Iruka misses the academy. When he was having conniptions on a daily basis, he had never really thought he would say that, but he does. He misses the innocence and the headaches and the way the vein in his forehead would sometimes pop out and the teasing and the... the lack of pain and grit and death and how there aren't pale pink intestines standing out in stark contrast to the mud and the blood in the academy training grounds. See, there gets to be so much blood that it turns the dirt to mud - isn't that horrifying? It is one of those things that he doesn't think about.

The blood gets everywhere.

It stains his clothes until he doesn't even bother replacing them anymore. It gets in the groove of his headband and mats his hair and sinks into his pores and dries under his nails.

It sinks into his brain, soaking it and driving him mad, driving him off the edge.

He knows that it will eventually shove him into the abyss, and that is when he will stop trying to scrub the red-brown from his gash-ridden, scarred body. That is when he will stop caring, when he will start killing for the enjoyment of it.

Iruka misses the academy.

He misses his students - he misses Naruto. He misses the way his wallet would inevitably be empty after a ramen binge and the way he always had to chase the little prankster down. He misses the Konohamaru Corps and the kids' ineptitude.

There is no room for ineptitude anymore. Academy has devolved into TrainTrainTrain, here's your headband, go kill that squad of Rock nin. The children are all killers now, and isn't that so terribly sad? Isn't that what Iruka had hoped would never come again in his lifetime - that there would never be another little boy/girl murdering at the age of eight/six/seven?

It's not his sin, though. No. He misses the academy for a reason, and that is because he is there no longer. He was volunteered into active duty the moment the war began in earnest and the Godaime was assassinated. Of course, the assassinations never stopped, and he isn't sure who the current Hokage is. They die so quickly.

Like fruit flies.

Like Naruto. Like Kakashi. Like Sasuke.

And things are all so hopeless that he is already edging of his own volition towards that blood-obsessed abyss - he doesn't feel joy at anything anymore, and he reasons that at least being a berserker will be of use to the village.

Not that there is any hope, of course. There hasn't been for a while now.

At least Naruto and Kakashi and Sasuke took the Akatsuki down with them. At least...

No, Iruka cannot find it in himself to be glad. No, he can't. Come back tomorrow.

He doesn't realize how long he has been killing-killing-killing (seeing the pale pink intestines against the churned-up blood/mud in his sleep) until he runs into Sakura at the hospital one day and she doesn't recognize him.

Her hair reminds him of intestines, and he smiles blankly at her equally blank face as she studies his ankle. His Achilles tendon was nearly severed during an attack, and it will be a tricky heal.

"Sakura-san," he says quietly. "Don't you remember your old teacher?" And he smiles again, but it is not his smile. It hasn't been his smile for a long time - you know, the one that made his eyes crinkle at the corners and his dimples peek out. It's gone gone gone. It's as dead as Naruto.

She jerks her head up (intestines fly everywhere, and if he believed in a god he would be praying for the stench to go away) and stares at him in disbelief. It still takes a few seconds for it to click.

"I-Iruka-sensei? Is that you?" She looks so shocked that he is almost surprised. The key word is almost. He stopped looking in mirrors weeks (months?) ago. He doubts he would recognize himself either.

"You really didn't realize it was me, did you?" He is cold inside, but he has been like that for a while. There isn't a spark to be doused, anyway, and he decides distantly that he is glad for it.

The detached, confident medic-nin returns, and she isn't Sakura-san anymore. She's Konoha's Chief Medic-nin, and Iruka isn't really sure that he recognizes her either. "No, Iruka-sensei. I didn't." She inspects in silence for a while, breaking the quiet only to bark instructions and notes at her assistant. When she is finished with her diagnosis, she turns briskly to leave before pausing. "You know, I don't think even Naruto would recognize you at the moment. Perhaps it's the eyes. Good luck on your next mission. I don't want to see you here again."

And he doesn't think that her last sentence was spoken in tender wishes towards his good health, but he doesn't care even a little bit. If he reminds her of her dead team, then he will try to avoid her. It won't be too hard, and it doesn't matter.

Nothing matters, really. Not even the death of that laughter in his eyes, because what he is doing needs to be done. It needs needs needs to be done, and he's the best man to do it. He reminds himself that this (the war) is partially his fault anyway. If he had just sucked it up and officially become the Jounin/Special Jounin/ANBU he is, he could have done something - completed that crucial mission that other Leaf-nin died on, stolen that one scroll, discovered that traitor in ANBU.

He could have done so much. Instead, he trained little kids in the basics of being a ninja. Sure, he saved a few from snapping and turning on Konoha - sure, he drilled words like honor and loyalty into them, but did it make a difference?

Iruka glances around him and shakes his right hand a couple of times to fling the excess blood off of it. There are three corpses in a pile to his right; one of the Rock nins Iruka killed still has his hand sticking through Hanabi's chest. Under a clump of leafless trees, Anko is screaming at Kurenai (don't you dare fucking die, you weird-eyed bitch! don't you dare don't you dare - don't you FUCKING DARE!) as the red-eyed Jounin bleeds out into the mud, staining the fallen leaves crimson. He and Anko will soon be the only Leaf nins breathing in this blood-soaked clearing, and there are five enemy shinobi hiding somewhere nearby and waiting to ambush them.

Did it make a difference?

He used to believe that his kids would be the world - would be the future - would save Konoha's shaky peace, but there are so many dead that the Hokage (who is it? Shikamaru?) doesn't even bother to build new memorial stones. Most of Iruka's old students are dead. There are so many dead that it would take two hours for Iruka to list just the ones he knew (loved), and Iruka welcomes that final nudge into the abyss of blood that has been so patiently waiting for him.

He swirls into the berserker madness and thinks: No, it didn't make a difference.

Iruka misses the academy.






A/N: I dunno, guys...Is this too OOC? I figured that with the circumstances, it might be somewhat plausible, but... Tch. Whatever. I like it. -

I'll be going out of town this Saturday and won't come back until Wednesday - and then it's Thanksgiving and my weekend-long birthday bash. So I may not post anything else until the week after Thanksgiving. Sorry, all who are waiting for their request to be posted - I plan on being plastered for a long period of time (my relatives will surround me), and writing when smashed does not usually work out well.

What does the title mean, and what language is it? Answer correctly (and be the first) and receive a one-shot written on request - the who, the what, a line, whatever.

Happy Early Thanksgiving!