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Enthusiasm and Appreciation

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Kakashi jumped, recovering himself just in time not to dump sake down Gai’s collarbones - although . . . that was a thought for later; he mentally filed it away - and turning a curious look on the doorway.

He eyed the two genin now framed there dubiously.

“Lee! Naruto!” Gai boomed - Gai tended to boom a little more after a bit of sake, although much more and he would go oddly quiet instead. “What brings-”

“Don’t listen to them!” Naruto shouted, and Gai fell silent, blinking.

“Don’t you ever listen to them!” Lee echoed, nodding determinedly.

“. . .who?” Kakashi questioned, putting his cup down on the table and shifting a little further away from Gai.

“You’re great!” Naruto said loudly. Kakashi glanced sideways at Gai, but he didn’t seem to have any more of an idea what was going on with their ducklings than Kakashi did. His brows were drawn together with confusion. “Really!”

“The best sensei!” Lee declared, clutching his hands to his chest as tears flowed down his cheeks.

Someday Kakashi was going to find out how Gai had managed to duplicate himself so well without actually siring a child.

“Yeah! I mean, Kaka-sensei, even if you’re kind of a hentai you’re still awesome!” Naruto grinned at him, giving a thumb’s up, and Kakashi snorted behind his mask, nearly choking on the sake he’d tossed back while the genin were distracted.

Lee’s cheeks went pink. “Naruto!” he shouted, scolding. He punched Naruto’s shoulder, though it couldn’t be very hard as Naruto didn’t go flying. Kakashi was very familiar with this particular school of friendly blows. “We are here to be positive!”

“I was!” Naruto yelled back, scowling, looking kind of confused himself now.

Gai shook slightly beside Kakashi with the effort not to laugh. Stifling his own laughter, Kakashi considered the best way to make Gai lose it, still wondering what had gotten into the brats.

“Gai-sensei, you are the strongest ninja!” Lee declared; more than probably true, Kakashi thought wryly. “But even more worthy of admiration than his strength is Gai-sensei’s heart and determination! Gai-sensei is so kind! He has taught me never to give up and he never gives up when he knows that we his students can always be better!” Lee was crying again, evidently overcome by how wonderful Gai was.

Gai was crying too, clearly touched by the praise, but that wasn’t surprising. Kakashi sneaked another sip of his sake while he watched them wail delightedly at each other.

“Yeah, and Kaka-sensei is really great!” Naruto yelled, smacking at Lee distractedly, as though they were now competing over this. Kakashi would hate to bring it to his attention but Lee was going to win that particular competition; much like Gai, there was no outdoing him in enthusiasm. “Even if he is lazy and lies all the time and he’s always reading those pervy books and-”

Naruto!” Lee looked aghast.

Kakashi was tempted to pull out Icha Icha now to hold in front of his face in a bid to further conceal his half-stifled laughter. Gai gave him a disapproving look and Kakashi elbowed him lightly, still snickering.

“Ah, thank you, darling students!” Gai said expansively as he turned his attention fully back to the ducklings, making Kakashi duck out of the way of one of his broad gestures. That was on purpose, Gai never hit anything by accident. Kakashi glared at him for form’s sake and then snagged the sake bottle. “The appreciation of one’s students is truly the best recognition any sensei can receive!”

Kakashi hummed, eyeing the genin. “What precisely brought you to this display of . . . appreciation, anyway?” he asked. Naruto and Lee might both be prone to effusiveness but this had been an unexpected degree even for them. Particularly with the way they had barged in on Kakashi and Gai over dinner.

“There were-” Lee broke off, looking uncomfortable.

“We heard-” Naruto began in his stead, then scowled and fell silent. “You’re great sensei! They don’t have the right to talk about you like that!” he continued after a moment, arms crossed, nodding firmly in a way he probably thought made him look dignified and determined.

It always left Kakashi torn between the impulses to ruffle his hair or swat him upside the head.

“That any Konoha nin would be so- so dishonourable- and as though- how could they not know how amazing Gai-sensei and Kakashi-san are?” Lee said earnestly, looking honestly distressed. “Gai-sensei is the best sensei, not a-” He flushed again and fell silent without repeating whatever Gai was not, but it was still enough to tickle Kakashi’s recollection.

Kakashi frowned slightly. “Yutaro.” he said softly. He had heard those comments, though he wasn’t sure if Gai, busy discussing something with Kurenai at the time, had also. He’d known the genin were present in the mission room at the time but hadn’t thought they had been close enough to hear Yutaro’s complaints to his friends. “He has always aspired to be assigned a team of genin.” He simply never would be, because he’d never even been good enough to make jounin. Chuunin were not assigned genin teams.

“If he wishes to teach he should apply to the academy.” Gai said, glowering. “There are many bright young Konoha leaves that benefit from the tutelage of devoted teachers there before they are passed into our hands.” He smiled proudly at the ducklings. “Every stage of guiding such precious students on their ninja path is a privilege and a delight!”

Personally Kakashi would rather set himself on fire than volunteer to take a class of pre-genin, but then he hadn’t had any desire to be a jounin-sensei either. Nor would he exactly call training his brats a delight - however . . . fond he might have grown of them - but then, that was Gai. He hummed non-committally.

“Such devotion is a gift!” Gai declared to the genin, which was not how Kakashi would have put that at all, but he remained silent. “There is no need for such concern on the behalf of your sensei, however!”

“Yes, yes, thank you.” Kakashi said dryly, flicking his fingers lazily. He smiled at Naruto all the same, though, and the boy brightened.

In due course the ducklings were shooed out, assured that their sensei would indeed not be listening to such unpleasant mutterings and with instructions to pay no mind themselves either. Kakashi shook his head, finally refilling Gai’s cup.

“What darling students!” Gai said happily, and Kakashi snorted. “Really though, to speak so carelessly around the genin.” He made a chiding sound.

“Yutaro never was very clever.” Kakashi said vaguely, and though Gai huffed, the bitter chuunin was dismissed from further conversation as they resumed the discussion their well-meaning students had interrupted.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Kakashi slipped his vest off with a roll of his shoulders, dropping it aside over the bureau.

He stretched slowly and thoroughly before following it with his gloves, revelling in the fact that he had no mission tomorrow - no genin to train and supervise, even, the ducklings were still in a mandated downtime period after their last mission out of the village had gone sideways. Again. At least they’d all made it home and no one had needed the hospital - including Kakashi.

“It was pleasant to spend a quiet evening together again.” Gai said, discarding his own vest neatly beside Kakashi’s. “We have all been so busy it seems the two of us have not had time for such in quite a while.” He sighed, brow showing a faint crease.

“You? Appreciate quiet?” Kakashi teased lightly, and Gai grinned at him, with a little less blatant sparkle than his usual and a little more private warmth.

Kakashi smiled back, then slid off his hitai-ate and absently rubbed his face where it normally lay. Gai came closer, wrapping his arms around Kakashi’s waist from behind. “Not so quiet as intended, either, with that . . . interruption.” Kakashi added wryly, leaning into Gai as his lover brushed a soft kiss to his jaw.

Gai laughed. “Perhaps not! Still,” he said, tugging Kakashi’s mask away with a light touch, “it was,” he chuckled quietly, “kind of them to be so concerned over their sensei.”

“Yeah, yeah, it was sweet of them.” Kakashi granted, tipping his head with a soft moan to let Gai continue nuzzling kisses down his sensitive throat. “The brats.”

“Kakashi.” Gai was probably trying to scold him, but the low thrum of his voice at the base of Kakashi’s neck was really not teaching him a lesson. “They are not brats.” he said reprovingly.

“Mmhm.” Kakashi agreed absently, sliding one hand up over Gai’s broad shoulder and powerful neck to bury in his hair, keeping him close.

“You are not listening.” Gai said reprovingly a minute or two later, scraping his teeth along Kakashi’s collarbone and making him gasp.

“Not as long as you’re doing that, no.” Kakashi said honestly, arching an eyebrow, and Gai laughed as he pulled away. Kakashi pouted at him, but he didn’t keep the distance between them for long, pushing Kakashi backwards towards the bed.

“Then we will talk later.” he said with a sly grin, pushing Kakashi down onto the bed and climbing on top of him, and Kakashi arched up into him with a pleased smile and a low, approving moan.