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A Crack in the Schedule

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"This can't be right."

"You have got to be kidding me."

"This… can not be right."

"How is this even possible?"

"Has it ever happened before?"

"Never… not in the twenty years I've been working here it hasn't."

"But, what are we going to do?"

"We'll just have to-"

"They'll never accept them. They'll think we're being insulting!"

"But, what else can we do?"

Silence reigned over the mission room for a few minutes as the desk Chuunin looked disbelievingly at the scrolls outlining the day's missions.

"We, my friends, are fucked."

"Totally fucked."

"We're so fucked my unborn child just lost their virginity."

"… I'm not even going to touch that one. You need help, man."

"Shut up!"

"Oh, stop it you two. We've got bigger problems than his serious need for a psych evaluation. Though I encourage you to book one soon… very soon."

"Who needs a psych evaluation?"

All eyes in the room turned towards this new voice, fear evident in their facial expressions. As they sighted the tanned man with his trademark facial scar and high ponytail, they released a collective breath and relaxed again.

"Henteko-san here does," Izumo answered, jerking his thumb towards the hotly blushing man.

"He's already envisioning the loss of his unborn child's virginity," followed up Kotetsu with a snort.

Iruka blinked a few times then shook his head and dropped his bag next to his workstation. "I'm not even going to touch that one."

"Iruka-sensei, I was just-"

"Oh, shut up, Henteko-san! Iruka, we've got bigger problems," Iwashi gravely informed his newly arrived friend.

Instantly put on edge by his normally easygoing friend's tone, Iruka turned his attention to the group.

"What's going on?"

"We're all fucked is what's going on," Kotetsu vaguely answered him.

"Totally fucked," Izumo agreed solemnly as he clapped Iruka on the shoulder.

"Not a word out of you," Iwashi glared at Henteko just as the man opened his mouth.

The silenced man just let out a frustrated cry, flopped down in a chair, and let his head fall onto the desk with a loud bang. The other four Chuunin ignored him as mutterings of 'I'm never going to live this down' could be heard from his slumped body.

A dark brow lifted and Iruka regarded his friends with concern. "Ok, I'm gonna need to know why we're all fucked."

His three friends just pointed silently at the scrolls containing the day's mission information. Walking over and looking down at the parchments, the teacher scanned them quickly before his eyes widened in disbelief.

"This can't be right."

"We've already said that," Kotetsu sighed.

"Has this ever happened before?"

"We've already covered that too. Apparently not in the twenty years model-father-to-be over there has been working the mission desk," muttered Izumo, scratching at the back of his head.

There was a pause as Iruka digested the full meaning of what was about to befall them all. He raised serious, dark eyes to his fellow Chuunin and frowned.

"We're fucked."

"Yep," the other four men agreed simultaneously, Henteko's voice muffled against the desk.

"How in the hell can there be no missions for the Jounin?"

"Couldn't we just-"

"They'll just take it as an insult," Iruka absently interrupted Iwashi. "You know they refuse to accept any missions below A-rank unless the Hokage orders them."

Izumo instantly perked up. "Then why don't we get Tsunade-sama to order them?"

"It's her day off," Henteko muttered, finally raising his head. "She won't leave her sake for anything less than the Village burning to the ground."

"If the Jounin aren't kept occupied for the day that's a very real possibility," Kotetsu huffed. "But, future father of emo kid over there has a point. Tsunade-sama isn't going to help us out on this one. All day sake and gambling binge verses having to deal with whinging Jounin… we're on our own."

A moments silence hung heavy in the room before the four friends quietly came to the only course of action available to them. The only course of action that might save the village from a fate worse than another attack by Orochimaru and his legion of grumpy snakes… bored Jounin.

"Iruka," Iwashi walked over and placed his hand on the teacher's shoulder, "we need you."

"No one else can do this, Ru. You're the only one that even stands a ghost of a chance at not getting caught," Izumo implored him. "You know this village better than anyone else alive."

"I know. You don't even have to ask," answered the pony-tailed man grimly.

Kotetsu further mussed up his spiky black hair and looked out the window at the civilians walking by, children happily running in the sunny streets. Those poor, clueless fools had no idea of the potential destruction hanging over their heads.

"What the hell are you all talking about?" Henteko burst out angrily, waving his arms around. "How can Iruka-sensei do anything against the village's finest? He's a pre-Gennin teacher for Kami's sake. We should just evacuate all the civilians to the Hokage Mountain shelters and pray that by the time we come out tomorrow there're still some buildings standing."

"Who the hell gave you permission to breed?" Kotetsu snapped before turning his back on the flabbergasted Chuunin.

"Easy, Ko. Henteko-san doesn't know me like you guys do. It's not his fault he's out of the loop on this one." Iruka chided gently.

There was a moment's pause as the dark haired man took a deep breath, closed his eyes and concentrated. Henteko watched in confusion, the other three Chuunin knew that the seemingly mild mannered teacher was concocting a plan. And it was going to need to be a grand plan. After a minute or so, the brown eyes opened again and Iruka fixed his friends with a stern gaze.

"Ok, I'm going to need all your chakra wire, blank tags, ink, a jar of peanut butter, a block of cheese, and as many shiny things as we can gather. Anything else I need I'll just have to grab on the run. In the mean time-"

"Rusty Kunai at sunset," Izumo grinned. "I'll do the rounds for donations."

"Food, lots of food," nodded Kotetsu.

"And dango," Iwashi added. "Nothing else will coax Anko away from your imminent demise. But what about Kakashi-san? He doesn't drink, eat with others, or have any weaknesses aside from those damn books and the next Icha Icha movie isn't even finished yet so we can't buy him off with tickets."

Iruka frowned over that. The rest of the Jounin they could placate, but Kakashi was more difficult. He didn't go in for the conventional 'placations'.

"I'll just have to think something up as I go along." He muttered worriedly.

Looking at the wall clock the pony-tailed Chuunin cracked his knuckles and flashed a mischievous grin. There was only fifteen minutes before they had to open the doors and it had been a long time since Iruka had had the opportunity to cut loose.

~*~

The mission room was full of shinobi waiting for their instructions. Jounin with Gennin teams were quickly shooed out the door for an exciting day of finding lost cats, weeding gardens, and the other menial tasks appointed to them to sharpen their skills. The Chuunin calmly accepted the C and B rank missions offered to them and were on their way. The Jounin were told to wait as patiently as possible as there was a delay in the A rank scrolls getting processed.

"Oi! How much longer are you gonna make us hang around?" Anko snapped impatiently at no one in particular. "I'm getting bored."

Izumo held up a placating hand as the Chuunin team he'd just assigned to a mission made their way out the door. "Not long now, Anko-san. Your scrolls should be here any… what the hell is that?" He finished looking out the window with surprise plastered all over his features.

"What the hell is what?" Muttered Genma without looking, too busy picking at his teeth with his ever present senbon.

Iwashi made his way to Izumo's side and looked out the window. "How peculiar." The Chuunin commented, injecting just the right amount of curiosity into his voice. "What ever it is it certainly is very… shiny."

A mild but still noticeable twitch passed through all the Jounin in the room.

"That is shiny." Kotetsu mused looking out the window with his two friends. "I'm not sure I've ever seen something shiny hanging from that tree before. I wonder what its doing there."

Anko leapt to her feet and stormed across the room. "Oh for dango's sake! What the hell are the three of you getting so caught up in- Oh!" She suddenly broke off as she spotted the sparkly object hanging from a tree beyond the mission room windows. "Oooh… pretty."

"Isn't it." Iwashi agreed with a mild smile. "The way it reflects all that light in little rainbow sparkles."

At his words and Anko's continued rapt attention, there was a general clutter of movement in the room before all the Jounin were standing before the windows. They stood in almost dazed silence as the Iwashi, Kotetsu, and Izumo slowly backed away and waited for the inevitable outcome. Jounin were fascinating creatures. Their elite level of skill and general insanity was coupled a singularly unexplainable phenomenon: their innate and almost obsessive curiosity with shiny things.

"What's it doing?"

"What is it?"

"Who put it there?"

"What's it made of?"

"I wanna touch it!"

"I saw it first! I get to touch it!" Anko snapped defensively and dashed over to yank open a window.

The kunoichi leapt out the window and ran to the tree. Genma's curiosity was obviously too much for him as he quickly followed which acted as the catalyst to get the other Jounin moving. Just as the majority of the Jounin had exited through the window to land on the sun warmed grass Anko reached up to touch the shiny hanging object. It looked like a large multi-faceted water drop suspended by a short length of wire.

"You're so pretty." She cooed almost lovingly at the decoration as she took hold and tugged to break its binding.

This proved to be a mistake. A rather spectacular mistake.

A large cloud of purple glittering gas suddenly exploded around Anko and the closest standing Jounin, including Genma, Aoba, and Tsume. Shrieks of surprise rose from the cloud of smoke as figures could be seen rapidly leaping out of it, but no further attack took place.

"What the hell was that?!" Tsume demanded viciously as the Inuzuka clan leader landed in a crouch on a near-by tree branch.

Aoba sneezed rather violently from his hiding place behind a training post and looked thoroughly disturbed as sparkles few from his mouth. "Oh that's just downright disturbing." He muttered before removing his glasses and running a hand through his hair to dislodge yet more sparkles.

Anko's horrified shriek rang around the clearing. "I crushed it! I crushed the pretty!"

Genma ignored all this in favour of staring in aghast at his own hand. It was purple. Very purple… and sparkly. He raised his eyes to take in the other shinobi around the clearing as the smoke rapidly dispersed in the wind. Everyone who had been caught in the blast was purple and sparkly. Their clothes remained unaffected but what ever had been in that smoke had seeped into their skin to dye them the most incredible girly-ass shade of purple.

"Somebody's gonna fucking die!" He exploded, his omnipresent senbon at serious risk of falling out.

Similar cries of wrath and outrage filled the grounds as others discovered themselves to be in a similar predicament. Back in the mission room four very quiet figures watched the commotion. Three had small, almost nostalgic, smiles and the fourth was looking rather pale and shocked.

"I-Iruka-sensei did that?" Henteko almost choked.

"Yup." Kotetsu replied sounding remarkably relaxed.

"I see he started easy on them." Iwashi chuckled quietly as Izumo snickered next to him.

"Well he just wants to distract them, not turn them homicidal. Though Genma sounds like he's ready to rip someone a new one." Kotetsu laughed as one of the Jounin started squirting another with a water jutsu to try to wash the dye and sparkles off. Naturally, they did not dislodge so easily.

"Why the fuck do I smell like beetroot?!" Tsume's cry of fury almost rattled the windows and the three Chuunin friends broke into much repressed fits of laughter. They had to keep it quiet because the last thing they wanted to do was attract the attention of a pissed off pack of sparkly purple Jounin.

Henteko just stood stupefied. "They're going to kill him." He whispered. "They're going to murder Iruka-sensei when they catch him."

"If they catch him." Izumo managed to choke out between smothered laugher. "He's a mighty hard bastard to catch when he wants to be and you can pretty much guarantee he wants to be today."

"But he's still a Chuunin. The Jounin are going to crucify him." Henteko hissed angrily. Even in his shocked state, he knew better than to do anything that might alert the Jounin that he knew something about their circumstances.

Iwashi just clapped the older Chuunin on the shoulder and grinned. "Trust us, Henteko-san, right now you should be more concerned for them than Iruka." He turned to his two still laughing friends. "You've got work to do. We'll cope with your absence."

"Right."

Izumo and Kotetsu dashed from the mission room to head into the downtown district of Konoha. There was a lot to organise.

~*~

All thoughts of missions had flown right out the heads of the Jounin as they tried desperately to get themselves back to a more human skin shade. Civilians and children alike had finally snapped out of their stupefied states and were completely incapacitated from acute bouts of uncontrollable laughter. Anko was crouched at the base of the tree bemoaning the remains of the sparkly pendent in her hands.

Genma had given up on using a water jutsu to try washing the accursed substance from his skin. Even a rather interesting foam jutsu had had no effect on the purple dye.

"When I track down who did this I'm going to introduce them to all the kids." He growled menacingly at his glittery hands.

"The kids?"

The senbon obsessed man turned towards Aoba at the question and blinked a few times at the sight. Aoba had sat his glasses on his dark hair and his face was completely purple except for two oblong patches surrounding his eyes. Any other time Genma would have laughed himself silly but at that moment he was only jealous Aoba still had some semblance of normal skin on show.

"The kids." He answered pulling out a rather heavy pack of senbon all tipped in different colours to indicate the specific kind of poison. "My pride and joy."

"Fuck your pride and Joy, brat." Tsume snapped. "I'm getting to this bastard first. Kuchiyose no jutsu!"

Slamming her palm to the ground there was an angry explosion of chakra smoke before her canine companion stood in its place.

"Kuromaru, I need you to… Oi!"

Kuromaru had spent the first few seconds staring wide-eyed at his pack leader before letting out an almost ear splitting howl and collapsing onto the ground in what could only be described as gleeful doggy laughter.

"Stop that! Stop that this instant!" Tsume yelled at the dog as he rolled on the grass.

The rest of the Jounin standing around could only watch the spectacle and cringe. It was not a proud moment for their rank. Eventually the dog managed to gain control over his mirth and stood once more on wobbly legs, small growly chuckles still escaping his throat.

"You're looking rather fetching today." The dog snickered. "Though I can't say I approve of the smell. Is that beetroot?"

Tsume actually growled and while the dog didn't exactly cower he did sober enough that his legs at least stopped trembling.

"If you're quite finished," the Inuzuka leader snarled, "sniff around, get the scent of the little mongrel who did this, and we'll go castrate him."

"What if it's a woman?" One of the other Jounin asked as he scrubbed at his arms with some left over foam.

"THEN I'LL CASTRATE HER!!" Tsume exploded before smiling sweetly. "Do you have a problem with that?"

Every Jounin in the area enthusiastically shook their heads as did any remaining civilians before they decided to back away slowly and get on with their daily tasks. A furious, threatening, scary Tsume was quite normal… a smiling Tsume was down right terrifying and usually preluded mayhem. Kuromaru quickly started sniffing around the vicinity for any scent which might give him a clue as to who had turned his partner into a sparkly, purple, beetroot scented psychopath.

"Got it… I think." The dog muttered unsure.

"You think?" Anko sniffed at the ninkin, finally looking up from her lost sparkly.

"Well… I'm pretty sure but it's quite hard to tell with the other scents confusing things. If I didn't know better I'd say that the culprit has tried to mask any scent trail… but their method is rather unorthodox."

"Unorthodox?" Aoba asked.

"It smells good. Really, really good. But it's clear that it's a deliberately laid scent. I don't understand why they would try and cloak themselves with something that's so… delicious. It makes me want to track."

"Who gives a fuck?" Tsume snapped. "You got the scent or not?"

Kuromaru gave the best attempt at a shrug that a dog can and nodded.

"Then let's go!" Genma yelled, pumping a fist in the air.

"Yosh!" Cheered the rest of the Jounin and the grassed area was cleared within a matter of seconds. The hunt had begun with Tsume astride her ninkin leading the way.

~*~

"The scent gets stronger here." Kuromaru slid to a halt and snuffed at the air. "Very strong and… and it smells like…"

Letting out an excited keen, suddenly the dog bolted forwards so fast Tsume tipped off him and landed flat on her back on the ground, feet up in the air.

"Woah," Genma leaned over her prone form, eyebrows raised and senbon slowly wiggling back and forth, "you okay?"

Tsume lay flat for a brief moment blinking up at the sky before she exploded in spectacular fashion. Her purple skin turned a deep shade of plum and Genma leaped backward as she flipped to her feet.

"What. The. FUCK!?"

She bolted after Kuromaru who had shot down an alleyway between two buildings.

"KUROMARUUU!!"

The other Jounin all blinked and cast nervous glances at each other before running after the wild plum coloured woman and her wayward canine. After all, the dog was still the best lead they had. They came to an abrupt halt, however, as the alleyway took a rather sharp turn and standing right around the corner was a stock still Tsume. Aoba only just managed not to crash into her through some rather nifty footwork…, which likely saved his balls that day.

"What the-"

Aoba's surprised question was cut off by Tsume's low curse.

"Goddamn son of a neko."

The gathered Jounin looked to where her eyes were glued and more than a few jaws dropped in disbelief. At the end of the alleyway was the largest stray cat they'd ever seen. The feline was the size of a medium dog and standing with back arched and claws out, hissing and growling furiously at the motionless ninkin. Its coat was a myriad of colours… that was the parts of its coat that they could see. The alley cat's entire back and tail had been liberally smeared in peanut butter and tied to its tail was a chunk of cheese.

Kuromaru could have been carved from stone. The poor dog was completely frozen in place. As advanced beyond normal dogs as the ninkin were, they still shared the same basic genetics and before him was the canine equivalent to a dream come true. A small, desperate, and revered keen rose from his dark throat before turning into a strained woof.

"Kuromaru, get a hold of yourself." Tsume spoke, interjecting as much authority into her voice as possible and stepped toward her companion.

At her movement the cat let out a furious hiss and took off running. It was as if someone lit a firecracker up the ninkin's arse. Kuromaru shot after the fleeing feline with a flurry of overexcited, ear splitting yips far too high-pitched for a dog of his size and stature. Tsume shot after her dog screaming curses and yelling at him to heed her commands and get his "fuzzy, flea-bitten hide back here."

~*~

Above all the commotion, hidden in the shadow of a window ledge, grinned a very satisfied clone. The plan had worked perfectly, time for the next phase: splitting them up into smaller groups. He held out his hand, a pebble clasped between finger and thumb, took careful aim, and let it fall. Less than a second after the pebble dropped the clone dispersed, carrying his memories back to the original working hard on the other side of the village.

~*~

Due to the rather unusual spectacle they'd just witnessed, it was entirely excusable that the group of Jounin did not notice something as discrete as a pebble coming right for them. It was also excusable that when said pebble impacted with the tip of Genma's senbon with a rather pretty ping the Jounin flinched, much to his chagrin. Anko, however, did not excuse him.

She landed two solid blows on his arm. "Two for flinching."

"Harpy." He muttered sulkily and looked up to see where the wayward rock had come from. Dangling above them from an unassuming window ledge was another shiny object, this one done in a corkscrew design so it twisted gently in the wind. Genma couldn't help the automatic twitch in his fingers as they longed to touch, but the day's events had at least instilled a sense of caution in the elite. "It's a trap."

"Yep, but it could also contain some clue as to who's screwing with us."

Nobody moved.

"This is pathetic!" One Jounin suddenly yelled. "We're the village's finest! The elite! We're the mother-lovin' Jounin of fire country and we're all standing around in an alley too scared to touch a goddamn sparkly!" He glared at his comrades. "For shame."

"Go on then, oh brave warrior. Climb on up there and fetch that sparkly."

"Yeah, the rest of us pathetic cretins will huddle down here in fear."

The Jounin lifted his chin arrogantly and leapt onto the wall, sticking there with chakra. "Fine. Watch and learn, kiddies."

He stalked cautiously toward the calmly twirling ornament, keeping alert for any hint of a trap. There was nothing. He scanned with his eyes and chakra being careful not to get too close before he could ascertain it was completely safe. Once he was positive the decoration was safe he reached out and took hold, unhooking the thread holding it from the windowsill rather than snapping it just in case. Nothing happened.

"Ha!" He turned triumphantly to sneer down at his comrades below, most of whom were sporting very disappointed expressions at the lack of action. "I told you nothing would happ- AGGHHH!"

While the ornament had been perfectly safe, he'd failed to see the trap set in the windowsill. One moment the Jounin had been gloating, the next he was dangling from the windowsill upside-down tangled up tightly in a long rope and the twirling decoration once more twisting in the wind as it hung just below his head mockingly.

Everyone froze for a few moments as they took in the situation before collapsing in loud, hysterical laughter. Their mirth echoed throughout the alleyway and their slightly fluctuating chakra was just enough to set off the next trap.

The stone and wooden walls surrounding them suddenly wavered and blasts sounded all around, rainbows of colour shooting from the walls at head height. The Jounin reacted quickly, but once more were not quick enough. The shinobi broke and ran, leaping away from the colours exploding all around them. When they came to a stop, mostly lining the walls above the 'attack zone' it was to their horror that they discovered they'd been dyed again… this time their hair.

Looking around at the others, Aoba couldn't help but give a snort of amusement. There were three colours: the nastiest shade of lime imaginable, one hell of an obnoxious fuchsia, and orange. Reaching up and tugging a lock of his own hair into view he couldn't help but cringe. Orange. Goddamn orange. He let out a long sigh.

"Should've stayed in bed."

"Right! That's fucking it! We're splitting up into teams! Everyone with the same coloured hair forms a team and let's hunt down this bastard!" Anko bellowed.

"YOSH!" Was the general cry of consensus as the Jounin leapt for those dyed the same colour as them. Surprisingly enough they ended up split into fairly even teams. Genma couldn't help but scowl at this fact. It was too convenient.

"Someone's seriously screwing with us." He growled under his breath before turning to his new pink haired team and trying desperately not to acknowledge the fact that his hair was the same bile-inducing colour. "We need a pro tracker for this one. I'm going for reinforcements. You start the hunt and I'll meet up with you soon."

With that, Genma leapt onto the rooftop and dashed off toward the far end of the village.

"Alright maggots, let's move out!" Anko bellowed at the now teamed up Jounin, pumping her fist in the air.

"Oi, wait! What about me?" Demanded the Jounin still strung upside-down and looking like a purple sparkly decoration in the sunlight.

"You're one of the village's finest. An elite. You're a mother-lovin' Jounin of fire country." Anko grinned, more sharp teeth than smile. "I'm sure you'll get out of it in no time."

As the teams dashed off in different directions, one of the Jounin on Anko's team couldn't help but lean over and whisper to his lime haired compatriot, "Why the hell are we all following her orders? She's only a tokubetsu."

The other Jounin just looked at him as though he were crazy. "This is Anko we're talking about here. Do you really want to try and order her around when she's this pissed off?" He hissed back.

"Good point."

~*~

"Kakashi-san! Open up!" Genma continued to hammer on the door with his fist. "Oi, Kakashi-san! I know you're in there, bastard. Open the damn door!"

He could feel the Copy-nin's chakra on the other side of the door and it was driving him mad that the Jounin wasn't answering his calls.

"Goddamnit Kakashi!" He thumped on the wood harder, kicking it in frustration. No matter how angry he was, though, he wasn't stupid enough to try to enter uninvited. Only one fool had ever tried that and it had blown up in his face… literally. "I know you're in there, asshole, I can feel you're chakra. Open the fuc-"

"Maa, you say you can feel my chakra but I've been standing behind you for the last few minutes and you're still giving all your attention to the door. I'm getting jealous, Genma."

After everything the tokubetsu Jounin had been through that day he felt he could be excused for jumping like an edgy rabbit before turning to glare at the masked man.

"You could have said something sooner, rather than letting me knock on your door like an idiot."

The single grey eye crinkled into a smile and the older man scratched at the back of his neck sheepishly. "To be honest it's taken me this long to get past the shock of your appearance."

The glare darkened. "Shut up. Look we need your help. We need your nose, actually your dogs' noses as well if you don't mind." Genma's hands fisted angrily. "We're on the hunt."

"I see. On the hunt for what?"

"The one who did this of course!" The younger man yelled as he pointed at his hair and skin.

The elite-Jounin nodded. "Well I was about to go get a mission…"

"This is a mission!"

"Ahh, of course, of course. Well, I suppose I can help you out. Seeing as it's so important and all."

Genma resisted the urge to punch the un-dyed shinobi. He needed him. "Good, c'mon."

The multi-coloured sparkly man took to the rooftops and Kakashi watched him streak away in a fantastically bright blur before shrugging and following after. As they made their way to where the rest of Genma's team were, the silver haired shinobi felt he could be excused for slipping on a tile (regaining his balance immediately of course) when a large alley cat went streaking by below, covered in peanut butter, with the Inuzuka clan leader and her ninkin chasing after it at a furious pace. He'd always known it but watching as Tsume flew past in pursuit of Kuromaru, Kakashi was once more impressed by her extensive and creative use of swear words.

~*~

Sitting on a rooftop across from one of the buildings he had trapped earlier in the day, Iruka couldn't help but indulge in a chuckle. The cries of pure, furious frustration coming from within were like music to his ears. Sweet, sweet music. After the amount of trouble the Jounin caused in the Mission Room he felt he was fully justified in enjoying this beautiful moment. He knew what he had done was cruel. After all, it must have been every Jounin's dream to be in a room that had every inch of wall and ceiling covered in shiny, glittery, spinny ornaments. This was also precisely the reason they failed to detect the chakra-activated glyph he had painstakingly laid out on the floor with the thinnest wire he could get his hands on.

Although he had superb chakra control, Iruka didn't have as large reserves of it as the Jounin did. So instead, he used that immense supply of chakra (and their often frivolous use of it) against them. As he listened to the cries for help, the memories from one of his clones transferred back into him and he sprung into a tense crouch. Kakashi had joined the group!

"Shit," he growled under his breath.

The Copy-nin had taken longer to get involved than he'd thought, but then the man was always late. He quickly assessed his situation. The green group of Jounin were trapped and he figured it would take them another couple of hours before they managed to break free. The pink group were stalking the false trail he'd laid near the market strip and the orange group had decided to stop for a strategy planning lunch once they figured out that running around willy-nilly wasn't going to get them anywhere.

As for his physical condition, it wasn't looking too good. Most of his energy had been put into the use of clones. He'd had to use far more than usual that day, really pushing his limit, because of the difficulty level of his unofficial mission. His stores were running low and there were still a few hours until sundown. Now that Kakashi was with them though…

"Shit." He muttered again.

Flashing through hand signs, the Chuunin created two new clones and sent them out using up more of his preciously dwindling reserves. Riffling though the bag he'd hastily retrieved that morning, Iruka checked his supplies. There was still quite a bit of wire, half a jar of peanut butter, and a block of cheese for what he needed to do.

Better to be pre-emptive than wait until I know it has to be done. He decided before taking off toward the closest park.

~*~

"I see," Kakashi said as he looked around the tree Genma had brought him to near the Mission Room, "so Kuromaru picked up a scent here, followed it, and was then 'led astray' by that cat, eh?"

Leaning against the tree and glaring at some kids who had paused to stare and giggle at his bright visage, Genma looked like some kind of bizarre alien playing shinobi dress-up. "Yeah, the mutt was going on about how it was weird because it smelt really good and then after following the scent we came across that damn flea bag."

The Copy-nin looked up at the fat clouds floating above and sighed. "Well, let's see if I can't do better."

A Kunai was whipped out, his thumb nicked, and the weapon safely tucked back in its holster within the time it took to blink. Flashing through hand signs, the Jounin pressed his palm to the ground. "Kuchiyose no jutsu."

After a quick pop Pakkun was looking up at him curiously.

"Yo, Boss."

"Pakkun, I have an interesting job for you. It's one even Kuromaru had trouble with."

The little pug's nose twitched at that. "Pfft, that dog couldn't sniff out a tree in the forest. Leave it to me, Boss, I'll find what you need." The nin-kin lifted his head in pride, ready to prove himself.

Kakashi couldn't help but smile. Competing Pakkun against the Inuzuka hounds was one of the few things that got the pug truly motivated. He watched as his nin-kin sniffed around the tree, even using chakra to climb up and scent along the branch where the decoration had hung earlier, and the hollow where the dye bomb had been hidden.

"Damn that smells really, really good."

"Ignore that scent, it's the one that tricked the Inuzuka. Find another one to follow."

"I know." Was the growled response before the little black nose went back to snuffling. "Got it."

"Do you know who the scent belongs to?!" Demanded Genma, the man perking up excitedly.

For a reason the senbon obsessed ninja didn't understand, Pakkun gave a nervous glance at Kakashi before answering. "Well to be perfectly honest…" again the nin-kin looked at his master, "it smells a lot like-"

There was suddenly a loud, high-pitched screeching and a fuzzy brownish-orange ball came flying through the air to hit the pug square in the face. For one dramatic moment, it seemed as though time had frozen. Pakkun's eyes were massive as he stared at the equally stunned, frazzled looking squirrel that had a death grip on his whiskers. Even more amazingly (as impossible as it might seem) the squirrel had tied around its neck chunks of cheese smothered in peanut butter.

"Ch…" Pakkun almost yipped.

The squirrel chirped at him and looked around dazedly, as if it had no idea how it came to be latched onto a dog's face.

"Ch…"

"Damn," Kakashi muttered as his dog began to tremble in excitement and the squirrel chirped again, this time more nervously.

"Ch… CHEESY SQUIRREL!!"

The fuzzy rodent screeched in fright and shot away from the nin-kin at top speed. Pakkun was hot on its trail in less than a second, his high pitched, excited barking interspersed with cries of "SQUIRREL!! CHEESY SQUIRREL!!"

Genma watched as yet another ninja canine ran off and smacked a purple sparkly hand to his purple sparkly face before running it through his hot pink hair. Any second now, Kakashi would go chasing off after his canine and Genma would be back to square one. Unexpectedly, though, Kakashi simply chuckled and slipped his hands into his pockets.

"Well, at least he'll be entertained for the rest of the day. His brothers are going to be so jealous when they hear about this."

Lifting his head from his hand, the tokubetsu Jounin looked at the Copy-nin in surprise. Well, if the silver haired shinobi didn't want to go chasing after his dog he certainly wasn't going to argue.

"So, Kakashi-san, what's next?"

"Eh? Surely you've noticed?" Kakashi asked as his eye crinkled into the patented arch. At Genma's blank look he continued. "We're being watched and I'm not talking about the brats."

Genma cast his senses past the group of children and now staring stunned after the over excited nin-kin. At the edge of the park, he could sense it, that watchful gaze.

"Kakashi-san, let's go."

"Maa, if we must."

The two Jounin dashed toward the figure at blinding speed but just before they got there, it melted back into the shadows and they felt chakra being gathered. Genma was absolutely determined not to lose this new trail but just as he reached the area, they'd seen the figure there was only a pot plant present.

"Fucking bastard, a replacement jutsu! He can't have gotten far!" Quickly going through the necessary hand signs, Genma created three clones and sent them off to find the other teams. The hunt was on!

~*~

Contrary to popular belief, Iruka had never allowed his hiding places and escape tunnels to fall into disrepair. All hinges were kept carefully oiled and pathways clear. He may have reduced the number of pranks he pulled around the village, however there was no way he could give up his favourite past time completely. Besides, the academy sensei was sure that Ibiki really did enjoy it when he snuck into the T&I department and turned his office into a den of lava lamped, shag carpeted looove.

With his extensive network of escape routes and experience from using them, he had managed to evade the village's elite until sundown. As the sun began to sink below the horizon, Iruka couldn't take one more step. He was done, completely exhausted. He had run around the entire village evading Jounin left, right, and centre. It was unbelievably gruelling and likely wouldn't have been achievable for anyone else but himself.

Right at that moment Iruka had no idea which building he was on top of. All he knew was exhaustion. As soon as his back hit the brick wall of the stairwell entry and glittery, multi-coloured Jounin dropped down on him from the sky like angry falling stars he knew the game was over. It was all he had left in him to remain standing.

"I-Iruka-sensei?"

"Eh?"

"Eeehhhh?"

"The teacher?"

Iruka didn't know whether to be insulted or just laugh. Damn Jounin, of course no one of lesser rank could possibly do anything that would in any way even remotely undermine their awesomeness. Their arrogance was without rival.

"Iruka!" Anko's bellow broke the Jounin from their flabbergasted staring and the kunoichi ran at the lone Chuunin with fist raised. "You bastard!"

Ah, Iruka thought, here it comes.

Closing his eyes, he turned his face to the side and waited for the strike.

"Hold on just a moment please, Anko-san."

Iruka's eyes snapped open at that voice. He was saved! Kotetsu stood just in front of him, Anko's fist caught in his hand, with Izumo by his side.

"Jounin-sama," Izumo addressed all those gathered on the roof top, "please don't attack Iruka-sensei for what he did today. He acted under orders."

A stunned blinking met this declaration, including Iruka. Anko pulled her hand from Kotetsu's and back off a step.

"Orders?" She demanded.

"Yes."

"Whose?"

"Whose do you think?" Kotetsu raised a dark eyebrow. "Anyhow, it's all by-the-by now. For being such wonderful sports and participating in today's frivolity we Chuunin have put together a surprise for you."

Aoba couldn't help but snort. "I think we've had enough surprises for today, boys."

"Damn right," growled Genma. "I'm more in the mood for revenge."

"Really?" Questioned Kotetsu with feigned confusion. "Even though we've reserved the Floating Lilly Onsen for all you men? With the lovely ladies all ready to scrub you squeaky clean with special ointments that will remove all that dye in your skin and hair?"

"And Ladies, the Four Leaves hotel has kindly reserved their hot springs for you, along with the excellent massage service they are famous for. All the necessary ointments are already there waiting for you." Grinned Izumo. "After you've been cleaned up and pampered the Rusty Kunai has a tab on the bar and kitchen especially for you all! Fully complimentary from your Chuunin comrades."

Both Chuunin bowed politely before saying together. "Thank you very much for your participation today."

The Jounin all stared at them in silence.

"Y-you really think-" Anko began angrily before being interrupted by a smiling Izumo.

"Ah, Anko-san, the chef at the Four Leaves has been trying some new dango recipes and has requested that you do a personal taste test for him this evening after you've bathed to your satisfaction. He is keen to have someone with as much experience as you advise him on the new flavours… all seven of them."

Anko visibly twitched. "Seven?" She asked as a little line of saliva ran from the corner of her mouth.

As Kotetsu smiled and opened his mouth to answer, Genma's temper got the better of him.

"You have got to be joking!" The tokubetsu yelled. "We're purple, sparkly, smell like beetroot and you're going to let him off just because of some dan-"

"Genma-san," Izumo interrupted in an almost sing song voice, "Murasaki-chan from the Floating Lilly has asked me to pass this along to you. You're her favourite apparently." The Chuunin stepped forward and presented Genma with an envelope.

As the senbon user took the envelope suspiciously, Kakashi came up and stood at his shoulder.

"Murasaki? As in 'purple'?" The Copy-nin asked with amusement dripping from his tone. "How ironically appropriate."

"Shut up." The younger man snapped and tore open the envelope, pulling out the contents.

Both Genma and Kakashi froze looking down at the small slip of paper held in the tokubetsu Jounin's hand.

"Oh my…" the silver haired man murmured.

Blushing so dark his purple skin almost turned black, Genma stuffed the paper in his pocket and cleared his throat unsteadily.

"Well, gents, we don't want to keep the ladies at the hot springs waiting. That just wouldn't be polite." Still blushing, Genma flashed a toothy grin. "Come along then!"

With that, he took off across the village so fast he was nothing but a sparkly blur against the fiery sky.

The other male Jounin did not dally for long. If what ever was on that message could get a rise out of the normally laid back, levelheaded Genma it must be good. As the men dashed off the women couldn't help but sigh and role their eyes.

"Typical," one of them muttered before focusing narrowed eyes back on Iruka. "The promise of a little skin and they forget their main objective."

"Actually there was quite a lot of skin promised. That and… well…" Kakashi chuckled sheepishly from his place at the edge of the group.

The women turned to him. "Why are you still here?"

"Yeah, aren't you going to run off and find yourself a nice time with the others?"

While the kunoichi took their frustrated questions for the other men out on the Copy-nin the two gate guards crept over to their exhausted friend.

"You okay, Ru? You look like hell." Izumo whispered worriedly.

Iruka tried to straighten up a bit from his slumped position but just didn't have the energy. "No time for that. Did you find something to bribe Kakashi-sensei with?"

The guilty look that passed between his friends was all the answer he needed.

"Shit."

"We're sorry. Look, you get out of here. We'll dist-"

"Oi! You two." The three Chuunin snapped their attention back to the group of Jounin. Anko was pointing at Kotetsu and Izumo, and all the women had a rather annoyed air about them. The Chuunin had to suppress shudders at those cold eyes. "You two will come with us. We have questions for you."

If the three friends had thought the women were scary before it was nothing compared to when they all smiled. Kotetsu and Izumo paled dramatically and backed up a step.

"Kakashi-san, we'll leave the teacher to you. We trust you'll keep your end of the bargain."

The silver haired man merely hummed, the single eye giving away nothing. However, at his simple confirmation, the women all turned their eyes on Iruka and their mouths lifted in feral grins.

"Then we'll leave him in your hands."

Kotetsu and Izumo stared at Iruka helplessly but the pony-tailed Chuunin just gave them a tired nod. The three of them knew they'd come to the end of their control over the situation.

"Kotetsu-kun, Izumo-kun," Kakashi spoke, his eyes trained solely on Iruka. "Please put in for leave for Iruka-sensei for the rest of the week when you get to work tomorrow."

The gate guards drew together in front of Iruka protectively without thought, but there was a gentle push to their backs and they heard their friend whisper "Go. He's still a comrade."

They'd all known the dangers of their self-appointed mission and that the day could have possibly ended like this. As Iruka said, Kakashi was a Konoha shinobi and would not cause any serious damage to a fellow soldier over something as trivial as some pranks. As two of the Chuunin were dragged off by the female Jounin, Iruka let out a sigh and his legs finally gave out from under him. Sliding down the wall he came to a seated position at Kakashi's feet, his back still supported by the bricks behind him, and head hanging almost drunkenly.

"What ever it is you're going to do in revenge you'd best be quick." He smirked up at the older man. "I reckon you've got about five minutes before I pass out."

Crouching down next to him, Kakashi simply gave him a smile and cocked his head to the side. "Oh? What a shame. For what I have planned, I'll need you to be quite well rested. You'll need your strength, all of it."

The smirk fell from the teachers face. "What did you promise them?"

Before Iruka could suck in a surprised breath, he had been hauled back to his feet and pinned against the bricks. One of Kakashi's legs forced its way between his thighs and the Jounin pressed bodily up against him. The Chuunin was about to demand an explanation but the chillingly intense focus of the single dark eye froze his tongue.

"I promised them I would push you so close to the edge of your sanity that you will beg… no, scream for mercy." Kakashi's eyes narrowed and Iruka could feel all the blood drain from his face as his eyes widened with fear. "I promised them that by the time I'm finished you'll be rendered temporarily immobile and so senseless that you won't even be able to remember your own name." The taller man pressed against him more firmly and his face moved forward so he could whisper in the younger man's ear. "I promised them it will take you days to recover."

Iruka had to swallow past the nervous lump in his throat and fisted his hands, which were now trembling with more than just exhaustion. Had he truly misjudged the Copy-nin's character so horribly? He knew all Jounin were crazy and those that served in ANBU possessed a sadistic streak a mile wide… but Kakashi had always seemed so laid back and stable.

"Kakashi-sensei, I didn't harm anyone today. I promise any thing that was done to them is completely reversible without any side-effects." The Jounin pulled back again to look him in the face with eyebrow raised. "And as for Pakkun… well he looked like he was having fun and when I threw the squirrel I was aiming for his back, but… well, squirrels aren't the most aerodynamic of objects to throw and it kinda ended up on his face and… well dogs love cheese and the string was designed to break after about twenty minutes so he'll have gotten a treat and-"

"Iruka-sensei, you're babbling."

"Yeah, well… I'm just trying to point out that beating the hell out of me until I likely need to be hospitalised isn't really deserved." Iruka finished defensively and frowned as the man pinning him started to chuckle. He tried to shove the Jounin off but the man just pressed him into the bricks more firmly. "You may think this situation is funny, Kakashi-sensei, but for me…" he broke off what he was saying as an intense wave of fatigue washed over him and made his head spin. He slumped in the Jounin's hold even as it tightened to keep him upright, his head coming to rest on a vest padded shoulder.

"Don't get so worked up, Iruka-sensei, you're too tired to maintain a head full of steam at the moment. Maa, what a day of misunderstandings. Who ever said anything about hurting you?"

At the older man's casually spoken words, Iruka forced his head up and his eyes open. "What?"

"It would seem that you've taken my words the wrong way, just as the kunoichi did."

Before Iruka could fully muddle out the meaning behind Kakashi's words his mouth was taken in a soft, masked kiss. It was brief and the Chuunin was so shocked he simply froze in place as hidden lips brushed over his.

"I intend to keep my promise, Iruka-sensei. I will make you beg and scream for mercy, I will leave you senseless and mindless, and, if all goes to plan, you won't be able to remember anyone else's name except mine."

"Oh…" Iruka breathed almost inaudibly.

A loud yowling broke the silence between them as the large, peanut butter smeared alley cat went streaking across the roof with Kuromaru still in hot pursuit. The two shinobi watched as the nin-kin chased the cat right past them. The poor dog was panting and slobbering up a storm, his coat damp and matted with all manner of debris and filth. He had obviously been through one hell of a chase but the fanatical light in his eye was burning bright. The canine was alone, its owner obviously having given up the chase long ago likely in favour of a strong drink.

"Where the hell did you find that cat?" Kakashi asked in wonder. "That thing's a monster. To have evaded a nin-kin for so long… it's amazing. Kuromaru is going to be heartbroken if he doesn't catch it."

Iruka looked both sheepish and pleased. "Actually it's one that I ran into when on a mission to Snow country when I was a Gennin. The real thing was much worse."

The Copy-nin frowned. "Snow country? Real thing?"

"Ah… about that." Iruka grinned and made a hand sign. "Release."

Even as Kakashi felt a small amount of chakra return to the teacher's person, Iruka blacked out and slumped in his arms.

There was a moment of silence over the village before a tragic wailing howl that spoke of greatest loss split the night sky.

"Henge clone… you're a devious little bastard, Iruka." The Jounin grinned down delightedly at the sleeping Chuunin still pinned against the wall. "I think this might be love."