Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or any of its characters.

Chapter 28: A Day With Kankuro

Upon arriving at her new place of residence, Kira absentmindedly bowed to the wind mistress in a silent goodbye. Closing the door, she scanned the room for anything unfamiliar. Naruto was missing, but it still being the middle of the afternoon, that wasn't too much of a surprise. He was probably eating a local ramen stand out of a month's worth of supplies.

Sighing slightly, Kira changed into a fresh set of everyday clothing and found her way to bed. Even after all this time, she still felt more comfortable going to bed in something that she could leave the apartment in at a moment's notice. She emptied her humidity sphere into the jar she now kept on the bedside table. Closing her eyes, she tried closing off her mind from the outside world. Her kekkei genkai though, had other plans. It allowed her mind's eye to wander through the streets of Suna. A man calling to passers-by to come buy his wares, a woman yelling for her children to come inside for an early supper, a young teenage couple holding hands. It was all fascinating, but it did nothing to calm her troubled mind.

After lying awake for a few hours watching the daily occurings of the locals, Kira felt her traveling companion open the door. He noticed her in bed immediately and tried his best to be quiet. A feat that Naruto had not once been able to accomplish, now being no different. He set his things down on the table loudly, stubbing his toe and cursing in the process. After a few mildly amusing hops, he settled his foot back on the floor. He picked something up off the floor and tinkered with it for a moment before putting it onto his nightstand. Kira assumed it was the previously thrown alarm clock. Naruto plopped himself into bed and of course, he was able to fall asleep in near record time.

Kira sighed once more and turned over, trying to get comfortable. She focused on the loud breathing/snoring and the gentle heartbeat coming from her companion. After a long confusing day, she was finally able to fall into a much needed deep sleep.

Kira awoke to a pounding on the door, instantly jolting her into the real world. Her humidity sphere immediately surrounded her in a defensive manner. A second later, her senses landed on the person at her door and she relaxed minutely. She knew the knocker, but it being a relatively unknown male still made her slightly cautious. Opening the door, Kira came face to face with the half-asleep man leaning on her doorframe.

"Morning," he said with a light yawn as he shrugged off the frame.

"Kankuro-san, I don't mean to be rude, but why are you here?"

"Eh, Temari got held up," he said, rubbing the back of his neck, "She was put in charge of interrogating Shiho, so that makes me your new temporary guide while you're here."

Kira stiffened slightly.

"Something wrong with that, Sakurai-chan?" Kankuro asked with a slight smirk.

After an almost unnoticeable pause, the kunoichi replied, "I believe I am able to find my way around Suna now. Thank you for your generous offer, but I find no reason to trouble you by having you show me around your village."

The puppeteer waved her off, "It was a direct order from the Kazekage, so that is exactly what I plan to do. Besides," he said with a wink, "I don't mind escorting a pretty girl."

Realizing that further argument would be useless and ignoring the comment, Kira scanned her room again. She noticed that something, or rather someone, was missing again. The only difference was that Naruto was not one to wake up early, and as she scanned the village, she realized that she couldn't find him at all.

Noticing her silence, Kankuro furrowed his brow slightly, "Ano… you ok Sakurai-chan?"

"I can't find Naruto-san."

"Ah, him. He left the village earlier this morning."

Kira's head snapped around to 'look' at the man still in her doorway.

"What do you mean? Hokage-sama said that my guide would stay with me during the duration of my stay."

Kankuro's face became puzzled, "But didn't Naruto say he was leaving in a few days when Gaara asked?"

Kira thought back to the first meeting with the Kazekage. She hadn't heard part of the conversation between the two friends, as her mind was somewhat preoccupied with Itachi's message. It must have been during that timeframe that she had missed this bit of information.

"Still," Kankuro continued, "It's not really like him to leave without saying anything."

He rubbed his chin and glanced over Kira's shoulder, "Do you mind if I look in your room?"

Kira hesitated before slowly nodding her head. She didn't like that idea of being alone in a confined space with him, but as long as she left the door open and kept a vigilant watch over him, nothing should be able to happen.

She moved aside as he walked into the apartment. He scanned the room quickly and walked over to the kitchen table. As he picked something there up, she heard a light rustling that sounded like paper.

"Here we go," Kankuro said proudly as he handed her the paper. She took it and moved her eyes to 'look' at him.

"What's this?"

"Umm…a letter. Naruto left you a note."

Kira stayed silent and continued to stare at the puppet master, hoping he would notice the minor dilemma. After about a minute, he started fidgeting under her gaze and became slightly annoyed, "What?"

Kira sighed. It seemed like this was common amongst the men she encountered. They all seemed to forget something basic. Whether that was a compliment to her ability to adapt or an insult that it wasn't worth remembering, she didn't know.

"I'm blind, Kankuro-san. I can't read."

The sand shinobi instantly had blood rush to his cheeks in an embarrassed blush as his mouth opened and shut a few times, "I…I knew that! I just thought that…that…Naruto knew of some way to make it so you could read it. He's your comrade after all. It seems silly that he would leave information for you that you wouldn't be able to decipher," he finished, smiling.

"Naruto has continuously forgotten about my inability to read or see like the average person," Kira handed the note back to the sand ninja with a slight bow, "If it isn't too much trouble, could you please read this aloud for me?"

Kankuro rubbed the back of his neck with one hand while taking the paper from her with his other, "Uh, sure."

He cleared his throat and started, "Dear Kira-chan! You're sleeping right now and must have been really tired. I wasn't exactly as quiet as I should've been. Anyway, I didn't want to wake you up and I didn't want to just leave without saying goodbye, so I'm writing this letter! I figured that since ink is kinda liquidy that you would be able to read it!"

Kira felt the sudden urge to hit her forehead with her palm. Not knowing where this sudden urge came from, she simply opted for raising an eyebrow at his logic…or lack thereof.

Kankuro paused and looked up at her in a questioning manner. Kira realized, faster then she normally was able to, that Kankuro thought Naruto was onto something. Mentally sighing, she answered his unspoken question, "While ink is a form of liquid that I can 'see', once it makes contact with paper, it quickly dries. I can't 'see' dried ink. Even if I could, or there was some form of ink that didn't dry, I still don't know how to decipher letters or words. It would just look like a bunch of scribbles."

Hearing the slight "ah" of understanding, Kira asked if there was any more to the letter.

Kankuro shrugged, "Just that he hopes the rest of your stay goes well and hopefully he or someone else from your village will be back soon to visit you."

Kira nodded and grabbed her pack, heading for the door.

"Hold on, where're you going?"

"The hospital," Kira stated as Kankuro followed her out into the hallway. She quickly locked up and started walking again, the sand shinobi following behind her, "I'm supposed to report in for routine rounds and to help teach a few of the nurses."

Kankuro walked with both hand behind his head, seeming very relaxed, "Alright, guess that means I'm coming with you then."

Kira paused in her steps and inclined her head in his direction, "Kankuro-san, you don't need to stay with me at the hospital. I understand that you are my new escort, but you can just pick me up after I'm done with my shift."

He shrugged nonchalantly, "Eh, I have nothing better to do today. Might as well see you in action." He grinned cheekily down at her. Instead of responding, she simply continued on her way, not knowing what to do in this sort of situation.

At the hospital, things really were just routine. She helped heal a few minor cuts and bruises, set a few broken bones, and gave one teenager some stitches for a gash over his eye. The only non-routine thing that was happening was that she had an extra shadow. Wherever she went, Kankuro was right there beside her. He wasn't kidding when he said he was going to watch her. It was unnerving. She could handle a few male patients, they were there and gone within a few minutes, but the constant hovering was starting to strain her nerves.

He would ask questions now and then, asking what she was doing or why she didn't use chakra to heal everything. They were valid questions, and he seemed to genuinely want to know the answers. He never made any negative move toward her, but for some reason she just couldn't adjust to having him right there. She didn't have this problem with his brother even though Kankuro seemed like the more laid back of the two.

Before she could ponder this further, Mira came up to her in one of the lounges during her break.

"Sakurai-san," she said, seeming mildly uneasy, "I want to apologize for yesterday. I ran the tests on the liquid from Sato's stomach. You were right, it was poison."

"Do you know how it affected him?" Kira asked, not concerned about the previous day's encounter.

Mira smiled slightly at the business-like manner that Kira conducted herself in. It was so rare to see someone that young so dedicated and focused, "Yes, it was ingested normally, probably mixed with water. It was tasteless and odorless. Upon entering the stomach, it slowly seeped into the lining. After that, the poison made its way into the bloodstream where it affected the heart and lungs, making breathing difficult and his heartrate slow."

Kira simply nodded, "Has the Kazekage been notified?"

"I sent the report earlier today. I just wanted to personally tell you, and thank you. You saved that boy's life. I never expressed my gratitude. He wasn't mine, but he was a member of this community."

The corners of Kira's mouth twitched upward in her version of a smile before nodding. She respected the gentle woman for her proactive manner and the way she did things personally. She didn't have to find Kira or tell her any of that, but she respected her enough to make the extra effort.

The rest of the day went smoothly. There were no sudden emergencies like the day before, which Kira was thankful for.

At about six in the afternoon, she stretched her limbs to get rid of the mild stress her muscles had been under during her work shift.

"So, did you want to go get something to eat?" Kankuro asked with a grin, "My treat."

"That is kind of you Kankuro-san, but I have food at the apartment which will be satisfactory."

He shrugged off-handedly, not too surprised at being rejected for the meal. She had been using very clipped phrases and only saying as much as was needed to answer his questions, nothing more. He was used to that kind of behavior from his brother, so he wasn't too put-off by it, "Maybe another time then."

"If I may ask, Kankuro-san, why do you seem so interested in being in my company? Do you still not trust that I can do my job effectively?"

Kankuro seemed slightly taken aback, "What are you talking about? After your little demonstration in the office and saving that kid's life, I'd say that you're perfectly able to do what needs to be done."

"Then why do you keep trying to spend more time with me?" she asked, truly perplexed. She hadn't really meant to ask in the first place, but something about this family was making her do things that she wasn't usually comfortable doing. Mainly questioning motives and defending herself.

The sand ninja laughed, "That's called me trying to make up for being such a jerk when we first met. And you seem pretty interesting so…I don't know…I thought I'd try getting to know you. You know…be a friend."

Kira focused on the man next to her. It was true that despite her trying to keep him at a distance, he persisted in asking her questions about her job and a little about herself. She hadn't really told him much outside her favorite food and places to visit in Konoha, but still, he made an effort.

Maybe she could try to something here in Suna that she hadn't even considered doing elsewhere. Maybe she could start opening up to more people than just Shizune and Deidara.

Her eyes widened a fraction, a little shocked by her own thoughts. Kankuro noticed the slight change, once again, thanks to his brother.

"If you don't want to, that's fine. I'm only your escort for one week. Temari should be back by then and I'll be out of your hair," he said with a knowing smile.

They had arrived back at her place. As he turned to leave, Kira did something marginally impulsive.

"Kankuro-san."

He looked back at her stoic face, her lips mildly pursed in consideration of her next words, "Thank you. I think I could use another friend."

The grin that lit his face could've almost rivaled Naruto's, "You got it."

With that, they separated for the day.

After a much too long break from yours truly, there is the next chapter! I hope you enjoyed it, though it was a bit of a filler… *shrugs* Anyway, please read and review! Reviews make the world go round! …or at least my world hehe :D