Author's Notes: I started posting this fic back in 2010, but I didn't get too far before going on hiatus. It's over now though, and since I fully intend to finish it I'm finally posting it here instead of just in my lj. For those of you who once read it there, I've gone through the old chapters and edited them; these are the edited versions.
Now, about the story: The real thing I wanted to do here is work with the particular behavior that Sasuke showed around Karin when he met her; so the challenge is to keep that up without making him absurdly OOC. Same goes for Karin, who was obviously quite different from the Karin we know now (as her village hadn't been wiped out and she had yet to work under Orochimaru, etc), so the challenge in that regard is explore the difference while keeping traits that make her Karin. Since I will be basically writing her into canon, there will be dialogues and scenes that will remain unchanged and what not. But I'll talk about those once we get to them.
Oh, and this fic starts immediately after Sasuke saves Karin from that bear in the Forest of Death.
Maybe next time
Chapter 1: Heaven&Earth
Karin remained still, eyes opened wide and focused on the retreating back of her savior as he rushed back to his team (or so she figured) not even giving her the chance to thank him.
Were the words that she could still faintly hear, despite the loud beatings of her young heart, which insisted on drumming quickly against her rib-cage as if she had just run a marathon. She has to force herself to blink in order to come out of her stupor, and it's with slightly trembling muscles that she dares to take a look at the wild animal that had almost had her for supper.
I was so sure I would die, but….
But she hadn't. She hadn't because that boy had come out of nowhere, practically god sent, and thanks to him she was now alive to tell the tale.
Except that she wouldn't. She would not tell it—Karin decides, slowly closing her eyes and willing her breathing to slow down to a calmer pace. She certainly could do without becoming the joke of the team.
More than I already am.
A soft and bitter voice whispers in the back of her mind, and Karin shuts it up with a growl. A light sound to her right cuts her thoughts short, and she turns around only to find a small squirrel curiously sniffing the scroll that she had carelessly dropped.
'So you have the earth scroll too, huh?'
Did that mean that he was still lacking one scroll, himself? There were barely twenty five hours left to the end of the exam and most teams must have already made it to the tower. The chances of managing to find one with the heaven scroll were really, really slim.
It's slowly that she begins to get up until she is kneeling on the ground, and she shakes some dirt off her jacket before reaching out towards the scroll, seizing it with delicate fingers and bringing it up closer for examination.
From the get go, she had known that the possibilities of her team making it through were almost nonexistent. But she had still allowed them to drag her here, and she had still almost lost her life just to protect a scroll that—she knew—would amount to nothing in the end.
What's wrong with me?
Karin wonders, frowning. For a long moment, the only reply she receives is the small sounds of the squirrel and the breeze caressing the trees. But then something else flashes through her mind like a ray of lightning.
He had said, and for some reason she couldn't truly explain, her heart quickened at the memory and adrenaline rushed through her veins at its implication.
He isn't going to give up until the end, is he? He is going to get that scroll.
And I… and I….
Her fingers tighten their grip around the scroll as Karin's eyes narrow with determination.
I want to get it, too. I want to make it through.
It was a dangerous admittance, Karin knew that much; it was dangerous because it meant that she was setting herself up for disappointment. But she couldn't help it. Meeting that boy had light up a match inside of her, the match that she had tried to keep still from the beginning—from the moment they made it through the first test and Karin allowed herself, however briefly, to think that perhaps, perhaps they weren't so out of their league.
That much had proven to be a complete understatement, and her new-found hopes would without a doubt prove to be worth nothing. But she still couldn't manage to let go of them as she tightly clutched the scroll against her chest, a certain smile helping her gather all her resolution and turn it into headfast determination.
She had been about to stand up and focus on finding her scattered team when a throaty voice suddenly called her from behind.
"Hey, Karin, guess what we found!"
So there they are! angrily thinks the redhead, the relief she had felt at seeing him quickly melting away into her annoyance. If they had not left her alone she wouldn't have gotten scared out of her wits, she wouldn't have been about to die, and she wouldn't have been sav—
The unfinished thought makes Karin's anger stop right on its tracks and slowly begin to retreat, like the shadow of a building when the sun began to rise.
I wouldn't have met him otherwise.
A small smile draws itself across her lips as she runs to meet her teammate, still tightly and possessively holding the scroll with one hand. "What? Is it something good?"
The ashen haired boy had merely began to part his lips to reply when a new boy exited the bushes nearby, busily brushing off the leaves that clung to him. But when he finally raised his face, his brown eyes dedicated a dark glare to Karin, whose smile began to fade.
"So you're still alive, huh? Good. Otherwise I'd have gone beyond the grave to kill you again for screwing up our chances." The boy muttered, voice dripping with venom and disdain. Karin frowned in reply, used enough to his treatment as to no longer be as hurt from it. But not quite used enough to stop feeling insulted.
Without saying a single word to him, she turns back towards her other teammate, who was giving the male a tired glare. "So? What did you find, Ryuu-kun?"
Her teammate's demeanor changes as soon as he turns to face her, a playful glint in his eyes. "Are you prepared? Because I think you might get a heart attack when you see this."
She punches him lightly on the arm, more than a little impatient now. "Come on! What is it?"
"It so happens that—" Ryuu suddenly trails off, directing a more than bewildered look at something behind Karin's back. "Hey, what's that?"
She turns around only to find that he had been staring at the fallen bear. The bear she had completely forgotten about. The bear she did not know how to explain.
"Ah, that…!" she begins, feebly, but her voice begins to gain its usual strength as she turns away from the animal and back to her teammate. "I don't know. He was there when I got here. I guess another team beat him up."
Her lie gains her an incredulous look from Ryuu, but she frowns stubbornly and he takes the hint to drop the subject.
"Right. Anyway, Kurotaro spotted a wounded team resting near the place where we were hiding at. No that he'd admit we were hiding, but whatever—we all know we were. Anyway, so we spied on them and two of them were in a really bad shape, especially one of the guys, the girl just seemed exhausted or something," Ryuu shrugs. Karin eagerly nods , motioning him to carry on with his tale. "We got lucky and the healthy one took out one of the scrolls they had, and it ended up being the heaven scroll. I mean, what are the chances right? So we knew that it was either then or never."
Karin's eyes light up and she is completely immersed in her teammate's story, whose voice was also becoming more and more expressive as he got to what he obviously considered as the exciting parts.
"What did you guys do?"
"What do you think?" he didn't wait for a reply, merely giving her a cheeky smirk instead as he passed a thumb underneath his wide nose. "We ambushed them, of course!"
"You guys did what?" Karin exclaims slack-jawed and hardly believing her ears. Ryuu reinforces his words with a nod, and Karin cannot help but to notice the not-so-small amount of pride visible in his expression.
"Kurotaro had a gas bomb, one of those that puts you to sleep. So we waited until they let their guard down, and threw it. The healthy one reacted but it was already too late, and I managed to sneak in and take the scroll. I'm sure he'd have beat me if he could, but the smoke acts fast you see, so the guy was already passing out before we got out of there."
"So, does that mean that…?"
Karin's mouth ran dry, her heart stopping for an instant and then beginning to beat so quickly that she thought her head might start hurting due to all the blood rushing to it.
I… it can't be, right?
But if she had any doubts they were promptly chased away by Kurotaro, who stepped forward and brought something out of his pocket.
A scroll. With the character for 'heaven' clearly written across it.
Karin wasn't even conscious of the large and hopeful grin that was stretching up her lips and lighting up her eyes.
"What, did you think we were as useless as you?" Kurotaro glares at her again, and it helps Karin come back to earth as the familiar sour feeling begins to run through her veins. "We even had to leave you behind so that you wouldn't interfere and ruin—"
"Hey, Kurotaro. That's enough." Ryuu coldly states. The brown haired boy turns his glare upon him for a long moment, only to seemingly decide it was not worth it. He pockets the scroll again with a sigh.
"Whatever. Let's get going, we need to get to that tower. And avoid any teams on the way."
Ryuu smirks. "Heh, I thought you said you could take them all on?"
"Shut up! There's no point in fighting anyone when we already have what we need!" Kurotaro spat, roughly snatching the earth scroll from Karin's hands and beginning to run. "Let's get moving!"
"You heard the ass. Let's go, Karin," Ryuu mutters before trailing after his teammate. Karin remains still for a moment longer though, missing the reassuring feeling of the scroll between her fingers.
In the surface of her conscious, there was still nothing but disbelief; she could not believe what had happened, the unexpected turn than her day had taken in less than an hour. But deeper down—deep down what was gathering and raising higher and higher by the minute was an incredible feeling of excitement and euphoria mixed with nervousness and a an unexplainable sense of dread.
Or anxiety, perhaps. Karin didn't know exactly what it was, but she knew that it was there, and she dares to think that perhaps it was her intuition the one talking. Her intuition telling her that something was about to happen very, very soon.
Her intuition had spoken earlier that day as well. There had been a feeling of giddiness attempting to overpower her since the moment she opened her eyes, and she had been unable to chase it away or to rationally explain why it was there in the first place.
The answer—Karin now knows—came only later, in the form of a boy dressed in whites and blues and with a smile so warm that it made her cheeks heat up.
Ryuu's voice comes muffled due to the distance, and Karin is startled out of her reverie. She throws a quick look around her and realizes that they had left her alone—again—and she had fallen quite behind due to her absentmindedness.
"I'm coming!" she yells back and takes off running, not even sparing the fallen bear a single glance. And through her busy mind, there was one thought resounding louder than the rest.
She smiled in response, her cheeks flushing with excitement.
"See ya at the next stop,"
Karin mutters, and her voice is drown out by the wind as she jumps through the trees.
End of the 1st chapter
English isn't my native language so if you spot any mistake, please do let me know and I'll be more than happy to fix them. Reviews are more than welcome and appreciated. But no complaints about the pairing, please. I'm not going to change it so there's no point.
Next chapter: Karin meets Sasuke again, and Sasuke's prelim match begins. But since things have changed, who will be his opponent?