Itachi surveyed his students with a cool, severe eye. They were finally ready. They stood stock still, primed and ready for a lethal mission. They were weapons. They were soldiers. They were ninja.
Naruto sneezed loudly.
Sai looked down at his arm, nose wrinkling in distaste. “You got a booger on me.” He informed Naruto calmly.
“Oh, sorry.” Naruto reached out and wiped it off of Sai’s arm with one of his sleeves. He looked at it contemplatively for a moment before he turned and wiped it on Sasuke.
Itachi took a few deep breaths as his genin team devolved into chaos, yelling, and fists. Why was he doing this again? Why had he agreed to take a genin team? Why had he agreed to be a mentor for a punch of pubescent children with knives? Why?
“Enough.” He sighed.
The three boys skidded to a halt in front of him, still tangled in each other.
“Naruto.” He wanted to massage his temples but kept his hands clasped calmly behind himself. “Please keep your… bodily fluids to yourself.” He couldn’t believe he’d had to say that. Out loud. To his students. And that they’d needed to hear it.
“Yeah!” Sasuke snarled.
“Assemble.” Itachi murmured.
The three of them lined up in front of him again, Sasuke glaring at Naruto.
Itachi sighed again. “I have decided” He paused. against my better judgement, he thought to himself, “to enter you three into the chunin exams.”
“Fuck yeah!” Naruto jumped up and punched the air.
“Hm.” Sai frowned slightly.
“Really?” Sasuke was beaming up at him with pure excitement.
If Itachi kept sighing like this, he was going to get light-headed. “Naruto, profanity.” He frowned. “Yes. The three of you have been submitted for consideration. Now, this is a big choice that you should--”
“We’re gonna ace this! Hell yeah!” Naruto cheered.
“Hell yeah!” Sasuke agreed.
“Er. Yes.” Sai nodded.
“We’ll work on it.” Naruto patted him on the back. “This is gonna be awesome! Dad’s been having like, a zillion meetings about it already!”
Sai nodded. “As has Tenzo. I believe he may be on the shortlist for proctors.”
Sasuke hummed in agreement. “Yeah, Shisui and Obito have been gone a lot lately. I haven’t even seen Hatake or Nohara around lately, so you know they’ve all been busy.”
“Huh, yeah, I haven’t seen Shisui in a while either.” Naruto considered. “Or Iruka. Or Anko!”
“The few times I’ve seen Tenzo lately he has been in the company of most of the Torture and Interrogation Department’s Leadership.” Sai added.
Itachi gave in to the desire to massage his temples as his three little idiot geniuses put their heads together and systemically laid out all of the primary proctors and heads of security for the chunin exams. Why had he let Minato talk him into this?
He mourned for his easy life on ANBU when he hadn’t had to babysit three little smartasses day and night. At least he could intimidate insubordinate ANBU. These three had lost any respect for Itachi years ago and it was obvious as they began to clamor and argue with each other again, right in front of him.
But something about his teachings must have rubbed off because within ten minutes they were kneeling down around one of Sai’s scrap sketching scrolls, laying out a battle plan. Itachi settled down under a tree and watched fondly as they bickered their way through a plan, just like Itachi had taught them.
“Tenzo.” Sai said.
“Mm.” Tenzo was nose deep in a pile of scrolls. Sasuke’s cousin Obito was asleep on his shoulder. Their teammate Kakashi was in the kitchen and their other teammate Rin was on the other side of the table, staring dead-eyed at a scroll of her own.
Sai waited for Tenzo to look at him. When he didn’t, Sai tugged lightly at his sleeve. “Tenzo.”
“Mmhm.” Tenzo didn’t even twitch.
Sai huffed slightly.
“Sai, welcome home.” Kakashi entered the living room with a tea tray. He was wearing Tenzo’s flowery apron over his jounin blues. “Need Ten?” He asked.
“Sorry, we’re a little busy lately.” Kakashi set the tray down on the table and stole Tenzo’s pile of scrolls away, sweeping them towards Rin, who batted them away without looking up.
“Kakashi!” Tenzo complained, scowling.
“Tenzo.” Sai said again.
“Oh, Sai, welcome home!” Tenzo smiled.
Sai held out his scroll towards Tenzo. “I need you to sign this.”
“What for?” Tenzo took it and began to unroll it.
“As my legal guardian, I require your permission to enter the chunin exams.”
Tenzo looked up with a broad smile. “Sai! Congratulations! Entering the chunin exams is a big step!”
Sai shrugged. “It is the next logical step, given my skill.”
“Yes, but it’s still a big milestone.” Tenzo nodded. “You should be proud!”
Sai paused. “Does this situation warrant Udon?” He asked.
Tenzo laughed. “Absolutely!”
They both looked at Kakashi.
He looked back at them. “What?”
“Will you make Udon for dinner?” Tenzo smiled sweetly.
Kakashi sighed. “What am I, your maid?”
“You make the best Udon!” Tenzo cajoled. “And it’s a special occasion!”
Ah yes. This would be a wonderful time to call upon one of Sai’s special skills. He blinked several times and looked up at Kakashi with wide, shimmering eyes. “Please?” He asked softly. He was pretty sure this was how Naruto did it.
Kakashi’s eyes went soft over his mask and he bowed his head in submission. “Fine. But you need to come to the store with me.” He shook his head as he took his apron off.
Tenzo gave Sai a discrete high-five that Rin giggled at.
“Hi Mom! Bye Mom!” Naruto sprinted through the living room and up the stairs. Between his speed and his chakra, a breeze swept through the room, scattering Shisui’s papers.
“How was training, honey?” Kushina called after him, not looking up from her stack of paperwork as she slapped a hand down to hold it in place.
“It was fine!” Naruto sounded like a herd of cows racing around upstairs. “Oh wait! I forgot!” Naruto barrelled down the stairs and skidded to a halt by the table, bare feet squeaking on the wooden floors. “I need you to sign this!” He slammed a scroll down on top of her paperwork.
Kushina huffed slightly and slid it to the side. She giggled at how Naruto was bouncing up and down on his toes as she shuffled her papers into order and slid them aside. “What’s this now?” She untied it and rolled it open.
“What, not even a hello?” Shisui joked.
“Hey, Shisui!” Naruto beamed. “I was just talking about you! Are you working with mom on the chunin exams? What are you doing? Can you give me a hint? It can totally be like I’m gathering intel!”
“Naruto, this is fantastic news!” Kushina barreled around the table to scoop Naruto up into a tight hug. “My little baby, entering the chunin exams!” She squealed.
“Yeah!” Naruto cheered. “And if I win, we’re getting ramen!”
“Ramen!” Kushina agreed. “You’ve gotta win then! Dad’ll have no choice!”
“Chunin exams!” Shisui exclaimed, grabbing the loose scroll. “That’s awesome! I was wondering if Itachi would enter you three or not! I think this calls for celebratory ramen today!”
Naruto and Kushina burst into cheers. “Naruto, go get your brother and sister!” Kushina ushered him off.
“Mother.” Sasuke padded out to the garden.
“Yes dear?” She sat back from weeding and dusted her hands off.
He held out his scroll to her.
She took one look at it and beamed. “Congratulations! You’ll do wonderfully, sweetheart. Your father will be so proud!” She opened her arms to him.
He glanced around briefly to make sure nobody was watching before he snuggled into her hug.
Itachi chuckled to himself and gave them a moment before he came out, rattling the sliding door as he went.
Sasuke hastily detached himself from the hug and straightened his hair.
“Congratulations, Sasuke.” Itachi smiled. His casual clothes denoted he was here as a brother, not a teacher.
“Thanks.” Sasuke smiled up at him.
“How about you boys help me finish the weeding before dinner?” Mikoto patted the grass beside her.
“A fair trade.” Itachi nodded and knelt beside her.
“Can I do the tomatoes?” Sasuke asked.
“Of course. Just remember to be gentle.” She reminded him.
That’s where Fugaku found them half an hour later, wrist deep in dirt and discussing techniques Sasuke could work on in advance of the exam.