Title: Safe Harbour
Summary: A story about stories and friendship. (I, K, N). Complete. Hopefully part of an Iruka-centric series.
Author: Hercat
Feedback: Always.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters. Which is okay, cause can you imagine the damage they'd cause to a small apartment?

"Neh, Iruka sensei."

"Naruto, you can't take care of yourself properly with your arm like that. I'd be glad to have you stay at my house until it's better."

"I can take care of myself." Kakashi watched as the Kyuubi container huffed himself up and crossed…well one arm, the other wrapped up in an orange sling. Orange. On a ninja for Hokage's sake. My students are orange and pink. What did I do to deserve this?

"I know you can Naruto, you're good at taking care of yourself. It's just that I'll worry about you, all alone with that arm." Wow, professional quality guilt trip from Iruka-sensei. "I probably won't be able to sleep I'll be so worried." Ooh, he may have overdone it with that. And the judges say…

"Well, I guess a couple nights couldn't hurt" said Naruto with a bright smile. 10/10. And the crowd goes wild. Kakashi turned a page. He couldn't believe people still thought he was reading. How slow did they think he was anyway? "You have to make me ramen Iruka-sensei. Your ramen is the BEST."

"I guess I'd better go grocery shopping then. Why don't you go get your things and I'll meet you at my place. You still have the key?"

"Un. Jyaa." The blond bundle of energy bounded off and Iruka walked past him. Or tried to, because Kakashi pushed off the wall and joined him.

"Kakashi-san. Konnichiwa." The Chuunin sensei was smiling at him. Didn't the man have any other expressions? Happy and happier. Oh wait, pissed off. He'd seen that too, though only briefly. Wait…was he supposed to say something? Eh. Too late now. He turned a page for effect. He noticed that Iruka was walking a little too close and moved over. Years of experience gave ninja a healthy personal space. He was wondering why the Chuunin had done that when the lamppost came into his peripheral vision and he stopped dead. More from the shock than anything else. Iruka-sensei, all around Mr. Nice Guy had tried to steer him into a lamppost. The nerve. He shot him a glare.

"Gomen, Kakashi-san" said Iruka blushing and rubbing the back of his neck. Pink. Like Sakura-chan. "I shouldn't have done that. It just makes me crazy when people ignore me."

Just like Naruto thought Kakashi. How easily you show your weak points. He shut the book with a snap and put it away. He supposed he could at least show the teacher that courtesy. Well, if we're being so straightforward.

"Why doesn't he live with you?" Iruka didn't even try to pretend he didn't understand what the Jounin was talking about.

"Well, at first it was because I was his teacher and it wouldn't have been appropriate. After that…he knew and he didn't want my windows getting broken too. I've told him that won't happen, but I don't think he believes me."

"Maa, now he knows the strength of a Chuunin fighter, he knows its limits." Rather than being upset, Iruka seemed to find this funny.

"You may be right. Here we are Kakashi-san. Will you be joining us for dinner? Apparently we're having ramen. Naruto would love to have you there." Kakashi's eyebrows went up. Insults got him dinner?

"That would be nice, especially since Naruto thinks so highly of your cooking skills." Kakashi saw Iruka wince. What…oh, I didn't mean it like that.

"Dinner will start at 6, Naruto will have eaten everything by 6:30, so be on time if you want to eat. Thank you for bringing desert."

"No probl…wait." Iruka was already in the store by then. Kakashi scratched the back of his head and wondered if Momoko-san was still making those erotic cheesecakes.


The dishes were in the sink and a yawning Naruto pointed toward bed. Kakashi cupped his coffee mug and contemplated a dishwashing Iruka.

"I can't believe you cut the nipples off my cheesecake."

"And even now I find it hard to believe you brought a pair of … breast shaped cheesecakes to a dinner with a teenager."

"You're right. Next time I'll bring three." Although the memory of Naruto saying the cheesecake looked like a butt would keep him giggling for years. Iruka sighed and pulled a pot into the soapy water with a splash.

"Don't you…" Iruka cut himself off, but the last thing Kakashi wanted was the teacher censoring himself.


"I was going to ask you if you had any morals, but I remembered who I was talking to." Kakashi's voice went cold.

"Naruto is old enough to kill for this village. Old enough to die for it. As far as I'm concerned he's old enough to look at whatever he damn well wants to."

"That's not what I meant." Kakashi wondered if that was meant to be an apology. "You were right about the Chuunin exam. He was ready to take it."

"Can I get that in writing?" Iruka didn't rise to the bait.

"I'll come to the next general meeting and apologize. It's only fair since I argued with you in front of everyone." Kakashi blinked in shock at the teacher elbow deep in hot water. He would really stand in front of his superiours and do that? He toyed with the idea for a split second, but…

"Nah, that's fine. Everyone would think I forced you into it, and besides, you really livened things up. You should lose your temper more often." Iruka snorted at this and lost a little of the tension in his shoulders. Kakashi was surprised at how good seeing that made him feel.

"You should have seen the first time he used sexy-no-jutsu on me. I thought my head was going to explode."

"Ah, so Iruka-sensei has a thing for underage blonds."

"It was just so…indecent. Ah gods, that makes me sound like Ebisu-san. He was in my class you know. We used to fight constantly."

"Honto-ni?" Kakashi was distracted from this fascinating new piece of information (and possible source of blackmail material) when Naruto wandered in wearing his pyjamas and sleeping hat.

"Iruka-sensei?" Iruka smiled and poured a glass of water, then gently steered Naruto into one of the bedrooms. Kakashi, genius ninja that he was, deduced that the other one must be Iruka's and took a look while the Chuunin was occupied.

His eyes widened. Unlike the rest of the small house which was warm and inviting, this room was blank. The most personal thing was a dolphin shaped pencil holder on the desk. Somehow, it just didn't fit. He could overhear soft voices down the hall.

"Nee, Iruka-sensei?" Kakashi wondered at how that title seemed to be so firmly linked with Iruka in everyone's mind, trailing behind like a baby duck after its mother.

"Yes Naruto?"

"Anou sa…could you tell me a story? Chouji said…never mind."

"No, that's fine, let me think. Well, I know a lot of stories, but there's one I remember my mother telling me. It's short and a little strange though."

"Yeah! That one."

"All right, but you have to lie down and close your eyes."

"Un!" Iruka's voice quieted, words slow and rhythmic, drawing all three of them in.

"I tell you this story as it was told to me. This is not the place where it was told to me, nor are these the words that were said to me, but this is the story, as true as it was then.

"Once there was a young man. Fortune had not been kind to him, and he had lost much that he held dear. This young man decided to find Kami-Sama and ask some questions, so he left the village where he had been born and wandered for a very long time.

"He traveled to Grass and saw fields that trailed away further than the eye could follow.

He traveled to Stone and saw caves so dark you could spend a lifetime lost in them.

He traveled to Sand and saw the sun rise over the endless hunger of the dessert.

He traveled to Wave and saw the Ocean." Kakashi blinked. There'd been an odd note in Iruka's voice just then. The Chuunin continued.

"And after all he had seen and done he returned home. He had seen many things. Some almost more horrible than he could bear, and some so beautiful they almost granted him peace. Yet in all this, he had not seen what he had gone to see, nor done what he had gone to do.

"He was standing in the market place of his village, at a loss for what to do. He felt a tap on his shoulder, and turned to find a person. A person who was everyone and no one. The ocean and the sky and those little fruit flies that seem to come from nowhere.

"This person gave him a cup and said 'Here, you look like you could use this.' He felt a thousand questions rush through him like a flock of shorebirds, and just as quickly scatter. He looked down to see it was tea, just like his father would make in the morning. He'd never been able to get it quite right since. 'Thank you' he said. 'For the tea I mean.' And that person smiled at him and walked away.

"And the man, a little older and a great deal wiser, stood in the market of the town where he had been born and drank his tea."

There was a pause

"That's IT? What a stupid story! Um, sorry Iruka-sensei."

"That's okay Naruto, I said pretty much the same thing the first time I heard it. I was politer about it though."


"If you want, I'll tell you a different story tomorrow. One that makes more sense to you."

"Un." Kakashi leaned around the corner to see Iruka brush his fingers through Naruto's hair, struggle with himself briefly, then brush a kiss across the child's forehead.


"Sorry Naruto. Sleep well." Kakashi waited until Iruka had shut the door before sneaking up behind him.

"You are such a woman."

"I'm not the one who spends all day reading romance novels."

"They're not romance novels, they're porn. Your story was condescending and sickeningly sweet. If you continue to fill his brain with mush like that, he'll become unable to function as a ninja at all." Iruka hunched over, his shoulders shaking silently. Dammit, I made him cry? Obito used to…How soft of a ninja is he to cry to easily? Of course I just insulted his mother's story. His parents are dead I think…Hokage's balls, I can't feel guilty. Not over this. The sound got louder and he realized Iruka was laughing almost silently.

"Gomen Kakashi-san, but you're certainly in a vicious mood this evening. Are you sure it's not a bad time of the month for you?"

"Jackass" he muttered, but he could feel the edges of his mouth twitching upwards beneath the mask. His first real smile in how long? He couldn't remember. The Chuunin's voice became serious.

"I know I can't protect him Kakashi-san. Not from anything that really matters. Nor would Naruto ever ask me to. Which is why I will do whatever it takes to see he knows that someone is willing to try."

There wasn't much Kakashi could say to that.

"Staying or going?" asked Iruka, moving over to a small wooden plaque inset in the kitchen wall.

"Staying if it's alright with you."

"Un. You can have the guest room, it's the one you were poking your nose into earlier." Iruka bit his thumb and painted a stripe of blood down the varnished characters. Kakashi's eyebrows went up with the barrier. You had to be extraordinarily paranoid to ward your house in the middle of a hidden village. Even if it was a weak barrier. The weakest he'd ever seen actually. The first time somebody so much as touched it, it would…ah. It would collapse and alert Iruka. He peered at the carving. Ah, and activate…something. How interesting. He was halfway tempted to set it off just to see what it would do.

"Good NIGHT Kakashi-san" said Iruka firmly as he curled up on the couch, blanket and pillow in hand. So he sleeps out here all the time? Odd.

"Good night Iruka. Pleasant dreams." And the copy nin, ideas swirling in his head, went to bed.