Tsunade knew that this day would get bad by nine AM, because at nine sharp the newspapers landed on her desk and she'd picked out four winning horses out of seven races.
Then of course three Narutos were dragged in by her ANBUs, two of them cringing and embarrassed like the aftermath of a bad prank, and the third raising her figurative hackles all the way down her spine.
That wasn't the bad news.
The bad news is that she can't fix this.
"Um. Granny?" the female clone asks, shoulders twitching like she's tempted to duck, which is completely Naruto.
The one with the reddish brown hair -- kitsune-colored -- just stands there, watching her with disdainful, assessing red eyes she sometimes sees in nightmares.
(She wasn't there when the Kyuubi attacked the village almost sixteen years ago. It's the future she has nightmares about -- those eyes in Naruto's face. She's glad she didn't win all the races, because otherwise she knows there would have been no blond young man looking vaguely alarmed beside him.)
This time it's the real Naruto.
"So um. What'd you find out?"
"The yin chakra was locked in a dormant, raw energy state inside you," she says dispassionately. "The yang chakra, the one you could tap into, was the one linked with the personality and memories."
He doesn't have either of them left now -- only traces. She doesn't know how he's going to cope when it dawns in on him that he'll have to rework his fighting style from the ground up, how crippling that little incident might become. It's useless to punish him.
She's guessing from here out, but they're educated guesses. The only one who would have been able to tell her how right or wrong she was is dead as a doornail as of last week. She ignores the spike of raw grief. It's not the time for that.
"Neither of them has pure Kyuubi chakra, because outside of that sealed state it is not possible for a living organism to sustain life without both light and dark, however unbalanced they are. So they borrowed some of yours. It's likely at this point that the yin chakra used your personality as a template."
The female clone fidgets, looking halfway between sulky and uneasy. Tsunade can guess why -- her memories wouldn't tell her that she's just a clone, that she didn't even exist yesterday; being confronted with that fact has to be jarring, unfair. Tsunade doesn't want to soften yet. If she's anything like Naruto, she can deal without being coddled.
"Not only the yin girl, isn't it?" asks the male clone. The voice is all wrong, coming from that throat -- Naruto at twenty, maybe, if he took up smoking. But then again he's the one with the smallest proportion of human chakra in there. "He got inside me as well."
"To be more precise, you are a new being as well, even if the set of memories you have comes from Kyuubi no Youko."
His eyes narrow, and the ANBU in the shadows tense, but she just stares back, impassive, and gestures at her men to stand down. No need to provoke him and see how far he'll take being pushed by inferior creatures before the small bit of Naruto inside him is overwhelmed.
"And that's what I know for the moment."
Apart from the fact that she can't fix it because there is nothing for her to fix.
They're not kage bunshins -- kage bunshins would read as human to a great many tests, the only difference being that they don't have the ability to create more chakra; a tailed beast could power one for a long while but once it runs out, they're gone. But those two are definitely producing more; it trickles through their cells, slow but steady, like anyone else she's ever treated. As far as her best diagnosis jutsu can tell her, they're no less human than a great many Bloodline clan members out there, and more human than some. Not kitsune, not physically so -- there are traces, but they're not much bigger than the leftovers of wolf-youkai amongst the Inuzuka.
Not baseline human either, but then again with Kushina's blood in his veins and Kyuubi's chakra in his inner coils, Naruto never truly was.
The two blonds fidget. The redhead stares at her.
She stares back, and then all in one go she lets out a sigh and sinks into her chair, takes her forehead in her hand. "I don't know what I'm going to do with the three of you." A quick glare. "Apart from getting you some clothes."
The redhead snorts, perfectly comfortable in his total nudity, and crosses his arms in a way that reminds her like a shock of those rare times Naruto boiled in hard-kept silence, waiting for her to finish speaking before explaining at length why he totally disagreed.
There is more Naruto in him than he pretends. He didn't even hurt any of her ANBU -- scared them blind with his dark chakra and killing intent, mostly, and then snorted in contempt and came to her summon like a cat : in his own time, after a lot of detours, and acknowledging no one, as if he was utterly alone instead of surrounded.
Naruto attempts a grin. "Won't it be awesome to have three of us instead of one on missions?"
"Ooh, yeah!" the girl says, brightening right up. "Imagine all the new techniques and team attacks! I bet we'd be soooo awesome."
The redhead snorts at them. "As if anyone needs other people to do team attacks when they can do kage bunshin."
The girl sticks out her tongue at him, utterly unafraid.
Tsunade watches them bicker, and something inside her unclenches slowly. Naruto is alive, and his likelihood of being targeted just went way down -- and she doesn't even know if it's still possible to extract the Kyuubi as it is, cut into two halves and then merged, polluted with human chakra. And the clones...
"You're planning to continue on as a Konoha shinobi, then?" she asks. (She could have asked 'you're planning on becoming one', but Naruto will need all the support he can get to keep the yang clone under control, and -- ah, she can't keep being cold to the girl. She's just too... Naruto.)
The girl stares at her in utter bafflement. "Well, of course! Why the hell would I stop?"
"No reason." Tsunade hides a smile behind her hand. It melts away anyway when she looks at the redhead. "You?"
He lets out an irritated little growl. "Are you asking for my allegiance?", like he's really not impressed by her cheek. Tsunade's eyebrow twitches. Century-old memories or not, he's not even a half-day old. Brat.
"I'm asking where it is," she replies with more patience than she feels.
The thing is, Tsunade doesn't understand the way their chakra fields are entangled. Even though they're not in perpetual physical contact, it's like mother and unborn child, almost, and when that's broken wrong or too early often both of them die.
She can't risk it, attempt to kill the yang half or seal him entirely. The yin half would die for sure, and Naruto might follow.
She wonders if he knows that.
So she tells him. His life is bound to two others. What is he going to do about it?
She's expecting denial, anger, frustration. She gets an eyeroll.
"They're mine, old bitch. I'll just kill anyone who comes for them and that's it."
What she hears is 'I'll protect them, of course,' as if that's so self-evident he didn't even need her to tell him he'd pretty much have to.
"Speak to me like that again and I'll give you a beating you'll remember," she says anyway, because there's still that last test to perform. "Until you kill every single shinobi in this village, I'm still the leader here and if you're staying, you'll respect that."
He could pounce right now, with that challenge thrown in his face. He only has five tails' worth of power, but even with the ANBU and Kakashi on stand-by, with all those seals ready and Naruto and the yin clone as last resort kill-switches, she isn't sure of her chances of surviving the battle or keeping him from leaving the tower.
He just snorts, again, and tilts his head. "Yeah?"
A shrug. "So long as you don't think that means I'll obey you."
She would relax into her seat in relief, but that would undo the small amount of respect she just gained. She inclines her head, the barest nod.
"I'll know more in a few days. In the meantime, I'm giving you an escort. Don't lose it. Don't kill it."
The redhead grumbles something under his breath. Naruto and the yin clone are halfway between blustering denials and nervous laughter.
"They'll stay out of your way," she reassures them. "Just pretend they're not here. They'll be pretending the same. Naruto, I'm assuming there is no problem with them staying at your place?"
"'Course not," he replies, baffled, trying to keep up.
"Good, because it's that or the tower's basement. And now --" she snaps her fingers, "one last gift for you. Shizune, my lab coat."
She lobs the rolled-up coat at him and for the first time the yang half looks utterly nonplussed. It takes years off his face, until he actually looks his -- Naruto's -- age.
"Put that on. And I'll take it as a favor to me if you don't come back out of that apartment without at least a pair of pants on."
He draws himself up, back stiffening.
The yin clone bursts out laughing. "You were naked!"
Everyone stares at her.
"You were naked! Outside! In the street!"
"... Yes?" Tsunade prompts her.
"Haha -- err..." She wilts a little. "...Sexy no jutsu, um, male version?"
Naruto goes "Oh!" and starts snickering as well. Tsunade lets out a long sigh. You've got to be Naruto to find that funny.
She cannot express how much of a relief it is to see the yang clone's reaction -- irritated, yes, but the worst he does --
... A good yank on the girl's ponytail might hurt a bit, but it isn't going to injure her. She's already whirling around to demand why the hell he did that, it hurt damn it. The redhead is ignoring her, scowling -- sulking, really.
Tsunade sighs again, and smiles, and kicks them out.
Now she has to figure out how to get Danzou to shut up about the risks Naruto just took without permission and the damage he might have done to Konoha's most powerful weapon.