Iruka raced through the trees, feet touching each branch silently, leaving no trace of his passing. His target, Asai Makoto, was just ahead – not visible yet, but running scared and starting to make mistakes. Of course, Iruka thought, Asai had already made a number of them, the first of which was leaving Konoha and going missing-nin. His second mistake was ego; believing that Konoha would not send a team after him. Konoha had not sent a team: they’d sent Iruka instead.
Iruka may have been a chuunin school teacher – a good one at that – but he also had a lot of skills he’d never advertised publically. Only a handful of people knew of his particular skillset, namely the Godaime, and the head of T & I, Morino Ibiki. The ANBU he worked with occasionally only knew him by his codename: Kurohyou, the black panther, captain of the Oinin Butai, the Hunter-nin Corps.
Kurohyou was someone you didn’t want to fuck with, so Konoha gossip said. Iruka often found it inordinately interesting to hear people discussing his alter ego; he’d even thrown in some gossip and misdirection on occasion just for fun. The rumor mill said that Kurohyou wore a black cat mask (correct), carried a long, black-bladed Katana (also correct) and had taken down at least twenty-five missing-nin, some of who were S-ranked criminals (incorrect – mostly – it was twenty-one, and most missing-nin were disaffected genin or chuunin with the occasional jounin thrown in). Gossip also stated Kurohyou was really Hatake Kakashi, or maybe Shiranui Genma, which pissed Iruka off a little if he had to admit it.
Snow began to fall amongst the trees, huge white flakes that would eventually make the branches slick and hard to grip. The light was also fading, turning that peculiar shade of purple-blue that heralds a heavy snowstorm. Iruka decided he needed to engage his enemy soon or risk a drawn out fight in less than ideal conditions. He pulled three kunai from his thigh pouch and quickly attached timed exploding tags to the handles. He began to move to the left, cutting across the path of the chuunin up ahead. When he had Asai in his sights, he let fly with the kunai. One embedded itself in the ground, one in a tree, and the other directly ahead of the chuunin. The three tags exploded, doing exactly what they were supposed to; confuse and disorientate his enemy. The kunai on the ground forced Asai higher into the trees while the explosion behind spurred him in the direction Iruka wanted, directly into the third explosion ahead. The man dropped to the ground and then pushed off, although with a decided limp.
A flicker beside Iruka made him turn sharply to avoid a series of shuriken thrown in his direction, but he felt the deep string of at least one hitting its mark, close to his shoulder blade. Careless, he thought. He responded with another kunai, which caught the clone directly in the chest. It dissipated in a puff of smoke and Iruka set off after his quarry. Blood spatters on the trees made the chuunin easy to track, which was a godsend since the snow had begun to fall in earnest and Iruka’s vision was somewhat limited by the mask he wore. Not long now, Iruka reckoned. The clone had probably used up a fair amount of the chuunin’s chakra, although it had been a good distraction.
His prey was just ahead, slowing due to blood loss. Iruka moved to the right, almost level with the man. Asai changed direction suddenly, veering left and pushing off a tree. Iruka twisted and kicked out, connecting with the man’s sternum. He used momentum to push away from his target and gathered his chakra, forming seals. Asai looked exhausted and fear burnt in his eyes, finally realizing, perhaps, that he had indeed met his match. Iruka had no time for pity; that was part of his other persona, that of Umino Iruka. Kurohyou was used to this look in his target’s eyes; the moment they realized they had lost – not only their village, but that their life was forfeit. Iruka finished the seals and released his water jutsu. It was made stronger due to the snow; it was easy to pull the water from his surroundings when it fell from the sky, and the water formed bullet-like pellets that sped toward his target. The man’s body vibrated as each pellet struck him and he fell like a rock from the trees, hitting the ground with a sickening crunch. Iruka dropped silently beside him and stood over his prey, watching for signs of movement.
Iruka’s breath came fast beneath his mask. The chase had been long but he relished it all the same; that burn in his lungs, his muscles working to push his body to the extreme, his mind flashing through myriad possibilities and outcomes, the jutsu used to bring his opponent down. He grimaced; knew that if anyone could see his face it would show feral and unnerving. He knew that right now he looked as far from Umino Iruka as was possible while being the same person. The village sensei had no place here amongst the trees and silent death.
Eventually he knelt down and checked for a pulse. Asai was dead, simply a body in the snow now. Iruka began searching through the chuunin’s gear for anything of note that should be returned to Konoha. His fingers slid over something cylindrical; probably a scroll. Carefully, in case it was booby-trapped, Iruka pulled it from Asai’s vest. A quick brush of Iruka’s chakra confirmed it was simply a scroll, not a trap. Iruka breathed a sigh of relief. One of the cardinal rules that Iruka taught in the classroom was never to rush, never to use guesswork. Using your chakra to test if something was a primed trap ready to blow was about the stupidest and most dangerous thing a person could do, however Iruka needed to work quickly. If this scroll was important, he reckoned it was unlikely it was going to explode in his face. Fortunately, his twisted logic had been correct this time. This mission was turning out more complex that he had expected: Asai had not only gone missing-nin, but he had taken valuable intel from the village. Neither this man’s body, with its village secrets and jutsu, nor the scroll, could fall into enemy hands.
Once Iruka was sure he had what he’d come for, he stood up and drew his katana, bringing it down in a sweeping arc across the neck of the chuunin, beheading the body in one neat stroke before sheathing the blade and returning it to its place across his back.
He removed a small pouch from his pack and began sprinkling the body with powder. Then he clasped his hands, said a prayer for the departed, and flashed through six seals in rapid succession. Small droplets of rain fell, mixed amongst the snow, and when the droplets combined with the powder, the corpse began to melt. Iruka watched until the body was obliterated, only the outline left in the snow to show where it had been. That too was easily fixed; and soon nothing was left to show that there had ever been a corpse in this spot – nothing for the enemy to find should they come looking.
Only now, coming down off the adrenaline rush of the fight, Iruka started to feel pain. He plucked a shuriken from his shoulder. The point was embedded in the bone and required some work to get free. Iruka pulled the red bandage from his arm warmers and tied it tightly around his shoulder to stop the blood flow. He’d have to bandage the wound properly later on; right now he needed to get away from the scene of the fight as quickly as possible. He may be a hunter-nin, but he wouldn’t be able to take on a number of highly-ranked ninja by himself should the situation arise. He was too close to Rock, deep in Waterfall territory, and the possibility was high he would run into enemy forces.
Iruka pulled a blank scroll and spread it on the ground. He drew a sigil with some ink, a complicated circle with lines radiating outward, and placed the head of the missing-nin in the center. He bit his thumb, drawing blood, and marked the scroll. The head vanished without trace and Iruka re-rolled the scroll. He’d learnt long ago it was far easier to keep his evidence in a container scroll, rather than lug a trophy across country. Ninja are nothing if not practical but the law dictated Iruka must present evidence to the Hokage of his kill.
He surveyed the scene carefully one last time, checking to make sure no signs were present of what had transpired, and then adjusted his mask.
It was time for Kurohyou to return to Konoha.
It took Iruka seven hours to cross the border of Waterfall back into Fire Country. From here, it was a further three days to Konoha at regular ninja speed, two if he pushed himself at the pace of an ANBU. Now he was back in friendly territory, he could take the time to rest for a while and see to his wounds.
It took him only moments to realize a small group was keeping pace with him; shadowing his flank in a classic ANBU escort formation. He reached out with his chakra carefully; he’d used a lot during the fight and didn’t want to waste it if his trackers weren’t friendly. He heard a bird call, recognized it as a Konoha sign, and relaxed slightly. He dropped from the branches to the ground and waited. All ANBU were twitchy by nature; just because one was dressed as a Konoha hunter-nin didn’t mean that he necessarily was. He let his hands drop to his sides, palms upward and waited. A shadow moved to his left, another from his rear on the right. A flicker in his vision just ahead and another appeared; this one tall with silver hair and a dog mask. Inu, Iruka thought. Inu was one of the ANBU’s captains, Iruka’s counterpart.
The silence stretched for a moment until it was almost uncomfortable, and Iruka felt cool, electric chakra brush across his. It was almost a caress and Iruka fought not to move. He’d seen Inu in action, knew that this searching chakra could instantly become deadly and sharp. Still, the brush of chakra was intimate, but not unwelcome. Iruka felt his eyes start to slide close and his breathing tighten a little.
“Kurohyou-san.” Inu’s voice had a deep, languid quality to it. Iruka wondered what his voice would sound like without the ANBU mask on. Would it still have that seductive, whiskey velvet sound to it or would it change cadence?
Iruka felt Inu’s chakra recede and it was like a small loss. He took a deep breath and tried to assume some kind of normalcy. Every time he ran into Inu it seemed to get harder to push away the feelings of want the man stirred in him. Maybe it was the air of danger that surrounded the ANBU. Maybe it was the way he moved with a dangerous, yet lazy attitude. No, Iruka thought, not lazy; more sensuous, languid. He was more suited to wearing the cat mask than that of a dog.
“Stand down,” Inu instructed his team. Iruka felt the tension decrease rapidly, the lessening of killing intent. It was a relief.
He moved toward Inu. “What brings you to the borders of Fire Country?”
“We’re monitoring unusual activity,” Inu replied. He gestured to his team to move closer. “Which is why you’re out here, I assume. A mission?”
Iruka nodded. The nod was enough; neither ANBU nor hunter-nin would press for further information. S-Ranked missions were issued by the Hokage, and would be reported to only the Hokage.
“Is there anything we should know beyond the border that might be relevant?” The female ANBU in the dragon mask asked. Tatsu, Iruka remembered.
Iruka thought hard. “Surprisingly, I saw nothing unusual.”
“That in itself could be noteworthy, Senpai.” Neko, the one with the cat mask, spoke. He was a wood-jutsu user, the only one Iruka knew of.
“Hm.” Inu nodded. “We’ll head toward Kanaabi Bridge next, I think.” He turned back to Iruka. “Do you need supplies?”
“Only time to rest for a while and to tend to my wound.”
“We’ll make camp for the night. Tatsu, can you put up a henge large enough to conceal a fire?”
Tatsu nodded. “You build a fire, I’ll hide it.”
Iruka was grateful for the rest – and the warmth of the fire. It was small fire, barely serviceable, but Iruka was finally able to relax. Tatsu was up in the trees, on watch, while Neko crouched a distance away, sorting through food rations. Inu sat near Iruka, watching as Iruka unwound his bandages to examine the wound.
Iruka nodded. “Careless of me. Wasn’t even my target, it was a clone.”
Inu made a small sound and Iruka finally recognized it as laughter. “What?”
“Nothing.” Inu reached into his pouch and pulled out a roll of new bandages. “Do you need help?”
“I can get this.” Iruka cleaned the wound as best he could and applied a numbing salve. “Stitches will have to wait.”
Iruka looked up in surprise.
“You can’t wait two days for medical attention. Let me.”
Iruka sighed. “I need to return to Konoha immediately.”
“And a few hours won’t make a difference.”
Iruka stared at the blank dog mask. Inu was impossible to read, which was the point of the ANBU mask. He supposed he was just as unreadable in his black mask. After a few moments of staring, Iruka looked down and began searching through his pack for needle and thread. Maybe Inu was right; even a small chance of infection could be the death of him later. “Fine, let’s get this over with.”
Inu shifted closer to examine the wound, until he was so close his knee almost touched Iruka’s. “Deep wound. The shuriken tore up your skin when it entered.”
“I had noticed,” Iruka drawled.
Inu’s fingers brushed across his hot skin, pressing around the wound. Iruka winced, but with nobody to see beneath the mask his momentary weakness wouldn’t show. Inu’s fingers paused, having picked up Iruka’s body language instead. “This is going to hurt somewhat.”
Iruka bit his lip and let Inu work. The tug of the needle against his skin was a necessary evil, and Iruka tried to push the pain down and focus on watching Inu instead. He bent close to the wound, exposing a long, cloth-covered neck to Iruka’s view. He wore another mask under the ANBU mask, like Iruka did. Iruka wore the secondary mask to cover the scar over his nose, which was a sure sign of identification should his panther mask get knocked off in a fight. He wondered what Inu was also hiding; a scar, or maybe a birthmark? Inu’s proximity was also unnerving. Every little touch of Inu’s fingers did pleasant things to his body, even through the pain, and Iruka had to wonder if the pain heightened the pleasure, and if he was just maybe a little bit of a masochist.
“There,” Inu tied off the final thread and began wrap a bandage around Iruka’s shoulder. He finished quickly and smoothed the bandage flat with his fingers. He looked up, meeting Iruka’s gaze through the mask. It was like an electric jolt, Iruka thought, making eye contact. Not just staring at a mask, but connecting, seeing someone’s soul through the mask. Inu froze and Iruka thought he heard Inu take a sharp breath. His fingers brushed carefully across Iruka’s skin again and in a voice laced with amusement said, “I hear even feral kitty cats like to be stroked.”
Iruka froze, shock and a hard jolt of lust pooling in his belly at the innuendo. Iruka paused and then replied, “That’s funny; I also heard dogs come when their owners call.”
Inu leaned back and laughed, the tension between them dissipating for the moment. “Maa, Kurohyou-san, I think you win this round, although that sharp tongue of yours might get you in trouble one day.”
Iruka grinned behind the mask and got to his feet, rolling his shoulder to test his movement. Neko was staring at them from a distance, ration pack in hand. His whole body radiated surprise, which was in itself amusing. “Inu-san, I think I broke your ANBU.”
Iruka tossed restlessly that night. The dull ache in his shoulder wouldn’t let him sleep properly. It was irritating that such a small wound was able to cause discomfort enough that he couldn’t sleep. Or was it something else? Iruka seemed to be hyper aware of where Inu was at all times, a dangerous yearning. It wasn’t good to become attached, as Iruka well knew. He needed to nip this infatuation in the bud before it started to develop. How often did he even see Inu? He had no idea who he really was, had only the mask and uniform to go by, and that ridiculous silver hair. Inu was an ANBU captain, Iruka was a teacher and a sometime hunter-nin. Both of them hiding their identities for the good of the village. Both of them trained to kill, neither with the time for a relationship.
Doesn’t have to be a relationship, a traitorous voice in Iruka’s head said. Sometimes the body just needs a good fucking. Get rid of the stress.
Speaking of stress… Iruka shifted in his blankets. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad idea. Iruka carefully checked the area. Neko was on watch: he’d heard him leave over an hour ago. Tatsu was sleeping on the other side of the banked fire, and Inu… was nowhere in sight. Iruka paused. Where was he? Bathroom break maybe? Iruka sat up quietly and pushed his blanket to the side, climbing to his feet. Tatsu didn’t move, so Iruka moved quietly to the trees, jumping into the branches. “Kurohyou-san?” Neko’s voice was close by, but Iruka couldn’t see him in the dark.
“Yes. Just going for a break.” He got no response, so had to assume his answer satisfied Neko. Iruka moved silently and then dropped to the ground when he deemed himself far enough away from camp for privacy. The need for release burned at him, made his breath come short just from thinking about his own hand on his cock. His pants were painfully tight now; it wouldn’t take long to get off. When he was home he could take his time, think about Inu, maybe his mouth around Iruka’s cock.
The sound of a twig breaking bought Iruka to a halt, adrenaline pumping and his senses on full alert. He slid a kunai from his thigh pouch and walked forward slowly. Was it an attacker? An animal moving through the brush?
What greeted him was not what he was expecting. Iruka froze, kunai in hand. In the shadows, another shadow. Broad muscled back to Iruka, silver hair dulled to steel in the dark, Inu rested one hand against the tree, his head thrown back, the other hand stroking his cock rapidly.
Iruka felt the blood rush from his body straight to his already hard, aching erection. He must have made a noise, an intake of breath maybe, because Inu turned his head to the side. His hand slowed on his cock, still stroking, but maybe gauging Iruka’s reaction. “Kurohyou,” Inu breathed.
Iruka was rooted to the spot. Slowly, his sheathed his kunai, attention fully fixed on Inu now. He watched as the ANBU turned until his back was pressed against the truck of the tree, exposing himself fully to Iruka. Inu’s hand continued to move slowly over his own cock and Iruka realized Inu was putting on a show now, just for his benefit. Stroking himself, pushing his hips forward into his fist. Iruka’s dick throbbed in his pants, the dull ache ramping up to a tight need that screamed to be released. He pressed his hand to his erection, trying to release some of the need, flirting with the idea of unzipping his pants and jacking off in time with Inu.
Inu’s hand began to move faster, responding to Iruka’s movement, and Iruka could now hear Inu’s breath, hitching on every stroke. He watched as Inu twisted his hand on the upstroke, his other hand caressing his balls. Inu released a small sigh, breathed Iruka’s codename again. He was close, Iruka could see that. But, Inu was waiting for something even as his hand continued to move over his cock. Iruka could see the fine tremors in Inu’s body, his body tense with the need to come, his hips stuttering with every stroke of his hand.
That’s funny; I also heard dogs come when their owners call.
Inu was waiting, Iruka realized. Waiting for Iruka to tell him he could come.
“Inu,” Iruka said with a shaky voice, hoarse with desire. “Come for me, Inu.”
Inu’s reaction was immediate. He stroked his cock once, twice and then with a gasp he came, his seed spilling over the black glove he wore. His hips jerked but Inu continued to stroke himself through orgasm, his gaze locked to Iruka’s even through the mask. Iruka continued to watch, the burn of desire coursing through his body, unable to physically move. If a Sound shinobi had snuck up behind him at this point, he’d be dead, he reckoned. Because not even death would convince Iruka to look away from the beautiful, but wrecked vision of Inu in the last throws of orgasm.
With a final shuddering breath, Inu went slack, the tree taking his full weight. Neither broke from the gaze, the only sound in the clearing Inu’s labored breathing as he fought to get it under control.
The moments stretched and then Inu moved. One second he was by the tree; the next he was in front of Iruka. Iruka moved on instinct, his kunai at Inu’s throat even as Inu materialized. Despite the kunai, Inu pressed forward, sliding a muscled thigh between Iruka’s and pressing upward gently. Iruka’s breath hitched at the pressure on his aching erection and his hand wavered on the kunai. Inu laughed; a deep, velvet laugh laced with desire. Iruka realized Inu was still hard; that if Iruka wanted, the game was only just beginning.
“Next time we meet,” Inu whispered, one hand sliding over Iruka’s cloth-covered erection, “I want you to fuck me, Kurohyou-san.”
“Ngh.” Iruka didn’t trust himself to actually speak. The image was all too much without trying to form words. Inu’s fingers fumbled for the catch on Iruka’s pants, slipped his glove-covered hand inside, and squeezed.
Iruka jerked into Inu’s fist. His gloved hand slipped on the kunai and he made to move. “Don’t,” Inu said. “It’s kind of hot, isn’t it? Me jerking you off at knife point?”
Iruka tried to keep his eyes open. Inu’s eyes beneath the mask were bright with excitement and lust, and he leaned forward, ignoring the bite of the kunai against his skin, until his breath slid over Iruka’s ear. “Do you want to come like this, Kurohyou-san?”
Inu’s words and his hand on Iruka’s cock were a deadly combination. Iruka gasped as his orgasm ripped through him; he felt his cock pulse in Inu’s firm grip. The only thing keeping him upright at the moment was Inu’s thigh between his.
It seemed minutes passed before Inu released him and stepped backward. Iruka released the kunai, let it drop to the floor. His breathing was still racing, but Inu seemed more collected now, although his languid movements spoke of the aftereffects of release. “Remember: next time, Kurohyou-san,” Inu said, before forming seals and flickering out.
“Dammit,” Iruka finally managed to say, although there was no one to hear him. “Damn.” He tucked himself back into his pants and retrieved the kunai, letting his head fall back against the tree trunk.
Next time couldn’t come soon enough.
Iruka returned to Konoha for debriefing thirty-six hours later, and went straight to T & I after checking in with the gate guards, Izumo and Kotetsu. Morino Ibiki was in, so Iruka headed to his office and knocked.
“Come!” Ibiki barked through the closed door. Iruka paused; come was not a word he wanted to hear at the moment. The journey back had been bad enough as it was, Iruka’s concentration veering dangerously off course every time he thought about Inu jacking off. Iruka pushed those thoughts to one side and entered the office, standing at attention until Ibiki had finished writing.
“Kurohyou,” Ibiki said. It was not so much an acknowledgement, but an invitation to report on the mission.
“The target, Asai Makoto, has been dealt with as instructed,” Iruka said. He pulled the scroll from his pouch and laid it on the desk. Both men started at it; aware of the proof it contained, neither willing to speak the password to open the scroll. Not yet, at least. “I engaged the target near the border of Waterfall and Rock. No trace of the body remains, and Konoha’s secrets are intact. I did, however, also find this scroll on the body.” Iruka slid the other scroll toward Ibiki.
“What does it contain?”
“A list of forbidden jutsu originating in Fire Country, most of which are probably archived here in Konoha.”
“You seem awfully familiar with these forbidden jutsu, Kurohyou.” Ibiki raised an eyebrow.
“One of them belongs to my family, which is why I recognize it. It was archived by the Sandaime, before the Kyuubi attack. It was deemed too dangerous to use by my father.”
“I see.” Ibiki paused and Iruka could almost see the gears churning in Ibiki’s head. “You think Asai wasn’t just going missing-nin; you think he planned to meet up with someone and this scroll was his meal ticket.”
Iruka nodded. “It would seem likely, although I saw no sign of anyone else in the immediate area.”
“Good work, shinobi. Thank you for the hard work.”
Iruka recognized a dismissal when he heard one. He left Ibiki’s office and paused in the corridor, then formed a seal and vanished from sight, reappearing in his living room. He pulled off the mask, and checked the entrances and exits for signs of disturbance. Finding none, he strode to his bedroom and pulled down the cloth mask that covered his face, breathing freely for the first time in days. The feel of cool air on his skin was very welcome after the suffocating press of the mask. Next, Iruka removed his weapons packs and the red bandages that covered his thigh and biceps, then the basic ANBU uniform he wore, stripping down until he was naked.
Showering was the best thing after a mission; not only was he washing away the blood and grime, he was washing Kurohyou away, releasing that side of himself until he was called upon again. Now, clean and dry, Iruka was free to be himself for the first time in over a week. And what was Umino Iruka going to do with his free time? Damn well sleep, Iruka thought, sliding under the covers.