(Naruto, again :p)
A hour or so later, they had found a place to hide. Not ground level, but in a tree, with wide branches and lots of leaves, practical to hide behind. There was a hollow in the trunk just over a branch, large enough to shelter them, and they had filled it with grass to rest on.
Well, for Sasuke to rest on. Except the stubborn bastard had decided he didn't need a rest, and was actively keeping an eye on their surroundings while Naruto hunted and Sakura lay traps. And when Naruto had tried to get him to at least sit down, he'd been forced to dodge his fist, because Uchiha was in a "I don't answer to anyone" mood.
Son of a bitch.
/Mmm, but I like him stubborn and macho as hell,/ Kyuubi purred as Naruto tracked his prey. Surprised, the boy almost walked on a dry leaf. He wasn't used to the demon fox taking such an active interest in what was happening outside, unless his life was in danger.
'What, you like him all... dominant and stuff?' Naruto grumped back, feeling a weird twinge of jealousy. Ah well, it was better than to have the demon hate Sasuke's guts.
/That's when I want to throw him down on his knees and fuck him the most/ the fox laughed throatily. /Dominating a submissive isn't any fun, any challenge. But making someone like him submit, now.../
Naruto was getting images, feelings -- the memory of threatening, echoing growls and his front paws around a squirming body, and sharp teeth snapping at his muzzle, adding just a hint of threat to his pleasure ...
'Erk, get that shit out of my head. I'm not into bestiality,' he grumbled back, because thinking about the feral pleasure of mounting a clawed, fanged partner who could tear him to pieces if he didn't manage to overwhelm him or her was making a few rather embarrassing things happen inside his pants, and if he started to think about the feel of fur against him, he was going to be VERY disturbed the next time he was around Kiba and Akamaru.
Kyuubi snorted. /You're making me lust after furless, fangless, clawless, BIPEDAL humans, boy. It's bestiality to me./
Naruto decided to ignore his tenant. Most of the time, the conversations he was dragged in left him confused and disturbed. The damn fox thought in a way that should have been alien to him, but somehow, at gut level, wasn't. Some of the ideas he shared, Naruto couldn't dismiss, even though he knew half of the time it was probably just the bored demon-fox trying his hand at manipulation.
He decided to think about Sakura-chan instead.
Then he got caught up in remembering the softness of her skin and the way he had molded her body to his, and decided not to think at all while he hunted, because he'd just run face first into a tree.
Inside his head, the Kyuubi was howling with laughter.
It was good that they knew how to light a fire without the smoke rising like a beacon signaling their position; Naruto didn't have a problem eating his meat raw, but he knew that he was not in the majority there and people tended to look at him weird when he tore into bloody flesh hungrily. It made him self-conscious, like he was revealing to everyone how bestial he was.
That and, as tasty as raw meat was, it still wasn't ramen.
They ate quietly, not that hungry. Sasuke tried but then they both saw him wince discretely and 'misplace' his food down the tree, and Sakura spent the meal nibbling and not really swallowing anything, without looking up. In the end he was the only one who had a real meal, even if by his standards, it was barely a snack.
Finally he sighed, abandoning the idea of feeding.
"...So... How come none of us knew ... about ... Kyuubi no Youko? That he wasn't dead I mean," Sakura started.
"The adults knew," Sasuke commented tonelessly. "The ninja at least."
Naruto wound his arms around his knees and stared at his feet. "... Yeah, they all know, all those who were old enough to understand when he attacked the village. But the Third made 'em swear to shut the hell up and not tell their kids, so I could grow up normally..." He laughed bitterly, shaking his head. "Except they all hate me 'cause they figured I was the Kyuubi and the Fourth had died because of me. So yeah, didn't work so good."
Sakura started nibbling on her lip. "So that's why... Mom was so unhappy when she learned you were in a team with me. I thought it was just because you had such a bad reputation as a troublemaker..."
"And are you?" Sasuke asked, watching him.
"Am I what?"
Naruto wanted to bristle, but Sasuke sounded so carefully neutral that he just couldn't.
"No. But he's inside me."
For a few seconds his teammates seemed not to know what to say to that.
"... Have you always known?" Sakura asked softly, still not looking up.
"Nah, actually that came late," he replied in as casual a tone as he could manage. "Sure, sometimes I got pissed as hell at the way people treated me, but that -- I don't know if it was his influence, but I don't think I needed him to get angry at being treated like shit."
Sakura fidgeted, a guilty look on her face. Naruto sent her a little smile to reassure her. Compared to most people, she'd been nice, really.
"I was twelve already when I even learned how I was different. And I didn't even feel him -- as something separate, I mean-- for a few months after that ... The mission with Zabuza. When that moron--" he pointed at Sasuke "--got himself killed. I'd never been so enraged than back then. I wanted to shred Haku to tiny pieces and piss on the remains."
It was hard to say that, because even now, thinking back on the first death he'd ever witnessed -- the first death of someone he knew at least -- he still felt sad and guilty and furious and powerless, wanting to save the boy who had tried to teach him something so important. But he would still have killed Haku to avenge Sasuke. He felt guilty that he was glad Haku had died at Kakashi's hands instead.
"Even then, it was hazy, the feeling that there was something, a -- a wrath, echoing mine, and yet just so much bigger than mine was. It sharpened slowly with time, the feelings I got from it-- from him -- but at the same time, it was becoming more mine. Argh, I'm really not explaining well," he added with a grimace.
"His feelings contaminated you?" Sakura replied, alarmed.
Naruto winced. Erk, that was not going well.
"No-- well, yes, but not like that... It's complicated. At first it was really hazy, and sometimes it had nothing to do with what I was feeling at the time. But now-- well, it's different. Easier. Better."
"Easier what?" she demanded, staring at him with wide, wary eyes.
"Well, before I had to guess what was mine and what was his, and it was hard, because every time I was feeling a thing I didn't want to, I'd tell myself it was his fault. But now I know when it's mine and when it's his. And when we feel the same -- well, I can use it."
/Do you dare make me out to be a useful tool, boy?/
Naruto grimaced briefly. That angry growl was definitely not from his feelings, but he had let the fox's awareness rise during their flight there, to be able to use his power better in case it was needed, and it was hard to just ignore him.
"Naruto?" Sasuke called, frowning.
"Ah, nothing. He's just a bitch as far as tenants go, you know," the blond ninja replied with an embarrassed smirk.
"Wait, he talks to you?"
"Uhh, sometimes. Almost never usually -- sometimes I go months without even feeling a twitch. Hell, sometimes I forget he's even there. But since this morning he's been running a fucking commentary. It's annoying as hell," he grumbled, beating down the sense of annoyed offense from the demon-fox.
Sakura still looked disturbed, and Sasuke was watching him with a hint of weirded-out fascination.
"Only you, moron..." the black-haired boy breathed, shaking his head in amazement.
"Who ya calling a moron, bastard?!"
"You. You have a demon inside your head and you call it 'annoying.' I'd hate to see what you call unbearable."
"Hey, it's not like I've got a choice. And what am I supposed to do, curl up and cry? Hide from people 'cause it's so shameful? Heck no. I didn't choose to house the bastard, but now that he's here, I may as well make the most out of it, and if people decide to bug me because of him, then fuck them."
The conversation died then, as they all stared at nothing trying to find something to talk about.
"... Your chakra, the way you heal... they're due to-- him, right?" Sakura finally asked.
Naruto nodded, wondering where she was going.
"And the -- the heat? It was him too, right?"
"Ahh, yeah, that's what Kakashi-sensei told me."
"But it never happened before?"
"Not that I remember," Naruto replied. He saw her glance at his stomach and her eyes briefly look more scared than before. What the hell--
/She thinks I'm about to escape/ Kyuubi commented, a note of bitter annoyance in his growl. /If only./ Naruto wondered if the fox had meant him to hear the last bit.
"You think the seal is failing, don't you," he commented, trying hard not to look hurt. Sakura wasn't saying she didn't trust HIM. Only that she didn't trust the seal. That was different, right?
"You said yourself you were getting more access to him," she replied, visibly fighting to keep calm.
"Yeah, I am. But the seal still works just fine."
"How do you KNOW?!" she finally erupted, clenching her fists. "You never went into heat before, so WHY NOW?"
He felt a low laugh rising in his throat and blinked, caught by surprise. He was used to blocking Kyuubi's negative emotions, but it was the first time he was subjected to his extreme amusement.
"What's so funny?!"
She was shrieking, now, and he would have ducked by reflex except that she wasn't trying to hit him, and there were tears in her eyes. That was...a lot more serious than her usual temper tantrums.
"KYUUBI finds it funny!! And I don't know-- oh. He says I was too small for my hormones to get influenced by his."
/It did come a few times more recently/ the fox added with relish. /You just happened to be alone on a mission when it hit. I'm surprised you don't remember, though./
Naruto blinked owlishly as he tried to guess when that could have happened, then noticed his teammates staring at him. "Uh, what?"
"He's talking to you now, isn't he?" Sasuke asked softly. He looked weirdly interested.
"Uhh, yeah. He says it happened before, but I was alone so nothing happened." /Except you chafing your dick from wanking all night long, that is./ "Except from-- KYUUBI!!"
'You goddamn bitch,' he thought, blushing madly.
"What did he say?" Sasuke demanded, nudging him with his foot.
"Nothing!" the blond ninja replied, growling. "He's just laughing at me again. Bastard."
Sakura was looking very, very weirded out.
"Is he listening now?" she asked in a whisper.
Naruto sobered up immediately. "Yes. But I can push him down if you want."
"Will you?" she replied, her voice wavering weirdly. "Oh-- but won't he be angry at you? I don't want him to-- to... fight you, or..."
He reached out to caress her cheek gently, feeling the need to reassure her twisting his guts into knots. He was so used to being around legendary ninja masters, mastering chakra-intense techniques and having a demon inside him that sometimes he forgot how scary it could seem for normal people. Concentrating, he closed the window to the outside he had left the demon, ignoring his snarls of protest, then gave her an awkward little smile.
"Sakura-chan... He can't do anything to me, okay? I let him come up sometimes, and sometimes I listen to him, but I don't have to. He can be as pissed at me as he wants, and it won't do anything to me. He can't hurt me, he can't take control, he can't influence me to do something I'd never do otherwise. I just-- well sure he's a monster and all, but sometimes I feel sorry for him. I'd rather be dead than be trapped in someone else, without a body of my own, and not even able to see the outside world. That's why I let him see through my eyes and -- other stuff. But this is my body and I'm the one in control, always."
She looked mildly relieved now. He felt the knot in his guts relax a little.
"Is he really... as bad as they say? You know, when we are taught about that day, we're not told about the details, just that he attacked and-- and, well. No one taught us much more."
"I doubt anyone got to have a chat with him about his reasons anyway," Sasuke commented sarcastically.
"I never asked. But as far as I know," Naruto replied somberly, "he didn't have any."
He couldn't stand the horror in Sakura's eyes. He looked away.
"He's -- not human. He thinks killing unarmed civilians is a good way to relieve tension and killing high-level ninja is fun. For him, humans are prey. Were prey. Because now, some of them are mates too and-- Well, I think he's a bit confused. But of course centuries-old kitsune can't be confused because they already know everything, so don't tell him I said that," he added with a little, awkward smile.
Sakura shuddered. "You can count on that."
Sasuke moved, stretching his legs in front of him casually. "Stop stalling, Sakura. There are other things you want to ask."
She jumped, startled, and gave him a hurt look. "I'm not stalling! This is important!"
The black-haired teenager snorted.
"We can ask him why he destroyed Konoha later. It's not going to change anything to our current situation. Naruto... Can the Kyuubi slip free of you and possess Sakura's child?"
Sakura cringed and bit her lip, hard enough that Naruto worried that she would start to bleed. He wanted to reach out and comfort her, but he doubted she'd accept his touch and that hurt.
"No... No way in hell," he replied wearily. "I don't know what those shitheads of the Council told ya, Sakura-chan, but it shows that they never got to look at my seal up close. It's just... Not possible."
"Why?" she replied in a whisper, hope and fear in her eyes. "What makes it impossible?"
"Well... 'cause basically, he's living on my lifeforce. We're sharing the same chakra pathways. He doesn't have a body of his own, so the seal anchored him into mine. The old pervert-sennin babbled at me about that once, and I guess you'd have to ask him for the arcane details, 'cause I didn't get any of it, but when he dumbed it down he explained it like that: a soul has these kinda hooks on it, that permits it to connect to a body. And the seal made it so his hooks became my hooks and so he's only connected through me. Meaning even if he manages to get past the seal that keeps him caged and unable to do anything, and rips himself out of me, he leaves his hooks behind and he can't get into anything else. And he dies. For good, this time."
He neglected to add that the loss of the Kyuubi would most likely, if not kill him too, then at least turn him into a drooling vegetable. He didn't want to taint the pure relief in her green eyes.
"So he... He can't leave you."
"Nope," he replied in a cheerful, carefree tone.
"He'll die with you, then?" Sasuke asked.
Naruto blinked; he'd almost forgotten that the other guy was there. "... yeah. He'll die with me."
"Bet he doesn't like that," Sasuke commented in a noncommittal tone. Naruto believed that tone from him about as well as he believed Kakashi-sensei's daily excuses.
The blond shinobi shrugged. "Makes it easier to force chakra out of him when I'm in deep shit."
Sakura wasn't listening to them. She was rubbing her stomach slowly, eyes lost staring at nothing.
"So he can't possess my-- the baby," she whispered. She looked slightly relieved, but not as much as Naruto would have wished.
"No, he can't," he repeated slowly, patiently.
"So what else is wrong?" Sasuke sniped, frowning. Naruto scowled at him; what had crawled up his butt and -- ACK bad comparison -- what made him so cranky? He could be nicer, he wasn't the pregnant one...
God, Sakura was pregnant. From him.
Sakura gave the black-haired man a hurt look. "Naruto was a normal human before the Kyuubi was shoved inside him, and now -- he has claws and fangs sometimes, and his chakra-- is the baby going to be -- to be-- normal?"
She had whispered the last word, knowing that it would hurt, but Naruto barely flinched. He knew he was abnormal, had known for a while.
"What if the effect is even worse on it? What if --"
/She looks like she thinks she'll give birth to a fox cub/ Kyuubi mused. Naruto blinked.
'Already back?' He thought he'd pushed the fox deeper than that. 'Well, she's not going to, right?' He asked his tenant, vaguely unsure.
A disdainful snort. /Idiot. It's your body she slept with./ There were flashes of memory with the retort, but he forced himself to ignore them.
"Nah, won't be. My body's human, so the baby should be human too. Though, the chakra... well, maybe that will get passed down, but I don't know. We'll have to ask old hag Tsunade what she thinks."
"But it can have CLAWS and FANGS..."
They both blinked at Sasuke's weary and annoyed tone, and turned to look at him.
"Inuzuka Kiba has claws and fangs. Is he human?"
The kunoichi sighed. "... ah--yes... okay, I see your point."
"So the baby won't be weirder than an Inuzuka at the most. At least it's not going to be an Aburame."
Sakura looked guilty for laughing at that, but Sasuke's dry comment had managed to lift the tense atmosphere. Naruto chuckled, as much from the quip as from sheer relief.
The baby. Sakura's baby.
He wondered what it would look like, if it would be a boy or a girl -- if he or she would have Sakura's eyes and his hair... He thought of a little boy with pink hair and swallowed a giddy chuckle. Man, he hoped not.
"Yeah. So... uhm. 'Course I don't mean we got to live together, but I'll help you raise him --her?-- and all ... You can have half of my mission pays, s'not as if I need it..."
Suddenly it was cold in their cozy corner of the woods. Sakura got up on her feet and started to pace on the branch, and the two boys couldn't help but stare. She looked ready to cry once again, her hands gripping big handfuls of her hair.
"I don't even know if I'm going to keep it!"
All of Naruto's half-formed dreams of family shattered in hundreds of shards. Inside him, Kyuubi was quiet, just like the calm before the storm.
"I'm barely seventeen, I'm too young to be a mother! And we-- don't take me wrong, Naruto, I love you, but-- but you're the Kyuubi's vessel!! Even if the council lets me keep it, the villagers are going to give me hell about that, and my child will be treated like shit, just like-- just like YOU were, and I don't want that for a child of mine, I can't stand the thought!!"
She seemed to know how cruel it was to him, but she kept pacing, kept listing her reasons, her voice bordering on hysteria.
"I was supposed to go on missions and train and finally become strong enough so that you two wouldn't leave me behind all the time! I didn't want to be a mother yet -- when am I going to train? Who will go on missions with you two? Who will plan for you two and prevent you from being stupid and bandage you up and-- we're not even chuunin yet. We were supposed to wait until the Council stopped giving Sasuke hell and then we'd go take the exam together, all three of us, and you're my boys and I refuse to see you two team up with someone else while I stay behind to play housewife!!"
Naruto bit down on the howl of denial that was trying to rise from his throat. He would hate it if something came and wrecked all his dreams like that, and it was unfair for Sakura to expect her to put her life on hold for an accident.
"... Your boys?" Sasuke whispered.
Even hurting over the possibility that there would be no baby, Naruto couldn't miss the amazed bewilderment in his voice.
She bit her lip and her fists fell back at her sides. "That's-- how I think of you two. Even before... last night. Since... Well, for a while. It's not romantically or anything," she added, giving Sasuke a beaten puppy look. "It's just... Well, you know I've wanted to date you for ages, but it doesn't matter. You're both my boys, even if -- you find someone else."
She seemed to realize she'd only been staring at Sasuke and gave Naruto a glance. He tried to smother the quick burst of jealousy. He knew that Sakura had a crush on Sasuke. It didn't matter, because the way he felt for them had nothing in common and yet they were both his anyway.
Sasuke still looked just as stuck-up as always, but he nodded, slowly. "Right. We're a team. We're in this together. Sakura, it's your decision. But we'll follow."
/Don't you talk for us, you arrogant ice-brat/ Kyuubi suddenly snarled, making Naruto flinch. He scowled, shoving the fox back. 'But I agree with him.'
/No. You don't./
/Do not even try to lie to me, brat. I'm inside you. You would kill to have this cub./
And, understood Naruto, so would he.
Naruto couldn't help but be vaguely shocked at the vehemence with which the monster living inside him protested. Kyuubi no Youko cared only for himself, for his own life. Everyone else could die, for all that mattered, especially if he got to kill them himself. 'I don't understand. Why...?'
For a second, he was suspicious -- maybe Kyuubi COULD leave his body for that of his child-- but when he pressed down on the fox's mind, he couldn't feel the desperate hope such a possibility would have created. Just rage and disdain and a few disturbing images of Sakura chained down in a hidden cave as her belly grew rounder. He pulled back with disgust -- especially because, for a second, he had considered pressuring her to keep the child.
/Stop being so squeamish./
'I would never do that to Sakura-chan. I'd rather die than treat her like a breeding bitch. So you can cross that little fantasy out, okay?'
The fox laughed, a dark, ugly roar of a laugh. /You would have her around every time you want to fuck. And when she nags too much you could just leave. It would be perfect./
Naruto clenched his teeth, feeling his growing fangs cut into his gums.
/Hoping she'll let you keep on mounting her anyway? If you think it will be fun to convince her.../ the fox drawled, sounding unconvinced but amused anyway.
"Shut up," he whispered, shaking his head. He couldn't tear his eyes away from Sakura's belly. She was wearing his sweater -- surrounded in his scent, marked as being under his protection, his mate, and inside her was growing -- no. She was not his to knock up at will. She was Sakura-chan, one of his most loved people, and he would rather never have a family of his own than have it like that.
/It's your problem to convince her to have more sex. There's always the heat if the prissy slut turns too-good-for-you once again./
The blond boy hissed, baring his fangs. If he wasn't so angry and sad and desperate, it would be an easy matter to drop into a light meditation and refuse access to the Kyuubi once more, but right now he was in too much of an emotional turmoil to even try. And the stupid fox didn't make it better by letting their feelings mirror and echo off each other.
... Wait-- Kyuubi wasn't feeling angry anymore. Or he was, but only a normal level of angry, mixed with some satisfaction and a touch of dark amusement.
'What the hell...'
He caught a flash of images, a full moon in the night sky, and chakra lines in Sakura's belly that glowed; it looked just like he had always imagined a Hyuuga must see.
'Explain that,' he growled, sending back threats of months in the dark, inside a cage whose bars seared the mind and the memory of a body. Kyuubi growled, but eventually he deigned to explain.
/Just let her stall until the full moon and the point will be moot./
'What about the full moon?' It would start in three days, he knew that, but-- what the hell did he mean?
Under his mind's eye, the chakra lines running in a spiral from Sakura's bellybutton were bleeding into another, subdued glow -- and then as it grew clearer with the light of the moon, he understood what it was. It was the start of the baby's chakra pathways, feeding off its mother's.
They had learned at school that it was normal, that it didn't hurt the mother, only depleted her chakra reserves for a few months before her body got used to the imbalance, but Naruto strongly doubted that it started this early, or that powerfully. Sakura would be very sick during that pregnancy.
/It will be a lot worse if there's no pregnancy/ Kyuubi commented with a disdainful snort.
Suddenly, in the image, there was no softly glowing baby-chakra anymore, and Sakura's pathways went haywire, trying to compensate for the sudden loss -- and her lifeforce started seeping out from the gaping holes left by the fetus' disappearance. Horrified, he saw the delicate web of her vital energy tear one link after another and then go out, snuffed like a candle.
"No way in hell," he snarled softly, looking up at his teammates. They were staring at him, wary, ready to bolt, and he realized that he must have looked about to snap. He was still seeing things with that weird intensity, catching every tiny movement, which meant that his pupils had elongated into two ovals and his irises were red as blood.
He made himself take a deep breath, then another, and yet another, until his claws had retracted and his teeth felt normal once again. "You are considering aborting, right?"
She flinched, but nodded, not meeting his eyes.
"Then I-- I feel obligated to tell you that... SHUT UP!!" he snarled at his tenant, blinking back the itchy feeling in his eyes. "That in about three days-- Kyuubi just told me-- in three days, it'll be firmly anchored to your chakra and you won't be able to pull it out without damage and will you stop howling, you bloody sack of fur?!"
He knew that his eyes had gone red once again and he had to fight to keep the chakra from leaking out, claws piercing his palms as he clenched his fists. He forced himself to get on his feet slowly, carefully controlling his every movement. Kyuubi was still raging against the seal and throwing insults at Sakura. Naruto could only catch a few words here and there -- not that he was trying to listen, but the yowling was so loud it even drowned the beat of his blood in his ears. /how dare she----should be honored----my cub, MINE--/
'No,' he thought, fighting back tears. 'Not yours. Not mine. Just Sakura's. Her choice.'
"So here it is. You have three days. If I were you I wouldn't cut it too close, you never know. If you want to keep the baby, I'll be there. ...Even if you don't. So... I'm gonna... take a walk. So you can think."
'And so I can murder a helpless animal or two,' he added to himself,
before turning around and letting himself fall from the tree.