Iruka held his makeshift weapons tightly and breathed silently. There were really only a few possibilities. Kuma could be sleeping underneath the bed, or in the closet. Neither was an unusual occurrence, and neither would be a problem as long as the cat stayed asleep and didn't come looking for Iruka.

Another possibility was that someone had been in the room while Iruka was 'out' and Kuma had slipped out of the room.

Maybe Genma had come back to check on him and hadn't paid attention to the cat. But, Genma being a jounin, it was unlikely that he wouldn't notice Kuma escaping. Of course it wasn't entirely outside the realm of possibilities that Genma had let Kuma escape on purpose.

Iruka concentrated, trying to hear his cat. He needed more information but he didn't want to leave the bathroom again, if only-

Iruka nearly slapped himself on the head. He could look around. Quite easily even, without any danger of being detected. He just needed to do it in a way that had him ready to move instantly when he re-entered his body.

The best thing would be if he could remain standing, but he'd never tried that before and he had no clue whether his body could hold that position without his own conscious guidance. If he fell over while holding his weapons he could injure himself.

Finally he decided on a compromise. He slid down with his back against the wall until he was sitting on his haunches, hands and weapons resting on his lap.

He closed his eyes and concentrated. It took him longer than usual but after a few minutes he was able to leave his body. He couldn't help but feel proud. Even now, with his body on full alert he was able to clear his mind.

First he went to the window quickly peeking out before ducking down again. Then he laughed at himself. He was invisible, there was no need to hide. Old habits die hard.

The stranger he'd seen earlier was no longer in sight. So either he'd moved to another part of the compound or he'd entered one of the buildings.

Iruka decided to venture out into the hallway next. The hallway, for now at least, was deserted too. Iruka pulled back. The temptation to move further down the hallway was big, but for all he knew someone could break the window and come in that way. If Iruka was down the hallway when that happened, he wouldn't notice a thing before it was too late.

This was the first time that Iruka had used his skill for anything other than playing and training. And only now he truly realized how limited his skill was without a partner. When he was in a dangerous situation with a real threat to his safety, he didn't dare leave his body for more than a few seconds at a time.

Only a fellow ninja whose intentions and skills he could trust without a shadow of a doubt would enable him to make full use it. Maybe for his mom, that partner had been his dad. For Iruka, although not exactly by his own choice, it was Kakashi…

But Kakashi wasn't here right now…and that left Iruka in quite a bind.

Inside his room he looked into his closet…nothing. Then he peeked under the bed, and yes, an orange ball of fur was curled up on one of Iruka's used shirts.

For a moment Iruka felt guilty, first of all, for expecting the worst of Genma with no more provocation than an uncomfortable conversation, and secondly, for throwing his dirty laundry under the bed.

He put it out of his mind, and quickly peeked in on his body. He was sitting in the exact same position as before. No problem there. Then he looked out the window again. All clear. Next he scanned the hallway again for any movement. Nothing.

Quickly he fell into a routine. Body-Window-Hallway…no movement, start over. It was like being on patrol, except for a much smaller area.

He didn't know how long he'd been at it when suddenly the hallway was no longer empty. He recognised the man he'd seen outside. He had a Konoha hitai-ate tied around his neck. Did that mean he was a Konoha shinobi, or had he taken it from a Konoha shinobi? The man made a couple of hand seals and touched the door in two specific places and then he reached for the handle.

Time was running out. Iruka concentrated fiercely on his body and opened his eyes just as he heard the door to the room open. Ignoring his aching he knees he rose silently, holding the shards ready for attack.


How did that man know his name? Was there any point in not replying? The man would look inside the bathroom anyway.

"Umino-san, are you in the bathroom?"

"Yes, excuse me," Iruka said, trying to keep the tension from his voice.

"I have your lunch. I'll put it out here. Genma-san said to tell you he'll be back for tomorrow's morning shift."

Iruka blinked and slowly lowered his weapons. "Thank you?"

"No problem." The door clicked shut.

That was it? Simply a change of guards? But he hadn't recognised the man, even from up close. He knew he wouldn't be able to recognise every Konoha ninja at a distance but he'd looked the man right in the face just now in the hallway and he felt no recognition at all. Shouldn't he have seen all Konoha ninja's at least once in his life. At the mission desk or simply on the street? Still, it was possible that he-


Iruka raised his weapons back up. That was Kuma's 'hello' meow. There was still someone in the room.

Two seconds later the bathroom door swung open with a loud squeak and Iruka moved.

He recognised the white hair a millisecond too late to stop the slashing motion he'd made with the mirror shard.

Kakashi moved with lightening speed and within moments he had Iruka with his back against the wall, and his wrists above his head in the jounin's tight grip. "Iruka-sensei, what are you doing?" The jounin asked pleasantly.

Iruka breathed deeply. His heart was still pounding in his chest. With a deep sigh he finally muttered, "I'm really glad you're here."

Kakashi squeezed Iruka's wrists tighter for a moment before releasing them. "I can tell."

Iruka lowered his aching arms slowly, dropping the shards in the washbasin. "I'm sorry. It's just- There was a change of guard and I didn't know the guy and I saw something weird in the forest and Genma wasn't there when I called for him and-"

Kakashi's finger tapped against Iruka's lips, silencing him. 'Stay here,' he mouthed.

Iruka nodded and watched as the jounin lifted his hitai-ate to reveal his sharingan eye before teleporting away. He picked his shards back up and stood there for a moment before chancing a look out into the rest of his room. A lunch tray was standing near the door and Kuma was eating his salmon.

Iruka sighed and rubbed his head. He didn't know what was going on anymore.

Hi guys. Sorry, this one is even shorter than the last one, but it felt like a good place to stop. I'm working on the next chapter. Everyone thanks for reviewing.