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Frostbitten Fingers

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    "Hey, Obito."

   "Yeah?"

   Kakashi stuffed his hands in his pockets, hunkering down behind his scarf so that only his eyes just peeped over the top, effectively obscuring the rest of his face. "Are we there yet?" He pulled his mask up on the bridge of his nose.

   Obito shook his head. "No, we're close."

   "You haven't even told me where we're going," Kakashi muttered, shoes crunching in the thin layer of snow and dead leaves on the path Obito was leading them down. Obito chanced a glance back to see the other boy, bundled tightly in his jacket and scarf, trudging after him with one hand shielding his face from the branches hanging in their way, heavy and weighed down by ice.

   "I told you we were going into the forest," Obito pointed out, turning back around. He steadied himself with a hand against the trunk of a tree as he hopped over a gnarled root, waiting for Kakashi to do the same before he set off again, navigating through the dark forest by memory rather than sight. The moonlight was bright, but not quite enough to penetrate the canopy of evergreen branches stretching above their heads.

   "That doesn't really help, Obito," Kakashi pointed out, shivering. He puffed in the winter air, rubbing his hands together. He evidently hadn't brought gloves.

   "You followed me. You didn't have to."

   "Yeah, well..." Kakashi sighed. "I trust you. Even if you're annoying sometimes."

   "I promise we'll be there soon." Obito sighed and halted as a thicket of brambles appeared, whitened and brittle by the snowstorm that had swept through the village two days ago, the frost on the branches shining in the light that seeped down through the gaps in the trees. "Come on, this way."

   "It's cold as hell out here," Kakashi muttered, trailing after Obito as Obito steered the two of them left around the plants. "It's already after sunset, too. You must be insane."

   "Are you cold?" Obito looked at Kakashi, one eyebrow raised.

    Kakashi brought both hands up to brush snow out of his hair. "It's the middle of the winter and basically nighttime, Obito. I have to leave on that month-long mission tomorrow morning, too. You know that."

   Obito peeled his gloves off and shoved them at Kakashi's face, waiting until he caught them with fumbling hands before he returned his hands to his pockets. "Wear those, then. We're almost there."

   "I don't need them." Kakashi tugged them on anyways and followed as they skirted the thicket and made their way along a wall of frozen ferns. He slipped past Obito and ducked underneath a pine tree, heavy with snow, and flicked the branch as Obito passed, showering him, smirking behind his mask.

   "Hey!" Obito squawked and scooped up a handful of snow from their feet, tossing it at Kakashi's face. Kakashi ducked and kicked snow back at Obito, biting his lip to stop from snickering when Obito dodged and nearly crashed into a tree.

   "That was smooth," he teased, trotting backwards as Obito regained his balance.

   Obito grinned and lunged at him. "Get back here!" he called as Kakashi whipped around and took off running through the woods, leaping over patches of ice.

   Kakashi had just rounded a corner when a heavy weight crashed into his back, arms wrapping around him as he fell and skidded on one shoulder, tumbling over roots and twigs. Before Obito could react, Kakashi grabbed a chunk of snow with his bare hand and smashed it into his face. "Nice try," he panted, still breathless from the run.

   Obito propped himself up above Kakashi with both arms, shaking his head to rid himself of the snow, almost doglike. He frowned, his head haloed by moonlight behind him, outlining his frame in white. "Rude," he grumbled. "Now I'm gonna be even colder."

   Kakashi grinned underneath his mask and reached up to flick cold water from Obito's face. "You'll be fine," he assured, taking Obito's scarf to pull it back over the other boy's face. "Your fault anyways, since you were the one that chased me."

   "You dumped snow on me first." Obito clambered off of Kakashi and sat to one side, holding out a hand for Kakashi to grab as he pulled himself upright. "Alright, enough of this, let's go on."

   "You still haven't told me where we're going," Kakashi pointed out, narrowing his eyes pointedly at Obito.

   Obito shrugged and got to his feet, brushing snow off of his pants. "Well, we're here. And don't worry, it's worth it."

   "It'd better be worth a twenty minute walk through a forest in the dead of a winter night," Kakashi mumbled, letting Obito grab his hand with numb fingers to tug him through a cluster of arching bracken fronds.

   "Look at that and tell me the walk wasn't worth it."

   Kakashi, hand still in Obito's, stared for a moment before turning back to him, one eyebrow raised. "It's a frozen river," he said. "What's so special about it?"

   Obito ignored Kakashi's jibe and shuffled up to the edge of the river, tugging Kakashi along with him as he crouched to touch the frozen surface, breath forming a foggy cloud in front of his face. "Do you reckon I could walk on it?" He pressed his palm against the surface, searching for a reflection, which was hard to come by in the dark.

   Kakashi shrugged. "I'm sure it's possible. Just don't blame me if you fall in and get hypothermia."

   Obito straightened up and turned to Kakashi, grinning manically. "I'm assuming that's a yes. You wanna come too?"

   "I regret this already." Kakashi sighed and shook his head, taking a couple of steps away from Obito, back towards the trees, his arm slipping from Obito's grasp. "Look, I know I act like I hate you but if you die here I would be very emotionally inconvenienced."

   "I won't die," Obito said. "Even if I do fall in, I definitely won't die."

   "You know, a lot of people die from hypothermia. And it is pretty cold, being nighttime and all."

   Obito ignored him and slid out onto the ice even further, arms outstretched. He skidded for a moment, flailing, and Kakashi's heart dropped in his stomach. He couldn't help but feel relieved when Obito straightened again, still making his way towards the center of the river. "Be careful," Kakashi called.

   "I am!" Obito waved as he reached the center of the river, gazing downstream with an awed expression on his face. "I've never walked on ice before."

   "Why would you walk on ice?" Kakashi crept towards the bank where the frozen grass met the river, halting only when the front of his shoes hit the ice. "It doesn't seem very safe."

   Obito hurried back, sliding his feet over the ice with surprising speed to return and grab Kakashi's hand. "Do you not have any sense of adventure or something?" he said, exasperated. "Come on, get out here."

   "We're going to fall in, Obito." Kakashi tried to tug his arm away, but Obito wrapped both hands around his wrist and dragged him a foot away from the bank, grinning madly.

   "We won't fall in," Obito assured, pulling on Kakashi's hand. Kakashi threw his weight back on his heels, digging his shoes in to try and keep Obito from bringing him out further, which proved difficult, as they were on ice. "Besides, what's life without a little risk?"

   "Is this what you brought me here for? To stand on some ice?" Kakashi groaned as Obito hopped back onto the river, dragging Kakashi with him. Kakashi tried digging his heels in, but the soles of his shoes slid uselessly. "Obito, I have better things to do."

   "Look, just sit." Obito halted when he had dragged Kakashi to the center of the river and put a hand on his shoulder. "And look downriver that way."

   Kakashi shot Obito a dubious look but complied anyways, mimicking Obito as the two of them settled down on top of the layer of ice, Obito with his legs kicked out in front of him and Kakashi with knees hugged to his chest. "It's pretty," Kakashi admitted, taking in the trees shiny with frost lining the riverbanks, the ice-covered river white and pearly in the moonlight.

   "Remember we learned to walk on water here?" Obito drew a line in the thin layer of snow beneath them with one finger, staring at the moon hanging low over the forest.

   "You kept falling in," Kakashi said. "Rin was best at it, though. Even Minato-sensei said so."

   "We used to fish here too, remember?" Obito added, and tugged his scarf away from his face, letting it hang loosely around his shoulders. "At least, when the river wasn't frozen."

   "After training." Kakashi rested his chin on his knees and turned his head to look at Obito. "And you'd invite me over to your house for dinner with your hellishly chaotic family."

   "Hellishly chaotic is a nice way of putting it." Obito shook his head mock-despairingly. "I'm surprised you even bothered staying the night sometimes. Although it's always nice when you do."

   "It's better than staying at home alone." Kakashi shrugged one shoulder, shifting so he was kneeling, as his legs were already freezing. "Even if your family is strange, they're very kind to me. I appreciate it."

   Obito laughed, scratching his neck, and met Kakashi's eyes, his gaze warm and soft in a way it'd never been before. "I'm glad," he said, and didn't elaborate.

   "I'm sorry I have to leave."

   "...I'm sorry I can't come with you."

   "I know."

   "Maybe I should have trained harder," Obito mused, scraping at the ice with the heel of one shoe. "They probably didn't let me in because I'm too weak."

   Kakashi tried not to show his annoyance at how easily Obito just threw that word weak into the air (he certainly wasn't weak, Kakashi knew that better than anyone), choosing not to comment on it—that was something he'd tackle another day, when he was back home from his mission. "That's not the thing," he said. "We can't bring that many people along, anyways. And it's too dangerous."

   "Yeah, since the precious Uchiha Clan and their eyeballs are too valuable to spare," Obito muttered bitterly, glaring downriver at the stars glittering just above the bare branches.

   "That's...not what I meant. I'm sorry."

   "It's fine. I'm just frustrated. I wish I could go," Obito admitted. "Me and you and Rin and Minato-sensei, the four of us."

   "I wish too," Kakashi agreed. "But I'll write you letters, okay? I promise."

   "You'd better." Obito scoffed, closing his eyes for a moment. "You'd better not forget about us either, while you're off frolicking with all of the Jonin. We were your friends first."

   Kakashi smiled under his mask and let out a soft chuckle. "I'll miss you."

   "Well, you'll be back in a couple of months, so it's all fine, right?" Obito pointed out, grinning with seemingly forced cheeriness.

   Kakashi elbowed Obito gently. "That is, if I don't die."

   "You won't die, you're far too talented for that."

   "Talented, me?"

   "Please. If you're not talented, then I might as well just go back to the Academy."

   A gust of wind blew over them from behind, stirring their hair, snow flying off of the river in a great shimmering cloud only to land meters away, fluttering onto the ground like leaves in autumn. "I should get some rest," Kakashi finally said, tearing his eyes away from Obito's face to look out at the freckled sky. "And thanks for bringing me here."

   Obito stood first, a hand already finding Kakashi's to help him to his feet. "I wanted to go somewhere nice before you had to leave," Obito said, gaze fixed on his shoes. "Just to talk, and hang out, you know?"

   "It was nice."

   Obito shot him a weak smile and gripped his hand harder, tight enough that Kakashi felt the warmth of his hand through his borrowed gloves. "I'll walk you home," he said, eyes shining in the moonlight.

 

   Obito wasn't in the group that saw Kakashi and the mission group off from the gates the next morning at dawn, even though Rin and Minato were. It hurt until the squad's first break, and Kakashi opened his backpack to find a piece of paper folded in the front pocket.

 

   Dear Kakashi,
   This is the first letter. And you'd better send one in reply when you rest up this night, or I will kick your ass when you come back home.

   From,
   Obito