"Are we sure that he's really an Inuzuka?" Kaede Inuzuka, chunin, asked while peering down at the little wrinkled face in the crib. "He's real quiet."

Her partner Jun rolled his eyes and rested his head on his crossed paws. "Don't whine about easy guard duty. You'll jinx us."

"I'm not complaining! It's just…" Kaede looked in the crib again. The baby continued to be quiet and watchful. Creeeepy. "Hana-sama was never this quiet."

"Hana-sama was a hell brat."

Kaede rolled her eyes, but didn't disagree. The clan heir was one of those babies that resented anyone who wasn't their mother. If Tsume-sama was away for ten minutes, she cried like the world was ending.

Still. Something was bothering Kaede. "Even his chakra is quiet. I can barely feel him, even though he's right there."

It wasn'tnatural- babies always felt like miniature suns to her, because they lacked the control to keep their chakra under their skins. Kiba Inuzuka was only three months old but everyone in the clan knew that he was strange. His chakra didn't feel anything like Tsume, or his sister. It didn't even feel like Inuzuka.

Jun huffed, but didn't disagree. "If I wasn't looking at him, I wouldn't think he was there." He said. "His scent is…it's like he doesn't haveone."

Yeah. That was the other thing. "A bloodline thing from the father?"

"Must be. He's way to young to be doing it on purpose."

"Will he even be able to bond with a partner?" Kaede asked softly. Sent was a key component in the bonding process. Kaede herself, while not particularly gifted, could scent Jun from nearly three miles away.

"...I don't know. The elders wanted Tsume to tell them who the other parent was." Jun said after a pause.

Kaede blinked. "What?"

The was… very strange. The children of the clan head belonged to the clan head - no one else, regardless of their status or bloodline or even if they were adopted, had a claim on them. It was twice as strong if the clan head was a woman, because she did all the work by herself anyway. The identity of Tsume-sama's children was between her and her personal mednin. No one else had a right to know that.

She buried her fingers in his thick white ruff. The elders must be worried to even bring it up. "And Tsume-sama didn't kill them?"

Jun snickered. "She roughed them up some. Still, they were right about one thing. The pup will have a hard time getting a partner."

And an Inuzuka without a partner was… a lonely thing. She didn't even want to think about it. If she lost Jun she had no idea what she would do. Die, probably.

"He's got the marks." Kaede said, like she was trying to cheer herself up. She poked the red fangs on Kiba's cheeks and the baby blinked for the first time in a full minute. "And he lookslike an Inuzuka. That has to count for something." She made a silly face at the kid, who didn't react beyond sticking his fingers in his mouth.

Jun studied the baby in the crib. "Yeah. Maybe."

Small brown eyes stared back, for all the world like he understood what was going on.

Hana glanced at her little brother with her mouth pursed. Kiba was lagging behind like he always did, wincing at things only he could hear chakra control still wasnt quite good enough to keep a steady flow to his ears. His face was covered by a scent blocking mask, even though he was five years old - way too old to need help regulating his sense of smell. He was so weird. Most Inuzuka five year olds were overjoyed on their birthdays, but her little brother was blank faced as always.

Five years old meant you were considered responsible enough to finally, finally get a partner.

Six years ago, Hana herself had made the long trip to the kennels, hand in hand with her mother; talking nonstop about her future partners and how cool they were going to be, to the point that Tsume had resorted to shoving dango in Hana's mouth and calling it good.

Kiba seemed content to plod down the road with his hands folded into his volumous sleeves. He reminded Hana of the Hyuuga elders she saw one time.

"Hurry up, Kiba!"

Kiba flinched back like she screamed it in his ears, and Hana scowled at the flare of guilt that induced. It wasn't her fault that Kiba couldn't regulate his hearing either! She just - forgot sometimes.

Still, Kiba picked up the pace, falling in step with her.

The Kennel was really a large, open air building, built specifically for housing bitches about to pup and their Inuzuka partners who made up the guard rotation on the building. There were very few things more protective than a paranoid Inuzuka worried for their partner's welfare. Even Mom had to submit to their inspection, and she was the clan head.

It'd been scary, but worth it. Hana had seen the three Haimaru brothers and fallen in love. She patted on of them on the head, enjoying the familiar weight pushing into her legs - not enough to knock Hana over. Just a reminder that they were there, and she wasn't alone.

Hana glanced down at her little brother. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking. His heartbeat was barely audible, and his scent was incredibly faint. Even when he was a baby, Kiba had been hard to sense.

It was like he was a ghost.

(It set Hana's teeth on edge, but Kiba was her brother, so she endured it.)

"Ready?" She asked.

Kiba stared at the building and Hana couldn't tell what he was thinking. Normally she would be able to scent it, but all she could smell was the Inuzuka in the building, and the fresh green of growing things. "Sure."

Good enough.

The inside smelled like wet dog and fresh milk, and beyond that, the clean excitement of puppies. Hana can't help the way a smile spreads over her face. The first time she came, she was to nervous to appreciate the overwhelming feeling of safety and happiness that pervaded this branch of the kennel.

"Hana?" Kiba's voice brought her back to earth.

She cleared her throat. "Alright, let's go get you a pup, pup."

Kiba just stepped closer to her shadow, like he was a Nara and it was some sort of protection. Hanna rolled her eyes, but led the way in. He was just a little kid, no matter how much of an old man he acted.

There wasn't a door in front of the informal meeting room, called that because it was used to introduce the pup to Inuzuka children.

Hana hoped over the waist height gate in the door, and helped Kiba clamber awkwardly over. He froze once he was in the room.

Inside was a familiar scene, and Hana smiled when Kiba made a breathless noise of protest. It really was too adorable for words. Roughly two dozen pups of all colors and a few other Inuzuka children were playing in the middle of the room — and standing watch over them were half a dozen she-wolves. One of them broke from the knot in the corner and trotted over to shove her nose in Hana's hand. "Daughter of the pack."

Hana held perfectly still and let the inspection happen. Yubari lost her eyes years ago, but that just made her nose more keen. Nobody got close to the pups without her say so.

"Mother of the Pack." She replied, as per tradition.

The she-wolf huffed, amused. "Hana-chan. Have your shadows accepted their own names yet?"

Hanna rolled her eyes. She was never going to hear the end of that. "The brothers are the brothers. Anyway, we don't need em. I know who I'm talking to,Yu-chan."

"Yes, I gathered that. What brings you here today?"

Hana ruffled her little brother's head. He's too entranced by all the puppies to even protest. "It' Kiba's fifth birthday."

Yu-chan paused. "But there's only — " then she stopped, her pale eyes going wide. "Oh. Kiba-chan. I didn't… smell you."

Kiba snapped out of the cuteness coman and bowed, because he was secretly a Uchiha in disguise. "A pleasure to meet you, Yubari-san."

Hana rolled her eyes. So stiff. Why did he insist on being this polite around the clan? They were family, and more importantly, they were pack. "Yeah, yeah. Just go meet the pups, kid. Me and Yu-chan got grown up stuff to talk about."

The look Kiba gives her is as insulting as it is doubtful. "You're eleven."

She flicked his ear. "More grown up than you, brat. Shoo."

Kiba ducks under and flashes her a rare smile.

Hana's brow knits now that he's not looking at her. Her stomach gnaws, twists in on itself like a snake eating it's own tail.

Yubari inhales deeply, scenting the air. "I didn't notice him at first. And if I didn't notice him..."

Hana found her hand buried in one of the Haimaru brother's fur. "Yeah." She said quietly, mouth a thin line. Kiba was - was a ghost. The two of them watched in silence as Kiba approached the squirming pile of puppies. He seemed to gravitate to one of the white ones with brown markings on it's ears and around it's mouth.

He approached carefully, staying low to the ground, with his hand outstretched so the pup had a chance to smell him .

Hana can't say she surprised when all the pup does is ignore him.

Kiba freezes.

Hana can't see his face.

He tires for two more hours - even going so far as to pick up one of the pups. Nothing works. The pups ignore him and so do the mothers and the other children. Kiba stood with his head down and his hands fisted at his side. Eventually, Hana couldn't watch anymore.

She approached her little brother and wrapped her hand around his shoulders. "Let's go home, little brother." She said quietly.

Kiba takes a shuddering breath and his hands unclenched to touch the clan marks on his face. "I guess she was wrong. It doesn't really count." He said.

"Who was?"

But Kiba only shook his head. "It doesn't matter."

Heart hollow, Hana took Kiba home.

It was a long time before she sees ghim smile again.

Kiba's fifth birthday passed, and he didn't gain a partner. That was fine, if heartbreaking for him. Then his sixth passes. No partner. The spare returns empty handed once was bad enough. His seventh birthday was last week and still, Kiba returned with no partner. Once was understandable. Sometimes the right pup just hadn't been born yet, and no one could blame the kid. Three times?

Tsume had a quiet word with some of the medics.

Tsume sighs. That kid was such a headache. He was Inuzuka enough to have the marks — he looked like a male copy of her, for fucks sake. It wasn't the looks. It was just…

Everything else.

Inuzuka's were pack animals, just like their partners. They were boisterous and family driven and friendly, if a bit rough

Kiba didn't act like an Inuzuka. He was shy. He was quiet. He never caused trouble or fought with the other pups, because that would require them to actually talk to him.

Tsume couldn't remember the last time she met a shy Inuzuka kid, and she'd been clan head for nearly ten years now.

"Peace, Tsume." Kuromaru said. "The pup will be well."

With a sigh, Tsume folded her arms. "I don't know what to do with him sometimes. He'll never have a partner! How can you be Inuzuka without a partner? He can't learn the clan style. He might not even be able to learn how to track things, because he still needs sensory dampeners outside the clan compounds. He doesn't fit, and the whole clan knows it, including him!" But how can she ask him to change who he is just to fit in with the clan? They were Inuzuka, not Uchihas.

Kuromaru closed his eyes with a wuff. "There's still time. It might just be that the right pup hasn't been born yet."

"What if they never are? If something happens to me or Hana, he'll be clan heir."

And the clan would never accept it. Oh, they might play nice about it, because they weren't actual animals, but it would come down to two options: Kiba would be challenged and lose, or Kiba would be pressured into stepping down.

"Let the boy grow into himself. He seems to be enjoying the academy."

"You mean he hates being here." Tsume corrected him.

Kuromaru went quiet.

It was true. Kiba avoided the rest of the clan like they had fleas. The boy's impeccable manners set him at odds with the other children, all of them rambunctious hellions. Like Inuzuka children should be.

Neither of them noticed the small shadow on the door. An already quiet chakra smoothed itself out to near nothingness. A small hand clenched and released. Silent feet turned away from the room, back into the darkened hallway.

He can feel his hands clench on his knees, claws priming into skin. He smoothed out his face with a deep breath. He is not his emotions.

Kiba's chakra is pushed back, deep under the skin until he can barely feel it. It sits in his stomach like a tiny sun.

With that done, he exhales once, grim as a doctor about to turn off the life support of a lost cause. Practice makes it come easy.

Mother. He thinks, shapes the word like a breath and gives it the half remembered laugh. He fixes the moment in his mind.

It's not Tsume.

Kiba is sorry that she got him, instead of the real Kiba. But that's not who he is.

Who she was.

Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in a large house on a hill with four younger siblings. They were, in the way of all younger siblings, unspeakably cute and inescapably annoying at the same time and she loved them more than she could say— not that she wouldn't sell them all to Satan for a Piece of gum, the brats. The girl helped her mother and argued constantly with her Father, and she was content.

Because she understood that life was a story, she also understood that she was not a main character. She was meant to live an average life without great loves, but also without tragedy.

She was wrong. Tragedy came in the form of a sluggish bleeding nose and a dark Qatar with look between doctors. Her story came to an end, surrounded by her younger siblings and all she could think, as her vision faded and her siblings begged her to hold on a little longer, was —

Thank god.

Thank god, she didn't have to live through losing one of them. All of the pain was put on the shoulders of the living. It wasn't one of them in the hospital wasting away, so her last sight would be of them, healthy and whole while they would have to see her emancipated corpse. She wouldn't have to deal with the emotional pain, because she would be dead.

It was, perhaps, the most selfish thought she'd ever had.

And she pays for it.

It's not the end, and she wakes up. Cold and tired and surrounded by people she can't see through her blurry eyes, with ears and nose fat too sharp to make any sense out of.

She looses every single one of them anyway.

The loss of everything she's ever known is incomprehensible. She can't even feel pain. She's too numb.

Chakra has felt from the very beginning like a thousand bumpy balls rolling around in her veins. Just shy of painful and impossible to ignore entirely. Instinctively she pushed it away, down deeper into her bones, until the sensation was almost impossible to detect for herself.

She loses her family and gains a clan that's too wary of her to make any sort of effort. The failure.

An Inuzuka without a ninken isn't an Inuzuka at all.

(They were all nice people, but it was made clear; they were not his people.)

It happened three months after the start of Kiba's seventh birthday.

Tusme woke to in a cold sweat to something pushing at the edges of her mind and it tasted like fear. Familiar fear — not because she's felt it before, but because she knew where it was coming from.


She spun out of her bed and into a shushin so fast she almost blacked out. She landed in her son's room in a crouch, a snarl on her lips.

Protect the pack!

Only there was no one to protect Kiba from. Her youngest child was staring off into space, a look of horror on his normally stoic face.

Tsume rushed to his side. "Kiba! Kiba, what's wrong?"

He didn't respond. Not even when she shook him. It was like he was somewhere else entirely, like —

Than Tsume noticed the way Kiba was clutching his wrist and her heart sunk.

She knew what that space meant.

The head woman gathered her son into her arms and pulled both of them into a shushin.

They needed a Yamanaka.

okay so this is the thing i wrote for camp nano in 2017 and then let it sit in my drafts ever scince. i have zero time to be wrting new stories but this one is already mostly done so imma just go for it.

this is a soul mate au, btw. there's not going to be any romance because all of the characters are like... twelve. I'm only really interested in exploring what having a soul mate would do to someone who comes from a world without them.