Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. I did have to get Hinata drunk to help her get over her shock though.

AN: my thanks to both Vesca and Sal (Meiun) for helping me figure out what the hell to do with chapter. Cheers for the edit job too, Sal!

I've Got You

Chapter 25: A Beginning and an End

He'd never liked the plan of attack anyway. There really was very little point in taking over a village that needed to be rebuilt; it just created more unnecessary work. A village requires leaders more than buildings, its foundations far more than the stone it was constructed upon. The easiest way to destroy a village was to destroy those that had the most influence over it.

The highly acclaimed and feared Copy Ninja and the mighty Kyuubi jinchūriki had captured the collective heart of Fire Country with their death defying deeds in protecting her. Killing them would be a good start in breaking that heart. How lucky he was to have found the perfect lure for such powerful targets. Crunching into the biscuit treat, the blonde tucked an arm behind his head and gazed lazily at the swirling snow above. Lucky indeed.

Sasuke glanced up from the scroll he was reading as the front door slammed shut and Naruto stalked into the kitchen looking flushed and agitated. He took one look at the blond's face, noting the temper simmering just below the surface, before going back to his scroll.

"Mission request rejected, eh? No surprises there. Lunch is in the fridge."

Naruto stared at him for a dumbstruck moment before raising his hands to grab fistfuls of his pale hair and Sasuke braced for the inevitable loud outburst. He wasn't left waiting long as Naruto yelled in frustration before pointing an angry finger at the dark haired Jounin.

"You! You think you know everything! You have no idea what happened this morning, bastard!"

"I know exactly what happened this morning," Sasuke said calmly as rose from his seat at the kitchen table and walked to the fridge. "The old lady told you to stop being an idiot and rejected your demand for a mission." He opened the fridge, reached inside, and pulled out a plate of onigiri.

"Yeah, well, you don't know what happened after that! After that ther- mmph!"

Naruto found himself silenced by a whole rice ball being stuffed in his mouth and the raven-haired Jounin looking smug.

"And then Gai and Anko came running in with a snake that wasn't a snake, which defied the laws of chakra as we know them. Confusion and chaos ensued until the thing vaporised into thin air after somehow moving through the glass of a specially sealed tank and almost rubbing noses with Iruka-sensei."

The blond froze and blinked in surprise, looking not unlike a startled squirrel with seeds bulging in its cheeks. "Mmff phee hmm hem?"

"Swallow, moron, then talk."

Chewing at super fast speed and being quite noisy about it, Naruto quickly gulped down the food in his mouth and blanched. "Ugh, I hate tuna."

Sasuke smirked. "I know."

Naruto scowled at him momentarily but curiosity was an overwhelming force when it came to the energetic jinchūriki. "How the hell did you find out?"

Sasuke returned to his place at the table. "Ibiki left a few moments ago. He wanted to know if I'd ever come across something similar during my time with Orochimaru." He picked up a rice ball he knew to contain pork and handed it to Naruto before taking a tuna one for himself. "I haven't, but I'm checking through a few of the records left by my clan regarding chakra projection to see if there's anything that sounds similar." Indicating the scroll on the table, he bit into his lunch.

Blue eyes darted from the scroll, to Sasuke, to the onigiri in his hand before sighing, chomping into the food, and flopping down into a chair.

"Know it all bastard," Naruto grumbled around his lunch. "Find anything yet?"

Dark hair swayed as Sasuke shook his head and finished his mouthful. "Not so far. This is all highly theoretical and doesn't have much basis for practical application because it takes too much chakra to maintain the chakra you're trying to project. Makes you burn through your reserves at an incredible rate. My guess is that whoever's behind it has a blood limit."

"Yeah?" the blond asked as he tentatively reached for another rice ball only to have Sasuke nudge a different one his way. "Why do you think it was sent here?"

The raven-haired man shrugged. "At a guess, it was gathering information on the village but only time will really tell." He quickly devoured the last of his tuna onigiri and rolled up the scroll, tying it carefully closed, and setting it aside to later return to the Uchiha library. "Hurry up and finish that," he ordered Naruto, who was staring at his half eaten rice ball pensively.

The blond blinked and frowned at him. "Why?"

"Because." Quick as a whip, he seized the front of Naruto's vest, dragged him forwards, and pressed their lips together. Sasuke slid his tongue inside the shorter Jounin's mouth, tasting the sweetness from the pickled pork he'd used for Naruto's lunch. He pulled back slightly and murmured against the blond's lips, "You left this morning before I had a chance to blow you again."

A surprised and aroused huff left the jinchūriki as a light flush began to spread over scarred cheeks.

"You taste like tuna," Naruto said huskily, his tone indicating that no longer found the flavour quite as repulsive as he had minutes earlier.

"I know." Sasuke smirked and dragged the shorter man to his feet before pulling him down the hallway.

Naruto snorted inelegantly with amusement. "You think you know everything."

"I do." The raven-haired man's tone was smug.

The blond grinned deviously. "You didn't know that I made ANBU. Before you."

Sasuke's smug expression fell to a glower.

"Shut up," he growled and threw Naruto onto the bed.

"You're brooding," Iruka said as he poured tea into two cups and set the pot aside. The mild scent of jasmine wafted in the steam. "You haven't turned a page in the last fifteen minutes."

Kakashi sighed and closed his book, tossing it onto the couch cushion next to him. He accepted the drink Iruka passed with a hum that somehow managed to sound grateful and rested the cup on his knee. Iruka lowered himself onto one of the lounge room's many floor cushions and cast assessing eyes over his lover. Slouched in his seat, elbow on the arm of the couch, a hand propping up his head while he gazed out the window, the Copy Ninja was mentally miles away.

Iruka had seen Kakashi fall into these occasional pensive moods during the time they'd been living together. He knew that the Jounin was mulling over what had happened that morning in Tsunade's office, Iruka had been thinking of little else himself. What had happened to the serpent-like creature after it had vanished? Had it gone back to its summoner, 'died' in a sense, or had it simply been a jutsu they'd not encountered before and used to test the defences of the village? How had it entered Konoha undetected in the first place? How the hell had it moved through the wall of a tank that had been specially sealed by Morino Ibiki himself?

After the creature had effectively vaporised, Tsunade's office had erupted in a variable cacophony of noise. Gai had immediately started apologising for allowing the creature to escape in true Gai style. It had been loud, there were tears, and promises to make recompense by doing insane feats of physical improbability. Anko had smacked the taijutsuist over the head and yelled at him to stop being so stupid, that it wasn't even his fault, and he still owed her lunch so he couldn't go run the entire boarder of Fire Country twice before sunset. Ibiki snatched up the ineffective tank and been the first out the door, muttering something about research and further interrogation of one of his prisoners as he marched out. The look on the special Jounin's face had been dark and Iruka couldn't help but feel fleetingly sorry for whomever it was the head of the Torture and Interrogation Department wanted to question.

Shizune had started demanding information on what Neji and Hinata had seen when the creature had disappeared. The Hyuuga cousins had been at a loss to try to explain what had just happened, Neji so frustrated that he'd even raised his voice, a rare event indeed. In true Naruto style, the blond had stood in the middle of the room demanding that someone explain 'what the fuck just happened here' and was effectively ignored. Tsunade had picked her chair up off the floor and dropped into it with a long sigh, massaging her temples.

The first thing Kakashi had done after the serpent vanished was check on Iruka. The Jounin had closed the space between them faster than Iruka could see and carefully looked him over with a madly whirling sharingan. Iruka had reassured Kakashi that he was fine and told him to stop wasting chakra and cover his eye. The silver-haired Jounin had covered his sharingan only after he'd established there was no foreign chakra in Iruka's system. Strangely, it was when Iruka went to stand and sucked in a small, almost silent gasp of pain that the Hokage took any action.

"Are you hurt?" Tsunade's sharp voice had cut across the room and things had gone almost eerily silent. All eyes had turned on Iruka and the teacher was reminded of when he'd first entered the room and the damn snake had stopped hissing. He really hated being the centre of attention.

"Did that thing get you?" Naruto yelled, panic and anger evident in the young man's voice, and Iruka realised what it was everyone was so concerned about.

"No!" the Chuunin quickly reassured. "I'm fine, it didn't touch me."

"Answer the question, sensei," Tsunade demanded and Iruka was blessed with a second insight for the day. The Hokage wanted everyone out of her office and Iruka was to be her easy excuse. Oh joy.

When Iruka had begrudgingly confirmed that his shoulder was mildly sore, Tsunade had declared loudly that he needed immediate medical attention and enthusiastically kicked everyone out. Even Kakashi and Naruto had been banished to the corridor, the jinchūriki protesting loudly and the Copy-nin's expression carefully blank. As soon as it was just the two of them, Tsunade released a long sigh, grabbed her chair, and dragged it around to the other side of her desk next to the visitors chair ordering Iruka to take a seat. She then fetched a large bottle of sake and two cups from behind some reports shelved across the room.

The Godaime had downed two cups of sake in quick succession, ordering Iruka to join her and proclaiming it would help him recover from his 'shock'. The Chuunin had briefly wondered what the Sandaime would have said about him sharing sake with the Godaime in the Hokage's office before lunch time. Under the circumstances, however, Iruka suspected that Sarutobi-sama might have actually joined them for a drink.

After Tsunade had finished her third cup, savouring it a little more than the first two, she ordered Iruka to remove his Jacket and shirt so she could tend to his shoulder. It was mostly bruising and had taken very little time to heal, leaving behind only light marks that blended in with the ones already healing all over his body. He'd complained that it wasn't really worth the effort but Tsunade had simply shrugged and said it was one of the quickest ways to get Gai out of her office. Iruka could sympathise, the taijutsu master could get rather carried away when apologising and it did tend to drag on for an inordinate amount of time. Anko telling Gai that he wasn't allowed to perform his penance certainly hadn't been helping to speed the process along. And demanding that he take her out for lunch as promised, when the heck had those two hooked up? As disturbing as Iruka had thought he would find the pairing, the more he thought about it the more they seemed strangely suited to each other.

"I would tell you that you're restricted to the village after the events of this morning, but I doubt you'll be running off anywhere too soon. Make sure you tell Kakashi the injury wasn't bad," Tsunade had said before shooing him out the door with orders to get plenty of rest and come back for another check up in a week's time.

When Iruka had emerged from the Hokage's office, Kakashi's expression was still guarded and carefully neutral. Naruto had stayed around long enough to confirm the snake hadn't touched, bitten, or mysteriously impregnated him – Iruka had told the young Jounin to stop watching so many horror movies for the last one – before heading home. Kakashi had simply asked if his shoulder was causing him pain, to which Iruka emphatically assured it wasn't, before asking if he would be up for walking part of the way home. Iruka had thought it sounded like a great idea, claiming he wanted to get some exercise and was curious to see how far he could make it before tiring out. In all honesty, though, he could see that Kakashi needed to walk off what had just happened but didn't want to leave Iruka's side. They had made it two blocks before the injured Chuunin been unable to continue and Iruka felt rather proud of the progress.

Since they'd arrived home, Kakashi had been in his silent, pensive mood and Iruka left him to his contemplations. It was obvious that the Jounin wouldn't let the situation go until he had chewed it over thoroughly, run through half a hundred hypothesises, and covered every aspect. While the powerhouse of a brain housed in the Copy-nin's head dissected what they had encountered that morning, Iruka had made them something light to eat and then dozed quietly in front of the fire. As much as it frustrated him, the teacher was a little more resigned to his situation, mostly due to his inability to change it than by choice.

Whatever came, whatever happened, he and Kakashi would face it together and protect their village. That was all there was to it. Iruka would protect his home, his Hokage, and his lover. Even if he lost all his chakra again and every bone in his body was smashed to dust, even if this time he died, he would fight for what he held precious with every last ounce of his strength. It was his way of the ninja.

However, the events from the night before and that morning had finally managed to break through his stubborn resolve and hammer home the reality of his situation. While mentally he may feel as fit and ready for duty as ever, physically he just wasn't able. Yet. It was beyond aggravating and Iruka still wanted to fight it, but he knew it was a pointless battle. The responsible and intelligent thing to do was stop denying his temporarily weakened state and follow his doctor and Hokage's orders. The Chuunin knew he would heal with time and be back to active duty. Likely, his recovery rate would accelerate if he stopped pushing himself constantly. It went against his nature to sit idle and do nothing and went against his training as a shinobi, but he had to concede that in this case the best course of action was a certain amount of inaction. Even if it drove him half mad.

In the past, Iruka had often wondered how the general villagers coped with living along side shinobi, watching them display amazing skills and accomplish impossible feats as if it were nothing. He liked to think that he finally had a little more understanding of how they felt and how frightening it must be for them at times. It wasn't a pleasant experience to have those surrounding you possess a level of speed and power that exceeded your own so dramatically.

Curling his arms on the coffee table and lowering his head onto them, Iruka closed his eyes, breathed deep the scents of his new home, and emptied his mind. The day had been taxing on his limited energy reserves and the fire was warm and making him drowsy. He must have drifted off for a moment because when he opened his eyes again Kakashi was by his side and running a hand over his shoulder.

"Its fine," the sleepy Chuunin mumbled and gave a half smile. "Tsunade-sama fixed it right up. Was barely hurt to begin with."

"I know, just didn't think I'd thrown you that hard," Kakashi muttered as he fingered the joint carefully.

Iruka rolled his shoulder around to show that it had full movement. "Forget about it, you'll be doing much worse once I get the all clear to start training again."

"You'll have chakra then and will instinctively cushion your landings. This was different."

With a tolerant smile, Iruka sat up and hid a yawn behind his hand. "Yes, how dare you drag me out of the way when a never before encountered and potentially very dangerou snake-thing tries to rub noses with me," he said sarcastically, cocking an eyebrow. "You're a truly horrible comrade and terrible lover. Next time I demand you toss me from harm's way with a bit more gentlemanly consideration please."

Kakashi chuckled and Iruka was gratified to see the tension lines smooth from the corners of his mouth. "So what you're saying is you want me to be more conscientious the next time I throw you against a wall?"

Iruka didn't miss a beat. "Absolutely," he said with a grin as he leaned against the Jounin's side. "Feel free to practice, in fact, I encourage it. Some trial runs definitely wouldn't go astray though I do prefer a lack of audience. The purpose of these training runs can sometimes be misconstrued." He was grinning cheekily as he reached for his tea and discovered it to be long cold. Obviously, he'd slept longer than he'd thought.

"Maa, can't have anyone misunderstanding now, can we? Already had enough of that today with the residual effects of your recovery therapy. Shocking assumptions children jump to these days."

Straightening from his slouched position against his lover, Iruka frowned at the silver haired man in confusion. "What are you on about?"

The grey eye curved up into its trademark arch as a smile, which was supposed to be innocent but a little too wide to pull it off convincingly, tilted pale lips. "Those two young Hyuuga jumping to all kinds of strange conclusions just because of a little chakra. Honestly, sensei, I wouldn't have thought a former student of yours would be so quick to judge."

Iruka raised an eyebrow at the older man's words and thought back to earlier when they'd seen Neji and Hinata. The teacher could be excused for not immediately realising what it was Kakashi was referring to considering his attention had been focused on a rather bizarre creature at the time. Realisation did eventually hit, however, and when it did, Iruka was horrified!

The Hyuuga cousins had been using their byakugan. The byakugan could see chakra, no matter how small the lingering traces would be. The last place Kakashi had been feeding chakra into him before the Hokage had summoned them was… Oh dear God!

The moment the stricken look of shocked understanding crossed the Chuunin's face, Kakashi's face split in a delighted, lopsided grin, the dimple deepening with his amusement.

"Be proud, sensei. You continue to expand their education even beyond the academy's walls."

With a dark glare, Iruka snatched up a floor cushion and managed to smack his lover over the head with it before Kakashi's arms looped around him and the Jounin tumbled them to the floor, laughing.

The end

AN: When I first started writing this story my aim was to get 69 reviews. Yes, I'm childishly amused like that. Over 1500 reviews and a minion army later… well, let's just say I've been stunned and amazed. I want to thank those of you who have stuck with the story until its end and I'm so grateful for the overwhelmingly positive response it's had. I'm glad you've enjoyed reading it as I've had a lot of fun writing it.

Sal (Meiun) and Ves (VescaWithoutWings), the two of you have been simply gorgeous and thank you so much for all your help and support. You are a couple of truly lovely ladies with a healthy side serving of evil pervertedness ^_^

A few chapters back I asked readers opinions of they wanted a sequel and the overwhelming response was yes, so there is one planned. I might not get to it for a bit (you all know how sporadic I am with updating) but if you're still interested in reading it then I'll write it. Already got it planned out to about Ch6!

Okay, I'll stop rabbiting on now. Cheers for the lovely reviews and I look forward to hearing what you have to say about this last chapter ^_^

Sal's note: The editor wishes to say that she had no part in this omake and isn't even going to edit it in protest. We now return you to Vesca's regular madness.

OMAKE! (I want it noted that this is completely Vesca's idea and I am writing this under duress… and because I lost a bet _)

The moment the stricken look of shocked understanding crossed the Chuunin's face, Kakashi's face split in a delighted, lopsided grin, the dimple deepening with his amusement.

"Be proud, sensei. You continue to expand their education even beyond the academy's walls."

With a battle cry, Iruka snatched up one of the floor cushions and began smacking his lover over the head with it.

"You perverted bloody Jounin!" Iruka slumped in defeat and buried his face in his hands. "I can't believe they know now, and they found out like that."

There was a snicker from the corner of the room and the sound of a pen frantically scratching over paper was accompanied by excited muttering. "Oh this is good, very good. You two should have sex time now."

"Goddamnit Dark! Are you still here?" Iruka yelled and pitched a pillow across the room with deadly accurate aim. "Your time's up, the story's finished. Now get out!"

It smacked the authoress square in the face, thumping her head back against the wall. Obviously Iruka was getting his strength back. The two shinobi might have worried they had injured her except that Dark's nose had been steadily dripping blood since she'd started following them around over a month ago so by now it was considered the norm.

"No, no, you have to have sex again first. There's no way I could write a story this long and only have one sex scene. That's just unacceptable. Think of the poor readers! Your devoted fans and worshipers! They need smut! Sexy yaoi ninja porn!"

"Oh god, she really needs to leave," Iruka groaned and looked imploringly at Kakashi. "Get rid of her and I'll give you head in the shower."

The Jounin instantly brightened and grinned evilly across the room at the suddenly very wary writer. "You know, I haven't reactivated the traps since we got home and they're not configured for her."

The authoress leapt to her feet and started edging towards the closest window. "N-now, now, fellas. No need to be getting all hostile." Kakashi smirked as a pulse of his chakra flared out and the warning sound of crackling electricity could be heard. The writer whimpered. "Oh crap."

*Looks around*

What? You lot still here? Okay, have a cookie for sticking around this long. Go on, shoo with you now ^_^