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Kakashi wakes up at 7am per his usual village-bound schedule and makes the executive decision that today would be an excellent day to try sleeping in.

 

He doesn't, of course. He can't remember the last time he slept past his internal alarm clock; even when he delighted in getting on everyone's nerves by being a good few hours late to every appointment, he simply lazed in his apartment and read Icha Icha.

 

It's what he does this time too - roll out of bed, shuffle through his morning routine, slap together a simple breakfast.

 

Three folders lay open on his dining table, three pictures of three students included. Blond hair catches his eye, and he flips that one shut, but it's too late - everything he very carefully went to bed not thinking about is back.

 

Yeah, there's no way this is going to end well, but by all means, Hokage-sama, assign him a Genin team. This Genin team, in fact. Without the authority to fail them.

 

He leans back against the fridge with a sigh as he waits for his kettle to boil. The only Uchiha left in Konoha whom everyone thinks will be a flight-risk, a book-smart civilian who probably doubles as a fangirl, and Sensei's dead-last son, which is an oxymoron Kakashi never thought he would live to see.

 

Yeah, what can possibly go wrong?

 


 

The pickup time for Academy graduates comes and goes. Kakashi spends it giggling over a passage in Icha Icha Paradise and absently wondering if two hours will be enough to drive a couple wet-behind-the-ears twelve-year-olds into a murderous rage.

 

…Probably. But best make it three hours just to be sure.

 


 

Three hours later, Kakashi makes his way through the empty hallways of the school. Everyone's either in class or already gone, and Iruka doesn't seem to be around to read him the riot act.

 

He pauses for a moment, outside the classroom that holds his future ball-and-chain. He cocks his head, listening for voices. There are none, although he can pick up the shuffle of feet and the rustle of paper inside, three points of chakra and even breathing - relaxed, calm, not a hint of anxiety or anger or resentment.

 

Kakashi double-checks the room number. It's the correct one of course but… how odd. In the past, without fail, every team that was assigned to him (and which he subsequently failed the next day) would at the very least be in the midst of a rant right about now, complaining about his tardiness, or they would be bickering amongst themselves.

 

There is no scent of animosity or recrimination behind the door this time.

 

Kakashi doesn't like it.

 

He opens the door.

 

It’s heavier than it should be, and he gets half a second of an aha! moment to decide whether or not it’s worth the energy to dodge, comes up with the answer no, and then promptly gets a headful of goopy sparkles and glitter so bright that it temporarily blinds him.

 

Ugh. Maybe he should’ve dodged after all.

 

“Based on my first impression of you guys,” Kakashi says flatly as water and glue soak into his hair and down his face, and his sight clears to find three pairs of eyes focused on him, all practically glowing with judgmental glee. “I'd have to say - I hate you.”

 

(He’s going to hate them more when he realizes the glitter will take a week to get rid of.)

 

“Meet me on the roof,” He sighs, and then disappears to wash the mess off.

 

(He doesn’t notice the two seals that sink themselves into his skin.)

 

Yeah, they’re off to a fantastic start.

 


 

(They’ve known for a while, who their sensei would be. After all, who else could be trusted with the village’s Jinchuuriki and last Uchiha?

 

So they knew, and they prepared accordingly. It wasn’t difficult for Naruto to weasel the information of how Genin teams are put together out of the Hokage. He's long since perfected the art of nagging minor secrets out of Sarutobi, and this was no different. So they fixed their scores to ensure no one would try to separate them, and then they took it a step further.

 

Hatake Kakashi is notorious for failing all his Genin teams, and even if there wasn't much of a chance of him being allowed to fail Sasuke in particular and probably Naruto too, it was just better to pass whatever test he would set for them on their own merit. So they researched him, which wasn't hard either. Sasuke scrounged up a couple old bingo books for them, along with several scrolls because it turns out his family kept meticulous notes on the man who "stole" their clan's Sharingan, and by the end of it all, they had a good idea of what their sensei would test them on and how they could counter it.

 

They still hadn't quite expected the first part of their plan to work so smoothly though, but apparently, Kakashi's estimation of their skills were way, way down. With Naruto's trap acting as the distraction, Sakura's seals were planted, and until Kakashi manages to de-glitter his hair, they wouldn't be going anywhere.

 

They're Genin, up against a Jounin, so none of them really expects to win. Or rather, it would be a huge disappointment if their sensei turns out weak enough to lose to Genin in the first place. But they'll give it their best and hopefully impress their sensei, and if nothing else, Kakashi will never expect the trump card they have up their sleeves.

 

They'd made certain of that after all, ever since they'd found each other.)

 


 

The test goes exactly like nothing Kakashi expects, which is definitely a first for him.

 

First of all, his hair is still sparkly. He doesn't know what was in that unholy concoction dumped on his head, but it's very clear to him now that he should've dodged. But second, and more importantly, his Genin don't match up to their profiles at all and are just plain weird.

 

He gives them the bell test, as always, and waits for whining that never comes. Then he tries baiting Naruto and Sasuke, who should be impatient and eager to test themselves against him, and yet neither jumps the gun, and as soon as he calls start, they disappear into the forest with Sakura in an admittedly decent attempt at hiding their chakra signatures.

 

He goes after them, of course. They get points for not charging straight at him, but that just means he gets to see how they fare under fire. He finds them crouched behind some bushes together, and he gives them a moment to see if they're going to hatch some sort of plan, but when all they do is squat there, he shrugs and sends a barrage of kunai down at them to scatter them.

 

And they do scatter, Naruto cussing up a storm as he bolts, Sasuke the fastest of the three and disappearing in a nice little Shunshin, and Sakura… Sakura left behind, dodging neatly but slower than her teammates and completely defenseless against the genjutsu Kakashi promptly drops on her.

 

It's disappointing, even more so when Sakura folds to the ground, eyes glazed over, but Kakashi supposes he shouldn't have gotten his hopes up just because they'd run off together earlier. So he turns instead to Sasuke who's lingering nearby, deciding to test the boy's taijutsu.

 

That's when it gets weird.

 

Just as Kakashi catches up, he sees the way Sasuke's head tilts in his direction, but even the top graduating student shouldn't be able to sense him. To Kakashi's surprise, the boy immediately takes off at a run, not Shunshin this time, choosing instead to snake his way through the woods.

 

It should've been easy to catch him, to stop him, to force him onto the defensive. But every time Kakashi makes to cut him off, Sasuke changes direction, sharp and sure like he always knows exactly where Kakashi is coming from, which should not be possible. After three dodges, Kakashi even tucks his chakra away completely, and yet, with unerring certainty, Sasuke continues running without pause, zigzagging his way around Kakashi's every attempt to ambush him, and Kakashi has no idea how he's doing it.

 

After a few minutes of this ridiculous chase, he decides he can figure it out later. For now, he ups his speed enough that it won't matter if Sasuke knows which way he's coming from - it's time the boy stops running anyway, and if they go any further, they're going to trip over Naruto, who seems to be loitering just up ahead.

 

That's when it gets even weirder.

 

Abruptly, Sasuke skids to a halt at the edge of a clearing, and Kakashi almost overtakes him. Just as suddenly, at least five dozen Naruto shadow clones flood the area and hurl themselves straight towards Kakashi, and Sasuke was one thing but Naruto? Surely the Academy couldn't have missed sensor skills like this.

 

And then he doesn't have time to think about it at all because even he needs to focus a bit to deal with every orange eyesore doing their level best to dogpile him, cackling all the while. He's forced to jump back onto solid ground, and a part of him notes the way the clones are driving him further into the clearing, and then he remembers how Sasuke never quite seemed like he was running away, more running towards.

 

Huh. So maybe they did have a plan after all.

 

The onslaught of the clones feels endless, and he's lost sight of Sasuke somewhere, so he isn't surprised when a clone that looks like Naruto but whose chakra signature is most definitely Sasuke's rushes into the fray and makes a grab for the bells. Kakashi twists away, kills three more clones, and then dodges again when Sasuke swipes at the bells again. It puts Kakashi's back to the real Naruto, who's joined in as well, and this does surprise him, because they're both using a very familiar taijutsu style that Kakashi hasn't seen on the field since the Uchiha Massacre.

 

He thinks the Academy might've missed a few things.

 

He flips over three clones, grimaces when something under his foot gives way, and then blitzes through another eight to avoid another glitter bomb being flung at his head out of nowhere. Then he has to backpedal to escape a truly massive fireball courtesy of Sasuke, stabs another triggered bomb - looks like something made of wax and mud - into the ground, and sidesteps Naruto's pounce, booting him out of the melee while he's at it.

 

"Argh!" Naruto screeches from somewhere behind his clones, his chakra spiking with frustration. Kakashi honestly expected him to have lost his temper ages ago. Another thing the Academy got wrong; what are they even doing in that place?

 

"Stay still, damn it!” Naruto growls. “Sakura-chan!"

 

Kakashi gets about half a second to blink, feeling for Sakura's chakra signature, but no, it's still stationary, right where he left her, defeated by a flimsy illusion-

 

-and then the world tilts in a nauseating slide of kaleidoscopic vertigo, foreign chakra - Sakura's chakra - crackling over his skin, and the next thing he knows, he's on the ground, pinned under at least five clones, and by the time he knows which way is up and which way is down again, Sasuke has the two bells dangling from one hand, a smug smirk on his face, and Naruto is bouncing beside him, crowing their triumph at the sky.

 

"…Ow," Kakashi says blearily, and then he slaps a hand to his temple, coming away with the fading buzz of two separate seals. He's no Kushina or Minato, but he knows enough to identify the tracking and gravity functions respectively.

 

Movement catches his eye, and he flicks his gaze up in time to see Sakura step up to stand beside Naruto, hands tucked demurely behind her even as a very satisfied smile puts fangs in her innocent expression.

 

Kakashi sits up, and Naruto’s clones hop off and back before dismissing themselves.

 

Well. He's been outplayed rather magnificently, hasn't he?

 

"So then?" He smiles as pleasantly as he can while he's still reeling inside. He's gratified to see all three of his imminent students twitch. "Who will be passing and who's going back to the Academy?"

 

He gets three pairs of irreverent rolling eyes in response.

 

"C'mon, Sensei," Naruto grins, wide and fearless. "Everybody knows Genin teams are three-man teams."

 

No, everybody does not know that. Specifically, kids fresh out of the Academy should not know that. That's half the trick of the bell test. But then the whole point of the test is to see whether or not the team actually understood what it meant to be a team, and these three have proven beyond a doubt that they do.

 

Kakashi heaves a sigh, rolls to his feet, and gives in to the inevitable, because at this point, dragging it out any further is just an exercise in denial.

 

"You pass, my new little minions!"

 

Naruto whoops before slinging one arm around Sasuke and the other around Sakura. He cheers raucously enough for all three of them but Sasuke is smirking just as widely, and Sakura laughs, exultant in their combined success.

 

Kakashi watches them and thinks about matching taijutsu styles and seals no student should know and that uncanny ability to pinpoint where he was at all times no matter how well he'd hidden his chakra. He thinks too of Sasuke making himself enough of a target to draw Kakashi away from Sakura, and of Naruto calling for her even when she wasn't there, as if she'd be able to hear anyway, and she had.

 

He thinks of all that, and then he stares at them now, at the way they cock their heads at each other and smile at each other and make eye-contact, but-

 

But they're not really talking. Not out loud anyway.

 

A vague sort of horrified realization abruptly crystallizes in his mind.

 

Oh no.

 


 

(Soulmates.

 

It's not a bad thing amongst shinobi, per se, so long as it doesn't interfere with clan marriages and everyone is from the same village and nobody turns traitor or goes off the deep end if one part of a soulbond dies on a mission.

 

…Okay, so it can be pretty bad. But it's not the worst thing in the world, and the fortunate ones are well-oiled machines on the field. Telepathy can be quite useful after all.

 

It's just that far more soulmates tend to be unfortunate - from Rin and Obito to Minato and Kushina, all the way back to Hashirama and Madara. Sarutobi and Danzou are a powder keg waiting to blow, and everybody knows how the Sannin turned out.

 

In Kakashi's opinion, soulmates are more trouble than they're worth. His father never had one, and he doesn't either. Rin had smiled like it was a relief when she'd suicided on his Chidori, and Kakashi had thanked every deity he didn't believe in that Obito was already dead when she died, because surviving her quite possibly would've meant that the world wouldn't have, because Obito had been an Uchiha through and through.

 

The truth of the matter is, soulmates terrify him. The grief of losing one teammate after another had nearly swallowed him whole and he hadn't even had some mystical connection tying him to them to make it worse. Losing one means losing the rest, and Kakashi has three new students, three kids he's supposed to teach and protect, and if he fucks up, if he's a second too slow at exactly the wrong moment, it won't even matter if he manages to bring two home, he'll lose all three of them in one swoop anyway.

 

It's not like he wants to lose even one of them. But for his entire team to be soulmates with each other - it feels a lot like yet another fuck-you from the universe, and Kakashi honestly doesn't know whether he'll survive it if it all goes south again.)

 


 

"Our sensei's kinda weird," Naruto announces after their first three official weeks of being Genin. It's mostly been filled with D-ranks and basic training and a teacher who hides behind his porn all day.

 

"No kidding," Sasuke scoffs as he bustles into the kitchen with that week's groceries. "All he does is read those books of his while we pull weeds or run laps. What is his problem? "

 

"You saw his file," Sakura interjects from the couch where she's shamelessly flipping through scrolls that she technically doesn't have clearance for, but Sasuke let her loose in the Uchiha archives ages ago, and sometimes he wonders if it was pity or stupidity that made the higher-ups not even ask for access to his clan's records. Probably stupidity. Not that he would've granted it either way.

 

"His whole team died on him," Sakura continues. "He can't be too crazy about taking us on after that, especially since we're soulmates and everybody's been waiting since day one for one of you two to wreck the village or go rogue."

 

Naruto makes a derisive snorting sound, and Sasuke matches it with a sneer of his own.

 

"You'd think he would give us better training, in that case," Sasuke huffs, shoving three new boxes of instant ramen into the top shelf.

 

"Maybe he doesn't know how," Naruto suggests, flopping down over Sakura's legs. He dodges her half-hearted kick and makes himself comfortable. "Maybe he thinks pushing us too hard will make us leave the village, dattebayo."

 

"Sounds dumb," is Sakura's succinct opinion. Sasuke sends his agreement echoing through their minds.

 

"Not that I wouldn't go too if you guys did decide to leave," Sakura adds as if she isn't talking treason, and Naruto cackles even as Sasuke saunters in to join them with a smirk. "But Kakashi-sensei doesn't know that we'd prefer to stay."

 

"We could show him then!" Naruto says, exuberant with sudden mischief.  "He is our sensei now."

 

Sasuke shoves a grimace along their mental link just so he won't have to turn his head from where he's made himself comfortable on the floor. He senses Sakura's amusement and practically feels Naruto's whine before it comes.

 

"C'mon, Sasuke!" Naruto nags, clearly enthused by this latest inspired idea. "We're supposed to be a team anyway, and that should include Sensei, right?"

 

"He's not one of us though," Sasuke grumbles, but from him, it's hardly a protest. He can't say he likes Kakashi, but it's just not enough of an issue to argue against Naruto about it.

 

"But he could be," Sakura muses. "Maybe not fate-approved, but we're stuck with him anyway, and I'm sure I can figure out telepathy seals sooner or later."

 

If it's Sakura saying it, then it's only a matter of time. Sasuke sighs, and it's terrible how predictable he's become that Naruto can hear that and cheer.

 

"Great!" Naruto beams at both of them, sunshine joy spilling over their bond like a warm bubble-bath. "Operation Assimilate Kakashi is a go!"

 


 

Kakashi wakes the next morning to half his traps dismantled and three Genin cooking in his kitchen. Sasuke is cracking eggs over a pan. Sakura is staring judgmentally at his single set of tableware.

 

Naruto grins from his perch on the table, bright and all teeth.

 

"Good morning, Kakashi-sensei!" He chirps, and it feels like a threat.

 

Kakashi looks from one to the other and wonders if it's too late to run, possibly straight out of Konoha.

 


 

(Spoiler alert: it is far too late.)