Morning Shows The Day
Iruka and Kakashi's Excellent Adventure
Written for Jofelly on the KakaIru fest.. Special thanks to the many people who patiently listened to me whine as I figured out the plot, and others who worked to correct it. Alexb49 , Yukinoomoni , Book_People , Tucuxi and Schwarztkd . You guys are great. :D This is a slightly edited version of the one that was put on the fest, and I broke it up for easier reading.
It was a fine autumn day. The sun was shining, with sky the special kind of clean deep blue that only comes about after a storm, and ten-year-old Umino Iruka was currently running for his life.
"Come back here you little twerp!" came a high shriek, off in the distance.
Iruka barked out a laugh and pushed himself harder, faster, leaping over a block of wooden crates and darting down a narrow side-street. "Hurry, Mizuki! This way!" he yelled, sensing his partner in crime starting to flag behind him. "I know a shortcut!"
Mizuki was panting, red-faced with exertion. "She really means it," he gasped, wide-eyed. "She's going to murder us."
Iruka flashed him a quick grin. "Only if she only catches us, and she's slower than—" But he never got to finish. The two boys rounded the next corner and then nearly crashed into each other trying to skid to a stop.
Anko stood on the other side of the alley, arms crossed casually across her chest and radiating death. "How slow am I, Iruka-kun?"
"Uh… Hi Anko-chan," he replied, weakly.
The girl stepped forward and for a brief second her new forehead protector caught a glint of sun. "Hand it over. Now."
Crap, Iruka thought, while Mizuki made a whimpering noise and not-so-subtly inched behind him for protection. It was his fault he'd gotten Mizuki into this, his fault if Anko beat them both up and they never lived down the shame…
"Okay, okay…" he said peaceably and reached into back pocket. His hand came back with a lacy looking bright red bra. Iruka held it out almost as if it were a shield between him and the genin. "Here it is. I didn't take anything else, I swear."
The girl's eyes narrowed and despite the fact Iruka knew he was in real danger of having several bones broken in the very near future, he couldn't quite keep back a flash of pride.
Anko had just been so insufferable after making genin last month; an entire year earlier than Iruka, Mizuki, and the rest of their class. She had been hand-picked to learn under one of the three great Sannin, but even their year's number one rookie hadn't been able to keep her underwear drawer properly locked – there wasn't a trap set yet that Iruka couldn't get around, given enough time.
He had only meant to get her attention. She'd been so distant lately and –
Anko took another dangerous step forward. "Give it back, Umino."
It was being addressed by his family name that did it. The Anko he had grown up with was never so formal, so cold and distant.
It was a split-second decision. As Anko lunged the last few feet to snatch back her bra, Iruka jumped to the side. His sandals caught hold of the brick wall of the alley and held – Iruka wasn't the best in class overall, but he was no slouch when it came to chakra control. A quick flash of concentration and expelled breath and he propelled himself upward, over the edge of the roof, his prize still clutched in his hand.
"Get back here!" he heard Anko shriek. Then, "I'm going to gut you!"
Iruka turned and sprinted across the top of the roof, prize in hand and flapping behind him like a flag of victory. And despite the fact he could hear Anko leap the roof, gaining on him with every step, he still laughed – loud and carefree.
The roof slanted down from its apex and came to an abrupt end. There was another roof out beyond, a few feet too far away to be counted as anything like a safe distance.
He gathered as much chakra as he could in his feet and leapt...
Iruka came back to himself, face down in the dirt and aching all over.
"Ugh," he groaned, or tried to. His mouth was dried to cracking with the odd taste of chalk and sawdust. He pushed himself up to his hands and knees, blinking furiously to clear the haze from his eyes. What happened? Had he fallen? Had Anko caught him and beaten him up?
Little by little, his vision cleared, and he came to realize that the yellow-brown haze was in fact dead grass. The stalks were long – at one time maybe thigh-high, but something or someone had pounded them down flat.
There was a bright splash of red, too.
It took a few moments of staring dumbly at it before Iruka realized it was blood.
He shot to his feet and nearly fell again as a wave of nausea and dizziness rolled over him. He groaned, pressing his palms over his eyes and after a few long seconds it passed. And finally, finally he was able to raise his head and take a good look around.
The village was out of sight. He was instead in a field—unfamiliar and unexpected—with dead yellow weeds broken by sharp upthrusts of jagged bone-white rock. Scattered here and there were the dark, unmoving bodies of men and women.
"What…?" Iruka swallowed hard and took a few tentative steps forward to the closest of them. It was a man—a shinobi, judging by the dark pants and flak-jacket—lying on his back with his face to the sky. His eyes were distant and cloudy in death.
"There's been a battle here."
The voice came from right behind him. Iruka yelped and whipped around, arms flailing in what was supposed to be a defensive stance.
A boy stood behind him. He was about Iruka's age, ten-years-old or so, with wild silver hair and a dark skin-tight mask which covered his nose and the lower half of his face, leaving just his blue-gray eyes visible. Most importantly he wore a Leaf headband.
"W-what happened?" Iruka stammered. "Where am I? Are—Are all these guys dead?"
The other boy regarded him coolly for a moment or two. Then he shrugged and walked past Iruka to kneel by the nearest body. "This is interesting," he said, voice just as calm as if they were talking about cloud formations. "Do you see the hole in his chest? It is as though someone punched right through it."
Iruka, in fact, hadn't looked that closely and after he did he quickly turned away again. But it was far too late – the sight and smell of charred meat seemed to hit him at the same time and a moment later he was on his knees again, retching up things he didn't even remember eating.
He was peripherally aware of the other boy watching him mildly, and then walking over to check over the bodies one-by-one. Iruka only stopped gagging once his stomach was empty, about the same time the other boy had finished with the last of them. Wiping the back of his hand across his mouth, Iruka asked, "Are any of them Leaf, too?"
"No. They appear to be nin from Rock, Mist and Sand. Interesting." The other boy cocked his head to side for a moment in thought. He then walked back to stand in front of Iruka, looking him up and down, and obviously finding him lacking. "You've never been on a battlefield before." It wasn't a question. "What are you doing here?"
Iruka bristled, and he almost welcomed the feeling. He'd rather be indignant than sick to his stomach. "I don't know!" he snapped and stood. The other boy was about his height, or just a hair taller with calm, half-lidded steely eyes. "I was just in the village and then… I don't know!"
"You're just a kid," the other boy noted.
"So are you!"
"I," he replied, with cool dignity, "am a Chuunin."
Iruka opened his mouth to say something scornful at that, but on a second glance he realized that the other boy was, in fact, wearing a chuunin vest. "But…" Iruka looked around, bewildered and determined not to look too closely at any of the bodies. "What happened here? Did you…?" He couldn't quite finish.
Something hesitant flickered in the other boy's eyes and he shook his head. For the first time, he seemed just as unsure as Iruka. "No, I didn't kill them," he answered. "All of these nin were jounin level. However, my sensei could have." It was hard to tell because of the skintight mask, but Iruka got the impression the boy was frowning. "We should go look for him and we should move as far away from this area as possible."
The other boy gave him an annoyed look. "This cell may have been in contact with others and reinforcements might come to investigate if they don't check in."
A shiver of fear ran up Iruka's spine. He glanced quickly around, as if expecting enemy-nin to come melting out of the grasslands at any moment. "O-okay," he agreed, although it didn't really matter because the other boy was already walking away. Iruka hurried to catch up. "I'm Umino Iruka."
The boy glanced over his shoulder. "Hatake Kakashi."
The family name sounded vaguely familiar, but Iruka couldn't place it. Maybe his mother or father had spoken of it while he hadn't been paying attention.
A new thought struck him and Iruka stopped short, staring at his hands. They were empty – they had been empty since he'd woken up.
Kakashi had stopped at well. "What is it?"
"Anko's bra is gone!" Iruka blurted. "Uh… I mean…" Kakashi stared at him and Iruka scratched the back of his head in embarrassment. "Never mind. It wasn't important."
And, face burning, he hurried on.
Kakashi set a fast pace in the direction he estimated Konoha should be. He kept himself on high alert, eyes tracking back and forth through the rolling grasslands. This wasn't Fire Country – the lack of forests and the acidic smell of the soil told him that much. And for all of his missions, he'd only really been behind enemy lines once before, and that had been with Sensei and several jounin. Not one useless pre-genin boy.
What could have brought him here? And why? How? One moment Kakashi had been playing shogi with Nara Shikaku (He hadn't wanted to socialize. He'd much rather train, but of course Sensei wouldn't hear of it…) and the next thing he knew he was waking up, flat on the ground with a sharp headache drilling a hole from his left eye back into his skull.
The headache had faded after a few minutes, but that was little comfort. Nothing about this situation made any sense.
There was no teleportation jutsu he had ever heard of that could bring a person several hundred miles from Fire country to… wherever it was where the forest ended. Not to mention somehow bypassing the village's protection grid. And why would the same jutsu – which must have cost a considerable amount of energy to cast – also bring along a pre-genin?
Umino Iruka certainly looked useless enough, Kakashi thought, glancing at the other boy from the corner of his eye. An able enough fighter, perhaps, when push came to shove, but nothing that would set him apart from the rest –
Kakashi stopped mid-step, then slowly turned to look back at his companion. Iruka wasn't carrying anything useful with him like a pack or weapons, and he wore a light colored civilian's outfit with mesh peeking out from his sleeves and pant legs. A sheen of sweat had broken out over his brow, even though Kakashi hadn't been walking very fast – by shinobi standards, at least.
The other boy gave him wary look. "What's the matter? Is someone coming?"
"I know you," Kakashi said, studying him intently. Dusky skin. Long brown hair tied into a pony-tail. Almost completely unremarkable, save for a distinct scar across the bridge of his nose. "You're from Konoha."
"I never asked," Kakashi explained. "I only assumed you were." No, he thought, it was more than that. He had simply known the other boy was not the enemy. He could feel it in his core: this was a companion. A teammate.
But Kakashi was just as certain they had never met before.
Iruka stared at him with naked confusion writ large on his face and shifted his weight very subtly to the right, as if preparing to bolt. Paranoia. Good. That spoke of some field experience, at least.
Kakashi turned away from him, his mind chewing over the matter.
"It's against regulations to send a pre-genin out into the field," Kakashi mused out loud. "Can you think of any reason why anyone outside the village would want you? Any bloodlimits in your clan?"
The other boy started to shake his head, but then hesitated. "My mom's ANBU," he said softly, with a swift look around as if afraid the nearby rocks were listening.
Unusual, but not spectacular. Kakashi frowned: he could think of several reasons why a potential kidnapper would want himself – son of The White Fang, apprentice to The Yellow Flash. But Iruka seemed depressingly normal.
"What about a genjutsu?" Iruka asked, "My academy sensei said that some of them can be so real you're not even aware you're trapped in one…" he trailed off as Kakashi fixed him with a quelling stare.
"I would know if this were all an illusion," he told him, holding back the 'obviously' only by sheer force of will.
Iruka looked abashed for a split second, then angry. One of his hands balled into a fist. "Oh yeah? If you're so smart then what happened? Why are we here? Where are we?"
Kakashi let out a silent exasperated sigh and glanced up at the cloudy sky, deep in thought. "There doesn't seem to be any valid reason why anyone would bring us both out of the village. But, here we are. That leaves us very few options," he said. "It is possible we've both been affected by a memory jutsu."
"A memory jutsu?" Iruka repeated doubtfully. His brows knit together. "But, I don't remember being hit by a jutsu."
"That's why it's called a memory jutsu," Kakashi said slowly, as if he were talking to an idiot. Iruka scowled at him, and Kakashi went on, "It would explain how neither one of us know how we got here, but I feel as if I know you." He waited a beat until Iruka took a sharp breath and nodded: apparently he felt the same way about Kakashi.
"There would be no way to know how much memory we have lost. Weeks, possibly months," Kakashi continued. "In any case, you must be a genin to be ordered out to the field, and since I am a chuunin, that makes me your captain."
The other boy looked distinctly unimpressed by this theory. He lifted his hand and touched his bare forehead. "If I'm a genin, why don't I have a forehead protector?"
Kakashi shrugged. "Maybe you lost it."
"Maybe you don't know what happened and you're only guessing," Iruka shot back.
Kakashi eyed him. "Maybe you're right. Even the lowliest genin knows not to talk back to their superiors." He had the pleasure of watching Iruka bristle, but made a quick cut-off motion to forestall any more back-talk. "Either way, we should find cover before dark." And he turned his back, continuing on.
"You are not my superior!" Iruka snapped behind him, but when Kakashi continued to ignore him he heard the other boy rush to catch up.
They walked in silence for a few minutes until Iruka asked. "So… what do we do now?"
"A shinobi's number one priority is to complete the mission. We were sent out for some reason, some purpose. So it is our duty to complete what we were sent to do, at any cost."
Iruka went quiet again, seeming to turn over Kakashi's words. "Do you really think I graduated to genin?" he offered, tentatively.
"Minato-sensei said he wanted to take on two others so he could be in charge of a proper three-man cell." Actually, his sensei had been threatening it for some time. Kakashi suspected it was yet another attempt to force him to 'make friends'. It was getting irritating. "We should be on the lookout for him and for another of our age, most likely a female."
"You think whatever caused us to lose our memories might have split us all up?"
Iruka scowled at him. "Obviously," he repeated back in the same, snide tone of voice.
Kakashi ignored him, refusing to be drawn into a childish debate. He only increased his pace, and felt smugly satisfied when Iruka soon had to pant to keep up.
They kept moving quickly through the day – Kakashi insisted on a vague zig-zag pattern to lose anyone who might have tried to follow them from the battlefield. He allowed himself to relax and slow his pace somewhat only when they were several miles away with no overt sign of pursuit.
By the time the sun started to sink towards the horizon, Kakashi had gravitated towards a small stand of trees which were growing around a small spring – the only one he had seen so far in the vast, semi-arid landscape.
Iruka threw himself to the soft grass with a grateful groan of relief while Kakashi walked over to test the water for poisons.
"We can't stay here for long," Kakashi warned, once all of the standard testing jutsu came back negative. He lowered his mask and cupped water to his hand to drink: it was cold and sweet. "We need to find a defensible position for the night."
"What?" Iruka squawked, sitting up. "We can't go stumbling around in the dark out there. We'll break our necks!"
"I won't," Kakashi said, simply.
He had the pleasure of seeing the other boy puff himself up again as if to start arguing, but then it seemed he thought better of it. Iruka crossed his arms over his chest and said, "Do you have any chakra-wire?"
Eyebrows rising, Kakashi reached into one of the weapon packs slung to his hip. (Iruka, of course, carried none at all which only reinforced Kakashi's theory that he must be almost completely useless) and tossed him a roll of tightly wound wire.
Iruka caught it in his right hand and grinned. It was… a surprisingly open expression. Something about it made Kakashi suspect the other boy didn't normally have a grim air about himself: it must have been the shock of seeing the battlefield. This seemed a more natural look on him – smiling, with a glint of mischievousness in his brown eyes.
"Give me a half-hour. I'll make sure this position is defensible," Iruka announced, tossing the wire lightly once in his hand before catching it again.
And he did.
Kakashi was mildly impressed despite himself. Within the space of twenty minutes Iruka had rigged the small grove from top to bottom with a variety of traps, using only chakra-wire, some well placed stones, a couple of Kakashi's borrowed shuriken, and a small amount of Iruka's own chakra to set it all.
"How did you learn all of this?" Kakashi asked, poking one of the thin filament lines with the blunt end of a dead branch. The trap activated at once and the branch snapped in half with enough power to break a man's femur.
Iruka grinned again and scratched the back of his head. "My dad's a tokubetsu-jounin. He specializes in seals and traps – I'm not too good with seals, but once in a while we go camping and he shows me all kinds of great stuff like this." He shrugged. "Will it do?"
In actuality the traps were better than Kakashi himself could accomplish. He didn't admit that of course, only nodded and stood from his crouched position. "We sleep in four hour shifts. I'll take the first and you'll take the last."
Iruka slept badly. He and Kakashi had positioned themselves back-to-back to give any potential enemy less chance to sneak up on them. But even when it wasn't his turn to keep watch, Iruka felt aware–almost hyper aware–of every shift and movement in the other boy; tension along Kakashi's shoulders from sounds outside the grove that Iruka could barely detect, his slow breathing that was a bit too regular to be anything but practiced and ready.
The shadows seemed to come alive every time Iruka closed his eyes – the unfamiliar night sounds all magnified and distorted. And when he did fall asleep, he only dreamed of the dead shinobi on the battlefield; wide open eyes and a gaping cauterized hole in his chest where his heart should be.
It was almost a relief to trade places with Kakashi in the deepest hour of the night, and keep watch until the dawn. Secretly, Iruka suspected the other boy got as little sleep as he had, though when Iruka tried calling his name, tentatively, to see if he was awake, Kakashi ignored him.
No attacks came with the dawn. Sitting there, his arms wrapped around his bent knees, Iruka felt his spirits rise with the sun. He was hungry, cold, and tired, yes… but yesterday's horrors seemed much further away now; the sharp edges of surprise, confusion, and fear now dulled.
And if Kakashi was right about the memory jutsu, that meant Iruka was a shinobi now. Maybe an important one.
Mizuki would be so jealous… assuming he wasn't a genin by now, too.
Iruka stared at his hands as the pale light began filtering through the trees – they didn't look any different, his spread fingers didn't seem any longer. He didn't feel any older.
But the leaves had just been turning red and gold in Konoha, and here in this glade he could see new leaves bursting open from shoots: Wherever this place was, it was spring.
His thoughts were interrupted as Kakashi picked that moment to wake up – going from a seemingly feigned dead-sleep to awake and smoothly rolling onto his feet without any outward transition at all. It was more than a little cool, although Iruka was careful not to admit it.
"So, you're up?" Iruka asked impishly, and got a chill nod in return.
"We should break camp and move soon. We can't risk staying for too long in one place if we don't want to be noticed by enemy patrols."
Iruka scowled at him and when Kakashi moved off to check the parameter, he muttered to himself, "Oh, I slept fine. Thanks for asking… Oh, and you're welcome for setting the traps that kept us safe last night, by the way." Then, even lower, "Bastard."
It didn't take long to undo the simple, but lethal, traps. After Iruka curled the last of the chakra wire back into a tight roll, he went in search of Kakashi. He found the other boy knelt in front of a small spring, mask lowered and drinking from his cupped hands.
With his whole face exposed, Kakashi seemed even younger than before, somehow; the air of mystery gone. He was just another ten-year-old kid like Iruka, with a thin jaw and high, almost delicate cheekbones. The paleness of his skin seemed to almost make his steely blue eyes stand out more. All in all… he was almost pretty.
But those eyes…
A cold shiver rolled down the length of Iruka's spine as Kakashi looked up and locked gazes with him. He felt dizzy then—unexpectedly weak—and he had to reach out to a nearby trunk to steady himself.
Kakashi swiftly pulled up his mask and asked, "What is it?"
"Your left eye." Iruka gestured up to his own. "When you looked at me just now, I felt…" He paused, trying to put into words what he barely understood in feeling. It was as if, for a moment, he had been looking down from a tall cliff and expecting to see ground below, only to see sky. "There's something wrong with it."
"What do you mean?" Kakashi covered the eye for a moment then dropped his hand and glanced into the water, assessing his own reflection. "It's fine."
The eye did look fine. Normal even – and that had been the problem. But Iruka found himself shaking his head, frustrated and irritated with himself. He pushed off from the tree; the dizziness had passed. Kakashi probably thought he was being a baby. "It was just a feeling, but it's gone now."
"You were remembering something?"
"I…I don't know. It didn't feel like a memory."
He expected the other boy to laugh or to make a snide comment. Kakashi just looked at him thoughtfully, again covering his eye briefly. Then he shrugged. "Intuition can be a powerful shinobi tool. Tell me if you feel that way again." He stood. "Let's get moving, sensei."
Iruka nodded and took a half-step to follow. Then he paused. "Wait, what did you call me?"
He saw Kakashi hesitate for the barest of seconds. "I said we need to find my—our Sensei."
"Liar. You called me your sensei," Iruka accused.
"No I didn't."
"Yes you did!"
Kakashi regarded him for a moment, his eyes flat and bored. Then he reached down and swiftly clipped his weapons pouch to his belt and moved off.
Iruka grinned after him, feeling that he had scored a point against the other boy at last. "You know what? I bet I'm your superior," he called, happily rubbing it in, before hurrying to catch up.
Next: The first test of shinobi skills doesn't go as planned...