I own nothing. All Buffy-related material belongs to Joss Whedon and all Naruto-related material is owned by Kishimoto.Warning:
Mentions of near Super!Buffyness. Slice of life and all the inane things we face in life. Stories are based on Canon, but are changed to better integrate Buffy. Slightly skewed timeline in Naruto-verse - if events and people don't match up, make a note and comment. All questions, comments and concerns can be addressed in the review section.
Looking back, she still didn't understand why the old man had granted her custody. She was a nobody. A stranger. She had barely been in the Village for a week for Christ sakes.
There was no way she was suitable for this task. This role.
It frustrated her to no end how calm the man was about everything. She could have been an enemy Kunoichi, sent to infiltrate the Village. Sent to hurt. To destroy. He held thousands of lives in the palm of his hand and he trusted her. He saw something in her that she herself didn't. She still didn't know if he was brave or just foolish.
Perhaps old age brought more senility than wisdom. But what did that say about her?
On that fateful day, everything changed.
She sensed them before they arrived, their Chakra a beacon in the mass of civilians. They tasted of power. Of cold hard steel.
They were Anbu - the Hokage's personal guard. His enforcers. Even the civilians knew they were a force to be reckoned with, immediately disbanding. Hoping they would be spared.
They had come for her. For her interaction with the boy. The Vessel. The Kyuubi child.
Their stances were fluid. Graceful. Seemingly relaxed but she had no doubt they would need but a fraction of a second to pounce upon her small frame.
Needless to say, they were good.
"The Hokage wishes to discuss certain matters before you and the boy are allowed free roam of the village." Their voices were as cold as their eyes. Monotone. No inflection. Nothing.
"Of course." A simple agreement. Years of aimless solitude had taught her much. Her face gave nothing.
Despite their training, they were still young. Children compared to her. Their minute glances towards each other told of their confusion - clearly puzzled at how she could be so calm.
So nonchalant regarding a possible confrontation with the Hokage - a man gifted with the title "Professor" for his mastery of the Ninja Arts. They so clearly believed their Lord Hokage master of all. Their confusion quickly led to anger. Anger that burned hot and swift. Righteous. Their tense forms told her all they thought - who was she to look down upon their Lord.
They turned without a word, expecting her and the newly acquired charged to follow. As they left the market place, the Anbu quickly formed a perimeter. Their message clear - there is no escape.
Her charge, as if grasping the situation, gave her hand a squeeze. As if in reassurance. It felt so foreign. So strange. It had been years since she had someone to lean on. Someone to depend on. She would have laughed at the absurdity of the situation had the Anbu not been there.
Walking through the village, she couldn't help but question her fate. Life was truly a spectacle, at least when it concerned her. As soon as she had arrived, she had met the Jinchuuriki and not just any vessel, but the container of the most powerful of the nine Bijuu. It seemed as if Fate would hate her wherever she went, no matter what she did. It made her feel like she was that young girl again, with no control over her destiny.
And as she recalled, that certainly didn't end well.What happens now?
Before she realized it, they were brought to the Hokage's Tower. Traversing up the stairs, her eyes could not help but drift towards the Hokage Mountain where past Kages kept guard over the Village. Their faces immortalized in stone.
Others thought them wise. Thought them unmatched. Thought them infallible. Worshipped them even. But she knew the truth. They were just men. Foolish dead men.
She wondered if the old man was just as foolish as his predecessors as she stood before his office.
Her musings were cut short as a cultured tenor sounded from behind the large double doors, welcoming them both inside.
No sooner did his welcome end, did the boy rush forward, pushing the doors open with all his might, exclaiming with childish glee, "Ojiisan! Ojiisan! Ya'll never guess what happened today! I met this really pretty lady and she was super
nice! I fell into her but she wasn't mean at all! She even glared at the mean people! If I asked really
nice, would she ... would she eat ramen with me?"
The boy's abruptness did not surprise her. She had seen his innocence. His warmth. She was not surprised by the choice in company either. It was only logical that the Kage pry into the life of the Vessel, to protect the boy and those around him. What did surprise her was the genuine affection and love the man had for the boy. Perhaps he was different.
Perhaps he would prove her wrong.
"Is that so Naruto? She is pretty indeed but that's a question you'll have to ask her yourself." The Kage finished his sentence with puff of his pipe, patting the boy's head gently with a soft smile, further wrinkling his weathered visage. Naruto's face flushed, obviously embarrassed she thought, at the outburst in front of his beautiful person.
She grimaced. She certainly don't feel beautiful.
Sensing her attention, Naruto turned his eyes towards her. His large, impossibly blue eyes. Eyes that shone with every emotion behind them - worry, anxiety, fear and a large helping of hope. It was impossible to say no to those eyes.
"After our business with Hokage-sama," she responded quickly. It was all she could think to answer with. She just wanted those eyes turned away. They reminded her too much of a little girl who trailed after her sister like a puppy, wishing for attention. A little girl long since dead and gone.
"Yatta!" exclaimed Naruto in obvious glee.
"If you could excuse us Naruto, there are a few matters your friend and I must discuss before you can drag her to your favorite ramen stand. It'll take just a few minutes, I assure you." The old man ended his request with a wink and while his words were soft, they commanded respect. They brooked no argument. She was sure the boy would have normally objected, never giving the tone a second thought but it seemed he was in a world all his own. I wonder if it hurts to smile that wide?
When Naruto was out of the room, she noticed the change immediately. No longer was the man before her a gentle grandfather-figure, he was the Lord Hokage - the strongest of the Village. His eyes, chocolate brown, once warm and welcoming had turned just as glacial as the villagers she passed. They promised pain and retribution if she didn't answer truthfully. She was used to the look. It didn't intimidate her. She was far from the little girl she used to be but she strangely felt compelled to gain the man's trust.
Something called out to her in the man.
They had most definitely poisoned her. There was obviously something in the water. It was the only explanation. It wasn't like it hadn't happened before. A narcotic of some kind. A hallucinogen. Whatever it was, it spoke to her, whispered words in her ears. Coaxing her to believe.
It spoke of the man's sincerity. His trustworthiness. He would not betray her. She could find peace. If she only let it.
For the first time in many years, she lowered her guard.
"You wish to know my intentions, Hokage-sama, towards the Village and the child." It was a simple statement. Bold. Direct. Straight to the heart of the matter. She had never been one to beat around the metaphorical bush. It just wasn't in her nature. At least time had left her that.
The man stared at her, searching for something. What, she did not know. But satisfied, he replied, " I was familiar with the boy's parents - I see him like a grandson. His welfare is my priority. If you would be so kind as to satisfy this old man's curiosity, my worries can be put to rest. And I must apologize, but it seems old age has finally caught up - what did you say your name was?"
She had countless identities over the years. A countless number of lies, of hiding who she was. Perhaps it was time for Buffy to return. Time to stop running.
"Just Buffy," she whispered. Her admission so soft she was sure the Kage had to strain himself to hear her.
"A truly unique name, Buffy-san. A truly unique name indeed. You must have come a long way from home."
She understood his message clearly. You are an uncertainty. A stranger. A dangerous element.
"I have lost the place with which to call home long ago." I'm not your enemy. I am alone. I am no one.
"I'm sorry for your losses. These are truly troubling times. If you don't mind humoring this old man further, could I ask what you plan to do?" The man seemed genuine in his sorrow. He no doubt believed she was a refugee from the Purge in Mist seeking shelter in Konoha.
He had asked and she answered. It was not her place to correct the man for his assumptions, however wrong they may be. She felt no guilt for the for playing on his sympathy. His pity. She had grown accustomed to it.
"I continue to survive, like I always have."
"I see. I see. I must ask, however, for Naruto's sake. He has taken to you rather quickly. He has no mother, no father and besides an old man with too much to do with too little time, no one."
"Explain." She wanted an explanation and she wanted it now. She did not care if she was rude to the Kage of a powerful village. It seemed as if he wanted her to take the boy in. To care for him. She who had no one for so many years. To be suddenly thrust with the care of another life. She was not ready.
She could barely care for herself, much less a child. She had decided to stop running, but she sure as hell didn't decide to take on another mouth to feed. She just wasn't ready.Was not willing to be ready. Ever. Not after what happened last time,
she mentally raged.
"It is as you have surmised. The villagers have no love for boy. They have expressed their discontent clearly time and time again, as you yourself have witnessed just this morning. There is no one. No one but you." At his admission, the man seemed to deflate. No longer did he look like the Hokage, the supposed protector of his Village, and in his place, the defeated grandfather stood.
"I am no one. I have nothing to provide the boy but harsh words and even harsher company. He would do better with the villagers."
"I merely wish a friend for the boy. It would do him well. Everyone needs a friend Buffy-san. Everybody."
He seemed to stare into her soul and it unnerved the hell out of her. He was a man that was many times her junior and he had managed to get under her skin. She would have found the whole situation amusing if it wasn't direct at her.
"It may be old age, but I distinctly remember a promise for ramen? Perhaps we should join our wayward charge in his endeavors for a full stomach?" The old man's eyes were twinkling, as if he knew he had already won. Old age my well preserved ass.
Young in spirit, the man was. That was the only way she could describe him without resorting to further expletives.
"One promise. Nothing more Hokage-sama. Nothing more."
"That's all I can ask Buffy-san."
Her old age must have really been showing that day to be outsmarted by a child. Admittedly, said child was the Lord Hokage of the Hidden Village in the Leaves. But still, it was the principle of the matter!
A loud crash, and a shout of her name broke her from her musings - no doubt Naruto broke another of her dishes. Judging by the impact, more than one. It didn't surprise her.
Letting out a sigh, she got up to investigate. The boy was no doubt attempting to set the table. He was just trying to help in his own way. But the kid was just plain accident prone. Mr. Walking-Hazard.
She seriously considered getting that neon sign - it would keep her from letting the boy out of her sight. At the rate he was going, they would be out of house and home before the week even ended.At least life won't be such a bore.
To Be Continued