In the Ninja Academy of the Village Hidden in the Leaves, a certain silver-haired teacher was sitting at his desk and trying to focus on the tests he was grading. Trying...and failing miserably. Setting a test aside, Mizuki, the teacher in question, picked up a folder that was laying on the side of his desk and rifled through it. He didn't need to, really, he had long since memorized the contents of the folder, but his mind was too distracted to allow him to focus on anything but this folder.
Running his hands through his hair, Mizuki sighed deeply. "How can I decide whether to betray my village or betray myself?" he asked himself. Mizuki's frustration all stemmed from that folder. Inside were pictures of his wife, a sheaf of papers that contained a treasonous proposition from a rival village, and a small lock of hair. The hair and pictures were both too familiar to Mizuki for him to consider even for a moment that the sender of the folder was bluffing. Still...
As Mizuki sat at his desk trying to come to grips with himself, a knock sounded at his door. "Come in," he said after setting the folder aside. By the time his colleague, Iruka, entered the room, he was looking at a test again. "Oh, Iruka," Mizuki said with a small smile. "I'm glad to see you, but...what are you doing here?"
"I was just checking in on you," Iruka said. "It's been a while since we had time to just sit down and talk. Ever since you started teaching here this year, it's been hard to find the time when neither of us is busy in class."
"Yeah, I've missed our all-night chats," Mizuki said back with a sincere smile. "Even though we haven't really been able to talk much since I started, you have no idea how much it's meant to me knowing that I had a friend here that I could turn to if I really needed help..." he paused, thinking a moment, before finishing, "like I do now."
Iruka turned around and pulled a chair up to Mizuki's desk. Setting the back of the chair against the desk, Iruka straddled the chair and sat himself down. "You know I'm always here to help you out, Mizuki," he said. "Hell, I was even there when you asked me to be your best man five minutes before you got married!" Iruka gave Mizuki a smile to let him know he was just messing with him.
Mizuki sighed deeply and ran his hands through his hair. He was trying hard to hide his feelings, but he suspected Iruka could see right through him. His old friend always was good at that. "I really need some advice," he said after a minute. Iruka gave him a kind smile and nodded for him to continue. "If you had to make a choice between doing what the village had told you to do and saving someone you love, what would you do?"
Iruka chuckled. "I wasn't ordered to be there when you and Tsubaki were on your way back to the village that day," he said back. Mizuki considered this. Iruka continued after a moment, "I guess you could say I already made that choice."
Mizuki nodded slowly. Then he asked, "But...what if you had to do something wrong to save someone you love?" He wasn't sure if he should have asked that or not, but it had to be asked. He knew the choice he had to make, and it wasn't one he wanted to make lightly.
Iruka considered Mizuki's question carefully. "I think, when it comes to love, there is no right or wrong. You do what you have to do to protect the ones you love. I think that's the only right thing there is when you love someone. You protect them, no matter what," he said, choosing his words carefully. Iruka paused a moment, then sighed and added, "I would do anything to protect Naruto, even die. I can't help it, I just love the kid so much, I'd do whatever it took to make sure he was okay."
Mizuki gave a sincere smile at this. "I know how you feel," he said. "I feel the exact same way for Gina. I don't think there's anything she couldn't get me to do when she turns those cute eyes of hers on me." Mizuki paused a moment, then chuckled a bit and added, "I swear, that freaking Puppy Eyes Jutsu of hers should be a forbidden technique."
Iruka laughed. "I know, right? Naruto has conned me into letting him eat Ichiraku ramen more times than I can count with that jutsu! I doubt even the Hokage could say no to that!" he said with a smile as he rolled his eyes at himself.
Mizuki laughed with his friend even as his mind came to a decision he was far from comfortable with. "I have to do it," he thought. "Iruka's right. There is no right or wrong when it comes to love. I have to do whatever it takes to protect her. I don't really have a choice." That decision made, Mizuki picked up the next test in his pile. "I'm sorry to cut this short, Iruka, but I really need to get back to work. I need to get these tests grades so I can get home to Tsubaki before she decides I've run off with Anko or something."
Iruka laughed. "Yeah, right, who would ever run off with Anko?" he asked. "It's more likely that we'd all run from her than with her." That said, Iruka got up and made his way to the door of Mizuki's office. Waving, he added, "See ya."
Mizuki gave Iruka a wave, then made a big show of focusing on his test. Iruka left Mizuki to his own devices. As soon as he was sure Iruka was gone, Mizuki picked up a file folder that was packed with information on one of his students. Slipping it into the folder he'd been looking through before Iruka interrupted him, he set the now much thicker folder aside and finally returned his focus to grading his tests in earnest. He really did need to get home soon.
Iruka quietly inserted his key into the door of his apartment and opened the door. Slipping in as quietly as he could, he turned on a small light that was near the door. To his surprise and immense pride, he found Naruto, his adopted son, sitting at his desk and working diligently at his studies. "How's it coming, Naruto?" he asked with a smile.
Turning around, Naruto grinned, then leapt and glomped Iruka in a huge hug. "Dad!" the young blond-haired boy yelled happily.
Iruka sighed a bit. He still wasn't used to Naruto calling him that, and he wasn't really all that comfortable with it, but, he had to admit, he wouldn't change it for the world. Still...he wished at times it didn't make him remember the day he told Naruto the truth...
It was Naruto's sixth birthday. Iruka smiled as he looked down at the goofy blond he had adopted the day he was born. "If I never do anything else in this life that's worthwhile," Iruka thought to himself, "at least I can honestly say I've raised a heck of a kid." As he was thinking this, it occurred to him that Naruto deserved to know who his real parents were.
He'd never hidden it from Naruto that he wasn't his real father or that Naruto was adopted. He had explained as best he could what adoption was when Naruto was three. Today, though, he was going to tell Naruto the rest.
"Naruto," Iruka said softly. "Come here a moment. I need to talk to you."
Naruto came over to Iruka and climbed onto his lap. "What is it, Daddy?" the small boy asked. Iruka almost laughed at the look of concern on the boy's face, but he managed to restrain himself.
"You remember when I told you you were adopted and what that means?" Iruka asked. Naruto nodded. "Well, I decided today that I need to tell you the rest of the story."
Naruto spoke up then. "The rest? What do you mean?"
"I mean I need to tell you who your real parents are and what happened to them," Iruka said back. Naruto nodded after a moment of silence. "Your father was the Fourth Hokage, Minato Namikaze...and your mother was Kushina Uzumaki, who was a well-known ninja in her own right. They both died that night, protecting you from the Kyubi."
Naruto took a moment to process this. "They died protecting me, huh?" he said after thinking for a minute. Iruka nodded. "Then I guess I can't really blame them. It sucks that they couldn't be here with me, though."
Iruka smiled at how maturely Naruto was reacting to all this. "Yeah, that does suck, huh? I'm sure they would have been great parents to have. I'll do my best to live up to them, Naruto."
Naruto turned to Iruka. "You may not be my real father, but you'll always be my daddy," he said solemnly. "I'm proud to have great parents like I do, but you're the one who's always been here with me and for me. I love you, Daddy." That said, the six-year-old reached his small arms up and embraced Iruka.
Tears in his eyes, Iruka embraced his son. "I love you, too, Naruto," he managed to choke out.
Iruka smiled nostalgically as he thought of that day. It was the day he accepted that Naruto was his son in every way that really mattered. It was also the first time he ever thought of himself as "daddy". Still, every time Naruto had called him "dad" since then, he had remembered that day. It was a bittersweet memory for Iruka. He wished dearly that he could have given Naruto his real parents back...but at the same time, he was so happy to have been able to raise this amazing kid.
"What are you thinking about, Dad?" Naruto asked.
Iruka held the kid out at arm's length and smiled at him. "I was just remembering the day I told you about your real father," Iruka said. "I wish so much I could give him and your mother back to you."
Naruto looked into Iruka's eyes seriously. "Dad, seriously," he said, "I wouldn't trade them for you, no matter how awesome they were. You've always been here for me, and I know you always will be, no matter what. I love you, Dad, and I always will."
Iruka gave Naruto a hug, then asked, "How's your homework coming?" With that, the two resumed their daily routine as Iruka helped Naruto with the parts of his homework that he wasn't able to completely grasp.
"Sometimes living with your teacher has its advantages," Naruto thought to himself as he set his mind back onto his school work.
By the time Mizuki arrived home, it was shortly after midnight. Opening his door quietly, he gave a small smile when he found his daughter, Gina, sound asleep cradled in the arms of Hinata Hyuga, one of his students. Smiling kindly, he made his way around the two and into his room, deciding he would send the young girl home the next day rather than waking her so late. It wouldn't be very nice of him to make her cross the village all alone so late anyway.
As Mizuki sat down on his bed and looked at the picture of him, his wife, and their daughter that was sitting on his bedside stand, he nearly broke into tears. He couldn't believe what he was about to do to protect the two people who were most precious to him. "What in the world am I doing?" he thought to himself. "How can I put that dear sweet girl in harm's way just to protect my family? What about her family? What about her friends? What about everyone who cares so much about her?"
He was just about to bolt out of his room and run back to the Academy when he remembered what Iruka told him. "There is no right or wrong, you do what you must to protect the ones you love." He kept hearing Iruka's voice in his head, repeating that one thing over and over again.
"Iruka's right," he decided. "I have to do whatever it takes to get Tsubaki back. Even if it means putting someone else in harm's way, I don't have a choice. I have to protect Tsubaki and Gina." That thought in his mind, Mizuki closed his eyes and tried to sleep. He spent half the night tossing and turning, but he eventually fell asleep with one last thought in his mind. "I will protect my family."
A/N: So yeah, this is my 20th fic. I know, crazy, right? Well, unfortunately, this idea came to my mind when I was re-watching episode 2 of the original series the other day, and it wouldn't leave me alone, so here it is. I hope you all enjoy it. Oh, and please review! It's my birthday!