Disclaimer: Peanut
Kyo - A new fanfic, yay!
Updates on this will be far between.
I'll try to make the time between as short as possible, please stay interested in the meantime.
They'll be reletively long chapters so it's something to look forward too.

Chapter I: Courage

...Who could refrain,
That had a heart to love, and in that heart
Courage to make's love known?

Shakespeare really knew what he was talking about, eh? And even though those lines are hundreds of years old, they still pertain to the present. It takes a true heart, one unbridled by time and consequence, to admit it shares the love of another heart. But uncertainty can sometimes cloud the heart's true potential, then - and only then - is the heart truly weak. Doubt can cripple even the most powerful warrior. And, as love goes, it can never be certain that your devotion is returned. That is what Naruto Uzumaki realized as he stood in front of the gates of Suna, prepared to say farewell to his love, his devotion.


The Kazekage stood there, both his siblings at his side. His normally impassive face held warmth, and just the slightest hint of a smile. Naruto had been relieved when his team had finally found the sand nin, but his heart was broken into a thousand pieces when the news of Gaara's death hit his ears. He thought he would die right along with him. But there was hope after all, thanks to Chiyo baa-san, he was able to resurrect the fallen jinchuuriki. She held his gratitude, Kami rest her crazy little senile soul. There would be no tears, not any more, now he would say all that he wanted to from the moment he saw the red head.

"Gaara, I love you!"

Naruto paused.

Gaara blinked.

Everyone else was still.

Naruto hadn't been the one to say those words.

He turned to see a red-faced Neji step forward. His eyes were wide as he stared at the fellow leaf nin. He had been too late...

He had missed his chance of confession; Neji beat him to it. This couldn't be happening. This was supposed to be his time to tell Gaara he loved him, with all his heart, even more. He was supposed to look into Gaara's eyes and explain all of the feelings held up deep inside of him for the longest time, not Neji! And when did the Hyuuga ever have feelings for him? Every one around glanced uncertainly at each other, confusion imprinted on all of the shinobi's faces.

Naruto wasn't about to let his chance slip away. Neji was his friend, but he couldn't just let him have Gaara.

He was ready for a little competition if needed.

"I love you too." He stepped forward saying.

Everyone's attention, which had been recently focused on Gaara of the Sand, shifted to Naruto. Neji looked at him with wary eyes.


Naruto was determined. "You heard me. I'm in love with you, Gaara. I-I just couldn't say so before."

"Naruto, what are you doing?" Neji whispered harshly, distorting his words just a little.

Naruto returned his glare and whispered back just as fiercely. "What do you think I'm doing? I'm confessing my love to him. What are you doing?"

"The same." He mumbled.

Naruto's frown deepened. "I know that, but what are you doing? You know the way I feel about Gaara. How could you do this?"

Neji closed his eyes and shook his dark head slightly, focusing his pale eyes on Naruto. "I'm tired of waiting for the opportune moment, Naruto. I have kept these feeling inside for the longest time, and besides, you hesitated. I thought you didn't have the courage, so I spoke up."

Gaara looked back and forth between the two, green eyes widened in shock. His mouth gaped open, genuinely surprised. He hadn't seen this coming - from Naruto, yeah, but Neji!? This was a bit ridiculous.

As the two ninja glowered at each other he looked pleadingly to his sister, Temari. She looked as if she was trying to hide a smile, she bit her lip furiously. Kankuro held his fist up to his mouth, shoulders shaking with effort; he wasn't so convincing. Gaara turned back to Neji and Naruto who were still glaring at each other, that is until Rock Lee stepped in between the fuming ninja, he placed a hand on each boy's chest. Their concentration broke to look him in the face; he was oddly serious.

"Now is not the time for your immature bickering. We must allow Gaara-sama, the fifth kazekage to express his thanks." he said, eyes moving back and forth between Naruto and Neji, they both sighed.

Naruto straightened and gave one last leer to Neji who narrowed his eyes angrily. "And besides..." Lee continued. "It is the power of youth that blossoms in the heat of passionate love. The courage of such passion fills my heart today. Therefore I, Rock Lee, am in love with you as well, Gaara-sama."

Well... today just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it? Thought a certain village leader, raising his eys to the heavens, silently asking any entity that may be lurking above for help. And the restoration of his sainty.

"What?!" screamed Neji.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Naruto shouted.

Rock Lee held his ground, saying, "I assure you, I jest you not. My love for you, Gaara, glows brighter than the heat resonating off the sands of your beautiful country. It is with my undying faith in the youthfulness of our pairing that I pledge my love for you."

Neji was becoming impatient. "Oh, for the love of...Gaara, be serious, you can't possibly accept a confession of this sort from...him."

The last word was said with so much venom that even Rock Lee got offended.

"And what is wrong with me?" Lee accused.

Neji took in his furious, circular eyes, the tight green spandex jumpsuit, orange leg-warmers - even in the sweltering heat of Suna - and the ridiculous bowl shaped haircut that was done by Gai. The two of them looked so much alike that it was scary.

In the end he opted to stay silent, not wanting his anger to fuel him into unnecessarily hurting his teammates feelings.

Naruto, who had been quiet up until now, growled. His face was tilted down, his eyes shaded by his hair, but he shook visibly, clenching his fists so hard that his knuckles turned white. "Shut up! Both of you just shut up! I'm the one that's supposed to be confessing my love right now, not you! You have completely ruined this moment that was supposed to be..." He paused, too angry to speak. "Aaaurrgh! This isn't fair!" He looked away, fingers numb from clenching them so tight.

"What are you saying, Naruto? Don't make the ridiculous assumption that you are the only person that has ever felt anything for Gaara." Neji said quietly.

Lee, ignored both of them. "So who will it be, Gaara-sama? Surly you will follow your heart's desire and chose me."

"Don't be stupid, Bushybrow!" Naruto shouted, sending Lee tumbling to the ground with a fist in the head. "He'll pick me, of course. I'm the one who actually helped save his life."

Neji rolled his eyes.

Every one was quiet for a long time. Gaara spoke up as soon as he found his voice.

"Does anybody want to know what I think?"

The three Konoha ninja looked at the kazekage then. His face was impassive like always, no one, not even Neji, could guess what he was thinking. All three eagerly nodded their heads, Gaara sighed.

He hated for it to be this way, but it was necessary.

"All of this fighting is trivial and stupid. I refuse to acknowledge any of your confessions until you handle this in a more mature manner. It's ridiculous the way you think I'll choose between the three of you like some type of elementary school game. Until the three of you grow up, you can just take those so-called 'confessions of love' and leave. I have no interest in involving myself with... children." He crossed his arms over his chest. The three leaf nin stared at him incredulously.

"B-But there still is a chance, ne?" Naruto hoped, but the red head said nothing, just turned and walked away. "Great! See what you two did, you made him mad! You're lucky he didn't grind you to dust with his sand!"

"I fail to see where this is our fault." Neji stated, motioning towards himself and Lee. "This is just as much your fault as anyone else-"

He was cut off by a hard smack against the head, delivered by Sakura. She repeated this action on Rock Lee and Naruto before turning to fully face the three males.

"That's what you get for thinking he would choose you because you came up with some stupid love declaration. I would expect this kind of thing from Lee, but you Neji? When did you get so careless? And you Naruto... I just don't understand you three. You should be ashamed of yourselves."

The three immediately lowered their heads in shame at her berating words.

"Well..." Sakura started, after clapping her hands together, ignoring each boy's expression of woe. "Let's head back, Kakashi-sensei needs attention, and we should report the revival of the kazekage to Tsunade-sama as soon as possible. Let's go."

All in all the mission had went well. The kazekage was found, while not exactly unharmed, that problem was quickly rectified. The teams that were sent to look after the Suna leader, came back in one piece...almost. Three in particular entered the gates of Konoha thinking they left their heart's back in the Village Hidden in the Sand.

"So you told him?" asked a frustrated Konoha ninja.

Naruto nodded.

"And Neji and Rock Lee as well?"

Another nod.

Kiba sighed. "I don't know what to say, Naruto. If he told you to grow up, then I guess you should grow up."

"What?!" Naruto shouted. "How can you say that? I told you, before we left, if anything happened I had to at least tell him my feelings. I stood there trying to work up the courage to try and tell the weirdo how I feel about him, then what happens? Neji and Bushy Brow step in and take the glory. I don't see how that's childish."

The dog nin snorted, rolling his eyes. "It seems kind of fishy to want to tell a guy you love him right after you find out he got kidnapped. Why didn't you tell him before - like when you and Jiraiya were traveling near the Wind Country borders a while back - I wonder."

Naruto frowned, falling back on the grass, looking up at the cloud littered sky. "It's complicated."

Kiba gave a breezy shrug as he picked up the stick Akamaru dropped in front of him. With a quick flick of his wrist, he flung the piece of wood out of sight, the mammoth dog bounded excitedly in search for it. "Well I see where the guy's coming form."

"What do you mean?" He looked at the boy from the side of his eye, his face was emotionless.

"Neji confesses, then you up and say you got feelings for him...and then Lee..." He shuddered inwardly. "It all seems kinda...I dunno, random. Like the three of you were racing to see who would be first. Then you get pissed cause you weren't the first person and say what you feel in spite of the other two. I don't think it was fair to you or Gaara."

"Maybe you're right." Naruto sighed. "But what do I do now? He probably won't even speak to me after the way I acted."

"Well...Instead of telling him, why don't you show Gaara how you really feel."

"How so?"

Kiba snorted again. "I don't know, figure out something. You've got competition now. I can't really say how he feels about Lee, only Gaara could tell you that. In truth - if you get past all of his flaws - Lee's a pretty cool guy, it's hard not to like him." He stated as an afterthought.

"I know." the blonde said quietly.

"And then there's Neji, who keeps his feelings so bottled up that no one could have guessed he had something for Gaara. Despite the way he acted during the chuunin exams a few years ago, he's okay too. He's nicer to Hinata, which is one less thing to worry about, and he gets along better with everyone else in the village. Most of it is thanks to you, he's really changed because of you, Naruto."

"I know." Naruto repeated, feeling a little defeated.

Kiba sighed. "So then, there's only one thing you have to really think about."

"What's that?" Naruto asked, his eyes weary.

"What Gaara considers important. Looks, brains or what's inside. You know? That kind of stuff."

"That's right." Naruto mumbled to himself.

He and Neji had been close since he beat the Byakugan wielder in the chuunin exams. An odd way to make a friend but they have been pretty much inseparable every since then. The raven even said the boy had given him strength when he had to endure his most gruesome battle during the time they were together on the Sasuke retrieval team.

They had been friends for the longest time.

Now they were enemies.

When had it come to this?

Lee dodged another carefully placed palm, shifting his feet to the left, sprinting out of the way. Neji struck forward, hitting nothing but air in his frustration. The taijutsu user twisted and twirled with ease around each and every one of the Hyuuga's blows - something he could not have done in his youth. He laughed openly as Neji's pale hand, laced with chakra, hit air...again. Neji growled low in his throat.

"Lee, be reasonable." He shouted as the spandex sporting ninja stepped away from another blow. He'd been able to do that a lot lately.

"What do you mean, Neji-san. I am demonstrating my full potential, is that not how a mock fight is supposed to be carried out?"

On the sidelines of their makeshift dirt ring, their audience smirked.

Neji snorted, taking on his stance again. "You know that's not what I was talking about." He rushed forward, emanating a spear of chakra from his palm, he missed...again. "What's with this sudden infatuation with Gaara? You have never said anything about it before." He struck again.

And again.

And again.

"This is no sudden infatuation. It merely took the display of affection that you and Naruto-kun showed to make me realize how much I was in love with Gaara-sama."

The byakugan wielder snorted incredulously. "That's absurd."

"Call it what you will, my feelings are undeniable."

"I thought you were in love with Haruno Sakura."

Lee paused, stumped cold. He tried to search his mind to try and figure out some way to explain how he wasn't in love with the pink haired girl anymore. He placed a fist underneath his chin in thought, his round eyes narrowed into semicircles. Then he pounded his fist into his palm, obtaining an air of confidence. Neji waited.

"That's beside the point!" Neji fell over. "I am in love with Gaara now and that's all that matters."

"Now?" Neji growled. "Now!? You can't just pick and choose the time and place for the people you want to fall in love with. There is no way the heart is that fickle." He attacked the bushy browed ninja in anger, a horrible mistake.

Lee took Neji's frustration as an opportunity, plummeting the ninja into the ground with a carefully placed kick. Neji lifted up, sputtering obscenities.

"You have a very...colorful vocabulary, Neji-san." Rock Lee laughed, free spirited as always. Someone could walk by and not even tell that their battle had been a serious one. Even though Lee was a formidable fighter, no one really took him seriously.

How could they?

Neji grumbled. "All thanks to you."

Lee's expression was purely innocent. "What did I do?"

The raven haired ninja walked away, fed up with the whole situation. "Forget it." He muttered as he left, shaking his head at the absurdity.

Why the hell would he be jealous of Lee? Rock Lee of all people?

The guy was obnoxious and he didn't even realize it, he had no sense of style - he let Gai talk him into wearing that hideous green jumpsuit for crying out loud! - he can't use ninjutsu, only taijutsu. He was the worst match for Gaara. Hands down, conversation over.

Suddenly Neji stopped to really think, his anger beginning to subside. Was Lee really all that bad? It was stupid to think of his competition as worthless just because their physical attributes weren't up to par - even if he didn't think of Lee as competition. He started to really think about the assumptions Gaara would come up with. Of course he would take Lee's appearance into consideration, but he would have to look deeper into his being.

His heart.

Lee was a good person. He helped others when they were in need. Like that Haruno girl back when they first participated in the chuunin exams. His dedication is admirable; once he finds a goal to pursue, he sticks to it without fault. Neji wondered how he could have possibly overlooked this, he was on the boys team after all. He was probably the only one that knew Lee the best, besides Gai-sensei. Maybe the nin was fair competition...And there was that time that Gaara and his siblings came to help the remainders of the Sasuke retrieval team. Gaara had been sent to protect Lee. He'd experienced first hand what the taijutsu user was like.

That was one up for Rock Lee.

Neji didn't even want to think about Naruto. The guy had saved the Kazekage multiple times. They became close friends after the help the sand nin offered when the Uchiha went missing. Naruto adored Gaara, Neji knew this but then...so did he. It was jut on a...secret admirer level. Admiring from a far, but not really doing much about it. He'd respected Naruto's feelings and put his aside, for the moment. And at the gates of Suna, he waited as long as he could for Naruto to make his feelings known, until he couldn't hold his in any longer.

He just didn't expect this mess to happen.

To have finally found the courage to say what you truly mean within your heart...it was a heady, lifting feeling to have gotten those emotions off of his chest, but Neji didn't imagine it would hurt as well.

Neji wandered around the forests of Konoha aimlessly, pondering over the events that occurred within the last couple of days, including the dispute that went down upon the Leafs exit of Suna. Every time he thought of it he wanted to cry out in agony. After a time of walking, he stopped to mull things over in his mind for a while. That is until someone intruded on his thoughts.


"What do you want?" Neji scoffed, turning away from the orange clad ninja.

Naruto's blue eyes narrowed. "I thought you might like a little friendly company."

"That company would have to be considered a friend and I think I have made my opinion of you undoubtedly clear." He said frankly, face set into his normal grimace, Naruto sighed dejectedly.

"Why are you acting this way, Neji?"

"I don't know what you mean." The blond made a sound of disagreement.

"I think you do! We were friends, what happened?"

"You were never a friend, just somebody I tolerated more than others."

"You don't mean that."

"What if I do?"

"I know you're upset, but I have the right to be too. How do you think I feel? My own best friend betrays me... do you know how much that hurt." His voice was softer, Neji winced at the tone.

"Don't go so far as to assume I believe you to be my best friend."

Hehadit all figured out: if he could cut all the ties he had with the blond, then he could pursue his true interest, Gaara. But the doing was levels more difficult than the saying. He and Naruto were bonded, they were friends, no matter what his previous objection might have insinuated. It would be hard letting go.

But he had no choice, right?

"But you are... Neji." The sorrow had returned in the normally cheerful voice, something the brunette wasn't accustomed to hearing. "I cherish you like a brother and I can't believe what we've been reduced to. We shouldn't be fighting." He placed a hand on Neji's shoulder.

"So that means you're going to give up on Gaara?"

"... No."

"Then there is no point to this conversation."

"Neji..." He started, but the Hyuuga raised a hand to silence him.

"Naruto... you have the benefit of being likable enough to form relationships with other people, even if they don't realize it themselves. I on the other hand don't have that privilege. And when I meet the one person I become even remotely interested in, I have no chance because - what do you know - he's already met you."

Naruto frowned, trying to place meaning in those words.

"So you're saying you never had a chance in the first place."

"No, I'm saying you stole that chance away from me. You have too much character, Naruto, I can't compete with that."

Naruto stood, placing his hand just above his heart. He hadn't come here to argue, he had come to make amends and, perchance, form a truce between he and the Hyuuga, but Neji was making the situation exceedingly difficult. Sure he'd known Gaara longer and been more of an influence on the red head, but that didn't mean he had cheated his way into the boys heart. It didn't give Neji the right to blame him.

"You can't put this all on me!"

"Put what? I'm merely telling the truth... Am I not?"

"But you don't have to make it sound that way. As if I'm the bad guy."

Neji's attention turned to Naruto's face in an instant, his eyes wide in exaggeration, his head shaking firmly. Naruto could feel the sarcasm in his words; it burned him to his core.

"Oh, but you're not. You're always, always the good guy. You can do no wrong. If you make a mistake, all you have to do is repent, you don't have the choice of being perfect or not. You can make errors and everyone will still love you for them. You have no idea how good you've got it, Naruto."

"Neji, I just..."

"Just leave me alone Naruto, you have plenty of other friends in which to accompany yourself with. I'm sure I'm no one special."

Neji wasn't focused, this much was obvious. Tenten observed the way the young genius walked - more like sulked - back into the training area, Lee long gone on some ridiculous training mission with Gai; today was their monthly one-footed hopping race around Konoha, when they set off she remembered her incredulity at the time when their teacher announced the start of this ritual.

She watched as her teammate reached her side, staring intently at the way his feet dragged lifelessly across the dirt floor. She frowned.

"Neji, are you ok?" She half expected him not to answer her, but his reply was unmistakable.

"I was thinking: What if there was such a being that didn't need a heart to function." He didn't lift his head from its downcast state.


"You know, something that survived without feelings or emotions." He mumbled pathetically.

"Basically a robot?" She guessed, still highly confused at the direction of this new conversation.

"Precisely." he answered monotonously.

"That can't be fun."

"Why?" Tenten sighed, placing her hands on her hips, studying her teammate intently.

"Well, if you didn't have feelings or emotions, that would mean no preferences or expressions either. You'd walk around like a drone, partial to nothing, passionate about nothing; a robot. A heart is essential. In the true words of Shikamaru: it's troublesome sometimes, but if it wasn't there then we would be... incomplete."

"But still... it has to be better than living like this."

The brunette tilted her head back in understanding. She patted the Hyuuga twice on his shoulder.

"Oh, Neji, you can't let one little lost love set you down like this. I've never seen you so depressed before. Perhaps instead of mourning your loss, you should celebrate with a new love." Her attempt at enthusiasm was met with a melancholy stare.

"I can't just go from lover to lover like you, it's not that simple."

Tenten huffed in anger, but quickly checked herself; she had to remember this was Neji she was talking to, he was just honest - brutally honest. She forced another light tone in her voice as she smiled tightly.

"I do not go from lover to lover! I'm just having a hard time making a decision... Besides, there are plenty eligible bachelors and bachelorettes here in Konoha."

"I don't want them, I want Gaara." He was beginning to sound like a stubborn child.

"Well, we can't always get what we want. You know Neji, right now you sound like you were the pampered little prince brought up in the main branch family. Stop being so selfish. If Gaara wants Naruto, then you don't have a say in the matter. What then? Wallowing in self-pity? Buck up and find someone else!"

She slapped him on the back, abandoning her previous reassuring nature. Neji flinched at the pain in his left shoulder, but did not make a sound. Instead he rolled his eyes in self-defeat.

"There is no one else!"

"Sure there is!" Exclaimed the scroll user, she counted off the options in her mind. "Uh... Kasumi?"

Neji merely shook his head.



"Hmm..." A long pause. "... Ayane?"

"I. Want. Gaara. No one else will do."

"Well complaining isn't going to get you anywhere. Go find someone, and go make up with Naruto, I hate to see you two bickering like this." She waved a finger at the Byakugan wielder in a motherly fashion, picking up her forgotten scroll. Neji sighed.

She was right, after all.


"Don't forget what I said either. Don't lose yourself in the dark, Neji... You never know when you'd find your way out, but then it may be too late." Neji's eyes widened some as he looked directly at his teammate for the first time, she was smiling absently.

"Who said that?" Tenten shrugged breezily, her grin still wide.

"I don't know, but it has a ring to it, ne?"

Neji nodded, the girl did have a point, but he wasn't so willing to give up his chance at happiness. Why was it always Naruto? Why couldn't he just have his moment of glory just once? He sighed, things were going to be very difficult from now on; he was mentally exhausted. Losing the one you love and a best friend all in the same day, this was not something Neji was completely prepared for, though he told his mind otherwise.

Leaving his teammate to her training, Neji left, in search of the hyperactive ninja, wondering what he was going to say when he found him.

Was he really willing to give up so easily?

Naruto Uzumaki loved Ichiraku Ramen. Well who doesn't know that? It was common sense, of course. So it wasn't a strange sight to find him drowning his misery in bowl after bowl of noodles and broth, a healthy little pile beginning to gather beside him, and when you think that he'd had just enough, there was always a call for one more order of barbecue pork ramen, Ichiraku's specialty.

Like always, he sat alone, filling his belly to its content, not really noticing how it swelled with each passing bowl. It was alright, though...Anything to fill the ache in his heart. What better way to do that than to fill the one in his stomach, right? The sad thing about this whole scene, however, was, by this time, Naruto wasn't even hungry anymore. He ate just to eat...it gave him something to do...rather than think about the one thing he couldn't get off his mind, even now.


And Neji.

He shook his head and slurped up the remnants of his meal. He'd promised himself he wouldn't think about that now. He would celebrate the return of Suna's Kazekage with multiple rounds of ramen. He wouldn't think about the way the red head rejected him. The way Neji practically stabbed him in the back, then openly rejected his truce. The way Bushy brow... thought he could steal the glory as well. No, he wouldn't dare think about the way that hurt him. Uh-uh, no-sir-ee bob, not Naruto Uzumaki. He'd rather think of happy thoughts, like how many bowls he could shove down his throat before he asphyxiated on the dish and died a horrible death.

Yeah, those thoughts were much better.

"Ok, this is just pathetic..."

Naruto jumped at the sound. Who dared to disturb him when he was half way through his fifth bowl of ramen? Did they not know that interruptions were tolerated only after the seventh bowl? Such intolerance will not be...tolerated. He turned his face towards the intruder, face covered in noodle juice, a piece of onion sticking to the side of his mouth. Kiba snatched the bowl out of his hands.

"Oi! What are you doing, Kiba?! I wasn't done yet!" He cried, reaching for the bowl.

Kiba waved a finger in front of the blonde's nose. "I don't think so. You're better than this, Naruto. What were you doing eating all of your problems away? I thought you were gonna fix that little situation you and I were talking about earlier."

Naruto pouted. "I was, but then I got hungry..." He dipped his head in shame, fiddling with his fingers. The dog nin sighed.

"I should have known not to leave you alone to take care of this." He shook his head, handing the half full bowl over the counter, back to the chef. Kiba took the seat right next to the blond.

"I wasn't alone...at first. Sai was here, but then he got bored of me whining bowl after bowl so he called me a dickless baby, then he left."

The boy snorted, folding his arms across his chest. "He's right, you know. Stop making this everybody else's problem and deal with it yourself, Naruto."

"Don't you think that's what I've been trying to do?" he countered. "I haven't got a clue as to what I'm supposed to do now. I saved Gaara's life, forgave him when he aided the sound village that time they tried to destroy us and caused the old man to die, told him I loved him, what else could there possibly be left to do? Die for him?"

"Let's hope not." Kiba said, toying with a pair of chopsticks.

"You're not helping, Kiba." Naruto said, frowning, wiping his mouth of the excess substance. Kiba shrugged animatedly.

"What do you want me to say?"

"Something! Anything. Help me." Naruto all but begged, grabbing the wooden sticks out of the Inuzukas hand and threw them on the table. Kiba laughed.

"All right, but i'm gonna go out on a limb here and tell you to do whats right and think about the consequences later. If Neji ends up turning into a homicidal maniac because you took away his one chance at love, then so be it."

"Thank you for your help, Kiba." Naruto replied unenthusiastically, placing his head in his palms. Kiba patted his back reassuringly.

"No problem, I'm glad I could do my part."

Naruto was at a major loss. He was on the verge of losing a trusted friend and, he assumed, the one person he truly loved did not return his feelings. His situation was not a very becoming one and all the help he sought seemed fruitless. Apologies didn't help, arguments were not the answer, perhaps Gaara was right. Maybe he did need to grow up, but he wasn't exactly sure what that entailed. But he was strong enough to beat this, the strong of heart have the courage to survive anything... hell he even survived three years with Jiraya. After that, he was bound to withstand anything.

But his questioning heart did wonder if he would be able to handle losing a friend. He had already lost Sasuke, was he willing - or ready - to give up on Neji? These trials would certainly prove the maturity of his heart, if nothing else.

Kyo - who wants to be my summary sayer..., person, thing?

Neji - ...

Gaara - ...

Naruto - ...

Kyo - Anyone? No one? ((sigh))

Rock Lee - It grieves my youthful heart to see such lack of enthusiasm from such young and virile men! If there is need for anything, great and powerful Kyo-sama, then I , Rock Lee, will certainly not turn down any opportunity to help, for it is in the springtime of our youth that we are the most charismatic and brave. I surrender my training and time spent with Gai-sensei to be of service to you!

Kyo - Well, if you're the only volunteer, I guess...

Rock Lee - Thank you, It is with great amounts of pleasure that I bring to you the summary for the next chapter. -ahem-

Wherein a Kazekage makes his choice,
A jounin swallows his pride,
And a friendship is tested.