Disclaimer. Neither Iruka-sensei nor Kakashi-sensei are mine, but that's ok. I know I'm really not their type.

A.N. This is an action adventure type tale. It will have some OCs in important roles, but be strictly focused on Kakashi and Iruka. Don't want to give away too much yet.

I plan to do one chapter every 2 weeks until it is done.

oooooooooooooooooooooooo

The Blood of the Wolf.

Iruka was pinned under him, hard, smooth, slick with sweat. He could feel his lover's thighs straining against his sides, their pulsing pressure urging him on. Together they were a perfect fit, perfectly matched, fair skin against dark, white hair against black, strength against… a different strength that was much more gentle. He leaned in to kiss the face he loved so much and was met with hot wet lips and an eager tongue. Ah God it was good. There was a change in the Iruka's breaths as they became short and sharp, almost like soft barks, it was what he had been listening for. Iruka was at the edge, so was he. Kakashi gasped loudly, so loudly that he woke himself up. Quickly regaining control he held back just in time, as his imaginary lover vanished.

"You ok Kakashi-sensei?" Sakura said anxiously nearby.

He pulled up his mask and flipped back the blanket. "Yes fine, fine. Just a dream."

"Oh, a nightmare?"

"Not exactly." Kakashi smirked. "Since I'm awake I'll take over the watch now, you get some sleep.

The young woman yawned loudly. "Thanks, don't mind if I do."

He listened to the rustle of her blankets then carefully thought over what had just happened. Of course he'd indulged in wet dreams about Iruka many times when he was away on missions, but only solo missions, never when he had the kids with him. So how had he come so close to embarrassing himself tonight? He wasn't the only one to let his control slip on this mission either. Naruto had almost blasted one of their targets away when he'd come within range, despite the fact that the whole reason they were there was to capture and to interrogate him. Fortunately he'd stopped in the nick of time, but it had let the enemy escape. And Sakura, who even as a child had chakra control that was almost beyond belief, had erupted several acres of ground. In the wrong direction.

Something was definitely off. The kids were young and green, bound to make some mistakes, but he was Sharigan Hatake and his focus just didn't drift like this, not on missions. The sense of 'not quite reality' that he'd learned to associate with powerful genjutsus long ago hung in the air, but there was no illusion, he was sure of it. Hitching his headband up an inch, he peered under it, just to be sure. No, no illusions. But there was something. He pulled down his mask and tracked his sensitive nose along the inside of his arms and across his chest. Fuck, he could smell Iruka and he hadn't been near the man in over two weeks.

The following day Kakashi and his team were all wretched and weary. It had been a long chase and none of them had been sleeping well, but they had finally cornered their quarry. The two unknown nins had been easy to track. One of them must have been hurt because they left a distinct scent of blood wherever they went. They had followed them deep into cloud country and then most of the way back again, but now the man and woman had staked out a rocky outcrop at the foot of the mountains. A good strategic choice, the limestone rocks on the slopes above were quite unstable. That was clear from the many boulders and heaps of skree. Not a good place for explosive releases of chakra. The rocks they were hiding amongst would provide their adversaries with decent protection against a landslide, but out in the open his team would have none. It would have to be a close combat fight, but they couldn't kill, they needed information.

"Stay back, let us handle this." Kakashi hissed to Sakura, as he signaled to Naruto that he was about to flank around. Naruto started walking forward, openly bristling with weapons. Using ultimate stealth Kakashi closed the gap from behind. The smell of blood was strong, permeating the whole area, he even imagined he could see a faint mist of it in the air. The man peeked from behind a boulder and Kakashi responded with a kunai sent hurtling towards his shoulder, but he pulled back, dodging it easily. Then the woman was in the air above him, swinging a sword towards his head. He leapt away, ducking behind a jagged white rock. How did she know where he was? She couldn't possibly have seen or detected him. He threw a handful of shuriken to the spot where she'd landed and switched his position to another rock, just in time to see the man lash a saw-edged chain to where he had just been.

What the fuck was going on here? He had never seen ninjas work together so perfectly, and he'd seen teams in action that were damn good. It was spooky, as if they could see through each other's eyes. He hopped onto the top of the rock and transformed into a sparrow. Naruto was now within attack distance at the front of the outcrop. The man turned and saw him. Kakashi transformed back to distract him then left a clone standing on the rock as he jutsued away. The woman threw a shuriken over her shoulder that ripped across his clone's throat, without so much as turning around.

Naruto released a shower of kunai, from his position in front of the rocks. Now he had their full attention, but instead of pressing his advantage the youth froze for a moment. An impossible mistake. His overheated blood turned to ice as he realised that he'd left an opening to his enemies and that he was about to die. Kakashi saw everything. Instantly he understood everything. There was no time to take out one then the other. So, both at once then. He leapt high into the air and shot a shuriken at the man that sliced through his upper arm, severing the ligaments below his shoulder. Then landed, pressing a kunai into the back of the woman's neck.

Got them! Or not. The mystery nins teleported away as one.

"Damn! They went this way." He called out to the others. Even the pair's chakra trail was laced with the scent of blood.

Naruto collapsed at his feet.

He scooped him up as Sakura ran over to them. Fortunately she located the tiny needle in his wrist and drew out the poison before it had much chance to circulate through his body.

"And I was about to complain that I didn't get to do anything." She commented, as she sat, resting his blond head on her lap.

"Let him sleep, I'll be able to find them later." Kakashi assured her, hoping it was true.

A blue eye slitted open. "Shouldn't take the chance, not after all this trouble. I'm ok, I was just… comfortable."

Sakura jumped up sharply, letting him fall to the ground with a groan and brushing off her thighs, where his head had been nestled. "Why you… you've been hanging out with that pervert Jiraiya too much, you're gonna be glad you heal so fast when we get back home and I beat you to pulp for this."

"'Spose I deserved that." Naruto said with a guilty grin. "By the way, sorry I froze up on you back there, for a moment I had the feeling they were all around me. I didn't know which direction to throw. Not like clones, just this presence all around. Weird."

"Yeah, I know what you mean." Sakura agreed. "There's something kinda off about these two. Makes my skin feel all crawly whenever we get near them. Surely you've noticed too Kakashi-sensei?"

He couldn't have put it better himself. "Hmm, well we'll find out when we catch them."

As it happened it didn't take Kakashi long to track their targets down again. The scent of blood led him to a cave, a narrow dark opening hidden in the shadows where the mountains met the forest. He knew it well and obviously, they did not. Although the caverns went deep underground and formed a complex network of interconnected chambers, he knew that this was the only entrance. All he had to do now was wait for them to find that out for themselves and come back up.

oooooooooooooooooooooooooo

Tsunade, the fifth Hokage of hidden leaf, took the scroll from the back of the bottom draw in her desk and unrolled it across the desk's polished surface. She read it through for the umpteenth time. A coded message from Hidden Sand warning of… something. Something big that involved Konoha and that was very scary. Rumours they'd picked up from nomads and travelers in the desert. Rumours of people who didn't seem to belong, of unexplained explosions, and of ship that had arrived at night and unloaded a small but heavy cargo that now lay hidden somewhere beneath the shifting dunes.

She had to send someone to Sand to get more details and she knew who she had to send. Hatake Kakashi. His could track, hunt, and uncover hidden secrets like no one else in all the Ninja Villages in the world. But Kakashi and his team still hadn't come back from their last mission. She sighed. She'd wait another two days then send… who? There was no one else.

Returning the scroll she turned to the others piled in a basket at the side of her desk. She opened one and raised an eyebrow.

"Send someone for Umino Iruka."

Shikamaru found Iruka on his hands and knees in the academy training field. Red faced, embarrassed and very frustrated. The day's weapons training had ended for his pre-genin class more than an hour ago, and it had been… challenging. In fact the class he had just survived was a perfect example of the experience he would like to force on anyone who thought academy teachers had safe and easy lives. Some of these kids had power. Raw, undisciplined, wildly out-of-control power. Enough to blast his chakra tags right off some of the training kunai so that now he simply couldn't find them.

That was why he was crawling around in the long grass. The idea of leaving weapons in a place where children genetically predisposed to throw sharp pointy objects liked to play, upset him. Even after receiving Tsunade's message he was tempted to keep searching just a little longer, but she might have news that he was desperate to hear.

"Alright I'm going." He said irritably as Shikamaru reminded him for the third time that Hokage-sama was expecting him. "But you'll have to take over here and don't you dare leave here until you've found at least five kunai. I know they have to be around here somewhere." He narrowed his eyes. "If you leave before you find every single one of them I will tell your mother."

Konoha's laziest chuunin rolled his eyes and wandered over to the trees at the far side of the field then lay down and looked at the clouds drifting overhead. He would wait until the sun was at a low enough angle to spread the shadows from the forest across the grass, then blend his own shadow into it and use it to probe the whole field. Another two or three hours should do it. It was troublesome but he could wait. No one with a grain of sense upset his mother.

"Is Kakashi back? Is he ok?" Iruka blurted out as soon as he was ushered into Tsunade's office.

She smiled at him, a hint of genuine amusement lightening the grimness in her eyes. "I'm sorry Iruka, we still haven't heard. But he was given strict instructions not to send any communication until he was safely within Fire Country borders. The mission room has been broken into twice now. Someone is infiltrating the village and gathering information on us. We need to know how and why."

"Of course Hokage-sama." The teacher answered politely as all the eager anticipation drained out of his body, replaced with dull resignation. "So why did you want to see me?"

"Actually I have an important mission for you. One of the lords of Wave Country has requested a bodyguard to escort his daughter to Hidden Waterfall, to visit some family."

It was the last thing Iruka had expected to hear, he hadn't left the village for longer than a day in more than a year. "But an escort for a princess is an A class mission, I'm hardly qualified."

"Normally I'd agree, and in fact he's offered to pay well above our usual A class rates, but he wants to keep this all as low key as possible. The girl will be travelling incognito, dressed as a boy, and he specifically asked for one shinobi, ranked no higher than chuunin. Someone who can pass as a tutor. He's heard about the gangs of thieves and bandits in the borderlands and is concerned that a jounin escort might draw attention, make them suspicious of his daughter's true identity."

Iruka looked doubtful but it wasn't his place to ask questions, he held his tongue.

The woman leaned towards him exposing an impressive expanse of cleavage. "Look I don't agree with him either, but as I said he's willing to pay a very generous fee. We really can't afford to turn this down. The village is still badly in debt from the rebuilding we've had to do over the past few years." She smiled trying, and failing, to seem soft and gentle. "That's why I'm asking you. I know that you've been getting some special training and that your er, 'training partner' has brought your skills up to well above normal chuunin level."

Iruka blushed, he was flattered but knew his limitations. "Kakashi has helped me to improve quite a lot but he can't make me better than my natural ability." He took a deep breath. "But if you want me to go I'll take the mission."

Tsunade's attempt at softness abruptly vanished. "I do want you to go. Leave at dawn."

Oooooooooooooooooo

After five days taking turns to monitor the web of chakra he'd woven around the cave entrance Kakashi realised that he would have to go into the cavern after all. The smell tainting the still air at the cave entrance had become stronger and unmistakable. Death. Although neither Naruto nor Sakura seemed to have noticed it yet.

"Stay here." He ordered. "I'm going in."

There was no need for his young teammates to see what he knew was down there. They saw enough horrors, and he was sure he'd find something horrible. The stench intensified as soon as he was in the cave. A lot of blood, metallic, rank and decayed. And the slightly sweet, nauseating smell of putrefying flesh just starting to overtake it.

Past the entrance the tunnel descended quickly. Kakashi projected chakra light into the blackness ahead. It lit up the glittering wet crystals that lined the walls with jewels, covered the ceiling with icicles of stone, and littered his path with tiny spires. Nowhere this beautiful should be this fouled.

He found them deep underground. Two pale, bloated corpses. Floating. The whole inky pool carried the taint of dead blood. Reluctantly he walked over its surface and dragged them both to the shore. It didn't take more than a single glance to confirm his suspicions, they'd slashed their wrists and allowed their lives to bleed out into the water. Perhaps they'd calculated that by diluting their blood they could extend the time before the smell reached his sensitive nose and alerted him to their deaths. Why? What secret had they hoped to keep hidden from him by delaying him here for almost a week? Well whatever they'd stolen from the mission room was now mush at the bottom of that pool, lost forever in the dark water.

The bodies had no identification of any kind. Either missing nins or spies. But he already knew that much. He left them for the cave, it would drip lime water on them and turn their bones to stone over the course of the next ten thousand years. A permanent monument to their sacrifice.

That night Kakashi lounged in a tree while his two young teammates slept cocooned in blankets under its spreading branches. This was the best part of a mission, when it was over and everyone was still alive. Only now could he take time to enjoy the fresh scent of the forest and starlit beauty of the night. There was music too, the songs of a million insects, their trills and whistles combining to sound like the gush of running water as they desperately sought mates before winter closed in on them.

It was so peaceful and so beautiful as he silently kept watch that he was almost happy. Almost. To be completely happy he needed something else. Or rather someone else. Someone with eyes as brown as the forest floor and hair as black as the velvet night. He'd never had the opportunity to share this feeling with Iruka and without him he couldn't be completely happy. If only the teacher was with him now, helping him to watch over the two young people that they had both helped turn into first class ninjas. But Tsunade kept him confined to the village and to his classroom. Although Kakashi had hinted many times that it would be good for the teacher to broaden his horizons and do some more field missions, she was smarter than that. She knew that he was of most use to the village teaching its children.

His eyes traced the bright smear of the Milky Way across the sky. The air was cool and the nights were drawing in. There were still many hours of darkness. In another two he'd wake Naruto to take over from him and within a day they'd be back in Fire country and soon after that home. Then he could be happy again.