Authors Note: You hear that? It's the sound of me utterly failing at life. Buckets of love to anyone still interested in this, it may be neglected but never wholly abandoned. Honest.
Shorter chapters for the win, yes? (win for me that is :D)
Badly spelled, un-beta'd etc.
Chapter 3: No rest for the wicked
Iruka stretched his linked fingers skywards, very thankful that the movement found both arms still present and able to perform their muscular duties.
Better yet, the dull ache that he now felt suggested little more than a careless leap or over zealous training punch from a student; certainly if Iruka hadn't been there (and felt it) he would never have believed one of these arms had almost been pulled off the night before. Ninja medicine was a wonderful thing.
The chunin sensei was currently basking in a pocket of rain free sky that had opened up just as his class ended for the day. The sun was lucky that Iruka was feeling so cheerful over his non-injury, or it's late arrival would have pushed him into a second bout of Umino V Weather war – 'indoor playtime' is a phrase no teacher can bare lightly, let alone a shinobi one - ninja children's idea of arts and craft is enough to give the most hardened jounin nightmares. Iruka knew that he would probably have to go in over the weekend to clear up the mess, and his uniform now had some really quite unnatural looking stains mixed in with the dog vomit (no he hadn't found the time to get spares) but as long as he still had all his motor functions, and therefore could still throw kunai at the little brats, why stress?
"Come on Iruka sensei there's no point denying it, you told uncle to stop smoking in public again didn't you?"
Oh yes, that was why.
Team Konohamaru had been pestering him about his less than quaffed appearance since morning registration.
Iruka had decided not to give out details of the incident with Kakashi's dog to anyone without good cause; it seemed likely that Isamu's injury would be placed under security clearance as soon as Tsunade-sama was informed anyway. They were already being watched closely by neighbouring villages for any sign of weakness in the wake of Orchochimaru's attack – 'most powerful jonin's summon gets throughally trounced' was just the kind of press Konoha could do without.
However the Third's grandson had taken his silence on the matter as a sign of embarrassing defeat and had spent the whole day making detailed and rather unpleasantly astute guesses as to what could have prompted it.
"Konohamaru you do understand that one of the most important parts of being a ninja is knowing how to keep classified information well.. classified don't you?" Iruka sighed as he watched the terrible trio approach his bench.
"But that's stupid Iruka sensei" the boy snorted, coming to a halt in front of his sensei, arms folded and lip jutting in a parody of his whiskered idle "You loose all the time, what's the point of making it classified now, everyone already knows"
Iruka managed to suppress his eye twitch, but it was a near thing.
"I don't loose all the time Konohamaru I just happen to have had a string of somewhat unlucky..."
"Sure you do! Look Moegi's got it all written down-"
With an official sort of nod from Konohamaru the little girl produced a luminous pink notebook, which she flicked open and began to read aloud with the air of an ANBU debriefer. "Month of the sixth, observations - Tuesday the fifth, 0900 hours: Ebisu sensei beats Iruka sensei five times in genjutsu, Saturday the second, 1204 hours: Lee-kun manages to pin Iruka sensei after two minutes training, Monday the twenty fourth 1416, 1240 and 1423 hours Iruka sensei is caught out multiple times by Hanabi-chan's new mud trip trap jutsu during field day. Month of the fifth observations-"
Iruka tried find comfort in the fact she was executing surveillance skills of a chunin level as Moegi went on to recount his every defeat she had witnessed since entering the academy at age four.
The rain was still holding off (probably until the next time it would cause him most trouble) as Iruka made his way home half an hour later, most definitely not sulking about his students low opinion of him, if you were wondering.
The path to his house was blessedly free of blood spatter or dangerous animals in need of assistance, but it still brought his thoughts tripping back to the night before.
He was itching to find out how Isamu was doing, both out of concern and general curiosity about Kakashi and his ninken, but really didn't have any right to go and ask. He and Kakashi had only ever been professional acquaintances, and rather tenuous ones at that. The man had a talent for making people feel brainless and awkward, maybe just to provide a contrast to the Air Of Ultimate Cool (Iruka had taken to capitalising the phenomenon in his head, sure it had to be some kind of secret jutsu) he always managed to exude. Iruka found it rather obnoxious (and it had nothing to do with him becoming twice as brainless as your average shinobi in the copy-nin's presence, really).
Perhaps he could pay the Inuzuka's another visit, as he needed to apologise for bleeding all over their hall anyway, and ask them about the dog's condition in the process. Yes, having Tsume look at him like he was an idiot was marginally more bearable than Kakashi.
…That would have to wait until tomorrow though since he really needed to get his uniform washed before the stains started to spawn new life, he could swear he'd seen one twitch a second ago.
Iruka hadn't been home since the morning before, the medical ninjas had managed to keep him sleeping until eight o'clock, at which point his internal 'oh shit I'm late for work' alarm had gone off. After some frantic arm flailing and heavy bargaining with the head medic he managed to talk his way off the ward, having swallowed a lot of nasty pills and promising to take it easy for the next week.
Of course, to this promise he applied the ninja theory of relativity, and indeed going to work as normal was a lot easier that getting attacked by another ninken, so he was being as good as his word.
Luckily he was still running on that strange delirious energy that sleep deprivation sometimes provides, he knew the crash was coming but was quite content to have future Iruka punished for present Iruka's stupidity.
Never the less when he finally reached the end of the little mud track and approached his splintering front gate it was with a sense of great relief.
Relativity didn't stand up well against team Konohamaru.
The Umino family home was a modest and slightly unusual place as has been mentioned, but to the drained chunin there was no better place to come back to (Ichimaru's being a close second of course)
Ahead of Iruka a badly paved path wound its way up through a garden that would look, to the casual observer, to be in a state of horticultural schizophrenia. The grass was wild and invasive spreading in uneven clumps, punctuated with thorny little wild flowers, up to the edge of a vine wrapped porch where it swarmed upwards at the wood like a besieging army. It was clear, however, that valiant attempts to tame the feral plant life had been made, several defiant little vegetable patches stood out at sporadic intervals amidst the sea of green and brightly blooming pot plants had been set in a row against the fence. Over all of this hung a thick rope washing line, stretching from a corner of the porch-frame to a high fence post at the other side, its little coloured pegs rattling in the breeze.
Iruka let out a happy little sigh as he stumbled up the porch steps, dragging a big bundle of keys from his pocket and resolutely ignoring the horrible sticky something they were now coated in (the kids would pay dearly on Monday).
The hallway inside was cool and dark, and even the slightly musty smell soothing in its familiarity. Iruka slipped off his shoes and turned into the first doorway on his left, collapsing down at the kitchen table beyond.
At least twelve hours of complete nothing stretched ahead of him.
Blissful, blood free nothing.
Because really, what were the chances of something else going wrong…?
The Gondaime Hokage exhaled noisily as she thumbed through Kakashi's report, chin propped on one hand and a look of utter disinterest covering her flawless face. Of course Kakashi knew that she was in actuality drinking in his every scribble with careful attention, but he appreciated the gesture. It didn't do for a Hokage to look like they were working too hard, it put people on edge.
"No leads at all on the culprit?" she asked at last, giving Kakashi a most unimpressed look over the top of his notes.
"None, other than to say they must be a ninja of considerable rank, in light of that very fact" Kakashi drawled. "If there was anything to find we would have" he flicked idly at the rain splashed windowsill while he spoke, choosing as was his habit to lurk at the edge of the room rather than stand in centre and face his Hokage like procedure dictated.
"This couldn't have come at a worse time" she sighed, leaning back in her chair and glaring up at the ceiling. "Given our current situation I will have to view this as an attempt to disrupt Konoha's communication chain, I just can't take the chance that it was isolated or.. personal"
One of the problems with being infamous was that people seemed to assume every little attempt on your life (or life of your ninken) was a vendetta of some sort, whatever happened to random and senseless violence? He couldn't have more than Five or Six mortal enemies at the most, and some of them were enemies of the whole village so surely didn't count.
"I doubt information was the target" he said. "As you'll see Tsume considered the wounds to be excessive, the fight was purposefully drawn out but in all that time the attacker never took the scroll. I don't see how it would be to an enemies advantage to torture a summon without even retrieving its cargo - if the objective was to send us a warning they could have just captured a scout with far less effort. I think we are dealing with a rogue, but that doesn't mean they still can't cause a lot of trouble for us, and unwanted attention .. whatever the motive"
Tsunade smiled mirthlessly "You're assuming that all our enemies are sane Hatake"
Kakashi gave a little snort of assent. As a former team mate of Orochi-CooKooBananas-maru, the Hokage made a good point.
"I'll agree a rogue is most likely but I'm not taking any chances - ANBU are on full dispatch, I've sent recon to the borders, it could be that whoever's responsible has visited other nations before us. Until we get some more concrete evidence I'm assigning all high security messengers an escort" Tsunade fixed him with a stern look.
"And I don't want you back out yet, you're a mess and we'll need you at full strength before you tackle this" She waved her hand as Kakashi made to protest "Given our complete lack of information I expect you will be suitably recovered before we catch up to them.. but then again I know you are beyond such petty principles as revenge anyway" as she finished her mouth twitched into a small smirk.
Kakashi remained impassive. Yes, in principle he was, but well, if the guy needed cutting into ribbons anyway why shouldn't he be the one who got to do it? Slowly.. with a blunt kunai..
The Hokage sighed "Just a week Hatake, let that damn eye alone for a while and maybe I won't end up having to save your sorry ass.. again"
"It's as if you don't enjoy our time together" Kakashi sighed, finally turning one drooping eye in his Hokage's direction.
Tsunade's look was not reassuring "Go and look after your dog Hatake, we both know your mind won't be fully on the mission until you do"
Kakashi would have liked to make a retort to this insulting suggestion, well actually more of a hand gesture, but since the Hokage was known for snapping off any fingers raised offensively in her presence, he contented himself in using far over the required amount of smoke as he teleported out of the office.
Already miles away from his Hokage's angry coughs, the copy ninja flitted over the Konoha rooftops towards his apartment, eager to reassess his ninken's condition.
When he had received Tsunade's summons Isamu was still completely out and he had left him splayed on his bed with Pakkun keeping watch.
He knew that once Isamu awoke and told him exactly what he remembered the Hokage would have no choice but to put Kakashi out on mission, as his ninken would most likely prove instrumental in the capture of his attacker. But while he remained unconscious Kakashi had to grudgingly agree that the best place for him was probably at Isamu's side, ready to collect the vital information from him when he came round.
Kakashi's apartment was in one of the higher, more remote shinobi housing blocks, but having lived there since the tender age of six he made the complicated leap from a nearby shop roof to the street lamp opposite finishing with a swing onto the window ledge without so much as a pause. He would have done this even if he didn't know the route so well, being a genius ninja and all, but you get the point.
He slid the glass back in eased silence and dropped into the dark room.
Something was very wrong.
The bed was empty and there was no sign of either dog in the apartment.
Kakashi's pulse drummed up in his ears as his eyes swept over and over the shadowy space. Pakkun wouldn't have left willingly, had the attacker tracked Isamu to the village and finished what they started? Or could the injured ninken have just woken, ended his summon immediately and Pakkun had gone back to reassure him.. but in that case he would have left some sign for Kakashi, knowing how the copy ninja tended to assume the worst.
As he stood in frozen speculation a tiny noise sounded in the kitchen area to his right.
Dear sweet Kami, if the bastard was stupid enough to stay at the scene of the crime, or maybe even think they could ambush him (him!), then they were going to be god damned puppy kibble by the time Kakashi got through with them.
He crept in full shinobi stalk mode towards the odd rattling, which seemed, perplexingly, to be coming from his fridge. Well he had already theorised that the ninja was probably wacko, maybe this extended to their choice of hiding places..
His gloved hand hovered over the handle as the sharingan checked for possible traps - but closed tightly and jerked the door open when it found none.
Pakkun waved a little frosty paw at Kakashi from his current position; suspended below the vegetable rack by a long length of yellow dog hair.
"Yo boss. Brats up"
Iruka stepped tentatively out onto the porch, hoping that his ninja training would allow him to correctly judge the position of the steps, since his view was obscured by the huge pile of washing clutched in his arms.
The 'doing nothing' hadn't lasted very long, mostly because the smell of his uniform was too off putting for him to properly pass out.
Now dressed in an old t shirt and shabby green shorts that he had discovered in the bottom of his wardrobe (he knew he had more clothes.. he just wasn't exactly sure where. He really had to get more organised one of these days..) he'd cleaned not only his uniform but his bedspreads, towels, sofa covers and a dishcloth, which, he had realised, were all in various stages of ick.
He had meant to get round to his housekeeping sooner.. but he was always so busy - what with school and reports and Naruto and .. well, all the other stuff that just seemed to pop up. Then the next thing he knew the sink was growing mould and Iruka was having to make excuses not to let Tsubaki-chan inside when she visited so she wouldn't see (and kick his butt because of) the mess.
He stared suspiciously up at the sparkling blue sky as he crossed the lawn and began to hang up his cargo. Was it trying to coax him into a false sense of security maybe? Well it wasn't happening! He was going to sit on the porch and the moment he spotted just one sliver of grey he was bringing his things back indoors. Take that, nature.
There was a pleasant breeze weaving through the garden and when he had finished Iruka stood back and watched his sheets flap soothingly to and fro, feeling a lot better for the (insanely overdue) domestic blitz.
The air was warm and fresh on his face and the scent of flowers rose from the damp of the earlier rains, helping to clear his addled senses.
Somewhere off in the forest a chime clinked.
Out of the corner of his eye Iruka saw a flash of yellow.
Turning Iruka peered at the far end of the washing line where his blue bed spread was waving languidly. As it rose he glimpse it again, a bright yellow something just behind in the other side of the garden. But before Iruka could get a good look the wind lulled and the cloth drooped back down, obscuring it from view.
Iruka shuffled a bit closer, blinking tiredly at the line. His brain was telling him he had in fact recognised the 'something', and could he just wait one second while all the necessary synapses connected-
From behind the sheets there came a long, low snarl.
Oh god no..
Somewhere up above in the sky the first thunder of the evening rolled.
Not worth the wait was it?
Next update to come in five or six years max