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Letters to an ANBU

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Hound was confused. He had just been dismissed from the Hokage’s office and had teleported to the ANBU headquarters to change; and when he opened his locker, an envelope had fallen out. It was strange for a few reasons:

  1. It was addressed to “ANBU-san”, which meant the writer didn’t seem to have anyone specific in mind. Did that mean it was a general notice of some sort?
  2. It was in his locker, and no one else seemed to have one. Why only him? And did that mean it was not a general notice?
  3. How the hell did someone slip past ANBU security to deliver a letter in the locker room?

Although curiosity was nagging at him to read it then and there, there were too many prying eyes in the headquarters; so Hound quickly changed and went home.


Dear ANBU-san,

How are you? My name is Iruka, and I am 8 turning 9. We are doing an activity at the academy where we have to write a letter to someone in the village, and I wanted to write to an ANBU. My teacher said he would give this letter to the Hokage so he can give it to an ANBU for me, since no one else knows who you are. I really hope you get this.

From Iruka

A kid had sent him a letter. Hound didn’t know how he felt about that - he supposed he was a little intrigued, but he didn’t really have the time to engage in letter writing – he was an ANBU, after all. Besides, he wasn’t very good at writing in general, since he was still getting used to seeing with only one eye, and all the characters looked blurred to him.

But when Hound got back from a mission two weeks later, the letter he had left on his bedside table seemed to lift his spirits a bit, and he finally decided that he would respond. This Iruka kid was a little incorrect about no one knowing he was ANBU, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t a little touched that someone had thought of him.


Hi Iruka-san,

I found your letter in my locker. Did you write this yourself? It is very neat. Why did you decide to write to an ANBU?

- Hound

Iruka was ecstatic. After two weeks of everyone telling him that he wasn’t going to get a reply from the ANBU, a letter addressed to him mysteriously appeared in the academy mailbox. It was only a short reply, but Iruka didn't care - it was a letter. From an ANBU. And not just any ANBU, it was from Hound - the really cool one people had just started talking about throughout the village. Iruka read the letter over again so often that he had memorised every single word; and he hadn’t even had it for an entire day. He usually loved being at the academy, but he couldn’t wait to go home so he could write to Hound again.


Dear Hound,

I am very glad you got my letter, and thank you for sending one back. Though I have to say, your writing looks like scribble! You should be more careful when you write so that it is easier to read.

I wanted to write to an ANBU because without anyone knowing who you really are, I thought it might get lonely. And everyone needs a friend to talk to. 

Do you want to be friends with me?

From Iruka

P.S. You’re not just someone pretending to be ANBU, are you? Everyone at the academy doesn’t believe that you’re the real Hound. I got in trouble for punching someone today because they said that.

Hound found Iruka intriguing. With only two letters, he had managed to paint a clear picture of himself - he was someone who tried to stick to the rules, but wasn't afraid to speak his mind and go against them to stand up for his comrades if he had to; and Hound really respected that. Iruka also came across as very innocent for a pre-genin of his age - who even asks people if they want to be friends?; but despite that obvious contrast to the people he knew, Hound was drawn to him and his meticulous handwriting.


Hi, Iruka-san,

Everyone tells me that my writing is messy. If you knew who I was, you would know why; but I can’t reveal my identity to you.

I guess it would be safe to keep in touch, although I may not write often because of my missions.

-  Hound

P.S. You really shouldn’t be getting into fights with your classmates – they’re the ones who will be protecting you, and who you will be protecting on missions. Save that for the enemies…

But thanks for defending my honour.


There were times when Hound felt lost and hopeless, where he didn't know what he was fighting for anymore, and wondered if there was still any point in being here. He felt empty and numb; and his paralysing nightmares of mercilessly slamming his lightning blade into everyone he saw made him feel like a monster tainted with a curse of destruction. Hound really hated himself, and often isolated himself from everyone - he didn't think he deserved friends.

But when he was at his lowest points, he found himself opening a box he kept in his bedside drawer to read all the letters Iruka had sent him over the years. Although he was young, Iruka had a way of speaking to his very soul; and Hound found comfort in the warmth of his words, and it helped ease his pain. Although he had never met him before, Hound felt like Iruka was always by his side, reminding him of who he really was behind the mask.


Dear Hound,

Does the pain of losing someone ever go away? Most days are good now, but sometimes I miss my parents so badly it physically hurts. I wish I could make it stop.

- Iruka

Hound carefully ran a finger across the smudged writing, and could tell immediately that it wasn't messy because Iruka had been careless when writing; it had been because he had been crying. Hound's heart sunk. He wished he knew Iruka in person so he could be by his side and watch over him - he didn't want him to be alone.

Hey Iruka,

I wish I could answer your question, but even I am still trying to find the answer… On the really bad days, I find that visiting the memorial stone where my loved ones are, and just talking to them gives me a clearer head and makes it easier to bear. Maybe it will help a bit if you visit your parents, too.

I'm always here if you need to talk.



Hound had become a familiar constant in Iruka's life. He was there for him when times were tough, but was also around on regular days; and the conversation was so normal between them that Iruka had almost forgotten a few times, that Hound was an infamous, dangerous ANBU that many shinobi feared. To him, Hound was just… well, his friend. Iruka hadn't met him before, but he felt like he knew who he was. And he liked the person beneath the mask.


Dear Hound,

I can't believe it! I passed the chuunin exams!

Kotetsu and Izumo want to celebrate with me, so I have to go now; but I just wanted to tell you the news.

I promise I will write more next time!

Stay safe!

- Iruka

Iruka was in a good mood after he handed his letter over to the Hokage. Hound hadn't mentioned any other mailing addresses in any of the eight years they'd been writing, so the Sandaime was still delivering them to him. Iruka didn't like asking him to do that, but he insisted that it was fine, and mentioned that he enjoyed seeing Hound's mood brighten whenever he found out that there was a letter for him. Hearing this made Iruka feel even closer to Hound, like they had an unbreakable friendship that was just as important as the ones he had with people he saw often; and although he loved the letter-writing, he wished more than ever that he could meet Hound one day.


Good job, Iruka - I told you that you'd pass!

I've had the impression for a while that you're a good shinobi - you should be more confident in yourself.

Enjoy the celebration, and don't do anything that I wouldn't do! Actually, I'm a bad example of what you should and shouldn't do - just don't get into too much trouble.

I'm about to leave on an extended mission. I'm not sure when I'll be back, but I'll keep in touch.

Bye for now.

- Hound

Hound spotted the messenger hawk he'd sent to deliver his message, and smiled sadly as the bird disappeared behind a cloud. He wished he could stay in the village longer - he was really going to miss talking to Iruka while he was gone.


Iruka waited patiently for Hound to return - he was sure he would be back soon. But then a month went by, and he still hadn't heard from him. He tried to reassure himself with reminders that some missions go on even longer than that, and Hound had said it was an extended mission, so there was a chance he was still on it and hadn't found time to write yet.

While he waited, Iruka kept hearing whispers throughout the village, of the legendary Hound; about how he was serving Konoha from the shadows, and was so silent no one knew he was there, except when his eye glowed red and he produced an arm of lightning; and the stories had grown to say that if you hear a whistling chirp in the middle of the night, it's not a bird, but Hound striking another enemy. Iruka wished he could say he enjoyed hearing the stories as much as he had as a child, but these days they were just a constant reminder that Hound still hadn't gotten back to him.

Hound, when are you coming back? I miss you…

Iruka had written what was on his mind, but there was no point in sending the message to Hound. It had been six months since his last letter, and he had finally accepted that he wasn't going to reply; but after keeping in touch with Hound for so long, he still tried to keep tabs on him. It hurt to know he had lost someone so important to him, and he really wished he knew why Hound had suddenly ignored him.

Did Hound figure out who he was, and decide he didn't like him anymore? Or did he forget all about him by the time he got back from his mission? Iruka didn't know which reason would be worse. They were both horrible to think about, and he didn't want to think Hound was like that. So although he had given up on hearing from him, he still listened to village gossip to check in and assure himself that Hound was okay - he couldn't turn his feelings off in one day.


It had been nearly two years since Iruka had last heard from Hound, but it certainly hadn't been the last he'd heard of him - there were plenty of stories and rumours going around. Whenever Iruka heard Hound's name mentioned, he felt a split second of hope, but then his heart would become heavy and sink - he had become so attached to Hound that it turned out he hadn't been able to block out his feelings towards him at all, and he really missed him.

It became even worse was when all of a sudden, rumours about Hound stopped circulating in the village, and there was absolutely no news at all. When Iruka noticed this change about a month in, he became sick with dread, and couldn't help but think that something had happened; because usually when everyone stopped talking about a shinobi as great as Hound, it only meant one thing - he had passed.

Iruka ran through the village as his mind raced, and his body jittered with anxiety - Hound couldn't be dead! His feet took him to the nearest place that he could confirm that it wasn't real, that he was just overreacting; and he skidded to a halt at the mask stall, out of breath. He scanned the retired ANBU mask display, seeing all sorts of shapes and designs; and one of them caught his eye - a canine design that could only be a hound. As he stared at the mask in horror, Iruka went weak as his world crashed around him. No one as young as Hound ever retired from ANBU - they died.

Iruka hurried off, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall from his eyes; but when he was alone, he couldn't hold them in any longer, and they streamed down his face as he let everything out. Although they had never met, Iruka really cared about Hound and considered him a close friend, maybe even more; and there had always been a special place for him in his heart.

Iruka took a shaky breath and went to the memorial stone to pay his respects, remembering how Hound had spoken about loved ones engraved on the stone. He hoped that they were reunited, and tried to picture Hound's face, seeing his loved ones again; but all he could see was that empty, haunting mask on the display; and Iruka's vision blurred as tears filled his eyes once more. If he had any major regrets in his life, it was that he had never met Hound before, and was never able to put a face to that person behind the mask.

"Hey, are you okay?" Iruka looked up at the person who spoke to him, taking in the masked face and hidden left eye. It was Hatake Kakashi - a man just as legendary as Hound.

"Yeah, I'm fine." he sniffed, quickly looking away, embarrassed that he had been caught crying in front of one of Konoha's most powerful shinobi. Kakashi studied him with a scrutinizing, but knowing gaze.

"You shouldn't grieve alone. My place isn't too far from here. Why don't you come back with me?"


Iruka poured his heart out to this stranger, to the Hatake Kakashi, and told him all about Hound, and the letters, and everything else that made him come to the conclusion that he had passed away; and how the reason he had come to the memorial stone was for Hound and all of his loved ones whose names were inscribed on the stone. And when Iruka had shared as much of his story as he could bear, Hatake Kakashi did the last thing he expected. He pulled Iruka into his arms, and held him tightly, like he was the most important thing in his possession.

"Thank you for bringing me here and keeping me company." Iruka said as he eventually pulled away from Kakashi's warm and inviting grip. "But why did you? I'm just a stranger."

"A kid once told me that everyone needs a friend to talk to; and at the time, I rolled my eyes and thought I knew better… But I eventually came to realise he was right." Kakashi hesitated. "And you looked like you needed someone by your side."

Hatake Kakashi wasn't just a genius shinobi. He was patient, kind, and understanding behind his outer persona; and Iruka felt a sense of familiarity being around him, despite the fact that they had just met - it was like he was Hound reincarnated.

"You remind me of him… Hound used to leave his mask off around me, too." Iruka smiled sadly. "I just wish I could have seen his face beneath it."


When Kakashi closed the door behind Iruka, he buried his head in his hands and cried, sliding to the floor. He had just met the person who had been on his mind for years, who had lifted him when he was drowning in his darkest moments, and who had made his time in ANBU more bearable; and all he had done in return was hurt him. But he hadn't just hurt Iruka - Kakashi had completely destroyed him. He had really fucked up this time; and having witnessed Iruka's pain made him sick to the gut. He despised himself for doing something so horrible to someone he deeply cared about.


Iruka… I'm so sorry I haven't written you a letter in a while.

Hi Iruka, I have something I need to tell you.

Iruka, I'm sorry for abandoning you. I miss you

Kakashi aggressively scribbled out every word he wrote, and scrunched up the piece of paper in frustration, throwing it across the room. He couldn't do this - writing another letter now, after everything, would be too cruel. The only way he had any chance of making things right again was to speak to Iruka in person. It was going to be painful, and he didn't expect to be forgiven, but the least he could do was tell Iruka the truth. He had a right to know who Hound was, and why he never heard back from him. Kakashi felt like he was the worst person in the world, worse than scum - he couldn't believe he had chosen rules, and abandoned someone so important to him again.


"Hi, Iruka."

"Kakashi-san? What are you doing here?"

"I uh, need to tell you something." he said gravely, nervously fiddling with his mask. "Something that I should have said a long time ago."

"Come on in."

It had been almost a week since his encounter with Kakashi, but he was talking as though they had known each other for years; and by the sounds of his tone, he was about to deliver bad news. Iruka could feel the nervousness radiating from him, and it was making him nervous, too.

"What's wrong?"

"I wasn't entirely honest with you last time we spoke." Kakashi said hesitantly. "Us being strangers… That's not true."

"What do you mean?"

"I've had this for about ten years, so it might be a bit hard to read, but..." Kakashi reached into his vest and pulled a slightly crinkled, folded up piece of paper from his pocket, and handed it to Iruka.

Dear ANBU-san,

How are you? My name is Iruka, and I am 8 turning 9. We are doing an activity at the academy where we have to write a letter to someone in the village, and I wanted to write to an ANBU. My teacher said he would give this letter to the Hokage so he can give it to an ANBU for me, since no one else knows who you are. I really hope you get this.

From Iruka

Iruka's hands shook as he read the words, and he took a seat on his couch, suddenly unable to stand. It was his very first letter; the first link to the relationship they had been able to build; the beginning of everything that Iruka had grown to love. He was eight when he had written that, and he was eighteen now - had it really been ten years since then? It suddenly dawned on Iruka what Kakashi had been trying to say, why he had hugged him so intimately the other day, and why Iruka felt like he had known him longer than just one encounter. Hatake Kakashi was definitely no stranger.

"You're Hound…" Iruka's breath caught in his throat. Kakashi swallowed, and nodded in affirmation, his heart pounding wildly.

"I'm so sorry, Iruka. I never meant to hurt you. I should have responded when I got back from my mission, and I should have told you who I was much sooner."

"W-Why?" Iruka's voice cracked. "Why didn't you?"

"There was an enemy on that mission who had similar mind techniques to the Yamanaka clan. I wasn't expecting the attack; and he got into my mind and saw my memories, including all your letters. I defeated him, but knowing what he had seen and what could have happened made me realise that speaking to you was very risky. If an enemy found out who you were… In my mind, not being able to write to you again was better than losing you forever."

"I…" Iruka didn't know what to say. He was happy, upset, angry, and relieved all at once, and just really confused - so much was going on in his head that he was finding it hard to comprehend anything. Kakashi's face fell as he studied the array of emotions etched into Iruka's expression.

"I understand if you don't want to talk to me anymore." he said in lament, turning to leave. "I'm just glad I got to meet you at least once."

"Please don't go." Iruka blurted, just as Kakashi reached the door. "I-I've really missed you."

"You have?" He turned around.

"I… feel like I've known who Hound is ever since I was a kid, and although we never met, I always felt so close to him; and in our time apart, I was never able to let go of what I felt for him. And now that I know that Hound is you… Well, I'm a bit overwhelmed and don't know what to make of it all; but if you're the person I've been searching for and waiting to meet all this time, then I don't want you to leave. Not when I've just found you."

Kakashi felt like an emotional mess. Iruka meant so much to him - he never thought he'd ever let himself care for someone this much again; and now he was hearing that what he'd felt wasn't one-sided, that Iruka felt the connection, too. He didn't deserve him; but if Iruka wanted him in his life, Kakashi couldn't say no. He was done hurting other people.

"O-Okay, then. I'll stay." he said, joining Iruka on the couch, putting an arm around him.

The physical contact was what he needed - what both of them needed; and Kakashi let his mind wander, unable to say anything else. He had done his talking over the years; and now he wanted to make up for lost time by just being close to Iruka, feeling his very being against him. Kakashi had never expected this outcome when he revealed who he was, but he was glad Iruka hadn't pushed him away; because he really did want to stay.

"For the record," Kakashi eventually murmured, "I missed you, too."

And I vow to never leave you again.


Dear Kakashi,

You are currently sleeping in bed, right by my side as I write this - did you know that you sometimes snore?

It has been a few years now since I found out who you are; but in my heart, I've known you for so much longer.

No matter what mask you've worn, you've always taken it off in front of me, trusting me with your secrets, your pain, and your desires; and you've always been by my side, regardless of whether I was at my worst or my best.

I can't pinpoint when, but I fell for you - hard. You mean everything to me, and I love you so much.

I'm ready to be united with you forever and always.


Iruka set the letter aside, and smiled, kissing Kakashi goodnight as he settled under the covers. He hoped he'd be able to sleep, but if he started thinking about the events of the next day, he didn't think he'd be able to...

Because it wasn't every day that he got to say "I do" to the love of his life.