Maze

Marriage of Hard Work and Genius Chapter 4

Title: Marriage of Hard Work and Genius

Author Notes: Wow this took less time than I thought to post. Which could be good or bad depending. Continuing my trend of not being able to break the chapters up into 5000 piece chunks without things going wonky this is a little over 7000 words and an OC. On another note I am proud I got this out quicker than I thought. Enjoy! Also I fell behind on updating on lj so this is already up to chapter six.

To start from the beginning



When Hiro heard that Gai had been married he was a little confused, he'd expected at least a word of engagement before the other man set the iron. But when the statement had been followed by Kakashi's name and laughter, Hiro couldn't help but grin. Leave it to someone like Kakashi to turn marriage into a chore.

The first thing Hiro did was confirm the story with the Hokage, the second thing he did was take a mission to last several days, to give the two men a little settling time. When he returned he expected the other people to have forgotten and moved on, however much to his surprise, gossip was still going strong.

While he was at the Yamanaka flower shop trying to pick a flower up to bring Gai, he noticed the women talking, including the attendant, and as he approached those who knew him as a regular began to talk to him of the marriage. After barely escaping the gaggle of women (he was surprised to see Sakura with them), Hiro headed for the spot in the woods where he could sense both Gai's and Kakashi's chakra.

Pausing outside of the ward Hiro frowned, knowing better then try to defuse it because it was secure, he sent chakra ripple through it to get Gai's attention, and leaned against a tree, holding the orchid carefully.

Kakashi, who was sitting lazily in the yard with his dogs looked up slowly as the new source of chakra approached. Choosing to ignore it he went back to his reading, and decided that Gai could, and would deal with it.

Gai was in the middle of his workout when he felt Hiro's chakra flare across his wards. Tilting his head to the side Gai sent his wards out to do an analysis of what Hiro currently had on his person. When the ward came back with nothing more dangerous than a set of exploding tags, Gai went to where Hiro was to meet him.

Allowing a brief opening in the wards, Gai waited until Hiro was through before closing them. Currently he had on his green spandex suit unzipped with the arms tied together so his chest was currently bare.

"Hello Hiro how may I help you?" Gai queried tilting his head and wondering what Hiro was up to. Though it looked like he came bearing a plant.

Hiro grinned as he glanced toward Kakashi, who wasn't paying any attention, "I heard," Hiro said as he offered the flower to Gai, "The good news. So I brought you something to show for it. A symbol of love." Hiro said his smile widening, and then slightly faltering when he felt the tightness of the scar on his cheek.

"So," Hiro said raising an eyebrow, "You like your wife?" his tone was teasing, but Hiro was dead serious. He thought it was downright hilarious that Kakashi (good Kakashi, great Kakashi. Kakashi who had always outdone him. Kakashi, who'd learned the jutsu it'd taken him ten years to perfect, in under a minute. Kakashi who'd always outranked him in the ANBU) was the woman in the relationship.

Hiro, who'd looked at Kakashi, didn't seem to realize he was scowling, and glaring at the younger man (who was better at everything then he himself could ever dream to be). "I can't believe you married Kakashi." Hiro said suddenly, as if he expected Gai to know just how much he himself disliked Kakashi, though he'd never brought it up.

"I can't believe you're married." Hiro corrected himself, tearing his eyes away from Kakashi when the other man finally looked up, returning his glare (and Hiro who'd seen what that glare could turn into, knew it best to turn away). "Seriously though, how is... It?" Hiro gave Gai a wink, nudging him slightly.

Studying the orchid, Gai listened to Hiro talk with a mixture of mild annoyance and weary amusement. On the one hand he didn't like the derogatory tone Hiro seemed to have developed towards Kakashi so suddenly. The other hand however it gave him some amusement to have unsettled Hiro.

"Watch your mouth Hiro." Gai warned and shook his head at Hiro's remarks and began to walk towards the porch surrounding the dojo. Being cautious Gai was wary of letting others into his actual home. He had even set up the wards around the house itself with that in mind.

"Thank you for the orchid I know it will make a great addition in the dojo." Gai followed up his warning with the compliment. "You always seem to have exquisite taste in flowers." Settling himself down on the porch, Gai used a clone to go prepare tea while he sat with Hiro on the porch.

"Marriage is the ultimate symbol of springtime and youth." Gai temporarily fell on his old standby phrasing to answer Hiro's marriage question. "You should try IT sometime."

Hiro laughed, shrugging slightly, obviously not taking Gai's warning seriously, scowling at Gai's comment about the flower Hiro glanced toward Kakashi feeling slightly awkward to have the other man so close, with Gai saying such things. "Yeah, I guess it's cause I have a sister." he said nonchalantly, though anyone who knew Hiro knew his sister didn't know anything about flowers, nor did his mother.

"Try it? Try sex?" Hiro said raising his eyebrows curiously, though he knew just what Gai had meant. "Hey," he said suddenly as he eyed Kakashi strangely, "I already know Gai. It's kinda been forced on you, no need to justify it." Hiro turned his attention back to Gai.

After a pause Hiro slowly asked, "Does Kakashi have fleas? I always used to wonder, but I've never known anyone close enough to him to ask." Glancing toward the dogs Hiro scowled, pulling his legs up onto the porch he sat cross-legged.

Rolling his eyes at the sister bit, and choosing to ignore the flea question Gai tried to figure a way to steer the conversation elsewhere. Gai could tell that Hiro was going to go the route of densely flirtatious and combative so Gai bunkered down for a long fight. When his clone came back with the tea, he served it up and sipped thoughtfully before speaking.

"Is the gossip as bad I think it is?" Gai decided to just jump into the pool and hope he developed the ability to swim.

Hiro laughed at Gai's question, "It's worse." he said as he sipped his tea carefully, intending to thoroughly enjoy the first cup of real tea he'd had in a while, "The ladies are quite disappointed." Hiro added almost as an afterthought.

"When I went to pick the orchid up, they almost didn't let me out of the shop, simply because they knew I'd been on your cell. It's funny, actually," Hiro said scratching his cheek thoughtfully, "They seem equally disappointed over the fact that you and Kakashi married each other, rather then one of them."

Sipping his tea, Hiro slowly said, "I saw Tenten." he left it at that, expecting Gai to automatically assume the worst of his female student.

"Tell me she didn't manage to blow up the weapon's shed again." Gai groaned ducking his head and shaking it wearily. "I told her not to mix a flame thrower seal with a wildfire one...I still remember having to invent an eyebrow jutsu from the last time." Trailing off Gai shook his head processing the rest of Hiro's information with a sigh.

"You should have pointed out to them that this meant there were more woman for you to go around. That would have at least temporarily stalled it" Gai joked half hearted still a little worried about what Ten Ten had been up to lately. "Would you like more tea or a particular blend? You know I grow all the herbs here."

"The way you act Gai," Hiro said teasingly as he raised his cup again, "I wonder if all the herbs you grow here are legal." Grinning he winked at the other man again, before shaking his head slightly. Finishing his tea he set the cup aside, "No thank you, that was fine." he added seriously, before leaning back slightly.

"Actually, no." Hiro couldn't resist smiling, "She's spreading rumors." Hiro said his grin spreading despite himself, leaning forward as if that would keep the conversation between them, and Kakashi out of it, Hiro raised an eyebrow, "About Kakashi."

Hiro thought about Gai's comment, and chose not to respond. He'd never told Gai he was gay, just let the man think he was bi (but the thing Hiro managed to keep a secret so well, though it would explain a lot, was that he had a slight fear of women. Which, coincidentally, was how all the women managed to bully a man most men feared).

"The illegal ones have a legitimate purpose." Gai turned slightly red and coughed. "I have special permissions." He mumbled the last before he realized what Hiro had said about Tenten.

"What exactly is she saying?" Gai placed his cup down and leaned forward. Blinking slowly he gave Hiro the entirety of his considerable attentions. "I would think I taught her better than to say anything untruthful about one of her superiors." Resting his chin on his hands he awaited Hiro's response with a small level of trepidation.

Hiro grinned raising his eyebrows, "Oh? Don't you mean Kakashi-sensei, the one and only kunichi Gai-sensei ever loved." Hiro nodded slightly as if to say that this was indeed part of Tenten's rumor. "So, according to Tenten, Kakashi's a woman, genjutsuing herself to appear as a man, until-"

Hiro stopped here, as he began chuckling covering his mouth he shook his head slightly, "The only man who could ever truly love her, could make her fall in love with him." Hiro sighed, trying not to laugh.

"The worse part? People believe it." to Hiro's surprise he heard Kakashi chuckle, obviously listening to them, glancing at him Hiro scowled, before turning back toward Gai. "Think about that carefully Gai. Tenten is telling people Kakashi is a woman. And they believe her. She's telling them you're apparently Kakashi's prince charming. And they believe her." Hrio seemed at a loss, but more amused than anything.

"I can be Prince Charming." Gai grumbled a little put out that he was being joked about in more backhanded manner. "That would have to be one hell of a jutsu because as many teams Kakashi has been on with a Hyuuga or an Uchiha no one has penetrated it yet."

Finally realizing some of the joke potential that he could get in on Gai stood striking a pose. "Yes that's right, no Hyuuga or Uchiha stood a chance but I Hatake Maito Gai penetrated it when my youthful determination and spirit." Sitting back down Gai grinned for a moment before he acted woebegone. "Oh no that didn't come out right at all." Putting his head down Gai grinned into the table at his own self deprecating humor.

"Well I suppose I should explain to Ten Ten the difference between men and woman again." Gai mused sitting up. "Anything else interesting?"

At Gai's exclamation Hiro burst out laughing, over the sheer innuendo of the statement, even Kakashi laughed over it. "Oh gosh, it sure didn't." Hiro said shaking his head, slightly. "Not really. Not many people believe you're actually married to The Hatake Kakashi." Hiro said Kakashi's name with disdain. "I suppose now," he said grinning like a wolf, "It's Maito Kakashi now." he seemed pleased beyond words.

"Oh, Kurenai asked me if you tricked Kakashi into marrying you." Hiro widened his eyes as he said this, "I told her that in actuality it was the genius Kakashi that tricked you into marrying him." Hiro said casually.

"She asked why, so I told her Tenten's story." Hiro feigned innocence after this statement.

"Oh, Asuma seems to think this marriage has something or the other to do with a challenge between the two of you. Wouldn't take otherwise for an explanation." Hiro seemed slightly put out as he said this, almost as if he too were spreading rumors.

"No Kakashi kept his last name." Gai couldn't help but chuckle. "I am the one that had to add his because he has the longer lineage within the village."

"Kurenai is one to talk about tricking someone into marriage." Gai felt outraged. "You can even tell her I said so. I appreciate your defense of Kakashi no matter how outrageous the rumor you were basing it off is." Barely able to muffle a snort in

amusement.

"As for Asuma well Asuma and I will talk later. I have a challenge for him." Not able to hide the slightly mischievous look as it went across his face, Gai went with it and rubbed his hands together gleefully.

"You know," Hiro said now that Gai had made him think of it, "How did Asuma and Kurenai end up marrying? Strange." Shrugging he raised an eyebrow at Gai, "It sounds as if you have something slightly mischievous planned, Gai."

Hiro wanted to correct Gai, to tell him that he wasn't really defending Kakashi, that he was defending Gai. But he let the man assume better of him. "I know it's what you'd do in my position." Hiro said softly, knowing full well he and Kakashi would kill each other before their first week was over.

"I'm sorry, Hatake Gai." Hiro said, trying not to smile. Shrugging slightly he motioned between Gai and Kakashi, "You two have the worst name combinations."

"They married for their own good." Gai supplied the statement easily enough. He knew how the two had ended up together and it was his personal favorite story of his youthful matchmaking enterprise for the higher ranks. "I have no idea what you are talking about. Mischievous? Me? I am the most noticeable person in Konoha if I tried anything mischievous it would never work." Gai mentally amended that he usually worked best in his ANBU gear or jutsued and dirtied up a bit to resemble a civilian.

"Yes I know the name thing was a bit of a trial." Gai sighed. "Thankfully I am still Maito Gai everywhere else but in our registry and marriage information."

"So now that I am no longer available who can I attempt to set you up with, hhhmmm?" Gai leaned forward and whispered conspiringly. "There must be someone of interest that you find marriageable...or at the very least boy/girl friend material." Studying Hiro with a determined glint in his eye Gai waited to get some clue on who to set Hiro up with. "Or are you still to crushed that I am off the market to contemplate anyone else?" Teasing Hiro, Gai smiled brightly.

Hiro tried to smile, but ended up frowning, Gai's words, though teasing and friendly, brought to mind what Hiro realized he would never have, though it was him, and only him that stopped him from allowing happiness to be a part of his life.

Hiro looked away for a moment, shaking his head slightly as he turned back to Gai, "Actually, I was thinking that, since we have a new Hokage now, maybe I could get ANBU captain." Hiro knew he'd not get the position. But thinking about something simple he couldn't have would at least stop him from thinking about something important he couldn't have.

"You know me Gai," Hiro said waving a hand dismissively, "I have no care for a boyfriend, or girlfriend," he added the 'girlfriend' quickly, almost as if the word were imperative to the sentence, "I just care about work." 'And work's all that cares about me' Hiro thought bitterly as he slowly turned his attention the Orchid he'd brought Gai.

An orchid, a flower meant for love, lasting or temporary. Meant to be a reminder of what you'd once had, and could have again. A flower Hiro loved, yet would never take into his home (among other things). Hiro smiled slightly, though it was a little sad, "You're going to be happy, though?" he asked softly as he looked up at Gai again.

"Hhhmmm." Gai knew Hiro's history with trying for ANBU captain and knew the odds of him getting it hadn't changed with a new village leader. Tilting his head at Hiro's automatic dismissal of the need for someone else Gai felt himself saying, "If Ibiki can manage to find a partner I think it is possible for you too. Only caring about work is not healthy." Putting his hand over Hiro's, Gai gave it a quick squeeze. In answer to Hiro's whispered question Gai lightly wrote on Hiro's palm, 'I'll try. I love you Hiro you know that right?"

Looking at Hiro inquiringly Gai gave him a toothy grin and nudged him a little bit in the spirit of camaraderie.

"Yeah," Hiro said thinking of Ibiki, Ibiki who was probably the only person who he could compare himself to, "Maybe I will." raising a hand Hiro carefully smoothed his hair back. He didn't understand why he was still so obsessed with someone who'd probably never even known or cared that he existed. How cliché, he was.

"You know," Hiro said as he glanced toward Kakashi, "I don't like the man, but I'm glad it was Kakashi. You guys know each other, so that must have made it a little easier." Hiro tried to imagine what Gai would be reacting like married to Iruka.

"You're great, Gai." Hiro said suddenly, "Kakashi is lucky." Thinking over Gai's words Hiro realized that maybe it was time for him to get on with his life, and let go of a past that had never existed to begin with.

"Well when you know you know." Gai shrugged then remembered that Hiro knew the truth. "At least that's what I have to tell everyone else. Yeah I think the plausibility factor was there in this case. Imagine if it had been someone like...Ebisu." Gai felt his whole body twitch in mild revulsion. "I'd rather get

between Anko and a dango sale."

"Hiro stop by the next time you get a chance and we shall compete." Gai smiled at Hiro and slapped him lightly on the back. "You are pretty great yourself. I appreciate a the boost to my ego. This one," Gai pointed at Kakashi and sighed. "He delights in beating me in this and that regardless," Putting on a woeful expression Gai regarded Hiro, "What a shrew of a wife I have." Shaking his head again, Gai grinned to show he was joking.

Hiro chuckled at Gai's joke as he stood up, "I see," he said as he stepped down off of the porch, "That you wish to be alone with your lovely bride. I shall go." Hiro paused to turn toward Kakashi, bowing slightly, he turned back to Gai, "I hope I see you back at work soon, Gai." Grinning he patted the mans shoulder, "Just don't break your wife, I don't think Konoha is through with her yet." Winking Hiro quickly performed some hand signs, and disappeared in a poof of smoke.

Kakashi frowned as he finally stood and walked over to the porch, sitting on the edge of it he inspected Gai for a moment before finally saying, "You know Gai, I've worked with Hiro." he was sure Gai knew that, "I've seen the side of him he hides from you."

Patting Gai awkwardly on the shoulder Kakashi hesitantly added, "Best to not bring up him falling in love again. Kinda what got me, and seventy five percent of the ANBU on his bad side." he was sure Gai wouldn't understand this, but it didn't really matter, he supposed. He knew Hiro was crazy, and he hoped Gai understood that.

"Kakashi I have know Hiro for longer than you have. I know he isn't the closest to stable at the best of times." Gai sighed. "When he has a stable person with a strong enough personality he is fine. Temper notwithstanding." Wincing lightly in memory of how Hiro had gotten his scar and Gai had only gotten a scratch out of the deal. "Hiro wants love so badly he hides from it. I would rather he find it in the arms of Konoha or an ally than in the arms of an enemy."

"How do you know that?" Kakashi asked after a moment, he had expected Gai to defend Hiro, but his words left Kakashi wanting, feeling as if Gai was leaving something important out. Almost as if Gai was hiding whatever it was Hiro was hiding. Did Gai know something dangerous, Kakashi wondered.

"What Hiro has, that isn't love." Kakashi said suddenly, as if remembering something, "He's mad, okay? Itachi saw it, and he was a kid. What worries me," Kakashi said as he leaned back against Gai, "Is that Itachi was a kid, and Hiro was like... obsessed with him." Shrugging Kakashi seemed to think that would put an end to it.

"Honestly," Kakashi added before Gai could get mad at him, "I would enjoy seeing Hiro find love-, if it would make him a better person. But I think he's... never going to let go of what he never had with Itachi." Kakashi glanced back at Gai, half expecting anger. "I realize you think you know him better Gai, but..." Kakashi sighed sitting up straight, "There's a reason he never made ANBU captain." Kakashi knew admittance to this would cause a rift between him and Gai, but he had to tell him, "The men were terrified of him. And these are ANBU, so that's saying something. After he returned from the war, after his disappearance, he was different Gai. I know you, and your sensei, even his parents, thought it was for the better, but... Hiro was gone. Whoever came back, that wasn't him

"The men didn't know what to do, often times they would talk among themselves, trying to make one man tell the hokage of his actions. Of his madness. But they were afraid he would find out they did it. Around this time, I was considering leaving, and I was apparently the only one there who wasn't afraid of him. So I told the Hokage. And ironically Hiro put in his application for captain." Kakashi shrugged slightly.

"After that went on for three years, I quit to train a genin cell, and coincidentally, I met Itachi coming out of the Hokages office as I was going in. I told him about Hiro, and he told me he was captain. I was obviously impressed, like everyone." Kakashi leaned back on Gai again, looking over his shoulder at other man, "Itachi was the only man able to control Hiro. That's where his obsession began. And that's where it will end. If Sasuke, " Kakashi frowned here, "Ever kills Itachi, I'm sure then Hiro will finally stop pretending."

"I already knew." Gai rubbed a hand over his face. "Hiro had a reason for Itachi. The madness, there is a reason." Not really wanting to continue the conversation any further Gai finished with, "I doubt we will ever agree on Hiro so let's not. If it makes you uncomfortable to have him here then he won't be."

"Now what would you like as a mission accomplished dinner tonight?" Gai asked standing and looking at Kakashi calmly willing him to drop the subject. In the back of his head he wondered if Kakashi even recalled that Gai had been in ANBU. Then again who he had been in ANBU had been a beast with the personality traits to match.

"I don't think you do." Kakashi said climbing up on the porch, and slipping his hands into his pockets as he looked at Gai, "Hiro was on my squad, if you recall." shrugging as if he didn't care either way, "Well I guess you couldn't recall." Kakashi said as an after thought.

"I'm not uncomfortable with him being here Gai," Kakashi said motioning around the area, "This isn't my situation. I can't forbid you from having your friends over Gai, no matter how much I dislike them. No matter how much they want to kill me." Kakashi smiled, though Gai couldn't tell.

"Hiro," Kakashi said putting his hand on Gai's arm lightly, "Had no reason to attach himself to Itachi. He just needed to follow his orders. And no," Kakashi said drawing his hand back, "There was no reason for his madness. Not the madness with Itachi, and certainly not the madness with me." Kakashi obviously had no intention of allowing Gai to escape this conversation, he was obviously bored enough to turn into an argument.

For a moment, Gai could only blink at Kakashi in sheer incredulity. The only thought that went through Gai's head was that Kakashi hadn't realized yet. Pressing the bridge of his nose Gai sighed.

"Every time you take that I was in ANBU and you weren't so you wouldn't understand tone I feel the vague urge to smack you." Shaking his head, Gai smiled at Kakashi beyond exasperated. "There is a six inch scar on your ribcage where a scythe wielding ninja from Lightning tried to char your insides. I grabbed your hair and swung you out of the way before she got her claws in." Face slightly grim at the memory Gai cleared it with a shake of his head and a smile.

"For your genius I.Q. you miss some of the most obvious things." Gai chuckled as he made his way into the kitchen. "That being said I would think that when I say there was a reason you would believe me but...what do I know?"

Kakashi frowned rubbing his chin thoughtfully, "What do you know?" he mirrored as he followed Gai into the kitchen, still barefoot, "Tell me Gai," Kakashi said as he folded his arms over his chest, and leaned on the wall observing the other man, "What is it about Hiro that makes you so sure he's got good in him, worthy of love?"

Kakashi remembered the incident Gai was referring to, he felt the phantom pains across his ribs at the thought. It had been Gai? He'd never realized. "So you were there." he'd heard a few people speak of Gai having been ANBU, but he'd never recalled it.

"You've obviously," Kakashi said languidly, "been with Hiro through everything?" Kakashi asked suddenly, "Why does he hide then, Gai? If he's so capable of love, the way you are. Why doesn't he love someone, something?"

"We have all changed since then, Kakashi. Or adapted in some way to survive." Gai smiled at Kakashi fondly. "I remember being on a mission where the Daimyo's daughter had been taken. They had her outside ready to execute her and she was chanting our song," Gai sang the song in a deep and haunting voice.

'Dog will track you down wherever you may go

Demon will break your flesh and take your soul

Drill will get your secrets and then you'll burn'

"Our team was something out of a horror story. Getting past that you have three choices: death, retreat or relief." Gai shrugged. Pulling the supplies out to make curry Gai sighed again. "Itachi is a tragedy and Hiro bears a lot of weight for it. The way things play out at some point will determine ultimately if Hiro can move on or not."

Kakashi smiled, remembering the night in which Gai was referring. "I remember that." he said softly, realizing Gai was almost right. Almost, but not quite. Gai himself was proof that his own example was wrong. "And which classification, Gai," Kakashi started slowly, "Would I fall under?" he wasn't sure what he was expecting, but he knew it wasn't 'relief'.

"Hiro took a burden upon himself that he had no right to bare." Kakashi said softly, true he had been on Itachi's squad, more of a security measure than anything, but still…

"I think we both know," Kakashi said as he stood free of the support the wall provided, "How Hiro's story will end."

"You are the classic example of retreat." Gai smiled softly. "You went from out there to more self contained, quieter less people oriented. Always doing missions solo because you didn't want anyone else around."

"You aren't the only one with solo missions. Things with Itachi run deeper than you need to know. One day either I relieve him or die. For all involved I hope Naruto brings Sasuke back or kills him before things with Itachi loop around again."

Beginning to cut up the supplies and make the base for the curry, Gai hummed lightly. "If I'm lucky I'll die again. Just because you were the most celebrated in ANBU doesn't mean that you were necessarily the best informed. Case in point." Waving his arm lightly to indicate himself. "I was the only ANBU never marked and I wore two different masks. Hiro will keep his sanity until he finds the release he needs and I

hope to help him."

Getting the base to simmer, Gai hoped that what happened with Hiro wasn't as serious as Kakashi made it out to be. At times he wondered but Gai had quickly learned that his instincts, though seemingly random and flamboyantly oriented had never proved him wrong. Looking at Kakashi out of the corner of his eye Gai waited to see if Kakashi would just let it drop or not.

Kakashi was a little amused by Gai's response, it wasn't quite what he'd expected, a little more Gai then he'd expected, however. "That's not true." Kakashi said firmly, "I do solo missions, Gai," Kakashi said with slightly more venom in his voice then he'd intended, "Because it's just easier that way." Kakashi knew as soon as he finished speaking, that what Gai was saying about him was actually true. Embarrassing as that was to admit.

A little offended over Gai's comments pertaining to his students Kakashi glanced away, considering a response, but unable to say anything against Gai's words. Sasuke had made his choice, and Kakashi could no longer protect him. No longer help him. And, Lord above forgive him, he prayed Naruto would swiftly end the things with Sasuke, and he wouldn't have to live to watch Itachi kill Sasuke. Better it come from a friend.

Kakashi furrowed his brow, surprised by Gai's thoughtful response, he hadn't expected Gai to be so... serious about this. The fact that they were still talking about it meant that Gai did indeed know more then he himself did, on this matter. "What would you do Gai," Kakashi said after a moment, "If Hiro chose to follow his own insanity?"

"How would you feel," Kakashi said as he shrugged, obviously at a loss, "if he just up and disappeared?" Kakashi hesitated, as if he knew what he was about to say was a little over the line, "Again."

"The same thing I did last time." Gai responded grimly. "If Hiro followed his insanity, I would follow mine. In the end it may solve some problems that give the top jounin and above nightmares and various headaches." Shrugging Gai studied Kakashi. "One way or another it would end a cycle."

Leaning against the counter Gai put his hands on the counter and studied Kakashi. He knew that Kakashi had realized that Gai spoke the truth. Internally Gai wondered how long it would take for Kakashi to realize that just because Gai wasn't labeled a genius meant he was dumb. Gai also belatedly wondered if Kakashi had ever recognized the cunning of Naruto and agile mind but Gai finished his thought with a weary sigh.

"It's only got one way to end." Kakashi said, slightly agitated that Gai still felt as if he had to help Hiro, he didn't understand why Gai couldn't, or wouldn't see him for who he really was. The thing with Hiro, Kakashi had come to realize, was that he seemed to be blind to the fact that he was doing more harm then good.

"You know," Kakashi said after a moment, "If he does go, he'll never come back Gai. And I'd rather not have to watch you go with him." Kakashi knew he sounded slightly... snappish. But he didn't want to have to watch Gai fall into the darkness he knew would never let him go again.

Kakashi almost threatened, barely stopping himself from speaking as he opened his mouth, to follow them into the insanity if they were going to go again (after all of these years, he thought, Dog Demon and Drill would be better, for the worse.). "And you would go back into ANBU with him, then?" Kakashi asked slowly, sounding slightly despondent. 'If you say yes...' Kakashi thought as he lowered his gaze, 'Does that mean he's won?' Kakashi nervously chewed the inside of his cheek, wondering why he was thinking in such a way. Almost as if he were jealous of Hiro.

"You act as if I ever left." Gai chuckled darkly. For a moment the thoughts that had made him a Demon flitted through his mind before Gai breathed him away. Knowing that he was going to have to explain some hard truths to Kakashi.

"There is a reason Ghost Protocol was introduced in ANBU." Gai spoke quietly though he knew his words carried their weight. "You wouldn't watch me go. From the way you sometimes act I figure the moment you can leave here without side effects and not come back you wouldn't spare a thought to me." As much as it hurt for him to say it Gai felt it was the truth. Kakashi would just retreat again and Gai would be set to trying to pull him back out. Then Gai realized that he would stop trying. If Kakashi pulled coward again Gai wouldn't go to him.

Kakashi didn't bother looking up at Gai as he spoke, obviously thinking of something, or someone, from a time when he wasn't entirely him. Gai hadn't really answered his question though, Kakashi realized.

Gai's words cut deep, but no blade cuts as deep as the blade of honesty, and Kakashi could not form the words to deny what Gai said, for he knew it was the truth. As much as it hurt to admit such a thing to himself, Kakashi realized that nothing he had learned from Obito's death had taught him anything.

He was still running, and going nowhere fast.

He was losing Gai, too. Losing him before he'd even begun to possess him.

Kakashi looked up at Gai after a moment, the ANBU, Kakashi realized, his squad... that was the real him. Not the him he'd borrowed from so many people (Obito, Rin, Minato). That was who he was. Where he belonged. Not the shards of other people, he'd placed into his broken exterior.

And he missed it. "You were so good then, Gai." Kakashi said without thinking, "We all were." Raising a hand he ran his fingers slowly through his hair, thinking about the days past spiked his adrenaline, and he wished Hiro hadn't come at all.

After a moments hesitation Kakashi softly whispered, "I'd go back." without thinking about it.

Walking up so he was in Kakashi's face, Gai carefully leaned into Kakashi's ear.

"I wouldn't go back." Gai whispered licking Kakashi's ear unintentionally. Stepping back again, Gai leaned on the counter. "Who we were then were Gods in a game where we would never win the immortality but always have the notoriety our masks gave us. As men we get to enjoy more and actually live. I'd rather have life than death."

Kakashi bit back his reply ('This life is death'), knowing full well that it would do no good for the situation. 'This isn't my life' Kakashi thought, closing his eye Kakashi put a hand up, as if to indicate Gai shouldn't come so close again, 'I shouldn't be here.'.

"We're not the same." Kakashi finally said, opening his eye slowly as he moved his hand up to lightly touch his forehead protector where it covered his sharigan. "You," Kakashi said narrowing his eye at Gai, "Never belonged there."

"Hiro and I are of a different breed, Gai." Kakashi added, beginning to hate himself again.

The ANBU hadn't ruined them, as many would think, it had saved them.

It took a moment for Kakashi to realize that he wasn't losing Gai, he was pushing him away. It was his fault he couldn't be happy (but it was his fault Obito and Rin couldn't be happy). Kakashi dropped his hand to his side, as if he were trying to stop himself before he began, but he realized that maybe it was already too late. He'd never lost his taste for blood, he'd just learned to ignore it, and now that he had no students to distract him he realized just how long it had been since his thirst had been quenched.

"Do you want to fight?" Gai suddenly felt as though he wanted to hit something. "You know what on second thought..." Turning off the burner Gai pulled his spandex suit on the right way. "I don't think at the moment any fight with you would be worth the effort. You feel the need to point out differences and push me away. I won't let you push me away. I'll just go away and come back when I feel like it."

Leaving the kitchen Gai slipped on his sandals.

Kakashi scowled as he watched Gai leaving, he understood the other man's frustration with him, he was frustrated with himself at the moment too. It'd been around two weeks, Kakashi realized. Maybe that was long enough to be able to go on a mission.

Hesitantly moving from his spot, almost as if he thought that walking away from there would break whatever was left of his self control, Kakashi made his way to the door and slipped his sandals on. Leaving the house Kakashi carefully made his way through town, waiting to see if he'd feel any strange sensations.

Rather than make his way to the Hokage tower for a mission Kakashi walked to the Memorial stone, to pay his respect. And think of his options, because really he wondered, what was keeping him from signing up to the ANBU again? Nothing (but Gai).

Lounging in Ibiki's office Gai let out a long suffering sigh as Ibiki's lip twitched in amusement.

"It took two weeks for Kakashi to completely frustrate you. I think all things considered that isn't a bad haul." Ibiki's voice was emotionless despite the obvious amusement on his face.

"I will have you know this isn't frustration this is a timeout from an argument." Gai responded pouting. "Tell me I can go on missions tomorrow."

"You can go on missions tomorrow but you aren't allowed to be gone longer than a week at a time for a while." Ibiki scrawled lightly. "I need you to do some observation for me."

Nodding Gai left Ibiki's office. Deciding to take a walk around the village. Gai strolled along buying different supplies as he went. He was conscious of people's stares but he ignored it.

Sakura, in town on an errand for Tsunade, was surprised to see Gai-sensei in town as she hadn't seen him in a while. At first she barely gave it any thought, but remembering the story Tenten had told her she quickly decided to make it her top priority.

"Gai-sensei?" she called as she rushed up to him, "How are you?" she asked politely, though it was obvious she had something different on her mind, and then without really giving Gai time to answer she set into her steady stream of questions, much more like an interrogation than anything else.

"I've been hearing some stories about you around town." she said as she looked up at him, with wide curious eyes, "About Kakashi-sensei too. And I was wondering if you could tell me the truth regarding these stories?" She shifted the basket on her arm, clearing her throat nervously.

"I heard that Kakashi-sensei and you were married now, is this true?" she asked, her cheeks flushing, "I heard, also, that Kakashi-sensei was actually a," Sakura paused to look around, before leaning forward, "a woman, i-is he?"

Kakashi, who'd come back into town to pick a few things up for Pakkun, hadn't noticed either Gai or Sakura until he heard Sakura calling out to the other man. Once he did notice them, he slipped into a near-by alley-way, and leaned on the wall listening to the young girls questions he smiled to himself, her naivety surprised him.

"My dear rival finally agreed to join me in holy matrimony." Gai grinned toothily and set off a genjutsu to show the sunset and crashing waves. "He is my darling rival, wife and companion."

"Kakashi as a woman? Whatever gave you that idea? He is my wife and I would appreciate you not spreading such speculation." Gai lectured Sakura lightly.

"Uh, Gai-sensei." Sakura said awkwardly, "I'm not telling anyone your wife is a woman." at this statement a few nearby women and men gave Gai and Sakura curious stares, "I mean... wait, what do I mean?" Sakura frowned, obviously agitated, "Shouldn't you be calling him your husband then?" she asked curiously.

Clearing her throat Sakura motioned vaguely around the area, "I've heard these rumors from other people. I haven't actually told anyone else but you. And if he isn't a she... then why did the two of you get married?" Sakura tried to use a gentle tone, but it came out slightly incredulous.

"Why does one normally marry?" Gai tilted his head. "Kakashi is my husband and my wife. I call him my wife because I am his husband. I am glad that you aren't spreading such salacious gossip. It is quite vexing. Hopefully that clears it up for you some."

"That didn't clear anything up!" Sakura said sighing exasperatedly, "Normally people get married because they're in love, or because they want to start a family. And I know for a fact Kakashi-sensei isn't capable of that sort of love. But you two... you're both men. So that rules out the whole family aspect."

Sakura huffed, obviously wanting to get her way, and annoyed that she wasn't, "Maybe Kakashi-sensei would give me a straight answer, as you don't seem inclined to do so." Pouting Sakura put her hands on her hips, "Maybe," she said threateningly, "Tsunade-sama will know."

Smiling brightly, Gai leaned down his eyes flashing, "Let me give you a bit of advice as a ninja that has survived a long time. If you want to survive I would recommend you learn to look below the underneath. I also recommend that you expand your thinking." Standing back up Gai tapped on his chin lightly.

"In fact I think I should suggest a good course of action to fix your narrow minded view of relationships to the Hokage. For one as intelligent as you are I would have hoped you would be more enlightened." Gai put his hand on his hip and flashed a quick grin. Even though it pained him to admit it some of what Sakura's comments had hit home. Gai had wanted children and looked forward to fatherhood. As things stood now Gai doubted he would get to even adopt.

"I have to get going now but this has been really informative." Bowing his head, Gai left Sakura behind.

Sakura was startled, she hadn't meant to offend Gai, but clearly she had. Raising a hand in farewell she felt her stomach go cold with fear. Maybe Tsunade would be mad at her for the way she'd offended Gai, turning she rushed off to finish her errand, and to see Tsunade.

Kakashi frowned, surprised Gai had been so short with Sakura, true her words had been annoying, but she didn't understand it, she was just curious. Slipping out of the alley he fell into step beside Gai, "Gai," he said softly, awkwardly struggling to get the words, he knew he'd never say, to form on his tongue (Sorry I offended you).

"We obviously have to discuss a few things." Kakashi finally said, though it was nothing close to what he'd intended to say.

"I'm sure we do." Not feeling particularly interested in talking Gai felt some sarcasm dripping from the sentence. Taking a deep breath Gai managed to get his mind calm. Flashing through hand signals he sent a clone off to deliver a message to the Hokage. Continuing on Gai didn't say anything else. Stopping at the ninja supply store Gai picked up some blank scrolls and ink before continuing on to another shop. Once his purchases were completed Gai made his way home.

Kicking off his shoes Gai put his purchases away, leaving the scrolls and ink on the table before going to change his clothes. Once he had slipped on a pair of long shorts and a t-shirt Gai put the curry back on. Going to the dining room table, Gai picked up the book on seal making. For the moment Gai wanted to be quiet and puzzle out his seal book.

Kakashi walked home with Gai in silence, trying to think of an easy way to tell the other man that he wanted to join ANBU again. But not able to form the words, along with others. Once they reached home, and Gai set about reading his seal book Kakashi decided to throw etiquette out the window.

Walking into the kitchen he put water on to boil for tea, and stood thinking over his next choice of words very carefully. If Gai didn't want to discuss things, then they wouldn't discuss them. He'd just do it. It was, after all, his life (no matter how stolen it was).

Walking out of the kitchen Kakashi paused in the dining room doorway, and lightly ran his hand over the frame, "I've decided," he said softly, "That I would like to put in for ANBU captain." Kakashi didn't care how petty Gai would see this statement. He himself thought the idea petty, but it didn't matter. He wanted ANBU, so he would have ANBU.

Feeling a vein in his forehead throb, Gai put his book down. Turning he regarded Kakashi blankly. Then Gai turned back to his book. Carefully Gai counted in his head. He refused to play the game that Kakashi seemed intent to play.

Knowing that his color was high and his breathing was fast, Gai took the time to press on certain points in his body to calm down. Thinking about it Gai could see why Kakashi wanted his ANBU days back. It was familiar territory for him and Kakashi was all about the familiar and safe routines he established for himself.

Then Gai realized that he himself would be doing some observation work for Ibiki and he would bet a kidney that he would at some point be set to watch Kakashi. Gai would do his job and if he thought Kakashi was impaired in anyway he would get him out of ANBU. If Kakashi was fine then Gai would deal with it in his own way. Mind made up, Gai shrugged in response to Kakashi's comment.

Kakashi watched Gai carefully expecting some sort of reaction. An outburst, maybe something overly emotionally. But it seemed that Gai was content to keep his anger in, this time. Kakashi was a little taken aback by this calm reaction, and narrowed his eyes.

When Gai shrugged Kakashi let out a sigh, and turned, walking out and back into the kitchen Kakashi put his hands into his pockets and stood staring at the tea pot, waiting for it to boil, he realized he felt strange. Distant. Almost... inhuman.

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