Iruka pressed his hand against the rough bark of a tree to steady himself as a wave of dizziness hit him. The sounds of the forest disappeared beneath the ringing in his ears. He could feel his chest heaving as he labored to breathe, but the sound of his gasping was lost. Each breath spread agony through his chest. His hand curled, fingers scraping against the bark.

The dizziness took minutes to clear. Iruka straightened slowly as each cut and bruise and broken bone reasserted their presence. He needed to move. His body didn't want to. Closing his eyes, Iruka forced the pain outside of himself, back into a far corner of his mind where he could ignore it. He'd been ignoring it for days, or trying to. Each day was harder than the last. He wasn't sure how much longer he could keep moving. Not long. Hopefully it would be long enough.

Iruka opened his eyes and sucked in a deep breath before pushing off from the tree. His vision swam for a moment, then settled. He stumbled, caught himself, kept moving forward. Once he started walking, it was easy to fall into the rhythm of putting one foot in front of another. The pain stayed with him though it was muted, like the annoying buzz of a fly circling his head.

He jogged, the closest he could get to a full-out run, though he stumbled far too often for the speed to really make a difference. All this time in the woods made him wish he'd taken the time for extra tracking lessons. Maybe then he wouldn't have to stop every fifteen minutes or so to obscure signs of his passage. An experienced tracker would have had no problems following his trail, even with his clumsy attempts at concealment. Thankfully he wasn't dealing with experienced trackers, otherwise they would have been dead already. As it was, their chances of survival were slim enough.

The forest ended before he expected. The level ground cut away into a sharp slope and he fell. Rocks tumbled with him, thankfully none large enough to break anything but they did no good for his broken ribs. He blacked out mid fall. When he came to, his head ached and his clothes were wet. The sun was closer to the horizon than it had been. He'd lost at least an hour, though at least from here he didn't have far to go.

Fish scattered as he pushed himself up out of the water. Gravel bit into his palms, aggravating the cuts there. A small scream escaped his lips as he tried to put his weight on his right ankle. He dropped onto one of the large river rocks and hoped it was only sprained instead of broken. His pants were already soaked through so he saw no need to hurry to get out of the water just yet. He waited, watching the fish until they came back to inspect him. His hands darted forward to pluck a fish out of the water. He'd been trying for two but his reflexes weren't what they should have been. One would have to do.

He stood and limped a bit upstream to fill the empty waterskin strapped to his waste. His bag had fallen open in the tumble, its contents strewn down the hillside. Thankfully neither the bag nor the precious herbs he'd been gathering had ended up in the river. He gathered them all back into the bag and wrapped the fish in a handkerchief, then moved along the bank obscuring the path of his tumble, making it look more like a natural rockslide than an obvious spot where someone had fallen.

The river was low at the moment, making it easy to cross. Once he was on the other side, he started collecting whatever bits of broken wood he could find. It wasn't much, but he didn't want to risk making a fresh break. Their hunters would be looking for signs like that. He remembered that much from the Academy. He followed the river upstream. As the sky darkened, the sound of rushing water grew louder. There was a waterfall ahead, not a large one, but big enough that the rush of water concealed the entrance to the cave behind it. Iruka stepped carefully across the river stones, wincing every time he had to put weight on his right foot, until he was at the waterfall's edge. There was a small gap between water and stone. It hurt to maneuver his body through the gap and he bit his lip to hold back a scream as he twisted wrong, aggravating his broken ribs.

He made it through without the wood or the bag getting wet though his back was severely dampened. His skin tingled as he passed through a layer of wards – his own – and then he turned the corner, stepping into a faintly lit pocket of cave. The fire had died down while he'd been gone. Iruka dropped his newly acquired wood in the pile with the little still remaining from his last trip out and set to work building the fire back up. He faltered more than once, his hands unsteady from weariness and pain. His one consolation was that the cave's other occupant wasn't awake enough to see him fumble.

Iruka glanced over at Kakashi's still form. His face was paler than usual. It felt strange looking at his uncovered face. The headband had been lost before Iruka had even arrived at the battle and the mask that covered the lower half of Kakashi's face hung in shreds around his neck. Iruka knew at least a dozen women, chuunin and jounin, who would have killed to be in Iruka's place, alone in a small cave and nursing Kakashi back to health. It was the stuff of a girl's fantasies, though Iruka supposed in those fantasies Kakashi wasn't comatose from poison and the other occupant wasn't injured to the point where breathing hurt. Okay, maybe in Anko's fantasies, but he tried not to think too much about the things that went through her head.

Still, he could understand why the girls fancied him. He was handsome, though most of that was usually hidden, with a well-muscled body that was obviously fit even through layers of clothing. He was famous, a skilled jounin with a prestigious if somewhat tarnished bloodline, and rumored to be ANBU. Any woman would be lucky to have him. Iruka might have been interested in him too, if he was interested in guys – which if his last spectacular failure of a date and obvious-in-hindsight inclinations were any indicators, then yeah, he likely was, but he'd yet to actually give it much thought let alone any practice – and if he wasn't currently more busy worrying about not dying than how hot the unconscious guy trapped in a cave with him was.

As soon as the fire was ready, Iruka set a small wire grill stand over top of it and carefully placed his cast iron pot on the grill. The remainder of items from his camping scroll littered the far corner of the cave. It wasn't much. He hadn't expected to be gone for long or to run into any real danger. He'd been on a C-rank messenger mission, his first ever solo and it had gone spectacularly pear-shaped, while Kakashi... He wasn't sure what Kakashi had been doing but he'd certainly pissed off someone while doing it.

He poured enough water in to half fill the pot. The herbs from his bag were quickly chopped and tossed in. He rummaged through his pack for the rest of the herbs he'd gathered over the last three days and the little bit of antitoxin he'd had on him and added them in too, just in case. If Kakashi had any sort of supplies on him, Iruka hadn't found them. He'd had four scrolls on him - all warded - and little else beyond weaponry and that orange book he always carried. Iruka had left everything where it was, not wanting to pry.

Once the water started to boil, he shifted the pot off to the side with a stick, then dropped the fish into the center of the grill. Exhaustion dulled his senses and the fish had almost burned before Iruka remembered to salvage it from the fire. He dropped it onto a plate and sliced it open with a kunai, not bothering to properly gut it but instead eating around the unsavory parts. He felt bad not sharing then felt dumb for feeling bad. Kakashi was hardly capable of solid food.

As he ate, he watched Kakashi. There was little else in the dim cave to focus on. Kakashi's breathing was even and steady, as it had been the entire time they'd been stuck in the cave. If it wasn't for the paleness and the unusual lack of heat coming from him, Iruka would have thought he was just sleeping. The lack of heat bothered him, which is why Kakashi was currently wrapped up in both of Iruka's blankets and tucked into Iruka's bedroll.

He really hoped the herbs worked or they were going to die out here. There was no way he'd make it back to the village in his state and he couldn't leave Kakashi alone. He had no summons and most of his chakra was used up maintaining the wards, which left no way to send for help. He couldn't hunt, not without risking someone finding him or his traps. It had been risky enough going so far out looking for herbs. He wasn't sure what exact poison they'd used on Kakashi so he'd gone for a sort of cure-all using every helpful type of herb he could find. Hopefully it'd be enough.

He wrapped his hand in his vest to pull the pot off the fire. Some of the hot liquid splashed onto his hand as he poured out a cup and he nearly dropped everything. Three large red spots spread across his hand. He set the cup and the pot aside to cool while he limped to the cave mouth to shove his burnt hand under the waterfall. The water was tepid, not cool enough to soothe the burn but it was better than nothing. He leaned against the wall of the cave to catch his breath before heading back in. His eyes closed.

A twig snapping nearby woke Iruka. He froze. It was pitch black. Night had fallen and their hunters had reached the waterfall. He could hear people moving along the bank. They were loud, audible even over the rush of water. They kept shouting back and forth to each other. For a brief minute Iruka wondered if they weren't hunters but rather a search party. He shifted to his knees, pausing for a moment to let the pain of movement fade somewhat before he crept across the stone floor to the thin gap in the waterfall. There was enough of a moon out to make out dark shapes moving through the trees. Iruka held his breath, waiting for one of them to turn and then... Light glinted off a forehead protected etched with the sign for Mist.

His fingers curled around a kunai and he waited, watching them as they moved down the river and out of sight. The sound of their search faded. Iruka waited for several long minutes before edging back from the cave entrance and shifting to his feet. He leaned against the wall for support and followed it back to the light of the cave.

The tea had cooled while he was gone. He set the cup next to Kakashi and used one hand to lift the jounin's head while the other gently pushed apart his lips. He raised the cup to Kakashi's mouth and very slowly poured the liquid down his throat. Once the cup was empty Iruka filled it with a small amount of water to wash out the dregs and poured that down Kakashi's throat as well. He set the cup next to the pot and shuffled over to the opposite wall. He slumped against the wall and set a kunai across his lap, his fingers tight on the handle.

Iruka closed his eyes and was out in seconds.

It was getting harder to move. The pain in his chest was almost unbearable. He felt stiff and sore from days of sleeping upright against cold, hard stone. His ankle had swollen enough that he'd had to remove his sock and use it as a makeshift, mostly ineffective brace around the purpling flesh. There was a nasty gash in his side that he'd bandaged over and forgotten about. He'd run out of bandages after treating Kakashi, so there hadn't been much use in trying to change it even after the fabric had soaked through with blood. The headache was somehow the worst part. It split his skull in two and if it wasn't for the fact that he needed to eat, he would have skipped leaving the cave altogether.

He stayed close to the cave, senses on high alert in case the hunters came back. It took him two hours to catch a single fish. When he got back to Konoha, if he got back, he wasn't going to eat fish for an entire month. He would have killed for beef ramen right now or even just some rice, anything that wasn't fish. He left the fish flapping against the stones not far inside the mouth of the cave before hobbling a brief stretch along the riverbank to collect more wood. He didn't find much.

Their fire that night was small, barely large enough to grill the fish. Maybe it was just the dimmer light, but it seemed like Kakashi had gained some color. He fed Kakashi a second cup of the herb mixture before passing out against the wall.

On the sixth day of hiding, Kakashi stirred. He rolled in his sleep, dislodging some of the blankets. Iruka crawled across the floor, too weak to stand, and fixed them. He poured the third and final cup of herb water down Kakashi's throat. His hands were unsteady. It felt like his entire body was weighted down with lead. Some of the water spilled across Kakashi's chin. Iruka mopped it up with the non-bloody side of his shirt.

The fire had died down to coals. He was out of wood to feed it, out of fish to feed himself. The cave entrance seemed impossibly far away.

He passed out before he made it back to his spot against the wall. His kunai fell from his hand.


There was a hand on his shoulder, shaking him.


It took him several minutes to open his eyes. His vision swam. Two Kakashis stared down at him, their faces barely visible in the dim light. They wore identical frowns and identical bandages and identical swirly red eyes. Iruka felt his attention drawn to the swirly red eyes but he couldn't decide which to stare at.

"Iruka, are you okay?"

The fact that Kakashi remembered his name made him deliriously happy. Or maybe he was just delirious. They'd only spoken a few times in passing, usually at social events with mutual friends. He hadn't expected Kakashi to remember him. After all, he was just a recently promoted Chuunin. He was insignificant, hardly worth a jounin's notice.

He tried to say he was fine but it came out as an incoherent mumble. The Kakashis shifted. Their hands joined together on Iruka's shoulder and they pushed, rolling Iruka onto his back. The side he'd been laying on felt numb. He was cold. Was he shivering? He couldn't tell. The Kakashis' frowns deepened as they stared at his side. Was there something on that side? Bandages. Right. He'd been stabbed.

"You're bleeding." Both of the Kakashis' lips moved, in perfect unison, but only one voice came out.

He closed his eyes, just to rest them for a moment but then he was being shaken again. He moaned and opened his eyes.

"Iruka, I need to know what happened. Where are we?"

"Cave." The word came out heavily slurred but from the way Kakashi's lips twisted he understood it.

"I got that, thanks. A cave where?"

"Dunno. Poisoned." He flopped his hand ineffectually towards Kakashi. The way it moved reminded him of a fish and his stomach rolled. For a comatose man, Kakashi was rather talkative. And upright. Or maybe Iruka was just seeing things sideways. He really hoped the cave hadn't shifted sideways while he was asleep. That would make lighting fires awkward.

Kakashi sighed and slid his arms beneath Iruka's back and knees. "Okay. Let's get you into bed." The world spun as he was lifted. He could feel darkness threatening once more but there was something important niggling at his mind. Something he needed to protect.

"No," he moaned. "You need it more."

He felt the rumble of Kakashi's laugh from where his face was pressed to the jounin's chest. "I highly doubt that."

Iruka started to protest but then Kakashi lowered him onto something softer than the cave floor. Familiar darkness washed over him.

He dreamed of battle. He'd been coming home after running a message to one of the villages near the border. He hadn't planned to leave Leaf territory so he hadn't been heavily armed. The battle was large enough that he heard it well in advance. He'd pulled out his kunai and crept forward. Kakashi stood in the center of a clearing, facing off against eight Mist ninja. Four corpses littered the forest floor. Kakashi had a few cuts and scrapes, not nearly as hurt as his opponents, but it was obvious that he was heavily outnumbered and slowing down. They were playing with him, trying to wear him out so they could go in for an easy kill.

Iruka jumped in without thinking. It was suicidal to even get involved but he couldn't just leave Kakashi to fight alone. The first enemy died without even knowing what hit him. The second had warning, enough to scrape Iruka across the side with his blade before he died. Then the tension in the air shifted. Suddenly the Mist were no longer playing. A blast of chakra slammed him back into a tree, followed immediately by a fist hitting the same spot. He heard a loud crack as his ribs broke. The Mist ninja pressed against him, trapping him against the tree, and smiled viciously. Iruka let his eyes widen and follow the man's hand as it lifted for the killing strike while his own hand pulled a kunai from a hidden sheath. Surprise crossed the Mist ninja's face as Iruka stabbed him in the gut and twisted the knife. He fell away.

Kakashi shouted at him to run seconds before he collapsed. Needles glinted against his neck, likely poisoned. There were four still in the clearing and he could hear more approaching through the woods. Iruka pushed free of the dead man and darted forward, amassing a rather large collection of cuts and bruises as he moved through the enemy ninja. His hands formed the symbols of the teleportation jutsu as he moved. He grabbed Kakashi and disappeared.

He took one brief second to pull the needles out of Kakashi's neck before he started running.

There was something large, soft, and warm pressed against Iruka's side. Several somethings, judging from the way the blankets were anchored around him at various points. It felt like months since he'd been this warm. He could feel bandages tight against his skin. They felt different from the few he'd originally used. They wrapped around his chest and side, more around his ankle, and his hand. He felt exhausted but at least the pain was distant.

He opened his eyes and squinted at the bright light. Someone had rebuilt the fire. It spread light throughout the cave, somehow seeming more warm and inviting that the pitiful attempts he'd managed. He shifted and the lump against his side moved to give him more room. He reached out and felt fur. Why was there fur around him?

"You're awake." Kakashi stood from where he'd been sitting against the opposite wall. Iruka had the irrational urge to yell at Kakashi for taking his spot. There was a second bedroll laid out on the other side of the fire so at least Iruka didn't have to worry about hogging the bed. "How are you feeling?"

His answer came out as an incomprehensible groan. He tried to sit up but Kakashi pressed him back down.

"Don't get up. You need to rest."

He nodded. Resting seemed like such a good idea. Sleep tried to pull him back under but there was something important he was forgetting. He rolled his head towards Kakashi. "The poison?" His voice cracked on the words.

A smile spread across Kakashi's face. "All better now. I'm assuming I have you to thank." Iruka stared at the curve of Kakashi's lips. There was something wrong about seeing them.

"Sorry." A coughing fit cut off the rest of what he was going to say. Kakashi lifted his head and poured cool liquid into Iruka's mouth. His hands felt icy against Iruka's skin and he shivered. "Cold."

Kakashi set him back down and tucked the blankets back around him. "You have a fever." A cold hand brushed against Iruka's forehead. He could feel the unnatural heat now and the chill of Kakashi's hands against his face felt heavenly. It wasn't that Kakashi was cold but that he was too warm. He'd been trying to protect Kakashi and in the end he was the one that needed protection. He'd really screwed up this time. It had taken weeks to convince Sarutobi that he could handle a solo mission and now he doubted he'd ever see one again.

"Your mission..." Iruka mumbled as sleep started to pull him under. "You should go. Finish your mission."

He heard Kakashi sigh and then the hand on his face stopped, pressing against Iruka's cheek. "I'm not going anywhere."

The rest of Kakashi's words were lost as Iruka fell asleep.

He couldn't breathe. He was too hot then too cold. His entire body ached. He shivered and sweated. There were voices all around him. They sounded familiar but his mind couldn't place them. The enemy had finally found them, though he couldn't remember who the enemy was or why they were after him. Strong arms held him down when he started struggling and he waited for the deathblow that never came. Deliria turned the shadows on the wall into monsters and he felt a heavy weight settle over one of his arms as a hand moved to cover his mouth and cut off his screams.

Time moved in fits and starts. He was never awake long. The voices were quieter now. Sometimes he woke up with arms around him, holding him tight and soothing away the monsters in his dreams. The arms held him gently, even when he threw up the bits of fish that had been fed to him. Cool hands wiped sweat from his forehead, pushed his hair out of his face, held water to his lips. Sometimes he felt the hands moving over him, tingling with energy as they passed over his body, lessening his many aches.

"I'm sorry," Iruka mumbled into his blankets during one of his few fits of near lucidity.

Kakashi's bedroll was a lot closer than it used to be. He looked up from his orange book and regarded Iruka with a curious look. "What are you sorry for?"

"Your mask." His head hurt and he was tired but he felt bad for not apologizing previously. "And for throwing up. And for taking the bed. And for making you stay."

Kakashi sighed again. He seemed to do that a lot when Iruka spoke but it never seemed like the bad sort of sigh, more like he was disappointed than bored or aggravated. He folded over the top corner of one of the pages and set the book aside. One of his hands brushed through Iruka's hair, causing a sigh of Iruka's own. His eyes half shut and he turned his head slightly towards Kakashi's hand. He'd never had a simple touch feel so good.

"I have my own bed," Kakashi said slowly, pointing to the bedroll he was currently sitting on. "And the mask was ruined, so that wasn't your fault. My mission isn't important enough that it can't wait another day or two until reinforcements arrive. Besides, it's more prudent to stay here in a well fortified position."

Kakashi was lying to make him feel better. He didn't have the will to argue. "I know you don't like people seeing your face. I'm sorry."

Kakashi chuckled. His hand never stopped moving through Iruka's hair, brushing gently through the semi-damp locks. He was going to fall asleep soon if Kakashi didn't stop but he didn't want to ask Kakashi to stop. It felt nice.

"I think it can be forgiven, given the circumstances. I don't really mind you seeing my face."

Iruka forced his eyes open and looked up at Kakashi. He'd changed into a clean uniform at some point, one with a whole mask and yet he wasn't wearing it. "Why aren't you wearing your mask?"

A smile stretched across Kakashi's face. There was a red line of a cut down one cheek, but it did little to detract from Kakashi's appearance. He was the kind of handsome that always stirred a faint bit of want in Iruka's gut, though he used to think it was from envy and not attraction. His fingers curled against the fur of one of the dogs pressed against him.

Kakashi was quiet for a long time, long enough that Iruka doubted if he'd actually asked the question or if it had been a hallucination. He closed his eyes and started to drift off to the feeling of long fingers carding through his hair.

"You're special," Kakashi said softly, almost too soft for Iruka to hear. He assumed he was dreaming. "I don't mind because you're special."

The dogs snuggled closer around him as Iruka drifted back to sleep.

Iruka woke with a gasp as something pressed against his wards, something strange and unfamiliar. The wards solidified with a thought and he heard shouting in the distance. Someone pressed against them, trying to break through. Iruka felt it like a blow to his body. He screamed and arched upwards. The warm masses that had been surrounding him scattered. Footsteps. Curses. Cold hands.

"Iruka, you have to let them go. Let go of the wards. You're safe now. I've got you. You're safe."

There was something he had to protect. Someone he had to protect. They were after that someone. They were going to kill him. Iruka wouldn't let them kill him.

"Iruka. We're being rescued. It's not an attack. Let the wards go."

He gasped. A hand grasped his chin and turned his head, holding it steady so that he could look straight into a mismatched pair of eyes. The red eye was spinning slowly. It kept spinning, drawing him in.

"Let go."

He felt his body relax. The wards slipped away along with consciousness.

The next time Iruka woke he was feeling considerably better. It took him a minute to figure out where he was. There were white walls where he expected stone and crisp linens in place of his bedroll and blankets. The place had a sterile smell that seemed strange without the scent of wood smoke and dogs and fish. There was no rush of water in the distance, no sense of pursuit and imminent danger.

Iruka sat up slowly. The majority of his bandages were gone. His broken ribs were nothing more than a dull ache. The gash in his side was gone. His sprained ankle was healed. The door opened but it wasn't the person Iruka expected to see. The nurse gave him a friendly smile and rattled off a long list of questions – how was he feeling, what still hurt, did he have a headache, could he move alright. Iruka smiled through the questions and tried not to think about why he was disappointed. He was being silly. There was no reason for Kakashi to visit him. He chocked it up to just wanting to know that Kakashi had gotten back safe.

"You had visitors while you were out." The nurse pointed to a long table opposite his bed, filled with flowers. "A discharge nurse will be in shortly and then you can go home."

"Thank you." He waited until she left before easing himself off the bed, grateful that they'd put him in standard issue pants and shirt instead of the awful hospital gowns that hung open in the back. He moved stiffly but at least he was able to move. His ankle ached the first time he put pressure on it but it felt better as he moved around the room. There were at least a dozen vases on the table. He flipped open the tiny cards set amidst the flowers one by one – Anko, Sarutobi, Genma, Izumo and Kotetsu, Kurenai, Kakashi. His fingers stilled on Kakashi's card. The bouquet was small compared to most of the others, understated and simple, but he liked it. Daises mixed with carnations and tulips. The card was simple, just "Thanks" and Kakashi's name. Iruka could feel a smile creeping across his face.

"We can have someone deliver those to your house if you'd like."

Iruka turned. Another nurse, presumably the discharge nurse, stood in the doorway with a clipboard in hand. She was smiling at him. He smiled back. "I'd like that. Thank you."

"If you'd have a seat, we can get you cleared to get out of here."

His smile widened. He could go back to his apartment and have a proper shower for the first time in days. Even better, he could eat something that wasn't fish.

It was good to be home.


Iruka glanced up as someone sat down next to him. A faint blush spread across his face and he ducked his head slightly to hide it as he finished slurping up a ramen noodle. He set his chopsticks across the bowl.


Kakashi's hand brushed over Iruka's shoulder. "Feeling better?"

He nodded quickly and stared at his bowl. His shoulder felt warm where Kakashi had touched it.

Fingers settled on his chin, turning his face towards Kakashi's. "No reason to be embarrassed. You did really well for yourself. You saved my life."

The way Kakashi was looking at him did little to calm Iruka's blush. "I-It was nothing. You saved mine. I'm grateful."

Kakashi's fingers brushed along his chin as they drew away to settle on the counter not far from Iruka's hand. "And I'm grateful to you. You were very brave. Most people wouldn't have been able to do all you did with as many injuries as you had."

Iruka looked down at their hands. There was maybe an inch of space between them. "It wasn't that bad. I'm nothing special." He remembered how good those hands had felt.

"You're quite special."

His face was going to ignite any second now. He had a brief moment of respite as the owner moved over to take Kakashi's order. Kakashi asked for a cup of tea. Iruka stared at his bowl of ramen, debating if he had the stomach to finish it.

"No fish cakes I see."

Iruka shuddered. "No more fish."

That earned him a laugh from Kakashi. Iruka could easily get addicted to that sound. "I don't blame you. I don't mind camping out but it's better without people trying to kill me. There's something nice about the smell of wood smoke and being out in nature."

Iruka smiled slightly. "I much rather prefer being indoors. Hot springs and gardens are about as close to nature as I usually like to get."

Kakashi's mouth was hidden behind his mask but Iruka could tell he was grinning. He wasn't sure why he hadn't noticed how expressive Kakashi's visible eye was before. It practically twinkled with mirth and the skin around it wrinkled with Kakashi's grin. "Sadly there are rarely any missions that involve hot springs. Such a pity."

"If there were they'd probably involve mucking them out." He made a face, earning him another laugh from Kakashi.

The jounin's hand slipped from the counter to settle on Iruka's thigh. If he didn't know any better he would have suspected that Kakashi was hitting on him, but the sheer thought of a jounin being interested in him was absurd. Still, that didn't stop him from blushing wildly. His ramen sat forgotten as the last vestiges of hunger faded under the sudden gut-twisting nervousness that filled him. He felt awkward, like he was back at his first day at the Academy with a sea of new faces and no one to talk to.

"It's weird," he blurted suddenly, "not having a bunch of dogs around me when I sleep. I was never really fond of dogs before, but now I kind of miss them."

Kakashi's visible eye had an almost deceptive lazy look to it. Iruka's entire body felt warm. The majority of the heat seemed centered on the spot where Kakashi's hand rested lightly on Iruka's leg.

"They miss you too. Would you like to come visit them?"

"Now?" Iruka squeaked and then blushed harder at how high-pitched his voice sounded.

Kakashi's hand shifted on his leg, his fingers absently playing along the top of Iruka's thigh. "Or later, if you have plans. Whenever is convenient."

He licked his lips. Kakashi's eye followed the movement of his tongue. "Well... I don't want to impose. I mean... if you have better things to do... I could just..."

Kakashi lifted an eyebrow. He was smiling, a lot like he did in the cave when Iruka was saying nonsensical things while feverish. "You could just...?"

He swallowed. There was more going on in this conversation than he realized and yes, Kakashi was most definitely hitting on him. Really blatantly hitting on him, now that he thought about it, but it was hard to think with Kakashi's hand moving along his thigh and oh, god, people were looking at them. Not staring looking, but giving them glances and then smiling or trying not to smile and hiding their faces behind their hands and oh god oh god oh god...


He did. As he sucked air into his lungs the world seemed a bit calmer, more focused. Kakashi hadn't stopped smiling and it was still that 'you're cute but dumb' smile, or at least that's what Iruka thought it meant. He hoped that's what it meant.


He nodded.

"So, 'you could just'...?" Kakashi leaned forward slightly, on the verge of crossing into Iruka's personal space. His tone was teasing and his eye glinted with humor.

Iruka's mouth went dry. "I have no idea."

Kakashi laughed and leaned back a little. Iruka felt his chest relax slightly, though he hadn't even noticed how hard it was to breathe until it suddenly got easier. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been this flustered. Maybe the Chuunin exams, though that had been an entirely different kind of nervous, more apprehensive and worried than the pleasant jitters that filled him now.

"Would you like to come see my dogs?"

His mind jumped to all sorts of wrong euphemisms but he nodded and slid off the stool, pleased that he at least managed that little grace in the movement. It would have been just his luck to trip and fall on his face. Kakashi's hand settled on Iruka's elbow as they left the restaurant. The sun was just beginning to set, painting Konoha with the rosy hues of fading light. The streets were lightly packed and he was grateful for Kakashi's guiding hand whenever they passed through one of the few crowded districts.

After a bit of winding they ended up in front of a squat apartment building. It was oddly shaped, rectangular with an almost rounded roof. White paint flaked off the front of the building. Iruka noticed several scrapes and cuts in the wooden railing that ran along the outside of the exterior stairwell. Kakashi's hand fell away and Iruka found himself missing its presence as he followed Kakashi up the stairs to a covered walkway on the second floor. They followed the walkway around to the side of the building. There wasn't much of a view from this side of the building. A mismatch of roofs stretched out in front of him, an odd mix of colors and shapes and materials.

Kakashi stopped in front of the door at the end of the walkway. He fished in his pockets for a moment before producing a small key. Iruka politely looked away as Kakashi undid the wards before unlocking the door.

"After you." Kakashi held the door open with one hand.

Iruka smiled at Kakashi as he passed, then blushed as Kakashi's hand brushed his ass. The apartment was dark. Iruka stayed inside the entrance way and toed off his shoes. The door clicked shut, cutting off all light with it. He forced himself to stay relaxed as Kakashi pressed against him. He felt Kakashi reach past him. Light filled the room as Kakashi flipped on the overhead lights. Kakashi's lips brushed Iruka's neck as he pulled away to remove his own shoes.

"Won't you come inside?"

Iruka nodded dumbly and let himself be led into the apartment. It was simple but spacious, barely more than a studio than a real apartment. There was a little kitchen nook on the other side of the short wall that cut the entranceway off from the interior of the apartment. The kitchen blended into a small sitting area with a low table and a couch and some cushions on the floor. A large bed sat a few feet behind the couch. Two bookshelves and a dresser were pushed against the wall on either side of the bed, with a few feet of space clear around the bed. Iruka's eyes were drawn to the dark red covers on the bed.

Kakashi's fingers settled on Iruka's chin and turned him. Kakashi's mask was down. Iruka opened his mouth, not sure what he was going to say but then Kakashi's lips covered his and he forgot about speaking entirely. It wasn't his first kiss, but it felt like it. He'd never kissed a guy before and he found it incomparable to his memories of kissing a girl. Kakashi's mouth covered his, taking control. He shifted, inching closer until he had his arm around Iruka's waist and his body pressed against Iruka's. His ponytail holder was gently pulled loose and tossed aside, giving access to twine his fingers in the hair at the back of Iruka's head.

It felt nice not being the one in control. With girls, he always worried that he was going to do or say something wrong, maybe do things in the wrong order, push too hard or not enough. He still felt a bit of that worry but it was lessened. Kakashi was driving this and Iruka was quite content to let Kakashi take him wherever he wanted.

They shifted, moving slowly until Iruka was being pressed down against the bed. Kakashi settled over him, a warm, solid weight that pushed Iruka down. It felt comforting. They were sprawled, half on, half off the bed, chests pressed together with their legs hanging over. His hands slowly unclenched from where they'd seized onto Kakashi's vest. He had a short moment of confusion as Kakashi's hand ran over Iruka's stomach and down under the waistband of his pants. He gasped, the sound swallowed up by Kakashi's mouth, as Kakashi's fingers curled around Iruka. There wasn't much room for his hand to move but somehow he managed it, stroking his fingers slowly over Iruka's rapidly heating flesh. Kakashi pulled his mouth away and the sound of Iruka moaning filled the quiet apartment.

"Like that?" Kakashi grinned down at him. Iruka made an inarticulate noise in response. His fingers tightened in Kakashi's vest. "Lift your hips."

Kakashi's hand pulled away. Iruka whimpered but did as he told, digging his heels into the side of the mattress for support. He shivered as Kakashi's hands settled on either side of his hips and pushed his pants down. The fabric fell to the floor and Kakashi bent slightly to hook his thumbs in Iruka's socks and drag those off as well before returning to rest on top of Iruka again. Iruka was blushing bright red but at the moment, he couldn't bring himself to care about that, not with Kakashi looking at him like he was going to eat him.

Kakashi licked his lips and lowered his mouth, but instead of settling on Iruka's lips like he expected, Kakashi's mouth closed over the side of Iruka's neck, biting lightly before relaxing and sucking on the exposed skin there. Iruka moaned, louder than before and shifted against the covers. It felt strange being half-naked with Kakashi fully clothed on top of him. Then Kakashi's hand curled around Iruka's erection again and he forgot about any strangeness. He gasped and pressed his hips up against Kakashi's hand. Lips moved along his neck and over his throat, running up to his ear then down to his chin and over to his shoulder before biting lightly at the join between neck and shoulder. Iruka writhed, not caring about how lurid the sounds he made were. His embarrassment was forgotten beneath the skilled touch of lips and fingers.

Iruka groaned when Kakashi pulled away once more. He wanted to complain but words were beyond him so he settled for tugging lightly at Kakashi's vest.

"Impatient, aren't you?" Kakashi's grin took any possible sting out of the words. He pulled away and shrugged out of his vest. He reached into one of the vest pockets and pulled out a thin tube, tossing it on the bed next to Iruka before pulling his shirt off. Iruka felt his skin flush as Kakashi's broad, muscular chest was revealed. Then Kakashi dropped his pants and all Iruka could focus on was the thick member rising between Kakashi's legs.

It was hard not to compare Kakashi to himself. Kakashi's skin was much lighter, his cock was slightly thinner and definitely longer. Iruka licked his lips unconsciously. He'd read once, in one of the perverted books that Izumo kept hidden behind a false panel in his bookshelf, about two guys having sex and one of the guys had taken the other into his mouth. He wondered what Kakashi would taste like. There's no way he could fit all of that in his mouth like they'd done in the book but just the thought of trying made him shiver.

In his distraction he'd nearly missed Kakashi squeezing some of the contents of the tube into his hand and lathering it onto his cock. Kakashi moaned as he touched himself, and the sound made Iruka instinctively shift his legs wider apart. After a moment, Kakashi wiped his hand on the bedspread and then pulled Iruka closer to the edge of the bed. His hands moved under Iruka's legs, lifting them. He felt something hard press against his skin. He had a brief second to wonder what Kakashi was doing, then Kakashi pushed forward and...

Pain. Iruka screamed and dug his fingers into the bed as he tried to pull away. The hardness that had been pressing against him quickly went away.

"Shit." Iruka felt tears prick his eyes as Kakashi cursed. He'd done something wrong. He screwed up somehow and done something wrong and now Kakashi was going to hate him forever. Kakashi's thumb brushed against his cheek, taking the tears with it. "Are you okay?"

He nodded slowly. What was he supposed to do? Was he supposed to say something?

"You've never done this before, have you?"

Iruka froze. His mouth hung open. Was Kakashi going to stop if he said no? It'd been going so well, up until that last part.

His look must have answered for him. Kakashi sighed and pressed his hands into the bed on either side of Iruka's head. He didn't look angry, which was a small comfort. "Sorry. I should have asked earlier."

Iruka blushed and looked away. "I... I'm sorry... I..." A finger pressed against his lips, silencing him.

"It's not your fault. Just means we do things a bit different." Out of the corner of his eye he watched Kakashi watching him. "Take off your shirt and scoot up to the head of the bed."

Kakashi leaned back, giving him room to pull off the rest of his clothing. He felt overly exposed sitting naked in the middle of Kakashi's bed. His legs pressed together as he shifted back against the headboard and he let his hands fall into his lap.

"None of that." Kakashi dropped the tube next to one of the pillows as he slid up the bed. He moved Iruka's hands away and pushed Iruka's legs apart so he could kneel between them. His hand closed around Iruka's erection as he leaned in to capture Iruka's lips in a deep kiss.

Iruka melted under Kakashi's touch. Soon the brief pain was forgotten and he found himself relaxing under the constant warmth of lips and hands. He moaned and rocked his hips up into Kakashi's hands. Kakashi shifted them until Iruka was on his back again. He was nearly breathless when Kakashi's mouth finally moved away. His hands left too. Iruka saw him reach for the tube but he was too distracted to think of that as Kakashi kissed his way down Iruka's chest. His breath came out in harsh, heavy pants, his eyes half-lidded as he watched Kakashi slide closer and closer to Iruka's erection. He sucked in a surprised gasp as Kakashi's lips brushed over the lip then forgot how to breath entirely as Kakashi's mouth closed over him and swallowed him down.

He made a strangled noise as Kakashi drew his mouth up, pulling away until the tip of Iruka's erection was nearly free of Kakashi's mouth before sucking Iruka down again. His fingers curled into the covers and he arched against the bed. It took him a second to notice another sensation, an almost burning sort of pain a bit lower. The pain eased a bit with each breath he took and he slowly relaxed around the strange presence inside of him. After a moment it started to move, sliding inside of him with the same rhythm as Kakashi's mouth.

Kakashi paused and flicked his tongue over Iruka's head. Iruka felt fingers moving against his skin and then a second finger pushed inside of him, sliding in alongside the first. He tensed, his breath stuck in his chest for a long moment. A small whimper escaped him and then Kakashi was moving his mouth again, forcing Iruka to relax around the fingers stretching him.

Iruka lost track of time as Kakashi sucked on him. More fingers pressed into him, burning at first and then leaving him with a strange sort of fullness as the pain eventually subsided. He almost forgot they were there, too distracted by the delicious sensation of Kakashi 's mouth on him, until two of the fingers brushed over a particular spot inside of him. Iruka shouted and arched up into Kakashi's mouth. He trembled and whimpered as Kakashi's fingers slid over the spot again, then a third time. Iruka closed his eyes. His body was tensed tight as a bowstring and he felt like he was going to snap any second now.

Then Kakashi's mouth and fingers pulled away, leaving Iruka feeling suddenly bereft. "Kakashi," he gasped, forcing his eyes open enough to look up at the jounin.

Kakashi grinned at him. His hand was working more of the liquid in the tube over his own erection. "Patience."

Iruka panted as he watched Kakashi shift forward and line himself up with Iruka's opening. He felt that same pressure against his entrance and started to tense. Kakashi leaned down to take Iruka's lips in a deep, possessive kiss. Iruka slowly pulled his hands from the bedspread to wrap his arms around Kakashi's shoulders. He felt Kakashi's hands on his hips and then gasped as Kakashi pressed inside of him.

It didn't hurt like the first time. It still burned, like Kakashi's fingers had, but the pain was minor, almost forgettable. Kakashi made a strangled noise as he buried himself inside Iruka. They stayed frozen together for a long minute until Kakashi opened his eyes and looked down at Iruka with an expression between pain and breathlessness. He breathed deeply for a moment, then exhaled slowly.

Kakashi smiled and shifted his hips, making Iruka moan. "God, you're tight." He rolled his hips before Iruka could respond, earning another moan.

Iruka tightened his arms around Kakashi's shoulders as Kakashi slowly drew out. He could feel the slick slide of skin against skin inside of him. It felt strange and wonderful at the same time. His head fell back against the cushions. He closed his eyes and moaned helplessly as Kakashi pushed back inside of him, moving at that same glacially slow pace. He was so close to coming. He just needed a little push, a little more to send him over the edge. As Kakashi pulled out, Iruka shifted, pressing one foot flat against the bed and hooking the other over Kakashi's hips. He pushed up as Kakashi started to slide back down, moaning loudly as Kakashi slid deep inside of him. He let Kakashi draw slowly out before lifting himself again, forcing Kakashi back inside of him in one quick thrust.

"Am I going too slow for you?" Kakashi's amusement shown in his eyes.

Iruka nodded. "Faster. Please. I need you faster."

Kakashi chuckled softly and shifted. As soon as Iruka started to push up, he slammed his hips forward, driving himself into Iruka. A loud cry filled the room and Iruka's head rolled back. He clutched at Kakashi's back. "Again." Kakashi's thrust nearly knocked the breath out of him. "Again."

After the third repetition, Kakashi got the hint. His hips slammed forward barely seconds after he finished pulling out, building quickly into a hard, fast rhythm. It hurt, slightly, but the pain was distant compared to the immense pleasure Iruka felt as Kakashi filled him. He shouted wordless pleas as he felt himself getting closer and closer to completion. He was teetering on the edge, so close he could feel release like a tangible force building inside of him. Then Kakashi leaned forward and bit down on Iruka's shoulder and that was all he needed.

Iruka came apart. His senses left him as he was pulled down into a wave of white-hot pleasure. He gasped, mouth open wide as he sucked in huge gulps of air. Vaguely he was aware of Kakashi slamming into him, of thrust after relentless thrust until Kakashi groaned and stilled. His hands dug into Iruka's sides. He felt wet and sore and tired and happy beyond belief. Iruka fell back onto the bed with a sigh.

Kakashi smiled down at him. "I hope that wasn't too bad for your first time."

Iruka grinned and groaned. He tugged on Kakashi's shoulder, pulling him down into a kiss. "I'm not going to complain."

"Good." Kakashi kissed him on the forehead. "Glad you liked it."

"I think like is an understatement." His legs fell back to the bed. He felt boneless and disinclined to move any time in the near future. A thought occurred to him and he grinned up at Kakashi. "I thought I was coming here to see your dogs."

Kakashi grinned and raised an eyebrow. "Do you really want me to summon them right now?"

He glanced down at their still entwined bodies, slick with sweat and other fluids. "We should probably clean up first."


Kakashi started to pull away but Iruka tightened his arms around Kakashi's shoulders, pulling him back down. He grinned up at Kakashi. "I didn't mean right now. I'm kinda enjoying the whole naked and in bed thing."

Kakashi grinned. He pressed his forehead against Iruka's. "I'm kinda enjoying it too."

Iruka leaned up to kiss Kakashi and slid his tongue into Kakashi's mouth. Kakashi's dogs were quickly forgotten.