Disclaimer: I don't own Inuyasha or Naruto.

Pairing: Kagome/Sasuke; Kagome/Itachi; Kagome/Neji (hinted)

Kagome – 12; Sango – 12; Sasuke – 12; Itachi – 17; Neji – 13; Itachi – 17; Shisui – 23

In His Defense

7/17/07 – 7/18/07

"I think I'll try the shrimp ramen this time." Iruka smiled, handing the menu back to Ayame. As he waited for his food, he curiously looked around the nearly empty ramen stand and casually asked, "Where's Kagome-chan?"

"Kagome?" echoed Ayame, confused. "Wasn't she at the academy? I heard her say something about celebrating her friend's graduation today. Didn't you see her at the academy earlier? She left over an hour ago."

"No, I haven't seen her all day." Iruka truthfully answered, his lips curving in thought. "But it's possible that I might have accidentally missed her since I wasn't paying much attention to the people around me." Sighing tiredly, he quietly mumbled, "I'm sorry I haven't been keeping a very good eye on Kagome the last few days. I've had a lot of things on my mind."

"Oh, that's all right." Ayame smiled. "Kagome's not a little girl anymore. She's old enough to take care of herself. I'm sure she'll be able to survive a day at the academy by herself." Bustling around the small ramen stand, gathering the dirty bowls, she blithely added, "It's about time she stood up for herself anyway. After all, she can't hide behind you forever."

"True," Iruka quietly conceded. "I just hope everything turns out all right."

She sighed longingly as she gently traced her finger over the small, Konoha leaf symbol imprinted on the forehead protector. Looking up from her musings, she silently regarded her best friend with something akin to envy. "I guess you're an official shinobi now, right?" Handing the forehead protector back to her friend, she frowned slightly and mumbled, "I wish I could have attended the academy."

"Oh, Kagome-chan, cheer up!" her friend smiled comfortingly, gently patting her on the back. "You don't have to be a shinobi to help this village. Everyone contributes to this village – even the civilians."

Kagome shot her friend a dry look. "Thanks Sango, but those words sounded like something you took straight out of a textbook." Sighing again for the umpteenth time that hour, she gently leaned back against the small, willow tree behind her and closed her eyes. After a moment, she slowly reopened her eyes and softly confided, "I've wanted to attend the Ninja Academy for as long as I could remember. I really wanted to become a shinobi. I still want to be a shinobi."

"Kagome-chan…" Sango murmured, gently enveloping her friend in a small hug. "I never knew that you felt so strongly about this."

"I've always dreamed about becoming a shinobi one day. But my dreams are just that – dreams. It's impossible for someone like me – a simple ramen chef's daughter – to ever become a shinobi." Biting her lips, she quietly added, "I didn't even have the talent to pass the academy's entrance exam."

"Kagome-chan, I'm so sorry." Sango whispered, tightening her grip around her friend. "I shouldn't have asked you to come today. I'm practically rubbing salt into your wounds by asking you to attend my graduation ceremony. I'm such a horrible friend! I'm so sorry for being selfish, Kagome-chan. I didn't even consider how you would feel about attending this ceremony today."

"It's all right." Kagome softly replied, slowly pulling away from her friend's hold. "I wouldn't have missed your graduation for the world."

Sango grinned slyly. "You mean you wouldn't have missed Sasuke's graduation for the world, right?" Noticing the dark, crimson blush staining her friend's cheeks, she immediately laughed, giggling softly to herself. "All right, all right, I'll stop teasing you now. You look like an overripe tomato!"

"Sango," Kagome hissed, flushing an even darker red as she promptly slapped her friend's hand aside. "Quiet! What if someone hears you?" When Sango only continued to laugh harder (and louder), Kagome immediately retaliated by gently shoving her friend a few steps to the side.

"Was that supposed to hurt?" Sango asked, grinning like a fool as she continued to giggle. However, after a moment, she finally sobered and asked, "So, would you like to talk to Sasuke today? You know, to congratulate him?"

"N-No!" Kagome stuttered, flushing a bright shade of red. "Why would I want to do something like that? He probably doesn't even know who I am!"

"Oh, come on, Kagome. Show some initiative!" Sango sighed as she forcibly pulled her friend towards the academy entrance, where a large group of squealing girls had gathered to form a semi-circle around the object of their discussion. "If you never talk to him, how's he ever supposed to know that you exist?"

"But I don't want him to know that I exist." Kagome protested.

"Of course you do." Sango argued, shouldering her way through the crowd and shoving Kagome forward. "Good luck!" she shouted just as the other girls began pushing her back again.

"Wait, no, Sango-chan!" Kagome screamed as she stumbled forward and tripped, toppling headlong into the last person that she wanted to see at the moment. "Ouch!" she hissed when she accidentally slammed her forehead against his lower jaw. Both of them immediately recoiled in pain as they quickly stepped away from one another.

"What were you trying to do?" Sasuke hissed, holding his jaw in discomfort.

Kagome immediately turned a crimson shade of red as she quickly bowed her head and murmured, "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry! I really didn't mean to stumble onto you like that! I lost my –" Before she could even finish her explanation, the girls began pulling her away from Sasuke.

"Look what you did!" a young, pink-haired kunoichi accused. "You couldn't have seriously injured Sasuke-kun!" Her lips were pursed in anger as she angrily turned aside to check to make sure she hadn't permanently injured her precious idol.

"Yeah, watch where you're going." the other girls echoed, shooting her equally dirty looks as they quickly crowded around Sasuke again.

"I'm sorry." Kagome frowned, rubbing her forehead. "I really didn't mean to –"

"I think you should leave." an angry, blonde-haired kunoichi coldly informed her. "Civilians shouldn't be here."

Kagome's eyes immediately hardened as she glared venomously at the blonde-haired kunoichi. "Who do you think you are?" she demanded, narrowing her eyes in self-righteousness. "You can't tell me to leave!"

"I can and I will!" the kunoichi replied as she took a threatening step towards her. "Get out of here! Go back to where you belong. Everyone thinks you're a pest anyway, you know? You're not even a shinobi, but you always keep showing up at the academy!" Curling her lips in distaste, she cruelly added, "If I was you, I wouldn't even have the face to turn up here after failing the entrance exam."

Clenching her fists, Kagome looked like she wanted to retort; however, she finally settled for sending the blonde-haired kunoichi a dirty glare. Then, without another world, she quickly turned and stormed off. Angry tears blurred her vision; however, she bravely held them back. She would never give anyone the pleasure of seeing her cry. No one!

As she stormed past the willow tree, she spotted Sango casually leaning against the trunk. "So, how did it go?" she asked eagerly. However, she immediately trailed off when she finally noted her friend's expression. "What happened? Did those girls bully you again?" she demanded, taking a threatening step towards the crowd of girls. "If they did, I'm going to beat the living daylights out of them!"

"It's nothing, Sango." Kagome murmured, tuning her head away. "Let it go. I don't want to talk about it." Without waiting for her friend to answer, she quickly turned and walked off again. "I'm going home."

"Kagome-chan, are you here?"

Kagome's eyes crinkled in confusion as she poked her head out of the kitchen. "Sango?" she asked, confused. "What are you doing here so early in the morning? Don't you have to meet your new sensei in an hour?"

"Yeah, but I have something I want to do first." Sango stated, frowning deeply.

"What is it?" Kagome asked, wiping her wet hands on her apron. "Would you like some breakfast?" she asked as she gathered a few bowls from the cupboard. "My Otou-san isn't up yet, but I can make some decent ramen too. Would you like some?"

"Not right now, Kagome-chan." Sango answered, grabbing Kagome by her hand. "Come with me for a minute."

Before Kagome could even begin to form a protest, Sango was already dragging her out of the ramen stand. Setting the bowls precariously at the edge of the counter, she quickly shouted, "I'm going out for a while, Ayame-nee-san! Can you please watch the shop by yourself?"

"What?" Ayame asked, poking her head out of the kitchen. "Kagome, wait…" She sighed as she shook her head. They were already gone. "Goodness," she murmured as she picked the bowls off the counter and placed them back in the cabinets. "You know, if you keep running off like this all the time, I'm going to have to start deducting for your allowance." Shaking her head, she quickly shuffled back into the kitchen again, a soft smile lingering on the edge of her lips.

Kagome immediately knew things were going to end horribly as soon as Sango began dragging her towards the academy. "Why are we going to the academy again?" she asked suspiciously.

"I'm going to get all the girls to apologize to you. Their words yesterday were uncalled for!" Sango quietly fumed as she tightened her grip around Kagome's wrist in case she decided to escape again. "I'm not going to rest until each and every one of them has apologized to you for what they said to you!"

Kagome immediately felt an uncomfortable weight settle near the bottom of her stomach. "I told you it was all right, Sango-chan." she protested, trying to wrest her hand from her friend's grip. "Plus," she quickly added, "Why would anyone be at the academy today? All of you graduated yesterday, remember?"

"Not everyone graduated, Kagome-chan." Sango softly corrected.

Kagome's eyes lighted in confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Naruto failed."

Oh. Kagome's face immediately fell. No wonder Naruto didn't show up at their ramen stand yesterday. "I-I didn't know that."

"Anyway," Sango smiled, brushing the incident aside, "We're getting off topic. I know your family cares a lot about Naruto, but you shouldn't have to worry about him all the time. He's old enough to take care of himself. Plus, he can always try to pass the final exam again next year."

Kagome's frown deepened; however, she finally nodded her head in acquiescence. Sango was right. If Naruto tried, she had no doubt that he would be able to pass next year. Satisfied with her conclusions, Kagome quickly snapped out of her idle musings. However, much to her chagrin, by the time she finally snapped out of her musings, they had already arrived at the front of the academy.

To her surprised, everyone else was there too.

"Doesn't everyone have training today?" Kagome asked, lost and confused. What was everyone doing back at the academy again when they had just graduated yesterday? They couldn't possibly miss the academy already, right?

"They're all here to see Sasuke's older brother." Sango immediately answered, looking fairly excited herself.

Kagome raised an eyebrow. "Sasuke has an older brother?"

Sango blinked. Then, she blinked again before finally screaming, "What? How could you not know about Sasuke's older brother? Everybody knows about him!" She looked both flustered and flabbergasted as she continued, "He's a legend in Konoha! You know, the Uchiha Prodigy who graduated at age seven, became a Chuunin at age ten, and then became the youngest ANBU Captain in history at age thirteen?"

Kagome continued to give her a blank stare.

"Where did you grow up?" Sango asked, throwing her hands up in exasperation. "How can you, no, how can anyone not know who Uchiha Itachi is? I've been hearing stories about him for as long as I can –"

"You seriously don't know who Uchiha Itachi is?"

Kagome's eyes immediately swiveled to the blonde-haired kunoichi who had talked to her yesterday. "So what?" she asked defensively, suddenly feeling extremely stupid and ignorant. Was Uchiha Itachi really such an important person? How come she had never heard of him before, then?

"You really are stupid." the kunoichi snorted, shooting her a haughty glance.

"Shut up, Ino." Sango hissed, stepping between them. "What you're saying is uncalled for. You should apologize –"

"Sh," Ino quickly interrupted, jumping up with excitement as the academy doors suddenly opened, allowing several people to stream out of the building. Amongst them included most of the academy teachers, several jounins, and two ANBU guards.

From her vantage point behind the willow tree, Kagome immediately noticed that Mizuki-sensei was missing from the group. However, before she had the chance to point that out to Sango, another figure – another ANBU – suddenly exited the building. From the way Ino suddenly squealed in delight at the sight, Kagome deducted that the masked shinobi must be the famous Uchiha Itachi (whom she had never heard of).

Tilting her head to the side, Kagome silently regarded his profile with interest. He had a lithe, graceful body that testified his strength, even though he wasn't bulging with muscles. From the way he carried himself, Kagome could immediately tell that he was a proud, but charismatic individual. She couldn't see much of his face, which was obscured by his tiger mask, but she mused that if he was related to Sasuke, he couldn't be too bad looking.

At the thought of Sasuke, her face immediately began to warm. However, she quickly refocused her attention back to Sasuke's older brother. From what she could see, she could tell that he was wearing the standard ANBU uniform, complete with the leaf symbol tattooed onto his arms and the katana strapped onto his back.

"Are you checking him out?" Sango whispered, amused.

Kagome's face immediately reddened as she shot Sango a dirty glare. Huffing, she quickly turned her attention back to the scene. Somehow, she had gone from cleaning the dishes to going to the academy (to get an apology) to spying on Uchiha Itachi. Ayame was never going to let her live this down if she found out!

"What's going to happen, then?" Kagome's eyes immediately turned towards Iruka, who sounded torn between anger and disbelief. "What are you going to do with Mizuki? Are you going to kill him?"

"Do you have a problem with my decision?"

Kagome immediately shivered when she finally heard Itachi's calm, but ice-cold voice ring through the silent courtyard. No one made a sound as they silently processed Itachi's answer. Although he had calmly countered Iruka's question with a question of his own, Kagome could easily detect the underlying threat beneath his answer. Apparently, she quietly mused, Itachi wasn't used to people contradicting his decisions.

"What Mizuki did was wrong, but he doesn't deserve death for it." Iruka argued, clenching his jaws.

Kagome's eyebrows rose in confusion. What had Mizuki-sensei done? Whatever it was, Kagome found herself sympathizing with Iruka. When she had been younger, she remembered Iruka confiding that Mizuki had been his first friend – his only friend. Even though she had never particularly liked Mizuki-sensei herself, she had accepted him as Iruka's friend because he made Iruka smile.

But now…now she wasn't sure what she was supposed to think.

"My decision is final."

Without even realizing it, Kagome found herself hating that voice. It was cold and emotionless – devoid of all feelings. He had just sentenced a man to death, and he didn't seem to care at all! He didn't even hesitate! At that moment, it didn't matter that Mizuki was a criminal. A life was still a life, and she couldn't stand how he, an ANBU Captain, could hand the situation with such a callous tone!

Apparently, Iruka couldn't stand it either because he suddenly charged at Itachi. However, before he could even get close enough, he was suddenly restrained by the other ANBU guards.

"Stop it, Iruka." a masked, silver-haired jounin softly commanded.

"K-Kakashi…" Iruka murmured as he finally slumped in the ANBU guards' arms. Gritting his teeth, he slowly turned towards Itachi and murmured a small apology. "My behavior was out of hand. Excuse my actions, Itachi-san."

Itachi didn't deign Iruka's apology with an answer as he slowly slipped off his mask to reveal a handsome, but apathetic face. "Come," he ordered, turning towards the ANBU guards, "We're leaving."

The guards promptly released Iruka in favor of following their captain. However, they had barely taken three steps when Iruka suddenly stopped them again. Right before their eyes, Iruka dropped to his knees and pressed his forehead onto the ground. "Please," he begged, "Please spare Mizuki."

Itachi stopped for a moment, as if seriously considering the option before coldly answering, "No."

"Please!" Iruka pleaded desperately, shrugging off Kakashi's attempt to pull him off the ground. "Mizuki wasn't thinking straight. He probably has a good reason for his actions. Please, spare him and give him a chance. You could send him to prison. O-Or you could –"

"That's enough!" Itachi's eyes flashed with irritation as he glanced down at Iruka with cold, cruel eyes. "My decision is final. Whoever questions my decision again will be punished accordingly."

"But…" Iruka began, but was promptly silenced by a dark look.

Unable to stand and watch her favorite teacher suffer any more, Kagome quickly stepped out from behind the willow tree and screamed, "Stop it! Stop it right now, Iruka-sensei. Don't beg someone like him!"

"What do you think you're doing?" Sango hissed, trying to pull her friend back behind the safety of the willow tree.

However, Kagome easily dodged Sango's attempts to pull her back. Steeling her face, she quickly walked towards them and hissed, "I don't know what Mizuki-sensei did, but how could you be so heartless?" Her hands shook as she walked straight past Iruka to stand right in front of Itachi.

Tilting her head back slightly so she could look him in the face, Kagome finally realized exactly how imposing it was to stand in front of Itachi and have his sole attention focused on her. It was as if he was staring straight through her soul, slowly tearing her confidence apart piece by piece. In a way, she felt as if she finally understood how his opponents might have felt when they met him on the battlefield.

She was scared.

His cold, uncompromising gaze sent frightened shivers running down her spin; however, she silently willed herself to stay strong. She was doing this for Iruka. She couldn't allow him – no matter who he was – to speak to her favorite sensei that way! Clenching her fists by her side, she angrily demanded, "I don't care what you think, but would it kill you to show some mercy?"

"Who do you think you are?" he asked, his eyes flashing with irritation.

"I don't care who you think I am," Kagome growled in response, "but I want you to know that I don't care who you are either! I want you to apologize to Iruka-sensei right now. You can't treat him like that! You may be the ANBU Captain, but you should still respect other people's opinions!"

"Be glad that I haven't decided to punish him for his impudence." Itachi coldly replied, turning away. "His opinions are of no importance to me."

Angered, Kagome immediately latched onto Itachi's wrist, stopping him in his tracks. "You're arrogance disgusts me!"

Turning back, Itachi calmly answered, "I hardly care." His dark eyes lowered as he silently gazed at her hands, which were still tightly wrapped around his wrist. "Now, are you going to remove your hand, or do you want me to remove it for you?"

Embarrassed, Kagome quickly retracted her hand and stared at it as if she had never seen it before in her life. Clearing her throat, she quickly dropped her hands and calmly asked through clenched teeth, "So, will you going to give Mizuki-sensei another chance?"

Itachi's eyes flashed. "I never rescind my decisions – especially for foolish little girls. I would advise you to stay out of these matters. It does not concern a civilian like you." His lips thinned as he icily added, "The next time you step out of line again, you will be punished as well."

Kagome's eyes narrowed with fury. Before she even realized what she was doing, her hand had already connected with Itachi's cheek with a resounding slap. For a moment, she simply stared at her hand in shock. H-Had she really…? Then, she finally looked up and she immediately began to tremble with fear.

What had she done?


Author's Notes: Thanks for sticking with me. I hope you guys enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. :) Anyway, for those who waiting for an update on Koibito, I'll try to have it up as soon as possible. I have most of it done. I'm just missing a few parts, so expect to see the next chapter soon.