Life Lessons

Knowing that you’re sending twelve-year-olds into the field to fight, what do you need to teach them before they go? And what do you do when it never seems to work? Sometimes Iruka has trouble with that second one. Drama, Angst, Fluff, I-5

Warning: Discusses aftermath of trauma.

Pairing(s): Kakashi/Iruka

Umino Iruka loved to teach. He really did. He’d taught at the Academy for years, and with every new class he felt again the wonder of shaping Konoha’s future through his students.

There were also weeks when he needed to remind himself of this strenuously to keep his hands from closing around their skinny, little necks.

“All right, everyone, settle down, Kiba tell Akamaru to let go of Ino’s bag. Today we’re talking about trauma-care within your team.”

“Aw, we’ve done first aid already,” Shikamaru grumbled, not quite under his breath.

“If you graduate and take on field jobs,” Iruka continued, as if he hadn’t heard, “there will come a time when you or one of your teammates will not be in their usual state of mind. You may have been in a fight and almost died. Your teammate may have been captured and tortured. It isn’t unusual to need people you know and trust around you, after something like that.”

“So, what, we’re supposed to pack along a teddy bear?” Kiba muttered and Naruto snickered. Iruka gave them his second-best glare and continued when they shut up.

“Your textbooks list several chakra techniques that may, if you develop the control for them, be used to soothe your teammate until competent medical help is available. We will be practicing those today. There are also three pressure point techniques that are safe for novices. We will practice those tomorrow.” Fortunately, the worst they could do to each other with those was fail; he made a mental note to ask Hinata not to demonstrate any more advanced techniques she might know from her clan’s teaching to her classmates.

“Wait a minute, you mean we have to, like, let someone touch us?” Ino protested with a look of distaste at her deskmate, Chouji. A wave of sniggering and blushing swept the class and Iruka braced himself. This was exactly why he hated this unit.

“That brings us to the third option discussed in this chapter,” he said, commanding himself sternly not to blush; teachers didn’t blush damn it. “There will not be a practical exercise for this option, but your homework for tonight is to write three pages on the possible signs that the third option is called for or appropriate. Some people respond to some kinds of trauma or threat with a need for sexual contact. We’ve already discussed, earlier this year, some differences between civilian attitudes toward sex and shinobi attitudes. Among shinobi it is both acceptable and appropriate to offer that contact to your teammates if you are able and willing to do so. This chapter covers some ways to determine whether one of your teammates needs that kind of contact.” The dead silence that had struck the room dissolved into squeals and whispers and exclamations. Sasuke, recipient of several rather predatory looks, drew even further in on himself than usual, and Naruto was making gagging faces with Shikamaru. Iruka soldiered grimly on.

“Recognizing the signs is extremely important, because it is equally common for a person to desire non-sexual contact with teammates after experiencing stress or trauma. No one who cannot demonstrate their knowledge of the signs listed in your textbooks will be passed for a field assignment, so pay attention to your reading and take good notes. Now.” He swept them with his very best glare to silence the whispering and giggling. “Everyone open your books to page seventy-two and start copying out the first seal.”

He sat down at his desk while the class settled into their usual restless order, books open, brushes moving.

“Naruto, stop trying to paint Shino’s jacket and work on the seal.”

"Aww…"

Sometimes moving the wrong places, but it looked like the work to fooling around ratio was about seven to three today, which was about as good as it ever got.

Ino passed a note over to Sakura and they both looked back at Sasuke and giggled, pink-cheeked.

Okay, maybe six to four. He sighed to himself. He really hated this unit. And talking about the homework tomorrow was going to be worse.


Iruka didn’t lift his head from his hands when the door to the teacher’s room opened and closed. Uncharacteristic inattention to surroundings, his memory recited, or unresponsiveness, especially if it appears deliberate.

“Iruka? Hey, you okay? What did the little monsters do to you today?” Shizuka’s voice came closer and was punctuated by a papery thump.

“Yeah,” he said, low, “it’s just that time of year again. That unit, you know.”

“Oh shit, I totally lost track of time! That’s this month?” Her steps went to the window and the vertical blinds rattled across them.

Ensure as much privacy as possible without obstructing exit routes. “Yeah.”

Her steps came back and the chair beside him scraped out. “Want to talk about it? Or just go get a drink?”

Offer verbal contact first, along with an alternative form of communication or connection if your teammate is unwilling or unable to speak.

Iruka took in a shaky breath and let it out. “They don’t know. They think it’s funny. Just like when we do the first aid unit, and the ones who have never broken anything laugh over the lesson on improvising splints. And next week we have to cover torture and rape recovery. Why do we try to teach them this so early?” Why did he have to go through this, trying and failing to reach them, year after year?

Shizuka sighed. “Sometimes I wonder too.” She touched his wrist lightly. “You want a hand with this?”

Do not attempt to answer questions. He could nearly see the letters on the page. Initial physical contact should be at a neutral location. (Caution: this may be influenced by your teammate’s specific experience.) He put his head down on his arms and laughed, rough and helpless. “You’d pass the test with flying colors,” he told her, husky. So many wouldn’t, not for real, not until it was real and that would be too late.

“Bad year, huh? Should I stay?” she asked him gently, “Or should I get that slacker Hatake in here for you?”

Your teammate may be unable to ask for contact. Offer several possible courses of action. Iruka bit his lip. After a moment he managed, quietly, “Door two?”

“You got it.” She squeezed his shoulders as she stood. “Just wait a little.” And she was gone. Shizuka was a good shinobi, and a good teacher, Iruka reflected. She cared. That was a hard quality to find sometimes, though he did his best to teach it to his students. It was always during this unit that he despaired of getting through to them. He knew that, he knew it was coming, and his failure hit him like this every year anyway.

“Yo.” A warm hand fell on the back of his neck and Iruka jumped, startled out of his drifting thoughts. “You look like a wreck. Who is it this year?”

Iruka’s muscles locked. Everyone knew; it would be someone. He’d fail some one of his students.

Over his head, Kakashi sighed quietly. “Come here.” He put a hand under Iruka’s arm and levered him up out of his chair, leading him over to the battered couch tucked in the corner for emergency naps. He thumped down onto it and pulled Iruka tight against his side.

And hooked a finger into his facemask, tugging it down.

“Kakashi-san,” Iruka said, rough, looking up at him, a little of the fear in him unwinding, letting him straighten. His old commander had always trusted him, and obviously still did.

“Who is it this year?” Kakashi demanded quietly, dark gaze level.

Iruka swallowed. “Hinata,” he whispered finally. “Hyuuga Hinata. If she’s ever taken I don’t know if there will be enough of her left to make it back. And…” he bit his lip.

Kakashi kneaded the back of his neck with a strong, calloused hand. “And?” he pressed.

“…Sasuke.” Iruka closed his eyes. “I can’t even say that he isn’t broken already. He should be! And all the boys can think is how they want to take him down a notch and all the girls can think is how cute he looks, and…” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Fuck.”

Kakashi smiled at that, startlingly clear without his mask. “Very eloquent.” He caught Iruka’s chin, making Iruka meet his eye. “You can’t do this for them. And that isn’t your fault, or your failure.”

There was no room for argument in his voice and Iruka leaned on that, trying to believe it. “I know,” he said, low, “I just—” he broke off because Kakashi had pressed two fingers to his lips.

“Enough.”

That was an order, and Iruka subsided. Kakashi had been his first commander after Iruka’s jounin-sensei had passed him, and Iruka knew, ruefully, he’d never quite gotten over that. Kakashi knew it, too, and had no qualms about using it. “I think you need some distraction,” Kakashi declared. “So, which will it be: do I get you drunk or do I take you to bed?”

Offer several possible courses of action Iruka’s teacher-memory reminded him, and he had to press his head against Kakashi’s shoulder while he laughed. This wasn’t exactly the textbook approach, but it worked. That was what the field always had to teach his students, and it would be no different for this. “How about both,” he decided.

“Taking shameless advantage,” Kakashi tsked mournfully. It wasn’t as effective when you could see the quirk to his lips. “Your place, then; I’m out of booze.”

“Speaking of taking shameless advantage,” Iruka said dryly, feeling a little more himself.

Kakashi smiled and tugged his facemask back up as he stood. “Have to keep my reputation up. Come on.”

Iruka followed him out the window and over the roofs, holding on to the calm he’d regained. He’d need it for next week. But that, as Kakashi would no doubt tell him, and scold him for forgetting, was what a person’s team was for. They would learn, his students. He would do what he could and life would do the rest.

And they’d all live with that, however they could.

End