The Springtime of Romance - Gai happens to see Kakashi without his mask, and decides to court his Eternal Rival with flowers and love letters. Kakashi considers going back to anbu to escape his overenthusiastic friend. And he was NOT gay, damn it.

"KAKASHI! Let us break our tie with a match of-"

For a while, the small shower room was silent. Near the sink, Kakashi continued to calmly dry his hair with a towel, a towel that had been covering the lower half of his face moments earlier. A similar towel was wrapped snug around his waist, and his jonin outfit lay nearby, piled over a bench. The room was empty apart from them, since it was early in the morning. Unfortunately, it was Gai's most Youthful hour.

"Hm?" Kakashi asked, removing the towel from his damp hair and setting it on the counter. He turned to face the intruder, raising an eyebrow. Was it rock-paper-scissors again? That was his favorite. It was quick, and he won.

Gai was standing in the doorway with his mouth curiously open. There was no reply. His own hair looked just as freshly toweled, indicating that he had just finished his shower after his morning training with Lee and those other poor kids that had the misfortune to be his Youthful students.

Kakashi sighed and came over to the door, placing one hand on the other man's chest. Then he pushed back until Gai was outside the shower room, and still standing there frozen, like a gaping fish. He calmly closed the door in his Rival's face, and went back inside to continue drying his hair.

Once in front of the mirror again, he opened his Sharingan eye and peered out at a strangely uncovered face. He hadn't spent this long in the bathroom for years. And was that stubble? Hmm. Maybe he needed a shave.

When Kakashi reached training ground seven the next day, humming to himself while flipping through a rather racy chapter, he thought his cute students looked curiously uncomfortable. Naruto was fidgeting like mad, and Sakura's cheeks matched the shade of her hair. Sasuke looked a little stiffer than usual.

"Alright," he smiled, "more chakra exercises today for you, chapter nineteen for me." He doled out the orders, and waited for them to get to work. For some reason, the genin were still standing there looking at him with those strange gazes.

"Go on, then, start training. The trees won't climb themselves." He drawled, itching to return to a rather interesting description of Jio's…er…'pride' in Icha Icha Paradise. Jiraiya-sama wrote truly masterful prose. Pity it always deteriorated after the sex scenes.

Sakura was looking towards Naruto, who was shaking his head so vigorously that his forehead protector was on the verge of flying off. Then she shot a desperate look at Sasuke, whose stoic expression didn't change one bit. Finally, she gulped and turned to Kakashi with cheeks that were growing redder by the second.

"Um…we have a message for you, Kakashi-sensei," Sakura squeaked.

Hmm, this was strange. "A message?" Kakashi raised an eyebrow, "from who?"

"We aren't permitted to say," Sasuke said, staring pointedly across the training grounds, "we've been threatened with pain of…well…extreme muscle exertion. We've been told to refer to him as your Most Youthful admirer."

Kakashi reached over to ruffle his hair, smiling in amusement as the boy pushed his hand away with an annoyed look, "what did Gai ask you to tell me?"

He glared, "if we're going to be submitted to his four am training for the next week, I'd rather not have that and give you the message."

"Hehe," Naruto grinned, "he's embarrassed."

"I am not. Dobe. It's ridiculous."

Sakura watched in growing dismay as her two teammates continued to glare at each other, leaving the weight of the burden on her blushing shoulders. Finally, she turned back and bit her lip. "Um … 'your eyes are the color of … the warm clouds on a Youthful Spring day, your hair is like … um … silver threads flitting through … uh … 'something', and for that I shall pine away. And to accept my … feelings of Youth, come to my apartment this morning, and we shall … um … bask in the sweat and pleasure of the Youthful bliss for which I am … uh … yearning."

Naruto and Sasuke had stilled, and were looking at her in amazement for having had the guts to actually say the entire thing.

Kakashi felt a smile appear under his mask. Gai had never done anything like this before; his challenges were getting rather interesting. He gave her an amused look. "Ah, thank you Sakura. I'm honored. But I think I'll have to decline." He watched as her face contorted into an expression of pure horror. Ah, the cuteness of childhood.

"No!" She leaped to protest, "that was Gai-sensei – I mean, your 'Most Youthful admirer'!" Her cheeks were now reaching tomato stage.

"Wow, Sakura-chan," Naruto remarked, "you … you actually did it …"

"Badly." Was Sasuke's intelligent addition. "And she missed a few words."

"Oi! At least she tried!"

"Ch. It was silver strands, not threads."

"I'm sorry!" Sakura wailed, "I'll go ask him, and I'll memorize it and say it properly, I promise!" She made to turn and bolt, but Kakashi decided to take pity on her and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Maa, that's fine," he smiled, and then paused. "I wonder what this challenge is, exactly. Is it a love-poem writing challenge?"

"Looks like it," Naruto spoke up, "you can just admit failure or something, right, sensei? Cause I wanna start training."

Kakashi thought about it. On one hand, love poems. On the other hand, if Gai took the lead the next challenge would be something ridiculous. Like running around Konoha with a glass of water balanced on their heads. He could always just use some famous love-poem of the past. Gai would never know, since he wasn't the type to read.

He turned to Sakura, and smiled teasingly. "Actually, I can't afford to let him gain the upper hand here. I'll write one down and you'll go tell him, right, Sakura? Because you recite them so wonderfully."

"No!" She yelled, shaking her head, "I'm not doing that again!" She seemed to be struggling with her do-gooder personality, but was holding her ground admirably.

He turned to Naruto.

Unfortunately, Naruto crossed his arms and glared. "No way! You and Gai-sensei can go sort out your perverted stuff by yourselves."

Ouch. His stock seemed to have dropped a little. Kakashi considered explaining that it was just a silly little game they played that Gai had decided would go on for the rest of their lives. But then again, this was Uzumaki Naruto. He would probably forget by the next day.

Instead, he turned to his last student and held his hand out, a smile crinkling his eye. "Maa, you'll do it, right? Just a small favor for your jonin-sensei?" It wasn't that he actually expected Sasuke to agree. It would just be interesting to see how he reacted.

Sasuke turned away. "Ch. You were reading that book before you arrived. I'm not touching your hand."

Kakashi was left standing there with his hand growing cold. Yes, his stock had definitely dropped.

When he reached his apartment that evening, his nose was assaulted by a cloyingly sweet smell. He stood outside the door, wondering if he really wanted to go in and find out. It had been a long day. A long day. Poor Sakura wasn't going to be able to look him in the eye anytime soon.

Finally realizing that he was a shinobi, and he could deal with any sweet-smelling poisons that had been layered in his apartment, he pushed the door open and stepped in.

Kakashi froze at the sight of the elaborate bouquet of roses sitting on his table. Well, this was new. He was vaguely aware of some kunoichi who wondered in a not-so-innocent way what was under his mask, but none of them knew him well enough to find their way into his apartment. He went over to the roses and tore out the small note stuck to the wrapping-paper.

I was struck with sorrow that you refused to meet me and allow me to implement my carefully laid out sunrise of bliss. But I understand that your Youthful heart may be like the dew drops on the morning rose, transient and prone to fall easily off the will it sits upon. And so I will wait for you to seek me out and accept my affections in full, once you realize that I am the only one for you.

-Your Most Youthful Admirer

Kakashi read the note, and then read it again. Then he read it upside down. He read it upside down and skipping ever other word. Nope, still gibberish. What had he told Gai about keeping the purple prose out of conversation?

Sunrise of bliss? Was this some new morning training routine he'd come up with? And he'd long accepted Gai as his rival, albeit an exasperating one. There was no one else who could make up for Kakashi's lack of enthusiasm in a rivalry.

Did Gai like men? Well, that was a distinct possibility. Kakashi vaguely remembered him mentioning lovers in the past, but they were all rather short-term, and he'd never disclosed the gender. Was that it?...

Kakashi felt the urge to gulp audibly. The annoying smell of roses settled firmly into his plain apartment.

"Gai, I'm not sure exactly what your challenge was," he admitted the next day at training ground nine. Gai's three genin were warming up by stretching, and shooting the two jonin curious looks. Naruto and Sakura and Sasuke had decided to go for an early lunch.

And Maito Gai himself was standing in front of him with a grin that spread across his face, "do not worry, Kakashi," he said, "I completely understand. I will wait for you to decide on your own time, since not many are as sure and definite as I."

Kakashi turned to look at Gai's hand sitting firmly on his shoulder, and sighed. "Listen, Gai, you're going to have to explain yourself a little more clearly."

"I believe Gai-sensei has expressed himself very clearly." Suddenly the smaller Green one, Lee, was standing by them with shining excitement in his eyes. His teammates were immediately behind him, pulling him back.

"Shh, Lee! If you get us involved, he'll make us take the messages!" Tenten said in a harsh whisper, "help me out, Neji."

The stoic Hyuga boy simply crossed his arms, "Lee, I would permit you to spar with me if you leave Kakashi-sensei alone."

There were stars in Lee's eyes, and Kakashi watched as Gai's three students went off quickly. He turned back to his Rival, no less perturbed.

Two firm pats on his shoulder. "I shall await your response, Kakashi!" And then he was off.

Huh. That was strange.

One week later, Kakashi hadn't seen head nor foot of Maito Gai, but he brushed it off. His long-time friend had a few quirks. A considerable amount of quirks. Many quirks.

Instead, he ate his rice and eggs for breakfast and calmly strolled down the training ground for more hours of interacting with young shinobi that alternatively got on his nerves and made him want to strangle them. But they never really ceased to amuse him anyway.


It was on the fifth day that he woke up to the sound of his name being yelled into his ear.

Kakashi narrowed his eyes even before completely waking up, and reached for the kunai under his futon, bringing it up in one smooth motion while he turned. He relaxed when he saw that it was only Gai, who was standing near his bed with his hands on his hips.

"Maa, Gai," he slid out of the sheets, wearing only his standard-issue pants, undershirt, and the mask that he'd attached to it, "I hope you remember that key is only for emergencies."

"Of course!" Gai exclaimed, "and I have used it well, for this is such an emergency. You have not yet replied!"

"Replied?" Kakashi frowned, "weren't you avoiding me, or something?"

"No, no! My Youthful and Radiant student Tenten advised that I 'give you space', and that I have done," he said, "but that's enough space."

This was not making any sense. Kakashi rubbed his head tiredly and turned to look out the window, where the sun was only just beginning its rise. This was too early. How on earth was he supposed to be late for training if he was up this early? Instead of answering the clearly gibberish questions, he grabbed his shirt from the back of a chair in the apartment and slipped it on. "I have no idea what you mean," he called. "I'll just go make tea."

Gai followed him to the kitchen, and sat at his table. "Is more time needed?"

"Time until what?" At this point he was just exasperated. He carefully poured the boiling water into the cup and watched the color of the tea swirl into it.

"Until we become lovers, of course."

Kakashi cursed under his breath and drew his hand back from the stream of scaling water. The tea spilled to pool over the counter. "Gai, don't startle me like that." He grabbed a cloth to soak up the mess.

"Oh," his self-proclaimed Rival seemed almost enlightened, "so you did not know! That is why you have not responded. Lee is right, I must make my intentions more clear," he stood up and, in a flash, was in front of him, "Kakashi, I wish to take our Rivalry in a new direction!"

"You want to be lovers." Kakashi stated dryly, "no. I don't take lovers. You should know that by know." And besides, he wasn't gay. Not at all. And if he did take lovers, it would be an elegant dark-haired kunoichi, just like Katsue from Icha Icha Violence.

But Gai had that fire in his eyes that clearly stated he would never give up. "You have challenged me to woo you!" He stated excitedly, "I will take this challenge with honor!"

"No, wait-"

"And if I win, I gain at least three points!"


"I shall bring you the most Youthful flowers and poems every day of the week until you acknowledge my love!"

Kakashi went ahead and leapt out the window. The tea could wait.

It took two months for him to cave. Two long, tiring months with dozens of presents that he promptly unloaded onto the old lady who lived next door (she would surely enjoy fragrant perfume more than he ever would), and more flowers than his nose could handle. By the end of it all, he had both hands planted firmly on the mission desk.

"No," the chunin sitting behind it told him, "you can't go back to anbu and take a year-long undercover mission. You have students to train, Kakashi-san. Now."

Kakashi groaned inwardly and left the building with his head held in his hands. The faint scent of roses now followed him wherever he went, courtesy of Gai leaving the stupid things on his table. He was starting to regret the day he'd given him that extra key.

Training his cute students could wait, and hopefully they would do some sparring and go home. He could always bring dango the next day to appease them, or something. Kids were simple-minded things, and even Sasuke had his moments. He went right back to his apartment and sat on the couch with Icha Icha in one hand.

Dammit, why did every description of Jio's impressive erection remind him of his green-tights-wearing stalker? He was definitely going mad.

He stayed locked up in his apartment all day, and eventually Icha Icha was bringing too many weird thoughts to his head. In defeat, he set the book aside and contended himself with looking out the window, observing the view over busy streets outside.

There was knocking on the door. He ignored it.

After all, it would eventually go away. It would go away, and he would be able to read Icha Icha without the weird thoughts…well, with the right type of weird thoughts, since this was Icha Icha. The knocking persisted.

Finally, he got up and opened the door of his apartment. Outside, of course, stood Gai, smiling that blinding smile like usual and holding a single daffodil. His keen senses immediately located Naruto, Sakura, Sasuke, and Gai's three students hiding behind the corner of the building, probably assuming they were out of sight and Naruto's yellow hair didn't give anything away. Hmm, had they come to watch?

Well that was fine. This had gone on long enough. It was time to take action.

"Kakashi!" Gai declared, "I have found a flower that best represents your Youthful beauty!"

"Kakashi-sensei is beautiful?" Neji whispered from his hiding place. "That is interesting indeed."

"Well, no one knows," Sakura pointed out, "maybe Gai-sensei saw under that mask."

"It is only fitting that the Youthful Gai-sensei have such good taste," Lee declared loudly, while Sakura reached over to put a hand over his mouth.

"Why am I here?" Sasuke wondered.

Kakashi looked down at the daffodil. Well, on the bright side, at least it didn't have an overbearingly sweet smell. He took the flower and tossed it back into the apartment. "Fine."

Gai watched mournfully as his flower skidded across the table inside, and looked back with a confused expression, "fine?"

"Fine. We can be lovers. Partners. Whatever you want to call it." Kakashi confirmed. It wasn't like he planned on having a relationship with anyone else, and Gai was the type who wouldn't give up once he'd set his sights on something. And if that something was in Kakashi's pants, then so be it.

For a while, there was silence between the two. Behind the side of the building, six genins' mouths had dropped.

"Did…Kakashi-sensei just say that?" Sakura asked wondrously, "did he?" She tightened her hand over Lee's mouth when the boy made to burst into loud congratulations.

"Ch. I expected something more interesting."

"What does that mean, Sakura-chan? Is he gonna do perverted stuff like in those books he reads?"

Neji sighed and rubbed his face in his hands. Tenten patted his back consolingly.

"But I have conditions," Kakashi stated, arms crossed, "lots of conditions.

"I will agree to any of these conditions!" Gai declared.

"No flowers."

"Not even Youthful sunflowers?"

"Not even those. And no love letters either."

"That seems acceptable!"

"Lots of sex."

"That is even more acceptable."

Sakura blushed madly, and Sasuke made a choking sound.

"Ew." Naruto wrinkled his nose.

"I don't know," Tenten shrugged, "that could be hot. From the right angle."

Neji reached over to silently place his hand over her eyes. His teammates were weird enough already.

"If you even mention 'Youth' in bed…" Kakashi went on, perfectly aware of the genin spying on them and listening to every word. It wasn't like they wouldn't find out anyway, seeing as this was Gai.

"I will strive to reduce my usage of the word if it so pleases you!"

With that, the six genin watched in open-mouthed curiosity as Kakashi reached over and grabbed the front of Gai's flak jacket, pulling him until their mouths were pressed together.

The friction of the mask only added to the pleasant roughness. Kakashi was exasperated, and if he couldn't read Icha Icha, the real thing would have to suffice. Gai was good with his body, after all. Definite plus. He broke the kiss and drew back.

"Oh, and I'm not gay. Just so you know."

For some reason, Gai didn't pay that too much attention.

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