Umino Iruka is no one particularly extraordinary. He teaches at the ninja academy and works a desk at the mission's office. He failed the Chunin exam twice before passing at sixteen. He knows the names of both the dead and the living. He loves children enough that once, just once because he could never let that happen again, he'd compromised a mission to protect them.

Iruka loves children. That's why he never tried for Jounin. Even though teaching these children to be Shinobi gives him nightmares, Iruka hasn't left. Because he loves the children, and Iruka will do his best to make sure they know how to survive.

Some say Umino Iruka is more than ordinary. Usually, these are people who knew him before his teaching days. These are people who knew him as a Genin of Cell Four under famous Naitoh Akira. They knew him as the Genin who had taken the test too early, because he had an Uchiha on his team and her family pushed it. These are people who heard about the death of his teammate Yamada Rai in the second exam, and how Uchiha Ayumi was alive also only due to the effort of that prankster Iruka.

An effort wasted, Iruka knew later, because Ayumi's fate was to be killed by her clan's genius.

Iruka still heard talk about that mission, the one where he'd first discovered his talent at interrogation and profiling. He'd been out of the hospital three months, and he and Ayumi were still raw about Rai's death. Raw and angry, because they had to work with Ito Kousuke, Rai's replacement, and the boy was nothing like their dead teammate. He was short tempered and arrogant, and he was always looking for a shortcut to greatness. It was nothing like Rai's tempered will and quiet knowledge.

Iruka remembered the mission differently than the stories. Instead of a grandiose fight against enemy ninja, he remembered a desperate struggle that was kill or be killed, and the moment he'd taken his first life. And then his second. Instead of Leaf-nin arriving home with praise, triumphant, and hardly an injured among them, Iruka remembered being breathless and terrified. He remembered Akira-sensei's horrid scream and the enemy closing in on Ayumi, and Kousuke, unconscious and vulnerable. He remembers desperately pulling one of his mother's trademark moves, from her time as Anbu, and his hands exploding in pain as wire and chakra strings alike cut into fingers as he pulled, hard, and the Nin dying with a gurgle.

Iruka remembers that Akira-sensei was injured and unconscious, and that they'd had to carry him home. Their mission was about the information though, and they had a prisoner they couldn't transport with so many injured and Akira-sensei unconscious. Iruka made a decision, then, and pulled the enemy Nin out of sight to interrogate him. Afterwards, Iruka killed him.

He wonders, sometimes, if those people knew anything about him at all.

Iruka thinks that people only say he's more than ordinary because he'd trained under the Sandaime. During his second try at the Chunin exam, two years after the first one, they had passed the Second test. In preparation for the Third, Iruka had spent a month training with the Hokage.

In the end, just before the Third test, the Sandaime gave Iruka a present. It was a pair of gloves. On the back of the hand was a strip of metal he'd seen on others, but what made these unique was that the underside of each finger was also metal. Slipping them on, Iruka found that they didn't impede the movement of his fingers at all. Later, during the test it self, Iruka found them to be very useful when he when he pulled, hard, on the wire wrapped around his fingers and felt no pain.

Iruka thinks that people would think less of him if they knew he'd thrown that match. He'd let Ayumi win because she was an Uchiha, and people were already talking about how the clan must be getting lax, with one dead on a simple mission and the other failing her exam, almost in the same month; like it was a sin for an Uchiha to be average.

Iruka had never thought of Ayumi as average. She was beautiful and deadly, manrikigusari twirling around her in a dance of quick strikes and impenetrable defense. It wasn't hard to let her win, really, just stop pushing at a point that was normal, even when Iruka knew he'd never give up like that.

He remembered the test a month before that, when she'd gained the first level of the Sharingan in a fight against a rookie Hyuuga. He remembered watching as she countered every move of the Gentle Fist with the Uchiha taijutsu, style created especially with this in mind. Iruka wasn't sure if it was disturbing or comforting that the Uchiha expected to fight the Hyuuga, but he knew that the moment Ayumi's eyes turned red, every aspect of her foreign style snapped abruptly into place, and she was beautiful.

But most of all, Iruka remembered her confession late that night, of how she had known, always, that she was average, and that she was surprised she had gained her Bloodline Technique at all. And then, the next thing Iruka remembered was the kiss.

Ayumi's replacement was Yukiko. She was a shy girl with a family technique that Iruka found was quite effective. See, the Mitsuaki's had created a jutsu that allowed them to walk through solid objects. And if your opponent couldn't hit you, how could they kill you?

Yukiko used it with a ruthless efficiency. Her tessen based Taijutsu was perfect for the Ninjutsu technique, and Iruka found Kousuke begging her to tell him the secret of it more times than he cared to count. Finally, Iruka yelled at the boy to stop harassing Yukiko and find his own style. Kousuke was always so busy trying to get power quick, he was too blind to see that nothing he did or whoever he asked could give him that. There would always be hard work involved.

Kousuke had always hated him for that reality check.

Iruka received a lot of praise when he passed the Chunin exam finally. In it, Iruka had come across ninja from Waterfall, and discovered his father was an exile from there. It had been quite the strange fight. The Taki-nin he fought matched his taijutsu blow for blow, a mirror image. When the other had seen the Umino family symbol displayed proudly across the back of his white shirt, he'd laughed.

'You can't use your Bloodline Limit, can you?' He'd asked in amusement. The Nin tapped his own nose, where Iruka's scar was, and smiled. Iruka's scar was a seal, his opponent explained, given to exiles from Takigakure with Bloodline Techniques and their children. Even his Taijutsu was trademark Waterfall, and the Nin asked him if he'd learned it from his father.

Later, when the fight had resumed, Iruka remembered using a wire technique and the ninja's surprised gasp before he'd died. 'An Umino using wires?' He'd uttered in disbelief.

Iruka wonders if others would think so highly of him if they knew he's a bastard.

Yukiko had stared at him with hurt disbelief when she'd found his opponent dead. Iruka had tried to comfort her when she cried, but he really hadn't known what to say other than it's a Shinobi's job to kill, and that didn't comfort her at all. In the end, Kousuke had stepped in and shown a soft side in his comforting embrace and words, even as his eyes watched Iruka accusingly over Yukiko's sobbing head. Iruka had sworn, then and there, that he would know what to say the next time someone asked why they had to kill.

The next time turned out to be Naruto, lost and confused after his first C-rank mission that turned out to be so much worse than that, asking what Iruka would do if someone had killed his best friend and then given themselves up. Iruka had wanted to say the solution to that was not to have friends at all, but he knew that there was a difference between Shinobi who survived and Shinobi who lived, and that Naruto would die if he spent his days doing anything less than living.

So Iruka told Naruto what he wanted to hear, tempered with as much Shinobi truth as he could, and hoped it didn't get the boy killed.

Iruka's first years as a Chunin were full of the screams of the prisoners he interrogated and tortured; their blood and tears and blank stare once he'd broken them. Most of the time Iruka preferred not to be involved with that, but a ninja with his proficiency in calculating a person's psyche, in knowing just how much pain to inflict and what Genjutsu to cast and exactly how to ask each question so that he got the most out of the answer, was just too valuable not to use.

Iruka wonders what the villagers would think if they knew he'd worked with Anbu. He figures that would make him more than ordinary, if they knew, but not in a good way. He'd be special in the way the genius ninja were, so good at what they did they frightened even their friends, and Iruka was suddenly glad all Anbu interrogations are confidential. If he has nightmares about his sessions there, it would surely frighten others.

Iruka remembers the first time he met Hatake Kakashi. He'd been a Chunin a little over two years by then, and was conducting standard psychological exams on an Anbu unit. He didn't know Kakashi's name then, of course, because he was just a Chunin and was never privileged to that sort of information. Kakashi was just another faceless white mask who was too skilled for his own good and falling apart at the seems.

A woman in a Hawk mask told him she would be good for another year or two, if she didn't die before then, and then wanted to end the evaluation. Iruka explained to her that they had to talk for a certain amount of time or he would get in trouble. A lie, of course, but the woman sat down and he asked her about friends outside of Anbu. She told him without names that could be traced back to her real identity, and Iruka didn't push. When he asked her about friends inside of Anbu, she pulled a blank.

Iruka's report read that she was well grounded in reality, had significant reason outside of Anbu to keep living, but was extremely isolated in her own unit because of her teammate's refusal to accept her. Iruka recommended better placement on another team.

The next, a man wearing the mask of a Boar, Iruka found to be totally cracked. Boar attacked him in the middle of their session, claiming that he 'works with the red-eyed devil!' He was having paranoid delusions about his team and his village, and Iruka insisted on immediate transfer to a Shinobi mental health facility.

Then Kakashi sat before him. The man spent the entire session talking about absolutely nothing, and everything at the same time. Near the end, Iruka had looked at him and then complemented him on this extraordinary ability, even though Iruka had gleaned from the man's rambling a lot more than he would have liked. The man had gone silent, and when asked why he didn't wish to talk to him, Kakashi had said 'because I know what you'll say.' Apparently, there were politics surrounding Kakashi and his position as Anbu, and the man had assumed Iruka was in somebody's pocket.

'Anbu-san, I am going to tell you exactly what I think.' Iruka had informed him. 'I think that you have no friends, in or out of Anbu. They are all dead or gone. I think that you have no team, because this unit has fallen apart. I think some of this is your fault. I think that you were a Captain too long, at too young an age, and that's not because you were ever too weak for it. It's because you were too strong, and too many others weren't as strong as you, and they died under your command. And I think that kills you inside, because you hate this, and you hate your life, and you're too stuck in your angst to do anything about it.' Iruka stared at the quiet man hard, hoping he was getting through.

'And I think you should leave Anbu.'

Iruka discovered, later, that he had saved Hatake Kakashi's life with those words.

The last in this series of exams was the unit's Captain. After his session, Iruka found himself deeply disturbed by the psyche of this particular individual. This child, actually, because the boy could be no more that thirteen, at most, and Iruka knew who this was even then. He had known the boy before him was Uchiha Itachi, and that he could kill him easily.

This didn't stop Iruka from reporting that the boy needed serious psychological counseling. He made sure to mention that there was evidence of him becoming a sociopath, and that it was highly dangerous to have the boy in position as Anbu. Iruka wrote of the boy's inherent and growing hate of his own clan and that Itachi viewed those under his command as little more than pawns, with the exception maybe of Kakashi, whom he seemed to idolize slightly.

That report ruined his career as a profiler. The police chief, Uchiha Fugaku, had pulled some strings with the council as head of the Uchiha clan, and gotten his report overturned by another profiler who told them exactly what they wanted to hear. Disgusted, Iruka looked for other work. Something less involved with the Uchiha politics he was so tired of, and hopefully something he could enjoy more than what he was doing. He was due for a change by then, anyway, because two years as an interrogator is too long.

It was the Sandaime who suggested teaching. Iruka wonders where he would be, without the guidance of the Sandaime. Sarutobi remembered an instance when Iruka was a child and foolhardy, and how he'd proclaimed he'd be a Jounin-sensei someday. Sarutobi remembered that he loved children, even when Iruka himself had forgotten.

Iruka's first year teaching, he was saddled with Uzumaki Naruto. Which upset him, of course, because the nineteen year old wasn't that far removed from the eleven year old who'd watched his parents die. But it only took him a short amount of time to see how alike the two of them were, and how poorly others had treated Naruto in the past. Iruka had been absolutely horrified to find out that nobody had taught the boy how to read.

That year, the Uchiha clan was massacred.

Iruka knew what people thought of his attendance to the funeral. 'Did you hear? His Genin teammate was an Uchiha' and 'isn't it sweet that he cares that much?' He sat during the service and listened to the numerous men and women as they stood and spoke of the greatness of the Uchiha.

Sometimes, Iruka wonders what would have happened if he had stood himself and laid out the ugliness of Uchiha politics, if he had told the story of one average kunoichi who had been cursed by a clan name. He wonders what would have happened if he'd told them, finally, that he and Ayumi had been together, and that they had never been able to tell anybody because of damned Uchiha politics and their ban on marriage outside the clan.

He wonders what would have happened if they had known she was pregnant.

Maybe they would have hated him. Maybe they would have pitied him. Iruka will never know, because he had never stood and spoke at the Uchiha memorial. That night, alone for the first time is so long, Iruka was finally struck with the reality that his girlfriend and teammate was dead. Dead like Rai, and now he was the last of the original Team Akira.

Then the guilt came, because Iruka remembered that report, the one that had saved him, and how he hadn't fought when it was overturned. He remembered Itachi's eyes as the man apologized on behalf of his father, only days after their session when the boy had stopped him on the street. 'They won't get away with it.' The dark haired child had assured him. 'They won't get away with any of it.' Most of all, Iruka remembered wiping his hands of the Uchiha, and how that had killed Ayumi.

Iruka cried.

He had cried before, of course, but after the death of his parents and the days of mourning afterward, Iruka hadn't done much more than shed a few tears during hard times and after nightmares. Now, he bawled; cried harsh, aching sobs that hurt his chest and left him breathless. Iruka cried long and hard and didn't ever want to stop, because if he stopped he'd have to face reality.

He had loved her, and she was dead.

And that, out of everything, made Umino Iruka no one extraordinary.

fin

Wow. Done, finally. A lot of sweat and tears went into this piece. All that typing and re-reading and editing and re-editing and the revisions – you get the picture. I'm really pretty proud of this. I had planned to go further (the horror, its five pages already!) but I ran out of stuff to put Iruka through, now that he's a teacher and nothing really major happens in the Naruto timeline until graduation. Besides, after a couple of days of frustrating writer's block, that last line came to me. Can you say, "Perfect ending?" Yeah, I thought so. This is also a re-post. After my initial post I went back through and critiqued it again, and this is that version. Not much different, but it's the little stuff that matters in writing.

The characters and universe in this story from Naruto do not belong to me. I own his teammates (they're OC), and a lot of the history displayed, but sadly, Profiler!Iruka is also not mine. I poached that idea from another Fanfiction author whose name I can not remember. I'm giving you credit, whoever you are. Thank you for reading my story.

TS