A/N: Welcome to chapter one of my little story, Losing Naruto! This is my first ever fanfic, and hopefully not my last since I'm actually having quite a bit of fun here. The chapters start out short but get longer with time.
I apologize for any OOCness, mistakes, and anything else I might miss. Feel free to point anything out to me.
Thanks very much for reading, and please, enjoy!
Disclaimer: Nope, I don't own Naruto. Not even close. No money is being made by me, I pimp this story out for no profit whatsoever.
NOTE: Italics are thoughts.
An almost grown Sakura smiled at herself in the mirror, tucking a single lock of pink hair behind her left ear. With one last grin at her reflection, she moved swiftly to her window, opening it wide. Instantly, the morning sun hit her face, the beginnings of another Konoha morning rang in her ears.
It looks like such a great day outside, perfect to train!
The pink-haired Chuunin looked up to training with her three teammates, and could always count on a decent workout. Most of her training the past few years revolved around becoming a medic-nin, so when she got to watch the guys spar and even take part in them herself, she was always excited. Any chance to hone her skills was much appreciated.
Things really have changed...
It was times like these, as she stood in her room getting ready for the day that she remembered her academy years. Everything used to revolve around Sasuke, her hair, clothes, and every word she said in his presence was calculated and precise, serving her ultimate purpose; to gain the Uchiha's respect, friendship, and of course, affection. Those childish ambitions were what drove her to excel back then.
But that was then.
Maybe I'm the one who's changed.
It had been a while since she focused on what Sasuke wanted of her, the crush long gone. She loved him, no doubt about that, but as a brother – he was like her family. When he left for Orochimaru she felt as if her whole world had been turned upside down. While he was gone, she was forced to live without him.
Their relationship really had changed – matured into a deep mutual respect.
Now, if only she could say the same thing about her relationship with a certain blonde moronic runt.
In all fairness, he wasn't much of a runt anymore. But to Sakura, he would always be that annoying pest who constantly begs for dates. He was very important to her, as were all three of her teammates, but that didn't make him any less irritating.
Unfortunately for Sakura, after all this time, he still managed to get on her nerves. It seemed as if he was always messing around, never acting his age. Bugging her constantly with that damn perpetual grin of his...
He's never gonna grow up.
Is there any hope for him at all..?
Ugh. Doubt it.
Sakura continued to look herself over in the mirror, making sure she looked absolutely perfect.
Her hair was cropped short, still that bright pink, her leaf forehead protector still being worn as a headband. She figured that would probably never change. It suited her that way. She had long since ditched the red dress she used to wear, and now wore a short tan skirt in its place. She took a tip from Tsunade and decided to skip the traditional ninja sandals, and now wore brown boots that barely reached her knee cap. She wore a maroon zip up shirt with cut off sleeves, her zipper, as usual, was zipped up just high enough so that nothing would show.
She downright refused to go that far into emulating Tsunade's style.
Sakura made some final readjustments, put on her belt with her ninja/medic supplies and made her way out the door and into the Konoha morning.
"Will that be all, Hokage-sama?"
With a nod, Kakashi was finally dismissed from his meeting with the Hokage concerning Team 7. He was still the one contacted for these things since he was the 'only Jounin on a team of young Chuunin' as Tsunade so often put it.
He knew she didn't agree with him wanting to stay with his former team, and when he had requested it he thought she would automatically refuse. She did, but after explaining the benefits of having an experienced ninja with a group of teens, Chuunin or not, she finally gave in. Especially when those Chuunin's consist of the Nine Tail Fox and a former runaway ninja. Tsunade knew as well as he did how bad things could get. So, he had gotten his way.
Kakashi walked along the crowded Konoha street, it was still early in the morning, but late enough so that the streets were packed with children on their way to the academy. He continued to walk, lost in thought, until he noticed something was a bit off.
He was being followed.
By a green spandex-wearing moron.
Kakashi rolled his eyes, stopping in his tracks and pulling his little orange book out of his vest.
"Good morning, Gai" Kakashi called out, sounding as immensely bored as he was.
At that instant, a boisterous man wearing all green, save for orange leg warmers, popped out from behind a nearby bush, causing three small children to scream and run in the other direction.
"AS EXPECTED FROM MY ETERNAL RIVAL!" Gai boomed, his teeth gleaming in the sun, blinding Kakashi for the shortest of moments.
Kakashi squinted, burying his head once again into Icha, Icha Tactics.
"Gai, you were hiding in a bush. The fact that you even considered that to be stealth is almost insulting."
Pretending not to hear anything, Gai strode up to Kakashi, stopping in front of the other man in order to extend an arm with the usual thumbs up, his face broken into a wide smile.
"As cool as ever, I see! You truly are worthy of being my life time rival, Kakashi! You truly are the most youthful of us all, with that hip attitude of yours only serving to exude your-"
"Is there a reason you're here, Gai? You know, besides the usual challenge?"
The black-haired Jounin started, expression changing so fast Kakashi was sure he missed something.
Hmm. Wonder if I offended him or something.
I hope it isn't serious...
Bringing the small orange book down a fraction of an inch, Kakashi watched Gai closely, not having to feign interest as he usually did when speaking to his 'eternal rival'.
"Ah yes, I almost forgot." Gai's rather large, bushy brows furrowed as he spoke. "Did I not see you come from the Hokage's office just a short while ago?"
So it's nothing serious.
Oh well, back to business then.
Kakashi nodded, once again only half paying attention to the conversation. After a small silence, Gai began to press the copy ninja further.
"So? What happened?" Gai waited for a response with bated breath.
He usually wasn't this nosy, but he had been eagerly awaiting news of the Chuunin exams next date, since he was finally going to allow Lee to participate once again. He had been hesitant ever since what happened the first time the boy entered the exams, but decided he could put it off no longer.
Besides, at this point Lee was almost his equal in Taijutsu.
I'm so proud of my beautiful, adorable student!
He really is at the springtime of youth...
Gai was brought out of his musings by the sound of Kakashi turning a page in that little book of his. "What happened with what?" the copy-nin replied, his voice sounding as if he wasn't paying the slightest bit attention.
Which, Gai figured, he probably wasn't.
"Kakashi, would you please pay attention! What was the Hokage's news? Did it concern the Chuunin exams?" If Kakashi were still not listening, he wouldn't hesitate to throttle the man to death, right after tearing that little book to shreds.
"Oh, right, that -" Gai released a long breath of relief. "Well, as always, she didn't say anything about the Chuunin exams. Actually, she wanted to see me about my team being changed."
Gai was shocked, to say the least. That team was known as the best since the legendary three - they were respected in Konoha and by its allies, feared by everyone else. To change it, well, it seemed downright foolish. Gai knew he was treading a fine line with Kakashi, but decided to push a little further.
"Your team is being changed? The formula seemed just fine to me. Is it the Uchiha boy?"
"Sasuke?" Kakashi sighed, "yes, but it's probably not what you think. You see, ANBU lost many of it's best in the fight against Akatsuki. So now, it looks like they're recruiting again."
Gai frowned. He didn't have anything really against ANBU, knew that they served important purposes. Still, he had seen many of his friends join and come back changed men and women. The man he was speaking to, included.
"So," Gai began, hiding his discomfort with the entire situation. "What will the Uchiha boy do?"
Kakashi sighed. "Well, he really has no choice but to join. Not in these dangerous times. A few other Chuunin have also been chosen." Kakashi noticed Gai was about to speak up, before he could Kakashi continued. "I have no idea who else, she only named Sasuke. If one of yours is chosen, you will also be told."
Gai looked down, lost in thought. They were no longer really students of his, they were all Chuunin now, with the exception of Neji who was now a Jounin. But they are still students of his until they turn 17. And in his mind, even 17 was too young of an age to become ANBU."
As if reading his mind, Kakashi began to speak again.
"I know how you feel Gai. But you don't have to worry; the Hokage will not let a ninja who isn't ready mentally and physically, join the ranks of ANBU."
"…Yes, I understand." Smiling once again, Gai shrugged off his concerns for the time being. It wouldn't do anyone any good to worry. "Well Kakashi, it looks like I have to go. My team awaits! I shall challenge you next time, so do not despair!"
And with that, Gai disappeared in a flash of smoke. Kakashi sighed; he really did understand how Gai felt. As a former member of ANBU, he knew what types of things they were required to do. He also knew that Sasuke was ready, since the death of his brother he seemed to have a weight lifted off his shoulders. He was still a bit quiet, but he spoke more often than he used to.
He and Naruto had formed a strong bond since the ordeal with Orochimaru. Sasuke seemed to finally understand just how far Naruto was willing to go to help him. And as for Naruto... well, he just seemed glad to have his 'brother' back.
Kakashi smiled to himself. They would fight constantly, but were always there for each other, just like real brothers were. Sakura had finally seemed to get over her long standing crush on Sasuke.
Kakashi didn't know how or when it happened, but when the Uchiha finally returned, it seemed her feelings for him changed in the time he was gone. Sasuke also seemed to notice this, as he now spoke to her as a friend instead of an annoyance.
Naruto and Sakura however, were another story. It seemed he still had strong feelings for her. It was obvious to everyone with eyes that the poor kid didn't have any hope whatsoever. She may not have her eyes on Sasuke anymore, but that didn't change the fact that she still saw Naruto as an annoying little brother. Kakashi wondered if that would ever change, if she would ever notice the strong young man he had become. Kakashi shrugged… maybe someday in the future the girl would open her eyes to the blonde boy who was right in front of her.
"Teenagers" Kakashi muttered out loud to himself. With that, he took flipped another page of Icha, Icha, Tactics, and continued on his way to the training grounds.
A/N: Rewritten 6-12-06 due to suckiness – yeah, imagine that, it was actually worse than this! (Shudders)
Thanks for reading, everyone!