Chapter Nineteen

Iruka was a snuggler. Kakashi couldn't say he was surprised. He, himself, wasn't a snuggler, but that was all right. He lay awake for several hours, staring at the ceiling, Iruka sprawled on top of him. The man's head was pillowed on his shoulder, an arm flung over his chest. Iruka had even managed to wrap a leg around Kakashi's hips, as if afraid that Kakashi might vanish while they slept.

He stroked the Chunin's spine, long and slow, and breathed in the strange mix of Iruka's hair and his own shampoo. A few times, Iruka started to snore. Each instance he'd pause, rub his face against Kakashi, and fall back into a silent sleep. He breathed through his mouth, slightly open, and the Jounin wondered if he'd start to drool, and if he did, what was the protocol? Did he have to let Iruka drool on him? He didn't really want to move the man, but he also didn't want spit on his chest. Maybe he could put a pillow between them. Would that offend Iruka? Possibly. It was hard to figure out what would offend the Chuunin sometimes. But--drool.

It was close to midnight when the dream started. Kakashi was a good enough ninja not to move when he dreamed. He woke silently and still, even out of nightmares.

Iruka hadn't had that training. He was, after all, only a Chuunin. When he dreamed, he moved. Small at first, a twitch of his fingers or a tightening of his thigh. Then slowly bigger, while Kakashi tried to decide if this was a good dream or a bad one. He looked at Iruka's face, but couldn't decipher the expression. The man started to make noises, but Kakashi wasn't sure about those, either.

Then Iruka whimpered.

That, he knew. That was almost never a good noise. Kakashi moved his hand off Iruka's spine, running his fingers through the shoulder-length brown hair. "Shhh," he soothed, trying to stop the dream without waking the man. "It's all right. You're safe." He combed his fingers through silky locks, spreading them out over the man's shoulder. They slipped and slid over his skin, settling in pools around his neck.

Kakashi made out, "no--no--" and decided to wake the Chuunin. A hand on his shoulder and a careful shake, as Kakashi realized suddenly that he wasn't in the best defensive position should Iruka wake up fighting. Kakashi was good, but still, there were some very sensitive bits currently exposed, and Iruka was a ninja.

Iruka woke up fighting.

"Leave them alone!" he screamed, ripped out of the dream, hands fisting suddenly and pounding down on Kakashi's torso.

Kakashi twisted, grabbing Iruka's wrists, flipped him over and around, and pinned him. "Stop."

"Let go--let go--don't hurt them--"

"Iruka. It's Kakashi. You're safe. They won't be hurt." He spoke calmly, voice slightly bored in the hopes that the lack of danger would break through.

Iruka settled. There was a long pause. "Sorry," the Chuunin said quietly. "Did I hurt you?"

Kakashi gave the back of Iruka's head a bland look. "I'll live." He was a Jounin. "Want to talk about it?" He really hoped not. Kakashi released Iruka's wrists, and the man shifted until he was on his back, staring at the ceiling.

"Just--replaying today, I guess." He scowled up. "I'm sticky."

Kakashi guessed that was the end of that conversation. "Come on," he said, rolling to his feet. "Shower."


Iruka started to turn on the bathroom light, only to be pushed forward and out of reach by Kakashi. It was then that he realized the man was still mask-less; in the dark he hadn't been able to tell.

As casually as possible, he said, "All right, then, I might need help. My night vision is awful."

Kakashi relaxed slightly behind him. "The shower's another step ahead. The edge is knee-high."

He kept his back turned while they were in the shower, and slowly Kakashi relaxed further. When pale arms came around Iruka's chest and pulled him close, he settled back against the other man.

"I'm glad you stayed tonight," Kakashi murmured.

Iruka sighed happily, warm from water and relaxed. "Me, too." Lips brushed the shell of his ear, and he smiled. Then a tongue flickered across the skin of his neck, followed by a careful kiss.

"You can't seriously be horny again," Iruka laughed.

Kakashi made a pleased noise against his shoulder, and rubbed hands down over Iruka's chest, through water.

"Your libido is a weapon in and of itself," Iruka said, shaking his head with a smile.

Kakashi hesitated. "Is that a no?"

Iruka paused, thinking about it. "It's not a no." He could feel a blush rise again. He was blushing at everything. That thought made him blush harder.

"Mmm," Kakashi said happily, hands following the line of hair down Iruka's stomach. Iruka's breath caught, and he put a hand out on the wall to steady himself. Skin slid over skin, hot and slick, down past his pelvis. Fingers threaded around his shaft, tickling his balls before stroking down. Iruka leaned back against the slim chest behind him, shivering at the feel of a semi-familiar hand sliding over sensitive skin. He could feel the other man rapidly getting hard, and Kakashi thrust slowly, up against Iruka and back again.

Somehow, though, Iruka could feel hesitancy there. He frowned, trying to figure it out. Kakashi wasn't going any farther--wasn't speeding up or changing or . . . or anything. It was like he was in a holding pattern. "What's wrong?" Iruka asked.

"Nothing," Kakashi answered, slightly too quickly.

Something was wrong. Maybe it was Iruka. Maybe there was something he was supposed to be doing. Maybe--

The next words were almost muffled in his skin, obviously meant for him to be able to pretend he hadn't heard. "I really want to fuck you."

He debated ignoring it, taking the easy way out. But he couldn't do that. What a great way to make sure no one ever communicated, and he was a teacher and knew that healthy sexual relationships came from communication, and--

He was stalling. "That, uh, really seems like it might hurt," Iruka managed finally, pretending like he wasn't bright red yet again.

"That's okay, then," Kakashi said quickly. "I mean--"

"No--I just . . ." He supposed he should be willing to try new things, or he was never going to do anything. "I was thinking maybe we could stop, if it did hurt."

Kakashi nodded against him. "As soon as it's uncomfortable. I think some people are okay with it, and some people aren't."

Iruka had heard some people quite liked it, but he was having a hard time crediting that information with the reality of doing it.

Kakashi was kissing his neck again, sucking carefully on his shoulder. "You're sure?"

"Yeah," he said, though he really wasn't. And there was something else about this. Something from the recesses of his memory, something he'd learned at one point--sitting in a classroom, face bright red, diligently taking notes--that he should be remembering now. "We, uh, need some sort of, um--" he trailed off. The word seemed so . . . real. And did you use the slang, 'lube,' which felt weird to say, or the formal, 'lubricant,' which he'd never heard anyone use, and--

Kakashi had stepped back, and when he spoke, his voice was amused. "I know."

"You know? How do you know?" Iruka snapped, half-embarrassed and prickly because of it.

"I read porn."

Iruka stared at the wall. Right. Porn. "If you slap my ass, we're never having sex again," he said.

Everything went silent. Even the water stopped changing pitch as it fell across Kakashi, and Iruka knew the other man had frozen.

"Good to know," Kakashi said finally, and stepped up behind Iruka. "Relax."

"Relax," Iruka muttered. "Easy for you to say. You're not about to--you know."

Kakashi laughed against his shoulder, hands sliding up and down his arms. "We donít have to," he repeated.

Iruka took a deep breath. "We can try."

Kakashi kissed his shoulder, open mouthed, sliding his tongue over skin, velvet and warm. "You're sure?"

"Are you trying to talk me out of this?" Iruka snapped, goosebumps lifting.

One of Kakashi's hands left him, and came back a moment later at his hip, suddenly slick.

"You keep sex things in your bathroom?" Iruka asked, mind fraying suddenly as that hand slid to his ass and down, sliding against skin that hadn't been touched by anyone else since he stopped wearing diapers.

"I keep soap in my bathroom," Kakashi said against his neck.

"Are you sure that's hygienic?" Iruka asked.

Kakashi snorted against his shoulder.

"Yeah. Okay. Nevermind."

"Nervous?" A finger rubbed against sensitive flesh, sliding between tight muscles.

Iruka jumped and started to say something sarcastic, then took a deep breath. He felt Kakashi brush against the ring of muscle, and swallowed. "Yeah."

"Relax." The hand that wasn't rubbing against him dragged along his spine, hitting nerve clusters.

Iruka's eyes widened as his muscles lost a good chunk of their tension. "That's just cheating . . ." he stopped talking when a finger slid into him. Everything locked up again, and the hand he had braced against the wall scratched as if it had claws.

That finger was large and inside him and--

"Relax," Kakashi said again. "Or this will hurt."

Relax. Right. Just--deep breath, and think about muscle groups and . . . and . . . all right, it felt odd, but once the tension left his muscles it didn't hurt. Big, and strange, for certain, but there was no pain.

"Okay?" Kakashi asked, nearly plastered to Iruka's back, spreading kisses along his neck and shoulders as if that might make everything better.

"Okay," Iruka said softly.

The finger pushed farther in, and he had to stop his body from trying to push it back out again. It did feel alien, and it made his stomach flutter as the muscles tried to tighten. He felt water sloshing around his ankles, and caught his breath when Kakashi's finger withdrew before pushing back in. Farther this time, he thought, easing in and out steadily. He tracked it as if that might make everything better, doing his best to think about the details and less about what was happening as a whole.

"Okay?" Kakashi asked again, other hand sliding up and down Iruka's arm.

"Yeah," Iruka breathed. He could hear the water hammering down on Kakashi's back, and wondered vaguely if it would make the man sore. Another finger pushed at him, and he closed his eyes and took deep breaths to keep his body relaxed. It eased deeper, and, all right, there was stretch there, but still nothing that hurt. If anything it tingled, pushing and hitting nerves he wasn't aware he had, sending heat to curl lazily in his belly. He shifted his feet slightly to keep his balance and ignored the little tingles sliding up his spine. Like fingernails scratching lightly, he couldn't decide if he liked the sensation or not. Besides, he was still busy keeping his muscles from pushing back.

He breathed deeply, trying to pretend like he wasn't nervous. As long as he thought about the small things, kept himself distracted, it wasn't too unsettling.

Kakashi bit down on the base of his neck, gently, teeth closing around muscle. Iruka shivered, and started to calm down. None of this was hurting. He could feel the heat from the other man behind him, all down the length of his body, tingling along his skin. Then another finger and--whoa, all right, that was a lot of flesh pushing into him and suddenly he felt very stretched.

"Hang on," he muttered--not squeaking--trying to force himself to relax again.

Kakashi waited, teeth trailing along Iruka's neck--and what was that, some sort of alpha-male thing? The grouchy and half-panicked part of his mind complained--hand sliding around Iruka's chest and down his stomach.

Slowly, his body adjusted. Kakashi must have felt it, because he started moving again, pushing fingers in and out. When Iruka finally realized it really wasn't hurting, just still strange, Kakashi pulled his fingers out.

"You're still all right?" the man asked, dragging short nails over Iruka's hip.

His skin tingled, little flashes of heat running up his stomach. He nodded wordlessly. Okay. He was okay. He could do this. No big deal.

There was a pause, and then he felt Kakashi's dick against him. Iruka took another breath, and a second, and heard the hitch in the Jounin's breathing. The head bumped, and fingers spread Iruka, and then something big was pushing at him.

Very big, he realized. It was--he closed his eyes and swallowed, trying to breathe, feeling his body stretch. It was heavy and large and still stretching him and thrusting in-- "Wait--" he bit out, feeling his body tighten painfully. He closed his eyes and focused on relaxing, focused on the strange almost-good sensation that fluttered through his stomach, and tried not to think about how very invasive that felt, and the way it did, actually, hurt.

It took him a moment to realize Kakashi was talking softly, words murmured into his skin, meaning drowned out by the shower. Both hands were sliding over his body, one down his arm and the other over his chest, over and over, soothing and protective. He started to relax, and the pain started to fade. It still felt alien, though, and the nice tingly feeling was long gone.

"All right," he said quietly, and felt Kakashi push slowly. He closed his eyes and concentrated on staying relaxed, on draining the tension out of his muscles, on not thinking about the steady burn that was easing into his body. It felt unsettling, to have something so large pushing into him. His whole body trembled in fits and starts as it fought against the intrusion, and Kakashi was still thrusting. He could feel the arms wrapped around him, muscles so hard a good knock might break them. The Jounin was whispering against his shoulder, and he focused on that instead of this thing inside him, stretching his body almost impossibly, filling him in a way he was pretty sure wasn't supposed to happen.

He couldn't hear the words, only the cadence. Then movement stopped, and Iruka relaxed a little more.

"You all right?" he heard, nearly in his ear.

Iruka nodded, but the movement was jerky. Maybe he couldn't do this. The pressure in his body was more than he'd expected. He'd felt Kakashi the night before, and the man hadn't had a twelve-inch penis, but that was sure what this felt like.

"Are you sure?" Kakashi sounded strained.

"It's, uh, big," Iruka managed.

Kakashi startled, then bit carefully on Iruka's shoulder. "You're just really damn tight," he whispered.

Iruka realized, after a moment, that his body was adjusting to this thing inside him. It was still screaming at him to push it out, and the fight sent the strangest sensations through his stomach--good sensations--and he liked the way Kakashi felt, plastered to his back like he might die at any minute. It wasn't hurting. As long as he didn't think too much about what they were doing--just though about the parts of it, not it as a whole . . .

"All right," Iruka managed finally. "Okay."

Kakashi pulled back, and Iruka's body almost sagged in relief, until the Jounin pushed back in, and--it felt just as big as it had the first time, but Iruka was used to the battle and managed to stay relaxed. It didnít hurt. He wasn't sure how it felt, except strange, and stretching him, and disturbingly filling. His body pulled, and heat spidered up his spine and over his stomach. Kakashi thrust again, and each time it got a little bit better, still strange, and he just knew he was going to be sore in the morning, but he could stand this for right now. His muscles were shaking in a pleasant way, and--

Iruka yelped and slammed his other hand against the wall in front of him, knees giving out suddenly as nerves fired throughout his body, dragging pleasure through his stomach and straight down to his groin.

Kakashi froze, an arm tightening around the other man's waist. "Iruka?"

Iruka shuddered, blinking dumbly at the tiles before him. "Do--do that again."

Carefully, Kakashi started to thrust.

It took another minute for whatever had been hit to get hit again, and this time Iruka was expecting it. He bit down on his lip to keep from shouting, and rode the almost painful shuddering that snapped through him, tightening his body around Kakashi and making the Jounin's dick seem even bigger. That time, Kakashi didn't stop.

He pushed again, harder, and Iruka whimpered through his teeth on his lip, feeling the man slam into him, cock sliding big and hard and hitting that spot so that light shattered around him. Water slapped, Iruka's body moving with every thrust, pushing back into Kakashi as if he could drive the man deeper.

The world narrowed rapidly to the little bubble of them and shower wall, and thrust. Every time Kakashi pushed, Iruka's nerves splintered, spreading shards of heat licking through his entire body, boiling down into his stomach. He shoved back, pushing the man's dick deeper inside him, feeling his body stretch that much more and pressure building as the intensity grew, drowning out the lingering pain and spearing downward. One of Kakashi's hands moved, slick and wet, and stroked along his balls and the length of his cock. Iruka's breath hitched and he shuddered, fingers scrabbling at the wall. Skin slid over skin, fingering the head of his cock, rubbing gently before stroking back up. Kakashi pushed, hot against Iruka's back, there and gone and big and full and tongue licking up his neck--

"So damn tight," Kakashi murmured, breath whispering over Iruka's ear, one hand sliding over hard nipples, the other skimming across Iruka's cock, rubbing at the slit. He thrust again at just that moment, pushing and stretching, filling Iruka and slick against his body and--

White exploded behind Iruka's eyes and he closed them, not bothering to keep the noise inside as his world broke, blazing through his body and out. All his muscles tightened, and the Jounin yelled, arms squeezing around Iruka while the younger man whimpered and felt like he had been wrong before, that if he had to die, this was the best way ever. His muscles spasmed around the cock inside him, making it impossibly perfect and alien all at once. Then the world snapped, pounding into him in an almost painful burst, leaving his muscles trembling and sparking with leftover pleasure.

When he finally could think enough to remember his surroundings, he was bent nearly double, holding onto the arm Kakashi had wrapped around his waist, with the Jounin braced on the shower wall above him.

"I donít think I can stand," Iruka said after a moment, still shaking. Every time he thought his body was done, it gave another little tremor, tightening muscles and making goosebumps, squeezing the cock inside him and making his flesh prickle.

There was a bare laugh from the man behind him. "Me, neither." Then Kakashi pushed off the wall, bringing Iruka with him. Iruka let his weight fall back, felt Kakashi hit the other shower wall, and they slid to the ground. He yelped when his weight settled in the Jounin's lap, driving the man's dick farther into suddenly tender flesh.

Kakashi planted a hand on his hip, holding him still. "Don't move. I might die."

Water poured down on his head, hammering into his hair, washing off sweat and turning slowly cool.

His heart was still going like a jackhammer, and his whole body was shaking.

He had just enjoyed another man doing--he couldn't even think it. Surely that wasn't something that was terribly good. Embarrassing. To orgasm, because there's was another guy's cock up--up there. He was never going to be able to look at Kakashi again.

Kakashi's head settled forward on his shoulder, nose and mouth nuzzling his ear, one hand sliding down the inside of his thigh, but carefully staying away from overly-sensitive areas. "Did you actually come from that?"

Iruka started blushing.

"That might just be the sexiest thing I've ever seen," Kakashi murmured, and dragged his teeth along Iruka's earlobe.

Iruka shivered. Sexy? "Really?"

Kakashi hmmm'ed.

Oh. Well, then, he supposed that was all right.

They sat there for a while longer. Eventually, endorphins faded, and Iruka started to realize he really was sore. He shifted uncomfortably.

"Bed?" Kakashi asked.

Iruka nodded.

Kakashi lifted him carefully, but he still hissed as they broke apart. Yeah. Sore. He was about to step out of the tub when the Jounin grabbed him, ran soapy hands over his chest and back, through his hair, fingers carefully tugging out tangles before putting him under the spray.

Iruka let himself be manhandled, too tired to protest. Besides, it was sort of nice.

Kakashi wrapped Iruka in a towel, gave his hair a cursory drying, and pushed the younger man back to the futon.

Iruka laid down carefully, cringed as he settled on his back, and rolled to one side.

"You all right?" Kakashi asked, stretching out in front of him.

"That's definitely something we're only going to do once in a while," Iruka answered.

Kakashi laughed softly and pulled Iruka closer, settling the Chuunin across a slender, pale chest. Iruka closed his eyes and breathed in the man's scent--currently skin, soap and dampness--and let his mind drift. He could feel Kakashi finger-combing his hair, laying it smooth down his back, strong hands giving his skull a mini-massage.

He couldn't help the smile, eyes still closed against the other man. "Am I always going to get pampered afterward?" he asked teasingly.

Kakashi's body vibrated as he hmmm'ed, sending shivers through Iruka.

"That's good," Iruka murmured, feeling sleep claim him. "I should."

He felt Kakashi chuckle, and then drifted off.


"Are you always going to wear that?" Kakashi's sensei asked, an eyebrow quirked upward at the boy who was wandering around in a bathrobe and mask.

"Yes," Kakashi said solemnly. The ten-year-old planted a hand on the seat of his chair, pushing himself up and into it.

"What if it's really hot out?" The Jounin set a plateful of eggs, sausage, toast and fruit in front of his student. In the short time since Kakashi's father had died and the youngest Chuunin had come to live with him, he'd learned that the little frame could hold an amazing amount of food.

"Then I'll have special masks made of light cloth." He tugged the material down to his chin and shoveled eggs into his mouth.

"What about when you have a girlfriend?" The man settled on the opposite side of the table, sipping tea and watching Kakashi over the rim of his cup.

Kakashi looked at him with ill-disguised horror. "Women make men weak. They're much more trouble than they're worth. And they're gross."

The Jounin nearly snorted tea out his nose. "Ah," he said solemnly, trying not to laugh. How very ten he was. "And who told you women make men weak and are more trouble than they're worth?"

"Shikaku," Kakashi said airly. He'd finished the eggs, and moved on to the sausages.

Shikaku. The newlywed. That figured. The Jounin just smiled and shook his head, continuing to sip. "You have to take it off sometime," he said finally, standing and walking past his little charge on the way to the kitchen. He ruffled the boy's hair, just to see him duck out and glare hotly.

It made his morning complete.


Iruka did his best to hide his head under something soft and warm. That soft and warm thing moved. Someone knocked at the door again. Bastards. All of them. Didn't they know it was still morning--at least, he thought it was--and they should be sleeping?

He heard Kakashi curse under his breath and slap a hand down on the nightstand--grabbing for his mask, Iruka guessed. Then the futon moved and the warm, comfortable weight was gone. Just like that. It was terrible.

Iruka grabbed a blanket and yanked it over his head, ignoring the fact that the rest of him was still uncovered. It was only his head that was important.

He heard the door open, and two girlish voices start to giggle and stutter, and then they quickly excused themselves.

Damn. He was awake. Awake enough to be aware of what was going on.

He heard Kakashi close the door and pad toward--well, whatever he was padding toward.

Iruka cracked one eye, just to test out whether or not it really was morning.

Late morning, from the looks of things. He reviewed his schedule, almost panicked when he realized he was late to class, then remembered that the medical ninja had given him a few days off. That was good. He relaxed and turned his head to look at Kakashi.

Kakashi was wandering into the kitchen, mask black against his pale skin. A lot of pale skin.

He wasn't wearing anything else.

Iruka smiled. Then Iruka frowned. "Who was at the door?"

"Sakura and Ino." Kakashi waved a hand. "The Hokage wants to see us, later today."

Iruka eyed the door and started figuring angles. "How much did you open it?"

The Jounin shrugged, a lithe movement of slender shoulders. "As much as I usually do."

Iruka thought back. Usually, Kakashi opened it enough that you could see most of the apartment, then stood in the doorway, leaning against the frame. From that angle the bed was definitely in view.

"Did they just see--"

"Mm hmm."

Iruka felt his face turning bright red. If Kakashi had been standing in the doorway, maybe they'd been so transfixed on him they hadn't seen past. Yes. Surely that's what happened, because Kakashi was naked. Except young girls tended to look away from things like that, and if they looked past Kakashi they would have noticed the bed--

Iruka whimpered and buried his head in the pillow.

He didn't come up for half an hour, preferring to listen to Kakashi putter around the kitchen, clinking glasses and stirring something or other and doing other kitchen-y things that Iruka didn't want to think about. He dozed fitfully, finally waking to a variety of smells. Not just any smells, either, but wonderful smells.

Kakashi had put on pants, he noticed, cracking an eye and watching the Jounin approach, a plate in each hand.

"You made breakfast?" he said into his pillow.

Kakashi knelt in front of the futon, balancing dishes--Iruka could now see he had a plate on each arm holding glasses as well as a plate in each hand. "Yours is on the right."

"My right or your right?" Iruka sat up slowly, surprised to find he wasn't nearly as sore as he'd expected.


Iruka hesitated. Kakashi just waited patiently.

His eyes were calm above the mask, his nose a straight, cloth-covered line. Iruka remembered tracing the man's nose the night before, knew it was narrow but not long. Taking a deep breath, he reached out and hooked his fingers under the edge of the mask, pulling.

Kakashi yanked away, eyes no longer calm. The Sharingan whirled frantically, and his blue eye was wary.

"It's all right," Iruka said softly, scooting forward so he could reach again. He moved slower this time, letting Kakashi know exactly what he was about to do. For a moment, he thought the Jounin might drop the plates and leap out of range. "I've felt it in the dark," Iruka pointed out with a smile. "And we've had enough sex not to be modest. It's all right."

Kakashi stopped pulling back, but didn't come any closer. His eyes flashed everywhere but at Iruka.

Slowly, Iruka tugged. Black cloth, worn and soft to the touch, slid smoothly over the man's face. Silver hair vanished, then came free in a messy rush.

Kakashi stared at a point above Iruka's shoulder, and didn't move.

Iruka put the mask down slowly, then folded his hands between his knees and waited.

He had thin lips, a narrow nose, and an edge to his jaw that came with angular faces. The scar that went through his eye continued down most of his face, ending in a strange parody of a dimple. There was the faint line near the Jounin's jugular that Iruka had felt the night before, but nothing else.

What really hit him was how very young Kakashi looked.

"How old are you?" he asked, breaking the utter silence.

Kakashi hesitated. "Twenty-six." When he spoke the scar moved, shifting along his cheek.

They sat there for a long time before Kakashi's eyes finally started to look around, flickering to Iruka's face and away again. He ducked his head and stared at the floor. "Are you done? Can I have it back now?"

"No." Iruka grabbed the mask and sat on it. Kakashi's jaw tightened, mouth thinning further, and Iruka wondered if the man knew how much he gave away without the mask to hide his expression.

Probably not. He'd never had a reason to learn how to hide it.

"Give me--"

"Why do you wear it?"

Kakashi stopped. He scowled, a fine line appearing between his eyebrows. "Because. Now give it back."

Iruka took the plates, slightly surprised that Kakashi hadn't dropped them yet, and set them on the floor. He grabbed the wrist that started toward him and pulled, rocking backward until Kakashi was stretched above him, then shifting his weight and rolling to one side.

Kakashi landed on the futon with a thump, and Iruka sat on him. It seemed effective, though he knew that he wouldnít have managed any of it if Kakashi hadn't let him.

Iruka stared down at the man. He looked strange without the mask. "Why do you wear it?"

Kakashi rubbed both hands over his face, and left them there, effectively hiding his features. "Because."

Iruka waited, but nothing else was forthcoming. Eventually, he slid his hands along Kakashi's arms, wrapped his fingers around the man's wrists, and tugged.

Kakashi let his hands come away, and Iruka bent to kiss him. "I like your face," he said softly.

Kakashi scowled. "I hate my face," he snapped, and pushed up.

Iruka yelped as he nearly fell, but the Jounin grabbed and steadied him. With his other hand, Kakashi snatched the mask up from the futon.

"It's a nice face," Iruka said, watching with distress as Kakashi yanked black cloth over his head.

"It's an ugly face, and I don't want to see it."

"But I do," Iruka argued. "I don't want to have sex with someone whose face I've never even seen!"

"You've seen it now," Kakashi said, pushing Iruka up off his lap and standing.

Iruka glared at him.

Kakashi looked steadily back.

Iruka grabbed for the edge of the mask and yanked, and in the next moment found himself twisted and pinned against the wall, one arm wedged behind his back, shoulder screaming. Instincts told him to fight. His mind told him that would be A Bad Idea. He let his body go limp, and murmured, "You're hurting me."

Kakashi released him immediately.

He turned, rubbing his shoulder, glaring at Kakashi. The glare faded.

He'd never seen the Jounin so pale. Maybe after he'd lost all that blood, but . . .

"I didn't mean to," Kakashi said, so quietly that Iruka almost didn't hear him.

"Take the mask off."

Kakashi glared at the floor.

"Take it off." He knew it wasn't the right way to convince someone to do something, but he was hurt and angry. Iruka took a deep breath, counted to ten, and tried again. "Kakashi, you have a good face. There's nothing wrong with it. Trust me. Just take the mask off and have breakfast. Eat without doing that weird thing you do. Once we're both done, you can put it back on. Please."

Kakashi didn't respond.

"I feel like I'm eating with a bandit!" Iruka said, trying to laugh. It came out painfully.

Kakashi muttered something he didn't hear.


"I have my father's face," Kakashi said again, louder.

"Oh." He wasn't sure what else to say to that. Then Iruka took a step closer, moving right up to the Jounin, and put his hands on either side of the man's neck. He could feel a tremor running through the other ninja, but ignored it. "I didn't know your father. I know you, and I think your face is beautiful. Please?"

Kakashi kept staring at the floor. When he didn't respond, Iruka held his breath and tucked his fingers under the edge of the black cloth, pulling. Kakashi still didn't respond. He got it all the way off, and dropped it on the floor.

Still no response.

Iruka sighed and kissed the man again--after a moment he kissed back--then tugged him toward the futon.

"Have breakfast," Iruka said, sitting down and pulling Kakashi with him. Kakashi sat, knees folded up, elbows on them, hands linked in front of his mouth. Iruka handed him a plate. He took it, remaining hunched, as if the shadows might hide him.

They ate in silence for a while.

"This is good," Iruka said, though he wasn't at all surprised. Everything Kakashi made was good.

Kakashi scratched at the line of his jaw and said nothing.

They finished in silence.

Kakashi reached for Iruka's plate, and the Chuunin just knew that as soon as he had it, he'd also grab his mask and put it back on. So Iruka pulled his plate away.

Kakashi quirked an eyebrow. "You want to keep your dirty dishes?" he asked, the tilt of his lips curving upward into a smile.

It was crooked, the scar pulling slightly, giving him a lopsided, boyish look. His face was angular, slim, almost delicate. A strong jaw muscle and lips that weren't full saved it from being feminine, but it was still remarkably pretty.

Iruka grinned back, then quickly leaned forward and kissed the other man.

For a moment Kakashi didn't move. Then he started kissing back.

"Are we dating, then?" Iruka asked against the other man's mouth.

"I don't know. Are we?"

Iruka pulled away slightly, watching the Jounin. "Can you go without wearing a mask all the time?" he asked quietly.

Everyone had neuroses. It was whether or not they were willing to work on them that mattered.

Kakashi looked like something was tearing him apart. "I hate my face," he said softly.

"I know," Iruka said simply.

Kakashi looked at the wall over one of the Chunnin's shoulders, then looked back. "I can try anything."

Iruka wrapped an arm around his neck and pulled him back to bed.


"I hear your mission's a success," Tsunade said, signing papers Shizune kept putting in front of her.

"I suppose," Iruka said slowly. His mission had been, after all, to follow Kakashi and make sure he was all right. Help him make friends. Become more of a normal person.

Tsunade glanced up at him. "Asuma's impressed."

Iruka smiled slightly and inclined his head. "Thank you."

"All right, then." She signed something with a flourish and shoved it aside, leaning back in her chair. "You're done. Your mission is over. Congratulations."

Iruka bowed and left the room. He stepped into the hall, spotted Kakashi leaning against the wall on the other side, and tried to smile. An unsettled feeling landed hard in his gut, and the smile faltered. He watched as the other ninja went into the office.

He had no reason to stay in the hall. Whatever Tsunade wanted, it had nothing to do with him.

But it wouldn't hurt to wait. He leaned back against the wall, then shifted quickly when the tender skin along his spine protested.

It didn't take long for Kakashi to come out. His face was as bland as ever, only one eye showing. Something about the way he held his shoulders, though, the tension in his hands . . . he was upset.

"So," Iruka said slowly, "what did she want?"

"I'm allowed in ANBU now," Kakashi said nonchalantly.

Iruka nodded, though a part of him felt cold at the thought.

"I suppose that means your mission's over," Kakashi said, falling gracefully back against the wall. He crossed one ankle over the other, studying his feet.

"It is," Iruka agreed, uncertain.

Kakashi put both hands in his pockets and shrugged. "So you don't have to babysit me anymore."

Iruka frowned. "It wasn't babysitting." His stomach fluttered, and he had to stop from reaching up to rub his scar.

Things had been so good that morning, and to suddenly turn to this . . . Something was wrong. Iruka studied Kakashi.

Stupid. Of course something was wrong. Kakashi was too nervous to ask, and Iruka hadn't thought--

"I guess--"

Iruka stepped forward, halving the distance between them. Kakashi stopped talking and looked at him.

Iruka took another step forward, checked the hall to make sure it was empty, then took his life in his hands and pulled Kakashi's mask down.

Kakashi jumped, stiffened, then froze.

Iruka kissed him. It was a while before the other man responded. Slowly, his hands came up, wrapping themselves around the small of Iruka's back. Iruka smiled against the Jounin's mouth, threading his own fingers through messy silver hair. He pulled back enough to talk, still touching. "I didn't have sex with you for the mission."

The body pinned between him and the wall relaxed slightly, tension easing away. "Oh?"

"Oh." Iruka kissed him again, just for the taste.

"So we can keep dating," Kakashi murmured against his skin.

"Yeah," Iruka said. He stepped back, watching as Kakashi pulled the mask up, adjusting it quickly. Iruka glanced down at his feet, wishing this was easier, since he was already pretty sure of the answer. Somehow, though, it wasn't. "I'd like to keep dating."

Kakashi nodded, and his single visible eye arced as he grinned. "Good."

Relief flooded Iruka, and he smiled back. "But I get to be on top next time," he added.

Kakashi's smile faded. "What?"

"You know. On top." Iruka looked innocent.

Kakashi laughed uncomfortably, and scratched the back of his head. "Uh, yeah. We can try that."

Iruka nodded once, happily. "Good."

Kakashi laughed, shaking his head, and turned back toward the Hokage's office.

"What are you doing?" Iruka asked, suddenly confused. "I mean--I thought we could go get lunch or--" he glanced at his watch. "An early dinner, or something."

Kakashi nodded, smiling brightly. "Sure! But first, I need to tell Tsunade that I donít need to be in ANBU after all."

Iruka looked at him, confused.

Kakashi just shrugged. "I have other things to occupy me. Places to go, people to do . . ." He leered.

Iruka laughed and blushed, rubbing the back of his neck self-consciously. Luckily, there was still no one in the hall.


They'd entered the rainy season at some point, and Iruka hadn't noticed. He didn't mind. He whistled and walked through the puddles, splashing in them, grabbing one of his students who started to pass and swinging them around before releasing them to peals of laughter. Rain hammered onto his umbrella, and he didn't mind that, either. Everything smelled wet, damp with that edge of burned ozone and moist greenness.

Life was good.

"You're feeling cheerful today, Iruka," Genma said, appearing out of the rain and tucking himself under Iruka's umbrella. "Any reason?"

Iruka grinned brightly. "None."

Genma's eyes narrowed, and he looked thoughtfully at the Chuunin. "Virgin-boy?"

Iruka's smile widened.

"Ah," Genma said, laughing. "Should I tell Asuma we won't need to lug separate tents to the campsite for you and Kakashi from now on?"

Iruka felt himself blushing, but didn't mind that, either.

"So what does he look like under the mask?"

Iruka bit his lip and glanced sidelong at the Special Jounin. "None of your business, that's what." He grinned again. "You're going to the Tower?"

Genma just nodded.

They walked together, two men huddled against the rain.

Genma stopped him just outside, a hand on Iruka's elbow. "Iruka, seriously . . . are you sure about this? I mean, he's probably the least sane of all the Jounin--except for Gai . . ."

Iruka laughed. "Tell me about it. He has neuroses you wouldn't imagine, and trying to talk with him about anything is like walking through a mine field because he just doesn't get what is and isn't appropriate. He can be a complete prick, he lies all the time, and we're both paranoid about the other getting hurt." When he finished, he was still grinning madly. "I think I'm falling for him. We're dating now."

Genma stared at him for a moment. Then he started to laugh. "Glad to see you're so excited about this," he said, stepping back into the storm. It flattened his wet clothes against him almost instantly.

Iruka thought maybe the rain was letting up. "Nice day, isn't it?" he said, looking at the black sky.

Genma laughed again. "You're a nut. Go teach your classes, Sensei."

Iruka grinned and headed toward the school.


"I really don't get the point of this," Kakashi muttered, lying on the sun-warmed grass, his head on his sensei's stomach.

"There is no point to this," the Jounin said, patting Kakashi's mop of silver hair. Predictably, Kakashi moved away and glared at him.

"That one looks like an elephant." Rin pointed upward, shifting slightly so her skull wasn't right on Kakashi's ribs.

"No, more like a tiger," Obito said lazily.

"This is wasting time," Kakashi said.

His sensei just patted him again. He could feel the boy relaxing, despite his protests. "I know. But sometimes, you just have to waste time. Just think about the nice parts of this."

"What's nice about it?" Kakashi grumped.

"It's nice to just relax and sky-gaze," Obito said.

"Yeah," their sensei agreed, running his fingers through Kakashi's hair. The boy shifted farther out of reach.

"Well," Kakashi said, relaxing a little more, "that's okay."

The man smiled and tucked a hand under his head. He pointed, arm long and straight toward the sky. "Look--that one looks like Tsunade-san."

Rin giggled. "That's not nice, Sensei," she said.

The Jounin grinned. "I know. I'll apologize to her later."

They laid in silence for a time, watching the clouds pass back and forth.

"Know what else is nice about this?" Rin asked.

"What?" the Jounin responded.

"Spending time with your teammates."

"It's always good to spend time with the people you love," he agreed.

Kakashi twisted suddenly, looking up at him.

He just smiled. "Yeah, kid, you," he mouthed.

The cloth of Kakashi's mask moved, and the Jounin suspected he'd been granted a little smile. Then the boy settled back down, his head just under his sensei's hand.

The man petted him carefully. This time, Kakashi didn't move away.

The Fourth smiled, the sun warming his skin. Everything would be all right.


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