Warnings: Minimal violence, if any. I do try not to actually swear, but I will directly imply an insult or have a character curse it when I feel it's appropriate, since I try to make my characters realistic and realistic characters swear (and I would put a heart here, but FFN won't let me put the 'less than' symbol that makes up the first half of the heart D'; ) No pairings. I personally don't like them, partially because the manga doesn't have them. You are all free to like them; I am free to say that I don't.

A/N: Okay, this is my very first (public) fanfiction, so the first thing I have to do is authenticate my (undiagnosed and likely incurable) tendency to ramble :P

And you can all go ahead and flame me for it; I won't mind, because it means you've found nothing better to flame in my writing (and you have no sense of humor. If you did, you would humor me). I am perfectly happy with any and all criticism or corrections (provided that it's useful and actually applies. I dislike random flamers.)

You can all ignore the many parentheses if you want to (including the ones in the actual story). It might make more sense that way. ^_^ And I'm sorry my writing style includes so many random digressions and interruptions, but that (-is just how my head works-) means you can all just read it twice! (First without the extras so you'll actually understand what's going on and the story flows properly, and once more with the extras just for fun ;L)

I'm not one of those people who write for reviews, unfortunately for you readers, but I do like to know how popular my works are (it helps me prioritize, as I write more), so feel free to review if you want to (it also tells me how sane my ideas are, because I've had far, far too many plot bunnies run through my head for me to still accurately judge them :P ).


Anyways, this is about a younger Natsume, set back when he's still being thrown around between families. It's an AU, because this really doesn't fit into the normal manga/anime storyline. Something interesting happens; that's all you're getting this chapter. I will (probably) put a proper summary on the next chapter, when it won't spoil the first chapter (I HATE spoilers). Though, anyone detail-picky enough will probably know what I'm trying to acomplish anyways.

I haven't written much for the NY-C fandom (heck, I haven't written much of anything, and published even less), so I apologize in advance if my ideas seem uncreative (I HAVE just read through almost every clean piece of NY-C fanfic on this site, plus a few that weren't...) or if the characters seem like they're OOC. I'm pretty sure my POV and tenses are all over the place a lot of the time, so I apologize for that.

All the side-character names (there aren't many) are (nearly) completely random, as I only know a little Japanese through manga and anime ;L I tried to pick generic names, though (for example, no one is named Naruto, Ichigo, Luffy, Inuyasha, or anything like that).

And since I'm lazy, I'm just going to put the disclaimer on this chapter alone: I don't own Natsume Yuujin-Cho (Or Natsume's Book of Friends, or whatever else you choose to call this series :P)

Big thank-you to harunekonya for answering some of my Japanese-culture questions! (I have frequently proven that you don't have to be Japanese to love manga/anime :P ) First chapter's dedicated to you~

It was right after class, right when the last bell rang. Natsume, starting his second week at his new school, sat bolt upright in his chair, his hair standing on end. Some of the other students gave him uncertain looks, and a few of the boys snickered quietly.

"Look, the liar's scared of the bell."

"What an idiot."

Natsume sank back into his chair self-consciously. He made no attempt to correct what he heard; they wouldn't believe him anyway. He was sure that they hadn't felt that... that... shock in the air just now, and Natsume had long since given up trying to talk about the things he saw and felt to his classmates (just like all the others before them, they didn't believe him. When was he going to learn, to stop hoping that someone would be different...). He packed his school-rented bag absentmindedly, focusing on the current that was tingling on the edge of his senses. It felt uncomfortable, and wrong somehow. By the time he got out of the school building, the current had disappeared, as though dissipated by the wind. He briefly wondered what it was, but decided that it didn't matter. Nothing had happened, after all.

Natsume quickly walked in the opposite direction he usually went, hoping that none of the other students would think to try and find out where he was going. He'd found a small shrine near the school by accident a few days ago (been chased there by a yokai, in fact), and he wanted to look around to see if he could find it again. He was supposed to head home right away, but Uncle and Aunt Rakuto (not that they were actually his aunt and uncle. They were probably the son-of-his-father's-cousin's-brother-in-law's-aunt-thrice-removed or something. It used to be a little game of his, trying to figure out how exactly he was related to the people he was living with, but he'd given that up when it was just too tiring for him, both mentally and emotionally) didn't come home until well after dark, and he'd rather find a place to hide when he needed it than spend his time waiting on the doorstep for them to arrive.

Natsume had wandered for about ten minutes or so, piecing together what few landmarks he could remember (the tree by the path whose roots had almost tripped him, the yard with the dog that had barked as he ran past, the bush he'd hid under until the yokai spotted him, and the house with the woman who'd asked him what was wrong when he'd stopped at her gate to catch his breath and see if he'd lost the yokai) when it started drizzling lightly. Distant rumbles of thunder promised more rain.

"Shoot," he muttered to no one in particular. Aunt Rakuto hated it when he dripped or got mud on the porch, and he really didn't want to trouble the Rakutos any further than he already was. He picked up his pace, hoping he could find the shrine before it really started raining; he was sure the shrine was closer than heading back to school. He rushed along, his bag held over his head, up and down another block before he finally found what he was looking for. He sat down on the wooden steps, thinking that the overhanging roof would shield him from most of the rain, but gave up and went inside when a gust of wind threw the pellets of water right into his face. He quietly closed the sliding door on the rain and the distant rumbles of thunder, hoping the storm would blow over before he had to go back to the house (which was fairly likely; the Rakutos' wouldn't be there for hours).

He leaned against the wall to the left of the door and sank into a sitting position. He felt a little uncertain; normally one wasn't supposed to actually go into the shrines, but stay outside and pray to the god or spirit living within. Natsume had never met a god before (not that he'd been aware of, anyway) and he very much hoped that there wasn't one here. Or at least, not one inclined to chase a human intruder out of its home.

A flare of lighting burst close by, and Natsume flinched away. After some initial hesitation, he picked up his bag and crawled away from the doors, a little further into the room. No angry spirit had come demanding that he leave yet; he figured that moving closer to the shrine itself couldn't hurt (probably). He sat down again, quietly pulled out a workbook (borrowed from the school, not his own) and started working on his math homework. The light was pretty bad, with the storm and lack of open windows, but Natsume didn't really care, as long as he could still see the words on the paper.

He didn't know exactly how long he sat there, listening to the rain and trying to focus on the numbers, but it couldn't have been for more than a few minutes when he heard steps just outside the doors of shrine. Natsume froze, pencil suspended just above the paper. He saw a dark, humanoid silhouette through the door, just standing there. Natsume silently put away his book and slipped his bag on, just in case it was a yokai and he had to run away (again). He hoped it wasn't a yokai, but he felt something, some presence, that was decidedly wrong; there was something in the air that he hadn't noticed when he was focused on his homework. (He didn't know what it was, just some instinct telling him that there really was something nearby. Probably a yokai). He eased himself up, automatically searching for an alternative escape route (the shadowy figure was blocking the doorway; Natsume wasn't sure he could make it out that way if he tried).

There was a small window, set fairly high up but big enough for him to leave through. It was on the wall adjacent to the door; if Natsume made too much noise, whatever was outside would find him. He eased the window open slowly, hoping that whatever noise he made would be covered by the storm. It was still raining pretty hard, but getting wet was preferable to getting eaten (by a very, very large margin). He carefully slid the window open all the way and leaned his head out, one knee on the frame of the window. He was about to bring his other knee up and jump down when something stuck its head out from underneath the floor of shrine, directly beneath his window. Before Natsume could register anything more than a white, oval shaped mask set on a shadowy figure, the white kimono-clad yokai had whipped upwards, toward him, with startling speed and an accompanying rush of wind. Natsume simultaneously shrieked and fell back. He landed on the floor with a thump and propped himself up just in time to see a tall figure in a dark kimono burst into the shrine.

A/N: No, I'm not going to leave it like that; next chapter will be up soon (like maybe a week or so, no promises), and you will all find out who was outside the shrine (though quite frankly, it's not too hard to guess).

The little bit in the begining about Natsume feeling something weird in school does become relavent eventually (as in, many chapters later). So don't forget it.