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a place where i sink to sleeping

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“You need to find a spouse, Kakashi-sama,” Shizune says, and Kakashi almost laughs her out of the room.

He signs off on one (1) entire piece of overdue paperwork before he realizes that she’s still standing in front of his desk wearing her serious face. He lets his pen roll to a stop on his endless pile of forms and folds his hands in front of his face.

“Now, I really don’t think that’s true. I’m very happy being alone, you know.” He’s gotten quite good at it over his lifetime. Besides, he’s certain that he secured his standing as an ineligible bachelor long ago. Is his dubious adherence to social convention and his laundry list of trauma no longer enough to scare people off?

Shizune sighs and rubs at her forehead tiredly. “Normally, I wouldn’t disagree, but I think you’d prefer to pick your own partner over what the new daimyo has planned for you.”

Ah. He can see her gearing up to launch into an explanation, and he stands abruptly. She pauses.

“You may have a point, Shizune. Unfortunately, I have a meeting to attend with T&I so you’ll have to tell me more about it later. But keep up the good work, as usual. Bye!”

He gives her a jaunty wave and jumps backward out the window, ready to disperse some clones to throw her off his scent. If she can’t catch him, she can’t tell him whatever nonsensical thing the daimyo wants him to do.

“Kakashi-sama!” Shizune yells as he lands. “You have nowhere to run! That meeting is being held in your office!”

Damn.

--

After his meeting, Kakashi immediately increases his productivity by 250%, and gets so swamped giving out missions and reading funding requests and approving personnel changes that Shizune is unable to hound him about this marriage business because she’s equally busy helping put out their assorted day-to-day fires. He manages to get through three days of avoidance due to the sheer volume of his work backlog, but by Friday, things have settled down again, which leaves her too many openings.

“About the daimyo-”

“Sorry, Shizune, but these new zoning plans won’t approve themselves-”

It’s a testament to how desperate she is that she’s willing to physically throw herself between him and his paperwork. For the depth of her dedication, and also so that she doesn’t have a breakdown one day and try to chuck him off Hokage Rock in a fit of downtrodden assistant rage, he finally puts aside his pen and looks readily up at her.

“He wants to arrange a marriage between you and one of his children,” she blurts before he can change his mind.

Kakashi nods in understanding. “Ah, well, I’ll have to send him a ‘no, thank you’ scroll. I suppose I could do it in person, if I must.” Just in case, he roots around his desk for one of his nicest new scrolls, but Shizune tugs it out of his grasp.

“This isn’t exactly a negotiable situation, Kakashi-sama. He’s already talked about setting up an omiai with one of his daughters.”

It’s such a pain that Kakashi doesn’t even remember to remind Shizune to drop the honorifics. “I...am not attracted to women?” he tries, and she shakes her head grimly.

“He has sons, too.”

Kakashi curses under his breath before leaning back in his chair. If he’s willing to marry off a son, then the man isn’t after some kind of claim to the Hatake bloodline. “Why exactly is he so insistent on this?”

“I think he believes it’s...untoward for the leader of Konohagakure to be unmarried. He thinks it would elevate our status if you got that fixed.”

“Tsunade wasn’t married.”

“Well, he wasn’t daimyo yet when Tsunade-sama was Hokage. Also,” and she tries to suppress a smile, “would you be stupid enough to bring up that topic with her?” No, Kakashi most certainly would not. Well, not unless he was extremely bored and wanted to take his chances with the afterlife.

“Can’t the council do something about this?” he says plaintively. He’s aware it’s ridiculous for him to be whining at his assistant, but she’s seen him do much worse.

She shakes her head. “I don’t think they care enough to fight it. Besides, a concession here means…”

“That we can try to use it as leverage the next time the daimyo asks for something ridiculous?”

“That’s what they’re hoping. Also,” and she pauses for a moment to give him an apologetic look, “I think they’re hoping that marriage would...settle you down?”

“I thought I was quite settled already.” He’s got eight ninken, he cooks his own meals, and he returns all his library books on time these days. He’s basically a functional person.

“It took you over a year to finally take office, you have one of the highest rates of hospital truancy, and you almost assigned yourself an S-class mission the other day because you were bored of reading expense reports,” she counters, her hands on her hips. He doesn’t really have much of a rebuttal, so she continues, “They think you could do with a better half to think these decisions through with you.”

“And that person just so happens to be the daimyo’s spawn?”

“Don’t call them spawn,” she hisses, looking around furtively. “But, look, the daimyo is a family man above all. I think he’d like to tie you to his lineage if possible, but even more than that, he just wants to know he’s left Konoha in the hands of a, um, like-minded person.”

“Thus, your suggestion that I find myself a spouse,” he says. She brings up a good point; he would much rather choose someone himself than let some poor civilian get shackled to him. “And anybody will do?”

“Well, I think anyone you choose who’s also, ah-”

“Willing to put up with me?” he offers when she can’t figure out a way to put it diplomatically.

She laughs, and places the scroll back on the table. “Something like that. Anyway, that theoretical person is probably someone most people would accept, and perhaps even approve of.”

Kakashi hums, trying to think of someone who’d be willing to go along with this farce. The marriage will have to last at least until Naruto relieves him of his duties, and who knows how many more years that could be? Trying to tie one of his few friends to him that long seems like a monumental waste of effort.

“I understand your plan, Shizune, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the trouble. What’s the worst he could do to me if I decide not to marry at all? Make me stop being Hokage?” he laughs. Everyone in the village knows he’d take that deal in a heartbeat.

“He could reject your choice of successor.”

At this, he raises his eyebrows. “He would refuse the Savior of the World?”

She smiles a bit wryly. “I’m not going to claim I understand how the daimyo thinks! But you also know the kind of everyday trouble he and company could make for us.”

He does know. Overwrought demands for extra protective services, demanding shinobi for frivolous uses of their time, and whatever other kind of nonsense enters a rich man’s mind. The kind of stuff that his often overworked shinobi do not want to deal with.

With a sigh, he moves his next bundle of requests in front of him. If he stalls long enough, he might come up with some way to wriggle out of this.

“Alright, I’ll put some thought into it,” he tells her as he begins scanning a proposal to convert one of the old training fields to a wind farm.

“Please do,” she says as she starts walking to her own desk and almost gets run over by an over-enthusiastic visitor.

“Good morning, Shizune-san, Kakashi-san! I have the writeup about the Academy’s social-emotional learning initiative, as well as class 3’s latest first aid test results,” Umino Iruka says brightly, as if he isn’t carrying ten times the amount of paper that he claims to be. This is why Kakashi’s meetings with the Academy’s vice-principal always run long: Iruka is really too dedicated. And has so many interesting new ideas to implement. And knows how to spin the kinds of stories about pre-genin and (post?)-genin that always make Kakashi laugh and forget about his workload for a little while. “Sorry about that, Shizune-san, I really should know to slow down by now. With all the people coming and going, one day I’m sure to fling scrolls all over somebody important,” Iruka says, smiling at her as she gapes at him.

“Yes, please don’t give any of our diplomats a papercut, sensei,” Kakashi drawls, reveling in the way Iruka just rolls his eyes.

“Oh! Iruka-sensei!” Shizune says, her eyes growing wide. At first Kakashi thinks it’s just because they both forgot about his weekly meeting, but then she turns back toward him and jerks a thumb in Iruka’s direction.

Kakashi’s eyes widen too, and he looks Iruka up and down as if seeing him for the first time. Huh. Might as well give it a try.

“Maa, would you like to marry me, Iruka-sensei?”

--

“Let me get this straight,” Iruka says as he breaks his disposable chopsticks apart and shaves the splinters onto the floor of the highest office of the land. It was Kakashi’s turn to buy lunch this time, but since he forgot, his restaurant choice was forfeit and he was forced to get Ichiraku again. They’re seated on the floor, because Iruka hates it when Kakashi uses jutsu to clear his desk of clutter like his laptop, and because they threw decorum out the window a few years back after another one of Naruto’s hair-raising adventures that found them both drooping at a bar and bemoaning their dear, pig-headed, iron-willed student. Kakashi would say that Iruka is a surprisingly noisy drunk, but then again, he’s heard the way the other man can yell, whether at students trying to steal test answers or jounin who can’t follow simple filing instructions.

Kakashi watches as he inhales a third of his bowl before setting it aside and folding his hands on his lap. There’s a small scar across the knuckle of Iruka’s right thumb that always catches his eye when he watches Iruka mark exams, or grab Naruto’s shoulder, or fold up scrap paper. He wonders sometimes if the injury came from a mission, of the everyday dangers of teaching small humans with sharp objects.

“You’re going to get married off to one of the daimyo’s daughters unless you go find someone yourself?” Kakashi would say the barely hidden amusement in Iruka’s voice is uncalled for, but he knows it isn’t.

“One of the daimyo’s sons, rather.”

“Right, my apologies. So our wise and mighty lord, like most of the people who have ever found themselves in charge of you, has finally realized that you’re something of a menace?”

“That’s your Hokage you’re disparaging,” Kakashi tsks at him. “Be careful. I wouldn’t want you to be accused of treason.”

“Please tell him I’m very sorry and I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings,” Iruka says demurely before bowing his head and pretending they don’t both know he’s holding back a laugh.

Kakashi just sighs. “Besides, I don’t think ‘menace’ really covers it. ‘Public health risk’ or ‘known toxic hazard’ would fit better.”

“That’s enough self-deprecation for one day,” Iruka scolds. Kakashi shrugs before taking a few slow bites of his own lunch while Iruka busies himself with separating out the things he wants to talk about first from his pile of work. He pointedly does not look at Kakashi’s bare face until he’s certain that the mask is back on. Even if Kakashi were to call his name, he would stare at the ceiling for the entire conversation until Kakashi told him he could look again. Kakashi thinks it started around the fourth time they met for an occasional meal, and has since carried over to their weekly lunch meetings.

It’s become something of a game. An inverse to the one he used to play with Team 7. No matter what he tries, Iruka will avert his eyes to avoid seeing Kakashi’s face. At this point, he’s certain that nothing short of an actual enemy attack would work, but it’s fun to try regardless.

“It’s safe to look again,” Kakashi tells him when they both finish lunch, and Iruka turns back. Oddly enough, he always trusts Kakashi not to lie — or perhaps it’s more accurate to say that Iruka trusts Kakashi to know whether he really wants his face to be seen or not.

“Will you be wearing the mask in front of your new husband, too?”

“That depends on you, I think.”

Iruka laughs at first, and then falls into silence when he notices Kakashi hasn’t told him any other jokes. “Wait. Were you serious?” He’s cute when he’s surprised: mouth hanging a bit open and his eyes unblinking as his hands hover in place like he doesn’t know what to do with them.

“I was and I am,” Kakashi says, and to his surprise it’s not a lie. If he has to marry somebody, Iruka is as good a candidate as any. Better than most, probably, given his kind personality and good standing among their fellow citizens. There isn’t really much reason for the daimyo to complain at all if Kakashi were to marry Iruka. From a more emotional standpoint, there’s one quality so intrinsic to Iruka that it makes him feel, irrationally, like an ideal marriage candidate.

“You truly are your own particular brand of trouble, aren’t you?” Iruka sighs, but his eyes look fond. Even half a year ago he would have apologized after getting in his verbal jabs, but Kakashi thinks their friendship has progressed past that point by now. It’s funny how proximity and a common struggle can bring people together.

“Imagine hearing that from the former terror tornado of Sandaime’s regime.”

“My glory days are over,” Iruka denies, as if he didn’t terrorize shinobi who turned in subpar paperwork for years. “Anyway, I find it hard to believe that you’re going along with this. You can’t possibly mean to just let it happen.”

“Do you think I would have proposed to you without meaning it, Iruka-sensei?” Kakashi says, probably teasing more than he ought to. True to form, Iruka’s brown skin takes on the slightest hint of flush as he waves one hand sheepishly in the air.

“I- no, that isn’t quite what I meant. I just thought that there must be some kind of deal you can make with him instead.”

“I’m not much of a politician.” He’s barely a Hokage, most days. Kakashi is, first and foremost, a soldier, and then possibly a teacher, though jury’s still half out on whether that was a good call or not. And then, for some abysmal reason, he’s the person the rest of his village turns to when they have no other widely revered person to force into leadership, so here he is. “As it is, Shizune’s plan is the easiest way to get out of this without giving up anything I wouldn’t want to further down the line. And I suppose married life wouldn’t be so disagreeable. So. Since it’s come to this, won’t you consider marrying me? I promise I won’t be the worst husband.”

“What an overwhelming endorsement. Are you sure you’re serious about this, Kakashi-san?” Iruka asks, and the humor in his voice has been replaced with signature concern.

“As serious as I have to be. Which, regretfully, is probably more than I want to. But yes. If I must be wed, I would prefer you as a partner, if you’re willing to accept.”

Iruka mulls this over for a moment, looking pensive. His gaze goes distant, looking past Kakashi as he gathers his thoughts.

“I’ll warn you: I’m not a very good cook,” is what he finally says. This is only a bit surprising; Kakashi used to assume that Iruka would have learned to properly feed himself after becoming orphaned at a young age, but from the rare homemade bentos he’s seen Iruka eat, his crude cooking skills are those of a busy bachelor.

“That’s fine, I can teach you.”

“You’ll be opening up your home to visits from Naruto at any hour of the day,” Iruka warns next. This is completely unsurprising. Kakashi knows that they’ve never actually filed any paperwork, but in all the ways that matter, Iruka adopted Naruto long ago. In turn, Naruto adopted him right back, so there’s no doubt that in the near future Kakashi will be getting an earful from his dear student/successor about trying to steal away his precious Iruka-sensei.

Still, he thinks with full affection, he wouldn’t really mind. “I can accept that. We can catch up on our missed bonding time.”

Iruka smiles at this, as he always does when he talks about his child. “Well, I’m also terribly messy.” This is just a lie.

Kakashi rests his chin in one hand as he asks, “Why bother lying when I’ve been inside your apartment before?” Only briefly once or twice, but still, he remembers well enough what it looked like. “Your spaces are ‘comfortably lived in’ at most. And I know you can’t stand dust or grime.”

“You caught me,” Iruka says, but he doesn’t sound particularly contrite. He studies Kakashi’s face for a long moment, his steady brown eyes searching him for something that Kakashi can’t name. Kakashi’s guard isn’t any higher than it typically is (which is probably still higher than most other shinobi, but that’s unavoidable), and Iruka’s gaze isn’t pointed in any way — if anything, he seems to expect whatever it is he finds.

“Alright, I’m in,” he declares.

Kakashi hesitates at the finality in his tone. “That’s a bit impulsive.”

There’s a certain grin that Iruka has that only surfaces rarely, likely because it would be dangerous for his students to know what a troublemaker he truly is. Kakashi gets the great honor of seeing it today. “I don’t overthink things unless it’s about my students. Besides, you weren’t frightened off by any of my warnings, so I suppose there’s no reason for me to decline your offer. Let’s get married.”

This is progressing faster than Kakashi planned for. In the field, he would improvise, but this isn’t the field. This is something much more daunting. “But don’t you want to think it over further? There’s plenty of time for you to decide. This will upend your lifestyle for at least five to ten years, if not more. Besides, you’re quite popular around town, sensei. Don’t you have aspirations to meet someone and start a family of your own?”

“Why didn’t you ask me any of those questions before I agreed?” Iruka says, laughing even though he’s wearing his usual exasperation.

“I, uh-” didn’t think Iruka was really actually going to agree, “-wasn’t sure I would get this far in one day.”

“Let me ask you, then, Kakashi-san,” Iruka says with more patience than he normally has when Kakashi talks him in circles. “Do you want to marry me?”

“I- yes. I do.” The words make it sound simple, and perhaps it is. Kakashi has a need, and Iruka can meet it. That’s all there is to it.

“Then we’re getting married. Congratulations to us.”

This should be some kind of turning point in Kakashi’s life, but he just feels some mix of relief and resignation, as if he’s on a mission that’s gone just sideways enough to be irritating, but not enough to be truly worrying.

“Sorry, I have no sake on hand for a toast,” he says stupidly, and Iruka just laughs at him again.

“I’d be worried if you did. Now, if you don’t mind, I really do want to talk to you about the SEL plans.” Back to actual business. Blankly, Kakashi follows along.

They discuss Academy affairs for over an hour before they decide they should each be getting back to work. Their staff know to expect these meetings to run long by now, ever since Iruka successfully passed the vice-principal’s exam and started taking on some of the administrative duties. Kakashi would prefer to stay on the Academy’s good side, so he promises Iruka to look over the remaining proposals on his own time and allow him to return to work.

“Let me walk you back,” Kakashi offers as they head toward the door. He would have done so regardless, unless Iruka requested he not, but saying so out loud seems the decorous thing to do.

“Please don’t put yourself out if you’re busy,” Iruka says as they exit. He waves at Shizune, who continues scribbling away on a scroll but watches them like a hawk as they go.

“No, I would like to, if it’s all the same.”

“Oh. Alright, then.”

They stroll in silence for a few minutes and Kakashi takes the chance to look at his companion, to see if he can read anything in his expression that would explain why he’s decided to go along with Kakashi’s request. But he doesn’t notice anything unusual besides the vague sense of exasperated amusement that he’s come to associate with his friend by now. Since Iruka tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, Kakashi finds it even more bizarre that Iruka doesn’t seem to have strong feelings either way about this situation at all.

They’re almost back to the Academy offices when Iruka turns and breaks their companionable quiet.

“Could I just ask you one question?”

“You can ask as many as you like. I can’t guarantee that I’ll answer, though.”

Iruka nods, and fiddles with the corner of one of his reports. “Right now I just have one. Why did you choose me?” His eyes are curious when they meet Kakashi’s.

Why indeed? Kakashi scratches at his hair as the half-formed reasons coalesce in his brain. It isn’t just that Iruka wandered conveniently into the middle of his conversation with Shizune, but before he commits, is there anyone who would be better?

“Well, I could ask Gai, but he’d turn me down and then give me a long speech about opening my heart to love.” Gai would never stand for helping Kakashi avoid the Passion of Youth and Pure Romance.

“Ah, of course. This sham is definitely a perversion of True Love.”

“Exactly. There’s Tenzou, I suppose, but I think he might eventually run away rather than have to deal with me every day.” It’s a silly joke. Tenzou would probably agree to the marriage out of duty, and Kakashi wouldn’t force him into that position.

“And I wouldn’t?”

No, Iruka would just politely decline and then laugh at Kakashi for the rest of his life if he really hated the idea.

“You’re much too upfront to flee. You would just have me assassinated.”

This surprises a chuckle out of Iruka, who shakes his head and waves his hands vehemently in the air to dispel the notion. “I would never. I think it would be easier to legitimize a coup if you were disgraced but still alive.”

“I’m setting myself up for you to install your son on my throne, aren’t I?” Kakashi asks wryly.

“We both know he’ll end up there eventually,” Iruka says, and they grin at one another. “Still, it’s a bit too soon, I think. He’s still got a bit of growing up to do. And that’s crazy isn’t it? Considering everything he’s been through?”

“But it’s true,” Kakashi agrees. “Anyway, I suppose I chose you since it wouldn’t inconvenience you too much to move into the Hokage residence. It’s quite close to the Academy, as you know.” They’re walking the path at this very moment.

“Of course,” Iruka says, nodding slowly. “That’s the best reason for any couple to get married, really. The convenience of their future housing arrangements.”

“I’m glad you understand. See, we’re a good match already!”

“It looks that way, doesn’t it,” Iruka says with a crooked smile, and then he exhales sharply before nodding, as if centering himself again. “Well, thank you for considering me. I’ll do my best to live up to the part.”

Iruka holds his hand out for a handshake, but Kakashi grabs hold with both his own and clasps it firmly in his grip. Even with his gloves in the way, he can still feel the calluses on Iruka’s fingertips and the warmth that radiates from his skin.

Kakashi isn’t one to withhold compliments if he finds them well-deserved, but it takes a certain vulnerability to explain to a man you’ve just asked to marry you that not only is he competent and reliable, but that he also, inexplicably, feels like home. Not on any personal level; Kakashi has only the memorial stone to welcome him back. But he’s seen countless times the way Iruka embraces Naruto when he comes tearing through the gates, and he’s noticed how Iruka has a kind word and a steadying hand for each of the children turned soldiers who still bloom under his attention even years later. It’s impossible not to think to himself, this is the reason they do this. To have someone like you tell them that they’ve made it back, that they’ve done a good job protecting their loved ones. That they’ll continue to grow into the person you always knew they could be.

And it’s a fleeting thought that should never have taken root, but when Kakashi looks at Iruka now, waiting with that slightly worried patience for Kakashi to speak, he can’t help but wonder how it might feel to have Iruka to welcome him home. How it might be to grow accustomed to it.

“Really, you have my genuine gratitude, Iruka-sensei. This may not be the future you were hoping for, but I’ll do my best to be a decent companion. All I ask in exchange is a marriage the daimyo can’t object to.”

“I can’t tell if you’ve set the bar low or high, but I’ll give it my all.” With that, he bids Kakashi goodbye and returns to his office, leaving Kakashi to stare at the space he no longer occupies.

Everyone that has ever been on a mission with Kakashi knows that he stays cool under pressure. Even in the heat of battle — or perhaps especially in the heat of battle — he’s always thinking five steps ahead to prepare for any unfortunate eventuality. But here, in the post-war world, all those skills he honed, all that killer instinct and all those parts of himself he sharpened into a living weapon, are no better than decorative gilt. All shimmer and no substance when he’s making nice with other world leaders and shuffling back and forth from meeting to meeting with his arms laden with scrolls and books.

This marriage is one more strange piece in this puzzle of a world that Kakashi still isn’t certain he’s meant for. Does Iruka, who he finally thought he had begun to understand, fit in there too?

--

They move forward with this harebrained plan. Shizune is overjoyed, and Shikamaru just shakes his head when the news is relayed to him, and then skulks out of the office to deal with his Shinobi Union work.

Naruto is away on a two-week mission, which means they’re putting off telling him until they can both be present as a united front. It’s kept under wraps from the rest of the village as well, at least until the wedding is over. Neither of them want it to be a public affair. The news will be announced to citizens afterwards.

In between their usual meetings, they’ve begun laying out expectations about what this marriage is going to entail. Iruka will move into the Hokage residence with Kakashi, but will keep his last name out of deference to his parents. Kakashi doesn’t personally care; he knows the weight of being the last of your lineage. They talk about finances over oyakodon and discuss the little legal details over steamed buns.

Iruka understands perfectly well that he’ll be expected now to accompany Kakashi to social events when the occasion calls for it. He also understands the uproar and public attention they’ll both be receiving in the months directly following their wedding. Regardless, he makes a face when Kakashi tells him as much.

“You already stop in the streets to talk to people every day.”

“Yes, but those are students. It’s very different,” Iruka stresses, waving his tiny spoon at Kakashi’s face. They’re eating shaved ice — actually, Iruka is eating melon shaved ice and Kakashi is drinking tea and watching with uncomfortable fascination as his fiancé ingests bright green syrup.

“Is it?” From his recollection, no one used to harass him in the streets more than his own little trio of hellions. Save for Gai, of course.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Iruka sighs at him after licking an errant speck of ice off his thumb. Kakashi tracks the motion with an intensity that he finds embarrassing when he catches himself doing it, and then he feels a weird rush of relief that he no longer has Obito’s sharingan. “You have a reputation. No one would dare bother the Copy-Nin while he’s out and about reading pornography in public, and now no one would dare do the same to the Rokudaime. Meanwhile, I am already a fun and exciting target for parents and education enthusiasts, and this development only gives them more cause to hunt me down.”

Kakashi takes another measured sip of tea and deeply regrets wearing his ridiculous hat for this outing. Such is the price for trying to fit Iruka into his schedule after his visit to Suna.

“I can assign you a protective detail if you’d like. A couple of ANBU, just for you,” he offers, knowing exactly where Iruka will tell him to shove that suggestion.

As expected, Iruka calmly finishes his snack and then nonchalantly walks away without answering, sticking Kakashi with the bill.


Their other discussions go about as smoothly, which is to say that they’re more successful than expected, considering the amount of time they spend verbally poking each other for fun. They’re back in Kakashi’s office again, and Kakashi is sharpening all of Suzume-sensei’s pencils with a kunai because Shizune has gone home early today and can’t stop him from frittering away his time like a child. While discussing their living arrangements, they came to the agreement that they would share a bed. Iruka became adorably flustered about it at first, until Kakashi assured him that the bed was almost egregiously large and they wouldn’t even have to touch. This segued into a discussion about whether they should wear any obvious sign of their marriage besides their binding gifts, which serpentined into a talk about how married they needed to act while in public, and has now ended up here: with Kakashi trying to figure out the most polite way to tell his fiancé that he can sleep with other people should he so desire.

“You can still, ah. See other people at your discretion, if you wish,” he eventually mutters, with the same amount of enthusiasm he has for narrating Icha Icha out loud.

The strange noise that escapes Iruka’s mouth is indescribable, as is the sharp look Iruka levels at him. “Really? The Hokage’s husband has permission to open up their marriage bed to others?”

Kakashi stops in the middle of shaving off another sliver of wood from the pencil stub in his hands to think about this. “Hm. I can see why that might be...untraditional.”

“I don’t judge anyone whose marriage is structured this way, but I get the feeling the daimyo might not feel the same way.”

“Alright, then you may not continue seeing other people?”

This time, it’s just a regular snort that Iruka gives him. “That would just be a continuation of my current trajectory.”

“I’m in a similar boat,” Kakashi admits. There are about two dozen reasons why he hasn’t had a real relationship in years, and even as some of those reasons fade away, he finds it difficult to muster the energy or desire to change the situation.

“Then let’s say this: if either of us feels the need to look for...more,” and a dull flush settles into Iruka’s cheeks, “um, we will discuss terms with each other before making any decisions.”

“Sounds good to me,” Kakashi says, because he’s made do on his own or with the rare, occasional fling well enough since long ago, and this concession is more for Iruka’s sake than his own. After all, Iruka’s the one being suckered into this fake marriage.

They talk briefly about the possibility of eventual divorce once Naruto has taken the helm, but the discussion, while frank, leaves off on the decision that they’ll each sign a prenup and sort out the separation when the time comes. With that out of the way, their upcoming ceremony takes the forefront of the conversation.

No invitations have been sent yet, but they’re planning to hurry up and get it done in two months’ time. Kakashi can secure all the necessary leave time for everyone invited, so that isn’t a point of concern. However, he does bring up the option of doing a courthouse marriage just to get it out of the way quickly. Iruka considers this suggestion, but then reminds Kakashi that they’ll need witnesses regardless.

“I’d like Naruto to be there, if no one else.”

“He might legitimately try to kill me,” Kakashi mentions, mostly to be difficult, though his paranoia wouldn’t be unfounded. As much as Naruto likes him, it doesn’t really hold a candle to how much he loves Iruka.

Iruka shrugs, but his smile has a wicked edge to it. “Either way, your problem gets solved.”

Kakashi laughs as he ties up his bundle of pencils and tosses it over to Iruka. “Fair enough. Would you prefer a more lavish ceremony?”

“Not lavish, no. But if we’re going to need witnesses anyway, we might as well wait so they can all come.”

“Then we’ll do it your way, sensei.”

“Oh, that’s another thing, Kakashi-san.” When Kakashi looks at him for elaboration, Iruka does an airy kind of motion with his hand between them. “You’ll have to stop calling me ‘sensei’ once we’re married. It just doesn’t feel right anymore.”

“Are you sure, Iruka-sensei?” Kakashi asks, leering at him. “It’s your title, isn’t it? Why can’t I use it? Just because we’re lying in bed in our pajamas doesn’t mean you stop being a teacher, sensei-

“Ugh, no, stop!” Iruka exclaims, rubbing at his scar with chagin. “It’s too much. Unless you want me to address you as Rokudaime-sama at home?” he challenges, and Kakashi has a hand up in a “desist” motion before he can help himself.

“Point taken. But in exchange you need to drop the honorific too.”

Iruka opens his mouth instinctively to protest, and then pauses. “That seems fair. And logical.”

“Good.” And because Kakashi likes sticking his foot directly into puddles of trouble, he says, “Why don’t you try it now?”

The way Iruka’s brow furrows in consternation never fails to amuse Kakashi. “Why? We aren’t wed yet.”

“Consider it practice, Iruka,” he says coolly, managing not to append his much beloved “-sensei” at the end.

Iruka narrows his eyes before saying, very crisply, “I don’t see why I need to practice, Kakashi.” Despite his precise pronunciation, Kakashi notices the slightest nanosecond of hesitation.

“You had to think about it.”

Iruka sputters indignantly at the accusation. “I’ll get used to it soon enough!”

“Be sure that you do.”

“It’s still much less mortifying than you accidentally calling me ‘sensei’ in the middle of a gala,” Iruka grumbles as he gathers his papers in a stack.

“It’s okay, you can just flutter your lashes and tell them I have a teacher kink-”

“Oh, absolutely not-”

--

Gai cries when Kakashi informs him of his upcoming nuptials. Great, manly rivulets of tears flow down his gleaming face, and Kakashi belatedly thinks that he should have anticipated this and brought tissues. He settles for patting Gai on the shoulder, and gets his hand crunched in a masculine and heartfelt display of tenderness.

“Kakashi, my beloved friend, my Eternal Rival,” Gai manages to say when his sniffles have subsided. Kakashi is wheeling him around a training field because if they were in town Gai would certainly announce Kakashi’s happy news to everyone within hearing range. “What a joyous occasion this will be! The whole village will resound with exuberant cries-”

“We’re only inviting ten people,” Kakashi interrupts, but Gai’s bubble doesn’t burst in the slightest.

“How modern and hip! Of course you, my most Savvy and Prudent comrade, wouldn’t get caught up in the trappings of the wedding industry! Especially with a lover as Astute and Independent as Iruka-sensei!”

Kakashi doesn’t correct him. To all outside observers, including those closest to them, this marriage will be real. Even if he and Iruka had been nothing more than colleagues and friends before, from here forward they would be husbands in every sense.

“Yeah, we’re keeping it small. There isn’t going to be a reception or anything.”

He can feel Gai’s frown even while standing behind him. “Not even a celebratory meal afterwards?”

Actually, knowing his students, they’ll all wind up at a restaurant together somehow, so he tells Gai that yes, maybe a meal together, but no, he may not make the entire restaurant toast the occasion nor may he challenge Kakashi to a contest on his wedding day.

“Even I know that the first day of your conjugal bliss is not the time for our Healthy and Stimulating Rivalry!”

“Good. So, do you want to be part of the wedding- hey, stay still- no handstands- if you drown in your own tears I’m going to replace you with someone else.”


Tenzou does not cry when Kakashi tells him. Instead, he holds the newly assigned mission Kakashi just personally handed him and gives Kakashi a long look before asking, “Is there any way I can help with the wedding, senpai?”

“No, no, you just need to show up,” Kakashi says, waving him away, but Tenzou continues standing in front of his desk looking contemplative before he smiles knowingly.

“Should I go offer Iruka-sensei my congratulations on your long and happy relationship? I’m glad you made it here.”

Kakashi knows he’s being needled, but there isn’t anything he can really do about it without using chakra. Of course Tenzou would remember the one time a decade ago Kakashi let slip the fact that he thought the new chuunin at the mission desk had a nice face. “Er, sure. You do that.”

“I will, after my mission. Congrats, senpai. Good luck with the planning!” He flickers away and Kakashi sighs to himself about troublesome kouhai.


The day of reckoning comes when Naruto has a free day. They’ve each seen him individually since his return last week, but it’s only now that they both have the time to see him together. Iruka bribes him with his usual promise of lunch and allows him to demonstrate some basic ninjutsu for the eldest Academy class, in hopes that he’ll be at his most pliant when they break the news to him. For good measure, Kakashi even buys the kid some red bean soup, which Naruto accepts after giving Kakashi a healthy amount of sideeye.

“So what’s the deal?” Naruto asks after his fifth order of dessert. They’re seated outside, hidden away at a secluded table at the side of the shop. Naruto squishes one cheek against his palm and gestures between the two of them. He’s grown so much since Kakashi first officially met him, but he hasn’t lost all the softness in his face yet, for which Kakashi is kind of glad. He already looks so much like Minato-sensei and yells so much like Kushina. Or like Iruka. “You’re both usually too busy to see me at the same time anymore. Do you have a secret mission to give me or something? Ooh, are you going to let me have my own mini-class, like Shino?” he asks Iruka brightly, sitting up. “There’s this new kind of jiton I came up with that I wanna try and teach them-”

“Having you teach part-time is something I do want to discuss with you at some point, but no, there’s another thing we wanted to talk to you about,” Iruka hedges, glancing at Kakashi, who nods slightly to encourage him. They both agreed that it would be better for Naruto to hear it from Iruka. “Something important that we both wanted you to know.”

Naruto perks up even further at this. “Yeah? What is it?”

“Kakashi-sensei and I are getting married.”

The earth-shattering shock on Naruto’s face is a point of delight, even if it’s at Kakashi’s expense. “To each other?

“Uh, yes,” Iruka laughs nervously, scratching at his scar.

Why?

“Maybe we’re in love,” Kakashi tells him blandly. Most people haven’t pried into the reasons behind their marriage, choosing to accept it when Kakashi hints that this is the next logical step in his relationship with Iruka, even if he knows they know better. He is infamously tight-lipped about his personal life, so everyone has learned to leave well enough alone by now, which is what he and Iruka were banking on. Iruka, meanwhile, has extremely nosy friends, but he’s quite good at avoidance. Kakashi is also completely certain that Tsunade knows the truth, but she doesn’t do anything beyond knock back a line of shots and loudly commend him for finally getting his life in order.

Naruto’s sheer indignation is both entertaining and maybe a little offensive.

“In love with you, Kakashi-sensei? You’re amazing at a lot of stuff, but you’re also- bleargh,” he says eloquently, gesturing at Kakashi’s entire person with some emotion that’s mostly disbelief.

“Ouch,” Kakashi says.

“Naruto! You’re being extremely rude,” Iruka scolds, reaching over to chop his child softly on the head. “That’s your former teacher and my future husband you’re insulting.”

“But Iruka-sensei,” Naruto whines, sounding like the teen he still is, “You could marry anyone in the village, and you choose this?” When he points he almost puts out the eye Kakashi only just got back. Iruka has to cough suddenly to cover up a laugh.

“Naruto, while I’m touched by your, um, misplaced faith in my charms, the person I’ve chosen is Kakashi,” Iruka tells him patiently once his coughing fit stops. At Naruto’s continued huffing, he says, “I know it may seem confusing to you, but I was hoping you would give us your blessing. You know I value your opinion very highly.”

From anyone else, Kakashi would find the words almost manipulative, but Iruka looks at Naruto with the kind of open, unsuppressable fondness that Kakashi used to find frightening when he was younger. Kakashi would die for Naruto, but Iruka would cling stubbornly to his last wretched, painful moments of life until he could be certain that Naruto was safe. It’s an impossible, terrifying kind of love.

Yeah, but- ugh- you’re not playing fair right now!” Naruto says, crossing his arms and slouching down in his seat with a pout. He’s right. Even Kakashi might find himself vacillating if he were on the receiving end of that kind of affection bomb.

“Older siblings don’t have to play fair,” Iruka laughs, reaching over to ruffle Naruto’s slightly overgrown hair. Kakashi watches as he cards his fingers through blond locks, and the gesture is so tender that he feels he should look away.

Naruto’s face goes pink, and he scowls but doesn’t push Iruka’s hand off. It makes Kakashi want to pat him on the head too. “Fine, if you’re going to marry him, then I guess I’m okay with it. I mean, if you really like him that much I have to accept it. But he better make you really damn happy!”

“He will,” Iruka promises at the same time that Kakashi says, “I’ll do everything in my power to make that happen.”

Naruto glances between the two of them, trying to read their faces. His nose scrunches when he makes eye contact with Kakashi, who resists the urge to reach over and poke his puffed up cheeks, but eventually he just slumps onto the table in defeat. Iruka musses his hair even more wildly until Naruto starts complaining about how it’s getting scruffed into a weird shape.

“This marriage isn’t going to change anything between us,” Iruka assures him, smiling when Naruto wilts a little under his palm. “We’re still us, and my h- sorry, our house- will still always be open to you. You can always come home.”

Kakashi hears the unspoken I will not leave you and he thinks Naruto does too. The difference is that Naruto isn’t yet aware that one day he’ll be the one outgrowing them, that they’ll be the ones left behind as he becomes his own man. Blue eyes meet brown, and he sees a tacit understanding pass between the two of them.

“Okay,” Naruto says hoarsely, leaning into Iruka’s hand, and Kakashi is reminded again that despite all the apparently boundless love in his heart, there’s only one person in the world that can make Iruka’s eyes go soft like that.

“Thank you. It does mean a lot to both of us. And I hope you’ll be one of my first visitors once I move.”

“Course I will. Hey, I bet you’ll have room for a kotatsu now!”

“Oh, I’m sure we will,” Iruka says, looking over at Kakashi, who quickly considers the copious amounts of space in his home and nods. “And a futon too, if you wanted to stay over.”

“Wait, does Kakashi-sensei have a couch? And a TV? We can watch the sequel to that Ocean Warrior movie! They put out four more of them!”

Iruka makes a pained noise. “They keep getting worse and worse...”

“That’s what makes them good!”

“The camera movements in the last one almost made you puke!”

Naruto scoffs. “It’s okay, I’ll just keep a trash can next to me.”

“I’ll buy one just for you and write your name on the side.”

“Write it on my futon too!” Kakashi, who’s been watching this volley of words with blatant interest, chuckles when he sees Iruka recoil at this suggestion.

“You can’t write on a futon! You’ll ruin the fabric!”

“Can’t you use string- y’know, like embroidery? You said that you used to sew people’s shoes and pants together with chakra- isn’t it basically the same thing?”

“Oh?” Kakashi asks, turning to look at his fiancé with undisguised delight.

“It’s completely different!” Iruka cries out, looking mortified that Naruto is revealing all his sordid secrets.

“If you say so,” Naruto says skeptically. “Hey, Iruka-sensei, don’t forget to take your special bowls with you to Kakashi-sensei’s place. And your frog pillow.”

“I’ll make sure to pack them safely.”

“Are you moving in with us?” Kakashi asks Naruto, amused by the plans they’re cobbling together without his input. “You can have one of the guest rooms — there’s more space in that house than I have any idea what to do with — but if you’re trying to get alone time with Hinata-”

“No, ugh!” Naruto leaps away from the table like he’s been scalded, his face burning redder than Sakura’s dress. “Don’t you dare mention Hinata! With me! In your house with you and Iruka-sensei around the corner?! Ew!”

Ah, youth. “It'll probably be your house one day,” Kakashi reminds him brightly as Iruka bites down hard on his own knuckle to stop from laughing. “We’ll set up the guest room anyway. For your solo use. But we’ll still be around the corner, so-”

“Stop stop stop! I don’t want to hear it! Thanks for lunch, but I’m leaving now!”

He shudders violently, as if trying to shake any unwelcoming thoughts about them out of his body, and begins retreating.

“Bye, Naruto,” Iruka calls. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Naruto agrees hastily, before spinning on his toes and flipping around. “Oh, wait! I know you don’t need the warning, but- you should make Kakashi-sensei happy too, Iruka-sensei. Somebody should be looking out for him.” Naruto scratches at the nape of his neck, looking awkward but genuine in his demand.

Iruka looks much less startled than Kakashi feels and he lifts a hand in the air as if being sworn into office. “I will.”

“Alright, then I’ll see you guys later.” He comes to a sudden realization and pulls a face. “And don’t make out where I can see you! Or hear you!”

“When have we ever done such a thing?” Kakashi asks him, but he just crosses his arms in a X over his chest like a preemptive warning.

“I just don’t want you getting any ideas!”

“Get going, you,” Iruka says. “I’m sure your friends are waiting for you! Also, do not teach my pre-genin how to magnetize things until they know how to block!”

“Ha, sure!”

“Naruto, I’m serious! Hey!” Iruka shakes his fist aimlessly in the air as their student runs off.

“That wasn’t so bad,” Kakashi says as they watch him disappear around the corner. Some of the energy deflates out of Iruka, and he almost ends up slumping into Kakashi, who puts a hand up to catch him by the shoulder. “You okay there, Iruka-sensei?”

Iruka continues looking out into the streets for a moment before he turns to meet Kakashi’s eyes. “Yeah, I just- I was more worried than I thought I was,” he sighs. His gaze flickers down and away. “There was no way he would really disapprove, but still, I- I wanted him to understand. But how can he understand if I can’t really explain?”

“I’m sorry for putting you in a position to lie to him,” Kakashi tells him quietly, and he does mean it. They both work in an occupation built on lies and violence, but he knows it can still hurt to use those skills so close to the heart.

“It’s okay, I knew what I was agreeing to. Even if the rest of the story isn’t real, it’s true that we’re partners now. I’m here to be your support, and whatever else you need.” He tilts his head back up and Kakashi realizes that his hand is still braced against Iruka’s arm, and that they’re sitting with uncharacteristic closeness. From this distance, his eyes are forest dark but still as warm as ever. It’s a sight Kakashi is going to have to grow used to.

“I will give you everything I can,” Kakashi says, because he can promise at least that to the person to whom he is about to pledge his life.

“I don’t need much,” Iruka says as a reassurance, but Kakashi is still left wondering if what he can give is enough.

--

The wedding is a quiet affair.

Well, as quiet as any event can be with Naruto, Sakura, and Gai in attendance.

They each invite a handful of people, and hold it on the roof of the Hokage building because it’s easy enough to shoo people away from there for long enough to get the ceremony done. Kakashi sent a hawk to give Sasuke an invitation as well, but of course only received a blunt refusal as well as a somewhat congratulatory message of condolence to be relayed to Iruka for his poor taste in partners.

Gai is the officiant, because he went and got himself licensed at some point in a shockingly unsurprising turn of events. This leaves Sakura as Kakashi’s best woman: a position he wasn’t sure if she would accept at first. She did most enthusiastically, after first trying to punch him in the arm, which he dodged, and then crushing him in a hug, which he allowed, and only regretted the tiniest bit afterwards when he couldn’t sign any more paperwork with his jelly arms.

Naruto is Iruka’s best man, and he cleaned up admirably well for the job. Kakashi suspects that Sakura and Hinata had some hand in that, but he doesn’t bring it up, even as Iruka is gently brushing non-existent lint off his shoulders and remarking on how nice he looks. Naruto, in turn, tells him it feels weird to see everyone in such stuffy clothes, but that they look nice too.

They’d almost decided to just get married in their uniforms, but everyone else involved in the wedding loudly and vehemently opposed, so Kakashi sucked up whatever reservations he had and ventured back into the Hatake estate to sift through the carefully preserved memories he’d made sure not to touch in decades. After unearthing his father’s wedding haori and hakama, he sat back and lost several hours of time deciding whether or not he should wear it. It wasn’t until the next day, when Iruka admitted he had done the same thing — looked through the boxes of the keepsakes he could neither bring himself to pawn away nor display in his apartment, until he found his father’s formal attire — that they both quietly came to the agreement that this might be the one time they could wear these memories without drowning in the past.

Everyone mills about for a few minutes until Tsunade clears her throat loudly and Shizune jumps straight to getting everyone in place. Kakashi takes his seat beside Iruka as they wait for everyone to settle.

He should be watching Gai prepare their sake cups, but he can’t help a sideways glance at Iruka, dressed in midnight blue and white, his dark hair tied neatly without his hitai-ate to hold back the few flyaway wisps that frame his forehead. Iruka catches him looking at the same moment that Kakashi intends to look away, and in penance he lets a few words slip.

“You look-”

“Like a fish out of water?” Iruka asks, grinning sheepishly at him. “Or a fish in silks.” He rubs at the scar on his thumb but keeps his hands folded on his knees: the only sign of nerves besides his perfect posture.

“No, you look quite lovely,” Kakashi murmurs before turning back to his best rival, who looks to be holding his overflowing emotions in with his indomitable willpower.

Iruka doesn’t get the chance to respond before Gai is handing them their first set of sake cups, and then they’re caught in the steps of their ceremony and their simple vows. They speak their promise to one another into the universe, they bow to the gods above, and then it’s time for the exchange of binding gifts.

Naruto strides forward with pride and hands a lacquer box to his father, who bows as he presents it to Kakashi. With careful fingers, Kakashi removes from the box a beautiful iron tessen painted with the Umino crest. He snaps it open, taking stock of the way the air cuts in a burst, and knows that despite its age, it was masterfully crafted and well cared for. He folds it flat and tucks it into his obi before meeting Iruka’s smile with his own.

Next, Sakura walks carefully up to them and presents the sheathed weapon in her hands to Kakashi, who grips it firmly for a final time before he offers it to his soon-to-be-husband with both hands. Iruka’s calm face is marred by slight confusion as he registers a familiarity in the sword that he cannot place, but he unsheathes it regardless, and then looks rapidly back at Kakashi in astonishment.

From the gasp from both Gai and their small crowd, Iruka isn’t the only one surprised by the tanto he’s holding. As if he isn’t quite able to believe it, Iruka draws the blade through the air in a delicate arc. Kakashi can feel everyone tracing the resulting streak of white chakra with their eyes.

“This is-”

“It is now yours, as am I.”

Iruka swallows back the emotion Kakashi can see building in him, before sheathing the tanto and tying it to his hip. And with that, their ceremony is completed. Kakashi and Iruka are married.


As expected, they end up at a restaurant. It took longer than they thought it would to leave the Hokage building, with the surprising number of tears and the amount of hugging Kakashi and Iruka were each subjected to. Kakashi doesn’t get a moment alone with Iruka until they’re seated at a long table surrounded by much more food than he anticipated ordering today. They still aren’t alone in any sense, but their friends are so occupied with eating and celebrating that Kakashi is finally freed from conversation.

“Have some soup,” Iruka says as he passes a bowl to Kakashi. Their fingers brush as Kakashi takes it, and they exchange awkward nods. It feels like both nothing and everything has changed.

“Thank you, Iruka-se-” He cuts himself off before he can complete the honorific.

“You were going to say it!” Iruka accuses, a smile already unfolding on his lips.

“I wasn’t,” Kakashi denies, his fingers still wrapped around his soup bowl to anchor him.

“Don’t lie to your husband.” Kakashi doesn’t know how Iruka does that — keep his voice bone-dry even when his face spells out exactly how much he’s enjoying your torment.

“What if it’s a matter of village security?”

“I can tell the difference between lies and state secrets.”

“Oh, remind me to up your clearance level.” He adds it mentally to his list of to-dos. While they’ve moved most of Iruka’s possessions to the house and have updated the wards, there’s still a good many little details to sort out. Such as broaching the subject of having Iruka sign the summons contract.

“Okay, if you remind me to add you to next month’s guest speaker list. Sadoru-sensei’s class is taking their genin test soon, and I think it’d be motivating to get the chance to ask you some questions.”

“I’ll do it if you ask Sadoru-sensei to have her students transform into me for their exam,” Kakashi says before speed-drinking his soup.

“Should that be with or without the hat?” Iruka teases.

“No hat, but bare-faced.”

“You’re practically begging them to caricature you.”

“Are you two seriously talking about work right now?” Kotetsu demands, waving a bottle of sake at them from Iruka’s left. He periodically lists into Izumo’s side, before getting pushed back into an upright position. Kakashi wonders if he hasn’t been getting enough sleep with all the errands Shizune and he have been dispatching the two to do.

“Just a little bit,” Iruka tries to say, before Izumo scoffs and shoves an entire platter of jellyfish at him.

“It’s your wedding day!” Sakura says from across the table. She looks horrified by how humdrum her teachers are. “Don’t discuss work matters! You should be celebrating!”

“Maa, this is how we celebrate, Sakura. The throes of young love are very different from the joy a married couple derives from one another’s company.”

“You’ve been married for two hours!”

“Don’t try to understand them, Sakura-chan. They’re boring now,” Naruto warns. He’s sitting beside Sakura so that he can glare directly into Kakashi’s eyes while shoveling rice into his mouth. Kakashi finds his ability to multitask admirable.

She whirls on him next. “If you and Hinata ever decide to get married, I’m expecting a better showing than this.”

“Sakura-chan!” Naruto manages to squeal out before beginning to choke on a piece of pork. Sakura immediately grabs him around the waist and squeezes the blockage right back out. Gai and Shizune cheer from their end of the table. Meanwhile, it takes both Tenzou and Kurenai to hold Anko back from ordering a dozen plates of crab.

“Honestly, Naruto,” Sakura sighs while setting him back down in his seat. “I guess I should settle in for a long engagement.”

“We’ve only been dating for a year! And what about you! You’ve been hanging around Ino a lot lately,” Naruto says triumphantly, taking his chances with an elbow nudging her arm.

Kakashi is pleasantly surprised to see Sakura react like Naruto is indeed onto something with this accusation. Perhaps she’s finally moving past her childhood crush on Sasuke. “We- we’re just reconnecting as friends for now!” she sputters, but her pink face and fidgety hands say otherwise.

“Stop teasing each other, you two, and eat your dinner,” Iruka reprimands them.

“Yes, Iruka-sensei,” they chorus in shame.

“And get more vegetables,” Kakashi adds. “Rice and protein is not a balanced meal.”

Naruto grumbles but complies, especially since he can’t really stop Sakura and Kakashi from piling more greens and carrots into his bowl.

When he looks back, he finds that Iruka has given him grilled fish while he was occupied with Naruto.

“You eat your dinner too,” Iruka says in a way that sounds like he’s asking, so I’ll have to look after you too?

“Whatever you say, sensei,” Kakashi says primly, enjoying the way Iruka sighs at him.

--

The evening has long bled into night by the time Kakashi takes his first walk home with his husband. The air is cooler than typical for this time of year, and the budding branches of the trees glow electric green beneath the buzzing streetlights. They’re walking together slightly closer than usual, and Kakashi wonders if he should offer to take Iruka’s hand. Walking hand in hand seems like a thing regular couples do, though, then again, he’d never witnessed Asuma and Kurenai doing it. In the end, he decides that he grabs Iruka’s hand enough as it is; it would probably be better to give him some space.

“It feels like I’m going back to work,” Iruka says as they approach the Hokage building cluster.

Kakashi hums in agreement. “In my first month of being Hokage I literally rolled out of bed one minute before my conference with the Intelligence division. There’s a reason we hold those meetings in their building now.”

“Please don’t tell me you ran over without getting dressed.”

“Alright, I won’t,” Kakashi says, watching with amusement as Iruka’s eyes grow wide, before his expression turns shrewd.

“No, this is a trick. Did you- did you forget to put your mask on?”

“Oh, no, I sleep with the mask on.”

“You do not.”

“Of course I do. I haven’t taken this mask off since I was five years old.”

Iruka rolls his eyes and whaps Kakashi with the billowing sleeve of his haori. “You take it off every time we eat lunch together.”

“How would you know? Have you been sneaking peeks at me, Iruka? Trying to catch a glimpse of one of the seven mysteries of Konoha?”

“...what are the other six mysteries?”

“Ah, what they are is a mystery unto itself-”

“You’re impossible! Forget I asked,” Iruka exclaims, laughing against his will. Kakashi is about to launch into a long-winded story about mystery #1 when he realizes they’ve crossed the gates and have arrived back home.

Kakashi lets them in and they remove their zouri at the doorway. There’s a moment of awkwardness as they both find their way into the bedroom and attempt to divest themselves of their wedding clothes, until Kakashi offers to help Iruka first.

Iruka accepts and meticulously frees Kakashi’s father’s tanto from his hip and places it in the rack on the wall.

“Thank you,” he says after making certain it’s secured. “It’s a very special gift.”

“You and I are family now,” Kakashi explains as Iruka approaches him with soundless steps. “It only made sense. Thank you for entrusting me with your grandmother’s tessen.”

“She would be happy to know you have it. Though she’d probably have a lot to say about its proper usage.”

Kakashi laughs, but the sound fades as Iruka spreads his arms out and Kakashi has to slide the haori from his shoulders. He’s been neither parent nor lover to anyone before, so the only people he’s helped dress or undress were injured comrades.

He can feel a soap-bubble-thin membrane of tension in the air as he helps Iruka slip out of his hakama, but counter-intuitively, it seems to evaporate with each layer of clothing. Eventually, Iruka is left in nothing but his under-kimono, and his clothes set aside on the couch. It’s intimate in a way that Kakashi doesn’t know how to be, so he reacts on instinct and imitates Iruka’s actions and allows himself to be helped out of his clothing until he too has been stripped down to just his under-kimono.

There’s a beat where they look only at one another, the gravity of their new lives settling like a stone falling into a well. The silence echoes with the words neither of them have ready.

“Um, thank you, Kakashi-sa- Kakashi. I’m going to- over there,” Iruka eventually says, pointing blindly in the direction of the bathroom.

“Yes, go ahead,” Kakashi replies, only barely less stilted, and Iruka hurries away.

With Iruka in the bathroom first, Kakashi has the chance to hang up their clothes to be cleaned later and to change into his sleep pants. He then stares at the contents of their shared closet and wonders if it would be polite to put on a shirt. In the end, he settles for shrugging on a beautifully hideous orange and powder blue t-shirt that Tenzou bought him as a souvenir on his first leisure trip out of the Land of Fire after leaving ANBU. Next, he follows his typical routine of removing his mask and attempting in vain to tame his wild Hatake hair, before giving up and sitting seiza-style upon his too-large bed, waiting for his husband to emerge. Soon enough, the door slides open, and Iruka steps out, now changed into his plain pajamas.

“It’s safe to look,” Kakashi says gently, and despite himself, he holds his breath as he waits for his husband to look up.

He can see the way surprise flickers on in Iruka’s eyes like a candle in a dark corridor, but years of training prevent Iruka from displaying any reaction more than holding Kakashi’s gaze and asking softly, “Are you sure?”

For someone willing to shout at Kakashi very loudly and very publicly when justified, Iruka has always carried a level of consideration for his oddities that continues to surprise Kakashi to this day. His mask, his meandering hours at the memorial stone, his propensity for napping in trees when he’s exhausted from all-day conferences; Iruka takes it all in stride. He’ll give as good as he gets when Kakashi teases, but he never treats Kakashi’s probably irritating habits as anything more than quirks to be accepted.

Now they're at a standstill: Kakashi seated on their bed with his mask bunched in his hand and Iruka in the doorway, unwilling to advance any closer, yet unable to break eye contact with Kakashi.

Kakashi briefly entertains the thought of sitting here until Iruka’s curiosity gets the better of him, but he can’t be certain he’ll win the standoff. So he smiles and says, “If not for my husband, then for whom?”

It breaks the semi-trance that fell over the two of them, and Iruka shrugs in agreement as he enters the bedroom. “I’ll accept the honor, then.” He finishes moving a few of the boxes aside that still need unpacking, and comes and seats himself at the foot of the bed and then they’re watching one another again. Iruka finally allows himself to take in Kakashi’s face: the slightly paler skin from the bridge of his nose and below, the end of the scar that bisects his eye, the tiny beauty mark near his lips. Kakashi honestly thinks the reveal is much more disappointing than whatever the mystery builds up to in other people’s minds, but he sits still so Iruka can finish studying him.

“One mystery down,” Iruka says softly, raising his gaze until their eyes meet and he nods. “Just six more to go.”

Kakashi appreciates the normality with which he approaches this strange privilege. As if it isn’t at all bizarre that he married a man before ever seeing his entire face.

“Luckily, none of those have to do with me,” Kakashi says with false relief, and Iruka awards him a smile that turns quickly into a baffled frown.

“What on earth is your shirt?” He reaches out to pluck at the unknown emblem in the middle that looks like a nine-legged salamander.

“A souvenir from Tenzou,” Kakashi says, because it’s all he knows about it.

“I see…” Iruka mutters. Kakashi can practically see his opinion of Tenzou’s fashion sense transforming in real time.

Kakashi leaves him to tidy anything else up that he wishes, and goes to make sure his toothbrush is still in its right place.

“So it was a lie after all,” Iruka remarks as Kakashi putters around the bathroom sans mask.

Kakashi pokes his head back out to see him looking at the mask and says through his mouth full of toothpaste and around his brush, “Well, it certainly wasn’t a state secret.”

“Ha, ha.”

Iruka seems unable to stop himself from unpacking the things he’ll need for work, even though tomorrow is still the weekend. Kakashi just leaves him be and settles into bed, assuming that unless Iruka burns off the fumes of this excess energy, he’ll be too restless to fall asleep anyway. He has to remember to move to one side instead of just lying down in the middle.

“You’re not going to tell me my face is a deal-breaker, are you? After we’ve signed all the papers and updated the registry and everything?” he comments as Iruka puts aside a planner he pulled from somewhere and stretches his back out.

“No, you have a nice face, and I’m pretty sure you’re aware of it. And if you weren’t, I’m telling you now. Congratulations on your face.”

“Thank you very much. But you still look troubled.”

“It’s just...Naruto owes me 500 ryo,” Iruka says, his expression growing sly. “I told him there was no way you had a mustache.”

Kakashi can’t help laughing at the memory of Naruto insisting that Kakashi must be hiding some big secret beneath his mask. “Please tell him I have a mustache. I’ll pay you quadruple what he owes you.”

“There’s no point; we share finances now. Which, by the way, I should warn you: you will see a decrease in your bank balance.”

“My paycheck is going straight toward Naruto’s stomach, isn’t it?”

“No, that’s mine. Yours is paying for that embroidered futon he wants.”

“Right. Let’s go shopping tomorrow.”

Iruka finally climbs into the bed, but then picks up the brush on his nightstand and does something Kakashi never realized he would have the chance to witness. With one deft hand, he reaches up and tugs his hair tie out and shakes his ponytail free.

His hair cascades down loosely around his face, sleek and slightly wavy from being bound up all day. Kakashi can see for the first time that it’s a little longer than shoulder length, and, now that it frames Iruka’s face, that it’s a shade or so darker than Iruka’s skin. He wonders if it’s as soft as it looks, but he knows intellectually that it would be weird to ask.

However, even his staring is enough, because Iruka gives him a self-conscious smile, asking, “What is it?”

“I’ve never seen you without your hair up.”

“Oh, that’s because I find it impractical to keep it down. Too easy for the kids to grab, or stick bugs or gum in.” He draws the brush efficiently through his hair and goes to switch off the light before scooting under the covers.

It’s only now that Kakashi understands that no matter how large he thought the bed to be, they still feel quite close to one another. Only an arm’s length away. The proximity is utterly alien. Almost unnerving, and he has to consciously slow his pulse even though he knows that Iruka is an ally, that any danger that lies coiled in Iruka’s bones and muscles will never be directed at him. But his body doesn’t recognize what his mind does: that his nervousness isn’t from paranoia, but something entirely new.

There’s no light in the room but for the watery moonlight that falls through the window behind their bed but it’s enough for him to make out the sight of Iruka’s eyes peering at him in the dark.

“We really went through with it,” Iruka whispers. A lock of hair is falling into his face, and Kakashi is startled to find he has to hold himself back from brushing it out of the way.

He says into the space between them, “We did. Let’s have a happy marriage.”

“Mm, alright,” Iruka replies, his eyes already starting to drift closed. “Goodnight, Kakashi.”

This time, when he says Kakashi’s name, there’s no hesitation at all.

--

Kakashi wakes shortly before sunrise as usual, but he can’t help but tense when he feels the weight of another body and someone else’s chakra in the room with him. Then he remembers yesterday and forces himself to relax before turning to look.

Iruka is splayed out on the mattress, one hand flung over into Kakashi’s space and his head tilted back on his pillow. His hair spills like an ink painting around him, and he looks like he may be having an annoying dream, from the way his eyebrows twitch a bit even in sleep.

He looks soft like this, with the line of his throat exposed and his smart mouth lax with sleep. Kakashi’s never thought of any part of Iruka as soft before, besides perhaps his heart, but even that isn’t soft so much as open and overgrown. He’s seen enough of Iruka’s scars and scanned enough of his old reports to know he has the same diligence and steel in his spine that all respectable shinobi of Konoha possess. Furthermore, he has the firm hand and unwavering perseverance of an experienced teacher, which is something that only a select few in their village can boast.

But here, asleep in their bed with nothing to trouble him besides whatever irritations live in his dream, Kakashi has the chance to see a new secret side of him. It’s a frightening gift to receive.

“Iruka,” he whispers, and Iruka’s nose crinkles as if he subconsciously hears Kakashi but doesn’t want to respond. Kakashi decides to leave him alone, since neither of them have appointments today besides with one another.

He goes through his usual morning routine, and by the time he’s putting his fried egg on his bowl of rice, Iruka shuffles into the living room, looking comfortably disheveled. It’s the kind of vulnerability that few kinds of relationships allow, and to know that it’s Kakashi’s to keep is another new responsibility he’ll have to get used to. Iruka’s hair is still down, which Kakashi is inexplicably glad about.

“Good morning. Do you like your yolk cooked solid, or runny?”

“Do you always wake before the sun?” Iruka asks through a yawn instead of answering. He pads over to stare blearily at Kakashi’s breakfast and then the white egg waiting in his hand. From this close Kakashi can see his three stray hairs that have gone prematurely gray in a sea of dark.

“Pretty much. But I imagine you don’t wake up much later; you’re at the Academy by 6:30 most days.”

“Well, weekends are for sleeping in. And I’d like the yolk kind of jammy.”

“Will do.”

“Thank you, Kakashi,” Iruka says before shuffling back away, still looking somewhat dazed. Kakashi watches him leave like the intriguing non-mystery that he is, even as the oil in the pan starts to spit at his bare arms.

In the few minutes that it takes Kakashi to finish frying his egg, Iruka gets himself completely ready for the day, and is seated at the table in his uniform blues with his hair tied back by the time Kakashi sets their meals down.

“Oh, miso soup!” he says with the pure-hearted happiness of a person who doesn’t eat homemade meals. “And you cut the tofu so evenly,” Iruka remarks next.

“I’ll show you how next time,” Kakashi says, tugging his mask down to sip his soup.

“Please do,” Iruka says while turning to face the refrigerator.

“You’ve seen my face now, Iruka,” Kakashi reminds him, while trying not to smile at the way Iruka whips his head back toward him.

“Sorry, habit! It’s going to take a while for me to remember,” he says, glancing almost shyly between his bowl and Kakashi. The illusion of coyness is broken when he uses his spoon to vigorously smash his egg into his rice.

They enjoy breakfast while indulging in gossip about their friends’ lives, like Shizune’s date Kakashi wasn’t supposed to know about, and how tall Mirai has gotten. Iruka insists on washing the dishes after breakfast, so Kakashi helps dry them before showing him the contents of every cabinet in their kitchen.

“That’s very many knives,” Iruka says as he pokes about the kitchen memorizing its contents and looking for incriminating secrets.

“No more than the standard number of shuriken you probably carry on you at all times.”

“No more useful, either,” Iruka mumbles absently as he looks at the condiments in the fridge. He pulls out Kakashi’s jars of umeboshi, rakkyo, and tsukemono, frowns at them in consideration, and then replaces each one in its proper location.

“...sensei, please don’t tell me you use your shuriken to cut meat. Please.”

“Then I won’t,” he says with a grin, turning Kakashi’s words back against him.

“Iruka,” Kakashi protests, despairing. But his husband is already fleeing the room, on to catalogue their living room instead.


It’s closing in on 9 a.m. when they finally leave the house to go do their shopping, and, as Kakashi expected, half the village already knows that they got married yesterday. The official announcement is set for Monday morning, but they were certainly noticed at last night’s dinner, and news in a shinobi village travels faster than a katon through underbrush.

The staring is no surprise. He is their leader, after all, and now he’s strolling around town with his apparent spouse, who is already insanely popular in a way that few people are. Kakashi wasn’t wrong about Iruka being mobbed by children at every turn, but Iruka wasn’t wrong either, about parents and grandparents and, frankly, what seems to be totally random people coming over to chat him up. Iruka receives each of them either kindly, politely, or both, and while he’s usually quite good at extricating himself from a conversation after a few minutes, Kakashi has to rescue him a few times from some particularly talkative ones.

But it’s the sheer number of congratulatory messages they receive that confuse Kakashi. Iruka was wrong; absolutely no one has any hesitation about approaching Kakashi today. Everyone from civilians to toddlers to shopkeepers has a happy word for them, and the two of them have to turn down about three dozen offers for discounts and coupons from various vendors throughout the trip. It’s harder to refuse free offerings of dried plums and knife polish when they’re pressed into Kakashi’s hands as wedding gifts. By the time they get to the futon store Kakashi is holding six whole bags of stuff. He doesn’t even know what he’s carrying anymore.

Iruka, true to his character, mulls over bedding choices until he’s certain he’s secured all the best for Naruto, and then seals it all up in a scroll that he brought along, just like he did with his own half dozen bags. He offers to do the same for Kakashi, but Kakashi declines in the hope that his heavy load will dissuade other shops from piling on further gifts.

His plan is successful, besides the fact that they target Iruka instead, and then both of them are over-encumbered by baggage again before they even make it to the fish market.

“We have enough fish oil to last us the rest of our lives,” Iruka says when they’re finally on their way back home. He’s resorted to balancing a basket of new towels on his head even though Kakashi suggested making a clone. They would be even more attention-grabbing than they currently are if there were a whole crowd of Hokages and vice-principals hobbling down the street, Iruka claimed.

“Spare buttons and absorption packs too.”

Iruka changes his stance on clones when it comes time to put everything away, which whiles away the rest of their morning. Cleaning up the spare room and the storage room upstairs and getting the rest of Iruka’s belongings into closets and shelves gets them through the afternoon, with only a short break to make and eat onigiri. Iruka lets Kakashi take the first bath, since he still has some books to organize, and by the time they’re both clean neither of them has the desire to do anything besides lie flat on the tatami and fantasize about dinner.

Housekeeping is honestly more taxing than trying to fight off five missing-nin alone.

“Will you show me how to make a coconut curry? Naruto’s been talking about it since coming back from Takigakure,” Iruka asks. He’s lying pointed in the opposite direction of Kakashi, with their heads resting near one another and his hair fanned out around him on a towel.

“Certainly, if I ever stand up again.”

“Oh, good, I wasn’t thinking about leaving this spot until next month anyway.”

“Agreed. You know, maybe Naruto was right. Is it possible that...we’re boring?” Kakashi muses, staring up at the ceiling.

“Thirteen-year-old me would hate to know that I’m thinking about making multiplication worksheets right now,” Iruka mutters. “What’s on your mind?”

“Padding the animal shelter’s rainy day fund,” Kakashi admits. “And getting new rails for all the ramps at the Konoha library.”

“So, yes, we’re officially boring.”

They lie there together for probably another ten minutes before someone’s (Iruka’s) stomach growls loudly enough for the sound to echo through the room. Kakashi groans before rolling to his feet and offering a hand to Iruka. “Up you go. I’ll show you how to make unagi chazuke.”

“Oh, wonderful. Let me go grab my kunai.”

“Iruka, I swear to god-”


Cooking takes longer than usual. While Iruka’s kitchen skills are questionable at best, he’s also a strong learner and good listener, so they enjoy only slightly mangled eel for dinner before retiring to the living room again. Iruka sits at the low table and fills out progress reports while Kakashi situates himself on the couch with his knees tucked up to finish reading the historical romance novel Raidou gave him last month.

Kakashi thought it would take him much longer to get used to sharing his space with another person. That just the knowledge of another body, another chakra signature, in his home would keep him on edge for a few weeks at least. And it isn’t as if he becomes unaware of Iruka’s presence as they sit here quietly together, each doing their own activity, but neither does he find him intrusive or out of place. It’s like sitting on a tree branch and finding that a bird has decided to perch right next to him. Peculiar, but easily tolerated.

Peeking over the edge of his book, he observes Iruka tapping his pen against his cheek before jotting down a note on his current paper and setting it on another pile. He only has two more to go, and he seems so deeply preoccupied that he either doesn’t notice Kakashi watching him or is choosing to ignore it. His hair is done up again, and he’s somehow managed to get ink on his left hand, probably from smudging his palm against someone’s form by accident. He has the habit of twirling his pen from finger to finger while he thinks, and teasing at the edge of a paper with a restless hand.

Kakashi never noticed Iruka fidgeting so much back when he still worked at the mission desk, but he could chalk that up to never having bothered looking. Before Team 7, he had been aware of Iruka only peripherally as the chuunin who occasionally took mission desk shifts but spent the majority of his time elsewhere, and as one of the Sandaime’s favorites, for whatever reason. They wound up on three fairly uneventful missions together during those years, and he filed away Iruka as competent and well-rounded, though perhaps too quick to jump in the line of fire for a teammate, and devoid of the ambition to pursue jounin status despite being capable.

A few years later, he would come to understand that it was because Iruka already had a more important calling; one that explained his somewhat self-sacrificial tendencies. Kakashi already learned the hard way that the lives of his comrades should always take precedence, but the rest of Konoha still tended to operate by its usual rules. Unless you work in the Academy. For Academy teachers, the lives of the children always come first. The children are the mission.

And knowing, as he does now from Naruto’s retelling of the event, that Iruka went and took a giant shuriken more or less in the spine for his son and then went out for dinner afterwards like an utter maniac, Kakashi sees that initial assessment of him clearer in retrospect.

Once he had Team 7 to reckon with, Kakashi came to know Iruka a bit better, especially after occasionally commiserating with him during Naruto’s long absence and studying Iruka more closely at the mission desk while he denounced the chicken scratch of adults who had worse handwriting than his pre-genin. But it wasn’t really until the end of the world that they came to be friends, and in the aftermath he confirmed for himself the heart of what he missed during his first go-around, which is that his husband can be kind of a handful if he intends to be.

Not most of the time, and certainly not now, sitting there peacefully writing comments about his students and their weapons proficiency and teamwork skills. But there’s a firecracker fuse underneath all his layers of stern kindness and paternal worrying and unshakable work ethic. Kakashi would probably do well to remember that.

“We’ve successfully made it through day one,” he says when he notices Iruka piling all his papers together.

“Are you keeping count?” Iruka laughs. He spins his pen between two fingers in a different trick than the one he was doing earlier, before pointing it at the blank space across from the doorway. “Shall I put a board up on the wall: 0 days since last potential cause for divorce?”

Kakashi hides his smile behind his knees. “Better not; the second Naruto or Sakura sees it, I’ll have to flee to Kirigakure to save myself.”

“It’s a bit too misty out there,” Iruka says, shaking his head. “I’d prefer somewhere less damp if we’re going to move.”

“Kumogakure? It’s quite beautiful, up in the clouds.”

“You’ve only exchanged mist for fog!”

It occurs to Kakashi that he spoke too soon when they’re in the bedroom again, turning in early since tomorrow is likely to be an extra busy day. Once again he finds himself lying in the dark beside Iruka, in a situation that feels like the indescribable middle ground between sleeping next to a comrade on the forest floor and sharing a bed with someone beloved. Kakashi has only really had experience with the former, but he wonders if he can’t extrapolate the latter from the bubble of closeness that seems to fold around them.

Body heat is never something he’s had to consider before, and now it seeps like syrup into the space between, just enough to catch hold in his consciousness. Just enough to make him turn his head so that he can make out the silvery silhouette of Iruka’s form and ponder whether he feels like Kakashi does: dislodged in this new world and jumping from one unsteady foothold to another, with this marriage as another new confusing continent he needs to map.

From the outside, Iruka looks like he’s been adjusting well to the future they now live in, and the marriage doesn’t seem to have shaken him much either. Kakashi is pretty confident about his ability to read Iruka’s eyes by now; he hasn’t noticed any sign of discomfort today, but he’ll have to check more closely in the future.

It feels like he should say something, but he’s never been good at words when there’s only emotions on the line. Some days, Kakashi still thinks that without a goal tying him down to earth, without a mission to complete, without a sin to atone for, he would simply vanish in a swirl of dying leaves and dust. On the bad days, he might even be looking forward to it.

With a slow, silent breath, he lets his eyes close. Morning is both far and soon; he should settle into sleep to get a head start on escaping his dreams.

“One day down, like you said,” Iruka speaks suddenly into the gap between them, and Kakashi opens his eyes again and gives into the urge to look at him, like the point of a compass sliding back toward magnetic north.

“Was it as dreadful as you thought it would be?”

“Well, I enjoyed a delicious dinner, I have a lifetime supply of cotton pads for whatever reason, and now I’m tucked into a warm bed next to you.”

Kakashi doesn’t know what to make of that last comment, so he just nods sagely and says, “So only half as dreadful as expected.”

“Sure,” Iruka says, and Kakashi can hear the smile in his voice even if he can’t see through the haze of the night. “Goodnight, Kakashi. Sweet dreams.”

“You too.”

Again, Kakashi lets his eyelids fall closed as he pushes himself into sleep, this time with the backdrop of Iruka’s even breaths to help him along.