At sixteen years old, Kakashi and his friends were pretty mature. They'd graduated into the work force at the same time other children learned to read and write, fought in a war before they'd hit puberty, and survived the Nine Tailed Fox rampaging through their village two years ago. By now, he and Gai were in ANBU.
So he was worried but not at all surprised to see Gai at the bar drinking his troubles away.
Kakashi sat down beside Gai sympathetically. "What's the problem?"
"Her name is Nanako," Gai said glumly.
Kakashi was surprised. "Your problem is a girl?"
Kakashi clapped him on the back. "That's wonderful. The best problem in the world to have is a girl problem. Ne? At least that means you have one."
"I have lots of problems," Gai moaned. "All stemming from one girl."
Kakashi laughed. "Girls are problem factories," he agreed, nodding. "They mass produce them for a living."
"I don't think it's funny…"
Kakashi rubbed his back. "Gomen. I didn't mean to make light of your suffering. What happened? Did you have your first lover's spat?"
Gai hid his face in his hands. "You don't understand. I'm not dating her."
"She's a problem, but you're not dating her," Kakashi murmured. "You're being very mysterious…"
"No, I'm not," Gai said. "Not at all. Everything I've said is perfectly clear. Stop joking, Kakashi, and help me. Please."
Kakashi sighed. "How can I help you?"
Gai lowered his hands and shot Kakashi a pleading look. "Help me break up with her."
"But you said you weren't dating her. How can you break up with her if you haven't started dating her yet?"
"I'm not," Gai wailed. "I haven't. But she thinks I am, and that's the problem."
If it were anyone else, Kakashi would think it wasn't much of a problem. However, it was Gai. He continued rubbing Gai's back. "What happened?"
"She's a village girl," Gai said. "I saved her from some people who were trying to hurt her, and now she thinks we're dating."
"Oh…? Sounds like love at first sight," Kakashi said. "That's a powerful thing to be messing with."
Gai looked horrified. "But my sight's unaffected. What do I do? How do I get her sight to turn back to normal?"
"It's not a disease," Kakashi said mildly. "Haven't you ever seen someone who immediately makes you want to love them?"
Gai gave Kakashi a long, lost puppy look.
"I'll help," Kakashi said. "What do you want me to do? How do you want me to help break up with her?"
"Say something," Gai begged. "Please. I keep saying what I mean, but she doesn't understand me. I think there's something wrong with my communication. If you tell her I'm not interested, she'll have to believe you."
"You want me to break up with her for you?" Kakashi asked. That made him highly uncomfortable. Not to mention how the girl would feel.
"I've tried," Gai said. "I've tried on my own. She doesn't understand me."
Kakashi took pity on his distraught friend. "Alright. I'll try to tell her she's not wanted in the nicest way possible."
Gai hugged him tightly.
Kakashi walked down the street, looking for the address Gai had given him.
The truth was, Kakashi loved Gai and would do anything for him. He'd loved Gai since they were 14. For two years, he'd suffered heartache in silence, knowing Gai wouldn't return his feelings. After all, he was weird looking, unpopular, and people said he was downright cold. He was socially awkward, that was for sure. And he'd had trouble speaking two sentences to anyone after Minato died. He was lucky Gai wanted to be his friend.
If Gai did date him…He smiled underneath his mask. If Gai did date him, he'd love Gai forever and hang on to him, never let go. Sometimes he daydreamed about how romantic it would be if Gai ever suddenly noticed his feelings, returned them, and swept him off his feet. Declaring he was thick-headed for never seeing Kakashi's feelings before, declaring that he would never do anything like that again and promising to stay by Kakashi's side forever. Kakashi knew that was highly idealized and unrealistic.
Still, daydreaming was one of the only activities that made him happy. If he'd had any guts, he would write and illustrate manga like Jiraiya-sensei. Instead, he was stuck being the unwanted genius talent of Konoha.
Kakashi found the address, rang the doorbell, and waited.
A middle-aged man answered. He had bags under his eyes, and his short black hair was neatly combed, parted to one side. Judging from the state of his bulky body and undeveloped arms, Kakashi judged that his occupation did not involve manual labor.
He reacted to Kakashi's appearance with instinctive alarm. "What's the emergency, shinobi-san?"
Kakashi held up his hands. "No emergency. This is a social call."
"A social call?" The man looked flustered. He glanced back inside the house. "Now? Don't you know what time it is? My family just sat down to dinner."
Kakashi bowed. "I'm sorry. Perhaps I can explain." He straightened. "You see –"
He stopped short at the look of intense scrutiny he was being given. "You're…" The man narrowed his eyes at Kakashi. "You're the son of White Fang, aren't you?"
Kakashi cringed inside. "That's right," he said cheerfully. "May I speak with Nanako-san?"
"You know my daughter?" the man asked.
"She's a friend of a friend," Kakashi said. "You see, my friend wants to talk to her but can't, since he's on a mission, and while he's away, I promised to deliver a message."
"Oh." The man relaxed. "So your friend is a friend of Nanako's."
"That's right, sir." Kakashi pleaded a little with his eyes. "I'm heading out for a mission myself in the morning. I apologize for only being able to deliver the message this evening."
"It's alright." The man padded back inside. "Wait here. I'll get my daughter to come to the door."
Considering all the harm his father had done, Kakashi considered it lucky that he was allowed to stand on the man's doorstep.
A girl with long black hair came to the door. She was wearing a blue sundress. She wasn't bad looking; just average. A curvy teenage body, with mid-sized breasts. An above average face, maybe. Kakashi found her tiny nose and full lips attractive. But he reminded himself he wasn't here to assess the competition.
Kakashi bowed before his gaze could be considered staring. "Nanako-chan?"
"Hello," the girl said, and bowed. "Who are you? I've never seen you around before."
"I'm a friend of Gai-kun's," Kakashi said, smiling. "My name is Kakashi."
"Oh." She warmed up considerably, blushing. "Gai-kun! How is he?"
"Well…" Kakashi wondered how to go at this. "Well, not doing well at all right now, I'm afraid."
"Oh, no!" Her hand flew to her mouth. "Has he been injured? On one of those horrible, dangerous missions that he does?"
"No, nothing like that," Kakashi said. "Just drunk."
"Drunk?" She straightened as though slapped. "But…Gai-kun doesn't drink."
"Not normally, no," Kakashi agreed. "He's very upset right now. He's been trying to tell you something for weeks and doesn't think he can be able to tell you himself. So he sent me."
"Is it…" She looked at him with wide eyes, clutching her hand to her heart. "Can he really be…marriage?" She whispered, "Does he want to propose?"
Kakashi saw the problem right away. This girl's brain was in high gear. She was clearly too invested in her own vision of the future to listen to Gai. Gai's hesitant objections that he didn't feel the way she wanted him to would be easily crushed. And Gai had that terrible habit of being unable to disappoint people. Telling Nanako he wanted none of her married life, child-bearing future was beyond the scope of Gai's abilities.
Kakashi made up his mind in an instant. I'll do it.
"He wants to break it off with you," Kakashi said flatly.
"No!" Nanako gasped in horror and turned pale. "Why?"
"He's not interested in you," Kakashi said. "It's all been a misunderstanding. He likes you as much as the next person, but he's not attracted to you, nor does he have any intention of marrying you. He told me to come here and tell you that he doesn't want to go out with you."
Her expression changed rapidly to angry denial, and she clenched her fists at her sides. It appeared he'd been too blunt. "I don't believe you," Nanako said flatly. "Gai-kun would never say that."
"But he did," Kakashi objected. "He said that to me. I'm his best friend, and I know that he would never tell me something that wasn't true." Her steadfast refusal made his heart skip a beat uncomfortably. In spite of the fact that he knew Gai would never send him out to Nanako's house to make a fool of himself, a tiny, irrational part of his brain was terrified that he had walked into some kind of elaborate trap.
Nanako folded her arms over her chest. "Gai-kun would never send someone else to break up with me. He would come see me himself. And he would never send anyone like you."
"I'm Gai's friend," Kakashi said. "Who else is he going to send?" Someone like me? He self-consciously considered the scar on his face, which he couldn't completely hide behind his forehead protector and mask. Or maybe there was something inherently socially jarring about his voice, his behavior…
He tried not to scrunch up his shoulders and slouch like he usually did when he felt intimidated by social situations. I have to stand firm.
"I don't think you're Gai's friend at all," Nanako said. "If you even know Gai-kun at all, then you're just trying to make me break up with him as some kind of cruel prank."
"Prank?" Kakashi looked at her blankly. "What kind of a prank is that?" He scratched his temple.
"To take me away from him!"
Kakashi stared at her in disbelief, his self-consciousness forgotten. "Take you…Why would I want you?"
"Oh, go away!" she cried, flustered.
Kakashi frowned. What would make her believe Gai doesn't want anything to do with her? "Oi, Nanako-san…"
She scowled at him. "What is it?"
"What do you do with Gai when you go out?" Kakashi asked. "Do you hold hands? Does he kiss you?" He had to bank on Gai telling the absolute truth. Gai had claimed that he'd never so much as kissed Nanako. That had to be the truth.
"You're a pervert!" Nanako blushed fiercely.
Kakashi knew it was cruel, and he'd promised to be nice, but he knew psychological tactics. And he knew how to read people. Nanako's reaction was all the proof he needed. "He doesn't kiss you, then." He turned away and started walking.
"What do you mean by that?" Nanako demanded.
"If he loves you, why doesn't he kiss you?"
"That's horrible! He doesn't kiss me because he's – Because he's – Nice! Gai's so…so…"
"Gay," Kakashi muttered loud enough for her to hear.
"How dare you! Come back here!"
Kakashi kept walking. He hoped his words were the kunai through Nanako's heart necessary to kill this one-sided romance.
Nanako didn't follow him. Instead she turned around and slammed the door behind her, rushing back inside.
On the walk back, part of him worried about the word getting out that Gai was supposedly gay. The other part of Kakashi wished it were true, and that he was Gai's type. Neither of which is probably true, except in my imagination.
Kakashi came back to the bar and found Gai still sitting there. He rested a hand on Gai's back. "I got rid of her."
"You did?" Gai lit up and hugged Kakashi tightly. "Thank you!"
Kakashi enjoyed his hug, but he wished it meant something more than just a friend's gratitude. He hugged Gai in return and patted Gai's back. "Now it doesn't have to trouble you," he murmured, "and you can stop drinking."
For a tall, muscular man, Gai held his liquor extremely poorly. Kakashi could drink him under the table. He'd often said Gai shouldn't be drinking at all.
"Good idea," Gai mumbled. He paid his tab.
Kakashi helped Gai stand up, and supported his weight while they walked to the door. "It's home for you, now."
"Can't I go stay with you at your home?" Gai asked pitifully.
"Alright." Kakashi sighed. He shouldn't let Gai tempt him, but he did, every time. "You can sleep it off in my bed."
Gai hugged him again. "Yay! Kashi! Thank you!" He snuggled Kakashi for a moment, then belatedly paused. "Are you sure you don't mind?"
"The couch is too hard," Kakashi said, evading the question. "And small."
"Okay!" Gai was drunk, too inebriated to catch that simple deflection. When sober, Gai would clamp on and sink his teeth in like a bulldog until Kakashi answered his questions straight.
He helped Gai in the door and swung it shut. They stumbled through the living room together, towards the back of the house.
"You should shower," Kakashi murmured, aiming an impish smile Gai's way. "That might sober you up. Then you wouldn't have to sleep it off for as long." He was a terrible, terrible person.
Gai went wide-eyed. "You would let me use your shower?"
"Sure I would." Kakashi raised a hand. "I'll even help you. Showering when drunk is dangerous. I wouldn't want you to fall."
"You're the best friend ever!"
If Gai were anyone else, he would have caught on by now and either pulverized Kakashi or kissed him. Or maybe both, Kakashi thought. That would be interesting. At this point, he would take almost anything that involved a kiss.
Anything except coercing it out of Gai while his friend was drunk. If Gai didn't want to do it, then it didn't count.
"I'll have to be naked," Kakashi said. "I don't want to get my clothes wet."
Gai gasped. "I don't either! I wouldn't want to make your clothes wet." He laughed. "Anyway, showering with your clothes on doesn't make any sense, Kashi!"
Kakashi chuckled. "You are so right."
He led Gai to the bathroom.
They peeled off their clothes, and Gai was so beautiful, Kakashi couldn't pretend he didn't feel an enormous temptation to touch Gai's tanned, muscular body in all the places he shouldn't. He could, however, understand that molesting his friend was beyond reprehensible.
He started the shower and helped Gai into it, supporting Gai's weight. While Gai clumsily washed himself, Kakashi made sure Gai didn't fall and crack his head open.
This is the closest I'll ever be to Gai while we're both naked, he thought mournfully. Why do I torture myself this way? Don't I have enough fantasies to masturbate to already?
But drunk consent was no consent, and Kakashi knew it. A sober, unimpaired Gai would have to tell him that he wanted to have sex before Kakashi could lift a finger.
And Kakashi was beginning to wonder if Gai's professed claim to not know what sex was – delivered with misguided satisfaction, of course – was actually true. What if I can just show him what sex is and see if he does anything on his own to approach me? But he knew that was just wishful thinking. Knowledgeable about sex or not, Gai just wasn't interested. He'd been friends – 'rivals' – with Gai for years at this point. He should know better than anyone how to read his friend. Gai just wasn't interested.
He toweled Gai off, got Gai dressed in a yukata for sleeping in, and chaperoned Gai to his bed, folding down the covers and then tucking Gai in. Kakashi sat down on the bed next to his friend and watched Gai swiftly fall asleep. Damp and unimpeded by the aggressive hair gel Gai tortured himself with, Gai's dark, glossy hair sprang up in all directions, an endless mess of cowlicks.
Kakashi thought it was adorable. He stroked Gai's hair gently.
Gai shifted, murmuring happily, and pressed into the touch.
Kakashi melted. He petted Gai's head for a moment longer, then slipped underneath the covers, where he knew he wanted to be. Being your best friend and rival is the closest I will ever be to being your lover. He snuggled up to Gai's warm, clean body, knowing everything would remain innocent.
The only contender was his erection, and that Kakashi carefully hid, leaving not a single hint for Gai to find. He tucked it back between his legs, uncomfortable as that might be. It was the only way to snuggle with Gai as closely as he wanted to.
The next day Gai was his usual bright, smiling self. Relieved of his burdens, he floated back up to fluffy cloud status where he belonged. Kakashi would always relieve Gai's burdens, as long as he lived.
Did you know that I can't smile without you? Kakashi thought of asking. But he knew he didn't have the guts.
He never could have imagined that someone like Gai would drift into his life, after all the things that had happened to him. After losing everyone that mattered to him, Kakashi was incredulous when Gai intruded on him and effortlessly pulled him into Gai's life. Suddenly, he was part of someone else's story, and that intimidated him and disoriented him. He was used to being the lead character of a tragedy, not the foil for a hero in an action adventure comedy.
And asking for more seemed rude. Especially since Kakashi was well aware what the genre of this story was. Shonen. The handsome hero in a shonen manga is not gay. There are no gay characters in shonen. Not unless they're the villain. And then, definitely, the hero stands no chance of falling in love with them. None.
Kakashi flicked through the pages of his careworn volume of Icha Icha, not really able to concentrate on the pictures. He'd read it many times before. At this point, it was more of a shield behind which to daydream. He stifled a sigh. I'd make a great villain, too. With my pale skin, silver hair, and blood red eye? I even cover my face and sneak around a lot. Not to mention the fact that I stole my talents from my best friend's corpse. That'd go over well. I'd be cast as the villain for sure. Being gay just makes it worse.
How was Gai supposed to love someone like him? He wished he knew what he were thinking when he fell in love.
He supposed he really couldn't help it, though. Gai was the hero. His friend presented an irresistible attraction – especially since he had that never give up, always keep training, look on the bright side attitude. That was pure shonen fiction come to life.
If he didn't fall in love with Gai, there would be something wrong with him.