Disclaimer: Seriously this isn't mine.

Also sorry for the late update. I'm not a huge fan of where Naruto is going right now so it's a little hard to be inspired. But I love reader feedback!

Ch. 14

It was Sasuke's favorite day of the week— market day. One day every week after training Sasuke would head into the shopping district to go look at the fresh wares. Today he paused over fresh plump, red treats. A nearby passerby would note with disgust that the boy was practically salivating. For Sasuke choosing just ten of them was practically impossible. How could he decide?

If he was anyone else he would have shouted for the entire street to hear while cackling madly, "I must have all of them!"

Luckily for the disturbed bystanders Sasuke refrained himself and began the hour long task of selecting the best tomatoes from the group. The vender, who was a craggy old man, chose to ignore Sasuke and instead read his questionable magazine. The man was used to Sasuke's weird eccentricities and knew it would take the boy awhile to make a decision. Instead he sat back with a yawn, his magazine, and contemplated a late afternoon nap. However, it was not to be.

"Sasuke!" a voice from half-way down the street interrupted a mere half hour later. Sasuke, whose quest had been nearing completion, was startled out of his reverie. He glanced down the street only to be greeted by bright red hair. He groaned. A smiling Namikaze Kushina carrying a bag of vegetables was fast approaching him. For a moment Sasuke contemplated escape before realizing the ridiculousness of such an idea. First of all the Namikaze had already spotted him, second he was in a crowded market, and third the red head was a ninja. But what really swayed Sasuke's decision was the fact that he simply couldn't abandon his tomatoes.

"Where have you been?" the loud female questioned him. She was still a great distance away and her voice exceeded what was socially acceptable. Sasuke flinched at the loudness as passer byers stared at the loud kunoichi who remained utterly oblivious to the stares she elicited. Sasuke half-heartedly waved at the bright ninja as she approached before glancing mournfully back at his tomatoes. Another shopping expedition hopelessly ruined.

The moment she was on top of him she gripped him by his shoulders before shaking him back and forth as if to shake the answers out of him.

"Where have you been?" she repeated just as loudly as Sasuke flopped back and forth in her hands before continuing, "Naruto's been back for two days! Did you hear about his mission? It went from C to A. Why haven't you stopped by? I loved the flowers by the way! You should have stayed. Just dropping them off was rude. Also where are your teammates? Shouldn't you be with your sensei? Eh it's not important! Do you want dinner or maybe lunch? Oh, I know! We could…"

The Namikaze continued her rant, but Sasuke tuned her out. Naruto was back? Naruto had been back for two days? Why hadn't Naruto or at least Ami come and seen him? Sasuke frowned before flinging himself out of the red haired Namikaze's grip.

"I… I have to go," he told her before fleeing the market place. Kushina's eyes widened in confusion as the young teen disappeared into the streets of Konoha. For a moment she watched his dark hair weave through the crowded streets with pure bewilderment before shrugging. Maybe he went to see Naruto, she thought happily before glancing back down at her grocery bag. She frowned at it trying to recall what she still needed. Giving it up as a lost cause she went back to humming and began the long trek home.


Sasuke had not in fact gone to see Naruto. Rather he had gone to one of the rooftops he normally ran into Shikamaru on. The roof was located on a bright open building with red hangings, but most importantly it was in a quieter section of Konoha. He needed to think. Why hadn't his friends hunted him down first thing? It wasn't like them to ignore him. Why hadn't Ami woken him up this morning bright and early? Were they mad at him? Sasuke began to panic a little and tried to remember everything the Namikaze had said. There'd been a part about his team; she'd asked about his sensei, she'd claimed Naruto had been back for two days. She'd thanked him for the flowers. Sasuke frowned. What had she said about the mission? It'd been upgraded. From C to something. He closed his eyes and imagined the scene. He saw in his head Kushina's lips moving. With a moment of clarity Sasuke sat straight up.

Naruto's mission had been upgraded to A. The doofus had probably been injured which is why he hadn't seen Sasuke. Ami was most likely watching him. It all made so much sense! Nothing was wrong or out of the ordinary. They weren't mad at him! Sasuke breathed a sigh of relief before heading over to check on Naruto.


The moment Tsunade had returned from her mission to Suna with what the other kids from their class were affectionately dubbing the "zombie team" Sakura had hunted her down. All the other kids were getting training and if she didn't move fast she would fall hopelessly behind. It had taken weeks for Sakura to even come up with a good reason for why she was a ninja much less a medical one. Finally she'd resorted much to her own shame and embarrassment to asking her kooky parents. Even for Sakura they could be a little too much. She really hadn't expected much when she'd asked them. It'd been more a last ditch resort.

She had had expectations, though. Her dad would launch into a corny joke perhaps a pun. Was it really a wonder they'd given her the name Sakura? When no one laughed at his joke he'd begin laughing at it himself and then continue to make embarrassing jokes. Her mother, at first understanding of the jokes, would easily lose her patience and begin chasing her erstwhile husband around the kitchen with a frying utensil. By the time her mom had roundly abused her dad Sakura would have escaped to her room and her parents would have forgotten the question altogether.

They did not live up to her expectations.

After blinking in surprise, they exchanged a serious look; a look that only married couples who've lived together for a very long time can manage.

"To protect you, of course, sweet heart," her mother told her. Her mother patted her father's fading pink hair with a smile and he wrapped an arm around her waist giving off the image of a couple completely and totally in love.

Her father never to ignore a joke laughed jovially before saying, "And the rest of the village, of course. But mainly you."

They shared a smile and Sakura stared at them in shock.

"To protect me?" she cautiously questioned.

"Well yes and the rest of our friends and your little blond friend and really the whole future of Konoha" her mother told her. As her father's hand began to descend just a bit too far her mother slapped him. She had so much experience disciplining her husband that her eye's never even turned away from Sakura's own or acknowledged her dad's attempt. Sakura long used to their antics ignored it as well while her father mock pouted. It'd been an enlightening family discussion.

So that was how Sakura ended up yelling after Tsunade's retreating back, "I want to be a medic nin so I can save all my friends and all their friends from dying!"

Tsunade had brushed off the pink haired girl earlier but now she froze before spinning around to stare at her. A cruel smirk descended over her features.

"Shizune!" she yelled before continuing, "Prepare training ground three!"

The black haired lady next to Tsunade who Sakura could only assume was Shizune jumped at the loud tone before saying, "Of course! Right away Tsunade-sama."

As the black haired woman ran off Tsunade's smirk descended on Sakura as she told her, "Tomorrow training ground three. Six o'clock. Don't be late."

"You won't regret this! I promise I'll work my hardest and do my best to..." Sakura began.

But Sakura didn't get to finish as Tsunade put up a hand to stop her before leaning forward so her face was right in front of Sakura's. She grinned maliciously and Sakura had to swallow nervously.

"Be prepared for the hardest training of your life," the blond medic told her before removing her face from Sakura's. She then turned and walked away as if nothing had ever happened. Sakura stared at her before shivering in fear. She had a horrible premonition about tomorrow.


Sasuke had been wrong. In fact he'd been horribly wrong. Naruto wasn't injured at all. This should have been a good thing, but it totally wasn't. Because in a way he'd also been right. They hadn't been mad at him. They couldn't be mad at him. You couldn't be mad at someone you'd forgotten about.

Sasuke had arrived at Naruto's house expecting the blond to be in bed. Instead the blond was running around his backyard being chased by an angry Hibachi for hoarding all the dango. That annoyed Sasuke. He'd been hoping it would just be Naruto and Ami. Hibachi would just get in the way.

In the past couple weeks he'd been patiently waiting for them to return and now he'd have to wait even longer. If he was lucky he could get Ami to kick the loser out. He'd been given a bombshell and he needed to talk about it with them or he'd explode. Hibachi was simply in the way. He also felt as if he should tell them about his kekkei genkai. He'd spent a lot of sleepless nights coming to that conclusion, but they were his best friends. They deserved to know. They'd understand and accept it; he just knew it.

He'd casually walked into the yard expecting an exuberant greeting from Naruto that he'd have to pretend not to enjoy. Instead, Naruto blinked at him as if surprised he even existed and Hibachi used the opportunity to tackle the preoccupied Namikaze.

"Not fair! I was distracted!" an angry Naruto yelled at Hibachi glowering at the dango the other boy had stolen.

Hibachi adjusted his handkerchief which was falling off from the tussle before he smirked cockily and proclaimed, "That's what they all say!"

Naruto pouted. Sasuke still hadn't been acknowledged by either boy.

At that moment Ami exited the house carrying a tray of snacks. She was watching her feet to make sure she didn't trip on the stairs before she glanced up and spotted Sasuke.

"Sasuke?" she questioned looking very surprised and then adding in confusion, "Shouldn't you be with your team?"

For a moment Sasuke frowned at her.

"I thought I'd come and see you guys and hear about your mission," he told them moodily. Here he knew he wouldn't be disappointed. Naruto would jump into a rendition and the next thing they knew they'd be back to how everything always was.

But again Naruto failed to perform to expectations. He just shrugged.

It was Hibachi who answered, but he turned to Naruto and ignored Sasuke.

"It was awesome when you used that wind jutsu. Those guys had no idea what hit them. And then…," the boy gushed.

But before he could finish Naruto interrupted, "It destroyed all the mist!"

The two boys shared a grin, but Ami yawned in boredom as she put the tray down in front of the two boys

"How much chakra did you put into that?" Ami questioned a bit condescendingly.

Naruto pouted before saying, "Not that much!"

"Yeah right!" Hibachi heatedly argued.

"Well you still got to admit it was cool. Way cooler than your stupid earth jutsu. What were you thinking? Trying to destroy the bridge, Hibachi?" Naruto taunted.

At that the two began to argue trying to outdo the other as Ami at turns laughed and attempted to play peacemaker. Sasuke could only stare at them. They'd formed a circle as they traded stories. Sasuke wondered if he should go join the circle but he couldn't even begin to understand what they were talking about. For awhile he awkwardly stood there. Eventually they'd notice him, he assumed. They were his best friends! And they liked him better than Hibachi anyways. They were just trying to be friendly to the other boy before they kicked him out in favor of Sasuke. Yes, of course, that was it. After a minute passed Sasuke began to shake from foot to foot in nervous tension. This was taking forever. After five minutes Sasuke could only come to the conclusion that something was terribly wrong. What should he do?

When it hit the six minute mark which felt like eternity to Sasuke and he still hadn't been acknowledged he came to the horrific conclusion that his best friends had completely forgotten he was even there. Swallowing down his embarrassment he stared at the circle for a moment with longing before quietly slipping away.

It wouldn't be until fifteen minutes later that Hibachi, looking up after a moment as Ami and Naruto argued about whether or not blue skin was possible, noticed Sasuke was no longer there.

"Hey, where'd Sasuke go?" he questioned his teammates. His handkerchief wrinkled on his forehead as he frowned in confusion. Naruto just shrugged again while Ami looked around in puzzlement.

She fingered her purple hair before shrugging and saying, "He probably got bored and went to see his teammates."

It didn't seem like a huge deal to Naruto or Ami so Hibachi shrugged and let it go. For all he knew Sasuke disappeared randomly all the time.


It was getting to be dark out as Ami headed home. Naruto had offered dinner at his house, but Ami had to refuse. Her mom was expecting her home and she couldn't just ditch because then her mom would have to eat dinner all alone. And what could be lonelier than that?

When she arrived at her apartment and began to take off her sandals she was surprised to see two pairs already there. She knew they weren't expecting company. They never had company. But she could hear faint voices coming from the kitchen. Frowning she strained her ears to hear the conversation. She recognized her mom's voice, but the other was foreign to her. Hiding her confusion she slowly crept around the corner so she could listen in. There was a wall that opened into the kitchen which she leaned against. Carefully she used all her ninja skills to quickly glance around the corner.

In the kitchen stood two figures. Her mother stood facing her. Her brown eyes perfectly matched Ami's and for a moment they locked with Ami's in surprise. The other figure must have noticed because he spun around but by then Ami had already returned to hiding behind the wall. Only after counting to five in her head did Ami dare look back into the kitchen.

The male standing in front of her mother had perfectly straight gray hair. He stood with perfect posture and Ami would bet he was wearing a stern frown. He never smiled when mother was involved. Everything about him was perfect from his clothes to his reputation. The only black spot as far as he was concerned was Ami's mother. Ami's hands balled into a fist. What was grandfather doing here?

"Of course I'll give you the money," her grandfather was saying condescendingly as he shook his head. Ami frowned. Grandfather was extremely wealthy and part of the civilian council. He didn't let anyone forget that he had come from a long line of nobles. Grandfather liked to boast that only three generations ago their ancestor had been brother to the daimyo. Ami didn't know if it was true, but she didn't think it was something you could get away with lying about. He'd expected his only daughter to marry someone of equal standing and had even arranged a marriage for her. But his willful daughter had fallen in love with a purple haired Shinobi and run away with him.

Her mother's voice was soft and sad as she answered, "Father, I don't need the money. We've talked about this."

"Don't need the money? Are you kidding me? Just look at you!" Grandfather argued in annoyance. Mother's face was lined and her hair hung over her face looking just as tired and weary as she did. Ami sighed before glancing across the small crumbly apartment at the adorned picture of her father. It wasn't mom's fault. Dad had died in the Kyuubi attack and she'd been left pregnant and alone. At the time she'd been ostracized from her family and so had nowhere to turn. The first years, Ami remembers, were hell. Mom was almost never home as she desperately tried to make ends meet. She'd never worked a day in her life before then and had no skills at all to begin to with. Of course she'd get lines.

"You never should have married him! He wasn't good enough for you. All he managed to do with himself was die and saddle you with a kid you couldn't possibly take care of. A kid with his same freakish purple hair," her grandfather snorted in disgust. Her mother didn't bother defending herself. She'd heard it all enough before to not bother. Ami growled angrily. Even with dad dead grandfather couldn't think of one nice thing to say about him. Sometimes Ami thought she hated him.

Her grandfather pushed the money into his daughter's hand before saying, "I'll be going now."

Ami's eyes widened in panic before she desperately pushed herself up the wall until she was crouching on the ceiling. She didn't need her grandfather's lecture. However, she needn't have bothered. He didn't even look back as he marched out of their two bedroom apartment. Ami watched him leave before jumping down and walking into the kitchen. Her mother was still there holding the money in apparent confusion. Her eyes were blank as Ami reached to take the money out of her hand, but as Ami tugged slightly her mother's grip tightened and she refused to let it go. Her eyes turned wild and scared and she gripped the money as if her life depended on it.

"Mom it's me…. Ami. It's okay. Just let go of the money. We'll put it away for vacation," Ami coaxed her mother. At the word vacation her Mom snapped out of it and she turned her wide hopeful eyes on Ami.

"Vacation?" she questioned softly. Ami grimaced a little before nodding as she gently pried the money out of her mother's hands. As a child she'd been jealous of the way Ino could spend money like it grew on trees. But Ino was a Yamanaka, so it made sense. Yet even Sakura could spend more money than Ami. There had never been quite enough money in the Kato household to go around. Nowadays it was better, Ami liked to think. Nowadays mother no longer had to work. Nowadays grandfather paid the bills. Nowadays Ami's mother was home all day alone. Nowadays she sat staring at the enshrined picture of her dead husband as if that would bring him back to life. Nowadays, Ami knows, it was not all better. Money couldn't fix her mother.

"Help me with dinner?" her mother's soft voice asked interrupting Ami's train of thought. Ami merely nodded before grabbing a knife to begin chopping the vegetables. This had always been Ami's favorite time with her mother. When they were preparing dinner and her mother's soft humming would fill the small kitchen it would seem as if everything was the way it should be. Ami could always tell if her mother was truly there, though. As they would work, Ami's purple hair would contrast with her mother's pale brown. When her mother was off in the land only she could reach she would stare at it transfixed. Just like your father's she would tell Ami. Tonight, luckily, was not one of those nights. Her mother's eyes remained perfectly clear.

They sat for dinner and her mother's soft brown eyes so similar to Ami's lit up with pride. She pushed Ami's hair out of her face before commanding her daughter, "Tell me about your day."

It was a nightly ritual that only occurred when her mother's eyes remained clear which was disappointingly rare. So Ami happily obliged her by spinning stories of her teammates and lazy sensei much to her mother's enjoyment.

"Hibachi's nowhere near as bad as I thought he'd be. I'm actually kind of glad he's on our team even if he did replace..."Ami told her mother before pausing. She'd almost said Sasuke's name. When she'd been little even mentioning Sasuke's name could send her mother into one of her fits until she'd learned only to talk about Naruto instead.

"Who?" her mother questioned. When she wasn't in one of her moods her mother was an excellent listener. She was waiting for an answer and Ami had no idea what to say. Instead she glanced at her mother's perfectly clear eyes. It was uncommon, and Ami wondered if she should risk ruining it.

"Ahhh mom. Why… Why don't you like bringing up Sasuke?" Ami hesitantly questioned. Her mother's eyes quickly darted over to the enshrined picture of dad and for a horrifying moment Ami thought she had lost her mother again. But instead she turned back to Ami and looking at her eyes Ami could tell she was still lucid. Ami let out a relieved breath she hadn't even realized she'd been holding.

"Of course I don't mind Sasuke," her mother told her. But her pinched lips and pained expression gave her away. For a moment Ami frowned before she glanced back at her dad's photo. Her mother noticed her looking and flinched. Ami stared at her in shock before an idea developed.

"Mom, does it have anything to do with dad's death?" she questioned breathlessly. Her mother didn't say anything, but her lips pinched even more and her forehead creased together.

"No… no, no! He's just a boy. No, no. He didn't do anything. He couldn't do anything. No, no, no…." her mother hastily argued. But to Ami it sounded like she was just trying to convince herself. She kept repeating no, no, no until her eyes were wild and crazy again. Ami groaned as fierce guilt filled her. She'd ruined another dinner with her ill placed questions. Her mother left the table as if in a trance to kneel in front of the photo.

She remained kneeling as she said, "No, no, no. HE killed you not the boy."

For a moment Ami blinked in shock. Who was the he? Her father had been killed by the Kyuubi, hadn't he? For a moment confusion reigned before she came to a sinking realization. Did your parents do something, she'd asked Sasuke. Was the he Sasuke's father? Had Sasuke's father killed lots of Shinobi? The idea was terrifyingly plausible. It would explain the caution that almost all the older Shinobi favored Sasuke with and the glares he sometimes received. It would also explain why some Shinobi just chose to ignore the boy. Could Sasuke be the son of a monster?

"Is the he Sasuke's dad?" Ami questioned her mother over her outbursts. But at this point her mother was too far gone. It seemed unlikely that she'd even heard the question much less that she could answer it. Had Sasuke's dad killed her dad? The more Ami thought about it the more likely it seemed. It would explain so much. What other possibility was there for the village's bizarre treatment of Sasuke? And a part of her approved of their treatment. He deserved it. Because his dad hadn't just killed her dad, he'd destroyed her mother, too. He'd destroyed her whole family.

Of course, Ami realized with a start that was assuming it was Sasuke's dad, which was ridiculous. The Kyuubi had killed her dad not Sasuke's father! She knew that. But somehow she kept being drawn back to the villager's treatment of Sasuke. The fastest way for her mother to lose it was mentioning the black haired boy. What did that mean? Was Sasuke somehow connected to the Kyuubi?


Naruto would admit that he felt a little guilty. He hadn't been planning on ignoring Sasuke. It had just sort of happened. It didn't make matters better that his mom had questioned him constantly about why Sasuke hadn't stayed for dinner. It was Sasuke this and Sasuke that and frankly Naruto was sick of it. Why was it always Sasuke? Why couldn't it be Naruto sometimes? He was just as good as Sasuke, wasn't he? Hadn't he proved that on the wave mission? He'd shown everyone that he didn't need Sasuke. He'd done just fine himself. Sasuke couldn't have done better, Naruto thought spitefully.

So the next day when Sasuke had dropped by looking a little nervous, Naruto had exalted in making the other boy uncomfortable. He'd added very little to the conversation. Ami was also noticeably reclusive. While Naruto responded slightly she said practically nothing. It was almost as if she refused to look at the other boy, scared of what she might see. Sasuke was confused and uncertain which was a rarity as they'd been friends for so long and Naruto planned on savoring the moment for as long as possible. A guilty part of him suggested that his actions weren't very nice, but he chose to ignore that part. He was just messing with Sasuke, working out his inner jealousy. Sasuke was his best friend after all.

When Sasuke asked if they wanted to go out to eat he gave the other boy a vague answer just to mess with him. But unexpectedly Ami did the same.

"Ahh" Sasuke said, "I guess I'll go. See you. I guess."

He seemed confused and a bit downtrodden by the whole thing. Naruto blinked and watched the other boy leave in a confused shock before turning to Ami.

"You were supposed to have us go to lunch with him! I was just messing with him!" Naruto told her angrily.

Ami merely huffed before saying, "I don't want to talk about it. Let's just go for lunch now, okay? I'm hungry."

As Naruto followed the purple haired girl to lunch he was completely confused. What was going on? Ami like loved Sasuke. She always sided with him in arguments. Whenever the other boy wasn't around she'd bring him up. The two of them had been friends forever. She would never turn him down for lunch like that especially if she was hungry herself. Except… well, she just had. And instead she'd decided to have lunch with him. For the first time perhaps ever, Naruto was coming first. Naruto wasn't sure if he liked it. He just felt like a crummy friend.


That night Sasuke was surprised and worried. He could put off yesterday's encounter as a fluke, but then being blown off for lunch too? What was going on? Had he done something? Groaning in frustration the tired boy racked his mind for what he possibly could have done. Sasuke had done a lot in the last couple of weeks.

As part of their training they'd each learned a solid clone based on their elemental technique. Sasuke's affinity was actually fire, but he had a strong enough secondary affinity to pull off the raiton clone. Fuki had learned doton kage bunshin and Kota, who also had a fire affinity, had learned just plain old kage bunshin. Both Kota and Sasuke thought it was a little weird that a katon kage bunshin had never been developed. Kota had complained endlessly about the lack of it and claimed he was going to create it. Fuki hadn't helped by mocking the other boy about his lack of elemental clone until Kota's face was red. Sasuke wasn't sure if it was red with embarrassment or anger.

Shisui claimed that clones were one of the best jutsus for deception. His students had agreed; they could easily see the many benefits. But, Kota, who had the smallest amount of chakra, argued that the chakra drain wasn't worth it. Fuki had agreed. Neither of them could create more than one and even that took a lot of their chakra. This had surprised Sasuke. He hardly noticed the chakra drain at all. When he tried to create just one clone he sometimes accidentally ended up with two. He'd known he had more chakra than most, but he'd never realized just how much more he had.

Since they were given so little free time with their constant training, and creating clones was surprisingly easy for Sasuke, he created a clone every day to do his chores and catch up with his friends and classmates.

On one memorable day he had looked at his calendar only to realize it was July 10th. He had groaned. Today was Namikaze Kushina's birthday and she expected a gift. The second year of his friendship with Naruto when he hadn't gotten the woman a gift she'd spent all day giving him sad puppy dog eyes one moment and the next eyes filled with angry fire. He'd never forgotten since then. Not to steal a line from someone else, but this was decidedly troublesome.

His clone had spent an hour skulking around the market area looking for an appropriate gift before spotting Sakura. With her pink hair she was always easy to see.

"Hey, Sakura. Could you help me?" a desperate Sasuke asked the girl. Sakura had been looking at knick knacks and glanced up in surprise.

She shrugged before telling him, "Sure. What do you need help with? I don't have anything better to do anyways."

Her face had a decidedly downward tilt to it and she looked depressed. Sasuke had heard about her quest to figure out why she was a ninja from Naruto and could guess she still didn't have an answer.

"It's Naruto's mom's birthday today and she's expecting a gift from me, but I don't know what to get," he admitted to the pinkette before continuing, "It doesn't have to be anything extravagant. It just has to show I didn't forget."

Sakura nodded before thinking deeply. With something to occupy herself with she didn't seem anywhere near as depressed. Instead she began mumbling to herself as she sifted through various ideas. Sasuke shifted from foot to foot as he glanced around the market in boredom. He could see his tomatoes down the street beckoning for him. Maybe while Sakura was distracted he could go buy some. As he began to inch away she grabbed him by his shoulder putting him back into place. He growled with frustration before deciding he might as well patiently wait. Five minutes later Sasuke was still patiently waiting. He glanced longingly at his tomatoes again and then back at the mumbling girl. Again he tried to inch away only to be pulled back by Sakura. Sasuke wasn't even sure she knew she was doing it. Ten minutes later he was still waiting. Giving it up as a lost cause he sat down on the ground in the middle of the market place. At the exact moment he sat down Sakura shot to life.

"I know! You should get her flowers! Every lady likes flowers," she told him. Sasuke shrugged not looking too enthused.

"Hey. I even know where you can get them at. Ino's family owns a flower shop. Maybe they'll give you a discount. Here's the address," the pinkette told him as she hastily wrote it down on a scrap of paper for him. Sasuke glanced at it, realized he didn't have any better ideas, took the piece of paper and said goodbye. Well, at least Sakura looked happy now.

When he entered the Yamanaka flower store he'd been surprised to see Yamanaka Ino working there.

"Ehhh, Ino? Why aren't you training?" his clone had asked. He shouldn't have. The annoyed blond with fire in her eyes had then begun an angry rant about lazy teammates, lazy senseis, and the lack of worth of boys in general. As Sasuke had slowly inched towards the exit in hopes of making a quick escape the blond's eyes had lit up. Sasuke had panicked and begun to run for the door. He'd seen that look before. Whenever Naruto had an idea or Ami had just discovered a new conspiracy their eyes lit up in the exact same way.

He'd underestimated the Yamanaka. Before he could even reach the door she'd caught him.

"Where are you going, Sasuke? You're going to help me train!" Ino had told him. The way she said it made it seem like both a threat and a promise. Her grip on his arm refused to budge no matter how much he tried to escape as she dragged him to the closest training ground. He hadn't realized she was so strong.

Sasuke sweat dropped when she let him go before telling her, "Ehhh… Ino, I don't think this is a good idea. You see I'm not actually…"

But he didn't get to even finish. Ino was sick and tired of her lazy teammates and was bursting to fight. She was done with excuses. She'd heard enough of them from Shikamaru in the last week to last the rest of her life.

"C'mon Sasuke! Are you scared? Don't want to lose to a girl?" the blond taunted. As Sasuke continued to try to explain the blond tuned him out. Instead she lunged forward and punched him solidly across the face. Sasuke hadn't been expecting it at all. The punch hit and for a moment Sasuke looked into Ino's triumphant eyes. His last thought was oh crap, before he exploded in a bolt of lightning.

The Sasuke at training froze in shock. He could have sworn he could hear Ino's shout all the way from across the village. He was so dead.

Ino's rage hadn't been as bad as Sasuke had expected. She'd tricked him into buying her lunch and then had somehow gotten him to agree to train with her whenever he was free because as she said it her teammates were lazy bakas and if they didn't shape up they were all going to die and someone needed to pick up their slack. She was a little pissed that it had to be her though. Sasuke had never realized just how manipulative the blond could be until he found himself agreeing to train with her without even realizing it. Apparently she wasn't a Yamanaka for nothing. He felt a little bad for her teammates, though.

But, the real problem was that Ino had told his team. Shisui hadn't been bothered, Itachi had seemed slightly amused, and Kota had stared at Sasuke in awe wondering how he was still alive. It was Fuki that worried Sasuke. Fuki had sported a strange grin that made all those who saw it grimace. She hadn't said anything, but Sasuke could bet she was manically laughing in her head.

The next day clone Sasuke was unsurprised to see Fuki in the marketplace. The doton clone interrupted Sasuke in minute fifty eight of his tomato shopping. He'd been so close. All he needed to do was pay! He wouldn't be surprised if the clone had been watching him waiting for the most opportune moment to strike. So, instead of getting his shopping done he'd gotten to run from the psychopathic clone all day. Ever since then he'd had to pay special attention to his surroundings. The trip to the market that Namikaze had ruined was the third trip in a row where Sasuke's tomato shopping had gone unfinished. Sometimes Sasuke really hated his auburn haired teammate.

But they hadn't just learned cool jutsu. The first couple days Sasuke had been confused. On some days they reviewed the basic academy three. For Sasuke it had seemed like a waste of time. What was the point? They'd practiced escaping from ropes and kunai throwing. They'd attached wires to weapons and thrown them manipulating the path the whole time. It was all basic academy stuff. Sometimes they got to learn cool jutsu, though. These were ninjutsu and technique days, Shisui claimed.

Other days were taijutsu days. They always started these days with a race. Some days they'd race from training ground to training ground. Other times it would be a race on the roofs through Konoha. Sometimes their races occurred on water were they had to water walk. Most of the time their races involved tree hopping, but every once in awhile they'd race through an obstacle course. Shisui taught them to enhance their muscles with chakra for these races. After, they'd spend the rest of the morning going through their taijutsu katas. Shisui would come around and adjust certain stances and give tips and pointers. After going through the full katas for at least an hour they'd take a break for lunch before Shisui would assign each of them a skill to work on. Sometimes Sasuke would have to do the same kick over and over for hours until he could do it perfectly. He dreaded being assigned a punch because then his knuckles would bleed for days. Shisui claimed it was all about developing muscle memory.

After they'd all collapsed, they'd spend the afternoon working on theoretical strategy. Sometimes it was boring as hell, Sasuke would admit. It didn't help that Shisui only allowed them to use the academy three when planning their strategies. Their sensei took great pleasure in ripping their plans to bits especially when it seemed they weren't putting that much effort into it. That night they'd do muscle endurance. They'd have to do sit-ups, pushups, squats, crunches, weightlifting, and anything else Shisui could come up with.

Any day after a taijutsu day they'd meet later and do D ranked missions for most of the morning. They'd take a long lunch break before they began mock fights. The fights had very clear rules. Some might be taijutsu only spars. Sometimes they were on teams and other times it was every man for himself. They'd perform mock missions where they could only use the academy three. It was simulation training. It was also Sasuke's favorite day.

Unfortunately for Sasuke it was a ninujutsu and technique day. He was irritably going through the motions of a kawarmi when Shisui-sensei came up to him.

"Something wrong Sasuke?" the Uchiha asked.

Sasuke glanced at his teacher in annoyance before asking with a growl, "What's the point of this?"

Shisui blinked in surprise before glancing at his other students. Kota was lackadaisically transforming from person to person with a bored expression on his face while Fuki was swearing aggressively at one of her bunshin.

"Students… Students! Come here," Shisui ushered them into a circle before saying, "I don't believe you understand the point of this exercise. You know that I know that you know how to do the academy three. So why are we working on them? Fuki what are the hand seals for bunshin?"

Fuki who'd been glowering at the clouds in the distance jolted into awareness. Kota exchanged a baffled glance with Sasuke.

"Ram, snake, tiger," Fuki told their sensei in slight confusion.

Shisui nodded as he twirled grass in his hands before responding, "Yes, yes, yes. And how much smoke does it produce, Kota?"

The brown haired boy stared at their sensei with uncertainty. He twiddled with his fingerless gloves in thought.

"Isn't that a trick question, sensei?" he hesitantly asked. Shisui's eyebrows merely rose in surprise before nodding at Kota to continue.

"Well… Different people produce different amounts of smoke," Kota told him carefully.

Shisui-sensei smirked before standing and saying grandly, "Yes. Different people produce different smoke. Just like different people use different hand seals. Watch closely."

With that Shisui-sensei slowly began forming his hands into seals. Sasuke watching closely was shocked to see tiger, boar, ox, and then dog in rapid succession. Three bunshin popped into existence around the Uchiha.

"But that's not possible!" Kota exclaimed.

"Meh meh. Just like you can change the amount of smoke you can change the hand seals when you know a jutsu inside and out. You're right. It probably wouldn't be possible with a higher level jutsu. But with these basics it is," Shisui informed them before plopping back down on the grass.

He glanced at his students before asking, "What possibilities are there with this, Sasuke?"

Sasuke frowned in thought before slowly saying, "Well. You could convince your opponent that you're doing one jutsu and do a completely different one."

Shisui hummed in agreement before laying back in the grass.

"Anything else?" he questioned. Fuki shrugged.

"Nothing? My students you disappoint me!" Shisui told them dramatically.

Kota hesitantly asked, "Well couldn't you theoretically use no seals then?"

Shisui rose up and smirked at the boy.

"You are officially my favorite student. The rest of you be jealous," Shisui had told an uncaring Sasuke and Fuki. Shisui had then explained that the point of working on the academy three was to master them to the point where they could control everything.

"Just like when you master basic taijutsu you get to learn the next more advanced katas, it's the same for ninjutsu. Master these and we'll move on," Shisui told them. His words had sprung all three genin into action. They were dying to move on.

But it was harder than it looked. Sasuke couldn't control the number of bunshin he got to appear. At the academy they hadn't cared that he made ten instead of three, but for Shisui sensei it wasn't good enough. Until they could control the jutsu perfectly with seals there was no way they could attempt it without seals, Shisui told them. Kota struggled on the transformation. He could transform, but if someone gave him a specific design that wasn't based off someone Kota knew it came out garbled. Fuki couldn't get her bunshin to not have any smoke and spent about as much time yelling at the bunshin as performing the technique.

But it wasn't all bad. Sasuke found the kawarmi was surprisingly easy for him. In a matter of days he could pop in and out of harm without seals with little to no difficulty. It was tremendously fun for his teammates to think they had him only to realize at the last possible second he'd escaped. He was shocked to find that on one of his market escapades his clone had kawarmi'd away from Fuki. He hadn't realized his clones could do techniques as well. It made sense though. They had just as much chakra as he did.

When he'd shared that discovery his teammates had been surprised. Kota had stared at him before immediately creating a kage bunshin. Fuki and Sasuke watched slightly intrigued, though Fuki tried to make it seem as if she wasn't interested. The kage bunshin immediately began to work on perfecting the henge. Kota watched it for a moment before turning away and beginning to work out the kinks with his bunshin technique.

"How's that going to help?" an intrigued Fuki asked. Kota shrugged looking pleased with himself for having successfully confused his two teammates. Fuki growled at the boy before looking at Sasuke in annoyance. Sasuke just shrugged. Fuki continued to watch Kota before smirking. She spun around and in a bold move punched Kota's shadow clone, who currently looked like a cross between Ino and Sakura, dispelling it. Kota turned around and stared at her his mouth hanging open.

"Why'd you do that? It was helping me train! Jeez Fuki. I thought it was obvious. If there's two of me I can do two things at once which means I can do this twice as fast," Kota told her annoyed. Fuki blinked at him before looking at the spot the clone had stood in.

A vaguely embarrassed look spread over her face before she offered, "Oops?"

Their training had moved a lot faster after that. Fuki had been so pleased with her progress that in a rare show of goodwill she'd taken her two teammates out for dinner and even paid for them. Sasuke had been happy with his team and how everything was progressing. The day he'd asked Naruto and Ami to lunch was the day they'd all finally mastered all three of them. They'd had to wait on Fuki's bunshin, but with Kota and Sasuke's combined help it hadn't taken that long.

Shisui-sensei had given a big grand speech that he'd probably practiced for weeks in advance about how to be a good ninja you had to have a perfect base. Kota had fallen asleep in the middle of it and only the threat of water being poured on him from Fuki had kept Sasuke awake. He had never been more relieved than after they broke their chakra paper to see their elemental affinity. If Fuki had been water they never would have had a moments rest. Luckily after Shisui-sensei's speech he'd decided they were ready to move onto something else. Sasuke had been ecstatic. Maybe they'd learn something cool like how to make their clones explode or even how to shunshin.

"Guess what we're going to learn now!" Shisui sensei offered. All three genin leaned in close eyes wide with hope of an awesome jutsu.

Shisui grinned widely before proclaiming, "We're going to learn how to dispel genjutsu!"

He made it seem as if it were the most interesting lesson possible. All three genin stared at him for a moment before registering what he had said. Kota who had woken up for the announcement groaned and went back to sleep. Sasuke began hitting his head against the ground. Fuki kicked her feet and hands up and down looking as if she were barely restraining herself from throwing a temper tantrum. This sucked. Their girlish sensei stood up with a smile.

"We'll meet again tomorrow! Enjoy your afternoon off. Also Itachi will be back from his mission by then, so be prepared for a fun time!" the Uchiha told them before disappearing in leaves.

Sasuke groaned. Another bad thing to top the scale. Itachi hadn't been to training since Shisui's ninja in darkness speech because he'd been on some mission. Sasuke had frankly been glad to see the creepy older boy go. He shared a look with his other teammates before they all left to go in separate directions. Sasuke had gone to ask Naruto and Ami to lunch. When that had fallen through he'd wandered the streets only to be ambushed by Ino.

Apparently he hadn't been keeping his promise. Instead of the relaxing afternoon he'd been looking forward to he had to train all afternoon with the loud blond. Luckily she'd been so impressed by his kawarmi and then the bunshins he'd used to distract her that she'd spent the rest of the afternoon trying to perfect the academy three instead of sparring with him leaving Sasuke free to sit back and relax.

"How'd you get them to appear with no smoke? That's what really caught me off guard! I thought they were you," Ino excitedly told him. Sasuke just shrugged amusedly. But a part of him was deep in thought as he lounged under a tree watching Ino's progress or rather Ino's lack of progress. What was going on with Ami and Naruto?


Author's Note

It was just brought to my attention, but someone thought my characters were OC. I hate OC characters that have no basis in the story at all. The only OC's I have used are Ami's mom and grandfather. Everyone else actually exists in the Naruto world. If you can figure out where they all come from I'll be super impressed.