Disclaimer: looks at audience pointedly What do you think? I don't own anything, really.
WARNINGS: Mild language (because they do mildly cuss in the anime/manga, mom.), plus, AU.
Dai 1 Wa - The Special Request!
Uzumaki Naruto was a very unique child in many ways. He was hardly the sharpest kunai in the pouch, but could spawn a pretty decent strategy in a tight situation. In public places, he was loud; and his in-your-face attitude had tendency to annoy the living daylights out of most people. Alone with no family from the day he was born, Naruto naturally had to defend, and teach himself. Which basically led to very odd happenings, indeed.
For example, at the moment, the blonde bombshell was clumsily bounding from rooftop to rooftop, narrowly avoiding a deadly fall, cursing the heavens and… trying to get dressed.
Granted, the first ten seconds of his morning were normal enough. Trapped in a dreamy haze and burying his face into his pillow to avoid the harsh rays of the sun, mentally begging for just a few more minutes… but of course, the nagging thing in the back of his head persuaded him to at least turn over and look at the clock.
Damn that stupid voice. Sometimes it gave him reason to believe it had more evil intent than even the Kyuubi.
Upon discovering his presence was required at cell seven's meeting spot in less than five minutes, Naruto's body made a hasty attempt to fling himself out of the window as not to be late. Thankfully, his mind had caught up and he had just barely managed to pull his person back to the safety of his apartment.
The memories of his daily routine blurred together, and now that he thought about it, perhaps that was a good thing. Kami knew he didn't want to deal with the state of his home at the day's end. So now, here he was, sprinting for all he was worth to get to the little bridge that had become the spot where his day really started. Missions were assigned, names were taken and ass was supremely kicked.
But Naruto had yet to accomplish the task of actually arriving. So, instead of getting ahead of himself, the blonde teen concentrated on yanking a black tee over his head and evading getting tangled in some telephone lines.
Still zigzagging high above the streets, all but a mere flash of vibrant colors, Naruto stuffed the last handful of dry ramen into his mouth while trying not to choke. On any other day, had he been late under a slightly different set of circumstances, Naruto wouldn't have made such an extreme effort to be on time. Because, of course, the elite jounin that taught cell seven was none other than the notorious Copy-Nin Kakashi. The sole reason that Naruto was rushing was because he was going to be late… even by Kakashi's pathetic standards. He would never be able to live it down if that old fart showed face before he did.
With a great burst of speed, Naruto willed himself to move at a more rapid pace, bidding occupants of the street below to glance up, leaving only a over-exuberant war cry and unsettled dust in his wake.
A pair of black eyes opened suddenly, quickly scanned the area in their line of vision, then once again closed, either satisfied with or analyzing the information. One might have assumed that Uchiha Sasuke had fallen asleep leaning against the wooden railing of the small bridge if they had missed that minute action. If he was a lesser person, he just might have dozed off; no one dared bother him, (not even Sakura, who found her time better used by grumbling about 'annoyingly late teachers' and the subject of 'Naruto' in general.) Plus, he probably wouldn't even fall over. Sleeping in trees for a week on a mission did that to you. (a class B mission, actually. Sasuke had to admit, Naruto had quite a knack for sucking up to the new Hokage. That was the only possible explanation; it was deadly obvious that the woman didn't have a weak spot in her being.)
Speaking of which, Naruto was really late. He usually came trudging up the walking trail at the same time as Sakura, each from opposite sides, then Naruto would cheer out the typical 'Good morning, Sakura-chan!'. Sasuke would be relabeled 'teme' once again, (the nickname courteously given by the blonde.) Sakura would leave a sizable dent in Naruto's head for 'speaking to Sasuke-kun like that', then the waiting for Kakashi sensei would commence. Over the time that Sasuke had been teamed up with his two teammates, he had learned parts of their behavioral patterns.
For instance, if Sakura was grumbling like she was now, she was very irritable. If instead she chose to pry through Sasuke's cold layers and endeavor to strike up a conversation, there were two possible emotions. The pink haired girl was either in a pleasant, cheery mood, or worse (Kami forbid,) she was worried about the young Uchiha. Sasuke supposed that he held some kind of guilt-ridden respect for his only female team member, though. After all, she was only trying to look out for him when she could. It wasn't like she had many chances to save him while a bloody battle was orchestrated, or when his ambition to become powerful blinded him to reason…
But, nonetheless, it irked Sasuke to no end, her worrying.
At least she wasn't talking.
Kakashi sensei, however, was so open he was mysterious. Sasuke had no idea how he pulled it off, but all he knew about the man was that had a love affair with the infamous smutty book, 'Icha Icha Paradise', he enjoyed averting questions about anything remotely personal, and he rarely ever got mad. Unless he was faking… or if the jounin was protecting something dear to him. The fight in Wave Country was one of the only times Sasuke had seen his teacher really, truly serious. Heck, who wouldn't be? Kakashi sensei had just passed his first team of genin ninja, and they had been given the mission to protect the old bridge master on his way back home. Complications about the mission rating were discovered, and they revealed that the task deserved the most dangerous rating-- an A class. He had been responsible for the lives of the trio, and was ready to sacrifice himself for their safety. He had covered up by telling them to accomplish the mission and protect Tazuna-san at all costs, but the look in his eyes was undeniable. Kakashi had been truly frightened.
Yet, somehow, they had all come out of the situation stronger, and a better team. Even though, as Kakashi noted, the teamwork part didn't catch up until later.
And Naruto, well…
Sasuke's ears perked at the sound of hasty footsteps grinding on loose gravel. He calmly raised his head and spotted the said blonde shinobi making a mad dash towards Sakura and the dark haired boy. Naruto's face was twisted into an expression of mortal fear, and he was flailing his arms quite comically as he sped up the dirt path. The Uchiha spared a glance to the other side of the bridge, observing the nonchalant sensei with his silver hair seemingly sprouting up from the pages of the little orange book, as his face was doubly hid by it's covers, stroll up as though he had just wandered there by mere chance.
Which he probably had, given the man's incompetence with time.
Sasuke sighed mentally; this same routine had been played through numerous times, though with some tiny changes, (like Naruto's lateness today) for years. But now that Team Seven had 'grown up' after all three members graduated to chuunin level naught but a year ago, it was unusual for Kakashi to call a meeting. Sasuke found it quite amusing that Kakashi had yet to pass another group of genin in that year, now that his former team were all now sixteen years of age. (Well, Naruto would turn sixteen in a few months, and he always took offence of being called the 'baby' of the team.)
The Uchiha's eyes dark, and flickering in a parody of entertainment, he watched Naruto forcefully insist that he had beaten his former teacher… who, of course, wasn't listening. The blond had matured over the years, both physically and behaviorally. He was still as hotheaded as ever, still loud, still insanely stubborn. And he still wore that ludicrous shade of orange, though he had since purchased some better-fitting clothes. Deciding it was a good time to end Naruto's time-wasting and rather pointless yelling, Sasuke spoke up, "Do we have a new mission, Kaka-sensei?"
Even after all that time, he still used that respectful embellishment on the man's name. And why not? Kakashi, he supposed, was still his teacher, really. When the final stage of the Sharingan was setting in Sasuke's left eye, it had hurt like hell, unlike when the first and second comma-like dots had appeared.
Naruto had been with him, training for their (successfully passed attempt at) chuunin exam. Sasuke had ground out through gritted teeth that Naruto should get Kakashi. He knew that the pain had something to do with the Sharingan, so the silvery haired man had really been the most obvious choice. Kakashi had come, inspected, and said that it was as normal as he himself could remember. The final stage was the most powerful, so it only made sense that it should hurt. Sasuke had cursed himself at needless worrying, but took a little condolence in the fact that Naruto, too, had seemed more than a bit nervous over the whole affair.
"Ano… Hokage-sama wants to see all three of you. I think she has a mission for you two." Kakashi declared, closing his book and using it to point to Naruto and Sasuke before replacing it back in his vest pocket. "And I believe she wants to initiate Sakura into the academy today, ne, Sakura?" The pink haired girl smiled brightly; she had been training hard (mostly under Lee's guidance), but had ultimately decided to help out Iruka at the academy. She had explained that she would definitely still be a part of team seven, and thus be there for her friends if needed, but, she had always thought teaching one of her more attuned abilities.
Naruto gave a happy whoop and congratulated his crush-turned-friend with a face-stretching smile. She blushed lightly when Sasuke added, good naturedly, that she was lucky Konohamaru and friends had already graduated.
Curious about the mission, Naruto pondered aloud, seemingly not caring if anyone heard, "I wonder if Tsunade no baa-chan is giving us an ANBU mission?" There was a moment of contemplative silence. "Bah! If she gives us another stupid mission like the time we had to go all the way out into the middle of nowhere to contain a rabid bear cub, I'm going to take over her position right away! It wouldn't have been as bad if she hadn't lied and said it was an 'important, highly dangerous' mission! Stupid old hag…" he trailed off bitterly.
Kakashi heaved a sigh, fruitlessly chastising Naruto that he shouldn't be so disrespectful, unless he wanted Hokage-sama to 'string him up by his ears'. Naruto 'harrumphed'. Sasuke snorted and sadly regarded the possibilities of getting an ANBU ranked mission…
Shortly after they had become chuunin, Naruto and Sasuke had promised each other to become stronger that year, and for many years after. Gai noted one day, feigning somberness, as he 'examined Kakashi's pupils, as his arch rival', that the two pushed each other farther than what Kakashi should allow. Kakashi shrugged it off, saying that Gai was probably just jealous that he was such a wonderful teacher. Not far off, the pair had lain, exhausted, finally feeling the aftereffects of their 4-hour sparring match. Counting a quickly devoured lunch, of course.
The jounin exam, that took place barely six months after the chuunin, was frustratingly difficult. Most people, even those that had witnessed both of the boys' powers before, had doubted them immensely. But, as Naruto was always quick to point out, they had both worked very hard, pushing their limits farther and farther each day, ever since their first stab at the chuunin selection exam. Team seven had skipped a few chances to enter, many believed it was because the boys were giving Sakura some extra time, but in actuality, it was Naruto and Sasuke who had refused their own admission. They wanted to be at their best, and after hearing that mature statement from Naruto, Sakura had redoubled her efforts. She didn't want to hold them back any longer.
So, as Sakura, Sasuke and Naruto were on stand down unless they were absolutely needed, (Naruto had done some smooth talking to Tsunade), they practiced. Hard.
They had all passed with flying colors, Sakura gained the chuunin status she needed to become a teacher, and Sasuke and Naruto moved onto the jounin and ANBU tests, together.
And, as Naruto had later put it, the ANBU test was like 'trying to tell a fresh water minnow that there are, in fact, oceans outside of it's puddle.' Sasuke really didn't want to try to understand the statement farther than face value, but he guessed that Naruto was trying to say it was damned hard. But, thankfully, they had passed. They had to help each other a lot, but in the end, they had done it.
So, even after all their accomplishments? Hokage-sama had taken a liking to handing them D-ranked missions to 'make up for all that time they took training'. Plus, the ANBU usually moved in teams, and so far, Sasuke could see no sign that the rest of the team was coming along.
Sasuke looked up to see Naruto's shoulders sag, he apparently reached the same conclusion.
Naruto was having a really hard time restraining himself from just running over to the old hag's office. He really wanted to know what the mission included. And, his mind added, if Kaka-sensei decided to move any slower, he'd be going backwards. Noticing the plodding pace the group was set at, Naruto tried to get things going in his oh-so-subtle way.
"Can we please just move already?! If this mission is so important, I'm sure the old ha-- I mean, Tsunade-sama would want her two top shinobi on the case right away! Ne, Kaka-sensei?" Naruto tacked on a few revering suffixes onto the names, hoping that would help.
Kakashi faked the look of deep thought, then replied, "I guess I should go find those 'two top shinobi', then, before I'm yelled at for bringing you guys, ne?"
Sakura laughed vibrantly.
Sasuke took time to perfect the art of eye rolling.
Naruto snorted in indignation.
Kakashi actually thought.
'Tsunade-samadid say that mission was important, right? … Mou, I'm going to get yelled at for this, aren't I?'
The little perverted voice in the back of his head looked up from it's mentally projected version of 'Icha Icha Paradise' and agreed full heartedly.
"I think we should run, then." Kakashi replied, partly to the voice, and partly to his students. Naruto gave him an uncertain look, wondered briefly why Kakashi always said random things like that, and quickly took off, challenging Sasuke and Sakura to a race.
Sasuke accepted, already a good ten meters in front of the blond.
"Didn't I tell you specifically not. To. Be. Late?!" Tsunade's screech echoed heavily in Naruto's head.
Sasuke noted, with some relief for his teacher, that the man had the grace (and wits) to look ashamed.
"Well, you see, there was this parade right before I was going to cross the street…"
Sakura took a tally in a notebook she kept in her pocket. 'Two million, six hundred thousand, eight hundred and twenty… four!… Different excuses, and counting!' Pocketbooks, she learned from Lee, were very useful for jotting down things that one might not otherwise remember. With a cheery grin, she flipped the book closed and placed it carefully back insider her proudly worn chuunin vest.
"There was no parade! These two need to get to… to…" the woman's raging paused momentarily as she searched for some paperwork, came up empty-handed and continued "somewhere! And you had to be late!"
"Tsunade-sama? Maybe you should send Naruto and Sasuke on their way…" Sakura did her best to steer the furious woman back on the right track. Kakashi nodded to Sakura gratefully behind Tsunade's back. "… just so they aren't as late as they need be? Then you can start yelling at Kaka-sensei again." She giggled. Someone needed to teach him about being on time! Sakura was just there to… help a little. Kakashi drooped into a chair, before perking up and glancing suspiciously at the window.
Sasuke promptly slammed it shut and muttered something about there being a draft.
Kakashi slumped further into the chair. "Mou, you guys are so mean to your teacher…"
Tsunade glared at the silver haired jounin, obviously still angry, but seemed to catch her bearings about what needed to be done. She shoved a bundle of cloth with Naruto and Sasuke's porcelain masks sitting on top into their arms, respectively. "Go change in that room over there, I'll write up your mission papers explaining what you are to do."
Sasuke was already gone to change, so Naruto asked for both of them, "Aren't the rest of our team coming?"
Tsunade looked up, blotching ink on the paper in her rush. Distractedly, she replied, "No, the client specifically asked for our -- don't you dare let this go to your head brat -- 'strongest and most trustworthy'. And he didn't want many sent, either. You two work well together and --"
Sakura directed the elder woman's attention back to the paperwork. "Tsunade-sama, they can read that in their mission briefing."
"Right, right…" Waving Sakura's comment off with one hand, she began scribbling on the page of official looking paper.
Sasuke returned, fully uniformed, and Naruto literally skipped off to exchange his own clothes for his ANBU outfit.
Tsunade, with a flourish, signed her name at the end of the document, made a quick job of sealing it in an envelope so that no enemy could read it, and shoved it into Sasuke's grasp. Staring at the decorated animal face of the ANBU mask, she sternly instructed Sasuke, "Burn that as…"
"…soon as we read and understand all contents, or if opposing forces attempt to read it, we know, you old hag!" Naruto, donning a fox-like mask, (Naruto had rolled his eyes when he saw his assigned mask, Sasuke didn't know why), appeared at his dark haired comrade's side. "Can we go now?" Although he couldn't see, Sasuke was sure that Naruto was grinning. The young Uchiha slipped the envelope into the nearly invisible seam pocket of his white vest, ready for the mission.
Sakura really envied Sasuke and Naruto for their friendship and power, but when they stood together like that, Naruto radiating his catching smiles, and Sasuke countering with his amused nonchalance, they really were a team. And she was proud to be a part of that. Even when they left her behind on long missions, they always came back and made sure to make up for the time they had lost. (Well, Naruto mostly, but Sasuke enjoyed the little outings they had, though he refused to admit it.)
Naruto sighed a final time, "We won't die, you old hag, I still need to be Hokage, and he," Naruto gestured to the stoic boy standing beside him, "needs to get his ass kicked when we train later!"
Sasuke whapped a soft fist on the back of Naruto's head in retaliation, his hand coming to rest on the blonde's shoulder.
Tsunade exhaled quietly, before looking up with a smirk. "Fine then, but first…" she stepped back to her desk, and tossed a paperweight at Naruto, who caught it easily. "… hold that for me?"
They only had time to hear Tsunade's amused cackling before a hook seemed to pull forwards, just behind the navel, and everything blurred into a rush of color…
Woo, fun. (wrote this in about 3 hours total.)
EDIT: sorry for the double post; had to correct a few things.