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Thawing Out

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If Iruka had to make a list of things he was good at, at the top of that list would be teaching. Whether it’s teaching a fellow shinobi a new technique, or a classroom full of seven-year-olds how to not stab themselves, Iruka could do it, and he did it well. 


The second thing on that list would be patience. Though many of his co-workers would probably scoff at that considering his frequent blowups in the mission room, Iruka was very patient usually, letting kids and adults alike take their time as they needed. 


The third would be taking care of others. Iruka often found himself caring for others with reassurances, lending a shoulder to cry on, or even offering advice. Though he never thought himself particularly wise, he cared about others. And at the end of the day, that was what mattered.


Something that Iruka was not good at, however, was taking care of himself. 


Sure he bathed regularly, ate when he remembered too and he tried to sleep for a solid six to eight hours a night. But Iruka was also a busy person. And often his own needs got pushed to the back of his mind so that he could work on whatever task was set before him.


It was quickly approaching winter in Konoha. The skies were still blue but the lighter blue that said cold had settled in. And boy had it settled in. Iruka could feel it between each of his bones. He could feel it sneaking into his lungs with every pull of breath as he walked to the academy. He saw it in the way his breath formed in clouds and frost clung to the classroom windows in flowering swirls.


He sped his pace up eager to reach the academy. He hadn’t quite turned his heat on in his apartment and was playing chicken with the cold. He kept his thermostat set at just warm enough and tried to steal heat from his upstairs and downstairs neighbors rather than turn his up. This penny-pinching behavior of his, unfortunately, left him cold until he started work or he managed to curl up beneath his blankets at night. 


When he finally pushed the door open and stepped into the building he left out a sigh of relief. Iruka sneezed as he unwound his scarf smacking his head into his arm. He groaned. 


Placing his things down at his desk and relishing in the warmth he went over to the radiator and leaned on it to try to thaw himself further. After what felt like only a few moments students began to trickle in and Iruka had to leave the radiator and go to his desk.

As Iruka sat and finished up some grading, he tried not to stare at the seconds ticking by, instead, trying to savor the last few moments of heat before heading back out into the cold and to his shift at the missions desk. 

When he was down to just a few minutes he sighed and started to clean up. Once all of his things were in his bag and his desk was secured well against small devious minds, he left his room to head to the bathroom.


When he returned he found a paper cup on his desk. 


Iruka looked around before closing his eyes to sense if anyone was around. As before he was the only one left in the building. Cautiously he made a clone and sent it over to pick it up. When nothing exploded he took the cup from the clone and disbursed it. The first thing he noted was how blissfully warm the cup was. As he turned it in his hand looking for some sign of tampering, thinking it was too good to be true, he noticed, in a strangely familiar scrawl, the words, Stay warm Sensei, written on the side along with a heart. Iruka smiled and took the lid off the cup, still suspicious. He was greeted by the scent of hot chocolate and the sight of slowly melting whipped cream. Deeming it untampered with he hugged it to his chest to savor the warmth and got dressed to leave.


Not only was the hot chocolate the best hot chocolate he had ever had (clearly a homemade drink instead of store-bought) but it had kept him warm the entire way to the Hokage tower. 


This occurred for the next few weeks. Iruka would be getting ready, dreading his trek out into the cold, and a cup of hot chocolate would magically appear on his desk when he came back from the bathroom. Iruka was somewhat perturbed that he was that set enough in his routine that someone could sneak into his classroom. But he was more frustrated that he couldn’t tell them how much it meant to him that they were doing this. Determined to find who it was he made a plan.

He pretended to go to the bathroom like he did every evening before leaving, and instead masked his presence and peeked around the corner. Iruka felt like his preteen self again. Only he hoped he was doing a better job at hiding than he did back then. When Iruka took in the shock of grey hair and slouched shoulders placing the cup down on his desk his breath caught. He watched as Kakashi gently turned the cup and stepped back to look at it- as if he was arranging flowers. 

Iruka leaned back and made a noise like he was coming back. When he peeked back around the corner, Kakashi was gone. 


Iruka became frustratingly aware of Kakashi after that. Every encounter in the mission room caused his face to flush and he had to fight the urge to fidget under the other man’s gaze. 

In an attempt to thank Kakashi for the hot chocolate, Iruka started to invite him to join him for Ramen whenever they bumped into each other. 

What was once an occasional occurrence quickly turned into a weekly one. 

The two of them sat on stools, bundled in scarves and hats, talking about their week's misadventures. 

It took four weeks of this for Iruka to realize that Kakashi was not going to let Iruka pay for their meals. Kakashi kept insisting that he didn’t get out much anyway so it wasn’t too much for him and that he was thankful for the company. Iruka of course, protested, even tried to pay ahead of time, but his money kept getting handed back to him. Teuchi at least looked sorry every time he handed it back. Iruka wondered idly what Kakashi had said or done to get the man to agree to this. A few times Iruka left the amount on the counter as a tip, but the next time he went in it was handed back. 


Iruka thrashed beneath his covers in frustration. He needed to come up with a way to let Kakashi know how much the hot chocolates meant to him. How much he looked forward to them. How much Kakashi himself had, over the course of all of these days, wound up meaning to him. Resolutely Iruka decided that if he couldn’t buy him dinner, he was going to have to make it. 


He just hoped it turned out edible. 



Kakashi had many labels. He had many names and even more enemies. He had a few friends and tried to live a simple life serving Konoha. 

And he succeeded at this. 

Until Umino Iruka stumbled into his life, that is. 

Now his life was anything but simple. It was full of chaotic pre-teens and late-night ramen dinners. Now, he agonized over drawing hearts on to-go cups and making whipped cream.

He was different than he was all those months ago. Lighter. Happier.

Kakashi was a lot of things. 

But he was also a bit of a coward when it came to facing his own emotions. That was why he confided in Teuchi about trying to get into Iruka’s good graces. Why he found the best way to slip into the academy unnoticed when he had noticed that Iruka hated the cold.

So when he conveniently ran into Iruka at their usual time, he was a little apprehensive when Iruka invited him to his apartment for dinner rather than out to ramen like usual. 

He had an excuse on the tip of his tongue, and was ready to bolt when Iruka grabbed his sleeve,“I insist,” Iruka shunshined them to his front door, leaving little time for Kakashi to prepare himself.

“At least buy me a drink before you drag me home Sensei.” Kakashi drawled as Iruka went to take his wards down. Kakashi watched Iruka flush from his neck up, scowling as he tried to concentrate on getting them inside. 

“I tried buying you ramen you know,” Iruka scowled as he opened the door and stepped inside. Kakashi followed behind. The temperature inside wasn’t much warmer than it was outside of the apartment and Kakashi shivered a little as he took off his jacket.

“Why is it so cold in here?”

“I try not to turn the heat on too high until it is absolutely necessary.”

“I think we passed that threshold a few weeks ago Sensei.”

“I suppose,” Iruka came over with a pair of slippers, “here. Wear these.”

Kakashi nodded his thanks as Iruka made his way to the kitchen. Kakashi followed the sound of dishes being taken out of cabinets and found Iruka dishing out warm rice and miso soup.

“I had to ask Gai what type of food you like. This was the only thing I could figure out how to make without burning the apartment building down. And even then, the dachi is store bought. I think it should taste alright though,” Iruka motioned for Kakashi to sit down at the table before he placed the dishes in front of him.

Kakashi looked down.

“Eggplant miso?” He asked not moving his head to look up, “for me?”

“Yeah. Is that alright? You still like it right? Gai wasn’t sure if it was still your favorite or not but said it was a safe bet.” Iruka sat down and started to eat.

Kakashi kept staring at the meal, It wasn’t pretty or elegant but it was warm and it was for him.

Kakashi felt his face flush. “Why?”

“Because I wanted to do something nice for you, since you know,” Iruka shrugged, “You kept giving me hot chocolates and buying me ramen, and I don’t know. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t want to.” Iruka moved to take the dishes away but Kakashi grabbed his wrist.

“No. No, I would like to eat it. Thank you for the meal.” Kakashi picked up his chopsticks and started to eat noticing Iruka averting his gaze to give him privacy. Kakashi felt his chest tighten as he ate. 

This was a meal made for him.

He hadn’t had someone else prepare a meal for him, one with this much thought and attention to it in many years. 

Even as a child when he was left on his own, he was expected to cook for himself. 

He cooked for his teammates. 

He cooked for his ninken. 

No one ever thought to give him food. 

Kakashi felt Obito’s eye start to tear up and he raised a hand to it and wiped it away.

“Is it good?” Iruka asked

“Yes. It’s very good. Thank you.” 

 “Oh, it’s snowing,” Iruka said as he set his bowl down on the table and stared out the window.

The two of them watched the soft flakes fall on the city below while they finished their meal.

It was the warmest either of them had been in a very long time.