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Liberation

Chapter Text

Iruka walked silently along the dimly lit street, studying his surroundings carefully. It was dangerous for a human to be wandering around this time of night; and if he wasn’t on the top of his game, he could become a victim, too. That was why he was here in the first place.

Lately there have been a string of attacks from a rogue vampire that was not just thirsty for blood, but murder, too; and after others had failed to find and slay it several times now, Tsunade had finally sent him to dispose of it. 

Iruka wished she had sent him to begin with, instead of the younger vampire slayers. Sure, they were quite skilled for their age, and did need to go on these kinds of missions to gain experience, but more often than not, in their excitement to kill vampires, teenagers tended to overlook things, and either got seriously injured or killed. And he didn’t want to see another body bag. Not when death could be prevented by sending someone like him, an expert, instead. 

Suddenly, Iruka felt like he was being watched; and his hand trailed to his hip, where his holster was strapped, as he studied everything more carefully, more alert than ever. 

He didn’t see anything unusual around him, but somehow, the shadows seemed darker, and the world quieter, as though nature knew there was a predator lurking about, and had crept back into safety, and was observing sadly, knowing that there would be another victim of the night soon. 

But when Iruka saw a shadow leaping off a roof toward him from behind, he quickly side-stepped and pulled out his stake, ready to fight. Humans weren’t going to be the victim this time.

The vampire landed on all fours where Iruka had been standing seconds before, and turned its head towards him, bearing its fangs as it let out a ferocious snarl; and when Iruka charged right for it, going straight for the attack, it rose and dove for his neck, hungry, and eager for his blood.

Iruka stumbled back as it slammed into him, and pushed it away as it tried to bite him, but the vampire was strong and began to overpower him. If Iruka had to guess, it was newly transformed, considering how animalistic and desperate for blood it was - it would do anything, it seemed; and its lack of control, and strong will made it dangerous.

But a new vampire’s beast-like manner was also a weak point, Iruka had learnt. Sure, they were stronger in general, but they also weren’t as aware of their surroundings than adjusted vampires; and he knew how to use that to his advantage.

The vampire knocked Iruka to the ground in the struggle, and quickly gripped ahold of his shoulders tightly, holding him down as it went in for the bite, but before it could sink its fangs into his skin, Iruka mustered all of his strength and plunged his stake into it, stabbing it in the heart; and it stiffened and let out a guttural scream before going limp and falling heavily on top of him.

Iruka lay still, waiting anxiously to see if the vampire was going to fight back, but a few seconds later, it turned to ash; and he sighed in relief as his stake rolled onto the ground and the weight was lifted from him.

Iruka grabbed his weapon and put it back in place when he rose; and as he began to brush the ashes off his clothes, an evening breeze came by, spreading them across the land; and Iruka put a hand to his chest.

“You can rest easy now.” He said, watching the vampire’s remains scatter. “May you reach the place you’re supposed to be.”

When he had confirmed that everything was fine in the area, Iruka turned to make his way back to the vampire slayer hideout and report, but after a few paces, he heard a strange call, and looked up to see an owl flying for him, holding a small tube with its feet. 

When it reached him, it dropped the tube, and flew up to the nearest tree to sit and wait; and Iruka opened the tube curiously, wondering why Tsunade had sent him a message when she knew he'd be returning soon.

Iruka, 

I need you to finish your mission as quickly as possible, as there is somewhere else I need you to be.

About a week ago, I sent Kakashi to remove a small coven that has recently taken over the pub near the bank; and he hasn’t returned yet. I am concerned that the mission wasn’t as easy as it seemed, and that something has happened to him.

Please investigate his disappearance and rescue him, and aid him in killing the remaining vampires if you can. 

Time is of the essence.

- Tsunade

As Iruka read the message, his hands began to shake, his heart stopped, and his stomach churned nauseatingly; and he began to sprint to his next destination. He had to leave. Now.

A week was a long time with a vampire.

Chapter Text

Iruka was on edge. He had reached the pub that Tsunade had mentioned in her message, and the street was empty. Everything had closed up for the night, so no one was around, since there wasn’t any point in visiting this district now; but considering there was a pub here, it should have been anything but quiet.

So that meant either one of two things: Kakashi had done his job before he disappeared, and the pub was closed for clean up, or the vampire situation was worse than everyone thought, and the entire pub was now a coven base, and closed off to the public. If it was the latter, Iruka had to be very careful, or Tsunade may have to send people to investigate his disappearance, too.

With that thought in mind, Iruka approached the pub; and eyeing off the ‘Closed’ sign at the front, snuck around the building to find another entrance. More often than not, if vampires were involved, these buildings said that they were closed, and the front would probably be locked, but there was always at least one door that was unlocked - vampires generally didn’t need the security that humans did, and thieves who broke in were easy meals.

Iruka made his way through the alleyway that separated the pub from the shop next to it, and followed the path past the overflowing industrial bins, right to the very back; and when he reached the gravelly back area, and saw dark stains and ashes scattered across the ground, he quickly reached for his stake, now on high alert. There had clearly been a fight here, and things didn’t look good.

When nothing jumped out at him, Iruka eased a little, and used his free hand to grab his torch and turn it on to investigate the area more properly; and when the light shone on the ground, nausea swirled in his gut. The ashes scattered across the ground were enough for at least three or four dead vampires; and those stains, all shining bright blue when he switched his torch to its UV setting, were definitely blood, and, whilst all dried up, still seemed fresh enough to be from about a week earlier; and, knowing that vampires would never waste their food like this, Iruka was sure it was Kakashi’s.

The idea made him feel so sick, because he had worked with Kakashi before, and knew how competent he was, and that he should have been able to handle a job like this easily, without much bloodshed, so for him to have bled this much meant that something had gone horribly wrong. Were there more vampires than anticipated? Did they attack him off-guard?

Iruka continued on cautiously towards the back metal door, which was dented where someone, or some thing had slammed into it; and he carefully pushed it open, not sure what to expect on the other side. After a few seconds of nothing, Iruka entered the building, aiming his UV light at the entrance as he stepped through; and looked around.

He was in the kitchen, which was mostly clean, besides one old cling-wrapped tray of prepped food that the last person on shift hadn’t had a chance to put away before they were attacked by vampires; and looking around, there didn’t seem to be anyone, or any vampires here. In fact, the more he tried to listen out for life, the more silent and deserted the area seemed to feel - he didn’t even feel like he was being watched; so, finding nothing of interest in the area, he moved on.

The doorway Iruka entered took him to the bar and dining room; and as he shone his torch around, keeping the UV light on in case a vampire was waiting to ambush him, he saw an alarming amount of bright blue marks. He knew that not all of it would be blood, as this was a pub, and things got spilled all the time, and that if he did find blood, there was a good chance it wasn’t related to vampires, because again, it was a pub, and people had probably fought and had medical emergencies here; but he was still weary, and looking out for more. If Kakashi had started bleeding outside, then surely, he would have left a trail in here, too…

As Iruka explored the dining area, he didn’t find any stains that spelled out blood, but he did spot a couple of piles of dust on the carpet, and flicked his torch to its plain setting to take a better look at the suspicious mess. Just as he expected, they were vampire ashes; and that concerned him, because this was supposed to be a small coven, so four to six vampires; and he’d barely searched the building and had already found evidence of that many taken down. Just how many vampires had Kakashi been up against? How could someone get such an important detail about the coven size so wrong?

When Iruka was satisfied with his job in the dining room, he moved on to the bathrooms, and found another clump of ashes in the women’s one; and when he left again, he took a moment to scan the pub with his torch, figuring out where to go next, when a really awful smell hit his nose. It smelled like rotting meat, but worse, with a disgusting sickly sweetness to it; and it made him feel really nauseous, not just because it was sickening, but because in his years of being a vampire slayer, he recognised the stench to be of a dead body; and if it was a dead body… Well, with Kakashi missing, his mind was wandering in awful places, assuming horrible things.

Iruka shook his head, and continued on, following the scent. The only way he’d be able to write off his fears was by seeing for himself what the source really was.

The bad smell led Iruka to a small flight of stairs that was supposed to be locked up and secure by a door that needs an electronic key, for patrons staying in one of the rooms above, but the door was instead propped open and the alarm system disabled, probably for vampires to come and go as they pleased.

As Iruka went up, he was less tense than when he first arrived, because the fact that there was a decomposing dead body up there probably meant that there weren’t any vampires waiting for him, because they had better senses than him, and he doubted any of them would want to live around the stench.

About halfway up, Iruka confirmed his assumptions when he saw a couple of piles of ashes scattered along the stairs; but even though Kakashi had clearly taken out the vampires that had been up here, he still continued on, because what if Kakashi was still up there and hadn’t been able to move all this time because of life-threatening wounds? What if he was unconscious, and needed immediate help?

Iruka picked up the pace; and at the top of the building, when the stench became unbearable, he half-buried his nose in his jacket in an attempt to block it out; and as he looked around, he saw five rooms and a bathroom, all with their doors wide open. He went through them one by one, moving much more quickly through the two that had dead bodies in them; and when he saw no sign of Kakashi, nor any vampires that hadn’t been taken care of, he went back downstairs to see if there were any more hidey-holes he’d missed.

When Iruka came back to the dining room, he stood at the doorway, and took a long, scrutinising look around the area; and his eyes landed on the bar. It looked pretty small, and didn’t seem stocked with much alcohol - there was maybe a couple of day’s worth there; and it made him wonder where the rest was kept, because the pub surely wouldn’t be this low. He didn’t recall seeing any in the kitchen area with all the other food when he had been in there, so there had to be another room somewhere…

Iruka wandered over to the bar, and as he got closer, the smell of alcohol became really strong; and when he saw several broken bottles on the ground, he quickly flicked his torch to UV light, and gripped ahold of his stake. Not only had a fight been here, there was more blood; and it looked like someone had been dragged off.

Iruka studied the trail, following it straight to a red velvet curtain draped down the wall on one side of the bar; and when he approached it and pulled the curtain aside, his eyes narrowed when he saw a door behind it marked ‘Bar Staff Only’. He reached for the handle, and pulled down, only to find that it was locked; and as he searched for something to hang the curtain into so he could try and pick the lock, he saw a small hook near the top of a display shelf that showcased a few bottles of alcohol people could choose from, and hanging off it was a small steel key.

Iruka grabbed the key and tried it on the lock; and when it opened with a little click, he opened the door, pocketed the key, and shone his torch through the entrance, to a flight of stairs that crept into an eerie darkness down below, the only light being vibrant blue droplets where the UV light was picking up the continuing trail of blood. He swallowed nervously as he stared down into the abyss. What would he find? Was this where Kakashi was? Would he still be alive?

Iruka shook his head, clearing his mind of dark thoughts, and began his descent downstairs. If Kakashi was down there, he was going to be alive. He had to be.

The further Iruka went down, the cooler the air became, with icy tendrils wrapping around his exposed skin and trying to poke through his clothes to cover him all over; and by the time he reached the base of the stairs, his breath was billowing out in foggy clouds like he was an ice dragon making frost with its breath.

The cold told him he was far enough below ground that not even a single ray of sun would ever reach here; and that made him more tense, because if he had to fight vampires down here, then he wouldn’t be able to rely on the slowly rising sun to save him, as he had many times before. He was completely on his own.

Up ahead was a small brick tunnel that had light bulbs fixed along the wall; and after a little searching, Iruka found a switch beside him. When he flicked it, the bulbs turned on, illuminating the tunnel with a dim, golden light; and as Iruka looked straight ahead, he saw a wooden door with a slot of metal bars built into it around eye level, waiting for him on the other side.

With no enemies in sight, Iruka hurried forward, still continuing to be as quiet as possible, and made his way to the door, his mind running wild with all the possible things he would see behind it.

Finally, he was there; and he peeked into the barred slot to see what he would find, but it was pitch black, so he aimed his torch inside to get some light in. From where he was standing, he could see boxes stacked on the floor of various brands of alcohol, and some shelves filled with bottles; but that was all he could get a glimpse on in the tiny space he’d been looking through; so he stepped back to open the door.

There were two large latch locks on the top and bottom of the door, keeping it shut; and much to Iruka’s relief, there were no padlocks on the latches, so all he had to do was slide the mechanisms apart. He unlocked and opened the door with ease, and stepped inside the cellar, holding his stake and UV light ready, in case there was a vampire waiting in ambush; and began to look around.

At first glance, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, since there were no broken bottles or signs of activity in the cellar, but Iruka could see the trail of blood he’d been following under the dim light of the tunnel’s bulbs; and as he followed it towards the back of the room, he could make out a strange silhouette behind the shelving, and his stomach began to churn. What was he going to find?

Finally, Iruka passed the shelves and reached the back area; and for a moment, all he could do was stare in horror at the scene before him.

There was a beaten and bruised person chained to the wall, their body pale, and still; and blood stained their clothes, and the floor beneath them. Iruka didn’t know whether they were unconscious or dead, but just as he was about to step forward and check, the prisoner groaned and weakly lifted their head to see who was there; and when Iruka made eye contact with them, he gasped.

“K-Kakashi!” He exclaimed in alarm, rushing over.

What did they do to you?!

                                           

Chapter Text

Iruka’s heart was pounding wildly as he raced to free Kakashi from his restraints. Just glimpsing at him, he could tell that he was injured badly, that he could drop at any moment if he wasn’t treated; and he had to get him out of here and save him. 

Iruka checked the shackles and saw that it needed keys to unlock; but as he looked around, he didn’t find one in sight - it seemed Kakashi’s captor took them with them. He tried tugging at the chains to see how sturdy they were against the wall, thinking he may be able to pull them off from there; but they didn’t budge, so he stepped back and squatted down to pull his lock pick out of his sock. Whilst he never really used them, he always kept one hidden on him in case of emergencies; and he was glad he did, because this was definitely an emergency.

Iruka expertly worked away at Kakashi’s restraints; and before long, he had unlocked one of them, Kakashi half-falling onto him as he became freed. He let out a quiet groan as he landed; and Iruka helped him up, making sure he could stand before moving onto the shackle around his other wrist; and soon, that unlocked, too. 

Kakashi tried to take a step forward, but his knees buckled beneath him; and he fell into Iruka, his clammy hands gripping his shoulders and sliding down his arms as he failed to stabilise himself. Iruka quickly caught him, hands holding his waist; and he carefully lowered him to the floor. 

When he was seated, Iruka squatted down in front of him and brushed away the sweaty strands of hair that had stuck to his face, frowning as his fingers touched his cool, pale skin.

“Kakashi, are you okay?” Iruka asked softly. “Do you have any wounds that need immediate tending to?”

“Probably… But we need to get out of here.” Kakashi panted. “If… If the vampire comes back, neither of us will stand a chance.”

“Forget standing a chance, you can’t even stand, period.” Iruka pointed out. 

“It’s just weakness from the blood loss, and not being able to move for so long.” Kakashi lied. “My injuries can wait.”

He reached out to grab Iruka’s arm, and gazed at him, his eyes struck with fear.

“Please… We have to get out of here.” He pleaded. “You don’t know what he was like, what he could do…”

Iruka studied Kakashi in concern. He had never seen him like this before; and he wondered just what exactly this vampire had done to him for him to be so worried. 

“Alright, we’ll leave.” Iruka replied softly. “But as soon as we’re safe, I’m checking your injuries.”

“Okay.”

Iruka hoisted Kakashi back up, and wrapped an arm securely around his waist as he leant into him; and when Kakashi was ready, he took a small, experimental step forward; and when there were no complications, he and Iruka began to make their way out of the cellar, towards safety. 

It was a slow, agonising walk for Kakashi. His muscles ached like crazy after being stuck in the same position for so long, he had some serious injuries from when he’d been attacked - he suspected at least one broken rib, maybe two; and he felt so weak, sick, and dizzy, like he would pass out at any minute. But regardless of how much he wanted to rest, he pushed forward, one step at a time. It was too dangerous to stay here…

The two of them continued on, until finally, they reached the top of the stairs and entered the bar again; and while they were there, Iruka made Kakashi stop and take a break. He somehow looked even more pale and sweaty than before; and he was worried that his body had gone into shock, and that continuing on without a break would make things worse.

“Here, drink this.” Iruka said, handing over a cup of juice he’d put together when raiding the bar.

“Thank you.” Kakashi replied, his voice hoarse. 

He pulled down his ripped mask, which had started to roll down his face in his struggle to get out of the cellar and up the stairs; and he took a small sip of the ice cold juice. As it washed away the dryness that he’d had in his mouth for the past week, his throat screamed for more, as though suddenly remembering just how thirsty he was; and in seconds, he sculled the rest of the glass, and had handed it back to Iruka for more. 

“Are you sure? You’re going to be sick if you have too much.”

“Just fill it about halfway. I’ll be fine.”

Iruka nodded, and took the glass to prepare more juice for Kakashi; and this time when he drank it, he sipped more slowly now that he wasn’t as desperate to quench his thirst. 

As he continued to drink, although he still looked very sickly, some of his colour had come back; and Iruka was happy to see how much the juice had helped. It wasn’t everything that Kakashi needed, but it would be enough to keep him going until they got to safety; and that was all that mattered.

When Kakashi was ready, Iruka helped him up and gripped ahold of him again, and the two of them continued on through the kitchen, and out the door, until finally, they were into the open air. 

It was still dark out, but the sky was blue instead of black, like dawn was on its way; and they both felt more at ease now that they were out of the building, and the sun would come soon. 

They passed through the alley, and made their way out to the front of the pub; and when they reached the street, Kakashi tried to speed up. He had been feeling better since he’d had the juice, and now that he had more energy, he was eager to get out of here and make it back to headquarters.

But halfway across the street, he suddenly got chills and became really unsettled; and he gripped Iruka more tightly as he looked around, studying the buildings and shadows around him carefully. He couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, but he knew this feeling all too well. 

“Iruka.” He warned lowly.

“I know.” Iruka replied. 

He knew exactly what Kakashi was talking about. He had sensed it, too.

There was a vampire around; and they were being watched.

As they continued on, Iruka handed his torch over to Kakashi to give him something to defend himself with. It wasn’t much, but it was better than nothing; and given his state, Iruka doubted he’d be able to do much else against a vampire, anyway.

Kakashi took the torch gently, his thumb on the button, ready to switch it to UV mode, and Iruka gripped ahold of his stake with his free hand anxiously, hoping that the two of them would be enough to be able to beat this vampire, that they could last until sunrise, when the vampire would either flee or combust. 

Suddenly, they heard low, sinister chuckling; and Iruka whipped his head towards the bank, which was shrouded in darkness still; and moments later, he spotted a tall, broad-shouldered humanoid figure with glowing eyes pacing towards them. 

As it came out of the shadows, it revealed itself to be a male vampire who looked to be in his thirties, with messy, spiked red hair, wearing polished black shoes, dark grey slacks, and a collared white cotton shirt, complete with a black cardigan with a small embroidered fox across the chest over the top. 

From a distance, he looked like an ordinary person, and even passed as a bank teller running some errands, despite the hour; but as he got closer, his other features like his striking yellow eyes, and sharp fangs became easier to see; and the sly, dark aura he was giving off made Iruka nervous and uncomfortable.

When he was a couple of metres away, Kakashi turned the torch on, shining its UV light up at the vampire’s body, but not his face, as a warning for him to keep his distance; and Iruka raised his stake in a defensive position, ready for battle.

“Stay back!” He growled.

The vampire’s eyes sparkled in amusement, and he chuckled, making no move to stop as he approached them, even as his hands began to sizzle.

“It’s cute how you think you’re going to hurt me with that.” He taunted. “It’s cute how you think you can hurt me at all, really.”

“You wouldn’t be the first vampire to assume we can’t do anything.” Iruka replied steadily. “That’s a good way to get yourself turned into ashes.”

The vampire stopped about a metre away from them, and flashed a smirk.

“You don’t know who I am, do you?” 

“Should I?”

Should you?” The vampire laughed, shaking his head in disbelief. “You must not have been there in the last Territorial War… I delivered the killing blow your leader.”

“You’re Kurama, the bastard who killed Minato Namikaze?!” Iruka exploded. 

“The one and only.”

“You’re going to pay for what you’ve done.” Iruka spat. “He had a family - a wife with a newborn baby! And because of you, that baby grew up with no one!” 

Kurama shrugged, and chuckled.

“You know, it’s been a while since I’ve come across someone as feisty as you. You would make a great addition to the coven.” He purred. “But I shouldn’t be greedy - not when I already have the perfect specimen waiting for me, already with my blood in their veins…”

“What do you mean?” Iruka asked. “Who?”

“Well, who better than the human who single-handedly wiped out everyone who moved into the pub?” Kurama replied. “If your little slayer friend is this good now, imagine how great he will be when he turns!”

“Kakashi is not going to turn!” Iruka growled. “He’s coming home with me!”

“Not if I kill him first.” Kurama smirked.

The next few seconds was a blur of motion. Kurama had charged forward to take Kakashi, and as he approached, Kakashi lifted the torch to shine its UV light in his eyes; and as he hissed in pain, still continuing forward, Iruka let go of Kakashi, and stepped out in front of him to protect him.

Kurama barged into him, hitting him square in the chest; and he went flying back from the force. He gripped his stake tighter as it tried to slip from his hand; and when he ran into Kakashi, knocking him back, and sending both of them to the ground, his knuckles smashed into the bitumen, trying to pry his weapon from his grasp.

Iruka gritted his teeth as a sharp, searing pain shot from his fingers, up his arm, to his very brain; and he tried to ignore the throbbing as he scrambled to get back up again. But as he tried to stand, he got knocked back down again; and strong hands gripped his shoulders, pinning him to the ground.

Iruka struggled to free himself from Kurama’s grip, hitting and kneeing him as he wriggled about, and trying to stab him with his stake; but no matter how many hits he made, he didn’t seem to be causing any damage. It was hopeless.  

“I thought you were going to turn me into ashes?” Kurama tormented as he crouched over him, one leg either side of his body. “What makes you think you can do that, when you can barely lay a hand on me?”

“Because he’s not alone.” Kakashi said.

As Kurama turned his head around, Kakashi shined the UV light directly into his eyes again; and as Kurama reflexively closed them, Kakashi kicked him in the head as hard as he could. His boot collided with Kurama’s cheek with a loud thud, and knocked his head to the side; and Iruka used the opportunity to roll and twist, and try to break free of Kurama’s grip. 

But Kurama gripped ahold of him tighter, his fingers digging into his muscles, squeezing to reach the bone; and Iruka cried out in pain as a deep throbbing sensation pounded into him.

Kakashi kicked at Kurama’s head again, trying to distract him from Iruka, to stop him from dislocating his shoulders or breaking his bones, or worse; and suddenly, there was a sickening crack where he had managed to break Kurama’s nose. 

Kurama turned to him with piercing, cold, murderous eyes, and let out an angry snarl, baring his fangs menacingly as blood poured from his nose; and in one quick motion, he stood from his crouch and gripped Iruka tighter and slid him away, across the ground in a fit of rage.

Iruka’s body burned and ached as he rolled across the ground in one quick blur of motion, and the stake he had been holding onto so tightly slipped from his grip and rolled away; and as he tried to stop himself from moving, he felt a heavy thud against his back, of something cylindrical and hard slamming into him - a streetlight, he guessed; and a loud metallic sound rang through the air.

The force knocked the wind out of him, and he gasped for air as pain seared right through him; and when he looked around, trying to orient himself, he saw that he was several metres away from Kakashi and Kurama, and Kurama had his back to him, no longer interested in him; and his heart began to race. 

This wasn’t good.

Kurama wiped the blood away from his face, and reached up to crack his nose back into place; and as his injury quickly began to heal, he turned to Kakashi.

“You know, I was going to spare him, but now I’m not going to.” He said. “In fact, you’re going to kill him for me. I’m going to make you turn right now; and when you wake up, you’re going to be so thirsty that you won’t be able to resist drinking every last drop of his blood. He’s going to die, by your hand; and you’re going to spend the rest of eternity knowing that you killed your friend, when all this could have been avoided if you’d simply given in and let me turn you earlier.”

“Maa, Iruka would kill me before I got the chance to kill him. And if he doesn’t kill me, he’s going to hold out until the sun comes up and I burn and turn into a pile of ashes.” Kakashi replied steadily. “Either way, Iruka lives, my soul goes to the afterlife, and you are still without a coven, now being hunted by vampire slayers seeking revenge.”

“You say that, but you’re putting your faith in a pitiful human who talks big, but can’t even do anything useful.”

“No, I’m putting my faith in a great man who always gets underestimated, who has a great mind and is very resourceful in how he uses it, who always, always has tricks up his sleeve.” Kakashi said. He smirked. “In fact, you might want to turn around…”

As Kurama tried to turn, Iruka suddenly made his move, wrapping a wire saw around his neck and pulling tightly, in an effort to both constrict his throat and cut it off; and Kurama let out a strangled sound, and reached up to try and pry the wire away. 

Iruka gripped ahold of the wire tighter and pulled harder, determined to not let Kurama get his way; and he clawed at his skin, trying to get his fingers behind the wire to break it away.

While he was distracted, Kakashi spotted the stake that Iruka had dropped earlier, that was now within reach; and he quickly picked it up, and struck it through Kurama’s chest, aiming directly for his heart. The weapon went in, but not all the way through; and as Kurama jerked and tried to reach for the stake and pull it out, Kakashi pushed it into him harder, aiming for the final blow. 

Kurama gripped his wrists and tried to push his arms away, but that only made him apply more strength; and the two of them were in a stalemate, fighting for dominance with the weapon. 

Iruka pulled harder on the wire, and began to saw while the struggle continued; and Kurama let out a ferocious snarl as he fought to keep the stake out of his chest, and Iruka from slowly beheading him. 

But Kakashi and Iruka fought hard, determined to not give up; and soon, when Kurama began to lose concentration after being attacked in two vital places at once, Kakashi started to overpower him; and the stake inched further into his chest.

Finally, Kakashi managed to push it all the way through, arms shaking, and breathing heavily from exhaustion; and Kurama stopped struggling, as though the stake had paralysed him. 

As Kakashi let go of the now embedded weapon, Iruka removed the wire saw from Kurama’s neck, then walked over to his front, first checking on Kakashi, and then turning his attention to Kurama, who was watching them with a dazed expression on his face.

Iruka knew this expression all too well. It was the face of someone whose life was flashing before their eyes, of someone seeing what went right and what hadn’t, wondering if the good was good enough for them to end up in a good place in the afterlife. Although in Kurama’s case, he seemed to know that already - of course he would, as he had already died once before; but Iruka saw a deep underlying fear… Because this time, there was no resurrection; this time, once he died, it would be for good. 

And in that moment, with everything flashing before his eyes, Iruka didn’t see a heartless vampire out for blood - he saw the human that Kurama once was; the man he was supposed to be. His soul had returned.

Iruka walked over to him, and crouched down, carefully leaning over him, keeping himself in his line of sight; and when their eyes connected, Iruka spoke.

“I told you that underestimating us was a good way to get yourself killed…” He sighed. “At least you can’t hurt anyone else now.”

He reached forward, towards Kurama’s face, and gently closed his eyes.

“Your soul is free.” He said softly. “May you reach the place you’re supposed to be.”

Soon, Kurama turned into ashes, the early morning breeze gently blowing them away; and when they were scattered, Iruka turned his attention back to Kakashi.

“Now, what do you say we get out of here?”

Kakashi nodded weakly.

He couldn’t wait to go home.

Chapter Text

When Kakashi woke up, the first thing he noticed was that his body ached all over, and the bandages that had been wrapped around him were making him itchy. The second thing he noticed, which completely distracted him from his discomfort, was a warm hand holding his; and when he looked over to see who it belonged to, his heart skipped a beat as he took in a somewhat dishevelled Iruka sleeping in a chair beside him, his head resting on the edge of the bed. 

He looked exhausted, like he had been awake for days; and knowing him, Kakashi was sure he had been, first to complete his missions, and then waiting around for him to wake up after the rescue, to make sure he was okay; because that man could worry… Which Kakashi found incredibly touching. 

Being an elite vampire slayer who could handle himself well, he didn’t really have people worry about him much, so his visitors at the infirmary usually didn’t stay long; but whenever Iruka found out he was there, he would always stay and keep him company as long as his job and other responsibilities would let him, regardless of whether his injuries were major or minor. And seeing how much Iruka cared for him, how he would go out of his way like that, it made him feel wanted… And loved.

Kakashi’s expression grew soft as he studied the innocence etched into Iruka’s face. 

Despite the fact that they faced death regularly as vampire slayers, and had to kill creatures that became so scared and human in their last moments that it was almost like they’d just taken an innocent life, the war-hardened expression that most slayers got never appeared in Iruka. His face was the picture of serenity; and Kakashi loved that about him. Seeing such peace always grounded him, and assured him that everything was going to be okay; and some days, he really needed that. 

Kakashi carefully pulled his hand out of Iruka’s loose grip, and reached for his face, gently running his fingers along his smooth caramel skin, sliding some stray hairs out of the way, then rested his hand on the side of his head as he debated whether to stroke his lovely, soft hair while he was there. 

After a moment, Iruka stirred, and his eyes fluttered open, ending the debate for him; and he quickly drew his hand away before he noticed. 

“‘Kashi?” Iruka mumbled sleepily. “You awake?”

“Yeah. I just woke up.”

Iruka sat up in his chair, and studied him with a concerned but warm gaze.

“How are you feeling?” He asked. 

“A bit sore, but otherwise okay.” Kakashi replied.

“I’m glad.” Iruka smiled, visibly relaxing in his chair. “I got worried when you passed out on the way back.”

Kakashi frowned as he recalled the moment. After Iruka had sent Kurama to the afterlife, he and Iruka had started their journey back to the hideout, when all of a sudden, all his energy had left him; and the last thing he remembered was everything going black and Iruka calling out for him, rushing to try and catch him before he fell.

“How long have I been out for?” He asked.

“A couple of days.” A woman answered.

Kakashi and Iruka jumped when the door opened, and Tsunade stepped in the room. She stalked over to the bed, and began examining Kakashi, and checking his vitals. 

“I’m surprised you’re still alive.” She continued. “You were very anaemic and needed quite a bit of blood when you were brought in, and I’ve never seen someone so dehydrated before. You’re lucky Iruka found some juice to give you. If he hadn’t, well… Let’s just say you owe him dinner or drinks, or something, because he’s the reason you’ve been able to recover without any complications. He’s the reason you’re here at all, actually.”

“Yeah, I… owe a lot to Iruka.” Kakashi replied, shooting a glance his way, relishing in the deep blush that was burned into his face. He would definitely like to take him out when he’d recovered enough.

Tsunade picked up a clipboard at the end of the bed holding Kakashi’s patient notes, and began to look through it.

“I’ve heard Iruka’s side of the story, but tell me yours.” She said. “What went wrong on your mission? How did you end up like this?”

“The mission you sent me on was a trap… I got ambushed the moment I arrived; and after I fought the vampires off that attacked me outside, the ones that were inside were hiding, and tried to take me by surprise. I thought they were just trying to defend their coven or kill me, but the leader, Kurama, had ordered them to capture me.” Kakashi said.

“He wanted you? Did Kurama know who you are?”

“It didn’t seem like it. I think he just wanted to capture vampire slayers to get information for an attack he was planning, but…” Kakashi hesitated. “But when I killed all the vampires in the new coven except him, he had… other plans, too. With me specifically. I was interrogated… harshly by him, since I wouldn’t talk, but instead of killing me, since he was impressed with my skill, he wanted me to turn and join him instead.”

Kakashi fell silent as the memories came flooding back. Kurama had tormented him every time he saw him and forced him to drink his blood, telling him how much he loved the idea of a vampire slayer becoming a vampire, of the hunter becoming the hunted; and that he was going to make his death slow and agonising.

He couldn’t wait to see how defeated he’d become when he knew that there was nothing he could do to stop it from coming; that afterwards, when he turned, he would be so hungry that he wouldn’t even hesitate to kill all of his comrades and people important to him, and that he would succeed, no matter how hard they fought back, because he was already so powerful as a human, and would be immensely more as a vampire. 

And after he’d said all that, and was sure he’d convinced him that there was no other future for him, Kurama had simply left him alone to die.

Being left to stew on those thoughts had been worse than any of the physical pain that he’d been put through. He was already the reason some of his friends were dead, and he didn’t want to be responsible for any more deaths, he couldn’t; but if he had been turned, that’s exactly what would have happened. 

The thoughts didn’t bother him so much now, but when he was chained to the wall, slowly dying, with vampire blood in his system, with no way of knowing if anyone was coming for him or would be able to find him if they were, the possibility of that happening had been very real; and he’d been scared of what was coming, and knew he would never be able to forgive himself for what he would have done.

Maybe that’s why he had been able to keep himself alive for so long… 

“Well, you shouldn’t have any vampire blood in your system now, or at least not enough for you to turn, so you don’t need to worry about that anymore.” Tsunade replied assuringly.

“That’s a relief.” Kakashi said, visibly relaxing. “When can I go home?”

“Heh. How did I know you were going to ask…?” Tsunade scoffed, shaking her head. “Your vitals are fine, but I’m still a little concerned about your haemoglobin levels, since they’re still quite low, so I would advise you to stay until they get a bit higher.”

“You’re advising me to stay, so that means it’s not life threatening, and I’ll be okay at home, right?” Kakashi asked hopefully.

If you take it easy; but knowing you, you’re better off staying right where you are, because you’ll just end up back here in a couple of days from overworking yourself.”

“Maa, I think my injuries will stop that from happening.”

Tsunade shot him a look that said she clearly didn’t believe him, that she knew he’d ignore the pain and overwork himself anyway.

“I won’t push myself, I promise.” Kakashi said, reading her mind, raising his hands in surrender.

Tsunade maintained eye contact with him for a moment, her expression stony, as though challenging his disposition; and eventually, she sighed heavily, and put her clipboard away.

“Alright. I’ll be back in an hour.” She replied. “Make sure you’re ready.”

“Thank you.”

With that, she left Kakashi and Iruka to themselves; and Kakashi turned his attention to Iruka.

“I need to thank you, too.” He said softly. “If you hadn’t come for me, I’d be… Well, I don’t really want to think about it.”

“I-It’s nothing, really! I was just doing my job!” Iruka replied, a blush creeping onto his cheeks. “Though I would have come, even if Tsunade-sama hadn’t ordered me to. I’ve been so worried about you ever since I got my mission orders to find you.”

“That long?”

“Yes, that long! My orders said you’d been missing for a whole week, whilst on a mission that should have been easy for you; and then when I was looking for you, I found you by following a blood trail; and then when I first saw you chained up, I thought you were dead! Not to mention all your injuries - and then you go and pass out on the way home; and because of how beat up you were, I didn’t know if it was just exhaustion or one of your organs were failing and you were dying!” Iruka exclaimed. “How could I not have worried that much?!” 

He glanced away sadly. 

“I-If… If I’d have lost you, I… I don’t know what I would have done with myself, Kakashi.”

“I-Iruka…” Kakashi breathed.

Before he knew what he was doing, he was sliding his hand across the bed to Iruka’s, and gently taking it in his, raising it to his mask-free face; and when it reached his lips, he planted a soft kiss on his skin.

“I’m not going anywhere. I promise.” He murmured.

Iruka’s heart fluttered wildly, and he felt his cheeks grow warm. It was rare for Kakashi to be like this, to allow himself to open his heart and be intimate; and the tenderness and care he was showing felt extra special, like he wanted to take the next step and be more than friends, to get to know him on another level; and the idea of that sent butterflies through his system. It just felt so right. 

Iruka gazed at Kakashi’s fond expression, and carefully reached up and cupped his cheek. 

“You’d better mean that.” He said, his thumb gently caressing Kakashi’s skin. “You’re more important to me than you think.”

“H-How… How important, Ru?” Kakashi asked quietly, swallowing nervously.

Iruka’s heart skipped a beat. He could see in Kakashi’s eyes that he wasn’t really asking how important he was to him, that there was another question beneath it that he wanted to know the answer to; and a blush crept on his face as he studied Kakashi’s anxious but hopeful expression, revealing exactly what he wanted him to say.

Iruka took a nervous breath and rose from his seat, and shifted closer to the bed; and, gazing steadily at Kakashi, who was frozen in place, slowly leaned in towards him. When he was just inches away from his face, he paused to confirm that it was okay to continue; and when he saw nothing but desire, he gently ran his thumb across Kakashi’s cheek again, and then closed the distance, planting his lips against his in a gentle, tender kiss.

When their mouths connected, an explosion of fireworks erupted in Iruka’s chest, spreading sparks across his body; and as he felt Kakashi press back and relax into him, time stilled, and the world melted away. 

Being with him like this, and feeling how much he wanted him back made him feel more complete than ever before, like he and Kakashi were meant to be together; and he didn’t want this moment to end. 

But after a little while, he slowly pulled himself away from Kakashi, and gazed into his warm, loving eyes; and he smiled fondly before giving him his answer.

“This important, Kakashi.” He murmured. “You are so important to me that I never want to leave your side.”

“Then stay.” Kakashi hummed. “Because I never want to leave yours, either.”

Iruka smiled affectionately, and kissed Kakashi again; and Kakashi shifted in bed, and gently pulled him over, inviting him to join him; and Iruka carefully fit himself in the space Kakashi made, and leaned against him snugly as a warm arm wrapped around him. 

His chest went fuzzy as Kakashi’s warmth spread right through him, and he became lightheaded as his soothing scent invaded his senses; and he closed his eyes, feeling more relaxed and content than he had in ages.

Before long, his exhaustion caught up to him, and he began to doze off; and as he slowly fell asleep, and rational thought became a web of nonsensical words and images, only one thing remained in his mind.

If he and Kakashi weren’t in a hospital right then, this would be perfect…

He finally had the man he’d been chasing, after all this time.

-----------------------------

Tsunade sighed to herself as she wandered through the hospital and reluctantly made her way to Kakashi’s room. She’d been putting off visiting him, as she didn’t really want him to leave yet, and was trying to delay his departure as long as possible to give his body just that little more time to heal, but she’d done all her paperwork and seen all her other patients, so there was nothing else for her to do now but see him. 

Tsunade took a breath and opened her mouth to speak as she entered the room.

“Evening, brat.” She said as she began to walk to the bed. “I know I’m late, but you will be pleased to hear that I’m here to relea…se… you…”

Tsunade slowed to a stop as she took in the scene in front of her. 

The visitor chair that Iruka had been glued to since he’d arrived at the infirmary was empty, and instead, Iruka was squished up on Kakashi’s bed with him, in his arms; and the two of them were fast asleep, both sharing the most relaxed, at peace expressions she had ever seen on them, like neither of them were vampire slayers, nor had just come back from life-threatening missions.

A warmth quickly filled her chest, and a smirk crept on her face. 

“About time.” She murmured fondly. 

She quietly walked over to the cupboard and grabbed an extra blanket from storage, and placed it over Iruka before leaving the room again; and when she reached the door, she gave him and Kakashi one last look, smiling warmly at them, and then switched the lights off, closed the door, and walked off, leaving them to catch up on their sleep. 

Those two have been fighting for a long time, more than most, to protect the peace, to liberate us from the hold the vampires have on the world…

It’s about time they did something for themselves, too.

Chapter Text

“Kakashi, I’m home!” Iruka called out as he entered the front door. 

He set his satchel and slayer tools on the table, and bent down to take his boots off; and when he put them away, he wandered inside, beelining straight for the kitchen, eager for coffee. 

The house was quiet and the windows were still shut despite the fact it was mid-afternoon, telling him that Kakashi was probably still asleep, but when he reached the kitchen and turned the jug on, he grabbed a mug for him anyway - he suspected he would be up soon, since he’d finished his patrol shift early enough the night before, and he was a pretty light sleeper when he had to sleep alone. 

As Iruka prepared their coffees, he heard some noise down the hallway; and when he turned, he saw Kakashi in his pyjamas - long cotton pants, and a plain shirt, sleepily shuffling over, just as he had predicted.

“Welcome home, Ru.” Kakashi greeted, pulling him into a warm embrace. “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too, ‘Kashi.” Iruka murmured, planting a deep, tender kiss on his lips.

When he pulled back, he gazed fondly into his eyes, and ran a hand through his messy bed-head in a half-hearted attempt to neaten it.

“I was just making coffee.” He said. “How was your day? Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah, I did, and my day was good.” Kakashi murmured. “But it would have been better if you were there, too.”

“I wish I could have been.” Iruka replied warmly, planting a gentle kiss on Kakashi’s lips.

“How was work?” 

“It was good, but those kids… They’re too eager for their own good.” Iruka sighed, releasing Kakashi so he could finish making their coffees. “They’re all going to make great vampire slayers, but I wish they weren’t so excited about putting themselves in danger.”

“I’m sure they will settle when people stop talking about the fall of Kurama.” Kakashi chuckled. 

“I hope so, but this class is just as motivated as Naruto’s was, especially Konohamaru and his friends; and I’m afraid they’re going to get themselves into all kinds of trouble when they graduate.” 

“Maa, I don’t think you’re going to have to worry about that any time soon - since Kurama’s been gone, the amount of vampires in Konoha has dropped drastically in the past few months. I only ran into one of them when I was patrolling last night; and I usually take down a good handful.” Kakashi replied assuringly, taking a seat at the table. “I’m sure you’ve had similar experiences, too, when you’ve been on patrol lately.”

“Yeah, I guess so…” 

“You don’t seem convinced.” Kakashi commented as Iruka brought the coffees over and took a seat opposite him.

“It’s just… Everyone is saying that times of peace are ahead, that Kurama’s death means the vampires will be too scared to make a move on Konoha, since our vampire slayers are so strong, but I… I just can’t help but think that it’s not over, that I’m training the kids for something bigger coming along.” Iruka replied, taking a sip from his mug. “What do you think?”

“Mmn… I don’t think vampires are ever going to be eradicated, and we will always need to be prepared for them coming after us, and the dangers that come with that; but I also think that we don’t have any major threats to worry about right now.” Kakashi answered thoughtfully. “If we did, Tsunade-sama would be working us to the bone, and if she was doing that, I wouldn’t have been able to greet you today when you got home.”

He reached out and took Iruka’s hand.

“So the kids might be a little eager right now, but I think they’re going to be just fine.” He continued. “The way things are going, there will be enough time to get them to where they need to be before real danger comes again.”

“You really think so?”

“Yeah.” Kakashi answered earnestly. “This isn’t the end of everything, but it’s the end for now… So let’s take a moment to breathe and just handle things as they come.”

Iruka smiled warmly and squeezed Kakashi’s hand.

“Alright. I will.” He murmured. “Thanks, ‘Kashi. How do you always know what to say?”

“Maa, I just do - genius, and all that.” Kakashi winked.

He took a sip of his coffee. 

“Now, stop worrying, and tell me more about your day.” He said. “Did you catch the lunch thief?”

“I did!” Iruka grinned excitedly. “You have to hear what happened!”

As Kakashi listened to Iruka’s elaborate tale about the trap he’d set, how he’d made a soup with all kinds of surprises, and that the culprit had screamed when she’d seen edible bugs floating around in it - after having a big spoonful of the food, and then was walking around the academy with blue teeth all day because of all the food colouring slipped into the soup that she hadn’t been aware of, he smiled dreamily to himself.

He was enjoying watching Iruka’s expressions, how his eyes sparkled and crinkled happily as he shared the story, and how whenever he caught him smiling, it only encouraged him to get into it more; and then when he realised he hadn’t stopped smiling at him, how his eyes danced with curiosity and a gentle blush crept on his face; and then now, how he was trying his best to not get distracted by him but was failing immensely, and was getting more and more flustered by the second. The way Iruka was falling apart in front of him was just so cute, and he couldn’t get enough of him.

“I love you.” 

Every little thing he did set his heart on fire, and he was falling for him more and more every day. 

“P-Pardon? What did you say?” Iruka asked, his cheeks burning red.

Kakashi’s eyes widened in realisation as it dawned on him what he’d just said, and his face felt as hot as Iruka’s looked. 

“U-Uh, I-I didn’t think I’d said that out loud…” He mumbled shyly. 

He took a nervous breath, and locked eyes with Iruka.

“B-But I… I love you.”

Iruka’s mouth spread into the most heart-melting smile Kakashi had ever seen; and his heart thumped rapidly as he watched him get out of his seat and make his way over to him.

When Iruka reached him, he planted his lips against his in a deep, passionate kiss, and slowly sat in his lap and hooked his arms around his neck; and when he was settled, he carefully pulled away and gazed fondly into Kakashi’s eyes.

“I’ve been waiting for you to say that.” He murmured warmly. “I love you, too, baby.”

He kissed Kakashi again.

“I know you just got out of bed, but is there any chance you want to jump back in with me?”

“Did you even have to ask?” Kakashi hummed, going in for another kiss.

In a flash, he scooped Iruka up and carried him to the bedroom, his half-drunken coffee long forgotten; and Iruka giggled and smiled affectionately as he kissed him all over on the way, his heart fluttering wildly.

In a world full of darkness, and fear, he had finally found his happily ever after; and he knew it was going to last longer than any vampire that ever lived…

Because the love he had for this man burned so brightly that nothing would ever be able to turn it into ashes.

It was eternal, in the very best way.