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This beating heart won't rest

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Despite being stuck in an office chair for most of his day, dealing with high demanding counselors and ANBU operatives who refused to call him by name, Kakashi was happier than he had been in a long time.

No, he didn't want to be Hokage. He never had the ambition to lead anyone. But somehow, according to most, he had a knack for it, even if he'd much rather sit under a cherry tree and read his books.

He did know duty and loyalty though, and he was actually very passionate about that. Kakashi would always give it all when it came to Konoha and her people, even at the cost of his own life.

The only difference between now and his past was that now, he wanted to live. He caught a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel and he was curious to see what the future would bring. Before, Kakashi had only seen a vicious circle of wars and innocent deaths.

With Naruto there was hope—hope that had been sparked by none other than Umino Iruka, a chunin sensei who had acknowledged and accepted a boy who had only known hate. A boy who had never known anything but loneliness. A boy who carried the monster that had killed Iruka's family.

Iruka had not immediately taken Naruto under his wing; Kakashi remembered the talk he'd had with Iruka back then. The chunin had expressed that he didn't know what to do when it came to being Naruto's teacher. Kakashi could tell he had been scared. As far as anyone knew back then, Naruto was a ticking time bomb.

They hadn't been wrong.

They hadn't been right either—because Konoha's savior had come in the form of Iruka deciding to show compassion.

Not only had the chunin become a better teacher for Naruto, but he also became family.

It was easy for Kakashi to admit that Iruka was a person in their ranks he held enormous respect for—even more than he did for himself.

Encouraging Iruka to become Headmaster at the academy and overseeing future shinobi had been a natural conclusion. Kakashi didn't have to sit with the list of potential candidates for long. The second he saw Iruka's name, that had been it.

The sensei had been hesitant but thankfully accepted the offer, and never did Kakashi regret his decision. Iruka proved from week one that he was right for the role—already making suggestions for improvements and fighting passionately for them to happen.

Kakashi actually looked forward to their weekly meetings when Iruka reported the progress of the kids in the academy. It wasn't exactly necessary to have meetings that often, especially since he trusted Iruka to do what was right. But it did give Kakashi a good understanding and knowledge about the people that would become part of their ranks in the near future.

Of course, that wasn't reason enough to enjoy the meetings. If Kakashi was honest, he wasn't too interested in the overconfident, snotty brats that could barely throw a kunai. Sure, he knew they would learn and likely become excellent shinobi, but he was thankful he only had to deal with one genin team in his lifetime.

No, his main reasoning was that he had developed quite the shameless crush on the cute brunette. Iruka was so animated and ardent when he spoke about the kids and their progress. His expression conveyed so many emotions and Kakashi adored the dimples that became visible every time Iruka fell into telling funny stories about the brats. Kakashi couldn't help but study the smile lines next to Iruka's eyes or how his brown irises were beautifully detailed with some golden specks. He would stare at the scar that went across the nose bridge and onto his cheeks, and how it would move slightly as Iruka talked. Kakashi's eyes would trail the strong and beautifully defined jawline before his eyes landed on, and watched strands of hair that swayed back and forth from his ponytail. Kakashi would follow the motion of Iruka's mouth as he talked and how he would moisten his lips with his tongue when preparing a new topic.

Kakashi could listen to Iruka's soothing voice all day.

Iruka was so refreshing in the ways he didn't hide his emotions and didn't hold back when it came to addressing an issue.

Kakashi would often fall into the depths of daydreaming and Iruka's brows would furrow before he accused Kakashi of not paying attention.

Oh, Kakashi was paying attention, though probably not to the correct things.

Kakashi had considered asking Iruka out. He had—until he realized he had absolutely nothing to offer. All Kakashi did was wake up in the morning, have a shower, brush his teeth, grab an apple on his way out to the office where he would spend the rest of the day—only to then go home again, brush his teeth, and go to sleep.

Iruka was so full of life; he deserved someone who would complement his beautiful personality.

"...ashi-sama? Are you even paying attention to me?" Iruka asked with an accusatory look, clearly disappointed to be ignored when they were trying to get work done.

"Yes, yes, of course. I agree, Totomaru certainly shows promise when it comes to developing his tracking skills," Kakashi replied, happy to prove that he had been listening.

It must have been the wrong answer because Iruka started to look pissed off instead of pleased.

"We moved on from Totomaru's class a whole six minutes ago, Kakashi-sama. I was now discussing the third years and their path when it comes to choosing a specialty."

Well, fuck.

Kakashi scratched the back of his neck. If only Iruka knew the source of his distraction, he wouldn't say what he said next.

"If I'm boring you this much, then perhaps it's best to end it here. Maybe you would prefer to meet every other week or once a month, surely we can—"

"No! You are not boring at all and I like to see you weekly—I mean—for the meetings…" Kakashi quickly interrupted—stuttering like a fool. Iruka was now looking at him with wide eyes and mouth agape.

Shit! Taking a deep breath, Kakashi tried again.

"My apologies Iruka-Sensei. I let my eyes wander—I mean my thoughts. I don't think it is necessary to reschedule our meetings."

At least the pissed-off look was gone, but instead, Iruka looked completely shocked, blinking rapidly while trying to process Kakashi's words.

Kakashi refused to admit that he felt a little scared when Iruka's eyes narrowed and his mouth stretched into a crooked smile.

"Well then, Kakashi-Sama. Why don't we reschedule for Wednesday, let's say 7pm? We can meet at Ichiraku instead and you can be a gentleman by buying me a bowl of ramen as an apology?" Iruka smiled, and Kakashi found himself swallowing nervously.

"That—uhm—Would be great Iruka-Sensei."

Iruka's smile widened to reveal a row of perfectly aligned and white teeth, while also making his cute dimples appear.

Wait—What had Kakashi just agreed to?

Gathering his stuff, Iruka stood from his chair and walked to the exit. He stopped at the door and looked over his shoulder with a soft smile.

"I'm looking forward to our date, Kakashi-sama. Don't be late!"

Iruka winked and walked out. Shutting the door carefully behind him.

Kakashi was in the middle of processing the word date when an ANBU stepped out of the shadows of his office.

"My, my senpai. What a way to reveal to the sensei that you are interested." Tenzō laughed before he took off his mask.

"I thought you ANBU were supposed to stay hidden and not interfere in business that does not concern you? I'm pretty sure it's in your contract." Kakashi deadpanned. Why of all days did Tenzō have to be on shift today? His kohai seemed to have made it his mission to tease Kakashi as payback for all the times his senpai had given him a hard time in the past.

Tenzō only shrugged before sitting down in the chair Iruka had just left, Kakashi feeling a little jealous that his kohai got to feel the warmth likely left from Iruka sitting there just previously.

"My shift ended half an hour ago, I thought I'd stay for entertainment purposes," he replied, a smile still spread on his face.

"I'm not going," Kakashi answered. It was true. Iruka deserved better than having Kakashi messing around with him when basically anyone else would be better for him.

The smile left Tenzō's face, and he frowned at Kakashi.

"Why not? Iruka would be good for you, and I know you're already hopelessly in love with him."

Kakashi loved Tenzō, but he cursed his friend for always talking so bluntly. Where Kakashi preferred avoidance, Tenzō preferred confrontation. His kohai didn't like it when people beat around the bush, which was Kakashi's specialty.

"I'm not hopelessly in lo—"

"Ah, shut up. We all see it, Kakashi. I've never seen you this smitten before." Tenzō interrupted and Kakashi swore he heard a snicker from one of his other ANBU guards hidden in the room. Kakashi made sure to glare daggers in her direction.

"Fine, but I'm not going," he said again, hoping Tenzō would leave it at that.

"And why not? Iruka is clearly interested since he was the one arranging the date."

Kakashi knew he could speak openly to his friend, but talking about emotions and his self-doubt had always been a struggle. He wanted to say the words but they wouldn't leave his mouth.

Instead, he settled with a shrug.

Tenzō sighed.

"Kakashi, you have to start letting yourself have good things in life. You have more to offer than you think. Believe it or not, me and Gai wouldn't have latched on to you like we have if you didn't. You're the one that taught me that I am more than a tool; you should start leading by your own example." Tenzō sounded genuine and Kakashi wished he didn't see the concern on his friend's face.

"You mean how you and Gai latched on to each other?" Kakashi snickered in an attempt to avoid his current dilemma.

It was so worth it when he got to witness the blush that started creeping upon Tenzō's face, who cleared his throat before speaking next.

"Yes, I have found happiness and love with Gai, and I wouldn't change it for the world. Speaking of which..."

Tenzō stood and dug something out of his pocket. He stared at the envelope for some time and looked hesitantly at Kakashi before putting it on the desk between them.

"At least show on the date, let Iruka know you're not interested," Tenzō said with a weak smile before turning and walking out of the room.

Opening the envelope and taking the card out, Kakashi could immediately tell what it was. He couldn't stop himself from letting out a happy laugh and smiling widely as he read its contents. His heart warmed, happy for two people who truly deserved it..

It wasn't every day one received a wedding invitation for both of your best friends. Gai and Tenzō were pure opposites. Gai was loud-mouthed and excited, while Tenzō was quiet and calm. They balanced each other perfectly.

Kakashi knew that kind of happiness wasn't in the cards for him. Yes, Iruka had asked him out on a date and Kakashi was deeply in love with the sensei, but it wasn't meant to last. Iruka would soon realize, Hokage or not, that Kakashi had absolutely nothing to offer.

Kakashi heard what Tenzō suggested though, and supposed Iruka deserved to be rejected properly. He couldn't imagine it would be nice to be stood up and he also didn't want their working relationship to become strained.




On his way to Ichiraku two days later, Kakashi felt like he was walking to his doom. A date with Iruka had been something he had been wanting but denied himself. Iruka was such a kind and caring soul, he didn’t deserve to walk along the path of life next to someone so broken and poisonous as Kakashi. Kakashi was happier with life than he had ever been. But he wasn’t perfect and there were still 50 tons of trauma that he was carrying on his shoulders. He had decided to go on this date, buy Iruka his meal, and hopefully find the right moment to let Iruka down.

Pushing the curtains at the entrance to the side, he walked into the restaurant where Iruka was already sitting by the counter, looking down at a leaflet that Kakashi assumed was the menu.

Iruka must have heard his footsteps because he whirled around.

“Iruka-Sensei,” Kakashi greeted with a nod.

Iruka’s face broke out in a brilliant smile and a light flush took residence on his face. Gods, the man was beautiful, Kakashi thought as he blushed himself, once again realizing that Iruka really had asked him on a date.

“Kakashi-sama!” Iruka said excitedly as Kakashi took the seat next to him. Kakashi gave Iruka his famous eye smile, now with two visible eyes rather than one.

“I was worried I had to wait at least another thirty minutes before you showed,” Iruka teased. Kakashi let out a small laugh, well aware that Iruka probably had been worried he wouldn’t show at all. He had considered being on time, just this once, but he did have a reputation to uphold after all. If he revealed that he was capable of being on time, then everyone would expect him to be.

“Mah, I swore I was five minutes early this time,” Kakashi joked.

“I think someone needs to buy you a new watch and make sure to set it 20 minutes too early,” Iruka quipped back.

Kakashi narrowed his eyes suspiciously at Iruka before he said, as seriously as he could: "Intentionally providing the Hokage with false information is considered treason Iruka-sensei, you wouldn’t dare.”

Iruka rolled his eyes and smiled at Kakashi. “Well, it would be a sacrifice made for the good of Konoha. Everyone would worship this hero—sorry, traitor—behind your back,” he said, his voice full of mirth.

“Ah, well, I suppose I would have deserved it.” Kakashi smiled back. A warmth started to settle in his cheeks. It felt nice talking and joking with Iruka without the barrier of work between them.

Teuchi chose that moment to take their orders, and Kakashi made sure to pay for Iruka’s as the sensei had kind of demanded it when arranging the date. Kakashi supposed he did owe the brunette a treat after everything he'd had to put up with during their meetings.

The conversation between them continued and Kakashi learned a few things he hadn't known about Iruka.

Such as: Iruka adored cats, to the point of calling himself an obsessed cat person; and he didn't cook, as every time he tried, the kitchen suffered a disaster. Once he had even managed to cause a small explosion with whatever ingredients he had put into the pot, though he suspected that maybe a student (potentially Konohamaru) had switched some ingredients with something else as a prank.

The entire time Kakashi couldn’t take his eyes off the younger man. Iruka was truly beautiful in every way.

Time flew by and the conversation eventually came to a halt. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence, but it seemed like both were waiting for the other one to say something first. Kakashi supposed it was time to reveal that this was as far as it went.

“Iruka—I’m sorry if I have led you astray tonight, but I don’t think this is a good idea.” It came out quiet and broken as Kakashi barely managed to push the words out of his mouth.

“Why not?” Iruka asked, clearly confused. They have had a pretty nice night after all.

Kakashi looked away, not able to look at the upset he had caused the brunet. Everything in him screamed to run away, but Iruka didn’t deserve a rejection without a truthful answer.

“I don’t have anything to offer in a relationship, Iruka. You would be better off with someone else.” Looking down into the counter, Kakashi felt the shame of wanting someone he could never be worthy of.

For a moment nobody said anything. The only sounds to be heard were from Teuchi and Ayame cooking in the kitchen, and the people walking and talking on the streets behind them. Kakashi closed his eyes when he heard the scrape of the barstool beside him, knowing that Iruka was leaving after wasting the evening on him.

That was until a warm hand settled over his, causing Kakashi to look up in surprise. Meeting Iruka’s gaze, whose face was so close to his now, Kakashi had to suck in a deep breath.

“That's not true, Kakashi. You think too lowly of yourself.” Iruka’s voice was full of affection as he lifted his other hand and cupped Kakashi’s face. “I have been in love with you for a long time. Longer than I realized to start with.”

Iruka paused, biting his lip nervously before continuing.

“Ever since our talk on the bench outside the academy grounds, I have held deep affections for you. At that time I believed it to be gratitude and respect, but it was always more than that.” Iruka smiled at Kakashi, genuine and so full of what Kakashi refused to believe was love.

Iruka continued, “you changed my view on myself, and I earned a family with Naruto from that. Then you came for us in the forest, saving both me and Naruto from the spies. I knew then that I had a crush.” Iruka looked down and away, embarrassed to admit something so personal.

Or so Kakashi thought before he heard a sniff. Acting then, he reached forward and lifted Iruka’s chin so he could see that beautiful face again.

Something clenched inside his chest when he saw the tears in Iruka’s eyes starting to trail down his cheeks.

“Then you saved me again—from Pein. You died, and it was my fault.” Iruka’s voice came out all broken and Kakashi reached up with his thumb to wipe Iruka’s cheeks. The sensei leaned into his touch and closed his eyes. Kakashi shook his head. No way had that been Iruka’s fault.

“I knew I loved you then, but I never had a chance to say, because you went into war and I was terrified that you would never know. When you returned and became Hokage, I was scared to say anything because… Well, I felt like I had nothing to offer you, you could have anyone. That is, until our last meeting. I seized the opportunity, I never actually expected you to show,” Iruka admitted.

“I am not worthy of your love, Iruka.” Kakashi wanted to say more, but that was all he managed to say at this moment.

Iruka huffed.

“You are more than worthy of anyone's love, Kakashi. You are selfless, kind, loyal, and sometimes very annoying. But you are also the only person I have ever wanted. Don’t degrade yourself, because I know it is a lie.”

“Iruka—”

Kakashi wasn’t allowed to say anything more as Iruka's fingers hooked themselves under his mask and pulled it down. Then the brunet’s soft lips settled over his. Iruka made sure to cup Kakashi’s face, not letting him pull away.

Not that Kakashi would—He quickly became too lost in the sensation of Iruka kissing him. Instead, he cupped Iruka’s face in return and kissed back.

When they finally pulled apart, Iruka was smiling and Kakashi wondered how he had never seen the love the sensei had for him before.

“I want to try this, Kakashi. I want you to allow me to be a part of your life because I love you. Please don’t run away, we both know your excuse is bullshit.”

Kakashi had to laugh then, because gods, he wanted Iruka. He wanted to wake up in the morning with this man next to him. He wanted to make Iruka a homemade dinner, and maybe get a cat for his ninken to complain about.

“Okay, okay. I won’t run away,” Kakashi answered, warmth and happiness swelling up in his chest. Kakashi pulled Iruka in for another kiss when relief settled on the younger man’s features.

This time when they broke apart again, Kakashi felt ready to reveal something he hadn’t allowed himself to accept.

“I love you too Iruka, and I have ever since you realized your true path in life on the roof of the Hokage tower. The passion you showed that day ignited my Will of Fire again.”

Iruka let out a relieved breath, happy to know for certain that his feelings were returned.

“Well then, let’s not waste any more time,” Iruka said and pulled Kakashi in for another kiss.

Kakashi would make sure to thank Tenzō later. Had his kohai not reminded him and showed him that even broken men could have love, he would not have shown up for their date today. And he was sure, that from now on and forward, his future would be filled with more than he had ever hoped for.