"It's easy to forget what Kankuro is capable of. He puts your mind at ease- he's your friend, he'll drink with you, laugh with you. He'll share your triumphs and your sorrows. He doesn't seem as dangerous as he really is. He's trained that way."

The crimson wrappings shoot out of the shadows, slithering around the ninja's throat before he can cry a warning, snapping his neck before he can take another breath. The soft thump of his body hitting the ground is muffled as he jerks, dead eyes lolling in his head. He walks, as though controlled by unseen strings, into the darkness from whence his death had come.

"But it's all fake, you understand, all of it. Even I can't say that I know the real Kankuro. Neither can Gaara or Temari, or Chiyo, or anyone, save perhaps the other puppeteers. He is whatever you want him to be. It makes him unpredictable- and our most efficient killer."

One guard turns around to be faced with a wooden expression from nightmares, and the needle enters him just above his eyelid, pumping poison straight into his brain. The marionette catches him as he falls, and pulls him into the dark.

"Gaara and Temari..they are skilled, yes, but they lack natural stealth. They had to learn it. Their fights level mountains, definitely not subtle. Kankuro? Kankuro never had to learn. He was born with it. I swear, sometimes during training he'd lean against a wall and just..disappear. He's surprised Gaara before. It's what caused most of the death threats, in those early days. Of course the Kazekage will tell you differently, but I've seen it."

They die one by one, and each without a sound, and the firelight flickers over the wooden screens, casting shadows on the wall as the lawyer stares into the dark, chewing on a fingernail, wondering why no one has reported in, why there aren't any more footsteps outside his doorway...

He feels something wrap around his neck, attempts to choke, to scream, to draw back the guards who have already passed beyond the veil; he claws at his skin, falls, knocking a lamp over, starting the bamboo mats on fire; his body convulses and he flips, and he sees in the bodiless darkness a face, painted a stark white, swirled with purple, and in his dimming mind he recognizes the design as that of a kabuki performer; and dead green eyes watch him as he spasms once more, and is still.

"He scares me, sometimes, I'm not ashamed to admit it. But it's not the same as with Gaara. There's something behind those eyes...something sinister. Something cold. There's a darkness in him. It's like looking at Yondaime all over again. And it's not a demon's darkness- it's all human. And that's what makes it terrifying. At least Gaara had an excuse."

The compound, made of mahogany and paper and expensive silk, lights up like dry tinder, and the local fire brigade is quick to act; only later will they find the charred remains of the lawyer and his expensive bodyguards. No one will notice the man in black walking away from the flames, three scrolls affixed to his back, crimson fighter's wrappings around his knuckles, and a wide brimmed straw hat to hide his painted face. They won't see him smile.

If they did, they would have nightmares.

"Someday he's going to snap. The way Yondaime treated him, serving under something like Gaara was...there's only so much a body can take. Someday it'll all come out and when that day comes, well...I don't want to be the one who's in the way."

The chunin at the entrance of Sunakagure barely catches the tiny white porcelain mask token tossed at him as the man in black walks by, making no sound; he breathes a sigh of relief and heads for the tiny aviary, to send the message to the Kazekage- Mission accomplished.

Halfway down the street the man pauses, disappears; he runs over the thin power lines as though they are a wide walkway. When he reaches the deepest door in the Kazekage's citadel, the door which bears the kanji for 'perform' inlaid in bronze, he tugs it open and closes it tightly; the sound of the creaking hinges echoes down the corridors long after he is gone.

"And may the Gods help whoever is."


A/N: Okay, honestly, does anyone even realize how fucking SCARY Kankuro is? I mean come ON- classically trained in Kabuki theatre, chemist, poison master, stealthy...there is so much that can be done with those skills. Call Gaara scary, sure, but he's not likely to come up behind you in the dark and shank you before you even know what's going on. Kankuro? Kankuro would shank you, your friends, your family, and your fucking dog and be gone before anyone even realized you were dead. Not to mention being able to kill someone with his pinky- literally. Thus this little number. I have no idea who's speaking, though I'd imagine it to be Baki. It can be some random Suna nin if you want. The world needs more Kankuro love. And I have no idea if their dad was the Yondaime Kazekage- I think he was. But I'm not sure. So we're gonna pretend like I'm right.