A baby was crying. It was the only thought Minato could hold as he slowly slid from his dream state. Someone needed to stick a plug in the child and let him get his well deserved rest. Wasn't there any respect for Hokages any more? It wasn't until his eyes were fully open and attempting to focus on a lump of colors that should eventually turn into his old sensei that the noises stopped.
He opened his mouth to make a thankful noise and was surprised at how dry he felt. Dust seemed to cover his tongue, his throat was too tight to say a single word and only a creaky murmur was able to emerge, but it was enough to make the fuzzily colored lump nearby move with well known speed.
"Don't try to move too much," a familiar deep voice ordered him. "You've been asleep for some time." Another murmur made its way out in reply. "Don't complain, you idiot. It's been two months now and Tsunade will have both of our heads if you over exert yourself."
Jiraiya looked down at his student turned Hokage. The tall man was obviously confused, but had complied when Tsunade had been mentioned. The blonde lay limply in the bed covered up to his chin with a blanket and looking far too much like an invalid for his former teacher's composure. Konoha had lost so many in the attack. They would have been broken if they had lost him, too. As soon as Jiraiya had been found in the aftermath of Kyuubi's attack he had set off to bring the one person home that could fix his student.
Tsunade was still asleep after weeks of extensive healing and waiting and healing again, but just her tired smile had told Jiraiya everything he had wanted to know. Minato would be fine; his chakra pathways were working properly and the village would have their Yondaime back soon.
"The village is doing fine, they've already began rebuilding." A confused look on the blond had Jiraiya explaining more. Tsunade had warned him of the possibility of some minor memory loss. "Kyuubi attacked. The fox did some major damage, but you saved them. This entire village owes its life to you, Minato. It's been two months now that you've been asleep. The elders sent out teams to find me, and I brought Tsunade back for you. She says you'll be fine, but you'll need to take it easy still. No jumping back to your desk for a bit."
Blue eyes cleared enough to show understanding, but a soft sigh hid them underneath heavy lids again. "Back to sleep for you," Jiraiya whispered fondly. He stood at the bedside for a time longer just watching the face that they'd almost lost. There was so much to tell him, almost too much. The truth was all around them; it was too easy to see the lack of shinobi walking around, to hear the sadness in the voices, to feel the great gaping wound of loss. Houses and shops could be rebuilt, but the people needed their Hokage to survive this tragedy. Tsunade hadn't attempted to predict what type of rebuilding Minato would need and if he'd survive it intact.
After six weeks Minato had still not been given clearance to resume work at full capacity, which he didn't mind sometimes. He knew his village needed help, but Tsunade had impressed upon him the need to heal properly first. This was why he could now be found in the Uchiha compound watching dark haired children run around pretending to be normal kids. Nearby were some of the heads of the police department giving him a rundown of their actions in the village and the general health of its citizens.
Minato was paying attention to the men's conversation, but not too closely. Instead he was watching a new mother play with her young son on a blanket spread in the grass. The boy, just seven months old was already standing with help and babbling at the different toys she had scattered around for him to find. The same soft sunlight that they were protected from in the shade of a great tree fell full upon Minato, warming him almost to his bones. His eyes slid closed in comfort; the warm sun and background conversation lulling him to sleep until a shrill cry woke him up. He smiled and looked around for the boy he'd been watching play, but neither he nor his mother were in sight. The only Uchiha left was Fugaku and his oldest son, Itachi who was now sitting with them on the porch.
"The baby's crying," he mentioned with a yawn.
Fugaku looked at him with steady eyes and motioned towards an empty tea cup on the table. "Would you like something to drink before you leave?"
"How long was I out," Minato asked as he nodded his acceptance. "I'm sorry for falling asleep like that."
"For a short time," Fugaku told him while sending Itachi off to fill Yondaime's cup. "Before we were allowed to have you over for any amount of time we were warned by Tsunade-sama."
Minato found himself growing a bit embarrassed that his continuing weakness was known throughout the village. His chakra pathways were working, but everything was slow and sluggish to react. He found himself falling asleep often and still unable to concentrate for long periods of time.
"You shouldn't feel bad," Fugaku attempted to ease his thoughts. "She's very protective of you, and no one blames her in the least. We are all willing to be patient and let you heal. No matter what happens you are still a hero to this village."
Sharp blue eyes peered at the older man. "How much did she tell you?"
"That you are a hero who doesn't remember what he did," a young voice came from the other side of Minato from Fugaku. Itachi now knelt there with a steaming cup of tea. "Mother says it's a special blend best drunk hot."
The three males sat there until Minato had finished his drink and stood to leave. He turned to enter the house and noticed a softly swaying crib nearby on the wide covered porch. Inside was the calmly sleeping Sasuke, his tiny hands still holding on to one of his soft toys. The tall blond stepped to the boy's bedside quickly and brushed a finger on a rounded cheek. "Sleeping so soundly now for such a loud cry to wake me up with," he whispered. He looked up and saw Mikoto, Fugaku's wife looking at him with worry in her eyes. "I was watching him earlier," he explained. "He seemed to be a very happy child."
She nodded. "Sasuke isn't as calm as Itachi was, but he's still a very quiet baby." With an easy smile she walked him to the front door of their family house.
He was back in his office and life couldn't be better. The paperwork had piled up in his absence, but Sandaime hadn't minded coming out of retirement to keep it at a minimum level of messiness. The two Hokages now sat beside each other in companionable silence while waiting for their next appointment to be escorted in. When their chuunin assistant showed to sheepishly announce that they were done for the day with several hours still to go, Minato had taken the chance for a leisurely walk through his village on the way home.
He observed everything as he walked noticing that this particular building had been nicely repainted or that shop had added a new flavor of dango to their menu. He enjoyed the happy sounds he could hear; life was returning to Konoha with the squealing of young children. He gave in to the calls of his favorite restaurateur and sat down for a bowl of ramen before finishing his walk.
He finished and sat there waiting. It was different form what his mind remembered, but his traveling gaze told him the stand was the same, the street was the same, even the ramen man was the same if a bit sad looking when he met Minato's stare.
"It's alright," the blond reassured him. "I'm feeling much better." The old man gave a small smile and waved him off.
"Then let me refill your bowl, on the house!"
"No," Minato stared at the far stool and watched a uniformed woman easily swing herself onto a stool and held a squirming little blond boy on her thigh. The child's bright eyes looked everywhere until finally resting on Minato causing a wet grin to stretch oddly marked cheeks. The mother continued to study the menu as the little boy waved his hands around.
"I'll be back tomorrow for more." Minato explained as he stood and nodded to the end of the bar and the occupied seat. "I'll let you take care of your other customers." He turned away before he could see the confused lines on the ramen man's face as he swept his eyes over the empty seats then watched the young Hokage walk away.
It had been two years since, and the entire village was looking forward to an exciting time as they celebrated their continued survival and honored their loss. Minato had enjoyed approving and nodding and occasionally nixing party plans and treats as they had been continuously brought to him over the last month. Even though he was officiating moat of the time, he had found several moments in between speeches and meals to go around and enjoy the festival himself. Several of his Jounin and even some of the Chuunin had also convinced him to join them at an after hours party. He had grabbed his favorite Anbu and dragged him along for company. Kakashi hadn't been happy when he was informed to give up his mask for the evening, but complied.
Now they were all enjoying drinks with other survivors and exchanging loud stories that may or may not have been embellished. Minato smiled as some of his own Jounin exploits were brought up, but stopped when a name was mentioned.
While the others continued to laugh at the story of the kunoichi he had turned to see Kakashi's sad eyes. "She died," the boy explained quickly. "During the Kyuubi attack."
"I'm sorry I don't remember her. It sounds like she was a fun girl."
Kakashi nodded. "She was," he said shortly then slipped his mask down for another sip from the drink he'd been nursing all night.
"Do you remember her well?"
"I would eat tempura whenever she made it, until…" Kakashi looked around for an excuse not to talk. "Asuma's here finally, do you think Sandaime will show up?"
Minato relented and let the issue slide until a very drunk Jounin brought it back. "Hokage-sama," the woman drawled as she draped herself over him. "You're not really saving yourself because of Kushina, are you?" Nearly the entire bar quieted as she slid her fingers over Minato's cheek. "Maybe I could help you forget her, hmmm?"
Confused blue eyes had only enough time to blink before the woman was forcefully thrown into the wall by an enraged Kakashi. "We're leaving," he said quickly and began pulling at Minato before the man could even check on the unconscious kunoichi.
The young Anbu was dragging him a good distance away when Minato started yelling in the almost abandoned street. A young woman had stopped to watch them, her bright red hair held in two thick handfuls by a young blond boy who was sitting on her shoulders and watching them with serious eyes. "Kakashi, stop this right now! Why are you so upset by what that woman in the bar did?" He glanced back at the watching pair and blinked. She must have moved away very quickly as the dimly lit street was now deserted.
Kakashi's eyes followed his sensei's as they scanned the street up and down confusedly. "What's wrong," he asked?
"There was a woman there," Minato pointed to where he had seen them. "She had her son with her, but…" He paused for a few seconds then turned bright eyes on his student. "Wait, I'm the one who should be asking you that! What is your problem? Did that drunk woman disturb you that much?"
"She has a reputation," Kakashi mumbled. "She shouldn't be touching you."
"Well, I appreciate your efforts to preserve my innocence, but that bordered on insanity, Kakashi. You could have hurt her. She was just trying to…" Minato paused again. "She wanted to know if I was saving myself for Kushina?" Kakashi closed his eye and turned away. "The woman who died?" Kakashi nodded.
"Did," Minato gulped nervously. "Did I know her?"
The lanky boy opened his eye and stared straight at him. "Yes, sensei, you did know her," he said heavily. "She really liked you."
"I don't remember her." Minato took a few steps to lean against a nearby wall. "There's so many things I still don't remember." He covered his eyes with a hand and tried to laugh. "So that's why…" he took his hand away and looked at Kakashi. "So, she really liked me?"
"And did I like her back?"
His barely used Jounin vest must have been very heavy because Kakashi's shoulders drooped low. "Yeah, you liked her back," he answered quietly.
"Is this the great secret everyone's been keeping from me?" Minato almost smiled at how wide Kakashi's eye got. "I could tell, you know, that there was something else. For so long now all of you have been walking on eggshells around me." He thought about it quickly. "It's not that bad." Minato shrugged. "It's just another name to remember at the monument. I'll make sure to say hello even if I can't remember. I'm sure she'll appreciate it." He took a few steps away from Kakashi then stopped and whirled around making his coat flare out.
"We should go now," Minato announced decisively. "Let's go to the Hero's Monument tonight. I don't feel like drinking anymore, and I know there's at least one soul I haven't said hello to in some time."
Kakashi swallowed loudly. "Now?"
He didn't go every day like he knew Kakashi did, but Minato did make sure to honor the fallen shinobi as often as his duties allowed him. It was during one of his rare moments at the Monument that Jiraiya found him again.
The Sannin stayed behind him as Minato finished his reminisces, but almost decided to leave Konoha again when he saw the expression that finally turned his way. Right then he thanked his lucky frogs that he had stopped in to talk to Kakashi before dropping by here.
"So you know," the white haired man said while he fully emerged from the bushes.
The fierceness died quickly and the Hokage sighed. "It's disturbing, but not so much. I don't remember a thing about her, but it's enough to honor her memory I think." Minato turned back to the Monument. "Did you ever meet her? Kakashi seemed so nervous that I didn't want to scare him off. He's already taking too many solo missions."
"I did. She was a good cook."
"Kakashi said he ate her tempura. He hates tempura. She must have made quite an impression on him." He sighed and turned back to the monument.
"Are you curious about her?"
"I am, but… I think looking at her file would be cheating, and Tsunade said I should take the time to remember everything naturally. It's supposed to be better for me this way. What do you think?"
Jiraiya stepped forward until they stood shoulder to shoulder. "I think she would want you to be happy no matter what."
Minato turned to his sensei and smiled. "Then that's what I'm going to do."
He was listening to a Jounin team give their report when he saw a flash of color. He recognized the hair and blushed in quick embarrassment. The red headed chuunin leaning against the far wall was the same woman who had seen him and Kakashi arguing almost six months ago. The three man team standing in front of him seemed to ignore her as she yawned. He decided to catch her out in the hallway after they'd left. Not only did he want to apologize for what she'd seen, but he now realized that he'd seen her in several places throughout the village and normally with a small blond boy. He still remembered that happy grin he'd gotten at the ramen stand.
He glanced down at the report they'd turned in and signed off on it. He furtively dismissed them with a wave of his hand and didn't look back up until he heard the door open for them to leave through. When he did finally jump up he could only see the three who had been standing and not the redhead. She must have left first since she was nearest the door. He utilized the ability that had given him his Yellow Flash nickname and was in the hallway before the team could take more than a few steps, but she was gone.
"Abumi-san," he called out. "Your redheaded teammate…"
The Jounin turned to him and glared. "She's gone," he said quickly.
Minato thought quickly about how to react to the hostile attitude without ruining his chance while still asserting his dominance as Hokage. "It's ok, I'm sure I'll see her again soon," he said mysteriously as he turned away.
Abumi watched the man walk away until he felt the glare of the attending Anbu guards. One of them appeared out of the woodwork to stare blankly at him through their mask. "You will say nothing," a harsh voice emerged, and Abumi couldn't do anything except nod. "He won't hear it from me," he replied. "He didn't before, and he won't now."
The Anbu didn't disappear again until Abumi and his team had left the area.
Later that afternoon Minato decided to use his advantage as Hokage and called for a chuunin to bring him some paperwork. "There was a redhead on Abumi's team," he explained. The chuunin nodded slowly. "I want the information on her."
The file arrived very quickly, and Minato let it sit on his desk while considering what to do. He was finally reaching for it when Kakashi nearly broke a window in his rush to enter the office.
"Sensei," he yelled. "What are you doing?"
He jerked his hand away guiltily and watched his student strode heavily over to his desk and leaned over it while still wearing his Anbu mask. "You wouldn't happen to be doing something you shouldn't be, hmm?"
"Kakashi, I have no idea what you might be thinking," he recovered easily and smiled. "My desk is covered with paperwork as you can see, and I'm a very busy man. Do you have something you needed help with?" His innocent blink had the silver haired young man pushing aside his Anbu mask and looking pointedly at the personnel file lying on top of all the paperwork.
"Tsunade has always said you should let your memories come back naturally."
Minato looked confused and nodded. "Yes, she's made that perfectly clear." He tilted his head and watched as Kakashi put a hand on the file. It was obvious that he was going to be thwarted in his search for the redheaded girl's information so he decided to at least see what her name was before Kakashi pulled the chart away completely, but only caught a glimpse.
"Kakashi," he called out weakly to his student. "I asked for the file on the redhead from Abumi's team. I didn't ask for that one."
"She was on Abumi's team," Kakashi explained and wondered at the blank expression on his sensei's face. "I'll take this back to the files now." As he turned to leave a small sound had him looking back over his shoulder. Minato was now leaning his head in his hands. "Sensei?"
"Could I see her picture, Kakashi? Do you really think that's going to cause a problem?"
His grip on the file tightened. "I shouldn't," he said and jumped back as his Hokage, not his former sensei sprang up from his seat.
"It's a simple picture, Kakashi. It will be on the first page of the chart. That's all I want to see."
They stood staring at each other while Kakashi considered until he finally gave in and nodded. He slid the first page out and carefully detached the small photograph from the personal information page. His hand didn't tremble as he handed it over to his sensei, but that just made Minato's nervous movements more obvious. It was a surprise when the man only took one long look and handed it back.
"Thank you," Minato said as he sat back down. Kakashi turned to leave again.
"Her name," Minato started then paused. "Her full name?"
"Uzumaki," Kakashi told him. "Uzumaki Kushina."
Minato continued to stare blindly at his desk until a messenger loudly entered and demanded his attention.
It had been five years and Tsunade had just that day pronounced his body and chakra systems perfectly healed. He was once more allowed to work on developing his experimental jutsus and heavy training if he could ever find the time. Minato had celebrated by lining up several sparring partners to remind them exactly why he had been chosen to be Yondaime. Afterwards he went and celebrated with a shou of sake and some inscribed names he continued to thank for both his and his village's survival. Many shinobi had been added since, but his fingers knew where to read the names of those who had lost their lives in the Kyuubi attack. As he stood there remembering he realized something. His fingers hadn't run over anything that resembled the names Uzumaki or Kushina.
He knelt down and did a thorough search. Under his orders even shinobi who had eventually passed weeks later from wounds received in that fight had been placed on the monument, but hers wasn't there. His determined scowl lasted all the way to the door of the records room and the young chuunin just about to close up for the night.
"Sir," the boy called out, startled by the quick appearance of his Hokage. "Is there something I can get for you?"
"A file," Minato informed him quietly. "I need the file for Uzumaki Kushina, deceased."
The young man nodded quickly and almost ran into the darkened room. He was back within moments with a file in hand. He offered it to Minato who stared for a moment until firmly reaching out and grabbing it. A quick glimpse verified the proper name and he left the boy behind with a short thank you.
Kakashi tracked him down later that night after being stood up at Ichiraku's. When his eye realized the scene before him and what was laying open on the Hokage's desk, he tread carefully into the darkened office and waited.
"She died during the Kyuubi battle," a soft voice emerged from the shadowed window seat. "But it wasn't Kyuubi that killed her; she was already off the lists of active shinobi."
"I finally read the official report," Minato said as he stumbled upwards and grinned. "I know why everyone kept looking at me so sadly, and why Abumi hates me."
"Sensei…" Kakashi tried, but couldn't think of anything to say.
"My amazing jutsu didn't work right. For five years we've been celebrating a failure with fireworks and songs."
"It wasn't a failure," Kakashi started. "You saved the village!"
"I killed my son!" Minato stepped into the dim light that was entering through the open double doors with a yell. "It didn't work right, Kakashi. He wasn't supposed to die." Tortured blue eyes were closed tight as tears still leaked out. "I was supposed to die," he bit out. "But every year this village celebrates the day that my son died instead of me."
He turned away and went back to the shadowed window. "They don't even know his name," he muttered then looked at his student. "I don't even know his name," Minato yelled angrily.
"Naruto," Kakashi whispered apologetically. "We named him Naruto after a conversation I remembered you having with Kushina."
"Who is we?"
"Tsunade, Jiraiya and myself. Uchiha Mikoto also helped. She and Kushina were friends."
"Tell me, Kakashi. Verify what's in that report for me. I want to hear it straight from you."
Trembling hands ran through bushy silver hair and Kakashi sighed. He easily walked over to his teacher and grabbed a small cup which was quickly filled. He pulled his mask down and smiled sadly at his teacher. "It's time you knew everything anyway," he said. After taking a few sips he began to talk.
The morning shift found him asleep in his office and only smiled as they quietly shut the door. The Anbu guards placed an order for hot tea and some breakfast to be delivered for him, but made sure another messengers weren't allowed in until they heard waking noises.
Inside the Hokage's office the sun was drifting across the floor in heavy rays. It wasn't until one daring bit of light began tickling eyelids that Minato began to slide them open. With his head still cushioned in his folded arms, he recognized first his desk beneath him and then the office around him, but as his eyes truly began registering what he was seeing, for a moment they did not recognize the small face peering over his desk, and then he smiled.
"I know who you are now," he whispered to the curious eyes so much like his own. The familiar whiskered cheeks twitched as the small boy grinned at him. "You're Naruto. You're my little boy." Minato gulped and closed his eyes tight. When he opened them up after just a second, the image was gone, but the golden sunbeam still illuminated the personnel file pushed to the edge of his desk. He reached out a hand and slowly pulled it closer to him over his paperwork pillow. "I won't forget you again, son," he said wistfully as he laid his head down. "I'll never forget you now."
A/N: this is dedicated to Lizeth on DA whose picture (see link) is what prompted this idea. Lizeth, your art is lovely, and you made me cry with that image. You deserve this.
http: //lizeth. deviantart. com/art/Yondy-work- sketch- 64053349 please remove the spaces for the link to work