Authoress: I'm back with a new story! *squeals* I have to admit, I've been in a Kakashi/Iruka fix for a while...and this is my pride and joy, so I hope everyone enjoys - even though it is definitely going to be a bit dark at certain points!

Disclaimer: If only I owned Naruto...I'd be the happiest pervert to exist!

Prologue

Iruka sagged back in his chair with a sigh, mentally cursing the Hokage with every single swear word he knew and some he made up in his current frustration. His head fell backwards against the cushioned seat and the academy teacher closed his eyes as he desperately tried not to think of ways to murder the woman. He had heard Tsunade could be difficult at times, but this was just insanity!

With a deep breath, the brunet bowed forwards, his hand blindly reaching out for his pen. Opening his eyes and momentarily glaring at his covered desk, he continued writing on one of the many pieces of paper before him. After a few minutes of silently fuming, scratching characters out and feeling the vein in his temple throb threateningly, the teacher slammed the pen back down.

He was partially to blame for all of this; he had to inwardly point out that logical fact no matter how much he wanted to dispute it. He had been the one who had unknowingly pushed Shizune over the edge a few months ago. He had only been his usual well-mannered self when he asked her if she had been feeling alright. The dark-haired woman was talking to herself and twitching – what else was he supposed to do?

That simple little question – daijoubu ka – was one that now haunted his whole existence. Who would have known those four syllables would have made Shizune have a panic attack that, four months after the event, she had still not completely recovered from?

Running his hand roughly over his face, the teacher sighed. Looking up to the ceiling, he had the fleeting hope that the building would crumble and take him with it. Really, was it so much to ask that the Hokage Tower lose a few floors in a freak accident? Death was the only excuse Iruka had not tried yet on the Hokage to get out of his new job.

Four months ago, he thought that filling in for Shizune for a week or two – the time he assumed she would be out on medical leave – wouldn't be so bad. He had even been eager, if one wanted to know the truth, to be the Hokage's temporary secretary. He thought that he could rub some of his organization off on their messy and lazy Hokage. Within the first day, he had given up on that.

Now, a third of a year later, Iruka was starting to understand why Shizune had been ranting to herself and having spasms. He had to pat the woman on the back for lasting as long as she had. She had somehow dealt with Tsunade for years. The mere thought of working for the blonde that long made Iruka shiver.

The odd jobs that Shizune had made part of her duty weren't so bad – making sure Tsunade was awake and semi-sober for her morning meetings with the Elders, giving the Hokage her allotted amount of sake as a reward for good behavior, and scheduling the blonde's day around her liquid meals. He didn't mind being a secretary – going over paperwork and writing correspondences were things he was more than accustomed to it after years at the academy and the Missions Office. But this was something else entirely.

Eyeing the papers scattered across his desk, Iruka reminded himself why he hated his new job so – the requests. It was only because of a decade in the Missions Office that he could even read some of the pages. An idea came to his mind and it took some sifting to find a pad of paper underneath all the mess. Quickly scribbling down his idea to make penmanship classes a mandatory part of being a jounin, the teacher finally felt a smile come to his face. The one good thing about his job was that Tsunade was more than willing to sign off on anything, so long as he dangled a bottle of alcohol before her.

It would seem manipulative in any other circumstance, but as Iruka looked down at the papers before him, he knew that he was only being reasonable. Such classes were something that was very much needed for the betterment of their village. If jounin could write halfway intelligently, he wouldn't have to spend an hour on each person's request in order to decode it. The thought of the free time he would have then to catch up on the rest of the Hokage's work was almost enough to make the teacher salivate.

Raking his hand through his hair, Iruka read over another jounin's request for a mission. The requests that came to Tsunade directly were ones for reconnaissance missions, assassinations, and a host of other dangerous assignments that their mentally unbalanced jounin community begged for. There were also requests for reassignments to another village or different genin groups and various other random pleas. Thinking of another idea, Iruka wrote down on his pad of paper that there should be some kind of format to requests so he wouldn't have to read every single paper to know what someone was asking for.

Scanning over the paper in front of him, the one that was closest to neatly written, Iruka deciphered that someone was asking – no, begging – to be sent to Suna for diplomatic reasons. Recognizing the writing, the teacher felt a smile tug at his face. Of course the Hyuuga would want to be sent to the village his rumored boyfriend ruled over.

Placing the young man's request on the floor to his left, where there was a pile of diplomatic reassignments already building up into a small tower, Iruka went back to sorting through the papers. He had been given permission by Tsunade to grant or refuse requests on his own, but the teacher couldn't help but snicker when he thought of how he could torture the woman by making her go through every request before he allowed her to drink. Oh, revenge was sweet!

Finally discovering that he did in fact have a desk underneath all the paperwork, Iruka felt a shiver of delight creep up his back. It had only taken him six hours to sort through everything!

Around him, in piles that only the obsessive-compulsive teacher could understand, was a month's worth of requests. Of course, in keeping with Konoha's unpunctual ways, he hadn't started getting the requests until last night and today was the deadline. It was how their village seemed to work – following the example their leader set and never turning in things early. No, everyone waited until the last moment. And what was worse was that it wasn't just the jounin community! All shinobi, from pre-genin to ANBU were taking a page from Tsunade's book. Then there were the Elders and other civilians who were almost just as bad.

Rubbing his aching temples, Iruka started scribbling all of his ideas down on his pad of paper. First, there would have to be a schedule set down so that not all peoples' requests came in on the same day. Perhaps civilian requests could be due a week before the shinobi community's. At least that way he wouldn't be sorting through thousands of letters, attempting to make some sense of it all.

Iruka glanced down at the desk and saw that, underneath his newly-rediscovered coffee mug, was an envelope. Lifting up the cup that was now filled with cold coffee, Iruka took a sip of the chilled liquid that, despite its horrible taste, had the caffeine he had come to rely on in the past four months. He picked up the immaculate white envelope, nearly crying in happiness when he saw that the paper had no questionable stains, no scribbled characters scratched out, or anything else that would say it was from the shinobi community. It wasn't crumpled, messy, or otherwise similar to the thousands of requests he had already gone through. The only things on the envelope were neatly-written characters that identified it as a mission request.

He couldn't help but open up the sealed flap of the envelope, curious to know what shinobi could possibly write legibly and had enough sense to keep their written request professional-looking. It was almost too good to be true! Almost as soon as he opened the envelope, Iruka's eyes widened as he realized that he was very wrong in hoping that there was one shinobi in Konoha who was just as orderly and obsessive as he was.

XXX

Tsunade stretched backwards, a large grin coming to her face as she felt the warm sun on her skin. For a moment, she wondered if she should feel any remorse for leaving her cute little secretary to do all of her work. She quickly shook such a thought from her mind. Iruka would do fine and he certainly didn't need her help to do whatever it was that made the anal man tick. He was probably deliriously happy in organizing the requests into a thousand and one different categories.

Glancing down at her ratty t-shirt and jeans, the Hokage snickered. With the henge she had forced Naruto to teach her years ago, though slightly modified for her own needs, the woman had discovered that no one looked twice at the twenty-something blonde man that wandered around the village from time to time.

It had taken some sneaking to get past her brunet guard – mainly jumping out of her window and falling nearly twelve stories. She couldn't use chakra to attach herself to the wall – Iruka would have felt it and come out to drag her back inside where he would torture her with paperwork for the rest of the day.

Glad that she always kept a change of well-worn clothes in her office, Tsunade was about to set out towards her favorite bar, but froze when she heard an echoing boom come from overhead. Unconsciously, her arms moved to cover her head as debris fell to the ground around her.

It was almost as though time itself had slowed down as she turned to look back at the Hokage Tower, only to see a large, ominous cloud of dark smoke billowing out of a window on the top floor. Other than her office, there was only one other room on that entire floor and, therefore, there was only one person who had any reason to be up there right now.

Tsunade moved before the thought fully registered in her head. Racing back into the building, this time going through the front door, she ignored the unfamiliar, constrictive feeling of running in jeans. As she flew by wide-eyed shinobi and citizens, she instinctively yelled out a command. She wasn't entirely sure, but she had the feeling she told them to evacuate the building.

She raced up the stairs, taking several at a time. Though nearly all of her focus was on running, she could still sense that there were several shinobi behind her also moving towards the source of the explosion. Whether it was because of the wave of guilt washing over her or the knowledge that there was someone on the top floor who could have been caught in the blast, she ran the fastest, easily distancing herself from the other shinobi.

Sliding across the floor once she reached the top of the staircase, Tsunade had to take a moment to steady herself before she flitted towards the only visible door. Wrenching the door open, and in the process tearing it away from the wall, she threw the useless wood and paper to the side. Before the door even hit the ground, Tsunade raced into the room.

Immediately pulling her t-shirt over her nose and mouth, she had to shut her eyes as smoke began to burn them. The clouds of dark matter around her weren't those from a fire, Tsunade was certain. It only took her a moment to recognize the stinging agony in her still closed eyes. It wasn't normal smoke – it was a chemical explosion that resulted in this.

Holding her breath, no longer trusting the air enough to even breathe, she moved quickly. Blindly reaching out for anything that would tell her exactly where in the room she was, the Hokage finally felt the corner of something hard. She realized it was the desk and, using that as a handle, she moved around and nearly tripped over the chair on the other side of the piece of furniture.

Tsunade was about to give up on trying to keep herself from taking in any of the smoke and call out for her unwilling secretary, but heard something that made her stop short. It was a soft sound – a groan, perhaps – that originated from somewhere nearby. Falling to her knees, she stretched her hands out and tried to feel for the brunet.

Finally, her fingertips came in contact with something that she quickly surmised was his leg. Moving to the man's side, she slid her hands down to a limp wrist and felt for a pulse. The throb was weak and failing.

As a medic, she knew everything that could be wrong with the teacher. A broken neck, concussion, burns, limbs torn to pieces. There were so many possibilities, but at the moment, all the woman knew was that she had to get him out of the smoke-filled room and to a place where she could open her eyes and see the damage.

Shifting so that she was at the brunet's head, Tsunade eased her arms underneath him, trying to support his neck and head as best she could before starting to pull him in the direction of the doorway. By the time she got him out into the hallway, her own eyes were burning and her lungs were screaming for air.

Finally feeling it was safe enough to open her eyes, Tsunade had to blink a number of times to clear her vision of tears. Unsure whether they were from emotions or the smoke, the woman didn't give it a second thought as her gaze traveled over the teacher's unmoving body.

Her hands instantly began glowing a pale green as she ran her touch over him, healing anything and everything she could. It wasn't until she could feel the man's heart return to a normal beat that she took the time to process what her eyes were seeing.

Iruka's limbs were still very much in place, though his hands and arms had small burns and lacerations covering them. His jacket and shirt had been obliterated, leaving his bruised and bleeding chest bare. All of those were insignificant injuries, Tsunade realized, as she looked up into Iruka's face.

There, stretching across his face was the most horrible wound of all. The raised, angry red burns were unmistakable. Chemical burns – the worst sort. She hesitantly brought her hand up to touch the side of the teacher's face that had obviously caught the brunt of the explosion. The burns, along with the deep cuts, that covered the right side of his face and traveled across the bridge of his nose, all the way over to his other temple were ones that made the Hokage gasp.

She didn't need to be a healer to know that there was one injury on the teacher that no amount of medical knowledge could ever hope to repair.

XXX

"This was obviously an assassination attempt on the Hokage!"

"An investigation must be started immediately!"

"The Hokage's guard must be increased!"

Tsunade dropped her head into her hands as she listened to the argument going on around her. Though all the people in the room, from Elders to her best jounin, all agreed on what had happened earlier in the evening, they, for some reason, found the need to loudly discuss what to do about it.

Finally having had enough of the screaming match, she stood up, pounding her hands down on the table in front of her. No one dared to so much as breathe as she looked around the oval table at the group she had called together once she was no longer needed at the hospital.

A few of the people had enough shame to bow their heads as they realized how they were acting. Those who had no such capacity for embarrassment simply looked back at her with questioning glances.

"This was not an attempt on my life," Tsunade said hoarsely. Her lungs continued to burn from earlier, despite the fact that she hadn't breathed in any of the smoke. Her eyes still watered, leaving streaks of tears down her face that no amount of wiping could fully erase.

She knew what she said was true. Had it been an attempt on her life, the assassin would have been smart enough to know that she didn't open anything herself. No, it was common knowledge that Iruka was the one who did all of her paperwork. She only saw it when the brunet brought it to her for her to sign, or when he was on one of those annoying 'you should take responsibility for these' kicks of his.

No, someone hadn't meant to catch her in the explosion and she told the gathering as much. She explained to them that anyone who did any research would have known Iruka would be the one to open the letter – that he would be the one caught in the blast. As she spoke, she could see some nod their heads in agreement, but others were still unconvinced. When she finally fell silent again, Anko spoke.

"Iruka-sensei should have a guard placed on him until the matter has been settled," the kunoichi said as she looked to her fellow jounin. Though it was no secret that the entire jounin community saw Iruka as one of their own, and because of that, was like a brother to each shinobi at the table, Tsunade could see that they were all hesitant. Iruka's reputation for being difficult was one well-earned.

"Yes, but in case this was an attempt on Tsunade-sama's life, her bodyguards should also be increased," one of the Elders stated calmly and, as Tsunade looked around the room, she could see the agreement in everyone else's eyes.

"I will agree to the extra guards… so long as Iruka is safe," Tsunade replied as she looked down at her hands. If it meant assigning her best bodyguards to the man, she would chance the possibility she would be unprotected in another attack. She could handle an assault, but Iruka needed someone to watch over him. Looking back to the jounin at the table, Tsunade wondered out loud, "Who would be willing to watch over Iruka?"

For a moment, no one spoke and several of her elite shinobi bowed their heads. Finally, it was Shikamaru who broke the silence. "Iruka said the next time he sees me, he's shoving a lit cigarette up my ass…too troublesome."

"He's going to make me choke on a senbon."

"He will steal my youthfulness!"

There were a number of similar complaints – all of which were reasons for her cowardly jounin to back out of watching over Iruka. As the last shinobi voiced why she was incapable of protecting the chuunin, Tsunade dropped her head against her chest with a sigh. Almost as soon as she wondered if there was a single person who would be willing to guard Iruka, she thought of one person who would be perfect for the job.

"I already have someone in mind," Tsunade stated, looking up at her most powerful shinobi, who cowered when threatened with the duty of being around Iruka for long periods of time. Smiling to herself, she realized that Iruka's new guard should be returning to the village soon.

XXX

Kakashi slumped against the warm tile of the shower, his hands moving up to gingerly rake through his hair. Letting out a sigh as the hot water hit his freezing body, he momentarily didn't care that the water scalded his skin, nor was he entirely concerned by the red tinge the water at his feet was taking on as the grime of his mission was washed off.

Trying to pull his fingers through his matted, dirty hair, he winced a few times as his touch met a spot where his hair was caked to his head with dried blood that he knew to be his own. Pushing against the wall to try standing back up, the jounin momentarily wove back and forth unsteadily. Gripping the side of the shower, it took several seconds of deep breathing for him to feel confident enough to release his hold and stand on his own two feet.

Bowing his head under the stream of water, washing away the blood at the side of his head, Kakashi watched as a new, darker shade of red began swirling with the pink water in the tub.

"You take a longer shower than most women!"

Kakashi froze at those words or, more specifically, that voice. He had purposely 'forgotten' to hand in his mission report as soon as he got into the village just to avoid the buxom blonde. It took him a moment to realize that her words were easily heard despite the shower running not because she was being loud. No, that damn voice originated from the other side of his very much see-through shower curtain.

"What do you want?" Kakashi grumbled as he tilted his head up to wash his face under the cascade of water, ignoring the feeling of eyes on him. At least his shower curtain was steamed up enough that she wouldn't be able to make out distinct features, such as his currently uncovered face.

"I have a favor to ask," Tsunade replied. From the squeak of the floor underneath her, Kakashi could assume she had shifted on one foot as she spoke, which made him wonder why she was showing such a nervous habit. She was the one who broke into his home, boldly walked into his bathroom, and now spoke to him as though he wasn't a foot away, naked as the day he was born! There was nothing for the ballsy woman to be nervous about when Kakashi should be the one letting out a feminine shriek and demanding she get out. At this point, he was too tired and weak to argue, so he simply took her presence in stride.

"Give me a minute?" Kakashi all but begged as he felt another dizzy spell coming on. Leaning forward to hold onto the knobs in front of him, he could only manage shallow breaths as he waited for her answer.

"Let me look at your head when you get out," Tsunade replied, her tone reprimanding. Kakashi knew better than to argue with the woman, so he patiently waited until he could hear her leave the room. Moving as quickly as his sore body would allow, he finished washing off the majority of the blood, sweat, and dirt. He turned off the shower and got out, toweling himself off gently as he did his best to not reopen any of his wounds.

Kakashi wrapped the towel around his middle, but it stubbornly slipped down low on his hips. Throwing on his mask but nothing else, he let out a grumble. He was too tired, too sore, and far too annoyed to care if the towel fell any lower and he flashed his Hokage. It would be her own damn fault for trespassing under the story of wanting to ask a favor. When she said 'favor,' she truly meant 'order.' There was no way to argue with the woman unless you wanted to be hit by the strongest shinobi alive. Having been on the receiving end of one of her punches, Kakashi wasn't going to think for a moment that he had another option in any of this.

Taking a deep breath, he worked up the nerve to waltz out of the bathroom, despite the fact he was, for all intents and purposes, naked. A towel and a mask didn't make him even half-dressed in his mind.

Wandering towards the kitchen where he could hear a strange clinking, Kakashi was met with the sight of Tsunade placing two cups of tea down on his table. He didn't even know he had tea, much less the mugs she was using, but Kakashi wasn't going to question it when he saw her face.

There was no mistaking the red tinge to her eyes – Tsunade had been crying. Though he despised the woman at the best of times, Kakashi felt a wave of anger hit him. Whoever dared to make his leader cry would certainly meet their end at his hands or, if not his, a fellow shinobi's.

"Sit down, Kakashi," she said, her voice not the strong, powerful one Kakashi always recognized and had nightmares about. No, it was hoarse and scratchy and from the expression on her face, it obviously hurt her to speak.

Unable to do anything else, Kakashi did as he was told, though he did make sure to rearrange his towel so the woman didn't catch a glimpse of something neither of them wanted her to see. Kakashi was about to open his mouth and ask what happened, but froze when he felt a warm touch on the side of his head. It didn't take him more than the blink of an eye to realize she was healing the injury to his head that had been perhaps the worst of his wounds.

"A cracked skull and a concussion. Sometimes you worry me," Tsunade said lightly as she finally leaned away from the jounin and took a seat next to the man. Raking a hand through her hair, she took a deep breath as she thought out how to word her next statement. "There was an attack last night."

"Attack?" Kakashi repeated, wondering why she had seen a reason to come tell him such a thing in person at two in the morning. He would have heard when he went to turn in his mission report in a few hours. It was the look in her watery eyes that made him realize that there was a good reason for this house call.

"It might have been an assassination attempt," Tsunade explained softly, not knowing that her words momentarily made the jounin's heart speed up. Not seeing his wide eyes, she continued, "I was uninjured… I wasn't there when the explosion went off. I don't think that it was meant for me, though… it was for my secretary."

"Who would want to kill Shizune?" Kakashi asked evenly, having seen too much to be fazed by the explosion that was meant for the secretary. The last time he had been in the village, the woman was her usual anal, screaming self. Shizune wasn't that powerful or important of a shinobi, but perhaps the attacker had wanted to make Tsunade realize how easy it would be to come at her directly, if they could get to the person closest to her.

"Not Shizune," Tsunade replied as her eyebrows furrowed. It took her a moment to remember that Kakashi had been on a reconnaissance mission in the Hidden Village of Mist for the past six months. Kakashi wouldn't have known that Iruka replaced her mentally-unstable friend a while ago. "It was Umino Iruka."

Those four words made Kakashi's very heart stop as he outright stared at the blonde woman now sipping on her tea as though the liquid could hide the fact she had sobbed as she spoke. Something cold and hard settled in his gut, not recalling if Tsunade said whether or not the assassin had been successful.

"He nearly died from the explosion – it hit him directly in the face." Tsunade bowed her head as she set her tea back down on the table, unable to take another sip. When she spoke again, her voice was tempered with anger. "I want someone constantly protecting him until we catch whoever was behind this."

That strange lump in his stomach melted slightly at the realization Iruka hadn't been killed, but it returned full force as Kakashi reasoned out why Tsunade was telling him all of this. "You want me to watch over him?" he asked, forcing his voice to remain steady. "Iruka hates me more than anyone else… why not have Gai, or someone else he can stand most of the time, do it?"

"You're the only one I know who might be able to understand what he's going through…"

At that admission, one of Kakashi's eyebrows went up. He had his fair share of near-death experiences, but what jounin hadn't? No, there had to be something Tsunade hadn't told him yet. At her next words, Kakashi couldn't hold back the sharp intake of air.

"He was blinded by the explosion," Tsunade whispered as her fingers traveled over her eyes, recalling how the chemical burns focused around those soft, brown orbs. "It's too early to tell if it's permanent… and we won't know if it's complete blindness until he wakes up. He's still heavily sedated until we can get the rest of the acid out of his system."

"Acid?" Kakashi repeated so quietly, the jounin himself wasn't sure if the woman had even heard him. It certainly didn't reach his own ears. Swallowing heavily, he still waited for Tsunade to continue.

"Covering the exploding tags was an unknown chemical reagent – an acid – that hit Iruka in the face, the torso, and arms. Some of the solution also caught on fire and Iruka inhaled the smoke. It would have killed him had I not reached him so quickly…" Tsunade trailed off, images of the unconscious teacher plaguing her mind. All of this was her fault. Had she been in her office, had she actually been doing her job, Iruka wouldn't be like this. He wouldn't be lying still on a hospital bed, the entire right side of his face and his left eye heavily covered with gauze.

Kakashi could see the guilt on Tsunade's face, but he knew better than to let her know he had noticed it. Shinobi, no matter how powerful they were, didn't want to be reminded that they were only human and, as such, they were capable of human emotions and human mistakes. "Why would I be able to understand him?" Kakashi asked instead as he looked at the cup of tea in front of him.

"Don't be an idiot. I've known since I first met you that you're blind in one eye," Tsunade replied as she glanced over at the jounin. The look on Kakashi's half-covered face would have been comical in another time and setting, but right now, it was painfully apparent that the jounin didn't want anyone to know such a detail about him. "The Sharingan – you don't have it uncovered unless using it, so it's obvious you got used to seeing out of just one eye. The first time I saw that you can't deactivate it told me for certain that you can't see out of it. You can still use it like an Uchiha, but it's because you still have one functioning eye that you can see illusions or create your own. Even the greatest of the Uchiha couldn't live so many years with their Sharingan constantly activated, and not go blind. It is the one downfall of such eyes."

Kakashi's body tensed as Tsunade easily told him one of his greatest secrets as though it was common knowledge. He had been so certain no one ever realized that he didn't look at them with the Sharingan – that he didn't focus on them. So many thought that it was because he wouldn't be able to control the illusion he put them under, when it was truly anything but.

He had started losing the sight in his implanted eye within a year of Obito's death. By eighteen months, he could see nothing other than painful blackness when just his unnatural eye was open. He had to learn how to see out of one eye, to judge distance when he had no depth perception, to be able to foresee attacks that were most commonly directed at his large blind spot. It took him years upon years to carefully hide any indication that he only had one functioning eye. What perhaps hurt the worst was that he even hid it from his friends and his beloved teacher. No one – especially no one left alive – had known. Yet Tsunade had somehow always been aware of it.

"I would have lost my shinobi status, had anyone found out," Kakashi said, his voice cold and guarded, as he moved to stand. Turning so he didn't have to look at the Hokage, he folded his arms across his chest and closed his right eye. As soon as his natural eye was completely closed, the world went dark despite the fact he knew his left eye was still open. Sometimes, he had wondered if it would have just been better to not have the transplant – to not have to pretend that he could see perfectly fine.

"No one else knows and I have no intention of letting you retire early," Tsunade replied, a hint of joking in her voice. "You have proven to me that you are capable of becoming one of my most trusted shinobi, even with such a handicap. I have no problem with letting you keep your position."

"Thank you," Kakashi stated as he bowed his head. He couldn't lose his status as a jounin. He knew no other life – he had nothing else. Just the thought of being turned into a civilian made his stomach churn.

"Will you protect Iruka until we find his attacker?" Tsunade asked as she watched the jounin's bare back tense. She knew that Iruka and Kakashi didn't have the greatest of relationships, but the jounin before her was the only person she would trust with Iruka when her secretary would undoubtedly be trying to cope with a life without his sight. Kakashi was the only one who could understand that kind of frustration and anger.

Kakashi turned to look back at her, his eyebrows furrowing as he studied her. "Iruka will not agree to it. He avoids me at all costs," the jounin admitted. He wouldn't tell Tsunade that every time Iruka glared at him with hate and every single snub on the teacher's part were like stabs to the heart.

"That is why I am having one of my best ANBU members watch over him," Tsunade stated calmly, seeing the range of emotion race through Kakashi's natural eye. She was sure the jounin had no idea the kind of glimpse he had just given her into his own heart. "You're being reinstated into ANBU for as long as Iruka needs you. No one will ever know that you are the one protecting him – other than myself and the ANBU team."

"I don't have my mask or uniform," Kakashi lied. Those items were in a chest under his bed, locked away in hopes that he would forget about those dark years of his life, where all he knew was murder. It was a time he never wanted to relive or repeat. But he wasn't going to be a normal ANBU – an assassin. She was going to make him into one of the few ANBU who had the honor of being a bodyguard. He was certain that Tsunade would make up some kind of story for Iruka and others – that he was one of her most trusted guards and she had assigned him to Iruka. The only people besides Tsunade who would know the truth would be other ANBU. They would know he wasn't ANBU or would know who he was if they had been around when he himself had truly been part of their ranks.

"I can get you new ones… I am, after all, the leader of the entire shinobi community – and that includes ANBU," Tsunade replied with a saddened smile. She wished she could let Kakashi back out, but there was no one else she could ask to take care of Iruka. The least she could do for her secretary was get the most understanding person she could to protect Iruka with his life.

The Hokage saw the almost unperceivable nod of Kakashi's head and, though she should be happy that the jounin was agreeing to help, she couldn't shake the feeling that she was torturing Kakashi in her attempt to alleviate some of her own guilt.

XXX

B.Z.: ... OMG! I LOVE this idea! But is Iruka going to be completely blind, or just in his right eye? I like the idea of him only being partially blind better, but that's up to you. Either way, I LOVE IT!

Authoress: Kuku, Iruka's blindness is for future chapters! And a huuuuge thanks to B.Z.-chan for betaing this chapter! So, please review so I know where to take this story! Until next time, ja ne!