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Love Is the Feeling of Cold Iron Tracks on Your Face as You Wait for the Train to Come

Chapter Text

Gai didn't know when exactly it was that he fell in love. He didn't know when it was that determination to get his rival to acknowledge him became determination to win his heart instead. Perhaps they'd been the same all along.

For Gai, loving Kakashi was as easy as breathing. Most of the time it was a simple process that he never had to think about. Sometimes it got hard enough that it made his chest hurt. But most of all it felt like he wouldn't be able to live without it.

Ebisu and Genma both expressed their disbelief at such a notion and proceeded to tell him how unhealthy thinking that way was, but they didn't understand. It wasn't that he thought he would die without Kakashi or anything as morbid as that. To him it was something that drove him to do better than his best so he could compete on the same level as Kakashi. It was something that made him want to return home from difficult missions. He never told them that last part- how could he?

It was true nonetheless. His father's noble death had left him without a family to return to, and it occasionally made it difficult to want to return home. Everyone always said that home was where the heart is, but losing his father made it feel like his heart had been ripped straight from his chest.

He never told anyone that though because he didn't want to worry them. Really, he was alright. He still had his friends, and that was enough for him usually. But sometimes when it felt like it wasn't enough, he had to find something else to return to. What he always found was Kakashi.

He would be able to live on if Kakashi died; it would be difficult, and he would mourn for him, but he would heal over time. He was sure his love for his rival would never falter- not even if death separated them.

He was not so sure Kakashi would live on without him. His body may persist, but his soul? Gai was not so certain that part would survive.

Even now he saw how Kakashi suffered. Everyone else brushed off his concerns, saying that Kakashi was simply a cold person that didn't care, but Gai knew that wasn't true. Kakashi did care under that steely exterior. He was just better at hiding his emotions than most people. And most people didn't bother trying to find them. In fact, there were probably only three people who did.

Gai strongly suspected that Sakumo's suicide had severely impaired Kakashi's abilities to connect to others. When his rival's father had been alive the boy had been.... less than social, but that seemed to come from a lack of people he felt he could compete with. When Sakumo had died he became much harsher, actively pushing others away so they'd leave him alone.

Then Obito died, and Kakashi was struck with the loss of another he'd cared for. He would never have admitted such a thing when Obito was alive, but Gai knew he cared about his teammates. Kakashi wouldn't visit the memorial stone every day if he didn't care.

And now he had lost another of the precious few people who cared for him.

Worse yet, he believed it was his own fault.

Gai would never blame him for such a thing, but the rest of the village had no such qualms. Even grown men and women were whispering it behind his back everywhere he went.

Friend-Killer Kakashi they called him.

Even Gai's teammates said it, although they tried to respect Gai's wishes by not doing so when he was around. It made his blood boil to know so many people were willing to vilify his friend so easily. If he were a lesser person he would find whoever had started that malicious nickname and crush their skull between his hands.

Kakashi did not deserve the cruel treatment he got. And in Gai's opinion, the world did not deserve someone as wonderful as Kakashi.

"Come now, Gai! You must see reason- Kakashi is a ruthless killer, and there's no changing that!" Ebisu blustered, pushing his sunglasses up his nose. He and Genma had taken it upon themselves to talk Gai out of visiting Kakashi anymore. Ludicrous thinking in Gai's opinion.

He huffed, crossing his arms over his chest and standing straight to tower over his shorter teammate. "I will do no such thing! Nothing you say will dissuade me from seeing my rival today, tomorrow, or any day after!" he proclaimed.

Genma scratched his nose and calmly replied, "Not even if we told you he was presenting and that the Hokage shut him in his apartment so no one would bother him?"

There was a brief moment where Gai processed what Genma said before he finally understood what was happening.

"WHAT?!" he shouted with enough force to make Ebisu stumble back a few feet. Genma had been prepared for such an outcome and covered his ears, but he still made a face at the boisterous cry.

This was a momentous day indeed! Gai remembered presenting as an alpha himself, and while he did not envy his rival for the week ahead of him he was excited for what would come afterword. With their newly heightened senses they could embark on even more enthralling challenges! He could challenge him to contest where they found out who could eat the hottest curry! Or challenge each other to discover whose sense of smell was better!

"I must go to his apartment at once to congratulate him then!" he declared.

Genma winced at his friend's vigor and grabbed his arm before he could take off. "Yeah, I don't think that's such a good idea. And not just because of the whole 'Kakashi's a cold hearted bastard' thing."

Gai twisted around to frown at him. "Nonsense! I can't not congratulate my rival on becoming the alpha everyone's been expecting for years. This is a milestone in his life that I must acknowledge! Fear not though- I have the decency not to disturb him during such a time. I merely wish to stand outside his building and shout my congratulations to his window."

"......As tempting as that sounds, I think that would still disturb him."

Gai opened his mouth to refute such a claim, but Genma held a hand up to cut him off. "Also, I hate to tell you this, but your esteemed rival isn't 'becoming the alpha everyone's expected for years' like you say."

"Indeed!" Ebisu cut in, "Rumor has it that Kakashi is in heat!"

The day appeared to be full of surprises. He finally stopped trying to escape his teammates and turned fully to look at them in shock.

"Right. So you can see why letting you go in all your alpha glory to shout at him through his window would be a bad idea," Genma said, looking searchingly at him. Gai would have replied, but he wasn't sure he would be able to get any words out of his mouth for some time. It felt like his jaw was about to fall off from where he'd let it drop at the information.

"Look on the bright side, Gai! Now you are bound to surpass him since you are of the superior gender and therefore biologically ensured to do better!" Ebisu said.

That snapped him out of his stupor.

"Ebisu, my dear friend! Don't be ridiculous! My rival's presentation changes nothing! You know as well as anyone that the idea of omegas being the weakest secondary gender is nothing but a misperception! If anything, Kakashi's presentation will only further the abolishment of such notions as I'm sure he will continue to surpass everyone's expectations!" he declared, striking a youthful pose.

Genma pushed away a stuttering Ebisu to address Gai again. "Ebisu's sexism aside, I just want to make sure you're not going to do anything stupid like visit Kakashi right now. How about we all go train together instead, okay?" he offered.

Gai couldn't say no to that, especially when he knew visiting Kakashi at the moment was a bad idea.

"Very well! I'm grateful that my teammates wish to embark with me on a youthful journey to better ourselves!" he cried.

He could visit Kakashi when his heat was over. No harm in that.

Kakashi was miserable.

He ached everywhere, he was dehydrated, and he still felt too flushed, even though his heat had passed yesterday. Fuck this. Heats were the worst, and nothing was going to change his mind on that.

Too bad for him since he now knew that he'd be experiencing this for the rest of his life. He was going to have to go through this once a month for a whole year until the doctor's were sure that nothing bad would happen if he started taking suppressants. That was the minimum wait period before they allowed you to start taking them after presenting. Something about "not damaging the goods" before they were fully developed. Ridiculous. It wasn't like Kakashi was ever going to have kids anyways.

Then, barring any unforeseen complications, he'd finally be allowed to cut back to once every three months. That was the recommended amount of mandatory heats for omegas to go through. If Kakashi was lucky he'd convince Minato to let him do it once every four months. He doubted he'd get away with any more than that.

Being an omega already sucked, and he was only thirteen. Only a lifetime left to go he supposed.

He'd been prepared for the possibility but deep down he had still been hoping he'd present as an alpha. Hell, even a beta would be better than this. He knew how sexist society was towards omegas, even in the ninja community.

His fellow shinobi were already sneering at him for Rin's death, and now this? They were going to treat him like he was nothing more than the dirt they walked on.

At least Minato and Kushina wouldn't treat him any differently.

Everyone else though.... Well, he supposed it didn't matter anyways. As long as he got the job done they wouldn't be able to run him out. Their opinions weren't worth anything anyways. He already knew they would hate him no matter what. Who wouldn't after all that he'd done?

Memories of boisterous laughter rang through his head. He scowled and brushed them aside.

What did it matter what Gai thought?

Everything, a traitorous voice whispered in the back of his mind. He curled in tighter on himself and tried to ignore it.

In all honesty Gai probably didn't care about Kakashi's presentation, but just the possibility of Gai's disappointed face at finding out he wasn't an alpha was enough to make his stomach churn. He didn't want Gai to look at him like he was a failure just for being an omega.

Disappointing Gai should have made him happy. After all, wasn't that what he'd been trying to do after all these years? Discourage Gai enough so that he'd finally leave him alone?

He told himself that it was, that it would be better that way, but he knew that deep down he never really wanted Gai to leave him. Sometimes Gai felt like the only constant thing in his life- like the only person that wouldn't abandon him.

That may have seemed unfair to Minato, but Kakashi couldn't well depend on his former teacher to always be there for him. He was Hokage now- he had important duties that couldn't be pushed aside for some bratty kid. Plus he had a wife now. Kakashi couldn't compete with either of those things, so he was resigned to taking a back burner in his teacher's life.

His father, Obito, Rin... They were all gone now.

In a way he was almost grateful for his heat. It was the first thing to truly distract him from Rin's death. Without his presentation he would have kept wallowing in his grief, but with it he was forced to forget about it.

The nightmares returned as soon as his clarity did however, so it was a short lived relief. He could still see her blood on his hands when he closed his eyes, felt the way her organs gave as his hand crashed through her body. How thankful she looked in the end for killing her. He'd spent countless nights scrubbing frantically at his hands to try and rid them of her blood, but no matter what he did it always lingered.

He didn't blame the villagers for their distrust. He wouldn't have trusted him either after everything that went down. Friend-Killer Kakashi. It was a fitting name. It would drive people away from him which was an added bonus. He didn't deserve to have friends. Those were meant for nice people like Rin and Obito. For people like Gai.

He sighed, shaking the thought away. There was no point in thinking about it. After all, it's not like Gai was going to be waiting up for him or anything. If he knew about Kakashi's condition he probably still thought he was in heat, so it was unlikely that he'd see him today.

Besides, Kakashi had more important things to take care of. He was pretty damn hungry for one thing, and after a week of ration bars he was getting pretty damn sick of them.

Unfortunately, he didn't have anything else at home right now, so that meant he had shopping to do.


He checked one last time to make sure he looked acceptable before opening his door and immediately tripping over an outstretched leg, landing in someone's arms. Which was entirely unexpected and very strange.

"Rival! I wasn't expecting you to come out today!" a voice boomed right above his head, making him flinch.

Oh for fuck's sake.

He glared up at the smiling face and did his best to look menacing despite how tired he was. Gai however, was not off put at all by his expression. "Apologies for tripping you! I did not expect you to walk through the door while I stretched my legs!"

Kakashi did not like what was happening. First, he stumbled as soon as he set foot outside his apartment, then he ended up having Gai catch him, and now he had to deal with all these new sensations that came with presenting. Namely the smell. Gai smelled really good. There was absolutely nothing good that could come from this knowledge.

"Gai, what the hell are you doing here?" he blurted out to distract himself. He was definitely not going to keep thinking about how heavenly the other shinobi smelled. No sir, that was a terrible idea.

Gai peered down at him undeterred. "I came to congratulate you on your presentation! Now that we've both reached such an important chapter of our lives we can embark on a new set of challenges that our heightened senses allow us!"

Kakashi almost sputtered at that, but he held it back at the very last moment. "Challenges?"

"Yes! Rival, I challenge you to a battle to find out who can eat the spiciest ramen!" the spandex clad chunin bellowed. Kakashi should have known it would be something like that.

"You won that even before either of us presented, so there's no point," Kakashi deadpanned.

Gai's bright smile dimmed at that while he hummed in thought.

Belatedly, Kakashi realized he had yet to remove himself from the other's embrace and hastily shoved him away to stand up. He shot Gai another scornful look as he turned and started to walk down the hall.

"Rival, where are you going? Have you thought of a new challenge for us?"

"There are no challenges, I'm just getting something to eat," he snapped. Maybe if he walked a little faster Gai would leave him alone. The thought alone was so preposterous he resisted the urge to face palm.

Gai would have caught up to him even if he ran at full speed at this point. He was too exhausted to get rid of him, and the feat would have been difficult when he was in full health anyway. He would just have to put up with the noisy teen for the time being.

"Ah, I see!" Gai said, striking a thoughtful pose. "Not that I don't admire your tenacity, Rival, but are you certain you ought to be out and about right now? Forgive me for saying, but you look rather tired. Are you sure you'd rather not rest at home for another day?"

Kakashi's pace quickened ever so slightly. "Quite sure. I need to get groceries and I'm sick of ration bars," he grit out. He was almost at the building's exit.

A hand on his shoulder made him pause. "Kakashi." Oh, not good. Gai only used his actual name when he was being serious. Also that low tone should not have made him shiver.

He turned slowly to look at the other with his good eye.

"Allow me to get the supplies you need. You need rest, and I cannot stand idly by and let you run yourself into the ground."

Kakashi opened his mouth to tell him to mind his own damn business but stopped. He was exhausted....and he knew Gai was offering without any strings attached.... He shouldn't.... He didn't want to encourage Gai into thinking that they were friends....but just once couldn't hurt, could it?

"....fine," he replied. shoulders sagging as he let Gai lead him back to his apartment.

It was just one time. It didn't have to mean anything. It's not like it was going to become a recurring experience. Right?

Wrong. He was very, very wrong. Something he would find out in the years to come.

Chapter Text

It became common place over the first year of Kakashi’s heats that Gai would show up outside his door before it ended so that he could herd Kakashi back into his apartment when he inevitably tried to leave before it was over. They may have been young, but Gai knew that most omegas would never dare to leave their safe haven before their heat was over unless they had no other choice, shinobi included. Kakashi seemed to be the exception.  

Without fail, at least one day before his heat was actually finished, he would try to venture out of his apartment. And without fail, Gai was always there to stop him.  

The first time had of course been unintentional. He had merely gone to congratulate his rival for presenting and come face to face unexpectedly. The second time had been out of concern when he remembered his rival trying to leave the first time. And when that proved to be a prudent choice, he decided to continue the practice for every single one of his rival’s heats. At least the ones he was in town for. It couldn’t be helped if he were sent away on a mission, but so far that hadn’t happened. Every now and then, Gai would wonder about the convenience of that. Perhaps the Hokage knew about the development and was trying to watch out for Kakashi in his own subtle way?  

It was possible. The Hokage was a busy man, but Gai knew he still cared about his last living student. There was no way a man that caring could possibly stop being concerned about his pupil’s wellbeing, especially when the only other two he’d ever had were lost to this world.  

Whatever the case was, Gai was grateful for the convenience. Without it, he was one hundred percent certain that no one else would ever bother to come check in on Kakashi. And that certainly wouldn’t do.  

Kakashi’s unpopularity was a bit of a sore spot for Gai, particularly since he also knew what it was like to be shunned by conventional society. Honestly though, his own social standing didn’t matter much to him, but Kakashi’s was just baffling. The silver haired shinobi was a prodigy! He was more talented than anyone else in their class, and he worked harder than anyone else too. Plus, Kakashi was very attractive, even despite the mask that obscured most of his face. He heard people whisper about it all the time. Really, he ought to have been very popular.  

The only thing that kept people back was his cold personality.  

Although Gai wished Kakashi had more friends, he was proud to say that he had managed to get Kakashi to open up more with him than with anyone else. These past months checking in on his friend further proved that.  

Kakashi was still rather taciturn for the most part, but he was a little more willing to accept Gai’s challenges nowadays. He even deigned to train with him every once in a while! The first time he agreed to train with him Gai had nearly shouted his joy from the rooftops. In fact, the only reason he hadn’t was because Kakashi told him he’d take it back if he so much as stepped foot on the rooftiles.  

More interesting than these every day happenings however, was the way that Kakashi behaved when he was coming out of heat. Now, Gai would never ever take advantage of his rival in such a sensitive state- and he would gladly fight off anyone who would dare try- but it was intriguing to see Kakashi be so…. vulnerable.  

No one else in the village could even imagine the word vulnerable being used to describe his rival, but that was all Gai could think of when it came down to it.  

Right now, for example.  

Kakashi had opened his apartment door a full day and a half before he was scheduled to come out (based off of Gai’s calculations anyways), and without acknowledging him with a hello or how-do-you-do, promptly fell asleep on his shoulder. Sure, Kakashi had let himself be herded back into his apartment for the last five months, but this was a whole new level of trust between the two of them.  

Gai had moved to catch the smaller male and keep him upright on instinct. He stood there cluelessly for about a minute before shaking his surprise off and scooping him up in his arms to carry him back to his room.  

It was hardly the first time that Gai had been in there, but it was the first time that he was in there to tuck him into bed instead of waking him up. All the other times he’d simply pushed Kakashi into his room, shut the door, and then cooked him a meal. And when that was all said and done he’d go wake him from his nap and then insist on the omega eating whatever he made.  

Carrying his unconscious rival to bed was entirely new territory, but he couldn’t say he disliked it. It was incredibly flattering that the other was comfortable enough to sleep in his presence without prompting. Sleeping on missions didn’t count because it was required if he wanted to be in top shape. That was a professional trust, and this one was a personal trust. If Gai wasn’t careful he was going to get a big head from this new development.  

There was a brief moment where Gai hesitated to put Kakashi down, but only because it was so nice to be holding him like this. His rival’s head was lying on his shoulder, soft silver hair tickling his chin, and snoozing peacefully. He was so cute it made his insides melt.  

However, he didn’t think Kakashi would appreciate it if he woke up in Gai’s arms. Falling asleep in them when he was exhausted was one thing, but remaining in such a position when he could be easily moved? He would surely be glared at for that.  

Carefully, moving with the utmost caution so as not to disturb his friend, he creeped into Kakashi’s bedroom and set him gently on the bed. Then he tucked him in for good measure because that’s what friends do. Besides, there was still a chance that Kakashi’s body temperature would drop too low and make him sick. When going through heats, omegas’ body temperatures would fluctuate between feverishly high and dangerously low. Many people mistakenly thought that the high temperatures were the only thing to worry about- what with them being called “heats” and all- but actually the cold tended to come immediately after a spike in temperature, so it was important to keep thick blankets around that the omega could nest in when they cooled down. 

He had read extensively on the subject of heats when it became apparent that the knowledge would be exceptionally useful for dealing with his friend. It was the end of his cycle, so it was less likely that such an extreme would occur, but Gai liked to err on the side of caution.  

He was pleased to note that his rival’s sheets and blankets were all freshly washed because he would have hated if they weren’t. Then again, they were always freshly cleaned whenever Gai checked in at such a delicate time. He imagined they’d both find it somewhat embarrassing if the evidence of Kakashi’s, um, other symptoms were left around. Really, the only thing that gave any sign that his rival was in heat and not just exhausted was the smell. There wasn’t much he could do about that- opening a window and letting the smell travel elsewhere would only invite trouble. Far too dangerous for such a vulnerable time.  

While it may have made it a tad more difficult to concentrate, Gai didn’t mind the smell at all. There was that all too primitive voice in the back of his head that inhaled the unmistakable aroma of an omega in heat and told him to go claim his rival before someone else did, but he was very good at ignoring it. If anything, it was just another challenge to overcome.  

Kakashi’s scent was quite comforting to Gai. He was just so used to being around the other shinobi that it made sense he’d be used to his scent. Kakashi smelled like the air after it rained, with a cool note of mint mixed in, and just a hint of smoke. He smelled like home to Gai.  

Genma pointed out that whenever Kakashi was away on a longer mission or whenever Gai hadn’t seen him in a while, the alpha had a habit of chewing on mint leaves. That made him blush at the realization he had such an obvious nervous tick, but it was nothing compared to how red in the face an enraged Ebisu was. He was still having a hell of a time trying to convince Gai that his relationship with Kakashi was fruitless and unhealthy. Genma had taken to quietly judging from the sideline and teasing him gently for the most part, but Ebisu was still hellbent on changing his mind.  

Ah well, he’d come around eventually.  

In the meantime, Gai was going to continue with the routine he and his rival had established.  

“You can’t let Kakashi join Anbu!” he exclaimed, slamming his hands on the Hokage’s desk with enough force that it nearly knocked the man’s mug of tea over. The blonde omega kept it steady with one hand and signaled to his Anbu guards to stand down with the other.  

He gave the teen a patient smile. “Gai, I’m glad you’re concerned about Kakashi’s wellbeing, but I assure you that I’m doing this for him. I know the village doesn’t view him in a kind light, but you and I have both noticed the toll Rin and Obito’s deaths have taken on him,” he said, smile turning sad at the mention of his former pupils. “Anbu will give him purpose, as well as distract him from his pain. At least, I’m hoping it will.” 

“Anbu is too dark for him right now! My rival should be finding ways to explore the joys of life- not throwing himself into the darkest shadows the world has to offer! If you let him do this he’s only going to hide his pain deeper and drive everyone further away,” he tried to reason with Minato.  

“I’m sorry, Gai, but the decision has been made. Kakashi has already accepted his new position.” 

Gai would have fought more on the matter, but it was clear that Minato wouldn’t change his mind. And perhaps more importantly, there was no way Kakashi would change his mind about joining Anbu either.  

He wished he could say that his fears were unfounded and that Kakashi healed from his trauma while in Anbu, but that would be a lie. Oh, Kakashi thrived in Anbu, that was for certain, but it was only because he was so ruthless that his enemies never stood a chance.  

There was a coldness growing in his rival that worried Gai. Genma told him it was just Kakashi turning back to his usual self, the way he’d been before Obito’s death, but he was wrong. This time was different. Back then Kakashi had shut other out when he lost his father, not wanting to let anyone get too close for fear of losing them. Even back then he still retained his heart, still held on to his humanity. Now it seemed like he was actively pushing it away, burying it so far beneath the surface it would suffocate.  

He was away on missions so often that Gai hardly ever got to see him. He’d chewed on so much mint in the past months that Ebisu and Genma had bought a small plot in the community garden just so they could specifically grow it for him.  

Every once in a while, Kakashi would return, and if their time in the village overlapped they’d spend it together. Sometimes for challenges, and sometimes just to hang out. Both of which Gai found extremely pleasing. And of course, there was also Kakashi’s mandatory heats that Gai was now certain the Hokage coordinated his missions around so that the omega wouldn’t have to be alone when they ended.  

So, it wasn’t great, but it also could have been far worse he supposed.  

Then the unthinkable happened.  

Gai sped back to the village as fast as his feet would carry him. His team leader had only huffed good naturedly at his growing fidgeting the closer they got to Konoha until he eventually told Gai they would debrief with the Third Hokage in the morning, so he could run ahead if he wanted to. He’d barely waited for the last words to come out of his teacher’s mouth before rushing off with a loud call of gratitude, eager to return home.  

The Nine-Tails’ attack and the subsequent death of the Fourth Hokage had left the village reeling. Fortunately for everyone, the Third Hokage stepped up to claim his old position and lead them through reconstruction.  

Unfortunately for Gai, the Third Hokage didn’t prioritize Kakashi’s well-being the way Minato had, so the young alpha was sent out on a mission right before Kakashi’s heat started. He had done his utmost best to finish the mission as soon as possible, but even with his best efforts he returned one day after his friend’s heat was scheduled to end.  

He could only imagine how lonely Kakashi must have been in his absence. Sure, he was only missing a day or two that they would normally be in each other’s presence, but it was an important time nonetheless!  

He knew his team mates thought he was being ridiculous and wasting his affections, but Gai knew that even if Kakashi didn’t return his feelings that the omega still appreciated having him around. He knew Kakashi still appreciated having at least one friend left in this world.  

The sun had long since set, but he couldn’t bear to wait any longer to see his friend again.  

When Kakashi’s apartment proved to be empty he wracked his brains for where he would find him instead, or at least he tried to before catching a trace of the other’s scent and decided to follow that instead.  

The trail led him away from the village, making Gai increasingly worried- Kakashi really shouldn’t be this far from his apartment in his condition- until he found himself at the edge of the lake next to a pile of his friend’s clothes.  

It was harder to see in the dark, but the moon was nearly full, and the light from it illuminated his friend’s silver hair. He was curled up on a small outcrop of rocks, staring silently at the still waters of the lake.  

Gai stripped off his outer layers and dove right into the cold water, not hesitating for a second, swimming swiftly to his rival. 

He only slowed his approach when he got close enough to Kakashi to get a good look at him. Like Gai, he was only in his undergarments, black fabric clinging to his skin, and his telltale mask plastered against his face. The alpha wondered if it made it harder to breathe. Kakashi was holding so still it was as if he wasn’t breathing at all. His hitai-ate was off though, revealing the long scar over Kakashi’s closed left eye. There were noticeable bags beneath his eyes that made Gai want to scoop him up and insist he get some rest, but he held back. Even in this state, he wasn’t sure Kakashi would go willingly. So much had changed since he joined Anbu.  

Despite his cautious attitude, he couldn’t help but creep closer anyways. He stopped once he was close enough to touch the rocks Kakashi was perched on, turning his head aside to gaze at the peaceful lake like his friend.  

It was some time before Kakashi spoke. “I thought you were on a mission,” he said so quietly that Gai only heard him because the night was so silent.  

He cleared his throat lightly. “I was.” He chanced a look at Kakashi, but the other was still looking off in the distance. “I just got back. I was hoping to find you back at your apartment,” he added with a just a hint of disapproval. Kakashi knew by now how Gai disapproved of him being out and about so soon after his heat ended.  

“I don’t like being shut away in there,” he replied blankly. “It’s too empty. Too cold. I’d rather be in the open air or around other people. Kushina-” he cut off to swallow past the lump in his throat. “Kushina said it was part of my omega instinct searching for a bond mate. She said Minato-sensei was the same way whenever they were separated for his heats. Guess I’ll just be this way forever then. Not like I’m ever going to bond with someone,” he said, sadness creeping into his voice.  

“You never know,” Gai said carefully. “Someday you might just find yourself proven wrong. I’m sure that someday you’ll find someone who was meant just for you. You mustn't give up so easily my rival!” he said, trying to cheer him up.  

Rival,” Kakashi chuckled bitterly. “It feels like I’m everyone’s rival these days. Always someone to prove my abilities to, always someone I’m upsetting, always someone whispering behind my back. Maybe the whole damn world’s my rival, huh?” He said the words lightly, but Gai could see there was a weight on his shoulders, dragging him down.  


The omega didn’t give him a chance to continue. “Obito used to call me his rival, you know. He always felt like he had to compete with me to prove that he had worth. The rest of the Uchiha thought he was useless, but I guess they thought I was worth notice, so he got jealous. I guess maybe he thought if he proved he was better than me they’d notice him too. It’s too late now though; they only saw his worth after he died. But then again, neither did I.  

“I always took him for granted. Thought he was stupid and annoying. Cried too much. Cared way too much about his crush on Rin. I didn’t realize how comfortable it was to be annoyed with him though. I guess a little part of me thought it would always be that way. Him calling me his rival and vying for Rin’s affections as he stumbled his way through life.  

“But life didn’t turn out that way, did it? We’re not rivals anymore. What’s to say you and I won’t stop being rivals somewhere down the line?” He finally turned his head so that he could look at Gai with his good eye.  

“That will never happen,” Gai said sternly. He reached out to pull one of Kakashi’s hands from around his legs and take it in his own. He squeezed it in a way he hoped was reassuring. “No matter what life throws at us, I promise you that I will never stop being your rival. And should death ever come to claim me, it will not stop me from challenging you! Even if I leave this world, I will still be your rival! And whenever you and I have both moved on to the afterlife, I shall continue challenging you there. No matter what happens, our rivalry shall be eternal,” he declared proudly.  

Kakashi’s eye softened, tilting his head to look at him. “Eternal rivals, huh?”  

Without another word he slipped down into the water beside Gai, tangling their legs together and wrapping his arms around the alpha’s waist while he rested his head on his shoulder. Gai felt like his heart was going to pound straight out of his chest it was beating so hard.  

“Okay. I can do that,” Kakashi whispered softly into his collarbone.  

They stayed wrapped around each other, unmoving and unspeaking but comfortable, until Gai eventually coaxed his friend into returning home to rest.  

Chapter Text

He wished he could say that Kakashi turned over a new leaf after that evening in the lake, but that wouldn’t be quite true. There were small changes that showed Kakashi was trying to be a little more open with him. He stopped turning his challenges down all the time. When he was home on missions he’d go out and spar with Gai, or they’d go out to eat, or some other silly challenge. Occasionally, he would even deign to join group activities with the rest of the shinobi in their age range. Granted, he mostly kept to himself, but it was a step up from blatantly refusing to join them at all.  

And of course, there were also the rare occasions when their schedules synced up so that Gai was around to keep him company during the tail end of his heats.  

Genma and Ebisu still couldn’t believe that Gai would spend time with him during such a private period, or that Kakashi was actually going along with it. There was a lot about the relationship that they couldn’t wrap their heads around. Although, in fairness, Gai suspected he and Kakashi were the only ones who could understand it at all, and even then there were plenty of things they simply didn’t bother talking about.  

For example, they never talked about the cuddling- which grew more and more frequent with each passing heat. If it were anyone else, Gai wouldn’t have even bothered to mention it as something unusual, but given his rival’s closed off attitude, it did seem worth noting. Well, noting to himself anyway- he decided to wait for a while before telling his other friends about it, as he wasn’t sure how they would take it.  

Genma might be able to come to terms with it, but Ebisu? He was a whole other story. He wasn’t sure about the other shinobi in their age group either. It was only recently that they’d been interested in initiating contact with Gai- they were finally ready to embrace the springtime of youth! Or so he suspected.  

Still, as pleased as Gai was that the people around him were all starting to flourish in their down time, he couldn’t help but notice that Kakashi was still losing part of himself to Anbu.  

Watching his rival during his time in Anbu was rather how he imagined a pyromaniac felt when they saw a blazing forest fire. There was something about it that was beautiful and deadly, all that power pouring out and removing anything in its path. But the thing about fires is this: they always burn out eventually. Even the greatest ones. And he feared the day he saw Kakashi’s flame go out.  

He wondered sometimes if the reason Kakashi was willing to get close to him now was because he also sensed his fate, and was finding solace in the one last thing he had to cling to.  

Civilians would often keep pets, and when that pet got to a certain point, they would spoil it as much as they could to ease their passing and make their final days as comfortable as possible. Was that what Kakashi was doing? 

Youthful and brave as he may be, Gai was still too cowardly to ask if it was so.  

All he could do was hold onto his rival as tight as he could and hope for the best.  

Sometimes life was decidedly uncool, and Gai had to admit that his current mission fell directly under the category as well.  

It was supposed to be a fairly straightforward job- find and return a boy from a wealthy family who had gotten kidnapped for ransom. Unfortunately, they were given bad intel, and it turned out the boy had been working with his kidnappers all along. Also, what were suspected to be regular old brigands were actually a group of missing-nin, so that didn’t help either.  

All of this was far from ideal, but ultimately not too bad if not for another tiny detail.  

Ebisu had the flu.  

His teammate was on sick leave, so he was being replaced for the mission by none other than Gai’s eternal rival. Ordinarily, that would probably work in their favor. Despite the fact that his team did not have years' worth of experience working with Kakashi in missions, the other shinobi was more than capable of making up for it with skill alone.  

The problem was that during all the chasing and fighting, the whole team had been hit by a barrage of senbon, and each had at least gotten a scratch from them. Again, not too bad, except for the fact that the needles had been coated in something, and said something had only affected Kakashi. Because Kakashi was the only omega on the team.  

He doubted their opponents had known this since Kakashi regularly wore scent blockers on missions, but they must have known it wouldn’t hurt their chances. See, the senbon had been coated in something that triggered Kakashi’s body to go into heat. Hence why the mission was not being youthful or cool at all.  

Gai was crashing through the underbrush of the forest, more concerned about getting away as fast as he could rather than doing so inconspicuously, Kakashi curled around his front. He would be damned if he let any of them set their hands on his rival like this.  

They’d gotten separated from the rest of the team at some point, but he had faith in his mentor and Genma. They could take care of themselves. Honestly, the bigger question was whether or not Gai and Kakashi would be able to stay safe.  

Kakashi was in no state to fight- he could barely stay upright on his own. And Gai had to protect him best as he could, but his greatest asset was his skill in taijutsu, and he couldn’t well battle while holding his rival like this. He’d consider setting Kakashi down to take care of their opponents, but there were enough of them around that he didn’t feel confident enough about letting his friend remotely out of his sight. That left very few options, and the one Gai had chosen to run with- quite literally- was to escape and hide.  

Hardly the most dignified response, but definitely the safest option at the moment.  

Once he thought he’d put enough distance between them and their pursuers, he leapt into the trees, flitting from branch to branch until he found one suitable to conceal themselves with. He sat with his back rested against the tree trunk while Kakashi stayed sprawled across his lap.  

His grip on the other tightened when Kakashi whimpered softly into his neck, his rival’s hands curling into a vicelike grip on his vest. The smell of slick in the air was cloyingly sweet, and Gai did his utmost best to remain unaffected, but it was difficult with his rival grinding into him. Stalwart as his heart was, he was only fifteen. 

He tried to placate his friend, shushing him gently and stroking his back in an attempt to calm him down a bit, but he feared his efforts would be in vain. Even with the gap Gai had managed to make between their hiding spot and their opponents, Kakashi’s scent was practically a flashing beacon to their location. His scent blockers had been effectively nullified by the pseudo-heat, so they were no help.  

There was only one thing he could think of that might cancel out all the pheromones Kakashi was sending out, but he was praying that Genma or his mentor would find them before resorting to it.  

Judging by the state of things however, he doubted their teammates would make it there before their enemies.  

Kakashi whined plaintively, and Gai shushed him again, rubbing a hand through his hair and marveling at its softness. If they were in Kakashi’s apartment, he would have taken the time to enjoy the feeling of it sliding through his fingertips, but they were not in his apartment- they were in a tree, hiding from a group of missing-nin.  

Speaking of which, his instincts were telling him that the enemy were fast approaching, so the pair were going to have to move again.  

He reacted too slowly in his hopes for his allies to arrive sooner, as one of the missing-nin came careening out of the branches with a kick that Gai didn’t have time to block properly with his arms full. He had just enough time to let his back take the brunt of the blow, but it stung something fierce, and he was knocked off balance from his perch atop the tree.  

He managed to land on his feet thankfully, albeit with a few stumbling steps. His opponent followed soon after with a near gleeful look on his face.  

“Thought you could get away without a real fight, huh?” he taunted, a nasty leer aimed at the omega in Gai’s arms. “Hoping for some alone time to bond with that bitch, maybe? It’s a wonder you lot let your breeders out to pretend like they’re warriors.” 

Gai’s blood boiled at the man’s words, and the brazen way he spoke about his precious rival. How dare he talk as if omegas were any lesser than the other genders, or that Kakashi wasn’t perfectly capable of kicking his ass when he was in his right mind. And how disgusting of him to assume that Gai would ever take advantage of someone like that. It was truly a despicable creature standing before him.  

“I don’t think there’s any reason for us to be speaking when we should be fighting,” Gai replied coldly, setting Kakashi down behind him so that he could assume a proper fighting stance.  

The enemy merely smirked at him. “Oh? Well, if you don’t want to claim him, then maybe I’ll take care of it. Right after I step over your corpse.” 

Gai narrowed his eyes. “I’m afraid I can’t allow you to do either of those things. But like I said before- it’s time to trade blows instead of words.”  

He rushed the other man before he could speak again.  

Killing was a necessity that Gai refused to take pleasure in, but this particular enemy he refused to feel any remorse over.  

He stepped over the body and went to retrieve his temporary teammate. Kakashi was still curled against the tree trunk he’d been left by, panting heavily and sweating profusely through his uniform. He peeled open his good eye to blink at Gai a couple times before closing it again and groaning. They were going to have to hurry if they didn’t want Kakashi to overheat and make his condition even worse.  

He picked his comrade up again, and the omega proceeded to drape himself over him like an overgrown koala once more before they took off.  

It was lucky that Gai knew the surrounding area well enough to locate the river nearby. It wasn’t a particularly wide river, about fifteen feet across, but it was deep enough to submerge them about mid-torso, which was what Gai needed right then.  

The cold water shocked a gasp out of his rival, who clung to him tighter for a moment before relief from his burning skin washed over him. The river would wash away their scent for the moment as well, which was the other reason Gai had chosen to come here, but he knew that it wouldn’t last long if Kakashi kept sending out pheromones the way he had been.  

Kakashi wouldn’t be able to help it though, unless he found a very different kind of relief that would stop his biology from broadcasting to everyone with a functioning nose that he was in need. This was the larger problem that Gai was currently battling against.  

They couldn’t stay in the river because the enemy would be able to track them there, but leaving the river would also mean Kakashi’s scent would grow stronger again. The best course of action would be for them to leave the river, but to let Kakashi…. find his release before then. It was certainly not an ideal situation, and not for the first time, Gai found himself cursing Ebisu’s poor health for indirectly leading them to this situation.  

Again, he would never take advantage of his rival in such a vulnerable state, but their survival was sort of dependent on it at the moment. There was only one way that Gai could think of that he might be able to get away with it, without it being overly sexual. It was still rather intimate though, and he wasn’t sure how Kakashi would take it once his pseudo-heat had passed.  

Gai had read a lot of books about omega biology, but most people with common sense already knew that omega’s necks were very sensitive. It was after all, crucial to creating a bond between a mated pair by having the alpha (or beta) bite the omega on their neck while they mated.  

Now, he wasn’t a hundred percent positive, but he was fairly certain that if he bit Kakashi on the neck right now it would be enough to take care of the situation. And since they were absolutely not mating right now in the middle of the river, it wouldn’t actually cause a bond to form, so that wouldn’t be a problem. It was really the most reasonable solution to the problem at hand, although it made Gai’s stomach twist with worry. He was sort of hoping that Kakashi wouldn’t remember anything about this mission.  

Time waits for no man though, and Gai had wasted enough time already. With one hand he carefully peeled up the edge of Kakashi’s mask where it ended at his neck- thank god he wasn’t wearing one of the ones that was attached to his shirt- and revealed the pale skin beneath it.  

“Forgive me for this, Kakashi,” he whispered before sinking his teeth into a spot just below the other’s ear.  

Kakashi seized up in his arms with a gasp before slumping boneless against him, unconscious.  

Gai did his best to ignore what had just happened in favor of getting out of the water and finding a new place to hide out until the missing-nin were taken care of.  

It wasn’t long after that when another missing-nin found the pair, and he made to defend themselves once more before a kunai in the stranger’s throat stopped him.  

“That should be the last of them,” Genma said, popping up on an adjacent branch. He gave the two of them a lingering once over, and raised an eyebrow pointedly at the way Kakashi was passed out blissfully against him. Gai felt his face heat up, but there was little he could say that would get his teammate to stop looking at him like that.  

Fortunately, their mentor showed up right then, dangling their target by his collar and looking somewhat put off by the whole ordeal. The group in the treetops leapt down to join him on the ground. 

“Let me go! You ruined everything! We were going to have the money, and then Yuki and I were going to bond and be together forever! But you killed him, and everyone else! I’d rather die than go back with you lot!” the boy screamed. He looked about their age, and Gai secretly wondered if this was a normal mindset for wealthy civilians.  

“Well, if you’re that eager to die then I bet Hatake would be more than willing to help you out once he wakes up,” Gemna replied nonchalantly, scratching his nose. “He’s pretty famous for his ruthless style,” he added just to watch the boy go white faced.  

Choza Akamichi sighed at his student’s antics but let him have his fun. The mission had been a total pain in the ass, and all for an ungrateful brat that didn’t realize he was being used. When they left for this mission a couple days ago, he’d expected it to be a walk in the park. A simple knock out of some amateurs, a grateful kid, and a good team at his side.  

Really, he appreciated Ebisu, but he hadn’t been too upset about Hatake joining them in his stead. After all, the kid was a prodigy, regardless of the cold attitude he was famous for.  

Although, seeing him on mission with Gai at his side made Choza reconsider all the rumors he’d heard about the White Fang’s son. Gai had always been adamant about Hatake’s good character, but the rest of his team had always refuted it in turn, so it was interesting to be able to make his own observations on the matter.  

Hatake hadn’t been overly friendly, but he hadn’t been outright cold either. If anything, he acted like any other ninja that preferred to stick to professionalism. And despite his reputation in Anbu, he had no issue following orders or working with a team he’d never been with before. Fairly standard stuff, if you asked him.  

More interesting to Choza was watching Gai bounce around him like he hung the stars in the sky. Hatake remained more or less impassive, but he didn’t rebuff Gai’s touches or challenges unless he felt like they would get in the way of their mission. Even then, it was more a gentle reminder that he gave, and Gai would simply laugh at his own overexcitement and propose something else that wouldn’t get in the way of work.  

Now here they were, Hatake in heat but peacefully sleeping in Gai’s arms instead of in extreme distress.  

He had to admit, he’d been a little worried when the two of them had disappeared right after Hatake’s heat had set in. Not because Gai would do anything uncouth, but rather because Gai might not think straight enough to keep them safe. It hadn’t surprised him in the slightest when Kakashi’s movements had stuttered and Gai immediately picked him up and ran when the situation became apparent.  

He’d be annoyed about Gai abandoning the mission, but he couldn’t blame him in the end. Besides, it all worked out eventually anyway.  

Still, the rich brat could stop squirming so much and quit screeching about how they’d wronged him.  

“Sheesh, you and Hatake might both be omegas, but you couldn’t be more different than night and day,” Genma said aptly, smacking a leg that had flailed a little close to his face. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but you could learn a thing or two from him. Namely, some common sense.” 

Choza rolled his eyes and told them all it was time to return to Konoha.  

Chapter Text

Kakashi spent the next week being positively miserable. There was no other way to describe it. Like always, he was dehydrated, sore, sticky, and there was still traces of that burning ache in his gut. Actually, he was probably even more dehydrated than usual. It was far too embarrassing for him to admit why though.  

It was because he’d been crying. A lot.  

Shinobi didn’t cry, especially not Kakashi. Apparently, his body didn’t get the damn memo.  

It wasn’t his fucking fault that his body was dead set on betraying him. First it put him through this stupid heat, and then it was making him weep like a baby.  

He wanted to back to the forest and wipe out those… Were they bandits? He couldn’t quite remember yet. His brain was still foggy from his stupid forced heat. But it would clear up eventually. Probably in a couple hours. Next day if he was particularly unlucky- which he unfortunately felt at the moment.  

It didn’t matter anyway. He may not remember much, but he couldn’t imagine Gai’s team letting their target’s kidnappers go easily. Particularly if Gai felt like they had wronged his friends. Kakashi counted as one of those friends.  

Didn’t he? 

He stifled a groan in his pillow, wrinkling his nose at the smell of stale sweat that it had absorbed. He’d have to do his laundry today. And take a shower.  

Gods, even the thought of a shower makes him sigh in yearning. A nice cool shower to wash away the grime on his skin sounded heavenly. The only downside was that he’d have to get up in order to accomplish that. And dear gods, he did not have the energy for that right now.  

But again, he felt disgusting, and he would really like it if he did  not  feel disgusting right now.  

This time he didn’t bother stifling his groan. What did it matter anyway- it’s not like anyone was going to hear him. He lived alone, and with Minato-sensei long gone there was no one who would come check on him- 


That last part wasn’t true. There was in fact, someone who often came to check on his health, particularly after he’d more or less finished his heats.  

Which brought him to his next uncomfortable realization- there was  one  thing Kakashi remembered in vivid clarity, and it was the reason he’d spent so much time crying. Well, in a roundabout sort of manner.  

He remembered refreshingly cold water against his burning skin, strong arms wrapped around him, and the euphoria that came when someone’s teeth sank into his skin. Someone with an achingly familiar scent. Given the short list of options of who it could be, it wasn’t hard for him to figure out who his mystery man was.  

Maybe if he tried hard enough he could convince himself that this was all a bad dream, and he was going to wake up any second now to find that the mission had never happened, and he wouldn’t have to avoid Gai for the rest of his life.  

Shit fuck dammit motherfucking shitshitshitshitFUCK-!  

He muffled his scream with his pillow.  

Of all the stupid things to happen while on a mission- if he couldn’t get back at the kidnappers, maybe he could vent some of his pent up emotions by punching that spoiled brat they had to rescue in the first place. There would definitely be repercussions for that, but Kakashi was starting to think that it would ultimately be worth it in the end. Besides, it might do the kid some good. It could knock some sense into his head, for starters.  

He supposed he ought to be grateful that the bite alone wasn’t enough to bond them. In order for that to happen they would have had to actually have sex when he bit him. And he was positive that they hadn’t done  that .  

Still, the bite did have its consequences. His heat addled brain had spent the rest of the week reducing him to a weeping mess because it convinced him that yes-someone-was-supposed-to-be-here-with-him because clearly they had been trying to claim him. Which is obviously not what happened, and Gai was definitely not interested in him like that, but heats tended to make him lose literally all of his brain cells.  

There was also the small matter of how the bite may have introduced an incomplete bond link between them. He wasn’t really sure about that part though because frankly bonds and all that sort of junk was stuff he didn’t pay much attention to. Jokes on him, now he was probably going to have to dig up some of his old biology textbooks.  

If he was lucky, nothing should have formed. If he wasn’t so lucky, it just meant that he had a little half formed kind of empathy link with the alpha that would go away in another week or so. If he was remembering things right, that is.  

He was praying that nothing had formed at all, but the ever so pessimistic part of him told him that it wasn’t the case. 

There was something lying just beneath the surface of his skin that prickled, like he was tied to something- or  someone - that was just out of his reach.  

It shouldn’t have been a big deal. Gai had done what he had to in order to keep them alive- of that he was sure. Not because he really remembered what happened, but rather because it was impossible to imagine the green clad idiot of taking advantage of anyone like that. It simply wasn’t in his nature.  

So why did he still feel like crying? 

He’d like to blame it on his hormones, but deep down- oh what the hell, it was shallowly down at best- he knew that wasn’t the reason.  

But that was a whole can of worms that he was not prepared to deal with just yet. Or you know,  ever .  

It didn’t matter how he felt about the whole situation. After all, in the end, Gai would never feel the same about him anyway. They were rivals, and that was that. They could even be friends. But that was all. Nothing more.  

It didn’t do to dwell on it.  

Besides, nobody would ever want to mate with Kakashi anyways, so the whole point was moot.  

He finally got the strength to drag himself out of bed and stumbled to the shower. He could brood about all these ridiculous feelings later. He had to get it together first.  


“I was not asking for permission. Furthermore, as I’ve said many times- I do wish you would stop talking about my esteemed rival in such a manner! I know you’re overflowing with youthful spirit, but surely your energy could be channeled into something more fulfilling than slandering him” 

Genma snorted from his spot, leaning casually against a tree and picking his teeth with a senbon as if the whole matter was amusing but beneath him. “Good luck with that.” 

“I CANNOT ALLOW THIS!” Ebisu screeched, ignoring their teammate. “It was bad enough before when you visited him, but now-! Now Genma tells me about how he found the two of you plastered together while I was valiantly fighting illness-” another snort from Genma, “-while Hatake was in heat! Not even after it was over! And that you bit his neck-!” 

“You told him about that part too?” Gai asked, turning to his non-screaming teammate and pouting. It wasn’t like he was trying to cover up what happened or anything, but it was kind of embarrassing. Also, it meant Ebisu was going to get even more fired up.  

Genma simply shrugged. “He was asking questions about what Hatake looked like in heat, so I told him that I didn’t really see anything. I mean, I only found you guys after he was all passed out against you. And then I had to explain how that happened, and that meant telling him what you told me.” 

“Well, I suppose it couldn’t be avoided th- wait a second. Why were you asking about what my rival looked like in heat?” he asked, turning back to Ebisu who was now turning as red as a tomato.  

He shoved his sunglasses further up his nose and huffed haughtily. “I was not- Genma is merely paraphrasing! And that’s not important! Quit trying to change the subject!” he sputtered. “The point is that this little…. arrangement  between you and Hatake has gotten entirely out of hand!” He spat out the word “arrangement” like it had personally come to his house and murdered his cat.  

Gai, never one to back down from a challenge, planted his fists on his hips and puffed out his chest. He was about to give a speech about the importance of friendship, and how it should be treasured in all forms, even if it were not as conventional as people expected, but Genma cut him off before he could begin. 

“Actually, I kind of agree with Mr. Beetface over there. I mean whatever’s going on between you two… It’s getting complicated now. It was kind of weird what you were doing before, but relatively harmless, so I let it go. But what happened on our mission- look, the point is, whatever is going on with you and Hatake, it can’t last. Someday it  will  change, either for better or for worse. And what I saw back in the forest- I’d say that’s a pretty good sign that day is coming soon. Real soon.” 

He said it with such sincerity that Gai was hard pressed to disagree with him. Deep down he knew Genma was right. Things couldn’t continue the way they had. Not after what he’d done.  

He could only imagine how upset his rival would be when he remembered what happened. How would he react? Would he be angry with Gai? Would white hot rage burn in his eyes, sweeping away the emptiness that was usually there? Would he hit and yell and tell him he never wanted to see him again? Or would he be distraught about what happened? Would he shed tears over what Gai had done? Collapse inward until all that was left was a lifeless husk, lying on the floor in a dark room with no one else to find him? Or what if… What if he pretended it had never happened?  

At a glance, pretending that it never happened seemed like the best option, but Gai knew better. Running from your problems never solves anything; it only delays the inevitable. Sooner or later the issue would be brought up, and they’d have to face it head on. If they pushed it away for too long it would just build resentment and make it more difficult to fix when the time came.  

And he was not going to give up what they had. He’d spent years peeling off layers of Kakashi’s shell, and he’d be damned if he let this one incident ruin the other’s hard earned trust. Even if the bite sent them straight back to square one, he’d just work harder to make up for it- even if it took a hundred years.  

He hadn’t promised Kakashi eternity for nothing.  

The memory of that night at the lake where he first made that promise sprang to his mind. The way their legs tangled together in the water, the pounding of his heart, the knowledge of how delicate but important the moment had been for  both  of them. That thought alone was enough to bolster his attitude.  

“You’re right,” he admitted, much to the surprise of his team mates. “Things can’t continue as they have. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing! And regardless, I must return to my rival’s side in order to apologize properly for what happened.”  

Despite what many people believed, Gai was actually quite intelligent. Which is why he didn’t wait for them to respond, choosing instead to high tail it out of there before they could even blink.  

They’d get over it. In the meantime, he had a rival to attend to.  

Kakashi didn’t have to wait for the knock on his door to figure out that Gai was there. It certainly cemented things in place for him, but he had sensed it beforehand. Not through any conventional means, mind you. It was simply a feeling that he got, like some part of him instinctually knew that his mate- no not his mate, never his mate- was approaching.  

He put down the book he’d unsuccessfully tried to read to keep his mind off things, and moved to the door.  

It was maybe ten feet away from where he’d been sitting, but it felt like miles. He was sore, and stiff, and wanted nothing more than to hide away and pretend like it was a perfectly normal day. More than that, he wanted to pretend like his heat hadn’t been forced upon him, that he’d just gotten through a regular cycle, and Gai was there to cook him a meal and cuddle up with him on the couch. Not that he’d ever admit that he wanted that, or that it ever happened in the first place.  

He took a deep, somewhat shaky breath and opened the door.  

He was immediately assaulted by the smell of pine and coffee- Gai’s telltale scent. This was partly because he was so sensitive to changes in his nesting area, and partly because the alpha decided the best way to greet him was to try and suffocate him in his pecs.  

“Rival! I know you must not want to see me right now, but let me first say that I am so sorry for my actions during our mission! Please believe me when I say that I did it for our own safety, and that I would never intentionally endanger our friendship! I understand if you don’t want to forgive me, but know that even if you don’t, I will always be your rival regardless!” he sobbed as he clutched Kakashi to his chest in a choking hug.  

He had to whack him a few times to get his attention.  

“Oh! My apologies, Rival, I didn’t realize-!” he exclaimed as Kakashi gasped for breath.  

He shot him a half-hearted glare. “You went through the effort of saving me from lowlife missing-nin, and decided to kill me by suffocating me yourself?” 

The alpha sputtered out some more apologies and declarations of ridiculous physical challenges to make up for it, but Kakashi waved him off. “I’m kidding, Gai. And get in here already before the neighbors call the cops over you being a disturbance. Anyways, you don’t have to apologize for what happened- you did what you had to. I can’t blame you for that. Actually I…” he trailed off as he walked further into his apartment.  

His eyes dropped to the discarded book on the counter, fingers trailing listlessly over the worn out cover. It was a book of poems. Useless drivel about love and existence. It used to be his father’s favorite book. Sometimes he would read passages of it to him before he went to sleep. He didn’t know why he’d unearthed it from the box of his father’s belongings that he’d saved before moving.  

“I should be thanking you,” he said. This was no time to get caught up in the past. “If you hadn’t…. I’d be dead.” 

Gai crept closer, mindful of how precarious their situation was. Despite Kakashi’s words, he knew that he couldn’t be as unaffected as he acted. Could he? 

Out of all the scenarios he imagined, Kakashi letting it go had not been one of the options.  

“You don’t need to thank me, Rival. Not for this, or anything else.” He placed a hand atop the other’s, glancing at the book. Poetry? He hadn’t taken him for the type, but they say you learned something new every day.  

Kakashi peered up at him, single gray eye softening at the heartfelt look on Gai’s face. “I know,” he replied quietly. “Thank you anyway.” 

There was so much more for them to say, but neither of them was able to get the words out. So they went about things like usual, if with a little more insistent pampering from Gai and a little more compliance from Kakashi than usual. They didn’t pretend the mission never happened, or that it didn’t change anything, but it didn’t seem to matter so much anymore. It was almost funny how they'd spent so much time worrying over what happened, only to meet face to face and realize how little it mattered. It all seemed so natural to just drop the issue. 

Things had turned out alright in the end.  

Yet it had changed things for them, even if they weren’t in denial or upset about it. The thing was, they both knew that their relationship couldn’t stay the same. To them, the options at the time had either been to take a step forward or back. What actually happened, was that they took a step to the side instead.  

Neither of them wanted to return to not being friends, to not being rivals, to not knowing they were mutually important to the other. Thus, they could not take a step back.  

On the other hand, Kakashi was not ready to take a step forward into their relationship and what it would mean for them, and Gai knew that. And he would never force his rival to accept his affections, so they couldn’t step forward.  

And obviously they couldn’t stay in the same place after all that had happened, so they had to figure something else out. 

So they took a step aside. It wasn’t an avoidance per se, more like a little detour. They’d get back on that path later on, but for now they were fine taking the scenic route. It was sort of an implied thing between them they would return to that spot when Kakashi was ready to take that step forward. That was the important part: Kakashi  would  join him, and they’d take that step together.  

No one else really understood it, but that was fine. They did, and that was all that mattered.  

To them it was just another given. The sky was blue, Konoha was their village, and Gai and Kakashi belonged together. Simple. Neither of them questioned it.  

Not until a year later, when Kakashi met someone new on a fateful anbu mission. 


Chapter Text

It wasn’t an immediately noticeable change when Kakashi met the boy known as  Kinoe . Really, their first meeting was barely  notable . He only met him through  Danzo  in Root, and he’d never even seen the kid’s face. He was just another one of  Danzo’s  agents.   

Still, there was something about him that drew Kakashi like a moth to a flame, as if they were tied by some invisible thread. It wasn’t something Kakashi was used to, seeing as he’d always felt set apart from everyone else in Konoha before. Well, everyone except Gai. And he certainly never expected anyone else to fill the alpha’s role in his life, much less someone younger than him. His stupid hormones kept telling him to get closer to the younger male, but his rational mind told him not to do that because what the fuck.   

It was all very confusing to him.  

Then of course, he saw him use wood release- something only the First Hokage had been able to use- and realized how fucking dumb he’d been to assume that Sarutobi was the ineffective, passionless leader that Danzo had made him out to be. This resulted in him defecting from Root and preventing them from killing the Third, in which he’d killed the other would-be-assassins but left Kinoe alive.   

Mercy was not something he was known for, but he couldn’t bring himself to kill him. From what he observed, he was a couple years younger than Kakashi- fourteen at the very most, possibly younger. He knew that age meant little in their line of work- after all, he’d been labeled as a cold blooded killer by the time he was thirteen- but he believed that Kinoe could really turn things around in the future. He was so young- maybe he just needed more time to experience the world. He could change. Maybe he just needed someone to help him.   

This idea gains further traction on his hunt for Orochimaru when he gets captured by the Iburi Clan. The clan unfortunately meets its demise, but the two of them help one girl escape the slaughter. Watching Kinoe and Yukimi together reminded him so much of Rin and himself that it made his chest hurt.   

At least this time, the girl got to live. She got to be free.   

Rin will always lie cold in her grave, her name not even engraved on the memorial stone despite her service, and her memory always tainted by the way she had died.   

He still got nightmares sometimes. His hand crashing through her fragile body. His name screaming from her lips. The smell of iron and burning flesh permeating the air. Obito’s accusing eyes, his voice full of rage as he reminds Kakashi that he  promised  to keep her safe.   

He’d wake in a cold sweat and force himself to name as many hand techniques as he could until his heart rate had gone down and his breath no longer came in sharp gasps. It was enough to calm him down, but not to make him feel better mentally. He largely suspected that it was a burden he was going to carry for the rest of his life. However long or short that may be.   

The only thing that ever chased away the horrors from his nightmares was Gai. Sweet, cheerful, wonderful Gai, who would carefully gather him in his arms and hold him while he hummed nonsense tunes. The times his nightmares coincided with Gai’s visits was sparse though, so for the most part, he had to settle for not having a complete mental breakdown in his bedroom.   

It was fine though. He could handle it.   

Or so he thought. Three years after he last saw Kinoe, the younger man accused him of being a hypocrite for spouting about friendship after the way he’d killed his own teammate, and he was forced to acknowledge that it was still a sore spot for him. He’d spared the other’s life, and he had the nerve to call Kakashi a friend killer? It was enough to make his blood boil.   

But even then, he was still rational enough to keep Kinoe alive. They were still allies in a way, even if Kinoe had been sent to take out his eye. Luckily for him, Kinoe seemed to think the same after he decided to shove the antidote to Orochimaru’s poisonous experiment in Kakashi’s hands.   

Knowing that  Danzo  would never forgive  Kinoe  for failing him, he pleaded with the Third for help, and with their combined efforts, managed to save the younger shinobi from Root’s grasp.   

Kinoe was gone, and Tenzou came into his life instead.   

He took it upon himself to help integrate Tenzou into having a normal life, but stumbled upon another issue. Kakashi didn’t really have a whole lot of experience with having a normal life either.   

Most of his time was spent with anbu, and if he wasn’t on a mission then he simply kept to himself. There were occasional get togethers with Gai whenever the two of them were home at the same time, and every once in a blue moon he’d allow the alpha to drag him along to group activities. So in order to give Tenzou a more conventional life style, he was going to have to join him.   

This was far easier said than done, but he did his best. And Tenzou didn’t seem to mind either, which was an added bonus.   

Gai’s schedule clashed with his in the following months, so he didn’t get to introduce him to his kouhai until it was already well established that Kakashi had someone new hanging around him. The alpha and his old team had heard a lot about the pair from all the gossip flitting through the village, but it still defied belief for most of them. Ebisu was adamant that it was all an elaborate lie, and Genma didn’t know what to think. Gai however, was thrilled that Kakashi had  finally  made a new friend, and couldn’t wait to see it with his own eyes.   

He was practically vibrating out of his skin when he came barreling onto the training grounds and found his esteemed rival there with his new  acquaintance . “RIVAL!” he bellowed happily, throwing himself at the slighter man with reckless abandon.   

Kakashi, unusually unprepared for the other’s arrival, felt all the air expel from his body as he was unceremoniously crushed beneath Gai’s weight. At nineteen, the older shinobi had come into his “full bloom of youth”, as he called it, and filled out with what seemed like an endless amount of muscle. Kakashi would never admit that he found it so pleasing, but good grief, they sure made him heavy.   

“Hello, Gai,” he said blandly from where he was pinned beneath him. He patted him half-heartedly on the shoulder to signal to him to please-get-off.   

Never one to disappoint, Gai immediately leapt to his feet, pulling Kakashi up with him. “It’s good to see you again, Rival! It’s been far too long since last we met!” he proclaimed, hands on hips and chest puffed out. “And I see you’ve made a new friend! Hello, I am Might Gai!” he yelled cheerfully as he thrust out a hand towards the stranger.   

Tenzou , who had sprung into a defensive position as soon as he sensed someone charging their way, had relaxed a bit when it became apparent that Kakashi didn’t perceive the other as a threat. He was however, taken aback by the familiar way he interacted with his senpai. In the past few months since he defected from Root, Kakashi had introduced him to many of his own acquaintances, but none of them had acted like this. In fact, most of them seemed surprised he was talking to them at all, but given the other’s history, he supposed it made sense. Some of them seemed to be warming up to them though, like  Asuma  and  Kurenai . Regardless, it was nice that Kakashi was going out of his way to make  Tenzou  feel more comfortable.   

That being said, he had heard over the years about Kakashi’s strange relationship with a certain shinobi. Might Gai may not have been a child prodigy, but somehow he had wormed his way into being Kakashi’s self-proclaimed rival. From what little he’d heard about him, he wasn’t anyone special. Well, not in a popular way anyway. People did say he was….eccentric.   

Seeing him in the flesh, he certainly understood what they meant.   

The older teen was tall and broad and tan, and a body like that was sure to garner attention. But the bowlcut he sported and the green spandex paired with orange leg warmers was enough to spoil whatever attraction most people had found. Add to that his boisterous and somewhat odd personality, and he created a truly impressive conundrum. Honestly, Tenzo couldn’t believe someone like this was a shinobi, let alone his senpai’s rival.   

But then again, his senpai was hardly the most conventional person. It figured that he would be attached to someone that was his total opposite.   

He tentatively took his  outstretched  hand and tried not grimace when he shook it vigorously. Seriously, was the guy trying to pull his arm out of his socket? Judging by the exuberant smile on his face and the way Kakashi was trying not to laugh, he was not, but  Tenzou  would very much like to avoid it happening anyway. “I’m  Tenzou ,” he said calmly, ignoring the soreness of his arm and the blatant way the newcomer was looking him over.   

He wasn’t even trying to be subtle about it. As soon as he let go of Tenzou’s hand, he stepped back and put a hand to his chin as he inspected him. Tenzou used all of his anbu training to appear unaffected by this. It suddenly occurred to him how disappointed he’d be if his senpai’s best friend decided he didn’t like him.   

Gai wasn’t privy to any of the thoughts whirling through Tenzou’s head however, preoccupied with figuring out as much about the other from his appearance instead. Younger than Kakashi and him for sure, but only by a few years. Long brown hair and black eyes. A few inches shorter than his rival. Had the posture of someone well trained but was acting casually. Clearly wearing an anbu uniform, so perhaps one of Kakashi’s teammates? Oh, and he was definitely an alpha, there was no mistaking that.   

He was just about to lean in and take a good sniff to familiarize himself with his scent, but before he could, Ebisu and Genma came running up behind him. They had recently completed a mission together, and he’d left them in his dust, so to speak, during his haste to see Kakashi again.   

“All those- stupid leg muscles of yours- make you way too fast,” Genma panted, leaning over his knees to catch his breath.   

Ebisu was similarly winded, if not more so, and he was red as a tomato to boot. “I cannot allow- this- this fraternization! It’s gone on- far too long!” he sputtered out between gasps. He was shaking his finger incriminatingly at Kakashi, who merely raised a brow at his words.   

“Ebisu, my youthful friend! As I have told you many times before, my rivalry with Kakashi is eternal, and therefore cannot be halted by something as petty as your disapproval,” he admonished. He belayed his words with a hearty clap to Ebisu’s back that nearly sent the beta sprawling in the dirt.   

Tenzou  decided he didn’t like Ebisu much. He hadn’t heard anything remarkable about him either besides rumors that he was a pervert. Really, he hadn’t heard much about Gai’s old team at all.  Genma  was probably the most  notable , as he had served as one of the Fourth  Hokage’s  elite bodyguards. He’d cut down to part time for those duties following his death, but  Tenzou  doubted it meant he let his skills get rusty. Nonetheless, he was still a bit baffled by what was going on.   

He’d gotten used to people treating him with polite distance, and it was very strange to be in the presence of people who didn’t seem to care about how they came off to him or Kakashi.   

Ebisu continued to sputter, but Genma had managed to collect himself into his normal cool facade. “So, Hatake, who’s your new friend?” he asked with a curious look.   

Tenzou opened his mouth to reply, but Gai beat him to it. “This is Tenzou!” he proclaimed, reaching over and throwing a heavy arm over his shoulders. He was pulled firmly into the other’s side and tried not to squirm at the unexpected physical contact. He wondered vaguely if he was going to have to get used to the other alpha’s tactile nature. Judging by the look on everyone else’s faces, the answer was yes.   

“Gai, try not to smush my kohai just yet, hmm?” Kakashi said offhandedly. He maintained his usual bored expression, but Tenzou could see amusement dancing behind his eye.   

“Hmm? Oh, yes! My apologies, Tenzou! Sometimes I am so full to the brim with youth that I forget my own strength!” he laughed, releasing him with another hearty slap on the back. He tried not to make a face or stumble at the way it made his back sting. Gai was very welcoming, but friendship with him definitely involved some pain.  

The alpha bounded back to Kakashi’s side and threw an arm around his shoulders instead. If he didn’t know better, he’d say it was a tactic to keep his senpai from running away. But Kakashi seemed fine with it- another surprise to Tenzou, who had never seen the omega enjoy any physical contact whatsoever. Yes, Gai was definitely becoming someone he’d have to pay close attention to.   

“I hear you’re due for congratulations,” Kakashi said. “Sorry I wasn’t here when you actually got promoted.”  

Gai preened, smiling with a set of the whitest, sparkliest teeth Tenzou had ever seen. “Thank you, Rival! No need to worry about not being here, however! The life of a shinobi is not one born of convenience, and I know you had more important things to take care of!” His arm, Tenzou noted, had tightened a bit around the omega.  

Kakashi rolled his eye. “Yeah, well, making jounin is still pretty impressive.”  

“He’s right, Gai. Don’t go downplaying your success,” Genma said with a nod. He took a senbon out and began to chew on it.   

“Yes! It’s very important! And I hope you’ve been making good use out of the gift I gave you,” Ebisu added haughtily. He crossed his arms over his chest and stood to his full height so he could peer down his nose at him. It wasn’t an entirely successful endeavor because Gai was still taller than him, but it was the principle of the thing.   

Gai scratched his head with his free hand. “Ah, yes, the gift. I appreciate the gesture, and the plot was quite interesting at times, but I don’t think those books are quite my style,” he said. “Not to worry though,” he quickly reassured him, “I wouldn’t let your gift go to waste! I gave them to my hip rival instead.” He pointed unnecessarily at Kakashi as he said this, and Ebisu’s face turned an alarming shade of green.  

Genma almost spat his senbon out with a harsh bark of laughter. He waved Gai’s concerned look off, and turned his head to try and hide the wide smile on his face. The thought of Ebisu giving him  those  books so he could find an interest in “more conventional omegas” than Kakashi, and then having Gai give them to said unconventional omega in genuine good faith was too funny.   

“Wh- you- what?!”  

Kakashi smirked beneath his mask. “He left them with a note in my apartment. They certainly are interesting. The plots sure are…gripping,” he said.  Icha   Icha  wasn’t something he took note of before Gai had regifted them to him, but he did find them entertaining. Not more entertaining than the look of abject horror on Ebisu’s face however. He resolved to carry them around and read them in public just for a chance to see him make that face again. Whatever judgmental looks he  received  from doing so would be worth the payoff.  

He let Ebisu continue his stuttering, turning back to Gai. “It is weird that you managed to get me a gift after becoming a jounin. It’s supposed to be the other way around, you know?”  

Gai blinked down at him. “Is it? Well, I suppose so, but that kind of thing doesn’t really matter to me. I’m just glad to see you again! But if you really feel the need to gift me with something, perhaps you can accept a challenge instead!”  

He huffed, but didn’t refuse. It was a very Gai response. “What’s the challenge this time?”  

It ended up being a race, much to the displeasure of Genma and Ebisu, who had promised to spend the rest of the day catching up with Gai outside of work. On Genma’s part it was because he actually wanted to spend time with his old teammate, and for Ebisu it was more about keeping tabs on Kakashi. Tenzou tagged along because he had nothing else to do, and he wanted to learn more about his senpai’s relationship with the others. The three of them trailed after the other two, not bothering to try and keep up with them. They already knew where they were stopping anyway, so they might as well go at their own pace without trying to kill themselves.   

True to Genma and Ebisu’s word, the jounin are already seated at a booth when they arrive. Gai informed them loudly that it was his win today, and therefore Kakashi had to pay for his dinner. The silver-haired nin was not obliged to buy theirs however.   

The kindly owner of the restaurant came over to take their orders- she always did whenever she saw Gai or Kakashi- and introduced herself to Tenzou. She seemed very fond of the pair, and berated them for not stopping by more often.   

Over the next few days, he learned that this was a common response from the other villagers. On his own, they were wary to get too close to Kakashi, but if he was with Gai they had no such reservations. Similarly, they acted a little put out by having to deal with Gai on his own, but were always pleased to see him with Kakashi. He found it very odd.   

He supposed he could understand their hesitation with Kakashi, given his reputation and his refusal to try and refute it. Gai, however, was whole  other  story. After all, you’d be hard pressed to find someone more selfless or encouraging than the alpha. He was a little bit of an  acquired  taste, but was generally harmless to be around. From what he observed, people just…got a little overwhelmed by his personality? They all seemed relieved whenever his attention was focused on Kakashi instead of them.  Tenzou  thought it was uncalled for, but what did he know?  

“Did you hear what I said, Tenzou?”  

He snapped out of his musing to face an amused Kakashi. “Uh, no. Sorry, Senpai,” he said. They were going through some stretches before sparring, and he’d let his mind wander.   

Fortunately, the older teen didn’t mind. “It’s fine. I was just letting you know that you’re on your own next week.”  

“Are you going on a solo mission?” he asked, brows scrunching together. It couldn’t have been something for Team Ro because then Tenzou would have to go with him.   

He huffed out a bitter laugh. “No, nothing like that. Just biology,” he replied.   

It took a minute for Tenzou to catch on. He was infinitely grateful that he didn’t blush easily because otherwise his face would have been on fire for how obtuse he was being. “Ah,” he said lamely.   

He’d always known that Kakashi was an omega- it’s not like he hid it or anything- and it was on his file besides. But for some reason, it had never really hit him that his cool, aloof senpai that seemed in a league of his own, was still beholden to the laws of nature. Kakashi had never fit into the stereotypical ideal of some subservient, whimpering omega whose only desire was to mate with an alpha that could care for them. In fact, he’d openly scoffed at the idea. But rules were rules, and it looked like he still had to follow the law when it came to mandatory heats.   

“Well, I suppose I’ll just have to find someone else to spar with in the meantime,” he said smoothly. He highly doubted that Kakashi would want him to dote on him, or worse- pity him- for having to go through heat. No, it was in his best interest to play it off as no big deal.  

His instincts were correct on that front, and he could tell by the loss of tension in the other’s shoulders that Kakashi appreciated it. Then they began to spar, and he forgot all about it.   

It wasn’t until five days later when he noticed that his senpai was looking a bit peaky that he remembered their conversation. The only problem was that he didn’t know how to bring it up to him without making the omega mad. Kakashi never said it outright, but his secondary gender was sort of a touchy subject for him, no matter how much he pretended like it didn’t bother him.   

He was in the midst of devising a scheme that would force Kakashi to go home and rest when Gai came vaulting up to them. He greeted them both enthusiastically and gave Tenzou a spine shattering slap on the back that was becoming all too common. When he took a second to look Kakashi over, he didn’t hesitate like Tenzou did, and instead told his rival quite plainly that he needed to go home.   

That earned him a glare, but the alpha was unphased. He straightened his spine, crossed his arms, and stared the other down. It was that moment that Tenzou realized how Gai had earned his status as a jounin. Anyone willing to take on Kakashi of the Sharingan with that sort of calm confidence was someone that no one should mess with.   

“Rival, you know as well as I that you should be at home resting right now,” he said sternly.   

Kakashi’s hands curled into fists, although Tenzou didn’t think it was because he was actually preparing to take a swing at Gai. “I’m  fine . I can hold out for a couple hours before I go lock myself in my apartment,” he said flatly.   

The alpha was unconvinced. “Really? How’s this then- spar with me. If you can pin me, then I will admit to being wrong, and you can spend your afternoon doing whatever you want.” He didn’t have to say anything about what it would be like if Kakashi failed. It was obvious.   

Tenzou  was having a hard time wrapping his head around the idea of an alpha wrestling with an omega that was going into heat in order for the omega to take care of  themselves  properly, but he stayed silent.   

Kakashi meanwhile was having an inner war with himself. He knew he ought to go home, knew that he probably shouldn’t have left it in the first place as soon as he felt that familiar prickle beneath his skin, but he didn’t want to. He hated heats so much. They just made him feel so vulnerable and useless. And lonely. He could bear isolation when he was sober, but heats just brought out the worst feelings that he did his best to bury when he was sound of mind. Stupid biology. Stupid rules that made it mandatory for him to go through this torture every three months.   

He briefly entertained the idea of taking Gai up on his challenge, but ultimately came to the conclusion that he would just lose anyway. He’d been tired ever since he woke up that morning, but he refused to stay in bed like he ought to and chose to go about his day as usual instead. Even then, he’d known the chances of Gai letting him go about his business was slim to none. He sighed, resigning himself to his stifling apartment.   

Gai tossed an arm around his waist, and he sagged against the alpha’s shoulder. “It will be over before you know it, Rival,” he said gently.   

“Yeah, I know,” he replied wearily. His short burst of anger had taken all the energy out of him. If he didn’t return home soon, he’d end up collapsing on the training grounds. He didn’t complain when Gai steered him towards his apartment, barely remembering to throw a goodbye in Tenzou’s direction as they walked off. He felt a little bad about abandoning him there like that, but his kouhai was smart. He’d figure out something else to occupy his time.   

Unbeknownst to him, Tenzou was just thanking his lucky stars that Gai had come to take care of the situation.   

He didn’t fully understand their relationship, but he could figure that out later. You know, when Kakashi wasn’t so…temperamental.