He Had No Fingers

Konoha followed herd behavior, so maybe that was why he couldn't look straight at the her as Ms. Iguchi rang up the total on the register. The total was over twice what the ramen actually cost, and so he had to take the coins very carefully into his hands and then lay them out on the counter, as if each was a precious jewel all their own.

Ms. Iguchi's impatience swelled and broke over him like the tide, and the impotent hate caught in the current made him speed his hands, so she wouldn't know they were shaking. His fingers had grown stiff and crooked like a scarecrow's, and for a moment the small blonde thought of Kakashi, and a picture of a fly caught in slow, seeping amber.

Then all the coins were on the counter, Ms. Iguchi snatched them up, and Naruto stiff-walked away, legs moving in small circles so he wouldn't have to bend his knees. If he did, Naruto was afraid he'd stop. Instead he closed his eyes and forced them upward at a painful angle, and opened his mouth, where lies flowed out like fresh-warmed amber.

He didn't want to be Hokage. He just wanted to not be hungry anymore. But he didn't want to eat Ms. Iguchi either, like the Teeth in his eyes and ears and hands told him to.


His name is the King of Red.


Naruto was three when he broke his first finger, or rather, when someone broke it for him. Kajiro Kumesake, a Chuunin, kicked out at the child as he passed Naruto by in the street. The boot slammed against Naruto's instinctively raised fist, broke two fingers and the little bones in the back of his hand, and then crushed the child's head against the wall of the street vendor's stall.

An hour later, Sandaime sat and watched Naruto quietly, chewing but not smoking the pipe in his mouth, hung at an angle. Naruto's hand had healed minimally within moments, but his young body couldn't channel much youki yet, and the regeneration was slow.

Sandaime watched Naruto's fingers, as the jointless bones clacked and wiggled together when Naruto tried to pick up the ball. The plastic surface was quickly punctured by the sharp points on the ends of Naruto's digits, and the ball deflated, to his loud disapproval.

Sandaime watched Naruto run toward him, arms held high and apart for a hug, and swept up the child into his embrace, feeling the container's hands settle onto his back. The fangs pricked his back, slicing through the hidden ANBU armor like the skin of a cow, and Sandaime tried, but failed to ignore the sensation of points beneath the tiny child's skin.


He's in a palace of living chitin, tooth and nail.


Naruto could never hold a pencil. It was patently impossible. He had thumbs, but they worked wrong. They flexed up instead of out, like most people's thumbs.

Eventually, he gave up on writing at all, and made it through the academy only by virtue of a traitorous teacher's gambit and another's brave, but foolish gift. As Iruka laid dying on the ground, Mizuki charged and thrust a kunai at the jailor's head, only for it to vanish and the grass rustle beneath his feet.

The renegade felt a moment of sheer, primal terror, as he glanced once around the grass, and then a hand clamped onto the back of his head. Four fingers went to the right side of Mizuki's face and grabbed hold of his chin and ear. The thumb followed, and pushed straight through the top of Mizuki's spinal cord and into the base of his brain, through the opening in the bottom of the skull.

Naruto's thumb drew straight back, out of Mizuki's skull, until it cocked like the hammer of a gun with bone-on-bone, and then the body fell, the right side of its face cleaving away in the child's bladed clamp.

Iruka saw none of this, because he was too busy thinking about the iron fangs in his back, and wondering if this was what it was like to die in failure. Ignorant of the irony, Naruto drew the windmill shruiken out of Iruka, and waited for the ANBU, holding Iruka's back together with his bare fingers.

Twenty-two of the forty-two stitches Iruka would need after his wound would come from sewing up the crosswise lacerations over his back, across the wound Mizuki gave him. Naruto would never know. Iruka would never forget.

The feel of fangs on his back, but only the second one scared him more.

He never bought Naruto ramen again, and the Teeth in him grew and blossomed like a cavity fed on despair.


Voiceless, he speaks with clacking fangs.


Kakashi, for everything else he did right, was still lazy, and for that he lost the index and middle fingers of his right hand when he tried to block Naruto's attack.

He had destroyed half a dozen Kage Bunshin without any trouble, and then turned to face Naruto, running inward on all fours, like the thing within him had twelve years ago. Without thinking, Kakashi lashed out with the back of his fist, crashing it into the side of the child's head. It was properly controlled, despite the instinct, and knocked Naruto to the side as the container's hand came up on an awkward scything angle.

Kakashi pulled back his fist, caught the three fingers and thumb with the side of his combat glove and arm, and shoved it off to the side, textbook.

Kakashi's next memory was watching the right side of his right arm shear away in a ragged, bloody cocktail of pain and blood. He remembers distinctly leaping away and watching the lump of red flesh collapse to the ground, two fingers and most of the bottom of his thumb attached to the mess. He remembers Naruto jerking to the side and stumbling, still thrown off by the blow his ex-sensei (for Kakashi will never teach him again, not after this and what he has done) dealt to his head.

He remembers Sakura screaming for a brief second. A split-second glance of Sasuke, rushing forward with a kunai, halting mid-way and skidding to a stop, unsure and unbalanced for the first instance of lost composure since his induction into the Academy.

Naruto's foot hit down to the earth, the second step total since Kakashi hit him. He catches his balance and turns again, towards Kakashi.

Kakashi remembers looking into Naruto's maw, into the mouth that has no tongue, just a pit of black and red and endless glades of teeth like the damned forests of Konogakure, and Kakashi suddenly, horribly knows that the Kyuubi won after all, and that the Yondaime, his sensei, died to give the world to a boy with teeth and no tongue, a mind and no conscience.

Kakashi deduces this all in a moment and it is what drives his hand to his forehead protector, his Sharingan to Naruto's body, and then the suddenly the Raikiri in the copy ninja's hand, into Naruto's young, gaunt belly and then his stomach.

For the remaining ten seconds of his life, Kakashi will remember this as the worst mistake of his life, as his lightning-encased fist punctures Naruto like a balloon, slides through him, and then is caught.

In a blinding, bloody second, which no one there saw because Sakura was trapped by her fear, Sasuke was trapped by his memories, Kakashi was trapped in Naruto, and Naruto was trapped in the Beast, Kakashi lost his arm. A crunch sounded, and then the Jounin's arm folded up, tore away from the socket, and then was sucked up into Naruto's open chest cavity, up towards his heart.

The seal pulsed once, red on red on blackest black, and Kakashi vanished in a spray of bloody mist and gibbets of meat, already chewed. The hole in Naruto's chest closed four seconds later, the Kevlar of Kakashi's glove prominently displayed an inch below the surface of his stomach, just above the container's pelvis.

The ANBU arrived eighteen minutes later to find there was no more damage to be prevented, as the container fed a dozen small foxes. He fed them small pieces of meat, already chewed.

Sakura never became a shinobi. Sasuke took a year off, retook the exam, and quickly rose to Chunin, propelled by his feverish need for training, and becoming stronger. It had nothing to do with Itachi anymore, and more to do with being safe.

Naruto was taken into ANBU. He would be seen again a year later.


A storm of blood covers every word