A/N: I forgot to mention in the prologue that this is an AU. Sasuke never left Konoha, three years have passed, and Sasuke and Sakura are both Jounin now, Naruto remains a Chuunin :P, but over the years, Sasuke established contact with the Akatsuki, and he will eventually try to escape. While Sasuke is more talented and stronger than several jounin mentioned later, he lacks of experience in comparison to the older Jounin.

Chapter I – Hall of Commencement

Despite being blunt, Kakashi was scarcely rude. Or so it seemed.

In fact, Kakashi was extremely rude, but kept his derogatory comments to himself, knowing fully well that propriety was connected to morality these days. And Kakashi was not exactly keen to be scolded by the kage at his age. So, he kept his mouth shut.

That was until the recent incident at the borders of Konoha. Absent-mindedly, Kakashi traced two naked fingers across the mark on his right shoulder. Truth to be told, Kakashi had no idea what that seal was, and more importantly, how to dispose of it. He was aware of the danger of shrugging away things so easily, but this time, something was different. He felt careless, and admittedly, Kakashi preferred to be careless when it came to his health (after all, he was the invincible copy Ninja Kakashi) – were it not for his life experience, to take every possible danger into account, and analyse said danger in his mind. However, this time... Kakashi really could not care less; he felt more like himself, as if something was forcing that wall of the responsibility he was supposed to have, the traits that were expected of him, down. And boy, did it make him feel good.

"Dammit Kakashi, is it so hard to listen?!" Tsunade hollered, slamming an open palm against the table.

Kakashi sighed a long, bored sigh. "My expertise happens to not extend to the domain of listening to your shit repeatedly." And with that, he rose casually from his chair and exited the room, leaving a gaping Tsuande behind.

Outside, Kakashi briefly wondered what the hell was wrong with him just now, after finally reverting to his old, restricted self. I owe her an explanation of some sort, I guess, he thought gravely, glancing at the grey sky stoically.

Once the copy ninja arrived at his residence, he stood at the large window of his kitchen, staring at the rainy scenery before him. Tiny figures of various colours huddled from stand to stand hurriedly, attempting to avoid the rain clumsily. His exposed eye immediately spotted a figure clad in the chuunin uniform with ease, moving towards his building. Wonder what he wants, he thought, eyes narrowing. The bell rang discreetly. Kakashi smirked. He really is hesitant and discreet in everything he does, that little chuunin of mine. Kakashi halted in his thoughts, frowning when realisation hit him. 'That little chuunin of mine'? What is wrong with me..., he thought, closing his eyes momentarily. Forcefully ignoring his own thoughts, the tall jounin opened the door slowly, his ever-persistent grave expression present.

"Yo."

"H-hey Kakashi," the tanned chuunin said cheerfully, "am I disturbing you?"

"No." He stepped aside fully, granting Iruka access into his house.

"I heard your last mission was successful." Iruka said, smiling.

"Yeah." Kakashi responded as he shut the door behind him, ignoring the slight stinging sensation that ran across his shoulders.

"Can I ask you a question?"

Didn't give me much choice there, sweetheart.

"Yeah."

Iruka sighed, glancing at the floor hopelessly.

"Genma caught Sasuke yesterday, he saw him trying to leave Konoha. He knocked him out cold and put him in the hospital, under intense surveillance," Iruka's brow furrowed, the lines in his expression depicting his deep concern, "he woke up this morning, causing a tumult there. They used a binding jutsu on him as he went berserk." He looked up at Kakashi hopefully. "We don't know how to handle Sasuke, but I know you used to be a lot like him."

Kakashi nodded once.

"Therefore I believe only you know how to handle Sasuke at this moment."

"I'll take care of him." Kakashi said monotonously. Iruka smiled greatfully.

"Thanks, Kakashi."

"No problem, it is also my concern after all."he responded softly, unconsciously smirking under his mask.

Iruka bowed respectfully. "Hai."