"Ngh…" Naruto stirred slightly. This caused a flurry of activity around the boy's bed. He heard voices, both familiar and unfamiliar.
"He's awake, go get Jiraiya-sama."
"Yes Headmaster. I'll be right ba-GET BACK IN BED MR. UCHIHA."
"Dobe. Open your eyes already. "
"Shut up, teme." Naruto replied weakly and cracked his eyes open.
Turning his head to the right he spotted Sasuke sitting up in a bed next to his. The black-haired boy was clad in a light shirt, bandages forming a visible lump under the thin fabric. At the sight of that Naruto's grin faded and he looked back at the ceiling. Spotting movement out of the corner of his eye, his jaw dropped when he saw all seven of his comrades draped about his and Sasuke's beds, asleep. That and the large stack of gifts piled on the end of his bed…Seeing a flash of white he finally noticed Dumbledore sitting in a nearby chair smiling benevolently. His face paled and he fought the impulse to run.
"Naruto-kun." The old man answered calmly. Naruto shifted his weight, pulling himself up into a sitting position.
"What're you doing here?"
"The Ministry might object to having their employee…"
"Attacked? Assualted? Nearly savaged?" Naruto spoke bitterly, glaring at his hands that were spread on the blanket covering him.
"Er, assaulted would work. But the point being, you attacked Professor Umbridge. Care to tell me why?"
Naruto shook his head, glancing back at Sasuke who had his back turned on the room and its occupants. I'll have to tell the rest of us- they saw me… He was distracted by his melancholy thoughts by someone entering the hospital ward. The door banged shut, the sound waking the sleeping shinobi. They stretched, rubbing their eyes wearily before spotting a subdued Naruto.
Jiraiya, who was walking in with Madame Pompfrey narrowed his eyes slightly at the scene before him. Naruto was staring at the blanket covering him, the genin were sitting around his and Sasuke's bed- even if Sasuke's back was the only thing visible. He sighed before calling out.
"Oi gaki! How're you feeling?" He called out raising a hand in greeting. Everyone jumped a little, with the exception of Dumbledore and Sasuke. Jiraiya sweatdropped before focusing on Naruto.
"I feel…okay, I guess. Nothing a night's rest didn't take care off." Naruto grimaced, a hand inching towards his stomach. Madame Pompfrey snorted with some scorn.
"As if a mere night's rest could cure the fact that I had to dig out no less than four arrowheads from your back! You won't be getting out of here for at least a week!"
Naruto mumbled something under his breath that sound like "As if that damn fox would let me die…" while Jiraiya placed a slightly restraining hand on the medical witch's shoulder and sent a significant look at Dumbledore who nodded slightly, before standing.
"Poppy could you give us some privacy?"
"Yes Headmaster." Madame Pompfrey sent both of her patient's critical looks before sweeping past the assembled group to close her office door. Dumbledore stood up, brushing his robes before bowing slightly in Naruto's and Sasuke's direction.
"Well then I take my leave. I trust, Jiraiya-san you'll join me shortly? The Ministry will, no doubt, want a full report."
Jiraiya grimaced but nodded. Dumbledore left, robes swishing quietly. As the door banged softly shut everyone turned their attention back to Naruto. He shifted uncomfortably under all the attention. Even Sasuke had finally deigned to recognize the blonde's (along with the rest of the worlds) presence. Finally, the jinchuuriki snapped.
"What?!" He asked in a slightly defensive tone, looking at them all. Everyone stayed quiet, trying to think of a tactful way to ask the questions that were begging to be asked. Jiraiya watched as Naruto grew more nervous, working himself up. His eyes narrowed as he caught a hint of Kyuubi's chakra.
"Naruto!" he barked, "you're starting to leak, get a hold of your emotions."
Naruto look afraid and frowned in concentration, trying to relax. Jiraiya nodded in approval as the wisps of Kyuubi's chakra vanished. Jiraiya walked to Naruto's bedside and clapped him on the shoulder. "Good job. Now, I have to go deal with Dumbledore-san and unfortunately he needs to know, well…everything. Can I tell him?"
Naruto looked surprised that Jiraiya was asking him for permission but gave a slow nod of his head. "I think he's trustworthy." He muttered, hand drifting once more to his stomach. Jiraiya nodded solemnly and headed towards the door. Before he left the room however he sent the blonde a meaningful glare and mouthed "Tell them." With that he left the room.
Before yet another awkward silence could descend upon the room, and before he could lose his nerve, Naruto asked quietly, "I guess you guys want an explanation for last night?"
Everyone nodded and Naruto closed his eyes and let out a sigh, sinking a bit into the pillows supporting him. Everyone waited, with an expectant air about them. Finally Naruto opened his eyes and his mouth.
"Where to start…There's so much to explain."
"The beginning's a good place to generally start, dobe." Sasuke commented sardonically. Naruto glared at him for a moment before turning his attention back to the group in general.
"Ask a question. Any question, that'll help me explain."
Everyone stayed quiet for a moment for before Sasuke spoke up, his face serious. "Let's start with the term jinchuuriki." Naruto nodded, wincing a little mentally before replying.
"Jinchuuriki…" He spoke the word so that everyone could feel his disgust practically dripping off his tongue. "Jinchuuriki. Power of a human sacrifice. Anyone stuck with that term is usually doomed to a life of loneliness and hatred. Anyone stuck with that term is someone unfortunate to have a bijuu sealed inside their bodies at birth."
"What's a bijuu?" Asked Sakura, face expressing her curiosity.
"A tailed demon. They're beings of great power, rumored to be made out of chakra. There are only nine, named for the number of the tails they own. Ichibi's the weakest with only one tail; Kyuubi is the strongest with his nine tails." Naruto explained.
The genin sat in shocked silence for a moment before Naruto continued. "You already know one jinchuuriki- Gaara; he's got Shukaku, the one tailed tanuki sealed inside him. You all saw his power- and Shukaku's the weakest of the nine. Me? " He laughed somewhat bitterly before continuing. "I'm at the other end of the spectrum…Lucky me; I've the great and terrible Kyuubi no Kitsune stuck inside me."
He stopped, watching everyone's reactions. Kiba's jaw dropped, Shino's expression remained hidden beneath the collar of his coat. Ten-Ten's mouth was slightly open while Sakura and Hinata eyes had widened, Hinata with- were those tears in her eyes? Sasuke, Naruto absently noted didn't look that surprised.
Surprisingly, Kiba was the first to speak again. "So…we've been lied to about happened when the Yondaime defeated the Kyuubi?"
"Yeah. Everyone in our generation was told that the Kyuubi was killed when he was actually sealed in me. The old man made it an S-class secret; it was an attempt to give me a…normal childhood." Naruto gave a hollow laugh, shoulders shaking. Everyone was a little surprised to tears trailing down the blonde's face. "Did you know, the Fourth wanted me to be seen as, as a hero? But, the villagers…well, they kind of tried to kill me, and more than once."
Everyone gasped at that. Naruto suddenly found himself being hugged by Hinata and Sakura. Slowly everyone else joined in until Naruto was surrounded by his friends- except for Sasuke and Shino. Naruto's gaze found Sasuke's and after a few moments, the Uchiha rolled his eyes but clambered out of his bed and joined in the hug. Shino just stood back until Kiba freed an arm and yanked the reserved genin into the hug. Shino merely grunted in surprise.
Eventually the hug was broken up, though everyone stayed close to Naruto's bed. He had stopped crying and was looking much calmer. The others were asking questions about Kyuubi and the like.
"So what exactly does having the Kyuubi sealed in you affect?" That one was posed by Sakura.
"Well…enhanced healing- most injuries will heal after a night's rest. Nearly unlimited chakra and stamina…When I run out I can call on the damn fox's chakra. Though if I use too much...well, you saw what happens. Ero-sennin says the fox's personality starts supplanting my own."
"Huh. That explains most of your unexplainable quirks. What about the whisker marks?" Sasuke this time, with a smirk. Naruto glared before responding.
"Kyuubi calls 'em possession marks- they're like the rings around Gaara's eyes; they show that I have a bijuu sealed inside me."
"He talks to you? Kyuubi, I mean." Ten-Ten spoke up for once, having stayed mostly quietly.
"All the time, mostly about how I should destroy or kill everything, or let him loose to have, as he puts it, some fun. I've learned to ignore him, so it's not too bad. On occasion the baka-kitsune has actually been useful." Naruto rolled his eyes, grinning as Kyuubi let loose with a torrent of mental abuse from his cage. "He's cussing me out right now, actually."
Everyone chuckled at that, while Naruto told the fox to shut up. They continued talking until Madam Pompfrey kicked everyone out.
After she had left and turned out the lights Naruto hopped out of bed and hunted for his clothing along with Sasuke's. He eventually found them, in Madame Pompfrey's office, casually chucking Sasuke's clothing into their owner's face. Both boys climbed out of their flimsy hospital gowns, climbing into their own clothes with sighs of relief. Naruto paused long enough to scratch off the bandages that dotted his body. Sasuke raised an eyebrow as the boy casually tossed the shredded cloth in a corner.
"What? It's not like I need the damn things any more." Naruto said, looking faintly surprised. "I already told you guys, the baka-kitsune heals me. Look, not even a scratch." He lifted his shirt to reveal smooth skin, with only faint scars to show where the centaurs' arrows had pierced his flesh. Sasuke shrugged and the pair left the hospital wing, parting ways to return to their respective common rooms.
Dumbledore steepled his fingers and gazed levelly at Jiraiya. The perverted hermit gazed back at him, having finished his explanation a few minutes ago.
"So, Mr. Uzumaki is the container for the most powerful demon in your land…interesting."
"Yes. The seal is strong, Minato made sure of that- but if Naruto chooses to access too much of the fox's chakra, everything will be in danger." Jiraiya's eyes darkened at the thought, but he shook his long white mane. Dumbledore hmmed a response as he got up and stared out his window.
"From you've told me, he only accesses the chakra in emotionally charged situations, and those are usually life-threatening ones at that. Hardly something I think we'll encounter here at Hogwarts."
Jiraiya coughed uneasily and waited until Dumbledore had turned to face him before speaking. "From what I saw last night, as well as today in the hospital wing, the seal has grown to be even more sensitive to Naruto's emotional state. I'm almost tempted to place another seal on him to block the fox's chakra if it didn't mean his already horrible chakra control would go to hell."
"How do you suggest we handle that then?"
Jiraiya shrugged helplessly. "It depends on how the other genin took the news. If they rejected him, as he's expecting…I'll have to tell Tsunade to pull him back to Konoha. But, if they accept him and his burden, they should be enough to keep him from going into a tailed state."
Dumbledore nodded and Jiraiya stood up, chuckling. "Well if that's all...I'd best tell Pompfrey-san not to worry when she finds her patients missing." Dumbledore cocked an eyebrow and Jiraiya hastily explained. "Both boys are notorious, Naruto especially, for their hatred of hospitals. As soon as they can, they escape."
Dumbledore laughed as he escorted Jiraiya out of his office. "I'd best accompany you then."
The pair walked down to the hospital to find Madame Pompfrey in a controlled fury as she straightened up the noticeably empty hospital ward. Jiraiya threw Dumbledore an "I told you so" glance before excusing himself to go check on the genins. Dumbledore sighed before carefully approaching the irate nurse.
Jiraiya ducked into the portal and kept his head lowered as he walked down the small tunnel. Raising his head he let out a small smile of relief as he spotted Naruto surrounded be all of his comrades in front of the large fire. Naruto spotted him and waved, calling out.
"Ne, Ero-sennin!" Jiraiya twitched as he weaved between the students in between him and the fire.
"Brat, I thought I told you not to call me that!" He growled, staring down at the boy sprawled lazily in front of the flickering flames. Sasuke raised an eyebrow, looking at the white-haired man.
"Perverted Hermit?" He said. "Do I even want to know?" Naruto laughed, smirking. "It all started when I saw him pee-" Jiraiya quickly clapped a hand over Naruto's mouth, glaring at the blonde.
"If you want to ever learn a super-cool jutsu from me again you will stop right there. Got it?"
Naruto sat upright, looking horrified at the prospect of never learning a jutsu again and promptly shut his mouth, ignoring the confused looks his comrades shot his way. He shoved Jiraiya's hand away.
"Got it." He said, scowling a little at his fun being ruined. Jiraiya smiled before cocking his head towards a darkened corner. "Talk to you for a second?" He muttered. Naruto pouted for a second before standing up and starting to follow the Sannin over.
"Naruto, where you going?" He heard Sakura ask. He just turned his head and smiled back at his friends. "Ero-sennin wants to talk me for a second, don't worry!"
Jiraiya watched the blonde grin and nod, a small smile tugging at the corners of his lips. He was distracted from his thoughts as Naruto looked at him curiously.
"What do you want Ero-sennin?" He asked, cocking his head to one side.
"I take it they're fine with your ah, furry tenant?"
"Yeah, they took it pretty well. Why you ask?" Both males sounded serious, something unnatural for the pair. Jiraiya shrugged.
"I just wanted to make sure. So you'll be alright for the rest of the mission?"
Naruto smiled slowly, looking back at his friends, clasping his hands behind his head. "Yeah, I'll be alright….I'll be just fine."
Author's Note/Edit (December 18th): Whoops, I realized that I'd forgotten to add an ending author's note and place the story status on "complete"...I've done that now so all those people who kept adding me to their story alerts won't eventually PM me demanding a new chapter- because there won't be on, this little mini-fic is complete.
Woot, my first story on ffnet is complete and some people acutally liked it (gasp) Thanks to anyone who reviewed (haha), added me to their Story or Author Alerts, or even on their Favorite lists. Thanks to my wonderful beta Inuluvr for helping me smooth over the rough patches and keeping me from giving into my inner Ritsu
Inner Ritsu: YOU FAAAAAAAAAAAAAIL THEY HAT-gets shoved in a box