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I hadn't originally planned to do a preface for every chapter, but given how many changes I'm making, it just feels kind of appropriate to issue a heads up. This chapter covers episodes 2 and 3 of the anime, which correspond with the same chapters in the manga.

I know Konohamaru got his own episode/chapter in the anime/manga, but somehow he just seems like filler to me, so he's getting squished in at the beginning of this chapter, which is more about our first Sakura and Sasuke interactions than Konohamaru.

Also, I've elected to toss the supposed "building balanced teams" thing Konoha was supposedly practicing in canon, because the teams were not in fact balanced. Each team seemed to me to have been carefully built for a specific purpose, like Squad 8 (Hinata Kiba and Shino) being the tracking and scouting team, and Squad 10 (Shikamaru, Ino and Choji) being so well suited to restraining and or capturing their enemies. If the teams had been assigned at random, I might could buy that they were trying to balance the teams, but as is, it feels like each team was built to specialize in something, so that's how I'm writing it.

Also, because Naruto now no longer has his absurd super resilient crush on Sakura, he is able to deal with her and respond to her outrageous behavior much more appropriately. Sorry SakuNaru fans, your ship does not sail here.

And I'm ignoring Kishimoto's constipation-interfering-with-Naruto's-day thing because I think it's unnecessary and absurd. Naruto's nose is never even a little hinted to be dysfunctional, and even if it were, surely he would know if the milk he was chugging were sour and spit it out rather than just chug it all down like a mindless buffoon and spend the day running for the crapper trying not to soil himself.

Chapter 2: Konohamaru, Sakura and SasukeEdit

A Day Or Two LaterEdit

"Well Naruto I'm glad you took an ordinary picture. To be honest I half expected you to wear clown makeup and strike some ridiculous pose." Naruto grinned, "I thought about it. Hinata talked me out of it." Lord Hokage smiled and thought, Thank heaven he's got Hinata to keep him under control. Suddenly a young voice yelled, "I challenge you Old Man!" A small boy sprang through the door, a shuriken in hand.

As Naruto sprang up right, a kunai appearing in his hand, the boy promptly tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face. Naruto relaxed as the boy whined, "WAH! Something tripped me!" A man in dark glasses suddenly appeared in the doorway, "Honorable Grandson are you alright? And no, it's actually pretty flat in here." The kid who had attempted to attack the Hokage sat up angrily, his face flushed with embarrassment and then his eyes lit on Naruto, "You tripped me!"

Naruto's expression went from mild confusion to keep-calm-and-don't-mutilate-this-little-punk in an instant. "Three things kid. Number one, you tripped over your own feet. Number two if I had attacked you, you wouldn't be moving right now, and number three, you just tried to attack the Hokage. If you hadn't tripped over your own feet just now and actually managed to throw that shuriken, you probably would've lost use of the arm you threw it with for at least a few days, if not the rest of your life."

"Oh yeah? I'd like to see you try it!" An instant later, Naruto was holding him off the ground by the seat of his pants with one hand. The guy in the dark glasses yelled, "Put down the honorable grandson of the Third Hokage!" Naruto looked at him, looked at the stunned looking kid in his hand, then turned to the Hokage and pointed to the kid, "This yours Boss?" The Hokage sighed, "Yes he is." The kid suddenly laughed, "What's the matter tough guy? I thought you were gonna hit me! Scared cause my grandfather's the Hokage?"

"I DON'T CARE IF HE'S YOUR GRANDMOTHER!" Naruto roared before bouncing the kid off the ceiling and catching him by the back of the shirt before he could hit the floor. Lord Hokage winced and the guy in the glasses looked utterly shocked with his mouth hanging open as Naruto poked the stunned looking grandson in the chest, "Now look here short stack. Rule number one of being a ninja is know how to pick your fights! People twice your size strength and speed are people you should not pick fights with, and the Hokage is someone you should NEVER try pick a fight with because in addition to being the most powerful ninja in the village, he decides what missions you get as a ninja and how much you get paid.

"Rule number two is to acknowledge your mistakes and don't make them again! So when you trip over your own feet, admit you screwed up and leave with what dignity you have left! Don't try to pin it on somebody else because that somebody else might be the person who gets up and beats the snot out of you! The next person might care even less than I do who your grandpa is and actually hurt you! UNDERSTAND?!"

The "honorable grandson" looked so stunned as Naruto set him down that he had to wonder if he were the first person to ever scold the kid. Naruto turned back to the Hokage, "Sorry about that boss. Some things just need to be said." He went back to his chair and sat down with a smile, "Where were we?"

Fifteen Minutes LaterEdit

Naruto paused in the middle of the sidewalk and turned around to where the poorly hidden "honorable grandson" was crouched under a piece of camouflage cloth with his feet showing. Naruto walked over to him, grabbed a hank of the camouflage cloth and yanked it sideways, right out of the "honorable grandson's" hands. The "honorable grandson" looked almost as shocked as he had when Naruto had chewed his ass earlier.

"Why are you following me?" Naruto asked bluntly. The "honorable grandson" leapt to his feet, "Aha so you saw through my disguise!" Naruto waved the camouflage cloth of him, "A piece of road colored cloth and stillness in broad daylight do not a disguise make! If you're going to tail somebody you need to have at least some transformation jutsu! Camouflage cloth isn't made for tailing people, and it's certainly not made to hold up to scrutiny!"

"If tracking's what you want to do then study up on it before you try to follow another ninja, because they're more likely than anybody to spot you!" "So teach me!" The "honorable grandson" exclaimed pointing an insistent finger at Naruto. Naruto frowned, "I'm not a tracking ninja!" Then his frown turned thoughtful, "I suppose I could show you the transformation jutsu though." "ALRIGHT!" The "honorable grandson" exclaimed on the verge of jumping for joy. Naruto put a hand on top of his head to stop him from bouncing, "First though I need to know your name." "I'm Konohamaru!" Naruto smiled, "Alright then Konohamaru, I'm Naruto Uzumaki. Let's get started."

The Next DayEdit

Naruto quickly pulled Hinata out of the way as Sakura and Ino crashed through the door, a pained expression crossing his face as they tripped and fell to the ground, still right up in each other's faces. Naruto leaned down with his face twitching slightly and interrupted Sakura and Ino's bickering, "Hey ladies, if you're going to race, could you please do it on the track and not in the hallways where you crash into people and step on my tail?!" Said tail waved forward and was indeed very rumpled from having been stepped on as Shikamaru, Choji and Hinata winced in sympathy.

Ino and Sakura flinched and apologized insincerely before getting up and rushing the seats next to Sasuke. Naruto wiggled his tail with a wince, "Those two really need to get over this rivalry thing before somebody gets hurt." "Are you okay Naruto?" Hinata asked as they headed to their seats. Naruto rubbed his trampled tail gently, "Yeah, I'll be alright. It's just a little sore and a lot of annoying." "Girls," Shikamaru said. "Present company excluded of course," he added as Naruto's tail lashed behind him irritably at the insinuation Hinata might have been included in that statement.

Naruto grinned as Hinata giggled at his over-protectiveness and kissed him on the cheek. Choji suddenly yelped as Sasuke pulled a Substitution and switched places with him, leaving Choji stranded between a quarreling Sakura and Ino who had both swooped to kiss Sasuke on the cheek at the same time. Instead they got Choji, who as Sakura and Ino reeled back in shock exclaiming in horror, "CHOJI?!" grinned and crossed his arms, "Wow. I got kissed by two pretty girls today!"

Sakura and Ino both recovered at the same time and went to punch poor Choji as though Sasuke's ditching them had been his fault. Naruto quickly pulled a substitution and caught both their fists, "That's enough you two!" he barked, "If you'd quit smothering the poor man he might not pull disappearing acts every time he sees one of you coming!" Ino and Sakura both looked properly stunned and then rather ashamed as Naruto let their hands drop.

"Now try to act like dignified Kunoichi instead of hopeless fan girls, because the hopeless fan girl routine is obviously not working!" Naruto pulled another substitution and switched places with Sasuke, who while not happy to be back between the two of them, was quietly rather glad Naruto had told his two most rabid fan girls off for him so adequately. He actually almost smiled as Sakura and Ino sat quietly next to him, too embarrassed to continue nagging him as the rest of the class tried to conceal their snickers. It wasn't every day the class clown got on somebody's case!

Naruto reappeared next to Choji who scratched his head, "Thanks Naruto, I really thought they were about to clobber me there." "They were," Naruto replied, "And don't worry about it, that's what friends are for." Then he turned to Hinata as he resumed his seat and whispered, "Thank you for not being like that." Hinata just smiled as he hugged her with one arm and his tail while Iruka-sensei called the class to order.

"As of today, you are all ninja. To get here you've faced difficulties and hardship," he started, "But that's nothing. What comes next will be far more difficult. Now you are only genin, first level ninja. All the genin will be grouped into three man squads, each squad will be led by a jonin, an elite ninja." Naruto's tail coiled a little more protectively around Hinata, Please let me be with Hinata! I don't care who the third is just please let me be with Hinata! His heart would have soared if he had known Hinata was thinking the same thing about him.

"Used to be we wanted each squad to have a balance of strengths and abilities," Iruka continued, "But now we have enough shinobi that we can train groups for specific types of missions, having them specialize from the beginning in areas their talents are best suited to and shuffle them later for balance, so that's how we set them up. I will now announce the squads."

Naruto and Hinata got an identical sinking feeling in their guts as they realized that their talents lay in radically different directions, Hinata's Byakugan giving her outrageous scouting potential, and Naruto's raw power from being a Jinchuriki making him ideal for heavy combat. By the time they finished exchanging a distressed glance, Iruka announced, "Squad Seven, Heavy Combat, Naruto Uzumaki, Sakura Haruno and Sasuke Uchiha!"

Naruto groaned internally, They put me with the bubblegum bitch and Captain Grumpy Britches? "Squad Eight, Tracking, Hinata Hyuuga, Kiba Inuzuka, and Shino Aburame!" Hinata tried to smile, at least Kiba and Shino were both competent! Meanwhile Sakura was rubbing her placement in Ino's face and Ino was utterly livid, "How did you get in his group?!" "I don't get it," Shikamaru said as he leaned down from the row above, "What's the big deal? No offense Captain Grumpy Britches." Sasuke's eye twitched, he kinda hated the nickname Naruto had stuck him with, even more so because he knew it was accurate.

Ino twisted around to look up at Shikamaru, "You are so clueless Shikamaru! Don't you get it?" "No I don't get it," Shikamaru replied wearily, "because I'm not a girl." Ino sighed, "You are so full of yourself. Jealousy's a terrible thing, I'd hate to be on your squad." Shikamaru didn't bother to point out the hypocrisy in her statement given how livid with jealousy she had been of Sakura an instant earlier.

"Now Squad Ten," Iruka continued, "Capture and Retrieval, Ino Yamanaka, Shikamaru Nara, and Choji Akimichi." Ino growled as Shikamaru slapped Choji a highfive with a laugh, "What was that you said about hating to be on my squad?"

"Those are all the squads," Iruka finished. "Iruka-sensei," Ino asked, "Can we change squads?" "Sure," Iruka replied, "Just voluntarily hang back a year, let your graduating class move on without you and try your luck again next year." Everyone who had been thinking the question Ino had asked nearly crapped themselves. "Anyone want to complain about their teams?" Iruka asked with a sly smile. Even though there were several who did, they all wisely kept their mouths shut.

Iruka's grin grew, "Good. After lunch you'll meet your jonin supervisors. Until then class dismissed."

A Few Minutes LaterEdit

Sakura looked around outside, "Why did Sasuke run off so fast? I thought since maybe we were in the same group together maybe we could have lunch together and get to know each other!" "Excellent idea!" Naruto declared from right behind her, startling her into jumping, she spun angrily only to see that Naruto had sprung back several feet to clear out of her range. Naruto grinned, Payback for stepping on my tail achieved, "Squad Eight was about to go have lunch too. I thought maybe our squad should join them since there's a chance we'll be working together in the future. I was gonna catch Sasuke too, but he took off too quick."

Sakura thought about asking why in the hell she'd want to have lunch with Naruto, but then she realized Hinata, Kiba and Shino were all there too. Sasuke was the only one missing, and as much as she didn't want to eat with Naruto, she couldn't really turn him down now without insulting Hinata, Kiba and Shino too. She didn't really care, but he had had a point that they might wind up working together someday and her common sense managed to override her impulses, if only narrowly.

"Well, okay," she said reluctantly, "I just, kinda wanted to eat with Sasuke." Naruto scratched his head and then grinned, "Well as it happens," He turned to Hinata, Kiba and Shino, "You guys are supposed to be the tracking team right? Think you can find him?" "Of course we can find him!" Kiba said confidently, "Let's go Akamaru!" Akamaru jumped down from inside Kiba's coat, his little black nose twitching before he bounded off, Kiba hot on his heels as he called, "Come on! Akamaru's got his scent!"

Naruto grinned, "Transform!" and turned into a fox the size of a horse, "Climb on!" Hinata hurriedly clambered up onto his back, Shino right behind her. As Shino climbed on Naruto looked over his shoulder, "You're not going to give me fleas are you?" "Only if you annoy me," Shino replied. Naruto's eyes bugged out, Note to self, don't piss off Shino. Then he turned to Sakura, "Come on! We're gonna go find Sasuke!" When Sakura was still too stunned by his transformation to move, Naruto lifted her onto his back behind Shino and took off after Kiba and Akamaru who were by now quite a distance away.

Kiba and Akamaru skidded to a halt in front of an apartment building and finally noticed the giant fox bounding along behind them as Naruto skidded to a halt next to them. "HOLY CRAP!" Kiba exclaimed as Akamaru growled at Naruto's fox form. "Don't worry Kiba," Hinata said reassuringly as Naruto crouched to allow his passengers off, "It's only Naruto." Naruto returned to his human form and rose, "Yeah and I'm glad we didn't see anybody on our way here. That form tends to startle people."

"Ya think?" Kiba asked, a little heat still in his voice as he got his blood pressure back down to normal from where it had surged in terror. Naruto just grinned and turned to Hinata, "Can you see him up there Hinata?" Hinata blinked with a smile, "Byakugan!" and veins swelled around her eyes as she turned her gaze up towards the apartment building. A moment later she pointed, "There he is." Naruto smiled and turned to Sakura, "There you go! He's right there, go get him." Sakura blushed in surprise, "Wait, aren't you coming too?"

Naruto raised an eyebrow, "I don't think he likes me that much. Perhaps the less I'm involved right now the better. Besides, you're the one that wanted to eat with him." Sakura blushed and then nodded, "Ok." She quickly ran through the front door and headed up. Naruto grinned, "Let's see how these two get along. Be right back." He bounced up to the first terrace then the second and then the third, slinking along the wall to the window Hinata had pointed to.

He crept up silently and heard Sasuke open the door. "Hi Sasuke!" Sakura exclaimed delightedly, "I thought maybe since we're on the same team we could have lunch together, and maybe get to know each other." Sasuke hmmed in a way that said he wasn't really digging the idea. Sakura, plowed right on, "I get it, you don't want to eat with Naruto! I don't blame you really, he's always picking fights with you!"

Naruto was about to mentally concede that she had a point, he and Sasuke were rather competitive, but then she kept going and whatever sympathy Naruto might have ha for her evaporated, "Ya know why he's so annoying? It's cause he wasn't raised right! He doesn't have a mother or father, no one to teach him right from wrong. He just goes off and does whatever comes into his head! If I did things like Naruto, forget it! I mean my parents would get mad and I'd get in trouble! Of course I don't do it! But if you don't have parents to do it how would you know? He's selfish and bratty! He's all alone!"

At this point, Naruto casually swung in through the window, sitting on the sill in full view of the door. Sakura's expression went from smug know-it-all to absolute horror in an instant. Sasuke turned around and saw Naruto as Naruto leveled a cool glare at Sakura, "Hey Sakura, you know the number one rule of joke telling? Knowing your audience. I'm going to pretend you were just joking with all that you said just now, but let me tell you a little tidbit you obviously didn't know about Sasuke. I'm not the only orphan on this team Sakura!"

It took maybe ten seconds for that to sink in and then Sakura looked as though her puppy had just been run over right in front of her, "Oh my... Sasuke you're...? I'M SO SORRY! I DIDN'T KNOW!" Naruto cleared his throat, "Anyone else you should be apologizing to Sakura?" Sakura flinched as though Naruto had punched her, "Sorry Naruto, I just, I..."

"You don't like me because I compete with Sasuke and the two of us are to your eyes polar opposites. You assumed it was due to my upbringing since it was the only thing you knew about me that was different. If you had known the secret behind my tail, you would've blamed that. You would've taken anything at all to make me look worse in your head than Sasuke because that's what fit with your preconceptions of the two of us."

Sasuke raised an eyebrow at Naruto and then looked at Sakura. Sakura really didn't have a comeback as Naruto continued, "I think we're going to need to wait a little while before we have our get to know each other meal. Sasuke, you're part of a team now, so start working on that loner mentality of yours because you're stuck with us whether you like it or not. If you think a team is going to slow you down, then think about how you can make the team good enough to be an asset rather than a hindrance." Sasuke glared at Naruto defiantly as Naruto turned his gaze back to Sakura.

"Sakura, I know it's hard for you to wrap your head around, but why don't you try to understand that just because you think Sasuke is cuter than me that does not make him automatically better, and that maybe you don't really know either of us well enough to be making judgments about our character yet." He swung his legs back out and looked over his shoulder, "I for my part will work on being less competitive and what was that you called me Sakura? Annoying was it? Yes I'll try to work on that too. I'll see you two after lunch."

He stepped out and looked up, a smile spread across his face, "Hey Shikamaru, Choji, Ino! You guys want to join me, Hinata, Kiba and Shino for lunch?" "Yeah sure!" Shikamaru called back, "I think we can do that!" "What're we having?" Choji called. "Don't know yet! Was thinking barbeque!" Choji was on his feet in an instant, "Barbeque?!" Naruto turned and looked down at Hinata Kiba and Shino, "Hey guys, you want barbeque?!" Akamaru woofed happily and wagged his tail, Hinata smiled and Shino nodded. Naruto looked back up, "Yeah Choji! Barbeque!" Choji had mysteriously disappeared.

He reappeared a moment later on the ground floor. Ino stared at Choji's miraculous speed and Shikamaru laughed, "You said the magic word! We'll be right down!"

Next Time: KakashiEdit