Kakashi stared at Zoro.

Zoro ignored him and glared at Naruto and Sasuke, arms folded.

Sasuke ignored him.

Naruto gibbered and pointed at Zoro's new bandages.

Sakura's brain seemed to have stalled out.

"What?" Zoro finally demanded, looking at Naruto.

"Your eye!"

"Yeah, it's messed up. Stop freaking out about it." Zoro rolled his visible eye, and then grabbed at the bandages and cursed.

Naruto came closer, apparently not realizing that this was the wrong time and place for his questions.

"What's the scar gonna be like? Is it gonna be a cool one? An ugly one? One like Kakashi-sens—s***! Kakashi-sensei!" Naruto whirled around and pointed at Kakashi accusingly. "Ah! You're here!"

Sasuke went over to the octopus tree and started slamming his head against the wood.

Now, had Sasuke grown up 'normally,' or as close to normal as canon afforded him, he would not have resorted to such actions. He would have, perhaps, rolled his eyes and snorted, or some similarly disaffected show of disdain.

Unfortunately for Sasuke's dignity, but probably rather fortunately for his sanity, he had not grown up "normally," but rather under the tutelage of one Roronoa Zoro and with the begrudged (on his own part) friendship of one Uzumaki Naruto.

Whenever he was in their company, Dignity flew out the window with a "Yippy-ki-yay, motherf***er!" and a dirty hand sign. Pride followed quickly, clutching at her frilly pink hat and dragging Maturity along by the hand. Common Sense hesitantly chased after them, squealing pleas for their return.

Sasuke paused, thinking over his most recent thoughts and trying to figure out if he had actually given himself a concussion, because there had to be some explanation for that… mess. A hallucination or… or something.

He turned, catching Sakura's wide eyes. Sasuke raised an eyebrow, prompting her to just go ahead and spit out the question she was pondering.

"Sasuke-kun…" Sakura glanced at Zoro, and then back to Sasuke. "Are you sure he's safe to be around?"

Sasuke shrugged. "I've known him since I was six. If he was going to hurt me, he probably would have done it by now."

Sakura looked at Zoro again, and then at Kakashi, and then moved, in a manner that she was probably hoping was surreptitious, to stand behind Sasuke, putting him between her and Zoro.

At Sasuke's raised eyebrow, she blushed. "You know him better than I do, and he's kind of scary, like Kakashi-sensei, but not loyal to Konoha, so…"

Sasuke shook his head and sighed. Sakura was a civilian-born kunoichi, only twelve years old. Then again, this situation would probably be strange for anyone.

Zoro finally just bopped a fist on Naruto's head, ignoring his complaining, and asked if he'd managed to do a full set on the new weights yet. Naruto, of course, hadn't, but he pointed at Zoro's face, yelled something nonsensical, and ran to try and start lifting.

Kakashi seemed to flinch, Sasuke noticed.

He wondered what that was about.

Then he promptly stopped caring.

"So, what do you want?"

Zoro's question was so blunt that Kakashi actually seemed taken aback for a moment. Then Kakashi decided to try to go on the offensive. Unfortunately, his supposed target was Zoro. He… didn't actually care much.

"Why are you here? You are neither a denizen of Konoha, nor are you an emissary from a foreign country, given that I would have noticed you at some point in the first instance, and would have been informed in the second." Kakashi's eye was half-lidded, but unlike its normal state, it wasn't clear if it was due to anger or due to lack of effort.

Zoro fixed him with a stare with his good eye. "I'm a pirate."

"And how did you get here?"

"I fell asleep."


And so Zoro did.

Then Naruto started plucking at his sleeve, asking, near demanding, that he tell stories so that Kakashi-sensei could see how awesome he was and Sakura-chan could see that he was just as awesome a teacher as Kakashi-sensei and could Kakashi-sensei and Zoro talk and see if they could train Team Seven together? Because that would be awesome, really, it would, and could Naruto just—

At this point, Zoro bopped him over the head with a tree branch and told him to try the boulder push-ups again.

Kakashi twitched, again reminded of Gai.

"What do you feel towards Konoha?"

"Well, those two are from there, and even if they get on my nerves sometimes, they're good kids and I don't mind having them around. Plus, the way Naruto describes it makes it seem like it fits in with a large number of my captain's ideals, which means that he would want to protect it, and given that fact… yeah, I guess I'd protect it if something happened." Zoro shrugged, and then a glint entered his eyes. "Wait, you're an adult. The brats are too young, but do you think you could get me some sake?"

Kakashi blinked. That was so… where did that come from? Zoro just blindsided him completely with that request. Maybe he meant to play on Kakashi's reaction to being assured that Zoro was an ally, or probably one, but…

Given that look on his face, impatient, grouchy, and strangely hopeful as it was, Kakashi couldn't help but wonder if Zoro even realized how he was supposed to act around a shinobi.

"Naruto, don't do that! You'll hurt yourself, idiot!"

Wait, what?

Kakashi turned at Sakura's angry, worried squeal, and his eyes landed on Naruto, who was doing pushups… with a boulder on his back.

Granted, it was a very small boulder, which had probably lost enough weight on its erosion diet that it could be called a large rock soon, but it was still a boulder.

"Tch." Sasuke snorted. "It's not that bad. We do the same thing every time we come here."

Kakashi's stare zeroed in on them, and then on Zoro. "This is your idea?"

"I was lifting more than that at their age. In each hand. They can do it." Zoro stared at Naruto dispassionately for several seconds, and then shrugged. "Not a problem. They told me you have some special healing methods here anyway, so it's not that big of a deal even if they do strain themselves."

"That's not your decision to make." Kakashi did have to take some offence to this man's position as a supplemental teacher. Not just a supplemental teacher, but a supplemental teacher that he hadn't known about.

"So, about that sake…"


A/N: I had a lot of trouble writing this. I've come to the realization that if I ever want to finish this story, I have to stop taking it seriously. In other words, for everyone who wanted to see this story finished off seriously… sorry, but it's not going to happen. I'll try to retain an aura of dignity, but I won't be able to make it through without taking a hit at someone's sanity or Kishi's "logic." You already saw two examples of my peculiar brand of humor shining through when it shouldn't have, and it's going to get more common from here on out, if only so that I can push myself to finish the d*** thing.

I hold contests on dA, which you can find through the link on my profile page. The contest links are under the "Binding" pic. The prizes are fairly appealing, so take a look.

There is poll on my profile that you'll probably all find fairly interesting, so go take a look.

Ja ne,