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Well, I'm still alive. I apologise for the long wait, and that this chapter is still unbeta'd. Although, in my defense, I have been trying to post this for the last ten days. Please note, this chapter was put together on computer, my phone, and paper, then combined later on. So there may be places where it doesn't flow properly, though I tried to catch them all. If you find one, please let me know. That being said, I'm not really satisfied with this chapter, particularly the last portion. I've actually been sitting on this chapter with about six to seven thousand words done for about five months. It's only been in the last two days that I sat down and made myself finish it. The fact that I'm five chapters and a prolouge into a new story that's really got me writing like crazy right now help motivate me. Speaking of which, I'm looking for someone to bounce ideas off of for this latest one.

Anyway, don't forget to check out my other stories and challenges. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed. I should have responded to everyone, but if I missed you, I apologize. All reviews/criticism is welcomed. So, without further ado, I give you chapter 3 of Vacuum.

Chapter Three

Anko blinked in confusion as Tsunade all but stormed from the room. 'Was it something I said?' She wondered before the tiny bundle of annoyance in her arms started wailing again. "Damn brat." She muttered as she rocked Naruto tiredly. "Never a moment's peace when you're around."

Yet even as she said that, his eyes slowly opened, cerulean blue seeming to stare right into her own hazel eyes. For a second, her breath caught at those beautiful eyes, before Naruto let out a disgustingly adorable yawn and closed his eyes once again.

She felt a mixture of gratitude and disappointment as the tiny blond drifted off. On the one hand, he couldn't cry if he was asleep, but on the other, she couldn't see his eyes anymore either.

Blinking, the preteen Chuunin scowled down at the tiny bundle. "Oh no you don't!" Anko growled near silently. "You can't trick me with your cute little yawns and pretty eyes! You're a horrible little brat and soon you'll be someone else's problem! In fact, I can't wait to get rid of you!" She didn't even notice throughout her whispered rant when she carefully tucked Naruto's swaddling in a little tighter, nor the gentleness with which she eased back on the bed, propping herself up to avoid-

*knock knock knock!* "Waaah!"

-waking him.

"Son of a bitch!" She hissed angrily as she got up and stalked over to the door, casually ignoring Shizune's offer to take Naruto while planning several vicious punishments for whatever cheap hotel staff worker had woken the blond menace in her arms.

Shifting Naruto to free up her left arm, Anko yanked the door open and shouted "What do you want!"

She froze instantly as she took in the man standing before her, time seeming to freeze for one terrifying second. He was tall, easily one of the tallest men she had ever seen, and was dressed in an odd green and red ensemble. His long, spiky white hair was held back from his face in a ponytail that draped down his back, nearly half way to his waist. He wore wooden getas, and two red lines were tattooed down his strangely blank face from the corners of his eyes.

All in all, the man's unique appearance would stand out in any crowd, even if she hadn't already known who he was.

'Jiraiya!' Anko's mind screamed at her even as time seemed to move forward once again.

"I'm here for Naruto." The Toad Sannin stated, even as Anko overcame her brief paralyzation and attempted to slam the door shut.

The door only latched part way before Jiraiya nonchalantly slapped it back open, the force of the blow splintering the wood and slamming Anko and her precious cargo to the ground.

If she had any doubts as to the danger Jiraiya posed to little Naruto, they were dispelled by the utter carelessness with which he showed the wailing infant's health. It was only Anko's quick thinking that that allowed her to twist her body, first to take the blow from the door on her left side, then to cushion Naruto in her arms as she hit the floor on her back.

Through it all, Jiraiya showed no concern for the safety of his Godson, casually striding into the room with an unreadable look on his face.

Desperately trying to scramble across the floor away from him, Anko heard the sound of metal cutting through the air just before five tiny needles flew by above her. Glancing behind her, she saw Shizune with her right sleeve pulled back, a series of senbon launchers strapped to her arm.

"Run, Anko!" The older girl shouted, even as she heard the familiar metallic clang of weapons clashing as Jiraiya blocked the senbon with a single kunai.

Anko finally managed to get her feet under her just as Shizune screamed in pain, a kunai piercing straight through her arm as Anko rushed for the window.

Gritting her teeth, Shizune charged towards Jiraiya with a kunai in her left hand. "Protect Naruto!" she screamed as Anko ran past her.

Silently thanking the older girl for her sacrifice, Anko grabbed Naruto's burp blanket to cover him further as she jumped towards the window in a spinning leap, curling her body around her cargo protectively.

In the split second before her back hit the window, she was able to witness Shizune's futile attack against the Toad Sannin.

Still screaming at the top of her lungs, the young medic quickly closed the distance and lashed out with her kunai in a horizontal swipe. An attack that Jiraiya easily avoided by leaning back ever so slightly, before countering with a savage backhand that sent Shizune flying through the wall to crash into the floor of the next room.

Anko winced and offered up a prayer for Shizune's health, just before crashing through the window, curling up around Naruto even tighter as she flipped through the air, landing off balance on her heels, before falling on her ass once again.

Unlike last time however, she quickly regained her feet and dashed down the street at full speed, her face a fierce mask of determination. She wouldn't let Shizune's sacrifice be in vain, nor would she fail her sensei again. Anko knew her only hope was to outrun the traitorous Sannin long enough for Orochimaru or Tsunade to find her. 'Or to find him first.' She thought hopefully. 'I don't think I can stop hi-shit!' Her train of thought was forcibly halted as Jiraiya appeared before her, his foot planted in her gut before she could even think of trying to dodge.

Crashing to the ground, Anko once again curled up around Naruto, desperately trying to shield him from the crazed Sannin, even if her mind knew the pointlessness of it all. She was as good as dead, and Naruto, poor, innocent little Naruto, would soon be in the hands of a monster, who intended to do God knows what to the tiny blond.

Opening her eyes, Anko stared down at the tiny, whiskered face peeking out from the bundle of blankets cradled against her chest. Gazing into that wailing face, Anko felt shame flood through her, overriding any other feelings of regret or disappointment that she had felt previously. "I'm so sorry." She murmured as she laid a gentle kiss on the blonde's forehead, moments before sounds of flesh violently meeting flesh and screams of fear reverberated through the air.

Orochimaru bolted awake to the sounds of a young girl screaming in pain and terror. Leaping from the bed, it took him only a moment to remember where he was and another to race out the door and cautiously move down the hall towards Tsunade's room, intent on securing Naruto before investigating.

When he realized that the screams were coming from Tsunade's room, it was all he could do to keep from sprinting down the hall in a panic. Instead, he maintained his steady pace, carefully checking for any signs of a trap or ambush along the way. When he arrived just outside the room, he paused near the near the broken door.

'Where's Tsunade?' He thought to himself. While even a Genin could defeat Tsunade because of her hemophobia, only a handful of people knew of it. So it would take someone incredibly powerful or incredibly stupid to try to take her on.

Listening carefully, he tried to pick up any sounds of activity within the room. His heart stopped when all he could pick was the harsh, weak breathing of a single young girl. Images flashed through his mind then, images of a dead baby, of Anko lying in a pool of blood - as the only way his stubborn apprentice would allow Naruto to be harmed was over her dead body. He saw Tsunade, his last friend, dead, a look of utter terror on her face, brought down by her crippling fear of blood.

Unable to hold himself back any longer, Orochimaru burst into the room, ready to unleash hell on the unknown attackers. Instead of what he feared, he was met by an empty room. Yellow eyes quickly took in the scene, expertly piecing together what happened. The shattered window, the gaping hole in the wall, the handful of small senbon needles, as well as a single kunai lying in front of the doorway, and the small puddle of blood in the middle of the room. They all pointed to a brief struggle, then someone fleeing into the streets below, a pursuer close behind.

Feeling slightly relieved, Orochimaru quickly made his way to the source of the labored breathing. He felt a surge of guilt at the relief he experienced when his eyes fell on a seriously injured Shizune, not Anko. He knelt next to her, taking in her injuries at a glance, instantly knowing that the girl was far beyond his help.

The kunai that was pierced through her right arm was serious, but not enough to kill immediately. In fact, a simple tourniquet would be enough to keep her alive for hours. It was the other wounds that were the problem. Judging from the painful looking angle of her back, she had likely suffered serious damage to her spine.

The worst wound was her side, where a large shard of wood had torn through the flesh, leaving two ribs exposed. It looked like Shizune had attempted to heal herself, only to pass out from pain or blood loss. The poor girl likely had only moments left.

Shaking his head, Orochimaru rose and turned to leave, only to feel a hand weakly grasp his sleeve.

"Or-Orochimaru-sama..." Shizune gasped eyes unseeing as she desperately struggled to draw air.

He pushed aside his guilt and moved to free his hand when her next word left him frozen.

"Jir...rai...ya..." Shizune managed to get out before her strength left her. Her hand slowly slid from his wrist, almost dropping to the floor were not for Orochimaru's reflexes.

He grabbed her and gave a gentle squeeze that belied his frantic thoughts. 'Jiraiya is here! He's here and Anko and Naruto are missing!' He almost leapt away then and there, knowing he had no time to lose. Despite that, Orochimaru wasted precious seconds to smooth back Shizune's sweat matted hair, silently conveying his gratitude.

Smoothly rising to his feet, he heard a terrified gasp as he did so.

Standing there with a look of absolute horror was a trembling Tsunade.

Wincing in sympathy, Orochimaru laid a hand on her shoulder as he passed, murmuring his condolences before dashing out the window and to the street below.

He hated himself for leaving his teammate like that, but there was really nothing anyone could do for Shizune now, not with Tsunade's crippling fear of blood. And Orochimaru couldn't afford to stay behind to comfort Tsunade either, there was simply no time!

He quickly ran through the seals for a Kuchiyose, only for his blood to run cold at the sight just down to the street.

There, curled up on the ground, was his apprentice. Above her was a grim faced Jiraiya, already reaching down towards her. Hissing in rage, Orochimaru raced towards them, driven on by the wails that had finally reached his ears.

Once she had left the room, Tsunade had wasted no time heading for the bar on the first floor, her mind and emotions a chaotic mess. 'There's no way Orochimaru would try and dump Minato's kid on me...right? And even if he wanted to, the brat's no relation of mine. If it takes a family tree to find a blood relation, then it doesn't count as one.' Tsunade told herself fiercely. 'Besides, I'm in no shape to be taking care of-what's that?'

Tsunade frowned as she looked around the lobby. She had felt...something when she entered the large room, something that almost felt...familiar.

Shaking it off when the sensation -whatever it was- didn't reappear, she briskly walked towards the small bar/grill in an adjacent room. Making a beeline for one of the bar stools, Tsunade cursed under her breath when she saw the same teenage girl that had turned her away last night.

The young brunette met her at the side of the bar. "Good morning Ma'am, how may I help you."

Mentally crossing her fingers, Tsunade said, "I'll have a bottle of sake and a saucer please."

She felt her hopes crash and burn when the girl frowned in disapproval. "I'm sorry Ma'am, but I don't think you should be drinking in your condition. Could I interest you in some herbal tea? It's great for young mothers."

"No, I don't want some herbal tea. I'm not a mother! I'm not even related to that brat!" Tsunade growled in exasperation.

"Now Ma'am," the bartender scolded chidingly. "There's no need to be telling fibs. I can tell from the swelling of your breasts that you gave birth recently, and that adorable baby boy looks just like you."

Tsunade felt her eye twitch as she struggled to keep her temper. After all, punching the little bitch through a building or two wouldn't help her get her sake. "This is my normal size. And the only thing that brat and I have in common is our hair color!" She said, practically seething at the girl's stubbornness.

"Yes, he does take after his father doesn't he?" The waitress agreed with a serene smile. "Though he's definitely got your nose!" Her smile faded away, replaced by a worried frown. "Speaking of his father, he doesn't know about your lover, does he? I couldn't stand the thought of that little angel going through a - where are you going Ma'am?"

Tsunade had had enough. She was going to get Shizune, bid fair well to Orochimaru, and heading for a casino with bartenders who weren't nosy little do gooders with the common sense of a rock.

'This is all Orochimaru's fault! If he hadn't tricked me into that coin toss I'd be drinking some delicious sake and having fun right now!' She seethed to herself as she recalled the bartender's words. 'I don't look anywhere near old enough to be a mother!' And just to be sure, she used her medical technique to reduce her body's age by another two or three years. Just to be sure.

As she reached the final bend in the stairwell, a very familiar scream filled with pain echoed from the floor above. 'Shizune!' She thought as her head snapped up, dashing up the last few steps before halting suddenly. It had been a few years since she had done any serious training, but that wasn't enough to dull near thirty years of instinct. Reminding herself of the need for calm and caution -even as Shizune's scream turned to one terror- Tsunade carefully cracked the door and peered into the now silent hallway.

Seeing nothing, Tsunade carefully made her way through the corridor keeping a wary eye on each door she passed despite her hammering heart and near panic. 'Hold on Shizune.' She thought anxiously as she unconsciously sped up slightly.

As Tsunade finally came within sight of their room, she was nearly overcome by her desire to just rush into the room. Again, she forced herself to calmly walk down the hall, pausing outside the door, unknowingly mimicking Orochimaru as she listened intently for any sounds of activity.

She heard the pained whisper of Shizune as she said, "Jir...rai...ya...". Eyes widening in fear, both for Shizune's words and the weakness in her voice, Tsunade rushed into the room, absentmindedly taking in the signs of struggle as she sought out her last tie to her beloved Dan.

Tsunade found her almost instantly, only to freeze up with terrified gasp. There, lying in a rapidly growing pool of blood was Shizune. The extent of the young girl's injuries were indecipherable to her, as all Tsunade's mind could take in was the BLOOD!

She didn't even register Orochimaru's presence, let alone his murmured condolences as he departed.

Her hands shakily rose to clasp each other in front of her face as her breathing increased erratically. 'So...so much BLOOD... Dan...Nawaki...help me!'

Tsunade's shaking finally overcame her already tentative balance and she collapsed to her knees, hyperventilating as her eyes remained locked on the still form of her apprentice.

As her student bled out, Tsunade's all but fractured mind thought back to when she had met the girl just a few short years ago...


It was an insufferably sunny day as Tsunade marched determinedly towards an uncomfortably familiar graveyard. It struck her as incredibly unfair that she had been forced to spend so many days in that horrible place, burying relative after relative until finally, she was the last Senju left. Only one thing had kept her from falling into an unending despair following the death of her beloved little brother.

Him. A simple Jounin of moderate skills and abilities, no clan or even a family name behind him. Yet what he did have, had captured her heart, and had dragged her up out of the darkness. Dan had possessed such an earnestness, such determination and strength of character that broke through every barrier she tried to put up.

When they had first met at a meeting between the Jounin Council and the Hokage and his advisers. Tsunade had vehemently argued for a restructuring of teams that would allow for a Medic Nin to be placed on each team. Unfortunately for her plans, her sensei -though admitting to the wisdom of such a move- shot the idea down, stating that the severe shortage of manpower and resources made the plan impractical during a time of war.

Tsunade had tried to argue her case, yet without even the tentative support of the other Jounin, even she knew it was hopeless. At least, until he had spoken up.

The man was tall, and possessed shoulder length silver hair, and eyes filled with passion. Yet it was his words that struck her the most. "I agree with Tsunade-hime." The man said as he rose from his seat. "Surely saving as many of our shinobi as possible is the best course of action we could take! Few other villages possess our skills at Ijutsu, and that could be the deciding factor in bringing an end to this war!"

"Dan," one of the Elders -Homura- spoke up tiredly. "It's not that we don't feel the plan is worthwhile. We just simply lack the manpower to take so many off the front line, nor the resources to train so many so quickly. And even if we did, not many are suited for medical Ninjutsu."

"So we do what we can with what we have!" The Jounin now known as Dan replied passionately. "We can make the changes one team at a time if we have to, and with each success, we can pull in more teams as well!"

Tsunade missed much of what he said after that, as she was simply enraptured by his passion and determination. Though she would never admit it, the rest of the meeting passed by in a blur, even as the plan was once again turned down.

Her next conscious thought was following Dan outside, moving quickly to catch him alone. The following conversation was brief and to the point, before the two went their separate ways. Yet Tsunade was addicted.

Addicted to his passion and determination, to his warmth and understanding. And like any addict, she pursued him relentlessly, even if he often made her feel like a giggling Academy student. Her! Tsunade Senju! Tsunade of the Sannin!

And then, almost before she knew it, they were sharing their first kiss, then he shared his dream with her, and she in turn gave him her Grandfather's necklace, then more and more until the day he asked her to marry him.

Tsunade had been, in a word, ecstatic. They had planned quickly, and embarked on one last mission before their wedding. The mission that took Dan away from her.

Following that disastrous mission -even if it was marked as a success- she had once again fallen into a pit of despair. Only this time, there was no Dan to rescue her, and her recently developed hemophobia had earned her much scorn among the higher ups. Perhaps even worse, the war had ended less than a month afterwards, her beloved Dan one of the final few casualties on Konoha's side of the conflict.

And so she had finally decided to leave Konoha once and for all. Between her own pull as the last Senju and the efforts of her teammates, sensei, and the newly nominated Yondaime, she was granted permission, and now, standing outside a cemetery, she had one thing left to do before she could finally leave Konoha for good.

She had to say goodbye.

Steeling herself against the sorrow that threatened to overwhelm her at the thought of those words, she quickly made her way through the quiet burial ground in search of her beloved.

The silence that gripped the solemn ground unnerved her as much as the thought of privacy comforted her, and she found herself eerily calm as she approached Dan's grave.

So Tsunade was more than a little shocked to find a young girl weeping before the very grave she was looking for.

The girl-who couldn't be more than thirteen or fourteen-had short black hair that stopped just shy of her shoulders and had a coltish body, all arms and legs. Her face would no doubt be quite lovely if it wasn't red and splotchy from tears, and she was wearing the uniform mourning attire of a kunoichi.

But what struck her the most was how oddly familiar the girl was. Granted, Tsunade had met just about everyone in the village at some point or another, but there was something about this particular girl that really struck a chord with her.

It was only when she was close enough to hear the girl pitifully sobbing, "Uncle..." that she remembered. 'Oh God, it's Shizune! Dan's niece! How could I forget about her?' She berated herself as she tried to remember when she had last seen the girl.

Tsunade was sure she hadn't seen Shizune at the funeral, probably because the girl was on a mission of some kind. In fact, she had hardly ever seen the young kunoichi, as their only common link had been Dan. The times when all three were in the village were few and far between, so despite being friendly enough, Tsunade had never really connected well with Dan's niece.

Still, that didn't excuse her forgetting about the girl, especially after nearly two months since Dan's death. She hadn't even considered the orphan when she made her plans to leave.

Mentally kicking herself over her selfishness, Tsunade made her way to kneel beside the distraught girl. Shizune was obviously completely unaware of her presence, as she didn't even move until Tsunade numbly wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"Shh, hush now, Shizune." She said in as comforting a manner as she could, which wasn't much considering her own emotional turmoil.

Shizune jumped in surprise and stared up at her with tear soaked eyes."Tsu-tsunade-sama! I-I'm sorry, was I disturbing you?"

Tsunade looked down at those devastated eyes as she forced a smile she didn't feel. "Of course not dear." She replied while her mind raced, desperately searching for a solution to this gaping hole in her plans.

She already knew that Shizune had no other relatives, which meant there was no one left to take her in. No one but herself.

Frowning to herself, Tsunade considered it carefully. It would take some wheedling, but Tsunade was sure that she could arrange to take Shizune along with her. After all, few would object to losing a single, clan-less orphan.

But would Shizune be willing to leave behind the only home she had ever known?

Almost before she realized what she was considering, Tsunade had offered the young girl an apprenticeship. And to her utter surprise, the girl accepted!

Flashback Ends

Tsunade hadn't really expected the girl to make that good of an apprentice. Back then, few had either the capability or the desire to become Medic Nin, and the odds of a family less girl like Shizune seemed remote. So Tsunade was pleasantly surprised when the girl began to succeed! She gave Shizune the fish exercise, expecting her to give up or fail entirely after a month of struggle. To her shock the young Chuunin completed the exercise faster than anyone Tsunade had ever seen, herself included! And the girl only continued to improve from there.

Plus, the girl was just so sweet and kind, Tsunade couldn't help but grow attached to Dan's niece. The young Chuunin quickly wormed her way into Tsunade's broken heart, to the point where she considered Shizune family.

Tsunade was forced from her thoughts as Shizune let out a raspy death rattle.

"No!" Tsunade gasped as she frantically crawled across the floor to her crumpled form. "Shizune, no!" She pleaded as she belatedly formed the seals for a medical Jutsu as she pressed her trembling hands to the gaping wound in Shizune's side. But the girl had already stopped breathing, so keeping one hand pressed to the wound; Tsunade looped her left arm under the girl's shoulders, placing her hand over Shizune's heart. With one hand stemming the bleeding and the other trying to restart her heart, Tsunade awkwardly cradled her apprentice's head on her shoulder, performing makeshift CPR despite how bad the girl's position was. For a desperate few minutes, she continued this procedure; somehow manage to multitask three different healing procedures, pausing only to check if the girl had started breathing on her own only to repeat the process.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity to the desperate Sannin, Shizune drew in a gasping breath, before dissolving into a coughing fit.

Sobbing happily, Tsunade devoted her attention to finishing with Shizune's side before shifting her focus to on the Chuunin's back.

Anko blinked to herself as she cautiously lifted her head to a beautiful sight. Standing over her, was her sensei, one hand firmly clasped around Jiraiya's arm, the other in a fist mere inches from the traitor's face, held there by a palm.

"Jiraiya..." He hissed angrily.

"Orochimaru?" Jiraiya asked with quirked eyebrow. "You're still alive? Huh, guess I'll have to be more thorough this time."

Her sensei opened his mouth and his tongue lashed out transforming into a large snake that tried to bite the Toad Sannin's face off.

As Jiraiya broke free and jumped back from the strike, Orochimaru somehow spoke around the still hissing snake. "Anko, take Naruto and leave. Go quickly." He ordered as Jiraiya lazily beheaded the snake with a swipe of a kunai.

She hesitated for a moment, wanting nothing more than to join her sensei in battle against the traitor. But as Naruto's wails reminded her, there was no one else to care for the infant right now. Surging to her feet, Anko ran back the way she came, leaving two of Konoha's most powerful shinobi behind to duke it out. 'Good luck, sensei.'

Orochimaru paid no heed to the screaming civilians who were fleeing from the scene. Nor did he pay any attention to the fools who actually gathered around to watch. He knew some of those who were fleeing may well get caught up in this battle and killed. He also knew there wasn't anything he could do to prevent that. And as for the spectators? Well, they pretty much deserved whatever happened to them for being such brainless morons.

There was no warning that could be discerned by the naked eye. One second they were standing there in the street, the next he was right on top of Jiraiya, lashing out with a vicious jab aimed at the man's throat.

Jiraiya leaned away from the punch, turning the motion into a sweeping kick to his side.

Orochimaru leapt up and over the kick, using his opponent's leg as a springboard to push himself higher. At the apex of his climb, Orochimaru brought a powerful axe kick down on the white haired head below him.

Unfortunately, Jiraiya was able to catch the kick on his crossed arms. Despite that, the ground beneath them still cracked and cratered slightly. He might have lacked Tsunade's unbelievable strength, but he was no slouch either.

With a grunt of effort, Jiraiya pushed him back up into the air.

The sight of the cracked ground was enough to convince some of the spectators to seek refuge. Unfortunately for the others, Jiraiya sped through some seals and launched a powerful fireball at him.

Trapped in midair, and without anything to maneuver with, Orochimaru had no choice be to retaliate with a Ninjutsu of his own. Hoping to strike him with his own technique, Orochimaru fired off a higher ranked Futon, successfully shattering the fireball and sending its fragments crashing into the ground around Jiraiya.

As the flames eclipsed the rogue Sannin, waves of fire also engulfed most of the bystanders, causing a painful death for the lucky ones.

The less lucky ones were transformed into blacked, charred husks, choking to death as their burnt lungs struggled to draw breath.

Grimacing, he landed clear of any of the remains and hurled a brace of shuriken into the last location of his opponent. The sound of the weapons clanging off his target was an unwelcome, yet not entirely unexpected outcome.

As the smoke cleared away, it revealed a white mass of deadly spikes. Spikes that pulled back to revealed a slightly smoking Jiraiya. The Toad Sannin began running through a new set of seals, but Orochimaru wasn't willing to let him complete it this time.

Drawing Kusanagi, he charged in, forcing Jiraiya to abandon his hand seals to pull out a pair of kunai.

Say what you want about the man, but Jiraiya knew his swordplay. The kunai would almost never be able to block a sword, yet they could parry one. And Jiraiya had been sparring with him-Team Sarutobi's resident Kenjutsu specialist- for longer than Anko had been alive.

As Orochimaru slashed at him in a powerful, but predictable overhead swing, Jiraiya parried it with an overhead arc, his right hand coming in to stab at Orochimaru's stomach.

But this was exactly what he wanted. Flowing with the momentum of Jiraiya's parry, he swung around and slashed at Jiraiya's outstretched arm.

The Toad Sannin was able to jerk back and shift his arm enough that only his sleeve was cut. Cursing under his breath, Orochimaru reset his stance and attempted a quick stab, hoping to take advantage of the opening presented by his jerky retreat. He only needed to scratch Jiraiya a bit for the Kusanagi's poison to get into his opponents system.

To his surprise, Jiraiya suddenly reversed his momentum, impaling himself on Orochimaru's sword. His surprise turned to shock when Jiraiya went up in a burst of smoke, replaced by a terrified looking, and rapidly dying civilian. A tourist by the looks of his clothing.

Wincing, Orochimaru ruthlessly tore the blade from the poor bastard and leapt away, avoiding the Doryuudan that literally punched gaping holes in the man's body.

Hissing at the close call, Orochimaru flipped himself over and hurled his sword and a single kunai over Jiraiya's head, before flipping through the seals for a Reppushou. Jiraiya easily recognized and dodged the C rank Fuuton –it was one of the few the Toad Sage knew himself after all- by leaping into the air, where Orochimaru was waiting for him courtesy of a Kawarimi of his own.

Swinging the Kusanagi in a wide arc, Orochimaru forced Jiraiya to actually block with his kunai, which were unable to stand up to the legendary katana. He cut through them and their wielder in an instant.

Jiraiya's eyes widened in surprise, and for one, terrifying, gut wrenching moment; Orochimaru thought he had done it. His heart stopped, and his eyes widened in horror as time froze around them. For all the atrocities Jiraiya had recently committed against Konoha, he was still the closest thing to a brother he had ever had. And now, Orochimaru had just killed hi-

"Jiraiya" suddenly went up in yet another explosion of smoke, yet this time, nothing appeared in his place.

Clearing his mind and pushing his emotions to the background, Orochimaru landed on his feet and set himself in a guarded stance, waiting for Jiraiya's next move. When nothing came right away, he carefully began to scan his surroundings, searching for his former teammate. 'Where are you, Jiraiya?'

"Orochimaru!" an enraged voice bellowed from down the street. Turning, he was shocked to see a blood covered Tsunade. "Where is he! Where is Jiraiya!"

Shaking himself out of his stupor, Orochimaru turned to face her and pulsed his chakra, attempting to dispel the possible Genjutsu. When nothing happened, he barked out a question that only Tsunade could know. "Tsunade! How many cups of sake did you have at the hotel last night?"

For a moment, Tsunade looked dumbfounded, before her anger returned. "I'm not an impostor you asshole! And I couldn't have any sake in that hotel, and it's all your fault for tricking me into carrying that brat around!"

Orochimaru uncertainly lowered his sword. She talked like Tsunade, and it was true about what happened last night but… "How are you moving? There's blood all over you?" Tsunade jerked back in surprise, before glancing down at herself. Shaking his head, Orochimaru returned to scanning the surroundings. "Never mind, just be careful, Jiraiya is hiding around here somewhere."

"Right!" Tsunade nodded as she began glancing around as well, a fierce glare on her face.

For a moment the only sound was the wind…and the crackling of the flames left over by Jiraiya's jutsu. "I'm sorry." He found himself saying, much to his own surprise. Glancing at Tsunade out of the corner of his eye and seeing her do likewise, he found himself explaining. "About Shizune. If Anko and I hadn't been here with Naruto…" Orochimaru couldn't believe he was saying this –as telling an enraged Tsunade that "it's my fault" was never a good idea- but the truth was, he did feel guilty. While Shizune meant little if anything to him, to Tsunade, she was the only thing his friend had left in the world. Knowing that Jiraiya had killed her, and that Orochimaru could have prevented it any number of ways…it was more painful than he would have thought.

"She's alive."

This time he couldn't help himself. His head whipped around and stared at her in shock. "You got over your hemophobia? That's great!"

Tsunade snorted. "So it would seem. By the way, Orochimaru…" she turned her head just enough to meet his eyes. "You better hope I wear myself out on Jiraiya…otherwise I'm going to have to take my anger out on you."

The two sent feral grins at each other, and for a moment, Orochimaru was beset by nostalgia of a time when the three of them were younger and rowdier, always getting in some form of trouble or mischief. The moment ended when Tsunade suddenly frowned and asked. "Hey, Orochimaru…where are Anko and Naruto?"

And just like that, a sudden terrible understanding flooded though him and he whirled around to face her. "Shit!" Orochimaru cursed as he took off down the street in the direction Anko had fled.

Anko had long since made it to the outskirts of the town, and she had every intention to keep moving until she could find a suitable hiding place. A difficult task since her passenger just wouldn't stop crying. "Come on, Naruto." She murmured anxiously as she glanced over her shoulder for any sign of pursuit. "Please, please stop crying! I promise, if you just stop crying, I'll take you out for your first drinks as soon as you're old enough!" If anything, Naruto just started crying louder. "Okay, okay, I'll take you out for you first drinks and to your first strip club-" For a brief, shining moment, she thought Naruto was quieting down. "Once you turn sixteen." Almost immediately, Naruto's wails began climbing to an even higher volume. "All right, all right, once you make Genin!"

It was almost eerie how quickly Naruto's crying stopped once she said that. Sending him a suspicious glance, Anko muttered to herself. "I can't believe I'm negotiating with a baby."

Slowing to a brisk walk, Anko allowed herself to relax marginally and breathe just a tad easier. "Everything's going to be fine, Naruto." She reassured the infant –and herself- softly. "Orochimaru-sensei's going to beat the crap out of Jiraiya, and we're gonna go back to Konoha, and when you make Genin, you'll get to hang out with me, won't that be great?" Anko took the soft gurgling sounds Naruto made as assent, and continued her nervous murmuring, sending another glance over her shoulder as she did so. "I know some pretty good looking kunoichi who owe me some favors, so I guarantee you'll enjoy your first lap dance. Hell, maybe if you're lucky, you might get a little action from the great, Anko-sama!" She started when Naruto made a fussy sound at that. Anko was seriously starting to get creeped out by how Naruto's actions almost seemed like he was answering her. Sending him a mock glare, she continued. "Or maybe you'd prefer Tsunade herself? Don't try to deny it; all you guys ever think about are big breasts."

Inside, Anko felt like cackling madly. Here she was, running for her life from a psychotic, Kage level legend of the shinobi world, and she was carrying on a one way conversation with a baby. Definitely a one way conversation, because if she started believing that he was actually communicating back, Anko would have to check herself into the psych ward.

"Maybe the stress is getting to me just a little." Anko chuckled shakily. "What do you think Naruto?" Thankfully, this time the infant didn't respond in any noticeable way, much to her relief.

She blinked in surprise when a spray of red flew out in front of her, followed by what felt like a sledgehammer slamming into her shoulder and pitching her forward. Not for the first time that day, she barely managed to twist so she landed on her left side rather than flat on her face –and Naruto.

It was only after she hit the ground that her shoulder suddenly began screaming in agony. It hurt so much, she was sure her shoulder was literally screaming. 'Oh wait…that's me screaming…'

Feeling the flow of warm liquid running down her chest, Anko grit her teeth against the pain and looked at her shoulder. Or more specifically, the bloody mess that used to be her shoulder. She racked her mind trying to figure out where the hell that gaping hole came from. It was difficult to tell the size of the wound, what with all the blood and all, but it looked about the right size of a kunai.

'But…but I saw the blood splatter before I felt the pain…hell, before I even felt the force of the hit! The kind of power and speed you would need to put in a kunai to do that…that's…that's not human!' Anko thought in disbelief as her eyes slowly fell to Naruto. A blood covered Naruto.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God…" she moaned as her breathing started racing. Was it her blood, was it Naruto's blood? Were those cries of fear, or cries of pain? Anko tried to wipe some of the blood off Naruto, but every time she tried to move her right arm, she felt burning agony, almost to the point where she feared she'd pass out.

Forcing her head to look behind her once again, Anko could barely keep from screaming at the sight of a nonchalant Jiraiya casually approaching her.

"There you are, Anko-chan." Jiraiya greeted calmly. "I was wondering where you scampered off to."

Anko kicked weakly as she tried to prevent him from getting any closer.

"Now you're hurting my feelings, Anko-chan. I'd almost think you didn't want to be around me." Jiraiya said with a hurt expression on his face.

Anko stared up at the man who was once a revered -if perverted- hero of Konoha.

"Hmm...you certainly are maturing nicely, Anko-chan." Jiraiya continued as a familiar, yet twisted, hungry grin made its way across his face. "Perhaps I'll do you the honor of gracing you with my body? I'll even do you the favor of getting rid of your virginity. Doesn't that sound nice?"

Anko whimpered as her desperate kicking failed to keep her away from the deranged Sannin. "S-sensei is going to kill you! You'll never get Naruto!" Anko couldn't believe that she had the nerve to say that to the Sannin.

She cringed when the perverse look was wiped from his face to be replaced with a terrible look of fiery rage. "Naruto is mine! No one will keep him from me! Not Orochimaru, not Konoha, and most certainly not you!" Just like that, the look of rage disappeared with a terrifying speed, replaced by a strangely blank look. "I've changed my mind." Jiraiya said simply. "I don't think you're worthy of my company. Or of life for that matter."

Anko could only watch helplessly as Jiraiya approached until only a few feet separated them, when a new obstacle appeared.

"Tsunade-hime!" Jiraiya called happily. "It's so good to see you again. Have you come to help me take Naruto?"

Anko wanted to cry she was so happy to see the blonde Sannin and her sensei. Though the blood on Tsunade was slightly disturbing. And speaking of blood, she was starting to get a little woozy.

"I'm here to pound your bones into dust, Jiraiya!" Tsunade growled angrily. "And I'd sooner die than let you get your hands on Naruto!"

"Why?" Jiraiya asked with a hurt voice. "Why won't you help me? How could you stand in my way?"

"You mean aside from what you did in Konoha? You tried to kill Shizune!" Tsunade spat as she glared at the Toad Sage, her knuckles cracking from how hard she was clenching her fists.

"Who?" Jiraiya asked with a cocked head.

"Shizune!" Tsunade yelled in disbelief. "The girl you nearly killed in the hotel room! My apprentice!"

Jiraiya's brow furrowed in thought for a moment before brightening as if in sudden realization. "Oh, her. So what?" He asked with a shrug.

"So what?" Tsunade sputtered in a rage as she took a threatening step forward.

"So I killed your apprentice." Jiraiya said with another shrug. "I'll get you a new one."

Tsunade couldn't believe the sheer nonchalance with which Jiraiya spoke of what he did to Shizune. The Jiraiya she knew was nothing like this! What the hell had happened to him while she was gone?

"Enough." Orochimaru suddenly spoke up as he stepped forward. "Tsunade, check on Anko and Naruto. Leave Jiraiya to me."

"The hell I will!" She spat at her teammate. "When I'm through with him, you'll be scooping Jiraiya up with a shovel!"

"Please, Tsunade!" Orochimaru begged, just before throwing himself at Jiraiya, his Kusanagi leading the way.

Cursing to herself, Tsunade contemplated ignoring her old teammate's plea, until the sound of Naruto's wailing finally registered in her rage filled mind. Cursing herself this time, Tsunade quickly knelt by the shivering Anko.

Activating her diagnostic jutsu, Tsunade quickly determined the extent of Anko's injury -a single kunai hit to her shoulder, nothing she couldn't handle- which she repaired to almost pristine condition in less than a minute. Leaving the unconscious girl where she lay for the moment, Tsunade scooped Naruto up and cleaned him off with a light Suiton, before repeating the process on the blood drenched baby. She was shocked at the amount of anxiety and fear she felt when she saw Naruto covered in blood, as well as the relief she felt to find him alright. 'The little guy must have grown on me.'

A scream of rage was her only warning, and she whirled around with the child still in her arms to see a deranged Jiraiya, a Rasengan in each hand much to her disbelief. For a split second, she could only stare in horrified disbelief as Jiraiya's right handed Rasengan plunged towards her chest, seeming unaware or uncaring of the fact that Naruto was cradled there. Then the moment passed and Tsunade, feeling a great surge of rage -'How dare he try to hurt Naruto-chan!'- slapped the arm away with the still active diagnostic hand. And immedieately wished she hadn't.

The moment she touched Jiraiya with her diagnostic jutsu, she was besieged by a horrible sensation.

It was as if she suddenly found herself in a river of molten metal, an ocean of fire, all the light of the sun gathered in one spot with the sole purpose of reducing her to less than ash. Tsunade felt as if she was locked in a desperate to keep from being consumed by this…taint that she once called Jiraiya.

Tsunade hunched over and started puking up everything she'd ever eaten and trembling worse than she ever had before.

'Oh God...oh God, this...this thing wants Naruto? I can't...I can't let it have him!'

She could barely register the second Rasengan rushing towards her, let alone try to stop it.

Orochimaru leapt towards Jiraiya, his Kusanagi once again leading the way. Jiraiya jumped back in an attempt to put some distance between them, but Orochimaru wasn't having it. He kept up the pressure, preventing his former teammate from forming any hand seals and keeping him on the defensive. Unfortunately, aside from Jiraiya's inability or unwillingness to utilize Ninjutsu –he still hadn't used the Rasengan even once today- they more or less repeated their earlier stalemate.

'I need him to make a mistake…I have to goad him somehow.' Orochimaru told himself as he thought up a psychological ploy. The problem was, Jiraiya had gone through such a dramatic personality shift since the Kyuubi attack, that he could no longer be sure what would and wouldn't set the Toad Sannin off. Taking a more or less random guess, Orochimaru said, "You must realize the futility of this, Jiraiya! Even Tsunade intends to stand in your way!"

Jiraiya just smirked, a hint of his former perversion making its way through. "That's all right. I'll just kill her as well before taking Naruto." his smile stretched across his face and his eyes widened hungrily. "Maybe I'll have a taste of that apprentice of yours' that you're so fond of first? Who knows, maybe I'll even keep her around."

Orochimaru hissed in disgusted anger. Though Jiraiya had always been a pervert, peeking aside, he'd never condoned rape; even speaking of it in jest would fill the white haired man with rage. To hear him even hinting at doing something like that to Anko… 'What happened to you, Jiraiya?' There was no way such a drastic change in the man's nature had come solely from Minato's death.

He attacked angrily, slashing furiously at his opponent. He barely even felt kunai cut his leg when he over-extended, before he forced himself to calm down. He had set out to force Jiraiya to make stupid mistakes like that, and judging by the glint in his eyes, the Toad Sannin was aware of it, and had deliberately turned Orochimaru's tactic back on him.

Scowling, Orochimaru attempted to use his Shikumi no Jutsu. Hitting Jiraiya with his hallucination inducing killer intent, Orochimaru was horrified when rather than reacting the way anyone, even a Sannin themselves should have, Jiraiya actually grinned wider at the visions of his death. 'Impossible!' He thought as he suddenly found himself on the defensive. 'No one can just shrug that off without being at least a little effected!'

Locking blades with Jiraiya, he tried to goad him once again, picking topics at random. "Sensei was right to favor me over you when we were Genin! You always were too unstable to be a ninja! Konoha is better off without you! Minato would be ashamed of you! You can't take Naruto; you couldn't even protect Minato from the Kyuubi!"

He had almost given up trying to goad Jiraiya when his eyes were suddenly filled with a mad rage at that last taunt. With a mighty heave, Jiraiya shoved him back, yet instead of pressing his advantage, he started raging at him. "I will save Minato! I will turn back death itself and destroy that damn demon, and make everything the way it should be! I will undo everything, and will see the Prophecy fulfilled! And I won't let anything stand in my way!"

'Prophecy?' Orochimaru was surprised that his taunts actually worked, though he couldn't begin to make sense of Jiraiya's words. He didn't have time to either, as Jiraiya finally used the Rasengan, in both hands much to his surprise. Orochimaru set himself in a guarded stance, only for Jiraiya to turn and sprint towards a kneeling Tsunade with a roar of rage.

Tsunade whirled around at Jiraiya's approach and batted Jiraiya's first attack away with a casual ease, before suddenly seizing up and hunching over, Naruto still clutched in her arms as she began puking and trembling violently.

Orochimaru didn't know what had happened, but he did know that Jiraiya was about to strike with his second Rasengan, and Tsunade appeared to be in no condition to defend herself, let alone Naruto and Anko.

Orochimaru threw himself forward, his desperation lending him speed as he crossed the distance between himself and his teammates. Just as Jiraiya's Rasengan was about to connect, Orochimaru slashed down with his Kusanagi, severing half of Jiraiya's forearm off. As the Rasengan disapated harmlessly, Orochimaru was shocked when Jiraiya let out a roar of rage before leaping away from them.

Planting himself between Tsunade and Jiraiya, Orochimaru tossed a "Tsunade, what's wrong?" over his shoulder.

"I...I'm not sure..." Tsunade said weakly. "I've never felt anything like that before..." As she finished, she slowly placed Naruto next to Anko, before pushing herself unsteadily to her feet.

"I'll kill you!" Jiraiya screamed, seeming more angry at their interference then in pain. "I'll burn this entire nation to the ground! I'll scourge every trace of your existence from this world!" Then, to his complete shock, Jiraiya plunged his hand to the ground and shouted, "Kuchiyose!" And it worked. No handseals, no Fuuinjutsu at all that Orochimaru could see, yet the results were obvious.

Gamabunta appeared in a giant cloud of smoke.

Overcoming his shock, Orochimaru performed his own summoning, quickly followed by Tsunade.

For a brief moment, there was silence between the three boss summons and the Sannin. Jiraiya and Orochimaru glared at one another in silence, while Tsunade looked strangely hesitant.

The silence was finally broken by Manda. "So...what the hell's going on?"

"Jiraiya! Why have yo-what happened to your arm!" Gamabunta started his usual grumbling only to splutter off when he got a good look at his summoner.

"Kill them, Bunta!" Jiraiya ordered as he jabbed his remaining arm at them. "Show them no mercy!"

Gamabunta rolled his eyes back down and looked back up at his summoner in confusion. "Who?" He asked as he puffed on his pipe.

"Orochimaru and Tsunade of course!" Jiraiya shouted angrily. "Manda and Katsuya too!"

There was silence again for a moment as the great summons eyed eachother before Manda repeated, "What the hell is going on?"

"Tsunade," the calm Katsuya asked quietly. "Why haven't you healed Jiraiya's arm yet?"

Both Gamabunta and Manda turned at that, noticing that their compatriot was right. Despite beeding profusely, Tsunade hadn't made any attempt to help Jiraiya.

"Jiraiya!" Orochimaru called out. "Enough of this. Do you truly intend to force even our allies to fight eachother for the sake of your depravity?"

The three summons blinked and exchanged surprised glances before Gamabunta spoke again. "Jiraiya..." He growled up at his summoner. "You better not expect me to fight Manda and Katsuya without a damn good explanation!"

"You're right, Bunta." Jiraiya nodded with a determined look. "I shouldn't expect you to fight both of them at once." With that, Jiraiya somehow performed yet another summoning. This time when the smoke cleared, there were two small toads sitting there.

"Jiraiya-chan, what happened to your arm!" One of the two toads croaked in a relatively feminine voice.

"Ma, Pa, fuse with me quick!" Jiraiya barked before anyone else could say anything. And sadly, the two toads complied before Gamabunta -the only one who understood the two diminutive toads significance- could say anything, leaping onto Jiraiya's shoulders, their hands held in a seal and their eyes screwed shut in concentration.

Orochimaru tensed, wondering what new trick Jiraiya had come up with, only to blink in shock as the two toads began screaming as if in agonizing pain. Moments later, the two flew off Jiraiya's shoulders to land in writhing agony on Gamabunta's head. "What have you done, Jiraiya!" Gamabunta roared in rage before disappearing in a cloud of smoke, seemingly taking Jiraiya and the small toads with him.

"Orochimaru," Manda hissed when it became clear that the danger had passed. "If you don't explain what's going on, I'm going to eat you!"

"I'll explain as best I can, Manda." He promised before continuing. "But we need to get Naruto back to Konoha as soon as possible. I'll tell you what I know on the way."

Manda hissed in displeasure before nodding his head. "Very well, grab the children and let's get going."

Sighing in relief, Orochimaru jumped over to Katsuya and carefully moved Anko over to Manda before returning for Naruto. "I'm sorry for all the trouble I've caused you, Tsunade. Give me Naruto, and I'll let you and Shizune be about your business."

Orochimaru was shocked when rather then hand the miraculously asleep infant to him, Tsunade stepped back, holding Naruto even tighter to her chest. "Tsunade?" He questioned, a distant corner of his mind bleakly wondering if he was going to have to fight Tsunade as well.

"I'll carry him."

Orochimaru blinked. "Excuse me?"

Seemingly reclaiming her fiery spirit, Tsunade snorted. "What, are you deaf? I said I'll carry Naruto-chan."

'Naruto...chan?' "Uh, you do realize that Naruto needs to go back to Konoha?" He asked cautiously, half expecting to have to chase down a fleeing Tsunade to get Naruto back.

Tsunade just sent him a look that practically screamed "are you an idiot?" and said, "Of course I know that! Honestly, and people call you a genius." With that she turned to her summon. "Katsuya, can you retrieve Shizune and Tonton?"

Orochimaru sighed as he, Tsunade, and their respective apprentices walked through the village, heading straight for the Hokage tower. He never thought he'd be so relieved to be back in the village. While amusing at first, listening to Anko and Shizune and to a lesser degree, Tsunade argue and fuss over Naruto had quickly grown annoying. Especially since they kept dumping the infant's dirty diapers on him to dispose of.

It hadn't taken long for them to get back to Konoha, yet Orochimaru had noticed a change in Tsunade. Ever since she had overcome her fear of blood, she had seemed to grow stronger and more vibrant by the minute, while at the same time growing more and more attached to Naruto.

He didn't quite understand what was going on with her, but a part of him was grateful. While Anko had done her utmost to care for Naruto in his absence, she was only a Chuunin, and a young one at that. Knowing that Tsunade would be around to care for and protect Naruto put his mind at ease in a way that hadn't happened in what seemed like a lifetime.

Of course, they attracted quite a bit of attention from the villagers and shinobi. One Sannin was almost guaranteed to attract attention. Two Sannin, one of whom hadn't been seen in the village in years, attracted even more. Add in their two apprentices arguing loudly, and they were the center of attention.

Of course, not all the attention was good. Many saw Tsunade carrying a baby, and curiously tried to get closer, wondering if Tsunade had had a child in her absence. Of course once they realized just who Tsunade was carrying, the curiousity changed to confusion, and in some cases, loathing.

This was followed by fear as Tsunade started to glare at anyone who so much as twitched negatively in Naruto's direction.

Orochimaru just shook his head and led the way in silence.

They were just outside the Hokage tower when a giant cloud of smoke erupted in the village. Whirling around, Orochimaru cursed at what he saw.



Shikumi no Jutsu=Death Viewing Technique


Reppushou=Gale Wind Palm

Doryuudan=Earth Dragon Missle

AN: Like I said, I'm not really satisfied with this one. And as far as the story itself goes, I've got the situation with the toads more or less worked out in my head, and a couple of fluff scenes of Naruto's childhood, but beyond that? I've got nothing for this story. Well, maybe I'll come up with something down the road. Who knows? As always, let me know what you think and feel free to give any reviews, criticisms, etc that you may have.

Peace, Vaan.