Paperwork Ninja: Memories
Every time you ask "what was that all about?" another plot bunny is born. Please do your part to control the pet population; have your plot bunnies fixed. Yeah, I mean you, Sei Mong.
This is the place for the story bits and pieces that don't have a place in the actual stories. Unless something deserves a place in the story, in which case it may appear as something other than an oblique allusion.
This takes place several years before the manga begins, and before the rest of the stories in the paperwork ninja continuity, when Iruka is about 18.
Iruka and Company
The Caffeine Withdrawal Episode
A younger Umino Iruka, Master of the Perfect Henge, has been pulled from field duty due to side- effects of his advanced infiltration Jutsu. His ridiculously high security clearance and availability lands him in an office, doing paperwork for Morino Ibiki. Supposedly, the chief torturer's understanding of human nature will help him deal with Iruka's occasional episodes of forgetting he isn't undercover... i.e.report stealing, transforming himself into different people, and other erratic behavior.
Since Ibiki hates paperwork with a passion, he has quite a backlog to catch up on; he finds a willing worker in Iruka, who wants to escape his nightmares of being someone else. For weeks Ibiki has supplied Iruka with copious amounts of coffee to fuel long periods of paperwork disposal, only stopping when complete exhaustion ensures dreamless sleep.
Surprisingly, the exactingly precise yet often mind-numbing nature of the work has steadied the mind of the Henge Master. He no longer believes himself to be anyone except Iruka Umino, Chuunin of Konohagakure village. Ibiki is pleased with his progress, but is reluctant to let such an efficient paper-pusher and analyst out of his grasp, so he upped the dosage of coffee to keep Iruka from appearing completely sane when the Hokage came by to visit.
Unfortunately for Ibiki, this little arrangement has caught the attention of Kotetsu Hagane, Iruka's childhood friend, and Genma Shiranui, one of Iruka's former co-workers. They noticed Iruka's growing addiction and have received permission from the Hokage to put an end to it.
The First Night:
"No coffee?" Iruka's question was very quiet, and only slightly twitchy. The coffee pot had only been taken away an hour ago, and his last double shot was still carrying him, though not for much longer.
"No coffee. You don't need the coffee." Genma told him firmly.
"Ibiki gives me coffee." Iruka pointed out.
"Ibiki is an idiot whose been using caffeine to turn you into an unsleeping automaton." Kotetsu put in. "We're going to help you put down the coffee cup."
"We're here to help."
"You want to help? Fine. Take this stack. Sort by country of origin, then by date within country." Iruka pushed one of the boxes he'd been putting off towards his two captors.
Genma hadn't been the one to argue with Ibiki, but now he saw why Kotetsu had wanted to remove Iruka from the file rooms. He already did enough paperwork without adding Ibiki's to the load. Ibiki had agreed reluctantly; it was Iruka who had refused to go with them. He claimed they did not have his best interests at heart, and refused to leave the building that was more a home than his apartment had become. "Oi.. This Sucks."
The Second Night
"He's too calm."
"Did he get past us?"
Genma and Kotetsu were sitting together at the far end of the office, watching a happily humming and head-bobbing Iruka sort mission reports with a speed that would have frightened if they hadn't seen it the night before. He'd loosened up a bit after they'd spent most of the night sorting papers and even agreed to spend the night at Genma's apartment, which Raidou had emptied of all coffee products and other stimulants when Genma asked him.
"I didn't sense him leaving the guest room."
"He couldn't have gotten past the wards, could he?"
Further staring at Iruka.
"He probably could. He always did enjoy fiddly things, and he'd spend hours on them if need be."
"But I was sleeping across the doorway, and your damn box of an apartment only has windows in the living room and the bedroom where you sleep. We would have noticed if he'd teleported"
This time Iruka waved, returning their stares with a warm smile of contentment.
"Wait, didn't Ibiki give him a box of papers this morning?"
"It was tall enough to hold a cup or a thermos, you know."
The Real First Night:
"Just a little, and tomorrow even less? Isn't that how you're supposed to do it?"
"Studies show that those who go cold turkey with help are less likely to take up another habit to distract themselves. So you're going cold turkey, with our help."
"You do realize that I hate you, Kotetsu."
"It wouldn't be the first time, Iruka."
The Real Second Night:
"I'm going to dip Genma in beef stock and give him to Kakashi-san's dogs for a chew toy. Then I'll find that Slug-Summoning contract and make sure Kotetsu can never bear to eat banana pudding again. And then I'll really start to get creative. I have all these pranks that I've always wanted to play on someone, but no one ever pissed me off enough. But for you two, I'll make an exception."
"Is that a promise?" Genma asked, unconcerned.
"I will get these ropes untied eventually. And then you'll be sorry... Unless you give me a little coffee. I'll forgive you both for just a little cup. A sip. Even the scent. The sweet scent of a fresh brewed cup." their captives eyes turned onward, to a happy place that had abandoned him. "Please-please-ease-please-please!"
"You two are meaner than I could be." This was a comment from Raidou, who had come to visit Genma after his mission was over. He hadn't expected to find his best friend engaged in some sort of bondage ritual with Kotetsu (who he had thought firmly attached to Izumo, though neither admitted it) and Iruka, who he had to take a moment to remember. The brunette Chuunin had spent very little time in Konoha in the past few years, only a few weeks between the long-term infiltrations assigned to him. When he was home, Iruka tended to disappear into the archives for long periods. Raidou had heard rumors that large forbidden sections of said archives had once been the contents of the Umino family library.
"It's for his own good." Kotetsu was lying on the couch across from the chair Iruka was forcibly occupying, looking quite in need of coffee himself.
"Yeah." Raidou smiled at the trapped Chuunin, "Remember, Iruka-san, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger."
"Or homicidal." Genma added.
"Or homicidal." Iruka agreed for the first time all evening.
The Third Night:
"So, he's stopped demanding coffee?" the third Hokage asked quietly, not wanting to wake the sleeping Iruka. The well-tanned Chuunin was curled into a near fetal position, clutching a body pillow to himself with an iron grip.
"Yeah, he stopped this evening, and then just fell asleep like that. I've tried to make him more comfortable, but he keeps bunching himself up." Genma sighed. He and Kotetsu had begun taking shifts after the second night, since Iruka was apparently in the habit of not sleeping for days, even without his coffee crutch.
The village leader stepped closer, gently touching the loose brown hair. "He used to be such a trouble-maker. It pains me to see him so... serious."
Genma sighed, "Then perhaps Ibiki was not the best choice for therapist?"
The smile, had it been worn by anyone else, would have warned Genma. It was a smile that radiated innocence far to brightly, trying to hide the wicked glee of an evil mind behind the brilliance of a halo. But it was the Hokage, the very definition of proper decorum, who was not just an adult, but a senior citizen... though a damn fine shinobi still, of course. "Perhaps you're right, Genma-san. I should have found someone more relaxed to help him re-adjust to normal life." the smile had, if anything, increased in intensity, the wrinkles around the old man's eyes were at full crinkle, his pupils barely visible. "I'm sure you'll make a much better example."
"I'm honored, Hokage-sama, but..."
"Or perhaps I should ask Kakashi. He's also very laid back." the Hokage had to fight to keep the grin off his face. Iruka's crush on the silver-haired copy-nin was long established, and a very sore point with all of his friends. The very mention of Kakashi sent them all into possessive-protective mode faster than a dog could bark.
"I really am honored, Hokage-sama, that you would trust me to help Iruka in his time of need. There's no need to trouble Kakashi-san."
"I'm glad to see that your loyalty to old friends remains strong."
The Fourth Night...
"Genma! You were supposed to be watching him!"
"I was! I just went into the kitchen to talk with Raidou without waking him up."
"Sure." Kotetsu looked critically at the discarded ropes, the neatly unraveled seal and wards on the door, the Iruka-less couch. "You and Raidou."
"It's not like that, not with us. Come on, we need to find Iruka before he finds coffee."
"He'll overdose if we let him."
"And that is a very scary thought..."
Elsewhere, Morino Ibiki was locking the door to his office with a sigh. With Iruka kidnapped by two angry anti-coffee crusaders, the paperwork just piled up, keeping him chained to his desk for hours. Contrary to popular belief, there was only so many prisoners and genin-testing-for-Chuunin to keep a torturer occupied, so he had many other jobs... and the paperwork to prove it. He'd been working since shortly after dawn, and it was very late. The coffee had stopped helping half an hour ago, and he'd decided to call it a night.
A few steps down the hall he stopped, his senses pinging 'danger' just a moment too late.
Ibiki realized that someone was above him only as the bucket of warm liquid hit, dousing him with something thicker than water but thinner than honey... paint, maybe? But it was clear, and more viscous. He wiped it away from his mouth quickly, in case it was toxic. While his brain dithered, his instincts sent him in pursuit of his attacker.
A slow pursuit. For some reason he wasn't moving quickly. In fact he wasn't moving at all.
"Glue." Quick-setting glue, kept warm by his attacker's chakra, then forced to cool and set quickly. He tried to summon his chakra to the surface of his skin, only to realize that he could not. He used what little mobility he had left to peer down at his chest, where he found a quite complex looking ward designed to prevent any sort of heat-based chakra manipulation. Not a seal, just a ward on anything heat related. Again his tired mind dwelt on the details, leaving his instincts to try and save him.
Too Late, again.
...a little later...
"Iruka, put that down and let's go home." Genma blinked, then corrected himself, "I mean, put him down. This is getting old."
"I think this is the best idea he's had in a while." Raidou pointed out.
"Using Ibiki as a human shield is not a good idea." Kotetsu disagreed.
"Working so far!" Iruka smirked, shoving the stiff special-jounin between himself and the mud trap Raidou had summoned. Poor Ibiki was covered in mud, deflected weaponry, loose feathers from the seagull summon trick, and a light coating of flour and cinnamon, but that was just because Iruka had tried to escape through a bakery a few minutes ago. He'd been used as a kawarimi target, a shield, and a weapon by the coffee-loving Chuunin in the past twenty minutes of running battle, and feeling more battered than he had on his last several A-rank missions.
"You three are so pathetic." A new voice broke into the conversation.
"Izumo! You're back!" Kotetsu smiled despite himself. His best friend was back from the two-week mission he'd taken as a backup to a genin team, all was well with the world.
"You weren't at home, so I asked the Hokage what was going on." Izumo reached into his pack and pulled out a small thermos. "Iruka, coffee?"
"Izumo! Why do you always have to ruin my fun!" Iruka whined, pulling the seal from Ibiki's battered and coated shirt, leaving the interrogation specialist to free himself. "No, I don't want any of your coffee."
"What??!" three voices rang as one.
"I'm a little tired, and that stuff keeps me up all night."
Author Note: So much for a short one-shot, ne? The damn thing just would not end when I told it to. Down plot-bunny! Sit! Stay! Also sorry about the stupid last line, but it's the best I can do at the moment. Maybe I'll come back later and make it better, maybe I won't. Bleh!