Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, I make no money, so please don't sue…

Notes: I hesitate to label this AU/AR…because I can see this possibly happening in canon.

A one-shot set pre-Naruto (Minato and Kushina are genin) and follows Tomboy Butterfly (and I suppose it follows Misadventure too).

Enjoy!


Tolerance

Kushina sighed as she strolled down the dark street. It was quite late, but she couldn't seem to get to sleep, so a walk was just what the doctor ordered to make her tired. Her sigh froze in the chill night air, creating a clearly visible cloud of vapor in front of her face.

Stupid "Land of Fire," she grumbled to herself. It gets cold in the winter, but never enough for it to snow. Cold is no fun without snow!

It was late January and after a couple of years of living in Konoha she was used to the weather. That didn't mean that she enjoyed it, though. The springs and autumns were okay, but the summers were too hot, and the winters were too miserably and rainy and un-snowy.

But, weather issues aside, she was doing very well. She's survived to age fifteen and had made chuunin a year ago. And with the better pay that she'd acquired with her promotion, she'd made it out of the tiny crap apartment that she'd been granted as a refugee and moved into a small but much better apartment.

Of course Namikaze did better…

He'd made chuunin long before she had, and he would definitely beat her to jounin. He'd never had a crap apartment because he'd never been a refugee. And he was so skilled, being a prodigy and all, that there was little surprise that he'd lived to age fifteen.

…Or is he sixteen now? She frowned thoughtfully. When is his birthday anyway?

She'd never bothered to figure out the date he officially turned a year older. She'd never shared when her own birthday was. It never really seemed important. She was a ninja and she lived day by day with no regrets. There was little point in worrying about birthdays or planning ahead for them when she could die tomorrow.

It had absolutely nothing to do with how her birthday reminded her of her dead family and destroyed homeland.

Namikaze Minato was better than her, true. But she wasn't jealous. She tolerated his kind of awesomeness…just as he tolerated her kind of awesomeness.

Their start had been…rocky…but they'd gotten through and were friends. She never again did things to him that might humiliate him. He never asked why she'd hit him that day for the "pretty" comment. Neither of them ever again tried to do anything more than verbally apologize if they stepped out of line.

Why the hell would he call me "pretty" anyway? she wondered, her mind yet again circling back to that maddening mystery.

She was most certainly not pretty. She was Uzumaki Kushina, a dedicated tomboy. Her hair was too short (it was longer than it had been back then, but it was still too short), she wore no make-up, she was rough, she was crude. She wasn't ugly, but she was not pretty.

"If you don't clean yourself up and learn to act like a lady, you'll never be pretty enough to catch a proper husband," her aunts had always warned her.

"I don't care if I'm not pretty," she'd always yell back. "I'm gonna be a ninja, not a housewife!"

Pretty was weak. Good-looking kunoichi used their looks to distract their male opponents to level the playing field. She didn't need good looks to "level the field"; she was strong enough on her own. She didn't need to be pretty—she wasn't pretty.

Therefore, Namikaze's comment was a lie, a false compliment, a sick joke. She had not appreciated it one bit. He really shouldn't have been surprised that she socked him in the face for it.

Maybe his stupid, pervy sensei convinced him that all girls like to be lied to about their looks, she mused as she kept on walking down the street-lit road. Yeah, that's something I can imagine that big old perv saying. Girls need to be lied to about how they look to keep their self-esteem up. Urgh, stupid, perverted, chauvinistic—

She stopped short when she noticed a young man several yards ahead with his back to her, clinging to a lamppost like he couldn't quite stand on his own. He didn't seem inclined to go anywhere; he just stood there hanging onto the light pole that cast him half in shadow. Intrigued, she carefully slunk closer until she could make out more details, like the color of his hair…

Namikaze?!

Kushina paused a few feet away and nervously cleared her throat. "Um…?"

He didn't exactly turn around, more like he flopped around, almost losing his grip on the pole he was so desperately clinging to, and blinked at her blearily. "Eh?"

It was Namikaze.

He looked awful. His face looked flushed with fever. His blue eyes looked glassy and unfocused. And he seemed to have lost his sense of balance.

"Namikaze…are you sick or something?"

There was a pause before he answered.

"No," he said slowly, drawing the word out. The blonde leaned closer towards her, further threatening his precarious grip on the pole, and squinted at her. "…'Shina?"

What did he just call me?!

Namikaze Minato was a polite boy. It had taken forever to break him of his habit of calling her "Uzumaki-san". She had yet to persuade him to drop the "-san" altogether. He would never in his right mind call her "'Shina".

"Uh…"

"'Shina!" he cried happily and lurched off the lamppost to crash into her. "Hi!"

What. The. Hell?!

"Namikaze?!" she squeaked, staggering a bit under his unexpected weight. "What's wrong with you?"

"Nuthin'," he replied and awkwardly embraced her. "'m jus' fine."

"You're slurring!" she sputtered.

"Nuh-uh," he mumbled into her shoulder.

"You're—" She caught a whiff of his clothes and breath. Smoke, sweat, booze… "You smell like a bar! Are…are you drunk?!"

It didn't seem possible for Namikaze to be drunk; he was underage. Sure, there were plenty of bars that would look the other way when young ninja came in. If they were old enough to fight and kill for their village, why shouldn't they be able to drink alcohol? But Namikaze was a good boy. Even when he was legal to drink, she had a hard time imagining that he would.

"Nope!" he denied and sagged more heavily on her. "Feel dizzy."

"You are drunk!" she hissed.

"No," he insisted. "…'m lost."

"Great," she groaned. I have no idea where he lives…

He didn't seem terribly bothered by being lost and happily rested his chin on her shoulder. "Y'r hair smells nice."

"Come on," she muttered, tugging at him. I guess I have to take him home with me. "Let's get inside so you can lay down and not be dizzy."

"H'okay!" he smiled and allowed himself to be half-dragged, half-carried away.

Walking with him was a nightmare. Now that he was fifteen (or sixteen) he was taller than her and heavier than her, so when he staggered back and forth along the sidewalk, she staggered too. It was a miracle that she didn't drop him or he didn't knock them over. And throughout the whole ordeal he kept randomly trying to talk to her.

Half of what he said was too slurred and disjointed for her to make sense of, but she did pick up on a few key things. He was most definitely not drunk. Today was apparently his birthday (so he was sixteen). Melons were his favorite fruit. And, oh yes, he was not drunk.

Getting him up the stairs without either of them falling and dying (or at least being maimed) was even worse than the walk to her building. She was so focused on not getting them killed that she almost missed her floor. When she reached her doorstep, she wanted to kiss it out of relief.

She was also relieved that Namikaze hadn't needed to puke his guts out on the walk back. When she commented on this fact, he cheerfully informed her that he'd already thrown up at the bar (but he wasn't drunk) and then his sensei had told him to go home (because he wasn't drunk). Or at least that's what she thought he'd said. It was kind of hard to tell.

But this sort of mess would be pervy old Jiraiya's fault, she thought blackly as she unlocked her door and dragged the blonde teen inside with her.

Thankfully he was dressed in civilian clothes (to celebrate his birthday perhaps?) and not his ninja gear so she didn't have to worry about making sure that she found and removed all his weapons. All she really had to do was get his sandals off and peel off his jacket and then persuade him to sit and stay on her couch. She supposed she could get him to take his pants and shirt off too, but that was just too much work. He could sleep in his clothes.

"Now lay down and go to sleep," she sighed wearily and chucked his sandals and coat by the door.

"No," he frowned. "Don' wanna."

"Too bad, it's bedtime." Then she yawned. "See? I'm tired."

"'S my bir'day," he mumbled, folding his arms over his chest. "Got no bedtime."

"Yes you do!" she snapped, frustrated.

He shook his head. "Nope!"

Kushina growled and stalked off to get the spare blanket and pillow from her closet. How do you make a big, overgrown baby (who is drunk no matter what he says) go to bed? She froze as a flash of inspiration struck her, and smiled. …Bribery.

She returned to her little living room/kitchen just as her guest was trying to stagger off the couch.

"Minato?"

He paused and squinted over at her. "Mmm?"

"If you're a good boy and do exactly as I say, I'll give you a present," she cooed.

"Really?" he asked.

"Really," she nodded and arranged the pillow on the arm of her couch. "Now lay down and go to sleep, and in the morning I'll give it to you."

"Wha' iszit?" he wondered, reluctantly laying down so that she could spread the blanket over him.

"It's a surprise," she informed him sweetly. "But it's the best present in the whole world."

"Wow," he breathed.

"Yeah," she nodded. "Now go to sleep so that it will be morning faster."

"Okay," he agreed seriously and obediently closed his eyes.

Kushina sighed in relief, looked her front door, turned off the lights, and crept towards her bedroom to sleep. You want to know what your present is, Namikaze? She turned the light on in the bathroom and left the door cracked so he could find it if he needed it. I'm not going to kill you in your sleep for this, that's what!

"'Shina's s' nice," she heard him mumbled in the dark. "S' pretty…"

She froze for a moment, but decided against smacking him for the stupid comment and shut her bedroom door.

He's drunk. Drunk people say stupid stuff they don't mean all the time. I can't hit him…this time.

The red head yawned, changed for bed, and collapsed into sleep without another thought.


He felt wretched. It was like Gamabunta (and maybe Gamaken and Gamahiro, too) was jumping around inside his head. His stomach felt nasty, as did most of the rest of him. And he had no idea why.

Minato slowly cracked his eyes open and found an unfamiliar pale green wall and television set staring back at him. He was awkwardly draped on a strange rust-colored couch and still wearing the clothes he'd worn the day before. His sandals and coat were missing.

He had no idea where he was.

What the…? Why do I feel so awful? Where am I?

…What did I do last night?

He was disturbed to find that he had no answers to any of his questions.

A pair of blue-green eyes framed with red hair abruptly filled his vision.

"Good morning!"

"Wuh?" Minato blinked and edged backwards so he could see all of the face. "K'shina?"

She leaned back with a frown. "You're still drunk?"

"Drunk?" He frowned and sat up, clutching at his head and groaning as the room tilted and spun a bit. "'M not…not drunk. Kushina—I'm underage! Why would I be drunk?"

She studied him for a moment before shrugging. "I guess you're hung-over then. Last night you were totally wasted."

"I was not!" he protested and winced as his head throbbed harder in response to the increased volume.

"Well, what did you do last night?" she asked, tucking a loose strand of red hair behind her ear.

"I…" He scrubbed at his face and tried to think, but he came up with nothing. "I don't remember."

"Heh," she smirked. "Last night I had some trouble sleeping, so I went for a walk and what did I find? You clinging to a pole and completely smashed."

Minato moaned and buried his face into the couch arm. "…I feel awful."

"I'll go see if I have any aspirin," she offered.

"Thank you," he mumbled.

"Oh, and Namikaze," she called back from her bathroom. "Happy birthday!"

He pulled the pillow over his head and whimpered.

Happy birthday? I have no idea if it was happy or not. I don't remember…


Jiraiya strolled through the streets and hummed to himself. Last night had been his treasured student's birthday, marking his transition from fifteen to sixteen. It had been quite fantastic.

He'd coaxed Minato into a bar to discover the boy's alcohol tolerance. However, the blonde had been stubborn and refused to drink as he was still two years away from being legal. Jiraiya managed to persuade the boy into trying "virgin" drinks that lacked alcohol so he could decide what kind of drink he'd like to try when he was old enough.

Of course, the drinks he'd bought for his student hadn't been the least bit "virgin".

Minato's capacity for alcohol was abysmal. A little girl could probably drink him under the table. He'd barely lasted two hours before he'd spewed and been sent home.

Jiraiya had stayed to drink more.

Maybe I should've gone with him to make sure he made it home okay, the white-haired ninja thought as he walked. Or I should've brought a designated non-drinker with. …I hope he made it home.

He rounded the corner and relaxed to find Minato safe and sound…sort of.

The teen was something of a mess. He was stumbling a bit and squinting against the sunlight like it hurt him. And he was wearing the same casual clothes as the night before.

"Hey, Minato!" Jiraiya cheerfully waved. "Did you forget to change your clothes?"

The blonde paused, squinted at him, and then scowled. "I haven't had a chance to because I slept on someone's couch!" he croaked.

"Oh, so you didn't make it home. Too bad." He thumped the boy on the shoulder. "But hey! At least you didn't sleep it off on the street!"

Minato glowered at him. "How did you get me drunk?"

"I tricked you, of course," Jiraiya chuckled.

"Why?" Minato growled.

"To see how you handle alcohol. It's a useful thing to know. If you don't know your limits, you could get into trouble."

Minato grabbed him by his red vest and shook his towering mentor. "Sensei!" he snarled. "Kushina-san had to drag me back to her apartment. I'm sure that I made a complete fool of myself. And now I feel disgusting." He gave the taller man another rough shove. "Next time you want to educate me about alcohol, warn me."

"Kushina-chan brought you to her place?" Jiraiya inquired. His face split with a large grin. "So, did you ditch your virginity last night, too?"

He never saw Minato's fist coming.