Summary: The first time Iruka saw him he didn't believe he was mad. That was the only time he didn't.
Spoilers and/or Warnings: None
Word Count: ~7.700
Title, Author and URL of original story: A Dangerous Man by shayheyred
Notes: I had a lot of fun remixing this, though before my assignement came I had never even read Naruto. This was the story that wanted to be remixed though, and I have to admit I got kind of attached to the characters after getting familiar with both the canon and the story. I hope I did the beautiful orginal justice. Also, thanks to my betas doire and vix_spes for the amazing work with this.
1. Of Light And Shadows And The Lies We Tell Ourselves.
The first time Iruka saw him he didn't believe he was mad.
That was the only time he didn't.
He had told himself it was normal to see strange things: it was a trick of the light, he had barely managed to sleep a couple of hours thanks to Kakashi and his inexhaustible sex-drive, and to top it all he had dreamt of Mizuki.
Of Mizuki's betrayal to be precise.
So the first time he saw him Iruka just squeezed his eyes shut hard, trying to keep his heart inside his chest, and when he opened them again there was nothing there, just the light of the sun glinting off something somewhere and creating strange shadows.
It was a good explanation, and as soon as his heart rate went back to normal he made himself believe it.
He did well during the day, the episode leaving his mind as soon as he arrived at the Academy: one needed to have one's entire focus when dealing with those kids or risk ending up in the hospital. Especially with Naruto around. He had to wonder who Kakashi was punishing when he sent the boy back to the Academy for more training, Naruto or Iruka.
By the time he arrived home after classes he was so tired he didn't even have the energy to spare to remember the incident, mentioning it never even crossed his mind.
He just wanted to go to bed and catch up with his much needed sleep; it was his day off at the mission desk and he was lucky to have time to do exactly that.
Kakashi was waiting for him, dinner was ready and the expression on Kakashi's face meant his chances of getting some sleep weren't good.
"I have to leave for a mission in the morning," Kakashi said as they sat down to eat.
Iruka looked at him, pushing the usual worry to the back of his mind. If he let himself get concerned about Kakashi's safety every time he went on a mission he would drive himself insane. "Difficult one?" he asked biting off a piece of meat and chewing on it thoughtfully.
"Nah, a B-ranked one. I'll take my team; we'll be away for about a week." Which meant Naruto-free classes for the rest of the week. Good.
Iruka nodded and they continued eating calmly, chatting about something and nothing at the same time. Life as usual, nothing worth mentioning.
That night Iruka didn't sleep a wink, and again it was all Kakashi's fault.
The second, third and fourth times were almost the same, and again Iruka told himself it was nothing, though he was having a harder time believing it.
Kakashi had been gone for a couple of days and Iruka finally managed to get some sleep, falling on the bed so exhausted after a long day, first at the Academy and later at the mission desk. He barely had the time to get undressed before his body toppled onto the mattress and his eyes closed.
It was always like this when Kakashi was out on a mission, though the last couple of days had been worse than usual. It didn't help the fact that even though he was sleeping, it wasn't as restful as it should be. He always woke up with his face wet and the unsettling feeling he had been dreaming about the same thing again and again.
Why Mizuki? Why?
It wasn't so surprising, then, that he'd see Mizuki's face on anyone walking past him on the streets. He'd look up at the sight of a familiar face, and for a heart-stopping moment he'd be staring at Mizuki's smirking face before the features resolved themselves into the harmless ones of Genma, or Raidou or someone so different from Mizuki there was no way for Iruka to mistake them.
Iruka kept telling himself it was normal to think about Mizuki: he had just moved in with Kakashi, and all the stress that entailed was bound to remind him of the last person he shared his life with, and the way everything had ended between them. It wasn't a comfort, but it was enough to assure him he wasn't losing it completely.
Or it was until the fifth time.
It was one thing to confuse the person you've been dreaming about for the past days with random people on the street, it was another thing to see him standing on the roof of the Academy. Iruka didn't even know what made him look up at that precise moment, only that when he did Mizuki was staring down at him from the roof, a cruel smirk on his face. It was impossible, but Iruka didn't doubt his senses enough to not do something about it.
He did what any shinobi with an ounce of common sense would have done: he didn't question how was it possible for Mizuki to be there when he should, by all accounts, be locked up in prison for the rest of his pathetic treacherous life, he called up the closest passing shinobi and got his help going after the bastard.
Iruka was in the roof in a heartbeat, staring in puzzlement at Asuma coming from the other side. There was nobody else there. He looked around, scanning their surroundings carefully not fully believing what his senses were telling him: Mizuki wasn't, and had probably never been, there. They had taken the only possible route in or off the roof; if someone tried to flee they would have been forced to fight him.
But the roof was empty except for them.
"I-I saw-" Iruka stammered, embarrassed and more than a bit worried.
Asuma must have read the confusion and concern on his face because he shrugged amiably and gave him a pat on the shoulder. "Could happen to anyone. The bastard did a number on you; it's normal you thought you saw him," he said, not putting Iruka's mind at ease at all. "Don't sweat it."
Iruka nodded numbly, jumping off the roof and going back home, a voice in the back of his head which sounded eerily like Mizuki's telling him it wasn't normal at all.
He kept thinking about it, and that night his sleep was restless and plagued with the same old nightmares, the scar on his back throbbing in sympathy with the remembered pain of the betrayal.
Mizuki had been a bastard and a traitor to his village, but that was nothing compared to the betrayal of the trust and love Iruka had had for him. It was no wonder Iruka was so obsessed with him.
He forced himself to relax and let go of it; things would never improve if he kept thinking about Mizuki all the time.
For the next couple of days Iruka didn't see anything unusual and he started to relax, pushing the past day's worries off his mind and feeling lighter every minute he didn't see Mizuki.
And then he was there again.
One minute he was facing his class, explaining about the proper posture and focus needed to throw a shuriken to twenty rowdy children, and the next second he was jumping out of the window, kunai in hand and ready to chase the shadow of Mizuki, who had been staring at him through the open window. Iruka didn't even give himself time to think, the instant he saw him out of the corner of his eye he was in pursuit.
He jumped out of the window, twenty pairs of startled and worried eyes watching his progress as he fell into a crouch and readied his weapons, aiming at—nothing at all. Iruka blinked slowly, grateful for a second he had landed with his back to the classroom window, and took a deep breath.
"And that," he said loud and clear, his voice steady only by sheer willpower, "is how fast you need to be prepared to jump into action."
There were some chuckles behind him, but most of his students cheered and clapped, still stunned by their teacher's demonstration. Iruka closed his eyes, shame scalding his face, and inhaled deeply forcing his hands to stop shaking and his heart to slow down.
It got worse from then on, Mizuki's face following him everywhere he went, awake and asleep.
And still he told himself there had to be a logical explanation. There had to be one.
2. Of Cursing Voices and Healing Hands
There was no explaining his father's visit.
The monument had always been a place for meditation, one of the few places in Konoha where Iruka could go and think, paying his respects to the fallen and emptying his mind of everything worrying him. Lately he had a lot to worry about, and a visit to the monument was long overdue.
He had been there for a few minutes, staring blindly at the carved names on the stone and trying to achieve a feeling of calmness, when he felt an itch between his shoulder blades, a hateful stare trying to dig a hole on his back. He turned slowly, fully expecting to find Mizuki--the real one or his own imaginary companion--staring at him.
He wasn't prepared for what he saw.
Iruka blinked, breath caught in his throat, his eyes dry and burning.
The voice was his father's, but that was the only thing which remained as he remembered it. That wasn't his father, or at least it wasn't the father Iruka could still picture in his mind. In front of him was a rotting, walking corpse. There were gashes covering his face and torso, dark stains on his clothing, and his eyes were dead. Iruka shivered.
It wasn't possible, his father was dead, had been so for many years.
"Wh-what--?" Iruka stuttered, finally finding his voice. He felt as if someone had hit him with a very nasty genjutsu, though he had been alone in the monument. It had to be that, or maybe he was going completely insane. "Why--what are you--what do you want?" Just speaking to the thing made Iruka felt his tenuous grasp on sanity was slipping.
The thing--his father--took a step toward him and Iruka took a step back, keeping the distance between them unconsciously. The thing smirked, an expression as wrong on that ruined face as it would had been on his father's gentle one.
"I curse you," the thing said, his father's voice coming out of the torn mouth in that soft, loved tone. Iruka felt like screaming; he was frozen on the spot, shivering and almost retching as the overpowering stench of rotten flesh and decay reached him, the corpse advancing on him. "I curse you."
It was the smell that finally made him react, panic giving his body the strength to break the spell holding him in place. Iruka jumped away and fled blindly, crashing against anything and everything in his way until he reached the relative safety of his own home.
He huddled in his bed, trembling.
There was something wrong with him, and he needed help.
Iruka found himself standing in front of the Hokage's office, hand raised to knock on the door and still debating the wisdom of his move. It was possible he was sick, or he might well be on his way to complete and utter madness. If it was just an illness, then Tsunade-sama was the person to help him, but if it was something else--
"Come on in Iruka-sensei," Tsunade's voice made his decision a moot point and he entered, closing the door behind him and bowing respectfully. "It's been a long time, how are the classes going?" She said motioning to a chair and Iruka took the offered seat.
"They're going fine," he said, forcing his voice to take a cheerful note. He was aware of the image he presented, pale and worried, dark circles under his eyes and looking terribly exhausted. "The new class has some very promising students."
She smiled, "That's good to hear, Iruka-sensei."
They stayed silent for a few seconds, Iruka wondering again if he should be there. If he told the Hokage everything it would be like admitting a weakness, and he hated feeling weak, but if he was sick then she was the best healer.
"Is there something you wanted to consult me about, Iruka-sensei?" She finally said, seeing he wasn't going to speak without being prompted.
This was it, it was now or never. "Hokage-sama," he said respectfully, "everyone talks about how you cured Rock Lee, and how you helped Hatake-san and Sasuke when they were attacked by Uchiha Itachi."
"Yes, those were difficult cases," she said not bothering with false modesty. Iruka was glad for that.
"It's said you’re a great healer, the best."
She regarded him for a second and Iruka had to fight the urge not to fidget. "Are you ill, Iruka-sensei? Have you suffered some injury?"
Iruka blushed and stammered, "No-no, that's not it."
Her eyes narrowed, fixing on his face. "Have you trouble sleeping?"
Iruka took a deep breath. "Yes, some nights I--well. Most nights, actually, I have dreams--I've been… worried you could say. I--" It was more difficult than he thought it would be.
What did you expect, idiot? Mizuki's voice sneered inside his head. He clenched his fists and ignored it; he was getting used to doing that.
"Worried about something you've done?"
"No, about something I might do," he corrected her in a low vice, lowering his head to stare at his hands.
"I see," was all she said, her eyes boring holes on the top of his bowed head. "Why don't you tell me everything about it with a cup of tea?" She said sounding strangely cheerful. Iruka frowned. "Or maybe a drink?"
His head snapped up and Iruka stared at the bottle of sake Tsunade had deposited on the desk. That had been a very bad idea.
Come on Iruka, just a bit of sake won't kill you, Mizuki said in his head, the glee in his voice unmistakable and getting more and more difficult to ignore. Or maybe it will, if it's not sake.
Iruka stared at the jar, horrified, looking up to see Tsunade staring at him openly, disdain and amusement clear on her face for a second before it was covered with the worry that was there before. But he had already seen it, hadn't he? His hand inched to his weapons pouch of its own accord, needing to feel the weight of his kunai in his hand to reassure himself.
Why don't you take a drink, Iruka? It would save everyone a lot of trouble to get rid of an unstable, weak chuunin this way. Come on, drink up.
Iruka squeezed his eyes shut and forced his hand to unclench from around his kunai, slowly withdrawing it from the pouch and standing up. "I'm sorry, Hokage-sama," he said, retreating to the door without taking his eyes off her. "I just remembered I left something important in the Academy."
He fled, not caring how lame his excuse sounded, just needing to be away from there before he did something stupid.
3. Of Dreams And The Reality They Become.
Every worry left Iruka's mind the moment he arrived home, Mizuki's insidious voice inside his head muted by Kakashi's mere presence.
He was back. Finally.
"How was your mission?" Iruka asked the instant Kakashi pulled away from his welcome home kiss.
"Utterly boring," Kakashi said with a shrug, retreating back to the kitchen where he had been preparing dinner when Iruka arrived. It was one of the things Iruka had been most surprised to discover about Kakashi when they got together; apparently cooking was a form of stress relief for him, and he was quite good at it. "Remind me never to take Naruto on a mission where he's not going to get almost killed at least twice," he said, turning to Iruka and flashing a wry smile. "He drove me up the wall the entire time, so he's back to the Academy, again, until he learns some control."
Iruka let out a chuckle, the sense of normality of the entire situation filling him with warmth. "Is this my punishment for something, Kakashi?"
"No, it's Naruto's," Kakashi said, amused, without looking at him, his hands deftly chopping the vegetables spread on the counter.
"It's going to be me dealing with him now," Iruka reminded him with a much suffering sigh, "it might as well be me you're punishing."
Kakashi turned at that, a smirk on his face. He was well aware of that fact. "Why, Iruka-sensei, have you done something bad while I was away?"
Iruka spread his hands and looked at him innocently, a smile tugging at his lips. "Of course not, Kakashi-sensei," he said walking up to him and stopping mere inches apart. "I've been very good."
Kakashi leaned forward, his lips so close to Iruka's he could taste his breath. "Show me how good you are," he said slowly, his voice low and raspy, "and I'll consider packing him off to Ebisu-sensei for the remainder of the week."
Kakashi closed the distance and Iruka completely forgot everything except the taste of Kakashi's mouth and the feel of his body pressed against him. They moved to the bedroom, dinner forgotten on the counter, tearing their clothes from their bodies as they made their progress to the bed.
It was rough, and frantic, and so perfect Iruka felt himself melting. Kakashi's voice whispering dirty things in his ear, his hands touching every single sensitive spot in his body, and Iruka arched and moaned, spreading himself open for his lover and urging him in, faster and harder.
This was the cure he had been looking for, the thing that could make him forget everything else and just feel.
You keep telling yourself that.
Iruka shivered, going completely cold at the voice in his head, and gasped. Not now. He looked at Kakashi for reassurance, hoping his presence next to him--inside him--would anchor him to reality.
It wasn't Kakashi on top of him, pushing inside oh so perfectly.
It looked like Kakashi, but Iruka knew it wasn't. It was something different, something evil trying to bury itself inside Iruka, trying to devour and consume him. He froze, face twisting in a grimace of fear and pain, his arousal completely deflated. He wanted to move, to leave, but if he did that thing would surely come after him and force him to finish it, force him to stay and take it until Iruka was completely consumed. He wanted it to stop.
The thing--Kakashi--continued thrusting into him, hard and fast, completely oblivious or uncaring to the terror gripping Iruka, still muttering the same dirty things Iruka usually loved to hear in Kakashi's low voice but which now were making his stomach turn, until it stiffened and came inside of him, body slumping on top of Iruka.
Iruka stayed still, controlling his breathing and trying not to bolt from the bed, until the thing withdrew from him and deposited a sleepy and an almost chaste kiss on his cheek, turning away from him and falling asleep almost immediately. Iruka let out a relieved sigh.
He stared at the ceiling, counting the seconds until he heard Kakashi's breathing even out, signalling he was fast asleep. Iruka turned and looked, expecting to find that thing's face but seeing only Kakashi, asleep and relaxed as if he didn't have a care in the world.
I'm losing my mind.
Iruka stared at him, carefully studying Kakashi's face for a hint that betrayed the other face beneath his, but there was nothing. It had just been in Iruka's mind, like Mizuki and his father.
Iruka was beyond worried now.
Without knowing how or when, Iruka realized he had fallen asleep.
He was still in his bed, Kakashi sleeping next to him, but everything else around him had the quality of a dream, all soft corners and blurred colours.
He stared at Kakashi, still wondering how in seven hells they had gone from passing acquaintances to lovers in such a short time, especially after Iruka had vowed never to leave himself open to the kind of betrayal he suffered at Mizuki's hands. Not that Kakashi was anything like Mizuki, quite the opposite.
For one, he was so powerful it was ridiculous. There was no risk of Kakashi betraying Konoha, and Iruka, for power.
Still, coming back home to someone and having half of his bed occupied again was strange.
"Iruka," Kakashi said and Iruka realized he was awake.
And that, once more, it wasn't Kakashi.
He almost bolted from the bed, the darkness in the room deepening and creating menacing shadows everywhere. None as menacing as the thing looking at him from Kakashi's body, both eyes open and a cruel smirk on his face.
"Iruka," the thing repeated, and he saw the Sharingan fixed on him, spinning wildly and emitting a soft, eerie light.
Iruka grabbed the kunai he kept under the pillow and pointed it at the thing's throat so fast he didn't even have the time to think about what he was doing.
"Iruka," it repeated again.
Iruka clenched his fist around the kunai and pressed, ready to slash the thing's throat, blood swelling from the widening cut.
He woke up in that second, the sight of blood running down Kakashi's neck enough to startle him awake.
It had been a nightmare, he realized.
He noticed his own extended hand then, kunai gripped tight and already breaking the skin in Kakashi's neck, and bolted from the bed, the knife falling from his suddenly numb fingers.
Oh God, I almost--
He didn't finish the thought, climbing out of the window and dropping on top of the roof. He stayed there until the first light of day forced him to go back; too worried and scared to do anything but lie unmoving staring at the sky.
There was something very wrong with him.
4. Of Past Demons and Present Curses
"We're going to do an exercise in chakra control," Iruka said facing the twenty plus students staring at him. As one man, the kids groaned in despair. Chakra control was one of the most dreaded exercises in the curriculum.
It was also the reason Naruto was in Iruka's class that morning, so chakra control it was.
He was still feeling out of sorts after the night before, and it would do him good to relax and exercise some control himself, whether it was on his chakra or on his mind. He gave the instructions mechanically, years of training in dealing with the brats allowing him to bark them in a no-nonsense voice while his mind wasn't completely there.
He was tired, cranky, and scared out of his wits after almost cutting Kakashi's throat in his sleep. It was the first time he cursed Kakashi's trust in him. He was probably the only person allowed to get so close to an unguarded Kakashi, and look what he'd almost done with that privilege.
Things were getting out of control too fast.
A loud explosion brought him back to reality, and Iruka cursed. There weren't supposed to be any explosions, or anything dangerous for that matter, in that lesson. He looked at the source of the disturbance, the smoke clearing to reveal a sheepishly grinning Naruto and an awed Konohamaru; the worst possible combination to have in his class.
"Naruto!" Iruka shouted at the top of his voice, rushing to the apologetic kid with murder written on his face.
"Um--Iruka-sensei?" Naruto looked at him, his right hand scratching the back of his head while he grinned lopsidedly. It was an expression guaranteed to infuriate Iruka, though most of the time it also amused him.
Not now though, not with so much in his head.
"Naruto! What have you done?" He asked harshly, grabbing the front of Naruto's jacket and slamming him against the window.
"Well, I was showing an exploding tag--" Naruto said, not worried in the least that his teacher looked about to blow a gasket. He seemed amused.
"We're learning chakra control, not exploding tags!" Iruka shouted in his face, fingers clenching and unclenching on the front of Naruto's jacket. He twisted the fabric harder, probably choking the breath out of Naruto and telling himself he needed to calm down before he killed the brat.
As if you could kill the kyuubi.
And that was when he realized the body he had pressed against the window wasn't Naruto's. It was, the way it had been Kakashi the night before, but at the same time it wasn't. Iruka could see, superimposed on Naruto's face, the kyuubi staring hungrily back at him.
The breath left Iruka's lungs in a rush, his body freezing in panic. No, that wasn't possible.
But it was, Naruto was no more, only the kyuubi stood there, taunting Iruka with its bloodthirsty look.
Kill him now, Mizuki's voice in his head said and Iruka twisted the jacket in his fist harder, seeing now how the kyuubi struggled to get some breath. Kill him and you'll be the hero you've always wanted to be. You can have your revenge on the one who killed your parents.
Iruka pressed harder, the murmurs at his back telling him something wasn't completely right. He ignored them. He could kill the demon, he had it under his hands now and he was strong enough to do it.
He blinked; Naruto's face beneath the kyuubi's getting blurrier and more distant by the second, but still there. No.
"No," Iruka said out loud, squeezing his eyes tightly and forcing his fingers to unclench, the feeling of the coarse fabric sliding between them the only thing real in this suddenly nightmarish world.
He released Naruto, seeing him slumping to the floor in slow motion, gulping huge breaths and still smiling, shocked, at his teacher.
"Iruka-sensei?" Naruto asked, tilting his head confused, his smile dimming a little.
"Excuse me," Iruka said, his voice sounding strange in his ears. This is it, I've lost it.
He turned and leaped out of the window, running blindly without a set destination. He was a danger, not only to himself but to those he cared about. Last night's episode with Kakashi and the one just now with Naruto were proof enough of that. He couldn't stay, he didn't know what he'd do if he didn't leave.
Running as fast as he could, Iruka headed to the village gates, not looking back even once.
I'm sorry Kakashi. I'm sorry.
5. Of Broken Minds and Ghosts Of the Past
The cave was dark and deep, perfect for what Iruka needed. He erased his trail with the skill he'd tried to teach the future generations and set the traps to ensure nobody would accidentally find him. He felt little satisfaction at the accomplished work, but it was done.
He had left Konoha, and it was for the best.
Never in his life had he considered the possibility of becoming a Missing Nin, then again he had never considered the possibility of going insane either. Now here he was, an insane Missing Nin. Or perhaps a cursed one.
He didn't now which of the possibilities was scarier.
It was completely dark in the cave, and the silence surrounding him made it feel like he was suspended in nothingness. He quite liked the feeling, if he were nowhere he couldn't hurt anyone. Maybe he should stay there forever, go deep into the cave until he merged with the rock, his body becoming just a pile of bones where people would never find them. He would be assumed to have become a Missing Nin, and he'd be hunted, unsuccessfully, and eventually forgotten.
Even Naruto and Kakashi would forget both his face and name one day.
Naruto and Kakashi, he had almost killed both of them. He had been so close to doing it.
It was better this way. He could still remember the feeling of his kunai pressed against Kakashi's exposed throat, the moment he had realized it would be so very easy to just push a bit harder and take Kakashi's life.
He should probably take his own. It would save everyone a lot of trouble if he took one of his kunai from his pouch and sliced his own throat, let the life and the madness run red from his neck and pool around him, where they couldn't hurt anyone anymore.
Do it now, it's the best idea you've had in a while.
He was so used to Mizuki's voice inside his head he barely paid any attention. But the words stayed with him. He could do it now.
"Aren't you going to do it?"
That voice wasn't inside his head, but it was still all Mizuki. Iruka jumped startled in the darkness, his eyes moving wildly around trying to find the source of the voice. There, sitting in the middle of the cave was Mizuki, staring at him with an amused expression. Iruka moved away from him, stumbling back until he was pressed against the rock.
Mizuki was glowing, glowing in the middle of the darkness as if he was some kind of ghost.
"I'm very much alive, Iruka," he said as if he could read Iruka's mind. "I'll still be alive long after you take your own pathetic life."
"No," he said out loud, as if that could drive the apparition away. "You can't be here."
The apparition smiled, and it was chilling in its nastiness. "You're cursed, Iruka," it said. "I will always be with you."
Cursed, yes. He knew that.
"We will always be with you," his father's voice said and Iruka's head whipped to the source of the new voice.
"God, no," he mumbled, pressing harder against the rock.
Advancing on him from the mouth of the cave were his father and his mother. Or at least their rotting corpses, the stench of decay and the blood staining their glowing bodies enough to assure Iruka they weren't his real parents. He tried to cover his face with an arm, blocking the sight, if not the smell, of the things in front of him. No, please, no.
"Iruka!" Kakashi's voice called him and Iruka felt a stirring of hope. Kakashi was there for him. "Come here, Iruka."
He removed his arm and regretted it immediately. He shrieked in horror, pushing futilely back against the rock. Kakashi was advancing toward him, his hands extended in an invitation for Iruka to step up to them. But it was wrong. Kakashi was glowing with the same eerie light as the rest of the apparitions, his mask was up and both his eyes were staring at Iruka, the Sharingan spinning wildly in its socket, so fast it was making it bleed. Kakashi's throat was cut, blood slowly dripping down his body and pooling at his feet. "Iruka, come here, come to me."
"No," he said. I didn't kill you. He hadn't.
"Iruka," Mizuki said.
"Iruka," his father said.
"Iruka," his mother said.
"No," he muttered, gasping for air. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't think. He wanted it to stop.
"Iruka," Kakashi said.
Make it stop, oh please, make it stop!
"It will never stop unless you stop it, Iruka," Mizuki said.
"Iruka-sensei," Naruto had joined the apparitions, also glowing lightly. Only it wasn't Naruto, it was the kyuubi and it was changing in front of Iruka's eyes.
"Please, stop it!" he shrieked, uncaring of how pathetic he sounded or how weak. This was hell and he wanted it to stop.
"You can stop it," Mizuki said looking pointedly at Iruka's hand, and he realized he was gripping a kunai tightly in his fist, the sharp edges cutting his palm.
Yes, he could make it stop. He pressed the tip against his own throat and closed his eyes.
He would make it stop.
There was a bark and suddenly a vise like grip was closing over his wrist, pulling his hand slowly away from his neck. Kakashi was there, staring at him in horror.
"No! Get away!" Iruka cried, pressing himself harder against the rock.
"Iruka, it's me!"
"No, let me go!" he tried to free his hand from the grip, to regain control of the kunai and make the nightmare stop, but the other was stronger and unrelenting, wrestling the weapon from him and tossing it to the other side of the cave. Iruka slumped defeated against the rock. "Get away from me, whatever you are. Just get away from me!"
"Iruka! It's me. Stop it, stop it now!" The voice was all Kakashi, and the warmth he could feel from the hand as well. Iruka shook his head; he couldn't believe it was really him.
He realized then there was a different light in the cave, not the glowing light of the apparitions, but real one which hurt his eyes. He blinked and looked at Kakashi, finally believing it was him. Kakashi's mask was down, his only visible eye staring at him concerned. There was no blood on him. But then--
"Go, leave me here," he said in a whisper.
"What's wrong with you, Iruka?" Kakashi asked softly now he was calmer. He smiled slightly at him. "You know how difficult it was to find you? If Naruto didn't come to tell me you were gone--and that hag Tsunade, refusing to let me come after you. I've gone through a lot of trouble to find you and I had to disarm quite the number of traps to get here, there is no way I'm leaving without you."
"I'm dangerous, leave me."
"You?" Kakashi stared at him as if he had lost his mind. On second though, he knew he had, so it wasn't so strange.
"Leave, I--" he stared past Kakashi at Mizuki, who was still there smirking down at him. "You too! Leave me alone, all of you!"
Kakashi looked behind him and then turned back to Iruka. "Who are you talking to?"
"Him!" Iruka pointed and again Kakashi looked, shaking his head. He took a deep breath, a stab of pain in his back making him wince.
"There is nobody there, Iruka."
"He's been following me," he said, pointing frantically, the pain in his back increasing. He'd been ignoring the ache there since the dreams and visions began, but there would be no ignoring it now, the burning pain was taking his breath away and making him double over. "Leave, please," he said.
Kakashi grabbed his shoulders and made him look at him. "What's wrong, Iruka? Tell me!"
"Leave please, I'm cursed."
Kakashi frowned, lips thinning in a white line, and stared seriously at Iruka. "No. Tell me everything, now."
Defeated, Iruka did just that.
6. Of Healed Wounds and Future Hope
Kakashi listened to everything he said in silence, his look assessing. Iruka knew his mind was working frantically looking at every angle under his calm expression; it was always like that with Kakashi.
"Dreams and visions are not strangers to shinobi," Kakashi said slowly.
"I know; it's not just that. I see him when I'm awake. I can hear him, I could smell my parents' corpses," Iruka forced himself to remain calm, though it was very difficult. He could still see Mizuki behind them, though his figure was blurry now they weren't paying attention to him and his voice didn't manage to reach Iruka anymore.
"Your parents?" Kakashi asked interested. "So it's not just Mizuki?"
Iruka took a deep breath; he had to tell him everything. "No, it's not just him. My parents were there too, and you. And Naruto--well, the Kyuubi."
Kakashi's eyebrow shot up. "Me?"
"Yes, you were dead. I killed you," Iruka choked out, pained.
"You couldn't do that," Kakashi said, incredulity thick in his voice. Iruka stared at him.
"Couldn't I? I was so close last night--"
"Last night?" Iruka could see the wheels turning in Kakashi's mind, replaying the events of the previous night, looking for some clue of what Iruka was talking about.
"Last night I--" he began, looking for the right words to explain what had happened. "It was so good, it was the first time I felt normal in a week. You were there, with me, inside me, and for the first time the voice was quiet. Then, it wasn't you anymore. I looked at you and saw something else, something evil, and it wanted to devour me, consume me. I freaked out; I wanted to push you away but was too terrified to move."
"And I didn't notice a thing," Kakashi's voice was thick with disbelief and disgust. With himself, Iruka knew, because his lover had had a crisis right in the middle of their lovemaking and he had been too far gone to notice. He had taken his pleasure and fallen asleep while Iruka fought not to be sick.
Iruka continued, "I looked at you later and you were you, I feel asleep and the next thing I knew I was awake, my knife pressed against your throat." He saw Kakashi's hand move reflexively to his neck, where there was a faint scratch mark he probably hadn't noticed before. "And this morning I almost killed Naruto, I kept seeing the demon inside him, and it took all my self control not to choke the life out of him right there and then. I had to leave."
"Why didn't you tell me?" Kakashi said, trying not to sound accusing and almost succeeding.
"How can I tell you your lover is insane? I went to Tsunade but--"
"You what?" This time the anger was unmistakable, but it wasn't directed at him. "That fucking hag! She knew and she forbade me to come after you! She's going to hear about this! You went to her when you didn't come to me?"
"I though I was sick, she's a great healer!" Iruka defended himself, startled by the intensity of Kakashi's fury. "But I couldn't tell her. I was there, and suddenly this voice told me she was trying to poison me. I fled." Iruka took a deep breath, hearing the story from his own lips was only making things worse. He was really insane.
Another stab of pain went through his back and Iruka winced. "Are you in pain?" Kakashi asked, noticing.
"My back, it's been aching since--"
"Show me!" It was a command, one Iruka couldn't ignore.
He removed his jacket and shirt and lay down on the rock, head resting on his hands, He could feel Kakashi's hand on his back, touching him gently and prodding the scar. There was a sharp intake of breath and Iruka turned his head. "What is it?"
"You are indeed cursed," Kakashi said, but there was elation in his voice. "A curse seal. The Red Spider."
A curse seal. So he wasn't insane. Iruka sighed, relieved. "What does it do?"
"It causes paranoia and hallucinations, increases violent tendencies and makes the victim lose control," Kakashi recited slowly, "Everything you've told me. It fits."
Iruka snorted, "Yeah, it fits Mizuki perfectly. He always wanted to be the one in control when we were together."
He felt Kakashi tensing at his back and realized it was the first time he had mentioned his past with Mizuki. "How come you didn't see it before?" Mizuki had been locked away for a long time now; it wasn't possible for Kakashi to let something like that slip past him.
"It wasn't there before; it must be a delayed action seal. Something must have triggered it. Have you been stressed lately?"
Iruka let out a chuckle. "A trigger? For one thing, we're living together. You need more trigger than that? If living with you is not stressing enough for this thing, I don't know what it is."
"Me?" Was that hurt in Kakashi's voice?
"We drive each other up the wall every day in a thousand different ways, we've gone from a tenuous friendship to lovers in a short time, and the last time I did that--" he didn't need to finish that thought, he was sure Kakashi understood.
Or not. "But me? The trigger?"
"We are very different, Kakashi. And keeping this secret is not easy."
Kakashi's voice was tight when he answered. "Then don't keep it secret. It's nobody's business but ours. Or is there a reason for you to want to keep it secret?"
"No! But the students--I'm supposed to be an example for them. How can I teach them that shinobi have no feelings and then go and fall in love?" He realized the words that escaped his mouth and wondered if it was too late to take them back. They had not spoken of love before, and he could think of about a thousand better ways of confessing his.
"Not have feelings? What utter bullshit are you talking about, Iruka?" Kakashi sounded outraged, but Iruka wasn't paying attention to him anymore. His father was back, and he was approaching Iruka again.
"Father," he said in a whisper, struggling to get up. Something was pinning him down, and he felt oddly exposed. "No, please--"
"Iruka, calm down! It's not real!"
Iruka could hear the voice--Kakashi's--but the words were making no sense. He struggled harder.
"Stop it! We have to remove the seal now!"
The pressure on his back was strong, pinning him to the ground, and he knew there was something he should be paying more attention to. He grabbed a kunai again and twisted to remove whatever it was pinning him.
It was Kakashi, and he suddenly remembered everything again. "Kakashi, please, make it stop."
"I will," Kakashi said, extending his free hand toward Iruka. "Give me that and stand still."
Iruka frowned suspiciously. "Why?" he gripped the kunai harder.
"Iruka, we have to do it now!"
Iruka stared at him, considering which way he could attack to get Kakashi away from him, and then he realized what he was doing and visibly deflated, giving his weapon to Kakashi and taking a deep breath. "I'm losing myself. Please do it, remove it."
"I will," Kakashi repeated, but there was a hit of doubt in his voice.
"And if you can't," Iruka said in a low voice, "then kill me. Because if you don't, sooner or later I will kill someone."
"Iruka, try to hold still at least while I'm writing," Kakashi said, his words clear and precise.
He had been working around Iruka for a while, preparing everything for the sealing of the curse.
Iruka forced himself to relax while Kakashi worked on the seal, the touch of brush and ink on his bare back confident and at the same time so gentle. He thought about everything that had happened and how he had ended up where he was now.
He was lucky Kakashi had found him or he would have played straight into Mizuki's hands. He had been close to.
"Are you ready?" Kakashi said, the sound of the brush being deposited on the stone floor telling Iruka it was time.
"Please bear with it, this might be painful," Kakashi said, and Iruka could hear the telltale brush of fabric which meant hand seals were being made. Kakashi's voice was chanting the seals quietly, almost as if reassuring himself he was getting them right, and when he was done a hand was pressed against the middle of Iruka's back.
At first there was only heat radiating from the point of contact then the pain arrived, blinding and piercing, driving the breath from Iruka's lungs and making him scream. Kakashi's hands held him steadily while he arched off the ground, trashing in pain, trying to gulp in air and hoping he would just pass out.
It seemed to go on forever, Iruka screaming and Kakashi pushing him down and then, as quickly as it began, it was gone.
Iruka blinked, surprised, his head feeling clearer than it had for the past week, and tried to move. He couldn't. All his strength seemed to have left him and he could barely muster the energy to keep his eyes open. He felt himself being turned around, and he looked up at Kakashi's concerned face. "Kakashi?" he whispered.
"It's done," Kakashi said with a faint smile.
"Yeah, nothing but the scar now. And that will soon fade without the seal," Kakashi confirmed it and Iruka was so glad to hear it he could have cried.
It was over.
"Welcome back," Kakashi said, leaning down to deposit a soft kiss on his lips. Iruka smiled.
"We have company, Kakashi." Pakkun appeared suddenly from the mouth of the cave and Kakashi nodded, tugging his mask up.
"Right," he said, covering Iruka with his jacket and moving to the mouth of the cave. "It seems the hag sent her dogs after me. As if I would take a mission and leave the village with you missing! We'll get you home and fixed up, and then I'll go kill that manipulative Hokage for this stunt, and when I'm home we'll have that conversation we have waiting." Kakashi's voice was serious, and Iruka knew that now the danger had passed he was in trouble.
He shouldn't have said anything.
"Is this about--" he tried, his mouth opening wide in a yawn.
"Yes," Kakashi said, shooting him an amused look. "We have a few things to discuss about that no-feelings bullshit."
"Can I plead insanity for my slip?" he whispered, feeling his eyelids drop, sleep claiming him.
"I think I'll plead the same, then," he thought he heard Kakashi say, almost a whisper, but he couldn't be sure.
Iruka smiled and let the darkness take him.