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In Bond and Blood

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"I want to make Naruto my heir," Kakashi said bluntly.

To his credit, Iruka didn’t freeze in the middle of taking a sip of tea, but he did set his cup down after a careful swallow. "This is sudden," Iruka said cautiously.

Kakashi looked over at the curtain fluttering in a brisk, early autumn breeze. "Not really. I’m turning thirty tomorrow."

Iruka drank from his teacup again, and Kakashi knew he wouldn’t have to explain further, jounin life expectancy being what it was. You were either good enough or lucky enough to survive, or you weren’t. In either case, Kakashi believed in being prepared. "Happy birthday," Iruka said after a moment.

Kakashi inclined his head in thanks. "Imagine my surprise when I learned you beat me to it. Very sneaky, Iruka-sensei. Tell me, how did you convince Naruto to keep his mouth shut about the adoption?"

"I don’t see how that’s any of your business."

"I think it could be," Kakashi said calmly. "You see, Iruka-sensei, I’d like to make Naruto my heir, but it might be good if he had some oversight in the event of my absence. You know, until he’s a little older. And since you’ve inconvenienced me by closing off my other options, I think it’s only fair that you agree to my proposal."

Iruka’s nose wrinkled, which Kakashi found a little cute. "What proposal?" Iruka asked, sounding honestly bewildered.

Kakashi smiled. "Marry me."


Iruka came back from the kitchen with more tea, and sighed, put-upon. "You’re really not funny, you know."

Kakashi winced. "I’m not trying to be. I’m very serious, Iruka-sensei. I think you’ll find my plan has a lot of merit."

"Really," Iruka said flatly.

"If I bite it, you’ll inherit part, and the rest goes to Naruto. Win-win, really."

"Kakashi-san," Iruka said sharply. "Please don’t -- please don’t talk about yourself like that."

"Like what?"

"Disrespectfully. Like it wouldn’t matter."

"Would it matter to you?" Kakashi asked, curious.

Iruka looked upset then, well and truly distressed, and Kakashi hadn’t intended for that to happen. "Of course it would matter! You’re important to Naruto."

"So are you," Kakashi said evenly. "And between the two of us, we can make sure Naruto is well and truly prepared for whatever the future holds."

"I can’t believe that you--" Iruka stopped, and visibly got himself under control. "Why not marry someone and father a child?"

"That's a personal question, sensei," Kakashi said.

"You're asking me to marry you, which is arguably more personal. Answer my question, please," Iruka snapped.

Kakashi sighed then, but did Iruka the courtesy of being honest. "I may not have the luxury of waiting for a child to grow old enough to pass down certain things. And an infant can't defend themselves. Please understand that I can't take those chances."

"You can't?" Iruka repeated softly.

"I won't," Kakashi amended, and he saw a flutter of understanding in Iruka's eyes.

"And what about me? What if I wanted to get married to a woman and start a family?"

Kakashi smiled humorlessly. "You're twenty-six, and not in a high-risk occupation. If you were going to settle down and repopulate Konoha, I suspect you would have gotten started by now, and you wouldn't have adopted a teenage orphan beforehand."

"Even if that were true," Iruka said, which of course meant that it was, "I don't see why you think I would do this."

"You would do it for Naruto's sake, if nothing else," Kakashi said, absolutely certain on that point.

"Is there something else?"

Kakashi scrubbed the back of his head with one hand. "A little companionship. Eight dogs. The Hatake family compound, if you'd like."

"Would you have proposed this arrangement to anyone who had adopted Naruto?" Iruka asked.

Kakashi reached forward then and carefully covered Iruka's hand with his own. "No one else did, sensei. No one else would have. That's the point."

Iruka looked down at their hands. "And that's enough for you?"

"That's enough for me," Kakashi confirmed. He withdrew his hand then. "Think about it. I'll be waiting for you at the registry office tomorrow morning, first thing. Thanks for the tea."


Kakashi rapped on Gai's door an hour after dawn.

Gai answered in his pajamas, with some truly terrifying bedhead. "Kakashi? Is something wrong?"

"No, except we'll be late to my wedding if you don't hurry up and get dressed," Kakashi said, taking care to sound as bored as possible.

"Your--" Gai gaped at him for a moment, and then burst into manly tears. "Kakashi, that this wondrous day should come, even for one as cool as you! That the barren wasteland of your heart could be sown with seeds of Tender Affection, that your many emotional barriers could be pulverized by True Love--"

Kakashi glared at him.

Gai changed out of his pajamas and into his best jumpsuit in a flash. Kakashi wondered if it should bother him that he knew which one was Gai's best, but oh well. "Tell me, greatest friend and eternal rival, what is the blossom of your heart called?"

"Umino Iruka."

Gai stopped brushing his hair to a shine. "Kakashi," he said severely. "I suspect you are not, in fact, in the grip of love's tender agonies."

"Er," Kakashi said, and felt like fidgeting a little under the strength of Gai's stare, but of course he stayed exactly still. "Well, I wouldn't call it agony, myself. We have mutual...dreams," he said, which had the virtue of being at least partially true.

Gai's eye twitched suspiciously.

"I don't dislike him," Kakashi tried again.

Apparently, Gai's internal Kakashi-to-normal-to-Gai translator rendered that more or less as Kakashi had expected, which was an effusive declaration of everlasting and eternal love. "Kakashi, I am so moved by your manly, hip--"

Kakashi purposefully tuned the rest of the speech out, and focused on the part where he was at least mildly worried that Iruka wasn't going to show. The rules of shinobi inheritance were strict, and designed to encourage specialized knowledge to stay in the family. A person could only be on one family registry at a time -- Naruto could be Umino or Hatake but not both. And so while Kakashi would hardly be the first person to try and marry his way around the situation, they needed to at least maintain the fiction that this was genuine.

None of which would really matter if Iruka stood him up.

They arrived at the registry office just as it was opening, and Kakashi sauntered in, Gai close behind and still going on about the healing power of love.

A stranger walked in, and it was a testament to Kakashi's distraction that it took him several seconds to realize it was Iruka. Iruka all gussied up, even, in hakama and crested kimono and hair restrained in a high, sleek ponytail.

"Uh," Kakashi managed.

Gai took it upon himself to beam at Iruka. "You look radiant, Iruka-sensei!"

Iruka raised an eyebrow at Kakashi's usual uniform, as if to indicate that he wished he could say the same but was utterly disinclined to do so.

Gai leaned forward to say conspiratorially, "My worthy rival is wearing his best mask for your special day."

"Is that so?" Iruka said politely, but he looked distinctly unimpressed.

"Please don't help me," Kakashi muttered to Gai.

The registry official, a sweet-faced older woman whom Kakashi knew for a fact was a stone-cold retired ANBU operative who had probably stabbed more people in the face than Kakashi had had hot meals, cleared her throat slightly. "You're waiting for one more witness?" she asked.

"Ah, I apologize for the delay," Iruka said, giving her an apologetic, yet sunny smile. "She'll be here shortly." He paused, looking a little doubtful. "That is, I hope."

They waited another ten minutes before Tsunade rolled in, looking hungover and liable to break heads. "All right, Iruka, and you too, brat -- let's get this show on the road."

"The Hokage is your witness?" Kakashi hissed at Iruka.

"She insisted," Iruka said calmly.

He looked less calm when someone caroled out, "Hey hey hey, what's going on, old lady, why do I have to be here so early--"

"Tsunade-sama, I specifically asked you not to," Iruka said, looking like he was going to be sick.

"Ah, but the two most important people in his life are joining together in wedded, loving bliss," Tsunade drawled, looking hard at Kakashi. "It would be a shame for him to miss it, don't you think?"

Naruto skidded into the office entryway and stopped. His mouth hung open for a moment, working uselessly.

"Ah, Naruto," Iruka said, clearly trying to make the best of it, even though Kakashi could have told him it wasn't going to work, "I know this may seem sudden, but you see, Kakashi and I -- that is, for a long time now--"

And of course Kakashi should have predicted that Iruka would rather die before letting Naruto know that he'd married Kakashi for Naruto's sake and not out of love. He took Iruka's hand, and said, "Naruto, I want to be part of your family. You okay with that?"

Naruto's expression went from guppy-faced shock to uncertainty.

"It's what I want," Iruka said gently. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you before." He darted a brief glance at Kakashi, and it seemed to bespeak gratitude at not having to lie to Naruto.

That, more than anything, made Kakashi feel like a heel.

Naruto was rubbing his eyes, as though this were an illusion he could fight his way out of, and then he lived up to his title of Konoha's Most Surprising Ninja by squaring his jaw. "If it's what you want, Iruka-sensei," he said, voice betraying only a hint of a tremble.

Iruka looked at Naruto for a long moment, and there was a wrenching tenderness in his expression, a devotion that had led Kakashi to believe he would do this in the first place. "It doesn't change anything. You're my family -- you'll always be that, no matter what."

"Okay," Naruto said, his voice small. "Okay."

The registry official cleared her throat again, and said, "If everyone is present, we can get started?" she said.

They swore their vows of loyalty to each other, and renewed their oaths of fealty to Konoha and the Hokage. Gai and Tsunade vouched that both Kakashi and Iruka were loyal citizens who had come of their own free will, and that there was no threat to Konoha if their lineages were bound together. Then there was the thorough check for coercion jutsu, and everyone stamped their seal on the registry scroll.

The registry official muttered a quick jutsu to dry the ink on the scroll, and said, "Then on this day, your village recognizes you as separate clan heads no longer, but Hatake in bond and blood. Kiss and make it official, gentlemen."

Iruka looked a little dazed, but Kakashi just leveled an impatient stare at the rest of the room and twirled his finger in the air. Naruto and Gai turned their backs immediately, and Tsunade rolled her eyes before she did likewise. The registry official gave them a humoring smile before turning around as well.

Iruka was probably trying to communicate via his eyebrows that if no one was looking, there was really no need to kiss, or at least no need for anything beyond a dry peck. For his part, Kakashi figured, hell, it wasn't like he got married every day, and slid down what was indeed his best mask before grasping Iruka's nape in one hand and pressing their lips together. Iruka's mouth was warm and a little hesitant, but when Kakashi decided to go for broke and slip him some tongue, he got a lot less shy in a gratifyingly short period of time.

"Oh my god, are you done?" Naruto asked plaintively.

"Save some for later, Kakashi," Tsunade said.

Iruka shoved him back and Kakashi yanked his mask back up. "So!" Kakashi said brightly. "Wedding breakfast, anyone?"


The Hatake family compound had sat unused since the death of Kakashi's father. Someone had made arrangements to close everything up, and Kakashi only checked on it occasionally, to make sure there was no obvious structural damage or any unwanted rodent squatters.

"It'll need some work before we can move in," Kakashi said to Iruka and Naruto, who were waiting beside him at the front gate. "But there's a few things we should take care of first. Your hand, please," he said to Iruka.

"What for?" Iruka asked, curious, and the only narrowly avoided yanking his hand out of Kakashi's grip when Kakashi pricked his fingertip and touched it to the lintel.

"You're joining a long line of Hatake brides," Kakashi said. "I have to add you and Naruto to the wards."

Iruka's face went an amusing shade of red, but he watched silently as Kakashi went through the complex series of hand seals to make sure that the wards knew Iruka was family.

Naruto held out his hand next, and Kakashi said, "Pay attention, Naruto -- you need to know this sequence if you're going to change the wards."

Naruto nodded, looking determined as Kakashi flipped through the seals and fed his chakra into the wards. He felt them hum and settle, and they felt more vibrant than they had in years and years.

"Well," Kakashi said, turning back to Iruka, "I could carry you over the threshold, if you like."

"I could kick you in the face," Iruka said sweetly.

Naruto's expression was priceless. "Is this something I don't want to know about? Because the pervy old sage has this story that's about people who hurt other people and they like it. A lot."

Iruka looked like he was torn between emphatic negation and a teachable moment. The latter evidently won out, because he took a deep breath and said carefully, "It's true that sometimes adults agree to -- I mean, not everyone, but sometimes people--that is to say--"

Kakashi decided to take pity. "We're not, but it's a valid choice. Also, don't use anything Jiraiya writes as a reference manual."

"What he said," Iruka said, looking relieved. Then he blinked. "And what are you even doing, reading that garbage, I thought I told you--"

"I didn't know," Naruto whined, "I thought it was a story about ANBU! I mean, it was, but then it got all weird."

"It really isn't his best work," Kakashi agreed, and Iruka sputtered at the both of them as they crossed the threshold.


"It's going to be a little cramped for three people," Iruka said apologetically as he unlocked the door to his apartment.

"It's only until we get the old place into shape," Kakashi said. "We'll manage."

"Does this mean I'm going to get a huge gigantic room to myself when we move?" Naruto asked, following them inside.

"You can't keep your shoebox of a room clean right now -- what makes you think you're going to get a bigger one?" Iruka scolded, sounding suspiciously fond.

Naruto's room wasn't a proper bedroom, but a curtained-off alcove. Iruka was right -- it was a mess, but then again, Kakashi had seen Naruto's apartment when he'd lived alone. It was a little terrifying that the current state of his bedroom could be considered an improvement.

"Come on, Iruka-sensei," Naruto said, in a whine that sounded as affectionate as Iruka's scolding.

"We'll see," Iruka said, and the flick of his eyes in Kakashi's direction made it clear that we included Kakashi. It was unexpected, but a little -- nice.


"It's not exactly meant for two people. Obviously," Iruka said of his bed. His expression was a little shamefaced, as though Kakashi might fault him for not be prepared, furniture-wise, for getting married on a day's notice.

"We'll manage," Kakashi said. He smiled a bit, letting his visible eye crinkle so that Iruka could see it. "I don't know about you, sensei, but I've definitely slept in more uncomfortable places."

"I could -- I have a futon in the closet," Iruka said.

"And whatever will Naruto think when he inevitably bursts into our room first thing in the morning?" Kakashi drawled.

"He's not going to--"

Kakashi just looked at him.

"Okay, he might," Iruka admitted. "I guess if you don't mind sharing, I don't. Would you like the first turn in the bath?"

"I'm not your guest, sensei," Kakashi reminded him.

"I'm not your sensei," Iruka shot back.

Kakashi slid his mask down then, so that Iruka could actually see his smile. "Well, then. All the more reason not to stand on ceremony. Unless you'd like to go in together -- married couples do that, don't they?"

"How should I know," Iruka said, an unexpected note of vulnerability under irritation.

"Then we'll figure it out as we go along," Kakashi said softly.

Iruka was staring at his mouth, which was starting to make Kakashi a little self-conscious, even though he understood why Iruka was doing it. He stopped after a moment, clearly forcing himself to meet Kakashi's gaze again. "I wasn't offering the bath to you out of hospitality," Iruka said quietly.


Iruka fidgeted for a moment, his hand going up to the tie that held his hair up. "No, I just -- well, you are the head of this household, now. It's only proper."

Kakashi laughed, then. "Is it?"

Iruka just looked more irritated. "Don't make fun of me. I watched you ink our names in the Hatake registry, and add our chakra signatures to your family wards. I don't want you to think that I'm not taking this seriously, or that I'm not grateful for Naruto's sake."

"Be as serious as you want, Iruka, but don't be grateful. I'm the one who's being selfish, here," Kakashi said, a little stung by the idea that Iruka might think he owed Kakashi anything. "I'll take the first bath, if it matters to you."

"It matters," Iruka said, and there was nothing Kakashi could really respond with, except to do as Iruka wished.

Later, after Iruka came back from his own bath, hair still just a touch damp, they fit themselves together on Iruka's small bed, elbows and knees carefully negotiated. Iruka's anxiety was unfounded -- it wasn't uncomfortable at all.


"You know what would be super awesome?" Naruto asked. "If you had copied a mega-dusting jutsu. Did you, Kakashi-sensei?"

"Because when a shinobi is in a life or death situation, what they really need is the ability to render a house fit for habitation in a hurry," Kakashi said, still wiping away at what felt like the twentieth tatami mat that morning. A few clever jutsu could keep the air dry and cool and the tatami in decent shape, but there was still a fine layer of dust over everything.

"I'm just saying it would be handy, jeez. Oh oh hey! What about if we just blew wind straight through! You know, if we opened up all the windows and doors and everything."

Kakashi was mildly horrified that he'd been thinking roughly the same thing. "I don't think Iruka would like it," he hedged.

Naruto looked glum. "Yeah, he'd say it was cheating."

"Besides, a strong, sustained wind might do some damage," Kakashi said thoughtfully. "It's probably a bad idea."

They stared at the open main room, still only partially clean.

"Oh my god, can we please do it, I bet it would be totally awesome," Naruto begged in one breath.

Which was basically how Iruka came to find them both looking a little sheepish, two sliding doors out of place and warped in a worrisome way.

"What the hell are you doing?" Iruka bellowed, making both Kakashi and Naruto wince, even though with the amount that Iruka yelled, Naruto should be used to it by now. "What part of 'clean this room while I'm gone' didn't you understand?"

"But the room is clean!" Naruto protested. "You just said to clean it, you didn't say how."

"Naruto, zip it," Kakashi said under his breath. He aimed a sunny smile at Iruka. "Hi, dear. You're back early."

Iruka was visibly taken aback. "Dear?" he repeated.

"I'm allowed to call you that, aren't I? Since we're married and all lovey-dovey."

If Iruka's face wasn't already red from anger, Kakashi was willing to bet that he'd have a bit of a blush going. "Lovey-dovey?" he said, sounding slightly strangled.

"Ah, how was your shopping? Did you find a nice wide futon for us?"

Naruto mimed vomiting, which Kakashi chose to ignore.

"Oh! Oh, yes, I did -- it was a little more expensive than I thought, I hope you don't mind," Iruka said, looking flustered.

"Oh, not to worry. Here, why don't I help you move it into the bedroom?" he said, hovering one solicitous hand over the small of Iruka's back and steering him out of the room.

On his way out, he looked over his shoulder at Naruto, and tilted his head meaningfully at the displaced doors. If Naruto had any sense, he'd replace them before Iruka got back, and then maybe Iruka would forget all about questionable cleaning methods.

Really, Kakashi thought, he was going to be pretty good at this being married thing.


"Nnugh," Iruka said coherently when the alarm went off.

Kakashi had been awake for some time, watching the light filter into the room.

Iruka rolled over to face Kakashi then. "Awake already?" he said, still sounding half-asleep.

Kakashi hummed in agreement.

"Don't tell me you were watching me sleep," Iruka said. "That's creepy, just so you know."

"Really? And here I was given to understand that it was romantic, being entranced by the face of one's most precious person."

He let Iruka hit him weakly with a pillow. "I have to go teach," Iruka said, and rolled himself out of bed. He padded across the tatami to a chest of drawers that he had insisted on being cleaned the old fashioned way -- apparently some of that woodwork was delicate.

And then Iruka let the rumpled yukata slide from his shoulders.


Kakashi had averted his gaze again when Iruka turned around, dressed in his standard uniform but his hair still loose around his shoulders. "Shall I bring you a bento of love for lunch, dear?" Kakashi asked.

Iruka snorted. "Sure, why not. But if I go hungry at lunch because you don't come on time, I'll take it out on you when I get home."

"Promises, promises," Kakashi said lightly, and got up to change into his uniform as well.

In the kitchen, Naruto had a surprising start on breakfast, although he was still wearing pajamas and a sleeping cap.

"I've got it," Iruka said, taking over the pot with warming miso soup. "Go get dressed, or you'll be late."

Naruto shuffled out again, and Iruka yawned before checking the rice, and getting started on what Kakashi sincerely hoped was going to be a rolled omelet.

"Can I do anything?" Kakashi asked, feeling something of an intruder in Naruto and Iruka's morning routine.

"Tea and toast?" Iruka suggested, nodding toward the kettle.

And then, like clockwork, Naruto was back and breakfast was ready, and they all said, "Thank you for this meal" -- and Kakashi sighed once in mild consternation before pulling down his mask to eat.

Naruto stared at him for a long moment, his face all scrunched up. "I bet Sasuke that you had buckteeth," he said mournfully.

Iruka, without comment, reached out and smacked Naruto across the back of the head.

After breakfast, Iruka put up his hair, tied on his hitae-ate, and Kakashi saw the both of them to the door.

"Well," Iruka said, suddenly looking awkward, "We'll be going, now."

"Yeah, we're out of here," Naruto said, shoving his sandals on.

Iruka appeared to be waiting for something, and it took Kakashi an uncomfortable few seconds to figure out what it was.

"Ah," he said finally. "I'll see you later."

Iruka looked appeased, and then he squared his jaw before leaning up just a bit to peck Kakashi on his mask-covered cheek.

"Ew," Naruto said definitively, but Iruka just rolled his eyes and nudged him out the door.

Kakashi rubbed his cheek once and watched them go. And then he turned back around and went to the kitchen, because clearly a bento of sufficiently embarrassing love wasn't going to make itself.


Kakashi stopped at the memorial to pay his respects, and then he meandered to the yard outside the Academy, where hordes of ravening, shrieking pre-genin were just starting to spill out the door.

Iruka followed closely behind, and his look of pleased surprise at seeing Kakashi was both faintly insulting and a little gratifying.

"Oh, dear!" Kakashi carolled across the yard, holding up a large bento tied up in a furoshiki.

The silence that rolled over the assembled schoolchildren and attendant teachers was deafening.

Iruka's face was terribly, delightfully red as he picked his way through the clusters of children to reach Kakashi. "I did mostly think you were joking," he muttered.

"I would never joke about our love, Iruka-sensei," Kakashi said. "Here, let me show you."

Even by Kakashi's standards, the bento was pretty egregious. Heart-shaped eggs, onigiri a lurid shade of pink, and--

"Oh my god, did you make cat versions of us out of rice?"

"I'm really proud of the scar on cat-Iruka," Kakashi said, beaming. "It's a great likeness."

Iruka scratched said scar on his nose. "The entire village is going to know about us by this evening."

"Oh, surely not. Two hours, at most," Kakashi said breezily. "Everyone will know we're one big, happy Hatake family -- won't that nice?"

Iruka gave him a hard look that suggested he knew very well what Kakashi was doing -- spelling out for Konoha that Iruka and Naruto were under his protection. It was a little heavy-handed, Kakashi would admit, but he felt it was warranted, under the circumstances.

"All right, I'm starving -- let's taste your love, then," Iruka said, picking up a pair of chopsticks.

"Oh my, sensei," Kakashi said, just to see Iruka go as pink as the onigiri.


Sleeping with Iruka was strange. It was hard to turn off his finely honed instincts -- Kakashi woke up when Iruka shifted, when he sighed in his sleep. Iruka hadn't been on active field duty in some time, and so he was used to sleeping without holding himself in readiness to wake at a half-second's notice.

Sometime during the third night they shared a futon, Iruka woke up a little and rolled over, and frowned when he saw Kakashi was awake. "Kakashi," he murmured. "Here is okay -- it's safe." And that was apparently all he had to say about it, before sliding close and falling back asleep.

Kakashi took the liberty of curling one arm around Iruka's waist -- the nights were getting chilly, after all -- and closed his eyes.

An hour before dawn, the wards buzzed with a visitor. Iruka stirred in Kakashi's arms and made a noise of sleepy complaint. "Go back to sleep," Kakashi said quietly, and slipped from their bed and made his way to the front gate, where a messenger was waiting with a scroll.

Kakashi performed the seals to unlock it, read the mission parameters, and then incinerated it. "Five minutes," he told the messenger, who nodded silently.

Back in the house, Kakashi silently changed into his uniform and grabbed his pack, which always sat ready in the closet for missions where time was of the essence. He was about to leave when he paused in the bedroom doorway and looked at Iruka's sleeping form.

He backtracked to the futon and knelt. "Hey," he said quietly.

Iruka blinked awake again. "Oh," he said. "Will you be gone long?"

Under any other circumstances, Kakashi would not be permitted to share any details of an S-rank -- but then, they were married, and so he was allowed to at least trace a number into Iruka's palm.

"I'll be going," Kakashi said, because niceties mattered to Iruka, and he hadn't had anyone to say these things to in longer than he cared to remember.

Iruka's fingers tightened around his. "Come back safe."

Kakashi said nothing to that, because he could not promise, but he did glance back at Iruka once more before sliding the bedroom door shut.


It took the better part of two days for Kakashi and Gai to travel to the last known location of a Sound shinobi with vital intelligence on her person. Gai was stern and focused while they ran, but even jounin needed to stop and rest periodically, which meant there was no saving Kakashi from some amount of chit-chat.

"How is the blossom of your heart?" Gai asked after they stoically ate ration bars.

"Iruka would punch you if he heard you call him that," Kakashi said. "It might even hurt."

"He is vigorous, then," Gai said approvingly, and then raised one bushy eyebrow in a way that he probably thought was sly. "In all respects, I trust."

Kakashi stared at him. "Are you seriously asking about my conjugal sex life?"

Gai waved his hands emphatically. "If Iruka-sensei is of a retiring nature in bed, my friend, you must not take this as commentary on your prowess. I have heard that some couples require time and familiarity before their full potential for soul-nurturing passion is reached."

Kakashi's brain derailed for a minute at the thought of Iruka-as-shy-sex-kitten in a conveniently hitched up yukata, his hair down and his face flushed. He didn't really know what Iruka looked like when he was turned on, but he figured he could extrapolate from the aftermath of Iruka yelling about something, which he certainly knew a thing or two about.

Gai was watching his face carefully, a satisfied twinkle in his eye. "Oh, my eternal rival, the flowering of your love is so moving! We'll return to Konoha soon enough."

"Right," Kakashi said faintly.


'Soon enough' was still longer than the original estimate Kakashi had traced on the palm of Iruka's hand, largely because the shinobi they were hunting wasn't an idiot, and had stashed the intelligence on two separate locked scrolls and buried one of them in the monotonous plains of lower Grass Country. It took his ninken the better part of four hours to weed out the false chakra trails and hone in on the real one, and then he was honestly glad for Gai's presence because they had to carefully dig the scroll out of its mined hiding place -- by hand.

"I thought I left manual labor behind when I stopped doing D class missions," Kakashi said, leaning down into the hole to deactivate and remove a tag rigged to explode.

"You never did D class missions," Gai said, still digging diligently and cautiously.

"I did, too," Kakashi huffed. "When I was...well, when I was six."

Gai's eyebrow twitched, but he kept digging.

"I suppose it's not fair to count the ones I made the kids do," Kakashi said philosophically, because it wasn't as if he had really lifted a finger to help them wrangle teacup poodles or weed gardens -- it would have been bad for their training.

Kakashi plucked out the scroll approximately five minutes before they had not-entirely-unexpected company, but the two Sound shinobi were young and foolhardy -- they both clearly recognized Gai and Kakashi from their bingo books, but took them on anyway. The fight was short and distastefully clean, both shinobi dispatched within a few seconds of each other.

There was a reason Kakashi had lived to see his thirtieth birthday, after all, and not all of it was luck.


"Ah," Tsunade said with satisfaction, upon unlocking both of the scrolls. "Good work, the both of you. I'll expect your reports in the afternoon."

Kakashi flicked a surprised glance at Gai. "We can do it now, Hokage-sama."

Tsunade was already absorbed in reading the intelligence on the scrolls. "The afternoon is soon enough. Don't you have someone to get home to, brat?"

Kakashi did not blink. "Thank you for the consideration," he said formally, and bowed.

"Feh, as if I'm doing it for you. Tell Iruka-sensei I regret cutting his honeymoon short," Tsunade said, waving them with one hand.

"Iruka understands duty," Kakashi felt compelled to point out.

Tsunade raised her head then, and gave Kakashi the kind of filthy grin that reminded him how long she had spent in Jiraiya's company. "I'll just bet he does."

"Please excuse us," Gai said hastily, and dragged Kakashi out of her office. "Go home, Kakashi. And, er. Take a shower before you--" he trailed off, looking uncomfortable.

"The swamp was your idea," Kakashi said tartly.

"All the same, I am sure that even with the depth and purity of his love, Iruka-sensei would not appreciate your current state."

Kakashi considered arguing for the sake of arguing, but the stench was on the overpowering side. "Night, Gai," he said, and headed home.

It felt odd to be crossing the rooftops back to the house, and not to his bachelor apartment in the jounin barracks. It was two hours after midnight, so Iruka and Naruto were likely to be asleep -- although, maybe not. Apparently, Iruka shared Kakashi's weakness for staying up late to finish a new book.

Kakashi rather liked that about him.

But their room was dark when he arrived home, and so he went to the bathhouse, checking in on Naruto on his way there. Naruto was sacked out on his futon, limbs in all directions, and Kakashi raised an eyebrow at Bisuke, who was curled up at Naruto's side.

Bisuke just blinked his droopy eyes once, as if it were totally unremarkable to have been summoned by Kakashi's heir for the purpose of cuddling.

Kakashi shook his head and slid the door shut again.

He scrubbed down quickly and thoroughly outside the bath and had a perfunctory soak before wrapping himself in a clean yukata, and went back to their room. He knew Iruka was no longer asleep when he closed the door, but then, it was better to make an expected amount of noise than to snap a shinobi to wakefulness by being too stealthy. And so Iruka was awake when Kakashi climbed under the covers, but not that awake, just sleepy and warm.

"Welcome back," Iruka whispered.

Kakashi allowed himself the indulgence of drawing close enough to feel the heat of Iruka's body against his. "I'm home," he said.


He was puttering around the courtyard when he felt the wards nudge him. At the gate was a messenger, but not a runner from the Hokage -- rather, an ordinary postal carrier who probably hadn't delivered anything to the Hatake family compound before.

"Yes?" Kakashi said politely.

The messenger eyed Bull, who had followed Kakashi to the gate, with no little anxiety. "I -- I have a package. For Hatake Naruto?"

Kakashi raised an eyebrow. "Who is the sender?"

"Ah, right. Sorry. It's from -- let's see -- Sakai Tsukasa," the messenger stammered out.

"Ah, our old friend Tsukasa," Kakashi said, relaxing just a bit at the name. It was something important, but not vitally urgent, if Jiraiya had sent it under that name. "I'll take it."

The messenger handed the package over, still keeping a nervous eye on Bull, who hadn't done anything more threatening than yawn. "Good afternoon," he said, and scampered away.

"Some people," Kakashi said commiseratingly to Bull, giving him a good scratch behind the ears.

Healthy paranoia made him check the package for traps, but otherwise, he let it be on the kotatsu in the main room for Naruto to find when he came home from his mission.

When Iruka came home, Kakashi amused himself by meeting Iruka at the door and solicitously taking his bag. "News travels fast -- Jiraiya sent something here for Naruto," he said casually.

"Oh?" Iruka said, toeing off his sandals and lining them up in the entryway. "What is it?"

"Now, now, dear, do you really think I'd look at our son's mail?" Kakashi said, all injured innocence.

Iruka looked delightfully unimpressed, and if he was at all startled by Kakashi referring to Naruto as their son, it didn't show. "Not that urgent, I take it."

"Mmm, no," Kakashi said, depositing the bag by the kotatsu and taking Iruka gently by the shoulders before moving his fingers to the fastenings of Iruka's flak jacket. "May I?" he asked courteously.

"Oh, you don't have to--" Iruka said, but trailed off as Kakashi slowly began to unzip it.

It was almost unbearably intimate, stripping Iruka of his defenses -- but he wanted Iruka distracted enough to be honest. "Tell me, Hatake Iruka-sensei," he said, trying to keep his voice even but aware it was pitched lower than normal, "has anyone paid you any undue attention recently?"

Iruka's breath hitched -- whether in surprise at the question or at the nearness of Kakashi's mouth to his ear was unclear. "You're worried," he said, sounding uncertain.

Kakashi eased the vest off his shoulders but didn't let it drop, his grip on the fabric effectively holding Iruka in place. "You would be, too, in my position. If someone's been harassing you or sniffing around, Iruka, I need to know."

"Nothing untoward," Iruka said, but Kakashi didn't loosen his grip. "Some congratulations, some friendly ribbing -- but nothing threatening."

"You're sure?" Kakashi said, and he heard the sharpness in his tone.

"I'm sure," Iruka said firmly. "I can take care of myself."

Kakashi let the flak jacket slide down Iruka's arms, then. "I have a lot of enemies, and not all of them are outside Konoha. I've put both you and Naruto in danger," he said.

"No option was going to be totally safe. You're going to have to take at least this much risk, Kakashi."

Kakashi let the jacket dangle from his fingertips, even though he was experiencing a strong desire to put it back on Iruka and keep him safe. "I know," he said, and the hell of it was, he did know. That didn't mean he had to like it.

Iruka reached out one hesitant hand, then, to grip Kakashi's shoulder. They were already standing close, though, so it wasn't like Naruto's conclusion after bursting into the room wasn't understandable.

"Ugh, no, not on the kotatsu, I like to sleep there!" he wailed.

"Manners, Naruto," Iruka snapped.

"I'm home, okay, but that's still gross." No one did aggressive, confused petulance quite like Naruto.

Kakashi decided that distraction was the better part of valor, judging from the color Iruka's face was turning. "You got something from Jiraiya, kid."

The surprised, honest pleasure on Naruto's face took about ten years off. "What is it?"

"Honestly," Kakashi huffed, "why does everyone think I checked?"

Both Iruka and Naruto gave him looks of utter disbelief.

"Go on, don't keep us in suspense," Kakashi said, waving toward the box.

Naruto picked it up warily, and then paused as he read the address label. Kakashi could see his lips silently shape Hatake Naruto, and he darted a glance then at Kakashi, as vulnerable as he'd been at the wedding, and light-years from his usual self-assured brashness.

"I'm warning you, if it's a draft of Jiraiya's next book, I'll fight you for it and win," Kakashi said, just to break the ice.

"As if," Naruto said, and ripped open the box. There was a letter and several scrolls packed neatly inside. Presumably well-trained by Iruka at his point, Naruto actually read the letter first. "The pervy sage says the scrolls are things you should teach me."

Kakashi had thought as much. "Anything else?"

Naruto wordlessly held out the letter for him to read, and Kakashi was a little surprised when Iruka stepped in close to read it at the same time. It read:


First things first -- there's some helpful techniques on these scrolls. Ask Kakashi to teach them to you. Warning: do not try at home or around water sources!!!! Also maybe don't eat beforehand, you might puke until you get used to it, fyi.

Second -- I CALLED IT. Never underestimate the master, I know when hostility is just a thin cover for attraction!! But seriously, I know you might think no one is good enough for your precious Iruka-sensei, but Kakashi's pretty okay. Also, he listens to my wisdom, which more than I can say for SOME PEOPLE.

Work hard! You'd better know all those techniques when I come back to town!!!!

-you know who

"He called it?" Iruka said faintly.

Kakashi lifted up one hand to cup Iruka's cheek. "I should have known I couldn't conceal my pining from him."

Iruka was very obviously biting his lip. "You picked fights with me. You turned in deliberately illegible reports."

"So much pining."

Naruto was staring at them in horrified fascination. "Ugh, he did call it. He's never going to shut up about this. Oh man, and that means he's really never going to shut up about Sasuke."

Kakashi traded a glance with Iruka, and by mutual unspoken agreement, they decided to let that particular sleeping bear lie.

Luckily, Naruto was easily distracted. "What should we have for dinner?" Kakashi wondered out loud.

"Oh my god, everything, I've been hungry for like two hours now."

"Two whole hours? That's terrible," Iruka said dryly.

"I bet we can do something about that," Kakashi said, and bussed Iruka on the cheek through his mask for the pleasure of seeing him twitch violently, before ambling to the kitchen, Naruto underfoot the whole way.


Naruto came home from his next mission a little later than Kakashi expected -- he'd missed dinner, actually, although maybe that was just as well because Kakashi had overcooked the salmon, even though Iruka swore up and down that it was fine. They were sitting at the kotatsu, Kakashi reading and Iruka grading papers, when Naruto trudged in.

"Okay," Naruto said slowly. "So, someone tried to kill me today."

"Moving up in the world," Kakashi said approvingly, not removing his eyes from his book but still paying attention.

"They tried to poison me at Ichiraku."

Iruka's pen fell on the kotatsu. "They did what?" he said hoarsely.

"Don't worry, Teuchi-san realized it before I ate too much," Naruto said, and though he was clearly trying to put on a good face about it for Iruka's sake, he wasn't terribly convincing. In fact, he looked well and truly shaken.

"Did you -- did you go to the hospital?" Iruka asked.

Naruto shook his head. "It just made my tongue feel weird. And purple." He stuck it out for evidence, but it looked normal, which Kakashi put down to the Kyuubi's rejuvenating chakra.

Kakashi closed his book then. "Naruto, when I said you needed to be more careful, I didn't mean only outside Konoha," he said quietly.

"I didn't think anyone was going to kill me with ramen," Naruto said, miserable.

Kakashi sighed. "Okay. For the next little bit, we're going to work on developing some healthy paranoia. These are good habits to get into, Naruto -- if you always check your food, you won't forget on a mission."

Naruto nodded obediently, and then Iruka fed him leftovers and fussed gently and the three of them sat at the kotatsu. Naruto turned on some show on the television, and Iruka marked homework (he got emotional in the margins, which Kakashi found hilarious), and Kakashi pretended to read but he was actually watching the show right along with Naruto, which was soapy in the way that Kakashi really liked.

When it was over, Naruto shuffled off to the bath and then to bed. Kakashi found Iruka standing outside Naruto's door not long after.

"I wonder, are you going to sit in the hall and guard him all night?" Kakashi asked, voice pitched low.

Iruka was leaning against the doorway, one hand gripping the sliding door while he watched Naruto sleep. "Would it help?" Iruka whispered.

Kakashi thought about answering that, but instead he summoned Shiba, who took up position in front of Naruto's futon. "Come on," he said in Iruka's ear, and slid the door shut.

If it hadn't been the dead of winter, he might have coaxed Iruka out on to the courtyard-facing porch off their bedroom, but as it was, he settled Iruka back at the kotatsu and went to rummage around the kitchen, coming back with a warmed decanter of sake and a pair of shallow drinking dishes.

"I don't think alcohol is going to improve the situation," Iruka said, but he didn't sound honestly opposed.

"Probably not," Kakashi admitted, but poured for them anyway after making himself comfortable right next to Iruka.

They drank in mostly companionable silence, and there was a different show on the television, but Kakashi wasn't watching it. Iruka slumped against him, a warm solid weight at his side, and Kakashi wondered if this was what Minato-sensei had once been talking about, when he said that the important moments were the ordinary ones.

"Time for bed, don't you think?" Kakashi murmured. Iruka's head was resting against Kakashi's shoulder, and his cheeks were flushed.

Iruka looked loathe to move, but he sighed eventually. "Yes, all right."

Kakashi didn't bother with the light in their bedroom -- there was sufficient illumination from the moon to strip out of their uniforms and into yukata. It was cold enough that Kakashi had no compunctions about hurrying to their futon after he had finished tying his belt. Iruka slid in next to him, a little less graceful than usual -- well, they did have a bit to drink -- and Kakashi pulled him close, eager for his warmth amid the chill of the bedclothes.

"Kakashi," Iruka said, facing away, his back against Kakashi's chest.


"You know, if you wanted to--" Iruka trailed off.

Kakashi concentrated on burying his nose in Iruka's hair. He was strongly reconsidering his decision to forgo the mask. "What?"

Iruka shifted, so that his backside was in very firm contact with Kakashi's hips, and Kakashi took in a sharp breath at that.

"I would fulfill my duty to you in this, as well," Iruka said huskily, stroking his fingers against Kakashi's where they rested on his hip.

Kakashi froze. It was one thing to idly think of Iruka in a less-than-platonic light, to admire the slope of his neck -- and another thing entirely if Iruka had it in his head that this was something he owed Kakashi.

It turned his stomach in a way that nothing had done in years.

Kakashi pulled away, quickly and completely. "That's unnecessary," he said, his voice chilly as the room around them.

There was a small sound from Iruka, then, one that Kakashi couldn't classify. "Kakashi--"

"Go to sleep," Kakashi said curtly, and rolled over to face the wall.


He rose early and left Iruka in bed. Looking back at him, peacefully asleep in their futon, Kakashi experienced a brief but intense urge to take off his uniform and crawl back in beside him, because Iruka was warm and comfortable and too damn devoted for his own good, and Kakashi was probably getting exactly what he deserved, karma-wise, for proposing this arrangement in the first place.

He was at the memorial when an ANBU tracked him down, and Kakashi went with him to the Hokage's office.

Tsunade looked rough, but then again, it was pretty early. "I have a mission for you, brat," she said as he came in. Then she stopped, and peered at him. "What, is the honeymoon over already? You always did things faster than anyone else."

He was spared any further personal comments because Mitarashi Anko arrived at that point, and Tsunade gave them the details of their mission. Konoha had received intelligence with the rough location of a cell of Sound shinobi, along with the unconfirmed presence of one of Orochimaru's research facilities. Kakashi and Anko were to leave immediately to subdue the inhabitants and infiltrate the facility.

Shizune was waiting at the door of the armory after Kakashi and Anko finished packing. "Any messages?" she said.

"Nah, I'm good," Anko said.

Kakashi hesitated for a moment, and then took the proffered slip of paper and brush from Shizune and wrote: Dear, be safe.

Shizune took the message from him, and Kakashi turned to Anko and said, "Let's head out."


The ninken found the precise location of the cell relatively quickly, but they had to wait for nightfall. Anko's snake summons needed time to infiltrate all corners of the facility, and the cover of darkness would help conceal the snakes until the time was right for a simultaneous takedown.

Which meant he had four hours to kill while Anko did her creepy snake mind-control thing. Unfortunately, this did not prevent Anko from talking -- apparently, controlling snakes just didn't take that much concentration.

"What are you all moping about? You have your first married fight with Iruka or something?" she drawled.

Kakashi considered how to best sum up his situation, along with the fact that Anko was one of the people that Iruka inexplicably considered a good friend, and then finally muttered, "I wonder if Iruka wouldn't be better off with someone else."

Anko rolled her eyes. "Look, it's not like Iruka married you for the size of your dick."

Kakashi took a moment to wonder if he should be offended. How foolish of him to forget how direct Anko could be.

"I mean, Iruka's not a size queen and you're pretty average, so obviously he had other reasons for hooking up with you, right?"

Kakashi thought about protesting what "average" meant, but then that got into how many guys Anko had gotten a look at so that she felt comfortable making that assessment, and he really just didn't want to go there.

"Okay, let me tell you what's going on here."

"Please do," Kakashi said politely.

"What's going on is, you're fucked in the head. You following me so far?" Anko said, lethally sweet. "Instead of just looking all pathetic, you could try actually, I don't know, talking to him."

Kakashi stared at her, something uncomfortable twisting in his gut. "I'm not sure what he'll say."

"Oh, for fuck's sake, Kakashi," Anko growled. "Seriously, it's like you're brain-damaged."

Kakashi recovered from his shock enough to say, "I'm pretty sure I still outrank you, you know."

"I'm pretty sure you're using me for free marital counseling, so I'll say what I want, how I want, and you'll be grateful for it."

Kakashi sighed, looking up at the dark sky. "This is why you and Iruka are friends, isn't it."

Anko smiled beatifically. "Was there ever any doubt?"


As it turned out, the facility itself was long-abandoned, and the Sound shinobi were effectively squatting. Anko's snakes neatly rendered them all unconscious while she and Kakashi ransacked the place for any and all vital information, along with identifying the enemy nin and marking them with Kakashi's stealthiest tracking jutsu.

It turned out that the instructions they'd received -- do not approach without first subduing from afar -- were good advice, because the biggest of the Sound nin stirred briefly, and Kakashi caught sight of some of those small, poisonous serpents that could launch themselves six feet, struggling weakly at the corner of the guy's mouth.

Anko's snake bit him again for good measure, and Kakashi refrained from remarking on how disgusting Orochimaru's snake fetish was.

They were on their way out when reinforcements arrived, naturally. Kakashi thought to himself that shitty intelligence was starting to be an uncomfortable theme in his missions, before he and Anko plunged into a hard and dirty fight -- eight against two weren't odds that Kakashi particularly cared for.

But Iruka himself had said that he'd be pretty pissed if Kakashi bought it, and he had his duty to Konoha.

In retrospect, the reinforcements didn't stand a chance.


As mission leader, Kakashi was responsible for debriefing Tsunade. She listened without interrupting, and Shizune took the intelligence they'd gathered and disappeared with it.

Tsunade tapped one fingernail on her desk. "...Kakashi. Did you teach that snot-nosed kid of yours the Bamboo Cutter jutsu?"

The Bamboo Cutter was an old Hatake special -- it wasn't quite as efficient in terms of chakra usage as Kakashi preferred, but Naruto had chakra to burn. "I had to adapt it a little for his wind affinity," he admitted.

Tsunade looked unimpressed. "There's a crater where a hidden Mist garrison used to be. And shortly thereafter, Naruto killed Arano Jun."

Kakashi's eye widened at that news. "So he defected to Mist, after all," he said flatly. Arano had become a missing-nin, but it wasn't clear to whom he had sold his loyalty.

"No, I don't think so," Tsunade said, surprising him. "Naruto seems to think Arano had a grudge against you and that he was working on his own." She shuffled a few papers on her desk. "You can ask him about it. Also, brat, I don't know if you've noticed this, but you're bleeding."

Kakashi looked down at his arm, where he was indeed bleeding through the field dressing. "It's not very serious," he said.

She snorted. "Just trying telling that to Iruka."

He winced, then, because he was absolutely certain that any conversation with Iruka was going to be more painful than the slice in his arm. But he bowed and took his leave, because there was no real sense in putting it off any longer. He'd made this particular platonically-married bed, and now he was damn well going to have to lie in it.

Kakashi wondered if Iruka would yell, if he would be furious that Kakashi had spurned his dutiful, generous offer. Iruka could yell if he wanted to, Kakashi realized -- so long as they could keep what they had, he could live with it. This feeling of family was more than he'd had, and he wouldn't give it up for some wretchedly untidy impulses.

Iruka met him at the main door. "Welcome back," he said, maybe a little more remote than to which Kakashi had grown accustomed, but not terribly so.

Kakashi nearly sagged in relief. "I'm home."

"And you're bleeding. And filthy," Iruka said, scrunching up his nose. "Come on, we're going straight to the bathhouse."

"We are?" Kakashi wondered aloud, but followed Iruka obediently.

There was a clean yukata waiting, and towels, and steam gently wafting under the tub cover, as if Iruka had been waiting for him to come home.

"Strip," Iruka said briskly, no-nonsense.

Kakashi apparently hesitated too long, because Iruka's hands were busy removing his vest, moving quickly but with exaggerated care, presumably to avoid setting off any post-mission freakout. And then Iruka was kneeling at his feet and unwrapping his ankles, before sliding his hands up to remove the wrappings from Kakashi's thigh. If someone had asked him to predict how he would feel at this moment, he wouldn't have banked on a small, intense wave of tenderness.

"Can you get your shirt off, or should I cut it off?" Iruka asked after he rose to his feet again, his voice low and calm enough not to startle Kakashi.

Kakashi paused to consider that. "It can come off. But you'll probably end up trashing it, in any case."

"Okay," Iruka said, catching the hem and helping him carefully lift it off, as well as his mask and hitae-ate. "Any other injuries besides your arm?"

Kakashi shook his head.

"Are you lying to me?" Iruka said, in a teasing tone he sometimes used with Naruto.

"I'd never lie to you," Kakashi said, but it came out more serious than he had imagined and he couldn't, wouldn't take it back.

Iruka looked at him for a moment. "I know," he said softly, something like a mild rebuke for Kakashi even imagining that Iruka would think otherwise of him. He pulled off the field dressing, then, and looked at the wound critically. "Let's clean this first. Why didn't you just go to the hospital?"

"I didn't want to," Kakashi said, which was true. And then he managed to unearth the will to add, "I wanted to come home."

"To me," Iruka said, and it was almost a question.

"To you," Kakashi affirmed. Iruka cleaned the wound and the water dripped pink and dirty grey around their feet.

Iruka held Kakashi's wrist firmly, and brushed his fingers near the wound. "Healing jutsu or stitches?"

Kakashi shrugged. "Jutsu if you can, stitches if it won't hold."

Iruka did his best with the jutsu, but he wasn't a medi-nin, and shook his head ruefully before taking up a sterilized needle and thread.

Iruka had numbed the wound, and so Kakashi had nothing to do but watch the strangely mesmerizing pull of thread. They were close, Kakashi sitting on bathing stool outside the tub while Iruka knelt and stitched him up.

It seemed safe, then, to offer an apology.

"About the other night," Kakashi said, and then cleared his throat.

Iruka didn't falter in his work. "Hmm?"

"I'm sorry I was so abrupt in rejecting your...offer," Kakashi said, and then once he'd started, he found he couldn't stop the words from coming. "I know how you feel about duty, i just -- you've done enough, more than enough. This whole thing was completely selfish of me, and I'm happy to accept the first bath but I won't -- I can't accept this from you."

"You can't....accept it," Iruka said carefully.

Kakashi nodded.

"But you'd rather come straight home to me and let me put a needle through your skin repeatedly instead of having a trained medical professional do this the chakra-enhanced way," Iruka said, knotting off the end of the thread.

Kakashi felt a profound moment of relief. "Yes, exactly."

Iruka was quiet for another moment, smoothing a waterproof dressing over the stitches. "Let's get the rest of you cleaned up," he said.

Only Kakashi's pants were left, so he slid them off and draped a washcloth over his lap while Iruka turned on the faucet to fill the wide bathing bucket with warm water. Iruka was still on his knees, and he brought up a soapy sponge to begin cleaning the grime off Kakashi's shoulders.

"Thank you for the note," Iruka said abruptly. And then, softer, "I was worried, you know."

Kakashi wanted to say something about Iruka not needing to worry, but he had been serious about not lying, and didn't want to start now. "You told me you'd be upset if I died, so I didn't."

The sponge trembled a bit against Kakashi's bicep. "Did you come close?"

"Not really. Maybe a little. I've come closer."

Iruka hugged him tight then, and said into his shoulder, "You are seriously the dumbest person I know."

Kakashi slowly closed his arms around Iruka, hesitant and smiling. "Hey now, dear."

"Am I?"

"Are you what?"

"'Dear'. To you."

Kakashi swallowed. "Yes," he said, and it came out hoarse. "Yes."

Iruka kissed him, and it felt nothing at all like duty. It was almost too much -- Iruka's half-wet clothes pressed against his skin, Iruka's body filling his arms, the almost-desperate grip of Iruka's hands on his shoulder and nape.

"Dear," Kakashi said shamelessly when they broke for breath, just to feel Iruka shiver against him and look at him with those dark eyes.

"I--" Iruka's gaze looked unfocused, and then he said, "We are not doing this in the bathhouse."

"Not ever?" Kakashi asked, feeling more than a little disappointed and confused.

"Well. No, not never," Iruka said, and Kakashi restrained a smile at the way Iruka's eyes lingered on Kakashi's towel-covered lap. "But right now, you're going to soak, and then you're going to eat something."

Kakashi really wanted to argue the point, but his last ration bar had been quite a while ago. "If I must," he said, and heaved a theatrical sigh.

"And then, after that, we're going to consummate the hell out of this marriage. So don't dawdle," Iruka said firmly.

"I think I can manage to be on time for that," Kakashi assured him.


Naruto was poking at a pot with long cooking chopsticks, his tongue sticking out with concentration, when Kakashi made his way back from the bathhouse.

"Oh, nice timing," Naruto said, switching off the heat. "Iruka-sensei said you'd be quick, but like I'd believe that."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Kakashi chided good-naturedly.

"It means dinner is ready and we can actually eat while it's hot," Naruto said, ladling the simmered beef over bowls of rice. Kakashi raised an eyebrow -- it was pretty impressive for a boy who had subsisted on a lot of cup ramen over the years.

"Naruto, don't forget the vegetables!" Iruka called from the next room.

Naruto rolled his eyes and muttered, "Okay, I forgot once."

"I've got it," Kakashi offered, gathering up the square dishes holding sesame and miso green beans.

Dinner proceeded fairly normally, except Naruto was clearly stewing about something, and it wasn't the perfectly acceptable gyuudon he had turned out, either. He had devoured his bowl and started eating the green beans with methodical resignation when he said, "So, I ran into this guy who used to know you."

"Oh?" Kakashi said blandly.

Naruto darted one not-so-subtle glance in Iruka's direction. "He told me his name was Arano Jun. He was real clear on wanting me to know that."

Iruka's ability to keep a neutral expression when called for was clearly far beyond the chuunin level, although Kakashi could see that one his of his hands was gripping his thigh. "Why?" he asked simply.

Naruto shifted uncomfortably, but then looked Kakashi dead in the eye. "He said -- he said he wanted you to know what it felt like. To lose a son."

They were all silent a moment. "Ah," Kakashi said belatedly.

"I think he's the one that poisoned my food, but I don't know for sure," Naruto said. "And I can't ask him, because he's--"

Kakashi flicked his eyes to Iruka, who was watching Naruto with grim sympathy.

"Because I killed him," Naruto concluded quietly. "What happened to his son, Kakashi-sensei?"

It was something Kakashi had never told anyone, just a small, private regret he had filed away. "Arano was under my command. His son was kidnapped by enemy nin for ransom. We were on a mission -- an urgent one. I forbade him from joining the ANBU assigned to extract the boy -- it wouldn't have been to anyone's advantage, and he was hardly rational." He sighed. "He never forgave me."

Naruto looked sad, but not accusatory -- and Kakashi was a little startled to realize that he'd been expecting blame, and even more surprised when it wasn't forthcoming.

And then Iruka took his hand and said gently, "There was nothing to forgive," and Kakashi could almost believe it.

Maybe someday he would.


When they retired to their bedroom, the mood was on the somber, reflective side -- not really what either of them had had in mind for this evening, Kakashi was sure. Iruka changed out of his uniform into his favorite yukata to sleep in -- it was old and soft with many washings, a light blue that seemed to invite touch where it contrasted against Iruka's skin. And because he didn't have to hold back anymore, Kakashi gave in, and brushed his fingertips against Iruka's nape.

Iruka shivered in response, but didn't step away. "Should I leave the lamp on?"

"Turn it down if you'd prefer, but I want to see you," Kakashi said.

And there was that blush, although to be perfectly honest, Kakashi had meant that he wanted to see Iruka's expression -- but, well, it wasn't as if he objected to the rest. Instead of explaining, he undid the tie holding Iruka's hair up, and then leaned in for a kiss.

Iruka certainly had no cause to be shy about that, anyway -- he wound his arms around Kakashi's neck and kissed him confidently, his eyelashes dark against his cheek. Kakashi let his eyes fall shut again and fought back a shiver himself at how easily Iruka's mouth opened to him when he deepened the kiss. And, well -- if Iruka was going to hitch himself up on the dresser edge and pull Kakashi to stand between his thighs, he was hardly going to protest.

He was taking his time, getting to know what places on Iruka's neck made him gasp, when Iruka sighed, "Let's go to bed."

Kakashi was nothing if not obliging.

Once he had Iruka horizontal, he could really go after the spot under Iruka's ear that made him demonstrably weak in the knees. And after Iruka writhed in his grasp, he slid one finger under the collar of Iruka's yukata. "May I?" he murmured.

"I thought I was going to have to do it myself," Iruka said, although it didn't precisely sound like a complaint. "Before we got married, I never thought you'd be know."

"What?" Kakashi asked, his lips brushing over Iruka's collarbone.

"Romantic, I suppose."

Kakashi looked up briefly. "You'd call this romantic?"

"Well, it's not exactly ten minutes in an alley behind a bar," Iruka said, smiling as he ran his fingers through Kakashi's hair.

"I do have slightly higher aspirations, I'll confess," Kakashi said. "Or lower, depending."

Iruka huffed out a laugh that turned to a moan when Kakashi rubbed his thumb over the thin cotton covering one nipple, before pulling the yukata further apart still and bending down to taste. When he looked up -- he hadn't been exaggerating his desire to see Iruka's face -- he wondered whether he would have waited so long if he had known he could make Iruka look like this, face flushed and lips parted and eyes fixed on Kakashi with hunger and something softer.

He slid one hand down to rest on Iruka's thigh, fingers just tracing gently against the skin, and nowhere near where the occasionally frustrated rock of Iruka's hips indicated he wanted. Kakashi had a plan though, and --

He let Iruka roll them over, and perhaps he had teased too much -- or maybe months and months of unconsummated marriage was foreplay enough, because Iruka wasn't shy about using his teeth and certainly had no compunctions about rolling his hips against Kakashi's. Somewhere in all that movement, something was dislodged from the pillow under Kakashi's head.

It was a tube of lubricant, which was not the part that gave him pause -- the part where it was half-empty was.

Iruka must have seen his expression, because he kissed Kakashi then, and murmured, "You went on a lot of missions, and I was all alone in this big double futon."

"Quite a picture," Kakashi said, and there was no hiding the aroused rasp in his voice. "Did you think of me, dear?"

"Yes -- oh, yes."

Kakashi snuck his hand under Iruka's yukata then to wrap his fingers around Iruka's cock, and stroked him slowly. "Don't -- don't be stingy with the details."

Iruka's breath hitched. "All those times you spooned me--"

"Huddled for warmth, really--"

"Spooned me," Iruka insisted, nipping at Kakashi's neck. "And all I wanted was for you to flip our yukata out of the way, roll me over, and give it to me so good I'd need a pillow to keep my voice down."

Kakashi flipped them over, and took his hands off Iruka for just long enough to make a few hand seals for a silencing jutsu. "I'll give it to you however you like, but I want to hear you."

Iruka shuddered underneath him, and then gave him that troublemaker look and said, "Better give me a reason."

Kakashi did so love a challenge.

Not that Iruka presented much of one, exactly -- by the time Kakashi had Iruka's cock in his mouth and three fingers deep inside, Iruka was all but keening, stuttering moans escaping him while his hips rocked back onto Kakashi's fingers, forward into his mouth.

"Oh god, now, oh please," Iruka gasped, and Kakashi couldn't deny him.

He pressed in slow, watching Iruka's face for any signs of discomfort, but Iruka must have really spent all those lonely nights just as he said, because he bottomed out and Iruka just looked impatient. He thrust in a few times, just to get his bearings, and then he tilted his hips and tried to give Iruka a good reason to make more noise.

What Iruka evidently wanted was slow and deep, and Kakashi moved his hips in long, measured thrusts while he dropped open-mouthed kisses on any skin he could reach. Iruka's hair was a damp, tangled mess on the pillow under his head, and Kakashi could feel the trembling in Iruka's thighs where they were wrapped loosely around his waist. When he slung Iruka's knees over his shoulders and pressed closer still, he could feel Iruka's moans against his lips as Iruka came apart underneath him. He lasted only a few more desperate, uneven thrusts before he came.

Iruka's legs slid off his shoulders and he let Iruka take his weight for a few moments, panting for breath against Iruka's shoulder before carefully rolling off. He reached out to tangle his fingers with Iruka's, bringing Iruka's hand to his mouth for a kiss.

"Well," Iruka said, sounding a little dazed. "That was worth the wait."

Kakashi hummed in agreement.

Iruka moved close and slid one arm across Kakashi's waist. "You know, we did this all wrong."

"Complaints, dear?" Kakashi asked, mock-frowning.

Iruka poked him in the side. "I mean we did everything in the wrong order. I'm pretty sure you're supposed to confess your feelings, then get married, and then have your wedding night."

"We got there in the end," Kakashi said lightly. "Although I seem to be the only one confessing any feelings around here."

Iruka went red. "Don't you know?"

"If you're too shy, feel free to write it down and present it to me under the cherry blossoms," Kakashi said. "Or you can leave it in my shoe locker. Or you can give it to me while returning the umbrella I lent you during a dramatic downpour."

"Oh my god, those books have rotted your brain," Iruka said, muffling a laugh against his shoulder.

"I really do read them for the plot."

"Only you," Iruka said fondly. "And anyway, I told you when you proposed, didn't I?"

Kakashi frowned. "You did not."

"I did, too," Iruka said, and leaned up on one elbow to look Kakashi in the eye. "I told you that you mattered. To me."

Kakashi went red, too. "Dear, if you're trying to tell me that you've been in love with me all this time--"

"What I felt then is nothing compared to how I feel now," Iruka said softly.

Kakashi stared at him, mentally flailing and trying to come up with some response, before murmuring, "Me, too."

Iruka kissed him, lingering and sweet, and then said, "How about we move this to the bathhouse? I need to clean up."

"Well, I have been longing to scrub your back," Kakashi said with a straight face.

"Seriously, rotted your brain," Iruka said. "I hope you don't think that's all you'll be doing."

"Oh my, dear," Kakashi said appreciatively, and it was another ten minutes before they went anywhere.


Kakashi was on his third reread of the afternoon, and honestly, it just kept getting better:

Isamu trembled in Kinya's arms. "Kinya-san," he said. "I know you just feel sorry for me, a widowed father alone in this village, but I can't -- you can't mean what you say."

"Isamu-sensei," Kinya murmured, and caught Isamu's lips in a tender kiss. "Please, Isamu-sensei, I can't think of anyone but you -- let me take care of you, you and your son. My family estate has gone empty all these years, and my heart--"

"Kinya-san," Isamu pleaded, love and fear warring in his beautiful brown eyes.

His concentration was interrupted when Naruto simultaneously flattened three training posts and caused a sizeable fissure in the ground.

"Not bad!" Jiraiya called, cackling. "Put those posts back up, and we'll end training here for the day." He ambled over to the tree where Kakashi was lounging on a low-hanging branch. "Well, Kakashi, you know I value your opinion. What do you think?"

Kakashi considered carefully, and then said with fervent sincerity, "Jiraiya-sama, it's so emotionally satisfying. Kinya and Isamu may be my favorite couple yet."

"Maybe you're biased, eh?" Jiraiya said, waggling his eyebrows. "After all, you provided valuable inspiration for this book!"

Kakashi waved his concern off. "Some passing superficial resemblance doesn't change the fact that it's thematically resonant."

He tried to hand the sheaf of papers back to Jiraiya, but Jiraiya shook his head. "Keep it, Kakashi, I have another copy."

Kakashi inclined his head. "I'm honored," he said.

Jiraiya gave him a sly look. "Consider it a belated wedding gift -- and don't forget to share it with your bride, ohoho!"

"Iruka would at least attempt to maim you if he heard you call him that," Kakashi said, which was somewhat hypocritical because Kakashi did it all the time when Iruka was out of earshot. And sometimes when Iruka could hear, just for the pleasure of hearing him bellow all manner of threats against Kakashi's person.

Naruto ran up to them, not even out of breath. "Okay, I'm done -- we have to go home for dinner now, or we'll be late." He narrowed his eyes at Kakashi. "You really don't want to be late for this, just so you know."

"All right, we're going, we're going," Kakashi said. "Join us?"

"I don't want to intrude," Jiriaya said.

Kakashi hopped down from the tree branch. "Iruka will be disappointed if you don't come," he said, and set off in the direction of home. Jiraiya probably had some good reasons for trying to maintain some emotional distance, but surely there was no need to cut himself off entirely -- what was one family dinner, here and there?

Iruka met them at the main door inside the gate. "Welcome back," he said warmly.

Naruto pulled Jiraiya past them inside, saying, "You don't want to watch this, it's super embarrassing."

"We're home -- hello, dear," Kakashi said, and took advantage of the opportunity for a little gratuitous snuggling and a noisy kiss.

There was some noise in the next room, and then Naruto yelled, "Okay, we're ready!"

"Pretend you're surprised," Iruka whispered. "He worked really hard."

Kakashi had already seen the lopsided little birthday cake Naruto had made, but he made appropriately astonished noises when they walked in and saw it waiting on the table along with the rest of dinner. "That's really something!" he said.

Naruto grinned and scrubbed the back of his head in mild embarrassment. "It was easy!" he boasted, and then looked a little uncertain. "I know you don't really like sweet things, but..."

Kakashi ruffled his hair. "I make an exception for birthday cake. I'm sure it will be delicious."

They sat down to eat, and Jiraiya said, "Well, well, Kakashi. Thirty-one years old today, and happily married with a fine heir -- if a little on the noisy side. Who would have thought?"

Kakashi met Iruka's eyes, and they both looked at Naruto's beaming face. "I'm very fortunate," Kakashi said, and he meant it.


Kakashi knew exactly what part Iruka was at in the novel. He could recite it, word for word. Chance were good that Iruka was going to set something or somebody on fire when he was done, but for the moment, he was curled up on his side next to Kakashi in bed, reading the copy for everyday use that Kakashi had purchased (the advance, signed copy was carefully stored away):

"I've never," Isamu confessed in a whisper, turning his flushed face in embarrassment.

Kinya stroked Isamu's hair and said hoarsely, "I'll be gentle. I'll make it so good for you, Isamu-sensei, only just let me."

Isamu gave a shy nod of assent. "Since it's you, Kinya-san," he said, and Kinya felt his masculine pride swell at Isamu's trusting body in his arms.

Kinya carefully prepared Isamu with slick fingers, touching that secret place deep inside that made Isamu writhe in his arms in shocked pleasure. When he readied his member at Isamu's entrance and pushed slowly inside, Isamu said, "W-wait."

"Am I hurting you?" Kinya asked roughly, holding himself still with all of his perfected shinobi control, even though Isamu's virginial tightness would have tested any man's resolve.

"N-no, it's just...bigger than I thought it would be."

Iruka snapped the book shut.

"Well?" Kakashi asked, trying to sound neutral.

"I suppose I should be happy that this isn't a greater invasion of our privacy," Iruka said dryly. "I certainly wasn't a virgin on our wedding night, after all."

"No, no you were not," Kakashi said appreciatively.

"Are you sure this is what you want?"

Kakashi gave an emphatic nod.

Iruka raised one skeptical eyebrow. "All the scenarios you had to pick from, and you really want to go with the highly fictionalized version of us. I think maybe you're missing the point, but it is kind of ...sweet."

"Oh?" Kakashi said, plucking the book out of Iruka's grasp and setting it aside.

Iruka wrapped his arms around Kakashi's neck. "And maybe a little hot."

"Is that so?" Kakashi murmured.

Iruka reached back one hand to take down his hair and muss it up a little. And then he rolled them over so that Kakashi was squarely on top, assumed a demure expression, and said, "Oh, Kinya-san."

Kakashi reflected that he was fortunate indeed before diving in for a kiss.