AN: Warning for lots of implied character death. Or stated character death. Something like that. No blood, lotsa dead people. Capisce? Awesome. Anyway, this little plot bunny decided it'd be a good idea to ambush me in the middle of my fracking Russian final. Bah. If I fail that course, I know what to blame...anyway. Same stuff as my last Naruto fic - lemme know if I accidentally rape your canon, hey?

...that sounds so very, very wrong.

The Sixth Hokage is not reckless or particularly selfless. He's not wild or very mischievous. He's not very easy to get along with, and he doesn't make friends quickly. His best technique is not kagebunshin or rasengan. This position was never something he wanted. He's not blond, he doesn't have blue eyes, and he doesn't have whisker-marks on his face.

In essence, the Sixth Hokage is not Uzumaki Naruto, and he's acutely aware of the fact.

He's canny and too smart for his own good, with a cutting, sarcastic sense of humor that he's had to tone down on after that little diplomatic incident with the ambassador from Hidden Cloud. He'll never be very tall or terribly strong or particularly good-looking. His best techniques are manipulations of shadow and light.

The Sixth Hokage has a few close friends left alive. They call him Shikamaru.

He simultaneously hates and understands his job all too well. He's better at sneaking out on paperwork than the Fifth, but with Shizune gone the way of her mistress, Haruno Sakura has taken over the grueling job of keeping the Sixth's nose to the grindstone.

He can't afford to be lazy much anymore, what with the high turnover rate among his shinobi to slowly rectify (stricter regulations in the Academy, tougher tests to make higher ranks), and diplomatic relationships to strengthen with Hidden Mist and Stone (Sand is a close ally—with their own Sixth's sister living in the Hidden Leaf), but he does arrange to have a few moments to himself every now and again.

They want to put his face up on that mountain. He could almost laugh at the idea of his ugly mug up there next to the Fifth, but it's not funny. There's someone else's face that ought to be up there, not his. He's had this argument with the Council several (hundred) times before, but they're not backing down, and he learned stubborn from a pro. Stalemate. In shougi, that would be when he'd stand up from the game and find something more interesting to do, but he's not going to give this one up.

The Hero's Memorial is almost entirely filled up with names, now, and he's in the process of approving designs and location for a new one, but he made sure they put Naruto on there. Screw their prejudices.

That's the only nice thing about having half the population wiped out at a go. Less old people. Less people from Before, from the time of rules and secrets and scorn. Less people from his generation, too, of course, but not as many less. If that makes any sense.

There are a lot of people on that stone he knows. Most of the once-rookie nine—there's Shino and Kiba—Hinata's taken over as the Hyuuga head and rules with an iron fist. He's always found that privately amusing. But she's managed what she promised Naruto and Neji ages ago—a unified clan, no main branch and no cadet branch. There's Chouji, who took down most of Sound when he went. There's Ino, who died on a mission two years later—her son is in the newly established orphanage. Asuma-sensei and Yuuhi Kurenai, who died together, a shinobi's version of romance. And there's Uzumaki Naruto, the characters bold and sharp, just under Hatake Kakashi and Umino Iruka. Rock Lee, Tenten, Neji, and Maito Gai are all on there as well, the familiar names marching down the gray stone in neat lines.

And there's Shizune and Konohamaru (too young to die, but dead nonetheless), Shiranui Genma (who Shikamaru didn't really know until he hit ANBU) and Morino Ibiki, who ran Torture and Interrogation and administered Shikamaru's first chunnin exam. There's his father, right next to Yamanaka Inoichi and Akimichi Choumaru, just as they'd have wanted it. There's Anko-san, who taught him everything he didn't particularly want to know about poisons, and the Fifth, who'd said his name as she was dying and cursed him with this job. Even Kabuto, twice traitor, who died saving the Hidden Village he'd betrayed.

Shikamaru smiles and looks up at the sky. He hopes they'd approve of what he's built from their deaths, but in the end it doesn't really matter. Life is for the living, after all.

Endnotes: So yeah. I have very little doubt that this is not going to happen. Does that make it AU? It's not technically AU, 'cos it's futurefic, but...augh, who cares? And it seems I'm solely capable of writing Narutofic in the present tense. Bizarre. And no, I do not have a "thing" for killing off Neji. I'm currently working on a fairly epic venture that does not involve him dying in the least. So there. Speaking of which, anyone want to beta? Pleeeease?