The Biggest Toad in the Puddle
Hit and Miss
It'd been a week now since Harry had all but joined the ranks of Team Seven. And while he'd made leaps and bounds of progress with Naruto, it was evident that there would have to be an uphill battle to get to Sakura. And from what he'd heard regarding the last Uchiha and his circumstances, it would take an army to get through to the other boy. Kakashi came close to being as damaged as Sasuke, but he was both an adult and seemed to have coped on his own long enough, so Harry hoped the man would be able to keep doing so until he'd reined in the rest of the Genin.
Still though, at least he had managed to wrangle the man into coming over for dinner later today, which was more than he could say for any other day so far. Maybe it was because he'd invited Asuma and Team Ten as well, and that way Kakashi felt he'd have someone to actually talk to. Harry didn't care in all honesty, because at least he was coming. Which was more than he could say for his other two team-mates. Sasuke continually turned him down flat, whilst Sakura would wait to see what her crush would say before always copying his answer.
Having never really witnessed a girl with such an obsessive crush before, Harry was at a loss with how to get through to her, but he knew that he needed to start with Sakura. That was the extent of his knowledge. It was a good thing he was more of a go with the flow kind of guy, plans never seemed to hold together for him, and after the whole Gringotts robbery business, he'd just stopped trying. He always managed to pull it out of the bag, so why change a tried and true method that wasn't broken? He was a Gryffindor, he did Gryffindorish things. End of story.
So he just needed to figure out the start of his approach with Sakura, and take it from there.
And what he came up with, was sparring.
"Your friend was asking after you today." Harry parried a blow from Sakura's tiny fist with practised ease, sweeping his foot out and sending the girl tumbling to a side. On the other side of the training field, he could see Naruto and Sasuke sparring, with Kakashi not too far away reading his porn, but paying the two genin a small amount of attention. Enough that he'd notice if the spar turned into an outright fight to the death.
"What friend?" Sakura was panting, her endurance didn't seem to last past the first five minutes of battle, and while most fights between ninja never lasted any longer than that, her skills left little to be desired. In other words, she wouldn't be the one walking away from those battles.
Plucking the twin hair clips from his pocket, Harry set about securing his long bangs to the sides of his head, back and out of the way. He'd already tired of trying to get Sakura to hit him, her taijutsu just wasn't up to stuff. Something he'd already known, but was disappointed in all the same.
During the week he'd been in the company of Team Seven, he'd liberated the files belonging to those genin, along with the rest of their graduating year, from the academy office. Using Jiraiya's tried and true 'if you can get at the information, it's yours, classified or not', Harry had quickly memorized all that was written about Konoha's newest genin, before retreating from the secure from all things genin and below back-room in the academy right before a teacher popped in. His father had obviously taught him well, that much the village should have realized by now.
"Ino-chan?" Harry clarified, adjusting the light armoured sleeves that ran up his forearms, "she said you knew each other well in the academy. Now come on, I'm going to test your flexibility."
Sakura let out a huff, whether it was from trying to retrieve her breath again, or anger, Harry wasn't too sure. What he did know was that he had to break this girl of her fan-girl fascination. And there had to be some way of doing that aside from letting Sasuke battle with her to the death. Any way at all. But he was coming up blank at the moment.
"Cha! What was Ino-pig saying?!"
Harry wasn't the only one startled by the sudden outburst. Both Sasuke and Naruto's heads whipped around at the sudden outcry, only to get pulled into the ground by a giggling Kakashi, leaving the two boys buried up to their neck.
Harry blinked before turning back to look at the pink haired girl, eyeing her critically. Her hair was a rather nice shade, unusual, and it was clear she took good care of it. But scented shampoos would only mean being tracked by the enemy was easier, so he'd have to make a comment on that soon. Though he knew most kunoichi used their appearance and body to their advantage, Sakura wasn't quite at the age that it was going to work yet, not for another four years at the very least anyway. Her battle-dress was in a highly unpractical shade of red, the length long enough to trip over.
He'd seen the other team from their graduating year at a distance, and while their sensei also wore a bright red dress, she was Jonin level, and could probably account for the disadvantage such an outfit would lead to. Much like Naruto could regarding his orange. He'd already heard the tales from the blond who'd outrun ANBU during his pranks. And while the trained elite were obviously going easy on him, it still remained fact that getting chased by ANBU would drastically improve ones stealth.
Plus, Naruto could recover from anything other than instant death thanks to his tenant.
Sakura had none of these advantages to her name, and as such, needed to pull it together if she were to ever have a chance of surviving her first C-rank or above mission.
"She asked how your team is doing. I must say, you do have some cute nicknames for each other Sakura-san."
The girl had the decency to blush, nervously reaching to cover her forehead before stopping halfway. Ino had only been able to go two dinners before she'd slipped and called Sakura Forehead. It was better than the 'Scarhead' he'd once been blessed with though. At least Sakura had a chance to grow into her forehead.
"Are you okay to run through some more advanced katas, Sakura-san?"
"If Ino-pig can do it, so can I! Cha!"
Looking at the very, very tired girl, Harry raised an eyebrow. She'd only gotten through half the set before collapsing, and he had to admit he was a bit disappointed. She'd obviously not collapsed of exhaustion, for she wasn't sweating enough. Which meant that she'd stopped so she didn't ruin her appearance. Dear lord, this wasn't his area of expertise, he didn't know how to break a fan-girl out of her obvious obsession, he didn't even know where to start or who to ask advice from. He couldn't really bother the Hokage, and Kakashi was evidently just as clueless as him, simply picking up the pink haired girl and calling out that he'd drop her off at home.
Harry had nodded, watching the grey haired man disappear before turning back around to look at the two heads in the dirt, which were furiously trying to wiggle out.
"Need some help?" He asked, squatting down and starting to paw at the dirt between the two boys before either could reply.
"Thanks Rakurai!" Naruto grinned up at him, mud and dust slathered across his face and several leaves in his hair. Beside him, Sasuke gave a small grunt, looking away but Harry was able to spot between his bangs a fine dusting of pink across his cheeks. Had he been a civilian, he wouldn't have even noticed it was there.
"Dinner starts at six tonight Naruto-chan. I've invited Team Ten too, so there'll be lots to eat. Sasuke-san, you're invited too."
The black haired boy just grunted and Harry rolled his eyes skywards, praying for patience.
"Can we spar for a bit?"
Having managed to squirm about until his upper body was free, Naruto was now hastily digging himself out as his team-mate did the same, giving Harry the chance to lean back and watch the two work.
"If you'd like. Sasuke-san and yourself can team up against me."
"Yeah! Bring it on!"
Sasuke Uchiha was in a conundrum. This did not happen often. But for the past week, he'd been trying to sort through the latest puzzle to be thrown his way by the universe.
He did not know who the newest member of Team Seven was.
He knew the name he went by, Rakurai, that he'd never seen him before in the academy, and that he was a Chũnin. Those were the three most important facts. He remembered from lectures in the academy that a ninja may be added to the ranks if they were to swear loyalty to the village, be tested through the T&I department, and then placed on probation for six months. It differed upon the ninja.
However, he'd have heard of the other boy if that were the case.
Which meant the Hokage had been aware of the boy's existence before hand, knew who he had been trained by, and trusted said trainer explicitly.
It wasn't until he'd gotten home and set about going through a few more of his father's old police files that he figured out who that trainer was. Who his father was.
Every week for the past four years, Sasuke had been going through all of his father's paperwork, looking for clues or codes that may or may not have been there. It was today, approaching his second stack of paper, that he saw a face that made him pause.
The report was twenty years old, but the hastily taken mug-shot was familiar. It was Rakurai, but not. Older, with a stronger jaw-line, bigger nose and far more hair. So his father then. The name almost took his breath away.
The Chũnin boy that'd been placed upon his team was the son of a Sannin.
It all made perfect sense.
Why the Hokage would happily accept a new ninja that'd not been trained at the academy, why the boy was a Chũnin at his age. He was a little puzzled and then almost embarrassed for his team-mate when he learnt his own father had tried to arrest the man for peeking in on the women's bathhouse, but had escaped justice on the back of a hastily summoned toad. It sounded like something out a book, and suddenly, Sasuke was wary because he knew of a book with that name on it. Those stupid books Kakashi read had been wrote by a Jiraiya.
And now, he had a very good feeling he knew exactly which Jiraiya had wrote them.
How the hell was Rakurai so normal with that as a dad? Or was his team-mate secretly just hiding his oddities until they got comfortable with him?
Regardless, the boy was the son of a Sannin, had been trained by one, so it wasn't that surprising that he was a Chũnin now. He wasn't just some unknown kid that'd popped up out of nowhere. He was clearly important in the scheme of things and had been put of their team as a result. What could Rakurai provide their team that meant he was assigned to them instead of the usual Chũnin team? Sasuke wasn't sure.
But he was going to find out.
Stood with one hand buried deep in his shorts pocket and the other holding a bag of dango, the only food he'd seen Rakurai eat, Sasuke raised a questioning brow.
"You invited me?" True he'd not really had much intention of turning up until he'd gone through his father's paperwork, and true he was five minutes late because he'd had a bit of a problem finding this stupid house, but he'd still turned up.
Something which seemed to have shocked Rakurai.
The white haired boy was looking at him in unmasked confusion, but never the less stood to a side, holding open the door for Sasuke to pass through. His first thought was that the house felt warm, even though it didn't look too lived in. There was just an air about the place that screamed friendly, from the red and gold cushions to the warm brown floorboards.
"Sasuke," Kakashi, who'd clearly gotten up to see where their host had disappeared to, also seemed somewhat perplexed at his presence, and Sasuke had to force himself not to roll his eyes in annoyance. Surely the fact he'd bothered to turn up wasn't that shocking, was it?
His teacher looks back at him again, that lazy dark eye glinting with something unspoken, before it creased upwards in a smile, hiding the man's thoughts once again.
"Looks like we're only missing Sakura then."
Sasuke grunted, making his way into the kitchen and taking in those present with sharp eyes. Team ten, consisting of Ino, Shikamaru and Choji are already digging into what would easily pass as a feast, their sensei sat beside them and completely at home. The dobe is also sat up to table, chatting animatedly with Choji and gesturing wildly around with his chopsticks, ignorant of the soy sauce splattered across his cheek.
Rakurai walked past him after depositing his gift upon the table, welcomed by an amused eye-roll from Shikamaru, a boisterous greeting from both Naruto and Choji. But it's Ino's reaction that Sasuke takes note of. The girl's eyes light up with genuine warmth at the sight of the white haired boy, launching into a quick rendition of something that'd happened in the market place and wasn't the shinobi mindset just dandy? She doesn't look at him like a lovestruck puppy, but with a genuine respect for his abilities as both a person and a ninja. The Chũnin seems to have earned Yamanaka's respect, and Sasuke can't remember her looking at anyone else their age like that. Almost as if she considered him a big brother. He pushed that thought away with a grimace, scowling as he did so. He did not need to be thinking about big brothers. Not at all. Of course, a distraction was quickly provided.
"Eh?! Teme?! What are you doing here?!"
Sakura Haruno drew her legs up to her chest and let out a low sigh, running a and through her perfectly combed pink hair. She was right on time for their team meeting, as usual. Only, Sasuke was not. She couldn't understand why not, where was her precious Sasuke-kun? He should have been here, should have been sat upon the ground beside her, his dark eyes focused on something in the distance, that gorgeous tilt to his lips that said he was thinking on a rather heavy topic. Only, he wasn't there for her to stare at. He was not present, and she couldn't quite understand why.
At least, not until an hour after the designated meeting time, when he showed up.
With the rest of her team-mates.
Sakura stared, lips parting as her mouth popped opened to form a lazy 'o' of surprise. Sasuke was walking alongside Rakurai, not talking but certainly listening to what the white haired boy had to say. The Chũnin was gesturing animatedly with his hands, trying to describe something to her future husband with a teasing grin on his face as he gently elbowed Naruto in the ribs, throwing a sly remark over his shoulder as he did so. The blond boy squawked, arms flapping about as he defending himself against whatever remark had been made.
And Sasuke was smirking. It wasn't the smirk she'd dreamed of bringing to his face, but it was more of an upturned of his lips than she'd ever gotten.
"You're late!" Sakura cried, leaping to her feet and pointing at Naruto. Obviously she was going to point at, and accuse, Naruto. He was neither a) her military superior or b) her future husband.
The blond blinked back at her before offering a sheepish grin, rubbing nervously at the back of his head. However, it was Rakurai that answered for her, dropping the scroll he'd been lugging about on his shoulder and grinning up at her as he knelt down before it.
"That's Naruto's fault I guess. The klutz tripped over Sasuke-san in the middle of the night going to the bathroom, and landed on my alarm-clock. Which of course broke."
Naruto let out a cry of outrage before he pounced on the white haired boy, but Sakura didn't focus on them. Instead, she looked at Sasuke, who's smirk had grown ever so slightly as he muttered a low 'dobe' beneath his breath. By this point, Rakurai had a good handle on Naruto's oversized collar, so the whiskered blond never got to switch the target of his attack around. Her head was still spinning. Because if Naruto had tripped over Sasuke in order to break Rakurai's alarm in the middle of the night, that meant-
"You had a sleepover without me?"
The three boy's paused, turning to look at her with their faces going carefully blank. Rakurai dropped his captive, once again crouching before his scroll and unrolling it this time.
"I did invite you for dinner Sakura-san. I didn't intend for it to become a sleepover, but Sasuke-san had a lot of questions regarding my upbringing and training, and by the time he was somewhat satisfied it was past midnight and thus easier for him to just stay over."
She felt somewhat left out. And stupefied.
Sasuke had gone to a team dinner? Sasuke had actually actually gone out of his way to be sociable with the team? All the team but her? Had she done something wrong? Offended him in any way? There was those words he'd said to her just after team placement, when she'd foolishly thought he'd been about to kiss her. But, but he still couldn't hold a grudge against her now, could he? It seemed like such a long time had passed since then.
A sudden burst of smoke startled her to attention, and Sakura readied herself to scream at her tardy sensei again. Only, he wasn't the source of the smoke. Instead, what looked like a half assembled obstacle course had appeared from out of nowhere. A dangerous looking obstacle course. With lots of sharp looking weapons and even a ring of fire.
"Right, well, since Kakashi-sempai won't be showing up for a while, I figured we could start running the three of your through this? It's about genin level, so you should all be fine..." The boy with the snow shock hair rubbed sheepishly at the back of his neck, offering a hesitant smile.
Sakura let out a breath as the Chũnin quickly went about setting up the rest of the course. From the dark gleam in Sasuke's eyes, the boy was going to give it his all. Naruto too, if the glittering grin on his face was any indication. She couldn't be left behind. Not like she'd been with the team dinner again. So what if she got a little sweaty this time? Sasuke wouldn't be able to smell it over the scent of whatever was keeping that fire burning anyway.
She could do this, she really could.
She was going to be a great ninja and then she'd get to go on all the same missions as Sasuke-kun and the two of them would have to fall completely in love with each other. Probably on a battlefield, he'd sweep her up into his arms, stare down at her with those dark eyes suddenly alight with realization at the fact the love of his life and her large forehead had been right in front of him all along, then he'd lean in, lips parting ever so slightly and whisper-
"Sakura-chan watch out!" Naruto's strangled cry was the only warning she got before a boxing glove exploded out of the nearest suspicious looking box and slammed into her jaw.
She almost tripped back into the swamp that'd appeared out of nowhere, when a blur of motion came at her from the left and suddenly Rakurai was there, grabbing her boy the long hem of her dress and reeling her back in. Saving her from what would have been a face full of mud. And not the nice, spa kind either.
"Pay attention Sakura-san, I had said start."
Nodding, Sakura turned back to see her team-mates had already taken off.
Okay, she could do this.
First of all, sorry this took so long. Uni happened, gobbling up most of my time. Second of all, sorry it's so short. There was just little more to write for this chapter. It's kinda a filler before the ball really gets rolling. I guess you could say Part 1 of this story has ended. Introductory chapter over and done with.
Also, those of you who all went; no relations, yes relations, this relation, that relation. I've made my decision. This is going to be a GEN fic right up until the end. As in, Epilogue end. So, yeah. Sorry if you were expecting romance, but it's the team bonds and basically 'Harry the Fixer-Upper' that's the focus of this story.
Next Chapter; The Advanced Guard; Harry's record of attracting trouble holds true and Tazuna is getting the creeps from the white haired brat
Weary from the over-abundance of university work,