A/N: Long, long ago, singing ferret left a plot bunny amongst her review to one of my stories. It brought up two immediate scenes, which I then HAD to write down, and have been sitting on my computer for almost 2 years now. Clearly, there will NOT be an actual fic out of this, but I felt I should at least show what I had. The plot bunny included: (1) Lee and Naruto being on Gai's team, (2) Neji and Tenten being on Kakashi's and (3) said teams competing against one another. Two ways to get that particular combination came to mind, and this is the one that worked itself into an actual scene. So here you go.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything here - not the world, not the characters, and not even the base idea.
Finally: Had this become an actual story, the other scene I have would have been much, much later on. But if anyone wants to read it anyway (or adopt this particular plot bunny) please let me know.
The noise in the hall was nearly deafening. Konoha's elders were outraged, united, for once – in condemning the Chunin who stood in front of them. But Umino Iruka stood firmly before them all, chin held high despite the pain Sarutobi knew the man had to be in. After all, only last night the teacher had taken a severe wound across his back.
And that was half of the reason the elders were so upset – most of them still believed that the Kyuubi child should have been killed years ago. That this impudent Chunin had not only saved the boy's life, but had – horror of horrors – graduated young Naruto into the ranks of Genin… Yes, the teacher had certainly made no friends among the village council.
The Sandaime stifled a sigh, deciding to intervene before his headache worsened – or the council tried to call for the resignation of the Academy's best teacher. Not that they could - the council were the Hokage's advisors, not his equals - but they could still be a pain.
"ENOUGH!" he called, his voice calm but authoritative. "Umino-san has never been wrong about his students. Doubted, sometimes. But wrong? Never. If he says that Uzumaki-kun is ready to join our Genin, then the boy will be presented to the potential Jounin sensei just like the rest of the graduates." His voice sharpened as one of the elders opened his mouth to object. "NO argument."
Sarutobi's expression softened slightly as he looked at the scarred shinobi still standing in the middle of the floor. "Iruka, go and lay down before you fall down. Falcon, escort him please." The addressed ANBU nodded, and the now-blushing and faintly-protesting Chunin found himself gently escorted back to the hospital.
There was a long moment of silence, finally broken by one disappointed word. "Damn." At the almost sulky tone of the man's voice, a few chuckles ran through the room.
"Sorry, Kakashi. Looks like you won't get off as easy as you thought!" a bearded man called out around the cigar in his mouth.
The masked, silver-haired man slumped a bit in his seat before he responded. "Ah, well. I guess only having to put up with two mini-nin was too good to be true."
Another voice, softer and distinctly feminine, spoke next, her words a somber contrast to the playful joking. "Still, while it's good for the boy… this isn't going to go over well with the village." Red eyes settled on her Hokage, an apology in her gaze even as she spoke harsh truth. "I imagine that it was difficult enough to convince the village council to allow Uzumaki to keep his hitai-ate, but there will be an outcry when they find out that the 'monster' has been paired with the Uchiha boy. And likely not only from the council, but from every shinobi clan in Konoha. Can we really afford that?"
Another moment of silence, and then Kakashi shrugged with deceptive carelessness. "Well, Kurenai-san, if worst comes to worst I can always find a reason to fail the kid."
Eyes all around the room widened, heads even snapping around to stare. Everyone knew that the Copy Ninja despised those who would abandon their comrades, so the fact that he would say such a thing drove home exactly how seriously – despite his nonchalant tone – he was taking the genjutsu specialist's concerns. A troubled silence fell over the room, Jounin weighing the problem and possible solutions in their minds, trying to find an answer that would be most acceptable under the circumstances.
Surprisingly, the first to speak up was the last one that they expected a serious reply from. Maito Gai – green spandex body suit, orange leg warmers, bushy eyebrows and all – stood. "I… may have a solution. It is… unconventional, at best. But if it is acceptable to those involved…"
The Sandaime gestured for him to continue, intrigued by both the seriousness and the hesitancy in the Jounin's voice. If there was one thing that Gai wasn't, it was hesitant. The man took a deep breath, obviously struggling with his words. "I am certain that you are all aware of Hyuuga-san's… disapproval… of my treatment of his nephew."
'That you don't kiss the ground that the boy walks on just because of his genius, or lavish him with praise. Yes, that does upset the Hyuuga Head.' the Hokage thought, but held his silence. Especially since Gai was almost crying. Not the streaming tears he so often subjected those around him to, but a few small drops gathered in the corners of his eyes and held back by force of will. It was clear that this was breaking the man's heart. A small part of Sarutobi's mind noted vaguely that none of the other Jounin were moving – in fact, he wasn't entirely sure that some of them were even breathing.
"And truthfully, Neji-kun is… less than fond of me. As is Tenten-chan."
'They think you're an idiot' would forever remain unsaid by those present.
"Therefore, my honored Hokage-sama, my esteemed rival… I propose a partial swap in teams. I will be willing to take on Uzumaki-kun – and the little kunoichi you paired with them – as I truly believe that he has the… the fire and youth to become… a truly great shinobi."
The man ducked his head, and not a word was ever spoken about the few tears that splashed to the floor.