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Where the Heart Is

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"Brat, you’d better not do that again."

Kakashi looked at the Hokage through one bleary eye. "Do what?" he croaked.

"Climb into Iruka's bed half dead from blood loss."

Kakashi shut his eye as his stomach roiled uncomfortably. Iruka. His little chuunin fuck buddy. At least at first. They'd had some epic hate sex around the time of the chunin exams when he nominated Team 7. It had set a routine. Any time Kakashi needed to let off some steam, he'd pop in to see Iruka. It had been a good solution, a nice neat no strings attached arrangement, until it wasn't. Until he realized that it hadn't been hate sex in a long while. Until he realized that he didn't stop by just for sex, he'd stop by for dinner or just to hang out as Iruka was grading. He'd gotten close. He'd gotten too close and he didn't want to be. People close to him died. The idea of Iruka lying in a pool of his own blood because of Kakashi, well, it was more than he could handle. So he'd stopped by Iruka's place and told him that it had been fun, but he didn't need him anymore and he escaped just in time to miss the kotatsu that went flying at his head.

He'd taken a string of long hard missions after that, one after another with little rest in between. Tsunade had even told him to slow down and pace himself, but he hadn't. A group of missing nin had ambushed him. He’d killed them, but it was a near thing. He was pretty messed up by the time the last one fell. He’d slapped some bandages on the wound in his side, gritted his teeth and focused on getting home. He just had to get home. He just hadn't realized at the time that home had come to mean something new to him. Home meant Iruka's apartment. Home meant Iruka and in his half dead state, he'd dragged himself to that place without thinking. He sighed.

"I mean it," Tsunade said. "You've hurt him enough. Do him a favor and just stay away."

"Yes Hokage-sama," he whispered.

"And you're off active duty for the next month as you recover. You can have desk duty in a week if I feel that you've suitably healed."

"Thank you Hokage-sama," he said.

Tsunade snorted. "And if you sneak out of the hospital before I release you, it's two months off active duty," she warned.

He opened his eye to look at her. She looked serious. He nodded.

"Good, now sleep brat. It was a near thing this time." She set a hand on his head, giving him a rather vicious hair ruffle before she strode from his room.

He sighed as he was left to stare at the hospital ceiling and think about what a moron he was.

"Kakashi! Kakashi! Answer me dammit! Kakashi!"

"Yo," Kakashi said weakly.

"Bastard. You bastard," Iruka spat, pressing weakly glowing hands to the gouge in Kakashi's shoulder. "Just hold on. Help is coming."

Kakashi nodded, even as the sight of a shirtless Iruka with his hair down faded to black.

He woke up in the hospital again. Tsunade was standing next to his bed looking furious.

"What did I tell you?" She hissed.

"Nnnggya," Kakashi warbled intelligently.

"How did this even happen? It was only a simple courier mission!"

It might have been, but it was a message that someone had been desperate to intercept. Desperate enough to send a squad after him. Alone, no single one of them would have given him an issue. But they were clearly a group that had worked very hard to cover each others weaknesses. Their teamwork had been impressive. The only reason he'd escaped was a ridiculous plan that had left half of the group convulsing on the ground after he redirected a lightning strike from the storm they had been caught in. It left him rather singed, but the sword wound on his shoulder had been the worst of his injuries. He suspected that on top of the wound itself, there had been poison on the blade. He'd bandaged it the best that he could before heading towards Konoha, hoping he got to the hospital before the poison took him out.

Clearly, he'd made it in time, but he hadn't made the sensible decision and gone straight to the hospital. He really had to question how he was able to slip past the gate guards to even make it to Iruka's apartment. But then again, Iruka didn't live far from the gate. He was even between the gate and the hospital. That had to be why he'd chosen it. It couldn't be anything like feelings.

Tsunade sighed. "I have half a mind to assign you a new Genin team to keep you out of trouble," she said.

Kakashi groaned.

"I could always arrange a marriage so you could carry on the Hatake bloodline," she said.

"Don't," he warned. He didn't want to carry on the Hatake bloodline. He wasn't interested in women or having children. He'd make a terrible husband. Just as terrible a husband as he'd made jounin sensei or boyfriend. Hell, he hadn't even been a boyfriend, because he'd never admitted that he and Iruka were dating. It would be cruel to saddle any woman with a sorry idiot like him.

"I won't," she said. "I'm not that kind of person. Not to mention I'd never be able to look Iruka in the eye again. And I like him. He makes me spiked coffee. It's better than that tea Shizune's always shoving at me."

Kakashi sighed. Iruka did make some damn good coffee, despite his preference for tea.

“Why don’t you just apologize to him?” She asked, casting him a sympathetic look.

“You know why,” Kakashi said, refusing to elaborate. After all, she should know why better than anyone else. She’d left the village behind once for the same reasons. Only, he was trying to circumvent disaster by leaving Iruka.

She sighed. “I do,’re already in too deep. If anything happens to him, you’ll still feel like it was your fault.”

“Maybe, but I just...I can’t. If any of my enemies…” He shook his head weakly.

“I hate that argument,” Tsunade said. “It feels like a coward’s way out. It’s a weak claim that you’re doing it for his own good. When was the last time someone actually snuck into the village to murder you?”

He glared at her.

She glared back. “It’s your life,” she said. “Do what you want. But don’t you dare sneak out of this room. That poison got pretty far into your system, so you get to spend some extra time admiring the view before I release you.”

He nodded.

She sighed. “See you brat,” she said before sweeping out of the room.

His next few missions were simple as Tsunade had confined him to B-Rank missions. There were no more Missing nin trying to murder him in a string of boring retrieval and escort missions. He almost wished there were as he was going out of his mind from the absolute monotony. Perhaps it was that total boredom that set his feet on a familiar path after one such mission. It hadn’t been hard, quite the opposite. He’d taken to playing games in his own head to keep himself entertained. He was still playing ‘I Spy’ when he landed on a balcony and let himself into the apartment. He stepped inside and froze as he noted that this wasn’t his apartment. This was Iruka’s apartment. Only, it was empty. Iruka’s apartment was empty. There was no furniture. The table they used to eat breakfast at. The battered old couch. The kotatsu. The overflowing bookshelf. The house plants. It was all gone. Kakashi’s heart gave a tight squeeze as he looked around at the emptiness. Where were Iruka’s things? Where was Iruka?!

In a panic, he turned and threw himself off of the balcony, bounding up the building across the street and making a beeline for the Hokage tower. The lights were still on in Tsunade’s office, so he headed straight for her office window, landing on the sill and pushing inside.

Tsunade frowned as she turned. She raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re not dying again are you?” She asked dryly.

“Iruka,” he said, heart hammering in his chest so loudly, she could probably hear it.

“Ah.” She nodded in understanding. “He’s fine. Nothing happened to him.”

“His apartment is empty!” Kakashi argued.

“Someone kept breaking into his apartment to die,” she said flatly. “Can you blame him for wanting to escape that?”

Kakashi frowned.

“He moved,” she clarified. “You broke up with him, but you kept returning to his apartment like a wounded bear returns to its cave. You broke his heart Kakashi. You can’t expect those things from him anymore. You were hurting him, so he moved.”

“Where is he?” he asked, feeling agitated and disoriented. He needed to check on him, to make sure he was ok.

She stared at him like he was crazy and he was feeling a bit crazy. Home. His home was gone. Even if he’d tried to push Iruka away, that was still home. Not his empty apartment. Not the old abandoned Hatake complex on the edge of the village. It was Iruka’s cluttered little apartment, the place he returned to when he was hurt or not paying attention and his feet just lead him there.

“I can’t tell you that,” she said.

“Hokage-sama,” Kakashi protested, jerking forward. He could see an anbu creeping from the shadows in the edge of his vision. .

Tsunade waved them off and turned her steely gaze on Kakashi. “No brat. This isn’t a ninja matter. I’m not giving you his address. He moved for a reason and I’m not going to give him another reason to do so. If you want to know where he lives now, you’ll have to ask him yourself.”

“Yes Hokage-sama,” Kakashi said sullenly, despite the urge to protest still swirling inside of him.

She huffed. “Go pour us some sake.” She waved to the sake set across the room. “There’s no way I’m gonna finish this mountain any time soon.”

Kakashi nodded as he crossed the room and returned with a bottle of sake and the cups. He poured them both a cup of sake and settled in the chair across from her desk.

“To you coming back not bleeding for once,” she said, raising her cup.

He snorted and nodded as he saluted her and pulled down his mask to knock back the cup.

She slammed her cup on her desk. “Keep ‘em coming brat.”

“Yes Hokage-sama.”

Kakashi woke up on the floor of Iruka’s empty apartment with a raging hangover. He sighed as he pulled his hitai-ate down over both of his eyes. He was defeated. Completely and utterly defeated by his own heart. Despite his best efforts not to get involved, home had come to mean Iruka. Whether he was half dead, distracted, or drunk, his feet led him back to this place. His heart led him back to this man. He owed it to Iruka to be honest with him. And if Iruka rejected him, it was no one’s fault but his own. But he had to try.

He hauled himself up off the cold floor and straightened out his hitai-ate. With one last look around the familiar, but empty room, he walked to the balcony. He launched off and headed to his own apartment to shower and change. He didn’t linger long, just long enough to eat and dig out some painkillers to dull the buzzing in his head. He should have known better than to drink with Tsunade. He sighed as he headed out to the Academy and parked in a tree branch to wait till class got out. He’d slept well past noon, so he didn’t have to wait long before the little terrors came streaming out of the doors making enough noise to make his head throb.

Kakashi waited for the trickle of students to die down. He could sense Iruka in his classroom. He took a steadying breath, then headed for the window and silently slipped inside. Iruka didn’t even look up from the papers on his desk, but Kakashi heard him sigh.

“You’re not dying again are you?” Iruka asked bitterly.

Kakashi frowned as he stood awkwardly before the desk. He felt like a child being chastised by the teacher. In some other context, this might be sexy, but now it was just awkward and uncomfortable. “No,” he said.

“Then to what do I owe the honor of your presence Jounin-san?” He asked in the most formal and distant tone he could muster.

It was a blow that hit Kakashi like a senbon to the heart, small but expertly aimed. He couldn’t fault Iruka for his attitude. He was the one that hurt him first. He sighed. He didn’t want it to be like this. He wanted the warmth that Iruka had given to him. He wanted his home back. “Please, let me come home,” he said.

Iruka’s head snapped up, as though startled by his words. “What?” He demanded, eyes wide and bewildered.

“Please let me come home,” Kakashi repeated. “It’s not where it was before. I didn’t even realize it. Home is not the same. I kept going there, but I couldn’t recognize and now it’s gone.” He was rambling. He knew he was rambling, but he couldn’t stop.

“Kakashi,” Iruka said, interrupting whatever nonsense Kakashi was likely going to spout. “What are you saying?”

“I was too stupid to realize,” Kakashi said. “I couldn’t see that home was with you. My head didn’t know it, but my heart did. When I was hurt or bored or drunk, I went home and that was where you were. But now you’re not there and I… I just want to come home.”

Iruka stared at him. “ told me that we were just fuck buddies,” he said, his voice tremulous but harsh. “And that...the thrill of it was gone. You said you didn’t need me anymore.”

Iruka’s hands were clenched into fists on top of the desk and Kakashi wondered if he’d need to dodge the man’s desk. Iruka had monstrous strength when enraged, as evidenced by the kotatsu he’d dodged when he’d said those words.

“I lied,” Kakashi admitted. “I realized I got too close. I never meant for it to be more and when I realize that it was, I panicked. Everyone I’m close to dies.”

“That’s bullshit,” Iruka snapped, slamming his fists on the desk.

Kakashi startled, stepping back. “What?”

“Bull shit,” Iruka repeated, pounding his fists on the desk for emphasis. “I’m not going to downplay your losses, because I know that you lost some very important people, but they weren’t the only people in your life. So many of us are still here. We’re still here and we never left. Not only that, but we’re ninja. We understand the life of a ninja better than anyone else, yet you keep pushing away with some tired excuse. The only person you’re fooling is yourself.”

Kakashi stared at him, his thoughts derailed. He wasn’t sure how to reply.

Iruka seemed to sense his confusion and sighed. He put his hands on the desk and pushed himself up, standing behind the desk. “Look, do you want to come home or not?” he asked.

“I do,” Kakashi said earnestly, perhaps more honestly than he’d ever said anything in his entire life.

Iruka nodded as he walked around from behind his desk. “Then you’d better be prepared to leave your baggage at the door. I can only put up with so much bullshit. I’m tired of being hurt by people I love. First Mizuki, then you. There won’t be a third chance.”

Kakashi nodded.

“I’m not magically forgiving you,” Iruka said, standing in front of him. “I’m going to rub your nose in your shit like a dog that crapped in the house.”

Kakashi wrinkled his nose, but nodded. It was amazing that Iruka would even consider taking him back. He would take whatever punishment Iruka needed to dole out.

“Come here you idiot,” Iruka said, grabbing Kakashi in a tight embrace.

Kakashi froze for a moment before he wrapped his hands around Iruka’s back, squeezing him tightly. He pressed his face into Iruka’s neck, breathing in his chalk, paper, Iruka smell. He’d missed it so much. He gripped Iruka tighter. He’d probably have left bruises if not for the flak jacket Iruka was wearing.

“I’m done here,” Iruka said after a long while. “You can walk home with me if you want.”

Kakashi nodded wildly. “Yes please.”

Iruka chuckled as he stepped back. Kakashi had to actively make each individual finger release Iruka. Iruka’s eyes looked a bit damp, but his felt damp as well. Iruka gave him an almost shy smile as he stepped away to his desk and quickly shoved everything in his bag. “Come on,” he said, holding his hand out to Kakashi.

Kakashi was by his side in an instant, wrapping Iruka’s warm hand in his own. They hadn’t done this before, but there was no way he’d turn this down. Together, they headed out of the school and Kakashi let Iruka lead him home. He didn’t know what it looked like yet, but as long as Iruka was there he was sure it would be perfect.