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There's only so long Iruka is willing to feel like someone's dirty secret, only so much that mind-blowing sex can make him accept. Even meant to be stretches thin under the weight of enough lies.

Because as much as this feels right, it isn't. Perfection wouldn't make him hide it from his friends and former students, especially not the former students who are closer to family than anything Iruka has had in a long time. It can't be home when he has to sneak his way into it, when he has to be so painstakingly careful about what he says, what he does, because, well, ninja village. It's nothing short of a miracle that they've made it this long without someone finding out.

His friends know that he's slept with Kakashi. They'd been there the night Kakashi had picked him up. The next day they'd asked if he'd seen his face. Iruka hadn't at that time, only felt his mouth on the back of his neck, the ghost of breath against his ear.

Thankfully, they don't ask him now. He tries not to lie, not directly at least. But if lies of omission were a valid area of specialization, he'd be a tokubetsu jounin five times over by noon most days.

They still give him shit about that night. Kotetsu pretends to get teary-eyed. Iruka's One Night Stand. He'd been so proud. They'd never thought Iruka was the type to have casual sex. It turns out they're more right than they know.

Iruka doesn't like to think about exactly how long it's been since that night, how a normal couple would have had anniversaries by now. Multiple of them.

He pretends he doesn't know which date it falls on, but every year he gets his hopes up no matter how many times he tells himself not to. Kakashi seems to know the date too, if the way he spends a little extra time driving Iruka insane with pleasure on that night every year is any clue. But maybe that's just wishful thinking. It could be a celebration or a distraction or Iruka's imagination, but it's never what he really wants.

He could make it through a dozen more unacknowledged anniversaries, but nothing is going to change. He knows that now and he's done with waiting for something more, has been done for weeks, possibly even months. He just hasn't found the right time, the right way to say it out loud.

Which would be fine, except Kakashi knows. He knows and won't let Iruka say it, won't give him the chance. Like desperate hands and heated kisses might make things better, might keep Iruka there, in this... thing they have. Relationship is far too generous a term.

It was never supposed to be anything but a meaningless fuck in the first place. He'd known what Kakashi was offering. Wanting more is entirely his own fault.

Iruka wishes it could be enough, wishes it harder than anything ever before in his life.

But it isn't.

It'd be easier if Kakashi were anyone else, if he weren't so damn perceptive, if Iruka could have ended it before Kakashi had figured it out. If somehow Kakashi didn't know how much Iruka loves him, even if it's never been said out loud. If he didn't know how it's not enough. How he's not enough. If that were the case, maybe Iruka could go with the cliche. It's not you, it's me.

But it is Kakashi. He's the problem. And they both know it.

It's driving Iruka insane. Every look Kakashi gives him, deep and searching. The hunted expressions he can't quite conceal. The way he tenses, battle ready, every time Iruka opens his mouth. He avoids fights now, avoids provoking Iruka on even the littlest of things. The tiniest disagreement could lead to a bigger fight where it'd be all too easy to say what he needs to say. We're through. This is finished.

Kakashi never used to back down from fights. If anything, he'd enjoyed getting a rise out of Iruka. Now he's almost timid, cowed. It doesn't suit him, it feels wrong to see him like this. Iruka hates it, hates the fact that he is the one causing it even more.

Dragging things out is only causing pain, not saving them from it. Each extra night they wring out of this thing just makes the cut deeper, but not deep enough. He needs to shove the kunai in and be done with it.

"Kakashi," he says, "we need to-" It's hard to finish his sentence with Kakashi's tongue in his mouth.

"Kakashi," he tries to say again. Kakashi pulls back just enough to speak, still too close for Iruka to see his face properly. He isn't sure he wants to.

"Just give me this," Kakashi says. His tone isn't pleading, but it's close.

Iruka does, but he takes it for himself too.

Kakashi's hands cling to him, the Sharingan spins in his eye. His grip is tight enough to bruise. Iruka wants him to leave marks all over his body, an echo on his skin of what he's feeling inside.

Afterwards, Iruka's stomach feels like he's swallowed a sack full of shuriken, but he needs to do this. He's never been the type to run away from his problems, and he's been running from this for too long.

Kakashi doesn't fight it, doesn't look him in the eye, seems resigned to it before Iruka has even said all the words he needs to say. But then, Kakashi probably saw this coming long before Iruka had admitted it to himself.

It's for the best, for both of them, Iruka tells himself. It hurts now, but that won't last. They can both move on. Kakashi might find someone he cares for enough, trusts enough to be in an open relationship with. Iruka might... he doesn't know. He might find someone who makes him feel the way Kakashi does, but is willing to hold his hand in public. Someone he doesn't have to hide from his friends, who he won't need to sneak around in the middle of the night to see.

He might find all that. He might be happy. It's just hard to believe that right now. Not when Kakashi's hands are balled so tight the knuckles are white and everything in Iruka's body is screaming at him to reach out and touch him, to lace their fingers together, to take it back and say it's okay, it doesn't matter, this is enough.

But it's not. So Iruka leaves. He sneaks back home one last time, repeating his new mantra with each step. It's for the best. It's for the best. It's for the best.

Even if it doesn't feel like it. Even if he's left part of himself in Kakashi's apartment. Even if it's the worst decision he's made in his life.

It's for the best.