AN: I love Lee/AnyFemale, but I think everyone hopes in their heart that he gets his Sakura. The pairing might be shot to hell in the manga, but hey- at least Lee's single, now!

Just a drabbly little drabble of a drabble. It's all my brain can squeeze out nowadays. Hang in there. I'll get profound sooner or later.

The first time she sees his hands, it's beyond shocking to Sakura. The bandages seemed as much a part of Lee as his skin or his patience, but he's been stripped of a lot by this time: his strength, his will to live, and then anything which covered the raw mess he was without a dream. The gauze is a spiteful metaphor for how the closest things to him are falling away, taking away skin and bits of what keeps Lee rising when he's knocked down.

He reeks of the antiseptic hospital-cheese odor she's grown accustomed to, plus the stench of infection. She's been changing his bandages when he lets her, which is not often; but today there's too little morphine in his system for him to resist. The thought that she has never nursed his hands before doesn't hit her until she's dreamily dropped the wrappings in a heap against his side, and she remembers that this sweating and pained apparition was once the fiery Lotus who knocked down other's preconceptions with ease and confidence.

The knuckles of his left hand have ceased to exist; heavy pads of scar tissue have swallowed that familiar ridge on his left hand, gnarling the skin with what resembles the bark of leprosy. His sweet, crooked fingers are no longer charming, for she sees now that genetics have not kinked them, in resemblance of a father's guiding hands- but rather they've been broken so many times that they don't know how to grow back. Blackened fingernails, rimmed with dried blood, have swollen against the daily abuse they endure; flecks of scars streak his arms, and among these are the stitches which could not hold strong against his suicide regimes.

His hands themselves are scars of a life spent scratching and clawing to break down barrier; of a single Shinobi's tooth-and-nail scrabble against the reality of the world in which she and he helplessly orbit. And sitting beside him, she feels the world become as dark and deep as the fabric of outer space; the little boy who couldn't do ninjutsu has ever been in a forgotten and cold corner of the universe, training until his arms wore a hide of silently-endured wounds- but for the first time she is hit by the enormous, gaping worry in his ebony eyes. Everything Lee has fought to become, and everything he has done for her, could have disappeared in the clenching of a hell-claw of sand. She has never, at least, had to bear the burden of being alone without her own consent.

Watching the petals wither and die on the daffodil at the window, Haruno Sakura threads her hand through what is left of Lee's; it is here, in the quiet, that she resolves not to be another apathetic wall, destroying Lee as he throws himself against it, trying to prove his mettle and his madness, but mostly his adoration.