Shimura Tetsuo smiled nostalgically as he claimed one of the numerous leaf raking missions for his new team. Back when he had been first starting out, leaf raking missions had been amongst his favorite since he'd had a rather indulgent sensei. He'd learned a good number of things from his sensei over the years he'd served under him that he planned on passing down to his own students, and today's mission would be one of those things he'd be handing down to the next generation.
His smile slipped slightly when he went to meet his students for that day's training. He'd been having problems with one of them, and not exactly for the reasons most would expect. It was hard to hate the somewhat obnoxious Uzumaki boy when one is forced to spend large amounts of time in his company without the freedom to ignore him that most people took for granted since Naruto was the sort of person that grew on you. The Kyuubi had yet to rear its head or show an obvious influence over the boy so, he had no problems with Naruto in that area. His problems with the Uzumaki boy were rooted in the fear that all of the effort he put in the child who constantly demanded training he wasn't ready for would be wasted. It was clear enough to him that the child he was stuck with hadn't been ready to leave the Academy. He'd seen a number of children just like him back during the war when they were pushing children through because troops were needed, and he'd seen almost all of them die during the war as well.
It just seemed such a waste to put all that effort into a student who'd more than likely die during his first real combat mission, especially when he had other students who needed that effort as well. While Suzume and Satoshi had been ready to graduate, they too had problems that needed to be dealt with. Suzume was very goal oriented, and gave her all to that goal. One thing she needed to learn as a result though was when to quit. Just about every member of Satoshi's extended family had a habit of stealing things to a greater or lesser degree, and Satoshi was one of the more extreme examples who needed a firm hand to guide him because of that. Both of them needed his attention but, Naruto's inadequacies continually forced him to focus it elsewhere.
That day's training brought all of its usual frustrations with it. As usual, Naruto struggled with the tree he was supposed to climb, being blown off more often than sliding off and attracting his teammates' attention to him every time he did so. His training with Satoshi and Suzume was no bed of roses either. He wasn't used to the whole being a teacher thing, and holding back enough so that the training spars didn't become too much for a Genin was exceedingly difficult. On more than one occasion, an action taken by one of his students had triggered certain instincts, and he'd been forced to restrain himself from using lethal force against the student who did it.
His students' groans when he told them they had a mission that day was nearly the final straw. He'd almost been tempted to yell "Screw it!" and race back to the tower to request the first available out of country A rank. And, today had started out so well...
He honestly didn't know how his sensei had managed it.
"Well, at least it isn't trash pick up." Naruto grumbled as he took in the leaf covered street that he and his team was supposed to rake.
He wasn't in all that good of a mood today. Today like every day, he had yet again failed the tree-climbing exercise that Tetsuo-sensei had given him. If he kept failing his assignment like he was doing, he would never get to train with Suzume and Satoshi much less get any really awesome lessons. To make matters worse, he'd waved to Suzume's cousin Izumo on the way over, and the man had ignored him like everyone else even though he hadn't said anything mean to him or given him that look to his face when Suzume had introduced them the week before.
Today, Tetsuo-sensei had been more frustrated with him than usual. He didn't know whether it was something he had done or if it was just Tetsuo-sensei being Tetsuo-sensei. The man constantly gave him mixed signals. Whenever they were around the Administration Complex, Tetsuo-sensei was rather friendly and had actually patted his head a few times. When they were outside the Administration Complex however, Tetsuo-sensei was almost cold and was frequently frustrated by his lack of progress. He didn't think the man's friendliness with him at the Administration Complex had much to do with the Hokage though, since he hadn't seen the man try buttering up to the Old Man the way some people did, and he'd been nice to him a few times when the Old Man wasn't around and had once even said something mean to the sensei of another team who had given him that look.
Of course, the reasons behind that was a mystery that he'd probably never be able to solve...
"Well, let's get this over with then." he grumbled as he moved towards the rakes that had been provided for his team.
Tetsuo had almost been ready to call it a day and tell his students to finish up and pack it in by the time all of the leaves on the street had been raked into one massive pile. Then, he had caught Satoshi casting longing glances at the massive pile that was waiting to be bagged up to be taken to the village compost heap to be turned into mulch and he remembered why he had selected this mission in the first place...
The three children laughed as they bounced around in a massive pile of leaves while their sensei looked on. Their mission for the day was all but complete, and as soon as they bagged the pile that they were turning into a giant mess, they would be free to go home. Outside the village walls, a war that they would be involved in again all too soon was raging. Right there and right then however, there was laughter and a small measure of peace...
"We seem to have finished a little early today." he said, giving the leaf pile a significant look. "It seems that we might have a bit of time to play."
"You mean we..." Suzume asked, giving the pile of leaves that his students had created a hopeful look.
He nodded. That was all of the permission two of his students needed. With a pair of childish war cries, Suzume and Satoshi leapt upon the leaf pile. Naruto held back however.
It had been more impulse than anything that had caused him to pick the boy up and throw him into the pile with his two other students. The surprised look on the boy's face as he did so had been absolutely priceless as was the faintly stunned look on his face when he landed in the middle of the pile between Suzume and Satoshi.
Naruto carefully crawled out of the leaf pile wondering if his being thrown into it was a trap of some sort. Every other time he'd tried to leap into a pile of freshly raked leaves like he'd seen other children doing, he'd been dragged out and yelled at. Instead of yelling at him for messing up the leaves like everyone else had done before however, Tetsuo-sensei picked him back up and threw him back into the leaf pile before jumping in after him.
As he sat there trying to figure out what he should do next, Satoshi picked up a handful of leaves and threw them at him. He then picked up his own handful of leaves and threw them at Satoshi. When he didn't get yelled at or pushed out of the pile afterward, he grabbed another, and then another...
Somehow, at some point, he, Satoshi, and Suzume had all teamed up and started throwing leaves at Tetsuo-sensei. Rather than getting upset, the man had started laughing along with them and started throwing leaves back at them. The leaf war continued until well after the sun had slipped beneath the horizon and the first stars began to appear. Finally, Suzume, then Satoshi, and finally Tetsuo-sensei fell back in exhaustion and he joined them, glad to be part of the team for once.
If all of their missions could be like this one...
As he lay there in the middle of a massive leaf pile surrounded by his students, Shimura Tetsuo finally understood why his sensei had gone through all of the trouble of being a teacher even though it didn't seem to be worth it most of the time. It was a shame that they would have to clean the pile up soon. Right now, he wanted to stay here like this forever.