New Bloodlines

By Armina Skitty

Authors Notes: Hyuuga and Uchiha are acknowledged Blood Limit lines, but what other Limit Lines are there in Konoha? Some people simply assume that Nara, Akimichi, Yamanaka, Inuzuka and Aburame are all Blood Limit lines; but are they? Yes, the clans have abilities that no other clans use, but they are never declared to be Limit clans. What they do is specialize in a specific kind of technique in the same way Naruto specializes in Kage Bushin and Sakura specializes in Medical jutsu.

So, new theory that I'm proposing is Proto-Lines; Bloodlines that are close to, but not quite Limit lines. These clans use techniques that anyone can use, but they use them in ways that few can; with more finesse and power.

Now comes the phrase that all of those who follow my work have been waiting for: WHAT IF these Proto-Line clan members can force their abilities into maturity? What if, when the newest generation is under a great deal of stress, the abilities that should be unreachable for another couple of generations, are suddenly reached? What would that person and his /her friends make of the new strength and skills that an otherwise normal person now possesses? And WHAT IF the person who is now incredibly special for being the first of a new Blood Limit line was the one person who wanted to be completely normal above all else?

Oh, btw, you can thank my subconscious sleeping mind for this. I actually dreamed up the basis of this story and then when I was half awake and not coherent I tweaked it into a working story.

All story charas: ……………….WTF?

Side note: I am my own beta reader. Please pardon my typos

The battle was a total rout, a complete disorganized mess that had no rhyme or rhythm to it; just the way Orochimaru wanted. The messier the fight, the harder the particular 'head' of this Leaf serpent would have to work to clean it up. Shikamaru was not an opponent to underestimate; Orochimaru had nearly lost his future body thanks to the powerful mind possessed by this otherwise unremarkable Chuunin.

The Snake Sennin observed the fight from his safe vantage point in a tree far distant from the battle. He had less than six months left before he could claim his beautiful boy's body as his own, and he knew that Konoha was going to be anxious to reclaim the boy before that could happen. Thus, this battle; a preemptive strike to force Konoha to think of other things than one unimportant, missing Uchiha. Too bad the one directing the counter-strike was the most brilliant young strategist that the Shinobi world was likely to see.

Orochimaru had been forced to admit to the merit in teamwork and had directed some of his forces to learn to work together. Konoha was still superior, and even though they were currently out-numbered three to two in this fight, they were pushing back Sound. And the fight was growing more organized, again.

The Snake frowned, this boy was admittedly impressive. He could see this 'Shikamaru' from his vantage point; the boy was badly injured, unable to put any weight on his left leg, but he was still directing the counter-strike like a seasoned general. His comrades were guarding him with their own bodies while others came and went to receive his instructions and then carry them out. This would not do, someone of that kind of potential must be eliminated.

"Tell the Three to go take out the 'Head'." He told Kabuto, who stood at his right side as per usual. The traitor medic Nin nodded and leapt off to inform the Sound Three. Technically the Sound Three was Four, but Sasuke was rarely allowed out to perform the same duties as his fellow Cursed shinobi. Still, the Three were more than enough to take care of one unremarkable Chuunin with a single remarkable trait of high intelligence.

When they are done with that small chore, they can refocus their attention on acquiring the Hyuuga prodigy for me. I need all the Bloodlines I can capture, if I'm ever going to obtain ThatFor now though, other things had to be looked to. The battle grew ever more organized. Orochimaru knew he'd have to find a new vantage point or be absorbed into the fray since the line was being pushed back. All thanks to one young genius. Blast that boy!

The battle was a total rout. Damnit! Damnit all to hell! Shikamaru thought calmly. His leg had been sliced to the bone from inner, upper thigh to just above the outside of his knee and the only reason he hadn't bled to death by now was because Sakura was one damned good medic apprentice. She had stopped the bleeding and partly sealed the wound, but hadn't spared more time than that save to instruct him to bind it and stay off of it. She had to ration her strength and her time for the other wounded.

And there were many of those who needed tending to. Because I'm not good enough; the brunette thought. If he was stronger, he could be down there fighting beside his friends. If he were more skilled, half of the wounded wouldn't be wounded. If he were smarter, this battle would already be over. If he was more knowledgeable, he could have seen this battle coming and it might have been avoided entirely. But he wasn't, wasn't stronger, wasn't more skilled, wasn't smarter, wasn't more knowledgeable.

And why was that? Because I'm such a lazy, fucking bastard and I can't be bothered by something so 'troublesome' as training or research. Another comrade fell beneath the kunai wielded by the Sound. This wasn't a person he knew at all; but as this person, who could have become a treasured friend, fell, unable to scream because of the blood clotting in her throat, Shikamaru felt cold rage war with self-hate to consume him.

A different Leaf comrade leapt past Chouji and Ino, who were standing guard, to crouch beside him. "Shikamaru-san, I need-" the person started, but was interrupted as the shadow-user spouted out a few quick instructions. There was no need for his comrade to ask him what he and his team needed to do. Shikamaru had seen where his fellow shinobi had come from and could clearly see what needed to be done to push back the Sound and regain a little organization. The shinobi leapt back to follow the instructions.

Suddenly, the flow of this living, breathing, bleeding chess game- shifted. The Otonin's pulled away from a certain area, faces showing awe and fear. Three Sound shinobi moved through the path made for them by the others. Where are they-? His eyes widened in surprise, they're headed here

He struggled to his feet as the leader of the threesome locked gazes with him, and smiled. Predator had seen prey and the prey was weak and injured. Damnit!

"Shika, what's wrong?" Chouji, loyal, faithful Chouji, who deserved friends ten times, a hundred times better than Shikamaru, asked as he saw his friend struggle to rise to a fighting stance.

"We're about to have company." He growled in return, not breaking gazes with the enemy that was approaching. Why? Why was he the target? Why me? I'm useless; I can't even last ten minutes into a fight without being fatally injured! He tensed, hands moving instinctively in the seal patterns he knew best. Kage Mane no jutsu. He wasn't going to just sit there and let his friends fight for his life while he did nothing.

The three stopped just out of his range, far shorter than normal thanks to his injury, and the leader smirked at his weakness. The smirk was erased a moment later as an orange whirlwind slammed into him, accompanied by a green hurricane and a white typhoon. Naruto, backed up quite well by Lee and Neji.

"What the hell do you think you're doing, going after an injured guy!" Naruto bellowed. Thanks, baka, my pride wasn't aching enough without you saying anything.

"Why, just removing the head of the snake. What did you think we where doing?" The leader drawled, casually wiping the blood from his mouth and allowing the Curse Seal marks to crawl over his body. Naruto growled, as did Lee and Chouji while Neji contented himself with narrowing his eyes hostily.

"That- that looks like the marks that were on Sasuke-kun that one time." Ino stated in an undertone towards Shikamaru. Totally disregarding the fact that I'm not the leader of this counter-strike so these people are trying to eliminate me for no reason.

"You weren't there on that botched retrieval mission, so you didn't see it." The shadow user replied to the unspoken question. "That's the Curse Seal marks that some of Orochimaru's minions use."

"Only his favorites get this power, weak one!" One of the three, a small man with a hunched back and crazed look howled.

"Don't call Shikamaru weak, you spineless coward!" Chouji howled back, launching himself at the psychotic hunchback. But it's true, I am weak. How many hours have I wasted cloud gazing and playing shougi when I could have been training? Lee fell back to fill Chouji's place, willingly putting his body and his life between danger and someone who felt he didn't deserve to be protected.

Shikamaru had seen the kunai strike that had laid open his leg coming. He'd seen it, tried to dodge it, and had failed utterly because his body wasn't strong enough nor fast enough. Everyone thought he was so smart, but he'd stupidly squandered the time that he should have been using to better himself.

Now, friends that he didn't deserve where going to risk their lives in protecting him. Protecting him, when, if he'd just been a little smarter, he never would have gotten injured in the first place.

The leader of the three, a man that seemed to be a grey copy of a human, launched himself at Naruto, striking out with a kunai… except the kunai seemed to grow… and the blonde wasn't dodging far enough…

"Naruto! Watch the blade! Get out of there!" Shikamaru screamed. Wisely, the loudmouth jumped back farther out of reach instead of questioning the shadow-user's command.

"Very good, you noticed that right away." The leader said, raising his newly formed sword before him, "Just what I expected out of someone Orochimaru-sama deems a threat." Shikamaru grit his teeth angrily, his frustration at his own weakness growing by the second. The leader pulled out a shuriken and manipulated it into a large three-bladed boomerang shape.

I've heard of this power before, the ability to manipulate inanimate objects into different forms. But from what I recall, only the form could be changed, not the size or mass. He must be getting the ability to change the mass from the curse seal. He tried to relay this information to Naruto, but the battle between the blonde and the matter manipulator was already joined. Trying to tell the number one loudmouth anything now was a task in futility.

But what's the specialty of these other Snake worshipers? There's the hunchback and that weird woman with all that hair. And if she's not color-blind than she's completely lacking in taste. What's with all that neon yellow?

The hopefully colorblind woman was faced off against Neji and slitted her eye's coyly at the Hyuuga prodigy while pulling a strand of hair through her lips. There was something going on there, something happening in her thick, blood-red mane…

Neji spotted it at the same time Shikamaru did and dodged wildly, pulling out the short sword he'd taken to in an attempt to fend off the rapidly growing hair. The red locks had taken a life of their own and were now seeking Neji out to kill him. The Curse-Seal was taking over the woman, lending power and greater growth to the mane.

And greater durability, no matter how the Hyuuga slashed at the hair, nothing happened, it wasn't cut. This is bad; Shikamaru thought. A crash from the other side of the canopy called his attention over there. He then learned what the hunchback's power was.

The deformity was apparently very useful when it came to storing all manners of creepy-crawlies. The cloak the madman had been wearing had been cast aside, revealing slits and gaping mouths in the hump; all of which were spilling insects, snakes and other creatures. Ino screamed when she saw this and frankly Shikamaru couldn't blame her. Chouji…

The Akimichi was being hard pressed, but was still meeting the challenge, enlarging his fists and feet to successfully squash the creatures attacking him. But then the madman started cackling even louder and more manically as the Curse Seal started to spread. And the creatures being sent out were becoming weirder…

A scorpion- type- thing- managed to get around Chouji's guard and stung his leg, making him cry out as the venom set to work almost immediately.

"Chouji!" "Chouji-kun!" Shikamaru and Ino cried out in unison. Ino did what Shikamaru couldn't and leapt out to defend her teammate, brandishing the throwing knives that she had begun using. The small, wicked things easily cut down a large number of the creatures, but more kept coming.

A strangled cry came from Neji, jerking Shikamaru's attention to his other friend. Neji had done well, but not well enough. Although the hair woman bore many small wounds and was favoring one leg that had a kunai sticking out of it, it was the Hyuuga that was fairing the worst.

One arm hung uselessly, obviously broken, and the hair was catching up with his dodging. As Shikamaru helplessly watched, it wrapped around the prodigy's legs and threw him into the trunk of one of the mammoth Konoha trees. The hair retracted, allowing Neji to lever himself up, glaring and spitting up blood. He was clearly being toyed with.

"Neji!" Lee cried out, leaping over to his teammate's side, "Your opponent is me now!" He yelled at the woman.

"Fine by me," she purred, "Two is always better to play with than one."

A loud outcry jerked Shikamaru's attention over to where a blur of orange was doing battle with a blur of grey. Naruto was incased in a pulsating red aura but the morphed blades were cutting through it like a hot knife through butter.

Cold Iron weapons? That made sense; unlike conventional iron, Cold Iron negated chakra and could inflict nasty burns even on someone as underpowered as Shikamaru himself, simply because he was shinobi.

Slicing through the seemingly demonic aura encasing Naruto wouldn't be a problem. And any cut that Naruto received from such a weapon would probably hurt the blonde worse than a similar sized wound inflicted on some like the brunette, simply because Naruto was so much more powerful.

Naruto snarled loudly and lunged at the grey-hued, matter manipulator, arm raised high to slash down. The grey man ducked down and slammed a spiky metal clad fist into Naruto's gut. The blonde let out a scream that left no doubt to the amount of pain he was suffering.

The red aura snuffed out as the baka flew back into the trunk of another tree, only to fall into the crook between two branches, unconscious. The grey man let out a sigh, then turned to lock gazes with Shikamaru. And smile.

"Kami! Oni! Enough playing, we have a job to do!" the leader said, leaping towards his prey. Weak… Chouji had collapsed, clutching the swelling leg that had been stung. Not enough… Ino was now unconscious, numerous small wounds and deep bruises giving evidence as to why. Too weak… Neji was bound to the trunk of a tree, struggling against the hair that didn't break down as readily as the web of his opponent from so many years ago. I'm just too weak… Both of Lee's legs were bent at unnatural angles, giving testament to his battle against the hair woman. I'm such a fool…

"Let's finish this quickly and take the Hyuuga back to Orochimaru-sama."

Weak. Hopeless. Pathetic. Unskilled. Fool. He watched the leader shinobi sent to kill him race in closer. Other Leaf shinobi were also racing in, alerted by Naruto's loud scream, but they weren't going to arrive in time. Pathetic… Especially since the hair woman was coiling one tress into a blade aimed at Lee's heart. Hopelessly weak… And the hunchback had pulled out a stiletto blade and was lunging at Chouji. Why am I…?

"Enough of these games." The grey man growled. Why am I so weak? "I've had enough of playing with weaklings." My friends need me, why am I so weak?

…Especially when I can be stronger. Rage, fear, frustration, need, protectiveness all swirled together into a cocktail of powerful emotion and tipped Shikamaru over the edge. Something snapped inside of him and raw instinct took over.

One thing that had always frustrated him in the past was the fact that he could only manipulate his own shadow. As he reached down to rip off a small branch, he suddenly realized that this was something that could be overcome.

He made the necessary seals for Kage Kubi Shibari no jutsu around the branch as the grey man paused just out the reach of the earlier Kage Mane.

"Why do you still fight when you know there's nothing you can d-" The Otonin broke off as he looked closely at Shikamaru's face. Whatever he saw there, it scared him. A very wise thing, since the shadow user was in a Very Bad Mood.

If you wanted to mess with him, fine. Shikamaru didn't care, too much. Just don't fuck with his friends. This new instinct surging through his body forced him to reach out with his own shadow, into the shadows of the surrounding trees and wrap them around the enemy similar to the way Gaara used his sand.

Somehow he knew that if he wished to, he could kill these three enemies in the same way as Gaara did with his Desert Coffin. He didn't wish too, that was too swift a death for these fools who had tried to kill his friends. There was another way he could kill now.

He clenched his hands around the branch as the three cried out and struggled against him. Shikamaru remember how his opponent nearly three years ago had shrugged off his jutsu when she had gone Level 2. These three had just reached that level nearly simultaneously and he barely noticed the difference, save that his chakra was bleeding out a little faster. Time to end this.

A thought turned the shadow hands into shadow claws and another thought made those claws shred his foes into dozens of bloody rags.

Silence reigned after what remained of the three Otonins' bodies fell as Shikamaru released his jutsu. The other Sound forces stared at him in fear and backed away rapidly at his glare. The Konoha forces also stared at him in no little fear. Well, most did, but Sakura had other things on her mind than her former classmate's sudden power up, like her badly injured friends.

The sight of Sakura rushing over to Chouji and using her jutsu to lower the swelling was the last thing Shikamaru saw before he passed flat out.

Orochimaru blinked. And blinked. And just for good measure, blinked again. But the sight didn't change; the Sound Three, his Three, had been reduced to bloody bits by a no-power Chuunin whose only saving grace was a strategic genius. Then he grinned; he knew very well that the Nara's were a Proto-Line, and it seemed as if this boy had prematurely activated the promised Limit. If the boy lived through the Ascension… this could be promising.

He did want to gather all the Bloodlines he could after all, and if this boy was the only one of his kind… Orochimaru licked his lips in anticipation. He liked acquiring rare things. This 'Shikamaru' youth wasn't going to come willingly like Sasuke had, but that was of no great concern. What couldn't be coaxed could be coerced, and what couldn't be bent could always be broken.

Well, enough of this fight. The diversion had been successful, if not in the way he would have chosen. But this could be better, if the boy lived. Konoha would certainly have more on its mind than one missing Uchiha if the youth did survive, that much was certain.

A gesture made his spooked troops retreat in a more organized manner than the panicked flight that they had been threatening. Kabuto watched as his master grinned and began to chuckle.

"We'll be acquiring the Nara boy as well, I assume?" He asked the Sennin. Orochimaru merely laughed louder.

Tsunade rubbed her aching head and glanced at the door of the room that held Shikamaru. When he'd been brought back, he'd been a bad state of exhaustion compounded by blood loss. Further, there was a bad strain on his entire body; a strain that she'd only read about, but had never seen.

It was the strain of a body that was going through a tremendous physical change. This was going to be a difficult case; one that was only going to get worse before it could start to get better if what she read from both ancient texts and from the boy's body were anything to go by. She reached out and opened the door so that she could inform the youth about what he was going to be living through for the next twenty-four hours, at least.

Shikamaru was sitting on the edge of the bed showing all the classic signs of someone who was not well. He was pale and shaking, sweat beading his brow in a clear symbol of fever. Due to the fact that he was white lipped and constantly swallowing, she knew he was suffering from nausea as well. A particular smell coming from the trashcan only confirmed the severity of it.

Dilated eyes, creased brow, probably a headache. The way he's sitting and wincing slightly every now and then undoubtedly means he's hurting in other ways as well. All of these were signs that the scrolls had mentioned and all were going to get worse.

The Nara youth looked up at her a few moments after her entrance. "Tsunade-sama? What happened? What's wrong with me?"

She sighed, this wasn't going to be easy, "You know that the Nara clan is one of the many Proto-Lines Konoha has, correct?" She asked instead of answered. Shikamaru nodded, it was common knowledge after all. Most of the Academy teachers had been rather disappointed in him for the fact that he hadn't been an active Bloodline after all the potential his father had shown.

Tsunade continued; "Sometimes, in very rare cases, someone in an advanced Proto-Line can activate the potential Limit if put under stress." Shikamaru looked up at her blearily in confusion, "You managed it. That's why you're suffering now, your body is adapting to the activated Nara Limit."

"You- you're kidding right?" the shadow user asked before a shudder passed through his frame.

"No, I'm not. And your current condition is proof of that. I'm ordering you to have at least forty-eight hours of hospitalization to make sure you get through this alright." Another shudder passed through him followed rapidly by another, and it was clear that there was no point in further explanations. Shikamaru wouldn't be able to focus on her words anyway, and he needed care now.

A soft call out the open door brought Shizune and Sakura rushing in to help as Shikamaru's condition continued to worsen. His fever soared, and the shudders became mild sporadic seizures. The moment that Tsunade sunk her awareness beneath the surface she discovered another problem. His body was consuming more chakra than he could generate. It wasn't dangerous, yet, but in a handful of hours it could be.

"Shizune, go fetch Naruto for me will you?" Tsunade ordered. Even though Naruto had been worn out in a fight against a Curse Sealed Otonin wielding Cold Iron, he still had plenty of reserves left to make a successful chakra transfer, which she and her two apprentices didn't have.

Repairing Lee's legs, Neji's arm, draining the poison out of Chouji and patching up the many wounds Ino had had drained the three of them considerably. And that wasn't including all the other injuries that the other fighters had that had needed tending. They didn't have the necessary power to keep Shikamaru's body functioning if the current trend continued. But Naruto did.

And he came willingly, even eagerly to aid his friend. Tsunade took the opportunity to show Sakura how to do a chakra transfer. It went very well unsurprisingly, the blonde was a very easy donor and Sakura was her usual eager-student self. In a few brief moments, Shikamaru had the energy that his body was going to need. The Hokage just hoped it was going be enough.

#The Next Day#

I wonder if I could get away with killing half the council. Kakashi mused, nah, my students would like that too much. A full War Council had been summoned to discuss the latest attack on Konoha by Sound forces. But so far, all the discussion had circulated around Nara Shikamaru's activation of his Bloodline Limit.

While Kakashi understood that this was a shocking, noteworthy development, it was of little concern when compared to the fact that Sound had attacked them and that Orochimaru still had the Sharingan. Best not say that around Asuma or Nara-san though; they might kill me.

Shikamaru's father and sensei were both highly upset by the boy's Ascension. This was completely understandable if what the Copy Ninja had read was anything to go by. And what he was hearing currently was only making the two devoted role models for the boy even more nervous.

"I know that some members of this council do not wish to hear it," One old geezer, a lackey of Danzou, said, "but I must insist that this boy have his chakra sealed before he can become dangerous."

"And I must insist that old fools like you who jump at shadows keep your fat mouths closed before you spark a scene." Arashi, an old friend and teammate of Yondaime's, growled before anyone else could say anything. The brown-haired, green-eyed man had left Konoha as a place too painful to stay after the Kyuubi's defeat and had only recently reentered Konoha, just before Naruto had returned.

Due to his level-headedness and acquired wisdom he had been placed on the council, much to the dismay of some members. To say that he was causing a stir would be a tremendous understatement, especially since he was prone to comments like that when an old fool was being… well, an old fool.

"What did you say you impudent puppy!" the geezer cried out, slapping his palms against the table dramatically. Arashi quirked a brow, he was in his early forties, older than Kakashi, so the 'puppy' statement was ill-placed.

"I'm saying that you, good sir, are being an idiot." He said while straightening out of his slouch, "The Nara boy hasn't done anything yet and is still ill with fever if I'm up to date on my gossip." He glanced at Tsunade, who nodded. "The only clue we have to his new abilities is what he did in the heat of battle in defense of his friends and teammates. It would be incredibly foolish to judge him on that account alone. We need to wait to see if he becomes a danger, which I doubt."

"And if he does become a danger," another old geezer, one a little calmer than the one who was currently battling a fit of apoplexy, "what then?"

Arashi shrugged, "If it comes to that, I'll seal up his chakra myself. Although, since I have actually looked into this boy's history, I sincerely doubt that he'll do anything that could harm his friends. Thanks to being properly raised," he nodded respectfully to Nara-san and Asuma, "his character is very good, if a little lazy."

"Yes but what if-" a third person, a common civilian this time, started to say.

"I'm sorry, but Arashi-san has brought up too many good points." Tsunade stated firmly. "Nothing will be done at this time to Nara Shikamaru, except for continued medical observation until the time that his fever breaks. Doing anything save for medical care at this point in time would not only be ridiculous but cruel and inhumane."

"But what if he goes mad!" the civilian cried out hysterically. "Everything that I've heard of about new Bloodlines is that they all go stark, raving mad!" The entire council room started to buzz in semi-hysterical speculation. Nara-san looked white with paternal fear while Asuma was slightly green.

"Where the hell did you hear that?" a strong female voice said over the babble. The babble died down slightly. An older, middle-aged woman stood to enforce her point, "I've researched this subject very carefully since the boy is in my staff's care and in every case I've read where the new Bloodline goes insane, a lack of proper care is evident."

Ah, she's Nabiki, the head of the hospital in Tsunade's absence. Kakashi eyed her approvingly. She wasn't at all pretty; in fact she was almost homely. But her eyes were kind and strong and her face was full of character. This was a woman who knew her job, knew it well and was adamant about doing it properly. She continued speaking.

"Outside of Konoha, Advanced Blood Limit lines are feared and shunned as monsters and the bringers of war." She explained, "As such, when a new Bloodline emerges, it is usually greeted with fear and revulsion, so the person who is suffering the change from Proto-line to Advanced line is rarely if ever given proper medical care and attention. Nara Shikamaru has already required two chakra transfusions, which he has been successfully given. I can easily speculate that if he has required such a thing, then the Ascended of the past would have needed such a thing, but were not given it.

"Speculating further, if the body requires a large amount of chakra to successfully change, then one of the sources that could be found would be through the body devouring itself, including the brain; thus causing madness." She took a deep breath and swept her gaze around the room, "Clearly this will not be the case here. My staff is taking every precaution to insure that Nara Shikamaru emerges from this in as perfect of health as can be humanly managed. We will not allow him to be driven insane by this." She sat down with a small thump, smiling and glaring triumphantly.

Danzou himself stood. "Regardless and with all due respect, alternate precautions must be made." He said firmly, "While your theory, Nabiki-san, may very well be completely correct, there have been no ascended Bloodlines in Konoha, ever. All of our information has come from outside sources, and may be inaccurate. We must make the assumption that the Ascension itself is the thing that can drive the person mad. I understand that sealing the boy is out of the question for the moment, so instead, he should be put under constant observation by a Jounin. I recommend the Hyuuga boy, Neji. His Byakugan and perception, when paired with his familiarity with the boy, would allow him to notice any- deviations in the Nara boy's personality."

"I will consider your recommendation." Tsunade said, "But now we have far more important things to discuss, such as the impact that Sound's attack has had and the necessary recovery of Uchiha Sasuke before the time limit has been passed."

Kakashi kept half of his attention on the conversation as plans, idiotic and mediocre, were proposed. The other half of his attention was on Danzou's 'recommendation'. The Copy Ninja did not like the man; there was something definitively slimy about the bastard. He wouldn't propose that a promising young Jounin, who was angling to join ANBU, be kept at the low-risk, low-notice task of observation without a reason.

So what's his reason, where's the string that has to be attached? Kakashi knew that Neji had requested to join ANBU because Gai had bragged about it for three hours straight. He also knew that Neji had been turned down due to his lack of field experience. Keeping him in Konoha to watch Shikamaru was only going to deny him that field experience, so what was the point?

He glanced over at the Hyuuga council representative just in time to catch that person trade quick glances with Danzou. Ah, so that's it. Neji was in the Branch house, the council representative was in the Main house. Kakashi scanned his memory quickly, and couldn't think of any Hyuuga's that might currently be in AUBU. So the Main house is trying to keep this mere Branch house member from getting a higher rank than any of the rest of them and they bought Danzou and his cronies to make sure that they get their way.

He really wanted to kill half the council, he truly did. And not just for what they had done either. It wasn't enough for the council to treat one young person as a dangerous animal that they could eliminate at will, nor was it enough for them to play with the life of another young man, just so a small group of fools could maintain their pride. No, they had to clutch to their superstitious fears as well.

Right now over half of them were voting on keeping Naruto penned inside Konoha, to keep him away from Akastsuki, of course. Keeping Naruto on a leash had absolutely nothing to do with keeping a crazed beast under watch, oh not at all. I really hate politics and the stupid, ignorant, fearful, close-minded fools who enjoy playing with for their own gain.

Shikamaru was lost in shadow. His body burned with fever, but what he felt was alternating searing heat and freezing cold. His body throbbed in time to his heart beat, a sound that dominated his hearing entirely. He didn't seem to be able to catch his breath at all and could only pant helplessly in the vain hope that he could get enough air. But more than anything else, his chakra channels were pure agony.

Later he would find out that those channels had been warping and changing to support his altered abilities, but at the time he only knew that he was in extreme pain that wouldn't stop. At scattered times, he felt himself weaken and couldn't muster the energy to care. Nor could his fevered mind muster the concentration to care. All he knew at those points was that he hurt and that he was so tired and the shadows that swarmed in seemed so peaceful…

Then a yellow-gold light would appear, surrounded by a deep, emerald green or a fresh, clear jade green, and the gold light would chase back the shadows while the green lights would sooth away the hurt and cool the fever. But it wouldn't last. The shadows would stay away for a time, and the pain would recede, but both kept coming back.

Five different times the shadows swarmed him, and five different times gold and green lights came to chase them away. After the fifth time, he braced himself for when the shadows and pain would come to try and claim him, but they didn't come. The shadows fell back into the deep recesses of his mind and didn't bother him. The pain just kept ebbing back until it was the merest phantom in his bones. Then he fell into a deep and natural sleep and didn't dream. Never before had he been so grateful to just sleep.

Much later Shikamaru woke, and for the longest time just lay there staring at the ceiling, attempting to string two thoughts together and make them stick. It didn't work, he was still too exhausted. He didn't have the energy to spare to do something so tasking as thinking. The Shadow User let his eyes drift closed, he'd just go back to sleep. Yeah, sleep… sleep was good…

The door to his room banged open and a figure strode in strongly.

"Ah, you're awake." The woman, a nurse, said. No thanks to you. He looked over at her and attempted to glare at her as she walked over and placed a surprisingly gentle hand on his head. "And your fever's finally broken. Are you hungry?" Shikamaru's stomach decided to answer that for him with a loud growl.

The woman laughed softly. "Guess that answers that! Wait a moment and I'll get you something." With that, she strode out of the room again, but left the door partly open.

Now that Shikamaru had been jarred completely awake, he decided it be a good idea to sit up and attempt that thinking thing again. The first part was easier said, or in this case thought, than done. His body was completely drained of nearly all energy. And moving hurt… oh it hurt!

His limbs burned at his movement and his muscles and chakra channels loudly protested his demands. Still, he did manage to sit up, after a sizable struggle. Leaning back, he waited for the burning sensation to die down, and then turned his attention to why he was here in the hospital.

There was no doubt in his mind that he was in the hospital, he'd been here often enough to recognize the scenery and smell. Although I'm usually a guest waiting for my friends to come to so that they aren't alone; not a patient myself. He glanced around the room briefly and smiled grimly as he noticed that he was completely alone, without friends, presents or even a single flower. Guess that proves that my self-estimate is right; I'm not worth much after all.

Just as he thought that, a growing commotion brought his attention back to the partly open door. He blinked, it almost sounded like there was a fight going on out ther-

The door burst completely open with a very loud bang and in spilled Ino, Chouji, Sakura, Lee, TenTen, Neji, Kiba, Shino, Hinata and in the front, Naruto. They all started babbling at once.

"You're awake! You're awake! Are you okay!" Naruto.

"I- we were so worried about you! Tsunade wouldn't-" Ino.

"Hey! You're up! Don't you scare us like that again, you bastard!" Kiba.

"I knew that you would recover! You burn too strongly with the fires of youth!" Lee, duh.

"I was so worried when you didn't wake up the fist day! I brought you a fruit basket…" Chouji.

All the rest became a fog of babble as his bed got swarmed and surrounded by his friends who radiated care and concern. The emotional pain that he had refused to acknowledge earlier was washed away as he vainly attempted to get them to speak one at a time. It didn't work; someone else had to do it.

"THAT'S ENOUGH!" The voice of God bellowed. Oh, it was only Tsunade. "Out! Out all of you!"

"But Baa-chan..!" Naruto whined, then ducked as she swatted at him.

"That's Tsunade-sama to you whelp."

"But Tsunade-baa-chan!"

"OUT! Now! Before I do you damage!" Out they went with looks of mild panic or huge grins of humor. Shikamaru blinked after them.

"Now I know what it's like to be in the middle of a Naruto Bushin fight." He felt dazed, and the inside of his head felt bruised. Why was that? Tsunade snorted her amusement, and then glared at the figure standing in the doorway.

"I thought I told you not to let those brats in." She said to the nurse who was holding a well-laden tray.

"And I thought I had been doing that, but the girl at the reception desk said that the pack of pups in the lobby all went poof as the real pack raced out." She grimaced angrily, but Shikamaru felt her ripple of amusement. Wait, felt? What was…? Why did…? A tiny breeze brought the scent of food to his nose and all thoughts of puzzlement were overwhelmed as his stomach loudly and firmly demanded food!

The two older women laughed and the nurse gave the tray to Shikamaru, who very carefully did not snatch it out of her hands, then left. Tsunade sat on the guest chair next to the bed and waited indulgently for her patient to take the edge off of his hunger. She'd been around enough active, growing teenage boys to know that trying to get them to pay attention when food was involved was utterly pointless.

"Now that you can hear me over your stomach," she teased, making Shikamaru blush slightly, "I'd like to talk to you about a potentially serious matter." The young brunette swallowed his current mouthful and turned his full attention to his Hokage. "First off, what do you remember before you started to fever?"

"I remember the fight, and... the way I killed…" he trailed off, he was not proud of what he had done.

"How, precisely do you feel about that?" the Medic genius demanded. She seemed very anxious.

"I… I shouldn't have- killed- the way I did." He confessed and felt her relief distantly, "I don't- I don't know how I did it, but I should have- done something else. I was just so angry and frustrated! I was so useless back there and my friends were going to get killed because of my uselessness and-"

"That's enough," she said firmly, raising a hand and staring her subordinate straight in the eye, "First off, you are not, nor have you ever been useless. Many people were saved that day because of your tactics and I will not hear anyone say anything different. As for your friends, not a single one of them had been ordered nor asked to protect you. If they had felt you were worthless, they would not have stood between you and the enemy. They protected you because they wanted to." She believed this, firmly, he felt it. And that frightened him a little. Why did he feel this?

"What else do you remember?" She continued.

"I remember that I shouldn't have been able to do what I did and I also remember waking up here briefly and feeling like total shit. You mentioned something about the Proto-lines, but…" He raised his eyes sheepishly and she smiled gently and sighed.

"I was afraid of that, but I expected that you'd be a bit fuzzy at that point." She settled back in the chair and paused to arrange her thoughts. "As I had mentioned then, some advanced Proto-lines can forcibly activate the potential powers that shouldn't be reachable for another few generations. But only individuals can do this and only when under a great deal of stress. You managed it."

She glanced over at the boy who was very carefully digesting this. "Okay… ah… that would explain the fever?"

"Uh-huh, your body was adjusting to your new abilities and clearly it took a great deal of adjustment. Frankly, if we didn't have the living chakra reservoir known as Naruto, you'd be dead right now. Your body was demanding a great deal of energy and frankly none of us save him had the necessary resources for a chakra transfer. This leads me to think that you just got a massive power up."

Shikamaru's response to this was a skeptical snort. Him? Powerful? Please, only in her drug and alcohol induced fantasies.

"So, uh, if you're insisting that I have new powers, what the heck are they?" he asked. Might as well find out how deep her hallucinations were so that he could inform Sakura-chan and Shizune-san.

"I have no clue, save that we saw one of your abilities earlier." She replied frankly. "You are the first Nara Katoku-jutsu user, so you are going to have to find out what the Nara clan Bloodline Limit is. This is why your movements are going to be restricted to Konoha city limits until further notice."

"Ah-hah…" Lazy bum that he was, having his movements restricted wasn't the world shattering news as it would be to certain (blonde) others, but still. He wasn't too pleased, and neither was the Hokage; her bitterness and frustration was all too clear to his sense, a thing he could not ignore any further. I guess she's not hallucinating. That or I am.

"These… new abilities…" He started to ask, then paused to rephrase his- question? Statement? Meh- "Ah, first off, I don't know much about Katoku-jutsu… what…varieties of skills should I expect?"

"You are determined to make this tough aren't you?" Tsunade teased, "And again, honestly, I don't know. The variety of Katoku-jutsu based skills a person can have is utterly dependant first on the clan, and second on the individual. Neji, for instance, has a wider variety of skills than many others of his clan, simply because he himself is more skilled."

"So, um…" Shikamaru hesitated, feeling the pressure of Tsunade's curiosity, her concern and her fatigue. This… sense he had, this ability to feel emotion, it seemed to be getting stronger… "S-so a shadow user could- could logically be able to sense emotions, if he was a part of a Bloodline then?"

Tsunade's face became mask-like. "What am I feeling now?" She asked, her tone devoid of all feeling. Shikamaru swallowed.

"W-worry, concern, fatigue an-and a lot of… of… fear." he admitted dropping his eyes, feeling a lot of that last emotion himself. Did she believe him? Was he really sensing this, or was he going insane?

Shaky relief suddenly flooded this new sense and he looked up from his fixated gaze at his knees to Tsunade's face. "That's called Empathy, although I've never heard of it outside of faux science journals and fiction novels." She said, smiling slightly, "Still, if fake science and science fiction claim it's real, it has to have come from somewhere originally. And if the Hyuuga can see inside a person, and the Uchiha can copy any move they've seen with Sharingan, I see no reason why you can't feel the emotions of others."

Shikamaru let out a huge sigh while closing his eyes in relief, so it was real. He idly scanned the room then and noticed the small table by the wall near his bed. Three cut flowers, one small bouquet, two books, a deck of cards, a fruit basket, a shougi board and a go board were on top of it. He blinked.

Tsunade followed his gaze, "Oh, those. I forbid anyone other than necessary medical personnel to enter your room until you woke up; just in case. Those kids, Ino and Chouji especially, weren't pleased by my orders. You have good friends, you're lucky."

"Yeah," he said softly with an equally soft smile, "I have great friends, the best."

"Uh-huh, and now," She rose, drawing his attention back to his Hokage, "it's time for you to sleep." She placed a finger in the middle of his forehead and sudden fatigue swarmed up and swallowed him before he had the opportunity to protest. Bloody, pushy, cheating woman! That was his last thought before sleep claimed.

Katoku- Inheritance, family hardship; Katoku-jutsu- Inheritance technique

My very first review for this fic was a criticism over the fact that I used Doujutsu, which may or may not mean eye technique. So I made a new word so no one can complain now.

A.S.: #ducks into titanium reinforced bunker# I'm so going to die. I'm going to die a horrible, bloody painful death… #points at Shika# And it's all your fault!

Shika: Me? What the heck did I do?

A.S.: You had to enter one of my dreams and be all cool and powerful and then you got the plot bunnies breeding! Damn you! My readers are going to kill me for starting another fic that I don't have time for!

Shika: . . . . You're insane. But we all knew this already.

Sasuke: Oi! What about me!

A.S.: What about you?

Sasuke: Where the heck am I? You haven't written a Naruto fic yet that wasn't in some way centric around me!

Shika: #mutters something vague and rude about EGO centric, homicidal badasses#

A.S.: Oh, you'll show up eventually. I just have to torment Shika-kun for awhile.

Shika: #twitch# #waves over Sasuke# #whisper# Oi, what does she mean by 'torment'?

Sasuke: #wordlessly passes over latest chaps of Hope Song and Shadow Wolf#

Shika: #reads# SQUICK Ah, right. #packs# Here's my resignation notice. I believe I shall be lea- ACK!

A.S.: #Pounces and ties up Shika# Oh, no you don't! Fanfic characters aren't allowed to quit, it's in your 'I'm not real save in the minds of crazy people' contract! You got to stick this thing out to the bitter end!

Shika: #frowns at the ceiling# And people wonder why I don't like women. They're all crazy!

A.S.: #cackles manically#

Sasuke: Welcome to my world.