Izumo and Kotetsu are stupid. All of their friends are stupid. They can play their stupid spin the bottle game without Iruka. It’s not dumb to want your first kiss to be special, and so what if Iruka has been saving his?
A branch scrapes at Iruka’s hitae-ate and he stops running to tug it off and make sure it still looks okay. It’s hardly even a year old. Geeze, what if the branch scraped the Konoha leaf and it made him look like a missing nin? Is it even possible to get a new hitae-ate? Iruka sighs with relief to see the forehead protector looks fine, and ties it back around his head snugly.
He resumes his run and soon arrives at his destination - a small rock cave whose entrance is shrouded by a large, thorny bush. Iruka is still small enough he can wiggle underneath the low branches to get to his secret hiding spot without getting scraped up very much.
Once he’s inside he fumbles around next to the cave entrance for the lantern he stashed there and makes the seals for a small katon to light it. It flares bright, and Iruka takes the few steps forward to drop it on the ground at the base of the log he’d dragged into the cave and dug into the floor. Iruka’s proud of his little hideout - it’s the perfect spot for secret training, with a nice high roof, and a small stream outside nearby. He’d even brought a bunch of supplies from the village so that he could have a snack after training, or stay overnight if he wanted to. He hadn’t done that yet, but he would one of these days. Maybe when it gets a little warmer. It’s a little creepy in the forest alone at night in the winter, with the wind rattling through the empty branches.
Iruka cracks his knuckles and looks at the training post speculatively. He affects a whiny tone, mimicking the way Izumo had mocked him earlier, “Why don’t you just kiss Naoko-chan and get it over with, she’s had a crush on you for months!”
“Yeah?” Iruka responds with his own voice, and smashes his fist into the training post in a satisfying punch to fake-Izumo’s face. “If I wanted to kiss Naoko-chan I would have already done it!” A follow-up punch with his left hand, “It’s not like it’s a big secret that she likes me!”
Iruka steps back and says, with a new voice this time, a slightly more nasal ‘Kotetsu’, “Just come play and you’ll kiss, like ten different people, why does it matter who was first?”
“Go play your stupid game yourself!” Iruka’s fist crashes across fake-Kotetsu’s jaw. “Maybe I don’t want to kiss ten different people anyway!” The next punch hits fake-Kotetsu square in the nose. A series of additional punches follow, the sounds loud in the quiet cave.
Iruka stops to catch his breath. It’s not like he didn’t want to eventually kiss someone. Even the idea of kissing a bunch of people was sort of okay. People are interesting - it might be fun to kiss a bunch of them and see what it’s like. But not as part of some stupid game, when that was the only reason for it. And definitely not his first kiss! A first kiss was supposed to be memorable, something to tell a story about. Iruka prides himself on telling epic stories. The stories he tells about the pranks he’s pulled are always popular. A good first-kiss story would really round out his repertoire and keep his material fresh.
His knuckles are bleeding slightly. He should have wrapped his hands first. Iruka sighs and turns to grab the first aid kit from where he’d stashed it.
A porcelain mask stares at him from the alcove next to the cave entrance and Iruka’s hands fly to his mouth. His body freezes up in terror, the shout he’d attempted to stifle sticking in his throat with fear. Oh god. An ANBU. Just sitting there in his cave watching him.
Kakashi watches as the kid’s eyes go wide with fear and his hands clap over his mouth. It had taken too long for the Genin to notice his cave was occupied. Granted, Kakashi had chosen his spot to the side of the cave entrance, tucked back into a small alcove of rock on purpose. Anyone entering the cave wouldn’t see Kakashi right away, but he would see them. Even in Konoha territory, it wasn’t wise to be unprepared. He’d heard someone coming and had managed to move his heavy limbs enough to grip a kunai. He wasn’t certain he’d be able to kill anyone in the state he was in, but he’d at least be able to surprise them.
Instead, the intruder had lit a lantern, and Kakashi was able to make out the leaf symbol on the kid’s hitae-ate before the boy had launched into talking to himself and punching the training post further in the cave.
Kakashi wonders what the Genin is going to do, now that he’s noticed there’s an ANBU sharing his cave. Kakashi doesn’t interact with the public very often while in his ANBU gear, and they always seem to be afraid when he does.
The Sharingan throbs painfully in his eye socket, closed safely behind his eyelid to prevent any further drain. His other eye droops with exhaustion. Kakashi loosens his grip, hand resting on his thigh, and lets the kunai clatter to the floor.
“ANBU-san,” the kid says, and seems to unfreeze from where he’s standing, suddenly kneeling at Kakashi’s side, hands hovering. “Are you injured?”
“No,” Kakashi replies, and watches him startle at the sound of Kakashi’s voice. “Just tired.”
The scar across the boy’s nose wrinkles as he considers that, and he asks, “Why wouldn’t you go home? The village isn’t that far.”
In truth, Kakashi had tried to make it home, but the chakra exhaustion had been even worse this time than the times before. He’d barely managed to find this cave when he stumbled and tripped into the thorny bush protecting its entrance. He knew he’d lost hours of time between then and when he’d heard the boy’s approach. He hadn’t even had the chakra to call the ninken to keep watch or go get help. It was stupid, and dangerous, and he’s lucky to still be alive. And the sleep still hadn’t been enough.
When Kakashi doesn’t answer, the boy glances to the side and says, “You could stay here, if you want to. I have a sleeping roll, and supplies.” Kakashi swivels his head to see a pile of supplies including food, a first aid kit, and a sleeping mat. He hadn’t had the energy to explore the cave when he dragged himself in. Ironic to be so close to a sleeping mat and instead sleep propped against the wall. But he’s not sure if he’d even be able to move to lay the mat out now. God, he’s tired. He tips his head back to lean it against the wall.
The ANBU leans his head back against the wall and Iruka hesitates, unsure of what he’s supposed to do. Is he really not hurt? Iruka hasn’t ever seen an ANBU act like this. Not that he’s seen a lot of ANBU in his life. Not that he’s seen any ANBU up close. Oh man, this is going to be an amazing story. He studies the ANBU again, trying to capture details that he can tell his friends later, and realizes suddenly that the ANBU is young. Maybe not as young as Iruka, but you can see it in the span of his shoulders, the way he doesn’t seem fully grown into his limbs. He’s just a teenager, maybe 16 years old?
“ANBU-san,” Iruka begins, but hesitates.
“Hound.” The ANBU’s voice startles Iruka again, and it takes a moment to realize what he means.
“Hound-san,” Iruka whispers, and hears the awe and fear in his own voice. This isn’t just any ANBU. This is the Hound, the Hokage’s loyal cold-blooded killer. The ANBU that other ANBU fear. The ANBU that strikes terror into the hearts of Konoha’s enemies by name alone. The freaking Hound is sitting on the floor of Iruka’s cave.
Iruka swallows and says, “Should I go get help?”
Hound is quiet for a moment before answering. “No. I just need to sleep for a few hours. Then I can make it home.” His voice sounds muffled through the porcelain mask.
Hound had hardly moved at all since Iruka noticed him, barely even turning his head to look at the pile of supplies when Iruka offered them. He obviously hadn’t searched the cave when he arrived, or he would have found the lantern and all of the supplies himself. “Can you move?”
What sounds like a sigh emerges from behind the mask, and then, “Not well.”
Iruka makes a sudden decision with a nod of his head, and says, “I’ll help. You can sleep here and I’ll watch over you.”
The Genin starts gathering up items in the corner of the cave Kakashi is occupying to move them out of the way. The boy intends to set up the sleeping mat for him. The prospect of actually sleeping, comfortably, sends another wave of exhaustion through his body. He forces his eye open. He needs to stay awake at least until the bed is ready. He can sleep, for a few hours, with this Genin keeping watch. He could probably even set it up so the kid gets credit as a C-class mission. He just needs to stay awake a little longer… talking had been helping, a little.
“The voices you were doing earlier were funny,” Kakashi says. The Genin’s cheeks flush pink as he drags a crate of weapons out of the way.
“You weren’t supposed to hear that.” The tone is petulant, and makes Kakashi want to smile.
“What were you arguing about?” Something about a kissing game it had sounded like to Kakashi. He’d never played any such game himself.
There’s a pause before the kid answers. Kakashi wonders if he’s deciding that he can’t be embarrassed any further than he already is. “My friends think it’s dumb that I want my first kiss to be memorable.”
“Oh.” It seems so far removed from Kakashi’s own life, so mundane, to be worried about something like kissing, or a simple argument with friends. “Is that important?”
“It’s important to me!” The boy’s voice holds remnants of the anger he’d used when beating up the training pole earlier. He huffs as he unrolls the sleeping mat onto the floor. “What was your first kiss like?”
“I can’t tell you that.” Hound’s voice is monotone and Iruka immediately thinks that he’s somehow asked a classified question and Hound is going to have to kill him.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to ask something I wasn’t supposed to!” Iruka kneels by the unrolled sleeping mat, frozen.
“No, I mean, I haven’t had a first kiss.”
“Oh.” Iruka relaxes minutely and darts a glance at the porcelain mask again. Really? He wonders for a moment, who Hound is, underneath the mask, and if he knows him. They’re not that far apart in age, maybe they were at the Academy at the same time. He scolds himself mentally - bad idea, shouldn’t even go there. ANBU are masked for a reason. It’s dangerous to even think about who they really are.
“I heard that your first kiss should be from someone who cares about you.”
“Oh,” Iruka says again, feeling dumb. Maybe Hound has never had anyone that cared about him and that’s why he’s never been kissed. He feels a little childish now, wanting a good first kiss just so he can tell a neat story. A kiss from someone who cares about you is probably good, too. But… it would still be even better if it was also a good story. “I just want my first kiss to be worthwhile, not something silly or dumb.”
Iruka moves to Hound’s side, intending to help him onto the sleeping mat, and Hound asks, “What would make a kiss worthwhile?”
Iruka hadn’t really stopped before to consider what an epic first kiss might actually be like. To make it a really good story it would have to be in a great location, or with someone really cool or interesting. In fact… “Hound-san,” Iruka feels the thrill he gets before he pulls off a perfect prank. It’s so stupid to even think about asking, but he’s going to do it anyway. It would be so epic. “Will you kiss me?”
Kakashi is surprised, truly surprised, at the question. “You don’t even know my name.”
“You don’t know mine either!”
“You’re right.” Kakashi thinks about Rin, telling him his first kiss should be from someone who cares about him. She had been implying she would kiss him if he wanted her to. He felt like it would have been a betrayal of Obito’s memory, Obito, who loved Rin but never got to kiss her. He regrets it now, not taking that kiss when she offered it. When will he ever have a chance in his life again to be offered a kiss by someone who truly cares about him?
Kakashi looks at the boy in front of him, watching him eagerly. This boy cares. Maybe not about Kakashi truly, but he cares enough about Hound, about a Leaf ANBU in need, to offer his secret cave, his supplies, his protection while Kakashi sleeps. What if Kakashi never finds someone who can look beneath the mask, both masks, and truly care about him? Maybe this really is good enough.
“Ok,” he says. “Close your eyes.”
The boy’s eyes go wide, comically, before he slams them shut. Kakashi drags the Hound mask off tiredly, then pulls his face mask down. He looks again at the boy in front of him now that his vision isn’t obscured by the ANBU mask. He’s young- twelve or thirteen. His cheeks are flushed, and the scar across the bridge of his nose stands out in stark contrast against the color.
It’s stupid, Kakashi thinks suddenly. This boy is too young to care about kissing, probably hasn’t even killed yet. But Kakashi said he would do it. He leans forward carefully and drops a quick, chaste kiss against the boy’s lips, and pulls back.
The boy’s eyebrows furrow and he keeps his eyes shut. “That’s it? That was hardly a kiss. That was like, a kiss you give your mom. Do it right.”
Kakashi feels chagrined, then mad at himself for it. He’s too old to be kissing a twelve-year-old. He hardly has an idea what a proper kiss should be like himself. But the boy is sitting there expectantly, and Kakashi licks his lips where they feel too dry, and leans back in to slot them against the boy’s. The kid makes a noise and pushes gently against him, and Kakashi has a moment to think that it’s nice, his lips are soft, then the boy parts his mouth slightly and Kakashi feels the flicker of a tongue across his bottom lip and pulls back abruptly.
He feels a flush across his own cheeks at the self-satisfied smile on the boy’s face and tugs his face mask back up sharply, then pulls the Hound mask back on. “That was plenty,” he says, “Open your eyes.”
“Right.” The boy does, and then, seemingly remembering his original purpose, asks, “Do you want me to help you move?”
Kakashi sighs in frustration.”Yes.”
Iruka slips an arm under Hound’s, and wraps it around his shoulder, hauling him forward. Hound moves, but barely, and puts most of his weight on Iruka. Thankfully, they don’t have to go far, and they slide-shuffle over to the sleeping mat, where Iruka lets go and Hound lays down.
Iruka grabs the old blanket he’d stashed and lays it over Hound, tucking it around his feet.
“Leaf Shinobi!” Hound’s voice is sharp, calling Iruka to attention with the same note of command his Jounin-sensei uses, and Iruka sits up stiffly, startled once again.
“You will stand guard for exactly three hours, at which point you will leave this cave and report directly to the Hokage, where you will be compensated for a C-Rank mission. You are not to come within five feet of me while I sleep. If you do, I will wake up, and I will count the mission a failure. Do you accept?”
Iruka gapes. A C-Rank Mission! His Genin team has only done D-Ranks so far! This will put him so far ahead of his team, they’ll be so jealous!
He grins at Hound and says, “I accept, but first…” Iruka leans down and presses a quick kiss to the ANBU mask, to Hound’s cheek. “Thank you Hound-san. It was a very memorable first kiss.”