Actions

Work Header

You Are

Work Text:

The jolting Wurk! Wurk! Wurk! of my alarm blaring pulled me out of sleep with a grunt. Sandpaper-eyed and feeling I’d just managed sleep after hours of laying awake, I reached out blindly and swatted at the clock. Something crashed, not the clock, before I made contact, silencing the jarring, nerve-wracking noise.

Groaning, almost growling, I slid back down into my bed, warm at last, and pulled the covers over my head. I wanted to go back to sleep, I fantasized about it, but, deep down, in that adult part of me, I knew I wouldn’t. Sighing aggrieved displeasure, I pushed the covers off and sat up, dropping my bare legs over the side of the bed.

Forearms braced on legs, I sat there for a while, hands dangling between my knees, eyes unseeing and unfocused, long hair all over my face. Then, moaning, I wracked my hands through the mass of my hair, leveled myself to my feet, and swayed my way to the bathroom. Switching on the light, I found myself gripping the edges of the sink for support. And that was just fucking fantastic!

Staring at the reflection in the mirror, a thin face with dark circles under the eyes and a wide, white scar across the bridge of the nose, all of it framed by too long, brown hair. Inhaling a shacking breath, I pressed a hand over my face.

“Come on, ‘Ruka,” I muttered. “Get it together.”

I lathed my hot face with water and, taking a few more shuddering breathes, I forced myself into the shower before dressing in some drab, modest, teachery, brown slakes and a cream turtleneck. It was still warm enough for the kids to want to go outside on the playground, even if all the leaves had long since turned brown, dyed up, and blown away to collect in crunchy drifts against the chain-link fence. I’d be wanting some extra warmth a half hour into recess. I just couldn’t seem to stay warm lately.

The fact, the chill in my hands, made my third cup of black coffee feel like an extra slice of life. After wrapping my frigid fingers around the mug for some while, I finally garnered enough feeling in them to tie back my hair without fumbling. Of course, by then I had my keys hanging from my mouth because I was late and I had to admit I’d, once again, willingly foregone food in favor of coffee.

Grunting annoyance, I bolted down the last of my coffee, scalding my throat and making my eyes water, hitched my computer bag off the floor and over my shoulder, and dashed out my door. Hardly remembering to lock the thing before starting my jog to the elevator. I gave up that notion when the thing began climbing, inching, from the first floor. Turning to the stairs, in a break-neck, two-at-a-time kind of way, instead. I was panting and light-headed by the time I hit the pavement, but there was my bus, so I didn’t really have time to think about it. I sprinted for the curb, only to hunch over my knees, gasping, with a stitch in my side when I got there.

I had a moment to think how much this sucked, then someone collided with me from behind, sending us both sprawling to the asphalt. The slap of cement against my face stung, setting tears in my eyes, allowing me only a vulgar impression of silver hair and a single, dark eye over a cloth-masked face, and the words, “Not a good place to stop,” before we were both scrambling up and into the bus.

Exhausted and now sore, I sagged into a seat, the weird image of a masked face playing through my hazed mind. Who wore a mask just randomly like that? I caught a glimpse of him as he got off the bus two stops ahead of me, nice ass, then he was out of my mind and I was immersed in grade-schoolers.

Really, once I got to work, there wasn’t much time to think about anything. Just keep moving, ‘Ruka. Just keep going through the motions. I drifted through my first and second period classes, then wandered out onto the playground at recess. Being outside was the best part of the day, even if I was freezing. Fall smelled good. Better than any man, and it made a person feel like leaving. Going where didn’t matter, just going. Fall was traveling time. A lonesome kind of thing that made you ache. Made you want and filled you full of saudade and hiraeth. Sensations you couldn’t even express in your own language, but which were there none the less.

I ambled across the grass, hands in pockets, head down, until I hit a patch of faded sunlight and raised my head to the breeze, so it could play at my hair and the sun over my closed eyelids. It was a moment to savor.

Naturally, it would be that moment a ball thwonked! off my chest. I blinked while a high, clear voice called, “Oh, sorry, Mr. Iruka!”

A girl in pigtails and brilliant white sneakers sped toward me, and I bent to scoop up the ball, which was in the process of rolling away.

“Naruto got a little carried away,” the girl added, when she reached me.

“It’s alright, Sakura,” I said, handing her the ball.

I expected she would take it and run off, as any normal child would. But Sakura wasn’t your typical child. She spun the ball in her hands and looked up at me.

“Are you feeling okay, Mr. Iruka? You’ve been kinda pale lately.”

The words froze my slight smile on my face. You wouldn’t expect one of your students to notice something like that, much less ask you about it. “I’m fine, Sakura. I’ve just been a little tired.”

The girl’s face said she called bullshit. Just a little tired my ass, Mr. Iruka. Luckily, it was easier to ask how your teacher was feeling than to call him a liar. Sakura twirled the ball between her fingers with amazing dexterity and studied me.

“You’re a pretty cool teacher, Mr. Iruka.”

The smile softened on my face. I ruffled her bright, pink hair with a quick hand. “Thanks, Sakura. Go have fun,” I admonished, indicating the playground with a movement of my chin.

One more spin of the ball and a nod, and she sprinted off to where a boy with uneven, black hair, dark, brooding eyes, and hands thrust into his pockets, waited. A moment, and the two were joined by a blue-eyed blond with a Cheshire grin, bouncing on his heels.

Naruto had lost both his parents young, and been adopted by Sakura’s family, giving the girl quick, big-sister experience dealing with those in pain. When Sasuke’s parents died in a wreck a few months previous, Sakura had pointedly, and much to his chagrin, adopted the dark-haired boy for her own. Though he never missed a chance to sarcastically complain about the pink Sakura-flower, and her annoying brother, it was clear Sasuke was better for the occurrence.

As I watched, he poked the younger boy in the forehead with affection, miming his older brother, Itachi. It also helped Itachi was doing everything he could to keep things stable for Sasuke. Well. Itachi and Shisui both. It wasn’t appropriate to ask whether the two, older boys were more than just good friends, but it certainly wasn’t hard to see.

My stomach turned sour, and I began wrangling children. Herding resistant halflings back into the school and class. The rest of the day passed in a numb whirl, then it was back on the bus and back to my loft apartment. I sagged against the door, when I reached it, taking in the shadow spangled space. Dusk draped over all, like gauze.

Long, curved, overstuffed couch, stacked with pillows and throws, before a brown, wood coffee table, littered with half finished paperbacks and coffee mugs, leaking brown rings across notebooks. Low, indistinct bookcases heaped and mounded with bound volumes, a skidding drift of paper, skewed out of balance, in a corner, marking the remnants of my attempts at novels. Unwanted and unaccepted tomes condemned to that graveyard of dust.

Off on the left was a disused kitchenette and beyond the couch was a bank of windows flanking the bedroom and bathroom. My little slice of existence.

With a sigh, I dropped my computer bag among the pillows on the couch and pulled off my turtleneck. I was on my way to the bedroom to strip when I realized I’d missed breakfast and conveniently skipped lunch. Groaning, I forced myself into the kitchen.

Instant ramen presented itself as the easiest and quickest thing to create with my low energy, and I ate it standing, so I could unceremoniously dump the pot in the sink. The sparsely filled sink. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d really cooked a meal.

Ignoring that thought, I made my way to the bedroom, where I finally managed to devest myself of my clothes. When I came back into living room, it was in nothing but black briefs and a white, button-down shirt, held closed by just a few buttons in the middle, so its tails hung loose around my thin hips.

Hissing out a breath, I sunk into the pillows on the couch, and let my head drop back. I might have dozed there for a while, but I woke in time to realize I had homework and lesson plans to take care of. Face unenthused, I perched on the couch, tucked my feet under a throw, and balanced my laptop on my lap.

I clicked through my work as quick as I could and scrubbed a hand down my face when it was done, fingers catching on the scar there. As if to rid themselves of the feeling of it, my fingers went to the keys. I turned on YouTube for some music, pulled up Ao3 in another tab, glanced at my stats, unchanging, and opened up a Word document.

The movements were a reflex and an unwelcome one. The flashing of the cursor in the blank doc taunted me, each pulse a mockery. Where are all those words now, huh, ‘Ruka?

“Shit.”

I pressed a hand over my face, peering through my fingers at the screen with one eye. The incessant blinking cursor posed a question mark in my mind. Why was I doing this to myself? Why was I forcing myself to drag out dry words through a gritty block of basalt lodged in my creative ability?

I flopped back against the pillows, staring upward with moody, unfocused eyes. And ultimately, what was the point?

“Shit! Fuck!”

Lurching upright, I slapped Word closed and turned on Ao3. One ruthless thrust of a finger brought me to my profile, and then it was easy. Delete My Account The button sat there, gray on white, and all I had to do was press it.

The little arrow hovered over the button and my finger hovered over the mouse pad. One click, just one click and I could tell it all to go to hell.

And that was tempting. That was a fucking, sweet ass thought.

I wracked my hands through my hair, winced because my hair was still tied back, and reached for the mouse pad. Only to have my eye catch on something on the lower left-hand side of the screen. My Inbox, perpetually set at zero, was showing a solid one.

My hands stuttered. One in the Inbox. It hadn’t been there a moment before. Somewhere in the switch from Statistics to Profile, Ao3 had refreshed and there the thing was. It made no sense. It also didn’t matter. I caught my lip in my teeth, bit down hard enough to break the skin. Worried at it like the thought of blood on my tongue, like the idea of why it mattered.

It didn’t. And, as it didn’t, well fuck it, why not?

My curiosity won out. The one was too much to resist.

Grimacing, I clicked on my Inbox. A comment from an account without an avatar took up my screen. And holy shit, what a comment. It was fickin huge.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                     1 minute ago

I don’t know where to start. While I was in the Anbu, Jiraiya’s Icha, Icha novels were what kept me sane. They were something apart from the blood and the forever being cold and the sleeping on the ground, and watching my friends die, while I wondered if I was going to survive to see the next day. His eccentric smut gave me somewhere to escape to, and a way to forget for a few minutes. And what do I find when I finally get discharged? Jiraiya up and died while I was enlisted and there’s never going to be a final book in the series because he didn’t leave any notes! These last months I’ve been trying to reintegrate into civilian life, and it hasn’t been easy. I think I reread all the Icha, Icha novels twice over before I discovered Ao3, and started digging through the fandom. I found your take on a finale for the series last night and read the whole thing instead of sleeping. Then I read it again today. What you’ve done here… THIS feels like it was spun from the mind of Jiraiya himself. All the characters are strong, and right in-line with the novels. Your plot twists and turns kept me up all night, and your porn. Oh god, you’re killing me. And none of that’s saying what I want to say. Reading this felt like reading Jiraiya’s Icha, Icha in the Anbu. These last few months have been rough, and your words… Have given me some relief. Just leaving a comment like this doesn’t make up what I owe you.

 

“Fuck.”

I had to read the thing twice before I believed it. Then I had to go back to my stats and that made me gape. It seemed my commenter had neglected to mention the part where he’d read all my fics and intended to leave kudos on them all at once, after leaving the comment.

My fingers were trembling. Hell, all of me was trembling. What the fuck’s happening?

I clicked back to the comment, my fingers settling over the keys to type the standard reply:

 

Thank you so much-

 

“Fuck!”

The cursor, once again, flashed mockingly. What the hell was I doing? You’re being stupid, ‘Ruka.

“Shit, shit, shit.”

I leaned my face into both hands, pressing the heels of them to my eyes. It made no sense. None of it. I dragged my hands off my face and backspaced until the little reply box had a red outline and the irritating message, “Brevity is the soul of wit, but we need your comment to have text in it,” appeared below the text box.

“Fuck, I know!”

I let myself fall back along the length of the couch, body cushioned by a nest of pillows and throws. The ceiling hazed above me, blurring as my eyes unfocused. This is so pointless…

Than why the fuck not?!

Jerking upright, half pulling myself with one arm on the back of the couch, I steadied the laptop on my knees and let my fingers fly. Typing without direction.

 

I’m going to be straight with you. I came on here to delete my account, and your comment is what I find. I WANT to thank you, but that seems trite and stupid at this point. If anything, glad my words did something for you.

 

It was snappish and crude, but I let myself hit Comment before I could second guess or sensor myself. And then what? I’d just sent a comment, and it felt redundant to delete my account directly following that.

“Shit.”

I rubbed at my eyes with that part of my hand between thumb and fingers, then threw everything off me and went into the kitchen for a drink. Whiskey would have been preferable, but I settled on water, dehydration catching up with me.

Leaning back against the sink, one hand braced on countertop, legs shaking, I tilted my head back and downed the whole glass of water slowly. The liquid sliding through me, cutting at the dryness like streams through cracked mud.

I slammed the glass down when I was done but didn’t drop my head. Just let it hang back, tired eyes closed. My stomach felt empty and cold and sloshing with the addition of the water, but I had no inclination to change that.

“Fuck, ‘Ruka.”

Wadding my way back to the couch, half in a dream, I picked at the tie in my hair with both hands. Yanking it out furiously, at last, when it wouldn’t come out. Then I was scrubbing at the back of my head and wincing as I sat down.

My laptop was leaning precariously amid the half-empty cups on the coffee table, the screen still showing my Inbox. Sighing, I clicked back to Dashboard, just for something to do, only to blink in confusion and mounting unease. Once again, Ao3 had refreshed, and, once again, my Inbox was showing a solid one.

“God damn.”

Fingers trembling, teeth nipping at my abused lip and peeling skin, uncertain what kind of response to expect, I returned to my Inbox.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                     1 minute ago

DO NOT DELETE! I’ve seen too many men on the battlefield give up and die to let another person do it off the field. Your words, and the person who wrote them, have worth!

 

I stared, hollow and stark shocked. My mind stuck and repeating those words: I’ve seen too many men on the battlefield give up and die… Your words, and the person who wrote them, have worth. Numb. Hardly aware I was doing it, my fingers typed a reply.

 

Okay. I won’t… Delete.

 

“Shit.”

I flopped back against the couch, arms spread across the backrest, head resting there, eyes closed. Wondering what the hell I was supposed to do now.

Well, what else, ‘Ruka?

Tentatively, I brought up Word again. What would it hurt to write one more chapter? Nothing. Not a god damn thing.

† † †

I woke, dry mouthed and fish-brained, to the muffled blaring of my alarm. Groaning, I attempted to swat at it, only to realize it was in my bedroom and I was on the couch. Half drowned in pillows, a throw casually tossed over my legs, my laptop still whirring somewhere near my navel.

The why of this escaped me, until hazy memories climbed up out of a fog of sleep depravation. I’d wrote an entire chapter in a fever-pitch and gone on Ao3 to post it, to find another reply on SiverWolf’s comment thread. One word. A simple,

 

Good.

 

I’d looked at it, then added a few words to the chapter’s beginning notes, and, apparently, crashed without even turning my computer off.

Muttering curses, I shifted my laptop off me and sprinted to my bedroom to turn off my alarm, succeeding in whacking my foot on the doorjamb in the process. I spent the rest of the morning limping and rushing around. When it came time to grab my laptop, I found myself hurriedly checking for a comment, and my pulse pounding when I found one.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                 12 minutes ago

Consider this your kudos for the chapter. I wanted to leave more, but this system keeps giving me the message: You’ve already left kudos here,” with a stupid smiley face at the end.

 

It wasn’t the comment I’d been hoping for, but it made me snort laughter behind my hand. I typed a quick,

 

Yeah, it does that.

 

in response before slamming the laptop’s lid closed, shoving it in my computer bag, and repeating the day-before’s dash to the bus stop.

Out of breath when I got there, I had the good sense to brace myself against the side of the bus, instead of doubling over. A good thing, as the person who had bumped into me the previous day, bolted passed. I only recognized him because I caught a glimpse of the same nice ass darting up the steps ahead of me. Something to be noted only for the acknowledgement of another perpetually late individual, and the possibility of more collisions.

I didn’t think about him the rest of the day. I did check Ao3 after every class period in the fading, but obsessive, hope of another comment. But there was nothing. Nothing until I got home, stripped down to next to nothing, and eased myself down unto the couch. Then, checking despite the empty certainty there would be nothing, there was. One in the Inbox. In-taking a breath through flaring nostrils, I clicked on it.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                 20 minutes ago

I wanted to leave something more here this morning, but I crashed last night and woke up late this morning. Thanks for this. It’s been a shit day and having this to reread helped. Especially as you dedicated the chapter tome.

 

My response was almost natural, conversational.

 

Hey, no worries. It’s been a shit day here too, so having you leave anything here helps.

 

I tried to concentrate on work, but it was like some sort of tie kept pulling me back to Ao3. You’re being stupid, ‘Ruka. Stupid or not, there was a comment.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                14 minutes ago

Guess we both need something to help us through the day, huh?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                         1 minute ago

I guess so.

 

I replied. Refresh and,

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Wanna chat?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yeah, I guess.

 

† † †

Waking the next morning was almost exactly like the last, except I was in my bed, the blankets twisted around me, my laptop perched on my chest. The screen still showed the last of SilverWolf’s comments, something about some sitcom we both watched. I silenced the alarm with more force than was needed and typed a quick reply.

 

Shit, going to be late.

 

The day was precisely the same as the one before, right down to the man with the nice ass dodging into the bus before me. Only it wasn’t the same. On the bus there was a comment from SilverWolf.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                29 minutes ago

Fuck, me too.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Figures, doesn’t it?

 

I talked to him during, and between classes, and at recess and on lunch. Using my phone or laptop or whatever was handy. Slowly, but deliberately, falling into a running chat, like text, until I couldn’t believe we were having this conversation on one of my fics, and I wished, for the millionth time, Ao3 had a direct message feature.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                19 minutes ago

It does figure. Ngh! How’s your day?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Shit. How’s yours?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

Meh!

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Guess we’re both just living, huh?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yeah.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What’d you have for lunch?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Nothing. You?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

You should eat.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Why?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Because food is necessary to keep the flesh suits functioning.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

I’m functioning.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

You should eat.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Fine!

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

I had sushi.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

I scavenged a sandwich from a vending machine. Happy?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

Yes.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Ngh! Finally, home.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Wish I was.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Long day, huh?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yeah. Always.

 

But somehow, the day didn’t seem so long with someone to talk to. My body felt a little lighter when I dropped it onto the couch.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Fuck. Home now.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What’s for supper?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Shit! This again?!

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Yeah. I made Oyakodon.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Fuck! You can cook too?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Man’s gotta eat.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yeah…

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

You can’t cook, huh?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

I made boxed macaroni…

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Still better than Anbu rations. Fucking food pills…

 

I pondered that. Pondered him. What kind of man was this?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Who are you, SilverWolf?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

…my teammates used to call me the Copy Nin. There wasn’t a sniper whose patterns I couldn’t figure out and take down.

 

My stomach turned. A killer than. One of those military dogs who were let lose against the ones they couldn’t catch and couldn’t kill. A real wolf. A tired as fuck wolf. I couldn’t escape from the notion the man on the other side of the screen had had enough death.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What do you do?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Huh? Me? I’m a… Teacher…

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

A teacher who writes Icha, Icha?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yeah… It’s kinda twisted, huh?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

It’s hot is what it is.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Sorry.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

It’s fine. I don’t mind.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

You must like kids than…

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Within reason. Not enough to want some of my own…

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

I used to want kids. The Anbu took care of that thought for me.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

…you got hurt?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Yeah… Just another scar for the collection. But it’s one of the reasons I’m home.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Sorry…

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

Meh! It doesn’t matter.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What are you doing right now?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Mumm… Writing.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

I should leave you alone.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

No, it’s fine. Sometimes the distraction helps.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What are you writing?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Do you really want to know? Or do you want to be surprised?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

I want to be surprised.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

I’ll have it up tonight.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

You spoil me.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Well, you give me a reason to write.

 

And on it went, Wednesday into Thursday, Thursday into Friday. One long flow of random rubbish. Two humans reaching out across the band width because why the fuck not?

You’re being stupid, ‘Ruka.

Yeah. But so what? It doesn’t matter.

Only it did.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Hey, you okay? You haven’t been saying much.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Weekend. I hate the weekend.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  3 minutes ago

Okay.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

I can get that.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

I’m around.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Keep talking.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  3 minutes ago

Okay.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

What are you doing right now?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Did you eat?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yes. And writing. I think I can finish this.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

REALLY?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yes. By next week, it will be done.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Why is your username on here FailedWriter2000?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Because I used to write novels.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Used to. As in, you don’t anymore?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

As in, my efforts are rotting in a corner.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Not all of them. This one’s right here. And it’s going to be done by next week.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Yeah…

 

 

† † †

I groaned. The alarm was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. I grabbed the thing and threw it, its case splitting open against the wall. Clapping a hand over my face, I panted, hair hanging everywhere, heartrate refusing to slow.

“Fuck.”

I brought my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them, buying my face in my thighs. It hurt so damned much.

Next to me, my laptop hummed faint, electronic sounds. Its screen lite with SilverWolf’s long, enthusiastic gush. I’d been right. One week. One week and I’d finished Icha, Icha Finale! I’d posted the last chapter Thursday night, and Friday morning I felt like hell.

Eyes streaming, head throbbing, I read over SilverWolf’s words one more time and shut the lid on the laptop without replying. Then I went about my morning routine with such precision I was on the bus and seated before even my masked, perpetually late counterpart with the great ass. He jolted unto the bus, dropped down, panting, into the seat across from me, and scrolled through his phone with a frantic note to what little I could see of his face. His fingers danced a rapid tango over the buttons, but I’d already put him out of my mind. Laying my head back and drifting.

I tried to stay off Ao3, but I couldn’t. I tried to ignore SilverWolf’s comments, but I couldn’t do that either.

 

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  4 minutes ago

Fuck! Late again this morning.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  3 minutes ago

Are you there?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

Did I say something wrong?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

ARE YOU OKAY?!

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

I’m at work.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Well, I’m at fucking mandatory counseling.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Why are you still talking to me, SilverWolf?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

…did I say something wrong?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

The fic’s done.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What does the fic have to do with it?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

You don’t need me anymore.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What the hell are you talking about?!

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Why are you still talking to me, SilverWolf?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

…I thought… we were becoming friends.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Stop talking to me.

 

I had tears in my eyes, as I punched the words into my phone. Tears turned to irradiant prisms by the sun in the playground. Tears which blinded me to the approach of a brilliant-haired girl and her entourage of damaged siblings until she called my name.

“Mr. Iruka?”

A forced smile spread my lips. “Sakura,” I said, dashing tears from my eyes and jabbing my phone into my pocket. “What can I do for you?”

“It’s okay, Mr. Iruka.” To my unexpected bewilderment, she wrapped her arms around my waist, as she said the words, laying her check on my belly, just below my chest. “You’re a great teacher, and we’re sorry you’re sad.”

Taken aback to the point of being wordless, my hands slid, thoughtless, to her shoulder blades in a return of the embrace. Wondering just how long it had been since someone had had their arms around me.

“It’s alright, Sakura,” I said, when I regained the ability to speak. “I’m okay.”

She pulled back and looked up at me with somber, knowing eyes. An expression too far removed from what a child’s should be. “We just wanted to let you know how glad we are you’re our teacher, Mr. Iruka.”

“Yeah!” Naruto burst out, making the word a laugh in that way he had. “You’re our favorite teacher, Mr. Iruka! You’re totally awesome!”

“Tsk!” The sound came out of Sasuke. “You’re not bad,” he said, looking away. High praise from the brooding boy.

I swallowed passed dryness and a catch in my throat. “Thank you. You’re all great students. Come on now. It’s time to be getting back to class.”

Sakura nodded. “And we’ll see you Monday, Mr. Iruka?”

I offered her a limp smile I attempted to make genuine. “It’s alright, Sakura. Back to class now.”

They went, and I followed. Hollow and numb.

There were no more comments from SilverWolf. The way it should be, ‘Ruka. But that only added to my lethargy. It’s okay, though… It doesn’t matter.

I was more than tired, more than ready by the time I got home. Still, I took my time undressing. Took my time laying things out. A bath. A bath would be great…

I hesitated over lighting the candles, drawing the water. Teeth worrying at roughened skin, making my lip bleed. I knew I should not go on Ao3, but…

…I thought…

Guess we both need something to get us through the day, huh?

“Fuck.”

I had to leave an apology. I couldn’t stand the thought I’d inflicted pain on someone else who was hurting.

Walking out of my bathroom in my briefs and button-down shirt, I snatched my computer bag off the floor, and brought it to the coffee table. I was expecting nothing, but one in the Inbox made my breath hitch.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                18 minutes ago

Are you there?

 

I covered my face with my hands, hunching over my legs, and bracing my elbows on my knees. “Nooooo…” The drawn-out word more wail, or groan, than articulation. You weren’t supposed to talk to me!

Blindly, I reached out to click away from the words, but the refresh only registered two in the Inbox. Heart palpitating uneven beats, my hands brought me back to read his words.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Please be there.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

SilverWolf…

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

YOU’RE THERE!

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Don’t scare me like that!

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Why are you still talking to me?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

Because I’m your friend, god damn it!

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Friends don’t leave friends in pain!

 

I pressed a hand to my face, heaving sobs between my fingers.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

SilverWolf, I-

 

Can’t stay here!

Muscles coiled, it felt like I burst off the couch. Eyes as unfocused as my intent, I tore through my apartment. Pulling on the first pair of pants I encountered, slamming on my shoes, shoving my laptop into my computer bag. I nearly killed myself going down the stairs, but then I was out on the street and lost.

The hissing compression of hydraulics drew my attention to the bus stop. The hulking thing had just come to rest there, and it was as good a place as any. Clawing my bus pass out of the computer bag, I boarded the conveyance, and moved all the way to the back before opening my laptop.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  5 minutes ago

I get I’m no treat, but don’t disappear like that on me!

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

SilverWolf… Sorry.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  3 minutes ago

Don’t be sorry, idiot.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

Look, we all have down days. Especially coming off of some sort of creative endeavor as big as that fic of yours.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

You’re fine.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

I’m not fine.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

What do you need?

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Talk to me.

 

† † †

The bus kept making laps, emptying out a little more each time, while the light outside the windows continued to fade to unbroken black. When nothing could be seen on the glass but night, and my own reflection, the only people left on the bus with me where the driver and my forever-late counterpart, clicking away at his phone in some aggravation.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Fuck! Fuck! I’m sorry.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

I told you not to be sorry.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

How many hours have you been talking to me like this?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

I don’t know. I haven’t been counting.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Shit!

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

It’s alright.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                      2 minutes ago

It’s not alright.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Why are you doing this for me?

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                  2 minutes ago

Because I can.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

And I want to.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

Why? I’m a mess.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

So am I.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

I’m not worth it.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

Yes, you are.

 

FailedWriter2000 on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                        1 minute ago

No, I’m not.

 

SilverWolf on Icha, Icha Finale!                                                                                    1 minute ago

YES, you are!

 

Stressed and pulled taunt, well beyond my limit, the words slipped out before they could reach the keyboard, “No, I’m not!”

Horrified I’d allowed the things passed my lips, I covered my mouth with my hand. But the driver didn’t give me any notice. Maybe, as long as I wasn’t talking to him, he didn’t care. Or maybe, he’d just had too many passengers with loose ends to mind about yet one more. Whatever. The only one to look at me was my constantly-late companion. His one, dark eye went from me, to my laptop, to his phone, and back again.

“Yes, you are,” a quiet voice said.

I blinked. My hands trembled, and I thought my heart had dropped out of me.

The man with the masked face and the silver hair stood up. Using backrests for support, he came toward me, phone hanging limp at the end of his arm. Screen showing Ao3. The skin beside his one eye crinkled, and I couldn’t tell if it was in sadness or a smile with the fabric over his features. He wore shear jeans with ragged holes at the knees, clearly from wear and not style, and a black cut-off tee that looked like someone had hacked the sleeves off with a butcher knife. The skin on his left shoulder was marked with a red swirl of color, which showed him to be Anbu. Or, ex Anbu.

A wolf. This man is a feral wolf.

All of him the kind of man I wouldn’t want to meet. The kind that terrified me. Yet, the soft light in that one eye, the engraved lines beside it, the tired shadow under it, and the way he said my name brushed over me like security.

“FailedWriter2000.”

“SilverWolf.” I could feel how wide my eyes were. Hear the catch in my voice.

The man slipped his phone into his pocket and sat by me on the long bench-seat. His fingers gently eased the lid of my laptop closed, his eye taking me in with a feeling I couldn’t identify.

“Yes, you are,” he repeated, still in that mellow rumble.

The words broke what little hold I had left, and I started crying, tears slipping through my fingers. SilverWolf put an arm across my shoulders, letting me release it all, not saying anything, just a steady presence at my side.

When my shaking sobs wore down, he took his arm away. I expected what I didn’t know, but not the cool efficiency of him. Eluding to my fit of uncomposure not at all, he leaned forward, bracing his elbows on his thighs, lacing his fingers between his knees, cocking his head to see me with his one eye.

“So, ah… Wanna, get a drink? I know a little place close to the next stop.”

I grunted a little sound, palming tears from my lashes. “Ah, yeah.”

I stowed my computer, and we excited the bus together. Part of me wondered if SilverWolf would try touching me again, but he only showed me the way, walking with head down and thumbs hooked in the pockets of his jeans. The bar he brought me to was small and unobtrusive, the definition of a hole in the wall. But the bartender we ordered our drinks from seemed to know SilverWolf, the two of them even casually bumping fists by way of greeting.

Maybe it was the red ink, marring the skin on the shoulder of the large man with the toothpick hanging from his lips, that bonded them. Or maybe it was just the bone-tired cast about both their faces. Whatever it was, there were signs of distinct pleasure scattered over the dark-haired man’s face when he scanned me, noting the man beside me, with his hip hitched up against the bar, and his silver head tilted, had brought someone with him for once.

The scrutiny left me blushing, but we got our drinks and retreated to a back booth where we sat with a table and two, pint glasses of dark stout between us. We lingered there, saying little, as though we’d said it all already, letting the condensation roll down the sides of the glasses and the time stretch out, a loose cord without meaning.

“So, ah… I’m, Kakashi,” my companion’s quiet voice broke out when half the liquid in our glasses was gone and a warm glow had taken up residence in my belly.

“Iruka,” I said, wincing at the name as soon as it was out. “’Ruka, just ‘Ruka.”

The man seemed to gage me, to read my reaction as if I were an open book thrust into his hands. “Don’t much like your name, huh?”

“I hate it.” The grimace behind the words was instinctual, long-ingrained habit.

Kakashi acknowledged my statement with a quick nod, but let it go without prying at it. Swirling his finger in a moisture ring on the scarred wood, he turned to something else.

“I, ah, ran into you the other day. Sorry. I, acted like an ass.”

“It’s… Fine. Seems like we were both having a pretty shity day.”

Another nod. “Yeah. Your words went a long way to changing that.”

“Glad, I could help.” My hands didn’t clench with the words. They twitched and went taunt, strained and stark white on the tabletop. My face felt stiff and Kakashi’s appraisal said, as clearly as Sakura’s pondering, he called bullshit.

“You say that like you don’t believe it, ‘Ruka.”

I looked down, heart dead weight, unable to meet his eyes. “I’m… Not worth all this.”

“Yes. You are, ‘Ruka.”

His hand was hot on mine. Fingers poking out of gloves, as equally hacked apart as his shirt, laid across my skin. I blinked, swallowing against a click in my throat. The words had been delivered with an intensity mirrored in Kakashi’s eye, where something smoldered. Something deep and threaded through with heat that zipped through my nerve-endings, causing a long-neglected part of me to respond.

“Sorry,” Kakashi said, moving to take his hand away. I laced my fingers through his, other hand gripping the edge of the table, white-knuckled.

“You, want to come back to my place? It’s close.”

I felt stupid saying the words because if we shared the same bus every morning, then his place was close too. I dropped my gaze, unable to meet his.

“Yes.” The word was simple. Soft. And infused with something heartfelt. It drew my eyes up to Kakashi’s single one, and his fingers tightened on mine. “Take me home, ‘Ruka.”

My head swam. I swallowed passed that click, yet again, and my voice was husky when it came. “Okay.”

† † †

We abandoned our half-finished drinks, and Kakashi left a tip, the bartender’s gaze following us out with a kind of satisfied amusement. The walk to my apartment was short in the warm night, and Kakashi didn’t let go of my hand, his eye watching me with a tenderness that had me looking away. Face heating.

The man said nothing but took everything in with keenness born of years in the Anbu, where the least slip could get you killed. A keenness which memorized my apartment building, committed the number to some indelible part of his mind, and had me assessing my living space with embarrassment when I unlocked my door and pushed it open. The scatter of notebooks, intermixed with days-old coffee mugs, and the overflow of books across my floor seeming to reach out and sneer at me.

Stupid, ‘Ruka. What do you think you’re doing?

“Sorry,” I said, shuffling a drift of books out of the walkway. Then, gasped when I turned and discovered Kakashi far closer than I expected him to be. Near enough I could feel the heat coming off his skin.

“For what?” he asked.

The shock of him, close enough to smell the subtle, sweet musk from his hair, forced words out of me I wouldn’t normally speak. “I, haven’t had anyone in here since my last boyfriend.” I winced as soon as the statement was out. Hating I’d let it slip.

Kakashi’s eye darkened. “Didn’t end well?”

My line of sight dropped. “No.” It was a breath. Something low and almost not there.

Kakashi heard it, though. He put a finger under my chin, to bring my face back up to his, and traced the scar across my nose with the index finger of his other hand. “That where this came from?”

I felt my expression crumble, wondering at his ability to read me so clearly, but I couldn’t turn away with Kakashi’s hands on me. “Y-yeah.” The word broke, dark, and crashing glass replaying in my instinctual memory, alongside the tang of blood on my tongue and splitting pain.

The lines on the corner of Kakashi’s eye deepened. He brushed the scar one more time, then let me go and pushed aside the part of his mask covering his left eye. A thick, white scar bisected the socket, sealing the lid closed and contorting the cheek.

Surprise must have colored my face because a touch of insecurity lit the eye Kakashi had left. “Not very pretty, is it?”

I bit my lip, shaking my head. “It’s fine. You said you had scars.”

He nodded. “Yeah. Guess we both do.”

Something shifted in his glance and he hitched his fingers in the cloth covering the lower portion of his face, pulling it away. Blinking, I found myself starring at a handsome face under hair as white as an old man’s.

God, he’s gorgeous.

As if he heard the thought, Kakashi smiled, lack of confidence gone in a blink. The smile turned my heart over and did odd little things to other parts of me. This the other man seemed to sense, or share. He took a step into me, thigh pressing between my legs, one hand at the small of my back, the other gliding over my jaw, as his lips sealed over mine. His tongue nudged my lips apart and explored my mouth, like it was something he wanted to know intimately.

Misfires went off and stars flared across my vision. Unexpected! Not prepared! The thoughts were the entirety of my being. Fuck, ‘Ruka. Fuck!

I whined against Kakashi’s lips, or maybe whimpered. It was hard to tell. But the hard pressed up against his leg was hard to miss, and Kakashi traced a thumb over my lips when he pulled back enough to lean his forehead on mine. One, dark eye smoldering again.

“I’ll be nice to you, ‘Ruka.”

I swallowed passed that persistent, dry click in my throat, stepping away and trying to clear it all in one motion. Kakashi let me move that step, but threaded his fingers in mine, so my arm stretched between us.

My attempt to speak turned to a small grunt. “Right.” I passed a hand over my forehead. “Do you want to use my bed? Or… The couch?”

“Your bed.” Kakashi’s voice was quiet. “Take me to your bed, ‘Ruka.”

I could say nothing to that. Nothing to the intensity of those simple words. If my throat had been dry, it swelled shut then, leaving me with nothing I could do but shake my head up and down, dog-like, in agreement to Kakashi’s softly spoken mandates.

Turning, half blind and dizzy, I lead the way to my bedroom, Kakashi tagging along at the end of my arm. In the dim room, lit only by the light filtering from the living area, a new wave of shame washed over me. I hadn’t prepared for this! I hadn’t changed my sheets and my bed was still the tangle I’d slept in for the last week.

“Sorry,” I murmured, reaching out to try and straighten the comforter.

“For what?” Kakashi asked, and I spun, once again, shocked by his sudden, silent closeness. My legs hitched up against the bed and I sat down hard, looking up at the scarred man.

He must have seen the flash of fear across my face because he softened. “We don’t need to do this right now, ‘Ruka. We can wait…”

I was repeating my dog head shake in negation before he could finish. “No! I want toooooo!” The last word trailed off into a long, drawn-out kind of moan, as Kakashi’s hand found my swelling erection through my pants, and there was no question I whined when I fell back against the bed, the other man’s body pushing me down and his lips claiming mine.

All very gentle. It was the gentle which kept me from jumping out of my own skin. Kakashi seemed to know it. He pulled back, bracing himself over me, so I had room to move.

“Just been a long time, huh?”

I nodded furiously, unable to articulate.

“And, you still want to?”

Another nod and Kakashi kissed me between the eyes. A quick peck that made me blink. “Okay.” And he was up and removing his clothes in a completely unhurried manner.

I lay there, stunned, for a moment. Did he just- Then I was trying to put it out of my mind and sitting up with the intention of joining Kakashi. Only to find myself struck.

Kakashi had pulled off his shirt and tossed it on the floor and was in the process of shuffling his pants off his hips, half turned away from me. I was struck by how toned he was and the roll of his muscles under his skin and the scars sprinkled and speckled and slashed across his flesh, making it look like the pelt of some jungle cat.

The blank length of my unintentional scrutiny held such weight Kakashi noted it. Shifting to face me, baring the large, still pink, not quite scar starting at his left hip and gashing down to his right thigh to my full view, a kind of deep grief clouded his face. He looked down.

“I… Have more scars than most. I know they’re not very attractive.”

The insecurity, mirroring that in the living room, when he’d shown his face, was like a whip across my mind. Still wordless, at a loss as to what I could even say, I stood up and took the few steps between us before wrapping my arms around his waist. Burying my face in his neck, I put my mouth on a wide, white cut over his collar bone, tongue gliding over its smooth contours.

Kakashi groaned and melted against me, actions saying more than I ever could how I didn’t care about the bloody scars. A moment more of this and Kakashi had a hand at the back of my head, drawing me back.

“’Ruka.”

His hands slipped down the front of my shirt, finding the buttons and slowly undoing them before easing the fabric off to fall around my feet. I shut my eyes, biting my lip, expecting he’d go for my pants next, surprised when his hands brushed over my chest and went for my hair. Fingers picking at the tie and letting the strands down around my face.

I blinked at him. This completely unaccounted man.

“You’re beautiful, ‘Ruka,” he said, fingers scrapping over my jawline.

Whatever Kakashi saw on my face must have been as stupidly dumbfounded as I felt.

“Did I say something wrong?”

I shook my head, as much to clear it as to reassure him. “No. It’s just… No one’s ever called me beautiful before.”

“Then they were all stupid.”

My mouth dropped open and Kakashi took the opportunity to kiss me, finally unbuttoning my pants and pushing them off, hands molding over my ass.

I yelped and Kakashi backed off. As last enough for me to see his eye and breathe.

“What do you want, ‘Ruka?” he asked.

And I was staring, struck dumb again because no one had ever asked me that question before.

“’Ruka?”

“I want,” the words were a rasp, choked at the end, “you-”

“Want to take me?” Kakashi asked, quirking up an eyebrow.

I frantic, dog-shook my head and Kakashi tucked some hair out of my face.

“Want me inside you?” he offered.

I nodded and dropped my gaze, so he couldn’t see my face.

“Okay,” he said, and kissed the top of my head.

Did he just- The tenderness of the thing almost unhinged my knees.

“Get on the bed.”

I obeyed, sitting and scooting back to the pillows, with Kakashi following me on his knees, because at least that command I could comprehend. My head was singing, or humming, some internal sound. I waited for Kakashi to flip me over and do what he wanted, but he surprised me by tracing my thighs and planting kisses over my knees.

“Do you have any lube?”

“No.” It was half moan. “I haven’t been-” Doing this! “I didn’t expect-” I’d need it!

“It’s alright,” Kakashi said, stroking down my thigh. “We’ll just have to take it slow.”

I shut my eyes and spread out my legs as Kakashi’s finger sought out my opening. My teeth snapped over my lip to hold back the sounds I wanted to make, but I couldn’t hide the tremble in my legs, though I tried. Just let it be, ‘Ruka!

Kakashi massaged at my entrance, lips working up my thighs. I was hissing breath through my teeth when he stopped.

“’Ruka. Look at me.”

I obeyed; not wanting to. Kakashi’s expression was calm and centered. “I’m going to do something, okay?”

“Do?” It was a squeak, causing an abrasive voice to pass over my mind. Can’t you stop whining, Iruka?

Another rub at that loosening rim of muscle. “I’m going to kiss you.”

My eyes widened when I grasped his meaning, and all I could do was offer my wordless assent. Kakashi lowered his face to me, and there was no blocking the sounds when I felt his tongue slide over me. Can’t you be quiet, Iruka? I wanted to be, but no one had ever done that to me before either and the sensation coiling up my spine, constricting my lungs, was not to be denied.

Mewing, my elbows refused to support me further, dropping me unto the pillows. My back arched up and I cried out.

“’Ruka?” Kakashi stopped what he was doing and said my name.

“Y-yes!”

“Are you alright?”

Fingers moving over my now very slick entrance, dipping in and away.

Alright! a hysterical part of me crowed. You’re making me come apart!

“S-sure!”

“Do you want me to stop?”

“Noooo!” The word trailed long into another uncontrollable sound when Kakashi instantly took me at my word and pressed a finger in, making me see stars, working the digit in and out to see how that would be.

“Just really has been a while, huh?”

“A year of twoooo!”

Kakashi inserted another finger, and I lost my self-control. I bucked, fisting the sheets in a grip of desperation. “Shit! Damn, bloody hell!”

Kakashi stopped everything he was doing and pulled out of me. “’Ruka. Did I hurt you?”

A dry laugh escaped passed my pants. Cracking a bit at the edges. Using the sheets as leverage, I pulled myself up a bit on the pillows, voice ragged when it came, I started. “Please, Kakashi, I-” Need you!

“’Ruka?”

“Please god, just fuck me now!” I wracked a hand over my face to wipe away everything there. Don’t play with me! Please… The thought was a wisp, a prayer, there and gone, followed by that abrasive voice cutting at me.

Don’t you ever shut up, Iruka?

“Okay.” Kakashi was there in his sudden way, presence brushing the voice aside, leaning over me and nudging my hand away so he could kiss over my face and find my mouth, letting me taste myself. “Okay, ‘Ruka.”

The scarred man’s lips and words were both soft, but his movements were sure. He placed himself between my thighs and lined himself up with me. Instinctively, I reclined back more on the pillows, wrapping my legs around his waist.

I shivered and Kakashi edged ever so slowly forward, mistaking my reaction and intentions. Once I felt his head inside me, I locked my ankles behind him, and jerked him forward until he bottomed out in me.

My whole body spasmed and Kakashi’s eye went wide, his face covered in shock and open concern.

“God, ‘Ruka. Are you alright?”

“K-kakashi…” My voice broke apart as I squirmed under him. “Please, I- J-just move!”

He leaned forward to lay a kiss over the scar across my nose. “Okay, ‘Ruka, okay.”

Kakashi began thrusting forward, slow at first, but picking up speed. My head rocked back, and I gripped his shoulders, fingers digging in with enough force to bruise. A tingling feeling built in the pit of my stomach, expanding outward and upward.

“Kakashi- I, I can’t… I’m- Close! Ahh!”

My orgasm was too soon and too sharp to stop. My body clenched around him, legs trembling, and Kakashi went still. I bit back a sob and looked away.

“S-sorry.”

“’Ruka.” Kakashi hooked a finger under my chin to turn my face up to his. “It’s fine. You’re fine. You’re perfect.”

I couldn’t stope the trickle of tears from escaping or the small sobs. Kakashi kissed them away.

“Do you want to stop, or keep going?”

For answer I locked my legs around him tighter. The other man followed my wordless response by starting to move again. Long, smooth strokes, designed to give me full sensation without pushing me to over-stimulation.

This time, I let Kakashi go slow, let him do what he wanted, building us both up to a nearly unbearable pressure. When we were both close, Kakashi wrapped his hand around me, timing what he did before and behind to be simultaneous. I came again with a stifled cry, and he followed a moment after, his warmth spilling down inside me.

Seeming exhausted, Kakashi still managed to pull out of me gently, and flopped down next to me, instead of on me, pillowing his head on my shoulder.

“That… Okay?” he got out between pants.

“Uh-huh,” I affirmed, voiceless, arm snacking up over his back, my body pleasantly aching and boneless, and more mellow than I could remember being in so long it didn’t seem real I ever had.

We lay like that for a while. Drifting. Until Kakashi made a sound and kissed me lightly, causing my eyes to flutter.

“I’m going to the bathroom to get something to clean us up.”

“Ummm…”

Half asleep, the words didn’t register until I heard the bathroom door creak open. Then, heart jackhammering in my chest, I bolted upright and to the end of the bed.

“Kakashi! Wait!”

Too late.

Kakashi stood, shoulders stiff, frozen in the doorway, hand locked on the light switch he’d just used. I groaned and buried my face in my hands, one leg slipping off the bed as I leaned over my knees, knowing what it was he saw. A tub laid out for a bath, candles around the rim. A bottle of Jack and an already half full tumbler off the side, next to an open straight razor gleaming under the light.

“’Ruka?”

“I was going to kill myself.” The words flowed out of me with the hollow, empty knowledge there was no point in holding them back. “I was going to tell you I was sorry for what I said, and I was going to kill myself.”

“But instead, you got on a bus, and started talking to me.”

Kakashi was there in his way, sudden and with no sound of him crossing the floor. Just kneeling down in front of me and easing my hands away from my face, so he could hold them in his.

“I knew if I stayed here I would-” I dry swallowed, cursing the burning smart in my eyes. “I wanted to talk to you. You gave me a reason to want to live.”

His thumbs massaged the backs of my hands. One eye dark and soft.

“Why did you want to do it, ‘Ruka?”

Wincing, I looked away. “Just everything. What happened with the scar on my face-” My teeth snapped shut over my lip, tearing it open. “Being alone here so long. Dreams breaking apart-” Molding in a corner…

You’re being petty, ‘Ruka.

“You must think me stupid and childish when you’ve been through so much more than I have.”

Kakashi stopped rubbing my hands. He twined his fingers through mine and squeezed them. “Pain is pain. It all hurts the same.”

The words made me look at him. His scarred face was weary and full of a painful tenderness all at once. Kneeling like he was, he looked far too much like a man about to propose.

“Do you, still want to do it, ‘Ruka?”

I made a sound, half sob and half broken laugh, ending in a hiccup. Wondering how the man stole my words so fucking easily. “I just want to live, Kakashi, but it hurts so damn much.”

He took both my hands in one of his and cupped my face with the hand he’d freed. “I like you, ‘Ruka.”

My breath caught, caught the way the rest of me was caught by the warmth of his skin on my flesh. “W-what?” The word was a broken shudder from some place deep and aching inside me. A place which had been created with the marring of my skin, and which had not sealed up or closed over as my face had.

Kakashi seemed to sense it. His voice was low when it came. “Then let’s hurt together, ‘Ruka. I… was hoping we could go out. I’m not the best guy.” His eye darkened with that old grief. “I’m scarred in more ways than one, but, knowing you’re there, makes me want to get through the day. I thought we were becoming friends, and we had good sex.”

He chuckled a little. A nervousness there, belying the calm on his face.

“You said I gave you a reason to want to live. I want to keep giving you a reason. I want to be that reason. Will you go out with me, ‘Ruka?”

I moaned, eyes slipping closed and face nuzzling into his hand, despite myself. The burning threat of tears behind my eyes broke, and a hot rush of sorrow and fear flashed through me on the sound of breaking glass to spill out of me and leak over Kakashi’s hand. Don’t be a fool, ‘Ruka. The fingers tied through mine where strong, a reminder of just what this man was. A wolf, he’s a wolf! Everything I didn’t want to meet, everything I wanted to avoid.

“’Ruka.” Yet, the quiet voice called out he was everything else as well. Everything I wanted. The man who’d soothed me for hours and days, and just shared my bed without demanding anything I didn’t want to give.

A sob hitched out of my throat and I squeezed my eyes closed, wishing I had a hand free to hide my face. I could throw it all to hell or reach back to the one reaching for me. Just do it, ‘Ruka! If you’re going to make everything not matter than just do it!

“I- L-like you too, Kakashi.”

The other man’s hand moved from my face to the back of my head, so he could kiss the tears off my cheeks. I gasped a bit in surprise to find his own face damp. He leaned his forehead on mine, vulnerability in every line etched at the side of his eye.

“Stay alive with me. I’ll be good to you, ‘Ruka.”

I came apart, hitching sobs and weeping. Too many jagged edges rubbing together, and only one clear thought bleeding through it all.

Want you, Kakashi!

I wanted to say it. Wanted to make him feel bloody good, but all that came out was shattered and stupid sounding to my own ears. A little grunting moan and, “Okay.”

Kakashi took it. With gentle touches and soft urging, he pulled me back into the bed and just held me against his chest, chin resting on the top of my head, while I wet him with all the tears I’d held onto for fucking years.

“I’m not worth all this,” I rasped into his warmth, his heartbeat in my ear.

Kakashi moved slightly over me, laying a kiss between my eyes, his finger under my chin to tilt my head back.

“Yes. You are.”