A Warning: This story is on hiatus as of this time. It does conclude a little better than simply ending in the middle of a cliffhanger, but it is not an "all the way through Shippuden" story as I had originally planned.

A note for new readers…

This is a living work. I return regularly to edit any errors whenever I manage to spot a grammar issue or inconsistency. Please, feel free to PM any you spot to me, or mention in a review you leave. I didn't get a beta reader until around Chapter 27, so there is always something to fix.

Until about halfway through the Wave arc, each chapter is short by design. They are intended to set up the story to the point where canon diverges significantly. I would recommend that new readers reach Chapter 9 to get a full idea of my writing style and for the direction of this fic. After that, the length of the chapters increase as things begin to snowball away from canon. I used to update once every month or so, but currently my chapters arrive about every six months. Normal chapter length is 5-6k words before A/N's.

Author's Notes at the end of the chapter will get shorter. The first few are somewhat longer than normal as part of the setup of my fic and style. A/N's are used to address questions posed in reviews, complains issues in reviews, and explanations about things some folks didn't seem to get in reviews. They are part of the writing and delivery process more than the story, so skip them if you so choose, although I have been told they get amusing at times.


Beware any omake that is written by Trollrochimaru. He is a bad fic writer, and has no sense of propriety, so he tends to discuss a broad range of subjects, such as homosexuality, which is apparently a reason to not read my fic for some, despite it only coming up in omakes so far. It is never the sort of writing that has jiggly bits in it (That's what Trollraiya is for, and I don't intend to let him out of the dungeon). But it does refer to such things. Read at your own risk, you poor, misguided souls. Because, really, homophobes on a fanfiction site? Brave, but foolish.

Because I enjoy playing the "Egomaniac" card from time to time, here's some snippets from some of my better-written reviews. This is shared partially in thanks to my awesome reviewers, partially for humor, and in a manner that is completely self aware as to how ghastly it is to put some reviews on the front page. Apparently some folks don't get the joke, so there, now I explained it. Happy?

"(The story is) fast paced, doesn't repeat what isn't necessary, and rich with character development to characters that desperately need it." -Saiyakitsune

"Your characterizations are great and there's a good amount of humor, which I appreciate." -Mirilindir

"You both continue to press and surpass my expectations." - Death276

"... that was the best Chuunin exam fight for Naruto I've ever read!" -AnyMoreBrightIdeasGenius

"If the rest of your exams come anywhere close to that moment of shock for me, you'll have successfully injected fresh breath into one of the most sacred arcs of Naruto, one that most authors are simply unable to alter in any way, something I was honestly beginning to think was impossible." -PoisonedWit

"1 Ryo equals 10 Yen."- Every person who reads Chapter 3 without a grasp of economics or who has not read the copious Author's Notes on the chapter, please, dear god in heaven, don't tell me about Kishimoto's word on it, because it does not work as a practical economy, see chapter three for an interesting bit of detail on all of this, if you read this thus far, congratulations, you might just get my humor, as this is a word ninja, hiding in plain sight, lookout, here comes a kunai o=7, but seriously, please stop, it's really painful to read some of this stuff.

"I can understand if writing this out gave you some pleasure as a fan of Naruto, but it simply doesn't make sense. I also understand why you would; wish fulfillment is the first temptation any fan fiction writer has." - Harlequin de Rustre

"And that's where I say goodbye." - Guest on Chapter 37, because Reasons

"What? I simply HAD to include a few negative reviews I seem to have picked up that isn't ego inflating garbage, or else I'd be about as fair and balanced as Fox News." - MrBright01, on why he included the above quotes in this ego inflating garbage.

"That was f-CENSORED-g amazeballs :D" -serialkiller

Are you pumped? Yeah! Good, let's start the fic!

Kakashi let the eraser bounce off his head.

It was such a simple trap. He could see it as soon as he turned into the hallway outside the classroom. A chalk eraser crammed halfway out of the front door, the door wedged open to hold it in place. Only a literal idiot could fall for such a thing.

If anyone knew the value of being underestimated, it was Kakashi the Copy Ninja. With a light puff of chalk, the eraser rebounded from his hair and clunked to the floor, to the explosive laughter of one of his potential genin, Uzumaki Naruto. The little blond boy was clutching at his sides and pointing as he laughed, surprisingly cheerful for what Kakashi had read in the boy's files.

Under his mask, Kakashi smiled as his second potential genin, Haruno Sakura, apologized profusely, almost able to hide her own amusement at the little prank. The girl with the oddly pink hair was known by her teachers as studious and intelligent, but her somewhat severe dislike for Naruto was also well documented.

His smile dropped when he noticed his third potential genin, Uchiha Sasuke, glaring at his teammates in judgment from his chair. His file had been full of praise for his skills, and had a glaring omission for the boy's relationships with his peers. Not one of his former teachers ever claimed to see the boy smile, after his clan was destroyed.

That one will be the biggest problem, I think. To be so focused and humorless is a poor sign at that age, I can attest to that personally. With any luck, I can be for him what Minato was for me. Kakashi crouched and picked up the eraser, looked at it thoughtfully, and declared to his new team, "Hmm... my first impression of this team is... amusing."

Naruto smirked. Sakura tried not to smirk. And Sasuke scowled that much harder.

Right, let's see what our cute little students are like. Out loud, he said, "Meet me on the roof in ten minutes," then vanished in a puff of smoke. He did not go far, only a few feet so he could stand on the wall outside the window and listen to what they did. Naruto shouted in surprise, then gleefully proclaimed he would learn how to do that before charging out the door. Sakura gave a single deep inhale, then asked Sasuke to escort her to the roof in a voice that all but proclaimed to the world her infatuation. Sasuke said nothing beyond a single irritated grunt, and the sound of his footsteps receding clearly indicated he was hurrying to stay away from her.

Kakashi sighed and looked out into Konohagakure, trying to spot the shop he had visited after inspecting Naruto's barren home only hours ago and reviewing the files on all three of his students. He caught sight of it, and after one last check to ensure his flight path was clear, leaped into the air to pick up his order.

He returned minutes later with a shopping bag in hand, but decided on a whim to hide himself in the decorative trees on the roof and observe his students instead of announcing himself. He watched as the three children silently fumed at each other, Sakura against Naruto, Naruto against Sasuke, and Sasuke against everyone, up to and including the step he was sitting on. Kakashi sighed to himself and dropped down in front of them, getting all three of them to jump slightly in surprise.

"Let us introduce ourselves over lunch," he said, pulling out several special bento boxes he had ordered from the shop. He set one down on the ground next to him, a plain gray box with a thick black strap. "I am Hatake Kakashi. I like things that I cannot talk about until you're eighteen. I dislike people who abandon their friends and teammates. I cannot talk about my hobbies until you're at least sixteen. I have no future goal at this time that I can tell you at your age." At his words, Sakura and Naruto glared at him, practically mouthing the word "pervert" together. Sasuke didn't react, and if Kakashi had not seen him shift slightly, he would have assumed he was being completely ignored.

Kakashi offered a bento to Sakura first, a large pink thing decked out in sakura petals and little hearts decorating it, but when she tried to take it, he held it firmly in place. She seemed to get the hint and bowed to him politely. "I'm Haruno Sakura. I like... the person I like..." At this she blushed and turned to look at Sasuke, who ignored her. "My hobby is... that is, my dream is..." She continued to blush and steal glances at the brooding Uchiha, who had yet to react, even when she gave out a high pitched squeal.

Fangirl kunoichi, thought Kakashi, who proffered the bento again. It was hardly a shocking guess. Kakashi, along with many other jonin, had long noticed a tendency for young would-be kunoichi to gravitate towards a romantic view of their job, and it always amused him to hear Kurenai, an otherwise very level-headed and friendly woman who also happened to be a talented illusion mistress, rant about the fangirls she had to deal with during her time in the academy. Kakashi had nothing but respect for female shinobi... if they could get past the romantic garbage they tended to pick up before graduation.

Sakura took the bento, gave another small bow, and opened it. She then frowned slightly and held it away from her with a look of distaste. It was filled with protein and carbohydrates, a cheeseburger and a selection of fried foods, the only hints of green being a pickle that looked suspiciously brown and crunchy and a single wilted lettuce leaf slathered in ketchup in a sad attempt to hide it under the meaty burger.

"You are terribly thin, Sakura," said Kakashi after she rejected her food choice. "You have no apparent muscle mass, and frankly, I am fairly sure you're following the civilian trend of dieting yourself to that point. Starting tomorrow, you will be a proper kunoichi, and that means training until your muscles give out, then doing it again the next day, and the next, and so on. Your body will need all the fuel it can get, and I assure you, your figure will not suffer for it. So eat. The shinobi world is a cruel and dangerous place for those who value appearance over capability."

Sakura glanced at Sasuke, who did not react, and ignored Naruto, who appeared to be drooling slightly and not watching her at all. She bowed again, then sat and quietly began to eat. Kakashi saw the tiny little smile she had once she started eating. He had been careful to get only the best for his student, as one good meal often encouraged another one later. One possible disaster down, he thought to himself.

He next held out a bento to Naruto, a bright and ugly orange thing wrapped haphazardly with blue string. The boy grabbed it and tried to tug it out of his hands repeatedly, ultimately hanging off of his arm like a blond monkey. Kakashi cleared his throat and stared meaningfully at the kid until he pouted and gave a short bow. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto! I like ramen, especially the ramen at Ichiraku, and even more so when Iruka-sensei pays for it! I hate waiting for cup ramen to cook. My hobby is to eat and compare cup ramen! And my dream is to become Hokage! I'll make the villagers acknowledge me!"

Kakashi resisted the urge to roll his eye as he handed the bento to Naruto. He had very little information on the holder of the nine-tailed fox, mostly because every report and opinion he had found focused on three things: his tendency to prank, his "impossible" dream to become Hokage, and his terrible grades. Kakashi suspected he would be doing a lot of remedial training with the boy in the future, but he also saw some potential. The sheer number of individual and highly creative pranks the boy had pulled off was impressive, and the fact that he got away with them almost every time until Iruka learned how to yell a confession out of him was encouraging. The fact that the Hokage had high hopes for the boy was also very telling, as he was known to use his crystal ball to spy on the boy regularly.

"I saw how much you liked ramen," Kakashi said, as the boy tore into his bento excitedly... then gave out a yelp when he saw the contents of the box. It was filled to the brim with leafy greens of many sorts, and in the midst of it was a small pile of different sliced meats. "The Hokage saw how much you like ramen too. And we both saw how much of it you eat. He has charged me with shopping for your food, which I will do each Sunday. The remainder of your funds will be given to you then. This will continue until I believe you are able and willing to purchase more balanced food."

Naruto was barely listening, his face drooping. "No... no more ramen..." he muttered sadly, sinking to the ground with a mournful look on his face.

Kakashi sighed, loudly and melodramatically, then said, "No, only some ramen. Not all ramen. And ramen will have to come out of your own pocket after other food. This is a selection of foods. Try them and let me know what you like." Naruto moped about that, but Kakashi had the Hokage's blessing on this, so he was unconcerned. He reached into the bag and took out the last bento, a second dull gray box, this one with a red ribbon on it. He arched his one visible eyebrow and looked at Sasuke expectantly.

"My name is Uchiha Sasuke," he said from where he sat. "I hate many things, and like very few things. And I have a goal more important than a mere dream, the revival of my clan... and to kill a certain man."

Oh, goody, thought Kakashi. He was no stranger to the more brutal aspects of shinobi life. He'd killed plenty of people, sometimes in quite messy and unpleasant ways. Like many shinobi, Kakashi coped with the memories and necessities by finding an outlet for his misery. He loved playing mind games with friends, just like Asuma loved cigarettes and Guy loved "the power of youth." And then, you got people like Sasuke, people who had nothing left of their old life but dreams tainted by the bitterness of their losses, and no future but to kill. Kakashi saw more than a few pass through the ANBU ranks while he was a captain there. Most of them left in body bags when they finally broke under the stress and made a fatal mistake on a mission, and Kakashi damn well wouldn't permit the last Uchiha to follow that explosively disastrous route if he could help it.

That the man he wanted to kill was his own brother probably made it even worse.

Kakashi shook the gray bento cheerfully at his mopey student. With an annoyed grunt, Sasuke stood, snatched the box from Kakashi's hand and opened it. He then pulled out a small, foil-wrapped square mass, a look of disgust appearing on his face. "Field rations," he said, a little tint of anger in his voice.

"Field rations," replied Kakashi, opening his own bento and taking an identical package from it. The little foiled blocks of misery, technically called Field Rations, but often called Final Resorts among the shinobi community, were perfectly balanced to give a shinobi everything they needed for a hard day of battle and murder. They also tasted about as delightful as their foil wrapping, so much so that some ANBU he knew would often eat them while wrapped, foil and all, when they were really having a rough day on the job. Kakashi had approached the Akimichi clan, hoping to improve the taste, only to be informed that the field rations he knew and loved to hate were the improved ones from the last captain who had brought it up, and that the blocks were so dense with nutrients that no amount of flavor would ever make them more than tolerable.

Kakashi casually unwrapped half of his ration bar, a wistful smile crossing over his face as that thick, appetizing smell of super-processed chemically-balanced cardboard hit him. "I know a little about you, Sasuke, from talking to your academy teachers. You never speak to anyone. Never socialize. Never have fun. Never relax. If you want to be a machine of a man, then you may as well eat naught but field rations. They taste terrible, but they are all you need to survive. Why eat things that taste better, if you don't enjoy them?" He held out his half-unwrapped bar in a mock toast.

Sasuke grunted in annoyance and sat down, tossing the ration packet aside. He glowered straight ahead, which happened to be at Kakashi, even as his stomach growled.

He was still glaring when Sakura stepped into his field of vision. Half of her burger was on the lid of her bento, and she was holding it out to him with a tentative smile. He heard an annoyed grunt to his right, so similar to his own, and glanced at Naruto, who looked away and held out the remainder of his own meal. "I don't like you, Sasuke... but nobody likes field rations, and nobody deserves them. Not even you."

"I don't need your pity," grumbled Sasuke.

"It's not pity," replied Sakura quietly, laying the lid down in front of him.

"It's friendship, teme," said Naruto, who looked at Sasuke and gave a small smile. "We'll be a team now. We should act like it, when I'm not kicking your butt in a spar or something."

Sasuke stood and started to walk away from his teammates, and Kakashi gave a little sigh. He thought for a brief moment, less than a second, and decided that if it came to it, he'd rather an impotently angry Uchiha than one who thought he could get away with blowing off his teammates. Kakashi waves his hand cheerfully, and loudly called out, "So you want to go back to the Academy, Uchiha?"

Sasuke stopped walking, and Kakashi could see the boy's fists tightening.

"Konohagakure does not need weak shinobi who get themselves and their teammates killed, Sasuke-kun, and that is exactly as you would become if you walk away now. You will go back to the Academy with a note in your files, 'Does not work well with others.' You will certainly get no training from me. And you will keep returning, with the same message to each teacher, from every jonin I know who is competent enough to train you well, because we'll all see the same thing. Until you finally get someone who has no idea what you have suffered and decides to keep you in their team even if your team suffers for it, out of pity."

Kakashi's cheerful voice did not waver in spite of the boy's sudden tenseness. "And then, you will know more suffering, more regret, more pity, because you will become a magnet for death. Your own callous, uncaring nature will make you and those around you suffer. Allies will die because they believe they cannot ask you for help, and the survivors will pity you for your loss. Potential friendships will die, because after being rebuffed too many times, people tend to give up and find other friends, and those lost friends and allies will look on you with pity when you walk by. Right now, you go home to silence, but you are not alone yet, because you have been surrounded by others and forced to interact with them in the Academy setting. You will not know loss until you realize you have not spoken for a week and nobody cares because they think of you as an object of their environment instead of a human."

Kakashi started to walk slowly towards Sasuke, watching the boy's fists turn white while he spoke. "And then, you'll die. Maybe you'll refuse help as you take on a foe stronger than you. Maybe you'll snap and chase after your brother before you are ready, and get slaughtered by someone powerful enough to slay your entire clan. Maybe you'll live a long and dull life of failure before having a heart attack at home and dropping dead, unnoticed and unlamented until someone happens to sense the smell of your rotting body and contacts the authorities out of pity for the poor old man who had no one to care for him."

Kakashi came to a stop behind Sasuke. "In none of these cases do you get your revenge. In all of these cases, you fail to revive your clan. Those schoolgirls who crush on you now in that annoying way eventually grow into women who know better than to waste their time. No children, no future, and the Uchiha clan dies with you. On the path that you are currently on..." Kakashi reached out and gently grabbed Sasuke's shoulder, turning the around to face him, "...you will fail at everything you claim you want."

Sasuke's face was set in a deep scowl, his eyes clenched shut. "Look at me," Kakashi commanded, and he was not surprised to see that the boy's eyes were shining when the boy did as he was told. "You may be surprised to know that I understand what it is to lose all that you value," he said, his voice no longer sounding cheerful. "I found my father, the only family I had, dead in his home, having killed himself for his idea of honor. I watched my teammate die in front of me, a testament to my failure. I watched my sensei die because I was not strong enough to save him. I worked in ANBU for years, and many of my friends there died because as good as I am, I am not perfect, and I cannot be everywhere at once. The pain never vanishes, even with revenge. You cannot succeed in your goals as an emotionless machine, because even if you win the battle, you'll lose the war, and die a terrible death after an unfulfilled life."

Kakashi gently steered Sasuke back towards the group, and felt a moment of hope when Sasuke did not resist, although the boy clenched his eyes shut again to hide the unshed tears. Kakashi ordered him to look again, to look directly at his team, and thank the kami, both Naruto and Sakura managed to pick up the spirit of this little moment, because they both smiled instead of looking worried, which Sasuke would probably interpret as pity. "Both of these people are willing to go the distance, to try and met you halfway, in spite of your disdain for them. Sakura may annoy you, but despite your constant rejection, she still seeks to help you when things go bad. And I know a bit about your rivalry with Naruto, but here he is, offering the food off of his plate to you. They are telling the truth, Sasuke. It is not pity to help a person you know and care for, it is friendship. I don't think they're going to expect you to become a cheerful person, but some acknowledgment of their care would not be unkind."

Sasuke looked down at the ground for a few moments, blinking furiously. Eventually he did manage to look up and force a smile, a weak one but one none the less, and with a degree of hesitancy that Kakashi found both amusing and familiar from his own youth, the boy said, "Thanks, I guess." He looked over at Naruto's bento, and his smile became a little more comfortable, and a little more taunting. "Even if you already ate everything good, dobe."

Naruto's jaw dropped, and he stood, ready to yell. Sakura stood as well, a single pointing finger aimed squarely at Naruto. But neither one of the pulled the food away from Sasuke, and in that moment, Kakashi made his decision. I can work with this.

Everyone froze when Kakashi started clapping.

When he had their attention, Kakashi stretched and said, "There is a saying I have adopted from a dear friend of mine. The saying is, those who break the rules are trash, but those who abandon their comrades are worse than trash. The greatest power of any shinobi is their ability to work with other shinobi." He held out his hand, fingers spread. "Individually, there is always a weakness." He closed his hand into a tight fist. "Together, those weaknesses are negated, and all that is left is strength."

Kakashi watched his students as he spoke and saw the message hit home, especially for a certain angst-ridden Uchiha who wanted power, which was exactly what Kakashi was hoping for. Get them emotional and then present your argument when their logical tendencies are influenced by that emotion. Sasuke will be pissed when I teach them that and he realizes what I did, but by then he'll be healthy enough to handle it, hopefully.

"Traditionally," he continued, "I would use something known as the Bell Test to determine if you could work as a team. In it, you must take two bells from my person. It is always said that only the two with the bells would pass, in the hopes of driving a wedge between the team, and those who could not cooperate were failed and sent back to the academy." He raised a hand, forestalling the inevitable gasps and shouting. "I will not fail you. You all have shown a willingness to cooperate among yourselves in spite of your differences, even if it was harder for some than others." Kakashi smiled when Naruto gave Sasuke a gentle punch in the arm and a grin, and was satisfied when Sasuke managed to keep his already-strained smile in place and Sakura managed not to hit Naruto in turn. "Tomorrow, we will meet at Training Ground Three. You will be tasked with taking the bells from me. You cannot hope to stop a jonin such as myself on your own, or even as a team. I merely want to see what you can do, given an impossible task. Prepare yourselves." He waved cheerfully, then vanished.

Sasuke shook his head and started to walk away, far more tired than he wanted to admit, then stopped when Naruto snagged his arm. "Hold up, teammate," the orange boy said quickly. "We need to plan!"

Sasuke scoffed. "What is there to plan," he said. "You charge in and get a beatdown. Sakura runs away and gets a beatdown. I attack and snag the bells."

Naruto rolled his eyes at that comment, but it was Sakura who spoke up. "Sasuke-kun, he is a jonin, and a famously powerful one. We are all genin, brand new and with no real training. He could almost certainly club all three of us down without a thought. He must want something other than a straight fight and I think it has something to do with the whole teamwork thing."

Naruto nodded vigorously. "Yeah, yeah, what Sakura-chan said! We need a plan!"

Sasuke turned to leave, then stopped and turned back to them, Kakashi's words still fresh in his mind. I can at least give them a chance, I guess, he thought. I can do that much. He frowned, glaring at them, before letting out a sigh and crossing his arms. "Fine," he grumbled, his voice filled with distaste. "Let's hear this idea of yours..."

EDIT: After much consideration (and a lot of reviews arguing for it) I decided to go into more detail on turning Sasuke away from his path of misery. To be honest, I always felt that in canon, a properly timed and painfully honest word from a respectably powerful shinobi around this time could have saved a great deal of trouble later. By the time Kakashi tries to correct Sasuke's sociopathic traits in canon, they had already been reinforced enough to become a serious problem, and being scornful at anyone is not particularly helpful in the first place. I don't object to how canon went, because Kakashi was a broken person himself, but if I am to change someone in this fic, I need to start early.

EDIT EDIT: Thanks to Pom Rania, who has now gone over this chapter in an effort to finally stamp out the early installment weirdness.

Author Notes: Before you continue, you may want to see this, as it spells out a few of the fan fiction tendencies and habits I will and will not use. Some readers determine their preferred reading based on some of these, so some fair warning might be in order.

* I will not be using the Callout Attack: Japanese Words I Have No Right to Claim I Know Technique format, because I suspect a big part of the challenge of writing this, and doing so in an interesting manner, is requiring myself to describe the action instead of using memetic cues to make you supply the imagery in your head. That is not to say the gloating villain or hyperactive blond may not occasionally call it out as appropriate, nor that I won't use names as appropriate to describe attacks, it simply will not replace the description. While that system works great for a manga, where the reader may need the hint on what techniques are used during the more busy and crowded moments, or in an anime for dramatic effect, I think it falls short often times in writing because it becomes a shortcut to writing a fight scene. The only exception to this are things that are either iconic, in which case they will be described and defined in the story (such as the "henge" technique), and things that do not really work in the English language, whether due to cultural divide or terms that do not have a good match in my native tongue, in which case the same rule of description applies.

* In general, I will be using the Japanese naming system, last name first. I will favor Japanese names unless they sound like the kind of thing a racist would use in casual conversation (The "Trump Rule"). For example, I generally use "Maito Guy," as opposed to "Might Guy," because while it is drawn from English, it is reasonably distinct and believable. "Rokku Lee," meanwhile, sounds like a bad (and racist) joke, so I defer to the English version, "Rock Lee."

* I generally avoid "Fanon," but it does crop up in a few places. My personal rule is, if I can imagine it happening in real life under those exact circumstances, it can happen in my story. As far as I have been told, the only place that "fanon" has been added at this point is Chapter 3, which adopts two common and reasonably believable traits that appear in fanfiction a great deal, and which I have acknowledged before the chapter starts.

* I do not focus on pairings. I do not focus on pairings. I do not focus on pairings. I renounce that thrice. My story will not be focused on romance, and certainly will not go into what I shall call the "core mechanical aspects" of it. Not to say there will never be an "awww" moment in my story, or that I'll never pair off the characters. Pairings will happen eventually, because to pretend otherwise would be to deny a part of human existence, but they will be realistic, and if you know anything about real world relationships, they are rarely as romantic as portrayed in entertainment media (and especially fanfiction). If you are pairing oriented, at this point you can assume canon pairings until and unless I find a good reason to do otherwise, and that's in my eyes, not yours, because "Sakura and Gaara make such a cute couple together" is not in itself a valid argument. If you simply must have a pairing to enjoy a story, there is the door, you may show yourself out. There are plenty of other opportunities for you, let me and my fellow non-shippers have this one thing, will you?