A/N: Wow! It's another one-shot! Hmm, I haven't posted any of these in a while...Anyways, this is a short story that I wrote a while ago. It's just some random idea that popped into my head and forced me to write it (grins) Please read, review, and enjoy! Ja ne!

Summary: Have you ever wondered how Iruka got his scar? Ever wondered why he decided to become an Academy teacher? Who knew that the story behind it was this intense?

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. The song "Here Without You" belongs to Three Doors Down.

Claimer: I do own Ryoko, Rei, and the plotline.

Thanks to my beta reader, BattleStations!


Here Without You


"Come on we can do this!" a young girl called out to her teammates as the three jumped from branch to branch through what was known as the Forest of Death. The three were young Genin just in their early teens. They were taking the Chuunin Exam for the first time, having not been nominated their first two years as Genin.

"All we have to do is find a team with an earth scroll!" the girl continued, obviously excited despite the dangers of the exams.

The girl was fourteen years old just like her teammates, but was the only girl and also shortest on her team, standing at barely five feet. She had wild shoulder length dark purple hair that seemed to fly every which way. Her eyes were a deep emerald green that sparkled with life and joy. A big grin stretched across her face, clearly showing her excitement if one missed it her voice.

A hundred days had made me older
Since the last time that I saw your pretty face

The girl's clothes consisted of a pair of blue pants and an orange tank-top. She had a navy blue trench coat over that and pair of orange shinobi sandals on her feet instead of the common dark blue. On her hands were a pair of orange fingerless gloves. If one asked her about all of the orange that she wore, she would simply grin and reply, "Orange is the anti-angst color. Kami knows that there are already enough shinobi and kunoichi that go around wearing all black." She was definitely one of the more interesting Genin of her year.

Next to the girl, a boy sighed. "We'll find someone soon enough, Ryoko," he said to the girl. At the same time, he also patted his pocket, just to make sure that the heaven scroll he was holding was still there.

Ryoko just grinned at him. "But unless it's now, Iruka, it's never soon enough!" she joked.

Iruka shook his head exasperatedly, his hair bobbing above his head from where it was held up in what was often referred to by others as a "pineapple style". Leave it to Ryoko to try to lighten the mood. Iruka himself was wearing a pair of dark blue pants and a black shirt with a black fishnet shirt underneath it. He had the standard blue shinobi sandals on.

A thousand lights had made me colder
And I don't think I can look at this the same

The third member of the trio, another boy, just ignored the two. He had long red hair that reached nearly to his ankles that was held back in a braid. His chocolate brown eyes were staring calmly ahead, fitting in perfectly with his kind, almost girly, face. In fact, it was more than once that he had been mistaken for a girl. His baggy olive green shirt and brown pants that hid his figure didn't exactly help either.

Ryoko laughed again, having seen Iruka's exasperation. She had seemed to have taken it upon herself to annoy Iruka to death. Or rather, as she herself put it, "Get rid of whatever pole was shoved up his ass". Over all, the two tended to end up in arguments quite often. And then of course, Rei, their third teammate, would come in to break up their fights, only to end up arguing with them as well. It was a whole love-hate relationship that they had going on. Still the three of them worked together well when it really came down to it, which was what really mattered in the shinobi world.

Iruka growled at Ryoko's obvious amusement and was about to retort back when Rei, finally fed up with the two of them, snapped out, "Quiet! There could be enemy shinobi nearby and, if not, then someone will certainly know where we are now thanks to you two!"

And all these miles that separate
They disappear now when I'm dreaming of your face

Iruka promptly snapped his mouth closed while Ryoko pouted. "Ah, come on!" she whined, directing her attention to Rei. "What does it matter if they hear us? They'll either head the other direction or try to engage us, which wouldn't be a bad thing since we need a scroll!"

Rei sighed, dragging a hand down his face even as the three continued to leap through the trees. "Haven't you ever heard of stealth?"

"Huh?"

Iruka and Rei deadpanned. "Exactly."

Ryoko mock glared at the two boys, pouting again. "Oh come on! So what if I'm a bit impatient to find a scroll? The sooner we find one the sooner we get to head towards the tower, right? And that means we'll get to start the 3rd exam and be one step closer to achieving Chunin status! And then I'll finally be able to get away from you," she said, sticking her tongue out at Iruka.

I'm here without you baby
But you're still on my lonely mind
I think about you baby
And I dream about you all the time
I'm here without you baby
But you're still with me in my dreams
And tonight it's only you and me

Iruka rolled his eyes once more, trying to ignore her immaturity. Rei twitched slightly, holding himself back from saying anything in reply.

"Well, come on," Rei said after a moment of silence. "Why don't we just start to make our way towards the tower now? That way we'll be sure to find some other team on the way there."

Ryoko and Iruka nodded in agreement and Ryoko grinned brightly in response. "Alright!"


"Come one, Ryoko! Wake up!"

With a jerk, Ryoko came back into the world of the living...And in the process started to roll off of the large branch she had been sleeping on. With an undignified yelp, Ryoko quickly grabbed onto to a small side branch, just barely saving herself from falling a few hundred feet to the invisible ground below.

"Gee, thanks," Ryoko snapped, her voice dripping with sarcasm as she pulled herself back up onto the wide branch. She continued to glare angrily--and sleepily--at her dark haired teammate while still fully waking up.

"It's your fault for not waking up when we first called," Iruka sniffed, turning away from the girl. "Now come on. We're going to have breakfast and the start heading towards the tower again."

Grumbling under her breath, Ryoko complied and started packing up her bedding. The three of them had been in the forest for nearly four days now and still hadn't seen neither hide nor hair of any other teams. They were only a few hours from the tower now though, so someone should pop up soon.

These miles just keep rolling
As the people leave their way to say hello

Pulling her pack onto her shoulder, Ryoko trotted over to where her two male teammates were sitting a few yards away. "Hey," she said. "What are we going to eat for-"

Abruptly, Ryoko noticed that something was wrong. Acting completely on instinct, she leap backwards, just barely missing a kunai as it sped through the air and dug itself into the wood on the branch right where she had been standing. The three Genin stared at the kunai in surprise for a moment before they all suddenly noticed that there was an explosive tag attached to it. Quickly scrambling away to a safe distance from the tag, they all immediately pulled out some kunai and shuriken and moved into defensive stances.

Growling angrily at the fact that she had been targeted first, Ryoko's head whipped back and forth, trying to find the perpetrators. She didn't have to wait long as suddenly three figures leapt from the foliage in front of them and engaged them.

Once again acting mostly on instinct, Ryoko pulled her kunai up to parry with the girl who had jumped in front of her. The girl seemed to be about the same age as Ryoko and had short blonde hair and deep brown eyes. Judging from the engraved rock symbol on the hitai-ate on the girl's forehead, she was an Iwa-nin. And, of course, the other girl was nearly six inches taller than Ryoko. But then, most people her age were taller than her. Damn tall people.

Pushing the kunoichi away with a sudden burst of strength, Ryoko quickly slashed downwards and then threw her kunai at the girl, forcing the blonde to jump backwards. Ryoko then wasted no time and quickly began to form a set on hand seals, finally landing on the tora seal.

"Katon: Gokakyo no jutsu (Fire Style: Grand Fireball Technique)!"

Eyes widening upon the seeing the large fireballs suddenly flying towards her, the Iwa-nin quickly formed a set of seals and yelled out, "Doton: Doryuheki (Earth Style: Earth Style Wall)!"

Instantaneously, a wall of stone and mud rose up in front of the girl, dispersing the fireballs, but also cracking under the pressure and crumbling into dust. With the dust hiding the surrounding area, Ryoko let out a feral grin and then pulled out a few blades before leaping into the smoke and towards the blonde kunoichi.

And I've heard this life is overrated
But I hope it gets better as we go

Meanwhile, a few yards away, the two boys were also in combat, each fighting one on one with a pair shinobi. Grunting, Iruka ducked under the swipe of the Iwa-nin's katana. He had only his kunai and shuriken to use in defense, no long blade like the opposing shinobi, but it seemed to just barely be enough to defend himself.

On the other hand, Rei was fighting in a Taijutsu battle with his enemy. Both seemed to be about evenly matched, but Rei, being just over six feet tall, had a longer reach that the 5 foot 5 Iwa-nin, and thus had a slight advantage. Slowly but surely he was pushing the other shinobi back and forcing him to defend more than attack.

This fighting went on for a while as all six of the Chuunin hopefuls slowly began to tire out. Finally, they jumped back from each so that each team was facing the other. All of them were breathing hard.

Slowly, Ryoko clenched and unclenched her fist, trying to get some more feeling back into her arm. It was already going slightly numb from the bloody gash on her upper arm. The blonde Iwa-nin she had been fighting was a bit worse off however, and several bruises were already beginning to form on her face and arms. Ryoko's teammates and the other two Iwa Genin all had small cuts, bruises, and other such lacerations covering their skin.

"Damn it," snarled the shinobi Iruka had been fighting. Judging by the way he was holding himself, he seemed to be the leader of the team. He flicked some of his brown hair out of his eyes and glared at the three Konoha-nin.

I'm here without you baby
But you're still on my lonely mind
I think about you baby
And I dream about you all the time
I'm here without you baby
But you're still with me in my dreams
And tonight girl it's only you

Ryoko saw the shinobi tense as he prepared to attack Iruka once more. He was so focused however, that he left a slight of an opening in his defense. It wasn't much, but still more than enough. With a feral grin, Ryoko quickly began making handseals. She had one technique that she had been working on mastering that would work perfectly. Unfortunately she didn't have it perfect yet, and it used quite a bit of chakra, but it should just do the trick.

"Mokuton Hijutsu: Jukai Koutan (Wood Release Secret Technique: Birth of Dense Woodland)!"

Instantaneously, a small--in comparison to the trees around them--tree grew from the branch that they were standing on, the wood wriggling as if it were alive. Ryoko used her chakra to control the tree and had the tree's branch extend and surround the three Iwa Genin, effectively capturing them. The tree fought back of course, using weapons to slash at the tree's bark. As soon as a gash was made in the wood however, the wood healed itself.

Ryoko panted as she dropped down to one knee. That technique had taken a hell of a lot of chakra, leaving her with only a small amount in her reserves. Ryoko quickly stopped feeding the tree chakra, causing it to stop growing, not wanting her reserves to be completely drained; that would kill her. The Iwa-nin would be able to break out soon without the tree automatically healing itself, but the technique had still done its job and bought Team 7, Ryoko's team, some time.

From where they stood next to her, Iruka and Rei stared down at their purple haired teammate in shock. They know about her...gift...with plants and trees, as well as how she had been training under another shinobi to control it, but they hadn't known that she'd learned a technique so soon.

Ryoko grinned up at the two. "Are we just going to stand her and wait?" she asked jokingly.

And everything I know
And anywhere I go

That snapped the two out of whatever trance they had been in and they quickly leapt toward the tree, just as the Iwa-nin began to break free. Ryoko struggled to her feet behind them, her breath coming out in large gasps.

'Damn it!' she snarled to herself. 'I think I used too much chakra!'

Upon hearing a clash of metal, Ryoko's head quickly snapped up. The leader of the Iwa-nin and Iruka were up against each other again. The Iwa-nin's katana was only just being held back by one of Iruka's kunai and sparks were flying. A few feet behind the two was the unconscious body of the blonde kunoichi.

Ryoko sighed in relief at the sight of her. The tree must have knocked her out. 'One less person to deal with...' Ryoko thought off handedly.

The third Iwa Genin--the one that Rei had had to fight earlier--was standing off to the side and breathing deeply. Rei didn't attack him, but made sure that he didn't interfere with Iruka's fight. He didn't really look like he could fight back anyway, if the blood trickling down his chin was any indication.

With a curse Iruka suddenly flew backwards, causing Ryoko's head to snap towards him again. Iruka started to push himself back up from where he had landed on his back, but the brown haired Iwa-nin acted before he could.

Quickly forming some handseals, the Iwa Genin used a jutsu that none of the three Konoha-nin had ever seen before to make stone latch onto Iruka's wrists and ankles, anchoring him to the tree. With a cruel smirk the shinobi then sent a barrage of kunai and shuriken at Iruka, who could do nothing more but stare in horror as the projectiles approached.

It gets hard but it won't take away my love
And when the last one falls

Ryoko's brain moved a mile a minute as this happened. Rei was too far away to do anything, but Ryoko herself was only a few feet from Iruka. If she moved quickly enough...

Her body completely on autopilot, Ryoko drove towards Iruka's prone body and not a second later the sickening squelching sound of metal meeting flesh filled the air.

Iruka eyes widened in horror as he watch his teammate dive in front of him, shielding him from the attack. Only a single shuriken made it past her body, slicing the bridge of his nose. Iruka's heart started beating wildly as Ryoko slowly opened her brilliant green eyes. She grinned weakly at him, a bit of blood dribbling down from the corner of her mouth.

"You should...be more...careful...'Ruka-kun," she murmured as she fell forward. Iruka quickly sat up and caught her, not even noticing that the stone that had held him down had crumbled.

"Ryoko!" he called, panicked. "Ryoko!"

The purple haired kunoichi opened her mouth to answer him, but before she could get anything out she abruptly started coughing. When she removed the hand she had used to cover her mouth, blood was splattered across it.

"Oh Kami, Ryoko," Iruka moaned. "Why the hell did you have to do that?"

"'Cause I love you, idiot," Ryoko chuckled weakly before her breathing steadied and she fell into blissful unconsciousness.

Iruka froze in shock for a moment before he came back to his senses. Carefully, he laid Ryoko face down, fighting the bile that rose into his throat at the sight of her back. The back of her trench coat and shirt were in tatters and soaked with her blood. Numerous blades were still biting into her skin. Quickly checking her pulse, Iruka was very relieved to feel that Ryoko was only unconscious. There was still time.

When it's all said and done
It gets hard but it won't take away my love

Pushing away any depressing and guilty thoughts that were currently clouding his mind, Iruka looked up to where the Iwa-nin had been and was not at all surprised to find that they were gone. Rei had been in the best shape out of all of them and had probably easily chased them off.

Said red haired shinobi was walking towards his two teammates. An earth scroll was in his hand ('Probably from the Iwa team,' Iruka thought) and his face was looking very somber. He knelt down on the other side of Ryoko.

"We should bandage this quickly," Rei said as he pulled out his medicine kit. Iruka nodded numbly, still in shock.


A few hours later Team 7 was stumbling down the halls of the tower in the middle of the Forest of Death. Ryoko was finally conscious, but couldn't walk and so was being carried on Iruka's back. The three didn't say anything and their mood seemed pretty grim.

A couple minutes later they entered a large room. The rest of the teams that had completed the second exam were standing in the middle of the room and the Sandaime Hokage and several other shinobi stood in front of them. Quietly, the three of them made their way to stand with the other Genin, ignoring the looks that people shot at Ryoko.

I'm here without you baby
But you're still on my lonely mind

Soon after they arrived the Hokage began to speak, giving a speech about the purpose of the Chuunin Exams. Iruka shifted uncomfortably on his feet as he listened, knowing that Ryoko needed to get to the hospital soon. It seemed like forever before the Hokage finally finished.

"Those who do not believe that they are fit enough to continue onto the next part of the Chuunin Exams, please forfeit now," the Hokage said.

Immediately, Ryoko weakly raised her hand, "I forfeit."

The Sandaime nodded in understanding and motioned for some medic-nin to come and get the kunoichi. They did so quickly, bringing a stretcher with them. Iruka helped to lay Ryoko down on the stretcher, but hesitated as he let her go. Quickly making a decision in his head, Iruka leaned close to Ryoko.

I think about you baby
And I dream about you all the time

"I...I love you too, Ryo-chan," he murmured into her ear quietly enough for only her to hear. Ryoko smiled softly up at him, a gentle, loving look in her eyes.

It would be only a few hours later that Iruka would learn that Ryoko died on the way to the hospital.


6 Years Later

With a melancholy look on his face, Iruka stared down at the tombstone before him. He knelt down before it and gently traced the letters of the name engraved on it.

'Ryoko...'

Iruka let out a sigh. It had been six years, six long years, since she had died. Neither Rei nor he had passed the Chuunin Exams that year; they had both been too caught up in grief. When Iruka had finally passed, a year and half later, he did missions for a little while before becoming an Academy teacher. Ryoko had always wanted to teach at the Academy when she was promoted to Chuunin and Iruka couldn't help but feel that if Ryoko couldn't carry it out, then it was the least that he could do for her.

Iruka fingered the scar across the bridge of his nose. Though he knew that he shouldn't, Iruka couldn't help but feel guilty about what had happened. After all, Ryoko had sacrificed herself for him and all he had gotten out of it was a single scar. In a way, Iruka was glad that the cut had turned into a scar instead of fully healing; this way he had a reminder of what had happened and why he was a shinobi. Ryoko was the love of his life, even if he hadn't realized it until just before she died. The saying, "You don't know what you have until you loose it" was truer than anyone could have ever imagined.

With another sigh, Iruka set down the bouquet of flowers that he had brought with him in front of the grave. He always brought the same ones each year when he visited: thirteen white roses with a single red one in the center. The white ones were for the years he never really noticed her and the red one was for the year that he finally did.

I'm here without you baby
But you're still with me in my dreams

"Iruka-sensei! Iruka-sensei!" a voice suddenly called, breaking through the silence of the graveyard. Turning around, Iruka was greeted with the sight of an orange blur right before something latched onto his leg. Blinking as he looked down, Iruka couldn't help but smile when he saw Naruto's face grinning brightly up at him.

"What are you doing here, Naruto-kun?" Iruka asked with a chuckle as he ruffled the eight year old boy's hair.

"You promised that you'd buy me ramen!" Naruto cried, bouncing up and down on his heels in excitement.

Iruka smiled down at him. "Yeah, I guess I did."

It was truly shocking to Iruka how much Naruto was like Ryoko used to be. If he didn't know any better, he'd say that they were related. He seemed to be a carbon copy of her personality, from his loud cheerfulness, to the way he dressed, to his height--or lack thereof--, to his obsession with ramen, and even down to that same joyful sparkle in his eye. It was a bit weird, but also strangely comforting.

'I lost Ryo-chan, but I won't loose Naruto,' Iruka thought as he rested his hand on Naruto's shoulder. "Come on, Naruto," he said to the blonde. "Let's go get that ramen."

As he walked away with the yelling blonde, Iruka threw one last glance over his shoulder at grave behind him.

'Ryoko, I love you.'

And tonight girl it's only you and me