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Acrobats

By Jessica Landers

Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, just Tora and Reiko.

Fact about me: I can't just fall asleep. I simply can't lay there and let my mind slip away. Noooo... I have to think myself to sleep. Most of my story ideas actually come from trying to fall asleep. The idea for Acrobat hit me about 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning. I got a little over three hours of sleep because I had church at seven. YOU'RE WELCOME!

Oh and BTW, the Kyuubi Attack and Uchiha Massacar never happened... Mwhahahahaha!

No one is born an orphan. Sure some babies could be an orphan three seconds after they take their first breath, but the mother is always alive when she gives birth. If only I had been as lucky as those children. I don't know, maybe my father was happy and kind once, but the death of his wife snapped him. All I know is that my father was a drunk and that he hated me from birth. How do I know? My earliest memory was of him coming home, drunk again, when I was three. I don't know what motivated him, maybe my name was already Tora, even though he never called me that before, or maybe an ANBU who happened to wear a tiger mask 'escorted' my father home. Whatever the reason, my father thought it would be funny to carve tiger stripes into his three year old daughter's face. No one saved me, mostly because my father scared everyone. He was supposedly a powerful ninja before my mother died and left me to his cruel antics. My father hit me, kicked me, made me his slave, abused me, cut me, and threw things at me like an unwanted animal. My dark past thankfully ended when my father died, whatever the cause, when I was five. I was finally free of him.

I'm not here to tell you a sob story. What's done is done, nothing can change that. I could long for the lost seconds of my youth, but they would still be lost. I could cry in anger how my mother left me with him, but it would be useless. I refuse to be hurt by my father, a man who I knew only as abusive, or by my mother, a woman I never knew. My life is my own.

I remember the day after I was imformed that he was dead. I can't remember if I found him or if someone happened to tell me, all I remember was that I left. I walked out of that nightmarish house and never returned. I remember walking down a street clogged with people and all of them screaming about a tiger demon. I had been confused, until I had realized that they were talking about me. My scars made me look like a demon. The day I was set free was the day I learned what life was like. Subjecting a small child to the hate and disgust of the world the day she becomes an orphan. I did what I knew best, I locked my heart away and let their insults wash over me like water of a stone. Nothing could touch me. Nothing. Not my mother's betrayal, not my father's cruel abuse, not the strangers hard words. I had found an abandoned house to live in and settled down, coming out only at midnight to steal nessecities from the people who purposely left things there for me to take. Not all of them thought me a monster.

v^v^v^v^v^v^v^v

"COME ONE, COME ALL! COME SEE THE AMAZING TORA AS SHE PREFORMS ACROBATS FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT!" I rolled my eyes at Reiko's embelishment. I told him to make it simple. I was glad I had, no telling how wild he would have gone had I not made my orders clear. Reiko had been my caller for the past six years, ever since I had taken him from the orphange. Over that time we had grown close, so close that we thought of each other as siblings. Reiko was twelve, three years younger than me, yet he had the deepest and loudest voice I had ever heard of. I stood up as he said, "HERE SHE IS! PREPARE TO BE AMAZED!" I scanned the crowd below the building I was standing on. Over the years the number of people grew from about ten people to hundreds. I placed my hands on the lip of the building and backflipped off it, landing gracefully on my feet two stories below. Reiko smiled as the crowd clapped and began to work the crowd, begging for money.

I arched my back until my head was pressed firmly against the small in my back. Over the ten years I had lived on the streets I had taught myself acrobatics so that I could support myself rather than living off the people. Placing my hands firmly on the ground I slowly lifted my legs until I was standing straight up on my hands. The crowd 'ohh'ed and 'aww'ed, even though these moves were old. I lifted my right hand off the ground with smooth practice. I slowly raised my left hand and the crowd gasped. It was almost impossible for someone to be able to hold their weight soully on two fingers. I say almost because I could do it. After ten years of hand standing I should be able to. I stayed in that position for a few minutes before flipping upright.

The crowd cheered. But I wasn't done yet. I bent forward so that my hands sat a foot from my feet. Using my right leg as a lead, I flipped over so that I bent backwards. I bit my lip, this was a hard part. I lifted my left hand and moved it closer to my foot. I followed the same with my right hand. Then I moved my feet so that my hands and feet were touching each other. My back screamed and I managed to retain the position before having to stand up. I followed the move with a few basic flips and cartwheels to loosen up my knotted back. I pulled a back flip in midair so I didn't bore the crowd with everyday tricks. I stood still in the middle of the space, waiting. Reiko took his cue and made his way out of the crowd. There wasn't much I could do with a slight thirteen year old boy, not as much as I could with a full grown adult. But no one else trusted me as much as he did. I put my hands on his shoulders and slowly, so I didn't topple him, flipped over him. I stood straight for a minute, doing a complete handstand on his shoulders, before letting my legs fall the rest of the way. I pulled a few more tricks, including lifting him up while doing another handstand, before stepping away from him.

Reiko roared out, "I HOPE YOU'RE ENTERTAINED! PLEASE FEEL FREE TO DONATE MONEY TO KEEP OUR LITTLE SHOW GOING, THANK YOU!" I saluted the crowd and scaled the wall, using invisible chinks and cracks to climb. I ducked into the shadows and watched as very few people handed Reiko bills and coins while the rest despersed. I sighed, looked like another hard week. I made my way back to our hideout/home. I sat down and took a piece of wood out of the homemade basket that I had found on one of my 'suppliers', as I called the people who helped me, stands. Not only did I preform, I also sold wood carvings.

I inspected the foot long log in my hand. It was generally straight, except from a slight curve at one end. The most troublesome flaw was a two inch knot in the middle of the piece. I groaned fustrated, this carving would have to be realively small to avoid the knot. I picked up my dull kunai and set to work, first things first, get rid of the bark. I dug into the wood and scaped along the grain, peeling back a sliver of the papery smooth bark and set it aside. One thing I learned over the years, you could always find a use for something. I continued the boring task of stripping the wood of it's bark, then, once the last piece fell, began to work on digging the knot out. Soon my right hand was sore and red from the hard kunai handle. I switched hands and continued.

Reiko finally made it back just as I finished smoothing out the hollow that the knot had left. I caught a glimps of the sun setting behind the Hokages' mountain as he pushed back the ratty cloth that covered the doorway. I frowned at him, "Where have you been?" I demanded, just like the typical over protective older 'sister'. Reiko tossed me his bag of money, "Some thugs tried to get the money. I was lucky that the shinobi stepped in or we wouldn't have any food this week, except what you get from your 'suppliers'." I didn't trust the leaf ninja, or any ninja for that matter. No one had stopped my father from abusing me, they didn't protect me from the smacks and kicks I got from the villagers. Yet my 'little brother' still admired the shinobi as he should. Reiko didn't have my cursed luck. If he was in trouble the ninjas always found him in time. With me, they either ignored the Tiger Demon, or they were never there. It didn't matter.

I grumped and asked, "How much?" I held up the very light bag and shook it experimentally, hardly a jingle. Reiko shurgged, "Enough to either have one hot meal between us, or enough for one cold meal each." I groaned, looked like we would be relying on my 'suppliers' this week. I pushed my raven hair out of my orange eyes and looked up at him. "So... do you want to get supper with our money, or use it as a last resort?" Reiko thought about it, "Supper, I'm starving." I rolled my eyes, "You aren't the one who works." Reiko punched me in the arm playfully and I laughed. I only laughed around Reiko, no one else.

I took my 'brother' to Ichiraku Ramen, the one place that treated me decently. The kind old man and his daughter smiled when they saw me coming with a hand on my 'brother's shoulder. "Tora, good to see you! How long has it been again?" I settled on the seat farthest to the right, Reiko sitting on my left, "I don't know, three weeks maybe?" The chef laughed and placed two bowls in front of us, "Enjoy. Tonight's on the house." I smiled at him. This is why I liked coming to Ichiraku Ramen, five times out of ten we get to eat for free. I broke apart the chopsticks and began to eat, pausing every now and then to talk with the chef's daughter. We were what some people could call friends, but if we ever met in the streets I wouldn't acknowledge her unless she called to me first. Reiko just shovled food into his mouth, not talking. I mentally sigh at his lack of manners, but after six years of trying to teach him I finally gave up.

The chef called out, "Naruto! Good to see you." I glanced at the new party sitting down two seats from my brother and immediatly look away. A genin team. I shook my head so that my raven hair curtained my face, shielding my scars from them. Reiko finally looks up from his bowl, admiration shining in his green eyes while my orange ones held distrust. The blonde boy about Reiko's age answered the chef, I guess he was Naruto. "Good to see you too!" He was the closest to Reiko with the others seated on the other side of him. He glanced over at us in polite curiosity, I ignored him but Reiko didn't, "Are you really a shinobi?" My eyebrow twitched, it should be obvious due to the Hitai-ate. I elbowed him to keep him quiet, but Reiko was in charge of his own mouth, not me. the Naruto kid nodded and moved his headband so that the metal plate reflected the ramen stand's lights, "Yep." He chuckled then squinted at Reiko, "You look familiar." It was Reiko's turn to chuckle, "You might have seen me in the orphange when we were younger, I'm Reiko." That stilled me, did Reiko know Naruto from before I took him? I never knew that.

Naruto thought back, his blue eyes narrow in consentration. His face looked so comical that I could help but smirk. Then he peiced it together, "Reiko? The one who disappeared right before we went to the Academy?" I winced at that, wishing once again that I had either let Reiko go or grabbed him before the night they were to go to the Academy. Reiko nodded happily, "Yeah, that one. But I didn't disappear, I left." Naruto's eyebrows were pulled even farther down his nose, "Why?" I finally spoke up, keeping my eyes on my bowl of ramen, "Because I asked him to." "And you are?" The jounin asked, looked over Naruto's head while the other two genin leaned around him. I didn't take my eyes off my bowl but comtept grew in my voice as I spat out, "Tora. The Tiger Demon." Naruto looked surprised, as did his team mates but the jounin's face mask hid his reaction. I pushed my hair behind my ear so they could get a good look at my adnormal colored eyes and scars. The girl genin gasped. I always wore a mask when performing so I didn't scare away the crowd, but I always took it off after the proformance.

I turned away from them, ignoring the shinobi as I continued to eat. The jounin asked Reiko after a moment of silence, "Why didn't you go to the Academy?" Reiko shrugged, "Because my adopted sister never did." It warmed my heart to no end when he said that, even in my bad mood. The jounin glanced at me then back to Reiko, "Why didn't she?" Obviously he knew I wouldn't answer any questions. Reiko shrugged, "I don't know." I never told anyone why I didn't go, but it was rather a simple reason, who would want the Tiger Demon in a class room? For all they know, I might try to kill my fellow class mates. I stood abruptly, not wanting to hear them talk about me as if I wasn't there, "Thank you for the ramen." I said to the chef and his daughter. They nodded and smiled, "Come back again, we love having you." The chef said. I twitched a smile and turned around, calling over my shoulder to Reiko, "Be home before dawn." I really didn't care what he did, he was his own master as I was mine. I was in no positon to order him around, even if I was three years older.

When I got back to our home I sat down on the roof to stare at the stars. I smiled, no matter how difficult my life would be, the stars would always comfort me, they were my constant companions, my closest friends. I could sit up for hours just watching the stars march across the night sky. Reiko didn't understand my need for them, just like I didn't understand his awe for shinobi. I sighed and looked away from the sky. Reiko. He wasn't like me, he needed human contact, I couldn't keep him anymore. I knew what I must do, and I knew Reiko would hate it, but deep down he would thank me someday.

I had to let him go, to give him back to the village, before they shunned him like they did me.

^o^

So what do you think? I know it's kind of slow right now (maybe) but hopefully it gets better (I say hopefully since I'm winging it)... any idea review and give them to me please! Reviews, even flaming ones, make me happy people! :3

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