A Family of Sorts
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto. That copyright belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
Chapter 1: Who Pwns Whom? Part 1
"I will destroy you one day, Naruto! Mark my words!"
"Hai! Hai, Sakura-chan! I believe it! I know you will! Dattebayo! Just, when you do, please do so gently, dattebayo?"
"Thanks, Sakura-chan! And as part of your gentle destruction of me, could you maybe throw in buying me ramen at Ichiraku, you know, as a part of your promised gentle approach?"
"Don't push it, Naruto."
"Hai, Sakura-chan! It was just a thought! Dattebayo!"
The two team-mates were traipsing over to the sidelines of their training area, where their gear lay, Naruto's in toddler-level disarray, while the others' were slightly more organized. They had just finished their spar, with Naruto winning the match---by a mild margin, Sakura's reclusive inner insisted. The other two members of Kakashi's Team Seven were hidden from view by a wall of trees, but the two resting teens could clearly hear the clashing of metal and the roar of various jutsus as their mentor and peer continued to duke it out.
After a few more minutes, silence rang supreme in Team Seven's old training grounds.
"Lunch at Ichiraku says it's Kaka-sensei."
"Pfft. You're on! Because it's definitely Sasuke-kun."
It had become a bit of a habit for Naruto and Sakura---likely due to the latter's shishou's bad habit of betting on everything that she could possibly lose money on---to place bets on who would win a spar between Kakashi and Sasuke.
Unfortunately for Naruto, of all the things Sakura had inherited from her shishou, terrible luck and bad betting strategies were not among of them.
Out of the foliage, two figures materialized. First came Sasuke, looking slightly ruffled, with a tidy collection of cuts and bruises, not to mention the drowned cat appearance he was sporting to accompany the "squish, squish" sounds he made as he walked, apparently a result from being caught by a water jutsu.
"Aha! Sasuke-teme lost! I knew it! Ramen, ramen, ramen! For free! Dattebayo!" Naruto was clearly ecstatic at the appearance of his rival/best friend, and took it to mean the bet had ended in his favour. Silly boy…
Walking just behind the soaking wet Sasuke---and yes, Sakura did experience great difficulty in directing her attention away from this vision to survey the person accompanying him---was their sensei, Hatake Kakashi. And the poor old man had never looked more ragged. With a grid of cuts and a bruise job that made his skin look like it was tie-dyed, not to mention the singed smell that accompanied him---was his hair smoking?---it became quite obvious who the worse for the wear was.
"You'd better have enough money for both of us, Naruto! I'm feeling quite famished all of a sudden!" Sakura crowed, a sly grin finding itself upon her lips.
"WHA! Kaka-sensei!" Naruto screeched. "You won, right? Please tell me you didn't let that teme beat you! Please, Kaka-sensei!" He was nearly whimpering now, as a pleading look---complete with puppy eyes and a down-turned lip---formed on his face. "I need you to tell us that you beat that ugly loser!"
While Sasuke scowled at his loud team-mate and sent him a rather rude gesture in response to his comments, Kakashi opted to rub the back of his head and laugh with closed eyes, in that sheepish manner they had come to expect of him.
"Well, I can't say that I won, if that's what you want to hear."
Naruto let out a strangled whimper, his doom becoming clear as his sensei spoke.
"Really, Naruto. It's just a spar. It's not about winning and losing. It's about training for real battle and learning how your team-mates work," Kakashi finished, with a low chuckle.
A light to blot out the midday sun suddenly shone from Naruto's whiskered face. Beaming his most charming smile---which was a sure omen of ill-intent for anyone who knew him like his team-mates did---Naruto turned to Sakura and attempted an apologetic face. Such attempts were futile, of course, when his lips were twisted into a Cheshire grin, but Naruto was never one to bother with the subtler nuances of lying through one's teeth. Let's face it; the boy was just too honest to execute subterfuge properly. It could be a virtue or a curse. In this instance, it would prove to be the latter.
"Say, Sakura-chan," he began slowly and smoothly.
The addressed girl was, of course, immediately on guard. When Naruto was attempting to be calculating---something that was always blatantly obvious when he tried his unskilled hand at it---unpleasantness always, always ensued.
He went on, not in the least bit wise to his friend's tight observation of him. "Kaka-sensei is right. It really isn't about winning or losing. It's all about teamwork and preparing ourselves for real fights, so we can defend Konoha and help it prosper."
Boy was he laying it on thick. She knew where this was going now. And there was no way she was letting him get away with it. Not. A. Chance.
"And since it's really about teamwork and the prosperity of Konoha, and not at all about who won and who lost---"
"Naruto," Sakura interrupted, her face set in an unreadable mask.
"Yes, Sakura-chan?" Naruto responded, expectancy evident in his glowing eyes, as he leaned forward and nodded for her to continue with her exempting him of having to pay for her lunch. Again, silly boy…
"You are paying for my ramen today," she spoke evenly and seriously, not wanting to accidentally give him the impression that she was joking. Oh no. She was very serious. The boy had to learn that he could not just finagle his way out of deals when things didn't suit him.
"But… But, Kaka-sensei---" Naruto stuttered, attempting to save his genius plan to get out of his end of the bet.
"Kakashi-sensei explained that our sparring is about training ourselves to be better shinobi, so that we can serve our village to the best of out abilities." She stared the stuttering jinchuuriki down, daring him to interrupt her. His mouth was moving open and closed like a goldfish, but no sounds were escaping, which was fine by her. "Being a better shinobi also means holding true to our nindo, isn't that right, Naruto?" With a reluctant nod from the blonde, she continued. "And isn't your nindo to never go back on your word?"
The fox boy gave something that could have been the inbred cousin of a whimper and a growl. He knew he was so screwed.
"What was that, Naruto? I couldn't quite understand what you said." She was goading him now, knowing full-well that he knew his place in their situation: at the short end of a very pointy stick.
"Fine! But you can't have more than two bowls!" he muttered, pouting like a little boy who had just lost his playground privileges. "I need to eat too, you know…dattebayo."
"Two bowls is more than enough for me," Sakura replied with a superior nod and satisfied smile. There was nothing like exercising authority over people who could, technically, still beat her physically.
Ha! They're nothing when it comes to my superior mind skills, though! Shannaro!
"Well," Kakashi began, sensing the end of Naruto and Sakura's discussion. "I think we have time for one more spar, seeing as how I was exceptionally early today."
A collective snort emanated from the three seventeen-year-olds. He had arrived a shocking three hours fifty-seven minutes and fourteen seconds late (Sakura kept track), as opposed to five hours, as was per his usual. What a feat.
Ignoring his students' rude responses, Kakashi continued. "We'll have Sasuke and Sakura spar and Naruto will go with me."
The two pairs split up, each venturing to separate areas, allowing ample distance between them so their many highly destructive attacks would not interfere with the other sparring session.
"Hey, Kaka-sensei!" Naruto shouted at his teacher, giving away his position, and seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were in the middle of a freaking spar and he was supposed to be aiming to take out his opponent, not start a conversation with him.
The grey-haired man leapt out of hiding, brandishing a kunai and eyeing the blonde boy with a wary Sharingan eye. He knocked Naruto to his stomach, which elicited an "oomph" from the teen.
Kakashi held the kunai to his student's neck and muttered with a sigh, "Naruto, the idea is to put up a fight, not call me over for girl talk."
After squirming out from under his teacher's foot and the very sharp and pointy object said teacher had pressed to his throat, Naruto stood up with a huff and dusted his neon orange ninja suit of any debris that his little tumble may have caused to accumulate there.
Once he was satisfied that his orange ensemble was shining as brightly as it ever had, he turned to Kakashi with a foxy grin and whispered conspiratorially---though still far too loud for it to have prevented eavesdroppers from overhearing every tiny detail.
"Ne, Kaka-sensei! Who do you think will win?" the hyperactive ninja asked, nodding at his two team-mates in the distance, in the middle of a heated battle.
The jounin gave a sigh and cast a seemingly bored eye at the distant duo. "Naruto, didn't I just go over this with you, and didn't Sakura reiterate it after that? This isn't about winning and losing."
Naruto quirked his eyebrows and slightly shook his head. "Kaka-sensei. Sakura-chan wasn't irate with me. She just said what you said again and twisted it so that I would have to make good on our bet."
Internally, Hatake Kakashi died another one one-hundredth. The boy is hopeless… Externally, though, he responded, "I said 'reiterate,' not 'irate,' Naruto. They are very different words with equally different meanings."
"Oh," Naruto spoke, his 'obliviously thinking' look (wherein he gave every pretence of executing proper and fruitful thought processes, but was really working on a whole other level of incompetence) crossing his eyes. He then looked back up at his teacher and said, "You should try to enunciate better, Kaka-sensei."
The man opted to do the safest thing for his psyche and refused to pursue the matter any further. That boy's mind was beyond Kakashi's comprehension. There was no way he was venturing into that realm unless absolutely necessary. No siree.
"So, who do you think will win?" Naruto asked, blue eyes sparkling in excitement. "I'm putting my money on the teme." At the grey-head's raised eyebrow, the blonde explained. "I know Sakura-chan is crazy-strong and all, but…and don't tell them I said this!" He earned a nod from his teacher and so he continued. "Sasuke's got that freaking Sharingan. Plus he's all fast-like, and has all those weird jutsus, and whatnot." He nodded his head slightly, reaffirming his own reasoning. "Sakura-chan is real good, but still. I gotta give props to the teme. I mean, I have yet to beat him, though we've tied enough times." He grumbled the last part. "And Sakura-chan has yet to beat me, while I can outright beat her."
Kakashi was never one to pass up the opportunity to orchestrate it so that one of his students' actions came back to bite them on the derriere. So, he ever so nonchalantly said, "You say you'll put your money on that?"
"Oh yeah. I bet ramen at Ichiraku that the teme will win," Naruto nodded and glanced at his mentor. Raising a brow in surprise, he asked, "Are you agreeing to a bet with me, sensei?"
"I am," Kakashi answered, closed-eye-smile lending reassurance to the blonde before him.
"Yosh!" Naruto shouted. "If I win, you have to pay for both my ramen and Sakura-chan's."
"And if you lose, you have to pay for both Sakura's and mine," the sensei said, still smiling that same smile. As an afterthought, he added, "And you have to pay for Sasuke's too. He'll be needing a pick-me-up when he loses."
"If! If he loses!" Naruto argued. "Which he won't, 'cause I totally have this figured out! I'm so gonna win! Dattebayo!"
It was at the precise moment of Naruto's declaration of his imminent victory that Uchiha Sasuke lost to one Haruno Sakura.
At first, there was nothing but silence. Which was followed by more silence. And then, more silence. Suffice it to say, the training grounds were dominated by silence for a full two minutes before someone saw fit to screech at a frequency that was just a couple hertz short of a dog whistle.
"WWWWWHHHHHAAAAATTTTT!!!!!!! TTTTTHHHHHEEEEE!!!!!!! HHHHHEEEEELLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!! JJJJJUUUUUSSSSSTTTTT!!!!!!! HHHHHAAAAAPPPPPEEEEENNNNNEEEEEDDDDD???????!!!!!!! TTTTTEEEEEMMMMMEEEEE!!!!!!! YYYYYOOOOOUUUUU!!!!!!! LLLLLOOOOOSSSSSTTTTT!!!!!!!"
Yes. It was none other than Uzumaki Naruto, who decided to end the heavy two minute silence with an even heavier two minute screech-a-thon.
"She beat him! But I don't get it. I can beat her; she can't beat me. Yet she can beat him, but I can't beat him, but he can beat me. How does that work?" Naruto scrunched up his face in fierce concentration, his mind trying valiantly to decipher the humdinger of a puzzle he was now being faced with.
Kakashi patted him on the head like a puppy dog. "Don't strain yourself, Naruto."
"Kaka-sensei, it hurts!" Naruto cried, looking up at his teacher, pain in his blue eyes.
The two sparring partners neared the blonde and grey-haired man, a definite satisfied air positively radiating off a certain pink-haired kunoichi.
Cha! Eat that, Naruto! I beat Sasuke-kun! Let's see you do it! Oh, what's that? You can't? Because you're not as strong as me? Ha ha! That's right! Shannaro!
During Sakura's rather egotistical inner monologue, Naruto continued his screeching spree at Sasuke's loss.
"YOU LOST!!! What the heck is wrong with you?! I had ramen riding on you winning, you jerk!"
This last comment yanked Sakura out of her internal "I Rawks" fest, and induced a rather sinister aura to commandeer her person. With hard-edged eyes that would have sent a smart person running (read: smart person), she turned her gaze upon her blonde team-mate and let loose a low feral growl. "What was that, Naruto?"
The addressed shinobi turned to her and responded articulately with, "Huh?"
"You bet against me?! ME?!" Sakura cried, her screech nearly surpassing Naruto's.
"Ah---Sakura-chan!" Naruto squeaked, eyes wide and sweat pouring down his face in salty rivers. "It's not that I---What I mean is---I jus---I'm sorry, Sakura-chan!" Naruto wailed. He flung himself to his knees and clasped his hands in front of his chest in a begging stance.
It didn't work.
"Naruto," Sakura said in a dead-rage voice. "Come here."
"Come here," she repeated, pointing at the spot beside her.
Naruto cringed and quivered as he whimpered, "You're going to hurt me, aren't you?"
Sakura didn't say a word. She merely stared ahead with dead-pissed eyes and pointed violently at the same spot again.
"Oohhh maaannnn…" Naruto whined, as he grudgingly trudged over to his doom.
Guttersnipe's Word: So this is a series of one-shots I've started. As the description says, it will involve Team Seven, along with some SasuSaku and NaruHina elements. This chapter does have a sequel, but most of the instalments will be independent, so please keep that in mind.
Please visit Mr. Clicky down in his corner and review! Thanks!