Proof of Innocence... A rumor is spreading around Konoha and it looks like, unbeknownst to them, Sasuke and Neji have been conspiring together to commit a series of B Rank crimes! Of course it isn't true; however, it seems that the only ones who essentially believe them are their teammates! What will happen now that these two are forced to work together to clear their names? Sasuke+Sakura and Neji+Tenten; mentions of Naruto+Hinata, Shikamaru+Ino, and Kakashi+Kurenai.

---------- Naruto Fan Fiction: Proof of Innocence ----------

"Hey, Neji?" Tenten asked, causing the addressee to loosen from his Juuken stance and raise an eyebrow as he turned in her direction, focusing his pearl eyes on his brunette sparring partner. "Have you heard?" she began carefully, causing him to blink twice in confusion as he caught the kunai she tossed at him, dropping his eyes to the note attached to the handle. Tenten rubbed the back of her neck as he read it.

"7 B Rank crimes since last night? Uchiha Sasuke? What the..." he read lowly, his eyes scanning over the kanji, his hand tightening and scrunching the paper the longer he stared at it. Tenten bit down slightly on her bottom lip as she watched her teammate hide his face with his right hand.

"I... think we'd better see Tsunade-sama about this..."

"I don't really have much choice -- it looks like I'm being summoned later this evening..." Neji responded as he breathed an irritated sigh. "They had better be prepared to explain this -- if Lee did something, I swear I'm going to--"

"Calm down, you don't know that anyone set you up. It could just be a misunderstanding?" she offered with a shrug of her shoulders. Neji looked at her for a second before turning and walking off in the direction of their dear Godaime's office. This wasn't going to be easy to explain -- especially considering the fact that he hadn't done anything! And with the Uchiha? There was just no way...

-----

"What is it, Sasuke-kun?" Sakura asked, craning her neck to see what the raven-haired boy was looking at. He seemed to be reading something. "Is something up?"

"You've been quiet for a while now, Sasuke-teme, what's up?" Naruto asked begrudgingly as he squatted beside his long time rival. Sasuke looked up at them both, a purely dumbfounded expression replacing his usual unreadable frown. Sakura and Naruto both watched in confusion as the sheet of paper he was holding fluttered down to land evenly on the ground in front of Sasuke. Sakura kneeled down to find out what was so horrible, and Naruto quickly did the same.

"What does it say, Sakura-chan?" Naruto asked, and Sakura curled her lips down into a thoughtful frown as she read the kanji aloud -- of course Naruto had never fully learned how to decipher kanji, so he had no way of reading it. She sighed lowly.

"This is a criminal summons for the following Konoha shinobi -- Uchiha Sasuke; we, the ninja council, possess conclusive evidence that incriminates both Uchiha Sasuke and his accomplice Hyuuga Neji and directly links them to a series of crimes. This proof clearly shows that these two, the former a previous traitor of Konoha and the latter a Jounin level shinobi, students of Hatake Kakashi and Maito Gai respectively, have been conspiring together and have commited at least 7 B Rank criminal activities in the last thirty four hours. The accused parties are to meet with the Godaime-sama at eighteen hundred hours within Godaime-sama's office. That is all." she read, her eyes widening with each word. Naruto merely obtained a look of pure dumbfounded stupidity. He raised an eyebrow.

"It sounds official and stuff, but what's all that mean?" he asked and Sakura scowled at his obvious stupidity.

"It means that Sasuke-kun is in trouble for committing crimes that we know he couldn't have committed!" she explained somewhat rudely as she indicated toward the flimsy piece of paper. Naruto turned to Sasuke and frowned deeply as he folded his arms sagely and nodded his head twice.

"If he really is innocent, then all we have to do is prove his innocence somehow, right?" he asked. Sasuke just kept looking back and forth between his teammates, hoping to figure out what was going on. Had he done something that could be considered a criminal activity?

"It's not that easy, bone head! Even though Sasuke-kun was cleared of all charges from his betrayal of Konoha, they're still gonna use that part of his record against him!" she shouted after whacking her practical brother over the head with her left hand. Naruto rubbed his now sore head -- that Tsunade caliber strength of hers was definitely getting annoying. "Though, he doesn't have anything else negative on his record -- well, aside from that incident with Sai(rest in peace) a couple of months ago -- but other than that, there's been nothing..." Sakura breathed a sigh as she allowed her thoughts to drift to her Sannin teacher's motives.

"I just can't believe that Tsunade-shishou would do this -- what kind of proof can they possibly have?" she added, rubbing her chin in thought.

"Either way, I'm going now." Sasuke suddenly spoke up as he snatched his summons out of his friends' hands and folded it before stuffing it into his pocket. He then turned and walked off in the direction of Tsunade's.

"Looks like Sasuke's in trouble," a familiar voice said from behind Naruto and Sakura causing them to whirl their heads around almost in sync to see him staring down at the book in his left hand, his arms folded. He snapped his most recent volume of Icha Icha Tactics closed before stuffing it in his vest and dropping his eyes to his students. Naruto and Sakura both blinked.

"Kakashi-sensei! You have to help!" Sakura stated, and Kakashi rubbed the back of his neck.

"I don't really know of much I could d--"

"We just managed to get him back a couple of months ago..." Sakura pleaded sadly, and Kakashi sighed lowly.

"Fine fine, I'll do what I can," he said before leaping into the air, practically vanishing as he had always had a habit of doing. Naruto smiled lazily and folded his arms behind his head like a pillow.

"Well, I'm off to Ichiraku to get a bite to eat," he said as he spun on his heel and started to walk off. Sakura gripped one of his ears between her left thumb and index finger and jerked slightly. Naruto yelled in pain.

"And what about helping Sasuke-kun?" she asked through clenched teeth, her expression becoming dreadful. Naruto gulped as he pulled himself out of reach, the short lived pain in his ear completely forgotten.

"B--B--But, I promised Hinata-chan!" he shouted, throwing his hands up defensively. Sakura breathed a low sigh and waved her hand to shoo him away after a moment or so.

"All right, go on," she muttered lowly before turning around and walking off in the direction Sasuke had. Well, she would vouch for Sasuke; she wasn't sure it would make much difference, but she couldn't very well let him get locked up for something he hadn't done -- not after everything they had been through to get him back in Konoha!

-----

It had been two hours since Neji and Sasuke had received the news, and they had both just arrived outside Tsunade's office, both just basically standing around and waiting. They looked at each other only briefly before averting their gazes to the door, waiting for the secretary to peep out.

"Any idea?" Neji asked suddenly, causing Sasuke to look over at him as both almost simultaneously folded their arms. "About what's going on? No offense, but I don't recall even associating with you ever since that retrieval mission a few months ago," he said.

Sasuke seemed to think about Neji's question for a minute. "I'm beat -- I don't remember even seeing you since you forcefully dragged me back here," he added, and barely visible glares were exchanged but they didn't last very long. It wasn't an enormous amount of time before Kakashi, Sakura, Rock Lee, Tenten, and Gai had all assembled, probably to offer their support.

Soon enough, Shizune poked her head out the door and seemed almost nervous as she ushered them all inside. Tsunade motioned for them to sit down, and all but Sasuke and Neji did as instructed. For Sasuke it was a simple, "I'd rather stand," and for Neji it was a quick one of his patented glares that prevented anyone from trying to say anything to him about it.

Silence stretched for several moments before Sasuke chose to shatter it. "I want to see this conclusive proof of yours," he said, and Neji nodded once to agree. After all, how were they even supposed to begin to dispute it if they couldn't see proof? Tsunade sighed as she reached under some of her paperwork and grabbed a smaller piece of paper before holding it up so that the two suspects could clearly see it. What the two of them saw was enough to cause confusion mixed with shock to swirl in their stomachs, this reaction clearly showing on their faces.

It was a picture of the two of them shaking hands -- an event that neither was aware of ever happening.

Tsunade quirked an eyebrow as Shizune seemed to grow a bit more nervous. Sasuke reached for the picture, but Tsunade jerked it away before he could take it; he glanced at his failure of a hand and scowled slightly.

"Hahem, now what do you two have to say for yourselves?" Tsunade asked, causing the Hyuuga and Uchiha heirs to exchange confused glances. They then both looked at the Godaime again.

"How do you know the photograph wasn't altered?" Neji asked and Tsunade shook her head as she looked down at the harmless piece of paper.

"Someone I trust took this picture, and I know that she wouldn't lie to me," she said, glancing only briefly at Shizune. Neji and Sasuke both did as well, before focusing their eyes on Tsunade again.

Sasuke breathed a low sigh as he once again allowed his eyes to fall to the picture. It was indeed convincing enough -- if he hadn't been at home sleeping peacefully at the time it had been taken, it would almost have convinced even him! They definitely were going to have trouble disputing the accusations. So Shizune had been the one to report this un-event?

Neji narrowed his eyes as he scanned them over the picture again as well. There had to be some possible way to prove their innocence... but how? They didn't have any concrete evidence that they hadn't been in the same place at the same time the night before. The only plausible conclusion was that someone had intentionally set them up, but how could someone have done so? Even forged a picture -- and a downright convincing one at that?

"I am afraid I will have to strip away your ninja privileges; Sasuke, I hate to see this happen again. Your record is going to be scarred up even worse after this little mishap, and we may even have to lock you up for a while. And, Neji, I'm afraid I am going to have to regress you from the Jounin rank," she stated their punishments, causing both to jerk their heads back up. It couldn't be...!

"We haven't even seen each other since Uchiha's second retrieval mission! How could we have been conspiring anything?" Neji questioned, slamming his hands down on the desk. Tsunade picked slightly at the upper corner of the picture to answer his question. Neji remembered it and sighed lowly to calm himself. Sasuke clenched his teeth.

"I won't be punished for something I had no part in!" he snapped, and Tsunade closed her eyes.

"It doesn't please me to do this, but I have no choice. You two have violated the sanctity of Konoha, and as Godaime, I cannot allow you to go free. You should be able to understand that," she explained. Sasuke swiped the air with his right arm.

"You're automatically deciding that we're guilty just because of a picture that could've been easily forged?" he questioned. Neji seemed to want an answer to this question as well. Tsunade looked down at the picture again as she raised it in front of herself.

"This isn't... the only proof we have; we have several eye witnesses who saw you two talking. Also, the Ichiraku Ramen was robbed and the cook saw your faces as you were taking the money... I'm afraid there's no way you can possibly prove your innocence now," she concluded.

More silence passed by slowly as Neji and Sasuke both relaxed. They couldn't just give up, they had both worked too hard -- Sasuke to try and mend his tattered record, and Neji to build his...

"Neji couldn't have done anything!" Tenten stated as she stood up, arms folded determinedly. It was kind of intimidating to go against her idol, but she couldn't just let her teammate go down without a fight! Tsunade raised her eyes to the bun haired girl. "He has a perfect record -- he's always completed his missions perfectly, with no problems and no exceptions!" she added. Tsunade's frown only grew.

"I'm well aware of that, but the proof dictates--"

"Who cares about that!" Sakura added as she stood as well, eyeing her teacher in disbelief. She could not believe that the very woman who had trained her was being so misunderstanding... "What about Sasuke-kun and Neji-san? They say they didn't do anything, doesn't that matter at all?" she asked. Tsunade shook her head.

"I wish I could give you a better answer, but as it stands, we have too much evidence that they're guilty," she replied lowly. Sakura lowered her head. Unbelievable -- how could their Hokage just turn her back on them like that?

While Tsunade was concerning herself with Sakura and Tenten, Sasuke and Neji both turned their eyes to the room's only window. The same thought seemed to rise to their minds at almost the exact same time. Neji activated his Byakkugan to make sure that no one was below to get injured and Sasuke turned to look at him. Upon receiving a nod of confirmation, he flipped out a kunai and flung it at the window.

With a loud noise, the glass barrier shattered, jerking the other occupants of the room out of their discussion and drawing their immediate attention. Tsunade stood up from her desk as Sasuke pushed himself up on the window sill before leaping off into the crowd of people below. Neji glanced back at them all quickly before narrowing his eyes and jumping after his accomplice, to disappear in the throngs of villagers gathered outside. Tsunade rushed to the window as quickly as Sakura, Tenten, and Rock Lee did, all four sets of eyes scanning the ground outside and below for the two nins.

But there was no sign of either...

-----

"So what do you think, Kakashi?" Gai asked, rubbing his chin sagely. Kakashi breathed a sigh. Why was everyone asking him what to do?

"What if they really are guilty?" Asuma suggested, causing the others to look at him. He shrugged. "It is a possibility, you know," he added. And he had a point. It was indeed a possibility, at least Kurenai seemed to think it was.

"Did you two stop to think that maybe your students aren't as trustworthy as you thought at first? Especially you Kakashi -- the boy did turn his back on this entire country of fire. Who's to say he isn't capable of doing something like that again?" she asked. Kakashi sighed as he reached into his vest where he had stuffed Icha Icha Tactics earlier and flipped it open to resume reading.

"Look, Sasuke only betrayed Konoha because he thought it was the quickest way to obtain the strength he thought he needed to kill Uchiha Itachi. Now that his clan has been avenged and he's back here, he has no reason to do anything like that ever again," he replied. He also had a very valid point. Gai closed his eyes and nodded again.

"Wise observation, Kakashi. I believe they are both innocent. But, still, what do we do now that they've taken off? We can't just look over the fact that they escaped out the window of a two story building to avoid being incriminated... can we?" he asked. Several seconds of silence past before Kakashi's only visible eye crinkled into a smile.

"Actually, Gai, I believe we can do something like that."

-----

"What are we... supposed to do now?" Tenten asked, drawing Sakura's attention. The pink haired girl raised her head to look at her, her depression visible in her expression. Tenten sighed. It was hard not to be depressed. With all that proof, they had no way of proving that their teammates were innocent, and if they couldn't somehow prove that, then...

"Do we just... let them take Sasuke-kun and Neji-san away?" she asked. Tenten breathed a devastated sigh of her own.

"Come now, cheer up everyone! If you believe in the power of your youth, nothing can stop you from accomplishing your goal!" Lee reminded, flashing Good Guy Pose #16 and causing both Sakura and Tenten to sweatdrop.

"There has to be some way we can help them..."

-----

"B--But, N--N--Naruto-kun... I--If your... friend is in t--trouble, sh--shouldn't y--you be..." Hinata stammered as Naruto finished his ramen. He sighed as he pushed his empty bowl forward and grinned widely, rubbing his stomach with his right hand.

"Nah, that Sasuke'll find a way outta this! And if he's too dense, Neji'll figure it out! Either way, they'll be fine!" he stated -- he did sound sure of himself. Hinata looked down at her own now empty ramen bowl and nodded once affirmatively.

"A--All right, i--i--if you're... sure..."

"We'll have two shrimp ramen," the sound of Shikamaru's lazy voice from a few feet away caused both Naruto and Hinata to glance over at him. Ino smiled as she sat down at the counter, looking over at Naruto and Hinata and waving.

"Hi guys!" she greeted, and Hinata smiled that typical shy smile of hers.

"Shikamaru-kun, and Ino-chan. Hi," she greeted and Shikamaru turned his gaze boredly over to Naruto and Hinata upon hearing Hinata speak.

"Well, fancy meeting you here," he muttered, knowing that it was an ironic statement. Naruto was always visiting Ichiraku, and it was common knowledge by now that the cerulean eyed boy was dating Hinata. It wasn't really that big of a coincidence at all.

"How are you guys?" Naruto asked as Shikamaru took a seat at the counter, waiting for his food. Ino folded her fingers together and leaned her chin on them as she tilted her head to look at her fellow nins.

"We're doing great! Well, other than the news about Sasuke-kun and Neji." Ino responded to Naruto's question, causing him to nod once.

"Everyone seems to be worried about one or both of them," he responded. Shikamaru arched an eyebrow.

"Is... something wrong with Sasuke and Neji?" he asked, completely unknowing. Ino slapped him over the side of the head causing him to scowl slightly. "Tch."

"What? You haven't heard? They're being accused of some B Rank crimes right here in Konoha! Of course, we all know that it isn't true," she added quickly. Upon being presented with his ramen, Shikamaru began eating.

"How troublesome," he muttered under his breath between bites. Naruto pushed himself to a standing position, causing Hinata to look up at him.

"Well, I'm headin' off. You coming, Hinata-chan?" he asked, and Hinata smiled as she poked her index fingers together.

"O--Okay, um, N--N--Naruto-kun," she answered, stuttering as usual. And so, the two of them headed out of the Ichiraku Ramen. Shikamaru shrugged and continued eating.

It was all too bothersome for him to worry about.

-----

"You realize that there's no way we can actually just let it go, don't you?" Kurenai asked, as Asuma and Gai took their leaves, Asuma just shortly before Gai. Kakashi sighed as he finished his reading for the moment and glanced back at the other Jounin.

"Why not?" he asked, same lazy look as usual. Kurenai shook her head a bit.

"You're smarter than that, Kakashi; Godaime-sama will never just let it go. You know that she isn't the type to go lax with the rules just because the suspects are important to a few of the residents here," she replied, crossing her arms. Kakashi's eye curled back into a grin as he closed his book in his hand. Kurenai quirked an eyebrow in confusion.

"You're right, and that's why I intend to provide her with the proof she needs of their innocence... if they can't find it in time."

-----

"Now what?"

"Don't look at me."

"We can't just sit here."

"Why don't you think of something then?"

"Am I the only one with a working brain?"

"If that's the way you wanna see it."

"Psh."

"Hn."

Sasuke closed his eyes as he leaned back in his seat. Neji was sitting on the couch across from him, looking deep in thought. They had escaped to the Uchiha District part of town; seeing as it was pretty much completely abandoned, it would make a good hiding place for the time. And so they had headed directly for the residents of Sasuke's living, the Uchiha mansion.

"You do realize what's at stake." Neji muttered a few minutes later. Sasuke sighed lowly. He knew that the Hyuuga was right -- they had to do something...

But what?

"Then, I'll ask again, why don't you think of something?" Sasuke repeated, lacing his fingers together and leaning his face behind them. Neji seemed to scrutinize the wall for a few minutes, running over possibilities. Sasuke glanced up at him, noticing the angry way his guest was glaring daggers into the dark blue formation, the wallpaper almost visibly peeling. "You know, with that patented glare of yours, you might be able to glare them to death," he added. Neji glanced at him briefly but didn't turn his head.

"If you're so full of ideas, why don't you express one?" he asked, and Sasuke rolled his eyes. Of all the people he could've got stuck with, it had to be the only other person with a personality that matched his.

More silence fell over the room, tension blanketing it. Neither of them really had much in the way of ideas. If they were to go back into town, they would probably be taken into custody. On the other hand, if they didn't, how were they ever going to find the proof they would need to prove their innocence to the Hokage?

"Your record was cut up and then pasted back together once already; what do you think is going to happen if we don't figure a way out of this?" Neji asked, and Sasuke allowed his eyes to fall closed. Again, he had a point.

"And what about you? Your spotless record will be tarnished forever," he answered, and Neji folded his arms. His begrudgingly admitted ally did make a good point. Unfortunately, it seemed that was all they were doing -- exchanging quick facts, but nothing that would help them out of the stupid mess they had managed to get themselves into...

"... And not to mention Sakura. She'll go ballistic." Sasuke added, trying to block out that mental image that tried to form itself in his mind of Sakura's ungodly strength meeting with his head. Neji smirked smugly upon seeing the other male flinch.

"Since when did you care what she thought? I could have sworn you weren't interested in her," he teased, uncharacteristically. Sasuke sighed lowly to avoid letting it bother him.

"And why would it make a difference to you whether or not I am? You have you're own problems with that Tenten girl," he replied, a smug smirk of his own forming. Neji rolled his eyes.

"Tch."

Another short spurt of quietness -- it seemed those were quite common with those two. Perhaps it was the fact that neither really enjoyed yapping and chattering senselessly, or perhaps it was the company they were currently in. Either way...

"It looks like we'll have to work together to try and clear our names," Sasuke finally said, and Neji stifled a sigh. Maybe the other prodigy had spoken the obvious, but he didn't really feel much like even trying to figure it out. His head was already throbbing from the impossible accusations thrown against them.

"But, what exactly do we do? That's the question we have to answer."

"Go back into town..."

"Idiot, we'll get captured..."

"... and remain hidden while trying to find the evidence we have to have."

Neji reopened his eyes. It was true that they were both shinobi, and shinobi were masters of stealth... right? Why couldn't they go back and look around for some clues on who had actually committed the crimes they were being accused of?

"Great idea, glad I thought of it," he responded.

"Your idea?"

"Glad you acknowledge that." Neji replied quietly. Sasuke's eyebrow flinched but he didn't seem to care all that much.

"Hn."

-----

The sun had already rose to the sky and Sasuke and Neji were sitting on top of some building overlooking Konoha, completely exhausted. They had, after all, been searching and gathering information all night long. Unfortunately, no real clues had been found, nothing that seemed like it would even slightly help them. It was only then that the realization that they were both screwed finally began to sink in...

"You know we're both screwed..." Sasuke muttered.

"Yeah." Neji responded very dully. It was too late to try and deny it now.

"And you know that we've failed." Sasuke continued.

"Absolutely." Neji answered again.

"And that we have no chance of finding what we need."

"Damn right."

"Then what exactly are we doing sitting on top of a building, thinking about how worthless we are?"

"Because we're tired."

"I guess that makes sense."

"So?"

"So... what?"

"We're screwed."

"Yes, we are."

It had continued like that for over an hour now. Honestly, it was beginning to get quite boring and none of it was doing anyone a bit of good. They knew that it wasn't doing anyone a bit of good. All of Konoha knew that it wasn't doing anyone a bit of good. The bad part was that there wasn't a damn thing they could about that.

"What about that cousin of yours?"

"Hinata-sama?"

"Yeah, her."

"Oh yeah."

"Oh yeah what?"

"I was at the Hyuuga mansion last night -- Hinata-sama could vouch for me." Neji realized and Sasuke looked over at him.

"And what about me?"

"What about you?"

Sasuke paused. "Good point."

More silence passed before Neji pushed himself up to a standing position. Sasuke just kept staring off at the morning sky, the sunlight peeping out above the clouds.

"Well... I'm going," Neji said, and turned to walk off. When he received no answer, he stilled himself and lowered his eyes to his feet. He knew good and well that he couldn't just go prove that he was innocent and let Sasuke take all the blame. Well, technically he could've, but he wasn't going to. The white eyed Jounin breathed a low sigh before turning back around. "Hey, Uchiha."

"What?" Sasuke responded without turning around. Neji walked right back over and sat right back down beside him. Sasuke cast a quick glance his way, before returning his eyes to stare off into space.

"We've got more work to do," Neji said. Sasuke closed his eyes.

"No, you're safe. I have more work to do," he responded. Neji narrowed his eyes slightly.

"You're an asshole, you know that?"

"So are you."

And another long bout of silence ensued. Eventually, Kakashi arrived on the scene, appearing as their saving grace. He kneeled down behind them, a hand on either of their shoulders. Both turned their heads to look at him.

"Let's get you boys out of this mess, shall we?"

-----

"Hey, Kakashi, you never told us what your proof was." Sasuke said as Kakashi laid a hand on the door to Tsunade's office, ready to push it open. He glanced from Sasuke to Neji, before pushing it open, leaving Sasuke's question unanswered.

And so, the three entered the room. Miraculously, it was at that time when Tenten, Rock Lee, Naruto, Hinata, Gai, Kurenai, and Asuma all showed up. Sakura, on the other hand, was already inside talking to Tsunade. Both turned their heads as soon as the flood of shinobi filled the room and eventually Kakashi, Sasuke, and Neji entered. Kakashi grinned under his mask as Tsunade's mouth twisted down into a frown.

"And where have these two been?" she questioned.

"Trying to find proof that they were innocent," he responded. Tsunade raised her head. She didn't ask, but it was quite obvious what she was wondering about. "Yes, they've succeeded."

Tsunade's eyes widened as Sakura and Tenten both smiled hugely, pleased with Kakashi's answer to Tsunade's unspoken question. Both thrust one arm into the air, before quickly glomping their respective love interests. Tsunade glanced at them before focusing her eyes on the white haired man again. "And what is this proof?"

"First off, Hinata can vouch for Neji." Kakashi said, and Hinata stepped forward.

"O--Oh yes, um, N--Neji-nii-san... w--was at the H--Hyuuga e--estate yesterday... evening," she confirmed. Tsunade smiled slightly. Maybe they had managed to succeed after all. She wasn't heartless -- she didn't want to have to take them into custody, after all...

"And Sasuke?"

Kakashi's smile invisibly widened as he reached into his pocket and drew a picture out of it. He tossed it down on Tsunade's desk, and her eyes widened as she looked at it. "These are the two real culprits of the crimes; and also, everything that was stolen has been returned to their respective homes," he said. Tsunade looked downright appalled.

"Ka--Kakashi... this is..."

"Yeah, I know."

Neji and Sasuke exchanged confused glances before stepping forward and focusing their eyes on the photograph on Tsunade's desk amongst her paperwork. "It's..." Neji began, and Sasuke's jaw dropped.

"... Kakashi-sensei and Gai..."

The room became impressively quiet in the next moment. Not a word was said as everyone froze completely. Finally, all was remedied when Kakashi turned around and smacked Gai on the shoulder.

"Let me explain. This has actually been a plan to get Neji and Sasuke to cooperate -- in case they are ever sent on a mission together, it's imperative that they learned how to get along. So, Gai and I organized this plan to force them to work together. We used Henge no Jutsu to mimic Hyuuga Neji and Uchiha Sasuke, then we went around and committed all seven of your B Rank crimes," he explained, and Gai flashed Good Guy Pose #24.

"And, we are quite pleased with the results! It is true that the power of youth is a beautiful thing!" Gai added, causing Rock Lee to start crying from nearby in typical comical fashion. It wasn't long before they were hugging and sobbing as they usually did, as disturbing as it was to those unfortunate enough to watch them... Neji and Sasuke stared at each other incredulously before both gained a look of something akin to anger. They both turned their respective Byakkugan and Sharingan embued eyes to their teachers, blood boiling in their veins.

Tsunade breathed a low sigh. "Still, they didn't have to bust up my window..."

The rest of the day proceeded rather awkwardly. Tsunade wasn't really pleased with Kakashi's methods of teaching the lesson he had wanted to teach, but all was forgiven in the end. The charges were dropped, all damage had been fixed after all. After lecturing and being lectured, Neji and Sasuke along with their respective teams headed over to the training grounds for a good sparring match.

And the moral of this story is: You should be prepared to rely on someone else in a desperate situation, even if your only comrade is an annoying ego maniac who is very similar to yourself. It is imperative for a shinobi to learn and accept the concept of teamwork, because you never know exactly who you might end up having to work with...

---------- Epilogue ----------

About two hours after Neji's sparring match with Sasuke...

"So, are you sure about this double date idea?" Tenten asked, tugging on Neji's left sleeve. He nodded affirmatively and Sakura smiled broadly. She turned her eyes to look at her date, and Sasuke glanced at her somewhat uncertainly in response.

"This is one of the best and one of the worst days of my life all wrapped into one..." the green eyed girl winked as she spoke. Some semblance of a blush crept onto the cheeks of her obsidian eyed companion as he averted his eyes to one side.

It had started off so awful, but it had turned out terrific! After all, thanks to Kakashi's plot, Sasuke had miraculously asked Sakura out for a date; and Neji had asked Tenten out too -- it was like they had planned it during that sparring match of theirs. Maybe they had taken that old saying to heart; you don't know what you've got until it's gone, or until you think you might lose it in this case...

"So which part is the good part and which part is the bad part?" Sasuke finally asked and Sakura's smile only widened as the four started off toward their target (a small restaurant on the edge of town). Sakura quickly attached herself to Sasuke's arm and Tenten reacted similarly with Neji, drawing some envious and some pleased stares from the other residents of Konoha standing around on the sidewalks.

"I'll let you figure that out if you don't know already." Sakura replied. Sasuke raised an eyebrow for a few seconds, before scowling.

"You're annoying."

"I know." Sakura responded nonchalantly. Sasuke rolled his eyes, and Neji breathed a low sigh before sparing a look at Tenten who seemed to be thinking about something.

"What about you, Tenten? Do you regret today?" he asked. Tenten had pretty much been off in her own little world until he had spoke. She blinked her eyes a few times before smiling again.

"Not in the least; I mean, I hate what happened to you and Sasuke, but... everything turned out for the best," she replied. A tiny smile tugged at Neji's lips.

Things had a tendency of working out like that.

-----

"I told you it all would work out." Kakashi said as he stepped out of the Godaime's, stopping just outside and waiting for Kurenai to walk out behind him. She seemed to roll her eyes in response. "Don't be like that, you have to admit that it was a brilliant idea!"

Dead silence.

"..." Kurenai smirked slightly as she walked past the other Jounin, snatching his Icha Icha Tactics out of his hands and knocking him upside the head with it. He quickly snatched it back out of her hands, dusting it off and checking on it to make sure no permanent damage had been done. The dark haired woman grinned and began walking off.

"Hmf." Kakashi slipped his book securely into his back pocket and patted it once with his right hand before beginning to walk as well. Even with that one little mishap, it seemed that everything ended up pretty much the way it should have. After all, it wasn't like anyone actually managed to sneak a peak at his book -- then the day might have gone terribly, horribly wrong...

He grinned secretly. He couldn't help but wonder if those two had learned their lessons. Well, considering the actual plot had been to get Sasuke to ask Sakura out and Neji to ask Tenten out, everything came out great...

Because he, Copy Ninja Kakashi, master technician and inventor of the Chidori(Raikiri), matchmaker of a lifetime, and elite genius of Konoha...

... was just that good.

---------- Owari: The End ----------

Disclaimer & Copyright Information: I do not own Naruto (© Kishimoto Masashi); however, I am the author of this story. If you have comments or suggestions, leave a review or send me an e-mail. Doumo arigatou, for reading my writing!