Disclaimer: I don't own the Anime/Manga Naruto, I'm just playing with it a bit, and I'm not making any money off it so please don't sue!
Notes: AU, pre-Naruto (Minato is a genin), one-shot. This follows five years-ish after Fox Girl, is in no way related to Fox Moon/Will of Foxfire, and is for Kushina's birthday (July 10th (Tanabata: July 7th))…
Anyways, read, review, and enjoy!
Kushina stormed away from Konoha's Tanabata celebration and into the woods with her eyes angry and stinging. For almost five years she'd worked hard learning manners, reading, writing, math, and the basics of the ninja arts. But she was through with all of that!
Feeling that she'd gone a good distance, Kushina stopped only long enough to take her clothes off. Her fingers fumbled with the nice kimono that Tsunade had given her for her upcoming birthday (not that it was her real birthday, she'd just randomly picked July tenth by pointing at a calendar) as she struggled to escape from it. When she was completely naked, she shifted her shape from that of a woman to that of a fox.
It had been months since she'd taken her original form. She tried to stay human as often as possible because it helped her learn more about humans and be more human. Over the years she'd spent making herself human she'd grown from a pre-teen into an adult human shape without having to think about it, and she'd even started bleeding monthly the way real human women did. It was horrible and disgusting, but it was for him and so she suffered the grossness and took the pills that Tsunade said she had to take because all kunoichi took them without much complaint.
Not anymore though!
With an angry growl Kushina trotted deeper into the forests the surrounded the ninja village. She was done trying to be human. She was going to leave Konoha behind forever and ever! But, before she left, she would enjoy the Tanabata fireworks.
She found the waterfall that Jiraiya liked to skulk around in hopes of seeing girls in bikinis frolicking and settled down on a broad flat boulder where she would have a nice view of the sky.
Hurry up fireworks! Go off and be pretty! Hurry up so I can leave!
I want to leave so that I never have to see Minato's stupid face ever again!
She tried to be human for him. She tried to help him. She tried to do what he wanted. But all she seemed to do was embarrass him, make him angry, and disappoint him.
"She's driving me crazy, Sensei! Some days I wish that I'd never met her!"
Kushina peered over the edge of her rock perch and down into the calm edge of the water that pooled at the base of the waterfall. She bared her teeth at the wavering reflection of the red fox in the water. And then she destroyed the image with a slap of her paw.
Well I'm done with you, Minato! she thought viciously. I'm leaving so you'll never have to see me again!
You never needed me anyway.
Part of her drive to be human had been to help Minato achieve his goals of being a great ninja and eventually becoming Hokage. But Minato excelled at being a ninja regardless of what she did or didn't do. He'd easily reached chuunin rank and had recently become a jounin. He was tutoring a brilliant young boy named Kakashi and it would only be a matter of time before he took on a full set of students. There were other candidates for the next Hokage, like Dan or Orochimaru, but Minato was clearly the best choice.
You're a great ninja, Minato. Someday soon you'll be Hokage. You'll even get that over-bred bitch you wanted.
That was her last straw. Kushina had spotted Minato in the Tanabata crowd and tried to get over to where he was, but then she'd seen who he was talking to: Yukihana Sasami, the beautiful rich girl that he'd always wanted, the girl that Kushina had originally modeled herself after, the girl that had never paid him any attention at all. As Kushina had watched from across the street, Sasami-bitch had batted her pretty little eyelashes at Minato…and then kissed him.
Kissing, like all human things, was complicated. Parents kissed their children out of affection, but only on the cheeks or forehead. Friends sometimes kissed on the cheek, but only certain kinds of friends and only in certain situations. Husbands and wives kissed each other all over, but some of that kissing was only done in private. Kissing on the mouth meant more than just affection, it meant love and intimacy.
Sasami and Minato had mouth-kissed.
Hurry up fireworks! Kushina whined and stared desperately up at the darkening sky. Hurry up so I can go!
I need to get out of his way so that he can be happy.
Minato frowned as he weaved his way through the Tanabata crowd. Everywhere there were people dressed up in traditional garb, wishes written on papers hung from poles, and young couples engaged in various public displays of affection. But no matter where he looked he couldn't find the person that he wanted to find.
Where is she? The blond eighteen-year-old fidgeted anxiously with the sleeve of his blue yukata. You'd think with red hair like hers she'd be easy to spot in a crowd…
He'd been fortunate to not have a mission over Tanabata. He enjoyed all of the traditional festivals and it was fun to watch Kushina enjoy the fireworks; her awe and excitement over the pyrotechnics reminded him of an innocent child. Also, it was a good time to give Kushina her birthday present even though her "birthday" was three days off.
Where the heck is Kushina? I thought I saw her before… If only Sasami-san hadn't distracted me.
The young jounin had been startled when the gorgeous merchant's daughter had materialized out of the crowd to talk to him. Yukihana Sasami had looked even more stunning that usual dressed in her festival finest—a wine red kimono with patterns in black and gold—with her long black hair done up with a complicated hair ornament. She'd then proceed to flirt with him like many other village girls had since his fame had begun to grow, invited him to come find her after the fireworks, and then she'd surprised him by giving him a peck on the lips before she'd walked off.
It was admittedly a bit flattering to have pretty girls admire him when only a few years before most of them wouldn't have given him the time of day. And it was amazing that the girl who he'd always daydreamed about, the girl who was so high above him, so unattainable, suddenly was talking to him, acknowledging his existence, and seemingly interested in him. But it was also a rather surreal experience (especially the little kiss at the end) that left him more embarrassed than anything else.
If I hadn't picked up the nickname Yellow Flash Sasami-san probably would've ignored me this year like she did all the years before. She's not necessarily interested in me, it's my rising reputation. Should I suddenly fall into disgrace like Kakashi's father, Sakumo-san, she and all the other girls would forget all about me.
Kushina wouldn't forget about him, though. She'd come into his life when he was still a relatively unknown genin. He'd saved her from a pack of feral hounds and taken her out of a hard life scratching a living out in the woods and fringes of human settlements. She was grateful to him, appreciated him, and believed in him.
Even with all the humiliating situations Kushina put him in with her lack of understanding of human behavior and culture, Minato was glad to have such a faithful friend.
"Oi, you looking for your girlfriend Minato?"
The blond paused and found Yamanaka Inoichi grinning at him.
"I'm looking for Kushina," Minato replied stiffly.
Even though it had happened back in the spring, he was still a bit pissed at his Yamanaka comrade. When the cherry trees had been blossoming, he'd stumbled over Inoichi and Kushina tucked away in the pink-petaled trees…making out. He had quickly broken things up because only a select few people knew that Kushina was actually a fox and Inoichi was not one of them, and because she was naïve and had no idea what she was doing.
"What's your problem? I just wanted to see what was so great about mouth-kissing, and since you won't do it with me I found a boy who would!"
"She went that way," Inoichi said, helpfully pointing the way. "She looked pissed. You'd better hurry up and smooth things over if you want to get a Tanabata kiss from her!"
"Thanks," Minato growled and brushed past the long-haired young man.
Why would she look angry? he wondered worriedly as he headed in the direction that Inoichi had indicated. Kushina loves festivals. And the fireworks should be starting in an hour. She should be excited and happy.
He kept walking down the street, occasionally stopping to check and see if a girl with long red hair had passed by, until the street dead-end into the forest. Minato frowned and headed into the trees. He hoped that he could find her in time to get to a good rooftop to watch the fireworks. Living in a ninja village meant that space on the roofs could get scarce during planned pyrotechnic shows as all the resident shinobi and their friends could easily perch in places that ordinary civilians thought of as inaccessible.
"Kushina?" he called out. "Kushina, are you out here?"
If she heard him, she didn't answer.
Then he found the kimono. It had been discarded on the ground in a heap and he'd nearly stepped on the fine fabric. At first he thought he'd stumbled over evidence of some young couple that were really taking advantage of the romantic spirit of Tanabata, but he found no men's clothing and didn't hear or sense anyone around.
And he found that as he cautiously picked up and studied the kimono that he sort of recognized it. A few weeks back he'd come across Tsunade and her fiancé, Dan. The pair had been window-shopping and Tsunade had called his attention to a green dress.
"It's very pretty…but not for me," the busty blonde woman said. "I think little Kushina-chan would look very cute in it. Don't you think so, Minato?"
"Huh, I guess Tsunade-sama decided to give her an early birthday present, too," Minato muttered as he fingered the silky green cloth. "But, if this is here…"
His face burned and there was a prickle in his nose that signaled a possibly imminent nosebleed. And then he choked when he found her shoes and underwear tangled in the discarded kimono. Minato thoroughly cursed his teenage hormones as they immediately pulled his thoughts down into the gutter.
She's not streaking! She's just turned into a fox again. That's all…
One would think that he would be thoroughly desensitized to Kushina's naked human body since they lived together (Tsunade had offered to take the girl in, but Kushina insisted on living with him). The first time he'd ever laid eyes on Kushina as a human she'd been completely nude, and as a fox it was hard for her to remember that keeping her body covered was important. He'd long lost track of the times that she'd forgotten to bring fresh clothes with her into the bathroom when she showered and then failed to use a towel to cover up when she went for a new outfit.
But puberty had hit him hard right about that time. It didn't matter that she was a fox or that she has the mentality of a child. She looked like a pretty girl and she'd only continued to develop from there as if she was going through human puberty herself. In spite of all his efforts, his stupid teenager hormones kept generating wildly inappropriate thoughts (…and dreams, but he was firmly in denial about those).
"Kushina!" he shouted louder as he clumsily gathered up the tossed clothing into a sloppy bundle. "Where are you?"
There was still no reply.
Minato grimaced and wandered deeper into the forest, keeping his eyes peeled for a red fox. He tried not to think about the feminine clothing (especially the bra and panties) that he was carrying and he hoped that no one saw him out here. It would be embarrassing, but he generally found himself in far worse situations when Kushina was involved…
"Why do I have to wear these things?" the girl asked loudly, pulling a bra out of the shopping back that Tsunade had given her to show to Minato while they were still out on the street…in full view of everyone. "Isn't a shirt enough?"
"Chopsticks are stupid!" Kushina hissed and pouted at Minato who sat next to her at the ramen bar. "Can't I just eat with my hands? Monkeys eat with their hands, and humans are like monkeys, right?"
"That's lady's really fat," the red-head remarked as a very pregnant woman walked by, and when he told her that the lady was going to have a baby she asked: "How many puppies does she have in there?"
"Minato!" the transformed fox chirped as they walked past a picnic party in the park. "What's sex? Can we try it?"
The young jounin shook his head to turn his thoughts away from the (very) long list of Kushina-induced humiliation and poured all of his attention on the task of locating his wayward fox friend. Eventually he came to the little waterfall that was a favorite haunt of his lecherous sensei due to its popularity as a swimming hole for young, attractive women. And there his searched seemed to end as he spied a fluffy fox curled up on the edge of the shallow pool, staring up at the darkening sky.
The fox jumped and spun around, bristling and snarling at him, and for a minute he wondered if he was mistaken and this was just some other random fox—
"Go away!" the vixen hissed. "I don't want to see you!"
"Why not?" Minato frowned, not terribly surprised to hear the fox speak the human language. Kuromaru, Tsume's canine partner, was picking up the skill, so it made sense that a shape-shifting fox would easily be able to do the same. "And why did you leave this on the ground?" he asked, showing her the crumpled kimono tucked under his arm. "Did Tsunade-sama give this to you? It looks pretty expensive. You shouldn't just drop expensive things in the dirt like that—"
"I don't care!" Kushina barked, still baring her teeth. "After the fireworks I'm leaving!"
"Leaving?" Minato repeated blankly. "You're…moving out?"
"I'm leaving Konoha!" the red fox howled.
He stared at her. "…You can't just leave. If you want to avoid becoming a missing-nin you'll have to go to Hokage-sama and officially retire first."
"Then I'll go talk to the Old Man, retire, and leave, dattebane!"
"…Why?" Minato asked, baffled.
"Because you're stupid!"
The young shinobi swallowed a sigh. Dealing with her was like dealing with a cranky two-year-old. If only she looked like a two-year-old instead of an almost-adult, dealing with her in public wouldn't be half as embarrassing as everyone understood that small children didn't know any better when they asked awkward questions or said stupid things.
"How am I stupid?"
"You just are, dattebane!" Kushina whined, her voice wavering like she might…cry?
"Kushina…" Minato walked out of the bushes and settled down at the edge of the pool beside her, ignoring her threatening posture completely. "What's wrong?"
His vixen friend was generally a pretty up-beat and resilient creature. On the rare occasion that she would get down or upset Tsunade was usually nearby to come save the day with some girl talk or something. But out in the woods, with her threatening to desert Konoha, it was up to Minato to try and smooth things over.
He hoped he didn't screw it up.
"Nothing!" the fox insisted, turning her furry back to him. "I just want to leave, dattebane!"
"Really?" Minato muttered. "You want to leave…and give up fireworks and ramen and birthday cake and chocolate and ninja missions and—"
"Yeah, I want to leave!" she snapped, interrupting his list of all the things that he knew she loved about living as a human in Konoha. "And I'm going to!"
"You want to never see Tsunade-sama or Jiraiya-sensei or Mikoto-san or me—"
"You don't want me around!" Kushina wailed, turning back around the bat at his shoulder with her dark-furred paws. "I heard you talking to Ero-sensei about how I drive you crazy and how dumb I am and how you w-wished that you n-never met me! So I'm just going to go an—"
Minato gathered the fox up in his arms in spite of her flailing and held her in his lap.
"I'm sorry," he said hurriedly as a vague queasiness roiled in the pit of his stomach. "I was just venting after a bad day. I know that you didn't mean to put me in those awkward situations, you didn't know any better. I'm sorry. I'm very glad that I met you, and that I have a friend like you." Please don't leave!
She slowly stilled in his arms. He relaxed a bit and took the opportunity to rub the soft fluffy fur on the back of her neck. He wished that she would revert to her fox form more often; she was a very cuddly creature.
"You never pet me anymore," Kushina sulked even as she leaned into his touch.
"I can't pet you when you're a girl," Minato replied. "It gives people the wrong idea."
As it was there were all kinds of rumors about them due to their habit of holding hands (she had a short attention span and he needed to hold onto her so that she didn't get lost). And Inoichi was convinced that they were dating because of how Minato had interrupted his and Kushina's little kiss-fest under the cherry trees. No matter how Minato denied it, Inoichi kept on calling Kushina his girlfriend.
"Why do people care?" Kushina whined. "It's none of their business."
"I really don't know," Minato shrugged. "…Do you feel better now?"
The vixen hopped out of his lap and put a good yard gap between them.
"No, I'm still leaving."
"Why?" he sputtered.
The more he advanced as a ninja, the more he learned about the complexities of the top offices of the village, and the more he knew that he would need someone like Kushina around. He would never have to worry about her betraying him. And her simpler point of view would be like a breath of fresh air when he had to navigate through all the musty political webs.
If she wasn't there when he rose to the level of Hokage (even if he didn't get the job itself he was determined to be one of the top ninja in the village and be important to whoever did succeed the Sandaime) then…what would he do?
"You don't need me," she muttered.
"I saw you kiss that girl!" The fox drooped. "You don't need me if you have her…"
It took a minute for Minato to figure out what she was referring to. Kushina's little crisis had completely driven Sasami-san's earlier flirtation with him from his mind. Minato rubbed at the back of his head, feeling fantastically awkward.
"I don't…I don't have her," he gulped. "We aren't dating or anything. She was just flirting with me."
"It was a mouth-kiss," Kushina mumbled, sinking down to her belly on the pebbly shore of the pond. "I saw it."
"It didn't mean anything!" Minato insisted, feeling his face heat up.
"But she's the one that you've always wanted," the vixen retorted.
He found himself at a loss as how to argue his way out of this. He'd mooned over Yukihana Sasami since the Academy. Anyone who was his friend knew that. But now that he suddenly had a real shot at getting her…he found that he wasn't nearly as excited at the opportunity as he'd thought that he would be.
"I…I'd like to see you in this," he stammered, picking up the green kimono that had slipped out from under his arm when he'd sat down. "I bet you'd look very pretty in it."
The fox stared at it for a long minute before sighing deeply.
And then she started shifting.
Minato hurriedly turned around. If he couldn't keep his thoughts nice and clean when he glimpsed her naked, he wasn't going to look. He was a responsible person, and responsible young men didn't take advantage of innocent girls, even with just their eyes.
He was not his sensei.
After several minutes of waiting and the sounds of rustling cloth, she said: "Hurry up and look."
"Kirei," he smiled as he admired the simple kimono and how nicely it complimented her skin and long red hair. "Very pretty."
She looked beautiful. But she also looked sad, with her eyes downcast and her shoulders slumped. His compliment had no effect on her.
"I think the fireworks will start soon," Minato commented as he noted the dark sky.
The moon was full and bright this Tanabata. And the sky was clear. That meant that the two heavenly lovers would be able to cross the River of Heaven and be together for the night.
"Good," she said, her voice lacking the enthusiasm that he expected when fireworks were involved.
Minato anxiously fidgeted, slipped his hands into the folds of his yukata, and got an idea when his fingertips brushed up against something.
"I have something for you," he grinned and offered her a small box. "I know your birthday is still a few days off, but you don't mind getting your present early, do you?"
The girl stared at the plain little box warily before snatching it from his hands. As he hadn't gotten around to wrapping it all she had to do was flip the lids off to see what he'd bought for her. The transformed fox's eyes widened as she removed a set of sparkly barrettes from the box.
They looked like they were made of gold with little emeralds embedded in them, but they were much, much cheaper imitations. A finely-bred girl like Sasami would be insulted by the knock-off gift. But Kushina didn't care that it wasn't real; all that mattered to her was that it was pretty and sparkly.
"Thank you," she breathed, turning the little hair ornaments to better admire their glittery parts.
"You're welcome," Minato smiled broadly. "I'm glad that you like them."
He took the little hair clips and carefully used them to replace the plain black barrette that she'd already had in her hair. Then he gently took her by the hand and walked her out onto the placid surface of the waterfall pool. With the light of the full moon, she could easily see her reflection in the water under her sandals and admire her new barrettes.
"Now you look even prettier," he said. "Don't you think so?"
She nodded and latched onto his chest. Minato sighed and rested his cheek on the top of her red head and let his arms slide around her waist where his fingertips could fiddle with her soft hair. He was glad that she was finally cheering up.
And then they heard the first shriek-boom of the fireworks show.
Kushina looked skyward and with every explosion of color and sound the awe and excitement sparkling in her eyes would grow. Minato spent more time watching her face than the awesome display in the heavens above. Even when the show's finale happened and it was just solid explosions that were so loud that he could feel it in his chest he barely looked away from her joyous smile.
"Ah, I love fireworks, dattebane!" she squealed when the sky was quiet and the air was heavy with the smell of burned gunpowder.
"Mm-hm," Minato agreed as he gently towed her off the surface of the pool and back onto solid ground.
"I wish there were fireworks every night!"
"You'd get tired of them, then," he chuckled and pulled her down to sit beside him on a patch of soft grass.
"No I wouldn't!" she insisted.
"You would," he sighed, still fingering her hair. "And if you left, you wouldn't get to see any fireworks."
She pouted at him. "You really want me to stay?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," he chuckled and pulled her more snugly up against his side.
"Okay, you win, I'll stick around," she sighed.
"Thank you, 'Shina."
Honestly, he'd meant to kiss her cheek. But she turned her head like she was going to say something. And the result was something straight out of the romance stories and movies that Uchiha Mikoto was so obsessed with.
The contact was brief and clumsy. It didn't feel like Sasami-san's surprise peck, which had been startling and awkward. It felt shocking, but good. Very, very good. And from the slightly glassy look in Kushina's eyes and the flush in her cheeks, she thought it felt good, too.
Perhaps it was the spirit of Tanabata that possessed him. Perhaps his brains were still a touch addled from the terrific hit he'd taken from his sensei in their last training session the day before. But he found that he didn't care how screwed he was or how this was bound to turn out badly with him being a human and she being a fox—
He just kissed her again.