Title: Door Number Two
Author: Reaper Nanashi (Lady Shinigami)
Pairing: None Intended
Word Count: 2,682
Type: Multi-Chapter (Work In Progress)
Rating: T (bad words, sexual innuendos, blood, violence)
Date Submitted: 12/29/06
Disclaimer: My name has no letter 'm' or 'k' in it, so I must not be Masashi Kishimoto.
Claimer: Genko, Byako, Shakko, Hotaru, Nyoko, Aya, Hitomi, Shinju, Akane, Takako, Tsukiko, Mimi, and anyone or anything related to them is mine.
Summary: Maybe it's a dream, maybe it's real. Naruto doesn't know how he got there, but he's not sure he wants to go home. Perhaps the little decisions aren't so little after all; one choice can change a life forever . . .
The Reasoning Behind It: There are precious few of this type of fic (maybe three). Two of them were either poorly written, did not fully explore the possibilities of the concept, had been dropped mid-story, or some combination thereof. The third one, QuestofDreams and Lazuli's Parallels (plugplug) isn't exactly what I had in mind myself, but its originality is fascinating and I love the whole fic. One day, I'll remember to go back and write some kind of review saying so, even if it's otherwise incomprehensible gibberish, but in the meantime my review is right here: IT'S REALLY, REALLY GOOD. I advise everyone to go read it, but homophobes beware: it features prominent boy-on-boyness.
Chapter One - Opening the Door
Something was wrong.
Not in the sense that he was in pain or having trouble recalling the last thing he had been doing--which he was--but in the sense that the whole world felt alien. There was no mingled fear and hatred permeating the air like usual.
It felt . . . ordinary.
Opening his eyes, he made a visual survey of the area. It was definitely a hospital, but the bed was softer than he remembered and the room itself was more decorated and pleasant. A large vase of flowers sat on the bedside table and the curtains were a warm pastel blue. There was room for another bed there, but instead of a hospital bed there was a comfy-looking futon that appeared very much slept in.
Probably Iruka; nobody else really cared enough to stay that long.
He realized suddenly that he had to go to the bathroom very badly and spent two minutes pulling needles and tubes out of his arms and . . . other places.
Catheters were the invention of demons.
The heart monitor shrilled a flatline and he winced as he shuffled over to the bathroom. Turning the light on also turned on a hidden vent that rattled rather noisily, but it made a nice counterpoint to the heart monitor, so he did not mind. When he finished he flushed, washed his hands, turned the light-vent off, and stepped straight out of the bathroom into chaos. The room was swarming with alarmed medical personnel and very agitated ninja.
He groaned. He had been planning to go back to sleep. "Hey . . . Hey . . ." Apparently, he was not being loud enough. "HEY!"
That did it.
"Is it okay if I . . . you know . . . ask for some peace and quiet to rest?"
He expected to be scolded, muttered at, cursed.
Anything but what did happen.
"Oh, thank the gods!"
A strange woman was hugging him.
"Um . . ."
"Oh, sweetheart! You scared us!"
Sweetheart . . .
No one had ever . . .
This had to be a joke.
He pushed her away fiercely. "Who are you?" he demanded. "Who put you up to this?"
There was a startled silence before the woman began to cry. She turned to the doctors and cried accusingly, "You said he was all right!"
The doctors, seeming bewildered, said, "There was no sign of psychological trauma . . ."
Naruto crossed his arms. This was some big joke, he could tell. He had never seen any of these people--the ninja included--before. This was undoubtedly one of Jiraiya's schemes to throw him off and upset him to teach him some kind of lesson.
"Now now, Hotaru, don't point fingers yet."
He looked up to identify the new voice and felt the blood drain from his face.
"See?!" the woman insisted. "He doesn't recognize you either!"
"Actually, I think he does. You know who I am, kiddo?"
He swallowed and nodded dazedly, then watched the world tilt dangerously.
Arms--warm, gentle, comforting arms--went around him and picked him up. Even though it was surely a bad idea, he was so completely starved for that kind of tenderness that he found himself leaning into the embrace and was distinctly upset when he was put down on the bed, no matter how soft it was. Frantic, he reached out for the man's sleeve and pulled on it. "Don't go," he pleaded, hating to sound so weak and frightened but seeing no other way to keep that warm feeling close and at the same time get information.
The woman--Hotaru--brushed his hair back. "Honey, your father has to---"
"No, Hotaru, it's all right. If my staying will help him feel better I can certainly spare a few minutes." She hesitated and he assured her, "It'll be fine. You really should go see your friend like you were planning to and when you come back I'll go in for paperwork. After all, if there's one constant in the universe, paperwork is it. So go on; we'll have our man-to-man time while you're gone."
"All right. You win." Hotaru leaned in and pressed a kiss to his forehead. "Get some rest, sweetie."
"Okay . . . Mom?" he choked out awkwardly, hoping it did not sound as strange to them as it did to him.
He had . . . parents?
. . . He had parents . . .
Once Hotaru had gone, his father dismissed the ninja remaining in the room while the doctors performed various checks. "My apologies for the false alarm, gentlemen." The masked ninja saluted and vanished and the doctors exited shortly after.
His father turned to him. "So, kiddo, you say you know me. How so?"
"Um . . . What do you mean?"
"Considering your reaction upon first seeing me and then your response to your mother's apparent revelation that I'm your father, you didn't recognize me as such."
He wanted to say, 'It's because you're dead!' and go along in that vein until he was blue in the face, but he had to be careful. Now that he was thinking a bit more clearly, he was starting to think it was more than a practical joke. It seemed more like an enemy genjutsu meant to wind him up and break him down--a way to get information from him. He needed to be on his toes at all times, no matter what.
Quietly and with caution, he answered, "No, I didn't."
"Then tell me who you recognize me as. So we have somewhere to start."
"You're the Hokage."
A nod. "So you know where you are?"
Here, he hesitated. Because of Kyuubi, he had many enemies. Would the information be used against him? ". . . Naruto."
"Why are you so uncomfortable?"
"I want to go home," he replied.
"All right, I'll talk to the doctors. Maybe they'll let you go if I promise to have Nyoko's nurse watch you as well. Is it okay if I ask now?"
While the man was gone, he tried to figure out exactly what was going on. It did not feel like a genjutsu and all of his attempts to cancel any possible genjutsu turned up nothing. Calls to Kyuubi echoed hollowly.
Am I dreaming?
"Sorry, kiddo. The doctors say no. You'll have to stay here overnight for observation and evaluation. Do you think you can handle that?"
"I'm not scared. I want to go home, that's all. I just woke up a minute ago and I feel like I've been here forever."
He groaned and scrubbed his face with his hands. "I don't want to stay here. I feel fine."
"Try telling them that. By the way, what are these?"
He flinched slightly at the casual contact with his whisker marks--he could not recall any but himself ever touching them. "Um . . ."
"You know, I call you Little Fox, but I never intended for you to take it literally. Your mother is going to have a fit when she relaxes enough to notice that you have tattoos."
"They aren't tattoos! And are you saying you don't care?"
"Well they don't wash off--yes, I've already tried it. And of course I care; you've just made yourself the most eligible assassination target in the known world."
He had never been told that before--probably so as not to scare him--but it made perfect sense. "I'll take care of it." He would have to get some make-up.
"Please do. In the meantime, to save the both of us from your mother's wrath, I'll cover for you." Hand seals were formed and he felt something settle on his shoulders. "Fortunately for us, your mother isn't a ninja or this would never work. That illusion will wear off eventually, so 'take care of it' as soon as possible."
There was a long sigh and his father suddenly sank onto the edge of his bed like an old man. "Asserting your individuality is one thing, Naruto, but you really scare me when you're so obvious about it."
For the first time in his life he apologized for carrying Kyuubi. He could not say why he did, as he had never had the urge to at any point before, but it seemed like the right thing to do then. ". . . I'm sorry."
"Just remember that around here, being blond and blue-eyed makes you stick out from the crowd anyway, okay?"
It was only much later, when his father had gone and his mother had fallen asleep on the futon, that he realized the Fourth Hokage knew absolutely nothing about the nine-tailed fox demon sealed within him.
". . . Where the hell am I?"
His father--it was hard to keep thinking that, but he had to play along until he figured all of this out--nudged him. "You're being called."
His reply was utter brilliance--"Huh?"--and he turned in the direction that the other blond was looking only to be faced with something he had never seen less than ten feet away from him before. Startled, he leaped back into his father. "What is that?!" He actually did know what it was, but saying that was the first thing that had come to mind.
The Fourth Hokage chuckled and leaned down to put their heads at the same level. "Most people call them toddlers. What are they called where you're from?"
It was very irrational, he knew, to be afraid of a toddler. Especially when faced with such a cute one all by herself, but he knew absolutely nothing about children because he had never had the chance to be one. He was sure he would hurt her, or that Kyuubi would hurt her, and would prefer not to have to interact with her at all if possible. It was surely better if he kept his distance, that way she would not be injured.
"Naruto?" his father asked in concern, looking at him with clear worry. "What's wrong? Why are you so scared?"
Comforting arms went around him again and he realized how ridiculous he was being. He shook his head and forced himself to relax. "I just . . . don't remember . . ."
". . . Maybe you should have stayed in the hospital."
Naruto did not hear him because he was too busy staring at the tiny girl in front of him. She had crawled out to him and was attempting to stand; it apparently took a lot more effort than he had ever considered, because she had quite a time with it. When she at last accomplished this, she held her arms up expectantly. He found his body moving instinctively, bending down and fitting his hands beneath her short arms to pick her up. He concluded as he lifted her that he did not have the leverage for such a maneuver--he should have crouched and used his knees rather than his back. To correct this, he shifted to extend the right half of his pelvis to form a temporary shelf to readjust his grip. For the first time he was able to appreciate women's hips and wished he had a pair for instances like this. Sighing, he hefted the young girl again and quickly fit one arm and then the other beneath her diaper-clad bottom.
She squealed almost directly into his hypersensitive ear--foxes had fantastic hearing, after all--and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck. "Hi, Na'uto-niichan!" she squeaked, kissing his cheek sloppily.
"Hi," he responded, returning the kiss hesitantly.
"I miss you."
He came to the rather abrupt understanding that he loved this little girl dearly. It was not a choice he had made, but a deep-down acknowledgement of something that he could not explain. "I'm sorry. I know I was away a long time."
It was so easy to talk to children, he concluded. So easy to promise their innocent eyes the moon just to see them smile and make them happy. No one had ever done it for him, but he still wanted to do it for those bright hazel eyes. Even so . . .
"For a while."
He could not betray those eyes with an impossible promise.
Such soft thoughts, a familiar voice sneered in his mind.
It was a voice he had never before been so relieved to hear. Kyuubi!
If anyone could figure this out, it was the caged demon.
Ugh! Shut up before my head explodes, you little rat!
You sound bad. Need chakra?
It would be . . . helpful.
In most cases, Naruto made use of the fox's chakra. He could, however, provide a small amount of his own chakra to the fox for assimilation and replenishment. It was like jump-starting a motor and thus faster than waiting for the demonic chakra to refresh on its own, rare as those times were, so he went on an internal search for his own chakra.
Er . . .
. . . Perhaps you should have that looked at.
Is this it?! he screeched in shock, peering into the dilapidated and nearly empty well that symbolized his stamina. Where the hell did it all go?! He fished out what he could spare and passed it through the seal to the fox, trying to stave off the sudden exhaustion from the lack of sufficient chakra and totally unaware that he had drawn attention to himself.
The Fourth Hokage, having overseen the reunion between his two children, turned to his daughter's nurse. "Hitomi, could you watch over Naruto for a while?"
"Certainly. Is something wrong?"
"He's . . ." He sighed heavily. "He's . . . having memory problems. Severe ones. You saw how he was with Nyoko. He didn't recognize either Hotaru or myself as his parents, though he knew that I was Hokage." Hitomi gasped in concerned dismay. "He also knows this is Konoha, but that seems to be the limit. If he asks any questions he should already know the answers to, please just humor him."
"I understand completely, Hokage-sama, but if he's in such a condition shouldn't he stay in the hospital?"
He shook his head. "He doesn't want to be there. He asked yesterday if he could come home, but the doctors wanted him to stay overnight. Hotaru was with him and said he was up all night staring at the door to his room. I don't want him to stress out and break down. If being here in a familiar place with familiar routines can calm him, his memories might return to him faster. So---"
Hitomi waited, then leaned in slightly and asked, "Hokage-sama?"
He ignored her. Someone close by was playing with chakra . . . demonic chakra? The tiny flares he was reading reminded him of Kyuubi, but . . .
He looked down, startled, and saw Hitomi whisk Nyoko from Naruto's arms. He reached out reflexively, cradling his son carefully in one arm as the smaller blond slumped toward the earth. "Naruto? Naruto?"
Ready to rush back to the hospital, he was stopped when worn-out blue eyes eased open. "'M okay. A li'l tired, tha's all."
He sighed and lifted the almost lifelessly-relaxed body. "You want me grey-haired before I'm forty, don't you?"
". . . Sorry . . ."
He carried his firstborn to his own room and placed him carefully down on the bed. "Get some sleep."
"Wanna stay wit Nii-chan!" Nyoko shrieked.
He turned and tapped her warningly on the nose. "Shh. Your brother is trying to sleep." She squirmed uncomfortably beneath his intense gaze and when she was sufficiently quieted, he continued. "Your brother was in a big accident and he's very sleepy. He won't be able to play with you. If you want to stay with him that's fine, but you have to be quiet and still so he can rest. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Daddy," came the soft murmur.
To Be Continued . . .
Answers To Questions You Didn't Even Know You Wanted To Ask:
Please don't lecture me about hospital dos and don'ts and how and why it's dangerous to remove needles and other such things. I already know that, but Naruto's never exactly been the convalescent type, has he?
If you think it's weird that the Fourth didn't at least recognize Naruto's whiskers as marks of possession, rest assured that there is a reason and I'll get around to explaining it by the fourth or fifth chapter.
Also, please excuse Naruto's mushiness in regards to Nyoko. There's a reason (there's always a reason), and--believe it or not--it's not because he's a lonely orphan boy. Not totally, anyway.
Overall, I'm not quite sure I like this chapter. Too . . . I dunno . . . fast, I guess. Naruto's introduction to Nyoko probably could have been better, but I had nothing to base it on because I've never been around a kid that young. Ever. Every single blood relation on both sides of my family (aside from my little sister, who's only fourteen months my junior) is either at least three years older than me or dead.
Reviews are much appreciated, thank you.