"You were never supposed to wake up!"

Gaara and Lee both leaped to their feet as a figure appeared from the bushes.

It was Sakura!

"S-Sakura-chan?!" gasped Lee, "It was you?! But why?" his black eyes were wide.

"Why?!" screeched the pink haired kunoichi, " Because he," she flung her hand out to point at Gaara, "messed everything up!"

Gaara, still unnerved by his mental battle with Shukakku, staggered back a step in both fear and surprise.

"What are you talking about Sakura?" Lee reached out his bandaged hand to his friend only to have it slapped away by a now hysterical Sakura.

"Don't touch me!" she snarled. Lee snatched his hand back as though burned by the chakra field welling up around the former team 7 member.

"Why... are you... attacking me?" asked Gaara, his voice coldly devoid of emotion.

Lee looked back startled, and gasped in despair as he saw the detached and uncaring look on Gaara's face. The young sand nin' s eyes had returned to the icy aqua color that had once sent chills down Lee's spine, now the sight only caused a deep despair to fill Lee's heart. All of his hard work had been for nothing, his friend had returned to the foreboding and hardened killer he was before coming to Kohona.

"Gaara...no..." Lee whispered, just like that the bloodlust was back in Gaara's cold aqua eyes.

"You bastard! Why didn't you take my advice and LEAVE KOHONA!?" Sakura spat at Gaara, "now you have the gall to ask me why!? Why would I attack you?" Sakura sneered, "Lord even you can't be that dull," she spat.

"I don't... understand…" Gaara whispered.

"You don't understand…" drawled Sakura, "You destroyed my life!"

"How?" Lee looked at Gaara, now seriously worried about his mono-toned friend.

"You stole them all. You took away everything I tried so hard to reach!"

"Sakura-chan! Please, what are you speaking of?" Lee cried. But it was no use, Sakura was on a furious tirade now.

"I tried for so many years to get Sasuke-kun to notice me, to pay attention to me! You waltz in her and in two minutes, you have him wrapped around your little finger! Naruto used to hang on my every word! Now all he can talk about is how much he wants to fight you again! You've even stolen Ino from me! If she asks me one time what type of flowers I think might be able to grow in Sand, I'll just kill her!" Sakura screamed, "Even Lee-kun has abandoned me to be with a MONSTER like you!" she yelled with the last of her breath.

Before Sakura could even inhale enough to start again, she found herself being slammed into the tree trunk behind her. Her feet dangled several feet off of the ground and she gasped desperately for breath, fighting the vice-like grip around her throat. The rough bark of the tree tore through her thin dress and scratched at her back as she struggled helplessly at the hold.

"NO ONE insults my friend," growled Lee as he tightened his hand around the struggling kunoichi's neck, "Gaara-kun is a better person than you will ever be, Sakura." Lee let her down enough so her feet touched the spongy leaf litter, "If you EVER come near Gaara-kun again, I WILL kill you," Lee's cold black eyes bored into Sakura's and she shivered in fear.

"Don't worry, I will never go near that monster again," she gasped and spat at Gaara's feet.

Lee's face reddened and he shook Sakura as a terrier might a rag toy, banging her body and head against the tree repeatedly.

"Shut up," he threatened before flinging the now limp girl across the clearing.

Sakura lay there, stunned, a few seconds before disappearing in a whirl of leaves.

Lee straightened and looked at Gaara, smile now back in its rightful place across his face.

"Well, Gaara-kun, we have just enough time to have our 'lunch' before it turns dark here, what do you say?"

Gaara just looked at the smiling boy and sighed, sighed long and low. Then he too looked up and smiled. Nothing compared to Lee's eye-smarting dazzle of teeth, but a true smile none the less.

"That… sounds good, Lee-kun," Gaara answered as Lee picked up the basket and slung his remaining arm around the shorter ninja's shoulders.

And with that, the two friends began to walk to the top of a grassy knoll, content to eat their meal in amiable silence as the sun melted into the nearby mountains and dyed the sky a dazzling spectrum of colors.

Just as the sun was about to disappear beneath the rocky peaks, Gaara whispered a small, "Thank you Lee,"

Lee just smiled and continued to eat his sandwich.