A/N: Okay, this is another two part one-shot (does that even make sense?). Again, this functions within the 'Pieces' universe. This one, however, doesn't really have spoilers. It's just incredibly important for the sequel! Some angst and stuff here, mostly, but it's very important angst so…what can I do?

This particular story is dedicated to ilovekakairu because I totally took the idea for how Iruka gets injured from one of their stories. I'd been trying for days to come up with something suitable for him that hadn't been overly used. It was perfect, so I've stolen it. With credit, of course!

Also, due to FF . Net's screwy format, you guys don't get a warning before it switches from Kakashi's side of the story to Iruka's. Just be aware that it does, and if it's to confusing let me know.

Disclaimer: I don't actually wish I owned them. That would be far too much pressure. This is much nicer, really.

Warnings: KakaIru (can I write anything else? Hm...) . Finally, this story mentions the use of terrorist like tactics by a ninja. It doesn't applaud their use at all, but if you're particularly sensitive to it, just avoid it.

Summary: Tragedy strikes Konoha in the most unexpected ways, and the courage of some of its inhabitants is tested in the hardest way.

Strength
Chapter 1/2

Kakashi pondered, as he dodged the stream of weapons sent his way, why he'd agreed to help Guy train his team. He also wondered why he'd gotten stuck with the rejects he had when Guy's team was so good. Something was just wrong with the world. Stupid karma.

He had to admit that this girl was good. She had amazing aim, and since most of her stuff came from scrolls it would be impossible for a sharingan user to copy her. Kakashi wondered if Guy understood all the implications this held for the future, and that was why he was having him work with her specifically. He thought Guy probably did.

"Hit him, Tenten," mini-Guy yelled, "or you should do three-hundred kunai drills!"

"Now, Lee-kun, it is not Tenten's fault if she is not good enough to beat someone as renown as my esteemed rival. After all, he is in the very spring time of his youth, and only the most skilled of ninja has ever done so."

Guy was obviously manipulating the little Kunoichi, and she was walking right in to it. That angrily thrown shuriken was a little too close for comfort.

Why had he agreed to do this again?

Oh, yes, because Iruka had looked so happy when Kakashi had told him Guy had asked. Because Iruka had hugged him tight, kissed his jaw, and told him he was glad Kakashi had a friend and that he was willing to help him out. He told him it was sweet of him to be willing to help Guy when he wasn't strong enough to do it himself, and that he was proud of him.

In retrospect, Kakashi felt slightly used. Iruka had deliberately boosted his ego to get him to do this instead of hanging around his beloved's classroom all day.

Well, that was just rude.

Kakashi barely dodged another range of weapons, suddenly three hairs less than he'd had when the exercise started. Damn it, he was the genius! Why did he get the messed up kids with the most possible emotional baggage? He could have done so much with these three without screwing them up for life!

He had managed to dodge one more kunai, this one aimed at his crotch, which he thought a bit unfair, when a violent explosion rocked the air around them. Tenten yelped, knocked over by the whoosh of hot air that suddenly descended upon them.

"What was that?" Mini-Guy asked, startled, from where he'd fallen on to his hands and knees. Kakashi realized, without really registering it, that he and Guy were the only two that had managed to remain standing.

"Neji," Guy commanded. That was all that was needed for the Hyuuga to activate his eyes, cutting through trees to where smoke was now rising from the center of town while the rest of them prepared to race off and confront an attack.

"Something has happened at the Academy," Neji said tersely. "It's on fire."

Kakashi thought, at that moment, that everything inside him was frozen on one thought. Iruka…

He'd been listening to Konohamaru try and talk his way out of trouble for his latest escape attempt- closing his eyes and pressing on them to try and fight off the impending headache- when Iruka sensed it. He'd always been good at realizing an attack moments before it happened. He had a sixth sense about such things, and it had never failed him yet.

So, when that sense went off in the middle of class, he didn't hesitate to listen to it.

"Get under your desks, now!" Iruka yelled, interrupting Konohamaru mid-sentence. Like the well trained almost ninja the were, the children listened to their superior when he had that serious tone without hesitation. Iruka grabbed Konohamaru and his friend, Udon, forcing them to the floor and shielding them with his body just as the door blew off and the room was engulfed with heat and smoke. Iruka could feel his skin burning, and bit his lip so he wouldn't cry out.

The kids screamed, but they did not move as the glass of the windows shattered with a crash and an earsplitting roar of fiery air shook everything around them.

Things in the room had caught on fire and smoke was filling in the door and out the too high now broken windows. Iruka released his hold on the two frightened boys beneath him and blinked through the rippling heat.

The academy had been attacked. Okay, he could deal with that. His priority was to get the children to safety.

There were almost sixty kids in his classroom that day, as he'd agreed to take another teacher's class for the morning while she took her young son for a doctor's appointment. He could not possibly teleport them all out at once, and it would take far too long to do it in small groups as well as use too much chakra.

The windows were too high for the kids to climb through, but maybe he could throw them…

Iruka ran up the wall to check, as the students began to fearfully climb out from under their desks. Some of them were crying, a bunch were coughing and screaming, but Iruka did his best to ignore them as he peered down at the courtyard to find it was on fire. Not an option.

He couldn't sit and wait for help, either. The rescue teams that would be sent would focus on those closest to the explosion and those that would be easiest to reach. Those with the smallest children. With a class of nine and ten year old students and in the middle-highest point of the building, Iruka was on his own.

Iruka dropped down, the glass cracking under his feet. He grabbed Konohamaru's hand tightly in his own. At least with an older class, they weren't panicking. They were scared, crying, but they trusted he would be able to get them out. He was determined not to let them down.

"Form two lines," Iruka barked, still clutching Konohamaru's hand. "Grab the hand of the person on either side of you. Keep your heads down, keep up, and don't let go. Do you understand? Do NOT let go!"

There was scuffling and several choked sobs mixed with coughing as they obeyed him without question. He would have to praise them later.

Iruka focused his chakra on his eyes, to try and make it so he could see through the smoke. The kids would be able to duck below it, but unless Iruka was on his hands and knees it wouldn't work, and that would be far to slow.

He took the hand offered to him by Hanabi Hyuuga. He thought for a moment about asking her to use her Byakkugan, but she seemed far to frightened. He didn't want to put any more pressure on her.

"Stay close to the person in front of you. I want you to keep saying your names. Konohamaru first, down his line, then up the other, okay?"

There were some think sounding affirimtive answers before Iruka started out the door. His throat burned from the smoke and heat, and several of the kids started coughing as they entered the smoke filled hallway. They didn't see anyone else, and Iruka could only hope the other classes on his floor had been outside.

"Sarutobi Konohamaru," said a voice behind him as Iruka started in the direction he knew the stairs were. One little voice followed another, giving them something to focus on, and allowing Iruka to keep track of them all as he hurried through the flames.

Kakashi was the first to reach the academy out of the group he'd been with, but no one seemed surprised. Tsunade and any ninjas or civilians that had been close by were already waiting there in a large crowd. The Hokage seemed to be trying to get them organized in some way to form rescue teams.

She snagged Kakashi the moment he arrived, all but shoving him in to a team with Asuma and a chuunin he didn't know.

"I want you to search the lower levels for any of the classes of small children. Start at the back, the explosion came from that side."

"But," Kakashi heard himself protesting. It didn't quite register as him. He felt numb inside.

"Only then can you search the upper levels. I'll have ninja go help those in the worst hit areas, but we're not prepared for this. Get going!"

Kakashi could only nod and follow Asuma as they ran inside. He couldn't disobey a direct order like that, no matter what he felt for Iruka. He allowed himself to glance up the stairs as they passed, but he couldn't see anyone but screaming and crying children being shepherded by teachers who looked just as terrified.

"My nephew is in Iruka's class," Asuma told him as they tried to duck low enough to avoid the worst of the smoke and rising heat- Kakashi was suddenly glad he had the foresight to always wear a mask. "When you go to find him, I'm coming with you."

Kakashi just nodded, and the trio made their way to the back of the building. Kakashi could see flames leaping up the of the building. Several classrooms had to have been taken out by the force of the blast.

They opened the first one they could, with Asuma kicking down the door. The teacher inside looked panicked, as she used her body to shield her very small class. She looked badly burned.

The wailing children couldn't have been more than four or five years old, and there were only about seven of them. Asuma scooped up three, a fourth grabbing his leg, while Kakashi grabbed three more, and the chuunin gently picked up the teacher. They couldn't use their hands to form hand seals, so they had to run again.

Kakashi couldn't help but growl as they raced outside, lungs almost burning at the sudden oxygen. This was taking too long.

They had reached the second level, only to find the most direct path to the stairs blocked by a wall of flames. Iruka could see shadows running around on the other side, and was glad to see others had survived, even if he couldn't reach them.

The only other way down involved going up to the fourth and highest level of the academy, where the smoke most certainly would be thickest, and down a back set of stairs that was rarely used. It minimized the chance of them being found, but it was better than just sitting there.

Turning around, Iruka lead the coughing and choking children back up. They seemed even more frightened now, some of them forgetting to say their names and instead just cry for their parents.

He couldn't really blame them.

The smoke and heat on the third level were more intense then they had been before. Iruka started choking as he tried to get some air in his lungs. They would have to go faster, or he would go down and the kids would be left alone. That would not happen. Not while he could still move.

Flames licked at their heels as they got close to the back wall. There wasn't a child that wasn't coughing now, but they diligently held on to the hands they'd been assigned to. Iruka knew, even as he led them up those stairs, that they were trapped. They could not go back down the way they had come up, and the intense heat on all sides warned him that going down the back stairs was not going to be possible either.

They were trapped, and there wasn't anything Iruka could do about it.

'Kakashi, where are you? I need you!'

They had cleared the bottom level without much incident. Many of the teachers had managed to get their students out on their own from there. Tsunade informed them, as Kakashi put down his fourth group of students, that they had confirmed what had happened.

One of their own- one of the teachers in fact- had turned traitor, going to Orochimaru's side. He'd wanted to give his new master an advantage by wiping out the next generation of ninja. He also knew that a blow where the children and teachers were killed would further demoralize the village. He'd set explosive tags up around his classroom, and detonated them. Him, and the kids in his class had all been killed. So far, they were the only know casualties but that could change quickly.

Kakashi felt sick. He didn't like kids, but he could not imagine trying to kill them. He didn't understand it, and was not sure he even wanted to try.

Instead, he looked around the crowd for a sign, any sign, of Iruka or one of his students. There was nothing, and Kakashi turned to Tsunade fiercely.

"Where's Iruka? He should be here by now!"

Tsunade shook her head, "the fire's spread too quickly. The upper levels are almost completely blocked off. The bottom two levels are clear, but I won't take unnecessary risks with my ninja."

"This is necessary."

"Just don't do anything stupid."

Kakashi nodded, deciding he could give her that. He took off back towards the school, and knew Asuma and Guy weren't far behind him.

'Iruka, don't you dare die on me. I'm coming.'

Iruka had lead his class to the other set of stairs, and left them standing at the top for a moment while he inspected them. The fire had not gotten through yet, but it wasn't stable. The whole passage was ready to fall in on itself. They'd have to go quickly if they stood any chance of making it down.

He ran back to his class, coughing at he entered the smoke filled hallway again.

"Sensei," one of the little girls wailed when he reappeared. "Sensei, are we going to die?"

"No," he croaked. His voice was scratchy at best. "We're going to get out of her, Emi, I promise."

"Iruka-sensei always keeps his promises," Konohamaru said, grabbing on to Iruka's hand again. It never ceased to amaze Iruka how calm the young boy could be in a crisis. When things got really serious, he could count on Konohamaru to step up and lead the others if he had to.

Hanabi resumed her spot on his other side and Iruka started to lead them as quickly down the stairs as he could. They hadn't gotten very far, only about halfway to the third level, when the stair under his feet gave an ominous crackle. Iruka pulled back, jerking Konohamaru and Hanabi with him, just in time for that stair and the three below it to fall down in to the flames.

'Kami-sama, now what?' Iruka struggled to remain calm; looking at the inferno below him that had been the academy. He had to get them out. He couldn't lose his head. He had to focus. He had to…

"'Ruka!"

Iruka snapped open eyes he didn't know he had closed. Standing on the other side of the gaping hole was Kakashi, Asuma and Guy just behind him.

"Iruka, are you alright!"

"We're fine, but we're stuck! The other way is completely blocked."

Kakashi frowned down at the hole in front of him, taking a step back when the edge began to fall away as ash. "Can you jump it?"

"Not several times, but I can…Kakashi could you…?"

Kakashi looked up at him, knowing without his lover having to say it what he wanted him to do. A part of the Jounin was screaming in fury that he couldn't do anything to get Iruka over to his side immediately, but most of him simply knew that the children were priority.

"This way is clear for most of the way down."

Iruka nodded, releasing Konohamaru's hand and instead grabbing him by the back of the shirt. Using the smallest amount of chakra he could, Iruka lifted the boy and threw him at Kakashi. Konohamaru let out a cry of fright before Kakashi caught him and handed him immediately over to Guy.

"Set them down behind us and have them start forming a line. Asuma, you and Konohamaru can lead the way down!"

Asuma nodded, holding on to his nephew's hand almost as tightly as the boy had his.

Iruka snagged Hanabi next, tossing her to Kakashi as quickly as he could. The stairs were slowly crumbling around them, the hellish heat making them sweat and gasp for air. The kids were starting to dehydrate, some of them nearly falling over as the hacked and coughed.

Kakashi caught child after child, realizing after a while that this was more than Iruka's class. Where had he picked up all these kids? Finally, he'd set the last one down and they'd grabbed the hand of the pale child before them. Kakashi leaned out, stretching his hand out. "Iruka, come on!"

"That's not all of them!" Iruka was looking around frantically. "That isn't all of them, we've lost some one!"

"Iruka, come on, the stairs won't hold!"

Iruka ignored him, or else couldn't hear him over the crackling of the fire below. He turned and dashed back up the stairs. Kakashi yelled in frustration and was just about to try and jump across himself when the scarred man reappeared, carrying an unconscious little girl in his arms.

The stair Iruka was standing on began to pop and snap. Iruka gasped as his foot broke through. He reacted on instinct, refusing to take time they simply did not have to try and pull his foot out.

"Kakashi! Catch her!"

The Copy-nin did as instructed, catching the limp girl on almost complete instinct as he watched the other side of the stairs collapse, taking his world with it. Iruka didn't cry out, but he did look at Kakashi a desperate look, as if trying to make him understand, before he disappeared in a swirl of red, of embers and ash.

Kakashi didn't scream. Instead he threw the girl back towards Guy and tried desperately to reach where the stairs had been. Had it been anyone but Guy behind him, he would have succeeded in jumping after his lover.

Instead, he found himself caught by a strong arm around his waist and all but tossed down the stairs. He hit, bounced once, and rolled down a few.

"Kakashi, we must get out of here!"

"But Iruka!"

"You can not help him now!" Guy grabbed him by the back of the vest, pulling him away from the first person Kakashi had let himself love in a long time. Pulling him away from everything that mattered.

Kakashi didn't struggle. He couldn't. It didn't matter. Everything that had mattered had fallen away, just out of his reach, into the raging flames below.