Author Notes: This is my first Naruto fanfic that I have written in a loooooooong time, and my first serious KakaIru one to boot! I tried to make the characters as canon as possible, so their relationship will progress as the story does. Please be forewarned that this story is unbete'd, and I may have some Naruto-verse terms and character names misspelled. As always, Constructive criticism and reviews are greatly appreciated! :) *Ch. 1 revised 03-03-12*
A Final Warning: Please don't read this story if you don't know what Yaoi or KakaIru is, disrespectful comments and flames regarding this will be laughed at and then deleted. So don't bother wasting the energy.
"All sins cast long shadows."
Chapter 1. A simple mistake
"Why do I always wait until the last minute to do laundry?" Umino Iruka complained to himself as he hoisted another bag over his shoulder and reached with his free hand for his school satchel. "And why, by the First, do I always wait until midnight to do it!" he grumbled as he struggled with his apartment keys.
The young chuunin-Sensei already knew the answers to both his questions: he barely had time to do chores in the first place, and to do his laundry required a trip to the public Laundromat. Laundry was mind numbingly boring task, and was all too easy to put off when he had so much other work to do. It was just his luck that he had spilled a bottle of ink all over his last pair of wearable pants.
'Thank the gods for 24 hour Laundromats! At least I could catch up on my grading...or a quick nap' he thought with resignation as he wobbled down the stairs with his three overstuffed bags. Iruka doubted that he would get more than five hours sleep tonight with school starting in the morning. It was times like these, weighed down by majority of his wardrobe that Iruka sorely wished that he could afford to live in an apartment with its own washing machine.
Iruka sighed inwardly. 'As if that will ever happen. I barely get paid enough as it is staying in Konoha all this time. I should really ask for some missions to do, or a raise.' Like most Konokahuge staff, his wages had been cut in order to fund repairs to Konoha from the Sound's attack. At least they now had Tsunade as Hokage to help organize all the paperwork. Not for the first time, Iruka wished that Naruto was still in Konoha and not off training with Jiraiya. The young Genin usually kept late hours, and was always up for a bowl of free ramen. It had already been three month since he had left, and Iruka sorely missed his company, if not the Ramen bills.
Iruka was in luck. The brightly lit Laundromat was completely void of human life. 'At least one thing is going my way tonight!' he thought as he slammed the round glass door of the washing machine closed on his dirty clothes. He turned away as the machine whirled into life, than settled down on a bench with his overstuffed satchel to wait.
Forty minutes had passed.
Iruka was just about finished with his last essay when the door chime rang loudly over his head. He nearly jumped out of his seat at the noise, and that small movement caused his stack of graded papers to topple over and scatter all over the floor. "For the love of..." Iruka made a snort of annoyance as he knelt to collect the essays.
"Hm? Is that you Iruka Sensei?"
Iruka froze at the sight of a pair of feet in front of him. He definitely knew that voice. Looking up, his suspicions were confirmed by seeing a tall man with a familiar shock of white hair and a face nearly made invisible by a mask and Hitai-ate covering one eye. "Oh! Uh, Kakashi-san! What are you doing here this evening?" the jounin was among the last of people he had expected to see wandering into a Laundromat at this ungodly hour.
Kakashi tapped a finger on a heavy bag slung over his shoulder. "Laundry. It's what you do in a place like this, right?" He made no move to help gather Iruka's papers.
"Ah yes!" Iruka forced out a chuckle. He really wished that Kakashi would take his foot off Konohomaru's essay, no matter how bad it was. "It's a little late for laundry, isn't it?"
"Hardly anyone comes here so late." Kakashi finally took his foot off Konohomaru's essay long enough for Iruka to snatch it. "It's a good time for catching up on reading."
'Oh sure, with one of THOSE books.' Iruka thought sourly. He hardly knew Hatake Kakashi, and didn't care to know more about the man, though he knew that Kakashi had been good to his genin team despite Iruka's initial protests six months earlier of entering his former students into the chuunin exams.
Apparently deciding that the conversation was over, Kakashi moved away to a nearby washing machine and proceeded to fill it. Iruka felt cheated by his previous good luck. He still had to dry his clothes, and spending another hour awkwardly sharing the Laundromat alone with the copy-nin hardly appealed to him.
After a few moments the sound of another laundry machine started up. Kakashi hopped up on top of the shaking machine and not surprisingly, pulled out a book with a familiar orange cover.
'At least he'll be quiet.' Iruka thought as he recovered the half graded paper from the pile of finished essays. He was just starting to review where he had left off when Kakashi's lazy drawl interrupted his concentration.
"Do you usually do laundry this late?" The jounin asked without looking up from his book.
"No." Iruka said curtly.
"Hm? You don't have anyone to keep you in bed at this hour?"
'Typical.' It was an effort not to crumple the paper in his hand. Iruka gritted his teeth and counted to ten before answering. "No, and I see that you don't either." Iruka could have sworn that Kakashi's one visible eye had flickered in amusement at the jibe.
"Too bad, for the both of us." Kakashi sighed as he turned a page. "I would have thought that some busty single mother or a horny widow would have snatched you up by now at the Academy."
'I knew it. He IS holding a grudge for me telling him off.' Iruka refused to rise to the bait, and stoically continued his work on the next essay.
The jounin "Hmm'd" quietly to himself and continued to read his book.
Iruka sighed in relief when he heard the buzzer to his laundry finally go off. He carefully placed the stack of papers aside and stood up to stretch. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Kakashi turn another page in his book. 'Maybe I will go get ramen after all tonight, though I don't really trust leaving my things alone with Kakashi while my clothes are dry-'
It was pure survival instinct that saved Iruka's life. His kunai was out and gripped in both hands before Iruka could register the murderous intent.
Iruka had barely blocked Kakashi's kunai before it had reached his jugular vein. His grip on the weapon was firm but he could feel the heat of sparks spitting where their blades met. Kakashi reached out with his free hand to grab Iruka by the back of his head to force him closer to their joined weapons. Iruka strained against the hold, he could hear Kakashi grunting with exertion over the sounds of scraping metal. Iruka shifted his weight and elbowed the Kakashi in the face with all his might.
Kakashi's head snapped back from the blow, his Hitai-ate shoved askew to reveal the Sharingan swirling wildly in his eye socket. His other normal eye was wide with a vacant fury not unlike some stone mask of a demon deity.
'A genjutsu!? And he can't break free!' Iruka gasped when his own weapon began to press against his skin. He could not compete against the jounin's strength for much longer. Iruka felt his blade bite into his flesh and a trickle of warm blood creep down the nape of his neck. There was murder in Kakashi's eye, and Iruka was going to die. The jounin's name ripped from Iruka's throat as a strangled plea for the man's mind to break free. "Kakashi!"
Kakashi flung Iruka away with a howl of rage.
Iruka cried out as his back impacted painfully against the wall. In a flash he rolled to his feet, his weapon ready to defend-but there was no need. Kakashi had slumped to his knees, his head bowed and shoulders shaking as he heaved great lungfuls of air. The murderous aura was gone and replaced by the jounin's familiar chakra presence.
Iruka hesitated, unwilling to let his guard down.
"It won't happen again," Kakashi rasped from the other side of the room. Iruka almost didn't hear him over the rumble of laundry machines and his own ragged breathing.
Kakashi lifted his head to face the younger man. The rage that twisted his features had vanished. The Sharingan remained fixed and unmoving, and his right eye held only weariness. Fine lines creased his brow and a sheen of sweat shone on his pale skin. Kakashi appeared utterly drained. "I was able to repel the attack with the Sharingan," he explained in-between deep breaths. "It won't work on me twice now that I know what to expect."
Iruka lowered the kunai, but did not put it away. He clamped a hand over the shallow cut on his throat to staunch the blood, and glanced at the discarded weapon that Kakashi had thrown along with Iruka across the room. The kunai had clattered on the floor between the two men. Kakashi did not make any move to retrieve it. Iruka cautiously made his way to snatch kunai out from the other man's reach. Kakashi impassively watched Iruka without comment. They both knew full well that it was a futile precaution; the jounin had more arsenal in his possession, and he would not necessarily need a weapon should he choose to attack again.
"Are you well enough to travel?" Kakashi asked, his voice held a note of his old brusque self that was immensely reassuring to hear.
"I-I think so." Iruka replied as he shoved Kakashi's kunai into his holster. The prickle that usually crawled over Iruka's skin to warn him of danger was gone, but he did not exactly trust Kakashi enough turn his back to him quite yet. The injury across his throat was minor one, but it was hard to forget that the blade had been only a nudge away from tearing through his windpipe. A moment or two longer would have left Iruka gasping for air and bleeding out on the floor-or with his neck sliced through to the vertebrae. Iruka felt an involuntary shudder at that thought; Kakashi was more than capable of performing that particular feat single-handedly. Iruka had been unable to hold off Kakashi's weapon with both hands and Kakashi had very nearly overpowered him attacking with just one. The vast difference between himself and the jounin's brute strength was a terrifying revelation.
Kakashi stood up from the floor and adjusted his Hitai-ate to cover the Sharingan. He made no attempt to approach Iruka or an offer to inspect his wound. "We must report to the Godaime immediately." He had finally managed to catch his breath and his tone brooked no argument.
Iruka pulled his hand away from his throat, his fingers were stained red with blood. "Of course."
It was now 5:12 am.
Iruka tore his eyes away from the clock and fidgeted with a stray end of the bandage around his neck. His class started in a few hours, and he had long given up all pretense that he was going to get any sleep before he was due to arrive. Iruka tried unsuccessfully to suppress a yawn, and winced at the effort. The shallow cut from the kunai stung whenever he moved.
Several hours had passed since they had arrived at the Hokage's headquarters. Pertaining to protocol, both Iruka and Kakashi had been separated and whisked away for evaluation. Iruka had finished his interrogation hours ago but was forbidden to leave until Kakashi's assessment was complete. Until then, Iruka had to put up with both Izumo and Kotetsu's presence (of which both refused to talk to him) in the small interrogation room. Iruka sorely wished that he had remembered to grab his satchel before fleeing the Laundromat. He still had other papers to grade.
Iruka looked up at the sound of a knock on the windowless door. Izumo opened the door to reveal Shizune standing with a record book grasped tightly in her arms. "Tsunade-sama is ready." Her face carefully hid any expression when she glanced at Iruka.
Iruka stood from his chair to follow the young woman. Both Kotetsu and Izumo flanked the chuunin as they strode down the long hallways. Iruka had anticipated being summoned one last time before being dismissed, but he could not help feel like he was a prisoner on his way to meet the warden. Shizune made a gesture for Iruka's escorts to wait outside when they finally reached the Hokage's personal office. She gave Iruka a reassuring smile before motioning him inside.
Godaime Tsunade, the fifth Hokage of Konoha and the first woman ever to hold that title sat comfortably at her desk. The mess of paperwork that usually cluttered her working space was (for once) minimal. She gave the briefest of nods to acknowledge Iruka's presence before resettling her attention between two documents she held in one hand, her chin resting on the other. She did not seem to notice the ANBU guards that stood in a row and motionless behind her.
The guards did not spare Iruka a single glance. All five of the ANBU's featureless masks were fixed on the man that stood slouching across the room. Hatake Kakashi gave the impression of being unaffected by the hostile stares, though Iruka noted that he had positioned himself a good distance away from Tsunade's desk with his back nearly pressed against the wall. Kakashi did not even look in Iruka's direction when he moved to stand beside the jounin. Iruka could sense that underneath that pretense of calm, Kakashi was tense with anxiety.
Tsunade placed the documents on her desk and looked up at the two men. Her face was carefully composed and all business as she addressed them both. "We have come to the conclusion that an outside influence has attempted an unknown genjutsu attack through Hatake Kakashi earlier this evening."
"No shit." Kakashi muttered under his breath.
"However," Tsudnade continued after shooting a glare in Kakashi's direction. "Through his use of the Sharingan, Kakashi was able to successfully repel the unidentified genjutsu and has assured me that any future attempts to do so will have no effect on his person."
Kakashi gave a slight nod in agreement.
"On the other hand," Tsunade glared down at both Iruka and Kakashi's written reports. "The genjustu could have merely gone awry due to the Sharingan's influence. Kakashi would be an ideal weapon to control for an assassination attempt on myself or any other high ranking council member, and it is possible that you were not the primary target."
"Ah, that would make sense." Iruka agreed, feeling a smile of relief tug at his lips. "Why go through such trouble to control a shinobi like Hatake-san just to get at me? It's almost overkill."
"Even so, could there be any justification?"
"I haven't left Konoha in nearly three months." Iruka replied. "Before that, my assignments outside the village have been few and far in-between, and classified D and C rank at that."
"Spare me the modesty, Umino-san. You have successfully completed several B and even a few A rank missions-though those were a long time ago." Tsunade tapped a manicured finger on a thick folder that contained the bulk of Iruka's shinobi career. "All had few violent incidents, and from what you and your team mates had reported there was little negative interaction between yourself and the clients. Of what we know, the little there was would not warrant an attempt at your life. Have you affronted anyone of nobility-or an outside clan as of late? "
"No." Iruka shook his head. "I'm not important enough to have acquired any enemies like that. I can't think of anyone that would want to kill a simple Academy teacher."
Tsunade smiled wryly. "And an overworked one at that."
"It may not be as simple as it seems." Kakashi interrupted. "The genjutsu was channeling an outside party into both my body and mind." His one eye flickered between Tsunade and her ANBU guards. "It is different than the Yamanaka clan's technique; they puppet the host's body while leaving the victim's mind aware of being controlled. This new method not only manipulates a host's body, but is also able to provoke the mind into a blind fury. I am not sure if the attack was specifically directed at Iruka, or just at any nearby target. There is no doubt in my mind that the shinobi using the genjutsu technique was watching from behind my eyes, and ready to control my body the moment my mental barriers were down."
"Fascinating..." Tsunade murmured as she leaned back into her chair, her hands folded under her nose as she fixed her hazel eyes on Iruka. "There is one possibility that could have made you a target." Her pencil-thin eyebrows furrowed over a penetrating stare, her eyes like chips of ice. "Your death would have an immense impact on Uzumaki Naruto's mental stability. Who knows what he is capable of consumed by vengeance and backed by the power of the Kyuubi straining to break free. A little push in the wrong direction by the Akatsuki's hand could have the boy practically leaping into their palm." She lowered her hands. Her intense expression did not waver. "In a sense, Umino Iruka, you are both the most valuable and the most vulnerable person in our village. I am actually surprised that it has taken the Akatsuki this long to have ferreted you out."
A chill crawled up Iruka's spine. The possibility of being singled out by the Akatsuki was one he had been briefed on before-and the sole reason why he had been confined to Konoha village in the three months since Naruto had left to train with Jiraiya. But to have it happen so suddenly-and in a Laundromat of all places!
"With all due respect, Tsunade-sama, your assumption is just a theory, and a hasty one at that." Kakashi's low voice cut through the ice in Tsunade's stare. "If the Akatsuki had the power to control a shinobi like myself, Iruka would probably be on the bottom of their list of targets to hit first." The jounin inclined his head. "Assassinating our Hokage would cause more ripples throughout the Fire Nation than the death of a chuunin-rank Academy teacher; despite his connection to Naruto." He glanced at Iruka out from the corner of his eye. "No offense, but infiltrating our village to kill a person such as yourself would be too high of a risk for just the possibility of goading the Jinchuraki into violence."
"That is a possibility," Tsunade's mouth twisted in thought. "Though the Akatsuki's intentions concerning Naruto are unknown at this point."
"I have served with Uchiha Itachi as an ANBU operative." Kakashi's single eye twitched in memory. "Since the Akatsuki include him among their ranks, we should assume that the organization is composed of members with a similar, if not superior strategic capability. I sincerely doubt that the Akatsuki would lose the upper hand of revealing this new power all for a gamble of chance-that is to say, if they are involved at all."
"Agreed, we cannot assume to know the enemy's intent." Tsunade nodded in approval of Kakashi's words. The tilt of her lips suggested that she had reached a decision. "Whether the Akatsuki are behind this genjutsu technique or not, it would be foolish to be unprepared for the worst. I will issue the guards to be doubled at our most vulnerable points of government and defense." Turning to Iruka, a tired expression crossed her features. She suddenly appeared smaller surrounded by her eerily silent ANBU guards. "Unfortunately our resources are strained enough as it is, Iruka-san, and we cannot afford to have more than one bodyguard watching over you at this time."
Iruka drew himself up and did not bother to hide the indignation that shone in his eyes. "Hokage-sama, you forget that I am a shinobi first, then an Academy teacher last" he stated with barely suppressed irritation. "As you said, our resources are strained. A babysitter assigned to watch over me would accomplish little if our village is at risk. I am fully capable of defending myself if another incident occurs."
Kakashi's was mildly surprised at the Iruka's outburst. So, the chuunin-Sensei did have a little pride as a shinobi after all.
"Very well," Tsunade said, her tone a little vexed at having to agree. "Just be on your guard and report anything suspicious directly to me." She flicked her wrist and the five ANBU guards bowed stiffly before disappearing without a sound. "I will issue all available ANBU operatives to search for this hostile shinobi, and I want you, Kakashi, to join them when you are able to report for duty."
Kakashi shrugged his shoulders in resignation.
"If I may, Hokage-Sama?" Iruka politely implied. "My class will start in a few hours."
"Yes yes, you are dismissed." Tsunade gave Iruka a final hard look. "Be on your toes."
The chuunin bowed his head first to Tsunade, then to Kakashi before taking his leave.
Kakashi watched Iruka disappear behind the door. His warrior instincts prickled like they always did before the start of a battle. Regardless of what the old lady said he was certain that the Akatsuki were not involved. Kakashi could not help suspect Umino Iruka was somehow more directly tangled in whatever web this faceless enemy had spinning. But to what ends? Granted, Iruka was a Konoha shinobi with personal connections to the Kyuubi host-but he was little more than that. Quoting the chuunin, hardly anything could be gained from murdering 'a simple Academy teacher.'
Kakashi did not like this puzzle, not one little bit.
'What a horrible, horrible night.' Iruka thought sourly as he left the Laundromat, his heavy clothes bag in one hand and school satchel grasped in the other. The clock inside the building had read 6:23 am, leaving him with less than two hours to finish the last of his grading before school started. He didn't need to look in a mirror to know how haggard he looked. The stress of nearly being murdered had the tendency to reflect on a person's face. 'At least I look appropriate for a Monday morning.' Iruka tried to focus on a cool breeze to help refresh his senses.
Several civilians and a few early rising shinobi were out and about in the summer morning. Iruka smiled fondly as he passed the Ichiraku ramen stand and waved to the young woman unlocking the gate to the stall. 'I should probably eat something, but I doubt my stomach could handle ramen at this time. Some fruit would be easier to digest.'
He altered his course to the open market stands of which many vendors were setting out their wares for the day. Iruka closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He was too close to the butcher stall to get a good whiff of the produce, but beneath the odor of dried animal blood and freshly carved meat he could smell what he was looking for: white peaches.
Some primal instinct screamed for Iruka to freeze in mid-step. A split second after doing so a long cleaver spun wildly before his nose-flashing bright with the rising sun-before burying itself point-first into a nearby telephone pole.
For several rapid heartbeats, Iruka remained frozen with his left foot hovering above the ground. A bead of cold sweat dropped from under his Hitai-ate. The knife would have impaled his head if he had completed that last step.
"By the Gods!" A woman shrieked and popped out from behind the butcher stall. Her plump face was white with shock and contrasted starkly against her blood-smeared apron. "Sensei, are you hurt? Oh, please forgive a clumsy old woman!"
Iruka forced out one of his brightest smiles before turning to face the elderly butcher. "Please, don't be upset Aoki-san. We shinobi have good reflexes-you should know that by how fast your granddaughter runs around in my class." He chuckled in a weak attempt to alleviate the mood. "What happened, exactly?"
"Well..." the Aoki matron's hand twisted her apron nervously. "My arthritis has been a' bothering me right sorely lately. My hand just gone an' cramped up as I was just about to hack into a stubborn ole' ham bone." She bowed her head to hide the tears that rolled down her round cheeks. "I never hurt nobody before. I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I did!"
"Go to the hospital, and have someone else cut the meat today." Iruka advised as he tried to calm the sobbing woman. "I'm sure that everything will be fine after your hand is examined, then this won't happen again."
Ten minutes later, Iruka had waved his farewells and resumed his route to school. All thoughts of breakfast and white peaches completely driven from his mind.
Once he was sure that he was out of sight of the market stalls, he finally released a shaky breath. His nerves were going to be especially fried by the end of the day after two close calls involving sharp objects. Iruka shook his head in despair. And school had yet to get started!
The young teacher quickened his pace. The early morning weather no longer seemed as pleasant as before. He debated on whether to turn around and report the incident to Tsunade, but he still had papers to grade-and surely an old butcher with arthritis was nothing unusual. Iruka had known the old women his entire life, and could guarantee without a doubt that she was not an assassin that was out to get him.
No, it was a simple mistake.
END OF CHAPTER 1