imagine the ways iruka is strong:
- anyone who witnessed the umino family – how close they had been, so loving and dedicated to each other – knows it’s hard to get up in the morning, but they can barely grasp the energy it takes to put up a smile when two parts of your soul are missing. the maybe-not-so-gentle voice of a mother waking her son up; the proud smile of a father passing down a legacy; finding breakfast ready in the morning; even cleaning his room because he was told; treasured memories that were consumed by fire. it’s a lot to make up for.
- a lot of things hurt that night. the usual flashbacks, mizuki’s betrayal, the fuuma shuriken to his back. but the worst was naruto’s crying; enormous, hot, messy tears, the innocent and eager admiration shining through glossy eyes like iruka was some big hero. he’d neglected naruto for so long, a boy like himself, yet he hadn’t been able to find the empathy to see through the monster naruto had never, ever been. more than protecting naruto, more than jumping in front of such a weapon, forgiving himself seemed absurd. it only sounded plausible when naruto hugged him like he’d never been hugged before; the boy was so bright and honest that it melted any regret that resided in iruka’s heart.
- in all honesty, iruka had always been afraid of getting caught by anyone besides sandaime, who’d always been understanding and patient despite the obnoxiously moody front iruka put up; he did it for the attention, not because of authority issues per se. however, iruka fought viciously against the apprehension of standing up to a jounin, fear of confronting a higher-rank shinobi, and respect for a superior’s decisions when team 7 was nominated for the chuunin exams. his voice trembled and his hands were shaking, but he wasn’t willing to back off even if – out of everyone he could have defied in this lifetime – it was hatake kakashi. for his students’ sake, he’d go against that entire room of jounin. and he did.
- blaming kakashi wouldn’t bring sasuke back, but forgiving kakashi wouldn’t bring sasuke back, either. iruka tried to reason with himself, tried to be an adult, but sasuke and naruto left, and sakura was hurt and abandoned, and iruka hated kakashi for what he’d done. when he saw kakashi again, though, he noticed how broken he looked; the cold steel was gone from his expression, his shoulders slumped as he stared at a cereal box in some grocery store aisle. iruka remembered rumors from when he was a teenager, and suddenly wondered if kakashi hadn’t always been broken. he decided not to make the same mistake he did with naruto, and said hi first. this time his voice didn’t falter. kakashi looked surprised, somewhat forgiven.