Partly inspired by Kei's giant scorpion therapist (here). Partly because Kako needs someone too.

-/-

I swallowed nervously and checked again that there was no one in the area. My senses were strained to the furthest limit that they could be, and the perimeter seals I had learnt for exactly this purpose were all firmly in place.

I didn't want to do this.

I really didn't want to do this.

But, Kakashi-sensei was right. Everyone needed someone to talk to and if he could find someone he trusted enough to bare his soul to then so could I. His suggestions had been spot on as well once I'd edited out the suggestion of the memorial stone. Unlike my brother's. I loved them dearly, but that was exactly why I couldn't talk to him or Ino or Inoichi. Ignoring their obvious duty to tell the Hokage, I couldn't stand the thought of how they would look at me when it all came out. And talking to one of the T&I specialists who moonlighted as psychiatrists wouldn't have worked either…

So here I was.

I checked again, as carefully as I could. There was no one else in the area. I took a deep breath and let it out in a shuddering sigh. Then, in one swift motion before I could change my mind I slammed my bloody hand flat on the ground. There was the familiar rush of chakra going away, and then flooding back and I stepped back nervously. This was an unusual request, one he would be completely within his rights to refuse, but I needed someone.

"Heijomaru-sama," I said, bowing deeply, "I have a question, and depending on the answer, I may need to ask a favour."

-/-

The reverse summon the next night felt oddly like I imagined apparition would have been like. I'd told Dad where I was, and what I was doing. I hadn't told anyone else, but I shouldn't – didn't have to. It was none of their business. I had taken two weeks leave. Even if everything went horribly wrong, I could be spared for a couple of hours and I needed this. Even if we didn't get to the… complicated… parts, having someone to talk to freely…

"Chinami-kaa-san is waiting for you in the glade."

I blinked. I hadn't expected…

Heijomaru chuckled. "Chinami was leader of our Herd before me. There are none wiser or better able to help the young unravel their problems. She is also one of the few people that I cannot simply order around." He smiled at me, in a way I had only recently come to recognise. "You asked for privacy and one with whom you could share secrets safely. So long as it will not harm the Deer summons, you will find this with her."

"Thank you."

I bowed in response to his nod of acknowledgment and then stumbled on alone. There were only a few trees between myself and the clearing. In the middle there was an old doe, her fur a dark brown, threaded with light silver around her hooves, a large boulder to her far side. She blinked calmly at me and I resisted the urge to shuffle my feet. It was ok. I was their summoner. Our bond was sealed with blood and chakra.

"Thank you for seeing me Chinami-sama."

She hummed soothingly and blinked liquid black eyes at me calmly. "You need not use honorifics when you are with me, young one. Not unless it helps you to feel more comfortable."

I blinked. That was odd… but I was willing to accept it. I licked my lips which were suddenly dry. My hands were trembling. "Anything we speak of won't be shared? Its private?" I asked, just to confirm. I believed Heijomaru, but I had to be sure.

Chinami nodded slowly. "It is. Unless it is a danger to the Herd which I am sure Maru-kun has already explained."

My lips quirked at the nickname so similar to my brothers. Then I remembered why I was here, why I had requested this meeting. "Chinami-sama, I don't know how much your son has told you, but I need to speak to someone. I have too many secrets and I…" I trailed off, unsure how to explain the rest of it.

"Your shadow is wrong." She prompted, the words impossibly soft and gentle, accepting. "You are confused with your sense of self. Or perhaps you are ignoring parts of your whole."

I blinked. "Yes…"

She eased herself to her feet, stepping delicately over to me, before nudging me towards a comfortable looking patch of grass on the other side of where she had been sitting. It was at the base of the stone, and next to it was a wooden bowl of water. I took a drink – it helped with my dry throat.

"It will not be easy, but you can recover." She gazed at me with solemn black eyes. "Tell me why you have sought me out."

-/-

I returned later than I had planned. Shikamaru was in his room, his chakra dulled in sleep. Mum's was too. Dad was waiting up for me, one of the boards set up with the remains of a game. He glanced up when I came in. His eyes assessing. I felt tired, exhausted in a way that had nothing to do with the physical. At the same time though, I felt calmer, more relaxed. Dad must have sensed this because he relaxed slightly.

"It went well?"

I smiled at him. It was a little shaky, but it was genuine. "Yeah. I'm going back to talk some more day after tomorrow. Its… I like her."

He nodded in that calm way of his. "Good."

He stood up, stretching with a yawn. I hesitated, then impulsively gave him a hug. "I love you, dad."

He blinked down at me in surprise, even as his arms came up to hold me carefully. I tightened my grip and closed my eyes, feeling a little embarrassed. "I just wanted to say it. I don't think I say it enough."

He was silent for a second, before I felt one of his hands move up to rest lightly on my head. "I love you too."

We stayed like that for a few minutes, before his grip loosened and I let go reluctantly. When he turned and guided me upstairs to my room I went willingly, feeling unusually heavy. He hesitated at the door.

"Don't worry about your chores in the morning. I'll take care of them."

I blinked in surprise, but he was already moving down the corridor to his and Mum's room. A smile tugged at my lips and I fell into my bed. I had a long way to go. I had to deal with my own issues before I could start thinking about everyone else's' concerns but… I liked Chinami. She knew what she was talking about.

With her help, I was sure I'd get somewhere.