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Pausing along the side of his apartment building Iruka froze, breath stuttering in his chest. Hands full of plastic bags of groceries from the shop around the corner and his bag thrown over one shoulder he wasn’t exactly the image of a perfect shinobi in that moment. Standing under the sakura tree in the courtyard of his building was an ANBU. Not a good thing to see on a normal occasion, but to have one lingering directly in Iruka’s path to his front door? It really wasn’t his day…

The ANBU was tall, taller than Iruka by an inch or so he was rail thin under his cloak and all legs from the look of it. His hood was pulled up, and all that Iruka could see from here was the white and red of his mask. A wolf.

“Umino-sensei,” the ANBU said, voice thin and tired like he’d already been working too much

“ANBU-san,” Iruka acknowledged the special nin uncomfortably, “What can I do for you?” Iruka forced himself to walk forward like he wasn’t a bit concerned for his bodily safety, if the ANBU had wanted him dead, he wouldn’t have made it this far, and it wasn’t in usual ANBU taste to play with their prey.

“I have a letter for you, from a certain blond knucklehead,” Wolf said simply, jutting out one hand that clutched a rumpled orange envelope with Uzumaki swirls drawn on it. The sudden move made Iruka flinch a bit but he sucked in a breath and sat down his groceries quickly.

“From Naruto? It’s been two months since I’ve heard anything from him,” Iruka said. Once Naruto had left with Jaraiya, and his location had become classified, even letters were forbidden, to keep the boy safe. Iruka had gone to Tsunade and begged her for something, anything about how he was doing. She’d simply given him a ‘He’s fine Iruka-sensei, don’t worry’. He still worried

“I know it’s been a while, he misses you,” Wolf said, voice warming some. He still sounded painfully tired.

“You spoke to him? Is he doing alright? How is his training?” Iruka couldn’t stop the flood of words out of his mouth once he’d started. Gulping, Iruka calmed himself and took the offered letter with a weak smile. “I’m sorry, I just worry about him,” he said.

Wolf simply seemed amused with his response, making a strange little chuckle in the back of his throat, “I know you do, you love him a lot.”
Turning from Iruka, Wolf strode away, shoulders hunched and hands shoved deep in his pockets as he meandered away from the courtyard and away from the chuunin. Iruka turned to watch him leave, shoving the envelope into his vest pocket before turning for his door.


It had been two weeks since Wolf had made his appearance, Iruka had all but forgotten about it with how busy he’d been. Graduation was coming up, and he had students to prepare, last minute lesson plans to get approved, that and planning the ceremony and working the missions desk. He was running himself ragged and it was beginning to show. Exhaustion had been his constant companion, as well as a lot of coffee, which was not a beverage Iruka usually partook in, but this time? It was a requirement. Blessedly though, it was Friday and he had the whole weekend off for a change. He had planned absolutely nothing, save for laying around in his underwear all day and reading, just because he wanted to.

Too tired for dinner, Iruka stumbled his way into his room and changed into pajamas. It was late, nearly eleven, he’d picked up the late shift at the missions desk after Raido had called in sick. Turning to crawl onto his futon he looked up at the window and caught sight of the porcelain mask glinting in the light from the hallway. Wolf was perched on the precarious metal plant rack he’d hung outside his bedroom window and dripping wet. It had begun to rain on Iruka’s way home, thankfully not too far from his building or he’d have been as soaked to the bone as the ANBU was currently. Dragging the window open Iruka took a step back to let Wolf crawl through it, dripping on his hardwood floors. Wet like this, Wolf looked even skinnier, and his hair, white as snow was hanging lip and unruly across the top of his mask.

“Wolf-san…” Iruka sighed and went to the bathroom, he returned with two towels, and his fluffy bathrobe that Naruto had given him. “Dry off, I’ll make some tea,” he said simply. If someone had asked him before, if he’d invite an ANBU in for tea like this, he would have laughed at them. This was crazy!

Wolf stood there for a long moment, staring at the towels in his hand before shuffling to dry his hair off. “Thank you, Umino-sensei,” he called out as Iruka wandered down the hallway.
“Feel free to change, or use a warming jutsu, or whatever you ANBU do when your soaked to the bone. If you change, I can throw your clothes in the dryer,” Iruka called back like it was no big deal.

Minutes later the ANBU carefully walked into the living room, holding his sandals in one hand, an one of the towels draped across the back of his neck. He looked dryer than he had been before, and was thankfully not dripping on the floor anymore. Iruka bustled into the room and sat down a steaming mug of tea and a sandwich on the kotatsu in the living room.
“Stay as long as you like, eat, dry off. I haven’t slept in days, which I’m sure you understand, so I’m going to bed,” Iruka said with a tired, wry smile before heading back down the hallway. Wolf turned to watch him go in what Iruka assumed to be confusion. Crawling into bed felt like a gods send, warm and snuggly Iruka listened to Wolf drink his tea for a few minutes before sleep overtook him.

He didn’t wake up until nearly ten the next morning, and didn’t crawl out of bed until his bladder twinged angrily. In his living room there was no sign Wolf had been there, save for tattered blue envelope with frogs on it, and the faint, damp smell of rain. The mug and plate from the night before were washed and settled on the drying rack in the kitchen. At least his guest was polite. Pinned on the fridge with one of the silly magnets Iruka’s students had made him was his usual grocery list, but scribbled at the bottom, in neat, cramped handwriting, ‘green tea ice cream’, the bastard had found his stash!

Three months Iruka waited for his next visit, fall drug out into the beginnings of winter, cold and biting with blowing snow before the ANBU made his appearance again. It was late again, one in the morning, and Iruka was trudging home through the quickly accumulating snow. He was thankful he’d donned the oddly knit green hat, and matching scarf one of the parent’s had made him this morning.

It was so similar to the first visit, Wolf was standing under the tree, leaning against the bark like he belonged there, but there was something different this time. The white snow at his feet was pooling with blood rather quickly.

“Wolf-san?” Iruka called anxiously. Trotting up, he held out his hands infront of him, palm out in the universal sign for ‘I come in peace’. He pointedly didn’t touch the other man, not wanting to set him off.

The ANBU swayed on his feet and didn’t protest when Iruka’s hands came up to catch him. One hand on his ribs, the other his shoulder as the teacher steadied him. “Umino-san…I brought you another letter,” he drawled.

“Let’s save that for later, I think you need to go to the hospital,” Iruka said.

“No hospital, it’s not that bad…Just need to stop the bleeding,” Wolf shrugged.

Iruka draped the taller man’s arm across his shoulders and wrapped an arm around his waist before shuffling them towards his doorway. The source of the bleeding was Wolf’s thigh where a deep stab wound was pretty obvious once they got into better light. The ANBU smelled of wood smoke and dirt, and the all too familiar tang of blood.

“I’m not a medic nin, but I can at least bandage you up,” Iruka said, shuffling Wolf into the kitchen and towards the table. “Either take off your pants, or I’m going to cut it,” he said and rushed off to the bathroom to fetch his first aid kit. Wolf snorted behind him in amusement.

“If you wanted in my pants, all you had to do was ask,” the ANBU called after him.

Iruka returned to his kitchen to see the ANBU mostly stripped down, in just his black undershirt and shorts, his pants and outer chest piece placed on the table. The wound to his thigh was deep, and still bleeding but not as bad as Iruka had initially thought. Tsking sharply he opened the kit and set to work, applying pressure to the wound hard enough to make his guest hiss with pain before wrapping it tightly. The pale skin under his fingertips was like ice from the cold outside, and just the touch of him made Wolf’s skin break into goose bumps.
“You’re lucky you didn’t get frost bite,” Iruka snapped and lifted Wolf up out of his chair and into the living room. Depositing his charge onto the sofa he gathered up all the blankets he had in his house, including the one from his own bed.

“Maa sensei, it’s not like anyone would miss me,” Wolf said with a languid shrug as the bedding was piled around him. Iruka glared hard at the man for a long moment, and shook his head.

“I’d care you nit wit, not settle in and I’ll make some tea.”