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Equilibrium

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As a baby, one doesn’t have any recollection of memories until the age of seven, where one’s brain is able to process information clearly. If he attempted to think back to his birth, he would get fuzzy memories, memories that floating out of his line of sight. But he could remember a few specific details, the light slowly shining into the hospital room, the whispering of shadows in his ears and inky black hands gingerly touching his feet.

 

Shikamaru Nara was born on September 22 XXXX, in the darkness of a solar eclipse. The eclipse was unexpected, so was his birth, screams and shouts of pain echoed throughout the grounds. He gave his parents a fright, thinking that he was dead when he didn’t begin to cry as soon as his mouth was cleared. A figure stood in the shadows, they have been observing the birth in silent, cocking xyr head at the display. Xe never has seen a Nara birth on a solar eclipse before, it never happened.

 

Xe nearly flinched at the hand of Shikaku, gesturing to the bundle in his exhausted wife’s arms. Ah, they remember, xe were supposed to go and see the child. Xe didn’t walk, only glided over to the bed warily, staring at the child who had just opened their eyes sleepily. The child tilted their head in curiosity and reached out to touch xem. Xyr fingers were grabbed quickly and pulled, dark brown eyes looked at him with a cunning look.

 

“His name is Shikamaru.”

 

Shika...the Nara prefix for deer, and Maru...an indication that the child was male. The child was already special, being born during the eclipse. Xyr symbol.

 

The bond between your child and I is stronger, due to his birth being under the darkness of the total eclipse. Xe nodded and glided back into the shadows and disappeared.

 

Shikamaru Nara...huh.

 

This child will be a game changer.

 

The same inky hands also had a hand in his upbringing. The day before his fifth birthday, his father had led him into the forest, taking a path that Shikamaru was prevented from crossing. Even as a child he was curious about the restrictions, attempting to poke it. Bend the rules for him to see fit. His mother would laugh and roll her eyes and tell him to be patient. He was told the same thing by his older cousins and his father. Instead, Shikaku would distract him with teaching him how to play Shoji or getting information from one of their many clan libraries.

 

Now, he was able.

 

They wandered the narrow path for a while, sometimes the path flattening dirt and at different twists and turns it would be overgrown by vines and grass. Shikamaru squeezed his father’s hand tighter, the only indication on his blank face that he was...somewhat frightened.

 

Emotions in the Nara clan were accepted, but due to the mask of indifference and boredom that they all wore, it was hard to drop the mask. But his father simply smiled at him and continued onward, the two of them standing in a perfect circle. Shikamaru looked around curiously, his eyes gazing through the forest depths calculating, taking in his surroundings.

 

“We are waiting for something? Aren’t we?”

 

“Correct,” Shikaku paused, his eyes looking towards a certain direction before taking a step back. “Shika, go in that direction, there is something waiting for you. I’ll be here waiting.”

 

Shikamaru nodded at his father’s words before breaking away his grip. Walking towards the general direction that he was pointing at. He paused for a moment, looking back to see his father sitting on the barren ground, gesturing for him to continue onward. Okay, so this was a test. He was either going to pass or fail. He was going in blind, without equipment or a plan.

 

No, he had a plan.

 

Shikamaru had been listening to the whispers of shadows and darkness since he could remember. The gargled words of the shadows had always been buzzing in his ears, not as an annoyance but a comfort. The first thing he was ever taught was how to separate the whispers from the sounds of the physical world, but to foremost listen to the whispers. The shadows would guide him if he didn’t fight their influences.

 

He won’t fight them.

 

He was going to listen. He continued onward, walking aimlessly through the woods, going in a zig-zag pattern to throw off anyone who bothered to follow. Of course, no one was allowed on the Nara compound without his father’s explicit consent but no cannot be too careful. His clan had so many secrets that his father always allures too, and he was going to discover one of them today. The dirt path had ended a long while back but he continued to walk.

 

How long has it been?

 

15 minutes?

 

30 minutes?

 

Close to an hour?

 

Shikamaru didn’t know but he carried on. As the clan’s heir, he wasn't supposed to fail. It was expected of him.

 

He will not fail.

 

The whispers became to grow louder.

 

And louder.

 

And louder.

 

To the point where it felt like someone was beside him or behind him, yelling clear words into his ears.

 

Unum tenebris

 

Unum tenebris

 

Shikamaru stumbled, startled, and tripped over an upended root in his path. He hissed as he hit his knees on the ground harshly. The ground was just grass and soft moss but there were still traces of rock where one was least expecting it. But he wasn’t focused on that.

 

The whispers in his ears were on yelling, it was all he could listen too. It overwhelming him and he felt like he was drowning in it. Drowning in the darkness. His mind was spinning, twisting and turning attempting to find a way out of the dark.

 

He couldn’t focus.

 

It was too much. Too much.

 

His chest hurts, he couldn’t breathe.

 

It was hard to breathe.

 

His body suddenly felt cold and he started to tremble where he laid. It felt like pins and needles pricking his skin, his feet, his hands.

 

It was the feeling of being underwater, just below the surface with nothing under him and there was no way to get up for air.

 

No.

 

Be still.

 

Breathe.

 

His body continued to tremble, tears of panic threatening to spill from his eyes as he crossed his legs, placing his shaking hands in the meditation pose he seen his parents do many times. Maybe that’s why they do it so much, to lessen the noise. To lessen the fear and the overwhelmedness.

 

Focus.

 

Breathe. In and out.

 

Shikamaru shakily sucked in a breath and closed his eyes, letting the tears fall down his face. He shivered again and continued to take in deep breaths until his heart didn’t roar in his ears. He focused on trying to listen to the sounds around him, deafening the yells in his ears.

 

It eventually died down, the whispers sounding apologetic. Shikamaru scooted back underneath the shadows of the tree behind him, suddenly exhausted. He let out a small whimper and wiped the tears away. He shouldn’t act like this. It wasn’t normal.

 

“Little one, why are you crying?”

 

Shikamaru sharply looked up and yelped, looking at a shadow. Correction, it wasn’t really a shadow, more like one of the stags that he has seen his father tend to. It was taller than them all with eerie yellow eyes, and their body was constantly shifting as it kneels down to his level. Shikamaru closed his eyes again before a cold hand touched his face. He opened his eyes again seeing that the shadow took a normal humanoid form.

 

“I believe that this form...is more useful, especially to young children. Though I’m surprised that your parents decided that you were to meet me this early.”

 

What?

 

Shikamaru reached his hand out, the creature flinched, “Hey...I’m not going to hurt you.”

 

“Force of habit, little one.”

 

“The Undimmed Eyes...that’s what you are.” He got a confrontation by the creature’s nod, his brain immediately turning the wheels in his head. This creature was practically the symbol of his clan, the one that one of the heirs of the clan had negotiated a deal with. The same creature that sometimes he saw in the windows, staring back at him.  

 

The creature moved into a comfortable position in front of Shikamaru, their yellow eyes unblinking and seemingly staring into his soul but he wasn’t scared. Not anymore at least.

 

“The shadows, they call to you…”

 

The Undimmed Eyes gave a low rumble in its throat, “I see your parents have produced an insightful heir, you may be smarter than your father. That is correct, the shadows do call to me. In my presence, they increase their voices.” They paused seemingly to think of something before speaking again.

 

“The voices overwhelmed your sense of hearing. I am sorry.”

 

Shikamaru wiped his face again, thankful that the tears stopping flowing, “Based on the shadows’ response, I doubt this has happened before.”

 

“Correct; normally, the voices feel like they’re right next to you, doesn’t it?” Shikamaru nods just slightly and the thing before him hums,

 

“You were born under my symbol of power Shikamaru. As a result, you have a deeper connection to those that linger in the shadows. Do not be alarmed, you are merely a child, you will grow accustomed to it.” The thing offered his hand to him and Shikamaru looked at it for a moment before slowly taking it. The creature helped him up, their eyes seeming to smile at him. Shikamaru sucked in a breath and smiled back. The creature tugged on his hand lightly and they began to walk back together through the woods, Shikamaru slowly beginning to feel better.

 

“I see you are still bothered. What is the problem Shikamaru?”

 

“Your symbol of power is a total solar eclipse, but it doesn’t explain much of why I’m able to hear the shadows much more clearly than everyone in my clan. Assuming that is the case.”

 

The creature paused in its steps, head tilted as if they were appearing to be thinking.

 

Xe was caught off guard by the question, xe didn’t expect the Nara heir to ask so many questions about their abilities. But xe shouldn’t have been surprised, xe’s speaking to a Nara after all. Xe looked around for a moment before xyr eyes settled onto a tree stump. Pulling Shikamaru’s hand, xe led them to stump before kneeling down before it, gesturing for the child to do the same. The creature tapped on the wood for a while before speaking.

 

“This stump, what do you see little one?”

 

Shikamaru peered down at the stump with a squint. Was this another test? A trick question? He shrugged mentally and answered anyways, “The rings of the tree.”

 

“Correct, the rings...as humans put it can tell how long a beauty like this has been standing here. The rings get darker and more pronounced as the older the tree is.” Xyr fingers brushed against the stump almost delicately. As if they pressed down harder, the stump would crumble.

 

“The Nara clan, little one, compared to other clans in your village are already apart of the darker rings. You are in particular are a little closer to the centre.”

 

“The centre is...well I am not the only spirit lurking around the village or this country. The supernatural co-exist with humans and the deeper one goes-”

 

“The stronger the pull towards the centre and the supernatural.”

 

“Yes, potentially you could hear more than the echoes of shadows and darkness. The keyword is potential, little one. I may have walked the earth for a long time, but your family is truly the first humans I have made contact with.”

 

Shikamaru nodded his head, his eyelids slowly closing. He gained more of a clear understanding of his clan’s abilities and his own. Though he doubts that he will ever receive a true understanding, he was only human. And normally, humans don’t have connections to the supernatural.

 

Nor, should they dance within the shadows without fear.

 

His eyes were heavy, and his body slumped forward, almost hitting the stump if the creature didn’t catch him in time. The Undimmed Eyes stood, picking up the boy, looking at him with interest.

 

He’s...similar to..Umbra.

 

“I’ll bring you to your parents, little one. Happy Birthday.”

 

They only got a soft snore in return. The walk back was silent after that, the Undimmed Eyes nodding to their brethren as they passed. They knew the child would have more questions to ask, to learn more.

 

If there was any doubt that Shikamaru was a Nara. Even if they didn’t, the little one would search for the answers anyways himself.

 

Troublesome.

 

Tomorrow, they would stay out of sight, until the darkness of night. For it was the child’s birthday and it would officially meet the heirs of the Akimichi and Yamanaka clan.

 

The next Ino-Shika-Cho formation.

 

The child would be put to the test...another test. The mask of a Nara, indifference brewing to the brim with intelligence and sarcastic remarks to go with it. It doesn’t have to be perfect since he is a mere child but enough to placate his new...friends?

 

Can they call them friends?

 

Truly, the two other clans were the only ones that the Nara were true allies with, friends even. Friends that went back to the start of the first Shinobi War, the beginning of the Second and Third in addition to the attack to the village caused by Obito Uchiha.

 

So much death.

 

So much negativity and darkness within human beings.

 

Maybe that was the reason the creature didn’t associate with humans except for the Naras. The Naras...were not like the rest. They were not power-hungry or willing to kill without reason. They wanted peace, peace to raise their children without fear of opposing forces. Without the fear of the outside world finding out what secrets they hold within their lands.

 

The Undimmed Eyes could see it within the eyes of everyone, including Shikaku and Yoshino. Whenever they looked at their child, Shikamaru, they saw love….and sadness. The sadness of their child being thrown into another war. Another battlefield where death glides around with a wicked grin on their face, watching hungrily for the bodies to fall. The blood to spill across the earth once more…

 

All for the sake of peace.

 

Fake peace.

 

The Undimmed Eyes paused in its steps, being angry will not help. The child shifted in xyr arms and xyr eyes soften. Shikamaru was like Umbra....but different. The creature continued to walk forward, determined to help the child in any way that they could. The Undimmed Eyes has seen too much bloodshed being spilt to want it again…it was too much.

 

Xyr heart...ached.

 

But xe continued to walk.

 

+++

 

“He’s out there.”

 

“I know.”

 

“It wasn’t your fault, you couldn’t have known, Shikaku.”

 

He opened one eye briefly before closing it again. He knew Yoshino meant well with her words but in his mind, the words twisted and festered into something ugly. It was his fault, he still sent out Hyo Nara in his place during the council meeting. He was the one to put one of his clansmen...his family in danger. If he had went...this wouldn’t have happened.

 

Danzo wouldn’t have dared.

 

A hand gripped his chin, warm and calloused not soft as outsiders would like to believe.

 

“Do not turn your head away from me, troublesome man. Look at me.”

 

Shikaku couldn’t disobey her, he wouldn’t dare to . Even if he’d tried, he would have failed within the first few seconds. His eyes fluttered open, gazing at the woman lying next to him. Yoshino Nara, his wife, his partner.

 

His other half.

 

Looking at her will never ceased to get old.

 

Ever.

 

She sat up, dragging him into her arms, her chin resting on his shoulder as they both gazed out into the entrance of the forest. Yoshino had come to sit with him a little while after he sent Shikamaru out on his own to meet the Undimmed Eyes. A decision that was...not wise but after the abduction of Hyo, earlier that day, plans changed. He reached up to run his fingers through Yoshino’s hair, bringing the strands to his lips. Her presence always calmed him, and vice versa. They could never grow tired of each other.

 

In life or death.

 

Dare he says it, he was still entranced by her even after all these years of marriage.

 

Smitten.

 

“Shika, it wasn’t your fault. It was a council meeting about the conversion of the Academy’s curriculum. The fact that Danzo used that as a way to claim one of ours is unforgivable, but do not blame yourself. I won’t let you.”

 

A small smiled ghosted his lips. He was the logical one, cold, calculating and ruthless. Always one step ahead just as he was raised, with a mask of boredom and indifference. Intelligence was everything in his clan, they valued it greatly. It was the reason they took in some of the orphans that resided in the village in the first place. Shikaku’s mind immediately going to Orochimaru, Iruka, and Kakashi. He couldn’t dare to think what would have happened to them if the Nara haven’t taken them in and raised them. Plus, there is an alarming rate of orphans in the village that no one has addressed. He placed that idea in the back of his mind, determined to bring it up in another council meeting.

 

Yoshino was his heart, passionate as a burning fire. She was just as ruthless and cunning as him, probably better. He knew full well the lengths she would go to protect him, their child, their clan. He had seen her do it before.

 

Strict.

 

Overbearing.

 

Ruthless.

 

Troublesome woman.

 

He adored her.

 

Their hands reached for each other, their fingers entwined before he spoke, his voice low,

 

“I’ll tear him apart.”

 

Yoshino huffed, shaking her head, strands of her hair tickling his nose, “We. We will tear him apart, limb from limb. Whatever secret that he hopes to find and gain for his sick pleasure will be for not. He will die.”

 

“You’re ruthless, my love. I enjoy that of you.”

 

She looked at him with a smirk, “Meek and submissive to her husband’s will. The supposed Yoshino Nara being driven to a mere housewife, the wife of the Nara clan. Poor woman, poor me.”

 

He laughed, oh-she was more than a mere wife, more than someone to warm his bed at night. They were equals, both heads of the clan in the eyes of the Elders and their allies. They refused to play by the councils' rule and they lead the Nara clan together. They played by their own rules, communicating their wants and needs to each other.

 

But those words. He has heard them through the whispers of the civilians in the village. They do not know her as he did. But those were not the only words he has heard. After Shikamaru was born, two years together, she immediately jumped back into the force, gaining her title as jonin respectfully. A move that some had thought of as selfish. She had been scolded by women, who told her that she was neglecting her child and her duties as a wife. Yoshino had thrown back her head and laughed. She laughed, laughed and laughed until she could barely breathe. Her duties were split between them, even though he himself despised household chores.

 

But he wasn’t going to risk being hit in the head with a kettle or a kunai directed at his groin. Once was bad enough.

 

She was not lesser than him.

 

They were a team. He was a king but she…

 

She was a queen.

 

His queen.

 

“Poor you indeed, having to put with me,” he said clicking his tongue and Yoshino hummed in agreement.

 

“Putting up with your lazy ass and your intelligent mind,” she muttered, flicking open the clasps of the green vest he wore, pleased with his full body shudder when she brushed her fingernails against the mesh shirt.

 

“True...I would kill for you.”

 

Yoshino hummed against, her hand sliding underneath his shirt, “I know, but I don’t like to be distracted Shikaku. First strike.”

 

He closed his mouth, not without growling in frustration as she kept her touches light. Just barely touching him. He almost let out a whine when she pulled away, clasping his vest buttons again.

 

Almost.

 

“Later, sex in the forest is...unpleasant.”

 

“Not something that we haven’t done before.”

 

“Second strike, Nara,” she stated with a stern glare. There was no fire in the glare, however. Still, he shut his mouth, but they knew that he would get the third strike anyways.

 

“Troublesome woman.”

 

“Lazy asshole.”

 

“Yoshino, Shikaku.”

 

They both turned and stood up, Yoshino immediately leaving his side to go towards the Undimmed Eyes to gently grab their son out of xyr arms. His own eyes met the creature and he raised an eyebrow.

 

“What happened?”

 

“The child is clearly your child, he asked a lot of questions. Advice- teach him meditation, as it seems that your theory was correct, Shikaku.”

 

Panic attacks.

 

Those were common through each Nara in the compound, either due to an overwhelming feeling of sinking deep within the shadows they danced with every day. Or almost failed missions, even he had his moments. Shikaku wordlessly gestured to his son, his little fawn. Kami above, Shikamaru was a goddamn miracle, there were so many complications and issues.

 

Yoshino almost didn’t make it.

 

He brought his son close to him, his child blinking up at him with sleepy eyes before his head slumped down onto his chest again.

 

His little fawn was truly a Nara.

 

“Hyo.”

 

The word was enough for Shikaku to start speaking, “I doubt Danzo had learned of the contract symbol. Hyo must have slashed through his symbol in an effort to hide.”

 

The Undimmed Eyes turned to look at him, eyes unblinking, “Hyo’s disappearance was noted through everyone’s bond. That’s why you decided to the little one to meet me, not after his Academy graduation as tradition.”

 

There was no lying, it was the truth. Ideally, that was the plan, like how his mother shown right after his Academy graduation. Shikaku rubbed his head, suddenly exhausted. With clan politics, village politics and Danzo…

 

How did they manage to keep this fragile peace?

 

He was going to lose his mind. It would have been acceptable to go out and tear Danzo apart, there was a reason why the Naras were the most successful assassins in the village. Hell, their clan were assassins.

 

His own name meant assassin.

 

Danzo would be dead by the dawn but the would cause complications within...almost everything in the village. It would upend the transfer of powers of the high powers of the Leaf and people were still suffering from the effects from the Kyuubi attack. Danzo had called himself the Shadow of Konohagakure, undermining the true shadows in the villages. He can try to bend the shadows to his will but he will fail.

 

That failure will get him killed.

 

The man was a little too interested in gaining clan secrets, seeing how he almost lusted after the Uchiha’s for power.

 

“This man...Danzo, he must die.”

 

Yoshino reached out to grab Shikamaru from his arms, she had been listening to the entire time. He could see the churning anger within her, bubbling forth. Not at the Undimmed Eyes and not at him. He knew she had levels to her rage, but never had her true wrath fallen onto him. And he was grateful for it.

 

“We attack him now, and the village council will grow suspicious and begin an investigation. That investigation will them to the Stag and you. We would die before that happens, but we will not let Hyo suffer under the hands of a madman.”

 

Her words calmed the creature, its form shifting into a Stag itself, “Forgive me for my harshness. I know your clan means well, any information you find, you know where to find me.”

 

They both nodded, “Of course.”

 

The two parents watch the creature flee back into the forest before heading back to their own home themselves. They will claim vengeance on Danzo.

 

He thought he was the master of shadows.

 

He’ll find out who the true masters are.

 

+++

 

Shikamaru awoke to birds chirpings and the sunlight on his face. He let out a small whine, his face scrunched up as he pressed his face against the warm body of the person lying next to him.

 

“Hm, I retract my previous statements. The Nara men are all vampires.”

 

“...No comment.”

 

The child pressed his face closer as the person rose up into a sitting position. He wanted to sleep a little longer before he was thrust into the festivities of the day. It was his birthday after all. A hand reached over to pinch one of his cheeks and he growled smacking the hand away.

 

Yoshino looked at her son, unamused, “He gets that from you, truly the son of Shikaku Nara.” Her husband opened one eye and rolled over to face her, his untied hair flowing out from behind him and some strands falling onto his face. She restrained herself from reaching out to push them to the side. His hair was getting longer…

 

“What time is it?”

 

“Six in the morning.”

 

She bit back a laugh as Shikaku groaned and threw the covers over his body, curling up in the ball, “I agree with our little fawn. Sleep more, we don’t have to arise until nine.”

 

Yoshino had to agree, they were all mentally exhausted from the events of yesterday. She looked at the two in the bed, Shikaku was immediately back to sleep based on the rising and falling of the blankets. She won’t try to awake them, leaning over to kiss them both.

 

“I love you both.”

 

She moved closer, with Shikamaru between her and Shikaku. They will be okay.

 

She could afford to sleep a little longer.

Chapter Text

Most children count down the days until their birthday with barely contained excitement, each passing day growing closer to their special day. Naruto, however, dreads every setting sun. His birthday has never been a fun day for him, but this one will be even worse.

He heard the caretakers gossiping, they did it without a care of being overheard believing him too stupid to listen or understand. No, Naruto heard their every hateful word and relieved tones of voices.

They were kicking him out in 19 days. He’ll be forced to live in the streets, he heard one of them saying that he’ll probably die in less than a week out there. It scares him, no, it terrified him.

Naruto knows that the village hates him, he stays inside the orphanage for as long as he can for the protection it provides. Whenever he goes outside he can feel the hatred in their stares, the way they follow his every step, his every movement.

One time when he was walking, someone threw a piece of rotten fruit at him. That started a chain reaction of everyone pelting him with rotten fruits and vegetables. He walked back home- (no the orphanage isn’t his home, he doesn’t have one because his parents took one look at him and hated the monster so much they left him)- only to have the caretakers sneer at him and tell him not to come inside until he was clean.

He had to clean off in a river and came back freezing. They told him not to come back until he was dry. He slept outside. They let him back in the next day reluctantly, probably wishing he died from the cold the last night. At least that’s what the voice said.

The voice doesn’t talk often, gruff and deep it only says something every once in a while. Usually when he’s about to die. Sometimes it speaks up to mock him like everyone else. It’s been with him for as long as he could remember, sometimes he likes to hope his parents did love him and that the voice was something they left for him.

He’s snapped out of his thoughts when he feels eyes on him again. There were always eyes on him, watching his every step with disgust and disdain in their eyes. But these...don’t feel normal in the slightest. The feeling was less hateful and more curious, and much smaller than a human being. For a while, the stares only come every now and then, before disappearing like it never existed or when he gets close.

Normally Naruto would just ignore them and treat them like all the other stares, but he’s curious now. More than he has ever been. Whatever they are, they don’t appear to hate him like everyone else, there’s something different feeling, like sadness or maybe even pity. His "caretakers" denied him dinner anyways, so he might as well meet whatever doesn’t appear to hate him.

Naruto slipped out of the attic window, the dusty space hiding his meager belongings. He’s learned that if it isn’t hidden it gets destroyed. The cool evening air is refreshing compared to the stuffiness of the attic. He climbs down, careful not to injure himself nor spotted, moving to where the civilian eyes won’t be able to see. He wanders in the direction of the new eyes. Each one that comes by feels slightly different, while still having the same underlying feelings. Naruto feels a flicker of something and it starts to move once he gets close to its location.

“Wait!” he cries, sprinting to catch up.

He chases after it far from the proximity of the orphanage to a direction he doesn’t quite know. He follows into a forest with long looming trees, the leaves high and thick creating a shadow of darkness with only slivers of midday light shining down. He vaguely remembers the caretakers and the kids around him talking about this forest and how it is forbidden to go in.

The Nara forest is what it’s called.

He never understood why but was too afraid to ask. Then again, he never asks for anything in fear of being punished or mocked.

Eventually, the presence stops in a clearing, Naruto stopping next to a tree to catch his breath after running for so long. When he looks up he sees a fox, it’s fur, sleek salt and pepper with solid black three tails, as well as black paws and ears, the face however was nearly all white from the eyes to snout. It slowly backs away from him, slitted ice blue eyes wide with surprise and fear.

“My name’s Uzumaki Naruto! What’s yours?” He smiles brightly at the fox, it’s bigger than he thought a fox would be, coming up to his shoulder in size.

The fox cocks it’s head coming closer, “I’m called Chimon.” he says cautiously stalking closer to him. Naruto leaned closer, eyes sparkling with wonder. Chimon looks even more beautiful up close, unconsciously his hand reaches out to touch.

Chimon stays still while Naruto strokes his head softly, after a moment leaning into the touch. Naruto giggled, petting the soft white fur of the fox's head, “What are you? I’ve never heard of foxes with more than one tail other than the Kyuubi.” Chimon makes a strained sound at the name, flinching, his sadness flaring higher than before.

“I’m a Kitsune.” He answers, voice strained and raw. Naruto doesn’t know what to do, he remembers seeing kids getting hugs from their parents when they were sad before. He leans in and wraps his arms gently around the Kitsune’s neck awkwardly.

“Why are you sad?” he asks into soft white and black fur. The kitsune stays quiet, the only sounds in the clearing being the faint chirping of crickets and wind rustling leaves high above them.

Chimon sighs resting his head on Naruto’s shoulder quietly he starts explaining, “The Kitsune used to have a leader. He was like our Hokage, we loved him dearly but one day he disappeared. He was captured by humans and put into a cage, sealed away from us for a long, long time. The people that took him treated him like an evil animal and used him for personal gain.” Naruto’s heart sank, feeling empathy for the Kitsune leader that was taken away. If Jiji was taken away for a long time he would feel sad too.

He squeezes his arms gently around Chimon’s neck and steps closer almost leaning on him, Chimon continues his story tone thick with sadness, “We hadn’t seen him in close to 50 years when he finally appeared again. It was almost worse seeing him than not being able to. He was stuck under mind control, forced into being a pawn once again. Our leader destroyed your village before being sealed away once again.”

Naruto’s head was spinning. He was so sad for Chimon and the loss of his leader. The Kyuubi was used to destroy his village, he was forced into doing it before being trapped again with no escape.

“It’s my fault, isn’t it? They call me the Kyuubi... he’s the voice, right?”

Chimon flinched in his arms clearly not expecting him to make that leap in logic. The kit was smarter than he let on, apparently. The kitsune nods, its head bobbing on Naruto’s shoulder, “Why don’t you hate me too? I took your leader away just like everyone else.” Chimon laughs and it’s a bitter broken sound.

“None of us hate you...not anymore. Unlike the other containers, you’re just as much a victim. You didn’t want this any more than our leader did.” Chimon says softly.

“I don’t hate you.”

The fox’s white and black fur blur when tears fill Naruto’s eyes. He fights them back, mostly out of habit, Chimon steps back from the embrace.

His tongue licks Naruto’s cheek, “It’s okay to cry Kit.” he says softly.

Naruto sobbed with Chimon licking away his tears, the kitsune murmuring soft little nothings in his ear. Naruto thinks that this is what family feels like. He hiccups with tears trying to get his breathing under control and stop them, Chimon gives one long lick and he smiles. Tears turned to laughter.

Finally, Naruto wipes his face with his arm before giving a wide fox-like grin to Chimon, “I don’ wanna trap Kitsune Hokage, I’ll free him ‘dattebayo!” The kitsune stares at him in utter disbelief before shaking his head, growing fond of the kit already.

“We need to get you back to the orphanage, it'll be night soon,” Naruto whines but he can barely keep his eyes open, he sways on his feet and Chimon tuts. He picks Naruto up by his shirt and puts him on his back gently. Naruto slumps forwards as Chimon trots back out of the clearing.

The kitsune retraces his steps, leaving Naruto back at the orphanage's doorstep. As Chimon turned to leave, Naruto suddenly jolts awake, his head looking up at the fox, fear flooding his senses.

“You’ll come back, right?” he asks weakly, internally waiting for the no. Chimon looks back at him giving a fox like grin of his own, “Of course I will, Kit.”

When he trotted away disappearing into the night, it didn’t feel like a goodbye, Naruto smiled wide before picking himself up and climbing back up into the attic. When he finally fell onto the top of his bed he was asleep before he got under the sheets.

-

When he opened his eyes, it wasn’t to his room, instead, he was lying in cold stone in a dirty sewer. He looked around seeing nothing but swampy water that soaked through his clothes and stained degrading walls. He got up looking around for an exit, seeing none instead he walked down the sidewalk following the walls in the dim lighting.

Looking around the place was big, Naruto has a feeling even if he was taller the ceiling would still be so much higher than him. There wasn’t much sound besides the faint trickling of water and his footsteps through the water. It felt like an eternity before he finally found something new.

A large cage with rusted red bars obscured in darkness, a seal hangs on the front against the door. Inside he can see two ruby red slitted eyes looking at him, the silence now filled with a low rumbling growl.

“What do you want brat?” the kitsune snarls, large eyes narrowing at the small figure before him. Naruto doesn’t miss a beat, “I wanna free you ‘dattebayo!” The kitsune snorts letting out a mocking laugh.

“Even if you had the power to do that brat. You would die in the process, and if you were to die then I would as well.” Naruto’s eyes didn't lose their determined sheen as he points at the red eye that glares at him, “I will free you dattebayo, and you’ll go back to being Hokage of the kitsune and Chimon will be happy!” he shouts.

Kurama stares at his jailer in disbelief. Does the loud idiot actually want to free him? Doesn’t care that it would cost his life to do so? Or was the child a complete idiot? The runt's eyes shine with conviction and Kurama can’t help but believe the yellow twerp's words.

Kurama snorts, immediately dismissing the mere thought in his head.

Yeah right.

He sends the idiot who was still pointing at him with that stupid look in his eyes back out of the mindscape. He shakes his head closing his eyes once again, maybe the Yondaime spawn will be interesting.

Then again, he was briefly reminded of the boy's mother. Just as hot-headed and stubborn as she was.

-

Naruto wakes with a start, hand reaching out in the air. He pouts at the grumpy Kitsune’s actions, “I’m not giving up Kitsune Hokage.” he says aloud. He didn’t expect a response like every time he tried to talk to the voice, but he hears a snort in his head along with a sarcastic “Of course.”

Naruto looked up at the ceiling even though he knew the voice was in his head, “Woah I can talk to you!”

There’s a surprised sound from the kitsune, “The seal weakened that much, huh.” the kitsune’s voice devolved into hused mumbling. Occasionally Naruto could pick up words like “Idiot blonde, idiot spawn.” the longest thing he heard before complete radio silence was “Stupid Uzumaki, almost as bad as the damn Uchiha”

The Uzumaki smiled bright pushing the Kitsune Hokage out of his mind for a different kitsune, remembering Chimon would return. Naruto gets dressed happier than he could remember being before. His mood dims when he looks at the calendar right next to the door.

18 days left.

On the last one, he's gonna die. He doesn’t want to die, he wants to free Kitsune Hokage and spend time with Chimon. He wants to sit on Jiji’s lap and listen to the old man’s stories about powerful ninja. He wants to be Hokage so people won’t hate him. He wants a family that cares for him.

He can’t have any of that if he dies.

Naruto just stares at the calendar eyes brimming with tears. His 5th birthday will be his last, the tears fall and there’s no soft tongue to lick them away, or warm hand to brush them aside. He falls back onto his bed, clutching his pillow as he weeps all alone.

18 days.

“How pathetic,” Kitsune Hokage mocks, “You’re not going to die brat. The power-hungry ants just want to use you for their personal gain. Once you get kicked out you’ll live, they need their weapon after all.”

Naruto tears stop all at once, “I’m not gonna die?” he whispers. The kitsune is seemingly done with interacting with Naruto and doesn't bother to answer. Naruto wipes away his tears and pastes on a happy facade. He isn’t going to die but from Kitsune Hokage’s words, it seems worse things are going to happen.

He will still free his prisoner if it’s the last thing he does. Kitsune Hokage said that he was too weak, so he’ll just have to get strong. His dreams slowly shift from becoming Hokage to freeing the one trapped in him.

-

After stealing some leftovers from the kitchen, Naruto left the orphanage. It’ll be the first time in a while that he left during the morning. The only eyes on his being are the normal glares and stares of disgust and discontentment, so he’ll just have to wait for Chimon to come back.

He settled down by a remote stream, far enough from the village that nobody would notice him, let alone bother him. Naruto breathed in closing his eyes, content to lay in the warm sun and listen to everything around him. The chirping of birds, the swaying of leaves in the light breeze, the calm lazy running of water down the stream.

He smiles, the world outside is pretty. Those villagers don’t see it when they trample the ground unconcerned with anything but themselves, but Naruto loves nature. He’d even say it’s as good as ramen or orange.

Soon the sound faded as Naruto slipped into a doze. When he opened his eyes it wasn’t to the beautiful area around the stream, instead, he was standing in front of Kitsune Hokage’s cage once more. The fox opens one of his eyes, peering at him annoyed. Naruto just smiles at him before pouting.

“Why did you kick me out yesterday?” Naruto asked, squinting at the eye larger than his whole body. Kitsune Hokage looked at him for a brief moment before closing his eye again, “Go away idiot.” He attempted to try to expel him again, but this time Naruto stomps his foot down denying it.

“No!” Naruto heaves slightly, trying to resist the feeling of pushed back into his body. Harder than it looked from the beginning. He wanted to learn more about the Kitsune Hokage. How else will he be able to set him free? Two ruby eyes looked at him in the face this time, he can feel the irritation from the kitsune. “What do you want, Brat?” he questions.

Naruto hums, thinking.

Good question.

What does he want?

He smiles at the eye, “I wanna be your friend.” he decides. The kitsune looks at him bewildered, “You want to what? the kitsune drawls out slowly, body moving closer to the bars of his cage, revealing the deep orange fur of his face.

It could be a combination of red and orange but to Naruto, it was orange.

“So pretty…” Naruto breathes eying the brilliant shade of his favourite colour, he wants to touch it but he holds his hand in place. The Kyuubi blinks a few times, “You are the most strange creature I’ve ever seen.” It sounds almost like a compliment.

Almost.

Naruto couldn’t keep his body still anymore, he stepped forward hand held out wanting the touch the beautiful fur. The Kitsune Hokage just stares at him, Naruto places his tiny hand on the kitsune’s snout running his hand over the locks with a gentle smile.

Kurama watched wondering if he was going insane. He could have just snapped out at the brat but instead, he’s letting his jailer who was dressed in a kill-me-orange jumpsuit pet him.

What is going on?

What was wrong with him?

The idiot keeps petting him, and Kurama for whatever reason decided to let him. The blonde reaches further into the bars to stroke the fur in between Kurama’s eyes, not at all worried that he could be dragged in and attacked.

In the end, the brat kept petted him for 10 minutes before being having his conscious jolted back into his body, leaving the fox to wonder what in the hell just happened.

-

Chimon hummed leaving his den, entering a familiar forest with ease. He’d go meet with the kit soon, but first, he needs to speak with the being who controls the Nara forest. The kitsune trotted deep into the darkness of the trees, knowing full well what lurks in every shadow.

The fox would say that the being didn’t frighten him but he would be lying.

It doesn’t take long before the being showed itself, the massive inky presence sliding next to the kitsune from the surroundings. Chimon bowed his head briefly out of respect. The kitsune owe the Undimmed Eyes very much. While xe may be powerful, at the end of the day xe isn’t the leader they have been waiting for. He stayed silent waiting for the older spirit to speak first,

“Why have you come?”

Chimon blinked, confused, “I thought you already knew.”

The stag merely shakes xir head, “Well… last evening I lead the Uzumaki child into the forest. It wasn’t on purpose, I had fully expected to lose him long before then, or for him to take one look at the forest and turn around.” Chimon reports, wincing internally at what his actions could have caused. It was a reckless action that could have put every spirit of this forest in jeopardy.

The Undimmed Eyes did not like humans much even after all these years. The Nara clan has helped greatly to lessen xir hatred but xe still despited humans that dared venture into the forest that they walked, unchallenged.

“When was this?” the Stag questions, the figure imposing, towering over the younger being. Chimon swallows the growing lump in its throat but doesn’t waver, standing his ground and staring unflinchingly at the Undimmed Eyes.

“Late afternoon. We’re meeting again today.”

Silence reins thick in the air, Chimon waits silently, for some form of approval or rejection. He likes the kit too much to give him up, and if push comes to shove, Chimon will just have to work around it. They could probably meet in the Forest of Death, but it isn’t all that safe for a child…

“I’ll be watching. Carefully.”

The Stag said nothing else, stepping back into the shadows, bathing in his natural domain once again leaving Chimon standing by his lonesome. The kitsune lets out a relieved sigh, less than a century ago if Chimon pulled such a move, the kit would pay for it.

Dearly.

Things really have changed.

Perhaps the Naras were truly blessed by Kami.

Chimon left the deepest alcove of the Nara forest, the trees so thick that even on the sunniest day, darkness prevails. He almost feels as if he can breath once again when he leaves the threshold of Stag territory.

Technically all of the Nara forest belongs to the Undimmed Eyes. The sunlight may reflect off of his salt and pepper coat, however it doesn’t erase the presence still lurking in the shadows.

Chimon shoves the slight tinge of paranoia off a cliff, into a bottomless ravine, where it’ll never be seen again.

He has a kit to collect.

He sends out a brief flare of chakra, small but not enough that even the most talented ANBU would feel a thing. It seeks out the presence of one he has never forgotten, the ping hits on a rolling mass of anger and malevolence, the chakra’s searing nature buried deep within a seal.

Ah, there the kit is.

He takes off towards the outskirts of the village, the area that hums merrily with nature chakra untainted by the pollution of humans. The trees look healthier, the wildlife more active, flora more dense and sprawling. A stream parts the two halves of the meadow, the kit is easily noticeable in his eye-searing clothing.

Why does he wear that again?

The boy simply is there, his eyes closed and breathing relaxed. The calm quiet of the child is so different from the rambunctious noise of last night, it’s almost jarring.

Meditation? He wonders briefly before the kit opens a cerulean eye stopping his line of thought.

A bright smile takes over the kits face. The boy shoots up, running toward Chimon, throwing his arms around Chimon’s neck and all his weight leaning on his front. The thin arms tighten as the boy breathes in the scent of the kitsune’s fur.

“You came!” the shout hurts Chimon’s sensitive ears, but the pure wonder and disbelief those two words held makes his heart sink.

Poor kit.

The kitsunes of the forest were very much aware of the kit’s treatment from the village, but while they pitied him, none cared all that much. None cared to do anything about it and Chimon wants to bite his past self and every single Kitsune that has ever watched this child and done nothing.

While he’s at it, he should probably bite all the villagers and shinobi, starting with that miserable excuse for a Hokage.

The kit backs away, smiling sunnily as if he hadn’t been expecting abandonment. “So…” he starts, rocking back on his heels, arms crossed behind his head and grin mile wide, “What now?” he asks. Chimon snorts, shaking his head at the little ones antics.

He turns his back to the kit and lowers to ground level, “Get on, kit. We’re going back to the forest.” The boy complies, and the two set off. A comfortable silence hangs between them, Naruto seemed like he was in bliss just leaning against warm soft fur of someone who cared.

The kit hums, threading his stubby little fingers through Chimon’s long sleek coat, “Kitsune Hokage’s fur feels the same!” he chirps.

What.

What?

“What?” he repeats aloud. He stopped at the at the edge of the Nara forest, the sentence not making sense no matter how many times it echos back in his head. Just, what. The kit leans forward almost to the point of falling off, he squints at Chimon’s face.

“You know, Kitsune Hokage? Sealed away kitsune leader,” he says it slowly, as if explaining to a particularly dense child. It burns his blood briefly at how the mimicry is heavily laced in the tone, oh how he wants to bite those idiots. He pushes his thoughts of bloody limbs and screaming villagers in favor of the kit’s words.

Which still does not make a lick of sense.

“Uh huh, yes our- Did you just call him Kitsune Hokage.” He splutters, peering bewilderedly at the kit’s face, the expression mirrored back at him which just isn’t fair. Somehow those eyes squint further, “Yeah. Kyuubi doesn’t sound right. It sounds like when they call me monster, so of course I wouldn’t call him something like that, ya know?”

Chimon’s urge to bite rises for a third time. How could they forsake the kindness of this kit?! It’s a miracle the kit had not attacked the village or have given into the Nine-Tails rage.

“That still doesn’t explain the rest of what you said,” He points out, stomping on his anger to rid himself of it. The last thing he needs is for the kit to think Chimon is mad at him.

Sage.

Squinting that hard can’t be good for the kits eyes, let alone possible. The blonde’s eyebrows furrow and he cocks his head, eyes looking at nothing in particular. Finally, he seems to give up. “What did I say?” he questions.

This kit.

“You implied you met our leader.” He kindly reminds the boy, the blonde nods like he just told the boy the sky was blue.

“I’ve met him twice! He’s very grumpy and says mean things sometimes, but I still want to help him.” The kit’s words were in key with exaggerated hand movements and facial expressions.

That was the final straw.

Chimon is keeping him forever and biting anyone that says otherwise.

-

Naruto watched the kitsune’s icy blue eyes carefully. He’d occasionally feel flares of anger coming from Chimon, but strangely, he doesn’t think it’s directed at him. He can’t tell what the other was feeling, but looking into those fond eyes Naruto thinks that maybe Chimon likes him.

Maybe.

He might be over exaggerating just a bit, but nobody has ever liked his loud personality before. Seeing that Chimon only looked at him with fond eyes, and didn’t feel any annoyance made Naruto’s heart sing. Maybe Chimon could be like his dad or brother?

Never one to stay wondering Naruto asked, “Do you wanna be my dad?” He leaned forward even further feeling himself close to slipping off, his face is happy and bright but he’s waiting for a spike of anger or disgust. Instead Chimon’s eyes widen and he lets out a pleased sound kinda like a purr?

Can foxes purr?

“Of course, Kit.”

Naruto blinks at him with disbelief in his eyes. He finally lost his balance and toppled off the kitsune out of shock. He looks up at the white face, uncaring for his bleeding knee, “Really?” he whispered, hope building in his chest. Maybe when he gets kicked out he can run away to the woods and live with Chimon!

Chimon nodded looking around before carefully picking Naruto up by his shirt and placing him back onto his back. “Yes, really. I’ve grown incredibly fond of you, Kit.” the fox goes deeper into the forest. This time they pass through the clearing they first met in.

Naruto felt like he was floating, barely paying attention to his surroundings in the wake of words he always wanted to hear. True words, saying that they loved him, a family. He’s broken out of his revere when Chimon clears his throat, at some point it had gotten incredibly dark.

“Please allow me to keep my Kit.” He says into the darkness, near instantly a form appears from it. It towers over both of them large and looming, for whatever reason Naruto doesn’t feel scared. Instead he looks up at the shadow and smiles, “Hi! I’m Uzumaki Naruto, 'dattebayo!”

 

Chapter Text

What does one do in the presence of a mere child?

 

One that is not a Nara?

 

This situation just became complicated and the Undimmed Eyes did not like it one bit. Things were not supposed to be complicated. People outside of the clan were not permitted to enter the forest. That was the rule. That was the law. 

 

How was one supposed to react to the jailer of one of their closest companions? 

 

The Undimmed Eyes had watched as the Uzumaki child interacted with the fox for quite some time. At first, xyr had half in mind to alert the Naras about the situation but decided against it. 

 

For the time being of course. 

 

There was no harm in letting the child play among it’s kind. Though, they were not sure if the child could be considered an actual fox kit. Then again, the Undimmed Eyes always referred to the Naras as shadows wearing human skin. Maybe the Uzumaki child was truly a fox. Xyr have eavesdropped on conversations between Shikaku and Yoshino, always telling her about the pranks the child has pulled on the village. 

 

And rightly so, the foolish humans deserved every prank coming at them. Blaming a child of the destruction of a village, without thinking for themselves. And the child had no clue why he was being scorned and shunned. 

 

Such innocence in a child, despite the telling signs of neglect from the adult human beings. The spirit felt a pang of hurt for the child. Being alone was not a fate xyr wished on anyone. 

 

When the child introduced himself, xie were startled. xyr did not expect such a friendly tone. The Uzumaki child was not afraid of them. 

 

Interesting. 

 

Yes, very interesting.

 

The spirit moved closer the two when a rustle in the bushes startled all three of them. The Undimmed Eyes turned to the sound, before huffing, 

 

"Hello, little fawn."

 

Shikamaru tumbled out of the bushes ungracefully and laid on the ground, seemingly content with where he was. The spirit looked at the Nara heir before looking back at the Uzumaki child, an idea sparked in their head. 

 

The rule can be changed… 

 

The spirit formed a humanoid hand to brush the twigs and leaves clinging to the dark hair off, before tilting xyr head, searching for any signs of discomfort. It's only been a few days since Shikamaru has met them but the child has proven himself to be a true Nara. 

 

"How are you feeling, fawn?" 

 

The child sat up and shrugged, unaware of the audience behind the spirit, "Meditation helps, my dad, has been teaching me shogi to give a distraction." The boy trailed off as his eyes moved behind the dark mass before him and at the fox. His eyes widen, not out of fear but concern and curiosity. 

 

The Undimmed Eyes will not do much, only sit back and watch. This will be rather interesting. 



+++

 

He was looking at a fox. A fox with multiple tails like the stories he demands his parents to read him before bed. An actual fox. 

 

With a child on top of its back. Shikamaru stood, wiping the dirt and grass off his knees, grimacing at the smeared mess he made. Man, his mom will not be happy about that. 

 

"Who are you?"

 

A two-parter question, one for the fox and one for the kid. He looked about his own age, maybe a little younger. Said kid blinked and looked at him. 

 

"Me?" 

 

Shikamaru shoved his hands in his pockets and nodded, "Yeah, well you and the fox. I never saw one outside of the stories I have been told. Do you live here in the forest?" 

 

The fox crept closer to him, nodding, sniffing at his feet. He stood still, just as his dad told him when he was being introduced to the herd of deer for the first time. Any sudden movement could signal to the animal that he was untrustworthy. The kitsune seemed to have found what it wanted as it muzzled its head in his hand. Shikamaru gently ran his fibres through the fur. 

 

So soft… 

 

"My name is Naruto Uzumaki!"

 

Uzumaki, his dad mentioned the name once or twice. Shikamaru gave Naruto a smile, "Shikamaru Nara." He tilted his head at the boy, "What's the fox's name?" 

 

"His name is Chimon!" The fox had sat down to Shikamaru's level, his hand brushing through the animal's fur absent-mindedly. The kid seemed nice enough, a little loud in his opinion but so was Ino and she was slowly becoming one of his best friends. The Nara let out a small yelp as the kitsune used its tail to plant him on his back, Naruto scooting over to make room. 

 

The fox barked out a laugh, eyes gleaming. "Be careful little fawn, you don't want to fall."

 

Shikamaru waved a little at the fox before focusing his attention on Naruto, "Where are your parents? Do they know you're in the Nara forest?" Shika decided he wouldn't call the other kid out for wandering in the Nara forest. He wasn't supposed to in the first place but then again neither was he. He wasn't allowed to venture that deep into the forest without someone with him. 

 

The forest was huge, stretching miles wide. Shikamaru was in awe that his clan even owned it in the first place. 

 

Naruto suddenly got quiet, his face solemn as he shook his head and looked at the ground, "I don't know my parents," he mumbled quietly. 

 

Bad move. 

 

Shikamaru patted his hand, "I'm sorry to hear that." He was briefly thrown off by the toothy grin Naruto gave him. That was…unnerving.

 

"It's okay! I have Jiji…and well now I have Chimon." Shikamaru frowned, that was no way anyone would be happy that they don't have any parents. And who is Jiji? The Nara sighed and looked up at the sky. Well, it was hard too, the thick branches and leaves were blocking his view of the clouds. 

 

"You can't see the clouds from here," he mumbled, a lazy grin spreading across his face as he glanced over at Naruto. Surely his parents will not mind if he brought a friend over. Especially since Naruto didn't appear to have anyone looking after him. 

 

Anyone human that is. 

 

Though, shouldn't he be in the care of one of the orphanages? He was filled to the brim with questions. Questions he would have to ask his parents in private. Or he could ask Naruto if he phrased them carefully. 

 

He nudged Naruto with his elbow, "Do you want to come home with me? We can go cloud watching there. I know the best views." 

 

"Really?” He sounded surprised by that statement. “Your parents will not mind it?” 

 

Bring up his parents again, is it because he doesn’t have parents himself? Or it’s something else? Shikamaru hasn’t really been outside of the clan’s compound. Like almost every clan heir, he has been kept hidden for his protection. Though it’s almost laughable seeing someone try to steal away the Nara clan heir without them facing the wrath of his parents and the entire clan. Plus, what will they steal? Their clan had secrets that run deeper than the Uchiha’s prized kenkai genkai. 

 

He’d like to see someone try anyway. 

 

“No, they won’t have a problem with it,” he responded with a smile on his face. “Actually, no one in my clan will mind, they claim that I need more friends than the ones I have at the moment.” At the corner of his eye, he saw the fox perk it’s head up, appearing to be listening in intently on their conversation. Shika didn’t bother to comment on it, seeing that the fox will talk when needed, he appeared to be content that Naruto had someone his age to talk too.

 

“We are...friends?”

 

Shikamaru shrugged, “It depends, do you want to be?”

 

Naruto nodded his head furiously and proceeded to squeeze the living hell out of him, “Yeah! I never had a friend before! Normally I talk to the people that follow me with the weird animal masks but I wouldn’t consider them friends.” Shikamaru’s eyes widen at that statement and the lack of air. He patted the other kid’s back awkwardly before turning towards Chimon.

 

“I don’t suppose you know where the clan compound is?”

 

Chimon gave him a toothy grin, “Of course, little fawn. Come on, kit.”

 

+++

 

Shikamaru listened as Naruto chatter away about everything and anything. While he was doing that, he was busy trying to figure out what was the kid’s deal. A loud kid just happened to probably be under the care of the kitsune is in the one forest that no one was permitted to enter. And the fact that he was immediately keen on being friends with him after meeting for about a couple of minutes. Adults seem to terrify him judging by the reaction he gave when he mentioned bringing him home. 

 

He was given too many pieces of a puzzle for him to solve. 

Though the question is: what is that puzzle? 

 

Shikamaru wasn’t lying about being Naruto’s friend but the kid was a mystery in all of that sunshine. He would fit right in with Ino’s family but they would have to change the colour of his hair.

 

“So Naruto, how long have you been living at the orphanage?” 

 

Naruto tilted his head and squinted his eyes, Shikamaru internally winced. That couldn’t be healthy for his eyes at all. Did he have a sight problem?

 

“For as long as I remember really!”

 

Oh, never mind then, it was how he thought about things. If he removed the sunny blond hair, blue eyes and whisker marks and replaced them with typical Nara feature, Naruto could be just another child in the Nara clan. But then again, Shikamaru couldn't really see him looking differently. 

 

Maybe with red hair? 

 

Naruto switched from talking to him to chattering away at Chimon's ear, though the fox didn't seem to mind it at all. Shikamaru watched the interaction, amused. 

 

It only lasted for a moment, but the whispers of shadows grew loud in his ears, catching him off guard. Shikamaru but his lip, shrugging off the noises. If his dad could do it so could he. He just needed to focus on something other than the roar growing in his ears. 

 

"You're young and I don't expect you to understand, but focus on something or someone important to you. Think of it as a light at the end of the tunnel."

 

Just focus. 

 

"Maru?" 

 

A warm hand press against his shoulder and he met Naruto's eyes. Blue eyes were worried. 

 

"I'm…fine."

 

No, no he was not."

 

Sounds around him faded out into a muted tone, his mind was racing, incoherent thoughts were rushing through his mind. Shikamaru's hands clung to Chimon's fur like a lifeline. 

 

The only clear thought going through his mind was:

 

"Not again."

 

+++

 

He met someone. A kid that didn't look at him with scorn in his eyes. Or confusion because their parents told them to stay away. He found a friend, his first friend who wanted him to come home with him. 

 

Now, said friend looked pale and near tears. 

 

"Chimon what's going on?!" his voice cracked at the end. Was it because of his very presence? The fox immediately stopped in his tracks, moving downward so that Naruto could leap off. 

 

"Not to worry kit, the little fawn is not dying. Just a panic attack, though it feels like you are going to die."

 

Naruto looked over to Shikamaru, "Panic attack…will it pass."

 

Chimon muzzled Shikamaru's face gently, "It will pass. Little fawn, I want you to breathe please." He was only met with a sob, the other kid burying his face into Chimon's tail.  Naruto looked down messing with his fingers, feeling a presence from his back. 

 

"I apologise, my presence is the one causing the little dawn's distress."

 

Little fawn? Why are they all calling Shikamaru that? Naruto's eyes narrowed and he took a step towards the spirit, pointing his finger at him. "If you're the cause, then why don't you help!"

 

"Shikamaru has a deeper connection to shadows than his clan members. He is merely a child so he's not used to the overwhelming sensations."

 

Naruto…had no idea what the Undimmed Eyes was talking about. That was just confusing. He rubbed his forehead and chosen instead to focus more on Shikamaru. Chimon was busy chattering in his ear, gently moving his tails in a way that appeared soothing. All Naruto could do was wait and be worried. He had no idea what was going on but he wasn't stupid as everyone thought he was. 

 

He didn't want to make things worse. But he hated being helpless, that's all he ever knew. Being the one bullied and scorned. Chimon paused before turning to Naruto nodded his head. Shikamaru was okay. 

 

"Maru?" 

 

Shikamaru said nothing at first only resting his head on Chimon's flank. "I'm fine now…just tired."

 

"A panic attack will do that do you, little fawn," Chimon said gently, moving so Shikamaru could climb on his back. "Come in kit."

 

Naruto gave a small smile, "It's okay, I'll walk."

 

"Okay…though I wanna hear more of that prank you pulled on that villager," Shikamaru said with a small grin on his face. Naruto gave a smile of his own and started chattering away, occasionally pausing to check on his new friend to see if he was okay. 

 

He'll make sure that Shikamaru doesn't suffer like that again. 



+++

 

Shikamaru was totally going to tell his parents about the villagers that have been tormenting Naruto. And the other kid was staying with him. He has never felt that motivated about anything in his short life but he was sure about this one. He didn't really know why the villagers treat Naruto like they did. He was just another kid. 

 

Loud but another kid. 

 

Why were they so afraid of him? 

 

And why hasn't Naruto grown bitter and resentful? That last question baffled him like the rest of Naruto. Surely the kid had to feel some resentment towards the villagers for treating him less than human. 

 

He knew he himself would. But then again, he wasn't Naruto. He couldn't really be Naruto. 

 

But Shikamaru could be his friend. That he could do. 

 

He kept track of the multiple pranks Naruto has pulled, little ones to big ones. And honestly, they were completely ingenious. Naruto had puffed out his chest with pride, telling him that even the ANBU couldn't catch him. 

 

"I let them catch me sometimes, only if I wanted to."

 

That's it. 

 

Naruto was staying with him and his clan. The fox wouldn't mind it, he could tell. Shikamaru slowly lifted his head up and reached out to tap Naruto's shoulder, 

 

"Hey, Naruto."

 

The boy perked up and looked at him, "Yeah?" 

 

Shikamaru gestured into thin air with a tired wave, "The pranks…why do you do them?" 

 

"What do you mean?" 

 

"Why do you do the pranks and…" he wrinkled his nose. "Why do you wear orange...orange.."

 

"Jumpsuit?" Chimon offered. 

 

"Yeah that. It's loud and easily recognisable."

 

Naruto was silent for a long while and Shikamaru's heart sunk. Did he say something wrong? Did he go too far? 

 

"I wanna be acknowledged ya know? By the villagers…so they will notice me. I get stared at or I'm treated as if I'm not there, so I want to get their attention," Naruto said quietly, choosing to look at Chimon's swishing tail instead at his friend. Shikamaru swallowed and choose to look at the trail they had been following for a while. He could recognise the familiar landmarks indicating they were nearing the clan compound grounds. 

 

"Is that bad?" 

 

"I don't see a problem with it," Shikamaru responded honestly. And he meant it. He will never understand living as an orphan or seeking attention. He was clan heir, everyone's eyes were always on him all the time. He had the attention of his parents and his own clan. Naruto had no one except this Jiji person and Chimon. But he could understand the idea of it. 

 

"But I think the jumpsuit is overkill."

 

Naruto giggled and gestured to his outfit, "But I like the colour orange!"

 

"Yeah but surely not that much."

 

"Yeah but it's the only thing I can buy really."

 

Wait...what?

 

Shikamaru said nothing to that but pointed with a lazy grin on his face, "Hey, you can see the deer my family tends here." With that statement, Naruto's eyes brightened and he moved up ahead before stopping. 

 

"Do you think you can show me?" 

 

Shikamaru nodded, sliding off Chimon's back carefully and landing on his feet. He tested his footing before nodding to himself. Okay, I won't fall over if I attempt to walk. 

 

Shikamaru moved over to Naruto and grabbed his hand," Come on, I'll show you, you're gonna have to be quiet though. They can be scared off easily."

 

"Okay."

 

+++

 

When Yoshino let her son outside to go and explore, she expected two things. One, he would probably be on the back of one of the deer, sleeping. And two, he wouldn't be flithy. Imagine her surprise when she stepped out of the house to call him for dinner and her eyes widen. Shikamaru looked tired, his knees with smeared with grass and dirt. 

 

And he was playing with Uzumaki Naruto. 

 

Wait… 

 

What? 

 

What?! 

 

She has to do a double take and for safety measures make sure there were no lingering genjutsus that she was caught in. But no, she was correct in what she said. The two boys were whispering to each other as Naruto nervously petting the doe that came near them. It was an adorable sight if she was being honest with herself. 

 

But how did Minato and Kushina's son find their home? And wasn't he supposed to be in the orphanage? Yoshino scoffed at the thought, she knew the rumours, the whispers that floating around her. For a village of shinobi, they can be utter gossipers. She was highly aware of the fact that many of the civilians wanted to kill the child. 

 

Fools. All of them. 

 

Still, she might as well get their attention. 

 

"Shikamaru!" 

 

Her son's perked up his head before whispering into Naruto's ear. They were too far away but she could tell that he was nervous. Afraid even. Yoshino cursed to herself, she and Shikaku should have pushed more to take Naruto in after the Kyuubi attack. She should have fought tooth and nail to be the guardian of Kushina's child. 

 

Her best friend… 

 

Not a day goes by that he doesn't miss her. 

 

Yoshino shook her head and smiled warmly at her son, Naruto in toll. The other kid was slight behind Shikamaru, his eyes nervous and untrusting. 

 

Poor child. 

 

"Shika, who is your friend?" 

 

"This is Naruto," he said plainly, Naruto waved shyly from behind him. She smiled and knelt down to their level. "Hello Naruto, I just called Shikamaru for dinner, would you like to stay?" Her heart broke in two at the disbelief in his eyes. 

 

If she wanted to she could show every single villager that lay a hand on this hand what it meant to be a Nara's wife. She wasn't just a housewife and she will never be. 

 

" I can stay?"

 

" Can he stay the night? With Chimon too?" Yoshino raider an eyebrow, "Chimon?" she echoed, the foreign name drawing up not a single person in her mind. A cold snout pressed against her arm and she turned seeing the fox standing there for the first thing. Naruto's eyes brightened as he immediately hugged the fox. 

 

"Chimon! Where did you go?" 

 

Chimon made a growl deep in his throat, "Speaking with the Undimmed Eyes about something." A paw pressed against Naruto's chest. "Kit, you need to eat. These people will not harm you." Yoshino could hear the unspoken words loud and clear. She should feel offended, she would never lay a hand on Kushina's child but at the same time, she understood the fox's cautious. 

 

What has the world come to? She is not surprised by anything anymore. 

 

Oh well. 

 

Shikaku would be pleased. Yoshino offered her hand to Naruto, who took it after a while of debating with himself. She stood up and gestured to everyone else to follow suit. 

 

"Shikamaru, please led Naruto into the restroom to wash. I would like to speak to Chimon."

 

"Yes, mom."

 

Once the children left, Yoshino knelt down and patted the ground next to her. "Please, sit." Chimon did and there was silence for a few moments. 

 

"The Undimmed Eyes would like for me and Naruto to stay here."

 

"My thoughts exactly…I wish I had fought more to bring him home with us years before." Chimon placed a paw on her hand, 

 

"I too wished me and my kind have sheltered the kit, but we cannot change the past. We can, however, make a difference now." The fox paused before speaking again, 

 

"There is something you need to know. And I suppose your husband as well. Naruto has…made contact with the Kyuubi. So far, it's nothing severe. I honestly don't know why I told you this but compared to the rest of the villagers, your clan is trustworthy."

 

Yoshino let out a small laugh," We protect our own, and Naruto is our own." She yelped as Shikamaru collapsed into her lap with Naruto standing in front of her. She reached for him and pulled him into her arms. 

 

"So Naruto...what type of food do you enjoy."

 

"I like ramen..if that's okay." It was more than okay. He really was just like Kushina. 

 

"Well, Shikamaru's father would love to meet you, why don't we make some while we wait? Sounds good?" 

 

Naruto's eyes brighten, "Yes please!" 

 

+++

 

Nara family had taken to Naruto faster than Chimon would have thought. He believed that he would have been met with some resistance or had to speak on the kit's behalf. He was also surprised by the lack of surprise by the Naras by his presence. But then again, they were in a contract with a shadow spirit and it's species so he shouldn't have been surprised.

 

Chimon laid on the warm, clean floor, watching Naruto trail after Yoshino Nara like a lost pup. She didn't appear to mind it, encouraging Naruto to speak up. He did notice the flash of angry when Naruto had stretched, the jumpsuit was tied around his waist exposing the thin white shirt he wore underneath. And underneath all that, one could see the kit's ribs, an obvious sign that he has not been fed very well.

 

"So that was your plan," Chimon muttered to the shadow next to him. The Undimmed Eyes hummed and turned to its counterpart, the fox looking at xie with narrowed eyes, "Plan?"  

 

"Have the Nara clan heir vouch for Naruto for a place in the clan."

 

"Not..quite. That part is true, however, even if you came to the clan compound without Shikamaru, they still would have taken Naruto in without hesitation."

 

"Shikaku and Yoshino had desired to take Naruto in. But due to the Hokage's ruling, they were not allowed to. The foolish human claimed that Shikaku was too close to Naruto's father, who has many enemies."

 

"Now they can."

 

"Yes."

 

It was a solid ruling, in addition to Naruto being kicked out of the orphanage and the poor conditions the kit had been living in. There would be no question about it. 

 

But what did the Undimmed Eyes mean by too close

 

"But Naruto needs a friend right? Shikamaru does too, a close friend."

 

Chimon laughed into his paws, "The Naras has truly changed you. For the better."

 

The Undimmed Eyes said nothing, only fading back into the shadows, leaving Chimon alone. 

 

Typical.

 

"Shikaku, you're home."

 

The fox perked up at the sound of Yoshino Nara speaking turning towards the door. Goodness, the little fawn was almost a direct copy of his father if it wasn't for the shape of his face and the two scars that covered the majority of Shikaku Nara's face. Chimon got up and trotted over to Naruto, who clung to Yoshino's long skirt as if to hide. 

 

"You will be fine here kit, don't be afraid."

 

Chimon snorted as Shikamaru gagged at his parents kissing before the older man ruffled his child's hair. The little fawn whined but made no effort to fix it, leaving Naruto to reach out to fix it for him. 

 

"Is that…"

 

"Shikaku this is Naruto. Naruto this is Shikaku."

 

The kit waved a little before patting Chimon's head, "And this is Chimon, he's my…"

 

"Guardian if you will, but mostly a friend. I mean the kit no harm."

 

He would give up his hard-earned tails before that ever happened. 

 

Shikaku stretched lazily, "Clearly we will have many things to discuss but that's later. Shikamaru come help me set the table."

 

Chimon watched them leave, leaving Yoshino to turn back to the cooking. 

 

"Chimon?" 

 

"Yes, kit?" 

 

Naruto shuffled his feet, "They…like me?" 

 

Chimon licked the child's face gently, "Yes, kit. Yes, they do. You help Yoshino, okay?"

 

Yeah. The kit will be fine.