Traditionally, when an Academy student advances to genin, they also legally advance to adults. It’s been that way as long as the Academy has existed, and most genin take advantage of it to move into their own places in the shinobi sector of the village, escaping parents and often rooming with genin squad-mates to promote team bonds. Originally, Kotetsu and Izumo had planned to do exactly that, to find an apartment somewhere with the profits of their D-ranks and hole up there.
Then they met Shiranui Genma.
Kotetsu knows that they still could get a place for themselves, finally being genin, but it would be quiet and too big after almost half a year already in Genma's cozy, comfy apartment. It also wouldn’t have Genma in it, and Genma is without a doubt the kindest, coolest, most awesome shinobi—person, even—in any of the Hidden Countries. He was the one to take Kotetsu in after the Kyuubi killed his family, and when he saw that they were friends he took Izumo in, too. And Iruka, who was in the same situation as Kotetsu.
(Not only that, but Genma needs them, in a way no one’s ever needed Kotetsu or Izumo or Iruka before. Whenever he comes home from a mission he’ll have nightmares, awful dreams, and they're the only who can stop it. It makes something inside Kotetsu puff up and feel very small at the same time, that this fearsome tokubetsu jounin, one of the best assassins in the village outside of ANBU, relies on them to take away some of the horrors that he’s seen.)
(And then sometimes, just occasionally, he’ll come into the room where the three of them are and just stop for a moment, watching them with soft brown eyes and a faint, fond smile on his face, and it’s one of the most beautiful, peaceful, and warm expressions Kotetsu's ever seen on anyone, including his lost family. Moments like that, Kotetsu is reminded that Genma is an orphan just like him and Iruka, clanless and barely eighteen despite being a shinobi for over eight years already. Moments like that, Kotetsu looks up at him and thinks, This is forever, and it’s a very, very good thought.)
So another apartment is out of the question, and even without discussing it Kotetsu knows that Iruka and Izumo feel the same. Genin or not, they're staying with Genma.
Genma never says anything about them moving out, either, just listens to their complaints about an endless string of D-ranks with a patient smile, and then laughs at their weary, dirt-smudged or cat-scratched faces and ruffles their hair. He lets them buy groceries when they insist, and still gives them the occasional chore to do, but for the most part it’s the exact same as their first few months. Genma isn't the type to ask for help with anything, so they help regardless, and he always cooks their favorite foods and never treats them like children, repetitions of “Brats,” or not.
He does his duty for them, goes above and beyond it when Kotetsu had expected to never have a home again after the night of October tenth.
Therefore, it’s only reasonable that they do the same for him, in whatever ways they can.
Therefore, it’s a complete and total shock to come home from missions one night in August and find the apartment dark and silent. Kotetsu halts on the threshold so suddenly that Izumo almost slams into him, but the brown-haired boy barely opens his mouth to berate him before he too realizes that something’s wrong. They trade wary looks, because Genma isn't on any missions right now, and he always, always tells them or sends word somehow if he’s called for an emergency one. And when he’s home, the apartment is always brightly lit and cheerfully cozy, full of the sound of Genma humming or cooking or cleaning or something.
Three steps in and Iruka, still an Academy student to their genin, slips out of the shadows with wide, worried eyes. He’s carrying his bookbag still, having obviously just returned, and the expression on his face is somewhere between helpless and furious.
A glance into the main room shows Genma sitting on the couch, perfectly still, his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands, long brown hair hiding his face.
“I saw Namiashi leaving,” Iruka tells them in a whisper, and Kotetsu very much notices the sudden lack of honorific and the hostile narrowing of the younger boy’s eyes. That look is dangerous. But if Namiashi Raidou did what Kotetsu is thinking he did—again, which is entirely and emphatically unacceptable—then he deserves every minute of the pain that’s coming to him. And Kotetsu will be helping, obviously.
Judging by the complete, threatening blankness on Izumo's normally cheerful, kind face, he also will be a willing participant.
“I don’t understand,” Kotetsu complains, keeping his voice low. “I thought they were happy.”
“Genma-san was,” Iruka growls.
And really, that’s all they need to know. There's absolutely no excuse for anyone to take away Genma's smile.
“Hey, hey,” a soft voice makes them all straighten guiltily and look up, where Genma is leaning against the doorway. He looks tired and drawn, and though he’s not crying, Kotetsu would feel entirely better if he did. Surely tears would be easier to deal with than that sad, lost expression. Still, Genma smiles at them, weary and wan as it is. “Don’t worry,” he tells them (completely ineffectually). “Sometimes these things just don’t work out. It’s nobody’s fault. Raidou has obligations to his clan, and I can respect that.” He raises a brow at them, and though it’s a pale imitation of his usual sardonic expression, at least it’s an attempt. “So can you, right, brats?”
Kotetsu feels absolutely no shame in pasting a bright, obedient smile on his face and nodding dutifully. “Yes, Genma-san,” he says, lying through his teeth. “If you're sure you don’t want us to…?”
Iruka and Izumo shoot his disbelieving glances, and he glares at them for being so slow. Light dawns, and then they both mimic him with a chorus of, “Yes, Genma-san.”
Genma regards them for a long moment, eyebrow still arched, and then he finally, truly smiles. Reaching out, he ruffles Kotetsu's hair, then Iruka's. Izumo, who’s taken to wearing his hitai-ate like a bandana in imitation of their guardian, gets his nose tweaked. “Brats,” Genma tells them, tone entirely fond.
What Kotetsu really wants is one of Genma's warm and brilliant hugs to make everything okay again, but he doesn’t know how to ask, so he settles for grabbing Genma's arm and towing him over to the couch. Izumo catches his eye and nods, slipping off to the kitchen, while Iruka joins them in the living room.
“Can you help me with my genjutsu?” he asks, hoping for a distraction. “I've been trying the False Surroundings technique but people keep noticing it’s an illusion.”
Genma's expression turns thoughtful, and he takes a seat. “All right, he agrees. “Try casting it on me, and I’ll see what I can do.”
Kotetsu smiles winningly at him, even though he—and Iruka, as he can clearly tell—is already plotting Namiashi Raidou's downfall.
No one hurts Shiranui Genma and gets away with it, regardless of excuses or intentions. No one.
(When Namiashi ends up in the hospital after somehow tripping and falling face-first into a nest of very angry hornets, Genma comes to the doorway of their room. He stands there for a long moment, arms crossed and expression foreboding, and says nothing. Kotetsu, Izumo, and Iruka all look up at him with their best innocently bewildered expressions firmly in place, and give absolutely nothing away.
At length, Genma lets out a long sigh and unfolds his arms, a reluctant smile tugging crookedly at his mouth.
“Brats,” he says, and coming from him it’s a definite endearment. “Come on, I'm taking you to dinner.”
They wait until he’s left the room to high-five each other, but it’s a close thing.
After all, what does Genma need someone else for when he’s got them? It’s not like he’s ever going to find someone who’s good enough for him, anyway.
The three boys hold each other’s gazes for a long moment, making a silent pact to do their best and…thin the herd a bit. Someone’s got to protect Genma, after all, and who better to do it than them?)
It’s four months after Namiashi when the first real contender appears.
Iruka is the first one to notice, because with Kotetsu and Izumo busy running D-ranks he’s the only one available to tail Genma in the afternoons. Ko and Zumo generally take morning shift while Iruka's in class, whenever training allows, and between the three of them they can usually manage to cover a good portion of the day.
Therefore, Iruka is the one to see Genma meeting a tall man with long, dark hair and the Hyuuga clan’s white eyes one afternoon outside the Mission Assignment room. Genma has a load of files in his arms and is trying to juggle them and his equipment bag, and open the door at the same time. The Hyuuga gets the door for him, and then reaches out just in time to steady both Genma and the files as he wavers.
“Thanks,” Genma says, smiling around his senbon, and the Hyuuga smiles back, just faintly.
“My pleasure,” he answers, and follows Genma into the room.
Iruka watches his gaze flick down Genma's body and then slowly trace back up, and narrows his eyes unhappily. The two men disappear into the crowd within the room, but Iruka's seen enough to realize that regardless of the Hyuuga’s original intentions in opening the door for a struggling comrade, they're definitely not pure any more.
Unacceptable. If someone’s not going to appreciate Genma for the incredible kind, caring, funny, talented person he is, and just go after him for his looks and (admittedly great) body, Iruka, Izumo, and Kotetsu will take care of them.
For a moment, Iruka debates whether or not to abandon his post, but then Genma reemerges with the Hyuuga still in tow. He’s chuckling, the Hyuuga is smirking, and Iruka immediately decides that while he’s excellent at planning and executing traps on his own, he’s going to need some help with this one. Almost silently, he darts away, heading for where he knows Kotetsu and Izumo will be finishing up with their team.
The Hyuuga accompanies Genma home, accepting an offer of tea, and walks in on a shrieking, screaming, clawing (and entirely staged) fight between Iruka and Kotetsu, with Izumo strung up by his ankles and hanging from the ceiling. (Iruka's particularly proud of that trap, since it’s served him very well over the years. Even if Izumo stepped into it willingly for the sake of their plan, he’s caught jounin in it before. Not Genma, because Genma is amazing and seems to have a sixth sense for avoiding and disarming traps, but most other shinobi never manage to catch on until it’s too late.)
The last they see of the Hyuuga is a dust cloud as he makes a few transparent excuses and bails as quickly as humanly possible.
With a weary, put-upon sigh, Genma separates Kotetsu and Iruka and carefully frees Izumo. He levels them all with a stern look, though it’s ruined by the way one corner of his mouth is twitching.
“Really?” he asks them dryly. “That’s how you're going to play this, then?”
Iruka and Kotetsu ignore the implication that they're not nearly as sneaky as they think they are, pretending to glare at each other mulishly, while Izumo skulks around to hide behind Genma. (Partly to get away from that accusing look, but it’s not like Genma needs to know that.)
Then Genma ruins the whole affronted façade he’s put up by rolling his eyes, cuffing all three of them lightly on the back of the head, and going down on one knee to pull them into one of his big, warm hugs.
“Geez, you three,” he says, but there's badly suppressed laughter in his voice.
They grin at each other where he can't see.
The next one is an Inuzuka.
(Inuzukas are really, really sensitive to smoke bombs laced with concentrated herbal extracts; who knew?)
The Uchiha doesn’t even last an hour—something about hellions and not dating single parents for a reason. Kotetsu, Izumo, and Iruka try not to be too flattered by the assumption, but really, there's only so much they can do.
Raidou makes a reappearance at one point, stealing up to the door of Genma's apartment with a resigned expression. It’s sheer luck that Gai stopped by to drag Genma out for training a few minutes beforehand, and that Izumo answers the door. He looks at the man who broke Genma's heart, once before they even met Genma and then again just three months previously, and offers his best blank expression.
“Can I help you?” he asks politely, even as behind him, Kotetsu and Iruka slink out of the shadows, murder in their eyes.
Raidou looks between the three of them, something like regret settling deep into his eyes, though Izumo can't bring himself to feel sorry for the man. “I assume Genma isn't home?” he asks, managing a thin smile.
Izumo doesn’t smile back. “No, I'm sorry.” He really isn't.
There's a long moment of strained silence, and then Raidou sighs. He nods, tucking his hands into his pockets. “I’d thought as much,” he murmurs, but meets Izumo's eyes firmly. “Would you…tell him I'm sorry? And that I…miss my best friend?”
Like hell, Izumo thinks, but smiles agreeably. “Sure.” Then he closes the door in Namiashi’s face.
“More hornets?” Iruka asks darkly.
Kotetsu shakes his head, eyes narrowed to angry, unfriendly slits. “No. Apparently they didn’t make enough of an impression the first time.”
“Snakes,” Izumo suggests brightly. “I hear you can find lots of really venomous ones outside the Forest of Death.”
Iruka cheers up considerably at that. “Anko likes Genma-san a lot, too,” he says enthusiastically. “And she’s really good with snakes.” She’s also not a threat, since Genma, unlike a lot of shinobi, only swings one way, and it’s definitely not towards her.
(This part isn't so much thinning the herd as it is getting revenge for the sadness that still lingers in Genma's eyes sometimes. No matter what they do, Raidou deserves it, and nothing anyone says will convince Izumo—or Iruka, or Kotetsu—any differently. Besides, if he can't survive a measly little trap set by two genin and an Academy student, what kind of tokujo is he?)
Izumo tries not to be entirely disappointed.)
Genma gasps as Ibiki pins him to the door, hands going everywhere and mouth hungry on his. It’s been a long time since Genma had this, and he’s edging towards desperate now. Ibiki’s exactly his type, too, big and broad, and he’s willing to indulge in a couple of nights with no strings attached. He all but lifts Genma off the ground as they both fumble with the doorknob, and a particularly hard nip to his throat has Genma groaning. He hooks a limber leg around Ibiki’s waist and grinds their hips together, and Ibiki fumbles gratifyingly.
“Need some help?” Genma asks wickedly, grinning.
Ibiki snorts and grabs at him, pulling him up his own body with an arm around his waist and ignoring Genma's startled yelp at the unexpected maneuver. “No,” the other tokujo growls, making Genma shiver, “but keep that up and I can guarantee that you're not going to be walking straight in the morning.”
“That’s the fun part,” Genma purrs, low and sensual, just before Ibiki kisses him again, ferociously eager. The bigger man stumbles through the finally open door, pins him to the closest wall again, and his free hand—
The lights come on, and a sleepy voice says, “Genma-san? Are you back?”
Ibiki almost drops him in surprise, and Genma closes his eyes, resisting the urge to bang his head back against the wall a few dozen times.
“Iruka,” he says, trying not to swear. “I thought you were spending the night with Mizuki.”
When Ibiki steps away, settling him on the floor again, Genma manages to catch a glimpse of the newly-minted genin glaring holes in the interrogator’s back. But he immediately snaps his gaze over to Genma, clearly thinking he wasn’t caught, and that expression becomes a big-eyed pout. “But Ko and Zumo are on an overnight mission, and…”
Were Genma a more suspicious person, he’d tack on “we didn’t want any nasty men taking advantage of you without us here to stop it.” Never mind the fact that Genma wants to be taken advantage of. Enthusiastically. Preferably several times in a row.
Still, he’s a sucker, and judging by the fact that Ibiki's eyes are also just a little bit softer than they were before, he’s one as well. The two tokujo trade glances, and then Ibiki shakes his head, smiling faintly.
“I’ll let you take care of this,” he says, and leans down to brush a final kiss over Genma's mouth. In a much lower voice, he murmurs, “Next time, we’ll get a room somewhere.” Then he nods to Iruka, tugs his coat straight, and slips out the door.
Genma strangles his sexual frustration, reminds himself that they're actually good kids and don’t deserve to be sent to Gai for a month, and blows out a long breath. Once his body’s under control he pushes off the wall and loops an arm around Iruka's shoulders. “How about some warm milk with honey?” he suggests. “That should help you sleep.”
Iruka's answering smile is truly angelic, and Genma despairingly resigns himself to an eternity of bachelorhood.
(“Too close,” Kotetsu says darkly, when they get back. “If we hadn’t had a contingency plan…”
“But we did,” Izumo consoles him, though he also looks rather unhappy. “We managed.” He looks at the youngest member of their group and smiles. “Good job, Iruka,” he offer warmly.
Iruka beams at him and tosses off a snappy salute.)
Kotetsu and Izumo make chuunin eventually, which is a bit of a mixed blessing.
“Go,” Genma insists, dropping a stack of classifieds on the table between them, FOR RENT heading the section in big, bold letters. “Spread your wings, fly, make your own nest. Learn essential life skills. Let me date.”
(There are reasons Iruka doesn’t make it to chuunin until he’s sixteen. Obligation is one—he’s helping with the bills, contributing to the household, making sure Genma never has to be alone after a nightmare.
Keeping anyone from taking advantage of a man who’s far too kind—and far too attractive—for his own good just happens to be another.)
“They're going to kill me,” Genma insists, face-down on the bar in one of the higher-end shinobi watering holes. He’s not about to risk going anywhere seedier, not with the two pairs of eyes he can feel fixed intently on his back. “Oh my god, I'm going to die sexually frustrated and practically regressed to a virgin.”
On the stool next to him, Kurenai Yuuhi snorts softly, taking another sip of her drink. “It can't be that bad,” she says consolingly. “Two of them moved out, right? One genin brat can't keep an eye on a tokubetsu jounin all the time.”
Genma lifts his head enough to glare at her. “Out of the last ten nights, Kotetsu and Izumo have spent eight at my place. They claim that their hot water isn't working. Ebisu lives in that building. The water is fine.”
The kunoichi’s expression is sympathetic, but also very amused. “Genma, you know you could always just call them on it, right?” she asks wryly. “You're a big boy, I'm sure. Two skinny chuunin and a pint-sized genin are hardly a fearsome force.”
“They have puppy-dog eyes,” Genma protests, because clearly she doesn’t understand the true power of his brats.
“And you're completely spineless when it comes to your chicks,” Aoba puts in, taking the stool on Genma's other side and slinging an arm over his shoulders. “It’s amazing, really. What’s your kill count again?”
Genma turns his glare on the other tokujo, considers warning him about the way Izumo's eyes just narrowed, and decides against it. Aoba can find out for himself that these particular chicks are far closer to crocodiles. “Fuck off,” he says instead. “They're good kids, even if I haven’t gotten laid in months.”
“I thought their chastity campaign started a couple years ago.” Aoba frowns. “You actually managed to evade them long enough for a one-night stand? Or did someone manage to survive them long enough to break your streak?”
“Shh!” Genma hisses. “Not so loud! I'm not about to set them on Ibiki. He’s the only one who’s managed to avoid all of their traps so far, and I’d like to keep my one option for avoiding nun-hood if it’s all the same to you.”
Understanding the implication, Aoba makes to turn around and look for their observers, but Genma catches him by the ear just in time. The man yelps, but obligingly ignores the gimlet stares directed at them. “I take it they think they're being sneaky?”
“My life,” Genma mutters, covering his face with his hands. “Oh god, my life.”
Aoba opens his mouth, but before he can make more than one clucking sound, Genma growls and upends his drink over the man’s head.
(Kotetsu and Izumo beam approvingly. Genma despairs.)
(Three days later, Yamashiro Aoba is wakes up in the middle of the village entirely naked and covered in body paint graffiti. He is subsequently stopped by the Military Police while [ahem] streaking home, and then fined two hundred ryo for indecent exposure.)
Kotetsu and Izumo, forcibly ejected from Genma's apartment on account of the tokujo being gone on a mission, are puttering around their kitchen with far too much free time on their hands. Then, with a clatter and a curse, Iruka suddenly falls through their living room window. The older chuunin instantly bolt for him, kunai out and ready, entire beings focused on protecting their family.
And then Iruka drags himself upright, face deathly pale, and splutters, “Missions Desk—paperwork—I was—Genma-san—seduction mission!”
Two kunai hit the floor as they both gasp with horror.
Half a minute later, emergency bags are packed and three swift forms are out the window and flying over the wall in the dark, armed for open warfare.
Not on their watch.
(Two days later, a visibly annoyed Genma stalks back into Konoha, three abashed but unrepentant chuunin in tow. He heads straight for the Hokage's office and dumps all three boys in front of the Sandaime’s desk, then steps back and crosses his arms over his chest.
“Do your worst, Hokage-sama,” he growls.
Sarutobi surveys the boys, then looks back at Genma and sighs, shaking his head. “The mission?” he asks.
Genma rolls his eyes. “Successful,” he allows grudgingly. “But only because the guy thought I had a harem of jealous ex-lovers come to get me back.”
The Sandaime coughs to cover a laugh, and winks conspiratorially at the chuunin where Genma won't catch it. “I see,” he says confidently. “Well, as long as you have the information, I suppose there's no harm done. Just this once.”
Genma wants to trust his Hokage, but after that incident, his name never again ends up attached to a seduction mission, and that’s more than a little suspicious, because he’s good at them. Damn the brats.)
“Oh god,” Genma gasps as strong hands pin him to the bed, and teeth scrape over his collarbone and downward. “Ah! You—ah!—you deserve to know what you're—mmm—getting in to with this. Oh fuck do that again.”
Kakashi looks up the tokujo’s body, both eyes visible for once and face entirely uncovered, which just makes Genma hotter. “You mean your three chicks?” he asks innocently, even as wickedly clever fingers strip off Genma's belt and pull his uniform pants down over his hips.
Genma arches up, helpfully kicking the offending items off. “Yeah. Even Ibiki—”
Kakashi slides up his stripped torso, pressing his broad shoulders to the bed and stealing the rest of that sentence right out of his mouth with his clever, clever tongue. “Ma,” he answers lazily. “But I'm not Ibiki.” A hand hitches Genma's leg over his hip, and he smiles down at the older man, silver hair falling around his face. “And it’s going to take a lot more than three chuunin to keep me from fucking you through this mattress, Genma.”
It’s possible Genma whimpers. “If that’s true, I'm never letting you go,” he swears fervently. Then hands are sliding down again, further than before, even more wicked, and he groans. “Oh god, Kakashi—”
Distantly, a part of his brain wonders where his three brats are, fearing that any moment they’ll burst in and those amazing hands will stop, but then Kakashi kisses him again, whispers, “I'm not going anywhere,” and the thought vanishes like smoke in a hurricane.
It’s a good night.
(“This is stupid,” Naruto complains hotly, raising his voice to be heard over the wild thrashing of the chuunin in the net trap above his head.
For once, Sasuke looks to be in complete agreement as he watches the struggles of the academy instructor attempting to claw his way out of one of their more ingenious pit traps. “How is this a mission?” he asks flatly. The three chuunin—two of them gate guards, the third their former teacher—had been heading somewhere in a hurry, entirely unaware of their surroundings and easy enough to take out regardless of their higher rank. Also, aren’t Konoha shinobi supposed to be renowned for their teamwork and inter-village relationships?
Sakura, perched primly on the back of the third—who’s been half-buried by a fairly impressive Doton jutsu—glares at both boys. “Kakashi-sensei assigned us to it,” she reminds them. “Besides, ambushes are an important part of shinobi work. I think it’s pretty amazing that we managed to work together well enough to take down a whole squad of higher-ranking ninja. And now we just have to hold them until tomorrow.”
The chuunin serving as her chair whimpers and struggles weakly. The one in Naruto's net, who has spiky black hair and a bandage over his nose, throws himself against the wire-reinforced ropes with a wail of, “Genma-san, don’t give in! WE’LL SAVE YOU!”
“Huh?” Naruto asks blankly, scratching his head. He and Sasuke exchange puzzled glances.
“Their…squad leader?” Sakura suggests tentatively. “Kakashi's probably taking care of him, right?”
For some reason, this makes all three thrash even harder, redoubling their efforts to escape. But, well, this is hardly the weirdest mission Kakashi's ever given them, and they stand fast.
A promise of arriving on time for a week is solid gold where their jounin instructor is concerned, after all. They’d do a lot worse than restrain their own comrades, too, for Kakashi's oath that he’ll leave the Icha Icha at home for twelve whole days. All they have to do is keep the chuunin engaged until breakfast, and that’s easy.)