I am Legion
by Lord Dragon Claw
Disclaimer: Do not pick up and lick random amphibians you may find. It never ends well.
Chapter Two: Team Bonding
Opting to go to the probable source of information, Sakura searched for one of the various shadow clones she knew were bound to be around town. Sasuke decided on asking authority figures, starting by getting an appointment to see the Hokage. It wasn't difficult for him to get in as the secretary was apparently an Uchiha fangirl, though there weren't any openings until after five in the afternoon.
Sasuke found Umino Iruka researching at the public library around two and so he could cross off another name from his mental list of people to ask.
"Oh, how are you Sasuke?" asked the Academy teacher. "Did your real exam go well?"
"It was unusual, actually," responded the Uchiha. "I have some questions for you."
"Kakashi-sensei tasked Sakura and me with gathering information about Naruto. Things that aren't common knowledge would be best."
Iruka nodded. "I take it that his favorite flavor of ramen wouldn't suffice then, would it?"
Sasuke paused, apparently considering if that tidbit of information would be appropriate. "If it isn't common knowledge, then I suppose I could put it in the report."
The raven-haired youth pulled out a notepad and a pen and began writing. "So, what flavor is his favorite?"
The scarred Chuunin chuckled. "Pork flavor. Anything else that you can think of?"
"Well, I already know he's an expert on the use of shadow clones, suicide tactics, information gathering, and surprise attacks. What do you know about his combat abilities?"
Iruka leaned back in his seat. "For one, I know he's an expert with poisons..." He trailed off at Sasuke's astonished expression.
Sasuke began furiously writing that down. "I didn't know that!"
Sakura quickly tracked one of the orange-wearing Naruto clones down and called out to it. Rather than stop whatever it was doing, it simply created another clone that came to greet her.
"What's up?" it asked.
"Kakashi-sensei tasked us with gathering information on you."
"I am well aware of that."
"Could you please tell me a bit about yourself? Things that are not common knowledge are preferred, but you don't need to tell me things that are too personal."
The clone blinked for a second before it cracked up laughing. Sakura's face was a little downcast at that but she perked right back up when it finally responded.
"The sheer gall! Heh heh, wow. Well, sure. Why not? First thing you probably need to know is about my combat abilities. I may specialize in the use of shadow clones, but my real forte is poisons and toxic agents."
She pulled a little notepad from her pocket and wrote down what she heard in her own shorthand.
"Poisons? That's a very subtle discipline but I suppose you're more subtle than we've given you credit for."
"Sakura-san, you have no idea."
"What can I do for you, Sasuke-kun?" asked the wizened old man.
"Thank you for seeing me, Hokage-sama," replied Sasuke, knowing that his best chance to get what he wanted from authority figures was to treat them with the utmost respect. "What can you tell me about Uzumaki Naruto?" At the Hokage's raised eyebrow, he elaborated. "Kakashi-sensei gave us an information-gathering assignment. Sakura decided to try and ask Naruto himself whereas I thought it might be better to get data from authority figures and the people who know him."
"Well," began the Hokage. "Simply asking around seems to be a very civilian way of gathering your information." Sasuke slumped in his seat at that. "But not many ninja would think of doing it. Honestly, I wouldn't. My student, Jiraiya the Toad Sage of the Sannin probably would... Hmm. In any case, I can tell you a few things. What do you know already?"
Sasuke smirked at his small victory. Apparently he thought of something the Hokage wouldn't. "For starters, I know he's an expert with poisons and shadow clones, which I know is a deadly combination if you think about it."
Their questioning continued in this vein. Most people they talked to didn't know much about Naruto themselves, though many ninja were semi-helpful in that they had bits of information that was unknown to most other people. The Ichiraku family were helpful as well as they knew more about the boy than most. Still, the best sources of information happened to be Naruto himself, the Hokage, and Iruka.
Sakura and Sasuke compiled their research and made a shared report for their Jounin-sensei to read. The combined amount of information that they had collected filled more than eight full pages, and Sakura alone provided almost five pages worth of material that Sasuke had been unable to discover. He was suitably impressed with her information-gathering skills. He suggested that she ask for help from Naruto with improving said skills.
One of the common things that they had learned was that most of the civilian population and some of the ninja outright hated Naruto for an unknown reason, though Sakura did hear mutterings of "demon child". Apparently someone tried to kill the boy when he was five years old. They were one of the people who worked at the orphanage Naruto lived in and were executed for attempted murder. Naruto had been living on his own since that time.
The Ichirakus knew that Naruto had an obsession with poison dart frogs specifically and all poisonous or venomous creatures in general. This information was verified by Umino Iruka and the Hokage.
The current police force, which Sasuke visited, was willing to let the raven-haired youth check the records on account of his family's service to the force in the past. Naruto's criminal record was sealed as a village secret for an unknown reason, but it was related to ANBU business evidently - a general overview of his pranks was kept separate but they had no details on any given prank by ANBU mandate. Still, Sasuke did find out that several civilian criminals had been caught due to information provided by Naruto. Quite a number of unstable individuals including serial killers had been apprehended thanks to Naruto's assistance.
They provided Kakashi with a list of names of people Naruto helped to catch and the crimes for which they were caught. There was also a list of his favorite foods, animals (the orange and red poison dart frog with blue specks happened to top the list), movies, books (both fictional and non), and places to hang out. Kakashi noted that HQ7 was missing from that list, but probably because it was a secret related to village security. Naruto's office was on the list though.
They then had a diatribe on Naruto's combat abilities, compiled from the raw data they gathered from the Hokage, Iruka, and various other named ninja that they managed to contact, including Might Guy. Sasuke speculated that no one knew Naruto's full combat potential.
The ninth and final page focused on speculation as to why most of the civilians hated the blonde. Their theories included the possibility that his parents had been traitors or missing-nin as they couldn't find any records of anyone with the family name of Uzumaki except Naruto, that the fact he was born the day the Kyuubi attacked somehow had earned him an unfair stigma (which both Sakura and Sasuke commented on, each saying that it was sheer stupidity if it was the case), or the possibility that his whisker-like birthmarks were thought to be some sort of curse by the ignorant populace. Both Genin expressed their outrage at Naruto's treatment by the village at large, and Sasuke actually found it just as irritating as the blind hero-worship that those same people tended to give to him.
Kakashi was impressed with the report and their information-gathering skills. About half of it he had learned himself already, and there was quite a bit that he knew that they did not, but the fact that they had found relevant information on their secretive teammate as well as information that was rather useless (such as pork ramen being his favorite food) was rather impressive.
The silver-haired Jounin looked up from the report his other two Genin had handed him and smiled, his eye turning into an inverted U. "You both pass!"
They both let out a sigh of relief.
Naruto, or one of his clones at least, walked up to the group, dressed in his orange/red/black clothing (which the other three people would soon associate with his "business attitude"). "So we're a four-man squad?"
"Indeed," replied Kakashi, handing the report over to the blonde.
Sakura did a double-take when she witnessed that, whereas Sasuke just blinked.
Naruto spent ten long minutes reading through the report, but he seemed rather stunned at the speculation page at the end. He folded the report in half and handed it back to Kakashi when he had finished.
"I am rather impressed, especially with your reaction to how most people treat me. I know the reason why, naturally, and it is an S-class village security secret which I, and only I, have authorization to share with anyone. I am not quite comfortable divulging it to you two just yet..."
This brought extreme curiosity to both Sasuke's and Sakura's minds.
"... but you've both taken a huge leap in earning my trust."
"Well," began Kakashi. "We are a team now. Hopefully we can become close, like a family with time. We start missions tomorrow morning. Meet you here at eight. I may be late, so use your time wisely."
The three Genin saluted in response, eliciting a chuckle from the Jounin.
The next few weeks rolled into a routine. The three Genin would meet at their training ground at eight in the morning. Finding that Kakashi was late, as always, they settled into light spars. Sasuke found that he was faster than Naruto, but the blonde tended to hit harder and had a great deal of endurance. Sakura was both slower and weaker than the boys, but proved to be more graceful and more difficult to knock off-balance.
When Kakashi arrived anywhere between 8:45 and 9:30, Naruto either changed his appearance to his orange eyesore jumpsuit or sent a clone along with them, usually stating that he had work to do at his lab. They would then set off to the mission office where they were assigned a D-rank mission which Sakura accurately described as being little more than a chore. Once they finished that mission in record time (usually with Naruto's shadow clones doing most of the work) and collected their payment, they returned to their training ground where Kakashi would then teach them. More of Naruto's clones would show up, but he was always there in person for the instruction as only his real body would profit from the physical exercises.
Around three in the afternoon Kakashi would usually dismiss them for the day. Naruto (or a clone) and Sakura would always stay behind for additional training. Balance or chakra control in Naruto's case or in information collection or strength or speed in Sakura's. For the first few days Sasuke went home for his own training until the constant nagging of Naruto's clones changed his mind...
"Oh, come on!" whined the clone.
"I told you! I refuse!" Sasuke replied.
"Sakura will hold me back from-"
"Murdering your brother, Itachi?"
"Hn. You figured it out."
"Look, does it matter who kills him? As long as he pays for his crimes, does it matter?"
Sasuke thought about that for a long minute. "Hn."
"Honestly? Even if we couldn't go toe-to-toe with him, there are other ways of killing people."
"Exactly. Subtle ones that are undetectable by any jutsu. Psychoactive drugs in his drink to give the illusion of being in a genjutsu followed by a simple dart to his neck for example."
"Hn. You have a point there."
"So? Maybe Sakura can track him down, I can immobilize him, and you go in for the kill? Maybe someone else out there will get lucky and kill him for us?"
Sasuke was given the night to think about that. The next day he remained with them for training.
On occasion, they would just hang out after three, maybe see a movie or just do something fun. The whole time, their conversations were rather sarcastic and teasing.
"That movie was rather like Sasuke's own sob story."
"Look what you did this time, Naruto-kun! Sasuke-kun's upset!"
Of course, Sakura was smiling. It took surprisingly little coaching from Naruto, but she was no longer star-struck every time Sasuke was near.
"I think Sakura's got your number on this."
"Although I do think Naruto-kun's assessment of the film was accurate..." Sakura said thoughtfully.
"Well, if that movie's a mirror of my own life, then Himeko was certainly the one of Sakura's."
Both boys looked at the pinkette while she thought about it. Himeko was actually little better than a ninety-year-old obsessive woman.
"Ew," was her verdict.
A moment of silence occurred before Sasuke smirked and the other two started laughing.
Among the things that Kakashi taught them was tree-walking - the act of walking up or down non-horizontal surfaces by sticking yourself to the surface with chakra. Sakura was the first to get it whereas the boys both needed help. Naruto was actually doing better than Sasuke, but both boys realized the reason for it was Naruto using his shadow clones with the leaf-sticking exercise almost constantly.
Sasuke shared his fire jutsu with his teammates during their training sessions without their Jounin-sensei. Naruto shared what he knew of aerodynamics and throwing technique as well as some of the training methods Might Guy had him employ to build stamina and strength. Sakura helped them both with their control and helped them to fine-tune their balance without the aid of chakra.
After three weeks of doing D-rank missions, Sakura was ready to scream. On day twenty-two, she finally snapped.
"ARGH!" she exclaimed when the Hokage suggested they take another Tora search mission. "We've caught that cat four times already! Can't we do something else? Like a C-rank?"
Iruka, who was helping the Hokage assign missions that day, raised his eyebrow at her outburst. He then turned to the Hokage and held out his hand. The old man reached into his robes and pulled out a wad of bills and handed them to the Chuunin.
"You were right," said the village leader. "Team Seven was the first to snap."
Kakashi started chuckling with amusement behind his book while Naruto's clone fell over, laughing.
"You made a bet on us?" inquired Sasuke.
"Indeed," confirmed Iruka. "Of the three Genin teams to graduate this year, yours is the first to request a C-rank."
"We do have a C-rank mission available for you," continued the Hokage. "With Kakashi's recommendation, I can send you to escort and protect a bridge-builder from bandits while he returns home and finishes a bridge."
"Where does this man live?" asked Kakashi, not even bothering to look up from his book.
"The small country to the Southeast?" wondered Naruto.
The Hokage nodded.
"Well, it is pretty close to Konoha," the silver-haired man stated. "My squad's teamwork is more than sufficient for an escort mission to Wave."
"Very well," agreed the Hokage. "Iruka-kun, if you would show Tazuna-san in?"
A slightly plump but muscular old man with alcohol on his breath came into the room, slurping sake from his bottle before belching.
"Attractive," commented Sasuke softly, eliciting sniggers from his teammates.
Tazuna took one look at them before dismissing them in his own mind.
"They're just a bunch of brats! Especially the orange shorty! Is this Konoha's idea of a joke!"
Naruto's clone blinked for a moment before turning to Kakashi.
"Hey, is it considered bad-form to poison the client's sake, sensei?"
"Indeed it is," replied the Jounin as Tazuna began sputtering his drink and coughing. "No matter how much he may deserve it, it is bad-form to kill the client before the mission is over."
"Aww," retorted the clone, enticing Sasuke to smirk and Sakura to smile. They broke into full-blown creepy grins when Naruto's clone spoke next, pumping his fist into the air. "Then we'll just have to make him our next Special Friend!"
"And think about what we're allowed to do after the mission is complete!" exclaimed Sakura, clapping her hands in excitement.
Iruka palmed his face to hide his smile while the Hokage theatrically refilled his pipe to keep from laughing.
Tazuna whimpered at the thought of these apparently psychotic children knowing where he slept.
Only a few seconds passed before the assembled ninja in the room couldn't take it anymore and burst into laughter, even Kakashi. The Hokage was the first to recover.
"Tazuna-san, I can assure you that these Genin were merely insulted and will not harm you in any way."
"Are you completely sure about that, Hokage-sama?" asked Sasuke in a perfect deadpan. The old ninja tried, and failed, not to laugh at that remark.
The next day found Tazuna warily standing some distance away from the trio of Genin at seven fifty-five in the morning near the South Gate. The three kids seemed to be talking about how badly Sasuke had sung at the karaoke bar the night before.
"See, you would have killed a nightingale with how you mangled 'Kill the Geezer' last night."
"Hn. Maybe if we encounter a ninja who uses songbirds for summons I'll be twice as effective against them."
"Sasuke-kun's got a point there," chimed Sakura. "Although he did much better with 'Stabbed in the Back' when his turn came around again."
Tazuna swallowed. He had a feeling that they were actually talking about him.
"Still doesn't beat my rendition of 'Kill Him with Fire'," Naruto said as he crossed his arms.
"That was the worst singing you did all night, dobe."
"Yo!" called Kakashi as he approached the group reading his orange book.
Sakura took a quick glance at the position of the sun before she double-checked it.
"He's on-time!" she gasped.
"It's the end of the world!" Naruto exclaimed before running around idiotically in circles.
Sasuke palmed a kunai. "How do we know you're not an imposter!"
Kakashi merely looked over the top of his book and chuckled before going back to it.
Sasuke put his kunai away as Naruto came to a dead-stop.
"Huh," stated the blonde intelligently.
"He's real," Sakura said, pretending to be embarrassed.
"So," began Kakashi. "Are you going to remain orange today, Naruto?"
"Yeah," replied the blonde. "A number of clones are staying behind to cook some things. Others are scouting ahead."
"And the red one?" asked the Jounin. Sasuke and Sakura were also interested in where the real Naruto was.
"Using the first technique on that scroll."
The whole team had already been informed of the incident with the traitor Mizuki on that particular night and that it had been Naruto's plan from the start to catch him red-handed.
"Well, are we all ready already?" asked Kakashi, smiling at his students and their client.
"Huh? Oh yeah, ready."
"Well, let's go and get lost on the road of life!"
Tazuna had no idea what Kakashi was talking about, though the Genin snickered at the command.
End Chapter Two.
Next chapter: demons in the mist.
Honestly, I felt that Sasuke would be rather polite to people who he wanted stuff from. Knowing how to be manipulative of his fans and those people who were in positions of power is something I figure he'd have learned. Honestly, teenagers learn how to manipulate their parents and siblings in real life all the time.
In a similar vein, Naruto can't stand laziness. Hence why Sakura trains with him. Since he knows Sasuke's past, he would find a way to get Sasuke to train with them. Simultaneously, it proves to the Uchiha that his teammates aren't useless, especially since Naruto has proved that he could kill Sasuke by nearly killing Kakashi during their bell test.
As people like this spend a great deal of time together, they tend to find themselves more and more comfortable with each other. Hence the playful jibes and sarcastic comments.
So yes, going to Wave, just like nearly every other Narutofic out there. But I will try to make it more interesting by writing it in a non-linear fashion. Also, Naruto's fighting style will rear its magnificent head.
I thank Dumbledork for his beta-work. This chapter would have been complete shit without his input.