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The Substitute

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Kakashi stood very calmly at the front of the room, poised, radiating his best air of power and confidence.

None of the kids seemed to notice he was there. They talked amongst themselves, shouted back and forth, threw things, and generally created an aura of unmitigated chaos. Normally Kakashi's presence alone was enough to impress anyone in a room into silence, but the kids clearly were not impressed in the least.

Kakashi scowled, radiated as much displeasure as humanly possible.

No response.

Kakashi cleared his throat, loudly, and radiated more displeasure than was probably healthy to have contained in a single room.

Still, no response. The kids clearly had some kind of immunity built up after having Iruka as a teacher for so long.

Kakashi finally responded to the old standby: shouting.

"Attention everyone!"

A brief ripple of silence ran through the room, but it didn't linger.

Kakashi took a moment to formulate a strategy.

Well… he thought finally, deciding that he couldn't possibly make things any worse, it worked in the movies.

Kakashi turned and raked his blunt fingernails down the blackboard, filling the room with a blood-curdling screech that brought tears even to his eyes. He almost couldn't bear the sound, but at least it had the desired effect. After a few short cries of horrified protest, the kids finally went silent.

"Much better," Kakashi spoke much louder than was necessary, in part due to the ringing in his ears.

"Where's Iruka-sensei?" a pigtailed girl in the front row piped up, her hand thrusting belatedly into the air.

And one dissenter naturally instigated others; soon, at least a dozen students were assailing him with questions as the whereabouts of their favourite sensei.

Kakashi waved his hands for silence, "He is…otherwise occupied today," probably enjoying being able to sleep in late, lucky bastard "I'm Kakashi-sensei, your substitute. Any other questions?"

He realised all too late that he should not have left the floor open; almost as soon as he spoke, he found himself facing a barrage of questions, most of them shouted unnecessarily loud.

"Why are you wearing that mask?" one boy asked, "Are you deformed under there or something?"

"Do you have fish-lips?"

"Why do you wear you headband like that?"

"Aren't you Iruka-sensei's boyfriend?"

"Enough!" Kakashi clapped his hands sharply, "That's enough questions for right now. It's time to start class." Dutifully, he consulted the to-do list that Iruka had written up for him – a series of instructions so simple, Iruka had claimed, "even a Jonin could follow them."

The first item on the list was: Take attendance (sheet attached).

Kakashi read off each name from the oh-so-helpful sheet, placing a checkmark next to each student. By the time he came successfully to the end of the list and realized that there was not a single student unaccounted for, he was feeling rather confident.

Step two read: Collect homework.

"Alright. Everyone pass your homework to the front of the class."

A little Inuzuka girl, Bikou, raised her hand, "Kareshi-sensei…"

Kakashi bit back a sigh of irritation, "It's not Kareshi-sensei, it's Kakashi-sensei," he corrected, "what is it?"

"My dog ate my homework."

There was a soft titter of laughter throughout the classroom. Kakashi frowned deeply. "Are you serious?"

The girl gestured to the tiny, black puppy sitting on top of her desk; it helpfully coughed up a soggy scrap of paper.

Kakashi raked his fingers through his hair and groaned.


Other than the Inuzuka homework incident, the morning passed rather uneventfully. Kakashi, in true Jonin fashion, refused to let this fact go to his head; he knew that the true test of his mettle would come with that afternoon's outdoor training session.

Right after lunch, he lined the kids up and marched them smartly out to training field one as if they were a squadron of soldiers. They seemed to respond really well to unyielding structure and firm discipline, which was probably the way that Iruka ran his classroom in the first place. Once out in the open, it struck Kakashi just how many avenues of escape would be available to a sufficiently determined student on the run. He would need dozens of shadow clones to cover them all.

Quickly, he set the kids running laps around the outdoor track and did a recon of the area. To his surprise, the fence around the yard was already home to a decent number of non-lethal booby-traps – most of them bearing Iruka's unmistakable signature. Rope traps, paralysis jutsu, a tag that would explode and paint the unfortunate soul who triggered it neon pink, even a stink bomb that would likely make a skunk faint. All the hallmarks of a former class clown.

The man was ruthless.

Note to self: never, ever make Iruka mad.

Sufficiently convinced that he would not need shadow clones to wrangle the little hellions, and that the students would not be making a successful escape at any point in the near future, he turned his attention back to the track, only to discover that hell had broken out in his momentary absence.

Two boys were rolling in the dirt in the center of the track, beating one another mercilessly while several other students clustered around them, cheering. A little girl had fallen, scraping her knee, and was overcome by tears. Off to one side of the track, several students were throwing stones at each other and laughing, while others watched from the trees overhead.

Briefly, with a sort of panicked hopefulness, Kakashi consulted the list that Iruka had given him. There was nothing on the list that covered what to do in the event of unadulterated disaster.

As it turned out, Kakashi did need to make use of shadow clones after all.


The bell rang.

Kakashi slumped gratefully down in the chair behind the desk and waved the wild mini-ninja out the door.

"Goodbye Kareshi-sensei!"

Kakashi didn't have the energy to correct the girl; he was pretty sure he didn't even have the energy to open his eyes anymore.

"Well, well…this is quite the sight – a legendary Jonin brought low by children who can barely tie their own shoelaces."

Kakashi opened his one available eye, but he couldn't find the energy to glare at the source of the voice.

Iruka bent over him, grinning smugly, "I think you owe me something Kakashi," he sing-songed.

Kakashi sighed, utterly defeated, "Do I have to physically put my foot in my mouth, or will you be satisfied by a simple apology?"

"Provided it's a sufficiently contrite apology," Iruka was awash in smug self-satisfaction – which would have infuriated Kakashi if he hadn't known that the man fully deserved it.

"Alright," Kakashi summoned the power to rise from the chair, and then, much to Iruka's obvious amusement, bowed deeply, "My dear, precious, pretty baby Iruka-sensei – I humbly apologize for the massively miscalculated comment I made last night, and hereby swear to never doubt your skills from this day forward."

Iruka took a moment to absorb all this before venturing, "And?"

Kakashi glanced up, frowning, "And what?"

Iruka made a vague gesture.

"Oh," Kakashi sighed, "and I am an ass."

Iruka laughed; amused, triumphant, but also forgiving, "Alright Kareshi-sensei let's go home."

Kakashi straightened up gratefully, and draped himself lovingly over Iruka's shoulder as they made their way out of the classroom.

"I was right though," he ventured cautiously once they were halfway down the hall.

Iruka made a displeased noise, "Is that so?"

"Mmhmm…" Kakashi nodded, "I could do your job for one day – but only one."