Command Performances

Seated around the table, the four Jounin instructors attempted to find anything to speak about but what was truly on their minds. Their young students were currently in the middle of the second part of the Chuunin exam and their teachers were all aware of the dangers that they were facing. The coffee on the table had long gone cold as they sat in silence. A silence that was suddenly broken by Asuma.

"This is ridiculous," Asuma said, stamping out another cigarette in the overflowing tray. "We were the ones that put them into the exams. I, for one, am confident in my team's abilities to pass this exam."

Kurenai looked over at him with little emotion in her face. "We are all confident of our students. It doesn't make waiting any easier."

"Kakashi seems to be doing just fine," Asuma said, nodding to the masked jounin who was staring into the pages of his Icha Icha Paradise.

"He's been on the same page for an hour," Kurenai pointed out.

Kakashi blinked and put down the book. "That's only because I have had a great idea."

"I have a better one!" Gai suddenly spoke up, leaning forward with a glint in his eye. Kakashi's expression never changed. "But I will hear yours first so that mine is even more magnificent in defeating it."

Kakashi's mask moved as he smiled slightly behind it. "Waiting here, I was just reminded of my own chuunin exams and the missions that followed. Especially the one when I was first given command."

"Kakashi getting nostalgic? I never thought you cared that much about the past," Asuma said. Or enough to know about ours, he added to himself.

Kurenai watched Kakashi, wondering what the more experienced Jounin was thinking. Kakashi was so private and kept so many things to himself. Why would he suddenly want to open up and talk about something like this? Besides, her first mission was nothing spectacular. Actually it was more of a spectacular disaster.

"Of course," Kurenai said out loud.

"Eh?" Asuma asked, pulling out another cigarette.

"I think I see where Kakashi is going with this," Kurenai replied.

"Where?" Asuma asked.

Kurenai sighed. "Why don't you start off?"

"Me?" Asuma asked, earning a glare from Kurenai for yet another question. "Oh… sure," he shrugged, taking a big drag of his cigarette. "Let's see my first command was about three months after the exams were over. I had a partner with me, a cute kunoichi with a tight red dress."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Asuma's Story ~~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There was fog, a lot of fog. So much fog that you could barely see three inches in front of you. I had worn the trench coat because it looked like rain but the fedora on my head was still dry. But you could never be too careful. This town was on the outskirts of Mist territory and the weather could be tricky.

I watched her come through the fog, a little red beacon amidst the sea of gray. She said she had finally gotten the information. Three months of working and waiting for this moment and she's sauntering towards me like there was all the time in the world.

The dame finally reaches me and hands me the envelop, the small smile on her face suggesting that she might have more to give me if I wanted it. I might have but a kunai suddenly appeared in her shoulder and I realized my chance was gone, along with my cover.

I took her over my shoulder and pulled into the fog, throwing kunai as we ran. The broad was out cold but I figured she'd make it, so long as we caught the last train out of this hell hole and made it back to…

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"Hey!" Asuma protested as Kurenai reached forward and pulled the cigarette from his fingers. The three jounin leaned in and took a deep breath of the smoke.

"It is just tobacco," Gai announced sure of himself.

"What else was it going to be!" Asuma yelled as he snatched it back.

"Well, after a story like that…" Kurenai started.

"It's a true story," Asuma stated. "Well… maybe I did embellish it a bit."

"Let me guess," Kakashi said, putting a finger to his chin. "Your assignment was a simple recon so you spent most of your time reading detective novels."

Asuma appeared a bit flustered and then broke out into a smile as Kakashi held up his own book.

"Ridiculous," Kurenai said shaking her head. "But not surprising. Since you take most of your assignments lightly now it shouldn't be a surprise that your first assignment weren't any different."

Asuma balked a bit at her words but then shook his head. "Then maybe the newest Jounin should show us how it's done."

Kurenai glared back at him and nodded. "Well unlike your earth-shattering mission, mine was very simple. Get into a Fire Lord's manor and retrieve a scroll."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Kurenai's Story ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

There was a gala that evening. The manor was so crowded that the Hokage decided it would be the best time to make the heist since they'd be distracted. We had managed to blackmail one of the other lords into taking me as his date. I think it cost them less to do that then it cost them to buy my dress. But then, you had to do things right and I couldn't been seen in anything but the best. Plus the Hokage figured we could just return it after the party.

I think it was the most glamorous dress I had ever seen. Long and silver, sweeping the ground when I walked. I'm pretty sure that if we hadn't had my date on such a tight leash, he wouldn't have been as well behaved as he was.

When we arrived, I told my two subordinates to wait in the back. I'd just drop the scroll from one of the windows once I had it and then walk out normally. It was a perfect plan.

I waited for about an hour before I went searching. I had my story worked out, poor girl lost in the big house looking for the bathroom. And it was a big house. After searching seven rooms, I was sure that I was never going to find the scroll. But as luck would have it the eighth room turned out to be a study with it there, encased in glass.

It didn't look like there were any alarms and sure enough when I lifted the glass, nothing happened. I grabbed the scroll and was about to head out when I realized there was someone at the door.

It was the lord of the manor and he was looking at me like he had just caught me in the act. Turns out it was a different type of predatory look. Seems like the dress was a big hit and when I wasn't in the main room anymore he had come looking for me.

I don't know what they teach nobles these days, but this one had no class. He started spouting out something that sounded like poetry, made a few promises and I had to keep a straight face or else blow my cover. I tried to excuse myself but the idiot wouldn't let me go. He figured that a few lines of bad rhyming were enough to warrant a pinch on my ass.

I smacked him, out of instinct more then anything else and that's when he realized I had the scroll in my hand. He called out for the guards and I pushed him to the ground. He had a good grip on me so as he fell, I heard the fabric tear and suddenly a third of my dress was gone.

So much for returning it, I suppose. I left the fabric with him and took off, figuring that the scroll was more important then a couple of hundred thousand yen. And actually, having most of the bottom gone made it much easier to run.

The guards didn't take long to catch up and I didn't take too long to get lost. I got pinned down in a hallway and had to fight my way out. My hand to hand is excellent so I didn't receive too much damage. Unfortunately, the dress had quickly degraded into a sleeveless one.

With a bit of my dignity intact, I managed to get to the window. My subordinates were down there so I quickly tossed the scroll to them. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to leave the normal way so I went to jump.

One of the guards managed to grab me by the back of the dress. He's holding, on trying to get a better grip and I'm trying to get away when all of a sudden there's a loud tearing noise and…

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Kurenai stopped suddenly finally noticing the expressions on the faces of her audience. Asuma's cigarette had burned down to the edge of his fingers. Kakashi book was hanging limply in his hand. And for a moment, it looked like Gai was more interested in something other then himself.

"And I got away," she finished quickly.

"What happened to the dress?" Kakashi asked, and the two other men nodded.

Kurenai held her tongue and managed not to call them all perverts. "I was unable to return it."

The three men's faces fell and they took several minutes to regain their composure. Once they had, Gai leapt up upon realizing it was his turn.

"I have an excellent story to tell! It is the first tale of my magnanimous leadership abilities."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Gai's story ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It begins on a perfect day, one to match the abilities that I have set. My rival Kakashi had just lost to me and as a result, I was granted the chance to lead this very important mission. One which was destined to change the face of Konoha forever. I took the mission knowing full well the danger it possessed and chose my subordinates carefully, outfitting them in state of the art armor. But even with the best weapons they were still scared. So I felt it my duty to deliver a stirring speech about the honor of being a ninja and of being placed under my command. I spoke of the history of…

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"How long did this speech go on?" Asuma whispered to Kakashi.

Kakashi looked over at the gesticulating Gai and raised an eyebrow. "I'm not sure it ever stopped."

Kurenai let out a soft laugh and it was enough to force Gai to pause in his story. "I'm sorry," Kurenai said, attempting to control her laughter.

"Exactly what mission did you get assigned?" Asuma asked.

"It was a dangerous trip to the Southern most part of the Fire Country," Gai stated.

"To retrieve a kidnapped dog," Kakashi filled in.

"It is not as simple as it sounds," Gai retorted.

"True, your troops had to endure a week long trip down and a week long trip back," Kakashi replied.

"And do I dare ask what this 'state of the art' armor was," Kurenai asked.

"Green jumpsuit," Kakashi and Gai said at the same time. The masked ninja smiled slightly while his rival glared a bit.

"Before we have another fight break out," Kurenai broke in. "Why don't you go ahead Kakashi."

"Ah, my first command," the silver haired jounin started. "I was much younger then the rest of you of course. Still, I was in charge of almost a dozen young ninjas."

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Kakashi's Story ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My first command was also a retrieval mission. However it was not in as glamorous a location as Kunerai's. It was actually in the slums of a nearby city, a place that was filled with misfits and crooks, the bottom of the barrel.

Most of my troops froze before we even entered the final sector. I had to leave them behind and continue on with my bravest. But after a few minutes, most of them had frozen up and run back to join the others.

Suddenly I was alone. But I knew that I had to go on despite this. This mission was important and I had to finish it. I meandered my way through a few back alleys and finally reached the rendezvous spot. The contact was there waiting, getting more nervous by the second. I quickly made the transaction and he disappeared.

I smelled a trap so I ran as fast as I could. I didn't stop until I reached the rest of my group. They were cheering me for the last bit and when I reached them, I was hoisted up on their shoulders and they carried me all the way back.

Once we reached, the academy, I produced the item and we spent a glorious afternoon examining it.

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"I know I'll regret this but," Kurenai began. "What exactly did you get?"

Kakashi smiled and held up his Icha Icha Paradise. "Volume 1. The day it was published."

Asuma let out a laugh. "Only Kakashi's first mission would involve buying dirty magazines."

"This is ridiculous," Gai stated. "That is not a first command mission!"

Kakashi shrugged. "I organized it."

"Your troops were a bunch of teenage academy boys," Gai retorted.

"And they were more loyal to me then yours were."

"It wasn't even dangerous!" Gai exclaimed.

"Of course it was," Kakashi stated simply. "The only place an underage genin could get it was in the red light district in Burikan about three miles away."

"And I'm sure traveling through there was just so difficult," Kurenai quipped. Kakashi gave her a slight smile.

"Ridiculous," Gai decided. "My mission was far superior then yours. As have all missions since then. That is why I can defeat you in anything."

"And what was our score again?" Kakashi asked.

"First one to 200 laps around the village wins!" Gai stated, ignoring Kakashi.

Kakashi glared at him for a moment before standing up. "Ready. On the count of three. One, two…"

Before he even said three they disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Kurenai coughed and waved her hand to dissipate it. Asuma remained unaffected.

"Those two will never change," Kurenai said. "They're still teenage boys competing with each other over the stupidest things."

"That's true," Asuma said, taking a big drag of cigarette. He looked over at Kurenai. "So… now that we're alone…" Kurenai paused and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. "I was wondering… about that dress…"

Kurenai sighed. Apparently none of them would ever change.