Disclaimer: The series Naruto all of its characters do not belong to me. I am merely borrowing them for the duration of this story, and recieve no profit from it.
Gai remembered when he first became genin. He remembered the elation, the fear, the sheer determination: he would be strong, he would not fail, he would serve his village well. So it was a disappointment to find that his early missions were barely worthy of being shinobi, that instead of helping to defend the village he was merely an errand boy. He did not complain, though; shinobi did not complain. They waited, they became stronger, and they did what they were told.
But he was idealistic. His village was great, the Hokage was fair, and they fought for what was right. He was too young yet to see the calculation in which his sensei watched him and his teammates, to understand the reasons for war, to comprehend the precarious peace the Hokage kept within the village while doing what he could to make sure the village prospered.
But, as with all things, his patience slowly thinned. He would ask his sensei, when will we do something wothwhile? And his sensei would answer, when they believe we are ready. Day after day, from weeding to dog walking to babysitting, this was the only answer he would get. But, as Gai waited, with the patience of the eternally hopeful, the days turned into weeks, and finally, months.
And then, one day, on yet another weeding mission, he stopped.
"Why am I even here," he said to himself, turning unseeing eyes on the mound of dirt that was resting in his slowly forming fist. He sat back on his heels.
"Is something wrong, Gai-kun?"
"Why are we even here?" he replied, frustrated, looking up at his sensei. The woman looked down at him, expressionless. Immediately around him, his two teammates sat up to stare at the boy. "I... we are worth more than this!"
"Gai-kun," his sensei began, voice hard, "this is what the village has said you are strong enough to do. If you cannot keep yourself from questioning orders for assignments as simple as these, what makes you think you are strong enough to handle something more sensitive?" Her eyes glittered at him coldly. "It is better to know your strength now, then to let people die for your foolish pride later on. You have no one but yourself to blame for these continued missions."
He stared up at her, horrified and ashamed. He remembered all he had promised himself on earning his hitai-ite, and was shamed that he seemed to have failed so soon. He went back to his weeding, cheeks burning, swearing to himself he would complain no more. After all, his sensei had told him: the village would only assign him missions that he was strong enough for. So if he did not get them, he was not worthy, and the only way to become worthy was to continue to train and do as he was told.
"That's bullshit," Obito told him over lunch, about a week later. "Your sensei is such a bitch," he groused, "I can't believe you haven't tried to get a new one."
He looked at his friend, shocked. "But, she could not have been given to us unless she was worthy! Surely, the honored village elders would never make a mistake like that."
"The 'honored' village elders are human, too," Obito said darkly. "Even they make mistakes. And that total bitch isn't doing you any favors. Has she even tried to train you guys yet?"
Gai just stared at him. "Well, no... but that is because we are too weak! When we are worthy of being trained, then she will start. Sensei has no business training weaklings."
"Has she said that to you?" Obito said, looking at Gai in horror.
"Well... not so much. But I am sure of it!"
"Gai..." Obito just shook his head, and then sighed. "Maybe I should just ask Minato-sensei..."
"No," Gai said again, fiercely. "If I cannot overcome this, then I am not worth the hitai-ite I wear! If I cannot get my sensei to acknowledge my worth, then I was not worthy of it to begin with. A shinobi follows orders, a shinobi does not complain! If I cannot do these small tasks, then I should just quit!"
His chest was heaving after his small, impassioned speech, and Obito looked at him in a mixture of pity and disgust.
"You and Kakashi should just form a fucking club," he muttered, and then stabbed one of his sushi.
Gai curled into himself marginally. Though he admired Hatake Kakashi madly, he knew just how much of an insult that was coming from his dark haired friend. He said nothing.
"I can't believe you!" Obito exclaimed a moment later. He whirled on Gai, confronting him with the chopstick he had used to stab his sushi with. Gai leaned away, staring at the sushi that still dangled there, hoping it wouldn't fall. "Weren't you the one who told me that we couldn't give up, no matter what?! That we had a duty to protect our village and those we cared for with all the energy of our youth? If I can't give up, than neither can you!"
Gai looked at him, not knowing what to say, tears prickling in his eyes.
"Don't you look at me like that, Maito Gai! If I'm not allowed to give up, than you can't either!" And Obito ate his sushi with a decisive nod. Gai laughed, feeling less bleak than he had before. He looked out, and noticed the leaves on the trees, the flowers blooming on the branches.
"Yosh!" he said. "This is our Springtime, Obito, and you are right to tell me not to give up on hope! If I gave up now, at the peak of my youth, then where could my passion possibly go?"
"You're so weird, Gai," Obito said with a laugh. But he clapped him on the shoulder all the same as he left, and Gai gave him a thumbs up.
A month later, his friend was dead.
Gai saw Kakashi at the funeral.
He had always watched Kakashi at a distance, whenever he could. He admired the other boy's strength, his talent as a shinobi, and was in awe at the missions he was allowed to perform. And Obito had talked about him, had mostly complained about him, but Gai knew he had admired him to. It was hard not to.
So it did not surprise Gai that Obito had given Kakashi one of his eyes. He never turned his back on his teammates, no matter how much it annoyed him.
But Kakashi was cold, so it was a surprise to Gai to see so much emotion on his face. As if he grieved as hard as Gai himself did. As if even he was allowed to feel, and that, in itself, made Gai feel better about himself. Because if Hatake Kakashi was allowed to feel emotion, than surely he was to.
But at the same time, he felt protective of him. Obito had died for his teammates, had given Kakashi the sharingan eye he had wanted so much. Obito had been his rival and his friend for a few years now, and he wondered if Kakashi felt as lost as he did.
So one day, less than a week after the funeral, Gai showed up in the training yard Kakashi was in.
"Yosh!" he exclaimed, standing in what would later be known as the Good Guy Pose. "Hatake Kakashi, friend of my beloved friend! I challenge you to a fight!"
And later, after Kakashi had won, he declared: "Kakashi, you are a worthy advisary! A rival more worthy than any rival!"
He knew Obito would understand.