Author's Notes: Shino entrance countdown: Shino will appear in 5 more chapters! Why? Because I figured I'd do a good job of establishing my OC before throwing shinobi love at her.
Please review! It let's me how I'm doing! And it let's me know how fast I should update.
Title: Reading Totems
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto, and this makes me sad. I do own Paige Stone, my OC!
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.
Chapter Summary: Paige uses her abilities to read the rest of Team Kakashi's abilities. How do each react?
She awoke gasping for breath and struggling against her attacker…an attacker which turned out to be her borrowed bedroll. Trying to calm her breathing, she squinted and noticed the rest of the group had gone silent and were looking at her. She blushed and scratched the back of her head with a hand, "Sorry, bad dream." Paige then squinted up at the sky. The sun was already pretty high in the sky. It looked like they decided to let her sleep in. "How long have I been asleep?" Her stomach growled. Giggling she asked, "And is there anything I can eat?" As she untangled herself from the bedroll, a canteen and a ration bar appeared before her.
"Here. Breakfast was a while ago, so this is all we have for now," Sakura explained. "You slept about eight hours. How do you feel?"
Paige closed her eyes and did a mental once over. "Better. Kinda stiff, and still a little frazzled mentally, but definitely better."
"You were squinting before, is your migraine still there?"
"It's lessened, but yeah, still there. I think the squinting is because I don't have my glasses though." Deciding the medical tone was a bit of a downer, she tried to lighten the mood. "Naruto looks orange and fuzzy right now; Sasuke looks dark and fuzzy; and well, Kakashi…Where is Kakashi?"
Dark and fuzzy answered her as he moved closer into her field of clear vision, "He went into the town the bandits were giving trouble. He wanted to add a few charges to their record for you."
She didn't know what to say to that. Paige opted for "Oh. I guess I'll have to thank him or something." She then felt the familiar presence of wolf behind her.
"No thanks necessary, but you're welcome anyway."
Despite the slight warning she received, she was still startled. Paige gave a rather girlie yelp as she jumped and clutched her now racing heart. "Gah! Alpha, that was not nice! Thanks have been officially rescinded!"
"Alpha?" Kakashi's eye brow was raised at her again as he too walked into her clear field of vision.
"Well, aren't you?" Paige questioned. "The alpha male, I mean."
"I'm the team leader," he replied with a slow nod. The eye brow was still raised at her.
Paige closed her eyes and experimentally went to that place in her mind where her gifts were. She'd take a little peek in the box, just to see if she could find more answers. The pain returned, but not had bad as it had before. It was tolerable, but not something she should do too often until she could return to her meditation. Reopening her eyes, she took in Kakashi and also the rest of the group, Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke who was back to having his eyes red. Finding the answers she was seeking, she carefully closed the box and sent another prayer of thanks. "It's more than that." Knowing answers and putting them into words were sometimes too different things. "You lead a pack of humans, but you lead another pack as well." She cocked her head to the side and let her eyes go completely out of focus…concentrating on her gifts once more. "They aren't exactly wolves though…they're not the wild spirit you are, although still spirited… Dogs?"
Kakashi nodded, and considered her latest information. "Sasuke?"
"Nothing. She relaxed, and then tensed up again. No jutsu," Sasuke replied. "It's completely natural to her."
Naruto finally shifted and brought Paige's attention to him. "What else do you know about us?" he asked.
"I'm sorry. I usually ask for permission for a reading first. I'm still out of balance." Paige looked down, a little ashamed of her lack of control. "I know each of your totems, and from that, some basic personality characteristics for each of you. Sometimes I can get hints of events in a person's life if the totem is associated with events. I saw Kakashi's dogs because they are very close to his wolf."
"So what does wolf mean?" questioned Kakashi.
"Totems in general can have different meanings for different people at different times."
Paige shrugged at Kakashi's comment. "Not really, I just have to take other things into account. We're in a 'pack' situation right now, so that's what I picked up on. Last night…" She cocked her head to the side again, trying to remember the more pleasant parts of it. "…last night there was definitely the feeling of pack leader, but also the other aspects the wolf is known for: guardianship, loyalty, spirit, and trusting of instincts. You're very protective of whom you consider good enough to be in your pack, but you also covet your privacy."
Naruto's mouth hung open during the short silence afterwards. Closing it, he lightly laughed. "Man, Kakashi, she has you down already!" The last words were spoken in loud disbelief. Becoming quieter, and more withdrawn, he asked Paige with wide blue eyes, "What about fox?"
"I'm guessing what you've heard hasn't been good."
Naruto shook his head.
"It figures. Most people fear what they don't understand. Most of the rumors of fox spirits come from stupid farmers who can't understand why foxes like easy meals of chickens. I know I like easy meals." Paige's eyes lost focus one more time as she tried to remember the feelings, impressions, and that other something that allowed her to read totems from when she opened that box in her mind before. There was something besides fox as Naruto's totem, but she didn't want to risk worsening her headache. "People always know the trickster part of the fox." Paige smiled. "I bet you were hell as a kid, but it was never malicious, mostly harmless pranks. Traditionally the tricks foxes play are lessons in disguise. Foxes can also be guardians. They can teach persistence through adversity and creativity and…." She scratched her head, not quite knowing how to put the last point she was getting a reading on. She blushed, "Have a girlfriend or someone special?"
Naruto nodded with a quizzical expression. "Hinata."
Clearing her throat, she continued, "The fox…teaches…Hinata's probably extremely pleased you've had a few tips in the love department."
Sakura giggled. Paige was pretty sure Kakashi was silently laughing. Sasuke was sporting his first official facial expression, a smirk. It was Naruto's turn to blush.
It was Kakashi that recovered first. "I think it's time to break camp with that lovely image in our heads."
The group of four set about what looked to be a well coordinated routine of folding and packing although she noticed there were only three packs for the team of four when they finished. Sakura and Sasuke took every opportunity to tease their blond teammate about his relationship with Hinata. At one point Kakashi joined in with his orange book. He dangled a rather provocative picture in front of Naruto asking him if he ever tried it. This was met with a loud scream of "Pervert!" from both Naruto and Sakura. Sasuke smirked again and just shook his head.
"You're just jealous Teme." Naruto declared to Sasuke. Paige watched the interactions between the team. She smiled, sensing friendship and openness.
"Sakura, have any complaints?" Was Sasuke's response to the challenge.
Sakura replied with an elegant, "Um…" and a blush.
Sasuke turned his smirk from Sakura, to Naruto. "Dobe."
"How tall are you, and how much do you weigh?" The question came from Kakashi and was directed at Paige.
It was her turn to raise an eye brow at the older man now. "Those aren't questions you ask a lady." Paige grinned, "Lucky for you I have no shame! I'm 155 centimeters tall and weigh 57 kilograms."
"Right. That means I get you. Hop on my back. We're leaving this area now." Kakashi made all of these statements as if they actually belonged together.
Paige was lost. "I thought I was recovering. Can't I walk? Why do you 'get' me?"
"We'll be taking the trees to Konoha. It's faster, and I don't think you're in any condition to keep up." It wasn't an insult; it was a statement of fact.
"So I get a piggyback ride?" Paige asked. Her face took on a rather devious gleam, "I haven't had a piggyback ride since I was little. This is gonna be fun!"
She was grinning like a loon, but she could care less. This had to be the best way to travel! They were actually leaping from branch to branch, and they were going so fast! Paige just closed her eyes and enjoyed the wind in her hair. Ninja's indeed. Her doubts about ninjas were rapidly fading, but she wondered what else would surprise her.
Paige felt the chuckle from the man currently giving her the piggyback ride of her life and opened her eyes. "Enjoying the ride?" Paige also noticed Kakashi was still reading his orange book while he somehow navigated the team through the trees.
"Definitely! It's exhilarating, and kind of relaxing, too. The trees are so beautiful. I wish I had my glasses so I could appreciate the view more. And you keep a steady pace, the rhythm is what's relaxing." Paige closed her eyes again to enjoy the ride. After a few moments of companionable silence followed when Sakura's voice interrupted her.
"Yeah?" She turned to her right to notice Sakura was keeping pace with Kakashi now. They had assumed a loose diamond formation previously. Sasuke was to Sakura's other side. Looking to her left, she noticed Naruto also keeping pace. It looked like everyone was interested.
"I was wondering if I could ask you some questions. I don't want to get too personal, but I saw your tattoos when I put you in my clothes. And well, I was curious about totems for me and Sasuke."
Paige looked to Sasuke. "Is that OK with you, Sasuke?"
Sasuke gave a slight nod in her direction.
"Alright, I feel like saving tattoos for last, but I'll throw in more on my personal totem too."
Sakura beamed at Paige, "Alright."
"You're actually lucky Sakura. You have what many consider a powerful totem, although it does depend on who you ask. You walk with buffalo, and Waboose also walks with you when you need that extra help."
"Yes, it has to do with an old legend of the White Buffalo Woman who brought many sacred rites to a tribe of people. The buffalo in general is sacred because it is a symbol of following the right path with the right actions." At Sakura's quizzical look, she tried to explain better. "It's basically saying that you see what needs to be done, and you do it. That's not something everyone can do. Think of all of the people who struggle to accomplish something that is either meaningless to them or to others. Waboose is the White Buffalo Spirit Keeper of the North and a great totem of physical healing. And I know you're a great medic!"
Sakura flashed a bright smile at Paige. "So my totem can help me with my healing?"
"Kinda. Waboose helps those who ask, and those who help themselves too. You can't get something for nothing. She probably has always helped you. Now you just know the name of that force that lets you heal for a little longer, keep that person alive that everyone else thinks is lost. Do a little more than you or others think you are capable of."
Sakura regarded this information seriously now. "Thank you."
Paige turned her attention to Sasuke while he actually switched positions with Sakura. Now he was keeping pace next to Kakashi and her. "You're actually a little more metaphorical. Your totem is the thunder bird, also known as the phoenix, legendary bird that rose from the fire and ashes anew—symbol of resurrection and rebirth."
Sasuke's eyes widened slightly. "My clan has an affinity with fire."
"Makes sense the thunder bird is also the elemental fire clan leader, but it's something more than that. I'm not sure what kind of phoenix legends you have here, but the thunder bird legend that I know may be different. The general idea is that the thunder bird was the greatest hawk to have lived. He could soar higher and farther than any other bird. And because of this ability he was often chosen to give messages to and from Wakan Tanka, the Great Spirit. However, this soon caused him to become extremely arrogant, and he would rub it in the faces of others that he was better than them. Wakan Tanka was not please and decided to teach him a lesson by consuming him in flames. But Wakan Tanka was saddened by the loss of the great thunder bird and chose to let him rise again from the ashes. After his resurrection the thunder bird changed his ways and decided to serve all of the peoples with respect in his ability to give messages. Thunder bird teaches us about the dangers of arrogance and how we can rise from the ashes of personal darkness to heal and serve others with respect." Paige finished her explanation and realized they had all stopped on a single branch and had been listened avidly.
Kakashi gave her a quiet, "Going down" warning before gently lowering Paige to stand on the branch too.
Sasuke now stood not two feet from her. He regarded her with those intense dark eyes. Paige found him slightly intimidating, and briefly considered backing away when he closed the distance between them. She found herself in another hug, tentatively hugging back after exchanging a glance with Sakura. The two obviously were together; she didn't want to upset anyone. She also figured since Sasuke wasn't much for emotional displays for all the time she's known him, that not responding to the hug would be a bad idea. She wanted these people to become her friends, to feel like she belonged somewhere. She wanted to give him comfort.
"It's a lesson I have only recently learned," Sasuke revealed when he pulled back.
"It's a powerful lesson, use it well." Paige counseled him. Sasuke nodded curtly. There was a long silence in which she eventually broke the intense stare she had with Sasuke, and looked at everyone else. "Why have we stopped?"
"Half hour break time. We've been traveling for about four hours straight." Kakashi replied.
Paige nodded. She carefully navigated over to Sakura and asked her to help with stretching out some of the muscle cramps from her extended piggyback ride. After being pulled and contorted in odd directions by the pink-haired medic, she accepted the canteen and ration bar which were handed to her. Soon she was back to enjoying the feeling of wind in her hair, and not enjoying the occasional bug in her teeth.
After a while of traveling, Paige noticed Naruto was keeping pace with Kakashi again. "You forgot to tell us about your tattoos and totem," he informed her.
"Oh yeah! Well, they're related actually." This was the signal for them to start traveling in a line again, Kakashi obligingly finding tree branches sturdy enough and wide enough for the four who actually got to put their feet on solid surfaces. "My totem is the grizzly bear."
Naruto gave Paige the look she was considering having trademarked as the 'Naruto lemon and rotten egg look.' "But you're so…nice…and short"
She giggled. "Totems aren't about looks or size, that's a human thing that we tend to force on the rest of nature. Grizzly bears are a symbol of many things. For me, they symbolize wisdom, the strength to use it, the courage to wield it when necessary, and protection that comes from using knowledge wisely in difficult situations. They're also quite possessive, I know of a saying warning against getting between a mother bear and her cubs." She looked sheepish, "I can be quite…interesting…if something or someone I consider mine is being hurt. And I already told you about Mudjekeewis last night. That was new for me though."
"All of your tattoos area symbols of bears." Paige smiled at Sakura. She was smart at putting things together considering she was just receiving all of this information in the past two days.
"Yes, the one on my lower back is a spirit shield honoring the grizzly bear. My left shoulder blade, the picture of the woman's head just above a bear head, is a symbol of my connection with grizzlies. And my right shoulder blade is a picture of what I thought Mudjekeewis would look like. The two black figures below my shoulder blade tattoos are called kokopeli. It literally means dancing flute player. Dancing and playing music is one of the ways to honor the spirits of nature."
"I would think it would be painful," Sakura said this with a small frown on her face, the crease just above her green eyes. She was obviously referring to tattooing.
"Not really, at least for me. But it's an individual experience, depending on pain tolerance and the person giving you the tattoo. It's definitely not for everyone, but it is one of the ways I chose to honor the spirits."
"What are other ways?" Sakura questioned.
"Well, I can't play the flute, but sometimes I sing, chant, and occasionally dance when no one is looking. The main way I honor the spirits and nature is through my meditation called walking the medicine wheel. Part of the ritual is making a small offering of something you value and giving it up to the spirits in gratitude. I also just try to live by helping others in any way possible, whether through my training as a therapist or my other abilities."
"How did you find your own totem? Is it different than reading other people's?" Naruto questioned.
Paige laughed softly and blushed. "I've been marked by Wakan Tanka as a grizzly bear."
Naruto looked rather confused.
"Symbols can be powerful things. You have man-made symbols, and natural symbols. Natural symbols are considered more powerful. If you find something in nature that looks like an animal, then it is said it was marked by Wakan Tanka and is holy. A person can also be marked by Wakan Tanka with something that symbolizes their totem as a sign of their power and closeness to their totem. I have a birthmark that looks like the paw print of the grizzly bear." Paige turned mischievous eyes to Sakura and asked, "Did you find it?"
Sakura blushed and nodded.
"Where is it?" Paige figured Naruto always wanted in on secrets, and she couldn't resist seeing what his reaction would be.
"On my left butt cheek." She could have sworn the group, with the exception of Sakura, faltered a little on their next landing. Paige giggled again. "You've been marked too, but on the cheeks on your face."
Naruto gave a soft smile and nodded, "I know. And I like your explanation better than hearing it's a demon mark."
"Demon is a relative term. It's all different shades of morality, and that was made up by humans. Animals and animal spirits can't be measured by human morality."
Naruto nodded again.
"And if I'm remembering correctly, you mentioned something about being able to communicate with your fox. That is one of the highest honors. Always treasure it. He will give you insights that no other can simply because he does not think like a human."
The rest of the day was spent in either companionable silence or listening to Naruto and Sasuke banter back and forth. It seemed Sasuke was more comfortable around Paige now. His willingness to joke and tease proved some of that. Kakashi, Sakura, and Naruto also appeared to be more comfortable with Paige. As for Paige herself, she was in her element: observing people and making friends.
AN: Review please!