A/N: This isn't a one-shot, but it's not exactly a chapter fic either. What it's going to be is a series of one-shots and drabbles that all take place in this little alternate universe of mine. They won't necessarily be in order (although I'm starting with one that sets up the universe nicely), and there won't be any kind of pattern to these updates. They'll just be whenever I need to get them out of my head in order to make room for other things.

Disclaimer: I still don't own anybody.

Almost Perfect

Title: Any Other Way
Warnings: KakaIru shonen-ai
Rating: K+
Word Count: 864

Iruka had been perfectly happy with his life a year ago. He'd been living in the bachelor apartments for academy teachers, and was considered the most eligible twenty-year-old shinobi in Konoha. He taught classes for most of the day and trained in the evenings. He ate ramen for nearly every meal and didn't have to worry about what anyone thought about it. He was happy, definitely, and didn't want it any other way.

Sarutobi-sama had a different idea. He seemed to think Iruka needed companionship in his life, and the Third Hokage took it upon himself to force a family onto his young charge. He told Iruka that Naruto needed a guardian, someone who would understand the seven-year-old Kyuubi child and help him channel his energy in to more productive things. He informed Iruka that he was the best one for the job, and he would be doing it- and oh, by the way, they'd be joined by the newly orphaned Uchiha Sasuke and the ANBU he'd assigned to raise the boy, Hatake Kakashi, in a house Sarutobi would provide. In spite of himself, Iruka had asked Sandaime if there was any other way.

Apparently there had not been as Iruka found himself with an entirely different life. He now lived in a house deep within the ninja district, close to the market. Two nearly eight-year-old boys who seemed to feel the constant need to argue and destroy things were now under his charge, and he had to share a house with the laziest, most self-absorbed, most perverted shinobi currently in Konoha. He was expected to be the responsible one. He had to bandage the two boys up after their latest bit of mischief, make sure they were fed and clean, and help them with their current homework while he tried to correct those of his own classes. Some nights he would want to cry in frustration, and heartily wished there was another way.

On the day he did finally snap in his frustration, it was the first time Kakashi showed any interest in what happened to their dysfunctional little "family". He grabbed the chuunin, stopping him mid-yell, and held him until he was calm. Kakashi held him close to his strong chest and stroked his hair while the two boys watched with wide eyes. He held him until he could stand on is own again and apologize to the boys. Kakashi had then put him to bed, and Iruka had fallen asleep to the sound of the three other occupants of the house whispering together. When he'd woken up in the middle of the night, there had been a note on his nightstand from them. It simply said: "Iruka, we're sorry you felt that way, and that we didn't listen when you tried to tell us before. Next time, we promise to do better." All three of signed it them, and then, in Kakashi's flowing hand there was a postscript: "Iruka-kun, I may be an arrogant bastard, but I'm an arrogant bastard who can help you. This family isn't normal, and the normal ways of raising them aren't going to work. But maybe, together, you and I could find another way."

Things had gotten better after that. Kakashi would take the boys out training each afternoon; giving Iruka some much needed time to himself. They would return- Naruto and Sasuke far too exhausted to cause trouble- and all four of them would help each other make dinner. Kakashi cooking because Iruka was terrible at it and the boys were sick of ramen, while Iruka helped to cut things, and Naruto and Sasuke set the table. After dinner, Iruka would help them with their academy work while Kakashi did the dishes, and then the boys would take baths and be put to bed. Once they were safely tucked away, he and Kakashi would spend an hour or two talking and getting to know each other in different way.

It had been during one of those talks that Kakashi had kissed him the first time. It had been a simple kiss, almost shay and chaste enough to please his student's mothers had they seen. Kakashi had pulled away quickly, muttering something about how stupid that was and that Iruka should just forget it. He didn't forget, couldn't forget as it filled his dreams each night. A week later, he'd kissed Kakashi soundly, and told the Jounin he'd better never forget it. Kakashi had promised that he wouldn't have it any other way.

The road of the last year had been hard, twisted, and rocky, but Iruka knew the best roads often were as they made the destination even sweeter. Now as he lay on the grass in the early summer twilight, a drowsy eight-year-old (almost nine, as Sasuke would have pointed out) boy on either side, his own head pillowed in Kakashi's lap as the Jounin read his favorite book when the boy's couldn't see, Iruka thought this was the best place in the world to be. Maybe he'd been dragged down the road to get there, but now he walked it willing. He could go any other way, and he was glad of it.