It had been raining for three days. It showed no sign of letting up any time soon. It made the going rough, mud slicked, humid sticky, and left the air heavy with green and ozone. It was a good thing that this was not an escort, because covering their tracks on the ground, in this, would have been impossible. They kept to the trees. It was faster traveling anyway. But the rain blurred the lines between branches and leaves and the cloud cover held back the light, and each footing was left slick and unsure. Even so, they made decent time. He was soaked to the skin with rain and sweat, and fighting not to lose track of the man shaped green blur a few leaps ahead of him against the muzzy background of the forest. They had a few days left to go, and Kankuro found himself wondering, not for the first time that mission, or even that day, just what in the hell he was doing here. Of course, he knew the answer to that: He was here because the Hokage had charged Lee with the task of transporting…something from Konoha to the smaller Hidden Village in Silk Country. Neither of them knew what exactly they were transporting and the order had been given that under no circumstances were they to try and find out. Whatever it was, it was both dangerous and important, important enough that more than a few people wanted it bad enough to kill, or send others to kill for it. Bad enough to warrant and A rank on this particular mission. Kankuro had come into the picture only when Lee had made his first checkpoint at Suna. Gaara had ordered him to go along as back up. He did not mind working with the leaf, and had sort of expected that to happen anyway. They’d run a lot of missions together in the past six months or so, since it had been accidentally discovered that they made a pretty formidable team. Come to think of it, more than half of his missions in the past six months had seen him partnered with Lee. It was better than working alone. A lot better, actually. So every time the annoyed question popped up, he had his mental reply ready for it. That did not however seem to discourage the question from asking itself again later.
In front of him the green blur stopped abruptly and held up a warning hand. The Suna-nin caught up and perched himself at Lees side, the younger shinobi must have read the question about to fall from his lips because he signaled him to silence, and signed ‘we’re being followed’. Kankuro shifted the pack on his shoulders uneasily, it was his turn to carry the whatever, and focused, and found that it was true. He could read three, maybe five unfamiliar chakra patterns not to far from them, where or even how many exactly the rain made it impossible to tell, but at least two of them were undeniably dangerous, the others, who knew? Minutes ebbed by, and they kept their perches, tense and still. The followers seemed to come no closer, there was no sudden attack, no cracking foliage or glimpse of movement. There was only the heavy scent of earth and moisture, the sound of their own controlled breaths and the unrelenting percussion of raindrops. They moved on.
Much to Kankuros displeasure, the presence of the others did not fade, if anything, they became more clear, sometimes closer as the hours passed, then far, then close again. And there were five now, definitely, and most of them he would consider at least moderately dangerous. No wet behind the ears, metaphorically at least, genin these. Though in all likely hood they were literally very wet indeed. He decided that he was sort of glad he’d been the one sent to watch Lees back this time. The Puppet Master had a distinct feeling that things were going to get very messy very soon. And if that was how it was going to be, then damnitt he would be the one to handle it. Kankuro was not sure how, or when exactly, but sometime in the four years since Gaara had first tried to end Lees life, then save it, the hyper, sweet, upbeat boy had wormed his way under the skin of all three sand siblings. It had happened without his conscious knowledge and rather against his will but Lee had managed to make himself on of Kankuros closest non-sibling friends, possibly the closest. Considering the number of people Kankuro was willing to call friends could be counted on one hand with some fingers left over, this was both an impressive and menial achievement, depending on how you looked at it. Kankuro couldn’t ever manage to quite resent that fact as much as he would have liked too. Regardless, the Leaf was now one of his people, and Kankuro made a habit of being almost terrifyingly protective of his people. It seemed to run in the family, his father being a possible exception. Kankuro did not savor the idea of Lee, in all his recklessness and general disregard for his own personal safety, running such high level missions on his own, or with someone who would only drag him down. And Kankuro did not like the presences that were hovering around them behind a film of water and leaves one bit. He knew that he and Lee were not the best team; They did not move and think and breathe and flow together as Gai had taught his team to do, fighting as one continuous being with six fists and six feet. Their fighting styles did not compliment each other as perfectly as Lees and Gaaras did, the Sand defending flawlessly and Lee pounding away a the enemy like a well oiled machine. They were not the best team, but they trusted each other, and they could read each other, each knew the others fighting styles and their weaknesses. Kankuro knew, for example, to watch Lees left side during battle because he was half deaf in that ear, Lee knew that Kankuro really was strictly a range fighter, and that if an enemy got within eight feet of him while his puppets were already deployed, he couldn’t defend himself. They had a rhythm, easy and familiar. It had served them well.
“The sun will be down soon. Kankuro-san we will rest here.”
“Like it’ll even make a difference.”
“This cave is dry at least, and deep enough that we can build a fire without being noticed. It will not be so bad.”
“ I meant about the light, but whatever.”
“ I misunderstood… oh never mind. Come on. I will make sure the cave’s clear.” It was of course, and blessedly dry except for a few puddles by the entrance, and the little rivulets that ran off their shoes. It was not quiet. The stone cavity was not deep enough to echo, but it amplified the rain hammering against the rock above their heads, and footsteps on stone percussed more than on leaves and bark. It was not warm, but it did not have to be. Kankuro crouched in the shadows at the mouth of the cave, and watched. But in the fading light there was nothing to be seen but the looming hulks of trees, and nothing to be heard but the monotonous drum and susurration he no longer really registered. Further back in the stone he could hear flint being struck. Though how effective this could possibly be was questionable, everything being as damp as it was.
Somewhere, the others were on the move again. They weren’t drawing closer to them, but they were all heading for each other. Probably a rendezvous. He hadn’t realized how tense he’d been until a light touch on his shoulder sent him literally jerking back to reality, a kunai half drawn . It was only Lee, smiling apologetically and explaining that he just thought it was time to trade off the whatever, as Kankuro had had it for the last couple hours. He strongly suspected that had it not been for the five unfriendly presences converging in the forest at this moment it would probably have remained his turn another few hours into the next day. But he let the pack be pulled from his shoulders anyway, he wasn’t keen on making himself a target if he could help it.
Somehow there was indeed a small fire going. The cave still wasn’t warm, it still didn’t need to be, but the light set him vaguely more at ease, and it meant they could have a bit of real food, not just soldier pills. They cooked and ate in silence. Amiable between the two of them, ragged and waiting beyond the mouth of the cave. Two more days, Kankuro reminded himself. Just two more god damned days and the whatever will be safely at the gates of the Silk Countries village, and no longer their problem. Then it was a four day trek back to Suna, where he liked to think he’d get a little bit of a break, but more likely Gaara would already be waiting for him, mission scroll in hand. But hey, maybe not. The low heat of the fire had started to dry small patches on his pant legs, but it was doubtful he’d be decently not wet again until they’d reached their destination. On the other side of the fire Lee rustled dimly, interrupting their silence first with cleaning up, and second with speaking.
“Kankuro-kun, please get some rest, I will take first watch.”
“Like hell you’re gonna. You took first last night too and you never got me up. You’re not gonna stay up all night again. Why the hell did you let me sleep through my shift anyway?”
“Well you seemed to be enjoying yourself so much. Besides I doubt I would have been able to wake you even if I tried.”
“You sleep like a dead man, only louder, and with more drooling.”
“I don’t drool!”
“Yeah you do. I am surprised you don’t wake up in a big puddle every morning.”
“Do…oh what the hell. Stop acting like an eight year old.” Probably just to annoy him Lee stuck his tongue out in Kankuros general direction, then sprawled out ridiculously on the cave floor and started fake snoring with gusto. “ I don’t snore either.” Totally ignored. “That’s not how sleep.” Nothing. “Okay I get it cut it out already!” He kicked, and Lee pushed himself back up laughing. Kankuro glared a deadly glare that could’ve pierced a four foot thick lead wall. Or at least, he thought he did, but he was not Gaara or Neji and thus his glare fell tragically short of being able to phase the Leaf-nin in the slightest. So instead he gave up, and started laughing too, and he felt better.
“I am still going to take first watch.” The puppet master gave a long suffering sigh. He could tell this was starting to turn into one of Those Arguments. Those Arguments were the sort of disputes that could only be had with Rock Lee, and ran in the subject of anything involving first watch, food allotment, who’s turn it was to be decoy, absurd training, and other such matters. It boggled the mind how consistently Kankuro found himself somehow losing Those Arguments, and he occasionally wondered if Lee didn’t secretly have some sort of mind control jutsu that automatically disabled anyone who tried to tell him he should take a break once in a while. The outcome was already decided; Kankuro figured he might as well save the energy and concede defeat.
“Fine, but you will get me up this time.”
The bedroll was damp and starting to smell of must and mold, but it was at least not stone or pointy. He was not as wired as he had been when they first settled in to their shelter. Even so his instinct nagged and pulled. For a long time he drifted in and out a semi aware darkness in which the drumming of water and the light crackle of flame never ceased. And once when he was out of the dark, he saw Lee, cross legged, straight backed and moveless, watching the mouth of the cave and the fire flickering hotly and all but brighting out the younger teens form. Later when he was out of the dark Lee had moved. Easier to see now. The fire cast his shadow long and sharp against the stone. For a while Kankuro pushed the darkness back from his sleepy mind, and watched because he wanted to watch. Profile lit warm by the fires light, light that danced and reflected off dark eyes metal. Hair still wet running droplets down his neck and shoulders. Face set in idle concentration. He had their weapon bags out, and cleaned, sharpened, tested with deft hands, only satisfied when each blade let easy blood from the calloused pad of his thumb. It tightened something in Kankuros stomach, not unpleasantly. Very pleasantly actually. The darkness came on again, and this time without sound.
When Lee finally shook him awake the fire was out, it’s remnants scattered, Lee had the whatever slung over his shoulders, their bags packed, and grey light was creeping in to their sanctuary. Kankuro had no choice but to smack him. When they set out the rain had still not lessened. If anything it came down harder, and the temperature had dropped. Movement on the ground would have been impossible because of the tracks they would leave, and the bark of these trees was smooth and now wet. He needed to use chakra almost constantly to keep his footing. Basically the going sucked. The fact that he could no longer track the owners of the five strange chakra patterns at all did nothing to lighten his mood. Instead he kept his focus one the back of the boy who remained as always a few leaps ahead of him, and on the regulation of his own chakra, and the air entering and leaving his lungs. Control was how you took on distance like this. They bounded on for hours without pause or word. Every now and then Kankuro thought he caught a hint of one of the five, but each time it flickered out before he could pin it. And then for a long time, nothing.
Until a dozen or so kunai tied with explosive tags thudded into a branch only a few feet in front of him. He had time to register the danger and Lee pivoting and flying back towards him shouting something then a thud, and the explosion knocked him out of the air. The ground hit him hard, winding him, and he skidded several yards through the mud. He hauled himself to his knees and shook his head clear. Lee was getting to his feet a little ways to his right, both heavily stung with inches long wood shards. They stood back to back , Kankuro with weapons in hand, Lee poised to spring into an attack, and waited. One by one five men, all but one masked, appeared in the branches above them. They were surrounded and outnumbered. Kankuro had been right. This was going to get messy.
“So. It was just the two of you after all.” That, Kankuro decided, must be the leader, the one who showed his face. “If that’s All Konoha saw fit to send then either your Kage is daft or the rumors the village still hasn’t recovered must be true.”
“Oi! I’m no Leaf! Know who you’re talking too moron!”
“Please do not insult Tsunade-sama.”
“Just one then. So the rumor must be true after all. Hmph. Well I’m sure then that your village as crippled as it appears to be can’t afford to lose any men. You know what we want, now just hand it over and we’ll let you both go.”
“Tch, yeah right.”
“Have it your way then.” He signaled and another explosive volley rocketed towards them. They sprang apart. Kankuro whipped a scroll from his back and Karasu appeared in a puff of smoke. Lee Had leapt straight up a tree trunk to the nearest masked figure and launched into a crushing series of attacks, but his opponent was fast. They had not conveniently stumbled into a clearing, space was tight and vision was limited. The puppet master did his best to conceal himself, let them turn their attention to the clicking whirring rush of blades and poison that was Karasu. He sent the battle puppet flying towards the leader spitting kunai as it came. That worked. Two of the others leapt in to defend their leader. The deflected knives thunked into trunks to either side of him and one of Karasus wrist blades snapped out into unsuspecting flesh. The man staggered, and dropped from his branch gracelessly. Kankuro yanked the puppet back out of striking range. The two strangers looked on and Kankuro smirked while the wounded man writhed on the forest floor retching, choking, muscles twitching out of control. Then he stopped. It had all taken about forty seconds.
“Poison.” Observed the remaining crony. No shit. Thought the Suna-nin. One down, four to go. Cracks and crashes in the foliage above their heads told him where Lee was, currently exchanging blows with one, maybe two of the others. The boy could handle himself, the most help Kankuro could offer would be tot take out these guys before they figured out that he wasn’t the one they should be interested in.
“Oi, Kitty-boy. Are you going to come out here and fight us for real, or are you going to keep hiding behind your little toy?.”
“Heh. As if you’re gonna take that much of my attention.” He could see them just fine from where he was. A flick of the wrist, and he let Karasu fly again.
Two hours later Kankuro and Lee were hadn’t made it twenty yards from where they had first been attacked, and both were considerably worse for wear, as was much of the surrounding forest. Three bodies were littered broken and bloody around them, and one hung bonelessly out of view, a twisted scarecrow suspended in the branches, and sole spectator to the mess below. Kankuro was fighting to gather his remaining chakra, and Karasu had taken damage. It hadn’t taken them as long as he’d hoped to realize which one of them was carrying whatever the hell was worth this blood and ganged up. One of those bastards had come at Lee from the left while he was already trying to keep off three others. Kankuro had got Karasu in the way, barely, but it was long enough for Lee to realize he had another attacker to deal with. Now it was only the leader that stood before them, arms crossed face smug and utterly unscathed. Too Kankuros right Lee swayed slightly in his fighting stance as the energy from the first Gate left his body. He was dripping blood from half a dozen shallow gashes, and the whatever-pack dangled across his shoulder on only one strap, the other severed and hanging uselessly. The leader just grinned. Kankuro wanted to smack that smug face purple and toothless. The little fuck hadn’t moved a muscle the entire fight, and he hadn’t batted an eye as his men died one by one under his command.
“All worn out are we? Pity. I was hoping to get a little entertainment out of this assignment. Perhaps you’d like to rest a spell, or would you rather I just kill you now?” Clearly he wasn’t expecting a reply because he merely sighed and a lazy series of hand symbols. Nothing happened. The leader-bastard turned started to walk away, and still nothing happened.
“Where the fuck to you think you’re-!?!” And then the mans retreating back wasn’t there anymore. Neither was the forest, or the sky or the rain. The earth rocked, then fell, then swallowed him. He didn’t know exactly what happened after that, probably never would, really didn’t matter. Just that the earth and sky kept switching places when he could see either at all, he was being tossed like a rag doll and crushed like an insect the smell of wet earth heavy in his nose gagging in his mouth and no air. He cracked his head against something he can’t see. Things literally got fuzzy after that. Somewhere in the crushing chaos he was dimly aware of a strong pair of arms wrapping around him and a phenomenal burst of chakra. Then Pressure. Then air. Sweet fucking god air. And that bastards face all painted over with shock and confusion. He felt himself laid out on what was left of the ground, and the last thing he saw before blacking out a green blur of impossible motion that had to be Lee slamming full tilt into the leader. His skin had gone red. The part of Kankuros mind that was not wholly absorbed with breathing registered vaguely that this was bad.
When he woke the only thing his mind registered was the feeling that he had been the unfortunate victim of one of Gaaras Desert Funerals. Twice. He must have moaned, or made some noise of complaint because instantly Lees voice was at his ear, soothing and shushing. He was fuck all sore and stiff, his head felt like there was an egg growing out of the side of it, and he could feel blood dried on his forehead and down his face, and he was curled into a disagreeably small space. But he was warm. As consciousness crept more solidly upon him he started to realize why: He was being held. In the small space he was pressed back to chest against Lee, head resting against the others shoulder. That he found he really didn’t mind. Lee shifted slightly behind him, and he felt strong arms pull him up a little, probably shifting his weight to prevent some limb going completely to sleep. But that hurt too and he let it be known. When he finally gathered the balls to open his eyes, it wasn’t remotely as painful an experience as he’d expected it to be. No glaringly bright lights to send jolts of pain though his already throbbing skull. He wasn’t, in fact, entirely certain he’d opened his eyes at all. When he tried to speak his tongue stuck in his too dry mouth and he could only rasp a little.
“Safe. In a tree. It’s dark out, I think maybe…one, two in the morning. They won’t find us. Even if they get close, I have set traps.”
“From before, there’s more of them. I am not sure how many…How do you feel?”
“I thought you might. Would you like some water?”
“Yeah.” Lee shifts again, and it hurts again, but less, and he feels a canteen being pressed against his lips, and drinks greedily. Then the canteen is taken away and replaced with rough fingers holding something small and hard, and he startles a little.
“Soldier pill. Eat. Please.” He complied. Slowly the puppet master found his eyes adjusting somewhat to the lack of light. Lee said nothing, but Kankuro could feel the exhaustion rolling off him. It was in his uneasy movements and the light, almost masked shake in his voice. It occurred to him that this would be the third night in a row the boy had refused sleep, and on top of that, the color his skin had turned during that fight…the Gates, he must have opened at least three of them. Dangerous shit. Freaking moron never changed did he. “Kankuro-kun…I am sorry.”
“I could not find your hat.”
“You’re sorry…about…my hat?”
“Is the whatever safe?”
“You beat that fucking bastard who was after it?”
“ You saved my ass and dragged both of us to wherever the hell we are, and hid us?”
“And you’re sorry about my fucking hat?”
“I should have-“
“When this is over we are going to sit down and have a long, detailed lesson on priorities and realistic expectations.”
“Apologizing for shit. It’s annoying.”
“Of course! So- I mean…um…I will try.”
“Dumbass.” For an immeasurable stretch of time they stay curled together in weary, watchful silence, senses straining for any sign of an enemies approach. Kankuro could feel the steady rise and fall of Lees breaths press against his back, and his heartbeat through their clothes. He wondered absently if that went both ways. “Lee, you gotta rest. At least try. If I sense anyone I’ll wake you up.”
“I am fine Kankuro-kun.”
“I do not need-“
“Oh for fucks sake! Why can’t you just-!?!”
“Shhhh!” Nobody shushed Sabaku no Kankuro. Well, except for Temari. And he would have had something to say about that if his head didn’t hurt so damned much and if he hadn’t also heard the light footfall dangerously close to their hiding place. Close enough that breathing seemed a bad idea. The intruder moved again. They moved on. Both shinobi let out breaths they hadn’t known they’d been holding. “That was not the first one.” Kankuro made no reply. It seemed they really were still being followed. In that case silence would reign golden until either the light broke, or they were discovered. He would be preying for the former, he doubted either of them would last long fighting in their current condition. So they waited. And time held little meaning in the cramped and hostile dark, minutes passed like days, and hours like seconds. Every small night noise the woods made were the footfalls of enemy-nin, or the traps being sprung, or a disguised communication. There were moments when the dark seemed so close and the time so warped and the woods so dangerously still that the puppet master found himself clawing off the half formed thought that this night would be endless, that day would never break for them.
But it did break. Grey light like water seeped slowly through the crevice in the tree and into the hollow where they sat, and they dragged themselves out into it, grateful to be able to move once more. The rest of their supplies and weapons were gone, apparently Lee had not been able to salvage them during they’re mad flight to safety. The important thing now was to make it to the village as fast as possible. There would be no resting until they had the gates in sight, and if they were lucky there would be no further attacks. It would not be easy. They set of in silence, Lee still had the damned ruined pack strapped to him, and as they went he flashed Kankuro a bright and reassuring smile that defied the dark rings around his eyes and the slight tremble in his hands and the fact that he was no longer leading, but had fallen in stride beside the Sand-nin. Kankuros own stiff muscles protested vehemently the movement he demanded of them, but if a ninja knew anything it was how to fight through pain. And so they pressed on, ragged and jittery, and they did not stop that night, nor the next morning. It was near noon that day that the tree’s thinned and gave way to open ground, rocky and slick and springy with some robust moss. Maybe half a mile from the edge of the trees was the village, its stone gate towering. The sight of their destination pumped strength into their limbs and it was only minutes later that they stood before the village leader, dripping and exhausted and exalted in a mission finally complete. The leader had little to say to them, and he did not open the pack, but placed it fussily beneath his desk, and gestured that they be shown out and given lodging. Surely they would want to rest a while before starting back to their own countries, particularly with the nasty weather persisting as it was.
An assistant led them to a poorly lit room high in the barracks building, it had a window that looked out into another window, and over an alley. He a gave humble apology for the smallness, the dimness, and the fact that there was only one bed, but nothing else was available at the moment and he hoped that they could find a way to make themselves comfortable for the time being and another room could be found in the morning. The fidgety man was assured that no such measure would be necessary, they would survive, and if the village leader had no further need of them they would be setting out the next day anyway. The man stuttered his understanding and a request to get him if they needed anything, and closed the door behind him.
Late afternoon had come, looking and feeling exactly like early morning. In spite of injuries and the mad rush to the safety of the village, neither teen could bring himself near the bed, too tired, to wired still for sleep. Even food seemed currently out of the question. There were bandages and antiseptic and a bit of painkiller in the nightstand. Even a needle and a length of medical thread. Naturally. They’d been quartered in the soldiers barracks after all. There were clean towels and clothes and a working tap in the bathroom. The two shinobi set dutifully about patching each other up. Kankuro found now where all the sore had come from, must have been whatever that bastard did that fucked up the sky and ground like that, he may as well have been all one bruise. It didn’t help any the gash he’d put in his forehead, it stung, and the blood had dried on. Kankuro, who was only good with pain when he had to be and had no inclination to put up with it when he didn’t would have just as happily left his head well enough alone. But Lee made a fuss about it anyway, and cornered him brandishing a cloth soaked in antiseptic.
“Kankuro-kun please cooperate, if you do not clean that out it may get infected, and that will hurt even more.”
“You sty away from me with that, that shit stings!”
“Kankuro-kun…” Exasperation. He even got a sigh and an eyebrow twitch out of the usually upbeat boy. And then, most uncharacteristic of all, an ultimatum. “Fine. If you will not let me take care of it here, then I will simply go find that assistant man and tell him you need to go to the hospital. Medi-nin tend to make a big deal out of all head injuries, and they will probably want to keep you overnight for observation.” Thus saying he tossed the cloth unceremoniously to the floor and turned to march for the door. Only march was more like stagger and almost fall. It looked like the adrenaline had finally worn off and the last four days had pounced him all at once. Luckily there was a wall there for him to catch himself against. Looking now, Kankuro could see how dark the bags under his yes had gotten, especially in contrast to skin that had gone pale beneath his tan.
“Oi…easy there.” He walked over with the vague intention of being helpful. “Your bodies pissed at you isn’t it? Man, missions over, you can chill out n-…have you got a fever? Fuck you really do.” He steadied the Leaf-nin against his side. “See this is what happens when you run around in the rain and open Gates and don’t sleep for four fucking days. And you think I should take better care of myself? Maybe we really should go to the hospital.”
“Kankuro-kun it is not that bad.”
“Alright. No hospital. Will you please let me at least clean out that cut though?”
“…Fine.” Reluctantly the puppet master allowed himself to be lead into the small bathroom. They sat on the counter. Lee filled the sink with warm water and wet another rag. His hands were steady and gentle as he started to scrub the blood from Kankuros face, but when he got close to the cut, it hurt, and Kankuro fussed, and squirmed and winced and otherwise tried to get away.
“Please hold still.” Calloused fingers caught his jaw and forced him to comply. Even in his exhausted state the taijutsu master was still physically much stronger than him. As Lee worked the rag and water in the sink stained darker and darker pink. The antiseptic stung like hell, as he knew it would. “Do you want me to sew you up?”
“Can’t you just put a bandage on it or something?”
“I could, but it will scar worse.”
“Ew. I guess you might as well just get it over with then, just don’t poke my eye out or anything.”
“Kankuro-kun, the cut is almost two full inches above your eye. I am not that tired.” Kankuro was grateful that Lee had the foresight to apply some of the painkiller ointment to the cut before getting in there with his stitching. The needle still hurt, but it was dull and far away.
When he was finished Lee attempted to send Kankuro to bed while he took care of his own injuries, but he’d put up with more than enough nursing for one day and flatly refused. Lee seemed to have regained at least a portion of his usual good humor and beamed at his display of “youthful tenacity”. Where Lee had even learned a word like tenacity was any ones guess. Kankuro was about to call him stupid again, but his stomach chose that moment to remind him that for all his running and leaping and fighting the last actual food he’d eaten had been three nights earlier, and he was hungry. Possibly even Hungry. With a capitol H. Lee had locked himself in the bathroom already, this left Kankuro with choice but to venture out into the rain again to try and scrounge something up. He hadn’t exactly brought a lot of money. What the hell, he’d take Lees wallet too, if he could find it.
He did find it, and once out in the darkened streets he found something else he had never expected that instantly made much of the world that much less cold and wet; A Hamburger joint. The place was even heated, and the roof didn’t leak. Life, in that moment, was beautiful. He sat alone by a window in the corner of a booth in a corner of the restaurant and waited for his food to come. The dullness of waiting seemed to do what just knowing a mission was done and a bit of first aid could not. All stress induced hyper awake-ness fled and took any nervous energy, in fact any energy at all with it. He leant against the window pane, cool and comforting, and stared out at the now dark streets, incessant rain blurred against the glass, distorting the glow from windows and street lamps, and thought about nothing at all. His body went lead heavy. He amused himself watching his breathe fog lightly on the window. And then entirely unbidden an image sprang into his nothing; it was Lee, that night in the cave, rainwater running from his hair and glowing in the fires light. And that strange, warm thing happened in his chest again. Just then the waitress flounced up with his order and about four others balanced in her hands. She here-you-go-honey-ed him and bustled off. I’m just tired, he told himself, and focused on cramming as much into his mouth as possible in the shortest possible time. When the waitress brings him the bill there’s an address in it, and the name Noriko. The letters are girly, and there’s a heart on the paper. He sticks it in his pocket, where it is forgotten instantaneously.
When he returned to the barracks he found that Lee has left the room unlocked. Not very ninja like of him. He also found that he boxed up an extra burger and brought it back for nothing, because his friend was out cold. Thankfully he’d remembered to take off his weights and thus not destroy the bed. Whatever, it was probably better he sleep off whatever bug he’d caught now before they had to head back, presumably through the same stupid weather. Kankuro placed the food on the nightstand, not really having anywhere else to leave it anyway, the idiot could have it if he decided he was hungry enough to wake up. Not that that appeared particularly likely to happen. Said idiot was sprawled out on his stomach hair mussed and snoring gently. He was also shivering. The blankets lay in a kicked off tangle on the floor. Picking them up and tucking them around Lee seemed the most natural thing in the world to do. So did the affectionate hair ruffle Kankuro couldn’t resist giving. Lee mumbled and squirmed a little, but didn’t wake. And then, because he was tired and the only other place to stretch out was the floor he slipped beneath covers on the other side of the bed. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d shared a bed with a teammate, even with this particular teammate. He was considerably more comfortable with Lee than most of the other people he usually worked with anyway. So if he was a little bit jittery lying there listening to the other boy breathe, it was only fallout from the mission, just the final left over dregs of adrenaline. That had to be it. So he closed his eyes, curled into the sheets beside his best friend, and slept.