Chapter notes: Chapter one, if you like, review! This is the opener, so yeah, a lot happens and yet... Nothing happens, but it does get right into it. Enjoy, I hope!

Warnings: AU, Dark. In the future, will contain: Rape, Sexual Themes, Yaoi. (Don't like, don't read)

"That, was awesome!" Kiba exclaimed, slowing down a little to run abreast with Kankurou. "No wonder Tsunade insisted that we have you come with us!"

"Keep it down, we're still in enemy territory… Troublesome…" Shikamaru groaned as Kiba stuck out his tongue childishly.

"And who would follow us after the show they got?!" Naruto swung about the branches, still on an adrenalin rush from their success.

"He had Akamaru and I flying around over their heads for at least ten minutes! They must have thought we were demons!" Kiba slapped Kankurou on the back. Kankurou grunted, missing a branch and landed heavily on the ground on his left leg, to rotation obvious. Immediately, he sat down to look up and glare at the dog nin. "You alright?!" Kiba jumped to the ground, Akamaru right behind him as the rest of the group stood watch.

"What do you think?" Kankurou panted, rubbing his left ankle with irritation.

"Is it broken?" Naruto asked, worry in his voice as Kankurou rotated his foot in a circle.

"It's fine, I'm just tired. You weigh more than my two puppets combined, add an Akamaru that weighs just as much as a Kiba and you have one exhausted Kankurou." Kankurou gritted out, trying to stand. "Help me up you ungrateful jerk." Kiba grinned at him, pulling him to his feet.

"We're supposed to meet the other team at the village line tonight, but I don't think we're going to make it… what a bother this turned out to be…" Shikamaru made a box with his hands, thinking of their next move.

"Hey, it's not my fault!" Kankurou began to try to walk, and stopped after one step. "I wasn't expecting my own teammate to slap me out of the air in mid leap." He elbowed Kiba, chuckling. "You don't know your own strength there buddy."

"Sorry, can I shoulder some of your load?" Kiba went to take a puppet from Kankurou's back, Kankurou shifted away.

"Naw, I think Shikamaru is reconfiguring our schedule." He pointed to their leader.

"Naruto, Kiba, go ahead and tell Neji's team to come to us. Kankurou, sit down and put up your foot, it's swelling." Shikamaru groaned, pulling out a medical pack. "I don't understand why Tsunade sama didn't let us have Sakura for this. If this mission was so important to have so many people out here, we should have been allowed a medic nin." Kankurou shook his head.

"Oh I can deal with this, let's keep going. We are in enemy territory, right?" He started to try to walk again. "Actually Kiba, if you can take this guy right here- that would be helpful…" He started to hand Kiba the heavier of the two puppets.

"Kiba, Naruto, go get Neji's team, Kankurou, sit!" Shikamaru grabbed the puppet's shoulder strap and rested it against a tree. Feeling the frustration of being out in enemy territory for to long, he used a tactic from Shino's play book. "I am the leader of this mission, and we'll be a herd of lame deer in front of a bunch of hunters if we all try to keep moving. Kankurou and I will hide out here, you two go get our back up!" Kiba and Naruto nodded vigorously, taking off through the woods.

"Do I have to sit before we start concealing the area?" Kankurou asked, shifting a bit from his injured ankle to his other foot. Shikamaru groaned.

"You're just like you're sister…" Kankurou grinned and winked at him, moving his puppets around to hide in a hole of a tree trunk, their wooden bodies blending in.

"You're wrong there genius, I'm WORSE than my sister." Laughing, he finally rested himself in a relatively concealing bush. Shikamaru groaned again, sitting down to tend to the still swelling ankle.

"It's not broken, but it might as well as be." Shikamaru put a tight splint on the injury, digging out a crush activated cooling paper seal to stick to the wraps.

"How do you make that?" Kankurou eyed it, fascinated.

"Hokage sama made up the med pack, explained how to use it too, just not how to make it." Shikamaru sighed, handing off a piece of jerky laced with pain reliever. "I know better than to try to give you medication for the pain. All you people from Suna are crazy." Kankurou ripped into the jerky, chewing it with an approving look on his face, swallowing.

"If you don't need it, don't use it. We are good at handling pain, and medicines are hard to come by in Suna. Better to build up a tolerance to pain then use up all the pain reliving herbs for a head ache just to have a ninja come in missing a limb and NEEDS a good pain reliever." Kankurou dug into his pack, pulling out a flask. "We use this instead." Shikamaru's eyes went wide as Kankurou took a swig of it. Catching the look of what he took to be shock, he offered it to Shikamaru. "If you're old enough to die for your village, you're old enough to drink, I started when I was eight actually. Don't worry, we train while drinking, I'll still be able to jump- Or limp in this instance, into action if need be. Want some?" He wiggled it a little, Shikamaru shaking his head.

"No… Thank you." Shikamaru swallowed hard. If he had known that Kankurou would drink away the pain, he wouldn't have given him any pain reliever. Trying to think of a way to stop Kankurou from drinking without letting the puppet nin know he was drugged, Shikamaru couldn't come up with any immediately.

"Hey, your loss." Kankurou tipped the flask back again, then buried it back into his pack. "That should be enough to take the edge off."

"Neji's team should be back by nightfall. We might be able to make some more progress to the border." Shikamaru shifted, hoping that Suna's alcohol was like Konoha's liquor, he knew how to carry a drunk after bringing his father home from the bar so many times. Turning to see how Kankurou was dealing with the fast acting pain reliever, all he saw was a face… With purple lines across it… Snoring slightly… Shikamaru leaned away from the tree and reached around to the other shinobi's pack, pulling it across both of their laps, and began to dig through it. He didn't know how a pack could weight so much, and that added with two puppets, he no longer wondered why Kankurou was so much bigger than his siblings. Opening it, he found lots of kunais, wrenches, screwdrivers, extra nuts and bolts, several vials of poisons, all for his puppets most likely. Finding the bottom, he spotted his quarry next to an emergency energy food source. Lifting the small flask out of the pack, he wondered at how quickly it and the pain reliever mix had knocked out the other shinobi. He opened it, taking a quick whiff. "Gah!" He had to stop himself from tossing it, quickly putting the lid on and shoving it back into the pack. "That would probably kill a man like my father with just one sip!"

Sitting for a long time, curiosity got the better of him, as he began to rummage around some of the other interior pockets. In one he found pictures, one of a family of four, father holding a blond girl, mother holding a baby. 'Before Gaara… He's a cute baby…' One of a family of four once again, the little boy was holding a bundle this time and the mother was missing. "After Gaara, Kankurou looks so proud… Temari is smiling too." One of a long haired boy Shikamaru didn't recognize. He was hugging who he guessed to be a five or six year old Kankurou, and the boy had to be in his early teens. Flipping the worn photo over, he read the faint inscription on it. "To Kankurou: I love you, I wish that you would put yourself first for once. Hiroshi." Shikamaru frowned a little, but tried not to judge. The last two photos were newer. In the first one, Gaara was to close to the camera, obviously looking at it suspiciously; Kankurou was standing sideways off to the far side, giving a victorious looking Temari an odd look. The second one had Gaara's eye wide in surprise and Temari laughing, Kankurou had this surprised look in the single eye turned towards the camera, mouth agape. He must have realized it was just a picture, he didn't even turn his body to the camera. 'Temari must have hidden the camera to get a shot of them all, based on how the last family photo appears to be from Gaara was an infant.' Shikamaru smiled, putting them back in order and slipping them back into the pocket, feeling something soft brush against his fingers. Almost recoiling back, he changed his mind and gingerly pulled it out.

"A purple handkerchief?" Shikamaru wondered out loud, rubbing the fabric between to fingers. "No… To thick… Could it be?..." He turned towards the slumbering Kankurou, who had fallen over, though no longer snoring. Shikamaru put it close to Kankurou's face, who in response took a deep breath, reached out, and pillowed his face against it, all the while not breaking into consciousness. "It is! It's a *baby blanket*!" Shikamaru exclaimed as quietly as he could, holding back his laughter. Finding nothing of interest in the other pockets, just different brush sets and face paint, he tried to remove the tiny piece of torn baby blanket from Kankurou's grip. "C'mon man, I don't think you want Kiba and Naruto to see you like this." Shikamaru winced as he heard a slight tearing sound, and decided to tuck it more under Kankurou's face to keep it from sight. He hoped that Neji wasn't using his bayakugan, sitting awkwardly in their small hiding spot.
… "You in there? What happened?" Neji stood outside the bush as Shikamaru started to pull out the still slumbering puppet nin, taking the opportunity to try to hide the baby blanket from the other nin.

"I'll explain later, where are the others?" Shikamaru asked, looking up at the white eyed nin. Something felt off.

"They are keeping watch around us, there have been some suspicious noises ever since we started down the path to you guys." Neji shifted, keeping his arms crossed. Shikamaru nudged Kankurou back into the bush. "C'mon, let's go." He froze the man in place.

"You're not Neji, he doesn't talk like that." Shikamaru brought up the shadow hand bind to the man's neck, threatening. "Where's my team? Answer before I kill you." Shikamaru cursed his luck as the man smiled, changing form into a formidable sized man.

"You give up quietly, or we kill the green one." Another member of the enemy's team came out with an unconscious Lee, holding a kunai next to his throat.

"Who are you guys, you aren't even from the village we were at!" Shikamaru tried to kick Kankurou without drawing attention to his motion, making contact. Kankurou groaned and rolled over.

"So there is another person in there… Well, he seems to not be of any help, come here now… We don't want to hurt you." He knelt down on one knee, breaking the shadow bind. Shikamaru's eyes went wide as the energy backfired on him, face contorting slightly from the pain. The man appeared to be trying to be innocent looking, like a parent calling in a scared child.

"I don't believe you." He growled, trying to think.

"We get less money if you're injured. I don't want a bruise on you, you're cute, especially with those earrings, they look good on you." Shikamaru felt a hand grasp his ankle, and he held back a smile.

"What the hell was in that jerky?" He heard Kankurou growl. Shikamaru frowned; he really wasn't going to be of any help…

"He sounds lovely, don't think we'll be retiring on the money we make from that guy… But seriously now, we won't make any money off of the green one, nor the scarred up orange boy… We'll kill them both if it will get you to come out." Shikamaru stood up out of the bush, thinking furiously. This man could break his shadow bind, if his team really did beat his team, he didn't stand a chance. "We also have the dog boy, we'll probably have to kill his dog… We're working on the Aburame's bugs at the moment, and the long haired boy has been put into a nice restful slumber. Don't you feel sleepy?" Shikamaru's brain felt as though it was covered in fuzz, like a moss had seeped into his ear and took root into the soft tissues. 'Genjutsu?' Shikamaru thought to himself, bringing a shadow around to break one of his own fingers to snap himself out of it. "No no no! Bad little shadow nin!" The man was suddenly to close, in his face, holding the finger intended for breakage protectively. "I said, I don't want you to even have a bruise…" Shikamaru felt his knees give way, kneeling before his captor.

"Why can't I fight?" Shikamaru asked out loud, sleep trying to close his eye lids.

"You don't want to, the green boy over there, remember?" The man began to pick him up as a father would a small child, not hindered at all by Shikamaru's long frame. "We don't want anyone hurt." He started to walk to another man that sprouted from no where, about to hand off Shikamaru. "Itai!" He collapsed onto one knee, resting Shikamaru onto the ground as gently as possible. Shikamaru rolled onto his side to see Kankurou half way out from under the bush, hand outstretched. Looking over to the man's leg, a poisoned kunai stuck in a good three inches, and the handle was dripping with blood mixed with poison. Kankurou moved his hand again, Karasu tearing out of the tree and heading straight at the prone man… Almost straight anyways. Kankurou was still half asleep, fighting on instinct, and the puppet missed, shattering against a tree from the force of Kankurou's wearied fingertips. He no longer had the articulation necessary for proper puppet use.

"Shikamaru… Get up." Kankurou began to stand, pulling Karasu back together. "Let's go!" Using his other hand now, he tried to get into a fighting stance, favoring his left leg. Shikamaru struggled against the hold the large man had on his mind as the said man unfolded his length, pulling the kunai out and flexing his calf to pump out as much as he could.

"He can't. Are you hurt?" He sounded genuinely concerned, ducking another blow from Karasu. Karasu careened about, coming back to take another swipe. Shikamaru groaned as he realized Kankurou was in no shape to even attempt to fight back, and his thought was confirmed as Kankurou fell to his knees, trying to keep the puppet in the air while the man reached out to wipe some of the purple make up from his face. Dodging a rain of kunais from one of Karasu's traps, he cleaned off half of Kankurou's face. "Actually, we might make some money off of you. We won't really know until we get you back to the kennel." Kankurou gritted his teeth, forcing out the last of his chakra to try to land one more hit not on the man tormenting him, but at Shikamaru. "Stop that!" The large man shouted, the smaller man who hadn't moved until now jumped out to protect Shikamaru from the incoming projectile. Taking the hit, the man fell on top of Shikamaru, screaming in pain, until the screams stopped, along with the man's breath.

"Got one." Kankurou smiled, winking at Shikamaru, and passed out. Shikamaru nodded his understanding of why Kankurou appeared to attack him, before loosing consciousness himself.

Chapter end notes: Like I said before, interested in what comes next? REVIEW! It keeps me going!