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It was stupid.

Utterly the dumbest thing he had ever been involved in.

It was New Year’s Eve. And here he was, alone. There was nothing poetic about it. There was no intention of it ending out this way. He couldn’t even joke that he was better off alone, like he usually did every other New Year’s Eve party at Gai’s place.

It was ugly and sour and lonely.

Kakashi seemed to have a way of being in a crowd at a party and still finding himself utterly, disappointingly alone.

He checked his phone, no reply, as he nursed some fruity little drink that Anko had passed him. Left on read. The drink probably had at least ninety percent alcohol in it. Gross. And yet, still two hours to go.

He didn’t know if he really wanted to stay for the ball drop. He might just duck out early. Make a break for it. Decide to drown his incessant, disgusting pining with a pint of whiskey and then go to bed. That seemed like a reasonable option. Gai wouldn’t miss him. He was busy talking to other guests. He was the host, he was important.

Kakashi figured he could handle the accusing texts later asking him if he’d snuck out to go get laid. As if. As if Kakashi would be interested in anyone that was remotely interested in him as well.

He tipped the glass back and downed the rest of the drink. It burned. He swallowed, and got to his feet. The room wasn’t as stable as it was when he got to the party a few hours ago, but his apartment was within walking distance. He didn’t care.

He located his coat, and pulled it over his shoulders, and promptly slipped out of the party. Gai hadn’t noticed him, and anyone who said anything was just waved off. I’m taking a walk, he would say. They would then go back to what they were doing. He wasn’t necessarily lying, he just wasn’t coming back at the end of his walk.

His phone buzzed in his pocket. He bit back the feeling of hope that filled his chest. It wouldn’t be what he wanted. It literally never was, he thought bitterly.

Except it was. Iruka replied. His heart skipped a beat in his chest. He needed to get a grip on that.

Where’d you run off to?

Ah. Hm. Kakashi paused, standing there in the middle of the sidewalk while snow poured down from above him. He sniffed, and readjusted his mask as he replied with the other hand.

Going home to grab some things.

Iruka read the message, and then typing bubbles. Wow.

Can I come with?

He paused. Ah. He didn’t like that. He didn’t want to say yes and end up alone with Iruka. He knew he would make a fool out of himself. He also knew that if he didn’t say yes, he would regret it forever.

Sure. I’m still right outside.

Iruka sent back a little smiling emoji, and then stopped typing. He wondered how much the teacher had had to drink.. There was no way that Iruka would offer to come back to his place like this. This was a joke.

But, then Iruka was there and Kakashi felt like the wind got punched out of his lungs. Some of his hair had slipped out of its tie and hung in front of his face. Kakashi felt like dying.

“Hi,” he said, like an idiot.

“Hi,” Iruka responded, with a smile on his face.

“Uh. You’ve never been to my place. Okay, it’s this way,” he said. He nearly winced. How awkward could you get?

Iruka let out a soft little chuckle, and fell into step next to him. He shoved his hands into his pockets and sighed. The teacher then looked over at Kakashi.

“You weren’t planning on going back, were you?” Iruka asked. Kakashi paused, then shrugged.

“Not really,” he replied. Iruka shook his head.

“And spend New Year’s alone? I’m not letting that happen,” Iruka reprimanded him, and nudged his side with his elbow. Hm. Kakashi cleared his throat and tried to stop the deep blush from spreading across his cheeks.

“I appreciate your company,” he said, and wanted to scream because his voice wavered. He was not making this subtle, and just hoped that Iruka would assume it was from the alcohol.

Iruka flashed him a warm smile, one that made his chest feel full to bursting. He hated it. He hated how good Iruka made him feel. As if the teacher would ever feel more, or want him.

Kakashi kicked off his shoes when they reached his apartment. He should have worn boots, but he was allergic to ruining an outfit for the sake of functionality. Even if he wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of fashion. Sakura complained enough about him.

Iruka followed in suit, and Kakashi turned to offer to take his jacket. Though, didn’t realize how close Iruka was standing, and ended up almost nose to nose with him.

He must have lit up like a stop light, because as soon as he stepped back, Iruka started laughing. Kakashi felt embarrassment and shame boil under his skin.

“I don’t have germs, you know,” Iruka said, teasingly, as he took his scarf from around his neck. Kakashi took his jacket and scarf and hung it up neatly on one of the hooks mounted next to his door.

“I know,” he said and looked away. “You just startled me.”

Iruka had such a way of being too close to him all the time. It was amazing horrible. He sat close to him on the couch as they talked. He was trying to be reasonable. But, Iruka’s proximity made it so hard to think.

His smile was warm and he regarded Kakashi with such fondness in his eyes. He hated the little surge of hope in his chest, the desperate wanting. He wanted to bury that part of himself indefinitely. Iruka’s laugh gave him butterflies, and he wanted to swallow them.

He could ruin their friendship with these thoughts, he mused, as Iruka settled next to him. He clicked on the television. Maybe they could catch the tail end of the New Year’s program they had on every year. He never watched them. New Year’s just seemed like another day that he could get wasted on.

They were silent for a long moment, while the announcer was talking about some performer that they were going to have next. Kakashi sighed softly, absentmindedly picked at the sleeve of his hoodie.

“Hey, Kashi?” Iruka began, his voice hushed. Nicknames, now. His heart clenched. Kakashi looked up and raised a brow, followed by a soft “hmm?” in response.

“I’m… really glad that you’re here. I mean.. in my life. I’m really grateful to know you,” Iruka said softly, meeting his eyes steadily. How did he always do that so well? Kakashi could never make eye contact that firmly.

It had been a few years since they’d met and gotten to know each other. If Kakashi could tell his past self about how he’d fall for the teacher, he’d have laughed. They hadn’t been the best of friends in the beginning. They butted heads frequently. But, over the last three years, they’d grown considerably closer.

They met at a New Year’s party. Gai’s, of course. They had mutual friends. Despite both working at the nearby university, he’d never run into the man that much. Kakashi taught night classes in physics, and Iruka during the day for psychology.

“I, uh,” Kakashi said dumbly, as he noticed Iruka was looking at him and he’d spaced out for a second. He flushed.

“I’m thankful to have you in my life, too,” he said with a rush, and turned his eyes down to his hands. Iruka shifted in his seat and turned his body to face him. Kakashi could barely breathe when Iruka took one of his hands in his.

“Is there something more that you want to tell me, Kashi?” Iruka asked. His voice was low and level, and filled with some emotion he couldn’t identify immediately that made Kakashi’s heart skip a beat. No optimism, he reminded himself. Scolded himself before he could get hopeful.

He looked up through his lashes, nervous and unsure of what to say.

“No,” he said. DAMMIT.

Iruka smirked a little. He didn’t like the sound of that. He lifted Kakashi’s hand in his own, and pressed it to his cheek. He didn’t like that either. He especially didn’t like the puppy dog eyes that the teacher was giving him.

“What is it that you wanted to hear, Iruka?” Kakashi said. It was a poor attempt at teasing, because his tone came off wholly nervous and uncool.

“For one of the smartest men in the state, you sure can be a dumbass sometimes,” Iruka said, exasperated. Kakashi opened his mouth to protest, but Iruka was then in his space. He had leaned forward a little as he got up from his sitting position.

He gave Kakashi’s shoulder a little shove and then straddled his legs, and promptly sat in his lap. Kakashi couldn’t breathe. He was sure that his face was bright red. Iruka pushed hair from the other man’s eyes, and then gently brushed his thumb across the scar on his eye.

“Please don’t play with my feelings, Iruka,” Kakashi said before he could think better of it.

Why would Iruka be doing this? Was it the alcohol? Or was it a dare? Did he have some motive behind it? Iruka’s face softened a little, and he cupped the other man’s face in his hands.

“I’m not playing with your feelings,” he responded. His thumbs hooked over the top lip of his mask, and rolled it down his face slowly. Kakashi could feel his skin heat up. He was sure that he was tomato red by now.

“I just know you enough by now that if I want anything from you, I have to do it myself,” Iruka whispered.

The first touch of Iruka’s lips on Kakashi’s was a wildfire. His heart skipped a beat and he felt like his chest had stopped working. He inhaled deeply through his nose, and may have kissed back awkwardly in his haste. Iruka smiled against his lips, and he felt like the planets aligned in the heavens.

“Do you understand how long I’ve been waiting for you to make the first move?” Iruka said, once he’d pulled back. “You are so clueless.”

Kakashi felt like his head was spinning like a top. He had to fight hard to keep a grin from spreading across his face. And inevitably failed.

“I’m the worst man on the planet to like,” he said.

“Well, that’s good then. Because I love you, I don’t just like you, Kakashi,” Iruka replied. The other man let out a little, almost giddy laugh.

This was too perfect. He couldn’t even find it in himself to be skeptical of it all. Iruka was kissing him. Iruka said he loved him. The man he’d been in love with for more than a year.

“How long have you known?” Kakashi asked, looking up at him as Iruka brushed his thumb across his cheek.

“Oh, since you started bringing me coffee every morning and left those ‘anonymous’ flowers on my desk on Valentine’s Day,” Iruka chuckled. Kakashi flushed uncontrollably. So, Iruka had known almost immediately. Was he that conspicuous?

“You’re not very subtle, Romeo,” Iruka smiled.

“Please kiss me again,” Kakashi breathed, urgent. And Iruka complied. The kiss was deeper this time, and Kakashi reached up to cup Iruka’s face in his hands. He tasted like the jello shots they’d had at the party.

The sound of fireworks outside alerted Kakashi to the new year. It was a new beginning. He looked up at Iruka once he pulled away and grinned like a mad man.

“I would say that’s starting the new year off perfectly,” he said, and Iruka chuckled.

“Well, I’m going to hope that we have many more that start the same way,” he said. Kakashi beamed.

“As long as you’ll have me.”