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The first time

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It was exactly thirty-seven minutes past six in the evening when the quiet of the mission room was disturbed by a soft sneeze from the hallway. Iruka looked up from sorting some scrolls and saw Kakashi appearing in the doorway, his usual mask pulled down in lieu of a tissue pressed against his nose. Kakashi was due back the day before but after a cursory glance Iruka gathered that he was simply delayed by none other than a bout of the flu, likely aggravated due to the weather. Though Konoha usually had mild weather all year round, it could still get quite cold for about two to three weeks around the New Year.

 

Kakashi had a scarf loosely tied around his neck and donned the winter uniform; the long sleeves were rolled all the way down, boots instead of the usual open-toed sandals and Iruka noted that Kakashi even wore the fleece lined flack jacket, which meant that Kakashi’s mission likely took him further north where the winters were harsher but not cold enough to also need the winter cloak.

 

“And here I thought idiots couldn’t catch colds”, Iruka said as Kakashi approached the desk, mission report held aloft in his other hand. He scrunched up the used tissue and tossed it into the bin next to the desk. With nobody else in the mission room, he didn’t bother pulling his mask back on.

 

Upon closer inspection, apart from the reddened nose and slightly flushed pallor, and the usual post-mission fatigue, Kakashi didn’t seem to be injured.


“Further proof of the genius that I am”, Kakashi replied in a thick voice as Iruka took the report off his hands, just in time before Kakashi sneezed again. Iruka took out a box of tissues from under the desk and pushed it towards Kakashi. He gratefully took the offered box, just in time for the next bout of sneezes.

 

“Give me a minute to close up and we’re going to the hospital”, Iruka said as he sealed Kakashi’s report (simple B class retrieval) and shoved it into the drawer for perusal the following morning.

 

“I don’t need to go to the hospital, it’s just a cold”, Kakashi huffed. He held the box of tissues closely to his chest.

 

“Probably. But you did catch it mid-mission. We need to make sure that it’s just a regular cold and nothing more. You don’t want a repeat of your mission to Snow,” Iruka chastised as he locked away the last of the mission scrolls. Kakashi remained quiet, fully aware of the mistake of not heading to see a medi-nin after that mission. It was almost two full weeks of being almost completely deaf, nauseous and with the balance of a two week-old puppy. Not to mention the three jounin, two chuunin and one ANBU he’d infected and put out of commission for nearly a week. Though it was nothing serious, the infection could have been stopped if only he had gone to the hospital immediately after returning. He still received dirty looks at the hospital from Seta sensei, the attending ANBU medi-nin from that incident. Kakashi made it his mission to stay away from any tall, gangly, completely bald, elderly men at the Konoha hospital, lest it be Seta sensei, the seasoned head of the ANBU medical team.

 

As per protocol, all ANBU past and present are to be examined by an attending ANBU medi-nin, Tsunade-sama herself or her selected few.

 

As luck would have it, Seta sensei was on duty that very evening.

 

“Ha. Ta. Ke” he growled as he looked up from the clipboard. It seemed Seta-sensei hadn’t quite forgiven Kakashi for destroying his favourite pair of shoes with projectile vomiting.

 

Kakashi gripped his box of tissues closer to his chest and remained quiet. Iruka, the sadist that he was, left Kakashi on his own in the examination room when Seta sensei came in. He even had the gall to smirk behind Seta sensei’s back before he retreated to the waiting area.

 

Seta’s examination was scrupulous. He also threw bedside manners out the window. Even his chakra examination felt unsettling. The attending nurse, Haruka-san (Seta sensei’s constant shadow) was no better, showing no mercy when withdrawing Kakashi’s blood. Kakashi was certain that being stabbed by kunai was less painful. Once three vials of blood were filled, the inside of Kakashi’s mouth was swabbed, and his vital signs recorded, the formidable duo left the room leaving Kakashi hugging his box of tissues.

 

“You ok?” Iruka asked as his head poked through the door. “Still in one piece?”

 

Iruka got a sneeze in reply.

 

About an hour later Kakashi was deemed safe to go home, having caught nothing worse than the seasonal flu. A bag of flu medication was shoved into his arms and he was practically pushed out the doors, straight into a blast of wintery gales.

 

“Can I go home now?” Kakashi asked pitifully, leaning against Iruka’s side just outside the hospital doors. He was still hugging the box of tissues close to his chest (meds stuffed safely in Iruka’s pockets) but had pulled his mask over his nose and mouth.

 

“Ok, let’s go home”, Iruka said, turning to face Kakashi and looping his arms around the fevered Jounin. After a few quick hand signs and a soft swirl of leaves, they appeared in front of Iruka’s apartment. Iruka opened the doors to a simple one bedroom flat and after removing his boots, Kakashi made a beeline to the ever-familiar couch but before he had the chance to sit, Iruka pulled the back of his vest.

 

“Oh no you don’t. If you settle now you’ll be dead to the world for at least 12 hours, stinking up the couch and meds untouched. Go take a shower first. I’ll have some supper ready”, Iruka said as he led Kakashi away from the couch and into the bedroom.

 

“But I’m tired”, he whined as Iruka grabbed hold of the box of tissues, tossing it onto the bed. He then unzipped Kakashi flack jacket, dumped it next into the laundry basket (he made a mental note to empty out the pockets later), removed his scarf, and softly pushed Kakashi into the bathroom. “Yes, yes, the great copy-nin is tired. Such a shame, it’ll be such a waste of eggplant miso* since he’s too tired. Oh well, I’ll just throw it out”, Iruka said nonchalantly, walking back out into the main living area.

 

“I’ll be out in 20 minutes!” Kakashi said and Iruka could hear scrambling in the bathroom and the shower turned on.

 

Kakashi emerged wearing a pair of sweatpants, a long sleeved tee and an eyepatch over the sharingan. Though hair still slightly damp, he looked much better after the much-needed hot shower. He was still sniffling slightly when he joined Iruka in the kitchen. He leaned over Iruka’s shoulder, placed a soft kiss on his cheek before looking down at the soup Iruka was slowly stirring.

“I’d say it smells great but I can barely smell anything”, Kakashi said pathetically, resting his chin on Iruka’s shoulder.

 

“I’m afraid you won’t be able to taste much either but the hot soup will be good for you”, Iruka replied. “Could you set the table? The food is almost ready”. Kakashi hummed in return and moved to get the plates and cutlery. Supper was a simple affair of some rice and grilled fish, with a side of pickled vegetables and miso soup.

 

Iruka mentioned that he received a letter from Naruto, and that Kakashi’s was sitting on the living room table. “That’s not a letter, that’s a thesis”, Kakashi said as he turned to look at a rather large and very thick envelope resting next to Iruka’s stack of books.

 

“Mine came in two parts”. Iruka sounded exasperated but Kakashi could easily detect the fondness in his voice. “I’m still reading it and they arrived two days ago”.

 

Once dinner was over (and Iruka very nearly had to force feed Kakashi his flu medication), Kakashi moved towards the living room, picked up his letter (“Bloody hell this is heavy”) and settled on the couch. Iruka cleared dinner and then headed for a shower. When he came back into the living room, Kakashi had taken out the kotatsu cover and had promptly fallen asleep snuggled under it, Naruto’s letters spread out next to him. Iruka put the letters away, settled next to him, and started reading through his students’ assignments.

 

Kakashi woke about half an hour later, and moved to lay his head on Iruka’s lap. “Do you want to head to bed?” Iruka asked, looking down at Kakashi. “It’s ok. I’m comfortable here”, Kakashi murmured, already falling back to sleep. Iruka continued with his work but kept a hand in Kakashi’s hair, idly playing with the soft strands.

 

Kakashi continued to doze but remained vaguely aware of his surroundings. The apartment was quiet, except for the rustling of paper and the scratching of a pen. Iruka let out an occasional sigh of exasperation or a frustrated tsk as he continued to grade his students’ assignments. Kakashi could also hear the soft howling of the wind outside, probably a prelude to a winter storm, he thought distractedly.

 

He revelled in the feeling of Iruka’s fingers alternating between playing with his hair and softly massaging his scalp (Iruka always said Kakashi was more akin to a lazy cat than a dog). He basked in the warmth of the lap beneath his head.

 

He was almost overwhelmed with the utter and complete feeling of home.

 

Kakashi mumbled against Iruka’s shirt. Iruka stopped his ministrations.

 

“Hmm? What did you say? I hope you’re not rubbing snot on my shirt”

 

Kakashi turned his head to look up at Iruka.

 

“I said I love you”, Kakashi repeated straightforwardly.

 

“Oh”

 

After a beat, Iruka leaned down to kiss Kakashi’s forehead, lingering for a moment before simply replying “I love you too”. He then turned back to his grading as Kakashi pressed his face into Iruka’s shirt again, with every intention of continuing his nap.

 

If Kakashi weren’t so very close to Iruka, he wouldn’t have detected the slight increase in Iruka’s heartbeat. Which was just as well, because his heart was beating a little faster too.

 

But it wasn’t long before their hearts settled into a steady beat again. Kakashi fell back into a snooze and Iruka returned to sighing at his students’ work.

 

And that was the first time they said they loved each other.