She tried to stop his crying.

Why hadn't he stopped crying?

She hadn't wanted to do what she did. She hadn't even realized she'd been doing it.


If they… if Kakashi had just been seconds too slow… just seconds too slow...

Her hands trembled, she felt bile burning at the back of her throat, tears stinging her eyes as thin razor blades of pain sliced through and across her chest.

Minato was gone. The village was in tatters, all of her friends, her so called family leaving in every which direction in the wake of the Kyuubi's rampage. All of the people that should have been there, that said they would be there...

Why wouldn't he stop crying? Just for an hour. A minute. A second. All she'd wanted was a little bit of time, a second to just breathe… wrap her head around this whole thing; around him being gone.

But he hadn't.

He just… wouldn't shut up. Just kept wailing, screeching as loud as he could until she heard something inside of her finally break.

And then she'd… she'd almost-

She lurched to her feet, the bile rising in the back of her throat as her hand covered her mouth, her stomach heaving even as it had nothing left to throw up.

Her knees felt weak, shaking with the strain before she reached with her hand to grasp at the hospital bed's railing, using what little strength she had in her arms to hold herself upright.

Hospital… she should be in a cell

The door opened, and she barely had the presence of mind to take note of Hiruzen standing there as her head spun with dizziness and her legs shook on weak knees.

There was a vile burning at the back of her throat, every deep, shaking breath felt like fire inside her mouth, every swallow leaving a searing trail that made her eyes water.

Hiruzen didn't say a word.

She didn't look at him. Couldn't look at him. The shame alone would kill her if she did.

She'd never felt so disgusting as she did right now under his gaze.

Even so… she had to ask.

"Is he alright?"

She heard him breathe, slow; an exhale, could smell the pipe smoke from here, the ruddy light of the emergency bulbs from the hallway casting a long, dark shadow.

"Do you care?"

The words, delivered so bluntly and cruely; cut her down to the bone, the breath literally stolen from her lungs.

She did.

He should know that she did.

It had been a mistake, one stupid horrible mistake.

She tried to speak and felt her throat close up, she barely recognized the whimper her voice had become as she forced it out. "Please… Tell me he's alright."

Silence. She felt her stomach yawning into a gaping pit. Pure terror gripping her heart and turning it to ice as he remained utterly, terrifyingly silent.

Kushina cried.

She should have died. She should have died in that bed, bleeding and screaming. Should have died with Minato.

She… she-

"He will live."

The words were like a whitewash of cold water to the boiling turmoil in her chest and mind. She couldn't have stopped the scream she released if she'd tried, and the tears that came from her eyes burned even as they left trails of ice down her cheeks, falling from her trembling chin down to the white sheets.

Then the words came to her. Really registered.

He will live.

Just 'live'.

Was the damage… Had she crippled him? Was it physical? Mental? Would he walk again or-

"Look at me."

His voice ripped her out of her thoughts, she bit her lip, trembling where she stood.

She still couldn't. Didn't want to. She shook her head.

"Look at me!"

The shout made her heart stutter in fear. She'd never heard him raise his voice, ever.

She obeyed before she could even think to disobey, turning and meeting a gaze that was stone cold, framed by a face that was seething in a quiet, dangerous fury.

"Two thousand, eight hundred sixty seven.." He spat out

The words confused her, but she didn't dare ask, or even have the audacity to look confused, not with the way he was looking at her.

Even so, he noticed her incomprehension. "That's how many people we had to bury yesterday." He hissed in answer.

He stepped closer, and she felt like vermin, trapped in a corner as a beast loomed closer, his anger was almost a palpable heat, rolling off of him. Hiruzen was a full head shorter than her, but she felt like the old man was towering right now, monolithic and imposing as she backed up to the wall, her hands still gripping the railing besides the bed.

"And you nearly unleashed it on us again!? Your own son!? Minato's son! I should have you executed on the spot!"

He should. If he gave the order now she would forgive him instantly.

"What the hell do you have to even say for yourself?" He snarled.

There were a million things she could have said. A million excuses. They tasted like ash on her tongue, choked her with the vile taste.

She shook her head.

"A fractured cheekbone, swelling in the brain- You almost broke his goddamn neck. WHY?!" He screamed, demanding her answer.

The sob came unbidden and the tears that blinded her felt so… inadequate.

She heard it there, plain as day.

She'd nearly killed her son. Their son… and all she could do was fucking cry when asked the obvious question of: Why?

"Answer me!"

This time. She did shake her head. She would not. She would not try to justify herself. She wouldn't give an excuse. She did it, and if he wanted to put her down like an animal she would accept the punishment without a word.

The silence between them was thick, heavy with a thousand unsaid things and a hundred unasked questions.

She could see his fists trembling at his side, and though she didn't dare look at him she could almost hear when he unlocked his grit teeth and forced the words to come.

"He is no longer your son."

The words were quiet. Damnit. Finite.

Of everything he could have said, of every punishment he could have given, even death; she didn't think anything could have utterly destroyed what little remained of her heart quite so thoroughly.

She felt… cold. Numb. His words passed through her ears like sounds from a distant world while she was trapped underwater.

"He will not carry Minato's surname to protect him, and he will not carry yours to spare him. Naruto is an orphan, whom will be provided for by the state until he comes of age either biologically, or enrolment to a genin team. Effective immediately, there is a standing order in place until further notice- You will never approach this boy. You will never speak to him. You will never help or hinder him in any way. You had better consider yourself as dead to him as you tried to make him dead to you."

Her heart pounded beneath her ribs, beating so hard she felt physical pain as her blood thundered through her ears, so loud she could barely hear Sarutobi's voice over the rushing in her temples.

"Disobeying this order will be punishable by the revoking of your ninja licence, prison time, or execution depending on the severity of your action. Do I make myself clear."

She wanted to scream. To pull at her hair and howl, say she was sorry. Beg him for another chance, strike at him even.

A myriad, whirlwind of chaotic emotions warred in her mind but above all one thought dominated the others, taking hold of her body and forcing her to act, even as her brain felt like a mass of jagged knives tearing at the inside of her skull.

Keep him safe. Keep him away from you. You're Dangerous, Unfit, Cruel.

She nodded wooddenly, forcing her head to move, down, up and down again. Hiruzen looked at her, unmasked loathing in his gaze. He turned and left without another word.

The door closed and she lost what little strength had been keeping her upright, her legs finally giving up the fight as she fell on the ice cold hospital floor.

She didn't move until the next morning, when a nurse found her.

She'd tried to stop crying.

Why couldn't she stop crying?