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The amount of people Kakashi generally allows into his space can be counted on one hand. He’s long since learned that people often bring disappointment, or a vague sense of unease with their personalities shifting below a placid face that assures him everything’s all right. It’s easier, he thinks, to give himself to the dogs and whatever captures his interest at any given moment.

Snow falls soft outside, blanketing the world in white and stealing even the noises of the house settling as he sits on the couch, one arm curled to his chest and the other draped across Pakkun’s back. His fingers give the occasional twitch, as though trying to give the poor pug a pet, but everything is so still, so calm, that it almost feels like a sin to break it with the scratch of nails across fur. 

The world has narrowed to him and the dog and the blanket he’s under, and he closes his eyes and tips his head back as he basks in the silence.

His thoughts, though few, are loud over the whispering rush of his heartbeat in his ears. If he tries, he can narrow it down to a single thread that wraps him in wanting--he wants one person, and that person is the only one he’d be willing to share these precious moments where sense falls away into sensation with. 

Wind whistles low outside, an echo of the faint loneliness that sits on Kakashi’s heart wherever he goes. It sounds like a lost soul, searching for a place to rest and a place where it is understood. Kakashi knows all too well the feeling of drifting aimlessly, of picking up and whisking himself away at a moment’s notice. He feels a kinship with the force that powers town and tempest alike, though he’ll never admit it out loud.

He enjoys these days off, free of responsibilities and the children he’s been tasked with educating. There’s nothing to force him into some facade of normalcy here, not under this roof and in this space he’s carved for himself away from the rest of the world.

His body aches with the want to feel Iruka by his side, to feel the warm weight of an arm that glides effortlessly around shoulders that take on too much. Kakashi misses him on days like today, because of the few people he allows himself to draw close to, Iruka has become his favorite.  He’s become the one Kakashi expects to see in the morning when he arrives at school, and the last one he bids goodbye to as he walks out the doors.

Sometimes Iruka comes over on snow days, or when Kakashi’s tired of the rest of the world falling away. If Kakashi is the wind above, then Iruka is the sea below. He seeps into every crack of Kakashi’s life like cool water, easing the aches and pains of what Kakashi’s held to himself for far too long. He allows Kakashi to swim deep and suss out what’s hidden in his depths, and at the same time, he allows Kakashi to float, weightless as he surrenders himself to a friend’s presence.

A friend who Kakashi wishes wasn’t just a friend. 

His cell phone lights up on the coffee table, cutting through the dimness with the light of Iruka’s scarred face. Kakashi’s smile matches Iruka’s in the contact photo as he picks up.

Hey!” Iruka says before Kakashi has a chance to speak. “ Down for a movie day? I figure it’s been a while, and the storm’s stopped for now, so if you’re free, I’ve got the extended Lord of the Rings movies and some snacks with your name on them.”

I’d like that,” Kakashi says quietly, but loud enough to earn himself a dissatisfied grunt from Pakkun as he’s roused from sleep. “We’ll be waiting.”

Be there in twenty. Or, well, probably forty, with how the roads are looking.” Kakashi hears the clatter of blinds, and then a low growl as Iruka lets them fall. “ I swear, they don’t do any plowing until the last possible minute.”

I’m sure they’re attacking the highways and main roads first,” Kakashi says. “You’ll be safe?”

Can’t be an elementary teacher without thinking safety, am I right?” Iruka asks, and Kakashi hums out a soft laugh. 

Shouldn’t,” he corrects. “We’ve both seen our fair share of unsafe things at work, hm?”

Yeah, yeah, shouldn’t,” Iruka says. Kakashi can hear the smile in his voice. “ I’ll be over there before eleven, at any rate. Get ready for your mind to be blown.”

Kakashi would tell Iruka he always manages to blow his mind if he could, but the words tangle in his throat and before he can untangle them, he’s said his goodbyes and set the phone back on the table. Pakkun looks up at him when he presses his hands over his face, groaning.

“I know, I know,” he sighs. “Some day, Pakkun. Some day I’ll say it.”

Some day, like he hasn’t been wishing for that someday for months now. 

He flops back onto the couch and pulls the blanket over his eyes, shutting the world out as his brow knits in irritation. It should be simple, shouldn’t it? All the movies, all the books, the articles, the stories people tell him--it’s so easy to love, but no one ever says how hard it is to keep that love trapped inside your chest where it lights up every part of you.

Uhei, Bull, and Bisuke eventually wander in from their perch on his bed to settle by his side, noses freezing as they seek out his company. It’s so much easier with them, because they take what he has to give and multiply it tenfold. There’s no worrying that they’ll reject him, no worrying that they don’t feel the same, because they don’t feel the same way Iruka does.

It’s what he loves about them, but he can’t help the way he craves something more.

Something to fill the space he’s carved out for another person inside his chest. 

Iruka’s knock on the door comes too quickly, pulling Kakashi back to the real world with a soft noise of shock. He scrambles and nearly plants his face into the door as he trips over the blanket tangling his ankles, then the dogs rushing to see who dares disturb their quiet day with master. 

“It’s just me, no worries,” Iruka assures them as he wades through the sea of fur. “And no, I don’t have treats for you now, you’ll have to wait until I dig them out of here.” He shakes the strap of his bag, and Kakashi falls just a little more in love at the simple gesture and the way Iruka’s gaze is teasing as it meets his. “I’ve got other things to worry about before feeding all of them, right?”

“Right.” Kakashi swallows hard, sweeping his arm down the hallway and watching as Iruka takes off his boots and pads down the hall in ridiculous, fluffy socks. He follows after to see the other man plopping the bag down on the counter and pulling out all sorts of snacks before finally calling the dogs for theirs.

“You thought I would come without some presents for you,” he coos as they lap at his fingers. “How heartless do you think I am?”

Not at all catches on Kakashi’s tongue, held back by teeth that are just a little too large and lips that pull to the side from his scars. Instead, he picks up Pakkun and hides behind his face. “The worst,” he says gruffly. “How dare you not pay attention to us immediately?”

Iruka’s smile is somehow loud amongst the jangling collars, even before he lets his head tip back with a hearty laugh. “The worst,” he agrees. “If you want to go start these--” He hands the DVDs to Kakashi. “I can get the popcorn and some bowls ready. Have snacks, will sit on couch and lounge with you all day.” 

Kakashi can’t help but smile back, ducking his head as he feels a flush spreading across his cheeks. “Hands first,” he says, and mimics rinsing his own. “I know where those mouths have been.”

“Terrible places, I’m sure.”

“Uhei was chewing on a dead rabbit late last night,” Kakashi says. “And I think Bull got some of it, too.” When he looks up, Iruka’s got a weird look on his face, and he kicks himself for oversharing. “You didn’t need to know that.”

“I mean, I do prefer thinking of them as little angels who can do no wrong, but...I like it when you tell me about your days,” Iruka says. “What else did they do?”

“Not much,” Kakashi mumbles as he turns and flees to the living room. His fingers tremble as he takes out the disc and puts it in, the whining hum of the TV loud enough in his ears to drown out the whoosh of his pulse. He very briefly considers taking his binder off so he can just breathe, but the sound of Iruka leaning against the doorframe has him reconsidering. 

“Everything okay?” he asks quietly.

Kakashi takes a deep breath, pasting a smile on as the DVD menu comes up. It’s an excuse not to look at the way he’s sure Iruka’s eyes are creased in concern, and he takes advantage. “Yeah, just really didn’t do much besides find the rabbit,” he says. He hears popping from the microwave, as well as the jingle of a collar and Iruka whispering incoherent nonsense to a dog. “Just went on a walk. It was cold.”

“I think we’re supposed to get another round of storms tonight,” Iruka muses. “Probably be colder, with all the snow to melt into your clothes.”

That’s another thing Kakashi could go without during the winter, and he says as much before Iruka retreats at the ding of the microwave. 

“I doubt it’s pleasant for anyone,” Iruka calls from the kitchen over the sound of Kakashi dragging blankets off of the side chairs and to the couch. “After all, I--” he waltzes in with Kakashi’s stainless mixing bowl in one hand and a package of cookies in the other-- “really prefer to get wet of my own accord.”

Two seconds too late, after he’s already nodded seriously, Kakashi registers the gleam in Iruka’s eye. “Oh,” he manages, nearly choking. “Yeah, me, I, uh, yeah, me too.”

Iruka winks, and Kakashi’s stomach twists with want and nerves in equal measure. Instead of acting on it, he perches on the opposite end of the couch from Iruka and pulls his blanket over his shoulders as some pitiful protection. Fantastic beasts and rolling hills fill the screen as the movie begins, and their hands alternate digging in the bowl between them.

After a time, Kakashi’s heart slows to a dull thud in his ears, and he allows himself a glance over at Iruka. The other man’s face is lit with the bright light of the mid-afternoon sun streaming through the blinds, their shadows dancing when Bisuke’s tail accidentally knocks into them as he dreams on the floor. Of all the things Kakashi thinks he could be grateful for about Iruka, he thinks the scar that cuts across his nose is one of the things he appreciates most.

He doesn’t know the story of it, nor does Iruka know the story of his, but it’s something that ties them together, even if it makes Iruka handsome and Kakashi...well, Iruka called it rugged once, but Kakashi hasn’t found it in himself to love the way knotted tissue carves across his face.

When Kakashi gets up to begin the second movie and Iruka gets up for the bathroom, Kakashi lets out a slow, wavering sigh. The storm outside has started up again, the wind more of a high whistle than a mournful howl as it slams against the side of the house. He asks Iruka about it when he gets back, and Iruka plants himself back on the couch.

“I’d rather stay here, if that’s okay.”

“It might be dangerous later,” Kakashi says, no force behind the protest.

Iruka notices, and Iruka grins. “Are you trying to get rid of me so soon, Kakashi?”

“No,” Kakashi says, looking over with a crooked smile. “I like you here.”

Iruka’s soft sigh of pleasure will haunt Kakashi’s dreams tonight, smoothing away the rattle of the wind on the shutters and the clattering of ice on the siding. “Good,” he says softly, “because I like being here with you.”

Kakashi doesn’t know what to say to that, and so he remains quiet as he sits back on the couch and presses play. A soaring theme rises to send a shiver down his spine, and when Iruka’s fingers brush against his in the snack bowl, he tells himself it’s still just the music. It has to be, because Iruka likes being here. He didn’t say he loves it, or enjoys it…

He likes it, and that’s enough for Kakashi today.

The storm outside begins to truly rage around the Battle of Helm’s Deep, whipping snow and ice into an impenetrable shield around them as Iruka moves the bowl into his lap and shuffles closer to Kakashi. 

Kakashi remains still, silent, because he thinks that if he so much as breathes, Iruka might wake up and realize exactly what he’s doing. He doesn’t want him to. He wants Iruka to keep his head on his shoulder, because that’s one weight he doesn’t mind carrying. He wants Iruka’s heat to warm him even through the layers of clothes and blankets, because it’s cold with the storm, and he likes the way it makes light bloom out from the middle of his chest. 

He wonders if Iruka knows exactly how much he cares, how many layers of discomfort he’s managed to push through to get to the point of enjoying this. Iruka’s hair tickles his neck and as Kakashi listens to the quiet noises of contentment fade to the deep, even breathing of Iruka at rest, he hopes that one day he might be able to wake to that same sound. 

The movie ends, but Iruka doesn’t wake. 

Kakashi lets him sleep. He needs it--he’s got an almost superhuman ability to stretch himself past the point of thin and straight into nothingness, and Kakashi knows he’s up at all hours of the night working on projects to better the classroom he puts so much of his time into already. Once, he told Kakashi that coming over was his down-time and that he appreciated the invitations. Kakashi hasn’t forgotten the way the other man’s eyes crinkled with the force of his smile as he’d clapped a hand on Kakashi’s shoulder and laughed at the shocked expression on his face. 

There comes a point where Kakashi begins to worry they’re going to stay here all day, because the dogs are beginning to dance around the door like they do when they need to go out. He very carefully tries to push Iruka up to sit by himself, but doesn’t quite get there before standing, and Iruka faceplants into the couch only to wake with a sputter.

“Kakashi?” he asks blearily, rubbing at his eyes as Kakashi stands there, wringing his hands. “What’s up?”

“The dogs need to go out,” Kakashi says. “But you were sleeping, and I didn’t want to wake you up, but I didn’t want to leave them, and--”

“Thank you,” Iruka interrupts, effectively stopping the spiral of explanation. His hair falls in his eyes as he sits up and ruffles it. “How long was I out?”

“About an hour and a half after the movie ended,” Kakashi says.

Iruka waves him toward the dogs before covering a yawn with the back of his hand. “You could’ve woken me up, I wouldn’t have minded. I didn’t come here to sleep.”

No, you came here to rest, Kakashi thinks as he leashes everyone, and if I can do one thing for you, it’s allow you time for that. 

When he opens the door, he realizes the Christmas songs are right. A fire would be delightful, because the storm’s frightening in its intensity. The dimming sun is almost whited out by the force of the gale that’s swept snow against the door and effectively stopped any traffic on the roads, and Kakashi’s breath is stolen away by the frigid winds. 

Iruka doesn’t fare much better, if his muttered holy shit is anything to go by. He walks up behind Kakashi and leans against the door, gnawing on his lip. “Well, I didn’t think it’d get this bad.”

“You, um, didn’t happen to bring any extra clothes?” Kakashi asks. “I...don’t think you’re leaving any time soon.”

“So threatening,” Iruka murmurs, but when Kakashi looks back worriedly, there’s only mirth in his eyes. “Are you asking me to stay the night?”

“I-I’m--” Kakashi gapes for a second before turning back to the dogs, watching them attempt to find a proper place to do their business. “No. Yes? I...I don’t--” He’s cut off by a loud pop from somewhere in the vicinity, and then the whoosh of electricity fading from the block. “Uh…”

“Well, fuck,” Iruka says for him. He steps closer and puts a hand on Kakashi’s shoulder in the near-darkness, peering out to see what he can. “Can I stay here tonight?”

“I don’t want you getting hurt out there,” Kakashi says.

“Is that a yes?”

Kakashi decides that in this moment, an indulgence is worth it. “It’s a please,” he says softly. “Please stay safe with me.”