Summary: Naruto's seal has weakened to the point where he can no longer fully contain the fox. Rather than let it loose on his home and family, he instead chooses to end his own life and dreams, and as a reward for his sacrifice, a mysterious stranger offers him a one-time opportunity: to change everything.

I do not and never will own Naruto or the things related to it. This applies to the entire story.

This work of fiction will have violence in it. It will not have sexual content. I can't guarantee all of the information in this story will be well-written, but I will do my best and constructive advice is encouraged. But if you're going to be rude or degrading, then don't bother.

It had been years after the Akatsuki had been taken down--more than a decade after Sasuke's betrayal, his teacher's death, and the destruction of his home-- and now, at the very end, after everything that had already happened, things were falling apart. Again. And there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it this time. Well, nothing that included his survival.

The seal was too weak and was failing.

He hadn't been using the Kyuubi's power or anything in years, but it no longer mattered, thanks to a little spy planted in the village long ago. How in the world the traitor been able to alter it, much less get to it in the first place, was a mystery to all the experts, and that meant...there wasn't anything that could be done to stop it.

Naruto had known this for two years. The only real answer was for him to die before It got loose and finished what It had started 24 years ago on the day of his birth. The powerful Jonin had looked at his hands and his face in the mirror that morning and realized he'd put it off for far too long.

Now, there he stood in a clearing a good distance away from Konoha, holding a kunai to his own neck. In the middle of that perfectly clear night, he couldn't help but wonder how much it would hurt. And...would he see them again? All his old friends that had...passed...before him, would they be there waiting for him? What about his parents? It was breaking his heart, knowing that he was leaving one family behind to embrace another and he felt no shame for the tears that fell down his cheeks. In a way, he was making the same decision his father had made all those years ago, except that neither of his children would be paying the price along with him. No, this time, the only casualties would be himself and the fox. How ironic. Dad, I understand now...far, far more than I ever wanted to.

But the worst part was knowing that he might not even see his father. The technique that the Fourth, and later the Third, had used was forbidden for a reason. If all it had required was a life, well, that wouldn't have been so bad. Death is scary, sure, but seriously, everyone has to eventually die, anyway. So no, that wasn't the problem. The problem was that those involved in the technique essentially ended up in a place of eternal torment. Hell, in other words. What if his father really had ended up there?

It made Naruto sick. He looked at his hands again and had to wonder if he would have been able to make that same choice. Maybe. The seal had weakened enough that it had finally affected his appearance to the point where his eyes would never be that brilliant blue again. No, they were red. And his hands would never be the normal, albeit calloused, digits his wife would hold and that would tickle his two sons till they surrendered their last piece of candy to him. Instead, his appearance was such that his hands were forever clawed, his teeth were sharp and protruding, and the marks on his face had thickened. It all made him look just as he had on that bridge 12 years ago the first time he'd ever accessed the Kyuubi's chakra. He couldn't push the transformation back any longer, no matter how hard he tried.

Now, it was sheer willpower alone that kept bay the rest of the way. Things had finally come to a head; he would rather die than put his home and family at risk like that, and since the Kyuubi would die when he died, the only option was this.

He'd left a few letters behind for his loved ones to find. They already knew the situation, but no one, not even his wife and children, had any idea of just how desperate it had gotten, so he'd left them messages to explain and tell them how much he loved them.

Ten minutes ago, he'd sent his best toad-friend with another message, telling them where to find his body if they wanted to bury him, and he couldn't put it off any longer. And just two weeks before they were going to announce me as the next Hokage... he thought, amusement and cruel irony filling his senses. Well, no use crying over spilt milk. And then, he cut, making sure that it was deep enough that even that stupid fox couldn't heal it in time and even drinking a somewhat slow but powerful poison beforehand, just to make sure.

If he could have gasped in pain, he would have. Whoever said that suicide was the coward's way out was both right and wrong. It was the worst possible way to deal with personal issues, not to mention unbearably painful. But if it meant protecting his loved ones, Naruto thought to himself as he fell to the ground in a puddle of his own blood, the world around him growing black, I'd do it a thousand times over.

The last thing he remembered seeing was a star in the sky. It was so bright that it managed to push back even the darkness of pain and death for a moment and leave itself forever imprinted in the young man's memory. least...I got to...see something...beautiful...before...

Naruto slowly opened his eyes. Where am I? he wondered. It definitely wasn't a hospital, of that much he was sure. But still, everything was white--shining, bright, even sparkling white. And yet, for some strange reason, it wasn't stark. Instead of everything being colorless and boring, this white seemed to explode color...without a spot of it anywhere. He shook his head, not even bothering to think too much on it, as it would almost certainly just give him a headache and confuse him further. He was a man of strength and wisdom, NOT intelligence. Definitely not intelligence.

Someone laughed. "Oh, you're not as dense as all that," that same Someone said in good humor.

Naruto's eyes widened considerably. For one thing, there was no one there, and for another, he hadn't spoken a single word out loud. Was this some sort of mind-reading jutsu?

He (there was no doubt of it being a male's voice) just chuckled a little at that. And no, Naruto had once again not spoken out loud. "No, it isn't, but don't worry. I mean you no harm. Actually, I'm here to give you a gift, a reward, if you will."

This time, the blonde didn't give him the chance to read his mind with that strange jutsu of his (what else could it be?). He immediately opened his mouth to ask, "Then what the heck is it? And what's this gift you're talking about? If you're thinking of hurting my village, you've got another thing coming. I'll beat you down right here and right now! As soon as I find you, that is," he finished lamely.

The chuckles turned back into laughter. Full, bellyache-inducing guffaws. Yup. Mr. Invisible was laughing at Naruto. Precious. He could already tell they would be wonderful friends in the near future. Not. He growled just thinking about it. Darn it! This guy was worse than the Uchiha!

"As I stated before," Invisi-guy continued after a few minutes, "I have no intentions of harming you. And as for you harming me, well, let's just say I'm not worried and leave it at that. You should really be wondering about that gift. It's not every day I offer something like this to a human being. In fact," the being continued, "it has never been offered before at all." Naruto felt What's-His-Face's breath tickle the back of his neck with that last statement, making a shiver crawl up his spine.

He spun around to face the other man, expecting someone powerful-looking with a deadly aura about him. What he saw was...almost disappointing to the point that it was shocking. A plain-looking man stood before him. His ordinary brown hair, brown eyes, and kind smile were anything but threatening in appearance. In fact, he wasn't even any taller than Naruto himself. Actually, he was at least two inches shorter, if not more. But what struck him most was Mr. Mystery's other attributes. He was heavily scarred, and from what the blonde could tell from the robes he wore, the scars covered his entire body. And he couldn't have been any older than 35. What in the world...?

"Don't worry about my appearance. I once had to make a choice very similar to yours: My life or the souls of countless others. This is the result of it." There was no arrogance in his attitude, and there was also no sorrow or sadness. He'd said it so simply that there was no doubt he didn't regret it one bit. Naruto's respect for the guy rose quite a few notches at that.

"Well, what's your name, at least? I can't go on calling you nicknames, now can I?" the younger man reasoned.

As expected, the other guy just smiled. "For the moment, you have no need to know a certain one of my names. You'll learn it in time, though, no doubt. But if you wish, you may call me Ayu. And your gift is a reward for choosing others over yourself and your dreams. It is a chance--a one-time offer--to change everything. Whether for better or worse, it is your decision. But it will be hard, very hard, since you will no longer have a demon to help you with your injuries or exhaustion. All of this must be without that kind of help. Do you understand?" Ayu fixed Naruto with the most stern eyes he'd ever seen (and would probably ever see, for that matter).

His own blue eyes closed for a moment, taking some time to digest everything and think about the offer. First of all, he still technically had no idea who this "dude" was (what kind of guy names himself "Walk"?), and second of all, the gift itself was questionable. What did he mean by "change everything"? Of course, there was no need to voice his concerns out loud, much to Naruto's annoyance.

"If you were ready to hear my other name, I would have told you it. But as for it not being mine, I have many names and this is one I have chosen to show you. And if you accept my gift, I will send you back in time." Now, instead of closing, Naruto's eyes snapped open in shock. Who was this guy that he could just so casually (well, maybe not that casually) offer to stop the clock and turn back the hands of time itself? Just how powerful was he, anyway!? Suddenly, for the first time in a very long time, his hands shook in..fear?...respect? He didn't know, but he could no longer meet the brunette's eyes.

"Naruto, do you accept?" There was a kind smile on Ayu's face as he waited for his response.

What could he say? "Lord Ayu, if it is a gift from you, then I accept with humble gratitude." If there's one thing he'd learned over the years, it was to show respect to those in positions of authority, and Naruto had no doubts that a guy who could control time itself had to have a lot of it.

Ayu's smile brightened so much that even the sparkling white around them seemed dull by comparison. At least it wasn't the grin that Rock Lee liked to blind people with. That would have been too much. Death, resurrection, time travel, and a Gai-grin all in one day? Naruto didn't know if he'd be able to take it. Wait a minute. Death? "Hey," he began, "wasn't I--" He never had a chance to finish as the area around them started fading, the brunette's smile the last thing he saw before he blacked out, just like that star.

If you like it, let me know. If you don't like, let me know why. This is sort of a trial thing.

I'll finish the story, more than likely, whether anyone likes it or not, but that doesn't mean that I'll publish the rest of it here...