When they made Iruka Hokage, it came with a very specific requirement.
“Marriage?” he asked, blinking down at the large scroll delineating all the rules a successor to the post had to follow in order to be eligible. He looked up, pushing his large brimmed hat out of the way. “You’re joking.”
“I’m afraid not,” Tsunade said, pouring herself a drink.
“But,” Iruka started, then stopped.
“But I’m not married,” Tsunade said for him. “And neither was the Second.”
After a moment, Iruka said, “Yes.”
“We could get away with it,” she said. “You can’t.”
Then she offered him the dish of sake.
That’s not fair, Iruka wanted to say, but he guessed it was obvious enough.
He accepted the drink.
“I guess the First took the ‘Konoha is a family’ thing way too seriously?” Kotetsu offered.
Iruka tried to glare, but it probably came out as more of a pout.
“You’ll find someone,” Izumo said, patting Iruka’s back before stopping abruptly. “Er, sorry.”
“I’m still your friend, you can comfort me,” Iruka grumbled, letting his head drop on the Hokage’s dining table—his dining table. The hat was on a peg in the foyer. “I don’t want to find someone.”
“Did no one tell you beforehand?” Izumo asked.
“No,” Iruka mumbled.
“I don’t think he’d be acting like this if he’d known,” Kotetsu said over Iruka’s head.
Iruka heard the sound of liquid sloshing into a glass—Izumo pouring him another drink. He really should stop. He had drunk half of Tsunade’s bottle of sake and now he was drowning the rest of his sorrows in plum wine. At this rate, he might mess up some paperwork tomorrow and start a war.
He lifted his head and reached for his glass.
“This is a nightmare,” Iruka groaned into his hands, his words further muffled by the hat and the fabric framing his face. It was such an awkward hat, and it looked so dumb on him. Why was he wearing it every day? And the robes too? Why didn’t he stick to more practical everyday clothes, like Tsunade had?
Because Konoha needed the stability and comfort tradition offered, after having lost so much, a wise many-flanged voice said in his mind. It sounded like all the council members at once, monotone and ominous.
He groaned again, wishing he hadn’t drunk so much the previous day.
“Chin up, Hokage-sensei,” Kakashi said, leaning against the Hokage’s—Iruka’s—desk. “You’ll find someone.”
“I don’t want to,” Iruka said, looking up, the words more vehement than he had intended for them to sound. He blushed and looked back down. “What I mean is I’d rather not.”
“Duty comes first,” Kakashi said, voice soft. In a flash, he relieved Iruka of his hat and put it on with a flourish, then winked at Iruka—he could do that now that he had both eyes. “Want some help shouldering it?”
“What?” Iruka asked, then startled and blushed harder. “I can’t ask you to do that.”
“Actually, I’m asking you,” Kakashi said, lowering the brim of the hat. It cast his face into enticing shadows. “So, what do you say?”
Iruka stared at him, trying to read his expression, then finally sighed.
Iruka told Naruto he was getting married to Kakashi over dinner. He had invited the boy and Hinata over, like he did whenever his schedule allowed for an early dinner and not a late-night snack before face-planting into bed. Kakashi had offered to be there too, but Iruka had thought it best to deliver the news on his own.
Naruto, predictably, scrunched up his face. “What? Since when are you dating?”
“It wasn’t an official relationship,” Iruka said. Technically, there hadn’t been anything to make official. There still wasn’t, no matter how much Iruka would like that to be the case. He smiled, pushing the thought away before it sent him into a depressive spiral. “We’re making it official now.”
Hinata took a polite bite of her dinner, obviously aware of Iruka’s bullshit.
Naruto didn’t seem convinced either, but he let it go with a small grimace. “Just don’t let him make you weird like him.”
Iruka chuckled. “Weird like him?”
“Yeah, reading Icha Icha at work and stuff.” Naruto pointed at Iruka with his chopsticks, expression earnest. “Don’t you dare! That’s my future office, you know!”
“Congratulations, Hokage-sama,” Hinata said, giving a small bow from where she was seated.
“What? Oh, er, yeah!” Naruto gave Iruka a thumbs-up, the lines of his face melting into a radiant grin. “Congrats, Iruka-sensei! If he treats you wrong, tell me and I’ll kick his ass for you!”
Iruka laughed then, bright and light. “Thank you.”
The wedding was, in one word, bombastic. If Iruka had been able to have the kind of ceremony he wanted, it would have been a quiet affair. Instead, it was an open shinto ceremony where the entirety of Konoha and then some was welcome to drop by and give the newlyweds their blessings and well-wishes.
The actual guest list was barely smaller, and so Iruka spent most of his wedding day bowing and shaking hands, looking smart and timeless in his ceremonial Hokage robes—all flaming red and swirling gold and gleaming white. Kakashi stayed by his side for most of it, spruced up in his traditional wedding outfit, dark and silken and soothing.
Whenever his husband—husband!—did leave his side, Naruto or Gai or one of Iruka’s closest friends would take his place. It was a small detail that Iruka appreciated immensely, and so despite the growing ache in his feet and the growing discomfort of wearing quite so many layers, his smile remained genuine.
They hadn’t discussed the matter of intimacy and Iruka assumed that, both of them being adults who had willingly entered a marriage contract with each other, there would be no restrictions. They would go to bed, and they would act like married couples did.
This was a problem.
Mainly because Iruka felt awful about having married the man he loved when Kakashi was just performing his duty. It was terrible, but Kakashi had been the one to propose, and he had hounded Iruka about it for weeks after Iruka had turned him down that first time. This made Iruka feel less terrible.
But it was still terrible.
Also, how did you kiss someone with a face mask? Did you leave it on? Did you pull it down?
Was Iruka allowed to pull it down?
This was terrible.
“Hey,” Kakashi said.
Iruka almost jumped out of his skin. “Yes?”
They had left the party late in the evening, arriving at the Hokage Residence shy of midnight. Iruka hurried to take off his hat, feeling silly that he hadn’t. He usually took it off the second he stepped into the house, but this time he had just walked on autopilot to the bedroom.
“You okay?” Kakashi asked, moving closer.
Maybe? He was far too aware of the bed. He sighed, smiling. “It’s just been a very long day.”
Kakashi hummed, then said, “Well, let your good husband help you unwind.”
Kakashi’s eyes sparkled as he took the hat from Iruka. He sent it sailing, very gracefully, to land on the corner of the vanity’s mirror. The hat’s fabric settled with a sigh.
Iruka snorted. “Show-off.”
Kakashi turned to him, pulling down his mask so Iruka could see his smile.
“Your show-off now.”
Three months in, Iruka still felt guilty about the whole thing. ‘The whole thing’ being that he had married the man he loved when said man didn’t feel the same way about him. Kakashi was the most wonderful husband Iruka could’ve ever asked for, too, which only made things worse.
It wasn’t that Iruka hadn’t expected him to be good at it, but Kakashi was doing absolutely everything one had to do in order to win the prize for Husband of the Year. Sometimes, Iruka almost believed that what they had was real.
Then he remembered Kakashi’s words.
Duty comes first.
If asked, Iruka could not explain why he had lied that his relationship with Kakashi had existed previous to their engagement. There was no logical reason. There was no need. Marriages of convenience happened. They were less common, but they still took place. Their own union was a testimony to that.
Except a marriage of convenience benefited both parties. Kakashi was getting nothing from their contract except bragging rights for having married the Rokudaime. Thus, Iruka wasn’t comfortable with saying that there had been nothing between them before. It felt a little too much like having ordered Kakashi to marry him. Of course, Iruka hadn’t, but people talked, and Iruka would like to keep that sort of unpleasantness from ever rearing its head.
There was no wedded bliss, no mutual love to nurture and grow, but there was happiness in their bond. Iruka led their village to the best of his ability, and Kakashi went on missions whose details Iruka was privy to for the first time in his life, and there was fear when they parted and joy when they reunited, and there was happiness in their bond.
They hadn’t had anything before, but what they had now was enough.
For their one-year anniversary, Kakashi woke Iruka up with a kiss and breakfast in bed. This wasn’t unusual, but the rose petals scattered over the tray and the heart-shaped biscuits were. There was even a muffin with I love you scrawled on top in Kakashi’s chicken-scratch handwriting.
Iruka tried not to look like he was drowning when he finally made sense of the sugary strokes. He grinned at Kakashi, because that was what grateful husbands did, and they ate the biscuits together in silence. Kakashi was sitting on the edge of the bed, on Iruka’s side, and he kept leaning in for sweet little kisses. Iruka was all too happy to oblige, but when the time came to eat the muffin, he realised his hands had started shaking.
Kakashi noticed, and his expression fell. “You don’t… like it?”
“No, I do.” I love it. I love you. “I like it a lot. It’s just—your handwriting.”
Kakashi frowned. “Huh?”
“It’s so bad,” Iruka said, but his smile was watery.
“Hey.” Kakashi cupped his face in his hands. “Iruka, are you okay?”
Iruka nodded. “You can’t just say things like this, though.”
Kakashi looked, if anything, more puzzled than before. “Like what?”
Iruka tapped the muffin very gently. Some of the frosting stuck to his finger.
“Oh,” Kakashi said, letting go of Iruka’s face. “I’m sorry, I thought…”
Kakashi’s words trailed into silence, and Iruka looked away as he dabbed at the corners of his eyes. He felt, not for the first time, terrible about this whole thing. And now Kakashi would know. He would know how Iruka felt, and things would get so awkward between them. Kakashi would realise it had never been about duty to Iruka, not completely, and it would be a mess.
“I thought,” Kakashi said, tone measured, “you felt the same.”
Iruka froze, then stared at Kakashi.
“Um,” Kakashi said, a blush creeping into his face. He scratched the back of his head. “Yeah?”
Iruka continued to stare. He flicked through the hand seals to break a genjutsu. Kakashi snorted, then slapped a hand over his mouth. Iruka reached over and smacked his arm.
“Don’t laugh, you’re terrible,” Iruka said, but he was laughing too, feeling light and bubbly.
“I’m terrible?” Kakashi gave him a narrowed look. “Me?”
“Yes, you, you’re terrible,” Iruka said, then picked up the muffin and leant in for a kiss.