Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
A/N: This is a sequel of sorts to 'Birthday Suit', of course. Takes place a few weeks after the first story. Mega props to singeivoire for helping me escape when I write myself into a corner. She wrote a couple of paragraphs for me when I got stuck. 3
"What's wrong with letting the little rats celebrate a birthday party?" Tsunade slurred, waving her hand a little too near a stack of papers on her desk. A few pages slithered to the floor.
Umino Iruka shifted on his feet. Meeting personally with the Hokage when she was sober was bad enough but drunk?
"With all due respect, Tsunade-sama, I hardly think that Konohamaru's birthday should be a village-wide celebration… But besides this, my classroom is not the place for a party—"
"Bah!" Tsunade spluttered, knocking a few more sheets to the floor. " 'S'only place for a partd… pahhhrr… a shindig. Keeps the youngsters—hiccup—in one place. Not out on th' streets. 'S bad idea. Verrry bad."
Feeling desperate now, Iruka locked his hands behind his back, so he wouldn't have them clenched in front of the unstable Hokage. "If they have party there, I have to be there, Tsunade-sama, and there's just no way that one lone nin like myself can keep a bunch of prepubescent teens under control." And, he thought bitterly, the other Academy teachers were bound to be conveniently away on missions or suddenly contract mysterious illnesses
Tsunade eyed him over her precariously leaning stack of paperwork, her eyes shrewd behind the glassy drunkenness. "Then what're you doin' teaching' at th'Academy, Iruka-sensei?"
Damn. Iruka flinched and fished around for another excuse. None was forthcoming. Oh sure he could plead illness or injury—fake or otherwise—and not have to attend Konohamaru's big birthday bash. What was so special about thirteen anyway? But then again, if he didn't oversee the party, he might very well come back to a pile of rubble, not an Academy building…
Iruka jerked back in surprise and the stack of papers on Tsunade's desk toppled to the floor in a flurry of white.
"Hai, Tsunade-sama!" The Hokage's assistant rushed through the door. Iruka avoided her eye, feeling heat creep up the back of his neck. He'd seen Shizune around the village in the month after his appendix surgery, but not for any length of time, so really the last substantial memory he had of her was her hands clinging to his pants as she tried to yank them off…
"I'm—hiccup—givin' you a mission," announced the Hokage magnanimously.
"A mission?" Shizune's tone of voice faded to wariness as she undoubtedly took in the Hokage's behavior and Iruka's despondent expression.
"Yesh… You and Iruka-chan—"
Iruka winced at the childish honorific. He was beginning to miss the regular, scary, but sober Hokage.
"—will attend the Honorable Brat's birthday party to provide moral uptightness—"
"Don't you mean, 'uprightness'?" Shizune offered timidly.
Tsunade narrowed her hazel eyes. "I said 'uptightness' and that's what I mean! You know, prudery and… and no pervious—"
"I think she means 'perverted'," Iruka said out of the corner of his mouth to Shizune.
"—behavior! That sort of schmoo. Sheesh! Where was I?"
"Ah yes. You will provide moral uptightness so the youngins' don't get into any mischieffffs. Now lemme alone. I'm out of saké."
Iruka grabbed Shizune from the path of the paperweight that Tsunade lobbed at her, and they both beat a hasty retreat from the office.
"So when is Konohamaru-kun's birthday party?" Shizune said when they reached the relative safety of the hallway.
"Tomorrow night," Iruka said with a sigh. "No school tomorrow, thank goodness. I'd better go to the Academy tonight and clear away the desks… or anything breakable."
"Want help?" Shizune tucked a strand of hair behind her ears. "My shift is over at the hospital. I'm on call, but I should still be able to get some work done."
"Yeah, that'd great! Thanks!" Iruka said, brightening. The task didn't seem so daunting now. Two pairs of hands were better than one after all. The fact that Shizune was single, pretty, and they would be alone had nothing whatsoever to do with his lightened mood. Yeah.
Their walk to the Academy was companionable in the cool breeze of Konoha's winter. Iruka recalled a humorous incident from the classroom the week before, and Shizune mentioned a story from when she and Tsuande had traveled together in the early days of her apprenticeship.
"… and so the man—a full two meters tall—glared at Tsunade-sama like he'd never been refused before.
I tapped her on the shoulder. 'Tsuande-sama, shouldn't we leave?'
'Get lost, little girl,' the man growled. 'This is an adult discussion. Pint-sized though she is, I promise not to hurt her," he sneered.
I looked up at him with surprise. 'Sir,' I said, 'I'm not worried about my lady's safety. It's yours!'"
Iruka laughed. "I take it he learned his lesson the hard way?"
"The crater where he landed was still there when we traveled back through the same town a few weeks later," Shizune mused with a smile.
Iruka chuckled again as he unlocked the door to the Academy. The room was dark and silent, oddly so, it seemed to Iruka. The school was meant to be filled with life, the noise of students learning to be shinobi. He flicked on the lights.
"I wish I'd had the opportunity to travel like you," he said, gathering chairs from their overturned positions on the desks. "Even when I was still on a three-man squad, we always got missions within the Fire Country. Then I became a teacher and that was that." He shrugged and carried the stack of chairs he'd accumulated to shove against the wall.
He heard a stifled sound from Shizune and looked over at her. She jumped when she saw him looking and stuffed something behind her back.
"What was that?"
"Nothing!" She said too quickly. Iruka folded his arms across his chest.
"Shizune-san, really. I've been a teacher for four and a half years now. I can smell a rat a mile away."
She laughed, cheeks pink, and brought out her hand from behind her back. She held a fistful of papers that appeared to have crude drawings on them in the unmistakable style of a youngster who's having too much fun to actually care what it looks like.
"I'm sorry, Iruka-san, but when I saw them poking out of the desk, I couldn't resist a peek."
Iruka glanced at the desk in question: Konohamaru's. He looked at the drawings Shizune still held out with new trepidation and took them, almost reluctantly, from her hand.
The top one was of Iruka lecturing at the front while all of the students snoozed. A little speech bubble above his cartoon-self's head said, "Blah, blah, blah and other boring stuff."
The second was more lively; a picture of Iruka laying on the floor in a mangled heap while someone, presumably Konohamaru, tried out his version of Naruto's "sexy no jutsu."
"Well…" Iruka said, clearing his throat and hoping in vain that his face wasn't as red as it felt. "I'm glad he's going to be a ninja, not an artist."
"Some of them aren't that bad," Shizune said, coming to stand beside him. "I like the one of you in the pirate hat…"
Iruka suddenly forgot what his arms were for. Shizune had leaned in very close to flip through the pages, close enough that a strand of her hair was almost touching his cheek. She smelled like jasmine and hospital soap.
He should do something or say something. Yeah, say something charming and witty and calculated to bring an admiring laugh.
"I like pirates," he blurted out.
But Shizune apparently hadn't heard him; she backed away, hand going to her waist, and Iruka heard the beep of her pager.
"I'm sorry to leave so soon, Iruka-san, but there's a team coming in from a mission and they have injuries, maybe severe. Looks like they might need an extra hand for surgery."
"Of course. Don't worry about it. Good luck," he said with a smile that felt more like a grimace. "I'll see you tomorrow then?"
She paused in the act of exiting the sliding door to the classroom and poked her head back in. "It's a date," she grinned.
Iruka had handled many unexpected things in his four years as Academy instructor. Kids vomiting in the middle of class, jutsus gone haywire, rampant disobedience, hundreds of them going through the first awful stages of puberty at the same time, and he managed to take it all with the nerves of steel and will of fire that Konoha shinobi were known for.
"IF I SEE ONE MORE PERSON WALKING ON THE CEILING—!" Iruka's bellowing was interrupted by a tap on his shoulder. The last few errant ceiling-walkers nimbly hopped from the ceiling to the floor, though how they found a place to land with all the people crowding around was amazing.
"What?" He turned when the tapping resumed, eyebrow twitching.
"Iruka-sensei, I don't feel so good," said a green-faced Udon, supported by Moegi.
Great. "What happened?"
Moegi shook her head. "Nothing! We were just playing parachute when he started moaning about his stomach."
Parachute? Iruka decided it was better not to ask. "What did you eat?"
Udon looked even greener as Moegi rattled off a list of grease-saturated foods that someone had had catered in for the party.
Iruka sighed. "No wonder you're sick. Moegi-chan, get a chair for him on the side and have him sit down. If you see Shizune-san, tell her what's wrong." He glanced at Udon's white lips. "But get a trash can for him first." He clapped the boy on the shoulder. "Better out than in."
He glanced around the room, glad that he'd thought to drape the chalkboard with a roll of huge paper. The idea had been to dissuade the party-goers from writing lewd, ridiculous messages on the chalkboard and encourage their creative bent toward birthday messages and well-wishes to Konohamaru. So far it seemed to have worked.
He wondered where Shizune had gotten to. Earlier he had noticed that a bunch of the young girls had latched onto her, dragging her into some sort of game involving a blindfold, an egg, and six very giggly girls. They were nowhere in sight now. Iruka glanced back at the classroom… they seemed reasonably well-behaved at the moment.
He exited the classroom and trotted down the hall, stopping at the closets and empty classrooms to evict older party-goers who had escaped for a bit of… one-on-one party time.
"Okay, out! And no finding another closet to hide in; I will find you." Iruka shooed a couple of sheepish, disheveled students out of a broom cupboard and closed the door after them. He finished that hallway, but turning a corner to finish his rounds in the next, he suddenly and inexplicably lost his footing. His feet slipped out from under him, and he was forced to grab the wall before he completely tumbled on to his behind.
"Look out!" A keening adolescent cry reverberated down the hallway. No sooner had Iruka caught his balance than Konohamaru rocketed down the hallway toward his teacher, his scarf streaking out behind him like the tail of a comet. He was running—no, he was sliding down the hallway at such a rate that Iruka had to channel chakra to his hand on the wall to keep from getting bowled over as the boy passed. A crowd of students was at the opposite end of the hallway, cheering and groaning as the birthday boy collided with the far wall and fell in a greasy heap.
Gingerly, Iruka leaned over to get a fingerful of the grease-slick that Konohamaru had left behind. He felt a vein tick in his temple as he took a tentative whiff of the stuff. "What did you—is this—what is this stuff?"
"Lard!" A kid with a side ponytail held up a partially empty tin of fat triumphantly over her head. "We found it in the mess hall!"
"And greasing up the hallway to slide down it seemed like a good idea HOW?" On each word Iruka's voice rose slightly in volume. The hallway quieted instantly, and the girl lowered the can of lard, the smile gone from her face.
"CLEAN. IT. UP. NOW." The severity of Iruka's tone was somewhat undermined by the fact that he was still trying not to fall over in the lard-slicked hallway. All the same, it did the job as the kids scrambled to the janitor's closet.
The greasy, chastened students morosely filled up several buckets of mostly soap. There were some shenanigans with the resultant bubbles, but Iruka managed to look cross enough to squelch the horseplay before it got out of hand. After seeing that the cleanup effort was well underway, Iruka resumed his search for the still-absent Shizune. Surely nothing good was going on if she was waylaid for this long. Finally, he arrived at his office and slid the door open. Sure enough, Shizune was within, draped over the small couch he had crammed into a tiny corner. Arms and legs akimbo, she looked like someone had simply tossed her into the room without looking, and by sheer luck she had hit the couch.
"Shizune-san?" She didn't respond. Iruka walked over.
"Shizune?" He said again, and her eyes snapped open.
"Yes, Tsunade-sama?" She tried to stand up and promptly fell forward. Iruka caught her and sat her back down on the couch.
"You okay?" he said, laughing.
Shizune rubbed her eyes. "I was dreaming that Tsunade-sama was yelling for me." She yawned and blushed. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have abandoned you like that, but those girls wore me out. I had to escape for a few minutes… I didn't mean to fall asleep." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, fighting another yawn. "But I had a late surgery last night and then had to get up early to do some paperwork at the office, so I'm a little…" the yawn escaped, "a little tired."
"It's okay," Iruka said, rubbing his own face tiredly. "I know how you feel. Just sitting here is enough to make me realize how exhausted I am."
"We should… get… up…" murmured Shizune, her head lolling back on the couch cushion.
"Mmm hmm." Iruka fiddled with a button on his vest. This was it. An opportunity….
"Do you… I mean, I would understand if you didn't want to, after all I wouldn't if I was you… wait! That's not what I meant…ah… doyouwannagooutwithme?" The words escaped Iruka in a rush.
"Mmm hmm," Shizune murmured and, then leaned over until her head was resting against his shoulder.
This, Iruka thought, is possibly the best moment of my life. He didn't dare move, for fear of waking her up again. He'd give her a few more minutes… and if his hand slipped around her waist, it was only so she wouldn't fall off the couch. Yeah, that's it.
"I don't think this is a good idea," muttered Udon, sniffing.
"Oh hush, Udon-kun," Moegi said with a giggle as Konohamaru methodically set out his markers in front of the huge strip of paper that Iruka-sensei had hung over the chalkboard.
"Oh no. This is the best idea ever." Konohamaru closed his eyes and pictured the scene he had just witnessed. He then cracked his knuckles, uncapped a marker and got to work.
Shizune woke up suddenly, as though someone had said her name. The first thing she clapped eyes on was blonde hair, narrowed eyes, and way too much cleavage.
"Aaaaaaugh!" Shizune flailed, smacking a face next to her. The face groaned. Shizune shrieked again. "Iruka-san!" Remembering the scene she had woken up to, Shizune shot off the couch. "Tsunade-sama!"
"Wha-whuu…" Iruka squinted and groaned in pain. His eyes widened as he caught sight of the Hokage, and he too shot off the couch. "Tsunade-hime! We were just… it was only… how long have you… what time is it?" Iruka finally seemed to settle on a question and checked his watch.
"I've sent the cretins home, if that's what you're wondering." Tsunade leaned back and folded her arms across her chest. She seemed… unsettlingly calm about the whole situation. Shizune checked her hair and smoothed her clothes self-consciously, almost expecting to be missing a limb. Calm Tsunade was not typical—and possibly dangerous.
"I'm sorry—we didn't intend t-to fall asleep. Forgive us pl—" Shizune's apologies and conciliatory bow were cut off by a lazy wave of Tsunade's hand.
"You will make it up to me shortly." Tsunade's enigmatic comment sent a flutter through Shizune's gut. "For now, why don't you follow me?"
Iruka and Shizune meekly followed after the Hokage, shooting glances at one another down the hallway. Their common predicament made the space between them tingle with awkwardness.
"Why didn't you wake me up?" Shizune muttered out of the side of her mouth.
"I tried! You wouldn't wake up!" Iruka looked as nervous as Shizune felt. They rounded a corner, and he scowled, muttering something about "lard skiing." Shizune wasn't paying too much attention as she found herself distracted by the way his frowning forehead crinkled the scar on his nose.
"Try harder next time!" Shizune hissed, then flushed as she caught the insinuation in that next time.
Iruka, too, grew a little pinker and shot Shizune a glance. "What do you think she's going to do to us?" He whispered, but Tsunade had sharp hearing.
"Oh, I'm not going to do anything to you." Tsunade shot over her shoulder. Her followers glanced at one another again and clammed up.
In short order, they reached their destination: Iruka's classroom. Shizune felt as if her stomach was full of mud and rubber bands—wiggly ones. Tsunade flipped on the light and stood back to allow Shizune and Iruka to take in the full spectacle of the room.
Torn streamers and chewed up styrofoam cups littered the floor. Desks that had been neatly pushed up against walls were now stacked in precarious towers to make way for—judging by the mess—a herd of stampeding rhinos. Iruka's teaching desk was literally on its side, spilling papers all over the sticky post-party floor, and someone had had the bright idea of throwing pencils at the ceiling so that they would stick in the tiles.
The coup de grace, though, was over the chalkboard. The paper which Iruka had set up was not only cluttered with student signatures – it now held an enormous, lurid mural of none other than the two errant babysitters asleep on the job. Not only was the caricature of Shizune drooling while Iruka unconsciously leered at her; in this, his magnum opus, Konohamaru had also gone to the trouble of depicting the dreams of both sleeping adults in large bubbles above their heads. Iruka had apparently been dreaming of barbeque, but Shizune's dream was a bit more… questionable. Shizune could feel blood creeping into her cheeks.
"So, what do you think? I think that the artist show real promise. I may ask him to let me hang it in my office for a while. To spread the word about his talent, of course…" Tsunade was positively crowing. Shizune felt ready to sink between the floorboards.
"I—I promise, Iruka-san. I was NOT dreaming… that…just now." Shizune stammered and averted her eyes, catching the happy-cat expression on Tsunade's face in the process.
Iruka cleared his throat. "I, on the other hand, am pretty sure I really was dreaming of food just now." He glanced at Shizune, an amused twinkle in his eye. "But I can't make any promises…"
"You're laughing at this?" Shizune was forever amazed by how quickly her embarrassment could turn into rage. She checked herself when she saw that Iruka too had turned a deep fuchsia color.
"Shizune-san. Sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying." A sly, embarrassed smirk tweaked the corner of his lips.
"That's the spirit, kid!" Tsunade strode over to the board and deftly unhooked the paper from the board, rolling it into a tight, brightly colored baton. She tapped him on the shoulder with it as she passed. "You know, sometimes I forget what a prankster you were, Iruka. Considering the stuff you used to pull, I'd say you're getting your just desserts."
The Hokage reached the door, stopped and then turned back to Shizune, hand on her hip. "One more thing, just do us all a favor and kiss the man already, 'kay? All this playing back and forth and moping about having no dates is getting on my nerves."
"Tsunade-sama!" squeaked Shizune, eyes wide and face red.
"That's an order!"
The door slid shut behind her and absolute silence fell in the room. Shizune risked a glance at Iruka when she couldn't stand the quiet any more. He was biting his lip, looking from her to the door and back.
"Well, you don't... it's not necessary to—y'know—follow orders in this situation. Unless you want to." Iruka was beginning to ramble—looking adorably sheepish. "I mean, I love following orders. But I'll understand if you don't..." Shizune took a couple of steps toward the blathering teacher. "I mean you don't have to, well, I mean—GOSH this place is a mess." he said, crossing his arms and turning suddenly to the rest of the room.
Shizune covered the last two feet between them with a burst of impulsiveness. Reaching toward the adorable, dithering man, Shizune took hold of his chin and wrenched Iruka's attention back to the matter at hand.
"Actually," Shizune said, stepping up and cupping his face between her hands, "I have every intention of following orders."