‘…not a queen—’
Happy birthday, Kat! You’re a great writer and an even better friend and I’m really, really glad to have you in my life!
oh so always
“I do,” The gentle reassurance seemed to draw the chuunin forward, and force the quivering of his shoulders to give and buckle as he forced his weight against Kakashi’s chest. His voice reverberated against the navy blue material of the Jounin’s standard uniform, effectively muffling his words and his stifled cries; subtle vibrations that begged the gathering of the Jounin’s hands along Iruka’s back.
He’d been honest and true, Kakashi had forgiven him for all that had transpired the night before—but that hadn’t meant the sting of the argument had dissipated from his hands. Those cold brown eyes found him on the edge of his awareness, glaring back down at him as they had; reminding him now as they had then—he was scum, he was scum that didn’t deserve the kindness that had been afforded to him.
Though, he felt the cold chestnut pools close within the encroaching dark as the words of another surged through him, smooth and constant, reminding him of something important.
“Rin was important to me, Iruka. Of course she was, and I do often think about her and Obito…It must be disheartening at times, ne? To wake and find me as I am—” He paused, a soft smile encompassing his lips as he reached out and breached their space, his war torn fingers tracing the damp axis of his cheek,
“She was all I had left of him, Iruka—Haha, I promised Obito—I promised him on his death bed that I would protect her.” His resolve seemed to falter somewhat, his smile fading, his dual colored eyes vanishing behind a faux curl of silver lashes that came with his laugh, “and I couldn’t even do that.”
The silence was fleeting, and the warmth within Kakashi’s fingers seemed to chill with the flux of room temperature. Hetero-chromatic eyes gleamed and reflected the early morning sun,
“Rin was special to me. Of course she was, she was my friend. She was the precious one of a man that gave his life for mine. But—”
Kakashi’s lips caught in a warm smile, one that stole away the haunting chill gathering in his fingertips, the gleaming flash against his mismatched eyes fading as he allowed himself to ease against Iruka’s invading presence.
“—but I never—I’ve never felt this way before, not for anyone. Never—” He could feel Iruka stirring, the familiar pressing of his hands against his chest for leverage as they locked eyes;
“I feel this pressure in my chest whenever you’re near, never happened to me before I met you. Funny how often I thought myself ill when you were around, even just resting against me, welcoming me into your home—” Kakahi’s words trailed with an inquiring touch, one that graced his captured hands and pulled him from his thoughts. There was that force, the inexorable pull that kept the Jounin close even then. He could feel his heart quicken with his revelation, could feel his smile dipping as his lips formed a phrase he had only ever heard in passing,
“I love you, Iruka.”
He could hear the small resolve wavering as Kakashi recollected that day with a clarity Iruka knew only Kakashi possessed, and for a moment, he felt almost ashamed of himself for bringing those memories up again. As the jounin continued, Iruka’s frown only increased and he shook his head against his shoulder.
“But you— you didn’t— it wasn’t your fault,” he pressed, trying to emphasize his point. “It wasn’t you that did that to her, and a promise like that… you can’t shoulder that burden on—”
Kakashi spared him no time for thought and continued his ramble, eyes downcast and words quiet. Iruka pushed himself up, hands on Kakashi’s chest until their eyes locked and he could see something twinkle in Kakashi’s in a way so foreign he wondered if he was seeing things. There was a hint of a smile, playful yet genuine as Kakashi began his broken explanation; the wary grin, the gentle touch, the soft words—
Iruka felt his own small world freeze. If time could stop, it would have shut down around him until nothing in the world existed except him and Kakashi. Eyes wide, his hands on Kakashi’s chest tightened and bunched around his shirt.
“I love you, Iruka.”
Lower lip quivering, Iruka was fighting internally to process the words’ meaning without looking very much like an injured toddler— which he did—
“I love you, Iruka.”
—and his eyes were burning, spilling over onto his cheeks until the hot droplets fell and soaked into Kakashi’s shirt. Mouth open as though he meant to say something, Iruka’s shoulders were shaking again and he was sure that he looked every bit of a mess and not in the least bit attractive—
“I love you, Iruka.”
—and the sound that he made was something between a sob and a laugh, face reddened from either the fever or the surge of violent emotion overwhelming him until breathing became too difficult and he was gasping for air—
“You’re an idiot,” he managed, head ducking, ears red, “you’re a big, useless idiot. After all this time— all this time, and finally—” There was another of those choked laughs, a sob and a resulting sniffle before Iruka’s face slowly lifted into as bright a smile as he could manage. Dampened with dripping tears and a runny nose, Iruka looked whole and strengthened, alive and radiant and bursting with all the affection a grown, emotional man could have.
“You’re a grand fool, Kakashi… but a fool has never made me happier in all my life.”
“—Yeah, I know.” His reply was soft and muffled against the inviting mess of chestnut hair that came to meet him with Iruka’s inevitable closeness. The immediate smell of vanilla overwhelmed his senses and stole him away to some distant plane where the two resided alone, no distractions or impending war to part them indefinitely; it was simply them—a timeless moment eked into their shared existence that no other could truly fathom.
“I’m a fool.” The smile was evident in his voice as it followed the rising of his lips, parting the older ninja’s revealed features in a genuine grin that lit his face; it was a rare commodity that very few were afforded. The warmth spread between them in a contagious swell following the young brunette’s words, not stemming from the fever that surged beneath his skin, but a radiant thing that seemed to emanate from Iruka’s very smile.
Kakashi found himself staring at the mess of fever and tears that riddled the chuunin’s face; it was a strange contrast, that smile: a brilliant show of emotion, a bright twist of lips branded upon a sickly canvas.
A freed hand emerged from Kakashi’s side, and willed kunai-worn fingers to smooth away the lingering trace of his tears,
“You really should be in bed, Iruka.”
“Only when she’s drinking.”