Hey there, everybody! This is a little drabble that popped into my head today. It's intended as an AU feel-good piece about Naruto and Iruka, taking place sometime in Naruto's earlier academy years. Enjoy!

'Italics' = thoughts

Today had not gone Naruto's way. To be fair it had started out fine; he'd gotten up early as usual, excited about the prank he'd planned. Just a little while later Konoha's citizens were treated to the blonde's self-portrait plastered boldly over the entrance to Hokage Tower, with the words "You are now entering the domain of Uzumaki Naruto, future Hokage of Konohagakure!" stenciled underneath.

Naruto had been beside himself with laughter at the people's outraged expressions. It had become even funnier when the looks of recognition crossed their faces, and they realized that the perpetrator hadn't even had the decency to flee the scene of the crime.

"What happened?" An onlooker jeered. "Are you so stupid that you forgot to run away?" In lieu of an answer, Naruto sent the man the widest grin he could muster. This was the one and only benefit of being universally hated by the entire village; Naruto knew that the people most likely to find his prank would be those that frequented the Executive District and the Hokage Tower Square, and that these well-to-do individuals (greedy dirt bags, the young pariah called them in his mind) were too afraid of sullying their hands to ever lay hands on him.

Just as Naruto had predicted, the indignant citizens formed a ring around him and proceeded to hurl every explicative and curse they could come up with. Not a single one of them came within twenty feet of the 'demon boy'. Naruto, far from cowed, waved to the mob as if thanking them for some award.

"Just wait until I actually do become Hokage! That'll show you!" Naruto grinned, picturing the day when the people of Konoha would realize that letting him become Hokage was the best thing they could have ever done. Sure, the jeering laughter and insults that always followed his declarations hurt, actually they hurt like hell, but Naruto knew it would all be worth it once he got the chance to change their minds. 'Though, it would be nice if not everyone needed convincing.'

It was about this time that some genius hiding in the throng realized that they could throw things at the little nitwit, without having to rub shoulders with it. After the first projectile came another, followed by even more, and within seconds Naruto was being pelted by whatever solid objects the congregation had nearby. He supposed, in the back of his mind, that he should be grateful Hokage Tower Square was mostly paved with dust and dirt, otherwise this might have become a public stoning.

'Either way,' He thought. 'I've never had a day go sour this fucking fast before!'

Umino Iruka often caught himself pondering the individual known as Uzumaki Naruto during his morning routine. That probably shouldn't have surprised him anymore, seeing as how dragging the village pariah to school after the latest prank had become a daily event. Today was looking like no exception.

Naruto was an enigma to Iruka. On the one hand he had the Walking Eldritch Nightmare, the Kyuubi no Kitsune, sealed inside him. The Chuunin instructor understood that this fact didn't mean his student actually was that monster, but night terrors of the young jinchuurikki chatting away with an invisible beast while butchering faceless Konoha nins had still haunted Iruka's dreams for months now. The incorrigible pranking Naruto got up to every damn time he was left unsupervised only seemed to offer quantifiable evidence as to which way the boy's future would lead.

On the other hand, those pranks were likely just cries for attention from a child who was ignored at every opportunity. And then there were all those times when Iruka had caught the blonde behaving downright honorably! Back when the instructor had been a mere Teacher's Assistant, he'd gotten to see Naruto fight off a trio of bullies twice his size to defend the Hyuuga Clan Heiress. The only reason he'd given was that they had made the girl cry. And how could Iruka forget the time before that, (gosh, he'd still been an academy student himself back then!), when Naruto had played 'House' for five hours with Haruno Sakura because all the other kids were too busy making fun of her forehead.

'That's probably what started his obsession over her.' Iruka thought, chuckling.

If Iruka was perfectly honest, Naruto could probably achieve his dream of becoming Hokage if he'd apply himself, and stop antagonizing his future constituents. He had a good heart deep down, and a drive to help those in need. He wasn't the sharpest kunai on the rack, and he could hardly sit still for more than a few seconds, but then again having a ball of infinite energy sealed inside him was likely the root of that. And his wallet would never forget the time he'd offered the boy a meal if he could get an 'A' on an exam. If only he could get the boy to listen to him when he explained the need for diplomacy and etiquette, or that his incessant pranking and boasting was just pushing him further from his goal! Despite his deep-seated trepidations about Naruto, it still made Iruka want to scream whenever he saw how the boy was wasting his potential.

Iruka was shaken from his reverie by the roar of a mob. 'Naruto…' he growled mentally. He leapt to the nearest rooftop and bolted toward the sound. It seemed that his morning would yet again be spent chasing his unfairly agile student. He prepared his usual "Don't worry I'll catch him and make him clean this up" speech, only for it to die in his throat when his brain finally registered what his eyes were telling him.

The first thing he noticed was, of course, the painting of Naruto on Hokage Tower ('Oh you've gotta be fucking kidding me. This is too far!'), followed by the surprisingly professional stenciling of the accompanying message. After this he observed the mob of enraged civilians, who were unusually organized this time around. Instead of milling about and complaining about the latest of Naruto's works, they had enclosed a circle, about twenty feet from the center, and were energetically screaming expletives at someone in the middle.

Iruka's blood turned to ice when he realized it was Naruto standing there, apparently welcoming the verbal abuse.

'Why didn't he run off?!' the Chuunin thought, barely restraining his panic as he dropped unseen into the back of the mob. 'Doesn't he know these people hate him? No, of course he knows that. He probably counted on these upper-class civvies' fear of touching him to overpower their desire to punish him. The longer he taunts them, though, the smaller that shield is gonna get.'

"Just wait until I actually do become Hokage! That'll show you!" Naruto's boisterous voice sounded out over the din, and Iruka redoubled his efforts to get through the dense crowd. Taunting this crowd was like tossing a match on an explosive note, and there wasn't much time until it blew.

As it turned out, there was no time at all. Seconds after Naruto's boast, the crowd began pelting him with whatever they had at hand. Most of the volleys consisted of basic writing utensils, this was the Executive District after all, but more than a few heavier items were thrown as well.

Iruka shoved his way through the crowd as stones, a few shoes, and worse pelted Naruto. Once he'd forced his way into the clearing the crowd grew eerily quiet. No doubt they expected this Chuunin to flay the Thing alive.

Naruto looked up to see what had stopped the mob's assault. Seeing Iruka, the blonde snarled: "The fuck do you want?"

"You are a fucking moron!" The words were out of Iruka's mouth before he could stop them. The combined fear for his student's safety and the frustration he'd been feeling all morning because of the boy's wasted potential had apparently short-circuited his mental filter.

"You think you can be Hokage? SCREW OFF!" Naruto was stunned for a second, then a look of deep hurt flashed across his eyes before he managed to school his face into a cold apathy.

"This is a bit of a step back from your usual lectures, Iruka-sensei." Naruto practically snarled.

"You want a lecture? Fine." Iruka scowled. Truthfully he wasn't entirely sure what point he was trying to make here, but a vague plan to help his student stop wasting time on being childish was kicking around the back of his brain and he wanted to let it out.

"When Senju Hashirama said he was going to end the Warring Clans period, he became an instant laughingstock. You know what he did? He told his clan that he also wanted to team up with the Uchihas, their worst enemies, and make a village where they could live in harmony. He nearly got banished from the Senju family for the idea. Then he went and did exactly what he said he'd do." Naruto tried to interrupt, but Iruka cut him off.

"The Yondaime told the Shinobi Council he wanted to fix the Nidaime's Hiraishin no Jutsu. He was laughed off and told that the jutsu would tear him into tiny bloody chunks. He stole the notes anyway, perfected the Hiraishin, and on top of that made a jutsu nobody else on the continent could have even tried to invent." Iruka marched over to Naruto and stared him dead in the eye.

"Becoming Hokage isn't done by fucking around with paint and trying to endear yourself to people who hate you. It's done by working really fucking hard on something everybody calls you stupid for even thinking of. Naruto it's time to stop wasting your energy on these idiots, because you are gonna be the motherfucking Hokage someday. You can goddamn believe that."