Akemi hated working the night shift at the archives. It was so boring. There was no one around and the dark rows of shelving gave her the creeps. Besides, who really cared about paperwork? No one broke into the archives, ever. She should be out with Ritsuko drinking and having fun. Instead, she was stuck here while Ritsuko got to put the moves on Torya. Akemi growled under her breath in frustration. She was so close to hooking up with Torya. She could just feel it.

An echoing clank pulled Akemi's thoughts away from her handsome chuunin crush. She frowned. No one was supposed to be in here. She moved quietly through the stacks, checking each empty row before moving forward. The overhead lights flickered and cracked. How many times had she asked maintenance to get that fixed?

On the other side of the room, past two dozen shelves of filed mission reports and duty rosters and personnel files, there was a locked door. The clang came again as she approached. Metal struck against metal. Her forehead wrinkled in confusion. It sounded like someone was trying to break down the door, but who would do that?

Her fingers flashed through the beginning steps of the jutsu that would set off the alarms, but she stopped just before completing the last sigil. She stepped out of the shadows into the pool of light in front of the door to the restricted files. There was no one here. Nothing was out of place. She reached forward, stopping with her fingers hovering over the door handle. Pulsing energy tickled her fingers, warning her not to touch. The wards were still in place. Nothing had fallen over. So, what was making that noise?

Pain lanced through her, cutting the breath from her lungs. She couldn't scream. Her head fell forward and she stared at the blade protruding from the center of her chest. It disappeared, sliding back into her and then out her back. She slumped to her knees.

Alarm. She needed to sound the alarm, but her hands wouldn't move. Someone had broken in.

She should have gone drinking.

The Hokage tower was on high alert when Iruka arrived. He'd been curious when he'd received the summons, but now he was downright confused. He hadn't seen the tower guards this wound up since the village had been attacked. Two ANBU had escorted him from his home. He almost wondered if he'd done something to get himself in trouble but he'd been running his student through field work all week. He didn't have time to get in trouble.

His curiosity doubled when he stepped into the Hokage's office. It was strange seeing Tsunade behind the desk. It'd been two years since Sandaime's death, but Iruka was so used to visiting him here. He'd spent far too much time in the Hokage's office when he was younger.

A figure stepped away from the wall as Iruka took a seat. He barely stopped himself from doing a double-take as Kakashi moved to stand next to the other chair in front of the Hokage's desk. Iruka glanced at Kakashi out of the corner of his eye. It'd been a while since he'd seen Kakashi. With Naruto off on his training mission, there wasn't any reason for Kakashi to stop by. They'd never been friends, but Iruka always felt like they could have been. They were both important to Naruto, almost like surrogate parents to the boy.

Tsunade pulled a folder out of a stack on her desk and slid it across to Iruka. "Does this mean anything to you?"

Iruka picked it up. The folder was empty, with only a serial number on the tag. Surprisingly the number was familiar. "It was a mission I was on. Almost a decade ago, if I recall correctly. Not long after I'd made chuunin."

"Do you remember the details of this mission?"

"Parts. It was a three man team. Myself, Kobayashi Inu, and Shizuna Rena. We were supposed to infiltrate a shipping town and gather information on the boats coming and going. On the way back we ran into an injured Mist ninja. He attacked us. We won. He was carrying a scroll, which we handed over to the Hokage."

Tsunade leaned forward, placing her elbows on the desk. "Do you recall the contents of the scroll?"

Iruka frowned. He had the vague memory of opening the scroll. He shook his head. "Something dangerous. A jutsu, maybe."

"Where is it now?"

"I don't remember."

Tsunade stared at him. "What do you mean you don't remember?"

He shifted in his chair. He'd forgotten all about the mission until Tsunade had brought it up, but he supposed it was bound to become relevant sooner or later. He had the distinct impression that Kakashi was watching him closely, though why Kakashi was here at all remained a mystery. "Sandaime blocked the memory. He had the three of us hide it, and then he made us forget where it was hidden."

Tsunade slumped back in her chair with a groan. "So we have an empty file on an unknown scroll hidden who knows where. Lovely."

Iruka had the distinct feeling he was missing something. "Excuse my presumption, but may I ask what this is all about?"

Tsunade traded a quick glance with Kakashi before turning her sharp gaze back on Iruka. "Last night someone broke into the archives, killed the guard, and broke into the restricted section. Nothing was taken except for this and a few personnel files, yours included."

The blood drained from Iruka's face. "Last night?"

"Yes." Tsunade narrowed her eyes. "Why? Is the date relevant?"

He shook his head. A cold shiver ran down his spine. "Someone tried to break into my house last night. I woke up when the traps went off. I thought it was just a prank. Students are always trying to steal stuff from my garden. It's a common dare."

Tsunade shared another glance with Kakashi. "Was the thief injured?"

Iruka shook his head. "The traps are non-lethal. For the students." He hesitated, not sure whether to admit what actually happened to the intruder. The way Tsunade stared at him convinced him to continue. "The thief will be blue."

Kakashi made a strange noise, like he was trying to stifle a laugh. Tsunade raised an eyebrow. "Blue?"

He nodded slowly. "From head to toe. Non-lethal. Because of the students."

Tsunade's lips twisted, like she was fighting a smile. "Well, I'll let the guards know. That should make it easier to find our suspect. Do you think your other teammates received the same visitor?"

Grief twisted in Iruka's belly. "They're dead. Inu died on a mission two years later. Rena died during the invasion."

"So you're the last one left," Kakashi said.

Iruka jumped and stared up at Kakashi. He'd almost forgotten Kakashi was there.

Tsunade leaned back in her chair. "Will you let Kakashi try to access your memories?"

He nodded. "Of course."

Kakashi finally moved then, flipping the other chair around and sitting on it backwards. He stared at Iruka. "Ready when you are."

Iruka squashed the trepidation growing inside of him and turned to face Kakashi. "Go ahead."

Kakashi reached up and pushed his hitae back, revealing the angry red Sharingan. Iruka's head twitched as he involuntarily tried to look away but he was already stuck. The Sharingan started to turn, its triple iris swirling slowly. Iruka was mesmerized by it. Red filled his vision until all he could see was the swirl of Kakashi's eye.

Then he blinked and he was back in the Hokage's office. "Ow." He clutched at his head as pain seemed to come out of nowhere, making his head ache like he'd spent the whole night drinking.

Kakashi leaned back. He'd pulled his hitae back down without Iruka realizing. "It's not in there."

Tsunade frowned. "It has to be. Are you sure?"

Kakashi nodded. "Whatever Hiruzen did, I can't get past it. At best, I weakened the block but it's like the memory was never even there."

Tsunade cursed. The sound went straight through Iruka's head and he winced. She pulled a pad of paper and pen out of her drawer and tossed them onto the desk next to Iruka. "Write down whatever you need from your home. Until we know who's behind the attack, I'm placing you under Kakashi's protection."

Iruka's head snapped up. Kakashi didn't look the least bit surprised, though it was hard to read his expression through the mask. He wanted to protest but he knew better. The thief had already tried to break into his house once. He – or she – would definitely be back again. Iruka had no choice. He sighed and started making a list.

Iruka had a hard time focusing on teaching. He'd been woken up early, found out someone might be after him, essentially forbidden from going back to his own home, and then ended up being late for class. The children seemed to have picked up on his distraction and were extra rowdy, at least until an hour after lunch when one of them thought it would be a bright idea to throw a paper airplane at the back of his head. Iruka felt it coming – really it was only a matter of time until something got throw at him – and turned, only to freeze as he stared at Kakashi's back.

The paper airplane crumbled to dust in Kakashi's glowing fist, the sound of burning paper amplified by the sudden silence in the room. Kakashi's head moved slowly from side to side, as if he were sizing up the children for potential threats. Iruka almost scoffed at the idea. Some of his students had barely mastered tying their own shoes, let alone breaking into the restricted archives.

"Behave." Kakashi's voice echoed through the classroom and then he was gone in a puff of smoke.

Every single pair of eyes in the room were fixed on him. Iruka blushed, and turned around quickly. Who knew what the children must think, having the legendary Hatake Kakashi show up to block a measly paper airplane. He gripped his chalk too tightly and the piece snapped. He set the stub aside and picked a new piece out of the tray. "Now, like I was saying, chakra flows like this..."

He fell back into the usual pattern of his lecture, but he couldn't ignore the low whispers behind his back. There would be rumors about him and Kakashi flying around the village by the end of the day.

On the bright side, that might make whoever was after him think twice about coming after him. Or they might bring backup.

Kakashi's apartment was smaller than Iruka expected. It was in the middle of what was commonly known as the bachelor quarter. Rows upon rows of apartment buildings filled the neighborhood, almost all of them occupied by unattached chuunin and jounin, if rumors were to be believed. The building Kakashi lived in was a jounin dormitory. Kakashi pointed out the shared kitchen and bathroom before leading Iruka down a short hall to his apartment, which was smaller than Iruka's bedroom.

"Sorry it's not much."

Iruka blushed. He wondered if his disappointment had shown on his face. He shook his head and forced a smile. "No, thank you. It's really kind of you to let me share your home."

Kakashi shrugged. "I'm sure you'd rather be in your own home."

Iruka shifted on his feet. He wasn't sure what to do with himself in such a small space. Should he take the desk chair or sit on the bed? There was a backpack on the bed which looked suspiciously like the one from his closet. Someone must have dropped it off while he was at class. "It would be roomier but I understand the Hokage's reasoning. The thief obviously knows where I live. It's safer for me to be somewhere he wouldn't suspect."

Kakashi nodded and took the choice of seating arrangements out of Iruka's hands by flopping down on the bed. He unceremoniously opened the backpack and rummaged through it before sealing it back up. "Your clothes have arrived."

"Um... thanks." Iruka crossed over to the desk – barely four steps from the door – and dropped his satchel to the floor. How did anyone live like this? He hoped they caught the thief quickly because he couldn't imagine spending more than a day or two like this. He stared at the very close walls. Kakashi didn't even seem to notice how confining the space was. "So... dinner?"

Kakashi nodded and stood. Iruka nearly sighed in relief as they left the small room. He wondered if the Hokage would let him pick up a few extra shifts at the mission desk – anything to keep him out of Kakashi's apartment for as long as he could manage.

Iruka was dead on his feet by the time they returned to Kakashi's apartment. He usually went to bed early, and they'd ended up out longer than Iruka had expected thanks to running into Gai and Kurenai at dinner. A simple dinner outing had turned into dinner and drinks, though a bit awkward as Kakashi insisted on sitting with their backs to a wall and near a corner. Iruka understood the defensive positioning of it, but it was really hard to find places in Konoha where the easily defended spots weren't already taken by equally paranoid jounin.

He didn't care about the size of Kakashi's apartment now. All he wanted was a flat surface to sleep on. Kakashi pulled a rolled up futon out of his closet and started to spread it on the floor.

"Let me. I'm not fussy about how I sleep."

Kakashi stared at him. "You get the bed." He continued to lay out the futon between the bed and the door.

Iruka frowned. It was much too late to be arguing. "It's your bed. You're being kind enough letting me stay here. I insist you take the bed."

Kakashi continued to stare at him. With only his one eye visible, it was slightly disturbing. Still, Iruka wasn't going to budge. Finally, Kakashi shrugged and stepped away. "Fine."

"Thank you." Iruka stripped down to his t-shirt and pants. Normally he'd change into pajamas but it seemed a bit weird doing so in someone else's room. He piled everything in a corner by the bed and then flopped onto the futon. He was out before Kakashi had even turned off the light.

Iruka dreamed of Sandaime. They were in the Hokage's office. The desk was clear and the windows open, letting in light and fresh air and bird song. Iruka was much smaller than he was now. He'd just gotten back from a mission – the mission – and he was giving Sandaime his report.

"Is it hidden?"

Iruka had a cup of tea in his hands. The warmth seeped into his sweaty palms. He'd just traveled a long way. "It's hidden."

"Good." Sandaime reached forward and placed two fingers against Iruka's forehead. "Then you shall forget and your mission will be complete."

Blinding white light filed his vision and then there was nothing more.

Iruka knew something was off the minute he woke up. He felt better than he should after a night of sleeping on the floor. The reason for that became instantly clear as he rolled over on Kakashi's mattress. He blinked and sat up in the bed. Early morning light streamed through the window. It was still mostly dark out. He had time for another hour or two of sleep before he had to get ready for work.

He sighed and stared at the lump that was Kakashi's sleeping form. He'd put the futon in front of the door, so that anyone trying to get in would have to go through him. Iruka discarded the idea of waking Kakashi up to change positions. He'd probably just end up getting stabbed. If there was one lesson Iruka had learned in the field it was never wake a sleeping jounin.

He settled back into bed and stared at the ceiling. He was definitely going to talk to Kakashi about their sleeping arrangements in the morning.

Iruka's second and third nights in Kakashi's room ended with similar success. He went to bed on the futon and woke up in Kakashi's bed. He was starting to find the whole thing humorous. He gave up after that. Kakashi wasn't going to budge. He was taking his bodyguard duties very seriously. On the plus side, Iruka hadn't had to put up with any falling erasers, spitballs, or paper airplanes since Kakashi's first day shadowing him.

He kind of felt bad for Kakashi. Iruka hadn't realized how utterly dull his life was until he was forced to inflict it on someone else. He woke up early, showered – with Kakashi standing outside the door in a way that was far too awkward for Iruka to even contemplate – and got ready for work, taught class all day, sometimes worked the mission room, sometimes went home – in this case Kakashi's apartment – and took over Kakashi's desk to do grading.

He found he enjoyed Kakashi's company, even though it was forced. It was nice having someone around as company while he graded. He was going to miss that when the whole bodyguard situation ended. Maybe he'd get a cat or two, someone to add a little life to his very empty house, at least until Naruto came back. Iruka was going to insist Naruto move in with him. It was something he'd been thinking about for years. Naruto was always around more often than not anyways. They might as well make their arrangement official, or at least as official as a spare key and empty room could be.

"Difficult paper?"

"What?" Iruka turned in his chair and smiled as he saw Kakashi reclining on his bed with a copy of Icha Icha Paradise open. He shook his head, partially in answer to Kakashi's question and partially out of amusement. Only Kakashi could get away with reading porn so openly. "No. My thoughts wandered."

"Somewhere good I hope." Kakashi turned the page.

"Yeah." Iruka rested his chin on his palm as he watched Kakashi read. "Are those any good?"

Kakashi shrugged. "They're not bad." He turned his head slightly to glance at Iruka. "Do you want to borrow one?"

He couldn't help the blush that appeared on his cheeks. He shook his head. "Maybe later. I've still got a lot of grading to do."

Kakashi nodded and turned back to his book. Iruka continued to stare, his thoughts slowly churning around an idea he couldn't quite find the words to express. If Kakashi minded the staring, he didn't show it. He was probably used to it with Team Seven.

"What do you usually do, you know, when you're not babysitting people like me?"

Kakashi snorted a short laugh. "If this is babysitting, then it's much easier than Kurenai led me to believe." Kakashi stuck his thumb in his book and lowered the book to his chest. He stared at the ceiling, as if his normal routine was written in the ceiling tiles. Several seconds passed before he spoke. "I don't know. I'm not really home much. Read, I guess. Or visit the memorial stone. I don't spend a lot of time here."

"Oh." What could he say to that? He supposed someone of Kakashi's skills wouldn't usually have much free time to worry about. That seemed like a really lonely way to live.

"What about you?"

"What?" Iruka almost didn't realize Kakashi had asked him a question. "Oh." He stared down at the floor. "Um. I do a lot of paperwork – grading or extra stuff for the mission room. I used to do a lot of filing for Sandaime." He never realized how much of his life was devoted to work. He guessed he wasn't much different from Kakashi in that regard. "I have a garden – flowers and vegetables. It's pretty nice. I offer extra tutoring sessions sometimes. My house gets used for parties a lot – Kotetsu and Izumo are the usual culprits – since I have the most space. Naruto used to come over and I'd cook him dinner."

He glanced up to find Kakashi staring at him. Their eyes met and held. "Are you a good cook?"

Iruka nodded. "Pretty good, I think. Naruto's never complained."

"Maybe you can cook for me sometime." Kakashi paused. "Instead of eating out."

A small smile spread over Iruka's face. "Yeah. Sure. I'd like that."

"Great." With that, Kakashi turned back to his book.

Iruka couldn't seem to stop smiling. An unfamiliar warmth filled his chest. He watched Kakashi for a few moments before turning back to his grading.

That night he didn't bother arguing with Kakashi about who slept where. He was pretty sure he saw Kakashi smile as Iruka crawled into Kakashi's bed.

He dreamed of running through the forest. It wasn't a familiar forest. The trees were different than the ones around Konoha. Not by much, but the subtle variations were obvious to the trained eye.

A voice called back from up ahead. Rena. "Hurry up, Iruka. Slow poke."

He pushed off from the tree branch he was on with too much force, snapping it behind him. He flitted from tree to tree, faster than he'd been going before. When he caught up with Rena, he paused to stick out his tongue before racing ahead.

He'd show her who the slow poke was.

"So I think I'm starting to remember hiding the scroll," Iruka blurted. He didn't look up from the wok in front of him, currently full of sizzling meat and vegetables. Kakashi was the only one in the kitchen but several of the residents kept passing by for seemingly random reasons. Iruka made extra rice, just in case.

"You know where it is?" The way Kakashi said it seemed almost bored, but there was a subtlety to the tone that Iruka couldn't quite read.

"Not yet. I just remember bits. It's at least a few days travel away. We went through the woods. I kinda remember something about rocks but it's hazy." He tossed the wok contents one more time before turning the burner off. "I'm just getting bits and pieces. Maybe in a few days, I'll have something more concrete."

Kakashi seemed happy about that, though Iruka wasn't sure if he was happy to have the mission progressing or just happy that he'd get his room back. Both, maybe. He handed Kakashi a pile of plates and silverware and then carried the wok and a towel for under it over to the table. As soon as he sat down, five heads appeared from seemingly out of nowhere. They stared at the food, then at Iruka.

He shrugged and looked over at Kakashi. "I made extra. Do you mind?"

Kakashi shook his head and then they were joined at the table by a crowd of hungry jounin and chuunin. Iruka couldn't help but smile, especially as Anko moaned next to him after taking her first bite. He supposed they didn't get much home-cooked food in the dormitories. Maybe, after the mission with Kakashi was done, he could swing by and cook for them again. It was nice being able to share a meal with others.

When he looked back across the table, there was a strange sort of fondness in Kakashi's visible eye. It made Iruka feel warm, like he'd submerged himself in a steaming hot bath. It was a pleasant feeling, one he hadn't felt in a long time.

If the others noticed the slight blush that spread across his face, they wisely did not comment.

Iruka was more than a little drunk when they stumbled the blissfully short distance back to Kakashi's apartment. After dinner there had been wine and sake and beer, and a handful of people insisting that he have a drink on them for cooking such a fine meal. He should have stopped two drinks ago, but he didn't. He doesn't have to teach tomorrow, which was probably his only saving grace. He made sure to chug a lot of water while he was in the bathroom getting ready for bed – teeth brushed, face washed, pajamas put on.

Kakashi's just started to roll out the futon when Iruka gets back and he shook his head. "No."

Kakashi raised an eyebrow.

Iruka concentrated on not slurring too badly. "You don't have to... you know. We could share. If you want. There's room."

Kakashi chuckled then. It was a pleasant sound. Iruka wanted to pluck it out of the air and tuck it in his pocket, keep it for later. He sat on the bed instead. Well, fell, really. Getting under the covers took far more flailing than usual and he was pretty sure Kakashi was quietly laughing at him.

Once he was settled, back pressed against the wall, he patted – quite firmly – the open space next to him.

Kakashi stared at him for a moment and then put the futon away. Iruka couldn't help the smile on his face as Kakashi slipped into bed next to him. He felt like he'd won a battle, a very important one. They stared at each other from inches away, though it wasn't much of staring from Iruka's side since his eyelids kept drooping.

"Go to bed, sensei," Kakashi said, the words a soft whisper, almost like a secret between the two of them.

He did, and then he dreamt.

Water poured over Iruka's head. It made perching on the rocks below the waterfall more than a little precarious. His hands slipped against the rock wall in front of him.

Rena sighed and pulled a small leaf from her pocket. Her hands flashed and then the leaf expanded, forming an impressively strong umbrella over them. Inu held the corners of the little cave he'd created open and Iruka set the scroll inside. Then the real work began as he layered trap after trap over it, making it so that anyone who wasn't him who tried to reach inside ended up dead several times over. Once the traps were in place, he started hiding them, tying them into the very foundation of the rock and the water so that there wasn't even the faintest trace that they were there.

Inu closed the hole, reforming the rock seamlessly. Even knowing where to look, Iruka couldn't tell where their little hidden compartment was. They stepped back as one, letting the waterfall hide their secret spot further.

They did a thorough sweep of the area, making sure there were absolutely no witnesses, and then they headed north as a distraction. They had two more stops they had to make before heading home, just to throw anyone who might still be following their trail further off the scent of the hidden scroll.

Iruka couldn't wait to go home and be done with this mess.

Iruka's body felt warm when he woke, coming into consciousness slowly. The first thing he's aware of was the body pressed against his, tangled together from head to toe. He blinked, only belatedly realizing that Kakashi was already awake and staring right back at him. It wasn't an angry sort of stare. More pleased than anything and the way Kakashi was looking at him at that exact moment made his skin slowly set on fire.

"Good morning," Kakashi said, and there was just a hint of smugness in his voice that Iruka didn't want to think too hard about.

"Hi," Iruka said in response. He's intensely aware of how close his face was to Kakashi's, how tightly they were pressed together.

"Sleep well?"

He nodded, not quite trusting himself to words at the moment.

Then Kakashi moved, just a small slide of his body against Iruka's and Iruka was suddenly aware of how hard he was and how his hardness was pressing up against Kakashi.

"I..." His face felt like it was going to combust. "I'm so..." Kakashi shifted again and Iruka's attempt at an apology cut off with a strangled noise.

"Don't be," Kakashi said, like he knew exactly what Iruka was going to say, even if he never got to say it. "Just tell me..." Kakashi didn't stop moving, sliding his body against Iruka like some kind of super-powered porn-reading serpent. "If you don't want... Just tell me, and I'll stop."

Then Kakashi's hand was slipping between them, pressing against Iruka's erection. He made a strangled noise that wasn't even a distant cousin to 'stop'. There was no way he wanted to stop.

His mouth hung open as he gasped and Kakashi seemed to take it as an invitation. Their lips met, locked together, and then their tongues were doing some sort of intricate slip and slide mating dance inside Iruka's mouth. It was good, though not nearly as good as Kakashi's hand sliding underneath the waistband of Iruka's pants to close tight around his erection.

He may have squeaked then but he would deny it if asked. Kakashi was stroking him and Kakashi was kissing him and it was like all of a sudden everything was alright with the world. Everything was good and perfect and he wanted Kakashi more than words could express. He didn't even try, because there was no way any words were making it past the battle of their tongues.

He didn't need words, not when he had hands. He moved slowly, uncertainly, first settling his hand on the sharp jut of Kakashi's hip bone and then tentatively slipping down to palm Kakashi through his pants. He was pleased to find that Kakashi was just as eager as Iruka, if the hard bulge underneath Iruka's hand was to be believed. He pushed his way into Kakashi pants and nearly came as he took Kakashi's thick length in hand.

He was touching Kakashi's cock. Kakashi was touching him. It was perfect and imperfect at the same time. He was greedy. He wanted more. He wanted everything.

Later. He could have everything later. Now, there were just hands and lips and legs and chests slowly sliding against each other in delicious friction, like the legs of a grasshopper, moving together to make beautiful noise.

He came too soon, spilling seed in his pants and making Kakashi's hand wet with his cum. Kakashi wasn't long after and Iruka didn't want to let go, wanted to milk every last drop out of Kakashi just because he could. Because he wanted to and because he might be growing incredibly fond of Kakashi.

Their foreheads pressed against each other as they gasped for air, slowly forcing their rapid breathing back to a normal pace. Iruka wondered then, if they'd just made things awkward, too awkward to go on. Then Kakashi smiled at him, without the mask hiding his face and his perfect, kiss-red lips. He looked slightly less debauched than Iruka felt, but there was always time to make it up later.

"You good?" Kakashi asked. There were too many questions loaded in there, but Iruka answered each and every one.


They stayed in bed late that Saturday, though not much of it involved sleeping.

"You're sure about this?" Tsunade asked.

"Pretty sure." She raised an eyebrow. Iruka kept talking. "About ninety percent. The dreams could have just been my brain making up a solution but it feels real. I think we'll find the scroll."

She nodded. "Go. Just you and Kakashi. Slip out if you can. We don't want whoever's after you to even know you've left."

Iruka nodded. He could feel Kakashi's presence behind him like a wall of confidence. He should be scared, but he wasn't. He was a ninja. He could protect himself, and if he couldn't, there was Kakashi. He would be safe. Plus, he was excited to finally be free of Kakashi's apartment. Cozy as it was with the two of them tucked away in bed, the rest of the time it felt a bit stifling.

"Yes, Hokage-sama."

They bowed and left. Iruka couldn't help but feel a bit relieved. One way or another, this whole ordeal would hopefully be over soon.

The trip took them five days. As they approached the waterfall, Iruka could feel bits of memory slot back into place. He remembered this particular spot, not just from his dreams but from the last time he'd been here, so very long ago. No one bothered them. They didn't run into anyone else in the woods. It seemed too easy, considering there was supposed to be someone after him.

Maybe that's what their unknown opponent was counting on, for them to let their guard down. Maybe they didn't want to tangle with a high-ranked jounin and were waiting to catch Iruka alone. Maybe they were waiting for them to find the scroll and then dispose of Kakashi and Iruka both in one fell swoop.

It was possible that Iruka was overthinking.

Still, it didn't matter as he stood under the waterfall and showed Kakashi which part of the rock to blast through. The small compartment opened behind the rubble and Iruka reached in, feeling the wards and traps – so long dormant – fall away at his touch. He pulled the scroll out.

It was definitely too easy.

He turned, stepping out of the waterfall with scroll in hand. "We should-" The rest of his words were cut off as the waterfall suddenly shifted, twisting around him, choking him, and he was being pulled up, away from Kakashi. He tried to struggle, but the water bound him, a tight as steel.

He was choking.

Bright light filled his vision. At first he thought he was dead, but it was just the sky. Sun blinded him. He couldn't breathe. The scroll was pulled from his slack fingers, and then the water let him go. There was a clash next to him, the scrape of metal on metal.

The last thing he saw before he went over the edge of the waterfall was lightning streaking across a cloudless sky.

The first thing Iruka saw when he woke was the sky. It hadn't changed much.

He coughed, spewing water from his lungs. Gentle hands turned him on his side, letting the water flow from him easier. Air replaced water in his lungs but that didn't stop the pain. He hurt everywhere.

"It's alright. Take it easy. You took a nasty fall."

Iruka rolled onto his back and stared up at Kakashi. The fact that they were both alive was a good sign. Then Kakashi placed a scroll – the scroll – back in his hand. His fingers curled tight around it. Iruka turned his head and stared at the spot where Kakashi's hand still rested on Iruka's. His gaze was pulled up, to Kakashi's other hand, and the blood still dripping from his fingers.

"You're safe now. It's over."

Something tight in Iruka's chest unclenched. He breathed out slowly. Words lingered on the tip of his tongue, words he was reluctant to say. He stared down at the scroll in his hands.

It was over, and therefore, so was his reason to stay with Kakashi.

The trip back to the village took longer. Not too long, not enough to be suspicious, but it wasn't enough. He was going to miss Kakashi watching over him while he slept, and then returning the favor as Kakashi slept. He handed the scroll over and then watched with surprise as it burst into flames in Tsunade's hands. It added a sense of finality to their mission.

He walked away from the Hokage tower on auto-pilot, only vaguely aware of Kakashi following behind him. He hesitated at a crossroads. To the left, the road led off towards the bachelor's quarters and Kakashi's tiny apartment. The road ahead led to his house, his lonely, empty house.

Kakashi's hand brushed his elbow. Iruka looked back over his shoulder. He saw the same hesitation on Kakashi's face.

"Would you like to come over for dinner?" The words were out his mouth before he realized it.

Kakashi's mask dimpled as he smiled. "Always."

"I need to get groceries."

The hand on his elbow slid forward, hook around his arm. Kakashi's eyes seemed brighter than usual, happier. "I'll help you carry them."

Iruka could see many more dinners ahead of them.