A/N: After yesterday's (it WAS yesterday, right? Hm :ponders:) sappy as all hell Challenge, I had to write something else to make my teeth stop hurting! Enjoy. Don't kill the author, or her new fic won't come out :sweatdrop:

Disclaimer: Nine days. In NINE DAYS I shall ask one... more... time... for Kiba. It's my birthday. K. Masashi CAN'T say no. That'd just be mean!

Warning: Yaoi.



Everyone knows Umino Iruka. He's the only sensei at the Academy that can yell loud enough for the Hokage to hear from her office. He can be grouchy, but he's generally kind. Very kind. And he smiles.

One thing about Iruka you can always count on is the smiles. Even when things seem impossible, the Chuunin will smile and reassure people that nothing is impossible.

When Uzumaki Naruto thought he'd never be a ninja, Iruka smiled and assured him that with hard work, he would make it, and now, Naruto was a Jounin.

When Sarutobi Konohamaru complained about never being able to be as good as Naruto, Iruka smiled and told him to work hard, and now, the Chuunin was on Naruto's team.

Yes, Iruka's smiles made people feel better. His smiles were what attracted Hatake Kakashi in the first place, and after the two of them got together, everyone could tell his smiles had gotten wider and more brilliant.

But then one day, Iruka stopped smiling. People greeted him, and he greeted them back, but there was no smile. He would talk to his friends, but he would not smile. It was almost like he'd forgotten how to smile.

Some people were concerned, others were incredibly worried. People asked if he was all right, and he said he was, but he did not smile.

It confused people.

And then, a week after the Chuunin had stopped smiling, a report came back from a team that had been sent on a mission. Everyone had died, and immediately, people understood why Iruka no longer smiled.

It was like the Chuunin had known all along when it had happened. It was as if he could feel it in his heart. And when the confirmation finally came, nobody ever saw the Chuunin smile again.

Many people stopped smiling after they heard the news, but two or three years later, everyone was back to being jovial. It was the life of a shinobi, they understood, but Iruka couldn't forget. Even though everyone else had moved on and accepted it, he couldn't.

To Iruka, smiling again would mean forgetting about what he'd lost, and he was scared to forget. Scared he wouldn't be able to recall the feel of the other's skin, the sound of his voice as he whispered in his ear. He was scared he wouldn't remember how it felt to run his hands through the soft hair atop the other man's head, and the way his heart quickened every time he heard the words "I love you."

No, Iruka couldn't smile. Because he would forget. And forgetting was not an option.

And so, every morning, people knew they could find Iruka at one place, but no one dared speak to him until he was done. Before classes started, every single day of the year, Iruka would make his way to the Memorial Stone to have a little chat with Kakashi.

The first few times, the Chuunin had cried as his fingers traced the name carved deep into the stone, but later, he got better and was able to speak to him without crying. Now, he spoke to the Jounin like he was still alive and listening intently. Kakashi always was more of a listener.

But never again did anyone see the Chuunin smile. He refused to do it.

Iruka never smiled.

He had no reason to anymore.


A/N: For the thousandth time, NO! I DO NOT HATE KAKASHI!