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Tsunade returned to see a room full of rose bushes and a pair of teen boys curled up together on the small hospital bed, barely visible behind the wall of foliage.
She was surprised to see that there'd been no damage done to the room and that her guards had let another in, but not angry like one would expect. In retrospect, she understood that she'd been unnecessarily harsh towards the boy and her ANBU technically weren't told to keep anyone out, only to keep him in.
But there was a tiny lick of jealousy nearly hidden under the sad sympathy she felt. (She wished someone had been there for her when she was dragged back to be Hokage of this damned village.)
Well, at least this new kid could provide more information (and hopefully had better language skills) than the other.
The Hokage wondered how she should go about waking the two. She didn't doubt that the jinchuuriki was already awake, but she'd have to be a bit more delicate if she were to get the desired information as painless and hassle-free as possible. 'Hm. . . maybe just a snap will do?'
She tried it out and found that while one merely awoke, the other was on the complete defensive, bolting up to face her and growl through the greenery. A pale hand snaked up to pull him down, getting a startled 'eep!' that painfully reminded her of her kid brother.
They used to do that all the time: roll around and play fight whenever they had the time in those rare moments of happiness. Father had never been home often enough before the failed mission, leaving them alone. But Nawaki had grown up too quickly, too—
She cleared her throat.
"Hello. I must ask how you're related to this boy." She steeled her nerves by injecting steel into her tone, demanding an answer without even raising her voice.
"Ah, I'm Naruto's. . . boyfriend. . . ?" Somehow, she had her doubts, but she wouldn't push too much on that frontier. That wasn't important to her.
"I need your full identification, please."
"I'm Shikamaru Nara, heir of the Nara Clan; shinobi number 012611." Oh. Oh no. This brat was a clan heir?! The clan council's going to go ballistic when they find that out.
"Alright, Shikamaru. Since you're the closest thing to a guardian he has right now, I'll lay it out up-front. Your 'boyfriend' won't tell me who or where his father is, so he's being treated as an orphan under Konoha's protection and is thus expected to enroll in our shinobi services. However, this can be negotiated if we can contact his guardian."
The clan heir climbed through the branches, the thorny brambles moving out of his way with each step he took until he was face-to-face with his Hokage, expression resolute.
"I'm sorry, but that's not possible." She'd expected as much, given who the boy's parents were, but it would make it more difficult to fight against Danzo and his sycophants.
"Can I ask why? I'm sure we can arrange a meeting sometime in the future if he's not currently available."
". . . Naruto's father has deserted Konoha." That stopped her short, her trained Hokage persona coming to the forefront for interrogation.
"Was he a traitor?"
"No, Hokage-sama. He was an impoverished man that couldn't afford to stay here. He left Naruto and never officially adopted him. . ." Certainly explained the boy's lacking language skills if he'd grown up in the boonies.
But this would be problematic. If given the slightest opening, Danzo would somehow manage to creep through and spread his rot in what she needed to be a loyal pillar of strength. She needed an airtight circumstance that could work in everyone's favor.
The leaves rustled in unease, drawing her attention. And then it hit her.
'We're. . . related.' The Legendary Sucker grinned devilishly.
"I think we can remedy that, Shikamaru. As you know, my grandfather was famous for his mokuton bloodline. Given that Naruto is a descendant of the Senju clan, I will act as his Hokage and Matriarch while he can get himself settled in the Hokage Residence" (as there was no compound for the Senju clan any longer).
She couldn't see the boy's eyes, but she was sure that that Nara brain of his could see how good an offer it was.
"Can't I jus' live with Shika?" She'd somewhat forgotten that the subject of their conversation was right there, he was so quiet. He took that opportunity to finally emerge from bushes to stand beside the brunet.
"I wish, but most wouldn't want that."
"I'll still visit lots, I promise. We can still see each other."
"Right," she assured, "I won't bar your access to your friend. I—I promise. But you must know now, Naruto, as the Kyuubi's jinchuuriki, you are required to come to Konoha's aid in times of distress, shinobi status notwithstanding.
"As of now, you are a shinobi of Konoha. You will be apprenticed to Jounin Kakashi Hatake and complete low-level missions to earn your pay while you—"
"And why should I listen to you?" Tsunade fell silent, steely eyes cataloging the blond's quivering form, his fists balled in anger. He looked up, blue eyes wild like a caged animal that bore into her conscience. "Who says I can't live somewhere else? I don't have to make a home here!"
"Naruto—" shut up, the Nara seemed to want to say. But he didn't, and Tsunade didn't know if that was brave or foolish of him. "That's not going to help," he settled on saying.
"I don't care! I'm tired of not having a choice. Of being sad and crying all the time! Why can't I just go and live with the forest like always?!" She exploded, seeing herself in this young man and hating every bit of it.
"Because no matter where you go, you're going to be hunted! Now, if you stay here, you will protect Konoha and Konoha will protect you. But even if you choose to live in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere, an entire syndicate of S-classed criminals is going to want your head. You asked why this is happening to you?! Because you have the misfortune of being the Nine-tailed Fox's container!
"Now, I must go back and attend to my paperwork. In my stead, your surveilling ANBU squad will escort you to the compound." With that said, Tsunade spun on her heel and marched back to the Hokage Tower.
Her heart ached for the boy, but bitterness at her own unheeded feelings and opinions forced the compassion down. It didn't matter. Even if he didn't like it, he was here to stay.
Shit's gonna get weird. The sequel's gonna be a crossover with the Harry Potter universe, then the third book's gonna be a crossover of Twilight with that clusterfuck of a universe after I'm done with that. This is gonna take a while...