Title: Reading Totems
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, and this makes me sad. I do own Paige Stone, my OC! All information regarding animal totems was collected from Dancing The Wheel by Sun Bear and Animal Speak by Ted Andrews.
Main Pairings: Eventual ShinoxOC, NaruxHina, SasuxSaku
Rating: M for mentioned adult themes
Warning: AU, Post-series start time. Rookie 9 is 23-24 years old. Fic mentions pagan religions, if you can't handle it, don't read! Also is OC-centric. Hold your pants, all will be revealed as the story progresses. And yes, Shino does appear, but not for a few chapters.
Chapter Summary: After finding safety, Paige is forced to explain her strange abilities in hopes of remaining safe. How will her saviors react?
Her second waking revealed her second experience of being in an unrecognized forest by a campfire. However, this time, no men were crowded around her. Calm. Safe. Concern. Sakura came into Paige's field of vision to help her once more to a sitting position. "Have some water, but not too much. You've had a rough night—internal bleeding, swollen organs, collapsed lung, broken ribs, slight swelling of brain tissues from the migraine—but you were probably aware of all of that."
She sipped the water from the canteen handed to her as she listened to her injuries. "Yeah, they weren't exactly gentle in their paranoia. But shouldn't I be in more pain then?" Paige handed the canteen back to Sakura.
"I managed to heal most of your injuries. You'll have some stiffness and soreness. You'll need to rest as much as possible when you get home."
"Thank you," she replied. And she meant it. She didn't exactly understand how her injuries could be healed in a short period of time, but gratitude was definitely gratitude. "Although the going home bit may be a bit difficult."
"Oh?" A different voice, but one she recognized. Paige's attention was now directed to the man she recalled as Kakashi. He was leaning against a tree to her right and reading a strange orange book.
She decided to talk directly to him anyway. "I don't know where I am or how I got here. I don't even have my glasses to even tell if we're where we were the last time I was conscious." She felt a general sense of curiosity mixed with some disbelief after this statement.
It was Naruto who decided to break the moment after Paige's little confession. Standing next to Sakura he beamed as he started, "Alright. Introductions all around then. The lovely medic who healed you is Haruno Sakura. The guy reading porn over there, I'm sure you remember is Hatake Kakashi." Paige squinted over at the now identified book of porn in Kakashi's hand, but Naruto continued, "Strong, dark, and stoic over to your left is Uchiha Sasuke." She blinked at this information too. Sasuke was a careful neutral on her emotions reading radar. "And my name is Uzumaki Naruto! I helped beat the guys that beat you up!" Pride. Accomplishment. Naruto's emotions were strong, loud, and heady.
Paige figured she could get drunk off of Naruto by standing next to him if she wasn't careful. She wasn't sure if he was always so emotive, or if she was somehow extra sensitive after everything that happened. Smiling she replied, "Paige Stone. It's a pleasure to meet all of my rescuers." After a pause, she figured it was time she asked some of her own questions. "So, now that I know your names, can you tell me where I am, how long I've been unconscious for, and who those guys were back there?" Looking down and noting she was now sporting the blue clothes similar to what everyone else was wearing, she added, "...and, whose clothes am I wearing?" Paige was met with some blank stares after she finished her litany of questions.
"You're wearing my clothes, I figured you wouldn't mind if I did it. And your old clothes were pretty much ruined. You were out for only 4 hours, which is unusual for how many injuries you had, even if I am a really good medic." Sakura smiled at her last statement about her own abilities.
"Good to know the warrantee is still good." She scratched the back of her head. "You're right about the clothes. I probably wouldn't have enjoyed wearing those things anymore. Thanks." Paige was now getting an overall curious feeling from the group of rescuers. "So where am I, and who were those guys?"
"You don't know?" This was asked by Sasuke, although everyone seemed to be confused by the idea of her not knowing her attackers or her location. They were all wearing some form of confused face.
Paige shook her head. That appeared to be the signal for Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura to turn and look at Kakashi.
He sighed, put away his orange book, and walked over closer to Paige, squatting down to be eye level at her. "Those guys were a local group of bandits that we were sent out on a mission to capture and turn over to the local authorities in a village not far from here. We're shinobi of Konohagakure, which is in Fire Country."
Paige looked blankly at Kakashi after he said this. He didn't strike her as the type to say a lot at one time. Since she had no idea what he was talking about after bandits, she figured she'd press her luck and ask anyway. "Shee-noh-bee? Kono-who in Fire where?
After trying to get her mouth around those strange words, she looked at the group again. They all looked rather confused, but they still felt safe. Curious. Incredulous. Disbelief. Shock. Caution were the group's emotions. Naruto's were easily identified since his face displayed something crossed between what eating a lemon and smelling a rotten egg would be like. Well, she couldn't blame them too much for the caution. At least it wasn't the instant paranoia from the bandits.
Sighing, Kakashi tried again. "Shinobi. As in ninjas." Tapping the etching on the strange metal plate on a piece of blue cloth which he wore to cover his one eye and which Paige noticed they all wore in some fashion. He continued. "Konohagakure or Konoha in Fire Country. You're in Fire Country now."
Paige tried repeating the highlights aloud to see if understanding would come. "Shinobi. Ninjas. Konoha. Fire Country." She took a moment and then thought to herself, 'Nope, still nothing…Ninjas?' She tried this last thought aloud again, "Ninjas? You're all ninjas?" The group nodded, except for Sasuke. He somehow managed to look bored and interested at the same time. They didn't feel like they were crazy, at least not crazy in that special schizophrenic sort of way she would recognize from her job experience. And the only Fire Country she knew of was Tierra del Fuego. Deciding this was definitely not New Jersey, Paige opted for statements instead of questions, "We don't have those where I'm from." Maybe a change of tactics would bring inspiration?
"Where are you from?" Sasuke again. Paige decided while he wasn't much for words, he definitely got his point across.
"New Jersey, USA country." The looks she received were probably similar to the look Paige gave them after she heard Konohagakure and Fire Country.
Scratching his chin through his mask, Kakashi was the one who spoke next. "Hmm, don't know that village. And I've been around enough to know most of them."
Paige kept silent, getting the feeling he was building up to something.
Suspicion. His visible eye then tried to pierce through her with its intensity. "You don't look like you're lying, but you're being cautious with us." His gaze relented slightly. Curiosity. "You're civilian." This didn't appear to be a question, but Paige just opted to nod. "How about you tell us how you met you're 'friends' and how you managed to find our camp." Anticipation. Wary. The last wave of emotions came from the group as a whole.
Paige sighed heavily and wearily. She'd have to play this one carefully. If she told them every detail about how she ended up where she was, they might think she was crazy. Even if she thought they were a little crazy from Kakashi's 'ninja' statement and calling where they were Fire Country, she was lead here by totems that she trusted, and she didn't sense any malice from them. Paige did not want to alienate these guys who were possibly her only safety for miles. "My brain is a little scrambled, so I don't know if all of it will make sense right now."
"That's understandable. Just tell us what you can and we'll ask questions if we have any," Sakura smiled encouragingly at Paige. Disarming. Trust. Harmless.
Paige didn't think there was such a thing as harmless ninja's, but she appreciated the unknowing comfort Sakura was giving out. "Can I have some more water first? It might be a long story."
"Sure." The canteen was handed back over.
Paige surveyed the odd group before her while she drank. She didn't exactly think she could tell them that she read totems. Heck, she wasn't sure how she did it long distance! Usually she needed her medicine wheel to focus her attention and cautiously focus on one person at a time. Wolf and fox indeed. And now that she thought more about it, her empathy seemed to be out of balance too. It wasn't usually this easy for her to read emotions either. Something was off.
Paige sighed again as she rested the canteen in her lap. She then proceeded to rub her temples. Another migraine was building. Trying to figure out all of the recent mysteries was giving her another headache. Impatience. Restlessness. Expectation. Naruto again. He was fidgeting. It was the last straw. Trauma, stress, pain, over enthusiastic emoting blondes, coupled with what was beginning to feel like an interrogation finally got to cool, calm, collected Paige.
She ended up doing what she was trying to avoid. She snapped. She spilled everything with one not-thought-out sentence. "Kit, if you don't contain yourself, I won't be able to concentrate enough to answer!" she yelled.
Paige blinked at the eyes that appeared to be extremely close to her own face. She was now flat on her back with something sharp and pointy sticking into her chin. And the sharp and pointy object seemed to be attached to Naruto. Anger. Fear. Uncertainty. Curiosity. Blinking himself, Naruto pulled back up and off of Paige, helping her sit up again. Fear. Regret. It looked like she hit a trigger for him, and it was a reaction to something she did or said. Naruto continued backing away from her until he was on the other side of the fire, leaning up against a nearby tree. Crossing his arms, he regarded her with a steely blue gaze similar to the one he wore initially, when he was getting ready for the bandits. "If you're not from here, then you shouldn't know anything. But you called me 'Kit' and only he has ever called me Kit."
Noticing the positions the other three had taken around her, she noticed she was surrounded by less than friendly faces now. Paige decided some therapy skills with some good old fashioned honesty were in order. "I'm sorry if I upset you. I'm truly not from here." She gathered her courage. "And I'm going to guess your fox spirit is the one who calls you 'Kit'." While Naruto nodded, Paige felt the group's tension levels rise. "I just want to emphasize 'civilian', and 'unarmed' before I explain myself." She figured reminding them wouldn't hurt.
"Got it," Naruto half-smiled at her. It was a start.
"You also might have some trouble believing some of what I say. I'm not even sure how some of it works."
"Try us." She couldn't immediately place the voice, unwilling to break eye contact with Naruto. It was short and to the point, like Sasuke. But it was also a commanding statement, and Kakashi appeared to be the one the other three looked to.
"I'll answer all of the questions the best I can, but it's not easy for me to talk about some of it…I've gotten used to being an outcast because of what I can do."
Curiosity. Then tension level went down slightly. Naruto spoke into the pause, "What can you do?"
"Two things, but they're kind of related." Paige took her time in looking around and making sure she made eye contact with everyone this time. "I can sense people's emotions." She paused again, feeling the wariness added back into the group. "And I can read totem animals—animal spirit guides. They are basically beings which guide someone, protect them, and teach them life lessons. They can also be associated with emotions. They can help me clarify what I'm sensing from someone when I can match the totem animal, emotion, and other context clues. My personal totem animal also protects me from getting…lost in my empathic abilities."
"Lost?" Apprehension. Curiosity. Sympathy. Paige sighed. The feelings were mixed. She was unable to place what emotion went with whom, but the voice was Sakura. She was back to being a sympathetic ear. She and Kakashi appeared to not be as tensely coiled within the formation as Sasuke. However, Sasuke's eyes were a strange swirling red color. Paige decided eye contact with everyone was best, regardless of how creepy she found red eyes.
"Lost. Lots of people tend to take on little personality quirks of those they are friends with or spend a lot of time with. I tend to take on their emotional attributes as well. If I don't properly…buffer…myself, then I don't know where they're emotions end and mine begin. I took up a spiritual meditation tool called a medicine wheel in order to help with my empathy and appeal to my sense of honoring nature. The wheel taught me I could communicate with totem animals." Paige took a moment to try and sense the ninja's emotions again. She was trying to judge how they were reacting, or if they believed her. She never knew how to describe herself as she used her empathy, but she figured it was similar to opening a locked box. Paige reached inside herself and opened a part of her mind that was usually closed off. She wanted to see if she could sort through the emotions despite the pain of her rapidly growing head ache. Immediately she gasped at the sharp increase in pain and clutched her head. 'Ok, bad idea,' Paige reasoned in her mind. She closed the door to her mind again. Dull throbbing with a dash of mixed emotions was much better than feeling like you had an ice pick through your temples
"Are you OK?" Kakashi's faced swam into focus.
Paige nodded and grinned sheepishly. "I was trying to sense if you guys believed me, but I guess recovering injuries and empathy are not totally compatible. I can sense Naruto loud and clear. I'm guessing he's naturally emotional. But from everyone else I can only get a mixed bag right now. My headache is getting worse. So, I guess I'm stuck asking…do you believe me?"
"Hm. I don't know. Tell us how what you told us before is related to you knowing about Naruto." Kakashi backed away again and regarded her with a cool eye. He wasn't tensed, like he thought Paige was a true threat, heck, they were ninjas! But her 'Kit' comment still seemed to have spooked everyone. She began to think some of Sakura's smiles were from nervousness, and some of Sasuke's careful neutral was forced from tension.
"It goes back to my 'friends' as you called them before. I woke up in their camp. My migraine was just beginning, but I could still feel what they wanted out of me. It wasn't something I wanted to give…willingly." Paige shuttered at remembering the lust of the bandits. "I knew I couldn't defend myself physically, especially four against one. So I did what a lot of people do. I started praying…but I've never really gotten an answer so…directly…before. I wasn't able to keep my mouth shut, it was too overwhelming…and it was beautiful, too. I felt this incredible feeling of Safety and a pull to my left—through some trees. And I was unable to stop myself from telling them the answer to my prayer." She took a steadying breath and blurted out the phrase that would determine her future. "I told them, 'Wolf and fox have come for you.'" Remembering her physical abuse, she looked down at her lap. "They…reacted badly," she whispered and started playing with the ends of her borrowed shirt.
An orange-clad torso came into her view, and Paige found herself pulled against Naruto's chest in a light hug. Tentatively she hugged back, not sure about the switch in emotions from careful guarded Naruto to comforting Naruto, but definitely needing the comforting.
After a few moments, she pulled back to finish her tale while looking at her lap again. "I waited until they were finished, until they weren't paying attention anymore. Then I ran in the direction the safe feeling came from. Hoping I would last long enough to find the wolf and fox. When I stumbled into your camp, I found safety, a wolf, and a fox." A silence followed that to Paige, seemed to stretch for a long time.
"I'm the fox."
Paige nodded at Naruto who seemed a little more open towards her again.
"Who is the wolf?" Sasuke asked. His red eyes still bore into Paige, as if he was trying to see through her.
"Kakashi." The named ninja raised an eyebrow at Paige. "There are other totems for both of you, but considering my headache and my last result. I think I'd like to wait until I feel better to poke around more. I need to meditate for grounding and centering myself."
"You need rest to finish recovering," Sakura added.
"I need both. I've always had to balance the physical with my other abilities," Paige amended the medic's prescription. "And unfortunately, I don't have my meditation tools. I didn't wake up with them when I woke up with the bandits."
"How did you end up in such good company?" Kakashi it appeared wanted to continue the previous line of questioning with Paige.
"I honestly don't know. The only thing I can tell you is what I remember happening before finding myself with them." The ninjas shifted on their feet at this revelation. Kakashi glanced at Sasuke who returned the look with those red eyes, gave a slight nod back to Kakashi, and then resumed his gazing at Paige.
"Alright then, start with where you're from again and go to what you remember before waking up and going for a jog."
Paige nodded and gave a slight smile at Kakashi's sense of humor. "I'm from a small town in a state called New Jersey in a country called the United States of America, or USA for short. I'm a graduate student at a university near by. Most day's I either go to classes, or go to my job."
Sasuke interrupted Paige, "What are you studying, and where do you work."
"I'm learning to be a therapist. I work at the local psychiatric hospital." After Sasuke nodded, she continued her original line of thought. "I finished my morning shift, but it was a bad one. We had a lot of new arrivals who were less than stable, and it took a lot for me to be able to concentrate through all of the confusion and anger on the unit. I decided I should meditate in the forest behind my apartment complex to try and center myself." Paige chewed her lip and closed her eyes while she thought back to the details of the meditation. "I'm not sure what happened. I know I passed out in the middle of the meditation, and that's happened once or twice before. But I remember getting a very vivid vision...my totem…no, that's not exactly right, it was too powerful. Now that I think about it, I think it was Mudjekeewis, the Spirit Keeper of the West came to me, in the form of my totem."
Paige glanced up from her position sitting before the medicine wheel on the ground to notice the difference in the forest of her vision than the forest near her apartment. These trees were taller, older, wiser in the ways of nature, and could teach her much because they had seen much. Looking through the trees, she noticed a figure moving towards her through the trees now. It was a grizzly bear.
She wasn't afraid. This has happened a few times before. She often wished for visions like this. Actually being in the presence of her totem was calming, comforting, and empowering for Paige. She could find answers to questions by asking him; have him give her answers to questions she didn't know she had; have him question her to find her own answers; or just offer his silent presence. Sometimes the grizzly would even come close enough for her to touch.
This time something was different. The fur had subtle differences, the dark brown tones were almost black and the light tones almost shone with their own light. Paige watched in awe at the magnificent creature making his way towards her. She thought all bears were beautiful, especially grizzlies, but this one was its own force of nature. Her eyes widened as she realized who had come to her in her vision. True visions were rare, and even rarer were the opportunities to work with Spirit Keepers in visions. She bowed her head.
"Mudjekeewis, Spirit Keeper of the West, Grandfather to my chosen protector and honored brother grizzly bear," Paige addressed the spirit with reverence. "I am honored you have chosen to share your presence with me."
The Spirit Keeper sat down on his hind legs and regarded Paige. "You may look at me."
Paige raised her head.
"I have come to tell you that Wakan Tanka is pleased with your work. You have born the gifts we have given you well. You use it as healing medicine and wisdom for the purpose of the growth of other peoples."
Paige bowed her head again in acknowledgement of the praise. It wasn't every day Mudjekeewis came to you and told you 'good job.' He was the leader of the Thunder beings, the Spirit Keepers. "I have always tried to walk the way of the wheel and live my life for the good of all beings."
Mudjekeewis considered this, nodded, and then got back up on all fours. "It has been decided. You will walk with me for a greater purpose according to Wakan Tanka. Come."
Not one to ignore such a request, Paige obediently got up from where she was sitting with her head bowed, left all her possessions behind her, and followed in the footsteps of the Great Spirit Keeper.
"That's all I can remember before I woke up with the bandits," Paige concluded. She was playing with the edge of her borrowed shirt again, avoiding making eye contact with the ninjas surrounding her. She had never told anyone of her visions before, afraid she might end up a patient in the very psychiatric hospital she worked at.
"She hasn't lied." Paige was startled by the sound of Sasuke's voice. She looked up to notice his eyes were now dark, almost black. "You were nervous, careful, scared, but never deceitful."
Her attention was then drawn to Kakashi by movement. He was scratching his chin through his strange mask again. "Then that settles it. You stay with us. We take you back to Konoha to be interviewed by the Hokage." At Paige's puzzled expression, he added, "Our leader. She will decide your future in our village." Regarding her critically Kakashi's one eye seemed to convey all of the seriousness of his words, even if his tone was light and joking. "You are too…interesting…to do anything else with." This appeared to be the cue everyone else in the group had been waiting for. They set about bedding down for the night.
Sakura rested a light hand on Paige's shoulder. "Time for that rest. Konoha is a few days travel from here. You'll feel better with some sleep."
Paige started to settle in for the rest of the night. Sleep sounded like a gift from the gods right now.
A deep chuckle came from Naruto, "She'll feel better until she has to deal with Oba-chan and Ero-sennin." Paige was definitely confused, but only blinked sleepily at Naruto. "But don't worry too much. You still have your wolf and fox." She nodded back at him, and let the feeling of safety lull her to dreams.
Authors Notes: Please Review! Any constructive criticism is appreciated. I've actually written ahead of what I'm posting, so there is definitely more to come!