Though the Cold Wind Blows

by BitterEloquence

Disclaimer: Alas, I don't have the creative genius to create characters like Kakashi and Iruka. Pity, I can think of so many things to do to them though.

Winter had swooped down on Konoha with an animal fury to dig its claws deeply into the forest-bound village. Ice gathered on the trees and snow piled up in the streets as the denizens of the village tried to deal with the unexpectedly vicious weather.

Iruka hated winter with a passion.

Not because it was bitterly cold, though that certainly added to his hatred, but because his students loved it, and loved playing in it. This meant every field exercise he might try to conduct would inevitably end in a snow-fight with a bunch of half-trained ninja who thought it cute to mix stones in with their tightly packed snowballs and disrupt his class with them. And these fights always ended in bruises and usually tears from some weaker child who'd been picked on by an overzealous brat.

Yes, Iruka hated winter. Because if the monsters weren't trying to bean each other with rock-loaded snowballs, they were driving him up a wall with their pent-up version of minihell known as class. For some reason, the closer winter break approached, the more kids seemed to become unable to sit still and pay attention. It left the poor chuunin ready to yank his hair out in frustration or beat his head against the desk. The days dragged on interminably as Iruka lost a bit more of his patience and sanity to hyperactive brats who should have known better then to screw around with their teacher so close to the end of the term. A record amount of punishments and after-school lessons were given out in that time.

Thankfully, for everyone's sanity, it finally came to an end and winter break arrived. Iruka wanted to cry with relief. He spent one solitary hour in his emptied classroom trying to grade papers, then he, too, gave up. Perhaps his students weren't the only ones who were impatient for winter break to start.

Not that he had much waiting for him at home. His lover was away on some high-priority mission to destinations unknown for an undisclosed amount of time. Which meant he probably wouldn't see hide nor hair of Kakashi over the entire break, knowing his luck. Feeling decidedly low, Iruka slunk out of the Academy well bundled and prepared for the bitter bite of the cold as he sloughed through ankle deep slush on his way to get some ramen from Ichiraku.

Things were far too quiet without Naruto's boisterous presence to disrupt the peace. Iruka missed the blond-haired boy more then he'd though possible and he felt it most keenly as he sat on the chilly stool inside Ichiraku and waited for his ramen to be made. This had been a special place for the Kyuubi host and himself. Though the boy was only away for training for another year or so, it felt like he'd never see him again. Go figure, you never really noticed you were alone until there were no more excited cries of your name and tackle-hugs from a pre-pubescent kid.

Maybe that was how he and Kakashi had drifted together. They had both been alone and both had been missing the remains of what had once been Team Seven. Sure, Sakura was still around. Though Tsunade kept her so busy, it was rare to see her pop her head out of the Hokage's tower anytime in the daylight hours.

Neither man knew where Sasuke was now. It was a hushed sort of unspoken taboo in the village to utter his name. Was it any surprise they had started out as something akin to tense friends before it evolved into something else?

In the beginning, he and Kakashi had met at the Ichiraku once or twice a week to talk about the 'good times' as they had come to be called. At first, they traded stories about Kakashi's former team and that eventually led to Iruka shocking the jounin with tales of his somewhat...checkered past.

Kakashi had actually looked amused as a slightly buzzed Iruka told him about some of the pranks he'd pulled back in his academy days. The jounin had proclaimed Iruka was nowhere near as innocent as he'd once thought the man to be, and things... had progressed from there.

The dark-haired chuunin wasn't completely certain when he came to the realization that he was in love with Kakashi, but he knew he still hadn't gotten up the guts to tell the other man his feelings. The ninja lifestyle wasn't very conducive to forming lasting emotional bonds and getting close to people. Loving someone meant stepping out on an emotional limb that Iruka just wasn't quite up to facing.

Sometimes he got the feeling Kakashi might be holding back as well. There were times when Kakashi looked at him in a certain way, when an unreadable flash of emotion filled that single dark eye. More often then not it would come after they had made love and were snuggled deep under the covers and in each other's arms. At those times Kakashi demonstrated a more tender side then Iruka had though the unaffected jounin capable of possessing. A pale hand would skim through his hair as Kakashi silently watched him, and it was in those moments that Iruka would see the odd emotion he couldn't put words to on Kakashi's face.

It was in those moments that Iruka had to fight back the urge to admit out loud his love for the jounin.

Thinking about his absent lover was doing little to improve his mood however, and Iruka stirred on the chilly seat and fought back a shiver. "Could you make my order to go? I think I need to head home before the weather gets any worse."

A relieved expression flickered across the proprietor's face, for he'd been about to close when Iruka walked in. If it had been anyone other than the teacher, he probably would have turned them away, but Iruka was a loyal and long-standing customer and thus an exception had been made.

Teuchi smiled warmly and nodded. Standing near the stove as he was, he didn't feel the cold nearly as much as the chilled chuunin sitting on the other side of the counter. He had already sent Ayame home for the evening and was daydreaming about a nice hot bath when he closed up and headed up to his small apartment above the restaurant.

"Certainly, Iruka-sensei," he agreed amicably. "Tonight's weather isn't fit for man or beast, that's for certain." Teuchi placed Iruka's order in a take-out box, along with an extra serving and garnish, much to the chuunin's surprise.

"This should keep you warm through the night. You should get yourself a nice young woman who cooks well and who'll spoil you," Teuchi teased with a hearty laugh as he closed up the to-go box. Iruka's cheeks heated a bit and he ducked his head shyly.

"A…Aa…." Uncertain of just what to say to that, the younger man rubbed the bridge of his nose in an unconsciously nervous tell of his mood. "But then you wouldn't see me as much because I'd be eating at home all the time, hmmn?" A soft chuckle rose in Iruka's throat as he dug out his wallet.

"Ah, but then I would have a new generation of Uminos to feed, too," Teuchi pointed out with a mischievous wink. He accepted the money Iruka handed him, though he waved off the extra amount the chuunin tried to give him for the extra service. "No, no, on the house, just get home safe, okay? You can't eat my ramen if you're sick, now can you?" The Ichiraku's owner smiled again and handed the food over to the chuunin.

Iruka smiled warmly, oddly touched by the small gesture and the show of concern. "Thank you very much, Teuchi-san. I'll see you later." He gave a bow to the older man before making his exit and hurrying towards his apartment.

Iruka had thought it cold inside Ichiraku, but the bitter winter winds that whipped through the streets of Konoha cut through his winter clothing like a knife and sheared him to the bone. Steam rose from container in his hand, and he cupped his other one over it just so he could draw in its meager heat as his pace picked up to a light jog.

There was no one out and about on the streets, most businesses had closed for the night or were in the processes of closing as he jogged by. Tonight was supposed to reach a record low, and while that made the kids happy because that meant more snow, it filled their parents with dread at the promise of runny noses and colds.

Iruka wasn't particularly looking forward to returning to class by the time the winter break was over. He fully expected to have to deal with a bunch of snot-nosed sick brats just like always.

Oh yeah, Iruka hated winter.

His night passed in a mindless sort of daze as he curled up on the couch to watch old rerun movies. His small apartment was nice and toasty thanks to the new heating unit his landlord had installed the winter before, but Iruka had curled up in a blanket all the same because it made him feel safe and warm. He wasn't willing to admit the reason it filled him with such contentment was because the blanket smelled like Kakashi. Nor was he willing to admit that the reason he wore the man's pajama shirt more often the not when he was away was for the same reasons.

Nope, that wasn't the reason at all!

When Iruka woke in the dark however, he found himself inordinately happy for the blanket, considering the temperature in his apartment had taken a chill plunge sometime in the night. Blinking groggily, the chuunin stumbled from the couch, wrapping the warm blanket firmly around his shoulders as he wandered to the light switch. Flicking it on and off did nothing, so Iruka surmised the power was off with a grimace. He walked into his bedroom and started to layer all the extra blankets he owned onto of his bed so that he had a nice warm nest of covers.

Preparing for the cold night ahead, Iruka pulled on the heaviest two pairs of socks he could find in the dark, along with an extra sweatshirt. As he crawled into bed, Iruka couldn't help but wrinkle his chilled nose up at the wistful wish that Kakashi was there keeping him warm. His lover radiated like a space heater in his sleep, and the chuunin's last thoughts before drifting off were hopes that Kakashi wasn't trapped and out and about in this kind of weather.

Kakashi disliked winter.

No, dislike was too tame a word for his utter disgust and hatred for the icy storm that had followed him home. It left him chilled to the bone, his fingers and toes having long since gone numb as he walked through the dark streets of Konoha. He had already learned from the gate guard that the storm had taken out the power, and the thought of crawling into his lonely and cold bed in his own apartment was less then appealing. Especially considering he was so near Iruka's apartment and the chuunin was so warm and snugly on a cold winter's night like this. Smiling wanly, the jounin wearily walked the rest of the way to Iruka's apartment, with an eerie sort of silence as his only companion.

Banked in ice and sleet, the street was almost creepily quiet. No one stirred from their homes and there wasn't a sign of life save for Kakashi's tired and dragging footsteps leaving scuff-marks in the slush-filled roads. Even the slush was freezing over to become hard and brittle traps for weary, aching feet, as Kakashi discovered when he almost slipped and fell thanks to the seemingly solid ground in front of him crumbling beneath his weight.

He must have been more tired then he thought if he couldn't even navigate this slippery road with ease. Of course, he had been running almost non-stop for close to a week now, and had had little in the way of food or sleep as he rushed to get the scroll he'd pilfered back to the Hokage. Well that, and outrunning the companions of the Oto-nin he'd had to kill in order to gain said scroll.

Tsunade had taken one look at the worn-out jounin and told him he looked like shit. Kakashi had merely given her a droopy-eyed look of exhaustion and refused to rise to that bait. For his troubles, she said, he could have the next few days off so he could recover, and Kakashi had accepted the reprieve with a tired smile before slinking out, after she'd treated his chilled and almost frost-bitten limbs personally.

Now, he was near Iruka's apartment, and he blinked blearily through the heavily falling sleet as the familiar characters of Iruka's last name appeared on the plate next to the door. Kakashi didn't think he'd ever been so happy to see a door then he was in that moment. His feet slid across the icy concrete, and he wavered a bit as he tried to find some traction. His pack felt like it weighed a ton and his back ached from the effort of carrying it. Kakashi got the feeling the pack's mysterious gaining of weight might be because he'd pulled a muscle in his back during his attempt to avoid an ambush from the Oto-nin two days ago.

They'd been persistent little bastards.

Digging through his pockets, Kakashi found the spare key Iruka had given him and unlocked the door, darting through the doorway to preserve what heat remained in the apartment. Compared to the freezing temperatures and the wind-sheer outside, Iruka's apartment was almost warm, and Kakashi shut the door and locked it behind him with a weary sigh. He dropped his pack and shoes unceremoniously by the doorway and started to shed clothing as he went deeper into the flat.

The sopping wet clothing was all dropped unceremoniously on the bathroom floor, and Kakashi knew he'd be lectured later for it, but for now all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and snuggle with Iruka. He was uncertain what time it was, though he guessed it to be rather late in the night. It was impossible to tell outside, considering the low-hanging clouds that spat out the dreary sleet and snow.

By the time he reached Iruka's bedroom, Kakashi was clad only in a damp pair of boxers. He studied the chuunin's bed, where a man-sized lump lay under a small mountain of blankets. Grinning tiredly, he slunk across the floor and moved to tug up the edge of the blankets.

Instantly, a tanned hand snapped out to grasp his wrist, and Kakashi found himself being yanked down onto the bed, the sharp and lethal bite of steel finding his neck as a kunai pressed to the pale column of his throat. It was a testament to just how exhausted Kakashi was that Iruka managed to get the drop on him in the first place.

A pale forearm moved to block Iruka's arm as the chuunin's heavy body pinned him down in a tangle of blankets. There was a slight elevation of Iruka's breath as he fought blindly with the intruder, though when he heard Kakashi's quiet chuckle he froze.

"Not quite the welcome home greeting I was expecting." The silver-haired man could hear his lover's shocked gasp as the arm yanked away from his throat, pulling the kunai back and away. Kakashi chuckled softly and rubbed at his throat, and he could feel the rough scratch the blade had left across his skin before he'd managed to push it back.

"Kakashi?" The note of incredulous shock in Iruka's voice had a tired smile curling Kakashi's lips as he reached up blindly to pat his lover on the cheek. Or rather... he tried and only managed to fumble and almost poke the poor man in the eye with a questing fingertip.

"Hey," Kakashi started to say when Iruka brought his hand to warm lips. The silver-haired jounin whimpered as Iruka pressed his lips to those icy fingers.

Iruka shivered at the chill feel of Kakashi's fingers, only to shiver again as he noticed the coldness of his bedroom as well. "It's freezing. You're freezing. Get under the covers."

Kakashi wasn't sure if he whimpered with longing at the thought of curling under those warm and lush blankets, but he happily followed Iruka's orders as his lover tugged him down into the nest of bedding.

"How long have you been back?"

"A few hours. I got debriefed and it was too cold to go back home so I figured I'd come see you. Do you mind? I don't remember if you have school tomorrow or not." The fact that Kakashi even bothered to try and keep track of when Iruka worked was a mild compliment, considering the normally unaffected jounin could barely be bothered to keep track of the days unless it was needed for a mission.

Iruka chuckled and started to rub Kakashi's hand between his own, trying to warm the cold digits. "You're hands are freezing, Kakashi. How long were you out in that storm?"

"I don't know, what day is it?"

That was hardly a comforting answer and when he burrowed under the covers, Kakashi's teeth started to chatter. Iruka cursed softly and wrapped his lover up in his arms and a blanket while burying them under the covers so they were literally curled up in a small cave of blankets.

"Gods Kakashi, you're freezing, are you sure you don't have frostbite?"

"N-No...Tsunade-s-s-sama already c-checked me out. It's just r-really fucking cold out there." Kakashi shuddered softly and nestled willingly into Iruka's body as the chuunin briskly started to rub his arms and any other limbs he could safely reach. Eventually, the shivers abated and slowed to a stop as the exhausted jounin's body began to warm up and get used to the even temperature of their nice warm nest of blankets.

As the chill faded away, exhaustion began to creep in, and Kakashi nuzzled sleepily at Iruka's cheek and skimmed his hands beneath the two layers of Iruka's shirts so he could lay his hand over the steady and comforting beat of the man's heart.

Iruka nuzzled him back as his lips skimmed lips that were not nearly so cold or trembling. "I'm glad you made it back safely." His husky whisper was almost lost in the darkness of the room as the two men huddled beneath the covers like lost and scared children.

"Me too," A simple agreement then, as Kakashi nestled his head against Iruka's chest, too tired to even think about anything but sleep despite the amount of time they'd spent apart. The low and steady drumming of Iruka's heart beneath his ear was a soothing rhythm and one Kakashi decided he could listen to happily for the rest of his life. It was safe and warm under the covers with Iruka's body curled against his own, the steady rise and fall of his chest as soothing as a mother's rocking, and Kakashi's eyes grew heavy with exhaustion. The past few weeks was catching up to him at last, and his eyes fell shut as he slipped into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Iruka continued to soothe Kakashi's shoulders and back long after the jounin's breathing had evened out before he too gave into the siren's call of sleep.

As the two shinobi slept, the sun finally broke weakly through the heavy overhanging clouds as dawn rose pale on the horizon. Slender fingers of golden light filtered through the sleet and falling rain to break winter's icy hold on Konoha and with a quiet cough, Iruka's heating unit sputtered to life as the lights flickered back on.

Neither man noticed however for they were both deeply asleep by then. Iruka hated winter, so did Kakashi. But so long as the other was there beside them, they both found they could stand it.

So long as they were together.

A/N: I'm a bit early but this was written for OurWinteroOfDiscontent's birthday. I hope she likes it and the same goes for anyone else who's read this. A large thank-you goes out to Nezuko for beta'ing this. Without her and her grammatical skills, we'd all be doomed to a fic full of run-on sentances.