Down The Rabbit Hole
I've always been a fan of Kyuubi: and Naruto. I thought it'd be fun to remix it up a bit.. and see where it goes!
he sleeps alone
he needs no army where he's headed
because he knows,
that they're just ghosts
The moon rises behind him, an alarming, unnatural presence looming in the stratosphere. Darkness maunders over the horizon, bearing nothing but diamond lancets that drift in its wake.
He wants to tear it apart. He wants to tear the whole sky apart, and find the parts of himself that he's lost in their remains.
Movement behind him diverts his attention: a figure wavers in the distance, bathed in wintry moonlight, his lemon colored hair the only determinable color in the grayscale world spread before him. He looks vaguely familiar, like a memory. He shifts closer, and Naruto sees that the boy is himself. A soundless wind howls around them. The boy's gaze swallows everything: distance, time, even Naruto himself.
His mouth opens, but the silence drowns the words. Naruto would not have heard him anyway, all his attention is snared inside his eyes. He feels he could rest inside them forever, loitering there in the narrow rings, swimming slowly with the nine swirling tomoe, existing in a diminutive plane that rested in solace; and infinite and eternal sleep.
The boy smiles at him, dispossessed of any legitimate vivacity, and he leans closer, as if to whisper a secret.
"What in the hell…?" He breathed aloud, something like hysteria rising in his throat.
Naruto's gaze lowered, fixated upon the black lines covering his stomach. The once unimaginable power of the seal now resembled vague organic shapes, faded into his skin and nothing but a husk of its former glory. He eyed it warily in the dim, wan lighting of his bathroom: whatever had happened to it last night… it couldn't have been good.
He threw his shirt back down, panting heavily and bracing himself against the counter. Was he hyperventilating? When he couldn't swallow down enough air he decided—yeah. Yeah he fucking was. The blonde leaned down to splash his face with cold water, rubbing vigorously. When he chanced a glance in the mirror he found a not-version of him staring back, hair a riot, face rapidly losing pallor.
He… he had to calm down. Freaking the fuck out about it wasn't going to solve anything, not when the seal was obliterated and clearly not coming back—and what the hell was going to happen to him now: what could have possibly shattered it to pieces?
His alarm violently ripped him out of his musings, the blaring ring startling him upright, where he banged the back of his head on the corner of a shelf.
Naruto hissed in pain, hobbling over to slam a fist down on top of the machine, mercifully returning the room to silence.
He took a few deep breaths, counting to ten.
Alright. He could do this. First things first he had to uh, put on a shirt, and possibly the ensemble of clothes that went with it, and then find a way to make it to the bridge in—god damn, was it already that late?—well, to make it to the bridge at least before Kakashi-sensei, and try not to rouse the suspicion of Sakura or Sasuke, and then—
He felt his stomach curl into heavy knots, and he leaned over the table.
Naruto winced, holding a hand to the broken seal on his stomach.
Definitely not good. It hurt like something was gripping his stomach and pulling it around—
The numbers on the clock sloughed away. When he returned his attention to it, he found himself shocked to see fifteen minutes had already passed… and his alarm was ringing again?
He slammed his fist down onto it violently, hoping to shut it up for the time being.
He felt… he felt sick. Nauseous and disoriented, his stomach churning ominously and his head pounding like someone had ripped their way out of it. The world was harder and harder to grasp onto, the sunlight pouring from his window blurred in and out of focus, he felt numb, he felt like he couldn't breathe—
9:30. Another fifteen minutes. His alarm screeched again, and this time Naruto really did jump at the sound. He kicked it into his wall, scrambling for his clothes, and ultimately ended up jetting out his side window in nothing but his orange pants and a black shirt; unable, or perhaps just unwilling, to take the time to dig out his jacket.
Hell. At this point it'd be a miracle if he even showed up minutes before Kakashi.
He breathlessly skidded to a halt in front of the bridge, swallowing thickly when he realized that there were already three people maundering in the loose stitching of shadows beneath it. Naruto glowered.
Kakashi was here before him.
"Naruto! You're late—
"I must say," Kakashi chuckled, cutting of Sakura before she could really get going. "I hadn't known I was such a role model."
No one laughed, but Kakashi continued sheepishly anyways, "Care to tell us why, exactly, you're so late?"
"Uh—well I…umm…" Naruto sputtered, the hysteria rising again. The only thing to find its way out of him was the stupidest excuse he'd ever heard, "I—I got lost on the road of life."
"Really?" Kakashi rebuked, an odd glint in his eye as hescratching his chin. "I wonder why I didn't see you there…"
"I was going the other direction."
"It isn't a two-way street, Naruto-kun—
"Oh, enough!" Sakura screeched, pulling them apart. "Sensei, can we just please train today? Please?"
Kakashi shrugged, as if he could possibly debate this. "Well, it's why I'm here!"
Sakura cheered and Naruto could see Sasuke's expression; a really painful looking mix between amusement and resignation. The sounds of his teammates and Sensei muted in his ears, as if he'd submerged himself into the ocean, and suddenly all he could hear wa the rushing water behind them, the rustle of the leaves, and all the diminutive noises between; the world blurred into a burning red railing and patterns of shifting shadows. Like this morning, and the many times as he raced over to his team's meeting point, his seal felt unnaturally cold and made his stomach decidedly queasy: a bit like it was stretching apart or… grating open.
It was an odd feeling, like he was an island and he was drifting into two; he saw the other side as he stood on the other, watching it float carelessly into a watery abyss—
"Naruto? Naruto? Naruto!"
He fell off his daze as Sakura stared at him, looking rather annoyed.
Actually, they were all staring at him, each with their own expressions of varying concern.
"Naruto-kun," Kakashi began, and Naruto wanted to crawl out of that gaze. "Are you alright?"
Naruto blinked, slowly, confusingly.
He wanted to say he was fine. He wanted to train. Wanted to banter with Sasuke again.
But what came out of his mouth was:
"I think I'm a bit sick."
They stared with the most incredulous of faces.
Naruto…sick? They were talking about Naruto…right? When everyone was struck down with the flu last year he was still standing waving sheepishly at everyone else as they moaned in pain and fever. Naruto, who brushed off lung punctures as flesh wounds, and wouldn't notice a kunai lodged into his arm until they were half way to Konoha. Naruto, who ran around half naked when it was freezing rain to buy ramen because he had realized he was out.
But Kakashi only nodded. "Well, we can't have you trying to exert yourself and ending up in the hospital. Get some rest. Come back tomorrow and see if you're any better."
Naruto nodded, turning away slowly as silence elapsed over the trio on the other side, a fog, heavy and thick misted between them, and through the distance Naruto could make out the placating tones of Kakashi-sensei's voice;
"Well, in the meantime, Sakura and Sasuke, why don't you two train?"
The other boy groaned, but Naruto was too far to see.
Naruto returned to his empty apartment; a world washed away in gray, speckled sunlight paneling the monochrome landscape from where it seeped in between his mismatched shutters. He couldn't find his way back to the familiarity of the scene before him—the leaning towers of stacked instant ramen bowls, the clutter of his kitchen sink and the throw blanket he loved, curled up at the end of his couch.
As he crossed the threshold to his room his stomach churned alarmingly once more, sending him crashing to the floor. He caught himself on a knee, grimacing in pain and attempting to leverage himself with the side of his doorway.
Something swelled within him and he closed his eyes, gripping the door frame tightly as he breathed in and out. Slowly, mechanically.
When he opened his eyes again, the scene before him hadn't changed much. It wasn't until he reached his clock did he realize how wrong he was.
"What…" He held it in his hands, staring down incredulous—incredulous, and with growing trepidation. "What the hell?"
That couldn't have been more than a few seconds. He hadn't—no. He hadn't been there that long… he hadn't been there for half the day, that was impossible, he would have felt that. He would have… noticed time slipping away from him.
Naruto shook his alarm clock as if it would help, as if there was simply just some digital malfunctioning and the neon lights that made numbers were just flickering in different directions. There was nothing wrong with him, nothing. He didn't keep spacing out for what seemed a few seconds that actually turned to be a few hours, minutes…where was his head going?
"Maybe," He mumbled to himself, laying on his bed. "Maybe it'll go away soon."
The strange sensation overcame him again, he felt like half of him was pulled one way, and the other in the exact opposite direction. His mind and his stomach were drifting apart, as he lay still atop his mussed sheets.
His eyes focused and unfocused onto the ceiling; the gray tiling burned to black, and there was a moon there—was it a moon? He lay strewn against a rising bowl of dust, the world curled around him and tapered off like an unending wasteland.
A man leans over him. His eyes are soft and alluring; Naruto is captivated by the moving rings. His face is familiar, even though Naruto can't pick out any discernible features to it, can't place a name to it, but it feels too much like home to be scared. He places a hand on Naruto's cheek—scorchingly cold—before he turns his hypnotic gaze upwards.
Naruto follows him, his eyes catching onto the moon again. It's not the moon anymore. It's broken, shattered, like his seal, Naruto thinks, the only coherent thought he pulls together.
His alarm tore him out of that world, dragging the memories away with it, and he lurched forward in surprise, tumbling head first over his bed and onto the floor.
He hissed in pain, rubbing against the back of his head. When he finally returned his attention the clock, he leapt to his feet, gaping in shock.
Naruto held it in his hands. "This can't be real." He breathed. He refused to believe it. Naruto set the clock back down with finality, moving to live his life in his denial.
His brain stopped functioning.
He brushed his teeth.
He pulled on pants (that weren't orange?)
He ate cereal and milk that was actually still good.
He didn't blink.
He didn't smile.
And he certainly wasn't going to look at that the clock.
His hands shook, even when he had promised himself he wouldn't think on it, his thoughts strayed anyway, confusion and terror clawing at his stomach—hysteria cloying and thick in his throat when he thought that… this wasn't normal. Sleeping for half the day in a blink of any eye wasn't normal.
He leaned against his counter, after placing the milk in the sink behind him, washing away the little bits of Milk and O's into the bottom of his drainage tank, and began to massage his temples. He couldn't keep a steady focus on anything anymore, his thoughts drifting, his mind drifting, his vision drifting, until the world submerged into spots of indiscernible shapes and color.
Suddenly, he pitched forward, just barely managing to right himself against the cabinets before he slammed his head into the countertop.
When he balanced himself again, his gaze caught on the clock on his microwave.
It had been around 10 AM or 11 AM, April, 17th. It was officially 6 AM, April 18th.
Kurama studied the scriptures before him, somewhat irritated when the boy's legs began to cramp from holding his kneeling position too long.
The demon stood, shaking out the numbing limbs with a great, dramatic sigh.
His eyes caught on the shining metal surface of the wall, and he studied the body carefully. There was nothing outwardly intriguing about it—well, it was human, which was still a bit strange, and he was still a bit in awe with the rotating thumbs, but ultimately nothing stood out about the thin, waif-like blonde boy gazing back at him.
He brought his human hand up to his eyes, studying the lines of his palm closely.
And yet, there was something… more to Uzumaki Naruto—of this, he was sure of. He doubted the boy knew it himself, because god knows he didn't act like anything special, but Kyuubi's instincts had never led him awry before. And right now, everything in him burned and shivered when he reached towards Naruto's soul—something unnatural about the shimmering energy. It was the only thing that stopped him from razing this village to the ground in misplaced frustration. If he couldn't have Madara, he'd be damned if he didn't take his people down with him.
Kurama's thoughts brought him full circle, and his attention once more averted towards the Uchiha scriptures he'd dragged out of their compound.
He could feel Naruto stirring in the back of his mind, and he quickly returned to his readings, before the blonde awoke completely. It wouldn't do to have him catch onto the game just yet; it as inevitable, but there were still things Kurama needed to do.
It seemed even if he burned this godforsaken village to the ground, his revenge still wouldn't be quenched. For the Uchiha had already been eradicated from this earth.
By another Uchiha, no less.
Kurama snorted. How typical. The world really did work with circuitous irony.
And even in death the Uchiha still continued to piss him the fuck off.
The fox demon scowled down at the scrolls in front of him, throwing them into a wall with great finality. Nothing. At least, nothing legitimate. The Uchiha had some half-formed theories that vaguely resembled what Kurama could remember, but ultimately nothing concrete had come from the scrolls. They knew even less than he did about their origins—
Their origins, and the end of Hagoromo Otsutsuki.
Naruto sat himself on the couch warily.
Almost immediately as he had sunk with great hesitance into the cushions, still concerned over whether he would black out again, a knock interrupted the gloom of his apartment.
He felt he didn't have the energy to cross the room and answer it. Luckily, Kakashi had already begun speaking.
"Can we come in?"
He heard whispers from the other side of the door. Strange…he could never hear them before.
"Sure…" His voice was low, almost a whisper.
The door opened easily: Kakashi emerged, standing with book in hand, Sakura behind him peering over his shoulder with large eyes. Sasuke stood off to the side, leaning on a wall and looking and watching the proceedings with decided, staunch indifference. Kakashi sauntered in, Sakura following him along with a sullen and put upon Sasuke as they peered around his very unfurnished apartment. There wasn't any litter on the floor, although there was a thin sheet of dust blanketing everything.
Naruto was curled on the couch, looking uncharacteristically bleak; fitting, considering the undisturbed gloom of the house.
"Are you feeling alright, Naruto-kun?"
He was about to say he was perfectly okay, but something halted the words before they could form.
"I think…I'm just a little under the weather."
Kakashi raised a brow, but he said nothing to rebuke that. "I see. I hope you get better soon. We came to check and make sure your getting rest."
He looked over to his teammates owlishly.
"Oh sorry…" He examined their features indifferently. "I'll try to get better so we can train."
"Yeah! So, rest up and don't take too long!" Sakura chimed in agreement, as they trudged out of his apartment with the same abruptness they had come in with.
Naruto breathed a sigh of relief when they took their departure. His head pounded against his skull, and his vision swam until the world around him devolved into indeterminable colors. Deciding that the bed was better than the couch, Naruto crawled off of it tentatively, gingerly taking steps into the other room. So far so good, past the threshold and—
—He never remembered hitting his bed.
When he awoke again, the sun outside his window had seared the horizon into a scorched orange, diffusing his bedroom with a soft, ephemeral glow.
He didn't even want to look at the clock, but he did anyways.
7:47 PM, April 24.
Almost a week.
He tried to calm himself down, through a still achingly tired mind, and a body that wouldn't comply. He coursed himself thorugh breathing tactics that Kakashi had once suggested when trying to meditate, the exercises he did when trying to calm himself from the villager's rage.
None of it worked.
His body was just so exhausted, that even getting the blood pounding in his ears and his heart pumping seemed to drain him.
He ended up collapsing again on his bed, closing his eyes as his stomach turned in different directions.
Naruto woke up in cold sweat. Everything in him ached and his bones seemed to protest even the slightest of movements. This time, with determination etched onto his face, he marched straight out his door and down the street. Sometimes, the world would blend into an amalgamation of bright colors, unfocused, and the people on the street changed like a flickering screen, but he made it to the hospital. He courage turned cold and grave though, looking at the looming glass doors of the hospital.
Would they think he was a monster?
Would they think he was Kyuubi?
He could picture the inevitable outcome with a certain, timorous clarity. It wasn't something he wanted to experience in reality.
In the end, he ended up turning around and walking home. This wasn't going to work. They would think he was a monster, send him home. Worst case scenario, they'd think that with the fading seal he was Kyuubi, and end up kicking him out of the village. Maybe they'd sacrifice him in some kind of appeasement of the demon. Naruto shook his head. He had to stop thinking on this—the way only led to madness.
He could see Sarutobi's face, shaking his head gravely as he pleaded with him to let him stay.
Kakashi not even bothering to look at him as he flipped a page in his book. And when he did, it was the scorned look that could only be directed to the village's demon.
Sasuke and Sakura had moved on, talking with their new teammate. More than they ever would him.
Iruka didn't even stop to look at him as he brushed past him to his new class—and to a smiling blond boy without any whiskers that was starting the academy this year.
Naruto shook his head.
He couldn't go to the hospital.
Kurama turned to the stars, as if they could possibly have the answers he needed. Even if they did, he'd never be able to decipher their message. From this great a distance he couldn't feel anything from them—just a cold, empty silence
He turned his gaze to his former body, still a husk in the sky, wan and wintry.
And then, to his body now; bruised and battered, but making considerable progress. Though it was strange—though it was human—he could still feel the world around him breathing. He could still feel the energy; could still recall the teachings of the great sage.
He tried to imagine what that man would think: what he would say about the world that had sprung up in his absence.
It was morning again, and still, parts of his day seemed to space into oblivion when he felt tugs at his stomach.
After one tug—around six in the morning, which lasted well into the evening, he rushed to the bathroom to check the seal.
It was almost completely gone.
The shattered bits of it were turning to speckled black nearly invisible to anything short of the trained eye. Its once intricate design had long since devolved into nothing but faded marks against his skin. Sometimes the once salient Kanji would glow, almost imperceptibly.
Nothing like its former glory.
"How did this happen?" He whispered to himself.
He had decided, after many minutes, that he couldn't think on an empty stomach and he should get some ramen—
It was sudden that he was jerked by something in his stomach that forced him into his knees.
His body flew back into the bathroom door, his mind crashed into a hard stone wall.
Naruto opened his eyes.
There were rusty bars the color of dried blood obscuring his vision of an unpleasant scene of pipes and sewage water. The drips echoed down the musty scented hallways, covered in a thick, mephitic slime that almost looked sentient. Naruto grimaced, before diverting his attention the rest of the interior. It… was odd: the hallway seemed different somehow, like his mindscape had been shifted. It wasn't the way it usually looked, usually that one pipe was to the left and the other to the right and—
He was inside Kyuubi's cage.
He blinked again and could see himself in his bathroom mirror, but when his head raised it wasn't him who looked back.
Outwardly, nothing overtly significant had changed. It… it was still him. The downward slope of his nose, the shape of his eyes and the crease between his brows—these… these were all familiar.
But those eyes: the burning crimson that met his mirror's gaze was undoubtedly not his own.
This was not him.
"Kyuubi." He breathed.
The demon outside of his mindscape examined itself with an amused glint in its cat like eyes. They were the most frightening things he'd ever seen—they flickered towards the mirror; and Naruto felt caught in the gaze, as if in it everything he had to hide was exposed. Kyuubi grinned, though there was nothing pleasant in the visage.
"Well," The demon drawled, almost absent-mindedly rolling a wrist in a strangely practiced motion. "It seems we've switched."
The words tumbled out of his mouth before he could catch them and shove them back in, "What are you going to do?"
The russet gaze flickered back to the mirror. "What should I do?"
"Nothing." Naruto returned, swallowing thickly.
"Hmm,"The demon rolled his neck—somehow the motion was indefinitely more graceful than Naruto could ever make it to be. "I suppose I could start by killing off everything, and then I could go for a nice meal of human flesh—like that Sakura wench—and maybe call upon the other demons… possibly wreak havoc on the world as you know it—
"You can't!" The blonde rattled the large bars. "You can't!"
"Really?" The demon tilted Naruto's head to the side. His expression was unlike anything Naruto had ever seen on his own face; something deadly. "There doesn't appear to be anything stopping me."
And with that, the demon made a lunge for the window, only to be pulled back with a tug that erupted from its stomach.
He growled, trying to move forward, but his body wouldn't comply with it.
It was then that Naruto realized, with his hand outstretched outside of the blackened bars—they were too big. The bars were too big. They were meant to hold a towering demon that reached a few hundred feet tall, not a curiously short child that probably couldn't even reach five feet. Well, that was an exaggeration, but the distinction was only serving him well at present.
Naruto charged through the bars and raced down the hallway, leaping into the dark abysses.
He tumbled out into his body.
"I knew it!" He cried, triumphant. "It's my body, so get the hell away from—
There was a tug on his stomach, much harder than the ones that sent him into a daze that lasted for minutes, something that grabbed at his soul and conscious and sent him reeling back into rusty bars and straight back into his mindscape, head swooning and eyes pricking with tears. Damn that hurt. He looked again and Kyuubi was making a lunge for the window again.
"No you don't!"
Naruto crashed into a wall—an actual physical one—narrowly dodging a head-first run in with his window.
And, for maybe the next hour or so (Naruto wasn't sure, because without his never failing alarm clock, it was very difficult for him to be able to tell time with anything approaching accuracy), they continued this pattern of dominance without a very clear winner.
Finally, Naruto came to the obvious conclusion that this couldn't go on.
"We can't keep doing this!" He shouted into the dim, quiet of his bedroom. He almost wondered what his neighbors would think—before shaking his head. Hell. They already hated him anyway. They can think he was insane too if they wanted.
"And do you have an easier suggestion?" The demon drawled.
Naruto scowled. "Yeah, you could stop using my body for your own."
"Well I'm not just going to stand aside and watch you destroy everything I care about!" Naruto retorted scathingly.
"Do you really think you can stop me forever?"
No, came the obvious response.
Of course he couldn't. Jesus, he could barely pass the Gennin test—how in the hell could the entire world expect him to hold back the most terrifying being to ever walk this earth? Hell, even with the seal he couldn't do it all that well.
"Alright." Naruto breathed loudly. "We have to be able to come to some sort of agreement… right? I mean, you can't let me die, because then you'll die—and I mean, I can't really kill you anyway, so there has to be something we can agree upon."
The fox made a thoughtful noise. "I suppose."
Naruto blinked, almost unable to believe his luck. That was… almost too good to be true.
"So you'll listen to what I have to say?" He asserted, cautiously.
"No, of course not." Kyuubi scoffed, derisive. "We'll do it my way."
"Your way—" Naruto roared angrily, but was cut off.
"I have no real intentions of harming your foolish friends or your even more foolish village. Though the act would, perhaps, derive some enjoyment for me ultimately it would not serve my purpose."
Naruto blinked again. "…You have a purpose? Uh, I mean, aside from destroying things?"
The fox made a very irritated noise. "You couldn't have possibly thought otherwise."
Naruto scratched his nose. Actually, he kind of had.
"Regardless," The demon continued on, and Naruto imagined he could almost feel his impatience. "No harm will come to them. You will, however, abide by my terms."
"What terms?" Naruto sputtered. "Hey! This is my body, you know—you can't just expect to make all the rules!"
The fox didn't have to say anything—his amusement was palpable.
"Fine." Naruto bit out. "But I'm not gonna agree to anything until you tell me first."
"Fine." Kyuubi mimicked. "I will not harm your precious village—but in return, you will allow me free reign on this body."
"…What?" Naruto sputtered, aloud this time. "That's a fucking joke, right?"
But it certainly didn't seem like the great demon king was joking. Naruto pondered his options seriously. On the one hand, he could fight tooth and nail to stop the demon—and in the process, probably tiring himself out and only aiding the demon in the long run. He could tell someone; but he'd already tried that. And even if he did… what could they do? The Yondaime, the only one capable of sealing off this great beast, was twelve years dead.
"…You promise not to hurt anyone I care about?"
The fox snorted. "Contrary to what you may believe—I do not give my word out lightly."
Naruto frowned, reluctant. "Well, then I suppose I can agree to that." He bit out.
Truthfully, he could think of a dozen worse outcomes; most of which resulting in a lot of dead people and him without any control at all, completely overtaken. He could remember that time in Wave with startling clarity, how his rage—how Kyuubi—had overtaken with such great finality, it was as if he could never go back to being the same Naruto again after that. He shivered involuntarily, thinking of how much worse it would be, without a seal to separate them.
And yet, the Kyuubi was… actually agreeing to his terms? There was no way. There had to be some underlying reason to his complacency—and Naruto didn't trust it one bit.
"What's your game here?" He scowled. "You can't expect me to believe that you'd so easily discard your revenge… and for what? To roam around in my body? You must have some reason."
"Why, that almost sounded somewhat intelligent."
The blonde bristled, but refused to allow Kyuubi to get to him.
"You are correct." He admitted with no small amount of bemusement. "I receive many benefits from this deal as well."
Naruto blinked, taken aback. "Like what?"
"That's none of your concern." The demon waved him off. And then, before Naruto could protest, "Now, I believe we had a deal."
And he was abruptly wrenched back into his mind. This time he avoided crashing into the bars and tumbled onto the ground, nimbly avoiding the puddle that sloshed around next to him. He scowled at the dark, murky water. Ugh. Disgusting. When he focused his attention onto the outside world again, Kyuubi was flipping out of his window, hitting the rooftop and dashing across Konoha at alarming speeds.
Hysterically, he realized this wasn't going to work because the difference between Kyuubi and him was as clear as day.
"Hey…" He reminded, rather late. "Y'know, if we're gonna keep this charade up—you're going to have to act like me."
"And—and I have a team meeting. Like, now."
The fox only hummed in agreement, tipping up into the sky and bouncing off roofs.
"Maybe I'll go."
Naruto sputtered, ready to fight him on it, but the fox veered to the left without any further outbursts from the blonde, heading in the direction of Team Seven's meeting location.
Regardless of Kyuubi's strange and incredibly uncharacteristic complacency, Naruto's trepidation grew. He was—he was so stupid. How, exactly, did he think he was going to get away with keeping this a secret? It's not like he'd be able to keep this up indefinitely; already his mind was conjuring terrible scenarios involving Kyuubi in his body, laughing menacingly as he merrily hacked away at the human race, a scandalized team seven behind him.
How had he thought this would possibly work?
His fears were confirmed when Kyuubi dropped soundlessly onto the red bridge, startling Sakura.
The tangible difference between Kyuubi and Naruto truly came to a head when the fox demon only eyed the pink-haired girl warily; appraising her as if she was an entirely different species entirely. Meanwhile, Naruto would have already been gushing all over her.
"Naruto!" She brightened. "Are you feeling better?"
There was a long, terrifying moment in which Naruto thought Kyuubi wouldn't say anything at all. Sakura's smile faltered. Naruto almost kicked the demon out, and finally he replied, with great reluctance, "Yes."
She blinked, taken aback by his curtness. "Oh." Was her startled response, "Oh. Well, that's good."
She turned to Sasuke, laughing a little falsely. "Right, Sasuke-kun?"
Kyuubi's reaction to Sasuke was… not at all what Naruto had expected it to be.
There was just—so much rage that boiled inside him, this completely illogical, overwhelming hatred that curled in his stomach and raised his hackles; lying beneath it this strange, unnatural sort of possessiveness. He'd never thought of Sasuke like this. Sure, the guy was annoying on the best of days, but he'd never—oh. Right. Kyuubi.
But… what's the fox's problem with the bastard? Naruto wondered curiously.
If anything, the demon had even less of reason to dislike Sasuke than he did. At least Kyuubi didn't have to associate with him on a daily basis.
"You foolish, foolish boy." The demon seethed. "How wrong you are."
Naruto reeled at that.
What? He turned his attention back to Sasuke. But… what could Kyuubi possibly hate him for? If anything, it should be Naruto who hated Sasuke—what with spending most of his days in the constant presence of the other boy.
Sasuke snorted in response. "I guess," He drawled, bored. "If the dobe is actually going to do anything noteworthy today."
Naruto bristled, yelling even through Kyuubi's grip on his body, "Fuck that—I'll show you noteworthy!"
Naruto was just as shocked as Kyuubi at managing to simultaneously take control of his body, but he didn't waste the opportunity, bypassing the shocked fox and barreling fist first into the Uchiha.
His blow didn't land, but it was enough to spur the fox into action. Sasuke caught his fist, throwing a leg out to connect with Naruto's stomach—but Kyuubi somehow flipped over him, dragging the Uchiha with him.
The momentum slammed Sasuke into the floor; Kyuubi deftly caught himself with two pads of his fingers against the ground, vaulting upright. The Uchiha's face was more than worth letting Kyuubi take his body for the day—an expression of absolutely stunned, suspended disbelief.
This didn't deter him for long. Sasuke shook himself out of his reverie, flipping upright and lunging into the offensive. Kyuubi dodged all his attacks with a nimbleness that Naruto couldn't have managed, and with a grace he definitely couldn't have managed.
Kyuubi was playing with him, that was to be sure. Even Naruto was begrudgingly impressed by how easily Kyuubi moved around Sasuke's punches—which were too quick even for Naruto to quite catch—dexterous and agile; each step in Naruto's footwork a work of precision, as if the demon could keep in time with something Naruto couldn't hear or see.
He must have grown bored of this, as finally the demon caught one of Sasuke's frustrated punches, and used the Uchiha's momentum to throw him into the water below.
Sakura gasped as Sasuke plunged headfirst into the rapids, rushing over to the side to squint into the river below.
"Naruto!" She scolded, turning around. "You guys couldn't have at least waited for Kakashi-sensei before you started fighting?"
Kyuubi didn't deign her with a response, eying the water beneath them coolly. Naruto had to admit, that was pretty awesome. But he still held concern for his friend underwater—Kyuubi hadn't been gentle, and Naruto thought that he may have broken Sasuke's wrist in the interim of throwing him off the bridge.
Finally, the Uchiha had fought his way to the surface, coughing and sputtering.
He grappled onto land; Sakura bolted over to help, but he shoved away her assistance.
"Dobe…" He gasped for breath, sending Kyuubi a murderous look. "I'm going to kill you."
Kyuubi tilted his head. "I'm going to eat you."
Sasuke blinked, looking as surprised as Naruto felt. That hadn't sounded like a threat to pound him into the ground at all. It sounded like…Naruto actually wanted to tear him limb from limb and actually…eat him. He shivered at the thought. He wasn't about to let the dobe get to him.
Meanwhile Naruto wasn't sure whether Kyuubi was trying to be insulting or he was simply stating a fact. The demon king didn't seem to understand the subtleties of human interaction.
"What? He has it coming for him."
Sasuke lunged at him, but Sakura stopped him with a deadlock.
"Both of you—honestly!" She turned to Naruto with a pinched expression. "Can't you two quit fighting, just for a second?"
Kyuubi's eyes flashed in anger. He quite clearly did not take being reprimanded by a human very well. Naruto felt the rage boil inside him, quick to remind the demon, "You promised not to hurt them!"
"That I did." The demon bit out unwillingly.
"This is your fault Naruto! You apologize!"
"My fault?" Kyuubi growled, low in his throat. Sakura shrunk back—it was plainly a radically different tone than what Naruto normally used with her. "He goaded me. He shouldn't say things he doesn't have the capacity to back up."
"Sure, but throwing him all the way into the river? And his arm!" Sakura looked somewhat affronted on the Uchiha's behalf.
Kyuubi shrugged. "I could have killed him. It's his fault if he's that weak that he couldn't block it."
"That was low." Even Naruto winced at that.
Sasuke broke out of Sakura's grip and darted towards Kyuubi again, having as much luck as he had the first time.
True to his word, Kyuubi didn't harm Sasuke, per say. At the very least, he never physically engaged him first—but really, it didn't take much to goad Sasuke into taking the offensive. The fox used the Uchiha's momentum against him once more, side-stepping his lunge and grabbing him by the shoulder; and Naruto was struck again by how fluid the motion was. How easily Kyuubi used the boy's own moves against him, and pitched him once again right over the side of the bridge.
"Naruto!" Sakura skidded to the side of the bridge, peering over. She turned back around, scathing, "What did I just say?"
There was a poof, and a silver-haired sensei emerged from the clout of smoke.
"What are my little munchkins up to today?" Kakashi looked over the scene with a lazy eye. He surveyed the water over the side of the bridge, and called cheerily, "Gotten a little bit over your head, Sasuke-kun?"
Sasuke's head finally emerged from the waves. In response, he spat out a goldfish.
Kakashi turned his attention back to Naruto. "Ah? You're feeling better then, Naruto-kun."
Kyuubi didn't even turn to watch the hilarious display of the water-logged Uchiha crawling his way back onto land, diverting all his attention to the silver-haired Jounin in front of him, face giving nothing away.
"Yes." He replied, impassive.
"You sure?" Kakashi returned, pleasant, nothing at all bellied in his tone. "You look a bit… peeky. Do you want to sit down?"
"No, sensei. I'm fine." Kyuubi shook his head; a mannerism much too demure for Naruto.
Kakashi raised a brow. "Is that so? You don't look it."
"But I am." Kyuubi smiled, coy. "I'm in perfect control."
Sakura's eyes darted between them, nervously. "Um?" She interrupted, hesitantly. "What are you guys talking about?"
Finally, Kakashi broke his narrowed gaze, smiling jovially at his young charge. "It's nothing, Sakura, just some personal things."
She blinked rapidly. And then, sputtering, "But look what he did to Sasuke-kun—
"Ah, well, maybe Sasuke should choose his battles more carefully."
The water-logged Uchiha trudged back onto the bridge, looking incredibly put upon at that. Fortunately, he seemed to have the foresight to wisely hold his tongue.
"He hasn't today." Kyuubi, of course, had to break that.
Sasuke made another lunge.
"Maa…maa…" Kakashi wrenched them apart before Kyuubi could do any further, or more permanent damage. "You guys are so feisty today! I hope hormones aren't kicking in."
Kyuubi narrowed his inhuman eyes at the silver-haired Jounin. Kakashi returned it; giving nothing away, even in the face of those unnatural, unnerving eyes. For a brief, terrifying moment Naruto thought that Kyuubi would break his word—would lunge at his sensei with that inhuman speed and rip him apart as easily as he had out maneuvered Sasuke—
But Kyuubi only smiled. "So Kakashi-sensei," Kyuubi's confident droll sounded so foreign on Naruto. "What are we going to learn today?"
Kakashi didn't respond for a long moment, his eyes a tangible burn against Naruto's. More than anything Naruto wanted to explain to his sensei—he couldn't stand the impassivity he found there, as if Naruto was meaningless.
As if Naruto was the enemy.
Naruto shook his head. No: it wasn't him. He wanted to protest against the withering gaze, wanted to reaffirm that he was still in there, somewhere.
"Well," With one last reluctant look at Kyuubi, Kakashi returned his attention to his other two students, beginning an explanation on what they'd be accomplishing that day.
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