Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto.
Contrary to popular belief, Uchiha Fugaku absolutely despised clan meetings. They always seemed to end the same way: drawn out and lacking solutions to the ridiculous amount of problems the elders cooked up. Then, when Fugaku was finally able to call the meetings to an end, the elders insisted on tabling their issues for the next one. If the Uchiha patriarch could sigh in frustration, he would. However, as the head of the clan, he was expected to regard each and every topic in a serious manner.
The latest complaint, however, caused a reaction out of his eldest child, to which Fugaku was wholly surprised. No one else would have noticed, for Itachi was a master of remaining composed, but he was also his son, and Fugaku knew his offspring like the back of his hand.
Uchiha Tadashi, who had to be at least one hundred years old, was currently ranting on about the sensei of the newest Uchiha to join the shinobi ranks.
"It's ridiculous! The girl is only twenty years old, not to mention she's a medic-nin, for kami's sake! The Hokage is out of her mind if she thinks assigning some girl from no respectable clan to speak of to the Uchiha clan's next prodigy is a good idea!" A chorus of agreement rose up around the room.
Itachi caught Fugaku's eye before lightly replying, "Youth and lineage do not negate experience and skill. Haruno Sakura has studied under the Hokage herself, one of the most powerful shinobi of our time."
Mikoto piped in from Fugaku's other side. "Not to mention that Sakura-chan has trained with an Uchiha since she was twelve years old. If anyone is qualified to teach an Uchiha, it'd be her, no?"
A voice came from somewhere in the middle of the crowd. "What say you, Fugaku-sama?"
Fugaku pretended to think on it. Of course, there was no need for him to debate the issue. Although he never really spoke to the girl, he thought highly of her. Both of his sons respected her as a person and a shinobi, and she had always been polite and gracious toward him. There was no question about it; she would stay Nozomi's sensei.
His facial expression neutral, Fugaku addressed the clan. "The matter of Haruno Sakura's clan is irrelevant. She has been trained by both Tsunade-sama and Hatake Kakashi; this more than makes up for what she lacks in familial status. The fact that she is a highly-skilled medic-nin would undoubtedly be beneficial in regards to Nozomi's health and safety. The Uchiha clan will no longer question Hokage-sama's decision to put Nozomi in the care of Sasuke's teammate."
A few grumbles could be heard from the less enthused clan members.
"If there is nothing else that needs to be discussed, this meeting will adjourn."
Fugaku's clansmen began to shuffle out of the room, and he stood to leave as well. He motioned for his wife and son to follow, only to be halted by Uchiha Takahiro, Nozomi's father.
"Fugaku-sama, may I have a word?"
Fugaku nodded, and Itachi continued to lead his mother outside to wait.
Takahiro was Fugaku's third cousin, and although the two men had never been close, Fugaku respected him, which was why he promoted the man to second-in-command of the police force. The Uchiha patriarch noticed that Takahiro must have come straight from the station, considering he still donned his uniform.
"I don't mean to undermine the decision of the Hokage or yourself," Takahiro began. "However, Nozomi is my precious daughter, and I worry. Tell me, will it truly be a good idea to the let the Haruno girl train her?"
Fugaku lifted his hand and placed it on Takahiro's shoulder. "Set your mind at ease, cousin. I have no doubt that Nozomi has been placed in good care. To further alleviate your worries, I will invite Haruno Sakura to the Uchiha compound and introduce her. You will see then that this outcome was indeed the right one."
"Of course, Fugaku-sama."
Fugaku patted his shoulder once and left to meet Mikoto and Itachi. He did not notice Takahiro's expression darken, nor did he catch the man make eye contact with Tadashi before they quietly disappeared behind a door. Fugaku was wholly unaware of the trial his son's teammate was about to face.
Halfway to the main house, Itachi spoke. "Chichi-ue. This was the first time Haruno Sakura was discussed at a clan meeting, but it will not be the last."
"Is that so?" Was Itachi implying that the girl would not be as efficient a teacher as the three of them had presumed?
Mikoto giggled behind her hand. "Haven't you noticed, Anata?"
Fugaku looked at his wife and raised an eyebrow.
The Uchiha matriarch clicked her tongue at his obliviousness. "Sasuke-kun has been spending an awful lot of time with his female teammate lately."
"Ah." Fugaku finally understood. "When shall I expect an uproar concerning Sasuke's decision to marry outside of the Uchiha?"
Mikoto burst out into laughter, and even Itachi cracked a smile at Fugaku's premature conclusion.
"There's no need to worry yet, Chichi-ue. Otouto has barely begun to court her."
"Yes, and if he's anything like his father, it's going to take years before we see any real progress," Mikoto joked.
Fugaku hummed, his lips turning up slightly.
Content, he lead his family the rest of the way home.
"Naruto, I'm being serious! The damned Uchiha girl actually said aloud that she was going to marry Sasuke-kun. How the hell did my rival in love turn out to be a 12-year-old girl?!"
Sakura looked at her blonde teammate desperately. She sat next to him at Ichiraku's, and he was slurping his ramen happily, clad in his usual orange and black jumpsuit.
"Sakura-chan, you know I'm not the smartest guy around," Naruto said around a mouth full of noodles. She wrinkled her nose as food particles landed on the counter in front of them, but didn't interrupt as he continued. "But Sasuke-teme isn't gonna date a kid, even if she's an Uchiha. Besides, you're pretty much the only girl he can stand."
"Yeah, thanks Naruto," Sakura grumbled. She picked at her cooling noodles with her chopsticks.
"What about the other two? What are they like?" Naruto slid his empty bowl away and waved for another helping.
Sakura groaned. "It's so awful! Reiji-kun is all doom and gloom and Naoki-kun doesn't take anything seriously. In fact, that Hyuuga reminds me a lot of you."
She glared at him.
Naruto laughed and said, "Hey, if he's anything like me, it's gonna be a blast! Don't you worry, Sakura-chan, you'll be an amazing teacher, and I'm sure if anyone's gonna perk that gloomy kid up, it'll be you! Dattebayo!"
Sighing, Sakura threw a few bills on the counter to cover her meal and stood.
"Where are you going?" Naruto asked, tucking into the steaming bowl of ramen that was just placed in front of him.
"Back to the training grounds. We breaked for lunch, but now I have to go test my genin on teamwork."
Naruto gasped. "You're doing the bell test?"
"Not quite." Sakura smirked and disappeared in a puff of smoke.
Reiji was skeptical when he left his house to return to the training grounds. His sensei gave them two hours to rest and eat before they had to take some sort of test. She wouldn't say what it was, but the red-headed boy had a feeling it wasn't going to be easy.
He muttered to himself as he dragged his feet along the dirt road. He wasn't looking forward to whatever ninja task was in store for him. In fact, he wasn't looking forward to becoming a ninja, period.
He had always been a small child, frightened of everything. His father was a gruff chuunin, and after tolerating years of his son climbing into bed with his parents because he was afraid of the dark, the man enrolled him into the academy. Reiji had no say.
Despite his reluctance, there was one thing that training to become a shinobi taught him. Although he hadn't grown much, he wasn't the same frightened child his father used to scorn so much. Attending the academy, Reiji learned quickly that if he always expected the worst possible outcome, there was nothing to be afraid of. Of course, this type of pessimistic attitude cost him. He had no friends, and few adults felt an obligation to tolerate him. He was fine with that, though. He didn't need anyone.
Or so he constantly told himself. Reiji scowled.
The red-headed boy was almost to the meeting spot when a rough hand planted itself between his shoulder blades.
"Yo! Reiji, was it?"
Reiji cut a glare toward Naoki, who removed his hand and rubbed it through his brown hair.
The smaller boy sighed. "What do you want?"
"What do you mean, 'what do I want?' We're teammates, dude. I thought we could walk back to the training grounds together." Naoki frowned.
"More like Nozomi threatened you until it forced you to leave her alone and seek me out."
"Yeah, pretty much," Naoki said, dejected.
Reiji could see the Sakura tree in the distance. He put a hand in front of Naoki, halting the other boy's steps.
"Look," Reiji began. "We may be teammates, but we're not friends. I'm not here to create bonds with people that don't give a shit. The only thing I'm concerned about is surviving long enough to keep my father off my back. You understand, yeah?"
Naoki laughed. "Man. Ya know, your meek little display in front of Sakura-sensei really had me going. 'Oh Sensei, please go first, I don't want to mess up! Oh Sensei, please just leave me alone!'"
Naoki walked a few feet ahead of him. He stopped, but didn't turn around. Reiji stared at his back as the Hyuuga said, "If you don't want to be here, leave. There's no room in the ranks for a guy who can't even stand the thought of becoming a ninja."
Reiji scoffed. "Yeah? And what about you? It's not like you take this gig anymore seriously than I do! If you did, you'd be worried about more than following Nozomi around all day like some creep!"
Naoki turned slightly. Reiji could see the smile on his face, but noticed his lavender eyes were hard.
"Unlike you, I'm not afraid to reach out to the people I care about. I'm not afraid of disappointment. You don't want any unnecessary bonds? Fine. But don't think you'll last long in a world like this without someone to lean on."
Naoki left him.
Reiji glared at the ground. What the hell did the Hyuuga know? He wasn't afraid of disappointment! He wasn't afraid of anything. He took care of that useless emotion years ago. So then why were his hands shaking so badly?
Reiji clenched his fists and followed in Naoki's wake.
He crested the hill and saw that he was the last one to arrive.
As his bright blue eyes looked upon his newly formed team, his expression hardened. He didn't need them.
He didn't need anyone.
Nozomi sat with her arms crossed, refusing to look at the pathetic excuse of a squad she was forced to call hers.
Sakura-sensei was sitting in front of them, meditating. Nozomi didn't know how long they'd been under that damned tree, wasting time, but it was long enough to cause an irritated tic in her eye.
At least Naoki-teme was quiet, for once. It was unusual considering that anytime she was in the vicinity of the annoying brunette, he'd talk her ear off for hours. It was was nice to be alone with her thoughts.
Dammit! She jinxed it.
"What?" The Uchiha growled.
"What you said earlier… About Sasuke-san. Why do you think you'll marry him someday?"
Nozomi cracked an eye open. Both boys were staring at her, and even Sakura-sensei was paying attention now.
The Uchiha sighed in exasperation. "It's not that I think I will, it's that I know I will. Hundreds of years have passed and the clan-head's family has never externally married. Therefore, the only contenders for marriage to Sasuke-sama and Itachi-sama are Uchiha. There's too much of an age difference between Itachi-sama and I, so that leaves Sasuke-sama. I may not be able to marry the next head of the clan, but I can marry his brother, and that's the next best thing."
Naoki sputtered. "W-what the hell?! What makes you so special that you'd even be considered as a contender?"
"Because, moron, haven't you heard? The Uchiha clan regards me as their next prodigy. It would only make sense that I wed another important and powerful Uchiha. Besides, you think I'm special enough to stalk me all day." Nozomi laughed humorlessly. "Sasuke-sama is my ticket to becoming the closest I'll ever be to ruling over my family."
"So Sasuke-kun is nothing more than a means to an end?" There was an edge to Sakura-sensei's voice.
Nozomi shrugged. "Call it whatever you like, sensei."
Nozomi's facial expression remained nonchalant, but inwardly, she was frowning. She knew her sensei was Sasuke-sama's teammate, but she didn't like how the medic-nin called him Sasuke-kun.
Nozomi spoke of Sasuke-sama as nothing more than a play for power, but really, she liked him. A lot. However, she'd never admit that aloud, and she certainly wouldn't mention how she came to see him in a different light.
She was six years old and had wandered into the forest lining the outskirts of Konoha. She couldn't remember how she had gotten there, or where her parents were, but she does remember the sharp smell of pine and the cold, slithering tendrils of fright creeping up her legs and making her heart pound.
She ventured through that dark, ominous forest for hours, crying out for her okaa-san, wiping her flowing tears away with dirty fingers. She thought she would die in there, all alone, before Sasuke-sama came.
He swooped down from the highest tree branches, landing in front of her without making a single sound. His eyes glowed red from their famed kekkei genkai, and the sight of his sharingan eased her fear. She was safe.
He scooped her into his arms, holding onto her tightly as he ran, and she remembers clutching her hands around his neck, her face buried in his shirt. He smelled of sweat, fire, and something else that was uniquely his. It was a comforting scent, she knew.
Sasuke spoke to her for the first time that day.
"Don't worry, you're safe. I won't let anything hurt you." His voice was deep and melodic.
Nozomi sniffled then, her tears slowing as she hung on to his every word.
"Do you promise?"
He delivered her to her frantic parents, but she never forgot the promise he made that day. Although time, distance, age, and circumstance separated them, she still didn't forget.
She just hoped he didn't forget, either.
Sakura-sensei interrupted her thoughts. "Enough talk about marriage. Shall we start?"
"What exactly are we starting, anyway?" Naoki asked, stretching his arms above his head as he stood with the rest of them.
Sakura-sensei smiled innocently, but Nozomi saw the mischievous glint in her emerald eyes. "Today, I'll test your skills as shinobi. You three will partake in a scavenger hunt; the two who gather the most items within a sixty minute time frame will continue your journey as genin. The one who has the least items at the end…"
"Will be sent back to the academy." Sakura finished.
"WHAT!" Naoki shouted.
Reiji glared at the medic-nin. "You can't do that! We've already graduated. The academy won't take us back."
Sakura-sensei, staring at her nails, shrugged. "Then I guess that unfortunate person won't be a ninja at all."
The boys continued to complain. Nozomi didn't react. She already knew she'd be the winner of this ridiculous test.
"There are a few catches, though," Sakura-sensei said.
Nozomi glanced up. What could this half-baked medic-nin possibly throw her way that she wouldn't be able to handle? The Uchiha smirked.
"The items you're to collect won't be easily obtained. Each item belongs to a formidable shinobi. They will not part with it easily. You'll have to use stealth, and in some cases, fight for it. Meanwhile, you'll also have to watch out for me, as I'll be randomly attacking each of you."
Nozomi now felt skeptical. This wasn't going to be as easy as she first thought. No matter, though. She still wasn't going to be defeated by the two losers gaping at their sensei.
Sakura-sensei formed a hand sign. "Good luck!"
The pink haired nin disappeared, leaving the three of them to stare at each other.
"How the hell are we supposed to know what it is we're collecting?" Reiji asked, annoyed.
Nozomi silently agreed. Was this some sort of joke?
Suddenly, a medium-sized slug appeared beside her, a piece of paper hanging out if its mouth.
"Aw, gross!" Naoki exclaimed, pointing at his own slug.
Nozomi rolled her eyes and plucked the paper from the slimy creature at her feet. She read down the list, each item getting more ridiculous as it went on. Whatever, she thought.
"Later, losers." She took off in a run.
Her first item: Shiranui Genma's senbon.
Sakura sat high in a tree overlooking the front gates of Konoha, waiting for Genma-san to return from his latest mission. His senbon was the first on the list she gave her students, so it was likely that one of them would pursue this item immediately. She knew he was due to return to the village today, and she thought perhaps her students would also somehow find out that little tidbit of information.
Her stomach rumbled. She regretted not eating her bowl of ramen when she was with Naruto earlier.
"Oh! Mikoto-san's bento!" She remembered.
She dug into the deep pocket on the inside of her flak vest. She pulled out the bento and opened it, popping a fresh strawberry into her mouth.
Ten minutes into her espionage mission, Genma-san finally strolled through the gates, stopping to chat with Kotetsu-san and Izumo-san.
She continued to munch on her treats and watch Genma-san relay a story, gesturing wildly with his hands, when she felt a spike of chakra. She masked hers quickly before leaping to a tree closer to the action to get a better look.
Uchiha Nozomi leaped over Genma's head, flipping mid-air and landing in a crouch in front of him. He had been leaning against one of the gates' pillars, thoughtlessly chewing his senbon, before he clearly felt Nozomi's chakra flare and straightened to his full height.
Nozomi was now facing away from Sakura, the Uchiwa fan on the back of her blue sleeveless top standing out dramatically. The Uchiha and Genma-san must have exchanged a few words, but no sooner than Genma raised an eyebrow at whatever the girl said to him did she sprint into an attack.
Nozomi swiftly pulled a few shuriken out of the pouch on her thigh before leaping into the air and letting them fly.
Kunai appeared in each of Genma-san's hands, and he was able to block the shuriken from hitting their mark. He immediately sprung backward, avoiding the kick aimed for his head, and the pair began to engage in rapid taijutsu. If Sakura weren't a ninja herself, she wouldn't have been able to follow their movements as well as she did.
Nozomi didn't have a lot of reach, but she made up for it in quickness. The Uchiha girl launched her fist toward Genma-san's chin in what would have been a beautifully executed uppercut, but Genma-san was a seasoned fighter and dodged before it could make contact. Nozomi followed through with a spin kick, landing a hit on his thigh. Genma-san grunted before dropping low, kicking Nozomi's feet out from under her.
As Nozomi fell, she twisted her body, causing her to land on her stomach instead of her back. She smacked her hands against the dirt and flipped upward, aiming her foot at Genma-san's face, but all she caught was air.
"Have you had enough?" Genma said loud enough for Sakura to hear.
Nozomi let out a short battle-cry and charged, forming hand seals along the way.
"Katon: Karyuudan no Jutsu!"
A small but compact stream of fire erupted from Nozomi's mouth, surprising Genma-san as well as Sakura. Nozomi-chan must train quite a bit to be able to release such a controlled jutsu.
"Suiton: Suijinchuu no Jutsu!"
Genma-san's defensive water jutsu pillared up just above his head, curving over him as the flames of Nozomi's technique reached him. The stream of fire slammed into Genma's wall of water, causing steam to immediately form and cloud the area.
Both ninja on the ground ceased their techniques, and Sakura squinted, trying to see through the white mist.
A small, dark form moved through the thick steam, and before Genma-san could even register what was happening, a fist planted itself right into his gut. Not only did it knock the breath out of him, it also loosened the senbon in his mouth to where the thin but deadly weapon went flying to the ground. Nozomi hurriedly picked it up and bolted farther into the village before Genma-san could attack again.
Sakura stashed her empty bento back into the pocket of her flak vest and dropped to the ground just as the recent battlefield cleared.
Genma-san stood there, looking shocked as hell, while Kotetsu-san and Izumo-san scratched their heads in confusion.
"I was definitely not expecting that," Sakura said, walking up to Genma-san.
He shook his head and grinned. "That's one hell of a student you got there."
He pulled out another senbon from his pouch and stuck it between his teeth.
"Thanks again for agreeing to this. I sent out at least thirty slug summons and barely got enough replies in time. I guess that's what I get for doing it last minute." Sakura scratched her cheek, laughing sheepishly.
"No problem, Sakura-chan. Anything for my Shizune-chan's little duckling," Genma-san replied, pinching her other cheek.
Sakura slapped his hand away. "Alright, alright. This little duckling has some kiddos to scare. Tell Shizune-senpai I said hello!"
With that, she sprinted into the village, intent on finding her first victim.
For the second time that day, Naruto entered through the flaps of Ichiraku's.
"Ayame-chan! Can I get one order of beef ramen?"
"Sure thing, Naruto-san!"
Naruto just began to tuck into his meal when Sai plopped down next to him.
"Dickless," Sai greeted.
"You're almost as much of a bastard as Sasuke-teme," Naruto said between bites.
"So I've heard. Where's Ugly?"
The orange-clad ninja slurped the rest of his noodles. "Training her genin! Where've you been?"
Two fresh bowls were placed in front of the pair.
"On a mission. I never knew Ugly wanted to be an instructor."
"She didn't," Naruto said, chewing thoughtfully. "I think she'll want to eventually, though. She doesn't have much of a choice, anyway."
"Oi, by the way, have you seen Yamato-taichou lately? Sakura-chan mentioned to me a few weeks ago about trying to get a team dinner going for this month since we haven't had one in a while."
Sai wiped his mouth with a napkin delicately. "I haven't. Why do you two insist on including us? It's not like we're original members of Team 7. We've substituted a few times and that's it. Quit trying to involve us in your escapades."
Naruto pointed an angry finger. "Hey! Shut your mouth, asshole! Once a member of Team 7, always a member of Team 7, and don't you forget it! Whether you like it or not, you're one of us, dattebayo!"
A sigh escaped from the artist's mouth. "In that case, pay for my meal, Dickless."
With that, Sai stood and left the ramen stand.
Naruto spluttered. "Sai, you bastard! Get back here!"
Naruto slammed his money on the counter and ran out after him. A tremor suddenly rocked the ground, causing the blonde to lose his footing and crash into Sai's back.
"What the hell?!"
Naruto peered around his teammate. Facing off in the middle of the busy street was none other than Sakura and her student, Hyuuga Naoki.
A crack in the road branched out from Sakura's ninja sandal, leading to Naoki, who looked as if he barely regained his footing.
Naruto rubbed his hands together, cackling in glee.
"This is gonna be good!"
Yay for second chapters! Thank you so much to everyone who has reviewed, followed, and favorited this story! It means so much to me!
Unfortunately, no Sasuke this time. He'll be back from his mission in the next chapter, though! I wonder if he'll find out about the evil plan Uncle Takahiro is cooking up with that old coot Tadashi...
I want to give a special shout out to ChronicallyChill. If you guys haven't checked out her story, The Planning of a Matriarch, I highly suggest heading on over that way. It's an amazing story full of SasuSaku moments, our favorite! Plus, her writing is seriously on point. You're freaking flawless, ChronicallyChill!
Thanks again everyone, and I hope you enjoyed this chapter!