AN: lol guess who's not dead. I have no excuse. Brain machine broke for 2 years
Before now, Naruto had never had a reason to doubt the Old Man. He'd been a kind, and good leader. But after seeing him boldly lie to his face like that… and about his own family! Something just didn't sit well with him.
Now Naruto wasn't really one for politics or whatever, and he was sure there was a reason the Old Man had done it, but it still irked him. He was a full fledged shinobi of Konoha AND the jinchuuriki of the kyuubi. Surely that garnered a semblance of respect.
Frustrated, Naruto kicked at a pebble on the road, watching as it clattered down the street.
What did it take to gain the Old Man's trust? He'd taken down a terrorist, exposed an attack against the village, and proved himself to be a good shinobi. Sure he was just a genin but that shouldn't matter. He'd proved himself on an A rank for crying out loud!
And the man had still lied to his face.
Deep inside, Naruto could feel his faith in the Hokage crumbling. He didn't want to acknowledge it, but the thought was there.
If this was how the Old Man was gonna be… could Naruto even trust him to do what needed to be done when something finally happened? Could he lead a war against the akatsuki? Join forces with the other nations? Could he even make peace with Suna?
Maybe there was a reason he'd retired in the first place.
Sighing heavily, Naruto tried to force all of the thoughts out of his head. He was too tired to deal with this shit. There was nothing he could do about it for the time being anyways. It would be a few days before the Kazekage would drag his ass over here to sort shit out. Although "a few days" was being kind. Maybe a month was more accurate. And then, to get the seal off…
Naruto stopped dead in the middle of the road. Some people bumped into him and grumbled, but he didn't notice, mind too far away to even try.
Jiraiya, he thought. He was the only seal master capable of fixing what Orochimaru had done, and he was coming here. Jiraiya, who had been like a grandpa to him. Who had taught him so much. Who had died.
Jiraiya, who didn't even know who he was right now.
Forcing his feet to move again he resumed his walk home, stubbornly refusing to admit that the heat growing behind his eyes were tears.
"I'm home!" He called.
Naruto had done this all his life, but never before (at this point in time at least) had he ever received an answer. Well, he didn't receive an answer this time, not in the usual sense anyway, but he was met with a startled cry and a pan being dropped on the floor.
In his kitchenette stood a startled redhead, a spilled bowl of something on the floor from where she must have dropped it. Was she… cooking?
To be honest Naruto didn't even know he owned a mixing bowl so this was a surprise to him.
"Ah! You're back. I'm so sorry I spilled everything, I'll clean it all up, I promise!" Immediately the girl got to work picking up the splattered food, rambling the whole while. "It's just, it was really kind of you to offer your place to me and I didn't want to be a burden and I thought the best way to not be is to make you some food. But now I spilled it all so I get if you're mad at me-"
"You're fine, y'know!" He cut in, stopping her mid rant. "I just- sorry I startled you," he chuckled. "And you're not gonna be a burden. Honestly I'm just happy to finally have family to come home to."
At his words, Karin's anxiety slipped off her face, replaced instead by a warm smile. "That's- I'm uh… Thank you." She managed. "And you too."
A long awkward pause followed her words.
"So…" she wrung her fingers together nervously, red eyes flickering over every surface that wasn't him. "Um, are we gonna talk about that whole 'time travel' thing? You didn't really explain before dashing off."
Right. Naruto had only told her the bare minimum (which she'd somehow believed) before rushing off to join the rest of his team so they could get to the prison to talk with Gaara. He'd explained it was a freak accident and that he just wanted her to know so he wouldn't have to lie to her. Apart from that, he hadn't said much.. Like that she used to (would?) work for a terrorist organization, or almost die by Sasuke's hand, or that there was a conspiracy to destroy all known life by a moon goddess alien thing.
Yeah, they had a lot to talk about.
"Yeah, yeah um…" he looked around for somewhere to sit. This wasn't gonna be a short conversation. "I'll get some tea going first. Just sit wherever."
Karin nodded, plopping down on the edge of his bed. It wasn't like there was much seating in the one bedroom. Naruto would probably have to take the kitchen chair.
After boiling the water and letting the tea steep, the two got to talking.
"So," Naruto hummed. "I don't know where to start."
"The beginning?" His cousin offered lamely.
Technically, he thought to himself. The beginning of this messed up story was a few thousand years ago. Or maybe it was the night of the kyuubi attack. Or when Hashirama and Madara had their big fight. Or whenever Obito "died". Sighing to himself, Naruto decided to just go with the easiest option: the one that would make the most sense. Hopefully.
"Okay so like, I'm actually seventeen," he started. He watched Karin's expression carefully but so far he didn't see anything concerning. "Um. I was fighting in this big war with Sakura and Sasuke when we were like, I don't know, shot back to our younger selves?" He shrugged helplessly. "So that was like three-ish months ago. And we've sorta been working on stopping the war that we were fighting but so far we haven't done much. Um, we just told Kakashi-sensei cuz he kinda found out. No one else knows." A pause. "Except now you, y'know."
A long silence followed the confession. Karin used the time to sip slowly at her tea with a faraway look in her eyes. Naruto couldn't blame her. If someone had told him all this he wouldn't be taking it nearly half as well as she was now.
Finally, the girl spoke up. "So is that how you knew we were cousins?" She asked. "You'd already met me?"
"Yeah," the blonde smiled. "I mean, we never really got to know each other, but you were friends with Sasuke."
The redhead grimaced immediately. "Him?" She groaned. "But he's so lame."
Naruto choked on his tea.
They'd finally settled down to bed, deciding to share a futon on the floor instead of fighting over who got the bed. Now that all the excitement of the day was over, Naruto felt all the exhaustion of the past few days catching up. His arm, now almost completely healed, ached. His muscles were still a bit sore and he could feel his chakra reserves were still on the low side. For him anyway. He could probably still run laps around his old classmates.
All of this thinking though was to avoid the obvious looming over his head: Jiraiya.
What was he supposed to do? If he took one look at the man he was sure he'd burst into tears. And then what? How was he gonna explain away that mess to his godfather? Or anyone else for that matter. And then there was the other matter that was slowly creeping into his brain.
Why hadn't Jiraiya been there for him after his parents death? Cuz he was the jinchuuriki of the Leaf? 'Cause he was the fourth's son? Wouldn't he have been safer with sannin as a guardian than a kid growing up on his own in a village that loathed him?
Maybe it was the twelve year old hormones or the bone deep exhaustion, but he was mad. He didn't like the feeling, but he couldn't stop it either. It was like a burning coal deep in his gut that refused to be smothered.
He hated it.
"Naruto?" A voice interrupted his thoughts. He turned over in the futon to see Karin curled up staring at the opposite wall. He looked so small and vulnerable like this, not anything like the sassy, confident kunoichi he met months ago (years from now?)
"What's up?" He whispered back.
A long moment passed by before she said anything. "What happens now? To me, that is?"
A frown burrowed it's way onto Naruto's face. "What do ya mean?"
She turned over on her side to face him, finally showing the lost expression painting her face. Without her glasses she looked much younger, much more scared. "I mean like, I don't have a job, or a team, or anything here. What am I supposed to do?"
"Well, what do you wanna do?" He asked.
A faraway look came over Karin in response to his question. He watched as she pondered over his words, really thinking it over. Eventually, her red eyes went unfocused, staring vacantly at the wall. Her bangs had slipped in front of them at some point, half obscuring the helpless look she wore. It hurt Naruto's heart to see it.
"I want to help people," she whispered at last. "But I don't want to hurt myself to do it." A pause. "I don't want to be what Kusa made me."
Behind her glasses, Naruto could see tears welling in her eyes. He didn't know much about her past, just what she had said when they first met, but he knew it had been awful. Being forced to give your own life to those who held no regard for it was something no one should have to go through, least of all a young girl. The fact that she still wanted to help people despite all that amazed him.
"Y'know," Naruto began. "Sakura is an amazing medical ninja. I'm sure if you asked she could teach you a few things if you want." Karin smiled at that, but it looked uncertain, withdrawn.
"And even if you don't wanna be a ninja anymore there's lots of things you can do."
Another frown, this time twisting her lips in thought. "No, I think I want to be a ninja… But," a sigh. "Even if I do get the Hokage's approval I still don't have a team. Can't really be a genin without a team. And who would take in a genin from another village? I don't know if that's even a thing," she mumbled.
Then a brilliant idea crossed Naruto's mind. "So join our team!"
A pause. Then-
"Wh- But I-" She tried to protest.
"No, no, no, I'm sure Kakashi-sensei would agree. And besides, we're family, y'know. We gotta stick together!"
The girl frowned. "Is that even allowed?" She asked.
Naruto shrugged. "If it's not, what's a little rule breaking? Not like we haven't done it before, y'know."
And Karin smiled. A real, honest to god smile. "I would love to, y'know."
("HAHA you said 'y'know'!)"
("Oh shut up! I take back everything I said!")