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Man in the Mirror

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It's late. Kakashi stirs, moving carefully so as not to disturb Iruka who's curled up against him snoring quietly. He probably shouldn't have let him stay over, but so long as he's careful it won't matter. It's not the first time he's had to leave on a mission in the middle of the night, just the first time it's been one of those missions.

He slips from the bed, treads silently over to the wardrobe, releases the false bottom and lifts the locked box from its hiding place. He hoists it under one arm then opens the bedroom door, pausing to glance longingly back at his lover, who is now wrapped firmly around a pillow in lieu of Kakashi's body.

In Kakashi's eyes, Iruka is beautiful all the time, but there is something more about him when he sleeps. Kakashi doesn't know how to describe it and if he tried it would probably come out worse than one of Jiraiya's early attempts at romance. All he knows is that watching Iruka sleep quiets something inside him, temporarily laying to rest the hungry ghosts that at times seem determined to consume him alive. His visits to the memorial stone have become fewer and further between since he and Iruka got together.

With a quiet sigh, he gets back to business. It doesn't take him long to shower and change, after all he's been wearing this uniform for going on fifteen years now. Mask and katana in place and it's off into the night, out towards the main gate. The village is peaceful, the moon rides high above it on dashing clouds and he's halfway there when it suddenly hits him: an absolute compulsion to go and say goodbye. Why, he doesn't know and really would rather not contemplate.

It will make him late. He turns anyway, slipping silently back across the roofs and coming to land on the rail outside the bedroom window. He leans forward slightly so as to catch the reflection of his lover in the mirror. They forgot to draw the curtains last night so the moonlight is falling right across Iruka's face, casting him in shades of black and grey. He looks so pale and peaceful that for a brief heart-stopping moment Kakashi thinks he's dead. And then he stirs, shifting and turning, eyelids fluttering as though sensing Kakashi's presence.

Kakashi darts sideways, pressing himself to the side of the building, away from Iruka's line of sight just in case he opens his eyes. Iruka suspects, of course he does. He might be a school teacher but he's still a shinobi and everyone knows that once ANBU has you, it never really lets you go. Still, there's suspecting and knowing and the latter is forbidden. He remembers once being on a team with a husband and wife who, despite having been married for over five years, treated each other as absolute strangers once the masks were on. It's a strange rule, but it works.

The night darkens, moon swallowed up by gathering clouds. Kakashi tips his head back against the wall, raising his eyes to the midnight sky. His team will be waiting for him. Hawk and Panther no doubt sitting in poised silence while Monkey chitters angrily. Sometimes their names seem too well bestowed.

He sighs, turning to steal one final look before leaving, and freezes. Iruka is standing by the window, naked to the waist and staring straight at him, the expression on his face terrified. Not of Kakashi, despite the uniform, but for him. For what he might have to do while wearing it. His lips move, opening around the first syllable of Kakashi's name and then stop, clamping shut, and instead Iruka presses his hand to the window, palm flat and pale against the glass.

After a beat, Kakashi mirrors him, hand to hand, then chest to chest, face to face, and they are so close that Kakashi thinks he can sense the heat of Iruka's body, can almost feel his breath, hear the thud thud thud of his heart. And he wants to stay. Wants this so much that it hurts.

Then just as suddenly, Iruka is gone and Kakashi spins round, glaring at the other perched on the rail behind him. Monkey. The kid never did have any patience; it'll get him killed one day.

"Taichou?" The whisper carries, no louder than the wind.

Kakashi signals, 'Gate. Three minutes,' and Monkey vanishes in a swirl of leaves. But it's too late. All that can be seen of Iruka now is an unmoving mound on the bed and he'll not be emerging again, Kakashi thinks. As one of those responsible for passing on Konoha's laws, Iruka is less likely than most to break them.

Though perhaps that is not entirely true. As the clouds part and moonlight once again bathes the room, Kakashi watches the covers stir, sees the glowing reflection of dark eyes and knows that he is being watched in turn. It's safer this way, he knows; neither lover nor ANBU, just a man in the mirror. He raises a hand, a gesture full of longing and farewell and promises to return, before leaping away into the night.