Disclaimer: Own the Naruto characters? Of course I do!…not.
Chapter One: Something More Important
Iruka was still just a kid the night of the Kyuubi attack. It was a horribly memorable night full of more terror than any child should see, even if he or she lived in a hidden ninja village. Hidden or not, the Kyuubi had seemed to find it all right. Now the giant nine-tailed fox demon was wreaking havoc at the village's edge, thrashing its nine tails around wildly, growling ferociously, and exposing sharp white fangs- all while devastating several lives at a time. Buildings were toppled and trees snapped like twigs under the enormous tails that thrashed out at them. The night air was full of cries of the injured and dying as well as those watching the ones they loved being injured or killed.
"Mom! Dad!" Iruka screamed and charged into the midst of the ninja trying to protect their village.
"Iruka, get OUT of here!" his father cried.
A building collapsed, and Iruka's mother leapt to snatch him out of the way before the debris fell where her son had been standing.
"Honey, we need you to go back," she said as sweetly as she could, though there was a mix of fear and concern in her voice, "NOW."
It was a direct order, but the thought of leaving his parents behind when there were so many other ninja dying around them made him feel more than a little uneasy and especially stubborn.
"No, I won't leave you!" he said, revealing a kunai, "I can fight too!"
"Listen to your mother, Iruka!" his father shouted, "You'll only get in the way out here. We can't protect you and fight the Kyuubi at the same time! Go BACK to the shelters!"
"NO!" Iruka screamed.
He looked up at his mother defiantly, who only stared back at him with cold eyes that suddenly spilled with tears. He wouldn't leave. They couldn't make him! There was a sudden thud as something hit him hard on the back of the head, and it took Iruka a moment to register that his own mother had struck him.
"I'm so sorry, Honey…"
He felt her arms wrap tight around him, and as he fell unconscious, he could still hear her sobs slowly echo away.
When he came to, it was not his mother's arms that he was held in. A strong, young chunnin was carrying him across the battlefield, toward the far edge of the village. Where am I? What happened? Iruka couldn't make sense of it right away…Then, he suddenly remembered what his mother had done and panicked.
"Let me go! My parents are still out there!" he cried.
"There's nothing you can do!" the chunnin yelled back.
Iruka continued to struggle and protest, until finally, his savior had had enough and started looking for someone to pass his burden on to. The first one he spotted was a young silver-haired boy, still a young teen, but already of jounin ranking.
"Hey, Kakashi!" he yelled, landing by him.
The silver-haired boy looked up at him, face unreadable due to a black mask covering most of it, but his eyes were troubled and full of pain. He was trembling slightly. The chunnin carrying Iruka regarded him silently.
"Don't lose your cool now, Kakashi. You have to stay focused."
"I don't need you to tell me that," the silver-haired boy replied coldly.
"I need you to take this kid. The Fourth asked me to round up the rest of the children and bring them to the shelter. There's still plenty out there, running after their parents. I have to go."
He left abruptly, leaving Kakashi in charge of a scowling Iruka.
"I'm going back," the young genin informed him, "I'm going to help my parents."
"No," the jounin replied, "you're not. I have orders. We're going."
With that, Kakashi scooped Iruka up and tossed him unceremoniously over his shoulder. He began leaping from rooftop to rooftop.
"Let me GO!" Iruka screamed.
Though the jounin was only a year older than Iruka himself, he was a lot stronger. His grip didn't loosen, and Iruka's struggles were futile. Finally, the raven-haired boy lost his temper and elbowed Kakashi on the back of the head.
"Ugh," Kakashi grunted and dropped his charge on the rooftop that he was currently about to bound off.
Iruka hit the floor with a thud and glared back up at the jounin, who was rubbing the spot were Iruka had hit him. He returned the glare with two mismatched eyes. Iruka was held in shock. He had been too distracted earlier to realize who the jounin actually was- Sharingan Kakashi.
Kakashi ignored him for a moment and instead, looked back towards the battle that they had just left behind. He was still trembling slightly. Death was nothing new to him, but seeing his comrades dying around him, so many at a time, was enough to unnerve him. He knew the village had rarely faced such chaos. And now…
Iruka stared at the silver-haired boy curiously and then followed his gaze. The Kyuubi had made its way past the border of the village. Now it was approaching even closer, still leering menacingly at the villagers below it.
Then, without warning, there was a large cloud of white smoke that erupted before the monster. Once the smoke had cleared, a gigantic reddish-brown frog appeared in its midst. On top of that frog stood a tiny figure that was barely visible from where the two were standing. The figure was clad in a white cloak lined with a red flame pattern at the bottom. The Fourth Hokage! He was preparing a jutsu. Kakashi's eyes widened.
The two boys stared in horror as they watched the beloved Hokage perform the jutsu that would save the entire village…at the cost of his own life. The frightening demon of death came to take the Kyuubi's soul. Kakashi knew its power would be too great and that his sensei would have to find another body to seal it in, though he would still ultimately end up sacrificing his own. His mismatched eyes widened in disbelief as the Kyuubi's soul was wrenched from its body and drawn towards the Fourth. The golden-haired man channeled his chakra and concentrated on sealing the beast within a small body that the boys couldn't see, but would later learn had been the young infant named Naruto. The demon of death vanished as the Konoha's Yellow Flash took one final look at the people of his village, and, smiling weakly, collapsed down onto the frog's back.
Kakashi's throat went dry so that he could neither speak nor yell. The Yondaime, who had become the closest thing to a father Kakashi had, was the last person the jounin had considered to be one of his loved ones…and now he was gone. No more mentor to give him tips on his training. No more smiles to relieve some of the pain he felt from having seen his teammates die. No one left to understand him…If you ever need someone to talk to, Kakashi, I'll listen. Teamwork means not leaving your friends to endure their burdens alone. His sensei knew about him- about all that he suffered through. Kakashi had always known that his sensei had always treated him especially kindly due to the fact that he knew the story of his father's tragic end. Somehow, he felt comfortable with this fact. Over time, they had grown closer until finally, Kakashi had realized how much trust existed between them. The pain of losing the Yondaime in addition to so many other friends was too much for Kakashi to handle, and he turned away from Iruka to hide the tears he was so ashamed of.
Iruka stared back at the scene and his own tears ran down the sides of his face. He had been so powerless. The Hokage had just sacrificed himself for the village, and all Iruka had been able to do was watch. He couldn't save his friends. He couldn't help his parents…What could he do? Nothing, he realized. Nothing but run away…or rather, be carried away.
"We're leaving," Kakashi announced once he had taken a moment to recover, "Don't hit me again. I really don't want to have to knock you out."
"Fine," Iruka growled, "But you don't have to carry me."
"Just as long as you can keep up."
With that, he leapt from the building, and Iruka followed. At least he wasn't acting like a little kid anymore. He would follow his orders, like a real ninja. He would not get in the way when he wasn't needed. He would let other people do their jobs. He would go to the shelters and wait, he decided- wait until his parents came for him…if they ever did.
The next day, a lonely child sat at the entranceway to the sturdy caves in the Hokage wall that the children and weaker ninja had taken shelter in. The faces of the previous Hokage, three out of four of them now deceased, were carved into the mountainside, protecting those who took shelter within them the same way they had dedicated their lives trying to do. Iruka was already dressed in the black garb the supervisors had given him to wear to the funeral. This funeral was not just for one person- it was for many. All of the ninja who had sacrificed their lives defending the village, and especially the Fourth Hokage who had died as Konoha's savior would be honored and sent off to the next world. As Iruka was ushered out with all the other children and families, he looked through the crowd for his parents, though he knew that them not coming back for him last night probably had confirmed his worst fears. Still, he thought, maybe there was a chance. Maybe they had just been hurt. Maybe the reason they hadn't come back was because they were lying in a hospital bed, unable to move. Were they worrying about him now, thinking their son didn't know that they were still alive? But as Iruka approached the front of the large group gathered around the coffin holding the Fourth's body and the several photos set in frames around him, Iruka saw that his own mother's and father's photos were among them. He let out a shriek and started shaking uncontrollably. It was too much pain for him to handle. He couldn't take losing both parents at once. To suddenly be alone in the world was such a shock to him, he almost couldn't comprehend it. No more mother to kiss him good night. No more father to tell him how much he'd been improving as a ninja. No parents to watch him take his chunnin exam, or see him grow into a man, or ever speak another word to him as long as he lived! And there was nothing he could do to bring them back.
He fell to his knees and started crying. He didn't care if anyone saw him. There was no one else there to him. He was alone. Who else was there that mattered? Everyone he loved was gone. It was just too painful. He trembled as he knelt there. He covered his face and let out small gasps as he waited to wake up from such a horrible nightmare. He wanted to leap from his bed and run out of his room to find that his parents were still all right and that this had all been nothing more than a terrible dream…He froze in shock as he suddenly felt a cautious hand touch his shoulder.
"It's…okay," a voice said quietly, "I know how you feel."
Iruka stared up and saw Kakashi through blurry eyes. The jounin was dressed in black, like him, and his headband covered his famous sharingan.
"What do you mean it's okay!" Iruka choked, "It's not okay! It'll never be okay! Do you think knowing how I feel makes it any better!"
Kakashi's one visible eye glared at him for a moment, but then, his expression softened and instead, he looked sympathetic.
"You should be proud of your parents. At least they died nobly, protecting the village with their lives…My parents-"
He cut himself off. He wasn't open to sharing his feelings especially with this kid that he barely knew. It was the most he could do to try to comfort him.
"They gave up their lives for you," he said instead, "You should be grateful."
"But…I didn't want them to!" Iruka shouted, "I wanted them to live! Why did they have to leave me behind!"
"Maybe there was something more important to them than their lives," Kakashi said quietly.
Then, he turned and began to walk away. Iruka stared at him, speechless. That was the first time he ever admired the jounin. He wasn't even sure why. Iruka was surprised to have seen his softer side. Not only that, but Kakashi seemed to recognize the softer side of other ninja, even those he had never met…like Iruka's parents.
How did his die? Iruka wondered. Kakashi was an orphan like him. Something about this similarity made Iruka feel closer to Kakashi, even though after that incident, Kakashi barely spoke another word to Iruka. Though the two had only interacted briefly, their loose connection would continue to grow with them, and eventually, they would come to realize the impact each one would have on the other's life. Eventually…
More coming soon! Please leave a review! Thanks! -