Chapter 1

Hinata Hyuga slowly regained consciousness. "What happened?" she asked herself.

"I can't go! Akamaru and I have to stick together to use our combo attack!" she heard Kiba Inuzuka, her teammate, saying from nearby. She almost giggled at the thought of Akamaru and Kiba being separated. It just didn't make sense.

"Now I remember. I saw Naruto! And I..." her train of thought continued. She heard her long-time crush, Naruto Uzumaki, acknowledging Kiba's point and saying something to Shino Aburame, her other teammate. "What is Naruto doing?" she wondered, not hearing what Shino said in response.

"Okay! Forget it, forget it! Some friends you are!" Naruto said, his voice betraying his obvious frustration.

"That's his voice...Naruto's voice..." she thought, then got the shock of her life. Out of nowhere, Naruto was right there in front of her!

"Hinata," he said, his voice low, conspiratorial. "Don't say a word, just come with me, and let's get outta here!"

"Don't say a word, just come with me? It's so sudden! But...this may be my chance!" she thought. "And he did say to come with him! Maybe he's finally noticed me! I can't let this chance go! I may never get another!" With that thought in mind, she launched herself at him and wrapped her arms around his neck, much to Naruto's obvious shock. "I'd follow you anywhere, Naruto," she whispered in his ear.

Naruto was in shock. He'd been trying to get either Shino or Kiba to come with him to help him and Sakura to deal with this spy Sasori had working in Orochimaru's organization. They couldn't pass up this chance to find Sasuke, after all. Then, when he'd gone to Hinata as a last-ditch effort to get someone from Team Eight, the girl had launched herself at him and...well, for lack of a better word, glomped him! And then she'd told him she'd follow him anywhere! Wait...was this just her way of saying she respected him as a leader?

Not entirely sure why he was doing it even as he did, Naruto slowly hugged Hinata back. "Thanks, Hinata," he said. "At least I know one of our old group will be loyal to me when I become Hokage!"

Hinata froze. Loyal? Hokage? That's...not exactly what she meant. She pulled back and looked at her blond crush. Naruto was grinning widely, and his arms were still around her a bit. "Y-Y-You were just looking...for another teammate f-for a m-m-mission, weren't you?" she stammered, her cheeks feeling like they were on fire.

"Well, yeah! What did you think I was doing?" Naruto asked back. Behind him, Kiba face-palmed, and Shino shook his head and muttered something about "stupid, unobservant blonds". Ignoring them, Naruto took his arms from around Hinata and stood back up; he'd been bending over to talk to her. Holding out one hand, he helped the still-blushing girl to her feet. "Well, come on! I'm sure Sakura and Granny Tsunade are waiting for us up in the Hokage's office by now."

Hinata nodded slowly. "All right, Naruto," she said. "Let's go." The two friends took off toward the Hokage Tower, neither noticing the pale-skinned, black-haired boy about their age who was tailing them.


Naruto, Hinata, and Sakura Haruno, Naruto's old teammate, were standing in front of the Hokage's desk, waiting for the Hokage, Tsunade Senju, to begin speaking. Tsunade had her fingers laced together in front of her face and looked like she was thinking deeply about the situation in front of her.

"Hinata," Tsunade began. "We have reason to believe that we've found a lead on the whereabouts of Sasuke Uchiha. Your presence here indicates that you are willing to go with Naruto and Sakura on the mission that they are being assigned, which is to follow up on this lead and, if possible, extract the Uchiha and return him to the village, correct?"

Hinata blushed as she remembered how she had misunderstood Naruto's comment to her, but she nodded. "Yes, Lady Hokage!" she said. "It would be an honor to accompany them in search of their teammate."

Tsunade grinned; this was perfect. Hinata going with them might not prevent Danzo from adding his...underling to their team, but it would certainly help keep said underling in check. "Good, then," she said, her eyes twinkling. "Naruto, Sakura, Hinata, you three are hereby ordered to journey to the Tenchi Bridge in the Village Hidden in the Grass, meet with Sasori's spy, capture him if possible, and do everything you can to retrieve Sasuke Uchiha from Orochimaru's clutches. You will be joined by a member of the ANBU Black Ops, Yamato, and an extra team member. Sai, I believe his name is." She held up a hand when she saw Naruto about to object to this. "I know, Naruto. I'm not too happy about it, either, but there have been five-man squads before, and the advisors insisted I add him to the team for the duration of this mission. I hate to say it, but this is an order. You'll just have to deal with it."

Naruto slowly nodded. He didn't like this, but there wasn't much he could do about it. "When and where are we supposed to meet this Yamato then?" he asked.

Tsunade looked at the clock on her wall. "He and Sai should be at the main gates waiting for you right about now," she told him. "So get out of here you three, and if Yamato has an issue with you being there, Hinata, tell him you're there on my orders."

"Yes, Lady Hokage," Hinata said.

"Good, then. Dismissed!" Tsunade said, and the three ninja disappeared from her office in the blink of an eye.


Naruto, Hinata, and Sakura had spent several minutes waiting for Yamato and Sai to arrive. Once the two did, some brief introductions were exchanged, and the squad set out on their way to the Hidden Grass Village. Sai was pale, his hair dark and slightly greasy, and his overall attitude, looks, and demeanor were eerie reminders of Sasuke to Naruto and Sakura. Hinata, who had never been close to Sasuke, saw the resemblance, but she didn't really care; she was too busy pinching herself to make sure she was really on a mission with Naruto!

"Why do you keep staring at me?" Naruto asked Sai after what felt like hours had passed in silence.

Sai gave a smile that everyone could tell was fake. "I'm just trying to figure you out," he responded, his voice cheery, yet somehow hollow. "I was told you were nothing special. That you were weak, the dead last of your class, and a total knucklehead. Yet I see you here being quiet, calm, seemingly collected, and completely focused. Everything I see flies in the face of what I've been told. Perhaps the other things I've heard are just rumors as well."

Naruto looked at Sai a moment, thinking about what he'd said; at least Sai seemed willing to give him a fair chance and not judge him based on rumors. Still... "What else have you heard?" he asked, almost afraid to hear the answer.

"Why, that your dick is so small it might as well be nonexistent, of course!" Sai answered blithely, clearly seeing nothing at all wrong with this statement. He was still smiling as he said it!

Everyone else froze. Naruto, Hinata, Sakura, and Yamato stood stock-still in the middle of the road. It took Sai a second to realize everyone had stopped, at which point he turned and came back to them. His smile never wavered.

"Um, Sai, why would you say that?" Sakura asked. "Are you trying to insult Naruto?"

Sai's smile never changed at all. He didn't even flinch under the barely concealed anger being directed at him by Naruto, Sakura, and, surprisingly, Hinata. "Of course not. He asked me what I had heard, I told him, that's all," he informed them, his voice still in the same eerie monotone he'd spoken in from the first moment they'd seen him.

Naruto and Sakura took deep breaths. "He must just be some kind of hermit or something," both of them thought. "We really should be nice, give him a chance, not just assume he's trying to be mean." Both of them seemed to calm down as they took deep breaths.

Shocking everyone, except maybe Sai, who still registered no emotion whatsoever, Hinata surged forward and gripped Sai by the front of his shirt. "How dare you insult Naruto!" she yelled at him. Sai's eyes showed he was in some pain as the Hyuga heiress shook him by his collar. He was about to say something, but Hinata wouldn't hear of it. "No, damn it, you will listen to me! Our whole village has done nothing but run Naruto into the ground every chance it's had his whole life! He's finally gaining a little bit of respect as a few people in the village are finally seeing him as who he is, and not some monster! I will NOT have you insulting him in front of me like that!"

By now, Hinata was roaring. As she continued, her Byakugan flared to life. Sai's eyes registered fear for the first time. Even Naruto, watching from a distance away, had to admit Hinata was pretty scary-looking like that. Hinata took a second to see if Naruto...measured up, then returned her attention to Sai, Byakugan still on. She spoke quieter now, but everyone there agreed silently that her quiet anger was far more terrifying than her angry shouting. "I'll have you know that his assets are perfectly satisfactory. Besides, it's not like that would make any difference at all to you or anyone else since, no matter how big or small it is, it's mine!"

It took everyone a second to realize what Hinata had just said. When they did, several things happened at once. Hinata dropped Sai, backing away from him and burying her burning face in her hands. Naruto stared at Hinata in shock, not sure what to say or think. Sakura burst out laughing until she was rolling on the ground clutching her sides. Sai looked at everyone, confused. And Yamato just grinned at Hinata and shook his head slightly. "That may not be how I expected her to keep the peace," he thought to himself. "But it sure was effective."

It was true. Between Naruto's shock, Hinata's embarrassment, Sakura's amusement, and Sai's utter confusion, the fight that had been brewing just minutes before was completely forgotten, and the tension that had filled the air was broken. The group returned their attention to putting ground behind them; they were on a time limit, after all.


As evening approached, Yamato suggested they stop at a hot spring for the evening and have a hot meal and a good rest before continuing their journey. Everyone was more than happy to agree to this, though Naruto's agreement was somewhat distracted and Hinata's even quieter than she usually was. Naruto was still thinking about what Hinata had said to Sai, and Hinata was caught between embarrassment that she had said that, and fear that Naruto would think poorly of her for having said it.

Had Hinata known the track Naruto's thoughts were following, she would probably have blushed even darker than she did before, and most likely have fainted. "Hinata said my...assets were satisfactory...What did she mean? Was she talking about what Sai said about my dick being small?" he thought to himself. He'd been worrying over this for hours now, ever since hearing Hinata's tirade against the pale boy. " would she know how big it is? And then she said that it's...hers! Was she really trying to say she dick?"

As Naruto was thinking about this, the group sat down to eat what Yamato loosely called "dinner". "Feast" was more like it, and Naruto, Sakura, Hinata, and even Sai seemed to enjoy it immensely. Looking over at the indigo-haired girl between bites, Naruto couldn't help but notice how she had changed since he last saw her, back before he left with Jiraiya on the training journey. Her baggy jacket was still in place, but this one was much more filled with her body, so he could see her curves in spite of her efforts to hide them. As he looked up at her face, he almost kicked himself for never noticing before how pretty she was when she was smiling. There was such a look of peace about her that he couldn't help wondering how he'd missed it all that time. His eyes ran up and down the girl a few more times, noticing her firm legs, her flat stomach, and her round bottom. He noticed that her figure was perfect in every sense of the word. There wasn't an ounce of fat on the girl that didn't belong where it was, and her muscle tone was as good as his, if not better. Naruto shifted uncomfortably; he had never been so glad to be sitting down: that way no one would see that his roaming eyes had left him with a slight erection!

After everyone's stomachs were filled to bursting, the group adjourned to the hot springs. Naruto, Sai, and Yamato were in the men's spring, while Hinata and Sakura were in the women's, a wooden fence separating the two. As Naruto was lowering himself into the water, Sai stared at his erection. "I must apologize, Naruto," he said as the blond settled in the water. "It would seem the rumor I heard was completely untrue. Your dick is quite impressive." Naruto would have yelled at Sai for that, but the thought fled his mind when he heard giggles from the other side of the fence. He blushed and sank as deep into the water as he could. His eyes were just above the water, and they were turned on Sai with a glare so fierce, Yamato was surprised the pale boy didn't burst into flames under the heat of Naruto's gaze.


Naruto, Hinata, Sakura, and Sai were hidden behind a large rock. They could all easily see the Tenchi Bridge nearby. The bridge, which spanned over a deep gorge, seemed to always have a stiff wind whipping around it. They had arrived here yesterday, and spent the intervening time planning and practicing for what was about to happen. Yamato was on the bridge, disguised as Sasori using a Wood Style Transformation, and now all they had to do was wait for Sasori's spy to make his appearance. Their practice run the previous day had gone off without a hitch. Naruto was surprised to find he and Hinata worked as a perfect team, while Sakura and Sai were able to get along at least well enough to get their part done.

Naruto was the first to hear a disturbance on the bridge, and all four focused their eyes on it. A figure was approaching Yamato from the far side of the bridge. Now all they needed to do was wait for their signal and pounce at the right time. Hinata's Byakugan was active, watching the two figures on the bridge. She was surprised to find that Sasori's spy seemed familiar to her somehow, but she couldn't place him. Suddenly, the spy turned and attacked Yamato! His hand was coated in chakra that even Naruto could see easily; it was an odd green shade, and where it came in contact with Yamato's wooden disguise, the disguise shattered as if it were made of glass.

Naruto almost made a move for the bridge right then, but Hinata's hand on his shoulder stilled him. She pointed to the far side of the bridge again, where another figure could be seen coming out to join the two already on the bridge. As this one wasn't wearing anything to obscure his features, Naruto and Sakura recognized him in an instant. Naruto made no further attempt to move toward the bridge, but he did growl out the name of the newest addition to the bridge's occupants: "Orochimaru!"