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College Strays

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Iruka rubbed his eyes as he tried to ignore the pounding headache, annoyingly steady and distracting. The nausea kept him from shooting up in his bed as he felt someone shift against him. Oh god, he didn’t go home with someone, did he? But, no, the feet pressing against his back were definitely Anko’s, seeking warmth in the cold winter. Goddammit, Iruka went all out at last night’s party, hadn’t he? He always did this.

“Just one drink ‘Ruka,” Anko would say, and Iruka would acquiescence because the week was long and being an RA for students around his age really sucked…

Second years didn’t get any damn respect did they? Well, he could normally deal, but this week had been especially bad. His side job (side hustle, as Anko liked to call it) was tutoring students in English and helping them with their essays. And because it was midterms season, every one of his clients seemed to be calling in with a last-minute proofreading request. Of course, Iruka took each damn job. He needed the money (he also had a hard time rejecting people—and that wasn’t something he felt like psychoanalyzing anytime soon).

College was supposed to be a fresh start. A way to move past his rebellious and misguided past, but he immediately failed when Anko decided to befriend him during their freshman orientation. Somehow him (politely) declining to answer the icebreaker question—how he got the scar across his nose—was somehow a “challenge” to her. Her goal was supposedly to unlock his secret, tragic backstory or whatever. As a result, she became impossible to shake off, despite them being in totally different majors (English and education for him, business for her). Anko was determined to stick with him until graduation it seemed like—something that Iruka doubted would last.

And now she had burrowed in his bed in an attempt to sleep off the copious amount of alcohol she had guzzled down. Anko shifted against him as she lazily got up. Iruka narrowed his eyes, furious that she never seemed to get as bad of a hangover as he did.

She stretched, popping her shoulders before turning to Iruka. She smirked at his frown and reached out to ruffle his hair. “Hey, don’t get mad at me. You seriously needed to relax.”

“And your solution was to get me drunk?” Iruka said, attempting to raise a brow. He winced when he realized that even glaring was making his headache worse. (He could not deny that a night of dancing made him feel lighter than ever, but this was not about to stop the brunette from giving Anko grief about the whole thing).

“Yep. It’s what I’m best at, after all,” Anko said with a smile that didn’t completely reach her eyes. Iruka wanted to protest that she wasn’t just someone he blew off steam with by drinking with, but he didn’t know what else to add. Before he should add anything, Anko reached out and tapped the crease in his eyebrows. “If you keep frowning, you’re gonna just make the hangover worse.”

“And who’s fault is that?”

Anko rolled her eyes. “I only handed you one drink! I even tried to stop you from chugging down the last few drinks but hey, you didn’t listen.”
Iruka sighed. He vaguely remembered that. Clearly the week was much harder than he had expected, as he barely protested when Anko had given him the beer. He pulled the covers over his head to help block out the sun from searing his eyes any further—it only mildly helped his hangover. “I still blame you,” he mumbled through the covers.

“Yeah, yeah.” He heard shuffling from her side in the bed. (It was a miracle they both managed to squeeze into his tiny, twin-sized bed—RA’s got their own nice studio apartment but the same shit-sized bed as everyone else).

Iruka felt Anko ruffle his hair. “I’ll make up for it, alright? Breakfast’s on me.”

“I guess that’ll do…” he mumbled. “I feel awful, though. I’ll probably throw it back up—whatever you feed me.”

Anko lightly laughed before moving away—probably to go freshen up. “Next time, listen to me before you decide to pile on extra work, alright? Maybe you won’t go as hard on the alcohol as you did this time around.”

Iruka nodded his head, although he doubted she saw him. He supposed it wasn’t a bad night out. He did feel a bit better about the previous week more than anything and hey, midterms were over so he deserved a night of fun.

“How’s pancakes sound?” Anko called. Iruka felt vague nausea at the idea but agreed to it nonetheless. He needed to eat—couldn’t really starve a hangover, could you? Besides, Anko’s pancakes were delicious.


"What are you doing here?” Iruka asked. Well, it was less of a question and more of a statement. Genma grinned up at Iruka with a cheeky smile while Shizune looked between the two nervously. Clearly, she had been dragged here. “How—”

Genma stood up from the small dining table (it felt more like a desk to Iruka than a table for food) and sauntered over with ease that he shouldn’t have for someone that broke into his apartment. “How did I get here? Well, my dear friend—”

“We’re not friends.” Iruka said, voicing lacking conviction. (What constituted as friends? He had to come to the terrible conclusion that Anko was indeed a close friend, but did this include Shizune and Genma? All they did was bother him with their schoolwork)

“It was magic!” Genma’s smile was more annoying than anything else and Iruka had the strangest urge to throw his book bag at the other. A long day after classes and studying and he comes home to this? Two acquaintances that broke into his studio apartment, which was 100% breaking-and-entering?

“I could have you arrested for this.” Iruka sighed as he dropped his backpack on the ground, bending down to unlace his boots. Shizune squeaked and it took everything in him to not apologize. She was complicit in all of this, after all.

“But you won’t! Wanna know why?”

Iruka just stared. Genma stared back—daring him to guess. The silence was uncomfortable and clearly, neither were backing down from this stupid disagreement. Goddammit, he already had one annoying person in his life (aka. Anko)—he really didn’t want to deal with another.

“We brought food!” Shizune exclaimed—the silence had gotten to her. “You helped us out during midterms and well, we felt…..that we should do something nice, you know? I know things haven’t been easy and I figured bringing you food would be a good way to thank you and all…..”

“That makes me sound pretty nice, huh?” Genma remarked, scratching his chin

“It was my plan,” Shizune huffed.

“That sounds about accurate,” Iruka said faintly, trying to scan his small apartment for the food. He was starving.

“Hey I still split the bill—”

“Which was expected of you—”

“And picked up the meal.”

“Yes, but—”

“What did you guys bring me? Where’s the food?” Iruka interjected. He was starving.

“Oh, here.” Shizune said, reaching for the fridge and bringing a whole lot of containers.

“Is that Thai?” Iruka asked faintly.

“Yeah,” Shizune said with a smile. “Genma mentioned that you liked it.”
Iruka grabbed a bowl and began unloading some Pad Thai into it. So Genma really did listen to him? And Shizune cared enough to think of bringing him food? Huh.

“Are you gonna give me some?” Genma asked, knowing what the answer would be.
Iruka sighed and began loading another two bowls with the Pad Thai. “You buy me food and then demand for it back, huh?”

“Oh! Well, I don’t really need—” Shizune said, hands fluttering anxiously.

The brunette grinned suddenly, his bright smile catching the two off guard. They were, of course, disarmed by his charm—which was something that often happened in Iruka’s company.

“I’m only teasing. You guys are the ones who bought the food so of course I’ll give you both some.”

Genma started “Uh, it was for you—” Now, he decides to be a reasonable person?

“What? Don’t wanna have dinner with me?” Iruka pouted. Genma and Shizune blanched. It was hard saying no to him. How could they refuse?

The trio settled down to eat at the cramped table—he really should buy some more chairs if people were going to come over more often—and somehow, the tiredness that accumulated throughout the day was gone from his shoulders. He felt the tiredness lift from his face as Genma joked with Shizune’s crush while the other shot back at him about his latest rejection. In the excitement of free food (and good company) Iruka totally forgot to ask how they managed to get into his apartment. Well, he could always just blame Anko.


“Why….why are they here?” Kakashi asked with a strangled voice. He was sitting at the dining table as Iruka attempted to teach the other man why English was necessary for a biology major like him. Unfortunately, Kakashi kept glancing at the other residents in his room. Iruka didn’t blame him.

Anko laid on his bed, watching some dumb movie with Kotetsu it seemed like. They were both fans of unironically watching My Strange Addiction. Seriously, they both had such trash taste in shows, neither were allowed full control of the movie for movie nights. Kurenai was on the floor, a hundred percent concentration as she tried to get her nails absolutely perfect—it was always the same red color but since she kept messing up her right hand, the process usually took ten times longer than for her left hand. Izumo and Shizune were chatting at the stove, making spaghetti for the third night in a row. Iruka was a worse cook than the two of them and besides, they were all poor college students, so he really didn’t have many complaints. A decade of eating the awful, shoddily-made food in the orphanage really lowered his standards.

“Just ignore them,” Iruka sighed. He turned to face Kakashi, who avoided his eye contact. He didn’t hold it against the other man—he was pretty anxious. Something that most people completely missed when talking to him as they assumed his curtness was him trying to be a dick. But no, that was just Kakashi being nervous. “So you had questions on your last English paper? It seems like you improved a great deal, so good for you!”
But, it seemed like Kakashi wasn’t done when he asked “I—do they do this every night?”

“Well, no,” Iruka said, glancing at the others as he tried to recall their schedule. “Anko has volleyball practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon; Shizune has to go to the clinic on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; Izumo has Mondays taken up by his physics lab; Kotetsu has work on the weekend at some restaurant; Kurenai only really drops by occasionally and Asuma even more rare; Genma is free all the time but you never can predict when he won’t be here—he sometimes brings Raidou. I guess….most of us are here on Thursday? But, it all really depends.”

Kakashi just stared and looked around the room. “And…...you’re okay with this?”

Iruka shrugged, about to dismiss the question before really thinking about it. Was he okay with it?

Truthfully, it could get a little annoying and on his nerves if people started to overstay their welcome (and that usually meant Anko and Genma) but honestly? If he was being 100% real with himself—it was kind of nice. He liked everyone being here. It reminded of the orphanage but this time, the people chose to stay with him instead.

Just as he was about to respond to the question, Genma opened the door, bringing in a whole case of beer. “Santa’s here! And I’ve brought presents!”

“Oooh!!!” Anko cheered, hopping off the bed. “Gimme, gimme!”

“What? No way, these are for ‘Ruka,” Genma said, holding the case over his head. Anko, being a head shorter than him just kicked his shins in retaliation. “What the hell??? Mooooooom! Anko’s being mean to me!!”

“Settle down children.” Iruka sighed before getting up. Best to separate them before things escalated and they ended up breaking something again. “And you really didn’t need to get more beer, Genma. We already have plenty of alcohol.”

“More doesn’t hurt, does it?” Anko said, clinging onto Genma’s legs in an attempt to trip him over.

“Definitely not.” Genma agreed—his words at odds with his actions as he was trying to pry off Anko from his legs.

Iruka took the case of beer to the fridge and was about to go back to Kakashi before Shizune put a hand around. “Try this out, Iruka!” she said holding out a piece of zucchini with a pair of chopsticks.

The brunette leaned down and ate the piece. “Huh…..this is pretty good.”

“We found a recipe online because we wanted to jazz it up a bit more,” Izumo said watching Iruka’s face. “So….you think it’s good enough?”

Iruka smiled. “It was always fine before.”

“You were seriously okay with eating spaghetti for three days in a row?” Izumo asked skeptically.

“Free food is free food. But it’s great, Izumo. You’re both getting better at cooking!”

Izumo ducked his head to hide his flustered expression while Shizune giggled. Iruka smiled at the two before going back to Kakashi. The silver-haired man was watching Genma and Anko viciously wrestle (god, it was always all or nothing for the two of them wasn’t it?) with horrified interest. Iruka snorted and Kakashi turned back to him, catching his eye momentarily before dropping his gaze.

“They’re a bunch of weirdos, aren’t they?” Iruka said, turning to look at Kurenai who had managed to rope Kotetsu into painting her right hand. He must’ve been doing a better job than her if her pleased smile was to say anything. She caught his eye and shot him a wink—Iruka couldn’t wink and Kurenai took any opportunity to rub it in his face. She tilted her head slightly, toward Kakashi and Iruka caught on.

“Uh…..I-I guess?” Kakashi said, toying with his surgical face mask.

Iruka smiled at Kakashi’s awkwardness. It was a lot more endearing when you got to know the guy better.

“But to answer your question from earlier…..it’s not bad,” Iruka said with a slight smile. “The company…..well….it’s better than being alone, isn’t it?”

“I wouldn’t know,” Kakashi said stiffly.

Iruka stared at the silver-haired man before looking down at the homework on the table. He began gathering it up as he thought about his next move. The sad and bitter child in him that never got adopted into a decent foster home was quiet now. He may have lost his blood family but….these guys were enough for now, weren’t they?

“Well, only one way to find out. Will you stay for dinner?”