You Did Your Best

The first thing he saw, swimming in his vision, was green. He'd never been so doped up in his life, so he couldn't see straight. Or was that because of something else? He sat numbly in his hospital bed, staring. His lips parted, but no sound emerged. He was warm, but he wasn't so much comfortable as he was numb.

Kakashi glanced down at his hands, confirming again that his pale fingers were there, lying on the thin, soft blanket covering his lap. Then he glanced back up at the green. This time, there was a person to go with it. He could put together glossy black hair framing a face with wide, dark eyes. This person was looking at him, he belatedly realized. He breathed, a novel sensation, and thought of voicing his realization.

But instead he stared and furrowed his brow, distracted by the tickling sensation of his breath on his lips.

"Kakashi?" a voice said.

Kakashi knew that voice. He looked around, squinting against the afternoon sun pouring in through the window's white curtains, turning them too blazing to look at. Blinking, he looked around the room, noticing the soft blue shadows cast over sterile furniture.

Finally, his gaze drifted back to the boy. It was a boy. A…he knew the word for this. He made an unintelligible noise. Suddenly, his eye hurt, and his vision blurred. He dropped back against the pillows propping him up, gasping. The pain disappeared as suddenly as it had come, but he still felt as though all of his energy had been drained in an instant.

It slapped some sense into him, though. "Gai," Kakashi said.

"Kakashi!" Gai started forward and grabbed Kakashi's hand, squeezing.

Kakashi stared down at their joined hands. "Hello," he mumbled. "Are you going to go away now? I'm tired." That wasn't what he'd meant to say, but it just came tumbling out as soon as he'd thought it.

"No!" Gai squeezed his hand harder. "I'm staying with you, forever and forever!"

Kakashi frowned. "Are you sure?"

"I'm sure!" Gai nodded emphatically. His hair cascaded at that rapid movement.

Kakashi found it amusing. He snorted.

"What?" Gai asked, looking caught between confusion and anger.

"Your hair," Kakashi said. He snickered. He couldn't help it.

"What about my hair?" Gai asked.

Kakashi grinned widely. "It's funny."

Gai gasped and ran his free hand over his hair. This action seemed to reassure him. "You're one to talk! Your hair sticks up all over the place."

"So?" Kakashi drew out the word. This was fun. He'd never talked about hair before.

"So," Gai said. "So…" He trailed off, looking unsure. "So, well, how are you?"

"I don't know," Kakashi said. His gaze dropped to his lap, overcome with a piercing sense of vulnerability and failure. Disappointment in himself that ran so deep it ached. He didn't know why. He figured when he remembered it wouldn't be pleasant, though. "I'm…sorry." The word seemed strange. He didn't know what he needed it for. It just seemed to fit the way his stomach clenched. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry…"

Gai's eyes widened, stricken. Then he hugged Kakashi gently. "You don't have anything to be sorry for. You did your best. My grandfather always says that's what counts. Kashi…you did your best."

"I did my best." Kakashi replicated that phrase leadenly. It didn't help. "I'm sorry. I'm still sorry. I'm sorry, Gai. I…"

Gai climbed into the hospital bed with him and held him that way. Kakashi didn't think the bed was built for more than one, but he wasn't going to say anything. He was too drained. Gai was warm, at least. Warm things were nice. Even if it was Gai.

Kakashi found his head resting on Gai's shoulder. It was nice not to hold his head up anymore. He blinked, feeling heavy. "Gai…"

"It's okay," Gai said. And in what was probably his wisest moment to date, he added comfortingly, "Just sleep."

Kakashi did just that.