Chapter 21 Self Before Service

"Ok Naruto, what gives?"

Temari considered herself to be a no-nonsense type of person. If there was something wrong within her influence, she wanted to know about it and wanted it fixed as soon as possible. Because of this, she was not too fond of being left out of a situation, whether or not she could do something about it. Even her own brother kept her in the know when it came to business within the closed doors of the Kazekage's office. So you could imagine just how irked she was when her brother suddenly, and without warning or reason, told her that they were going to the Wind-Fire border. She tried to pry whatever reason she could out of her brother during their trip to the border, but her now particularly talkative, and frustratingly sarcastic, younger brother was as tightlipped as ever. Her anger was building to a boiling point when they had come across a sight that caused her anger to fade immediately.

While she did not immediately recognize the female, it did not take long to figure out who the man in the green jumpsuit was. Of even greater concern to her, however, were the ninjas that were attacking them. However that concern was handled quite easily, and she was kneeling down behind Lee, applying a quick bandage wrap on his back, something to keep his wounds closed up until they could give him proper medical attention. Once that was done, and Gaara was finished dispatching the other ninjas, she turned her attention to the female member of the group, and it didn't take long to realize a few thing things.

The first was that this was their expected guest from a few days ago, something that Gaara had actually bothered to talk about. She was well aware of the accord the Daimyo's of Wind and Fire had come to, and had been expecting to escort the woman to the Wind country capital. Gaara had been in contact with the Hokage once the expected time had come and needless to say, everyone was just a bit worried once it was found out that she had been captured. The fact that she was here now meant three things. One, a rescue mission had been launched. Two, the rescue mission had been a success. Three, Konoha had decided to continue with the planned transport of the girl to Wind Country. The fact that Gaara had apparently not been informed about any of this before last night, and that she had not been informed about this at all, meant that only one ninja could have been involved.

Almost on cue, the army of Naruto made their presence known, yelling for the green clad ninja in front of her. A quick conversation later and she was heading back with the hoard of blonde ninjas to deal with Murota Shinn. After a brief description from one of the clones of Shinn and his abilities, she had broached an idea to the boy. "First thing we have to do is clear out his shield. From what you told me, it is basically just a poison cloud that he is controlling with his chakra. If you can disrupt the chakra controlling the poison, then he's a dead man. Got any wind attacks?" In answer to her question, the clone smiled, and dispelled.

Shortly after that another clone came up to him. "Ok, boss has an idea. You were right, blowing away his shield was easy, but he reacts too fast for either of us to get in a finishing blow. If you can get him into the air, we can take it from there." Temari nodded her head and sped up, catching sight of the three. She made eye contact with the two Konoha ninjas and set up, while Shinn was slowly backing up towards her, completely unaware of her presence. By the time he was made aware of her presence, it was too late. A chakra infused twister, a jumping uppercut, and a simply ridiculous number of senbon needles later and it was over. Minutes later she was on her way back to Suna with Naruto and Tenten.

Now that they had a bit of down time, Temari could do a little bit of thinking, and a thought came up that honestly took her by surprise. She was brought back to the scene that had spurred this on, Lee protecting the Fire princess. She had noticed, albeit a bit subconsciously, how the girl was acting around him. She had put it off as just the girl showing concern for her protector at the time, but some of the glances from both sides seemed to last a little longer than she though necessary. She wanted answers now, and fortunately she had the perfect target for her inquiry.

Naruto turned to the one sand sibling he had spent probably the least amount of time getting to know. Gaara was an obvious one considering their similar conditions, and he and Kankuro had developed a sort of friendship after the defeat of Akatsuki. He had overseen a couple of Gaara's training sessions with Naruto and they managed to find time afterwards to talk, always ending their conversations the same way. Kankuro would say his goodbyes and Naruto would say, "I still don't like you." Just like their meeting during the prelims.

Temari, however, had not really found the time to sit down and speak with Naruto. Well, at least not when there wasn't some sort of life threatening situation at hand. Most of what she knew about him was what she had heard about him from Gaara and Shikamaru. Naruto was in a similar boat, most of what he knew about her coming from her brothers and boy friend. He had wanted a chance to talk with her but could never really find a time when they were both free. Well, they had some now, so it was better than nothing. "What do you mean 'what gives'?"

"I mean this whole situation. Up until last night, the only thing I knew about this was that the princess had been captured. No one came to Gaara and told him that you were launching a rescue mission for her, and apparently, not even Gaara knew that the mission was successful or that you were on your way here with her until last night. So what gives?"

"Hey, don't look at me for not keeping you guys informed. Baa-chan can take the blame for this one. To be honest I am just as surprised as you are that Gaara didn't even know about my little operation. He almost tore my clone to pieces for, as he put it, 'once again stealing his chance at killing off ninjas'." Naruto dropped back to move next to Temari, while Tenten took point.

"Wait, what are you talking about? When did you speak with Gaara?" Temari was understandably confused about this.

"Last night. I sent a clone to Suna to talk to Gaara. I was just going to get his advice about a situation that has come up but I ended up giving him all of the details of my little mission as well."

Temari cursed to herself, swearing to find some way to make Gaara pay for this. Then she returned to the question she wanted to ask. "Does your little issue have anything to do with what I just saw between Lee and the girl?"

At this, Tenten's head snapped around to look behind her, her attention now on Naruto. "You told Gaara about this? Why?"

Temari interjected herself into this conversation before these two started arguing. "So there is something between them?"

Naruto sighed. 'Why me?' "When we saved Setsuna, she and Lee hit it off immediately. The night before we left Konoha to bring her here, Tenten told me that Lee admitted to having feelings for her, even though he knew he didn't have any right to since she was suppose to be married. The problem came up, however, when Tenten found out that Setsuna was eavesdropping on them. Not only did she know Lee had feelings for her, but she admitted to having feelings for Lee. I don't think I need to explain just how much of a shit storm this could end up being. Unfortunately, due to the time constraints I couldn't bring this up with Baa-chan, so I did the next best thing. I sent a clone to Gaara, to see if there was a chance that he could think of something."

Tenten softened just a bit at that. "I guess I can't argue with that. Just, why didn't you tell me anything? I am team leader right now after all."

"I didn't want to bring anything up until Gaara did. I still don't know if we can do anything, and the last thing I wanted to do was to give false hope. Odds are we could be knocked back to where we started."

Temari nodded her head and started thinking again. "So, Lee goes all love sick on the Daimyo's daughter of all people, and she likes him back even though she knows she has to marry a man she hasn't met before in order to secure a formal alliance between our countries. Ugh, why can't you Konoha ninjas make things easy for us?"

Naruto couldn't help but laugh at this. "What can I say? We have a certain charm to whatever we do. So you got any ideas for this?"

A sigh gave him the general idea of what her answer would be. "Even if I did, not like I can do much about it. This is going to have to be between Gaara and our Daimyo."

Tenten sighed and turned to face Naruto again. "Looks like we are at the end of our rope. Whatever happens next, it's out of our hands."

Naruto nodded solemnly, but the look in his eyes mirrored that of Tenten. They may have understood, but it didn't mean they had to like it.


As they approached the gates of Konoha, the Naruto clones decided to think about their situation. Here they were, about to enter the gates of their village, with the mangled hole-ridden body of a missing nin. Granted, the ninjas of the village probably wouldn't mind. It wouldn't be the first time most of them had seen anything like this. The civilians, however, were a different issue altogether. They figured that it would probably be best if they didn't traumatize the people of his village. So, after checking in with the gate guard they shunshined over to the village hospital and quickly made his way down to the morgue, asking a receptionist to call the Hokage.

Fifteen minutes later, the door opened and Tsunade walked in, her eyes immediately settling on the remains of what could have been a person that was laid out on the table. "How in the hell did you manage this?"

"This is Tenten's handy work." The less bloody Naruto stepped forward to address the Hokage. "Shinn was waiting for us a little bit before the border, so Tenten and I stayed back to fight while Lee took Setsuna the rest of the way. Unfortunately, he was prepared for that as well. Had a lot of other ninjas waiting at the border. Fortunately, Gaara and Temari showed up. Bottom line, ninjas are dead, Setsuna is safe, and Shinn is that." He nodded his head towards the lump of flesh that used to be Murota Shinn once he was finished.

The Hokage nodded her head and turned to Naruto. "God job. Once the others get back I'll make sure to reward them appropriately. You did some excellent work out there Naruto. You deserve a little something as well."

Naruto was almost ready to jump with glee. Then he caught sight of the smile that dominated the face of the Hokage. Suddenly, there was a very deep chill in the air.

"NA-RU-TO!" From out of the shadows a very visibly pissed off Yamanaka Ino came forth. Naruto had been sure that he had seen her at her absolute angriest, and when she was like that she almost looked as if she could burst into flames at a moment's notice. This, however, was nothing like that. If anything, the absolute ice cold stare she was giving him was even worse than anything else he could have imagined from the woman.

"I-I-I-I-I-Ino." Yep, fiery Ino did not make him stutter like that. "Wait, l-l-l-l-let me exp-p-p-plain."

"Save it!" Her voice was low and threatening, and he did not like that one bit.

"Hold on, Ino."

"Too late." She lunged forward and grabbed him by the throat, knocking him on his back and straddling his chest. "I'll bet you thought you were being really funny, didn't you? Sending me and Kiba off with that clone without telling us. Kiba was still angry at you because of the Sound Army thing, now he wants to kill you. But we both know that would be too easy so now, we are just gonna make you wish that we did. So, you have anything to say for yourself before I send you upstairs?"

Naruto, barely able to breathe, managed to turn his head towards her and choke out, "Yeah just one thing." And then he did something that took Ino by surprise slightly. He smiled. Weakly due to the lack of oxygen, but he smiled. "See ya when I get back." And with that the clone dispelled, leaving Ino clutching at nothing but air.

Tsunade stared at the scene for just a moment, not at all believing what she just saw. Then she dropped her head into one of her hands, shook her head and sighed. "You idiot."

Ino had been frozen ever since the clone dispelled. She had him right in her hands. He was right here. But once again he had left her with nothing more than a dispelled clone, and this time she had no one to take her anger out on. Anger which was now slowly rising even higher than before. Clutching her hands into fists she screamed to the ceiling. "NAAAAAAAARUUUUUUUUUTOOOOOOOO OOOOOOO!"


"Seriously Naruto, are you some kind of masochist, or are you doing this just to see how mad you can get her before she well and truly snaps?"

Tenten's question barely registered to the blonde haired ninja, as he was currently trying his absolute hardest to keep walking while maintaining his laughter. He had just received the memories of his clone and relayed the results to his partners, after he made sure that there weren't really any hands around his neck.

While Tenten just sighed, already used to this, Temari was staring at the boy with a look that was equal parts amused, afraid, and annoyed, as if both corners of her mouth were trying to decide just how they were supposed to react to this man. While she had to admit that the whole prank aspect was starting to get a little old, she could not deny that a part of her was somewhat entertained by his antics. And another, slightly rebellious part of her, was actually willing to encourage this particular side of Naruto. 'Why can't Shika be just a fraction as spontaneous as Naruto? Life would be so much more fun if he was.'

Once he had somewhat calmed down again he turned to Tenten. "Oh come on. You really think I am going to let a little something like fear of death stop me from doing things like this? It was the perfect set up, and you should have seen the look on her face. Priceless."

Tenten just sighed. "You say that now, but eventually you will have to go back."

"Yeah, but by that time she won't be as mad and I'll get off easy. Besides, I was planning on stopping by the flower shop here and picking her up some of those roses I got her. As powerful as she is, everyone has a weakness, and those roses are hers."

"Wait, those were for Ino? So you two really got together then?" Temari had known about Naruto and Ino's relationship since their visit to Suna a while back when they were hunting Ganju, but at the time they weren't actually together, so this was news to her.

"Yeah. Well we finally got together a bit after that. How did you know about the roses?" Naruto turned to Temari, his breath finally even once again.

"Gaara came up to me all of the sudden and asked me about a friend of mine that runs our flower shop. Said he needed the most exotic flower she could find. Once I showed them to him he took them and left. Never found out what he did with them until now." Now she was looking at Naruto in a new light. As big of a prankster as he was, it seemed he could be quite the romantic when he wanted to. Once again she found herself wishing that her own boyfriend could be just a bit more like Naruto. Mentally she shook her head. Maybe if they had meet a little earlier, before either of them had been taken, she wouldn't mind having thoughts about him, but it was too late now.

Naruto nodded, but before his next thought could even begin its trip to his mouth, a gust of sand marked the arrival of the Kazekage. "Naruto, took you long enough."

"Yeah, yeah. Say, how's Lee doing?" Naruto immediately got back to business, remembering why they were here in the first place

"He is fine. He is recovering right now." Gaara paused for a moment before continuing. "Lady Setsuna has not left his side for a minute." The way he brought it up caused a nerve in all of the gathered ninjas to tighten up just a bit.

"Yeah, I figured." Naruto sighed and looked at the ground for a moment. "Don't suppose you were able to come up with anything were you?"

Gaara stared at him for a moment, and to anyone else it would have meant nothing. But Naruto knew better. "Temari knows. I told her about it on the way here."

Nodding his head Gaara continued. "The Daimyo's son will be here tomorrow. I will speak to him then and figure out what would be the best course of action. For now though, try to cast it out of your mind. We have rooms for you and your friend ready, so go ahead and get some rest." Seeing as how it was nearly nightfall that seemed like a decent idea. "Temari, you come with me. Now that you know, I may need your assistance with this matter." Nodding her head Temari started to follow after the Kazekage, leaving Tenten and Naruto with a wave.

Tenten and Naruto stood there for a moment. Tenten was in a bit of turmoil inside, not liking the fact that this was now completely out of her hands, and yet knowing that there was nothing more that she could do about it.

Naruto, not so much. "So, Tenten, you hungry? Suna has a very good Ramen place." After a few seconds of silence he turned to look at his partner to see what was wrong, and caught sight of the look that she was giving him. In response he shrugged and explained, "What? Gaara said to let him handle it, so he will handle it. No point in worrying ourselves about this anymore, so let's eat."

"I swear, Naruto, you are just impossible sometimes." Even though her head was shaking from side to side, her legs were already moving the rest of her body to follow him. 'Well, I am pretty hungry.'

-Next Day-

Gaara never got bothered by much. His emotions as of late had managed to stay within a very small scope. He was either wholly impassive, his normal look, or his now trademark amused smirk. The truly frustrating part about this was that no one really knew what was going on behind those two faces of his. Was he contemplating something, was he listening, was he considering how his next opponent would look impaled on a pike made of sand? There was no way of truly knowing with Gaara.

Except when he was talking with his country's royalty.

Whenever he was speaking with his Daimyo he always made the attempt to look as if he was actually listening to the man, and that same truly amazing show of respect extended to his immediate family. Though, he had to seriously work at it when talking to the man's wife. She was a sweet woman, but she could just talk forever and not say a single relevant word.

Thankfully, their son was much easier to talk to. He was respectful without managing to seem like a pushover, and he could get quite passionate when he talked about certain subjects. When he had first heard about the impending marriage, he was just a bit skeptical about it, considering that a. it was something that was happening because of circumstances outside of his control, and b. he didn't really know the woman he was supposed to marry. His opinions changed a bit when he started to correspond with Setsuna. Now it didn't seem like a complete disregard for his own feelings but still…..

Gaara smiled as he thought about this. 'Let's see if we can use this to our advantage. See if we can get everyone to go home happy.'

His impassive face returned upon his brother reaching his visual range, followed closely by a young man that Gaara recognized as the Daimyo's son, Takenaka Kanda. He was a rather tall man, standing about half a head taller than Kankuro. His features were relatively normal, allowing him to switch between stern and kind in about the amount of time it would take Gaara to raise the corner of his mouth to assume his smirk. He was dressed in a semi casual sleeveless robe with a pair of pants. He was currently darting his chocolate brown eyes back and forth between the different sights of the village. Gaara understood, considering that this was the first time inside of a ninja village. Once he made it up to the Kazekage, Gaara nodded his head towards the man, which for him was the equivalent to a bow. "Kanda-sama, a pleasure to have you here." He turned his head towards Kankuro, who nodded and disappeared.

Kanda, already used to this, did not even blink at the sudden disappearance of his escort. "Kazekage-san, good to see you too." He walked up beside Gaara and they both started towards the Kazekage's tower. "Your brother couldn't give me and details, possibly because you didn't have anything new to report, but is it safe to assume that Setsuna has arrived safely?"

"It is. She is out and about with two of the Konoha ninjas that escorted her here. If you would like, we could see if we can find them." Gaara spoke while keeping his eyes on the man, not at all unsure of his heading as they walked.

"No, it is fine. I can always speak with her when she returns. I have nothing but time on my hands." He crossed his arms behind his back while he walked, looking around at the people of the village. "It is relieving to know that she is unharmed. My father was driving his staff nuts with how worried he was about this whole situation."

"I see." Gaara had noticed how he had failed to mention his own state of worry over the girl, and decided to investigate just a bit. "And what about yourself? Were you not at all concerned for the safety of this woman?"

Kanda sighed just a bit before turning back to Gaara. "Well, of course. I would never wish any harm upon her. But seeing as how there wasn't really much else I could do, I decided to not let it bother me as much as him. Everything was going to work out, and it did."

"… I see. That is a surprising revelation, coming from you. I would have expected you to be even more concerned than your father was."

Kanda sighed again, longer and louder than his last one. "Truth be told, he wants this to work out a lot more than I do. With you, you may not have noticed it, but when it comes to those of equal standing as his own, my father can be a bit of a push over. When he got back from meeting with the Daimyo of Fire, he claimed that they had reached a consensus with the whole marriage deal. Truth be told, this was more or less about what the Fire Daimyo wanted than them reaching a compromise."

Gaara's nonexistent eyebrows shot up at this. "He let the Daimyo bully him into arranging the marriage?"

The loud bark of laughter caught the attention of everyone in earshot, and let the Kazekage know that his guess had been off. "No, not really. It was a bit more complicated than that. My father was ok with the alliance no matter what, conditions or no. The Fire Daimyo, however, won my father over with sympathy rather than brute force. Because of the death of his wife, and his unwillingness to marry again, He was not exactly willing to allow his little girl to take his position without a strong partner. So he requested that we formalize the alliance with a marriage between me and Setsuna. My father, mindful of my own feelings about such a matter, was immediately won over by the story, so here we are."

Gaara was intrigued, but wanted to confirm his suspicions. "So if the Fire Daimyo had not brought up the marriage, then there is a chance that the alliance would have gone through?" Plus, this was news to him.

"Mhmm. We are on very good terms with Fire, and the alliance was already in the works. This is more or less just a formality."

Gaara let out a small smirk at that. This could work out after all. "Kanda-sama, what do you say we take a trip over to the training grounds? You spoke about wanting to see a ninja in action, and I believe my sister will be starting her own routine fairly soon."

Kanda perked up at that. "Really? That would be great. It's been a while since I last saw Temari-san. Hope we get a chance to talk afterwards"

Gaara nodded his head, knowing full well that he meant nothing explicit about his sister. He had heard about his crush on her, and how Temari had put him down after it came out. Kanda was not the type to chase after the unattainable so he was comfortable with leaving him with her.

With that he led Kanda to the training grounds, hoping that Temari would already have her set of pieces in place.

-Training Grounds-

Lee, like most ninjas, did not believe in convalescence. At least not when the injury was relatively minor.

So it should come as no surprise that the day after he had been exhausted trying to defend Setsuna, which led to a kunai being lodged into his back, he was already up and about, in the Suna training area, making sure he had not lost a step since yesterday.

He had to admit, looking back on his performance yesterday, he couldn't help but be impressed with himself. He wasn't sure about numbers; after all, he was a bit more preoccupied with ensuring none of them reached his charge. But it still made him feel good that he had managed to hold them off as long as he did. Still, he had ultimately failed in his assigned task, as he could not keep her safe from them without the help of Gaara and Temari.

In truth, this hurt twice as bad because of his own personal training style to push himself harder in failure, and because of his own personal feelings for the girl. He had promised himself that he would keep her safe no matter what, and unfortunately he had failed. Granted everything turned out alright in the end, but still, what more could he have done? He had already determined that opening the gates was out, due to the toll it would have taken on his body, but was there anything he could have done? However, instead of trying to find an answer in bed, he came out and did the one thing he felt most comfortable doing while he was thinking; training.

And unfortunately, he came to a simple conclusion. He had done everything he could, it just wasn't enough. This revelation had the expected effect on Lee. He would just have to train himself harder. No matter what, he would ensure that if the time ever came up again-

Unfortunately, he had to cut himself off before he went any farther. All of this was irrelevant. He was never going to see the girl again once he was done here. They had accomplished their assigned mission to get her to Suna, and now she was going to be married off to the Wind Daimyo's son. Maybe he would see her again for the ceremony, but any personal interaction between the two was effectively over once he left Suna. The more he thought on this, the angrier he got, and the harder he trained. It was getting to the point where he was quickly running out of training dummies to punch and kick.

"You know, you could be just a bit more considerate. Other ninjas would like to use this place to train as well." The voice managed to pull him out of his semi rage induced training rampage, and he turned to see Temari standing off to the side, leaning against her fan. "Sheesh, I'd sure hate to be whatever the hell it was you thought they were."

Lee sighed and raised a hand to wipe the sweat from his face. Because the training area was enclosed, he had not seen her coming. He had been too wrapped up in his thoughts to notice her standing there for however long she had been. Hell, he would have probably not noticed a child running up to him in his state of mind. "Sorry, didn't mean to wreck the place. I'll leave." He started to head for the exit, but was stopped when Temari placed a hand on his shoulder.

"I didn't say I wanted you to leave. Instead, why don't you focus some of that energy on someone who can fight back?" At his look, she shrugged. "It's been a while since I've had the chance to spar against someone from Konoha. Well, someone who isn't Shikamaru, and I figured I might as well catch you while you are still here. And don't give me anything about just getting out of the hospital. The way you were moving, you don't give a damn about how long you have been out."

Lee attempted to speak up, but stopped and realized that he didn't have a reason not to accept. In fact, she had a point. Maybe this would help him work out some of his frustrations. Nodding his head he set himself across from her and settled into a fighting stance, with her following suit.

The fight between the two, and with the way they were going at each other it was clear that this was already beyond a simple spar, was pretty evenly match, which surprised Temari. Then she considered how long he may have already been out her, along with the fact that maybe he was still compensating for the kunai injury, and it made a little bit of sense.

A few minutes into the fight, seemingly out of nowhere, she decided to start talking. "So what's on your mind?"

"Nothing." He kept it short, not wanting this to get any farther than it already had.

He should have known that he couldn't even force himself to be that lucky. "Ah I see. So it has something to do with Setsuna huh?"

Her statement caused him to miss his next kick and he was rewarded with a sweep of his legs out from under him by her fan. He landed on his hands and rolled away from her, getting back to his feet. "Looks like I was right on the button."

Lee charged at her and unleashed a devastating round house kick, but was easily blocked by Temari's closed fan. "How do you know about that?"

"Naruto told me about it. Of course, I had noticed something was weird beforehand but Naruto confirmed it for me." She pushed his leg back with her fan and used the momentum to swing around and bring her fan around, opening it in mid swing and blowing him backwards.

"Then you know why I have spent a good hour or so completely wrecking your training grounds." He charged back in and this time decided to go low. His sweep was blocked but instead of allowing her time to counter attack, he came back around, kicking at her from all angles.

Even though she was having quite the difficult time keeping up with his strikes, she was still keeping up, and she was still capable of speaking to him during his onslaught. "Actually no I don't. See, I still can't tell just why this is bothering you so much. She's getting married soon, so as a ninja, you should be able to just say goodbye and walk away. What makes her so special? And if you even think about commenting on the fact that she is royalty then you may as well just give it up now."

"It's none of your business. If you can't figure it out then leave it alone." Lee tried a simple disarm tactic. If he could get the fan away from her then this fight was over. Unfortunately, he quickly found that he would have had an easier time taking a newborn away from the mother.

"It has something to do with Setsuna, which means it could possibly affect the alliance. I want to know."

"It won't affect the alliance." Lee jumped into the air and tried an axe kick, but was blocked easily.

Temari took this as a good sign. It meant that her words were starting to affect him if he was going for moves as easy to block as that one. "Are you sure? The way you were acting around her, I would imagine that there was something more."

"Temari, drop it." Now she knew she was on to something. It was the first time he had addressed her without the honorific.

"There is something more, isn't there."

"I don't want to talk about it"

"Why not?"

"Because it can't happen!" With that he let loose a vicious straight kick, which while it was blocked by her fan, caused her to skid back on her feet quite a distance. She recovered just in time to block his next attack.

Lee's attacks were starting to grow fiercer, as his strikes fed off of his emotions. "Do you know what it is like to be me? Yes I have more friends than I know what to do with, but what about love?" The question caught Temari off guard a bit, and one of his strikes went through. She recovered quickly though and they were back at it, with Lee continuing his narrative. "I recognize that my quirks may keep me from meeting someone outside of our little circle of friend that would willingly accept me for who I am, but sometimes it gets hard seeing everyone else find love, while I am still stuck on my own." He was on a roll now and Temari was now retreating backwards just to keep up with his strikes.

"With Setsuna, though, she accepted me almost immediately. She is kind, and smart, and beautiful, and she accepted who I am almost immediately. I can't just forget about that. How many times in my life am I going to meet anyone who doesn't already know me that would be willing to even entertain the idea of spending time with me? I know she is supposed to marry this Kanda guy, but….."

Temari, hearing every word, decided to focus on the fight for a moment now. Jumping up and over his head, she planted the end of her fan behind him and used her momentum to perform a crescent kick, which Lee barely managed to dodge. "So it is true. You really do want to be with this woman."

"Yes, happy now? You got it out of me." Recovering his balance from his dodge, he was back on the attack, Launching a kick that was parried, but following up with a back fist that met Temari's raised arm, causing her to wince a bit.

"But even you have to admit that with your current profession, the two of you would not be able to last very long. You have to stay in the village for missions, while she is required to stay in the capital so she can run her country. Long distance relationships, with very little time spent together, combined with the fact that you could die at a moment's notice, don't exactly lead to either of you being happy for long."

"Then I would resign as a ninja!" He said it so fast that she didn't even think that she had heard him right. This allowed Lee's next kick to land, knocking her back. Getting to her feet, she stared at the boy for a moment.

"You have spent your entire career trying to convince people that a man without the ability to freely manipulate chakra can be a great ninja. Now you would be willing to give all of that progress up just to be with her?"

"Without a second thought." Lee stood tall before her, seemingly not willing to relent on his position.

Deciding to change her approach a bit she asked, "You are willing to risk quite a lot for this woman, but do you even know if she feels the same way? I mean, think for a moment. What would you do if she said no?"

Lee stopped and though for a moment. It hadn't even crossed his mind that there was a possibility he could be willing to do all of this for nothing. "… I don't know."

Inwardly, Temari was smiling wide. 'Perfect.' "I see." She sheathed her fan and turned away. "Well, I'm beat. I'm gonna go and get something to eat. Stay if you want but try not to damage the area any more than you already have. Like I said, other people will want to use it after you."

Lee nodded his head, but remained still even as Temari left. He had been given quite a bit to think about, specifically what would he do if Setsuna rejected him? She was royalty after all. What chance did he, a mere ninja, have with her? Yes they had so much fun that day in Konoha, but what about after that? What could he offer her outside of… what he was?

Even as Lee stood in the middle of the training ground, another person stood hidden, yet with a front row seat to the action, and the conversation. A deep sigh passed his lips before he walked off, heading for the Kazekage tower. 'It would seem that I need to have a talk with my fiancé when she gets back.'


Authors Notes

Finally! This has been eating away at my brain like a goddamn Botfly. So glad to finally have it out

Yes I know my chapter count is out of whack, trying to fix that now.

Nothing too big to announce just yet so stay tuned. I hope to have the next chapter soon so until then…..

R&R&have a nice day