Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.

I'm finally writing a Naruto fanfic, just something sweet and heartwarming. I hope you like it! I've often wondered just how Naruto sees his relationship with Iruka. More than teacher/student, likely not the brotherly love Iruka sees, but...

Like a Father

a Naruto fanfic

by Rhov

It had been a long day, and finally Naruto had a chance to rest. He sat on the top of a cliff, his feet hanging over the edge, his eyes on a setting sun. The valley below was already dark with silver mist rising up from a snaking river. Somewhere far to the west, blurred by the sunset, was home.

It rarely happened, but on long missions like this, Naruto really began to think of the people he left behind. Of course, lovely Sakura was foremost in his thoughts. He even brought her a gift from the Land of Lightning, a book on medicinal herbs found only in that land. She was sure to love it. The way the land turned pink in the setting sun made him sigh and think of her.

In the white, streaking clouds above, he saw Jaraiya's crazy hair. He deeply missed the pervy sage. Thinking about their years traveling together, the deep bond of master and pupil, and the moments when Naruto had to play the grownup to Jaraiya's eccentricities, always brought tears to his eyes.

But on that evening, his thoughts turned to Iruka-sensei. Iruka once said he thought of Naruto as a little brother, but the teen saw his former teacher in a different way.

Iruka had always been there, harsh at times, yelling when he goofed off, protective in his own way. It could be said that Iruka was his first true friend. His ability to meet and make more friends—Sakura, Sasuke, Kakashi, and many others over the years—was all due to Iruka. Any other teacher would have given up on Naruto quickly. Iruka not only put up with him; he had hopes in Naruto's abilities.

It was getting dark. Naruto had a small camp set up with a fire going. Dinner would not be much. He had a kettle to boil water, and that would go both for some tea and a cup of instant ramen he always took with him on missions so he did not have to cook. The water was steaming already. Naruto grabbed the kettle but yanked back at the heat. He sucked his fingers and grumbled at his thoughtlessness.

This time, he wrapped his hand in his orange jacket, then took the kettle off the fire and poured water over the powdered tea and stiff ramen. It would take a few minutes to cook, so he took his teacup to the cliff's edge again and sipped it to gain warmth as the sun made its final descent.

Iruka once took him to a chashitsu and tried to teach him the traditional tea ceremony. Naruto chuckled as he thought about how he had squinted up his face and stuck out his tongue at the whole thing. What a brat! Jaraiya tried to teach him as well. Maybe it was because he was older by then, or maybe it was the big-breasted hostess who presided over the ceremony, but Naruto had paid rapt attention that time. Well, at least he watched the woman's breasts...er, brush. Brush, really!

There had been other things Iruka tried to teach that young Naruto scoffed, only to truly pay attention under the mentorship of Jaraiya. Not that Iruka had been a bad teacher. Hardly! It was just that, in school, there were cute girls to impress, boys to beat, silly rivalries, and always students and their parents who glared at Naruto as if they wished he would just drop dead. With Jaraiya, it was just them, and he knew the crazy hermit had his best intentions at heart.

Sometimes, he wished he had paid more attention to Iruka back in school so he could have gotten more out of the years he spent with Jaraiya.

The ramen smelled done. He brought the bowl over and snapped his chopsticks in half. "Itadakimasu!" he hollered out, and his thanks echoed through the valley. He chuckled at his voice repeating again and again, then got to work slurping down the ramen.

He thought of all the times Iruka took him to Ramen Ichiraku. What teacher did that? None he knew! No, in moments like that, Iruka set aside his role as a teacher and ate with Naruto as something different. Naruto used to think he was just trying to be amiable. Iruka said he thought of Naruto as a kid brother. But Naruto realized something now, perhaps something even his teacher had not noticed. Their relationship was far beyond teacher and student, and closer than simply friends. Naruto never had a brother, but Sasuke was like a brother. If Sasuke was like a brother, Iruka was different.

Like a father!

Naruto smiled as he thought about this. He never really knew his parents. He grew up alone, no family. Still, he saw how other families worked. In his mind, if Iruka could be categorized as family, it would be someone who taught, punished, consoled, protected...

Like a father.

The sensei saw Naruto as a brother only because he had no children of his own. Otherwise, Naruto was sure he would see it too. Or perhaps because he also had his parents taken away at a young age, Iruka did not see the connection. He once told Naruto, Jaraiya saw the boy as a grandson. Naruto had to agree with that. Jaraiya was too old to be a father, but... grandfather? Definitely!

That made Naruto smile. He had a family now. Jaraiya was a pervy grandfather. Iruka was a scolding but loving father. Kakashi was like an uncle or older cousin. Sasuke was a brother. Sakura...

He gagged on his ramen. No way would he say she was like a sister! No way!

The sun flashed as it vanished behind the distant hills. Another day of traveling, he estimated. If he pushed it, he could reach Konoha by sunset tomorrow.

Perhaps Iruka would take him out for ramen again.

The End