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Thorns Have Roses

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This was not going to end well. Kakashi slowly lowered his book and glared at the special jounin standing in front of him. Genma was lucky that Kakashi considered him a friend, and that they'd been friends since they were both teenagers, otherwise Genma would have gone through the wall by now. He straightened himself up to his full height.

"Would you care to repeat that?"

"We," Genma started, gesturing to the two jounin standing in line behind him. Their terrified looks and vehement head-shaking suggested that Genma's 'we' was really an 'I'. "...thought that you might have been having certain... problems. You know, in that area. 'Cause, you know, it's been a while since you've dated anyone. I mean, a really long while, and you're always reading that porn so we thought..."

This was not the kind of conversation that Kakashi wanted to have on the way back home from a very long mission. It was not the kind of conversation that he'd particularly imagined himself having, ever, but he knew, logically, that his nerves were a bit frayed at the moment, so any gut reaction he went with would probably be considered rash. Even if it was justified. Even if it was really tempting and deserved on Genma's part and the other two jounin who'd accompanied them on their mission – and had to suffer through Genma's antics along with Kakashi for the last two weeks - would probably thank him for it. But, he didn't want to be put on psychiatric leave for injuring a teammate in a non-combat situation. Again.

Come to think of it, last time he'd been forced on leave, Genma had been the instigator then as well.

He forced himself to remain calm and rational. Thanks to the mask obscuring his face, he doubted the other jounin had any idea that he was even aggravated. "So you thought that because I read porn all the time and haven't dated anyone recently..." How long had it been? Maybe it had been a bit too long if he couldn't even remember the last person he'd fucked. "...that I'm impotent."

He remembered the last time he jacked off, at least, which wasn't that hard to do considering it'd been the morning before they'd left for their mission. He even remembered the person he'd been thinking about while doing it, but that was also easy considering he had a particular favorite.

Umino Iruka would probably kill him if he knew.

Genma shrugged easily and nodded, seemingly unaware of how close he was to a brutal maiming. Kakashi mentally sighed. No, not a brutal maiming. He did like Genma after all. Sometimes. When he wasn't being a dick, which really narrowed the time frame down significantly. Maybe he could get away with just a little maiming, something that would heal pretty easily. He could even do the healing himself. No one would have to know.

"More or less."

He continued to glare, though it had slightly less effect with only one eye visible. "I'm not. I can get it up just fine, thank you." He probably would be getting it up later that night. It'd been a long mission, with not a lot of privacy and a fair amount of stress.

"Prove it," Genma challenged.

Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Seriously? You want me to just whip it out right here?" He wasn't sure he was quite comfortable with that, but he didn't let a single trace of apprehension show.

Genma shot him a disgusted look. "Eww. No. I don't want to see that. It's probably shriveled." Kakashi started mentally listing off all the heroines in the Icha Icha novels in reverse order in an effort to control his temper. "No, I bet you a week's worth of Ichiraku that you can't get laid."

He was starting to wonder if Genma had gotten hit on the head a few too many times during their mission. "That's it? Just have sex?" That wouldn't be too hard. He just had to figure out someone to have sex with. It was a big village. He'd find someone.

Iruka was sitting behind the table at the front of the mission room, two other chuunin flanking him. Kakashi's eyes fixed on him. A smile spread across his face as he watched Iruka berate the youngster currently handing in a report, though his voice was too low compared to the chatter of the waiting crowd to make out what he was saying. Probably berating the kid for poor grammar. Kakashi winced in sympathy, remembering the first of his reports to go through the chuunin teacher.

"And your partner has to be satisfied. It has to be good sex. There'll be an interview."

He snorted, picturing the likely outcome of such questioning versus Iruka. Genma probably would go through a wall, and it wouldn't be Kakashi doing it. "Good luck with that. What's the time frame?"

The line slowly moved forward.

"A week. Prostitutes, exes, and bathhouse attendants do not count. Nor does your hand."

"Funny." His voice dripped daggers. "Two weeks. Some dates need wooing."

His eyes stayed on Iruka. It was a stupid idea. It was a bad idea, but it was the kind of idea that, once planted, refused to leave his head. The person in front of Genma was handing in their report. Iruka barely glanced at it, stamped it, and then set it in a bin behind him for filing. Kakashi sometimes wished his reports were so disregarded. It'd be better than having Iruka scowling at him all the time.

The chuunin to Iruka's right opened up and Genma quickly moved up to hand in his report. Kakashi grinned widely as he stepped up to Iruka and handed his own report. The chuunin raised an eyebrow and accepted the scroll cautiously.

"You're... on time." Iruka was staring at him suspiciously.

Kakashi continued to grin. He'd gotten so caught up with not killing Genma that he'd forgotten about his customary tardiness. He took back his earlier thought. He didn't want Iruka to disregard him, not when riling him up was so much fun.

"Miracles do happen," Kakashi quipped.

Iruka scanned the scroll contents critically and then stamped it.

There was a saying about how if you're gonna die, you should go out in a blaze of glory. Kakashi kept that thought firmly in his mind as he leaned across the table and dropped his voice low.

"Hey, Iruka-sensei, wanna have dinner later?"

The chuunin's head shot up so fast Kakashi wondered if the other man had just given himself whiplash. He stared at Kakashi for a long moment, his cheeks slowly heating, no doubt with rage. Genma was staring at him like he'd turned purple and sprouted spines.

"A-all right."

Kakashi blinked. He stared. Iruka stared back. He looked like he was going to add something, but the words never formed. That had not been the answer he'd expected to hear, but he wasn't going to complain about his momentary fortune even if he really had no idea what to do with it.

Maybe there were benefits to being on time after all.

He straightened. "Off at five?"

"Six."

"See you then."

He gave a backwards wave as he walked out. The room had gone deathly quiet but he ignored that, acting casual despite the fact that every person in the room was staring between him and Iruka. He continued the act until he was halfway to his apartment. A thought occurred to him. He had no idea what Iruka liked. Naruto had babbled incessantly about his beloved Iruka-sensei, but at the time Kakashi hadn't had the same sort of interest he now held. Namely, he hadn't thought about trying to get into the teacher's pants, and thus hadn't paid attention to a single word.

"Fuck."

This so was not going to end well.

*****

Iruka had no idea what he was doing. His entire evening was a blur. He barely remembered agreeing to go on a date with Hatake Kakashi. His mind kept getting stuck on those words – date, Kakashi – and refused to process beyond that. People didn't ask to date him, especially not jounin people. He was just an ordinary chuunin, and not even a particularly attractive one at that, but as soon as Kakashi had asked him, the words had just leapt from his throat.

He wasn't really sure where to go from here.

"Don't like your ramen?"

Iruka blinked and looked over at Kakashi. His mask was still in place but his own food was gone. He couldn't have been out of it for that long. He shook himself.

"What?" He glanced down at his own bowl. Steam rolled off the broth. "Oh. No. It's fine." A smile slowly stretched across his face. He was worrying too much. "Sorry. I zoned out."

He had the feeling that Kakashi was smiling at him, but it was hard to tell with the mask and forehead protector blocking most of the jounin's face. "Naruto?"

"Yeah," he lied. He picked at his ramen in lieu of continuing.

Kakashi stared at the rows of bottles lined up on the other side of the bar. "Must be hard." Iruka made a questioning noise in between bites. "I only knew him for a short while, but it still feels odd not having him around. You're practically his father." His gaze racked over Iruka's form. "Maybe older brother. You must miss him."

Iruka didn't have to lie this time. He laid his chopsticks across his bowl, suddenly not as hungry as he had been. "It's... difficult. I guess." He sighed. "Yeah, I do miss him. A lot."

He rolled one of the chopsticks across the lip of the bowl. He'd never really considering himself as a father, or any familiar relation, to Naruto, but now that he thought about it the idea stuck with him. It'd been a long time since he'd had a family, but Naruto came close. They'd both been orphaned by the Kyuubi attack. They both had been loners in their Academy classes, though Iruka at least had been liked to a point thanks to his pranks and antics. Iruka had grown past that, making friends among the chuunin and jounin even if none of them were overly close, and Naruto was in the process of growing out of it.

Maybe he'd have a talk with Naruto when he got back. It was silly that they both lived in separate apartments, paying two rents when they could be sharing one. Iruka had a bit of money saved up from the last bout of missions he'd been pulled out of teaching to run. He could afford to get someplace bigger, maybe even a proper house for the two of them.

"You're doing it again," Kakashi chided, though his voice conveyed clear mirth.

Iruka flushed with embarrassment. "I'm so sorry! I'm afraid I'm being terrible company tonight."

"Not at all." Kakashi's head was propped on his hand. Belatedly, Iruka realized Kakashi had been staring at him this whole time. "It's cute, the way you worry over him."

Iruka was momentarily at a loss for words. His face was completely red. "I- I'm not. C-cute."

Kakashi laughed. It was a pleasant sound, soft, warm. He wanted to hear it more.

Now that he actually looked, actually considered it, Kakashi was rather handsome. Iruka had no idea what his face looked like, but there was no sign of any real amount of scaring, at least not the kind that would warrant being covered. Not that Iruka really minded scars. Every ninja had them. Iruka certainly did, the worst of which were a reminder of a time he wished he could forget and of a person he probably never would.

"You are," Kakashi said, clearly amused. His hand moved slowly forward, making its approach blatantly clear before it landed on Iruka's ponytail, his fingers twisting in the loose ends of Iruka's hair. "Are you done?" He nodded towards Iruka's ramen.

"Yeah." Iruka pushed the bowl towards the opposite edge of the bar.

"Want it to go?"

He shook his head. It'd only remind him of Naruto. In retrospect, ramen probably had been a bad choice for a first date.

Kakashi slid off his stool with the grace of a cat. He lingered close to Iruka. "Want to go for a walk?"

He looked down at his half-eaten bowl. Kakashi was giving him an out if he wanted it, and Iruka knew he should probably take it. He was bad with relationships. The end of his last one, with Mizuki, proved that. Logically, he knew Kakashi wouldn't be like that, assuming Kakashi even liked him enough to go on a second date. Kakashi was loyal. He wouldn't betray the village like Mizuki had and he was good to Naruto. Anything beyond that, Iruka could forgive.

"Yeah." His smile found its way back onto his face. "I'd like that."

The dinner crowd was dispersing and the night crowd just starting to gather. Darkness had fallen over the village while they'd been eating. Some of the shopkeepers had lit lanterns along the street, others were just starting to close up. Kakashi led the way, bypassing the center of the market district and its associated crowds and navigating his way through side streets.

They were walking through a residential district - that much was obvious from the slowly fading sounds. Apartment complexes gave way to small houses. As they walked, the houses got further and further apart, the buildings larger and larger until they disappeared entirely behind wood and brick walls. He recognized the vacant Uchiha compound in the distance, down one of the larger streets. He recognized most of the nameplates he passed, but some were unfamiliar, likely belonging to older families that were no longer active among Konoha's ninja.

Kakashi turned down an alleyway suddenly, disappearing into the shadows instantly. Iruka almost walked past without realizing, but he stopped, hesitant to go forward when he could barely see his way. A gloved hand reached out from the shadows. Iruka took it without hesitation, strangely comforted by the feeling of Kakashi's hand around his own and glad that the shadows hid his blush. They walked a short distance and then turned again, stepping out of the shadows into a small patch of light from a single, dim lantern set above a small door. Kakashi pushed it open with ease.

Panic suddenly welled up in Iruka. "What are you doing?" He hissed.

Kakashi just smiled and pulled Iruka into the walled-off compound. Iruka couldn't help but stare. This section of town was home to some of the oldest and wealthiest families in Konohagure. Some, like the Uchiha compound, lay empty save for a handful of servants, waiting for their lone masters to return from missions. Most of the others were filled to the brim with people, bustling with the multitudes of some of the most prominent clans. There was no way of telling which of the two Kakashi had just led him into.

"Kakashi." He dragged his feet and then thought better of it as the gravel beneath him shifted loudly. They were in a garden of some sort, though it was too dark to make out more than the vague shape of trees and bushes. "We shouldn't be here."

Kakashi's laughter floated through the darkness. "It's fine. I know the owner."

His nervousness didn't go away.

The path turned and they stepped out into a better lit portion of the garden where a few lanterns burnt dimly. Iruka felt a faint hint of chakra as they walked past the first of the lanterns. It reminded him of Kakashi.

At the end of the path was a small pond. Water flowed into the pond over a small outcropping of rocks, forming a miniature waterfall on the other side. Four small lights, barely more than a candle flame, were positioned around the pond, their light twinkling over the rippled surface of the water. There was a small, high-backed wooden bench placed in front of the pond. Kakashi led them to the bench and sat down, pulling Iruka down with him.

As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he could make out more of the garden. He smelt more than saw the flowers in bloom around them, and his imagination filled in the rest. It would have been a lovely sight during the daytime, full of color and life. He wondered if Kakashi's mysterious friend would let them come back later to see them.

"Do you like it?" Kakashi asked suddenly.

Iruka smiled softly. "It's beautiful."

The jounin shifted slightly on the bench, leaning back and putting his arm around Iruka. The trickle of water was like a balm on his nerves. He relaxed into Kakashi's embrace and let his head fall on Kakashi's shoulders. Kakashi smelled like soap and weapon oil, sandalwood and a faint hint of dog. Iruka smiled. He could have gladly stayed here forever. The garden seemed so peaceful, like a small shelter removed from the pain of war and loss and loneliness, separated by layers of plants and a thick wall from the outside world.

"Kakashi?"

"Hmm?"

"Thank you. For asking me out. I had a good time, and I'm sorry if I was boring."

Kakashi's arm tightened around Iruka. His hand shifted down until it rested against his side. "You weren't boring. I'm glad you had a good time."

Iruka closed his eyes and listened to the faint noises of the garden. Kakashi's breath tickled his hair. He could faintly hear Kakashi's heartbeat. It sounded slightly fast but Iruka assumed that was just his mind playing tricks on him. He was comfortable, content. It was nice to be able to sit and relax for a while instead of constantly being busy teaching or collecting reports or grading or preparing new lessons. If Kakashi minded the quiet, he didn't say anything. He supposed Kakashi probably enjoyed the quiet as a way to wind down after his last mission.

The sound of water falling lulled him to sleep.

*****

Two thoughts ran through Iruka's head as he woke up. First, he was not in his bedroom but rather slept on a lavender-smelling futon in a traditionally decorated room. Second, he was likely late as hell for his morning class.

Iruka bolted upright. His clothes were wrinkled from sleeping in but they'd have to do for the day. Someone had removed his vest, sandals and forehead protector and left them folded at the foot of the futon. He ran his hands over the vest as he pulled it on, checking to make sure nothing was missing. Best to be safe rather than sorry when he had no idea where he was.

The door slid open. Iruka froze. His hand twitched towards the kunai in his vest pocket.

"Morning." Kakashi grinned at him, or at least Iruka thought he was grinning, judging from the way his face wrinkled around his one visible eye.

Iruka slowly lowered his hand and relaxed. "G-good morning." He felt slightly better in knowing that he wasn't alone in this strange place.

Kakashi was dressed down. Instead of his usual uniform, he wore a plain black turtleneck with the neck pulled up to cover the lower half of his face. He looked somewhat adorable like that, like a kid wearing a grown-up's clothing, and Iruka couldn't help but smile.

"It's 7:30. Do you have time for breakfast?"

Iruka blinked in surprise. He wasn't late after all. Depending on where he was, he might even have time to swing home and change clothes.

"No, sorry." He winced, regretting the words as they came out of his mouth. He really wished he could stay. "I'll grab something along the way. Thank you, though. Really. For last night as well."

He blushed as he remembered how horribly the night had gone. He'd enjoyed himself but he'd been so out of it, and then he'd had the gall to fall asleep on Kakashi. The jounin had probably been bored to death.

"I had a good time." He couldn't tell if Kakashi was lying or not. A large part of him really hoped Kakashi wasn't lying.

Iruka smiled anyway. "I'm glad. I did too. I'm sorry I was so boring."

"I wasn't bored. I like quiet evenings. They balance things out." Kakashi stepped aside in an obvious signal for Iruka to leave the room. "Let me walk you to the door."

Words stuck on the tip of Iruka's tongue. He wanted to say more, to apologize more, but he wasn't sure if doing so would just hurt his chances of seeing Kakashi again. Instead, he kept his mouth shut and followed Kakashi through the house. Likely they were in one of the larger complexes that they'd walked past last night. He wondered if it was the same house as the friend who gave Kakashi free reign of his garden. Curiosity and propriety warred inside of him.

The morning sun was still relatively low on the horizon as they stepped outside. The rooftops of the neighboring houses were barely visible over the high wall surrounding the complex. Iruka couldn't help but stare at the myriad of blooming flowers lining the gravel path to the front gate. Smaller trails broke off from the main path, disappearing into a maze of plants. He wondered if one of them led to the small pond Kakashi had shown him last night.

"Iruka."

He turned towards Kakashi. They were almost at the main gate. He had a brief second to register the fact that Kakashi's turtleneck had been pulled down to expose his face and that the jounin was really very handsome, and then Kakashi's lips were pressing against his in a brief, soft kiss. All he could do was stare as Kakashi pulled back. He was smiling. The expression looked good on his face. Iruka wanted to see it again.

Kakashi started to pull up his shirt back up over his face.

"Wait."

Kakashi paused and raised an eyebrow in question. Iruka shifted closer, gravel scattering under his feet. He wrapped his arms slowly around Kakashi's neck and stretch up to bridge the distance between them. Kakashi's kiss had been chaste. Iruka's was less so. He slipped his tongue past parted lips and encouraged Kakashi to similarly explore Iruka's mouth. Kakashi responded instantly, taking control of the kiss from Iruka and settling his hands low on Iruka hips.

The jounin looked suitably mussed when Iruka pulled away. He watched Iruka closely.

"Recompense for last night," Iruka explained with a slightly sheepish smile.

"You didn't have to." Kakashi's hands ran along his sides for a brief moment before he pulled away reluctantly. "Have a good day at work. I'll stop by later."

Iruka couldn't help the blush that crossed his face at the thought. "I'd like that, and I wanted to. Kiss you. I mean..." His face heated further and he gave up on trying to explain himself. "I'll see you later." Kakashi pulled his mask up. Iruka glanced at the gate, suddenly reluctant to leave. "Did you want to go out again? Not necessarily tonight, but... sometime. I promise to be less boring."

"I would." Kakashi was smiling at him. Iruka's mind overlaid the picture of Kakashi's lips over the turtleneck.

"Great." Iruka suddenly felt lighter. He grinned and pulled open the door. "Bye."

Kakashi waved at him but didn't move as Iruka pulled the door closed. As he turned to leave he caught sight of the nameplate next to the gate. Hatake. Iruka bit back an embarrassed groan and quickly turned towards his apartment. Sometimes, he was a complete idiot but right now he couldn't bring himself to mind too much.

He had another date with Hatake Kakashi, a man who was a fierce and loyal ninja, a handsome jounin, and a fantastic kisser. He had a good feeling about Kakashi. It would be easy to lose his heart to the jounin, and after a couple more dates – well, maybe they'd see what happened.

Nothing was going to get him down today.

*****

True to his word, Iruka did indeed see Kakashi later in the day. He first noticed the jounin slightly before lunchtime, lounging in the tree outside Iruka's classroom with a familiar orange book in his hands. He stumbled through the rest of the morning's lesson before giving up and letting the kids out early for lunch. They could catch up in the afternoon. Iruka stared at Kakashi as the children ran out of the room.

His feet moved automatically through the Academy halls and out onto the lawn. Some of the children glanced his way as he passed, but most were too busy playing or eating. He stopped at the base of the tree. Kakashi smiled down at him and closed his book. The jounin slid off the tree branch. Iruka admired the way Kakashi landed lightly next to him, his feet hitting the ground as if he'd rolled out of bed rather than jumped out of a tree.

"Hi," Kakashi said.

"Hi."

"Would you like some lunch?" Kakashi pointed to a brown paper bag partially hidden behind the tree. Iruka blamed a certain distracting jounin for the fact that he hadn't seen it when he first approached.

"You didn't have to bring me lunch."

"Of course not." Kakashi sat and slid the bag closer. "I wanted to."

Iruka blushed, suddenly very glad that his back was to his students so that they wouldn't see him so flustered. Iruka started to sit opposite Kakashi.

"You could sit next to me, you know." Kakashi's visible eye twinkled merrily.

He felt like his face was about to combust from sheer embarrassment. "I-I can't. What if my students were watching?"

Kakashi's gaze heated. "You say that as if I might do something improper."

Iruka assumed the stern look he shot Kakashi would be answer enough.

Kakashi laughed and opened the bag, handing Iruka a plastic container of ramen and a pair of chopsticks. Iruka stared at Kakashi in surprise.

"Ichiraku?"

The jounin shrugged. "I didn't know what else you liked."

He smiled, his earlier embarrassment slowly starting to fade. "Nor I you. We'll have to work on that."

Kakashi tapped his own container of soup. "Miso, particularly if it has eggplant. I'm a big fan of vegetables, though I hate tempura."

"I love ramen, much like Naruto. Also, stir fry, teriyaki anything, most fish. I hate blended rice and natto, and I'm aware that that makes me a bit weird."

Kakashi laughed and leaned against the tree. "Not that weird." He stirred his miso with his chopsticks. "Oh, and we have an audience."

Iruka turned to find Konohamaru and a handful of other students quietly creeping up on them. The children froze as soon as they realized they'd been spotted and then raced forward to surround him.

"Iruka-sensei! Iruka-sensei! You know the legendary Copy-nin?"

He glanced back at the jounin and grinned slightly as he noticed that a fourth of Kakashi's miso was gone. "I do. The nice jounin came to have lunch with us."

The children's eyes went wide. "Really?" Ayame asked.

"Really," Kakashi said, playing along. His soup was gone.

Konohamaru stared. "How'd you do that?"

"Jounin secret."

Iruka barely stopped himself from laughing.

"Now, sensei, why don't you come sit next to me," Kakashi patted a section of grass so close it was practically in his lap, "and I'll tell the kids a story while you finish your lunch."

The children cheered, and Iruka knew when he was defeated. He sighed in mock reticence and slid over to sit next to Kakashi. The children formed a semi-circle around Kakashi. More wandered over as they noticed the small group in front of the tree.

"Once upon a time," Kakashi began, "there was handsome, brave warrior who desperately sought the affection of a cute but aloof schoolteacher..."

Iruka nearly choked on his soup.

*****

Kakashi swung his feet idly in the air. He watched Iruka dismiss his class from what Kakashi was beginning to think of as their tree. He'd made a habit of stopping by once a day to peek in on Iruka, sometimes for lunch, sometimes just to say hi or walk Iruka home. It felt slightly odd to be waiting outside of the Academy in full tactical gear, but he didn't have time to go home and change before leaving. Iruka disappeared from the classroom and reappeared a minute later in the side entrance. Kakashi hopped down as Iruka strode towards him.

There was a momentary shift in Iruka's demeanor as he noticed the way Kakashi was dressed, a brief look of worry and disappointment flitting across his face before being replaced by a slightly dimmed smile.

"You're leaving?" Iruka asked.

Kakashi nodded. His current reluctance to leave was somewhat new to him. It'd been a while since he had someone in the village that he didn't want to be apart from.

Iruka fidgeted, obviously wanting to be closer but holding himself back. Kakashi bridged the gap between them and pulled Iruka against him, wrapping his arms around the younger man. "It's only for a few days. Three at the most." He'd forgotten the way new relationships felt. Kakashi had been taking things slow with Iruka, but they were just starting to get into the heavier kinds of touching and he'd found it addictive.

Iruka smiled up at him but his eyes seemed sad. "Stay safe." The chuunin seemed to want to say more but restrained himself.

Sometimes, Kakashi thought, Iruka was far too cute. He really should have approached Iruka sooner. Had he known that Iruka didn't hate him, he would have been all over the chuunin months ago, possibly years. He glanced around at the empty yard and then pulled down his mask. Iruka let himself be pulled into a deep kiss, his sadness seeming to wane the minute Kakashi started to lean in.

He didn't want to go. He wanted to stay here, with Iruka in his arms, kissing the chuunin breathless. He wanted to sweep the chuunin off his feet and teleport back to his house, where he could throw Iruka down on his bed and ravage him senseless. But, his team was waiting for him and he was late enough as it is.

Kakashi pulled away reluctantly, parting briefly only to dive back in for a few more kisses, growing progressively more chaste.

Iruka smiled at him, a real smile this time. He pulled Kakashi's mask back into place, his hands lingering on Kakashi's cloth-covered cheeks.

"Go and come back."

"I will."

Kakashi stepped back, breaking their contact and teleported away. For once, he had a feeling that he wasn't going to be late getting back.

*****

"So, you and Kakashi, huh?"

Iruka glanced sideways at Genma and continued walking. He was surprised that Genma had actually waited a few days to question him about Kakashi. He'd been expecting Konoha's resident gossip monger to be on him the first day, pressing for details. "Yes, me and Kakashi."

Genma grinned widely. "So, how is he in the sack?"

Iruka tripped and barely managed to keep from falling or losing his groceries. He glared at Genma. "We've only been on a few dates. It's been less than a week."

"So?" Genma genuinely looked confused.

Iruka shook his head. "Here." He thrust half of his groceries at the special jounin. "Carry these." Might as well get some use out of the jounin if he insisted on pestering Iruka.

Genma took the bags without complaint. "Well?"

"Some people," he stressed the words and glanced pointed at Genma, "actually wait a few days beofre they jump in bed with someone. You know, actually get to know them first."

"Those people are boring."

Iruka flinched. He wondered if Kakashi shared Genma's opinion.

"We've been on a few dates," he protested lamely. "I don't even know if Kakashi likes me all that much yet."

Genma chuckled. "Oh, he does."

Iruka tensed, senses suddenly on full alert. "How do you know that?"

A sly grin stretched across Genma's face. "I know things Kakashi doesn't know I know. Admittedly, he was rather drunk when he told me. I was pretty drunk too, but I have the good fortune not to blackout when I'm plastered." His expression shifted towards a leer and he raked his eyes over Iruka's form. "You should come out with us next time we go drinking. Technically, it's supposed to just be jounin, but you're close enough."

He wasn't quite sure how to take that. "I'd like that. Thank you."

They reached Iruka's apartment building. Genma followed him up the outer staircase and Iruka tried to pretend that the jounin wasn't staring at his ass. It didn't work so well when Genma kept commenting on how nice Iruka's ass was. He fished out his keys and momentarily debated inviting Genma in.

He didn't get many chances to socialize. Iruka was usually too busy with work and he didn't get invited out all that much unless it was with his coworkers. In the end, it wasn't a hard decision. "Would you like to come in for some tea?"

Genma gave Iruka a speculative look, causing Iruka to blush.

"Just tea," Iruka said firmly.

Genma shrugged. "Your loss. I'd love to."

Iruka chuckled softly and opened the door. He wondered if all jounin were as weird as Genma. Considering what he knew of Kakashi, they probably were.

*****

Kakashi was late.

He practically threw his report at the hapless chuunin that was manning the mission desk, annoyed that it wasn't Iruka there to take it. The mission had left him a little bit on edge - more than a little bit, if he was honest with himself. It had taken longer than it was supposed to have and Yurika had gotten herself hurt when she'd blown their cover, forcing Kakashi and Riiya to jump in and extricate her. They'd spent the next two days leading their pursuers on a chase through the wilderness, taking them out in small groups until they could finally double-back and eliminate their original target.

Iruka wasn't at the Academy or with the Hokage or at Ichiraku's, which left Kakashi with a very limited number of places left to look. He teleported to the chuunin's door and knocked rapidly. A dog started barking in one of the lower apartments. The door swung open on the third knock.

Surprise flashed across Iruka's face, followed by joy, and then Kakashi suddenly had his arms full of excited chuunin.

"Kakashi! You're back! I was so worried..."

Kakashi let himself be pulled into the chuunin's apartment, the door slamming shut behind him. Iruka's fingers wormed underneath the edges of his mask and he forced himself down off of his post-mission panic as his face was bared. Iruka pulled him down into a wet, enthusiastic kiss.

He could get used to welcomes like this. Kakashi shifted them, turning until Iruka's back was against the wall and then sliding one of his legs between the chuunin's. Iruka let him, moaning softly into the kiss and hooking one leg over Kakashi's hips. Kakashi rolled his hips forward, forcing another moan from Iruka's lips. He shifted his hands lower to lift Iruka off the floor. Iruka wrapped himself eagerly around Kakashi and roamed his hands over Kakashi's back and arms, twining briefly in his hair before slipping back down to touch as much of Kakashi as possible.

Iruka tensed when his hand touched a tear in Kakashi's sleeve.

Iruka's feet hit the floor as he pushed Kakashi away. Concern replaced lust on Iruka's face, and Kakashi inwardly mourned the loss.

"You're hurt."

"Not bad."

Iruka pulled him deeper into the chuunin's apartment, maneuvering him until he was sitting on one of the chairs around Iruka's kitchen table. The chuunin knelt in front of the sink to rummage in his cabinet, giving Kakashi a wonderful though sadly brief view of Iruka's excellent ass. There was a med kit in Iruka's hands when he turned back around. "Take off your shirt."

Kakashi leered. "Being a bit forward, aren't you, sensei?"

Iruka turned his stern teacher glared on Kakashi. He sighed. No getting out of it, he supposed. He unzipped his vest, laying it carefully across the table, and then pulled off his shirt. Iruka's face fell as he noticed the scattering of bruises and cuts across Kakashi's chest.

"You should have gone to the hospital."

Kakashi shrugged. "It's not that bad."

Iruka looked like he wanted to protest, but he wordlessly pulled out antiseptic spray and started cleaning off Kakashi's wounds. Iruka's hands were gentle, somewhat like Kakashi remembered his mother's being, a long time ago. He barely felt anything as the cuts were bandaged and salve smeared across the bruises.

"Have you eaten?"

"Yeah," he lied. He could eat later. He wasn't even hungry at the moment, though he knew he'd be famished later.

Iruka fidgeted for a moment, then started putting the med kit away.

"Couch?" Kakashi asked.

Iruka blushed and nodded.

They settled onto Iruka's couch. Kakashi leaned back against the cushions and pulled Iruka onto his lap, slightly surprised at the complete lack of protest. Iruka curled against him, tucking his head under Kakashi's chin and wrapping his arms around Kakashi.

"Missed me?" Kakashi asked.

Another nod. He hugged Iruka and closed his eyes momentarily, savoring the feeling of Iruka's warm body against him. All of the stress of the mission bled out of him, leaving him feeling suddenly drained and far too heavy. He felt safe here, with Iruka in his arms. He was home, or at least close enough to it.

Kakashi barely noticed Iruka's breathing start to even out as he fell asleep.

*****

Iruka felt like an idiot. He pushed open the front gate of the Hatake compound, feeling a bit like he was intruding. There was no one in sight. It was stupid coming here - he didn't even know for sure if Kakashi was home, let alone available. Kakashi had been gone when he'd woken up in the morning. The minor amount of grading he'd had to do for his class hadn't taken very long, leaving Iruka with the majority of a gorgeous Saturday open and no plans.

He clutched the wicker basket in his hands as he walked up the gravel path to the front door. A thin rope hung from the wall next to the door. Iruka tugged lightly, and faint chimes echoed from the other side of the door, the sound growing softer as it spread through the house.

Minutes passed, and Iruka worried and debated leaving. He was glad that the high walls around the compound hid him from view. He felt stupid, standing there waiting for someone who probably wasn't even home. Just as he was about to turn, the door slid open, and a slightly breathless Kakashi stared at him.

"H-hi."

Kakashi shifted to lean against the doorframe. His mask was down and he was smiling. "Hi." He glanced down at the basket in Iruka's hands. "That for me?"

Iruka really needed to work on not blushing so much. "I made lunch. I mean, I brought lunch, but if you've already eaten, I can-"

"I haven't." Kakashi's hand pulled one of Iruka's off the handle and twined their fingers together. He glanced past Iruka at the sky. "Want to eat in the garden?"

Iruka smiled. He'd been hoping Kakashi would want to take advantage of the good weather and had packed accordingly. "I'd love to."

"Be right back."

Kakashi disappeared down the hall. Iruka shifted on his feet and stared out at the lush landscape of Kakashi's yard. He wasn't quite sure how the jounin kept it so well maintained when he was out on missions all the time. Iruka could barely remember to water his few houseplants between his work at the Academy and the mission room. He'd lost two in the months he'd been on active mission duty.

"Here we go," Kakashi said.

Iruka jumped as Kakashi suddenly appeared behind him. He had a feeling that Kakashi was trying not to laugh at him, mostly because Kakashi's eyes were sparkling with barely concealed humor. One of Kakashi's arms slid around his waist, and there was a large brown blanket draped over his other arm.

The garden was much prettier in the daytime. Trees and carefully trimmed shrubberies intermixed with small plots of flowers in full bloom. Small half-circle stones lined the edges of the gravel paths that twisted through the maze of plants. Iruka did his best to memorize the route Kakashi led them on – off the main road, turn at a large red-leaved tree, another turn by a pink flowering bush and then through an opening in a row of hedges.

They emerged in another private glade, surrounded by a high wall of hedges. This clearing also held a small pool of water, but where the one Kakashi had shown him the night of their first date had been obviously man-made, this one was more natural, close to a small pond that just happened to sit in the middle of a garden. The gravel path ended where the glade began. There were no benches or other seating, just slightly high grass and a few wild flowers growing along the base of the hedgerow.

Kakashi spread the blanket across the grass. "It's a good day for a picnic, isn't it, sensei?"

Iruka turned his gaze back to Kakashi and smiled. "Yeah. It really is."

He dropped down to sit on one end of the blanket and started pulling containers out of the basket. He set a large container of onigiri between them and pulled out a thermos of tea which Kakashi promptly took from him. Kakashi poured them both a cup and leaned back on one arm as he surveyed the food.

"All that for just us?"

Iruka flushed. He knew he'd made too many, but once he'd started making rice balls, he kept thinking of other fillings to put in them. "I got a bit carried away."

Kakashi's grin turned into a slight leer. "You can get carried away with me anytime you like, sensei."

He smacked Kakashi lightly on the arm, causing the jounin to laugh. Iruka grabbed a onigiri in lieu of trying to think of an appropriate response. The only things his brain seemed capable of coming up with would just encourage Kakashi more. Not that that was really a bad thing, he thought.

They ate quietly. Kakashi occasionally commented on the food, complimenting Iruka's cooking ability. There was a light breeze playing through the garden. He could hear leaves rustling behind them but the tops of the trees were hidden behind the hedgerow. The breeze carried with it the scent of flowers, too many varying fragrances mixed together to really tell which flowers they came from.

Iruka finished his second onigiri and washed it down with the rest of his tea. He tucked his dishes back into the basket, then stretched out on the blanket, pillowing his head on his arms. A few stray clouds moved sluggishly through the sky and he watched them pass, feeling warm and full and relaxed. Kakashi was watching him from the corner of his eye while trying to look like he wasn't. Iruka's smile widened - it was nice to know that he wasn't the only one who was completely smitten.

"How do you keep your garden so tidy?" Iruka asked as Kakashi swallowed a bite of his onigiri.

The jounin glanced over at him. "I don't."

Iruka raised an eyebrow.

"My father..." A shadow fell across Kakashi's face and was quickly hidden. "...hired a pair of groundskeepers and gave them one of the small buildings at the back of the complex, behind the main house. That was years ago, and then he died, but I didn't want to kick them out." He stared at the pond for a long moment. A strong breeze blew in, scattering fallen petals across the water. "I didn't live here, not until recently. I still have my apartment, over in the bachelor's area. But I still paid them and they took care of the house for me, and the garden. It didn't used to be like this. It used to be smaller, but their daughter took an interest in it." He smiled at Iruka. "The garden's the main reason I moved back – well, that and there's more room for the dogs."

Iruka stretched his arm across the blanket to take hold of Kakashi's hand, rubbing his thumb over the back of it. "My parents died in the Kyuubi attack. Our house was destroyed too." He turned to stare up at the clouds. "Sometimes I think that it's better that way. I lost everything, all at once, but it also meant that I didn't have anything to constantly remind me that they were gone."

Kakashi pulled his hand away. For a moment, Iruka was worried, but then Kakashi started clearing the rest of the containers off of the blanket. The basket was set off to the side and then Kakashi stretched out next to him, on his side, facing Iruka. A gentle smile settled on his face as he reached up to stroke Iruka's cheek.

"It's hard," Kakashi agreed, "remembering what the house used to be like with them in it. And it's a bit lonely too. It's a big house with just me in it, but I'm hoping to fill it with other people some day." The way Kakashi's eyes focused on Iruka when he said that sent a shiver down Iruka's spine. "Memories are what you make of them, but you're not alone now. You've got Naruto and me and the rest of your friends."

Iruka felt tears threatening. He reached up and carded his fingers through Kakashi's hair to pull the jounin down into a kiss. The distraction worked wonderfully. Kakashi's tongue slipped inside of his mouth and he forgot about being sad and lonely and remembering what he'd lost. Then Kakashi shifted, moving over until he was draped over Iruka, and he lost track of any thoughts that weren't Kakashi.

He shifted beneath Kakashi, sliding his legs out so that he could bend his knees, settling Kakashi's hips between them. Kakashi murmured his approval against Iruka's neck, his lips trailing across Iruka's cheek to settle below his ear. Blunt teeth pressed down, too light to leave a mark but enough to make Iruka gasp in pleasure. Kakashi's hands slid under Iruka's shirt, pushing the black fabric up and exposing his stomach to the summer air. He shivered as Kakashi ran his fingernails lightly across his sides and stomach, arching up into the touch.

Kakashi pulled back and helped Iruka peel his shirt off. He returned the favor, marveling at how pale Kakashi's skin was compared to his own. Kakashi apparently had similar thoughts. He leered down at Iruka's bronzed skin, his gaze straying lower towards Iruka's hips.

"Full body tan?"

He blushed and pulled Kakashi back on top of him. "Just naturally that way."

"I like it," Kakashi said as he kissed Iruka's chest. His lips strayed dangerously close to one of Iruka's nipples.

"I'm gl-ad." His voiced hitched as Kakashi's tongue swiped over his nipple. Anything else he might have said was lost in a low moan as Kakashi's teeth closed lightly over the sensitive flesh, tongue flicking against it.

"Are you?" Kakashi teased and switched his mouth to similarly torment the other side of Iruka's chest.

"Yes!" He hooked a leg over Kakashi's back and lifted his hips to press against Kakashi, moaning when he felt Kakashi's erection through his pants.

Iruka groped blindly between them until he found the clasp. Judging by the way Kakashi bucked against him, he hadn't minded the groping in the slightest. Iruka fumbled for a moment before finally opening Kakashi's pants. He pushed the fabric down as far as he could reach and then slid his hand around to take Kakashi's erection in hand, earning him a loud groan.

Kakashi pulled back to stare down at Iruka, a wide smile on his face. Now that he could see between them, Iruka shifted his hand slightly to get a better angle. Kakashi was fully hard, the thick column of flesh warm and slightly wet under Iruka's hand. Iruka licked his lips and grinned at the hungry look that crossed Kakashi's face as he did so.

Slowly, Iruka slid down the blanket, wriggling until his head was close to Kakashi's hips. He pulled Kakashi down on top of him once more, maneuvering until he could take Kakashi into his mouth. Kakashi moaned his approval and leaned back slightly so that he could watch Iruka's head bob against his cock. One of Kakashi's hands twisted in Iruka's hair, steadying Iruka's head as Kakashi slowly started to move his hips.

Kakashi's harsh breathing filled the clearing, only barely covering the wet slurping noises Iruka made as he sucked on Kakashi. The taste of Kakashi filled his mouth, sweat and precum salting Iruka's tongue. He wanted to taste Kakashi as he came in his mouth but it'd been too long since Iruka had last done something like this. His jaw ached as he slowly pulled away. His breathing overshadowed Kakashi's in volume.

Kakashi stared down at him, his expression full of hunger and lust. Gentle hands pulled Iruka back up until he was centered on the blanket. Kakashi reached back to extricate himself from his pants and paused to pull a thin tube from one of his pockets. Iruka's hands reached for the button on his own pants but Kakashi stopped him, covering the clasp with one hand.

Iruka grinned and relaxed back onto the blanket. He nodded towards the tube in Kakashi's hand. "Hoping you'd get lucky?"

Kakashi dropped the tube of lubricant onto the blanket and started to unfasten Iruka's pants. "I believe in always being prepared."

He lifted his hips to give Kakashi room to pull Iruka's pants down, and Kakashi quickly removed the last of Iruka's clothing. He didn't move at first, instead staying where he was, kneeling near the foot of the blanket and watching Iruka. Kakashi lifted a hand and slowly slid his forehead protector off, his red eye opening and running over Iruka from head to toe. Another shiver ran through Iruka and he pulled his knees towards his chest in obvious invitation.

"Flexible, aren't you, sensei?"

A wide, teasing grin stretched across his face. "Maybe you should come here and find out."

Kakashi grinned back at him and finally moved forward. He uncapped the lube and spilled a generous amount of the clear gel across his palm. One of Kakashi's hands teased Iruka's entrance, circling his hole but never venturing inside, while the other spread lube across Kakashi's erection. Kakashi's hands moved and then slick fingers were pressing inside of him. He moaned and forced himself to breathe evenly and relax as Kakashi stretched him.

Kakashi's fingers played inside of him, rubbing against his flesh and twisting, drawing a series of needy, high-pitched noises from Iruka. He clenched his hands against his knees, fingers digging into his own flesh.

"Kakashi," he moaned. Kakashi's hand didn't stop moving. "Kakashi!" Iruka writhed against the blanket. "Enough. Please." There was a wide smile on Kakashi's face as he watched Iruka, purposely teasing him. "Need you," Iruka gasped. "Inside. Please. Please."

He nearly cried with relief when Kakashi finally pulled his hand away. Iruka was close. He felt like he was going to fall apart at any minute and he wanted Kakashi inside of him when he did so. Kakashi's erection pressed against his entrance and he let his legs fall, wrapping them once more around Kakashi's waist. He lifted his hips into Kakashi's thrust, pushing up while Kakashi slid inside of him.

It felt like heaven. Then Kakashi started moving and Iruka changed his mind. This, with Kakashi filling him, moving inside of him, his eyes watching him with an expression that Iruka was hard-pressed not to mistake for genuine affection, this was heaven.

His fingers twisted in the blanket, bunching the fabric around his hands. Kakashi held him steady, gripping Iruka's hips to guide them together in a slow, steady pace. The jounin was gentle. He slid in and out of Iruka in a lazy rhythm, constant like the rolling of waves across the pond. Kakashi's face was tense with concentration. He was watching Iruka, his eyes fixed on Iruka's face for a long while until he suddenly sat back on his heels and lifted Iruka's hips in the air.

The change in angle nearly made him come. Iruka gasped loudly and dropped his feet to the ground for balance. Kakashi was speeding up, his hips meeting Iruka's with building force. It took all of Iruka's concentration to hold off release but he was fighting a losing battle. One of Kakashi's hands slid around his hip and closed around Iruka's erection. He came undone.

Iruka shouted wordlessly as he came. A look of triumph mixed with ecstasy crossed Kakashi's face as Iruka tensed with his release. Then Kakashi's hands shifted to pull Iruka forward until he was straddling the jounin's lap. Iruka shivered and collapsed against the jounin, curling around Kakashi's chest as gravity helped the jounin press deeper inside of him. Hands gently encouraged him into movement.

He leaned back, feeling his face heat from the closeness of Kakashi's entranced stare. His hands gripped Kakashi's shoulders for balance as he slowly started to lift himself. The blissful look on Kakashi's face made him forget all of the small aches building in his body as he slowly bounced in Kakashi's lap. Kakashi's hands guided him, building the pace until he was slamming his hips down onto Kakashi's erection.

Kakashi came quietly, spilling his seed inside of Iruka with only a faint grunt. Iruka kept moving, not stopping until Kakashi's hands stilled him, holding them together.

"That was fantastic," Iruka gasped.

Kakashi just grinned at him and shifted them until Iruka was on his back with Kakashi on top of him once more.

They stayed pressed together, limbs entangled, trading soft kisses until the sun went down.

*****

"You look happy today."

Iruka beamed at Genma. The mission room was empty save for the two of them. Few people were out on missions today, and even fewer wanted to come pick one up on Sunday afternoon. They'd probably get busier by dinner time.

He was a little surprised to find Genma working the mission room with him. The jounin must have recently volunteered, or he was covering for someone else's shift.

"I am happy today." He'd spent the last night and most of the morning with Kakashi, the majority of their time spent in Kakashi's bed.

Genma grinned widely. "So things are going well between you and Kakashi?"

"Very well." He couldn't help the contented sigh that escaped him.

"Finally sleep with him?"

His blush and incoherent stammering were answer enough. Genma's grin widened and he leaned closer. "How was he?"

Iruka glanced at the door to make sure no one was about to walk in. He dropped his voice low, just in case. "Amazing."

Genma whistled in appreciation. "That good, huh?"

He nodded.

"Damn." Genma leaned back in his seat. "There goes my next paycheck. I was sure he couldn't get it up."

Iruka paused in confusion, not quite sure that he understood the connection between Kakashi having sex and Genma's paycheck. "Huh?"

"I bet him a week's worth of Ichiraku that he couldn't get laid."

Iruka felt like he'd been punched in the gut. Genma suddenly froze and stared at Iruka in growing horror.

"He didn't mention that, did he?"

Iruka shook his head, sure that he was entirely failing at keeping the look of hurt off his face.

"Shit." Genma started to panic. "I wasn't supposed to say that." Iruka started towards the door, and heard a chair scrape against the floor as Genma stood. "Iruka, wait. It's not that bad. We just-"

He slammed the door behind him, cutting Genma off.

*****

Iruka had been home for an hour before the knocking started. He didn't need to look to know who it was. His hands clenched on the edge of the counter top. Part of him wanted to go to the door and tell Kakashi in cool, disdainful terms exactly what he thought of this kind of behavior. Another part of him wanted to curl up in the darkest corner of his apartment and stay there until Kakashi went away.

He'd been used. It wasn't nearly as bad as the way Mizuki had used him, but it still hurt and made him feel like he was worthless. Had it all been a joke for Kakashi? Had he been treating Iruka nicely just so that he could con Iruka into sleeping with him?

It didn't add up. There was something he was missing, some condition on the bet that Genma hadn't told him. Kakashi could have slept with him days before he actually had. Hell, Iruka had literally thrown himself at Kakashi the day Kakashi had come back from his mission. Kakashi could have easily talked him into bed that night but hadn't.

He wanted to know what was going on but he didn't think he could face Kakashi long enough to find out. His heart was already bruised, and he didn't feel the need to add to the pain.

"Iruka..."

He turned and grabbed for the closest object – a frying pan. Kakashi stood in the doorway to the kitchen, his hands up in a calming gesture. The jounin slowly reached for his mask and pulled it down.

Iruka's hand tightened on the handle of the frying pan. He turned his head to stare at the refrigerator. "Get out."

Kakashi didn't move. "I'm sorry. I really am." Iruka caught a glimpse of Kakashi's expression from the corner of his eye. The remorse on the jounin's face nearly made him give in but then he remembered Genma's words. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

He dropped the frying pan into the sink before he was tempted to throw it at the jounin. "You've won your bet. I don't want to talk to you, so get out."

Kakashi started to take a step forward.

"Don't."

Kakashi froze and shifted back to where he'd been standing. "It's not what you think."

He finally looked Kakashi in the eye. Something in his expression made Kakashi wince. "It's not?" He trembled, not quite sure if it was from rage or sorrow. "So you didn't wager Genma a week's worth of Ichiraku on getting laid?"

The jounin had the good sense to look guilty, but he didn't look away. "I did, but-"

Iruka cut him off. "Tell me, did you tell him beforehand what day you were going to fuck me? Was that part of the bet too?"

He was falling apart. He didn't want Kakashi to see that.

"No!" Kakashi took a step forward. Iruka didn't stop him. "It wasn't like that." Another step. "Yes, I made a bet that I could get laid in two weeks. Genma didn't know that I wanted to sleep with you, not until I asked you on a date. It wasn't preplanned."

Iruka was an idiot for thinking that he'd actually found a decent guy that liked him. Obviously that was never going to happen. "Like that makes it any better?"

Kakashi was less than a foot away when Iruka dropped his gaze to the floor. He didn't think he could look at Kakashi anymore. Kakashi shifted and dropped to his knees, then took Iruka's hands in his own. Iruka couldn't bring himself to pull away, not when Kakashi looked so desperate.

"I only wanted you," Kakashi said softly. "I wanted to date you, to get to know you, to make love to you, long before the bet even happened."

He wavered.

Kakashi shifted closer. "I didn't think you liked me, so I never asked, but when Genma made that bet... you were the only one I could think of, the only one I wanted. I'm sorry if I upset you. I wasn't sure how to tell you." Kakashi stared up at him with an expression bordering on puppy eyes. "Please don't be mad at me. I really like you, Iruka. I'll do anything to make it up to you."

He caved. Iruka sighed and tugged Kakashi to his feet.

"If you ever do anything like this again, I'm going to hurt you."

Kakashi smiled at him. "Kinky."

He punched Kakashi in the arm. Hard. Kakashi winced and wrapped his arms around Iruka.

"And you're giving me some of that free ramen," Iruka continued.

Kakashi nuzzled the top of Iruka's head. "You can have all of it. After all, you won me. Consider that your prize."

Iruka blushed and hugged Kakashi tightly. Maybe he wasn't so bad at relationships after all.