Rating: T or M
Warnings: AU/AR, OOC, cursing, possible lemon or lime
Key: "regular talking" thoughts/emphasis "other voice" "demon/higher being/boss summon" "possessed person/animal"
Summary: Sasuke may get to keep his family, but is it for the better? AR, OOC, etc. Sakura and Naruto might say, "No."
Note: I have no "set" or planned pairings. Any and all suggestions are welcome. The only thing I really don't like his a ten year gap or higher; TsuNaru, JirSaku, etc.
Edited by Masu Trout. She's my beta for Switch now. Give her two thumbs up. 2/24/10
--- Chapter 1: Welcome to the Enigma
No answer. The older Uchiha just remained still, laying on his bed.
Sasuke sighed. All he got was a slow glance in his direction. Progress was progress…but still. Some days, his brother wouldn't even respond. Was it too much to want a "Hi," or, "Hey, Sasuke," every once in a while?
Apparently, in this household it was.
"I'm gonna take my genin exam today."
As frustrating as it was, Sasuke could never be mad at his brother. It wasn't Itachi's fault, after all... he found that Itachi was an excellent listener, though.
Many would argue that was because he never talked, but his younger brother knew better. Secretly, he thought Itachi liked hearing about his day, what he was going to do and the like. Itachi's usually blank eyes would light up as he ranted about girls and how confusing they were, and about the jerkwads that whispered ugly things about his brother and clan. Sasuke knew Itachi listened, and he would even smile and nod sometimes when Sasuke told him about how he aced a test or learned a new jutsu.
Those were his favorite moments.
"Bye, Itachi," he called, slamming the door.
"hehe..gonna screw up again?"
Naruto glared, but otherwise showed no reaction.
"Oh, I forgot, you're gonna impress Iruka! How, show him how spectacularly you can fail?"
People never understood his silence. It wasn't because he had nothing to say. He just hated the snarky comments it provided whenever he messed up. Or the insults it threw at his various classmates.
Naruto never had a moment of peace. Even his self-imposed quiet failed to work. But it was better than accidentally saying something aloud to it. People already thought he was crazy enough.
His eyes were hard as he left the alley.
It had been two years since then, but it was still hard.
Sakura missed her father badly. The way he laughed, his voice, even the way he smelled. She was scared that she would forget. So Sakura reminded herself every day. She would think of those memories fondly and light a candle.
"I'll make you proud."
The twelve-year-olds milled around the classroom nervously. Others were chattering loudly, pretending that everything was normal. Everyone had their own way of calming their nerves; a few were psyching themselves up using sworn by rituals older siblings had told them about.
Hinata, Shino, Naruto, and Sasuke were the only ones not conducting themselves noisily.
Ino and Sakura were in an intense debate on which type of boy was better, and even had a few onlookers. Some of the other girls, Gin and Reika among them, were listening with rapt interest.
Shikamaru, a typical Nara, was trying vainly to catch a few more Zs. Although it was a mystery what exactly that he could be doing that was so tiring. Everyone thought he was just lazy, and so far they hadn't been proven wrong. Who claimed picking up a pencil was too much work, and who actually used that as an excuse to have a blank test?
It was a miracle that the Nara was passing...if only barely.
Chouji Akimichi was eating chips, rapid fire. All of his written tests were always greasy, and no one found him attractive at all.
Shikamaru and Chouji somehow were best friends. Some jokingly said they were "bums for life" and that Shikamaru's sloth and Chouji's gluttony complimented each other.
Kiba was proclaiming, quite loudly, how he would kick everyone's ass, and his puppy Akamaru seemed to agree, barking at high volume. Most paid him no mind as he was just blowing off steam.
Naruto was all but alone in the back row on the top. No one sat by him, as he was too creepy and weird. Everyone in the class said he was a loser and didn't want to catch it. The blond was also short; even some of the girls were taller than him, not that he cared. He just hated it when he was called crazy. Or at least, that's what got the best reaction from him.
Sasuke and Shino were nearest to him, as they were the most composed and mature of the class. Shino was on the row closest to the door, and only Reika sat by him. Sasuke was in the row directly below the class reject, to the right. Naruto suspected Shino just didn't care, as he was an Aburame, and Sasuke just wanted to keep his fangirls away. The blond had a good way of warding them off.
Sakura and Ino always sat together, toward the front in the middle; the pair of best friends were always jabbering on about something together. It was an exclusively 'them' friendship.
Kiba, when he skipped class, frequently did it with Chouji, the lazy Nara, or both of them if they were up to it. He preferred to sit by Hinata if he could, though; she was shy and quiet, but he found her cute, especially when she blushed, which was very often. The bum and the slob (as others less fond of them called Chouji and Shikamaru) always sat by each other, to the left.
As soon as Iruka and Mizuki, the chuunin instructors, entered the room silence fell. Typically this wasn't the case. Normally the class continued to be rowdy for at least a few minutes before they noticed their sensei, (sooner, if Iruka was having a bad day and roared at them) but today was different.
Sakura was confident she would ace the written exam. She was nervous about the jutsu portion though, she was much better at theory... Ino always beat her in spars.
Kiba was cocky he would ace everything; he was the coolest guy around after all. Way better than those Traitor-Uchihas.
Everyone had no doubt they would become genin one way or another.
Shino calmly looked down at the written test. Hm. So most of the test contains elements of History, and the Shinobi Code. He was an intelligent young man with a very rational mind, and found very little of the exam trying.
Naruto stared at his paper. History he could do and he knew the Shinobi code somewhat, though he couldn't claim he knew it like the back of his hand. 'Shinobi Rule #5: Always conduct yourself in a respectable manner in front of your leader.'
"Be careful not the break your back bowing," Sarcasm mocked.
Sasuke wrote down his answers at a fairly quick, steady pace. Most of these were child's play. There isn't any theory here past what any dropout would know. Unconsciously, he glanced in Naruto's direction. The blond was as silent as Itachi, refusing to answer questions even from Mizuki and Iruka. Sasuke wondered why he refused to talk.
Eventually, a half hour later, the papers were picked up, and they were told to line up in alphabetical order.
Thus, Naruto ended up behind Uchiha Sasuke and in front of Yamanaka Ino.
She sighed, watching the back of the darker blond's head. What is up with him? He, like, never talks. How does he even pass? Ino mused silently, as she only had time. Seriously, no one was behind her, and about thirty kids to go before she had to show off her skills. I bet Iruka-sensei has a soft spot for him. One time she had spotted them at a ramen bar, Ichiraku's, and the mind specialist even swore she saw Naruto laugh. I probably just imagined it. He never even smiles or talks, much less laughs at a joke.
Still, at least he didn't come from a clan of traitors. Her eyes lingered on Sasuke. Everyone knew Uchiha were bad news and couldn't be trusted.
A few people fidgeted as they waited. Just what were they doing in there?
Finally, my turn. Sasuke thought. He walked into the room confidently. Bunshin and Henge he could do in his sleep. Kawarimi and Rope-escape might give him more trouble, but Uchiha Sasuke was top of the class for a reason.
"Alright, Sasuke, first I want you to perform an adequate henge, and then perform a kawarimi," Iruka said.
He and Mizuki sat behind a table laden with papers and hitai-ate. Only a few head-bands were left. A lot of people must have passed, he realized. They never saw the other kids once they went in, and had no way of knowing whether or not they'd failed.
Sasuke nodded, and set an image firmly in his mind. Put a thin layer of chakra over my body. He gathered and spread the mix of physical and spiritual energy and formed the rat sign, finishing the jutsu with a poof of smoke. Pleased with himself (guessing from Mizuki's startled look and Iruka's pleased one), Itachi-Sasuke shoved his hands in his pockets.
Mizuki recovered momentarily. "Now kawarimi, then."
"You can use anything of your choice."
Sasuke nodded at Iruka's words. Damn. It's always more difficult with a smaller object, or an exceedingly large one, he added, glancing at his teachers, their chairs, and the desk all in turn.
His eyes locked on the hitai-ate.
"Kawarimi!" He said quietly.
In a poof of smoke, Sasuke was gone. The smoke dispersed quickly, revealing a head band. Sasuke was on the edge of the desk, violating Iruka's personal space.
"Well done," Mizuki praised evenly.
"Now onto the last task, please show us your bunshin no jutsu, and produce at least two copies."
Heh. Piece of cake.
Moments later, he exited out the back door, hitai-ate around his forehead.
Naruto watched Sasuke walk out, "Ooh. Look, even traitor-boy managed to get one! I don't like the way he's lookin' at us!" blocked out the comment, and headed into the room.
Her mother's smile was warm, and the just-graduated-to-genin girl couldn't help but smile in return. Mei's brown eyes held a gentle but proud light in them that hid her worry for her only daughter. Sakura was oblivious to it, reveling in the joy of her accomplishment.
"Do you think Tou-san is proud?"
She was a bit anxious, wanting to do good to his memory, and also very serious. Her mother told her how a spirit may not be able to linger, but the Shinigami would allow them to see the world in order to watch over their loved ones.
The Haruno matriarch thought it over for a few minutes, showing that she also took her daughter's inquiry seriously and not brushing it off, or giving what Sakura called an "automatic Mom response". And then her face cleared, becoming less solemn. "Yes, I believe he is. I'm sure his spirit is proud that his daughter is taking her dreams seriously."
Heavy matters pressed, talked about, and over with, the mood in the house considerably lightened.
"Mm. Do you think Sasuke-kun might have noticed?"
Sakura felt her face flush at the thought of her crush. She only referred to him like this in private, not wanting him to get the wrong idea. And it would be presumptuous of her. Also, she knew her best friend Ino frowned on her strange infatuation.
Mei tried not to frown; she was raised to be a fair person and her husband had disapproved of narrow-mindedness, but even if the boy wasn't directly involved, that clan was nothing but bad news. Just like the Uzumaki-boy. She liked Sakura's friend, the Yamanaka girl much better. A bit of a chatterbox, but she was a much better influence and had her priorities in the right place when it came to people to associate with.
"I'm sure he did, if you gave it your all." It was what Sakura called the AMR, but she didn't notice that her mom was just placating her.
Love made a person irrational, after all.
Something was just so…striking about him. Sakura couldn't pin down just the one thing that drew her in. He certainly had more than enough in the looks department. But the twelve-year-old couldn't help but think it was something more than just his physical aspects. For now, all she could do was sigh wistfully and daydream about how, well, dreamy he was.
All of the class turned around the next day in the middle of Iruka's lecture on what it meant now that they had graduated, and would now proudly serve the village. It was something boring about responsibility and danger and all that. Or how risking your life for the village was an honor. All in all, typical brainwashing.
There was a collective unheard gasp of surprise.
Iruka blinked in shock. They never did anything in unison.
Uzumaki Naruto lingered in the doorway, azure eyes flickering about the room and the class, flitting from fellow students, his sensei Iruka, and to discarded chalk and broken pencils. He had a nasty looking black eye that had to be sore, and would soon be turning a sick yellow. Parts of his face were bruised and bandages peeked from his sleeves, suggesting other injuries. An ugly half healed wound was running along his neck, mostly vertical, from just below his jaw line to his collar bone. Undoubtedly the maverick and been in a serious fight and lost badly, or otherwise was beaten heavily, judging from the limp and his stiff movements.
A hitai-ate rested on his neck, partially hiding the jagged soon-to-be scar on his neck.
Rumors had spread viciously that he had failed, and his assumed muteness and terrible grades had only added fuel to the fire. Secretly, many hoped that was the case. Shock from his injured state kept the disappointment from invading their systems.
No one had confirmed his failure, and any lingering doubts flew out the window as he sat down, ignoring the blatant stares.
Sasuke and Sakura both shared an unexpected look, as she looked to the left, and he to the right. The exchange was less than a minute, but it mattered to her, none-the-less. Her inner-self noted it while, outwardly, she was slightly freaking out at Naruto's sudden (and beat up) appearance. Ino always said that he was trouble, just like Sasuke and the rest of the Uchiha. Could she have been right?
Naruto sat down quickly in his normal area (he didn't have a spot or seat that was his, just a radius of up to two rows that no one wanted to be in) nonchalantly, as quiet as ever.
Soon the class got over the shock, and puzzlement began to set in. Why was he like this? Who decided to beat the shit out of him?
Some were almost pleased, but even they shied away from the viciousness his throat wound indicated. He was freaky, but not worth killing.
Well, most of the time. Somehow he got on other people's nerves at times, because he was so much like a ghost or one of those stalkers.
Iruka assumed control.
"Well, it's nice to see you made it, Naruto."
In a very un-Naruto-like move, he jerked his head of swiftly, surprise in his eyes.
The chuunin cleared his throat.
"As I was saying, you will be split into groups of three, and assigned a jounin instructor..."
He continued on for a few moments, and then began calling out the squads.
"…Team 7: Uzumaki Naruto, Haruno Sakura, and Uchiha Sasuke; your jounin will be Hatake Kakashi."
Of course the class stirred. Poor Sakura, stuck with the freak-reject-mute, and the Rookie-of-the-Year, against all odds. Uchiha's had never been respected since The Downfall.
Ino glanced at her best friend, and arguably most unlucky girl in the class. Sasuke might not look too bad, but guilt by association was enough for people to steer clear of him. The blonde glared at him, hoping he got the message. She imagined her light, blueish-green eyes lighting him on fire. Or at least, making him think twice about hurting her little sister.
Distantly, the Yamanaka heard team 8 announced disinterestedly.
"Hyuuga Hinata, Inuzuka Kiba, Aburame Shino; your jounin sensei is Yuuhi Kurenai."
Her eyes slid to each of them on turn, and eventually landed on Naruto. Class enigma, no doubt. No one had heard him utter a word, ever. Only one time Ino thought she might have heard something, and that turned out to be Iruka talking enough for the two of them at the Ramen Stand. Some people thought he was a retard, but those rumors were unfounded. Personally, she just thought he was an unlucky mute.
"Team 10: Yamanaka Ino, Akimichi Chouji, and Nara Shikamaru; your sensei is Sarutobi Asuma."
Whew. I really wanted to get this out. Now I just need to get Square up..(another one-shot). The last scene was actually supposed to be part of the next chapter but I figured, what the hell? Why not make it longer. HKNB will have first priority, but I will try to update regularly. Naruto was very difficult to pin down for me. To make it clear, Naruto does not talk at all, period. This is AU/AR so there is a reason why everyone's out of whack.
Review, comment, flame, whatever! I'm curious to see what you think. And reviews inspire me. Hehe. :)