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Ace of Hearts

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Kakashi was taking a stroll along the village on one of his rare days off. He didn't have any solid plans, but it was a nice day, so he used a visit to the bookstore as an excuse to get out of the house, hoping there would be a new Icha-Icha, or something else that he could read in a tree. But he wasn't in a rush, so in the meantime, he was browsing the markets, studying the range of vegetables and trying to remember if he'd need to grab anything on the way home. When he decided that there was nothing of interest around, he wandered through the crowd, bypassing the rest of the fruit and vegetables to explore the next district.

As he continued along, his heart suddenly jolted; and he automatically tensed up and reflexively started scanning the crowd before he even realised what he was doing. There was no danger from what he could tell, but he had reacted instinctively for a reason; so there had to be something he had noticed. He paid more attention to his surroundings, a little on edge now; and then he saw him - Iruka; and realised it was his chakra signature that had set him off.

He watched from afar, witnessing the moment Iruka had detected his signature and snapped his head up to look for him; and when their eyes met, Kakashi's heart crunched - there was unfinished business between the two of them. Or more like, he had hurt Iruka so long ago by leading him on and then suddenly rejecting him, and he didn't know how to face him. But he hadn't intended for any of that to happen. He wasn't fit for relationships, and couldn't allow himself to get feelings for anyone; but he didn't know that back then, and then he'd had to cut ties with Iruka. Or at least that was the plan, until he ended up getting Team Seven to train and Naruto kept forcing them to meet.

This time, though, it was just the two of them passing by each other in the sea of people - no one around to make them stop and chat; and Kakashi told himself to keep going, to ignore him. But even looking at the ground, he was very aware of Iruka's exact position, and felt his pace slowing down as they got closer. When he was just a few feet away, Kakashi slowed to a stop, like it was ingrained into him that he had to stop whenever he was near Iruka; and when he looked up, he saw that Iuka had stopped, too. For a moment, they stared at each other in silence as old feelings and memories resurfaced - both the good, and the bad. Then finally, Iruka broke the silence.

"Kakashi… Let's go for coffee."

"Okay." He nodded, ignoring his mind's objections as Iruka led him away from the markets.

Coffee was good. Too good. Iruka had taken him to a quiet café, and they had settled at a small round table hidden in the back of the shop; and from the moment they sat down, they had been lost in conversation, picking up where they left off years ago. Every minute they stayed at the shop, Kakashi was reminded more of why he liked Iruka; and his heart had fluttered more than a few times in his company. But it also ached, because he knew the intimacy from the date would only be temporary - it had to be, because it would never work out between them. It couldn't.

"Kakashi, can I ask you a personal question? About yourself, I mean."

"I suppose so… What do you want to know?"

"I was just wondering… You're getting closer to forty now - why have you never married? Or really dated before? I mean, I've seen you take interest in people before - at least, you seem interested; but I've never actually seen you with a partner."

"Ah, that's a little complicated…" Kakashi sighed, leaning back against his chair as he stared into Iruka's eyes - eyes he could get lost in a thousand times over. "But I guess, if I had to put it down to one reason, it's because I'm not sexually attracted to anyone. I'm asexual."

Kakashi's heart pounded heavily as he studied Iruka carefully, waiting for his reaction. His sexuality wasn't something he went around telling just anyone; so he was trusting him with sensitive information. If he knew Iruka as well as he thought he did, it should be okay; but he was still nervous putting it out in the open.

"You're… asexual." Iruka said slowly, as though this was the first time he had ever heard those words, as though he was trying to process what that meant.

"Yeah. I like romance and doing stuff that couples do; but when it comes to sex, well, I just don't get have the desire to sleep with anyone. And in all honesty, there's other things I'd rather be doing."

"So you don't enjoy it at all?"

"Well, the physical sensations are good, I suppose; but having sex, and uh, masturbating just feels… mechanical, boring. I get more enjoyment doing just about anything else."

"Oh, okay… Asexual…" Iruka said, nodding as he thought about it. "I never would have guessed. I always thought the reason you've been single for so long is because you just had trouble getting close to people."

"Well, that kinda comes with the package… I don't let myself get close enough to get feelings for anyone - my sexuality isn't exactly compatible with most people, and I don't want to get anyone's hopes up just for it to not work out."

"Oh… And is… Is that why… Back then?"

Kakashi could only nod in response. Before he knew that he was asexual, he had let himself fall for Iruka, had flirted with him, teased him, and spent as much time as he could with him; and Iruka had shown signs that he was interested, too. But then he began fantasizing being in a relationship with him, and when he thought about the sexual side of things, he realised he just didn't want to do that; and that confused him - wasn't he supposed to want to have sex with the person he was fantasizing about? Kakashi had completely backed off after that, thinking maybe Iruka wasn't the right person for him, that they were better off as friends; but after discovering himself, he had decided it was he who wasn't right for Iruka, or pretty much anyone else; and he had given up completely on dating in general.

Iruka reached out and put a hand over his, gently swirling his thumb across his skin. Kakashi liked the way Iruka's hand fit around his, how it made him feel safe and warm, how the small touch did magical things to his heart; and for a brief moment he could picture a future with him, of them living together, of going on dates, of bringing home gifts just because he can, and sharing his favourite recipes. But suddenly the idea of this future became bittersweet, and his heart ached too much thinking about what would never be, so he carefully pulled his hand away.

"Don't you get lonely, distancing yourself like that?"

Kakashi didn't answer immediately, and glanced down at the table where Iruka had turned his hand palm up and opened it invitingly, clearly there in case he changed his mind. He wanted to take it, to accept his feelings, and be with Iruka; but Iruka deserved someone who could love every part of him, and Kakashi couldn't quite do that.

"I suppose I do. But there's nothing I can do about it." Kakashi lamented. "Most people naturally desire sex, and expect their partner to feel the same way; but I'm just not interested… I can't offer that."

"Well, um, I don't think a relationship should be based on sex… Sure, I like it; but you stay with someone because of how they make you feel in other ways, right?" Iruka said. "Why don't we pick up where we left off? I, um, would like to give us a shot."

"Iruka, please don't say that out of pity." Kakashi said, pained. "I might get lonely, but I'd rather be alone than in a relationship with someone who isn't going to be completely happy."

"Kakashi, you do make me happy. You always have." Iruka said, leaning forward and grabbing his hand again. "I want to be with you, to go on dates like this, and just spend time with you, to be by your side no matter what… God, Kakashi, all these years, and my feelings never left. And I can tell that it's the same for you, too. Let yourself be happy for once - you don't deserve to be lonely your entire life."

"Look, you're an incredible guy, and you're right, I do have feelings for you; but none of that is going to change the fact that I'm not interested in sleeping with you." Kakashi said. "I'm sorry. I can't provide what you want, I can't appreciate every part of you."

"Stop worrying about the details - we can figure it out later. I'd rather stay with the man I've fallen for and loved all these years, and work on us; than spend another night alone waiting for perfection." Iruka said passionately, edging his chair closer to his side of the table until they were next to each other. "Besides, in my eyes, you are perfect, just the way you are."

"Iruka, I…" Kakashi swallowed and glanced away.

"No more excuses. Just say yes." Iruka said softly, gently turning Kakashi's head towards him. "Say you'll be mine. That's all I want."

As Kakashi gazed into Iruka's eyes, his heart pounded wildly. Iruka's words were genuine - he truly wanted to be with him despite everything. He had accepted him for who he was, and hadn't run away or tried to get him to change. And for the first time in years, Kakashi felt free, like he didn't need to hide his feelings anymore, like he could love without heartbreak; and he could finally see that the future he wanted wasn't a dream anymore. It was a reality that was right there in front of him, and he could have it now. He just had to say the words.

"Okay, yes. I want to be with you, too."

Iruka's smile melted his heart - there was so much love in his expression that made Kakashi wonder why he had even been worried in the first place; and he wished he had his sharingan active to capture it in detail. He only got a glimpse of it before Iruka suddenly jumped from his seat to wrap his arms around him tightly and squeeze him in a warm embrace.

Kakashi never knew a hug could have so much emotion attached to it, or send his heart into a frenzy; but he was feeling everything Iruka was projecting onto him, and pulled him closer, guiding him onto his lap. He settled his head on Iruka's chest as he held him, and closed his eyes. Having Iruka against him felt so right, like he was meant to be there all along; and Kakashi took a deep breath, relaxing into him as he was hit with the comfort and familiarity of home.

"I don't ever want to let you go." he murmured contently.

"You don't have to." Iruka said softly, kissing his forehead. "I'm not going anywhere."

"Neither am I."

Kakashi was done running away. Iruka was everything to him, the one he wanted to spend his life and have a future with; and it was time to tell him that, to show him how he felt. He might be ace, but he was an ace of hearts; and that meant he had a lot of love to give.

And there was no one he'd rather give all of it to than Iruka; the man who deserved everything.