Chapter 1: The Assignment
After Naruto leaves to train with Jiraiya, Tsunade assigns Kakashi to observe Iruka in regards to his mental health, but is the mission really even about Iruka? Traps are set, bets are placed, and games are played. Not to mention a few really bad jokes.
Tsunade stared at the file in front of her, contemplating what to do about it. "Shizune. Get me Kakashi Hatake." A smile spread across her face.
Kakashi was perched in his favorite tree reading the latest volume of Icha Icha Violence. 'How does Jiraiya come up with this stuff?' He was more than halfway into the novel when Shizune called his name. He glanced down, annoyed at being interrupted at such an 'interesting' point in the story.
"The Fifth would like to speak with you Hatake-san." Shizune said almost hesitantly. She seemed almost afraid of him, which surprised him given she worked with such a terrifying woman. He shrugged and tucked his book away before leaping off in the direction of the Hokage's Tower.
It seemed he just wouldn't get a break. Even though he'd just returned from an S rank mission the night before, it appeared he'd have another one without so much as a day to relax... and finish reading his book.
He went in through the open window. It was so kind of her to leave it open for him, seeing as she'd learned he'd simply sit outside it and read until she opened it. He avoided using doors whenever possible, if simply because it seemed to annoy certain people... like the Hokage.
"Hello, Kakashi-san." Tsunade didn't look up from her paperwork.
"You know Iruka Umino." Kakashi raised an eyebrow both in surprise and answer. "It has become apparent that the young sensei is feeling the weight of having Naruto removed from his life. Several shinobi close to him have informed me that he seems distant and that, whenever they bring up Naruto, he changes the subject."
"Yeah." Kakashi wasn't sure what Tsunade-san was leading up to. Of course Iruka-sensei was upset, but it's not as if Naruto was dead; he was just off training.
"Since I'm granting you a week off, I thought perhaps you could look in on him. Make sure he's okay. All our shinobi have been very busy as of late. Most of them are beginning to feel the strain. Of course, our jounin and the ANBU receive the most attention due to the precarious nature of their missions."
Kakashi had to agree, he nodded his understanding. The jounin received special care from a special class of medical nin, who helped them deal with their missions, and, failing that, they repressed the details that were unnecessary. Kakashi had seen one when he was younger.
"The genin have their leaders to watch out for them. And, the pre-genin have the teachers at the academy."
Again, Kakashi nodded. It didn't always work, but there were few cases of young shinobi having an emotional breakdown.
"This has left many of the chunin to resolve the stress themselves. They always have the option of seeking out council, but only those sent on particularly hard missions are pushed. . ."
'More like forced,' Kakashi thought.
". . . to do so. I have asked Genma, as well as several other jounin, to help with the chunin. Spend a few days with Iruka-sensei, and see if he will open up to you. I feel given your connection," he knew what she meant without her saying it, "that he may be more willing to speak to you about the matter. He is also less likely to suspect I sent you, since Genma has been looking into the matter for over a month. Then, of course, there is the fact that, while you're not the most social of creatures, you do have an uncanny ability to... what is it you say? See underneath the underneath. I doubt that a medical nin is even necessary, however, before your next mission begins, I would like your opinion on the matter." Tsunade looked up from the folder, closing it and holding it out to him. "Would you care to look over his folder?"
Kakashi shrugged. It really wasn't necessary for the mission, after all Iruka was easier than most to read. Tsunade laid the folder down as Kakashi moved towards the window. "Oh, and do try to enjoy your vacation." She didn't bother to watch him go, simply picked up another folder and opened it.
Tsunade smiled, suppressing a chuckle. "So, then you think it will work?" Shizune asked.
"Of course, it will. You've seen how much he likes to torment Iruka. So, as long as he doesn't figure it out too quickly, he'll be having too much fun to stop even after he realizes he's been set up."
"You think he'll figure it out then?" Shizune seemed confused.
"Yeah. It's just a matter of when. This is Hatake we're talking about. So, it's really just a matter of distracting him long enough he doesn't realize it too soon. Which, hopefully, Iruka will do rather well, even if he doesn't know he's supposed to." Tsunade tossed the open folder on the table. Hatake, Kakashi was written on the tab, and a photo, as well as a rather thick sheaf of papers, slid partway out of it. The top had several lines highlighted that were in the precise handwriting of The Third. Words like loyal, talented, genius stood out. But, one word in particular stood out; it was circled. Lonely?