Gasp! It's not YAOI! Though I imagine it could be taken that way, to a certain extent. But only to sick perverts! Haha. Oops, did I just label myself? Hmm… Anyhow… This ISN'T yaoi, no shonen-ai. Just platonic love and one big whopping crush on Sakura.

No warnings. Rated E for everybody. LoL. (wow. Who knew I could write something with neither profanity OR smut! O.o the world's going to end, people.

oooooooooo

It shouldn't have bothered him at all. Frankly, he was used to it. Why it bothered him THIS time, was entirely beyond his rather distraught mind. Curled on the bench of one of Konoha's lookout points, his favorite place, he let himself cry, knowing that only a very few people would know to find him here, and even those would not know to look for him at all. Tears splashed between sandaled feet, years of hard work and resolve dripping away with each saltine drop.

He wasn't that bad, was he? He choked, swallowing a sob, then froze, holding his breath. He'd sworn he'd heard footsteps.

Who would come up here at this time of day? The sun was well on it's way to setting fully, the sky a dark purple, the horizon barely a hint of gold. It was beautiful, but it was also getting dark and cooling quickly outside. The rest of the world was quickly settling down into the night routine. That meant everyone was in their warm, bright homes, enjoying warm, bright things. Not out in the cool dark alone…

He listened to what he was positive were approaching footsteps, wondering if he had the speed and presence of mind to successfully hide himself before the intruder found him. He listened more, thinking to identify the person by the sound of their footfalls.

/…no… Not…not him…not now…/ Recognition made the tears gush harder, and he shook his head to try and clear his eyes, clear away the pain. Why, of all the people, did it have to be /him/ that would find him here, like this? He wondered if this show of weakness would get him rejected yet again. Probably. /Go away… please… Don't see me this way…Sensei… don't let me disappoint you./ It was a silent mantra in his spinning head. /Just go away…please…go away… Don't see me…/ Still, the footsteps came closer, casual in their pace, but still coming nonetheless. What a sick twist of what Neji would call fate, to have his Sensei- his guide, his source of stregnth and inspiration- find him in such a state over seemingly /nothing/. He turned his back to the sound of his Sensei's approach, hiding his face in his hands.

The footsteps ceased not two feet from where he sat. He didn't respond, pretended he didn't notice. /Just…don't look…please…leave me alone…/ He almost said it out loud, but he knew his voice would betray his tears.

"…Lee?" Such a gentle voice…he didn't deserve that. He must not, because apparently, there was something so terribly /wrong/ about himself that others hated. Lee clamped his eyes shut against his Sensei's voice. He refused to turn around. He heard a soft sigh, the rustle of fabric, the slight shuffle of feet before Sensei's presence grew even closer. Gai had seated himself near Lee's shoulder, letting the silence last. He was an energetic, boisterous man by nature, but Gai also knew the proper times for silence.

Without a word, he reached out and clasped one hand on Lee's shoulder, feeling the boy go tense at his touch.

"Lee?" He asked again. It was very unusual for the boy to be so unresponsive to /anyone/.

Lee remained silent, his back still turned, and he could feel himself shaking under Gai's wide, warm palm. Gai had always been generous to Lee with his warm, gentle comforts. He soaked in the feeling, hoping that maybe it would help clear his system of pain before he was forced to turn around. A gentle squeeze was a warning that such a possibility wasn't likely.

"Hey…" Gai pressed softly, his voice a bare whisper over Lee's shoulder. "C'mon…" A thumb traced lazy circles on the edge of Lee's shoulder, soothing him further. "What's wrong, Lee? It's not like you to be so blue…" Still silence. "You can talk to me, it's alright." At that declaration, Lee couldn't help but sniff loudly. Precious, sweet Sensei… Again, Lee couldn't help but think he didn't deserve someone so special in his life.

A large, calloused thumb wiping away a few stray tears from under one of Lee's eyes snapped him back around to reality. Gai had moved to crouch in front of him, dark eyes searching his own. Lee was a little alarmed at how serious Gai-Sensei's eyes were, and gave a small gasp.

"Who made you cry, Lee?" Gai asked, voice as low and serious as his eyes. Lee shook his head.

"N-nobody."

"Something did."

"…Maybe…" He really/really/ didn't want to talk about it. Again, that big hand came up to wipe away tears from his face, smoothing Lee's hair back in the process. Lee felt his pain ebb away to a distant ache and let himself focus more on Gai. The man was his idol, his best (and only) friend, a father figure and Sensei all in one. Only a big man like Maito Gai could fill such a big position. That's how Lee saw it.

"Do you want to talk about it…?" Gai straightened up off the ground to seat himself next to Lee now that he'd turned around a little.

"Not really…"

"Can I help?" Gai asked. Lee wanted to scream. Why? What did he see in Lee that was so worth the trouble, when nobody else seemed to see anything at all.

"Probably not…" Lee muttered, looking down at his hands. To his surprise, Gai let out a soft chuckle, slinging one mighty arm around Lee's shoulders.

"Oh…? Is this a challenge I hear? It is true that you are indeed my very own super-cute pupil, but to challenge Konoha's noble Blue Beast?" A laugh. "I take your challenge, Rock Lee!"

It was meant to be a joke, but had somehow made Lee feel worse.

"Gai-Sensei! If I'm so cute why doesn't anyone else care!" Lee's voice cracked. A long, dark silence.

"…What happened, Lee?" Gai's voice was soft, almost sounding as if he shared Lee's hurt.

ooooooo

"Aah! Sakura-Chan!" It wasn't easy for Lee to find Sakura. He knew exactly where her favorite resting place was, knew when the rest of Team 7 would be out on their lunch break, dispersed throughout Konoha for the next hour. He knew her favorite flower, a bouquet of which he now carried, he knew her favorite restaurant, her favorite color (which wasn't actually pink, like one would expect, but green.) He knew her birthday, that she preferred dark chocolate over milk. He didn't consider it obsession that he knew all of these things. Merely devotion. How could he treat her properly if he didn't know a few things about the girl first? He kept all of these things in mind as he met the girl now sitting in the shade of a large oak tree near the Academy, hands up behind her head, daydreaming.

Sakura cracked one eye open lazily to look at Lee as he greeted her. She glanced from that bad haircut to the overlarge eyebrows, down to the idiotic grin and lower eyelashes. She skipped past his face to the poorly matched orange and green /spandex/ getup, and finally to the rather large bouquet he was holding out to her. She groaned.

"Sakura-Chan! Would you please accept these flowers and go out to lunch with me? It'll be my treat, of course!" Why did he always have to talk in exclamations? Sakura frowned, but Lee just kept on smiling cheekily down at her from where he stood, just a little too close. She sighed heavily, and stood up, silently wishing Sasuke was here to scare this maniac off. He'd asked her on a date every other day for the last two weeks. He'd brought her favorite flowers each time, and each time he'd recited nearly the exact same mantra in asking her out. Every time she politely said no, and every time she said 'no' he just came right back. She was getting a little sick of it.

"No, Lee!" She barked, frazzled by how he was batting his eyes at her. "I don't want your flowers, I don't want to go on a date with you. I'm not interested!" Being nice had gotten her nowhere, and she'd given up on that tactic.

Lee's face fell. Even the flowers in his hand seemed to sag slightly.

"Wh-why not?" His voice was almost a whisper now, obviously a little hurt, but at least he'd stopped yelling. Gods, he was giving her a headache.

"Why not! Because you're loud, annoying, UGLY, and apparently CAN'T TAKE A HINT!" Sakura growled. "You're just a creepy little carbon copy of your super-annoying loud-mouthed out-of-date-Sensei! I don't want to be /seen/ with you! Go away!"

Lee's head had lowered so far she could no longer see his face.

"Will you at least take the flowers? They're your favorite, aren't they?" Lee said, barely loud enough for Sakura to hear. The pink-haired kunochi growled.

"No! Give /up/ already!" Lee nodded silently once, turned his back, and leapt away into the trees, disappearing. Several stray flower petals from the rejected bouquet fluttered limply to the ground in his wake.

Sakura gave a snort, slumping back against her tree, crossing her arms irritably.

oooooo

"She-she even insulted /you/ Sensei!" Lee had given up on trying to hold back his crushed tears, his face turned into Gai's shoulder to hide them. Gai was rubbing circles in Lee's back, trying to get the boy to calm down a little. He knew all too well what Lee was going through. He could nearly directly quote Sakura to several girls he'd asked out in his day. A long time ago, Gai had chosen to abandon the search for love in exchange for being /himself/. So many men and women were so incredibly shallow these days, only looking at the surface and not what was on the inside. Lee had a heart of gold. He was sensitive and caring, and an incredibly devoted person.

"What did she say?" He didn't care about insults. Not even sticks and stones could hurt Maito Gai anymore. Not really. But it was also painfully obvious whom Lee had modeled his own image after, and Gai knew that any insult of his was also Lee's. His heart sank. He should have known better than to bend the boy to his image. He knew, somewhere inside of himself, though he chose to ignore it, that Lee would end up facing the same persecutions as he had, for exactly the same reasons.

Lee shook his head against Gai's shoulder in response, still not lifting his head.

"I don't want to say. It wasn't /that/ bad but it wasn't nice, either… You don't need to know that part." Lee said. Gai sighed, pulling the boy up for a hug. Lee was truly a noble person, far more so than himself. Gai nodded silently, knowing that Lee would sense the gesture without looking. He sat in silence for a while, letting Lee cry.

"Lee…Can I ask you something…?" Lee lifted his head in response, eyes red and face pale and watery. He hadn't heard Gai-Sensei this serious for this long before. It worried him just a little. Gai released his hold on Lee so that he could sit up properly and face him. "If she hurts you so much, do you really want to be with her?" Hurt instantly glazed Lee's eyes again, and Gai almost regretted his question. Almost. Maybe Sakura really DIDN'T deserve Lee. Especially if she was too shallow to see him for who he was. Gai found himself bristling slightly at his rivals' student, on Lee's behalf. Gai wasn't all that surprised when Lee shook his head in negation.

"I…I love her Sensei. No amount of cruelty will ever shake that…" Lee said softly, jadedness showing in his youthful voice. Lee moved to sit at Gai's side, letting his head tilt until it rested on Gai's broad shoulder. "But she's probably right… At any rate, I'll leave her alone now… There's no point in making things worse, for either of us… I can just watch from afar. I'm alright with that. If it means she's happy…by herself, or with someone else…"

"…Are you sure? You'll let someone tell you to just give up?" Gai said, voice low.

"Gai-Sensei, she can't even bear to look at me! She doesn't want to be /seen/ with me. I can't fix that."

"Maybe we can…" Gai said softly. Lee blinked wetly up at him.

"Nani?" Gai smiled down at Lee, charming grin sparkling once again.

"Meet me here tomorrow, my noble ninja! I have plans for you!" Gai stood, striking his favorite Nice Guyä pose. Lee smiled shakily, obviously still upset. Gai pulled him up, hugging him warmly. "But for now, Lee, you must rest. Tomorrow, you and me: Usual time?" Lee nodded slightly, letting himself hang limply in Gai's embrace for a moment longer. There wasn't a day he was not eternally grateful to the gods for having met Gai.

"Okay, Gai-Sensei." Finally, Lee straightened, sucking it in. "If I'm not here on time tomorrow morning, I promise I'll run sixty laps around the town!" He declared proudly. Gai laughed, rumpling Lee's hair fondly.

"None of that. If you're not here on time, then we'll simply miss breakfast!" Lee's eyes widened. Gai grinned. "So don't bother eating before you come, unless you think you'll be late!" With that, Gai turned Lee by the shoulders and sent him off, waving as the boy took off into the night, headed home.

oooooooooooo

Lee couldn't help but continually glance up at Gai as they walked through Konoha, on their way to breakfast. Gai had yet to tell him what he was scheming, but Lee trusted his Sensei.

He was still glancing up at Gai in mild confusion as they sat down, and a waitress came to greet them.

"Hello, Sir! What would you and your son like today?" She addressed Gai, but Lee felt his ears burn slightly.

/She thinks I'm--/ His heart fluttered. Lee was elated and saddened at the same time. /If only it were true…/ He thought. Lee had a happy family, a mother and a father, both supportive if not a little distant and there was little else that Lee could ask for. Still, there were times when Lee felt he could gladly give up everything he'd worked for, in exchange for being a part of Gai's family. A son. It made perfect sense, didn't it? The way he lived his life in Gai's footsteps. It was understandable that the woman would make such a simple mistake in identity. Gai laughed.

"Ah-o! Not quite a son, young lady. Just a super-cute student with good tastes!" Gai said cheerfully, ruffling Lee's hair again. He'd been doing that a lot today, Lee noticed. He tried not to let Gai's correction of the waitress hurt his feelings. It was true, after all. Lee wasn't his son. Gai was neither married, nor had any immediate family, as far as Lee knew, and he knew a lot about his Sensei.

Lee ate in silence, happily devouring every bite of the food that Gai had bought for him. Gai-Sensei was a generous man, and often bought lunch or snacks for the whole of the team, but had only once before treated Lee separately. It was a memory that Lee kept locked close in his heart as an event to cherish. This day, too, would be locked away safely.

"So, Lee. Do you have any idea why I'm taking you out today?" Gai asked after they'd finished eating. Lee looked up and shook his head in negation.

"No, Gai-Sensei." Gai laughed.

"Well of course not!" A pause. "Well, I figured it was time that you depart a little from walking in my shadow…" At the look of concern on Lee's face, he went on quickly. "I'm not abandoning you, Lee! Don't you worry!" Lee visibly relaxed. "But I thought that you may have an easier time if you adjust yourself to the youthful fashions of this town." Lee frowned. "I think we need to fix this out-of date, retro look you've stolen from me, Lee." Gai said almost sadly. Lee's jaw dropped.

"But I want to look like you, Gai-Sensei!" Lee objected, eyes watering. Lee hugged himself inside of his jumpsuit, an exact match to Gai's. Gai laughed, eyes sparkling.

"Such a devoted and loving pupil I have!" Gai exclaimed as he guided Lee out of the restaurant and into the streets. He crouched down to become eye-level with Lee. "But honestly, do you want to walk the streets looking like a complete moron the way I do, for the rest of your life?" Gai said, voice serious. Again, Lee's jaw dropped. "I made the choice, Lee, to give up on trying to seduce the ladies in lieu of being my own man. You, though, are too young for me to drag you down with me." Lee's lip quivered, eyes watering as he saw a snatch of loneliness in Gai's eyes. "So," Gai went on, straightening up, his old shine back. "Let's just get you fixed up with a haircut and some weekend clothes, hmm?"

A haircut? It was one of the things that Lee was teased most about. He knew that his and Gai's looks were out of date, but he'd never really cared what others thought. He cared about Sakura, though. He nodded.

"Okay, Gai-Sensei…" A pause. "You too?" Gai laughed, a deep belly laugh full of spirit and good humor.

"Oh no! I must use my dashing and out-of-date looks to endlessly vex my ultimate rival!" He declared, loudly enough to make a few passerby stop and stare weirdly. Lee laughed, grinning. "No, today is your day, Lee!" Lee's smile faltered a little. He…he /wanted/ to be like Gai. He hadn't been kidding when he'd told his Sensei so. He didn't care what people thought, what they assumed. He didn't really want to change, but if Gai asked him to, which he was, then Lee would change. Gai clearly saw the hesitation in Lee, and clapped a hand on the boy's bony shoulder. "Never fear! Lee, the worst that can happen is you have to let your hair grow out into your old look again. Now…YOSH!" Lee found himself being dragged down the streets by his sensei, and couldn't help but smile a little. If nothing else, the one-on-one attention was nice.

oooooooooooooooo

"Sakura-Chan-!" Sakura turned at the sound of Lee's voice with a growl.

"Damn it, Lee--!" She paused, glancing around. Where was he? She glanced around the leaf-scattered pathway, and finally up into the trees around her just as a figure slipped from the branches silently and dropped to the ground. Sakura blinked as the boy straightened out from his low crouch and walked toward her, another bouquet extended to her. "Wha--?" She had to look twice to make sure she knew who it was she was talking to. Jet black hair was cropped shorter, layered out of the old dome cut, and spiked slightly around the edges, the usual green jumpsuit gone for a green shirt and blue jeans. The only part of Lee's old look that remained was the green hitai-ate still slung around his narrow hips. It was Lee's eyes that gave away his identity to Sakura. Her jaw dropped. "Lee?"

"I know I'm still no Uchiha Sasuke but…" Lee glanced away, still holding out the flowers, voice softening. "I thought…maybe…if you're not embarrassed to be seen with me…that maybe…" He trailed off for a moment. "I promise I won't ask you again, Sakura-Chan, but…will you go out with me? Just once?"

Sakura stood staring at Lee, speechless. Had he gone through all these changes for her?

"But Gai--"

"He helped me." Lee said softly. He was beginning to give up on that last shred of hope he'd held as Sakura fell silent again. He dropped his eyes to his feet, feeling uncomfortable and foreign in unfamiliar new clothes, his ears and neck cold without his hair to protect them.

Slowly, he felt a tug at the flowers in his hand, pulling them out of his grip gently. He looked up to see Sakura holding the flowers and smiling a little.

"Sure…" She said softly, cheeks turning pink. Lee blinked.

"What…?"

"I'll go out with you, Lee." Sakura confirmed. Lee's jaw dropped, and he fought back the urge to let his eyes water. Sakura didn't like crybabies.

"Really…?" Sakura gave a small laugh.

"Yes, really, you idiot." She said. Lee gave a nervous chuckle.

"Sorry." He said. Sakura laughed again, shrugging the need for apology away. She was impressed, and more than a little startled at Lee's response to her earlier rejections. The loud, obnoxious weirdo had disappeared to take the place of this nervous young man, now shuffling his feet in front of her, blushing.

"So when and where?" She asked. Lee looked up and smiled.

Owari

oooooooooooooooooooooooo

Japanese:

Nani what?

Hitai-ate forehead protector

Kunochi female ninja

Yosh go/let's go!

AN: It's a little abrupt, I know, but it's just a short little idea I needed to get out of my head. This ficlit comes from several branches of my life. The foremost being the huge number of fellow Naruto fans of mine who groan and shiver at the mention of Lee or Gai (or both) and moan and gripe about how weird they are. I think it's cute, and I wanted to help dig up a little depth for the both of them. I don't know if I managed that or not, but it was worth a try. That and they're just so damned cute as brothers in crime, so to speak. ;) That mixed with a touch of how it feels to be different, and a love and respect for all four of my own sensei. J

On another note, this is my first Naruto-based fan fiction to post here on but I do have MORE at my deviant art page (see my profile for a link), a fic called All They Wanted which will ONLY appear on DevArt (oi, check out my artwork too!). That one IS shonen-ai so only read it if you like that sort of thing. I won't put up with people flaming it for /that/ reason when you've all been warned ahead of time. J

More Naruto fics on the way this summer, as well, along with maybe a few more FFVII fics! I'm a busy bee writer!

DON'T FORGET TO REVIEW!

MRE