Iruka huffed, curling up a little more, ears tipping back as he tried to shut out the high-pitched call and return to sleep.
“Iruka! Iruka it’s snowing!”
. . .it was a little harder to ignore his kit when Naruto was bouncing in the nest, shrieking excitement directly in his ear. Iruka twitched his tails and tried to burrow his head deeper in the soft furs, wishing faintly-
“Easy, kit.” Kakashi said, his voice warm and amused, and Naruto’s chattering noises moved a little further away. And up.
His mate had scruffed their wild kit and moved him away, just as Iruka had half been hoping, he thought, chuckling.
“The snow isn’t going anywhere. Not for a while yet.” Kakashi said, and Iruka yawned, lifting his head and looking over. Kakashi had let Naruto down again, but had one paw pinning him at the shoulders, nuzzling and licking his ears.
“But Kakashi. . .” Naruto whined, wriggling, his three tails twitching. So strong, but. . .
Still just a kit.
Iruka’s heart squeezed with warm fondness as he climbed to his paws, shaking himself and watching as Kakashi carefully smoothed out Naruto’s bright fur with long licks, tickling and teasing him until he giggled and rolled on his back, paws flailing.
Kakashi crooned, nuzzling against his throat, and Naruto sighed, going happily limp save for a twitch at the very tips of his tails.
Iruka padded over to them, his own tails curling - deep in their den it was warm, but he could sense the winter cold outside even from here, and he well believed the world could now be buried in deep snow.
Though his head stayed low, Kakashi’s ears perked towards Iruka, his twin tails flicking into an almost wag. That had taken Iruka years to adjust to - not the gesture, but the fact that Kakashi had only two tails, and would never gain more. Iruka had grown up rarely seeing any youkai save other kitsune, and it had taken some time into their courting before Iruka stopped having to quash the part of his mind that reflexively slotted Kakashi as an adolescent, because no grown kitsune ought to have two tails.
“I hear it’s snowing.” Iruka said dryly, stretching lazily, front paws sliding over the furs near Naruto, who wriggled suddenly.
Kakashi let their kit up with a soft bark, grinning as he straightened to his full height. Iruka tipped his head up. No, Iruka’s mate was certainly no youngling. . .
Iruka stretched up to nuzzle along Kakashi’s jaw, and he bowed his head to return the affection. Iruka grinned a little; he could see Kakashi’s tails wagging properly now.
“Can we go play in the snow can we?” Naruto begged, bouncing around their legs, his tails tickling Iruka’s underbelly for a bare moment before he was moving on again, leaping up only for his paws to scrabble over Kakashi’s shoulder, sliding off immediately. He didn’t let the tumble back to the furs slow him down, continuing his bounding back and forth, threading between Kakashi’s legs and whining hopefully.
Kakashi made a grumbling, contemplative noise, shifting his front paws carefully around Naruto, and met Iruka’s eyes.
Iruka flicked an ear, tilting his head.
“Up to you, love.” Kakashi said as a careful flick of one paw sent their kit tumbling nose over tails across the nest. “I’m happy to go run in the snow for as long as he’d like to play, but I know. . .”
Iruka huffed as Kakashi trailed off. Iruka liked to be warm, had come from a place far to the south where it rarely snowed more than enough to put on a pretty show of spiralling flakes, near the warm ocean. He could stand the winters here, and his coat now grew thicker in the autumn than it ever had before, but he preferred not to wade through the cold and wet for no reason.
Kakashi, who had been born in the mountains to the north, shrugged off even the worst of the bitter winters here with seemingly effortlessness, his thick coat easily keeping the bone-aching chill at bay.
Iruka looked at Naruto as he rolled to his feet and scampered back over to them, whining and pressing low on the furs, his tails twitching.
It wouldn’t be no reason, though. It would be to play with their kit, who so very much wanted to go romp in the snow. Besides, it would be good for him to learn how to handle it - how to move in the snow, how to keep himself warm, what to look for . . . how to track in the snow and how to prevent anyone tracking him.
“I see no reason why not.” Iruka agreed, and grinned when Naruto went still, eyes wide. “It would be good exercise.” He paused. “And I’m hungry for something fresh.”
Kakashi laughed, his fangs flashing, and Iruka shouldered him pointedly. His mate would happily bring him anything he wished for and allow him to remain in their den all winter, warm and sheltered, he knew, but Iruka would get dreadfully bored with that in any case. To say nothing of Naruto.
Iruka shuddered briefly at the very idea of keeping Naruto cooped up in their den for an entire season.
“Really?” Naruto yipped gleefully, leaping again, this time nearly reaching the height of Iruka’s muzzle. He laughed, lowering the front of his body and nuzzling their excitable kit. Naruto’s tails were flicking madly with his excitement and his paws skidded as he ran back and forth.
Kakashi lifted one paw and let Naruto tumble through the space where his slender leg had been unobstructed, then lowered his head, nipping gently at Naruto’s side. “Don’t wear yourself out before we even get out to the snow.” he teased gently, and Naruto yipped, rolling back to his paws and then stilling suddenly, one paw in the air, a conflicted look on his face.
Iruka nudged at his haunches, sending him trotting on ahead with a happy gekker, all excitement again.
“Naruto? Run out of energy?” Iruka questioned with amusement even as he moved to follow, and Kakashi laughed, keeping pace with him, shoulder brushing Iruka’s companionably despite the difference in their heights.
“That would be the day, wouldn’t it?” Kakashi asked lightly, dipping his head and rubbing his cheek affectionately against Iruka’s.
Iruka sighed, leaning into his mate and returning the lazy affection. “He’ll grow up one day.” he said softly, and Kakashi growled low. It wasn’t a contemplative sound this time, but tending towards unhappiness; Kakashi, Iruka thought, was no more pleased than he was himself at the reminder. Iruka’s tails twitched and he lifted his head, nipping at Kakashi’s ear and rubbing more fully against his side, soothing and teasing at once. “It’s what kits do, after all, darling.” he reminded.
“Come on come on!” Naruto yipped ahead of them before Kakashi could respond. “Are we going out to play or not?”
Iruka laughed, springing away from Kakashi and chasing after Naruto, making him yelp and scramble to run faster. “Oh, we’ll play, you mischief of a kit!” he threatened with bared teeth and a playful snarl, and Naruto rebounded off the wall and leapt, with just a touch of foxfire to increase the height his muscle could provide, twisting in a graceful arc.
Iruka slowed purposely, just enough to let him get away. That was a very neat use of youki, and he’d thought fast; Iruka was very proud. Iruka gave an approving growl and then laughed as Naruto arrowed right back to Kakashi, darting between his front legs and hiding behind them, peeking out at Iruka, his tails flicking.
Kakashi laughed and stayed put, letting Naruto shelter beneath him. Iruka couldn’t fault the choice - if Naruto had really been trying to escape a much-older hunting youkai, behind Kakashi’s slender legs was no doubt the safest place he could reach in a hurry.
Iruka trotted back to them, rubbing his cheek along Kakashi’s muzzle and all the way down his neck, then brushing bodily past his mate, flicking his tails teasingly as he trotted onwards. “Well? Are we going out into the snow?”
“Lead on, gorgeous.” Kakashi said, and Iruka yelped, startled, as sharp teeth caught one of his tails. It didn’t hurt, of course - his fur was far too thick and Kakashi hadn’t been trying to hurt him - but-
Iruka angled a look back at his mate, baring his teeth. Kakashi laughed as he tugged gently, then released Iruka’s tail, moving up to match his pace. Kakashi lowered his head, nosing Naruto lightly, urging him forwards, letting him go on ahead of them. He took the encouragement and led the way out of the den, a path he was only allowed to take when at least one of them was with him.
Naruto was a clever, strong little kit, but he was still only a kit, and the world was a dangerous place for a young youkai.
It was rather less so with his parents nearby, watching over him.
Iruka grinned as Naruto stopped, frozen, at the open entry of the den. He was staring out at the snow, which was coming down fast in huge, spinning clumps and drifting, dancing smaller flakes.
“Do you think he remembers,” Kakashi asked nearly in Iruka’s ear, his voice low, “that if he goes outside he can play in the snow?”
Iruka laughed, but they waited for Naruto to watch the snow and soak in the sight without interrupting his fascination. He shivered a bit.
Kakashi shifted at his side, all warmth and lean power, and Iruka whuffed softly and leaned into his mate, enjoying the calm moment.
It didn’t last much longer, Naruto exploding from the den and out into the snow with a shrieking cry of excitement. Iruka followed swiftly, Kakashi at his tails, the deep snow crunching under their paws.
Iruka focused a flicker of magic to conceal their tracks around their den. Naruto could learn about that - both the dangers and how to avoid them - elsewhere, further away from the den. There was little here in their territory that might challenge either Iruka or his mate, but there was no need to be careless, either.
Naruto skidded through the snow, turning in a clumsy slide, paws flaying, tails splayed wide, and leapt in a high arc, coming down nose first. He dropped straight through the side of a snowdrift, creating a rather significant Naruto-sized hole, disappearing save for the very tip of one tail peeking out over the edge.
Iruka tucked his muzzle down against his shoulder, trying to stifle his laughter. The tip of Naruto’s tail twitched, but there was no other movement - even the sloping snow leading up to the hole he had made was still.
Kakashi trotted lightly over to the drift and stretched up, leaning down into the hole himself, head and shoulders dipping out of Iruka’s sight.
A moment later he withdrew once more, this time with Naruto securely held by the scruff in his jaws, rear paws tucked up near to his belly and his tails curled close. Kakashi carried him carefully away from the deeper snow, then let him down, and he wriggled as he dropped onto his paws, stretching and shaking himself.
“Careful.” Kakashi advised, nosing a bit of snow off one perked ear.
Not a breath later Naruto was off again, calling out for Iruka as he darted through the falling snow, practically diving right into another snow drift. At least this one was not so deep.
“Sure you knew what you were agreeing to with this?” Kakashi asked wryly, nipping Iruka’s ear as he caught up, both of them following after their kit.
“Does one ever know, with Naruto?” Iruka asked with a laugh, nipping Kakashi’s jaw in return and grinning as he caught the flash of interest in his mate’s eye. Iruka rubbed bodily against him, tails curling, and cocked an ear.
Kakashi growled at him, eyes narrowing, and Iruka yipped, amused.
Naruto was flailing through the snowdrift, bounding up to get out of some of the deeper slog. Iruka took off past him, clearing kit and drift in one easy leap. He flicked an ear.
Kakashi was on his tails, but taking the pursuit at nothing more an easy pace. Besides, neither of them would leave Naruto behind, not even to roam a little further in the forest - not in this weather.
Iruka led a chase in and out of the trees in a broad circle as Naruto laughed and rolled through the drifts, snapping his jaws at falling snow. Then Iruka slowed, and Kakashi caught him, bowling him over in the snow, rolling together.
Kakashi let himself stop with his back in the snow, cushioning Iruka from the wet chill of it. Iruka nuzzled him affectionately for that, licking at his muzzle and pressing his head down against his mate’s neck with a sigh.
Kakashi folded his front legs around Iruka and nuzzled his ear.
“Later.” Iruka promised, nestling against his mate for a moment and then shifting to pull away. “Naruto will run out of energy eventually,” he slipped off Kakashi, climbing to his paws, “then you and I can play.” he teased, shaking himself, furling his tails flirtatiously.
“Naruto?” Kakashi repeated dryly.
Iruka huffed, jerking his head up, and Kakashi snorted. He had a point. By the time Naruto was worn out. . .
“Yes?” Naruto asked, bouncing over beneath them, throwing up flurries of snow. “Whoa!”
Kakashi snagged him by the scruff before Iruka realised what was happening, leaping lightly away from a collapsing pit of snow and earth. Iruka shuddered, following after them.
“One of the dangers of snow.” Iruka said, inspecting Naruto as Kakashi slowed, then put him down once more. Naruto was fine, of course, and wriggled impatiently even as he waited for Iruka to check him over. “It hides things you might avoid easily in other weather.”
“That can include traps and other human trouble.” Kakashi warned, and Naruto’s huff quieted, his eyes wide as he looked up at them. “It’s unlikely in our forest, at least away from the path,” Kakashi said gently, indicating the human path they’d just left behind with his muzzle before dipping his head and licking Naruto’s shoulder comfortingly, “but it is true.”
Naruto nodded, tails flicking uncertainly.
Iruka crouched, tipping his head to rest against Naruto’s for a moment. “It’s all right, kit. You’re safe with us, you know.”
Naruto yipped agreement, tails coming up again, and Kakashi shifted his paws and began to crouch, catching Iruka’s eye. Iruka hid a grin. “You can play. We’ll take care of you.” he told Naruto, and his ears perked as he lifted his head.
Kakashi seized him by the scruff and threw him into a huge snowdrift. Naruto yipped, giggling as he forged his way out of it again in a spray of flying snow, and Iruka pounced, tumbling them over the drift and down the slope on the far side, skidding down together.
Naruto shrieked happily and Kakashi barked behind them, a soft patter of snow being displaced all that gave away that he was following. Iruka snatched Naruto out of the way just before Kakashi would have caught him, and Naruto shrieked again, clambering over Iruka and using him as a shield as Kakashi gave chase.
Iruka laughed and blocked Kakashi, then yipped as Naruto skidded under his paws and knocked one of his legs out from under him. He could have caught himself, but he shifted and let himself collapse instead, trapping Naruto halfway under his body.
Kakashi snickered and flopped down on top of them - not nearly so heavy as he looked, it was actually rather nice, having him and all his thick fur sprawled over them - and Naruto whined a protest, squirming around and trying to get free. After a few minutes they shifted enough to give him room, and he wriggled out, laughing, and leapt on top of them, snatching at Kakashi’s ear with a careless snap of his teeth.
Iruka flinched, but Kakashi only chuckled, letting Naruto tug at his ear, bouncing on his shoulder, for a while before rolling him off into the snow. Naruto gekkered delightedly and took off in mad little circles that threw up plumes of snow from beneath his busy paws. His delight at the freedom to run and play, and fascination with the snow, was evident, and it made Iruka happy to watch him.
When Naruto’s play began to take him further away, Iruka sighed and rose, shaking off snow and moving to follow, his mate at his side.