I can't protect you without a sword.

I can't hold you with a sword.

-???

--

"Teme." Hanabi muttered as she wrapped the thick sheets of her bed ever tighter about herself. "How dare he call me flat! I'm a late bloomer, that's all! A late bloomer!" She remained silent for a moment longer, before burying her head further into her cocoon of cotton. "How dare he...

She didn't like Naruto, but she couldn't say she hated him, either. Not after what he'd just told her, not after he'd actually displayed a hint of humanity under that perverted nature of his. That little speech he had given her was something else to mull over as well.

'But...isn't that such a boring way to live?'

Live. The term was alien to her. If being alive counted as living, then perhaps Hanabi had been doing that all along. But no, Naruto hadn't meant live, in the literal sense of the word. He'd meant live, to More or less, THAT had lit a fire under Hanabiy Hyuuga. She did NOT want to die of old age. If she could choose, she'd rather die doing what she loved. Fighting to her last breath, until her body gave out. Nothing else. Nothing.

Finally, sleep took her.

But this would not be another dreamless night.

This...

Was different.

--

She had the dream again. She knew it was a dream, because she'd had it every single night since her fifteenth birthday. Three hundred and sicty five nights of the same scene, over and over, and over again. You'd know a dream like that if you always saw it whenever you closed your eyes. She knew it very, very well.

So this was how Hanabi knew she was dreaming:

She was running. The dew soaked grass was soft and moist between her toes. She'd had this dream before, but this time, the calm she felt was replaced with a strong surge of excitement. She had to be somewhere. There was someone she had to meet. She couldn't remember either, but a wild sense of urgency was driving her forward, and she was helpless to resist it.

Stone walls lined either side of her. She could see only a hazy darkness above, but her sense of time told her that it would soon be morning. She continued her headlong sprint, her eyes never once leaving the thin pinprick of light that stretched itself out before her.

The valley spread itself wide suddenly, the light blinding her, forcing the young Hyuuga to skid to a stop. She usually woke up at this point, but this time, the harsh luminance faded, replaced by a softer, more ephermal glow.

What lay before her now, was a forest, not unlike that of the Forest of Death. The only difference being that the sounds of animals did not resonate from within the trees, and she only felt a pleasant sense of warmth from the surrounding foliage. Unbidden, she gave a small sigh.

This was a peaceful place. She knew it.

"Welcome." A warm, pleasant voiced carried across the clearing. "My dear." There were two shadows in the clearing now. One was hers, and the other, a shadow that seemed to stretched and twist as if it were alive.

Naruto? She blinked a few times, unable to make out else much in the dark.

He turned towards her, the startling white of his grin a flash in the darkness. His clothes were different. He wore an all black coat, the hood coming up to hide slick blackof blond hair, which would have matched the cold cape now strewn across his shoulders. Hazel eyes seemed to gleam in the murky gloom, from a pale face.

This...wasn't Naruto.

"W-Who are you?!"

The man smiled.

"So you've arrived, my dear *******."

Hanabi blinked.

"What...what was that?"

"Kukuku," The man tittered to himself softly, his unusual eyes taking all of her in at a glance. "So he hasn't told you it yet, hmm? That certainly is in the nature of my disciple. I wonder if he knows that I still walk this earth after the last millenia..."

Millenia. Hanabi stiffened at that, her knees knocking together in fright.

"N-No way! Y-You're another one?! An...immortal?!"

"Quite right, my dear." The man smiled them, exposing pearly white teeth. "Are there any more questions you would like to ask me?"

At that, a bit of Hanabi's pride returned.

"Yeah, who the hell are you, and who do you think you are, messing up my dreams like this?! Whaddya want with me?"

Before he could reply, there was a dull crackle in the dim sky, remiscent of thunder. The man sighed, and made an exageratted motion of tossing a strand of hair behind his back, just as another peal of crashing explosions filled the air.

"Hmph." It would seem that I have been found out." He sighed, softly, then his gaze held Hanabi's again. "My name... is Orochimaru. Remember that name, my dear. You'll be hearing it again, very soon. As for what I want? Why...I want those lovely eyes of yours, of course."

"!!"

With a wreathing hiss, he was gone.

"Hanabi." Naruto's voice boomed and crackled like the heavens.

Startled, she whirled to find that he had appeared behind her. He was clad in a silver garment, with a hood hiding his face. Blue eyes sparked angrily down at her, "*******, you don't have time to waste." Urgency filled his voice now. "They're waiting for you. They've been waiting for a very long time." A ghost of a smile now. "But. if you want to get to them, then you'll have to get past me."

Hanabi hadn't heard the last part that time either. She'd seen his lips move, but her ears refused to pick up the sound, and her flawless ability to lip read had suddenly deserted her when needed most. She found herself wanting to ask him something, but Naruto held up a hand for silence.

"Calm yourself. This is merely a dream after all, isn't it?"

"Oi! How did you-

"Come." He beckoned, turning back towards the forest. "We must be off." Without another word, he was off, scaling the nearby trunk of a mighty oak as easily as a squirrel would. He paused at the topmost branch, seemed almost to teeter amongst the branches, laughed, and was off again.

"Come! Catch me if you can!"

By the time Hanabi had reached his original position, Naruto was already twenty yards ahead. She set off in pursuit, her curiosity forgotten in the adrenaline-fuelled excitement of the chase. Then she saw Naruto take an almighty leap across a pitch-black void, to land lightly on the slick surface of a branch slightly below the one she had just jumped from.

"Jump!" He called out to her. "You'll make it!"

He ran a little way farther, and waited. Hanabi felt a glimmer of fear as the chasm of the ravine eight stories below loomed before her, but she knew she would rather die than hesitate in front of Naruto, and so, summoning up her courage, she took a massive leap of faith, seeing, as she soared across, the inky blackness far below her feet as they flailed in the air.

Hanabi closed her eyes and screamed, a wild, soulful yell that seemed to echo across the early morning sky. It wasn't one of fear, though it certainly could be mistaken as such. She opened her eyes again and dared herself to look forward.

For a split second, she wondered if she had judged it right, as the branch seemed to rise up to meet her, but then, somehow, it sank below her, and she was on the branch, sprawling slightly, but still on her feet, and elated, though breathing hard.

"I...I made it." She gasped, more to herself than the imposing blond that stood over her.

Laughter filled the air around her.

It was Naruto.

"You still have much to learn." He taunted, setting off again, a darting shadow amongst the branches under the scattering of tree-tops. Hanabi stared after him for a moment, then hurled herself forward, all sense of exhaustion lost in the wildness of the moment. Other abysses yawned beneath her now, some defining mere centimeters, others broad yards that threatened to plunge her into darkness at any moment.

Another jump awaited her, and she forced any thought of the consequences of failure out of her mind. As such, Hanabi realized too late that she hadn't prepared herself for the jump. This trench stretched for miles upon miles across, ending in a stone cliff, where the entire forest gave way.

She had leapt into nothingess.

And impossibly, Naruto awaited her on the other side of that. It was too late to slow down, her feet had already left the edge. For two seconds, for just the briefest of moments, gravity and momentum were one. Hanabi flew across the abyss, the wind furiously wiping through her hair...

And then she began to fall.

She couldn't make it! There was no possible way she could clear it! She was going to fall! She'd crash! She'd-

With a sharp popping sound, her momentum was arrested. She jerked her gaze skyward, to find that Naruto was gripping her hand and wrist tightly, having stopped her free fall. She hung their, her feet unable to find a grip upon the slick walls, unable to create a chakra flow to support herself.

"Pull me up!" Hanabi cried, expecting him to do so at once. Therefore, cold, icy shock drenched her when the blond shook his head and began to loosen his hold on her wrist and hand. With moments, Hanabi was right back to where she had started, dangling between life and death.

"Pull me up!" She snarled, trying to reach her other arm up to grab his, only to find that it was just out of reach.

"I'm going to let you go now." Naruto warned, amidst her protests. "And you...are going to fall."

"Don't you dare! Don't you fuckin' DARE!"

"If you don't want to fall...then fly." Naruto whispered, unflinching as she continued to slip. "If you don't then...

With a startling gasp, her hand slipped from Naruto's grasp. Hanabi hung there for a moment, defying gravity in the shock of his apparent betrayal. Then, gravity decided to reclaim its hold on her once again. With a wordless scream, Hanabi tumbled into the blackness below, Naruto's word's falling after her, leaving her to wonder what he had meant. She didn't have long to ponder it, as the rocks rushed up to greet her.

"FLY!"

--

With a startled cry, Hanabi found herself rudley jerked back to the world of the waking. Her eyes were heavy, and her entire body was filled with a deep seated ache, permeating her every pore, especially her ragged throat. It felt as if she had actually been running, jumping, screaming.

For real.

With a groan, she swung her legs over the bed. She shuffled to the bathrrom, and blearily fumbled for the lights. Water in the face, and a hot shower proved to be a soothing remedy to the pain. It was only then as she emerged from the shower, wrapped in a soft white towel, that Hanabi saw the note, tapped to the mirror.

Your appointment with the Hokage is at six A. M. sharp. He requests that you bring the proper attire.

Tardiness will not be accepted.

~Hiashi.

Hanabi stole a glance at the clock.

It was already eight.

"Father....

Even though she wasn't entirely awake yet, Hanabi began to swear.

---

He was waiting for her outside the Hyuuga compound.

"Sleep well?"

"Bite me."

"Haven't we been over this before?" Even at six in the morning, Naruto could smile and make it look natural. However, he was not without injury, despite his pleasant demeanor. His right cheek bore a gauze patch, something that surprised Hanabi. It was the spot where she'd clobbered him last night.

"You hit quite hard," Naruto replied to the unseen question. He fingered the gauzed and winced. "For one your age."

"Served you right, Ecchi."

"Ecchi?" Naruto pouted. "You wound me. I was just being honest, is all."

Hanabi growled at him. She'd discarded last night's kimono in favor of a white jumper and baggy pants, as she had been asked to wear clothing that would not restrict her movements. Naruto had also discarded his formal attire, but at the same time, kept the Hokage coat wrapped about him, as if to ward off the morning chill, and preventing her from seeing the rest of his attire. Even so, she was absolutely freezing right now.

Naruto shivered as well, a puff of steam escaping his lips.

It seemed that even Konoha's great Hokage-sama was not immune to the cold.

"Here."

That same coat, suddenly draped itself over her shivering shoulders. Hanabi turned a deep scarlet, but made no effort to refuse the proffered coat. It was many sizes too big for her, but at the same time, it was more than enough to keep her warm inside, and the biting gales outside.

"Thanks." She muttered, secretly grateful for it and that no one was out and about at this hour. It would certainly be compromising if someone were to happen upon them now, what with her wearing his coat as if it were an oversized blanket.

She felt terribly inclined to tell Naruto about the dream. But at the same time, something stopped her. He was talking, but she didn't quite hear him. Training grounds, or something. They walked in silence for another moment, and Hanabi's mind wandered. Why did he want to take her to one of the training grounds? Was he trying to sneak another peak?

But they were not alone. Naruto stiffened suddenly, his eyes widening inexplicably as the sound of footsteps pricked his ears.

"Who...is that?"

The woman of choice as the only other out and about, aside from them. She had just exited her house, her green eyes sharp and alert. That, and the flak jacket she wore, indicated that she was a jonin, one who wa slikely about to embark on a mission.

"Interesting." Naruto glanced down at his now trembling arm. "It seems that this body wants to tear that woman over there....into little pieces."

Hanabi followed his gaze and balked. The woman, to whom Naruto was referring, was...was...

"Y-You can't be serious!"

"I am." Naruto answered coldly. "She's the one who rammed the kunai through Naruto's, the original Naruto's, throat. She was the one who started the events that ultimately led to his demise. It's only natural that this body desire her death."

"But...just killing someone out of the blue?" Hanabi didn't like the look in Naruto's eyes. It was stone cold, lacking any sort of the warmth it had possessed five minutes ago. "You can't do that! She used to be my sensei! She's a good person!"

"Good deeds do not make one good." Naruto retorted. "The sin of his death is still on her soul."

"What, you can see souls, too?"

"Among other things, yes." Naruto replied steadily.

He'd do it. She realized. If she let Naruto be, he really would kill Sakura-sensei.

"B-But you can't...

"I don't want to kill her. At least not of my own volition." Naruto assured, though his eyes reflected the strain. "I'm inhabiting this body by choice, not necessity. It isn't my own to control as I please. And as a result, I'm having...quite a difficult time reigning myself in at the moment."

"Well, control yourself better!" Hanabi hissed. "She's coming this way! Ohayo, sensei!"

"Ohayo, Hanabi-chan!" She smiled at her former student. "You look well! And-oh! What's Hokage-sama doing out at this hour?"

"Hanabi-san and I were just discussing a matter in regards to her clan." Naruto replied with an air of mysticism that suggested he knew more than he was letting on. "I can see why you took her as your student, Sakura. She's quite the lively one, isn't she?"

Sakura smile warmly.

"That may be true, but I'm very proud of her, Hokage-sama."

"I'm sure you are." There wasn't a hint of venom to be found in his voice, but oh, his eyes, you could see it in his eyes.

Then Sakura blinked.

"Pardon me, Hokage-sama, I know this is going to sound horribly rude, but...have we met before? It's just, well, you...you look alot like someone I used to know. Come to think of it, you have the same name as him, and you look just like him. And you knew my name even though I've never given it to you."

Blue eyes glinted devilishly. He'd thought up a lie, just in case such a situation ever arose. And this little lie would allow him otherwise indulge in a certain pleasure he'd been restricting himself from as of late....

Torment.

"Might you be refering to my deceased nephew, Naruto Namikaze?"

"E-Excuse me?" Sakura started a bit at this. All the color drained out of her once flushed skin. It was as if she had been caught in the very act of stabbing the poor boy while he was asleep, all those years ago. "Y-Y-You knew Naruto?"

"Well of course I knew him." Naruto allowed a touch of pride to enter his voice. "He was originally named after me."

"H-He was?"

"I'm something of a long lost uncle, I suppose." Naruto answered with a light hearted shrug, though his darkening tone seemed to indicate that he was about to reveal something ominous. "I'm his mother's brother. And...I'm very displeased with your actions in his regard, Miss Haruno."

"C-Come again?"

"You killed him, didn't you?" His intimidating stare bored into her like a drill. "I believe it was with a knife, in the hospital bed, around the time of midmorning, for reasons that you stillhave yet to explain, Sakura Haruno. Care to do so?"

Sakura tried to say something, but only gasped. She couldn't bring herself to meet his gaze, not now. He'd read her like a book, down to the very last page. How he could dissect her so calmly was both eerie and horrifying, at the same time. And it had all happened so fast, she was reeling.

"I..erm...um...

"Thankfully," Naruto's words caused Sakura to glance up. "I am a merciful man. I will not have you flogged in front of the public, nor will I strip you of your shinobi rank. However, as punishment for killing my darling nephew, I will assign to you, the most dangerous missions we have to offer."

"W-Wha?!"

"For the next year." Naruto smiled pleasantly, demeanor strongly matching that of a certain copycat. "By the way, congratulations on your recent promotion to ANBU. I truly, truly hope you've enjoyed all that this world has to offer. Chances are, you won't be seeing much of it anymore."

Hanabi watched the scene unfolding before her eyes with a well practiced air of distaste and disdain. She was very, very good at appearing to be bored, when in reality she was hanging on every word. As she was now. How Naruto had suddenly changed was beyond her. His smile didn't have the slightest trace of goodwill, and his eyes were furious cerulean slits.

Still, he was going out of his way not to touch Sakura-sensei. Even when Sakura-sensei hung her head, muttered an affirmative and slumped off towards her new assignment for the rest of the year.

As soon as Sakura was out of sight, Naruto spat upon the ground and uttered a foul curse. "Forgiveness is earned, not given, woman. Be grateful I resisted the temptation to kill you on the spot."

"That...was cold." Hanabi answered at last. Sakura-sensei's reaction had been spot on, just as he said it would be. The thought of her warm, loving teacher having once hardheartedly killed someone....

It was enough to make her shudder.

"She deserved far worse."

"Still....

"Well then," Naruto smiled again, as if all was right with the world once more. "What's done is done. Let's be off, shall we?"

Hanabi scowled. She didn't want to be near this guy right now. She stalked ahead, anxious to put some distance between them. As such, Hanabi wasn't looking where she was walking. Upon rounding the corner, her head still down, she didn't see them coming until the very last second, and by then, it was far too late.

"Watch where the hell you're going, shorty!"

"Uwah!" She cried, falling back on her butt.

"Dobe?!"

This woman was one Hanabi made all efforts to avoid. Not only did she have a reputation for being extremely bloodthirsty, and damn near psychotically violent, she also had a habit of smashing whoever and whatever came her way. The fact that her anbu nickname was 'Terror of Death' certainly didn't improve her image much.

But now, it was a different look this woman wore.

The woman, still continued to stare at Naruto, her ice blue eyes wider than saucers. There was the faintest hint of a tear threatening to fall, her hands still balling defiantly into fists, as if she couldn't decide whether to rejoice or scream.

"Can I help you?" Naruto's tone was still frosty, but there was just a tinge of surprise now. He clearly hadn't been expecting to run into this person, the one whom the original Naruto remembered and felt for so strongly, right up until his untimely demise. The one the old Naruto STILL cared for.

Of course, she was still herself, but over the years, her hair had grown; it reached down to her knees and was very straight. Now she hadquite a sizeable breast size, her legs were long and smooth; she had a thin waist but strong hips. Her bum looked so much bigger now, before she had small butt and very flat chested...

Not so now.

She had put her hair up in high ponytail again though, her bangs were framing a morefeminine face. Her eyes reflected pools of ice, ice that was now melting faster than ice cubes under the hot summer sun. She was walking towards him now, at an easy, yet hurried pace.

Strike! A small part of him grinned pervertedly. What...a....woman!

"You...you're Naruto, aren't you?" She asked.

Naruto remained silent for a moment longer, waiting until she was only three feet away. He'd best watch his step here. Think with his head, not his...something else. She stopped for a moment, staring him down, her very soul demanding an answer from the egnimatic kage.

"Please," The kunoichi begged, louder this time. "Answer me!"

"Yes, woman." Naruto relented at last, his expression flinty as her eyes promptly welled up with tears. "That is the name that I go by at the momen-mmph." He suddenly found his words cut off by something wet and moist. Hanabi lost all composure and openly gaped at the sight that lay before her virgin eyes. The blond kunoichi had crossed the distance between them in an instant.

Naruto wore a look of surprise, but couldn't speak, due to the...situation.

"O-Oi...." Hanabi, thought to herself. "Why is...Ino-sensei....

Ino Yamanaka had just kissed Naruto Uzumaki.

"NANI?!"

Hoped ya'll loved the D. Gray Man reference there at the end. Reviews make me happy, reviews make me update even faster. So won't you please give me them?

~Nz