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Hey Cutie

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Iruka sat with Suzume, Hana, Kotetsu and Izumo on the benches set against the long wall of the cafeteria, enjoying the warm sunshine before going back into class. He slumped with his back against the rough surface, squinting against the afternoon's yellow rays. He was already half-sleepy from the heavy lunch, drowsily dreading the advanced maths class he had with Ms.Uzumaki in a few minutes.

"Heyyy," Hana said, shifting slightly in her cross-legged perch atop one of the big rocks which had been stacked near the benches. "Here come the firsties!"

Iruka brightened immediately. He sat up, turning to look at the first-year students trudging up the slope from where they'd been at Physical Education on the large training field; they wore shorts or sweatpants with white t-shirts, FIRST HOKAGE ACADEMY emblazoned on the back. They gripped hockey and lacrosse sticks, and were generally quite sweaty. They were mostly animated as well, chatting with each other; the one with the bowl-cut and the green sweatpants was the liveliest of them all, nearly bouncing as he spoke at top volume.

Ah; there was the one Iruka always noticed. The smallest of the lot, this first-year was the tiniest student Iruka had ever seen. He seemed far younger than the other eleven year olds, and had hair so pale that even Mizuki was jealous. This firstie always wore a scarf over the lower half of his face, even now in this humid heat; he walked quietly behind the rest of his group, his gaze darting suspiciously from side to side.

As the group passed by, Iruka had no idea what came over him. Maybe it was the heat, or his full stomach; or even the fairly good mood he was in currently. Or probably it was because this kid was just the cutest thing in the known universe: look at that fluffy hair! And those plump cheeks barely hidden under the scarf. Aww, look at the knobbly knees. Mostly, it was how the gaze of teensy firstie raked over Iruka and his big dark eyes narrowed as if the older student had offered contraband.



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"Hey, cutie," Iruka said to him and the reaction was immediate.

And violent.

The firstie flung down his lacrosse-stick onto the paved walkway and lunged after Iruka with a high-pitched yell. Surprised, Iruka caught the younger boy's wrists before his eyes were gouged out, and easily held him back. The other firsties rushed up, hauling at the little bundle of sheer rage. To Iruka, they all appeared to have similar expressions of resignation.

"Let me at him!" the white-haired boy bellowed. "Do you know what he said to me?"

"Kakashi, come on," Bowl-cut said, soothingly, even as he and his friends held back the writhing mass of fluff. "What are you gonna do, fight an upper year student? He's...what, in fifth year?"

"Sixth," Suzume put in helpfully, staring with wide eyes at the group of firsties as they tried to subdue their friend.

"I can take him!" Kakashi screamed from behind the wall of his taller friends. Iruka stifled a laugh; that boy was so tiny and so very angry. And so cute. "Just let me go, I'll show him!"

Beside Iruka, Izumo said, "He's like twice your size."

"He's on the track team, kid," Kotetsu pointed out in what he obviously thought was his reasonable voice. "He has actual muscles."

"Track team!" Kakashi spat, and he shoved almost back through the crowd again to glare. "Ha! At least he's good for running away from me! Obito if you don't let me go, I SWEAR--"

This Obito said, "But Kakashi, if you fight him now, maybe you'll get into trouble and your dad won't let you come see the puppies later."

"Oh, the puppies," Kakashi breathed and then slumped against the barrier of his friends' arms. Hana, who loved dogs more than anything, nodded sagely at the kid's choices. Kotetsu and Izumo inspected the firsties with quite a bit of concern and Suzume seemed very vaguely amused. Kakashi straightened and wrinkled his nose.

"You're lucky," he told Iruka in a cold voice and then turned on his heel, stomping off towards the first year block. His friends scuttled after him, throwing apologetic looks over their shoulders.

With a grin, Iruka waited until they were nearly halfway across the well kept lawn of the quadrangle before calling out, "Hey, cutie! You forgot your lacrosse stick!"

Kakashi came blazing back like a demon on greased wheels. As Iruka took off from the bench, laughing at the top of his lungs, he thought, he was right. At least this track team thing is good for something.