Accidents happen, and sometimes by design. Naruto was determined to become a Genin, it was just his luck that this year they were being tested in the Kawarimi instead of the Bunshin due to a single lazy Admin-chuunin. Team Gai!Naruto, Maito!Lee (adoption yay), BAMF!everyone.
Pairings are up in the air at the moment, I'm torn between making this completely Gen with only background pairings, or having it a Neji/Naruto (after a fuck ton of character development).
In Konoha, the Academy Graduation was every six months, once in the spring of April, the other in the middle of November. A student could apply for early graduation whenever they wanted to, with or without their sensei's recommendation; them, or their parents. However, if the student that applied for early graduation failed, they would have to skip the next rotation before they could apply again, thus forcing the applicant to study for another year to train themselves to an acceptable standard.
Amongst the Academy Chuunin, it was known that a certain Orange Pain in the Ass could not perform the Bunshin no Jutsu to save his life.
Thus, more underhanded Chuunin that stood against the Boy in question had arranged for the Ninjutsu segment to rotate its exams for every six month graduation, coincidentally, completely by happenstance really, so that the Bunshin would always be on the roster for the exact time when the Boy would be able to apply again. They claimed it was so the children that failed couldn't inform their peers on what to study, but that was merely a pleasant side effect.
In one reality, it would continue this way for years.
It would take the reveal of a Traitor amidst their ranks for the Boy to graduate. Foiling the long-term plan to force said boy into Ageing Out of the Academy, thus losing any legitimate chance of becoming a Ninja outside some rather more... shadowy basements. Not that any but the two instigators knew, the tattoos on their tongues itching faintly with the reminder of their duty as they watched over the child that reminded them how to feel, and could do nothing but sabotage him at every turn as was their Duty to the Great Leaf.
In another, it would take the untimely recall of one such instigator to home base, and the replacement, a rather uninspired Chuunin that had been working the Mission Desk on and off for the last eight months, taking one look at the tests and deciding to swap out the Ninjutsu section in the hopes of sabotaging the Boy. This would be the second time he took the exams, so surely he would have studied for the Jutsus he knew were coming, the Bunshin and the Henge. Deciding that Bunshin would be too easy a Ninjutsu, the Chuunin surreptitiously erased it with a thick blot of ink, and replaced it with the Kawarimi no Jutsu. Smug and satisfied, he made sure that no one would change it back by 'losing' it amidst his papers until it was time for the actual exams – when it would be too late to amend what they were testing.
It would backfire, horribly, and begin a legacy that no one could have foreseen.
One that only Uzumaki Naruto could have left.
Sai-sensei wasn't in today, Naruto noted as he waited in place, legs jogging up and down beneath his desk. Instead some no name Chuunin from the admin office was overseeing the Ninjutsu exams. That sucked. Sai-sensei was stuffy and seemed like a robot until Naruto got him pissed, but he was at least neutral grounds, and Naruto could trust that he wouldn't get a raw deal on the exam. He had been on tenderhooks the whole day, he was fairly certain he'd passed everything so far this time over. Last year it had been both his Ninjutsu and his Taijutsu that lost him the graduation, Bunshin yet again proving to be his Hell Viewing, and Taijutsu because Mizuki clipped him around the head with a kick that put him on his ass with a concussion for the rest of the exams. This year he had Iruka-sensei as his Taijutsu examiner, and he was way easier to deal with than Mizuki, he totally kicked his ass! (Which was weird now that he thought about it because Naruto could have sworn he'd overheard Suzume-sensei, who was in charge of the Kunoichi lessons, commenting on how Iruka-sensei was better than Mizuki at Taijutsu and, well, pretty much all of the ninja arts several weeks ago, and Iruka-sensei humbly saying that Mizuki was just out of practice while Iruka trained fairly regularly with colleagues from the Mission Desk when they were finished with their shift).
Ninjutsu still had every chance of burying his ass for another year of mind-numbing boring crap that no one actually cared about, though.
If he failed even one of the three core examinations, Ninjutsu, Taijutsu, or Tactics, then that was that, game over, try again next year. The exams worked on a point system: Passing Nin, Tai, and Tactics would net you thirty points each, the better you did the more points you earned, so say if you failed Ninjutsu, if you totally dominated in Tai and Tactics earning the maximum fifty points, you could still graduate as the minimum point requirement was ninety.
Naruto liked to think he could have done it, but decided to try all three because he was a badass, but he wasn't so unaware of his own strengths and weaknesses that he actually believed it. He knew he wasn't skilled enough to bomb one test and make up for it on the others. He needed to scrape a pass in all three to make it.
Ninjutsu was all he had left. He'd been practising for months on this. His henge was flawless, able to fool even the ANBU members sent to chase him down after his pranks (he missed the Military Police, they were so much more fun to play Chase with). His rope escape techniques were also flawless (ANBU had given him a lot of practice), as was his rope capture and wire manipulation techniques (he'd gotten good at pranks on the move, Falcon-kun wasn't so appreciative, and Naruto didn't think he was ever going to live his Spider Wire technique down). He still couldn't aim his Kawarimi so good, but he'd managed to figure out how to lessen the distance he jumped to just outside the village gates instead of to Tanzaku Gai (best day EVER), unfortunately the Academy Sensei's never believed him when he said he could Substitute that far, and it had gotten to the point where the next person that told him to use the technique was going to be handed a signed letter from the Gate Chuunin to prove that Naruto had done it.
The classroom was completely silent as the bland Admin Chuunin observed them, his hands clasped behind his back, stood at ease in front of them.
"For your final Ninjutsu exam, you will be required to successfully perform two Ninjutsu, the Henge technique, and the Kawarimi technique. Wait here until your name is called, and the come next door," he announced loudly through the lecture hall, not even twitching as the tension ramped up throughout the room.
For Naruto, it felt like someone had pulled his spine out.
He flopped over his desk in sheer relief.
He had this. He had this!
It was in the bag! That Hitai-ate was his!
Waiting was agony. Now that he knew, now that he was guaranteed a pass, he couldn't sit still. He wriggled, fidgeted, legs bounced, fingers tapped. He could tell he was driving the other examinees crazy, the tension ramping up further throughout the room. One kunoichi with twin buns was bouncing kunai between her fingers, limbering them up ready, one boy with muttering to himself, arms wrapped around his shoulders as he rolled his shoulders, a few short sharp scuffles had broken out between some more hot-headed boys in the back row that had the Chuunin administrator watching them break up with judicious use of chalk-sticks used like shuriken. The only patch of calm within the room was a Hyuuga boy in white wearing a black headband surrounded by girls. It was a scene reminiscent of Naruto's class and Sasuke, but this time the girls were too nervous to squeal and flutter around the object of their esteem. Kinda made him dislike the Hyuuga boy automatically.
One by one they got called in. They didn't come back. Naruto assumed they got escorted into another room, or allowed to leave where their parents would be waiting outside to congratulate them.
Only, no one would be waiting to congratulate Naruto when he walked out of here with his shiny headband. For a moment, the thought stole the breath from his lungs before he shook his head and slapped his cheeks, the sound drawing glances from his classmates that was just as quickly dismissed as pre-exam nerves. He didn't need to show it off to anyone. He'd show it off to himself! Because he earned it!
He thought he would have been screaming, jumping for joy, but instead, he stared down at the headband clenched tightly between his fingers in wordless ecstatic glee. Unable to even speak through his happiness as he wondered through the streets of Konoha in an utter daze.
Because his name started with Uzu, his name had been the last in the class to be called. By that time, there were only a handful of hitai-ate left, all of them red.
It was going to clash with his orange jumpsuit, he realised, completely inanely.
And laughed, breathlessly, then semi-hysterically. He ended up having to stop, and lean against a near-by wall, arms curled around his stomach, clutching his hitai-ate to his chest as he laughed until his stomach hurt, and his eyes streamed with tears of happiness.
He was a Ninja. He'd made it. Entirely on his own merit, no special exceptions!
He made it.
And no one could take that away from him.
It had taken some arguing, the Chuunin hadn't believed him when he said he swapped to the Guard House, but he did it again, and this time popped back with the promised letter from both Kotetsu and Izumo to prove it. Turned out he broke an Academy record for the furthest Kawarimi on record with that one. Eat that Uchiha Sasuke! Who was the better ninja now huh? Huh? Well it had to be the one with the headband! You couldn't be a ninja without a headband! Hah!
He had the rest of the day, and tomorrow to get his Ninja I.D. sorted, and the third day... he would meet his Team and his Jounin sensei. He was looking forward to that the most. A lot of Ninja said your team was like your family, that sometimes they were closer than family because they were the people you bled with, fought with; you trained, sweated, and cried with; that you went through hell with. He wanted that. He wanted that family, a family that would love him and have his back, that wouldn't look at him with that cold dismissive scorn.
But... what would he do if they did?
What would he do if his Sensei did?
The bubble of happiness in his gut began to go sour with anxiousness. And all of a sudden, he felt a little sick.
He – he would just have to – have to – win them over, yeah!
Prove to them that Uzumaki Naruto was going to be the Hokage, that he was worthy of love and respect! That he was awesome and badass and – and – and they were lucky to be on his team and that maybe, just maybe, he would share some of that awesome... with them...
His thoughts trailed off, and the sick feeling in his stomach grew until his chest hurt, and his mouth tasted kinda metallic-y and sour.
Tasted like a lie.
What would he do... if they hated him like everyone else...?
Slowly, his legs gave out on him, sending him sliding to the ground where he sat with his back to the wall and stared up at the sliver of blue sky overhead, the over hanging wires, tree branches, and the distant sound of the village as his white noise. As a rule, he didn't like to brood. It was only too easy for his mind to go to dark places, for his temper to turn cold, for his blood to burn even as a lump of ice sat heavy and hard in his chest. As a rule, he didn't like thinking about things too much. It was too dangerous.
For other people.
So he slapped his cheeks, and banged his head back against the wall behind him and jumped to his feet with a righteous huff – he had stuff to do today! He was a Ninja now! Which meant he needed to sort his shit out like a grown up! Because that was what he was! His headband was proof of his becoming an adult – so now he had to act like it!
First up, he needed to amend his paperwork with his landlord. He also needed to change his papers at the housing office so they'd know he was now signed on with the Shinobi forces, he also needed to inform the bursary that he would be doing missions and he couldn't claim money anymore (they came down hard on genin who tried to claim bursary when they were active ninja – that money was for people who weren't able to support themselves, not people who wanted extra spending money).
He needed to clean his flat too. It was trash day tomorrow. So he'd do that once he'd finished his paperwork, and then he'd have to clean his clothes ready for tomorrow when he had to take his picture for his Ninja I.D. - actually, why shouldn't he do that today? He was heading to the building next to the Hokage's office anyway, he could do it while he was there and kill two birds with one stone, and spend tomorrow shopping for new kunai and shuriken. With a genin hitai-ate he would be able to buy live steel. Almost all the Academy kunai and shuriken were blunted to prevent them from hurting themselves, they had to wait before they would buy their own sharpened sets even though their throwing practice was with razor sharp blades, and they were taught how to sharpen and maintain their equipment.
That sounded like a plan he could get behind!
Pleased with himself, Naruto took a breath, and put his hitai-ate on. Pressing it against his forehead, tucking the cloth tails behind his ears, and tying it tight at the base of his skull.
It was heavier than his goggles.
The weight of responsibility to his village.
He should have known nothing good could ever remain just good for him. Nothing in his life couldn't be tainted. Even this, even today, becoming a genin, taking the first steps on his path to becoming Hokage could be ruined.
He'd just finished filling in his papers at the housing office, handing them over to the scowling administrative genin who combed through them carefully before filing them and telling him to get out. As of next month he would no longer receive money from the Village Bursary, a fund set up specifically to support orphans, war veterans, the widows and family of fallen shinobi/kunoichi, and ninja that were on leave for medical reasons. They weren't expected to pay that money back as every single ninja had that money automatically deducted from their mission pay before they even accepted said mission – it was all carefully calculated. Roughly fifteen percent of all mission pay went into that fund. The reason that bounties were so attractive to active ninja was that often times they would receive only twenty-five percent of the overall mission's pay out depending on the rank, the higher the rank, the higher percentage of pay they would receive. Not that Naruto actually knew or understood the ins and outs of how the village was run, yet. Right now all he knew was that he needed to take a look at mission rank pay and work out how many of each he would need to do a week in order to afford the rent on his flat.
It was as he was crossing the playground outside the Academy, aiming for the mission office stairwell that would take him upstairs to get the information he needed, and get his photo taken for his Ninja I.D. on the roof that the first person commented on his passing the exam.
"What the hell do you think you're wearing, Deadlast?!" Haruno Sakura shouted furiously from one side where she and the rest of the kunoichi from his old class were loitering and sighing dreamily over Uchiha Sasuke.
Naruto lit up when he saw her. "Sakura-chan! Look, look! I passed!" he exclaimed gleefully bounding over, thumb pointing at his headband sat oh-so-shiny on his forehead.
"Don't lie!" Yamanaka Ino snapped, scowling ferociously, "There's no way you could have passed Naruto!"
"Yeah! You're bottom of the class!" Sakura chimed in viciously, "You're going to get in so much trouble!" she exclaimed.
"No! No! I really passed!" Naruto rushed to explain, hands lifted, "See, I'm super bad at Bunshin, but this turn over they changed it up – they used Kawarimi, and I'm super good, I actually broke a distance record! I passed!"
"You are such a liar!" Ino shouted, "How dare you run around with that headband on! Get it off! Where did you steal it from?"
"I didn't steal it!" Naruto flared, hurt and anger making his skin flush. "They gave it to me!"
"Then give it back, idiot!" Sakura barked, "It isn't yours and you'll get in trouble if anyone catches you with it!"
Ino made a sound of disgust as Naruto shook his head, and faster than anyone could stop her, her arm snapped out, fingers clawed around his hitai-ate and pulled.
Naruto's hand jack-knifed into her neck, his other snapped up, twisting around her wrist to grab his headband, even as his leg swept around, kicking her feet out from under her.
It was only the grip he had on the front of her top that stopped her from sprawling in the dirt as he roughly yanked his headband out of her grasp and then dropped her as she gagged around her bruised neck.
"It's mine! I passed!" he snarled before turning on heel and sprinting into the stairwell, sick to his stomach, and shaking all over, leaving his classmates to clamour around the Yamanaka heiress as she wheezed and coughed. He shuddered as he rounded the corner and gripped his headband hard enough for his fingers to ache.
How dare she?
How dare she try to take – he told her he passed! Why didn't she – why didn't anyone believe him?
Snarling to himself he stormed up to the roof where the photographer was seeing to ninja registrations, he tied his headband and sat on the chair, glaring into the camera. He would show them.
The next morning was brighter, and thankfully better than the one before.
With the Academy still in session, Naruto didn't have to deal with his former classmates anymore, didn't have to see Ino or Sakura-chan and put up with them screaming at him. He cleaned his flat like a man possessed, still angry by what happened the previous day. He would have felt guilty about disturbing the Admin Chuunin that was inducting his interview for his I.D., but it was one of those assholes that glared at him, so he didn't feel too bad about making him pale by degrees the longer the interview went. Today he had to submit it to Jiji, but he would do that after he got his new weapons.
(Maybe glaring at the man like he was plotting on how to tar and feather him when he mentioned how much he liked traps and didn't like people that glared at him for no reason was too much. (Naruto had no idea he looked like he was contemplating disembowling the man with his own writing utensils))
Either way, weapons!
With Gama-chan nice and chubby, Naruto made his way to old man Isamu's weapon shop. He was pretty much the only blacksmith in the area that gave him a decent deal, got him 'special' items at discounted prices from out the back. Naruto nearly took Iruka-sensei's foot off with the last kunai set the guy gave him, Iruka screeched about how off balance they were, but Isamu said they had seals in there that used complex fuuton manipulation that guided them straight at people. Naruto had tested it out and everything! It always curved towards someone whenever he threw it at a target – one time it nearly killed a poor kitty and a group of genin all shouted at him for animal abuse.
Naruto wanted another set of those! Especially if he was going to be going on active missions now!
He was lucky this time, last time Isamu didn't have any in stock, this time he had a whole ten kunai and thirty shuriken that he'd kept hold of just for Naruto himself!
Isamu was the best!
Hokage Jiji though...
He stared at Naruto's I.D. for a long time, something complicated on his face, before he looked up and lifted an eyebrow, "It seems you were upset yesterday. Is there anything you would like to tell me, Naruto-kun?" he asked gently, ignoring the short glance from the Chuunin beside him who quickly busied himself with a bunch of papers instead of comment.
He wrinkled his nose, "Eh, no one believed me when I said I graduated. But I'll show 'em! Uzumaki Naruto is gunna be Hokage, Dattebayo! You just keep my hat warm for me, I'll be taking it any day now!" he exclaimed boisterously.
The louder you were, the less people looked.
Hokage Jiji was the only exception as he stared for a long time and blinked slowly. Naruto wasn't fooling him much, but he let it go all the same. Like always.
"I see. Your papers are in order, and your Identification is acceptable. Be back here tomorrow at nine o'clock for your graduation ceremony and team assignments," Sarutobi explained, taking a sheet of paper from the Chuunin next to him, writing something on the bottom, and handing it over.
Naruto beamed and quickly snatched it up – scrawled in the bottom corner was a time and the words 'Ichiraku Ramen'.
"Today I stand before you, not only as your Hokage, but as an old man who is very proud of you. One who knows the future of this great village is secure in the next generation.
"I look upon you, the new leaves of this great tree, and I see the Will of Fire burning bright within your eyes. A flame to warm our home, and burn all who would seek to do it harm, and I am assured that I place our future into the best hands to see it flourish and grow to even greater heights than before.
"Congratulations Genin, and welcome to the ranks of the Konohagakure no Sato military forces."
Naruto didn't know a single person within the classroom he had been assigned to after the ceremony that morning. Jiji had given them all some flowery speech about the future, trees, fire, and duty – Naruto kind of tuned most of it out in all honesty. The old geezer could really talk for an age and a half.
He recognised several of them from when he took the exams. The girl with buns, the annoying calm boy, the really nervous one with the braid, the two boys on the backrow that nearly got thrown out for choking each other before they got called in, and one or two other people who had some rather... distinctive tastes in fashion.
Taking a deep breath and shaking his hands out, Naruto made his way to one of the empty seats and got comfortable. He'd heard that they went through the lists in number order, and with nearly thirty to forty students in a class, it would be about ten to thirteen teams to be announced and collected. He might be here for a while. He wondered what kind of team he would end up on. Iruka-sensei pegged him as a trap-ninjutsu specialist, so he was genuinely curious. Would he end up on a scout-recon team? Combat first response?
The door banged open and a Chuunin Naruto had never seen before marched in, his wide face had narrow eyes and dark hair hidden under a black bandanna with the leaf symbol on his forehead. He slammed a hand down on the desk and grinned challengingly at them all.
"Welcome to the first day of the rest of your lives! Today I'm putting your sorry asses into teams of three so listen up! When I call your name, you park your asses where you are and wait for your Jounin sensei to come and pick you up!" he barked enthusiastically at them all, several of the genin unconsciously straightening up in their seats under his stare. The man nodded shortly in satisfaction before straightening up and producing a clipboard from – somewhere, and beginning to read names off.
"Team One! Akamatsu Ken, Kishimoto Masashi, Oda Eiichiro!
"Team Two! Kawahara Reki, Yamada Koutarou, Rock Lee!
"Team Three! Hyuga Neji, Mitsutoshi Tenten, Uzumaki Naruto!"
Naruto immediately tuned out the rest of the introductions as he looked around the room for his new teammates, the bun headed girl waved cheerfully at him and mouthed 'I'm Tenten, nice to meet you' from her seat. Naruto felt hope swell in his chest and beamed at her, 'nice to meet you too, I'm Naruto' he returned. If it were possible to shout while mouthing to someone, that would have been the general impression he gave. Thankfully, instead of getting annoyed with his enthusiasm like the girls in his class would have, Tenten just grinned at him and pointed back to the sensei as he continued listing names and turned her attention away.
Naruto was practically dancing in his seat, he had one super awesome teammate already! He wondered who Hyuuga Neji was... Must have been a guy judging by the name. Same clan as the quiet girl in his class, Hinata, so that meant pale skin, dark hair, and white eyes – oh no.
His heart sank as his eyes landed on the only individual in the class that description actually matched.
The quiet popular guy he was pretty sure he already didn't like.
Well, maybe he was being quick to judge, maybe. He could be quite nice, Naruto didn't know a damn thing about him, and hadn't he been judged by everyone around him for some reason and hated for it when he was, in fact, actually very awesome? He should be fair and judge his teammate on his own merit, instead of how everyone around him behaved. Tenten was awesome, maybe he would get super lucky and have two awesome teammates. Maybe.
(He made a mental note to brace himself all the same.)
"Alright, that's all of you in teams and shut the hell up you can't change them I don't care if you don't like each other deal with it!" the Sensei roared across the room before any of his students could open their mouths to object. Naruto heard the sound of multiple teeth clacking back together behind him as mouths were hastily shut. "Now, I'll introduce your Jounin instructors after lunch so until the- "
The door exploded open in a green blur.
Chapter one FINISHED. Had to end it with Gai, there was literally no other way.
Okay, important note for the fic:
The way Kishimoto treated Naruto in the series was absolutely criminal. He literally dumbed the kid down so far he may as well have never either lived in Konoha or been to the Academy. It works to give maximum world-building exposition where the other characters now have a reason to explain the world to him, but it also ruins the character world-building because it makes the integral piece, Naruto himself, completely divorced from everything around him.
Also, as a flat out, I have never watched the anime. So don't expect filler relevant stuff here. If it wasn't in the book, I don't class it as canon. Deal with it.
So, I'll be rewriting Naruto's character to no longer exist within the vacuum that Kishimoto created solely for exposition. He'll be involved. He will know things about people, places, procedures, etc. Not only that, but he's a young boy, the village pariah, who has been living alone since childhood. Boy knows how to take care of himself, he has twisted social awareness, things that may be normal are astounding to him, things that are astounding to others are normal to him. Just bare with me on this. I promise I'm not just throwing shit at the walls to see what sticks, I've got stuff already foreshadowed for later on and – yeah.
Hope you guys enjoy the rest of the fic, there will be slash, Tenten is aro/ace and awesome just the way she is – so don't expect pairings with her. I don't intend to bash anyone, but bear in mind they're all young and dumb, they will grow. So while I apologise now, I will straight up say nothing here is meant as a bash.