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Halfway through shoving on his first binder, Kakashi realises it’s not as easy as it seems. It’s a cross between a vest and a sports-bra but twice as tight. He bought a long one that fits down to his hips, but it’s definitely not as simple to slip on as a mesh vest. Pulling it over his head like a shirt had been his natural instinct, but now he’s not so sure it was wise.

He’s stuck. Heaving a sigh, Kakashi considers his options. Pulling the binder back over his head might be the only viable one; he can’t bend his arms down far enough to grab the bottom of the binder, but it might be possible to yank it up. (Although, that will defeat the purposes of putting it on). Feeling ridiculous, he perches down on the end of his bed to think. His arms flop uselessly out of the top of the binder and he can’t see anything through the fabric. It feels tight and uncomfortable where it’s bunched up under his armpits. There must be more practical way of doing this; he’s sure he bought the right size. Carefully, he wiggles one of his elbows free and then tries to tug the binder one-handed over his head. It doesn’t budge - of course. It’s called a ‘binder’ for a reason.

He sits there for a long, few moments, staring at the inside of the binder. He's stuck, very stuck. There's probably no getting around it. Eventually, he expels a frustrated sigh and resigns himself to the mortification of needing help. He just about manages to nick a thumb with his teeth. A bead of blood now gathering on his skin, he shuffles along the bed and slams his palm against the wall, pushing his chakra through.

Eight dogs tumble into the bedroom, each more aggravated and squashed than the last. Once the summoning is complete and the pile of yapping dogs get their bearings, Kakashi braces himself for shameless laughter. And his pack don’t disappoint. A chorus of Boss! Boss! Where’d he go? We’ve lost him! and similar jokes fill the apartment as the dogs laugh uproariously, rolling around with glee. Kakashi glowers at the inside of the binder but lets them have their fun. He’s glad they can’t see how bright his face is burning, but if it burns any redder, then they’ll soon be able to smell it.

“All right, all right,” Pakkun says, calling the pack together. The dogs gather round, some jumping up onto the bed and others brushing Kakashi’s legs. He can’t see them, but they’re probably all still grinning at him, teeth bared and tongues out. “Boss, you want this on or off?”

“Off,” Kakashi decides, sure that there must be another way. “Just get it off me.”

The irritation sobers his dogs right up. Pakkun lays a paw against his ankle, a reassurance and an apology. Kakashi didn’t mean to sound so peeved, but it seems to have done the trick.

“Sure can do, Boss. Bull, give us a boost.”

It take some scrambling, but soon Kakashi is free from the binder. Ūhei deposits it into his lap, whining softly. Still very much half-naked and reluctant to try putting it on again, Kakashi lets the dogs fuss over him. He gives them all a pat and scratches behind Ūhei’s ears. “Thanks guys. What would I do without you?”

One of the dogs snickers. Another one swats him with a tail.

“Try stepping into it, perhaps,” Akino suggests, nosing the binder. He’s as blind as a bat, Akino, but there’s a sensible head on his shoulders. Unlike the rest of the pack, his advice usually has merit.

Kakashi attempts it with some difficulty but, lo and behold, the binder slides on. The pack cheer because they’re sentimental dumbasses, and Kakashi feels a smile creep onto his face. It’s a snug fit, but the binder doesn’t feel too tight. Like a mesh vest, it stretches all the way down his torso. He could probably wear a mesh vest over the top, actually, and pass it off as armour. He grabs one from the chest of drawers and slips it on, checking himself in the mirror. From the front he looks a little misshapen - should he adjust himself? - but his breath catches as he turns to the side. He’s almost… flat. Especially with the mesh vest. If he throws on his jōnin blues as well, then people might fail to notice his chest entirely.

“Boss, you okay?”

Kakashi turns around. His pack are piled together on the bed, watching quietly. Even Guruko is there and he has a habit of scampering off at the first given chance. Many ears perk up at Kakashi’s attention, and their expressions range from happiness to concern. Only a couple of tails are wagging. Kakashi feels a rush of fondness and then a surge of zealous, almost childish, glee.

“I need to cut my hair.”

Eight heads follow him into the bathroom. “Err, boss? Boss? D’you want some help with that?” the pack ask, watching as he returns with a pair of scissors and then drags the bin over to the mirror. A quick hand-sign produces a clone, a man as equally flat-chested and almost sparkling with excitement. Kakashi’s chakra is brimming beneath his skin. He passes over the scissors, yanking his hair down from its messy bun. He’ll keep the fringe, he decides, and some of the length on top. But the hair spilling over his shoulders and down his back is fair game, and he gestures for the clone to have at it.

The first slice through his hair halves it in length. Kakashi glances at the clone in the mirror and they shrug at one another, and behind them, the pack exchange wonderstruck looks.

“Hey, hey, boss,” Bisuke says, bouncing over. The black rings around his eyes give him a perpetual wonderous stare. “Have you got some clippers? You’ll need clippers, right? I’ll go find you a pair!”

‘Find’ could mean many things. Bisuke dashes off before Kakashi can ask where he’s planning on acquiring this pair of clippers, but perhaps it’s best not to know. The rest of the pack seem to agree, for no-one chases after Bisuke and his vague, hyperactive plan.

“Do you have any idea what you’re doing right now?” Pakkun despairs, although he makes no move to stop Kakashi; none of them do.

“Nope,” answers the clone, still lopping away at Kakashi’s hair. “We’re aiming for short and sweet.”

“Mmm... kinda like dumplings,” Urushi hums.

A chorus of Dumplings!! Boss, boss, can we have dumplings?? follows this observation. Kakashi rolls his eyes, blaming Gai for introducing dumplings to his dogs’ diets. It’s all they ever want anymore. A dumpling inspired haircut certainly isn’t the look that he’s going for (unless he wants to end up with a bowl-cut like Gai) but, truthfully, he doesn’t really know what the end result will be. Neither does the clone, of course, but this doesn’t stop him from snipping away with the scissors.

Bisuke returns just a few minutes later. As promised, a pair of clippers is clamped between his jaws, and the electrical wire bounces against his front legs with every step. His tail wags at a hundred miles an hour. Kakashi’s clone swaps the clippers for a pat, which Bisuke thoroughly enjoys.

“Any idea how to use that?” Kakashi asks the clone. He decides not to enquire about the origin of the clippers, and Bisuke doesn’t seem inclined to share.

The clone turns the clippers over in his hand and says, “Nope. What do the numbers mean?”

“Who knows. Does the blade change lengths?”

They decide on the logic that a higher number means a longer blade. As the clippers whir in the clone’s hand, the two Kakashis look helplessly at one another, their expressions identical: “Does a longer blade cut more hair - or less?” one asks, to which the other replies, “No idea.”

“This is going to be disaster,” Pakkun bemoans from the bed.

The clippers whir and whir and then chomp away a strip of Kakashi’s hair.

“Huh,” says the clone, mismatched eyes blinking. He considers his efforts, glancing between the hair-covered back of Kakashi’s neck and the mirror, where the real Kakashi raises a curious expression. The clone shakes his head and goes back to work. “You’ll like it.”

Some twenty minutes pass. By the end of it, there’s more hair in the bin and on the floor than on Kakashi’s head, but a thrill sparks through him at the sight. The dogs continue to bemoan their lack of dumplings. Kakashi’s head feels light now; he runs his fingers through the choppy strands at the back, marvelling at the sensation. His hair used to be thick and heavy, white lightning twirled up into a stubborn bun. Now it’s short and - lopsided, yes - but it’s distinctly, stereotypically masculine, and Kakashi laughs.

There’s a knock at the front door. At least four of the dogs jump a foot into the air. The clone disappears with a burst of smoke and Kakashi almost trips over the electrical wire as the clippers thud! to the floor. Hastily, he tries to brush the loose hairs from his shoulders to make himself more presentable, but it’s a lost cause. He’ll have to sweep the floorboards and himself and then maybe shower while he’s at it, too. The wards on the door flicker as somebody knocks again. Kakashi’s chakra resonates with it, jumping inside of his chest like cloud-to-cloud lightning in a pattern that can only mean Gai.

“DUMPLINGS!!” the pack yell, charging through the open door. Gai just manages a cheerful greeting of Kakashi! before eight hungry dogs are upon him. He squawks, holding the bag of takeout high over his head. Bull could reach if he tried - and judging by Gai’s look of terror, he knows this - but the rest of the dogs have to settle with jumping and yapping and snapping their greedy jaws.

Kakashi could cancel the summoning and free Gai (and the dumplings) from the scrounging paws of his pack - but where’s the fun in that?

“Yo,” he says instead, saluting. “Come on in. Did you bring enough for everyone?”

Gai weaves his way through the dogs, mindful not to step on any paws. Despite the wiggling onslaught from the pack, he still closes the door behind him and slips out of his shoes, swapping into the least-chewed pair of slippers he can find. The propriety is endearing.

“Of course I brought enough for everyone!” Gai declares, offering a thumbs up as the bag swings over his head. The dogs cheer. “If you would please let me through to the kitchen…?”

This does the trick. The pack race ahead to the kitchen, finally giving Gai a moment to breathe. He’s used to it though - he has to be, after proclaiming himself Kakashi’s friend and rival for so long. There was no way Kakashi was going to date a man who didn’t like his dogs. The pack can be overbearing at times, but Gai has never complained. Kakashi can be overbearing at times, but Gai has never complained about that, either.

“Hey,” Kakashi starts again, now that there’s quiet. He shoves his hands into his pockets, hoping his clothes aren’t covered in too much hair. Gai’s seen him in worse states, mind. “You all right?”

“I am - oh!” Gai starts, finally getting a good look at Kakashi. Surprise lights up his face; his eyes even twinkle. His smile is wide and pleased - in fact, he looks very pleased. “Yet again, I seem to find myself in the company of a most strapping young man! Would he be adverse to dinner? I have a suspicion that I know what he likes…”

It is, by far, one of the dumbest things to come out of Gai’s mouth. Kakashi blushes all the way to his ears.

“Just put it on the table,” Kakashi grumbles, using a hand to cover his face in lieu of a mask. It doesn’t do much to hide his blush, and Gai’s teeth shine with a smile as he leans over and kisses the back of Kakashi’s hand.

“It suits you,” he says - not, in fact, moving into the kitchen. Instead, he settles a hand on Kakashi’s hip and steps right into his space; he’s welcome, he’s nearly always welcome, but Kakashi raises a hand up between them, the touch of his fingertips gentle against Gai’s chest. Gai eases off just a tad, postponing (because there will definitely be more) his next kiss. “All right?”

“DUMPLINGS,” demand the dogs from the kitchen.

“All right,” Kakashi confirms. He’s missing almost an entire head of hair and he’s wearing a binder; it’s the most masculine he’s ever looked and he looks great, but it’s strange not seeing his father’s long ponytail in the mirror, not feeling it trail down his chest. Idly, he wonders what his parents would think of him now. They died long before he questioned his identity, long before they learned they had a son. He supposes he’ll never know - and they’ll never know unless they’re listening in from their graves.

“We should feed the dogs,” Kakashi says, just as idly.

Gai smiles. “Of course,” he says, as reasonable as ever. He squeezes Kakashi’s hip and that’s a kiss in itself. His eyes are bright, content, and he’s unashamedly forthright as he asks, “And then may I take you to bed?”

Kakashi is still blushing. “It’s the hair, isn’t it?” he drones, tugging at Gai’s jumpsuit. It’s caused him many grievances, this jumpsuit, and nearly all of them in bed. It’s probably more difficult to put on than a binder, and Kakashi almost laughs at the thought.

Gai - damn him because he’s a sap - shakes his head. “It’s your smile. I’m happy for you.”

“And that turns you on?”

“Of course!” he declares, only to pause halfway through his victory pose as he realises what an absurd statement this is. “Well - I mean - it doesn’t arouse me, per say…”

Kakashi laughs and takes the bag of dumplings. Gai remains frozen in embarrassment and now his face is as warm and bright as Kakashi’s, and his ears are tinged a dark pink. Kakashi steps past him, nudging Gai’s hand to swivel him around. “Come on, the sooner we feed this lot…”

“THE SOONER WE’LL LEAVE YOU BE,” yell the dogs.

Gai laughs and follows, and his yosh! is quiet and pleased.