A/N: So truthfully I have no idea how I got to chapter 5 of this but I'm trying to write as much as I can before my muse dies.
I'm hoping to get to what happens in Sakumo in this timeline soon . I have ideas and right now I'm just posting the first thing I write mainly because if I stop and think about it too much I'm afraid this story will join my growing list of unfinished WIP. So yeah, apologies if something doesn't make sense. Just wanted to say that this will most probably end up KakashixNaruto in future. Sorry to anybody wanting something else.
To Sakumo's immense relief when the morning came Naruto was already back to her normal happy, cheeky self. Having walked in just in time to divert the toddler's attention away from Kakashi unmasking his face he couldn't help but let out a amused laugh at the disgruntled look she immediately threw his way, especially when she turned back to discover his son finished with his meal and already cleaning up. Despite the fact Kakashi had clearly forgone his mask the other night it seemed it had been too dark for little Naruto to see.
It wasn't until they made their way through the village that he noticed it. Noticed how her smile would be just that tad bit brighter even as her eyes seemed to dim with a cautiousness that was never there before. Whatever it was she saw it was enough to cause her to walk that little bit closer and grip his hand just that little bit tighter. As he looked around to try and find the source of her unease he could find nothing but a parade of smiling faces. Although he did not understand it Sakumo kept a firm hold on her hand. Not letting go until they finally found their way to his old team's training spot, a spot he knew Kakashi had taken to coming to after class nearly everyday. True to his word the second they got there Sakumo took out his blade, and leaving a shadow clone to entertain Naruto in the meanwhile, spent the morning teaching Kakashi how to use his new sword.
As lunch time approached he was just in the middle of testing his son with a quick spar before they took a break when he suddenly found himself freezing in the middle of a block with wide eyes. The moment of distraction causing him to bring his blade up a second too late. Enough to allow Kakashi's blade to slip pass his guard and dig shallowly into his unprotected arm.
"Father," Kakashi let out a cry of alarm, immediately falling back with wide eyes at the sight of his bleeding arm.
"Unbelievable," was all he said before he turning around to where his clone was before it dispersed itself. Just like the last memory to be transferred to him there standing on the side of the training field well within his view with a smiling copy of herself standing next to her was Naruto. As he stared at her and saw the unmistakable proof of Minato's genius wrapped up in Kushina's personality Sakumo wasn't sure whether he should be impressed or extremely scared. Before he could ponder on it for too long Kakashi appeared by his side. Clearly taken aback by the sight his son instantly narrowed his eyes. No doubt coming to the conclusion they were dealing with an impostor he fell back into a familiar stance. Had Sakumo not had the memories of his clone to tell him exactly what happened he would have thought the same thing.
"Unca, Kashi lookie, nother me! Dattebayo!" one of the Narutos happily exclaimed.
In spite of the situation Sakumo couldn't help but notice the verbal tick Naruto seemed to have picked up. Apart from the last few syllables it was nearly the exact same one her mother was prone to bursting out with whenever she was overexcited. A trait she had wished her daughter would not pick up. Although he guessed this was Naruto's way of coping with the separation Kushina was not going to be happy when she found out. He sighed. By the way things were progressing he wasn't too sure he was going to survive this mission. As he stared down at the two Narutos glaring at each other he took little comfort in the fact that at least some of her wrath would be well deserved.
"No," the other Naruto denied hotly. "You nother me. I real."
"Na ah, fake," the first Naruto retorted.
"Lie, you fake," the second Naruto cried, shaking her fist at the first one.
Feeling a headache coming on and knowing he needed to get a hold of the situation Sakumo began, "Okay Naruto."
"Yes Unca," both saw fit to chirp.
Once they realized they had spoken at the same time the Narutos sent an identical glare each other's way. It would have been extremely cute if the whole situation didn't have him so close to heart palpitations. There was a reason the Kage Bunshin was a forbidden technique. It was a technique that not only required a lot of chakra to perform but also one that can put a lot of stress on the user when they get the memories of their dispelled clone. If Naruto had been a year or so older Sakumo would not have felt such a reason to fear but at only one and a half years old he wasn't so sure if she could deal with the mental backlash, even if it was just the backlash from a single clone. The fact she managed to perform the technique by only seeing him perform it and getting him to show her some hand signs, which he - or to be more precise his clone - saw no harm in showing her because there was no way she would be able to do anything with them anyway without the proper sequence or ability to apply chakra would be unbelievable if he did not witness it for himself.
"I can't tell which one is the impostor," Kakashi stated with a frown, his uncertainty the only reason he had yet to move.
"Neither of them are," Sakumo informed his confused son.
"How is that possible?"
"I may have unknowingly shown her the hand signs for the Kage Bunshin," he admitted with a wince. "Even though I didn't teach her the sequence she somehow managed to put it together and actually channel enough of her chakra to successfully make a solid clone of herself."
At the interest he could clearly see on his son's face at the mention of a solid clone Sakumo shook his head.
"I'm not teaching you until I'm sure you have enough chakra to perform it," he informed the boy sternly. "This technique drains your chakra like no other. Most ninja can't even produce more than one clone without starting to feel its effects. In the wrong hands it can be extremely dangerous to the user."
Alarmed overcoming his earlier interest Kakashi instantly returned his gaze to the two feuding blondes before them as he demanded, "Is Naruto going to be alright?"
"She better be," was Sakumo's only answer.
"No. She fake!" the first Naruto shouted in protest as she pointed to her twin.
"No you. Poopoo head," the second returned just as heatedly.
That apparently was the last straw. With a loud war cry the first Naruto ran at the second. Not to be outdone the second Naruto let out a cry of her own before running at the other. Before either Sakumo or Kakashi could react the two identical toddlers made contact. In silent horror they watched as the second Naruto suffered a punch to the face from the first, the impact of which instantly sent her sprawling back. The instant she hit the ground she disappeared with a loud pop and a wisp of smoke.
Grinning triumphantly the remaining Naruto raised her fist in the air with a cry of, "Who poopoo head. Dattebayo."
Without wasting a second Sakumo was immediately by her side, holding her in place as he kneeled in front of her. After a quick inspection showed no visible signs of overexertion or anything that could begin to suggest her chakra was low he asked her, "Naruto-chan are you feeling tired or sick? Does your head hurt?"
"No unca," she replied with a grin. "Me no hurt. Me win. You see. Pow. Poof."
pCertain she was okay Sakumo couldn't help but look down at the toddler before him in wonder, the same toddler who just performed an A-rank jutsu many ten times her age couldn't even think to perform due to its potentially fatal drawbacks without the slightest hint of strain. To say it was amazing would be a gross understatement it wasn't something that should be possible. Yet it was so easy to forget that Naruto wasn't just any normal little girl.
"I wrong?" she questioned uncertainly.
"No," Sakumo replied.
If anyone was in the wrong it would be him. While it seemed to have turned out okay he should have known better. It's not like he didn't have experience with baby geniuses. Especially since Kakashi had well and truly begun walking and talking before Naruto managed her first steps. He should have known better than to show her the hand signs even if he was certain there was no way she would be able to make sense of any of it or channel her chakra in such a way. He let out a sigh. What was done was done. All he could do was to make sure she didn't hurt herself. He would leave the rest to Kushina and Minato. After all as a former jinchuriki Kushina would know better than anyone what was safe for her daughter.
"Just promise me that you will never do that again. Not unless you get permission from your mother or father okay."
"Kay," Naruto agreed and though he was not sure if she understood the gravity of the promise she knew what it meant to keep one.
"Good," he let out a sigh of relief. He gave Naruto a contemplative look before turning to his still bleeding arm with a wince. In comparison to what he was use to it might have been a paper cut but like a paper cut just because it was small didn't mean it didn't sting like hell. "Just to be safe we're going to get someone at the hospital to look over you and get my arm wrapped up while we're at it."
At the mention of his arm Kakashi shrunk back.
"Hey, none of that now," he immediately said. "You executed the attack perfectly Kakashi. I'm proud of you. It took me a lot longer to even get that much. Now come on, the faster we get to the hospital the faster we can go and grab something to eat."
Gently gathering her into his arms he settled her against his hip and turned to Kakashi who had no doubt observed the whole thing. At the frown on his face he let out another sigh. It was at times like these he couldn't help but wish his son wasn't so smart.
Hoping to distract the pair for the moment he asked, "So what do you guys feel like for lunch?"
"Ramen!" Naruto instantly yelled. Excited she turned to his son and exclaimed, "Kashi ramen!"
At the long suffering sigh his son uttered Sakumo knew the battle was already won. Like Minato his son was becoming quite the pushover when it came to little Naruto. It would make him feel sorry for his boy if he didn't find it so damn amusing.
"Ramen it is," he announced to the absolute delight of the toddler in his arms.
"Yay! Ramen! Dattebayo!"
After spending half the day learning how to use his new sword and the other half undergoing endurance training in the guise of playing ninja with Naruto Kakashi was well and truly ready to just pass out. Of the two keeping up with the blonde bundle of energy more than definitely lived up to its name. Not even bothering to remove his mask he simply collapsed on his bed and closed his eyes. He could have sworn he only closed them for a second but when he opened his eyes again to the sound of a creak reverberating through the silence of his room he glanced at his clock to find it was well past midnight.
"Kashi," he heard a small voice softly call.
Lazily he pushed himself up off bed. Forcing his tired limbs to take the few steps it took to get to the door he opened it and with a yawn looked down. Standing before him clutching her favorite toy, which was a toad and in no way a frog he'd been scolded the first time he made the mistake, tightly to her small trembling body Naruto stared uncertainly up him. Stared at him like she was actually scared he was going to turn her away. Like he could actually turn her away.
"Bad dream?" he asked sleepily.
Unusually subdued she silently nodded.
Without a word he pulled the door opened and stepped aside.
When she made no move to come inside he let out another yawn and said, "I'm sure Gama-chan is getting cold standing out here, especially with a nice warm bed waiting, don't you think Naruto-chan?"
Not needed another word she stumbled inside and all but climbed into his unmade bed. When he fell into the space beside her he carefully turned onto his side. Th moment he did he found himself staring into her wide eyes. At the lingering fear he could see in them Kakashi gently stroked her hair.
"Sleep Naruto-chan. I'm not going anywhere."
It seemed those were the magic words. Snuggling close to him she closed her eyes. By the time her breathing evened out he had already closed his own eyes and allowed the exhaustion of the day to take him.
By the time they completed the mission Kushina was more than ready to return. That was not to say she did not enjoy it. Once she was able to put aside her anxiety concerning leaving Naruto it was like she never left. For her first time out since Naruto's birth everything had practically went off without a hitch. Or at least it had in her opinion. No matter what Minato said the explosion was not her fault and even if it was it wasn't like it exposed them. In fact it actually ended up distracting everybody long enough for them to successfully make their escape. Not that they couldn't take them on. Had the mission not required a degree of discretion they would have.
"Mommy! Daddy! Dattebayo!" an excited cry greeted them the moment they entered the Hatake compound.
Too excited by the sight of their daughter to really register her newfound verbal tick Kushina immediately gathered the precious little bundle barreling towards her into her arms, lifting her baby girl up to the gift of a rain of kisses all over face. With a joyful laugh she allowed Minato to take Naruto out of her arms. A smile curving at her lips as she watched her greet him just as enthusiastically.
"I hope she wasn't too much trouble," she said as she turned back to Sakumo.
The second she saw the look in his eyes she found herself suddenly freezing, the smile dying on her lips at their seriousness clear in his gaze.
Before she could ask what was wrong he ushered Kakashi forward and pointedly said, "Kakashi, why don't you take Naruto to gather her things."
At the frown to appear on the boy's face it was clear he picked up on his father's tone but rather than question him he stepped forward and as soon as Naruto was set down on her feet once more gently took her hand in his.
To their daughter he said, "Come on Naruto-chan I'll help you pack everything."
Completely oblivious to tension in the room Naruto simply let out a chirp of, "Kay."
As their excitable daughter all but dragged the silver haired boy away Kushina barely managed to keep herself together. Her mind began racing wildly at all the possibilities. The fears she'd put aside for the sake of the mission returning to her in full force. Never one to beat around the bush the moment the children left the room Kushina immediately turned on the white haired man and let all her mounting anxieties loose, "We were hardly gone for two days. Dammit, what the hell could have happened in two days? I swear if-"
Ever the voice of reason Minato calmly told her, "Kushina stop and let Sakumo explain."
Had it not been for the intensity she could clearly see in his eyes, the presence of which told her he was every bit as worried as she was, Kushina would have turned on him as well. As it was it was enough to allow her to reign it in, to take a deep breath and remind herself who it was she was talking to, who it was that stood before her.
Instantly deflating she fell back against her husband who immediately wrapped his arm around her as she apologized, "I'm sorry."
"Think nothing of it Kushina," Sakumo kindly told her.
"So what happened?" Minato asked and though she could not see him she could practically hear the frown in his tone.
"To be honest I'm not too sure myself," the man admitted, the words doing absolutely nothing to ease their worry. "The night you both left Naruto was awaken by a bad dream or at least that's what I thought it was. After the first night I was certain she would be fine but it happened again the next and it was only Kakashi's presence both times that allowed her to go back to sleep."
Although outwardly he was a picture of calm the feeling of Minato's arms tightening around her told a much different story. He didn't need to say a word for her to know what it was he was thinking of. What it was that was worrying him. Since the unexplained events surrounding their daughter's birth it was the same thing that continually worried her. That there was something they missed. Something that was now hurting their beautiful baby.
In an even voice he asked, "What was the dream about?"
"The way she described it, it sounded like she was dreaming about being a known jinchuriki," Sakumo informed them. "For what ever reason in her dreams the both of you were gone. She was alone and from what I could tell the subject of the village's scorn and hate."
"It could have just been her reacting to having the both of us gone for the first time," Kushina tried to reason. She clenched her fists and tried her hardest to stop her stomach from turning, to stop her head from getting away from her.
"That was what I first thought as well," Sakumo admitted. "Had she not said the word demon so clearly, like she's heard it so many times before I would have just shrugged it off as her imagination getting the better of her."
At that Kushina felt her temper once again flaring. While her own status as the previous jinchuriki was the worst kept secret in the village the fact hardly anyone alive had been affected by the last time the beast was free and her relationship with the late Shodaime's honored wife went a long way to ensuring she was not directly mistreated in anyway. Sure, there were some that still regarded her with wariness but these days they were few and far in between. It was for this reason they allowed everybody to continue thinking she was still the container. Of course if this had the added benefit of ensuring that the other villages remain wary of engaging a fully grown and trained jinchuriki then who were they to change such a convenient misconception. Had word spread of their one year daughter being the new container of the beast there was no doubt in either of their minds all anyone would have seen would be an easy target for the taking. So save for a select few no one knew that the Kyubi was no longer sealed within her, which only meant the pool of people Naruto could have learnt to think of herself in such a way was significantly limited.
As if reading her thoughts Sakumo pointed out, "Since every time she has interacted with anybody beyond those who absolutely adore her one of us or the Hokage has been present I don't think anybody is to blame for this Kushina."
At those words silence reigned.
"You think the Kyubi may have something to do with it," Minato finally gave voice to what they were all thinking and dreading.
"No," Kushina denied, latching on to her knowledge of seals to quickly put a stamp on the concern threatening to overwhelm her. "The only time I was able to make contact with the Kyubi was whenever my life was in danger and I was forced to use its chakra. Otherwise there was little it could do to me from where it was chained within my subconscious. I know Naruto's seal doesn't work quite in the same way but I went over everything single last detail of it and I swear there is just no way, no way at all that the beast can influence her like that."
"Could Naruto have accidentally tapped into its chakra and somehow found herself before the Kyubi?" Sakumo questioned with a concerned frown.
Surprised by the line of questioning Kushina replied, "I've never actively sought out the Kyubi myself but if I would have to venture a guess I would say if she tapped into its chakra and was distressed enough it is a possibility that Naruto could have stumbled upon the beast even if she wasn't looking for it."
As his frown deepened Kushina could feel hers beginning to form as she realized what it was he was getting at.
"That's impossible," she declared with a shake of her head. "Naruto doesn't even know how to access her own chakra I don't see how she could..."
At the decidedly umcomfortable way Sakumo avoided their gazes Kushina narrowed her eyes. Before she had the chance to interrogate him further on exactly what it was he knew Kakashi and Naruto chose that moment to return to the room, the former of which was dutifully carrying Naruto's close to bursting toad backpack while the latter hugged the beloved orange toad Jiraiya gifted her with on her last birthday close to her chest.
"Naruto-chan," Sakumo called to their little girl who upon hearing her name the little blonde tilted her head up to give him a look of curiosity. "Remember the thing you promise me not to do again unless your parents say it's okay. Well, your mommy and daddy would like to see it. Can you show them what you learned?"
"Fake?" Naruto asked with a light scowl.
Smiling Sakumo nodded down at her and said, "Yes. Your parents would like to see the fake for themselves."
"Kay," she replied easily.
Looking down she frowned at the toy in her arms as if only noticing she held it for the first time. With some reluctance she held the orange toad out to Kakashi who silently took it with a promise to keep it safe from the fake. That done she looked down again, this time when she did so it was to the sight of her small fingers coming together to form a very familiar sign. A sign that was followed by a series of others.
To the shock of all but Sakumo and his son she yelled out , "Kage Bushin no Jutsu" so clearly it was easy to think she had known the words all her life. The moment they left her mouth an exact copy of Naruto appeared right beside her from the resulting cloud of smoke.
"Where did she even learn to do that?" Kushina demanded the moment she managed to snap out of her shock induced stupor.
With a sigh Sakumo admitted, "I may have performed it in front of her once and then helped her with some hand signs without knowing what she wanted them for."
In all the time she has known her husband she would recognize the look on his face anywhere. It was the same look he would get every time he faced a puzzle he had yet to solve.
"Naruto, can you tell daddy something?"
At that both of them nodded.
"Where did you learn to make a copy of yourself Naruto-chan?"
Like always it seemed Minato was already thinking ahead. For Naruto to start experience such dreams, dreams alluding to something she should have no idea about at the same time she revealed such an advanced skill could be coincidence but neither of them ever really believed in coincidences. No matter how much they wanted to. Even though they have come to accept the events of Naruto's birth it didn't mean they had yet stopped waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Naruto see mommy, unca do shapes," one of the Narutos answered enthusiastically, clumsily moving her hands together to form more than a few familiar signs.
Not to be outdone the other Naruto added, "Ickture in head. Do same."
At those words Kushina let out the breath she did not know she was holding. While the dreams may be linked to the Kyubi it seemed Naruto's new learned ability was one she achieved all on her own. With a flush she suddenly realized if Naruto learnt the Kage Bunshin from anyone it was more likely to have been from her. As both an Uzumaki and a former jinchuriki she had more than enough chakra to spare, meaning unlike most she could afford to be frivolous in her use of the technique and she was. She would often rely on the jutsu in order to get all her tasks for the day done while keeping up with her training and keeping a watchful eyes on Naruto at the same time.
"I made sure to get a medic nin to check her afterwards and they assured me she was perfectly fine. That there were no signs of fatigue, physical or otherwise," the man informed them.
In spite of Sakumo's assurance it seemed her husband didn't want to take any chances.
"Naruto, can you do something for daddy?" Minato said before kneeling down to the two Narutos before him with a smile.
At that both of them nodded.
"Can you please dispel the copy Naruto-chan?"
"Fake?" the Naruto closest to him asked as she pointed to her copy, who visibly bristled at being called a fake.
Smiling Minato nodded and said, "Yes, can you please make it go bye?"
"Daddy!" the other Naruto cried, eyes filling with tears as she denied, "Not fake!"
"Of course not," he immediately assured. However in pacifying one he managed to upset the other.
"Daddy me fake," the first Naruto accused with watery blue eyes.
While her husband lost his usual cool beneath the double threat of two visibly teary Narutos Kushina stepped forward and addressing both said, "Naruto-chan, I want you to put your hands together like this for me."
Wiping their eyes both the Narutos in front of her did exactly as she demonstrated.
"Good," she praised with a reassuring smile as they both sniffed. Uncertain how to phrase her next words to make Naruto understand she wanted her to draw on her chakra she frowned and tried, "Now I want you to keep your hands like this and do the same thing you do when you make a copy of yourself."
"Make glow like mommy?" one of the Narutos asked.
Realizing her daughter understood Kushina smile brightened as she nodded. "Yes Naruto I want you to keep your hands like this, make it glow and say 'kai'."
"Kay," they both agreed. As soon as the words were spoken the first Naruto disappear with a puff of smoke, leaving the remaining Naruto to celebrate her proven real-ness with a fist bump and a little dance of victory.
"We really need to teach her that she's making copies. Just so her copies are aware they are copies and don't try to stage a mutiny on her one day," Kushina sighed. If it weren't ridiculous enough that their one year was performing a forbidden jutsu the fact she hadn't even realize what she was doing was creating an exact copy of herself certainly tipped the scale.
"I think we will be needing to teach her a lot of things," Minato agreed. He ran a hand through his blond spikes as he let out a sigh of his own.
Although he hid it better of the two of them Minato was definitely the more protective of the two. Yet he was smart enough to know a losing battle when he saw one and he knew it would better to train Naruto properly than to allow her to continue learning as she had. With no instruction and no idea of the consequences of her actions. While the dangers of performing the Kage Bunshin had been made moot due to her already larger than normal chakra reserves the next time she decided to try something on her own they might not be so lucky.
As surprise as they were by the display Sakumo said, "You've got an amazing little girl there."
"Yeah, we do," Kushina agreed fondly.
His gaze drifted back over to Naruto who after finishing her dance made a point of ignoring her father. Instead happily making her way to the silver haired boy who was silently observing them all with a critical eye and simply held her arms out to him. With a look of amusement that she no doubt mirrored he watched fondly as Kakashi handed Gama-chan back to her.
"I know I don't have to tell you this but just make sure that she is okay."
His words serving the purpose of reminding her they had much more to worry about than Naruto's uncanny ability to pick up jutsus just by seeing them performed a couple of times Kushina frowned. Underneath all the worry there existed an underlying sense of guilt. Even if she herself had little choice in the matter it was a burden she never would have wished or any child to carry, least of all her own.
"We won't let anything happen to her," Kushina vowed, meaning every world.
Once Minato relieved Kakashi from his duty as Naruto's bag carrier the couple bid them both a fond farewell before making their way home. With their baby daughter safely wrapped in her arms Kushina was determined to make sure their daughter never had a reason to lose her smile.
Much to their daughter's annoyance the moment they got home she was made to stay still while both Kushina and Minato checked her seal. By the time she started wriggling impatiently they were able to determine there was absolutely nothing wrong with it. In fact it was functioning exactly as it should. Despite herself Kushina couldn't help but wish they did find something wrong. At least then there would be something for them to fix. As it was there was nothing for them to do. Nothing but speak to Naruto and somehow get her to understand why there was a giant fox within her, why she shouldn't listen to it and why she certainly shouldn't trust a word it says. Just the thought of their little girl being subjected to the hatred of the beast, of all the lies it must be filling her head with made Kushina want to break something.
"Kushina, are you okay?" Minato asked, the concern in his voice palpable as he entered their room with a yawning Naruto in his arms.
After checking her seal they decided to see what else she might have learnt. When showing her the handseals to few basic jutsus only yielded curious yet completely clueless looks and attempts to teach how to perform them produced not even a puff of smoke they both were left more than a little baffled. After all if she was able to grasp an A-rank jutsu with little to no instruction it would stand to reason the E-ranks taught at the academy should be mere child's play for her. They were quick to discover it was anything but. Yet in spite of her numerous failed attempts and the assurances from the both of them that she did not need to learn such things right now Naruto stubbornly continued trying to perform the Henge. By the time night descended and her bedtime drew near it took their combined efforts just to get her to stop so that they could give her a bath and get her ready for bed.
"I'm okay," she assured him before picking up Naruto's nightcap and placing the ridiculous thing atop her mess of blonde spikes. That done she carefully took her out of her husband's arms before placing her down onto the middle of their bed, neither of them willing to let her out of their sight. At least for the night.
As they got in beside her she shared a long look with Minato before returning her gaze back to their exhausted daughter.
"Naruto-chan, your daddy and I have something we must discuss with you," she began seriously, the soberness of her tone causing a frown to appear on Naruto's face.
"We wanted to talk to you about your dreams Naruto-chan," Minato said.
"Bad," Naruto murmured with a noticable tremble in her voice that made both their hearts ache.
"I know darling," Kushina tried to console as she reached down to gently stroke a scarred cheek comfortingly. "I'm sorry we weren't here for you but we need to know what you see in you dreams Naruto-chan."
Looking between them she seemed to hesitate for a moment before looking down at her own hands and refusing to meet their gazes.
"Naruto lone. No mommy, daddy," she answered unusually subdued. "No like Naruto. No want Naruto."
Even though Sakumo had already told them to see their cheerful little girl sound so solemn and unlike herself was absolutely heartbreaking.
"It's just a dream. It's not real," Minato assured her as he took her hand in his.
"We are here Naruto-chan," Kushina added just needing for her to know that as she gently took Naruto's other hand in hers. "And we are not going anywhere. Not if we could help it."
For moment there was nothing but silence as she continued to stare down at her hands, the hands that were currently engulfed in each of theirs. When she finally looked up it was to gift them with a small but true smile. The sight of which immediately eased the ache in her chest.
"No matter what you may hear, no matter what anybody may say, we love you Naruto. We love you so much. Don't ever doubt that."
No doubt hearing the plea in her tone and knowing she was referring to more than just the dream Naruto had described to them Minato gave her a soft look.
"Naruto-chan can you tell me if you saw anything else in your dreams? Anything strange?" he questioned. When all he got was a confused frown in response he hesitated for a moment before taking a deep breath and asking, "This may sound strange Naruto-chan but have you seen anything like a fox in your dreams."
"No," Naruto replied with a shake of the head and a thoughtful frown.
At that they shared a look. While their daughter was growing up fast she was still at the stage where she didn't know how to lie. At her age it was just not something that ever occurred to her. As relieved as they were to know the fox was not a factor the only possibility was that someone was saying things in front of their daughter that they shouldn't. She didn't know who was responsible but when they got to the bottom of this there was going to be hell to pay.
"Can you promise us something sweetie?" Kushina implored.
"Yes mommy," was her eager reply.
"Can you promise you will tell us if you do?"
Satisfied with the nod they received in reply Kushina gave her a gentle kiss to the forehead before drawing away to watch as her husband did the same. Making certain to ensure her once more that they would always be there for her, as they laid down on either side of her that night their hands remained firmly entangled in hers. Though they knew they tomorrow night they would have to return her to her room tonight they needed her with them just as much as she needed to them.
For the first time since he stupidly allowed himself to be caged once again Kurama found his interest perked by the new developments. At the thought of Naruto being considered a prodigy by anyone he couldn't help but snort. The fact she could already mould her chakra was not surprising to him. As chakra was essentially the manifestation of mixing a person's physical and spiritual energy it only stood to reason that the moment the brat built up enough physical energy she would be able to put it to good use. After all even if she could not yet understand it all there was some things that was so ingrained, so instinctive that all it needed was the smallest of triggers to manifest. For the Naruto that existed before the Kage Bunshin was something that had become second nature to the boy, to the point he could perform it without even having to use all the signs or say the words. At only a few weeks shy of two years old the Naruto of this time was already reaping the benefits of the hard work and experience of her former self. This pleased him greatly. With the Kage Bunshin in her arsenal her potential to grow was unparalleled.
With a sigh Kurama glared at the leaky sewer that was to be his prison for the next few years and was just about to go back to sleep when a tiny form clutching an orange toad made its way towards his cage. As the figure approached he found himself straightening up, completely alert as he peered down at the familiar head of blonde spikes with a speculative eye. In spite of the changes the brat didn't look much different to her male countrpart at the same age.
Eyes wide she stopped in front of his cage and stared up at him.
"How did you find your way here brat?" he asked, the natural growl to his voice making the question come out a lot harsher than intended.
"Daddy say dere fox. I look," the little girl replied simply, a proud smile curving her lips as she met his gaze head on.
At those words Kurama stared down at her with narrowed eyes, trying his hardest to work out what she knew. Needing to know he leaned over her with his teeth bared in a grin as he demanded, "Do you have any idea who I am brat? Do you have any idea what you have stumbled upon?"
Far from cowed she merely blinked at him before breaking into a grin of her own.
In response she said, "Nope."
In spite of himself Kurama couldn't help the stab of disappointment that immediately came over him at the answer.
"Ownly know fwen," she finished with a squeal of delight as she held her hand out to him in a closed fist.
There weren't very many things that could surprise him, the number of those who have managed such a feat even fewer. Yet as he stared down the smiling blonde that stood before him Kurama could not dispute that Naruto had managed to get the better than him on more than one occasion. It seemed this Naruto was no different.
With a wide grin he reached down to tap her outstretched fist with his own and said, "Tch. You stupid brat."
As if to prove him right she slipped pass the bars holding him at bay and without the slightest hint of fear began to rearrange the mass of red-orange fur connected to one of his resting tails so that she could wrap it around her small body. Once she was comfortable enough she laid her head down and with a sigh snuggled against him. Him, the most powerful of all the tailed beast, the mighty Kyubi.
"What the hell do you think you doing brat?"
"Shh, sleep," the brat had the gall to scold him.
Even though all he had to do was wave his tail to be rid of her Kurama remained still even as he growled, "Not on me you don't."
Lips quivering the stupid brat turned to him with tear filled eyes and sniffed, "But bad dere. Here fwen safe."
As she pinned him with her big blue eyes, widening them to an impossibly large size as they gleamed with tears in the dim light Kurama was forced to break away from her gaze with a snort of disgust. But rather than brush the brat away he folded his paws and lowering his body laid his head down.
In a gruff voice he warned, "Drool on me and die."
Clearly realizing she'd won this round Naruto snuggled back down and closed her eyes. As he did the same he let out a sigh. Of all the indignities he had been made to suffer in his lifetime this certainly had to take the cake. Yet as he closed his eyes Kurama couldn't stop the slight upward tilt of his lips. Even in his annoyance he couldn't help but find it comforting in a way. No matter the circumstances, no matter the changes, Naruto will always be Naruto and in spite of everything it seemed she was already well on her way to becoming a most unpredictable brat.