Author's Note: Wow, I just want to thank you guys for all the positive feedback I received in just a few hours. I really appreciate it and so I'll try to keep this story rolling, it's a little lighter to write than my 'Anemone' fanfiction, so I enjoy it more.

Chapter Three

Naruto's pain had taken on an appearance, at least to Kyuubi. The fox lay there on the cold floor, his eyes squeezed shut tight and his ears flattened against his head in vain effort to keep his Kit's screams from his consciousness. It had begun what felt like years ago, and simply never stopped. The blonde's pain was radiating even into Kyuubi's little corner, where it brushed against the demon lord's fur and caressed his mind, making him snap his jaws in pain and frustration.

He groaned when a new wave washed through the bars of the cage, crashing against him almost audibly. He allowed himself a grunt and then pushed the pain away along with Naruto's refreshed shouts. Kyuubi couldn't help but feel it was all his fault, he knew that it was only because the seal was being forcibly torn from the boy that he was experiencing so much pain, and Kyuubi felt that it was too high a price to ask for his freedom. He wondered vaguely if Naruto would hate him, when he was released, if his Kit might look into his eyes and then look away, Kyuubi wasn't sure if he could bare that.

Not only that, but it was killing him not knowing if this pain would go on, even after he was released. He hadn't experienced Naruto's discomforting illness for long, but those few hours were enough to open his eyes to the fact that Naruto had managed to hide the bulk of it, even from Kyuubi. This made the fox wonder exactly what sort of ailment was killing his Kit. Because, all in all, if this kept up, Naruto would die. A sickness that was more on the inside then on the outside, which was saying something considering the outside symptoms include turning your stomach inside out and making you sweat like a raincloud while you sleep. The fox growled and his fur bristled as he once again closed his eyes, reviewing all the illnesses he'd even encountered patiently. Well, as patiently as he could be expected to.

**

Iruka leaned heavily against the door, he wasn't sure if anyone else had managed to keep count, but this was Day Three of Naruto's suffering. He was beginning to wonder if a Mercy Killing might not be called for, and it wasn't sarcastic. Listening to the young Ninja scream and then watching him try to tear at himself, well, it was terrible to say the least. Especially when Iruka secretly imagined himself to be the boy's father figure.

Some father… didn't even notice he was sick. Iruka thought pityingly. And now look at him… his mind whispered as he peered through the thin glass window, behind which Naruto was only barely held by chakra enforced straps and everything else they could find to keep the boy from injuring himself. This is all my fault.

"Iruka, Kakashi." Someone breathed in a sigh of relief. Iruka was tugged away from his thoughts as he looked up at Tsunade, her hair was a mess, unbound from her usual ponytail and her make-up was rubbed under and over her eyes; she looked like hell. "Oh, thank god, please tell me you found out what's wrong with Naruto?"

Kakashi stepped forward and Iruka silently thanked the grey haired man, he wasn't especially fond of Naruto's teacher, mainly because he knew the man liked both Sakura and Sasuke over the blonde, but also because Kakashi spent near as much time with Naruto as anyone else, he was supposed to be watching the boy with a careful eye, and yet the man didn't even have a way to fix Naruto. But despite that, Iruka was in no shape to speak with anyone, so it was better if Kakashi handled it.

"There is no way to prevent the Kyuubi from being released." He stated simply. "We shouldn't even bother trying, not when it's already begun." He said and his one visible eye flickered over to the closed door, behind it Naruto was arching off the bed in pain. "And… we have no idea what is causing Naruto to be sick."

Iruka took a deep, shuddering breath. "So, essentially," he said, his voice uneven and low. "We have no idea what's wrong with him. But, and this is just a guess, I'd say if we don't find out soon, he'll die." The tanned man brought his hand to his eyes, rubbing his fingers along his nose in effort to ease the discomfort in his mind. His eyes snapped wide open when another of Naruto's screams tore through the air. "God dammit!" He yelled his voice deep and ringing. "How long is this going to go on for? Get that damn fox out of him!" He cried and then burst into the hospital room.

**

Sasuke was doing his best to soothe Naruto, he only kept it up because, every so often, Naruto's pain would stop long enough for his bright blue eyes to flicker over to Sasuke, whisper a thanks, and then roll back into his head as the pain gripped hold of him again. Sasuke stroked Naruto's spasm-ing hand and shared with him the few tender memoires Sasuke had. When he ran out of those, he began to tell about the first time he'd seen Naruto, the first time he'd really seen Naruto; the real Naruto. And the blonde seemed to be grateful for this.

Sasuke wasn't sure how long this had been going on for, but he hadn't slept in an even longer time, and Naruto's pain just kept getting worse and worse. After a particularly violent spell, or rather, during a particularly violent spell, Iruka burst through the door. His reflexes slowed by worry and distraught, Sasuke turned to eye the man and barely had time to take in his rumbled clothing and pale face before the man was at Naruto's side, performing a series of seals that looked vaguely familiar to Sasuke and lit off a red light in his head.

"Iruka, what the hell do you think you're doing?" Tsunade's voice boomed as she (and her huge boobs) tried to squeeze in through the door with Kakashi at once. Her panic danced in her eyes when she recognized the seals Iruka was carefully displaying. "Iruka! You'll kill him you do that!" She screamed. "Why do you think we haven't just ripped the damn thing out ourselves?" She cried as she was finally propelled forward by a push from Kakashi.

Iruka didn't even slow his motions; it was obvious to any bystander that Iruka was a desperate man who believed that desperate times called for desperate measures. With a last flick of his fingers, Iruka focused his chakra on the seal he knew to be located on Naruto's stomach, and let it go. Iruka's power barreled into the boy's abdomen with uncontrolled force and Naruto's screams turned silent as he fell back to the bed, his eyes wide in pain, he coughed hackingly and pedals of red fell from his lips.

"Was that… was that the jutsu used to break seals?" Sasuke whispered. "Do you not… are you…" he gaped at Iruka and then simply stopped trying. Seeing no other choice of action, Sasuke raised his arm, curled his hand into a first, and with much more strength then he thought he had, punched Iruka in the stomach, knowing it wasn't even half the pain Naruto was going through. "You fucking bastard."

**

"Oh, my god." Kyuubi breathed out, his voice noticeably smoother since he'd taken his human form. It had been a long three days, feeling only brief spells of Naruto's agony and the pull of the seal calling him out every so often. But this pain… whatever had just been unleashed inside of the cage with him, it topped it all. "Oh, my god." He breathed again and curled in on himself, forgetting that he was a demon lord, forgetting that he had someone to protect, he lay there and tried to focus on not crying out.

**

"What now?" Kakashi asked uncertainly, trying his best to avoid Sasuke's eyes.

Tsunade held her face in her hands, "Now we wait. We wait and see if Naruto lives, or if he dies. We'll have to take him… I think we're going to have to take him off of the pain medication, we're going to have to isolate him." She shuddered. "There are no recorded cases of something like this; the brat is more than probably going to die. I… The human body isn't meant for this sort of pressure." She said and gestured to Naruto's ever staring eyes.

"Take him off of the pain medication?" Sasuke repeated slowly. "Are you deaf? Can't you hear his screams? Think of what they'll sound like when… if…" his eyes blazed.

"I thought of that," Tsunade said. "And we're going to have to disregard it. There's nothing we can do." She sat down heavily in a chair, watching Iruka as the man stared alternatively between Naruto and his own hands. "If he's not better by tomorrow morning, and he won't be, then we're going through with it." She narrowed her eyes at Sasuke's defiant expression. "And that is my decision as Hokage, go against my word and I'll have you thrown in jail."

"You're going to kill him." Sasuke said and reached out for Naruto's hand, "He's going to die and it's going to be your fault." He said and gave her a look that suddenly made her remember that he, Naruto, and even Sakura were all only teenagers. Nothing more than children.

Tsunade turned towards the door, "No. It's your fault, too, and his," she gestured to Kakashi, "and his." She nodded towards Iruka. "The blame belongs to all of us."

**

Sakura stared across the table at her mother, who was chatting animatedly with her husband about an eccentric young man she'd bumped into at the market that day. Sakura brushed strands of her hair behind her ear and pushed her food around on her plate. She wasn't quite sure how she was supposed to feel. Naruto… precious Naruto… had been sick for a month, and no one had noticed. It wasn't even that he was simply sick, he was dying, and no one had noticed.

"Sakura, dear, is something wrong?" Her mother asked with a sweet smile. "You're not eating anything. And I even made your favorite meal."

Sakura scooped a bite of salad into her mouth and chewed dutifully under her mother's gaze. "No, I'm fine." She said and her voice cracked. "I'm fine." She repeated to herself. But Naruto's not, her mind whispered.

**

Kakashi kept his face carefully blank under the taught mask that covered his face. He wondered through the hospital, checking in on friends and comrades, helping nurses in any way he could, preparing a Clean Room for Naruto. He had failed as an instructor. A Sensei was supposed to be like… like a parent; loving and proud, confident, stern, and watchful. Kakashi was not loving towards Naruto; at least, he'd never shown it. He'd never shown the boy he was proud of him, or confident in him, he'd certainly never been stern with the blonde. But he'd always thought he'd been watchful. Always keeping tabs on his pupil, always keeping the boy from trouble. But apparently… apparently he hadn't done a good enough job.

"Hey, Kakashi, it's nice to see you again. Wasn't expecting a visit from you," Kakashi looked up into the face of one of his old friends; their face swollen and bandaged. "How've you been?"

**

Tsunade squinted down that the stack of papers she held in her lap, leaning back in the uncomfortable hospital chair awkwardly. She wasn't sure why she'd even bothered to have Shizune bring over her paperwork. She couldn't possibly focus on anything besides Naruto. Her eyes flickered up to watch the boy who was lying still for the first time in countless hours. God, she was so worried. Naruto had managed to cheat death so many times… Tsunade knew too well that it couldn't last forever.

She stood slowly and wondered when she'd started to feel so old. She slid into the seat Sasuke usually occupied and sighed heavily. She brushed a loose strand of hair out of her eyes and then placed her hand on Naruto's forehead, taking note of the damp heat his whole face seemed covered in. She moved her hand to grip his limp fingers and then lowered her head to rest on his forearm.

**

Everyone ended up in front of Naruto's hospital room the next morning. All of them looking pale, sleep deprived, and worried. Sasuke kept his expression sour and shot Sakura harsh glares every few minutes. Sakura shied away from the reassuring arms of Shizune and did her best not to meet the Uchiha's eyes. Kakashi kept his hands shoved deep in his pockets, his eyes far away and wild. Iruka alternated between staring at people helplessly, and Tsunade simply stood stoically.

"Is the isolation room ready?" She asked Kakashi flatly and he nodded. "Well then," she moved towards the door, "I guess this is the part you all gather around his bedside and say your goodbyes." She pushed open the hospital door carefully. "I don't expect him to come out alive."