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Iruka had been fighting the urge all day, struggling to keep his eyes off the clock, distracting himself with grading and mission reports.

It was disturbingly fitting that he finally lost his battle at that exact moment, without even realizing it.

9:43 pm. Kakashi had been gone exactly eleven days.

Iruka shifted a little in his chair, stretching the cramping muscles in his back. One more mission report and then he would go home.


He laid his pen down and ground the heels of his hands into the wells of his sleep-gritted eyes, stifling a yawn. It was hard to get a good night's rest; he kept waking up at odd hours of the night, bewildered by the empty, cold space on the other side of the bed, sometimes shivering, sometimes needing – which just made him all the more lonely.

Eleven days.


Iruka comes home to a dark apartment, shuffle-footed with weariness, smelling of chalk and sweat, fingers stained with ink. He drops his bag, overflowing with newly-submitted essays, by the front door, too tired to start grading immediately. He walks to the bedroom without turning on the light, but stops just inside the doorway.


The shadow standing at the foot of the bed turns, and Iruka's heart hesitates for two long breaths. Kakashi is in his ANBU gear, black and silver blending in with the shadows, the red and white wolf mask hiding all signs of his face. The sight reminds Iruka – suddenly, forcefully – that Kakashi is a Jonin, an elite ninja, who lives simply because he is not only able, but willing, to kill.

"Iruka…" Kakashi's voice is strangely muted beneath the mask, "Please don't look at me like that."

"Like…" Iruka swallows thickly, settles his weight more evenly on both feet and takes a deep breath to help loosen the tension in his shoulders, "Like what?"

"Like you're afraid of me."

Iruka crosses the room without hesitation, until they are nearly toe to toe, "I'm not."

"Good," Kakashi caresses his face with one gloved hand and Iruka lets his eyes slide closed.



"How long?"

"Not sure."

Iruka sighs and tilts his head into Kakashi's palm. The selfishly loving part of his heart wants to say 'don't go', but he chokes it down with reason, rationale and duty. Instead he reaches out carefully, not certain it's allowed, and pushes the ANBU mask up to reveal chin and lips glistening faintly with moisture condensed from Kakashi's exhaled breath.

He tastes of mint toothpaste, not quite overriding the salt tang of miso soup; his tongue moves against Iruka's in a slow caress even as he pins Iruka's hands to his sides to keep him from holding on.

Kakashi leaves without saying goodbye, and there is a certain level of comfort in that, even as Iruka finds himself alone in the dark room.

The clock on the bedside table reads 9:43 pm.


Iruka woke slumped in his chair with his head down on the desk, a fierce kink in the back of his neck, cheek resting on top of a mission report he couldn't remember reading. He straightened up, yawning heavily, and began gathering up his things, sparing one last glance to the clock above the door before he locked up.

Three minutes after midnight.

The August night was still uncomfortably hot and faintly damp. Iruka walked with his vest gaping open and the sleeves of his uniform pushed up around his elbows, sweat trickling down the back of his neck and along the ridge of his spine. The streets were dark but not deserted; he could feel the presence of the night watch moving through the shadows, pausing to give him curious cursory glances. One shadow on a rooftop actually stopped long enough to wave, and Iruka returned the gesture, even though he didn't know exactly who it was.

The small house he and Kakashi rented was in one of the village's newer districts, those just starting to be built up as the population finally started to rise beyond what it had been before the nine-tails' attack. Iruka found it sadly unremarkable, lacking the personality of older homes in the village, with little to distinguish it even from other houses on the street. In a vain attempt to personalize it, Iruka had been working diligently on a small vegetable garden in the back, but not much seemed to come of it – neither man had a green thumb – although Kakashi's lone, disturbingly hearty houseplant had a treasured place on the windowsill in the kitchen.

Iruka dropped his bag on the kitchen table and slouched into his chair, pushing off his headband and wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand.


Kakashi's apartment is small and almost clinically clean – vastly different from Iruka's own – personal effects almost entirely lacking save for the pictures on the windowsill; and one strangely bushy houseplant.

Iruka touches a leaf with one finger, tracing the veins on the cool, slightly waxy surface; Its shape reminds him a little of Kakashi's hair, and he smiles to himself at the thought.

"I see you found Mr. Ukki."

Iruka looks at Kakashi, lounging on the frame of the doorway of the small kitchen; he looks charmingly at ease with his vest open and gloves off.

"Mr. Ukki?"

Kakashi makes a vague gesture, "The plant."

Iruka frowns, "You named your houseplant?"

"I was once told I should get a pet," Kakashi offered, "for my sanity."

Iruka thinks perhaps by the time that suggestion was made, it was already too late.

"A houseplant is not a pet Kakashi."

"It's not?" Kakashi feigns ignorance with alarming accuracy, "But I talk to him."

Iruka blinks, "You do?"

Kakashi nods, raises his one visible eyebrow, "I sing to him."

Iruka snorts, choking back laughter, "You do not!"

Half out of defiance, Kakashi straightens up and starts to sing.

And Iruka falls hopelessly in love.


Iruka jolted awake when he nearly fell out of the chair he had dozed off in, blinking owlishly against the darkness. He stood stiffly, moved silently through the house without turning on the lights, too tired to think about much beyond the promise of a soft – though painfully empty – bed. He threw his vest and shirt over the chair in the corner of the bedroom and undid his wraps with two sharp tugs. As he dropped onto the mattress, the ID tags hanging on one bedpost rattled, and he caught them in his hand to stop the sharp noise. They were cold in his palm, abandoned there by Kakashi until his return because ANBU lived, fought, and died as nameless tools and never human beings.

"Be safe…" Iruka whispered, fingers caressing the smooth metal for a moment before he laid them carefully back in their place, kicked off his pants and crawled under rumpled sheets, falling into a fitful sleep tormented by the August heat.


Iruka stands in the middle of the empty living room, frowning.

"Something wrong?" Kakashi slips up behind him almost silently, sliding arms around his waist.

"This room is empty," Iruka sounds all but distraught.

"We don't have a lot of furniture," Kakashi agrees, laying a warm, masked cheek against Iruka's, "certainly not enough to fill a house."

And it isn't even that big a house.

Iruka sighs, shoulders slumping in defeat, "Was this a bad idea?"

"Do you think it was a bad idea?"

Iruka sighs again, placing his hands atop the ones that are moving in soothing circles across his stomach, "Our apartments were too small for the both of us…I want us to have a place."

Kakashi makes a soft noise in the back of his throat, nuzzles Iruka's ear, "So do I."

Iruka feels tension, worry, apprehensiveness, drain out of his body and sags against Kakashi, "Thank you."

Kakashi laughs softly in his ear, "Besides, we have the only piece of furniture we really need."

Iruka bites the inside of his cheek to cut off a grin, "And let me guess what that might be…"

Kakashi growls, shifting his hips, rubbing half-formed hardness against Iruka's backside and Iruka cannot help but laugh, wriggling as Kakashi's hands play against his waistband.

"We have to unpack…"

"We can unpack later," Kakashi pants hot against his ear, "Tomorrow…or maybe the next day…"

"Or the next?" Iruka suggests, and Kakashi laughs.


The front door opened with a soft click, and Iruka was instantly awake, mind calculating where the nearest weapon could be found, until he recognized the presence that he felt moving through the house. He didn't worry after that, listening as the bathroom door closed almost soundlessly, and a moment later the shower came on.

Iruka rolled over, glanced at the clock – 3:19 am.

Kakashi was home.

Sprawled on his stomach, Iruka allowed himself to fall into a near-sleep state, more like meditation, listening to the sound of the shower. Kakashi always showered immediately after he came back from a mission, and Iruka tried very hard not to think about what the older man was trying to wash away.

The water was turned off, and a moment later, Iruka realized he was being watched. He lay very still, not afraid, simply waiting, aware of the sound of Kakashi's breathing and water droplets spattering against the wooden floorboards. A hand touched his calf, tentatively, tickling enough to make Iruka's foot twitch, before travelling upwards across the back of his knee, his thigh, his buttock, stopping at the small of his back where the sheet did. There was a pause of five heartbeats before Kakashi's warm, damp hand came to rest between Iruka's shoulder blades, and another heartbeat before his body slipped cautiously onto the mattress. Iruka carefully opened his eyes, smiling faintly.

"Hey…" he mumbled sleepily.

"Hey back," Kakashi smirked, his hand rubbing circles on Iruka's back, "don't look at me like that."

"Like what?" Iruka half-laughed, drowsily bemused.

"Like I'm the first person you've seen in the world."

They kissed tentatively, searching, remembering. Kakashi tasted of toothpaste again and smelled so strongly of soap and shampoo that Iruka's head spun. The heat of Kakashi's lips made Iruka's neck tingle, a sensation that slunk slowly lower along the track of his spine.

They drew apart for a breath and Kakashi kissed his cheek, his ear, his shoulder.

"Missed you 'ruka."

"Missed you," Iruka echoed, shifting on the mattress a little, content for the moment to have Kakashi touch and kiss him – simply happy to have Kakashi back again, back safe.

Kakashi peppered kisses across Iruka's bare shoulders and down his back, hands caressing scars, skin and the muscles underneath with more care than was strictly necessary, but Iruka didn't object. Kakashi was always achingly careful with him after a mission, as if he were apologizing for something, or afraid that Iruka would break. Instead Iruka shifted his hips against the mattress and made a soft noise of needy pleasure.

Kakashi's hands stopped moving suddenly, "I don't want that from you tonight."

"What…" Iruka panted, shifting his hips a little more to relieve the slowly growing ache in his groin where it was pressed into the mattress, "What do you want?"

Kakashi took a single, shuddering breath, "Just say you love me."

That was when Iruka knew that something, somewhere in Kakashi's mission had gone terribly wrong.


"Say it pretty baby," Kakashi nuzzled his shoulder blade, "Please."

"Kakashi, of course," Iruka turned and sat up, putting a hand on the older man's shoulder, meeting his mismatched eyes unflinchingly, "of course I love you."

Kakashi squeezed his eyes shut, "Are you sure?"

With a small sigh, Iruka shifted onto his knees, placed a hand gently but firmly on Kakashi's chest, and eased him down onto the bed, kissing him deeply, tongue teasing Kakashi's lower lip until it was allowed entrance into his mouth.

"Out there you're a ninja," he whispered in the faintly trembling Jonin's ear, "But in here you're just Kakashi – and nothing, nothing you do when you put on your mask and leave this house will ever make me stop loving you; so I don't want to ever hear you say a thing like that again – do you understand?"

Kakashi took two deep breaths, and then his eyes came open, a smile quirking at the corner of his mouth, "Yes Sensei."

Iruka growled, nipped at Kakashi's neck, "I can't believe you said that. Am I sure? Of course I'm sure."

"How sure?" Kakashi looped his arms around Iruka's waist, fingers testing the fabric of his boxers

Iruka kissed him lightly, hand fumbling across the bedside table into the convenient space between the back of the alarm clock and the wall until his fingers closed around a familiar tube, "So sure it's scary."

"Love can be that way," Kakashi replied solemnly, skin breaking out in goose bumps as Iruka undid the knot that held the towel around his waist and pushed the covering aside.

"Is that so?" Iruka ran his fingers along the damp trail of silver hair under Kakashi's navel, following it all the way down to the base of his erection, feeling sculpted muscles coil beneath his fingertips.

"Scares the shit out of me regularly," Kakashi nodded, breath hitching as Iruka licked a long hot line along his collarbone, simultaneously running his fingers along his length.

"You're home now," Iruka breathed against his moist skin, "it's fine."

Kakashi made a wordless noise, pressed himself anxiously against Iruka's hip, and was rewarded by the soft click of a cap opening. He shuddered at the first touch of cool lube and Iruka rubbed a soothing hand along his thigh and kissed his knee cap. His eyes were dark with loving desire as he leaned in and kissed Kakashi deeply, a slow thrust and tangle of tongues that relaxed him enough for Iruka to slide one slick finger through the tight ring of muscle.

Kakashi groaned, eyelids fluttering, exhaled, "Yeah…"

Iruka laughed against the crook of Kakashi's neck, lapping at a scar, sliding a little deeper until Kakashi gulped his name and bucked his hips.

"Gods 'ruka…"

Iruka added a second finger, stretching, watching as Kakashi's face twisted and flushed, thrusting his fingers lazily to draw a series of restless, erotic noises from Kakashi's throat.

"Still dressed…" Kakashi whimpered – although the sound was still strangely powerful coming from him – pulling Iruka over him so that he could place a kiss on his scarred nose and comb his fingers through dark, sweat-tangled hair, "Why are you still dressed?"

Iruka laughed softly, pressing his still sheathed fingers against a deep cluster of nerves just to watch Kakashi gasp and tremble, "I don't know."

"Ten days…" Kakashi hissed a little though his teeth as Iruka extracted his fingers, "And I don't even get to have what I really want? How cruel."

"Eleven," Iruka corrected, slipping out of bed and stripping smoothly out of his boxers before crawling back in, stranding Kakashi's thighs and bringing their erections together in a hot rub, slick with stay lube and pre-come, "You've been gone eleven days."

Kakashi swallowed and bucked his hips, hands roving across Iruka's sweat-washed back, "Must be why I missed you so damn much."

Iruka licked the curve of Kakashi's ear, sucked and nipped at his earlobe, "Want you."

"Need you…" Kakashi groaned, lapping at Iruka's chin pleadingly, "Please pretty baby."

Iruka shifted his weight, spreading Kakashi's willing legs easily and pushing his knees up, sliding his hands up and down Kakashi's thighs as the silver-haired man fisted his hands in the sheets in anticipation.

"Keep calling me that," he urged.

"Pretty baby," Kakashi gasped as Iruka slipped inside him, thick and hot and hard, igniting every nerve at the base of his spine, "My pretty baby, my pretty 'ruka, my aaah…"

He howled, back arching as Iruka pushed deep into him at just the right angle to send hot bolts of electric pleasure all the way to the base of his brain.

"Love you…" Iruka panted with each powerful, claiming thrust, heavy droplets of sweat pattering down on Kakashi's neck and shoulders as he kissed desperately at the older man's jaw, not quite able to find his lips, "Love you…love you…"

Kakashi turned his head and caught Iruka's lips, sharing a taste of mint and salt. Iruka fumbled a hand through the sheets, found Kakashi's clenched fingers and squeezed them tight in his sweaty palm as he thrust deeper, his heart twisting wildly in his chest with eleven days of repressed need, fear and love until Kakashi arched his back and moaned his name with wide eyes, hot fluid splashing across Iruka's stomach, muscles tightening around him convulsively, drawing a half-agonized shout of pleasure from the depths of Iruka's chest. Two last short, sharp thrusts and Iruka's orgasm overcame him; his arms trembled and then gave out, and he and Kakashi lay tangled in trembling bliss, sweat-soaked bodies still quivering with pleasure.

It seemed a long time before Iruka had enough strength to push himself up and over so that Kakashi could breathe better without Iruka's weight pressing down on his chest. The Jonin winced slightly and shivered as Iruka drew out.

"Sorry," Iruka mumbled, kissing the still racing pulse point in Kakashi's neck.

"S'okay," Kakashi kissed his forehead lightly, sliding one arm under Iruka's side and up around his waist, "Haven't slept in a while…so I should probably get to that pretty soon."

"Mmm…" Iruka leaned up on one elbow and kissed him chastely, "You're going to need another shower."

"Later," Kakashi made a show of burrowing himself in the mattress, "Where are the pillows?"

"We're at the wrong end of the bed."

"Oh well…" Kakashi yawned heavily, reaching up and pushing a stray strand of sweat-curled hair behind Iruka's ear, "Kinda hot in here."

Iruka twisted a little, kicking out with one foot, catching the frame of the window above the bed with one toe and knocking it open. August air, still thick with humidity, crawled into the room.


"Mmm…" Kakashi nuzzled his ear, "Night 'ruka."

Iruka laid his head down on Kakashi's chest, spiralling his fingers through the slowly congealing fluid spattered on the Jonin's abdomen, "Love you Kakashi."

"Love you pretty baby…" Kakashi purred, threading his fingers through Iruka's hair before he drifted off to sleep.

Iruka lay awake until the first rays of morning light were trickling into the room, soothed by the steady thrum of Kakashi's heartbeat in his ear.