Chapter 4


The nurses let them through out of deference to Jiraiya and Kakashi's combined presence.

Jiraiya knocked on the door of the hospital room before poking his head in. "We're here to visit the sickie."

No response.

Jiraiya shrugged.

"He might not be conscious," Kakashi said.

Kakashi, Sakura, and Naruto entered the room. Jiraiya hung back, watching from the door. Sasuke was shirtless, hooked up to machines and IV tubes, an oxygen mask over his face.

Sakura let out a wavery sigh. "Oh, Sasuke-kun…"

Sasuke's chakra peaked. Kakashi squeezed Sakura's shoulder. Her voice had startled Sasuke awake. He struggled up into a sitting position and ripped off the oxygen mask.

Sakura gasped. "Sasuke-kun, don't!"

"Shut up," he muttered irritably. He rubbed his eyes. "I'm sick of being on my back."

"If you tear out your IV, I'm calling the nurse," Kakashi said darkly. "And you know what I think of the nurses."

Sasuke looked at Kakashi with wide eyes, and then bowed his head. "Sorry. I'm sorry to worry all of you."

Jiraiya popped into the room, having seen enough. "I'm not worried," he said cheerfully.

Sasuke's head snapped up. He looked at Jiraiya in hard disbelief. "Who is this guy?"

Jiraiya crossed the room to stand with Kakashi. "Your savior. So shut up, kid, and let me work my magic."

"You're a med nin?" Sasuke eyes him uneasily.

"Nope!" Jiraiya laughed. "Better." He gave Sasuke a wide grin. "I'm Orochimaru's rival."

Sasuke's jaw dropped in shock.

"And he's also the man who taught Yondaime," Kakashi said. "So take this seriously."

Sasuke nodded, his eyes still wide.

"So Jiraiya-sennin can save Sasuke-kun," Sakura whispered.

Naruto clenched his fists, trying to contain himself. He failed. "Alright!" He laughed. "My new teacher is kickass!"

"Hush, Naruto," Kakashi said. "Jiraiya needs to concentrate."

"Oh, right." Naruto clapped his hands over his mouth.

Jiraiya slowly walked around Sasuke's hospital bed, examining him. "I see. So you did a curse seal, Kakashi…that's the right thing to do."

Kakashi let out his breath. He'd been terrified that Jiraiya would tell him he'd done the exact opposite of what he should have been doing, and had endangered everyone as a result.

"Yes, he did," Sasuke said quietly. "Kakashi saved my life."

Jiraiya nodded absently. "Mm-hmm. And don't you forget it, kid. You could've been a goner already. Especially with the strain you placed on yourself by competing in the Chunin Exam against orders. Kakashi is one forgiving sensei."

Sasuke bowed his head again. "I'm sorry."

"Enough of that." Jiraiya looked at him sternly. "Apologies won't get you anywhere. Only good behavior will. As sincerely sorry as you are, you're not going to stop trying to get revenge on Itachi for slaughtering your clan, will you?"

Sasuke's jaw clenched.

Sakura let out a gasp as ugly black symbols rippled to the surface on Sasuke's skin.

Jiraiya stopped pacing and smirked. "I thought that was going to be your reaction. Now I can see what I'm dealing with."

Sasuke looked at Jiraiya in surprise.

"I suppose Kakashi's told you that the only way to defeat this mark is to stop thinking vengeful thoughts," Jiraiya commented.

Sasuke looked away. "Yeah…"

"But you can't do that," Jiraiya observed.

Sasuke flushed.

"That's the point, kid. Orochimaru knows that's your weakness, and he's counting on you to activate the curse mark again and again." Jiraiya poked him in the chest. "Until it consumes you."

Sasuke went pale.

"Now you're frightened," Jiraiya said approvingly. "Good."

The marks faded from view. Sasuke covered his face with his hands.

Jiraiya was startled. "Hey, don't cry. I know the counter mark." He reached out and squeezed Sasuke's shoulder. "It's okay. I'm going to heal you. Just like I promised."

Kakashi's heart skipped a beat. "Counter mark?"

Jiraiya smiled at Kakashi reassuringly. "Yeah, it's my own invention – in case Orochimaru got to me. Orochimaru developed the curse mark to use against me, you know. We've been fighting for decades." He nodded at Sasuke. "This is just the newest variation."

"But you can counter it," Kakashi said, desperately needing that to be true.

"Hai." Jiraiya took the scroll off his back and unsealed it, grabbing paintbrushes and red ink.

Kakashi cleared Naruto and Sakura out of the way.

"It's a good thing you're not wearing a shirt," Jiraiya commented to Sasuke. "I'd have to take it off to get enough space to do my jutsu." He pouted playfully. "And then you'd call me a pervert. 'Help, this old man is undressing me! Kaka-sensei, heeeeelp!'"

Sasuke lay down, looking up at Jiraiya dubiously at the joke.

Jiraiya called up his chakra. "Alright!" He was all business now. "Holy Three-Legged Luck Toad…" He performed a rapid series of hand seals and then whipped out the red ink, dashing off symbols on Sasuke's chest and stomach. Kakashi could see that it formed a strange kind of whole, different circles, spirals, and ancient symbols forming an interlocking jutsu.

"Mark!" Jiraiya clapped his hands together.

The symbols he'd painted flared with white light.

Naruto covered his eyes.

Sakura turned away.

Kakashi had just enough time to uncover his sharingan eye, watching the whole process with his superior vision. What he saw was awe-inspiring: the ugly black symbols disappeared one by one, glowing red and then shattering into white light instead.

Then, it was all over.

Kakashi covered his eye before his students could notice what he'd done.

"I can breathe," Sasuke said softly.

Jiraiya was cleaning up his supplies. "Try to use your chakra."

Sasuke hesitantly called up his chakra. He flexed his fingers, looking at them in disbelief. "It works." His voice rose. "It works! I'm better!" He looked from Jiraiya to Kakashi in amazement. Then he ripped off the IV tubes and leapt off the bed. He tackled Kakashi in a tight hug.

Naruto and Sakura piled on, too.

Kakashi glanced up to see Jiraiya smiling softly at them. He looked down at Sasuke and touched Sasuke's hair. "It worked," he agreed, keeping his voice light.

Jiraiya sealed up his supplies and hoisted the scroll onto his back, tying it in place with tasuki again. He crossed over to Sasuke and poked Sasuke in the head. "Oi."

Sasuke turned on his heel and looked up at Jiraiya in sudden apprehension.

Jiraiya stared him down. "This cure came with a price."

Sasuke swallowed. "Yeah…?"

"The price is: You're not going anywhere without your team, myself included," Jiraiya said. "From this day forward, I have assigned myself as part of your team, and if you do anything – and I mean anything – to piss me or Kakashi off, you're history. We're gonna throw your ass in jail."

Sasuke's eyes widened in disbelief.

Jiraiya smirked. "That said, I know exactly where Itachi is. I've been tracking him as well as Orochimaru." He gestured to himself. "That's my job: I track S-Class criminals. I'm more elite than ANBU, and I've been doing my job for more years than you've been alive. So don't think I can't keep tabs on them and you, too. You're confronting Itachi on my schedule."

Sasuke swallowed. "You mean…" He started trembling. "I don't have to search for him? You know…You know where Itachi is?"

Jiraiya nodded solemnly. "You bet I do. And you're not getting anywhere near him without the rest of us. You got a lot to learn, and lesson number one is: Avenging something is a team effort."

Sasuke nodded. "Yes, sir."

Kakashi was impressed. Sasuke didn't usually pay respect to people. But then, Jiraiya had just walked in, cured him, and slammed him with orders. That was bound to be a little overwhelming.

"Now let's go train," Jiraiya said. "You need to get the chakra flowing through your body again."

Sasuke nodded. "Hai."

Naruto grinned widely. "Alright! Everything's back to normal. Thank you, Oji-sennin."

This is why Jiraiya will always be a teacher, and I will always be a pale imitation of one, Kakashi thought. If I had been who Sasuke needed me to be, I could have saved him. He brushed the thought away, pulling out his Icha Icha and determinedly focusing on the pictures.

"No problem, kiddo," Jiraiya said. He glanced at Kakashi, and then did a double-take. "Hey, you with us?"

"Mm?" Kakashi glanced up. "Sure."

xXx

Jiraiya ran them through some training exercises, gauging their skills and giving them pointers. Kakashi stood underneath the shadow of a tree and read Icha Icha. He glanced up at them occasionally to see how they were doing, but other than that, he did absolutely nothing.

Part of him was worried that this left a bad impression on Jiraiya. The other part didn't care. He had nowhere near the teaching skill Jiraiya did. It was best for his students if he stood back and allowed Jiraiya to assess them.

xXx

Kakashi dropped down onto his couch with a sigh, exhausted. Jiraiya had come in, swept him off his feet, and then effortlessly saved his students. All in the space of about 30 hours. It made him feel as though his life had hardly begun until Jiraiya bumped into him on the street yesterday. He'd been drowning, living a shadowy sliver of his own life, and hadn't been able to see his way out or even comprehend how far gone he was.

Jiraiya came in and joined him on the couch, laying a hand on his shoulder and then slipping an arm around his waist, encouraging him to snuggle up.

Kakashi did so, closing his eyes.

"Why didn't you tell me about the run-in with Orochimaru?" Jiraiya asked softly.

Kakashi made a low noise in the back of his throat and clung to Jiraiya tightly. "I was afraid to tell you."

Jiraiya stroked Kakashi's hair. "You don't have to be afraid to tell me anything. I love you."

"I've failed as a teacher."

"You had no support for the past fourteen years," Jiraiya said. "You need support to be a good teacher. The only way to give support is to get it."

"It's my fault."

Jiraiya paused, tilted his head up, and looked at him seriously. "It is not your fault. None of it is." He pulled Kakashi onto his lap and pulled down Kakashi's mask.

Kakashi gasped faintly.

Jiraiya stroked his cheek. "Take off the mask. Take off the hitai-ate. Take it all off and just be you."

Kakashi swallowed a lump in his throat, squeezing his eyes shut, and pulled off his forehead protector.

Jiraiya cupped Kakashi's face with both hands. "You, are enough." He stroked Kakashi's cheeks with his thumbs.

Kakashi opened his eyes and looked at Jiraiya. The moment he did, tears spilled out. He quickly closed his sharingan eye to keep from burning energy.

Jiraiya wiped away the tears with his fingers. "There…There is enough of you left…for anything. You understand me: You are big enough, and wonderful enough, and you enough to beat whatever you have to beat in order to live at the end of the day. Nothing's going to get you down and keep you there forever."

He hugged Kakashi against his chest. "You have me to pull you up now, when you fall down."

Kakashi wrapped his arms around Jiraiya's neck and clung on. He rested his face against Jiraiya's neck and sniffled, trying to recover from spilling those tears. His sinuses didn't want to forgive him.

"Blow your nose on my sleeve if you want," Jiraiya said.

Kakashi shook his head and sniffled again. "That's disgusting." But he smiled.

Jiraiya took his chin with gentle fingers. "That's better." He kissed Kakashi's lips gently. "I would always rather see a smile than see tears on this face, Kakashi-love." He stroked Kakashi's hair. "But you have to get through the tears to get to the smiles sometimes, I know that. Just always smile afterwards for me, alright? Cause I love you."

Kakashi nodded, feeling more centered. And Jiraiya's hand stroking his cheek felt good. So did sitting on Jiraiya's lap, and kissing, and…

Jiraiya grinned. "Got you hard," he said cheerfully.

"Maa…what are you going to do about it?" Kakashi replied.

Jiraiya chuckled. "Take care of it, I suppose. Just like I take care of the rest of you."

Kakashi felt some warmth in his cheeks.

Jiraiya carried him into the bedroom and laid him down on the bed, knelt over him, and gently undressed him from the waist up. Kakashi allowed it passively, his erection pulsing. Jiraiya's warm, callused hands felt good on his skin.

After Jiraiya slowly pulled off Kakashi's blue spandex shirt, he lowered his lips to Kakashi's left nipple and kissed.

Kakashi moaned and arched his back at the unexpected gesture.

Jiraiya murmured a softer response and licked, running his tongue over it.

Kakashi let out a sharp breath.

Jiraiya raised his head and gave Kakashi a quietly simmering gaze. "I told you I'd lick your pretty nipples, didn't I?"

Kakashi swallowed, his heart skipping a beat. He nodded infinitesimally and dropped his head back on the pillow.

"I will," Jiraiya whispered against his skin. "I always keep my promises." He lowered his lips to Kakashi's nipple, slowly and gently caressing with his mouth and tongue.

Kakashi's back arched again, and a whine emerged from his throat. He shut his eyes tightly. A pulse of arousal shocked through him, making his stomach tremble.

Jiraiya switched nipples, nuzzling and licking Kakashi's right nipple into firmness.

Kakashi could feel himself leaking in his underwear.

"It feels good if I suck," Jiraiya said. "Want me to do that?"

Kakashi nodded again, mute.

Jiraiya took Kakashi's nipple into his mouth, licking and sucking.

Kakashi trembled and turned his head to one side. Waves of buzzing heat coursed through his erection and down his legs. "Oh…god."

Jiraiya smiled at him. "I'm gonna do that until you forget your name. Ready for some sexy awesomeness?"

Kakashi had to laugh. "Yes."

Jiraiya kissed and licked and sucked, slowly sliding down Kakashi's pants and underwear at the same time.

When Kakashi felt his bare bottom on the covers, he moaned. When his clothes reached his knees, he squirmed and kicked, freeing himself the rest of the way. Then he allowed Jiraiya to pin him to the bed, naked and writhing underneath Jiraiya's fully clothed body. It reminded him of something he'd read. Volume 63, he thought vaguely.

Then his stomach plummeted, and it wasn't fun anymore. This isn't Icha Icha. This is real. This is my life. Kakashi stilled, turning his head away.

"What are you afraid of, love?" Jiraiya asked.

"This is real," Kakashi said. "This isn't a fantasy I can turn on and off. You're here. And in real life, I…" He trailed off. It hurt almost too much to say. "I mess up," he whispered hoarsely.

Jiraiya shifted position, scooting up and hugging Kakashi to his chest. "Oh, love…" He kissed the top of Kakashi's head, his forehead, the bridge of his nose, down to Kakashi's lips. "I love you. That will never change. What changed, if anything, is my sense of responsibility to the people I love. I stopped wimping out. That's all." He squeezed Kakashi tightly.

"I didn't change," Kakashi mumbled. "I'm still messing up…"

Jiraiya silenced him with a kiss. Then Jiraiya pulled back and stroked Kakashi's jaw. "You're not a screw-up. I don't know what anyone else has said to you, but you're not a screw-up to me. You're wonderful. And I know all about you, your past, and everything. I'm more knowledgeable than any other lover would be, and I still love you. So, got that?"

Kakashi nodded. His insides stopped churning, and he felt himself relaxing again. "I love you."

Jiraiya rubbed his forehead against Kakashi's gently. "I love you, too. So you don't have to worry about anything." Then he tucked Kakashi underneath him, pinning Kakashi to the bed again, and kissed Kakashi passionately, his tongue delving into Kakashi's mouth.

Kakashi moaned and sucked on Jiraiya's tongue, capturing it and trying to still it. He shut his eyes and concentrated on the connection he felt, Jiraiya inside of him. I want you inside of me. So badly. So badly… He knew he would have to wait, probably. Jiraiya didn't seem in a hurry to do it that way. And though he was trying to become bolder, he was too shy, still, to ask for it.

"I promised you something, and I didn't get around to it, because you passed out first," Jiraiya said silkily once he reclaimed his tongue.

Kakashi's cheeks burned. "What is that?"

Jiraiya sucked on Kakashi's lower lip, then released it with a lick. "Suck on you. Go down on your erection, and then insert something into your ass at the same time."

Kakashi twitched, a pang of arousal shooting through him like someone plucking a string. He whimpered.

"I take it you still want me to do that." Jiraiya watched Kakashi with a smoky look in his eyes.

Kakashi nodded.

Jiraiya kissed from Kakashi's lips to his chin, down to his neck. "Then your wish is my command." Jiraiya stopped to suck and mouth that spot halfway down Kakashi's neck, underneath his ear.

Kakashi's back arched, a wave of heat rolling through him.

Jiraiya smiled and slid lower, kissing over Kakashi's chest. He kissed down to below Kakashi's ribs, noticed the flutter of stomach muscles, and forfeited the rest, slipping down between Kakashi's legs and holding Kakashi's thighs open with his hands.

Kakashi moaned and whimpered at the way Jiraiya's body slid over his erection, making him twitch and leak.

Jiraiya gave Kakashi's length a long lick, then ran his tongue across the tip of Kakashi's erection, slowly and gently. The tip of Kakashi's erection bobbed against his tongue.

Kakashi hissed, flushing so hotly all over that he felt like he was in a sauna. He'd gone a few times with his teammates back in the day, to the sauna or the onsen. He'd never felt so hot before outside of the confines of the bathhouse. His legs flexed reflexively against Jiraiya's hold, and his erection twitched. His skin skill burned from Jiraiya's kisses.

Jiraiya continued licking Kakashi's erection, alternating between the length and the tip. Kakashi trembled. He felt feel sweat tickling his forehead. His hands twitched, clenching the bedsheets and then relaxing, over and over again. At every lick, a moan vibrated in his throat.

Licks changed to kisses. Jiraiya kissed every inch of him, making him leak furiously, and he was glad when Jiraiya kissed up the underside of his erection and slipped the first third of Kakashi into his mouth.

Kakashi pulsed at the feeling, his body filled with longing for Jiraiya's heat and pressure. "Yes…" The word was dragged out of him by the delicious feeling of Jiraiya beginning to suck.

Jiraiya moaned in response, honestly sounding as if he enjoyed the feeling of Kakashi in his mouth.

That sent a shudder up Kakashi's spine, and a fresh wave of arousal. Kakashi let his head fall back and panted. He barely realized he'd been watching every move of Jiraiya's head, mesmerized by the beauty of Jiraiya's lips around him, that fluffy white hair framing Jiraiya's handsome face. Flushed like it was, Jiraiya's face was especially attractive to Kakashi.

Jiraiya let out another moan of bliss and lowered his head, taking more of Kakashi into his mouth.

Kakashi's back arched at the feeling of his hardness sliding into hot, wet pressure. Jiraiya licked the part of Kakashi's erection that was in his mouth, caressing Kakashi's length while he sucked. The feeling was good enough to steal the strength from Kakashi's arms, melt the starch out of Kakashi's spine.

Jiraiya petted Kakashi's inner thighs while he sucked, callused fingers sliding across soft, sensitive skin, rubbing in circles. Hot flashes went through Kakashi at that, and his erection twitched.

"You're…so…good," Kakashi mumbled, hardly able to understand his own words.

Jiraiya just took him in even more, swallowing him the rest of the way and then bobbing his head up and down, sucking and caressing, nuzzling and moaning soft little moans that vibrated all the way through Kakashi's being.

Kakashi almost didn't notice the subtle movement of Jiraiya's hands making seals, the creation of a kage bunshin, a second Jiraiya that quietly went to Kakashi's dresser, against the wall by the bathroom door.

Jiraiya gently grasped Kakashi's hips and pulled Kakashi to the end of the bed, climbing down and kneeling on the floor. He kept sucking, swirling his tongue around Kakashi's length, teasing the tip of Kakashi's erection gently.

The second Jiraiya withdrew something from the top drawer and delivered it to the real Jiraiya, pressing it into Jiraiya's hand before disappearing in a puff of smoke.

When Kakashi felt the wetness of slippery fingers stroking his entrance, parting him tenderly, Kakashi knew the delivery had been more than one thing. His back arched with a whimper, bucking against both the feeling and the coldness.

Jiraiya lifted his mouth from Kakashi's erection. "I'm sorry, my love. It'll warm up soon."

Kakashi nodded and then let his head loll, slack. His breathing was labored and hot.

"You ready for this?" Jiraiya asked.

Kakashi whimpered and swallowed, searching for the words. "Yes."

Jiraiya stroked, teased, and pressed, kissing the tip of Kakashi's erection at the same time.

Kakashi's hips lifted, involuntarily seeking out the heat of Jiraiya's mouth.

Jiraiya obligingly lowered his mouth over Kakashi's erection at the same time as his finger slowly slid into Kakashi's body.

Kakashi felt his insides twitch, clamping down, the little muscles of his inner thighs fluttering. His hips rolled. "Oh…god…"

Jiraiya started moving his finger before the need became unbearable, gently stroking with in and out motions.

Kakashi let out a hoarse whine. "More…"

Jiraiya sucked on his erection and licked, taking his time.

Kakashi clenched his hands around the bedsheet. "Ji-rai-ya-sen-sei…" Each syllable was dragged out of him torturously.

Jiraiya breathed in sharply around Kakashi's erection. He released Kakashi and licked his lips before replying, "I'm ready, are you ready?"

"Yes," Kakashi sobbed.

Jiraiya started using two fingers, bringing Kakashi substantial relief.

Kakashi felt that burning, tingling wave cresting out across his body again and fell limp. Eventually, the caresses stopped, and a different, smooth object was gently pressed against his opening.

Kakashi moaned. "What…is that?"

Jiraiya smiled up at him. "It's the tiniest vibrating dildo I have." Jiraiya pulled Kakashi's erection back into his mouth, licking and sucking.

A flash of heat went through him. Kakashi felt himself leaking directly into Jiraiya's mouth.

Jiraiya slowly slid the dildo into place. He paused again, gently releasing Kakashi's erection to speak. "Is it comfortable?"

Kakashi nodded, squeezing his eyes shut. He felt a warm, pleasurable pressure and a sense of fullness. It made his legs quiver.

"Ah. Good," Jiraiya said softly.

Kakashi felt Jiraiya's mouth return to his erection, taking him in completely. Jiraiya's warm, gentle mouth massaging his erection was nice, too. Feeling pleasure from both sides was nearly overwhelming. He felt drunk with it.

Jiraiya turned on the vibrating function.

Kakashi screamed, thrashed, and came instantly, so hard and fast that he saw spots, panting and shaking.

The next thing he knew, the vibrating was gone, and Jiraiya was gently sucking on him, cleaning him. Kakashi let out a dazed moan and shifted slightly. Nudging the bed with his shoulder was all he could do. "What…happened?"

Jiraiya gave him a warm look and paused in licking his erection. "You came."

"I…Oh, that." Kakashi felt the entire room slowly tilting, and sinking, as if they were on a voyage to the bottom of the ocean.

"Are you up for more?" Jiraiya asked, his voice gentle and soft.

Kakashi shook his head. "N…No." God, he was exhausted.

Jiraiya stood and tenderly gathered Kakashi into his arms, taking Kakashi to the bathroom.

They repeated the ritual from yesterday; a shower, being toweled off and wrapped up in pajamas and bathrobe, carried out to the sofa, where he watched TV and Jiraiya cooked dinner and then joined him. They snuggled together and ate while watching a show Kakashi knew he wouldn't remember tomorrow. Jiraiya carried him to the bedroom when he started nodding off, and they slipped under the covers together, where Jiraiya was a comforting, strong, warm thing to press up against.

Kakashi fell asleep a very happy man.