AN: Here is a little Naruto/Iruka father/son fluff. Enjoy!
Jiraiya stood on the roof of one of the many buildings in Konoha, watching as the shadows faded into daylight. His eyes were narrowed in thought, wondering if his plan will be enough. He knew what he had to do. Naruto had to be warned, had to be prepared for what was to come. In order to do that, the boy would have to leave the village. It was a lot to ask, especially after losing his best friend to the Sound, but Jiraiya saw no other alternative. He would take the Fourth's legacy into the wilderness and train him. There was only one thing he had to do before putting his plan into motion.
"You wanted to see me, Jiraiya-sama?" came a calm voice over the still morning air.
The elder ninja did not turn as Kakashi walked into view. The young Jounin looked tired. Jiraiya knew that if Kakashi looked tired then he was coming dangerously close to keeling over. Poor boy, the Ero-senin thought with a mental sigh. Must be tough having his team break up like this. That was the reason for the meeting. Keeping his eyes fixed on the sun, Jiraiya said, "The Akatsuki will not be coming for Naruto for at least three years. During that time, I plan to take Naruto away from here and train him."
Kakashi did not seem surprised by the news. He walked to the edge of the roof and leaned down against the railing, his one visible eye taking in the beauty of the sunrise as well. Silence reigned over the two legendary warriors for eternal moments until, finally, Kakashi spoke. "Why are you informing me of this before you tell Naruto?"
"Because," the old man began, finally looking at the Jounin. "I thought it only polite to ask you first before taking him, seeing as you are his instructor."
Kakashi found this amusing for some odd reason, for he laughed—a soft, almost bitter laugh—and shook his head, turning around as he did so. Back pressed against the rail, he crossed his arms and said, "I'm not the one you need to be asking."
Confused, Jiraiya asked, "What?"
The school day had finally finished. Iruka had thought it would never end, but, seeing as he was anxious to be else where, this mindset was no surprise. He did his best to hide his impatience as he said good bye to the stragglers. Stopping for only a moment in the teacher's lounge to drop off some finished paperwork, the chocolate-haired Chuunin walked briskly off the campus, where he promptly broke into a hearty sprint. You see, today was the first chance he had to visit Naruto.
He had been informed of the boy's return late the previous night, and, due to obligation and far too short notice, he had to teach the following morning. Needless to say, he was in a hurry. He would, first, stop at the ramen shop and pick up an extra special, super large bowl for his hard-working student and then be off to the hospital. "I'm sure he'll appreciate this after having to eat hospital food." Iruka smiled to himself as he thought about the impish Genin having to endure the horror that is hospital food. Yes, ramen was definitely a needed replacement.
It didn't take him long to reach their favorite ramen stand. Upon entering, he was greeted by the owner. "Ah, good evening Iruka-sensei!"
"Good evening, jii-chan." The young teacher called back while pulling out his wallet. "Give me the largest bowl of ramen you can with everything in it."
The old man smirked knowingly before turning to grab the needed ingredients. "Going to visit your boy, eh?"
"My boy?" Iruka reiterated, taken off guard by the statement. When had Naruto become his? Shaking his head, he answered, "Yeah. I'm anxious to see him."
"No worries, boy. I'll have this stuff fixed in a jiffy." With that, the cook went to work. The alluring aroma of frying noodles, meats, and spices filled the air. A few minutes later, the chef handed a large, steaming to-go box to Iruka. Before the young teacher could pay him, he waved a gnarled and said, "On the house."
"Are you sure?" Iruka asked, eyeing the order. It was a rather costly gift.
"No, no," the cook persisted. "I've missed the lad as much as you. Tell him its my gift."
Iruka nodded once. "Thanks."
He picked up the bowl and turned to leave, stopping in the doorway as the cook called out, "You tell your boy to get better soon, Iruka! This place is right dull without him!"
There it was again. "My boy…" Iruka sighed somewhat wistfully. Naruto wasn't his, as much as he wished it. It was true he looked after the boy from time to time, but Naruto had Kakashi to guard and train him. Plus he had been gone for a while, what with training with Jiraiya before the exams, then going to find Tsunade, and finally chasing after Sasuke, that Iruka had had little opportunity to see the little blond-haired trouble maker. Against his will, Iruka felt himself being pushed further and further into the background of Naruto's life. So there was no possible way that he could claim Naruto as his anything. Though, he often wondered about the possibility…
"Need some help with that?"
Iruka nearly jumped out of his skin. Instead, the bowl jumped out of his hands. "Ah! No!" He dove for it, but it was too late…
The ramen had already been caught.
Iruka took a deep breath, relief washing over him. He didn't want Naruto's present destroyed. Calming his nerves and trying to regain his composure, the brown-eyed Chuunin looked up to thank the Ramen savior only to freeze in place. "Jiraiya-sama!?!?"
Jiraiya smiled pleasantly and held up the ramen. "Saved it. Better let me carry it seeing as you weren't paying attention to begin with."
"H-Hai!" Wow, this was embarrassing. He hadn't even sensed the elder ninja coming. But, then again, this was one of the legendary Sennin. He wondered if anyone could sense him coming at all.
"Stop that." Jiraiya said, snapping Iruka from his thoughts. "Thinking too much while you walk is a good way to get yourself killed. Or," He looked at the ramen with a teasing smile, "Get your ramen spilt. One or the other." Iruka smiled uneasily at the comment. "So, where are you heading?"
It became apparent that the much older ninja was not planning on leaving so soon; Iruka realized this when Jiraiya began to walk down the street with his ramen, forcing the teacher to chase after him. "I'm going to see Naruto." He answered, reaching for the ramen bowl.
Jiraiya cocked an eyebrow, moving the bowl to his other hand—and effectively away from his companion's grasp. "Really? I take it this is for him. That kid certainly likes his ramen."
"Yes," Iruka tried again for the bowl. "He does." Irritation built, stiffening his spine, when Jiraiya lifted the bowl as if to look at it better in the dying light. The chocolate-haired Chuunin knew he was doing it on purpose. He had no proof, but he knew! "May I have that back, please?"
Jiraiya ignored him. "Are you sure this is enough? I've seen that boy eat twice this while we were traveling." That comment sent an unneeded stab of pain through Iruka's heart. There was more than enough ramen in there for Naruto, he was certain. That wasn't the cause, however; the comment served to remind him of the other important figure heads in Naruto's life. It served to remind Iruka of his impending insignificance. Jiraiya was one of the most powerful ninjas of Konoha. Naruto didn't know how lucky he was to have a mentor like him. Eyes traveling to the ground, the brooding young man didn't see the eyes watching him, as if understanding exactly what he was thinking. Jiraiya spoke up again, his tone bearing a rare dose of seriousness. "Then again, I've also seen him go for days without so much as a sweet bun while training." He grinned at the memory. "That boy is certainly something."
"Hai." Iruka answered absently. He had never really watched Naruto train. Perhaps when the little imp gets out of the hospital, he would watch him for a bit. See f he's learned anything other than the sexy no jutsu.
"Since we're on the subject, I was wondering if I could ask you something." Iruka looked up, a bit confused and yet curious as to what the great Jiraiya, the White Hermit, wanted to ask him, a simple Chuunin instructor. The white-haired Sannin met the young man's gaze, eyes serious. "It's about Naruto."
Iruka stopped short, concern over powering his other emotions. "What about him?" he asked as Jiraiya turned to face him. A thousand different things raced through his mind, each conveying some sort of bad omen about the coming question. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he almost missed the question.
"May I take Naruto into the wilderness to train for a few years?"
Iruka stood there, shocked, dark brown eyes going wide; his mind refused to comprehend what he had just heard. Jiraiya was asking him… "What?"
"I need to train Naruto for the dangers ahead." Jiraiya explained. "In order to do that, I must take him into the wilderness, for his safety." Iruka still wasn't fully comprehending the situation. Jiraiya, THE Legendary Sannin was ASKING him permissions to train Naruto? It didn't compute. Seeing no change in his younger companion's expression, Jiraiya decided to explain a little more. "Naruto is being targeted by a dangerous group of Ninjas called the Akatsuki. S Class criminals, the lot of them; we're not certain what they want, but it has something to do with the Kyuubi. So, in order to ensure Naruto's safety, I need to hide him. The wilderness is my domain, and while I'm with him, the Akatsuki won't dare try to attack him. That is, of course, if they can find us."
Naruto was in danger. That didn't surprise him. Him being targeted by S Class criminals worried him. Iruka was certain he would feel the full effects of that worry when he got over the shock and over all in ability to comprehend the first statement. Jiraiya was asking for his permission. "Why?"
"Pardon?" Jiraiya asked. This Chuunin still didn't get it? He had just explained it, what was there not to get?
Iruka shook his head, forcing away all the thoughts bombarding him. He needed to get this one thing clarified before he allowed any other problem to enter his stream on consciousness. Taking a deep breath, he met Jiraiya's gaze and asked again, "Why are you asking me this? Naruto isn't under my charge. I'm not responsible for him; Kakashi is. You should be asking him this question, not me."
Jiraiya laughed heartily at this, causing Iruka to flush a bit. "Funny," he began, leveling Iruka with a kind smile, "Kakashi told me to ask you."
"What?" Iruka asked, eyes going wide.
"He said that, despite him being Naruto's team leader, all decisions concerning Naruto's well being were left up to you. He said that Naruto was your charge. He said he was your boy."
Iruka shook his head, not wanting to believe it. It was Kakashi who had informed him of his demotion in front of all the Jounins and the Hokage. Once Kakashi took over team seven, Naruto was no longer under his care. Couldn't that infuriating man make up his mind? "That can't be true," he whispered.
"No?" Jiraiya inquired, eyebrow raising again. "Why not?"
Iruka looked at him like the answer were obvious. "Why not? Because! Kakashi is his team leader. He's been taking care of Naruto since he graduated the academy. And then there's you. You've had him since the middle of the Chuunin exams. Both of you have impacted his life far more than I ever could. His training….that's not up to me." He sighed heavily after finishing his reply, the truth of those words hanging heavily on his heart. "All I do is buy him ramen."
"And talk to him when he's down, chase him across the village, give him your undivided attention, and allow him to save your life every once in a while." Jiraiya added softly, drawing a surprised look from his brooding companion. "Or was it the other way around?" A smile pulled across his older face. "Perhaps you're the one who saved him that night, hm?" Iruka didn't understand. Jiraiya handed him the bowl of still steaming ramen, saying gently, "One bowl of ramen taught him more things than Kakashi or I could ever teach him in training. The will to live for those he loves…he wouldn't have gained that if you hadn't taught him what it meant to love and be loved."
Iruka took the bowl as he tried to take in what the elder ninja had just told him. Had he really done all that? He had only bought him a bowl of ramen after punishing him, something no one had done for him while he was growing up. Still, he could tell it had meant a lot to Naruto. It had become their special thing, their time together.
"Don't underestimate the power of a single bowl of ramen." Jiraiya chided as he began to walk again. Iruka quickly followed, wanting to hear the rest. "You may not have taught him anything beyond the basics in training, but you give him one-on-one time that a team leader or trainer often fails to give. That is just as important for a ninja's growth as learning new jutsus. So, forgive me if I disagree with your earlier assessment. You are very much in charge of Naruto's well being. On that point, I ask again." He stopped and turned, facing Iruka fully. "Do I have your permission to take your boy to train?"
"You had better be ready once you get out of here!"
Iruka smiled from behind the door. He could imagine the look on Naruto's face right now. Once he was well enough, he would off on another grand adventure. His caretaker wished him well. He would miss him horribly, but Iruka did not want to put a drag upon his training, especially with a band of ruthless killers after him. What kind of person would he be to refuse Naruto the oppurtuniy to train one-on-one with Jiraiya? He shook his head. No more brooding. Brooding was a good way to get killed or to get your ramen spilled. Speaking of which, Iruka noted off handedly, the ramen was growing cold. He needed to get it to his boy.
Iruka smiled. He really liked the sound of that. Pushing all thoughts aside, Iruka opened the sliding door. "Hey!"
Naruto's eyes lit up. "Iruka-sensai!"
Iruka grinned impishly and pulled the bowl out from behind his back, asking, "Who's hungry?"
"Oh sweet!" the young blond exclaimed, nearly jumping out of the bed. "Is that all for me?!?!?" Iruka nodded. "YATTA!!!!!"
From the roof, Jiraiya listened with a smile. One bowl of ramen. The Kyuubi was tamed by one bowl of ramen. He laughed to himself and prepared to leave. Before he did, however, turned back, taking in the happy scene. "Don't worry, Iruka-sensai. I'll take care of your boy. I promise."
Iruka looked out the window, the look in his eyes seeming to say, "I know."
Jiraiya laughed once more and then vanished, leaving the teacher and his boy to their special time, for it would be a long time yet before they could share another. Rarity is what made their times over ramen so special. Often enough, they only ever had time for that one bowl….but that was enough for them.