In Which Minato Feels Useless
Kushina sat on a fallen log, rubbing her bruised and raw wrists and staring absentmindedly at the leaves of the trees as they swayed in the wind. A particularly strong gust raised goose-bumps on her arm, causing her to shiver and rub her upper arms.
A bright flash of yellow light lit the entire clearing and made spots dance around in Kushina's eyes. Her heart leapt to her throat and the wistful look she was sporting was wiped off and replaced with a look of utter annoyance. Minato blinked a few times before crossing the small clearing and handing her a wet shirt. Kushina looked at Minato with confusion before slowly accepting the sodden shirt. Minato softly said,
"Your face is covered in blood. I figured you might want to clean up a bit before the other two get back here." Kushina made an 'o' with her mouth and thanked Minato timidly. She carefully dabbed at her face to loosen the dried blood before slowly and tenderly wiping off what she could.
Minato was pulling out what looked like ration bars, jerky, and the standard black shirt and pants that all Shinobi ranked chuunin and above were issued. When Kushina had finished, he took the sodden shirt and handed her the clean clothes without speaking. Kushina was starting to worry at his lack of speech, but dismissed it as exhaustion from the rescue.
Kushina was not a shy person. In fact most people would willingly call her the loudest and most outgoing person that Konoha had seen since Jiraiya was a child. She generally had no qualms about stripping down to her undergarments in front of teammates to change clothes quickly, but something about Minato seeing her that nude made her heart stumble and her face match her hair. So she found herself clutching the bundle of clothes to her chest and hiding behind some trees as she slowly lifted her now ruined yellow shirt over her head.
Minato's face took on a small tinge of rose as he heard Kushina changing not 20 feet behind him. Her long absence from Konoha had changed her a lot more than he had thought it would, and he barely got a good look at her. Minato was of average height, about 5'11" and he had been that height since he was 15. The last time he saw Kushina, the top of her head barely went over his shoulders, and now it looked like she could scrape the bottom of his nose. He also noticed that in the 3 years she had been gone, she had gotten noticeably toner, losing most of the roundness in her face that she had been teased so mercilessly for as a child.
Footsteps and the rustling of bushes signalled that she was done, and Minato turned around. His clothes were too big of course, but something about her in his clothes looked utterly ridiculous and adorable at the same time. A snort made its way out of his nose and Kushina sent him a glare dripping with acid. Minato sighed and sat down next to her, handing the Jerky and ration bars that he had pulled out earlier. She hesitated until he said,
"Eat. We ate just before we came to get you, so don't worry about us." Kushina nodded and mumbled a thanks. Minato watched her face with amusement as she made various faces to the tastes of the foods, but continued to frown in her general direction. Finally, after she managed to swallow the last of the cardboard the hospital called ration bars, she spoke up for the first time since she had seen Minato.
"Is there something on my face?" Minato blinked; apparently stunned that she had spoken. Kushina lifted a brow and crossed her arms. Minato rubbed the back of his neck and grinned embarrassedly.
"Was I staring?" Kushina nodded pointedly and Minato continued. "Sorry, and to answer your question, you still have blood all over your face, but I don't think you'll be able to get it all off until you take a bath or something, so don't worry." Kushina groaned and ran her fingers across her cheeks, feeling the left over grit of dried blood. Her left eye still felt tender and swollen but she could open her eyelid and see unfocused shapes now that it wasn't sealed shut with blood. Apparently there was a good sized gash over her eyebrow as well. It had scabbed over, but Kushina honestly couldn't remember when that had happened.
"Are you feeling OK, Minato?" Minato frowned and said,
"Of course I am what would make you think otherwise?" Concern ran across his face before he could stem it down and Kushina sighed. She knew what was wrong now.
"Listen. I am fine, OK? This isn't the first time I've been kidnapped you know." Minato let out a long sigh, his shoulders drooped in relief.
"Are you sure? You're really quiet, and to be frank, I've never seen you this hurt before..." Kushina rolled her violet eyes. She wanted to feel special for the obvious concern and attention he was doting on her, but Kushina knew better. She knew he was a generally nice guy and would do this for anyone. She tucked the wrapper from the ration bar into one of the pockets in the overly large pants and pulled her old clothes onto her lap to check them over for holes and rips.
Minato jumped when he heard the bushes behind them rustle. He hadn't realized that he had been focussing on Kushina so hard. He was drinking in everything from the way she held her hands, like that of a kunoichi used to quick and subtle movements, to the look of sadness and wisdom she held in her eyes. He had half a mind to ask her about the prolonged mission she had been on, but knew to give her time. She'd eventually talk.
Jiraiya tried not to jostle the boy on his back, but every few steps he took was accompanied by a quiet grunt. The way the kid acted towards his injuries, with caution and the right ways to clean them quickly and on the go, it lent his back story some belief. Well, more so than he and Sarutobi had initially taken it for. The sage sported a grin when he saw Minato making googly eyes at Kushina before the blonde heard them approach, and grinned even wider when Minato finally did hear them and was surprised in a way that no shinobi worth his 2 cents should be.
He dropped the bag of supplies and other things that he and Naruto had looted off the Iwa nin before piling their bodies together and setting it ablaze. Despite being enemies, they were still soldiers taking orders and deserved a proper send off. He saw Naruto close his eyes for few seconds and move his lips in what he assumed a quick prayer before Jiraiya had noticed that his wound had opened again and the blonde was having difficulty walking. He squatted to let the boy climb onto his back rather than just toss him, something that Naruto found hilarious and embarrassing at the same time.
The look that Minato sent Jiraiya's way was one of contempt as he rushed away from Kushina towards Naruto and helped him off Jiraiya's back. Naruto hissed and pressed the already blood soaked and ruined jacket even harder to his side. Minato's mother hen instinct kicked in and it wasn't long before Naruto was threatening to hurt himself even further if the older blonde didn't lay off. Jiraiya just laughed and sat down beside Kushina.
"So who's the kid?" Kushina asked, suspicions already forming. Jiraiya glanced at Minato, now settled down and focussing on stitching Naruto's side up. Naruto was wincing, but taking it rather well for a 14 year old.
"Long story short, he's Minato's little brother who showed up 2 years ago after someone mangled him horribly and left him to die in a playground for all the nice shinobi children to see." Kushina didn't even blink.
"Are you sure he's not... well..."
"A spy? A sleeper agent? Well we can never be too sure. I just met the brat at the beginning of this mission, but I can definitely say that if he's a sleeper then he's damn good at getting people to like him." Jiraiya paused for a second; Minato was done stitching and was proceeding to dress the rest of his wounds.
"His blood tests proved positive towards being his brother, and his age is appropriate towards Minato's own origins before I found the runt." Kushina was staring at Naruto. Something about him seemed familiar almost. She wasn't sure what, but her eyes kept being drawn to the dark slashes down his cheeks, 3 on each side. She glanced back at Jiraiya for a moment before asking,
"Where did he get those scars on his face from? Do you know?" Jiraiya just shook his head.
"I'm going to do a basic scan of you, just to make sure there is no lasting damage. I know you will probably be fine in a few days but I just want to make sure." Kushina flinched but nodded. Jiraiya's hand lit up in the medical green that Tsunade had pounded into him after her brother had died, determined to make sure no one she loved would die on her watch again. Jiraiya set his lips grim, remembering the look of utter hopelessness in her eyes the days following Dan's death. The white haired man placed his hand on top of Kushina's feverishly warm forehead. He cast her a glance, but her eyes were screwed shut.
The scan showed no signs of fever, so he figured it had something to do with the beast in her belly. Bruising almost everywhere, she'd be black and blue tomorrow, cuts and scrapes from fighting, rope burns on her wrists and from her ankles to her knees. Those would probably be gone in the morning. The most severe thing he could detect was the swollen eye and the broken nose.
"Your nose is going to set crooked if you don't set it soon. Other than that, you'll be fine in a day or two." Kushina sighed as Jiraiya removed his hand. She tenderly touched her nose and sucked a sharp breath in pain.
"Is it really crooked?" She asked tentatively. She didn't want to have to touch her nose if she could help it.
"Eh. Not terribly. You just gonna leave it then?" Kushina nodded. She wasn't focussed on beauty to get her by in the Shinobi world. It wasn't needed in her specialty anyway. Running her hands through her hair she winced at the knots and tangles and started to pick it apart.
"Jiraiya-sensei, you wouldn't happen to have a brush would you?" Jiraiya snorted but pulled a comb out from his pocket. Kushina smiled and started to work on the mess that was her hair.
Naruto finally managed to convince Minato that he could finish the dressings himself. The older blonde's mother henning tendencies were getting a little overbearing and Naruto felt he had to be at least 10 feet away before he could start ignoring Minato watching his every little move.
"I said I was fine! We need to start moving again, right? I'll be fine." Minato hovered a few moments more before resigning himself to tend to Kushina. Turns out she had similar ideas about him being overbearing. Jiraiya shook his head at his student before shoving the bag of loot into the lost looking blonde's arms.
"Take this, I'll take the gaki, Kushina-chan can take herself. We'll find shelter and discuss what we will do tomorrow. Got that?" Minato nodded slowly and ended up taking the rear position, feeling slightly helpless at his inability to help more, but able to sneak a few peeks at how nice Kushina's butt looked from what he could see through the sweatpants.
The sun was just beginning to set again when Jiraiya found a place deem-able to camp for the night. The first thing noticeable was the large rock that formed an overhang which protected them from the back and the top. The area surrounding the camp was covered in crunchy gravel which would alert them of approaching enemies. Jiraiya wasn't particularly worried of anyone find them though; he himself wasn't even sure of where they were. He'd have to use the stars to get back out to civilization.
As soon as he gently set Naruto down, the boy was digging in his bag for food. They had been walking since before dawn and had only stopped for lunch. Everyone was tired and Kushina was starting to get a little snarky. Not that Minato noticed. Jiraiya saw him eyeing her rear a few times and chuckled at his favourite student. After Naruto had single handedly set up a fire and started a pot of stew with some noodles and a packet of ramen flavouring (from his last cup of instant ramen) Minato put his hand to his chin. He had just finished setting up the tents when he realized something that was probably going to cause him a great amount of grief. He sat down around the fire as Naruto ladled out bowls of his stew/ramen concoction. He had discovered that Kushina's favourite food was ramen as well and the two were almost instant best friends.
"Why the long face, Ni-san?" Naruto asked as he handed the older blonde a bowl. Minato looked up at Naruto and said,
"Well. We only packed two tents, one for me and Naruto, and Jiraiya's." Naruto looked puzzled, Jiraiya looked delighted, and Kushina had a mixed look of embarrassment and horror.
"So what are we going to do about this?" The red head asked. She was struggling to prevent her face from matching her hair. She knew that the only tents that were usually used were two person tents. They were light, small, and in standard 4 person cells, only 2 were required.
"Uh. I don't know... I'd rather you decide actually." Kushina sent a half hearted glare at Minato. She sighed heavily and pointed at Naruto who was serving Jiraiya.
"Naruto, tonight you are sleeping with me." Naruto's face turned bright red and he nearly dropped Jiraiya's bowl (the white haired man quickly grabbed it before the blonde ruined it and sent Naruto a dirty look) and said,
"W-what?" Kushina sighed again before saying,
"You have to share a tent with me tonight, or you're sleeping under the stars." She looked up at the darkening sky, "It looks like it's going to rain tonight, so it's your choice." Naruto frowned but nodded. He moved back to the pot and scraped the last of the stew, loudly complaining about how he wished he had cooked more of it.
When it finally came time to retire for the night, the air was thick with tension. Kushina was feeling a little awkward, but mostly because she had just met Naruto the day before. She felt a little bit of regret and missed opportunity pass through her when she didn't ask Minato, but he probably would have freaked out and she was just too tired. Jiraiya was out of the question as she had known the man for years and he was certainly sure to make everything worse.
Thankfully she didn't have a change of clothes so she wouldn't have to worry about Naruto walking in on her undressing. The kid was only 14, but she remembered her hormones raging at that age and well, it would have been weird. Instead she laid out Naruto's sleeping bag beside the one that Minato had graciously lent her. He'd be sharing Jiraiya's larger one instead.
She was already in her bag when Naruto quietly and carefully unzipped the tent. When he saw she was already in her bag relief washed across his face. He shrugged his shoes off and took his shirt off earning a few eyeing of the various scars and bruises that ticked his skin. Scars were something unfamiliar to Naruto. Before he was thrown back in time, the only thing that had ever left a scar that hadn't healed itself within a few months was the pale swirl of where Sasuke's chidori had impaled his right shoulder, complete with the matching exit hole on his back. In a way Naruto was glad he still had the scar. That battle had been one of the more significant ones in his life and was a constant reminder of what he had to do to change what he could and hopefully save his best friend's life. After the Kyuubi had deserted his body however, while his healing rate was still better than most people, it was pathetic compared to before. Many gashes and cuts ticked the blonde's body and the stitched wound on his side was sure to leave a wicked one. The blonde set his shirt down carefully and kneeled down. He glanced at Kushina and said timidly,
"Sorry, I have to change this before I sleep on it. I'd rather not wake up with an infection caused by night sweat." Kushina nodded and said,
"Do you need any help?" Naruto shook his head and smiled at her. He went about carefully peeling the bandage off to reveal an angry looking wound before using a small piece of gauze to wipe it with alcohol. Kushina winced along with Naruto when he took the first wipe. Looking away she came up with a way to hopefully distract him from the pain he was undoubtedly feeling.
"So, Naruto-kun was it? Tell me about yourself. Jiraiya-sensei tells me you are Minato-kun's brother?" Naruto spared her a quick glance before grimacing and nodding.
"Yea, that's me. Namikaze Naruto. I'm 14, genin, and Ni-san has been my teacher since I came out of the coma he found me in. Apparently someone thought it would be funny to beat the shit out of me and toss me in the playground a couple of years ago. I bet I was the source of excitement at the academy for weeks." Kushina grunted out a small laugh. The story was so horrible it was almost funny.
"Did you have family? Other than Minato-kun?" Naruto shook his head.
"Not really. Just some close friends. I'm still missing huge sections of my memory, but I haven't yet remembered anyone caring for me. I suppose I just assumed I was an orphan and lived as a street rat until I ended up here." Naruto paused to unwrap a piece of gauze.
"What about you? As far as I can remember Ni-san's only mentioned you once in passing when I was like 12." Kushina felt miffed. She pursed her lips and said,
"Well, that rat bastard. My name is Uzumaki Kushina and I'm 19 years old. I was born in the Uzushiogakure but I was relocated to Konoha shortly before it fell." Naruto had paused. His head was down and looking at his wound and he was pressing into his side hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. Of all things, he had not expected her to say that. Uzumaki... that was a name he hadn't heard anyone say in years. He hadn't actually expected to find someone with his last name. He wondered if they were from the same clan. Maybe he had finally found some long lost family!
"Naruto-kun? Are you ok?" Naruto looked up, his face schooled into a grimace.
"Yea sorry, I got my finger caught on one of the stitches." Kushina sucked in a breath. Naruto finished putting the gauze on his stab wound and crawled into the sleeping bag. Kushina clicked the electric lamp off and laid out on her back, trying to find a comfortable position amidst her bruises.
"Kushina-san, can I ask you a personal question?" Naruto asked quietly after a few minutes of silence. His brain had been ticking away and he just couldn't help it. He felt Kushina turn her head towards him.
"Do you like my brother?" Kushina was glad it was dark; her face was as red as a tomato. When she didn't answer, Naruto felt a little shamed to have offended her.
"Err- sorry, I didn't mean to offend you or anything..." He said quietly. Kushina didn't move or say anything for a good 10 seconds.
"Uh- no, it's ok. I just didn't expect that question." She was quiet again for a few minutes. Naruto had all but given up on her and his eyelids were starting to droop when she said in a voice that belonged to a mouse,
"Yea... you know, I really do. Since the first time I was kidnapped when we were genin. He told me he really liked my hair as he carried me back to Konoha. I had hated it back then, but after that... Well..." Naruto was quiet for a long time before saying,
"Be patient. I'm definitely not the most observant of guys in the world, but it's damn obvious to me that he's definitely into you. He's never treated any of the other girls with this much attention. I think the only one who could compete for the attention he puts on you is me." Naruto paused and through her shock Kushina could almost see the look of annoyance on his face. "God he's so friggin over protective. I think he considered asking me to stop being a ninja when he found out we were related. I could see it on his tongue. But man, nothing he does can compare to the first week after that. It was ridiculous." Kushina giggled and said,
"Ok, ok. I can definitely see that, he was a bit of a worry wart when we were kids. But seriously now kid, we have to get to sleep. I still have to talk to your brother about the mission that we were supposed to do together." Naruto's interest was piqued, but Kushina shut him down. He eventually gave up when he heard her breath even out. Sighing he rolled over and eventually fell into a restless sleep. The one thought that had been repeating over and over in his mind was one that was going to haunt him for months.
From everything he had drawn together, including Kushina's long standing relationship with Minato, her clan name and where she was from it explained many things. There was one thing that he was almost 100 percent sure of.
Kushina was his mother and she was a babe. He was so proud.
END CHAPTER 8
Wow, sorry, no action in this one. I wanted to get some good ol' character development in there! Thanks to everyone who reviewed and read, I really appreciate it!