I wanted to write about Kankuro, but sadly, I can only write ONE type of story. No matter what I really wanted to write, all stories will eventually end up a romance. So, I decided to just bite it and write a romance about to start with. But since NO ONE wants to read a romantic story about KANKURO, I ended up coupling him with the most unpopular GIRL character in the whole series to even it out.

Armed with my pairing of the two least favorite characters of all time, I prepare myself for zero reviews. Seriously. I already know no one is going to read this. But if I don't write it, it'll get stuck in my head forever.

This is dedicated to CelticAngel1306 and all the Kankuro fan girls…you know, the whole six of us.

She shot soundlessly through the trees at an incredible speed, hidden by the leaves and the dark of night. Destination in mind, nothing could dissuade her from making the journey, and nothing could stop her from attaining her goal.

Three and a half years she had spent on this. Three and a half years of training, her body and her mind. Genjutsu, ninjutsu, taijutsu, all her own unique moves- dedicated to this night, when she could finally set her mind at ease, and taste her hard-earned victory. There was no way her efforts were going to waste. She would not allow failure after all this preparation. It was time for her rematch; it was time to set things right.

Tenten would never forget her absolute and utter defeat to Temari at the preliminary Chuunin Exam three and a half years ago. That smug look on the Sand girl's face as she easily swatted away all of Tenten's furious attacks, even her final attack, as if they were all merely bothersome flies. Tenten had not been prepared for such a humiliating loss. She had been too cocky, too sure. After all, she was on a team with Neji and Rock Lee, and it was easy for one's confidence to swell with those two easily defeating any foe that came for them, no matter how formidable. Fighting WITH them was easy. But fighting by her lonesome…

It was so frustrating to be told by Gai-Sensei that she needed more practice, that she should stay after with him and Lee and they could help train her further. She did not WANT to be the weakest one. After all, the weakest one was originally Lee. At what point had he so thoroughly surpassed her? At what point did she start relying on them to help her fight?

After her defeat, she had awoken in the hospital to discover that Temari's brother, Gaara, had just crushed Lee and all three of the Sand siblings had gone on to the third round of the Chuunin Exam. This discovery made her go into a brief depression. Even Lee had been defeated…who was she to think she could stand a chance? She who was not even worth the effort of a fight? How could she have let herself think she was as strong as them in the first place? Where did she get the nerve telling Rock Lee to give up, because he would never surpass Neji? How could she have been so stupid?

But watching the final match-ups of the Chuunin Exam a month later rekindled her fighting spirit. Watching Neji be defeated by Naruto proved that hard work could, in fact, defeat genius- and watching Shikamaru outsmart Temari proved that she was not as tough as she thought, nor as clever. Armed with these sudden comprehensions, Tenten began a vigorous training regime; ignoring things she once spent time fussing over, such as Neji.

If she ever felt anything for her teammate, it was a mere girlish crush, long since stamped out by her determination to better herself. Now she was left with only a profound sense of respect and admiration for her colleague. The only time she ever spent with him anymore was on missions and training. He did not seem to miss her company.

The trees were becoming scarcer now as she began to enter the Country of Wind. She knew soon it would be a vast desert with little to hide behind- which would have made any ninja from a village hiding in the leaves very uncomfortable- that is, if they had not spent the last three and a half years training for this,

Tenten had been preparing for everything. She scouted the border between the Country of Fire and the Country of Wind for a long time, preparing her body and mind for everything. After all, she intended to challenge Temari- which meant she would have to fight the fan-wielding girl on her own terrain. Tenten needed to be able to understand her surroundings, as well as see through any trick of Temari's using the sand to her advantage. Admittedly, Temari did have the upper hand, being more familiar with the battlegrounds. Hopefully Tenten's surprise attack would catch her off-guard and level the playing field. After all, Temari had not spent over three years preparing to fight Tenten again. She would probably underestimate her, armed only with the information she had from their last fight, and that would be her greatest mistake. Temari undoubtedly would have gotten stronger over the past three years, but she should not be ready for someone who had spent that time studying how to defeat HER. Someone whose aim was one hundred percent dead-on, someone who stayed up late, long into many nights on end learning to throw a variety of ninja tools past, through, and around a cyclone, someone who would not once again be defeated by wind.

By now she could feel the sting of the wind on her cheeks. The forest was becoming less dense, and she was running out of places to hide. After the forest, there was a field, then the desert stretched across the land like a vast ocean. A knot in her stomach tightened slightly. She was nearly there. She knew from her research that Temari's hometown was not too far from here, past the field where the grass stopped growing, and the sand blanketed the country. She would be there in just under two hours. It would not be long until she could finally avenge her loss and set her mind at ease.

Suddenly she stopped, standing on a branch of one of the last thick trees. She looked around warily. Something was not right. Something was...something was out of place.

There was someone here.

She was not doing very much to erase her presence at this moment, standing out in the open. She searched for the source of this discomfort as quickly as she could, hoping to see them before they noticed her, or at least before they attacked her. This would be a very bad day to be ambushed. Damn, she had been so focused on her upcoming fight that she had not paid that much attention to her surroundings…

Finally, with a start, she spotted him. He was sitting lazily, relaxed even, on the branch of a tree several meters away from her. Her hopes sank when she noticed that he was staring right at her. There was no way she could get past him now.

Oh well. Ignoring him would not do any good. Swelling up her chest determinately, she scowled at him. If she could not get past this, she did no deserve to make the rest of this journey.

"Who are you?" She demanded. "And what are you doing here?"

"I could ask the same of you," he drawled lowly, a hint of playfulness in his voice.

Damn…did she know that voice? He was too far away for her to see him very well.

"That business is my own," she replied resolutely. "I have no fight with you. I trust you'll let me pass?"

"That depends," he replied, slowly rising to his feet. "Just where do you think you're going?"

"I have a fight scheduled with someone in the Sand Country," she announced. "You're making me late."

"Oh?" he asked, bemused. "And who is that? Maybe I know them."

She furrowed her brows at him. Damn, who was this nosy guy? She could not see his face from where she stood. She would have to get closer.

"That's none of your concern," she replied bitterly.

He grinned. "It is, though. You might be planning an ambush on someone in my country. Then I could be held accountable if you killed them, since I saw you coming. I have no reason to let you pass." He eyed her up and down. "Then again, I probably don't have to worry about a little green leaf like you killing anyone. I bet you've never done it before."

"Don't underestimate me!" Tenten scowled at him. "I've traveled for three hours to get here, and you won't stop me! If you're so sure I won't kill anyone, let me pass!"

"Well," he replied in an infuriatingly impassive way, "You've got quite a sting, don't you? Maybe you ARE dangerous. Just tell me…who are you going to fight?"

At this point, anything to get rid of this asshole.

"Temari," she spat.

To her surprise the boy laughed cruelly. He then picked up something rather large, slung it over his shoulder, and leapt forward to the next tree branch. Now that he was out of the shadows, Tenten could clearly see him in the moonlight. She gasped.

Oh, God. It was Temari's brother.

Not the dangerous one. The other one. What was his name?

"Seems you recognize me," he smirked, squinting his cat-like, painted eyes at her. "I must have made quite an impression on one of my journeys to Konoha. Unfortunately, you didn't seem to make quite the same impression. I don't know you at all."

That arrogant son of a…

"My name is Tenten!" She stated, "And don't get so full of yourself. The only reason I know you at all is because I've been training to fight your sister. I don't even know your NAME."

He winced, and she smirked a little when she noted the scowl on his face. Obviously, he did not like being known only by association, being stuck in anyone's shadow. It briefly occurred to her that he probably got that a lot, being Gaara's brother.

"My name is Kankuro," he said fiercely. "And I don't remember Temari mentioning any fight with you, or anyone else recently. I don't think you scheduled this with her at all."

"Then maybe I lied," Tenten fumed impatiently. "I'm going to go fight her, one way or the other. It's been a very long trip and you're very irritating. It's in your best interest to just let me pass!"

Instead of replying, he regarded her silently for a moment. That was sort of confusing to her. She had expected an answer to her demand, more or less, and his silence was awkwardly piercing. Tenten furrowed her brows at him, curious and at the same time, sort of uncomfortable under his gaze. His feline stare was quickly becoming enraging. She could feel her cheeks burning with anger. Was he just going to stand there? The hell was so fascinating? Just as she was about to shout at him to say something, he smirked. His scan of her evidently complete, in his mind a conclusion had been reached.

"Tenten, you said it was?" he said slowly, mockingly, as if testing out her name. "I think I remember you now. Almost four years ago, right? At the Chuunin Exam in your village?"

Shit, she thought, it was better when he did not remember her, instead of remembering her agonizing defeat. Luckily she was already red in the face from anger, or he would have seen her blush in humiliation.

"Yes," he grinned through his kabuki make up, "I know you now. You fought my sister at the preliminaries. She WASTED you, didn't she? Are you holding some kind of grudge for that?" He shook his head sadly, making an infuriating tutting sound. How DARE he look down at her, clicking his tongue so condescendingly! As if he knew anything about it! He brought his gaze back up to meet hers. "That's very sad. She barely lifted a finger to defeat you. You must have been SO embarrassed, when you woke up from your coma. You poor thing." He grinned lowly at her, his voice dripping with mockery. Tenten seethed, her fists clenched tightly at her sides.

"I don't need to hear any of this crap from a battle clown like YOU!" she roared furiously, and was satisfied to see him become notably angered by her comment.


"This has nothing to do with you," she continued, "So stay out of my way! You'll see when I defeat Temari that I am NOT the little girl who was so easily swept aside! I am a kuniochi of the Hidden Leaf Village!"

"BAH!" He scoffed, bitterness more obvious in his voice now, "You're a silly child with a death wish, then. Temari will KILL you, and I'm not joking. An annoying little green leaf, coming to challenge her in her own home! I don't care if you have some stupid grudge. Get over it, and go home!"

"I refuse. Let me pass," Tenten said through gritted teeth. She was so enraged right now, she was sure she could kill a whole village. "I've been training for three and a half years for this! I've forfeit time with my family, friends, teammates, everything! She will not defeat me again! And if she does, then by God, let her kill me, for it's all I'm worth! Now let me pass, you arrogant son of a bitch!"

Her words hung in the air for a few moments before fading into silence. The look on his face now was not condescending or coy, but contemplative. She cocked her head curiously. He seemed to be trying to make a decision about something. She hoped he would give up and let her pass, because she was running out of breath, and did not feel like arguing with some overprotective little brother all night long.

Then he did it again. That arrogant smirk through those squinty cat eyes. It made her sick.

"Fine," He said it coldly. "If you want to die so bad, it's your call. But you gotta prove to me your worth an effort now, or she's gonna bitch at me for letting you go, and Temari really knows how to bitch. I'll let you fight my sister... but first, you gotta get through ME." With that he slung the large object off his shoulder and set it beside him on the branch. She recognized it as the large dummy wrapped in bandages that he always carried on his back.

"Fight with YOU!" She shouted, angered and at the same time shocked, "That's ridiculous! You're not who I'm here to fight!"

"That's the condition," he replied coolly. "Don't think you can sneak past me. I know this area better than you. Either fight me, or go home."

"This is stupid!" She snapped, "I didn't travel three hours to fight some make-up wearing boy who plays with dolls. I won't waste my time with this!"

"Then get lost," he seethed, his patience wearing thin. "Because I'm not letting you pass."

Tenten was forced to consider this. She believed that he was telling the truth- he would not, under any circumstances, let her pass without a fight. If she won, though, he would have to let her go, but by that point, she would have expended a great deal of her chakra and energy, and would no longer be able to fight Temari on an even scale. If she left, she would appear weak, and prove his point in calling her childish and ridiculous. She was not just going to prove herself to Temari; she wanted to prove it to everyone, including this asshole. She could never fully respect herself as a ninja knowing that she ran away from a fight. Besides, now that he knew what she was up to, he would probably continue to challenge her before she ever got a chance to see Temari- there was no real way around it. God, why did she have to run into him tonight? If only she had known! But it was too late for that now. She narrowed down her choices, and finally, made her decision.

"You asked for it," she said coldly. With that statement, she set her teeth and leapt back a branch, preparing a handful of shuriken.

"That's more like it!" Kankuro grinned, whipping the bandages off Karasu in a flash, revealing his life sized marionette, "The stage is set, and the curtains rise!"

A flash of silver streaked towards him as she released her shuriken, which Karasu quickly deflected. As the puppet swept the throwing stars aside, Tenten disappeared suddenly and reappeared behind Kankuro, simultaneously discharging several kunai at the puppeteer. They struck him in his back, then with a cloud of smoke, and the revelation that her kunai were actually lodged into a block of wood, Karasu's wooden arms met the backside of her skull, sending her flying into a tree. It then shot a poisoned dagger at her landing spot, narrowly missing her as she spun out of the way of the projectile.

Standing up to recollect herself, she felt her leg twitch strangely. Frantically looking down at it, she saw that tied around her ankle was a thin, blue string of chakra. She tried desperately to release it, only to find that it was too late as Karasu's mechanical face was now right in front of her own. She held up a kunai just in time to deflect another poisoned dagger that came from the puppet's wrist, but it had more arms than she did. It forcefully knocked her aside, sending her painfully to the forest floor.

She stood up arduously, wiping some blood from the corner of her mouth. The back of her head bled and stung severely. That really smarted. This was harder than she thought it would be. She might have to use some of her better techniques to fight the guy...

Leaping back atop a branch, she pulled a scroll from a pouch on her side and rapidly unraveled it. Swiping across it the blood she had wiped from her mouth, she twirled it around her in a dizzying motion. Then, from the ink and paper and traces of blood, she began to pull an assortment of weaponry, including kunai, katana, daggers, scythes, wakazashi, shuriken, maces, morning stars, and any number of other instruments and flung them at her enemy, and his puppet.

But by this point, she had lost sight of Kankuro, hiding somewhere in the trees and shrubbery. She flung her weapons across the area, hoping desperately that one would hit him. Her mark was always dead on, but usually she could SEE her target.

Suddenly, dodging her furious barrage, Karasu came flying forward. Tenten quickly pulled a series of invisible wires, recalling her fallen weaponry, causing them come sailing towards the marionette's back. But what did not seem to occur to her was that Karasu was made of wood, and weapons would only do so much to a doll. As a few kunai and other instruments thunked into Karasu's back, she was horrified to discover that it did not seem to affect him at all. His ambush on her continued and for just a moment she froze, unsure of what to do.

It was a moment too long as Karasu's face suddenly opened up, revealing another poisoned dagger. Before she could react, it had plunged the dagger into her right shoulder.

Stunned, Tenten coughed and sputtered as the puppet retracted its knife and smacked her in the side, hurling her once again toward the ground, where she landed with a painful thud on her stomach.

Shit, she thought, as her vision began to blur, this isn't what I was expecting to happen… She could barely see her blood pooling on the ground before her, dampening the grass and staining it a deep red. She could not feel the wound. The poison from the dagger had already numbed it, and she did not know how long until it spread through her body completely, destroying her from the inside.

This was never supposed to happen. It was not fair. She was not supposed to fight Kankuro, whom she had spent NO time preparing for. She was supposed to fight Temari. Now she was going to die, alone, between two countries where her comrades would never even find her. She truly was pathetic after all. She should have spent more time preparing, preparing for EVERYTHING- why had it not occurred to her that interference by Temari's brothers was possible? Why did she have to be so reckless, so obstinate? This was not even a mission, so she was not even going to get her name carved on the Hero's Stone in Konoha. Her death would be meaningless.

She could not move. She had taken too many blows to the head, and the poison was affecting her motor skills. Above her, she could barely hear the trees rustling. Perhaps Kankuro was re-wrapping Karasu in its bandages, recognizing his victory. Of course there was no hope in him helping her. There was not even any hope in him telling her family where she was. After all, a ninja from Sand just killed a ninja from Leaf with no apparent motive. That would just get him in trouble.

Tenten never wanted to kill Temari. Just mess her up a little. If Temari died, after all, she would not be able to respect and acknowledge Tenten's strength.

That was all she wanted, respect and acknowledgement. It was all she ever wanted from ANYONE.

As a dizzying blackness overcame her, she began to fight with consciousness. She felt like she was swimming within her own body, drowning, trying desperately to resurface, her attempts futile. Finally, she succumbed to that terrifying darkness, and fell into a deep sleep.

High above her, from the branches of the trees, a pair of squinted eyes observed his fallen enemy. She was lying pathetically on the forest floor in a pool of her own blood. He did not know if she was still conscience or not, but it did not matter. In a couple of hours, she would be dead anyways.

He turned his back on her to return home, when suddenly he froze. For some reason, he could not seem to compel his body to leave her behind.

"Stupid," he said aloud, trying to rationalize with himself, "She was a little idiot who got what was coming to her." As true as he believed those words were, he still found himself glancing back at her helpless little body. One of the buns she kept her brown hair in had come loose when she hit the floor, and now lay disheveled around her face in a sad, blood soaked little braided pigtail.

Did she TELL anyone she would be coming here tonight? Or would he return later to find her body where he had left it? People rarely came through this part, as it was an area between two countries and most citizens preferred to stick to their respective capitols.

A slight feeling of guilt began to creep through him. This miserable little creature soaking in blood before him had not come to fight him at all. She was simply trying to get past him to settle some score she had with his sister. And now, by his actions, she would never get that chance. He did not have to be so hard; he could have gone easy on her. He did not think, though, that she would be so inept. She had probably spent all her efforts in training for her fight with Temari that she lost sight of a broader range of abilities. She was such a lousy ninja. Even Shino had been a better fight than her, and he used friggan BUGS.

Kankuro straightened his composure as he reasoned with himself. Ninjas were not supposed to let themselves become overruled by emotions. Remember to be as cold and steely as a knife, because that is what you are. Your enemy is simply your enemy, another knife, and nothing more. Not a human with thoughts and emotions.

Not a pathetic little pigtailed kuniochi with a reckless desire for strength and an ambitious heart.

He turned his back on her again and began his trek home.


It was very late at night, and he was the only one in the training field. Night after night, while the rest of Konoha slept, he trained his body. He still could not use any Ninjutsu or Genjutsu, so Rock Lee trained hard to be the best at Taijutsu, not to be outmatched by anyone.

He counted each kick as he demolished a wooden training pole. He was on 1,347 now, and when he reached 2,000, he would switch and kick with his left leg. His knuckles were already bloodied from the 2,000 hits they had each received. After this, 2,000 squats and he would call it a night. After all, a tired ninja was useless on missions.

Rock Lee stopped suddenly when he heard a rustling from the surrounding trees. Was someone else awake at this hour? Curiously, he looked around, stepping cautiously towards the trees.

"Oi," Rock Lee was startled by the sound of a voice from the trees. He jumped slightly, and faced the direction of the sound.

"Who's there?" He shouted. Because it was so dark, he could not see them through the trees, and he did not recognize their low, drawling voice.

"This yours?" The voice asked, and a large object was suddenly dropped from the branches. Lee outstretched his arms in time to catch the unconscious body of his teammate, Tenten. He gasped at the sight of her. A large gash had been poorly bandaged on her shoulder, and her shirt was stained with blood. One of her pigtails was hanging down limply, matted with the same dried substance from some bruises on her head. Lee looked up at the trees in outraged horror.

"What did you do to her!" The boy demanded furiously, holding Tenten protectively.

"Ask her yourself," the mysterious voice replied in a bemused fashion, "When she's conscience, that is. By the way, you may want to get that thing to a hospital. She absorbed quite a bit of poison."

Lee's face twisted with shock. He began to fill with rage. He would have jumped up there and beaten them senseless if he had not been left with this sudden responsibility. He did not know what happened, but he was sure Tenten would be able to tell him. He scowled up at the trees.

"I won't forget this!" Lee swore, and then took off at his fastest speed to the Konoha hospital.

"Do tell," the voice mused, watching the boy go through feline eyes, before turning to leave him self, putting the whole mess behind him.