Title: A Fine Line Between

Author: Sarcastic.Shinobi

Fandom: Naruto

Genre(s): Suspense, friendship, humor, angst (hope your head isn't exploding…)

Rating: M (violence, themes)

Pairing: Possible eventual Iruka x Kakashi (Don't like, don't read. You've been warned)

Distribution: Please do not archive or repost w/o permission

Disclaimer: Don't own Naruto, don't make any $ writing about Naruto. T.T

Summary: When Kakashi and Iruka are taken as prisoners, they must depend on each other in order to survive. With their weakened states, if the prison doesn't kill them, the journey home might. Rated for violence and themes. Possible eventual KakaIru.

Author Notes: Can you say artistic license? This story isn't really placed at a particular time in the Naruto 'verse. I haven't gotten through the series yet, so please excuse minor errors but feel free to point our major, ugly, glaring ones that I should change. Haven't completely decided about making this a KakaIru, and if so, to include citrus or not; it could go either way and I would be happy; please let me know what YOU want to see! Now, on to the story!


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Prologue

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A crack of lightning reflected clear and bright against the glass of the Godaime's window. Shizune let out a small yelp and stiffened, head whipping to the direction of the sound.

"You can tell how far away the bolts are, you know," Tsunade said absently, unfurling a mission scroll. "Since the crack and the flash were so close together, the strike may have occurred in the forest… Maybe even somewhere in town."

Shizune blinked, looking to her master, but said nothing. She was not used to the storms. Indeed, it was unusual for the Fire Country to experience such inclement weather.

"A-rank… and right in time for the holidays…" Tsunade breathed. Her voice sounded heavy and tired. Shizune, already unnerved by the storm, felt a shudder run up her spine as she realized that the indomitable Tsunade seemed… fatigued. The blonde woman lifted a polished hand and massaged her temple. She dipped her head as she read the scroll. "Probably best-suited for a two-ninja team. A point and a lookout. Kakashi, as always, is a good choice." Tsunade turned slightly in her chair, light brown eyes hazy and staring, lost in thought. "Shizune?"

The raven-haired woman straightened. "Yes, Tsunade-sama?"

"Have you read these mission specs yet?"

"Yes, Tsunade…" Shizune had handed her the scroll, opened, just moments earlier. Of course she had read it. Tsunade was so tired that she hadn't pieced that together? Worried, she focused on Tsunade again.

"Who do you think would be a good choice to partner with Kakashi for this one?"

Shizune blinked. "Who do… I…. think?"

Tsunade lifted her gaze to rest on her assistant. The rain pummeled the window now, sheet after sheet.

Shizune ran through the details of the mission mentally. "I… don't know. It seems so dangerous, sending only two ninjas to spy on such a large gathering… Kakashi-san will need someone to help sort and retain the information… Someone serious, with a calculating mind…"

Tsunade turned back to her desk, considering Shizune's input. "Sounds like a teacher." She looked at Shizune over her shoulder. "What do you think of Iruka-sensei?"

Shizune stopped and thought. "Well… he is a very good teacher, and, according to the Academy, exceptionally clever. His students do well, and seem to admire him… But…"

"But?"

"He's only a chunin. And he seems… too soft for what may transpire on this mission."

"Too soft?" Tsunade issued a low chuckle. "Perhaps you've never seen him on a bad day." Suddenly animated, she flicked her long sleeves out of the way and resealed the scroll with a bit of wax and her official stamp.

"No, Iruka-sensei it is. Raccoon?"

A soft footfall, barely audible over the rain, sounded as a ninja seemed to step out of the shadows draping the front of Tsunade's office. The ninja was clad in bulky, matte armor, various instruments of destruction strapped securely in place. A porcelain mask with painted whiskers and dark eyes hung over the ninja's face. The ANBU member had been so quiet, so nonexistent, that Shizune had almost forgotten that she was there.

"Please take this to Hatake Kakashi, and instruct him to collect and brief Umino Iruka," Tsunade commanded, offering the scroll. The ANBU member wordlessly took the scroll and bowed. There was a flurry of a hand-movement, and the darkness seemed to envelop the ninja. Another flash of lightning illuminated the corner, revealing her absence.

Shizune shuddered. "Those ANBU operatives… They are rather frightening."

"You think so?" Tsunade lazily reached across her desk and opened another scroll. "I find I quite like them."