A/N: Happy birthday to me; here's a self-indulgent fic as I try to get back into the Naruto fandom! As you (probably, hopefully) noticed in the summary, this fic is written as a self-insert kind of deal. How much of this character is me..? I'll leave you wondering. They're a little strange. This story is gonna be so full of improbabilities, I won't even lie, I'm writing this because I want to XD

Also, I stopped following canon Naruto even peripherally, like...before all that reincarnation nonsense. And especially the aliens. I also know NOTHING about Boruto, and as such disregard it. All I know is fanfic and wiki. As such, this story is AU, but in what way is still up in the air.

Also, also, the story title comes from the Korn song, because the music video makes me grin like a lunatic, and the lyrics are surprisingly on-point for the story.


Hold On (be strong)

Chapter 1

It's hard to be truly calm in the face of inevitable death. I was a little surprised, actually, considering the sheer accepting apathy I was so sure I could maintain.

The mind and body aren't always united, after all. However much some will try to disprove it, we're all animals at our basest level. Some of us more so than others. Very few of us are treated to the conditions that make our minds override our instincts, and I… Was not one of those exceptions. And I was glad of it—I trusted my instincts, for the most part, no matter how much some of them had bothered my family.

(It wouldn't bother them anymore.)

Which meant that I shook. My heart thundered so hard my chest hurt; my breath came in short, panicked gasps. I didn't run, though, because there was no place to run. I was trapped. And I didn't fear death, but I was an animal. My ancestors had only survived because of such instincts as fear, fear in the face of fire and smoke and the things that hid in the dark. So the crackle of fire out of control made my blood surge with adrenaline, made my head ache with pressure. The smoke was thick and bitter in my throat, and there were no sirens outside –no help on the way– and I was going to die and it was all so fucking pointless.

The smoke grew thicker, the room darker, and the only light was the flickering orange glow from the crack under the door, and I made myself get off the floor, because it was too late for staying low to do any good. Too late. I would rather the smoke take me before the fire could. The bundle of fur and limp-limbs in my lap hadn't moved in minutes, tried to slip from my arms –deadweight– when I stood to crawl onto my bed. Up here, it was hard to breathe without coughing, or choking, but it was either this or burning, and I didn't want to give into the indignity of screaming from the pain of fire eating away at my skin.

So I breathed in the bitter smoke, deep, and my lungs burned like my eyes, and my hands dug (gently) into the long fur of the cooling body on my lap as I listened to the overwhelmingly loud roar of fire devouring the house around me. The snap and crash of some other part collapsing. And I waited, dizzier by the second. I waited for the darkness creeping in the corners to finally take me and—

I breathed, unimpaired. Pressure on my face. I was warm, strangely weightless. My eyes burned when I opened them, and there was only pitch darkness, anyway. I couldn't recall ever being in a place so dark.

My head hurt, pressure and pain, like a band of steel wrapped around my skull. And…I couldn't move. There was…nothing. Nothing at all.


So, I probably wasn't dead.

I wasn't convinced that this wasn't one hell of a strange dream, though. Given, I'd never dreamed a dream where I was aware enough at the time to consider it weird enough to be a dream, but. Who was I kidding? I didn't know if comatose people could dream, and if the smoke and flame hadn't killed me, that must be me. Rotting away in a hospital, little more than a vegetable, probably burned all to hell and likely dying a slow, slow death, pumped full of morphine. Brain cooking up weird shit until not even the machines could keep me going.

Thinking of it like that actually made the context of the maybe-dream make more sense. It could even be attributed to the phantom body sensation…

And the obvious, 'I must be dreaming' (what-the-ever-loving-fuck) strangeness is me, aware that I'm currently inhabiting the body of a tiny, toddler, boy-child. And the only other person I see in the more lucid moments bares a striking resemblance to a character out of an anime. The Naruto anime. Orochimaru.

All told, it probably wasn't even the weirdest part of this dream that I noticed that he looked…different. Flashback-y different. Dressed in one of those bulky green vests, wearing a metal plate carved with the Konoha leaf…

My amateur dream interpreting led me to the conclusion that whatever was happening to my body in the outside world was…probably pretty unpleasant. Considering what reflected here.

(Still. It wasn't…bad. Considering. My dreams never really had been bad; I didn't have nightmares. I knew my head wasn't wired exactly right, and it suited me. I could live with it. But. This…might've been nightmarish for other people. I think.

But it didn't really hurt, so why..?)

See, it all felt pretty real, but I called it a dream because none of it really progressed…linearly. There were gaps. 'Scene skips', for no apparent reason, and they all bled into one another after a while.

Lying supine with all my limbs belted down and a palm pressed to my belly –a large, white hand that spanned nearly my entire abdomen– and then an overheated, overfull sensation, like I would just split open, popped like a balloon. Pressure.

Sitting upright, chubby baby hands clasped neatly in my lap, watching a long, clear line full of some not-quite-clear liquid. Not picking at the tape on my face (but really, really wanting to, I just couldn't move), breathing carefully, swallowing repeatedly and trying not to acknowledge that I could feel the path of the cold liquid in the tube, through my nose and down my throat. Like ice in my stomach. Nausea. Fever.

Golden-yellow snake eyes, a familiar expression on a strange but ever-more-familiar face. Assessing. ('What's wrong with you?')

Supine, limbs bound. A palm on my belly; pressure, too much, too much, toomuch—pain.

Upright, hands clasped in my lap. A tube in my nose, cold in my stomach. A needle in the crook of my arm, a cold burn; morphine. Dizzy vertigo.

Watching Orochimaru's face; he tilted his head, and I tilted mine. His eyes gleam, narrow, and he moves his arms, folds his fingers into a handsign. I do the same. He smiles, slow.

Alone in a small, quiet room. Stone. A caged orange lightbulb on the ceiling. One metal door that buzzed like static electricity under my fingertips. A pipe low on the wall that trickled a small, constant flow of water into a narrow grate in the floor. A bowl of chalky, tasteless goop that was supposedly food. A thin, almost plastic-y blanket that was still sufficiently warm.

Supine, immobile. A palm on my belly. A sensation, not warmth but close. Building slowly, but still too much. Too much. Not pain but close. The pressure ceases to increase, but also holds steady at almost-too-much. My eyes open. Orochimaru withdraws his hand; it continues to glow green for a second, reflecting a hundredfold from scalpels and tubes and the sharp-edged darkness.

Sitting on the floor, short legs spread into a V before me. Hands straight above my head, held together by one large, increasingly familiar hand around my wrists. His other hand on the back of my neck, pushing forward as the one on my wrists pulled, until I was pressed flat to the floor, from cheek to belly, legs still a tight V. It didn't hurt. The flexibility of this little body seemed unreal.

Alone in the quiet orange-lit room. Little fingers numb with painkillers, poking at neat lines of sutures marching up and down major muscle groups. Finding the large shiny-smooth patch across my belly, like a burn. Noticing the patchiness of my skin, not unhealthy, but two obviously different colors. Crisscross lines of thin raised scars across my head, still tender when pressed.

Mimicking Orochimaru. Handsigns. Never the same order, faster, faster, faster. Only realizing at the end that I know their names because he was murmuring them the whole time.

Dark and quiet and sometimes, the sound of distant, echoing screams.

It might've kept on like that, a weird, dying dream that I watched from the front row seat –like a movie that only holds half your attention–, until I lost interest and drew too far away. Until the dream ended. (Until I died.)

Except then something happened, and I had to commit.

Because dream or not, when something felt that visceral, it became real. Because, dream or not, it was the only life I had now.

I was awake.


A/N: Drop a review on your way out. I've got something like five more chapters pre-written, and the inspiration is still coming on pretty strong. Later on (post chapter 6, so you have an idea how this thing is working out), I might even take requests on what you want to see, who you'd like the character to interact with, etc...