Disclaimers 'n stuff: I don't own Naruto, or any of its characters (unless some that I've invented for the purpose of this fic, of course). I am aware that there may be several grammatical errors in this text; English is my second language after all. I am also fully aware of that I completely suck at describing things... This goes for all chapters of this story, also. I'm not going to write this troublesome shit before every chapter. Heck, I'm too lazy to even copy it!

I've read up to chapter 220 in the manga, and this fic more or less goes AU after there since I have no idea what is about to happen. This fic is based on me assuming that Naruto manage to bring Sasukes sorry ass back to Konoha, and that Chouji in fact died. Neji survived though (I like his character too much!) but was forced off duty/training for six months.

Summary: Tenten, now an 18 years old Chuunin, takes her first step as ANBU. Never did she imagine that a certain (ex?)-loudmouth would be her new teams captain.

Pairings: Naruto x Tenten (d'uh). Other eventual pairings will be kept as surprise for now, because I'm evil and I honestly don't have any other couples planned, sorry. I can, however, say that there will be NO SakuSasu in this fic. Reason? Sasuke is stupid. And no, I do not wish to explain that further, nor do I wish to get into an argument about that fact.

"...": Speech

Italics: Thoughts

Bold: Kyuubi

Bold & Italics: Naruto talking (mentally) to Kyuubi

Behind a Mask

Chapter 00: Prologue, sort of

The actual fic will be some years in the future, this will just be a brief little something to let everyone know what has happened from the 'Sasuke incident' arc and one and a half-year (three Chuunin exams) later.

"Winner of this years exam; Rock Lee!"

The referee's announcement was followed by a massive amount of cheering and clapping from all over the stadium. As usual, a large crowd from all of the 'friendly' hidden villages - not just Konoha, had come to watch the Chuunin exam. It was after all, one of the biggest events that occurred every six months.

Most of the cheering, however, came from one source. "LEEEEEE! THE POWER OF YOUTH HAS PREVAILED ONCE AGAIN! YOU HAVE SHOWN THE WORLD WHAT THE GREEN BEASTS OF KONOHA ARE MADE OF! I'M SO PROUD OF YOU, LEE!" A tall man, dressed completely in green, screamed at the top of his lungs as he clumsily made his way down to the winner, over the crowd. The man had a distinct and unique bobbed haircut and huge eyebrows.

"GAI-SENSEI!" Rock Lee yelled, tears streaming down from his eyes, as soon he heard the praise from his mentor and role model.

"LEE!" Gai yelled once again and embraced his student in a huge that lasted too long for everyone's comfort. The two of them, of course, was oblivious to that fact.

The cheering and clapping died down for a minute, to be replaced by an awkward silence as the thousands of people in the crowd looked at the pair.

"Why do the always have to do that?!" a white haired man whined in the middle of the crowd.

"Yeah... You know, they've always been like that." A blonde boy next to him said. Uzumaki Naruto, after constant pleas from his mentor, the Legendary Jiraiya, had traded his bright orange jumpsuit for a traditional Konoha uniform and a Chuunin vest. Not only was it easier on the eye, but also better suited for missions where stealth was an important factor. He had changed the clothes slightly though, adding the Uzumaki Clan symbol; a red swirl with white outlines, at the front and back. He had also removed his forehead protector from his forehead to tie it around the upper part of his right leg, over a bandage that was already there.

He had been Chuunin for exactly a year now. After six months under the Legendary Pervert's tutelage, the dead-last ninja had proved his strength by passing his second Chuunin exam easily together with Temari and Gaara from the Sand. During this year, and half a year before it, much had happened and changed. He had permanently left his team; Team Seven, to train with Jiraiya and do missions, leaving most of his old friends behind. He had tried hard for three months to get his team back on track after the incident with Sasuke leaving for Sound Village, but Sasuke never forgave him for 'rescuing' him. Instead the raven-haired boy just hated him more, and one day Naruto had decided that enough was enough.

For the Chuunin exam he had gotten paired, by the Hokage herself - for a reason only she knew off, with Gaara and Temari from the Sand instead. He thought this wasn't going to be much better - but he was thankfully proven wrong. They both listened to him and respected him, which was something that had never happened before. The three of them had proved to be a winning concept. With Naruto's and Gaara's raw power, and Temari's observational skills, they had easily passed the first and second stage of the exam. In the third stage; the tournament, Gaara and Naruto made it to the final. Neither of them would give up and after a long and eventful match they both knocked each other out. So it ended as a tie but all three of them passed.

Team Seven and Eight didn't participate in that Chuunin exam. Sasuke wasn't even allowed to participate in it for one year as punishment for trying to abandon Konoha. With Chouji dead and Shikamaru already a Chuunin, that left Ino and Sakura together without a teammate.

"Ne, Ero-sensei, who do you think will pass this year?" Jiraiya had urged Naruto to start calling him sensei instead of Ero-sennin and Naruto had eventually started calling him Ero-sensei. Jiraiya of course still wasn't completely satisfied but was somewhat happy with the improvement, however small it might be.

Jiraiya gave the young blonde a troubled look before answering. "I regret to say this, but Lee will definitely pass." He paused briefly to shrug. "He's definitely Chuunin level as far as strength is concerned and showed some decent planning today. I'd say his teammate, whatever her name was, would pass too."

"Knowing you, you were too busy staring at her to notice her name, you sick pervert."

"Hey, don't call me that in public! And you know I owe my fans a new book soon." He finished and gave Naruto a look that could only be described as either mentally unstable or perverted.

After a while he took on a more serious approach. "You know, this past one and a half-year you've grown rapidly and the only thing I've got left to teach you are some Jutsu's, Jutsu's you're probably not completely ready for yet. Therefore, me and Tsunade have come to the conclusion that it's time for you to take another step in your personal growth?"

"What do you mean?" The blonde boy asked as he curiously eyed his mentor.

"There's things even I, the Legendary Jiraiya - strongest of the three, can't teach you. Things that gotta come naturally. You see that guy down there?"

"Genma, the referee?"

"Yeah... He's also a Jounin and ANBU-Captain. Apparently they, the ANBU, have had your name on a list for possible recruits. Starting tomorrow, you'll join them - or more specifically Genmas team - working half time..." He looked at the blonde boy from the corner of his eye to look for some kind of reaction. Wait a minute, nothing? This can't be good... Ahhh, there it is. He chuckled slightly. Three... Two...


"Didn't you hear what I just said..." That slight chuckle was about to evolve into a mad laughter.

"Yeah... But..." Naruto clearly didn't now how to react to this. It was a little too much information for his 14-year-old brain to comprehend.

"But why?"

"Uh-huh, yeah... Why?"

"Geez, that's exactly why... You're too dense. You've got quite a lot of firepower, probably about upper-chuunin level, which is great for your age but that doesn't make you a good Shinobi. It isn't all about Jutsu's or chakra or anything like that. You need structure, experience, and there's no shortcut to that. You also need to socialize more, be a part of a team again. Ever since you quit Team Seven, which was a good choice in my opinion, you haven't let anyone into your life with the exception of me, Iruka and maybe Tsunade. They are both worried about you, me too - though I hate to admit it, and this is the best way to go, believe me."

"Don't I even get a say in all of this?"

"No, not really. Tough, huh?"

"But... what about our training? You're just going to abandon me in favor of some perverted book?"

"I'll still train ya once in a while, punk. During weekends and so on. But I got some of my own missions to attend to also you know, so I haven't got time to train you that much either. Konoha is still being rebuilt from after the aftermath of the Sound invasion and Orochimaru is still alive too. We don't know when to expect another assault."

"I can understand that, but why the ANBU?"

"Why not? It'd be good for you, really. Trust me on that, kid."

"You know I've never been able to trust you, right?" Naruto replied with a grin.

AN: Hope you found it interesting. And yeah, I'm pretty much well aware of that it's stiff and boring, but it's only meant to present a reason for Naruto to join the ANBU. That, and to show what Naruto has been up to one and a half year after the current storyline, which would be chapter 220.

From this to chapter one everything will have fast-forwarded three more years, which would make Naruto seventeen, ironically enough, my age :D

I can tell you this much, though. As of now, I haven't really planned in any of the other Genins in this fic. If any of the others do make an appearance, it will probably just be minor roles.

Revised 07-15-2004. Thanks to document manager, as well as me being oblivious, several '-' and ',' came out as '?'. Also changed my error regarding the Chuunin exam, as well as that repeated paragraph.