Title: Runaway (or, alternatively, how not to avoid romantic entanglements with friends)
Pairings: Namikaze Minato (the Yondaime Hokage) × Uzumaki Kushina
Ratings: PG-13 for now
Disclaimer: Naruto is not my property; I do have the same birthday as Uzumaki Naruto, though. :)
Summary: Spoilers for Naruto 367. 4th Hokage × Kushina. Uzumaki Kushina proves to Namikaze Minato you can run away, even when you don't go anywhere at all, because distance isn't just a matter of the physical.
Author's note: I want to give a shoutout to runawayachu, whose works simply rocks, and from where the title was partly 'inspired' from. This is partly an attempt to flesh out Kushina's character (as I envision her in my head) as well as Minato. God, I'm obsessed with this pairing."You cannot run away from a weakness; you must some time fight it out or perish; and if that be so, why not now, and where you stand?" Robert Louis Stevenson
1. The Drinking Party that Never Happened
At least, in Uzumaki Kushina's obstinate, desperate mind, certain parts didn't happen.
The whole thing started out as a celebration on Nara Shikaku's engagement to Yoshino in one of the well-known restaurants in Konoha. The initial mood was quite merry, except for the brief, tense moment when Minato and Kushina had inadvertently seated themselves beside each other, the hot, smoky air in their booth filled with well-wishes (mostly directed to Yoshino, who was smug and glowing) and rippling laughter (mostly directed at Shikaku, who looked like he was sentenced to death).
After downing several bottles of expensive sake as toasts to the couple's good health, prosperity and marital success, however, things began to rapidly deteriorate. Kushina has always insisted that it all went bad when Yamanaka Inoichi started to sing—several times.
"Why wouldn't he just shut up and die?" Kushina said to no one in particular, hands clapped over her ears as Inoichi began this tenth song for tonight. As soon as he'd seen the restaurant's newly installed karaoke, Inoichi had been dying to try it out—and nearly did, when he choked on a bone he'd swallowed too fast in his rush to finish his food so he could sing. "Or choke on the microphone. That could work just as well. Just. Make. Him. STOP."
"Now, Kushina," Minato said calmly, smiling as he watched Inoichi sing his guts out on the stage, punctuating his song with sweeping arm gestures and clenched fists, hips gyrating wildly. Some of the other patrons of the restaurant, out of embarrassment or annoyance, averted their gaze. The rowdier ones hooted and cheered him on. "No need to get worked up. Inoichi is just enjoying himself."
"Well, I'm not." Kushina winced as Inoichi continued with his warbling in the thin, reedy voice of his. The Yamanaka was oblivious to the outside world and to the auditory torture he caused them, his eyes closed as he crooned and contorted on. "This is all your fault." She glared at Minato. "You know Inoichi turns into a karaoke monster when he gets smashed. You shouldn't have given him the mike in the first place."
Minato shrugged. "He asked nicely for it. You know how he really likes singing."
"Screw that. He's embarrassing." She focused her gaze on the Yamanaka. If looks could kill, Inoichi would be a corpse twice over. "If he doesn't stop after this song, I'm going to kill him. Slowly and exquisitely. With a chopstick."
"I think I'll help you with that," Yoshino muttered, giving Inoichi a dark frown. She then shifted her gaze to Akimichi Chouza, who was busy demolishing pile after pile of food. "Oi, Chouza, would you mind not eating the house out?"
Chouza didn't even pause from his gobbling to reply or even acknowledge her, and continued to shove platefuls of barbeque into his mouth. Disgusted, Yoshino turned to her soon-to-be husband and gave him a 'You-are-so-paying-for-this' look. Shikaku paled, swallowed, then gave an annoyed grunt and glanced away.
"Speaking of houses," Minato said to Shikaku, ignoring the loud sounds of Chouza's steady chewing and gulping, "about what I asked yesterday—"
Slouching in his seat as if to shrink away from his betrothed's obvious displeasure, Shikaku shoved his hands into his jacket's pockets, and then shook his head. "Sorry. Looks like you can't stay over at the house. Some unexpected guests turned up and they're staying over until the wedding."
Minato grimaced, leaned back on his seat, and let out a long, frustrated sigh. "I was afraid of that."
Pausing in the act of taking another sip of sake, Kushina scowled, brows knit together. "Why do you need to stay at Shikaku's? What happened to your house?"
"Gas accident. His neighbor's piping malfunctioned, and it exploded, taking out his and Minato's rooms. Happened about a few days ago," Yoshino explained before Minato could reply. She cocked one eyebrow up. "Hasn't he told you that?" That was strange, Kushina not knowing about it. The two were best of friends, after all.
"No." Minato shrugged, abruptly cold and dismissive. "Must have slipped my mind."
Kushina snorted with derision at his words. Minato gave her a sideways glance, mouth drawn into a taut, grim line. "Besides," he added, quiet and bitter, "we haven't seen and talked to each other for a while."
"Separate missions keep us very, very, very busy, don't they, Minato?" Kushina chimed in, taking on a lilting voice. "This is the first time we'd actually stayed in the same room for a long time. About three weeks and six days now, to be exact." She beamed at him, but the silent challenge in her eyes belied the smile on her face. Minato stared back, eyes narrowing into thin, sharp slits.
This is not good. Tension was rising in their little booth, thick and smothering. Yoshino sucked in her breath, almost choking at the taste of impending blood and ashes. She had no idea what the problem between the two best friends was, but she'd be damned if she'd let them fight it out on her party. "Couldn't you just stay at an inn for a while?" she asked Minato, hoping to diffuse the situation.
"No." Cheeks tinged pink with embarrassment, Minato rubbed the back of his neck and grinned sheepishly, all traces of his earlier displeasure vanishing in an instant. "It, ah, slipped my mind to reserve further accommodations, and with the current influx of refugees, all of the inns in the village are full. I tried looking for spare rooms everywhere, but no luck so far."
Kushina's lips twisted into a smirk, the motion sharpening her face with harsh angles under the restaurant's subdued light. "Huh. Serves you right. Well, you could always sleep on the ground, or in the trees. Or in someone else's bed." Her eyes were bright with catty malice as she looked up from her sake cup.
"You're welcome." She propped her head up over the table with her arm, and tilted her it to one side, puffing away some loose strands of hair that had fallen over her face before sipping her sake. A thoughtful expression crossed her face, softening her features. "Or, if you want, you could stay over in my place."
Strangled gasps came out from Yoshino and Shikaku. Minato frowned. "I mean, I do have a spare room in the house, so I suppose you could stay there—" Kushina broke off and her head swiveled sharply to Inoichi, who had begun another song, this time a haunting ballad about a man's unrequited love for a noblewoman.
"That's it!" Kushina shot up from her seat, and stabbed a finger into the air, pointing at Inoichi. "Put the microphone down, Inoichi, or I swear, I'll shove it so far up into your ass, you'd be farting the lyrics of the song for the rest of your stupid life! Enough is enough!"
When Inoichi didn't stop, all hell broke loose.
"My barbeque!" Chouza wailed as the table tipped over when Kushina propelled herself to Inoichi, spilling the sizzling barbeque meat to the floor. He stared at the wasted food, mouth open in distress.
Kushina, who now had Inoichi immobilized with a headlock, rounded to him and snapped, "Shut up, fatass!"
"Don't call him fatass!"
"Who're you calling a fatass? I'm not fat! I'm big-boned. BIG-BONED!"
"Chouza, calm down, I'm sure you just misheard—"
"Baika no Jutsu!"
"What do you think you're doing—ah, hell—"
"That went well," Minato remarked brightly as they made their way back home from the hospital where Inoichi had to be confined overnight a few hours later. Beside him, Kushina rolled her eyes, while Shikaku grunted absentmindedly, his mind lost to other, more important matters, like how the hell he was going to pay for the food they ate and for the damages 'they' did at the restaurant, and how he was going to placate his very pissed-off betrothed, who had gone home without him.
The first two ones were easy, the last was well-nigh impossible, especially if Yoshino took it into her mind to make it so. Damn it, he was hoping he'd get laid tonight. By the looks of things, the only place he'd get laid would be in a coffin when Yoshino kills him, very slowly, with a chopstick, for this fiasco.
"Remind me never to invite you to dinner again," Shikaku muttered, glaring at Kushina, who had instigated the whole thing. They were lucky the owner and the police force didn't press charges at them for causing such a ruckus. Chouji's jutsu and the fighting that broke out had completely wrecked one side of the restaurant.
"Hey, it wasn't completely my fault," she protested, stopping in her tracks. Minato stopped as well, but remained quiet, knowing better than to get involved at this stage. Kushina shot him a poisonous glance before turning back to Shikaku. "I'm not the one to blame."
He leaned closer to Kushina, folding his arms across his chest. "It is and you are. You're the one who called Chouza a fatass. You were the one who tried to shove the mike up Inoichi's ass."
"He was hurting my ears! What was I supposed to do?"
Ignoring her outburst, Shikaku went on, "I've never seen you behave so stupidly before." His eyes narrowed suspiciously, noting the high points of color on her cheeks. He threw Minato a questioning glance. The Yellow Flash just shrugged and said nothing. "Are you drunk?" Shikaku asked Kushina.
She stuck her tongue out to him. "Who, me? Of course not!" She sprang away from Shikaku and Minato, turning her back to them as she spread out her arms and began to walk on her toes, movements lithe and graceful as she picked her way in straight line. "See? I can still walk straight!"
Shikaku slapped his forehead in frustration. "This is too troublesome for me to deal with today. I'm going home." He glowered at Kushina. "You're going to help me pay that bill on damages, Uzumaki, whether you like it or not."
Kushina glowered right back, and opened her mouth, but then snapped it shut. "Fine," she finally muttered, sullen and unrepentant. She said a few more things after that, probably heaping curse after curse at him, but her voice was too low for him to hear.
Shikaku turned to Minato. "Good luck with the house." The Yellow Flash nodded and smiled, and then slid a sideways glance at Kushina. Shikaku briefly wondered what in the world was wrong between the two—they'd been nasty to each other the whole night—and then decided that he really, really didn't want to know. With a brief wave, he headed towards his house, not once looking back at the two.
As soon as Shikaku was out of sight, Kushina took off, walking rapidly towards her house, not bothering to see or care if Minato followed or not. Oh, no, you're not getting away this time. It only took him a few strides to catch up with her. "Were you serious about me staying with at your house?"
Not breaking her quick, maddening pace, Kushina glanced at him, looking annoyed—at him or at Shikaku, he couldn't tell. Truth be told, he could scarcely discern her moods nowadays—or if she was inebriated or not when she made that offer. "Of course I was," came her airy reply. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Because for the past month you've been doing the best you can to stay away from me. Whether it was sudden long-term missions or ducking into corners so he wouldn't see her, they've been playing a game of hide-and-seek, and by the looks of things, Kushina was winning. "I thought," he said slowly, staring intently at her, "you were avoiding me."
"Oh, I am." Her smile cut, sharp and cold as a knife's edge. "I'm not going to be in the house for two weeks as I'm going out of town for a mission. So the house is all yours. Just don't go into my rooms or mess with my garden and everything will be fine."
"I see." He stopped, and then grabbed her arm, pulling her to him. She spun round, hair flaring out like a war banner. Her eyes flashed with irritation, but she didn't resist or pull away. "So, would you care explaining why you're doing this?"
"Why are you avoiding me? Are you mad at me? Did I do something wrong?"
She burst out laughing, making him want to shake her. "I'm not avoiding you because I'm mad at you." In an instant, she was back to her old self, grinning and punching him on the shoulder, mischief dancing in her eyes. "If I were mad at you, I wouldn't be avoiding you. I'd be beating the shit out of you."
She was silent for a moment, lowering her gaze before replying with a shrug, "We're spending too much time together."
Minato stared at her. Too much time together? That was certainly not the answer he expected. His grip on her arm tightened. "What's wrong with that? We're friends."
"Are we?" She gave him a cryptic little smile, and he felt himself go cold and numb all over. She looked like she was about to say more, but instead she sighed, sounding very tired, her shoulders slumping. "Shikaku's right, it's far too late into the night for discussions. I have a mission briefing early next morning, and I want to be somewhat coherent for that. And not late, too. The Sandaime could be an absolute tightass when it comes to tardiness. I'll see you in the afternoon."
"Wait, Kushina—" Instead of fixing things, her answer only left him more unsettled, leaving more questions than resolutions in Minato's mind. They were spending too much time together? What the hell brought that on? Was this something she came up on her own, or did someone tell her that? Most of all, he wanted to ask her what she meant by 'are we?'. What the hell was going on?
He wanted to keep her from leaving, as she did so many times these past few weeks whenever she spotted him. The whole experience had been painful—not knowing why the hell she averted her gaze from him, why she disappeared as soon as she saw him. He didn't want this to go on further; he didn't know if he could take any more of this.
But she shook her head and disengaged herself from his grasp, and still numb, he didn't—couldn't— stop her. Lips curling into a small smile, she said, not unkindly, "We could talk tomorrow, if you want, just before I leave you the house. You do accept my offer of help, don't you? You're staying over my place while I'm out avoiding you?"
Minato didn't know whether to laugh or to get mad at her. Belatedly, he realized he had to let this go for now—it was quite late, and the alcohol's depressant effects had been steadily working on him. He needed to think this through—pick things apart and figure out a plan; in his less-than-sober state he was not likely to be able to do that. "Yeah," he finally said, nodding.
"Good. See you tomorrow, Minato."
Author's note, part 2: I can't believe I really wrote this for NaNoWriMo. gets shot Comments and Crits are most welcome. Reviews are much appreciated. And loved. And huggled, and…so much more. Thank you so much for reading!
It was actually hard writing in Minato's point of view. My Minato!muse wanted me to get right to the kissing. :)
Mwahahaha. I'm sure you can guess what I'm setting up between Minato and Kushina. I finally wrote out some of Kushina's more 'brash' side. Heh. As for Kushina's strange behavior, all will be explained in the next chapters, I promise. And let's just say she lied about one thing in her conversation with Shikaku.
So, yes, you'll see some of the younger versions of the current Naruto 'parents'. Shikaku and Yoshino are Shikamaru's dad and mom, respectively, Chouza is Chouji's Dad, and Inoichi is Ino's. I'm sure I'll get around including Kakashi, Rin (and maybe Obito in flashbacks) in the story, as well as Sandaime, Jiraiya, Tsunade, Orochimaru, Sasuke's parents and Itachi, and even…Madara!