Chapter 1

Sweat dripped down the sides of his face and he could feel his thin hospital clothes stick to his skin from the growing dampness. His black hair clinging to the side of his face as he panted heavily. The wrapping on his hand was not meant for fighting, only to patch up the existing wounds from his previous training rendezvous. The thin bandages slowly began to grow red with each punch he delivered to the post. Even through the pain and the exhaustion he grit his teeth and worked through the pain. Guy Sensei had always said, anything worth having was not easy. He had to get stronger! He was not going to let these injuries stop him! Not if he had anything to say about it!

His fist made contact with the wood of the post. A hit that normally would have had the wood splintering now had no effect. Only a dull ache that throbbed the more he pushed. He continued, counting to himself. He could not stop now!

"Ninety-seven… ninety-eight… nintey-ni-!"

A sudden unbearable pain rocketed through his body. Like a bolt of lightning it ran right through the very core of his being and he stifled a scream. His body collapsed and he fell to the ground on his side.

"Damn…!" he ground out through clenched teeth. His fingers dug into the grass as he fought to sit up. Ever muscle aching, some feeling as though they had caught on fire. Finally, he had himself in a seated position leaning against the post.

Lee was unsure how long he stayed like that. How long he sat and tried to will away the pain. How long he fought not to let his frustrated tears fall. A trembling hand raised and he could only stare at it. This hand had once been able to break a tree into splinters. Now, it could not even leave a dent. He was useless. What kind of Shinobi was so weak?!

"Your days as a ninja are over."

He stopped, his body paused as he was reminded of the medics words.

His round eyes lingered on the white cast on his leg and arm and he had to bite his cheek to reign in that familiar feeling. That familiar feeling of helplessness. Everything he had worked so hard to attain was now slipping from his grasp. His head made a soft thud as he rested it against the wooden post. The pain medication that he had been given must be ebbing away as the aches and pains were slowly growing. He dreaded the thought of returning to the hospital and he wondered if he would even be able to make it all the way back without collapsing.

A heavy sigh made his shoulders slump and his eyes close. Then again, each time he had snuck away he had generally collapsed and a nurse had to be the one to bring him back. Over the last week he had become better at evading the nurses, even when they had changed their own schedule to keep an eye on him better. Even if the doctors said there was no hope for him, he still had to try! He could not give up!

His eyes shot open when he heard a horrified shriek.

Standing just a few meters away from him was a girl. He had turned just in time to see the pens and pencils fly everywhere along with a dark notebook. Her hands were on her cheeks in shock. He supposed he must have startled her? He never gave much thought to there being anyone out here, and he was sure he had never seen this girl before.

She looked to be just a little younger than him, maybe a year or two at most. She wore a long green skirt that went past her knees, and a baggy cream colored sweater that was a few sizes too big. Her emerald eyes had a unique angular shape, and were protected by large dark rimmed glasses. Her sandy hair hung around her face messily, only coming to her shoulders.

There was a moment of silence as the two stared at one another. Finally he spoke, "I did not mean to startle you. Forgive me, I was unaware anyone was going to be training here." He moved to stand but was halted when she waved her hands in front of herself frantically.

Her heart pounded like crazy against her ribs. How could he be talking so nonchalant when he looked like he could be on deaths door?! "Train?!" She remarked in timid shock, "Oh, goodness no! I was only coming here to…" she paused, her cheeks growing red from her anxiety. She shook her head vigorously, "Neverminded me, are you alright? I should go find someone!" She turned to run. This boy looked like he needed the hospital! He was even wearing the hospital patient uniform!


She paused, turning back to him, his hand outstretched as if to try and physically stop her. A sleeve covered hand came up to her mouth as she waited to see what he would do.

He sighed, leaning back against the post and wiping the sweat off his brow with the back of his shirt sleeve. "I do not wish to go back. Not until I have to."

She took a timid step forward, her eyes looking from side to side, "Um, but your injuries…"

He could feel his jaw clench but forced himself to smile, taking after his Sensei with a signature thumbs up. "Do not worry, this is nothing!"

"O-oh, alright…" She then began to look around on the ground, quickly spotting her notebook and her scattered pencils and pens. Seeing an injured boy was a scary sight! Especially when he looked like he could have been dead! She wouldn't know what to do if he had needed immediate medical attention! Now, where was her last pencil?

"Here." She turned and saw the boy holding her lost pencil out to her.

She clutched her notepad and utensils close to her chest as she reached out for it. Only the tips of her fingers peeking out as she grasped it. "Thank you." She smiled meekly.

"Of course." He tilted his head in curiosity. Round eyes seemed to peer into the depths of her soul as she twitched nervously. "If you were not here for training, what brought you here? Could it be what is in that notebook?" He supposed he would talk to her for a bit. Other than his teammates he had not had much for people to talk to since his time in the hospital. And, as Guy Sensei would say, friendship is a beautiful thing that blossoms in the time of youth! So, perhaps this training outing could be productive in a different way. He would finish his one-hundred sit-ups later for not completing his one-hundred punches.

"Um, yeah…" she peered off into the trees, "I was looking for new birds to draw…" She adjusted her glasses, holding the notebook closer to her chest. Exploring the village and looking for new birds to draw was one of her favorite past times. Konoha was located in the heart of the Land of Fire, and there were many bird species that lived there year round or migrated through. There were a few birds that she could see only once or twice a year.

Again his head tilted to the side, more intrigued, "Oh, a ninja who draws? I've never heard of that, you must be talented!" Most Shinobi he knew didn't have many hobbies outside of training. Most were very physically gifted and didn't spend much time on art. Guy Sensei, while he absolutely had an appreciation for the finer arts, would rather hone his body. Training was a different form of art, and your body was the canvas!

Her face grew red and she coughed. She held up a sleeved hand to cover her mouth, her shoulders shaking as she cleared her lungs. "I'm not a ninja," she told him honestly.

He blinked, looking her over once again. Her outside appearance certainly screamed civilian, but he had assumed she was on some time off, or maybe even in the academy still. If he had to guess, she would have to be the same age as Naruto's class, perhaps a year younger. "Oh, I apologize. I did not realize…" there was a pause, "You said you draw, care to share your art with me? If you take the time to come out here then I am sure it is something to be proud of." He had never been particularly interested in the arts, but for now this was an opportunity to take his mind off other things.

The blush deepened at the compliment and the lowered her head as she spoke, "Oh, um, sure." She straightened out her skirt and sat on the grass next to him. He noticed how she kept her distance from him, and fidgeted with her sleeves nervously.

Just as her fingers brushed over the cover preparing to open it she let out a loud squeak as Lee startled her. He had sat up straighter and held his hand up in a fist, "I am sorry! I completely forgot to introduce myself!" He noticed her wide eyes and smiled, an attempt to calm her nerves. "My name is Rock Lee, it is nice to meet you! May I have the pleasure of your name?"

She cleared her throat, "Ah, Yuri. Yuri Murata."

"Yuri." He paused, finding the short and simple name fitting. "Forgive me for startling you. It is no surprise you are not a ninja now that I think about it. You seem to startle so easily."

Yuri held the notebook up to cover part of her face, another string of coughs escaping her. She cleared her throat and looked away.

His brows knitted together in concern, "Are you alright? You seem to be coughing quite a bit."

She wordlessly reached into her pocket and pulled out an inhaler. Lee was surprised. He had heard of such a thing but had never seen someone actually use one before. "Sorry…" she said while coughing. She sighed, the tightness in her chest beginning to lessen. "I've always had asthma since I was little. And I'm still getting over a case of pneumonia."

Lee nodded. He had never been one to get ill often but he could understand how it could be frustrating. His eyes flickered back to the white casts over his leg and arm. He was not one to be bitter, but he wished a case of pneumonia was the worst of his problems. "I am sorry to hear that."

"Don't be." She said simply, her smile soft. "I've been in and out of the hospital for as long as I can remember. So, I understand not wanting to go back… it can be lonely." She had grown to know the staff of the hospital well, knowing most of the nurses by name. Even then, her constant time in the hospital made it hard for her to make or maintain friends, especially when her parents were so protective over her and forced her to stay in bed more than she should.

"Oh…" Lee said, maybe he had the wrong impression. She seemed to share his aversion for hospitals and he had to wonder just how often she was in and out of one.

"So, what happened?"

Lee cast his gaze over toward her and he could see her apprehensive gaze lingering on his casts. He shifted his weight, wincing as a sharp pain jolted him, "It was a battle. I fought hard. Harder than I ever had before." His good hand clenched, balling into a fist on his lap. "In the end, my opponent was too much."

Her eyes were wide as she stared at him. She couldn't even imagine it! Fighting like that. It was something she had never done, and would never do. "That sounds terrifying..."

Suddenly, Lee gave a thumbs up and his gaze met hers. She was surprised at the amount of resolve in his gaze, but she had to wonder if that was truly him, or a façade. "Do not worry. Like a lotus, I will bloom again."

Yuri's brows furrowed in a little confusion at the statement, unsure of what he meant. Instead, she opened her notebook. Her eyes scanning each page until she ripped one out and held it out to him with a nervous smile. "Here, I want you to have this."

Lee was surprised by the sudden gesture and grabbed the paper to look at it closely. He gasped at the beautiful colors and details. It was a crane, wings outstretched in flight. "This is amazing! You are truly talented, Yuri."

She could feel her face heat from the compliment and she held her sleeved hand to her lips as she giggled. A mixture of flattery and embarrassment. She didn't share her work often and compliments were hard for her to accept. "I think it will do you more good than me." She coughed, "A crane is said to bring good fortune and longevity. I know it isn't a real crane, but…" Yuri scratched the back of her head as she tapered off, suddenly feeling foolish about the gesture.

Lee watched her, mouth open slightly in astonishment. His eyes lingered on the paper in his hands and while he wasn't sure that there was anything a bird could do for him, he found a small smile tugging at his lips. "Thank you, Yuri."

She blinked, a little startled by his thanks but happily accepted it.


Both of them turned toward the sound of the voice. Yuri instantly recognized it as one of the nurses and she turned to Lee, "Um, I think they're looking for you."

He sighed stubbornly. "Yes." He said in defeat before looking back down at the crane. "I do think that it will be a little more bearable with this to keep me company." He waited for her to respond but when she said nothing he feared he had upset her. When he met her gaze though, he was surprised to see her eyes glistening with pure appreciation.

"I'll… I'll be sure you have more company!"

I am not sure the best way to describe this, but it is basically a story within a story. I highly recommend reading my main fanfiction Where Loyalties Lie (WLL), because in the future it may add more context as to what is going on. It is not REQUIRED.

You can read this story as if it were it's own!

This is the first book in my series called Bonds. There will be a few more like it. I cannot say how many chapters there will be as WLL is my main focus. Depending on how many people like these side stories, I will happily take more time to develop them down the road. WLL is a Kakashi/OC story and I wanted to include other pairings within the story, but realized that that would bog down the story a bit much. I want to shed some light on some other pairings in the series that we don't see often. The focus of this story answers a question that has long obsessed me...

Who is Metal's mother? Hence, Yuri was born.

Also, I just don't see a lot of good Lee/OC stories. So I wanted to take a swing at it.

Thank you for reading and I will see you next time!

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Posted - 9/12/2021