The word pervert was tattooed in bright orange all over the Hokage Tower. Several people snickered before once more surrendering to sleep. Watching it all was Kyuubi.
"Very nice. Welcome home Kit?" She said before hightailing it back to her host.
"Kyuubi?" Naruto stirred ever so slightly
"One of you preset pranks just caught Jiraiya." Naruto laughs echoed through his shared link with Kyuubi.
"Talking is way easier now"
"Of course. Practice make perfect." Naruto snorted and Kyuubi was eerily reminded of Jiraiya.
"He was bad but Tsunade-sama was able to help him." Happiness filled Naruto followed by sadness.
"What about you? What do you think they'll do?" Kyuubi sighed.
"Nothing much they can do. I'm still connected to you so they won't know how it will affect you." Tired swarmed Naruto's mind and he let it claim him, reassured by Kyuubi's presence. Kyuubi stiffened as a man entered the room but quieted when Iruka's face came into view. Smiling, the favoured teacher draped blankets around Sakura and Sasuke, surprised Kyuubi be ruffling her fur and pressed a kiss to Naruto's forehead. He plonked down under the window to spend the night but not before securing two vases for Hinata's flowers.
Many days passed as Kakashi and Naruto remained unconscious. Very few saw Sakura or Sasuke outside the hospital and there were rumours of a small copper fox roaming the village. Several sightings had led to a few small hunts, and then on to an all out search that was soon halted by Tsunade. No one outside the rookie teams who the fox really was and even they were given a reasonable explanation. They were informed of that fateful mission with whom both Sasuke and Naruto were injured. While many knew of the mission they were shocked that Naruto had been the fox several of them had interacted in. Two weeks passed and the conditions of the two remained unchanged. Iruka had taken to bringing his school work to the hospital to grade. Hinata brought fresh flowers everyday without fail sometimes pleading Neji to take them if she had a mission. Gai was a frequent visitor to the hospital, always standing by Kakashi's bed or collapsing into the chair next to it. One silent hour later he would leave, his expression sombre. Jaraiya never strayed more than a day's travel from the village, remaining instead by Tsunade's side as she struggled to bring her two ninjas back to the land of the living. Despite precautions infection had set into Kakashi's wound and Naruto's body showed the strain it was under without the full healing power of healing Kyuubi provided. For the thousandth time Sakura sighed as she wiped the sweat from Kakashi's brow and replaced the cold compress. Sasuke spared her a glance. Two weeks spending time together had given them a fine appreciation and understanding of each other. Starting with Sasuke snorting at Gai's daily visits and Sakura telling him that he was no better, hovering constantly by Naruto's side. A snort was the only answer she got.
"Any change?" asked Iruka as he gingerly entered the room, a pile of books tottering in his arms.
"None as of yet. But Tsunade-sama said they are both coming along nicely. Kakashi-sensei's fever is slowly going down as well." Iruka smiled.
"Well that is good news. Has Gai been in yet?"
"He was here earlier." Sasuke said. The three fell silent.
It was later that night that Kyuubi sauntered into the room and settled herself comfortably on Naruto's bed. Sasuke was struck by a horrible thought.
"Sensei how do we know Naruto still isn't the fox and his body's not just an... an empty shell." Iruka frowned at the young teen before smiling gently.
"Because Hokage-sama said there was brain activity and besides, copper here is always wandering off. Naruto would be stick near Kakashi and begging for ramen."
"Yer Teme use that brain people claim you have."
"Shut up Dobe." Sasuke commented in response. The room fell dead quiet. (Picture the tumbleweed rolling across the screen.)
"Naruto!" Sakura screamed, lunging at him from her place beside Kakashi and landing neatly on his bed before giving him a huge hug.
"Ack. Sakura-chan can't breathe." He rasped. She let go straight away.
"Dobe..." Sasuke said gently. Naruto smiled weakly in response.
"Teme." A hand brushed lightly over Naruto's forehead. "Iruka-sensei." Naruto's eyes drifted shut. Iruka bolted from the room in search of Tsunade. Sasuke found himself clutching Naruto's hand and pressing a cloth to his now sweat covered head. Sakura moved back to Kakashi, who was mumbling slightly. Five long minutes later Tsunade rushed into the room, Iruka at her heals. Looking Naruto over Tsunade smiled.
"He's sleeping normally. He should be fine in a few days. His body is just trying to work out what's happening with the seal."
"What is happening with the seal?" Sasuke asked, his eyes locked on his blonde team mate. Tsunade hesitated.
"Once Kakashi is awake and aware I will inform all of you at once." She checked on Kakashi before smiling at Sakura gently and walking to the door.
"I want you guys to get some rest. Go home and get a proper amount of sleep." Two stubborn sets of eyes gazed back.
"Iruka that also includes you." Two sets became three. Tsunade sighed, threw her hands up and stalked out of the room.
It wasn't until almost a day later that Naruto awoke again. Kakashi remained unchanged. Gentle hands held an ice block to Naruto's lips as he groaned and struggled to conscious, licking chapped lips.
"Dobe you with us?" Another moan.
"Naruto-kun open your eyes. We're here waiting." Sakura crooned, squeezing his hand. Slowly blue eyes fluttered open, staring unfocused at the faces above him. He looked down to his chest feeling pressure there, Kyuubi was gazing back at him.
"Kaka-sensei?" he croaked. He was fed another ice block.
"He's recovering." Sasuke said shortly. Naruto peered blearily about him. Unsteadily he tried to rise into an upright position.
"Naruto you shouldn't.." Sakura's warning came too late. Naruto's limbs were unco-ordinate and his arms refused to hold him. Losing his balance Naruto toppled off the side of the bed! Too tired to even close his eyes Naruto simply awaiting the inevitable. He gave a strangled yelp when strong arms encircled his chest and ceased his downward momentum. He was carefully picked up and placed upon the bed once more.
"Would you quit trying to move." Hissed Iruka sternly as Naruto took a few deep breaths. After a moment he forced his eyes open again unsure of just when they had shut. Blinking he let his eyes roam around the room, crossing Sasuke, Sakura and Iruka's concerned faces, before settling on Kakashi's bed.
"It's an infection Naruto." Iruka said softly, "He is slowly recovering."
"I'm so glad you're awake." Sakura said, a tear running down one cheek from glassy eyes. Naruto gave her a small smile. Sasuke allowed himself to give Naruto's shoulder a gentle squeeze and Naruto was shocked to see even he had glassy eyes.
"Kit you have been unconscious for awhile."
"How long is awhile?" Naruto accidently asked aloud. His mind cloudy.
"What was that Naruto? Is something wrong?" Iruka asked.
"How long was I out?" Sasuke frowned.
"Since we got you back from the Akatsuki, from my brother..." Naruto's thoughts drifted back, a pained look on his face.
"Don't think about it just yet Naruto-kun." Iruka gently nudged Naruto down on the bed, "Go back to sleep. You have been through a lot." Naruto easily slipped back into the warm darkness, content in the knowledge that he was not alone.
"You'll never be alone. You'll always have me." Kyuubi said, squirming up the bed to curl beside Naruto's head.
The next morning was when Kakashi finally decided to make his entrance into the waking world.
"So heavy." Kakashi decided. His body was heavy and sluggish. Since opening his eyes seemed too big a task he settled on trying to recall what had happened to land him where he was.
"Let's see, went with Jiraiya to get Naruto? To bring Naruto home? Naruto!" Suddenly his body connected with his mind and shot upright and of course in his condition it hurt like hell. Gasping in pain, his body tensing, Kakashi curled into himself. Had he not been in excruciating pain he would have jumped when an arm encircled his back and a hand supported his chest. He relaxed as much as he could when the owner of said limbs spoke.
"Easy Kakashi-kun. You know you're very late this time, so much so that you've made everyone worry." Said Gai worriedly as he helped his friend lay back down. "Should I get Hokage-sama?"
"No... Naruto? Sasuke, Sakura?" Gai smiled. Oh how his friend had grown.
"All here with you. Naruto-kun woke up yesterday. Apparently a little disoriented. Sasuke-kun and Sakura-chan have not left the hospital the whole time waiting for the both of you to wake up." 'As have I' were the unspoken words that passed between them. Kakashi frowned in pain but managed to grip Gai's forearm. The man returned the gesture.
"Welcome back Kakashi-kun." He said, smiling as Kakashi faded back to sleep. "Sleep well my friend." and he left to inform the Hokage of Kakashi's awakening but not before replacing the cold compress that had been sent flying.
To say certain people were relieved to hear of the friends recoveries would be an understatement. The hospital turned away multiple visitors, giving the pair time to heal in peace. Kakashi woke again several hours later with Tsunade prodding him. She pressed a finger to her lips and pointed to his right. Looking down he smiled at the pink head resting on his bed. Sakura's hand enclosing his. Dazed eyes slid back to his Hokage who pointed to where Sasuke was dozing in a chair beside the bed containing Naruto, Jiraiya standing on the other side. Kakashi watched as he gently ran a hand through his apprentices hair, a small smile gracing his lips. Naruto stirred under his touch and his eyes blinked open.
"Ero-senin...?" he muttered sleepily. Jiraiya motioned in Kakashi's direction.
"Look whose awake Gaki." Naruto slowly turned his head, a wide grin breaking out as he saw Kakashi staring back at him. Naruto struggled to sit up and both Sasuke and Sakura jolted awake when he nearly took another tumble off the bed only to be caught by Jiraiya this time. Kakashi started in surprise and looked to Tsunade. She sighed and helped him to sit up so he could his students better.
"Since 'everyone' is 'awake'," she gave Naruto a look to which he at least had the decency to look apologetic from where he rested against the Toad Sage, "we might as well explain what has happened to the seal. Or at least what we think has happened." That was when the copper lump on Naruto's pillow moved so that it sat on Naruto's lap. He absentmindedly began stroking the small foxes fur.
"Now no one is to panic but the seal containing the Kyuubi has been altered somewhat." Naruto coughed and the fox shifted.
"Naruto." Tsunade said seriously, "Do you know anything about what happened to your seal? You did not heal as quickly from your injuries as you have in the past."
"Break it to them gently Kit." Naruto took a deep breath and Kyuubi levelled her eyes squarely at Tsunade.
"Hehe... Guys meet Kyuubi." Kyuubi sweat dropped.
"Real subtle Naruto." The tension rose a few notches. Kyuubi curled closer to Naruto.
"We're still connected as far as I can tell. She just needs to be close to me for the healing to work and it won't be as good as it was before.." His statement was met with blinks.
"She?" Jiraiya muttered with a grin.
"You know this how?" Tsunade's tone was suspicious. Naruto yawned.
"Well I'm not dead." he slurred. Kakashi glanced at Tsunade inquiringly.
"Right now Naruto's body is still struggling to adapt to the changes in his seal. He'll be sleeping a lot. As well as that his mind is trying to work out if he has four legs or two legs and two arms."
"So he's more uncoordinated than usual." Sakura put in and everyone cracked a smile.
"So what are we going to do about the Dobe's furry friend?" Sasuke asked. They all glanced at Naruto expecting a response only to find him leaning against Jiraiya fast asleep. He had managed to get one arm around Kyuubi and had her in quite a good grip. Tsunade sighed.
"I honestly don't know. Though I do believe he will never forgive us should we harm her."
"From what Iruka-sensei says 'she' has not done anything but hunt food in the forest of death." Sakura said mildly, well aware of the sacrifices those in the room had given to the Kyuubi.
"The Dobe seems to be attached to the small thing."
"The new seal seems to allow Kyuubi's chakra to pass to him the same as before. In fact the only difference is that the Kyuubi has a body. I mean she still seems connected to Naruto. So I'm not sure what would happen if we were to injure the Kyuubi."
"Then it would seem that the only logical choice would be to leave the creature be." Kakashi stated, though part of him wanted to rip the killer of his sensei in two. His students needs won out. That and his need for more rest. When Tsunade noticed Kakashi's eyes drooping she eased him down into the bed properly and fixed his sheets.
"What we discussed is not to leave this room. Make sure Naruto understands this. Though Iruka may be told."
"Hai!" Tsunade left the room, covertly sneaking glances about her, no doubt on the lookout for Shizune.
"Well I need to catch up on my research. I've lost precious time because of you Gaki. But I don't mind." he said the last bit quietly but with a great deal of fondness. With the two Sanin gone Kakashi took one more look at his team, whole once more in soul and body. Smiling he closed his eyes and slipped off into slipped as Sasuke and Sakura resettled and did the same. They were finally home.
A/N: Its finally completed. Hopefully this ending at least met some expectations while it probably ruined others. I want to thank everyone who read my story and especially to those who took the time to review. The continual support I have gotten over the past two years has been imense. Thank you for the continued patience you've all shown despite my slow updates. I apologise for any mistakes made throughout the story. Please keep an eye out for any future stories I post. Again.. Many Thanks.