Naruto wasn't exactly surprised to find Kakashi lingering on his couch in his apartment. The man had a tendency to just appear in places unannounced, which was second none to his tendency to never be anywhere on time.
What was surprising, though, was that he was nearly bowled over by the overwhelming scent of alcohol the moment he walked through the door. It didn't compute.
Kakashi wheeled around to look at him, one hand grabbing the back of the couch to steady himself. He squinted at Naruto, and the blond was more than a little speechless, because Kakashi didn't squint at anyone. It was actually...adorable, with his nose scrunched up and tiny creases between his eyes.
"Oh hey," he said in greeting, lifting one hand to wave while simultaneously collapsing bonelessly against the couch cushions.
"Are you…" Naruto let the word roll around a moment, testing it because he still didn't quite believe it. "...drunk?"
"Yeah, I think so." He didn't really slur, but his words sounded heavy and very precise, like he was ever so carefully pronouncing each and every syllable. Naruto studied what he could of his sensei's silver countenance over the couch cushions before giving up. He marched to the side of the couch and peered down at him.
Kakashi looked at him in what seemed vaguely like confusion, as though Naruto was suddenly not where he was expected. He could see the mans lips move below his mask, forming a small o of surprise. With a blush dancing across the tops of his fair cheeks and dusting his ears, Kakashi certainly looked the part of a drunk.
"Why?" Naruto asked after a long moment. He'd known Kakashi for quite a few years at this point and never once had he been drunk. In fact, Naruto could never remember Kakashi even accepting so much as a sip of alcohol.
"Whysm I—" He faltered, something vaguely horrified on his face. Naruto almost hooted with laughter but reined himself in. "Why am I drunk?" Kakashi asked precisely, confirming Naruto's thoughts. His sensei was trying his damndest to sound his normal eloquent self. The blond nodded vigorously. "...I don't know."
"Then why are you here, not home? Or with Gai-sensei? I know for sure he would have...you could have had a great time with a drinking challenge." And Naruto faltered midway because a sad look passed over Kakashi's face, and he was suddenly struck dumb because this man had clearly drunk himself silly all by himself. It wasn't lost on him that drinking alone was a bad thing.
"I don't know," Kakashi repeated mournfully.
It took exactly no seconds for Naruto to make up his mind. "Okay. Up," he said as he walked around the end of the couch. Kakashi stared uncomprehendingly at him. "I'm going to sit right there." He pointed at the place currently half occupied by his sensei. The man hauled himself up falteringly. It gave Naruto just enough time to sit down before Kakashi collapsed with an inelegant oof, head thumping into Naruto's thigh. Naruto couldn't help the chuckle that escaped him at his sensei's bewildered expression. He gently patted the top of his head, fingertips tickled by the softness of Kakashi's snowy silver hair.
Naruto had never done that before, and from Kakashi's expression, the man didn't know what to make of it. He set about carefully sitting up again and this time managed to stay upright.
It didn't actually surprise Naruto that Kakashi was a soft and quiet drunk, with his ungainly limbs and emotions that would be too easy to read if he didn't hide behind his mask. He leaned into Naruto's shoulder like a touch starved child, and Naruto was reminded that Kakashi never really got to be a child. He had been five years old and already a soldier grieving a dead parent in the midst of a war.
And Naruto hated it. Hated that it had taken him years to recognize the loneliness that kept Kakashi's heart so far away. Years to notice how the loneliness resonated in his sensei to the tune of Naruto's very own soul.
So lost in his thoughts, Naruto didn't catch it the first time during their fumbling conversation that Kakashi mumbled something something sensei. He thought he heard it the second time and just frowned. When Kakashi just casually slipped and said Minato, Naruto's mind ground to a halt.
Because fuck. What was he supposed to say? What did he say to his sensei? To this gloriously intelligent, horribly wounded, fantastically drunk man? He had absolutely zero clue what to do, because Kakashi gave him a mournful sad look and it gutted him. He had no power. No way to fix this.
He turned his eyes away, his heart clenching in his chest. He counted to ten. He let the shock slip away.
Naruto looked back and smiled. "Kakashi, you know it's me, right?"
He looked at Naruto with wide grey eyes. He tried not to think about standing on a battlefield with a black sky overhead and his hand gently covering Kakashi's missing left eye. He tried not to think of reaching into Kakashi's very being to find something to replace his eye with and for a quarter heartbeat finding nothing in his broken soul.
"Who else...would you be?"
And Naruto thought about it, but it really didn't take that long. He did know what to say. "Maybe today I'm just a friend?" He wanted to also say that maybe for today he wasn't just Kakashi's student, not just his teammate, certainly not just his beloved dead sensei's son. Articulating that was too hard. Kakashi was giving him an odd look of confusion. "Maybe today, you can just talk to me, and I can just listen?"
"Ah." The man slouched back against the couch, wobbly like he could fall while seated. His gaze drifted down to where the fingers of one hand fretted at the cuff of a glove. "That might—that might be nice." He said no more, lost in contemplation. Naruto could see the shadows growing behind his eyes. And heavens, Naruto understood. He knew why Kakashi was here, why of all the places and all the people he could go to see in his state, he'd gone to Naruto.
He rekindled his smile and nudged Kakashi's shoulder affectionately. He lifted his eyes and the clouds parted slowly under the sun of Naruto's smile. "Tell me what's on your mind."
Kakashi cleared his throat and his words came slow, like he was remembering how to speak. "Have I...ever told you about my dad and clan?"
Naruto remembered hearing just once about the White Fang of the Leaf. He shook his head. "No, not at all," he said. "What was he like?" If he wasn't looking so intently, he might have missed the little spark in Kakashi's eyes when he started speaking.
He listened to Kakashi paint stories of a noble, caring man, who had guided his son on pilgrimages deep into snow capped mountains, to places known only to the dwindling Hatake clan. He spoke of the far lands of the wolves, the physical route that could be taken to reach the place where he summoned his ninken from, how his father had carried him there through waist deep snow as a toddler to be judged by the great white wolves that allowed shinobi to form contracts. He talked about his family home, set far away from the village and almost hidden in the foothills of the mountains. It was so far out that it had survived Pein's assault entirely unscathed.
He spoke until the late hours of the night, until the alcohol slowed him down, eyelids drooping closed. "Bed time," Naruto murmured the second time Kakashi's speech faltered. "You can stay here."
It didn't take much prompting to get him to draw his legs up on the couch and curl into the cushions. He was already asleep by the time Naruto returned with a blanket. He tucked his sensei in with a tender hand regardless. Kakashi deserved that. He was trying.
Coming to Naruto had been him asking for help. The man was stubborn and proud and terrified of the pain that clutched his heart. But Kakashi knew there wasn't a shadow that could stand against Naruto, and it wasn't lost on the blond what it meant. That Kakashi trusted him with his darkness—trusted him to banish it.
Naruto would listen for years, if that's what it took to wash it all away.