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JU-ON 12

He stared down at the little blonde boy sitting on the lone swing in the park, fearful blue eyes occasionally looking up at the Chuunin. Iruka smiled, crouching so that he was within eye level with the five year old.

"What's your name?" Iruka asked.

"Naruto."

"It's getting too cold. Don't you have a jacket?" Iruka asked, concerned because the boy was dressed in summer pants and a short sleeved shirt when it was the beginning of winter.

"I don't have a jacket." Naruto answered, looking shamefully at his black sandals.

Iruka smiled and pulled off his own scarf, wrapping it around Naruto's neck. "Come. Let me get you one. What's your favorite color?"

Naruto stared up at him, then stared long at the plain light blue scarf around him. The five year old cuddled within the warmth and softness of the scarf. He then turned up grateful wide blue eyes at Iruka, like he's been touched by an angel. "Orange."

Iruka chuckled and held his hand out. "Come on then. I know a place that has orange jackets."

Naruto hopped off his swing and hesitantly took Iruka's hand.

XXX

Iruka tied the forehead protector around Naruto's forehead. "Congratulations! You passed."

Naruto stared up at the forehead protector, cheeks marred with soot before casting down his eyes, lips trembling. Iruka could see the happiness literally radiating in large aura waves off Naruto. In a blink of an eye, Naruto threw himself on Iruka, short arms going around the waist of the Chuunin.

"Iruka-sensei!" Came the happy cry of gratitude.

XXX

Iruka patted Naruto's back as the boy wheezed and coughed. "Slow down, silly!" Iruka reprimanded.

Naruto managed to catch his breath and downed a glass full of water. "But Iruka-sensei, the noodles don't taste good anymore when it's cold! That's the whole point of eating ramen. It should be hot!"

Iruka chuckled. "Just as long as you don't kill yourself by swallowing down the wrong pipe."

"Mou!" Naruto frowned, and blew at his bowl. "Iruka-sensei is not eating!"

"I am!" Iruka chided, before giving Naruto's head a noogie. "Want another bowl?"

"YES!"

XXX

"Happy birthday, Iruka-sensei!" Naruto held up a paper mache model of a dolphin jumping over what was supposed to be a wave.

Iruka took the model and stared at it, heart warming. "Oh, Naruto." Even though the model was slightly crooked and lopsided, Iruka just knew the amount of effort and time needed to even make a small model. This was about eight inches tall.

"I know it's a bit crooked. But – But I really tried to make it straight." Naruto said, rubbing the back of his head.

Iruka pulled Naruto with one arm, ruffled his hair affectionately gave him a hug. "It's perfect!" Iruka placed it in the middle of living room shelf, where all his precious things went. "Thank you so much, Naruto."

"Oh and I'm not done yet!" Naruto whistled and his clone popped in to the Chuunin's apartment via the window. "Umm – I remembered that years ago you said that you miss those – ummm – brownies your uh - umm – m-mom made. S-So I looked up some recipes and uh –" Naruto took the box from the clone, made it disappear and held the small box up to Iruka. "I made some for you."

Iruka stared at the box, dumbfounded. He took the box from Naruto and found perfect squares sitting snugly in the little foil wrapped box. "You made this?" Iruka took one, chewed and swallowed.

"Hinata gave me a hand." Naruto rubbed the back of his head. "I accidentally put too much sugar, but I –"

"I love it!" Iruka said, taking another. "My, my Naruto. You'll make a fine husband in the future!"

"Geh!" Naruto made a happy face. "Really?"

Iruka chuckled, offering some brownies to Naruto. "Really."

XXX

"Hold still." Iruka said, dabbing an alcohol swab on the cuts on Naruto's arm.

"Yeow!" Naruto cringed.

"Almost done. Just keep your eyes closed and think of ramen. Count one to fifty." Iruka said, while he took some things out of the medical kit beside him while Naruto counted aloud.

"Thirty two, thirty three, thirty four –"

"Done!" Iruka gently patted Naruto's bandaged arm. "Now, let's go get that ramen I promised you."

"You're the best Iruka-sensei! It didn't even hurt!"

Iruka could only shake his head in amusement.

XXX

Dark.

Too dark.

Cold.

Too cold.

Iruka felt sadness fill him that it numbed the pain from his self inflicted wound. Every memory he had of Naruto kept flashing behind his closed eyelids. From the moments he spotted Naruto crying in one corner to all those times when the boy came home from a mission and told him tales of his adventures.

"N-Naruto…" He mumbled, coughing out a little blood that joined the cold puddle under him.

Iruka chuckled at the irony of his current situation. When he was young, he thought of a glorious and honorable death in battle or on a mission. But now, lying on his kitchen floor with a knife embedded deeply in to his chest, he wondered if he even looked honorable. People would think of suicide and associate it with insanity because in a shinobi world, such things were normal. They would see him weak, pathetic and a coward. But they didn't know anything. They would never know anything. To the village, he was merely the sweet and caring Chuunin who molded excellent shinobi students. Nobody would hear or know of his inner sufferings, the dirty laundry he hid under his happy-teacher façade.

"Damn…" Iruka mumbled, breathing slowing down till they were very short and dragging ones. "I wish, that everything had been different." He whimpered, but no tears came this time. His words were merely laced with plain resignation. "I wish I could see Naruto. Kakashi." A sad smile came to his lips, as he heard his own heart begin to slow down. "One last time…"

Everything around Iruka began to glow white till there was nothing.

XXX

The office lights flickered and went off for a brief few seconds before coming on again. Kakashi blinked and stared at the white light above him, cocking an eyebrow. He frowned as the nagging feeling inside him grew. A heavy feeling suddenly dropped on Kakashi's shoulders like a two ton brick. Shaking his gut feeling that was starting to disturb him, Kakashi pushed the windows open and let himself out. He took the shortest route via the rooftop to Iruka's apartment.

As he got closer, Kakashi found dread filling him even more. The lights flickering felt like a bad omen.

"You're just over acting." Kakashi mumbled to himself, slightly annoyed at his feelings. He hopped down to a lower roof and rounded a corner, landing on Iruka's balcony. "He's asleep. What could possibly happen?"

Then Kakashi remembered.

Iruka did say something of seeing dead people's faces when he closed his eyes. Kakashi then began to panic inside, hands shaking as he slid the balcony door open. The living room lights were not on just like he left it. Kakashi counted one to ten slowly in his head, as he turned and closed the balcony door. It then registered to him that he can feel no presence, and that the kitchen lights of the house were the only ones left on. Kakashi froze on his spot.

No presence.

No charka.

It can't be!

Kakashi turned and looked around, reaching out for the corner wall and flicked the switch open, his eyes widening. The living room was a mess. Soil from the plant pot in the corners were knocked down, a broken stand lamp joined the mess along with little porcelain pieces of shattered house display. Kakashi's heart began to race, as he side-stepped from the fallen things on the ground and studied everything around him. From the way things fell and how they were scattered, he could tell that there had been a struggle. Kakashi sucked in a shaky breath, senses not functioning properly due to the overwhelmed feeling he was washed with. Then he froze.

Blood.

Kakashi smelled blood; the scent was thick and strong in the air. Kakashi berated himself for not noticing earlier. Where? Where was –

There.

Kakashi looked at the direction of the kitchen, staring at the white light that radiated from the open door. Kakashi trailed his eyes down and spotted a hand lying limp just outside the doorway.

"Oh god." Kakashi pulled his forehead protector off and rushed for the kitchen. Both his eyes widened at the sight of Iruka's fallen and crimson tainted body. "Iruka? Iruka!" Kakashi knelt beside the Chuunin and stared at the knife on the man's chest. "Oh god, no."

Kakashi pulled his gloves off and felt for a pulse. Sweat of panic was forming on Kakashi's temple, as shaking fingers fondled around Iruka's neck to find a pulse, anything. Kakashi found a very slow one that it was barely even beating. He brushed away Iruka's hair and summoned a clone to fetch Tsunade fast. Emergency techniques surfaced to his mind that instant. Kakashi lifted Iruka off the ground and headed towards a clean spot in the living room. Gently, he laid Iruka's form on the wooden floors, and pressed his hand around the area the knife was embedded on. Slowly, he pulled the knife out before tossing it angrily away. In blind rage and panic, Kakashi ripped an entire sleeve off his arm and pressed it tightly against the wound, applying pressure.

"Iruka? Iruka, I know you can hear me. Goddamnit, open your eyes!"

Please. Please. Please. Please. Please.

Kakashi ripped his other sleeve off and pressed it against the wound. Iruka looked so pale and felt so cold. Kakashi shut his eyes tightly, concentrating harder in channeling charka in to Iruka.

Don't die! Don't die! Don't die! Don't die!

DON'T LEAVE ME!

A light and cold touch on Kakashi's bloodied hand made him snap his eyes open and the Sharingan flare as he stared down to find Iruka's hand lightly over his. Kakashi turned to look at Iruka, who had his eyes open in a thin sliver – enough to get a vague image of the surroundings. There was a smile on the Chuunin's pale and bloody lips.

"You're alive! Stay with me, you hear?" Kakashi hissed, voice laced with panic. "Don't close your eyes! Remember how you kept them open for days?" Kakashi channeled more charka, harder and faster in to Iruka. "I want you to do the same for a few more minutes! The Hokage should be here any moment!"

"- Kashi –"

"Talk to me!" Kakashi urged. "Tell me your plans for tomorrow. I've got free time. I can help you with your mission report filings –"

"- T –Take – c-care –"

"I'll take care of everything. I swear to take care of you! I swear!" Kakashi vowed, feeling drained from the amount of charka he was channeling out.

"- of N-Naruto – h-he's – a-alone – d-don't –l-leave hi-him –"

"Naruto will be great! I'm going to double his training and help him achieve his goals! I promise! Keep talking! Help is going to be here any moment!"

Don't die! Don't die! Goddamnit, keep breathing! Don't fucking leave me!

"-Do-Don't t-tell Na-Naruto –"

"Keep talking. Keep talking. Keep breathing." Kakashi ordered, pressing the wound some more.

"-Ta-Take c-care o-of y-yours-s-self –"

"I want you to breathe!" Kakashi glared at the Chuunin, who continued to smile. "You hear me? Breathe!" Kakashi gritted the last word out. "Don't fucking leave!"

Don't leave ME!

"-I – l-love you –"

Kakashi shut his eyes and concentrated harder, letting out a strong blast of charka, the last of his reserve. Kakashi steeled himself and opened his eyes. He looked down at Iruka. The Chuunin had his head tilted to one side, lips still parted in a smile, eyes closed. Kakashi stopped breathing for a while. Before Kakashi could even speak out, the door burst open and Tsunade entered with four other medical nins with her. Tsunade made Kakashi step back, doing hand seals to stimulate the heart and close the gaping wound.

Kakashi stumbled back, staring dumbly as orders were shouted and healing jutsus were cast. But he knew, deep within his being, that is was useless, that Iruka didn't listen to him in the end. Couldn't hear him. Couldn't give himself to his request – order – like he did on countless nights.

Just this once.

This last final time.

Kakashi stared at the blood in his hands and felt remorse he hadn't felt for a long time hit him hard. Everything was going quiet. Tsunade was no longer giving orders. Kakashi looked up and found Tsunade looking at him, a quiet look of apology and extreme sadness and loss radiating on her face. Quietly, she turned away, while two medics left to bring a stretcher.

Kakashi can only stare as everything went about in silence, blood dripping down his hands to the ground that it sounded like explosions in his own ears. He was left alone as Iruka was taken away to the hospital covered in a white sheet.

Alone.

Again.

Kakashi brought the hands to his face, shut his eyes and breathed out slowly, tears mingling with Iruka's blood.

He didn't even get to tell Iruka that he loved him too …

XXX

Naruto stared down at the cenotaph, blue eyes tinted with a heavy layer of loss and sadness. Everything Iruka owned – family jutsu scrolls and techniques, money and possessions – were given to him. It's been a long time since Iruka died and Naruto still had trouble believing that his mentor, teacher, friend and possibly the closest to family he ever had, was gone.

"Sometimes, I feel like he's still around me." Naruto spoke up suddenly, just as Kakashi appeared behind him.

Kakashi gave a sad smile. "His presence will always be around us."

"I miss him." Naruto said, dipping his head.

Iruka died on a mission from a deadly wound – that was what Naruto knows and that is the only thing Naruto will know. It says so in Iruka's will. Naruto didn't have to know that Iruka killed himself so that he can live. He didn't have to know of the suffering Iruka went through.

Not just yet, Kakashi thought.

"Come on. Let's get your water jutsus polished up." Kakashi said, and patted Naruto's head. Naruto merely nodded and turned away from the cenotaph, walking the other direction. Kakashi followed suit, turning briefly towards the cenotaph to give it a quiet good bye.

Iruka was standing there, smiling, dressed in his Chuunin uniform, hair pulled up in its usual fashion. He nodded at Kakashi, smile going wider and softer.

Kakashi blinked and the image was gone.

Iruka, I love you too …

Kakashi turned and continued to the training area, introducing a new concept of water based jutsu to Naruto.

I just never got to tell you when I had many chances …

I wish things were different …

FIN

Done! I sobbed, I cried, I mourned and god! That is one helluva' ending.

He died. No way around it. So let's all observe a moment silence to mourn his death.

Okay, that's enough. I'm done with this story and well, I'm kinda' happy about it too. It turned rather angsty and dramatic. Kakashi is human so he has the rights to feel the way he did. The thing is, he will only feel those things when he's on his own, when no one's looking. That's the way I see it.

Thank you to ALL my readers and to those who kept up with this story till the end. Your encouragement has kept me happy and trying my best the whole way. I can never be more grateful. I hope, that as much as I've enjoyed coming up with scenes for this fic, you too have enjoyed reading them.

Till next time, peeps!