Summer tastes like the salt of sweat beading across his upper lip, like day-old breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks and stale crackers found underneath the front seat. The car is old, old enough to be the focus in some of Hatake Sakumo’s college photos. It rattles threateningly when they pass sixty on the speedometer, and always needs a jumpstart at least four times during winter. Still, there’s something homey about it. The seats are worn and comfortable, and even if it takes more elbow grease than necessary to roll the windows up and down (because they’re manual, amazingly enough) it leaves him with a fuzzy sense of nostalgia. Like an old sweater from elementary school that still fits, or the Pokemon VHS tape he found in his parent’s attic last month.
Toshiro sticks his hand out the passenger seat window and splits the rushing air. His hair is tied in a low hanging bun, saving both him and Kakashi from getting whipped by errant strands. The stretch of highway before them is endless, hardly another car in sight. From the old, slightly cracking speakers blares the seventies pop-infused tones of Best of My Love.
Kakashi slumps back against the driver’s seat, one hand on the wheel and the other pressed to his cheek, elbow propped on the door. His silver hair is flat to his head with the force of the wind, dark sunglasses hanging low on his nose. A pretzel rod hangs loosely from his lips, half-forgotten, all the salt licked off. Despite the heat, he stubbornly dons a pair of black sweats—but at least he’d forgone wearing the usual long-sleeve, trading it for a loose white tee emblazoned with a henohenomoheji.
When he catches Toshiro looking, his lips quirk into a crooked grin, a dark eye winking impishly. The responding laugh is torn from his throat by the rushing air. Toshiro smothers his grin against his shoulder.
It’s day three of their spontaneous road trip. Kakashi had shown up at Toshiro’s apartment, his dad’s old car parked illegally on the street, college track pants tucked into socks and his stupid lightning blue crocs on.
At 3AM. With no warning, as usual. How Kakashi had gotten ahold of Toshiro’s vacation schedule is still a mystery, because he sure as hell hadn’t asked Toshiro for it . They’d gotten in the car, two bags of necessities each, and drove. (Or, Kakashi had. Toshiro went right back to sleep. Kakashi might be an insomniac, but Toshiro needs at least eight hours to function like a normal human being.)
Toshiro puts his sock clad feet up on the dash, shorts slipping down to reveal tan lines around his thighs. Kakashi whistles obnoxiously.
“Eyes on the road, perv.” Toshiro wrinkles his freckled nose, rosy eyes dancing with the laughter he stifles. Outside, the sun burns down upon their speedy little car, reflecting off passing trees and traffic lines painted into dark asphalt. He squints against the glare, too comfortable to attempt locating his own pair of sunglasses.
The next track on Sakumo’s mixtape plays, and Kakashi bites down sharply on his pretzel before taking the leftovers and tossing it out his open window.
The hand at the steering wheel begins to tap out the beat. Kakashi opens his mouth to sing, voice unfairly smooth. “She was a fast machine, she kept her motor clean—”
“She was the best damn woman that I had ever seen!” Toshiro throws his head back against the seat, belting out the next few lines of lyrics. Kakashi’s head bobs as the chorus hits, and they sing along in unison. “ You shook me all night long!”
It makes Toshiro remember the summer they met. Heat waves hanging over cracked streets and the buzz of cicadas thick in his ears. Sweet sixteen, gangly and half-grown, thinking they were more mature than they really were. They made out in a movie theater parking lot on a dare, the taste of too-salty popcorn on their slush-dyed tongues and their friends laughing uproariously around them.
A decade later and Toshiro doesn’t regret looking Uchiha Shisui in the eye and leaning in to kiss Hatake Kakashi, the taunt of no balls! echoing in his ears. He’s sure the other man doesn’t regret it either—
Kakashi flashes a grin that’s all teeth, cheek puckered with a single dimple. He’s still wearing those damn crocs while driving.
Utah is twisting canyons and desert; it’s dry heat that makes his throat ache and his white tee damp with sweat. A baseball cap is slung low over his eyes, his previously misplaced sunglasses now carefully worn. He clings to the straps of his backpack and turns his head every which way. Buckskin Gulch is the most beautiful place Toshiro has ever seen. Hot and dusty, sure, but the towering walls of red and the clack of rocks shifting under his feet are mesmerizing. The shade of the gulch is a welcome relief, though the air is still hot enough to make it feel as if he’s baking.
Kakashi is a few feet ahead, sauntering with a perpetual slouch. His wild silver hair is stubbornly tucked under a green baseball cap he stole from Gai three years back.
“Watch your step here.” He says over his shoulder. His sleeves are rolled up to his armpits, showing off the bright red tattoo he’d gotten their senior year of high school.
Toshiro carefully steps over a few wobbly stones, catching up to the taller man. He slips his arm through Kakashi’s, pressing his lips to that bold, swirling tattoo and tasting the salt of sweat. Kakashi’s pale enough that the heat makes his skin flush easily—the telltale signs of sunburn visible on the back of his neck, even after three coats of sunscreen—and at Toshiro’s easy affection the reddish hue across the man’s cheekbones darkens three shades.
“Remember junior year, when the principal caught Genma and Raidou making out in the janitor’s closet?”
“And he told them ‘ finally, do you know how painful it was to watch you two’?” Kakashi mutters, one hand trailing along the looming, curved wall of crimson.
“They were so worried about getting shit on for liking guys,” Toshiro muses, “I just thought they were ballsy to get handsy at school, of all places.”
“No one that mattered cared anyway.” Kakashi drawls. “...Why bring it up?”
Toshiro slides his arm down, lightly trailing his fingers across the warm flesh of Kakashi’s wrist. He pushes their fingers together gently, and Kakashi shifts his own to fit them together like it’s as natural as breathing. Even years later, this simple act makes Toshiro dizzy with adoration. Like a kid on his first date, butterflies dance in his gut—his pulse throbs in his neck, echoing a thunderous heartbeat.
“After that, I realized I was in love with you.”
Kakashi wobbles on a stone, almost losing his balance. His dark sunglasses slip, resting low on his nose. He glances at Toshiro with wide, startled eyes, an awkward cough squeezed from his throat. “Really? That long? I thought it was…”
“The carnival during our freshman year of college?” Toshiro suggests. He remembers the dim, smoky atmosphere of the House of Mirrors. He remembers Kakashi’s hand in his, remembers Kakashi’s body pressing him into the bike rack afterwards, driving them to a fumbling, sloppy completion. The taste of Kakashi’s mouth—cotton candy he’d been reluctant to eat, the salt of a hot dog with too much relish—seared into his tongue. Toshiro had been so mortified that night, having to bike home with wet shorts, cum slipping down his thighs after Kakashi had fled in humiliation and panic.
He’d also been so wonderfully, desperately in love.
Kakashi nods. “Maa...That’s...when I. Realized. Probably.” He grins with his eyes, lips pursed. “Those shorts you wore that night were criminal. I should’a called the cops for public indecency.”
“Funny, from someone who walks around reading porn in public.”
“It’s literature, Toshiro. Literature.”
Toshiro rolls his eyes, unseen under his sunglasses. “You’re incorrigible.”
“Sorry, did you say something?”
Toshiro smacks Kakashi’s arm, far too used to the man’s mocking nature. Loosening their hands, he dances away with his arms spread out for balance. Red dirt and sediment clings to his shoes, kicked up with every exuberant step. He feels so miniscule beside the sloping, towering rock. The natural shapes of the earth warp and twist like an abstract painting, bleeding shades of fiery orange to deep vermillion.
“I… I want to be happy with you. Now and in the future…” He whispers into the air, his words echoing softly around them. “For as long as you’ll have me.”
The sound of footfalls pauses, stones loosely clattering under Kakashi’s crocs. “Forever, then.” He says, like it’s the simplest thing in the world.
Toshiro flushes, a deep, glowing shade of crimson that has nothing to do with the heat. He spins on his heel with a beaming, bashful smile plastered to his face, kicking up red dust. “Yeah, forever sounds nice.”
Kakashi blinks two dark eyes at him in return, expression unfathomable. “Do you think we could get away with doing it right here?”
“Aaaand you ruined the moment.”