New teammates. Which meant that his old teammates had been given up for dead (well, of course they had. One of them was dead, and the other was even deader. If 'deader' is a word, which he doesn't ...
Disclaimer: Naruto is not mine. It never was. If it was, you can be sure there'd be a lot more smut. And Lee. Because I like Lee.
Author's Note: Very Important! Please read!/ /Okay, now that I've got your attention, there are a few things you have to know: first, this is an AU. Sakura was not Naruto and Sasuke's teammate. In this, she was actually a year behind them. Also in this, Orochimaru/Suna did not attack at the chuunin exams. In fact, they weren't even there. Got that?
Third, this is based off an AMV I saw on Youtube. I did not make the AMV. In fact, the person who's account it was posted on didn't even make it. The original is at Animemusicvideos.org, though you can watch it more easily at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_Mkz-5l-Qs.
In any case, I didn't ask permission to write this fic, and unless I can find who actually made the AMV, I'm not going to, either. In any case, I think that's all the changes I made.
Finally, this is a one shot. I might continue it if I get positive feedback, but at the moment, I'm not planning on it.
Pain, suffering, anguish. He felt like they were carved into his skin, bloody and raw. It had felt that way for the past months.
It felt like he was a murderer; only worse, because no one blamed him.
He wasn't sure if it would be better if they yelled and screamed, and tried to lock him away. He was pretty sure that it would be easier than this: the conversations gone quiet, the sidelong glances, the way no one, not even the guys wanted to stay with him for more than a few minutes.
He guessed he could understand those: at least this time he knew what they were about. And to be honest, he wouldn't want to be with himself for more than a few minutes, either. He was a murderer.
He'd overheard once someone say they were glad they weren't him. He wished he could say the same.
After all, how many shinobi lost both their teammates in one go? How many had a teacher who refused to teach them? How many left the bandages on their face even long after the wounds had healed?
Not very fucking many. So he changed his own mental track. He'd been doing that a lot lately.
Iruka had called him here. 'Here' being the Academy, and 'called' being 'dragged kicking and screaming', or as close as Naruto would ever get again. Too many memories.
He'd said something about teammates, which was why Naruto had needed to be dragged. Because he knew this day would come. He knew that this day would happen, and he'd dreaded it.
New teammates. Which meant that his old teammates had been given up for dead (well, of course they had. One of them was dead, and the other was even deader. If 'deader' is a word, which he doesn't think it is).
But this made it real. They weren't just going to pop in to his apartment with a smile and a smirk respectively, and yell "surprise!" or rather, "Surprise!" and "surprise, moron"
Not that he'd thought they would. Practical jokes were his style, not theirs.
But he'd hoped that maybe, somewhere out there, was a body that belonged to him, and all he needed was for Kakashi to break the illusion some mist nin had put on him, end the nightmare, and let him swamp his teammates (even Sasuke) in hugs.
But that wasn't going to happen. He'd tried it all already. He'd studied breaking genjutsu until he had to be hospitalized (more whispers and sidelong looks). He'd tried everything, dispersing and gathering his chakra, whispering in the dead of night for someone to force chakra into him. Anyone. Because this couldn't be real.
He stared at the desk, but looked up as the door opened. Iruka stood there, and he gave his teacher a little smile. "Hey, Iruka," he muttered. "New teammates, huh?"
Iruka's smile was a little more pained. "It had to happen, Naruto. You can't work in a one man cell."
"Kakashi did," Naruto answered back, though he knew - like he knew that Iruka would explain again - why.
"Hatake san," Iruka's voice was very, very stiff. "was already a jounin by the time his teammates were killed. He was able to be switched between teams for training until the ANBU exams. You're still genin, Naruto. You need teammates."
"I know," he answered, and plastered a smile on his face. "Just let me get ready, Iruka sensei."
Iruka smiled. Maybe he knew what Naruto was planning, or maybe he thought that Naruto was going to try to let go for good. Either way, he returned to the doorway, and held still there for a few minutes. "I'll be right back, Naruto. Don't go anywhere, or I'll have the ANBU come after you," he joked, and left.
"I don't doubt it," Naruto muttered. He was pretty sure the ANBU had doubled their guard on him. He'd had a feeling like he was being watched since what had happened to his team had become public knowledge. Or maybe it was just the villagers. They'd always watched him more closely than ANBU anyway.
Finally, he was readied, and he sat - a different desk, this one in full view of the door - waiting for the newly graduated cadet - the last one after the genin exams this year - and one of the genin from last year. He didn't know which one: he hadn't bothered to ask Iruka, and the man hadn't volunteered the information.
The first he saw was a pink head, before that same head of hair was covered with chalkboard dust, and a brush. Laughter (so bitter, and hurting, not that he'd ever let anyone hear that) bubbled up in his throat, and he clutched at his stomach.
"You-" he laughed. "You are so-" one trembling hand pointed in the door's direction, and Naruto fell off the chair. "Stupid! Come on, how did you not see that chalk brush?" He gasped for breath.
A hand reached for his shirt, and he let it grab hold. So abruptly that he might have choked (if he hadn't been ready), he was hauled up to face angry green eyes that were surrounded by a pink face and equally pink hair.
If he looked closely - which he didn't - he could see fires flaring in those eyes. But he didn't look and he didn't see.
"You're Naruto?" was the menacing, female voice.
"Yup!" he answered cheerfully. /'Beware women'/, his teammate had always said/, 'you never know when one of them will be able to beat the crap out of you/'. It had been true, too. Naruto hadn't even suspected. Neither had Sasuke.
"And you're my new teammate?" she asked dangerously.
"Yup!" he answered, in the same tone of voice as before, even though the word 'teammate' made his heart ache a little. He had his teammates. Two of them. They were just dead, that was all. Just a little dead.
"You're an..." she paused, and then her fist slammed down into his head. "IDIOT!"
He let his body collapse under the blow, letting the girl think that her strength had knocked him out of her grip. It was a pretty good technique, one that his teammate had shown him.
"Haruno san!" Iruka's voice reprimanded. He was standing by the door again. Just getting ready to leave/, Naruto wondered, /or just coming in? It wasn't like him not to pay attention. Well, it had been, but it wasn't, not anymore. Not without his... his teammates, and his best friends. He wasn't safe anywhere anymore.
"Ah!" the girl exclaimed. "I'm sorry, sir!" No apology for him, Naruto noted. Oh well, it wouldn't have won her any points anyway.
When he finally opened his eyes, and stood, brushing the dirt off, the Girl was apologizing profusely to Iruka sensei, who wasn't even paying attention, instead watching Naruto with pursed lips, and the Other One - his other new 'teammate' - was leaning against the wall in such a Sasuke-like pose that Naruto felt his eyes water briefly.
But it wasn't Sasuke. The collar was too high, and the sunglasses were no where near Sasuke's style. Naruto thought he remembered the guy from the Academy, and maybe the chuunin exams: Aburamen? Aburami? Something Shimo. Maybe. Or was it Shino?
Well, Naruto didn't really care.
"Ne, ne, Iruka sensei!" he called out, far too loud for the small room. "Are these my teammates?" he asked, unnecessarily. Of course they were.
"Yes, Naruto," Iruka gave him a concerned glance. "They are. These are Haruno Sakura - she just graduated from the Academy this year, and Aburame Shino, who I'm sure you remember from last year," he held out a hand to each, respectively.
Shino nodded, and Sakura gave him a tight little smile.
"I'll be going to get your jounin instructor now," Iruka said, "Please, Naruto, no pranks this time. She's... rather volatile."
Naruto pouted in a way that he didn't really feel. "Fine, Iruka sensei." He crossed his arms and stared at the window. He could practically hear the thoughts of the other two. From Haruno: '/this/ idiot/ is my teammate??/', and from Shino: '/what happened to his teammates?/'
Unless Shino already knew, then it might be, '/do I really want to be in this guy's team? I might be better to transfer out/'.
He scratched at the skin above his bandaged cheeks, just to remind himself that this was real. His skin hurt so badly, that he supposed it must be. You couldn't feel pain in genjutsu, could you? Didn't it break it, or something? Or was that only dreams?
Not that he really needed the reminder. He'd hurt enough in the last months that there was no way he could be under an illusion.
He stared out the window, listening to Haruno try to make small talk with Aburame, until the door opened again, and a young woman walked in. Damn. He'd meant to trap the door again. It had worked on Kakashi; who knew, it might have worked on this chick too.
The woman's hair framed her face with deep purple and flared up at the back, and her bored brown eyes scanned over them. Just like Kakashi. /Or not/, he thought, as his eyes took in her attire: a mesh body suit that stopped at her knees (with no underlying bra), a khaki trench coat into whose pockets her hands were stuffed, and an orange miniskirt.
His eyebrows shot up, and in the corner of his vision, Haruno turned red, and began spluttering.
"I'm Mitarashi Anko," she said, shortly. "/If/ you brats pass my test, I'll consider teaching you. But you do everything/, and I mean everything/, I say, /when /I say it. Got it?"
Haruno managed to control herself long enough to force out a 'Hai', and Shino nodded. Naruto put on his brightest grin, and poked his chest with his thumb.
"I'm Uzumaki Naruto!" he declared. "I'll pass any test you can hand out!" he got a raised eyebrow for his efforts, and he thought he might have picked up a 'pfft, 'depressed' my ass' for his efforts.
Finally, after staring at him for several seconds, she grinned right back. "Alright kid. I challenge you to..." she pointed a finger at him. "A drinking contest!"
Haruno spluttered again. "A drinking contest? B-but sensei... we're only twelve! We're not legally allowed to drink yet!"
Mitarashi's eye settled on her, and she shrank away. "What did I tell you Haruno? You do what I say, when I say, and you don't ask questions. Got it? This is your test. If you can hold your liquor against me, I'll consider taking you on as students. And if you can outdrink/ /me? I'll take you on, no questions asked."
Haruno muttered something about 'no questions asked' not being what they agreed to, but said nothing loudly enough to be considered commenting. Naruto puffed out his chest and said - loudly - that he'd drink her under the table. Shino just pushed his glasses up his nose.
"In that case," Mitarashi said, "follow me." She took them to an abandoned warehouse - with a stop at a liquor store on the way.
She made Naruto and Shino carry the bags.
"Alright!" She threw open the doors to the warehouse, and momentarily broke out into choked coughs as the dust swirled and whirled around her, coating her in a layer of grime.
"Alright," she began again when her coughs had subsided. "This is the place. We're going to play a little game I like to call 'Try to lie'. I'm going to ask you questions, and you're going to answer them. You can answer any way you want: true, false, I don't care. /But/!" She spun around to look at them. "If I catch you lying, you're out. That's it. No second chances."
Having taken Kakashi's test, Mitarashi's was pretty dull. It was so easy to pass: just keep drinking and tell the absolute truth. Unless... unless she asked about his teammates. Or why Kakashi wouldn't teach him anymore. Or why they were in Wave County in the first place. Or about the Kyuubi. He wasn't supposed to talk about that.
The possibilities were endless. There were a thousand questions that he couldn't tell the truth about. So many things he had to lie about. And he'd be drinking. And he didn't know how much she already knew. This test was impossible.
Unless... her test was like Kakashi's. Maybe they had to back each other's stories up. Even when they had no idea what was true and what wasn't. If Mitarashi didn't look convinced, they had to... what? Jump in, and save the other person's ass?
Well, you can't have a one man cell. You can't have a three man or a two man cell either. It has to be four man, when it comes to genin: three genin and a jounin.
Damn. And these people, Haruno, and Aburame. They didn't deserve to have to go back to the academy, just because /he /didn't want to be here.
So when Mitarashi asked Shino about why he wore glasses all the time, and Shino answered 'no reason', Naruto jumped in with a story - complete with 'drunken' laughter and giggles - about how he and Kiba had once stolen Shino's sun glasses, and found that his eyes were a light, light purple. Lavender, almost. Shino muttered that he'd never lived it down.
Haruno, not catching on, giggled - truly drunkenly - and demanded to see. Mitarashi turned on her before she could snatch the glasses from Shino's head (not that there was much chance) with a question about Haruno's hair, and whether it was dyed or not.
Haruno giggled that it wasn't. She'd gotten it from... somebody in her family. And then Mitarashi turned to Naruto again. He could tell from the look on her face that this one wasn't going to be easy like the rest.
"What's under those bandages?" Bingo. Money shot, right there.
"Scratches," he answered. Haruno crawled over to him.
"How bad are they?" she asked, all full of sympathy. "Can I see?" Her hands reached for his cheeks, but he leaned away as far he could.
"Sakura," Shino broke in. "If you uncover them, they'll never heal," he answered, and somehow, Naruto thought that Shino might understand that the bandages covered unbroken skin. Just like Naruto knew that whatever was under Shino's glasses - be they bugs, eyes, or empty holes - didn't matter, because it wasn't anyone's business, what was under them.
"What happened to your first teammates?" Mitarashi asked, once Haruno had been resituated on the other side of Shino.
The truth/, he thought, /the absolute truth. "They're dead," he said, flatly. But no more than that.
She left it at that. At least, she did until Haruno was a snoring mass to the left, and Shino had propped himself against the wall, hand still wrapped around his bottle of fifty proof vodka.
"So what really happened to your teammates?" she slurred at him, and he - eyes practically closing on their own - answered back.
"Tol' you," he slurred back. "Thur dea'" he felt a tear slide down his cheek. "One of 'em wuzza traitor. Bad guy. Bad bad guy. Killed Saskei... so I killed him." More tears slid down, and he dropped the rum in his hand. The floor sent up tiny dust motes as the glass shattered.
Shattered like his heart... no, like Haku's heart when he'd pulled it out of his chest. Shattered like Sasuke's eyes when he'd asked Naruto to kill Itachi for him. Shattered like Kakashi's pretense of 'teacher' once Sasuke was gone. Shattered like Naruto when he was left alone.
"Left alone, huh?" Anko asked. Naruto didn't bother to reply. "Know something about that myself." Suddenly, she sounded a lot less drunk. "Teacher abandoned me in another country."
Naruto laughed bitterly. "Yeah. Kakashi sensei left too. Didn' have 'is precious Sasuke, an' I wasn't good 'nough, so he jus' said 'fuck off'."
He told her a lot more. Everything, really. How Haku had come to Konoha, and befriended Naruto when no one else would. How they were two outsiders, but together on the outside, at least.
And how Haku had supported him asking for the C-class mission, and later, when he hadn't wanted to turn back. How Haku had turned out to be a spy for a missing nin: his companion, and his tool. How Sasuke had figured it out - Haku's disappearance, just when the hunter nin showed up, how he'd mastered tree walking without breaking a sweat (like he'd already mastered it), how, even though his scores were mediocre, his actual skills were practically second nature.
How Haku had left them, to rejoin his 'master', Zabuza. How Sasuke had died, fighting his own teammate, and how Naruto had died too - just on the inside - doing the same. Haku had been his only friend. But Haku was a traitor. He had been all along. Just a spy for Zabuza.
Somewhere in there, Anko had wrapped her arms around him, with a growled 'you better appreciate this, kid'. And somewhere his tears had dried up. And somewhere, he whispered for someone to push chakra into him, because he'd really like to wake up now, and she'd held him tighter, with a 'you can't wake up, kid. You're already awake'.
And somewhere in there, he passed out, and woke up in the warehouse, alone, with a vodka label fluttering on his chest. It had been peeled off a bottle, which he could see nearby. Written on the back, in hard, scratchy script was 'Kid, you pass. Mitarashi'.