Could Have Been Worse

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

Note: Please keep in mind that all of this is how Kakashi imagines it would go down, not necessarily how it would go down if this really happened.

Kakashi meandered towards the training area his team was supposed to meet at…well, awhile ago in no particular hurry. After all, just because they were supposed to be there probably some time before didn't mean that he was necessarily going to show up then and if they hadn't realized that by now than they deserved to be waiting. Besides, it wasn't like he had even wasted the time he was supposed to be at the training ground anyway. He had found out such important things as no the memorial did NOT turn purple if you stared at it long enough, no the Yondaime did not look less like an older version of Naruto if you squinted, he still didn't have chapter three of Jiraiya's second book completely memorized, and that if you blindfolded yourself and walked backwards it was indeed possible to get lost in the village of your birth. Not, of course, that his team was likely to appreciate his findings. They were so narrow-minded, sometimes, it was ridiculous.

"YOU'RE LATE!" Naruto and Sakura shouted out simultaneously. Kakashi winced. Seriously, was it even legal to be that loud that earlier in the morn-well, it was probably afternoon by now, but the point remained that it was very annoying.

"What do you think, Sasuke?" Kakashi turned to the student that hadn't just done his best to permanently damage Kakashi's hearing.

"Hn." The Uchiha hadn't moved at all since Kakashi had come into view and he was fairly certain that he hadn't been moving before then. Was that moss growing on the boy or was he imaging things?

"So let's see how much progress you've made with walking on water," Kakashi said, leading the way to a suitable place to practice.

"But Sensei," Sakura protested, "we haven't started yet. You said you'd teach us today."

"And I already taught you how to climb trees," Kakashi pointed out. "That's a nice starting point right there. You mean to tell me you've been waiting here for two hours and you didn't even do anything? Have I taught you nothing?"

"YES!" Sakura and Naruto shouted in tandem again.

"And it's been nine hours," Sasuke deigned to contribute.

Kakashi blinked. "Has it really? Whoops. Sorry about that…"

Of course, that started Naruto and Sakura off again and Sasuke resumed his impression of a statue. Kakashi had to hand it to the boy: he really was quite good. Should he ever need to impersonate one in the future or go into modeling, he'd be set. Still, it would probably be quite some time before he'd get a chance to teach his so-called students anything with all the ranting.

"You guys," Kakashi said flatly, "are the worst team ever."


Yes, life would have been much simpler if he hadn't been the only one Sasuke wasn't liable to attack on sight who could teach him anything about the Sharingan. He might not even have to take a team! And if he did, well…it surely couldn't be worse than all this vengeful apathy, bipolar fangirlism, or sheer hyperactivity…could it?

Kakashi showed up around 10:30 or so. It was horribly inconveniencing that he had actually set a time for himself to arrive by – albeit one far later than what he had told his brand new team – and was intending to stick to it, but he needed to give them an hour for the bell test and they had to get introductions done with first.

The boy in the green jumpsuit was doing pushups so fast he looked like a blur, the…boy(?) with the longest hair worn down he'd ever seen on a ninja of either gender was meditating, and the girl was sharpening kunai when he arrived.

"You're late," she noted, holding up one of her newly sharpened weapons, supposedly to inspect it but Kakashi felt distinctly threatened.

"Yes, well, I was walking on the road of life when-" Kakashi began.

"We don't care," the definitely male meditator interrupted.

"Right, well…how about we introduce ourselves?" Kakashi began. "Name, likes, dislikes, dreams for the future…"

"Who are you?" the boy in green asked.

"Me?" Kakashi asked, pretending to be surprised. He'd actually secretly planned out just how much he could prattle on during his introduction without actually giving away any information save his name, which they would need to know anyway. "My name is Hatake Kakashi. I have-"

"We still don't care," the androgynous graduate interrupted again. "If it is fated for us to learn these things about you, then we will learn them in time."

Kakashi felt a spike of irritation. "Alright then, why don't you go first?"

The boy nodded solemnly. "My name is Hyuuga Neji. I like being the best and dislike fate and fools who think they can defy it. My goals are to make Hinata-sama suffer a nervous breakdown and also to be able to keep my hair down while in combat but not let anyone take advantage of that."

"I…see," Kakashi said. Hinata? That was his…cousin, maybe? Poor girl. Neji seemed really bitter.

The girl went next. "My name is Tenten. I like weapons and dislike stupid boys who think Kunoichi are useless and stupid girls who propagate this belief by not taking their training seriously and obsessing over boys. My goal is to become as strong as Tsunade-sama of the Sannin."

"That's admirable," Kakashi noted, relieved he had managed to escape having a fangirl on this prospective team. The teams he'd had in the past all had girls hung up on some classmate of theirs and either celebrating because he was paired with them – and thus doomed to fail as Kakashi hadn't passed anyone yet – or sulking because they were separated and some other girl had 'stolen' him.

"My name is Rock Lee!" the other boy said enthusiastically. "I like hard work and taijutsu! I dislike geniuses who feel natural talent is the only path to success! One day, I hope to become an amazing ninja through the use of taijutsu alone!"

"Why only taijutsu?" Kakashi asked, wondering if he should have read the team profile. Since he had to pass them because of the Hyuuga prodigies presence and that of the top Kunoichi of the year – and did he mention what a relief it was that she wasn't a fangirl? – he hadn't really felt the need, seeing as how he'd have all the time in the world later.

Lee looked a little embarrassed. "Well…my chakra coils did not develop properly, so I cannot use any other form of ninja skills. But I will work hard and become the best taijutsu user in all of Konoha! If I don't manage to double my skills in the next month then I will swim across the lake 500 times!"

"I…don't think there's any need for that," Kakashi told him.

"600 it is!" Lee amended.

"Oh God…" Kakashi groaned. This was what he got for faking his own death last year when Jounin instructors were being chosen, wasn't it? Quickly he explained about the bell test.

"One hour, huh?" Tenten mused. "It's doable. You two, come with me," she ordered, practically dragging her new teammates off with her.

Interesting. And no one had attacked him right off the bat either. He would have expected Lee to do it, if nothing else. Nevertheless, he pulled out his book and turned to chapter seven.

Roughly ten minutes later, Neji came at him from one direction and Lee came at him at the other. It was all Kakashi could do to keep up with Neji's Gentle Fist techniques and Lee's unrelenting taijutsu without looking up from his book.

Suddenly, he felt a kunai whiz past him. It didn't hit him, though, so he didn't give it another thought. When Lee pulled back immediately after and Neji pulled back shortly after that, he wondered. There was still time and neither had managed to get the…where were the bells?

He glanced over at the three potential genin and saw Lee handing the bells proudly to Tenten.

"Very impressive," Kakashi told them. "I didn't even notice when you did it. That was what the kunai was for, wasn't it? You cut the bells off and Lee retrieved them."

"It was a group effort," Tenten said modestly.

"You've got to be the first team I've tested that has worked together," Kakashi continued. "Most just go out for themselves."

"Well, we were going to," Neji admitted, eyeing the kunai Tenten was absently twirling warily, "but Tenten was very…persuasive."

"I see," Kakashi said, shuddering in sympathy. "The fact still remains, though, that there are two bells and three of you. So who's going back to the Academy?"

There was a silence as the three twelve-year-olds looked uncertainly at each other.

"I'll do it," Lee finally said, quietly. "It was Tenten's plan and Neji could learn nothing more from another year. I can continue to hone my taijutsu and be ready to graduate again next year, even stronger."

"But you can't do anything BUT taijutsu no matter how much work you put into it," Tenten protested. "Another year would be a complete and total waste for you and you've put so much hard work into graduating! I'll go back. Weapons are my forte, but I suppose I could broaden my horizons a bit from another year."

"No, I'll go back," Neji volunteered, eyeing Kakashi's book in distaste.

"But you graduated at the top of the class," Lee pointed out. "What more could you possibly have to learn?"

Neji shrugged. "Probably nothing, but I would at least be guaranteed a new instructor."

"Hey, what's wrong with me?" Kakashi demanded, mildly offended.

"You showed up hours late with barely a word of apology meaning that this will most likely be a habit of yours and you read porn not only in public but while instructing," Neji said flatly.

Kakashi didn't reply, mostly because Neji was right. "…Congratulations, you've all learned the true meaning of teamwork and self-sacrifice!" he said instead. "You pass!"

"Yay!" Tenten beamed.

"If I don't live up to your expectations of me then I will do 3000 sit-up!" Lee vowed.

"Of course we did," Neji said disdainfully. "It was fated."

Kakashi, much to his eternal shame, was showing up somewhere ON TIME. Or at least, on time by his estimation, which was rough 10:30. His new team was supposed to meet him…actually, he wasn't quite sure when he'd asked them to meet him. A little after dawn, perhaps?

When he arrived, a blonde girl immediately stood to greet him. "YOU'RE LATE!" she screeched.

"I was coming here but then a black cat crossed my path and-"

"LIAR!" she insisted. Oh, wasn't she going to be a fun one?

"Ino, you're so troublesome," yawned a boy with a ponytail that looked kind of like a pineapple.

"And you're so lazy," the girl – Ino – shot back. "I can't believe you fell asleep waiting for our teacher!"

"The time passed much faster for me than it did for you," the boy pointed out.

Kakashi looked around for the third member of his team. That boy, who was rather rotund, was stuffing himself with barbecue.

"I thought I told you not to eat breakfast," Kakashi said, feeling a little surprised that someone had defied him in that for the first time ever.

"But…but I didn't eat breakfast," the boy insisted. "And I even skipped second breakfast. But you were so very late and Shikamaru assured me that it was fine to eat brunch."

"You did specify breakfast," the lazy boy, most likely Shikamaru, pointed out.

"So I did," Kakashi noted. He'd have to be more specific next time. "Well, let's introduce ourselves. I'm Hatake Kakashi."

"My name is Yamanaka Ino," Ino said brightly. "I like flowers and Sasuke-kun and I dislike billboard brow and lazy people. My dream is to prove I'm the most beautiful Kunoichi ever and to marry Sasuke-kun."

Kakashi groaned. Great. Another fangirl. At least this 'Sasuke-kun' didn't appear to be on Ino's team so that was one less distraction. Still, having to pass a fangirl irked him on principle as Rin had never been obnoxious in her attraction to him and to be otherwise was, he felt, a disgrace. Sadly, the fathers of these three prospective genin took the word teamwork to a whole other level and as they all coincidentally had children from the same class, it was his job to try and recreate that teamwork. He could already tell he was going to have his work cut out for him.

"I'm Nara Shikamaru," Shikamaru announced, still not having moved from the supine position he'd been when Kakashi had arrived. "I like shogi and mind games, I dislike troublesome people and expending effort, and my dream is to become an average shinobi and settle down with the most average and untroublesome woman I can find without looking too hard."

"I've never met anyone who aspired to mediocrity," Kakashi confessed, unsure of what else to say.

Shikamaru shrugged slightly. "I'm glad I could enrich your life then."

"I'm Akimichi Choji," Choji announced. "I like food and dislike it when people call me fat. My dream is to be recognized as a capable ninja despite my…athletic deficiencies."

Kakashi blinked. Wow, that was actually a professional ambition. Finally, they were getting somewhere. Quickly, he explained about the bell test.

Shikamaru stared at him for a minute before muttering, "Troublesome." Reluctantly, he stood up, move four feet to the left, and sat back down again.

"You kind of need to-" Kakashi began, then stopped. He couldn't move. Shikamaru could use at least the basics of the Nara's Shadow Techniques, it seemed, which was surprising given how overwhelmingly lazy the kid seemed to be. Still, he couldn't possibly have the chakra to keep it up for long and he couldn't get the bells without moving and freeing him.

"Ino," Shikamaru nodded to her, Kakashi nodding as well.

"Right," Ino nodded and began a series of hand gestures.

Kakashi blinked as he realized he was free of the shadow immobilization. He looked over to Shikamaru to tell him it was a nice try but he'd have to do better next time, but the boy was not there. Looking around, he saw the three students eating the lunch he had brought to use as another way to divide and conquer. Or rather, Ino was picking on the one she was sharing with Shikamaru while Choji was downing the other two.

"Give up?" Kakashi asked seeing as they showed no interest in attacking him. "I must confess, I had expected a little more."

"Give up?" Ino scoffed. "As if. We just got your stupid bells with my Mind Body Switch jutsu."

Kakashi looked down. The bells were gone. "That doesn't explain why you're eating," he pointed out.

Ino rolled her eyes. "After I possessed you, I grabbed the bells and through them to Choji but all he was interested in was the food so we said he could eat it and we figured that since we haven't eaten all day we might as well have something too."

"I see," Kakashi said. Even now, their teamwork – flawed as it was – was better than most new graduates. Still, they still had one final test to pass. "Still, there remain only two bells and three of you. So what's it going to be? Who's going back to the Academy?"

"I'll do it," Shikamaru volunteered immediately.

"No, Shikamaru!" Choji gasped. "Don't sacrifice yourself for us!"

"It's okay, Choji," Shikamaru smiled at him. "Just think: a whole other year I can do nothing but sleep through class and occasionally ditch without my mother being able to say a thing…" Shikamaru actually sounded happy at the idea.

"You're so lazy…" Ino complained.

"No, I'll do it," Choji said, determined. "You're my best friend Shikamaru and I can't just let you sacrifice yourself like that! You worked too hard to graduate while not actually doing anything to fail now! I'll go back."

"And you're really naïve," Ino decided. "That's it. I want a new team. I'll go back."

Kakashi stared incredulously at his new team. Choji was really the only one who seemed to get the meaning of self-sacrifice but… "You pass," he sighed, resignedly.

"We did it, Shikamaru," Choji cheered.

"At least this way I won't lose to forehead girl," Ino consoled herself.

"Do I have to?" Shikamaru demanded, looking rather put-out.

Kakashi was NOT in a good mood. Not only did he have to test a genin team again, but he was being forced to pass this one, too, as it apparently contained the Hyuuga heiress and a member of two respectable clans. And because he was quite adamant about his 'you have an hour, get it done by noon' approach to their 'test', he'd needed to cut his daily four-hour session at the memorial to three and a half hours.

When he arrived, he found one of the boys playing with his dog and the other sitting still, his coat pulled up to hide his expression and his eyes masked with sunglasses. Now that seemed like a boy after his own heart. The girl was smiling as she watched the dog.

"Yo," he greeted.

"You're late," the boy with the sunglasses noted idly.

"So I am," Kakashi agreed. "Let's all introduce ourselves. I'm Hatake Kakashi."

"I'm Inuzuka Kiba," the boy with the dog announced. "I like dogs, fighting, and Hinata-chan and I dislike being forced to stay still. My dream is to become a great ninja with Akamaru at my side."

"Akamaru is…your dog?" Kakashi asked.

"Of course," Kiba looked like he thought that was a stupid question. Given the boy was an Inuzuka, it probably was.

"M-my name is Hyuuga Hinata," Hinata said, still blushing at what Kiba had said. "I like people who don't give up-"

"Naruto," Kiba coughed.

Hinata turned even redder but didn't comment. "I dislike those who use their strength to bully others and my dream is to prove that I'm not worthless."

"That's certainly understandable," Kakashi nodded at her. For a clan heiress, she certainly had some self-worth issues, didn't she? Clan heirs often ran the opposite extreme into arrogance.

"My name is Aburame Shino," the last member of the group introduced himself. "I like bugs and facing skilled opponents and dislike impulsiveness. My goal is to become a valued shinobi of Konoha."

Kakashi quickly explained about the bell test. Before Kiba or Hinata had a chance to do anything, swarms of insects started to fly from Shino and head straight for Kakashi. He covered his nose and mouth to protect them and after a minute or so, the swarm disappeared.

"Wow, that was awesome!" Kiba noted, watching as several insects delivered the two bells into Shino's waiting hand.

Kakashi coughed. That was kind of embarrassing. "Very good, but remember: there are two bells and three of you. Who is going back to the Academy?"

"I-I'll do it," Hinata volunteered. "After all, Shino did all the work and I really do need to improve a lot more."

"There's no way I'm letting you sacrifice yourself Hinata-chan!" Kiba insisted. "I'll go back."

"None of us are going back," Shino announced.

"Yes you are," Kakashi insisted. "If you don't pick, I'm failing you all."

"Teamwork is very important and genin teams are made up of three genin and one Jounin. You're just trying to make us turn on each other," Shino sounded disapproving.

"No, I'm not," Kakashi lied.

The insects still buzzing by Shino moved forward slightly, as if poised to strike again.

"You know what, on second thought, Shino's right: it really wouldn't do to break up teamwork like that," Kakashi said hastily. He was going to need to research techniques to use against the Aburame clan, wasn't he?

As Kiba and Hinata celebrated, Shino nodded grimly. "That's what I thought."

"It's bad enough you showed up nine hours late, did you have to zone out on us five minutes after you got here?" Naruto complained.

"If you really think we're the 'worst team ever' then it's your duty to fix that," Sasuke contributed.

"Sasuke-kun's right," Sakura agreed. "And I'm not just saying that because Sasuke-kun's the one who said it."

Worst team ever? Kakashi shuddered.

Not nearly.

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