Disclaimer: I do not, in any way, shape or form, own Naruto, nor am I earning profit through this fanfic.

An Uneventful Death

When Konoha's most surprising, knuckle headed ninja, Uzumaki Naruto died, he did it in one of the most inglorious, inconspicuous and least imaginative ways possible. Despite the lack of big explosions, flashy jutsu, crippling defeat of his archenemy and/or conversion of Uchiha Sasuke, it was, nonetheless, as heroic as any death including one or more of those rather Naruto-esque events. The ripples it left behind, however, were practically cataclysmic and to be told another time, a different place. This is how it happened…

///\\\

Metal gleamed sharply in the afternoon sun, as the hand holding the kunai reversed its grip and the wielder shot forwards, closing in for a quick slash. A clang echoed through the air as it was almost nonchalantly parried. Several similar clashes were clearly audible as the brawl continued, with the Naruto clones ganging up on the few Itachi clones spread out across the street. Kakashi and Sakura were some distance off, teaming up against Kisame and his intimidating blade. The combatants were weary, both sides having run into each after returning from difficult and dirty missions. Thus it was that they were again subjected to difficult and dirty work as they fought for their very lives.

The street, which had only minutes before been full of bustling trade and harried workmen, was empty, leaving the shinobi with an uncluttered area to go about the business of dealing death.

Naruto jumped backwards, dodging a small hail of weaponry before returning fire with his own brace of shuriken, following the spinning stars at a dash as he readied his kunai once more to strike at the cloaked figure ahead of him. As Itachi swerved away from the blade, he followed it up with a roundhouse kick, exchanging blows with the nukenin.

Farther down the road, Samehada sliced through the air, narrowly missing the Copy nin's lanky figure, even as Kakashi retaliated with several quick jabs of his kunai weaving in and out of the dangerous pattern formed by the whirling sword. When the ground parted beneath him with a roar, Kisame switched places with the smashed remains of a stall and flanked Sakura, who was lifting her fist from the ground whilst panting heavily.

All of them, Naruto, Sakura, Kakashi, Itachi and even Kisame, were exhausted. Ninjutsu was avoided, as the exertion of anything more than the basic kawarimi would almost certainly spell defeat, if not some kind of very unpleasant injury. The kage bunshin, so hastily created at the beginning of the encounter, were slowly dwindling in number and no more could be made to replace those lost. Even Sakura's prodigious strength was failing, albeit very slowly and the Sharingan currently in play were soon to be deactivated if the battle were to continue for much longer. No words were exchanged, as even Naruto was having trouble keeping his barrage of attacks up and he too realised that speech would be of no use.

But as the blond hurled himself back to avoid a somewhat vicious stab from his opponent, his eyes caught sight of movement from an alleyway. Unfortunately, Itachi also noticed the figure that emerged from the dark path and had flung a deadly swarm of metal at the helpless newcomer. So Naruto watched in growing horror as a little girl stumbled into the light and looked blearily around, bewildered at the fighting go on around her. What he did then was not instinctive, not done as a last minute act of saintly -a fitting sort of irony- benevolence with no thought behind it, but carefully contemplated. The world slowed down and he could see in stark detail the dust whipped up by inhuman speeds, the faint outline of tears on an innocent and completely vulnerable face and the reflection of cruel, cold metal in slowly comprehending eyes.

And even as Naruto witnessed Time come to almost a complete stop, a sort of natural illusion, visions of all he had done flashed before his eyes; running from a frenzied mob of drunken villagers, striving to learn the Kage Bunshin no jutsu, fighting Zabuza and Haku, the Chuunin exam and Orochimaru, learning from Jiraiya, bringing back Tsunade and watching his brother-in-arms hurtle forwards with tangible chakra blazing on his arm, while rage danced through his eyes. The most persistent was the reminder of his dream; a fading Hokage's hat just out of reach.

Although those images of all he was giving up did not dissuade him from leaping in front of a scared child, they were still so powerful as to be practically visible to an attentive eye. So when, for one halting, impossibly short moment, Naruto met Itachi's eyes, the nukenin was subjected to a startling emotional barrage as he witnessed the boy relinquish all he held dear to save one life.

The boy gasped as many inches of steel thudded through his body, severing arteries and piercing organs. Even as devastating jabs of agony left him breathless, Naruto managed to spare one last, reassuring grin for the little girl whose life he had just saved. Perhaps, if he hadn't then toppled over backwards, he might have survived, given his preternatural healing ability. As it was, the weight of his body, though still somewhat slim and underweight, pushed the blades lodged in his back even deeper, preventing the grievous wounds from healing over and in some cases forming new additions.

Silence reigned over the street, only to be suddenly shattered by a horrified scream. Sakura, tears spilling out of her eyes, raced over to her already dead teammate, Naruto having bled out from his mortal wounds within moments. She didn't check to see if she would be pursued by Kisame, but then again, perhaps she knew she wouldn't need to, what with the blue-skinned man leaning heavily on Samehada, a thoughtful look on his face. Even as Sakura's hands became bathed in an almost blinding green light, a firm grip on her wrists halted her unsteady motions.

Distraught eyes looked up into a pair of mismatched orbs and though Sakura struggled titanically for a brief moment, she gave in and fell into a comforting yet resigned embrace. As Sakura's heaving sobs shuddered through his body, Kakashi carefully examined a serene, practically angelic face. Despite the shock of seeing such a lively person lie so deathly still -because this was Naruto, the little bundle of exuberance and ill-contained joy that could never be still, no matter the direst of threats-, Kakashi was a jounin and as such quickly remembered the two Akatsuki standing nearby. But when he turned his head to assess the danger posed by the nukenin, all he caught sight of was the two of them, Itachi and Kisame, slowly walking down the street.

As if feeling the jounin's questioning stare upon their backs, it was Itachi whom, surprisingly enough, halted quite abruptly before turning his head to look at Kakashi, Sharingan deactivated. He glanced briefly at Naruto before nodding, once, no more. The raven-haired Uchiha turned back to his partner and they resumed their pace, leaving Kakashi to deal with what had been wrought.

After kneeling in the dirt for some time, Kakashi slowly stood and released an unprotesting Sakura from his arms. Noticing the little girl curled up next to Naruto's stiff corpse, the tall shinobi roused her gently.

"Ne, shouldn't you go home? We'll take care of him," he said softly. Wide-eyed and apprehensive, the child only stared up at him uncomprehendingly. Unwilling to press the matter, Kakashi only sighed. "Alright then, but be careful," the weary nin said absentmindedly, before bending over to heft Naruto's grossly underweight frame. Nudging Sakura, who simply gazed blankly up at him, face blotched red from harsh tears, Kakashi limped away, followed by the unsteady kunoichi.

Neither of them, exhausted and overwhelmed as they were, took any note of the small figure that watched them leave. They probably should have, if the gaze of eyes that flashed, if only for a moment, a deep, disturbing red was anything to go by.

///\\\

And so it was that Uzumaki Naruto, shinobi of Konohagakure no Sato, jinchuuriki of the feared Kyuubi no Youko, passed away. Perhaps, though, given that one would never expect him to die so… quietly, so easily, Naruto actually did manage to retain his place as Konoha's most surprising, knuckle-headed ninja after all.

///\\\

A/N: Well, honestly, I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote this. The main idea behind it, however, was the question of 'what if Naruto died early, without any of his bluster or his world-changing actions or his incredibly devastating jutsu?' The foreshadowing evident here and there may evolve into a series of oneshots, or possibly a fic with multiple chapters. Depends on my mind and any reviews that this might little story garner, really. Also had some trouble with linebreaks. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Given that this is my first fic, some feedback would be nice, but I'm not terribly fussed. Any pertinent questions asked will be answered to the best of my abilities. Inane or violent flames, however, will be dealt with accordingly. Thanks for reading,

TheWatcherandReader