Disclaimer: Not mine.

Chapter 14

Iruka lay beneath the tree, worn out and feeling happy. That had been a very good training session and he was definitely getting the hang of the water jutsu Kakashi had given him to learn. He'd always loved learning and now it wasn't being beaten into him. He looked up, sensing his visitor before the masked nin arrived. He stared at the ANBU member curiously. "The Hokage wishes to see you Umino-san."

"Very well." Iruka got up and stretched, quickly gathering his gear before taking off. He entered the office and Sarutobi smiled at him. Iruka stood before his desk, glancing at the blond woman beside him curiously.

"Umino Iruka do you remember Tsunade? She is to be the Godaime Hokage." Sarutobi told him, watching brown eyes widen in shock.

"You're retiring?" He asked in disbelief.

"Again." Sarutobi smiled and Iruka sank into a chair. "I'm too old for this Iruka-kun. Without your help my old student would have killed me. It's time for someone younger to take my position." He explained and Iruka nodded sadly. Iruka looked over at Tsunade, he remembered her, she'd patched him up a few times as a new genin.

Tsunade stared at the young man seated before her sensei. She remembered him, how many times had she fixed him up after training or a prank? She also knew he'd vanished with Orochimaru years ago. He'd grown up a lot since then. "So why the meet and greet sensei?" She asked and he handed over Iruka's file, making him flinch slightly.

"So that you can learn the cover story dealing with Iruka's absence over the years." Sarutobi answered as she went through the thinner than usual file. She hid a wince when she saw the report done on his return to Konoha; there were an awful lot of old injuries listed. But no curse seal, that was a relief. She listened as the Sandaime explained what had happened, feeling sorry for the bright happy child she had known a little back then.

Iruka stood with Kakashi, Anko and Team 7 as the Sandaime introduced the newest Hokage to a mixed reaction. People were upset Sarutobi was resigning but were happy to have one of the Sannin back. Naruto was bouncing slightly and Iruka had the feeling his little brother had known this was coming, made sense since he had gone off with Jiraiya after all. To everyone else it was a big surprise. Iruka slipped away when the crowds and noise got too much, heading back to the house. Kakashi saw him go but let him, knowing he still didn't like crowds.

Iruka slipped out of vest and sandals, collapsing onto the couch wearily. He wasn't sure what he thought of Tsunade being the new Hokage, in his mind Sarutobi was the only one who should hold the role, despite the fact that the Yondaime had been there during his childhood. And what did their new Hokage really think of him and what had happened? He'd never been close to her like Sarutobi. He hugged a pillow to his chest and then blinked as he felt someone pull the elastic from his hair, letting it spill down around his shoulders. He looked up and blinked at Kakashi who was looking at him; worry clear in his visible eye.

"You okay?" The jounin asked and Iruka shrugged. Kakashi sat beside him on the couch, slipping under Iruka's legs to do so. "I sent the kids with Anko to get ramen for dinner. Was it the crowd?"

"I…..sort of." He admitted softly.

"So more the fact that Sarutobi-sama's stepping down, things are changing when you were just getting used to them."

"Sounds stupid when you say it."

"But it's not Iruka. I'm pretty sure it's normal to be craving stability after everything." Kakashi assured him, pulling his mask down so Iruka could see that he really was serious. Iruka stared at the pale face and then nodded slowly. Kakashi smiled at him, glad that he had managed to reassure the younger man. "Besides everyone who knows you knows you're loyal to Konoha and we will tell Tsunade-sama that if needed."

"Thank you." He murmured and Kakashi nodded, relaxing on the couch, not caring that Iruka's legs were over him. He'd gotten used to having the younger man around after all.

Iruka made his way through the trees quickly and silently. The scroll he had been sent for was hidden securely but so far there was no sign of pursuit. This was the fourth solo retrieval mission he'd been sent on in the two months since Tsunade had been made Hokage and he didn't know why. Was she testing him? He just wanted to be back home with Kakashi and Naruto. Then again Naruto wasn't in the village at the moment anyway; he was off with Jiraiya doing something. Iruka suddenly dropped from the trees, several shuriken burying themselves in the branch he had just been on. He turned mid fall to send his own back at his attacker. He landed in a crouch amongst the bushes, eyes scanning for whoever had attacked him so close to the Fire Country border. He swore mentally when several sound-nin emerged. Joy. Iruka readied himself for the fight, forcing himself to ignore the fact he'd taught at least three of them when they were younger. He was a Konoha-nin, he would not let them take the scroll, even if it meant killing them. He sent some clones to distract them even as he summoned some small yet venomous snakes and readied his weapons.

Iruka sighed in relief as he saw the gates, gripping his left arm tightly to help stem the blood flow as he stumbled. He tensed but then relaxed as one of the gate guards moved in to help him to the hospital. Thankfully Tsunade was there and Iruka handed her the scroll dazedly and her eyes widened before she was suddenly calling out for supplies as she hustled him onto an examination table. Finally horizontal Iruka gave up and let darkness claim him, knowing he was home and safe.

When he woke again it was to the sound of a heart monitor and the sight of Tsunade's apprentice Shizune moving around checking his IV. "Good afternoon Umino-san. It's good to see you awake." She smiled and helped him drink some water. "How do you feel?"

"Hurts." He croaked out.

"You're due for some more pain medication. You're lucky you have some poison immunity or you wouldn't have made it back. As it is you'll be in here for at least four more days. Tsuande-sama will be by later now that you're awake for a report." She explained and Iruka nodded tiredly.

"Kakshi?" He asked, fighting to keep his eyes open so he didn't see her slight wince.

"Get some sleep." She said, not answering him but it didn't matter as Iruka passed out again.

The next time he woke he found the Hokage herself at his bedside. Fun, he really didn't feel like talking at the moment. A hand glowing with healing chakra pressed against his throat and he sighed in relief. "Those breathing tubes can cause a bit of pain can't they?" She asked and he nodded.

"How long?" He asked.

"You got back five days ago. Even with your built up immunity to poison if you'd gotten back much later we would have lost you from that or blood loss and infection." She told him and he winced. "What happened?"

"Ran into a group of sound-nin about an hour from the border." He told her softly.

"What were they doing there?"

"Didn't ask, was too busy surviving."

"Did they say anything?"

"Die traitor and other niceties like that. Even the kids I once taught." He closed his eyes, missing her sympathetic wince but that sort of thing tended to happen when you betrayed your village for another.

"Your attackers?"


"Very well, get some more rest."

"Naruto back?"

"No, they're not back for another few weeks. Anko has been asking after you if you're up to a visit." Iruka nodded, feeling tired again. Why was no one mentioning Kakashi?