Losers

Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto I would be out shopping cause I'd probably be wildly rich.

Update (12/31/07): I belatedly recalled that Jiraya mentions that Minato was a genius, so I added a little bit referring to that and slightly tweaked a sentence near the end.


"I wonder who our sensei will be?" Uchiha Obito leaned back in his chair at the Academy as the milling students gradually dispersed with their jounin team leaders. He waved at skinny Yuuhi Kurenai who was looking nervous as she followed out her new sensei, AburameShibi—a weird-looking ninja wearing a wide collar and sunglasses, even inside. He leaned back further in his chair, now precariously balanced on two legs, and glanced over to see if Rin was watching.

"Do you think it might be your uncle?" She looked over at him, brown eyes wide.

"Nah. Uncle Fugaku's been getting more involved with the military police these days. I doubt he has time for training genin any more." Obito tilted a little further back, using only one foot to push himself back against the desk but looked up at Rin's gasp.

A tall ninja strode into the room, his green vest a stark contrast to his bright blond hair. He had a friendly smile on his face and stopped to chat with one of the instructors. But Rin wasn't looking at the man, she was gazing at the kid who followed him in—a skinny boy with a thatch of wild silver hair that stuck out in all directions. He wore a dark blue mask on the lower half of his face, and Obito eyed him with more interest; so this was the White Fang's son? How cool! All the Academy boys knew about Hatake Kakashi—the youngest to graduate from the Academy in over a decade. Rumor around the playground said he could perform high-ranking ninjutsu better than a few of the jounin.

The tall blond ninja spoke to the instructor at the front of the room who nodded and turned to gesture at Obito and Rin. Both the jounin and Kakashi looked up at them. Rin's face turned a fierce red, making her crimson cheek tattoos almost blend in with the rest of her skin. Obito waved cheerily, eyes on the masked chuunin.

"Hey! You're Hatake Kakashi, aren't you? I'm Uchiha Obito. Can I hold your sword? Why do you wear a mask? Say, do you know if—aaaaah!" Obito's world turned upside down as the chair tipped over, and he landed hard on the tiled Academy floor, knees by his ears.

"Obito-kun!" Rin gasped.

"Watch yourself there," chuckled the blond jounin who had inexplicably appeared beside Obito.

"I'm fine, I'm fine!" Obito grunted, ears red. He frowned and looked up at the older ninja through his skewed goggles. "Hey, how'd you get up here so fast?"

"Are you stupid?" asked a lazy voice. Rin, Obito, and the blond jounin looked over. Kakashi was standing next to a window, arms crossed across his skinny chest, his dark eyes looking with contempt at the other boy.

"What do you mean am I stupid?" Obito sat up and replaced his goggles, the good-natured grin fading from his face.

"Well, you must be stupid," Kakashi's calm voice continued. "Everyone knows of Konoha's Yellow Flash. Don't you know anything?"

Obito momentarily forgot his growing disgust with the Hatake kid and looked up with astonishment at the friendly face still smiling into his.

"Namikaze Minato, at your service," he said with a laugh and glanced over at his other student. "Don't be rude, Kakaii-kun. They've been cloistered in the Academy for a long time after all, and I'm sure their brains are fried from exams."

Kakashi shrugged as if doubtful but said nothing more. Rin's face was still red with embarrassment, though she kept looking over at the silver-haired Kakashi more than Obito thought was necessary. The blond ninja helped Obito to his feet.

"As you might have guessed, I'm your new team leader. That ill-mannered brat over there is Hatake Kakashi; he's studied with me for a few years now, but now it's time for both of us have a proper team."

"Sensei," murmured Rin, bowing. Obito followed suit but, noticing Rin's blush again as she bowed toward Kakashi, decided that his new teammate didn't deserve that much. He nodded brusquely instead at the masked boy and received the same back.

Hmpf. Hatake Kakashi isn't so special, thought Obito, disgruntled. I bet he has really bad pimples or something. He sniggered. Kakashi's black eyes narrowed at Obito.

"I am Obito of the brilliant and celebrated Uchiha clan, so don't forget it! With my sharingan, I'll be the best ninja in the village within a month." Obito crossed his arms and lifted his chin.

Kakashi walked closer, looking at Obito's eyes. "I don't see any sharingan."

Obito flushed. "They're… well, not… activated yet. It's only a matter of days, really."

Kakashi snorted, but before Obito could call him out on that, Rin rushed in with her introduction.

"I'm Rin… and I want to be a medical-nin more than anything." She peeked again at Kakashi, as if to gauge whether he thought her goal a worthy one. Obito bristled.

"Well, it's a pleasure to meet you two," Minato said, glancing between Obito and Kakashi. "Let's go to Ichiraku; it's this great new ramen stand that just opened up a few weeks ago. There's nothing like a nice bowl of ramen to facilitate teamwork." He grinned, folding his arms behind his head.

On their way out of the Academy, Kakashi naturally fell into step beside their tall sensei while Obito and Rin trailed behind, awkward and not yet feeling their place in this new arrangement. Obito stared at the shoulder blades of their new teammate, admiration and dislike warring within.

At one point during their walk, Kakashi glanced back and saw Obito staring at him.

"What?"

Obito looked away with a scowl. "Nothing."

Ichiraku's turned out to be a brightly lit, cheery stand with white banners and lamps.

"Welcome!" boomed a deep voice as Obito climbed up on a stool. "Free extra pork for everyone today!"

Minato laughed. "Konichiwa Teuchi-san! What's the occasion?"

The square-faced ramen server thrust out a small bundle toward Minato. "Congratulate me, Namikaze-sama. I'm a father!"

The bundle squirmed and squalled, one pink arm shooting out and waving in the air inches from Minato's face.

"Congratulations! What's er… what name did you choose?"

"Ayame, after her grandmother."

Minato took the baby girl and showed her off to his students. Rin cooed and smiled at the dark-haired infant, but the boys stayed aloof. Minato laughed at the pair of them.

"What, not afraid of a baby are you?"

"Of course not!" Obito scoffed and took one step closer to prove it.

Kakashi rolled his eyes and held out his arms, making sure Obito saw. "Here, let me hold her."

Obito scowled as Kakashi took the baby, copying the way Minato had crooked his arm to support her head.

"See? It's not hard at all—ow!"

Ayame's little fist shot out of her blankets and bopped Kakashi right on his masked nose. Seeing Kakashi's stony expression, Minato hurriedly took the baby back and gave her back to her beaming father. Ordering took a few minutes as Obito deliberated on what to have, but once the steaming bowls were set in front of them, he even forgot his disgust with Kakashi as the fragrant smell reached his nose.

"Itadakimasu!" Obito dug in, slurping the noodles with appreciation. This was good! He wondered how Kakashi ate with that mask. Surely he would have to take it off to eat? Obito leaned back; Kakashi was sitting on the opposite side of Minato, his small form difficult to see beside their sensei's bulky vest. Leaning forward he caught a glimpse of Kakashi's arm moving up, as if to maneuver noodles into his mouth. Almost there! Obito leaned forward more... he could just barely see Kakashi's cheek...

"Obito-kun!" Rin squeaked beside him.

"What?" He looked over at her, irritated.

"You have noodles all over you."

Obito looked down; he had tipped some ramen noodles down his shirtfront and at his jerk of surprise, the rest of the soup slopped down into his lap.

"Argh!" Obito jumped off the stool, brushing noodles from his tunic and groaned at the barbeque sauce from the pork staining his pants. His mother was going to kill him. This was a special silk Uchiha uniform especially made for his graduation. She had warned him over and over to be careful, because not even dry cleaners could get bad stains out of this kind of cloth. Now it was completely ruined; his mother had saved her money for nothing.

Obito gulped, feeling his throat tighten. What would his father say? Actually, he never had to say anything. Just look at him as if he didn't know him—a look he was far too used to. After all, he was the "loser Uchiha"…

"Why do you have ramen all over you? And why are you crying?" Kakashi leaned back from his stool, staring at Obito—mask already back in place.

Obito jerked his hand away from his face in the act of wiping his eyes and patted his pockets to search for his eye drops, not looking at the silver-haired boy. "I'm not crying! My… eyes water. I have… uh, allergies."

"Loser," Kakashi muttered.

"Hey!" Obito brandished a fist. "What's with you?"

"Alright," said the blond jounin with a loud slurp, eyeing the two boys with stern blue eyes, "no fighting while we're eating. We're a team now, so we should get to know each other. What do you like and dislike? What are your hopes? Your dreams?"

Obito reluctantly climbed back onto his stool, accepting with mute thanks a damp towel from the ramen chef to wipe the worst of the mess off his clothes. He squirmed at the question, uncertain. "Could you go first, sensei? To show us what you mean."

"Sure. My likes? Hmm... redheads and ramen, preferably together." Minato scratched his chin. "Dislikes? Cold ramen, the clone jutsu, and long, boring speeches. My dream?" He dug around in his bowl, finding one last naruto with his chopsticks. "My dream is to marry Uzumaki Kushina and have ten children."

"Ten?" Obito and Rin gaped at him, while Kakashi rolled his eyes. Obito barely knew anyone with more than two children, let alone ten.

"In your dreams is right, Toad Breath." A hand came down on Minato's head, shoving it down in a playful manner.

Obito looked up to see a pretty, curvy woman with waist-length red hair. But that was all he glimpsed before Minato disappeared from his stool and reappeared behind the woman with a kunai at her throat.

"Gotcha, Kushina-chan!"

The woman smirked. "Oh really?" She disappeared in a poof of smoke.

Minato scowled. "Shadow clone! Ugh!"

"On the roof, sensei," Kakashi said, pointing.

They all looked up to the rooftops across the street in time to see the woman blow a kiss at Minato and hop away wearing a wide grin.

"Who was that?" Obito blinked.

"Oh, just a friend, unfortunately," Minato waved a hand dismissively though he was still smiling. "Alright, where were we?" He glanced over at Rin. "Rin-san, you go first. Likes, dislikes, hopes, and dreams."

"Well, I like trying new things," Rin said, a slight flush warming her cheeks. "I love to learn, and I especially like sweet dumplings and my kitten, Miko. I don't dislike a lot of things… except doing the dishes." She made a face. "I hate that. My dreams? I want to be a medical-nin, more than I can say, and not just an average one, but the best that I can possibly be."

Minato nodded, a pleased look on his face. "Very good. Obito-kun?"

"I like…" Obito glanced at Rin, felt his cheeks warm, and looked away. "I like video games, especially the kind when you play different levels of ninja. I've made it all the way to jounin on Shinobi Battles X."

Kakashi rolled his eyes. "You play at ninja while the rest of us actually are—"

"Kakashi," Minato said the boy's name quietly, and he slouched back on his stool, eyes averted. Minato nodded at Obito. "Please continue."

Obito mumbled out the rest of his answers is as few words as possible, too angry to think of anything more polite. He blatantly ignored Kakashi when it was his turn next and made a show of looking for his eye drops again while the other spoke, putting some in his eyes with exaggerated care.

Minato glanced at the clock on the wall of the ramen stand. "We're due at the training grounds in ten minutes. Let's go."

Rin lost her shyness after the meal and chattered to Minato on the way, occasionally trying to include Obito and Kakashi, but eliciting nothing but a grunt from the former and monosyllabic replies from the latter.

The training grounds looked ominous to Obito's annoyed mind; the three wooden posts standing like grim sentinels over the lush foliage and conspicuously empty clearing in front of them.

Obito stood beside Rin, wondering what was going to happen next. There was a martial glint in Kakashi's dark eyes that he didn't like.

Minato dug into his pocket and brought out two small bells.

"Your object today is to get these bells before dark. If you do not get a bell before dark, you will be tied to one of these posts all night and… you will be sent back to the Academy."

"What?" Rin gasped. Obito ground his teeth. No way was he going back there, back to being a kid again! It was bad enough that his parents, sister, and older cousins thought he was the weak one of the family. He could almost hear the taunts: "Are you sure he from the Uchiha clan? Doesn't look like he could produce a fireball jutsu even if he had a lighter to start it with."

"Not going to happen!" Obito shouted, raising his fist. "I'm an elite Uchiha, and I refuse to lose!"

Minato grinned, Rin smiled, but Kakashi merely raised an eyebrow. Obito scowled. How could that punk make such a condescending expression when he couldn't even see most of his face?

"To make it more interesting…"

To Obito's surprise, Minato tossed one of the bells to Kakashi. The silver-haired chuunin calmly tied it to his waist and crossed his arms, looking straight at Obito. Grinning, Obito chuckled to himself. Not even fancy-pants Kakashi could know that Obito was the best at one-on-one combat. He may not have made his clan's signature fireball jutsu at the right age, but that didn't mean he didn't have it now…

"Alright…" Minato said, looking at his team. "You may start… now!"

Rin disappeared in the blink of an eye, but Obito stayed put, his blood starting to race with the excitement of the challenge.

"What are you doing, idiot?" Kakashi asked. "You'll never get a bell by coming at me head on."

"Oh yeah?" Obito smirked and let his hands form the seals…. "Katon! Goukakyuu no jutsu!"


Obito's stomach growled.

"Not fun is it?" said a voice above his head.

Obito turned as much as he could with the ropes binding him and saw a yellow gleam perched on top of the post.

"Sensei?"

"In the flesh." Minato hopped down to stand in front of the post. The belt loop at the jounin's side was empty; Rin had succeeded in capturing the bell with a clever distraction—transforming herself into the redhead from Ichiraku. Of course, being a jounin, he hadn't fallen for it completely, but it had distracted him enough that she'd been able to slip in under his defenses with a kunai, slice the string, and catch the bell.

Obito, in contrast, had failed completely. Kakashi not only brushed aside his every attack as if he were a child but seemed unfazed by the huge fireball jutsu that had even caught Minato by surprise. Unfortunately, using the fireball technique drained his chakra quicker than if he'd put a tap on it, and too late he realized his error in attacking blindly with sheer force rather than waiting as Rin did and formulating a strategy.

And now it was too late. He was tied to the post and tomorrow he'd have to face his parents and tell them that he was going back to the Academy. Tears gathered in his eyes, and Obito ducked his head, embarrassed.

"Hey, what are those for?" Minato tapped him under the chin. "So you lost to Kakashi, big deal? There are few ninja in this village who would stand a chance against him. I'm actually impressed that you stuck it out for so long. And that fireball was extraordinary—I didn't know someone your age could do a grand fireball jutsu twice."

"It's not fair!" Obito burst out. "Kakashi's so great, and I'm just the loser Uchiha who couldn't throw a kunai straight to save my life. Why do I have to go back to the Academy just because I can't beat a genius like him?"

Minato crouched next to the post, resting his arms on his knees.

"You know, Obito-kun, I hated, absolutely hated the Academy. I couldn't wait to get out of there. I thought I was such hot stuff—who cares if I couldn't make a single clone like the rest of my classmates?" Minato laughed and shrugged. "Unfortunately, the teachers did. It took me two tries to graduate, but you know what? I still can't make a decent clone. Look too close and you can tell the difference easily. The thing is, losers like me and you sometimes take a little longer than the lucky ones born with genius." Minato stood, kunai in hand, and cut the ropes binding Obito to the post. "Just because you aren't as good as Kakashi now, doesn't mean you can't be as good as Kakashi later." He clasped his hands behind his head, grinning. "After all, if a loser like me can be a jounin, I'm sure Obito of the elite Uchiha clan can do it too."

Obito stared at his sensei, sullen. "Don't lie to me."

Minato raised his eyebrows. "Why would I lie to you?"

Obito swiped the sleeve of his ruined tunic under his nose. "At the Academy our sensei used to talk about you. How you we should all look up to you. He never got tired of saying that you're a genius; the kind that only comes along once in lifetime."

A wry smile twisted the blond's mouth. "That may be so, but it still took me two tries to graduate. Go check the Academy records, ask old Aroh-sensei—he'll tell you plenty of stories about how I goofed off in class. Genius doesn't excuse people from work. I didn't do my homework, therefore I got a failing grade. I slept through exams—another failing grade. Even Kakashi has had to work hard for his level of skill. If we were to stop training, our muscles would lose their strength, our chakra networks would stiffen up—in short, we'd be hopelessly out of shape and probably die on our next mission."

Obito lifted his goggles to rub the last of the tears from his eyes and looked back at Minato. "Why are you telling me all this anyway? Didn't I fail?"

"No. it was just a test. I figured though if I didn't make it sound necessary to your existence as a ninja you might not try as hard as you could."

"Oh." Obito was quiet for a moment. "Sensei?"

"Hmm?"

"I promise to work real hard, and I will surpass Kakashi, someday. Especially when my sharingan activates. Heh!"

"That's the spirit!" Minato said approvingly. "Now come on, Rin and Kakashi are waiting for us at Dango. I bet you're hungry."

"Starving!"

Obito expected Kakashi to meet him with some contemptuous remark about his abysmal failure at the field, but he didn't. He was quiet but polite and even laughed once at a joke Minato made. When the food came he took one careful glance around the table, meeting Obito's eyes and nodded, as if accepting something. With one finger, he lowered his mask and began to eat.

Obito stared at him, stunned, until Kakashi looked back up at him. "What? Haven't you seen a nose before? I could say a few things about yours—looks like a tomato now and then, especially when you're crying."

Rin winced, and Minato raised an eyebrow, but Obito laughed and dug into his own meal with renewed appetite. Maybe not today, but someday, somehow he would surpass Kakashi.