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"… And T&I took him off my hands when I arrived."

"Thank you." Tsunade said. "If that's everything, you're free to go now."

"Ah, if I may…" Kakashi began.

"Hmm? What's up?"

"The enemy had this stolen heirloom in his possession, and when I tried to return it to the witch, she refused to take it. Actually, she wanted nothing to do with it, and seemed fearful of it, claiming it was cursed." Kakashi said, holding up an amulet with an emerald pendant. "She wouldn't accept it, nor did any of the other villagers, so what should I do with it?"

"Since no one wants it, it's yours. Keep it, sell it, give it away - do whatever you want with it."

"Are you sure you don't want me to turn it in for someone to look at? It's just… There has to be a reason no one wanted it."

"Ahh, it'll be fine." Tsunade waved off. "The necklace is probably just chakra-indued, and the villagers were making a big deal out of nothing."

"Alright, then. I'll take it, if it doesn't interest you."

"Good!" Tsunade said. "But let me know if you do figure out what this supposed curse is."

"Will do." Kakashi replied.

With nothing else to say, Kakashi pocketed the amulet and bowed, and then left the room. On his way out of Hokage Tower, he grabbed a blank mission form to fill in later, and once he slipped it in his vest, he began his journey home.

He was exhausted after his week investigating rumours of strange activity in one of the smaller villages in the Land of Fire. The villagers were very superstitious, and believed it was a witch they had banished years ago that was causing all their problems, and had requested she be killed - or sacrificed, as they put it, for the good of the village; but it turned out that the village leader's grandson was the culprit, making 'preparations' as a follower of Orochimaru, and had pinned the blame on the witch because she wasn't very well-liked. It was a real pain in the neck to deal with; and he was glad it was all over.

Kakashi wandered along the path, getting lost in his head, thinking about what he was going to do when he got home, and whether he needed to pick anything up before then; and as he shuffled along, he heard a heavy thud off to the side.

He turned to find Iruka outside with his students at the academy, teaching them how to throw kunai. From what he could see, they had already learnt how to throw straight ahead, and at targets on either side of them, and now they were learning about moving targets.

Kakashi watched Iruka's demonstration with interest, and smiled to himself when Iruka got the bullseye on all the targets and all his students started whispering in awe. To the untrained eye, it was impressive watching someone hit moving targets so easily; and to his own trained eye, although it was one of the easiest things to do, he still found himself impressed because of how gracefully Iruka had moved.

There were a lot of jounin who didn't think too much of the chuunin teachers at the academy, since they stayed in the village and just taught the basics to children; but Kakashi knew they were just as capable as anyone who went out on missions. Since they're regularly reminded of every aspect about being a shinobi, they're quick to counter and adapt to whatever is thrown at them, and they're unpredictable when they fight, because they don't mindlessly use the same tricks and techniques all the time like those who go away on missions - everything they teach comes to mind, so there are often plenty of surprises in battle.

Or maybe that was just Iruka.

Kakashi had never sparred with him before, but he'd seen him fight, and knew he was one capable man. He had perfected the basics, since he practiced them every day; and some of the things Kakashi had seen him do in battle were very clever, and completely unexpected. He'd love to spar with him and see just what he's made of; but for some reason, he'd always been afraid to ask. There was something in those beautiful brown eyes of his that turned him to stone, that made him freeze up any time he wanted to talk to him about something other than work; and he wished he knew how to overcome that fear.

Kakashi sighed wistfully.

"I wish I could get closer to Iruka…"

Suddenly there was a shrill ringing coming from Kakashi's pocket; and he reached for it in confusion, his heart racing from the unexpected activity. He pulled out the amulet he'd taken from his mission, and saw that the noise was coming from the pendant, growing louder and louder with each second that passed, and that the emerald was glowing brightly, like something had activated a mechanism inside of it.

Kakashi lifted his head protector to examine the emerald with his sharingan, to see if he could figure out what had caused it to glow and ring, but just as he pulled it away, there was a bright flash; and Kakashi felt something, not quite wind, pass through him, weakening him; and he fell to the ground as something wrapped itself around his neck. He tried to reach for the object to pull it away, but he was becoming weaker, and more and more disoriented; and trying to free his neck was becoming a futile effort.

Kakashi took a deep breath to help himself think clearer, and the first thing he noticed when he exhaled was that he wasn't being strangled - he just had something around his neck. The second thing he noticed was that the world around him was much larger than it was just a few seconds ago, and he could see and hear everything more clearly. He also felt like he had a huge weight on his shoulders. Literally. He couldn't move, like a heavy blanket was holding him down.

Kakashi tried to crawl away, most of his body stuck underneath the weight; and when he got one of his arms free, he reached out ahead to use it to drag himself along the ground, but when he saw it, his eyes grew wide, and his heart leapt in a panic. That wasn't his arm… It was an animal leg.

Overtaken by fear and surprise, Kakashi thrashed about beneath whatever was holding him down, trying to run away from everything; and when he finally freed himself, he scampered up a tree, onto a branch several metres up, clinging hold of it for dear life.

He was on the verge of hyperventilation, his breathing being fast and heavy; and, recognising it for what it was, he sat on the branch, taking a moment to calm himself. He looked around at his surroundings, searching for something to focus on, to occupy his mind; and when he looked down to see what was beneath him, his heart lurched, and he gripped hold of the branch even tighter - he had climbed a lot higher than he expected. Or at least, that's what it looked like.

It seemed that when the pendant released that blinding flash, it had somehow caused him to shrink and transform into some kind of small, furry animal; and the distance from the branch to the ground was a lot more daunting. It felt like jumping down would almost be the equivalent of freefalling from a cliff.

A strong breeze whizzed past, making the branch wave, and Kakashi clung to it harder, determined to not fall off. He dug into the bark more deeply, securing his position; and when he looked down, he saw fluffy, grey legs with dainty paws at the end, and coming from those were strong, sharp claws. He didn't even need to see the rest of himself to know exactly what he'd turned into. It was plain as day that he was a cat.

Kakashi had no idea how to deal with this. He knew he had to reverse this somehow, but despite the fact that it seemed like the pendant had released a jutsu or something, the whole time he'd had the amulet, he hadn't sensed any chakra, so it wasn't as easy as getting someone to whip up a few hand signs and cast another jutsu, or something like that. Even so, this wasn't something he'd be able to figure out on his own, so he had to see Tsunade again.

But first, he had to get out of this tree.

Kakashi looked down again to find the best route, and was still a little intimidated by the height, but he was a shinobi - he couldn't let this stop him from doing what he needed to; so with that in mind, he took a deep breath, and jumped to the next lowest branch.

His landing was a little sloppy, but he made it, nonetheless; and after his first successful jump, he confidently jumped from the next lowest branch to the next, until he finally reached the last one and gracefully leapt to the ground.

Something smacked him in the throat on the way down, reminding him that during the blast, something had wrapped itself around his neck; and he lifted a paw to find out what was there. He felt a soft, silky material that reminded him of ribbon, and something cool and hard dangling from the front; and when he felt the shape of it, his eyes widened in surprise, and he ran over to his crumpled up uniform that had stayed behind when he transformed, and searched beneath his clothes and around the area.

There was nothing there but his belongings, which only confirmed his suspicions...

The amulet had somehow attached itself to him.

What the hell happened?!

Kakashi knew he wouldn't get any answers hanging around, so he decided to leave, but just as he made his first step, he sensed a familiar chakra signature getting stronger and stronger as someone approached; and he turned around to see Iruka wandering over.

"Hey there, little one." He said softly. "Don't be scared. I saw a bright flash a moment ago, and I just came by to see what happened."

Iruka squatted down, and carefully extended his hand for him to sniff. Kakashi stared at it, wondering if he should actually sniff his finger or not - surely that'd be too weird to do, right?; and when he made no move, Iruka retracted his hand, a little disappointed.

"I guess I should have expected that..." He sighed. "Anyway, you wouldn't happen to know what happened here, would you?"

"Ah, yes, I would." Kakashi said. "I got turned into a cat."

"Huh? Thank you for trying to answer my question," Iruka chuckled, "but I can't actually understand you, little guy!"

Kakashi huffed in frustration and walked over to his uniform, and sat on top of it.

"Over here." He mewed.

Iruka looked at him curiously as he got up and followed him over. He'd interacted with plenty of cats before, but this one seemed to be understanding everything he was saying, and was trying to help him out.

"You're a smart little thing, aren't you…?" He said to himself.

Iruka turned his attention to the uniform on the ground, and began going through the pockets, trying to find something to identify whose it was. If he was right, that cat was telling him what he'd seen when he'd been teaching just before had something to do with this; and that could mean anything, from someone's uniform falling from their backpack, to an enemy nin disguising themselves as a Leaf shinobi and discarding the uniform when they're done with it, to, well… Iruka blushed furiously. A lot of shinobi couples thought they were stealthy because they could mask their chakra signatures and stuff; but trees don't exactly moan or giggle…

Iruka shook his head, trying to get rid of that image, and focused on his search. He'd done the vest pockets, and found a fresh, blank mission form in it, indicating that it was someone who had just returned to the village; but there wasn't really anything interesting in it besides the usual shinobi equipment. He moved on to this person's pouch, and when he opened it to find a bright orange book, his face grew red again and he quickly shut the pouch.

No… There was no way Kakashi was the type of person to do… that in a tree. Sure, he read those raunchy books, but he, himself, wasn't like that. No. Iruka refused to believe Kakashi would strip somewhere like this, and do private things in public. So if he wasn't having sex in a tree, or in an alleyway, or something like that, what the hell were his clothes doing here?

"Ah, Kakashi…" He sighed to himself, picking up Kakashi's clothes. "You'd better have a good explanation for this…"

Iruka began to walk back to the academy, Kakashi's uniform in his arms, and smiled as he watched himself monitoring his students throwing kunai at moving targets. When he'd cloned himself to investigate the flash, a couple of students seemed to have picked up on it, and his change in chakra levels, but it looked like they had forgotten all about it as they got into the lesson.

He went into the building and wandered over to his classroom to store Kakashi's clothes in a spare storage scroll he kept in his drawer, so that his students didn't see it and ask questions; and when he put the scroll on his desk, he yelped in surprise when he saw the cat he'd found sitting there patiently, staring at him.

"What are you doing here, huh?" Iruka asked softly, running a hand over its head. "You don't want to stay here - the kids can get very loud."

Kakashi walked over to his clothes and sat on them, looking at Iruka. He needed to find a way to tell him he needed to see Tsunade, because thinking about it now, there was no way any of the ANBU would let a cat into the Hokage's office, since there had been assassination attempts in the past that involved animals. But if Iruka was there, since he was so trusted in the tower, maybe he'd be able to get him in…

Suddenly, he had an idea.

Kakashi stood up, and bit the clamps on his vest pocket buckle until it unclipped; and he used his paw to reach inside. It was hard to grip hold of things, but he eventually got the corner of the blank mission form out of his pocket, and he used his teeth to pull the rest out. When it was free, he opened it up, and laid it flat, the template facing Iruka; and then he walked towards his side of the desk and tapped on his corked ink bottle.

"What's the matter?" Iruka asked curiously, opening the jar for him, and gently tilting it so he could reach.

Kakashi dabbed his paw in ink, making sure it was covered in it, and he messily walked back on 3 legs, trying his best not to use his wet paw or let the ink drip from it; and when he got back to the mission form, he pressed his inky paw down in the signature section, then stepped back so Iruka could see.

Iruka's brows furrowed as he studied the mission form in confusion. The cat clearly knew what it was doing when it stamped the mission form, but what was the purpose of it signing it? Was it trying to tell him Kakashi was on a mission? Or just got back from one? But how would it know that? Unless…

"Ohh, I get it!"

"Thank god. Please take me to -"

"You're Kakashi's cat!" Iruka beamed. "It's strange to think of him owning a cat, though, since he has all the ninken. And that necklace is an odd choice, too… I would have thought you'd have a blue coat, like his summons."

Kakashi huffed in frustration, and walked over to Iruka, and gently bit his hand to get his attention.

"Hey! What was that for?!" He complained.

Kakashi's tail flicked in annoyance, and he tapped at the pendant with his paw, and then at the word 'mission' on the mission form, and then repeated the pattern.

"So Kakashi got you that on a mission?" Iruka guessed.

Kakashi sighed, and then walked in a circle, then stopped and stared at Iruka. When he was met with a blank expression, he did it again, then pointed to himself with his paw.

"You…?" Iruka tried.

"Yes!" Kakashi mewed encouragingly.

He did a circle again, then sat on his uniform.

"You are Kakashi's -"

Kakashi growled, as if to say no.

"So you're not Kakashi's cat."

Kakashi nodded, then tried again.

"You know Kakashi?"

Kakashi glowered in frustration.

"Then what?!" Iruka exclaimed in confusion. "I'm sorry, but I don't get what you are trying to say. The circling is 'you', and the uniform is 'Kakashi', but what's the connection?"

Kakashi looked around at everything on the table, and walked back over to the mission form, and pointed to the paw print, then spun in a circle.

"Are you trying to tell me that signature is yours?"

Kakashi nodded.

"That was kind of obvious - I just watched you stamp it."

Kakashi ignored the comment, and pointed to the paw print again.

"Your signature…" Iruka began. Kakashi nodded, then walked over to his uniform, and sat on it.

"Is… Kakashi's?"

Kakashi stood up excitedly, and tapped on his uniform again.

"And Kakashi…" Iruka started, watching him do another spin.

"Is… you?" He guessed. "Kakashi is you?"

Kakashi wandered towards Iruka, and rubbed up against him to tell him that he was correct, and Iruka reflexively pet him in response. As he processed what he just figured out, he suddenly let go, and studied him more carefully.

The cat indeed had the same shade of grey as Kakashi's hair, its medium length also wild and messy; and while its eyes were both the same steel blue colour instead of two different colours, there was a scar going down its left eye, travelling right down its face, very much like Kakashi's. Iruka gazed into the cat's eyes, searching for something else to prove that it was Kakashi; and the cat cocked its head to the side in a very Kakashi-like fashion, studying him curiously; and he no longer had any doubts in his mind.

"It's really is you!" Iruka exclaimed incredulously. "Oh my god, what on earth happened?!"

Kakashi simply pointed to the pendant around his neck in response, confident that Iruka would understand now.

"We need to see Tsunade-sama." Iruka said.

Kakashi couldn't agree more.