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Not Afraid

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Kakashi could be angry, bitter at the false information that had been fed through the right channels in order to get him here, alone. He could resent his superiors for not seeing through the enemy deceit before this mission. He could be furious at the incompetence of those who gathered intelligence before him, for being so easily duped. He could be scared, petrified by the fact that he was caught, immobile and chakra-depleted, at the mercy of an enemy more powerful than he had anticipated. He could be planning, his mind racing with any and every possible scenario that he could use to his advantage and escape.

But he wasn’t. Kakashi wasn’t any of those things. He had cycled through all of those stages; the anger, the fear, the bargaining. When all of those had proved fruitless, in the long stretches of time he was restrained in the dark and dingy room, he had arrived at the final stage: acceptance. Kakashi had always suspected he would die in the field. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine, or even particularly pessimistic. It was an extremely likely statistic. Still, if given the choice, he would have liked to go down fighting. The thought of dying while restrained and weakened hurt his pride, but only for a moment. The years of emotional numbness that had been repeatedly trained into him slid comfortably into place as if it had never left, leaving him calm and focused as he waited.

That was the only thing that was grating on him, now. The waiting. It was a well known tactic, and Kakashi was understanding why it was so effective. He hadn’t seen his captor since he was knocked unconscious, and the fact that he was alone and restrained for so long was causing his mind to race as much as it was causing his body to ache. What was taking so long? Kakashi wasn’t an impatient man, but even he could only wait, unmasked, on death row for so long.

Kakashi’s body stiffened when he heard a loud noise behind him, like metal scraping stone. The sounds were accompanied by a loud slam, and the sound of shuffling footsteps and muffled grunting. Kakashi’s breathing picked up, his other senses working overdrive as he was unable to turn and see. His heart rate only quickened when two pairs of feet entered his field of vision. He struggled to lift his head, his exposed eye widening in greater horror the more he took in the sight before him.

The same missing nin who caught him, a huge, imposing man that had taken Kakashi seemingly on brute strength and mass alone, was holding a battered and struggling figure. Iruka Umino, missing the Chuunin vest he was never seen without, his hair disheveled and falling around his face, his Konoha headband shoved into his mouth as a gag. He stiffened when he saw Kakashi, his struggling ceasing in an instant. He allowed himself to be manhandled into a position mirroring Kakashi’s: on his knees, arms bound behind his back, tightly strung from the ceiling. Whatever surprise he had shown on his face upon first seeing Kakashi, it was gone now. His face was blank, a mask of forced calm that Kakashi was only used to seeing on hardened veteran Jonin. It looked out of place on Iruka’s normally open and expressive face, and it made Kakashi feel sick to his stomach. What was Iruka doing here?

The missing nin moved again, prying the metal plate out of Iruka’s mouth and dropping it to the floor with a clatter that reverberated too loudly in the silent space. Iruka stretched his jaw with a slight wince, before his face slid back into a calm, neutral expression.

“Kakashi,” Iruka’s voice was even, and low. “Glad to see you in one piece.”

“What are you doing here?” Kakashi’s voice was pitched up, bordering on frantic. The calm façade was breaking, and he wasn’t trying to get back in control. Iruka shouldn’t be here. Iruka wasn’t on this mission. Iruka was home, in the village, where he should be. Where he always was. Where Kakashi was dreaming about coming home to, before he ended up here. He wasn’t going to see Iruka ever again. He certainly wasn’t seeing him here.

“Here to get you, of course,” Iruka replied confidently, before he was cut off by the low laughter of their captor.

“Aw, good of him to lie. I picked up this one in your village,” a slow, sadistic grin split his face. “On a tip that turned out to be…incredibly useful,” he grabbed Iruka by the hair, pulling his head up harshly. Iruka didn’t even flinch. Kakashi shook against his bindings so hard his wrists began to bleed where the wire cut into his skin. “So, the infamous friend-killer has a heart after all. That’s sweet.”

“Don’t you touch him,” Kakashi growled. “Get your hands off—”

“Kakashi,” Iruka spoke again, his voice and face still the picture of calm. “Relax. He couldn’t hurt me if he tried,” he laughed shortly, which earned him another hard tug at his hair.

“Your boyfriend’s got guts,” the missing nin taunted Kakashi, dropping Iruka’s hair and letting his head fall. “Which will make this all the more fun.”

He moved closer to Kakashi, crouching down so he could meet Kakashi eye-to-eye. “See, I knew I couldn’t break you. Even if I got you on your own, somehow, you’d die before betraying your village. You’re quite the martyr type.”

He reached out to pat Kakashi’s face condescendingly, before standing and moving so he was stood behind Iruka. “So, I figured…if it’s not you you’re worried about, what could I do? That’s when I got it. The single piece of intel I’d been waiting for. Little Kakashi Hatake went and fell in love.  After that, it was a simple enough plan. I break you…by breaking him.”

Kakashi could barely hear over the pounding of blood in his ears. This wasn’t supposed to happen. This mission was supposed to be simple.

“So, we’re gonna make this easy. You give me those names I’m looking for, or I break your lover piece by piece.”

“Kakashi,” Iruka’s voice was firm, grounding, and when Kakashi looked up it was to see a tense attempt at a reassuring smile. “Don’t tell him. Don’t tell this son of a bitch any—”

Iruka cut himself off when a blade sliced across the left side of his ribs, tearing through his shirt and causing blood to spill out onto the floor. He kept his eyes open, a hard swallow the only thing betraying that he felt any pain.

“Give me names.”

“I’ve gotten worse while shaving,” Iruka eased out a breath. “He’s all bark and no bite, this one.”

Kakashi jerked against his restraints again, his mind reeling from what he was seeing. This wasn’t right, none of it. Iruka shouldn’t be doing this. He was a Chuunin schoolteacher, who had no extensive training in torture endurance or resisting interrogation. And yet he was calm, reactionless, only speaking to taunt. This wasn’t going to last. No matter how calm Iruka seemed, he wasn’t trained to withstand prolonged torture. Iruka was going to break.

And that would break Kakashi.

___

The missing nin’s knife came down five more times on Iruka’s torso, and Iruka fought to keep his breathing in check. He’d heard about extensive training that Jonin and ANBU went through to endure torture, and what kind of things they were taught. He’d never been through it himself, but he was racking his brain to try and remember what his friends had told him about it. Phrases like slow, even breathing and keep your focus on something other than the pain were on repeat in his mind. Focus. He could focus. He could focus on Kakashi.

But Kakashi, it seemed, for all of his training, was not the face of calm during torture. He was sweating, and struggling, thrashing weakly against his restraints every time the missing nin made another cut. This wasn’t good. Iruka had thought he’d been doing pretty well in keeping sane, Kakashi looked like he was nearing a breaking point. This wasn’t going to end well.

The missing nin pushed himself away from Iruka with a dissatisfied grunt, stalking away and out of the room with the same awful screeching of metal on stone that came with the door. Iruka let himself breathe out a heavy sigh, going limp against the restraints.

“Kakashi,” he murmured, drawing Kakashi’s gaze up to meet his. “Don’t tell him anything. Don’t do it. I can take it.”

“No,” Kakashi’s voice was strangled. “No, Iruka, you shouldn’t be here. This shouldn’t be happening.”

“But it is. And until we get out of here, it’s going to keep happening. But you need to believe me. Listen to me,” Iruka started to speak faster, hearing the sound of footsteps approaching again. “Look at me, Kakashi. I can take it. I can. I—”

Iruka was cut off by the sound of the door opening and slamming shut yet again. The missing nin was back in front of Iruka within seconds, leering down at him. He moved back behind Iruka again, and the next thing Iruka knew, he felt slack in one of his arms. He looked up in time to see Kakashi’s eye widen, before his freed arm was forcefully brought out in front of him.

“I’ll ask again, Hatake. You ready to give me names?”

Kakashi looked up, staring at the man in silence. Iruka felt like he couldn’t breathe.

“Go to hell.”

The sentence took effort for Kakashi to speak, Iruka could see it. His moment of relief from Kakashi’s resolve was short-lived, however, when the missing nin grabbed his index finger and snapped it back. Hard.

It took everything Iruka had not to yell. As it was, he couldn’t quite stifle his voice completely; letting out a choked-off hnn in shock and pain. He’d broken bones before, every shinobi had. But the man was still holding his finger, squeezing it and pushing it back, not letting up. Iruka felt cold sweat beading on his forehead as his index finger was finally released, only for his grip to shift to the next finger over.

Iruka felt his breath start to shorten, his instincts starting to get the better of him. His hand was beginning to shake from the rush of adrenaline through his system, and he could no longer get his breathing under control. The calm was slipping. He was breaking. He was going to break, and Kakashi was going to see.

He let out an involuntary whimper when the second finger snapped, his vision starting to blur with tears. Every breath he took made his chest heave, which made the wounds on his torso stretch and pull painfully. The third and fourth fingers snapped with two more muffled, pained sounds, each more drawn out than the last. Iruka’s mouth filled with the taste of iron as he bit down hard on his tongue, desperately trying to take in steady breaths as bile threatened to rise in his throat. He jerked his arm weakly, a pathetic attempt to spare himself from his captor’s tight grip.

Kakashi, on the other hand, had stopped struggling. He was limp against his restraints, his shoulders shaking with the effort to continue breathing, his head hanging towards the floor. He was the picture of defeat, and that almost scared Iruka more than the threat of more pain.

He felt his arm drop suddenly, and he couldn’t stifle a gasp when his head was pulled back by his hair once again. He swallowed heavily when he saw that the kunai from earlier was back in his assailant’s hand, brought steadily closer to his face.

“Oh, Hatake,” the missing nin’s voice was singsong. “Wake up, Hatake. You’re not gonna wanna miss this.”

Iruka’s eyes widened, before he was scrunching his entire face up in an attempt to avoid the blade moving close to his skin. He felt the sharp edge running over his nose, opening up the familiar scar, warm blood rushing over his face. He spat blood away from his lips, feeling his blood dripping down his neck and wetting his shirt. His face stung with every shift of his features, the pulling of his skin forcing more blood to ooze down his chin.

“You have one more chance, Hatake,” The voice from behind Iruka was little more than a growl. “Tell me, or he dies.”

The sharp edge of a blade pressed tight to Iruka’s throat made him stiffen, feeling the prickling sensation of blood beading along the knife’s edge. Kakashi looked up slowly, radiating pure hatred and murderous intent.

“You won’t,” Iruka challenged, hoping that his cocky façade would be enough to mask the fear. “I’m your only leverage. If you kill me now, you’ll never get what you want.”

The pressure on Iruka’s throat increased and he fought to stifle a gasp, arching his chin backwards to try and move away. His head hit the torso of his captor and he was forced to keep still, at the mercy of the blade in the missing nin’s hand.

Iruka struggled to keep his eyes open, meeting Kakashi’s gaze. He could tell that Kakashi was struggling, his breathing was erratic, his eyes were unfocussed, and his body was rigid and tense. His training was fighting his instincts, and Iruka knew what he had to do. He knew, as soon as he got here, that he wasn’t going to leave this room alive.

“Kakashi,” his voice came out strangled, and the movement of his throat made the blade press in painfully. “I love you,” The blade started to drag across his throat. “I’m not afraid.”

Iruka knew he would call it weakness, but he closed his eyes. He meant what he said, he wasn’t afraid to die. He always suspected he would die by the hands of an enemy. He didn’t have many regrets; he was dying for duty, dying to protect the people and secrets of his village. It’s what he was trained to do. He just wished Kakashi didn’t have to see.

As Iruka felt the sting of the blade slicing through his throat, his mind went blissfully blank. It was as if his mind was filled with static; his vision going white, any sounds in the room becoming distant and muffled. He only hoped that would mean it wouldn’t hurt as much.

Iruka’s eyes blinked open when he felt a sudden warmth dripping onto his face and left shoulder. The blade that was at this throat fell to the ground with a loud clang, and Iruka jerked as he startled at the noise.

Iruka’s eyes grew wide as he looked up, his chest heaving with heavy breath as his mind raced to catch up with what he was seeing. Kakashi stood before him, chest inches away from Iruka’s face. The chittering screams of Kakashi’s chidori petered out into silence, and there was no question of where Kakashi’s arm was. It extended over Iruka’s left shoulder, dripping blood from where it was firmly implanted in the missing nin’s chest.

Kakashi was shaking, whether it was from pure rage or from the physical effort to remain standing, Iruka couldn’t tell. The enormous body of the missing nin fell, sliding off Kakashi’s arm and landing in a heap behind where Iruka was bound with a sickening and final slap. But Iruka barely noticed, he couldn’t notice when Kakashi was falling heavily to his knees before him, his breath ragged and his body weak.

“Kakashi,” Iruka gasped, struggling against his binds, spitting blood out of his mouth that he wasn’t sure was his own, desperate to get his hands on Kakashi in any way. “Kakashi, you killed him, you got him, Kakashi—”

Kakashi forced himself to look up, leaning his weight heavily onto Iruka in an attempt to get close to him. He brought his hand up, shaking, and weak, and still stained with the blood of their captor, and clumsily brushed the hair back from Iruka’s face. Iruka let out a shuddering breath, leaning into the touch despite the spike of pain and the ooze of blood from both his nose and his neck. He raised his free arm weakly, slowly managing to curl his swollen and broken fingers in a loose grip around the fabric of Kakashi’s shirt.

“Kiss me.”

Kakashi’s eye widened slightly at the breathless request, but it didn’t stun him for long. His bloody hand moved to tangle in Iruka’s hair, tugging him close and slotting their lips together firmly. The kiss was rough, and desperate, and was thick with the metallic taste of the blood that covered Iruka’s face. Iruka strained against his binds again, the wire biting into his arm as he pressed forward into Kakashi. Kakashi was leaning heavily into him, still barely upright, yet kissing Iruka like his life depended on it.

When they broke apart, it was for both men to gasp in air, slumping against each other for support. Kakashi pressed his forehead against Iruka’s, holding his eye contact steady even through his weakened state.

“I love you…so much, Iruka,” Kakashi’s voice was low, and strong despite how his limbs shook. “I’ll kill anyone who lays a hand on you. I’ll hunt every last one of them down and make them suffer in ways they couldn’t possibly imagine.”

Iruka laughed helplessly, wincing slightly when the motion caused the wound on his neck to throb. “I love you, Kakashi,” he murmured, nuzzling close. “I love you so much. I knew you would kill him, I knew you wouldn’t let him hurt me.”

“I will not let anyone hurt you again,” Kakashi all but growled, sending a shiver down Iruka’s spine. “Never again, Iruka.”

“I know,” Iruka gasped out. “I know you’ve got me, Kakashi.”

“I got you,” Kakashi confirmed, fumbling to pick up the missing nin’s discarded knife and slicing through the wires binding Iruka’s wrist. “We’re going home.”

Iruka gasped when his arm went slack, barely managing to catch himself with it before his face hit the ground.

“Iruka,” Kakashi was beside him in an instant, easing him upright, helping him to his feet even though he wasn’t faring any better. “Can you walk?”

“Maybe,” Iruka huffed out a heavy breath, wincing at the stretch from the wounds all along his torso. “Kakashi, I can’t be fast.”

“Then we’ll go slow,” Kakashi said firmly. “But I will get you home.”

"I know," Iruka forced a weak smile, dredging up the last of his strength. "I know you will."