Geniuses of Hard Work

Epilogue: For Better or Worse

Night had once again long since fallen over the village of Konoha. Most of the village had shut their lights off and had gone to sleep after the exhausting day of having to repair the damage that had been caused by the invasion. However, one light still burnt brightly in the top of the Hokage Tower and three people sat awake inside.

Iruka found himself questioning why this was so. He had always been a good man, trying his hardest to be good and keep his nose clean. He had worked extra hard today repairing the streets that had caved in, leaving the disgusting smell of the sewers out in the open. So why was it that he was here at three in the morning with Might Guy of all people?

He unfortunately knew exactly why. He had been a third party witness in what had been one of the most unorthodox team formations ever. He had been forced to stay up late that night back then for the same reason he was still up now.

Hatake Kakashi.

The man was late…again. Not that it should have been any surprise at this point. He was always late. It never changed. Iruka couldn't particularly blame him this time either. He had lost after all. Guy had been bouncing around the room excitedly for about an hour and a half but for the past hour he had been standing on his hands quietly in the corner. Something Iruka was extremely grateful for. His headache was bad enough without the man screaming all over the place.

Finally, after nearly three long hours, a pop followed by a poof of smoke alerted Iruka, Guy, and the Hokage to Kakashi's presence. "Yo!" The silver-haired man said as he stepped out of the smoke, his one revealed eye smiling for him.

The Hokage smiled, not at all perturbed by Kakashi's tardiness. "So what kept you this time Kakashi?"

"You know, had to rescue a tree from a cat…wait." Kakashi raised his hand to his face and seemed to ponder his own statement in a manner that seemed incredibly nostalgic to Iruka, and not in a good way.

"I hope you are ready, Kakashi!" Guy couldn't contain his silence any longer, much to Iruka's further frustration. "The time has finally come!"

"Oh, Guy, when did you get here?" The Copy Ninja asked with his face buried deeply in his orange book.

"Damn!" Guy threw his hands into the air. "I can't stand that hip attitude of yours! It drives me insane! Were it not three in the morning I would challenge you to youthful combat! Alas, even I need to recharge my battery at night!"

"Do we really need to repeat that night word for word?" Iruka came between both men as he shouted. "Things have changed drastically and yet you act like it is all exactly the same as it was on that night months ago!" He looked back and forth between everyone.

"Iruka is right." The Hokage said, finally laying down his pipe. Iruka sighed in relief; finally someone was on his side. "If we are going to repeat the last time properly Guy needs to start outside of the office and kick the door in." Iruka fell to the floor an instant later.

"You all hate me, don't you…" He whimpered quietly from the ground.

At those words, Sarutobi gave a long needed laugh. With all the stress he had been building up from the past few weeks he was really thankful for the relaxing atmosphere. Iruka was right of course, things had changed drastically. Yet some things would always be the same and he hoped moments like this would continue for a long time to come.

"It is time we got down to business." He said after he finally managed to stifle his laughter. Iruka slowly got back to his feet and took his place in the chair that he had been sitting in before. Guy and Kakashi walked to either side of him and stood staring straight at the Hokage. "Guy, as I'm sure you noticed, Lee has not been promoted to Chunin."

"Yes, my student has informed me that he turned down the promotion." Guy said with a small hint of pride in his surprise. Iruka however looked completely flabbergasted by this revelation.

"Turned it down? Why would he turn down the promotion?" He really couldn't understand Guy or his crazy look-a-like at all.

"Lee informed me he would like to remain a Genin so he can repeat the exams with his teammates. While it is very uncommon of course for someone to turn down the promotion it is not unheard of." Sarutobi slowly rose to his feet, the bones in his body cracking audibly as he did.

"Does this mean that not a single Genin has been promoted to Chunin?" Kakashi already knew the answer, but he was interested in the Hokage's response all the same.

"While that may be true, I do not feel it is of much concern. It is just a rank after all." Sarutobi picked up his pipe and slowly began to walk to the other side of his desk. "There were seven Konoha Genin, if we count Kinuta Dosu, and they all performed incredibly well. The fact is, our village showed great promise and I think we may be looking at a surplus of assignments in these coming months. The teams that performed are easily Chunin rank as it is. Even if they do not hold the rank I think we can see fit to assign them to higher rank missions from now on."

"I think I would prefer we keep them in here for awhile." Guy had an anxious smile as he rubbed the back of his head. "No matter where my team goes disaster seems to be following them around."

"Yet they beat that disaster away with all the hard work you've put into them. I doubt you have much to worry about." Kakashi nodded his head slightly in Guy's direction as he complimented him.

"Huh? You say something?" Guy asked, his face buried deeply inside a very familiar looking orange book.

"If you are going to imitate him, at least have the decency to not hold the book upside-down." Iruka rubbed the scar on his face as he shook his head.

Guy took a quick look at the front and saw he indeed had it upside down. "Damn it! How do you do it, Kakashi? How is it you are so hip without even trying?" Guy said as he tossed the book back to his rival.

"Lots of hard work." Kakashi replied smoothly as he caught the book with ease.

"Are either of you ever serious?" Iruka couldn't believe that the two strongest Jonin in the whole village behaved this way every time he saw them. Maybe there was a pattern to this. Could it be the stronger you were, the weirder you became? If that were true, Iruka was quite fine at his current level of strength. He liked being normal, thank you very much.

"Now then, it is time for the bet to be closed completely." Sarutobi interrupted Iruka's train of thought. They all turned back to him with their full attention. "Even if we ignore the fact that Lee and Neji's fight was unofficial, Guy is still the distinct winner as three of his students made it to the second round while only one of Kakashi's did. Would you say this sounds right, Iruka?"

"M-me?" Iruka pointed to himself in surprise. "I guess, that sounds fair to me."

Sarutobi nodded. "In that case, I pronounce Might Guy the winner of the bet and Kakashi, as punishment you will show him what is beneath your mask."

"Yes!" Guy shouted so loudly that Iruka was sure the neighbors had woken up.

"Well darn…I guess there is no choice." Kakashi sighed as he turned to Guy, his hand on his mask.

Guy was practically on the tips of his toes in anticipation. At long last, the secret to Kakashi's face would be his.

Iruka, despite his best efforts, couldn't keep himself from looking at the Copy Ninja's face with the utmost curiosity. After all, it was completely normal to want to know what was behind Kakashi's mask. Especially since he went through so much trouble to always hide it.

Sarutobi meanwhile took another inhale of his pipe. The smallest of smirks was on his face, as if he already saw what was coming next.

"Underneath my mask…" Kakashi began to pull lightly at his mask and Iruka and Guy both leaned in closer.

"…is another mask!" Kakashi pulled his first mask down to reveal yet another one.

Silence, complete silence fell across the room as Guy and Iruka stared at Kakashi's still masked face with open mouths and wide eyes. "Well then, if there is nothing else. I'll be off." Kakashi placed his first mask up and vanished in a poof of smoke a moment later.

Finally, Guy seemed to regain his composer and he turned to the old man. "Hokage-sama!" Guy drawled loudly as he threw himself at the man's feet. Meanwhile, Iruka collapsed to the ground in a heap of disbelief. How stupid he had been, getting his hopes up like that. He should have known better with this group. They really did hate him after all.

"What is it, Guy?" Sarutobi asked as innocently as he could, fighting off the urge to laugh.

"H-he…the bet…his face…my dreams…" Guy continued to fumble out nonsense for a good couple of minutes before the Hokage finally decided to answer him.

"The agreement of the bet was he would show you what was under his mask. If you wanted to see his face you should have mentioned that instead. I thought looking underneath the underneath was one of the first things you taught Naruto."

Guy slowly rose to his feet, his eyes hidden by his bangs. When he looked up they were lit ablaze. "Damn you Kakashi!" He shouted so loud that he knew the man had to be able to hear him. "I want another bet! This time show me behind both masks!" An instant later and Guy was gone.

Sarutobi chuckled as he walked back to his desk and sat down. "This certainly has made for an interesting night."

"Do you think it was for the best?" Iruka asked as he got back to his feet.

"The best?" Sarutobi asked, curious of what Iruka meant.

"The trade, that is." Iruka clarified as he took his seat. "I mean, do you think things would have been worse had Guy never come in that night and Naruto ended up under Kakashi?"

Sarutobi twirled his pipe around in his hands. "I can't really say how drastically that moment altered the course of history. One can never know what could've been. The fact is, for better or worse, things are different and our lives have been changed." The sound of Guy screaming from somewhere in the village reached the ears of both Shinobi. "Yes…" Sarutobi repeated with a small smile.

"…for better or worse."

The End