A/N: Aaaaand here's some omakes. Just a reminder that these are non-canon to the fic at large. Thanks for coming along for the ride, everyone!
Shhhhh (Just Ride the Wave)
Kakashi patted Inari on the head. "Ah. I see what your problem is. You've been equating winning with good or evil, but it's not about that at all. It's about power."
"Yup," Kakashi said. He leaned down and set his hand against the weathered floorboards. "See, you're way down here."
He raised his hand an inch. "Here's Gatou…and…"
The jounin rose to his full height, measuring himself with a gloved hand. "I'm about this tall. From here, I can look down on all of you and steal your stuff. Like this hat. I've taken your hat."
Inari peered up at Kakashi, noting with surprise that the ninja was indeed holding his wide, striped hat.
"When did you—"
"That doesn't matter. It's mine now. But I'm giving it back. It looks better on you. In fact, I'm ordering you to wear it."
Inari caught the hat, hastily putting it on. "But, how do I get power?"
"Well, it's too late for you to become a ninja," Kakashi muttered. "I guess you would have to do the next best thing and pick up a profession. You could be a chef. Except, no, I get the impression people around here don't like food."
"Shh," Kakashi said.
Inari immediately quieted, worried that he would set off another four-hour shushing session.
"Maybe you could be a bridge-builder. Then, you get lots of money and you hire people like me. We work for money instead of just stealing our way through life because…"
Kakashi scratched his head. "…You know, I've never really been clear on that. I do it because the scarier ninja tells me to. I guess that's just life."
The proctor coughed. "Before we start the match, Sakura's sensei has insisted that I tell you that her nickname is 'The Demon of the Mist.' If that doesn't catch on, other suggestions include: Heart-Stopper Sakura, Sakura of the Mist, Sharingan Sakura…"
Kids These Days
"I am Orochimaru," the snake man said.
After a few moments, he scowled, like we were supposed to know who he was. "Orochimaru? Konoha's greatest enemy?"
We continued staring at him.
Orochimaru's voice came out strained. "Konoha's greatest traitor?"
That was ridiculous. Nobody had ever betrayed the village. It just didn't happen.
"The first Sannin?"
"Everybody knows there are only two Sannin," Sakura said.
Orochimaru said, "The mad scientist who revived the Mokuton?"
"Kurenai got that from her parents," Naruto said.
"Sarutobi's apprentice?" he tried.
"He never said he had one of those," Naruto said.
"Who?" I said.
At this point, it was getting embarrassing, and Sakura sent him an apologetic smile and a spike of killer intent.
Orochimaru slumped, explaining, "I used to live here."
That made sense.
Know Your Enemy
"How can you tell them apart?" Sakura said, frowning at the crowd of Narutos.
I gestured towards one of the clones. "Just look at his eyes. The clones have eyes like an old ninja, like they know they're going to die and only hope to do so with dignity."
Sakura nodded slowly. "Yeah, I guess I can see that."
I smirked. "The real Naruto only looks like that when Ichiraku's is out of beef ramen."
This one's just for funsies
Sasuke frowned at the idiot civilian who'd been hassling his teammate. He scowled and searched through his pack. His little smirk almost turned to a genuine smile as he found a flash of metal hiding under his change of clothes.
Sasuke whipped out the handcuffs and snapped them on the man's wrists. "You're under arrest."
Both the civilian and Naruto spoke in unison. "What?"
"As the last surviving member of the Uchiha clan, I'm technically a member of the military police," I said. "We generally deal with unlawful ninja-civilian interactions."
"I'm not going to listen to some kid," the man spat.
"If you have a problem with my actions, there are several avenues to file complaints through. You can speak to the Chief of Police: Itachi Uchiha, who is currently unavailable due to being a missing nin. Or his second-in-command: Me. You can leave suggestions and concerns with the desk receptionist: Me. You can also go above my head to the Oversight Committee, whose five members are all me. Finally, if you're concerned that the whole system is corrupt—a not unreasonable concern—you can go to our Ninja Liaison: Naruto."
While the civilian cursed and struggled, Naruto asked, "Huh? When did I get that job?"
"Three minutes ago. You were hired by our Human Resources Manager."
Naruto's face scrunched up in confusion. "So, that's…"
The Best Laid Plans of Utter Lunatics
Gai grinned, sloshing his sake as his "eternal rival" arrived at the bar. "Good afternoon, Kakashi."
"Yo," Kakashi said.
For a time, the two of them quietly sat beside each other. Gai had downed three glasses by the time the grey-haired ninja finished his first drink.
Kakashi said, "I've had a pretty good day today. Naruto is exploding things. Sasuke turns off his Sharingan sometimes. And Sakura has a giant sword."
Kakashi had begun to wonder if the pink-haired kunoichi would ever find her own identity, a common problem in young ninja from civilian families. Often, such ninja latched onto their sensei, becoming shoddy imitations. There was only one way to prevent this. Konoha sensei always played up their eccentricities so that young ninja were terrified of becoming like them.
When Sakura refused to wear a matching mask, Kakashi knew that he had succeeded.
"You think you'll lay off the crazy, then?" Gai asked.
Kakashi smirked beneath his mask. "Nah. How are things going with your protégé?"
Gai slumped against the bar, staring miserably into his empty glass. After a long silence, he muttered, "Eternal flames of youth."
"That bad, huh?"
Gai stood. "I should go. I have to run around Konoha fifty times on my hands."
Kakashi waved him away. He should probably get going soon. His little genin had been waiting for two hours, after all.
Maybe after one more round...
The Power of Friendship
As the explosive seals all went off at once and the Narutos scrambled away, Kakashi said, "This is going to be a lot like the bell test, except you can't win. Not even with friendship."
Kakashi raised a hand to silence him. "It doesn't matter how many of you there are."
Seven Narutos were destroyed with only three kunai.
"When you like yourself, that's not friendship. That's self-esteem."
Three more fell to a shuriken.
"Back when I was your age, I didn't understand the difference, either."
Author's Musings: True Genius
It may seem silly that Sasuke sees Naruto, our down-on-his-luck, hard-working hero, as a genius who gets everything handed to him. It's a complete role-reversal of their canon ass-busting loser/ genius dynamic. But this isn't just a symptom of PoL's comedic nature.
Sasuke (both in my AU and in canon) doesn't know Naruto like we do. He doesn't know that the villagers hate him or that he does work hard (if only in spurts). Sasuke doesn't hang out with Naruto. They don't have meaningful conversations.
As of his canonical betrayal, here's what Sasuke does know:
Naruto is an idiot. He skips class. He asks stupid questions. He failed the Genin Test three times. He couldn't solve a single problem during the First Exam of the Chuunin Exams. He showed neither talent nor teamwork during the Bell Test—remember, Sasuke is the one who fed Naruto.
Naruto gets everything handed to him. He wastes more chakra in one battle than Sasuke uses in a week. He's naturally charismatic and easily makes loyal friends who then give him stuff (especially in filler and movies). Naruto stands in front of the Hokage, makes demands, insults the guy, and gets exactly what he wants. When Naruto gets this sort of treatment, he brags.
But when Sasuke receives anything from anyone or succeeds due to his hard work? Suddenly it's unfair.
Sure, Naruto wants to be Hokage. He wants to be powerful and beloved, but he refuses to put in the work necessary for that to actually happen. This guy doesn't deserve to be Hokage. He doesn't even deserve to be a ninja.
Sasuke is the one who works hard. He trains. He's the top of his class. He's going to kill Itachi. Yet somehow, despite years of fanatical training, Sasuke can't even beat this loser, this lazy, rude, moronic dead-last.
Sasuke doesn't know about Naruto's chakra-effusive bloodline. He doesn't know about the demon that aids Naruto in stressful moments. He doesn't know that Naruto is training with a sannin, and, if he did, that would cement his decision to seek out snake-face.
Because there's only one thing that Sasuke knows for sure. Naruto is drastically improving. Sasuke isn't. If he can't keep up with Naruto, how can he catch up to Itachi?
P.S. Naruto then killing Itachi in this fic amplifies that resentment by ten thousand.
From: BECAUSE I'M WAY TOO INTO FAKE MOVIE TRAILERS STUDIO
It's tough being a voice in somebody else's head
*In Sakura's mindscape*
Inner: We should punch him right in his gorgeous face!
Sakura: Quiet, Inner.
Inner: Oh, come on, just one little—
Sakura: You can't just go around punching people.
But Inner Sakura is about to find out
Ino: So, your split personality has a crush on my cousin, eh?
*Sakura searches for the insult in that statement, only to realize that it's all true.*
*Ino slings her arm around Inner Sakura's shoulders*
Ino: Don't you worry, Aunty Ino's got you covered.
That being your own being isn't all it's cracked up to be
*Inner Sakura approaches Kenshin, nervously stroking her monstrosity of a sword*
Ino's Voiceover: You just need to lean in real close and say…
Inner: H-hey, cu…
*Inner trails off into indecipherable mumbling*
Kenshin: I didn't hear you there, but that isn't because I don't care about what you have to say.
*Inner punches Kenshin, embedding him in a wall*
*Inner is curled up on Ino's bed, visibly emanating killer intent*
Sakura (patting her on the back): Okay, so he's probably going to hate you forever…
Ino: We can recover from this.
*Inner approaches Kenshin in a summer dress, her black hair in an elaborate twist*
Ino's Voiceover: He's not a ninja, like, at all, so you should soften your approach.
Kenshin: Hi, Inner Sakura. You don't look deadly at all today. Where's regular Sakura?
*Inner's eye begins to twitch*
Ino (takes a deep breath): New lesson. Stop punching the guy you like.
This Valentine's Day
*Inner Sakura walking, teary-eyed, beside Sakura*
Inner: Sometimes, I wish I'd never left your head.
*Her killer intent knocks out a nearby civilian*
Fall in love
"You're late, sensei! And Naruto," Sakura shouted.
Naruto rubbed the back of his head. "Yeah, I know. When I finally hunted Kakashi down this morning, he was walking the Inuzuka dogs. I tried to drag him away, but Kiba's mom found us. Then we were both walking the dogs."
"Tsume is a very forceful woman," Kakashi said.
Not Funny, Naruto
"You can do this, Hinata," Naruto shouted at the collapsed girl. "Get back up and show him!"
This time, Naruto had taken his pranking too far. The Hyuuga girl would die if she kept fighting. I called down. "You cannot do this, Hinata. Stay down."
A Brief Explanation of the Kyuubi Incident
Tobi was visiting home so that he could congratulate his old sensei because sensei was having a baby. It was very exciting!
But things got a little out of hand. Tobi is not assigning blame to any one person (like Minato-sensei or Sarutobi-sama or baby Naruto), nor is Tobi accepting blame. No blame here!
There were few witnesses and fewer survivors, but Tobi saw it all…with his Sharingan eyes.
I script most of my dialogue by muttering to myself in the character's voice. That helps me to figure out what sounds most natural for a given character to say. I'm actually scripting this commentary in the same way. No one is in the house right now, except for the cat, who watches me with judgment. But the cat is always judging me, so that's okay.
In conclusion, if you ever see a woman with unkempt hair and ill-fitting clothing walking the streets and mumbling under her breath, go say hi! It's probably not me, but you'll make a new, equally creepy friend.
Oh, not again.
"I'm gonna be the Hokage one day, right old man?"
Sarutobi blinked at the boy who had just barreled through his office doorway, lip stuck out petulantly. The child shouldn't still be pouting at that age, but…well, Sarutobi was fond of the boy. He would correct it later, perhaps.
Naruto bounced in place in front of the desk. "Right? Right?"
Sarutobi would never be prepared for this conversation. He took a deep drag from his pipe. "Naruto, you are putting me in a very difficult position."
Naruto stopped bouncing, blue eyes crinkling. "Huh?"
"Under different circumstances, I would say something like 'Of course, with enough hard work, you too could become Hokage.' That would certainly be the nice thing to say."
Sarutobi continued, "But children don't remember exact words. They just remember that you said they would be Hokage, and maybe you did think they had potential. Maybe they were considered. But someone better came along, and that child is a very powerful adult now and suddenly OROCHIMARU."
Naruto said, "Who?"
Sarutobi watched the smoke drift from his pipe. "No one. I made him up. Go back to class, Naruto."
Hashirama, you have stated on several occasions that we are best friends. You have also insisted that my protests don't count because I secretly agree with you. I do not know how you came to this conclusion. It is incorrect.
Nevertheless, as your supposed best friend, I would like to make a request. I want a statue of myself to be erected by the Academy training grounds. I would like the base to be engraved with "You call that kunai throwing?" and it must look perpetually angry. I want to motivate the children, as my father motivated me when I was their age. I want them to forever try to impress me.
Note: I know what you're thinking. Surely, the children of Konoha aren't so stupid as to think that a statue would become less angry if they trained hard enough. However, Madara was not so stupid as to think that his father would become less angry if he trained hard, and it still worked for him.
Sasuke isn't very expressive.
Well, he is expressive for an Uchiha, a clan who mainly communicates through micro-expressions and tonal changes that are only visible to people as anal-retentive as the Uchiha.
From most people's perspective, however, Sasuke comes across as fairly neutral. Therefore, people's impression of Sasuke's personality is heavily influenced by their own biases.
According to Sakura, Sasuke is super cool and dismissive of Naruto.
According to Naruto, Sasuke is a jerk and dismissive of Naruto. Later, Naruto assumes that Sasuke is fighting Neji because he feels bad for Hinata because that's what Naruto would have done.
This assumption leads to Hinata's growing admiration for Sasuke. She had assumed that he was a jerk, but now she's realized (erroneously) that's he's quite valiant, but shy.
Kakashi, meanwhile, is fairly certain he's never met this "Sasuke Uchiha" character. He would surely remember such a meeting. Why are you asking?
Let's talk shipping
A lot of people have been saying that I ship Sasuke/Hinata. That isn't exactly true. Mainly, I think that Sasuke and Hinata are both incredibly bad at communicating, which leads to sitcom-esque situations where no one has any idea what the other's motives are.
The only true ship of this fic is Sakura/OC. That time when I said that I would only ship characters with OCs in this fic? Not a joke. Well…it was a joke, but also accurate. Kenshin was originally supposed to be a one-off character with maybe one appearance. Unfortunately, having an Anbu with an amusing gimmick was just too tempting, and Kenshin/Owl's role was greatly expanded. After several scenes and a budding romance with the Sakuras, our plans to casually disappear him during the time skip suddenly seemed really mean.
In early discussions, the epilogue would have included the lines: "Sakura married Ino's cousin and bore him two healthy sons—Takada and Inner Takada. Then it turned out that Ino never had a cousin. Sakura Yamanaka remained single well into her twenties."
My Friend Danzo
When dealing with life's disappointments, it's important to spend time with your friends. After he wasn't allowed to become Hokage, Sarutobi really leans on his best friend Danzo.
In canon, Danzo is haunted by the fact that he could have become Hokage, if only he'd been just a little braver. In this AU, Danzo is haunted by the fact that he never could have been Hokage because the Second's wishes were totally disregarded.
Two geniuses, ambitious and bitter, share their dreams for the future of the village and plan a coup. Scratch that. A glorious rebellion.
Scratch it again. It never happened.
When Sarutobi is in his twenties and had been the Hokage for many years, of course Danzo is his trusted adviser. Yes, he's not as deferential as he perhaps should be. Yes, he's a bit overzealous when encouraging patriotism. Yes, he sometimes goes off on his own and creates new enemies of the state.
We put up with a lot from our childhood friends. Eventually, though, Danzo inevitably goes too far.
Maybe he creates his own small pocket of ninja loyal only to him.
Maybe he orders the Uchiha Massacre.
Maybe he goes after little Naruto.
Regardless, his transgression cannot be overlooked, and when a man with that much influence commits treason, there is only one fitting punishment. Ironically, it's one he invented.