Anonymous Saru: It's been a long time since I've updated. Apologies for those who might've gotten their hopes up on this being a continuing chapter for one of my works. I've been in a writing rut as of late. I wrote this a couple of days after my grandfather passed. I suppose this might be me getting a release, or something.
Disclaimer: I sadly do not own Naruto. If I did own it—well then. I wouldn't be sitting here writing fanfiction now would I? I'd be off making things cannon. But alas, I don't. Apologies—digressing: keep some tissues in hand if you get easily moved.

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Release

Jiraiya could tell he was dying—he could feel his body numb. His breathing came out in ragged, uneven breaths. His eyes were drooping. Everything started slowing down—he hardly noticed the crimson red liquid blending in with the clear, deep blue color of the water that surrounded him. He could tell his body organs were shutting down.

Jiraiya chuckled quietly in his head as he recalled his promise to Tsunade. He vaguely wondered if she knew that he wouldn't keep it. He wondered if she assumed it was a broken, empty promise. Ah well—this was a better, deserved death for him.

Often times he would fantasize about death. Of course that was whenever he wasn't thinking about plot ideas for his stories, or ways to aid Naruto in his training, or peeping in on women at onsen's. He always thought of his friends that were still alive.

Jiraiya sighed as his eyes slipped shut momentarily. He was already seeing that light at the end of the tunnel.

"Jiraiya." A voice called out.

Jiraiya looked up and saw a ghostly image of his beloved childhood friend—Orochimaru. Though, there was something different about him. He looked different. He looked... younger? Jiraiya blinked a couple of times, unsure if it was the lack of oxygen or if he was actually dying.

Yes, this Orochimaru was definitely younger. Was he—twelve?

"Jiraiya!" Orochimaru snapped waving his hands around, as if he was actually trying to get Jiraiya's attention.

"Are you—twelve?" Jiraiya questioned. Wait—how could he possibly even speak underwater?

"What?!" Orochimaru blurted momentarily throwing his hands in the air. "That's not the point." He said indifferently, as he resumed his cold, stony stoic personality. "You have two options." Orochimaru stated as he held up two pale fingers.

"You can stay; and fight it out like the hot-headed man you are." Orochimaru paused as he gave a moments breathe. "Or, you can pass on and come with me."

Jiraiya turned his head and stared at the water that was surrounding him and the younger version of Orochimaru. "Will I look like a twelve year old too?"

Orochimaru sighed, his bangs parting from the puff of air. Well—he was an illusion after all. Nonetheless, he stayed quiet as if he was thinking. "Well..."

"You have a choice in deciding what you'll look like in the afterlife. Sarutobi-sensei chose to be a little younger—oh say around the age he was when we were twelve. Minato and his wife decided to stay the same. I—well..." Orochimaru trailed, gesturing to himself. "Anyway, this isn't important. What is is your decision to stay or go. I don't have all day—" He finished, feeling a tad embarrassed.

Jiraiya looked up in mock thought. To go back would be futile. With the amount of water in his lungs it would take a pump to get it all out. He currently didn't have that type of object on his person, and besides that. It would be a miracle if he could actually stand with all the blood he had lost.

And he had everything he needed here. Sure he wouldn't have any of those hot babes in onsen's... But he had Sarutobi-sensei, Minato-kun, and Kushina-chan were all there. And most importantly, Orochimaru was no longer running.

"Hmm." Jiraiya smiled.

"What?" Orochimaru scoffed as he folded his arms over his chest.

"Promise you won't run?" Jiraiya asked, grinning as if he were twelve too.

"What—? What type of a question is that?" Orochimaru scoffed again. "I have no where to run, except to the other side of purgatory." Orochimaru said as he inspected his nails of the nonexistent dirt that lay atop them.

Jiraiya smiled. "So what do I have to do to look like that?" Jiraiya asked as he pointed at Orochimaru's twelve year old figure.

"Ah—well. You don't have to look or be twelve. I only chose this because I wasn't affected by anything. This was, as some would say, my 'innocence'. I believe this was right before I—left you..." Orochimaru said, his head bowed.

"Ah. I see." Jiraiya said.

"So I could look like I was when I was twenty?" Jiraiya asked.

"Hn. Yes. If that were the case—yes..." Orochimaru said, rubbing his head.

"Or I could look like this?" Jiraiya said as he gestured to his current form.

Orochimaru sighed. "If you wanted to—yes. Though why you would baffles me."

"Or I could—" Jiraiya started.

"Just pick a damn age!" Orochimaru yelled.

Orochimaru sounded a tad odd. His body was stuck in the twelve year old state, but Jiraiya honestly didn't think that his voice would too.

"Pick one and stick with it." Orochimaru said softly.

"Why?" Jiraiya questioned, looking at Orochimaru.

"Because you can't revert to anything else once you go with one. So to say if you wanted to look like your current state then you would look, act, and feel like this until you would be birthed anew. The same case goes for you at twenty, or twelve, or whatever you choose." Orochimaru said matter-factly.

Jiraiya smirked. "Then I'll settle with twelve."

Orochimaru nodded before staring at Jiraiya. "I thought you would've gone with the twenty age..."

"Nope!" Jiraiya said as he was transformed into his previous twelve year old body. "It would be a tad odd if a twenty year old hung around with a twelve year old. I don't want 'Erro Jiraiya' to follow me around here!" Jiraiya beamed.

Orochimaru rolled his eyes and sighed.

"But—you were this age. And as ya said before—this was the good ole days!" Jiraiya said as he grabbed a hold of Orochimaru's hand.

Orochimaru flushed, no longer an illusion, and he jerked his hand away. "Che... stupid frog lover." He chided with the click of his tongue.

"Ah! Orochimaru. I have a question." Jiraiya asked as he fingered the soft fabric of his old yukata.

"Ask away." Orochimaru stated as he took two steps into the light.

"Why were you the one to show up? I thought it would've been sensei." Jiraiya stated.

"Ah. Because... Well—I don't know why." Orochimaru said. "I think you're greeted by the last person to die that you knew. Sensei greeted me..." Orochimaru said trialing, his voice loaded with an unsure tone.

"If in the case Naruto were to die—then you, as well as his Minato would greet him too I suppose.." Orochimaru continued.

Jiraiya nodded his head. He chuckled. From the looks of it, it looked like Orochimaru had no clue what he was talking about. And that somewhat calmed Jiraiya. He felt more relaxed then he had in ages.

"What?" Orochimaru asked, rubbing his nose nervously.

"Nothin' Oro." Jiraiya said with a smile. "Nothin..."

Orochimaru smiled at Jiraiya's energetic attitude. It was something he definitely missed in Otogakure, as well as purgatory. Things would definitely be looking up now that Jiraiya was here. The light started twinkling, as if it was impatient. "Ah yes—they're waiting for us." Orochimaru said as he continued holding Jiraiya's hand.

"They?" Jiraiya asked curiously.

"Nn." Orochimaru answered. "Sensei, Minato—your parents, and others—" Orochimaru said, a small smile placing his lips. Jiraiya's happy attitude was definitely infectious Orochimaru thought as he moved an inch closer towards the light.

"And you too!" Jiraiya said happily as he watched the light reflect somewhat angelically over Orochimaru's face. It was then that he realized that this was definitely one of the best decisions he had made in a long time.

"Let's go." Jiraiya said as he gave Orochimaru's hand a light squeeze. And with that the two walked through the light until they were no more but a memory in time.


Reflections:

My creative writing teacher once told me, that what we write depends on the kind of mood we are in. I've been in an emotional/morbid type of a writing mood. As mentioned earlier, my grandfather passed away mid February. And being sidetracked with school and what-nots I've not yet found the time to sit down and write.

There are a few things I've been working on, and after I finish typing those up I will probably work on a new chapter for Catch me if you Can. And then after that, I'll most definitely revise my older works.

But hopefully I'll return anew and refreshed by the end of Spring Break.