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The Search

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"You got a lot of nerve Umino, we've been worried sick, and here you are, lazing around in the sun without a care in the world," the woman spoke. 

The brunette tensed and opened his eyes, looking up at the two in front of him. One was a purpled haired woman, with a long coat and armor underneath, the other was a tall silver-haired man with three-quarters of his face covered. Both had expressions of relief and mild amusement to see him lounging on the bench, but happy nonetheless that he was alive. 

Anko slid onto the bench and wrapped an arm around Iruka, The young man tensed and regarded the two with confusion and fear. 

"I'm sorry, but who are you?"

Anko and Kakashi immediately tense at Iruka's words. Anko splutters but keeps her arm around the chunin, "Don't joke like that, we've been worried sick the last few weeks." 

Iruka's forehead creases, he turns aways from Anko and regards the two shinobi with caution. They know who he is, but he is unsure if they are friend or foe. He moves away from Anko and shifts to keep the two shinobi in his line of sight. 

Kakashi stares openly at Iruka, taking in his hollow cheeks and the tense posture he holds. He begins to move towards the bench but stops when Iruka looks towards him with fear. 

"Iruka, it's me, Anko." Desperation laces her voice, digging her nails into the palm of her hand. "We've been friends since we were kids. Through thick and thin throughout the years." Anko searches for any recognition in her friend's eyes; she is met with confusion and wariness.

Iruka reaches for his walking stick and clenches it tightly; he keeps his gaze on the floor. Kakashi clears his throat and shoves his hands in his pockets. "Do you remember how you got here?" Iruka shakes his head no, "I was found by a villager a couple of weeks ago on the village's outskirts. Beaten and half dead. I don't suppose you've come back to finish the job?" Iruka replies acerbically, still not meeting the gaze of the concerned shinobi. 

Kakashi felt something in him break, "No." He swallows. "We've been searching for you. Hoping to find you." Iruka must have heard something in his voice; he turns to Kakashi and meets his gaze. 

Nodding, Iruka turns to Anko, "I dreamt about you, we were eating dango after I set off a stink-bomb—" 

"—In Tanaka-Sensei's classroom. Izumo couldn't get the stench off his clothes for a week, that was the first time the Hokage himself reprimanded you." Anko cut him off, excited that he remembers something about himself.

Iruka gives her a tight smile. "This morning, all I knew about myself was that my family name is Umino and that I had a rebellious side encouraged by my friends." His brow furrows and looks up at Kakashi, "How did you two find me?" The silver-haired man slumps his shoulders, deepening his slouch if possible, "I had my ninken track your scent. It died off two miles from here, and we decided to search the nearby villages. Here we are."

Iruka can't read the man in front of him. Ignoring that his face completely covered, his posture is casual, shoulders slumped, hands in pockets. But Iruka focuses on the edge in his voice, the silhouette of his mouth's hard-line, and the haunted look he regards him with. 

"Forgive my manners, but I didn't catch your name," Iruka asks, hoping the name would jog his memory. The man gives him a blank look, "My name is Kakashi." 

Kakashi. Iruka felt nothing.

"Well, Kakashi, Anko, this has been an exhausting day for me, why don't we continue our…conversation back at Toshiro-san's house. I have to get back and prepare for dinner soon." Not waiting for a response, Iruka grabs his bags and begins his journey back to Toshiro-san's home. 

Dazed, Kakashi just stares at Iruka's retreating form, next to him, Anko breaths out a soft 'what the fuck'. She stands and shouts, "Wait for me!" and jogs to catch up to Iruka. Kakashi walks behind them at a slower pace. 

The walk home is tense, Iruka leans heavily on his walking stick. He doesn't know what to think of the two who found him. He still worries about whoever attacked him coming back and finishing their job. He glances at Anko beside him; if they wanted to kill him, this was a good time as any. The street is bare except him and his companions, and he cannot defend himself in his current condition. They reach the house, Iruka steps in first, and heads for the kitchen. Anko toes off her sandals and tosses them haphazardly. Kakashi comes in after her and straightens them out next to his own. 

Iruka, not knowing what to do with his guests and excess energy, begins to collect his ingredients for dinner. Kakashi comes in and watches Iruka work. He brings over a chair and sits, raising an eyebrow as he questions the chunin. "I didn't know you could cook." Iruka snorts and continues working. "The first time I tried to cook for Toshiro-san, I left the rice unattended and didn't realize it was still cooking until smoke filled the house." Iruka flushes and gives Kakashi a small smile, "It's a bit embarrassing to know this isn't brought on by the amnesia and that I'm a horrible cook." Kakashi gets up and walks over to Iruka, he sighs dramatically, "You almost burnt my apartment down with your cooking." Iruka gasps caught up in the playful direction their conversation took on. 

"I didn't." 

"You did, we uh" Kakashi cleared his throat, remembering how exactly they were both distracted that night. "We were enjoying each other's company, and you left a dish towel next to the stove. It caught on fire." Iruka tilted his head back and laughed, he shook his head rapidly, "No-no-no you can't blame that solely on me! You just said we were together; it must've been your fault I was so distracted." Iruka smiles up at Kakashi, his earlier unease gone, dislodged by the playful banter. Iruka's face is flushed from his laughter, Kakashi's posture relaxes, leaning into Iruka's personal space. 

Anko walks in and breaks the moment between them. Iruka quickly moves to the other end of the kitchen and chops the vegetables with excessive force. Anko raises an eyebrow at Kakashi, and the man glares. 

The next hour is spent by Iruka trying to cook while Anko tells him all the gossip he's missed while gone. Kakashi left earlier to send a ninken back with news of Iruka's whereabouts. Exasperated Iruka turns to her, "You know none of this makes sense to me, right? I have no idea who Genma is and why it's funny that Gai lent him a uniform, I mean don't you shinobi wear the same thing?"

Before Anko could reply, Toshiro called for Iruka, "Katsura-san, I'm home! It smells good in here, did you buy the Mackerel I told you about yesterday?" Toshiro pauses at the entrance to his kitchen, surprised to see they had a guest. "Ah! Forgive me, I didn't know we had guests." He moves towards Anko and smiles, "The name's Toshiro, please make yourself at home." A glint passes through her eyes, and before Anko could utter a word, Iruka replies, "Toshiro-san, this is Anko, the girl I was telling you about this morning. The one from my dream." Toshiro looks back at Anko and begins to talk her ear off, Iruka frowns, not knowing what came over him. 

The rest of the evening is spent with Anko and Toshiro talking animatedly about the man's favorite show. Apparently, Anko is also a fan and catches up whenever she's home. Iruka watches the two talk, he looks over to the front door, anxious for the silver-haired man to return. As if Kakashi read his thoughts, he appears when Iruka returned with dinner. Kakashi nods to the man and approaches the table, "Well Anko and I should head back to our hotel." He looks back to Iruka and asks, "Since you're still injured, Iruka-san, we should leave early in the morning to cover as much distance during the day as possible." 

Iruka narrows his eyes, "Forgive me, but I never agreed to travel with you two. You may claim to know me, but I have no reason to trust you. For all I know, you're taking me to die." He spoke calmly, aware of the weapons and heavy armor they carried. 

Hearing his words, Anko sped towards the young man, pulls out pictures, and shoves them into Iruka's hands. Her mouth set in a hard line. Iruka examines the images; one features a teenaged Anko and himself, their arms wrapping around each other. Huge smiles gracing their faces. Another picture shows an older Iruka in a classroom, he's standing and holding books to his chest. He's smiling, unaware of the two boys behind him gesturing and posing for the camera. 

Kakashi comes forward and pulls out an orange book, he opens it and hands Iruka a single photo. It's the two of them sitting at a restaurant counter. They're facing each other; relaxed, a candid photo of the two of them mid-conversation.

Kakashi shoves his hands into his pockets, he gestures to the photo with his chin. "I started to carry that after your disappearance." Kakashi swallows, "Let us earn your trust Iruka-san, let us help you remember." 

Iruka worries his bottom lip, at a loss for words. He desperately wants to believe them, but the ache in his back is a reminder of the danger he's in. He looks between Kakashi and Anko, "I… "his sentence dies out, not knowing how to respond. 

Anko nods. "Here, until you can learn to trust us, you can carry these around." She hands Iruka some kunai and shuriken, Iruka clutches the handle of the Kunai. He nods, setting his shoulders straight. "We'll leave tomorrow at sunrise, you'll give me a map and supplies of my own. I don't expect to take you two on in combat, but it'll ease my worries." They both nodded enthusiastically, delighted he'd agreed. Iruka continues, "I expect you two to answer any of the questions I have. And no funny business." 

Anko grins, "Whatever you say, Sensei."