CHAPTER 1

It had only been a day since Gaara, the youngest Kazekage the Village Hidden in The Sand had ever seen, and everything seemed to be back on track. There was still mourning over the death of Elder Chiyo, but like everything else, it would pass with time. Whilst everyone else from Konoha had returned to their village, Naruto and Rock Lee stayed behind in Sunagakure, to help oversee that Gaara was alright after his near death experience. This would prove to be the beginning of a whole new chapter in the young Kazekage's dismal life.

~X~

"Gaara!" While everyone else strictly used the term 'Kazekage-sama' when referring to Gaara, Naruto did not. He refused, in fact. Said boy lifted his head up to look at the door.

"Come in, Naruto-kun. You needn't knock next time, just walk in." He answered, shuffling around the papers on his desk. The hyperactive blonde he'd come to see as his brother bounded into his office. Behind him trailed a more refined boy, Rock Lee. Gaara's smile melted from his face as he set eyes upon the Leaf ninja. He never truly had apologized for what he had done to Lee, what seemed like so long ago. He straightened up in his chair.

"Hello, Lee-san." He said calmly as he stood from his seat. He bowed his head to both shinobi. Naruto scrunched up his face.

"So much propriety! Aren't we all friends here?" He chimed. Gaara relaxed a bit.

"Friends, yes! Of course. Sit down, both of you!" Gaara gestured to the wooden chairs in front of his desk. He sat back down while the others did the same. "What have you come here for, Naruto-kun? Is there a problem with your arrangements?"

Naruto shook his head, his blonde hair tousling in the process. "No, everything's great! The beds are real comfy and all that! It's just…I was wondering, Gaara…did you hear anything about Sasuke while you were…y'know. With Akatsuki?" he asked. He had a forlorn look in his eye. Gaara knew he desperately wanted to find his old teammate.

"No. I'm sorry, Naruto-kun," Gaara sighed, hanging his head. "I was incapacitated a majority of the time. Even if I had heard something, I wouldn't have remembered it. I can put some Sand shinobi on patrol in the outlaying lands, if that will help."

Naruto looked defeated. "No, it's alright…we have so many people looking for him now, as it is. I wouldn't want you wasting man power when you really don't have to." The blonde stood up. He smiled suddenly, reaching over to give Gaara a slap on the back, which almost knocked the wind out of him. "It's good to have you back, Gaara!"

Gaara blinked, and offered the blonde a small smile. "Thank you, Naruto-kun."

"Well, I'm going to go see if Sakura-chan is here yet! I'll stop by again tomorrow, Gaara! Dattebayo!" He smiled his huge trademark smile, and turned to leave. Lee stood as well, but Gaara help up a hand.

"Lee-sama? Can I have a word with you?" The redhead asked. Lee nodded, and sat back down. Naruto glanced at the two for a moment, but only shrugged his shoulders before leaving. Gaara sat down as well, and sighed lightly.
"Lee, I've been wanting to get this off of my chest for a while now. I'm…I'm so sorry!" He sounded like he was choking. He had his fists clenched in his lap, and his head was hung, his Kazekage's hat obscuring his face from view. Lee didn't believe what he was seeing until he looked closer…Gaara no Sabaku, the Demon of the Sand Village…was crying. "Lee, I'm so sorry for what I did to you!" He cried out. Lee didn't know what to do. He sat there in that wooden chair for what seemed like hours, void of all emotion for the first time in his life. He didn't know what to think…what to say. He had forgiven Gaara in his own way so long ago. He didn't think the boy had even given it a second thought. Come to find out, it was all the boy had dwelled on since he had returned home.

"Gaara-sama…do not cry! I forgave you, months after it happened!" He said lightly, reaching a hand out to the younger boy. Gaara shook his head, his hat falling off in the process. His deep red hair was longer than it had been before.

"That doesn't make it okay! That doesn't make up for what I did. I still have that pain…right here!" He gripped his chest, where his heart was. "Every time I remember how you looked in that hospital bed! Broken, weak…a mere shadow of the great shinobi who spilled my blood for the first time. Made me feel pain for the first time…"