A/N: Hey, guys. So, this is the last chapter! This idea's been in my head for many, many weeks now. I'd decided to write it down as the conclusion of the story, because I feel like it totally ties together every loose end, and brings the fic to its proper emotional close.
Now, about this new AU fic. I've decided to go through with it. Basically, as mentioned earlier, it's going to be a 'what could have been' look at things, if Rin, Kushina and Minato had survived. This fic will not contain any Tobi angles. It will maintain that Obito died at Kannabi bridge. The KakaRin in this fic will not be too overpowering. There will be romance, but the focus of this story is going to be on the family/friendship angle. As was the case with this fic, there will be no chronological order, and I will be accepting prompts for it, starting from chapter two. You can expect the new story to be published in a week or two. If you put me on author alert, you'll be informed. Otherwise, I'm happy to PM you and tell you myself, if you want me to, that is. Let me know in the reviews.
Finally, and most importantly, I'd like to thank each and every one of my readers. Your reviews, follows, and favourites have been enormously motivating. This is YOUR story. Almost all the chapters in this fic have been written because of YOUR wonderful prompts. I'm very touched.
Let's begin with the last chapter.
There is silence after the storm.
For Kakashi, this is a dream. It simply doesn't feel real. Just how did it happen? Sensei, Kushina-san, all dead. The village in tatters. Kakashi would have been broken, but he's simply in shock. How did the Kyuubi get free? He knows that during childbirth, the seal on a jinchuriki becomes weak. But wasn't that being taken care of? Had Minato-sensei failed?
Kakashi shakes his head. This isn't real. He understands as ANBU, he'll be deployed for damage control, but right now, there's utter chaos. There's talk that the Third Hokage will come to power again, but right now, there's nothing definitive.
He feels especially slow. Part of his brain seems to have shut down as he walks down what used to be a street, looking at debris that used to be a marketplace. He keeps counting bodies. This has to be just another one of his nightmares. He'll wake up alone, in his apartment. Sensei would be Hokage, Kushina-san would be alive, and Konoha would still exist.
Is that Iruka Umino? Kakashi has known his parents. The boy seems to be all alone now, lost and crying. When Kakashi approaches, intending to help, the child jumps back and runs away. But the Hatake can understand that. Iruka probably just wants to be left alone.
Kakashi feels like he's forgetting something. But then, his brain feels like an emptied bucket. All he can think about is the Kyuubi, Minato-sensei, Kushina-san. But they'd be with Rin and Obito now, and otousan as well. They'd be alright. It's Kakashi that they've abandoned.
But what's new about that?
Wait, wait. The Kyuubi went loose when Kushina-san was in labour, right? So…
And then Kakashi slaps his forehead. How can he forget something like this?
Where was the baby?
From the grapevine, he'd heard that their child was alive.
Panic takes over Kakashi. Where is the baby? Where is the baby? Oh god, where is it? Sensei and Kushina depended on him to take care of their child!
The Hatake's movements feel impossibly slow as he looks around, his lone eye wide and horrified. Calm down, Kakashi, calm down, he tells himself. Think. Where is the one place the baby would probably be? Why, if someone had discovered the Hokage's newborn, the only place they'd take it is to the hospital!
Electricity zaps into Kakashi's body as he suddenly begins to run. Was the hospital still standing? Was it? It was, it was! He remembered it was!
…But is it really?
This is a dream, so what did it matter?
No, the logical part of him says. Loss is your reality.
It is, he replies to his internal monologue, But this time, I may have gained something too. Someone. And I need to protect them.
The hospital comes upon Kakashi so suddenly that he almost starts. So it is standing. Kakashi tears into it, loudly asking for the Hokage's child, the Hokage's child, dammit! Nobody's helping him! Why aren't they helping him? Why are they glaring?
"Fuck you!" he shouts, storming down the hospital corridors. He'll find the little baby himself.
The babies are kept at the child ward, and that's where he finds the Third Hokage, staring at one particular infant through the glass. The Professor looks up when he sees Kakashi.
"Where is the baby?" the Hatake asks, panic still in his eye. "Please, you have to tell me! Where is their baby?"
"Kakashi, calm down." The Third gestures towards a sleeping infant with shocking yellow hair. "Naruto, their son."
The Hatake runs towards the ward, putting his hands on the glass. The baby is utterly adorable. Tears threaten to come to Kakashi's eyes, but he blinks them away.
Without another word, the Hatake enters the baby ward, careful to be very quiet. Stopping above Naruto's crib, he stares, wide-eyed, at the child. The Third follows him, hands behind his back, eyes sad.
Suddenly, Naruto wakes up, revealing eyes that are so bright, so blue, that Kakashi bites his bottom lip. Minato-sensei? This baby is Minato-sensei!
Before he realises what he's doing, Kakashi has gently lifted the child, holding him protectively in his arms. The Hatake's mismatched eyes fill with tears. He's never experienced anything like this before. But in this moment, Kakashi's whole life belongs to this baby. In one second, Naruto has become Kakashi's whole world. The Hatake would do anything for him.
"He can stay with me," Kakashi chokes, tears slipping down his face and dampening his mask. "I'll look after him."
"No, Kakashi," the Third says in a gentle voice. "You're too young. I can't expect you to take on such a responsibility. Besides, you're ANBU. And Kakashi, this boy…Minato sealed the Kyuubi inside him."
The Hatake looks up and blinks, like this is a foreign concept to him.
"He's a jinchuriki?" Kakashi murmurs.
"Yes." Lowering his eyes, the Third continues, "He has a very difficult life ahead of him. But don't worry. I'll look after him. I'll make sure he's taken care of."
"I want to protect him!" Kakashi said, unconsciously making his voice louder. But then, noticing where he is, he drops his tone and adds, "I have to protect him."
"You will, Kakashi. You'll have to, one of these days. But you're too young, and right now, your place is with the ANBU."
Kakashi sobs. He doesn't even care about saving face any more. The Third is right. The Third is always right.
Gently placing Naruto back in his crib, Kakashi says, "He needs me."
"And you need him too." With a hand on Kakashi's shoulder, the Third continues, "And one day, he will come to depend on you. Until then, Kakashi, you must be strong. You must be strong for him."
Burying his eyes in his hands, the Hatake cries and cries. But when he looks towards Naruto's wide—blue, blue, blue—eyes, Kakashi knows that his job is far from over. His sensei, and Kushina-san, would have wanted him to soldier on.
And soldier on is what Kakashi has always done.
So Kakashi pulls his mask down, leans over Naruto's crib, and places a kiss on the baby's forehead.
Despite the death, the pain, the destruction all around, Naruto feels safe, and Kakashi feels warm.
A/N: The last chapter.
Thank you all for sticking with me through the highs and lows of this fic. I hope you found the ending satisfying. Please leave a review. :)