The walk to the gates, much to Iruka's chagrin, was rather quiet. He didn't expect both boys to walk side by side without uttering a word to each other. He would have expected Naruto to be mouthing off his plans and how he might try to 'beat up the old hag' in order to get more missions related to the Wind Country. Iruka expected Naruto to at least bring up the subject of ramen once or twice; or any brief mention of it at all. Iruka found himself wishing rather desperately for Naruto to rant at how he's going to beat Sasuke one day or anything along those lines.

Still the two walked in silence.

At some point, as they neared the gates, Iruka found himself realizing that the two young boys before him were finally maturing. They understood that the parting was meant to be and no amount of whining or crying would change that fact. A sense of pride welled in him both as a teacher and as a caretaker. For one, he was glad that Naruto was able to grow up so much in such a short time. He was very glad that Gaara was able to learn so much in his brief stay in Konoha. He was glad at the bond that was forged between the three of them. In fact, Iruka could very much think of Gaara and Naruto as his two 'adoptive sons' in some way. It made feel that fluttery and happy feeling swell in his stomach.

"Na, na, how come they're here?" Naruto mouthed off suddenly, almost startling Iruka from his inner thoughts.

Gaara was blinking at the gates while Iruka tried to see who Naruto was talking about. "It's just Genma-san and Raidou-san, Naruto." Iruka replied, shrugging a bit.

"Exactly." Naruto nodded, crossing his arms across his chest. "Last time I checked the gate duty scroll list, those two weren't due in for today."

Iruka was about to rebuke what Naruto just said when the words halted at the tip of his tongue. Last time he checked, such logs were not supposed to be aired about for the public. Gaara didn't even seem the least bit perturbed that there were two people who were not supposed to be there in the first place. In fact – Iruka noticed – the red head seemed to be skipping.


"Naruto, from where did you get such information?" Iruka asked.

"Oh, Gaara and I grabbed the list of baba-san's desk." Naruto shrugged before grabbing Gaara's wrist and dragging him towards the two waiting Jounins.

Iruka had no time to vent out his anger nor lecture Naruto for stealing documents off the Hokage's desk. He was so busy looking at what was taking place before him.

"Here." Genma handed Gaara a paper bag while he dropped to a crouching position so that honey brown eyes met quiet green ones. Gaara stared at the bag. "Something for the road. Ibiki told us of your departure."

"Thank you." Gaara mumbled shyly, cheeks tinting a light shade of pink. Gaara suddenly looked at Genma with a slightly mortified face. He read from one of the many books Iruka gave him that it was only proper to return a gift back to the giver. It was like a trade of good wills and emotions somehow. He didn't know if folklores ethics applied to that of the real world, but as his fingers held the smooth paper bag, he somehow wished that he had something to give Genma.

Genma, seeing the reaction, looked up at Raidou, wondering if he did something wrong then back at Gaara. "Are you okay? Is there something disturbing you?" Raidou reached out and ruffled Gaara's hair, stepping back a bit to let Genma deal with the rather 'emotionally unstable' boy. Like Raidou, Iruka and Naruto both gave Gaara his space so that he'd have some feeling of privacy.

Gaara looked at his toes in embarrassment. "I didn't get Genma-san anything. This is - " Gaara stopped talking to look directly at Genma when he jolted at the sudden warm clamp of Genma's hand on his shoulder.

"I said it's something for the road. Don't worry about it." Genma smirked, needle moving to the opposite corner of his lips.

"But I –" Gaara tried to reason. The blush on his cheeks were as red as his hair now.

"But nothing. Just promise me you'll be okay and that you'd remain as you are?" Genma asked, affectionately ruffling Gaara's hair.

"As I am?" Gaara asked, blinking.

"Yeah. You know, this you. This nice you. Not that you were nice before but uh – ah!" Genma made a face. Clearly, he was not an expert in pacifying children. Or trying to say goodbye to one that he unconsciously grew rather fond of. When he heard from Ibiki that Gaara was leaving that afternoon (Ibiki was complaining about the loss of one good and full-of-potential student), Genma dragged Raidou to the gates. Truth be told, they've been waiting for quite some time already. "Just be yourself. Your real self. Get me?"

Gaara nodded, a small smile spreading on his lips. It was so shy that it was too cute for Genma. "I get you."

"Good." Genma nodded, not able to resist smiling back.

"If I return, will Genma-san remember me?" Gaara asked, after a few moments of silent.

"How can I not?" Genma answered back. The steely gleam Genma normally had in his honey brown eyes softened to an almost affectionate glow. "No one has really given me flowers before you know?" Genma shrugged, making Gaara look away with his cheeks reddening even more. "And I still have them." Genma grinned. Gaara could only manage to nod and nothing more. "Hey." Genma patted his head and ruffled the hair some more. Those stiff looking red locks felt too soft. Gaara peeked at him from under his red bangs. "I won't forget you. That's a promise from me."

Gaara blinked then looked up at the hand on his head then back at Genma's eyes. He remained silent for a long time staring directly at Genma. At some point, Genma assumed that Gaara didn't really like his hair being ruffled so he pulled his hand back until Gaara stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Genma's neck. To say that Genma was surprised was an understatement. His hands were poised in mid-embrace from Gaara's sudden hug. Naruto was grinning at them while Iruka looked quite pleasantly happy. Genma had no doubt that Raidou must have caught a few flies already with his wide open trap.

"I promise that I will never forget you." Gaara said in his quiet voice. "Because Genma-san is one of the first few grown ups to be nice to me."

Genma found out at that moment that he had absolutely no immunity to a child's affections whatsoever. He pulled Gaara as close he can, arms holding the young frame to him. "Gaara."

"That I promise you." Gaara said.

There was nothing more to say. Genma could only nod at Gaara's promise and continue holding him until Raidou stepped forward and cleared his throat. Gaara pulled back and gave Genma a very cute shy smile that disappeared to that of a surprised expression when Raidou topped his head with a cone-straw hat.

"For the afternoon sun." Raidou said, smiling a bit.

"Thank you." Gaara blinked up at Raidou.

"You take care of yourself, Gaara. Don't forget to have your warm milk in the evenings!" Iruka reminded him. "Do you have your scarf in your bag?"

Gaara nodded. "Yes Iruka-sensei. And I won't forget."

Iruka pulled Gaara in to an embrace that last quite some time since neither was willing to let the other go until Naruto thwacked Gaara upside the head. Both young ones faced each other. "I'm going to be Hokage." Naruto said flatly. Gaara nodded. "You know that I can kick your ass any time."

"I will work hard." Gaara nodded and smiled at Naruto.

"Good." Naruto nodded back then gestured to the gates. "Fine. Get outta' here."

Gaara nodded back once again. "Bye."

"See ya'." Naruto raised a hand.

Gaara dipped his head in goodbyes to the three elders with him, blushing a bit when he looked at Genma before turning to the gates, adjusting his straw hat. Before he stepped out the gates, he looked behind his back towards Iruka. "Iruka-sensei?" Iruka blinked and tilted his head a bit. "Don't forget. About Kakashi-sensei."

Iruka parted his lips a bit in surprise as Gaara smiled broadly at all of them before jogging down the path past the gates, disappearing in to the afternoon shade of the trees that would lead to the Wind Country.

Naruto tugged at Iruka's sleeve. "Na, na, what about Kakashi-sensei?"

Genma and Raidou turned to look at Iruka from the corner of their eyes. "It's nothing Naruto." Iruka smiled, ruffling Naruto's hair as he stared to where Gaara's jogging figure once was. "Don't worry about it."

Naruto merely huffed his cheeks in reply before demanding for ramen.


Five days later, Iruka was starting to wonder if he could even keep his promise to Gaara. Kakashi was actually nowhere to be found; that's saying something considering Iruka manned the mission desk almost eighty percent of the time. To say that he was surprised was a joke. He was stunned, stupefied, horrified, shocked and guilty (somehow) all rolled in to one. He heard from Naruto that 'Kakashi-sensei came once or twice to their Chuunin training to give insight and advice due to his reputation and that he didn't say hi or hello or anything else'.

Iruka was ready to pound his head on the wall. His prankster and notorious half said that he should just ignore the promise to kid-redhead and just leave Kakashi be because 'he was a poor excuse of a twenty-seven year old who couldn't tell red from blue when it came to emotions – the moron'.

Iruka made sure that that line of thought was stomped flat, dead, flamed and locked up in the deep tresses of his mind where he doesn't have to hear from it again.

Sighing, Iruka got ready to leave his paper work (he finished his limit for that day) and gathered his things from his classroom desk. Making sure that the lights and windows were closed and that everything else was in order, he closed his classroom door, hoisted his student grade book under his arm and started walking down the dimly lit corridor. He functioned mostly out of habit and went to the Ichiraku to buy take out good for three. It was when he was on his way to Naruto's house did he realize that he bought another extra bowl.


"Gaara is not here anymore. I gotta stop doing this." Iruka sighed yet again and climbed Naruto's stair case. Naruto was asleep like a dead log, so Iruka used the spare key Naruto gave him. Upon entering quietly in to the kitchen, he saw a sight he would never forget.


Not only that. It was Kakashi putting a new carton of milk and a new packet of sliced bread in to Naruto's fridge. Iruka also swore he saw a bag of pocky being tossed in to the vegetable drawer – no doubt to hide from prying eyes. Iruka was so stunned that he didn't even realize he was staring until Kakashi nudged the fridge door closed and turned to leave via the window.

"Wait!" Iruka grabbed his wrist with speed that a shinobi could only attain through years of training; in his case, handling Konoha's hell spawns with sharp throwing objects. Surprisingly though, Kakashi did wait. "Look, this is silly. I mean I haven't seen you in days and I was – mind you! I'm still mad at you but hey, it can't be helped when you're acting like a complete –" Iruka shut his mouth, inhaled and let out his breath slowly. "Never mind. I've got extra ramen. You got room for it?"

Somewhere in the middle of Iruka's 'speech', Kakashi had turned to just look at him. "Sure."

"Good." Iruka nodded and moved towards to fridge to put Naruto's ramen inside, made sure that the front door was locked before following Kakashi out the window. He followed Kakashi across town.

That evening, Iruka got another surprise. Kakashi led him to his apartment and offered him the bed to sit on while he took the ramen plastic bowls and poured them in to proper bowls and handed one to Iruka. Iruka watched quietly as Kakashi leaned against his window sill and started stirring his ramen with his chopsticks. Iruka was very honored to be invited in to Kakashi's own home. Without another word, he tucked in to bowl, not looking at Kakashi so as to give the man some privacy when he ate with his mask down.

It was a few minutes later when Iruka placed his chopsticks on top of the bowl did he look up to find Kakashi adjusting his mask over his face. Iruka stood up wordlessly, took Kakashi's empty bowl and rinsed it out in the small kitchen in the corner of the studio apartment.

"Thanks." Kakashi said from the doorway.

"It's nothing." Iruka said while drying his hands with the kitchen towel. "It's getting late. You're probably tired and we've got a long day ahead of us." Iruka rubbed at his temple a bit; a sign that he was indeed exhausted. "That thing, for Naruto."

"He was out of milk." Kakashi shrugged.

Iruka could only nod dumbly. His usual inner self started scowling and running amok due to the fact that he was being careless and should have checked if Naruto still had milk. As a reply, he just shrugged. Iruka just didn't know how else to reply to that rather bland statement. "I'll be –"

"Iruka-sensei." Kakashi cut him off.

"Yes?" Iruka blinked. He was a bit miffed for being cut off. It was one of his pet peeves.

"I do check up on my students. Especially Naruto and Sasuke."

Iruka's cheeks tainted a slight red from embarrassment. Typical of Kakashi to hit everything down the center. "O-Of course!"

"Iruka-sensei thinks that I am irresponsible, correct?"

If possible, Iruka's cheeks got even redder. "I didn't say th-"

"Iruka-sensei feels that my behavior is not that of a grown up. And that my logic is wrong. Am I right?"

Iruka narrowed his eyes, annoyance and anger getting the better of him. Again. "You cannot judge what I feel! How can you? You don't even know me!"

"I feel it is pointless for me to apologize to you. Because I know that it just won't be accepted. I'm not a child. Not like Naruto. Or Gaara." Kakashi rubbed his head sheepishly.

"Kakashi –" Iruka was surprised.

"But what would I know about such things?" Kakashi asked Iruka, looking at him directly. The 'I'm busy being a shinobi' came without saying. Which was why Kakashi was staring widely at Iruka when a loud resound thwap sounded off. Kakashi watched, a bit stunned (much like Iruka), as Iruka tucked his student grade book under his arm once again.

"You can stop staring Kakashi. And yes, I just hit you upside the head." Iruka mumbled walking past Kakashi to the doorway to pull his sandals on. "Someone once told me that you fall so that you can learn how to stand up again." Iruka stood up straight. "It stuck ever since really. You're a smart man. You've dealt with bigger and more dangerous things before. As for your apology, I accept it. I wouldn't have invited you to eat ramen that I paid for if I didn't anyway." Iruka grumbled a quiet 'idiot' under his breath as he straightened his clothes.


"Yes?" Iruka looked up at him and blinked when he heard a light thwap. His record book was gone from under his arm.

Kakashi handed the book back. "Now we're even."

Iruka blinked slowly then smiled. "In a way."

"Can I ask you something?" Kakashi asked, hands in his pocket.

"Sure." Iruka nodded.

"You're not in a relationship of some sort are you?"

If Iruka could turn to a stone, he would have at that moment. Blushing like some young academy boy, he thwapped Kakashi on the arm with his record book and turned around before he showed any more embarrassing facial expression. "Stupid idiot. Good night."

Kakashi nodded and waved. "Good night."


Iruka appeared in class the next day with rings under his eyes. Thanks to Kakashi's stupid question, he spent the entire night staring at his ceiling and tossing and turning. He was pretty dead and more of a stone-person while teaching the entire class. Iruka even let the kids loose earlier than usual. He lagged himself towards the mission desk during his shift. He didn't see Kakashi the entire day till he cleared and locked up like the usual. For a moment, he went to the academy roof to stare at the mountain carvings.

He remembered years ago, when the Yondaime was still teaching them classes.


Their instructor had paired them off to hone their Taijutsu skills with Yondaime to watch and judge. It was like a small tournament of sorts. Iruka was excited and pumping with adrenaline because he wanted to impress the Yondaime so much. However, when the real fight did begin, Iruka had lost from ten to one and was very beaten up to the ground. That was when he got the scar across the bridge of his nose. His classmate (who never really liked him for some reason) used a kunai that Iruka was unable to block.

From the shock Iruka felt, he crumpled to the ground, bleeding and black and blue. He didn't move but just stared at an ant on the floor that somehow fell on its back. It was struggling to get back on its feet, its legs moving about frantically in all directions. Iruka felt sad for it and saw himself as that ant. He was struggling the whole time since the fight began. Maybe it was because his opponent was more buff compared to his small skinny frame. Maybe it was because his opponent came from a clan that was more experienced in taijutsu than him. Maybe it was because he was just weak.


Iruka felt arms pick him up and the feel of sudden speed. Next thing he knew, he was in the infirmary and his wounds being treated. He ended up with twelve stitches across the bridge of his nose. While the medic stitched his wound, Iruka was staring at the ceiling blankly and unmoving to the point that the medic got worried.

"Can I go home now?" Iruka asked quietly, half his face blue from the fight and his body aching practically everywhere from the kicks and falls he took.

"Once I've checked you for fractures and sprains, you can go." The medic replied.

Twenty minutes later, after Iruka was checked up and down and his bruises and scrapes treated, he limped out of the room. Iruka was afraid that he'd get a scolding from his parents but he didn't really care. He wanted to collapse on his bed and just sleep. He swore to himself that he'd train more from that day on so that next time, he can beat anyone else in class without being afraid of getting hurt. He hated the pain his body felt. The sheer exhaustion annoyed him because it was a reminder on just how little he was. Iruka didn't see the slight change of step ahead of him and fell face first in the empty hall way.

"Stupid." Iruka mumbled and pushed himself painfully off the floor. His arms shook from its beaten up state from desperately blocking the many punches and kicks earlier. He managed to get on his feet and was about to collapse again when he felt arms hoist him up from the shoulders.

"Easy there."

Iruka stared behind him with wide eyes, looking rather ridiculous with the gauze across his nose, at the thatch of blonde hair. "H-Hokage-sen –"

"Are you all right?" Yondaime asked. Iruka blushed a bit then felt his feet being lifted off the ground. "Never mind."

It felt quick and rather surprising but minutes later, Iruka found himself in the front lawn of his home. No one seemed to be home since his father was out on a mission while his mother seemed to have attended to something for a while.

"Ah – thank you." Iruka managed meekly.

"You did well today, Iruka." Yondaime grinned. "Keep practicing and you'll be a great shinobi one day."

"But – But I lost! And I –"

"Iruka, Iruka." Yondaime shook his head. "It's not about losing. Everybody loses. Even me. And don't tell anyone because you know, being Hokage and all." Iruka only stared. "My point is, when you fall, you just have to learn how to pick yourself up. Why do you think we all fall in the first place, hmm?"

"Pick ourselves up?"

"Exactly. To learn from our mistakes, so that we don't commit them again. That is how one survives and becomes a great shinobi. Even the greatest heroes out there have fallen several times. But they didn't give up. And not giving up counts." Yondaime reached out and ruffled Iruka's hair, kneeling to look at him within eye level. "Gets?"

Iruka blinked, thought of the words for a moment then understood. "Gets."

"Good." Yondaime smiled.

Iruka reached out and wrapped his small arms around the elder man's neck, startling the blonde a bit. Iruka hugged him tight and long. "Thank you so much, Hokage-sensei." Yondaime's eyes softened and pulled Iruka in to an embrace as well. Iruka kissed the tanned cheek then stepped back. Yondaime blinked at the action but smiled anyway. "I promise never to give up."

Yondaime could only laugh and reach out to ruffled Iruka's hair once more and kiss the top of his head.

"That's good, Iruka."

(End flashback)

Iruka rubbed at the top of his head at the memory. That was the last time he ever got to speak to the Yondaime. A few days later, Konoha's biggest disaster and loss came with the attack of the Kyuubi.

But when Iruka thought about it now, perhaps it was fate. He felt bitter towards Naruto when he heard of the sealing. He was young then and didn't understand anything at all especially after the loss of his parents. But gradually as he matured, he understood the meaning of being alone. Especially the Yondaime's words.

"Wonder if Naruto is up for dinner tomorrow." He mumbled aloud and started hopping down the roof tops, the wind of the mountains ruffling his ponytail as he headed home.


Iruka was rather surprised to find a box of sushi on his kitchen counter with a note attached to it.

I made too much. Gave Naruto and Sasuke. I had an extra box. Enjoy your dinner.

- Kakashi

Iruka was staring at the box. For a moment, he wondered if it was poisoned as he went about changing in to house clothes. Later on though, after he devoured the entire dinner box, he told himself to ask Kakashi where he bought the sushi. He stopped dead in his line of thought and ducked for the trash bin to take out the post it note he threw away and reread Kakashi's writing.

Made, not bought.

"He can cook?" Iruka mumbled with tempura in one corner of his mouth.

The next day, he desperately searched and waited for Kakashi only to find out that he took his mission early in the morning and returned right before Iruka's shift. Iruka sulked the whole day.

When he got home, he found a rather large bento box on his counter that was still warm. The contents looked lovely.

I made too much again. Sasuke and Naruto ate theirs at training. Hope you don't mind teriyaki.

- Kakashi

"If it's as good as your sushi, then I don't give a crap." Iruka said and went about fetching a pair of chopsticks. He didn't even bother changing his clothes.

For the next few days, Iruka got free dinner. He didn't complain because they were great dinners. To the point that Iruka anticipated each time he went home (and didn't really care how Kakashi entered his house because the food was great). One evening though, he found no bento in his kitchen counter or fridge. To say that he was disappointed was an understatement.

That was when it hit him.

Iruka found himself staring at a wall. The idea of getting such a treatment from Kakashi had grown on him. It was quite strange that Kakashi managed to have his head revolving around just one person in such a short time. It was so sudden that it scared Iruka. Sighing and shaking his head, he headed out to buy something to eat. He was tired and it had been a long day; Iruka didn't feel up for cooking.

When Iruka reached the food street, he bumped in to Naruto who was rubbing his full stomach.

"Iruka-sensei!" Naruto threw Iruka long waist-hug. "You owe me ramen!"

Iruka laughed. "It's been nearly two weeks ne?"

"Correction. You owe me lots of ramen!" Naruto grinned. "How have you been sensei? You've been sleeping properly right? You look like you got socked!"

"Nice." Iruka grumbled. "I've been getting by all right. Busy with the missions as usual. How's your training?"

"Good! We're back in to teams. Kakashi-sensei is training me, bastard and Sakura again. It's pretty cool! Kakashi-sensei has been working our butt off but I don't mind. He brings the bento."

Iruka smiled widely at that. "He does?"

"Yep. Oh and we start missions tomorrow. D-rank of course, but Kakashi-sensei says he'll try to weasel a C-rank for us." Naruto rubbed at his cheek.

"Well, do your best Naruto! I'm so proud of you!" Iruka ruffled Naruto's hair.

Naruto grinned wider then looked up at Iruka. "Na, Iruka-sensei. Did you hear anything from Gaara?"

Iruka blinked, hand pausing mid-ruffle. He shook his head. "I haven't received any letter yet. Maybe we'll get one soon. You know, maybe Gaara is training like you. Remember, both of you are aiming to be Kages so it's got to be pretty busy." Iruka knew it was a rather lame excuse but also one of the most valid ones available. He didn't want to upset Naruto. He knew the boy must be feeling very alone right now.

"I know. But it was nice you know? We got to watch TV together a lot and stuff." Naruto shrugged.

Iruka bit his lower lip. "I know." He pulled Naruto in to an embrace. "If you got room for dessert, you can crash over at my place. I've got the new Princess-Pay-Pey-comedy on tape. I was just going to go get something to eat."

"Wow! You got the new movie! I want to see! I want to see! And Iruka-sensei, you silly sensei! There's always room for dessert! You said so yourself, remember?" Naruto beamed.

Iruka remembered very well what he said and because of his slight sweet tooth, he nodded. "Off to my place then! Wait, let me get dinner first."


Iruka shook his head. "Actually, I was thinking sushi."


Iruka didn't really eat his dinner while watching the movie with Naruto. Both of them were too busy rolling with laughter at the comedy the film gave out. Two hours later though, after Iruka tucked in the bed of his spare bedroom, he took out his sushi and started eating it quietly by the window. He started noticing how some of the nori wasn't even sliced evenly or how some of the salmon needed more salt. Sometimes he'd frown when he felt the rice too dry or too soggy.

In the end, he stared at the last sushi piece in the box before popping it in to his mouth. He didn't like it much but food was food.

"Kakashi's are better." He mumbled.

That was just it.

He realized, with a bit of surprise, that everything he ate (in comparison to what he received from Kakashi) just wasn't the same from what Kakashi made. Once again, it dawned on him just how much his head revolved much around Kakashi. It was rather dumb to begin with because they were not that close nor did they know each other well to be even called 'friends'.

Comrades maybe.

Colleagues in a way.

But friends?

Does getting lunch with post-it notes count as friendship?

So far, Iruka hasn't really done much save for scold and probably swear at Kakashi along with thwapping him with his record book. So it was uneven in the scale.

Iruka tilted his head a bit and tried to look at it from a different perspective.

With all that has happened, did it mean that Kakashi wanted friendship?

Iruka sighed.

First thing tomorrow, he was going to go with Naruto and have a little talk with their instructor.


Iruka woke up extra early that morning to prepare breakfast – sweet toast, omelets, fried bacon strips and some salad. Iruka remembered a long time ago how his mother used to prepare the same breakfast whenever Iruka had a long day ahead of him. Just before Naruto woke up to get ready to meet up with his team, Iruka had four bentos ready and packed (he already ate breakfast while cooking).

"That smells good, sensei. What did you make?" Naruto asked, yawning widely and rubbing a sleepy eye.

"Your breakfast. And your teammates' as well." Iruka beamed for he felt rather happy for perfecting the bentos (half his mind found it down right silly). "And your instructor."

"Kakashi-sensei gets a bento too?" Naruto asked, now wide awake.

"It would only be fair." Iruka shrugged, though somehow, his cheeks stained a light red.

"Oh." Naruto nodded then padded for the bathroom without another word to freshen up and change in to his training clothes.

Twenty minutes later, Naruto and Iruka were each carrying two bento boxes to team seven's meeting place. When they arrived at their designated place, Iruka was rather surprised to find Kakashi appearing before Sakura and Sasuke. Iruka did a double take and quickly glanced at his watch. Naruto was only two minutes late.

"Naruto, is Kakashi-sensei always this –" Iruka spoke with a cautious tone only to quickly stop and grab the bentos off Naruto when the boy released his hold of it to shout and point at Kakashi.

"Aha! Kakashi-sensei is early! That's not fair! Yesterday, you made us wait for one hour!" Naruto accused

Iruka sighed and piled the bento boxes on top of each other and followed Naruto towards the standing jounin and two equally surprised (and annoyed) chuunin grads.

"I woke up in the right side of the bed today." Kakashi said, rubbing the back of his head, a sheepish smile under his mask.

"Well that's good." Sakura said, looking off to one side. "Now if only you'd wake up on the same side every morning." She mumbled.

Sasuke, as usual, said nothing but scowled.

"Something's fishy." Naruto mumbled, eyes narrowing in to thin slits and crossing his arms across his chest.

"Iruka-sensei! Good morning!" Sakura greeted sweetly, eyeing the bentos Iruka was carrying in his arms.

"Good morning, Sakura-kun, Sasuke-kun." Iruka greeted back, then turned to look at Kakashi. "Kakashi-sensei."

"Naruto, here." Iruka handed Naruto his bento and did the same with Sakura and Sasuke. "And Kakashi-sensei too."

Kakashi took the bento, looking equally surprised (if not more) as Sakura and Sasuke. "You need not need to trouble yourself."

"I had time in the morning. You guys," Iruka turned to look at the three. "Do your best!"

"Thank you." Sakura said with a polite bow. Sasuke nodded in reply while Naruto grinned.

"Kakashi-sensei, if I may have a word?" Iruka spoke quietly, just as Naruto started telling his teammates that 'Iruka-sensei's omelet is the best!'. Kakashi nodded and led them away a few feet, keeping his back to his three charges, holding the bento in one hand. Kakashi waited patiently while looking at Iruka which seemed to result in Iruka forgetting what he wanted to say in the first place. "I want to say thank you."

Kakashi tilted his head to one side. "What for, sensei?"

"The uh – bentos you left. In my kitchen." Iruka cleared his dry throat, wondering why, of all times, his blood chose to rush up to his cheeks at that moment. If possible, Iruka found himself reddening further when Kakashi seemed to smile under his mask.

"I made too much." Kakashi nearly beamed.

"I see. You mentioned." Iruka nodded. "I appreciate it. Thank you. But why?"

"I already told you. I made too much." Kakashi answered.

"Of course you did. I made too much breakfast myself this morning." Iruka shrugged, trying to hold back the sigh he wanted to breathe out while he gestured to Kakashi's bento, A few feet away, Naruto was busy defending Iruka's honor in the choice of bento wrapper colors (because Iruka only had multi colored fish printed wrappers).

"So you're not mad anymore?" Kakashi asked, almost hesitantly.

"Were you buying me off?" Iruka grumbled, glaring.

"No, no! Never that, sensei!" Kakashi waved a hand in defence.

"Kakashi-sensei, I already told you. I'm not mad at you. Not anymore." Iruka sighed. "Look, I came here to thank you. Maybe it wasn't right to have said many things before but –"

"If Iruka-sensei didn't say those things, then things would be rather different." Kakashi's tone was quiet.

Iruka fell silent.

Naruto, by this point put his bento down and started shaking Sasuke by the collar of his shirt.

"Wipe the slate clean." Iruka said suddenly.

"Huh?" Kakashi blinked.

"The slate. Wipe it clean." Iruka said again, this time smiling a bit.

"You sure?" Kakashi asked, blinking again.

"I think – no, I feel, that it would be appropriate now."

Kakashi thought about it for a moment. "I guess so."

Iruka nodded, hands coming to rest in his pockets. "Good then." Iruka looked behind Kakashi and lifted a hand to wave. "Train well you three!"

"We will! Thank you for the bento, Iruka-sensei!" Sakura said, having to manage successfully to pry Naruto and Sasuke off each other's throats.

"Later, Kakashi-sensei."

"Iruka-sensei?" Kakashi asked quietly, hand reaching out to grab Iruka's gloveless one and voice dropping way below whisper level.

"Yeah?" Iruka whispered back.

"Are you in a relationship?"

Iruka looked over his shoulder at Kakashi. "No. But I can be." Iruka smiled, giving Kakashi's hand a light squeeze. "Later, Kakashi-sensei."

Kakashi smiled in response and slowly let go of Iruka's hand as Iruka walked down the street towards the Academy.

Iruka felt rather happy as he walked to work just as Kakashi seemed rather enthusiastic in training his three charges. He could feel Kakashi's warm hand grasping his through out the entire day. Which was why, after he finished teaching classes, he was quite surprised to find Kakashi knocking and entering the classroom.

"Iruka-sensei, would you like to join me for lunch?" Kakashi asked, direct and dead on the target.

Iruka didn't even have to hesitate anymore. The slate was already wiped clean. "I'd love that Kakashi-sensei."

Kakashi smiled and lead the way. "There's this nice place I know."

Iruka walked side by side with Kakashi as the Jounin spoke of the whereabouts of the place they were going to have lunch in. Just as Iruka exited the Academy, he turned to look up at the Hokage monuments and smiled a bit at the Fourth's carved face.

I've learned to pick myself up, Hokage-sensei.


Done! Finito! Khalas! Owari!

That's two fics concluded in one day. OMFG!

At first I wasn't sure how to end it but I didn't want to stress TOO much on the KakaIru relationship IN detail. We all know that by the third date or fourth, these two would end up in bed anyway. So that's up to your imagination.

I can't help but feel I made it too cute. I think I got WAY too infuenced by meleth's and momo's ideas of Iruka or something. It's not LIKE them but I suppose they're one of the Iruka inspirations – am I making sense.

We all know that it's impossible for a twelve year old to have a relationship with a 29 yr old jounin. No matter HOW cute it can be.

And Yondie is dead anyway.

So yeah, that's it folks. THANK YOU to all my readers! Mwah! I love you guys! (gives everyone popcorn)