Title: Before the Storm
Author/Artist: haku_kaen (also known as Person4)
Pairing: Rock Lee/Haruno Sakura
Theme: #23. candy
Disclaimer: Naruto and all characters, places, and situations found therein belong to Kishimoto Masashi. I'm just playing with them for a little bit.
Author's Note: This chapter contains spoilers through manga chapter 182 or 3ish, but over course of my kisses there'll be spoilers for the whole manga. Fic is manga-centric, I've only seen one episode of the anime (99, because I heard about the cute Lee/Sakura scene in it) and don't really plan to see more of it, so please ignore it if there's anything that clashes with anime only information. Oh, and any suggestions for a title for the overall story are welcome at any time.
For the first time since before Sasuke left Sakura found herself practically twitching with excitement as she walked through the hospital to Lee's room. It was only a few hours before Lee would go in for his surgery, and then it wouldn't be long before he'd be able to start living as a ninja again, and that was more then enough push the depression she'd been feeling over Sasuke almost entirely away.
His door was open when she reached it, but, she was glad to see, there were no doctors or nurses in the room with him. "Good morning, Lee-san!"
"Oh, Sakura-san, come in!" he exclaimed with a broad smile.
She looked him over, pleased to see that he was looking more healthy then he'd seemed to be recently, and surprised to find him fully dressed. "Are you planning on going out?" she asked as she walked around his bed to replace the wilting daffodil on his bedside table with a new one she'd bought on her way over. She glanced at the legwarmer on his bandaged leg and frowned slightly. "Lee-san, you'd better not be wearing your weights on your injured leg. If you are, I swear I'll go to Tsunade-sama right now and ask her to put off your surgery for another week."
"Oh, no," he said, pushing the legwarmer down to show her that there was nothing underneath but more bandages. "Trust me Sakura-san, I would do nothing that might harm myself now, not when the proud Azure Beast of Konoha is so close to being resurrected!" By the end of his speech he was sitting straight up, healthy fist clenched, and trembling with emotion. Sakura wouldn't have been surprised if he started crying, and she couldn't bring herself to mention that his insistence on continuing to train everyday in spite of his injury could have ended up crippling him worse no matter how much he insisted he took care of himself.
"I'm glad to hear it, Lee-san." She perched on the edge of his bed since someone seemed to have stolen the chair that had been in the room, trying not to be embarrassed about the fact that her hip was pressed against his knee. "I asked about Gai-sensei before coming over. I'm sorry Lee-san, it seems like there's no way he's going to get back from his mission in time to be here during your surgery."
"Oh." For a moment Lee's shoulders slumped, then he seemed to grab a hold of himself and smiled more widely then ever. "Well, I shouldn't be upset. I am proud that my sensei is fighting to keep Konoha strong during these troubled times, and that soon I'll again be able to do the same!"
"Besides, he'll be back before you wake up tomorrow morning, I'm sure. And..." Sakura blushed slightly, although she wasn't even sure why. "...I'll be waiting here, as close as Tsunade-sama will let me get, the whole time."
Tears began streaming down Lee's cheeks at this pronouncement, much to Sakura's embarrassment. "Ah, Sakura-san," he said, clasping her hand in his, "you could not know the depths of joy it brings to my heart to hear you say that. I swear that I will regain my strength and be able to protect you again in no time, and then I will never make you worry again."
She snorted, breaking the mood. "Well that's a stupid promise to make when we're both ninja, Lee-san. Unless you intend to stop going on missions from now on there're going to be times when I'm worried about you. And I'm sure you'll worry about me too, especially the next time that idiot Naruto throws enough of a fit to get us placed on an assignment beyond our abilities just to shut him up."
"You're to hard on yourself Sakura-san! I know that you can take on more C-ranked missions if you try!"
It took Sakura a minute to remember that, in the end, their mission protecting Tazuna had officially been marked down in their records as the C-rank they had been led to believe it was, although the Third Hokage had at least been fair enough to privately congratulate them on surviving it. Sakura ignored the voice in her mind that still railed against him for not letting them have the credit they deserved as she laughed softly and said, "Believe me Lee-san, that mission is only C-Rank on paper. Part of the difficulty of having Naruto as a partner is that with him around it seems like the whole world throws itself into making everything you do harder then you think it should be." She smiled to herself a little at the memory of Tazuna and his family, and made a mental note to write and see how they were doing. Then, with a small start, she remembered one of the things she'd come to do. "I almost forgot!" she said, reaching down to pull a box of candy out of a shopping bag she'd brought with her. "Here, a get-well-soon present. I thought that, since today is an important day, you should have more of a present then the usually flower. If it's good you'll have to thank Ino, she's the one who suggested the brand since I didn't know what was best." She was also the one who'd suggested chocolate to begin with, when she found Sakura wandering aimlessly around the shopping district trying to think of what Lee might like, but she wasn't going to admit that she hadn't been able to think of the fact that almost everyone liked candy on her own.
"Sakura-san, I'm so happy you thought of me, even though you didn't need to," he said, beaming at her as though she'd given him much more then the cheapest box of candy the company made. Then he glanced downwards and his eyes somehow managed to widen even more then usual. "Sakura-san, you're injured!"
She mentally cursed herself for not realising that he skirt had fallen aside when she'd bent down to get his gift. She knew that he'd get upset, and didn't want that on a day that he should be celebrating. "It's nothing Lee-san, really. It's barely even worth bandaging." She banged her fist against the bandaged area a couple of times to show him that it didn't even hurt.
"I'm so sorry I wasn't able to keep my promise to protect you, Sakura-san," he said, not even seeming to hear her. "Who was it that hurt you?"
She flinched slightly at the question, remembering when Sasuke had asked her almost the same thing during the Chuunin exam, back when it still seemed like he might eventually open up to her and when she'd never have even imagined that he might run off to try to join the enemy. She covered her distress with a smile, not wanting to worry him further. "It was all my own clumsiness. I tripped and managed to slice open my leg on a nail sticking out of the cart I fell into. Really Lee-san, don't worry about it, it's already healing."
"Well then, here." Lee tore the cellophane off the box of chocolates, opened it up, and held it out to her. "Since you're hurt too, you should also have a treat!"
"Oh, no, Lee-san. You don't need to do that, that's your--" She was cut off by his popping a piece of chocolate into her mouth, his fingers brushing against her lips. Too surprised to even think of complaining around the mouthful of candy, she just chewed it and stared at him, a small disconnected part of her mind muttering I guess Ino was right, this is good. The rest of her thoughts mostly revolved around the fact that he'd touched her lips and, okay, it wasn't as personal as a kiss and he hadn't meant anything by it, but he'd touched her lips and that was the closest she'd ever come to kissing a boy. And, she suddenly realised, somehow while they'd been talking her position had shifted so her leg was pressed against his, leaning against him with her hand curled around his good thigh, and she'd been so comfortable with him that she'd not even noticed until just then that she should be embarrassed. How had she not noticed?
Had she ever felt comfortable like that with Sasuke?
Lee, for his part, had jerked his hand away as soon as she'd closed her mouth around the candy (and, unwittingly, on the very tip of his thumb) and stared back at her. When she swallowed it seemed to be some sort of sign to him, because he suddenly started quickly talking, "Sakura-san, I'm sorry, that was presumptuous of me. I shouldn't have--"
"It's alright, Lee... Lee-kun," she cut in, blushing slightly. She unconsciously flicked her tongue over her lower lips, where she almost thought she could still feel the pressure from his fingers, and waited to see how he'd react to the sudden shift in her formality level.
"Sakura... -chan?" he said slowly, blushing a little himself although he was smiling so broadly that she thought it must be hurting his face.
"Yeah, Lee-kun," she said, smiling back. "I don't mind at all."
*looks embarassed* I can't draw Lee's face at all (even worse then I can't draw normal things!). And it seems like it should be so easy! But at least he's less weird looking (amazing as that may seem) in the colored version then he was on paper.