A/N: Heh, I know, another story. (sweatdrops) But I've got a good excuse for the birth of this potential fourshot.

The latest manga-chapter made me fall in love with Naruto-manga all over again. You know, I was close to giving up on the whole thing until Kishimoto comes up with something like that – writes in a lovestory that sneaked directly into my heart. The moment I was finished I came to a conclusion that I'd just have to write a tribute (or something like that…) to Minato and Kushina's lovestory. And that's how this story was born. (grins sheepishly)

WARNINGS! SPOILERS, to those who haven't read the latest manga chapters yet. Language and adult themes, along with a touch of tragedy, as per usual with my stories. (grins cheekily)

DISCLAIMER: Me, OWN? (laughs hysterically) When pigs fly, perhaps.

So… (gulps) I guess I can't really keep stalling anymore, ne? So… (takes a deep breath) Let's go – I really hope ya'll enjoy the ride!

Red Thread of Fate

Of Tomatoes and Habaneros

As most children, a nine year old Kushina Uzumaki was far from thrilled when she had to leave her home and move to Konoha. She'd never been exactly good at making friends, so she definitely wasn't looking forward to settling into a whole another village.

She was too tough and stubborn to say she felt fear when as she stood beside their teacher – a rather old man with long, tightly tied brown hair and huge, thick glasses. But she most definitely felt uncomfortable as the man spoke to the very restless class. "Silence!" the man roared in a voice that would've silence a whole army. Once he had everyone's attention the man went on. "We have a new student in our class. Her name is Kushina Uzumaki, and I'd like you all to make her feel welcomed." The man then looked towards her with a warm smile. "Why don't you start with telling your dream for the future."

She was the new kid so she'd have to try and impress these kids, she figured. And she knew just the way to do it. Kushina lifted her chin and spoke with unnecessarily loud volume. "I'm gonna be the first female Hokage!"

For a moment everyone stared at her as though she'd said the most ridiculous thing in the whole world. Then, all of a sudden, most of the class erupted into a laughter.

Their teacher cast the others a venomous, dangerous look. "Enough!" He then glanced towards her. "Take your seat, Kushina", he ordered before focusing on the others. "So… What dreams do the rest of you have?"

Kushina walked sullenly to her seat and slumped down much more loudly than she would've had to, still sulking with her arms folded. She listened to the others with only half a ear.

Someone wished to become a great Shinobi – the best.

Another planned on a family.

One was bold enough to hope for peace.

"What about you, Minato?" their teacher inquired. "What's your dream for the future?"

Kushina didn't really focus, until something about Minato's voice caught her attention long before the words did. "I want everyone in the village to acknowledge me and become a great Hokage."

Kushina looked at the bright-haired boy with a frown, unsure what she should think. Was that guy making fun of her, or was he being serious?

She was too young to recognize the look on their teacher's face as that of amusement. "Well, how about this. It looks like we have two future leaders in our classroom."

Kushina snorted soundlessly and looked away from the boy. One thing she knew, or at least thought she knew, in an instant.

A Goofy Flake like that one would never become a Hokage.

Minato, on the other hand, couldn't take his eyes off her hair. He came to a conclusion that they were the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.

The children didn't forget about Kushina's words, for they kept picking on her for them for months to come. They even went as far as giving her a far from appealing nickname 'Tomato'. She hated it from the bottom of her heart because her chubby cheaks made her look like one. One day exactly three months before her tenth birthday Kushina finally had enough.

Her eyes narrowed when two boys whose names she couldn't even remember yet blocked her path on a busy street. "What do you want?" she bit out.

Both of the boys were much bigger and taller than she. Despite her usual stubborn nature she realized that the situation didn't look promising. The boys knew this as well.

The taller one of the boys smirked in a very infuriating way and pushed her lightly. "We heard you fell flat on your butt in today's practice."

"Yeah", the slightly shorter boy joined in, eyes shining with something that made her blood boil. "Not exactly suitable for a Hokage to be, right – Tomato?"

At that moment Kushiha saw red.

The adults around them could only watch as the girl who usually didn't exactly shine in ninja-skills attacked the two boys, giving them both several bruises as a reminder of just how fiery a tomato can be.

(Later on, she got a huge lecture for her antics and was forced to give the boys a very reluctant apology she didn't really mean at all.)

What no one noticed, was that from the sidelines a lone figure observed the commotion with a tiny smile on his face.

That day Minato Namikaze fell in love, as far as a ten-year-old could.

And as from that day, Kushina was known as The Bloody Habanero.

Frankly, a twelve year old Kushina still didn't think much of Minato Namikaze – her opinion on him hadn't changed from the day they first met. Whatever everyone else said, to her he was still a Goofy Flake who could easily be ignored. They talked sometimes but didn't train together a lot until a certain, deviously mundane day.

Kushina gave a sigh before approaching Minato on one of Konoha's training grounds. "I don't understand why Sensei wanted me to train with you, but let's get it over with." I'll win this one in a flash, she mused with childish arrogance. Then the boy won't laugh at me anymore.

Minato nodded. "Okay." He took a stance, clearly focusing. "Let's start with just ninjutsu."

She nodded, her eyes flashing. "Suits me just fine."

In little while she learned that the result of the battle might not be as set in stone as she'd thought, after all.

They spun around each other in a dizzying speed, throwing kicks and punches. As usual Kushina fought with her all to keep up with the pace, but in the end Minato's famous speed was just too much for her.

She growled loudly with frustration when he once again disappeared from her line of vision. "Stay still for a goddam second so I can land a decent attack!"

"The enemy won't wait around for you, either, Kushina." His calm tone only made her seethe more. "If you want to survive from the missions, you need to learn to keep up."

And then, before she could do more than blink, Kushina realized that she was spinning and falling. There was a hasty breath of air before she felt a hand behind her back and realized that Minato was leaning above her.

She was only inches from the ground, Kushina noticed and felt burning of irritation inside. She'd lost – she'd lost to a…!

Minato blinked once, examining her face. "Are you okay? You're all red."

Her eyes narrowed as frustration, irritation and his close proximity made her feel uncomfortably hot. "Let go of me, Namikaze!"

He shrugged. "As you wish." And so he did let go, sending her falling roughly to the ground.

Minato was no prankster. But as he saw the red on Kushina's cheeks and the fire – which matched with that of her hair – in her eyes, he mused that teasing her every once in a while might be nice. It was well worth the few bruises she gave him.

That day, Kushina wondered for the first time if she'd made the mistake of misjudging Minato – if there was more to him than she'd thought. She, however, quickly dismissed that thought. At least for a little bit longer.

The second turning point in Kushina's life – the first one in Konoha – happened when she was thirteen and took her third mission with her team. The mission, which had surprisingly turned out to be A-ranked, was a success. But she had to see too many people die in a matter of days.

It was also the first time she actually killed someone. And as embarrassed as she was by it, she cried a bit and threw up afterwards. The nightmares followed soon after.

Kushina couldn't understand. Wasn't she supposed to be a tough ninja? Ninjas never cried and had nightmares over something so stupid.

She was being stupid. Being a ninja was stupid.

It took three endlessly long days of walking before they finally made it home. As soon as they did Kushina isolated herself to one of the playground's swings. Another embarrassing thing – she hadn't used those since she decided she was too old for them at the grand age of ten.

And like the day – the whole week – hadn't been bad enough she heard steps. She fought back a tiny groan when lifting her gaze and seeing Minato looking at her from five steps's distance. "Oh, you." Great. He was the about last person she wanted to see her in such a state of mind.

She expected Minato to ridicule her, to tell her that she wasn't fit to be a ninja for being so worked up by all this. But he did no such thing.

Without saying a word Minato approached and took the swing next to hers, fixing his gaze towards the sky where stars were beginning to appear.

For about twenty minutes she waited, expected him to say something. But when he simply sat there, completely motionless apart from when wind blew through his hair, she accepted the silence. Which was odd, really – she'd never been good at handling quiet situations.

That's how they remained for almost three hours until Minato suddenly got up and walked away just as unexpectedly as he'd appeared. And Kushina realized that she really didn't know Minato Namikaze at all.

Afterwards Kushina didn't tell a soul about the confusing meeting. But in those silent hours a seed of something new had been planted.

Since she was a child Kushina had heard the adults around her whisper with worry over her unusual chakra. It'd get her into a lot of trouble one day, they predicted. And when Kushina was fourteen just that happened.

Kidnapped Kushina's head was a bit blurry and filled with chaos as several ninjas from the Hidden Cloud led her towards the borderline. She was terrified, as anyone of her age in such a situation. But she wasn't helpless.

Careful to keep her motions as subtle as possible, she pulled out a strand of long, red hair after another, marking her path. She could only pray someone would notice her clues. But as they were only minutes away from the Hidden Cloud, her hope began to wither.

That was until the leader of the squad – a rather huge man with lots of scars – suddenly stopped and lifted his hand. There was a deep frown on the man's face.

"What's up?" a man stood directly behind her demanded.

The leader's eyes flashed. "We're not alone."

The group never knew what hit them.

Everything happened so fast that Kushina couldn't really follow. There were screams – those of her captors – and she heard heavy sounds off struggle. There were thuds before it became quiet. Too quiet to her liking.

In moments she was falling. She closed her eyes and screamed out loud, almost sure that no one or nothing would be fast enough to break her fall in time.

Scream of terror was interrupted and got stuck into her throat when firm, determined arms caught her in the middle of the fall. Her whole body jerked and she let out a surprised gasp before daring to crack her eyes open.

She was in someone's arms, that much became clear immediately. And they were stood on a tree branch that looked much too frail to her liking. If it hadn't made the whole situation even more humiliating than it already was she would've given squeak of startle. She grabbed and squeezed the arm of her savior a bit more tightly than would've been appropriate.

Her biggest shock, however, came when the savior spoke. "Are you okay?"

It took a long moment before her shock allowed her to function. Her eyes widened to a ridiculous size when she lifted her gaze to meet a much too familiar face. "Minato…?"
Minato nodded, his expression very serious. "I noticed your hair and followed them." The boy glanced gloomily towards the nearby borderline. "I was almost too late."

She blinked several times, this all going over her head. "How did you know?"

Never in her life had Kushina's heart shifted quite the way it did when Minato smiled, just a little bit. "Of course I knew. I noticed your beautiful hair right away."

In those few moments they lingered there all but staring at each other, something definitely changed inside Kushina Uzumaki. And she realized with immense startle that she was beginning to fall into something a lot more dangerous than few moments ago.

Their uncomfortably intimate moment was cut when Jiraiya suddenly hopped to a nearby branch. There was a uncharacteristically serious look on the man's face. "Are you two okay?"

She was thankful Minato, at least, managed to nod and speak. "Yeah. I managed to stop them in time."
Jiraiya nodded as well, relaxing visibly. "Good job." The man winked in a way that brought uncomfortable heat to Kushina's cheeks. "You kids take as much time as you need, yeah? I'll go and report the others." With that the man disappeared.

Looking Minato's way, Kushina was satisfied to discover that at least the boy was feeling just as uncomfortable as she was. "Uh…" The Namikaze cleared his throat. "I... guess we should go."

Her eyes narrowed, more against herself than him. "And you really should let me go. I can walk just fine on my own."

Minato obeyed, and this time he didn't drop her. She fled as fast as possible.

So perhaps she was beginning to fall in love with him, or something. But that didn't mean she'd have to admit it just yet.

There was a tiny, knowing smile on Minato's face as he watched her go.


A/N: Soooo…. (gulps VERY nervously) How was that – any good?

It's your call, folks! Do you think this story's worth three more chapters, or should this be tossed into a dumpster? PLEASE, do let me know – you've gotta know by now that your opinion means a lot! (gives HUGE puppy's eyes)

I have the next chapter written and the rest pretty much planned up, so if you want me to I can offer pretty fast updates.

Until next time, folks – whichever story that shall be! (grins)

Thank you so much for reading this! Take care!