Disclaimer: Solidly avoiding ownership and time lines since 2002.
Notes: In terms of criticism, I'm worried Kakashi might be too extreme at either end of the hard-arse/compassionate spectrum, but I figure someone who's been a graduated ninja for like twenty years and ISN'T DEAD, has to have something more than dumb luck, when compared to kids like Haku, who was admittedly stronger than Kakashi, but died at his hand at a stupidly young age (regardless of experience/situation), so he may be deified a little (or a lot. read: fangirl). Also I'm using this to work on my ensemble writing. My dialogue (especially group) tends to suck, and writing more than two people and remembering what they're all supposed to be doing and making sure that's clear - well, not strong points.
EDIT: 18/7/05: Ok, so now that this has turned into an actual story I thought it best to update the notes! XD This started off as a couple of experiments to try and beat Writer's Block of Doom, and it worked, lol. The first chapter, compared to the rest of this, is pure crack. Eventually I may get around to re-writing it.
Thanks for everyone who's given this story a chance, and so kindly offered your support and criticism. Criticism of any kind is welcome – butI am trying to improve my writing, so tips and suggestions would be appreciated!
Sharingan Kakashi, according to the latest rumours on Konoha's gossip vine, was losing his touch.
The Hokage herself had delivered stern reprimands to the Copy Nin on no less than three occasions, and although the official denouncements seemed to be for tardiness, inappropriate reading material on duty, and "unnecessarily creative mind games" involving his three, now infamous, students and a ball of twine, the Hidden Leaf's general feeling was that this was a too predictable, and therefore obviously false cover up.
Lounging in the sun by the training grounds, however, the elite Jounin seemed perfectly unaware of the scandal involving his last successful mission - successful only in the sense that although he had come back more than a little worse for wear, his S-class target had not come back at all. Immersed in what appeared to be the same edition of Icha Icha Paradise he had started several years ago, it took Kakashi many long moments to distinguish the change in focus of Naruto's yelling, Sasuke's brooding, and Sakura's worryingly contradicting Chakra patterns. It took a few moments more for Kakashi to actually bother to acknowledge the three.
"Kakashi-Sensei!" Sakura's squeals were reaching a dangerous pitch, reminding Kakashi nothing so much as of Tsunade reaching her more inventive methods of torture. "Have you listened to a word we've been saying?"
When no defensive grunt was forthcoming from the scowling Uchiha, the Copy Nin realised with a cold sort of dread that yes, all three of his Saanin trained, horribly repressed, borderline psychotic students were against him. After a calculating moment, the three young shinobi watched in a familiar tense sort of agony as their instructor calmly closed and pocketed his book, stretched out his legs and stood to attention before them. To a casual observer, that attentive stance would be better described as the Ultimate Slouch.
"Maa..." Kakashi slowly pushed his hands into his pockets, completing his 'professional look'. He nodded once, and his students immediately launched into rapid fire questions, probing and efficient. Kakashi listened absent mindedly as he mentally graded the three on their interrogation methods. Naruto seemed to be content using sheer volume and violent gesturing to intimidate his victim, and teamed with Sasuke's heated glare and carefully enunciated inserts, the Good-Cop-Bad-Cop routine they had stumbled across was startlingly effective. But the small beads of sweat dampening the back of Kakashi's cloth covered neck were inspired solely by Sakura's familiar tactics.
Standing close to her sensei - invading the victim's personal space. Effective - with hands clenched on her hips, the pink haired shinobi's sickeningly sweet voice - contrast between tone and manner putting victim off balance, nice. - caressed the threats rolling from her tongue. The combination of tactical positioning and - ooh, creative - questioning made Kakashi remember his own interrogation training. Of course, Konoha had been at open war then, much more actively than this residing pseudo-peace, and his training had been instigated on real missions in the field, but as a child he had used much the same method of intimidation.
Letting your enemy underestimate you before moving to dissect them had always been one of the Copy Nin's biggest strengths. Kakashi had used to pull his enemies down to eye level, nose to nose - or bury them in the earth when he'd finally learned that jutsu at the age of ten, and then casually lean down into their space - before 'politely suggesting' that they hand over any information that might aid the Leaf. Of course, the signature white, electric Chakra dancing on the young Hatake's fingertips may have been a small stimulus to his victims' helpfulness. Even Ibiki had freaked out the first time he'd seen that ivory spark. Strange unknown Chakra, when totally controllable, had a funny way of getting people to open up.
Kakashi had loved the sense of power interrogation had allowed him, as a child he'd craved that sense of control since the passing of his father. Now, however, having the Godaime's apprentice straining up to meet his exposed eye, he almost perhaps felt a vague smidgeon of guilt for all those times he'd 'practiced' on his superiors. No matter what the rank, having a kid literally scare the crap out of you had to hurt your pride - even if that kid was Yondaime's prodigal student.
As the heat of Sakura's glare plunged to sub-Arctic levels, Kakashi realised he'd drifted off again. Masking it with a scratch, the older nin lightly probed the fresh head wound he'd received on his last mission - hilt of a sword, cracking solidly on the skull, but his own desperate kick at a too-skilled enemy sending the potentially lethal blow off centre, meaning he is able to turn his flailing descent into a somewhat sloppy roll - low crouch into a high round-house kick pulled back just before contact to harshly jab his opponent's stomach, winding him, providing breathing space to get the fuck up and get a weapon... - After several hours of healing meditation, but very little actual sleep, the concussion should've passed. Kakashi mentally shrugged. Meh.
Seeing Kakashi's brief confusion, finished with an actual shrug, Sakura paused in the intimidation technique she had so recently mastered. Kakashi rarely displayed his thoughts or feelings to his team without there being some purpose behind it, Sakura had realised shortly after Team 7's reformation that everything was a lesson to the jounin unless stated otherwise. Actually - especially if stated otherwise.
Maybe he was wondering where she had learned such a technique? - they had not yet revisited interrogation in the team's training. Sakura had, in fact, been taught by none other than Morino Ibiki. She had sought him out after a casual suggestion from Jiraiya-Saanin during one of her lessons with the Godaime. She had been, while stitching a comatose shinobi's arm back together, complaining bitterly about Kakashi-Sensei's lateness, his perversion, and the rumours surrounding his injuries and recent conduct and capabilities. Jiraiya, lurking in the room, had scoffed at the rumours, merely replying that purest water could only be collected from the original spring. Tsunade-sama had preferred to change the subject, asking her young apprentice what she remembered of her Chuunin examiners - as that time of year was coming up again and she had yet to assign anyone to the tasks. Utilising Kakashi's life lessons flawlessly, Sakura remembered what she'd been told of the interrogation master, and rushed off, mid-stitch, to find the man, noticing neither the poorly suppressed grin on her mistress' youthful face nor the mumbled "underneath the underneath" from the amused pervert in the corner of the room.
While Ibiki had been grumpy and short of time, after explaining why she wanted to get answers from her sensei he enthusiastically taught her all she needed to know. With an almost lecherous grin, heightened fiercely by the multiple scars, Ibiki taught her a technique that was Special. According to Ibiki, it was designed for the Copy Nin.
However, it seemed Kakashi had improved his resilience; he refocused on his students as suddenly as he had drifted off. Holding up a hand and narrowing a lazy eye, all three students froze expectantly.
"Cute, but Sakura wins. Naruto and Sasuke, nice play, but you need to work in better synchronicity. Sakura, don't give up so easily. Always ensure the attention of your prey." Kakashi strode several paces away from the three, leaving them to wonder when their impatience had been turned into a lesson, before freezing mid-step to gaze over his shoulder. "Like I said, Sakura wins. As a prize you may ask me three questions, which I will answer truthfully." - Hook...
"Really?" If Sakura's screech of joy was loud, imagine how loud she was inside. Kakashi fought a smirk on instinct before realising they wouldn't see it anyway. Line..
"Yes. Two left." Sinker.
Hatake Kakashi grinned at the look of shocked dismay on his students' faces, before sauntering somewhat affectedly away from the training ground, nodding a greeting to Nara Shikamaru as he passed.
"Heading for my three?"
Shikamaru had an excellent mind, and after a recent mission working with the Chuunin Kakashi had grown to like the kid. Shikamaru was modest, brilliant, and didn't expect to be babied. He was also fantastically unmotivated, until Kakashi had explained his idea in the form of a Shogi strategy.
"Yes, Hatake-Sama." Shogi, it seemed, was the black-haired boy's weakness.
"Go easy on them." The Copy Nin's small grin, however, was slightly too evil for Shikamaru to fully disguise the shiver running up his spine.
Immediately after his Sensei's departure, Naruto rounded on his team mate. "What are you gonna ask him?" A distinct look of awe crossed the blonde's face. "You could ask him anything." A grin, slightly malicious. "You could ask him what's beneath his mask."
"Yo!" Shikamaru's greeting was ignored by all but Sakura, who waved distractedly.
"He'd say 'a face.' and then he'd lead you on to another pointless question." Sasuke piped in with practised disdain. "You have to be careful; he's out to trick us."
"You think he's always out to trick us." Scoffed the blonde shinobi, turning back to Sakura with an odd expression – more lustful than awe – fingers waggling in a strange imitation of his more perverse sensei. "You could ask why he wears the mask."
Shikamaru raised his eyebrow in interest.
"He is. Always. It's his life's work." Sasuke's face twisted into a smirk as he contemplated Naruto's suggestion. "And no, it's not enough."
Naruto whipped his head round from where he was leering at Sakura and, seeing the manic look in the Uchiha's eyes grinned a little too manically himself. Naruto leaned against the tree Kakashi had so recently been backed against, and, as Sasuke continued, closed his eyes in bliss. Shikamaru's confusion grew.
"It has to be really humiliating. We could get him back for every single second he's left us waiting here..."
"Oh, yeah." Naruto sighed.
"Every single time he's let us walk into a trap, or a tree, or a dead end, or a brick wall, or a trigger-wire twine web, or a metaphor..."
"Sasuke..." Naruto's grin was evil. Sakura's feigned disinterest fell apart as she leant into her team-mate's words.
"Every single time he's denied us lessons, jutsus, ramen, knowledge, breakfast, rest, fucking bells, actual training..."
"Please... don't stop..." Naruto slid down to the base of the tree, leaning his head on Sasuke's leg as the boy ranted, eyes narrowed, hands flying wildly. Sakura knelt before him.
"He wouldn't teach us Chakra Meditation, and I know he can do it, I've seen him!" the pink haired girl intoned, her voice somewhat hollow, helpless, under the thrall of creative vengeance...
"He says we should learn, but buries his lessons in nonsense. He expects so much, but we don't know what. He expects brilliance, but we have no idea what he is capable of." Sasuke hissed, more frantic than Shikamaru had ever seen him outside of a battle field. "You have two questions left, Sakura. For the sake of the Team..."
Shikamaru stood in concerned amazement as Naruto held his breath, head resting in the crook of his rival's knee. As Sasuke, the silent, deadly, broody Uchiha ranted like a natural. As Sakura knelt, eyes wide and glistening slightly, muttering "all those times, all those times..." under her breath. Shikamaru's brows crinkled in confusion as he tried in vain to analyse the situation.
"Kai!" Ah, apparently, the three weren't under an enemy Genjutsu.
"For the sake of the Team, Sakura, choose your questions wisely." A stern look; a copied look. A look of intensity so completely belonging to Hatake Kakashi it was hindered only by the Uchiha's displayed jaw. Shikamaru thought that perhaps Kakashi would be pleased his team had finally learned to work together.
"Sakura," Naruto emerged briefly from his blissed-out state. "Take him down."
And, as he walked away from the broken shinobi, Nara Shikamaru decided he didn't want to know how Kakashi had finally driven his team completely insane. But Asuma-sensei probably would.