Title: Runaway (or, alternatively, how not to avoid romantic entanglements with friends)

Author: twistedsheets10

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. Kushina would have preferred to avoid romantic relationship altogether, but you cannot run away from a weakness; one day you must fight it out or die. Or kill the object of your affection.

Author's notes: Thank you so much to those who read, fave'd and reviewed this fic. I'm sorry it took me a while to post the second chapter! And it was so long that I had to halve it. Will post the second half as soon as I can!

2. The Morning After, part 1

A woman of mystique is fully aware of her flaws and weaknesses, yet she is strong enough to admit them and not be embarrassed by them. — Jean Lush

Well, this was certainly getting to be an annoying pattern these past few days.

The Yellow Flash lay on his poor excuse of a bed, ignoring the lumps and bumps on the mattress and staring at the flaking ceiling, the back of his forearm pressed against his temple. In the end, despite the much-touted soporific effect of alcohol and his own exhaustion, tonight turned out to be another restless evening for Namikaze Minato. Although he had promised himself he would not do it, his mind kept insisting on going back to his conversation with Kushina after the party a few hours before and kept on trying to reason out what or who exactly prompted her extraordinary statement of "We're spending too much time together."

It would fill a small book, really, if he were to list down how wrong that statement was in so many levels.

They've always spent considerable time together, eating, training, talking and such, which was normal for friends, or at least, for their friendship. She told him she was not mad at him, he wasn't mad at her (not yet, anyway). He could not recall any serious quarrels they've had in the past two months, which was unusual, now that he thought about it; they usually had big fight once a month—it was like a ritual, a tradition, even.

So why was 'spending time together' a problem now? And why was does his stomach turn uneasily and his mouth go dry at the thought of Kushina going out of her way to continue (or, heaven forbid, permanently) avoiding him?

Ah, how Minato longed for the good old days of their friendship. Things were simpler and easier in those days. Finding out what Kushina's problems and solving them were much easier when they were in their teens. A bit of relentless badgering, a challenge to a contest, and maybe a few 'kicked puppy' expressions and a long, sensible talk (and if all else fails, an intense sparring; what Kushina called then 'beating the ever loving shit out of each other') would be enough to draw her out of her depression.

Minato closed his eyes, and his lips twitched into a small smile as he remembered how Kushina was in the past. She had been such a spitfire tomboy back then, the one who punched him in the nose because his reputation as a genius had annoyed her even before they met, as boisterous and hot-tempered as her unruly, flaming red hair suggested (she wore it short back then, just past her ears, cut in ragged edges), rarely backing down from just about anything and ready to mouth off at anyone and anything that pissed her off.

But then, that was before the war.

Nowadays, as outspoken and verbose as Kushina could still be when expounding on her beliefs and in her everyday discourses with people, she was close-mouthed with regard to her private pain and troubles, be they about her past or not, quick to change subjects and to put on a reassuring smile when someone probed too closely, even with friends.

Even now, years later after that war's end, Kushina never spoke directly of what had happened to her during the war, probably never will, even with Minato. Whatever her experiences were, they had changed her, hidden scars the extent of which Minato was only beginning to uncover. In their nearly decade-long friendship, he could count in only one hand the times she chose to confide openly in him.

In those moments, much to his consternation, Minato found that Kushina's demeanor would make a complete 360-degree turn, her whole being taking on the aspects of dignified reticence—slim fingers entwined together over her lap as she leans forward, eyes half-closed, a faraway look in them, mouth quirking every now and then to an ironic, secret little smile—as she spoke of her deepest troubles or her experiences in the war; there was such an air of quiet, enduring sadness about her, much like that in the old, old stories where everyone dies except for the heroine, who is left alone to her loss and grief for all eternity.

In Kushina's case, the stories mimic life far too intimately for comfort. As far as Minato knew, Kushina was a orphan, her whole family killed in the war that ended with her country and their culture all but obliterated from the face of the earth, her own people scattered and sundered apart across foreign, and, oftentimes, hostile, lands.

Perhaps being a refugee was another reason why Kushina was reluctant with sharing her troubles. She had always been proud of her independence and of her country's, which, despite its relatively small size compared with other countries like Fire, was self-sufficient and prosperous, thanks to its bustling port and its merchant fleet. At the end of the war, her people had become refugees, without a home and a leader. It was better than being slaves (which would have been their fate had Water succeeded), but many people from the other countries viewed them as unwanted burdens and were reluctant (even opposed) in allowing them entry and asylum.

Kushina's own arrival in Konoha two years after the end of the war had caused little (if any) opposition, but she had been extremely determined not to be a burden to anyone, and did all she could to be useful and self-sufficient. Maybe a little too much, in Minato's opinion. Only once did she ever seriously ask him for help for anything—and that was after a month of less-than-successful attempts of handling the problem by herself.

Crap. I'm overanalyzing this. For all he knew Kushina was just having one hell of a month-long PMS mood swing and this would all over with nary a word said about it again later today.

With an exasperated sigh at his deviating, convoluted thoughts, Minato closed his eyes, turned over and buried his face against the inn's lumpy pillow, still as confused and frustrated as he was hours (no, days) before. He and Kushina really needed to have some straight talking done later, when they meet up before she left for her mission.

(And no, he told himself very firmly, he will not think about her offering him to stay at her house and him agreeing. If he tried to analyze that along with their current situation, he would surely burst a vein or several ones).

Kushina was not leaving Konohagakure without him finding out what was troubling her—if he had to forcibly detain her to get his answers, he would. He was a desperate man—he had been getting little if any sleep these past two days. If this went on for another day, he would surely go insane. Tomorrow, barring the end of the world, nothing would stop him from getting his answers and his sleep. Preferably in that order as well.


Hangovers were not Kushina's friend. 

And apparently, as she found out today, so was the whole damned world.

It all began, like with most stories about the aftermath of an evening spent carousing, when she woke up early that morning. She knew something was terribly wrong when a knife-sharp flash of pain sliced across her skull as soon as she tried to open her eyes.

The birds that were happily gathered on the tree outside her window exploded in a heart-stopping beat of wings and scattered into the air as Kushina's first string of expletives for the day came out of her lips.

How stupid, she thought to herself as she pressed a pillow she'd somehow managed to grab against her head, as if to smother out the intense, blinding ache that had spread like wildfire across her head. She bit her lip to keep herself from crying out as the pain came and went with the rhythm of someone repeatedly stabbing her head with a dull kunai. Ugh. I have a meeting for a mission today, and I'm going to show up hung-over and looking absolutely wasted. Stupid.

Her usual limit was five sake cups; she'd gotten drunk before—twice, if she remembered correctly, back when she did not know any better—and didn't like the repercussions. The first one was when she received her commission as a chuunin (drinks courtesy of her uncle and her sensei), the other when she was finally made a full teacher at the Academy (reluctantly shared and provided by Tsunade). Both times she ended with her waking up in the morning with gloriously incapacitating headaches that lasted for an hour before it became 'somewhat' tolerable and allowed her some form of movement or coherent thought.

When will you ever learn, Kushina, that alcohol is very, very bad for you? Why do you insist on torturing yourself like this?

She could have stopped drinking. It was not like she wanted to get drunk or she was that exceedingly fond of sake (though she and Tsunade were somewhat very distantly related, she did not posses the older woman's preference and capacity for alcoholic beverages).

Problem was, she could never really tell when she was getting too drunk, and neither could her friends—except perhaps Minato—as she acted quite normally even when inebriated. She could even walk straight and make coherent, intelligent responses—decisions, not quite as well as she could if she was sober, but by then, everyone else in her company was too drunk to care themselves if she was making sense or not. She could only hope she did not act like a complete ass last night, especially as Minato was there and she had been avoiding him, and—

Oh, fuck, NO! she swore to herself as the memories of what happened last night at the party came rushing back to her. She bolted upright, flinging pillows and blankets aside in one giant sweep of her arm. She would have propelled herself out of the bed had not another stab of pain hit her in the head right between her eyes. She collapsed flat on her back on the bed again, cursing at her ineptitude, but then she quickly bit her lip and winced at the fresh wave of pain her expletives brought on.

Now she was curled into a fetal position, drawn-up knees almost touching her chest, her head cradled in her hands. A cold, empty feeling settled in her stomach, making her want to throw up. She could almost taste the rising bile at the back of her throat. What the hell was I thinking? Was I even thinking? Damn it all, how could I be so stupid?

I will never touch anything remotely alcoholic again, she thought to herself, reciting the vow all people say when they begin their day with nasty, merciless hangovers and a bad taste in their mouths. Dear gods, if you have any sort of kindness within you, please, let this be a dream. A nightmare. A joke. When I open my eyes again let this be gone. Please.

It took her almost an hour and a half before she could get her headache under control and manage to look decent enough to go outside without looking like a complete wreck. As soon as she was finished, she all but flew out of her house, completely forgetting she could have simply teleported herself to her desired location. 


Author's notes, part 2: If you're wondering about the timeline, the events here take place 2-3 years before the Kyuubi attacks Konoha.

…isn't there a belief that if you haven't had sleep for 72 hours, you could be declared legally insane?

Comments? Questions? Characterization problems? Please feel free to drop me a line. They are most welcome. Flames, however, will be used to keep me warm.