Disclaimer: Naruto and it's characters are clearly not mine. If they were, there would be no plot, just character studies

"Kakashi," the Hokage ordered. "Remain for further instructions."

Kakashi released the teleportation jutsu as the other jounin vanished around him. He stood in his habitual slouch in the center of the semicircle of Konoha's leaders.

"As you will soon read in the scroll you just received," the Hokage said, removing the pipe from his mouth, "the team you will test includes Uchiha Sasuke." There was a pause, as though he were waiting for the significance to sink in. Kakashi kept his mind blank and waited for the rest.

"He is the last potential user of the Sharingan. Since your transplant, while powerful, has limitations, a fully functional Uchiha would be a huge asset to the village. And you are the only one who can teach him." There was another pause.

Kakashi didn't like where this was going. "Furthermore, I believe that the team he has been placed on, while perhaps currently, ah, young," the Hokage smiled wryly for a second, "has the potential to be as great as the Sannin. We would rather he not be separated from them."

So that was what they wanted. Kakashi stared as stonily as he could at the council without being insubordinate. "As such," continued a woman to the Hokage's left, "although you will, of course, not pass any of them without your sincere approval, we are asking you to be very careful in your evaluation. I think, if you give them the chance, you will find a team worthy of your skills." She flashed him an insincere smile and sat back.

Under his mask, Kakashi pressed his mouth into a thin line. "Hokage-sama," he said evenly, completely ignoring the rest of the council, "while I may be a…harsher judge than some of my colleagues, my decisions are ultimately fair. The teams I failed were unfit for the field." He did not add that "unfit" was a gross understatement. They were bratty kids who wanted to play ninja, soft and so innocent it bordered on suicidal. There had been nothing in them to make them teams and Kakashi didn't have the time for incompetence. Somebody else could take them into the field to die.

The Hokage sighed and looked a little tired. "Kakashi, you know I agreed with all your decisions. But the law requires all full jounin to take on a team. Just give Team 7 a chance. They may surprise you." Again, he smiled wryly for a moment before becoming serious again. "Besides," he added, "Sasuke is the only Uchiha Itachi didn't kill. We don't know why, but I have no doubt that he has some nefarious plan. If Itachi ever comes back for his brother, you're the only one who can face him and protect Sasuke, Sharingan to Sharingan. We cannot let another innocent die."

Kakashi didn't want a permanent team. He didn't need a permanent team. And he especially didn't need a team of children. For the first time, he regretted quitting ANBU. He was a trained killer, not a babysitter. But he managed to keep his tone in check as he said, "Yes, Hokage-sama," before teleporting away

Kakashi was about to be late, so he teleported to a bench on the edge of the village, sat down, and fished the scroll out of his pocket. Like all the others he had received in the past, it contained the names of three academy graduates in alphabetical order and short descriptions of their performance thus far.

Haruno Sakura

First in class in written tests. Superior chakra control. Intelligent, above average analytical skills, mediocre practical skills. Takes no initiative. Eager to please, especially authority figures. Civilian background.

Kakashi could picture her already: a bit of a know-it-all who put too much stock in the book. That would get beaten out of her eventually. He moved on to the main event.

Uchiha Sasuke

First in class overall. Above average chakra control. Focused, disciplined, superior field skills. Anit-social behavior most likely due to the Uchiha massacre and subsequent obsession with Uchiha Itachi. Will only pay attention to those who have proven themselves more skilled than him. Shinobi background.

An obsession with his elder brother combined with an intense focus on his practical skills probably meant that he was training to hunt down Itachi and either kill him or bring him to justice. Kakashi would find out soon enough.

The next name surprised him.

Uzumaki Naruto

He wasn't sure how to feel about this one. He had long ago settled on an uneasy compromise between the fact that Naruto was Sensei's son and the fact that he was the Kyuubi vessel, which left him watching Naruto from a distance. Kakashi made sure that Naruto stayed alive, more or less dealt on his own, and never intended to get any closer. Maybe the council thought they were throwing him a bone after saddling him with the Uchiha. Maybe the Hokage thought he would be kinder to Naruto than other jounin would be. Maybe this was all part of some giant plan that it was not his place to fathom. But the fourth's ability with Kyuubi's massive chakra was sure to be a force to be reckoned with. He read on.

Last in class. Poor chakra control. Poor analytical and field skills. Undisciplined, problems with authority, known delinquent. Loud, attention-seeking, but socially solitary. Shinobi birth.

Well, that was a surprise. From the look of it, Naruto was much more like Obito than Sensei, but then there was Mizuki's defeat to consider. He couldn't be a failure and have single-handedly defeated a chuunin with years of experience. It seemed that for now, Naruto remained a wild card. The only thing left to do was meet them all and see.

A quick glance at his shadow confirmed that if he walked there at a normal pace now, he'd be an hour late, but he felt an odd reluctance to face to them. He didn't know how to speak to children, let alone deal with them for an extended period of time. And then there was the fact that they had all but a free pass. How far would he have to lower his bar? It was too much of a headache to deal with right now, so he reached into his pocket, pulled out Icha Icha, and began reading. They could afford to wait.

Kakashi felt like he permanently forgot how much he enjoyed the book. He eventually walked to the Academy with his nose buried in it, and closed it only when he reached the front gate. As always, he mentally floated for a while in it as he sauntered across the yard and down the hallways. Maybe he was going about this all wrong. Perhaps these children would bring the peace and unity the world so craved, and he would help guide them to it. To be a part of something like that…it would give him a whole new meaning beyond tool and soldier. He finally pushed open the door and surveyed the new Team 7. Then a duster fell on his head in a cloud of chalk, and bounced onto the floor. Naruto threw back his head and laughed obnoxiously as he crowed, "He fell for it!" Haruno immediately started sucking up to him, throwing Naruto into the proverbial kunai barrage in the process. Uchiha Sasuke stared disdainfully, clearly judging him by a presumed inability to dodge a chalk duster.

Kakashi bent down and picked up the eraser. He surveyed his new team. They were about as cohesive as an Icha Icha plot, and brats to boot. He instantly decided that he had been right the first time around, in the council room. Being saddled with them was an insult to everything he'd been through and every skill he had. Normally he would have failed them on the spot, but this time it looked like he was stuck with them unless they were almost civilian-level. "Hmm, how can I put this?" he mused. "My first impression of you is…well, I hate you."

At a loss for how to start, he took them to the roof where Minato-sensei had taken their team and asked the same introductory questions. Naruto demanded that he go first.

"My name is Hatake Kakashi. My likes and dislikes…" He felt Icha Icha's weight in his pocket. "I have no intention of telling you about those. As for my dreams…" His dead father and teammates flashed before him. He moved on. "I have few hobbies."

They looked a bit put out, though he couldn't imagine why. But there were bigger fish to fry. Sensei's features stared at him from a too-skinny twelve year old's face, and personal curiousity got the better of him. "You first," he ordered, looking at Naruto.

"I'm Uzumaki Naruto," Naruto said eagerly, fiddling with his forehead protector. They may have been Sensei's features, but Kakashi had the fleeting feeling that he was looking at Obito's face before Naruto continued.

"I like cup ramen. But I like the ramen Iruka-sensei bought for me at Ichiraku's even more. I hate the three minutes that I have to wait for the water to heat. My hobby is to eat different ramens and compare them. And my dream is—"

To be a bowl of ramen, Kakashi thought before he could stop himself.

"—to be the greatest Hokage!" Kakashi was surprised. He remembered his sensei saying the same words, with the same determination. But where Sensei was smart and skilled, Naruto was about as quick as a punching post, if his file was any indication. What was he thinking, trying to be Hokage? Naruto certainly grew up interesting.

Aloud he said, "Ok, next."

Sakura jumped in. "I'm Haruno Sakura!" she said, far too excitedly for Kakashi's taste. Rin had been much calmer and more mature when they met. "I like…well the person I like…" she blushed and squirmed, glancing at Sasuke. Kakashi groaned inwardly. So that was what he was in for. As if it wasn't bad enough already. "And my hobby is…well, my dream is to…," she glanced at Sasuke again and squealed, apparently randomly, at a pitch Kakashi didn't know humans could reach. Definitely nothing like Rin.

"And? What do you hate?" he prompted, trying to give her another chance. Maybe there was a shinobi underneath all that girl.

"Naruto," she stated flatly. Naruto wilted. So much for teamwork. Rin had been their peacekeeper. Sakura was anything but. Girls her age were probably far more interested in boys than training.

"Ok, last guy," he ordered.

"My name is Uchiha Sasuke," the boy declared without looking at the rest of his team. He sat with his fingers intertwined in front of his face as his dark eyes stared intently into the distance. "There are many things I hate and there aren't a lot of things that I like." Sakura looked disappointed at that. She'd have to learn to school her expressions if she wanted to amount to anything.

"I have an ambition that I do not intend to leave as a dream. The revival of my clan and to…kill a certain man."

Silence followed this announcement. It was just as he thought, but if Sasuke was seriously hunting his brother, protecting him would be significantly harder. He would have to look into that further. If they pass, he added to himself hastily.

When they were done, Kakashi announced the test. Predictably, Naruto nearly aneurysmed, Sakura thought they had learned everything they needed to know in school, and Sasuke maintained his scowl. He wondered why he even bothered looking at their files if they were going to be this easy. But as he turned to leave, there was determination on all three faces. Maybe they had a chance in hell. He made sure to mention not to eat breakfast, just in case.

In the end, Kakashi tested them as he would any other team. And yes, he was a couple hours or so later to the training grounds than normal. And maybe he made them fight a little harder. And it was possible that he did more to intimidate them. But other than that, it was more or less business as usual.

As far as skill evaluation, Naruto was an easy read, just like Obito had been-all direct frontal attacks and a huge chip on his shoulder to excel that made him easy to bait. But unlike Obito, he was a fast learner and a creative fighter. Maybe he was Minato-sensei's son after all.

Sakura was a disappointment. She was clearly highly intelligent, but "mediocre practical skills" didn't begin to cover it. After six years of training and study, she still completely failed at translating from paper to the field. He really thought that with her mind, breaking a genjutsu would be easiest for her. But she hadn't even detected it, despite Kakashi showing himself to her and making a big deal of blowing leaves around to mark the transition. Not that Rin had exactly been a shinobi genius, but she wasn't useless. And she definitely had never fainted. Sakura would have been killed in an hour in the war.

Sasuke, though, was something else entirely. He was exceptional, probably the best genin the village had seen since Uchiha Itachi, and the only one Kakashi had ever tested to make him put Icha Icha away. But he was arrogant, the way Kakashi had been at his age, and Kakashi could almost literally see him ten years from now with the same regrets. It was going to be an especially difficult road with him. If I keep them, he added to himself again. They still had the real test to pass.

"I will give you one more chance," he told them when they stopped for lunch. Their sweaty, dirt-streaked faces lit up like a signaling mirror on a sunny day. "However, the battle for the bell will be much harder after lunch. Eat only if you are up to the challenge. But don't feed Naruto."

He left them alone and concealed his presence behind a tree. Even from here he could hear Naruto's stomach. Then he watched as Sasuke, the arrogant loner, offered up his food to Naruto and the entire team united, like beads threaded onto a string. Time for the final stage.

Kakashi appeared in a huge cloud of smoke. "You three!" he shouted, racing out of it, looking absolutely furious and radiating just enough killing intent to scare them shitless. Naruto and Sakura both screamed with terror and Sasuke fell into fighting stance, ready to defend them to the death. Maybe not so difficult a road after all. He was learning faster than Kakashi ever had.

"You three broke the rule. Are you prepared for you punishment?" He formed the hand signs to cast a mild genjutsu that made it look like the sky was roiling with black clouds. He made lightning flash in the clouds and the earth shake. "Any last words?" he asked ominously. He had to make sure they meant it.

"We're a three man team, right," Sasuke said, fist clenched.

At that Sakura stopped cowering and looked at him defiantly. "That's right! We three are one!"

"Yeah!" Naruto said, kicking and straining at the rope tying him to the post.

"You pass!" he announced suddenly, as he closed his eye into a cresent and released the genjutsu. They stared at him in disbelief, mouths wide open, like guppies. It was the funniest thing he'd seen in a long time.

Sakura beamed and Sasuke smirked with satisfaction, while tears of ecstasy began to well in Naruto's eyes. Kakashi suppressed the urge to call him a crybaby.

"Let's go home," he said instead. He turned to walk back to the village, new teammates following.

First, a huge thank you to Shay for sticking with me as my beta and helping me cut a lot of junk from this chapter. As always, she was wonderfully insightful, concise, accurate, honest, and helpful. Please, please remember to review for both of us. It's been so long since I've written, that I'm sure I've developed a whole host of new issues that need addressing, and I would love feedback.

Also I know, it's been a while, and I'm really sorry about that. A couple pieces of business:

1) Starting Monday, I'm going to medical school. Yaaaay! (So review: I have to be able to communicate effectively by writing, or people's lives might be in danger). But med school means a total lack of time, which means that writing is over for me, probably forever. Which brings me to...

2) A promise is a promise, and I promised that I would finish this fic. I have the last chapter mostly written, but the middle chapters are missing. So the plan right now is to publish the last chapter to give you, all my wonderful readers, closure, and then go back and do the middle chapters if I ever get time.

3) In light of one and two, I'd love to see the story properly finished by someone else. So if you like this idea, and want to keep going with it, go for it! Give me a heads up if you do, because it would make me indescribably happy to read it, but other than that, do what you like, no credit or anything silly like that required.

And yup, that's it. So in summary, please review, and feel free to play with this take on Kakashi. If you're interested, PM me, and I'll give you my general outline.