A/N: Wow, I'm up to Chapter 7 already? Ah, well, hope you enjoy! So sorry for the lateness, guys! Holidays are not friendly to my writing time.

Disclaimer: I no own.

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Iruka dozed in the dopey bliss of in between sleeping and waking for a long while before the memory of the previous night came crashing down on him.

First came the red hot embarrassment of having done the… activities he had with a certain businessman. He had never experienced anything like the things he had the night before and just the mere memory had his face turning red. The most he had ever gotten from his ex was a few hurried hand jobs after Iruka had been the one to go down on him. The tanned man had always overlooked the sense of being used in favor of actually thinking he had a connection with the white haired male.

Then came the cold flush of mortification at having shown his scars to someone else. Iruka could actually feel the blood empty from his face and it left him almost gasping for breath. He had shown his scars to someone else. Someone who was practically still a stranger to him. Someone who was much stronger than him. Someone who saw them and did not ridicule him.

Kakashi still wanted me after seeing everything… after knowing everything… Iruka mentally kicked himself and shook his head to clear his thoughts. Now is not the time to think about trivial matters when there is a jealous psychopathic ex on the loose.

The little teacher sat up in his bed, noticing the conspicuous absence of his bedmate. Just as he was wondering where Kakashi was, the smell of food cooking wafted through Iruka's senses and it smelled good. Iruka decided to go investigate since his brother could barely make cup ramen in the microwave without setting something on fire. Throwing the covers from his body, Iruka got out of bed and instinctively looked down at his scarred flesh with a newfound interest.

'They are proof of how strong you are, not how weak you were, and don't you dare forget that…'

It was almost frightening how, after only a couple of dates, one man had been able to shake the very foundations of what Iruka had grown up believing about himself. With Kakashi around, the ex-assassin barely felt the same disgust over his own body as Mizuki had made him feel. This was most likely because of how reverently the silver haired man had treated the markings, as if they were something… good. Yeah, Iruka thought silently, something good from something so terrible. Although he could not fully understand it, he understood what Kakashi had been trying to tell him. His scars were nothing that needed to be hidden away and forgotten, they should be remembered as something he had overcome and as a result became stronger because of.

However, Iruka had another guest in the house and could not very well prance around in his undies! Chuckling a little to himself at his mental antics, the honey toned man tossed on a pair of sweats and his most comfortable short sleeved t-shirt. Now that his scars had been seen by both Kakashi and Sasuke, Iruka saw no reason to wear his long sleeved shirts. (He convinced himself that his newfound confidence was not due to a certain sexy businessman doing unspeakable things to him in the disheveled bed behind him.)

The scent of food got stronger the closer Iruka got to the kitchen, making his mouth water. Naruto's only ability to cook lay solely in cup ramen (barely), so either Sasuke or Kakashi was making that delicious smelling breakfast. He vaguely took notice of the sound of running water as he passed the bathroom, assumed it was one of the boys taking their morning shower, and ducked into the entrance to his kitchen. What met him had Iruka stopping in his tracks.

"Who the hell are you?" he blurted unthinkingly. Iruka's skills must have really rusted if he could not control an outburst when there was a stranger in his home.

"Ah! Good morning, Umino-san!" the muscular stranger boomed. And muscular he was. It was made glaringly obvious by the way the obnoxiously tight, green jumpsuit that he was wearing hugged his entire body underneath an open vest with too many compartments to count. The sight was so ridiculous that Iruka was actually stunned into silence long enough for the strange man to continue. "You are looking well rested! Oh, the Glory of Youth has been bestowed upon you as you slept so safely and soundly!"

Iruka was officially at the point of getting ready to toss the guy out of his house, calculating the room he had to maneuver, the strength he could gauge from the muscle bulging under the fabric of the stranger's clothing, and the possibility of one of his guests walking in to see the spectacle and get in the way.

"Ohoho! Looking for a little morning sparring session, are we? Marvelous! Come! Let us be taken by the throes of invigorating battle and feel the Youth coursing through our veins!" The green-clad man took a fighting stance to mirror Iruka's instinctual crouch, the fire of anticipation gleaming in his eyes. The absolute absurdity of the man's behavior had Iruka factoring in the possibility of lunatic being one of the other's traits in a fight. Those were usually tricky to handle as they tended to be unpredictable.

"That's enough, Gai," said a voice Iruka only just registered as Sasuke's from behind him. "He's not looking to spar and you know it."

"Too right you are, Pupil of my Eternal Rival!" the stranger replied cheerily, further putting Iruka on edge. "My apologies, Umino-san! My name is Maito Gai, head of security for my Eternally Youthful and Hip Rival, Hatake Kakashi!" Gai proclaimed, flourishing his words with a dorky looking thumbs up complete with a smile so bright, Iruka could swear he saw the sun glint off of it even though the sun was coming from the other direction.

At this point, Iruka simultaneously understood and became further lost as to what was going on. This guy, Gai, was the head of security Kakashi mentioned? This obnoxious, flamboyant, insanely cheery man the size of a professional body builder was in charge of keeping him and his family safe for the night? Because of the powerfully built physique the bizarre man showed off, he could see why Kakashi had chosen him as head of security, but his other quirks left things to be desired so far. Iruka truly wanted to turn around and grill Sasuke about all of this, but all he could seem to do was run skeptically twitching eyes over the green mass of muscle in front of him.

"Oi oi! What's with all the yelling this early in the morning?!" Naruto's loud complaint sounded from what Iruka assumed to be right next to Sasuke. "And what smells so—" he cut himself off as he pushed by his brother to get a better look and finally noticed Gai. "GYAH! It's Bushy Brow from the future!" his little brother exclaimed in simultaneous horror and fascination.

"'Bushy Brow'?" Iruka inquired, finally turning away from the strange man to look at his brother quizzically.

"Yeah! C'mon, Ru! This guy doesn't remind you of Lee at all?"

A light finally clicked on in Iruka's mind, making him turn to regard the green clad man once again to realize his brother was right. Gai really did resemble his equally over-exuberant student, Rock Lee. Scarily so. They had the same bowl-shaped haircut and had the same bushy eyebrows, as was the reason behind Lee's –arguably appropriate– nickname. Iruka would not have been surprised if the two were rela—

"Ah, you must be speaking of my favourite nephew, Rock Lee!" Gai exclaimed.

Yup, not surprised, Iruka thought dryly to himself. He gradually let his hackles smooth down, now that he knew that he was dealing with a relative of one of his students. An overly paranoid part of his ex-assassin mind had him wondering if it was a cleverly laid trap orchestrated by Mizuki, so his defenses never totally lowered. At least until a certain silver haired businessman affirmed Sasuke's initial recognition. If the sexy, kind, protective man trusted the obnoxious person standing in his kitchen, maybe Iruka could too.

"Maa, careful Gai," intoned Kakashi from the kitchen doorway. "You'll burn the food at this rate."

"Never fear, my Rival! If I allow this food to burn, I shall repent by doing a thousand one armed pushups before noon!" With that said, Gai turned back to the stove which had an impressive array of different dishes in various stages of cooking. Funnily enough, none of it looked like it was from Iruka's fridge. A quick trip to the fridge to grab a bottle of orange juice proved the teacher correct. He would have to figure out who to repay for the meal later.

"Well, we might as well leave Gai-san to his work," Iruka said as he ushered his guests and his brother out the door. Years of training and a cautious personality had certain parts of Iruka's mind yelling at him for leaving a stranger alone to cook his food, but a hand on his shoulder had him glancing up at a single grey eye.

"I trust this man with my life, Iruka. There's no reason to worry." That knowing gaze Kakashi had fixed him with was so fascinating and reassuring, it reduced the suspicion to a small flicker of doubt. Even that was completely obliterated when the calm tone added, "I promise."

The way the businessman was able to read his mind was a little disconcerting, but even Naruto had commented on how revealing his general body language was on more than one occasion. It was something he had trained for years to get rid of, but apparently never fully succeeded in doing unless he was in the middle of a mission and lack of reaction was crucial.

The petite man nodded and made to walk out of the kitchen to feel an arm drop down to his waist as they walked the short way to the living room. Not willing to face his brother's roguish grin just yet, he picked up the pace and shrugged the arm off with a warm smile to soften the blow, and took his place next to the yawning blond on the couch. Iruka enjoyed the calm atmosphere before sighing and remembering their circumstances and what needed to be done about it. "We all need to talk about what we're going to do about Mizuki," he stated.

Straightforward and to the point had been a tactic that had proven extremely useful with his brother over the years. Naruto shifted uncomfortably beside him, Sasuke leaned forward to show he was listening, and all the while, Kakashi just looked on with perpetual mask of boredom from his spot next to Sasuke. Only the slightest glint in the grey eye betrayed his interest. "I think it was fairly obvious that I was his target, and since I doubt he's changed in the last few years, he's very likely to try again sometime soon if he's given the opportunity. The thing is, he knows about my compassion for people and will not hesitate to target one of you to get to me. Hell, he would even go after any one of my other students if he felt I was even remotely fond of them." Iruka paused to gather the rest of the thoughts that had run through his mind while he had paced this very room in the middle of the night. "We will all have to be extremely vigilant and I think it would be a good idea if the boys learned some self defense in case one of us is out of commission or not around for some reason."

"There would be no need for that in Sasuke's case. I've taught him a few things during his time with me," Kakashi said, the barest hint of pride in his tone. The ever stoic Uchiha merely nodded his acknowledgement.

"Naruto is actually a decent fighter," Sasuke offered. "He still needs to learn basic control and strategy, but even an idiot like him should take no time to learn." The backhanded compliment had Iruka's little brother beaming one second and then scowling as he registered what was actually said.

"The hell did you just say, teme?" the blond growled. Iruka watched as his brother's fists clenched in the fabric of his sleeping clothes and thought about stopping the impending fight, but decided to let things play out. It would help to know both the boys' potential in a brawl. All he had seen of their skills thus far was the two rolling around the school hallway. Naruto actually managed to impress the teacher when he added, "You're lucky Iruka-sensei would fail us, otherwise I'd happily kick your arse right now."

"Actually, Naruto, I think it might not be a bad idea. I kinda did just say that you needed to learn how to defend yourself. How about we go to the backyard after breakfast and begin your training, eh kiddo?" Iruka asked. He had actually argued with Naruto when the blond was younger and had wanted to learn how to fight. The ex-assassin had been afraid that his profession would be made obvious at the time if he agreed. Now, that seemed completely ludicrous and downright idiotic.

His brother nodded in agreement to the suggestion of potential violence before his brain caught up with the pet name. "Don't call me 'kiddo'…" Naruto grumbled, a blush creeping over his whiskered cheeks. Had Iruka not been trained to notice every detail of body language since he was twelve, he would have missed the surreptitious glance the blond cast at the raven haired teen across from them through his bangs. Interesting…

They were all saved from the awkward silence that always seemed to be waiting for when they talked like this. Gai somersaulted into the room with a boom of, "Dynamic Entry!" to tell them that breakfast was served. Odd enough though it was, it was made even weirder when the air around the man seemed to sparkle. The teens left to get their food, completely oblivious, followed by the exuberant bodyguard exclaiming that if they did not like the food, he would run laps to Tokyo and back until sundown as recompense. He really was a bizarre individual.

Iruka's thoughts must have been showing on his face again as he felt an increasingly familiar hand squeezing his shoulder in comfort before dropping to rest comfortably on his hip. "You get used to it after a while," Kakashi murmured in his ear. The sensation of breath brushing his sensitive skin sent shivers down Iruka's spine that he barely managed to suppress. It had memories of the previous night surfacing in his mind, causing him to flush with that damnable blush that he could never control around Kakashi. The damnable blush that said man found to be quite entertaining and attractive on the honey toned teacher. The bloody man actually had the nerve to continue with a sexy purr, "I look forward to sparring with you again, Iruka-sensei."

Oh, the tremors that skittered through the ex-assassin's body were too much for even his highly trained muscles to fully suppress. That beautiful voice was going to be the end of the smaller man. This, of course, had Iruka wondering just how many other people Kakashi had used that voice with and what it meant for the two men. Was Iruka just another lay? Then, why would Kakashi have been so willing to fight against Mizuki? And, if he remembered correctly, Iruka had been the only recipient of anything last night. Who would do those things for a mere one-night stand?

He never got the chance to voice any of his inner turmoil. The hand at his hip became an arm around his waist that led him through his kitchen and into the backyard. The vast array of dishes spread on his outdoor table had the little teacher's eyes widening and stomach growling. Momentarily deciding to shove his doubts into a small corner of his mind, Iruka took one look at how everyone was enjoying the food. Nothing seemed to be poisoned as even Gai and Kakashi dug in, so Iruka took a tentative bite of food that Naruto had already piled onto a plate for him, muttering, "Ittadakimasu!"

What seemed like one bite later had actually been about five. The food was absolutely amazing! Even on his best day Iruka could not match the flavors that tantalized his tongue with every bite. Naruto appeared to agree with him as he started his second helping. Or maybe it was his third… Iruka could never tell with the bottomless pit that was his brother's stomach and how fast the food got shoveled into it. Even on a bad day the blond could stomach no less than twelve bowls of Ichiraku's ramen, for crying out loud!

As usual, Naruto was the last one to finish his food, and once they were all done basking in the afterglow of foodgasm, there was the buzz of excitement dancing between them. Seemed like impending violence always had that effect on people, no matter who they were. Even the ice prince of an Uchiha could not hide the glint of impatience to spar with the blond, as Naruto mirrored the enthusiasm more openly. Iruka could not stop the good natured smirk that crossed his features as he stood from his place at the outdoor table.

"All right," he began, gesturing to the two eager teens. "First, I want to go over the very basics so nobody gets hurt. I know it seems boring," Iruka effectively talked over his brother's whine of protest at doing something so remedial. "But trust me; the basics can go a long, long way." He led them over to a more open part of the fenced in area away from the house, thankful that none of their nosey neighbors would be likely to peek in on the spectacle.

As the little teacher went about coaching the teens on how to properly form a fist, bodyguard and superior watched intently as Gai gave his report. "You were right," he said in a low, serious tone. Very few people have ever really been able to witness when the martial artist was not being overly flamboyant and sparkly, and Kakashi had been one such person since the first time they were on the battlefield together during one of countless wars with small countries that no one even knew about. Kakashi would trust this man with his life, just as Gai would trust Kakashi with his. "He targeted the boy's room, not Iruka-san's. Quite a sneaky fellow that one, though he would not be a match for either of us. He did manage to escape after giving me a few new bruises, but it will not happen a second time."

"I want someone trailing the brothers at all times when I'm not with them," Kakashi ordered, his bored tone not changing an iota. He knew his friend did not miss the minute hardening of his gaze, though, and that his orders would not be taken as lightly as his tone suggested. If Kakashi were to guess correctly, and he always did, Gai would likely go even further and put two of their best men to the task of protecting them; one for Iruka and one for Naruto. Gai knew something was going on between him and Iruka, and he knew exactly what had been going through his friend's mind regarding the animated blond.

Finding Naruto had been the most amazing stroke of luck the elite ex-soldier had ever had and he was not about to lose him again. Kakashi had sworn as soon as he heard of his sensei's massacred family that he would find the son he knew to be alive and protect him with his very life if necessary. Kakashi had known the baby to be alive because he was the one to take the bundled infant to the hospital for his check-up while Kushina and Minato-sensei had been in a meeting with some foreign dignitaries. The mission was also given to him as a security detail, one he took every precaution with by making sure every nurse and doctor that would be handling the infant was cleared and qualified to do so before heading off to tend to his other duties.

Upon hearing about his sensei's body being found with his wife's a day later, the young soldier had rushed to the scene to find the brutally murdered corpses being loaded into the coroner's van, demented markings showing down a pale arm that had fallen over the side of the gurney. After that, he had gone straight to the hospital to check on his charge only to find that he had already been taken by a social worker to be released into the foster care system. The blond baby was gone and would be nearly impossible to find. A few hours of fruitless threats and bribes later had the young man switching his search from finding his sensei's legacy to finding who had made said legacy an orphan.

Now, eighteen years later, Kakashi finds out that his self imposed mission of finding his mentor's murderer was already taken care of over a decade ago. To top it all off, he would now be able to keep to his oath to protect the blond. It was a good day and only made better with the figure that was Umino Iruka, possibly the most fascinating man Kakashi had ever had the pleasure of meeting (albeit under less than desirable circumstances that the brunette did not remember), teaching the teens how to fight and moving with sinuous grace. A grace that he himself knew could be deadly.

After about the fourth time of watching Sasuke and Naruto end up on the ground without much form to their punches at all, mostly because of the blond's sheer willpower to win no matter what, Iruka finally sighed in resignation and shook his head. Spurred on by his earlier words to the little teacher, Kakashi smoothly made his way to the makeshift training ground and stopped next to his ex-assassin. "Maa, Sasuke, I thought I taught you to always stay on your feet," he commented offhandedly.

The teens stopped their scrabbling and got up from their place on the ground, covered in fresh grass stains. All Kakashi got from the raven haired boy was a glare of annoyance. The one eyed businessman simply turned his eye up in its unique arch with a teasing grin that had Iruka's stomach doing somersaults. Why did the man have to be so damn sexy so effortlessly?

"How about we show them how it's done, Iruka-sensei?" Kakashi continued in a tone that bordered on a leer. It had the little teacher flushing slightly over his scarred nose despite the order he gave his body to keep the blood from his face.

Remembering the light spar they had had the night before had the sensei's pride demanding a rematch. With a mischievous glint in his eye, Iruka responded, "You're on."

Barely had the boys gotten out of the way before Iruka was on the offensive. He was not about to let Kakashi have the advantage again. A swipe to the head was easily ducked under, but the foot coming up at the same time had to be blocked. The little teacher had learned his lesson from last night and would not be holding back. Iruka would be giving his all to beat his opponent. With some opponents though, advantages and underestimations mean next to nothing as Iruka learned when his ankle was grabbed and yanked to make him lost his balance.

It was a rookie mistake to leave any part of his anatomy within grabbing range for too long. He must not have factored in Kakashi's near inhuman speed during the attack. Actually, he knew he did, but Iruka had a little inkling that perhaps the silverette had predicted the move. After all, they were both formidable fighters that had fought before and have cleverness on par with one another. Quickly correcting his mistake, Iruka dropped down to pivot on his uninjured hand to kick Kakashi with his other leg. His captured ankle was released in favor of blocking his other, giving the brunette the freedom to twist away at the last moment without actually connecting his kick.

A sound of astonishment came from their left, but Iruka was not about to let himself be distracted. He was still on the offensive and would win damn it! Lurching to the left, the ex-assassin spun in a roundhouse kick followed by rapid punches that were dodged with infuriating ease. Another mistake was finally made and Iruka found himself on his back before he could figure out what that mistake was. The hand flying in his direction to pin him had him rolling instinctively out of the way only to be caught up in his brother's legs before he could get out of the way.

The teen scrambled back quickly, calling out a warning just as Iruka's senses screamed that Kakashi was at his back and closing in quickly. Waiting for just the right moment and trusting his fast reflexes, Iruka suddenly whipped around with a speed he had not used for some years and grabbed one of the ankles that were trying to knock him off his feet. In a move as natural as breathing, Iruka used his opponent's momentum against him to pull him off balance. Then, he used a move specifically taught to the children Orochimaru trained. Iruka went down onto his knee and swung for the back of Kakashi's pivoting knee, making him collapse with a surprised grunt. With lightning fast movements, Iruka straddled the businessman to pin him with his entire body; one hand to his chest and one to his throat in a parody of Kakashi's own victorious position the previous night.

The two men froze, just looking each other in the eye for a moment, stunned. Through his mask of amusement that slid over the silver haired man's features, the little teacher could see that Kakashi was actually impressed. To be honest with himself, Iruka was just as astonished that he had managed to get so lost in the fight and still had the control to not kill his guest. He had been in the mindset of a mission, and his mission had been to beat Kakashi at all costs. Without giving it much thought, his grip on Kakashi's throat loosened and became a caress as his body registered how close their faces were.

Iruka was just about to close those last few irresistible inches to those sinful lips, when a throat was cleared next to them. Spell broken, the brunette's head shot up to see his brother standing with Sasuke. The sun was right behind them, making them look almost surreal in their identical poses with their arms crossed over their chests, small grins on their faces. When Iruka's brain finally caught up with the events, he glanced down at the rather inappropriate position Kakashi and he was in. Blush roiled under his skin as he scrambled to get off of his guest. Kakashi was on his feet before Iruka could extend a helping hand.

Iruka chuckled a little sheepishly, scratching at the back of his head. "So," he said, "did you guys learn anything from that at all?"

"Plenty," said the ever stoic Uchiha. The knowing gaze the teen leveled at him made Iruka's hackles rise in alarm.

"Yeah, that was so freaking awesome!" Naruto gushed, causing the two to break eye contact. The blond gazed up at his brother with hopeful eyes, hands clasped together in front of him. "C'mon, ya gotta teach us that move! Pleeease, Ruka-nii?"

The comical expression on his little brother's face was priceless. Iruka laughed before saying, "Sure, I'll teach you that move… sooner or later. First, you need to learn how to stay on your feet, like Kakashi said." He did not bother hiding his mischievous smirk as he bent to his idiot's eye level, which was a depressingly short distance from his own as the teen was getting taller and taller, with his hands on his hips. "And then you'll have to beat me before I'll teach it to you!"

The totally crestfallen look on Naruto's features only made Iruka laugh more. It was the face that they always made when they were play fighting and it felt good to see it after the strange things that had been happening over the weekend. The picture of Naruto's panic as Mizuki stood behind him with a knife that had been imprinted behind the brunette's eyelids was almost washed away as Naruto began laughing with him. His brother's laugh was a soul cleansing one and one Iruka was grateful for.

They spent the rest of the day training. Iruka and Kakashi would demonstrate every once in a while until the boys, namely Naruto, could do basic moves without resorting to rolling on the ground for dominance. They only took a break for lunch after Iruka had to kick his brother's butt back into the house before he overworked himself and dropped from exhaustion. The ex-assassin was trying not to notice the familiar fighting style Sasuke used. From the way the raven haired teen fought, Iruka could have sworn they had trained together with Orochimaru.

Iruka tried to come up with a connection. The youngest he ever saw at the warehouse during his entire time there had been only a year younger than Mizuki and him. Unless Sasuke trained with the snake after Iruka had left, but that would have been impossible. The brunette had killed Orochimaru with his own hands when Sasuke would have only been nine years old. At that time, Sasuke would have still been living with his parents… who had been murdered by Orochimaru's men.

Something did not add up, and Iruka would have bet his life it had something to do with Mizuki's mention of the snake obsessed creep. Orochimaru could not have survived what Iruka had done to him; he had made sure of that. So, what could he be missing?

The teacher's inner musings were interrupted by a pained grunt out in the yard. He went to go investigate and found that Naruto and Sasuke had gone back outside to spar more when Iruka was not looking. A glance back at their bowls revealed them to be empty, so there was no reason for Iruka to call the boys from their training.

"They're pretty good for a couple of kids," Kakashi suddenly said from behind him. The tiniest jump was barely noticeable in the smaller man's shoulders, but it went ignored by both men in favour of watching their charges try to outmaneuver one another. "Especially Naruto. He's learning exceptionally quickly for his age."

Kakashi was hitting a little close to home considering Iruka had learned all of these moves when he was only twelve years old and became the best within a few months. Since Kakashi could not possibly know that, he just shrugged and replied, "My brother's always been a fast learner. It's just a matter of finding something that interests him. It just so happens that violence interests everyone his age. Sasuke's doing pretty well himself." Iruka thought for a moment, watched said teen pin his brother for the umpteenth time, and then strode out onto the grass to the still grappling teens. "All right, let's see what you've learned today, shall we? Sasuke, would you mind going first?"

The black eyed teen squared him with a level gaze, one that Iruka held easily. He was determined to find out if they had really had similar training and the only way to find out short of asking the boy, and he seriously doubted that would work, would be to fight him himself. Naruto made a whiny protest, but was easily silenced by a look from his older brother.

Right as the young Uchiha's eyes flickered to the blond instinctively when he moved, Iruka advanced with a quick body shot. Sasuke blocked the oncoming fist with reflexes fast enough to rival his own; a feat in and of itself, but not the proof Iruka was looking for. The tanned man kept advancing, keeping his kicks and punches below the neck as he had instructed the boys to do with practice sessions, though none of his shots connected more than a glance off of the younger male's forearms as he blocked and dodged effortlessly. The way the raven haired teen moved looked to be a mixture of how Kakashi and Iruka fought each other. Kakashi must have told the truth about teaching him a few things.

Then, Sasuke found an opening to attack, making Iruka switch to defense instantly. He dodged and blocked, barely managing to keep up with the Uchiha's almost feline speed and grace. A feint to the right had Iruka blocking the diversion right as he saw the kick land on his upper thigh. The scarred man grunted from the impact; Sasuke had a considerable amount of strength behind his kicks. They continued like this for a few minutes, Naruto's astonished exclamations going ignored and Kakashi's assessing gaze unnoticed. Finally, Iruka saw an opening for his final test and he took it.

A sweeping kick to knock Sasuke's legs out from under him made the boy dodge and, much to Iruka's grim satisfaction, had Sasuke taking advantage of the split second of vulnerability the move presented. It was the kind of reflex beaten into Orochimaru's subordinates until it became an instinct as easy as breathing, because of how precise the timing needed to be. Technically, it was meant to be a crippling counterattack to an opponent's back while he was still crouched from the kick, but the glint in Sasuke's eyes revealed that he knew he had made a mistake even as he tried to pull back.

Whether he thought the mistake was in going for a move that could cripple his teacher or using one specific to the teachings of a certain white-skinned monster in human form, they would never find out. Iruka had made Sasuke use the move on purpose, so he knew exactly how to maneuver to avoid what would have been a perfect deliverance of a critical blow to the base of the spine. He ended up behind the teen, one arm hooked around Sasuke's chest with the other grasping at the hold Iruka had on his jaw, forcing him to expose his throat to demonstrate his victory. They both knew Sasuke could have been killed multiple ways from this position.

Iruka released Sasuke slowly, processing his newly acquired information. There was some heavy evidence that they had gone through the same training, though it did not make any sense to the scarred teacher. Deciding to investigate his findings at a more appropriate time and setting, Iruka simply told Sasuke that he did a good job and gestured for Naruto to take his place to fight his brother.

The fight between Naruto and Iruka was fairly short. The blond had no sense of aim or timing and got caught easily in a head lock. Well, it was more of a very predictable move that Iruka saw through immediately, but still. Since this was how their usual rough housing went, Naruto growled in annoyance, thinking Iruka was not taking things seriously. He sent an angry elbow into Iruka's ribs and wriggled out of the hold. Naruto saw the grimace on the brunette's face, but learned his lesson a long time ago on which pained expressions were real and which ones were traps, no matter how hard Iruka tried to fool him.

A flurry of punches whipped through the air, surprising Iruka with their speed and ferocity. Naruto was progressing much faster than Iruka had estimated. Then again, what else could he have expected of the competitive blond? After having watched the spar he'd gone through with Sasuke, Naruto was likely itching to prove he was as good, or even better than, the raven haired teen. A lucky shot made it through the teacher's defenses, causing the breath to be driven from his lungs and gave Naruto the opening he needed to knock Iruka off of his feet and pin him to the grass.

Both brothers froze, completely stunned. After Iruka had just beaten Kakashi and Sasuke, did he really just lose to Naruto? Neither could believe it, though surprise quickly made way for pride on both of their faces; Naruto for having won and Iruka because of his brother's swift development. He was by no means comfortable with letting him out of his sight until Mizuki was dealt with once and for all, but he felt a little better knowing the kid would not be killed in a matter of seconds.

Things were looking up after all…

. . . . . .

Mizuki watched the entertaining spectacle from his binoculars with a feral smirk. They honestly thought a few moves would stand a chance against him? Very soon they would learn that all of their practicing would have been for nothing…

The white haired man followed behind one of the many lackeys Orochimaru had at his disposal through the maze that was the snake's new hide-out. When they stopped in front of a door, Mizuki shouldered past the weak moron and went in to receive his orders. He had been called back for a reason, after all. Orochimaru sat in his usual throne-like chair, all arrogance and intelligent eyes.

Snake eyes… Mizuki thought, not for the first time.

"Ahh, Mizuki-kun. I've been expecting you." Orochimaru's voice always sounded like something between a whisper and a hiss. Also just like a snake, his mind supplied helpfully. "In your report, you said the demon-child was with him, correct?" He paused, allowing Mizuki to answer with a mute nod. "Excellent… he would make a fine addition to our collection, don't you think?"

Mizuki did not bother answering. They both knew of his opinion of that demon brat. Just brothers my ass…

"I want both of them brought here, as soon as the opportunity presents itself."

Nodding curtly to show his orders were understood, Mizuki turned and strode back to the door. Before he could totally leave the room, Orochimaru continued, "Alive, Mizuki-kun. I want to see their potential before I do the experiments."

Throwing the snake another nod, Mizuki headed out to complete his mission. He had never failed a mission in all his years of working for Orochimaru, and he was not about to fail this one. Especially if it meant he could get rough with a certain blond… He would still need a team to help with the other target. As long as it meant hurting Iruka, Mizuki was not going to complain…

Mizuki's grin grew as he watched the demon take down Iruka. Oh, he was going to have so much fun beating that kid into the ground for that. Just as soon as they had an opening, Mizuki and his team would strike.

. . . . . .

A/N: So… none of that went the way I thought it would. Honestly, I thought this was going to be a semi-fluffy chapter with some smut on the end… I hope y'all aren't too disappointed in me .;

Anyways, I'll catch ya in the next chapter! Leave me a review and let me know what you thought!