Why We Fight: Iruka

A series of shorts on why our ninjas... are ninjas. Spoilers some of them up to recent manga. I'll put an asterix () in the chapter title when there is one so you can pick and choose. Multi-part fic. Many shorts.

Iruka fights because his parents fought and he wants to do them proud. He was born to a ninja family and he'll follow in their footsteps like he knows he's meant to. It's how things are in Konoha - circular paths, spirals of destiny and intent that this place can't help but foster - and Iruka loves his village so he'll walk his circle and do his part. He's got no problem being a few footprints on a well trod path, history has to come from somewhere, and its his favorite subject to teach the kids at school.

To be fair, there have been obstacles in the way of that path and he's got his share of trauma, of loss and needs that will never be filled. But, Iruka is nothing if not pragmatic and he knows that he's got it in him to become a true shinobi of Konoha - it's what he was born to be. It's what is expected of him. It's what he expects of himself, and he's comforted by the fact that if he's so much like his parents - if he walks the path set for him - then he's beside them in a way. Keeping them and what they fought for alive in himself.

Then he met Uzumaki Naruto and everything was shot to hell. He was twenty years old and Naruto was seven. Iruka was a respectable, capable shinobi from a long line of solidly predictable ninjas. Naruto was the vessel for the Kyuubi and about as unreliable, unpredicable and unwelcome as the demon itself. He caused trouble, raised hell, and was outrageously disrespectful in newer and more enthusiastic ways each week.

It didn't take long for Iruka to stop seeing the Kyuubi and start seeing himself in the way Naruto behaved and the realization made up his mind to try and get Naruto through the Academy - help him somehow, even if all he could do was dicipline him and yell at him and try, haltingly, to look after him. There had been nobody to do that for him when he was orphaned, and alone, and desperately trying to make the world remember that he existed, and Iruka wouldn't stomach the same failure again. No matter who it was directed at and no matter how much it hurt him to have to change how he lived his life.

Oh he'd gotten grief at the start, children had been pulled from his classes because their parents didn't want them being influenced by that quasi-traitorous lunatic who chose to spend time with the demon-fox. There was even talk of him losing his job until Sandaime-sama had gotten involved and, well people had lost their jobs but none of them were him.

And it hurts to admit it, but Iruka knows his parents would disown him if they knew.

But still he looks after Naruto anyway because to hell with the rest of them, he thinks for the first time in his life, Naruto needs a family and so does he. He screws up sometimes, and he's meaner to Naruto than he should be, and once in a while he believes he really is a failure of epic proportions because not only has he shamed his family name and spat on his parents' memory, but he's not even capable of fulfilling this self-assigned suicide mission and giving Naruto the help he needs and deserves.

And then they'll be in detention for the fourth time this week and Naruto will beg for some ramen and all those feelings will die half-felt. Iruka will lecture something about ninja dietary requirements before letting Naruto steal his wallet and run off towards Ichiraku irregardless. Hiding a grin, Iruka will just lecture Naruto sternly once they make it to the ramen parlour and watch the boy roll his bright blue eyes and guzzle his food and grin at him like he's the only person in the world.

Clearly, he doesn't walk his spiral anymore, but Iruka doesn't care as much as he used to. Tradition is important, and so is your place in life, but neither matter as much as the bonds you forge while you're here and living. Iruka has been expected to react a hundred ways, to do a hundred things during his life because that's just who he is - but if he broke the family mould, the village beliefs, for Naruto's sake he's sure as hell not repentant.

Ironically, it turns out Iruka fights to show everybody what you're born isn't all you'll be. And he's winning.

I'm not as fond of this chapter as I am of the others... if you can see where I went wrong, please let me know.

written for people who break the mould, there aren't enough.

and thank you to all my readers and reviewers for this thus far! I'm so glad you're enjoying it! As for Asuma-Kurenai requests? I've never thought about that before, maybe I could try, but don't expect anything for a while: )