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Something about the entire world nearly coming to an end seemed to encourage vigorous reaffirmation of life. Multiple times, in many different positions. And as a result, Konoha's population exploded. A little over a year after the war, there were babies everywhere Kakashi went. He was fairly sure he'd approved the maternity leave of more kunoichi in his first year in office than Tsunade had during her entire tenure.

The odd thing was, he didn't mind the horde of mini-humans that had invaded the village. They were kind of... cute. They made him want to pinch cheeks and talk in a ridiculous voice and tickle chubby little bellies. And swiftly and viciously kill anything that might bring them harm. Sure, the village was peaceful now, but that was no guarantee.

Most of that was entirely new to him, and he still hadn't wrapped his head around it. He'd never considered himself a baby person. They were small, noisy, messy, breakable, and quite frequently, smelly. He'd never even been a kid person. While they weren't as small or breakable, they still had the noisy, messy, and smelly issues covered. He'd just never been able to relate to them.

He'd always preferred ninken, something that could take care of itself after a few months. Hell, he hadn't even had a plant until Naruto had gifted him with Mr. Ukki, and he'd always suspected that had been retribution for making Naruto eat his vegetables more than any belief that Kakashi could take care of something living.

The Hatake clan would die with him, he'd been sure of that ever since he was a preteen. He'd never be a clan head, he'd never have kids to carry on clan jutsu. He was it, the end of the line.

He hadn't wanted anything more than that, and he had definitely never wanted kids. The chance of that changing had never once crossed his mind. But recently...

Seeing parents with babies strapped to them in holster-like things, tiny little weapons of adorableness. Watching those babies grow older and learn to walk, as unsteady as a genin on water. There was a way that parents looked at their children, this warm, pure love that Kakashi must have experienced in the first few years of his life, before everything with his family had happened, he just didn't remember it. He might have felt flickers of it over the years; with his team, meeting his father again, how he felt for Konoha as a whole. But it'd never been quite the same, and it was hard not to want to experience it.

Kakashi had never thought of himself as a baby person, or even a kid person, but apparently he'd become one while he wasn't paying attention.

The hokage part of him looked at all the new life in Konoha and tried to figure out how they were going to expand the Academy to hold them all in five years, if they'd need to expand the walls of the village to do the same in 20. But the rest of him... well, it wasn't worth dwelling on.

Because he was hokage. Because he wasn't around enough to care for a child. Because he wasn't even sure he could care for a child in the first place. And because he didn't want a relationship with anyone. Sex was fine. Relationships, on the other hand, were something that had never happened to him and he was at a loss for how to start figuring them out now.

It was best just to focus on the things he could do. Expand the Academy, prepare for the future. That was more than enough to keep him busy.

~*~*~

Kakashi watched as Iruka stood and arched his back until it cracked.

"I swear, the Third picked these chairs just so Council meetings would never run too long," Iruka said. "Probably searched far and wide for the most uncomfortable things he could find."

The couches and chairs in the small meeting room next to the hokage's office were hard and if there had ever been any semblance of padding underneath the reddish brown leather, it had long since been worn away by many old, bony asses.

"Is that a hint I should be redecorating?" Kakashi asked, standing as well.

"If we're going to have many more of these meetings, yes."

Kakashi chuckled. "Noted."

"Drinks?" Iruka asked.

"Yes, please." After hours of discussing what needed to be done to expand the Academy and only making the slightest of dents, Kakashi could use a drink or two.

Or maybe more than two.

They ended up getting rather drunk.

This wasn't the first time they'd gone out drinking together and given the number of planning meetings that awaited them, it wouldn't be their last. They'd become something like friends since Iruka's promotion to vice-principal. The principal liked to send Iruka in his place to meetings, and Kakashi didn't mind. It was so much nicer dealing with Iruka. He wasn't too stuck in his ways to consider Kakashi's suggestions.

Besides, Iruka was always up for a drink afterwards and as far as drinking companions went, Iruka was the best kind. Amicable, not overly loud or violent like other friends Kakashi could name. He wasn't likely to start a bar fight or sob about the Beauty of Passionate Youth. A little flirty, sure, but not in the clingy I love you, man sort of way. And most importantly, he'd never once thrown up on Kakashi's sandals.

However, if there was one bad thing about drinking with Iruka, it was that he was a listener, the kind that made people want to spill all their secrets. Kakashi wondered if it was some kind of bloodline limit. He had to have enough blackmail material to take down half the shinobi in Konoha if he ever wanted to, and Kakashi wasn't immune.

Which was how he found himself slumped in a booth across from Iruka, babbling about babies. How cute they were. How tiny their little fingers were. How chubby their little legs were. Even drunk, part of Kakashi knew he was going to regret this in the morning. But Iruka seemed to understand.

"You want to have kids," Iruka said, sounding a little surprised, but it wasn't a question.

Kakashi shrugged, uncomfortable enough that some his buzz was fading.

"Listen, I get it. I wouldn't be teaching if I didn't like the little hellions."

Kakashi made a vague sound of agreement.

"You should adopt!" Iruka said. "There are still so many orphans from the war that need homes."

"I, kind of, want my own," Kakashi mumbled, looking into his glass. Adopting was a good idea, a noble idea, but he couldn't shake the thought of teaching little Hatakes lightning jutsu techniques.

Iruka nodded like he knew exactly what Kakashi was thinking. "I can understand that. Well, I mean, not the sex with women part. Because, yeah, that's not happening. But passing on clan jutsu, that'd be awesome."

"Are there Umino clan jutsu?"

Iruka had to know Kakashi was changing the subject on purpose, but he went with it. "Wouldn't you like to know."

"They involve swimming, don't they?"

"Sure," Iruka snorted. "Swimming and talking to aquatic mammals. And all yours? All about keeping birds away from fields?"

"I'll have you know we have excellent plant cultivation jutsu as well."

"Is it called Ask Yamato to Grow the Thing no Jutsu?"

Kakashi put on his best secretive air. "I can only tell Hatakes."

"Is that an offer?" Iruka asked, cocking an eyebrow at him.

Kakashi sputtered and Iruka laughed.

The talk about children didn't come up again. It was probably good, he hadn't meant to say anything about it in the first place. And if they were drunk enough that Iruka ended up forgetting it altogether, even better. Kakashi might have bought a few extra rounds just to help things along.

~*~*~

Kakashi was fairly certain Iruka had forgotten the whole thing. It didn't come up the next time they saw each other, so he figured he was probably safe.

Except a few weeks later, Iruka came rolling into his office with a folder and a hopeful, excited look in his eyes. Kakashi could see Tsunade's fingerprints all over the information and he didn't know whether or not he should be worried about that. He was leaning towards worried.

There was information about surrogates and artificial insemination and even some more questionable methods like test tube babies that were literally grown in test tubes, no surrogate needed.

Iruka spent a few minutes pointing out the parts he thought would be the most helpful. And they were. There were multiple ways Kakashi could have a child of his own, no relationship needed, full custody granted to him. It was impossible not to feel a tiny stirring of hope, urged on by Iruka's genuine excitement about the whole thing.

But that little bit of hope died a quick death, lost among all the piles of paperwork that were slowly staging a winning battle to take over his office. One glance around told him exactly what he needed to know. Biologically speaking, he might be able to have children of his own, but that didn't mean he should, and it definitely didn't mean he'd be a good parent.

Iruka went on about some of the surrogates that might be willing to carry the child and that made Kakashi feel even worse. He eye-smiled and promised to read everything thoroughly once he had a chance. Iruka seemed pleased and they moved on to safer ground, discussing Academy business again.

And when they went out afterwards, Kakashi made sure the conversation stayed as far from the topic of mini-ninjas as he could keep it.

~*~*~

Unfortunately for Kakashi, no one escaped Iruka's intel gathering bloodline limit for long. He really was going to have to see if there was a way T&I could use his abilities for the sake of the village if this continued.

"So," Iruka asked, that same excitement from before back in his eyes. "What did you think about the information? Are you going to do it?"

"I'm... not," Kakashi answered grudgingly.

"That's too bad," Iruka said. He didn't prompt for more, but Kakashi felt the urge to tell him anyway.

"It's just not a good idea," he tried to explain.

Iruka frowned. "You having kids isn't a good idea?"

Kakashi nodded.

"You like kids, you've clearly thought about it a lot, you survived Naruto. You're strong, smart, and have an affinity that isn't common in Konoha. Plus you're hokage. Why would anyone think you shouldn't have kids?"

"Because I'm hokage."

Iruka raised an eyebrow at him and goddamn his truth bloodline limit.

Kakashi sighed and started listing. "I work long hours, take regular trips to potentially dangerous places, can't exactly take time off if the kid gets sick or has a school thing, have a high potential for assassination, any children could become targets, and I have no idea how to change a diaper. Need I go on?"

"Ah," Iruka said. "I hadn't thought of all that."

Silence stretched long between them as they stared into their glasses.

"What if you hired a nanny?"

"There are times I have to be gone for weeks and even when I am in the village, my hours aren't close enough to regular to know when I'd need someone to watch the kid."

"What about after?" Iruka tried again.

Kakashi shrugged. There was no set timeline for Naruto to take over. Who knew how old he'd be by then? This just wasn't meant to be.

"You need a partner," Iruka said suddenly.

Kakashi opened his mouth to protest, but Iruka cut him off.

"No, not like that. I know you aren't interested in a relationship. But like, a business partner sort of thing. A parent-partner. Someone to help raise the kid, who can do the things you can't, who can cover your weak points. Someone with experience with kids, who has regular hours, who can be home when you can't, who isn't going to get assassinated or sent on some dangerous mission. You need..." Iruka trailed off, eyes unfocused, looking at something Kakashi couldn't see.

Kakashi stared at him, waiting to hear what exactly he needed.

"You need me," Iruka said after a moment, his voice a quiet steel.

Kakashi blinked. "What?"

"You need me," he said again, like it was the most sensible thing in the world. "I'm not looking for a relationship either. I like kids, have a ton of experience with them. I have a regular, safe job. I can definitely be at any school things you can't. Plus I know how to change diapers. Could probably even teach you. I could be your parent-partner person."

Kakashi stared at him, mind whirling. It sounded crazy, but there was an insane sort of logic to it.

Iruka took his silence for uncertainty.

"Actually," he said quietly, his cheeks a little pink with embarrassment, and for once it wasn't Kakashi spilling his secrets. "I've been thinking about looking into fostering now that I've moved into admin at the Academy. But I was worried the orphanage would reject my application."

Anyone who didn't immediately approve Iruka's application to be a parent -foster, adopted, or otherwise- were lacking in mental faculties as far as Kakashi was concerned. They would also have Naruto to answer to.

He was pretty sure this wasn't how people usually decided to have a baby together, but somehow it seemed right.

What followed was a rather drunk, fairly intense negotiation of how exactly a Hatake-Umino co-parent-partner people arrangement would work. Iruka would move into the currently near-empty hokage residence, he'd take the 18 months of childcare leave that the Academy offered teachers, after which they'd have to find a daycare for the baby. Things only got more detailed from there.

The bartender had to think they were certifiable, but Kakashi didn't care.

Because the truly crazy thing was, it could work.

After Kakashi went home for the night, he told himself that it was just drunken ramblings, that it didn't mean it'd actually happen, that Iruka might forget it all by morning. It was easier to do that than to dwell on the light, hopeful feeling the idea gave him.

But Iruka didn't forget it and he didn't let it drop. He brought it up again and again until eventually Kakashi let himself think it could really happen.

And then it did.

~*~*~

Finding a surrogate was easier than Kakashi had expected. Iruka had suggested Anko, and she was surprisingly okay with it after they made it clear she wouldn't need to have sex with Kakashi (her "oh thank god, because ew" should have been offensive, but really, the feeling was mutual – because ew, snakes). A few ground rules were established. Mainly that they would buy her dango whenever she had a craving for it (daily, Kakashi assumed), and she'd never have to change a diaper or do anything else remotely maternal.

It wasn't until an appointment with Tsunade had been set and Anko had left that Iruka explained.

"That was... suspiciously easy," Kakashi said.

"The topic might have come up before."

"When you first gave me the information?"

"No, when we were teens."

"When you were teens?"

Iruka shook his head. "I had this period where I kept insisting I was at least bi. No one would have believed I was straight, but I clung to the idea that I could have sex with a girl if I really wanted to. Anko was the one that finally called me on it. She said wanting to have kids someday didn't make someone as gay as me bi, any more than fucking two of your own shadow clones counts as a threesome. And if it was such a big deal, she'd have kids for me once I got married as long as I never again tried to convince her I got off to boobs on a nightly basis."

"She didn't buy your passionate love of boobs?"

"Apparently looking up "bouncy" in a thesaurus and using every synonym I'd found wasn't enough to convince an actual boob lover that I was a true believer of their awesomeness. I don't know why. Buoyant and springy are such sexy words."

"Jaunty?" Kakashi asked.

"Jiggly," Iruka agreed solemnly.

Kakashi couldn't help but laugh.

~*~*~

Kakashi had been prepared for the paperwork. After two years as hokage, it hadn't even seemed like that much. Surely bringing new life into the world should involve signing and initialing more forms than authorizing a change in the standard Konoha uniform.

Iruka was technically his domestic partner now, the only way to ensure they both had full parental rights over the child. They joked about the fact that neither of them had been interested in having a serious relationship, and yet somehow they'd ended up, for all intents and purposes, married. Married in the least romantic sense of the word, and most definitely not consummated, but married nevertheless.

If the paperwork hadn't been that bad, the waiting more than made up for it. He hadn't thought about the waiting, though he did realize he should have. They weren't going to get handed a brand new Hatake the moment they turned in their forms. But almost another year felt like a very long time.

Kakashi amused himself by torturing his former students.

"Iruka and I are having a baby," he announced with absolutely no preamble right as Naruto had taken his first bite of ramen.

Naruto choked, Iruka kicked Kakashi under the table. This wasn't how they'd planned to break the news. They'd agreed to work up to it slowly.

"And we're married."

Naruto coughed even harder, Iruka's kick was harder as well, but the look on Naruto's face was worth the bruises.

"What Kakashi means to say is that we've entered into a domestic partnership in order to raise a child together." Iruka's more nuanced explanation wasn't helping Naruto any.

"Married," Kakashi repeated, his grin wicked, "with children."

Naruto looked betrayed. "You got married and didn't invite me to your wedding?"

The glare Iruka shot Kakashi promised switched out condiments and toiletries, itching powder in clothing, and all kinds of retribution. Kakashi was looking forward to it.

It took a long while before Iruka managed to explain the situation. Kakashi was absolutely no help and enjoyed every minute of the chaos that unfolded before him.

"You need to sleep on the couch tonight," Iruka told him as they were leaving Ichiraku.

Kakashi just laughed. "We haven't even moved in together yet." And when they did, they'd be sleeping in different rooms.

"It's the thought that counts," Iruka told him cheerfully, slapping him a little too hard on the back.

Kakashi didn't sleep on the couch, but that was mostly because he didn't have one yet.

~*~*~

Breaking the news to Sakura was significantly less amusing and much more confusing.

"OH MY GOD. I KNEW IT. I KNEW YOU WERE TOGETHER," she screamed in their faces after Kakashi had casually dropped the married and having babies line on her.

The entire restaurant stared at them.

"I mean, I had my suspicions before," she continued like both Kakashi and Iruka weren't too shell-shocked to speak, "but once I heard that Iruka-sensei was looking into surrogates and alternative ways to have children, I just knew. Really, you two, you shouldn't have hidden it for so long. But I'm glad you're finally going public with your relationship."

Kakashi and Iruka sat with their mouths agape. They glanced at each other, trying to see if they had any clue what she was talking about.

"You knew we were together?" Iruka asked after he remembered how to speak.

"Don't worry. You do a good job of hiding it, but it's still super obvious to anyone who knows you both. Ino totally owes me money."

"I wouldn't cash in on that just yet," Kakashi mumbled.

"But seriously," she said, leaning forward with a devilish look in her eyes. "When did you first get together? I've always thought it was around the time of our chuunin exams, but maybe it could have been before that. I mean, what was with all that blushing every time we picked up a new mission or dropped off our report?"

"Umm," Kakashi said.

Iruka nodded in agreement.

This was not at all how this was supposed to go. Things didn't get much better from there. Sakura talked them in circles. If she were left to her own devices, she'd be planning a ceremony for them to reaffirm the vows they hadn't taken, throwing a housewarming party for the house they weren't living in together yet, and starting to prepare for the greatest baby shower Konoha had ever seen.

In the end, Kakashi didn't think they'd convinced her they weren't together like that. She'd nodded in understanding then ruined it completely by winking at them like it was some big secret she was helping them keep. Sometimes Kakashi's former students were very, very scary.

"Do I need to sleep on the couch tonight?" Kakashi asked as they were leaving the restaurant.

Iruka chuckled. "I think karma just paid you back hard enough."

"You won't be laughing when the entire village thinks we're dating tomorrow."

"Married," Iruka corrected, "and apparently a decent number already think we have been dating."

"For over a decade," Kakashi said, feeling a little numb.

"If we've been dating that long, you owe me so much sex," Iruka said.

That startled a chuckle out of Kakashi. "Now, Sensei, if you talk like that, I'm going to think you're only in this relationship for my body."

Iruka snorted. "Your body and your house, actually. You've caught me."

"Ah, well, as long as it's not just my body."

"So, do you have any more of my former students you'd like to scar for life with this news, or are we good?"

"After that, I think we're good."

Iruka just shook his head and started towards his apartment. Kakashi watched him go for a few moments then headed home as well. If he had to be in a decade-long secret relationship with anyone, Iruka wasn't a bad choice, he supposed.

If anything, he made Kakashi's life more interesting.

~*~*~

Given how many life or death situations Kakashi had experienced, waiting for a baby to be born shouldn't have been as stressful as it was. And the wait shouldn't have felt nearly as long as it did, it wasn't like he didn't have more than enough work to keep busy.

They moved Iruka out of his apartment and into the hokage residence. If the town gossips hadn't been talking about them before, that most certainly set them off. They'd decided to stay in the residence until Naruto became hokage, after which they'd likely move to the Hatake estate.

Iruka made him fully furnish the place, including a couch. In case Kakashi needed to sleep on it in the future, he'd explained. Kakashi hadn't lived somewhere with more than the bare minimum of furnishings since he'd been a child. With as often as he was away on missions, he hadn't needed more than that. But now he could see the appeal of having something just a little bit more comfortable and welcoming.

Baby proofing a house with ninjas living in it was unsurprisingly difficult. Kakashi had never realized exactly how many weapons he left laying around before. They ended up buying enough childproof locks they'd likely doubled the company's yearly profits with their purchases alone.

Moving in together well before Anko gave birth allowed both of them a chance to get used to living with someone for the first time in decades. Maybe they were still in some kind of sexless honeymoon period, but somehow it worked. It was crazy how easily Iruka fit into his life. Kakashi did most of the cooking when he was home, Iruka took care of the laundry, and they both avoided cleaning the bathroom until they absolutely had to deal with it.

One month in, he didn't even mind taking his mask off in front of Iruka to eat. He couldn't remember the last time that had happened.

At their three month check up, Tsunade announced with a smirk that they were having twins. Kakashi nearly fainted, though he would deny it emphatically afterwards. Thankfully Iruka had been there to steady him. Not that he'd needed steadying.

Anko, on the other hand, was less than thrilled. "Twins, Iruka? Really?" she asked.

"Look on the bright side," he said, hands still holding onto Kakashi's arm to keep him from collapsing to the floor, "you're eating dango for three now." He gave her a winning grin that didn't completely pacify her, but she did look slightly swayed.

~*~*~

Sitting in a small waiting room just down the hall from the delivery room as the babies were being born was more stressful than every S-rank mission Kakashi had ever been on. Combined. And he wasn't even doing the hard work.

He also thought Anko might kill him after this whole thing was over. Kurenai assured him the murderous rage would pass after the contractions were over, but given the litany of death threats spilling from the delivery room anytime a medic-nin went in or out the door, Kakashi wasn't going to bet the village on that. He was also intensely glad Anko had insisted neither of them could be in the room when it happened. She probably would have thrown anything remotely weapon-like at his head if they'd been in there with her.

Kakashi hadn't wanted to know the sex of the twins before they were born, so they didn't find out until a medic-nin came to inform them that Baby A had been born. A boy, just over six pounds, healthy, with all bits and pieces present and accounted for.

Kakashi stood straight and proud to receive the news, with only minimal support from Iruka to keep from tipping over. He was getting the hang of this.

"What are you going to name him?" Iruka asked after the medic-nin had left and they were waiting for Baby B.

Iruka hadn't pushed him on names. He'd said that even if he was Kakashi's parent-partner person, he knew how important this was to him, so it was up to Kakashi to decide. Kakashi hadn't told him what he was thinking yet.

"Sakumo," he said, relieved when it caused Iruka to smile.

"It's a good name," he said, clasping Kakashi's shoulder.

The waiting continued.

After a while, Iruka leaned over and asked, "You're naming the second one after an Icha Icha character, aren't you?"

"I'm not that big of a fanboy," Kakashi protested.

Iruka raised an eyebrow.

"Okay, fine, maybe I am. But for all of Jiraiya-sama's brilliance, every single one of his characters was named after whatever he was eating at the time. And I'm not evil enough to name my kids Karaage-kun and Musubi-chan."

"Aww, but Shiruko-chan and Taiyaki-kun would have been so appropriate given their birth mother."

Kakashi snorted. "Do you think we could convince her to have more if we stick to Anko-related names? Manju-kun, Daifuku-kun, and Anmitsu-chan have nice rings to them."

"And we can't forget Dorayaki-kun and Yokan-kun."

Kakashi laughed and some of the tension bled out of him. They could do this.

Twenty-three minutes later, the medic-nin came to announce Baby B was also a healthy boy just over six pounds.

Kakashi looked over at Iruka, not even waiting for the question. "Ikkaku," he said. "If it's okay with you."

Iruka gripped Kakashi shoulder and nodded, eyes damp. After a few moments, he got out a rough, quiet "Thank you."

Kakashi's heart felt light in a way he couldn't remember it ever feeling before, and he smiled, nervous, but happy.

They could do this.

When they were finally allowed into the room, Anko was looking only mildly murderous, but Kakashi barely noticed. All he could see were the babies.

They were asleep, just the teeniest bits of wispy gray hair peeking out from under their standard, hospital-issued knit caps.

Iruka stepped up to the cribs next to him and Kakashi looked at him a little helplessly.

Iruka closed one of his eyes and held up a hand enough that it had to be covering the lower half of one of the babies' faces. "I can see the resemblance already," he teased. "To be honest, I thought they might be born with masks, that it might be genetic."

Iruka picked one of the babies up and carefully put him in Kakashi's arms before picking up the other for himself, and Kakashi was overwhelmed with how perfect it all was. At least until the baby he was holding started to cry, and then he was overwhelmed in an entirely different way.

~*~*~

Taking them home for the first time was terrifying. They were tiny and breakable and Kakashi would kill anything that harmed them, he just couldn't guarantee that he wouldn't be the thing that ended up harming them.

It was impossible to sleep that first night. Partially because the babies needed feeding and cleaning and other things he wasn't sure about even after all the non-Icha Icha books he'd read, though Iruka seemed to have it covered. But mostly because he needed to keep checking to make sure that they were there, that they were okay.

Somewhere around 3am, Iruka pushed him into his bedroom and down onto his bed.

"I'll take the next watch," he said.

"But-" Kakashi started.

"Did you cover all the shifts during team missions?"

"No, but-"

"Would you let any member of your team cover all the shifts?"

"No, but-"

"We're a team, Kakashi. You don't cover all the shifts for this either. Sleep. So you don't accidentally declare war on Lightning Country tomorrow."

That seemed reasonable enough. It was easier said than done, but he did manage a few hours of shallow sleep.

And from then on, his life was never the same again. Reality was nothing like their neat plans, but they'd both been smart enough to know that was going to happen from the beginning.

~*~*~

Even with trading watch shifts with Iruka, Kakashi couldn't remember the last semi-decent night of sleep he'd had. It felt like a lifetime ago. Surely sleeping more than a few hours at a time wasn't something he'd experienced in his living memory. It was a mythical creature spoken about in hushed, awed voices, something never actually seen. He was fairly sure he'd been on solo S-rank missions that had left him less sleep deprived. Only fairly sure because the swirling haze of exhaustion kept him from being sure of much of anything at that moment, including his own name.

Both the twins were crying as Kakashi and Iruka converged on their room.

"Did you have colic as a baby?" Iruka grumbled.

"I... don't know," Kakashi said. He'd never had a chance to talk to his parents about what he'd been like as a child.

Iruka made a quiet humming noise that might have been an apology, might have been a greeting to Sakumo. Kakashi watched for a moment as he bent over the crib. His loose sleep pants clung to the curve of his ass, his tank top showed off his toned arms and strong shoulders. His hair wasn't tied up for once and it hung around his face as he picked up the baby. In that moment, Iruka was the hottest thing Kakashi had ever seen.

Ikkaku cried louder and Kakashi came back to reality. He walked over to pick him up. It took them another hour before they got the twins back to sleep. The entire time, Kakashi was aware of Iruka in a way he'd never been before.

He wanted to blame the lack of sleep, but he couldn't. Iruka had always been good-looking, Kakashi had just never thought about him in a sexual way. He'd been a colleague, and while it wasn't until recently that they'd become friends, he'd always been just a step or two away. The closest thing Asuma'd had to a brother, the Passionate Teacher of their Youthful Students, the person always at the mission desk to welcome him home and thank him for his hard work. Kakashi had respected Iruka for as long as he'd known him, and for Kakashi, sex wasn't something you had with people you respected and would see again after the night was over. But a part of him was starting to wonder if it had to be like that.

Even without the Sharingan, the scene seemed to have recorded itself in stunning detail in his mind, replaying on loop for days after.

~*~*~

Just a little past the three and a half month mark, the colic subsided and Kakashi started to get enough sleep that he didn't feel like he was in danger of passing out at his desk anymore. He was also lucid enough to realize exactly how far behind his paperwork had become. Iruka had once joked about him accidentally declaring war on Lightning Country due to lack of sleep, but Kakashi was more afraid he'd wake up one morning to find all the sanitation-nin had gone on strike because he hadn't signed their paychecks for the last three months. Garbage would pile up in the streets while Kakashi desperately searched the piles of paperwork in his office for the right forms to authorize their pay. It would all culminate in villagers throwing rotten fruit at his giant stone face to express their disdain for his lack of administrative skills. Maybe Iruka would realize Kakashi had been right all along, he really shouldn't have been allowed to have children. He'd leave, taking the twins with him.

Kakashi knew he was letting his imagination get the better of him, but looking at the mountains of backlogged work he needed to do, he figured at least parts of his nightmare weren't completely delusional.

Over the next few weeks, he spent more and more time in the office, trying to chip away at the piles and making little headway, coming home later every night. By the end of the month, he was all but camping out in his office.

Until one day Iruka stormed in, Naruto in tow.

Kakashi's first instinct was that something was wrong with the twins.

"Before you ask," Iruka said, clearly seeing the panic on Kakashi's face, "they're fine. Sakura is watching them at home."

A relieved breath whooshed out of Kakashi.

"You, on the other hand," Iruka continued, "are not fine."

Kakashi opened his mouth to protest. He just needed a few more weeks, a couple months tops, and he'd get caught up again. Or at least, be marginally less behind. But Iruka cut him off with a glare.

"Emergencies aside, you will be home in time for dinner. Am I making myself clear?"

"Yes, sir," Kakashi answered, standing up a little straighter, responding to the command in Iruka's voice.

"Good. Now, from tomorrow, Naruto will be acting as your intern for at least a month."

"And today?"

"Today, he will be sorting that pile." Iruka gestured arbitrarily at one of the larger piles in the room. Naruto groaned. "While you and I go inspect the onsen."

"Inspect the onsen?" Kakashi asked, feeling like he was still in the stupefying fog of sleep deprivation.

Iruka held up a mission scroll. "The owner of the onsen has requested a two-man team inspect one of the pools to make sure it is sufficiently relaxing."

"That's an actual mission?"

"I have a mission scroll right here, don't I?"

"But-" Kakashi started to protest. He definitely hadn't authorized any missions like that in the last few days. Behind Iruka's back, Naruto made desperate don't argue with Iruka-sensei motions. Kakashi decided that seemed like wise advice, and instead of protesting, allowed Iruka to march him to the onsen district at the edge of town.

"Thank you for accepting this mission, Iruka-sensei, Hokage-sama. It's of the utmost importance to the livelihood of my business, I wouldn't have trusted it to anyone else." His grave tone was belied by the sly wink he gave Iruka when he thought Kakashi wasn't looking.

He led them to a private room, one that Kakashi could only assume was a honeymoon suite, clearly meant for a couple. They hadn't celebrated their not-really-a-marriage with a similarly parodied honeymoon, so maybe this fake mission was appropriate after all.

They scrubbed down in the small bathroom that led out to the secluded, open-air onsen.

Kakashi sunk into the water with a sigh, the bones in his body all but melting from the heat. It was only then that Iruka lost the tense severity hanging around him, like he couldn't relax until he'd made sure Kakashi had.

They sat there, only the sound of water, the rustling of leaves, and the occasional bird call in the air.

As they soaked, Kakashi realized it was the first time in over a year, since before the boys had even been born, that he'd let himself relax completely. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been to an onsen.

"Thank you," he said, breaking the comfortable silence between them. "I needed this."

"I know," Iruka hummed, low and more attractive that it should have been.

The longer they sat, the more Kakashi had to try not to look. He couldn't help it though. The tips of Iruka's ponytail were wet, occasional drops of water falling from them. His eyes were closed and his head was tilted back, revealing the long line of his neck. Kakashi didn't want to lick it, that wasn't something you did to your friends.

He might have caught Iruka looking as well when they stood up to leave, but he couldn't quite believe it. He had a nasty scar on his chest from the war, that was probably what Iruka's eyes had lingered on, if anything.

They dried off and went back into the main room, only to find a romantic dinner for two spread out on a low table, cushions placed close together like a couple might sit.

"I think the owner got the wrong idea," Iruka said, blushing.

It was easy enough to laugh it off, to move the cushions to opposite sides of the table and have a nice, friendly dinner, even if part of Kakashi wished it weren't the wrong idea.

Sakura was a little frazzled by the time they got back to their place, but everyone was alive, so Kakashi counted it as a win.

They'd only been gone a few hours, but Kakashi felt more rested than he had in months, ready to face everything life would throw at him again. And after picking up Sakumo and watching Iruka do the same to Ikkaku, it felt exactly like what it was, home.

~*~*~

Coming home to someone everyday, to his family, soothed a part of Kakashi he hadn't realized was still hurting. He'd thought he'd come to terms with his childhood and his past, but that wasn't quite the same as moving on from it.

There was a regularity in his life now that had never been there before. The residence was chaotic and messy most days, with only brief respites while the twins slept, but at the same time, there was a kind of peace in the chaos that Kakashi had never expected to find.

He found himself pushing harder to get through all the work he needed to do just to get home faster, occasionally bringing some paperwork home instead of doing it at the office because the constant stream of babble coming from the twins was comforting. As was knowing that Iruka was there. Having Naruto as an intern helped too, it gave Kakashi enough room to breathe at work, so he didn't come home exhausted.

When he was a child, he'd been left to fend for himself at an age when most were just starting the Academy. He'd gotten used to making meals for himself, eating alone, doing his own dishes. The fact that he was using those skills for someone else made it all just a little better.

More than once he caught himself transfixed as he watched Iruka care for the twins. His strong, weapon-calloused hands gentle and careful as he bathed them, his large, intelligent eyes going soft as he held them.

Kakashi was struck by how much he wanted to come up behind Iruka, wrap his arms around him, rest his chin on Iruka's shoulder, and only part of it could be attributed to wanting to look at the baby he was holding.

But he tried not to dwell on that. There was no point to it, it'd just ruin this good thing that Kakashi had somehow stumbled into.

They got to know each other even more than they had before. Iruka had quirks, dozens of them, and Kakashi relished finding them out one by one.

Iruka refused to throw out his sweats before they were paper-thin. He wandered around their house in worn, comfortable-looking sweatpants and shirts that were sexier than they had any right to be.

He worked out whenever he got the chance, in the little breaks between feedings and cleaning and play. Seeing him doing sit ups and push ups was hotter than Kakashi ever would have expected. Especially when he was doing them shirtless. The one time Kakashi had walked into the living room to find Iruka doing shirtless, one-armed push ups had him turning on his heel and walking right back out again. There was only so much his sanity could handle.

Shortly after he'd moving in, Iruka had made Kakashi put all his Icha Icha books in his bedroom. In case the children see, he'd said in a scandalized tone, like there were already elementary school kids in the house, instead of years before they'd have children capable of reading.

But then one day when the twins were nearly six months old, Kakashi came home to find Iruka curled up on the couch, so engrossed in Paradise that he hadn't even notice Kakashi walk in the door.

Kakashi couldn't help it, he snuck up behind him and whispered in his ear, "How do you like it?"

Iruka nearly hit the ceiling he jumped so high, throwing the book at Kakashi in some kind of defensive reflex. He was blushing bright red, one hand coming up to cover the ear Kakashi had whispered in.

"Wait until you read Tactics," Kakashi said, waggling an eyebrow in as lewd a manner as he could manage and enjoying the fact that it made Iruka's blush even darker. "You'll have to tell me your favorite scenes when you're finished." For once, he didn't care if his tone was flirty. If Iruka called him on it, he'd say he was joking, trying to get a rise out of him. Iruka didn't call him on it though.

But the thing that really killed Kakashi was the time he came home to find all his ninken sprawled around their living room even though he hadn't summoned them. The twins were propped up against Bull's side and Iruka was reading a children's book to the ten of them, like it was the most natural thing in the world for a pack of ninken to be part of story time.

Kakashi patted himself down and realized he was missing his summoning scroll. It wasn't until later in the evening that Iruka admitted to lifting it while Kakashi was in the shower that morning.

"Every boy needs a dog," he said a little sheepishly after Kakashi had asked him about it.

"Or eight?"

"Or eight," Iruka agreed.

"Just ask the next time you want to use my scroll."

"No need," Iruka said, looking embarrassed but pleased. "They were complaining that, and I'm quoting here, 'Boss doesn't let us see the pups enough.' So... we may have signed a contract of our own with the understanding that they get biweekly play dates at least."

Kakashi just laughed. He couldn't even be mad that he had to share his summons with someone else. Because of course his ninken would demand something like that.

Besides, he was pretty sure he was willing to share everything he had with Iruka.

~*~*~

He didn't realize exactly how bad he had it until the morning he woke from a dream of being curled up with Iruka on the couch. They'd just put the twins to bed and had settled in to read for the night. Iruka's weight was warm and welcome against his side and Kakashi couldn't help but lean into him a little more, to turn and nuzzle against his neck. That was it. They hadn't even kissed in the dream, but Kakashi woke up with his whole body humming with happiness and contentment. It made his usual morning wood more persistent than usual.

It was so easy to reach a hand into his pants and stroke himself slowly as he imagined the feeling of Iruka pressed up against him, waking up with him, maybe exchanging a few lazy morning kisses before heading to the kitchen to fix breakfast together. They'd get to the sex a little later in the day, possibly while the boys were at school, but before that, they'd enjoy the slow burn of it under their skin, the anticipation of waiting.

Part of him felt foolish getting off to something so domestic, like he should be thinking about sex the way he'd always had it before. Something hard and fast, designed to take the edge off an adrenaline rush or take care of a physical need he couldn't quite scratch on his own, something to distract from a mission gone wrong. It'd always been as close to anonymous as possible, and he never bothered to think about someone specific when he got himself off. There was no need. Sex was physical, not emotional. It didn't matter who he was with, he didn't need a connection to them.

He tried to imagine fucking Iruka the way he'd fucked other people. Meeting him in a bar, ending up in some back alley or dimly lit bathroom, not kissing because that would require pulling down his mask and Kakashi didn't do that with the people he fucked. It'd be momentarily satisfying for both of them, but nothing more. They wouldn't go home together, they wouldn't fall asleep together, it'd be done and over with. The idea of it should be hot. Iruka did have a great ass, pushing him up against a wall and fucking him should be appealing. It wasn't. At least not by itself. It left Kakashi feeling cold and hollow, aching with how lacking, how incomplete it was. But the idea of pushing Iruka up against the shower wall and taking his time as they fucked, then cuddling with him in bed after, that had Kakashi's toes curling.

He wanted lazy mornings in bed and slow kisses that didn't necessarily lead to sex, the warm press of Iruka's body against him as they read on the couch, stealing bits of food from each other as they cooked a meal together. He wanted soft touches without any other reason than the closeness of it. As cliched as it sounded, he didn't want to fuck Iruka, he wanted to do something more, something that would probably come with an embarrassingly saccharine label. He wanted connection. He wanted all the cheesy things he would have scoffed at before. Staring into Iruka's eyes while they moved together, unhurried and perfect.

Now that was something he could get off to, and he did. More than he wanted to admit. He felt guilty about it every single time. Because that wasn't the arrangement they had, and it seemed like a dick move to push for something Iruka had never signed up for. Wanting more than this was a spectacular way to fuck up the first truly good thing he'd had in his life for a very long time.

So he didn't say anything. He didn't do anything. He just watched and wanted and tried to ignore it all.

Which was easier said than done because Sakura was still convinced they were together, and while Naruto wasn't, he thought they should be.

"Don't you like Iruka-sensei?" Naruto asked out of the blue, brow creasing while they were chipping away at the mountain of work in Kakashi's office.

"Of course I like Iruka," Kakashi replied. "I wouldn't be living with him if I didn't."

"No, I mean like like."

"Naruto," Kakashi said with a sigh, "we've talked about this. Iruka and I aren't together like that."

"But why don't you want to be?" He looked offended, like Kakashi wasn't treating Iruka right.

Kakashi shook his head. "We're friends, Naruto, we agreed to do this as friends. There's nothing more to it than that."

Naruto frowned. He let it drop for the rest of the day, but Kakashi knew it wouldn't be the last time it came up.

~*~*~

Anko came to visit from time to time, but Kakashi always felt it was more to see Iruka than the twins.

"Eh, I guess they're cute and all, but I'm so glad I don't have to change them. Speaking of which..." she said, holding out Sakumo to Iruka while wrinkling her nose. "I think this one is in need of some freshening up."

Kakashi stood up instead, taking Sakumo from Anko and heading into the twins' room to change him.

"He changes diapers now?" Kakashi could hear her stage whisper as he walked down the hall. "Iruka, marry that man."

Iruka laughed. "Technically, I already have."

"You know what I mean."

Iruka's voice lowered, but Kakashi could still hear it. "Anko, drop it. It's not going to happen." There was a tone to his voice that sounded like irritation, like this was an old joke she'd brought up one too many times and Iruka was sick of it.

Kakashi closed the door behind him so he didn't have to hear any more.

When he returned, a freshly diapered Sakumo in his arms, they were both joking about something else, like it'd never happened.

~*~*~

At nine months and 18 days old, Ikkaku said his first word, edging out Sakumo by two full days. The twins had been excitedly babbling at each other when Kakashi and Iruka had gone to get them ready for dinner.

As they'd walked towards the crib, Ikkaku had declared, "Dada!"

They'd been thrilled, and then confused.

"Which one of us does he mean?" Iruka asked, laughing.

Ikkaku held up his arms to both of them and Kakashi decided it didn't really matter, they could work out the specifics of what the boys would call them later.

~*~*~

Just a few weeks shy of their first birthday, Kakashi came home to find them both standing, holding onto the kotatsu, with only minimal wobbling. They'd been doing that for a while, pulling themselves up to things and navigating around the room that way.

Iruka noticed him first, looking up at him and smiling, but the twins weren't far behind.

Sakumo giggled wildly at the sight of him, let go of the table and took a few unsteady steps towards him.

Despite the shock of seeing him take his first unsupported steps, Kakashi managed to catch him right before he fell, scooping him up, a little stunned. Iruka was there immediately, pressed up against his side, arm around Kakashi's waist as he hugged them both. His eyes were bright and shining with triumph and Kakashi wanted the moment to last forever.

Not wanting to be left out, Ikkaku tried a few shaky steps of him own, managing two before collapse was inevitable and Iruka grabbed him. Then he was back next to Kakashi, pressed against him again, and they stood there, celebrating the new milestone and making an appropriate amount of fuss over the boys. It was all so perfect, Kakashi didn't know what he'd ever done to deserve this.

He wasn't even thinking about ways it might be just a little more perfect if only, but then Iruka rested his head on Kakashi's shoulder for a few brief seconds and Kakashi didn't breathe for fear of breaking the moment.

But Iruka caught himself quickly, pulling away and putting a little distance between them, though still standing close. His cheeks were a little pink, but that was probably from the excitement of the boys' first steps.

Kakashi didn't push it. It wasn't worth ruining this. Because this was fine. This was enough.

~*~*~

The twins' first birthday party was a chaotic whirl of presents, messy faces, and screaming children, and Kakashi loved every moment of it. That didn't mean it wasn't exhausting.

After all the other babies and children had been taken away by their parents, after they'd managed to settle the twins down, and they'd made a little sense of the chaos that was now scattered all over the residence, they collapsed together on the couch.

Iruka settled against him in a careless, exhausted sprawl that stole Kakashi's breath. Iruka leaned his head back against the couch and Kakashi stared at the line of his neck.

"Is it okay if we never move again?" Iruka asked, low and mumbled.

"Yes," Kakashi said, not quite able to keep the breathiness out of his voice. This was far too close to his fantasies to be safe. All he could do was hope Iruka took it for tiredness, not what it really was.

Iruka didn't. He turned his head so he could study Kakashi's face, reaching up to tug down his mask when what he saw wasn't enough. Kakashi let him pull the material down then trace his fingers along Kakashi's jaw. His eyes slid shut as Iruka' fingers found their way into his hair. He allowed himself to reach out and touch, hesitant at first then more when Iruka didn't pull away.

He opened his eyes to see Iruka's reaction as he trailed his fingers up his arm, over the curve of his shoulder, to the back of his neck. Iruka's eyes were hooded as he watched Kakashi in return, both of their breaths becoming shallow. He tucked a strand of hair behind Iruka's ear.

"Is this okay?" Kakashi asked, voice barely above a whisper.

"Yes," Iruka replied, tilting his head in invitation.

Kakashi took it.

He shifted, pulled Iruka closer, tipped their foreheads together and for a moment just breathed him in, letting his fingertips rest on the side of Iruka's neck and feeling the strong, quick rhythm of his heart.

Iruka tilted his head again, bringing his mouth against Kakashi's. The kiss was slow and deep and exactly what Kakashi had been wanting. He lost track of how much time they spent on the couch, just the two of them, trading kisses like breath until he had to pull away.

"Sleep with me tonight," he said, before he could think too much about it.

Iruka laughed softly. "As appealing as that sounds, I'd literally fall asleep on you."

"Good," Kakashi said. "Me too. Just sleep. I just want..." He trailed off, not sure how to finish that sentence. He just wanted this. Iruka next to him, the feeling of him close.

"Yeah," Iruka said, seeming to get exactly what Kakashi meant. "Okay."

They hauled themselves to their feet, sleepily got ready for bed, brushed teeth and changed clothes in their own rooms, before falling into Kakashi's bed together.

Iruka fit into his arms, into his bed, just as perfectly as Kakashi had known he would.

~*~*~

It wasn't surprising how easily they fell into a relationship, not after living together for over a year, after sleepless nights and uniforms covered in spit up and more dirty diapers than Kakashi had ever realized were possible. After stressing over little colds and slight temperatures and everything else that had happened. Considering they'd been basically a married couple already, not much changed except now they were sharing a room, not just a house.

They took it slowly, neither needing sex to prove what they already felt, enjoying the wait, knowing it would happen. There was no urgency, no need to rush it. But Kakashi did get his morning kisses, even if they never quite had the luxury to be lazy about them in the semi-organized chaos of getting ready for work and getting the twins fed. Though occasionally at night they did. They'd kiss until they were breathless and jack each other off like they had all the time in the world to learn each other's bodies.

Besides, getting interrupted mid-handjob by crying babies wasn't as bad as Kakashi assumed getting interrupted mid-first-coitus would be. And the twins had an uncanny ability that allowed them to interrupt whenever things seemed to be getting just a little more heated than usual.

They arranged for Naruto and Sakura to babysit for them. Naruto was thrilled when they admitted they wanted a date night, a real one, though after a moment he seemed to realize the implications of them wanting a night to themselves.

"Have fun," he said, then immediately regretted it. "I mean, not like that. Well, you can, but, ugh. Just don't tell me about it."

"Wasn't planning on it," Kakashi assured him while Iruka buried his face in his hands.

Sakura just gave them a knowing smirk.

Leaving the twins with someone else for an entire night was a stress all on its own, but they appreciated Naruto and Sakura babysitting.

They ended up in the Hatake estate. It was disused, but quiet and perfect, like they were in their own little world. A few years back, Kakashi might have scoffed at the idea of making love, but that was exactly what it was. Slow and intense, connected to someone in a way he'd never experienced before, and like everything else with Iruka, exactly what Kakashi needed.

Afterwards, as they were lying in bed, Kakashi could picture it all. A few years from now, when Naruto was hokage and Kakashi was retired. There'd be a mess of ninken and kids running around the grounds, laughter driving out old ghosts, new memories being created, the stale air of the past being replaced by vibrant life.

He didn't say any of that, but from the way Iruka was looking out the wide windows of the bedroom over the moonlit property, Kakashi knew he could see it too.

~*~*~

After his 18 months of leave were up, Iruka went back to the Academy, and was eventually promoted to principal.

Naruto decided it was finally time for him to take over, and Kakashi gratefully retired.

Even for all her death threats during the delivery of the twins, Iruka somehow managed to convince Anko to carry one more child for them. This time the baby was biologically Iruka's, and Kakashi loved her to pieces. The twins, only months away from starting at the Academy, swore they'd protect Kohari forever with all the fierceness six-year-olds could muster.

Kakashi couldn't imagine a single way his life could get better. Even if they had done things a little out of order, he wouldn't want it any other way.

~*~*~