Summary: Something changed in Naruto after the fight with Mizuki. The exposure to Kyuubi's altered his dormant genes, making them more dominant and unlocking his bloodline. After, when Naruto's hair starts losing its color and weird things happen during his genin test, the Third knows what he has to do. He sends a message to the last remaining member of Naruto's clan, the only one that can help him control his new abilities. But how will Kimimaro react when he finds out that he has living family?

A/N: Yo. So anyway, before I get into the chapter, just wanted to answer some general questions I didn't get the chance to respond to personally.

So yes, the whole Gato scene happened. I attempted to give that impression at the end of the chapter, but some readers were still confused so obviously I didn't do that job particularly well. Anyway, my reasons for skipping over that were pretty simple. First of all, this story is AU. I personally don't enjoy the way most AU stories are handled on this site because an alternate universe is usually a singe change in the story line that is supposed to resonant and expand into a sort of butterfly effect. So to make it simple—changes take a while. While this development section of the story is important, I don't really see the need to bore you all(or myself) with writing damn near the same exact scenes you've seen in the manga/anime or other fics a thousand times. So there you are, that was the main point to be addressed, I won't waste anymore of your time. It is bad enough that you guys put up with my erratic updates.

Oh, I lied, one more thing. As said before, the story is AU. Takes time. Naruto is not going to suddenly become this genius prodigy ultra noob pwner awesome shinobi. Certainly not now, probably not ever. It ruins the story for the main character to be ridiculously overpowered. So to those that are repeatedly asking me to make him stronger, smarter, etc. Stop.

Now, enjoy the story.

White Hair
By: alterego94
Chaper Seven:
What We Do Best

Sarutobi Hiruzen sucked at his wooden tobacco pipe with concern as he scowled over the downtrodden and exhausted members of team 7.

Kakashi had his nose in his book as usual, though his usual laid back concentration was lacking. In its place lay a red rimmed eye and a distracted stare that gazed right through the novel. His hair was arranged in a slightly more disheveled manner than normal and though he showed no signs of major injury, the slight slouch in his stance indicated a level of exhaustion Sarutobi hadn't seen in him since the Anbu days.

The genin of the squad were much more noticeably disconcerted. Sakura was much more reserved than her normal self. She leaned against the back wall of the office as if she would fall over without the extra support. She gripped her hands together tightly with white knuckles and half lidded eyes. The girl looked like she might keel over right then and here.

Sasuke had sustained the most prominent injuries of the group, but was composing himself much better. He was bandaged in several areas across his torso and shoulders, as Sarutobi could see through the tears in his Uchiha clan gi. He stood with his arms crossed proudly, as usual, but it was obvious even he was affected by the haywire mission. His eyes held a newfound brooding in them and his lips had been drawn into a thin line for the majority of the report; silent.

Naruto, physically, was untouched. His clothes were damn near unrecognizably torn and shredded. It looked like someone had run them through a paper shredder, but underneath lay unblemished pink. That was to say nothing of his demeanor however.

No, that was quite the opposite.

Sarutobi had to steel himself from running over and embracing his pseudo grandson and a solid lump formed in his chest. There were very few occasions—not any that he could remember off the top of his head—that Naruto had not given him a toothy, mischievous smile, and some horribly insulting term of affection on sight. Yet at the moment, he wouldn't even make eye contact with the Hokage. His cerulean eyes were clouded, his shoulders slack, his jaw clenched. His messy now-near-white hair lay nearly covering his brow, casting a shadow over his face.

Sarutobi pulled himself away from his tedious observations and exhaled slowly puffing a cloud of cherry smoke into the office as he blinked slowly and digested what he had just been told. Currently, they had just gone over the brief formalities of mission completion. All that he knew at this point was that the mission to wave was everything but the simple escort they were expecting. Throw in a nuke nin and his apprentice and Sarutobi was boggled as to how they pulled it off at all. He was anxious to hear the details of such a disaster.

"Well, now that's over with," He started, tossing the newly acquired paperwork to the side, "Go home. You all could use the rest. Good work team 7, mission accomplished. Kakashi can stay and finish the debriefing."

Several sighs blew across the room, both of exhaustion and relief. Without a few half hearted bows and goodbyes, the genin of team 7 limped out of his office. The heavy door shut with a bang of finality and Sarutobi couldn't help but feel they had left with something huge hanging over their heads. He was missing something.

That thought was instantly reinforced when he glanced back to Kakashi. Icha Icha Paradice was nowhere to be seen.

Sarutobi rubbed his temples.

"That bad?"

"That bad."

Kakashi took a few steps, coming right up to the edge of Sarutobi's desk. He leaned forward, his eyes low, voice hushed, "I think that the seal is weakening."

Sarutobi kept his composure, barely. He drew in a quick breath and his body tensed to avoid an incoming shiver. He could not imagine the implications such a thing would have. On the village. Hell, on all the shinobi nations. Let alone Naruto.

Thank fucking kami Jiraiya was around.

That thought calmed the old Hokage's mind enough for him to give Kakashi a hesitant nod, puffing on his pipe again for reassurance. "Well, we were concerned about that possibility before..."

"I don't think you understand," Kakashi said. His voice had an edge to it. If it had been any other ninja in the village Sarutobi would have called it fear. But he knew Kakashi. Hatake Kakashi did not know fear.

"Tell me."

"It was just like that day. The chakra..." Kakashi hesitated for a moment. As if he were wrestling with his own words, "By the time I got there it was too late. Naruto had annihilated Zabuza's apprentice. The body was barely recognizable."

Sarutobi took that in. It would explain Naruto's unusually quiet demeanor. He silently wondered just how the boy was taking the repercussions of his actions. First kills tended to be rough, and this particular instance sounded brutal.

"When I came up to him it wasn't Naruto." Kakashi continued, making eye contact with Sarutobi. His voice terse. "It was the Kyubi, Sarutobi. There's no doubt in my mind. Not only that, there were some developments with the Shikotsumyaku as well."

The use of his actual name took the Hokage by surprise. Kakashi never called him by his clan name. The gravity of Kakashi's words sunk in, and Sarutobi raised an eyebrow in question.

"We had another minor encounter with other ninja," Kakashi explained, "Two missing nin ambushed us on the way. I... well, I didn't intervene," The silver haired jounin looked a bit sheepish at that, "I wanted to see how the team would handle it, which they did exceptionally well. But, Naruto made contact with the chin of one of them and damn near killed him. Snapped his neck instantly with just a punch."

"Also," he added, "After I felt the Kyubi's chakra on the bridge, I came as fast as I could. When I got there, the place was a boneyard, and Naruto... The Shikotsumyaku was active. He was covered."

Sarutobi nodded slowly. It was a lot to take in. "Any other casualties?"

Kakashi seemed to have quick debate with himself before he confirmed, "The drug lord Gato showed up with his gang after all of the commotion. I... put him down."

For the first time in the conversation, Sarutobi raised an eyebrow. "That's against protocol, Kakashi."

"You'll have to forgive me Hokage-sama," Kakashi deadpanned.

"Understandable."


Naruto did not go to rest.

Needless to say, he had a bit on his mind. He hadn't slept much on the trip back. The tossing and turning did little to improve his mood, yet he wasn't the slightest bit tired.

So he went to train.

Well, to be honest, it was more like bloodying his knuckles on any poor tree that happened to look at him in a manner that he didn't enjoy. Which was all of them.

"Argh!" He grunted, pulling his fist from the trunk of a large spruce only to splinter it further with his right knee. An earsplitting crack resounded across the training ground as the timber split and crashed down in front of him. He proceed to pound at the bark, loosing all semblance of taijutsu. He brawled the felled tree until his breath was exhausted and steam rolled off of his body in waves.

He collapsed to the ground and buried his face in his bruised hands.

"Idiot," he muttered quietly. "It didn't have to be this way..."

A familiar cough from behind him caught his attention.

"Are you finished?" Kimimaro asked dryly.

Naruto didn't turn around. He was not ready to deal with that prick at the moment. Just his luck. "How'd you find me?"

He could practically see his brother's condescending smirk from behind his back.

"It wasn't too hard."

Naruto raised his head from his arms to glance around the massacred training ground. Dummies lay in pieces around him with discarded kunai. Splintered trees were scattered in a random pattern across the clearing.

He had a point.

With a scoff Naruto stood and turned to face the man who had seemed to turn his world upon itself since the day he had appeared in the woods nearly three weeks prior. Kimimaro stood a few paces away, dressed in standard jounin garb he must have stumbled upon while Naruto was on his mission. He was leaning on one leg with his usual laid back swagger, gazing upon Naruto with a look somewhere between interested and indifferent.

"So," Kimimaro smirked, "The mission went well?"

"Fuck off." The disgruntled genin spat, "Just leave me alone, won't you?"

Kimimaro seemed to get some enjoyment out of that statement but remained silent. They stood there for a long few moments, the only sounds shared between them being a few short coughing bouts from the older Kaguya.

Naruto scowled for as long as he could, but soon he was tired of that too, and he fell back to the ground in a huff. He shook his head in frustration before he looked up at the sky. It was a beautiful day. Not a cloud to be seen.

"Have you ever killed somebody?" He asked. Quietly, barely above a whisper.

Kimimaro's dry look was unaffected by the sudden question. "Of course," He said obviously. "I'm a ninja. That's what I am best at."

Naruto scoffed. That was about what he had been expecting from his older sibling. Psh, sibling. He wondered how in the hell himself and this person... this monster in front of him could possibly share anything but a mother.

Hahahaha. An evil laugh resounded in his memory, along with shattered images. Blood. Fury. A mangled frame clenched in his very hands.

Perhaps he wasn't so different after all, he thought in disgust.

"Guess I'm just late to the party," Naruto spoke in contempt. He swore his hand were still tinted red. Then he realized they were, because he had just beat the shit out of them on everything in sight.

Kimimaro did raise an eyebrow at that statement, and then for the first time Naruto thought he saw a flash of understanding in those dull gray eyes, before it was snuffed out by an excited glint.

The white haired ninja took a step forward, a ghastly grimace upon his face that nearly resembled a smile. "How was it?" He asked, peering down on Naruto anxiously, "Was it an honorable opponent?"

"Didn't you hear me?" Naruto stood, finding his anger once again. "I fucking killed somebody!" He spat, "In cold blood. I didn't stop when I had obviously won, I didn't even goddamn hesitate."

Now that he had started talking, he couldn't stop. It was as if all of the pent up anger and fear and self-loathing and pity were overflowing out of his lips.

"All I saw was blood. And that was all I wanted. I wanted to kill him, it wasn't an accident. I beat him, and then I didn't stop. I smashed his head into fucking pudding." He raged, "I could have never done it either, if it wasn't for this stupid fucking bloodline, and this fucking monster in my stomach. That kid was my age, I had no right, he didn't deserve—"

Naruto's rant was cut to an abrupt halt as Kimimaro strode forward and planted his fist into his gut. His breath left him instantly and tears bit at his eyes as he fell to the ground that he was becoming so well acquainted with.

His pain was very quickly replaced with white-hot anger and as soon as air returned to his lungs he leaped to his feet and charged Kimimaro with blood boiling and spots in his eyes.

He swung his fist in a hay maker, aiming to wipe the smirk off of Kimimaro's face. Of course, he was stopped mid swing as Kimimaro caught his arm. He didn't have anytime to react before Kimimaro swung him bodily over his shoulder and pinned Naruto's chest with a solid knee.

Naruto writhed from his positions, splinters digging into his back. "Get off me!"

His struggling ceased rather quickly as Kimimaro's palm split and his Shikatsumyaku showed itself; as a pointed bone emerged, stopping an inch from from Naruto's forehead. He felt fresh blood dripping onto his scalp as Kimimaro brought his head down until he was face to face with his younger brother—bone blade unwavering.

"Now," Kimimaro spoke lowly, in a dangerous tone. "Let me educate you on ninja; that is what you claim to be isn't it?"

Naruto swallowed quietly, not daring to nod.

"Ninja," Kimimaro nearly spat, "Kill. That is our purpose. Don't you get it? You kill, you live. You don't, you die. There is no time for—for sympathy," He dug his knee roughly into Naruto's chest, "I will not have my own blood disgraced by your sniveling. As soon as you put on that hitai-ate you gave up those weaknesses."

Kimimaro's eyes seemed to burn holes into Naruto's own. The knee in his chest kept the breath from any possible responses he may have had. So he lay there, pinned, as his brother's volatile words spread over him like flames, making his body burn as they sunk in.

"You should be ashamed," Kimimaro's ghastly voice cut in again, "For corrupting the name of your first kill by blubbering like trash. That ninja didn't deserve it; didn't deserve your damned pity. Didn't deserve to be dishonored by the one who took his life."

Those last words cut as deep as any kunai. It laid waste to all the stubborn pride Naruto had left, and deadened his objections before they reached his throat.

Kimimaro was right, he realized solemnly. Haku was a ninja, a strong ninja. He had his own purpose that he had been fighting for. He would be sickened to see Naruto here, pitying himself over what had to be done.

What had to be done.

Those words rang a toll in his head.

"You're right.." He said quietly, meeting Kimimaro's gray steely gaze. His older brother nodded matter of factly and stood, relinquishing his Shikatsumyaku and allowing Naruto to get up.

The duo remained silent for another long period. Kimimaro gazing with the same stoic detachment as always, Naruto attempting to pull himself together from his tiresome experiences. He rubbed his sore chest and finally trusting himself to speak cast his mentor a questioning stare.

"How did your first go?" He asked, not sure if he wanted to know the answer.

Kimimaro shot him a surprised look that was oddly placed considering his usual cool composure. It only lasted a moment before he reigned himself in. He turned and gave Naruto a sidelong glance before he broke into a fit of coughs. He spat and wiped his mouth before he replied in an even tone, "It isn't only the demon. That fills you with the urge," He clarified, flexing his hands, "The Shikatsumyaku is the most powerful of bloodlimits; that is why it was graced upon the Kaguya, the strongest of clans."

Naruto let the pause hang in the air, not daring to interrupt.

"It is the perfect shinobi tool, so it adapts its users into just that—perfect shinobi." He continued, "With its power comes a craving for blood that made my... our clan feared in all the great nations. The more you use it, the stronger the urge for battle boils in your blood. That drive to be the victor, to be the one standing, the strongest, all of it. It has drove many to insanity. It is not for the weak of mind."

"We are killers Naruto," His gaze cut into the blond almost as much as the fact that it was the first time he had called him by his actual name, "It is what keeps us alive, it is what make us the strongest."

"All that matters about my first kill," Kimimaro continued, "Or any of them after, is that I am here to remember them, and the enemies that had been standing across from me, aren't."

A million stray thoughts raced through Naruto's head, pulling him in every which direction. But there was one voice that was louder than the rest.

"I want to be the strongest," He said out loud, echoing the thought in his head.

Kimimaro nodded slowly, "There will be people that will stand in your way."

Naruto knew what he was saying. He pondered for a few silent seconds, trying to make sense of the turmoil in his mind. But he knew Kimimaro was right.

"Well then," He spoke lowly with shadowed eyes, "If need be... the people in my way... I'll kill them."

The sentence hung around long after it left his lips, transforming the night forest air into an oppressive force on his shoulders. The only response from Kimimaro was the ghost of a smile playing on his lips, and a slight tilt of his head—as if his ears had picked up a sudden tune playing in the woods.

That was the extent of the confrontation, and eventually the two brothers trudged off to Naruto's apartment, the gears in his head still turning. He made the effort to keep his eyes low and dark for Kimimaro, yet in the back of his mind, he wondered if he could make good on his promise.

Either way, he had a feeling the impact that talk at the training grounds would be astronomical.

From the trees, the toad sannin Jiraiya crouched as the two ninja left. Watching on silently.


Three Days Later...

"Chuunin exams, what the hell is that, Kakashi-sensei?"

Kakashi shot Naruto a signature eye grin and held up a finger, "Well if you had given me a second, I was about to tell you."

Naruto leaned forward expectantly, eager to learn more. His anxiousness was mirrored on the face of Sasuke and Sakura. Well, actually the teme was trying not to act interested, while Sakura looked a little worried.

And Kakashi dragging this whole thing out was starting to get on his nerves.

"Ahh, would you tell us already!?"

"Alright, alright," Kakashi soothed, taking on a more serious expression for the moment and surveying his team. "Well, the chuunin exams... decide whether you become a chuunin or not."

"Well duh!"

The jounin ignored Naruto's commentary and continued, "There are three tests that you must pass. The first two are team exercises, while the last is an individual test of your skills head to head with other ninja."

Naruto lit up. He could barely hold in his excitement. Becoming a chuunin was just one step closer to his goal. He couldn't imagine a better surprise. Besides that, he was about fucking sick of the D-ranked missions they had been stuck with since they had returned from Wave.

He glanced to Sasuke, who had similar feelings, the raven haired genin was nearly shaking. The two shared a grin. Since the mission, they had achieved a sort of understanding between one another. Sasuke had risked his life to save him and—though the Uchiha would never admit to it—that had dispelled a lot of the resentment that was left between them.

"Piece of cake as long as the dobe doesn't screw it up for us."

"Kiss my ass, pretty boy."

Okay, the kid was still a prick.

"Now boys," Kakashi chided, "Seeing as this is a team entry, that means it is a team decision." Noticing the blank stares he was getting, the copycat nin sighed and palmed his forehead, "What I'm saying is that there is one more member of this squad that may not be quite as eager as you two are."

Realization struck and Naruto turned to Sakura, his actions were mimicked by both Kakashi and Sasuke. The pink haired genin was fiddling her thumbs with wide eyes after noticing all of the attention suddenly on her.

"Uh..." She hesitated, looking to Kakashi for assistance. The jounin simply grinned and remained silent. Sakura sighed and looked from Naruto to Sasuke and back. "I can't very well hold you two back now can I." She concluded in a defeated tone, "I guess I'm in."

"Yeah!" Naruto beamed and gave Sakura a playful punch to the arm. A mistake. She hit him back, several times, not playfully.

"So it's settled then. Good." Kakashi said, "You'll notice that there will be a lot of genin from other nations in town soon, the exams are a pretty big deal. I know you guys haven't gotten much down time since the big mission, so take the next few days off to prepare. I'll see you all then."

With that the sensei of team 7 gave his squad a salute, before disappearing in a gust of leaves.

"So cool..." Naruto muttered to himself. He wished his team a brief goodbye and took off, ambling towards the one place in the world he wanted to be.

Since his.. talk.. with Kimimaro, the training had been upped quite a bit. It could just have been the fact that he had been gone for a while, but his older brother seemed to have a lot more pent up frustration than usual. They had been focusing a lot less on the normal technicalities and forms and techniques and more on sparring. Which was a fancy way of saying, "Let's be an asshole and beat up on Naruto."

Naruto chuckled to himself at the thought. It wasn't all that bad. He had been learning quite a bit. And the daily beat downs were becoming less and less severe as he picked up how to utilize the Shikatsumyaku and chakra control that Kimimaro had taught him so far in an actual fight.

God he wished the bloodlimit didn't have to hurt so damn bad.

He continued to ponder his training and the upcoming chuunin exams as he weaved through the streets of Konoha, and before he knew it he was walking into Ichiraku's.

The blonde plopped down at the bar and grinned at Teuchi. "Hiyah old fart! Miss me?"

"Well of course! I'm surprised we haven't gone out of business you've been gone for so long" The old ramen chef beamed from behind the counter as he washed a bowl clean.

"You know me, just off doing top secret ninja stuff!" Naruto boasted, crossing his arms. His impressive pose was interrupted by an angry growl from his stomach, "Er, think I could get a bowl of miso?" He asked sheepishly/

"Only the best for you." Teuchi replied with a smile, before shouting to the back of the stand, "Ayame! Get out here with a bowl of miso ramen asap, our favorite customer is back!"

The redhead emerged from the door to the kitchen moments later as asked, carrying a large bowl of steaming hot noodles. She smiled at Naruto as the blond nearly drooled all over the store. "We missed you Naruto, stop being such a stranger."

Before she finished setting the bowl down Naruto had dove in, filling his mouth with a ridiculous amount of boiling hot ramen without anything more than a hum of pleasure. He gave Ayame and Teuchi a thumbs up, "Keep 'em comin!"

Around five minutes later, Naruto was busy compiling an impressive amount of empty ramen dishes when loud footsteps a familiar boisterous voice reached his ears. He groaned.

"BOSS!"

"What do you want Konohamaru?"

If his number one fan had heard him, he didn't show it, as he strutted up to Naruto shaking his head. "You're getting so predictable, I knew I would find you here when you got back from your big mission!" The pint sized ninja grinned, "Just goes to show that I—whoa," Konohamaru blinked at Naruto suddenly, "What the hell is up with your clothes boss? And that hair?"

Naruto rubbed his head in annoyance. This was just what he needed. Not. "None of your business Konohamaru, can't you go harass the closet pervert or something?"

"Ugh, no," Konohamaru replied, disappointed, "Ebisu got called to duty on some stupid patrol or somethin'."

"Too bad, looks like I'm stuck with you huh?" At Konohamaru's eager nodding he groaned again, "Did you at least get my awesome technique down yet?"

"Psh, too easy boss." The hokage's grandson scoffed and made a quick hand signal, "Oiroke no jutsu!"

In a puff of smoke Konohamaru was gone and in his place stood a beautiful brunette woman. She stood hunched over with her hips out and her back to Naruto, shooting him a wink over her shoulder as she wiggled her rear end.

"Hmm, not bad.." Naruto admitted, nodding approvingly.

"What!?—Eh..." There was suddenly a loud crash and Naruto and the transformed Konohamaru turned to see Teuchi complete his fall, landing on his back with a hearty thump. Ramen noodles and dishes clanged to the floor in ear-ringing fashion. The old ramen chef's eye twitch as blood dripped out of his nose and onto the floor.

"What is all that racket?" Ayame's outcry from the kitchen prompted Konohamaru to promptly cancel the henge. With a poof he was back to his normal form, not a second before Ayame swung the door open with a gasp as she saw her father on the floor. "Daddy? What's going on?"

"Uhh," Naruto scratched the back of his head and laughed nervously, "Ayame, your dad just slipped out of no where, I think maybe the floor is wet from the mop."

"I haven't cleaned the floor for hours."

"Ah well anyway, gotta go!" Naruto chirped, ignoring Ayame's questioning stare, plopping a fat wad of ryo on the counter and nearly dashing out of the ramen stand, dragging Konohamaru behind him.

"Phew," Konohamaru panted as they stopped in the street a few paces from the stand, "That was a close one boss."

Naruto laughed out loud, slapping his disciple on the back. "Hey good job, kid. You've still got a ways to go before you get to my level, but maybe someday. If I ever get tired of being Hokage when I'm older I'll be sure to give you a call." The blond smiled cheekily.

Before Konohamaru could get out his indignant response, a shouting voice caught the duo's attention.

"We're supposed to be training, trash!"

Naruto realized he had been mistaken earlier. Konohamaru was only the second to last person he wanted to talk to. The last was storming down the road after him now, white hair tossing in the wind, eyes stormy and dangerous.

"Ah shit."

Naruto did what any rational human being would have done in his situation.

He shoved Konohamaru to the ground and ran for his life.


It didn't take Kimimaro long to catch him.

Bastard, Naruto griped silently as he rubbed the growing lump on his head as he followed his brother through the woods to their usual training ground. He pushed through the last patch of brush to the clearing and squinted as the sun blinded him.

He should have expected the blow that knocked him on his ass.

"Goddammit!" He yelled stomping to his feet, "What's your deal?"

Kimimaro simply coughed and grinned, "You still leave yourself open far too often. I'm going to break you of that."

Naruto growled. It had been like this since they had resumed training two days prior. Kimimaro would randomly pick times to beat the shit out of him for no reason. It was brutal, and if it wasn't for his accelerated healing he would have been bedridden by now.

"Now," Kimimaro started, settling back into a relaxed taijutsu stance, sliding his right foot back behind him slowly to center his gravity. "Try it again. Maybe you'll be man enough to stay conscious this time."

Naruto rolled his eyes. "It fuckin' hurts..." He complained, before he took a smooth inhale, to prepare himself for the pain he was about to put himself through, again.

"Remember, palm, elbow—"

"Ribs, knee, yeah, yeah.." Naruto waved him off, ignoring Kimimaro's put off expression at being interrupted.

"Get to it then."

Naruto left the words at then and shuffled forward quickly in the routine Kimimaro had taught him, feinting with his shoulders to the left, before shooting his right arm toward his brother's head. Before contact he opened up his palm and summoned up his chakra, reaching deep for the power of Shikatsumyaku

He did his best to ignore the familiar pain as his hand split and his Koukotsu Heijin shot from his arm. Kimimaro ducked the blow fluidly, and Naruto followed up with an elbow drop, expanding his ulna from the bottom of his forearm with a squelch of tearing skin.

Kimimaro knocked it aside and Naruto grimaced internally as he braced himself for the next part of the exercise. With a quick focus of chakra he could have never pulled off weeks earlier, he balled energy in his chest, and with the release, a rib from each side of his abdomen extended from his gut. He gasped as burning agony flooded his senses. He grit his teeth as his pseudo sensei sidestepped at the last second, avoiding impalement by millimeters.

The ex-sound ninja gave Naruto an extra shot of pain as he retaliated by palming him in the sternum, forcing painful air out of his lungs and and knocking him off balance. Naruto flowed with the momentum and swung upwards with his knee to finish the last step of the dance. From his kneecap flashed white, as his fibula exploded from the tissue with lightening speed.

Kimimaro's eyes widened and his head snapped back. He caught the bone an inch from his chin with his bare hands, spilling blood from the sharpened edges signature of the Shikotsumyaku. It didn't seem to faze him as he held Naruto immobilized for a moment.

"Better," He grunted, before spilling his younger brother to the ground.

Naruto stifled a scream as the suppressed pain hit him full force. His eyes spun in his head as a spell of dizziness hit him. Kimimaro simply observed as he lay there, Shikotsumyaku still active, making him look like a human pincushion.

Now the fun part, he thought sarcastically as he mustered himself to focus his chakra once again, recalling the exposed parts of his skeleton back to their resting place. The chalky white bones slid reluctantly back into his body as his skin melded back together, nearly making him shiver at the feeling. He wasn't sure he would ever get over the creepiness of his bloodlimit.

Panting, he rose to a knee, groaning as he examined the holes and bloodstains in his garb. So much for his new outfit. Since his impulsive stop at Ino's family store he had burned through six of the seven pairs she had given him. At this rate he was going to go broke simply buying clothes.

Though he wouldn't mind stopping in again, he pondered absent mindedly for a moment, remembering the last time. He wondered how Ino was doing anyway...

His musings were cut short as Kimimaro grabbed him roughly by the scruff of his neck, pulling him to his feet. Naruto gave him a glare as he attempted to gain his balance on shaky legs.

"You still need better chakra control," the older shinobi critiqued, "The activation is still pathetically slow. And you cannot allow yourself to become immobilized every time you use it."

Naruto stepped away, gaining some space, half expecting another attack while he was winded, "How the hell am I supposed to get over that?" He gasped.

Kimimaro shrugged, "Real shinobi don't have a pain threshold." He said plainly.

So grow a pair, Naruto paraphrased in his head.

"Again."

"Seriously?" Naruto blinked, hoping it was a joke. He knew the answer before those gray eyes shot him a look that would have made a grown man cower.

But he was used to that by now.

This time he did pass out, though only for a moment. The knee was the most painful place to activate the Shikotsumyaku, and it was almost always the point that did him in. He awoke—unsurprising—on his back in the dirt, his fibula half exposed from the flesh of his leg, and Kimimaro shaking his head above.

With a quick dismissal of his bloodlimit, which lessened the searing pain to a dull burn beneath his skin, he stood. He grasped his forehead as a headache assaulted him; a common occurrence as of late.

"Will better chakra control make it easier?" He groaned hopefully.

Kimimaro coughed. "No."

"Of course not..." Naruto sighed, knowing it was no use to complain anymore. Kimimaro's training was as brutal as it was unrelenting, he never let him off easy.

He silently waited further instruction as he wondered just how long it took Kimimaro to master the Shikatsumyaku. Probably a day. Hell, it was hard for Naruto to imagine the man in front of him ever experiencing pain.

Or joy, for that matter. Kimimaro seriously needed to get laid, Naruto thought with a small grin.

"Chakra control will help you form your weapons," Kimimaro expanded after his silence, oblivious to Naruto's inner rambling, "The more effective your control, the more you can shape the bone to fit the situation. Precision edges for quick kills, serrated for incapacitation." The white haired shinobi seemed to grin at that point.

"Yeah, I don't see that happening any time soon." Naruto said dryly.

"Actually," And this time he was definitely grinning, "That's our next exercise."


Many sweaty, painful hours later, Kimimaro decided enough was enough. Naruto was staggering on his feet and the amount of blood stained into the grass could make a grown man queasy.

"Alright, we're done." He said simply, coughing despicably into the nook of his arm before gesturing for the younger ninja to leave. "Get out of here."

"Thank god..." The brat mumbled under his breath, before gathering his pack and his torn, discarded clothes.

Kimimaro took in his handiwork with a grin. He would admit, he didn't go easy today. His original plan was to train until the delinquent passed out. When that didn't happen though, well even he got tired of watching Naruto struggle. His younger... person—he still had not come to adore the term brother—was covered from head to toe in scratches, cuts, bruises. His clothes were all but destroyed, tattered with holes from random skeletal parts stabbing through them all afternoon.

It was quite the sight.

Kimimaro felt a foreign feeling rise up in his gut. The little shit had done well today. He found that it had become harder to openly regard Naruto as trash as of late. He had handled the brutal exercises Kimimaro had thrown at him in a respectable fashion. Better than most at least.

The ex-sound ninja caught himself as he realized just exactly where his thoughts were leading and shoved them back down with disgust.

"Back here at noon tomorrow," He demanded to Naruto's back as his sibling began to trot off the clearing. He gave a wave behind his head in response. Kimimaro, for good measure, added, "Don't be late, trash."

He was not going soft.

An eruption of coughs overtook him and for the millionth time he cursed his weakened body. The fits always came to remind him of how quickly he was declining. His condition was worsening much faster now that he was no longer under Orochimaru's care, he had realized soon after leaving. Apparently those useless medics had been doing something.

As he gasped to regain his breath he pondered how much longer he could maintain a respectable image in public. The fits were becoming more frequent, and much harsher. Soon he would be weak enough that even the local buffoons around the village would realize.

Kimimaro knew enough about his general reputation around the village that it would not be a good idea for him to show any weakness.

Regaining his composure, he began the trek back to the apartment the Hokage had supplied him with. Passing through the training ground, and the bulk of Konoha's business district. He cursed the uncomfortable amount of people once again as he did so. Luckily, the sun was already setting and the commotion was dying down or he may have had to put down a villager or two.

Thirty minutes later with no harm done except a few frustrated ticks on his brow, he had arrived. Going into the building and stomping up the stairs he fished out a single key from his new shinobi vest and swung open the door to his room.

Kimimaro walked to the sink to cleanse his sore throat when he recognized a presence from behind him. "So," He asked, "How was the babysitting today?"

Jiraiya grunted from the single couch in the living room. Kimimaro didn't bother turning around, or asking how he had gotten into the room. The man was a sannin after all.

"Little rough for some everyday training don't you think?"

"No," He tried not to audibly growl at the question, and took another drink of water to calm himself. "The boy isn't like every other piece of garbage laying around this place."

"Luckily." Jiraiya said dryly, leaning back into the sofa and crossing his arms nonchalantly. "He lost enough blood today to drown a cow."

Kimimaro swallowed the last of his water and the glare he was tempted to give the sannin. Of all the people in the village, the last thing he wanted was fucking Jiraiya on the wrong side of him. Still, he did not like being questioned. Or watched all day to make sure he was playing nice with his little brother. He wouldn't pretend he enjoyed it either.

"I came here to train the brat." He said simply, biting out the words. "That's what I'm doing. Maybe you think you would have a better understanding of how to teach him to use the most deadly bloodline known to the shinobi nations?"

Jiraiya shot him a raised eyebrow, before shrugging. "Debatable," He said, and this time his comment did draw a glare. The old sannin simply grinned at the look and stood. "But don't get me wrong, I think you're doing fine. The boy needs a push, and Kami knows he's not going to get it from Hatake."

Kimimaro nodded at the compliment as Jiraiya came forward. The older ninja had a friendly grin on his face and he realized that the fucker had just been trying to provoke him.

"Just came by to give you a hard time," The super pervert gave Kimimaro a rough pat on the back as he made his way to the door, once again drawing a dirty look. His smile simply widened though as he moved to walk out. "Try not to kill the kid, eh? I'll be watching."

Kimimaro grunted in response, annoyed at the man's careless demeanor. He did not enjoy being messed with, and he was not used to people being daring enough to try. Usually he'd kill them.

Honestly how could such an imbecile be one of the three most powerful ninja in existence? Orochimaru and Tsunade were nothing like...

Tsunade.

Jiraiya was a colleague of the great Tsunade... He may even have an idea about your condition, eh?

Sarutobi's words from days before rang like a bell in his head and before he realized it, Kimimaro's lips had moved on their own, "Wait."

Jiraiya's bushy head poked itself back into the room with a questioning glance, "Hm?"

Kimimaro took a moment to gather himself before he looked the sannin in the eye. "I'm dying." He said evenly. No words were needed beyond that. The statement was a question in itself and understanding lit Jiraiya's eyes.

The sannin nodded. "I'll see what I can do." He said sincerely.

And then he was gone.


Naruto was planning on heading home, he really was.

But instead, he found himself wandering. His exhaustion from the days training was present and intensely so, yet his overactive brain was buzzing and he knew he would never be able to get to sleep if he went back to his apartment now.

So instead he strolled around town aimlessly, hands in his pockets, ignoring the confused stares of the townspeople as they took in his new appearance. He'd been getting weird looks ever since he'd trashed his signature orange jumpsuit. It even took some people a moment to recognize him.

Oh yeah, he forgot he was covered in tears and blood. Right, that might have something to do with the looks he was getting on this cool afternoon.

Shaking his head at his ruined outfit he pondered the days work. His Koukotsu Heijin was just about the only form of the Shikatsumyaku that he could consistently use. The chakra control required to fully expand his use of the bloodlimit was far out of his reach at this point, but calling out his ulna was becoming routine.

Kimimaro was not lying though, the pain never lessened. Naruto had gotten used to the feeling of a katana being shoved forcefully out of his palm or forearm. It was far from pleasant, but finally he could bear it without feeling dizzy or wanting to fall over. The same feeling in his kneecap or ribcage was a different story.

It was frustrating beyond belief.

For once in his life, it wasn't that there was no one willing to teach him. He had a real shinobi, a blood relative for christ sake, ready to beat the shit out of him and train him and do whatever it took to make him stronger. And he was being held back because he couldn't handle a little pain.

Okay, it was excruciating, but still.

A true shinobi knows no pain.

He sighed. If Kimimaro was right about that, then it was going to take him a while before he was a real shinobi.

On the bright side, he had managed to sharpen his Koukotsu using chakra. It took him like a million attempts, sure, but even Kimimaro had shown a flash of surprise when his Shikatsumyaku shone a light blue color and shaped itself into a fine edge. It wasn't perfect, as his pseudo sensei was quick to point out. The edge could be sharper and it took him too long to contort the shape to his will.

Coming from Kimimaro, that may as well have been a congratulatory kiss.

He chuckled to himself.

"Naruto?"

A familiar voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Huh," Naruto blinked as he snapped back into reality and refocused on his surroundings. He realized with a start that he had walked clear across town. He was getting close to the outer wall of town now and a groan escaped his lips as it occurred to him how far he had gone from his home.

Even more surprising was the blonde standing in front of him, hands on hips, eyebrow raised.

"Ino?"

"You know," The kunoichi said, touching her finger to her chin and giving him a sly grin. "If I didn't know better I would say you've been stalking me Naruto."

"What?" Naruto asked, baffled. "I haven't seen you since before I left on my mission like three weeks ago!"

"True, but you've walked outside of the store the last three nights right as I'm closing." Ino said simply. "I'm starting to wonder..."

Naruto blanked. "Uh, really?"

"Really." Ino confirmed with a nod. She took an appraising look of him suddenly. "Hey, you look like hell. Did you go and ruin the outfit I picked out for you already?"

A sheepish shrug and a foxy grin was her response. Naruto couldn't help but feel a bit bold at the sudden familiarity he was sharing with his genin classmate at the moment. Ah, what the hell.

"Hey, you look like crap too, Ino." He said, his grin shaping into a mischievous smirk.

The blonde kunoichi laughed. Which was a relief, because he suddenly got the feeling that if this had been two months ago, she would have pounded him for his joking.

"So what are you doing out and about so late anyway?" She asked, as she turned to the building behind her and shuffled through a handful of keys.

Naruto scratched his head, "Well, I got done training a while ago and just felt like going for a walk. Don't worry, I've still got a fresh pair of clothes left." He added, "I am going to have to come back and restock soon though..?"

He let the question hang in the air. He didn't want to assume anything. Too many stores had thrown him out on his ass for that. Even if she was being strangely nice lately, Naruto had no idea who Ino's parents were, or how they felt about him. Or rather, what was in him.

"Ah," Ino finished locking up the store, and turned to him. "Definitely! God, you can not go back to wearing orange Naruto. My eyes still hurt from looking at that thing."

"Hey, it wasn't that bad..." Naruto huffed, crossing his arms.

"Yes it was." Ino said matter of factly. She looked up to the sky and sighed, "Well, it's getting dark, I better head home. Next time don't be such a stranger and come inside the store, okay?"

"Deal." Naruto answered.

Ino gave him an odd look for a moment, like she was waiting for something else. Naruto couldn't place what it was in that brief moment and before he knew it she gave him a quick wave and turned down the street.

Naruto frowned at the sudden change in mood the conversation had taken. Hell, not even the conversation, just that last second of eye contact left him with an unsettled feeling. He did not like it.

He stared at her back for a few moments before an inkling creeped into his mind. He pondered for a second, but hell he'd been feeling bold all day, he wasn't about to stop now.

"Ino!" He called, jogging to catch up, suddenly not wanting to look over eager. The blond turned to him and caught him with big eyes. For once, she was wordless, and just gazed at him expectantly with those sky blue eyes.

The warm lump in his throat told him he liked that. But it also made a sentence hard to get out.

"Uh.. do you... can I..." He cursed himself for stumbling over his words. He took a deep breath to calm himself and said, "I'm going to walk you home."

She smiled.

"Okay."

A/N: I know, I know, having an author's note before and after is overkill, get over it. Hope you all like the chapter. It was hell to get through. Lots of teasers, I know you all love those. Don't worry, the whole damn thing is about to get rolling. The Chuunin exams are going to be a lot of fun.

Oh, and it's becoming pretty obvious that there's some Ino/Naruto feelings floating around. Will it go anywhere? Couldn't tell ya. I hadn't planned on it, but I started writing and it just started happening and I wasn't sure... who am I kidding, it was completely consensual.

As always, questions and comments are much appreciated.

alterego94