I know I'm still in the middle of my other KakaIru fic "Mission: Kiss Me Deadly" but this has been sitting on my computer for several months and I really do want to get it going. Plus, the other KakaIru story I had up "Soul Shadow" was kind of going nowhere... maybe I'll revamp it and post it again in the future sometime, but for now, I've removed it and I'm putting this in its place. So updates will probably go back and forth between this one and "Mission: Kiss Me Deadly". They're both fun to write and work on, and I've got a lot of ideas for both, so from now on, they'll both be updated in a timely manner... hopefully. College starts soon, thus studying and extracurriculars... but I'm actually hoping that having more undisturbed time in my own personal space will be incentive for me to work more.

Anyway, this story takes place right after the first episode incident with Mizuki. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of the characters... boring, but it'll have to do.

"Look Kakashi! It's a kunay!"

"Kunai," the older man corrected, smiling.

The eight-year old blushed slightly and scratched the back of his head. "Right. We're not actually learning about them yet, but I took one from my dad's weapons pouch so I could start practicing early. By the time we get to them in school, I'll be way ahead of everyone else!"

"Iruka… you shouldn't start flinging that around without proper instruction. That's a dangerous weapon."

"You're here."

The single visible eye crinkled into an amused smile. "Yes, but I won't be able to catch it for you if it goes out of control."

Iruka sighed.

He was tired – physically worn down – and it was actually a wonder to him that he had been able to remain upright and pretty chipper all through breakfast. Then again, Naruto's boundless energy that early morning had been contagious.

He was exhausted – emotionally in turmoil – and would have liked nothing better than to throw himself into the mud and cry his eyes out. But he concentrated on the physical pain to stamp out any emotional ache in his heart and trudged onward toward his house.

The young brunette glanced around, making sure no one was looking, then discreetly produced the kunai from his pants pocket.

"I thought your father got mad at you the last time you did that."

Iruka grinned back over his shoulder as he poised the weapon. "He doesn't need to know. Besides," He turned back and got a look of smugness on his face. "When I end up being in the top of the class, it'll be all worth it, and he won't care anymore."

"Top of the class, huh? Think you're gonna get that good?" Kakashi's teasing face appeared over the boy's shoulder.

"Of course I will!" Iruka shot back. "One day, I'll even be as good as you!"

The chuunin schoolteacher let out a loud hiss as he peeled the blood-soaked shirt off his back. That giant shuriken had gone deeper than he thought. Good thing Naruto hadn't thought to check his back thoroughly – the kid would've completely spazzed out. Then again… Iruka smiled. Naruto had been much too worked up about his newfound title of 'graduate' to worry about much else, even his own injuries. What a sight the pair of them must have been at the Ramen stand – all bloody, muddy, and sweaty in the first rays of dawn. Not to mention tired, what with the both of them being out all night and getting into an intense fight. 'But Naruto was so happy…' He smiled to himself, glad that the ramen shop owner had started up the kitchen early just for his two best customers. It was always the chuunin's favorite place to take his most troublesome student.

Iruka sighed wistfully. Starting next month, Naruto would no longer be his student – he was a real ninja now – Iruka's own forehead protector the proof of that.

"Ouch…" The complaint came out in a quiet whoosh of air. He was abruptly brought back to reality as he shifted and the wound became apparent again. Perhaps he should go to the hospital after all. But…

'But going to the hospital would mean that I would have to admit it. I would have to admit to myself that I actually have this wound… that this wound came from my so-called best friend. I can't do it…'

Reality sucked.

"It doesn't strike you as odd?"

"Dear, please…"

"No! Why does he need this Kakashi-guy? There are plenty of kids at school for him to be friends with. It's not like he's lonely."

"Please… just calm down." Mrs. Umino placed a soft hand on her husband's shoulder. "If we talk to him about this calmly we have a much better chance of getting somewhere than if we start yelling." The disgruntled man muttered something unintelligible but didn't say anymore. "Iruka, honey?" the woman called down the hall. "Come here a second, please."

Iruka moaned softly as he sat on the edge of his bed. He had bandaged what he could of his back. It wasn't very easy to tend to your own middle back, especially when every little movement sent tremors of pain through your body, but he had managed… somewhat. Good enough for now.

"My parents don't like you, Kakashi. And they said if I hang out with you anymore, I'll be in big trouble. I think it would just be better if you left."

The silver-haired man peered over the top of the bright orange novel he had been reading, his black eye emotionless.

"I mean – " Iruka choked on his words a moment. "They think it would be better if I made other friends."

The orange book snapped shut gently and the jounin stood, towering over Iruka, who refused to look him the eye, for a few seconds. "I understand." And he was gone.

The overwhelming urge to cry rose up as Iruka's thoughts finally wandered back to the events only a few hours previous. But he choked the tears back down. He hadn't cried in years. At least, not from emotional pain. No one could hold back a little eye-watering from physical pain every now and then, no matter how well-trained they were. But he hadn't let his emotions run away with him since his parents' deaths.

The 10 year old brunette stared forlornly at the fresh names carved into the memorial stone. He was alone now. Completely and utterly alone. And he no longer cared as the tears flowed down his scarred nose.

A lithe hand crept around in front of Iruka's face, hovering above his cheek, as though it wanted to wipe the tear streaks away. Iruka stiffened – he knew those hands. He jerked around quickly coming face to chest with a tall, silver-haired jounin with his forehead protector tipped over the left eye. For the first time in days, the boy let a real smile spread over his face. "You came back."

The single black eye regarded the young boy with compassion. "I heard you crying."

"No! I am not going to cry." Iruka declared firmly to himself. He shook his head roughly and yanked out his hair-tie, letting the semi-long brown locks fall to his shoulders. Grabbing a brush off the dresser, he set about getting ready for bed. It was actually morning already, but he hadn't gotten much more than a nap before the crisis with Naruto stealing the scroll had called him away. He should have been asleep hours ago. Good thing he had an entire month off before classes started again – well, mission desk duty would always be there, but that wasn't until late afternoon.

He sighed. He was so irresponsible, keeping Naruto later than he already was. He didn't have school that morning, but he was still young and should get proper rest. Then again, it didn't seem to matter what happened to Naruto – a few good beatings, a little sleep deprivation – he was always full of energy in the morning. That's why Iruka loved the kid so much. And he was one of the only people the chuunin really had… no – he was the only person the chuunin had anymore.

The hand brushing his hair fell limply to his lap, and the anguished look came over the teacher's face again. "Mizuki… why? We were supposed to be friends…"

"Kakashi…" The new genin toed the dirt absently, not looking up at the jounin. "I appreciate you coming back for these last two years… but I'm a genin now – a real ninja. And I have a new friend – his name is Mizuki. And well… I don't really need you around anymore."

"Mizuki," Kakashi repeated. He stood slowly. Iruka chanced a glance up at him, and his heart clenched as he noticed that Kakashi looked even sadder than the last time they parted.

"Even the Hokage says that I shouldn't hang out with you anymore. I'm an adult now."

Kakashi glanced the twelve year old over. He had to admit that Iruka looked ready for anything in his new official Hidden Leaf Headband. "This Mizuki… he better treat you right."

Iruka attempted a reassuring smile. "He does."

Kakashi nodded, and, just as before, was gone.

The hairbrush trembled violently in Iruka's fingers as he gripped it tighter and tighter. Why? Why was everyone always leaving him? First his parents, then his friends at the academy (he knew they really didn't know how to approach him after his parents' deaths, but still), and now the one person he thought had truly cared for him. Mizuki… Naruto would even be leaving his class now; they would be seeing so much less of each other. And now that Mizuki was gone… he didn't even have anyone to fill the void.

He couldn't stop the soft sob that escaped his parted lips or the tear that trickled down his cheek… or any of the ones that followed. Curling into a ball, Iruka let himself be swallowed into the darkness of self-pity and cried himself to sleep for the first time in over a decade.

When he awoke several hours later to his blaring alarm clock, which he had forgotten to turn off, Iruka blinked bleary eyes at it and yawned loudly. He was just about to reach over and switch it off, but suddenly, a longer, leaner and more impatient arm than his beat him to it, smacking the alarm clock off the table. Then the arm disappeared.

Iruka stared at the now-silent clock on the floor, blinking stupidly. Finally, it registered in his mind that someone else was in his bed. (He really needed to work on his reaction time.) The chuunin quickly rolled off the bed into a defensive crouch, grabbing the nearest weapon off his nightstand.

He glanced over the other figure in his bed – or at least what he could see of them. Their back was turned, and all Iruka could make out was a standard shinobi vest and a tall crop of white hair. But apparently whoever it was didn't see anything dangerous or weird about being in Iruka's bed, because after they had killed the annoying alarm clock they seemed to have just rolled over and gone back to snoring softly.

Standing up, but still keeping up a defensive posture, Iruka crept silently to the other side of the bed to get a look at his intruder's face. His grip slipped and his eyes widened as the rest of the man lying in his bed was revealed. Lying there peacefully was a 5'11'' jounin with a silver mop of gravity-defying hair, the Hidden Leaf Headband tipped over the left eye, and a black cloth mask pulled up past the nose. The chuunin began to shake. No. There was absolutely no way. He must have snapped. Or he was dreaming! Yes, this was one of those very realistic dreams where you think you've woken up but you haven't yet. Yes, that had to be it.

Well, as long at it was a dream… It wouldn't hurt to really check. Leaning over the bed inch by inch until his face was mere centimeters from the other man's, Iruka took a deep shaky breath. "Kakashi…?" The single visible eye flew open to gaze at the teacher, and Iruka snapped back involuntarily, breath catching in his throat.

He stood rigid as a statue as the jounin struggled to sit up and stretched. "It's early…" he whined. Then he turned and smiled at the completely freaking-out teacher, the eye curved into a very familiar crescent. "Good morning, Iruka. You look good with your hair down… why are you so tense?"

Iruka didn't respond – didn't move, and eventually Kakashi's smile dropped and his gaze turned concerned. "Iruka…?" He made to swing his legs over the side of the bed, but this movement finally triggered Iruka's reflexes. He brought his weapon hand up again and gave Kakashi a hard stare.

"Stay back!"

Kakashi blinked then smirked at the chuunin. "Or what? You'll brush me to death?" The teacher finally glanced down at what exactly he was holding and blushed when he discovered his hairbrush where he had thought a kunai to be. "As much as that may hurt me with my hair, I doubt it'll do any lasting damage."

Unexpectedly, Iruka suddenly untensed all his muscles and let the brush drop to the floor. He grinned at Kakashi who stared back confused. "You know what… It doesn't even matter, because this is a dream, and you're not real."


"Excuse me." The chuunin brushed past Kakashi and jumped back over to his side of the bed. The jounin could only frown in puzzlement as Iruka turned his back on him and fell back asleep.

When Iruka opened his eyes again, the sun was brighter, and the previous events seemed nothing more than surreal. He blinked groggy eyes and peered down at his still-broken alarm clock. He quickly snapped his head back, then sighed in relief as he found his room empty. He must have simply knocked his alarm clock down in a half-asleep state. He smiled good-humoredly to himself and shook his head. What a strange dream. The things that pop into your unconscious when you're stressed.

Iruka yawned and stretched, heading into the bathroom and brushing his teeth. He may have felt like doing nothing more than lying in bed in self-pity for the rest of the morning, but he knew that would get him nowhere. Better to face the world and throw himself back into things right away. He finished brushing his teeth and leaned down to splash water on his face. He sighed into the warm liquid and slowly straightened up to face himself in the mirror. But when he opened his eyes, he could only jump and give a very unmanly squeak of surprise.

The silver-haired jounin's reflection smiled and waved at him. "Good morning."

Iruka slowly turned, hoping that the other man wouldn't actually be there, but was sorely disappointed when he came almost face to face with him.

Kakashi smiled even wider as Iruka stared at him in disbelief. "Hey, you got really tall! Look at you! You're almost as tall as me… excluding the hair of course." He chuckled. Iruka remained silent. A few seconds later, still not saying anything, he turned and stalked back to his bedroom. Another set of footsteps followed him. "You're not going to go back to sleep again, are you? Cuz that was boring…… Iruka?"

The chuunin tossed his clothes on without looking at the other man, and pulled his hair into a ponytail – still not acknowledging the jounin's presence. Deliberately not looking at him, he brushed past Kakashi and headed to the kitchen. The silver haired jounin followed him like an obedient puppy. "So what are you having this morning?" he asked brightly, still trying to get a response out of the chuunin. However, Iruka continued to ignore him and simply headed down the hallway and slipped on his shoes. "Hey, Iruka, you didn't eat!" Kakashi pouted through his mask. "You know, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You shouldn't skip!" Iruka left, slamming the door behind him.

Kakashi huffed. "So unsociable in the morning." He stepped forward briskly… and slammed right into the door. "OUCH!" He jumped back, holding his nose, eyes tearing up in pain. "Ouch?" The second one came out in a questioning tone as he blinked at the door. "What the - ?" But he didn't have time to dwell on it; Iruka was getting away fast. Kakashi reached out and grabbed the doorknob softly, just for a second, pulling away quickly as though it might bite. Satisfied when nothing happened, he twisted it – slightly harsher than necessary – and stepped out into the morning light.

Seeing the brown ponytail bobbing in the distance, he ran to catch up to it. "Iruka…?" The younger man still stared straight ahead. "Iruka – STOP!" He abruptly threw his body in front of the chuunin's. Finally, the other man froze, and slowly raised his eyes to meet the single black one that was shining in anxiety. "Do you even know who I am?" The question came out a desperate whisper.

Iruka didn't answer for a moment, and Kakashi was afraid that the chuunin really had completely forgotten about him. But just as he was about to slump his shoulders in defeat and try to come up with some plan to make the brunette remember him, Iruka grinned. Kakashi blinked. The smile looked a little too serene and slightly manic, as though he were speaking to one of his students who had pissed him off just a little too much and he was trying to keep his sanity. He chuckled humorlessly. "Kakashi… I may be older… but I'm not so senile as to not recognize my own imaginary friend."

Not exactly your average Kakashi-and-Iruka-met-during-childhood story... but oh-so fun!

If you enjoyed, please review!