[ I'm a little conflicted about posting this, but...well, it's something that I just kind of needed to write. As you will soon discover, I was LIVID when I wrote it, and that did influence the tone quite a bit. However, it was also really interesting to wonder about how the Clans might have been different back before everyone finally settled into a peaceful coexistence within the newly-created Konoha. ]

Pack

In the days before any of the hidden villages existed, there were Clans that warred with each other over various reasons. Revenge, money, territory, power, loyalty, misunderstandings, and sometimes it was simply out of boredom. For all those Clans who sought conflict and strife, desiring to conquer and subdue others – regardless of whether it was 'justified' or not – there were a small number of Clans that they systematically avoided if there was any possible way to do it.

Certainly it wasn't out of a sense of mercy or because they were afraid of the Clans overwhelming strength. No, the Senju and Uchiha were the true powerhouses of the era. The problem was more due to the nature of the Clans, and the knowledge that facing off with them would inevitably lead to a large amount of extremely gruesome casualties. All but one of the Clans in question had no wish to fight, but all of them would only be dragged into combat for defensive purposes. That was their greatest power; the fact that they did not want power. They wanted to be left alone, and for the most part they were.

You did not start a fight with the Aburame Clan because their armies numbered in the billions, all but invisible and easily scattered across miles of landscape. If you came across a peaceful Clan member, you would be drained of chakra and left to defend yourself against the elements and wild animals in a withered and weakened state. If you came across one of the more vicious guardians, you were never so lucky. Flesh-eating insects could bite and burrow under skin in seconds, gouging out eyes, piercing intestines, chewing through tendons. Aburame insects would leave you writhing and screaming in agony until you were somehow able to kill yourself...or you had a comrade that was willing to do it for you.

You did not start a fight with the Yamanaka Clan because they didn't need armies. They simply turned yours against itself. The ones under control of the mind-walkers were completely aware of what was going on, but were unable to stop themselves. All you could do was beg, shout, cry and pray that someone killed you quickly before you were manipulated into killing more of your own friends as confusion, betrayal, fury, bloodlust, HELL erupted within the ranks. Your only solace was that you were never forced to kill someone truly precious to you...and your greatest sorrow was knowing that person was the only one capable of stopping you.

You did not start a fight with the Nara Clan because they controlled the shadows. They controlled the shadows of your mind that scrutinize, plan, re-think, doubt, and always panic because they were ALWAYS ten steps ahead of you. The Nara Clan eliminated subordinates with clinical proficiency, leaving the commanders unharmed to watch as they were left with only bodies and warnings to carry home. Shadows trapped you, bound you, strangled you, and left you vomiting and wailing in helplessness and shame. But they were a merciful Clan, because as a commander you were also always left with the ability to slice your own belly open at any time during the assault.

You did not start a fight with the Inuzuka Clan because they LOVED IT. They were eager and vicious predators. A pack of human-wolf-dog demons that stalked the hills and howled their explosive tempers to the moon. Whether they had four legs or two legs, they were of one mind and had one goal: Protect What Is Ours. They were ruthless barbarians that moved as swift as the wind to tear throats out with their teeth and lick their lips with feral delight even as swords cut and skewered them. They laughed out their bloodlust with red-stained faces, defiant of everything that would stop them from defending their territory. Including death. To kill an Inuzuka without dying was a badge of honor that was worn by warriors who were no longer able to fight due to the injuries sustained in the battle.

When Hashirama finally managed to form a truce with the Uchiha Clan so that they could build Konoha together, he opened his arms to all Clans that wished to also bind themselves to that truce of peace. It was Tobirama that actively sought out the strength of those somewhat reticent powerful Clans, using any connections he could. Finding distant marriage ties between the Akimichi, Nara and Yamanaka, he convinced the Akimichi to negotiate with the others to bring them into the village. However, the three Clans pledged themselves to the trust of each other before affirming their loyalty to the newly-formed Konoha. Hashirama was delighted. Tobirama had to settle for skeptic satisfaction.

The Aburame Clan remained stoic and neutral, refusing to align with Konoha while making it clear that they had no desire to become a threat unless they were threatened. The only glimmer of hope they gave was the cryptic parting statement: "We will wait." What they were waiting for, Tobirama could not figure out. On the absolute opposite end of the personality spectrum lay the Inuzuka. While their rebuffs were aggravatingly boisterous in their mocking barks of laughter, cackling and snarling their amusement as they shouted "Come back when you're ready for us!", Tobirama couldn't help but notice the parallel between the two Clans.

Admitting defeat to Hashirama was infuriating, but not nearly as infuriating as when his brother returned to the village with the entire Inuzuka Clan bounding at his heels after what could only have been a few hours of talking. Tobirama's anger rose exponentially when he learned the conditions of the barbaric Clan's acceptance to Konoha. Hashirama had given them impunity to exact vengeance over one crime for the entire life span of their Clan. Tobirama demanded to know what the man at the head of the Clan had conned Hashirama into agreeing with. Hashirama simply looked at his brother with an unreadable expression, then spoke one sentence before walking away.

"The head of the Inuzaka Clan is a woman."

It was both hard and easy to miss the presence of two Aburame Clan members crouched in the shadows of the trees just outside the village, depending on how you came upon them. There weren't enough of them to cause concern, they were just curious and waiting. Only the Yamanaka let their children leave their houses without strict adult supervision that day. The first night of the Inuzuka 'invasion' brought four men to the small medical facility that was still being expanded and built beyond the emergency shelter that it was. The medics reported their injuries as 'not life-threatening', but refused to divulge any more details.

The following day there were Akimichi and Nara youths playing with the younger Yamanaka siblings, and three more Aburame Clan members had taken discreet observational posts outside the village boundaries. Tobirama spent the night in the shadow of the medical clinic to find out what the hell was going on. He sensed the chakra and killing intent from the small group before they arrived, but remained where he was until the two men riding their large dogs had unceremoniously flung their two passengers to the ground. The injured men were in obvious excruciating pain, curled in on themselves and choking back screams. Tobirama wrinkled his nose at the stench of blood, vomit, and other things he didn't even want to think about as he stepped forward to confront the disgusted faces of the Inuzuka men.

"Explain yourselves," Tobirama demanded coldly.

"You still don't even fucking get it, do you, pipsqueak," the burlier of the two men laughed rakishly, scratching the ears of the bulky grey dog he was sitting on while the beast licked the blood off its muzzle with quiet satisfaction. "You're lucky you have a smart brother."

"It's not his fault that he doesn't understand," a woman's voice said smoothly from the roof above him, and even as he whirled to look at the silent figure he hadn't sensed approach he saw the grudging acceptance of her reprimand on the faces of the two men.

"And can I hope that you are willing to tell me exactly what it is I don't understand...?" Tobirama grated angrily, folding his arms and sparing a brief glance at the medics who were collecting the injured men. They didn't have any distinguishing characteristics of the larger Clans, but their chakra reserves were above standard. It couldn't have been a simple task taking them down.

"Inuzuka are Pack," she said with a feral grin, dropping to the ground and tilting her head at an angle that made Tobirama instinctively lower his chin to protect his throat. The red markings on her cheeks looked like blood in the filtered light of the hospital windows, and he reflexively tensed in preparation for a fight when he realized that there actually was blood spattered across her face and shirt. "As Alpha of this...village," she continued, leaning back with amusement at his reaction as she side-stepped to force him to shift his defensive stance. "Your brother accepted our one unbreakable law, and invited us to mingle with his collection of scraggly mutts."

Tobirama clenched his teeth and remained silent, fighting back the urge to just lash out at the woman. He knew she was baiting him, testing him, picking at his desire to control the situation. But she was dropping more information in those few sentences than he had been able to garner in several days of trying to talk to her Clan before Hashirama had brought them to the village. His need to know more far outweighed his need to display dominance.

"You're more approachable here in the security of your own territory," she chuckled, licking her teeth and relaxing her stance. "Inuzuka are Pack," she repeated, drawing herself up with proud defiance. The tight braids of her thick dark hair bounced at her back as she tossed her head, and Tobirama was mildly surprised to find himself eye-to-eye with the tall woman. "A territory is needed for pups to tumble about safely until they can control their own feet. We do not protect territory for territory's sake. We protect the pups, human and canine, it doesn't matter because they are Pack. They are the future. They are everything," she hissed, flashing her sharp teeth as she canted her head in that way that made Tobirama remember he needed to keep his distance from the woman who was leaning in and eyeing his jugular.

He still didn't know where her canine companion was, and the fact that it was only bothering him NOW was cause for a great deal of concern. He was getting too lax.

"Tch, they're over there," she scoffed, straightening back up and flicking her fingers to her left.

Tobirama narrowed his eyes and flicked his senses out to find five large ninken hovering and pacing just out of his line of sight. It didn't seem right, and he was momentarily confused. The Inuzuka men only had the one big dog each...so why...?

"It's called a matriarch, little one," the woman cooed, leaning in with an enraging amount of patronizing pity for his lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, his scathing glare only had her dancing to the side with a delighted wild laugh. "Tell me something," she said, her humor vanishing like liquid spilling from a broken glass, and he couldn't help conjuring the image of razor sharp fangs crushing that glass to spill the liquid as she straightened her shoulders to look at him. "When you think of 'pups', you think of babies toddling about. However..." she hummed, slinking close enough for him to smell the blood in her hair. "Where do these babies come from? Because if we are unable to protect that, then we are unable to protect anything."

A chill so fierce and repulsive and FURIOUS cut through him it rocked him back on his heels. He was twisting around to blast his way into the medical clinic before he realized it, but there were arms snaked around his chest with the cold steel of a blade pressed against his throat to stop him.

"There's nothing so hellishly unbearable than knowing what you desire is right there in front of you, and you are left unable to have it..." she whispered against the back of his ear with ferocious bloodlust. "We leave them alive so they can experience true Hell for the crime they have committed. They are left knowing their manhood will never 'rise' again because we have severed it. They are left knowing we will watch them till the day they die, licking our chops in the shadows and waiting for the opportunity to tear out their eyes for gazing too long at what they are never allowed to have, rip off their hands should they reach out to touch what is forbidden to them, or cut out their tongues for speaking too often about what they have forever lost.

"This. Is. Pack," she snarled quietly, releasing him and stepping back. "This is the unforgivable. We protect our pups, which means we protect those innocents who would be used to defile the nature of where our pups come from. Young, old, weak, strong, drunk, sober, male, female. We do not differentiate the line in this despicable act, and there is no escape." She tilted her head to the side arrogantly, strolling toward the five wolf-dogs awaiting her as her braids chuffed across the back of her leather vest. "It's laughable, isn't it?" She sneered, gracefully climbing onto the back of one of her pack as the two Inuzaka men fell in line behind her with great amusement.

"The fools actually think a simple scent-masking jutsu or shower can wash the smell off of them. They think we can't hear the muffled screams because the windows are shut. They think we won't notice the pain and terror shrieking in every movement of their silent victims." Tilting her chin down as she wiped all expression from her face, she gazed at Tobirama with black eyes that were even more shadowed in the pale moonlight. And for an eerie moment he couldn't tell if she was human or animal. "They even think we're the only ones out here hunting them. The truly funny thing is, we're not half as ruthless as the Yamanaka or Aburame Clans. Our methods are just more obvious than theirs, and we prefer to let our prey live so they can be made into examples. Sleep tight, little one," she sang as all of them meandered off into the night. "Don't let the bedbugs bite..."

The next day the Aburame Clan leader walked into the village and requested to speak to Hashirama. Tobirama holed himself in an office and began drawing up plans and ideas for an Intelligence Division, an official Police Force for the benefit of the public, and a private spy network that would be the Hokage's eyes and ears exclusively. They needed an organized system of law in place to deal with the crimes that would inevitably occur between Clans, because he sure as hell wasn't going to just let them all 'exact justice' themselves. That was how wars started in the first place.

By the end of the next week the Aburame Clan had finished building their new houses, the Inuzuka children had been let loose to run rampant with the rest of the village kids, there had been no reports for two days from the medics of random men showing up with injuries that were discreetly labeled as 'not life-threatening', and Tobirama had settled on calling his covert-ops 'ANBU'. Of course, he would never admit that his choice of using very simplified animal faces as the mask design for ANBU was at all influenced by his night-time conversation with the eldest daughter of the Inuzuka Clan leader.


END