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Alone is Never Alone

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When Iruka woke up there was a part of him that wanted to turn over and go right back to sleep. There wasn’t going to be anyone there next to him to wake up to, no one to wish him a happy birthday before he walked out his front door.

He could say he was used to that, but it still hurt just the same.

Wrangling his students that day was the same as any other. None of them knew what today was, to them is was just another day of class. It wasn’t that Iruka expected anything more from them, no he’d be foolish to think that one of them might say something or bring him a card, but he couldn’t say he would have been elated to be proven wrong.

Even the teacher’s lounge was quiet that day. Iruka felt that might have been the worst part. He’d always tried to lead people to recognize other teachers for their birthdays, but it seemed like when he wasn’t the one leading it, they all forgot.

Iruka tried to reason with himself that is was selfish to expect anyone to do something for him on his birthday, but it was difficult to agree with himself.

By the end of the day Iruka just felt exhausted, ready to go home and enjoy the solitude, so he packed up his back and started back home.

Before he got far he heard something, “Iruka!!” it was a voice he’d know anywhere. Turning around Iruka watched as Naruto ran towards him with young Boruto on his shoulders pretending to flying in the sky.

Iruka couldn’t hold back the smile on his face. The twin smiles from the father and son were infectious to everyone, especially Iruka.

When they caught up to Iruka, Naruto placed Boruto on the ground and whispered in his ear before pushing him towards Iruka.

“Happy Birthday, Iruka!” Boruto yelled, as he ran over to Iruka to hug his legs. Iruka picked up the young boy, who only seemed to be getting heavier each time he saw him. One day soon Iruka knew he’d no longer be able to pick up the boy, so he held him tight to never forget the feeling.

“Happy Birthday,” Naruto said, making Iruka’s heart blossom with warmth. He should have known that he would at least get a greeting from Naruto for his birthday.

Without a doubt Naruto had been the shining spot of Iruka’s birthdays for many years now. Since the day both their parents had died the two of them had celebrated ten years of birthdays alone. After they had formed their bond though, neither one wanted to let the other spend a birthday alone. Even when Naruto had spent those years with Jiraiya, he’d still at least sent Iruka a card.

Iruka pulled Naruto into a hug, squishing a laughing Boruto between them, “Thank you.”

When Iruka let go, he watched Naruto fidgeting as if he were anxious to leave. Iruka couldn’t help himself when his smile dropped. He knew Naruto had a family now, and he should be happy for him, but it was disappointing how little he got to see the man now.

“Ramen?” Naruto asked out of the blue, “My treat.”

“Don’t you need to go home to have dinner with your family?” Iruka asked.

“You are my family Iruka…” Naruto reminded him, a little hurt showing through his eyes.

Iruka couldn’t stop his eyes from starting to water. They had always professed that they were family, but Iruka was always a little scared now that Naruto had a family of his own that he would be left behind.

“Besides, Hinata was going to meet us there with Himawari.”

Iruka looked towards home giving Naruto a nod of agreement. He wasn’t excited to go home alone when he could have a nice dinner with Naruto and his family.

He placed Boruto on the ground, who took each of their hands in his and tried to swing along as they walked towards Ichiraku’s.

Iruka and Naruto waved at Ayame and Teruchi, who gave them a big smile on their way into the restaurant. They were both used to sitting at the counter, but with the two young children a table would be necessary.

If Iruka had paid attention Ayame and Teruchi's smiles he might have realized something was happening, but instead he was surprised to see the restaurant filled with his friends and old students as they yelled “Happy Birthday” to him when they walked through the doors.

Iruka could barely process what was going on around him, that all these people were here for him. Hinata was the first to come over to him, Himawari attached to her him. “Happy Birthday Iruka,” she said with a smile, and waved Himawari’s hand for her.

“Thank you, Hinata,” Iruka said, although he was thoroughly engrossed with getting Himawari’s attention. The baby smiled at him with the bright blue eyes of her father, but looking so much like her mother already. He gave them a hug and a peck to the top of Himawari’s head before he started getting pulled around the room.

It was a never ending maze of people giving him hugs, and birthday greetings, spinning him around so much he almost got dizzy. When people started to sit down he saw one face that he’d missed in his rounds.

He sidled up to the bar next to the hokage, “I thought you were on a diplomatic mission this week?”

“I was,” Kakashi replied, a hint of a smile visible though his mask, “I managed to make pretty good time on my way back though.”

Iruka couldn’t help the laugh that escaped his lips, “Well it is nice to see that you’re home safe,” he said with a smile before he was called away to have his dinner before it got cold or eaten by Naruto, the latter being a much bigger threat.

After dinner was cake and singing, though it was horribly out of tune. Still Iruka was smiling from ear to ear, he’d never had such a large party before or so many people wishing him Happy Birthday.

He thanked everyone as they started to filter out, noticing Naruto and Kakashi talking off to the side. Iruka was curious, but everyone kept him distracted with hugs as they left.

Eventually only Iruka, Kakashi, and Naruto’s family were left. Boruto had long since fallen asleep on the table, and Hinata looked equally exhausted with Himawari snuggled to her side.

“Good night, Naruto,” Iruka hugged him close to try to convey how much this night had meant to him. “Thank you.”

“Of course,” Naruto replied, “Birthdays are important. You’re the one that taught me that.” Iruka knew how Naruto felt. Naruto grew up much like Iruka with nobody around to say happy birthday, but that fact that it was the anniversary of the Nine Tails attack only made it worse. He got more stares and hate thrown his way on that day, but Iruka had tried to change it once he knew the boy. He didn’t want Naruto growing up missing the same things he had missed in his life.

After sending Naruto and his family on their way, Kakashi and Iruka stood outside the restaurant alone.

“Mind if I walk you home?” Kakashi asked.

“Oohh, a personal escort by the hokage?” Iruka teased, “What a perfect present.”

“Well I am heading in the same direction, so it seems rude of me to not keep you company.”

Iruka chuckled, and they both started on their way home.

“So… did you wear out your guards with how fast you came back home from your mission?”

Iruka knew that Kakashi was still one of the fastest ninja in the village, even with the little amount of time he actually spent in the field. Rock Lee might be the only one that could clearly outrun him now that Gai was no longer able to run… well not on his feet at least.

“They managed to keep up,” Kakashi replied, leaving Iruka to imagine that the poor team must have been haggard for breath the whole way home.

The familiar structure of his home came into view, and Iruka was actually happy to see it now.

“If I may ask, what were you and Naruto whispering about?”

Kakashi turned his head away, but not before Iruka could catch the barest hint of pink appear above his mask. “I was… uhh… I was thanking him for throwing you a birthday party.”

“Really?” Iruka questioned.

“He said he didn’t want you to be lonely… since I wasn’t going to be home.”

Iruka felt the tears prick at his eyes, wanting to run back the other way to give Naruto another hug for the wonderful evening.

“Well I wasn’t really looking forward to being home alone tonight without you.” Iruka admitted, “I’m glad you’re home.”

“Me too.”

They reached the door of their home, Iruka letting them both inside.

As soon as the door was closed Kakashi grabbed around Iruka’s waist, pulling him close and leaned in for a kiss.

“Happy Birthday, Iruka.”