Ten Memories of Uzumaki Kushina

1. Nara Shikaku

On the first day at the Academy, Shikaku realized he had seen most of the kids in the classroom before. Many were children of other shinobi, some of those shinobi friends of his family. Yet there was a chubby girl with red hair in front of him that he had never seen before. With her build and her hair (much like Choza's) there was always the possibility that she was related to the Akimichis; however, there were no tattoos on her cheeks, discounting that possibility.

Minutes later, their sensei was at the front of the class and asking their names and their dreams for the future. There were the normal responses until the sensei got to the redhead in front of him. Her name was Uzumaki Kushina—not a clan name, so the probability of her possessing a bloodline was low—and (here her round cheeks turned the same color as her hair and her words started to come faster and slide together) she would be the first female Hokage of Kohonagakure. The other kids started to laugh. The girl stayed resolutely upright, but her blush darkened even further. She…almost looked like a tomato.

When he mentioned this similarity to her two weeks later, she turned around and easily kicked his ass, her hair a blood red whip in the wind.

2. Akimichi Choza

Choza clutched his bento closer and walked away from the Academy. Inoichi was out sick (his parents refused to go to a medic-nin, saying he deserved it for running around in the rain) and Shikaku was trapped with their sensei, probably being lectured—again— on how laziness was no excuse for potential to go to waste.

With them gone, he had no one to eat lunch with. However, he knew there was a bench around the corner, a little a ways from the Academy. He turned the corner…and stopped.

On the bench was Uzumaki Kushina, girls surrounding her. At his distance, he couldn't quite tell who all of the girls were, but he recognized the one girl that was standing in front of them all, obviously the ringleader. It was Hyuuga Tomoko, her pale lavender eyes only shades lighter than the ribbon wrapped around her forehead. Choza almost drew back. The Hyuuga girl was always nasty and cold, mocking everybody for anything; she would easily tear him to pieces.

Yet…Kushina was sitting there, glaring right back at Tomoko. The glare didn't quite hide the sheen to her eyes though or the tremble of her round chin.

Choza straightened and walked forward. "Leave her alone!" he called.

The girls moved as one, turning their heads to look at him. Hyuuga Tomoko sneered at him. "So, the fat ass helping out the chubby tomato, here?" She looked him up and down, pale eyes sharp and calculating. Then she flipped her dark hair and turned her nose up at them. "No need to stay by these losers," she said and sauntered off, the group following her.

Choza stared after them, wondering at their cruelty. Then he turned back to Kushina. Her head was bowed, dark red hair a curtain for her expression. Her hands were clenched into fists, the knuckles white in her frustration. Carefully, he sat down next to her. She was the Red Hot-Blooded Habanero, pummeling those who got on her bad side. Who knew what she would do to the "fat ass"?

Then he noticed her bento on the ground, rice spilled all over the concrete. She had just been teased…and now she was without food? He flipped his open own bento and held it out to her. "Want an onigiri?"

Her head whipped up, grey eyes wide and wary. Slowly, she looked down to the offered food. Then she gave him a brilliant smile, her whole face lightening. "Thanks," she said and took one.

3. Yamanaka Inoichi

When he mentioned it to Choza, Choza looked at him funny and asked, "You have…a crush?" And then he asked who, and only then did he smile. When he mentioned it to Shikaku, Shikaku stared at him, the girl in question, the flower in his hand, and sighed, "Troublesome."

Inoichi clenched the flower (probably a little tighter than he should have) and scowled. "What are you talking about? She's wonderful."

Shikaku gave him an askance glance. "That's the Red Hot-Blooded Habanero you're talking about."

Choza gave a thoughtful frown. "She's actually really nice. This one time—"

"You're only pissed because she beat you up that time you called her a tomato, Nara," Inoichi retorted and then stuck his tongue out at his friend. He turned and started marching away from them, intent on giving the flower to her.

Shikaku ignored that and instead said, "Watch out for Namikaze then."

Inoichi froze in place and then threw a look at the blond kid. Namikaze Minato was practicing throwing shuriken; many were already imbedded in the center of target. Throwing a glance over his shoulder, he asked Shikaku, "What do you mean?"

Shikaku let out another world weary sigh and said, "He likes her, you idiot."

Inoichi looked over to the blond boy again. Kushina was walking with sensei, talking to him about something; they passed Namikaze as he threw and the blond's next shuriken flew wide, landing in the trunk of a nearby tree. Namikaze's blue eyes followed her and then he hastily snapped back to focus, regarding the target and the shuriken with a frown.

"So?" he said arrogantly and continued walking. Kushina split ways with the teacher and then almost ran into him when she turned.

"Hello," she said cautiously, sizing him up.

With a grin he held out the flower. "This is for you," he said.

Blankly, she looked at him and then the flower. "Oh." She took it, gave it a confused frown. "What am I supposed to do with it?"

She…she didn't know? Shaking his head, Inoichi took the flower and stuck it behind one of her ears. The orange petals were bright against her red hair. "Here," he said and stepped back, waiting.

"Oh." Another confused frown, this time at him. "Thank you," she said, a little blankly, and continued walking, as if nothing had happened.

Crushed, Inoichi watched her as she went back to her target and continued practicing. Nothing? He sighed and headed back to his friends.

When he got there, Choza gave him a consoling pat on the back. Shikaku just lazily flung another shuriken and muttered, "I told you to watch out."

"Huh?" Inoichi asked and glanced around. Then he froze. Namikaze was looking coldly at him, eyes narrowed, mouth set in a frown. Then the blond turned away. Inoichi's stomach untwisted itself. Maybe…maybe he wouldn't give anymore flowers to Kushina. Just in case.

4. Maito Gai

Gai blinked up at the blindingly bright blue sky and was rewarded with another slap on the cheek. Reason (as much as was allowed in the insanity that was Matio Gai) returned with a painful whimper.

"Hey," a Youthful Voice of Womanhood said. "You okay there?"

In his vision was a wonderful specimen of Youth and Beauty. The grey eyes regarding him—rather quizzically, probably wondering why he had simply passed out from so little work—were filled with the Will of Fire so often found in Kohona's Dedicated and Eager Shinobi. Even her hair was in line, the red so much like the Fire of the Youthful Soul.

Gai jumped up and said, over the rather surprised squawk from the woman, "I will run five-hundred laps around Kohona for not making it three-hundred times!"

"No, but you're hurt, I think you need to sit down—"

"Seven-hundred laps then, to remember to not be hurt while running!"

"What? No, no, you need to sit, you might have a concussion—"

"A thousand laps then!"

"SIT." And a hand pressed down on his shoulder, pushing him to the ground with all the Strength of a Shinobi. "Just sit for a minute." The redhead pulled a bottle out from her pack and handed it to him. "Here. Drink some water."

He took the water bottle with a Smile and a Thumbs-Up and drank it. Like the Most Intelligent and Thoughtful Shinobi of Kohona, the woman was right. His Youthful Energy and Strength came back Ten-Fold!

He handed the water bottle back to the Most Kind and Beautiful woman. Then he gave her another Smile and Thumbs-Up, recognized her dazed look of Awe for his Vigor and Manliness, and said, "Thank you, Great Shinobi!" Then he took off in his renewed run, body once more filled with the Flame of Youth.

5. Teuchi of the Ichiraku Ramen Bar

Teuchi served the old lady in the corner of the bar her pork ramen and came back to the counter. One down, many more to go. The old man was hesitant in letting him watch the restaurant still, but Teuchi had convinced him that he could take care of the shop while his father rested. At least he was getting the hang of it.

One of the regulars—the slim redheaded Kushina-san—sat down at the bar, a blond man following her. The man sat next to her, close, and looked over the ramen bar with interest.

He approached them, watching as Kushina-san scooted a little closer to the man. The man—no doubt a shinobi—gave her a small smile and let her. Kushina-san's cheek turned pink. Ah, so Kushina-san had a suitor. Finally. She deserved one.

"Salt ramen again?" he asked her, smiling.

Her attention snapped over to him. "Of course, old man! What do you expect?" Her laugh was edged with anxiety.

He turned to the man. "And you, sir?"

"Ah…I'll try the miso ramen."

Teuchi turned to the back and started making the ramen, ears tuned to Kushina-san and her date.

The man: "Do you always come here?"

A scoff, from Kushina-san. Then: "Of course. Ramen is the best! Don't you like it?"

"I'll never really eaten ramen."

"Blasphemy!" Kushina-san announced and Teuchi tried not to laugh. "I need to take you here more often then."

"So…" There was something sly about the man's voice, low and teasing. "Do you mean we'll have more dates?"

Kushina-san coughed and her words were lost in the noisy chaos of people.

6. Inuzuka Tsume

Tsume patted Kuromaru on the head and sighed. It had been a long day of practice and training with the other Chuunin. Soon, she would be testing for Jounin level and she needed all the help she could get...not that she really thought she and Kuromaru would fail.

"C'mon, Kuromaru," she said. "Time to go home." She scratched him behind the ears and they were running through the forest, aimed for home.

However, halfway there, she stumbled on a strange scent. Kuromaru paused beside her and lifted his muzzle in the air, nose twitching. She took in a deep drag and tried to place the…

Suddenly, she grinned. She knew that scent. Lust, heavy and spicy, was in the air…and this was right next to training area. Kuromaru huffed disapprovingly at her as she crept forward, curiosity winning out over thoughts of privacy and courtesy.

Absently, she hid her chakra and peered around a tree. Then her grin turned into a smirk. Kushina was pinned to one of the posts by her blond boy-toy. Hands were roving everywhere, mouths shiny with spit in the moonlight.

Part of her wanted to crow in amusement of the thought of boyish Kushina snagging a hottie like that, but she merely leaned forward a little more and tried to track the masculine hand that disappeared under Kushina's skirt.

She was abruptly jerked backwards, Kuromaru glaring at her. She scowled at him and he, in turn, pulled back his lips in a snarl, teeth still snug on her clothing. He gave her another tug and she sighed.

"Fine," she muttered and started heading home again. She would just have to bug Kushina next time.

7. Hatake Kakashi

Kakashi crept out of the room. He paused for a moment, trying to remember exactly where the kitchen was. It shouldn't have been so hard, considering he had had dinner there with Sensei and—his wife? girlfriend? lover?—Kushina-san hours earlier. As he padded down the hallway, he figured he should have just stayed in the room. However, the room had one tiny window, high on the wall, and it had been hard to breathe, his heart beating frantically in his ribcage; he could remember the kitchen though, with its wide window open to the sky.

He found the kitchen with no issues and leaned against the wall, staring at the sprinkle of stars. Here, his breath was coming easier and he couldn't see blood whenever he blinked. He settled more firmly against the wall and exhaled slowly.

There was the quiet patter of feet on floor and then, "Oh. Kakashi." A slight yawn that Kushina-san tried to hide with her hand. Pulling her robe tighter around herself, she walked across the room and sat at the table.

She stared at him, face softened by sleep. In a quiet voice, she asked, "Bad dreams?"

Kakashi looked back out the window and said nothing.

The chair creaked as she shifted. There was silence for a moment and he glanced over at her again. There was a slight, sad smile on her face, eyes very deep and very grey. "That's okay," she murmured. "Minato gets them sometimes too."

She smiled at him and he faintly realized why Sensei liked her. "I used to have bad dreams. People used to call me Tomato at school because I had red hair and, well, was chubby. So I'd have these bad dreams about this tomato chasing after me, dressed in my clothes, trying to steal my face." She gave a low, bewildered laugh. "It seems so silly, but I was always so frightened by them."

He said nothing but continued to watch her.

She took this as a sign and kept talking about dreams that were, in reality, very silly, but were horrible while they were occurring. There was the tomato one and the bears one and the ballerina one and—

Kakashi blinked and was startled to find sunlight spilling across the room. He was in bed, the same guestroom he had left late last night, and now it was (he glanced at the amount of light and the angle it was falling at) late morning. He pressed deeper in the pillow and remembered nothing but Kushina-san's voice, quiet and gentle, while she talked.

8. Sarutobi Hiruzen

Sarutobi looked over to the next Hokage and sighed. "Minato, aren't you late?" he asked and looked askance at the clock.

Absentmindedly, Minato followed his gaze. Then he jumped up and started putting all the papers he had been working on together. "I was supposed to meet Kushina for lunch!"

Sarutobi almost laughed. "I know. You told me that when you came in."

Minato looked at him, mouth open to say something, and then the door was kicked open. Kushina looked at the frozen men and scowled. Pointing her finger at Minato, she said, "You were supposed to meet me for lunch."

"Ah," Minato said eloquently. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time."

Ignoring his words, she stomped forward and grabbed his arm, dragging him out of the room. Minato was only able to wave before he was gone.

Sarutobi shuffled his papers and chuckled.

9. Jiraiya

Jiraiya slapped his former student on the back. "You've told me about your girl, but where is she?"

A woman slipped into the room. She was beautiful, wonderfully round with pregnancy. Hands on her protruding stomach, she looked tranquil with herself. Then Jiraiya started speaking and her smile fell.

Ignoring Minato's frantic expression, Jiraiya laughingly said that with her pregnant stomach and her red hair, she almost looked like a tomato. Then Kushina scowled and punched him in the face.

Later, while they were talking about the child who would be a shinobi named Naruto, Jiraiya saw her gentle smile and the way his student looked at her. He came to two conclusions: 1) Minato and Kushina were ridiculously in love with each other; 2) Naruto would have the best parents any kid could ever have.

10. Uzumaki Naruto

Naruto traced the invisible seal on his stomach. He…had met his mother. He shut his eyes.

"I love you," she had said. Naruto pressed his hand flat to the seal he had once hated and smiled as wide as possible.