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Dream Alone, Dream Together

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Naruto's son had hair as bright as his father's and a grip like iron where his tiny fingers were wrapped around one of Iruka's own. Iruka couldn't stop staring at him. Emotions threatened to overwhelm him. Love, pride, a healthy dose of awe, and so much more. He wondered if this made him a grandfather. Or maybe an uncle. He didn't feel like a grandfather, but he might be able to play the cool uncle role.

An arm lay across his shoulder and Iruka leaned into the touch, loving the feeling of the warm body pressed against his own. There was an intimacy here, borne from countless hours spent sitting like this. A soft kiss was brushed against his cheek and it made Iruka's eyes want to flutter shut. He turned and captured those lips with a kiss of his own, just as he'd done hundreds of times before.

When he pulled back, he was looking Kakashi in the face. For the briefest of moments there was a twang in the back of his mind, the same unsettling mental warning that happened right before an ambush. But then Kakashi was leaning over to make ridiculous faces at the baby, getting a gurgle of laughter in response, and Iruka's chest swelled with happiness. Nothing could be more right than this.

"Naruto is going to be upset that his son saw your face before he did," Iruka teased. "And with so much less effort."

Kakashi chuckled. "Naruto has seen my face, he was just too preoccupied with trying to see my face to notice."

Iruka gave a huff of laughter in reply.

Most of the afternoon was spent cooing at and cuddling the baby while Kakashi putzed around the kitchen, making dinner at a pace that suggested they had all the time in the world. Iruka loved watching him this way, no shinobi gear in sight, more at home in Iruka's kitchen than Iruka himself was. He wanted to spend the rest of his days like this.

Naruto's son wiggled in his arms. Iruka couldn't quite remember his name, he'd have to ask Naruto when he returned in a few hours. He and Kakashi had offered to babysit, giving Naruto and his wife a well-deserved day to themselves. Iruka couldn't remember her name either, but that was alright. It wasn't as important as this feeling that surrounded them, contentment like nothing Iruka had ever felt before. Perfection all around him, happiness so deep it ran through his bones.

Iruka might not be able to have kids of his own, but he could spoil Naruto's rotten. They would make sure his kids grew up with all the love they'd lost too early or never had at all.

There was a knock on the door. He didn't want to get up to answer it. Everything he wanted, everything he needed was right here. There was no point in going outside again. But the knocking just got louder, making Naruto's son cry. Kakashi wasn't in the kitchen anymore. Iruka didn't know where he'd gone.

He stood and walked to the door, arms now empty. His apartment grew dimmer with each step.

When he opened the door, there was only blackness and it swallowed him whole.

~*~*~

Waking was disorientating. Reality mixed and swirled with the remnants of the genjutsu, making it difficult to separate one from the other. Iruka took a deep, shaky breath, trying to sort himself out. It was harder than it should have been.

Naruto didn't have a son, he knew that. And Kakashi... Iruka had never been that domestic with anyone, let alone someone he considered only a casual friend. He had never thought of Kakashi as potentially more than that, but the memories that kept replaying in his mind made him swallow hard. The warmth of Kakashi's body and the tender brush of his lips seemed to linger on Iruka's skin, too real for something that had just been a dream.

Everything had felt so right, and now he felt as empty as his kitchen had the moment before he'd opened the door. Like he was missing a part of himself. That shouldn't have been possible, not when he hadn't even thought he was missing something to begin with.

Iruka shook his head. It was a genjutsu-induced dream, nothing more. He didn't have time to dwell on it. There was work to be done. He was free. They all were. Naruto had won, he was sure of it. He didn't even need to fake the smile that thought caused.

He pushed the dream as far to the back of his mind as he could. But it hung there, hovering, no matter how hard he tried to push it away. Too nice, too warm, too comfortable to be easily forgotten.

Part of him didn't want to forget, though he'd never admit it.

~*~*~

Forgetting was harder still when the army returned and Iruka saw Kakashi almost daily. He tried to avoid him as much as possible, but that didn't help. If anything, they just ended up running into each other more. Sometimes it felt like Kakashi was seeking him out, but that was a fantasy that Iruka wouldn't let himself indulge in.

He didn't know how to act around Kakashi anymore. They'd been friendly before, but now everything felt different, though Iruka knew the only thing that had changed was himself. When they were in the same room, all he could think about was how much he wanted to experience those things for real, to lean against Kakashi, brush soft kisses against his lips, steal little tastes of food as he cooked, then curl up in bed together for the night.

It was hard to look Kakashi in the eye, not when his dream might be written all over his face.

Some of his friends joked about their dreams. They were supposed to be everyone's deepest desires, but apparently some desires were all-you-can-eat buffets and having your face carved on Hokage Rock. He could have joked about something like that too. But his dream felt too personal to share. Even if nothing of the sort had ever crossed his mind before, it was all he could think about now. The family he wanted, but would never have. It would have been so easy to stay in that world forever.

Daydreams followed him everywhere he went. He pushed his apartment door open and imagined Kakashi there to welcome him home, he got ready for bed and wanted there to be two toothbrushes in the cup instead of one, he wondered if they could both fit in his place or if they'd need to get a bigger one. He knew he was just making it worse, but that didn't stop him from picturing a few Icha Icha books on his bookshelves and the Hokage robes hanging in his closet.

From time to time he dreamed about it too, though normal dreams didn't compare. They didn't feel the same, too ephemeral to last long after he'd forced himself out of bed. Those dreams faded quickly, the Infinite Tsukuyomi dream did not. In waking hours and in his dreams, he was haunted by a version of his life that would never be reality.

He felt like he'd just gone through a messy break up, which was ridiculous, he knew that. But it was the closest thing he had to compare it to. A messy break up to a relationship that had existed only in a dream.

Kakashi hadn't been caught in the Infinite Tsukuyomi. Neither had Naruto. Not knowing must be nice, Iruka thought. Not seeing parts of your soul that were never meant to be seen. He wondered what Kakashi's dream would have been, but it didn't matter. It wouldn't have been him.

~*~*~

Kakashi asked him out for drinks and Iruka accepted warily. He knew Kakashi wasn't asking for the reasons he might have wanted.

"Naruto is worried about you," Kakashi said after the bartender brought their first round. "He says you haven't been the same since the war ended."

Iruka stared into his drink. Of course Naruto had noticed. Probably everyone in the village had.

"What was your dream?" Kakashi asked and Iruka flinched. Leave it to Kakashi to go straight for the kill. "They were hardest on the people who've lost the most."

Iruka nodded and downed the rest of his drink, signaling for another. If he had dreamed about people he'd lost, this might be easier. He really didn't want to talk about this, not with anyone, but especially not with Kakashi.

Kakashi seemed to get that. He didn't push any further.

They talked about unimportant things for the rest of the night. Gossip and trivial matters. Iruka managed to keep his tone light, a counterpoint to how heavy Kakashi's gaze felt on his skin.

He ended up getting drunker than he had in years, drunk enough that Kakashi had to loop an arm around him and help him home. The warmth of Kakashi against his side had Iruka almost humming with pleasure as they swayed to his apartment.

"Kind of like this," he said, well past the point of good judgment, letting his head rest on Kakashi shoulder for a moment. "Only not drunk. And Naruto's son was there. I think he was four months old. And you were cooking in my kitchen. Or maybe it was our kitchen."

Iruka wasn't drunk enough to miss the surprised start that Kakashi gave. He trailed off.

Kakashi steered him into his apartment and got him ready for bed with sterile, detached precision.

"It was nice," Iruka said as covers were pulled up to his chin.

"I'm sure it was," Kakashi replied. His voice was odd, but Iruka didn't know why. He couldn't see Kakashi's face in the darkness of his room. Kakashi turned away and let himself out of the apartment.

Iruka passed out before he could think about it more than that.

~*~*~

Iruka had never considered becoming a missing-nin before that morning, but he was giving it some serious thought as he lay in bed. He felt like an earth jutsu had been dropped on his head. Unfortunately, it hadn't crushed the memory of what he'd said to Kakashi.

He showered and brushed his teeth and felt a little bit more human again, but he still hadn't completely discounted the missing-nin idea when someone knocked on his door. The chakra of the person waiting was warm and felt more like home than it had any right to. Iruka considered pretending like he wasn't there, but couldn't bring himself to be that much of a coward. It was best just to get this over with.

Kakashi was slouched outside. He held up a bag with a container in it as Iruka opened the door.

"Shijimi miso soup," he said, wiggling the bag a little.

Iruka let him in.

He took the bag into his kitchen, putting the container in the refrigerator. His stomach was too twisted up to eat it now. Kakashi had brought him a hangover cure, it even looked homemade. It should have been a nice gesture, but all it did was remind him of how Kakashi had looked cooking in his dream.

Not being able to accept such simple kindness without wanting it to be something more made Iruka feel like an ass. The feeling just increased as he realized how easy it would be to sit down next to Kakashi at his kotatsu. Instead, he carefully sat across from him.

They sat in awkward silence until Kakashi spoke.

"I didn't know."

Iruka felt like laughing at how ridiculous this all was, the little chuckle that did escape was half hysterical. "I didn't either. I'd never thought anything like it before."

"And now you can't forget it?"

Iruka nodded, not quite looking Kakashi in the eye.

Silence stretched between them again. Iruka was too hungover for this, or maybe just too sober.

Kakashi finally spoke, breaking the silence for the second time. "We might have to wait a while for Naruto to have kids, but I'm not against trying the rest of it now."

Iruka reeled. He was definitely too hungover for this. "What?" he asked, not even caring how strangled he sounded.

"I had," Kakashi said, then after a moment clarified, "thought about it before."

It took Iruka longer to process that than he'd like to admit. In the end all he could say was an echo of Kakashi. "I didn't know."

"I didn't want you to," Kakashi said. "I never would have said anything before the war."

Iruka nodded. They'd never been close enough to share anything too personal, but he did know that Kakashi's closest relationships had rarely ended well in the past. "And that's changed?"

"I didn't get caught in the Infinite Tsukuyomi, but I know what my dream would have been." His gaze was intense, his voice as certain as steel. "You would have been there."

Hope fluttered inside Iruka. Maybe his dream wasn't so far out of reach after all. "So what do you want to do?" he asked.

"Dinner would be nice," Kakashi said. "We can see what happens from there."

Iruka nodded again, a smile forming on his lips. It wasn't his dream, but it was a step in that direction, and he was okay with waiting to find out what the future held after that.

~*~*~

Their first date was nice, their first kiss even nicer. And when Naruto did have his first child, Iruka's dream didn't even compare to how happy he felt as he held Boruto in his arms and Kakashi made stupid faces over his shoulder, getting gurgles of laughter for his efforts.

He wondered how he'd ever thought that dream had been perfection. It was just a pale shadow of reality, and he wouldn't have wanted to miss this for the world.

~*~*~