Author's Note: I acknowledge both Masashi Kishimoto's ownership of Naruto and his genius talent; but I'm just gonna play with his characters for a while, and see what becomes of them. If it was illegal, this entire site would be down, so haha, flamers.

And since some people have no patience: Hinata was kidnapped by the Cloud village at any early age; Anko adopts Naruto after Iruka's death; Gaara was born a girl. Tenten is the daughter of a Hi no kuni daimyo, who sees her parents killed by Akatsuki; and Rock Lee is going to trade a very interesting ability with Sasuke. There will be pairings, but the concentration in this first arc will mainly be the megalomaniac musings of these poor, altered kids, plus all the diplomatic fun of the clashing Shinobi nations. It's gonna go deep, rest assured.

Also, I am not above begging. PLEASE, PLEASE READ THIS STORY AND CLICK THE GREEN BUTTON WHEN YOU'RE DONE, OH BEST BELOVED VISITOR. -bows-


Prelude to an Arson

Forget the things you used to believe in.

There's nothing more shiftless than this world, he says; pits of snakes and dog demons, waiting, waiting. The man casts a look over his shoulder, spots death, and reconnects his glazed eyes to yours.

The world isn't all the way you remember it to be.

----

Remember, Hinata, remember- she can hear someone she can't name banging on the frosted glass between her brain hemispheres, calling her. Remember us, please; come back to us, your family. We love you.

There's been a terrible mistake.

A little girl in purple waits; a little girl in purple bites her chubby, child fingers, twirls the sash of her lilac yukata. She can't have just woken up; this is her sneaking suspicion, one she hasn't revealed to anyone in this country. They have the eyes of predators, and even a little girl can see them: shifting, uneasy, searching for something small to swoop up and carry far, far away to their nest.

Like her.

The palanquin stops, shuddering to the ground like a ceratopsian mount that's had it's legs shot out. The sheer curtain between her and the dusty world seperates, and there's a hand. She follows it, not taking it but bowing her head as she slips into the sunlight, onto the marble floors of an outdoor terrace.

She keeps staring up at the man she'll be marrying, trying to meet his hawk-eyes with some animal strength of her own. (He's waiting to swoop down, to take her from even here-) But she's only seven after all…and she's already aware that she does not belong here.

----

Karura is biting a hunk of rubber that tastes like ash, straining with the fits of blood that gush from her. Nobody says anything; nobody speaks or hears in Sunagakure, it seems. They didn't hear her crying out before she became Satan's vessel, and nobody acknowledges her shrieks now. She's just the gourd that carries the sand, the womb to carry some godless child who will know more that the eye-riddled dunes of the endless desert do. She has never wanted this; she has never wanted this life for her child.

A daughter, by the looks of it.

It's blue and screaming, crying out in short bursts that come to resemble'why, why'; but the delivered mother's eyes are cloying heavy with metallic tears and the life is leaking out from between her legs. It didn't want to come out, didn't want to be brought into this horrible, horrible world- there is no joy here, no song in the desert. There is no life here.

They'll never hear a child crying; only a monster, barely contained.

She knows it will kill her; she knows this little girl will face the world alone, and the thought scares through her being like slow-moving lightning. She holds her close when they hand the baby to her; she's warm, red, and stabbing Karura right in the chest. But she knows what she has to do.

The Kazekage comes sauntering in, all shadows; their exchange is brief, as all relations between such people must be. There's no use caring for someone who cannot care.

"I told them." she says, eyes glinting like the edges of knives, the blood on the baby's downy, red head.

"My daughter will live to see this place in ruins- you, in ruins." she promises.

"The love I have for her will be her constancy. You will see to it, or the blade will fall. If you ruin this child any more-"

Her head lolled forward, rolling and stopping with cheek against the lumpy, soft skull of what was supposed to be a beautiful girl. Black eyes welded shut, the little Jinchuuriki began to whimper from the deadweight of her lifeless surrogate.

Aiko. That's what she was called from then on, even if the Sandaime made it a point never to speak it aloud (hearing it was painful enough, you see).

----

He's at home here, where the shadows cavort. They're in his eyes, dancing like the flames of funeral pyres when they give up the ghost to the wind, to the four corners of the earth. Naruto seems to know every one of them, as he closes his face and they place the last pat of dirt over Iruka's ashes.

Anko is at that point where it's real and not real; the absence of Iruka, the trench in the bed she rolls into and wakes up lost in, is heartrending; it's through her like a metal beam and she can't anticipate or block. She's defenseless against his lonely coffee cup in the dish strainer; the second pair of slippers by every door; his rolled socks in the drawer. The lump at her stomach is not, however; the child with his eyes and gentle chin isn't even a specter in her mind, because she can't imagine tomorrow without him, let alone a year. Five years.

She needs someone who knows the lonely places where the world converges into a box; she's lost in this staunchly enclosed space, unable to understand where realities meet, banging her head against the corner.

But the walls have just diverged; she can feel it, the breeze of a clammy but new day, too long shut away. It's whipping his hair with it's salty fingers, singing of moors and sweet grass that goes on too far to die; old love, new love. It says, so quietly that only she and Sarutobi can hear it, that if she ever escapes this vacuum she's screaming in, she has an obligation to take Naruto with her. They're floundering beside each other, after all, in the same ungiving bend of this life.

And so she walks over to the dirt-streaked little boy, and gazes peacefully into his eyes. Iruka's there, and that's when Anko officially adopts the fox and the lamb as her own.

----

It's buried under everything, but it still manages to come up; like an earthquake that dislocates the very landscape of the world, leaving everything he knew on another, lower plane.

He's up and punching at nothing in a dramatic twist of seconds; ten years of rage boiling between his ears, but he's not making a sound. The connections his sad little hands finally make, with their soft, pinched knuckles and their crooked fingers, fail to connect in his mind; it's a soundless void, this place. It's a place he owns, carpeted from floor to ceiling with something that's entirely his.

The boys are crying, genuinely crying at the sight of their blood and the indignation of being thrashed by their long-time scapegoat. They'll never tell anybody about this, to keep the natural social order in place; Lee's not supposed to be anything, he's not supposed to fight back to what they say or what they do to him.

But in the safe, little room of anger carved in his heart, connected by symbiote to the living walls, the little failure known as Rock Lee suddenly has something on these kids.

Sheer hatred.

----

"Oh, hello." Deidara says; he even steps down from his clay mount, sweeping the dust of the road with a flourish of a bow to her. The little girl, a cylinder of pink silk, topped by a round face painted with bloodless disbelief, makes no sound. Her eyes are on the head near his foot, the one that's supposed to be attached to her father's neck; the daimyo's caravan seems to have been hit by hurricane, and she stands in the midst of the wreckage, very small in comparison to the gaping world that has just opened up at her feet.

He slides his ice-colored eyes over her, savoring the shock. Cute kid; looks just like the flabby, dead woman who he detonated a bomb in the face of. Stupid upper eschalon.

"Are you mad now?"

The braided buns pinned to the top of her head are trembling, as are her knees beneath the small red flowers dotting her kimono like the black speckles dotting the ground. The guards are shredded, the forest is without sound, and the world as this girl knew it is forever gone; her parents are dead at her feet, and something inside of Tenten is, too; small and cracked, laying exposed before her.

Deidara tells her that if she doesn't like it, do something about it. And even through the turmoil of the years, even through the elements and all life can throw at her, the stone shell of Tenten never forgets- and she never forgives.

----

So stay close and don't get lost, he says (Rin is crouched behind him, eyes bled of their ink-). It's easy to get lost in this place, if you're following what isn't there, he says.

And then the katana swings down, burying itself in the vulnerable firmness of Hatake Kakashi's spinal cord.


AN:

When you review, to this here crew,

You lift our souls up from the mortal stew;

You make such a difference when you simply,

Simply review...

A poem for you.

So, PLEASE, DEAR GOD. REVIEW.