A/N: Well, its official! I'm back into Bioshock Infinite! Just replayed the game today, and once again the ending was a total mindfuck but then again, I can still apprecaite the effort. I just wish the new Burial at Sea DLC would hurry up and come out! Anywho, I've been on an updating spree as of late, when I realized I had been neglecting one of my finest fics! Dark of the Moon, Die Another Day, and Shinobi Menace aside, I'd forgotten all about this one! And on that note...

...hope you enjoy it! Sorry if its short, but its finally here at last! AND HAPPY THANKSGIVING TO YA'LL!

"Dance with me!"

~?

Reunion

The Songbird was a creature of flesh and metal. Both man and machine.

Nothing less, and nothing more.

It did not feel emotions in the sense as humans did, the bloated organ that passed for its heart only knew three. Peace. Wariness. Anger. It did not experience pain as most normal humans did; such a thing was all but irrelevant to this creature of metal and flesh.

Whatever it had once been -if had been anything before this- those memories were long since lost to it. Now, it was simply the Songbird. Only one purpose could motivate it to action-pursue it, drive it. Elizabeth. Its task, nay, its very duty was to protect her. Safeguard her. Keep her in the tower, safe from any and all harm. It was content here, within this wretched existence, so long as the girl was safe. It knew not what caused it to become so dutiful, so fierce in its protection, only that its very being hinged on her continued existence. It cared for the girl and so it would keep her safe. Always.

That was not just its task, but its very duty.

And today, it had failed in its duty. The man had taken his ward away, away from her room, away from the tower. Elizabeth. It longed to go to her, to return its angel to her roost. It would find this man. Crush him. Kill him. But later. In order to do that, first Songbird had to get past-or through-the young one barring its path. He had stayed behind while the thief fled with Elizabeth; his countenance unflinching when the door slammed in his face, when presented by its massive bulk. It was as if he felt no fear; as though he delighted in wrenching its ward away from her roost.

This angered the Songbird.

He stood there before him now, tall and uanfraid, his whiskered cheeks quirking in the slightest of smiles. He was grinning, chuckling despite his imminent demise. Yes, there was something strange about this one. He'd not screamed in terror or fear at the sight of it as most did, if anything he seemed...amused? His mirth might've worried the Songbird, had it not been so hellbent on reclaiming Elizabeth. As things stood, he was merely one more obstacle in its path, one more enemy to kill.

"You know," the blonde mused aloud, "I'm almost glad they left me behind. Now I can tear you to pieces without scaring Lizzy." Lizzy. A nickname, an acronym to shorten or disguise she of whom he spoke. But the bird knew of whom he spoke, and its great glowing eyes pulsated an angry red. The young one...spoke of Elizabeth? For all the monster it might've become, Songbird could still understand the human language and the word that had just left the young one's mouth incensed it to no end.

Elizabeth.

Something about the way the young one said her name sent its three emotions into a frenzy. Abandoning all attempts at intimidation, the metal monstrosity struck with a screech!

Its massive fist shot forward with alarming speed, clawed fingers ploughed into the blond, pulverizing every bony in his body to fine powder. At least...that was what the Songbiard had intended for him. Instead it found its fist caught, a single knuckle snared within the palm of his hand. The young one slid backward from the force of intercepting the blow, shoes digging angrily against the floor as his body absorbed, then dissipiated this excess momentum around him, pushing it aside as effortlessly as a bould would water, flowing harmlessly around him and to the side.

Books flew forth their shelves, flying free from the sudden strike to buffet the blond and bird in a whirlwind of literature. Yet still the former held his ground. Shrieking in confusion, Songbird struck out with its remaining arm, only to have the young one intercept and stop this blow as well.

"Ouch." The young one laughed at its failed attempt to take his head, his pupils dilating as increased adrenaline began to pump through his system, his visible eye crimson. Bright, with bloodlust. His teeth gleamed with a wolfish light in the shadow of his ragged locks, his lips parting for an almost amused sigh as he held the bird back through sheer strength alone. And then, to the bird's horror, he started forward. Slowly at first, within a step here, gaining an inch there. Slow. Inexorable. And although the guardian of the tower did struggle and strain against him, in the end, it was all for naught.

The young one was stronger.

Disbelieving, the Songbird beat at him with its wings, shattering the reinforced glass of the viewport and summoning up a sinister storm, seeking to throw him from the room. When that did naught, it hammered at him with its head, trying to skewer him on its great beak, succeeding only in forcing the blond to release it and step away. Its relief was momentary however, as scarce had it escaped the clutches of the young one than the blond pounced, roaring like a lion, swinging like a demented boxer.

The next few minutes felt like hours to the Songbird.

They raged back and forth across the room like a force of nature, laying waste the tower around them with their own private war. Boy versus bird. Man against machine. Time and time again the Songbird thought it had him; time and time again the boy proved it wrong, either by slipping out of its grasp or simply dancing away. Whenever it tried to flee, whenever it sought to pursue Booker and Elizabeth, the shinobi would drag it down-that supernatural strength and thrust it into combat once more, focrcing the great goliath to continue this futile struggle. As though the young one were toying with it.

He weathered all of its attacks with a practiced ease, those that were inflicted healed almost instantly. And still there battle continued, laying waste to the great Monument Tower with each room that they destroyed, an unholy force of destruction that knew no pause nor cessation; one that would only end when the other was dead.

At one point the Songbird managed to break away. It nearly had them-nearly had the girl within its grasp, only for the warrior to drop an elevator on its head. An elevator of all things! With that they were sent plunging back into the tower once more, forced to return to the great library where their struggle had first begun. Its wounds added up shortly afterward; a loss of an arm-followed by a chip of the beak-its right eye now cracked and all but useless to it. And still the young one-Naruto-tore it apart piece by painful piece.

Wrong.

This couldn't be happening.

Wrong.

This shouldn't be happening.

Wrong.

Its primitive mind began to label the young one with that one word. The young was wrong, in every sense of the word. And the Songbird had learned this too little, too late. Now it would pay the ultimate price for trying to stand between him and what he sought, it realized with a sudden flash of epiphany, possibly from its mortal days. The insight was there one moment and gone the next, replaced only by a terrible numbness when its left wing dissappeared, torn to oily tatters by a flicked of the blonde's wrist; a harrowing crack of bone and metal signalled the end of its opposite wing as well.

Wrongwrongwrongwrongwrong...

Deprived of any and all means of escape, the brutal bird began to chitter softly, a terrible realization seizing hold of its addled mind.

It was going to die.

"That's right, my friend." Naruto tittered softly, as though reading the birdman's innermost thoughts. "Let me ask you...does a machine like yourself ever experience fear?" Scarce had he spoken than his body burst into golden greatnees, the likeness of a giant kitsune erupting upward from within, fililing the room with its translucent girth. Its transparent form towered over the Songbird as though it were the merest of specks, eclipsing it in a shimmering shroud of the purest light. The blond stood within this great beast, whole and human, his slitted crimson eyes surveying all beneath him with a cold disparity as chilling as it were frightening.

At the sight the Songbird felt its blood, or what amounted to blood, quiver momentarily. Indeed there was something off about this one. Something...more than wrong. Unnatural. Yes, that was the word. The young one shone like a second sun. Impossible to stare at overlong. But it was more than that. For the first time in its many years of existence, the bird actuallly felt-

"It seems I was right after all." Naruto mused, ending tose hthoughts with a powerful swat of the paw. "A machine can feel fear."

That massive maw creaked open, and the Songbird, pinned beneath that mighty limb, was powerless to do anything about it.

"Rest in pieces, birdbrain."

It was in that instant, as those great jaws closed around it, as the tower came down around them, as the rending of flesh and metal filled its ears, that the great goliath realized something.

A machine could indeed feel fear.


Elizabeth wasn't entirely sure when the tower fell; she knew only why. Booker had ushered her through the tower, but even so, she'd caught fleeting glimpse of Naruto's battle with Songbird. Her childhood friend looked to have the upper hand for the duration of their shortlived fight from what she saw, even dropping an elevator upon her protector as he strove to keep it from catching up to them. But now she couldn't see him at all. A terrible pit formed in the center of her stomach, threatening to sap the very stregnth from her legs even as she ran.

What if he was dead?

The thought nearly caused her to stumble, were it not for Booker, she might have fallen. Even so the thought stayed with her, haunting her every step, refusing to allow her a moments peace. If he was truly dead, then all these feeilings were for naught. She hadn't forgotten him, not once since they were children, dreamed of him, prayed that she might somehow see him again. Just one more time. Just a once. For those prayers to be answered, only to be dashed mere moments after seeing him again...

Her heart couldn't bear the thought of it.

A horrendous screeching sound arose from below, the sound of metal being ripped from metal. Elizabeth slowed, suddenly torn between fight and flight. She could help him! If she could open a tear then maybe-

Booker Dewitt was suddenly there, his large hand encompassing her wrist before she could take another step.

"Let me go!"

"Don't worry about him," the former Pinkerton soothed. "I don't know about before, but the kid can definitely take care of himself now."

Despite herself, the brunette wavered. "How do you know that?"

"I've seen him in action." she could see it in his eyes; this Dewitt fellow had the utmost faith in the blond. Whether that faith remained rooted in his propensity for violence or skill, remained to be seen.

"I certainly hope that you're right...

"I am." he reassured her. "Now...

"Hurry!"

Booker ushered her outside, leading her to the top as the battle raged on below. Bits and pieces of her former home were being torn away with each step, ripped apart by the twin titans raging below. Scarcely had they made it to the top than the tower itself began to pitch and yawn, swaying, with a dangerous intent. If this continued, then the whole structure itself might-?! The young woman had just enough time to recognize the all too familiar lurch beneath her feet before the ground was violently ripped away and they were sent flying into oblivion.

By grace of God, Booker somehow managed to grab hold of a nearby skyline with his syhook as they fell, the device clutched firmly in one hand, and her wrist the other. But she could feel his grip beginning to slip, he'd not the strength to hold her for long. Already she could feel his grip loosening, and once he let go-

"Up we go!"

A strong pair of arms reached down for Elizaber before she could complete the thought, wrapped around her waist and hoisted her upward to safety, holding her as though she were a blushing bride fresh out of wedlock and he the groom. Well...she certainly had the blushing part down pat didn't she? Suddenly hesitant, she raised her head, un-tucking her visage from his chest, daring to look up at her rescuer. He's really gotten rather handsome, Elizabeth realized. All this ocurred in an instant-her mind moving at a snail's crawl. Elizabeth barely had time to squeal in suprirse before she realized who had saved her from plunging to her death. Who was running across the skyline after Booker, fleet and swift as Hermes himself.

Naruto. He was running. Running. Across the skyline.

She risked a tenuous glance downward and sure enough despite the terrible dip and drops, they were winding after the former Pinkerton, even with the extra weight afforded by her body. How one could stand, let alone run against such a headwind was utterly beyond her.

"Miss me?" his grin was positvely beatific.

"I-

That was when fate threw a monkey wrench into the works; in the form the tower's falling debris striking the line ahead of them. For a moment, just a moment, she thought it might hold. Then, as though to dash those hopes, the skyline buckled, the metal rods snapping like twigs. Somewhere ahead of them, Dewitt cursed.

"Hang on!"

For all of his powers, Naruto couldn't hope to fight gravity. Neither could Booker. And certainly not Elizabeth, even with her ability to open Tears, she simply could not negate the momentum they'd built up. Deprived of their lifeline the three of them fell, plummeting towards the waters below. Water? Wait, if there was water, than that meant they were near-

Naruto saw the waters of Battleship Bay rushing up to greet them, and his smile soured. He did something with hands then, and the waters rushed upwards in a spout, sending them hurtling towards...!

"Ohhhh, this is going to hur-

Ground.


"For every choice, there is an echo. With each act, we change the world. One man chose a city, free of law and God, but others chose corruption and so the city fell. If the world was reborn at your image, would it be paradise or perdition?"

His eyes opened to blackness. Everything felt numb and yet he somehow still felt. It was as though he were standing outside of his body-dimly observing his surroundings-watching the wretched world of Columbia from an even greater distance. But wait. This wasn't Columbia was it? Columbia, for all of its dark elements and racial superiority, was, on the outside, sunshine and clouds. This was not that. There was no sunlight wherever he was now, only the articial illumination afforded by glowlamps. No. This was not Columbia.

This place...wherever here was...held nothing more than ocean and brine. A city beneath the sea.

Bone-tired, he rose, shaking the grit and grime from his shinobi attire. The corridor stretched before him, wide and yawning. There was nowhere to go but forward. And so go he did, until a door finally barred his path a heartbeat later. Securis, it said. Some kind of security company? Scarce had he thought this than the door whirled open with a twirling of cogs, revealing a horribly abandoned and filled with water corridor. Cracks were on the glass panels near the windows, where small rivulets of water ran their course to the drains on the floor, but those weren't what garnered his attention.

It was the words.

Various phrases and signs littered the corridor here and there, each one more confusing than the last. Finally, he came to one that made some sentiment of sense.

"A man chooses. A slave obeys!"

Naruto took a moment to admire the hubris of those words. Did a slave have the right to choose? Of course he/she did. That choice was always the right one, but it was a choice nonetheless. But did man always have a choice? No, not always. Sometimes those fated choices were forced, thrust upon him like an oxen's yolk-

His musings ended abrupt when someone decided to clobber him with a monkey wrench. For all his ungodly regenerations, the Sage in the Clouds could still feel pain in the conventional sense. And he felt it now, felt it as stars-whole planets-detonated across his vision in a kaleidoscope of stunning agony. He staggered half a step forward, barely avoiding having his brains beaten in a second time. He turned, pivoted, swiveling to face his supposed assailant. Only to find himself staring at a face straight out of his worse nightmare, its face gross and disfigured, body riddled with puss-covered postules, its limbs gangly and distorted. The sight of it was so grotesque that Naruto actually flinched, just for a moment.

"CAN'T HAVE HER!" A keening voice issued forth from the man's twisted rictus."She's mine! MIIIIIIINE! AAAAAALLLL MI-"

Something massive rose up from behind his attacker, accompanied by the sound of a revving engine. Puncuated by the voice of a little girl.

"Get 'em, daddy!"

The drill tore through the face of the Splicer in front of Naruto like its head was made of butter. A giant hulking creature, wrapped within an iron diving suit, looked at him with a ghastly yellow glint from its visor. Its right hand pointed at him, displaying for a brief moment the Greek symbol of the Omega on its gauntlet's back. He stared at this metal monstrosity for a long moment, wondering what it would do next. And then, as if to mocl him, the tin man did what he least expected. It removed its helmet. Naruto froze. Froze and closed his eyes, opened them again. Blinked.

Blood red eyes gazed back at him from a face that he knew all too well. Recognized, even here in the depths of the sunken city. His face. Horror dawned on him as he found himself staring at another version of himself-an alternate-every bit him, save for those horrific crimson orbs and darkened whiskers. The little girl's hand reached down to pat that face, giggles of delight fleeing from her lips, as he reciprocated the gesture. So frail, so tiny. Her hand hovered just past that scarred face, her own visage gaunt and grey. The yellow eyes wide with awe.

"Who's that, Daddy?" she asked. "He looks like you!"

"Well, well, well," the other-Naruto rumbled, his voice two octaves lower than it ought to be-as though someone had scooped his vocal cords out of his chest and put them back together out of order-eyes narrowed and intent upon this strange specter, "What do we have here? A savior or harvester? Gatherer or reaper? You could be one, but you can't be both. So, which are you, other me? Are you a merciful savior, or a vengeful spirit of death…whatever youare, you can't be both." A hoarse laugh issued forth from that face. "Believe me...I tried."

Just like that his features began to burn, fire twitching up past his booted toes to consume him, and the little girl on his shoulder. They burned in silence, neither offering so much as a single syllable in their agony.

"Keep the girl safe." The now-burning Omega whispered as his features fell away. "Whatever it takes...keep her...safe...

Naruto screamed.

"What in the blue-


-hell?!

He woke from the nightmare-or was it a vision?-blearily, stirred to find someone breathing life back into him. Quite...literally. A pair of soft lips covered his, and he could feel a warmth breath ushering vitality unto his lungs, having just performed compressions in a a desperate attempt to keep his heart beating. Apparently it worked. His eyes flew open. Locked with hers. Elizabeth?! He could read the shock in her eyes. Naruto?! He stared back at her overlong, as did she. An eternity passed between the two. Then Elizabeth jerked back as if she'd been burned.

"I-I'm so sorry!" her words rushed out in a torrent. "You weren't breathing, so...

"Its fine." Grunting, the blonde hauled himself into a sitting position.

An uneasy silence crept upon them after that-neither willing to meet the others gaze after their accidental kiss. The waves tried to lap at their toes, gradually reminding the blonde of their location-where they had fallen despite, his best efforts to the opposite. He could smell the salt of the sea, see the beachgoers in their strange striped bathingsuits, hear the sounds of music, dancing in the distance. His mind instantly supplied a name for this place

Battleship Bay.

The beach looked like a beach when in fact it was anything but. They were still in Columbia. Still in this god awful world. Still-

"Who are you, really?"

Naruto's head snapped back like a puppet severed from its strings; because Elizabeth had asked that question in Japanese. It had been so long since he'd spoken his own language; to hear it from another was the most heartening thing in all the world. Well, perhaps the second best. Sitting here with his long lost friend, reunited after all these years...that was certainly better.

"It's me, Naruto." he ventured at last, choosing his words with care. "I guess you could say I work for your father, or something."

"I have a father?" The way her eyes lit with hope tore at his very soul. "Where is he?"

He's right there! Naruto wanted to scream as he saw Booker sprawled out on the beach, but instead of staying screwed shut, his mouth offered different words.

"He's in Japan."

"You mean Konoha."

"So you remember." Those words were not a question The same could not be said for the next. "Anything else?"

"I remember your friend, Sakura."

The blond hissed.

"That was a damned long time ago."

"Naruto…" Elizabeth whispered, "I know being locked since I was born in a tower, watched all day, makes me ignorant of the world…but I'm not an idiot. You say you work for my father-and my father is in Japan? That's too good to be true. Then again, you're probably too good to be true, too."

She actually averted her gaze, a light blush coloring her cheeks as she said that. Oh now she didn't!

His own eyes widened. "What?" he whispered, his breath caught in his throat. "Are you saying I'm not real?"

"Isn't that obvious?" her reply caught him flatfooted. "You promised you'd get me out of this tower. I haven't seen you since then. Thirteen years, Naruto!" her pained cry -almost- distracted him from the tears shinging in those bright blue eyes. "Why come for me now, after all this time? How did you even get here at all, if you're not some sort of ghost?"

A ghost, huh? Well, damn. He couldn't well tell her that last one now, could he? He didn't even have the answer himself. Having simply woken here in the city one day, he'd gone to explore...only to find himself trapped in the awful cycle. Until Booker broke him free. In the end, he settled for the only answer he did have; himself.

Strong arms wrapped around Elizabeth before she could speak again and drew the distraught brunette close; pulling her head into his chest. The hardened notes of his body met all her feminine curves in an embrace as soul-searing as it was warming, tightening even as she struggled within his grasp. His long lost friend.

"Could a ghost hug you?" he said, breath warm upon her ear.

Still, Elizabeth resisted. She really didn't believe it was him.

"Let me go." she pleaded, sniffling softly. "Just let me wake up, please-

"This is real." he snapped back. In the next instant he reached down and pinched her arm. Hard. Not enough to draw blood, but still.

"Ow!" She cried, lurching free from his arms. He let her, let her rail against him in anger. "Why did you do that?!"

"See? If this were a dream, if I were a ghost, you wouldn't have felt that."

Just like that, the damn broke.

She was suddenly in his arms again, no longer resisting, no longer struggling, but crying. Here in his arms, sobbing softly against his shoulder. It was suddenly all he could do to soothe her, stroking awkwardly her back as best he could without laying his hands

This scene. This embrace. It all seemed familiar somehow. He'd done this before. Hugged someone like her before? But who? Who could have possibly? Unbidden, a name rose from the blackened depths of his memory, a name he hadn't even been aware until this very moment.

Eleanor.

If Sakura's name had been a poke, that name...was a rusty knife to the chest. A crushing pressure descended upon his, threatening to all but force his mind under as a sea of nostalgia crashed down around him. Had to save her. Had to save the little sisters. No matter the cost. No matter what. Memories not his own threatened to drown him, to drag both his body soul back down to that rotten, watery world. He fought them with all of his might, refusing to parley with the thoughts of his other self, of the armored titan from his dream.

"Your nose," Elizabeth murmurred suddenly, shattering the impasse. "Its...bleeding."

Naruto blinked and drew away. Touched a hand to his face. Not this again...!

Her hand was suddenly there, dabbing at his nose with a hankerchief.

"Keep the pressure on." she soothed. "I'm sure it'll pass."

Naruto grumbled his assent.

"How do you feel?"

"Sore." he relented. Using his powers on the water at the last instant, forcing all the chakra to the ground in an effort to soften their landing had been taxing, to say to say the least.

"I'll see if I can find something for the pain." She skittered off before he had the chance to call her back, already out of earshot before he could think to remind her of his regenration. He would be fine, given time. Until then, he supposed he would wait, sit here amidst the shore and recover his strength.

Elizabeth.

Naruto was suddenly and intensely aware of just how good it was to see her again. How much he'd missed her. She'd always been like this, ever since they were children. Always fussing and fretting over him whenever he got into a fight, wherever he hurt himself or bit off more than he could chew. Being only seven years old at the time...this was quite often. Still, it was...pleasant, her clumsy attempts to bandage him always serving to remind him just how much she cared. Then she'd vanished when he was eight years old, and he'd never seen her again. In time, the pain of her passing had dulled, but he'd never forgotten. The memory of her, was always there, just under the skin, waiting to be remember. Seeing her again now, after all these years...it was like...

Welcoming an old friend.

"Urgh...

Gradually, he became aware of Booker Dewitt. The former pinkerton lay sprawled on the sands beside him his chest rising and falling with life. Good. It simply wouldn't do for the man to die after all they'd been through together in the last few hours. But he would die, eventually, wouldn't he? Once he'd been sure. Certain. Now, he wasn't sure of anything anymore. His knowledge of the future, of this endless, absurd cycle in which he'd found himself trapped, was severely limited. Restrained only to the man who'd freed him from it; that Dewitt had daughter was here in Columbia, and he would die, during his botched rescue. He hadn't known Elizabeth played a part in any of this until he'd laid his eyes on his long lost friend, seen her again after all these years. Then everything had fallen into place.

Elizabeth was Dewitt's daughter. Anna. God, talk about your catch-twenty two...

"Oi." He growled, shaking Booker by the shoulder. "Dewitt. Wake up. We need to talk."

The man groaned and swatted his hand away.

"Gimme a minute...

Naruto sighed as he watched his tenuous ally pass out again seconds later. Booker Dewitt. A man of many mysteries-but none to him. Booker Dewitt. What if his involvement alone wasn't enough? Would telling him the truth break the circle, this endless cycle of which he'd become aware?

"To tell or not to tell." An extremely familiar voice piped in from behind him.

"That is the question." Another voice, feminine, remarked then.

Naruto spun around quickly, somehow a rasengan in his hand already, and as he narrowed his eyes the Lutece Twins looked back at him with their usual indifiference. The chief and perhaps only difference being that he was now the center of their attention instead of Dewitt.

"You again." He remarked. "You're early."

"Are we?" the man said.

"Aren't you the one early?" the woman said.

The blonde groaned. "Look, I really don't have time for this...

They resolutely ignored him.

"Time."

"Subjective isn't it?"

"I thought it was conjuctive."

"You're using the wrong word, brother."

"Am I?"

"You are."

"Or perhaps I'm right, that you're wrong?"

"That's the same Robert," the woman chided.

"Rosalind you're a sore loser." Robert remarked.

"No I am not."

"Yes, you are."

"If you two are done," Naruto commented pinching the brow of his nose with his right hand. "I'll be going now..."

"See? He doesn't even want to ask!" Robert pointed at Naruto with both his hands outstretched. "It shows I'm right!"

"Ask what...?"

"Why you are aware," Rosalind sniffed, crossing her arms across her chest. "Knowledgeable, despite all efforts to the contrary."

Naruto took a moment to contemplate that. Clearly these two were much more than they were letting on. Perhaps they could help him in the long run. Fine. He'd play their little game. For now.

"So what am I aware of? he asked. "The fact that Booker will-

"You mean of the ending-

"Incorrect." Rosalind cut in with a shake of her head. "Your other self." Was the clarification. "The dreams."

"Visions." Robert corrected.

"Alpha?"

"Omega."

"A beginning."

"Or perhaps an end?"

"Killer of men."

"Mayhaps a rescuer of children?"

"Reaper."

"Savior?"

"I'm neither of those things." Naruto replied. "I just want to get out of here and back to my own universe...preferrably with Elizabeth."

"You see?" Rosalind smiled, smug in her satisaction. "The means may be the same but the methods are distinctly different."

"The methods are the same! The means are different, end of the story." Robert snapped back. "The bird is gone. A major obstacle has been removed."

"Oh really? I'm not seeing how that changes anything."

"Because it will," Robert muttered, before turning around to give his back to Rosalind. "There is a wild card at play here."

"If so, then why can't we see it?" Rosalind retorted.

"Because it changes things."

"Or maybe it does not."

"It does."

Naruto blinked and they were gone. Just like that. All that remained were sea and sand. As though they'd never been. Was all of that in his head? He certainly hoped not. He had enough voices in there already...

"Naruto!"

"I think I found something for you," begrudgingly the blonde blinked and returned his attention to Elizabeth, now staring at the medic kit that his childhood friend had apparently scavenged from a corner, holding it out right in front of his nose. Her look seemed so much like that of a puppy that he was fighting off his desire to hug her again. If it was because she disliked seeing people hurt, or because she was falling into some sort of savior complex mode, he didn't know. Regardless, he gladly accepted it from her hands and used it to mend both his and Booker's wounds.

"I'm sorry it took so long." she apologized as he fastidiously applied a paultice to the former pinkerton's arm. Then she frowned, watching the blond move a mass of water with his hands. "Wait, what are you doing?" A heartbeat later, she had her answer.

"WAKE UP!"

Naruto promptly dropped the water on Booker's face, sending the man spitting and sputtering with a start.

"The hell was that for?!"

"Good." Naruto observed mildly. "You're awake."

"And you're a pain in the ass, you know that?"

"You are correct, sir!"

"Why you little-

Booker tackled him then, sending the blond sprawling onto the sands.

Elizabeth couldn't help herself, she gave a most unladylike snort at the plight of the two men. They way they were scuffling with one another was almost...comical. She watched her childhood friend grapple with Mister Dewitt a moment longer, making absolutely certain that they wouldn't harm one another, before she turned and went her own way. She was just curious, she told herself. Yes, that was it. It was, after all, her first time outside her tower, so it was only natural to want to see the sights...

"Ah," the girl looked around for a moment, before her ears actually seemed to twitch. "I think I hear music!"


It was not until they'd reached the outermost corner of the beach that Naruto and Booker finally found her on the boardwalk. Shed given them quite the scare, running off like that during their little tussle-both men had feared her lost, or worse. But no, there she was, laughing her head off and dancing at the center of it all. There was such joy in her expression that it struck at Booker's very soul-and yet when he turned to say as much to his blond compatriot, he recalled that to Naruto, she was of even greater value. He still had to get the girl to New York of course...but what was the harm in

"She's all yours." Booker waved his comrade ahead.

"Me?" For the first time since they'd met, the blonde actually look frightened. "Oh, no. No no no no! A thousand times no!"

"What're you afraid of? Music?"

Naruto made a squelching sound as he gazed back at the dancing crowd.

"I'm not afraid!"

"Looks like it to me." the latter's smile was barely concealed; it was such a rare sight to see the blonde genuinely unnerved. Besides, after losing their little brawl he'd take whatever small victory, he could get out of his hide; ridiculously petty though it might be.

"I'll prove it!"

Scowling, the shinobi stalked past him, his determined stride and strange attire drawing more than a few scowls from the men and more than the occasional appreciative looks from their womenfolk. Before long he'd all but reached the pier, his long gait forcing ther former pinkerton to job slightly just to keep up. He hung back as Naruto reached the throng of people, well aware that his face-as well as the mark on his hand-would draw unwanted attention to one such as him. And so he stood there, watching as the hilarity unfolded.

Elizabeth extended a hand unto Naruto as she twirled in place. "Oh, won't you dance with me, Naruto?"

The blonde sweatdropped.

"I...don't think that's such a good idea, Lizzy...

"Please?"

There it was again. That look. The one expression every man feared. Those pitiful puppy dog eyes.

"Fine...

Tentatively he accepted her hands and allowed himself to be drawn into the circle. A chorus of appreciative hoots and whistles greeted his entrance.

"Lookey here, boys!" A man laughed deep from his belly. "We've got ourselves a duo!"

Nearby, a pair of women seemed to disagree. "She's much too good for him."

Naruto bristled.

"Don't listen to them." Elizabeth soothed. "I'm quite happy to dance with you." At this, it was the blonde's turn to flush.

"Hopefully I'll live up to your expectations...

Their first waltz didn't end well for him, he nearly stepped on her foot before he righted himself. For all his skill as a shinobi, this was one art he'd never mastered. He might be able to move at the speed of light thanks to Hiraishin. He may have exceeded his father, the legendary Yellow Flash, in sheer skill. He might've even become the Hokage someday, if he hadn't been yanked from his dimensions and into this one. And yet, for all his stamina and skill...

Uzumaki Naruto simply couldn't dance. Elizabeth noticed.

"My goodness, aren't we clumsy?" she teased at him, earning a growl from her partner. "Oh, be careful!" He stepped and stumbled around her to the laughter of the crowd-determined not to trod on her feet at the very least, but making a complete ass of himself otherwise. Elizabeth, for her part, tried not to laugh too much. Other men and women joined in around them-perhaps encouraged by his dismal dancing. After all, surely they thought they could fare better than this uncoordinated blond? Somehow, that riled him even more.

"Aargh!" the blond swore, his thoughts broken when he nearly tripped over his own two feet.

"Don't overdo it and break an ankle. " His partner cautioned.

"D-Damnit!" Naruto swore at himself. "I can do this!"

Scarce had he spoken than the music became less rousing, its festive tune decreasing in pace. They paused together, listening to the whistles of the crowd.

"Now this I can do." he grinned. There wasn't man alive who didn't know how to slow dance. Elizabeth seemed to agree. She stepped closer to him, draping her arms round his neck; smiling softly as he placed his hand upon her slender hip in turn. She moved first and he followed, careful not to stumble again.

"Just follow my lead."

Step, step, twirl.

"Easy, now."

Step, twirl, step.

"There you go."

Twirl, step, step.

Slowly, he began to find his pace in the rhythm, allowing her to lead him, following that lead dutifully until at lonst last he found his proper place. He was barely even aware of it when the music livened up again, so lost was he in those beautiful blue eyes. He simply moved when she moved. Advanced when she retreated. Retreated when she advanced. His rhythm reicliaimed, he found himself smiling, laughing when the crowd cheered them, their earlier boos and jeers all but forgotten as they danced merrily about. But all good things must end.

So too did the music, the crowd clearing away as the band announced that they were finished until the evening. Naruto and Elizabeth were left alone on the pier, still staring listlessly at one another. At last-relucantly, it was Elizabeth who released him, though not without a touch of regret.

"You're a fast learner." she applauded him.

Naruto beamed.

"I try."

More might've happened, had not they seen one Booker Dewitt.

"Erm...just how much of that did you see?"

Booker chuckled. "Enough. C'mon you two lovebirds, we've got an airship to catch." He indicated the distant First Lady Airship floating past, a massive blimp that dwarfed them all. Though his words caused her to flush, Elizabeth frowned, cocked her head aside in confusion.

"I don't understand." she said. "Will it take us to Konoha?"

Naruto sighed; he'd known this would happen sooner or later. Maybe if she'd been interested in Paris this would've worked, but as things stood, he was fairly certain she wanted to see Konoha. Not the wartorn world his universe had become-that was no place for her-but the peacefully idyllic days they'd known in their youth.

"It will." Dewitt demurred before Naruto could think to try and stop him. Idiot! Didn't he realize he was lying to his own daughter?! No, of course not. To him Elizabeth was just a girl-a stranger he'd been told to bring to New York in exchange for the settling of his debts. He had the succint feeling this wouldn't turn out well. But were he to call his bluff now, then he'd probably shatter the tenuous understanding Booker had just begun to build with her; not to mention the realization that only a tear could get him back home. Which meant he needed Elizabeth. More than ever.

"We'd best be going then." he replied. The smile she gave him was utterly heartbreaking. Tell her, you fool! his mind screamed at him. Tell her! But he did not.

Despite his better judgement, Naruto decided to keep his mouth shut. This time.

By then he'd become vaguely aware of her hand in his, though they'd separated, she still had yet to release him. He thought about saying something...only to decide he rather liked the feel of her hand in his. As though it were meant to be there. As if it always had been. Shaking his head, he followed after Booker, Elizabeth in tow. Being with her again was all that mattered. Everything else, could just go and burn. And if Booker Dewitt proved to be more trouble than he was worth, he would burn too. So would the world, if it stood in his way.

Little did he know...

...how prophetic one of those thoughts would prove.

A/N: God, I really enjoyed writing this chapter. Everything seemed to flow so well! We see everything build up, the climatic fight-and slaughter-of a certain bird, the realization that Naruto isn't all he appears to be, and isn't the only one to exist. But back to the all-important topic. SONGBIRD GOT WRECKED! The tenacious bastard might come back later but for now, he's very much out of the picture, much to Elizabeth's delight. Now, so long as Naruto doesn't have to dance, he should be fine ROTFL.

Among the more massive changes, there are many, many, MANY Naruto's to be found Infinite-and he just met one of them. Omega. For those of you who have read "Daddy Won't You Please Come Home?" Then, I'm sure you'll understand. This fic will cross with that every now and again, with Omega and his girls making the occasional appearance Think of it as sort of a crossover within too many crossovers =D When will they cross paths again? Will there be other Naruto's? One can only guess...

Now, I know we're not in rapture at the moment, but I'll say in anway just for the hell of it:

In the immortal words of Altas...

...review, would you kindly? And of course, enjoy the preview!

(Preview)

Daisy Fitzroy scowled at him; this strange blonde staring her down from across airship. There was just something about him that left her ill at ease. Something...odd. He'd resisted all attempts at capture, but otherwise had proved a damned sight better than ther Vox's field medic; dressing wounds, stiching sores, applying poultices wherever needed. All this, in the span of a few minutes. He was either a damned good doctor, or a spy sent by Comstock to bring them down, she theoriazed. And honestly Daisy had begun to lean toward the latter. More than oncce the Prophet had sent a seemingly kind soul to infiltrate them, only for said person to be no more than a yellow-bellied coward.

If this was another of those...

"There we are." the man mused, running his bloodied hands over the sink. "You'll lose one or two of them, but the rest should live." His words trailed off as she placed a pistol to his head, his smile dipping down into a slight frown as the cool barrel pressed against his head. "Now is that really neccessary miss? I just tended most of your men. And you're going to shoot me for it?"

"That depends." was her reply. "Who in the blue hell are you?"

Their unlikely saviour exhaled, a long suffering sigh that seemed to make him many years older. His crimson eyes regared them narrowly from behind the dark-rimmed sunglasses he wore to cover up the scarrs behind his eyelids.

"The name's...Naruto." He relented. Now, ma'am, if ya'd put the pistol away-

"I ain't no ma'am, boy!"

"Hai, hai, I can see that." He waved his fingers and suddenly, the pistol was ripped from her hand and placed into his, carried by an invisible energy. "Now, would you kindly sit down?" he gestured with the weapon and Daisy froze, well aware of the trigger cocking backwards. How had he-?!

"Sit." he gestured again.

Reluctantly, she complied.

"What do you want, boy?"

"Boy?" the blonde affected a hurt tone. "I'm not that much older than you." At this, she blackette growled.

"What. Do. You. Want!"

The blonde's grin reminded her of a humble saint's, modest and demure. Rather ironic, considering the Vox's modus operandi.

"I've got a proposition for ya."

"And that would be?"

Impossibly, his grin grew another inch.

"What would you say if I gave ya this city on a silver platter?"

R&R! =D