Hey everyone! This is a little late (*coughIwantedtopostthisonmybirthdaybutitwouldn'twriteitselfproperlycoughcough*) but here you go anyway~! It is the next installment for my NaruNozo Files series, and probably needed to be written a LONG time ago! See, it is the continuation of the very first NaruNozo File, A Fateful Meeting?.
If you haven't read it, please go read that one first...Even those who HAVE read it may want to go back for a refresher as I have recently revised it and it is better than the version I wrote 6 years ago (ZOMG 6 YEARS...that's nuts O-O). xD
‘Where am I? It’s so dark. Am I dreaming...?’
Beep. Beep. Beep.
‘...What IS that?!’
Nozomi’s eyes fluttered open and she glanced around groggily. To her surprise, she was in a pristine, white room, tucked snugly in a small bed. It didn’t take her long to realize that the beeping noises she’d heard before were from the various machines surrounding her.
The brunette sat up quickly, biting her lip hard as a stab of pain went through her wrist. Glancing down, she quickly realized the cause of the pain; an IV in her wrist, held on securely by a strip of clear tape. ‘Wait...’
With her other hand, she tore the sheets off her body and gasped when she realized that she was dressed in a simple, blue hospital gown. When-- no-- who had changed her?! How on earth had she even gotten here?! The cat girl’s eyes furrowed as she glanced around the room, looking for any other clues, and she inhaled sharply when she realized she was not alone.
Across the room, from the chair by the door, Naruto gave a small wave. “Hey.” He smiled sheepishly, slowly getting up and approaching the girl’s bed.
Memories from their previous meeting flooded her mind at the sight of him and Nozomi bristled. “You,” she seethed, narrowing her eyes dangerously, her ears flat against her head, “You brought me here, didn’t you?!”
Naruto gulped, rubbing the back of his head a little nervously as he stood awkwardly at the foot of the bed. “Err, well...yeah! I mean, I felt bad! You wouldn’t wake up so I took you to Sakura and she said to take you to the hospital -so I did, and now you’re getting better!”
The cat girl rubbed her forehead exasperatedly. Of all the places to have woken up...it just HAD to be a hospital. She hated doctors, she hated hospitals, and she hated feeling helpless!
The brunette raised one eyebrow, throwing Naruto a pointed look as he continued his jumbled explanation. Who the heck was this Sakura person? Though, if she were to be honest with herself, she didn’t really care. All she knew was that somehow Naruto’s rambling was upsetting her even more. Didn’t that kid know a rhetorical question when he heard one?! She hadn’t been asking him if he’d brought her- she KNEW it was him. Who else could it be?
Realizing that he was still rambling, the girl took a deep breath and sighed. “Alright already, sheesh! I get it, just stop talking!”
To her relief, the blond shut his mouth, looking at her in wide eyed surprise. “...Geez...talk about rude.” He grumbled, folding his arms and turning his gaze to the floor. “Would it kill you to be a little nicer? I DID save your life, you know!”
Nozomi blinked at the boy, staring at him for a long moment before bursting into a fit of laughter. “Saved my life, did you?” She snorted, giving an amused sigh. “It wasn’t that bad! You’re making it sound emergency room worthy when all I did was pass out!”
“Besides,” Nozomi’s amusement vanished almost immediately, her smirk replaced by a dark scowl. “Who said I WANTED any help, huh? You think I can’t fend for myself? I was just fine before you came along, and I’ll be just as well when I leave!”
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Nya?” Nozomi looked up, startled by the voice, and sweat dropped as she noticed the woman with two blonde pigtails standing in the doorway. Why hadn’t she sensed her earlier? “Who are you?!” Her surprise melted into frustration as the woman’s words sunk in and she glared at her. “Oh? Just why the heck NOT?”
“My name is Tsunade,” The woman introduced herself as she approached Nozomi, frowning slightly, “You are here because you’re dehydrated.” Nozomi’s face fell as the woman gently pushed her back onto her pillow. “Look, if I let you leave it’s only a matter of time before this happens again. Who’s to say the next place you pass out at will be as willing to treat a complete stranger as we are?”
Nozomi sat back up stubbornly, shaking her head. “No way, you’re crazy!” Giving a defiant look in the woman’s direction, she jumped off the bed, ignoring the pull of the IV on her wrist. “I’ll be just fine, just give me a chance! You’ll see!”
Shaking her head, Tsunade just sighed. “Look, I can’t just let you go. Not in your condition. You may think you’re okay but not only are you dehydrated, but you have quite a few internal injuries.” The shocked look on the young girl’s face made her pause, and she frowned. “It’s nothing serious -well, not yet- but if you don’t rest those wounds could present bigger problems for you later. It would be much better in the long run if you just relaxed for a bit.”
Nozomi gritted her teeth together, growling under her breath. “Why do you even care?! It’s like you said- I’m a complete stranger.” The brunette raised an eyebrow suspiciously, her eyes flashing with defiance as she glared across the room at Naruto, who shot her a small smile. “Why should my problems be any of your concern?!”
Tsunade facepalmed, overwhelmed by the girl’s stubbornness. “I’m beginning to wish I didn’t.” She muttered before clearing her throat. “Nozomi, I’m getting sick of your attitude! Naruto was nice enough to bring you here and you’re acting like it’s some kind of punishment!”
Nozomi opened her mouth to retort but clamped it shut quickly. “How did you know my name?” She demanded. Before anybody could reply, however, she put two and two together, and she shot a dark glare at Naruto. “You’re the one who told, aren’t you?!” She snarled, fangs bared.
Unnerved by her tone, the spiky haired boy shrunk behind the older woman, giving a sheepish laugh. “Sorry-- they needed a name to admit you into the hospital!” He hesitated, swallowing hard. “I--I didn’t know your last name though, and they needed one to file you under so, uh...I used mine.” As the scowl on her face grew darker, the boy threw his hands out in protest. “What?! It was the only thing I could think of at the time since YOU wouldn’t tell me your REAL last name!”
A short laugh came from Tsunade as she shook her head. “I have to admit, I was wondering how the two of you could be related. At least now it makes sense. Of course, I will need the girl’s true name so the database can be corrected.” She picked up a clipboard off the small bed side table. “So then, Nozomi. Ready to tell the truth? Or would you rather remain an Uzumaki?” She turned back to Nozomi, who looked less than thrilled to be having this discussion.
‘Uzumaki? What the heck kind of name is that? No way would I ever take THAT name!’ Sighing heavily, the brunette averted her gaze, folding her arms across her chest. “Kubota.” She mumbled reluctantly, making both her visitors raise their eyebrows.
“Kubota Nozomi?” Tsunade repeated, smiling at the stiff nod she got in response and jotting the name onto her clipboard. “Good, now we’re getting somewhere.” She paused for a moment, writing something else down. “So, Nozomi. Where do you come from?”
Nozomi snorted loudly at the question and shook her head. “Where do I come from?” She laughed, shrugging her shoulders carelessly. “It’s not important. Not like I can go back.” She hesitated before hastily muttering, “Not that I ever planned to go back there.”
Realizing that her home was a touchier subject than the last name, Tsunade let it drop. She’d do some research herself, and see if she could find any clans with the name ‘Kubota’. The girl’s obvious disdain toward her home had aroused her curiosity, and she couldn’t help but wonder what had been so terrible about it to make someone as young as Nozomi leave.
Unfortunately, Naruto wasn’t as willing to let the discussion go. “What? Why don’t you wanna go back, Nozo-chan?” He frowned, confusion in his eyes. “Don’t you think your family misses you?”
He was surprised when instead of berating him, the brunette looked at him, simply scoffing. “Nobody would ever miss me.” Golden eyes averted to her hands, which she was wringing in her lap tensely as she softly mumbled, “They’re probably GLAD I’m gone.”
Something about the look on her face told Naruto all he needed and he shut his mouth, a pang of sadness tearing at his heart. Now he got it. She was alone, like him. No family -he assumed, by her lack of response- and no friends. The idea was almost too sad to bear, and he wanted nothing more than to help her through it - he knew how it felt to be the outcast.
He remembered all too well how he’d dealt with his loneliness, back before his ninja career began. Back then, he’d run amok, causing trouble for everyone in his path. It wasn’t that he’d enjoyed seeing people mad at him. He’d just wanted to be noticed; even if that attention gave him a bad reputation. He’d gotten the attention he craved so much when he was finally given a chance to be a ninja on a real squad, with team mates who’d HAVE to acknowledge him. The mesh of different personalities had been a shock to his system, and he hadn’t gotten off to the best start with his teammates. However, he’d soon learned to work through his differences with them, and they’d become friends; he’d finally come to really understand what it meant to be on a team.
A part of Naruto wondered if this girl had been judged for her appearance, (as defensive as she was about the cat features it would make sense!) but even he knew he was treading on thin ice, so he refrained from asking anymore questions. If the time was ever right, should he have the chance to talk with her one on one, he’d bring it up then.
Realizing the boy had stopped talking, Nozomi closed her eyes, a sigh of relief slipping from her lips. Maybe now she could relax. Mentally, at least. She still wanted to escape this terrible place as soon as possible.
“It’s good to see you laying back at last, because you’re not going to be allowed to leave anytime soon.”
Just like that, all of Nozomi’s hopes were dashed and her eyes flew open, landing on Tsunade. “Whaaaaat?! Why not?! If this is about the dehydration, I’ve been through plenty worse than this and come out on top every time, don’t worry about me!”
“I’m sorry, Nozomi. That very well may be true, but I am the Hokage, and while you’re here I’m responsible for you. I can’t let you go with a clear conscience, knowing you’re so run down.” Tsunade shook her head, folding her arms.
“Look, I already told you I’m FINE!” Before anyone could stop her, Nozomi sat up, swung her legs over the bed side and stood up. To her surprise, the room began to spin, and she felt a rush of dizziness surge through her.
“Wait, don’t!-” Naruto shouted as she started to sway. Quickly he jumped off his chair and lunged for the girl, catching her just as she began to pitch forward.
“Nyaaa…” The brunette just stared up at him, too dazed to say anything. When had he made clones of himself? She didn’t remember three Narutos in the room before- only one!
“Nozomi…” Naruto looked down at the girl sadly. “I’m so sorry, this is all my fault for not being careful earlier. If only I hadn’t pulled your tail!”
Tsunade cleared her throat. “Naruto, the injuries I mentioned earlier have nothing to do with you. They are likely problems she’s had for quite some time. This was simply the end of her endurance and her body is shutting down to try and heal itself.”
“Oh, really? Aw, well, that’s good.” Naruto sighed in relief. After a moment of complete silence, he realized how he’d sounded and sweat dropped, a sheepish grin appearing on his face. “Not that it’s good she’s shutting down, it’s just, I’m glad it’s not because of anything I did!”
“It’s fine, Naruto. I know what you meant.” Tsunade responded.
“Okay, good.” The boy gave a nod. “Well, anyways, if it’ll help, once she gets released, she can stay with me until she is well enough to travel again.”
“Well, Naruto, that’s very nice of you, but I don’t think-”
Before Tsunade could finish, Nozomi pushed him with new found strength, no longer in a daze. Losing his grip on the girl, Naruto stumbled back a little and frowned. “Hey! What was that for?!”
“I don’t know how many times I have to keep saying this,” The brunette ground out through gritted teeth, “but I don’t need ANY help, nor do I want any!” She paused just long enough to glare at the two people. “If either of you tries to force anything on me I’ll have to hurt you so just give it up already!”
“That’s crazy talk, Nozo-chan!” Naruto shook his head, folding his arms loosely across his chest. “There’s no way I’ll give up...not when your health is concerned! Now get back into bed!”
“You’re not the boss of me- you can’t tell me what to do! Now get out of the way!” Nozomi stepped back slightly, desperation in her eyes as she swung her arm at him wildly. Luckily, Naruto had anticipated her movement and stepped back, her claws just barely grazing the fabric of his jacket.
“But Nozomi-you need to rest..” He whined and Nozomi scoffed at him.
“PLEASE. I’ll be fine.” She turned her back to him, focusing on trying to remove her IV so she could make a run for it, but at that moment a wave of nausea coupled with exhaustion overpowered her, and to her horror her knees buckled beneath her. The brunette squeezed her eyes shut tight and braced herself for the fall, but to her surprise, she never felt the cold ground.
“...Huh..?” Opening her eyes, Nozomi inhaled sharply, nearly choking in the process. She was pressed against a soft, orange and blue jacket, two arms wrapped securely around her waist, holding her bridal style against a firm chest. Glancing up, she felt her face burn in embarrassment as she locked eyes with the very boy she’d just threatened, and she hissed in shock. “What the heck are you trying to pull?!” She snarled, struggling to break free.
When the blond refused to let her down, smiling mischievously, she swallowed hard, biting her lip. “...What…?!”
“Nozomi, I think it’s obvious that you’re not well. You need to lay down.” Naruto tightened his hold on the girl and she sighed heavily.
“Well then, I guess I have no choice.” Before Naruto could even brace himself, the cat girl had raised her right hand and swiped her claws across his face.
Naruto screamed, finally letting her down as he staggered backward. “YEOW!” He gingerly touched the scratch mark on his right cheek and winced. “Why’d you DO that, Nozomi?! I’m only trying to help!”
“Well, I DID tell you not to help me, didn’t I?”
“Okay, that’s enough!” Tsunade shouted, finally fed up with the situation. She turned her attention to Naruto, who held the palm of his hand to his cheek. “Naruto, please wait out in the hall. I’ll be out in a minute.”
The look on her face told Naruto that there was no other option so he nodded and stepped out of the room, albeit reluctantly. As the door closed, he leaned his ear against it, trying to hear what was being said.
Tsunade sighed, fixing Nozomi with a look of pure disappointment. “Nozomi, that was completely uncalled for. He was just trying to help you, you know.”
Nozomi eyed the woman pointedly. “Yes, I know but I seem to recall telling you both that I don’t NEED any help. He refused to listen, so I had to teach him a lesson.”
“That’s ridiculous!” Tsunade exclaimed, eyes widening a fraction in disbelief. This girl must be more delusional than she’d initially thought! “You may think you’re tough but the truth is you’re still just a child, Nozomi. Believe it or not, there are things you can’t do without help!”
Nozomi’s eyes rolled upward and she turned her head away, folding her arms. “Hmph. Even if that were true, there’s no way I’d ask for help from someone in a gaudy, orange jumpsuit!”
Tsunade bristled at the obvious attack, and her hands clenched into fists at her sides as she fought the urge to shove her fist into the girl’s mouth to shut her up. She was already a patient; there was no reason for her to worsen the girl’s condition. That would force her to remain a patient longer, and from the impression she got, Tsunade had a feeling that a prolonged stay would be just as hard on her as it would be on Nozomi.
Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she slowly unclenched her fists. “Nozomi, Naruto may be a little out there at times, but he has a good heart. It’s not fair of you to judge him over such little things. Especially since nobody else would be willing to help someone who is consistently mouthing off and being as inconsiderate and childish as you. You should really appreciate the fact that he is being so generous when there is no reason for him to be."
Nozomi rolled her eyes again and scoffed at the woman, raising an eyebrow. “Look, I get it. He’s a nice guy. I don’t ASK him to be though, so don’t be expecting me to be all grateful to someone I shouldn’t have ever met to begin with. I just want to be left alone, end of story.”
A drop of sweat ran down the back of Tsunade’s head and she sighed heavily. This girl was too hard headed- there seemed to be no getting through to her! “Fine.” She crossed her arms, staring hard at the brunette. “I’ll see to it that you are left alone. I suggest you get comfortable, because you aren’t leaving this room until you make a full recovery.” She fixed the girl with a pointed stare as she noticed the look of protest on her face. “That’s an ORDER, Nozomi.”
Nozomi returned her stare with her own narrow eyed glare. “You’re not the boss of me. Give me one good reason I should listen to you!”
Tsunade felt a vein pop in anger at the cat girl’s impudence and she gritted her teeth, fighting the returning urge to send her patient through the wall. That wouldn’t solve anything. It would only serve to cause more of a headache for her, and as far as Tsunade was concerned, she wanted this girl out of her care as soon as possible! “Maybe because I AM the one in charge of your life at the moment...so if you VALUE your life even a tiny bit, I’d suggest you shut up and do as I tell you to!”
“Yeah, well it’s hardly a life worth living, if you ask me.” Nozomi muttered, sticking her tongue out at the older woman.
Tsunade waited for the rest of her retort, but to her (pleasant) surprise, the girl said nothing else, turning onto her side and closing her eyes with a disgruntled sigh. “Whatever.”
Although her short response raised several questions in Tsunade’s mind, she took this as her opportunity to excuse herself and opened the door to leave.
“Gah!--” Naruto stumbled backward, caught by surprise. He hadn’t heard anything to give him reason to think the door would move, so he’d still been pressed against the door, eavesdropping. Now he realized he’d been busted, and he gave a cheeky grin in response to the older woman’s questioning look.
“So...she’s really gonna be okay?”
Tsunade sighed as her stare landed on the deep claw marks in his cheek and grimaced. “I’d be more concerned about myself if I were you. Let’s go have a look at that.”
The worst part about being in a hospital was time. Usually, the issue was not having enough time to do things. In Nozomi’s case, however, she had too much time and too little to do. Once they’d learned of her attempted escape earlier, the hospital staff only allowed her to do things she could do from the comfort of her bed. This left her with little choice but to read, and the literature choices in the hospital were less than desirable, in Nozomi’s opinion, so instead she’d found herself staring listlessly up at the ceiling, daydreaming. This was only able to keep her distracted for so long, however, and she grew more and more restless as the hours dragged by.
Every muscle in her body ached, a sign that what Tsunade had said earlier was true, but still. Nozomi wasn’t one for sitting around waiting for things to get better. She would rather stay on the move, even if it delayed her healing. At least then she’d be able to ease the restlessness she felt.
For now, however, all she could do was lay around and wait. For what? Freedom, she supposed. Either when she’d recovered, or sooner, if she could drive Tsunade crazy enough. Though she sincerely doubted that anything she did at this point would be able to change the woman’s mind. The whole situation had Nozomi more than a little baffled. Even after reminding them that she was a stranger they still seemed to care about her, for some reason. What did her health even mean to these people anyways?
A wistful sigh left the brunette’s lips as she glanced to her left, where the sunlight streamed in through a small window. She longed to bask in the warmth of that sun again; the dingy, white walls and crisp, white sheets were serving to make her more than a little crazy, and she found herself wishing that something, anything would happen.
At that moment, the door knob twisted, and, as if life itself were mocking her, in walked the last person she wanted to see.
“Oh, you’re awake, good!” Naruto beamed.
Nozomi tried to appear indifferent towards the boy, but she still found herself wincing inwardly as her gaze landed on the bandage that covered most of his right cheek. She must have done more damage than she’d thought. Though, as brightly as he was smiling, she never would have guessed if he were actually in pain or not. This thought irritated the cat girl for some reason, and she frowned at him.
“Why are you always so happy, anyways?” She demanded, folding her arms across her chest.
Naruto’s smile never faltered, though his eyes lit up with curiosity and he tilted his head in confusion. “What do you mean? Did you want me to be angry at you?”
“What--no! Ugh!” Nozomi facepalmed, sighing heavily. “What I mean is-- HOW can you smile like that when I scratched you so bad? Doesn’t it HURT?!”
“Oh, this?” Naruto gestured to the bandaid, and Nozomi nodded. “Oh, Nozo…” He broke into a fit of laughter, further irritating the cat girl.
“What’s so funny?!” She demanded frustratedly. “Do you LIKE being hurt or something?!”
The blond laughed a little harder at that, hugging his sides for support and Nozomi sighed, waiting for him to stop. When he had calmed down enough to speak clearly, he looked at the brunette seriously. “This is really nothing, Nozomi. My friends have done much worse than this to me!”
‘So then, why does he call them friends at all?! This guy’s too weird..’ A drop of sweat slid down the back of Nozomi’s head and she gave a small, sheepish grin in response. “Oh, I see. That’s...good then, I guess…?”
‘Gee, he really does try to see the best in every situation, doesn’t he?’
Naruto nodded, rubbing the back of his head. “Yeah. Um...You know, Nozo-chan…” He hesitated, glancing down at the floor for a minute before looking back at the brunette. “You’re kinda scary when you yell but...you have a nice smile.” He beamed, his confidence growing as he noticed the stunned look on her face. “I mean it! You should really smile more!”
Nozomi opened her mouth to make a retort, but his words had surprised her more than she cared to admit, and all she could manage was a small, “Thanks, I guess.”
“Hehe, no problem!” The blonde responded cheerily. “Anyways, I should go, it’s about dinner time and I’m starving!” As if agreeing with him, the boy’s stomach gurgled loudly, and he laughed. “S-see what I mean? I’ll see you later, Nozo-chan!”
Nozomi held a hand out in protest, surprising not only the boy, but she herself, and stopping him in his tracks. He turned away from the door, looking at her. “What is it…?”
The brunette glanced down at her lap, exhaling softly. She couldn’t believe she was doing this, and yet for some unknown reason, she felt obligated to. “I...know you were just trying to do something nice earlier. The only time people are nice to me is to lure me into a vulnerable state.” She paused, realizing she was talking about herself too much and forced herself to get to the real issue. “I realize that you were genuinely trying to be nice, and I overreacted, so……” She trailed off as her tongue suddenly felt heavy; almost as if it were coated with a thick layer of sawdust. Why was this so hard?!
‘C’mon..just say it, you coward! Say you’re sorry already!’
Naruto tilted his head to the side curiously, his grin fading. “What is it?”
“What I’m trying to say is….” The brunette ground her teeth together frustratedly. It was too tough to admit that she’d been wrong. A wave of frustration surged through her and she threw herself back onto her pillow, groaning. “I shouldn’t have scratched you! I’m just so messed up, I don’t stop to think before I act and that always gets me in trouble!”
The smile returned full force to Naruto’s face as he realized what she was trying to say, and he laughed a little. “It’s okay, Nozomi. I forgive you.” He replied warmly. Even if she hadn’t actually said the words, he could tell she was being sincere. Why else would she be getting herself so worked up over something so little?
Standing there, mulling over what to say then, an idea hit him and he grinned. “Hey, Nozo-chan! Do you like ramen?”
The answer he got was a confused shrug of the cat girl’s shoulders. “I’ve never tried it before.” She said quietly, regarding him with mild interest. “What is it?”
“What?! Never had ramen before?! You poor girl!” Naruto gasped, a surprised look appearing on his face. He paused for a moment, thinking. “Well...I could tell you, I guess...but it would be better just to have you taste it for yourself!”
One thin, brown eyebrow rose upward as Nozomi eyed him, more than a little confused now. “But kid--Naruto,” She corrected herself, noting the pointed look he shot her, “I can’t leave this place, remember? How can I try it if I’m stuck here?”
“Oh yeah, that’s right..” Naruto’s face fell slightly and his eyes narrowed slightly as he thought hard. “Well then, I’ll just bring you some myself! How’s that sound?” Dropping his voice to a whisper, he added, smirking, “Besides, the food isn’t that great here, trust me!”
Nozomi need not have answered, for he was already halfway out the door, calling over his shoulder. “You can thank me later!”
She sighed, closing her eyes. At least now it would be quiet for a while.
Golden eyes opened wide in surprise and the cat girl blinked sleepily. He hadn’t left?
Naruto chuckled at the questioning look on her face and winked. “You don’t seem so messed up to me...I’m looking forward to getting to know you more, I think we’ll have a lot of fun together once you’re out of here!”
“Wait-” Nozomi’s eyes widened and she started to sit up, shaking her head. “Naruto, I’m not staying--”
“Anyways, be right back, you’re gonna love it, I promise!”
The brunette groaned under her breath as he took off in a blur of orange and blue, and she sighed, laying back once again. She smacked the mattress with a balled up fist and closed her eyes tiredly.
She was beginning to get the feeling that leaving this place would be harder than she’d originally thought.