Note: If you are familiar with the actor Hugh Grant, imagine him in the role of Umino Iruka.

-aks

            The end of summer echoed off of the houses and the shops of down town Konoha as cicadas sang their annual song. It wasn't as disgustingly hot as it could have been, but warm enough for Junko to put her hair up. She was doing this as she waited in the shade under the pavilion in the center of town when he walked up.

            "Junko?" the ninja asked. The scar crossing the bridge of his nose told her he was the one.

            "You must be Ikura?"

            He blushed slightly. "Um, it's IRUka."

            "Oh! I'm sorry, I…"

            "It's ok, people tend to…"

            They both laughed nervously.

            Iruka handed her a single black-eyed susan. "I don't usually do this so my apologies if this seems a little outdated."

            "I never do this, so it's new to me." She smiled and accepted the flower.

            Awkwardly, they chose a little sidewalk café to eat at. He was all insecure smiles and arched eyebrows and she avoided eye contact and rubbed her hands methodically. They seemed like a cross between young kids on their first date and strangers on a train.

            "So," he began. "You're a Jounin?"

            "Mm." She nodded, and thinking that she might as well test him as soon as possible, she added. "Anbu," and stared at him.

            "Ah. Good for you," Iruka blanched and tapped his hands on the table.

            Their waitress approached and handed Iruka a glass. "Unsweetened?"

            "That's mine." Junko reached across the table. Trying to help, Iruka stood and in a move only seen in the movies managed to spill not one, but both glasses all over the poor girl.

            "Oh my god, I'm so sorry! I'll… Here. We've got some extra napkins…"

            "Just, don't. Ok?" She scowled. Looking up, she saw him hovering over her, gobs of paper napkins stuffed in either hand with a worried, confused look on his face. She snorted a short laugh and took them from him.

            "Shall I walk you home or just leave now?" he asked, doing his best to pat the less embarrassing parts of her dress dry.

           Junko squinted at him for a moment. Well, at least he didn't want to keep the date going… "You can walk me home. That would be fine."

*

            Hayate liked to kiss the nape of her neck. She never knew why, it was just something he did. One sweet summer night with his arms around her and his face buried in her long, black hair he kissed that spot again and sighed.

            "Are you happy, Junko?" he asked, running his fingers through her hair.

            "Very."

            "If you're ever unhappy, don't think about what I would think about it…" he whispered. "Know that I'd want you to be happy."

            She knew exactly what he was talking about. "Hayate…" They had been together for five years. Junko knew he was no longer morose about his terminal illness, but to hear him talk about it was always difficult. "All right," she answered, hoping that he would leave it at that.

            She didn't think about that night again for another five years.

            At the steps to her apartment, Junko turned and faced Iruka. "Can you wait here for a moment? I have something I want to give you."

            He was visibly shocked. "Uh, sure! Though I hardly think I deserve anything!" he laughed. "Your dry cleaning bill, perhaps."

            The Anbu woman smiled and an honest laugh escaped her lips. "Just stay right there…" Five minutes later she locked the door and hopped down the steps. "Ok."

            Iruka blinked a few times.

            "Tada!" She presented her empty palms. "It's a do-over."

            "A do-over?"

            "A second chance."

            "You mean it?" he asked, excitedly. "Well, what would you like to do, Junko?"

            She looked up at the riot of color peeling across the sky with the setting sun. "I want to watch the sun set."

            He grinned. "Come on, I know the perfect place, but we'll have to hurry!"

            They zipped up to the top of the Hokage monument and leaned against the railing.

            "Breathtaking," Iruka stated.

            "Mm," she agreed and burned the image into her mind.

            "This one's a keeper."

            "What is?"

            "Today; even with the mess earlier, or even because of it!" He took a deep breath and sat down, straddling a fencepost.

            To his surprise, she joined him. "Sometimes it's hard to enjoy days like these when you know they won't last."

            "Oh sure," he added. "Especially after all Konoha has been through. In peace time, I try to take each day and hold it close to me like a leaf you press in a book. So when times are bad, I can pull it back out and remember how nice things were and how they will be again when the seasons change…" Iruka noticed she was staring at him. "Did I say something weird?"

            "No." Junko shook her head slowly, a soft smile on her lips and in her eyes. "That makes perfect sense."

*

            Summer descended into autumn and class went back in session. Iruka had his hands full with dozens of new students as a recent enrollment campaign had been wildly successful. The din from the 30 plus students in his classroom was giving him a head ache.

            "All right, class, lunch time. Please try to remain quiet and in your seats. Until we can break up this class into two smaller ones, I need your cooperation with me on this, Ok?"

            "Hai Sensei…"

            He sighed heavily and jumped out the window. There was a three foot ledge just a few feet below. He leaned against the wall and listened to birds chirping in a nearby tree which was already changing color.

            "Some Chuunin you are," a voice from the left nearly startled him off the ledge.

            "J-Junko!"

            "Kidding!" She laughed and sat down next to him. "I was in full stealth, honest." She handed him a box wrapped in a piece of cloth.

            "Ah! Junko's Bento!" he cried and accepted the lunch box. "This day has just taken a serious turn for the better."

            "Trouble with the brats? I mean, the kids?"

            He rolled his eyes as he crammed a bit of okonomiyaki into his mouth. "There's just such a great lot of them at the moment. Ah well." He smacked his lips, appreciating the wonderful lunch she had brought him. "This too shall pass, right?" Iruka tended to close his eyes when he smiled, and with Junko being Anbu, he didn't notice she was that close to him until their lips met.

            "Junko…"

            "You're a keeper," she whispered. They kissed again, this time more slowly and it would have been a beautiful scene had it not been for 30 plus students at the window who could no longer hold in their comments.

            "Wa! Iruka-sensei's got a girlfriend!!!"

            He blushed crimson. "This is not what I would call sitting quietly in your seats…" he growled. They didn't hear him over the din.

            "I got this one," she whispered and stood up. "Yes, Iruka-sensei has a girlfriend: a super-elite Jounin Anbu girlfriend who knows where you all live!" she shouted, sending them scurrying back to their seats. When Junko turned around, Iruka's mouth hung open in shock. "Are you all right?" she asked.

            "You're incredible! Ever consider teaching?"

            Junko laughed, and as she looked into his soft, brown eyes she briefly remembered a time when laughter seemed impossible. She kissed him again and let him get back to work, the smile clinging to her lips and warming her heart.