A/N: This story was written for the "I loved you, Iruka" contest, by Nezkov-Sou on DeviantArt. I've written plenty of Peggy-Sue fics, but this is the first one written to focus on inter-personal relationships (particularly Gai and Kakashi's friendship) and introspective pieces rather than on the consequences of coming back at all.
Also, the repetition of the number three in concerns to time so often was intentional. Given how I write and how I edit, chances are any other instances of anaphora were intentional as well. I just wanted to get that out there before people called my writing repetitive, because this is one story where I definitely meant for it to be that way.
Naruto: dead, killed by Sasuke, no less.
Sasuke: dead, killed by Naruto, no less.
Sakura: severely injured and probably dying.
Gai: severely injured and definitely dying.
Obito: completely f***ing insane.
Tsunade: dying, cut in half.
Most of the shinobi alliance: dead, dying, or already coming under the control of the Eternal Tsukiyomi.
Kakashi: alive, but barely. In a limbo, probably because Obito held some lingering affection, maybe because of Rin.
And so he wept.
It took him three hours to first touch upon the idea of time travel, after he was put in the 'special' jail, but three months to come back and start considering it seriously. Obito sometimes visited, and he saw the brainwashed, emotionless husks of Kurenai, or Lee, or Konohamaru, or someone he had similarly known come to feed him three times a day, and Shizune, sometimes twitching as if trying to break the thrall, coming to heal him when he was injured. The injuries were always, always, his own doing. His Sharingan was one of the last in existence, and that was the only reason he wasn't in the same position they were. He didn't know why Obito or Madara didn't just rip it out… it would have been better than this. This, where there were nightmares of the deaths of his lover, his student, his friends… where there were daytime terrors, not daydreams, but day-mares, of the same, where he had to see the people he'd known walk around like puppets, no emotion, no recognition, no life in their eyes.
There were times when he was sane, when he could look around and think logically think like the elite Jounin he was supposed to be. Those were the times when he looked back on his other actions and realized that his time was running out. Captivity in a world where no one was really there other than the tyrannical dictators was driving him insane. There were periods of mania, when the pressure just became too much. There were times when he just lost it, scratching at his clothes, his body, his face, his hair. There were times when he was reduced to just screams, or just mutters, delirious mumblings of a man that had long since shattered and been taped back together in the most unprofessional manner. There were times when he made himself bleed and used the red drops as ink, tracing his own name onto the wall, over and over and over again. He traced the names of the people he'd known, the people that were dead for good, the people that were dead on just the inside. He'd laugh, laugh at the utter hopelessness of the world and everyone in it. Even Obito and Madara were occasionally disturbed by the complete insanity that dripped from Kakashi's very being during those times.
It took him three months to consider it seriously. It took three days to latch onto the idea like there was no tomorrow, with a fervor that would have later scared him had the fates of so many not been riding on the decision, not been so dependent that he do it. It took three years to develop the technique and find a weak spot in the chakra seals.
It took three seconds to implement the technique, see the look of shocked rage on Madara's face and blank… was that acceptance? Approval? The blank look on Obito's, and he was gone, spiraling back to who knew when, just knowing that all he wanted was to fix things.
Something happened when he woke up. There was a person, and a desk, and then he didn't remember more than that, just something about stones, and birds? And paperwork. There was a smudge of color in his memories that he thought may be a person, darker than even some Kumo shinobi. But the memory was blurred, and every few days led to him losing even more of those memories, until all that remained was the knowledge that he had spoken with someone right after he came back, or maybe during the travel, but it happened. There was a sense of fear and respect attached to those memories… he nearly suspected that he may have spoken with a god.
His clearer memories, of actually being back in time, not in whatever limbo he had been in, started with the hospital, and a scream.
His own scream, of course.
The medic nin, ones he didn't know, had never met, held him down, yelling for someone to get an ANBU to help out so they could get a tranquilizer, since they couldn't hold him down themselves. He was grateful for that small mercy of not knowing the ninja that he interacted with that day; seeing them… it didn't hurt. He didn't look at them and see a destroyed arm, a scarred eye that saw no worse than the other that was trapped in a genjutsu. He didn't look and see a leg covered in burns that no one would ever even try to heal. He didn't look and see an empty face staring back, seeing nothing. He didn't look and see what would be, or would have been, just what they were, there and then in that moment.
He sank into unconsciousness only five minutes after he woke, courtesy of the needle that one medic jabbed into his arm. In that time, the only conclusion he managed to reach was that he couldn't see anything on his left side. He had the Sharingan, but…
Nothing. Unconscious. Blank darkness. He couldn't see, couldn't think, he only barely heard the things that people said around him.
He woke up slowly the second time, courtesy of the medics carefully monitoring whatever drugs they were using to keep him asleep. When he finally managed to open a tired eye, he saw Sarutobi Hiruzen, the Sandaime Hokage, at the foot of the bed. Clearly, he'd been the one to order when Kakashi would wake.
Kakashi tried to mumble something, perhaps a simply Hokage-sama, but couldn't even manage that. Everything just felt so heavy.
"Hello, Kakashi-kun." The Sandaime puffed on his pipe. Kakashi slowly blinked in response, mentally filing away that he couldn't be that old if the Sandaime was referring to him with that kind of honorific. He could twitch his fingers now, and the pressure of painkillers, or anesthetic, or whatever was keeping him down (he wasn't a medic, so of course he didn't know) was slowly lifting.
"I came here for a reason, you know." The man's eyes were betraying nothing, as expected of a Kage. "You gave us quite a scare, collapsing as you did during repairs like that."
Repairs? There were only a few instances where that word could be used like that, none of them good.
"I suppose the pressure of the Kyuubi attack and Minato's death—"
"Was too much for you and caught up the way it did. The reason I'm here, despite being so busy organizing all this, is your reaction after you woke up."
Kakashi winced, though the motion was minor due to his current near-paralysis. He felt he might be able to talk, though not much. Still, the Sharingan allowed for him to get into people's heads, if he wanted, or pull them into his own, though someone with enough chakra and a modicum of skill could break out. Even Naruto had managed it against Sasuke, and while the Hokage didn't have as much chakra, courtesy of not being a Jinchuuriki, he was infinitely more skilled.
But he also trusted Kakashi enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, so the point was (hopefully) moot anyways.
"Sharingan…" Kakashi muttered, though it was difficult. The Hokage raised an eyebrow.
"The Sharingan was at fault?"
Kakashi took another deep breath. "No… un-uncover…"
Sarutobi stayed still for a moment, mulling it over while he stared at Kakashi. He reached out and pulled off the cloth that was wrapped over the scarred eye in lieu of his hitai-ate.
The Sharingan spun, and the Hokage found himself in a mindscape he didn't recognize. It was metal, looking like some sort of underground bunker. He crossed his arms, waiting for Kakashi to show up. This wasn't the first time a Sharingan had been used when someone wanted to talk to him but couldn't due to, among other things, broken jaws, recently scarred larynxes, and burns that would cross the whole face.
He heard footsteps behind him, and turned to face Kakashi.
An older Kakashi.
A Kakashi he didn't quite recognize, who looked far more like Sakumo than any fifteen-year-old had a right to.
"I can explain." The man, who may or may not have been Kakashi, raised his hands up in surrender. "It'll be hard to believe, but I can."
"Then you better hurry up and explain."
"Can you at least tell me what day I passed out?"
The possible fake winced. "A little more specific?"
The Hokage watched him, and finally answered. "October eleventh, the day after the Kyuubi attack."
The answer drew a sigh from the man, but he didn't seem very surprised.
The man looked uncomfortable, and Sarutobi noted absently that the mask and forehead protector had both manifested despite their presence in a mindscape. "Follow me, please."
They walked along, the man slouching and often twitching in a way that was rather confusing. They arrived in a room filled with books with covers ranging all over the rainbow, and frequently outside it to shades of grey, and black and white, and mud brown on occasion.
The man stopped in the middle of the room, as if dithering, and then reached out with one hand, obviously trying to call up a specific memory. A book came to his hand, one that had the Kyuubi on the cover, and a small fifteen in the corner. He held it out to Sarutobi. "My memories of the attack, Hokage-sama."
Sarutobi took the book, letting the important parts of the memory, or what had been considered important by 'Kakashi' originally hit him and ignoring the rest to save time. While he watched the memory, the man began getting more books from the shelves.
"My memories of the aftermath." It was there… but there was no collapse at the end. The memories matched up perfectly up until the time of his collapse, and then diverged.
"What are you trying to show me?"
The silver-haired man cringed a little. "Please save all your questions until I'm done, sir. I promise it'll all be clear then. By that point, you'll either believe me or have me carted off to the insane asylum."
"I see…" Sarutobi took the next book, and was shocked, though he didn't show it. A delegation from Kumo, and a high ranking council member trying to steal the Hyuuga heir?
The next book was no better, carrying memories of a massacre, one that he himself may have ordered, though Danzo's fingerprints were all over it.
The next book, flashes about Naruto and his time on a team, under Kakashi.
The next, of his own death at the hands of his wayward student and Konoha struggling to fight off a two-village invasion.
The next, of Uchiha Sasuke, an infant now, and a young teen in the memory, defecting to serve under Orochimaru, of all people.
The next, of a battle to save the Ichibi Jinchuuriki.
The next, the next, the next, until the world was captured, two dead men in charge, and Kakashi the only free man left. Three years of pain, of madness, of desperation, until he just, just, just barely caught the threads of power and hope and took charge of the reins to his own destiny again.
Time travel. This Kakashi, real or not, believed that he had travelled through time.
Sarutobi believed him. Unbelievable as it seemed, the memories were there. The concept was there, and plausible if a little flawed, but it had worked, and Kakashi, over a decade and a half older than his body, stood before him in all his broken, shattered glory.
"So the world went to h***." Sarutobi summarized, a bitter laugh escaping him. "And you were the only one to see it happen, to suffer through it all."
Kakashi was silent, hands in pockets, single eye staring at the ground and hidden by his fringe.
"I believe you…"
Kakashi's head shot up.
"But there's no way I'm letting you go on missions until you're mentally stable again."
"Understood." Even that word, which should have been only loyalty and a willingness to follow orders, had an indescribable hope to it. It nearly made Sarutobi's heart break.
"Kakashi… I need to put you under watch." Sarutobi said, nearly regretting it when he saw Kakashi flinch, twitch, start shaking as if ready to run. "You're not in your right mind, especially if those memories of your captivity are accurate. Even the nightmares would be a problem, and if those day-terrors and periods of mania are to continue to occur…"
"I, I understand, Hokage-sama." The words were thick in Kakashi's throat. "Who?"
Sarutobi looked over the books, as if hoping they could tell them. "We need someone that is close to you, both now and then. We need someone that will put up with you and your… issues, and will believe you about the time travel. You need someone that won't send you into a panic attack. Is there anyone that you think might fit those criteria?"
Kakashi thought about it a little. Asuma wasn't very close to him, and he didn't know Kurenai very well either at this point. Rin was dead—his own fault, his subconscious told him, but he ignored it—and Obito was his own brand of crazy somewhere that probably wasn't even in Hi no Kuni. Minato and Kushina were dead. His own students were infants. Iruka was a child, one that had just lost his parents—ye gods, that would be trouble. He couldn't allow himself to even talk to him for… at least a decade, that long at least, he had to wait, he had to—and was too immature, far too young to take care of someone so much older than him and as fractured, as completely destroyed as Kakashi.
That left one person. One person that Kakashi knew, back then and in the future. One person that had kept him company for over a dozen years, kept him from breaking apart the first time and hadn't given up on him, even when he took suicide mission after suicide mission in ANBU and always came back, sometimes with his body trashed nearly beyond repair. Someone who had died during the war, so he wouldn't see the memory of soulless eyes looking at him every time he so much as glanced at them. If someone had told him, before, that he'd choose to live with this person because of his mind breaking, he… well, he wouldn't have called them crazy, but he certainly would have questioned the plausibility of the statement.
Gai. Maito Gai.
"Yes." Kakashi sighed. "Maito Gai."
Hiruzen blinked and turned, looking over at Kakashi. No expression crossed the face of either one, and then Sarutobi nodded. "Alright. Now, if you could break the technique."
"Of course, Hokage-sama."
Kakashi let the technique go, and found himself in the real world again. Sarutobi stood up, and nodded to Kakashi. "I'll let you rest for now. Do you want to help explain things to Gai, or…?"
Kakashi shook his head. No, he didn't want to be there. Explaining things even once made him relive too much. He didn't want to go through it again.
"Don't… don't tell Danzo."
The Hokage nodded, gave him a pitying look, and left.
Kakashi was alone for the first time since he'd come back, and had only his thoughts for company.
He wished for the oblivion from before again.
Kakashi had no trouble seeing through Gai's façade. The 'youth' was a real part of his personality, yes, and normally quite genuine, but this time it was just a screen to hide his worry. The Hokage's orders to watch over Kakashi were too important, too much to just casually dismiss from his emotions.
"Hello, Gai." Kakashi's voice was tired, weary. It didn't suit a fifteen-year-old.
Gai let his smile fade, knowing that Kakashi could tell it wasn't real. The two stood across from each other in the Hokage's office, uncomfortable.
"Gai," Sarutobi's voice broke through. "How about you show Kakashi to the apartment you two are going to be living in for a while?"
It was an order, despite all appearances. Gai nodded slowly, and then turned to Kakashi and lead him out, one hand on his (trembling) shoulder.
The apartment was of a fairly decent size, and had three bedrooms, for some reason. When Kakashi asked why, Gai just looked uncomfortable and gave him a scroll.
Ah. The third one was to contain him when he was having one of his 'manic episodes.' Lovely.
That room saw a lot of use over the next few months.
Gai had taken to doing most of the errands, while Kakashi did the housework, training in what was lovingly dubbed the 'Crazy Room.' Kakashi was so leery of going outside and seeing anyone that might bring up memories that he so dearly wanted to repress that staying inside was much safer for him. It was also safer for everyone else. Gai had waved off questions about Kakashi by saying that his teacher's death had pushed him over the edge and he was having too much trouble dealing with his grief and of course Gai was helping his Eternal Rival regain his most Youthful edge, and wouldn't you know that…
Most people stopped listening at that point, but it also gave them another reason to whisper later on, another little stick of hate to add to the growing fire that made up Naruto's reputation. Naruto, the child that was only a few months old. Naruto, who could only barely babble up at the Sandaime when he leaned over the side of the crib and tickled the boy with a brush.
Kakashi heard things, when he sat under the window, listening, only listening. He heard those rumors, the poisonous lines and vile drops of pure revulsion that much of the civilian population held for Naruto. So he made Gai promise. He made him promise to protect Naruto and, once a few years had passed, take every chance to be kind to him when they ran across each other in the streets. Gai agreed, most youthfully.
The first 'episode' that Kakashi had was halfway through their first week rooming together. Kakashi had felt himself beginning to hyperventilate, the edges of paranoia that was less than healthy for even a shinobi beginning to creep in on the edges of the mind.
The room. He told himself, tried to convince himself of it. The room is safe.
And it was. It had silencing seals to keep noise from leaving, though noise could come in, unless a hand was placed on a strange little marking, another seal, just by the door. The only people that would be able to open the door from both sides were Gai and the Hokage. Kakashi was the only other person to get in, but even he couldn't leave unless someone either let him out or at least six hours passed since he was locked in.
He threw himself into the dim room, slamming the door behind him. He felt his breathing speed up, memories start to run, run, run, RUN!
The laughter came next, the memories hurrying it along as he remembered the soulless gazes, the mocking tones of Madara's many monologues, Obito's less-than-helpful 'discussions' with him. He imagined bars locking him, seals restraining his chakra. He began to hallucinate, and at one point punched a wall just to see his hand bleed. Just to feel the pain, to feel and tell himself that he was real, he wasn't locked in an eternal illusion, he wasn't—
Gai was there. Gai was opening the door, grabbing his shoulders and turning the smaller boy, older man to face him. Gai was talking to him, muttering soothing nonsense. Gai was hugging him to his chest, restraining his arms and keeping him from jerking and flailing and hurting himself more.
Gai, who should be dead, but wasn't. Gai, who was alive in the here and now, where neither was yet sixteen. Gai, who wasn't created by the Eternal Tsukuyomi, because otherwise Kakashi wouldn't be acting insane in the illusion, too.
Gai, who was real and alive and was holding him and trying to keep him from breaking even more.
The next day was tense, but it was also better than expected. Gai only tried to bring up the episode once, and when Kakashi asked him to please not bring it up again, he dropped the subject and left half an hour later to go to the tower and get a mission scroll.
The pattern repeated itself, time and again, but they began to get rarer. They were shorter, less intense.
At the one month mark, Kakashi told himself that he would probably never be rid of this, not while he could still think and feel. He needed… he needed to be able to become like a ROOT on a whim. He needed to, for the duration of a mission, wipe himself clean of who he was and what he knew, and see only the orders in front of him and what needed to be done. He needed to do it in a way where he could still rely on his morals, but not be constrained by the memories attached to them. He'd been ANBU. He could do it.
The next two months were spent perfecting that mask that he could drop onto his mind, and another three weeks after that for Sarutobi to finally declare him ready for duty again.
Then he was sent on a mission with Kurenai.
The mission began innocently enough. Gai was sent along as well to keep an eye on Kakashi, both officially and non. The last member of the team was a new chunin that, if he remembered correctly, died during the Suna and Oto invasion, a Tokubetsu Jounin. Safe, then.
It was when they suffered an ambush while escorting the clients, a very young girl named Yumiko, that just so happened to be the niece of some far-off daimyo, and her governess… it was then that Kakashi lost it. The mask slammed down, he lost most conscious thought, and woke back up to find that he had killed three of the bandits and knocked out the last two, alive and tied to a tree; Kakashi was hanging from the branches of the tree in question. The mask had kept his morals, but the gob-smacked look on the faces of those around him told him that he'd done something out of character and likely far outside his ability range. He turned to Gai. "What did I do?"
Gai had carefully informed him that he'd moved faster than most of them thought possible for people other than the late Yondaime, and hadn't responded to anyone until Kurenai, still just a chunin, had tried to cast a genjutsu to calm him down, at which point he had suddenly disappeared and reappeared in the tree. Then he'd stiffened, relaxed, and come back to himself.
Kakashi closed his eyes, sighed, calmed down. "My apologies, Kurenai-san. There has been some trouble in my life recently, and I am rather jumpy at the moment."
Kurenai nodded stiffly, unsurely, and suggested that they continue on.
Gai later informed him that she had begun to worry about the strength of her genjutsu if Kakashi could detect them and throw them off so easily.
"Good. It'll make her train more and she'll be strong enough to fight when she needs to."
Gai had no answer.
Kakashi worked on the mask he'd created for himself to wear in public. He would allow himself consciousness, acted like himself, like he had most of the latter half of his original life, but any recognition he felt, any reaction would be boxed up and filed away in the back of his mind in seconds.
He would then go to the room, and hope that it hadn't been too much for him to handle.
It took him a year to fix his mind enough that the Hokage finally declared him capable of taking missions, specifically solo missions, again without issue. It took another year to join ANBU, by which point his bouts of insanity were occurring only once a month or so.
Gai was still his roommate, and still taking care of him when he had to 'take a timeout' in the crazy room. Gai was still one of the only two people he completely trusted, the other being the Sandaime. The attacks still hadn't actually led to much, until one day, they just… changed.
Kakashi knew what the walls of his special room looked like. There were names everywhere, most often his own name and frequently those of the people he'd loved and lost, some in blood, and most in a red marker that Gai had bought early on and replaced once in a while so that Kakashi could write what his neuroses demanded without being left wallowing in his own blood.
He knew what the rest of the room looked like. There was a bed, a chair… there were often shards of wood scattered around from where he smashed something in a fit of rage brought about by grief before they were cleaned up afterwards, as if they had never been there in the first place.
He knew that he would classify those as periods of mania.
Three years into the past, they became periods of depression instead.
He became inconsolably morose, and new seals were added, some by his own hand, after the first time he tried to commit suicide. The room no longer held uncontrollable rage, but inconsolable sadness. He knew during the other times, ones where he could think normally, that he was barely in control of his body, that he did things without thinking. When the anti-suicide seals took effect, he suddenly found that his times there were swinging wildly between the mania and the depression. He at one point glanced through a psychological textbook, noting that it seemed rather like class II bipolar disorder, but it was so isolated, just one night every few weeks, that he couldn't be sure that it really counted.
Gai came upon him the first time he was muttering to himself alone in the room, head between his knees, still in his ANBU uniform, about three months before the Hyuuga incident. Gai himself had just come back from buying groceries, and forgotten to put them in the kitchen when he saw the glowing seal by the entrance room that meant Kakashi was in one of his states. He put the hand on the seal by the door to the small room, listening to make sure that Kakashi wasn't violent at the moment.
"Naruto, Sasuke…. Why did you have to…" A deep, shuddering breath. "Sakura, you… he was already dying, you could have saved yourself…"
Gai entered the room.
"Come on, Kakashi." Gai shook his shoulder, but Kakashi was too caught up in his mumblings, and didn't notice.
"Tsunade-sama, you should have just let Katsuyu fix you… you could have led a rebellion, or had the chakra control to escape…" More incoherency, and then he caught upon another subject, one that his saner mind had deemed too dangerous. "…Iruka, why did you… but maybe it was better that way, you weren't caught by the Eternal… Iruka, I loved you…"
Gai shook him by the shoulder again, harder, and started speaking more loudly. "Kakashi, my Eternal Rival! You must wake!"
Gai sat down on the floor, waiting for Kakashi to become responsive again.
It wasn't the last time.
It took three more years for Kakashi to get healthy enough to finally petition with the Hokage for something he'd been hoping to do for a while.
"Kakashi…" Sarutobi pulled the pipe from his lips, setting it aside. "This is a big responsibility to take on, especially considering your… particular circumstances."
"I know, Hokage-sama."
"Not to mention, your reputation would take a nosedive. While you're plenty well-known for being near S-class as far as fighters from Konoha go, your reputation in concerns to your personality and sanity is far less stable."
"I know, Hokage-sama."
"People also might get the wrong idea about you and Gai."
"…I know, Hokage-sama."
"You still intend to take in Naruto as your ward?"
"I do, Hokage-sama."
Sarutobi watched him, noting the flinty look in his eye.
"I'll have the paperwork ready by tomorrow."
It was worth it to give Naruto a better life.
It was worth it to see life in Kakashi.
It took three hours for Naruto to start calling Kakashi and Gai his 'nii-san,' and three days for it to sink in that he'd finally been adopted (not quite, as Kakashi didn't want to change out Naruto's unique name out for his own, but it was as good as). Then, it only took three minutes at breakfast for him to start crying happy tears and fling himself into Kakashi's lap.
Kakashi, it should be known, was not good at caring for children. For all his insistence to be allowed to take Naruto in, he didn't really know how to raise a boy that was only six years old.
That was where Gai came in.
Gai knew everything, and when he didn't, he had no compunctions running to the hospital or to the mother of an old genin teammate for advice, and had plenty of enthusiasm to make up for the lack of it from Kakashi.
It didn't take three years to get Naruto accept them as family. Not even close.
It took three more years for the Uchiha Massacre to finally come around. They had managed to postpone it, but not by more than a year and a half. Itachi had still killed his family, and Sasuke had still been orphaned, albeit later than he had the first time.
Kakashi demanded that the young boy come live with him. He said that he had more experience in actual grief-caused disorders and Gai definitely had experience taking care of them, and Naruto and Sasuke would be good for each other. Besides, he had the Sharingan, the only person left in the village to public knowledge (an eye flicked at Danzo reminded Sarutobi to take care of preventing the man from harvesting eyes from the corpses), so couldn't they just go ahead and make the matter final already since he was probably going to be the boy's Jounin-sensei anyway?
It took him three days to get custody of Sasuke, and make him a ward of his like Naruto.
The crazy room was painted over and fixed, the seals removed, and refurnished to suit the needs of a pair of nine-year-old boys. It was as if it had never been there at all.
Naruto and Sasuke didn't get along very well. Sasuke, even in the short time since the massacre, had already drawn into himself, had started to become surly, was frowning near constantly. Naruto was loud and brash, and felt jealous of the new person intruding on his family. Despite that, they were good for each other, tempering one another, with Gai training them until they were almost ready to pass out, and they gained a shared enemy in the form of training time.
Kakashi would watch them from a nearby tree, book in front of him.
Only three years until Sakura joined.
Never, in all this time, did they find even a hint of Obito. Even breaking the mind control on the Yondaime Mizukage gave them no information. Kakashi persisted, despite that, hoping to find some new detail.
It took another three years for the two to graduate, Kakashi firm on the fact that they should wait. He had graduated young, and suffered for it. Neither of them were happy about it, but what Kakashi said was always what they were supposed to do. Besides, they already got genin-level training, sometimes with Gai's new team (exactly what it had been before).
Then there were parent-teacher conferences, and Kakashi had to talk to Iruka.
The conversation flowed easily enough, and Kakashi couldn't quite resist the urge to leave behind a smile and a parting shot of "See you next time, Iruka-kun."
Childish? Very. Worth it? Definitely. Something that he desperately wanted to hold as the truth?
Yes. A thousand times yes.
Then graduation came, and Kakashi pushed open the door.
"My first impression is…" He looked at Naruto and Sasuke. "Do I know you two?"
A/N: Done. Over five times the minimum word count, and hopefully original enough too. Wish me luck!
If you're confused about the scene near the beginning about paperwork, I suggest you go look at Unexpected Paperwork, a story of mine that explains everything, though without the possibility of a partial mind-wipe.