Disclaimer: I do NOT own Naruto.
AN: A HUGE thanks to my Beta, novocaine-x, for helping me get the very best out of my writing. From the many beta offers I received, I'm POSITIVE I made the PERFECT choice for this piece of work.
Chapter One - In The Wilderness
The afternoon sun filtered through the densely packed trees, giving just enough light for Team Seven to follow the path ahead of them. Their mission had been cancelled, by messenger bird, just as Naruto's hunger had got the better of him. This promted him to lead the other two off to find food and causing the team to become slightly lost in the overgrown woodland.
Sakura and Naruto, initially, had tried making small talk to pass the time as they trudged their way through the ever darkening path. Sasuke, however, had not said a word since the messenger bird had flown away.
Naruto sighed for the umpteenth time as he pushed yet another branch out of his way. He frowned in annoyance and moved forward.
"Where the hell are we?"
He let go of the branch without thinking and turned to glance at his team mates. He gasped as he saw it heading directly for Sakura's face. " Sakura! Watch ou-"
Suddenly, Sasuke's hand appeared from nowhere and grabbed the branch just in time. He glared at Naruto and rolled his eyes as Sakura gazed at the raven haired prodigy in love induced awe.
"Sakura, I'm so sorry! I hadn't meant to do that!" exclaimed Naruto; he gazed at her pleadingly as his voice rose an octave, showing that he meant what he was saying and that it had indeed been an accident.
Sakura finally realised what had truly happened and glared at Naruto briefly before shoving past him roughly. "Be more careful!" she hissed, doing a really good job of impersonating Sasuke. The Uchiha looked slightly impressed at her behaviour. If the sudden hint of a smirk on his face was anything to go by.
Sakura spotted Sasuke's reaction to how she had behaved and wondered if that was what she'd been doing wrong all these years. She had always been overly kind to everyone, showed too much emotion and always poured out her heart to him and he hadn't even noticed. The minute she showed that she did actually get pissed off sometimes, he smirks? And that look in his eyes… she had definitely seen it before. She knew it meant that the Uchiha liked what he saw.
"Confidence!" screamed Inner Sakura. "He likes confident me! Not that soppy ass 'let's make everyone and everything all better' me."
The, much needed, reality check brought something out in Sakura that she hadn't felt in a long while. "I'm sick of walking around in this damn forest!" she announced without thinking. "Sasuke, hit the canopy and get us a baring!"
Naruto gasped at her behaviour and gaped at her in shock. He couldn't believe that she had actually dared to issue orders to the already pissed off Uchiha. He was soon gasping again when Sasuke did as she'd asked without so much as his usual 'Hn'. Naruto looked over at Sakura in awe, his mouth hanging open. He quickly snapped his mouth shut again when he saw her glaring at him.
"Instead of gawping at me, how about you put your built in radar to good use and find us something to eat?!" she ordered coldly.
Naruto's eyes widened. He had never seen Sakura behave like this before. She was always so concerned with how other people felt and how low she was on the social food chain. The Sakura he thought he knew would never have been bold enough to order him about like this. But here she was sending him to find food and even ordering Sasuke around. He didn't believe it; he couldn't believe it.
"There's a river two miles that way; looks good for fish. There's a hut just off its bank too. We could use it for shelter for the night." stated Sasuke as he re-appeared from the canopy, landing in front of Sakura as he faced her. He pointed off to his right as he spoke of the river.
"Good," stated Sakura, as she started making her way in the given direction. "Let's go then."
She nearly ripped a branch off a nearby tree as she pushed passed it. Naruto stared after his transformed friend in shock.
"Wow! She's changed!" he whispered as he and Sasuke followed after her.
"I know," said Sasuke as he disappeared into the forest behind Sakura. A smirk tugged at the corner of his lips as his eyes stayed glued to the back of the rosette's head.
Did he just smile?! Naruto's mind was reeling. Sakura was confident and commanding, Sasuke was smirking and smiling? Too much change, too fast! Naruto began to think he had hit his head somewhere. Yeah, that would make more sense.
"You call that a hut?!" demanded Naruto as they finally reached a clearing by the river.
"Idiot," muttered Sasuke walking over to where Sakura was standing. Sakura heard Naruto's comment and spun around to face him, smirking at Sasuke as she pointed to the crumbling wood the blonde thought was the hut.
"That's called scrap!" she stated, bringing her arm around to point further to the right. "That's the hut!"
Sasuke smirked back at Sakura, impressed by her yet again. "I'm going to check inside it, make sure it's suitable."
Sakura nodded. "Naruto's going to get us something to eat. I'm going for fire wood."
Sasuke stopped in his tracks. "No, you're not."
"Excuse me?!" demanded Sakura. "I can mana-"
"Shhh!" Sasuke cut her off and frowned. It was only then that the others noticed that his Sharingan had been activated. His gaze was fixed on the trees at the edge of the clearing.
Naruto felt a cold shiver run down his spine. Something in the forest had caught Sasuke's attention and angered him enough for the Sharingan to come out on it's own. He quickly moved closer to Sakura, ready to defend her from whatever it was.
Sasuke crouched down, ready to pounce. Whatever it was, it was getting closer. His fists clenched tightly.
Suddenly, Sasuke completely relaxed again, his eyes returning to their dull onyx hue. "Hn." He grunted before he turned and walked into the hut.
Sakura and Naruto exchanged a confused glance.
Suddenly, several figures burst through the tree line and into the clearing. Naruto chuckled as he recognised them and Sakura shook her head. She sighed as she saw the state they were in.
"Sakura!" Ino and Hinata called out to the pinkette together, catching her attention. Behind them, Tenten and Shikamaru were trying to put more distance between themselves and the arguing Rock Lee and Neji.
"What are you guys doing here?" asked Sakura as Ino and Hinata reached her.
"We've been walking around all day," said Hinata quietly.
Ino sighed and shook her head. "Somebody thought that camping would be a good idea. That same somebody didn't think to secure the camp site last night. We woke up this morning to find all our food, gear and our tents had been ransacked by a bear!!!"
Sakura saw that Rock Lee and Neji were both slightly injured and hurried over to heal them. Naruto walked over to Hinata and asked her if she was alright. She nodded shyly and Naruto gave her a small hug to help her feel better after what had happened.
Ino glanced around at the clearing. "Quite a cosy little set up you've got here." Realisation began to set in as she noticed that Sakura and Naruto were both outside. "Oh my God! Sasuke's inside, isn't he?!" she squealed, already rushing to get inside the hut.
Just as she was about to burst through the door, Sasuke walked around from the side of the hut, carrying fire wood.
"Hi Sasuke-kun!" Ino squealed; she was practically drooling.
"Hn," grunted Sasuke; it was his only reply as he started building a fire in an old stone pit between the hut and the river.
"Rock Lee, Neji and I are going fishing." announced Naruto as the three disappeared down the path toward the river.
"Hinata's exhausted, she's going to rest inside. Tenten and I are going into the forest; see if we can find some fruit." stated Sakura.
Sakura and Tenten were almost at the tree line when Ino screamed. They turned on the spot and raced back.
Sasuke was holding his arm, cursing and swearing.
"I think he's broken it!" squealed Ino, looking quite distressed. Tenten gently gripped Ino's shoulders.
"Come on." Tenten then turned to Sakura. "I'll take Ino with me to find fruit. You're needed here."
Sakura watched as Ino and Tenten disappeared then turned back to check on Sasuke.
"What happened?" she asked, showing true concern.
Sasuke winced as Sakura gripped his arm to check it over. "Ino decided to help me with the stone pit." he pointed at a rather large boulder to his left. "She made that land on my arm!"
Sakura quickly found and healed the break in Sasuke's arm. "There. All better."
Before Sasuke could reply with his usual 'Hn', Sakura continued her little speech. "So quite acting like a baby and get back to work on that fire. We're going to need it soon."
Sasuke was shocked at how Sakura had just spoken to him. Her tone was sharp and cold. It was completely the opposite of Sakura and Sasuke didn't like it.
To be continued…