Four Teams ch 3 Epilogue
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
"No dammit! You're doing it wrong!" Neji cursed.
"If I'm so bad at it, why don't you try!?" Sasuke snarled back angrily.
"Both of you shut the hell up! You'll ruin the Plan!" Kiba growled out.
"What Plan?" Came a somewhat amused tone from a spot slightly to the left of Kiba's shoulder.
"Gaah!" All three prospective jounin jumped at their former teacher's sudden appearance.
"Ah, such enthusiasm." Kakashi smiled brightly at them. "I guess my worries that you might be too tired to take this mission was completely unfounded then."
"What mission?" Sasuke just barely managed to get out before he got smacked in the face with a mission scroll.
"Something about 'babysitting'. I wasn't really paying attention honestly. But I figured that since you needed a bit of 'downtime' after that 'mission from hell'-thing that you've been going on about, this would be nice." Kakashi shrugged, completely ignoring the fact that Neji still had his arms in a cast from said mission. "Have fun you three!" He waved before disappearing in a swirl of leaves.
There was a silence in the clearance as Kiba mourned the scrapping of yet another plan to get their vengeance on their bastard of a sensei.
"This... This mission is for taking care of Tora's new litter... that's escaped... somehow..." Sasuke's eye twitched as he read the scroll that'd just given him a black eye.
"I-... I-I hate him... I hate him so much..." Neji ground out with a sort of hollow despair.
"We know." Sasuke stated in an oddly thick voice. "We hate him too."
"Shino, honey. I love you, but protecting the Village's sanity is my duty. I can't risk it." Tenten shook her head sadly at her fiance.
"I understand. I am not pleased. But it must be done." One of the few actually sane and logical jounin nodded with a stoic sigh.
Tenten smiled at him, then kissed him lightly on the lips before taking off after her drunken teammate. "Hinata! The Spandex is not your friend!"
Sakura chuckled as she walked over to the bug-user. "Do you think we should tell Chouji that Tenten convinced Hinata not to wear skin-tight spandex on their date?"
Shino's lips twitched upwards in a miniscule way. "Already did."
Sakura grinned happily at him. "You're evil."
Shikamaru sighed as Naruto continued to devour ramen at a slightly terrifying rate.
"I don't see why you have to drag me into this all the time." He complained tiredly.
"It's either this, or listening to Ino lecture you about a thousand things about girls that you never wanted to know, and then forcing you to memorize some kind of insane Schedule of Doom." Naruto pointed out through his noodles.
Shikamaru grunted as he put his face down to the Ichiraku's counter in symbolism of his utter despair at his lack of choices.
"Why did you choose such a troublesome girl?" The shadow-user questioned rhetorically.
"Well..." Naruto shrugged in an unconcerned way. "I'm supposed to be really stupid, you know?"
"You didn't know any better?" Shikamaru interpreted the answer.
Naruto snorted, amused. "Possibly."
"I thought it was because you're a horrible romantic, and that you couldn't keep her out of your apartment for more than an hour before breaking out into hysterics?" Ayame asked with a carefully constructed puzzled face.
Naruto groaned. "Yeah well okay, that might be true, but you're not supposed to say that."
"Oh? Aha. My mistake then Naruto-kun." She smiled in an unrepentant way.
"Troublesome blondes. I should've known better, really." Shikamaru murmured into the counter.
"Hey, it's your own fault. There were tons of none-blondes to go and seduce." Naruto grinned at him. "Hell, there were quite a few non-blondes who didn't have homicidal overprotective brothers, around too."
Shikamaru sighed heavily, acknowledging the point.
"Don't worry though, Gaara has promised not to kill you as long as you put a ring on her finger before he's made... officially aware of the baby-bump." Naruto patted his friend on the back.
Shikamaru did his best not to cry.
Tsunade stared at the chunin standing in front of her, bouncing cheerfully from foot to foot, and prayed deeply that she could've had a hundred more ninja like Tenten.
At least then there could've been enough of her to do more than merely keeping the horrible Spandex of Youth from spreading.
Jiraiya was still off somewhere in Rain, supposedly talking things over with his former student, and Hiruzen had taken up the age old 'old man' profession of sitting in a rocking chair outside his home and yelling at the children to get off his lawn.
Danzo had finally given up on his Root project after Team 7 somehow managed to inspire some kind of weird patriotic, horribly driven, sanity consuming desire to get back at their teachers. He'd surrendered after several of his operatives had actually begun to succeed in driving their teachers into deserting Konoha and then snagging the missions that was assigned to hunt them down.
Tsunade was still trying to figure out just what kind of training Kakashi had been giving those three crazy bastards.
Team 8 had also proven themselves invaluable to the cause once they managed to actually infiltrate Rain, dragging Jiraiya back there to have a long talk with the clearly disillusioned Nagato.
The lot of those graduates were now more commonly referred to by the Four Teams, the proof of what aiming a squad towards a distinct goal could accomplish.
Sadly, it also ascertained that she'd be forced to continue the tradition that the Third had inadvertently started, which in return meant more paperwork.
Even so, it was impressive how Team 10 was usually asked for by name when anyone truly important wanted protection, and how Team 9 had apparently managed to make quite a name for themselves at some point during their endless fights, considering the rather substantial bounties on each of their heads.
That didn't make Rock Lee or his teacher any easier to deal with though.
Sometimes she really wished she could name someone else Hokage and just retire quickly before dealing with all of them drove her insane.
Unfortunately, Kakashi had proven his leadership as somewhat... horrifying, and so he'd been forcibly struck from the list of candidates, despite his impressive reputation. Konohamaru was still far too young, no matter what he had to say about it. And Naruto was still just a chunin, meaning that he wouldn't get quite the amount of support that he'd be needing, or the intimidation factor that would be necessary to appease the other Hidden Villages.
It was perhaps, slightly saddening to realize that her best hope for retirement still had about half a decade left before being ready to comfortably swap places with her.
Still, the cheerful prankster hadn't given up on his dream and so would gladly take up the hat when the time came, even if he'd apparently gotten a bit distracted by his blonde teammate wagging her hips in front of him recently.
She remembered the scene of the fleeing young Uzumaki leading her father on a chase through the entire village, wearing little more than a bath towel. Yes, of course Inoichi had reacted with the calm grace demanded of someone in his position when he found out that his daughter had been showering regularly with a boy, without his previous knowledge of their relationship being beyond that of teammates.
Indeed, Tsunade remembered that chase quite fondly. It'd almost been worth the paperwork filed for Naruto's lack of clothing in public, random collateral damage because of crossfire, angry letters from mothers about language used in the presence of their young ones, and a few panicked letters from Naruto who'd been trying to convince her to make some kind of law that would stop all of those women from staring at his crotch hungrily.
Heh. Good times.
A/n: Okay, there's been quite a few who've wondered at my apparent dislike for Kakashi. I would like to note that I really loved writing Team 7, and that their entertaining hatred of the world was actually one of the reasons that this fic actually got finished.
And in case you didn't quite pick up on all the couples, here they are: Chouji-Hinata, Shino-Tenten, Naruto-Ino, and Shikamaru-Temari. And I think Sakura is still technically gunning for Sasuke, but doing so very passively.
Below are a few scenes that I didn't quite manage to find room for.
XXX(What of the name of Wave's bridge?)
"They named it the Great Youth Bridge!" Gai answered with a beaming smile.
All the jounin present fought down the instinctual shudder of revulsion at the name.
XXX(Ino's return to her parents)
Ino's parents had come back from their second honeymoon, and so his teammate had thanked him for letting her stay, before making her own way home.
Naruto had happily waved her off, not really considering what this meant to him.
It meant that he was alone in an apartment that he'd always been alone in. Always, until a few weeks ago.
A few weeks, that was no time at all. And yet, for some reason the home that had been his haven from the harsh glares of the villagers, had become so suffocatingly empty the moment Ino stepped out through the door.
He'd have to make his own breakfast again, which would turn out just like it always did when he attempted something more complicated than instant ramen. He wouldn't have to sleep on the couch anymore. He might get his kitchen commandeered by that damn raccoon again. He wouldn't have to methodically clean up after himself in order to keep Ino from blowing up in his face. He wouldn't have to listen to her laughing unabashedly at his sleeping hat.
It was empty.
A hollow feeling that stretched out between the apartment's walls.
Doing his best to physically force the frown away from his knotting eyebrows, Naruto made his way to his bed. Reuniting with its softness for the first time since he left for his first C-Rank.
It smelled different.
It smelled like Ino.
His bed smelled of Ino. And he missed her. With a burning clenching feeling in his gut that came closer to bringing tears to his eyes than anything since Iruka had first acknowledged him as a person.
Whimpering softly, he tried to force himself to sleep. Because she should spend time with her parents. With her family. Her precious people. She'd gone home.
And then the door to his apartment opened with a bang.
"Naruto! I just realized that the raccoon will probably come back if I'm not hanging around to drive it off! Shit! I'm totally going to have to crash here until you find a better apartment!" Ino called out.
Naruto was out of his bedroom faster than he could blink.
She was back. She was back. She was back!
And if he hugged her a bit tighter than what was really proper, she didn't call him on it.