Well, for those of you who know me, you know that I have a certain little obsession for a certain little crack pairing...and this happens to be the one. XD I adore KankuroIno, and I have decided that the pairing must have a following, thus, my contribution to the cause hath emerged. Hehehe.

Hope y'all enjoy!


A Certain Kind of Warmth

Kankuro is always warm.

Of course, she's had to perform numerous tests to prove her theory correct--all conducted without him being any the wiser--but she is almost one-hundred percent sure that his body exudes a certain kind of warmth that has nothing to do with either the weather or the time of day.

It doesn't have to do with anything, really. It's just him, and Ino knows this because she's touched him everywhere, at every time, in every season.

And he is always warm.

Sometimes it infuriates her, since she is the type that becomes cold easily ("Dad's fault, the jerk"), and Ino hates being cold.

But she hates Kankuro even more because he's never cold.

"It's not fair," she sniffed one winter afternoon when they were both sprawled on the couch in front of the fireplace at Ino's apartment. "Feel my hands. They're icicles."

Kankuro had snickered and grabbed them, his eyebrows shooting up in surprise. "Shit. You weren't lying, Ace."

"No kidding, jackass." She glared at him while he rubbed her fingers, even if it did feel nice. "It's just not fair," she repeated. "Why am I the only one who's freezing here?"

"You're a wuss, that's why," he said, grinning. "You need me, baby."

Ino opened and closed her mouth, seriously considering ripping her hand away and smacking him, but then she'd be cold again, and Ino would rather swallow her pride than be cold.

"Moron," she said instead. "Don't give me that "baby" crap."

Focused on his task, he merely laughed.

Ino smiles, her cheek against his bare chest. It rises and falls with each breath he takes, and she hears the steady beat of his heart as he sleeps.

I wore him out, she thinks, her smile growing wider. Right after he got home from his mission, too, poor guy.

He can handle a little extra exertion, though, especially on his birthday. She did most of the work, besides, so she harbors no guilt. In fact, she considers it payback for all that surplus warmth of his--she's the one who would benefit the most from it, not him.

However, he does share, she cannot deny that. As frequently as possible, too.

"C'mere," he'd say to her while she made breakfast in the morning, cocooned in her purple fleece bathrobe. "The heat's cranked to high, the stove's on, and your teeth are chattering." Then he'd shake his head, yank her into his arms, and murmur, "For chrissakes, Ino," before kissing her, long and deep, so that by the time he let her go, her cheeks would be flushed, the robe sweltering.

His mouth is as warm as the rest of him. Warmer, perhaps.

But still, it's always warm, and he enjoys using it.

Ino does not object, of course. She reaps the rewards of his enthusiasm, and a bit of selfishness is in her nature, after all (like when she pouts if he doesn't massage her feet, or when he takes the clothes out of the dryer as soon as they're done instead of letting her do it, because she loves burying her nose in hot fabric, or when he tries to convince her that "Karasu's hair is fine the way it is, so put those damned scissors away, wouldja?").

Lying there on top of him, listening to his heart, she wonders why he's so willing to give her the warmth that is as much a part of him as his chakra ("Funny...your favorite color's violet, and my chakra's violet. Ever think about that, Ace? Fate, I'm tellin' you"). In the three years they've been together, she hasn't figured it out.

She doesn't understand why, out of all the boys she might have chosen, she couldn't settle for anyone but him ("I know he's stocky and wears makeup and has no tact, but...oh...God, Sakura, I can't explain this..."), why, out of all the girls he might have chosen, he couldn't settle for anyone but her.

Though neither of them conceptualize their relationship in terms of settling. Ino is a woman who knows what she wants, and she's not very good at compromising. Her standards may be pretty damn high ("No skinny guys for me. Gotta be able to hold on to 'em," or "It's the hands. Man hands. Beefy ones," or "Brains are a must. Sense of humor. Attitude."), but she likes them that way. Kankuro is the same, or close to it. Before he got involved with her, he rarely dated because nobody interested him. They were all "too bland, too dumb, or too whiny."

She recalls a conversation they had early on, when the sight of each other made them silly and hormonal and horny--Ino still gets a little wobbly in the knees whenever he wanders around the apartment in nothing but boxers, unkempt hair mussed about his face, though she refuses to tell him that. He'll lord it over her like a sheikh if she does.

"It should be instant," he said. "The connection, I mean. The spark, or whatever the hell you wanna call it."

Ino, staring across the dinner table at him, had flipped her hair behind her shoulder. "Mm. Chemistry," she said in a childish tone, and he wrinkled his nose.

"I was trying to avoid cliché."

Grinning, she reached out and patted his hand, which rested by his plate. "And I appreciate the effort."

"Stop," he said, voice pained. "You make me feel like a lily-livered cub scout."

Ino blinked. The fact that he used a term such as "lily-livered" filled her with an affection so intense she jumped out of her chair, raced around the table, and flung her arms about his neck, noting gleefully that he flushed a ripe shade of red. "You are so adorable," she gushed.

"Shut up," he grumbled. "And quit acting girly."

"I'm not acting girly!"

"You are too. You're a complete girly girl."

Ino pulled back and gave him an arch look. "You want a girly girl? This is a girly girl." And she began raining kisses on him--on his cheeks, on the patches of skin just beneath his ears, on his mouth. Drinking his warmth in.

Kankuro made a show of resisting, but his act was halfhearted at best, and eventually he gave up on it altogether, allowing her to sit in his lap.

"See? Instant sparks," he said once the excitement tapered down. "That does it. A packaged deal, right here."

"Oh?"

He nodded. "Yep. Done."

Ino tilted her head to the side. "What is?"

"Us. This. You and me." He leaned forward, rested his forehead against hers. "That chemistry? Never experienced it with anyone else."

And that was it. That was all the explanation he needed. The spark--(flame, fire, heat, warmth)--answered the question, "Why?" and answered it in such a way that any other questions were obsolete--at least, to him.

But is Ino really worth it? Really, truly worth it?

Because…he is. His warmth alone makes him worth it. The warmth that's in everything he does, everything he says, everything he believes.

A certain kind of warmth. A Kankuro kind of warmth, always there.

Like sparks. Like flint and tinder, clashing, striking, striving.

Needing…needing…needing…

And Ino realizes, cheek against his chest, rising...falling...that she isn't cold, even though she's naked, even though she's exposed, sweaty sheets strewn across the floor.

There is nothing between her and Kankuro except skin, but that is enough.

She can save her questions for another hour, another day, another lifetime.

"Happy birthday, Kano," she whispers, and his loose grip on her tightens, though he remains silent. "I love you."

She closes her eyes, knowing that his warmth will be there when she wakes.