(The following story takes place in the Christmas right after the invasion of Pein)
It was the Christmas eve and snow was falling peacefully down the village. In a small apartment the door was opening as an exhausted Naruto walked in. He grabbed a cup of instant ramen and started pouring the water when he heard something.
He turned around, "hello?" He didn't see anyone so he kept preparing his ramen.
"Narutoooooo" he heard behind him.
Naruto turned around quickly, completely terrified, "whose there?! S-Sakura?! Kiba?! Shikamaru?! This isn't funny!" he said as he looked around.
Suddenly he felt someone tap his shoulder. He slowly turned around and saw a familiar face, with long, spiky, white hair, and carrying a giant scroll on his back.
"Hey there," Jiraiya said smiling.
"AHHHHHH!" Naruto screamed as he fell on his back and started scrambling around.
"Whoa, whoa! Naruto it's me!" Jiraiya said as came closer.
"GET AWAY FROM ME!" Naruto yelled as he started accumulating chakra in his had.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Jiraiya said calmly.
"RASENGAN!" Naruto yelled as he lunged at his old master. Jiraiya stayed still and when Naruto extended his arm to reach him…he went right though him. Unfortunately he kept on going until crashing into the oven, causing it to explode and spreading debris and ramen noodles everywhere.
When the dust finally cleared, Jiraiya walked towards Naruto, who was rubbing his head in pain, and kneeled in front of him, "will you listen before you end up destroying your house?"
"But you're d-de-de," Naruto stuttered terrified.
"Dead, yes. I'm a ghost, and I'm here because we need to talk."
"It wasn't my fault! Granny Tsunade kept asking if the Icha-Icha books were based on her and she threatened to give me only low rank missions if I lied! I had to tell her the truth!"
"YOU DID WHAT?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT TO ME?! NOW SHE'S GOING TO KILL ME AGAIN WHEN SHE SEES ME IN THE AFTERLIFE!" Jiraiya said as he grabbed Naruto by his coat and shook him violently. After a while he stopped and took a deep breathe, "doesn't matter. I'm not here because of that. I'm here to give you a warning."
"W-what kind of warning?"
"Sit down," Jiraiya said as he pulled to chairs towards them. When he noticed he didn't move Jiraiya sighed and extended his hand, in which a bowl of steaming ramen suddenly appeared, "if I give you this ramen will you sit down?"
"Yes!" Naruto said as he grabbed the bowl and sat down next to Jiraiya.
"Naruto I'm here to warn you. You are a good man and a good shinobi, much like I was when I was your age. However, just like me, you are overlooking something important and if you don't figure it out soon you're going to end up like."
"Like you? But your life was incredible," Naruto said as he kept on eating.
Jiraiya laughed, "I know it looked that way. I had my own popular book series, I was incredibly wealthy, and the ladies," Jiraiya made his usual perverted face as he remembered that last part. He immediately shook it off and continued, "but there was one thing that I really wanted and I could never get. The one thing that I would have given up everything else just to have it."
"You mean oba-chan? But I thought she didn't like you that way" Naruto asked.
"I thought so too. But then I realized that Tsunade wasn't the problem; I was. I'm hoping you won't be as blind as I was and realize your mistake sooner."
"Ahhh, so you're here to help me find a way to win Sakura-chan?" Naruto said as he thought deeply.
Jiraiya shook his head, "Looks like you're going to need more help," he stood up and suddenly floated in front of Naruto. He pointed at Naruto and said in a deep voice, "Naruto Uzumaki! Tonight three shinobi ghosts shall visit you before midnight! Head their warning, before it's too late!"
"Ero-senin stop that!" Naruto said terrified, "you're scaring me!"
Jiraiya immediately stopped and shrugged, "sorry, but that part required me to be professional. I must go know. But before I do, there is one more thing I have to say," he smiled at Naruto and placed his hand on his shoulder, "I'm proud of you Naruto. Goodbye."
"Ero-senin wait!" Naruto said as his former sensei disappeared. When he was gone Naruto felt a lump on his throat and his eyes tearing up, "goodbye…"
The ghost shinobi of the past
Naruto heard the grandfather clock go off ten times. He looked at it and saw that it was ten o'clock.
"Wait, since when do I have a grandfather clock?!" he said as he scratched his head.
"You don't, but we need it for this setting. It's pretty much one of the central parts of the story," he heard someone say behind him. He quickly turned around and saw a robed figure sitting in his couch, their head hidden under what seemed to be a hokage hat.
"Oba-chan?" Naruto asked as he walked closer.
The figure chuckled and a wisp of smoke appeared under the hat, "close, but a bit older," the figure raised his head reaveling a kind, familiar face smiling at Naruto while smoking a corn cob pipe, "my, my how you've grown Naruto."
"Third?" Naruto asked as his eyed went wide.
"Good, I thought you had forgotten me," Sarutobi said laughing as he stood up. He looked just as Naruto remembered seeing him last, except that his hokage uniform was green and gold instead of red and white, "I am the ghost shinobi of the past. Im here to show you a few things you may have overlooked. Follow me," he said as he floated through the ceiling.
"Uhhh, third. How do you want me to follow you?" Naruto asked.
"Oh right. One second," Sarutobi said a he came back. He took off his Hokage hat and gave it to Naruto, "put this on."
"Thanks!" Naruto said eagerly as he put it on. He immediately felt lighter and when he looked down he saw that he was floating above the ground and that he could see through his body, "cool!"
"All right, now follow me," Sarutobi said as he floated through the ceiling. Naruto followed and soon they were both flying over the streets of Konoha. After a while Naruto noticed that they were headed towards the ninja academy. They passed through the wall and Naruto immediately noticed that the place was full of kids, which was odd for the time.
"What's going on?" Naruto asked.
Sarutobi simply pointed at a boy running towards them. A boy with spiky blond hair, orange clothes, a shiny head protector, and a grin spreading from ear to ear.
"Yes! Today Im a step closer to becoming hokage!" the boy laughed as he ran passed them.
"That's…me. Right after I became gennin," Naruto said flaberghast.
"Correct. This is about four years ago, the day you were placed in Team 7. Follow me," Sarutobi said as they went through the class room wall. Once inside they saw everyone sitting down, with Iruka sensei reading the team lists.
"Do you remember what you were thinking that day Naruto?"
"Of course. I wanted to be in Sakura's team more than anything," Naruto said as he noticed his younger self sitting between Sakura and Sasauke.
"And do you know what Sakura was thinking?"
"Probably hoping to be in Sasuke's team," Naruto answered.
Sarutobi sighed, "you're half right Naruto. This part might be…painful," he snapped his fingers and suddenly they could both hear Sakura's thoughts.
"Sasuke is soooo cool!" Nauto heard in his head, "I HAVE to be in his team! I don't care who the third person is. I'll even take that Ino-pig. Just as long as it's not Naruto. ANYONE but Naruto, please!"
"Okay so maybe she was a bit mean, but that's changed," Naruto said defensively.
"That's not the point here Naruto. You see, there were two things most of the students wanted in their teams. One was that Sasuke, the prodigy, became part of their team. The other…" Sarutobi snapped his fingers again, and suddenly Naruto could here everyone's thoughts.
"God please not Uzumaki…"
"Anyone but him."
"I'll take the fat kid before Naruto."
"If I get Naruto I'll give up my head protctor."
"I hope I get to be in Naruto's team…"
"Wait, what was that?" Naruto said, "go back, please."
"Ahhh good. You heard it," Sarutobi said smiling. He snapped his fingers and all of the thoughts were silenced except for one.
"I hope I get to be in Naruto's team…"
"Over there," Sarutobi said as he pointed at the last row. Naruto looked and saw one person looking at hs younger self, smiling and blushing; a girl with dark hair, white eyes, and a creamed colored coat.
"Hinata?" Naruto said as he looked closely, "she wanted to be on the same team as me?" he looked at Sarutobi who was nodding silently, "she was probably just being nice…"
"Team 7: Sakura, Naruto, and Sasuke!" he heard Iruka sensei call out.
Hinata's face became slightly crestfallen, "I didn't get to be with Naruto…" she thought.
"She…really wanted to be with me…" Naruto said.
"Correct. In fact, Hinata was the only person in the class who wanted to have you in her team, long before you showed any talent or promise. Follow me," Sarutobi said as he floated through the roof.
"Hey wait!" Naruto said as he followed, "okay so maybe she wanted to be with me. She might have just thought I was lonely like her and that I would like to have her as a friend."
Sarutobi didn't answer, but kept on floating towards the chunnin exam arena. Once they got there they noticed that the place was packed and there were two people fighting in the arena.
"Seem familiar?" Sarutobi asked Naruto.
"That's me fighting Neji!" Naruto said as he looked closely.
"And do you remember what happened before that fight?" Sarutobi asked.
"Yeah, Hinata helped me get out of my self pitying so I could kick Neji's ass," Naruto said.
"Follow me," Sarutobi said as he floated towards the stands. As they got closer Naruto noticed that it was where Hinata and Kiba were sitting.
Suddenly Hinata started coughing blood, her face turning deathly pale and she started trembling.
"Hinata! What's wrong?! Your wounds…there aren't healed yet!" Kida said as Hinata kept coughing. Suddenly she fell forward and collapsed on the floor.
"What's going on?!" Naruto asked as he looked at Sarutobi.
"Hinata wasn't suppose to be in this fight Naruto. Neji severely damaged her internal organs during her fight, and the medics had barely stabilized them when your fight was announced. She was suppose to rest for a few weeks until the medical ninjas dared to go in and fix her up again. However, she ignored the doctor's orders and snuck out of the hospital to see you fight."
"What?! But…what about her parents? Her sensei?" Naruto asked.
"Her father lost interest in Hinata long before you met her, disowning her for being too weak. Kurenai sensei was at the match acting as guard. She didn't think Hinata would put herself in danger like that," Sarutobi said calmly.
Naruto watched as Hinata's condition got worse and Kiba tried desperately to get help. Suddenly an ANBU came and healed Hinata before knocking Kiba out and disappearing amongst the crowd.
"If Kabuto hadn't been there on Orochimaru's orders, Hinata's condition might have taken a turn for the worse…"
"Stop!" Naruto said as he shook his head angrily, "just send me back home! I've had enough!"
"If you want to end this, just take off the hat."
"Fine I will!" Naruto said as he snatched the hat and threw it on the floor. Immediately he felt solid again and felt like he was falling down a deep chasm. He screamed and looked around, but Sarutobi was gone.
The ghost shinobi of the present
Naruto opened his eyes and saw that he was in his bed. He got up and looked around, looking for anything that might be out of the ordinary.
"It was just a dream," he muttered as he laid back down.
Suddenly he heard the grandfather clock go off eleven times, causing him to get up immediately.
"No, no, no! Stay away from me ghost!" Naruto said as he got out of bed and looked around frantically.
He opened the door to the living room when a strong gust sent him flying back to his bed. He got up groggily and saw a figure standing in front of him.
"And here I thought you would be ready for a wind based attack," the figure said as he lit a cigarette and took a puff, "have been practicing what I taught you?"
"Asuma sensei?" Naruto asked as he squinted. He saw that it was indeed Asuma, wearing his usual jounin outfit that he had before he died.
"Get up, were going on a little trip," Asuma said as he took off his jounin vest and handed it to Naruto.
"Look, sensei, I think I've had enough for one night," Naruto said nervously. Asuma glared at him until he put on the jacket. Immediately his room disappeared and he found himself standing inside a compound next to Asuma.
"Wha—where are we?" Naruto asked.
Asuma didn't answer and instead walked into the building. Naruto followed him up until they reached a room. He saw what appeared to be the silhouette of a very curvaceous women changing.
Naruto grinned, "Now that's what I'm talking about," he said as he walked towards the room.
Asuma hit him over the head hard, "baka! We are not here for you to be perverted!"
"Fine! Fine!" Naruto said as he rubbed his head. They waited until the woman finished dressing and then walked in. To Naruto's shock, Hinata was on the other side brushing her hair.
There was a knock on the door, "Lady Hinata, may I come in?"
Hinata straightened up, "yes Neji."
Neji came in and bowed down, "sorry to disturb you Lady Hinata but if do not hurry we shall be late for the Hyuuga Christmas party."
"I know that Neji but I-I don't think I'll be going," Hinata muttered.
"Is this still about your confession about Naruto?" Neji asked as Naruto cringed, "Lady Hinata I know you do not want to hear it, but it's been almost a year already. If he hasn't said anything yet, maybe it's time to move on."
"Neji you don't understand," Hinata said as she looked up, "I know that he probably doesn't feel the same way, and I know that I'm being foolish. I know all of this…and I don't care. If I said that I didn't love him anymore, I would be lying to myself. I just…can't ignore what I feel towards the one person who changed me for the better."
Naruto suddenly felt Asuma hit him across the head again, "baka. See what your negligence is doing?"
"It's not like that. What am I suppose to say to her? 'Thank you Hinata I love you to? I care for her, I really do, but I've only seen her as a fellow shinobi. I just…don't know what to do or say."
Asuma shook his head and took another drag from his cigarette, "you're hopeless," he said as he blew out the smoke. The smoke started to spread out, enveloping Asuma and the whole room.
"Sensei? Sensei!" Naruto called out as the smoke clouded his vision completely.
Ghost Shinobi of the Future
Naruto coughed and shook the smoke out his eyes. Unfortunately all he could see was white haze around him. He heard the sound of a grandfather clock go off twelve times, but he still couldn't see anything.
Suddenly he felt a cold hand grab his shoulder, causing him to jump. He turned around and saw a hooded figure with a large black cloak standing in front of him.
"I'm guessing you're the ghost shinobi of the future," Naruto said as he tried to see the person's face.
The figure didn't say anything.
"Where are we?" Naruto asked attentively.
The figure raised his arm and a pale white hand slid from the sleeve, pointing into the distance. Naruto looked at where the hand was pointing and saw the haze clearing. After a while he saw what seemed like the Hokage monument, except there was something different about it.
"Is that me?" Naruto asked as he looked closely at the last giant head, "I made hokage?!"
He turned around but saw the figure gliding off silently. Naruto followed him and saw that they were heading towards a large building with people dressed up nicely coming in and out. They walked inside and Naruto saw most of his friends talking and laughing, all in their early 30's.
He saw Shikamaru with his arm wrapped around Temari talking to Gaara and Matsuri. He then noticed Ino holding a chubby blonde baby while Choji made cooing noises. Neji and Tenten were kissing under the mistletoe, he even saw Sai making portraits of people while Kei leaned on his shoulder smiling.
Suddenly everyone turned their attention to the door and started talking at once.
"Lord hokage, so glad you could come."
"Honorable lord hokage, we are pleased to see you tonight."
"Merry Christmas Lord Hokage,"
"Yes, Merry Christmas to you all," Naruto heard someone say out loud as he made his way through the crowd, "I'm afraid I can't stay for long; but please, don't mind me. Enjoy the night."
When Naruto finally got through, he saw that the person who had been talking was his older self. He looked a lot like his father, except older. He looked like he was in his late 40's, with streaked of grey and blonde hair and heavy bags under his eyes. The older Naruto greeted everyone with cheer, but there was something odd about him.
"Naruto!" he heard someone say as she walked past him. It was a woman with long pink hair and wearing a black dress.
"Ahhh Sakura. How have you been?" Naruto asked as he embraced her.
"I'm more worried about you, baka. You're always working and we almost never see you outside your office. Please, just for tonight, stay here and enjoy yourself."
"I wish I could Sakura, but the delegates from the Hidden Mist village will be coming any day now, and I must have everything ready for them."
"Come one dobe," someone else said as he wrapped his arms around Sakura, "do you really expect them to come tomorrow, on Christmas morning?"
"I would rather not take my chances in insulting them, Sasuke," the older Naruto said sternly.
"SASUKE?!" the younger Naruto said as his jaw drop. He then saw the resemblance between the man holding Sakura and his long lost friend, "WHEN DID HE COME BACK?!"
"Naruto, I'm asking you as a friend to please stay," Sasuke with genuine concern.
"Sorry guys, but I can't."
Sasuke sighed, "Well I tried. Come on honey, let's go dance," Sasuke said as he kissed her check.
"Merry Christmas Naruto," Sakura said as she walked away with Sasuke.
Then the music started to change into a slower tone, with everyone pairing up and heading towards the dance floor. Naruto sighed and started heading towards the exit.
"Lord Hokage…Naruto wait," he heard someone call behind him. He turned around and saw a beautiful lady walking towards him smiling.
"Hinata…" the older Naruto said softly.
"HINATA?!" the younger Naruto asked.
"I'm sorry to bother you, but I wanted to give you this," Hinata said as he gave Naruto a small gift, "in case you are too busy tomorrow."
The older Naruto smiled, "thank you Hinata."
"Sakura is right Naruto. You shouldn't work so hard. We're worried about you… I'm worried about you," she said quietly.
"Hinata I'm fine," Naruto said, "but…I appreciate you're concern," he hesitated for a while, "Hinata, can I ask you something?"
"Do you ever wonder…."
"Oh hey there Naruto," a man said as he walked behind Hinata, "good to see you out of the office."
"Thanks Kiba," the older Naruto said.
"Oh no…" the younger Naruto said.
"Hinata, sorry I have to go but Shino is coming out of the hospital and he insisted in coming here tonight, so I have to help him."
"I understand. I'll be here, and tell Shino I look forward to seeing him," Hinata said smiling.
"Thanks," Kiba said as he leaned forward and gave Hinata a kiss, "love you."
"I love you too Kiba," Hinata said blushing.
The younger Naruto's jaw was practically on the floor by the time Kiba left through the door. The older Naruto, however, just looked sadly the other way.
"I'm sorry Naruto. What where you going to ask?" Hinata asked.
"…Nothing, it wasn't important. I should go," Naruto said as he headed towards the door.
Naruto turned around and saw Hinata walking toward him, until she was only inches away. She reached forward and touched his cheek lightly, "I wonder every day," she said softly. She then kissed him in the check and then walked back to the rest of the party. The older Naruto looked at her for a while, then sadly turned around and walked out of the building.
"Sad isn't it?" the younger Naruto heard someone hiss behind him as a cold hand gripped his shoulder, "but sometimes unavoidable. After all, some goals in life are more important than anything else."
"Let me go!" Naruto said angrily as he shook off the hand and turned around to face the ghost shinobi of the future, "I'm not like that."
"You can't like to me Naruto," the ghost hissed as he reached for his hood and pulled it back slowly to reveal a pale, snakelike face with golden eyes.
"Orochimaru," Naruto said as he stepped back, "stop talking like you know me! I'm nothing like you!"
"On the contrary Naruto," Orochimaru said as he reached up for his own face. He then peeled it off with one swipe, dropping it on the floor. In its place there was another face, one with blue eyes, spiky hair, and whiskers on its cheeks.
"I am you," he grinned as he opened his mouth and a large white snake lunged at Naruto.
Naruto got up panting and sweating. He looked around and saw that he was back in his room, in his bed.
"A dream? No, no way," he said as he got up slowly. He looked out the window and saw that it was morning already. He then remembered it was Christmas.
"All right. I can do this…"
Hinata was walking through the streets, having just dropped off the presents for her team mates. She turned around the corner and walked into someone running by, causing them both to fall on the ground.
"I'm s-sorry," Hinata stammered as she opened her eyes, "I wasn't looking and…" she stopped when she realized that the person she ran into—and was currently on top of—was Naruto.
"Hi Hinata," Naruto said sheepishly.
"Na-naruto kun," Hinata said as she felt her face get red.
"Wait wait!" Naruto said as he quickly helped her up, "please don't fain yet! I have to tell you something important."
"What?" Hinata said confused.
"Hinata I…well…a year ago you did…you said something important to me at a critical moment..."
He'd getting nervous Hinata thought sadly I should just tell him it was nothing "Naruto-kun you…"
"I wanted to thank you Hinata," Naruto blurted out.
"Hinata I…I've been acting selfishly for this past year. I didn't know what to think after you said that…you loved me. But that's no excuse for avoiding you all this time. You saved my life that day Hinata. And…you were the only person to ever say that to me. The least I could say is thank you."
Hinata didn't know what to say, but for some reason felt her face returning back to normal.
"I was looking for you to give you this," Naruto said as he took out a small parcel from inside his jacket, "Merry Christmas, Hinata Hyuga," he said smiling.
Hinata hesitated for a moment. She then smiled and took the gift from Naruto, "Merry Christmas, Naruto Uzumaki."
"So…I don't know if you have any plans," Naruto asked nervously as he scratched his head, "but…would you like to go get some ramen?"
"With you?" Hinata asked surprised.
"Yes?" Naruto asked.
Hinata smiled and got closer to Naruto, "I would like that."