A/N: Please keep in mind that these guys are twelve, maybe thirteen. Awkwardness will abound, because that's what preteens are like when it comes to romance.

o.o.o.o.o

He first talked to her after the Chunin Exam preliminaries, because he felt sorry for her after her rather embarrassing defeat at Shikamaru's hands.

"I don't need your apologies, you tub of lard."

Chouji took a breath, reigning in his anger at the appellation. "I'm not apologizing, I'm just—"

"Just what?" Kin sneered at him. "Here to gloat, then?"

"No." Chouji wasn't all that used to talking to someone that was so vehemently against him. He could deal with people who dismissed him for his size, and he could deal with enemies on the battlefield, but Kin was proving to be part of an unpleasant new category. "I just… here."

He put the bento on the side table to her hospital bed, and left.

Kin blinked.

o.o.o.o.o

The second time he talked to her was only a day later, when she hunted him down in the barbecue.

"Why did you do that?" She demanded, though not quite as harsh as the day before.

Chouji shrugged, not exactly willing to answer. Kin didn't really seem the type to take well to his reasoning.

Kin kept glaring, but when it became clear that he wasn't about to break under the pressure, she just made a disgruntled noise and sat down next to him, calling over a waiter. "Half rack of ribs, extra spicy sauce on the side."

Chouji blinked.

o.o.o.o.o

"Why do you keep following me?" Chouji asked one day, genuinely curious. He was at the training grounds, though none of his team was there to train with him.

"Your buddy's going to be in the finals with Dosu." Kin drawled, playing with her hair. She was sitting high up in a tree, lounging on a branch. "Sure, they're not in the same fight first, but better to gain what info I can on all the competitors. And since I lost to that friend of yours… well, I feel like it's my duty to find out what I can on him."

Chouji frowned up at her. "But what does that have to do with me? You haven't said a single thing."

"I have to gain your trust before I can gain your info, don't I?" Kin looked down at him through half-lidded eyes, challenging him to say something.

He didn't.

o.o.o.o.o

Chouji wasn't quite sure what to do. The girl that he'd grown so used to over the past several days was just sitting there in the middle of the field where he usually trained, hugging her knees and allowing her hair, usually so well-kept, to drag through the dirt.

"…Tsuji-san?" He hazarded, coming closer. She looked up at him, and he froze at the sight of the tear tracks on her face.

"…Hey." She rubbed one of her arm warmers over her eyes, sniffling. She wasn't the strong, arrogant girl from the Exams, but a… well, a broken, crying girl.

Chouji sat down next to her, quietly hugging his own knees. "Should I ask what happened?"

"Dosu's dead."

Chouji flinched, suddenly understanding what happened very well. "That's gotta be pretty harsh."

"Don't even know why I care so much." Kin muttered. "It's not like he really ever said all that much to imply he cared about us, and Zaku's being a… well, he's acting like the whole thing is a joke."

"Oh." Chouji wasn't really sure what to say about all that. He was pretty sure that if one of his teammates died, the entire team would be in tears. "Why… why did you come here?"

Kin shrugged, not looking at him. "Zaku will just mock me about it, and my sensei isn't any help. I don't really know anyone in this place other than you, so…"

"Oh." Chouji blushed a bit and, in an attempt to be somewhat supportive, pulled out a bag of chips, offering it to her after he tore the top of. "Eating helps me, so maybe it can help you?"

Kin let out a small, hiccoughing laugh. "Guess that fits you."

Chouji felt somewhat gratified when Kin actually took the bag and started nibbling her way through.

o.o.o.o.o

"Oi," Kin jumped down from her customary branch, landing in front of Chouji, just a few feet away. She ignored Ino completely.

(Asuma and Shikamaru, as with the past three weeks, were in the middle of preparations for the third exam.)

"About yesterday…" She took a deep breath and then sighed. "Thanks."

Chouji felt a little awkward with Ino nearby, but attempted to reply nonetheless. "I, um… You're welcome, Tsuji-san."

Kin nodded, and after a second's hesitation, leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek. "Call me Kin."

She was gone before Chouji's brain managed to finish rebooting.

The second that it did, Ino had grabbed Chouji by the shoulders and, with a large, excited grin on her face, demanded details.

o.o.o.o.o

Chouji's first reaction, upon walking into his favorite barbecue restaurant and seeing Kin sitting at the spot that had become their usual over the past several weeks, was to blush and stop where he was.

"What are you waiting for?" The girl in question demanded, aggressive attitude right back in place as though it had never disappeared.

"I, ah, I…" Chouji stammered, and was well aware of the warm blush that was crawling its way up his cheeks.

"Get over here." Kin demanded, pointing at the seat next to her.

Still red, Chouji slowly walked over and took a seat at the table, not taking his eyes off of Kin. It was as though she was a dangerous creature that he couldn't move his gaze from in fear of her pouncing.

"I don't bite… usually." Kin smirked at him, taking a sip from her drink.

Chouji, after several seconds of deliberation, finally decided to ask the question that had been bothering him so much. "Why did you kiss me?"

Kin grew silent, stirring her drink and picking at her food. "You… you're nice. Maybe you're not attractive by conventional standards, but you put up with me when I was being a brat, and you were nice to me after… after what happened to Dosu."

"So…"

"You've just got something about you that makes me feel safe." Kin admitted. "You… you didn't mind, right?"

"Well… n-not really." Chouji scratched his cheek, right where the kiss had been. "But, um… it did kind of surprise me."

Kin, for the first time that Chouji had seen, blushed as well. "Would you mind if I did it again? On the lips this time?"

Chouji shook his head mutely.

And so she kissed him again.

And again.

And one more time, just for luck.

After that, they hurriedly turned to their meals, both wearing silly grins and blushes.

o.o.o.o.o

"Don't you dare hurt her."

Chouji stepped back, away from the Oto boy that was just way too close. "What?"

"My teammate. Kin." The boy stepped closer again. "Don't hurt her."

Oh. Chouji realized. This must have been Zaku. "I won't, I promise."

"You better." Zaku growled. "We already lost Dosu; don't need it getting even worse."

"You wha—"

But Zaku was already gone.

o.o.o.o.o

Chouji stared down at the body.

No, not Kin. Just her body, because that was all she was now. And the dead body of an enemy kunoichi, at that.

"Chouji?"

"Hey, Asuma-sensei."

They stood in silence for several seconds, and then Asuma sighed.

"Ino told me that you'd gotten involved with her."

"I guess."

An enemy. The whole time, she'd been working for the enemy.

"Do you think she cared for you back?"

Chouji thought about it.

Harsh words. Small smiles. Angry glares. Streaming tears. Snide comments. Soft kisses.

But how much of both sides was just a lie?

"I don't know."

Asuma sighed and put a hand on his student's head, ruffling some of the hair that stood out on the sides. "It gets easier. Right now you probably just feel numb, right?"

"…Yeah, I guess."

They stood there in silence again, and then Asuma turned away. "I have to go help with clean-up, and you do too, so… finish up whatever you need to finish, alright?"

"Alright, sensei."

Chouji continued to stare down at Kin, trying to figure out just what he should feel.

She'd been proud of her hair, he remembered. She had loved flaunting it, because having hair that long and still being alive meant that she was good at what she did, not some amateur who could be caught at any moment because she cared too much about being pretty.

After several full minutes of deliberation, he pulled out a kunai and knelt down, cutting off a small lock of hair and tucking it away into a small pocket.

Then he turned, leapt away, and promised himself to move on.

It wasn't much.

But it would be enough.