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A Youthful Friendship; A Deadly Match [Part One]
doryokunotensa wrote in red_moon_comm
Who: Lee, Gaara
When: August 18, afternoon
Where: SIB offices/Lee’s residence
Summary: A week after their meeting, Lee makes good on his offer to spar with Gaara, and meets him at his office before the two head to Lee’s for their match. The match that follows is quite the show down.
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Fighting, broken bones, youth!, spandex

Lee had spent the better part of the past week in intensive training. When he was not working, he was training; when he had nothing to do at work, he was training; when he was sleeping, he was dreaming about training, and he inevitably woke up in his training room several times. He had trained all out, not wasting a single moment. His boss had even given him the day off--most likely, his boss was just as enthused as Lee about his upcoming match! That had to be the case! Although, it was very rare for Lee to actually request time off, and usually his boss had to force him into it, and so perhaps she had just been jumping at the chance to get him to take some of that holiday he had accumulated. Whatever her reasons, Lee did not mind because it meant that he had all day that Wednesday to prepare and then finally face off with Gaara.

By the time afternoon rolled around, he was already standing in front of the SIB office buildings, anxiously fidgeting with his bandages. He already had his spandex suit on beneath the casual jeans and black shirt he was wearing, the long sleeves of his suit not covered by the shirt. He also already had his leg warmers on to cover up his leg weights, despite the fact that his jeans did that very effectively. He’d decided the best way to get pumped, other than hours of vigorous training right before heading to meet Gaara, was to wear his weights--which now weighed just over twenty-seven kilos in total--to meet the red-head. He had jogged all the way there, which was made uncomfortable by the clothes over his spandex suit, but he bore it determinedly.

He leaned against the wall of the building, trying his best to look casual, and get his barrings. He wanted to be at his most determined today, and he also did not want Gaara to take him for granted just because they were friends and Lee happened to be a nice guy. Taking in a deep breath, Lee pushed off the wall, pushed the door open, and went to find Gaara’s office.

Gaara had been busy too. He’d trained a little, he supposed. More just to get warmed up than anything truly extensive. But also, he’d been studying. He’d gotten Lee’s files from work, and had been reading over them for the last couple of days. Most of the information provided was basic and boring: hard worker, determined, high, mostly, unattainable goals according to his superiors. It covered his impeccable attendance, his willingness to work long hours, and he had a very clean background. In general, his work was good but not anything amazing, and while he seemed to be good with people, there were also notes about the fact that he was sometimes too loud. That much Gaara had figured before his little investigation.

The flaws that his superiors had noted were more interesting to Gaara, (as was his personal background which he had managed to get a hold of): too honest, too trusting (that one was obvious with Gaara’s stunt a week ago), and those led to more serious issues while he was on patrol. They hadn’t let him be anything more than a beat cop because he was just a touch too naive; too willing to see the good in people, and too willing to completely disregard the bad. Which would explain why he hadn’t taken Gaara’s warning about himself too seriously.

Gaara was flipping through the pages in his office until the afternoon, now onto the personal files: school records he’d found (about average), grown up an orphan, started taking martial arts from a man who he ended up idolizing (though Gaara hadn’t heard about him yet.) After today, depending on the fight, Gaara thought he might still find that he was interested in the almost-twenty-two year old. The fight today would certainly be interesting if Lee lived up to his own hype and speeches.

Lee had to ask someone for directions to Gaara’s office once inside, as he realised belatedly that he didn’t actually know where the redhead’s office was. He found a young woman, and asked her, and while she gave them, she seemed to do so reluctantly, staring after Lee in shock, which he ignored. He found that Gaara’s office was not too far from the head of SIB’s, which made Lee just a tad bit nervous. He did not want to run into the man so soon after having embarrassed himself in front of him.

He arrived outside of Gaara’s office door, feeling excited and anxious and maybe a bit nervous, as he knocked as softly as his excitement would allow him.

Gaara glanced up briefly, almost positive it was Lee. His siblings didn’t knock, and others tended to avoid going into his office if they didn’t have to. “I wasn’t sure you were coming,” he said through the door, as much invitation to come in as he was going to give. He was surprised Lee hadn’t simply barged in already.

Lee threw the door open with an excited, “Hello, Sabaku-san!”

He walked in, looking around the office, carefully closing the door behind him. “Of course I came! I said I would, and I never say anything I do not mean!” He smiled happily, approaching the desk. “This is a very nice office, by the way. You must have a very high position to have it,” he stated, completely oblivious to the rudeness and presumption of the comment. He plopped down in the chair across from Gaara’s desk, feeling completely at ease. “Are you excited about our match today?”

Gaara didn’t bother hiding the files that read ROCK Lee across the top in black characters. He leaned back in the chairjust a bit, turned to face Lee fully and crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s not that special. I’ve just been working here for a while.” He peered at Lee fully, taking in the clothing, noticing the odd green sleeves and wrappings sticking out of his shirt. “You dressed for a real match, didn’t you?” He shook his head, hair obscuring his face a bit. He was close to chuckling, though he didn’t, sighing instead. After everything he’d read, and how their last meeting had gone, he shouldn't have expected any less. At least he wouldn’t be bored today. And he would be able to avoid his father calling him in for another useless meeting. “Where are we doing this then?”

Lee grinned eagerly, making fists in front of himself and leaning forward. “Of course I dressed for a real match! I always wear this,” he said, pinching the spandex,” when I train or spar! It was a gift from my sensei, along with the rest of my ensemble, and it brings me good luck and helps me train to the best of my abilities!

“I hope you are prepared for an all out match, Sabaku-san!” he continued. “I was thinking it would be best if we had our match in my backyard, because my sensei has not yet returned from his trip, and I do not want to use his dojo without permission. And my backyard is set up for just such matches! I use it to train often.” He glanced down at the desk, his brows furrowing as he caught sight of a file with his name. “Is that…?” He trailed off, glancing up at Gaara. “You pulled my file. Why?”

Gaara grinned that not-so-nice smile at Lee, looking almost too casual. “I like to know my opponents. You really are an interesting person,” he said simply, watching Lee’s face closely, waiting to see the reaction, wondering if all the odd blushing yesterday was simply because he was flustered, or because he wasn’t used to compliments, or if it was something else entirely.

Lee, as expected, flushed at the compliment, dropping his gaze to avoid Gaara’s own. “I-I see,” he said, not sure what else there was to say. “Well, I am glad that you think so!” He laughed nervously, scratching the back of his neck. “I hope I do not disappoint you in our match today. I trained very hard for it, so I am sure to do my utmost best!” He gave Gaara a thumbs up, before he began to fidget. “I did not come at a bad time, I hope. If you are too busy right now, I can wait.”

“Not at all. I’ve just been reading,” he said calmly. “I can leave when I want. No one will stop me,” he added, rising and moving toward the door. He grabbed his long jacket off the wall it hung on, and exited, knowing Lee would follow him shortly. “Have you really been training all week?” It wasn’t that he didn’t believe Lee would, it was more that he’d never met anyone who worked that hard.

“Of course! I would not want to be unprepared to fight you,” Lee said, following behind Gaara. “And I want to be in the best physical shape, and I wanted to practise a few new moves! I also built my strength up this week through my rigorous workouts! This week has been very productive!” As they walked, he punched the air randomly--left, right, left, right--to burn off steam. He was incredibly excited, and the more he talked about it the more he could not wait to get home. He was just buzzing with excitement as he punched the air, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Did you practise any?”

“Actually, I did. More than normal. It’s been a while since I’ve actually sparred with anyone. I was surprisingly eager about it once I really thought about it.” His voice, however, didn’t give any excitement away and he kept his gaze forward. “I think I scare people too much for them to want to bother sparring. Except my brother. But he won’t spar with me.” He frowned and shook his head. He wasn’t going to think about that. Lee obviously was skilled enough to distractedly block his punch, which meant he would probably have to take the sparring match fairly seriously. It would be very entertaining.

Lee blushed, pleased that Gaara had been looking forward to the fight too. “Well, you do not scare me!” he said with a grin. “I am very glad then that you have this opportunity to spar with someone! Perhaps we can do this on a regular basis, if that is all right with you and I do not disappoint?” He gave Gaara an earnest look, one bandaged hand behind his head in a nervous gesture. “You have a brother?” Lee asked, curious. “Does he also work here?” Perhaps the man Lee had spoken with yesterday was in fact Gaara’s brother--although, that man had looked much older than Gaara, so perhaps he was right with his first assumption.

He pushed the door open, stepping out into the warm sunshine, holding the door open for Gaara. “My home is about fifteen minutes from here,” he said. “I hope you do not mind walking! It will give us the chance to warm up our bodies before we exert ourselves!”

Gaara nodded, stepping outside after Lee. “He does, but I haven’t seen him in a while. It seems work and his new girlfriend have taken up most of his time,” he said, eyes narrowing a little. It wasn’t so much that he was upset, but he found it strangely lonely without his brother being readily available. “And I walk everywhere, mostly. Especially when I can’t sleep.” Wandering around at night wasn’t the smartest thing if you were helpless; thankfully, Gaara was anything but. There was always some strange thrill he got at the idea of potentially meeting someone who might try to hurt him. Mostly because he was curious if that person would actually be a real threat, or a pushover like most. The few times he had had trouble, it had been the latter, and highly disappointing.

The redhead sighed, blinking and shaking his head a little again. “Sparring on a regular basis might work.”

“Then your brother is in the full Springtime of his Youth! He must have discovered the Ultimate Expression of Youth with his new girlfriend: Blossoming Love! That is truly wonderful for him!” He smiled down at Gaara, but noticed that the redhead did not look nearly as happy about his brother’s youthful relationship. Lee frowned in concern, leaning forward a bit to peer at Gaara’s face. “Are you all right?” he asked. “You look upset.”

He bit his lip, straightening a bit, and looking down the street. “Let us be on our way,” he said, heading down the steps and onto the sidewalk, pointing in the direction they needed to go. “A good walk will help to clear your head before our fight!” He gave Gaara his most reassuring grin, and started marching forward, unthinkingly reaching back to grab Gaara’s wrist and tug him along for a bit before letting go. “I would love nothing more than to spar with you on a regular basis, Sabaku-san,” he added as they walked. The idea of sparring on a regularly was nothing short of utterly thrilling for Lee. He could not wait to get started, but his joy was slightly dampened by the look on Gaara’s face. “If you have trouble sleeping at night, I have some tea that may help with that. I, too, have trouble after an exciting day on the beat, or after an intense training session! I try to limit myself at night, but I tend to get carried away, and tea always helps!”

“I’m fine.” Gaara’s eye twitched, the grab making him uncomfortable for a moment, though even if he’d wanted Lee to let go, the man’s grip was surprisingly firm. He let out an unconscious sigh when Lee finally did let go, shaking his head at the tea idea. “It won’t help. I’ve had trouble sleeping since I was young.” He shrugged. He’d learned to live with it. It wasn’t something that bothered him so much anymore, except for the few times when he would be really exhausted.

He glanced up at Lee’s last comment. “I can’t imagine you getting carried away with anything,” he said, the slightest hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Lee frowned, glancing down at Gaara. “If you are sure,” he murmured. He was still watching the redhead as he spoke, listening with half an ear as he looked at his black ringed eyes. Something clicked, and his eyes widened. “Is that why you have so much bruising around your eyes?” he asked, shocked. Lee shook his head, frowning in concern.

“This way,” he mumbled pointing down another street, and resting a hand on Gaara’s shoulder for a moment to stop him and navigate him in the right direction. “Well, if you would like to try some tea, I would be happy to give it to you. It really does wonders! Etto, why do you have trouble sleeping, if I may ask--not that you have to answer!” he hastily added, waving his hands in front of himself and smiling nervously. “That was a rather nosy question. Forgive me.”

He smiled back up at Lee, gaze distant, smile still rather malicious.”I have nightmares. Very intense, and very real.” He tapped his forehead, right where the scar was, barely hidden by his hair. “My mind won’t let me sleep. So I usually go for walks. It’s not as bad when I’m awake, usually. Unless I’m... provoked. But I’ve managed to gain something close to control over the years, as long as I’m awake.”

Lee looked back at Gaara, eyes jumping from Gaara’s smile to his eyes and then to the tattoo on his forehead, which Lee had completely missed before. He thought it was because Gaara’s eyes were too distracting. He shook his head, his own smile slightly sad. “I am sorry to hear that you have nightmares,” he said softly. “I imagine that must be very difficult. But I am sure there is a way to allow you to sleep without nightmares, Sabaku-san! And I would be happy to help you find a solution!” He turned the wattage on his smile up, catching the light and doing his best to show that Gaara could trust that he would find a way. Nothing was too great a challenge for Rock Lee, after all.

“I like your tattoo,” he added, glancing up at the kanji. “Love. Why did you decide to get ‘ai’ tattooed on your forehead, if you do not mind my asking?”

“Don’t worry about it. Events in my past have long-lasting effects, unfortunately. I just learned to deal with it and take care of myself.” He frowned, rubbing the spot on his forehead almost wistfully.

The self-inflicted tattoo was the most significant souvenir from his past. It was part of who he was and who he used to be. And it served its purpose whenever he saw it, even to this day, when he had opened up to the idea that maybe others did love him.

"No one loved me when I was a kid. I wasn't wanted. So I did it as a reminder. Even if I didn't have anyone else's love, I could love myself and be fine." His voice was softer than normal, the tone as faraway as his gaze. And just as quickly, the colder demeanor came back, his eyes going hard as he looked at Lee. "How are you doing that?

Lee was on the verge of reaching out to Gaara, to offer a comforting squeeze to his shoulder when the redhead snapped at him. He was taken aback, quickly pulling his hand away, his muscles tense. He frowned, both in concern and confusion, his thick brows drawn together. “D-doing what, Sabaku-san?”

“Making me talk so easily.” Gaara sensed the sudden tension in Lee and wasn’t quite sure of the reason, his own muscles clenching almost anxiously in response. “How? I don’t even know you.” He stepped closer, pale eyes narrowed as he looked up at Lee. “I don’t understand it.” It had taken his siblings years to get him to open up the way he had been doing with Lee and he didn’t like it. It almost scared him how easily he talked to the strange man.

Lee blushed brilliantly, his muscles relaxing instantly, though he took an unconscious step back as Gaara drew closer. It wasn’t that he was afraid, but that he was embarrassed, especially considering how attractive he happened to find the redhead. He swallowed nervously, avoiding Gaara’s intense gaze by closing his eyes and shaking his head emphatically. “I do not know, Sabaku-san. I just--I just like talking, and being open with people, so maybe it is rubbing off on you?” he tried, confused, flattered, and too many other things all at once.

“Etto, but if that is not the reason, then I really do not know! I can only assume that it means you feel comfortable around me.” He bit his lip, giving Gaara an earnestly hopeful look.

”Why, though? I don’t trust people so easily.” Complete betrayal would do that to someone. “I want to know what it is about you that’s so different.” Maybe their match would help him understand. His wording obviously wasn’t making sense to Lee, or to himself really. It could be the fact that Lee was so open and so vastly different from Gaara, who was definitely anything but open and trusting.

He growled in slight frustration, turning away and looking around, wanting to get to the other’s house now. If he couldn’t talk it out and understand, he wanted to fight. It had been too long. And though he wasn’t angry at Lee, necessarily, fighting him might help him figure out what he was thinking and feeling.

Lee frowned as Gaara turned away. He had never known anyone quite so... emotionally inept, he supposed was the right wording, or emotionally volatile. He wondered how that would affect their fight, and felt a surge of excitement travel through him. They weren’t far from Lee’s residence now, just a few more blocks, but they had stopped at Gaara’s strange emotional outburst.

“I am sorry that this confuses you,” he said carefully. “But I am happy that you trust me, if that is the case. I should hope that you consider me a--a friend, and while I cannot help by answering your question, I sincerely hope it is not a problem for you that you feel the way you do.” He flushed lightly, scratching the back of his neck. “We are almost to my house, Sabaku-san. It is just down this street, a couple more blocks.” He pointed down the way, feeling anxious and excited, and hoping that he could put Gaara at ease with his words and smiles.

Taking a few moments to calm himself down, just a little, Gaara blinked over his shoulder at Lee, focusing on the direction the other had pointed. “Why do you blush so much?” he asked, sounding a bit less manic this time, tilting his head as he started walking again, his pace slower than it would have been a moment ago.

Lee, once again, blushed. Of all the questions in the world for Gaara to ask, it had to be that one. If Gaara had a hard time accepting Lee as a friend, Lee was sure he would have a harder time accepting that Lee was attracted to him. Lee did not like lying, and he did not like being evasive. If he had to avoid a question, he usually said outright why he would not answer, for instance, if the question was too personal or work related, and therefore private. For whatever reason, he doubted Gaara would accept Lee not answering. But what could Lee do? He certainly was not going to lie to his new friend--especially not after learning the little bit of harshness from Gaara’s past the redhead had shared.

He swallowed. “I-I suppose it is because I--etto, I am very self-conscious around you, Sabaku-san. And I embarrass easily around people I like.” It made Lee uncomfortable just saying it, but it was the truth, even if he was leaving out the most important part of it--which made him feel terribly guilty. Of course, he barely knew Gaara, so he could not offer up a declaration of love regardless of attraction because Lee was not the sort to base anything off of physical attraction. Especially not something as important as that most precious feeling, that Ultimate Expression of Youth.

And on top of that, telling Gaara that he was attracted to him meant being out about his sexuality, which he was most definitely not. Lee did not like lying or keeping secrets, but he understood that some things should not always be shared.

Fidgeting nervously with his bandages, Lee picked up his own pace, his house now within his sights. “My house is that one,” he said, slightly subdued and embarrassed, pointing at the only traditional looking home on the block, which was otherwise occupied by modern houses that was slightly smaller than Lee’s.

Gaara’s brow rose, looking mildly confused before he shrugged and looked toward Lee’s house. It was small in comparison to what Gaara was used to, but he had a feeling Lee took good care of his things. And it looked private. That was something that Gaara could appreciate. “Let’s get to this fight. I’ve had enough talking for the moment. Fighting is easier.

Lee nodded. “Hai, Sabaku-san.”

Once in front of his house, he pushed open the short bamboo gate, walking through the garden leading up to the front door. The garden was nothing special, a few bamboo plants, sand and rocks, and a small koi pond, but nothing else. Lee, for as loud and outgoing as he was, loved zen gardens because they gave him the chance to meditate and relax.

He pushed the door to his residence open, slipping off his shoes, and calling, “Tadaima,” to the house. He looked over his shoulder at Gaara, nervous to have the other man inside his home. “You may come in. If you want, I can give you a tour, or we can just head out back. I have to feed my tortoise first though.” He moved forward through the entry way, and into a slightly narrow corridor that led to the rest of the house. “The kitchen is this way if you would like something to drink before we get started.”

The kitchen was large enough to allow several people to cook at once, and felt much too vast for someone living alone, which was why he had added a small table and chairs to fill the extra space. Lee grabbed two heads of lettuce from the fridge, before pulling a large bowl from a pantry that said Ningame on it in large, swirling red letters. He tore the lettuce quickly so he did not keep Gaara waiting, before grabbing two bottles of water from the fridge, and heading back out into the corridor.

Gaara looked around with a nod as he toed off his own shoes, moving into the house without hesitation. His curiosity piquing again, he found the bizarre desire to know why Lee was getting the better of his normally secluded and somewhat distant self. So, crossing his arms, Gaara made his way through the living room, listening to Lee moving around in the kitchen.

He stopped, looking left and right at the doors he saw, not particularly caring that he was being nosy. If Lee had wanted him to stay in one place, he would have said something. Slowly, he opened the right one, eyes going a bit wide at the sight on the other side of the threshold. The sheer amount of weaponry was a astounding, and made Lee’s claims of dedication to the art much more realistic in Gaara’s mind. And it was obvious that they were used and not simply decoration. The punching bag looked as though it was barely being held together and Gaara found himself compelled to move inside and get a better look.

Lee slid the door to the kitchen half closed, balancing the large bowl full of lettuce in one hand and holding the two water bottles by their tops in the other. “Sabaku-san?” He frowned, looking down either side of the corridor. When he noticed that the door to the living room had been slid open. “Ah,” he said to himself, heading towards the room.

He spotted Gaara inside of his training room, and grinned. “There you are. I see you found my training room.” His smile broadened as he entered the room, looking around his most prized space. This was Lee’s sanctuary, a place few others had stepped in, but that he loved to share. It had taken him years after inheriting the house to create the room they were standing in, but he had managed it with hard work, determination, and good money saving skills. “Do you like it?” he asked, still feeling much too proud of himself than he ought to.

“I wasn’t entirely sure I believed your declarations before,” he said idly, moving past the belts and trophies toward the bag, running a hand over it, lips twitching at the corners as he swung it a little. “Now I want to see your training first hand,” he said, peeking around the bag at Lee, gaze intense and eager suddenly. He grabbed the lightly swinging bag, gripping either side hard as he waited for Lee to reply.

Lee grinned, feeling giddy and excited as he crossed the room. “You are very eager all of a sudden, Sabaku-san. Are you sure you do not want to wait until our match?” he asked, setting the large bowl of lettuce and water bottles down on the built in shelf beneath the window. He was still smiling, but there was something more focused about it this time, like he was aiming for something, and he stood up, straighter than usual, adrenaline already pumping through him.

“Not ready?” he asked, raising a brow at Lee, still keeping the bag between them, a small smirk crossing his lips. He already had discovered that was the easiest way to get Lee going. “We can wait, if that would be easier for you.”

Lee gave Gaara his best glare, which was really not at all intimidating on him, especially because he was still grinning like an over-excited fool. “You will regret that statement,” he said, jumping at the challenge. Were Lee a less honourable person, he might have used that opportunity to kick the bag without warning, but despite wanting to do so very much, he would not be so rude.

He stepped forward, letting out a long breath and fall into a well practised stance. The pull of his jeans over his spandex suit was annoying, but it would not hinder him in the least. After a moment of breathing and planning his attack, he looked Gaara directly in the eyes. “Please brace yourself.”

And then he was whirling around, fast and strong, his leg coming up, a blue-ish blur, the sound of his jeans rustling as he came around, too fast to stop or even slow the kick down. It came from the side, forceful and deadly, landing well away from Gaara’s hands or face, right on target over one of the many patches Lee had made over the years. The chain holding the bag up rattled ominously as impact was made, the clank of weights making itself known, Lee leaving his leg up, staring over his fists at Gaara.

Gaara’s perceptive gaze saw the kick coming and did not back away. Though the movement was fast, Gaara noticed the arc of the foot and leg were too wide to hit him. He took the shock of the kick with little more than a barely perceptible shift in his stance, muscles tensing for impact. It was curious, and it sent a thrill of excitement through the redhead, eyes changing a bit, an almost wild look coming to them as that rather manic smile returned. It was clear now to Gaara that he would not be able to hold back too much with Lee, if any at all. This was going to be a real, full contact fight and the redhead’s muscles were twitching with excitement and sudden desire. It had been too long since he’d had a real fight, with the real possibility of testing his own strength, his own purpose in life.

“We should go outside. Otherwise, I won’t stand still for the next attack.” Keeping his unblinking gaze on Lee, Gaara backed one step away from the bag, shoving it with surprising strength, sending it rather quickly in Lee’s direction. It was partially a balancing test and partially just to see how aware the other man was. “I don’t want you to spill blood on your nice clean floor,” he added, voice almost too eager.

Lee quickly took in Gaara’s reaction to the impact, noting the shift in stance, the way his muscles tensed, all while still keeping his gaze locked with the redhead’s. The thing that made Lee’s eyes widened was not that Gaara took the impact well--after all, they were testing each other, but that did not mean Lee was trying to knock Gaara off balance, though he was slightly disappointed that even holding back he was unable to throw off the man’s balance, while at the same time it excited him more for the challenge it posed--but the way Gaara’s normally calm gaze seemed to change. Lee changed in fights as well, but he was still honourable and respectful, he did not look the way Gaara did, and that concerned him slightly, but there was too much challenge in Gaara’s eyes, and Lee had already trained so hard. Besides, he had never backed down from a challenge before, so why would he start now?

And secretly, the look in Gaara’s eyes was rather exciting. This was a new opponent, someone Lee would not be able to predict the way he often could predict those he fought at the dojo or in tournaments, or even the criminals he ran into working the beat. Whatever Gaara was capable of, Lee would face it head on and he would relish it, whether he won or lost.

“I would not expect you to stand still,” he murmured, still holding the stance without so much as shaking. His eyes narrowed at the twitch in Gaaa’s muscles, and he braced himself as the bag was pushed against his leg. He took it in stride, holding his stance firm, but allowing the bag to turn his leg away. He was forced into a short pirouette, ending with his entire body facing away from Gaara toward the long mirror that took up the far wall, while he looked over his shoulder. He finally dropped his leg, his muscles tensing at Gaara’s last comment. He gave the redhead a serious look, turning to face him fully. “I will not be the only one bleeding,” he assured Gaara, staring intently at him. He could tell the redhead was strong, by no means as strong as he was, but definitely stronger than his lean body gave him credit for, much like Lee’s own.

He shook his head. “I will meet you outside. I need to take these clothes off. Here,” he added, handing Gaara the two bottles of water. “Just go down the corridor and turn right.” He picked up the bowl of lettuce, heading to the doorway of the training room, looking over his shoulder at Gaara, still slightly wary.

Gaara didn’t move, watching Lee almost like the man were prey for him. He stood absolutely still as Lee left, waiting until the other man was fully out of sight before he took a deep breath and shifted. He hauled his fist back and launched a punch at the bag, the effect that movement had not quite as intense as Lee’s kick, though the chains still rattled ominously, the bag swinging lightly. This was going to be more fun than he’d originally thought.

The redhead grinned a bit more before he left the room, moving into the hall and toward the backyard as Lee had instructed. As terrible as it may have been, he found himself wondering how well Lee would react if he attacked as soon as the other man touched the ground of his “training field”. No sense in wasting time on silly formalities when he was itching to battle the other.

Lee heard the sound of the punching bag being hit and the chains rattling. He looked back over his shoulder, frowning. He shook his head, hurrying to his room. It was certainly strange the way Gaara’s personality had changed so drastically. It made Lee’s muscles scream at him to be on guard, which of course he was going to be. But he could never remember having a friendly match where he felt so anxious. Once in his room, he slid the door closed, watching through a crack between the door frame and door as Gaara headed out into the corridor, an odd smile on his face. Lee shivered.

“That is most unsettling,” he told himself, setting the bowl of lettuce down on the dresser. He quickly took off his shirt and jeans, glancing in the mirror on the far wall, and flushing. He had not thought about what it would mean to wear his beloved suit in front of Gaara, but now that he was facing it, he realised that he felt incredibly self-conscious about it. Would Gaara make fun of him? Why did Lee even care? He had never cared before what people thought of his suit, and he certainly would not start now, no matter how attractive he thought Gaara was. He shook his head, ridding himself of those thoughts and trying his best not to be nervous about his looks--after all, he had a great body, and the spandex only highlighted his lean musculature. “I am being ridiculous,” he told himself firmly, staring into his own eyes in the mirror. He nodded and that was that.

He grabbed a red sash from inside a drawer and tied it around his waist before heading back into the living room and out into the corridor, the bowl of lettuce held before him in one bandaged hand. The door to the back was slightly ajar, and he pushed it open, hopping down the stairs, the excitement back and overshadowing his earlier concerns.

Part Two


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