Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or any of the characters.
This story takes place starting with the final clash between Naruto and Sasuke at the waterfall. It then diverges greatly from the story, so here goes.
"Let's finish this now!" Sasuke said disdainfully, drawing upon his cursed seal chakra. He made the hand seals for Chidori and crouched low, ready to kill Naruto in a final exchange of Jutsu.
Naruto's fox eyes narrowed as he stared across the river at what he once called a friend. It was plain now that Sasuke wasn't going to stop and go back to Konoha with him peacefully. It was equally clear that anything other than Ransengan wasn't going to get the job done. Before Naruto was even done deciding on his most powerful move, the Kyuubi chakra molded the swirling ball of destruction for him. He had never felt such a powerful concentration of Chakra in one place before. Sasuke flapped his leathery wings twice and took off. Naruto launched himself in to what he hoped was the conclusion of this fight.
Time slowed to a crawl as Naruto neared his target. The Rasengan hummed silently in his hand, waiting to be delivered to his oncoming friend. Something was different about this Chidori. The color was off, and the noise was not the same. It was deeper, more sinister. As the two powers slammed into each other Naruto and Sasuke let out a battle cry.
The two powerful chakras met with a silent explosion, blurring Naruto's vision. The two shinobi's chakras reacted against each other in a swirl of color. Naruto lost his breath as the hand that carried the remnants of the Chidori slammed into his chest. His own hand swung out and his claw sliced a jagged cut straight down Sasuke's forehead protector. Sasuke will know who won this exchange, Naruto thought as he struggled to retain consciousness. The chakra around them had taken on a life of it's own and encased them in some kind of glowing orb.
A look of understanding passed between the two combatants. The swirling chakra had a slowing effect, and Naruto was surprised when Sasuke grabbed his hand. Something must be weird with my senses, he thought as he noticed Sasuke was much younger than he should be. Naruto let a soft smile pass his lips as he realized this would be the last time he would see his one time friend. Then he faded away into blackness as the chakra finally destroyed itself.
This Chakra is unbelievable, Kakashi thought as he sped through the forest as fast as he could. It isn't good either.
"This is bad!" he said to Pakkun as the horizon lit up in what Kakashi could only assume was the end to a climactic battle. He recognized the Kyuubi chakra on the air and could only hope silently that Naruto had been able to control the explosion of energy and not be consumed by the demon inside him. He also hoped Naruto had managed to command enough to the chakra to keep him from death. There was no doubt in his mind that Sasuke meant to kill Naruto. He knew his students well, but he had underestimated Sasuke's lust for power. Naruto won't kill him. He will fight hard, but he doesn't have it in him.
When Kakashi reached what was obviously the sight of the battle he was disappointed by what he found. More specifically he was disappointed by what he didn't find. His students were both gone. Kakashi closed his eyes and concentrated on the area around him, trying to sense the immense chakra's that had been recently occupying this area. He could sense Sasuke's trail leaving the sight of the battle, but not Naruto. Raindrops punctuated his thoughts, I should have never taught him Chidori. This is my fault. Kakashi sullenly turned around to bring the sad news to Konoha. Naruto was probably dead, and Uchiha Sasuke was a missing nin, who had killed one of his own.
Naruto opened his eyes to white pain. His whole body hurt, and he could barely remember the last thing that happened. Our chakra's mixed strangely and...
"I haven't been in a place like this in a long time, brat!" The Kyuubi boomed in his mind.
"Place like what, and don't call me a brat!" Naruto responded to the nine tailed fox that called his body it's home.
"A chakra tear, and I will call you what I please. You would be dead if not for me!" the Kyuubi responded deeply. There was wisdom and power in his voice. It was seductive in a way.
"Well you would be dead if not for me so don't act like you are doing me any favors." Naruto responded. He hated talking with the Kyuubi. Everything that went wrong in his life was this thing's fault. He could have been a normal shinobi with a family, but no, a stupid demon fox had to be sealed within him, ruining everything.
"I WOULD BE FREE IF NOT FOR YOU!" the Kyuubi responded violently. "Watch yourself when I decide to speak to you brat, I am trying to help you."
"Well, I don't want your help so go away." Naruto responded, sticking out his tongue at the ancient demon, who railed against the cage in indignation.
"You couldn't even beat that pathetic excuse for a friend. How will you defend us against enemies of real power?" the Kyuubi responded, after regaining his composure. This brat had a way of riling him up. He hadn't had to deal with a human he couldn't kill in ages.
"Defend us?" Naruto asked, but he already knew the answer. When I die, it dies as well. It's comforting to have such a powerful ally I suppose.
"Comforting indeed." the demon said. Naruto jumped in surprise. "Yes I can hear your thoughts. Never forget that I am a part of you."
"Yeah yeah, ok." Naruto replied, getting impatient with this whole conversation. "Get on with your point. Where are we, and why are you even talking to me?"
"Silence yourself and listen then, brat. We are in a chakra tear. My chakra combined with Sasuke's chakra, and ripped a tear into reality. We fell in, your friend did not." The demon paused for a moment, expecting a response from the normally loud ninja. He didn't get it. Naruto seemed sullen. The reality of what had just passed between himself and his best friend, and eternal rival, was sinking in. Sasuke wanted to kill me. Would have killed me without the fox here, he thought.
Kyuubi chuckled to himself. This brat was learning some hard lessons. He had some more hard ones coming. "Well, that won't be a problem again for some time now. Unfortunately, we are stuck in this tear until another one occurs. High level shinobi used to fight often, but there is too much peace now. It's likely that another tear won't occur for several years." This did elicit a response.
"YEARS! You mean I am stuck here with YOU for YEARS!" Naruto exploded. He couldn't believe what terrible luck he was having today. Being alone with the Kyuubi was the last thing he wanted. Furthermore, being stuck alone would mean no more training from ero-sennin. Actually, they would probably all think Sasuke had killed him.
"That is exactly what they think, and that is good for us." The Kyuubi broke into his thoughts again.
"Good? All my friends think I'm dead! You would think that was good wouldn't you?" Naruto was on the verge of a panic. He had been alone for so long, he didn't think he could take it again.
"Silence your quivering, brat!" the Kyuubi shouted at him. "Our lives were in danger and I intend to fix it ... a bargain if you will."
Naruto forced himself to calm. He endured loneliness before, and he could handle it again. "What kind of bargain?"
"You remember the men who were after you to get to me. You will need to be strong to defeat them. They want to take me for their own purposes, and I serve no man. When we return they will try for me - for us. They will be surprised by what they find. I will train you in this tear."
Naruto thought for a moment. Training from the Kyuubi would be useful. He had been around for a long time and probably knew a lot of forbidden techniques. He would want something in return though. "What do you want from me?"
"What I want is freedom. I know that it isn't possible now, but when you are on your deathbed it will be. The seal will weaken and you will then have the knowledge to release it. You will release me." The Kyuubi said.
"No deal." Naruto responded immediately. "The whole reason you are inside me is because you attacked Konoha. Even if I die when I escape from this place, I would never do that."
The Kyuubi howled in rage at this. He had known that Naruto probably wouldn't go for it, but it was worth a try. "Fine. I had a feeling you might say that. I had a second idea anyway. I know a way to transfer my essence to another vessel. Most of my chakra would stay with you, but I would have my own body. If you died, I would still die with you, but at least I can roam free again."
Naruto thought about this for a moment. "This means you would be out of my head, right?"
"Correct." The demon knew this would sweeten the deal as far as Naruto was concerned.
"One thing remains. How can I possibly learn enough in two years to make this deal worth it?" Naruto asked. The Kyuubi was obviously surprised. This boy may be smarter than he thought.
"I'm glad you asked. The most interesting thing about a Chakra tear is that time flows differently here. We may have 20 years here while only 3 pass in the outside world." He didn't mention that 2 years here could pass for 10 there, but he didn't think it was important information. Those types of tears were rare. They would train until they were ready, and then take the next tear out of this place.
"OK." Naruto said, "Deal! When I get out of here there will be no question as to who will be Hokage!"
Time passed for Naruto quickly. Each day brought training and techniques beyond his wildest expectations. He never got hungry, and the Kyuubi was a pretty good teacher. The things that the Kyuubi knew were forgotten to most shinobi. He grew, both in power and stature. He also developed a deep respect for the Kyuubi. They always avoided the subject of why the demon attacked Konoha, but in his spare time they talked of other things. Naruto outgrew his clothes, and soon wore his old shirt ripped up as a loincloth. His jacket, pants, and shoes were discarded, and as time passed, he grew a wild beard. By his counting he was about 20 years old when the tear opened, and the Kyuubi decided it was time to head to the outside world. Naruto prepared himself for the changes he would find, and he stepped into the light.
This isn't the waterfall, was Naruto's first thought as he stepped back into the real world as a man.
"I don't know why you thought it would be. The exit would be where the other tear was formed." The Kyuubi said.
Upon thinking about it, Naruto decided that it made sense. His mind quickly put together that there would also be combatants here. He decided that his arrival might be confusing and not appreciated, as a stray kunai flew past where his head had been an instant before. He sent his chakra to his feet in a surge of power, and flipped up into a nearby tree. Spinning around quickly, he assessed the situation.
Naruto peered through the branches at the ninja standing below him. The man looked tired and certainly in no shape to fight. Beside him was what Naruto assumed must have been his opponent, or what was left of him. A gruesome cut trailed across his chest, and the edges of the wound were burnt. Must have been some sort of electrical attack jutsu. Probably channeled through a weapon of some kind. His thoughts were interrupted when he sensed another kunai sailing towards him. With split second reactions, he flew to a nearby tree as the one he was standing on exploded into flames.
"Who are you! Where did you come from!" the ninja panted. He was obviously in no shape to fight.
Naruto narrowed his eyes and, with practiced ease, pulled on the Kyuubi chakra. His eyes turned from bright blue to blood red, and the slits that had been his pupils narrowed in on the mans forehead protector. At this distance only a Hyuuga could probably make out the symbol, but the Kyuubi abilities enhanced his senses. It was a Hidden Village of Sand protector. When Naruto last heard, they were allied with the leaf.
"I am a ninja of the Leaf," Naruto shouted, gauging the man's reaction. He seemed to look relieved before he passed out from exhaustion. Well it didn't look like he was afraid of me. Sand and Leaf must still be friends. He jumped out of the tree to the man. Naruto didn't recognize him, but then there was no telling how much or little time had passed. Walking over to the other defeated ninja, a quick glance brought him the only information he needed. A Sound ninja, and dead. Moments later Naruto was wearing his pants, although unfortunately the ninja's shirt had been destroyed by the blade that the Sand ninja was carrying. Oh well, it will probably be hot on the way there anyway.
"Don't forget our bargain. Release me." The Kyuubi reminded. Naruto smirked. He had learned a lot about seals in the 8 or so years he had spent training with Kyuubi. Biting his thumb and performing some hand seals, he slammed his palm into the ground. "Summoning no Jutsu!" he shouted. A small fox appeared in the cloud of smoke. Summoning legendary creatures required a contract, but the techniques were originally created to make hunting easier. It hadn't been hard for Naruto and the Kyuubi to create a variant that would summon a fox. Kyuubi was expecting a bigger one.
"You wouldn't dare." the Kyuubi said menacingly.
Naruto smirked. Behave in this one and I may find you another vessel. Holding the fox down with his left hand, he smiled as he performed some one handed seals and slammed his right hand into the fox's underbelly. The fox howled in pain for a moment before its eyes changed to something with a little more intellect behind them. Naruto felt the tiniest bit of Chakra leave his system and transfer to the other body. He also felt the piece of the Kyuubi's mind leaving, but he found that he could still feel its trail leading to the new body. Good, I can always tell where he is.
"I hate you, brat," the small fox said. Its voice was not threatening at all. Naruto gave a loud laugh.
"Serves you right!" Naruto managed to get out between his chuckles. He wiped tears from his eyes as he surveyed his new friend. There was so little chakra in the creature that most ninjas wouldn't even notice it was any different from a normal animal. That was going to definitely be useful. "Anyway, like I said, behave for a few years and we may come to another arrangement. Besides you are adorable." With that, Naruto picked up the unconscious Sand ninja and started walking in the direction which he thought led to the village of Sand.
"It's this way." the Kyuubi grumbled. The fox bounded off, and Naruto turned around to follow him. This was going to be an interesting year.
As Naruto neared the Hidden Sand village he was alarmed to note that he was being trailed by two ninjas. It would seem that in the time Naruto had spent away, the war between Sand, Leaf, and Sound had escalated. These ninja obviously didn't like the idea of a half-clothed man with a wild beard carrying one of their own injured into their city. Naruto was wearing his Leaf head protector as an arm band, but even he had to admit he looked pretty unkempt to be a ninja, especially one out on assignment.
When he got to the gates of the city the two ninja finally showed themselves. Naruto eyes sparked in recognition. The girl was Temari, the female fan user that fought in the Chuunin exam so many years ago. Naruto almost couldn't believe he remembered her name. The other face surprised him more. Shikimaru for sure. He even had the lazy attitude on his face. Naruto decided that several years had passed here, but not nearly the eight years he had spent training with Kyuubi. Shikimaru obviously didn't recognize Naruto. Why would he? Naruto was presumed dead, and years older than he should be. His beard covered up the unique whisker marks on his cheeks.
"Hand me Nagishi Sensei." Temari said, referring to the body Naruto had been carrying over his shoulder. Naruto shrugged and complied, gingerly handing the limp form of a man into her waiting arms. She looked at Shikimaru, and when he nodded at her she leaped away into the city headed for the medical block.
"What's your name?" Shikimaru asked quietly, scratching his shoulder.
Should I tell him my real name? Naruto thought to himself. Naruto almost missed Kyuubi then. He would have been interested to hear his council. Closing his eyes, Naruto searched the faint trail of chakra that led to the fox. Already inside the town I see. Naruto's thoughts were interrupted when Shikimaru restated his question.
"What is your name?" he said, lowering himself into a more cautious stance. "I don't recognize you, and I warn you, if you are a spy…."
Naruto decided to stop him there. "I am not a spy!" he shouted. "I am the great Uzumaki Naruto, missing ninja of Konoha, presumed dead, and now returned to take my place as the greatest ninja in the history of the leaf!"
He barks like Naruto, but he is way too old, Shikimaru thought to himself. After a few moments of thought he nodded at the man who claimed to be Naruto. This is way too troublesome for me, he thought. With a sigh he looked again at the man who stood before him. He wanted to believe. "Come with me then. The Kazekage will know what to do."
Gaara of the Sand sensed the Kyuubi chakra that Naruto carried with him, long before Shikamaru and Naruto even entered the building. The last thing Gaara had heard was that Naruto had died during the mission to bring Sasuke back. He had been surprised at that information, since he had fought both Naruto and Sasuke, and he didn't believe that Naruto could lose to that Uchiha clan prodigy. That upstart couldn't even defeat me, let alone Naruto.
"Welcome back Naruto," Gaara said when he sensed them entering the room. He was shocked when he turned around and saw the person who was the bearer of the chakra. A young man in his early twenties, rough beard and long blond hair. Wearing nothing but a pilfered pair of pants and his Leaf head protector as an arm band, the person in front of him didn't seem like he could be Naruto, but the chakra was unmistakable.
"This guy is the Kazekage?" Naruto exploded, gesturing at Gaara. Of course the last time Naruto had seen him he was on his back, depleted of chakra. Temari and Kankouro had carried him away to safety.
"Naruto, show some respect!" Shikamaru hissed in his ear. It still seemed strange to use that name to refer to the person standing next to him.
"No its alright." Gaara said. "He hasn't seen me in a while. You remember what I was like." Shikamaru did remember. His mind trailed back to the Gaara that they saw in the hospital, desperate to cause pain. Shikamaru and Naruto were the only two there that time. The Kazekage had made many changes in himself after his fight with Naruto, only Naruto didn't know it yet.
"I am going to go check on Temari," Shikamaru said, excusing himself from the meeting. Gaara nodded, and in moments he was alone with Naruto.
"What is Shikamaru doing here? He is a Leaf Chuunin." Naruto asked, as he had a seat in the chair that Gaara had just gestured to.
"He is an ambassador from the Leaf, and a Jounin. Although, I imagine that his request for the position had something to do with his involvement with my sister Temari," Gaara replied. Naruto shrugged. Although the match was a far cry from the two of them fighting in the Chuunin exam, like the last time he saw them, he wasn't interested in his old teammates' romantic tendencies right now. The conversation paused for a moment, and Naruto slumped down in his chair.
"How long?" was all he asked.
Gaara lifted his brow a little at that question. He knew something was wrong with Naruto's age, but not what. "You have been missing for 4 years. Presumed dead." Gaara said. Where have you been? He asked silently to himself. He couldn't ask that question. Since Naruto was a Leaf Genin, he had to be questioned by the Leaf.
Well it seems that time moved at half speed out here. Not so bad, Naruto thought. That would make all my friends around 16.
Gaara continued, "Konoha will be very interested to see you alive. You would be surprised how many people seemed to be distraught at your funeral."
"They had a funeral for me?" Naruto asked, taken aback. He knew they thought he was dead, but with no body he didn't think they would have gone that far.
"Well, Kakashi was very certain you were dead," Gaara said, picking up on Naruto's train of thought. "You have a very..." he paused for a moment groping for the word, "... distinct chakra. When Kakashi didn't sense it anywhere, then he made the only conclusion."
Makes sense I suppose. The elders know what the Kyuubi chakra feels like. When it was gone from this world, they must have decided I was really dead and not just missing, Naruto thought. He felt a little better when he remembered the bit about people being upset he was gone. It was good to be recognized.
"I am having a room prepared for you. I will have fresh clothes sent to you, and you can shave and cut your hair if you wish. Tomorrow morning, at 8 o'clock, I want you to report here. We will talk then of your return to Konoha." Naruto nodded, he was looking forward to a bath. "I ask that you don't leave your room tonight if you can help it. The less people that know about your return right now the better."
"Sure," Naruto said, following the Sand ninjas out of the room.
The Akatsuki are weaker now than they were when they came after me, but they are still dangerous. When they hear Naruto is back they will come for the demon inside him. Gaara thought.He called for one of his helpers, "Get me Shikamaru."
Shikamaru entered the hospital looking for Temari. He found her in the corner leaning up against the wall. "How is he?" He asked, in reference to her sensei Nagishi.
"Dead," she responded. "Whatever jutsu that Sound ninja used had a lasting effect. Assuming that it was the Sound ninja." The implication hung in the air for a moment.
"I don't think Naruto killed him," Shikamaru finally answered. "It doesn't make any sense. Why would he do that and then come waltzing in here? Where has he been that he hasn't had a chance to shave or cut his hair? What happened to all of his clothes? It looks like he has been living in the wilderness alone or something."
"You really think it is him then?" she asked.
"Gaara seems to think so," he responded. He put his hand on her shoulder for a moment. "I'm sorry about your sensei," was all he could manage. He was no good at this kind of thing. Then again Temari wasn't any good at taking the news of a fallen comrade. It had taken her a long time to get over Kankouro's death.
"Don't worry about it," she said with a sad smile. "This is a war after all." Shikamaru knew she was acting tough, but he decided not to push it right now. Just then, one of Gaara's aids entered the door. He walked over to the two shinobi.
"Kazekage wishes to see you," he said. Shikamaru let out a sigh.
How do I manage to get into all these troublesome situations. He looked at Temari. "I will come by your place tonight, okay?" he asked.
"Sure," she said, watching him walk off towards her brother's office. If she knew her brother at all, Naruto's appearance meant a mission for her.
Naruto was just finishing up his shaving when he sensed the Kyuubi's presence outside the window. He walked over to the other side of the room, and opened it, letting in the desert breeze. Moments later, the Kyuubi leaped into the room grumbling. "What are you doing here?" Naruto asked, with a chuckle in his voice.
The Kyuubi shook his fur violently, sending clouds of sand flying into the air. "I wasn't built for this kind of environment," he grumbled, "and if you must know, I came to watch you turn your face into hamburger." The fox then made some noises that Naruto assumed passed for laughter.
"Shut up! This is my first time shaving," Naruto said sticking his tongue out at the small animal. The Kyuubi didn't see it, as he was busy turning around in circles in the corner of the room. After a moment of doing that, he settled himself down comfortably. Naruto's characteristic whisker marks were barely visible under the nicks and cuts he had inflicted upon himself. They would be completely healed in a few hours. "Why are you really here?" he asked, a hint of seriousness in his voice.
"I got bored hunting. I am sure you would be surprised to note that rodents aren't very good conversationalists," the Kyuubi responded.
"You were lonely!" Naruto accused, grabbing the scissors from the counter. He prepared to get to work on his hair. Naruto would have never thought that a bath, shave, and a haircut could feel so good. After 8 years of only cutting his hair with a kunai, he was thoroughly enjoying himself.
"I was not lonely!" the fox replied defensively. "Are you sure you want you do that, brat? I mean your shaving was so successful." Naruto ignored the jibe and got to work on his hair. He knew what is was like to be lonely. It wasn't like the Kyuubi could just go and talk to anyone. If people knew an ancient demon was trapped in the body of a baby fox, they would probably try to kill him in revenge. Naruto realized that even though the fox had it's own body, Naruto was still the only person it could talk to.
"Well if you are going to be hanging around me all the time, then I need to call you something other than "Demon Fox". We don't want people to know it's you in there." Naruto said, as he finished trimming his hair.
"Call me Kit then." the Kyuubi responded. "It's fitting, seeing as how you have trapped me in this tiny body." He let out a canine yawn while Naruto climbed into the bed. "What did the other demon vessel have to say?" he asked lazily.
"We return to Konoha tomorrow." Naruto replied. To be honest I am a little nervous, he thought to himself. He hoped Konoha still had a place for him.
Thats it for Chapter 1. Please review and let me know what you think.