Notes: Pre-series. Yamato-centric.

Chapter One: Destiny Set in Motion

Tenzou really, really had to pee.

The fact was slightly embarrassing, if only because he was presently waiting outside the Sandaime Hokage's office for an eleven o'clock appointment.

The cute lobby assistant kept looking at him from under her half-moon glasses. Tenzou wasn't sure if she liked what she saw or if she was worried as to why he kept trying to discreetly re-adjust himself. Key word: discreetly. And, since her eyes kept dropping to the seam of his pants, he had a feeling being a Chuunin didn't automatically award magical penis-adjusting powers.

The urge to be on time overcame his urge to use the bathroom, however, though Tenzou had to admit it was a close tie. His pride (and the stare from the cute assistant) kept him glued to the floor.

He tried not to bounce on the balls of his feet, praying that the Hokage would finish with the meeting that preceded his soon. The sooner Tenzou heard the verdict—his stomach twisted nervously whenever he thought of it—the sooner he would be able to go about his business.

"You can come in now," the muffled voice of the Sandaime drifted through the massive oak doors of his office.

Tenzou looked questioningly at the assistant. She shooed him on with a manicured hand.

Tenzou opened the doors and stepped inside the large office. The door clicked closed behind him. Tenzou felt an ominous chill run through him then and he gulped.

The Sandaime sat behind a large desk. A clerical chuunin was filing papers off to his left. Tenzou recognized the other ninja as Reiko—he had been promoted in rank the same cycle as Tenzou. Reiko acknowledged Tenzou with a curt nod, but was otherwise focused on his duties.

Folders, books and loose-leafed papers covered almost every inch of the Sandaime's desk. Tenzou thought the Hokage would have had a neater workspace.

It was several minutes before the Sandaime cocked his hand to wave Tenzou closer, his eyes still searching the papers in front of him.

Tenzou walked until he stood an arm's length away from the desk. He squared his shoulders in an attempt to look as professional as possible.

He had completed the rigorous ANBU application process the day before. He had secretly worked on his package for months, compiling references, evaluations and data sheets. There was no written instruction (that Tenzou had found, in any case) on exactly what ANBU looked for in their selectees, so he had thrown everything he had thought remotely impressive into it.

Tenzou had received a notice to present himself in front of an evaluation board a week after he'd turned said package in. The board had comprised of a psychologist, an interrogator and three other men who had remained masked and, strangely enough, asked absolutely no questions throughout the ordeal.

Tenzou had found it odd that he had been the one being tested for mental defects. The psychologist had held up inkblots that looked an awful lot like men on skewers, spewing out fountains of blood from their innards. And that interrogator—Ibiki?—something must have been screwed very loose in his head.

Two weeks after the evaluation board, another notice had made its way to his kitchen table. How it had gotten there, Tenzou was none the wiser.

The notice oredered Tenzou's to present himself in the Black Forest that evening, which had left him no time to prepare for what he knew was sure to be a test of every skill he had learned.

True to form, he had been thrown in to the forest without as much as a "good luck". He had escaped a week later, a few pounds lighter and with a prejudice against jumping tree leeches. A masked ANBU member had met him outside the gates where he had found freedom and had handed him another notice. It had been a standard appointment slip.

The Sandaime coughed behind his fist.

The gravelly sound snapped Tenzou out of his daydream, reminding him once again of the increasing pressure in his abdomen. He clasped his hands behind his back and chewed on the inside of his cheek.

"I apologize for having you wait outside for so long."

Tenzou bowed his head. "It was no trouble at all, Sir."

His bladder had to argue that that was a big lie.

"Before I give you the results I am sure you are dying to hear... the director at HQ gave me your application after I had already gotten my hands on a copy. He told me it was the most thorough application he had seen in all this years at that post. A very decent compliment," the Sandaime said. "You were promoted two years ago to Chuunin… the same year as my Reiko over here. I am surprised your sensei never put you up for Jounin. I personally think you have done a spectacular job in the exams. I suppose, what I mean to say, is that have heard only exceptional reviews on your performance."

Tenzou could have kissed whoever said those beautiful, wonderful things.

"Thank you, Sir," he said, trying to keep the elation in his voice toned down.

"Of course," the Hokage said, sounding more troubled now. "I can't lie to you, Tenzou… your application was almost turned down."

A tight knot formed in Tenzou's stomach.

Had he dodged giant jumping tree leeches for nothing then?

The Sandaime continued after a pause that Tenzou highly suspected was for dramatic effect only. "However, as the Hokage, I do have some measurable pull. I trust in your unwavering loyalty."

Tenzou perked up. A thread of hope returned to him.

Sandaime smiled. "After some more… consideration… the counsel has accepted your application. You will become a member of ANBU under a probationary period that will last until your captain has given you fit for full duty status. You have already been assigned to a squad. Once my signature is on this paper-" he held an official-looking parchment up "-you can only be released or accepted by recommendation of your direct superior. Are you sure you are ready?"

"Yes, sir."

Glorious relief washed over Tenzou.

"Thank goodness. I almost thought I'd have to go through all the legal details with you. No one likes legal documents-just like no one likes lawyers, ha ha! Besides-I detest those cookie-cutter dialogue scripts I'm required to do. I might have to lecture whoever came up with it…" The Sandaime pressed a seal to several more official-looking documents.

Tenzou didn't bother telling the Sandaime that it was the Sandaime himself who signed the paperwork for said standard dialogue.

"As I said, you have been assigned to a squad. You may be familiar with the reputation of the men and women you will soon work with. My advise to you is to remember one thing: you all sharpen your kunai the same way. You will meet up with them tomorrow for a mission briefing. My assistant should have it booked."

"Roger." Only one question weighed on his mind still. "Hokage-sama… this probationary period. Is there a test to pass?"

Sandaime smiled, his eyes twinkling with amusement. "I'm afraid I cannot say—even I'm not privy to all things ANBU. I never applied to that particular branch."

Tenzou nodded his head. He hadn't expected the Sandaime to give him all the answers. A small cloud was already starting to form over his otherwise sunny disposition.

He didn't like the sound of this probationary period very much. ANBU were known to be the most insane and deranged ninja Konoha could produce. It was practically a requirement to have gone through some seriously debilitating childhood trauma.

Tenzou knew he would fit right in after hearing the selling points during the Academy's Ninja Career Day.

"Someone will run by your apartment and drop off paperwork you need to fill out. And remember: the fact that you are even in ANBU is highly classified." The Sandaime paused. "That will be all then."

Tenzou knew that was his cue to leave, but he was still rooted in place. He already felt extremely rude, asking the Hokage himself a series of questions, but he had to know. He had to know how he did on his evaluation. He was a fantastic ninja, of course, but he knew it would make him feel better to have a little slip of paper that reassured him of the truth.

"If you don't mind me asking, sir…"

"You want to know your exam results, hm? Everyone does, Tenzou."

Tenzou flushed. "Yes. How did my evaluation go, Hokage-sama?"

"Ah! The examiners were very impressed by your physical performance. Your talents are very rare indeed."

Tenzou bristled a little at the emphasis on the word 'physical'.

"And my… mental evaluation?"

The Sandaime smiled cheerfully as he attempted to cover the 'disturbed, may need counseling' the psychologist had scribbled on the evaluation sheet after interviewing Tenzou. It was standard fare, of course, but he saw no need to alarm the young man.

"You passed, so don't ask so many questions."

"I understand." Tenzou relaxed his military stance.

"Oh, wait a minute. Before you leave—"

Tenzou snapped back to attention, wincing at the mild pain it caused him.

"—come up with a mission codename you won't be embarrassed to have. If you don't, your captain will name you himself," he said, smiling pleasantly. "And your squad captain seems to have a… rather odd sense of humor."

Tenzou smiled back faintly. He had met some twisted individuals before. How bad could this new guy be? "He couldn't be as bad as you say, Hokage-sama."

Sandaime sighed wistfully. "His first year he dubbed a rookie Princess… it stuck with that poor soul for a whole year."


"Hm… if you don't have any more questions, you're dismissed."

His glowing feeling of victory faded away immediately.

Tenzou didn't care if he made a complete idiot of himself in front of the cute lobby assistant anymore. He didn't even care if he was rude. He yanked the office door open, slammed it shut behind him and all but ran down the hallway to the bathroom.

The Sandaime rubbed a hand to his forehead and gave a tired smile to this clerical chuunin. Reiko smiled back, clearly delighted to be noticed for the first time that day.

The Sandaime shuffled the papers on his desk. "I thought that punk would never leave, asking me all those question… did you see him trying to adjust his pants the whole time he was here? Kids these days. Coming in to my office touching themselves."

He turned his chair around and looked out the window of his office. A few wisps of white clouds hung in the clear blue sky. It was a perfect spring morning. The carvings of the greats that had stood in his office years ago were clearly visible across the village. The Sandaime sighed. He hadn't had a worry-free time of this Hokage business, but it seemed much easier to burden years ago, when his back ached less and the kids had the sense to leave when dismissed the first time.