The woman crawled forward toward the surf, away from the blazing heat of the volcano that had spawned her, and she shivered as a sudden wave spilled over her naked body. Panting she just lay there, allowing the waves to wash away her pain, and the elements to sing to her their perpetual songs of Raw Power and fierce majesty, it was as she laid there panting that she suddenly heard it. The song that she had been searching for since the beginning of time. Shocked she staggered to her feet, unsteady at first, but rapidly gaining proficiency as she first stumbled, and then began a lumbering jog which quickly became a sprint. Without warning her form changed, her hair spreading across her body, her ears shifting to the top of her head, and with a sudden wrench she sprouted three vibrantly red-gold tails. Pausing only to shake herself for a brief moment, she took off at top speed even as a fourth tail emerged. She didn't care however, HE was there, and he still lived! Weeping openly she sprinted onward into fire country. The song beckoned, it lamented, but still it was there, soft and sweet, and she knew without a doubt that it was for her he sang.
"So the Kyuubi is dead?"
Naruto stood at attention. It had taken them nearly a week of slow, painful travel to get back to the land of fire, and another two days before they could flag down a patrol to transport them back. Naruto was a mess, His body hurt, his throat was raw, and his chakra was all over the place. Surging and ebbing without rhyme or reason. This had been the main cause for their slow travel. Naruto couldn't control his Chakra. And without it there had been no Ninja sprinting, especially as it require a good portion of Sakura's attention to keep it from hurting him when it surged, and to keep him from dying when it ebbed.
"I... I think so."
"Think so? Naruto how can you 'Think so' when it comes to a demon lord?"
Naruto remained silent for several long minutes
"Tsunade-Hime. I don't know. I know she's not here anymore." He said holding a hand over his stomach "But I don't know what happened exactly. I remember being dead. I remember her apologizing to someone, and then all I recall is pain until I came too with Sakura hugging me. I don't know anything beyond that."
"And your condition?"
"I don't know. It seems to be calming down but... I... I just don't know."
Tsunade took in the obvious exhaustion on his face and the faces of Sakura and Kakashi.
"Very well. Sakura? Is he stable?"
Sakura hesitated. While it was true that his chakra had settled somewhat in the last day and a half he was still getting dangerous spikes and ebbs.
"I'd rather he remain under observation for at least a couple of days. I've never heard of anything like this, and while he seems better I really don't want to see him relapse."
Tsunade took it as a sign when Naruto just sighed a little rather than ranting about how much he hated hospital.
"Very well. Kindly escort Naruto to the hospital and get him checked in. After that you can go home and get some sleep. You and Naruto are dismissed. Kakashi, please stay a moment."
Tsunade waited a few minutes until they had cleared the outer office before turning to Kakashi.
"We were about four days from Wave when..."
"So. You're going to stay here right?"
"No sneaking out early?"
"And you'll eat everything they give you, and follow..."
"Sakura. I'll be fine. All I really want is some sleep."
Sakura smiled slightly.
"I'm sorry it's just... I thought I lost you! I always knew there'd come a day when I might lose a teammate, but..."
She cut off when Naruto grabbed her hand.
"I know. Don't worry, just go home and get some sleep ya?"
She managed a weak smile.
"Alright. See you tomarrow."
He smiled back
Naruto stayed awake just long enough to see her walk out.
Jin Sighed as she looked out the window. Something had happened, She could feel it. It was like a pull on her spirit. He was back in town, she could tell that, she also suspected that he wasn't up to company as the pull was toward the hospital. A week and a half ago she had woken from a catnap in a massive panic. She had felt him straining, felt the tug of his life vanishing as he died, and then it had muted. The urgency was just gone as though it had never been. She had been ready to leave when Hinata had stopped her. She'd nearly attacked the Hyuuga out of reflex, but Hinata, Ninja-trained, had captured her hands before it could get past the 'first instinct' stage, and had sat her down to explain some things.
Their first talk had been a massive revelation, not the least of which was the fact that the Hyuuga had to have some of her blood. Not that Hinata had known that of course, but all the signs were there. It had taken a more in-depth story wrestled out of the reluctant Hyuuga heir over the course of the next couple of days for her to realize that it had been on her mother's side rather than her father's that the deity's blood had run. The ability to see the paths of the threads of reality was a gift that was incredibility rare, even among Fate's immortal children. For a mortal to have it was almost unheard of.
Hinata however finally settled down enough to start explaining what she knew and what she had seen. Jin had been in a shocked stupor ever since. She had thought the Hyuuga heir had been stalking Naruto as a potential love interest, it was rather surprising therefore to find that Hinata had no romantic interest in him at all.
"Too dangerous, Too volatile, and I have no Idea how our blood would intermingle."
She had said. If her own gifts of seeing the future were to pass on, as well as Naruto's gift of changing it... it was simply too big a risk to take. It would only take one bad apple to doom a nation or beyond. So she had settled comfortably into the 'sister' role.
Jin wasn't sure herself, there was no denying she was tied to him somehow, the Imp had told her as much. Even as a deity there had been a pull, though it had changed over time. She wasn't sure how she felt toward the young man, but she'd be damned (again) before she let him know that.
What to do...
Naruto sighed in satisfaction as he signed the register with a flourish. He'd been cooped up in the hospital for a week and a half now, but finally, FINALLY, he was free again. Hell, he'd heard from Hinata and Jin yesterday that his glass was here already! Truly the month had flown past.
"Ready to go home Naruto-kun?"
Naruto grinned at Jin, and was slightly surprised when Hinata chimed in as well. He could see the mischief dancing in her eyes as she asked
"Escort me Naruto-Dono?"
The look on the faces of the attending medics was amusing, some cross between Shock, surprise, and mild annoyance. He grinned at them as he held out an arm to her.
"As you wish milady."
Getting into the act Jin looped her arm through his on the other side.
"Indeed. Lead on Milord."
The three of them managed to get outside the doors before both girls burst into laughter. The disgust the doctors had barely concealed seeming stupidly funny as they walked away.
Hanabi Scowled at the wall opposite her. She wasn't sure who did it, but her father had been alerted to the fact that she was slowly usurping his position, and she had been sent to her room to 'meditate on the balance of power and responsibility'. Growling she stared at the picture she had pulled out from under her nightstand.
Blonde bastard. It's all your fault.
She had been brooding over this fact for the last couple of hours, and the creased and slightly charred picture stood as mute testament to that fact.
Nothing's been going right since you stepped into the picture.
She could still recall the smug grin on his face as he handily sidestepped her attack, the smug arrogance as he calmly listed out the things he could do to her when she had tried to put him back in his place. The casual dismissal of her as a threat.
Treat me like a child will you!
Grabbing the picture she crumpled it up at threw it against the far wall, adding a few more creases as she did so. He frustrated her on so many levels, including a few she was carefully not thinking about.
I'll show you. You'll be begging me on your knees at the end, and I'll just casually dismiss you. Order you to be branded like a branch member. After a couple of days I'll go see your cell, see if your ready to serve me as...
immediately she cut off that line of thinking. It was dangerous, and she still had to figure out how to get her hands on the reigns of power. It would certainly be more difficult now that he was alerted, but if she were to...
Haishi sighed. It was becoming more and more obvious that he had allowed the elders too much power in an attempt to win them to his point of view. It had never been more obvious than now. After the debacle with Hinata and Naruto, he had put his foot down. He had gone back to his father's 'Because I told you too' attitude, and to his vast surprise, they had folded. Oh their initial reaction had been to dig in their heels, and fight him, but once he started giving orders instead of making suggestions, they had been surprisingly docile.
It hadn't been difficult at all to stabilize his power again. The council had gone back to wary respect and careful suggestion, the branch family had stopped their quiet murmuring in the corners, and... well... Hanabi was still a problem. He'd obviously spoiled her too much as she was abusing her power over her fellow clan members.
How to temper that brash arrogance into a proper leader though? Maybe if I...
"Haishi-Sama? Hanabi-chan would like a word with you."
"What you intend to do to Uzumaki-saa... erm... -Sama for his 'blatant disrespect'"
"Send her in."
Yugito couldn't help but smile as the walls of Konoha became visible over the surrounding forest. She'd made good time from Lightning to fire, and had been surprised how easy it was to find a Caravan willing to let her join them for the last leg of her journey.
I still don't see why we're bothering to keep an eye on this stupid brat, It's not like he's...
Her train of thought was cut off by a team as they walked past, and she couldn't help but grin a little to herself at the tight fitting clothing.
Then again, who am I to complain about the will of the 'Kage
She carefully suppressed a leer and casually began to eavesdrop the group. Information gathering at it's finest of course.
"Gai-Sensei said that when we finish for the day we should try to spend more time together! That it will build our group awareness and make us a more cohesive team!"
She frowned a little at the Hyuuga as he replied.
"I understand that Lee, and I'm certainly willing to do so within reason. The fact of the matter however is that most nights I have other responsibility's, and many of them that I don't, you are busy with your 'Challenges of youth' or whatever you and Gai do during your private training."
Lee however shook his head
"No, we have both been making excuses. I know! A challenge of our Youth to prove that we are still..."
Yugito's attention was pulled away suddenly by a blonde with lines tattoo'd on his face.
In an unconcious reaction that Yugito would have violently denied had anyone been foolish enough to call her on it, She licked her lips and ran her hands down her rather simple outfit in an effort to smooth out the wrinkles. She knew that voice. It was much younger than Her Kage's, but it held a similar timber, and much like she had once wanted to get his attention, she was rather eager to make a good impression on this new...
Almost violently she snapped that thread of thought and stopped her hands in mid-motion.
No. Bad Yugato. You are over your crush on Raikage-sama. You are not going to get one on a foreigner, especially not a Target of all things.
Deep in her mind however the Nibi was having some very dirty thoughts about a man with similar eyes. His hair had been Red of course, but Uzumaki had been a very profound and exemplary lover. It was quite a pity he had been sterile as well. She would have loved to have a kitten or two off of him.
While the Nibi was reminiscing, and Yugito was getting flustered for no reason she could understand, Hanabi had finally gotten the audience she had 'humbly requested' with her father.
"... and that's what you're going to do."
Hanabi had considered several courses of action in regards to her father before deciding that a direct and orderly take over was the best option. Hashi was momentarily stunned speachless by the audacity of his youngest child, and the Branch member that hanabi had brought along to witness her rise as the new head of the family was keeping a perfectly straight face in spite of wanting to laugh histarically. Hanabi was either an excellent comedian, or just asking to be branded.
Haishi steepled his fingers in front of himself.
"You may get out of my seat now."
The branch member closed her eyes and prayed for the girl's soul.
" I have a better Idea. After all a Hyuuga cannot truly lead with the kind of defeat you have hanging over her head."
Hanabi paled and then flushed in rage.
"I already told you..."
"... And I think it a waste of valuable family resources. So I tell you what. When you defeat Uzumaki as thoroughly as he defeated you. I will of course put you in your proper place in this family."
"Then I require.."
"No, I'm afraid that's denied. He defeated you in single combat which you initiated. When you defeat him the same way I will declare your defeat expunged and put you in your rightful place. Until then I'm afraid that I will have to ask you to leave. I wouldn't want to waste any of your valuable planning time afterall. No doubt I will be seeing you shortly."
Hanabi's mouth opened and closed several times before she turned and stomped out of the room. The branch member made to follow until Haishi held her back.
"Try to keep her safe please. Unfortunately I don't have time to deal with this as it should be right now. Send a message if she actually manages to become a credible threat to him please."
"Thy will be done Haishi-Sama."
With that she backed out of the room, and after she'd left, Haishi indulged himself with a temple rub.
What am I going to do with that girl...
Yugito jumped at the hand that suddenly appeared on her shoulder.
"Got you too huh?"
Yugito blushed from shame. A civilian had managed to sneak up on her!
"I'm sure I don't know what you're talking about."
Ayame snorted delicately.
"Mmm Hmm... Naruto has more than his share of admirer's these days, most of them the new arrivals."
In spite of herself Yugito was curious...
"only new arrivals? Either I'm blind or your villagers are stupid."
Yugito's blush magnified, and unintentionally that statement shook off a pair of ANBU who had previously been suspicious of her.
Ayame however laughed
"Come on inside, I'll give you a bowl of Raman and tell you a little bit about Uzumaki Naruto."
Naruto Sighed to himself. His house was done, His chakra was properly stable again, and his mourning was almost up. He didn't know exactly why he'd asked for it, nor why Tsunade-Hime had given it to him, but he'd been allowed the requisite week of mourning given to the teammates of fallen comrades after the loss of Kyubbi.
Oh he didn't mope about all day, he got out and about, but he still spent a great deal more time than usual contemplating his life and the village. He thought quite a bit about Kyuubi too. She wasn't exactly the best of company, but in the end she had done something she didn't have to do. She had saved him.
The all Powerful being who had been more of a force of nature than a creature. The being that had killed both of his parents and reduced him to the most hated person in the villiage had Saved. Him. With no real gain of her own... Frankly, it boggled his mind. And now he was... More? Less? Something had changed anyway. His wounds didn't heal quite as fast as they used to, though it was still well above average, but he had gained things too. Occasionally he'd catch glimpses of things he was sure couldn't exist. Tree's that sang, Animals that spoke plainly, and for a moment he had sworn he saw a massive blue dome stretched over the whole of Konoha... it was downright Maddening! Sighing he turned back to the window.
It would straighten it's self out... it just had to!
Kyuubi swallowed hard at the sight of the Massive blue dome that surrounded Konoha, It was because of that she hadn't just gone barreling in to find Minato. Minato... It was still hard to believe he could possibly be alive, but she could feel him still, and the very air seemed to sing of his presence. Even in the boy she should have felt it. That was how strong it was...
Where have you been these past years? Why haven't you been watching over your child? Or have you? Or was your end of the deal considered complete when I saved the brat and they returned you?
Granted it wasn't a very likely scenario, but from what she had observed of the man before her little Indiscretion, he wasn't the type to stand Idly by when he saw something like what had happened to Naruto. Even with no memory of who he was she was sure he would have acted to intervien in naruto's life.
Sighing She adjusted her hat and brushed her dress back down. The cart would be there in a day or so, and she had until then to figure out what she was going to do with herself.
A day later Yugito sat and stared at her Tampura. Her discussion with the Ramen girl the day before had been both enlightening and very very frusterating. It tore at her that she wasn't allowed to tear a swath through some of the idiots in this village.
You don't treat a demon like that, they'd snap and kill you in a heartbeat, and if he's no demon then you certainly don't treat the container like the prisoner...
It frustrated her somewhat because the boy's life mirrored her own so closely. Oh she hadn't had any of the outright hostility that Naruto had, but she had more than her share of wary respect. There was something funny about the fact that here the civilians slightly feared the boy and the Ninja respected him where in Lightning it had been the civilians that respected her, and the ninja that somewhat feared her.
What a stupid country...
She was also fairly sure that the easy way, and possibly the hard way of getting the boy were both out. He had ties deep enough that he wasn't likely to come of his own free will, and if rumors were true, he actually managed to... Well Not kill... she'd believe a Bijju could die when she saw it, but at least Excise his demon while retaining it's powers. That kind of skill and dedication... She;d have to catch the boy flatfooted and exhausted to capture him, and keeping him drugged enough to be safe for transport all the way back might damage his mind, and she rather suspected that the Rai-kage would be upset if she did that...
Worse, she'd spent the latter part of yesterday scouting his dwelling, and the Nibi had a rather strong reaction when she'd gotten too close... it had been... frisky? Agitated? Whatever had happened she'd had to draw some attention to herself to escape the press of the crowd before her resident demon had caused a scene. Even now she was sure she could feel eyes on her back as though she were watched.
Dammit! What to do...
Kyuubi shook herself as she tore her eyes away from the girl in the Tampura shop. She knew that Chakra. It was the Damned cat sticking it's nose where it didn't belong again! Something must have tipped it off that there was a person of intrest in Konoha and it had come to investigate.
Damn My luck... Minato, you had better appreciate what i've gone through these last few years.
Naruto Sighed. At Tsunade's request he'd moved back into his old apartment for the week. It seemed that his new compound needed to have it's monitoring equipment adjusted and having anyone in it while this occurred could throw off the calibration. Hinata and Jin were currently 'Guests' at the Hokage's palace for their own safety... and he suspected so that Tsunade could grill them throughly about their intentions toward him... and he appreciated it! Really he did! Unfortunately that ment he'd been left along to deal with the civilians again.
He wasn't sure who had done it, but the information that the Kyuubi had been permanently dealt with had been leaked to the general populace, and he'd had spent the entirety of the last week dealing with well wishing villagers who had shown up at all hours of the day and night to apologize and offer restitution and... Other things... to him.
For the orphan he had been it would have been pure heaven, and he probably would have done something very very foolish by now... like take one of the offers of marriage or... other things... that seemed to be offered every couple of hours. Thankfully he had access to other memories now and had been very tactful in declining them. That hadn't stopped his new fanclub however.
It seemed that Sandaime's law had been repealed without him being aware of it because once his generation had the true story of the Kyuubi explained to them he had been swamped with admirers.
Granted a number of the civilians stayed away thinking it a trick of some kind by the 'Demon boy' but they were by and large the minority now.
One more day and I can move out again... Just one more day...
Trembling Kyuubi climbed the battered steps of the apartment, noticing with nervous distraction all the little dents in the wall, subconsciously memorizing all the nicks and dings in the banister under her hand. She hadn't wanted to believe it, but she knew this path all too well... Minato was... was... She took a deep breath. Maybe the pull was her old mantle... or... or a obligation to apologize or...
It took such a short amount of time to travel up the three flights to his apartment, and yet it was a small eternity to her. Subconsciously she smoothed her stolen dress over her hips. Even racing until her burning muscles could take no more abuse, till fatigue or hunger demanded she sleep or eat it had still taken her a week to get here, and she was...Nervous? With a thrill of excitement she realized that for the first time in her eon's of existence, she, the Kyuubi-no-youko, felt the distinctly human emotions of anticipation and apprehension. She paused, suddenly realizing that while she had been reveling in the new sensations her feet had led her up the well-worn path to his door.
Taking another deep breath she knocked and waited with bated breath... but there was no reply, and suddenly she doubted, another first for her.
What if he sends me away, what if he won't even speak to me, or hates me for what I put him through.
Gathering up her faltering courage, she knocked again, knowing in her soul that even if he wasn't answering he was somewhere inside. There was another indeterminable pause before she heard movement inside.
There was a pause and then.
"Please go away. I'll be back on active duty tomorrow, you can request to speak to me through the Hokage's office, or specifically request my team through the Konoha contracts department."
Kyuubi drew a slightly shuddering breath. He was so close, and yet so very far away.
"I don't have a mission for you, I..." She faltered, unsure what to say or how to say it. "I'd like to speak with you."
There was another pause and she could faintly hear a sigh on the other side.
"don't worry about it, whatever it is you think you did is forgiven and forgotten. I have no grudges against anyone in this village, but by the same token I have no desire to hear any more apologies."
Most would have probably missed it but Kyuubi could hear the bitter edge to his voice as he cut her off.
"I see. I'm sorry but I have no interest in marriage at the moment, nor do I wish to entertain any proposals of any shape or form at the current time. Thank you for you interest and good night."
She heard him turn while muttering something about 'bloody fan girls', 'Stupid gold diggers' and 'crappy Namikaze legacy'. She could hear him starting to walk away, and in a panic yelled.
"Naruto-kun I'm alive!"
The footsteps paused, and the low steady sound of his heartbeat accelerated slightly, but he didn't say anything. Taking a chance she continued.
"Naruto, please. Please give me another chance!"
The heartbeat sped up just a tad more and Kyuubi heard his footsteps coming back. There was a pause and then she heard him whisper.
"Who are you."
Her own was beating at a mile a minute, and she could hear the blood rushing in her ears, something that until now had only happened in battle.
"Naruto-kun, it's me. The powers that be... they gave me my second chance, and... Please, let me in so we can talk."
The silence was deafening for nearly a minute before there was a slight 'click' sound and the door opened. Naruto was ragged looking, his eyes, though sharp and intelligent, were dark ringed as though he hadn't been sleeping well, she absently noted however that his clothes were clean, and his hair slightly damp as though he had just gotten out of the shower. She processed all this in the space of a few heartbeats as those crystalline eyes scanned her face. There was no flicker of recognition in them, and his heartbeat was slowing again.
"I ask again, who are you?"
"I'm... I'm the kyuubi"
"Sure you are."
Kyuubi dropped her voice.
"And you're not Naruto, you're Minato."
He stiffened slightly, his eyes scanning her face, looking for deceit before he pushed the door open a little more.
"I still don't believe you, but you have ten minutes."
The story took longer than ten minutes, but he didn't interrupt her. His emotions and scent cycling wildly from annoyance, to disbelief, to anger, and back to annoyance before finally settling on a slightly stunned and unnaturally calm acceptance as she finished up.
"And so I am here. I didn't want to admit it to myself before I was re-born, but now there can be no doubt, It's you! YOU are Namikaze Minato! YOU are my soul mate!"
There was a pause then, and her expectation hung thick in the air. Finally however Naruto sighed, shook his head, and answered
Naruto's voice was a whisper, hardly audible, but Kyuubi heard him and her eyes began to water, and her voice shook slightly.
"That's it then? You reject me after all? I don't blame you. I can't. not after what I've done to you, after what I made you do...but... but somehow I had thought you would still be able to find it in your heart to forgive me. Of course I of all people know that some wounds run far to deep to heal."
Kyuubi moved to stand up when she felt a hand on her wrist, holding her in place.
"Namikaze Minato died Kyuubi. The man he was doesn't exist anymore. Minato died when he sealed you."
A single tear rolled down her cheek as Kyuubi nodded her head, responding as she did.
"Then I suppose you shall go back to your teacher and training. Don't worry, I understand… I do… Just..." Kyuubi hesitated, not feeling worthy of asking for anything. The anger had long ago left her, and all that remained was a soul deep sadness. Determined however she pushed on. "Just… Think kindly on me. That's all I ask, please don't remember me with spite or malice in your heart."
This time she stood, but Naruto's hand didn't release her, if anything he held on a little tighter.
"I said Namikaze Minato died. Uzumaki Naruto however still lives."
Naruto's head had fallen forward toward at the end, and the curtain of his hair kept her from reading his face, but when he looked up, Kyuubi could see the unshed tears in his eyes.
"I cannot say that I will love you, I can't even be certain that I am fully aware of all of who I am, but I tell you this, I will give you a chance. I don't like what you did, but I am well aware of what jealousy can make a person do. For that reason alone you will get what Judgment told you he would grant you. I too give you just one more chance. Don't fail me."
With that Naruto smiled slightly before he stood and walked out of the house, calling over his shoulder as he did.
"I'll speak with the Hokage about this. For now just wait here for me to return."
With that he was gone, leaving Kyuubi trying to control the tears of joy that now slid down her cheeks.
AN: Another one up and down, I'd apologize for the delay, but thats life...
So, Was that last scene too over the top? I debated a bit over whether or not to revise it, but frankly I refused revision. It's been kicking around in one of my 'Misc scenes' folders for over a year now, an it just seemed to fit the story... What do you think?