A/N: Sorry, short chapter!

Chapter 48: Safe

Kakashi was aware of someone, most likely Minato (oh yes it was, Kakashi confirmed, as the information from the dispelled shadow clone organised in his mind), cuddling him, but the boy kept his eyes closed and breathing even.

The man's skin was sickly pale, and his hand was trembling as he nervously ran it through Kakashi's hair in a comforting manner. Comforting who – himself or the little boy in his arms -, Kakashi didn't know.

Kakashi stirred slowly, fluttering his eyelashes open as though he'd just regained consciousness. He let a soft groan slip through his lips.

"Kakashi!" Minato cried immediately, voice coated with strangled fear and other heavily twisting emotions that feed Kakashi's guilt.

Kakashi supposed a normal response should've been "what happened?" or something equally as muddled, but what he'd said instead was an insistent "I'm fine," because Kakashi really couldn't bear watching the man worry himself into a frantic. Were this occurring outside the confines of their home, Minato wouldn't have been showing this weakness of his as strongly as now. Minato knew the importance of compartmentalizing and keeping a professional front in front of his fellow jounins. But as it was, they were home with no one but family in sight, and Minato was never one to hide his true self from the ones he trusted the most. He could easily pretended he wasn't affected by this whole ordeal, but he also didn't want Kakashi not to realise just how much his presence and life mattered to him.

Minato was directing Kakashi into his own room now, arms wrapped gently around the silver-haired boy like he was afraid that tightening any further would dissipate Kakashi into smoke and air; like the Kakashi in his arms was nothing more than an mere illusion and any attempts to truly hold him would break this beautiful dream of his. Kakashi's heart ached at the idea of that, so he'd taken the initiative instead. With strong gripping arms, as strong as his seven-year-old muscles would allow, Kakashi curled against Minato, pulling the man into a tight, suffocating hug.

Kakashi could feel the blond suddenly dropping inelegantly onto the bed, shocking him to lessening his grip in fear he'd harmed his guardian. But the moment he did, Minato's grabbed on to him instead, unwilling to lose the contact. The silver-haired boy lifted his head from where it was pressed into Minato's chest, glancing up into the blond's face for the first time.

Cerulean eyes stared back down at him, shining with so much feeling, all revolving around the single idea of Kakashi's real, Kakashi's alive, Kakashi's here, Kakashi's safe.

"I'm fine, Minato. Stop looking so worried."

The man buried his face into Kakashi's unruly silver locks. "I almost lost you," the man said in a voice sounding so lost and distressed, Kakashi didn't know how to answer. So he didn't. Instead, Kakashi allowed Minato to hold onto him until the small tremors in the blond's arms started to fade away.

It wasn't much later when the Namikaze finally let him go, the sun fully sunken, and the room heavily dimmed in shadows. "Why don't you sleep with me today?" the blond asked, patting the double sized bed he was sitting on.

"I'm not a kid," Kakashi responded immediately. Idly, the boy wondered when was the last time he'd crawled into his own father's bed, letting the man ward off his nightmares and horrors while he slept. Kakashi let his eyes wander before fixing on Minato's ever-pale hands, the only evidence left of his panic his tightly clenched fists.

Had Kakashi been a normal child, the man might have lost him (surely Danzou would have released him sooner or later, but how deeply buried would his poisonous whispers been dug in a child's malleable mind, rooted there forever on?), but Minato didn't know he wasn't normal; or that Kakashi wouldn't have let himself be exploited by the likes of Danzou (or whoever Minato thought was behind this attempted kidnapping). Minato knew Kakashi strong, knew Kakashi trained by himself occasionally, knew Kakashi was something of a prodigy, but like every shinobi, Minato also knew that knowledge and experience were two different things – especially when abruptly thrown in actual combat situations. Children could work efficiently around a dummy, but everything was different once the situation tilted on the scale from 'just training' to 'fighting for his life'.

Kakashi wouldn't have frozen up like scared seven-year-old child, but like everything else, Minato couldn't have known that. All Minato knew was that something had happened to Kakashi, until he was saved from the one person who both confused and irked Minato the most. All Minato knew was that the Copy-cat had Kakashi, and for all he knew, the man wouldn't have surrendered him back if Minato had not come home at that moment and demanded he do so. Minato couldn't have known anything that truly occurred, and Kakashi had worried the blond more than he could imagine. "But maybe just today," Kakashi finished softly, trying not to say it like it was a mere afterthought.

Minato grinned widely at the silver-haired boy's answer, but the light in his eyes never reached the level of cheeriness his face expressed, still dimmed by lingering fright. "Great. I'll grab an extra blanket."

The man got up towards his closet, leaving Kakashi sat on the bed. The boy's eyes fell on a familiar photograph of the two of them, propped up in a frame on the bedside drawer. It was the same photograph that was in Kakashi's own room, standing at the front of his bed beside Mr. Ukki Junior. Kakashi prodded at the picture, understanding how much he'd meant to Minato– just as much as Minato meant to him, if their reasons for placing the picture by the head of the bed were the same, daily reminding themselves of the people they would never let down. If not more, Kakashi noted to himself in a short afterthought, remembering the bright shining heart that the Namikaze possessed, twice as large as anyone he'd ever met. If anything else, dwelling on this only tied stronger, thicker knots around his conscience-stricken heart.

Kakashi crawled into the double-size bed when Minato came back with an arm-full of blankets, curling up in the tangle of sheets, reminiscent of his ninken. Minato join him not a moment later, but only after he wrapped up the silver-haired boy in the blankets with care.

There was silence in the room as the two of them laid quietly in the soothing company of the other. Minato kept a large warm hand on Kakashi's back, as if continuously confirming to himself that Kakashi was still in front of him. Kakashi almost missed it when, for a second time, the blond whispered out, "I almost lost you." His voice was so light, it drifted out almost like a haunting spirit, unable to be caught and lingering uncomfortably for a lifetime.

But this time Kakashi knew what to say. "You didn't. You won't."

Minato's warm, protecting hand tightened. "If he hadn't come, I would have! You were against a trained shinobi. An …" An Anbu, Kakashi knew Minato wanted to say, but the blond couldn't because Anbu were loyal to the Hokage, and the blond didn't want to scare Kakashi with thoughts of betrayal and treason. "And you don't have any training to go against people like them," Minato finished instead.

But Kakashi did; except it wasn't something the boy could admit.

"I don't want to lose you, Kakashi. Ever," Minato murmured out, arms once more wrapped in a shielding hold around the silver-haired boy, as though he wished he could pull the boy into that defensive hug forever, and never let any more evils of the world touch even a strand of Kakashi's soft silver hair. "But I'm not always here, and if this happens again while you are all alone…" the blond trailed off, unable to finish his sentence.

"I know," Kakashi said, in place of the protest that his older, trained self wanted make.

Minato started speaking slowly, knowing the end results, but wanting to at least hope there was a chance Kakashi would change his mind. "I know you've declined going to the Academy, but would you consider it once more? I don't want to force you to do something you don't like, but it would calm my heart to know you've learned some jutsu and have some knowledge of the workings of shinobi. I've seen you train, so I know you are strong, but there are things that constant sparring won't teach you."

Kakashi didn't answer.

"Please, Kakashi?" Minato continued pleadingly. "Just one school year? I won't ask you again."

Kakashi allowed a short silence between then before he asked a quiet "when?"

"Starting next term?" the blond asked hopefully.

Kakashi heaved a small sigh, knowing he wouldn't be able to talk his way out of the protective blond's plans. And somewhere in his mind, Kakashi knew he already owed the blond so much for lying to him, and the least he could do was to concede with such a simple wish. So, in the end, with an agreement that lit Minato's eyes brightly in relief, and scorched out the last of the blond's worry that kept him from relaxing into his embrace with Kakashi, Kakashi decided to attend the Academy.

A/N: Just a fyi, I'll be disappearing from updating this fic for a little while - maybe a few months? For the remainder of the month, before the fall term begins, I want to focus on finishing up other chapters and stories that are still half-finished in my folders. Afterwards, I'll likely be bogged down by my courses, so I don't know how my updating schedule will be like.