I'm back! With a new multi-chapter. Enjoy!
They came from above, dropping through the trees on dark wings made of tattered cloaks that not only obscured their uniforms, but their faces as well. Rogue shinobi, most likely, out for weapons, hostages, or the sheer joy of the kill. They moved like shadows in the night, and one was within his defenses before he noticed the movement.
He leapt back, feet unsteady on the rough ground. His hand came up barely in time to block the massive downward blow the enemy delivered. As it was, the kunai was torn from his grasp by the sheer force of the attack, and before he could retrieve another from the weapons pouch at his waist, the enemy reversed his strike, slashing sideways. He felt the hot bite of metal through his vest, felt the blood and bile rise in his throat as he realized just how deep the cut would be, and knew no more.
His panicked breaths echoed around the small room as he clasped one hand against his sweat-drenched hair and pressed the other against his intact side, which still throbbed with the memory of the dream.
It had seemed so real that, when he bolted up in bed, he'd shoved his shirt aside to check for blood, or even a scar, feeling a strange mixture of relief and confusion when he'd found neither.
The clock blinked slowly on his bedside table – about an hour from when the alarm was set to go off. He carded his hair back with shaking fingers, grimacing at the patina of sweat he dislodged. His clothes were soaked, and his heart was still pounding violently in his ribcage. He certainly wasn't going back to sleep.
Plus he felt fairly disgusting. At this point, he'd take a shower over the extra hour of sleep.
The whole village smelled of icy dew and fall foliage as the sun broke over the trees, highlighting the higher buildings in a dusky orange. The streets were devoid of people, and he enjoyed the peaceful walk through the market area of town, which was almost perpetually bustling with people packed shoulder to shoulder and filled with a cacophony of bartering, requests, and just idle chatter.
The Academy was just as silent, and the worn wooden floorboards creaked softly underneath his feet as he crossed through the vaulted entryway and turned down the long hall towards his classroom.
"Morning, Iruka. You're here early." A pleasant voice called out from behind him.
Iruka whirled and dropped into a battle-ready crouch, kunai in hand. He knew that voice. "Mizuki! What are you…?"
"Well that's not a very nice way to say good morning, Iruka." Mizuki chuckled. "What's gotten into you?"
"What's gotten into me?" Iruka demanded, still on guard. "What do you mean, what's gotten into me! What the hell are you doing here?!" His voice broke slightly on the question, and he realized that he was steadily backing away from the other man.
"Eh? Seriously, Iruka, did you hit your head this morning? I'm here because this is my classroom." He pointed at the door standing open to his left. "And if I don't show up, you know that the hooligans from my class will wreck the classroom. Although," He grinned broadly, as if he was sharing a private joke with the chuunin who was still aiming a sharp implement at him. "It'd be worse if you didn't show up, what with that nine-tails brat you have to deal with."
"Naruto?" Iruka shook his head. "Naruto's not one of my students anymore. He's been a genin for several years now. And that's not your classroom, you…"
"That boy?" Mizuki interrupted. "A genin? You did hit your head, didn't you?" He scoffed. "He hasn't even passed the Academy exam yet. And you'd think after three tries he'd at least be getting closer."
"Look." Iruka said slowly. "I don't know how you got here, but you seem to have forgotten some things, so, how about we just go to the hospital, and we'll…." He trailed off as a sullen, dark-haired boy slouched around the corner followed closely by a blushing girl who was continuously tucking long strands of pink hair behind her ear. "Sasuke-kun? Sakura-chan?"
"Good morning, Iruka-sensei!" Sakura said brightly, though her eyes never left Sasuke as he passed between Iruka and Mizuki, slid the door to the classroom open, and walked in without any acknowledgement to the two teachers.
Iruka stared after the children. He'd been convinced that Mizuki had somehow escaped and had slipped a couple of gears in his brain, but the kids were a different story. They looked so incredibly young, like they still belonged at the Academy. And Sasuke…was here? But he had abandoned Konoha years ago.
What the hell is going on?
"Hey, Iruka, you okay?" Mizuki placed a hand on Iruka's shoulder. "Sorry I startled you earlier, but, you know, you can put the kunai away."
"I…I'm sorry, Mizuki, I've got to…" He shoved Mizuki away from him, stumbling down the hall to the teacher's bathroom. Bile burned his throat. He vividly remembered the kids growing up, the chuunin exam, Orochimaru's attack on the village…
And the look in Mizuki's eyes when he had attacked Naruto and Iruka with the full intent to kill.
He fumbled with the zipper on his vest, only getting it halfway down before it stuck and he was forced to yank it off over his head. The vest landed in a crumpled pile underneath the sink as he threw it from himself. He tore at the shirt underneath frantically, stretching out the neck and arms in his desperate need to get it off.
As soon as he was freed from the shirt, Iruka turned his back to the grimy mirror and craned his head around. His skin was smooth and unmarked. He twisted the other way, but could see no trace of the large scar that had marred his skin since the day he'd stepped between Mizuki's shuriken and Naruto.
"What is going ON?!" He slammed his hands down on the edge of the sink, but dropped his forehead onto the cool porcelain surface as his vision swam suddenly and his stomach churned. His knees buckled, and he collapsed to the floor, one hand still clinging to the sink.
"Is there a reason you're sitting on the floor with no shirt on?"
Iruka raised his head just far enough to see who was standing in the doorway, though he knew the voice. "Kakashi-sensei. I'm not in the mood for your brand of humor right now, so is it too much to ask for you to just leave?"
"Maa, you're so blunt. Have we met before?"
"Very funny. I guess you don't remember our oh-so-pleasant encounter when you nominated your genin team for the chuunin exam."
"As improbable as it seems, I think you must be mistaking me for someone else." Kakashi crouched down next to him, eye folding closed as he smiled at the half-naked man staring up at him. "I've never had a genin team, let alone entered them into the chuunin exam."
Iruka felt a quiver crawl up his spine. Mizuki, the kids, the missing scar, the fact that Kakashi didn't remember his team or his encounter with Iruka – nothing made sense. He pressed the heel of his hand to his splitting head. "And when he awoke, he asked himself, 'Was I a human being asleep, who dreamed he was a butterfly? Or am I now the butterfly asleep, who dreams he is a human being?'"
"What?" Kakashi remained crouched beside him.
"Ah, sorry, Kakashi-sensei. I was talking to myself."
"You don't look so good, sensei. Perhaps you should go home."
"No, I have to teach. If I left…" Iruka shuddered. If what he thought he remembered was nothing more than a extraordinarily detailed dream, and Naruto was still in his class – which seemed likely given Sasuke's and Sakura's presence – he couldn't afford to miss class. There'd be a smoking crater in the ground where his room used to be.
If he was lucky.
"Maa," Kakashi broke in as he pulled himself upright on the sink and headed for the door. "Then you might want to put your shirt back on, sensei."
"Hey, Iruka." Mizuki slouched against his doorway after the last of the pre-genin piled out of the door. "I don't know about you, but I could use a drink and some dinner that doesn't come out of a cup with the word 'Instant' on the side. Wanna join me?"
Iruka carefully gathered the papers from the front row of desks and nonchalantly side-stepped until his own desk was between himself and the other chuunin. "I, um, that is…." He swallowed hard and held up his hands. "Sorry, Mizuki, I'll pass."
"You okay?" Mizuki pushed off the wall. "You've been acting awfully strange ever since this morning. Are you coming down with something?" He approached Iruka, peering into his face and seemingly oblivious to the fact that Iruka was back-pedaling away from him with every step. When the dark-haired chuunin's back connected with the wall, he pressed hard against the surface to try to create more room between himself and Mizuki. "You don't look like you have a fever."
Iruka managed to keep the full-blown panic attack creeping up his spine under control until Mizuki clasped a gentle hand over his forehead.
The sharp crack of flesh on flesh echoed through the room as Iruka slapped Mizuki's hand away. "Don't touch me!"
Silence filled the room as Mizuki stared at him in shock, and Iruka's gaze focused at a point on the floor. "Fine." Some dark emotion laced the undertones in Mizuki's voice, and it took every ounce of willpower to keep Iruka from shrinking farther into the wall. "You're on your own."
The second Mizuki's chakra had disappeared from the room, Iruka let his knees buckle and slid to the floor for the second time that day.
Iruka hefted the armful of groceries onto one hip and started pondering the situation again while waiting in line. He kept expecting to wake up, but never did. Perhaps when he went to bed tonight, everything would be the same when he woke up.
"Feeling better, sensei?"
Iruka's head jerked up. "Kakashi-sensei." The silver haired jounin stood in line behind him with a box of pasta and a can of sauce clutched in his hands. "I have a name, you know."
"Well, if you'd tell me what it is, maybe I'd be able to use it." Kakashi grinned at him.
"…." He glared at the jounin. "Iruka. My name's Iruka."
"Nice to meet you, Iruka-sensei. But you still didn't answer my question."
Iruka snuck a quick glance at the line, which was moving slower than molasses. The person in the front had engaged the cashier in a long-winded debate about the merits of sweet potatoes over russets. "And what question was that, Kakashi-sensei?"
"Are you feeling better?"
"Oh, that. It's not important. Just had a very…confusing morning." He finished the sentence on a long sigh. "I had this dream, and everything was different. It happened several years in the future, and…. Look, it's a long story."
"You had a dream about me? I'm flattered."
Iruka flushed darkly, "Don't be such a pervert. It wasn't like that. Nothing in the real world works the way that your book there describes it." He gestured at the orange book held in Kakashi's hand, with one finger between the pages to mark his spot.
"Maa, I'd say not. If we were in Icha Icha, and you'd told me you had a dream about me, we'd already be out in the alley having sex."
Iruka felt the blush flare even hotter across his cheekbones, and he turned his back on Kakashi.
Kakashi blatantly ignored the hint and took a very conspicuous look at Iruka's groceries. "Maybe your strange dreams have something to do with the junk you're eating."
"What, you think I don't realize this is junk?" Iruka shot back. "I just never feel like cooking for myself."
"Tell you what. I'll come over so you can cook something that at least remotely resembles real food, and in return you can tell me about the dream you had and why you were…are…so snappy with me. At least, I assume that was dream-related."
"Oi," Iruka said after a brief pause. "What kind of arrangement is this? There's no benefit for me!" But Kakashi had vanished from the line, and a stack of money was balanced precariously on top of Iruka's groceries.
When Iruka fell asleep that night, he wondered what he'd wake up to.
He had no dreams.
Soooo, what do you think? Let me know!