The little boy looked out across the sandy expanse. So this was what it looked like outside of Suna. He clutched his bear a bit closer to him and backed up anxiously. Not that the outside climate was much different than inside, but... the endless expanse was unsettling. He was a monster, he knew, and it would only take one slip from being the perfect killing machine to be thrown out here to wander until he starved. Gaara shivered as the sun went down, walking back through the gates to wait out his Father's drunken wrath on the deserted playground across town.

Ten years later, the same, tired redhead sat in the dead tree overlooking the playground. Being Kazekage was difficult, that was a no-brainer; it wasn't as though he'd had no idea what he was getting into before he applied. Gaara knew that some people were still confused as to how he'd managed to become the head of a village that feared and despised him, and to be honest, he did as well. Nonetheless, Sabaku no Gaara was not a name to be taken lightly; it never was and it never would be. Except by one person who took everything lightly. "Gaara-kun!" Self-proclaimed 'beautiful green beast of Konoha' was below the tree in an instant.

The smaller boy cast his gaze on the green-clad taijutsu master, gripping the branch he sat on a little tighter once he realized the height. "Konnichiwa, Lee-kun. How are you?" Black-rimmed eyes widened slightly, mentally berating himself for asking questions like that to the prince of rants himself. Gaara grit his teeth together a little bit after about seven minutes of the ever-spouting 'speech' on 'burning youthful passion of the lotus flower'. "Lee-kun. We've been over this before..." The taller boy stopped talking with a barely noticeable blush. "Hai, Gaara-kun." The young Kazekage tilted his head again to catch the last of the sunset peeking over the pink clouds off in the distance, tinting the sky different shades of red and green, reminding him of something called the 'Arctic Lights'.

As the blue above the shinobi started to fade to soft indigo and the first winking stars started to show, Gaara sighed and hopped down from the tree, landing next to the unusually quiet green beast. Without speaking, the pair silently navigated the deserted streets of Suna, making their way to the menacing Kazekage complex that was, as the name suggested, the home of the Kazekage. As they neared the faint shadow of the building, Gaara closed his eyes and sighed softly, turning on his heel to grasp the taller by the shoulders, trying his best to make eye contact. "What is it, Lee?" The other boy shifted his gaze uneasily. "There's nothing..." The smaller raised a lip to expose a canine, not unlike a snarl from the bijuu that once resided in him. "You're being depressed. Explain yourself."

"You're never... happy." Gaara blinked. That was it? He was just sad because Gaara wasn't happy? "Well, Lee-kun, not everybody can be as happy as you are." He released Lee's shoulders and broke eye contact, glancing off to the side. "No, Gaara-kun... I mean you're never happy. You should try something, find a hobby... I can't guard a person 24/7 who hasn't ever smiled, it's just impossible for me..." The redhead crossed his arms and glared at a scraggly bush as though it was the shrubbery's fault that he was being forced to have this conversation. "Then just stop protecting me." "Gaara-kun, I'll protect you until the day that I die!" The older blushed a little, but continued. "I just want you to be a little happy!"

"I've never been happy, Lee-kun. What if I don't like it?" Lee blinked. "Who doesn't like being happy?" "I was almost happy... when he died..." Lee watched silently as the younger boy's stoic mask chipped away, bit by bit. He was practically in tears. "Who rejoices in their father's death? Even if he did beat us, it's not right... happiness will always be connected with death for me, so the best way to keep the village alive is to be unhappy..." Lee shook his head, looking vaguely caught in his own thoughts. "No, that's not completely true. I always thought that the only way to be happy was to train and try to defeat Neji. But I met Sakura, Naruto... friends and important people are a reason to live and be happy, and they don't necessarily have to do with training..." Gaara was curious, but still seething. "I don't have any important people." He almost swore he could see the look on the other boy's face deflate two sizes. "Oh..." The redhead felt a twinge of an unfamiliar emotion in his chest and frowned a little, shifting to the side.

Lee looked up towards the half moon. "Gaara-kun, do you know what love is?" The young Kazekage's frown deepened. He had the damned word branded on his forehead, for Kami's sake. He knew what it meant, all right, just now what it meant for him. The younger opened his mouth, but bit his lip before trying again. "No." He'd taken that road before... It led to permanent scars of flesh and mind. "Never. Leave." The other boy hesitated, looking away. "Can you... deny another person their happiness?" Gaara sighed, these things were beginning to get really irrelevant. "Not anymore, I suppose." "Good." The next thing he knew, his arms were being held by the taller boy. The younger boy struggled weakly, but he knew it wouldn't get him anywhere. He was the Kazekage, dammit! The shorter of the two boys glared at Lee until their lips met. Four seconds seemed to last forever, but were over in a flash. He was left staring into the distance, fingers to his lips. Gaara got to his feet, shakily, and brushed himself off in wonder. Still confused, he walked into the complex and to his room.

It was as though his father had died again. Strange and odd... but happy.