, his expression unreadable. "Don't say that. Don't ever say that about yourself." He squeezed Kakashi's hand once more. "You're a good man. You protected me. You looked out for me. You helped me see that I could make myself a better person and you made me realize that I belonged here. I belonged with you. If... If what we did... If that makes you sick and disgusting and perverted, then I'm just as sick as you are."

"You're not sick," Kakashi responded automatically. His lips brushed against Iruka's fingers.

"Then neither are you." Iruka's hand fell away to brush against Kakashi's face in a mirror of what Kakashi had done to him earlier. "I liked it. Every minute of it." Iruka paused. His eyes searched Kakashi's for a minute. "I missed you."

"I missed you, too." Kakashi leaned in. Iruka's eyes closed in obvious invitation. Their lips met. Iruka's mouth opened and Kakashi let his tongue slid in. He pulled his hand out of Iruka's grip to wrap his arms around Iruka's hips. His fingers dug in possessively and pulled Iruka towards him. Iruka moaned into the kiss. His arms draped over Kakashi's shoulders.


Kakashi pulled his mask up before he half-turned to give Naruto an even look. Iruka turned beet red and hid his face in Kakashi's shoulder. "Can I help you?"

Naruto stared at them suspiciously from the doorway. "What are you doing to my Iruka-sensei?"

Kakashi grinned through the mask. "He was mine first." Iruka smacked him hard in the side. Kakashi laughed.

"Weirdo." Naruto stomped past them and grabbed the salad. "You better not have gotten any of your cooties in the food." He turned and stomped out without another word.

Kakashi let his hands wander over Iruka's ass. Iruka smacked him again and straightened. He took in a deep breath and composed himself somewhat. His blush didn't go away. "I can't believe you waited five years."

Kakashi took Iruka's hand and pressed a fabric-covered kiss to the back of his hand. "Well, if you'd allow me, perhaps I can make it up to you. I've had a long time to collect idea. I think I can make it worth the wait."

Iruka shivered. A smile blossomed across his face. "You have a lot of making up to do. Five years worth." His smiled dimmed slightly and he looked down at the floor. "You broke my heart, you know."

Kakashi pulled his mask down and pressed a kiss to Iruka's cheek. "I promise I won't break it again."

Iruka looked up. He opened his mouth to reply.

"Stop making out so I can eat!" Naruto shouted from the other room.

"Coming," Iruka called back. He smiled and took Kakashi's hand. "I hope you realize that this time, I'm not letting you go."

"I'm not letting go either." He squeezed Iruka's hand. "Mine."

Iruka kissed his cheek. "Yours. Always."

Kakashi couldn't stop smiling as he followed Iruka into the dining room. He'd lost Iruka once before and he wasn't going to lose him again. This time he knew better than to let Iruka go without a fight.