Author's Note: Yes, I know I've been gone forever... Alas, education sometimes prevails over my desire to write fanfiction. But no fear- Gai and Little Lee have returned, with a short cameo in this shot by my imaginary OC, Suzuki! Enjoy the Green Beastiness!
Seven - Playdate
"I want to have a friend over."
Gai is amused and perturbed by the way Lee makes every declaration; he is always so grave, and looks with piercing vulnerability at Gai while keeping silent in want of a reply. He's so dramatic, it really makes Gai look forward to the years when hormones will add onto this trait.
"Okay," he says. Barefoot on the floor, Gai is stretching his long limbs quietly. "Where did you make a friend?," he asks, expecting Lee to say at the Academy open house, which was two days ago. Gai registered him for beginning ninja classes under the merciful watch of Iruka, and the school year officially starts in a week.
"Under the steamed bun guy's cart."
"I got run over by him, and he was so sorry that he let me eat all the buns that had gotten dirty without costing anything. I saw this girl sitting on the sidewalk, so I shared with her. Now we're friends."
Grimacing, Gai unlaces his bony fingers and reached for his large feet. "Alrighty. How about tomorrow?""Sure," Lee chirps; but he didn't move once the conversation was finished, and watched Gai continue his exercises as if he had something else on his mind. When prompted, Lee cagily began:
"Well, sensei…my friend is a girl, you know."
"You know. She might want to be my girlfriend, so I've gotta make a good unpress-un."
"Impression," the man corrected, before pausing to fix his whole attention on the boy. "Aren't you a little young to be worried about finding a mate?"
"The Academy is lousy with chicks, sensei." the braided boy responded curtly, crossing his feet and tucking a hand into one pocket. "They're gonna want some of this magic, so the sooner the better."
"You've been watching the old movie channel again, I see?"
"Hep, cat," was the young Lee's response. "And if we get married, we're gonna have it in front of the steamed bun guy's cart, where we first met. Kind of sentry-mental, huh?"
"Sentimental. And just how soon do you plan on getting hitched? You're not even six yet…"
"Well, it's only our first playdate... But I already made her this ring out of Play-Doh, just in case."
"Hmm." Gai reasoned, lifting himself into position to begin a few thousand push-ups. "You wanna wear one of my bow ties? It always worked for me."
Vague quiet, as little Lee turned this offer over in his mind; in the silence Gai could hear him reach the realization that the last time Gai had had a substantial conversation with a woman was talking about pest removal with the magazine-stand lady. "No thank you, Gai-sensei," the boy finally replied.
Lee had wanted to walk to the corner and meet Suzuki, who followed the meat-bun man to the corner every afternoon. Gai agreed to this and sat down to do some paperwork for his new Jounin status, which would allow him to take on Genin pupils in the near future…if it ever got processed. By the time he'd finished one thick stack, Gai realized that Lee and his bride-to-be hadn't returned yet and started up to go find them. It wasn't a long walk; he found the pair of them sitting side by side by the building steps, gathering woodchips in a pile.
"Hey, little man- Suzuki-chan. What's shakin'?" he called to them good-naturedly. The young girl's purple hair flounced as she leapt up to watch Gai, emptying her lap of a large amount of mulch. Lee followed a moment later, setting down the two twigs he was vehemently rubbing together.
"Hi, sensei." the boy greeted, smilingly. "We found a dead bird."
"That's…sad." Gai replied.
"We're gonna have a Chinese funeral for it and everything. Can we have some money to burn, so the birdie can buy worms in Heaven?"
"Um, I'm not sure how much I'd trust either of you with cash…or fire, for that matter." Gai answered the boy. Still silent, Suzuki ducked her head and continued to gather hunks of woody material from a nearby mulch bed. Gai tried to grin at her when she came his way.
"…Well, come into the building if you guys want a snack. We've got red bean daifuku."
"Nah, red bean paste makes Suzuki throw up." Lee countered, tamping the earth firmly with his palm. His clothing was spotted with damp dirt, streaks of which decorated his face in humorous parody of Ibiki's more prominent scars. "We're gonna need a few more mourners, so we thought we'd walk down to the park and see if anybody wants to help. Would that be okay?"
"Uh, I suppose. Just be careful." Gai answered, turning on his heel and walking back into the building. Dates had gotten a lot less fun since he last went on one.
It really was too nice a day to be inside, so Gai compromised by opening the sliding door to their two by four little balcony and letting the breeze stream through while he penned some overdue mission reports. He made some tea and listened to Lee, Suzuki, and their friends file around the gravesite murmuring out of key that Scottish song that sounds like sorrow.
When the children figured out that Lee didn't have real money to burn (or real fire for that matter) they departed for parts unknown, leaving Lee and Suzuki by themselves. When they got quiet Gai went downstairs again, this time bearing two fat, sour plum rice balls. He hoped Suzuki wasn't allergic to these as well.
Lee accepted his lunch with a happy squeal, while Suzuki had to be handed hers and muttered an embarrassed 'thank you' before devouring the thing. When the onigiri disappeared, the two set off to the corner store with a dollar to buy Gai a newspaper; they never came into the apartment, and the only time Gai really heard or saw them was when he went to check on them, disconcerted by their quiet play. As far as Gai could figure, Lee and his quiet little friend were taking part in some mysterious pretend-game that consisted of collecting clovers, patting mud into cakes, and scratching lively pictures on the stucco walls with the sharpened end of a rock. The pair had an interesting conversation going:
"So we'll take these buns to the Wave Village and give them to the children, right? And then we get to fight the rogue ninja?"
"I've never been outside of Konoha, Suzuki-chan. Is Mizugakure a big village, too?"
"… That's a nice drawing. Looks like the puppy I had for one weekend!"
"Oh, it's a house? Sorry…"
The bird funeral had taken up much of the day, and the sky was growing a shade of creamy orange with the setting sun before Gai knew it. Gumming his lip, the man strained his lanky body against the patio railing and watched the steamed-bun salesman come meandering down the corner, heralding the end of the long afternoon. Gai leaned out to wave to the girl when Lee bid his buddy adieu, thanking her for keeping his little prodigy busy all day. He thought the girl looked up at him and smiled, but it was hard to tell. She helped Lee clean up their menu of mud cakes, and was gone. Lee came trotting up the stairs loudly, and appeared in the doorway a muddy, mosquito-bitten apparition. Scrambled eggs and ramen being the mainstay of the Green Beast diet, Gai was heavily engaged in the act of boiling water and asked distantly how the date had gone.
"Ummmm…Good," the boy finally summed up, after a long while of contemplation. Lee took his seat on top of the box of magazines, and began to retell the minutiae of their activities.
"So is it looking like a match made in heaven?", the man finally asked. " cause' if it is, I've got to start saving for a dowry."
Blowing the overgrown bangs from his round eyes, Lee began pulling off his dirty shoes (Nevermind that he'd already walked across the tatami with them on). "I don't know. I think I'd like Suzuki better if she talked a little more. She's just kind of…quiet. Always thinking."
"Girls can be cagy like that," Gai assured him. "She's just feeling you out. And you're only five years old- it's going to take more than a first date to tell if you're ready to spend the rest of your life with someone."
A hush fell over the room, a hush of absorption and learning that was not missed by either eyebrowed party. Finally, though, Lee rose to place his small, blue sandals next to Gai's by the door, and his small voice broke: "But if that is true, Sensei, then why did you only go on one date with Minami-san and Kurenai-san and Akira-san?"
Another one of those questions; one that Gai couldn't satisfy without remembering his own dating situation- or lack thereof.
"Because girls sometimes decide on the first date," he sighed, watching their bachelor fare come to a boil. "Especially if you wear green spandex into a restaurant." Maybe, Gai reflected, I should start hanging around food carts...