Chapter 1: Beginnings
Iruka woke up, like he did every morning, with a stiff back and terrible bedhead. He stretched and thought, as he also did every morning, that he needed either to upgrade his futon or lessen his class load.
Through both would be nice, Iruka sighed to himself.
Standing up he slid into his geta, managing to wrap himself in his dressing gown at the same time. Iruka gave a smile to the photo of Naruto and himself on the bedside table before setting off across the room to where the bathroom waited.
Iruka was brushing his teeth when he noticed. Choking on the gurgle he was in the middle of and continuing to choke as he tried to spit out what hadn’t dribbled down his chin.
There was nothing quite like looking at your younger self in the mirror to help realize how old you had become.
Iruka sat shakily on his old couch, though at his current age, he reflected with a slightly crazed mocking smile, it was relatively new. Bony elbows dug into his knees as he rested his head in his hands.
Thinking about it now, yesterday had been odd. It had followed the normal pattern until he stopped by Ichiraku to eat some ramen.
He had just begun eating when an old woman had commented on his sad expression and brought him some sake. At the time he thought that she was initiating a conversation to be polite. Now, in hindsight, he wondered if that was indeed the case.
His face flushed as Iruka recalled how quickly one drink had become two and so on. Soon he had been telling the old woman his life story. Ending with talking about how much he missed Naruto while the boy was off training.
The old woman had been quite interested in Naruto, Iruka recalled wryly. She had wasted little time in asking about the boy’s life and depressing Iruka more by making him realize how little he had been there for the boy – even once he had grown fond of him.
At the time, he had reasoned that Naruto had lived twelve years on his own and wouldn’t want Iruka to interfere. But then, he realized, as he was defending himself to the old woman, that even at his own age he would give anything he had to be able to hug his parents again and talk to them about his day. He should have realized you never got to old to want family, and swearing in realization he had turned to the old woman and asked what he could do to make it up to Naruto.
It was pitiful now to think how desperate – and drunk – he must have been to turn to a complete stranger. Iruka knew that by this point in his life he should know that even an elderly woman wasn’t necessarily harmless. Removing his head from his hands, to slap them against his knees in recognition of his folly. For all he knew she was some type of jutsu or that he was in a genjutsu.
He just didn’t see how it was possible in any other way to be in the situation he was in. For his old couch made it clear – as well as the reflection looking back at him from the mirror – that somehow, someway he had woken up in the past.
Iruka really didn’t understand the logic behind it. Whether he was involved in someone’s genjutsu or not, how it was even possible in any other way, but he did know one thing. This time things were going to change.
With that thought, Iruka decided to stop sitting around and analyzing why it didn’t feel like a genjutsu he was in, or why the normal methods didn’t allow him to break it. He would no longer contemplate how honest the old woman had seemed, or how much she genuinely seemed to want to help.
The first thing Iruka did once he had decided on his plan of change was to go see the third.
But it wasn’t until he was standing in front of the Hokage’s office that Iruka really thought about the man he was going to see - A man who had been dead for years. He reached out and placed a hand on the Hokage’s door. He felt profound sense of gladness about the fact he was going to see this man again.
He knocked on the heavy wooden door, and at the shout of permission to enter; he pushed it open, walking in smiling.
Then he proceeded to tell the third everything.
Once he finished explaining and the Third had done his own jutsu on Iruka to make sure he was whom he claimed and that he had no other jutsu on him, Iruka requested to be allowed an early retirement from active duty and become a teacher at the academy.
The Hokage didn’t bother to hide his surprise. Quickly the Third tried to comfort Iruka by assuring him that from what he, the Hokage, could tell Iruka was no danger to himself or others and reiterated that there appeared to be no jutsu on him at all. Iruka chuckled at the Third’s concern but stated quite clearly, to the surprise of the Hokage that he planned to have someone at home to look after.
While Iruka knew the hardest part was going to be getting Naruto to trust him, it felt like it might be more trouble simply finding the boy. At this stage, Iruka had been searching for hours but he still had no clue where the young boy could be. Naruto hadn’t been at his sorry excuse for a home nor was he at Ichiraku. The situation was starting to get very irritating, more so, with how much Iruka wanted to see Naruto.
Iruka felt like he hadn’t seen Naruto in years, through he supposed this was probably true more so considering that in his old time it had been one year already that Naruto had been gone.
Talking to the third had been great, relaxing and comforting. While he wasn’t sure the man completely believed him, hell even Iruka thought this was probably a dream, definitely considering that it seemed less and less likely that it was some sort of jutsu. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to enjoy it, and the Hokage had agreed to all Iruka’s requests.
While Iruka couldn’t deny that even the thought of the demands he had made of the Hokage made him shiver a bit at the lack of respect, but with one thought of Naruto he had decided to stay strong. He would need the Hokage’s support if he were to take Naruto in.
Despite how he had approached the Hokage and the uncertainty the Hokage had approached him with in return; Iruka hadn’t realized how much he had really missed the man until he had seen him. Iruka knew that Sarutobi-sensei had his doubts yet the man still had talked everything out with Iruka and given advice like he always had.
Iruka chuckled to himself thinking about their conversation. He had forgotten that in this current time his only source of income was from the few missions he had done. He didn’t have the regular income of his teacher’s salary and his casual work from the mission desk. Sarutobi-sensei had reminded him of all this quite casually and then chuckled at the look of horror that must have shown on Iruka’s face. The Hokage had then reminded Iruka that he had some savings from the money his parents had left him. And Iruka also had a little money he had put away himself. Through the Hokage had pointed out that Iruka had always been very clear that he was saving for his future.
It made Iruka think about the relatively large sum of money that he had still been piling up in the future. Money that he doubted he’d ever see again. Sardonically Iruka thought, probably never see again with the way Naruto ate. Once reminded of the money he knew he would have to use it, and for many things at that. Foremost being that his small apartment in the chunnin complex was not suitable for raising a child; let alone a trouble making Naruto. Even the idea of Naruto running around a complex with apartments filled with weapons made Iruka shiver with horror.
Therefore, he had thanked the Hokage for the reminder and said that he would be withdrawing some money this week. Sarutobi-sensei had just stared at him for a while, making Iruka itch under his gaze, before finally nodding and in few words had given Iruka his blessing.
“When you go to get him from the orphanage you will have no problems.”
The Hokage also offered to sort out some training for Iruka as an assistant teacher. And when Iruka offered, the Hokage agreed to let him have a few hours at the mission desk as well.
Iruka was still running on the gratitude and happiness that the Hokage’s words had given him. He knew that even if the older man had disapproved he still would have fought for Naruto but with the Hokage’s permission, a slight weight lifted off Iruka’s chest.
Yet his happiness was slowly waning as he searched for Naruto. He knew enough about the boy’s childhood to know that unless it was night and he needed to sleep Naruto wouldn’t be spending his free time at the orphanage. Iruka was unwilling to revisit the building anyway. But he had already visited all of Naruto’s favourite spots. And as it was a Sunday Naruto would not be at the school.
The shouting caught Iruka’s attention, as he walked down one of the main market streets. Iruka made his way over to the noise to see what was happening. What he saw nearly broke his heart.
A group of civilians surrounded Naruto calling him various obscenities. Iruka knew things like this had happened; he had even witnessed moments like this before but not in a long time. Feeling his rage whip around him and gather strength Iruka erupted.
“ENOUGH!” Iruka roared, pushing through the group. Pulling Naruto up by the scruff of his neck, “Go, now!” He shouted, pointing away.
The crowd looked at him wearily but did not make any attempt to move; Iruka’s eyes widened more in anger but before he could shout again he heard Naruto’s small but gruff voice claiming that he couldn’t leave until he was let go.
Iruka believed his heart did break this time.
Slowly he let go of Naruto collar but his hand slid down and grasped Naruto’s. He quickly knelt by the young boy, his voice much calmer, “Oh, Naruto, I didn’t mean you had to leave.”
The boy’s eyes rounded in shock and confusion. Iruka looked back up at the startled villagers, narrowed his eyes, and let the anger in his chakra speak for him.
The group quickly sped off, tail spinning in different directions.
Iruka sighed and looked back at Naruto. Gently he flicked the boy’s forehead. “Blink.”
That seemed to bring Naruto out of his shocked stage as the boy blinked rapidly for a few seconds before cocking his head slightly to the side, staring at Iruka in confusion.
“Would you like some ramen?” Iruka asked after giving the child time to study him.
Naruto’s eyes brightened, through his face remained guarded, “… Yes?” He answered cautiously.
“Well then,” Iruka said with a grin as he stood up and tugged on the boy’s hand, “Let me buy you some at Ichiraku then.” He tried hard to make sure the sentence came out like a statement not a question.
Naruto still looked suspicious but his expression was slowly morphing into a smile. The smile continued to widen more and more as Iruka walked hand and hand with Naruto to Ichiraku. Iruka told Naruto about his favourite ramen dishes on the way.
As Naruto practically breathed down his ramen, Iruka took the opportunity to really look at the boy. What Iruka knew about himself and what had been confirmed by the third was that he was currently seventeen. At this point he had only been a Chuunin for a year, and was becoming a teacher two years too early. Not that he minded, no, if this really was his chance to live over then he didn’t need to redo any time in the field. He wasn’t that young man anymore, fighting to prove his worth. Iruka liked to think he knew himself well, his own strengths and weaknesses. If not then he knew at least that he was content with himself.
Iruka badly wanted Naruto to be content too.
The boy was eleven years younger than he was, currently six years old, but kami, Iruka thought to himself, he is just so small. Iruka then fought down a laugh as Naruto peered back at him, obviously having noticed Iruka staring. Naruto stared at the teacher with innocence in his eyes only children possess. All the while still attacking his ramen like it was going to disappear.
That thought made Iruka pause. Naruto probably thought it was going to disappear, or at least never be offered again. Iruka waved a hand at the chef, indicating that he was to bring Naruto another bowl.
“Who are you?” Naruto asked bluntly, looking suspiciously at the new bowl of ramen as it was placed in front of him. Iruka noticed humorously that Naruto’s suspicion didn’t stop the boy from attacking his new bowl of ramen with as much enthusiasm as the last.
After watching bemused for a few moments at the spectacle Naruto made while eating Iruka smiled. Offering his hand, “Umino Iruka,” he said, “but you can call me Iruka if you’d like.”
Hesitantly the young boy clasped on to the offered hand, “Iruka-san?”
“Hai,” Iruka looked at the scared but hopeful boy with gentle eyes, “and I would like to be your friend.”
After another bowl of ramen, Iruka was slowly following Naruto home, unwilling to separate from the boy too soon.
“So you are living at the orphanage?” Iruka asked, trying to get a sense of Naruto’s surroundings at this time.
“Hai, Iruka-san!” The boy told him brightly, little of his wariness left, but he then seemed to sag into himself quite suddenly, “but not for much longer.”
Iruka looked at him confused, but before he could voice any questions, Naruto continued.
“I mean I’m nearly seven and matron said it’s getting past the time they have to put up with me…” Naruto trailed off, glaring slightly, “but it’s okay because the old lady is a dobe!”
“Naruto!” Iruka gasped, somewhat appalled by the young boy’s language. While he had become accustomed to the insult being a favourite of the teenage Naruto it just seemed wrong to hear a boy who didn’t look older than four say it.
“What?” Naruto pouted up at him, “the old lady is, and I even said I wouldn’t mind leaving because I was sick of them anyway.” Naruto stated all this as if it was a fact, before his voice hushed slightly and pausing, he turned to Iruka, “No one there likes me,” he said, as if he was confiding to Iruka a secret.
Iruka ruffled the golden hair, “I do,” he confided back.
Naruto beamed at him, grabbed his hand, and began walking again. It was sad to watch the way the villagers tried to push past the boy instead of bothering to take a simple step to the side. It saddened Iruka more that this was how Naruto was treated when he was with someone, an academy teacher no less. Iruka hurt as he wondered sadly how Naruto would be treated if he was on his own. Once again, Iruka couldn’t understand how no one could see the brightness and goodness of this child.
Iruka thought back to where their conversation had previously been headed, “I’m sure they don’t hate you, how could they?” Iruka grinned at the boy. “And they wouldn’t just throw you out…” Iruka abruptly stopped, causing Naruto to swing back in momentum. “Would they?” He ask, horrified.
Naruto stretched his free hand behind his head, scratching at his neck, “Well, I’ve heard them talking about some apartments that I could have, y’know, that are free and stuff.” He screwed up his nose, “and I think anything would be better then the orphanage.”
“Anywhere?” Iruka asked.
Naruto nodded eagerly, “Anywhere!”
Iruka had just dropped Naruto off at the orphanage with a heavy heart. He wanted nothing more then to go back and get the boy, but he knew it just wasn’t the right time yet. Not that he was planning on taking a while to ask the boy through, no, Iruka had decided to give Naruto a week to get used to him and then he was taking him away from that horrid place.
So they continued to meet for dinner, everyday that week, after Naruto had finished his schooling and after Iruka had finished at the academy. Once Naruto had found out that Iruka worked at the academy (or, Iruka thought wryly, was an assistant teacher) it made the young boy more determined than ever to go.
“Not until you are eight,” Iruka told Naruto, hands supporting his drooping head, “for the hundredth time.”
Naruto pouted up at him from his stool. He slurped up some ramen and then, mouth still fill said, “I don’t ‘tink I asked th’t much!”
Without lifting his head Iruka reached out one of his hands and lightly tapped Naruto on the back of the head, “Eat with your mouth closed Naruto,” he growled into his hand.
Naruto just grinned innocently, slurped up some more ramen and chuckled out ‘’Course!’
Iruka groaned again. After a few minutes filled with the sounds of slurping, and a few burps, Naruto had finished. Once the bowls had been cleared away, but before Naruto could ask for a fourth helping, Iruka pounced, “Naruto-kun,” he began, “I am planning on viewing a few homes tonight, as my apartment is getting a bit too small. Do you think you have the time to help me?”
“Hai!” Naruto nodded, Iruka didn’t know however whether his happiness was because of getting to spend more time with him or for getting to spend more time away from the orphanage. Probably a bit of both, Iruka concluded in his mind with a roll of his eyes.
It was the way Naruto’s eyes lit up that let Iruka know this house was the one. He supposed that Naruto liking this house the most shouldn’t have surprised him. It wasn’t the best house that they had seen but it was far from the worst. It was a nice open space setting, with lounge, kitchen and dining all together and then two bedrooms at the end, separated by a bathroom. It appeared a bit run down, Iruka acknowledged, looking at some of the wear and tear obvious on the wall. However, it seemed like a house that had been well loved.
Iruka thought that somewhere well loved was a good home to start with. It was also close to both the academy, school and mission desk. Through quite a way from the central village. Closer to the woods, but as he watched Naruto running around the small garden out back, he didn’t think having any extra space to run around was going to be a bad thing.
With a smile, he hurried outside to where Naruto was jumping around and seemingly attacking invisible ninjas.
“Take that!” The boy shouted, kicking into the empty air, “and that!”
“Nani! Iruka-sensei, what’s funny?” Naruto asked a frown on his face; unsure what was funny but knowing it had something to do with him.
“Gomen Naruto-kun,” Iruka said, biting off any more laughter and holding up two pacifying hands, “you were just too cute!” He grinned at the young boy.
Naruto blushed bright red before scowling at Iruka, “Sensei!” He complained.
Iruka bit back more laughter and crouched down before the boy, “Hai, Naruto-kun.” He ruffled the blonde hair and patted the boy on his cheek.
“Nani?” Naruto grumbled.
“Do you like this place?”
Iruka smiled as Naruto brightened with the question, “Hai!”
“Naruto-kun,” Iruka began slowly, looking at the boy for a few seconds and rubbing his neck before continuing, “would you like to live here?”
Naruto’s eyes narrowed, “Huh?”
“Well, I would like this to be our house.” Iruka leaned forward and grasped the boy by his shoulders, “Naruto-kun you are a good boy and you get treated unfairly. I know and I am sorry, there is only so much I can do about how other people treat you but Naruto-kun – I,” Iruka stumbled for a moment, “I would be honored if you would live with me.”
Naruto began to look in awe at Iruka, “Sensei?” He muttered disbelieving. Then when Iruka answered with an encouraging smile Naruto jumped at the older man, knocking him back against the grass and bursting into tears.
Iruka hugged the young boy back, rubbing his back and soothing him, as he smiled in happiness.
Chapter 2: Meetings
First chapter has been beta'd and updated slightly.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Iruka sighed as he shuffled some papers and began putting some of them away into files. This was so stupid, this flunk he had gotten himself into. He was used to the mission desk, he was comfortable with it – well he had been. People had grown to be respect him in the future, and while it really shouldn’t be that important to him that people in this time did not, it managed to cause a small ache.
Iruka really didn’t think he asked for much; reports turned in on time and that they be somewhat legible. It was that simple. He heaved another sigh, thinking of all the arguments he had already had this evening about what was and was not acceptable in a report. It was becoming quite apparent that his requests were actually not simple enough.
It might actually be easier if he didn’t know why his requests were scoffed at, why the active nin looked down their noses at his reprimands. But he did.
At this moment in time his body was seventeen and he was still a relatively new chunnin. No one respected him at all. Iruka hadn’t been able to do anything yet that established him as someone worthy of respect; he was still that trouble-making boy in far too many people’s eyes.
He would like to comfort himself by saying that Naruto respected him, but that didn’t appear to be true. Naruto was testing him, he knew, trying to see what his limits were; what it would take for him to give up on the boy. The thought did make Iruka smile. While he may be getting fed up with Naruto’s testing it didn’t change the fact that Naruto was his family. The boy might be able to push him beyond his limits but that wouldn’t make him give the boy up.
It might make him strangle the blond boy though.
Retrospectively, Iruka had realized that he had been naïve thinking that this situation would be easy to deal with and resolve. There was nothing easy about this situation. Nothing simple about any of the situations he was finding himself in. With that thought, and an exhalation of annoyance, Iruka lifted a hand into the air and waved it. “Genma-san!” He shouted at the retreating figure, “this is not an acceptable report!”
Iruka swallowed a groan as he saw Genma pause and slowly, very slowly, turn around, senbon poking out his mouth, with an enquiring eyebrow raised. After a few moments of inspection Genma walked the few steps back to Iruka. He peered down at the chunnin sitting behind the desk.
“Not to be rude, Genma-san, but this is not even readable.” Iruka held the report out towards the Jounin, “and you are old enough to at least make your report readable.”
“Ne?” Genma said, beginning to smile.
Iruka just frowned at him.
“What’s your name chunnin?” Genma finally asked, by now looking completely amused at the flush of anger on the younger man’s face.
Iruka narrowed his eyes, recalling everything he knew about Genma. The man had never been a good friend but they were causal acquaintances. Though he hadn’t really gotten to know the Jounin until he had been older – and in Genma eyes at least, slightly more of an equal. With a deep sigh he finally muttered, “Umino Iruka.”
“Iruka-san,” Genma said, stretching out his name like he was sounding it out, “I can tell you are new to manning the mission desk, so I’ll give you a break this time but-”
“Genma-san,” Iruka cut in, voice beginning to rise again, with his annoyance at the treatment he had been getting finally reaching its boiling point, “I am an assistant teacher at the academy, and one day I will be an actual teacher SO,” he suddenly boomed, standing up and shoving the report onto Genma’s chest so suddenly that the Jounin automatically grabbed onto it, “if I am not scared of a class of twenty students with weapons then WHY would you think I’ll be scared of you!”
Genma’s eyes widened. He swore he saw the chunnin’s head enlarge in anger. Within moments of his scolding Genma had taken a few steps back and waved the hand that wasn’t holding his report in a friendly manner at Iruka, “heh, heh,” the Jounin muttered weakly, beginning to realize that maybe this wasn’t just another chunnin, “I was just joking Iruka-uh-sensei...”
“I see,” Iruka said quietly, still glaring at the older man.
With another weak laugh, a tug on his collar and a light, “just gonna go now, bye-” Genma disappeared out the door with his report in hand.
Iruka just stared after the special Jounin bemused.
“Naruto-kun!” Iruka called out, as he opened the door to their house. “I brought ramen!” He placed his jacket on the stand waiting by the door and stepping out of his shoes he quickly placed them in the cupboard, and following that did a little shake, trying to get rid of the moisture gathered on his body and hair from the pouring rain outside. “Eh, Naruto-kun!” he called again, surprised that the boy had not appeared immediately at the word ramen – nor the smell. “Ne it’s horrible out there!”
“Hai! Iruka-sensei!” Naruto replied loudly, suddenly appearing in front of Iruka. His hair was windswept and slightly damp, with flushed cheeks and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Iruka dropped his hand on Naruto head, holding the boy in place, “What have you done?” He asked wearily.
“Nani?” Naruto said, trying to duck out from under Iruka’s hand.
“Hmm,” Iruka murmured, looking appraisingly at Naruto, then he sighed and lifted his hand, letting the young boy quickly scamper back. “I will find out you know,” he said, giving Naruto another look before following him into the dining area.
Naruto smiled, grabbing two bowls from the cupboard as Iruka put the ramen down on the table, he made to grab at one of the container when Iruka swatted at his hand. Sighing Naruto sat down and waited for Iruka to serve up the food, “nee Iruka-sensei, hurry!”
Iruka grinned at Naruto, surrounded once more by the feeling of wholeness he had been feeling since they had moved into their house. Following Naruto’s pleas he quickly divided the ramen and gave Naruto a pair of chopsticks.
“Itadakimasu,” they chorused, breaking apart their chopsticks, before turning to their food.
Naruto was on his third bowl and Iruka his second when there was a bark coming from the direction of Naruto’s room.
Iruka’s head snapped up as Naruto’s pointedly looked down.
“Anou…” Naruto said quietly to the table, a whimper clear in his voice.
Iruka put his chopsticks down beside his bowl and then, with a look of dire promise at Naruto, he stood.
“Sensei…” Naruto began; through he quickly trailed off with a gulp at the look Iruka gave him in response.
The chunnin quickly strode towards Naruto’s door leaving the blonde boy shaking vaguely at the table.
Iruka flung open Naruto’s bedroom door and his eyes widened at the sight before him. Besides the dog standing right in front of him it was the room itself that really took up most of his attention. Naruto room, while not necessarily clean when Iruka had left, had not been covered in mud like it was now. With a destroyed pillow and feathers still floating down to the floor. His eyes roamed the room in horror before landing back on the small dog before him, the dog-covered in mud and a few stray feathers.
“It was the boy,” the dog said finally, spitting out a feather.
Pakkun came running over to the table where Kakashi, Genma, Asumi and Guy were sitting. “Sorry boss,” the pug huffed out, “he’s just disappeared. And his scent must have been washed away in the rain.”
The Jounin surrounding Kakashi looked between him and the dog curiously.
Kakashi shrugged, appearing unconcerned, and explained, “Bisuke gone missing.”
Asumi and Genma just continued to stare curiously at him, as if they didn’t consider his explanation quite explanatory enough while Guy nodded and affected a concerned expression.
Kakashi just shrugged again and turned his attention back to the leader of his ninken, “are you concerned?”
Pakkun looked unsure for a few moments before shaking his head, “not exactly, I mean we would be able to tell if he was in trouble… actually,” Pakkun’s expression went quickly from concern to annoyance, “he feels like he’s enjoying himself.”
Kakashi’s lips quirked up slightly, through not visible to anyone but Pakkun and possibly Guy, as they knew him well enough to pick up on his expressions from beneath his mask.
Pakkun sighed and shook his head, both at his master and the absent Bisuke.
“Well,” Kakashi said after a few moments, “I suppose we should let him have his fun and then in the morning, if the rain has stopped, you guys should go out and try and pick up his scent again. But come to me immediately if you think he is in any danger.”
Pakkun nodded in reply and was gone in a puff of poke.
“Are you sure that Bisuke will be okay?” Guy asked, while Genma looked under the table to see if Pakkun had disappeared underneath it.
Asumi let out a snort as he eyed the spot where Pakkun had been, “Your ninken?” He directed at Kakashi.
The copy-nin nodded and looked bemused at Genma stupefied expression.
“Hah,” Genma said, around his senbon, “I didn’t know your ninken were advanced enough to talk.”
Kakashi just nodded in reply, making it clear without saying anything that there was a lot Genma did not know about him.
Guy cleared his throat, trying to bring attention back to his question.
Kakashi looked at him lazily through his eye, still unsure how he felt about post-mission Guy. A Guy who was relatively calm and somewhat soft spoken. Then again, Kakashi wasn’t sure it mattered what he thought, more so considering that once morning broke Guy would be… well, Guy again. Sighing he took another drink and addressed Guy’s question, “Nee, I trust Pakkun’s judgment and if he thinks Bisuke is fine then I’ll believe him.”
“So you’ll trust a dog?” Genma says, with his eyebrows raised, not needing to voice his wonder at why Kakashi would give trust so easily to a dog but still be so untouchable around them.
Asumi lights up a cigarette, “How was your mission?” He asked Guy, before taking a puff. Trying to bring the topic back to their original reason for meeting, trying to comfort Guy in some way. Something they always needed after their missions, these missions. Never let it be said that ANBU didn’t screw with your mind.
Kakashi was getting ready to tune the other Jounin out and immerse himself in his book when Genma cut in. “Is anybody gonna ask me why I’m late?” the senbon chewing Jounin asked in a huff.
“Raidou-san finally decided to kill you?” Asuma asked, bringing a small bark of laughter from Kakashi and Guy and a murderous look from Genma.
“Ha-” Genma said flatly, “Raidou could never kill me, he loves me far to much,” his eyes narrowed further as he saw the three other Jounin exchanged amused glances showing how much they doubted that statement, “there’s a new chunnin manning the mission desk.”
“Fascinating,” Asuma said dryly, after a few moments of silence. “How utterly interesting.”
Genma gave a little cough at the rush of smoke directed at his face; he crossed his arms and favored all three men with a glare. “Fine. I won’t tell you about him, you can find out for yourselves.”
Asuma just smirked as Kakashi got his book from the hidden pocket over his heart. Guy smiled at Genma weakly, in a small show of an apology but began describing his mission anyway – at least what parts of it he could disclose.
Genma after a few minutes forgot his annoyance in his attempts to remove the image of Guy in a kimono from his mind. He once again thanked whatever deity out there for the fact he had never be chosen to be ANBU, it screwed with your mind enough just having to listen to some of the stuff it entailed.
Iruka wasn’t sure how it happened – he’d been so annoyed and now. Well now he simply gave a little groan of dismay as a now freshly cleaned dog gave him a long lick on his cheek in thanks.
He was still wondering how they had gotten from the horror of Naruto’s room to this. Then again, he thought with a roll of his eyes, he always had a soft spot for strays and after the dog in front of him – “Name’s Bisuke” – had decided to shock Iruka by speaking he had actually proven himself quite charming.
And adorable, Iruka thought in the back of his mind, looking at the golden furred dog with its markings around the eyes and dressed up in ninja gear. Iruka was smiling as he run the towel in his hands over the dog’s head again and thought about how he had always wanted a dog when he was younger but then… certain events had made it difficult.
After Naruto had gotten over his fear of punishment and his anger at the dog - Bisuke – laying the blame of what had happened in his room solely at his feet; it became clear that the young boy was already quite smitten with the dog, and the full story had quickly been told.
Naruto told Iruka quite proudly how he had been wandering the village earlier with nothing to do. Naruto paused quickly looking at Iruka and with a fake cough, said how he decided to go to the library and read. Alas he hadn’t even made it within a few blocks of the building when it really started to pour down rain. So he decided to race home and just a few streets over he had heard barking and following the noise had found Bisuke, “And,” Naruto had finished, “you couldn’t expect me to just leave him there, could you Iruka-sensei?”
Iruka had just given Naruto a look, started spraying down the dog standing in the bath, and simply said, “the library?”
Naruto had flushed, and looked down before looking up again determinately after a few moments. “Yeah.”
Iruka rolled his eyes; hoped Naruto hadn’t been doing anything too illegal and then listened to Bisuke explanation.
“Got lost in the rain,” the dog said.
“Lost my brothers’ scents,” he explained.
“You have a lovely home, Iruka-sensei,” Bisuke continued.
Iruka quirked his brow and smiled slightly.
“At least I’m not trying to use the excuse that I was going to the library,” the dog quipped in his defense.
Iruka huffed out a laugh, while Naruto screeched out a protest. Bisuke looked proud of himself, giving a little spin and sending water flying.
Deciding it was better to not ask about Naruto’s bedroom, Iruka just went with the flow. And with that decided he jumped in to join the now play fighting Bisuke and Naruto.
Iruka, Naruto and Bisuke were all curled up on Iruka’s futon. While Iruka tried to encourage the young boy to always stay put in his own room and on his own futon he found that making allowances sometimes didn’t hurt. Also he wasn’t completely sure that Naruto’s room was currently fit to sleep in.
His arm was stretched out across the pillow, with Naruto’s head resting on it, and the younger boy’s spikey hair causing a slight itch on his arm, though not annoying enough to bother moving him. Bisuke lay on Naruto’s other side, with his head lolling on Naruto stomach, one of Naruto’s hands lazing on top of his head, and with his gaze and attention directed at Iruka.
“I like him,” Bisuke informed Iruka, sniffing at Naruto’s hand as it slid slightly off the top of his head and onto his nose. Iruka snorted a little, smiling as he lifted Naruto’s hand back onto Bisuke’s neck. Naruto hmmed slightly in response, before furrowing his head further towards his chest and letting out a sigh mixed with a snore.
Iruka looked on at him fondly.
“You like him too,” Bisuke said.
Iruka smiled and patted the dog’s head, causing Bisuke to give him a dopey smile and nuzzle his hand.
Bisuke gave Iruka’s hand a big sniff suddenly, “there is something odd about you though,” he said, with his tail still wagging in the air behind him.
Iruka stilled slightly, “oh?” he returned, slowly relaxing again, “and a talking dog isn’t weird at all?”
“Oi,” Bisuke said, giving Iruka a look that the chunnin had always considered Naruto’s puppy dog look. He laughed softly at the thought, causing Bisuke to butt his nose at Iruka’s hand in response. “I’m a nin-dog,” Bisuke said, with a slightly offended tone, “the best nin-dog.”
“Oh,” Iruka repeated again, but with humor this time. He had already figured out that Bisuke was a nin-dog with his ability to talk and the mock Shinobi uniform he was wearing. He was slightly surprised at the dog’s admittance of it through, as he had assumed that the dog had made a point all evening of not acknowledging it.
“Yeah,” Bisuke replied smugly, seemingly oblivious to Iruka’s surprise.
“Well then why aren’t you with your master?” Iruka asked carefully, trying to keep any curiosity out of his voice.
Bisuke gave him a look that seem to quite blatantly say that he hadn’t succeeded, causing Iruka to blush slightly and rub at his scar. Before he gave the dog a little glare as he remembered that this was his abode and his right to ask whom his unexpected houseguest was.
Bisuke yawned in response and turned carefully over, as to not wake Naruto, “he knows I’m safe, the others would have told him.” He then gave Iruka an upside down scowl, “and they know I’m old enough to look after myself.”
Iruka chuckled slightly, the petulance in the dogs voice reminding him more then anything else that Bisuke really couldn’t have been much older then a pup. Probably out by himself for the first time, with his pack letting him get away with it as a sign of trust. He had no doubt that even if his master didn’t know where Bisuke was no doubt the ‘others’ Bisuke spoke of – who Iruka assumed were his pack – did.
Iruka silently promised to watch over the dog carefully, and as he began to rub the dog’s stomach he found himself very curious to take Bisuke home tomorrow, once the weather had cleared, and find out who was the master of such a unique dog.
“Bisuke!” Naruto howled as the chased after the small dog, his body bent oddly with his little arms waving forward and clapping together at random intervals, reaching for the dog but never quite catching him. Iruka watched with an indulgent smile as the blonde haired child nearly caught the dog by his tail and shrieked with laughter at his near catch.
Iruka was surprised at how sad he was at having to take the young dog back to his owner. But he knew that Bisuke belonged to someone else, and knew that while Naruto would without a doubt be unwilling to part with Bisuke it was an experience that would help the boy in the long run. Maybe it would even teach Naruto not to get attached to quickly in the future, though with a sigh and faint hope, Iruka didn’t really think so.
As Iruka thoughts drifted Naruto made a leap at Bisuke, catching the dog but no doubt bruising his elbows and knees at the same time, exasperated Iruka shook his head, “Naruto,” he intoned.
Naruto gave him an innocent glance as a reply but Bisuke playfully bit at the boy’s hands and with a huff of surprise Naruto let him go. Iruka could swear the dog’s barks were laughter as he ran away from Naruto again.
Lulled by Naruto and Bisuke’s laughter Iruka’s mind wandered, thinking over his situation again. What a strange journey he was on. It was horrible in many ways; he hated that he was an assistant teacher again, hated that he had to begin again but with even less trust because he was younger. The mission desk, something that had always been a nice point of relaxation for him, even with the ludicrous mission reports that some of the shinobi handed in, had now become another struggle. No one respected him at all and everyone who had known him even slightly in this time knew he had retired from active duty and looked down on him for it.
He didn’t have the excuses for retiring that he had had originally – through he supposed he should be grateful for that.
Just as his thoughts turned to Naruto, marveling at his new relationship with the boy Iruka realized that the laughter was gone. And after a frantic look around corners and alleyways he realized that so were Naruto and Bisuke.
Iruka swore to himself and took off in a run.
Kakashi ducked and swerved to the side to dodge Guy’s kick before bending back slightly and kicking off the ground into a back flip. He landed by Genma and gave the other Jounin a glare.
“Hey,” Genma said with a smirk, holding both hands up in front of him in a placating gesture, “how was I to know Guy-san was so into his challenges.”
Kakashi just gave him another dirty look and jumped into the tree above them and out of the way of an incoming fist.
“Ho!” Guy shouted in excitement, “you were right to suggest that a challenge was the right thing to bring happiness to my morning!” He told a grinning Genma.
“Ne,” Genma smiled, senbon flicking from side to side of his mouth.
Guy just beamed at him again, teeth sparkling in the sunshine and jumped up into the tree Kakashi had just disappeared to.
Genma finally broke out into laughter that continued for a few minutes as he watched the two other Jounin jump from tree to tree to ground and back again, fighting the entire time. He made a mental note to always remember that telling Guy that Kakashi was questioning his manliness after how downhearted he was at dinner the night before always lead to humor.
A dog’s barking and a child’s laughter coming towards them made all three men pause and quickly gather together. Kakashi and Guy deciding on a truce without even needing to speak. Children knew not to enter the training grounds.
After a few minutes of panicking Iruka remembered that he was a ninja and he retraced his steps back to where he had lost his charge. With a quickly muttered oath and a slap on his head for his own stupidity he quickly located signs of a trail- meaning a young boys footsteps and a dog’s paws leading off the road and into the woods.
Towards the training grounds.
Iruka raced towards the grounds praying that Naruto wouldn’t be hit by any stray shuriken.
He sprinted through the treetops, searching intently below him for some sign of Naruto or Bisuke. When he finally spotted them he noted wryly that, of course, they weren’t alone. However he was filled with some relief he noted that it was Genma, Guy and Kakashi who had come across them. Even though he didn’t know the three Jounin’s very well he knew enough to accept that they wouldn’t mean any harm towards Naruto. He comforted himself as he started dropping down branches heading towards the group, Kakashi was Naruto’s Genin team leader and Naruto had always spoken… well, highly of him in Naruto’s way. No matter what thoughts Iruka might have on the man himself.
Then he heard Naruto give a shout of surprise, anger and fear.
“Bisuke?” Kakashi said, surprise coloring his voice as the small dog raced towards him, followed by a young boy. He watched in bemusement as Bisuke reached him and paused making the young boy racing after him stumble over him and cause himself and Bisuke to do several rolls across the grass.
Genma swung his senbon between his lips again, watching the two with narrowed eyes, while Guy looked on happily.
“Hey, boss,” Bisuke huffed out, trapped beneath a squealing pile of boy. However with Bisuke’s address towards Kakashi the young boy slowly calmed and paused on top of Kakashi ninken.
“Boss?” he repeated, looking at Bisuke but with his head cocked towards Kakashi.
Bisuke nodded with a bark and gave the boy a few gentle head butts to make him stand up.
Naruto slowly stood and brushed down his bright orange pants, now strained by dirt and mud. He patted Bisuke gently on his head and turned to face the Jounin’s.
Genma’s senbon fell out of his mouth to be quickly caught in his hands before hitting the ground, Guy gaped unattractively at the boy and Kakashi’s frown became set – even if not visible under his mask.
“Ne,” the young boy laughed, folding his arms back behind his head and reddening across his cheeks, “maa,” he murmured in between bouts of laughter. “Hey mister!” he addressed Kakashi finally, “you should keep better care of your pets!”
Genma and Guy looked even more surprised and Bisuke whacked at Naruto’s leg with his tail, “not a pet!” he howled at Naruto, “for the hundredth time!”
Naruto just laughed in reply and bent down to nuzzle at Bisuke.
Kakashi just blinked in surprise, unsure why the Kyuubi was playing with his ninken nor telling him off. He slowly shook his head, attempting to clear it and looked towards Genma and Guy to see what they intended to do.
Genma seemed to come to his senses first, “hey!” he shouted suddenly, grabbing Naruto by the gruff of his neck and picking him up.
In return Naruto cried out and started kicking at the Jounin, through held far enough out of reach that none of his kicks landed. Kakashi was surprised to see Bisuke jump up and begin to growl at Genma. He was even more surprised with he felt someone jump from one of the overhand trees to land beside the group with anger radiating off him in waves.
Turning Kakashi saw that it was a chunnin who had joined them. One he vaguely recognized from around the village but couldn’t recall any clear details about. Through he gathered quickly that Genma knew the young man by the way the senbon user quickly switched from anger to friendliness.
“Sensei,” Genma greeted the new arrival happily, waving his hand and therefore Naruto as well, in hello.
Kakashi then watched in shock as the chunnin walked quickly up to Genma, swiftly kicking him in the knee. When the special Jounin dropped the Kyuubi in surprise he watched as the chunnin caught the boy and brought him quickly to his chest, cuddling the boy to him in a protective wrap.
Iruka cuddled Naruto to him. Soothing a hand down the boy’s back as the boy wrapped his small legs around his waist and clung on tighter.
“Eh?” he heard Genma say, looking at him in shock while rubbing his knee.
Iruka felt a vicious satisfaction at the Jounin obvious discomfort. “What do you think you doing!” he growled at Genma, “you’re a Jounin! It is your job to protect the children of this village not scare them!”
“Hah?” Genma responded, apparently to shocked to form a proper reply, “but Iruka-sensei…”
But Iruka cut him off by rounding on to Bisuke, “and you!” he shouted at Kakashi ninken, “what did you think you were doing running off like that!”
Bisuke looked at the ground sadly, “Gomen, Iruka-sensei,” he said sounding shamed, “I smelt the boss so I just took off without thinking.”
Iruka’s hand paused in its act of rubbing circles on Naruto’s back, “boss?” he repeated in surprise.
Before Bisuke could respond Kakashi took a step forward and introduced himself with a “yo”.
Iruka looked at him in disbelief for a few minutes before surprising the group of Jounin by rolling his eyes and huffing out a slight laugh. “Of course,” he finally muttered, looking between Bisuke and Kakashi. He seemed to then come back to himself with a shake of his head, “gomen Genma-san,” he said to the sandy haired senbon. “I did not mean to harm you but it was not acceptable the way you were handling Naruto-kun.”
The group then heard a muffled “yeah!” being shouted into the chunnin’s shoulder.
“Hmm,” Iruka sounded, with an agreeable pat to the young boy’s head before he gave it a little flick, “however, I understand Naruto-kun should not be on the training grounds and no doubt that is why he had angered you,” he then glared at the group as if daring them to counter with any other reason, when they didn’t he continued, “but I am his guardian so if you have any issues with Naruto-kun please address them to me. Believe me he will be punished for running off like he did.”
Naruto squeaked into Iruka’s shoulder.
“Well, we shall be off,” Iruka said before the Jounin could ask any questions. “I hope you are not offended that we took Bisuke-kun in for the night,” Iruka said, turning slightly towards Kakashi, “Naruto-kun simply found him in last nights storm and insisted we look after him for the night.”
Kakashi simply nodded in reply.
Iruka then nodded firmly towards Kakashi then towards the group as a whole, “well we apologise again for interrupting your training.” And before the group could respond Iruka jumped away, carried the Kyuubi with him.
The Jounin’s were silent for a few moments before Genma stuck his senbon back into his mouth and grinned, “So that’s who I was trying to tell you guys about last night”.
Kakashi listened half-heartedly as Guy swamped Genma for details and just pondered the chunnin’s words, staring at Bisuke in surprise, before finally muttering “guardian?” to himself, with a shake of his head.
He heard as Genma introduced the chunnin to Guy as one Umino Iruka, assistant teacher and staffer at the mission desk. He patted the days old mission report in his pants pocket and decided that he would hand it in to the mission desk sooner rather than his normal later.
Bisuke just head-butted Kakashi leg suddenly, and with a slight glare at his calculating boss the ninken disappeared in a puff of smoke.
It is a Kakashi/Iruka story, for those pondering about the use of Genma but I wanted someone to meet Iruka in the mission's office but I wanted Kakashi to have to work for it more than making it that simple.
Chapter 3: Unraveling
Wow, there are no words except a meek real life got busy. A thousand thanks to my beta bgreenwivy, any mistakes left are my own.
"Baka," Iruka said affectionately and with a chuckle as he cleaned the blood and dirt off Naruto's face.
Naruto glared in return with a frown, before wincing as the facial movement managed to hurt his nose further.
Seeing the young boys wince made Iruka's smile falter and he sighed, "I'll say it again Naruto-kun, you need to stop annoying Sasuke-kun. More so if it means you will stop getting into these silly fights."
Naruto let out a huff and pushed Iruka away, "Nee Iruka-sensei, he always starts it! Acting like he's better than me, but he's not!" The stool Naruto was sitting on went spinning away as the young boy jumped up and struck a pose. He looked like he was about to fight against an invisible enemy, his little fists clenched tight in front of him.
With another sigh Iruka righted the stool and covered one of Naruto's clenched fists with a hand. He could feel the young body before him trembling.
Iruka could admit quite quickly that when it came to the Sasuke 'situation' he really didn't know what to do. He had honestly, and somewhat sadly, completely forgotten that Sasuke was even around, until last week when Naruto came home with a darkening eye and a sour expression. He had been livid that someone had hurt his boy and, with only a slight pause to check that Naruto had no greater injuries than what was obvious, he had stormed over to Naruto's school. Naruto's sensei had listened patiently to Iruka anger before simply pointing outside and when Iruka stormed over and peered out the window his anger vanished.
Sasuke was so tiny, had been his first thought, and so alone, his second. With growing trepidation he had watched the young Uchiha as he sat alone under what in the future Iruka had come to know as Naruto's tree and listened as the teacher explained that both the boys were at fault, and while she apologized for Naruto's injuries she pointed out dryly that he did give as good as he got and she had been patching them both up for weeks. Only deciding today that maybe dealing with the pain of their injuries would teach them.
Iruka had just nodded with a sigh, and seeing him calmed down the teacher then continued. She had explained patiently that until now Naruto had been alone so she hadn't thought to discuss his behavior or the situation with anyone. As well as the fact that it was only a few months ago that Sasuke had become all alone. She then admitted quietly that maybe she had been blinded by sympathy for the young boy outside her window but she just didn't know what to do and they wouldn't stop fighting.
Iruka had stopped her then, agreed to deal with Naruto and with a last look at the boy sitting alone underneath the tree, he left he go home and heal his boy.
And as he presently looked on at his young charge with the swelling nose he could admit to himself that, in a completely different way than Naruto's teacher, he also had no idea what to do.
Sasuke would always get to Naruto. It was a fact Iruka knew he couldn't escape and from what he recalled about their relationship in the future the possibility of getting the boys to stop fighting seemed near impossible. However it had happened, even if it didn't seem like it, Sasuke was Naruto's best friend. Even beyond that important fact there was also the simple detail that Sasuke had also once been one of Iruka's students and would one day be again. Iruka didn't think that he could possibly just sit by and watch the boy one day be taken in by Orochimaru.
The protectiveness he had once felt for Naruto had multiplied so much since he had come to the past and decided to protect the boy, he couldn't even imagine letting Naruto go through the pain of losing his most important friend again. Iruka knew that he just couldn't do it. The ninja in him, the protector, just couldn't imagine sitting by and watching either.
Suggesting to Naruto that maybe he could try being Sasuke's friend had resulted in screaming and sulking. Iruka couldn't help but feel that it wasn't his place to discuss Sasuke's family situation with Naruto. While his respect for the third was absolute Iruka couldn't help but shy away from the idea of revealing all to the most powerful man in the village, not if there was any way Iruka could work out to help the boy.
So with no plan yet in mind, but the wheels turning with the pressure of the future looming on him more thoroughly than it had since his journey back, Iruka had just continued to clean Naruto up whenever he came home hurt. But now as he stood with his young charge trembling before him Iruka knew more than ever that he had to do something.
He just still didn't know what.
Kakashi's eye was carefully glued on a page from his book but the latest Icha Icha was not the focus of his attention.
He had been watching Umino Iruka for weeks now. While it had started with a simple desire to know why this young chunnin was looking after the Kyuubi; even he had to admit to himself that his reasons had now changed. Even if that was something he had chosen to admit to himself before burying and ignoring.
He was watching the young Shinobi as he sat at his usual place at the mission desk, being polite and kind and then suddenly strict and shouting if it was necessary. Kakashi had already worked out, with no small degree of humour, that when it came to Genma the only option for the teacher was anger. The ease that the tokubetsu-jounin talked to the chunnin also made his chest tighten somewhat, but that was part of what he was choosing to ignore.
Kakashi was unsure how to approach the younger man. He was even more unsure why he wanted to. Now that he had admitted to himself that it wasn't just the man's willingness to look after the Kyuubi that fascinated him Kakashi was trying to work out what exactly it was that keep his eyes following the young man, all the while trying to ignore this change he was feeling.
Handing in his mission reports to the man told him nothing and if anything left him feeling emptier. Kakashi knew he wasn't overly prideful but he had become used to a certain – reaction – that his fellow Shinobi's had in his presence - a fear of him, a certain degree of envy and even a slight touch of want. But when he had approached the chuunin with his report the man had treated him with an unfailing stare and an unaffected voice. If anything it had seemed like the man disliked him. And while admittedly he had been with Genma and Guy when the Kyuubi had come across them in the training grounds it was Genma who had been making the boy upset and the chunnin didn't seem to hold it against the senbon welding jounin.
It annoyed him further that he was even annoyed by the chuunin apparent dislike anyway.
Kakashi wanted to get to know the man that had taken the Kyuubi in. He wanted to know why he could let something consisting of such evil into his house. Why Iruka could build a home with it.
He was completely willing to avoid the part of him wondering if that meant the chuunin might be able to handle accepting Kakashi as he was as well.
With that thought firmly hidden in his mind Kakashi used his foot to push off from the wall and made his way towards the chuunin sitting all alone at the mission desk. Kakashi only faltered slightly when the chuunin had looked up, saw him coming and frowned.
Iruka normally hated working Saturday evenings on the Mission desk, not only did it take him away from Naruto on one of the two days the young boy didn't have school but it was also the one day of the week you could be assured that the place would be dead. Even Shinobi had days off. But he found that tonight he was grateful for the silence and happy he'd agree to cover the shift because it was impossible to get thinking time like this at home. Thinking was something that he needed to do.
Sasuke. Sasuke. Sasuke. The boy was burning a hole in his brain, he wanted to help him, to guide him, to make him happy and to hopefully do all that so that in the future he wouldn't leave the village, wouldn't go rogue and wouldn't, most importantly, hurt Naruto. The only idea he had was to bond Naruto and the only Uchiha now, years earlier, and hope that Naruto's influence, and even his own, from such a young age would help Sasuke develop slightly less homicidal tendencies.
Iruka groaned and rested his head in his hands, maybe he wasn't as grateful for the thinking time as he thought. Not when it resulted in such a headache. He couldn't take Sasuke; no matter how much he considered it or even how he thought it would probably be for the best. Not only because he could barely afford to keep Naruto and himself fed but because no matter his intentions Naruto would see it as a betrayal. Iruka couldn't deny Naruto his feeling of possession towards his sensei no more than he could stop his own in return. And while he knew the young boy trusted him he also knew that Naruto had been burned before, many times indeed, and was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.
So no, Iruka had concluded regretfully, he couldn't – he wouldn't do that to Naruto for Sasuke. But that didn't mean he planned to give up on the young Uchiha, no, just that he needed a new plan. A better plan. He huffed out a little laugh, thinking that really he needed any plan, no matter how good or bad it was. Determination, Iruka decided, was the key. And he knew he really had been spending far too much time around Naruto when he had to fight the urge to fist pump.
Still chuckling quietly Iruka began to tidy the returned reports in front of him, left kindly for him by the previous shift for something to do. It was while he was sorting the reports into piles that he felt the flare of a familiar chakra and with a sigh of annoyance and with only a tiny glare - in his opinion - he looked up and towards the masked man coming towards him.
A report was placed down before him and Iruka didn't even need to glance at it to ascertain how messy it would be. Kakashi's reports were always messy.
"Sorry," the jounin greeted him finally, with a shrug, "had to wrestle it off my dog."
Iruka was rolling his eyes before the excuse was even made but this one made him pause and think. "Hatake-sensei," he began carefully, a bit irritated at the widening of the single eye before him at his overly respectful tone, he was always polite to the copy-nin, even when he didn't deserve it. Well he considered himself always polite enough at least.
"Please don't trouble yourself about the report, it's fine," it's really not, Iruka thought as he plastered a smile on, "dogs will be dogs… and talking about dogs," Iruka paused briefly, unsure how this would go over. But a flash of Naruto went through his mind and he clung to his resolve, "is there any possibly that Bisuke-kun could come for a visit tomorrow?"
Kakashi only reacted with a slight narrowing of his eye and a couple scratches at his chin.
"Or the next day?" Iruka ventured again, "Naruto-kun misses him greatly."
"Maa," Kakashi finally replied, tapping his fingers to his chin again, "Bisuke not really a pet, nee?"
Iruka clenched his teeth. "Douzo," he said, letting out a breathe though his teeth and with a slight bow to try and hide his annoyance. But his head whipped back up again in seconds when he heard the other Shinobi let out a slight chuckle. Outrage filled his vision and without a second thought of his situation or the danger the man before him possessed Iruka lashed out at him, "How dare you! I have never understood you! Why you are so respected when you only ever seem so horrible and cruel! Not worthy at all! How anyone could ever let you have a Genin team-" Iruka cut himself off in shock. He swayed slightly back from the man that had caused him enough anger to stand up and confront him in such a manner. But it wasn't the shock of his anger that caused Iruka to stop, but a realization that had come to him during it. Wearily, and hopefully, he unclenched his fists and looked back towards the man who had just caused him so much anger.
He flinched at the man expression.
"Gomen," the copy-nin said, sneering at Iruka, "I do think however, chuunin-san, that you have me confused. I have never taken on a Genin team and never will." Kakashi stepped back and gave a quick sharp bow. "Apologises for upsetting you."
And then he disappeared in a puff of smoke before Iruka could respond with any words.
With a gulp and a sigh Iruka felt back onto his chair, he rubbed at his eyes and exhaled. Good job, Iruka, his head shouted at him, you just found the solution to your problem and managed to offend him in every way possible. He fought the urge to bang his head against the desk and sighed again as he realized to was going to have to apologise to one of the only Shinobi in the village that he actively disliked and who hated him in return.
And consequently was the only person who seemed like the perfect solution to his current problem.
He finally gave in to his urge and banged his head at the desk, "How do I do this to myself?" he muttered pitifully and longed to go home.
Iruka had been thinking that there was no way he could possibly feel more ashamed about his behavior the day before when there was a knock on the door. Not bothering to rise from his chair he let Naruto answer it, listening from the next room Iruka had barely heard the door open before Naruto was giving a delighted shout of, "Bisuke!"
Iruka rubbed his head wearily at the shrieking and noise of delight coming from the front room and decided that it really couldn't be possible to feel worse than this.
He didn't like Kakashi, he knew it, the other man knew it, and probably most of the village could tell. However not even Iruka could deny that the man was amazing and was the best Shinobi Konohagakure had and that yesterday Iruka had been unforgivably rude. He had always tried so hard to make sure that no matter how mad he was, how angered someone made him, that he would never doubt a loyal nin's skill. And he had. And to the best they had. His parents would have been disappointed in him; the third would be disappointed in him. He was disappointed in himself. And even worse the main reason for which he disliked the man hadn't even happened yet and in essence he was treating Kakashi like the villagers treated Naruto. But there was something about the man, the other nin could always make his skin crawl and he always seemed to be around. Iruka couldn't help but always sense him, even if it was just a little tingling in his spine. If only the man didn't outrage him and his senses so then it wouldn't be such a problem to play nice with him!
And now Kakashi had sent one of his ninken as Iruka had requested. Quickly pushing away a stray thought of Kakashi doing it just to make him more like an asshole Iruka stood up and made his way to the front room. He doubted he even featured on the jounin radar that much, barring the fallout of his outburst yesterday he doubted the copy-nin even thought about him.
Kakashi wiped away the sweat dripping into his eyes with a quick swipe of his hand before swinging out in a punch that hammered his punching bag across his training room.
With a squeak Pakkun just dodged the flying missile, rolling head over feet to hit against the wall of the room. Once he had righted himself he spun towards Kakashi, tail lashing out and up as he growled at his master.
With an unimpressed look at Pakkun Kakashi just sighed and walked over to get the punching bag.
"What the hell, boss!" Pakkun shouted, not content with being ignored. "You're been like this all day and it's really starting to get on my nerves!" He gave another little growl and walked over to Kakashi. "Seriously Boss, what's up?"
Kakashi just flicked his hair to the side, getting it out of his eye before hanging the punching bag back on its hook. Ignoring Pakkun's mumbling he began stretching his arms again, once more preparing to attack. But just before he could send another punch Pakkun suddenly sniffed and blinked in surprise and a second later there was a knock on the door.
Sending a questioning look towards Pakkun Kakashi began making his way to the front door. Pakkun just chuckled in reply; drool running out of his mouth, before stating quietly but happily, "this should be interesting."
Kakashi just frowned at his ninken and opened the door.
Iruka knocked without a pause, knowing that if he stopped and really thought then he might talk himself out of his mission. And whether or not he worked up the nerve to discuss the whole Sasuke situation with Kakashi he knew that at the very least he owed the copy-nin an apology. So he knocked and waited with a mild amount of dread for the door to open.
He offered a weak smile as he saw the copy-nin's eye poke around the door, blinking in surprise when he recognized whom his visitor was.
Iruka gave a little cough and held out the bowl in his hand carefully.
"Maa?" Kakashi said, scratching his head and peering curiously at the bowl in Iruka's hand.
With a light flush over his cheeks Iruka gave a little cough and nudged the bowl in his hand slightly more towards Kakashi. After a few more seconds had passed Iruka sighed. "It's ramen."
Kakashi looked at Iruka even more blankly.
"It's intended as an apology," Iruka explained finally, before thrusting the bowl gently at Kakashi chest, causing the Copy-nin to catch it in his hands. Iruka gave a little smile and once he was sure the bowl was secure in the jounin's hands he let go, his hands gliding back down to his sides. "I should not have spoken to you as I did."
Bringing the bowl up to his face Kakashi took a sniff.
Iruka's hands clenched at his side, "it's not poisoned," he said harshly.
With a blink Kakashi peered at Iruka over the bowl, "I just enjoy the smell," he said gently before taking another sniff and slowly lowering the bowl. "But then again it's not personal is it?"
At Kakashi statement Iruka let out a harsh breathe. His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides for a few moments before he let out another, longer breathe. Then, with obvious difficulty, he let his body relax and he peered at Kakashi from hooded eyes, "Could we talk?"
"Don't know why we need veges, they all green and gross and Iruka-sensei just likes upsetting me!" Naruto whined, weighed down by the bags of fruit and veges that he was carrying.
Bisuke barked out a laugh, running round the young boys feet but steadying him when he looked ready to fall. "Nearly home, and think how happy Iruka-sensei will be to know you actually did the shopping!"
Naruto smiled, lifting the bags higher with slightly more happiness in his step, "yeah!" he yelled happily at Bisuke, causing the ninken to shake out his head because of the volume, "and then he'd let me have ramen!"
Bisuke rolled his eyes, "yeah, yeah, good to know you're doing it for all the right reasons!"
Sensing the sarcasm in Bisuke's voice Naruto turned a narrowed eyed look towards his friend, "I am!" he protested, "not my fault me doing good things gets me ramen!"
Bisuke just turned in a circle, looking at Naruto fondly. "Race ya home?" he finally said.
"No! Because I have these stupid bags filled with yucky food and their heavy and it would be unfair!"
"Yip!" Bisuke agreed happily, before taking off.
Naruto looked at the small figure running away in outrage for a few moments before letting out a yowl and giving race, an assortment of fruit and vegetables falling from his bags as he ran.
Kakashi sat down, the bowl of ramen making a small clunk a second later as it hit the table in front of him. Leaning forward he sniffed it again.
"I'm pretty sure it would smell better without the mask," Iruka offered with a smile, taking a seat on the other side of the table. "I'm sorry," he began quickly, "I've been, as Naruto would say, a dobe," he gave a little laugh before trailing off with a sigh and wearily rubbing at his eyes.
"Itadakimasu," Kakashi said, with a break of his chopsticks. "You really care about him, don't you?"
Looking down Iruka let out a curious sigh. He rolled his eyes at his knees as he heard Kakashi begin to eat. "Him?" Iruka tapped his fingers on the table, "oh, Naruto."
"He makes you happy," Kakashi mused, swallowing another mouthful of ramen and then bringing the bowl up to his mouth.
Iruka's fingers left the table to touch his mouth, feeling the upturn of his mouth, his grin grew, "yes, I guess he does".
Kakashi finished the ramen in another bite before pushing the bowl away gently with one hand and pulling his mask back up with the other. The bowl gave another little clang as it moved, a signal to Iruka that he could look again. The chunnin looked up after a few seconds, looking thoughtfully into Kakashi's eye, while the jounin looked back at him with his eye narrowed slightly.
"You know what he is?" Kakashi asked, resting his elbow on the table and his chin on his hand.
Iruka leaned back in his chair, "a boy?"
The table was small enough that Iruka could make out the telltale sign of a quirking of Kakashi's lips, but the jounin still narrowed eye left him unsure whether it was a quirk of humor or annoyance. Iruka, while still ever so slightly on guard, let his posture relax slightly more. Naruto was not a subject he felt ashamed about.
"A monster?" Kakashi finally shot back.
Iruka's lips tightened and his fists clenched but he stayed sitting with a slight lean, shoulders relaxed. "He's a boy," he replied softly.
Kakashi's eye closed for a brief moment before opening again, looking just as intently at Iruka as he had seconds before. "Everyone hates him," Kakashi said, letting his hand fall from his chin to hit the table with a gentle fist, "hates what he is."
"He's a boy," Iruka repeated, at the same time finally letting his frustration slip into his shoulders, as he quickly straightened his body, trying to fight the words being thrown at him by strengthening his body, readying for attack. "And I don't hate him," Iruka's fist came down on the table with a steady bang. He let out a deep breath, calming himself and after a few seconds a chuckle escaped from him.
Kakashi's eye widened slightly, looking at Iruka perplexed.
Iruka's fist on the table unclenched and rested flat, he looked at the table between them, their two hands separated by a bowl and so much more that he couldn't see. "I don't know much about you," Iruka said, tipping his head to the side slightly, "but I think I know something. Well I do know something," Iruka chuckled again.
Kakashi narrowed his eye again, unsure what Iruka was referring to.
"I know," Iruka continued, "that Bisuke likes Naruto. I know that ninken means my boy no harm. If he did it wouldn't matter what power he had behind him he would not be allowed to enter our home," he paused to glower at Kakashi, as if to make sure the nin understood the threat, even if it was going mostly unsaid.
Kakashi nod prompted Iruka to continue once again, "and to reiterate I don't claim to know everything, or really much at all. But I don't think Bisuke is so different from you, he's part of your family, and I think you're saying these horrible things about Naruto to me, and not to him. And that is not something people in this village normally do." Iruka turned his hand on the table around, so the palm was facing up, "so I think, maybe you don't like him, but you don't hate him. And you don't think he's a monster and you understand that despite everything," Iruka looked at Kakashi's hopefully, "everything, that you know he's just a boy."
Kakashi's eye softened but he didn't make any move, any gesture to agree or disagree with Iruka's gambit.
Iruka stood, clasping his hands in front of him, not begging but in a gesture of hope, "and I think because of the fact you understand that Naruto is just a boy that you will at least hear this request from me and maybe at least listen to it."
After a second Kakashi nodded, a quick movement of his head but enough to gentle Iruka's posture and let his hands fall to his sides.
"Uchiha Sasuke," Iruka said, noting the light of recognition the name had in Kakashi's eye. "Has been fighting with Naruto, and while I am without any doubt that Naruto has given as good as he has got and probably even started most of these fights it has to stop," his voice shuddered slightly, and he clenched his eyes at the thought of what that sounds of weakness would've given away to Kakashi. He rushed on, "because they are vicious and stupid and I know those boys are better then them," the words came out piled on top of one another and the stupidity of it allowed Iruka to open his eyes again and breath out. For some ridiculous reason he didn't want to examine, Kakashi constant steady gaze also seemed to help calm him.
"I can deal with Naruto, but Sasuke-kun I cannot help, for one Naruto would see it as a betrayal and two, I'm a chunnin and a assistant teacher. Sasuke is hurting so much he needs someone to look up to and to respect and he won't see that in me. So please Hatake-san, please, be that person for him. Help him." Iruka smiled sadly, eyes fading back to memories he would rather never have, "help him before it's to late."
"Sensei-" Kakashi began, before Iruka waved him off.
"Arigatou gozaimasu, Hatake-san," he murmured softly, his head falling forward in a soft bow, he then offered a weak smile and before Kakashi could begin again Iruka quickly formed the hand seals to send him home and was gone.
Kakashi's back hit his chair with a solid thunk as he let his body sprawl on the chair.
After another few seconds of bemused silence a small huff was heard and Pakkun padded out from under the table where he had been laying. "Boss?" the ninken probed gently.
But Kakashi just relaxed even further into his chair, one hand coming up to rub at his covered eye while the other fell shut.
He stayed that way all night.
Chapter 4: Searching
I really hope people do not find Kakashi too out of character. I'm showing a Kakashi that is younger, is not exactly in a good place and is not quite as calm and collected as we know him in the manga. A thousand thanks to my beta bgreenwivy, any mistakes left are my own. And thank you for any comments and kudos, they help write the chapter more than anything else does.
"What did you do to Kakashi?" Genma asked, in lieu of hello, the second Iruka answered the door.
Iruka sighed. "Please do come in Genma-san," he said in exasperation, stepping back.
With a grin Genma did just that, giving Iruka a pat on the shoulder as he passed, and making his way straight to the kitchen. "Got any food for lunch?"
Iruka gritted his teeth a little. "No," he said slowly. "Considering lunch was several hours ago."
Genma just hummed an agreement and looked contemplating at the food on the table. "Been busy," he said after a few moments. "Was doing some training. Kakashi was there."
Feeling his nose and cheeks beginning to flush a bit Iruka turned towards the cupboards, opening and shutting one and not answering Genma's question.
"He's being weird," Genma said, removing the senbon from between his lips, before taking an apple from the table and stuffing it in his mouth.
Iruka curled up his nose slightly and backed away a few steps to avoid the spray coming from the jounin mouth. "Lovely," Iruka muttered. He reached into the cupboard for a bowl and began to put the fruit spattered across the table into it. Coming home last night to find broken bags of fruit and vegetables on the table was sweet… in a way. But he had taken a closer look, seen that most all of the food was bruised and dirty, taken in Naruto and Bisuke's innocent expressions and decided not to ask. Watching Genma crunch away on an apple that's uneaten side had enough mud on it for a leaf to stick to, made him even gladder to stay with his original decision of not knowing.
Some things he just didn't want to know, and right now one of the things he didn't want to know about was Kakashi. But watching Genma spit out the leaf and start scrubbing at his teeth, Iruka had a feeling that wish was not going to be granted. With a weary sigh Iruka filled a glass with some water, dunked it on the table before Genma and said, "that's unusual?"
Genma laughed, his glass of water resting against his lips.
Letting himself finally relax a bit, Iruka looked at Genma thoughtfully. Genma meant no harm; Iruka knew that. The other Nin had even become something of a friend the last few weeks. The jounin had even joined Naruto and himself for dinner a few times, and appeared to get on with Naruto remarkably well considering how their first meeting had gone. But show Naruto anyone with pointy weapons, and a willingness to let the young boy hold them, and they would endear themselves to Naruto quickly. While raising Iruka temper through the roof. Genma would not be showing off his weapons again anytime soon.
"Weirder than usual," Genma said, but with a fond smile to show he meant the famous nin no offense.
"This has to do with me why?"
"It has to do with the fact I saw you knocking on Kakashi's door last night," Genma smirked. He put his glass down on the bench and put his senbon back between his lips.
Iruka gaped at the jounin in front of him, "Are you spying on me?"
Genma snorted, hands going to clench on to each side of the bench he was leaning on. "Your face!" He grinned, senbon dangling dangerously on one side of his mouth. "I live a few doors away."
Iruka wrinkled his nose. "That really doesn't make it any less creepy."
"So," Genma smirked. "What did you do?"
"I might just have been visiting to be nice…" Iruka muttered, turning around to get a cup from the cupboard.
"One for me too," Genma added, as Iruka put the kettle on. The chuunin sighed, but agreeably got another cup out. "Why would you be nice to Kakashi? You hate him."
Iruka's eyes widened in offence; "I do not hate him!"
"You certainly don't like him," Genma scratched at his head. "Everyone knows that."
Groaning, Iruka rubbed at his eyes, "everyone?"
Genma's lips twitched, sending his senbon up and down rapidly, "you were trying to hide it?"
"No, I…" Iruka trailed off with a sigh. He reached over and turned the kettle off.
"It's okay," Genma said pacifyingly. "I'm pretty sure Kakashi used to it, well," he quirked his lips. "Used to people treating him weirdly at least. I mean the man's best friend is Guy. That says something about a person."
Iruka let out a weak chuckle. He passed Genma a cup of tea. "I feel terrible, the only thing people should know about my feelings towards Kakashi-san is respect."
Genma blew on his tea, grinning lightly. "That ship has sailed."
Iruka just groaned again.
"But whatever you did – said – whatever to him last night really messed with his brain." Genma took a sip. "Well messed with it more than it already is."
Swallowing a mouthful of tea, Iruka looked suspiciously at Genma. "Do you not like Kakashi-san?"
Genma's eye twitched at the question and he drank most of his tea before he answered. "It's not like I've got anything against the guy, I just, I don't know."
"He's difficult?" Iruka supplied.
"Yeah," Genma agreed. "Brilliant jounin and I'll be with him on a mission any day but he's not. Just not quite there."
Iruka frowned slightly. "We live in a village full of ninjas; none of us are completely there."
"Yeah," Genma nodded before tipping his head to the side slightly and regarding Iruka with interest. He set his empty cup down on the bench behind him, pushing off from his lean as he did so. "But Iruka, Kakashi's been on a downward scale for a while now. And this morning, whatever you said to him, it was the most…" Genma paused, taking out his senbon and twirling it between his fingers, looking at it as if it was the most interesting thing he had seen. "Motivated… interested… that I've seen him outside a mission in years."
"Oh," Iruka replied dumbly, staring at the jounin in front of him in surprise.
"When I say he's been weirder this morning, well I mean it in a good way." Genma put his senbon back in his mouth and smiled. "Whatever you said to him, however you interacted with him last night, was good. He got something from it."
"What?" Iruka asked curiously. "What I asked him, how I approached him about it." Iruka put his cup on the table roughly, the barely drunken tea splashing on the table slightly. "I was - I acted like an idiot. He seemed more interested in my foolishness then what I was saying."
"Well you got his interest." Genma chuckled, "well even more of his interest than you already had."
Genma smiled. "Nothing. You'll figure it out."
Iruka let out a gush of breath and frowned. "I have no idea what you are going on about, baka."
With a laugh Genma started across the room, towards the door.
"Should I stop bothering him completely?" Iruka asked in confusion, following Genma.
Genma bent to get his sandals and started to put them on. "No… but I don't think it matters, I bet he'll think about whatever you said and come to you. Just try not to hate on him so blatantly from now on maybe. He does have reasons for how he is."
"Are they reasons that explain why we have to put up with him?"
Shaking his head in amusement Genma started out the door.
"Wait," Iruka halted him, making the jounin turn back to him. "In my new effort to not be quite so rude, are you wanting to join Naruto and I for dinner?" He rolled his eyes. "You missed lunch but it's late enough to start dinner and Naruto's ready to eat anytime." He tipped his head in the direction of the back garden, indicating to where his charge was.
Smiling Genma shook his head and stepped out of the home completely. He turned back to the chunnin and smiled fondly. "Got an ongoing dinner with Raidou tonight."
"And every other day," the chunnin smiled back.
Genma rapidly flushing appearance took away from his attempt to look nonplussed.
"He could come to?"
"Nee sensei," Genma shook his head with a smile. "Another time?"
Iruka nodded in return. " Well make sure Raidou-san knows the offer is there."
With a roll of his eyes and a wave, Genma turned and set off.
Iruka bemused, watched him walk away, the conversation they had just had burning in his mind. Then hearing a large bark from the backyard he sighed. Shutting the door he started to make his way to the backyard, beginning to smile at the sounds coming from his boy and dog.
Naruto was lying down in the grass, his head cradled in his arms.
"We gotta figure something out," Bisuke announced into the silence that had settled around them. The nin-dog hopped up from where he had been curled at Naruto's side. He jumped up and down a few times, his head directed towards the windows that showed the kitchen.
Turning over to lie on his back Naruto gave him an odd look.
"Good," Bisuke said, after a few more jumps and a severe nod. "Iruka-sensai is still talking to the senbon-jounin."
"Genma-san's here?" Naruto asked eagerly, sitting up.
"Yes," Bisuke hissed, doing another jump but this time onto the boys stomach, sending Naruto falling back with a groan.
"Bisu-!" the young boy started to howl.
"Quiet!" Bisuke growled.
Naruto frowned at his friend, his nose wrinkling. "Geez… what's wrong with you?"
Bisuke gave a shocked half bark and stepped off Naruto. The young dog then began to run around in a circle chasing his tail, obviously irritated. "That's what I've been trying to talk to you about!"
"Okay! Okay!" Naruto said, holding his hands up in surrender. "Nani?"
"Hai?" Bisuke said, and let out a deep huff. "Right, well last night Iruka-sensai came to talk to Kakashi."
"Ne?" Naruto sat up again, "I didn't think they got on?"
Bisuke looked sideways at Naruto, wary of a topic that he knew could cause explosions. "Well Iruka-sensai doesn't get on with Kakashi."
Naruto narrowed his eyes, "What do you mean? Iruka-sensai gets on with everyone!" His voice rose as his fists clenched. "He's awesome!"
Bisuke was then tackled to the ground by one over-eager and annoyed six-year-old.
"Chill out! Dobe!" He shouted at Naruto, wiggling around to throw the young boy off him. "Shh!" He then said, jumping up again to look through the window at Iruka. "Hah, he's awfully interested in what Genma-san is telling him…"
"Stop being mean about Iruka-sensai," Naruto told him, lying on the ground and huffing. He pouted at the ninken and his blue eyes widened sadly, "why are you being mean, Bisuke?"
Bisuke looked away from the house to the boy on the ground, with a sigh he went to the boy's side. "I'm not," he said, nuzzling at Naruto's chin. "Iruka-sensei's awesome."
"Yeah," Naruto agreed, smiling. He reached out and started scratching behind Bisuke's ears.
Bisuke wagged his tail happily. "I just wish Iruka-sensei and Kakashi could be friends." He looked at Naruto sadly, eyes wide and innocent.
"Yeah." The boy agreed, nodding enthusiastically. "Cause their family."
Bisuke's tail wagged slower, and he looked at Naruto hesitantly.
Naruto continued unperturbed. "You know what?" He told Bisuke, his voice rising again with happiness and a plan. "We should get Iruka-sensei and Kakashi-san to become friends!"
"That's a great idea," Bisuke agreed, rolling his eyes when Naruto looked away. "How did you think of it?"
Laughing Naruto jumped up and down. "Cause I'm the brains!" he grinned.
Bisuke gave a little twitch before sighing wearily and finally smiling gently at Naruto.
"Dattebayo!" Naruto hollered. With a large grin the blonde reached out and tapped Bisuke's head. "It!" he gleefully shouted before running off.
"Pups," Bisuke whined, watching Naruto getting further away. Then with a reluctant smile he gave a large bark and chased after the blonde boy.
"Kakashi," the Third said with a smile. "What a surprise to see you. You're not due for any missions at this time."
"I know," Kakashi replied unhappily. "I could?" He added on hopefully.
The Third just looked at him, shook his head, and let out a puff of smoke. "Lets not get into this argument again."
Kakashi looked ready to argue before deflating slightly and giving the Third an uncomfortable look.
"Is this a personal visit?" Sandaime said finally, with a smile. When Kakashi didn't reply, just gave an uncomfortable twitch, his smile brightened and he gestured to the chair across from him.
After a few moments of looking like he might just leave Kakashi sighed and sat down.
"I know we have never been that close Kakashi," Sandaime said gently. "At least not compared to you and-"
Kakashi stood. "I forgot actually, sorry Hokage-sama, I left some laundry-"
"For you to come to me there must be something important you would like to discuss." Sandaime put down his pipe and putting his elbows on his desk, leaned forward to rest his chin in his hands.
They sat in silence for several minutes until Kakashi finally blinked a few times and looked down. "Do you think," he ventured before pausing. He started again a few seconds later, "what do you think of Umino-san?"
The Hokage removed one hand from supporting his chin to reach for his pipe. He rested it against his mouth and breathed in. "Iruka?" he then murmured, around the smoke curling out of his mouth.
"Hai," Kakashi stressed, looking irritated.
"I approve of him," the Third said finally, smiling.
Kakashi choked a little in anger. "I don't need you to approve of him."
Sandaime just continued to look at Kakashi pleasantly, "isn't it wise for the Hokage to approve of his shinobi?"
"Yes," Kakashi agreed, looking frustrated. "But I misunderstood the way you meant that statement. I apologise Hokage-sama."
"Well," smiled the Hokage. "I approved of him in all ways." He then jumped his eyebrows a few times.
"Hokage-sama!" Kakashi protested, leaning forward in annoyance. "He is a chuunin, a teacher, and an annoyance."
"You seem to have been thinking of Iruka a lot," Sandaime said, still smiling and seemingly unfazed by Kakashi quick anger. "He's a good man."
Kakashi snorted. "He's a good boy."
"He's not that much younger than you, Kakashi. And he has his share of burdens, even if they are quite different to yours."
Through his mask, Kakashi brought his hand up and tapped on his lips. He looked at the Third unsure. "He talked to me about the Uchiha boy."
That brought the smile off Sandaime face and he suddenly looked very grave. "Ah, Sasuke-kun." He looked a bit hesitant for a few moments before seeming to nod to himself. "I suppose it should not surprise us that Iruka is looking out for Sasuke too."
Kakashi rolled his eyes. "In that matter, why is a chuunin allowed to keep the Kyuubi?"
The Third considered Kakashi disapprovingly, staring at him long enough to make the copy-nin fidget slightly. Finally the younger man let out a sigh. "That was uncalled for."
"Naruto is just a boy," Sandaime offered after a pause, causing Kakashi to flinch slightly. "And from what I have observed he seems to get on fine with your ninken."
Kakashi crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. "Ninken, as in one."
"Getting on well with even one of your ninken seems quite a feat." Sandaime said, amused. "I haven't ever seem them take to anyone outside of the pack, and Guy to a degree."
Kakashi grimaced. "Bisuke's the youngest," he eventually said, as if that explained everything.
Sandaime chuckled and looked at Kakashi fondly. "But about Sasuke?"
"He seemed to say that I had a responsibility to look after the boy. Keep an eye on him." The words sounded forced and Kakashi looked at the Third somewhat pleadingly to deny them.
"Do you think you do?" Sandaime asked gently.
"No," Sandaime shook his head firmly. "You don't owe the Uchiha family any debt. You didn't and you do not." Kakashi looked a bit disbelieving and seemed about to argue when Sandaime hurried on. "You do have something that connects you to Sasuke in a way that no one else left does."
Kakashi appeared annoyed. "So that makes it my job to care for him?"
"I doubt Iruka meant that you should take the boy in." Sandaime put his pipe back down, resting it on its holder. "It may be that he recognized that you have something that connects you to Sasuke. And that maybe the child needs someone to connect to."
Kakashi put a hand over his covered eye, as if to protect it beyond all the layers already covering it.
"You don't have to do anything you do not want to do, Kakashi." Sandaime reminded him. "But the fact you are here, talking to me, well that appears to say a lot."
Kakashi swept his hand from over his eye to the back of his head.
Sitting in silence the Third looked over Kakashi thoughtfully, and finally, as if he had seen something good, he smiled.
Kakashi left the Hokage's office by the window. Despite his deep respect for the Third he had to admit the man really hadn't told him anything that he didn't already know. A shout then broke him out of his thoughts, "Kakashi! Hey!"
Kakashi looked towards the sound to see Genma and Raidou standing in front of a restaurant. With his eyebrow raised, and a puzzled expression, he wandered over. "Yo."
Raidou smiled in reply and Genma gave a quick nod. "Feeling better?" The senbon user asked.
Both Raidou and Kakashi looked at him confused.
"You were off at training this morning."
"Was I?" Kakashi asked lightly, eye curving in humour.
Genma rolled his eyes. "Whatever. Thought I'd just check."
Kakashi laughed, "I'm fine." Then with a wave he started wandering again.
Once he was had turned the corner Raidou turned to Genma. "Well he was clearly lying."
Genma just sighed and shook his head. After a few moment of silence he put his hand on Raidou's shoulder and started walking him over to the door of the restaurant. "C'mon," he said around his senbon, "table's waiting."
"You know people are normally pretty astounded by me."
Iruka dropped the cloth he was holding and spun around, spinning the frying pan in his other hand like a weapon.
"Yo," Kakashi smiled.
"You! – What!" Iruka took a few deeps breaths to calm down. "What are you doing here?"
A door slammed open to the side and a blonde head darted out holding a kunai, "Iruka-sensei!"
"Everything is fine, Naruto," Iruka said calmly, waving the boy over to his side.
With a frown towards Kakashi the boy walked over to Iruka's side and soon Iruka felt two little hands clutching at his leg.
"Naruto," he said softly, and with a frown at the young boy he reached down and took the kunai from his hand. "Where on earth did you get this?"
Naruto glared at Kakashi before looking uncomfortably at Iruka, "um".
"Yes?" Iruka encouraged, ignoring Kakashi for the moment to focus on Naruto.
"It was," Naruto rubbed at his nose and paused his glaring at Kakashi to give the ground a thoughtful look.
Iruka smiled at him gently, "for all the time this answer is taking it better be good."
Naruto nodded, "yeah." He pursed his lips. After a few more seconds his eyes brightened. "On the street. Yeah!" He pumped his fist, "dattebayo!"
"Someone left a kunai on the street?"
"Ah ha," Naruto nodded, crossing his arms.
"So a shinobi just left it on the street?"
Naruto nodded again.
"And was this shinobi called Genma?"
Naruto nodded again.
"Okay," Iruka said, joining in with a nod. "We'll come back to that later."
Naruto froze. "Um." He said confused before tugging at Iruka's pants again. "I think I said the wrong thing."
Iruka looked at the young boy curiously for a few seconds before letting out a laugh and bending down to hug him. With Naruto's arms then fastened around his neck he stood up, taking the young boy with him. Naruto chuckled and rubbed at his eyes. "And I think its bedtime."
"No," Naruto said sadly, but interrupted his complaint with a yawn.
"There we go," Iruka said, smiling. Still without even a look back at Kakashi, he made his way to Naruto's room. A few minutes later he came back out, walked back over to the kitchen and glared at Kakashi. "Why are you still on my windowsill?"
Kakashi smiled brightly, and jumped from the sill to the floor. "Just waiting for the invitation."
"I meant it more in the why are you still here way," Iruka said, annoyed. "But I can understand why you are confused."
"It's good we're on the same page then," Kakashi replied, quickly bending to pick up the cloth Iruka had dropped on the floor.
Iruka sighed and accepted the cloth wearily. "We're really not but okay, let's ignore that and get to the issue of why are you here?"
"Well," Kakashi said slowly, leaning back against the counter, "you came to visit me."
"Through the front door," Iruka pointed out dryly.
Kakashi arched his brow. "Thought we were moving on from that sensei?"
Taking a few deep breaths, Iruka shut his eyes. He then counted to ten, out loud.
Kakashi looked at him bemused. "You're not getting any better at making it seem like you like me."
"Not really trying for that," Iruka shot back. He then took another deep breath and opened his eyes. He then walked back to the sink and started washing the frying pan he had put down when Naruto had come running out. He pointed at another cloth sitting dry on the counter and then said, without looking at Kakashi, "you dry."
"But sensei," Kakashi said, amusement coloring his voice. "You didn't buy me dinner first."
"Consider this payment for yesterday," Iruka said, thrusting the clean pan Kakashi's way. Kakashi took it from him and without another word set out drying as Iruka began cleaning the next item. They continued in silence until all the dishes were done. Iruka then rested his hands around the sink and Kakashi leaned his side on the counter and looked at the chuunin. Iruka then broke the silence with a weak laugh, "Have you even eaten?"
Kakashi just looked sheepish in reply.
Rolling his eyes Iruka went across to the fridge and got out a plate of vegetables and rice. He deposited it on the table and gestured Kakashi towards it. "Just left overs, but its food."
Kakashi looked at him in confusion.
Iruka's eyes widened in impatience, "Well?"
Kakashi, still looking confused, walked over to the table and sat down slowly. Iruka grabbed him some chopsticks and then turned away to give the copy-nin piracy and to make some tea.
For the next few minutes the silence was broken only by the sounds of eating and the sounds of water boiling. Once Iruka heard the sounds of chopsticks being put down and a plate pushed away did he turned back towards Kakashi, two cups of tea in his hands.
"You didn't ask me how I like it sensei," Kakashi said quietly, accepting the tea as it was handed to him.
Iruka ignored the comment and sat down opposite Kakashi, taking a sip. "Why are you here, Kakashi-san?" He finally asked, sounding tired.
"You don't react around me like people usually do," Kakashi admitted.
Iruka looked at him strangely. "Oh right," he then said. "As in astounded?"
Kakashi's lips twitched beneath his mask. "If that's how you would like to put it, sensei." He said mildly.
Iruka gaped at the jounin for a few moments before saying, voice raising in frustration, "What? – That's how you -" With a loud groan, Iruka lowered his head to rest on the table.
Kakashi was smiling now, his eye curved happily and looking at Iruka with great amusement. "Not too loud, sensei, you might wake the Kyuubi."
Iruka lifted his head back up with a glare. "His name is Naruto." He then rolled his eyes upwards and sighed, "and a herd of elephants could probably not wake that boy once he's sleeping."
"You should probably get him out of that habit," Kakashi said, suddenly seriously. "It's dangerous not to always be aware of ones surroundings."
Iruka stared back at the jounin blankly. "He's six."
Kakashi nodded, like that was his point. "When I was his age -" he began, but was interrupted by Iruka reaching his hand out towards him in a silencing gesture.
"Yes, I know." He looked at Kakashi sadly. "But Naruto is going to be child as long as I can let him."
Confused Kakashi just shook his head slightly.
Smiling gently, Iruka changed the subject. "About what we talked about? Last night. I do want to apologise for being somewhat – over emotional – but that doesn't change the fact I do believe you could really help Sasuke."
Kakashi scratched the back of his head. "I don't really understand."
Iruka looked at him unsure, "it's not really that difficult, and I just want you to try-"
"You," Kakashi interrupted. "I don't understand you."
Iruka's lips quirked up slightly.
"That amuses you," Kakashi stated calmly, annoyance beginning to color his voice.
"No, it's just." Iruka shook his head slightly. "You don't have to understand everything."
Kakashi just frowned at him in reply.
With a sigh, Iruka leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. "You really don't need to understand me, Kakashi-san, you just need to help Sasuke.
"That's the other thing," Kakashi said, still frowning. "What exactly do you consider helping?"
Iruka bit his lip, his stare becoming a glare. "I'm not suggesting take the boy in! I'm just," He shrugged. "Just talk to him sometimes."
"Just talk to him?" Kakashi repeated.
"Open mouth," Iruka said, his tone screaming idiot, "sounds come out. Hopefully understandable sounds."
Kakashi's eye narrowed. "Just talking?" He repeated again, sounding more thoughtful this time.
"Yes," Iruka nodded, smiling more in good humour. "Talking is a great start, and even if it doesn't go anywhere else, as long as you can talk to each other you're okay."
Kakashi was silent for a few moments before letting out a puff of amusement. "Do you think simply talking to the Kyuubi is going to make him more likeable to the village?"
Iruka stood up suddenly, one hand sitting the table in front of him with a thump. "What is wrong with you!" he hissed, looking at Kakashi as if the jounin was a bug that wouldn't die. "Why do you let Bisuke come here then!" he exclaimed. "If you hate Naruto so much!"
Kakashi looked at empty teacup in his hands and muttered something.
Sighing Kakashi scratched at his nose. "He's not really," he furrowed his brow. "He's not exactly listening to me."
"Huh?" Iruka said stupidly. "Bisuke's rebelling?"
Kakashi glared at Iruka.
"Your nin-dog is giving you trouble." He let out a little chuckle, covering it with his hand quickly.
Not quick enough though as Kakashi glared at him in response, before letting out a little huff. "I'm pretty sure it's Naruto's influence."
Iruka didn't even try to hold his laughter this time; he simply put a hand out on the table to steady himself as he laughed. "It probably is!" He then used his other hand to cover his face, but Kakashi could hear him as he continued to mutter between laughs about rebelling ninken.
Kakashi finally cracked an amused smile, a small silent chuckle shaking his body.
Iruka smiled, wiping at his eyes. "It's ridiculous because it not even funny, and I must be feeling tired," he said, still gleeful at Kakashi's embarrassment and the situation. "But it's just, your 'son' is as bad as mine! God I hope he doesn't become as prank inclined or we're all in trouble!"
Kakashi slight shudder of pain at the thought set Iruka off again. Even a knock on the door did little to remove Iruka humour, and he stumbled over to the door still laughing. Laughter that ended as abruptly as it had begun when he opened the door. He stared at the silver-haired man before him in shock.
"I'm back," his visitor announced smiling.
Iruka just blinked, stumbling back from the door slightly.
Smiling further, Mizuki stepped into the house.
Chapter 5: Wanting
The confrontation. Sort of.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Memories assaulted him without warning, the pain in his back, in his heart. The idea that he could of lost Naruto that day. That he could of lost Naruto because of this person. This person who he had loved. Who had been his best friend and his, and his. Iruka gasped, "I need you to leave." Then determinately and without another thought he strengthened his stance and pushed Mizuki's hands off his shoulders.
"What?" Mizuki's said, with a laugh. "What is wrong with you tonight? Iruka? Are you okay? You're not looking brilliant. And you're acting like an idiot."
Iruka stepped forward, causing Mizuki to back up a step in surprise, his brows beginning to furrow in annoyance. "Leave," Iruka repeated firmly, only the slight shake of his shoulder expressing his feelings.
The happy expression on Mizuki's face was all but gone, his mouth starting to curl in anger. He was opening his mouth to speak again, one hand reaching with intent towards Iruka when there was a displacement of air and suddenly a body standing between the two chunnin's.
"I think," Kakashi said, voice coloured by something that caused Iruka to look at him in surprise. He stood facing Mizuki, blocking Iruka from view with his body. "That you need to leave chuunin-san."
Mizuki's eyes widened and he stared at Kakashi for a few moments in confusion. "What-" he finally said, his eyes narrowing. "What on earth are you doing here at this time of night? With Iruka?"
Iruka blanched at the pure claim in Mizuki voice, swaying the smallest bit. His heart ached, how could he have forgotten about Mizuki. How did he not think of someone who could hurt him? Worse hurt Naruto. And someone who spoke of him like he owned him.
Kakashi remained silent in response, continuing to stare impassively at Mizuki. The tenseness of his back and shoulders visible to only Iruka's distressed self. Seeing the anger radiating from Kakashi Iruka took a deep breath. He was safe, Naruto was safe; Kakashi was here. He could protect Naruto if Iruka failed again.
"Are you-?" Mizuki asked, his tone becoming as harsh as it was shocked, attempting to glare at Iruka over Kakashi's shoulder. "I suppose it is one way in rise in the ranks, Iruka-chuunin, screwing your way to the top does have it benefits."
Mizuki had barely finished when Kakashi reached out and grabbed him roughly between his shoulder and neck. "Watch yourself Chuunin-san," Kakashi said roughly, pushing Mizuki away and sending him stumbling out the front door, Mizuki catching himself gracelessly before he hit the ground.
Mizuki straightened and looked at Kakashi, his expression hidden in the darkness. "Fine," he said, addressing Kakashi. "Have your fun, he's too clingy and wanting by far but worth it for a few nights."
Kakashi's eye just curved further, his expression remaining bemused and uncaring to Mizuki's searching gaze.
"I guess I'll see you later, Iruka," Mizuki spat out quickly, as he turned to leave.
Kakashi just continue to stare, watching intently as the other chuunin slowly walked away. "Well," he began, voice rough and mixed with emotions, once Mizuki had disappeared from sight. "Sensei, you might have some explaining to-" He cut himself off when Iruka moved.
"Thank you," Iruka muttered, head moving forward to rest between Kakashi's shoulder blades. "I forgot," he said quietly, into Kakashi back. "How could I forget?"
Kakashi's body relaxed at Iruka's touch, surprising himself. "Forget what?" he asked softly.
A heavy sigh against his back was the only response Iruka offered.
Kakashi spun suddenly, causing Iruka head to then rest on his chest. With a sound of surprise Iruka made to pull back but Kakashi brought an arm up and with it wrapped Iruka to his chest. "Calm down, it's okay."
Iruka's laugh in response was muffled by Kakashi chest. "No, it's really not." But he let his body relax, calming to Kakashi's touch and the half hug the jounin had him in.
They stayed like that for a few moments before Iruka tilted his head slightly to look at Kakashi tiredly. "Your heart is beating."
"It does that," Kakashi said. He meet Iruka's gaze for a second before using his other hand to push the other man's head back under his chin. They stood like that for a few more minutes; Iruka's head under Kakashi chin, with the jounin's arm across his neck and holding them together, his other hand curling in Iruka's hair.
"What are you doing?" Iruka asked finally, with a sigh and pushing himself out of Kakashi grasp.
Kakashi looked lost for a few moments before a quick shake of his head once more removed all expression from his face. "I don't – nothing."
Iruka nodded with a sigh, looking disappointed for a few seconds before resigned. "You should go."
"Why would I stay?" Kakashi said, looking at Iruka oddly.
"Exactly," Iruka nodded. He then walked around Kakashi to the door, he gestured the nin out.
Kakashi found it hard to want to leave but he - "Be careful, sensei." Kakashi said gently, with finality in his voice for his benefit as much as Iruka's. "And I am going to find out what that scene was about."
Iruka gave him a small smile, "We'll see. And Kakashi-san; I always am." Before shutting the door gently. Once he heard the footsteps of Kakashi move again and then a wooshing sound signaling the man's departure he let himself collapse on the door. Back resting on it and hands rubbing at his eyes. "Insane," he muttered. He then reached down, locked the door, set the traps and made his way to his room. His bedroom door shut with a small bang.
Bisuke let out a small huff from his place in Naruto's doorway, hidden by shadows. His eyes were grave but some happiness peaked through before he gave out the tiniest squeak. "Excellent," he said finally, tongue coming out to loll outside his mouth in happiness. He gave a little jump of excitement, careful not to make any more noise, before spinning in a circle and rushing back to join Naruto in sleep.
"You look horrible Sensai," Bisuke said bluntly the next morning.
Iruka gave a choked laugh. "Well," he said, slightly annoyed as he patted the tea that had spilled on him when he laughed. "I guess children are a reflection of their owners."
"Really," Bisuke began before Naruto wailed again from the bathroom, screaming about if baths really were necessary. "Really." He repeated, tongue lolling out of his mouth, eyes twitching in humor.
Sighing Iruka pinched the bridge of his nose. "Eat your breakfast," he said, sipping his tea again. "And Bisuke I don't want to have this conversation. Any section of it."
Bisuke rolled his eyes, "well that's too bad isn't-"
"No." Iruka interrupted firmly. He set his tea down and looked at Bisuke steely eyed. "You are a great nin-dog, and you're Naruto's best friend and I enjoy you immensely but last night is not up for discussion." After a few moments of silence his shoulder relaxed. "Just please Bisuke."
"Okay," Bisuke agreed, eyes dancing with thoughts and questions, plans forming and changing in his mind.
"And not a word to Naruto." Bisuke went to interrupt and Iruka decisively put a hand down on the table. "That is also not up for discussion. I need your word on this Bisuke. I will talk to Naruto about the situation when the time comes. Not before. And he will hear anything and everything from me."
"Okay," Bisuke agreed again, voice more defeated then it had been mere moments earlier. "I respect you Iruka-san, so I won't go around you and while I think you're being stupid not talking about it with Naruto or I that's up to you."
"Thank you," Iruka said dryly.
"But," Bisuke said, before pausing in warning, "Boss. Well Boss is not going to be so put off."
"Then he will learn my business is not his business." Iruka said tartly, picking up his tea again.
Bisuke laughed, "oh Sensai, I think it's to late for that argument to work with him."
Iruka went pink around the edges, getting up with a huff and walking towards the toaster. He put some toast on for Naruto and put the kettle on again.
"You see the best in everyone Sensei, you want to save everyone. Believe that we feel the same about you."
"Believe it!" Naruto shouted in agreement, exiting the bathroom at the end of Bisuke statement. "Nee Iruka-sensei, so hungry! I think I'm about to die!" He dramatically shivered causing Bisuke to run to him in a laugh, nipping at the towel the young boy was wrapped in.
Iruka didn't move until the toast popped.
He did want to see the best in everyone and he did want to save anyone he could. He had a second chance now; Naruto had another chance at childhood, maybe, hopefully, Sasuke too. He wanted to save anyone he could.
"Iruka-sensai?" Naruto asked surprising gently, tugging at Iruka's leg, as he tended to do when feeling worried or uncomfortable.
Iruka looked down at him and smiled. He wanted Naruto safe more than anything.
"Akino," Kakashi said as soon the dog appeared.
"Boss?" Akino looked at Kakashi in concern. "You're looking. Not stellar."
Kakashi frowned, "I summoned you for a reason not a chat."
Pakkun huffed from behind Kakashi, walking forward and into Akino view. "Don't mind him, he got back in a wicked mood late last night and has been training ever since. Apparently his teacher might have himself mixed up in some trouble."
"There is trouble," Kakashi interrupted with a growl, throwing a glare towards Pakkun. "And that's why I've called you Akino, I need you to keep a watch over Iruka's house. Bisuke will follow the brat but I need you watching Iruka."
"What's the trouble?" Akino asked, looking between Kakashi and Pakkun.
"Finding that out is today's mission," Kakashi said grimly.
Akino nodded, sharing a concerned look with Pakkun. "Okay Boss, of course I'll keep an eye on him."
Kakashi looked at him sharply, beginning to gather his supplies to go out. "He's to be your only focus. Alert Pakkun as soon as something happens."
"Maybe nothing will happen Boss," Pakkun said calmly.
"No," Kakashi disagreed, before he disappeared in a puff.
Akino puffed at the sudden unsought of smoke. "I noticed he didn't disagree about it being his teacher."
"No," Pakkun said thoughtfully, looking at the space Kakashi had been.
"Mizuki-san?" Guy stroked his face thoughtfully, as calm as he could be. "Doesn't really ring any bells. I think I've seen him around but I don't know him to be anything special."
"Hmm," Kakashi grunted in reply as he practiced another jutsu.
"Why?" Guy asked, setting himself up for his daily pushups. "He doesn't seem like anyone who would interest you."
Kakashi said nothing; just continued to frown into the distance.
Guy let the silence linger, looking concerned but continuing his pushups in silence. He didn't speak again until he saw Kakashi freeze in the middle a move. "Kakashi?" He asked alarmed.
"Nothing," Kakashi said quickly, beginning to prepare to leave. "Nothing Guy, just saw someone I should, I need to talk to."
"Should I come?" Guy asked, still anxious from Kakashi's odd actions.
"Hmm…" Kakashi murmured, distracted in thought. "What? Oh, no. It's nothing. But best hurry." He then gave Guy his plastic smile and raced off.
Guy sighed; Kakashi hadn't left their morning training session early in years. Something was definitely changing in the copy-nin's life. He just hoped it was something good.
"Yo," Kakashi said with a wave, sitting on a branch that overhung the path Sasuke was walking.
Sasuke looked up at the Copy-nin with a frown and started walking quicker.
"Hey!" Kakashi reproached, jumping off the branch and following behind Sasuke. "Is that any way to treat your betters?"
Sasuke ignored him and continued walking.
"Kid, yo!" Kakashi gained on Sasuke and moved in front of him. "What's your problem?"
Sasuke gave a weary sigh and tried to step around the older and bigger man, Kakashi stepping in time and preventing him from leaving.
"What?!" Sasuke suddenly growled, shoving at Kakashi.
"Whoa there!" Kakashi laughed, stepping back from the young boy and raising his hands in the air in surrender. "What's your problem?"
Sasuke just looked at him in disbelief before hurrying forward again, this time Kakashi let him.
"My name is Kakashi," Kakashi shouted towards the departing figure a few moments later. He heard Sasuke huff loudly and gave a chuckle. He was starting to feel better, like himself. Maybe Iruka was right and he should take a chance and talk to the kid, he had proven amusing already so that was a positive sign.
And now he was probably in a good enough place to talk to Iruka again. Well Iruka probably wouldn't be too happy with that, not with school about to start at least. He'd go watch Iruka as he taught, just to keep an eye along with Akino, and then the sensai and himself were going to have a little chat.
"Thanks for inviting me," Mizuki said, looking at Iruka as if he was something amusing.
Iruka fought back a wince, he was determined not to be cowed by the memories Mizuki provoked. "I thought, no. I knew we needed to talk."
Mizuki's eyes danced with anger, looking Iruka up and down from across the table, tea streaming in front of him. "So lets be clear from the beginning then Iruka. I go on a mission and you manage to not only get yourself a new place," Mizuki gestured around the kitchen, voice growing progressively more sarcastic and irritated. "But you found yourself someone new as well. Someone higher up at that."
At the Mizuki's tone Iruka shivered, the menace in Mizuki tone making him want to curl up. Was Mizuki always like this? How did he not notice, how didn't he help him? Iruka reached out hesitantly, covering Mizuki's clenched fist. "I, no, Mizuki there's no one else, there's been no one else." And that was depressingly true, Iruka thought, trying to look at Mizuki and see him as beautifully as he once had.
Mizuki looked at him suspiciously but unclenched his fist and turned his hand around to clasp Iruka's, the anger in his eyes dimming slightly, a possessive gleam overtaking.
Iruka had to try to not visibly shake; with fear or disgust he wasn't sure. But he knew things Mizuki didn't, knew enough about himself that he would not be frightened by this man. Not anymore. And he had loved Mizuki once, he was sure of it. The tingle of memories long gone used to tease him on his worst nights but now, now he had the chance to change, to make things safe, for everyone. But. "But," Iruka began, voice soft with concern for how this conversation would go. "Things have changed."
Mizuki's nodded, and stood, without letting go of Iruka's hand and moved from opposite the table to sit beside the other man. He put a hand calmly on Iruka's shoulder, causing Iruka to tense subtlety, and leaned forward, "What's changed then, Iruka?"
"I, I'm an instructor at the Academy now, I'm going to be a teacher. I'm actually meant to be there now but I thought talking to you was more important so I took the morning off and -" Iruka began to ramble at Mizuki's continued silence
Iruka froze at the clenching of Mizuki's hand around his own, staring into the other man's eyes, seeing nothing reflection back at him. After a few tense moments Mizuki let out a bark of laughter, causing Iruka's brows to furrow and confusion to set into his face.
"Oh well that is interesting." Mizuki said, amusement coloring his voice. "Oh no," he said, to Iruka tensing figure. "I think it's good."
"You… do?" Iruka asked, surprised and wary.
"Of course, I always thought your were a tad too delicate for life on the field. You weren't made for that life Iruka, the danger and violence."
Iruka's smiled calmly, but his eyes lighting up betrayed his smile. "I see."
"Don't worry," Mizuki's smiled, reaching up his other hand to cup Iruka's cheek. "That's not what you should be worried about us discussing. No," Mizuki said, teeth gleaming and his hand tightening on Iruka's face. "The Copy-nin is what you should be worried about us discussing."
"You're hurting me," Iruka frowned, twisting his head out of Mizuki's hand. "Stop that."
Mizuki stood quickly, his grip on Iruka's hand bringing the other ninja up with him. "The Copy-nin, Iruka? I don't want to ask again."
"Well that's the other thing, Mizuki," Iruka said, smiling sweetly. The conversation getting to the most important point and the issue he was not in the least ashamed about. "Uzumaki Naruto. I adopted him."
Mizuki blinked in shock, looking truly putout for the first time in their conversation.
Iruka charged forward, taking advantage of the silence. "I saw how the villagers were teaching him and I couldn't stand it." Anger coloured his voice, surging Iruka on in a way nothing else could. He forced Mizuki towards the wall; their hands joint by Mizuki's force his momentum. The other ninja settled against the wall with a thump. "Bisuke-kun is Naruto best friend and Bisuke-kun is also one of Kakashi-san ninken. So at times Kakashi-san and I interact because of that."
Mizuki just blinked at Iruka, slightly dazed and very surprised.
"I don't know if I can have you in my life as you are Mizuki, not anymore. Not with this new life I'm building. I want to give you a chance through. A chance to be my best friend again." Iruka stood tense before Mizuki, withdrawing his hand from the other man's weakened grip. Not sure what answer he was most apprehensive for.
"Iruka," Mizuki started before stopping just as quickly. "You, you have changed."
"I have changed for better Mizuki, and you either agree with that or you don't-"
Mizuki's hands both went to grasp Iruka face, stilling the man. Mizuki then laughed, less crazed than before but intent just as unclear, before surging forward and catching Iruka in a kiss.
Kakashi watched from the tree across the road, his view of the kitchen clear from there.
Akino let out a small whistle. "Guess we know why the sensei took the morning off."
Kakashi said nothing; he just kept staring impassively ahead.
"Boss?" Akino asked quietly.
Kakashi let out a small growl and disappeared in a puff.
Wow, so this chapter may be a little late. But better late than never right? I'm much more inspired in how I see this story going so hopefully the next chapter should roll on sooner than later. But thank you so much to anyone that commented, every time I received one it made me open the file at least, and they started giving me the push I needed to get the chapter done.
A thousand thanks to my beta bgreenwivy, any mistakes left are my own.