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After the day he’d been having, the one thing that Iruka most emphatically did not want to find when he got back to his classroom was utter anarchy. So, of course, that’s exactly what happened. “What in the world?” Iruka roared, slamming both his fists down on his desk with a noise like thunder. “Everyone, stop!”

 

His temper was somewhat soothed by the sight of twenty mini-ninjas freezing in terror in whatever attitude they’d been holding when his voice reached them. Hanabi, who had been using frighteningly sharp pencils as makeshift darts to pin Moegi to the wall, stood stock still with another weapon ready to throw in her drawn-back hand. Udon was stuck holding his leg ready to perform a snap kick at Riku, while Riku had Akemi in a headlock in his elbow. Tama stood on top of Kin’s desk in a comical diver’s pose, ready to leap onto Dai’s back. The only one still moving when Iruka finished shouting was Konohamaru, and he couldn’t exactly help it. The Honorable Grandson was currently hanging from the ceiling by his blue scarf, which had been knotted around his wrist so that he was swinging gently back and forth by his right arm, while his legs kicked desperately for leverage.

 

“Konohamaru, get down from there at once!” Iruka shouted. “And someone had better explain why in the world I stepped out of the room for two minutes and came back to a free for all before I really start shouting! What do you think this is, the chunin exams?”

 

“Well, you see…” started Kin anxiously.

 

“It all started with Mai…” began Hanabi.

 

“That’s not true!” Mai screeched.

 

“Um, Iruka-sensei?” Konohamaru was still swinging and it was making Iruka cross-eyed. “How do I get down?”

 

“You call yourself a ninja?” his teacher said frostily, looking at the boy with utter contempt plain on his face. “Just how do you plan on escaping if you’re ever captured on a mission, I wonder? Pull a kunai out of your pouch and cut yourself down!”

 

Konohamaru looked scandalized by the very suggestion that he cut his precious blue scarf. Seeing his distress, Udon quickly stepped over and started working on the knots. Hanabi was hurriedly pulling the pencils out of Moegi’s clothing, as if she was hoping Iruka somehow hadn’t noticed an oranged haired little girl pinned to a wall by writing utensils. Moegi glared at the Hyuuga when her feet hit the floor and then stomped over to help Udon. Together they managed to untie Konohamaru, who once freed tumbled to the ground dizzily.

 

“I’m still waiting on an explanation,” Iruka growled, tapping his foot as he stared at all his students. “If I don’t get one within the next five seconds, you’re all getting detention until you make genin.”

 

“Mai said that a knucklehead like Naruto would never become Hokage!” Tama blurted, looking terrified at the thought of detention. She was very much a stickler for the rules; Iruka doubt that she had ever gotten anything less than top marks on a homework assignment in her life. She reminded him a lot of Sakura, but she lacked Sakura’s more forceful personality traits. “So Konohamaru got mad and told her that she was a moron and then Riku told him to take it back and then suddenly everybody was fighting. Please, Iruka-sensei, don’t give us detention! I couldn’t bear the dishonor!”  

 

“Seriously?” Iruka blinked. “That’s what caused a group of seven year old pre-genin to go feral? A little trash talking?” He turned to Konohamaru. “Konohamaru, I assure you that Naruto is more than capable fighting his own battles, and I’m sure that’ll hold even more once he gets back from training with Jiraiya-sannin. You don’t need to help him. Besides, what does it matter who becomes Hokage in the future? Tsunade-sama will likely be in the position for many years to come.” He switched his gaze to Riku. “And you, Riku! You lost your temper over being called a moron? What have I said again and again about controlling your emotions?”

 

“Control your emotions, control the situation,” Riku repeated dully. “But sensei, he called me a moron!”

 

“I don’t care,” Iruka said before stepping to the board. “Do better or no jounin-sensei will want you on their team. Now, it seems that you and Konohamaru started this whole mess. Each of you will write ‘I will control my temper’ on the board five hundred times while the rest of your classmates clean up this mess. Now march!”

 

The class jumped to and Iruka took the opportunity to lean his head down on his desk for a much-needed moment to retain his sanity. It had been a bad day since the moment he woke up thirty minutes late. He’d had to skip breakfast, then his cat had slipped out of the back door and he’d been forced to chase Kasi like a maniac before finally treeing her up on the gutter. He shoved the now-remorse feline back into the house and then had to run to make it to school on time.

 

The children, sensing the approach of the weekend, were especially rowdy on principle and then Iruka had been called from the room to speak with Hyuuga Hiashi, who wanted to know when Hanabi would be allowed to graduate. Again. It had been all Iruka could do not to strangle the man. Hadn’t he learned anything from Neji? Children needed to be children before they were forced to become killers. There were days when Iruka truly wondered what the world thought it was doing, and just how much good he actually was to his children as a teacher.

 

After school let out, Iruka made his way to the Mission Desk for his shift, where his shitty, endless day continued. First the Tora mission came through again and he had to blackmail a genin team into taking it. Then a chunin freshly back from a solo mission in Stone decided to come turn in his report and collect his fee before going to the hospital to get his gaping shoulder wound healed, subsequently dripping blood all over the floor. Then he added insult to injury by fainting. On top of Iruka’s desk. It took Iruka thirty minutes to sort all of his paperwork again, and much of it was ruined. He’d have to track down all the shinobi and ask them to submit their reports again, and wouldn’t that just be a trip.

 

When a jounin stepped up to Iruka’s desk and proceeded to hand him the most cockamamie, ridiculously illogical report that he’d ever seen, Iruka had most emphatically had enough. “Yoko-jonin,” he said, rage forcing him to overcompensate by being even more devastatingly polite than usual, “I must ask you to redo this paperwork.”

The jounin’s eyes narrowed impatiently. “What’s wrong with it?” she demanded.

 

“Simply put, it is incorrect, incomplete and an absolute mess,” Iruka said as he waved the report around in the air. “I cannot imagine that you made it to your current rank without learning how to submit a report. Therefore, I have to conclude that you just didn’t care.”

 

“Why, you little-” Yoko seethed, hands starting to reach out for Iruka.

 

Before they could connect, a silver gray blur smoothly inserted itself between the irate jounin and Iruka. “Yoko-san, re-doing the paperwork as Iruka-sensei requests is surely not the hardest thing to be asked of you by Konoha,” Hatake Kakashi drawled as he he leaned back against the desk, twirling a kunai between his fingers. “I’m positive that losing your temper and having to spend the next day or so cooling your heels as Ibiki’s guest isn’t worth the pleasure of pummeling a desk worker.”

 

“Ugh, fine. You win, Hatake.” With a snarl, Yoko snatched a blank report from Iruka’s desk and stomped away to the sitting area to start filling it out.

 

Kakashi turned around and eye-smiled at Iruka. “Iruka-sensei, how are you today?” he chirped innocently as he slipped the kunai back up his sleeve.

 

“I could have handled that myself, Kakashi-san,” Iruka snapped. “Contrary to popular believe, chunin can defend themselves. Now get out of the way, there’s a line going out the door and I have to work.”

 

Kakashi eyed Iruka. “Yeah, no,” he said. “If you keep on like that, you’re going to push the wrong shinobi and end up filleted. I can’t have that on my conscience.” Kakashi turned and got the shift leader’s attention with a shrill whistle. “Hana-san, I’m taking Iruka-sensei. You good without him?”

 

“Yeah, take him,” Hana said with an impatient growl. “He’s giving me a headache with all the gnashing of teeth. We’ll make do without him for once.”

 

“I’m not going anywhere,” Iruka protested, glaring at Hana. “I have a job to do.”

 

“Oh, yes you are,” Kakashi said cheerfully. “You can either go voluntarily or I can carry you out of here over my shoulder like a wounded sheep. What’ll it be?”

 

Iruka made his choice and found to his detriment that Kakashi hadn’t been kidding around. “This is so unnecessary!” he squealed as he hung from Kakashi’s shoulder. “Put me down before I stab you in the ass!”

 

“Maa, sensei, is that a promise?”

 

“Put me down, you pervert!”

 

No matter how Iruka protested, Kakashi continued to carry him through the village. He treated all of Iruka’s struggles as being no more bothersome to him than the buzzing of a fly around his ear. Finally, Iruka accepted his fate and hung loosely, wishing his hair was down so that it could cover his blushing cheeks.

 

He was idly considering what a nice ass Kakashi actually had when he was suddenly swung down in front of someplace that smelled familiar. “Ichiraku’s?” he said, surprised.

 

“You missed both breakfast and lunch,” Kakashi said as he steered him inexorably to a stool. “It’s no wonder you were spoiling for a fight.”

 

“How could you possibly know that?” Iruka asked, bewildered. “Wait, were you spying on me?”

 

Kakashi sat down on the stool next to Iruka's. “Such an ugly term. I prefer to think of it as friendly, near constant observation.”

 

Iruka gaped at Kakashi, seriously questioning the jounin’s sanity. “So you admit it!”

 

“Of course I do. I’m not ashamed. By the way, you’re out of milk.” Teuchi stepped up to take their orders and Kakashi turned solicitously. “What would you like to eat, sensei?”

 

“I’m sure you already know what I usually eat here,” Iruka sulked. “Why don’t you just order for me? I seem to be having all my agency as a human being taken from me today, after all.”

 

“Don’t be so dramatic. I’m saving you from evisceration or possibly even defenestration by angry jounin.” He turned to Teuchi and ordered two miso ramen with all the toppings, then sat in silence while Iruka fumed, looking utterly unbothered by the teacher’s anger.

 

Iruka just grew more irritable at the casual silence. “So why were you observing me, anyway?” he finally snapped.

 

Kakashi turned and eye-smiled at Iruka. “I should think that would have been obvious. I wanted to get to know you better, sensei.”

 

Flailing, Iruka gasped, “You could have just, I don’t know, talked to me, you insane person!”

 

Kakashi cocked his head. “Whenever I try to talk to you, you end up yelling at me. I don’t mind a little yelling, of course. You’re cute when you’re angry, and I believe in moderation in all things. But we haven’t had one civil conversation since the chunin exams over a year ago. I thought if I watched you and figured out your likes and dislikes, I could learn to navigate a conversation with you without pissing you off.”

 

“But...you…” sputtered Iruka, thrown off. That hadn’t been what he’d been expecting to hear. It sounded suspiciously like the truth. He deflated. “Okay, you’re right. I have been defensive around you. I was angry at you.”

 

“I know,” Kakashi said, looking sad for the first time. “I know that you blame me for Naruto leaving. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to make it up to you.”

 

Teuchi arrived then with their bowls, which gave Iruka a second to process that particular bit of insanity. “Wait, what?” he said as Teuchi, considering himself to be a pretty intelligent person, beat a hasty retreat to the back of the stall. “I don’t blame you for Naruto.”

 

“Don’t you?” Kakashi asked, his one gray eye burning. “I insisted on entering Team 7 in the chunin exams against your protests. It was the chunin exams that led to Sasuke leaving the village, which pushed Naruto away. It’s all my fault. It’s natural that you should blame me. You should hate me.”

 

“I don’t hate you!” Iruka squawked.”I think you were right! That’s why I was mad.”

 

Kakashi froze, his chopsticks halfway to his mouth. “You thought I was right?” he asked, stunned. He put his chopsticks down and raised his hand to Iruka’s forehead. “Are you feeling okay? I think you’re feverish.”

 

Iruka batted away Kakashi’s hand. “I’m not sick, cut it out. You were right. The kids were ready for the exams, if not to pass, then to at least try. They made it through the Forest of Death despite overwhelming odds, and they fought well in the individual matches. The team breaking up...that wasn’t your fault. I blame first Orochimaru, then I blame everyone in this fucking village that never noticed how much Sasuke was hurting, that missed his twisted need for revenge.” His eyes welled with tears. “Don’t you get it, Kakashi? I blame myself. I haven’t been angry with you in a long time. I was defensive around you because I was embarrassed for challenging you in front of your peers.” He hung his head. “No wonder you slapped me down like a pre-genin. It was inexcusable.”

 

“But I was cruel to you,” Kakashi said softly. “I made fun of you when all you were trying to do was protect children. Me and the other jounin, I think we forget sometimes that they’re just kids. You don’t. You see them as they are and not what this village makes of them. I want you to know that I admire that.” He reached over and took Iruka’s hand and squeezed it gently. “And it wasn’t your fault. Sasuke was broken. I don’t think anybody was capable of reaching him.”

 

“I miss Naruto,” Iruka confessed. “But I do think he needed to leave the village to grow. He needed to be somewhere with people that wouldn’t look at him and see a demon.”

 

“Yeah,” Kakashi said. “I think so, too.”

 

“Why, Kakashi-san,” Iruka said with faux shock. “I think we just had a civil conversation.”

 

Kakashi laughed, and it was sunshine after a thunderstorm. “I think so, too. All that observation obviously worked. Now eat up before your stomach digests itself, I can hear it growling.”

 

With a friendly silence, Kakashi and Iruka slurped down their bowls of ramen. Iruka leaned back with a sigh when his portion was gone. “Okay, I admit it,” he said comfortably. “You were right. I needed to get out of the Mission Desk before a murder happened.” He smiled at Kakashi. “I forgive you for kidnapping me.”

 

“Maa, sensei,” Kakashi said gleefully. “I’ve always been a believer in making the things I want happen. I wanted you to live, so I stepped in.”

 

Iruka nodded seriously. “You take what you want, huh?”

 

Kakashi’s gaze turned predatory as he examined the teacher beside him. “Yes.”

 

“Good,” Iruka said. “So do I.” He reached over, yanked Kakashi’s mask down, and kissed him thoroughly.

 

“Iruka,” Kakashi said when they finally broke apart for air, “I think you just set a dangerous precedent.” He tossed a handful of cash onto the counter to pay for their meal, wrapped a hand around a giggling Iruka’s wrist, and took him away with a crack of teleportation jutsu.

 

Teuchi came out from behind the counter, shaking his head. “Finally!” he muttered as he dumped the dirty bowls into the sink to be washed. “I thought those two were going to start humping each other on the stools.” Then he walked away, thinking about how many onions they had in the store; he’d have to order more tomorrow.