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I challenge you

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(I don't own any characters etc etc)

“Do you still want takeout?” Kotetsu asked, popping his head into the chart room where Iruka was working.

Iruka looked up from the scrolls he was filing. “Sure!”

“Anything in particular?”

Iruka considered it but shook his head. “Surprise me. I’ll be done here in like thirty minutes.”

“You got it,” Kotetsu said, leaving the room.

Later, Iruka was sat with Kotetsu and Izumo to eat dinner together, as they were all pulling a double shift at the missions desk.

“Hopefully it stays quiet,” Izumo said, looking around the room. They had some down time but couldn’t leave the room, so they were eating at their desks. Well, at Izumo’s desk, but still.

“Hopefully,” Iruka agreed. “After the post-dinner rush, at least.”

“And even then, that’s not too bad, sometimes,” Kotestu pointed out.

They had just finished cleaning up, when sure enough, a handful of shinobi trickled in, and so they got to work.

A few more entered, but things were still uneventful, when suddenly a loud noise was heard in the hallway.

Some people looked up, others shrugged.

“Leave it to ANBU if it’s a big deal,” someone said, yawning. “I just want to get home and sleep.”

Iruka, Kotetsu, and Izumo shook their heads and continued to work, but a moment later the door to the room flew open with a bang, and everyone turned to look.

“Help!” Gai roared. “I need help!”

People jumped up and raced over.

“What?”

“What’s going on?”

“What’s happened?”

To their surprise, Gai struck a pose.

“I’m entering into a most challenging challenge with my hippest rival, and we need help!”

He gave the room a blinding smile.

“Who will help us?”

The room groaned and someone even threw something at him, which Gai dodged easily.

“What?” he said to their turned backs. “No one will join us in this most youthful challenge?”

“Not tonight,” someone called out.

“Not ever, if we’re lucky,” another person said.

Gai barged up to the front, to the unlucky desk workers.

“Ah! There are three of you, and not many people in line. Surely one of you could help a fellow shinobi in a most wondrous task? For the good of the village! For the good of Konoha!”

Iruka exchanged a look with his peers.

“Sorry, Gai-san,” Izumo said. “We’re all assigned to this tonight, so no.”

Gai gave another blinding smile. “Such devotion! It is most admirable! Wait right here!”

He left, and the room shrugged collectively.

When he returned about ten minutes later, the room had largely emptied out, each desk worker helping their last person.

“I have returned!” he shouted. “And I have permission to enlist one of you!”

“Uh…what?” Iruka asked, fearfully.

“Yes! Since there is a greater need, one of you is permitted to join me. If it becomes necessary, you will be informed of your need to return, and will do so without fail. Now, who shall join?”

Iruka, Kotetsu, and Izumo exchanged worried looks.

“I’m not going,” Iruka whispered.

“We don’t want to either,” Kotetsu said.

“But one of us has to,” Izumo sighed.

“I’m not going anywhere near crazy pants and the copy nin,” Kotetsu said.

“Ru, you do it,” Izumo whispered. “Hatake always gets in your line, so you know him best.”

“I don’t know him!” Iruka argued. “I only talk to him about work stuff.”

“But you talk to him! We don’t!” Kotetsu shot back.

“Yeah, he always ignores everyone else, but not you,” Izumo added.

They continued to work as they debated, and Iruka stamped the scroll he was reviewing.

“Thank you for your service,” he said to the shinobi in front of him, without thinking.

“Yosh!” was heard, and Iruka’s eyes widened as Gai jumped in front of his desk. “Iruka-sensei! You finished with your job first, you must be eager to join! Come with me!”

He grabbed Iruka by the arm and ran out of the room, Iruka turning back to shoot a worried look at Izumo and Kotetsu, who looked at him, wide-eyed.

When he was out of the room, they sat back and exhaled.

“Better him than us,” Izumo said.

“Good luck, Ru,” Kotetsu added.

_________

Iruka pinched the bridge of his nose.

“You enlisted me for this? Really?”

Gai smiled as he stretched.

“Yes! A most youthful challenge, is it not?”

“I’ll say,” Iruka said, frowning. “Two of the most elite ninja in this village, and you want to play hide and seek?”

“And whoever is found first by you loses!” Gai exclaimed, jumping up and down to warm up.

Iruka turned to Kakashi, who shrugged as he stood, hands in his pockets.

Iruka looked up at the sky and shook his head. “Why me…”

He looked back down at the men. “Fine, let’s get this over with. I guess we’ll do like my kids do….I’ll turn around and cover my eyes, and count to….?”

“Thirty,” Kakashi said, and Gai slapped him on the back, excited his rival was actively participating.

“Thirty,” Iruka agreed. “Then I’ll announce I’ve begun, and I’ll look for you…”

“Within two miles from here,” Gai said.

Iruka’s jaw dropped. “A two mile radius?”

Gai nodded.

“Kill me now,” Iruka groaned. They were at a training ground, so that left a number of other training grounds, one abandoned building also used for training, and lots and lots of forest.

Iruka sighed. “I’ll look for you within two miles. The first one I find loses. Then we’ll alert the other person to come out. Ready?”

Gai gave a thumbs up, Kakashi sighed.

“I’ll take it,” Iruka said, and turned around. He covered his face with his hands and began counting aloud.

“28…29….30…ready or not, here I come,” Iruka finished, uncovering his face and opening his eyes.

He sighed. “My life, sometimes,” he said, as he turned around.

“Kakashi-san?”

“Yo,” Kakashi said, sitting on a nearby bench.

“Shouldn’t you be…..hiding?” Iruka asked, walking over.

Kakashi moved so Iruka had room to sit, and shrugged. “I was.”

Iruka laughed. “It wasn’t a very good hiding spot, I’m afraid. Looks like I found you.”

“Oh no,” Kakashi said nonchalantly, flipping a page in his book. “You did. Guess I lost.”

Iruka laughed again and leaned back on the bench, looking up at the night sky in silence for a moment.

“You’re okay with losing this challenge?”

Kakashi shrugged. “It’s only a loss on paper. I win by having Gai hide for as long as he thinks the game is on. So, I get some peace and quiet.” He looked over at Iruka.

Iruka returned the look. “For as long as he’s hiding, huh?” He bit his lip. “You get peace and quiet, I get to be assigned to be away from the missions desk. Guess it worked out for both of us.”

Kakashi gave him a closed-eyed smile and returned to his book.

They sat peacefully for a bit, Kakashi reading, and Iruka staring at the sky and letting his mind wander.

After a while, Iruka broke the silence.

“Would you like to get some tea?” he said, turning to look at the other man.

Kakashi looked at him curiously. Well, he tilted his head, so Iruka assumed it was curiously.

“There’s a little shop I know, and they’re open all night.” Iruka smirked. “And from this training ground, it should be a little over two miles away.”

“I won’t tell anyone if you won’t,” Kakashi said.

“Well, technically since I already found you, distance doesn’t matter,” Iruka posed.

“That’s very true, sensei,” Kakashi agreed. “If anything, this is us claiming our prize.”

Iruka laughed. “Us? I thought Gai-san is the winner tonight?”

Kakashi put his book away and stood, offering Iruka a hand. “I got to spend part of the night outside with a cute academy teacher, and now I get to take you for tea? Sounds like winning to me.”

Iruka accepted Kakashi’s hand, and stood, blushing.

Kakashi released his hand and instead put his arm around Iruka’s shoulders.

“Lead the way, sensei.”