He met him the day after meeting the blonde child - Uzamaki. Why it lines up in his mind like that he isn't sure, but it does. The blonde child Naruto and the next day a quick trip into hell after which he meets Lai. Lai whose hands are large and gentle when holding him, touching him, healing him. He was heading home the first time they met. It had been a beautiful day and he'd been returning from a SE mission trying to forget why his hands were shaking so badly and then he was dodging and then he was bleeding.
He'd woken to a golden sunset and the arms of a large man pouring healing chakra into him. He remembers thinking 'you're beautiful' he doesn't remember saying it, but he does remember liking how Lai laughed and how he blushed when Lai said, "Thank you, no one's ever said that before". He couldn't remember the last time he'd been carried home and carefully put to bed. More so, he couldn't remember the last time he was so disappointed to see Kakashi by his bedside, probably because he'd never been disappointed before.
He let himself be dragged to the hospital, let them check him once then twice more with rather amusing facial experiences and then flatly refused to answer any questions. And when Kakashi challenged him in the hopes of prying the answer out of him, he made another first by refusing the challenge. He wandered home, fell into bed, and let visions of auburn-haired giants with loving hands run away with his head. He thought he was awake once with a small, warm hand carding through his hair. He smiled and though he heard a delighted giggle.
The next day he sparred with Genma and let himself be punched into next week. He woke to a panicked Genma who alternated between being freaked and being mad 'he didn't duck'. The chuckle next to his ear sounded amused, but whether that was amusement at Genma's antics or Gai's rather 'pleased' reaction to being in his lap is up for debate. "You ought to be more careful Gai, I shan't be here always. " Perhaps it was childish to cal him a liar while snuggling deeper into his lap, but hey he was only seventeen dammit, besides it got Genma to shut up and blush.
Kakashi watched him from behind his perverted reading material while Genma and the rest tried to pump him for info. Even the damn chunin were looking for gossip when he went for his missions, his long, drawn-out so as to escape scrutiny missions. He came back bruises and shaken, but on his feet. He ended up in the hospital two days later with a severe laceration thanks to accidentally cut himself 'doing something'. Like trying to get the attention of a certain medic named Lai. It was put down as a result of exhaustion. He ended up slightly disappointed, but the small rather battered get-well card form the fox child was nice, really nice if unexpected. Maybe he should check up on him.
He wasn't able to check up on him for a while, with what seemed like every mission in fire country landing in his lap. He did well he thought and might have seen Lai once or twice, but he'd been tired and rather injured though never as badly as he originally thought. More often then not he'd find himself within the territory of Konoha before he knew it as though carried home on a strong, broad back.
Eventually, the stream of missions tapered down to something more manageable and he decided to see the brat whose cards never ceased to be by his bedside and who he seemed to see out of the corner of his eyes wherever he was. Unfortunately, or fortunately instead he met a child who had nothing to his name except sucky taijutsu being incapable of ninjustsu and genjustsu. So he had no time to give tot the little blonde between missions and Lee.
And he missed Lai who was nowhere to be seen. Until he burned himself and then he felt a trill run through him at the low chuckle behind him. His hands seemed bigger and more solid though still just as warm. His hair seemed lighter, brighter and his eyes darker, but still just as kind. "You've burned yourself." He very stupidly decided to kiss him. His lips were as warm as his hands only curiously soft and chapped. "What is this?" "A kiss." "Why?" "I love you?" He loved his smile.
He got used to a warm body at night and a beautiful smile in the morning and unseen support at all times. He didn't know what to think when Lai seemed to fall off the face of the earth. He'd cut himself twice before he'd realized Kakashi was patiently watching him. "You should knock brat." Amusement. "I'm older then you are Gai. Mind putting down the knife before you bleed to death?" They ate takeout and he fell asleep with Kakashi's fingers in his hair.
The next day, amidst Lee's usual chatter he hears that the little blonde boy is in the hospital. That evening finds him carding flaxen locks and tracing the rapidly healing mess that used to be a little boy's face. Wandering in his thought he finds himself tracing oh so carefully, oh so lightly a pair of soft, lightly chapped lips. The child woke up the next day and was out three days later. He found two cards by his bedside and a small leafy plant. He found a second plant at home on his doorstep, because the little mask-wearing stick figure thought the first might get lonely. He smiled extra brightly at the Green man and the Green boy and the Sarcastic Pervert man who looked like Anbu-chan.
A month later Gai fell down a flight of stairs, just like how a week before he ran into a door, and the week before that he slammed his hand in the door, and the week before that he threw Kakashi down the stairs. Gai smiled the whole through as he displayed a rather unnatural healing rate to nearly equal his unnatural accident rate. Two days after he broke his arm he is removed from active duty. Three hours after his health is cleared at the hospital he's personally requested by Anbu command. It is the first time he's ever smiled upon receiving such a mission. He exceeds his boundaries eliminating not only his target, but the entire organization by himself. No one is sure how he makes it home, much less how he's able to function well enough to visit a small child suffering from exhaustion.
He buys the child a rather ridiculous sleeping cap and miraculously improves receiving almost no injuries accidental or not. He is a rather adorable child and a rather resilient one. On yet another visit he awakens to find himself having dozed off on the little one's belly. It's way after visiting hours - someone, a nurse should have kicked him out by now. Still he could get used to a pillow like this. Warm and with scalp massaging... Massaging fingers? "Thank you for visiting me." He's never seen a more heart-breaking smile - he vows he will make time for this child or else he will, he will do something. (Something very violent.)
He smuggles the child out to his house and runs to get Lee and supplies. They have a small, rambunctious party and he sleeps the sleep of the just for a night. He wakes up to two children snuggled up to him - it's not 'til later he realizes this is the first time he hasn't waken bone-gnawingly lonely. He decides he live with this and his stupid risk quotient levels out. He can not adopt either being underaged, but he is able to keep them. He begs , tricks, and badgers the others into watching his 'kids' when he has to go.
And then one day as his kids run toward him - he can almost swear he sees auburn hair and forest green eyes. He throws himself into making them happy and then he takes the boy- Naruto home - takes Lee back to the opera age and then takes the most suicidal mission he can get. As he lies bleeding he asks the shadowed eyes above - 'why?' The soft, pink lips spread sweetly as a child - "I love your smile."
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