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Fools called home

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Iruka was already in the classroom when Sasuke walked in, and he could immediately sense the tension in the older man. His shoulders were rigid, his eyebrows furrowed, and he was staring at the door, as if waiting for something. It didn’t affect Sasuke, but as the rest of the students filtered in, his eyes flickered between the door and Iruka, idly trying to figure out what Iruka was waiting for.

The answer came right before class was set to begin. Sakura and Naruto walked in, side by side and having some seemingly innocuous conversation, something about ramen. Overall, not out of the ordinary, except for the fact that Iruka tensed even more and stood, slowly walking over to them.

Sakura and Naruto, to their credit, seemed to realize they were the target of the teacher, and Sakura threw her hand over Naruto’s mouth before he could escalate the situation. “Is there a problem, Iruka-Sensei?” she asked sweetly.

Iruka was calm, and that’s how Sasuke knew that whatever the problem was, it was big. Iruka was a kind teacher, but never failed to display his disappointment…or his anger. This dangerously calm demeanor meant he was truly angry; and not for the first time Sasuke understood why he had been assigned to train the future genin of the Leaf.

Naruto and Sakura seemed to know this and both visibly gulped.

“Sakura. Naruto,” Iruka said evenly. “I was working at the mission desk this weekend, when I read an interesting report from a team who had just travelled through Tanzaku-gai. And how they had found two known Konoha academy students wandering around the town. Would you like to tell me what you were doing there?”

Sakura’s hand was still over Naruto’s mouth and she smiled sweetly. “Iruka-Sensei, they must have made a mistake. There’s no way we could have made it all the way to Tanzaku-gai and back over the weekend, and plus it’s much too dangerous! Maybe it was someone who just looked like us and they made a mistake?”

Iruka raised an eyebrow. “Good theory Sakura, it would hold more evidence if one of our best sensor-nin wasn’t on the team. Chakra isn’t so easily manipulated. Let me rephrase the question: tell me what you and Naruto were doing there.”

Naruto grabbed Sakura’s hand off his mouth and shouted, “maybe in was enemy Iwa-nin who wanted to spy on the fire country and they were able to pretend to be me and Sakura-chan and he fooled our ninja!”

Sakura sighed at Naruto’s outburst but then levelled her gaze at Iruka and grinned broadly. Sasuke personally thought it looked like a shark that had found easy prey. “Why does it even matter? According to the current addition of the Konoha Procedure handbook, Tanzuka-gai is considered well-within the zone of travel for civilians.”

“But you aren’t civilians, you’re academy students,” Iruka countered, “which means I’m in charge.”

Sakura’s grin grew wider. “I mean, it doesn’t change the fact that we weren’t there, but I think that if you were to look, you would find a loophole, sensei. Once registered for the final graduation exam, as of a week before the exam, we aren’t considered academy students, we’re Genin Applicant, which falls under civilian!”

Iruka opened his mouth and then shut it again, glaring at Naruto and Sakura who were both grinning. “Sit down, you two,” was all he could say, and Naruto and Sakura gave each other a small high five before sliding into their usual two seats in the front row.

The class mumbled to themselves as Iruka, walked back to his desk and waited for the last few students came in.

“What were you even doing in Tanzaku-gai,” Ino loudly asked Sakura. “I thought you were joking when you said that’s where you were going this weekend.”

“Sad you refused?” Sakura asked.

“Huh, no way,” Ino said. “Like you’d ever catch me in a cesspool like that. I’ve heard enough stories, and I enjoyed my weekend without getting thrown up on. Gross!”

Sakura seemed to have no good comeback to that, but was saved by Iruka officially starting class, though he still took several chances to level Naruto and Sakura with a fiery glare.

-

The next morning, the village woke up to the great stone faces covered in paint, and while he couldn’t prove Naruto and Sakura did it, Iruka still sent them evil looks throughout the day and made them clean it in the afternoon.

(Sasuke walked past Ichiraku Ramen on his way home from training, and saw the three of them huddled under the bright lights, so he assumed that all was forgiven between the three, and as they laughed he walked home quicker.

-

Here is what Sasuke knows about Sakura Haruno. She is intelligent. And curious- she always asks the most questions in class and always writes down the answers. In fact she writes down a lot more than just answers- she keeps a notebook in her pouch and a will pull it out and jot notes down fairly regularly. She was quiet before she became friends with Naruto, and even now is quieter than he is (not that that’s hard) and if Sasuke had to guess, she’s the common-sense behind their operation. She shouts shannaro a lot and he isn’t quite sure what it’s supposed to mean.

And Naruto Uzamaki. Is an idiot, but seems to think more since Sakura came along. Loves pranking and in general causing as much mayhem as possible. Talks too loudly and too much. No one really likes him except Sakura and Iruka. Sasuke used to think they had a connection, they both understood loneliness. And then Sakura came along (Sasuke kind of resents her for it). Also shouts nonsense at every given opportunity.

They’re supposed to be his teammates, and Sasuke supposed he could have gotten a worse group to be assigned to, he just can’t think what that group could have been. He almost couldn’t hear his name, they cheered so loudly when it was revealed they’d be on the same team.

They seem to welcome him though, even if Naruto seems a bit bitter about it. They force him to eat lunch with them, and briefly go over some of the code words and hand signs they’ve worked out through the years, though Sasuke can tell they’ve only given him a fraction of their codes. Something tells him that they don’t trust him, or really think that he belongs (and part of him has to admit that they’re right). He tells himself that he doesn’t care about that.

-_-_-_-

When Kakashi-Sensei explained the test to them, Sakura didn’t object, instead her eyebrows furrowed and she bit her lip, obviously confused by something. Sasuke couldn’t blame her; their teacher didn’t seem like much, but he was a jonin for a reason. She let Naruto yell at Kakashi, but grabbed him before he could attack, and the second Kakashi began the test, she kept her hold of him as they ran away.

Sasuke didn’t know where they went, as he was too busy hiding himself to come up with a plan against Kakashi-sensei.

It didn’t end well. In fact it ended up with him buried up to his neck, so maybe he shouldn’t have been upset when Naruto and Sakura found him. Naruto took one look at him and began laughing hysterically until Sakura hit him to shut him up.

She then walked over and knelt next to him, looking at the earth he was buried in. “The sensei is tricking us,” she said. “I’ve read the Konoha Procedure Handbook cover to cover. Well the parts I had clearance for, at least. We knew that there would be a final test, and the sensei technically doesn’t have to pass everyone, but there’s no way they could make a test to specifically only pass two genin. ‘The ideal genin team consists of three genin under one jounin, which has been found to allow the maximum diversity of skill, as well as allows for a foundation of teamwork and village pride.’ “

Naruto nodded fervently as Sakura spoke. “Yeah, and when Sakura-chan told me this, I realized that he was trying to trick us, so we decided that we had to figure out what Kakashi-Sensei actually wants us to do! I said we didn’t need your help though.”

Sakura sighed, “he’s on our team now, Naruto. He can help us find out what the real mission is.” She stood up. But first we have to get him out. I think I can substitute with him- I’m smaller so I should be able to have an easier time getting out.”

Naruto glared at Sasuke, muttered something about him wasting Sakura’s chakra, and folded his arms. Sasuke glared back as Sakura performed the substitution technique with Sasuke. Suddenly, he was in Sakura’s place and she was pulling himself out of the ground and wiping the dirt of her clothes. “Let’s get out of here and go somewhere to figure this out.”

Sasuke didn’t want to listen to the two, but Sakura had argued policy with Iruka-Sensei himself just days before and he would assume that if anyone could recognize a trick, Konoha’s main prankster would be a good choice. So he followed them into the village proper, and slipped into a small restaurant behind them.

They ordered tea- warry of eating after the warning Kakashi had given them. None of them knew what the rest of the day would entail. “So our first mission as a team,” Sakura said. “Find out what our test actually is and pass it.”

“We should go over what we know, first,” Sasuke said. “Kakashi-sensei had said we would have a survival exercise, but what we underwent was mostly us chasing him down.”

Naruto nodded. “That’s right. He just sat around reading his stupid book, more than anything!”

“He set a time limit at noon,” Sakura pointed out. “So we should definitely try to figure it out before that. Hmmm…and I’m sure there’s a reason for the bells. I mean he had two of them to lead us on the right path, but maybe he means something else? Why bells.”

“He obviously also knew that you had read the handbook,” Sasuke pointed out. “Or at the very least he expected one of us to have done so, or know the policies of the village. But after what you and Naruto did, going to Tanzaku-gai, Iruka had probably told him.”

Naruto’s eyes suddenly widened. “Bells,” he said quietly to himself, then turned to Sakura. “If Kakashi-sensai knows we went out town then…remember the shrine with the two bells between here and that outpost town?”

Sakura’s hair whipped at she turned to Naruto. “I remember you knocking them over, even though I warned you that you would get us cursed! But you’re right!” She turned to Sasuke. “It isn’t fair from here. Otafuku Town. I think the shrine was maybe five or six kilometers, maybe a little more. She eyed the clock. “We could definitely get there by noon, but it’d be close and we’d have to leave now.” Her hand slammed down on the table. “Let’s go!”

_-_-_-_

Kakashi had noticed that the three had joined together and disappeared and smirked under his mask. Maybe they actually understood the purpose of the test.

Either way, he would let them plot, wait for their attack to see what they could do. They wouldn’t be able to beat him, but he would let them have the advantage of surprise. And so he returned to his book and waited.

_-_-_-_

The three genin (Applicant Genin still, Sakura had pointed out. They weren’t genin until they passed the sensei’s test) raced towards the shrine. They were panting, and Sasuke honestly didn’t believe he had ever run faster in his life, and from the looks of it, neither had Naruto and Sakura, but they arrived at the shrine two minutes before noon.

“We made it,” Naruto panted. “Now what?”

Sakura herself was panting, wiping her forehead. “Well I don’t think Kakashi is here, but he most have some way of telling whether or not we got here. Or maybe…he wants us to figure it out. It’s a survival exercise right? What are we supposed to be surviving? We aren’t in a forest or anything.”

At that moment, a travelling caravan of merchants walked past. They eyed the three (applicant) genin warily, their gaze sticking on each of their forehead protectors, before they continued on their way down the road.”

“It’s exactly noon,” Sakura whispered to the two boys. “You don’t think that was a sign, do you?”

“Check out the man sitting on the wagon,” Sasuke whispered back. The man on the wagon seemed to be relaxing for a bit, taking advantage of the mules as he read a book. A very familiar, orange book. “We didn’t even think that the book was a clue.”

“Follow them?” Naruto asked.

“Follow them,” Sakura agreed.

Before the two headed off, Sasuke grabbed each of them by the shoulder. “We should transform, to maintain our cover.”

And so, a few minutes later, three normal-looking teenagers, each with brown hair and eyes and ratty clothes, walked out of the shrine.

_-_-_-_

The cover they had come up with on the spot, was that of three siblings, on the wy to the gambling towns and hot springs on the road ahead. They stayed a ways back as the caravan slipped through the outpost town, but listened for signs of where they were heading.

It was Naruto who figured it out. He had used his sexy jutsu to pretend to be one of the many woman of the town looking for clients, and as he approached he had heard them mention their end goal.

“Crater Town,” he told Sakura and Sasuke when they met up at the other edge of the town. “That isn’t super far from here. Maybe an hour or so. Should we go?”

Sasuke nodded. “I don’t think they are our targets, I think they’re just the clues. Kakashi probably knew their itinerary and they offered to help. I’m sure any merchants would love to help a jonin, just for the connections.

_-_-_-_

As they raced to Crater Town, Sasuke was beginning to have some doubts. The more he thought, the more he could justify that Kakashi-Sensei had definitely been hiding something, that there was definitely more to the bell test than had met the eye. But…it didn’t seem likely that a jonin instructor would send potential genin this far out of the village. He tried to argue the point with Naruto and Sakura as they ran, but Naruto had shouted at him and Sakura hadn’t done much to back him up.

At this point, anger was pulsing through Sasuke’s veins. He knew that they were in the wrong track, and he couldn’t believe that Naruto and Sakura had been able to convince him to travel this far from the village for really no reason. Worse, they had likely ruined any chance he had of becoming a genin.

He stopped. They were on the outskirts of Crater City, and suddenly everything seemed so idiotic. “This is ridiculous. There is no way this is what Kakashi had in mind. I’m going to go back to the village and find out what his test really was.”

“You can’t!” Sakura screeched. “We have to pass as a team.”

“Then come back to the village with me,” Sasuke replied evenly.

“No way, you jerk!” Naruto shouted. “We’re so close to Crater Town, and we’re going to pass the test. I bet Sensei is already there, waiting for us.”

“I’m going to go back and make Kakashi take me on. I won’t argue on your behalf. You can come with me, or you can stay as a genin for another year. It’s your choice.” And Sasuke turned around and walked away from them, ignoring their shouts, until finally they continued their journey towards Crater City.

_-_-_-_

It was maybe a half hour later, when he heard footsteps racing behind him. He turned, to see the pink blur that was Sakura. “Sasuke,” she shouted. “You have to help. Naruto and I ran into a man, and he’s definitely too strong for us!”

Sasuke paused. “You’re both genin. You should be able to handle some civilian.”

“I’m trying,” Sakura shot back, and her voice was venomous. “The man though, he’s at least a chunin and I think his assistant is too, he says he’s known as the Legendary Dark Shinobi, and he’s no pushover! Please, I think we need your help and Naruto is too stubborn to ask, but he’s already injured and I don’t have much chakra left.”

Sasuke sighed but turned around and sped back towards Crater Town. If the idiot was going to get himself captured by a chunin-turned-civilian, that wasn’t necessarily his responsibility. But he couldn’t let the idiot embarrass the entire village, and at least now he could say he went along with their stupid plan to make sure they didn’t get themselves killed. It wouldn’t work if they actually did get themselves killed, though.

(He didn’t realize that this would soon become a common theme in his life)

“Thanks Sasuke,” Sakura said, and then disappeared in a puff of smoke. A shadow clone. When had Sakura learned that? Either way, he arrived at the village ten minutes later and found a large crowd of people.

Naruto’s arms were being held by a bald man in a suit, and though he was doing his best to kick the man and break free, a kunai was buried in his shoulder and he seemed to be slowing down. There was a lot of blood, and in the back of Sasuke’s mind he wondered if the man had nicked an artery or something.

Sakura (he assumed this was the real one), on the other hand, was facing a man with a skinny face and dark hair. She was…holding her own, if not gaining any ground. He could tell that she was tiring, her clone was right, she definitely was almost out of chakra.

Well, his first order of business was going to free Naruto. The man was holding onto his arms, literally tying his own hands up as much as he was tying Naruto’s up, and Sasuke smirked. He may be stronger than they were, but he sure wasn’t smarter. Without declaring his presence, Sasuke leapt towards the man and delivered a kick to the face, forcing him to release Naruto.

Naruto, to his credit, was bleeding but not done. Upon his arms being released, he pulled his hands into a hand sign and summoned four shadow clones- Naruto knew the jutsu too? Half rushed towards the bald man while the other half rushed to aid Sakura. Sasuke smirked, and helped the Naruto clones deliver an onslaught of kicks and punches to the bald man, until he was out cold, before turning his attention to the other man.

With the clones’ help, Sakura was gaining ground again, but before Sasuke and the original Naruto could reach her to provide more cover, the man’s hand quickly flew through several seals before suddenly they were in darkness.

Sakura’s clone had told him that he had a name. The Legendary Dark Shinobi. And he hadn’t thought much about it. But now…he couldn’t see anything at all.

Sasuke had felt hopeless before, but it had been a long time. He wasn’t sure if he felt hopeless now, but the lack of being able to see was something he had never anticipated. He was an Uchiha- son of the clan head, no less. The Sharingan was his birthright, and though he hadn’t unlocked it yet, he knew the power was there, humming under his eyes.

He had always had his eyes.

And now he didn’t.

The ninja he was facing seemed to have had no problem with his own jutsu which was not surprising. And Sasuke couldn’t tell the punch was coming until it hit him square in the stomach. He heaved.

“Ah, look at the baby genin,” the man taunted them. “Is this your first real fight? I had killed by your age, but you won’t have the chance.”

Suddenly, Sasuke felt a minor chakra explosion and hew as dimly aware of the presence of…well it seemed like dozens of more people. And then they started talking. In Naruto’s voice. And his. And Sakura’s.

He couldn’t be certain, but it sounded like, Naruto had created more shadow clones, and transformed many of them into Sakura and Sasuke. A diversion. Smart, no doubt Sakura’s plan. It seemed to do the trick, and distract the ninja, and a soft hand grabbed Sasuke’s.

“It’s an area jutsu,” she said to him. “So if we can leave the boundary of it, we’ll be able to see again. Then we can direct Naruto’s clones while providing cover with kunai and shuriken.”

Sasuke nodded and she led them in a random direction. It didn’t take long until they were suddenly blinded by the reemergence of sunlight. Where a crowd had been, it was now empty, the people scattering most likely when the darkness jutsu took place.

He could see the crowd of clones- and he was right in the fact they transformed to look like him and Sakura, but wrong in the sheer number he assumed Naruto had summoned. It seemed like there were hundreds of them. How?

Naruto squinted his eyes. “The problem is, we’re so far away that it’s hard to see what he’s going to do now, I don’t know if we can let the clones know what to do fast enough.”

Sasuke looked at the fight and smirked. “I can see just fine. I’ll tell them what to do.” And that’s what he did. He was able to focus on the man, and shout directions. And to his surprise, it worked. Naruto’s clones seemed to understand his meaning with the slightest prompting, and listened without the doubt he had expected. Slowly but surely, they slowed the ninja down, until he was unable to maintain the jutsu. After the Naruto clones recovered from the onslaught of light, they grinned and launched into full attacks and the battle was soon over.

Sakura had run to properly secure the ninja’s companion, then secured the first ninja. She wiped the sweat off her brow and smiled. “Our first mission as a team,” she shouted. “I’d say it was a success!”

“Not quite.”

All three turned to see Kakashi-Sensei walk across the empty plaza where the battle had taken place. “I think you misunderstood my instructions. The goal was to capture the two bells, not two missing nin from Iwa.”

“We just followed your clues, Sensei,” Sakura said. “The bells were never really the test, they were just a distraction, weren’t they?”

Kakashi sighed. “You’re correct. The purpose of the test was never the bells, but to see if you could work as a team for the greater good of the mission. Not run away to fight missing-nin. Stilll, your teamwork was impressive, so I guess that counts as a pass.” His one visible eye was closed, Kakashi’s version of a smile, apparently.

“Yes!” Naruto and Sakura shouted. Naruto turned to Sasuke and smirked. “See, I told you that you had to stick with us to pass the test! You would have failed if it weren’t for Sakura and me. Who’s the idiot now, Idiot.”

Sasuke glared, but a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. Something told him arguing wasn’t worth it, not over this.

And thus, Team Seven was formed.