Disclaimer: This disclaimer covers my entire story. From this point on, none of the characters I will use in this story are owned by me and are the exclusive property of.. well the owners of Naruto, whoever they are. If I make up original characters, I own them.

Yahoo!! My last computer was damaged and it took me awhile to get a new one. But now I have one! I am going to be switching off between writing this fiction and an Inu Yasha fiction.

Anyway, please review and let me know what you think!

And now, on with the show! ^_^


Chapter 1:

Around the quiet village of the leaf, also known as Konoha village, a dense forest grew, swallowing it from sight. Great Nations had spent tons of resources and sent top agents just to find out the exact location of this village. All efforts had failed of course, because this was no average village: this was a village of specially trained ninja.

The forest had another purpose, other than hiding the village from prying eyes. It was a perfect training ground for the young ninja of the hidden leaf. Young ninja's just like Uzumaki Naruto, who at that very moment lay unconscious beneath a mighty oak tree, exhausted after another day of pushing himself to his limit, and beyond.

Naruto seemed like any other normal twelve-year old boy. He stood shorter than some, taller than others, with blond hair and a wide smile always at the ready. His only truly distinctive features were striking deep crystal blue eyes, and three small scratches on each cheek that almost seemed like cat whiskers.

Naruto wasn't any ordinary ninja however, despite his looks. Naruto had a terrible demon locked inside of him, and it pulsed within, adding its strength to his. As the sun sank towards the horizon, the trees casting long shadows, Naruto slowly opened his blue eyes.

** Naruto's perspective **

My limbs felt heavy as I dragged myself into a sitting position. I had failed again! Damn it, why is it I still couldn't learn this Jutsu correctly?! Wincing as another twinge of pain flared in my gut, I scooted closer beneath the oak tree I had been training beneath, resting my head against its trunk and breathing through clenched teeth.

I had defeated Hyuga Neji, who was one of the strongest rookie ninja's in the village, in a one-on-one fight. I had defeated Gaara of the Hidden Sands village, and saved the lives of my teammates Sasuke and Sakura. Besides being able to summon powerful frogs, I had even learned the Rasengan, a powerful Jutsu only the fourth Hokage and that perverted Senin Jiraiya knew.

As I thought of those accomplishments, I felt a certain pride surge through me. I had come so far from my days as a washout at the Ninja Academy! But it just wasn't enough.

For every step I took forward, it seemed another obstacle got in my way, forcing me two steps back. The newest obstacle was a big one. A powerful group called the Akatsuki, with Sasuke's own brother Itachi as a member, was out to kidnap me. Or maybe kill me, not even Jiraiya knew for sure.

The group only had powerful elite rogue ninja as members, each as powerful as master Kakashi, or stronger. And Kakashi was among the Leaf villages most powerful Ninja. Which was why I was out here in the middle of nowhere pushing myself to get even stronger; so I could protect myself if it came down to it. And I was failing even at that!

Sometimes I wondered why I even tried. Despite everything, Sakura STILL didn't like me much, and that prick Sasuke still thought I was inferior to him. Not only that, but the people of the Leaf village still couldn't stand the sight of me, and at the end of the day, I really didn't have a true friend outside of Iruka, who had been my teacher when I was still in the Ninja Academy.

I felt that familiar painful warmth start somewhere deep inside my chest, as I realized just how lonely I still was, despite the people around me. I knew the feeling well, since I had carried it with me my entire life. It was that sensation you had right before you actually cried, as though a pressure were building up from the inside just begging for release. I shoved it back down, used to controlling it now after so many years; it was second nature to me now.

Before I dwelt on that too long, the part of me that was always willing to fight came to the fore, as always. They just didn't know me or understand, that was all. I would MAKE them see! Once I become the Hokage of the leaf, they would acknowledge me for who I am!

With a grunt I pushed my back against the tree, using it for support as I brought myself to my feet again, the painful emotions in my chest easing as I threw my mind into the effort of just standing up. That was the trick, I had found. Think of something else and the pain would go away for a while. Usually it worked.

Taking deep breaths I closed my eyes, trying to shut out my surroundings. I could DO this! I had been trying to use the Rasengan using just one hand, instead of using both of my hands. So far I wasn't having much luck, and each attempt had drained me more than I had thought possible. Idly I wondered if anyone in the village noticed I had been gone for a week now. I wondered if anyone even cared.

As though reading my thoughts, and amused voice sounded across the clearing I was training in. "So this is where you ran off to."

My eyes popped open to regard Sasuke with some surprise. He stood across from me beside a group of low bushes, his hands in the pockets of his white shorts and that familiar smirk on his otherwise bored looking face.

Of all the people to come looking for me, it just had to be Uchiha Sasuke. Sasuke stood a little taller than me, with black hair that always seemed to be in place, and black eyes that never missed a thing.

Damn it, how had he found me?! Gathering myself, I pushed away from the tree I had been leaning against, somehow finding the strength I needed to stand without support. I would be damned if I showed weakness in front of HIM! What was he doing looking for me anyway? Did we have a mission? No that couldn't be: Kakashi had given us a month off to train on our own.

"Sasuke?! What in the hell do YOU want?" I asked, already resenting his superior attitude.

Even the way he STOOD screamed arrogance! Sasuke pissed me off more than any other person I had ever met. He had everything I didn't; looks, skill, and everyone seemed to love him. And what did he do with all of these gifts? He shrugged them off like they didn't matter. Sakura's love didn't matter to him. Nothing did but the death of his own brother.

Sasuke just snorted and rolled his black eyes. "Want? I don't want anything, you loser. I was just told to help find you."

That didn't sound good. "Huh? Who wants to see me?" I asked. Suddenly images of a certain pink haired girl flashed through my mind. "Is it Sakura- chan? Oh it has to be! She likes me after all doesn't she?!" I gloated happily.

Sasuke was looking at me with an eyebrow raised. After a moment he breathed out with a heavy sigh. "Idiot. What are you talking about? The Hokage is looking for you. Now come on, I've got better things to do than run errands."

Idiot huh? The bastard was going to get it one of these days! Then the rest of what Sasuke said penetrated. The HOKAGE wanted to see me? All of a sudden I wasn't tired anymore. With a surge of energy I ran past a startled Sasuke, making my way through the forest towards the village.

What could she want to see me for? Could it be a secret mission that only I could do maybe? I could hardly wait to find out! While branches and trees flashed by as I ran, I sensed movement to my right. Looking over I saw Sasuke pacing me wordlessly, his face set.

Whatever the fifth Hokage wanted, I hoped it was challenging; I needed more practice before I could well and truly surpass Sasuke.


In Konoha village, Tsunade the fifth Hokage tapped her fingers impatiently across her large mahogany desk as she waited for Kakashi, who stood across from her to finish talking. Also across from her, seated a little behind Kakashi were three Genin of the Sand clan: Temari, Gaara, and Kankuro.

** Gaara's perspective **

My head nodded forward, causing me to jerk my head up reflexively as my fear of falling asleep kicked in again. God I was tired. Three hours of sleep a night was just not enough, not that I really knew what it was like to sleep for more than that. I heard it was nice though.

I quickly glanced around to see if anyone had noticed me start to doze off. Luckily Temari and Kankuro on either side of me were busy fighting the urge to fall asleep themselves, while the Hokage and the Jounin Kakashi were too focused on their little squabble to pay the three of us any mind.

Grinding my teeth, I tried and failed to focus on what they were saying through my pounding headache. Headaches were another thing I had never been without. The only reason I knew I wasn't supposed to have migraines, was because Temari had told me so a few years ago, which had done wonders for my temper. She had been lucky I hadn't killed her there and then.

Clenching my fist in my lap, I resisted the urge once again to lash out and kill the two arguing leaf ninjas just to shut them up, despite the fact that they were probably more powerful than me. Their voices sounded like nails across a chalkboard to me. In the back of my head, the ever-present voice of Shukaku the sand demon whispered once again to kill them all, and be done.

I ignored it as usual. I had made a promise to myself that I would never lose control like that again. Ever since my fight with Uzumaki Naruto, I had sworn to myself to try and live like he did; and protect the people close to me. In my case, the only two people that meant a damn where my brother and sister sitting on either side of me. They were the only ones that truly accepted me despite everything.

Making that allowance had done a miraculous thing; the killing urge had faded and was replaced by something tender, giving me a peace I hadn't thought I would ever know.

As the voice in my head and the urge to kill both faded into the background, I was able to focus in on what the two Leaf ninja were saying.

". Which is why I think it is a mistake to send a team of Genin on this mission." Kakashi finished in a bored tone.

I was beginning to suspect that was what he always sounded like. Kakashi towered over us, standing slightly slumped as though he were tired with his hands stuck in his pockets. Between his bland way of speaking and the face mask and head protector covering his face leaving only one eye exposed, it was nearly impossible to tell what this elite Ninja was thinking. Nothing seemed to excite the man.

"I understand your concerns, Kakashi. But there simply is no other CHOICE." Tsunade said wearily.

With long blond hair, blue eyes, and a very low cut kimono that revealed a large expanse of bosom, Tsunade looked like anything BUT one of the Leaf villages' most powerful ninja. On top of that, she looked to only be about twenty years old although rumor had it she was really fifty. Not that I really cared about such things.

"All other nonessential ninja are currently on assignment. Including YOU, Kakashi. You should have left this morning! What are you still doing here arguing with me?!" She continued, suddenly seeming more dangerous than she had a moment before.

As she railed at Kakashi, who suddenly seemed a lot smaller, the wide door leading to the hallways opened, and two girls slipped in.

The first one I remembered from the Chuunin exam. I forgot her name, other than the fact that she was of the Hyuga clan. Short dark purple hair framed a timid face, with large light colored eyes that darted here and there as she entered. If I remembered correctly she had been almost killed by her cousin, Hyuga Neji, and he had done it easily. I hoped she wouldn't be one of those selected to join us.

Coming in behind her was the girl I remembered trying to kill in my battle with Naruto. I could never forget her name, since Naruto had been shouting it through most of our fight. Haruno Sakura, the girl who I could only assume was Naruto's girlfriend, judging by how fiercely he had fought me just to save her life. Unlike the Hyuga girl, Sakura had a serious face. Her pink hair was cut short to her shoulders, and her sharp green eyes seemed to catalogue everything.

When she saw me watching her she gave a start, fear entering her eyes. I had that effect on people. I chuckled quietly to myself when her eyes left mine, studiously not looking my way again.

Kakashi had said something that I missed. But whatever it had been, it obviously wasn't what the Hokage wanted to hear. Her face a thunderhead, she stood up from her chair and leaned on the desk. Opening her mouth, she looked like she was about to really let the now nervous Jounin have it, but stopped when she spotted the two girls standing near the door.

"Ah girls, please come in." Tsunade said instead, waving them towards some empty chairs next to Temari.

Temari had woken up enough to give the two girls seating themselves next to her a scathing once over. She could get arrogant when she thought she was better than someone, which was most of the time.

"Excuse me Hokage-Sama, but what is this about? I was just told you needed to see me." The dark haired girl asked respectfully after she had settled herself. You had to give the girl credit; she was doing an amazing job of ignoring Temari. I don't think I could ignore Temari if she was shooting looks at me like that, not that she would dare.

Tsunade smiled slightly and sat down once more. "I'll get to that in a moment. We're just waiting for one more person and I will tell you ALL why you are here, and what I want from you."

That was good news to me. The ruling council of the Sand Village had sent us over, saying we were to cooperate with the Leaf to the best of our abilities. They had refused further explanations, claiming that sending the three of us to help out in a special mission was a way to mend relations with Leaf village after our recent betrayal. The Hokage would fill us in on the rest.

As though on cue, the door opened once more to admit two more people. Uchiha Sasuke, and Uzumaki Naruto. Sasuke coolly stepped to the side of the door, crossed his arms and leaned back against the wall, closing his eyes like he was tired. Sasuke was one of the few people I had ever met that could actually HURT me in battle.

I had learned the hard way that Sasuke wasn't the real danger though. No, the real danger was the innocent looking blond haired boy who walked in behind him. Taking in everyone in the room, Naruto seemed to vibrate with energy.

"What the--?! What are THESE guys doing here?!" He exclaimed, gesturing at my siblings and I.

"Well, if you would sit down, I'll tell you." Tsunade said blandly, although she had a small smile on her face as she said it, as though she were talking to a boisterous son.

Everyone in the room seemed to have a different reaction to Naruto's appearance.

The Hyuga girl started stuttering his name half under her breath, "Naruto- kun," while she fidgeted with her fingers.

Sakura's face grew an annoyed expression "Naruto," she sniffed, folding her arms across her chest.

Temari and Kankuro both grew very still, something that meant that they were scared. They used to laugh at Naruto as a loser, but neither could do that now, after seeing the power he could draw on in his fight with me. They probably feared him now as much as they did me, which was saying something.

Kakashi and Sasuke had the exact same reactions; both sighed slightly and shook their heads.

Looking around and realizing that everyone was staring at him, Naruto laughed slightly and swiftly took a seat next to Sakura. "So what's up?" he asked Tsunade.

"Well, now that you're all here, I'll explain," she began, "After negotiating with the country of the Hidden Sand, we have agreed to combine forces on a mission that requires the utmost secrecy."

"I KNEW IT! You DID want me for a special mission!!" Naruto burst out happily, rubbing his hands together in glee.

"NARUTO! Shut up and let Hokage-Sama finish!" Sakura yelled, hitting him upside the head with a resounding clap.

"Ouch," Naruto mumbled rubbing his head where she had hit him.

"As I was saying," Tsunade continued, "Your mission is to infiltrate the country of Hidden Stone. We suspect the organization Akatsuki is based there."

I couldn't believe my ears, this wasn't a mission for Genin; this was a mission for specially trained Jounin! The voice in my head started to laugh. This would be a true challenge.


The Genin gathered in the room were shocked. The room became silent as they all took the news in. Sakura, who was generally acknowledged as one of the smartest rookie ninja to come along in quite awhile, was turning over one burning question over and over in her head.

** Sakura's perspective **

"Why US?!" I exclaimed, unable to hold back any longer.

I flushed a little in embarrassment as every eye in the room focused on me. I've always felt a little nervous whenever I become the center of attention. On the other hand, I could almost FEEL Sasuke-Kun's eyes on me from where he stood by the doorway behind me. I've been in the same team as him for almost a year, and I STILL get butterflies whenever he looks at me. Although lately I've started to wonder why; after all this time, he was still cold towards me, very cold.

"Why you instead of someone more qualified?" Tsunade responded, breaking that train of thought, thank god. "Because frankly, there is no one else left. Ever since the surprise attack at the Chuunin exam, we have been dangerously low on active ninja. Believe it or not, all available Jounin and Chuunin and even many Genin have already been assigned to missions. Now it's your turn."

I sighed, resigning myself to the inevitable. "Well, at least Kakashi- Sensei will be with us," I said, finding comfort in that.

Kakashi shifted uncomfortably, clearing his throat. "Actually, no."

"WHAAAT?!" Naruto shouted, jumping up from his seat. "Won't we be facing Jounin if we are looking for Akatsuki?!" He Protested. For once I completely agreed with Naruto; this was way out of our league.

"I've been assigned to a different mission. It can't be helped." Kakashi admitted ruefully.

"You won't be facing ANYONE if you do your job right," The Hokage added. "Your mission is to spy. That's IT. If you are confronted you are to evade and escape. I want you to bring back information of the area, and any leads that could be helpful," Tsunade explained as though it were the easiest thing in the world.

Well, at least Sasuke would be with me. And no adult supervision! I couldn't wait! Maybe I could get him alone somehow and--.

"Sasuke, you will be coming with me on my mission," Kakashi said suddenly. I felt my hopes and dreams crashing to the ground. NO! Trapped in the wilderness with Naruto, a timid girl, and those crazy Sand ninja?! I was doomed!

"Yes!" I heard Naruto whisper beside me, his blue eyes sparkling. Damn it! Why couldn't it have been the other way around? Why couldn't that loser NARUTO leave with Kakashi?!

"Sakura-Chan?" Naruto said looking at me, sounding like a kicked puppy. His expression looked like one too.

That was when I realized I had just said my last thoughts out loud. Shit! I yelled at Naruto a lot, but I really had started to like him over the past few months. Despite his wild and loud behavior, he was really sweet, and he WAS the one that had saved my life a while ago from Gaara. Or so Sasuke told me. Which was why I felt like crying a little when I realized how cold I must have sounded just then.

"Naruto, I--" I began apologetically. I paused when my eyes met his briefly before he looked away, focusing on something else, his face set. "I'm sorry," I finished weakly, staring at my hands clasped in my lap, shaken. For that brief moment, I thought I had seen a hurt so deep in his eyes there hadn't seemed to be an end.

I felt a chill rush up my spine while I wondered if I was the one who had put that hurt there, or if it had always been there. Of course, it might have been my imagination, but if it wasn't, how could I have missed it? My heart thudded painfully in my chest, as I felt in that dreadful instant the possibility that I might have let Naruto down somehow. The fact that I didn't even know HOW I had let him down made the problem even worse.

Maybe I should try and be a little nicer to him. I had said that to myself before, but I always managed to slip somehow. It seemed more important this time, for some reason.

"I want Sasuke with me because I need a partner, and his skills closely match mine," Kakashi said patiently, "and, there is no one else," he finished, sounding pleased to use Tsunade's words.

"I wish it was another way too. Why couldn't Sakura go with the Jounin and Sasuke come with us?" I heard the Sand ninja named Kankuro whisper to Temari, who snickered. I felt my cheeks burn with shame as I tightened my grip on my knees, refusing to look up. All I wanted to do at that moment was run somewhere and hide.

"Take. That. Back," Naruto said tightly, his voice steel. Shocked I looked up to see Naruto had stood up and was glaring at Kankuro, his gaze flinty. Kankuro suddenly looked unsure of himself.

I could only stare in dumb wonder at Naruto. How could he jump to my defense so fast after what I had just said? 'And why hadn't Sasuke been the one to defend me like that?' A part of myself asked, before I stomped down on it ruthlessly. Sasuke probably would have if Naruto hadn't gotten there first. That seemed like a weak argument.

"Enough!!" Tsunade shouted making most of us jump. "You will NOT fight with each other! Hinata, you will be in charge on this mission," The Hokage said, addressing the purple haired girl who had been silent the entire time. Hinata gave a little jump and looked at Tsunade in alarm.

Hinata was going to be the leader?! I had to be dreaming. Hinata looked like she agreed with me; she had gone very pale.

"Your lives depend on you working as a team!" Tsunade continued, "If she comes back and reports that you all fought each other every step of the way, there will be HELL to pay. Am I clear?!" She stormed at us.

"Yes Hokage-Sama," I mumbled, hearing everyone else, including even Kakashi echoing me.

Looking us over, Tsunade nodded as though satisfied. "Alright. You have two hours to pack up supplies and meet each other at the East Gate. Good luck."

We all stood up and filed out, except for Kakashi and Sasuke. As I passed him on my way out, I hoped I would have a chance to speak to Sasuke before we left.


That's the end of my first chapter! Please review it and let me know what you think! In case you might be wondering, this is going to be a romance at its heart. Although I plan to have some action mixed in.