Caught Up In Between
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of Naruto. It all belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
Characters: Naruto, Jiraiya and Kyuubi.
Words: 2, 169
Author's Notes: This came to me after some episode where Jiraiya won't watch Naruto train. I felt really bad for Naruto in that episode so I wrote this little one-shot.
"The things I want to say to you,
Get lost before they come,
The only thing that's worse than one is none."
- In Between, Linkin Park
Naruto hastily threw himself into the bathroom, slamming the door behind him and locking it shut. With his eyes shut, he allowed his body to slide down the door. Shaking softly, he brought his knees up and hugged them tightly, fiercely trying to ignore the tears that were threatening to form. He would not cry, he refused to cry.
"Damn it!" he cursed loudly, banging his head against the door in frustration.
So what if Jiraiya didn't watch him train? He didn't need him to. He was a ninja after all. Who cared?
Admit it boy, Kyuubi chuckled, he just doesn't want to be with you because you killed his favourite student.
"Shut up fox-bastard!" Naruto hissed, hands jumping to his ears.
He knew that Kyuubi was lying to him. Jiraiya himself had asked for Naruto to come with him and he had praised Naruto for being like the 4th. But he couldn't stop the demon fox's words from cutting into him. His voice was inescapable and so confident, so sure of himself. The words hurt, even if they were lies.
Yes, fight reality foolish child. Pretend that people care about you.
"Don't insult my precious people," he snapped, nails digging into his skull.
Idiot! Do you truly think that they see you as a precious friend? Ha! he spat. You are nothing but a hindrance to them.
Naruto curled further in on himself pitifully, finding it impossible to ignore Kyuubi's relentless bullying. "Shut up, shut up," he muttered repeatedly under his breath - though it sounded more like a plea than a command when it reached his ears. The demon seemed to think so as well as his laughter slithered through his head.
Foolish child, always running from the truth. Nothing more than a toy, passed onto another the moment interest is lost.
Why else did Kakashi choose Sasuke over you? Why else would that hermit try to get away from you all day?
"Shut up!" Naruto yelled, his resolve snapping and tears leaking out of his eyes. "I hate you!"
Deep, evil chuckles were the only response. Throwing all logic and reason aside in heightened hysteria, Naruto grabbed a kunai from his pouch, aiming it at his stomach. Maybe this would shut the damn fox up and give his mind desperately sought after peace.
"Rot in hell!" he snarled, bringing the kunai down.
I think not.
Naruto's shaking increased as the kunai stopped short, Kyuubi controlling his hand with will power. No matter how much he urged his arm to move, the limb remained disobedient, loyal to Kyuubi.
Several tears landed on the kunai's edge, glistening in the light that managed to sneak into the room. In the silvery moonlight they almost looked like diamonds, clear and full of sparkles. He forgot - or was made to forget - that diamonds were one of the strongest substances on earth. To him, the tears symbolised weakness.
Looking down at his stomach, the intended target of his kunai, hitching up his shirt, Naruto could see the fox's seal. The seal had been brought to the surface by said fox's chakra, using the chakra to stop Naruto's foolish attack. As Kyuubi slowly stopped his puppetry - deciding that he was no longer a threat - the seal began to wane and fade.
Absently, Naruto traced the seal with the kunai's tip, paying no mind to the pain his brain was trying to tell him to notice. He realised that he had never taken the time to admire the design before. Focussing his eyes as he drank in its haunting beauty, he was surprised to see blood covering his stomach and seeping down to the waistband of his pants. It was then that he noticed that the seal had disappeared completely. The only reason that he could still see it was because he had drawn it in blood. The kunai must have been sharper than he remembered. He watched the blood, his blood, drip onto the tiled floor creating a maroon mosaic on the white tiles.
A sharp knocking noise startled him and he looked up at the doorknob in something akin to terror.
Shit, Jiraiya! He immediately began to panic. What was he going to say? How would he explain this? How was he supposed to hide the blood?
"Naruto, I know you're in there!" Jiraiya called, knocking the door more insistently. "Open up!"
He'll toss you aside the moment he becomes bored of you.
Naruto started in shock, clutching his stomach. He had almost forgotten about Kyuubi in his confusion. "Leave me alone!"
"Naruto!" Jiraiya had stopped thumping the door now, unsure of what was going on. "What's this all about?"
Naruto sat in silence hoping the older man would go away, mindlessly watching his tears mix with the blood harmoniously.
"Naruto, if you don't open this door I'm breaking it down!"
Well, there went that plan.
He could hear Jiraiya sigh in resignation. "Fine, here I come."
Naruto, clocking on to what he was about to do, hastily scrambled away from the door as it was forced open none too gently. He glared at the figure standing in the doorway, one hand holding his stomach and the other still clutching the kunai tightly.
Jiraiya didn't know what he had been expecting to see when he had entered the bathroom, but the sight before him hadn't been it. Blood was splashed over the floor. Naruto's clothes were covered with it. Not to mention that Naruto looked ready to injure himself again, kunai wobbling in his fist. The boy was panting, shaking, looking totally unstable. What had happened?
"Naruto?" he asked quietly.
He was about to step into the room when Naruto clutched his head, squeezing his eyes shut tight.
Naruto's cried plea was almost desperate sounding, though he was well aware that the begging wasn't aimed at him. Aforementioned blonde was holding his head as though the voice was internal, tormenting him from the inside. Kyuubi?
Jiraiya frowned; he would have to do this carefully. He had seen this many times before, though probably not to this extreme. If he acted too quickly Naruto would most likely turn on him, misinterpreting his actions and labeling them as harmful. But if he waited too long Naruto would push himself into a distressed state and harm himself again. He wasn't fond of either option.
"Naruto," he repeated softly, holding out a hand. "Why don't you give me the kunai? Then we can go and get ramen. Sound good?"
The air was still for a moment and he thought Naruto would agree with him, somehow soothed by the mention of ramen. Then the blonde stumbled back, teeth sinking into his bottom lip, eyes swirling with irrational emotions. Jiraiya realised that sanity had long since vanished and that he'd have to take control forcefully if he was going to avoid anymore injuries of any sort.
He flashed forward and gripped Naruto's arms, effectively preventing the boy from using his arms. Naruto's reaction - as he had predicted - was to lash out, aiming a strong kick at Jiraiya's midsection. The sannin blocked the attack and grabbed the bloody kunai in Naruto's hand, wrenching it from his grasp. He tossed it, albeit carefully, into the sink. Once the weapon was gone, Naruto blinked a few times and looked at a loss.
"What happened Naruto?"
The boy jerked half-heartedly in his grip, trying to get out of explaining but he held on firmly.
"You won't get out of this Naruto. I need to know-"
"Enough!" Naruto interrupted abruptly, addressing him for the first time. "I know you hate me so leave me alone!"
Jiraiya paused. That wasn't the reaction he had been expecting. "I don't hate you," he said, carefully. Why would Naruto think that he hated him? Personally, he thought that they had been getting along alright. Maybe not perfectly, but not enough for Naruto to think that he hated him.
Naruto chuckled darkly, sending a small chill through him. "I killed your student. Of course you hate me. That's why you always avoid me." Naruto's pupils were retracting slowly into slits, his anger causing Kyuubi to bubble under the surface.
Jiraiya felt like he had been winded. His attempts to teach the boy about not seeking attention had instead become Naruto translating it as he was being abandoned. Common sense suddenly decided to quietly inform him that Naruto had probably never received attention anyway. Ignoring him had made it look as though he didn't care about Naruto either. How could he have been so blind? Shamed by his own foolishness, he reached out his arms and pulled Naruto into an embrace.
Naruto went stiff as Jiraiya's arms wrapped around him, pulling him close.
He could feel his mind shaking off Kyuubi's consciousness and his eyes returned to normal. Only now, tears began to prickle his eyes he latched onto Jiraiya's vest, burying his head. This feeling - this warmth - he wanted it to stay. He wanted to hold into it forever, wrap himself in it. Was this what it felt like to have a family?
One hug is enough to blind you from his imminent betrayal?
Naruto shuddered as Kyuubi's voice reached his ears, scoffing in disbelief.
He will abandon you, leave you, tire of you, just as Kakashi did.
He looked up through his tears and saw Jiraiya staring down at him, concern lightly written across his face. It was strange to have someone concerned about him.
"You…" he stumbled over his words, choking on tears. "You won't…leave me…will you, Ero-sennin?"
The hermit looked at him in confusion. "What makes you think that I would?"
"He said that you would," Naruto said, hiccoughing softly.
"Kyuubi." He could hear Jiraiya's sharp intake of breath. "He says that you, everyone, hates me because I killed their precious people and…and that you'll all leave me once…once I become boring to you."
Naruto's voice cracked as he finished and he held onto his sensei tighter, apparently afraid that Jiraiya would vanish the first chance he got. Jiraiya was studying Naruto, holding the boy with an arm while the other rubbed up and down his back comfortingly. It must have been torture for Naruto; to have to put up with a sadistic demon fox for years.
And, he realised with regret, Kyuubi's words were backed by small seeds of truth. Tiny fragments of truth, woven in amongst the lies. To someone as unstable as Naruto, exhausted from intense training, those words would have hit their mark. Judging from Naruto's present condition, they had.
The blood dripping from his chest made sense now. Obviously Naruto had tried to silence the fox the only way he knew how. How had he let it come to this? The boy was still trembling in his arms, a sign that he was severely weakened by the fox's abuse.
Cursing his own ignorance, Jiraiya gently pushed Naruto away, keeping a reassuring grip on the blonde's shoulders. He knelt down so that they could see each other eye to eye. Naruto's bright blue robs stared into his, searching for something he knew not what.
"Naruto," Jiraiya said, placing emphasis on his words to portray how serious he was. "I will never leave you. No matter what Kyuubi says, I won't willingly leave you. Understand?"
He was expecting his answer in the form of a brief nod but instead he was met with two small tan arms throwing themselves around his neck. Naruto's head rested on his shoulder and he could visibly see the tenseness drain from Naruto's body.
A small smile crept into his face; he would watch Naruto, take care of him and fulfill his promise to Minato. He placed a hand on Naruto's head momentarily, taking comfort in the gratitude Naruto was radiating.
"Now, how about we do something about these cuts? And then, get ramen?"
Naruto reluctantly pulled away and rubbed his eyes dry with the back of his hand. He took a few deep, calming breaths before a giant fox grin flashed onto his face. In that moment, Jiraiya knew that he was going to be okay.
Jiraiya looked over at Naruto as he slept, body its usual mess. How sleeping in such a position was comfortable he had no idea. Idly, he noted how much Naruto had grown over the past few years but had essentially stayed the same. He was thankful for that.
Through the moonlight streaming in the window he could see the scar on Naruto's stomach. Through willpower and determination, Naruto had refused to let the fox heal the wounds - instead, he kept the scar as a reminder that Kyuubi did not control his life and never would. A bold statement that he still kept fiercely, refusing to go back on his words.
Jiraiya ruffled the young man's hair as he slept peacefully on. The next Hokage; yes, he could believe that.
A/N: Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. Personally I think it gets worse as it goes along but I tried my hardest. Reviews are appreciated.