I Still Love You

Kakashi was laid out flat on his back. Not that that was surprising. He swept his silver hair out of his eyes and sighed. Then he closed his eyes to blot out the white panels of the ceiling and the harsh white light. What did his superiors in ANBU honestly think would happen if he used his sharingan eye the way he did? For everything to turn out alright? Oh, it had in terms of the mission. He'd grant him their bottom line. Their precious mission success. In the meantime, he'd rot in the hospital until the next mission they needed him for. If he was lucky, he'd get a week to himself before being sent on some other far-flung suicide campaign. The moment he could walk, someone from ANBU usually teleported in with an 'important assignment' for him to go do as soon as possible. Kakashi wasn't surprised that no Uchiha were in ANBU. They likely knew their powers would just be abused. His certainly were, and he wasn't even an Uchiha.

They're going to kill me.

That thought drifted in and out every time he landed in the hospital. His splitting headaches weren't enough to deter them from asking him to use the sharingan again. His fainting and blackout spells weren't enough. Nothing was enough. They 'needed' his eye.

Kakashi snorted. Obito couldn't have cursed him more effectively if he'd tried. He tugged at the sleeve of the hospital gown, soothing a place where the piping on the hem was slightly scratching his skin. Then he sighed and lay back, getting a lungful of good old antiseptic and latex air. Ah, hospitals. The healthiest place to be in the world. He glanced across the room, wondering if any of the nurses would ever open the window. God forbid.

"Kakashi." A familiar deep voice, oddly flat.

Kakashi's gaze snapped across the room the other way, to the door. It was now open, and a tall person in green stood in it. He froze for a moment, then forced himself to relax against the hospital bed. "I have no chakra," he said dryly. "You can actually sneak up on me. Be careful with that privilege, ne, Gai? We wouldn't want me having a heart attack after I've already-" He couldn't finish the sentence. Couldn't actually voice what had happened.

"You can't see me, can you?" Gai's voice was soft. "Not really." He raised his arms. "What do I look like to you? A green blur?"

"Ne, more or less." Kakashi folded his arms behind his head and looked away, out the window. His far sight had returned first. He could see the buildings at the end of the street more clearly than he could see Gai. "A green beast. Human or not human. Hard to tell."

Gai came in and shut the door. "Everyone says that after I'm through with them. 'Was he human?'"

Kakashi snorted, half-heartedly amused by the boasting. "Right, right."

"Did you…"

Out of the corner of his eye, Kakashi saw Gai hesitantly crossing the room to him. "Did I what?" he asked with a sigh. His tone was less than polite, but even if he'd felt like dropping the cold mask he usually employed, he didn't have the energy to sound solicitous.

Gai stopped in the middle of the room. "Did you see anything?"

Kakashi closed his eyes, abruptly more tired than before. "No. I did not." The last few seconds of sight passed through his mind: a flash of light, people dropping to the ground.

Gai fell silent for a moment. An uncomfortable moment, since Kakashi couldn't sense his friend's chakra. "You got them."

"I expected that, since the status of the mission did not go to 'failure'."

Gai hesitated again. Kakashi supposed he was hurt. "Ne, Kakashi."

Kakashi felt Gai take his hand. Gai had crossed the rest of the way silently. Kakashi hated that, but Gai's hand was comfortingly strong and warm. "What?"

"Did you think anything?"

Kakashi turned away from him, even though he didn't let go of Gai's hand. "Like what?"

"Like that you died." Gai's voice was hollow.

Kakashi turned back and opened his normal eye, squinting at the light blur that was Gai's face. "What? Why would I think a thing like that?"

"I thought it." Gai's voice was now an almost inaudible mumble.

Kakashi froze, horrified and guilty. Here I've been stewing in my self-pity when I didn't think about what Gai must be going through. "I'm fine."

"You can barely see me. Your eye is unfocused."

"I'm going to be fine!" Kakashi squeezed Gai's hand, hard. "You see me. I'm indestructible. Nothing's going to happen to me that I can't live through. I should be dead right now –"

Gai sobbed.

Kakashi gritted his teeth at the pulse of pain in his chest. "But I'm not!"

Gai hugged him, leaning over the bed. He made obvious noises of crying, so Kakashi assumed that he was, even though he couldn't get visual confirmation. "You screamed. And I thought you were dead."

Kakashi didn't remember screaming. He felt sick at the thought there was more he didn't remember.

"I felt your pulse, so I knew…but…what if I didn't reach home with you in time? What if you died? Like that? In my arms?"

"At least you'd be holding me." Kakashi tried a feeble smile.

Gai sobbed for a solid minute straight.

"It's not so bad." Kakashi petted his head. "I'm alive, aren't I? You're alive, aren't you? It's not so bad."

Judging by the heart-rending wails he got in response, he was very bad at optimism.

Kakashi gave up. He was too tired to keep up the fake optimism anyway. Gai knew how he felt. He'd complained often enough and bitterly enough that he wanted out of ANBU. Of course, it was the classic scenario. Unless there were special circumstances, the only way out was death. Kakashi was beginning to entertain that option. He knew Gai probably knew that too.

But I didn't want to die like this. He wished he could explain that to Gai. He didn't find dying on the battlefield satisfying. The idea of leaving his corpse around for anyone to desecrate filled him with crawling horror. He'd much rather commit suicide at home, where someone who loved him would find him and take care of his body. He'd last as long as he could in the meantime. He had no intention of dying during a mission.

"Gai," Kakashi said softly. "It's alright now."

Gai's sobbing quieted.

Kakashi felt some of the tightness in his chest ease.

Gai picked him up, settled down on his bed, and cradled him. Kakashi was surprised, but not exactly displeased. There was something pleasant about being held by strong, gentle arms, about resting his head against Gai's chest. He listened to Gai's heartbeat, distracted by it. He felt himself growing sleepy, of all things. He hadn't slept more than a few hours each night since he'd been returned home and taken to the hospital. He'd thought nothing could induce sleepiness. Nurses had tried to drug him to sleep, but he'd protested loudly and vehemently, scaring them.

ANBU were never supposed to allow themselves to be drugged, and in his disoriented, agonized state, training had taken over. Blind or not, he was still a force to be reckoned with. Chakra exhausted or not. He'd had special training about how to keep on his feet after becoming chakra exhausted, too. Kakashi's lips twitched in a small smile. Actually, he could well imagine that a blind, chakra exhausted man on his feet and roaring at them must have been particularly terrifying. Not that he remembered well what he'd said. Expletives and death threats were probably involved.

And now, of all things, Gai was lulling him to sleep. Kakashi melted against him, relaxing into the feeling of being surrounded by warm chakra buzzing with protectiveness. "Gai." Kakashi was barely aware of his muttering voice. "You have the best chakra. It loves me."

Gai kissed the top of his head. "It loves you."

Kakashi closed his eyes, breathed out, and dozed off.

When he woke up, Gai was still holding him. They lay side by side on the cramped hospital bed, snuggled together cozily. Kakashi shifted to stretch, but he didn't want to change position. It was nice. They were both on their sides, facing each other, and Gai's arm was around him. Both their heads rested on the one stiff hospital pillow.

Close enough to kiss.

Kakashi didn't know where the thought came from, but he didn't question it. Their lips were mere inches apart. Gai's eyes were closed, his dark eyelashes an odd, delicate touch to his masculinity that Kakashi thought was sweet. Angelic, even, but Kakashi would not use that word out loud.

Gai moaned and stretched in response to Kakashi's shifting and opened his eyes.

Kakashi wondered what Gai saw. Do I look angelic to him? He doubted it. With one blue eye and one demonic red, with a scar on his cheek? It was a wonder he didn't scare Gai away. "How long was I out?" he asked.

Gai smiled. "Two hours. About." He stroked Kakashi's hair. "I think the rest was good for you."


"Your eyes are more in focus now."

Kakashi abruptly realized he could see Gai's face. "You're right." His heart skipped a beat as wild hope filled him. "You mean, I'm going to be –" He faltered. He'd just given away the contents of his own worries. "Alright."

Gai looked at him solemnly. "Yes. Kakashi…you will see."

Kakashi looked away guiltily.

"You don't have to hide it from me," Gai said. "The worry. I know what you've been worried about."

Kakashi's chest tightened painfully. "Oh?"

"The same thing you were worried about on the trip home," Gai said.

Kakashi tensed with horror. He couldn't remember the trip home. Any of it.

"You were delirious," Gai said. "You kept saying you'd never see again."

Kakashi went numb. He tasted metal in his mouth.

"And you asked if I'd still love you."

Kakashi scrambled, turning away from him and curling into a ball. His heart stopped for one agonizing moment. If he'd had the strength, he would have fled. His head pounded. The humiliation. He'd been bared, in front of his entire team, in front of Gai, humiliated, crushed, fallen. And he couldn't remember. Oh god. He couldn't remember.

Gai hugged him tightly, arms around his waist, pressing their bodies together.

"Let go of me." Kakashi could barely choke out the words.

"No." Gai kissed his ear. "Because I do. I do still love you. I always do. No matter what happens." He kissed Kakashi's temple. "And I promise you will always be able to see."

Kakashi felt it all hit at once. He cried.

Gai turned him around gently and cradled him, cupping the back of his head. Kakashi wept, and Gai held him.

Gai waited patiently until he'd cried it all out, and then kissed the top of his head. "I love you. We're going to make sure this never happens again. We're going to transfer. Together. And when we become teachers, we'll always train our students together. They will be rivals. Just like us."

Kakashi tried to speak and couldn't get anything out except a whimper. He shook his head.

"They will let us go," Gai said. "I'll demand it. You and me. We'll be discharged and become normal shinobi again."

Kakashi clung to him. He wanted desperately to believe that Gai could do anything. He imagined Gai confronting, commanding. His chest tightened. Make it happen. Make them let us go. We're not meant to be here. ANBU is wrong. Everything's all wrong. All the time.

Gai hugged him. "Kakashi. I'll take care of you."

Kakashi was never going to refuse such an offer. Especially coming from Gai. "Okay."

True to his word, Gai got them out of ANBU. Kakashi wasn't well enough for a while to take on students, but eventually the headaches faded, and the fear of being backed into a corner and forced to use the sharingan faded too. After he was sure he wouldn't panic if placed in a battle situation, he agreed to take care of a genin team. At the same time, Gai asked for his own team, having waited on him the entire course of his recovery. Their students trained together, just like Gai had promised. Kakashi felt his life balance out for the first time.

And Gai still loved him.