“Hokage-sama. You asked to see me?” Iruka stood in front of the desk full of scattered documents in the well-known office. But this time he wasn’t here for mission desk duty or assistance.
“Mah, sensei, I told you, it’s Kakashi for you.” Shikamaru rolled his eyes and Kakashi swung around in his recliner to face the teacher. “How are you?”
“I’m well, thanks.” Iruka was a bit confused. Why exactly was he called for, on a Saturday, his one free day of the week? “You didn’t call me to ask about my state of mind, did you?” Oh no… Iruka could sense it. He sighed. “What has Naruto done this time? You now, he’s Konoha’s hero now and not my responsibility anymore.”
“Naruto is fine. Well, at least his last mission report said it.”
So what was he called for? He stared into the Hokage’s black eyes that, as always, told him absolutely nothing. It dawned on him. He had been here called for… no… it had been ages since…
“This is troublesome,” Shikamaru interrupted their staring contest. “The Hokage has called you to assign you a mission.”
“A mission?” It shouldn’t come as a surprise to Iruka. He was a chunin of Konoha, he had fought in the war, well, he had been operating on the side lines and basically failed to keep Naruto away from the main action… The nations had formed a peace treaty and Iruka thought, he could focus on teaching now… His disbelief must have been showing; Kakashi’s eyes smiled in his natural, relaxed way. Probably his lips too. His lips under the blue cloth… Iruka wondered what they looked like, what they could feel like…
“Yeah, a mission.” Fortunately, Kakashi interrupted his thoughts before he started to blush. Iruka had been blushing around the Hokage way too often recently. “I know, you wanted to focus on teaching and I have no idea how we’re gonna manage this mess,” he pointed accusingly at the piles of documents everywhere in the room, “without you but… this is a mission only you can perform.” Shikamaru handed him a mission scroll. Iruka stared at Kakashi for further explanation. “So basically…” The Hokage gave a push to his recliner and stared spinning slowly. “Konoha suffered the least losses of all of the Shinobi Union. It might have been pure luck but… water country wanted a professional teacher from Konoha to come and observe their educational standards. You know their history, they are trying to re-invent the idea of Mist shinobi and asked for our help. You’re our best and best loved teacher, you have fought in the Union… there is no one else we could send.”
Iruka nodded slowly. “I think this is a great idea. I would really like to help but…” With a sigh, he placed the scroll back on the desk. He had a bad feeling about this.
Kakashi stopped spinning, his eyes fixed on Iruka. “But…?”
“You know, I lost my parents when I was a child.” Kakashi nodded slowly. “I don’t really know much about what happened before I was born but… well… my father must have come from the Land of Water, my mother took his name after all. I probably have ties to a clan there.” Iruka closed his eyes. He hated recalling these moments he knew he would never ever forget. “I really don’t know anything about it but before they left… before they left to fight Ninetails, he… he hugged me and told me…” Iruka opened his eyes again and looked sternly at Kakashi. “He told me that, whatever happens, I should never go to the Land of Water.”
Silence fell in the Hokage’s office, thick enough to choke you. “Well,” Kakashi sighed eventually, “you are still the only one I could send.”
“Times have changed,” Shikamaru added, “The Mizukage really wants to better the country’s image. This might be a good way for her to show how determined she is.”
“Clan politics are difficult,” Kakashi continued; his hands folded in his lap. He had started spinning again. “Just to be sure, I will appoint an ANBU to go with you. They will shadow you undetected.”
“And by the way…” Shikamaru gave Iruka an encouraging smile. “This might be a chance to find out about your family’s history. You probably know that Kohari belonged to one of the side branches of the Nara clan. Therefore, I know for sure that the man she married came to Konoha as a refugee from the Land of Water. He had been wronged somehow. This could be your chance to make it right.”
Iruka looked from slowly spinning Kakashi to naturally bored Shikamaru and back. “You two… would make a great couple.”
“Mah sensei, such accusations…” Kakashi winked at him, obviously amused at the idea.
Shikamaru coughed quietly. “We’re a good team,” he agreed, “But you know exactly that Temari and I…”
“Looks like I might not be here for the wedding.”
“I will surely find an excuse to get you back till then.” Kakashi pushed the scroll towards Iruka. “Take it and start preparing. As of now, you’re relieved from your duties in Konoha. You’ll leave in four days.”
Iruka sighed, nodded and bowed. “Thank you for your trust in me, Hokage-sama.” He couldn’t help himself. In Iruka’s opinion, Kakashi deserved all the respect he could give. He was the Rokudaime after all. And the village’s most legendary fighter right after Naruto… and probably Sasuke… Iruka had heard the stories, he wished, he’d seen Kakashi’s Susanoo with his own eyes. That must’ve been a sight to behold… while he himself… He left the office before his thoughts could drift to his own experience of the war… another memory that he wanted to lose.
He strolled through the hallways of the fire temple and looked around. Konoha was the same as always and so different at the same time. The Endless Tsukuyomi had affected all of them. No one really talked about it but Iruka knew that experiencing the perfect life changed everyone. Some people divorced, some married, some left Konoha, some moved here to find something new. For most of them, nothing changed. And nothing had changed for Iruka. Fortunately, the dream was slowly fading. He didn’t remember details anymore but it left him… unsatisfied. Before, he had thought that he was happy with his life, his teaching and his occasional meetings with chunin friends… he knew he was happy… but knowing that in his dream he had taken Naruto home, married the love of his life and had a child with her… it made him realize how empty his flat was every time he came home. The dream had left him feeling like he had missed something important in his life. Naruto was an adult now; he had married right after the war… But Iruka wasn’t that old yet, there was still time to… find a woman he loved? Marry? Have a baby? No, he was a helpless fool when it came to things like that. He wasn’t even thinking of his not-so much-denied-anymore-crush… He might have confused it with deep respect and admiration for a long time. But since the war had ended and they spent more time working together, Iruka had gradually realized that it wasn’t the legend that he found so enticing but the man himself. His relaxed, slightly bored social awkwardness, his newfound habit of spinning around in the incredibly comfortable looking recliner, his calm tenor voice that always had something nice to say to Iruka…
He had accepted that he apparently had a hopeless crush on a man. On a jonin. On a legend. On the Hokage… maybe going away to the Land of Water wasn’t such a bad idea. It would give him time to come to terms with himself and space to think about things rationally. And he’d heard stories that women in the Land of Water were supposed to be beautiful. He’d also heard that some of them had sharp, pointed teeth… Before he knew it, he had reached the apartment building in which he rented a flat. It was a nice flat, it just felt empty and quiet sometimes. Well… often. Maybe his trip would help him think what to do about it. He shoved a pile of essays aside… he would correct them tomorrow… and he didn’t need to plan tomorrow’s lessons now.
Iruka lay down on the sofa and stared at the ceiling. Maybe it was better to not expect anything at all… but be prepared for everything.