(Posted 5/26/14)

An oddly placed extras chapter, I know, but this extra is a little different. Unlike the first, it isn't extra scenes from the previous story arc. Instead, there are two reader-imagined scenes and a scene written by me that shows what's happening in the past where younger!Naru came from.

Also, in case you missed the memo the first extras chapter, I am reserving the right to do one of these every story arc. There may be another after this story arc is over as well. Or there may not be. If you don't like it, then just... don't read it? Or start paying me, and then I'll write only the stuff you want me to. Either works.

Contents:

Crossover Omake of Chapter 12 by PyrothTenka
Reader imagined/alternate ending by Abdullahsaurus
Meanwhile, In the Past... (by me. obvs.)


Omake - Crossover with Minato's: The Art of Being Dead, by PyrothTenka

[This will make more sense if you have read Py's fanfiction, Minato's: TAoBD. Which you should do, anyway. But the short explanation is that her Minato and Kushina show up in chapter 12 when Itachi goes to investigate the seal. The omake breaks in seamlessly to the chapter, so I've included some of my original below for context. It happened this way because Py reads my WIPs and this was where I left off one time, so she thought to continue it...]

"Are you able to see everything that is going on?" Itachi asked the seal directly. The Kyuubi narrowed its eyes at him suspiciously but chose not to comment. The energy emanating from the seal grew the brightest it had been yet in response.

Itachi's eyes widened. Most likely, he would not be able to speak with the fragment of Minato without breaking the seal– which he could not do in the first place, even if he wanted to– but that little bit of consciousness was definitely alive and aware.

"So that is what it looks like when someone stores a piece of themselves in someone else," Itachi mused. "I understand. Thank you, Hokage-sama. I know what to look for now."

...

"You're welcome!" a cheerful voice spoke up from behind, making the Uchiha whirl around in surprise. Well, as surprised as Uchiha Itachi ever got, anyway.

He blinked at the image of the blue-eyed blond in front of him. "Yondaime-sama?"

"Yep."

"You're able to manifest yourself?" the brunette asked curiously.

"Uh, not that version of me, I don't think," Minato replied, frowning uncertainly as he folded his arms across his chest. "Actually, I'm not really sure what's going on. Are there supposed to be two of me?"

"I am not certain-"

"ITACHI-CHAN!" another feminine voice called out, loudly, right in his ear as he was enthusiastically tackled from behind. "Look how big you got! Mikoto would be so proud!"

"Uzumaki-san?"

"The one and only! Well, besides Naruto, of course," Kushina verified, not loosening her grip in the slightest. "How'd you get in here?"

Itachi, still standing in spite of being tackled and latched onto by an older kunoichi because of his amazing awesome ninja balancing skills, tried to pry her off; or at least shift her to a more comfortable speaking position, but she wasn't having it so he gave up. "Sharingan."

"Tch. Figures. Is there anything that magical pink-eye can't do?" Kushina muttered, rolling her eyes. Then stopped and glanced back at the seal where the huge demon was watching everything in silence. "Hey, wait, is that what that guy did to free fuzzy-face over there?"

That elicited a snarl from the fox as it reared itself up to its full height. "I AM THE GREAT KYUUBI NO YOUKO! You will not address me as 'Fuzzy-face!'"

Kushina snorted. "You killed me! I'll call you whatever the heck I want, Furball!"

"WHY YOU MISERABLE LITTLE INSECT! I COULD CRUSH YOU WITH ONE CLAW! Oh, wait. I did."

"Oh, yeah? Well it took childbirth and a demon being ripped from my stomach before I went down, what's your excuse?!"

While his wife picked a fight with a demon about fifty times her size, Minato tried to have a conversation with the man she was currently clinging to. "Excuse me, Itachi-san, but why are you here? What's going on with my son?"

"-and don't even get me started on th-! Oh, wait, Naruto? We're talking about Naruto now?" his wife cut off mid taunt.

"Did someone say my name?"

A blond-haired blue-eyed child stepped into the room instantly grabbing everyone's attention. "Woah, Itachi, where'd these people come from?"

"NARUTO!"

Itachi refrained from sighing in relief as the redhead of questionable sanity released him in favor of tackling her offspring to the ground instead. It was short lived, however, when she merely dragged the small blond over so she could hug them both at the same time.

"Naruto, this is Itachi. Because of an unofficial agreement I made with his mother before you were born, he is now your big brother. You have to listen to him now, okay?"

"Wha-... what's going on? Who are you, Crazy Lady?"

"I'm your mother!"

Itachi turned away before he could get lost in the Uzumaki insanity. He turned instead to the ex-Hokage to answer his question. "I am here to find and deal with a fragment of Orochimaru that was left here by him to control Naruto."

It was only a single sentence, but Itachi doubted he could have said anything more to drop the emotional atmosphere any lower or quicker.

"What." The frost in Kushina's voice could have frozen a volcano.

"Yes, please do explain," the Yondaime added, his voice equally chilly.

Unnerved, Itachi regarded the child beside him. "Would you like to explain?"

"I don't understand what's going on!" Naruto replied, gaze up turned to the ceiling with his arms slightly extended as if pleading for the world to make sense again.

Again, Itachi did not sigh as he turned back to the Yondaime. "How much do you know about the current situation?"

Minato shook his head. "Not much. I just got here."

"Then I will try to be short," the Uchiha spoke with a nod. "Your son was sent forward in time by Orochimaru into an experimental body. He then placed a control tag inside Naruto's head for purposes we do not know. I am currently attempting to locate and neutralize that control tag."

"Not alone, you aren't," Kushina growled. "If Snake-face is in here somewhere, I'm gonna hunt him down and skin him alive."

"... 'your son'?" Naruto's gaze traveled between the brunette and the older blond.

Itachi gave the ex-hokage a pointed look that specifically meant 'You're explaining this one. I've already filled up my spoken word quota for the day'. Or something similar.

The Yondaime didn't even attempt to conceal his sigh. "Just a moment, please."

He placed a hand on the wall and concentrated for a moment. "Found him. Orochimaru's chakra is this way." He waved them toward the exit, letting Itachi take the lead so he could fall back with the rest of his family. "Naruto, I'm not quite sure the best way to tell you-"

"We're your parents, dattebane!" Kushina interrupted, throwing her arms around the boy again. Minato gave her a dry look to which she raised a challenging eyebrow to. "What? We'd be here all day if we had to wait for you to eventually get around to getting to the point. I'm not willing to wait that long when we don't even know how much time we'll have."

The Yondaime sighed again. "Yes, well... what your mother said."

If Kushina hadn't had her arm around him and was pushing him along, Naruto would have stopped in his tracks to digest that information. As it was, he merely stumbled and his mother carried him for a few steps, ignoring his falter.

"Indeed!" Kushina agreed nodding. "Now we go snake hunting, dattebane! I hear snake meat tastes pretty good."

"She's joking," Minato quickly explained at their son's alarmed face. Then glanced sideways at his wife before amending, "Probably."

Naruto glanced between them like they were crazy before squirming free of the redhead's grip. He quickly caught up to Itachi as they reached a crossroad. "Are they really my parents?"

The Uchiha inclined his head slightly. "Yes." Then he turned to regard the elder blond. "Yondaime-sama?"

Minato needed no further explanation before placing a hand on the wall. "Right."

Nodding, the brunette took the right path. Naruto stared at his 'father'.

"Ah! You are the Yondaime!" he exclaimed, pointing accusingly.

"... yes. I would have thought that would have been obvious." Minato frowned in what was definitely not a pout as he turned to Kushina. "Do I not look like a Hokage or something?"

Kushina bared her teeth in what could only be a predatory smile and opened her mouth, but the older blond rolled his eyes and waved a hand dismissively. "Nevermind, don't answer that. I already know your answer. Unreliable sissy, was it?"

"You said it, not me," his wife replied, positively glowing with suppressed mirth. "Nice to know you're owning up to it, though."

The Yondaime sighed and shook his head. "I did leave myself open to that, didn't I?"

The redhead burst out laughing as she slung a cheerful arm around his shoulders. "Yes, you did. But I love you anyway."

Then they did that weird couple thing where they stared into each other's faces and it kinda made Naruto want to hurl. Except he wasn't entirely sure what that would do in their current location. "Ewww! No mushy stuff inside my head... seal... thing! You guys are weird!"

He threw up his hands and hurried to catch up to Itachi before they could get even more sickening.

Minato fought the urge to facepalm as he could almost hear grin forming on Kushina's face. One did not run away from a stalking cat. It only incited them to chase you. And now that she knew what would get a reaction out of the boy... well... he was doomed.

She darted after him. "But, Naruto! Mommy wuvs you!"

Itachi, taking one look behind him, quickly took several steps away from Naruto in the interest of self preservation. He felt a mild sense of guilt at sacrificing his newly adopted otouto in such a manner, but it was for a good cause. He needed to focus on finding and removing Orochimaru, and he couldn't do that if the redhead wrapped him up into... whatever it was she was currently doing to the small blond. Attempting to kill him with affection, it looked like.

"I just wanna hug and cuddle you, and pinch your widdle cheeks, and smother you in kisses!" She then promptly did just that.

With his wife distracted torturing their son, who looked utterly bewildered, Minato stepped forward past Itachi and took the lead. They would make much better time that way.

And so they did. It was only a matter of minutes before the dank hallways they'd been walking through opened up into a vast room. Inky black lines of complicated characters spiderwebbed across the surfaces of the walls, all of which converged in the center of the room on a single kunai floating almost innocuously about four feet off the ground.

"That's the knife he stuck in my head!" Naruto exclaimed pointing. He was about to step forward, but three hands reached out and snatched him back.

"Lesson one of seals: don't touch one if you don't know exactly what it does, dattebane!" Kushina scolded, smacking him lightly over the head.

Minato and Itachi scanned the seal from their spot in the doorway. It was... complicated. Which was an understatement in Minato's opinion. It took him a minute, but he figured out that moving into the room probably wasn't going to trigger a trap. Probably. So he stepped forward.

Itachi followed behind warily. He wasn't a seal master like the Yondaime, so his understanding of the black markings around them was extremely limited. Still, he would do what he could to help free Naruto of Orochimaru's control.

The blond circled around the hovering kunai, frowning in thought as he tried to pick apart the exact purpose of the seal and the best way to remove it. Ideas flickered by only to be discarded... he had a few maybe ideas, but needed more information before he could be certain. Information that would take time to get. He wasn't sure they had that kind of time.

"So, Naru-chan," Kushina spoke, pulling her son closer so they could talk in false privacy. It was obvious Minato and Itachi could still hear them, but neither were the type to spill secrets so it hardly mattered. "How old are you? Do you have a girlfriend? A best friend? Have you made chuunin yet? How's Kakashi-kun? Does he have a girlfriend?"

Naruto blinked at all her rapid fire questions. His mother knew Kakashi-sensei? No, now wasn't the time to think about that, he still didn't know how to respond to this whole... parents thing. He might break down crying and that would just be embarrassing. Instead he turned and focused on what the other two were doing. "Shouldn't we be helping them, dattebayo?"

He was surprised when the redhead tackled him in another hug. "That's so cute, dattebane! You say it too!" She didn't release him as she went on to answer his question. "Hmm, I'm waiting for Minato to figure out the obvious solution, or realize the fuuinjutsu prodigy of the Uzumaki fuuinjutsu clan is standing right here and may have solved it already."

The older blond sighed and palmed his face. "Kushina... you could have said something."

"Awww, but I like watching you try to figure out seals until you realize I'm better than you and should be asking me for advice," she replied teasingly.

The Yondaime lifted his head and raised an eyebrow as if to say, 'Oh, really?'. "Hiraishin."

"Shut up, Namikaze!" the redhead exploded. Her grip tightened almost painfully on her son as she threw one arm out to point challengingly at her husband. "That is a fluke and I will figure it out eventually, dattebane!"

"I have no doubt that you will," Minato replied with a smile, only serving to make her seeth further. His grin faded when he had an idea of what she might have thought up for a solution. "You're not talking about the Uzumaki Fuuin, are you? Kushina, you don't have enough chakra. If you try, the seal will fail and you'll... disappear."

There was pain and a bit of fear in that last word, but Kushina brushed it off.

"That's why I'm not going to be the one doing it, duh."

"Uh, I don't have enough chakra either."

"Not you!" she scolded. "No, Naruto's gonna do it 'ttebane."

All eyes turned to blink at her, though it didn't take long for Minato to finish following her thought process. Itachi was not quite so practiced at Kushina deciphering and Naruto didn't understand half of what they were talking about.

"Oh. Huh. That... that could work."

"Damn right it'll work, dattebane!" Kushina said indignantly. Then she turned to her son, pulling a kunai from her weapon pouch. "Naru-chan, mommy needs your blood."

Naruto's eyes went wide and tried to distance himself, but his mother had a surprisingly strong grip on him. Itachi appeared beside him.

"Perhaps I could do it? Then blood would not be necessary, correct?"

Kushina narrowed her eyes. "For a non-Uzumaki, you sure know a lot about the Uzumaki Fuuin."

Itachi tilted his head to the side slightly. "I saw you use it once. It did not require blood. I suspect you need the blood to write out the seal and make up for your son's lack of expertise in the technique. With the Sharingan I should be able to learn in it minutes."

"Tch, you're even smarter than I remember. Anyway, hell no, dattebane. I love you like a son, Ita-chan, but the Uzumaki Fuuin is for Uzumaki only. Minato doesn't even know it," she replied firmly. "Besides, you don't have the right chakra for it. I'm not sure it'd work for you, or if it won't kill you if you even try 'ttebane."

"It could kill me, dattebayo?!" Naruto asked, not liking this plan at all.

"No it- just trust me, dattebane!" Kushina growled. "I need your blood to make the seal, now quit being such a wuss about it!"

She pulled an ink vial out of her pouch and offered it to him with the kunai. "Here, just put a bit. Mostly it's so it'll react to your chakra, I'll be writing it out so it does all the work for you. It's not normally done this way, but I'm going to make it work."

Naruto took the tools warily, before stabbing the knife into his palm lightly and letting the blood dribble into the ink. Kushina flashed him a grin as she took it back. "Now don't ever do that for anyone you don't trust completely. Just like it makes the seal easier for you to use, it'll make it easier for a seal to be used against you."

"What?" Naruto asked. "You can use that to... curse me or something?!"

"Oh I can do terrible things with an enemy's blood. Terrible things...," Kushina mused, making everyone else shift uncomfortably. Naruto looked as if he was seriously contemplating taking the vial back. "Good thing you're my son and not my enemy, dattebane."

Minato stepped in to reassure his son while his wife went on to mark up the room with a new layer of ink. It took a while, and she muttered curses and semi-incoherent gibberish under her breath a lot, but when she was done, Naruto thought it just looked like a bunch of scribbles.

"That's supposed to help? Are you sure you aren't just making it worse, 'ttebayo?"

She smacked him lightly on the head again. "Yes, don't question your mother, dattebane! Stick your hand right here-," she pointed to a small circular patch of symbols in front of them, "-and channel chakra into it. A lot of chakra. Like... all of the chakra you can without passing out."

"Okay, yeesh, are mothers always so bossy?"

"Yes," the three other occupants of the room answered simultaneously. His parents glanced at Itachi curiously and he merely blinked back. Which was Itachi-speak for 'What? It's true.'

Naruto shook his head and placed his hand as directed. When he urged chakra out through it, the black characters around his hand lit up blue in an outward spiral. Then the blue light spilled out of the ink and began to run together as the seal pulled insistently on his energy reserves.

"More chakra, dattebane!"

Uneasily, Naruto complied, and the gushing became a torrent as the blue energy came to life around him like water and began to flow. By this time, Kushina had retreated to the safety of the wall, where the others had joined her. Which was good because the flood of chakra quickly covered the entire floor and started to move in a spiral. A whirlpool, Naruto realized, like its name had suggested. And it quickly grabbed up the black spidery lines of Orochimaru's control seal, washing them away.

That was when the giant snake appeared.

Huge, white, and with jaws that could easily swallow a dozen Narutos whole. The teen knew this because that was the first thing he saw as the beast's gaping maw rushed toward him.

There was a glint of light off of metal as the sound of shuriken and kunai impacting wall filled the room. Instantly Itachi was in front of him, a sword wreathed in black flame poised to intercept the large reptile. His parents were beside him just as quickly, all three balanced expertly on the web of ninja wire that was now suspended above the torrent of chakra to provide footing.

"Tch, damn lack of chakra," Kushina muttered. Minato grimaced in agreement. They didn't say it, but silently they knew they'd sacrifice themselves to save their son if Itachi couldn't handle it. Just like they'd done before.

But it proved unnecessary, the ex-Akatsuki member slammed his burning sword into the beast, setting it on fire and relentlessly slashed at it until it was little more than a smoldering corpse. Which was caught in the whirlpool seal and swept away with the rest.

Soon the flow began to lessen as everything drained into the small circle under Naruto's hand. When it finally ended, there was only a single set of marks left. A small black spiral reminiscent of the whirlpool, and a few other marks that looked like squiggles to Naruto.

"That was awesome, dattebayo!" the small blond cheered energetically. "What was that and can I learn to do it all the time?!"

Minato and Itachi blinked at him, wondering how the kid could be standing after using so much chakra. Kushina just grinned and tackled her son in a hug.

"I know right, dattebane? I'll teach you it whenever you want!"

And so they celebrated and had a party and they all ate cake.

The End.


Reader imagined/alternate ending by Abdullahsaurus

[Note that this was previously placed at the end of ch 11 because I wasn't originally planning on having an extras this round. I moved it to here so that all the extras would be in the same place. It's the same text as before.]

Naruto teleported behind Obito and rammed a rasengan into his back only to miss him by inches.

"Damn."

Obito phased through Naruto and molded his spheres into a blade.

"Good bye Naruto. See you in the afterlife!"

Naruto felt searing pain in his back side before the clone dispersed with a decisive pop.

Somewhere far away a boy screamed "Hiraishin".

Naruto felt disoriented going through the space-time continuum. While reaching his destination he prepared a bijju dama.

Obito sensed that the battle wasn't over.

The young one still hasn't been defeated and the current one still hasn't been found…..

Obito didn't see the black beam coming, but then, no one sees death coming.

Naruto formed a Sword using his bijju's chakra and stabbed Obito to make sure he was dead.

"I did it."

Naruto (Future) came running to the battle field with Killer Bee by his side

"What did I miss?"

He then noticed Obito lying on the floor and a tiny version of him standing there looking dazed, so as a precaution he slipped into Bijju Mode.

"Who are you?"

"I am you. Hasn't anyone told you that there was a mini-you running around?" Naruto said with a grin.

"I don't believe you, but if you let me take you back to Konoha I might."

Naruto nods and then Naruto (Future) comes closer and touches him.

"Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" screamed Naruto while wood was pouring out of his wounds and mouth.

"What the….." he came closer to Naruto but Bee stopped him

"Don't touch him you fool, what if you turn into a tree like him, wouldn't be cool."

Naruto's eyelids shoot wide open and he stared at his ceiling.

"Kurama ? Where are we?"

"From what I can gather it looks like we came back to our timeline."

Naruto grinned "At least this time we are prepared."


Meanwhile, in the past...

[I have had this written for a long time, actually, because I needed to figure out early on what was happening in the past after the little Naruto came to the future. Some people have wondered about it, however, and the further in the story we get, the more people wonder. This is slightly spoilery. This information is supposed to be revealed sometime later in the story, BUT when it is, it won't be done with this kind of scene; meaning it won't be happening from the point of view of someone still in the past. So what I'm saying is, I don't necessarily mind putting this scene here, because this scene will never exist in the actual story. But it does answer the question of 'so what is going on in the past?', so if you don't want to know yet, don't read.]

Kakashi arrived at the training ground where he had instructed his team to gather and paused. He'd hoped that his team would maybe re-bond a little bit while he was gone on his solo mission, but those hopes flew away quickly as he observed the scene in front of him.

Sasuke was sitting underneath a tree, arms crossed and face like a steel door, glaring in the other direction. Sakura sat near him, but not so near it would force him to move. When she saw Kakashi, she stood up, dusting grass off of her shorts. The third and loudest member of his team was nowhere to be seen, which was somehow the most conspicuous part of all of it.

"Kakashi-sensei, you're late," Sakura said, though without the indignation she usually put into it. She looked pleadingly at him and then looked back at Sasuke.

Kakashi sighed. Rather than reconnecting with one another, the rapport with his team seemed even worse than before. He had only been gone for a day and a night; had they managed to have a big falling out while he was gone?

He looked at Sasuke, who stoically ignored him. The young Uchiha hadn't been the same since the reunion with Itachi, and his subsequent hospitalization. Even though Tsunade had deemed him physically fit enough to be released from the hospital, she had suspended Team 7 from doing missions until Kakashi could evaluate their readiness to return to action.

Which is what he was supposed to be doing today. The problem was, it would be difficult to asses his team with only one and a half of his team members present. (Sasuke honestly didn't look entirely there.)

"Yo," he said with practiced laziness. "Where's Naruto? You three didn't have a fight, did you?"

"No, sensei," Sakura said, sounding confused. "I haven't seen Naruto since we said goodbye after Tsunade-sama's inaguration. Have you, Sasuke-kun?"

"No," Sasuke said shortly. "Knowing him, he probably mistook the place. Or the day."

Kakashi frowned. Tsunade's inauguration had been the night before last. "Neither of you saw him yesterday, at all? Even though all three of you had the day off?"

"It is kind of strange," Sakura said. "He's an idiot sometimes, but I don't think he's ever been later than you for one of our meetings, right, sensei?"

"Hm..." Kakashi considered. "I'll go check at his house. If it takes me longer than half an hour for me to drag him back here, you're both dismissed, but expect to hear from me again sometime today."

"Yes, sensei," Sakura said, while Sasuke gave an eloquent snort.

Kakashi set off toward Naruto's apartment, silver brows knotted together in consternation. It really wasn't like the knucklehead to skip a team meeting, especially when he knew their fitness for active duty was going to be assessed. He knew better than anyone that Naruto was eager to get back to doing missions to help Konoha out while their forces were still strained after Orochimaru's attack.

In a matter of minutes he was at Naruto's front door, tapping languidly. He jabbed at the doorbell a couple of times, hearing it buzz within the apartment. He waited a few minutes, but there was no response.

Okay then. He was starting to seriously doubt that his student was at home, but Kakashi decided to go check at the bedroom window anyway. If something had happened he didn't know about, it was possible that Naruto could be refusing to answer the door out of sheer stubbornness.

Kakashi crawled around the side of the building to the balcony off of Naruto's room and peered into the bedroom window only to find, to his slight confusion, that Naruto was simply laying in bed. He was sprawled out with half of his bedcovers in the floor in his usual chaotic way, but his face was relaxed and blank. He wasn't snoring or twitching or generally being the bundle of energy that he was at all times, even while sleeping. Was he sick?

"Oi, Naruto," Kakashi said, sliding his window open and hopping down to the floor. "Rise and shine."

Nothing. Even when Kakashi closed the window behind him with a snap and kicked the bedcovers the rest of the way off of him, Naruto didn't wake. Not a twitch, not a grumble. His eyes didn't even move under his eyelids.

"Naruto?" Kakashi called, a tinge of worry leaking into his voice against his will. Was this some kind of prank? But even he knew that this wasn't the kind of pranking Naruto liked to do. He didn't make others worry for his safety intentionally. He cherished the care of others too much to abuse it like that.

"Naruto," Kakashi said a bit more forcefully, shaking his shoulder. Naruto's head rolled back and forth but his expression didn't shift in the slightest. He couldn't fake this level of insensibility if he tried, Kakashi realized. Something was definitely wrong. He felt Naruto's forehead and the sides of his face. They weren't overheated, flushed with fever. They were icy cold.

"No–" the word slipped from his mouth before he even realized it. Kakashi felt like all the air in the room had suddenly vanished, the constricting in his chest making it difficult to breathe as fear flooded him.

He leaned to poise his ear over Naruto's face. He couldn't hear him breathing.

He pressed his ear over Naruto's heart. He couldn't hear it beating.

Kakashi's thoughts were running all over one another, but he forced himself to try to calm down and block out everything and listen with all of his might.

Nothing. No. Why was this – no. There was something. It was very faint, but he thought he could hear a heartbeat. It lobbed frighteningly slowly. But Naruto was alive.

Barely.

Without wasting any more time, Kakashi scooped up his student's small body and left via the nearest exit, the window. He wasn't going to the hospital. Protocol be damned, he would see the newly instated Godaime Hokage right now, and no one was going to get in his way.

…...

Tsunade looked up sharply when someone barged into her office without knocking, half-prepared to give them a tongue-lashing, but the words died in her throat when she saw the usually unruffled Kakashi out of breath with and a look of desperation plain even on his masked face.

She stood up and walked around her desk toward him. "Kakashi, what–" her eyes jumped to the preteen gathered in his arms and she felt her stomach drop down to her shoes. Naruto looked so pale. Still. Dead.

Tsunade could feel the room around her getting farther away; everything felt strange and distant. She dimly saw a pair of trembling hands that looked like her own touch the icy skin of his face, tracing the whisker marks.

She was cursing herself, but numbly, in the back of her mind. She should have never given him the necklace. Never should have formed an attachment to another all-too-mortal being. Fate just loved to spit on her, didn't it? How stupid, to be lured into a false sense of security again.

"He's alive, Tsunade-sama," Kakashi said urgently, pulling her back to reality. "Please, you have to do something or..."

Suddenly Tsunade could feel the ground underneath her feet again. If there was a chance, she would not fail. Not this time.

She put her glowing palms over Naruto's chest and discovered the weak, sluggish heartbeat. She moved her hands over him, checking the other organs and his chakra system.

"There is no physical damage," she said in a clipped voice. "but his chakra system is almost entirely empty. His levels are so dangerously low that he can't wake. He barely has enough energy to keep his vital organs functioning. And... I can't feel the Kyuubi at all."

"Then..."

"How long has he been like this?"

"I don't know. The last time Sakura and Sasuke saw him was the night before last. It could be over twenty-four hours."

"We're taking him to the hospital before we make any conclusions," Tsunade growled. "Shizune! Go find out where Jiraiya is and send him a message to report back here immediately. I want to know what he has found out about Akatsuki's movements. Kakashi, follow me."

Kakashi followed after her, keeping silent, but he could tell that they were thinking the same thing.

When they made it to the hospital, Kakashi laid Naruto gently down on the hospital bed and backed up as Tsunade barked orders at the several nurses that were milling around. No one told him to leave, so he just faded back quietly into the background. It was highly improbable that a guard was necessary at this point. If someone had managed to extract the bijuu from Naruto - never mind how, that was a question that would come later - they most likely didn't care whether the boy lived or died. Without the Kyuubi, he had no political or military value. Yet Kakashi stayed anyway, suspended in a state of morbid fascination as the medic-nin fought to save his student's life.

He knew, and Tsunade knew, that no one in history had ever survived having their Tailed Beast removed from them. Ever. Yet they had to try, even if the most they could do was delay the inevitable. This was the first time that someone in his life had died slowly enough for him to contemplate the process. Kakashi couldn't say if that was an improvement.

He lost track of exactly how much time passed, but it was enough for several ANBU to come looking for Tsunade (who had, after all, skipped out on her work without warning). After berating the first two mercilessly for interrupting her, she posted them outside of the hospital door to tell others that there was a medical emergency and she was not to be disturbed.

Kakashi didn't move from his position leaning on the wall until all the other medical personnel were allowed to leave and Tsunade flopped down into a bedside chair. He came forward and stood there silently, waiting for the verdict. Naruto had on a breathing mask and was hooked up to so many other machines that he couldn't figure out what all of them were for. But the steady sound of his pulse on the heart monitor was reassuring.

"He is stable," Tsunade said tiredly, reading Kakashi's silence. "There is no telling when or even if he'll regain consciousness, but his life isn't in danger as long as his body keeps doing its job. Him surviving this long without any support at all is, frankly, miraculous."

"What exactly is wrong with him?"

Tsunade got out of her chair heavily. "Being perfectly honest, the only thing I know of that could cause this is exactly what you are thinking... the Kyuubi is gone, and all but the bare minimum of Naruto's life energy is gone with it. Having the Tailed Beast taken... he should be dead already, but it seems he has his mother's resilience."

Kakashi narrowed his eye. "It had to be Akatsuki."

"Most likely. I hope that finding Jiraiya will enable us to piece together what happened. He's supposed to be monitoring their movements right now. To think that they could get into the village and take the bijuu undetected..."

"What do you think the chances are that Naruto will survive?" Kakashi asked, ignoring the vice-like squeezing in his chest.

Tsunade closed her eyes briefly before answering. "The life support will not work indefinitely, and he will not be able to simply recover. His body is essentially an empty shell. The only thing that might work is to recover the Kyuubi and re-seal it inside of him."

"Then we have to take the offensive against Akatsuki as soon as possible."

"Yes," Tsunade said, low-burning fury creeping into her tone. She turned and marched toward the door. "Now that I've done all I can do here, it is time to get back to work." she paused with her hand on the door handle and said softly, "You should inform the rest of your team."


I hope this makes ya'll excited for things to come. You'll have to wait to find out the rest~

Thanks to everyone that read, reviewed, followed and favorited in the last story arc. Until next time!