AN: So if you haven't guessed, I'm crazy. Working on another insanely long Ghost and the crazy child chapter that I can't cut short so this updates first. Having a lot of fun messing with the characters and glad you all seem to be liking my bubbly little introverted Aburame. Enjoy.
By the time their new sensei showed up three hours later, things were actually working out for the new team seven. Naruto had shown he could make shadow clones now. It had explained the forbidden jutsu comment but he wouldn't share the story behind it. While frustrated, both of his new teammates had to admit being impressed the blonde could keep his mouth shut. It was another subtle shift in how Sasuke viewed what he had originally seen as the least useful warm body he would be forced to deal with.
They sparred, and observing this time without his fan girls and fawning admirers to distract him Sasuke came to realize that Naruto did not know the academy style.
"How did you ever manage to even hit me that one time if you don't know the proper forms!?" Had been a pretty funny explosion from Sasuke who was about an inch from probably spitting fire. For real. He did have access to the training before his father died even if it had taken a long time to learn but he wasn't wishing to share his fireball jutsu just yet. Kucho just shook her head and sighed.
"Naruto-kun was often sabotaged or neglected was my observation. It is actually not entirely uncommon, most kunoichi are..and civilian's. As there can only be so many teams, the academy itself seems to cripple or aid those they wish to form into teams the most often. Had you been less capable Sasuke-kun I have no doubt they would have padded your results regardless to attempt to curry favor. Which just makes them all stupid." Before Naruto could start making sense beyond his loud exclaiming of 'what! That is not fair' Kucho had actually groaned. Why did she have to be the sane one and do all the talking? Okay all the talking that made sense, Naruto was very happy to run his mouth on nonsensical remarks.
"We'll help you out. Sasuke-kun, you've a better grasp on taijutsu for a male's form, Please."
"I'm not learning anything from that stupid Teme!" Naruto was pointing directly at Sasuke, furious, but the bright red flush to his face went all the way ear to ear and down his neck. It at least was clearly an outburst of embarrassment and not something to take personally.
"Naruto-kun.." Kucho was fighting the urge to snap at him and had to keep a mental mantra that her new soldier did not know his place. He was a pupae. He wasn't even growing a carapace yet. Silently she gave a subtle direction to her Kikaichu..the resulting effect calming her back down and hopefully the increased pheromones they were putting out in the air would return things to as they had been. Oh, that's right..she had been slightly influencing them from the start having realized upon announcement of her teammates that they'd need a little boost to begin getting along. Taking a deep breath of her own pheromone's from her insects to soothe her nerves Kucho got ready to cajole her soldier into letting their other teammate Sasuke stepped in. Perhaps it was because she had asked him to instruct. Well that and she was standing closer to him, not that human or even canine noses would consciously detect the calming pheromone's that were pumping through their veins for the past few hours.
There were reasons besides self control and logical minds that the Aburame always appeared calm and could mellow their teams as mediators after all. It was just a fairly well kept secret.
"You'll listen. And learn. Because if I am going to be on a team with you, you're at least going to be a decent sparring partner. All that extra chakra and energy doesn't do anything if you can't use it and just throw it around. If you can learn the forms than you'll possibly give me some real workout's ..at least when I am tired." Sasuke frowned at Naruto and sighed. "If you pay attention..just..just tell me if you ever even learned this okay? Freaking hyperactive moron.." The last bit was muttered but Sasuke fell into the first stance he'd learned that was academy standard rather then Uchiha. It was a prime location to jump into attack or defense, a beginning spot.
Sure enough, Sasuke's insight had proven true as Naruto didn't know any of the kata's or forms. He knew to throw a punch and street brawl but didn't actually know how to fight properly. It probably would have made things worse if Kucho hadn't intervened in an Aburame fashion.
"It seems there were some who wanted to see Naruto-kun fail..how rude of them to try and sabotage our team this way." Both boys had stopped bristling so much at each other then and Naruto's eyes had gone dark. It seemed her words were more apt than she had realized. Kucho filed that away to examine later when she had more information, but hearing someone may be slowing him down by messing with his team mate made Sasuke nod. It was after all, very well known that the last was paired with the two best. That meant either someone truly atrocious could have been on their team in Naruto's place, or someone engineered the blonde to be paired with Sasuke. If Kucho hadn't been so determined Ino or Sakura or even Hinata would be in her position.
Kucho wanted to cheer, and hid her reaction deep in the Aburame stoic behavior she was so unassociated with. The last thing she wanted to do was reveal that her words had gotten the boys to be serious! Finally! But did it really need to take such huge amounts of pheromone's to get these two to not argue?!
Sasuke went slowly over each motion, staving off Naruto's complaint by saying if he practiced slow and got it perfect then when he worked on speed it would be more damage. Damage was a good word for Naruto. Sasuke didn't even really rub in his superiority, likely reminding himself that Naruto would be an easy ticket on the D-ranks. Besides, Naruto did learn fast. He was just easily distracted. Once they were going slow it was actually much harder to slow down for Sasuke and Kucho, it required a lot of muscle control and they experimented with sparring at that very slow speed. It was surprisingly difficult. It soon became a game with Naruto to see who could go the slowest in the motions without losing accuracy.
Sasuke was humoring them only because he felt the quivering of his muscles when he grossly slowed his movements, it was forcing a lot more balance on his part and only sent another point to Kucho. She had said she wanted to see them improve. Perhaps her ideas and methods were strange -as she had warned them- but results were what the two boys cared about.
At the end of the two hours when they stopped sparring and attacking the targets with punches and kicks, Naruto was still clumsy. He wouldn't improve overnight after all no matter what his hitai-ate said; but he was already better. It had certainly been a better way to pass two hours then sitting around and bickering.
The three made themselves comfortable on the grass, unspoken none of the new team wanted to see if Naruto's aim was just as bad. No one felt the fragile new truce would take that. Instead, Kucho spoke up once more.
"So, what less..combat oriented ninja skills do we all have?" She tilted her head from one boy to the next. For once, Naruto was first.
"Um..I am good at pranking.."
"That's not a skill Dobe."
"Yeah it is!" Naruto frowned, his hostility had been tempered when Sasuke was helping him because it was something Naruto knew he needed, but he wouldn't have these skills belittled. He seriously doubted the stuck up black haired teammate of his had them! "Look it takes a lot of work. I have to pick a target, know what they are like. I have to then set it up without it being obvious. That usually means I have to pick a lock, disarm and rearm traps so they don't know I was there." He huffed and then noticing the surprised, and impressed (if completely constipated begrudging on Sasuke's part) expressions of his teammates continued. "I have had to steal so I'm good at it. I'm also really good at not being spotted."
"Orange." Kucho pointed out calmly and he just nodded.
"Exactly. I'm in super duper mega bright colors and yet who spots me? Most the time no one. Everyone expects dark colors, they don't pay attention to me as a ninja! I hide in plain sight!"
"That's the most idiotic..." Sasuke trailed off. Leaning back he frowned, thinking. Really it was true, how few times had he ever noticed Naruto in the village unless he heard him first?
"You will dress darker on missions." Kucho stated simply as she looked at Naruto. It was not a question, it was not even a suggestion. There was a steely command that startled the blonde and he locked eyes with her. Naruto was anything -but- complacent and submissive. Much like Sasuke, which was a reason he knew he was such rivals with the dark boy.
"Outside Konoha." Sasuke for once, offered the middle ground. Kucho's words earlier about molding Naruto by encouraging what they wanted was ringing in his ears. If it really was true he had to have a three man team; which he would be looking up to double check. If so, than he was absolutely going to fix a few things about Naruto. Sasuke was fully aware Aburame's were about as talkative as Uchiha, hardly at all. That she'd done as much today was her being the mediator but it seemed Kucho's patience was wearing off. He could play the good guy, besides, it was seriously amusing to see the loudmouthed blonde so off kilter that Sasuke seemed to be sticking up for him. Huh. He may have to do that more often just to scare him.
"..well..yeah. Okay. But I want to wear some orange! Orange is awesome! Dattebayo!"
"Whaaaa? Kucho-chan! So not cute!"
Kucho pouted at them both "I am not cute. I am a fearsome caterpillar."
"Caterpillars are fat and squishy. And um. Not scary." Naruto pointed out, giving her a look as if questioning where her intelligence had gone.
Kucho just shoved her glasses back on her nose. "I'm breeding butterflies that will have poisonous stingers, and various powders off their wings that will suffocate, paralyze, cause horrific hallucinations..and be beautiful. It's still at the beginning stages, I haven't gotten the poison to be variable yet and it's just causing nausea and dizziness but the stingers are doing well and not ripping out like how they do on my bee friends, I don't want to kill off my pretty butterflies after all."
"Kucho-chan can be scary.." Naruto muttered, even Sasuke was shivering at the way she said it but then both boys thought about it. At least she was scary in a kunoichi way. Scary but lethal, both of them were going for that after all. Again Sasuke was relieved he had the dark skinned girl on his team, he was pretty certain Ino and Sakura would be squealing his name or talking about their nails or badly disguised dating ideas. Or little baby animals. At least if Kucho was talking about butterflies, they were sounding useful.
"Why do they have to be beautiful?" Sasuke asked, leaning back on the tree. Kucho hadn't seemed to be the shallow type. Bizarre and everything, yes but helpful. Then again she gave him glow worms and had a glowing dragonfly as a messenger.
"No one expects the beauty to be the most dangerous." She shrugged then. "It's just an insect thing." A pause, and then she grinned at them, an out and out cheerful expression. "Besides, I like pretty butterflies so why not?"
"Kucho-chan you're really weird." Naruto said but he was grinning, she wasn't pretty like Sakura but at least Kucho didn't hit him. Heck, even Sasuke had been tolerable so far! "Okay Sasuke-teme..oh right. Um..yeah no I can't think of something that doesn't sound anything but cool..and you're not cool! Um, so anyways, what are your skills? The whole other ninja non combatty stuff."
"I can speak rationally."
Sasuke smirked at Naruto, but really it was funny that Naruto was complaining anything he'd call him would sound cool. It was nice that aside from a lack of fangirls, he also didn't have the fawning idiots of the boys in their year. Many of them had just wanted prestige from being associated with the last uchiha. "I am well versed in Shinobi literature and strategies. I am a very fast learner, coming from a clan background my taijutsu is far beyond that which is taught at the academy. I have access to many ..methods..when I am of age to utilize them. Most of the clan jutsu's are locked away and held in trust by the hokage but when I come of age he feels I am ready, I will have them."
"I mean real shinobi skills, Sasuke-teme. Okay you learn fast, but what like my being able to steal or open locks? What do you have that will be field useful?"
Sasuke frowned at Naruto. That was actually a well thought out rational question, who knew the dobe had it in him? "I am good at riddles and code. As I stated also strategies, that is not always something you use in the middle of combat." He paused then and shook his head. "I will be more useful..later." When he gained his clan's sharingan.
Both boys turned to Kucho who sighed, looking over her glasses again with a pout and crossed arms so she was absolutely swallowed in her sweat shirt. "you two make me talk too much."
Naruto snickered, and even Sasuke had a smirk with an amused 'hn'.
"Fine. As you know I have my insects which I can spy, track, and communicate with. My tracking skills are the ones I was bred for much as I am breeding my primary hive. I will in time be learning more of the.." She paused then, how to explain to young boys the Aburame Queen traditions that dated back before coming to Konoha? "I will be learning to silent kill and poison and am already on the minor poison's and learning their antidotes. I am able to mimic many civilians especially of higher ranking, I have skills as a kunoichi that seem outlandish to you boys but are female specific so on missions I can hide among civilians in plain sight. I am learning to infiltrate and sabotage which means sleight of hand. Not good at that yet though.."
"Kucho-chan is Scary." Sasuke said to Naruto, completely deadpan.
"And you two make a joke at my expense.." Kucho sighed, but even as Sasuke smirked and Naruto laughed, exclaiming over how 'that was a good joke Sasuke-teme! I didn't know you had a sense of humor!- she felt pleased that they were bonding. Eventually she hoped to have this kind of camaraderie without the aid of the calming pheromones. It seemed though that in their side skills they were a good infiltrate and cause mayhem team in addition to being eventually combat hefty. It was also obvious that Sasuke needed to work on some more ninja non combat skills. Strategies were fantastic, Kucho herself was learning them more and more but her plans tended to the simple. She was a Queen after all...she would need to work on that skill.
Sasuke apparently came to the same conclusion that he had the least to offer out of combat and scowled, before muttering "They made me clan head at eight..I also know my way around a lot of paperwork..so I can write up the mission reports and teach you how..IF you two make it up to me." Naruto seemed eager.
"What you do the boring stuff? Coun me in Teme. Whatcha want?"
"You do more than your share of the D-ranks physical labor."
"Eh. Fine. Lazy Teme."
"And myself?" Kucho arched an eyebrow. He was a young soldier, and she was not an idle Queen. Though if it was something too demeaning..
"...I can't cook. Pack me lunch." Sasuke muttered, a faint blush just at the back of his neck. It seemed he had learned to control his reactions most the way but his hairstyle exposed the back of his neck. She'd have to tell him about that later on, when she had learned his other tells.
Kucho just nodded, relaxing. Traditionally drones would gather food and supply it to the Queen but it wasn't unheard of for providing your soldiers food, especially when training them. Besides for a human girl's often took care of the boy's in their hive's so really it was hardly a demeaning request. This way she could also ensure they ate well. It helped that she liked cooking."Most the time. When we meet up and I am bringing my own..Naruto-kun, that means I will for you as well."
"Perhaps we can go out for ramen until I learn to cook it properly? I do not like to share my works in progress..."
"Yatta! Ichiraku's is the best! And you'll have to get over that Kucho-chan, I'm willing to sample experiments! I kinda melted my stove boiling water once for instant ramen."
"You're buying, moron." Sasuke interjected. Naruto looked at him shocked but Sasuke had a feeling from how excited Naruto was that it would otherwise eat up their entire paychecks. "If you do I'll help you with your taijutsu." Sasuke carefully kept his face blank, if he could get his teammates to provide at least a few meals than all the better for him.
"And you won't tell anyone?"
Kucho smiled as the two boys settled down. This just might work...
"Ah. So here you are..."
Much to their surprise as they looked up at the silver haired shinobi, he simply waved, looking bored and lazy. One visible eye locked onto each, though it almost flinched away when it skirted to near to Naruto. Apparently all of Team seven, including the jounin, had crazy wild hair that refused to be tamed Naruto was amused to note. All they really needed now was a red head..Black for Sasuke, Silver for the old Jounin, Brown and Black and tan stripes..eh..brown..for Kucho, and his own blonde.
"My first impression is you're more work than you are worth. I don't like you. Meet me on the roof."
As fast as he came, he left. Vanishing before him leaving three pairs of wide stunned eyes that the ninja was just..gone.
"wha..what was that supposed to mean!? More work?!" Naruto huffed out, seriously the old guy left them hanging and called them work?
"We weren't in the classroom. Lazy sensei must have had to back track.." Sasuke grumbled, actually talking since it meant being rude about someone who had left them waiting. Apparently he was a stickler for manners when it was towards him. He was above needing manners most the time, but kami help anyone rude to him.
Kucho just sighed as she stood up, calling her wandering Kikaichu back to her. "None of my little ones sensed him..he's good. Crazy as all get out I think but.."
"Jounin are all weird." Naruto piped in, at his confused teammates looks he shrugged, hands up over his head as they started towards the stairs to get on the roof at a sedate pace since they couldn't vanish into smoke and leaves. "Hey I told you have to know my targets before I prank em. Jounin are hard to get but if you can..they're all really nuts. They dress weird, they talk weird, they have really bizarre habits. I think it's like the stronger you get the stranger you are!"
It hadn't taken them long to reach the roof, the last bit shouted as they walked out the door and onto the top of the school itself where they could see the dark clad form of their sensei leaning against the farthest railing.
"If that's true..we're already a group stronger then the hokage. Dobe." Sasuke muttered, smirking as his teammates snickered. It was true though, they were definitely up there in the weird factor.
"Maaaa.. why do I have such uncute students?" Kakashi sighed and watched the three settle down. From what he'd read- and admittedly Hiruzen had a bad habit of pranking his own Jounin instructors by leaving lots of information cut out of their papers- these three should be oil and water and vinegar. Not mixing at all.
Naruto was a complete idiot and knucklehead, nothing like his parents if you didn't pay attention to his looks. It amazed Kakashi just how idiotic most the village was to not put it together, blonde was hardly a really common hair color and the last name should have been a dead giveaway as to the parentage. Why they hadn't stuck Naruto with a completely random last name, he didn't know. Naruto was also holding the very beast of his nightmares but according to the Hokage had managed to learn and perform the dangerous mass Kage Bunshin technique and aware of what he held now. Kakashi didn't doubt there had been a hurried psych eval Naruto had gone through with Inoichi and had been left unaware of what was going on. He was mostly sabotaged on purpose by his instructors to ensure Kakashi would be his teacher. Someday Naruto would figure that out and from the bits of temper he had read about, he did not envy the Hokage trying to explain that one..He'd explored his apartment as was standard to get a feel for the personality. What it had revealed was a lazy personality that just scraped by with little care for comfort or appearances. Or simply someone who had no idea you could fix up holes in the walls, leaking plumbing, or even how to run a washing machine. It had not been a cheerful sight.
Sasuke Uchiha had issues. More than any other Uchiha Kakashi had the displeasure to meet. He was antisocial, egotistical and yet a likely prodigy. The sort formed from trauma as before his clan's massacre he was talented but did not have this much potential. He had expected him to be ignoring or bickering with his team, rather then seeming bemusedly resigned. His home had been sterile, completely impersonal. Sasuke wasn't living in his original home at least, but one of the former houses that had been emptied and not yet filled, waiting for a new family. Kakashi understood why, he'd not wanted to live in the place his own father had died. He'd still been expecting some sort of comfort but it seemed that Sasuke was fully aware of the low funds in his clan's account. Most of the wealth of the clan had been bickered over and torn through by the council or went into restoring the Uchiha district to hide all evidence of what had occurred before they let the precious heir back into the compound. Until Sasuke started on more missions he had to make certain he didn't empty the coffers, land that large took a lot of upkeep even if it was left empty. The boy had only a few things in his fridge and almost all of it was takeout.
Kucho was an Aburame female with very little on her report. Most of it had been cut out, and her appearance was obviously half foreign. Her skin and hair were dark, her pink and blue attire was almost as much an irritation as Naruto's orange..at least her pink was more of a peach hue. Still, hardly ninja wear. The only thing really besides her scores that had stood out was the fact she was the most peculiar when he'd accessed her room. One did not show up among the Aburame uninvited. It was like the Hatake compound had once been, or the Inuzuka's. If you weren't wanted then lethal force could be expected, and when it could be swarms of lethal flesh eating and poisonous insects, or just ones that would devour chakra..he'd walked in the front gate and asked Kucho's mom permission. Her room had been..cluttered. Clothes and half worked on projects everywhere, everything had a place but it was completely a contrast to the traditional austere environment he was used to. Learning she had bees that she kept as a hobby as well as seeing the dance fans displayed proudly on the wall..He'd never heard of a 'girly' Aburame before.
Seriously. What was Hiruzen thinking?
"So. Tell me a little about yourself? Likes, dislikes, dreams of the future?.."
He waited for the inevitable, predicting Naruto would give the demand for an example and looking forward to trolling them by revealing nothing at all. Instead the three paused and Naruto gave his first warning to Kakashi that he would be predictable only in his unpredictability.
"Don't you have like, files on us or something? You have to know who we are to have found us and I know Iruka-sensei leaves notes like a fifty page book report. Considering he didn't walk out with us I think he probably left a lot more than usual."
Kakashi hid a smirk at that. Iruka did indeed leave more than a note, it was a play by play of the student's waiting for him and personal reasons he thought pairing Sasuke and Naruto was a terrible idea. The 'kiss' incident had been mentioned. Now that had been highly amusing and totally worth having to walk outside to track down his little brats. All he had to do was fail at least one of the attention hogs and he'd be done with this mandatory farce all Jounin had to go through. He'd half thought after all the years of Anbu he'd have gotten out of it.
"It's also so you can get to know each other."
The three exchanged a look and then Naruto smirked, nodding with the other two. "All right then...Uchiha Sasuke.." He threw a thumb in the dark haired boy's direction "Head of the Uchiha clan, number one rookie of the year..Male Rookie.." he corrected swiftly at a soft humm that came from the dark girl. "Excels in Ninjutsu and Taijutsu, needs a lot more of a challenge than the academy could provide. Has an issue with cutting his own hair so it doesn't stick up in the back like bed head. Not that I can say much my whole head looks like that and Kucho-chan looks like she has floppy dog ears..anyways! He doesn't like fangirls. Actually I think all three of us can say our dislikes are fan girls and school.." The other two nodded, and Kakashi felt a bead of sweat trail down his temple. What exactly was going on here?
"Sasuke's likes are brooding, literature, being the smartest one in the room er out of the boys that is, avoiding fan girls.." he paused and looked at Sasuke who was highly entertained that so far Naruto had actually been rather flattering. And funny. He gave the blonde a smirk
"Dreams for the future, Sasuke wants to be a super amazing Anbu -I think- and serve under me as the most kick butt helper to the best Hokage ever!Dattebayo!"
Kucho giggled, and Sasuke rolled his eyes but he could live with that statement. He certainly wasn't going to talk about his clan business with someone he didn't know. Talking revenge about a clan traitor would probably have yet another adult cooing at him about how he needed to leave it up to the authorities. Besides, being Anbu would mean he was getting as strong as Itachi..and if he stayed in longer than his brother had he could probably learn a lot more.
"Hey Teme! You do mine now!" Naruto bounced on his feet and Sasuke rolled his eyes.
"Hyperactive blonde menance. you're lowering the intelligence of the area by breathing our oxygen. Fine, Uzumaki Naruto, dead last in every area though recently theorized due to sabotage, prankster. Determined and somehow managed to survive the academy despite no talents in ninjutsu or taijutsu and no written skills.."
"It's actually amazing you lasted much less graduated dobe. Take it as a compliment." the tone Sasuke used was a hair less than insulting so Naruto just grumbled about how his had been much cooler and see if he did that for the bastard again, letting Sasuke continue. Hey, watching their new sensei twitch from what they were doing was actually a lot of fun. "He likes Ramen and frogs and the color orange. He never shuts up about any of them, wants to be Hokage and has an annoying verbal tic of 'Dattebayo' that needs to be beaten out of him. As stated, dislikes fangirls and being forced to wait. Also has no concept of an inside voice..and not entirely hopeless" Shrugging Sasuke then turned and looked at Kucho.
Kucho pouted visibly then, crossing her arms over her chest and looked from one boy to the next making her upper pigtails flop around. "More talking?"
"Hn." Sasuke smirked and then shrugged. "Aburame Kucho." He looked at Naruto, wondering if they could trade off. Actually this was a fair test of what they had learned about each other in three hours, and again seeing Kakashi twitching as they twisted his comments was funny. Sasuke liked seeing people squirm, especially when it meant messing with their minds when they underestimated him.
"Kucho-chan is really good at cooking and observing, she likes having people not make her talk and helping people out. As long as they listen to her." Naruto trailed off and looked at her, clearly checking. Kucho smiled at Naruto and nodded once, well it was really helping her new team out because they were her soldier's..but it fit.
"She likes bugs. And pretty things, also being very uncute and scary." Sasuke interupted dryly, but at this point Kucho recognized the strange sense of humor for what it was.
"Kucho-chan dislikes the classroom, anyone being mean about her bugs, talking too much...her dream is to breed a special type of butterfly to do her evil bidding!" Naruto grinned and was smug seeing Kucho cover her mouth to hide her laugh.
'What in the Kami did I miss?' Kakashi was puzzled. By no means should these three be getting along, but they seemed to have come to terms with their differences. Sasuke and Naruto were actually teasing each other. How much could three hours really change?
Of course Kakashi didn't know that Kucho's amusement even if she'd avoided Naruto all those years at the academy had let him know she found his humor and pranks funny. Or that she'd had interactions that hadn't driven Sasuke crazy. He certainly had no idea that the three had been working out ways they could shore the other up and making deals. Quite frankly when faced with the coming days of being a genin, Sasuke's lure of making Naruto do most the boring stuff physically and having someone cook for him was a decent trade off. Naruto was pleased to have someone cook and be willing to teach him to fight better, not to mention as much as Sasuke had a stick up his backside he seemed to have a brain. When he wasn't being broody.
Really though, neither boy had a chance because their teammate was an Aburame Queen who had been subtly manipulating them these past few hours to be more amicable.
It took a change of the wind for the slight nearly undetectable pheromones to reach Kakashi and then he blinked. Suddenly things made sense, though he'd almost forgotten Shibi had said in passing all those years ago about a new 'Queen' being born while completely drunk and far less reserved among his former Anbu teammate. When Kakashi had asked the difference it had been a long list, but one of the things was that Queen's could have their Kikaichu manipulate pheromones to calm others far more effectively than male Aburame. It only worked in exceptionally close proximity and took time..but if Kucho had been using it on the boys who at their young age would be easily malleable, lacking their innate hostility to each other they seemed to have found common ground.
One eyebrow raised. It seemed his little team was going to be a challenge. Certainly, interesting. This was going to call for more work to get rid of the three. No wonder Hiruzen seemed so smug handing over Team seven's folder.
Deciding to rush this and test their new found camaraderie Kakashi explained their secondary test and vanished to let them stew. What he really did was hide nearby and clamp down his chakra so he could eavesdrop on their reactions. Now, to see how they reacted when they didn't think they needed to put on a front.
"What!? What was that!?" Sasuke was the one losing his temper and whirled about, furious. Whatever else his reaction was going to be, Naruto beat him to it, turning to the dark girl who till now had the information they needed. He was already learning that if he needed answers she was the one to ask.
"Kucho-chan have you ever heard of this?"
Kucho paused, leaning back and thinking. "No." She sighed and pulled off her glasses, it was getting dark enough she didn't need them anyways. "That none of us has heard of this or seen any of our previous graduating schoolmates return does not mean it is impossible to be true. Rather they could just join the genin corps in general or there is something else going on here..Sasuke-kun, you said you knew strategy..what shall we do? Follow orders?" Kucho waited, she wanted to tell them what to do but also knew as a Queen it was important to build her soldier's confidence. She needed them capable, able to act. She just wanted them to defer to her but if Sasuke was really as good as his likely abilities were..his advice would be solid. If not she would brush up on her own strategic books and theories as much as possible. They did only have each other's word as to how good they were in certain skills, for all they knew the others had lied.
Sasuke frowned, still livid at the idea it may have been for nothing to come this far. He did not for a moment regret the past hours though as it had been a wealth of information and having taught Naruto gave him the idea he could force the hyperactive one into an ideal partner to turn black and blue. Still, as he looked at the blue eyes that lacked any of their former contempt, and Kucho's brown and black ones..he eased up his muscles. Ninja focused on what could be done now. They were looking to him, even as Naruto had just looked to Kucho. They were a team. He would advance faster with them. If this truly was a test..
"If this truly is the real graduation test we need to know. Kucho-chan, send out your kikaichu to gather information about if this has happened before. Naruto, we need to work on your fighting. He said not to eat breakfast so eat very well tonight and bring something small for tomorrow..."
"I will handle that. Both of you come home with me for dinner." Kucho nodded, it was not an offer but a command, yet it was one both boys would bow to rather than fend for themselves in a kitchen. Naruto was tempted to offer Ramen but all things considered he didn't want to have Kucho not invite him over. He'd never been to someone's house for dinner before.
"Fine. Let's go to the training ground now to get a feel for the territory and see if we can even keep pace with each other. I don't want my teammates taking me out on accident if he makes us fight someone else's team." Sasuke had not said holding him back. Naruto wasn't an idiot and he picked up on that with a grin.
"Shouldn't we eat first so we can have time to set traps or something all night?" Naruto asked, which Sasuke, and finally Kucho nodded too.
The three headed off, to find the Aburame compound and Kakashi's eyes were wide.
'I think I need to go have another talk with the Hokage...'
Said Hokage was smiling as he observed the group. They were young, but Aburame children matured much faster and without many of the thoughts that their peers would. They tended to be clinical and focused on their goals from the symbiosis with their Kikaichu and it had been his most hopeful wish that Kucho would be able to reel in Naruto and Sasuke. Oh he was certain that they would give her a challenge. The two were young alpha male types, and both had vicious tempers and egos. However, if anything in his experience could train such boys it was an Aburame Queen.
Especially because it wasn't until they were close to sixteen they even considered the physical aspects of things, the Uchiha deserved a teammate who wasn't thinking of dating him the entire time and his favorite blonde troublemaker deserved the same. There was nowhere else he could have placed Kucho unless she had graduated a year earlier. Hiruzen fully understood that she had no rush though, it was indeed a full schedule of training that the girl had outside her school before now.
"Are you content, Gumoko?" he asked looking up at the girl's mother. The woman nodded, face hidden in her large scarf, dark glasses wrapping almost like a visor around her face. Her dark hair was in two buns on her head with two smaller pieces sticking straight up like antennae, on purpose no doubt. She was the clear Aburame, and stood with her hands in her oversized jacket that went almost to her ankles.
"I am quite pleased. Why? Kucho will be forced to extend herself greatly and will provide the container with a reason to be loyal to Konoha that has no ulterior motives. The Uchiha is going to be difficult."
"How so?" Hiruzen folded his hands as he looked at his kunoichi retired from Anbu now. Aburame did have so many strange ideas..
"He has anger issues."
"He's an Uchiha."
There was a humming from Gumoko. She did tend to be amused when he showed humor. "Kucho is going to be forced to increase her number of kikaichu that can secrete the pheromones until her soldier's have learned to obey."
As Hiruzen said nothing in response, Gumoko vanished. Hiruzen just chuckled "Oh I am pretty certain all three will train each other..and break Kakashi out of his isolation while they are at it.." the hokage was satisfied. Only the copy nin and his Sharingan could have a hope to truly train the Uchiha, and if need be, control Naruto's belly dweller.
"Affirmative. No secondary graduation requirement has been noted. Rather the other rookie's are being told to prepare to find the specialization they shall be training in." Kucho finally reported just as they walked into the Aburame clan grounds.
"What? Why would Kakashi-baka lie to us?" Naruto huffed, furious.
"Misleading..." Sasuke grumbled. Kucho nodded. Naruto paused and looked from one to the other, trying not to gawk at his surroundings.
"Wait..I'm missing something.."
"...really." Sasuke deadpanned but gave in. He just kept reminding himself that Naruto would save him a lot of boring work in the future.. "Whatever Kakashi-san is planning he wants us not to be aware of. As he pointed out not eating..he doesn't want us at our best. Distracted by our stomachs maybe."
"He also riled us up and made us focused on a worst case scenario. That means he'll likely continue the mental and emotional manipulation." Kucho said and then shook her head. "Let's focus on food for now, and then go check out the training grounds, kay?"
"Hey, Kucho-chan...um..why is everyone like..dressed for snow?" Naruto looked around but everyone was completely covered save a little of their upper faces. Most of them even had full boots rather than shinobi sandals and hoods!
"Aburame always dress like that." Sasuke said and Kucho nodded.
"But Kucho-chan shows her face!"
Kucho blushed, her glasses being off only made her more obviously shy about it. "I'm..just okay with it. I don't like things covering my face."
"What about not wearing glasses? Everyone else is and it's dark.."
"Aburame have really good vision, we wear the glasses to protect how sensitive our eyes are. My sire wasn't Aburame though so my eyes aren't as sensitive to light."
"Another term for father, Dobe."
"Oh. What's he like?" Naruto asked as they followed her inside the house she stopped at, Kucho blinked over her shoulder, slipping into house slippers after bringing out a few spares that were always tucked under a shelf for guests and shrugged.
"Kaa-san says he was very dark skinned, much more than me, with short curly hair and light brown eyes. He was a master of stealth and assassination..and hard to track."
"Cool! What was his name?"
"I don't know. He was a mission for her, since he was a nuke-nin to another village. Mother just thought his skills may be genetic and so delayed accomplishing the mission until she knew she was pregnant with me. We did want to improve the tracking Kikaichu and it seems so far to have worked." Kucho heard the footsteps behind her stop and turned, tilting her head to one side at the surprised and rather amusingly comic expressions on her teammates. "Aburame? We think different."
"But..you..he...bwaghr?" Naruto spoke pointing in different directions.
"We think of procreation as breeding within the hive much as we do with our insects. Why? Because it has been proven to strengthen our line." Came a low voice as Gumoko stepped out. She nodded once and turned to Kucho. "Report."
Kucho stood up straight, locking eyes with her mother and did exactly as commanded with all the respect one Queen had to another. "Team seven has one loud, one quiet, one watchful."
Gumoko turned amused at the smothered laughter her daughter's teammates had and yet she didn't doubt they were unaware of her smiling below the massive scarf. "Affirmed. Prognosis?"
"Hey Sasuke-teme..why do you think they're talking so..serious. I mean, that's her mom right?"
Sasuke nodded, not responding but he did look from one to the other. The smiling and friendly if petulant over how much she had to speak Kucho was gone. This one was serious, it reminded him of seeing his elder brother report to their father..except there was a feeling of mutual respect between the two females. Some of what Kucho had probably meant about being a Queen made a little more sense.
It appeared the Aburame clan had very strange ways of working. Far more so than he had ever guessed.
"High potential for all around exceptional. Two possessing advanced combat skills and one with chakra already vast. All growth available. Apparent weaknesses overlap for security. Tracking skills, covered. Strategic operations, covered. Covert capabilities of theft, infiltration, code breaking, trap laying and disassembling..covered." Kucho delivered all of it in what was a nigh emotionless tone, but the two boys had spent hours with her and could barely detect the happiness in her voice. Actually, put that way it made their team seem rather impressive.
"Schedule?" Gumoko prompted again and Kucho frowned. Body language betraying to her mother that she wanted the next statement clarified and Gumo's own shifted slightly to wait for analysis.
"Six hundred hours at training ground. Number confidential. Orders to arrive for secondary graduation test with high failure rate, instructions to consume no sustenance prior."
"Objective otherwise. Intended approach?"
Kucho nodded her head to the boys, indicating that it had been a group planning. "Analysis of training ground, testing of compatibility in combat as a whole to prepare for potential adversaries. Extensive nutrient intake at this time and additional small ration to bring as preparation. Intel turned up negative as to a precedent."
"Teme..does any of that make sense?"
"She's repeating what we were up to on the roof."
"Why does she have to make it so complicated?"
Gumoko lifted a brow at Kucho amused as the boys talked in whispers. Apparently they didn't know how good an Aburame's hearing was. Kucho couldn't repress her smile then, lifting her shoulders in a shrug. Her soldier's were brand new after all. "Acceptable. Proceed." Gumoko then turned and nodded to the boys. "Welcome." With that she simply turned and walked back the way she had come.
"Kucho-chan..what..was all that?"
"No! No using the teme's phrase!" Naruto waved his arms around, startling a snicker from Sasuke as they followed Kucho into the kitchen where she began to pull items out to make dinner.
"Oh, my mother is the senior Queen in residence so I report to her, just facts. Opinions without a reason and conjecture is often thought of as a waste of time.."
"Why don't you always talk like that then?" Sasuke asked, blinking as he realized he had just been handed vegetables and the tools to cut them. Shrugging he just set to work, she was going to cook for them after all. At least he hadn't been set to washing the rice and setting it to start in the rice cooker, thankfully Naruto had said he did know how to do that much.
"Well..um. I'm just ..they've always said I was a happy little beetle...though mind I don't usually talk anywhere near as much as I've had to today. It's exhausting."
"Ahhh knock that off!"
Kucho and Sasuke exchanged an amused look. Of course they'd both do that more now..they were kids still, after all. Dinner was a simple stir fry with plenty of meat in the boys' portions. There was miso soup and rice to fill up on as well, and Kucho set to making Onigiri with the leftovers as she got full long before either growing boy did. When she pointed out that Aburame's tended to make each meal fresh and so the less they left over the better..well there was very little effort in washing the dishes when everything was done. Handing each of them a bag of Onigiri for either a late snack or breakfast if they chose, Kucho assured them she would bring something for everyone to snack on tomorrow. They were just getting ready to head out to training ground three when Kucho stopped before putting her shoes back on. Fidgeting. Looking down and silent the two boys observed as she wiggled her toes, shifting about nervously before large mismatched eyes locked onto them both. Her teeth were currently wreaking havoc on her lip and then Kucho sighed.
"Before we go..I ..well I shouldn't tell you something..but I want to..um.." She licked her lips, the most nervous either boy had ever seen her. "I've kinda..well.." sighing Kucho ran a hand through a single pigtail, making the curls bounce and fluff up in a mess. "So, one of the things my Kikaichu can do is release pheromone's to track..that's normal but Queen's hold more hives in them then usual and they can let off pheromone's that calm people down..I've..I've been using it since our team announcement.."
"...what?" It was a sharp, vicious and cold tone to Sasuke's voice. Black eyes narrowed at her in fury at the idea he had been manipulated.
"What do you mean..calm down, Kucho?" There was no affectionate chan added on this time from Naruto.
Kucho sighed and gestured "That's why I'm telling you. Before we have a second test, before we're out in the open..it really only calms us down. It takes affect on me too..I figured all things as they are, and with the rivalry you two have the ability to think rationally would only help us..I would have eased off it later on but..there's a reason Aburame are usually mediators.."
"You said Queens do it. That renders your last statement false.." Sasuke said, still livid.
"They can but it's a lot less effective. And it doesn't completely force you to be calm..as you should be aware since you're clearly mad at me right now."
"Who else can tell us? Besides an Aburame? I want to know you're really telling the truth Kucho..and why tell us now ?" Naruto sounded so very serious that it was an unusual change for the two darker haired children to hear. Kucho didn't flinch away though.
"Because we've already seen our Jounin-sensei is weird and we suspect emotional and mental manipulation. I did not wish to risk his revealing it and making it sound like I could control you. I promise it just calms the edge, you're both brilliant if in different ways and I figured if you didn't have the anger from how we all acted in the academy, which is a front all three of us put up..that you may be able to get along." Kucho shifted, noticing the aura from her teammates had only slightly let up.
"Hokage-sama knows about it...it's um..it's really kind of a clan secret, but..I didn't want you two to not trust me..."
"Let's go to the training grounds. Teme, I'm good with jiji, I'll go ask him. Take my clone with you to set up the grounds. If this really is a secret lets not talk about it..if..if everything is what you said and I clear it with Jiji, I'll forgive you Kucho. But even if you meant it for a good reason I don't like being controlled.."
"It's not control!" Kucho actually raised her voice and stamped a foot, passionate enough about it to set the two at ease. Sasuke could appreciate that she was telling all of this so soon, she was right though. If it had come out in any other way he'd have never forgiven her. "It affects me too, and all it does in larger amounts slowly over time is keep you more rational and calm outbursts. It fades if you get serious enough increases in that or adrenaline if you didn't notice..I just..I told you, I want the best for you both as you're my soldiers. That means trying to help you beyond actively fighting each other for no reason.." Kucho trailed off, and her body language, was screaming her sincerity. "Please I..I just..."
"Go find out if it's true, Dobe. We'll meet you at three." Sasuke turned then, not waiting for Kucho to follow. When she did, flanked by Sasuke and the silent clone of Naruto there were no words exchanged. The entire way to the training ground was silent.
Naruto wasted no time rushing to the Hokage tower and sneaking in through a window. Much to his relief, the old man was alone.
"Jiji..I need to ask you something.."
"Naruto? Of course.." Hiruzen turned, surprised at the serious expression on the blonde's face. "What's the matter?"
"Kucho mentioned something just now to Sasuke and me about her insects tricking us to be calm.."
"She actually told you?" Hiruzen raised an eyebrow and leaned back slowly, lighting his pipe. "It's no trick even if it is a secret among her clan, Naruto. Think of it like my pipe. When I smoke it relaxes me. It lets my mind think a little clearer, my muscles to be less stressed. It cannot force you to do anything, that she told you is a very large sign of trust..it takes hours to really take effect and even at the highest doses by the elder Queen's it can't make you do anything. Rather, it just allows crowds and the council especially to calm down and try to be rational. I wish I could mimic it to be honest.."
"you swear she wasn't forcing us to get along? Sasuke-teme and I never did anything but fight before.."
"Maybe you just needed a reason. Give your teammates a chance, Naruto. You and Sasuke are very different, but very similar. He lost his family and while the village crowds him in kindness it's a smothering sort. He's always watched and judged..it's no way for a child to live."
"...anymore than my life was..."
"You swear though Jiji? Really really? Because if it's a lie..I mean..the person today..I think I could like that version of the bastard.."
"I swear on my office as Hokage."
"Thanks old man!" Naruto vanished without waiting, rushing at full speed to the training ground where he found the still cold and glaring Uchiha wandering about the grounds, apart from Kucho, both looking for existing traps. He was glad Sasuke was alone, and curiously seeing him so mad only drove home the truth. Kucho could make them calm down but she couldn't force them to stay that way.
"Hey Teme. Old man Hokage said she was telling the truth.."
"...hn." Sasuke did visibly relax though, his anger slipping away. Really, now that he knew it couldn't control him more than a slight influence..it was a useful skill. "There are worse things than assistance to keeping a rational mind. Especially around you."
"hey!" Naruto huffed but then paused. "Do we tell her to stop?" Sasuke shook his head, walking over so Kucho was paying attention to them before responding, he did not wish to repeat himself.
"Let's get through tomorrow. I think in light of the secondary test we will wait to demand a day you don't impose that on us. We may need every advantage tomorrow."
Kucho nodded, subdued, and once more shifting her body weight. It was clear she was convinced they were upset with her and Naruto sighed.
"Look, Kucho-chan.." Her head whipped up hearing the suffix again and Naruto realized that his opinion really meant a lot to the dark girl. It made him smile a bit, feeling warm. It was nice having someone care what he thought for once. "...It's gonna take time to wrap my head around but..thank you. For telling us right away I mean.."
Kucho nodded, still silent and Sasuke chuffed. "Che. Look, this ground is mostly trees..my only real ninjutsu would torch it.."
"My shadow clones would get all confused with them.."
"My insects would be fine, but I'm not as hard of a hitter as you two are."
The two boys preened a little at the admission and Sasuke looked around, eyes narrowing as he observed the location. "Let's set up something to not just keep someone out of the trees but flush them out if someone takes cover in them..that will give us an advantage."
"You really think we'll be fighting someone, Sasuke-kun?" Kucho asked, tilting her head. With one pigtail fluffy from the earlier attention it looked rather hilarious.
"Ah. I do."
The other two just nodded, and set to work following Sasuke's instructions. Several of Naruto's clones were sent off, henged, for supplies. Kucho had her insects tracking down likely spots to set traps and string explosive wire that Sasuke could channel a fireball down. All in all, it was going to be a long night.
Any lingering mistrust or worries about Kucho's earlier confession had faded the first time Naruto and Sasuke cringed at going through the slime of the river to also trap the water, and shucking off her hakama and sweat shirt to reveal her turtleneck with long sleeves and capri pants, muttering about boys getting her out of her comfort zone with talking and showing skin.. dove in the water.
Sasuke and Naruto exchanged a look.
"Hey teme, what did she mean by showing skin? She still wears more then Sakura-chan or Ino-chan.."
"Aburame are weird. "
Watching the re wrapped up form of Kucho with her soaking wet curls pulled into a tight bun, still trailing water and with mud on her shoes did keep the two from feeling any lingering hard feelings. Sure she may have used her insects to calm them down but she'd also just gone into cold water, at night, in their place. They could call it even.
They never did get additional sparring done.
"Man I'm beat..that's a lot of work!"
"Thankfully we had swarms of your moronic clones to work with..that would be still being all set up otherwise." Sasuke admitted, wiping his forehead off. Kucho just nodded, rubbing her eyes sleepily. The best part was the training grounds looked untouched save for a few traps that had been left barely visible to offset suspicion.
"Meeting here first thing. we better all go home and get some sleep!" Naruto said, nodding proudly at their invisible work.
"Hn." Sasuke paused, then shoved a rice ball at her "So you don't need to cook again tonight."
Kucho just beamed at him, Naruto had already lost his onigiri to some of his clones partly through the trapping of training ground three. "See you in the morning."
The three set off to their own homes.
Kakashi had no idea what he was in for, currently more interested in exchanging horror stories over sake with his fellow roped into the job jounin instructors. Gai had a lot of bizarre stories to share after all. Surely though, no team could be that difficult...