Sasuke sits in a room, different from the traditional feel of the Uchiha district. The walls are painted a muted, soft blue. The couch he sits on is a mismatched faded red. The room isn't put together for looks; it's for comfort. The walls are taken up by overflowing bookshelves, title written in a script he can't read. Pictures line the wall, but the peoples faces are a little blurred, like a smudged watercolor painting. Dim, soft yellow light spills from the strange looking light fixture. Everything about the room screams strange - foreign. He's never seen anything like it.

It's not real. He knows it like he knows his family, like he knows the Uchiha crest. It feels real though - except for the window.

All Sasuke can see through it is blue; blue dark enough to match his eyes, and small flickers of silver fish catching light and dark shapes moving slowly, unfathomably big. Sasuke's never left Konoha, never seen the sea, but he imagines this is what the bottom it feels like. It's a genjutsu of some kind, and he should try to break it.

He doesn't, content to sit in the dim light and watch shapes move outside the window. The sea is endless, vast and Sasuke is safe here.

Sasuke sits for a long while, until a thought hits him. He doesn't know where his mom is! Finally, he gets up from the couch. There's two doors in the room, one cracked leading inwards and one closed, on the opposite side. Sasuke can see light pouring through the cracked door, the smell of bread baking.

The other door is on the same side as the window.

It leads out, Sasuke knows without knowing how. Out, into the sea.

Sasuke hesitates for a second. Logically, his mother should be in the kitchen; it's her domain, the place she rules over. Except... Sasuke knows she's not. A lump of lead in the bottom of his stomach forms. His feet take him to the unopened door. He touches the handle, finds it cold. Not freezing, but like it's been submerged ice water. He turns it - the door stays locked. Sasuke frowns. He glances around the room, but there's obvious key.

He needs a key, but - Sasuke freezes.

His... his pocket feels heavier than it did a second before.

Sasuke reaches in, tentatively, and his fingers find cold metal. He takes it out.

The key is the same shiny metal of the door handle, the gold that's not really gold. It's simple in design, made up of straight lines, and the end is a square inset with a flat black stone, on which something Sasuke can't read is written. It's not Kanji or Hiragana - it looks simple. He squints at it, but the word doesn't change. He glances at the bookcase. It's the same language.

He exhales and tries the key in the door. It opens with a small klick, swings inwards. Revealing a wall of dark water.

Sasuke flinches - but the water stays on the other side of the door. Not even a drop gets through.

Definitely a genjutsu.

Sasuke inhales and squares his shoulders. he has to find his family! His father's voice tells him to get going. He's an Uchiha - how can he be afraid of a little water?

He steps through the doorway, into the sea.


The mind is a tricky thing to navigate. Perhaps Kiba should've been born a Yamanaka. He knows his own mine; before he was a Inuzuka, there was a small moment when he was nothing but mind, spirit.

It was easy to reach down, back into the part of his head that feeling left. He detaches mind from the body like it's meant to do that. It doesn't hurt. He just turns to light.

There, just underneath the chakra veins is dark red thread.

...The read thread of fate? It starts at his wrist, but that's not all. The cord follows his arm up, and then branches. Kiba shrinks into himself.

One path leads to the heart. On leads to the brain.

Okay. Don't panic - he already knew that it was bad, he just wasn't expecting this.

Brain, heart, wrist.

Can he break it? He reaches out with his mind and "grips" it, with his will. One deep breath - and Kiba yanks.

Kiba gets no warning before the pain hits. Even outside his body, Kiba feels his very dna reject the idea. It's so bad, he loses his grip, rubber bands back into his body, and it's like being burned alive and drowned at the same time. A pain that goes beyond the body, into the soul.

It makes him sick, sick with a helpless perfect horror. Cold, like he'll never be warm again. His wrist burns.

He can't breath. He can't breath.

He jerks out of meditation, back into his body, and dry heaves over the side of the bed again. Nothing comes up, but his hands are still shaking from that awful horror. Okay.

Okay. Can't break the bond.

Lesson learned.

It fades quickly at least. Becomes a memory. This was a natural thing for his body, his soul, strange as it seemed.

Kiba can hear it in the back of his mind - a low hum.

Kiba blinks and tilts his head, listening to something that comes from within rather than without

It... it's singing.

His shoulders ease down.

The pain is forgotten; all he can hear is music.


Kiba needs more information.

How did soul mate bonds work ? Were they limited in what they could feel? How many bonds could a person posses? How many people had them? Were they a good thing, and if so what benefits did they bring? What were the drawbacks? Besides attempting to break it, the bond just sat in the back of his mind, singing to itself, and occasionally sent out flashes of Sasuke's emotions.

The first thing Kiba does after getting out of the hospital is head for the one public library in Konoha. Another disconnect from his old life - the way information was hoarded here. One library and it was sparse, barely full shelves - mostly dusty histories and dogeared fiction. He browsed until the electric lights gave him a headache, but found nothing except trashy romance novels full of heaving breasts and terrible writing. Kiba hesitates over a beat up looking copy written by someone named Jiraiya, the only one written by an actual ninja. It looked... fictional, to put it politely.

After a few hours, Kiba gave up with the library and turned to the bookstores instead. There was a better selection there, but nothing really scientific. Mostly fantasy novels written by civilians. Some of them were pretty well written. Kiba left the store with his own bag.

Tsume would tell him, but she wasn't really book smart, or you know, interested in soul mates. Plus, she'd been... weird around him, since the whole soulmate thing. It wasn't obvious, but he knows her. She can't quite look at him without getting pinched look in her eyes. Tsume loves him, Kiba knows. He just doesn't know how far that extends. He doesn't know how the Inuzuka deal with clan members who get soul mates.

He... he's too afraid to ask. Kiba is still a child in body here. He can't support himself if they lose their patience with the clan head's strange child. Better to be as unobtrusive as possible until he has his forehead protector at least. Genin are adults in every way that matters.

No. Kiba needed to find someone both willing and knowledgeable. It made a part of him squirm to think about asking one of the academy teachers. They were strangers and, for some reason, he didn't want them knowing. It made the hair on the back of his neck rise up.

A flash of yellow from the corner of his eyes. He turned to watch a bird with bright yellow feathers flit past his window.

Yamanaka-sama.

Kiba paused, and sat up on the bed. Ino's dad already knew. He was the one to get Kiba out of that nightmare, where the sky was red and the air smelled like blood . Kiba got up, headed towards his desk and opened a drawer. A small white card sat inside, Inoichi's name printed in tiny, neat letters. A card with the flower shop address. Yamanaka-sama left it for him if Kiba wanted to talk after he woke - or at least, that's what the nurse told Kiba. It... should be fine to ask him. Right?

Yamanaka's knew about mind stuff, so they'd be the next logical choice.

Decided, Kiba walked out the front door ten minutes later with the white card clutched in his hands like a lifeline.

The shop was easy enough to find. It was located outside of the clan district, in the middle of the thoroughfare. The inside was busy and Kiba stared at the various women and men coming and going. He rubbed his sweaty hands on his pants. Kiba's nerves were strung tight. His wrist was burning again.

Maybe he should come back later.

Yamanaka-san was busy, probably. He was a clan head, and a very busy man. He didn't need Kiba taking up his time -

"Kiba-kun?"

Speak of the devil.

Kiba slowly turned around. "Yamanaka-sama." He bowed the perfect ninety degrees and straightened up. He opened his mouth - and nothing came out. Kiba didn't know what to say.

Inoichi seemed to know that, because he only gave Kiba a small smile. "No need to be so polite, Kiba-kun. Your mother and I are old friends. How have you been?"

Kiba shrugged but said nothing. He knew Ino - all the clan kids knew each other, at least a bit. Outside of looks, she wasn't anything like her father. For all that Inoichi saved him, he was still a stranger and Kiba wasn't very good around them. He felt the little tremble of his hands start up again and his eyes drop to Inoichi's feet. His face felt like it was burning.

This was a bad idea.

The silence stretched, but Kiba didn't know what to say. Now that he was here, he was coming up blank. Just because Inoshi helped him out once he'd be willing to just share his information? Kiba didn't even have anything to offer Inoichi in return. Things between different clans were weird. Kiba didn't know enough to say weather the Yamanaka would simply help an Inuzuka. Inoichi said Tsume was a friend, but how far did that go?

"Do you want to come inside?" Inoichi asked when the silence stretched too long, his voice kind. "I just got a new blend of tea, and I couldn't use a second opinion. Ino, much as I love her, isn't one for taste testing."

Kiba looked up slightly. Was that an offer? He steeled himself. "T-thank you. I'd like that." He said, voice only barely louder than a whisper, and immediately hated himself. Why was he so fucking shy? It wasn't like this man's opinion mattered to him.

Inoichi didn't say anything but he did smile, kind and very paternal. "Let's head inside than. My shift is already done for today."


Inside the Yamanaka house, Kiba curiously looked around. It was much like he expected, with Greenery hanging down from most of the walls. There were little touches of ninja, signs that Shinobi lived there. Kunai on the table. A scroll or two open on the floor. Kiba could smell the perfume Ino used all over the place, plus the weaker one of the soap and flower of Sakura.

He paused.

Tsume's scent, heavy with terror and determination lingered by the kitchen table. Kiba could smell it, even through the cloth mask he wore to blunt the outside world. Inoichi's sent already saturated the room, the flowers he worked with blending to make something that belonged only to him. Two day old shock and worry. Worry for Kiba.

And... that was all. Kiba knew he bled all over the table, but he still can't find his own scent.

"Why don't you sit?" Inoichi said. " I'll go put this away."

Kiba took a seat at the table gingerly, moving the chair out with a wince at wood on tile. One of the soft velvet pieces was missing. He'd been here before, for Ino's birthday parties, but never for long. He touched the table, covered in nicks from kunai and other things. The only difference between this and the one in Kiba's own kitchen was the lack of dog hair and claw marks.

Inoichi was only gone for a few minutes. Then he popped his head back into the room carrying a tea tray. " Sorry for the wait, Kiba-kun. I had to unearth my tea pot from Ino's room. I swear everything in the house winds up there at least once." Inoichi put the tray down with a smile and sat opposite Kiba. " I can't thank you enough for helping me. It's hard to find people who are willing to taste test for me these days."

Kiba reached for the cup and then hesitated. " Why?" he asked.

"Hm?"

"Why are vollenteres hard to find?"

Inoichi laughed sheepishly. "Ah, there might have been a few duds along they way. Not everyone appreciates the risk of combining new things."

Kiba eyed the cup like it was full of sewer sludge. He swallowed and took the cup anyway, very aware of Inoichi's bright eyes on him. "Thank you." Kiba said, pulled down his mask, and took a sip.

Despite his fears, the tea was actually pretty good; the taste was light and full of flavor. For some reason, it reminded Kiba of sunflowers. The sent was soothing, if a bit strong - but that was just the Inuzuka nose talking. Everything smelled a bit strong to him. Just inhaling it made his shoulders relax. He looked up to find Inoichi staring at him, slightly surprised.

"It's good." Kiba tells him.

Inoichi shakes his head slightly and beams at him. "Really? it's meant to be more relaxing sort of tea civilians would like, but I'm still not sure. Civilians can be extremely strange and picky."

" I think that they will." Kiba had nearly 25 years as the most civilians of civilians and her other life. " It's got a nice flavor."

" That's a relief." Inoichi said. "Now what did you need I made you come all the way out here?"

Kiba blinked and looked down at his tea - the name on his wrist. "Um," he said. That was really blunt for a ninja. Of course he was used to being with the Inuzuka who're the definition of blunt, but he never expected that one of the Yamanaka would be willing to just come out and State the issue like that. still he could do that. He took in a deep breath and decided to just jump in. " I wanted to ask you …. I wanted to ask you about soulmates."

Inoichi didn't look surprised. "I suppose that would make sense. Why did you come to me?"

"You already know about me and... Sasuke. I... I can't make myself tell anybody else." Kiba gave frustrated sigh. He didn't understand half of what was going on in his brain these days.

Inoichi gave a small nod. "That's normal." he said. " Soulmate bonds are gradual things, and when they do form, it's extremely private. Only close family and friends are informed, if anyone is at all. Especially new ones. I can't imagine one that sprung up that suddenly would be easier to talk about." He leaned back in his chair, hands folded neatly on the table.

Kiba blinked. "Over time?"

"That's right. A soulmate bond is - we don't really know. There are theories, but no real proof. It just happens sometimes. " He paused. "How much do you know about chakra, Kiba-kun?"

Kiba shrugged. "A little bit." The academy hadn't mentioned it at all yet, but Kiba did a lot of reading. He knew the basics of it. It was fascinating, strange.

Magic.

Inoichi looked relieved. "Good. That makes this a little easier to explain. You know that people have affinities with chakra. Water, earth, fire and so on?"

Kiba nodded.

Inoichi sat up straighter, one hand tapping on the table, his long hair draped over his shoulder. "It can happen for people too. The soulmate bond is something like that - only it goes deeper. If you're that compatible, it can happen very, very fast - but it's never instant. It's more like two people deciding to share… well. Everything. Consciously or not." He smiles a little, eyes distant. "That's why it happens so rarely with shinobit. Few of us want anyone that close."

"So it's not the universe is deciding who is the most compatible with you?"

Inoichi blinked and gave him an look. " of course not. Where did you get that information?"

Kiba blushed and looked down at the table. "The- the library had a lot of books."

"Ah. Written by civilians, I assume?" He shook his head. "Perhaps for them, that's the way it works. Not for shinobi."

Kiba felt the tips of his ears turn red and he took a sip of tea to cover it. How was he supposed to know if civilians had any idea what they were talking about? "So. what else can you tell me?"

Inoichi hummed in thought. "Let's see. The thing that would be most relevant to your situation is that you don't have the gradual build-up. Your bond came up out of nowhere. It's natural to feel a little unnatural when that happens, because your mind didn't have any chance to get used to it. Sasuke and you are classmates but not friends correct?"

Kiba nodded. He new Sasuke but he didn't knowSasuke. They were acquaintances at best.

"That's a little trickier." Inoichi said and took a sip of his tea. "The only thing you can do right now is make the bond stronger by spending more time together. The bond will only finalized itself after use both accept it. Well, you remember affinities?"

Kiba nodded.

Inoichi sighed. "Your affinity was Sasuke. You're too close to each other - in spirit, in chakra, in temperament, whatever - to not be soulmates. That's very, very rare." He gave Kiba a serious look. "When Sasuke lost his family, his mind reached out for anything that he could take to stay stable. It's very likely the two of you would always have been soulmates - this just accelerated it."

"Oh." he took another sip of his own tea and thought about what sort of things he and Sasuke would have in common.

They're all gone.

Kiba flinched back from the thought.

"Oh." He said again, voice quiet.

Loss.

That's what pushed Sasuke towards Kiba. Similar souls.

Similar wounds.

"Kiba-kun." Inoichi's voice drew Kiba up out of his thoughts. "You went very pale. Do you want to talk about it?"

Before Kiba could respond, the door slammed open somewhere beyond the kitchen.

"Dad, I'm home". Ino's voice filled the room, bright with laughter and cheer. Inoichi's reaction was almost instantaneous. His face went soft and fond. "You wouldn't believe what Sakura wore to class today, it was so terrible! I was embarrassed just to look at her. I have to make sure that she gets some new stuff because it's no fun winning against her when she makes it so easy."

Inoichi's whole face went soft, and he smiled. "Welcome back, my dear!" He called to Ino.

Kiba looked down at his wrist and tried to suppress the flash of guilt.

Ino really liked Sasuke, and everyone knew it. Kiba didn't mean to steal that away from her. Inoichi hadn't mentioned it, but he had to know. It wasn't like Ino was subtle about what she wanted.

Kiba stood up, wincing at the way the chair scraped again. "I should go-"

Ino walked into the kitchen in a swirl of color before he could say anything else. "I saw another pair of sandals. Is Shikamaru here again? He can't hide here every time his mom wants him to do chores -"

Ino stopped dead, staring at Kiba.

Kiba froze.

The moment shivered, pulled taught. Vivacious Ino was still and staring at him, and it was like an invisible fist pressing down on Kiba's lungs. The name on his wrist prickled. Why was she staring at him? Did she know, somehow? Did Inoichi say something to her?

Ino's eyes narrowed and she crossed the kitchen in quick steps. She leaned into his personal bubble. "Kiba?"

Kiba can't help the way his whole body tenses. He's never been particularly good at talking to strangers no matter how young they are. "...Yes?"

"It really is you!" Ino glanced down - at his face? "You're not wearing your mask! I've never seen you without it!"

Kiba touches his face uncertainly. Same old skin, the slightly raised triangles of his clan markings standing out. "...I'm not?" He didn't mean to make that sound like a question. He just didn't know what the big deal was. Why was she freaking out? It was just his face.

"Wait." Ino frowned. "You haven't been in school lately. Why are you in my house wearing no mask?" She gave her father a sharp glance, then turned her eyes back to you. It's unnerving to see her pupil-less eyes up close.

"He had a couple questions about a matter that needed my expertise." Inoichi said, sounding amused. "A make up assignment for missing school, I believe. Princess, why don't you go wash up for dinner? We were just about finished anyway."

For one second, Kiba thought that Ino would protest - but in the end she just rolled her eyes. "Fine. Don't tell me then." She flounced off in a storm of hair and perfume.

The smell hits Kiba and he makes a face. He pulled his mask up just to make the scent breathable. Talking to Ino always gave him a headache. she used far too much perfume.

"You have a very sensitive nose, Kiba-kun." Inoichi said. "Your mother always made that face around the other girls too. To much perfume, not enough air." He shook his head. "Well. I do have some scrolls with more information in them if you want them."

Kiba was no fool. He went home with a armful of scrolls, thanking Inoichi politely and sincerely at his front doorstep. When Kiba was halfway down the street, he sensed eyes on him. Kiba glanced over his shoulder and saw a curtain of blonde disappear behind a second floor window. Too pale to be Inoichi. Kiba frowned

Ino... could be a problem.


hey it's only been two months right

tell me what your favorite part is