Disclaimer: I (very obviously) don't own Naruto. I'm making no money by writing this. I write for fun. So please refrain from suing.

Notes: AU, no Bijuu, pre-Kakashi Gaiden, ONE-SHOT. Rated for naughty teenage mischief.

This has nothing at all to do with "Fox Moon/Will of Foxfire"! It draws some inspiration from information revealed about Kushina, and the original manga pilot of Naruto.

Now that that's out of the way…please read and enjoy (any favorites and/or reviews are greatly appreciated and encouraged)!

The Curse

Namikaze Minato sat beneath a tree in a quiet corner of the park near his apartment and practiced his meditation. As a twelve-year-old he'd pestered Hyuuga Hizashi until his classmate had caved and shared the style of meditation practiced by the Hyuuga clan. And as a sixteen-year-old he still employed the mental exercises on an almost daily basis to keep calm and focused…and to keep his little problem under control.

His problem had appeared shortly after his graduation from the Ninja Academy. His new sensei, Jiraiya, had come across a mysterious seal on his stomach during a training exercise. The white-haired jounin was a seal master and had been very intrigued as the seal had elements in it that he was unfamiliar with. Jiraiya had spent a few days studying it before deciding that it was safe to remove it.

Minato really wished that his sensei hadn't done that.

Apparently that seal had held his "humanity" stable. Without it, any strong emotion would literally turn him into an animal. Using meditation helped, and over time he'd gotten better at holding on to his human shape while under stress. But over the past year it seemed like his control was deteriorating, no matter what he did.

The first major incident had occurred shortly after his fifteenth birthday. He'd just come back from several months away from the village on a training trip with his sensei. Aya had been an old classmate of his who had washed out of the Academy just one year shy of graduation to ninja-hood. He ran into her on the street and had been struck with how pretty she looked. Minato had tried his hand at flirting with her (partly to avoid having his sensei try and set him up with a "nice girl") and although it had been horribly awkward she had seemed interested. She'd gotten closer, smiled at him, put her hand on his chest…and then run off screaming in shock when she saw a bushy yellow tail sprout out of the seat of his pants.

That had been the first of a long series of incidents. Every time he'd tried to talk to a pretty girl, or even just looked at a pretty girl for too long and thought about her too much, it would happen. It was the source of much amusement to his friends, and utter humiliation to him.

"She must've been pretty; I can see your tail's still wagging!"

"That one's a hottie! It got Minato's tail up."

"We need to get Minato a girlfriend so he'll stop tearing holes in his pants. It's so troublesome to lend him money for replacements."

Minato pushed the memories of his so-called friends' comments away and focused on his breathing and stillness. As uncomfortable as their mirth and jokes made him feel, they did help him out. Whenever he'd suffered an episode, they would always help him hide whatever animalistic features he had spontaneously developed until he got it under control, along with the unintentional damage that he did to his clothes.

I hate puberty, I really do.

"Whatcha doin'?"

Minato cracked open his blue eyes and found himself practically nose to nose with Uzumaki Kushina.

"Do you know what personal space is?" he asked slowly.

"Yeah," she snorted, rocking back to crouch on her heels, "so?"

He shook his head and sighed deeply.

The red-haired kunoichi could be a real pain sometimes. Officially she was a representative of the elusive (almost mythical) Uzushio ninja, living in Konoha to form diplomatic bonds with the very well hidden foreign ninja village (not long after befriending her, she'd admitted to him that she'd been shipped off to Konoha because she was driving her family crazy and they were hoping that time in a foreign village would calm her down and teach her discipline). She'd arrived six months after his sensei had removed his seal along with an old uncle acting as her sensei and legal guardian. The girl had long hair and looked moderately cute, but she was a tomboy to the core. The very day that she arrived she'd earned herself the nickname of the Bloody Habanero by beating up several older, bigger boys who'd made the mistake of ridiculing the bright red shade of her hair. Being very much "one of the boys" Minato had never had much trouble with her in regards to his embarrassing little problem.

"So what are you doing?" she repeated.

"Meditating," he replied. "Would you like to try it?"

"Nah, looks boring," Kushina shrugged. "Let's go do something."

"I still have ten minutes to go," Minato shrugged. "Come back in a little bit."

"But I'm bored now!" she fumed, pouting like a young child even though she was barely half a year younger than he was. "What's so important about your meditating?"

"It keeps me centered," he answered. It keeps me human.

If he was really human at all. He really didn't know for sure anymore. He'd been found abandoned as an infant by a caravan of traveling merchants and raised by them to the age of six. Just before his seventh birthday (or at least the anniversary of the date that he'd been found, looking close to newborn) the caravan had been decimated by bandits. He and the few survivors had settled in Konoha and he had studied to become a ninja and protect other civilians from what he had suffered.

"Centered?" she scoffed. "You're the coolest headed guy that I know, except for maybe Fugaku and Hiashi, and I wonder if those guys still have pulses! What do you need to get centered for?"

Minato closed his eyes and tried to get back to his mental exercises. He breathed in and out slowly and evenly. With each breathing cycle he carefully tamped down his emotions, smoothed them out, and—

"Does this have anything to do with the 'furry little problem' everybody likes to talk about?" Kushina asked curiously.

He considered himself lucky that Kushina hadn't witnessed any of his incidents, and that his friends kept his embarrassing issue something of an inside joke. Kushina, being a tomboy, wouldn't talk with the girls that he'd tried to hit on so she couldn't find out from them what it was. And if she'd heard any obscure rumors about him, it was probable that she'd just brush it off as nonsense. Really, who would take whispers of Namikaze Minato taking on animal features or sprouting a tail seriously?

"It helps me think," Minato half-lied.

"No it doesn't," Kushina retorted. "Meditation is all about not thinking!"

"It clears my mind so that I can think better," he responded.


For a minute, Minato thought that she had gotten bored and left, but then he felt her settle herself sideways into his lap and his eyes snapped wide open.


"I wonder why the guys refer to it as you 'furry little problem'," she mused, looping her arms around the back of his neck so that he couldn't easily shove her away. "From the way everyone talks about it, it sounds like it's an erection euphemism. But the only way it would make sense is if you…I dunno…hump the girl's leg like a horny little dog, and I just can't see you doing something like that."

She acted like she was just one of the guys, but with her sitting in his lap he was very acutely aware that she was most definitely not a boy. Kushina didn't style or do much of anything with her long red hair other than brush it, but she took good care of it. It smelled sweet like strawberries and something spicier, and it looked so smooth and shiny, and he'd always been fascinated with its color. He really liked the color red…

Calm, calm, calm. I'm calm. I'm fine. This is Kushina. She's just messing with me. I'm fine. I'm calm—

"So what's the story?" she asked, breathing into his ear while the fingertips of one hand tickled at the back of his neck. "If it's funny, I'll do my very best not to laugh, I promise."

"You…" Minato squeaked. "You're making me really uncomfortable right now."

"I'll stop as soon as you spill!" she giggled and cuddled closer, deliberately smooshing her chest up against his. "Testosterone sucks, doesn't it?"

"S-stop it!" he choked.

He fumbled a bit and put his hands on her hips, intending to pry her off, but her arms around his neck only tightened. Her smell filled his nose and her warmth made his brain feel fuzzy. Something wild clawed at the back of his mind and he struggled to chain it to keep her from finding out.

"C'mon," she complained and dug one hand into the back of his hair. "I'm using my best sexy moves! Are they really that lame that a guy who's never even kissed a girl can resist me? Do I suck that bad at the seducing thing?"

Her fingertips made his scalp tingle pleasantly. His grip on the wild thing slipped. His vision shifted—it grew sharper and his perception of color altered slightly—and he knew that his pupils had changed from circles to vertical slits. Minato squeezed his eyes shut so that she wouldn't see.

"Please," she pleaded, breathing against his neck. "Pretty please? With sugar on top?"

She's just a friend. I'm calm. I'm not getting excited. I—

There was the faint sound of tearing fabric and then he could feel his tail thumping against the ground and the trunk of the tree that he was leaning against as it wagged like it was attached to a happy puppy.

Shit! There goes another pair of pants…

His traitorous tail stilled and his heart thumped in fearful dread instead of excitement as he cracked open one eye to take in Kushina's reaction.

What would she do now that his "furry little problem" had revealed itself to her? Would she scream and run off like most of the girls had? Would she squeal over the fluffy appendage and cuddle it like San had (when he'd hesitantly asked for a date, she'd been horrified and said it would be like going out with a dog, but she didn't mind being a friend if she could pet his fur)? Would she laugh and join his male friends in mocking him whenever an attractive girl crossed his path?

Kushina stared at his yellow, bushy, white-tipped tail with intense concentration.

"…You said that you were an orphan, right?" she asked after a very long and tense silence. "You have no idea where you came from?"

"Yeah," he croaked and swallowed hard. "I was raised by traveling merchants. I have no idea where they found me."

"Hmm…" She was silent for another long stretch and the only thing that kept Minato from squirming was Kushina's weight on his lap. "…Did you always have this problem?"

"No," he gulped and hurriedly removed his hands from her hips when he noticed that they were still touching her. "After…after I graduated, Jiraiya-sensei found this weird seal on me, and he took it off, and then this started happening."

He'd passed out after the seal's removal, which had felt like his entire chakra system had been ripped out of his body. When he had woken up, he had transformed into an odd fox-like creature. He wasn't a fox—foxes weren't human-sized and didn't have hand-like paws or bright yellow fur or the ability to speak or take the shape of a human being. Once his sensei had calmed him down from his prompt panic attack, he'd restored his human appearance through a bit of trial and error, and the long battle to keep his humanity had begun.

"That's really weird," she murmured.

Then she seemed to realize that she was still sitting in his lap and hanging onto him rather suggestively, and she slipped out of his lap to sit a foot away from him, looking rather embarrassed. Minato shivered slightly at the sudden loss of her body heat and watched her warily. Her almost non-reaction to him growing a fox-ish tail was puzzling, and seeing her embarrassed was a rare enough thing to raise his eyebrow over. He sniffed at the air so that he could still catch her scent—and then stopped because humans didn't do that (unless they were part of the Inuzuka clan, which he wasn't).

"Relax!" she giggled, fingering with her necklace, the only piece of jewelry he'd ever seen her wear. "It happens to a lot of guys. There's nothing to be embarrassed about."

"What?" Minato asked flatly. He grabbed his fluffy tail mid-length and shook it for emphasis. "This does not happen to a lot of guys!"

"It does where I came from," Kushina said, flashing him a cheery grin.

Uzushiogakure no Sato was a hidden village in the truest sense of the term. Only Uzushio-nin had any idea of its exact location and they were rarely found outside of their operating area of the northern seas and the Land of Whirlpools. The only Uzushio-nin that had been well-known outside of her village before Kushina (and the uncle that had accompanied her to the Leave Village) had been a kunoichi who had ended up marrying the first Hokage. Uzushiogakure's super secret location was probably the only reason it was still in existence as it was the source of many fearsome sealing techniques that made many larger ninja villages nervous.

There were all sorts of myths surrounding the mysterious place, but…teenage boys grew tails there?

"I think I need to write a letter home now," the red-head said and jumped to her feet. "I'll see you later!"

And as she walked away Minato saw that she had let a bushy red fox-like tail slip loose from under her short kimono-styled dress (but it hadn't ruined the black bike shorts she wore to preserve her dignity). It was the same vibrant shade of red as her hair, which was so long that it almost looked like the tail was a continuation of her tresses. He stared as it swayed with her steps and the white tip seemed to twitch in time with whatever she was thinking about as she strode away.

When his shock wore off, Minato flushed and hurriedly pulled his tail into his lap to hide the reaction that Kushina had assumed that he was always being teased about suffering.

I… Hate… Puberty!