Author's Note: Takes place during the beginning of the series.

My Fire

Kakashi was sitting up on a tree limb in training area 1, having sent his team on a practice scouting mission, and was reading the newest volume of Icha Icha. The birds were chirping; the breeze was blowing. It was a peaceful day.

"Kakashi!" a deep, manly voice yelled.

All the birds flew away.

Gai came cart-wheeling in, in a blur of green. He rolled effortlessly up the tree, circled it, and stood on the branch next to Kakashi. "What are you doing up there?" He planted his hands on his hips and peered down at Kakashi's book.

"Reading," Kakashi said, as though Gai had not just cart-wheeled up and around a tree to reach him. He didn't even look up.

"Oh," Gai said. He thought for a moment. "Well, I wanted to ask you a question. Should I come back later?"

Kakashi still didn't look up. "Maa, iya. It's fine."

Gai beamed. "Okay!" He flashed Kakashi a thumbs up. "I was thinking - Recently, I went through my mother's scrapbook, and I saw pictures of us as children." His grin widened. "We were, of course, adorable." He paused and rubbed his chin. "I was thinking to myself, I wasn't quite sure how we became rivals in the first place. I mean, I said yes and you said no a very long time before you said yes as well. Up to that point, I was mostly -" He let out a laugh. "-stalking you. I'm afraid as a child I didn't have any grace."

He got lost in thought for a moment. Then he focused. "So my question is...why did you say yes to being my Eternal Rival? This is the kind of thing an Eternal Rival should know." He nodded wisely, as though everyone had an Eternal Rival and there was some well-known Eternal Rival etiquette, in which everyone was versed.

Kakashi set down his book. This was a very delicate question, the answer to which he couldn't quite come out and say: Because I developed a crush on you. "Well, we ... " He laughed nervously and rubbed the back of his head. "Our contests are good for our skills..."

"I'm glad you think so and have agreed to acknowledge our mutual friendship and training!" Gai sat down next to Kakashi and flung his arm around his friend, squeezing Kakashi tightly.

Kakashi nearly lost his breath; he grinned at Gai through his mask.

"I can remember when you thought my challenges were stupid," Gai confided in a murmur. Then he grinned. "It doesn't bother me one bit." He rested his head on Kakashi's shoulder. "What's important is that we now have come to an understanding."

Of course, that wasn't quite the full explanation he'd wanted.

"What was the catalyst for your change of heart, Kakashi?" Gai asked. Maybe rephrasing the question would help.

Kakashi was glad for the mask. He blushed faintly. "Well, I, ah..." He tapped the spine of his book against his leg.

"You can tell me," Gai said. He leaned on Kakashi and squeezed him encouragingly. "Nothing is too foolish to say."

Kakashi laughed nervously again. He'd been trying to figure out how to get his feelings out for over a decade. Now suddenly it had come to this...

Gai met Kakashi's eyes and said in his most solemn voice, "What is important is our full disclosure to each other as Eternal Rivals. Our relationship should know no bounds." He shook his head, maintaining his solemnity.

"For instance, I will answer any question you wish to know," he vowed, hoping that this clarification would set his friend at ease.

That put Kakashi in a bind.

As far as he knew, Gai had no romantic feelings for anyone, including himself. This was one way to find out, though. "Maa ... Then answer my question first. Have you ever wanted to kiss someone?" He figured that was the easiest way to ask. "On the lips, I mean." He waved Icha Icha in the air.

Gai grinned. "Oh, you mean like in one of those stories you read." His cheeks felt pleasantly warm. "I think about it sometimes. It is of no importance, though. I will lead a perfectly happy life either way without experiencing any of those things Jiraiya-sensei describes as 'necessary sexual pleasures'. I feel fine. Although..." He looked at Kakashi speculatively. "As long as it's optional, I guess I would choose to have them."

He realized he'd gotten a little off track. "In simplified terms, yes."

Kakashi got stuck. He realized he should have clarified with a 'who.' "And this kiss ... do you imagine it happening with the same person each time?"

Gai laughed. "Generally!" He thought about why Kakashi was asking the question and came up with a blank, though now he was curious. "This is normal, right? I mean...if you want to kiss someone, the same someone, it means you like them." He shrugged. "Right?"

"Right." Kakashi rubbed the back of his head again. "So you do have someone you like?"

"Yes!" Gai beamed at him brilliantly.

Kakashi should have realized this wouldn't work easily, he reflected. "Who?" he asked bluntly.

Gai blinked, his smile fading in his confusion. "You." He gave Kakashi a puzzled look. "How could I not like the someone whom I have declared to be my Eternal Rival?"

Kakashi smiled. "Now you know when and how I had a change of heart."

"I do?" Gai furrowed his brow and rubbed his chin.

"Hai, hai." Kakashi nodded. "When I decided I liked my Eternal Rival."

"Oh." Gai smiled brilliantly again, and hugged Kakashi.

Kakashi hugged him back. Will he ... Did he get the full message? With Gai, one never knew.

Gai snuggled for a moment. He processed their conversation. " asked me if there was anyone I wanted to kiss, after I asked you why you changed your mind about becoming my Eternal Rival. And you said that you changed your mind because you decided you liked me. Does this have something to do with your question?"

He struggled. "I mean...language and coincidence are fraught with misunderstandings. Is the confluence of our questions merely one of life's coincidences, or does it have some greater meaning I have yet to fully suspect?"

In spite of the fact that Kakashi knew he had trouble with things like inferences, he found that Kakashi was not inclined to make it easy on him.

Nor, in fact, would Gai wish it otherwise. He did not like it when people went easy on him.

All the same... Sometimes it was tempting to ask for a bit of consideration.

Kakashi gazed at him, then slowly lowered his mask.

Gai was so stunned he nearly fell out of the tree.

"You -" He pointed with a shaking hand. "You took off your mask in front of me..." He trailed off, looking in amazement at Kakashi's face. Particularly the sight of Kakashi's pale, delicately pink lips. Soft looking lips.

He found himself leaning in.

Kakashi lifted his face and halfway closed his eyes, his lips parting faintly.

Gai's eyes widened. The body language was unmistakable. Suddenly, he felt his pulse in his throat. He swallowed and met Kakashi's expectant lips, half-closing his eyes as well. He let out a faint moan at contact. Kakashi's lips were warm, smooth, and soft, just as he'd always imagined. Perfect. He pressed his lips against Kakashi's, closing his eyes and reaching out blindly to cup Kakashi's cheek. So warm...

Kakashi closed his eyes the rest of the way and moaned at the feeling of Gai's lips on his own; he mouthed them slowly, taking in their warmth. His cheek tingled from the touch.

Gai moaned loudly at the way Kakashi's lips moved, unabashed at the passion flowing through his veins. It burned. His whole body ignited, making him hot. He pulled away just enough to look into Kakashi's uncovered eye. "You are my fire." He traced Kakashi's bottom lip with his thumb, overwhelmed at his sudden epiphany. "You are my fire. You are my will to live."

Kakashi's breath caught in his chest. "Gai..." He cupped the back of Gai's head and leaned in, kissing him more passionately, the book in his lap now forgotten.