Man, I really wish someone would've reminded me I haven't finished this thing yet! I mean, I haven't been able to get online in months and I have this thing that I want to put up but I eventually forget and then I finally GET back online and I completely forgot that I had this thing rotting on my computer!
bows I am soooooo sorry it took so long for me to remember and actually get this up! I'm glad this is the last one because now I can go kill myself for forgetting something like that > ;;
So, this takes place far into the future (of an alternate timeline from canon!Naruto-verse, stupid Sasuke) and everything eventually comes...
"Hey, so you /are/ here!"
Shikamaru raised an eyebrow but didn't look up from the report he was writing out. "Hello, Kiba."
The older man grinned at the top of Shikamaru's head. "Hi." Akamaru, however, demanded the shadow nin's attention and bodily shoved his head on the man's lap for a head scratch. It was a far less energy consuming an action then Shikamaru made it seem.
"When did you get back?" Kiba asked. Idly he juggled with the five apples he swiped from the break room.
"Last night. Late."
The three sat like that for a while. Kiba hummed quietly as he juggled, looking every inch like the world could wait on him. Shikamaru still wrote with one hand, the other one scratching the same rhythm as the brush along Akamaru's neck. One long stroke, three smaller ones in quick succession, one diagonal that curved slightly under his hand-
Ending another sentence, Shikamaru set down the brush and looked up at Kiba. "Do you want something?"
The other man looked at him in surprise, juggling now four apples as he had put the fifth in his mouth. "Hmf?"
Rolling his eyes, Shikamaru caught one of the airborne fruits. "Don't you have a job to do or something?"
"Yeah." Kiba mumbled around the apple. Catching the last three he placed them back in one of his pouches.
"Shouldn't you be doing it, then?"
"I got time till it begins." Stuffing his hand into a pouch, Kiba produced a folder. "Besides, since you were out during your tour of the other villages for so long, I thought you might wanna catch up with the home front." That said, he slid the folder across the table.
Shikamaru looked down at the label and felt his lips twist in a frown.
"So you're my team, huh? Well, let me tell you right now that I'm gonna be pressing you pretty hard. If you try to give me less than your best, I'll just make you do the task over and over again until you give it your all, got that?"
The three kids nodded in varying degrees of delight.
"Good. Now, let's start with some basic introductions. State your name, hobbies, strengths, weaknesses, whatever. I'm the friendly type so whatever you don't tell me now, I'll just find out later. Let's start with you."
The smallest and youngest of the three frowned. "I'm Nara Inosuke. I like to read and study. I hate annoying people and prefer to be alone."
"A bit early for him to be in a cell, don't you think? I mean, he's what? 10?"
The younger man snorted. "It's because he was making learning harder for kids his own age. Couldn't just sleep in class and leave well enough alone."
Kiba nodded in agreement. "He's got Ino's drive."
To this Shikamaru scowled. "And her temper. When he couldn't reason with me to put him in a higher class, he threw a fit."
Akamaru's ears rose at the same time Kiba's eyebrows did. "Really?"
"First time I ever heard him yell in my life." He flipped to the next profile.
"Well. That was enlightening." The other two kids snickered. "And you?"
"Uchiha Chouji. I like exploring the forests and any place in the village I can get to. My favorite spot is on top of the monument. My best friends are Ino-kun and Shikari-neechan. Shikari-neechan is always fun to hang out with, but Ino-kun is impossible to play with when there's strangers around." He grinned that wide-open grin that was never before associated with his family name, giving the young boy a playful jab in the ribs. The action was met with a frown but otherwise ignored. "My strength is taijutsu. My weakness is vegetables."
Shikamaru put a hand over his head. "An Uchiha. She put an Uchiha with my boy."
"You know, she had to go through a lot to get them in the same cell." Kiba pointed out. "It severely overpowers all the other teams."
"You miss the point." Shikamaru said right back. "Orochimaru is after Inosuke. Orochimaru has been after both Itachi and Sasuke. What makes you think he won't also try for Chouji?"
Sitting back he crossed his arms. "That's part of the reason why they're in the same team. They're the top two graduates of their class. Whatever subject Inosuke wasn't the top seed, Chouji was. If Orochimaru or any of his subordinates try to take them, they have a better fighting chance together. Besides," here Kiba lowered his voice, "you know about Chouji, don't you?"
At first Shikamaru didn't understand, but then his brows lowered in realization. "You mean the Sharingan?"
"He won't use it. He knows, deep down, that a lot of people are afraid of him. I read the report that one time he actually used the Sharingan. His teacher had a bad reaction to it and the other kids were scared." Kiba tapped a finger idly. "I think Hokage-sama is hoping that Chouji'll out grow his fear."
The other grunted in agreement. "Just give him time. He'll understand."
"My name's Mitarashi Kanna!"
"Whoa, wait a second!"
Kiba blinked, surprised to find Shikamaru had jumped to his feet. But not as surprised as Akamaru who jerked his head back, right into the underside of the table.
"/ANKO'S/ kid? What is that woman /thinking?"
Surprised, Kiba waved his hands. "Hey, hey, calm down! There's a perfectly good reason for this!"
"What, is the hag putting any possible target into one group to make it easy on Orochimaru?"
"Shikamaru, c'mon! Would you just listen?"
With a growl and apologetic scratch to Akamaru, Shikamaru obediently sat down.
"I like running around and playing pranks on people. I hate having to stay in one place for long and like to spend nights out outside. I especially like the rain and collect bugs. I don't like boring people or idiots. My specialty is hidden weapons. I don't have any weaknesses to speak of."
Inosuke snorted and looked away but Chouji seemed curious about the girl. "How come you're here with us? You weren't in our class."
Kanna stuck her tongue out at him. "My old cell got broke up because we were apparently causing too much trouble for the instructor to handle."
Pulling at his uniform collar, Kiba cleared his throat. "You know, of course, that Kanna is actually a lot older than her new teammates. She's actually older than your daughter, I think. Hokage-sama was planning this a while ago and forced Kanna's team to participate in the chuunin exams last year because it was being held by another village. Because she wasn't extremely well known or a total surprise, the fact that she passed didn't cause a lot of fuss. She's a very powerful ninja for her age- not as powerful as her mother, of course, but then she doesn't have a cursed seal."
Rolling the explanations around his head, Shikamaru settled back. "But still, if she's as talented as Anko, what makes her think Orochimaru won't go after her, as well?"
"It's the same reason Hokage-sama put Chouji in there. They have a better fighting chance."
"They're children. Two genin and a chuunin in disguise. The Sandaime lost to Orochimaru, what good could they do."
Kiba nodded to this argument. "Well, one thing I know for a fact, being her mother's daughter, Kanna knows several forbidden jutsu that Orochimaru taught only to a chosen set. Of course, her knowledge of these techniques aren't known on record. And I also know that she's already made a summoning pact. With Uwabami."
Shikamaru jerked his head up. "That would mean-"
"If they were to meet Orochimaru and they both summoned Uwabami, he would have to place his allegiance with Kanna, as she is the most recent to sign with him."
Thinking it over, the team actually didn't sound too bad. But one thing bothered him. "And how exactly do you know all this?"
Kiba just grinned. "Check out who the teacher is."
"Well, I'm your instructor, Inuzuka Hanazura. You can call me Hanazura-sensei or Hanazura-neesan." She made a face. "My own brother doesn't even call me that anymore. He thinks he's such a big man, now." This brought out more snickers from Kanna and Chouji. "I like to read, myself. I also like being outside, especially with my family's dogs. Speaking of which, this is my dog, Kinokaze."
The large dog barked, sitting proudly by his mistress's feet.
"He's one of the best trackers in our clan. I've especially trained him to climb trees so he can be just as mobile as the rest of you." Hanazura ran her long fingers down Kinokaze's back and he fairly purred as she reached his favorite spot. "We both believe in hard work and won't except anything less from ourselves or anyone. I also believe in harsh discipline, so if you don't do as your told or don't complete your task, you will be punished accordingly."
Chouji pressed his lips thoughtfully as Kanna grinned. Inosuke, however, crossed his arms and fairly exuded his dislike of being there. Hanazura went over to the little boy.
"Don't be like that." She told him. "You'll like it with me. Besides, since you got the top scores in academics and practical application, I'm certain trying won't be hard for you. Ne, Pochi?"
Inosuke's eye twitched and the other two snorted through stifled laughter. "What?"
Hanazura blinked. "I said you shouldn't have problems trying."
"Don't give me stupid pet names."
With a wide, fanged grin, the woman patted his head like some pup. "Well, when you can prove to me that I won't have to keep prodding some effort out of you, you'll always be my cute little Pochi."
Chouji and Kanna just lost it after that.
"Your older sister, huh?"
Kiba shrugged. "Hokage-sama figured it would be easier to communicate that way. You know, because animals have so many different ways of communicating to each other without drawing any attention."
"Wait, they what?"
"You weren't told?"
"Told what?" The muscle in Shikamaru's cheek twitched. He didn't like not knowing things when they concerned his children.
"As an extra precaution, Hokage-sama is sending an ANBU team to shadow them. They won't deal with any of their missions and will keep a good distance away, but they'll jump in at the first sign of Orochimaru and take the children away."
"And who, precisely," Shikamaru asked, his chin in hand, "is on this ANBU team?"
Kiba broke out into a wide grin. "Well, I am, obviously. I mean, you need someone that can understand what Hanazura's dog is saying, right?"
"And who else?"
"Neji, for one."
For the first time in a while, Kiba actually saw Shikamaru grin. "Neji? That must be a fun experience."
Rolling his dark eyes, Kiba said, "About three months ago I probably woulda killed myself, first. But ever since Hinata put him in his place, he hasn't bothered me about 'tainting his precious bloodline' or whatever."
"Hn. Who's the last one?"
"Naruto." Shikamaru hummed in something like approval. "He's got the best track record when facing Orochimaru."
"And you know how he is with Sasuke's kid."
"Yeah, it makes sense. Though….." He narrowed his eyes.
Kiba narrowed his in response. "What?"
"I feel horrible for Neji. Putting you two idiots together always leads to trouble."
"C'mon. We've mellowed out through the years."
"But you're both still idiots."
"You know," Kiba leaned in close, his face was serious but his eyes playful, "your kid's future /is/ in my hands."
Shikamaru just smirked right back and said, "And your future is in mine."
"I hate arguing with you."
And that, dear readers, is the end of the Stumbling Blind series. I want to give a special thanks to everyone that's been keeping up with it since the beginning. If it weren't for the overwhelming support (and I mean mad overwhelming, I've never got so much attention from a fic before) I don't know if I would've finished it.
Though I'm not planning on doing any more fanfiction, I do have a challenge journal set up at livejournal dot com/users/idiosyn. I'll take any challenge you throw at me, regardless of if you have a lj or not. All the rules and guidelines are posted up in the profile.
And speaking of profiles, here's a brief look at the new team: Team 6
Nara Inosuke: 10 years old. He doesn't like to fight but he likes to learn. Fairly anti-social, the only person he really calls 'friend' is Chouji. He doesn't get into a lot of trouble though his teachers have always had to talk to him about reading advanced material in his class (he always keeps some sort of advanced reading on him) and not participating with the other children. His eyes are greyish in color and his hair is black with bangs down to his chin and the back of his head shaved. He usually keeps his hair down except when he's doing heavy thinking in which he pulls his hair back in a ponytail much like his father's. He wears his headband around his waist.
Uchiha Chouji: 12 years old. He has a very open and pleasant personality and doesn't know about the tragedy that befell his father and his family. He's a close friend with both Nara children, he and Shikari being the only ones that can get Inosuke to smile. He refers to Shikari as 'Shikari-neesan' meaning 'older sister'. He also calls Ino 'okaasan' (mother) and Shikamaru 'Shikamaru-tousan' (father). Or 'o-san' (old man) just to amuse Ino. He knows that people are somewhat afraid of him because of his bloodline and is afraid of using the Sharingan because people's fears multiply. He was a slow learner the first few years at the academy, but Naruto- not wanting Sasuke's son to grow up isolated –took it upon himself to teach and integrate Chouji into the village. Chouji excels at hand-to-hand combat but there are some basic-advanced techniques that he's still a little shaky on though, between Naruto and Inosuke, his inherent talent has shown through. Though not as gorgeous as his father, Chouji still has very note-worthy good looks in a more boyish sense. He has ebony hair that sweeps forward and very dark, almost black, blue eyes. His face is very expressive but turns completely blank when he's worried or insulted. He wears his headband on his forehead.
Mitarashi Kanna: 16 years old. Like her mother, Kanna is a mischievous girl who thinks the more trouble she has the potential to get in, the bigger the thrill. Despite her friendly and energetic personality, she likes being mysterious (though there's little about her to be mysterious) and tries to think of herself as a manipulator though, as time goes, Inosuke will always call her out on her 'schemes'. Even though she's one of the main members of a group of young rebel girls always causing trouble, she's very responsible and will make her group help to mend any serious damages with the villagers. She takes duty as a ninja very seriously and strives to be the best of the best. She's not too upset with being placed in a cell with two genin because she understands the possible severity of the situation and- not only does her sense of duty want her to protect the target –she's always ready for a good fight. She's a master of hidden weapons and knows several forbidden jutsu though her trump card is her genjutsu ability. Her eyes are black and hair is dark brown which she keeps spiky up top with a long, thin ponytail. She wears her headband on her forehead.
Inuzuka Hanazura: Late 30s to early 40s. She's Kiba's older sister who has been seen on brief occasions in the manga. She has a group of dogs as her partners but only uses one as an instructor. She likes to know anything there is to know about others- especially about her students. Being very sisterly, she likes being looked up upon and being depended on by others (which is why she'll bug Kiba about never talking to her). It's because of this attitude that she's the prime handler and head vet of her family. She refers to Inosuke as 'Pochi' which is basically the Japanese equivalent of 'Spot' in dog names. It's made part in jest and part as a codename. She wears her headband low on her hip.
And, for those of you that want to see, here's a picture of Kanna, Chouji, Inosuke and Hanazura: tripod dot ajremix/sbss dot jpg. Don't mind the lines in the background and the color testing in the corner. It was just a doodle on the back of a map.