This was written to get myself out of a bit of a funk that I seem to be in. I just needed to get the angst out of my system, lol.

Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto, I would not be posting here. Sorry size1 width100 noshade One Step.

All it was going to take was one step. One step either way would decide the fate of a village, the fate of a man, the fate of an infant.

In the distance, fires lit the night sky above the horizon to a deep crimson. Even at this distance, the lone man could feel the heat radiating. In the crook of his arms lay a child, barely out of the womb, sleeping peacefully, blissfully ignorant of his father's dilemma.

One step.

One step backwards would save them both. One step backwards, and his son would be safely in the arms of Kakashi, so both his son and the son of his heart would be free to flee while he, as Hokage, would be free to fight against the fox demon. One step, and he'd be standing amongst his... subjects? People? Nin? No, they were all more than that. Friends. One step backwards, and he'd be standing amongst his friends, all prepared to give that ultimate sacrifice to save their village.

One step backwards, and he'd have to deal with the death of Kushina. His beloved red-headed firebrand, whose vivacious personality had captured his thoughts and soul, his beloved wife... his beloved wife who had lost the only fight in her life that mattered. The labor pains had hit her hard and fast, and too far away from any of the medics.

Minato cursed himself silently. They had all known her pregnancy would be difficult – to say she was petite was being polite. Had the medics been but one step closer, it might have made the difference. But they had been one step too far away.

One step backwards, and he think of the future. One step farther from the impending doom that the kyuubi was sure to bring. Just one step... and he could think of raising his son. Naruto. Kushina's final, hushed word had been his child's name. And just one step backwards would allow him to forever be with him. Surely no one would begrudge him that – no one would begrudge him not being willing to leave his hours old son orphaned.

But he would. He could, and he knew it. Choking back a sob, uncaring if the few ANBU behind him could see, he cradled his son closer.

One step closer to the demon would save hundreds of his shinobi. Of his friends. One step closer, and just one jutsu, and the kyuubi would be forever sealed. He hated having to sacrifice his son to this, but he was the only one eligible. Strange power was held in the blood of a newborn's umbilical cord, and Kushina had gone into labor at just the right time. Minato wasn't stupid. He had told old Sarutobi of his plans. The old man had shook his head, mumbling something about one step at a time.

One step? One step would save his village. What good was being Kage of the largest hidden village... if he could do nothing to save it? One step closer to the demon, and he could keep all of his precious people safe.

One step closer, and he wouldn't have to deal with the pain of waking up tomorrow without the warmth of Kushina next to him. It had never occurred to him that the pregnancy would cost her so very much, regardless of what the medics had said. He had never thought, never imagined that he would lose her. If the situation had been different, had the kyuubi not been on the perimeter of the village, he would have broken. Kakashi had known it, and had said as much. Minato had smiled at him sadly, then had asked him to take Naruto to safety when the jutsu was completed. The stoic young man's shoulders had slumped as he agreed, not looking up at his sensei. Kakashi was a good lad... he only wished that he would have been there to see him grow up. Oh Sakumo... you'd be so proud.

One step, either way, would decide it all. Adjusting Naruto and his swaddling, he held the child up before him, blocking out the fires that were growing ever-closer. His son had awoken, and, as if knowing his father's internal monologue, had stayed silent. Blue eyes met blue eyes as father and son took each other in for one long, perfect moment. Minato smiled at his son for the first and last time, as he pivoted in place, showing Naruto the view of the village from atop the Hokage's Tower.

"See Naruto?" he whispered hoarsely, the smoke in the air and the tightness of his throat threatening to choke the words out. The ANBU gathered all shifted to give a clear view, and Kakashi crouched down by his sensei, keeping an eye out on the horizon.

"These are my precious people. This village, this is why I became Hokage. I needed to protect everything I loved. I'm s-sorry," he hiccuped, forcing back the tears. He didn't want to be strong, and yet he knew that was how his nin saw him. "I'm sorry that I'll be leaving you alone, but I know that one day you'll understand." He pivoted again, cradling his son close with one arm, while tousling Kakashi's hair with his free hand.

One step.

There was really no choice.

One step forward.

Told you it was different from my norm.