Disclaimer: Naruto is the property of Kishimoto Masashi.

Though not grammatically correct, thoughts and inflection will be italicized. Likewise, supernatural entities will be in bold font, with italics for thoughts, to assist the reader. Scene breaks are binary for Naruto, in the vain hope that FF doesn't break them again.

This story began 11/01/08, when I was still learning how to write fanfiction. In the years since, I've improved just enough to see how messy the first version of this story was, hence the edit.

He was blond, looked to be three or four years of age, and was restlessly tossing in his sleep. The twin shadows in his meager apartment would have been very interested in knowing where he was sleeping, which was two floors down and three apartments over.

The manager had been silenced the prior year, after a month or so of Naruto's residency. The boy had been there once it was discovered he had been kicked out of the last in a long line of orphanages and had been living out of dumpsters and alleys for most of his fourth year.

The other residents had long since moved out except for one belligerent old lady who had passed away somewhat recently when her heart suddenly failed.

Part of the reason for that was the blond creature, of her highly vocal scorn, had shown up at her door with a fist full of field flowers and a pleading yet tired expression. He had seen others in the village give flowers to appease angry women, and since this woman was always angry, Naruto had spent hours scouring training fields and private gardens for his 'peace' selection.

She flew into an apoplectic conniption fit at the demon on her doorstep then paused as her left arm contorted painfully while her right fist gripped her chest. Strangely silent, she toppled backwards, going from vertical to horizontal in one smooth motion.

Young Uzumaki Naruto believed that he was the reason she was dead since she had been alive and well prior to his knocking; he had killed her and the scene wracked his young brain with guilt and nightmares filled with ominously dark yet muffled laughter.

It had taken him several days to move her: he was five and a half (neglect and malnutrition would stunt anyone's growth) and she was dead-weight. He could only work after the summer sun had gone down, and by the second night, she was already turning ripe, not to mention the miasmic stew of her bodily excretions.

The experience was, in a word, vile.

Such an event can be quite a shock to the system, especially for an empathic five and a half year old. Being verbally abused, then having the abuser up and die, then having to move the former abuser out of the apartment before the stench of decay fouled up the rest of the complex could only create a complex.

Once that scent got in the cheap stucco and sheet rock, it would never come out. But such a shock led to his current situation. He knew his body was physically away from his apartment.

He had acquired the habit of not sleeping in the same room twice in a row; right now, however, where he was sleeping was not a concern. What was a concern was his current location: a sewer with shin-deep water (at least on him) lit by an odd bluish-reddish-purplish glow pierced with the occasional harsh whitish-yellow overhead lamp.

They buzzed disconcertingly.

Luckily, the latter were only over intersections, as the brightly odd light washed out his skin and hurt his eyes, even as the strange hum of the lights put his teeth on edge. Having nothing else to do and not really knowing how to leave this place, since he wasn't completely sure where he was, he set off in what he hoped was a promising direction.

He didn't know that every path in this place all led to one destination: the Cage.

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"Look at you, insect, a pathetic creature of meat and bone panting and sweating as you run through my corridors."*

Naruto ran pell-mell through the flooded halls, his young heart pumping as the words echoed around him. The harsh overhead lights would occasionally flicker, to no discernible rhythm.

They buzzed disconcertingly.

Entering a large hall, the ceiling lost in darkness, he skidded to a halt. His skin prickled, feeling very exposed as he nervously began walking down the center of the massive floor. The shadowy walls were even less inviting.

Cautiously he crept forward, he sensitive ears catching the sound of breathing. From this distance, he knew whatever it was, it would be huge. He was not to be disappointed as when he was not a hundred feet distant, two ruby slits opened some eighty feet in the air. He felt the air displacement as tails of fire ignited behind it.

The crawling, flickering flames back-lit the monstrous creature. It slowly lowered its head and made a show of sniffing the air, the suction nearly sweeping Naruto off his feet. And then the creature chuckled, the booming sound echoing across the otherwise empty chamber.

"You move like an insect. You think like an insect. You are an insect.*

"I was not expecting you this early, though perhaps this is for the best." A huge vulpine grin split the darkness showing blindingly white and very sharp teeth.

Naruto's eyes widened and his face paled under the onslaught of such raw and evil power. His heart beat an erratic tempo within his chest, lungs straining for air. He didn't even feel his bladder release.

Nothing compared to the sheer power sleeting past him, not even Dog-san's invisible glare.

The acrid scent wasted no time in reaching the shadowed behemoth and it guffawed in derisive glee.

"This is my jailer? A bed wetting hairless house ape and a puny one at that. If I had any shame, I would be deeply embarrassed by your mere proximity, insect."

It paused for a moment. "I should eat you now and save both of us from your putrid existence."

Struggling under the pressure, Naruto raised his head, eyes hard. His lips twitched, but he stayed strangely silent; however, that didn't mean his mind wasn't shuffling through images.

"Furball?! You think I'm a furball?! I'll have you know, meatbag, that I am the mighty Kyuubi, Nine-Tailed Demon Lord, God of Kitsunes and Vulpines!"

Despite the threats, Kyuubi was still solidly imprisoned, the Cage's seal powered not only by Minato's skill, but also the contract with the Death God.

A wickedly delicious thought ran through his head: if he could mentally break his jailer, not only would he gain eventual freedom, but would have a possessed minion to wreck his havoc on the fools which imprisoned him.

Shape shifting was second nature to a kitsune, especially for their ruler. The true identity of his jailer, the important people in his young life and every single memory from the instant of sealing, all of this was known. Kyuubi knew which buttons to push and if all worked out as planned, this pathetic anthill would be looking for a new ruler by week's end, if not fleeing the flames of righteous fury as their precious village fed his hunger and lit the night sky.

Suddenly, to Naruto's eyes, the gigantic fox with nine flaming tails vanished. In its place was a tall blond man in a jounin outfit wearing a white cloak with flame patterns rising from the hem.

This man was known from stories and pictures: his hero, the Fourth Hokage, Namikaze Minato.

"Son, I am extremely disappointed in you."

Naruto fell backwards, surprised at finding himself so close to the Cage, now not ten feet distant. The words, coupled with the image of his hero, made it even harder to breathe.

'Wait, did he say 'son'?'

"I know this comes as a shock, my son...I am your father, Naruto. To save this village, and to give it a weapon, a mighty demon was sealed into my own child.

"The reason for all the hate, all the attacks, all the abuse was because of me. You don't actually think I would use just anyone for this, do you?

"You were supposed to be seen as a hero, not the demon itself. Even in this, my first and only child, you could not be trusted.

"You have shamed myself and your ancestors, and I finally see the mistake in selecting you for this duty. Even now, your mother's dead kin, indeed her entire broken village, weeps.

"Come, there is no reason for you to carry this burden any longer. Perhaps, in time, another will be found who will not tarnish our name."

Jerkily, Naruto stood, his eyes shadowed. When he lifted his head, his face was drawn in pure anger. This was not wholly by what was said; the mind can be deceptively quick and some things simply rang true. Rational reasons for the village's general treatment towards himself were assimilated.

However, the remarks of Naruto somehow being a blood relative to Konoha's greatest leader were too farfetched for his young mind to wrap around.

No, what angered him was not the words, but the person saying them. He knew that wasn't really Namikaze Minato standing there. The Fourth Hokage had died almost six years ago and was buried in a large shrine.

If anyone knew that, it was Naruto since he was once trapped within the secret crypt beneath the shrine for several days so that he could 'understand just who he had stolen from the village'.

He was angry at the demon who mocked him, using his desire for family combined with the physical image of Konoha's greatest hero, her sacrificial Hokage, and his own personal inspiration. Naruto knew who was really inside the cage as his trembling finger pointed at the figure inside.

Minato/Kyuubi watched the mental collapse with barely repressed glee as the bars of his great cage started to crack and fade. And then suddenly, his transformation failed.

From out of the shadows, ten thick chains homed in on the exposed Kyuubi, wrapping themselves around each tail and his neck.

He quickly began to shrink, now no larger than a horse, and was being forced into even smaller shapes. The size change was so rapid and drastic that an actual thunderclap resounded from the air rushing in to fill the sudden vacuum.

Then he felt it: something clicked around his neck. Immediately after, he heard it, the simple chime of a single bell, just below his jaw.

'Perhaps a mistake was made.'

Within seconds, he went from a gigantic fox demon to a year-old actual fox kit, barely eight inches at the shoulder. Each of his nine tails were secured by chains attached to his belled and leashed the seal-marked collar.

The once massive cage which once filled the chamber's end, all the way to the distant ceiling, was now a three meter pole with a similar length of slack chain around its base connecting him to it.

With mounting trepidation, the once mighty Kyuubi watched as Naruto slowly walked towards him on anger stiffened legs. He virtually stalked-stomped up the fox, picked up the Demon Lord by the scruff of his neck, brought him up to eye level, and then did something the millennium-old demon never expected.

Naruto scowled, licked two fingers, then gave a fierce stinging slap across the fox's nose. The sound echoed through the chamber; unbidden tears welled up in the demon's eyes.

'That actually hurt...a lot. Oh hells no!' Kyuubi began to struggle, thinking to slip out of Naruto's grip and regain dominance when he heard it: the Growl. Not just any growl, but the Growl.

This was command from all Alphas to obey without question and to know ones place. It started in Naruto's throat and went straight to a small place in Kyuubi's brain, then flicked the switch repeatedly.

Before Kyuubi could understand what was going on, he found himself on his back, his belly exposed, crimson eyes locked on Naruto's ice-cold blue ones. Naruto's left had was around Kyuubi's throat and his growl was in the Kyuubi's head. He began to feel something he had only seen in others: fear.

"Bad! Fox!" Naruto leaned in closer, growling the entire time. Those were the first words Naruto had spoken to the fox, the first he had spoken at all, his voice cracked and dusty from disuse.

He scowled in aggravation, unable to put his thoughts into words, so he did the next best thing. He glared as hard as he could into the fox's eyes and pictured in his mind just what he would do to the creature if it ever did something like that again.

Nonsense words were croaked aloud. They might have well been an entreaty towards the Elder Gods for all the sense they made. He smacked the fox across the nose again for emphasis.

Unbeknownst to Naruto, but easily visible to the writhing fox, the boy's images were playing themselves out on the walls and ceiling, creating vast panoramas of torture and promised pain. The child's croaked verbiage only added to the unease. It was time to lie, wheedle and beg; time to bargain.

The chains, which so reminded the fox of his previous host, not only bound, but also removed much of his power. As he was now, even the simplest of illusions was beyond him. This needed to be rectified.

"This one," began Kyuubi, adopting a feigned submissive posture, which meant relaxing his body under the boy's grip. "This one apologizes. I really had no idea you would react so violently to a simple illusion.

"We kitsunes are masters at illusions and shape-shifting. Restore my rightful power to me, and I will aid you. I will give you all which your heart desires. I will grant all your deepest and darkest wishes. I will bestow my race's blessings and gifts."

He could see the boy's features smoothing. "Forgive and restore me and I will be yours to command." His hooded eyes seemed to close, observing the boy and waiting for the chance to strike back.

Kyuubi left off the fact that Kitsunes are also pranksters and masters of the deal. He had no intention at all of honoring anything. Being a Demon Lord, he should have remembered, but was confident a reversal of fortune was imminent.

Naruto's next words would stop him cold, breaking his hubris.


The boy got a firm nod, the creature's eyes still closed.

Naruto growled deeply and croaked out, "Speak promise!"

"Do you doubt me, human?" Kyuubi opened his eyes, adopting a stricken expression.

If at all possible, Naruto's eyes got a touch colder as they narrowed. "Demon! Demon speak promise brat!"

Though crude, the Kyuubi understood the message and intent. That said, the boy had not actually vocalized anything meaningful. Images were one thing, but words were another.

Naruto, not understanding the pause, did something he had seen others do to animals he had touched. Given his age and isolation, he really didn't understand, not completely.

His right hand grabbed hold of the rear legs, and with his left hand around the fox's neck, he pulled them apart. He lacked the strength to pop off the head, unlike the others which he had tried to befriend.

Kyuubi, for his part, finally gave into panic, having seen behind Naruto the memories replayed, and the boy's intent.

The thing is, there had not been enough time to reverse bind them. Kyuubi knew if Naruto died, then he died. If Naruto had naturally come to rely on the Kyuubi's purified power, as he would eventually as more of it filtered into Naruto's own chakra system, then if Kyuubi died or was forcefully removed Naruto would die as well.

That had been part of Kyuubi's long term plans so Naruto would lose some crucial bargaining chips, if it ever came to deal-making, but such integration and unconscious reliance wouldn't have started for several more years.

The boy had shown up too soon.

If anything, the amount of their combination and genetic mutations to date would merely shorten Naruto's expected life span by about a decade, maybe fifteen years at most.

The changes to Naruto's cellular regeneration were already done and set, so if Kyuubi were to vanish, Naruto would keep those, as well as his enhanced senses. The loss of Kyuubi's chakra would cripple Naruto for a while as his own coils would collapse before rebuilding, and he would lose the almost instant healing.

He would still heal faster than the average person, have less scarring, be highly resistant to poisons and other toxins and have an almost total immunity to disease.

If Kyuubi was to die now, Naruto would only be mildly inconvenienced, given all which the boy would retain. The demon felt Naruto ready for another attempt, and could do nothing to physically fight back.

His hubris had brought him low. The boy had stated a condition, which had yet to be fulfilled. In the end, the words didn't matter at all, but the intent behind the broken speech.

That said, there was a part of Kyuubi, the analytical side, which was impressed, just a bit, with the boy's spatial manipulation. In his natural state, Kyuubi was not a small thing, and yet...and yet now, he was.

If he managed to survive this bungled confrontation, he would think more on it. Perhaps, if the words were said, one hand could wash the other. Then there might be time to try something else, some other way to escape this prison.

Despite being a force of nature and chaos incarnate, the fox was pragmatic. One didn't rise from a no-tail to nine-tail from blindly rushing into things.

The thing is, there was his pride. It was great and terrible, having been built up over eons. On the other hand, this child was earnestly trying to pop off his head.

If the boy ever realized that his intent could shape this place, then Kyuubi would be killed and given up to the Shinigami for eternity. He would no longer reform, would no longer fulfill his duties, would never again roam free.

With a sigh of defeat, tinged heavily with shame, Kyuubi spoke. "I, Kurama, so swear upon my honor as the Kyuubi no Kitsune, Nine-Tailed Demon Lord."

A/N: modified SHODAN quote from SS1, Looking Glass Studios, 1994.

A/N: modified SHODAN quote from SS2, Looking Glass Studios, 1999.