A/N: I...don't ask, i needed something else/refreshing to rebuild my muse for the Molestation of a Man and its fun to mess about with some scenarios. so, yeah. Do forgive this brain of mine, hm, folks?
Disclaimer: Naruto isn't mine...Pfft.
Warning: Yaoi, bad words, sensitive subject matter (suicide,mental illness.)
Full Summary: Naruto Uzumaki has a profound connection with nature. The wind, the trees, birds and small mammals speak to him - and they all seem to give him lousy, life-threatening advice. Only when meeting a fellow patient of Evergreen Psychiatric Hospital, Sakumo Hatake, who talks about his son, Kakashi, does Naruto find those voices falling silent. Schizophrenic!Naruto, Alive!Sakumo and…wait, Kakashi writes, BL novels?
A shuffle of slipper-clad feet from twitchily anxious patients, the soft murmuring of the recreational room's T.V lulling the seated, heavily medicated zombies into contentment and the occasional bang of a more volatile patient's fist-meeting-plasterboard tended to be the usual white-noise in Sakumo Hatake's ears. He's only fifty-two, an age in which some men or women are still working their fingers to the bone – but no, he's been out of employment for two years since his enforced admittance into Evergreen Psychiatric Hospital. It had all been once bad choice, one bad thought and a crippling yet spiraling depression which had led to his son (his beautiful, gifted, one of a kind son: Kakashi) discovering his twitching, eye-bulging body dangling by a crude noose from the upper staircase.
There wasn't a single day Sakumo didn't utter an apology for his actions to himself or others.
But alas, through the sporadically rare visits from his pride and joy, Kakashi, in the space of two years combined with awkwardly worded letters or tense, ten minute phone conversations, Sakumo's temporary residence at Evergreen was coming to a close. Soon enough, due to his steady year of improvement and medication, he would be released back into society and under the watchful care of his only child. It was a blessing really (upon peering around the modest, yellow-tinged walls and the sight of bored-looking orderlies and borderline brain-dead patients shuffling about or drooling at the TV in a haze) that he hadn't descended into further madness over his two-year stay. After all, Kakashi's held a mild aversion to visiting him as opposed to his old comrade, Jiraiya, who visited each and every weekend, often having to be frisked for sneaked-in bottles of sake.
However, Sakumo didn't blame his son for not visiting, knowing that Kakashi was far more sensitive than the icy calm exterior which he portrayed to the majority of people. Besides, Sakumo reasoned with a quirk of his lips as he brushed his lengthy, silvery bangs away from his eyes, he had befriended a new patient a year into his stay at Evergreen, and perhaps, it was that very patient who had kept the old Hatake's mind from dwindling.
Naruto Uzumaki: his only source of intelligent conversation, basic socialization and a string of sanity in the sea of madness.
Had the lack of oxygen during Sakumo's attempted hanging not given the fifty-two year old mild cognitive issues, he would've remembered how each time he spoke to Naruto he had wanted to ask Jiraiya for a background check on the boy. The eighteen-year old male schizophrenic held an air of familiarity that Sakumo had been suckered into the first time with speaking to the withdrawn-looking patient upon their first meeting last year. Naruto looked familiar too, - achingly so - that each time he looked at that dandelion-mop of blonde hair and blue eyes his brain sputtered out the name of an old, deceased family-friend and fellow enforcer of Konoha city law, Minato Namikaze. Even that rare surname – Uzumaki – which Sakumo muttered softly to himself in a hissed reprimand over forgetting (once again) to mention the boy to Jiraiya again rolled off his tongue with practiced ease, as if he had already known someone with that surname but couldn't place a first name or face to the title.
Yet after a few months, Sakumo had shrugged off the irksome feeling of anger at his forgetfulness and settled with leaving Naruto be, knowing that the short young man wouldn't appreciate Sakumo getting the Captain of Konoha's police force, Jiraiya, to delve into personal files. Nonetheless, over the past year since Naruto's placement in the adult mental health facility, Sakumo had found himself treating the boy as a pseudo-son of sorts.
It was difficult not to, really, everything about the blonde screamed the need for attention, care and…it had tugged painfully at Sakumo's paternal heartstrings something wicked. No matter how many times he reminded himself that Naruto Uzumaki was a young man – a man nearing the age of nineteen in a matter of weeks –and not some helpless child, it failed.
One look at that shorter than average stature, mature yet still slightly rounded (and oddly scarred) face, wide (incredibly, shockingly bright) blue eyes and overall immature behavior contradicted the damaged youth's official age. There was nothing wrong with Uzumaki mentally aside from his diagnosed mental illness of schizophrenia, the man-child of sorts was as cunning as a fox yet far more loyal than any dog Sakumo had came to raise and managed to hold all the eloquence of a politician, something which would put Konoha's leader, Sarutobi, to shame.
Like right now, as Sakumo fumbled with his spectacles and slid them up his nose for a clearer view, he spotted Naruto hovering by an orderly and a small food cart. The inept, enigmatic yet astonishingly charming blonde-haired male was sneakily swiping yoghurts from the tray, all the while blabbering enthusiastically and distracting the brunette male. Sakumo tried not to laugh at the sight and wait patiently for his currently on-pause game of chess with Naruto to continue when said boy returned from his newest retrieval mission of some sort.
So, the aging Hatake folded his hands and watched Naruto: The teen stood clad in the usual attire of pyjamas (like everyone else here but the workers) which consisted of the personally-picked variety as opposed to the standard, white flannel pyjamas and navy-blue robe and matching slippers some patients donned by Evergreen due to lacking family/friends/funds for something else. Sakumo always wondered how Naruto had came into the possession of the large orange t-shirt and childishly designed gray pyjama pants that contained a handful of frolicking green frogs.
He could only assume that it was the orderly – Iruka Umino – who Naruto was currently talking to who had purchased Naruto's minor items due to the fact the teen had no phone calls or visitors at all. In fact, if Sakumo strained his memory, he was certain Naruto had mentioned only having a mother, a mother who had died when the boy had been merely seven and thrust into various foster-homes.
'Yeah, he did say that, Naruto did say he had no family,' Sakumo nodded to himself in silent reassurance, his dark eyes squinting as he cursed his faulty cognitive issues. 'And, and…' his brain continued to spark, information surfacing (albeit foggy and forcing a headache to bloom but foggy )as he narrowed his eyes at the object peeking out of the deep pockets of Naruto's standard, navy blue robe. 'And that's why he carries that toy around like a lost child, because his unknown father had won it at a fair and gave it to his mother during their first date.'
Content with remembering yet unhappy with the headache such simple recollection of Naruto's personal rambles had caused, Sakumo pinched the bridge of his nose and hissed. He breathed heavily for a few moments, regulating the sudden migraines pang of pain with controlled breathing and a rough scrub of his forehead. It was stupid really how these headaches would happen during the most pathetic attempts of remembering basically told information, after all, right now he had just caused such a ache to try and recall the origins of Naruto's scruffy, one-button eyed and practically flattened toy fox.
'Kakashi would laugh at me,'Sakumo smirked softly, half-hoping that he would hear his son's laughter soon. The young man had became overly serious since his suicide and Sakumo had yet to hear the joyous rumble of contentment from the younger Hatake. He could always remember how much Kakashi would laugh as a child, that high-pitched ringing sound that eased the elder's shoulders and managed to make a stressful day at working at Konoha's police force melt away with ease.
'He'll laugh soon, I'll see him happy again,' the man inwardly promised.
Because this time - this time - he wouldn't be a burden to his son, he would never do something so stupid as to try and take his life, again. Of course, those dark thoughts moved like tendrils across his brain now and then, all but trying to burrow into his mind, but he swept them away and stopped such a negative, dreary mindset from being implanted again. Things would be different, it had been a long stretch of two-years but it had been for the better: he was a new man, a stronger man, a happier man.
''Sakumo-papa,'' a joyous titter of familiar amusement caught his attention, and he smiled – again – from both Naruto's dubbed nickname and the wide, pearly-white grin he was being sent. ''I do hope you like apricot yoghurt!''
''I do, Naruto,'' the older male admitted softly. ''But you know you shouldn't take things, you'll get in trouble again.''
''Psh!'' the blonde rolled his eyes, giving a careless shrug of his slightly broad shoulders, ''Just food.''
Aged skin crinkling around his eyes in continued amusement, Sakumo watched Naruto clamber onto the chair opposite him, chessboard and its wooden pieces wobbling dangerously when the whisker-scarred man accidently butted his knee against the table between them. Naruto sent him a sheepish smile but didn't stop arranging himself, his hands delving into the pockets of his robe (first removing the prized toy fox to lay in a heap by the chessboard) before shoving hands down into his pajama pants and into a pair of boxer briefs. Sakumo could only raise a silvery eyebrow, ready to assume that maybe Naruto wasn't having a 'good day' medication-wise due to the odd shuffling before him.
That is, until he caught sight of what the blonde was retrieving from the inside of his pants…yoghurt pots.
And promptly chuckled, ''I hope they're not warm.''
Naruto snorted pathetically in attempt of reeled-in humor, wanting nothing more than to throw his head back and laugh louder than life despite Sakumo-papa's off-hand comment not being entirely the funniest joke in the world. But it was a bad habit of Naruto's the urge to laugh – albeit hysterically – over simple things that tickled him, and Iruka had so kindly (on many occasions) told him to 'tone it down a bit.'
Regardless, the blonde peeled off the lid of his favorite flavor yoghurt - strawberry - and slicked the shiny foil before reaching across the table and placing a variation of hijacked flavors - banana, apricot, and raspberry – in front of his best friend and only father-like figure he had experienced in his life before, Sakumo. He earned an approving, comforting smile from the man and Naruto scratched nervously at scarred cheek, his throat feeling tight at the thought the long-haired man would be leaving this place soon…
Shaking himself, Naruto forced a grin onto his face and swallowed that horrible lump in his throat before rocking a little forward in his chair – once, twice, three times – before settling himself completely and dipping a finger in his strawberry yoghurt.
''I forgot spoons,'' the blonde mumbled, uneasy blue eyes regarding Sakumo. ''Sorry.''
''If you'd put them were you put the yoghurts, I doubt I'd be using them anyway,'' the Hatake murmured, amusement laced heavily in his gravelly tone. ''Besides,'' he added with a chuckle, peeling off his own yoghurt lid and dipping his pale finger in, ''I forget a lot more than simply spoons.''
The Uzumaki nodded, knowing that the older male was merely making light of his own condition, it was something even Naruto did himself. After all, it was far much easier to laugh at yourself than have others laugh at you and Naruto couldn't help adding his own two ryō in:
''I'll make the trees remind me about spoons next time.''
Reaching across with his unoccupied hand, Sakumo ruffled the blonde mess that was Naruto's hair. Not all people, therapists included, would've approved of their bluntly honest yet morbid humor about being the dubbed 'mentally ill' or as Naruto liked to call himself (in a far less politically correct manner) as the 'loons, crazies or psychos,' but it didn't matter. He and Naruto didn't really care though, and if Iruka Umino's soft words of praise were anything to go by, Sakumo had been a positive influence upon the schizophrenic.
'I wonder if he's committed full time or temporarily based,'Sakumo pondered, watching Naruto glaring at the chess board, clearly checking that he hadn't moved any pieces since departure. 'He's of the legal age of an adult, so Naruto could easily discharge himself from here…assuming he's not here for lawful reasons.'
It was only then, with watching the boy-like man seated across from him, that Sakumo knew he wanted to take the hopelessly damaged young man home with him. It was saddening, really, to see such a bright mind – no matter how unstable – being locked up away in a place which contained barely any mental stimulation other than a TV and unused board games. After all, Sakumo was certain if it had not been for Naruto's arrival last year he would've ended up like one of the listless, lethargic patients seated by the glow of the TV…and the idea of leaving Naruto in an environment made him gut twist with guilt.
The soft, worrisome tone snapped the elder out of his stilled state. He caught sight of Naruto's furrowed brow of suspicion and concern and felt like wilting on the spot.
''Is…'' the blonde stalled, wiping the back of his hand against his mouth, ''I mean, you okay?''
''Of course,'' the Hatake said cheerfully, albeit mildly false. ''Just looking at your mug covered in yoghurt, honesty, are you going to be nineteen soon or nine?''
Sakumo didn't think twice about digging into the breast pocket of his dark, pinstriped pyjamas to retrieve a handkerchief. Out of sheer paternal instinct which he would've done for his own son – despite Kakashi recently turning twenty-eight this September – he leaned forward and mopped it at Naruto's face, earning another one of those confused yet wary expressions which involved blue eyes turning into slits and a nose that wrinkled. He bit his tongue to stop a bubble of laughter escaping, being mindful over how he didn't want to niggle the blonde's hyper-conscious suspicion of being mocked in some sort of misjudged, cruel manner. Regardless, upon pulling back and placing the pink smudged handkerchief onto the table, the flaxen-haired man offered a smile before informing the scruffy young adult of something he had only just noticed upon closer inspection.
''You need to ask Iruka for another shave,'' Sakumo explained, watching Naruto pat at his rounded (and now clean) jaw line with a pout. ''You're bum fluff is growing back…''
''I-It's not bum-fluff!'' Naruto shrieked, orderlies giving a flinch of alertness and the more, less zombie-like patients staring their way. ''It's my facial hair, old man,'' the blonde continued, sounding more haughty as he ran a tanned finger down his scarred cheek, running it across the downy, barely noticeable yet mildly darker than the hair on his head that occupied the sides of his jaw and a little on the cheeks.
''Don't be so defensive,'' the older male grumbled half-heartedly, rather missing his affectionate title as Sakumo-papa as opposed to the huffed lower-rank of old man. ''If it means anything, Naruto, my Kakashi couldn't grow a full beard till he was twenty-two, yet I, on the other hand, had to shave every other day since I turned eighteen.''
Shaking his head at the immature action, Sakumo watched Naruto pick up a chess piece – a knight – and place it on its destined square upon the half-cracked wooden board. Sakumo made his own move as well, silence drifting between them over the back and forth action of game play until he felt Naruto's blue eyes flittering up towards him, no doubt not enjoying the silence. So, after capturing Naruto's rook, Sakumo decided to follow the usual, every day routine of an afternoon when in Naruto's company and talked about the one thing which brightened those blue eyes and made Sakumo feel far lighter: Kakashi.
While Naruto hadn't had the pleasure of meeting his son (the blonde often had therapy during the weekends Kakashi rarely showed up) that didn't stop the boy from enjoying the vast amount of rambles that spilled from the elder Hatake's mouth about his son.
Sakumo was certain that - should Kakashi ever need an autobiography about himself – Naruto could retell each story about the youngest Hatake. For some reason, Naruto became enthralled with numerous tales, be it Sakumo's blurry memory of recollection of Kakashi's humorous childhood antics or the more sombre, down-to-earth events like the whole reason why Sakumo was still alive due to the fact his live-at-home son had returned home early from a meeting.
''Have I told you about the time when he was six, wearing his late-mother's heels?''
Yes had been on the tip of Naruto's tongue. Yes, he had heard that story – fifteen times and counting, in fact – and still found it as funny as the first time. But Sakumo had appeared to have forgotten, once again, and Naruto could only let his grin stretch from ear to ear as he shook his head, indicating a lie of 'no' before focusing completely on Sakumo's rough, gravelly yet fatherly tone as the man recited the story.
''Okay, so, I come home from work, I've left him with a babysitter and…''
Naruto half-listened to the rest and half-day dreamed about Kakashi Hatake.
Jiraiya leaned back in the heavily padded armchair that resided in the small room of the Evergreen hospital's visitor-patient quarters. It was a simple room, filled with a handful of coffee tables and plush armchairs that contained a large glass sliding door into the view of the courtyard. During summer or spring it was a beautiful sight, one of cherry blossom trees or lush, well-trimmed shrubbery, but right now in the dreary, late-September weather, it looked pretty miserable out there with all the heavy rain and chilly wind. The aging police Captain was more than grateful that this visit to Evergreen Psychiatric Hospital was going to be this last due to the fact his brother-in-arms would be released from the terrible antiseptic-reeking place in a matter of days.
It was, by far, the greatest weight off his shoulders to see Sakumo back to his old self.
Sure, the lanky male held a jittery air of nerves about him from time to time, but Jiraiya would've been worried if his friend hadn't of experienced a small change of personality after all the medication, time and therapy. Besides, looking at the man seated across him, grinning ear-to-ear while using the end of his robe to clean his spectacles, Jiraiya resisted the urge to boisterously pull the Hatake into another hug.
'If only Minato could see you now,' the writer inwardly hummed, his own grin continuing to grow as he listened to Sakumo's animated tell of recent events within the house of crazies. 'You're far cry from the shell of a man you had became, Sakumo, my friend.'
The Namikaze had witnessed the tumbling fall from grace as Sakumo became depressed yet died before seeing the worst or recovery and…Jiraiya wrung his hands briefly at the thought of his adoptive son. He urged the painful twinge of loss in his chest away and summoned a smile twice as big on his face. It was somewhat bitter-sweet when recalling Minato and his early death at the age of twenty-two.
It felt like only the other day Jiraiya had been young and fresh faced upon Konoha's police force when he had showed up at that particular crime scene by the docks, found the four year old Minato Namikaze and swooped the boy under his wing. Tsunade had called him crazy, Sakumo had nodded with understanding and the collection of present officers had said he had been getting too involved. But regardless of such, Jiraiya had found himself adopting a tot and knowing nothing about child-rearing. Thank goodness for Tsunade and her pity for brats – his old classmate (and senior surgeon at Konoha's leading hospital) had unwilling became Minato's mother of sorts and unknowingly aided Jiraiya far more than necessary.
That help had been a blessing, really…or more like fate, Jiraiya's inner romantic crowed happily upon considering how Tsunade had slipped out of her mourning from her old lover Dan and eventually, with time and a sunshine haired toddler, fallen for Jiraiya. Not that she would admit to such a thing, Tsunade had been dating him for a good time span, yet she still refused to marry him. Nonetheless, both she and Jiraiya often spent their evenings sipping sake and wondering (with a mix of both happiness and sadness) over what the promising young man – their son, not by blood but by bond, - could've accomplished had tragic death not taken him away so soon.
Sighing a little while half-listening to Sakumo with a soft smile, Jiraiya rested his elbow upon the arm of the chair and cradled the side of his face with his large hand. He felt a little bad for not listening entirely to his best friend, his musings once again distracting him as opposed to the sight of an attractive female orderly passing by. So, with a mildly guilty grin and a small jolt of confusion, Jiraiya leaned a little more forward in his chair to check if he had heard the last comment correctly.
''What?'' popped out of the Captain's mouth instantly. ''Did you just…?''
The continued question trailed off and died upon Jiraiya's lips due to his complete disbelief.
While not entirely listening to Sakumo, that did not mean he didn't have a clue what the other male had been joyously talking about. He knew that the Hatake had been talking about a particular patient he had befriended (Naruto was his name, if Jiraiya recalled correctly from the numerous times he heard about the young, committed man) but he really must've misheard. After all, Sakumo had sounded so positive, so sure, so certain that is was positively ridiculous and Jiraiya must've been turning senile because there was no way in hell did that man say –
''I want to take him home with me,'' Sakumo repeated, a deadpan expression in place, ''But like I said, I know bits about his life and who he is as a person but I don't know the boy's legal standing. I mean, is he committed here or…?''
Jiraiya sputtered an interjection, grateful the room was empty aside from them. ''You…You can't treat people like puppies, Sakumo!''
''I don't see how that makes Naruto a puppy,'' the ex-officer grumbled, eyebrows drawn together. ''He's a good kid, that's all I'm saying, it's sad to see him rot away in here if he doesn't have to be here.''
It took every ounce of willpower not to slap the other male upside head, but somehow, Jiraiya prevailed. Instead he could only gape and stare – really, really stare – at his old friend, a sinking realization slowly dawning upon him: Sakumo was healthy, Sakumo was back-to-normal, Sakumo was being deadly serious…and happened to be back to his old tricks again. Jiraiya let out a groan, swiftly digging the heel of his hand onto his forehead as he tried to get a grasp onto the situation, his newly recuperated family-friend was seriously thinking of taking-in some wayward patient.
'A patient that he didn't know was committed legally or here or temporarily based,' Jiraiya's brain sneered. 'A patient who was dubbed a 'good kid' who could've been a mass murderer for all they knew.'
''Augh,'' Jiraiya huffed explosively, ''Not this shit, again!''
It was happening again, Sakumo had grown attached to something (this time someone) and wanted to take it home. There was a reason why the Hatake owned eight hounds, after all, and it wasn't down to him just being a simple dog-lover. The man had been the leader of the K-9 department within Konoha's police force during his active career, being by far the most notable dog-handler and cadaver-dog trainer going. But dogs held such short careers within the force and Sakumo had ended up sweeping the hounds home with him over the passing years when the deemed unworthy or of retirement age.
''You would like Naruto, he's a sweet kid,'' Sakumo protested weakly while Jiraiya shot him a half-hearted scowl.
''Good kid, sweet kid,'' Jiraiya repeated with a wave of his hand, ''I don't care. You can't just take someone out of a facility they have been placed in, and I'm certain your darling Kakashi would agree.''
Bringing Kakashi's opinion into it (especially when his son wasn't here to physically and verbally side with Jiraiya) was a slight low-blow. Sakumo knew that his son's godfather knew how much he regarded his son's word, even back when Kakashi had been a preteen, Sakumo would kowtow to his prodigy child's opinions. It was only when Kakashi had become a haughty teenager when Sakumo became a tad strict and set the precocious boy in his rightful place. But still, that mutual respect and wishful hope of gaining his son's approval lingered. Although, maybe even more so since his attempted suicide, the need to appease and apology for his actions still heavily weighing on the majority of Sakumo's actions when involving his son.
''But he is,'' the Hatake responded, his previous frown sharpening considerably. ''And don't be so patronizing, I know I can't just remove him, I was merely stating how I would wish to.''
''Well keep wishing and focus on yourself, last thing you need is stress,'' Jiraiya grumbled.
Nudging his glasses further up his face, Sakumo knew his friend was looking out for him, fear of a relapse from all this progress. However, in all honesty, Naruto had been the final process of healing during this past year, he doubted the teen knew it, but Sakumo found the blonde completely therapeutic. But still, after working his jaw and attempting not to rise to Jiraiya's gruff way of concern, he opened his mouth to retort calmly until he felt a flicker of a memory. It was a forgotten thought of importance, one in which Sakumo had been trying to grasp upon the majority of the time when meeting up with Jiraiya but his cognitive issues failed him.
And so, with widening eyes and a mental flash of Minato's blonde mop, tanned skin and distinctive blue eyes dashing through his brain like a bolt of lightning, Sakumo rushed his words in fear of forgetting:
''But, Jiraiya, you should meet him, he looks so much like your –''
A loud bang cut off his hurriedly flustered piece of information, instantly making the pair of grown men flinch and swing their heads in the direction of the noise which happened to be the large, sliding glass doors.
''Minato,'' tumbled out of Jiraiya's stunned lips.
The police Captain found his eyes riveted upon that eerily familiar shade of blonde hair that occupied atop a stranger's head. It took a few blinks to stop staring, especially when catching the sight of ocean-colored blue eyes, but Jiraiya felt like recoiling from it all. This stranger – a stunted boyish-looking male – appeared to have all but slammed up against the rain-slicked glass of the doors, undoubtedly being the source of this ruckus. But this boy was not his Minato, even with the glass fogging up from the strange blonde's pressed-up position against the glass; Jiraiya could see the details which instantly segregated his son in comparison of the young male.
The kid's eyes (although currently looking wild and feral) lacked Minato's almond shape, even the face which held the same tanned skin tone as Minato was far less angular (the stranger's was rounded in shape and held a slight padding of fat, indicating a baby-face of sorts) and held odd, whisker-like scars. Yet, after his quick-glanced mental comparison, Jiraiya felt his jaw slackening at a more noticeable feature about the blonde who was grinning madly, slapping his palms against the glass and laughing loudly…
The boy was clad only in a pair of boxer-briefs while standing in the heavy rain and icy wind.
''It's so invigorating!'' the small man bellowed, his voice only slightly muffled by the thick glass, howling wind and unrelenting rain. ''You should come and – Mmph!''
Jiraiya gave a wince, eyes still wide as he watched a male orderly appear out of the heavy rain and stumble up against the blonde, accidently nudging the shorter man into smothering himself against the glass. He remained stock still, suddenly realizing that the half-naked adult must've been a patient - obviously - as he caught sight of Sakumo jumping to his slipper-clad feet with all the vigor of a teen. However, before Jiraiya could grasp a hold of his friend's wrist and stop the man getting involved with an obviously more…difficult patient, the bespectacled Hatake had already strode to the doors and slid them open.
A gust of freezing air and a splatter of invading raindrops worked their way into the warm visitor-patient room as the orderly gently prodded and ushered the half-naked blonde into the room. It only took a matter of seconds but Jiraiya suddenly found himself on his feet, feeling on-edge and confused as ever as the orderly - Umino according to the name tag - stood just as soggy as the boxer-clad youth began to yell a little. The disheveled brunette sounded a mix of concern and exhausted frustration, his hands gently checking the blue-eyed male's shivering, goose-pimpled body for injury.
''What do you think you were doing?'' the Umino scolded, albeit a little softer than his previous rant at the still-grinning kid. ''Hey, Uzumaki?''
But Jiraiya only half-listened as the blonde responded in a dreamy sigh about 'answering the call'.
With his brow wrinkling considerably, Jiraiya found himself drawn to the rare surname of Uzumaki in which the boyish man had been addressed as instead of the questioning (or more like figuring out) what this supposed 'call' was. After all, the blonde was a mental patient for a reason, so Jiraiya pushed that aside, his stomach churning uncomfortably as he recalled the only Uzumaki he had met in all of Konoha before: Kushina Uzumaki.
Kushina had happened to be his adoptive son's childhood sweetheart and girlfriend. The red-haired female had been Minato's only and last girlfriend before his death, but she had randomly bailed years before that heart wrenching tragedy. Minato had been heartbroken, which is to be expected when you're eighteen and the world seemed to revolve around your love-interest. Plus, Jiraiya could remember the hurt, confusion and anger his son had expressed over how his seventeen year old girlfriend had merely left you a text message saying 'sorry' and appeared to have vanished from Konoha.
'It's just wishful thinking, just because he's got Kushina's surname and Minato's coloring means nothing,' the Icha-Icha author scolded his wistful mind. 'I'm just getting old, clinging onto memories and foolish hope.'
'Besides, despite having me as a ladies' man,' Jiraiya gave a sniff, a wry smirk pulling at his features, 'Minato couldn't have bedded Kushina if he tried; he was far too complacent with just being beside her…silly man.'
''I'm going to get towels,'' the dripping brunette explained, cutting off Jiraiya's musings while edging closer to the door which led towards the corridor. It was obvious the man was uneasy with leaving the patient here, but Jiraiya was impressed that the orderly did just that and left after a final comment, ''Stay put, Naruto.''
'Oh,' Jiraiya couldn't help stiffening at the thought this shivering; half-naked Uzumaki was the famed 'Naruto' which Sakumo had latched upon. 'Just great,' the Captain thought with a tugged down frown, 'Trust Sakumo to pick the craziest loon here.'
''Sa-Sa-'' Naruto appeared to be trying to greet his fellow patient via teeth-chattering, ''Sakumo-papa, H-hello.''
''Hello to you too, Naruto,'' the Hatake murmured back and Jiraiya watched the interaction intently as his friend removed his navy robe and draped it over the drip-worthy youth. ''Answering to the trees again?'' Sakumo continued, sounding bemused yet softly reprimanding all in one go. ''You've been doing so well ignoring them and you should know better…''
''Brrr!'' Naruto shook himself like a dog, water hitting Jiraiya's forearm, ''It was the wind this time and she was right, it was fun to strip down and climb the oak tree by the west wing.''
Sakumo began to fuss over the boyish-looking man as he would Kakashi and Jiraiya felt his lips twitch with the urge to grin. This Naruto Uzumaki seemed to be more accepting – maybe even thriving off – over Sakumo's clingy, fatherly actions…actions which Kakashi would shuck off and glare about. Not that Jiraiya could blame his silver-haired godson, the recently turned twenty-eight year old had shown a reluctance to move out (even during his college years) from the family home but that didn't mean he enjoyed being treated like a child.
Nonetheless, Jiraiya had long ago accepted the youngest Hatake as being a hopelessly minded bachelor of sorts. Frequently, especially during Sakumo's downfall (and the aftermath of the elder's suicide attempt) Jiraiya often swung by in a casual manner, be it to subtly check up on the Hatake duo or – in the case of the past two years – drop off groceries. After all, Kakashi was a mildly reclusive author, showing no other passion in life aside from his work or reading Jiraiya's own Icha-Icha series.
However, the sound of Sakumo's gravelly yet friendly tone and Naruto's lighter chirrup that held the grumble that came with age became nothing more than background noise as the two conversed. It was odd though, to see the young blond speaking so coherently about listening to the wind and Sakumo taking it all in his stride like the two were discussing sports. But with his old friend's lack of crowding and continued fussing over Naruto, Jiraiya was able to continue with scrutinizing the young man until something more interesting caught his attention - a ratty looking fox plush that lay in a puddle upon the linoleum floor by Naruto's feet.
Jiraiya would've shrugged off the sight of the diseased-looking toy, that is, had he not recalled seeing the exact plaything he had spotted many, many years ago in the arms of a fifteen year old Kushina Uzumaki. Sure, fox toys weren't uncommon and the plush before him could've been any childhood toy, but Jiraiya distinctively recalled having this particular style of fox toy (although, back then, it held chubby plushness and two shiny button eyes) being shoved under his nose by a boisterous red-head who all but bragged about Minato's awesome skills at the local fair. He was still ready to brush aside such a coincidence and nostalgia when he spotted the faded, permanent marker upon the underside of the flat, half-gnawed tail.
The writing style was beyond familiar, it was the same teenager scrawl he had witnessed upon Minato's notebook or Kushina's backpack. And even though the writing was worn, those two simple letters and lone number remained glaringly clear against the sunburnt orange of the fox: M4K.
M4K, was not some equation or foolish band name, but happened to be more fully known as, Minato for Kushina. Call it curiosity, but maybe, Jiraiya would just take a peek into the strange yet familiar young man's file.
Jiraiya, however, did tell himself that such an action of research would be for Sakumo's benefit and not for his own, selfish desire of hope over having this Minato-esque boy's presence.
Edit:13/12/11. added an extra 3kwords to balance out futures chapters. [roughly 6k per chap]