Sorry, I haven't felt really motivated to update lately. I was having trouble thinking of how to carry out the next few chaps.

Inverted-

Chapter fifteen

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Naruto Uzumaki, was gone...

Fighting back the feeling of panic threatening to suffocate him, Gaara stared at the girl through wide eyes and reached out and grabbed her by the shoulders, feeling the slenderness of her bones under his hands- through her jacket and almost pleaded with her desperately to remember.

They were friends! Comrades.

Kindred spirits for fuck's sake!

How could anything erase their bond so easily? Had the years, the battles and memories of being together that had formed their bond really been such fragile things? So easy to forget and dismiss?

Was he so easy to forget and dismiss? He wondered as his heart constricted in his chest. Making it feel like a hand had wrapped around the organ and was squeezing it. Forcing the air from his lungs, slowly.

Oh, how it hurt.

But I have to be strong. Even if Naruto is no longer with me, he left something just as precious behind, in his wake. Whoever the girl was, he felt- no, knew that his adopted brother had left her behind for a reason. Slipping his hands from her shoulders, he lifted them so that he could frame her face in his hands and tried not to flinch when he saw her eyes widen in apprehension as a tremor ran through her and lowered his head towards hers until their foreheads touched.

Taking a moment to steady his shaken nerves, he closed his eyes and took several breaths. Once he felt his panic slipping from him he opened his eyes again to find the girl staring at him intently. Almost like how Naruto used to and said, "It'll be okay."

The girl blinked her unbelievably clear violet eyes at him as he drew back a little bit and then pressed his lips to her cheek then in a quick jerky motion, turned his head to glare at Sai as he growled out, "Let nothing happen to her."

Sai gave the red head a dark look as he thought, Uzumaki was my friend too- If he left this girl to our care then she must be someone very special. And anyone trying to get to her, to cause her harm- would die screaming. And as much as he wanted to voice his thoughts to the Kazekage, he held his tongue and just nodded his head in understanding.

Knowing that the situation right now could become extremely volatile if any of Naruto's enemies were to discover that he had somehow been changed into a girl with her memories of being a shinobi erased.

Yes, he would protect Naruto- even as he was now with no memories of him or their bond.

Gaara dropped his hands from her and straightened his spine and moved away from her and closed his eyes again and let himself dissolve into tiny grains of sand so that he could return to Tsunade's side. He had a million questions and possible theories about Naruto's condition and he needed to get them out in the open and find out what the Hokage knew.

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The second the imposing red head started to dissolve into sand, her eyes widened in disbelief and she automatically pushed her chair as far back away from the vanishing figure as she could as Sai came up out of his seat and said tentatively, "Naruto-"

"H-He vanished!" She squeaked in a horrified tone, suddenly finding it hard to breathe around the hysterical fit threatening to overtake her senses.

Sai put his hands out, palm out as he slowly moved around the table. Careful to take slow calculated steps so that he didn't frighten her more than she was now as he tried to speak to her again, "Naruto?"

"H-He vanished! Just poofed- and disappeared!" She said in a shrill tone as she started to hyperventilate. Why was it that the weird shit always happened to her? Seriously had she been dropped into the Twilight Zone or something? Because she was scared. Like really, really scared.

"Naruto... What Gaara did is normal. Every S-class nin or higher can do it. I can do it too. Do you want to see?" Her face paled and she quickly shook her head 'no' as she half turned in her chair and tried to climb over it. Hell no she didn't want to see.

Was he crazy?

Had the red head been crazy? Or had he simply been a ghost or figment of her imagination? Wait- was she crazy?

As if sensing what she was thinking, Sai said firmly; "Naruto, you aren't crazy."

"Are you sure?" She asked in a small child like voice. Her expression pleading as she stared at him. Sai reached out slowly and forced her back around to sit in her seat as he nodded his head and muttered.

"Yeah. I'm sure," Sai said in a reassuring tone as he held his hand out to her. She looked at it for a moment as if it were going to bite her and then glanced up at him from under her bangs and watched a saddened expression cross his face before slowly reaching out and taking his hand. Sai smiled at her for a moment as their hands locked around each other, his grip light while her grip was almost hard enough to make him cringe. Gods she was so anxious that she made him feel as if he were handling glass. "Let's get you out of here before someone else poofs in okay."

Her eyes went impossibly wide and she started to ask, "You're kidding right? Please be kidding. I don't think I can take anymore poofing!"