Who Was He?
Jiraiya's hard wooden geta clacked upon the floor as he made his way down the dark hallway in Konoha's capitol building. Passing a closed doorway, he noticed a light was on and paused. Odd. Not many people frequented this part of the building, especially this late in the evening. He moved closer and pressed his ear to the door, listening intently.
There was a soft, feminine sound. Doing his best to grab hold of the voice, Jiraiya began to decipher words. "--if only I had come back sooner..." The toad hermit drew his head back. He recognized that voice. It was Tsunade! Impulsively, he turned the doorknob and opened the door.
Tsunade gasped and turned toward her former teammate. "Ji-Ji-Jiraiya! It's you!"
The white haired sannin's coal black eyes roamed the room, taking in the four large portraits on the wall along with the plaques and various memorabilia. He fixed his gaze on the blonde Hokage. "A Hokage memorial?"
Tsunade nodded. "That's right. It just... has a brief history of the Hokage and some of their belongings."
"So..." Jiraiya said slowly. "You were... reminiscing about the old man, then?"
The toad sage looked at the portrait directly behind her. It was the Yondaime's. "Ahhh... Yondaime Hokage... he was a good student... a good man." He frowned. "I wish I could have been there when he died. One of my many regrets."
"You two were very close," Tsunade prodded.
Jiraiya's mouth twitched. "Well... I know it sounds cheesy, but he was... like a son to me."
Tsunade remained silent for a long moment as she and her old friend gazed at the portrait. His bright blue eyes shone from his youthful face, framed by the spikey shocks of blond hair that helped coin the nickname of "The Yellow Flash." The artist seemed to have captured his benevolent fierceness perfectly... that's what Tsunade believe, in any case. "Who... who was he?"
Jiraiya glanced at his old partner for a moment and reached into his robe. Pulling out an old photograph, he handed it to Tsunade. "I've kept this with me since it was taken... after our very first C-rank mission."
The Hokage looked at the picture. There was Jiraiya, smirking mirthfully into the camera beside an innocently smiling blond boy. Beside him was a girl with a red bandanna and her raven hair pulled up into a ponytail. At the farthest left of the photo was a slightly stout boy with short dark hair.
"His friends were everything to him, even back then," Jiraiya said. "Children were jealous of him, though. He made the best grades in his class and had a store of chakra that was just... phenomenal. He was an orphan--just found one night by Sarutobi sensei; no one knew where he came from--naturally, the kids made up plenty of rumors about him. His teammates, however, looked past that and they all became great friends."
Tsunade nodded. "Yes... much like Naruto."
Jiraiya coughed. "Yeah. The two have quite a bit in common besides the Rasengan." He looked back at the Yondaime and smiled. "He... he wanted to become Hokage so he could protect the village that took him in." He smiled slantwise at the blonde. "He was the one who finally pushed through the rule that every team have a member with medical ninjutsu knowledge."
The Hokage grimaced. "He sounds like he really was a great man." Her eyes fell from the portrait and she stared at her feet. "Jiraiya..."
"Do you remember... the night... the night before I left...?"
The toad sage stiffened. "That... that was over thirty years ago, now. I didn't think we were going to talk about it." He scratched his cheek nervously. "You were distraught and lonely after... he died. I was there and... well... I wasn't unwilling..."
Tsunade smirked mirthlessly. "As always... but... I didn't leave because of you, Jiraiya. I suppose... I was afraid of what might happen. First my brother... then Dan... I couldn't bear to lose anyone else close to me, and since I didn't believe I could protect anyone... I didn't want anyone close to me." She sighed deeply. "Sometimes... I wish you had come after me. Like you did with Orochimaru all those years later."
Jiraiya stared through the wall stonily. "Why... why are you talking about this all of a sudden?"
"After I left, I discovered something," the Godaime whispered. "It was shocking... I didn't know what to do. I just... couldn't handle it."
"I was..." her voice caught, but she went on, "pregnant."
Jiraiya turned slowly and looked with suspicion at the back of the blonde's head. "Dan's...?"
"We never quite got that far, Jiraiya," Tsunade said.
The white haired sannin began to feel a little queasy. "So... what happened?"
"I carried it to term, of course... but... I knew I couldn't raise a child on my own," she told him. "I was barely twenty. I did the only thing I could think of at the time... I snuck back into Konohagakure and left him... here... in the capitol where I knew sensei would find him."
"That's where the Yondaime was found... not even a year after you left," Jiraiya breathed.
Tsunade nodded. "Yes... I found a reference to that months after I started as Hokage. That's when I knew that... Konoha's 'Yellow Flash' was actually..."
"Your son," Jiraiya concluded.
"Your son," Tsunade corrected.
Jiraiya felt his breath catch. His favorite student, the young man he had thought of like a son... was his son. "You know," he croaked as weakly as one of Naruto's tadpoles. He coughed and cleared his throat. "You know, he always was a genius... enough to become a chuunin only a year after he graduated the academy, and a jounin before he was Naruto's age." He laughed. "He was the youngest Hokage to ever be elected, at age seventeen."
Tsunade remained silent for a long moment. Then she said shakily, "I'm sorry... it would have been better never to tell you of this." She turned to leave. "After all, what good is knowing now when it's too late?"
Her foot was crossing the threshold when Jiraiya called out to her, stopping her in her tracks. "Tsunade... it's not too late. He may be gone, but... his legacy lives on."
The Hokage turned. "'His legacy?' The only legacy I've ever heard anyone speak about is his sealing of the Kyuubi within Naruto."
"The young woman who painted this portrait," Jiraiya spoke softly. "Do you know how she captured his... his spirit so well? She knew him inside and out. She was the closest to him besides Haruno kun."
"What?" Tsunade asked. "He had a lover?"
Jiraiya laughed. "I guess he took after his old man in some regards, didn't he? He was far more successful, though... and certainly more discreet. He never let on to anyone about their relationship. No one except me. The day he died, barely a year after becoming Hokage... she gave birth to a boy... and then died." He sighed. "He was heartbroken, but the Kyuubi was attacking and he had to do something. He knew of only one way to defeat a beast that powerful, and it required not only a newborn child, but one with certain attributes..."
Tsunade turned around slowly, locking eyes with the toad sage. "'Attributes?'"
"Those that were inherited from his father," Jiraiya explained. "Not only would he need great stamina to contain the beast, which it was apparent he had inherited from his father the moment he was born, but he also needed great chakra control to manage the Kyuubi's caustic chakra. That is why... he chose Naruto."
"Are you saying Naruto..." Tsunade wheezed. "Is his son?"
"I was the only one who knew... and later I told Sarutobi sensei," the white haired hermit told her. "I wanted him to tell everyone just who Naruto really was so there would be no chance that he would be hated and feared as the 'Kyuubi reincarnated.' However, politically it would have been a bad move. Therefore, Sandaime compromised by making a decree proclaiming Naruto 'Yondaime's legacy' and ordering no one to speak of him as a jinchuriki and for everyone to treat him as a hero." The toad sage snorted. "They followed the first part easily enough, but for some reason had a little trouble with the last."
The blonde Hokage put her hand on her heart. It was beating quickly and her breath was shallow. She had tuned out Jiraiya's explanation ages ago, lost in the meaning of this revelation. "Naruto is his son. My son's... son." She looked up at Jiraiya with tears in her pale hazel eyes. "Jiraiya!" She marched over to him and grabbed him by the collar. "Jiraiya, he's our--"
Tsunade and Jiraiya froze. They turned stiffly toward the voice, and saw a young boy with spikey blond hair and bright blue eyes staring up at them curiously. The Hokage let go of the white haired sannin and spun about to face the boy. "N-Naruto!"
"Yo, 'Baachan... um... what's wrong? Why are you crying?" Naruto shot a suspicious glance at his perverted teacher. "Yo, Erosennin, you weren't trying to do anything weird with 'Baachan, were you?"
A bead of sweat rolled down Jiraiya's face as he waved his hand at Naruto. "A-a-absolutely not! You and I both know what happened last time..." He shook his head. "Hey, what are you doing here, anyway? Don't you know what time it is?"
"Yeah," Naruto said. "I was looking for Sakura chan. She said she was gonna go get something to eat with me, but she didn't show up at our usual meeting spot..."
"Oh!" Tsunade said shakily. "She... um... she and I ended up working late... she did say something about having to meet someone tonight, but she didn't say whom."
Jiraiya nodded. "Yeah, I saw her leaving as I was coming in actually... that was a good fifteen minutes ago, though."
"Damn!" Naruto exclaimed with a petulant pout on his face. "I've been looking for her for at least that long! I knew I should've waited longer. Oh, well, maybe I can catch her regardless!" He began to turn, but his eye caught the portrait behind Jiraiya. "Oh... hey, that's a picture of the Yondaime, right?"
The two legendary ninja looked behind them to see that, indeed, there was a picture of that particular Hokage in the room. "It's weird, but," Naruto continued softly, "I've always felt a strange... connection to that guy." He looked wistfully into space. "I don't really believe in that kind of stuff, but... sometimes I think it really might be... 'destiny.'"
Jiraiya and Tsunade exchanged glances and then looked back at the Yondaime's legacy as he spoke again. This time he had a foxy grin on his face. "Yeah. One of these days... I'm gonna surpass that guy." He turned on his heel and hopped out of sight.
Jiraiya put a hand on Tsunade's shoulder and she let out a tremulous sigh. "So... should we... tell him?"
Tsunade looked in the direction Naruto would be traveling to head Sakura off, and closed her eyes. "Not yet, Jiraiya. Not quite yet..."
Afterward: I was thinking of Naruto a bit the other night, reflecting on some of the theories that went around involving Yondaime being Naruto's father. Reasons he's often cited as Naruto's potential father is that he looks a lot like Naruto and they have some similar traits. Of course, I'd always thought Jiraiya looked pretty similar to Naruto... so much so that I imagined a fifty year old Naruto looking very much like him with blond hair and no mole. Then it hit me when I saw the three of them together... it looked almost like a family photo! So what if Jiraiya were the Yondaime's father? Well, the obvious choice for the mother would be Tsunade. The circumstances were correct, and while the canon dates were cutting it a little close to the threshold of believability, I think it was just vague enough to pull it off. It came off better than I thought. After all, Yondaime was a genius who apparently had immense raw power as well as great chakra control (as evidenced by the Rasengan). A perfect blend of Jiraiya and Tsunade's traits. Also, the Kyuubi's presence certainly helps explain Naruto's lack of good chakra control (since it says in the manga itself he would be pretty darn good with it were it not for the fox's influence), besides of course the fact that Jiraiya's and some unknown woman's genes are in the mix. In any case, this was just meant to be an interesting showcase of this idea. Maybe I'll evolve it beyond a oneshot, but if anyone else wants to take a crack at it, feel free.