Iruka looked at the sunken cave entrance, and at the partner standing at his side.

"I don't think it would be a good idea to go in there" he said cautiously. Perhaps it was supposed to be an honour, working with the famed copy-nin. Perhaps it was supposed to be a punishment, working with the person who'd screwed up team seven so spectacularly. Who'd screwed up his students so spectacularly. More likely, Tsunade simply didn't care about anyone's opinion. From what Iruka had seen, that woman had a stroke of cold ruthlessness running through her. He didn't know why, but the idea of a medic-nin in charge of the village just made his skin crawl.

Even if he didn't have that much respect for Kakashi on a personal level, there was no doubt the man was a more skilled ninja than he'd ever be. Which might explain the little voice in the back of his head saying 'don't screw up, don't screw up' over and over.

"You'd have to be an idiot not to realize that" Kakashi said with a snort. "unfortunately we may be just those idiots because short of collapsing the whole cave system, I can't think of any way to pry rock nin out of the ground".

"They're not rock nin Kakashi-san. As far as anyone knows, they're unaffiliated with a village." He received a scornful look for that note of caution. "And if it were to be shown otherwise, Konoha would likely be forced to declare war for these 'anonymous attacks'.

Shaking his head, Kakashi headed for the opening. "I'll lead, you watch my back."

"Wait," said Iruka reaching after him "I may have another solution."

"Oh? Some mysterious Umino jutsu? Maybe one for prying pearls out of oysters?"

'I will not strangle my partner, I will not strangle my partner.' Taking a deep breath, he prepared to summon.

"You know, if you keep breathing like that, I'm going to think you like the way I smell." The sudden surge of fury made it easy to find the energy to summon, despite the exhaustion nagging at his heels. It took all that he had though, leaving him bent over and face to face with a cold black nose, shining eyes, and black and white fur.

Iruka snapped back upright just in time to avoid being French kissed by a skunk.

"My beloved Iruka! Once again the strength of your calling rings in the depths of my heart! My blood is stirred as the trials of love bring me once more to your side! And my passion rises." The growl at the end of the speech needed no translation.

Iruka could only see one of Kakashi's eyes, but his expression was all too easy to read.

"There are some people in the cave who need to be dealt with."

"AH! My heart is lifted to be of service to my beloved! My body tingles to be of use to you. My whole body…"

"Right then, best get going." With one last longing look, Iruka's summon bounced towards the cave mouth. A few minutes later, there was a column of green smoke rising from the entrance. Iruka could dimly hear screaming, which didn't surprise him. Even upwind the smell was pretty rank. "I expect they'll be out in a moment" he said quietly.

Indeed they were, and after a short bloody battle the problem was taken care of. Iruka let Kakashi do most of the work. He wasn't feeling particularly charitable, and even if it was a minor summons compared to what most nin could do, it was very draining for him. By the time the fight was over, he was about ready to pass out, but there was one more thing he had to do.

He politely excused himself and headed off into the woods with his summons. When he came back, Kakashi's eye went to the stain on his pants leg, and Iruka could see the look on his face.

"Before you say whatever it is that you're thinking, please keep in mind, I have a loaded skunk and I'm not afraid to use him".

The trip back to Konoha was very quiet after that.