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If you don't take a chance, how will you know?

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(I don't own any characters etc etc)

 

Iruka looks beautiful in bed tonight, Kakashi thinks, peering through his mask.

He always thinks the other man is beautiful, no matter what he's doing.

Too bad the thoughts are fleeting, and just that, thoughts.

_____

Related thoughts flash through Kakashi's mind as the Hokage dismisses him with a nod and a "thank you, as always, Hound."

He darts over the roofs of Konoha in full ANBU gear, his mind focused, deadly concentration and alertness running through his body.

His mission is over, a success, as usual. Now, his mission is to get to a particular apartment, and unwind.

Not his apartment, no, that's too...something. Cold? Unwelcoming? Bare?

No, he thinks, his feet taking him to his destination without needing to connect to his brain. His apartment is okay. It serves its purpose. He has a nice bed, a comfortable sofa, his books, his weapons and gear, his plant. A rice cooker, a fridge, a decent shower.

But he's been spoiled to know another apartment, to go there time and again.

He can feel his mood brighten when the familiar window comes into view. The window he crashed into after a mission gone....sideways. It, too, had been a success, but at a cost to him.

Hound had been trying to get to his own apartment when he was lured by warm lights and soft music coming from a window, the only lit one in the sea of darkness that night.

His fatigued curiosity had gotten the better of him. Who would be up at such a late hour? And why?

However, the drain from his mission had won over, and rather than stealthily spying, he had ended up crashing through the window.

To this day, both he and his new acquaintance were only too grateful that the window had been open and he had only pulled the curtains down rather than breaking the glass.

Once he had gotten over the shock of an ANBU crashing into his kitchen in the wee hours of the morning, and more so over the other shock of just which ANBU, Iruka had frowned at him still laying on the kitchen floor.

"In the future, I suppose I'll leave the window open and the curtains pulled to the side?"

Well, that was an open invitation if Kakashi had ever received one. And laying there, on a cool kitchen floor, something delicious in the air, and a cute man still in uniform looking at him, Kakashi knew his life had changed.

And so, after ANBU missions (or whenever he escaped from the hospital following a mission), he would go visit Iruka. It would usually be late enough that the man never had company, so that was one less thing to worry about. As was a partner, as Iruka appeared to be single. Why, Kakashi couldn't understand, as time went on. The man was nice, caring, had a fully stocked kitchen, and smelled good. And that was just Iruka at home!

Kakashi being Kakashi, he scoped the man out in daylight, and was surprised but pleased to find other good qualities about the man, not least of which that it was the same chuunin who yelled at him for his reports, when he finally got around to turning them in late. Who knew!

Well, Iruka didn't know his new ANBU was the one he yelled at, but he didn't need to.

They soon fell into a routine. As offered, Iruka would have the window open and unobstructed (no windowsill plants for him, for that window at least). When it was raining or cold, the window would be closed but not locked, to show Hound was still welcomed. Kakashi would enter and, if Iruka was already in bed, he'd find food waiting on the table, or counter, or a note that there was some in the fridge.

Kakashi couldn't help but wonder if Iruka just always left food out for him, as the man surely didn't know when he was out on a mission or when he would be back. Anything that would spoil would be in the fridge, so Kakashi figured that the other man just always left a note out, just in case.

If Iruka was awake when he got there, he would casually greet Hound, asking was he well? Did he need the first aid kit? Did he think it would rain soon?

Nothing about where he had been, who he had been after.

Just enough to start to ground the ANBU, to center him.

Kakashi would eat in silence, and if Iruka was awake, he would sit in another room and turn his back, always ensuring the ANBU had privacy.

How many silent meals had Kakashi eaten there? He wasn't sure.

If they sat together after, Iruka would read or grade papers, and Hound would just watch, perhaps read a paper or two himself.

The tension from the mission, whatever it was, would slowly melt away, and eventually he would end up asleep where he was, waking with the first rays of sunlight no matter how little time had passed, finding a blanket had been draped over him, and Iruka asleep in his own bed.

Kakashi would always leave wondering how the teacher had been able to cover him with a blanket while he slept, and marveling at how relaxed he could become at that apartment following any mission...

_______

One rainy September night, Kakashi was heading to the teacher's apartment following his usual debriefing at Hokage Tower, his ANBU gear keeping him mostly dry after a fairly lengthy mission.

He had missed Konoha, being home, but the thought of being in Iruka's apartment had helped get him home that much faster.

A window, the window, their window, came into view, and Kakashi couldn't help but smile underneath his masks.

He slid the window open and tried to hurry inside so he didn't bring too much rain in.

He smiled again when he realized Iruka had bought a new mat to sit in front of the kitchen window, on top of the counter, likely to fight against rain from the window.

Kakashi toed off his damp sandals and placed them on the mat, moving it all to the floor. He grabbed a kitchen towel from the counter and wiped his armor off as he looked around the warmly lit room.

Nothing had really changed, he noted, pleased.

A few more drawings on the fridge from students.

A menu from Ichiraku's and another restaurant, a new local one, Kakashi noted.

Some fall flavors of tea sat on the counter, and Kakashi nodded approvingly, before his gaze widened.

There, sat on the counter, in a clear plastic takeout container, sat a cupcake.

A yellow cake cupcake, in a yellow cupcake wrapper, with bright blue frosting in a tall swirl on top of it.

With a yellow candle.

Unlit, but still.

Kakashi remained in place for a few minutes, looking at it.

Why was it there? He couldn't figure it out for the life of him.

He looked around, hoping for a clue, and noticed light coming from the direction of Iruka's bedroom.

It was late at night but not quite midnight, or so he thought, so this was not so unusual that the teacher would still be awake.

He slowly walked down the hall, finding the bedroom door open, and paused at the doorway.

Iruka was sat in bed, in pajamas, reading.

"Evening," Kakashi greeted him.

"Hello," Iruka said, looking up and smiling warmly. "How are you?"

Kakashi shrugged, his ANBU armor shifting slightly. "Alive. Back. You have a cupcake on your counter."

Iruka nodded. "I do."

They looked at each other in silence for a moment, before Iruka returned to his book.

"Why?" Kakashi asked after another moment.

"Hmm?"

"The cupcake. What's it doing there?" And how have you not eaten it yet, Kakashi wanted to add, aware of the other man's sweet tooth. Perhaps he had already eaten too many cupcakes? But why the candle?

He was pulled away from his thoughts by Iruka's answer.

"It's your birthday, isn't it?"

Kakashi's mouth fell open, not that anyone would have known. If only Iruka could see the surprised expression underneath the feared Hound mask!

"Is it?" Kakashi asked, keeping his voice calm, bored even. He wasn't sure if he was asking Iruka, or himself, as he considered it. The mission had taken a while...and he had lost track of time on his way back as it had been quite a long journey...

"What time is it?" Kakashi asked. He should have asked what day it was, but didn't want to raise any concern.

"1125 at night, on the 15th," Iruka said, not looking up from his book.

They sat in silence again.

"You know who I am?" Kakashi asked, quietly.

"I do," Iruka said, still reading.

"How?" Kakashi asked, after considering this more.

"You talk in your sleep."

Kakashi physically jerked back a step and started to internally panic, and Iruka laughed.

Laughed!

"I'm kidding," Iruka said, putting his book down and looking at the ANBU in front of him. "One time I heard you in the other room talking to Pakkun. So I looked in your chart, and here we are."

"How....how long have you known?"

How long had he been coming to Iruka's apartment? Kakashi wasn't sure.

"A while."

"You never let on when we interact," Kakashi pointed out.

Iruka shrugged. "I'm good at disguising things. You're not the only one who wears masks, huh?" Iruka tilted his head as he studied him. "Would you like to shower, Kakashi?"

Kakashi had not been prepared at all for any of this, and certainly not for the other man to call him by name. Kami, Iruka never called him anything, not even Hound!

All he could do was numbly nod, and Iruka smiled.

"Everything's waiting in the bathroom, I'll see you when you're done. Take your time."

Kakashi nodded again, and stumbled to the bathroom, his mind racing, but also feeling like a weight was off his shoulders.

He had been in the bathroom before, but it certainly was not like this.

A second towel was out, a set of spare pajamas, and a candle was lit, making the room smell like...something.

Kakashi made sure the door was closed, and the window covered fully, before removing first his ANBU mask, and then his regular mask.

He inhaled deeply. It was a warm scent, a sweet scent. Something familiar, and yet new.

He couldn't help but smile as he read the candle label. Pumpkin pecan waffles. How very Iruka.

Kakashi had not, to his recollection, ever showered at Iruka's apartment, but was surprised at how comfortable he was in the man's shower.

The water was of a stronger pressure than his own, and heated up nicely. And perhaps Kakashi was only too excited to use the teacher's bath products.

Still, his mind was trying to piece it all together.

He was surprised by how this new riddle helped to wipe away the stress from the mission.

After some time had passed, he reluctantly left the shower, dried off, and put on Iruka's clothes, pulling out an eyepatch from his ANBU gear that he always kept on him, along with a new blue mask.

Looking at himself in the mirror, he was surprised by how...casual...he looked. How comfortable. How he looked like he belonged here, smelling like Iruka, in comfortable borrowed clothes, in a seasonal-smelling bathroom.

He took a deep breath before heading back to the bedroom, where Iruka looked up with a soft smile as he entered the room.

Iruka patted the bed next to him, and Kakashi paused before crossing the room and sitting next to Iruka, the teacher under the blankets and Kakashi sat on top of them.

They looked at each other in silence.

"You're not supposed to know," Kakashi sighed.

"You're probably not supposed to fall into my kitchen, but here we are."

"You can get into big trouble."

Iruka shrugged, and traced a pattern on the blanket with a finger. "It was a risk I was willing to take."

"Iruka," Kakashi sighed.

"He knows I know," Iruka said, looking at him. "The Hokage. He knows I know who you are."

Kakashi blinked at him in silence.

"And...." Iruka continued. "And, I think he's okay with it, or I'd have probably visited T&I and a Yamanaka by now, and we wouldn't be having this discussion. If anything, he told me to keep an eye out at night this week..."

"You've been expecting me all week?" Kakashi racked his brain, it was a Thursday, wasn't it?

"Maybe," Iruka said, shyly.

"And you got me that cupcake for my birthday?"

Iruka laughed but blushed slightly. "I know you don't like sweets, but it's your birthday so I thought I'd give it a shot. And, well, I got you a cupcake as a compromise. A few cupcakes, actually. I...I wasn't sure when you'd get back, so each day I got a new cupcake so it would be fresh."

Kakashi blinked at him, and Iruka's blush deepened.

"And, I didn't want any one bakery to be suspicious, so I'd go to a different one each day."

"You bought cupcakes all week?" Kakashi asked, laughing.

"It's not like they went to waste," Iruka laughed. "If I woke up and it was still there, I'd have it for breakfast, then pick up a new one on my way home. I just wanted to make sure I had it for you, even if you came a few days before your birthday."

Kakashi was speechless for a moment. "Thank you," he said, softly.

"You're welcome," Iruka said. "I thought it was important to do this for you."

They sat in more silence.

"This is dangerous," Kakashi said. "For you to know who I am."

"I know."

"And you still did it all?"

Iruka shrugged. "I did. And you made the choice to shower and change, instead of leaving," he pointed out with a soft smile. "But, I'm glad you did."

"No going back from this," Kakashi commented.

"I don't intend to, unless you want to," Iruka responded.

Kakashi shook his head. "Well, I tried."

"Tried what?"

"To talk you out of this, whatever this is."

Iruka laughed. "You didn't seem to try very hard, not that I'm complaining."

Kakashi shrugged. "Maybe I didn't really want to. Now, let's eat the cupcake and get you to bed, it's a schoolnight."

Iruka bit his lip. "I have tomorrow off."

"What?"

"Just in case, I took Friday off..."

Kakashi studied him for a moment, before smiling underneath his mask.

He stood and held a hand out for Iruka, who accepted it and got out of bed.

They stood there for a moment, holding hands, looking at each other. Truly seeing the other for who they were.

"Happy birthday," Iruka said, lightly squeezing his hand.

Kakashi didn't say anything, but squeezed Iruka's hand back, and let the younger man lead him to the kitchen.