A/N: No, I don't own LEGO Ninjago or its characters, just my little story.

This is a little insight into the early relationship of Cole and Kai, a la moi. It's included in the last chapter of Champion's Bane, which is a WIP. Posted cuz I felt like it...This takes place when the team has first gotten together, but it'll be a reflection of Kai's in my story set just before the Great Devourer's appearance.

Lemme know what you think of it...

A Little Dirt on the Fire

Five years ago, he had been a normal teenager, worrying about passing classes, getting dates, doing his share in the family blacksmith business, and still finding time to catch up on the latest video games. Then his parents had disappeared halfway through his senior year of high school.

They'd saved up for a once-in-a-lifetime holiday to celebrate their twentieth anniversary. Just the two of them. Reports were that the plane they'd chartered to take them to a sparsely-populated island off the southern coast had never arrived at its destination. There had been no distress call during the short flight and only minimal amounts of what could have been wreckage were found washed up on the shore. After days of fruitless searching by the coast guard, the couple and their pilot were declared lost. Dead.

Kai was just seventeen, Nya, fifteen. They had no immediate family to offer help, and the next year had been hell for them. He had struggled to finish school and graduate, struggled to keep 'Four Weapons' going, struggled to keep himself and Nya from drowning in the depths of grief and depression. Somehow they'd been able to squeak by.

Then their lives had taken another unforeseen turn, and they'd closed the house and blacksmith shop to humor an odd, old, martial-arts teacher, move to his monastery, and check out what his outfit was all about. It was meant to be just a temporary break from reality, something interesting to do before Nya started her senior year and he went back to the ol' forge and anvil. But it wasn't quite what he'd expected.

He'd been used to being his own boss, used to looking after himself and Nya without interference. He didn't need to be told how and when to do things, neither did he care to be a link in a chain. He could take care of things just fine in his own way and in his own good time and still play his part in the new ninja gig.

Although Nya seemed happy enough to settle in and become a cooperative and productive part of the group after only a few days—spending more time than he liked piddling around with the dorky, self-proclaimed mechanic and inventor in blue—he tended to keep to himself when not sweating through Wu's torture sessions. Otherwise, the only times he really joined in with everyone were at meals, video-gaming, and 'lights out'.

Early on, when it came to following instructions and rules relating to training, missions, and daily activities, he'd butted heads with everyone at least once. Zane and Jay quickly learned to avoid confrontation with the 'combusti-bull', and their master only rarely dealt with personally handing out directives and administering disciplinary measures. That left Cole as the one to square off with Kai on a nearly hourly basis.

Mostly, their 'debates' about what he ought to be doing and how he ought to do it were verbal, with Kai's yelling being heard from one side of the monastery to the other.

Though Cole's responses were usually calmly and quietly delivered, his limits were more often than not strained as he let the flame-thrower flare up and burn himself out. Occasionally he was pushed over the edge and decided that stopping, dropping, and rolling was warranted, however, neither ever let it escalate to a hate-filled fistfight.

About a month or so into their new alliance—at the end of another challenging day for everyone—Kai was sitting on the second step outside the monastery's gates, wondering why the hell he'd come there and whether or not he should continue on the current path when Cole butted into his thoughts.

"Kai, I've been looking all over for you—"

"Yeah? Why?" He bristled immediately. "To stick me with another crappy chore, I bet." Stubbornly glowering down the steep staircase of rock, he refused to give Cole the upper hand by looking up at him. "Don't you ever get tired of bossing us around? Who abdicated and made you frickin' king? You can't tell me what to do!"

A long pause came from the appointed leader of the newly-assembled ninja team. "…'Abdicated'. That's a fancy word from someone more concerned about stacking chips on his shoulder than learning anything new…Like how to be a team player."

"'Team player'. Pfftt. Whatever."

"Well, since you started it, I guess we oughta go ahead and hash this out one last time." On the edge of Kai's vision, Cole's bare feet spread apart like he was readying himself for an assault. His tone of voice was composed, but firm. "As if you don't already know, I'm captain of this Wu crew, so I can give you orders."

Kai coughed. "You're Wu's little pet, you mean…"

"Seriously?" Cole raised his gaze to the heavens for a second. "If you haven't noticed by all the crap he puts every one of us through, our sensei doesn't play favorites, but, if you think he does, and you wanna swap, have at it! Just, FYI, the head honcho made me leader since he figured I was the only one willing to take the fall for all our stupid screw-ups, as well as pass out the little gold trophies when we win."

"Hmph." Kai tossed a pebble to bounce down the steps. "I don't remember getting any trophies yet."

"There's a reason for that, smart ass. We all have jobs to do and rules to follow, so I'd appreciate it if you'd make my job a little less of a pain in theass and frickin' do yours. I need you to straighten up your act, cuz I've got surprising news for you: You may be the master of fire, but you're not masterless.You're a genin, like the rest of us. The respect you feel entitled to has to be earned."

"Yeah, well—"

"Eh, EH!" Cole stopped Kai's retort right away. "I'm not done yet! In the heat of battle—as good as you are—you're not some invincible super-warrior, you're gonna be just another target to kill, nothing special to the enemy, and I'll be right beside you. Neither of us will be coaching it from the sidelines, that's Sensei's place. I want to be able to go on a mission with you knowing you've got my back and Zane's back and Jay's back, cuz we're gonna have yours, and I want us to all get back home in one piece…every time."

Cole expected a sarcastic remark, but was pleasantly surprised when he got none. "We're all in this together, man, trying to be the best we can be while we defend our world and everyone in it. Capisce?"

Since he couldn't dispute the truth, Kai kept his mouth shut, training his gaze on the winding way off the mountain.

Heading back into the courtyard, Cole had only one thing left to say. "By the way…Supper's ready."

Kai made his decision about his future later that evening, and not long after that encounter, Cole became the first of the team to earn his grudging respect. Yet, annoyingly to Kai, he was the last to return the honor.

Because he'd had some of his flaws highlighted, as well as some of his good points, he worked harder to do what was expected of him and to make himself an indispensable part of the team. In the earth-shaper, he found the older brother he really could have leaned on after the sudden disappearance of his parents. Still, he couldn't help but give Cole a little lip and yank his chain once in a while, because…well, it was just in his nature.

A/N: genin=novice ninja; capisce=understand