One Hundred and One Lifetimes
By Fresh C
The various machines surrounding Naruto's bed made him feel caged in and crowded. His arm was itchy from the IV and he was always one to scratch. Even though the hospital was uncomfortable, he'd grown accustomed to long rest in bed. It didn't take a medical genius to tell that he was dying and yet he had three of them at his beck and call.
He'd told Sakura plenty of times that it was a waste of their talents. He didn't need such highly trained medical nin to fluff his pillow while there were other ninja with long futures ahead of them to be looked after. Yet Sakura insisted that she and her apprentices attend to him and in the end he finally relented. Hinata later voiced the opinion that it was more for Sakura's comfort than it was for his own.
Naruto was touched by her concern. After all these years, there was still a part of him that imagined what it would have been like to marry Sakura. He looked upon that possible life with curiosity, not longing. He'd like to think that they would have been a decent match, but there was nothing to be gained by fantasizing about it. Things worked out the way they did and he was happy with that. Hinata made him comfortable in a way that no one else ever had.
Even now she sat by his side lightly stroking his hand.
"Hinata," he said, his voice low yet deliberate. He had to speak slowly to prevent a coughing fit.
"What is it?" asked Hinata. She stared at him with her white unblinking eyes. He loved how in any situation, he always had her attention.
"I have something I need to tell you…"
Hinata was silent.
"I should have told you a long time ago but-"
"Don't," she said quietly. Her expression was serious and pleading.
"A jounin does not give orders to the Hokage," said Naruto feigning seriousness before favoring her with a smile. Hinata did not return it.
"You don't have to say it," she said. "I've always known."
"Of course." Naruto closed his eyes and nodded. "Your whole family must have known. I'm sure Sakura does as well. Maybe even the children."
"Jiraya asked me about it once…"
"What did you tell him?"
Hinata smiled. "That you are his father. He was content with that."
"I was a lucky man," said Naruto. He meant it completely.
"You still are. We all love you."
"And I love you too. I lived a long life and I have little regrets."
For a while they were silent. Naruto cast his gaze out the window. The sun was shining brightly.
"I think I'm the last one," said Naruto. Hinata gave his hand a squeeze.
"How many of you were there?"
"Exactly one hundred. One hundred and one if you count the original."
"Are they all dead now?" asked Hinata. She spoke so softly it was hard for him to hear her.
"I think so but I lost count. I never cared much for the others until I got older. The last time one died was years ago. I think it's only me and the real one now."
"You're all real," she said with such determination that it caused Naruto's eyebrows to rise. But after a moment or two his mouth returned to a smile.
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to offend you."
"It's fine," Hinata mumbled. She continued to hold his hand, but made a point of looking away from him. Years of experience told him she was angry. Those same experiences told him that she would never say it aloud. He decided to change the direction of the conversation.
"When I think about their lives it makes me feel so proud. The things that they accomplished, the people that they met, it's all so great and wonderful. And though I don't approve of everything they've done, I feel like they all lived lives that mattered. I look back on their memories like an old photo album and it makes me smile. When I die, I hope he looks back at my life and feels the same way."
Hinata squeezed his hand again and smiled.
"I can't hear the fox anymore." Hinata stiffened beside him. "It won't be long now, no matter what Sakura says."
Tears began to well in Hinata's eyes. "Please don't say anymore."
"Will you look after Sakura? She's taking it hard, but I know she'll be okay if you're there for her."
"Of course I will."
"And I don't have to ask you about the kids."
"You know they'll be fine. They're tough… like their father."
Naruto chuckled. "And their mother too."
They looked at each other intently. This could be the last time they shared a moment such as this.
"I do have one request though," said Naruto in a gravely serious voice.
"Don't let them bury me with that big old silly hat." The old couple shared their last laugh.
Of course, Naruto wouldn't be buried with his hat. He wouldn't be buried at all. When the life readings on the hospital monitor went flat there was nothing left of Naruto besides a resounding 'poof' and a cloud of smoke.
The original Naruto would look back on this fondly. It was one of the better lives he'd lived.
Naruto had an idea.
Usually such a thing was met with hesitance and fear, but in this situation all parties involved agreed. Given the circumstances, it was clearly the best option. He was a hunted man and no amount of hiding would change that. Wherever he went and however he lived, word of his existence would reach the ears of his enemies. Akatsuki would eventually find him and with his current level of power even their weakest member would certainly kill him. And so he devised a plan.
100 clones, each one an identical copy, set out into the world at large traveling toward every corner of the globe. Each clone left with 5 kunai in their weapon pouches, 2 dollars in their wallet, and enough chakra to create 20 more clones if the need should arise. Their missions varied widely, but they all shared one unified goal: survival by any means necessary.
These are their stories.
AN: As you might have guessed this story would ideally be a series of 101 one-shot stories based on the lives of the clones. But I doubt I'll create anywhere near that many chapters. (You'll be lucky to get 5). However, I do have the first full chapter written and will be editing and posting it soon. I also have plans to allow other people to join in on this project and create a chapter or two of the story if they'd like (details will be provided in later chapters). So if you've got any good ideas concerning this premise, write'em up and let me know about it. Even if you don't want to post them here, I'd still like to read it. Expect part 1 of 3 of the first chapter within a weeks time or less.
Hope you enjoyed this.