"Only… the person that's important to you doesn't always have to be good."
The leaves started to whisper to each other when a soft breeze whirled past them. Under the shade of the two trees sat two boys close to each other's age, battle-scarred, tired, and sweaty. There they rested, conversing lightly about interesting subjects that had to do with humanity and faith. Here it was peaceful, especially after a long, hard fight that they had won with a single stroke of luck. Before it was time to part ways, it felt necessary to keep each other company, especially after the redhead had saved the dark-haired one and helped accomplish Kimimaro's defeat. The boy in the green jumpsuit with quirky features turned to the one with dark rings around his eyes and a smooth, pale complexion.
"You don't have to take someone bad as your important person, you know."
The lethargic boy with the love kanji on his forehead didn't move. "No… it doesn't matter if they're bad or not. A person cannot defeat loneliness."
His temporary companion could say nothing for a long while. Instead, he pondered over what the other said with deep thought. What he said didn't seem to have fault over it; the first thing he mentioned, anyway. Despite how evil a person's nature could be, it did not change the importance one held for him or her in their heart. This never occurred to him before. That may have been because he had never had anybody with vice intentions as someone he held dear to him. If his sensei had suddenly became malicious and coldhearted, would he still stand by his side? The answer was yes. He would actually try to support him positively. The last thing he said, however, didn't sound like it was very convincing. There was definitely a way to defeat loneliness.
Finally, he spoke up. "It is true, what you say about people being bad or not. But there is hope for a person lost in solitude."
"…" The boy with hair red as blood now had his turn to think. No. There couldn't be. No matter how many times he had tried, nobody would accept his plea for positive attention. Ever. All his life he had been feared as Sabaku no Gaara, and that was how cruelly fate decided to treat him. The boy with a dangerous demon locked inside his subconscious, the one who could shift endless amounts of sand in order to do whatever his will was. He could kill a living soul in a heartbeat. Nobody with a sane mind could love somebody with such a damaged, inhuman psyche. Rock Lee probably didn't know anything of his past, anything of what he truly was behind the impassive mask he displayed to the public. He would like to keep it that way… but if he did, he would never feel completely satisfied. The taijutsu specialist would not be accepting him for who he was, who he had been, and why he was like this. He wouldn't even be accepting Gaara, really.
This Lee person continued. "Somebody who is lonely only has to find someone to spend time with, somebody to listen… it is no good to keep yourself shunned from all contact. Never give up." Did he know he was lonely? "That is how to defeat loneliness, even if it takes time and some hurt. I believe it must be worth it."
Gaara closed his eyes for a moment. He liked Lee a lot. There never seemed to be a single spark of hate inside the energetic ninja. He even told him earlier when he had come to his rescue that, despite what he had done to him, he felt no grudge. How was that possible? Shouldn't he hate him for ripping his limbs apart to the point where he should barely be able to stand properly again? He was also very polite and worked hard, never giving up. He would give anything to be as likeable as Lee was, despite how weird he was. That only added to his personality. It made him wish he could smile freely. However, he thought that he truly could not understand what Gaara had gone through. "You don't know what it is like to be lonely. How can you say such things?"
"Hmmm… you're right about that. But I still think there is no point in backing down if you truly don't like being lonely anymore. It feels good to have an important person."
Gaara looked at Lee, lying against the tree trunk and gazing out towards the rustling leaves, a small, thoughtful smile hanging on his lips. How he wished he could understand. He wished he knew everything about Gaara, just to find out if he could truly accept him for the monster he was. "An… important person can be bad, you know." Gaara hoped to get somewhere with that sentence.
Lee nodded. "I know. You told me so. Is… your important person bad?" He blinked at Gaara, expecting an interesting answer.
Gaara's eyes shifted down to a small patch of forget-me-nots on the ground near his tree. "No."
"What do you consider an important person?"
Lee thought for a while about this question. "Ano… an important person can be different depending on how you both feel for each other, I think. Gai-sensei is very important to me. I look up to him as a role model and a teacher. He is also a friend, and almost like a family member." He looked towards Gaara to see what he was doing. Nothing. Just staring at his lap and listening to Lee talk. "Then my cell is full of important people! I treasure Tenten as a friend and Neji-kun as a rival that one day I must surpass. But, he is also a good friend. I just want to prove to him that with hard work, anyone can exceed a natural genius." A determined smile crossed his face, as well as a new kind of glint in his round eyes, making Lee look strong. Gaara watched him out of the corner of his eye, noticing that indeed, talking about the people important to him got him riled up. How he wished he knew what that felt like. Maybe someday, he could be a person that Lee would talk about like this and see his eyes lighten with a strange glow and voice flow with enthusiasm.
"Ah. I see. How many important people are you allowed?" the redhead asked naively. Lee blinked twice at that question and heaved some light laughter.
"There is no limit! I have Sakura-san, the one I will give my life to protect and will one day return my love for her, and Naruto-kun is quite special too." Gaara frowned to himself, his mind a mixture of thoughts. It disturbed him to hear Lee talk about Sakura that way. On the other part of his brain, he was smiling inwardly at the mention of Naruto. Perhaps that was the kind of person Lee was talking about as a role model. He only wished the few select people he thought about most would think the same about him.
"This Sakura-san… what is it that you feel for her?" he questioned in almost a demanding tone. She was that girl with the pink hair that reflected her own name and had risked her life to protect her own important person, that Sasuke who had recently run off. He was feeling a new sensation… was it that of hatred? No, not that strong. He was jealous. Jealous that Lee thought of her that way. But why? New feelings crept up on him.
"Oh! Whenever I think of Sakura-san's smile, I get woozy! I think she is very pretty and smart, so I get this urge to hug her or something. I also feel it is my duty to protect her. She is a very good friend." He smiled warmly to himself. More envy surged through Gaara's nerves.
"Why?" he asked simply, eyes narrowing.
Lee couldn't find an answer. "Because… because… I think I like her a lot."
"What kind of important person is she? It sounds like she's more than a friend to you."
"The kind you want to try and spend the rest of your life with. Like… boyfriend and girlfriend, or husband and wife." He nodded, thinking this was a good way to put it. Gaara seemed a little clueless when it came to these subjects. He wondered why.
"…Oh." The jealousy became partial hurt. Once again, he felt the dull ache reappear in his heart. It was all very puzzling, the feelings he was receiving from Lee's love fetish for Sakura. "How do you know you're in love with her?" He wanted to know this. Why? How did one fall in love like that? Was he feeling that kind of tug at his heart when he thought of someone? Like… Lee?
Lee sighed. He was not very good at explaining such things thoroughly, mainly because he wasn't certain why either. "Maybe… well…"
"Love is defined as when two people share feelings for one another and want only the better for the other person," Gaara explained, knowing all too well what love was, yet he had never felt it. "How did you start loving Sakura-san?"
Being interrupted had clammed Lee's mouth up, also stopping his train of thought. Now it was his turn to brood over his thoughts. Sakura… who was she really to him? The moment she met her, he was sure he had fallen in love with her pretty face. He had vowed to protect her no matter what. He had even faced rejection. Back then; did he ever truly know who she was? No, truthfully he didn't. Now he did. She was still nice, but their relationship seemed to have blunted down a bit. She was a friend… a very pretty friend who he would still vow to protect with his life. Come to think of it, he would protect any of his close friends with his life if given the choice. Perhaps he should rethink Sakura over. The crush would slowly float away, as it had been for a while since it was not fed.
"It was very foolish. Sorry," the one with the bowl-cut blurted, hanging his head. "This is probably not how you are supposed to be in love, but I was attracted to her looks." The taijutsu specialist felt hot all of a sudden. Gaara was rather surprised and interested in Lee's reaction, some of it showing very mildly on his face. He never judged people by their appearance. However, he knew that it was natural for a human to do any of that first impression stuff.
"You were drawn to her," he decided nonchalantly. Lee glanced up at him, some of the shame washing away. "You do not love her."
"She is still important," he retorted.
"All right then. What is the most important person you can have?" Gaara wanted to know this. Maybe then he could classify how he felt for Lee.
"It depends on what somebody values more," Lee told him. "Some people will value friends over anybody else. Some people love their family. Some people go all out for the one special person, or, should I say 'mate.' There can be only one of those." He was satisfied with his answer. "I only have friends to depend on."
Gaara took all this into consideration. Maybe Lee was 'the one?' He didn't know. He could just be one of those really close friends. He was pretty sure he didn't have any. His siblings were only of little importance, but more than they had been a while ago. Perhaps Lee could answer further questions so things could clear up. "What is this feeling then?" He felt his hand slowly reach up to where his heart was located. "It makes my heart feel like it's being tugged at."
Lee glanced over towards the Sunanin, watching with interest as he pondered over these strange feelings. "I don't know. When do you feel it?"
Gaara scanned his judgment for a while before answering the older boy. "When I'm thinking of somebody. When he is nearby, I feel calmer. When he is happy, I feel this strange urge to be happy too. If he ever liked me as much as I did him, the idea is very pleasant and it makes me forget all the bad things I think about." He allowed a tiny smile to don his face. It was only a sliver of anything.
Looking at the redhead, Lee could tell he truly felt the way he explained it. Frankly, he had never seen Gaara form his lips into anything related to a smile. His face would always sit expressionless and unused. He seemed to have been changing over time. He couldn't help but smile too. "I think you love someone then. Very much. It's that special kind of love."
Sabaku no Gaara nodded, finally understanding what was happening. "Who is it?" Lee questioned, very inquisitive.
Lee almost stopped breathing all together. His smile changed from a prying one to a slightly dropped one, mainly from all the surprise that had just hit him. His cheeks blushed to some extent as he gaped at the foreign ninja. "What?" he asked with bated breath.
"Rock Lee. Is it so hard to understand?" He looked at the taller boy with some hurt in his eyes, though it was barely visible at all. Perhaps he did not return those feelings after all. Maybe he did not even like him. He possibly hated him even more for telling him that.
"No… just… I had no idea…" Lee fumbled with his words, trying to make sense of them himself. "Why?"
Gaara sighed, shaking his head. If he were that Shikamaru kid, he would have been complaining about how troublesome this all was. "Many reasons. You are very likeable."
"…" Lee was speechless.
"I think you are interesting. You are very positive and energetic all the time. And at times like right now, you are kind of cute." Gaara felt a little strange saying something like this to Lee. It made him feel this sensation he normally felt when Kankurou did something stupid in a public setting. He watched with intensity as Lee's face grew redder.
"Ah… I-I see," Lee gulped, finding himself messing with the bandages on his hands. Gaara got up to walk towards the blushing boy, squatting down next to him. He cupped his crush's face in his hands and turned it to look him in the eyes. When he was like this, he was horrendously cute. It made him want to eat his face up.
The Konoha nin could not decipher exactly what was happening at that moment. "Do you like me?" the one with dark-rimmed eyes asked, the aquamarine irises deeply contrasting and boring into his soul.
"…Yes, I like you."
"Do you love me?"
"…I don't know."
"Feh." He dropped his face carelessly. "Nobody does."
Not only did Gaara feel hurt, but so did Lee. He wasn't given a chance. "What makes you say that?"
"They don't." His words were icy and blunt, as if he truly didn't care.
"Everyone. Even if they do care, it's mild concern. Now you even hate me. I ruined it." He turned to leave, now standing above the dark-haired ninja.
"Wait, please." Gaara hesitated. "I never said I hated you. Didn't I just say I liked you?"
"Don't give up. I told you that." He said this with a smile. "If you really want, I can get to know you better."
A certain lurch occurred in the Suna nin's stomach. No. He did not want to know Gaara inside and out. He wanted desperately to change, and in order to do that, it was best to forget everything that had happened when he was younger. He told himself that recently. It was for the sake of becoming a better person. Without turning around, he replied, "If you do, then you really will hate me."
Lee blinked, now more curious than ever. "We'll make a bet then. If I don't hate you, you'll stay with me. If I do, you can leave and never associate with me again. How does that sound?"
Gaara pondered for a moment. "…Fine." He sat directly next to him under the same tree. The breeze turned into a soothing gust of wind, brushing past both of their faces. He began to explain about how he was the carrier of the great one-tailed demon Shukaku, about how he was treated at a young age, how he was despised, how everything fell to pieces for his life. He told him all of this without changing a single tone of his voice. Lee was flabbergasted.
"That is beyond what I can say, Gaara-kun." Nobody addressed Gaara like that before, either. "I have never heard of such poor treatment in my life. I could never compare. But… what is there for me to hate about you? You were strong enough to pick up the pieces and try to start a new lifestyle. That is very admirable." He sighed, resting his head against the wooden, thick tree trunk. "I win the bet. You get the reward."
It was Gaara's turn to feel the heat rush to his cheeks. He never expected Lee to react in such a way. He thought he would possibly despise him just like the rest of his country had. All of what Lee had decided after hearing Gaara's long story only made him like the boy more. He gave him wonderful feelings never developed inside the jinchuuriki's heart before that he would do anything to keep for as long as he continued to live.
And, after a small kiss planted on his hot cheek, Gaara knew his life was drastically going to change again- for the better this time. Lee knew his life too would also be altered, but it was going to be nice to try out a relationship with this mysterious dark-eyed redhead. He promised- and a promise from Lee was never broken- that he would teach Gaara how to love. He too would learn to return those feelings and build from the small sparks of emotions Gaara gave him right now into a masterpiece.