yaoi, darn

Rating: T+ not even any smut/yaoi, darn...
Genre: Romance, angst, fluffy stuff
Pairing/Characters: Iruka/Kakashi
Length: 1800 ish words
Summary: Iruka patching up Kakashi's hands, after a rough night and an annoying mission
Author Notes: Still not altogether used to doing Iruka POV. Came to me very unexpectedly yesterday. My Kakashi muse snuck up on me, but not quite how I expected. He was supposed to be drugged senseless so I could finish the last bit of Shoulder, chapter 10, but instead he was morose and brooding, sulking, even. Add in the comment from Hatochan that it was snowing (after the mostly lovely, warm, spring weather of our early spring break with her last week), and this story happened. Some angst this time, but no one new dies, although mentions of an old death occur… Smut level was absolutely nil. Pfffft. Why couldn't the Smut Fairy have come visiting, instead of the Angst Fairy? And yes, this Kakashi is a bit OOC for how I normally write him, much more bitter and brooding… but this is set in the midst of the as-yet unposted/incomplete Post Journey stories Stand or Fall/Strong Enough that Hato and I are working on. All will make sense then. It's also a loose continuation of an earlier story written for Kakashi's birthday (Hands: Happy Birthday, Kakashi) It got enough favorable comments and reviews on that I couldn't stop thinking about it, so now it's yet another multi-chapter WIP… sheepish grin… Thanks again Hato, always... for basil, late spring snow, and cougars. Smile.
Disclaimer: Naruto and it's lovely characters don't belong to me, they belong to Kishimoto, but Kakashi asked if he and 11 other jounin, tokubetsu jounin, chuunin, and a pervy old sannin could be traded over to me for his birthday; apparently it didn't work... damn there goes the birthday orgy...

"It's snowing…"

"Is it?" Kakashi's voice held a distant, distracted note, tonight. "I have to go." The echoes of his voice trailed away as quickly as the puffs of smoke as he disappeared.

"Kakashi?" Only the wind moaning from outside answered my query.

I waited quietly, patiently throughout the dark night, finally dozing an hour or two before dawn.

The soft snick of the window latch woke me, darkness amplifying the small sound. A short, harsh blast of wind and the sharp scent of snow accompanied a silent shadow moving towards the bathroom.

I waited, listening to the slow, clumsy sounds coming from the bathroom. The dull clatter of armor being unceremoniously tossed aside, and the heavy, damp thuds of wet clothing peeled from skin and being dropped to the unforgiving tile didn't inspire their normal relief tonight. He might have returned uninjured in body, but I wasn't so sure about the state of his heart, his spirit, tonight.

We had a routine, he and I, for nights like this. He came through the window and erased all traces of the cold, silent killer before coming to my bed. Of course, all those other nights, they came looking for him with missions; he hadn't sought them out… I remained quiet, never pushing, until he was ready to talk, to share, to regain his sense of humanity.

After almost too long, I heard the shower spray against the glass. Even the very sound of the water seemed somehow… off, tonight. I quietly opened the door with a fresh stack of towels and a clean pair of loose pants. I hadn't expected anything other than the warm, suffocating humidity of the fogged bathroom and piles of discarded laundry dotting the slick tile.

I didn't expect the frigid, night wind shrieking through the open window, or Kakashi still huddled on the floor beside the cold shower, raw red hands clutched in his lap, legs tucked beneath him.

"Kakashi, love?" I dropped the towels and fell to my feet beside him, dismayed at the paleness of his skin, his listless demeanor. This was no lazy disposition to fool the world into underestimating him or hiding his true feelings from view. Only the fierce blush of his hands and the triangle around his eye and the slow, hitching breaths distinguished him from a cold, uncaring, marble statue.

"I had to promise to come straight back to you, after. You're to open the scroll to send a message to Tsunade-sama letting her know the mission was a success." Kakashi gestured to a pocket of his sodden vest, previously discarded on the floor. "She didn't want to let me go. Ibiki flat-out refused…" His voice was rough from the cold. I was close enough now to see the tangles and clumps of ice in his hair, to smell the faint scent of blood that must be coming from those raw, cold hands.

"Kakashi… " my voice trailed away in confusion, and I got up to close the window, turn off the shower, I wrapped the large, soft towels around the pale body, fingers brushing against his taut stomach and again I was reminded of hard, unfeeling stone.

'I'm fine, Iruka, just cold. I'll be fine." The words rasped in his throat, and I wondered if it was as abused as his hands.

My own voice cracked. "You're not fine, Kakashi. You haven't been for awhile now." It was the first time I had come out and said what I had been thinking for two months, now, and I blinked, not even realizing I had spoken out loud until I saw the dull, flat look in his eyes. The long weeks without any challenging, meaningful missions were taking their toll on him.

"I'm sorry, Kakashi…" What I said was true, but now was not the time or place for the discussion, not when Kakashi was so affected by the cold and whatever memories he was trying to repress. I didn't mean to hurt him, even if I did mean the words.

I watched his head droop more, whether in acceptance or fatigue, I didn't know or even care anymore. "Kakashi, let me see." As always, he reacted immediately to that tone of mingled command and concern, and not for the first time, I wondered if the Yondaime had used a similar one with him.

The hands were curled and trembling slightly, and I saw it was more a mottled color, white and purple mixing with the angry red. Small pinpricks of red bloomed across the knuckles, and I wondered what he had been doing that he had taken off his gloves. "Don't try to move them yet, but do you have any feeling in your fingertips?"

"A little, but the fingers feel thick and swollen, clumsy." The words seemed dragged almost resentfully from Kakashi. "Now is when you tell me what an idiot I am for not taking proper care of myself, for injuring myself, for depleting my chakra so needlessly."

I automatically checked his chakra levels at the words, dismayed to find them so low and even more upset that I hadn't noticed right away. "I don't suppose I need to tell you when you did such a good job saying it, yourself."

"And it's all completely right. It was needless, even though it was all for the mission…" Iruka had never heard the words delivered with such sneering distaste and revulsion from Kakashi.

"A fat, rich merchant and his wife were 'sorely inconvenienced' by the late snow… Their daughter's seventeenth birthday party is tomorrow. Tsunade had already turned down the mission request, saying we 'couldn't afford the profligate waste of our shinobi resources.' Creating a small island of springtime in that snowstorm for a spoiled, ungrateful brat certainly qualifies as one of the most petty and wasteful uses of my skills ever, I'm sure, but the Hokage and Council can't sneer or scoff at the substantial addition of gold to Konoha's coffers."

"Island of springtime?" Surely I misunderstood, the sheer magnitude of the undertaking and the massive outpouring of raw power required astounded me.

"Oh yes. Their lovely Yumi-hime wants an outdoor picnic. And what Jou-chan wants, Jou-chan gets. Farmers' early crops and fruit trees are being damaged and we don't have the manpower to help without severely depleting our own strength, but a merchant has the money to waste to pay me to warm a garden, coax the flowers into bloom, and melt the koi-pond. There's a little protected bubble of garden on his estate that's a full two months later in season, and I'm keeping it that way until the party's over. Tsunade turned him down, but then when I showed up demanding a mission so late… She hated giving in to such an irresponsible request, but what else could she do?"

"Kakashi… tell me one thing. Why did Tsunade-sama say yes when Ibiki said no?" He was silent so long I thought he was refusing to answer.

"Sometimes Tsunade remembers things Ibiki has to look in a file for." After a moment's silence, he continued. "They told me it was snowing the day she died. She was seventeen." Kakashi's voice was flat and emotionless, as if reciting events that had happened to a stranger. "The last member of my team died in a village that isn't even there anymore. I was away on a mission and found out two weeks later." A pause. " They destroyed the body." The uncovered sharingan twitched open and spun wildly before closing once more. "I can't remember the following three months of my life." The stormy gray eye closed as well, and he fell silent.

Even before he mentioned his team, I knew. There were so few women in his life. He had loved her, I knew. Maybe not how she had wished, or how he thought she had deserved, but I knew he had cared for the young healer, in his own rough, fumbling way. Losing the last member of his team, and his last link with his beloved sensei, finding out after the fact, knowing he had existed, maybe even laughed or smiled while Rin lay dead in the snow of a tiny, dying village, these were things Kakashi clung to, like a small child refusing to let go of a love-worn plushie long after the eyes had fallen off or the last stuffing had been hugged from its frayed and misshapen body.

Knowing Kakashi, he probably still clung to the shreds of some irrational guilt or a promise unfulfilled only in his eyes. He always expected more from himself than anyone else ever would, and was much harder on himself when he fell short of his own unattainable standards or goals.

"She helped teach a series of classes, while I was still at the academy. Field-expedient medicine. I'm sure she passed on to us several methods she came up with and refined on you. I remember there was some horseplay during a break, and a few of the boys wrestling on the ground, They rolled around and squashed a butterfly… She had such fine chakra control that she was able to heal it. I can still see her, the butterfly landed on her forehead and almost seemed to give her a kiss before it flew away." I paused a moment, savoring the memory, sharing it with my love, wanting him to remember the good as well as the bad. "She also taught us this."

Kakashi gasped as he felt the hint of a tingle flow through his numbed fingers and into the reddened hands. The gentle, healing heat began as a trickle, but soon became an unending tide, and soon he was drowning in warmth and light and memory and the ghost of a soft, feminine laugh. My hands soothed across his pale skin, trailing an almost unseen green light almost unbearable to Kakashi in its combined tenderness and intensity. Kakashi later swore Rin was there with us, her small hands pouring out healing to his cold, tortured soul as much as I did for his cold, shivering body.

I carried the limp, unresisting body, now tinged with the barest flush of pink, to the bed, and curled behind him, making a warm, safe haven beneath the blankets. He settled softly into the futon, instinctively burrowing closer to me, and I cradled him against me, my hands laced with his upon his chest, kissing the silvered temple gently, whispering into his hair. I dreamed of making love to him in the sweet-scented grass of the merchant's garden, dangling our toes in the koi-pond, and feeding each other tidbits of sticky-sweet summer fruit, praying even some small portion of my inner calm could remain with him come morning. If not, then maybe he could call on this quiet, happy memory, to help keep the phantoms at bay.