Generic Disclaimer: Naruto not mine. Woe.
Everything else: This is dedicated to link no miko here on ffdotnet; it was originally written as a drabble challenge on livejournal. The request was 'Asuma!team drabble, please! Um um... Early genin days? Any scenario is fine.' The rule was 'no more than one thousand words'.
… well, I've never been too good at following rules. -snrk- Love ya, Squeak! Here's to corrupting the world with Team Ten fics. Mwaha.
SOME KIND OF BEGINNING
Chouji hadn't really paid a whole lot of attention to Ino in the past. Sure, she was pretty, and she was sometimes loud – both of which would attract notice – but she had never really been much more than just another student in the classroom.
Now, however, she was his partner, one of three on the new genin team (number ten!), and Chouji supposed he should probably start paying attention to her moods. And right now, she was pissed.
"I can't believe this," she growled, hands planted on her hips and feet spread shoulder-width like she was waiting for something to attack her. "First he doesn't show up to the introduction meeting like Iruka-sensei said he would yesterday, and now he's not here today. What kind of crappy jounin is this guy?"
Chouji tried to think of something to say that might appease her anger. That was what team mates did, right? Helped each other out? Surely being angry all the time wouldn't be good for her health. But he really didn't know what to say – no one in his family got angry often (not even when someone ate the last dango without offering it up for grabs first), and he didn't think Shikamaru even knew how to get angry (he'd probably decided being angry wasn't worth the effort). What could he say that might calm the girl down?
"… maybe he's still at breakfast?" he suggested. It was early, after all. Not even ten o'clock in the morning. Iruka had told them to be at the park at nine-thirty, and they had arrived at nine-fourty-five; surely their new sensei would have a good excuse for being late.
Ino half-turned and speared him with a dirty look. "Is food all you think about?" she asked.
He frowned, leaning back a little without thought. She sighed and dropped her hands away from her hips, rolling her eyes to the side in exasperation. Beside him, Shikamaru shifted his weight from one foot to the other and stared up at the sky.
"I wish I had some breakfast," the boy muttered. "As soon as Iruka-sensei called, mom kicked me out of bed and told me I could eat when I got home. Who knows when that's going to be?"
He frowned a little more. At least he had gotten to eat before meeting up at the park like Iruka-sensei had said to on the phone – his father wouldn't have let him go without having something to eat, anyway.
But oh! He did have some chips on him! Maybe Shikamaru could use some. It wouldn't do to have his friend pass out because his blood sugar dropped too low.
Chouji pulled a small bag of chips out of his pocket and offered it to the other boy. "Would you like some, Ino?" he asked – not asking would be rude, and that just wasn't done.
"No," she grouched. "I don't eat breakfast."
Shikamaru took the bag, popped it open, and rolled his eyes at the girl's comment. (He never opened a bag of chips or candy like a normal person; he always had to squeeze until one side or the other popped open – he did it, Chouji believed, because it pissed other people off. Not him – his only worry was that the bottom side would pop open and Shikamaru wouldn't catch the chips in time. And that would be a waste of good food!) "Watching your figure?" he asked snidely.
Chouji nudged the boy slightly with his elbow. They should really try to be a little nicer to each other; after all, they were on the same team, and who knew how much time they would end up spending with each other? Starting a mini-war inside their genin cell was a very bad idea.
Ino turned her back on them again and crossed her arms over her chest. She didn't bother to reply.
Shikamaru tossed a chip into his mouth. The expression on his face seemed to imply that even chewing his food took more effort than it should. "Vanity is so troublesome," he sighed.
"So is waiting," the blonde girl bit out.
Chouji had to agree with both of them.
The three of them got to the park at roughly fifteen minutes to ten. Ino spent most of their time waiting bitching about how their jounin sensei never showed up; after Shikamaru finally snapped and demanded she start complaining about something else, she immediately switched to criticizing Shikamaru's hair, the muggy weather, even the landscaping.
Chouji was surprised that she was able to find so many things to complain about. But then, he figured, any one who didn't eat breakfast in the morning was bound to be cranky. Since they were team mates and all, maybe he could figure out a way to convince to her start eating - he'd have to figure out what she liked to eat first, of course. She was girl, so she probably liked dango or other sweet things. He could start carrying little bits of that with him to training sessions and offer it to her before they started. Then she wouldn't have low blood sugar for such long periods of time, she would perk up, and then she wouldn't want to complain so often.
Yes, Chouji was the master of planning.
Shikamaru didn't complain. This was probably because once their jounin sensei showed up, they'd undoubtedly be put to work – and work was, well, tiresome. He and Chouji wandered the park aimlessly, just content in each other's presence and in the beautiful (if hot) morning weather. Then they picked a nice spot where they could see the sky through the tree tops and cloud gazed for a while. Chouji wouldn't have a single complaint if this was how they had to wait for their sensei every morning.
Eventually even Shikamaru got bored, and he ended up harassing some guy who'd been playing against himself in shogi on a nearby bench since before they'd reached the park. Ino wandered over to watch, to make snide comments about 'old man' games, and to bitch about the man's smoking. Chouji thought the guy was nice, but that it was weird he was wearing mesh under his shirt. Wasn't that just a ninja thing?
They left again at eleven-thirty, after Ino decided that enough was enough and that they were going to confront Iruka-sensei to find out what the hell was going on. She ended up having to grab Shikamaru by his ponytail to drag him away from their third game (the other guy was winning, as far as Chouji could tell). That, of course, didn't please the other boy, but at least no blood was drawn.
That would have really put a damper on the whole day.
When they got back to the academy and explained the situation, Iruka was fittingly confused that their jounin never showed up at the park as promised. He told them to wait for a moment, and motioned for them to sit in the waiting area just outside the teacher's offices while he looked into the problem.
It took all of twenty minutes before their old sensei came back out to see them (during which Ino didn't make a single complaint – surprising – and Shikamaru commented that 'this was just like old times').
"I think I know what's going on," he said, with a funny little smile curling the edges of his lips. "Let's go see if we can't find your sensei."
Iruka led them out of the academy and down the street toward the edge of the village, the three genin following along behind him. It did not take long for them to realize just where they were going.
"Iruka-sensei," Ino said slowly. "You're taking us back to the park."
"Mmm," the chuunin hummed in agreement.
"... but he's not at the park," she continued.
She was starting to look angry again, Chouji noticed. They really should stop to eat soon – it was already lunchtime. She would feel better after getting something in her stomach after going hungry for so long, he bet.
"Mmm," Iruka repeated. He didn't sound particularly convinced.
Silence for another few blocks. Then Shikamaru paused in mid-step and almost tripped. Chouji instinctively reach out a hand to steady him.
"Smooth move, genius," Ino said. "What kind of ninja trips over his own feet?"
"I was tripping over your brain," the boy said in reply. "I think it fell out of your ear while you were busy bitching about how much it sucks that you're not on the same team as Sasuke." As an aside, he said to Chouji: "I feel sorry for Naruto."
The blonde's back stiffened, and her pace sped up slightly so that she was walking more beside Iruka than behind him. "He'll feel sorry, all right," she snapped in reply, "once Sasuke beats the crap out of him."
Iruka sighed. It was his, "Children, must you behave like this?" sigh. Chouji had a feeling he was going to miss it.
A few steps later and Chouji realized he was still holding his friend's arm to steady him. He let go, and asked, "What was that all about?"
"Just having a thought," Shikamaru muttered, and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Bad feeling about this…"
"It won't be so bad," Iruka reassured them. "Your sensei is actually very nice. You'll see."
What they saw when they got back to the park was… nothing. Or rather, nothing more than what they had seen when they left in the first place. No one was there except for the guy Shikamaru had been playing shogi against. Iruka approached the bench the man was sitting at from behind, and the genin followed; from the looks of it (though Chouji wasn't good enough at the game to be sure) he hadn't even moved the pieces on the shogi board since they left.
Shikamaru muttered something under his breath that Chouji couldn't catch.
"I told you he wasn't at the park," Ino said, completely ignoring the recently included fifth-member of their party. "Why did you bring us back here?"
Their old sensei shook his head and grinned. "I didn't expect you to play a trick like this on them, Asuma-sensei," he said, and leaned on the back of the bench.
The guy glanced up from his board, flicked his cigarette, and said, "I didn't expect you to give me such unobservant students, Iruka-sensei."
Ino made a strangled noise that sounded something like the cross between laugh and the squawk of a dying chicken. Chouji suspected he was giving the man a rather disbelieving stare himself.
"… man," Shikamaru sighed. "This really, really sucks."
"No way!" Ino said, the pitch of her voice rising almost an octave, and pointed a finger at the man wearing civilian clothing and who looked nothing like what Chouji expected their jounin sensei to look like. "No way! Why didn't you say you were our sensei when we got here!"
"Why should I have?" he asked bluntly. "You were told where to go and who to look for."
"I did tell you to look for the man who was smoking," Iruka supplied with a rueful smile.
"But…" Chouji blinked, staring at the man with whom Shikamaru had spent nearly an hour playing shogi and had never once given any indication that he might be their new sensei. "But I thought that…"
Said new sensei glanced over at him, and he fought the urge to blush with embarrassment. "… I thought it was funny that you were wearing mesh under your shirt," he muttered at the ground.
"And that you had that kunai tucked in your shirt sleeve," Shikamaru added.
He had a kunai tucked in his sleeve? Chouji thought in surprise. He hadn't even seen that…
"I didn't see – " Ino stammered, the stopped herself and dropped her hand back to her side. She looked less angry now than she had a second ago – now she just plain looked embarrassed. They all did.
The man – Asuma-sensei, Chouji corrected himself – sighed. "You three are pathetic," he said heavily. "If you saw that much, you should have said something about it. Not only are you unobservant to the extreme, if you do notice something you don't follow up on your findings. You paid no attention to your surroundings, and you were fifteen minutes late." He shook his head. "I'm not happy to say you failed your first test with flying colors."
Chouji cringed, and saw Ino do much the same out of the corner of his eye. This had been a test? Who would give their students a test without giving them time to prepare? Iruka-sensei had never dropped a pop-quiz on them like this!
"… man. This sucks," Shikamaru grouched.
Iruka clicked his tongue lightly. "Asuma-sensei," he chided, "I thought you were nice."
"I am nice," the jounin replied. He eyed the three genin dubiously, and Chouji struggled not to blush any worse. "I'm taking these monsters off your hands, aren't I?"
"… this really does suck," Ino muttered out the side of her mouth. Chouji and Shikamaru nodded solemnly in agreement.
If Chouji hadn't been ready to die from embarrassment, he would have been pleased that finally, after being a team for over a day, the three of them were in complete agreement over something.
"Listen," Asuma said after a moment. He crushed his cigarette out against the iron bar of the park bench and flicked the butt away. "It's about lunch time. Let me buy you all something to eat, and we'll start this over."
Ino, Shikamaru, and Chouji all shared a look. Chouji could read the same question in both his team mate's eyes – you wanna do this? You think this is an apology we can accept? He thought it was an excellent way for all four to start over and get to know each other, but he couldn't be so sure that the other two of his genin cell would feel the same way.
"… I am kinda hungry," the blonde said after a moment. Chouji grinned at her – at last, she would eat! She glanced at him and made it a point to scowl before dropping her gaze back to the ground.
"Yeah, sure," Shikamaru agreed.
"But only if it's barbeque!" the third member of the team stipulated.
Iruka chuckled and pushed himself away from the bench. "I'll leave them in your capable hands, Asuma," he said. "Don't over-work them too much."
"Mm-hm." The jounin started cleaning off the shogi board; the small pieces clattered against each other as he dropped them into the carrying bag. "Remember who you're talking to."
The team mates to either side of Chouji groaned, almost in unison. Their new sensei wasn't sounding particularly encouraging as a teacher.
But, he thought, maybe this wouldn't turn out to be such a bad thing after all. They were a team now; life was bound to be difficult at first until they got used to each other. And getting used to each other would take time.
Even with the whole embarrassing matter of failing their first test, this wasn't such a bad start.
The first step would be getting to the restaurant, Chouji decided. The next would be getting Ino to eat in the mornings. From there… well, he'd just have to see.
Yes, Chouji was the master of planning.