Iruka thinks back to a week earlier, when he had first assigned the week's journal prompt.
"Well class, this week's assigned line is 'true love never dies.' You can tell me if you agree, disagree, what it means, anything you like."
He had watched as most of the girls' eyes flickered to Sasuke, the exception being Hinata, who looked over at Naruto and immediately blushed. Most of the guys had groaned, but Sasuke's expression stayed perfectly indifferent, although for a moment, Iruka could have sworn he saw another emotion flicker past in those dark eyes. Naruto had immediately shown a sign of great sadness, but within seconds had a smile plastered back on, and was grinning at Sakura.
Iruka had sighed, then dismissed the class to lunch.
Iruka sighs again. He looks down at the many papers on his large desk, particularly the ones belonging to the group with the most varied answers. There's Sakura's flowery half-cursive/half-print, babbling about 'eternal love', 'tall, dark, and handsome princes', 'cherry blossom princesses', and - Iruka's eye twitches - 'two idiots with blond hair.' Then there is Ino's bubbly print, starting off with 'dreams come true', but, surprisingly, ending on the topic of love for friends and family.
Hinata's tiny, neat, cursive script speaks of how love can be made to last even after a death, familial love, and how necessary it is to upbringing, to raising emotionally and mentally healthy children.
Kiba, Shino, Chouji, and Shikamaru's papers talk about games and pets, pets, foods, and activities they love to do, respectively, and how they will always love whatever it is they love. They also include a few lines scribbled hastily on friends and family.
And then there are Naruto and Sasuke's papers, the only ones out of all the classes that have completely negative responses.
Even Neji's is positive, about love for a village, a clan, a special person who is to be protected with one's life.
But the Uzumaki brat and prodigious Uchiha both have papers that do not speak of joy, happiness, ecstatic smiles or cheerful laughter.
Sasuke's neat scrawl tells of love that ended, leaving the lover worse off than had they not loved. His paper says, as a fact, that love is not eternal, because if his family did not partake in 'true love,' then true love was nonexistent, for what could be truer and more loving than his family's bond? And since his family was now all dead, obviously, love died along with its participants.
And Naruto - in his messy handwriting, horribly mangled in order to disguise his lack of knowledge on spelling, a lesson cruelly withheld from him, words - badly deformed words, but still words - depict a lonely life. A barren environment in which 'true love never dies' is a completely laughable statement, seeing as how something that has never existed can neither continue to live nor die.
Iruka reads over these fondly - Sasuke's, reflecting his own orphaned childhood, and Naruto's, admiring how he has managed to smile through it all, even when there are more than sufficient reasons not to, and not nearly enough reasons to.
But Iruka gets an idea, one to keep those smiles coming, one that that will hopefully give an actual reason to smile, beyond, "I don't have a family so I don't have to worry about them leaving me and me becoming an ass like Sasuke."
Despite himself, Iruka grins at his idea.
When the children arrive in the morning, Naruto, for once, not late, and he begins to hand back the graded papers, he calls Naruto and Sasuke aside, separately.
First, with Naruto, he asks if he can share the journal with another student. Naruto agrees, and simply asks to edit a few things. Iruka watches sadly as his student scratches out all mention of his depressed days. Iruka knows it won't stop Sasuke from figuring out the words. Iruka thanks Naruto, then calls Sasuke over, asking the same thing.
Sasuke also asks to scratch some things out. He gets rid of his own name, and any mentions of his family members' names, wherever they appear. Iruka knows Naruto will know anyway.
He hands Sasuke Naruto's paper, then as he passes by Naruto's desk, he drops Sasuke's on it.
"All right class, now let's go over the making of a clone." He knows Naruto won't pay attention anyway, and Sasuke already knows how to do this jutsu.
About halfway through, he sees both of the orphans looking up and right at each other.
Iruka can just as well see the sympathy, no, neither wants that, he can just see the understanding passing between them.
And when Iruka turns around to write the assignment for work time on the board, he just barely catches the sound of the door clicking shut.
When he turns around, two clones, both made of Sasuke's chakra, sit in the places of two certain orphans, but there are no sounds of fighting coming from the hall.
A few minutes later, he happens to glance out the window and sees Naruto sitting on his swing, quiet, and Sasuke perched on the branch above his companion, talking while Naruto listens.
There is no yelling, no harsh physical contact, just two lonely souls finding companionship.
Iruka looks back at the rest of his class and decides they should probably practice their aim in the fields behind the academy.
When he looks out the window once more, the two boys are walking together in the direction of the training grounds in front of the building.
Yeah, the class should definitely practice their aim behind the academy.
But a few days later, when Naruto gets to school early for once, trailing behind a certain expressionless classmate of his, he's shocked when Naruto's clone is much stronger, much more substantial. Still not even close to perfect, but greatly improved. The same goes for his transformation jutsu. He doesn't fool around with any transformations of naked girls. His transformation is a little lopsided, a little deformed, but it's a huge improvement. When Naruto gets back in line, Iruka spots Sasuke smirking at him, mouthing the words, told you I could help.
And while he should really reprimand Naruto for yelling " You arrogant bastard!" in response, once again, despite himself, Iruka smiles.
A/N: So, I was wondering if I should continue this with other oneshots with different scenes and memories from Iruka's classroom. What do you think?