Author's Note: Hey! So, I'm in college and have no idea how long it's going to take me to update. Hopefully not too long. Anyway, this is my first fanfic, but I have done a fair amount of writing before, so there shouldn't be much of a problem.

Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto.

The Konoha Ninja Academy buzzed with the giggles and shrieks of excited children and the amused laughter of their parents. Five-year olds tripped over their too-big ninja sandals and their extra-long shinobi pants, then leapt back to their feet, determined not to be labeled a crybaby on their very first day of ninja academy.

Umino Iruka couldn't help smiling at the familiar noises; today was one of the few times he could really enjoy himself. The combined adrenaline of all the entering students could almost reach the level of the energy of his favorite knuckle-headed ninja.

His smile quickly fell off his face at the thought of Uzumaki Naruto, formally of Konohagakure no Sato. The blond ninja had been missing for four years now, and his absence still stung the hearts if those who had been closest to him.

"Iruka-san," a low voice called, "If you keep grimacing like that, the students will think you hate them." Iruka quickly forced a grin back on his face as he turned to face his teaching assistant.

"How many times do I have to tell you to call me Iruka, Hinata-san?" He hoped the near reprimand would startle Hinata to the point that she would allow her shyness to take over. It was an underhanded trick, but he really didn't want to discuss Naruto with the woman who had practically put her career on hold when the boy first went missing.

Hinata smiled, and Iruka knew his trick hadn't worked. The chances hadn't really been good anyway—no one had even seen the Hyuuga heiress blush, let alone hear her stutter, since her re-entrance to the ninja world three years ago.

"Your avoiding the question, Iruka-san." She shook her head, allowing the long braid she now used to sway across her back. "Besides, you're my old sensei. I can't just drop the honorific. Especially if you persist in calling me me Hinata-san as well."

He grinned and tugged her braid, keeping his grip loose so as not to skewer a finger on the spikes she concealed in her thick mane. He doubted there was a chance she'd be wearing poison-coated spikes around children, but the non-lethal spikes hurt enough.

"Why don't I call you Hinata, and you call me Iruka. I may have been your sensei, but you're a clan heir and a jounin. I'm still a chuunin." He knew that last argument was weak. Few people knew that Hinata had been promoted to jounin five months ago, and everyone knew that if Iruka ever decided to stop teaching, he would be promoted to Jounin as soon as the paperwork could be turned in.

"Deal," sighed Hinata. "We can't really argue over our names in front of the students anyway." She paused, and then turned her head to meet Iruka's soft brown gaze with her piercing white eyes. "You still haven't told me why you were grimacing earlier."

He looked away. His glance fell on a young brunette sitting on a swing, ankles crossed over too tight shoes and eyes unfocussed as she stared into a world only she could see. Hinata followed his gaze and waited.

"He…" Iruka's voice cracked, and he forced himself to start again. "He would've been twenty, and probably Hokage. If he were still here."

Hinata's breath caught; her shoulders stiffened, and her soft face took on a stony rigidity. Iruka winced and looked away. He should've known better than to mention Naruto in front of the Hyuuga heiress!

"Iruka," Hinata's voice was soft, and it trembled a little, but she did not stutter. "I never told you that I requested to be assigned as your teaching partner even after I reached jounin level. I especially didn't tell you why."

He turned his head to stare at her. "No. You didn't"

She nodded once, then began to scan the playground. "It was because you saw him. All those years ago. Even before he began proving himself to the others. You saw him, and not as a demon or an annoying brat. I wanted to work with someone who could see so clearly even without the byakugan. And I wanted to work with someone who loved- loves Naruto-kun."

Silence fell between them, heavy, depressing silence. There really wasn't anything Iruka could say in reply to Hinata's confession. He wasn't even sure if he wanted to say anything.

So he cleared his throat and squared his shoulders. "Let's welcome our new students."

Thirty students sat in their seats, impatient eyes fixed on the two adults standing in front of them. Their only indications of boredom were occasional rustles of fabric, the tapping of a finger or two against the scarred wood of age-old desks, and the occasional, hastily stifled yawn.

Iruka sighed: if only their attentiveness would last through the next seven years! He squared his shoulders and began his first lecture.

"Hello. My name is Umino Iruka, and you will refer to me as Iruka-sensei. My father was Umino-sensei, and I am not, nor would I ever presume to be, my sensei. My teaching assistant is Hyuuga Hinata—Hinata-sensei."

Already the class's attention was beginning to wander. He wondered if he should scare them into paying attention, or save his scare tactics until the next year. He decided to wait—they were only five.

"Throughout the year, you will be learning the theories behind being a ninja. You will learn our most important tools, how to use them, and when to use them. You will learn the difference between Taijutsu, Genjutsu, and Ninjutsu. If you continue into next year, you will learn how to put the theories you have learned into practice."

Half of the class groaned that they had wanted to start the cool stuff right away, and Iruka frowned. He would have to nip that kind of thinking in the bud. Ninjas concerned with being "cool" got their teammates killed.

"As the years go on, your classes will get harder. You will learn more, read more, write more, train more. You will want to sleep more, but you will not have the time to do so. This strenuous schedule will prepare you for your graduation and entrance into the world of real ninjas. If you think you won't be able keep up, or if you just don't want to try, you should just give up now."

That had done the trick. A couple students looked nervous at the prospect of so much work. A boy in the back had such an annoyed look at the concept of work that he could pass as a Nara. The rest of the students looked indignant at the thought of giving up. They'd show Iruka they had what it took even if it killed them!

"Future kunoichis will also learn how to act like a civilian woman. You boys will spend time learning a trade. We used to take the extra time given to boys to start them on their taijutsu, but Hokage-sama and her apprentice, Haruno Sakura, has pointed out that this type of thinking could ruin kunoichis by making them think their strength is inferior to that of shinobis. Girls who think like that tend to act like damsels-in-distress. It's a dangerous tendency that gets both genders killed."

He looked around at the now sober faces. "Any questions?"

The class looked back at him with huge eyes, no doubt just beginning to realize that shinobis actually did die. Finally, a tiny boy with lurid turquoise hair raised a hand.

"Ano, Iruka-sensei? What's 'strenuous' mean?"

Hinata stepped forward before Iruka could manage to smash his head into his desk. Her clear, soft voice commanded the attention of everyone in the room.

"What Iruka-sensei meant when he used the word 'strenuous' was that you would all be pushing yourselves to the brink of exhaustion voluntarily. You will have a busy schedule with barely any free time, and it is this hard work that will allow you to become the superior ninjas I know you have the potential to become."

Iruka stepped forward, composed once more. "Thank you, Hinata. Our first lesson is on the most important ninja tool you can and will use. Deception. Can anyone tell me what deception means?"

"Why?" Piped up a redheaded girl seated near the back. "Don't you know? You're supposed to be the teacher."

Laughter erupted at her words, and Iruka saw the turquoise boy throw an appreciative glance over his shoulder.

"I do know what it means. What I want to know is if anyone else is blessed with even a fifth of my vocabulary or if I also need to add that subject to our growing list of things-to study."

The laughter cut off nearly as quickly as it had begun. Slowly, a boy with dark brown eyes and curly black hair raised his hand.

"Deception," he began when Iruka signaled for him to speak, "is a way of tricking people into seeing you in a false light. You make them underestimate you, and then you strike in a way they never believed you could do."

"Good," smiled Iruka. "Now, you are all going to introduce yourselves. Tell us some true things and some that are false. Make sure that you will be able to trick even people who know you. At the end of the week, you will reveal what part of your introduction was true and what was false. I will tell you how you could have improved your act, and how you could have spotted someone else's lie. We will do this exercise one a month, and your grade will be dependent on how well you maintain the façade, how quickly you see through someone else's, and how you incorporate my advice."

He looked around. "You have five minutes to construct your personality. Be grateful. You'd be lucky to get five seconds from and enemy. Begin."

His ears were met by the furiously scratching pencils of thirty over-eager students. He'd have to break them of the need to write everything down.

Hinata smiled at him and nodded. They had an interesting batch this year. Enough for at least one really good team. Maybe even three. There hadn't been three truly good teams since Naruto's graduating year.

Author's Note: I just thought I should probably let you all know that I have absolutely no intention of making you guys go through seven years of watching OCs grow up. I would not be interested in reading that, so there's no way in hell I'm going to write it.

The next chapter should be talking about graduation, and you'll be seeing some old faces.

I'll also try to make my OCs as individual and definable as possible. I'm a big fan of reading and writing for character, so I have absolutely no intentions of writinh flat, boring OCs.

(Also, please note that this is not an exact replica of the Orignal Rookie Nine. That would be boring)