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Don't Ever Leave Me

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The night I admitted to Kakashi that my students were more capable of taking the chunin exams than I initially believed, I sat on the rooftop with him. All the while the words he spoke repeated in my head: Iruka needs to hear this. He needs to understand that they’re not his students anymore. They’re mine. Those words were both a prison and a liberation. No longer could I protect them. No longer would I have to.

We talked for a while. He told me he was sorry for scolding me earlier that day, before Lord Third decided there would be a preliminary test for the rookies, before they would be permitted to take the exams. I told him he was lying. Kakashi didn’t say things he didn’t mean. He didn’t say things to make someone feel better. He was not a sugar-coater. These were my observations of him. I’d been observing him for far longer than he knew most likely.

“You’re right,” was all he said.

I knew I was, but didn’t say so. Instead, I wondered to myself why he had said something he didn’t mean to make me feel better when he never did that for anyone else.

We kept talking. He noted that he admired my concern for Naruto. When I asked why he singled out Naruto, he deadpanned at me and I blushed. Of course, Naruto. In front of Lord Third and the other shinobi, I expressed concern for my students in general. But Kakashi knew – because of that day, the day he inspired me to accept Naruto wholly as my student, and the day after, when he helped me rescue Naruto in the woods on his search for deceased shinobi – that the only real concern I held was for Naruto.

Then he asked me, “Why Naruto?”

Last time we talked so privately like this, I was confessing my distain for Naruto because he harbored the nine tails. Kakashi was a perceptive enough shinobi to note that something within me had changed, but he hadn’t figured out how.

I told him about Naruto stealing the scroll of sealing. He’d heard this all before, about Mizuki’s plot, and Naruto’s role as his pawn. Even the part about me fighting Mizuki, and rescuing Naruto and the scroll, he knew all about. But I had to tell him the rest. I had to tell him about Naruto creating hundreds of shadow clones to come to my defense, after I defended him to Mizuki. I had to tell him about taking a shuriken to the back to save Naruto. Kakashi nodded along, content to listen without contributing. He gave me a crescent moon eye, the signature of his smile, which no one would otherwise be able to realize existed, due to the mask covering his mouth and headband covering his left eye.

But then he asked something no one else had asked. Something I suspected everyone else suspected. Something I hadn’t been able to keep hidden then.

“You and Mizuki…” he started, “you were close?”

I perked my head up, not surprised he could tell. Even now, I figured, I still laced my voice with affection when I spoke of the traitor.

“We were,” I said.

“I mean,” Kakashi said, looking toward the moon. “Close?”

My eyes widened. “Who told you?”

As if I’d told anyone who could tell it to someone else.

“A lucky guess.”

Luck had nothing to do with it.

“Am I that obvious?”

He smiled again and shook his head. “Just a hunch. Really.”

I nodded though I didn’t believe him. “How long have you known?”

“A few seconds.”

I sighed. “How long have you had a hunch?”

“Since it happened.”

I swallowed thickly.

“Were you still together when it happened?” he asked.

I nodded.

“Were you together for a long time before that?”

I nodded again. “He was…the only one. The first.”

And the last, I neglected to add. At least, the last that had reciprocated.

The last that had pretended to reciprocate…

“I didn’t mean to pry,” Kakashi said.

“Yes, you did,” I said. He never did anything he didn’t mean to do either.

Kakashi tilted his head at me. Maybe he wasn’t used to being called out.

“I remember thinking then how awful that would have been,” he said. “To learn that the person closest to you was not only a traitor, but had always intended to betray you…Had only been close to you in order to betray you…It’s truly unforgiveable. I’ve been betrayed, but no one has used me. I’m sorry that happened to you, Iruka-Sensei.”

My lip trembled while he spoke. He made it sound like it happened so long ago. But to me, it always felt as though it had just happened. As though he had just kissed me goodnight, and arrived at my doorstep just a couple of hours later to inform me that Naruto had stolen the scroll. I could still feel his lips pressed against my own. His shuriken in my spine.

Kakashi rested a hand on my shoulder for a second. The closest he’d ever been to me. His hand felt surer than Mizuki’s. I wanted to trust it. I wanted more of it.

“I wish I could say that I’m surprised you noticed,” I said. “If a different shinobi were telling me this, I probably would be. But you, Kakashi-sensei, don’t miss anything, do you?”

He pulled his hand away from me and looked up toward the stars. “Not when it comes to you.”

“Excuse me?”

He looked at me then. “It’s late, Sensei. You have class tomorrow. Could I walk you home?”

I squinted at him as he led me away from our conversation with the promise of his company on my walk home. I couldn’t understand why he changed the subject. But, as often as I observed him, I knew that I couldn’t understand a great deal about Kakashi.

“I’d like that,” I said.

For the most part we walked in the stillness and quiet of the night. His footsteps were silent. It sounded as if I was walking alone.

Upon reaching my door, he paused and slid both his hands in his pockets. I turned toward him, to say goodnight, to capture one last image of him before I fell asleep alone –

When he placed his hand on my shoulder again.

“Do you have someone else now?” he asked.

My eyebrows furrowed. It took me a moment to respond. To find my breath. I blushed. “Not since Mizuki.”

Kakashi swallowed. “That’s a shame. You should know what it’s like to be with someone who would never betray your trust.”

A pause. A glance. An exhale.

“He should not be the one that knows what it’s like to have your trust.”

I cleared my throat. “Kakashi?”

“Goodnight, Iruka-Sensei.” Another crescent moon.

He turned and walked away.

I watched him walk away.

I wondered why he didn’t just vanish. I knew he could. Like everyone who was once in the ANBU, he could appear and disappear in an instant. Though Kakashi more often appeared out of nowhere than disappeared, it felt out of place tonight that he wouldn’t rush away.

Kakashi never did anything he didn’t mean to do.

“Kakashi,” I said, with certainty this time. “Would you like to come in?”

At the end of the walkway leading up to my house, Kakashi paused midstep. “Would you like me to?”

I swallowed. My voice came out breathless. “Yes.”

And then he disappeared and reappeared beside me.

That night, he finally revealed to me a part of him I thought I would never be able to observe.

Starting with the face beneath the mask.

It never happened again. We had the one night in each other’s company. It was as if his sole intention that night was to ensure that the last person that had touched me like that, held me like that, made me succumb to vulnerability and pleasure like that, would not have been by the hands of a traitor – of someone who had never loved me.

Though we acted as if it never happened, I could tell that we were both thinking of it every second we ever spent in each other’s presence after that. No matter how urgent the situation, how many people were nearby, or how deeply we were in to another conversation, it was on both of our minds always.

Asking him why he did it was not an option. Asking him why we never did again wasn’t an option either. I knew this and didn’t know how I knew it, only that I did.

Years passed while I waited for another moment when fate would catch us alone in the middle of the night with nowhere else for either of us to be.

More years passed after that, and I stopped thinking about it. I didn’t stop feeling the way I felt about it, about him, but I stopped thinking about it and that was almost the same thing. In those years, I saw other men. Was touched by other men. And I trusted other men. I got by.

But when he became Hokage all the thoughts I managed to store somewhere else in my mind were unleashed. Instead of him spending days or weeks away on missions, he was always walking-distance away. I saw him in the village constantly. I caught the flash of silver hair in the hall or the alley. I sensed the silent footsteps around the corner. Sometimes, when he knew someone was nearby but didn’t know it was me, he even looked up to meet my gaze. He treated me as well as he treated all of his subordinates. He flashed the crescent moons at me and though it was no different than the one he gave everyone else, it still made my chest ache.

When he retired, I helped him pack up his things in the Hokage’s office. I was the one helping not because he requested me but because Naruto did. After Kakashi cleared out his things, I would help Naruto carry in his so that he could replace Kakashi as the next Hokage.

One day while packing alone in the office with Kakashi, the silence between us became so heavy I felt it would suffocate me if I didn’t speak up. I tried to make small-talk, but couldn't disguise how much his responses mattered to me.

During the time he was Hokage, I told myself that the reason Kakashi never initiated anything with me again – even now that he had so much more time and opportunity to – was because the Hokage couldn’t be with a man. The village would have turned against him in an instant if they learned he was fond of men the way I was. Some students’ parents barely tolerated me, and that was only because of suspicion. I had no idea how they would treat me if they knew undeniably I had a preference for men.

Kakashi would always do what was best for the village. So he would never do what was best for himself.

This was what I told myself to make myself feel better.

That day, I asked, “What will you do now that you’re retired, Lord Sixth?”

Crescent moons. “I’m going to travel and visit nostalgic sights.”

I swallowed. “Alone?”

He paused. “Yes. Always alone.”

“With someone of your skill,” I started, “You’ll be a target.”

“To whom? We’re in times of peace.”

“I didn’t mean shinobi allies,” I said. “I meant…”

I didn’t know what I meant. I meant that he should stay here with me. That was all I meant.

“Don’t worry, Iruka-Sensei,” he said. His voice was so assured I thought for a moment he was going to tell me that he’d changed his mind. But that was just wishful thinking. “I’m not so useless yet that I can’t survive on my own.”

“That’s not what I –”

“I know. But still, you should know I would never permit myself to die outside the Leaf Village. I promise.” He walked up to me and placed my hands in his. I remembered once years before, while planning Naruto’s wedding, he did the same thing after I inspired an idea in him he was grateful for. My skin reached for his after he pulled away.

The next day he was gone.

And more years passed.

When Pakkun arrived at my doorstep at dawn so long after Kakashi left that I sometimes went days without thinking of him, I knew enough of what happened to know all of what happened that mattered.

I took the scroll from Pakkun’s mouth.

“You couldn’t find Naruto?” I asked him. My eyes were already welling up with tears.

“It’s for you, Iruka.”

“You already gave Naruto his?” I asked.

“There was only one,” he said. “For you.”

And then he poofed out of existence, since fulfilling the mission he was summoned for.

I crumpled the scroll in my hand.

That night, when the moon was at its thinnest crescent and I couldn’t think or feel or sense anything else in the universe but the scroll I crumpled and dropped on the floor, I caved and opened it.

He’d written, in delicate fine characters:

Dear Iruka,

It appears that you were right after all. I’ve been targeted. Though I can’t see them, I can sense them. Dozens, surrounding me in each direction. How long they’ve been following me I can’t say. Apparently, now that I’m older, I can’t sense the chakra of others like I used to.

Finally, I have proven to overestimate my abilities and at last I will pay for it.

Please, don’t worry. Don’t mourn me. I am ready to die. I think I’ve always been ready to die. Throughout most of my life, I waited to and wanted to. After retiring as Hokage I had nothing left to offer the village, which was the one thing that had prevented me from dying until then.

I became useless. The battle I’d long fought with myself, the battle not to die, would surely begin to conquer me.

By leaving the village, I believed whole-heartedly that I was postponing my death. I would never allow my body to end up in the possession of an enemy to the Leaf.

I was wrong about that.

I am writing in my last hour to answer the question you never asked.

When I went home with you the night I did, I did so because I had watched from the shadows for so long and saw that you would not permit yourself to be with anyone else, even if you loved them. You were loyal to the man that had been disloyal to you from the beginning. You couldn’t move on, even after you began falling for me – someone who would have stood by your side gladly for the rest of your years under different circumstances – those circumstances being that I was somebody you could trust not to leave you, in my case, by suicide.

Still, despite my intention to kill myself, I couldn’t do so knowing that you would continue to live your life alone, unable to gift your trust to someone else ever again.

And I went home with you because I thought that in the morning, I would finally feel fulfilled enough in my life to take it.

I was wrong about that too. When I went to kill myself, I thought of my father and how dishonorably he died – according to everyone in the village but me. I thought of how disappointed he’d be, how hurt he’d be, if I faced the same fate after I passed on.

Again I was able to get through the day, waiting and hoping for the battle that would permit me to die honorably.

I always intended to go back to the village. Maybe once the village had a new enemy to face. Maybe I could fight again and instead of another younger, happier shinobi with more to live for dying, I would in his place.

That is what I wished for.

Now that I know that is not what will happen, and I will die outside the village, there is only one loose end left to tie. This is the only way I could think of tying it.

I need you to know that the morning I woke up with you in my arms is the last moment of my life I can remember feeling ready to die for a reason other than to escape misery.

Being with you in that way, in that moment, was the peak of my life and I will never again be as happy as I was then.

Goodbye, Iruka. Please, find someone else who will have you the way you would have had me, had I let you.

Kakashi

As the sun rose, I walked to the Hokage’s office. I was the one to inform Naruto that Kakashi had died. That his body would need to be retrieved. That a funeral would need to be arranged. And that no matter what, the perception of Kakashi Hatake in the Leaf Village would be that of the highest possible honor.

Then I went home and didn’t leave my house again for weeks.

Ten years passed since he left. Two since he died. I thought about this on my way home from the school that night. In the next week, students would be graduating, which meant I had enough work to do to keep me at the school late. I didn’t mind. I wanted to be kept busy. The moment I had free time, I found myself walking home, closing my eyes, and hearing only my own footsteps. It was as if I could convince myself he was there.

But then there was a squeaky noise. A noise I recognized, but couldn’t place. I squinted at my house in the distance.

“Iruka-Sensei!” a voice yelled. A voice I recognized sooner than the sound of his wheelchair squeaking.

I turned around. “Yes, Gai-Sensei?”

He gasped. He’d winded himself, wheeling his way toward me as fast as he could. My body went rigid. Had something happened to one of my students?

“Well?” I demanded, “What is it?!”

“It’s Kakashi!”

My body stiffened. I no longer had control of it. As if I’d been caught in a shadow-possession jutsu Shikadai had practiced on me once.

“Gai?” I asked. My voice was hoarse.

“Come! Quick! You have to come! Right now!” He waved me over, already wheeling away. He looked over his shoulder, because I was still stuck in place. “What are you waiting for! Don’t make me carry –”

And then I was running. Gai kept up, but only because he was Gai. Only because he had any power within him that he needed as long as he needed it right then and more than ever.

“What are you saying?” I asked, as we rushed toward the gate entrance to the village, "They found his body?”

Finally a proper burial.

Gai shook his head too fast. “No! Goddamn it, he’s alive, Iruka! He’s alive and he looks like hell! He asked me to find you immediately, so of course I found you!”

“He – He…?” I stammered. I couldn’t process anything he was saying. I understood the words but it was as if my mind couldn’t accept them in the order he’d chosen. He’s alive.

When I rounded the last corner, around the last building obstructing my view of the entrance, I could already see a blink of orange and white in the crowd that had gathered. Naruto had already arrived, then. Gai shoved his way through the crowd, which gave me an easy path behind him toward the center.

And there he was, being held up by Izumo and Kotetsu. His arms strung around them. Though his body had no apparent injuries, and even his clothes were intact, it was clear he’d been through hell.

“They kept him in a genjutsu for two years,” Gai said to me, but it was as though I was hearing him from miles away.

“But why?” I said.

I meant: Why is this happening? Why did this have to happen to him? Why did it always have to be him?

“Trying to pry Leaf Village and Allied Shinobi intel from him,” Gai replied. “We don’t know how he escaped. He can barely speak. But he asked for you.”

“He did?” I breathed.

And then Kakashi’s eyes were meeting mine. He was older. Much older. His hair had always been silver but it had lost its sheen. His eyes were wrinkled in the corners. His eyebrows had thinned. Gray eyes had become dull. The worst part was that he didn’t wear a mask. His beard was so thick and heavy, it covered his face just as it had always been covered.

“Iruka,” he croaked, and then he collapsed on the ground.

Lady Tsunade let me stay by his side throughout his coma.

“Only because he would obviously want that for some reason,” she said. Then she gave me a meaningful glance. Already, she’d caught on. “I’m hoping you’ll trigger him to wake up.”

No one else but Naruto could visit him until the ANBU learned who had betrayed the Leaf.

Almost a month passed before he woke. In that time, he’d regained some color to his skin and some weight on his bones. Lady Tsunade had shaved him and cut his hair. She slipped on a mask for him too, so that when he woke he would not be startled by having his face exposed.

When his eyes opened they turned toward me as if instinctually. Then there were crescent moons.

He reached for me. I gripped onto his feeble hand.

“Did you…get my…scroll?” he weezed.

I sobbed against his hand.

Another five months passed, all the while he remained in the hospital. He went through physical therapy, learning to walk again and regaining strength. Remembering how to read and write. The genjutsu had warped his perception of most things. He had an exceptionally difficult problem measuring time. How long it took for time to pass. He always thought only a few seconds had passed when it had been hours. He only noticed this issue because of the light shifting, the sun sinking, the shadows stretching, all in an instant.

I visited him every day. But we were never alone. There was always Lady Tsunade, or Naruto, or Shizune, or a medical ninja. ANBU guarded him too, just out of sight, at all times.

He complained little about being hospitalized, and had never asked about his release. When Naruto expressed his surprise at Kakashi’s patience, Kakashi said, “It’s been no time at all for me.”

“Why’s that?” Naruto asked, even though he should have been able to guess.

“The genjutsu,” Kakashi started, and paused. Every time he tried to talk about it, he risked flashbacks. His PTSD was violent, even with all the medical treatments Lady Tsunade was giving him. “Was like Itachi…Uchiha’s…”

I wasn’t sure I understood, though the name alone signified so much. Only by Naruto’s dark expression could I tell that it was something even more ominous than I could imagine.

“I can’t believe they got nothing out of you,” Naruto said.

I could. Being captured gave Kakashi his purpose for existing back. Protect the Leaf Village at all costs. As long as Kakashi had his purpose, he could withstand anything.

Finally, he asked Tsunade offhandedly, “Um…Can I go home now?”

She smiled. “Well…I’d let you, but…where will you go? You can’t leave the village again.”

He nodded and thought for a moment. He had no home. The last place he stayed was the Hokage’s estate.

“He can stay with me,” I said, trying to sound as though it was a polite offer, and not something I desperately depended on. I wanted to postpone the moment Naruto caught on to us as long as possible.

Naruto gave me a look. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Iruka-Sensei. He should stay somewhere I can –”

“I think that’s a great idea,” Lady Tsunade said, suddenly. She gave me a look like she understood, and I thanked her silently. “Think about it, Naruto. If they’re still looking for Kakashi, they’re not looking for him at a principal’s house. And why wouldn’t they go after you if they’re going to bother to infiltrate the Leaf?”

Naruto rubbed his chin. “Good point. Okay, Iruka-Sensei. You got it. As long as…Kakashi-Sensei?”

“I want to stay with him,” Kakashi said.

A sharp pang of relief pierced my chest. I thought I would sob again.

The next morning he walked home with me. Already, he’d learned to silence his footsteps again.

Inside my home, instantly, everything changed. All the years that led up to this vanished. There was just the last time he was in my home and now. His eyes scanned the room around us. His demeanor was different than it once was. He seemed calmer. Less affected by everything around him.

When he looked at me, he held my gaze for a long time. Then he walked toward me. He placed his hands on my waist and pulled me toward him, pressing my body against his.

“I am not grateful for one second spent in that genjutsu,” he started. “When I finally got out of it, I felt twice the age I was when I went into it. Because to me, that’s how long I spent in there. As long as I had lived outside the genjutsu, I had lived inside of it.”

I pressed my forehead against his chest, content to listen to him speak. My body felt jittery. It hurt me to hear that he’d been hurting.

“But I am grateful for how it has changed me,” he said.

“How?” I said.

“I have an immense appreciation for every second I’ve spent since escaping. It is impossible for me to take anything for granted now. I’m closer to fifty years old than forty, and everything feels as though it is being fast forwarded. So, from now on, I will cut to the chase.”

I looked up at him.

He placed both his hands on either side of my face. “I love you, Iruka.”

My eyes widened as he curled a finger under his mask to pull it down. I saw his whole face again for the first time in twenty-five years, but it was still him. He smiled at me and his eyes crinkled up in a way that made my body ache. I placed my thumb’s fingertip on the beauty mark on the left side of his chin.

And then he kissed me.

This kiss still belonged to him. It hadn’t changed in all the years. I would have recognized it had it been placed on my lips in the middle of the night without any warning. Almost too late, I kissed back, but then I kept on kissing back.

He knew the way through my house, even in the dark, even though it had been so long. By my hips he guided me toward my bedroom, and I glided along with him in a trance. All I could feel were my lips and his.

He struggled to support my weight as he eased me onto my bed. His limbs were still shaky. He hadn’t regained all of his strength. But I could tell he wasn’t about to let the limitations of his body intervene with what he wanted his body to do.

The first thing he undid was my hair, pulling the band out of it so that he could thread his nimble fingers through it. He curled strands of hair around his knuckles and pressed his nose against the ends.

“I love your scent,” he said.

I swallowed and reached up to run my fingers through his hair. The silver of it gleamed once more in the light. My fingers, as if on their own, trailed down the sharp features of his face, his cheek bones, his jawline, the angle of his long nose. He closed his eyes as I did so and his breath deepened.

For a moment I thought this was as far as it would go, and I was okay with that.

But when he opened his eyes they smoldered and the next instant he dragged his lips and tongue and teeth down the length of my throat. I shivered and dug my fingers into his back. He let out my name and we were undressing each other, dexterous hands mapping out each other’s clothing, every zipper, snap and button until finally I unwound the wrappings around Kakashi’s ankles and he pointed his toes and arched the soles of his feet. He sighed, and I smiled, the moment lulled again.

Then our heartbeats could barely keep up with our movements. He prepped me, and the whole time I drank the sight of his body in. I compared the body he had now to the one in his youth, at the peak of his physical fitness and health, but honestly.

The person I touched then was a boy that couldn’t hold a candle to the blaze before me now. My hands slid along the withered skin, covered in sun spots and freckles, needle-thin scars from shuriken and chinks in the armor of his chest from kunai. An X etched itself across his chest over the chiseled muscle of his stomach, a souvenir of war, of all that he’d survived. This body was seasoned. It was weathered. It was the vessel Kakashi’s soul had made a home of, and unlike the newborn flesh and porcelain skin of a baby, this body had been tamed by him. This body had carried the burden of Kakashi’s spirit, and he could wear his flesh like a badge of honor.

For so long now I had considered myself sexless. I’d lost the desire to be taken by another. I’d had no desire to take.

But now, as a middle-aged man, my needs had been reignited like never before. I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember another time when I was as desperate for someone else’s body as I was now. Not even when I was just a boy blushing at the sight of the older, silver-haired ANBU member after he’d just received his new shoulder tattoos.

“Kakashi,” I breathed.

His eyes met mine, as if to make sure my utterance of his name meant what he thought it meant. When I nodded, he slid his fingers out of me and lined his body up with mine. His body shook.

“Do you want to lay down?” I asked, doing my best not to belittle his strength.

“I’m not strained,” he said, leaning down to kiss my neck. “I’m just excited. I want you, Iruka.”

I tilted his head toward me and kissed him. “Have me.”

He shuddered, and then with the help of his hand he eased himself inside of me. His lips hadn’t left mine. Not even when he exhaled during that first moment he let me adjust, or the next moment he whimpered from how overwhelmingly good it felt. He didn’t begin to thrust.

“I haven’t done this again since we – So, I’m sorry if I can’t – keep up.”

My eyes widened. “Really?”

Moon eyes. “I didn’t want anyone else.”

My knees went weak. I’d been with others, but he was the only one I ever wanted.

“Please, Kakashi,” I said. “Don’t make me wait any longer.”

He nodded once, and started kissing me again. His hips thrust into me and we both moaned from the sensation. His whole body trembled as he gripped onto my hair and waist. Each time he rocked into me his nails sank a little deeper. He tried to speak at first, but all he could do was say my name against my throat and curse. I wrapped my arms around him, and felt for a moment that I was cradling him. His body was so brittle in comparison to last time, and he expressed himself so much more than last time too. It made my skin burn knowing from the desperation in his hands and uneven thrusts from his hips that he could barely handle me.

I could barely handle him. Like almost everything he did now, his motions were slow. Each second stretched on and the pleasure came in layers. My body went rigid. By themselves, my legs hiked up the sides of Kakashi’s pale waist toward his shoulders until finally Kakashi pulled away from kissing me long enough to place my ankles on them. That angle made my back arch. I panted, sloppily kissing him and clinging to every part of him. He kept saying my name through the kissing, drawing it out, cutting it short, getting to the point that he could barely speak despite having so much he needed to say.

“I – Iruka,” he said, “ – Ruka, I’m – you feel so damn g-good.”

I nodded into our kissing, encouraging him to tell me more. I needed to hear how good he felt because of me. I needed to hear that this was what he wanted, and that I was the only one that could give it to him. I needed to hear that because of me he had a reason to stay alive tomorrow morning.

“Never th-thought I’d feel like this again.”

“Kashi,” I breathed, “please.”

Please tell me more. Please don’t stop. Please need me. Please love me. Please don’t leave me.

“C – can’t last,” he gasped, “But I –Damn it– I don’t want this to end. You – The way you look right now –”

I cut him off with more desperate kissing. His hand caressed my burning cheek and the other tangled in my hair. His hips had slowed down even more, almost to a stop, in an attempt to pace himself.

“Please, Ruka,” he whispered hot against my ear, dragging his tongue along it and biting on the lobe. “Please don’t let this be the last time. I – I need more. I need you more.”

I moaned against his neck and jaw and chin, gnawing on his bottom lip and nodded. The pleasure coiling in my gut would become excruciating without release, but I didn’t want this to end either. Even though it would in mere seconds if I didn’t fight it.

I couldn’t fight it. My stomach tightened as I reached down to ease the ache with stroking.

Kakashi laced his fingers with mine to stop me. The other took the place my own would have. Having not been touched in so long, even by myself, the calloused hand almost hurt. But I let out a sob of pleasure anyway because it was Kakashi’s hand doing it and I’d wanted this so long and thought I would never have it and it was all too much for me.

Kashi,” I panted, “I’m close – so close, so close.”

“Iruka,” he groaned, “Do you – Do you love me?”

My eyes widened as I realized that I hadn’t said it back to him earlier. I thought he knew it as well as I did, and if he knew it as well as I did he would never have to be reminded.

But Kakashi would never know if someone loved him without being reminded.

I would always remind him.

I placed my hand on his cheek, beckoning him to look me in the eyes. He stopped thrusting. Stopped moving entirely. His eyes searched my own.

“Kakashi Hatake, I love you.”

Kakashi’s eyes widened and he held me in a vice grip. He thrusted deeper and harder than he ever had before, all while keeping a steady hand on me, stroking me thoroughly from base to tip until I was dripping. My moans blurred into sobs as he brought me to the brink like that, and when a rush of ecstasy rolled through my body, I involuntarily screamed that I loved him again.

His eyes rolled back, his face crumpled and then his body shook. He groaned deeply, let my name out once more, and let his body go slack.

A quiet passed between us, just holding each other close. Weakly, he kissed my chest and neck and jaw. My forehead, the tip of my nose, both my eyelids, and finally my lips again. I held him there for a moment longer.

When he pulled out he didn’t make it far. He laid on his side next to me with one hand still curled in my hair. My body ached pleasantly now that it could stretch back out and relax. We’d been going for a long time. It was mid-morning now and the sun had barely risen earlier when we were walking home. I smiled and breathed deeply.

Eventually Kakashi came back to kiss me. He wasn’t a cuddler, but he liked to keep a hand on me, to keep touching me in some way, almost to make sure I was still there. Still real.

I turned my head to face him. “Can’t believe the time.”

He nodded. “Feels like only a couple minutes have passed for me.”

“Still?” I asked. That was probably the only reason he could make it last as long as he had. If it had lasted this time as long as it had the first time, it would have passed for him in a blink.

He inched closer to me on the bed and cradled my face in one hand. He pressed his lips against my hair and inhaled my scent. “Do you think we could again?”

My eyebrows shot up. “Now?”

“Yes.”

“You haven’t gotten enough?”

“Not nearly.”

“Do you think you can?”

“I’m certain of it.” He glanced down then, and so I did too. My cheeks flared at the sight of him hard still, and throbbing. My own length began to stir. I couldn’t believe it, but I wasn’t done yet either. I felt like I would never be.

I smiled at him. “Well, in that case…”

He looked relieved and flashed me his moon eyes again before rolling on top of me the second time.

For the rest of the day, we were on and off. Going and stopping. Having and wanting. I couldn’t get enough of him. Even once the sun was setting and my body was fatigued from a day without eating and antsy from a day without walking, all I could think of was him. His body was like a current in the ocean: when his body wanted mine, it pulled me in. We were both old enough to have children having children, but we were boys again. I didn’t care about school tomorrow. I didn’t care about chores around the house that needed to be done. I didn’t care about my dirty sheets or how badly I needed a shower. I just wanted him.

Well into the night, we finally had to rest. I couldn’t get hard and his body was clammy from exertion it wasn’t used to yet. We decided it was time to sleep.

But not before he asked, “You’ll be at the school tomorrow?”

I sighed. “Unfortunately.”

“Can I come?” he asked. “I won’t get in your way.”

“You really want to?” I asked.

“I don’t want to be alone.”

That made something in my gut twist. “So, why me then, and not Naruto or –”

“You’re the only person that when I’m with you, I don’t feel alone.”

My eyes teared at that. A moment ago I was jealous and angry that he would only shadow me at the school because it was better to be near me than alone, but now I felt pain because no one, especially someone who had been through as much as he, should ever feel alone when they were around someone else.

“Of course you can come tomorrow,” I said.

He nodded, and I could feel his nose drag along my back between my shoulders as he did. Last time, the first time, he put his mask on immediately after we were finished. Knowing he’d kept it off this time, that he felt comfortable enough to do that with me, made pride swell in my chest. I wanted to be a source of comfort for him always.

I rolled over to face him. He was so handsome. He had started to doze off. His features had softened and his eyelids were heavy. But he gave me moon eyes. For once, he looked relaxed. Calm. Like nothing dark was clouding his thoughts.

“Don’t ever leave me,” I whispered.

His eyes snapped open at that. Then he kissed me. “Never again.”