This fic is dedicated to my precious person Kii, and her newfound obsession with Rock Lee. Hope I did him justice.

Disclaimer: Standard. Want 'em, don't own 'em. 

                                                             The House Guests

          Haruno Sakura woke up that morning like she did any other.  She sat up, rubbed her eyes, looked out the window--and found about twenty sets of eyes looking back.

          Well, that explained the tapping noises.

          Groaning, she rolled over, hand flopping around a bit before she finally found the other lump in the sheets and nudged it.   "Lee," she sighed. "They're back again." A few more shoves uncovered

          "Mm?" A few more nudges uncovered a tossled bowl-cut and the rest of her boyfriend, who squinted up blearily. "Who's back?"

          Sakura pointed helpfully to the window. "Them."

          She could've sworn that the legion of squirrels waved.  Lee looked up at them, and brightened. "Oh!" he exclaimed, kicking off the sheets and springing to his feet. "They've come back to visit!" Sakura squeaked and held onto the sheet for dear life before he could trail it across the room.  The squirrels chittered excitedly, a mass of fur moving against the window; tiny, fuzzy faces all pressed to the glass with identical beady eyes. Their paws rapped against the glass.  Their tails swished almost in unison.

          "They're STARING," Sakura realized. And shuddered. It was quite creepy.

          Lee didn't seem bothered at all. "It's all right," he said, stopping with his hands on his hips and beaming, proudly.  "They just want to come in." He bent over to give them a wave at eye level.  The squirrels jumped around with renewed enthusiasm.

          It was all too much for Sakura, who'd just returned the night before and had been hoping for a nice, lazy morning before having to go work on her mission report. "It's too early for this," she muttered, flopping back, and pulling the blankets over her head.  She enjoyed it for about a minute before the words sunk in.  "Wait."

          She exploded from sheets. "WAIT!" she shouted, wild eyed and ready to spring in an instant. "Lee! Don't you DARE!"

          Lee blinked in confusion, hand paused at the latch. "Dare what?"

          "That! We've talked-" Sakura stopped, and flushed, scrabbling for the sheets again.  Lee coughed, and looked away politely, rubbing his nose. Sakura continued, "We've talked about this before. No squirrels in the apartment."

          "But…Bu it would be rude not to invite them in. Some of them must've come a long way!"


          "And they're good guests."

          "NO."  Sakura leveled him with a look.  There were one or two squirrels less at the window after that.  Smart furballs. "I mean it, Lee."

          "…A-allright," he agreed meekly, and slowly moved his hand from the window, careful not to make any sudden movements.  Smart boy.  He pouted, some.  It was cute, and under any other circumstances Sakura might've been greatly moved, but the fact that a chipmunk had now joined the squirrels shivering on the sill outside left her rather unimpressed.

          She rubbed her temples. And Ino complained about Shikamaru's cat. "Good. I'm going to take a shower," she announced, sliding her legs out of bed and doing a quick check for her bathrobe.  Lee leaned against the window, looking away again quickly.  Sakura smiled and shook her head.  "Coming?"

          "Oh!" Lee jumped, rubbing the back of his head bashfully. "Um. Yes. Of course." And he quickly followed. And that was the end of the squirrel issue.

          ….Or at least it should've been. It really should've.  Sakura stood dressed with her hair dripping in the doorway of the kitchen and wondered what god had decided to hate her that day.

          Behind her, one hand settled on her shoulder, Lee laughed sheepishly. "Ahah…It looks like they invited themselves in."

          "Yes," Sakura said slowly, staring at the squirrels on the table. And the counter. And at the top of the refrigerator. "It looks like they did."

          Lee took it all with entirely too much cheerfulness. "Well, we should make the best of it!" Sakura refrained from hitting him, just barely.  Not like it would've made a difference. And the squirrels probably would raise a protest.

          "…Coffee." She mumbled, making her way to the counter and doing her best to ignore the shapes brushing against her ankles at regular intervals.  Lee set himself down at the table, and was immediately swamped, a squirrel on each shoulder and a couple perched on his head-- where they began to chat animatedly.  There was no other way to describe it.  Sakura did her best to tune this out as she cleared a few squirrels away and discovered her cupboards occupied. "Coffee," she said again, a little desperately.  "Lee, do you know where I left those--"

           Something handed her a mug and a folder.

           "—papers. Um. Thanks."

          The grey squirrel gave her a thumbs up and a squeak she assumed translated to 'Don't mention it, babe!'

          Sakura thoroughly '…'d her way to the table, sitting down with a heavy, defeated thump.  Lee broke away from his conversation a moment to smile at her. 

          "See? They just want to help."

          "Hmm." Sakura shut her eyes tightly, opened the folder and took a sip of the coffee.  She blanched. "This…is really good."

          Lee nodded matter-of-factly. "Of course," he said. "A lot of hard work went into it."

          "A squirrel made it."


          God, Sakura thought,  I'm living with a lunatic.

          However, as this was not news, she shrugged and got to work, looking over the papers in front of her.  She had an audience in less than a minute, all jostling and chattering, trying to see exactly what she was doing.  One of them offered her a pen.

          "Lee, I understand that they're your… um, friends-"

          "They said they'll do the laundry, too!"

          "-so I guess they can stay for a little," she allowed, when she came home that evening from turning in the report to find a surprisingly nice dinner on the table, the apartment cleaner than it had been in ages, and all the normal weapons and training equipment properly sorted for change. "But-"

          "Just. How. Long," she gritted out a week later, dangling the fifth rodent she'd found in her drawer that day. "Do they plan on staying?"

          Lee, bedraggled, red-cheeked, and just back from a short one-hundred lap run, frowned thoughtfully. "Hmm." He scratched his chin. "Only until spring."

          Sakura dropped the squirrel.  It scurried off with an indignant squeak. "Lee," she said sweetly. "That's a month from now."

          "Well, yes…"

          "They're not staying for a month."

          "…It does seem a little long.  I'll talk to them about that."


          "I had to explain to Ino why a chipmunk crawled out of my pack today. I don't want to do that again." Sakura looked up at him. "I want them gone by tomorrow."

          "To...Morrow?" Lee echoed.


          Wide-eyed, Lee shook his head. "No. None at all."

          Sakura smiled, and kissed his cheek.



          "They're still here."

           "Ah, about that--"

          "That's it," Sakura informed him in the morning two days later, rolling over and folding her arms across his chest. She'd woken up to chittering again, and had had enough. "It's either them or me." She was gone before Lee was awake enough to know what to make of it; up, and dressed and down the hall with a determined look as she hopped over the dozens of twitching bodies in the hall.  She was a woman with her mind made up.

          The door shut behind her.

          "…So you see," Sakura explained, over a bowl of ramen at the Ichiraku. "That would be the situation."

          Shikamaru, to his credit, was about the one person in the world who could hear all of that and not burst out laughing. He just looked like he'd rather go back to napping in his seat, which he'd been quite enjoying until Sakura'd come up and kicked him in the head. There less bothersome methods of  waking  a person up, he thought as he rubbed the bump and eyed her. "Yeah?"

          Sakura folded her hands primly, "I have a plan. But I'm not so sure it'll work, so I wanted to run it by you.  If that's allright."

          Shikamaru sighed. "Might as well.. You'll tell me anyway."

          "True," Sakura giggled, and told him.  "So think it could work?"

          "It's simple," He said with shrug. "It  probably could." His tone turned suspicious. "But just where are you planning on getting the…"

          Sakura leaned her chin into her palms and batted her eyelashes. A handy maneuver she learned some time ago.

          Shikamaru looked resigned.  "…That's what I thought. Fine."


          "It's your headache."

          Sakura pushed herself back in her chair. "Thank you, Shikamaru! I'll return it--er, when should I return it?"

          "Eh, whenever," Shikamaru said, and went back to sleep.

          Lee was pacing when Sakura got home late that evening.  She sported a few new bandages and a bag slung over her shoulder. He looked up when she came in, and his relief was a full body one; she barely managed to dodge getting scooped off of her feet right then and there.

          "You're back!"

          Side stepping again, she held up a hand to ward him off, shaking her head. Guys.  Lee.  "And why wouldn't I be?"

          Lee's eyes were glassy, his bottom lip trembled. "I thought …Sakura--"

          Sakura kissed him before he could launch into soliloquy.  "Are they still here?" she asked, as she pulled back.  The chatter from the darkening halls of the apartment were answer enough. Lee hung his head.

          "All right, letting those things stay was a really bad idea," Sakura scolded, lips twitching. "…But they are your friends. And I guess you were just being a good host (To a bunch of RODENTS but)." She was feeling generous, and she had a weapon slung over her shoulder; so it was all good. "Everything is going to be all right now." She smiled.


          "Leave it to me," she said, and walked with a purpose to the living room.

          She set the bag down.

          It squirmed.

          "Everyone!" she called, and felt about a hundred sets of eyes turn to her. "Listen! It's been an interesting time, you guys really aren't so bad! But! I think you need to leave now, okay?"

          Nothing moved.

          Sakura's smile widened.  "Oh, that's okay too. You see, I made a new friend today I want all of you to meet!" She leaned over, unzipped the bag, and reached inside.

          What she pulled out was a mass of folds and fur, legs and tail stuck on in an afterthought. She held it up for all to see. It practically oozed in her hand, sagging like a wet sack of flour.  "Everyone? This is our new friend. His name is 'Cat' (Real original, Shikamaru) and I hope you'll all get along!"

           Cat lifted his head sleepily, his limbs hanging limply as he yawned and licked his chops.

          "Niaao," he said.

          The room was lost in the dust of a mass exodus.

          "You know, Sakura," Ino commented the next morning, wrinkling her nose at the mass of purring blubber that had been poured into her arms. "You're never going to live this down."

          "Just make sure this guy gets home safely, Ino," Sakura growled, stroking the massive creature's ears fondly.

          "Unfortunately," Ino said, with much pain.  "I have to.  Shikamaru actually LIKES this monster."

          Sakura looked between Ino at the cat and smirked. "I wonder why."

          "What's THAT supposed to mean?" Ino glared daggers.

          "Nothing, nothing." Sakura's eyes softened. "Thanks, Ino."

          "…Pff. Don't mention it. Really." The other woman waved her off and turned. "By the way…" she asked over her shoulder, "Where's Thick Brows? Isn't he usually still here around this time of day?"

          "Don't call him that.  He went out to the training grounds early today, if you have to know."

          "That guy needs to train MORE?"

          "Well, he missed out on his routine yesterday," Sakura smiled sheepishly. "And it was sort of my fault. So I'm making it up to him."

          "…That's your idea of 'making it up to him'?"

          "Well, no," Sakura said slyly. "That's not ALL."

          "Egh. I don't think I needed to hear that."

          "You asked, Ino-pig." Sakura pulled an eyelid down.  Ino stuck out her tongue. "Have fun with the cat."

          "Have fun with the SQUIRRELS."

          "The squirrels did the LAUNDRY before they left," Sakura said smugly, and shut the door on Ino's incredulous expression. 

          She made her way through the halls, steps blessedly uninterrupted. She changed with nothing moving in her underwear drawer. She put went through her pack with nothing squeaking and found that things were getting slightly disorganized again.  Breakfast was barely edible and nothing special, but she did it all herself.  Her thoughts were on other things besides.  She'd have to hurry if she wanted to catch up to Lee.  He was probably already be a few dozen push-ups ahead of her.

          She took a last sip of her coffee and grimaced.  It tasted terrible.  Sakura found it refreshingly good.